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Connections, Money and Secrets [Almaz]
Even for Jaxen, it took some digging to find out anything about Almaz online. He concluded that the club must be one of the most exclusive places in the city known only to the obscenely wealthy or the obscenely connected. It was a maddening puzzle how Mikhail wormed his way in a place like that while Jaxen hadn’t even heard of it. He had to conclude that the guy must have snuck in, which was unlikely given their reputation for security, or he was a bigger player than Jaxen appreciated. Both were good marks against him in Jaxen’s eye, but he meant to find out either way.

So Mikhail brought the connection and Jaxen brought the money. He had to move it around, of course. His trust would only decline payment to someplace bordering on illegal. Jaxen filtered it through the generic category of ‘entertainment’ to make it work, but he had plenty of experience in that regard. How else did he pay for hookers and playmates? Not that he needed to pay to get it, but sometimes you don’t want to have to deal with girls and their bullshit expectations. Sometimes you just want a good lay and move on with your life. Was that so hard to ask? The very thought conjured up memories of Zephyr. The kind of thoughts that coursed heat through his skin and made him check the calendar for their next date. It wasn’t quite time yet, and given that Jaxen was pumped through with about every kind of drug available to prevent unwanted pregnancies, he assumed their dates would continue for a good year before she caught wise to the sad truth that Jaxen must simply be infertile. Poor girl, well, not that she had anything to be sad about after a year of infinite Jaxgasms, so he was going to get it while the getting was good.

He was leaning against a light post, legs crossed at the ankle, when the luscious ass of an Indian girl walked past. He'd had a thing for them ever since being shipped to Mumbai at the tender age of sixteen. Her dress left little to the imagination, and with those hips for inspiration, Jaxen could imagine a lot. In the company of two white girls, she paid him no attention as she walked by, but when she looked over her shoulder and those black rimmed eyes flashed at him, he promptly forgot about Zephyr and shoved off to see if she wanted to hook up.

Now, Jaxen looked good tonight. He had on a three-piece velvet suit the color of dark chocolate with a black shirt and black tie that hugged his body just begging for hands to come stroke the seductive sheen. His hair was coiffed in his signature pieces, and his facial hair ran a dangerous shadow along his jaw. He looked sinful, just as he preferred. Plus Almaz sported a dress code: look like money or GTFO.

“Hey,” he said as he caught up, but she only called out a simple, “No,” over one shoulder through a sheet of shiny black hair. 
“Where you off to?” he prodded just in case.
“No,” she called impatiently, and Jaxen decided there was enough of a bite to know she wasn’t just teasing. 
“Your loss,” he bowed devilishly playful, biting his lower lip ever so thoughtfully as his hands twiddled with a vial in his pocket. He enjoyed the view until they turned out of sight. 

Then he returned to his corner to wait on Mik.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
Jaxen +
Loki +
+ Jole +
[Image: Article-Cover-Photo-2.webp]

The Atharim database was handy.  Jacob was shit at using it but there was always some snitty little boy or girl standing around to help him out if he got stuck.  And they gladly showed the old man how to use technology and snubbed him while they were at it.  Jacob let it slide for now.  He could have easily tossed these little snits into a headlock or laid out on the floor without a second thought, but it wasn't worth his energy.

The database tracked all the gods to the best of its ability.  The Atharim knew where they were, and what they were doing.  Privacy was not a thing if you walked the streets of Moscow.  Up until recently Nox had been under the radar, only being caught when he wanted to.  Now he showed up in various places on the regular.  Something had changed in his behavior.  Something far more reckless.  If he weren't here to kill the boy he's smack him upside the head.  He still might!

He worked a burlesque club called Kallisti in his free time.  Which was not really alot.  He also consulted with Domovoi -- whatever that was, but it looked like the Ascendancy's version of the Atharim.  The boy was seen coming and going from the Kremlin itself.  And was spotted with the man himself.  Holy fuck!  And he fought nearly every night in a club call Almaz.  One of those prestigious joints that took money to grease palms.  Nox didn't have an active hunter.  Which wasn't surprising after the third attempt failed. 

Jacob was oddly proud of the boy.  Boasting three wins against trained killers was no small feat.  Granted the last one never really came of anything. No one tried to kill him, just surveyed the situation.  But that was his home.  If they had taught him anything growing up it was to protect your base.  He had other places of known friends.  He'd check them out as necessary.  But first this Almaz looked promising and if it came to a fight then it might be the best place to take him down. Provided he could take in the knife.  Only in an emergency would he put a bullet in the boys head.  He'd give him that privledge at the very least -- getting close was important.  Nothing had changed.

Jacob downloaded a video to his phone to lie about what he'd actually first seen.  It was innocuous, there was no power of the gods on display just clip after clip of the boy getting pummeled by another man.  That wasn't the look of a man wanting to live. 

Jacob wondered were Aurora and Bryan were.  They weren't in the records.  Surely Nox wasn't here without his sister.

Bryan he could find later.

Greasing palms was not new.  This was a slightly steep price to get in.  But he managed the funds, and with his name now on the Atharim rooster, he took what he needed to get into the club.  It was rather a good deal if you asked Jacob.  Which they didn't.  Must be nice to have connections.  Jacob owned a few suits and chose the best one and waltz right in with the right hands greased and was astonished by what the rich and glorious lived by.  But he walked around like he owned the place.  That was the only way to do it.  The boy wouldn't be here for a while, so he did what any good undercover man did, he blended in. 

After stopping at the first bar and ordering a chilled sipping vodka as proper in Russia Jacob walked the floors.
[Image: nes-sq.jpg] [Image: Helena-sq.jpg]
Nesrin Aziz & Helena Asquith

The office was full of bizarre curios. On the navy-painted walls hung gold frames of splayed insects and surgical diagrams, interspersed with ornate shelves of carved obsidian all crammed with medical journals, skeletons, and taxidermy. Nesrin stared into the glassy dead eyes of a creature she could not even name. Nor could she tell if it was real or an artist's monstrous rendition of a nightmare. Both seemed possible.

She was aware of Helena’s contemplative stare from the desk, and allowed her to make the silent assessment. Balthazar’s sister was a woman of quite some infamy, but they had never met until Nesrin finally dug her out of her shadowy nest in Moscow. It had taken two weeks in the city to follow the rumours to source. By now Nesrin was deep in both exploration and planning, aware of the small window deadline that waited. But it was work completed from comfort at least. Home was currently a highrise condo whose owners were vacationing in Thailand, blissfully unaware of her existence.

This was an opportunity she’d run with, whatever she believed of the truth as it had been presented to her. But she’d do it her own way irrespective of the Asquith’s carefully laid plans. Seeking the disgraced Helena was certainly not among their expectations, but Helena was a deep vein straight into Moscow’s fetid underworld, and as far as resources went it was an invaluable one to make. Though it hadn’t come without cost. The recognition between them had been an unwelcome surprise, at least on Nesrin’s part. It revealed something she had not been happy or expecting to share. Helena hadn’t openly acknowledged it, but Nesrin had witnessed the moment her attention focused rather than slipped away, as others normally did when confronted with such unassuming airs.

It was too late to remedy now, though, and fortunately Helena made a natural ally. Given her reasons for estrangement she was unlikely to prove a problem, and soon it may not matter anyway. Still, there had to be a way to hide it in future; one Nesrin intended to uncover as a matter of priority.

“If you’re anything like Barty, you’ll hate it down there. I’d recommend the upstairs bar. It’s more civilised, which does not say much, my dear. It is not what the patrons come here for.”

Nesrin turned to glance over her shoulder. She knew Zar well after so many years, and clearly he had been briefed by his family back then, yet she was not sure he ever knew she had been raised on the doting laps of whores. When they had met in Giza she had already been someone else; had already learned the value of masks and duplicity. One face for the day, another for the night. Spares for both. So Nesrin was gratified that if Helena caught a glimpse of something she shouldn’t have, it did not pierce all the way through the artifice. She saw what she was meant to see. Someone soft and scholarly as her baby brother. An innocent led by the hand to greater purpose. A pawn.

She offered a smile. “I’m sure it won’t be so bad as that, Lena.”

Helena only shrugged, uncaring. One of her dogs, currently stretched out the length of her desk, flexed its massive paws, then gave a contented sigh as it snuggled back down into slumber.

“Better not to worry him, though. I hate it when he offers money, but Moscow is expensive.” The uniform Nesrin had been given was nondescript. Svelte and black as shadows but for the gold diamond discrete on the chest. Patrons came for the bloody spectacle of the fight, not to be distracted by the servers delivering their obscenely overpriced drinks. It suited her purposes better than the lavish glamour of the Almaz’s public face. She watched the other woman a moment longer before she added, curious. “Do you believe what they say?”

“I believe in empirical evidence,” came the immediate reply, just as three sets of doberman ears swivelled to the door a moment before a knock sounded. One of the dogs grumbled low irritation in its throat, but each turned obedient eyes to their mistress, who made what must have been a placating gesture. The one by the desk laid its head back down.

“Lady Asquith.” The man who entered threw a somewhat concerned look at the animals, and did not look at Nesrin at all. He was smartly suited, his voice thick with native Moscovite in contrast to the plummy tones of Helena’s blue-blooded aristocracy. He presented a screen to her impatiently outstretched hand. After a moment she handed it back.

“Is this not why I hire management?” she said flatly, and made a gesture at Nesrin not unlike the kind she imagined the woman might also use on her dogs. The message imparted was clear, though, and Nesrin slipped out the door.

[[Hijacking your thread for an intro so I don’t have to dredge up a thread title. Nesrin is a server in the VIP lower levels, delivering table-service to those rich enough to afford it while they watch the various matches.]]
So the last time he had been at the Almaz had been his 2nd time. The first time had been with Roman Mordvinov. Pretty good guy, overall. He'd done some work for their family- got them some info on the Kolos and helped flip a few guys over to their side, so to speak. It wasn't that he worked for them exclusively, but, well, these guys had been sort of friends. As in guys he'd had drinks with- lines, strip clubs, a couple power exchange dungeons- on many occasions. He liked them. And, well, he knew which way the wind was blowing. Kolos were on their way out, about to join his Pop's old crew in the forgotten players club. The Syndicate and the other families had decided enough was enough.

Now normally, this meant most of the crew also found themselves unemployed,  if not dead. Loyalties and all that. But he figured that muscle was muscle and it wasnt like they had a chance to shop around before they joined up. There weren't any want ads or interviews where an aspiring wanna-be made man could explore his options. No. Way Mik saw it, well, these guys weren't exactly loyal to the family. They were loyal to their brothers in arms. And that made all the difference.

So maybe he and Roman had been shooting the shit and Mik started talking about that very thing. You know, the whole thing, where if you replace the leader the pack follows you? People did it, he remembered from school. Horses and all that. Dominate the leader and the whole bunch was yours. And so maybe Roman listened a bit.

In the end, Mik really didn't care all that much. I mean yeah, it would be a pain in the ass to cultivate a new bunch of guys and sources of info. Not that he minded, really. He liked meeting new people. But hey, if it meant he got to relax a little- well, there was a reason he didn't have a real job.

Bottom line was a full third of the old Kolos had jumped ship before the family was even permanently disposed of. See, that was part of deal. They didn't help do the disposing. Nah, no one would ever trust them, knowing they'd done that. Mik had made sure Roman knew that. But jumping a sinking ship? Yeah. That totally made sense. All of them just stopped coming in or anything. Went to ground. Made some visits to Mordvinov or other family crews with whom they had at least some cordial or mutual respect thing going on.

Ok, it wasn't easy. Not really. Took more than a quick talk. And maybe Mik had worked a bit harder that he expected. But when all was said and done, the Mordvinovs had come out seriously ahead in terms of man power and intel. 

And so Roman had wanted to celebrate. Mik didn't mind at all, for all that he thought Roman seemed down. His buddy, Bas, had been killed, he'd heard. No one really knew who did it, though there were plenty of theories. Not a bad guy. Good to look at, that's for sure. And fun to have a drink with. Shame, really. But, as he always said, nothing lasted forever. Gotta enjoy what you had now. So Mik did, every chance he got. Anyway,  he'd heard of the Almaz. But now he had experienced it. And to say it was fucking awesome was to undersell it. 

Once he'd popped his cherry- and made a few more connections, he'd gone again, this time alone. No one really looked at him strangely. He knew what he needed to look like. Roman had seen to that. 

So Mik had dipped into an account he knew of- nothing anyone would miss, and had gotten a few special items. A Bastian Cruz emerald green brillo jacket and pants, black tailored dress shirt, and supple black calfskin shoes. Looking in the mirror, he knew he looked sharp.

Now that he had his gown, he scrounged up a pumpkin on his wallet and turned it into a chariot. After all, he was the queen. Stepping out of the ride, he walked up to the entrance, looking around for Jaxen.

He smiled and couldn't help the slight burst of speed in his heartbeat. Damn, but the man looked good. His sense of style was the shit. Mik's grin widened as he drew close, clapping him on his shoulder and complimenting him. No games, really. Other than the usual, of course. He looked up the way and saw a gorgeous face in a dress that drew the eye. The Lady watching, nodding off to the entrance. 

So in they went, entering the Almaz, the thump of the music deep and penetrating. He flashed his wallet with the passes at the door and Security did their usual thing with their wands. Mik laughed at the thought. How was that not a waste of time, when magic was a thing? 

And maybe that's when he saw the Lady again standing behind some skinny guy in a suit that maybe looked a bit odd on him. And maybe when he looked at the guy he realized there was something off about him. As in he was eyeing everyone walking in, perhaps a bit to gruffly. And maybe Mik felt just the touch of menace emanating from the guy. 

So maybe the Almaz security mooks had wisened up. Probably had a few channelers in here causing trouble. Course having another keeping the peace probably made things worse- maybe. Or maybe it was a deterrent since squaring off against another guy with the power was pretty new. As in, how really could you know if you could take him before it was too late? This was like the skinny little guy who secretly a black belt in everything and you got your ass kicked. Expect, you know, you also had you face burned off.

So maybe it was a deterrent. Probably had a few more around. Maybe a chicky or two too. (And how had he not tried to have sex with the power!!!? It suddenly just occured to him. Jesus, he was a fucking moron. That immediately jumped to the top of his list. He glanced at Jaxen, for a moment. If he was willing, sweet. Of not, well, it was gonna happen. Tonight. Period.)

So where was he? Oh yeah, Scooby Doofus at the door sniffing everyone with the power. He nudged Jaxen with his elbow. "Looks like they want us on our best behavior." Well, he'd think about it.

They went down to the upper bar, Mik pointing out the gambling tables and games going on around him. Just minor distractions. As were the help, of course. They ordered and then made their way to the lower floor- just a half step down from the bar, where screens showed various other games and such, the sounds of people talking and better and just generally having a good time. 

Soon, the screens would go dark and then the real games would begin. He raised his vodka in a toast. "Salud!" He said perversely. The spectacle they were going to see was anything but healthy- at least for the guys fighting. But hey, that's why they were here.
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
The club was pretty uptight on the inside. Rich enough to drown in the giant piles of money he assumed every man in sight hoarded. “Nice,” he nodded when Mikhail glanced back to gauge his reaction. He might have said “old man making up for limp dicks” instead, but he bit his tongue for now. It wasn’t Jaxen’s usual vibe. If he was going to swim in upper-class snobbery, he wanted to do it where the women were smoking hot, the drinks world-class, and the music loud. Manifesto was his usual pick for that kind of night (and the average age was decades younger). But wood paneling and leather everything? It seemed more like Scion’s speed than Jaxen’s. To his point, he passed a guy who could pass for his father’s age. He looked tough, though. Mafia, Jaxen assumed, and made a note to stay clear of him.

He might have left if not for the crooked finger of hidden secrets luring him to explore. And the company. Mik was shaping up to be more of Jaxen’s style than the club. As they walked, he flicked at the man’s pocket square without actually flicking it. “It’s no leather pants and pirate tunic but you clean up respectable,” he smirked as he said it. The sword was tucked away for the night with the rest of his LARPing outfit.

Ass planted on bar stools and vodka brought, Jaxen swiveled around to survey the room following their toast. But mostly, it was a sausage fest. Not sure more he expected for a fight club, but he was still game. Just had to find the right sport.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
Jaxen +
Loki +
+ Jole +
Jacob toured the place. Scoped all the exits, and questionable doors. Found all the security measures, granted his knowledge of technology wasn't as hip as the youngsters, but he didn't need it. He avoided the cameras to the best of his ability. No point in alerting people who might know who or what he was. Not that the ouroboros was visible by any means. He pulled at his coat sleeves just in case -- still wasn't possible with the cuff down at his wrists, but precautions and all.

A fight was starting in a center ring and Jacob stood watch while two men took opposite sides of the arena below and the brutal fight began. Bare knuckles. Shouts from above, like the posh men above had lost all sense of decorum once the fight started. Looked more like an illegal club than one of wealth and means. Brutality brought it out in some people like a disease.

Jacob watched with disinterest trying to fathom why the boy might like such a place. This was nothing compared to fighting the monsters he did for real. He cleared tunnels of vermin. But then why was he dancing at a fucking club too. Nothing about any of it made sense. This was not the kid he knew.

A man standing above the ring kicked a rusted piece of metal down into the arena. The clang of a rusted sword echoed in the room and the crowd went hysterical, cheering and hissing for their champion to get the sword. Little good it would do, the blade dulled with rust and grime. But it was an added danger as the fight drew on. Blood spilled in spurts and splatters. Men would die to lesser things once upon a day. This was pointless.

Jacob moved on to another level, the outcome didn't interest him. Nothing here was of interest yet. The next level was more of the same, more fights, less clean. Grittier men, but the atmosphere was higher -- like the more money you had, the dirtier it got. The more risky the entertainment.

Here in the shadows Jacob heard a recognizable growl echoing from below. Caged and hurting, an Oni could be a deadly foe.
Helena had not been exaggerating about the dichotomy. Nesrin had only seen the topside bar in the daylight, absent any of its obscenely wealthy or influential clientele of course, but she remembered the chandeliers and leather and that smell which just said rich. Even the bar’s stairs down to the arenas were grand and gilded in gold light. But it was to an industrial and neon-drenched underworld they led. Half-way in the descent the rumble from below became audible, then prominent. Temperature controls lapsed and a chill pebbled the skin with the promise of something primal.

The staff warrens for the same route were not in any way decadent. Nothing unintended for the public eye was. Yet once you were below no further attempt was made to hide that Almaz was carved from the tunnels of the undercity. It gave it an air of clandestine. Steel bars. Concrete walls. Some of the ceilings were cavernous; an underground colosseum for the modern age. Amidst it all holoscreens displayed fighter stats with all the spectacle of celebrity, else replayed flashes of particularly gruesome or impressive highlights.

Nesrin was told that was how they announced fatalities too.

It was a whole different world.

After leaving Helena's office she found herself in one of the breakrooms with a supervisor. Rev considered her while he puffed on a rollup, the smell of it tart, though she wasn't sure exactly what he had in it. The room was just a small, shadow-splashed area tucked behind one of the bars. A few chairs and a row of steel lockers were the only notable furnishings. Sound was muffled inside, though lights strobed through the glass panel in the door.

“Nez-reen,” she corrected of her name pleasantly as she pulled her curls into a bun at the back of her head. Rev was tall, thick at the shoulder, with tattoos crawling up his neck. An undercut and locs piled high stop his skull.

He dismissed her easily in that one glance.

“Watch out for elbows. You lose a drink, it comes out your wages,” he said, then finally shifted with a sigh to configure the sleek tablet and hand it over. “There's a tracker in your screen. Trust me, you'll get lost. Security handles any shit so just stay out the way if anything kicks off. Anyone gets handsy, we have deals with some of the clubs in the RLD. Just give 'em a card. Discount for them, commission for us. I don't expect it'll be a problem.”

She took the screen without glancing up at his expression.

“You don't look like our usual,” he added.

“I'm studying for my Masters. Student loans, you know?”

He shrugged the answer away, which was a lie anyway, but something settled in his gaze like he’d landed on a judgement, and it wasn’t one that was interested in asking questions. Gaze still down on the tech, Nesrin still didn’t smirk anywhere but on the inside. It wasn’t like she hadn’t waited tables before, or worked a bar. She didn’t anticipate any problems tonight, and nor was she concerned about keeping the job; or at least, not once she got what she wanted out of it.

“How do I know who's important?”

“There's no face ID in here. Signal’s all scrambled to protect the clients. Just treat everyone as if the Ascendancy himself shat them out.” Rev had returned to his smoke now, and Nesrin laughed a little as she headed for the door; for more reasons than one. Old-fashioned methods then. She slipped the screen into its holster as she lay her palm flat to push the door. As the roar of outside rushed up to greet her, Rev spoke again. “One other thing. Try and last until midnight, princess. That's what I bet on.”

She didn't glance back as she left, and he never saw the darkness of her smile.
"It’ll take the edge off, I promise. You want me to behave, right?"

Behind the bar, Arisha’s expression was flat, despite or perhaps because of Oriena’s sinful smile. Bloodbitten lips were the only colour about her this evening. Lashings of soft black hair tumbled about pale shoulders, the dress form-fitted and simple as a hug of shadow.

“It’s supposed to be a discrete service, Oriena. Just take the packet,” the barwoman said with a sigh. But that tiny chink in her armour was the only encouragement Ori needed. She leaned closer, like a secret shared. Tapped her fingers over Arisha's hand where it currently hovered around the purchase of Zeke’s delicacies, and felt the other woman shiver. “So indulge me.”

Ori found the control so much sweeter when there were no ropes of power involved. Arisha’s eyes narrowed into daggers, but when she pulled her hand away from the sultry touch, it was to fumble open the packet as bid. Ori watched with a smile under darkened lashes. Though when Arisha offered one of the tabs, she only smirked and stuck out her tongue for the woman to place it there. Arisha’s breath caught, and she yanked her fingers back before Ori could tease any more.

She grinned as it melted. Drew an X across her chest in a promise she was unlikely to keep. Then she scooped up the rest of the packet and slipped it somewhere safe with a wink as she withdrew. She hadn’t been lying about the edge she was desperate to smoothe.

Nox wasn’t late, but Ori was not in the mood for patience, and for all she knew he was already down in one of the pits or arenas instead of meeting her topside like a gentleman. He came here more than she did these days, despite the fighter she kept on the rosters. The evidence was all around. Amidst the sedate glamour the bar’s screens still showed replays of the fight that’d gone viral. Nox himself might be ignorant, but big money passed over his name up here, where those with only tangential interest in the bloodsport below got their kicks. He could probably make a lot of revenue, if he was so inclined.

It was to new sport Ori went next, though, and not the stairs down into the underground. The last time she’d seen Mikhail, she’d been little more than a bloody smear on the pavement. The scars running the length of one leg attested the legacy, if little else. He was keeping better friends these days at least. Ori announced her presence by draping over Mik’s shoulder from behind, chin perched on the lay of her own hand. "You're not seriously going to watch from up here?” she asked. Meanwhile her gaze ran up and down his companion. The last time she’d seen him, Kallisti’s CCTV notwithstanding, was not a memory she was keen to replay. Though suffice to say he had left her very unsatisfied.

She smirked. “He's delicate, Mik, but he doesn't bruise so easy.”

When she straightened it wasn’t with an invitation for either man, though they’d be stupid not to follow. She helped herself to the nearest of their glasses, presuming it to be the good stuff. Nox wouldn't be surprised not to find her where they’d arranged to meet. He’d just have to find her in the arena.
"You say you're a godman. So what? 
I'm the devil herself"
Alpha ~ Little Destroyer
[Image: orianderis.jpg]
The sudden weight against and on his shoulder and side surprise him. And even as he turned and tried to see the face through the dark strands of hair, Oriena's voice whipped out, sharp and provocative. Not provocative in the 'come here and fuck my brains out' kind of sultry sexy way- which was probably one of his favorites of all time. 

More like provocative in the 'let's see what I can get this guy to do.' Like that one girl with the ass at the club- you know, the kind that made people forget their names- during her lap dance, trying to get him to show her how he would pleasure her. He'd rolled his eyes at her request, knowing that at least one chump had probably done it- all miming licking and kissing and such. God, how pathetic that would have looked, all because this chick had provoked him. But of course, a guy half in the bag, horny as fuck , and no game, was probably totally willing to 'demonstrate' his skill. So he'd laughed in her face. And yeah, she got pissy about that. Which he found even funnier. Needless to say, there was no other real action from her during that dance. And she glared daggers at him as the night wore on. Which only emboldened him. It had ended up a great night. Hate turned to...well, he wasn't gonna say love. That was a joke. Lust. Hate-fucking? If she thought she was owning him or taking control in the end, who cared? He had his fun. And that ass.

So naturally he couldn't help a bark of laughter and an amused shake of his head at Jaxen Of-fucking-course. He didn't bother move or shift her. He liked the feel of her and her weight against him, immediately doing the math of figuring how easy she would be to throw around or carry. The fact that she knew Jaxen didn't surprise him. He felt the flicker of the power at his edges and looked around. Blonde cutie with a bob was looking at him, shit-eating grin on her face. Yeah, yeah.

As she straightened and took his drink, he reach into the breast pocket of his coat, brushing past the lighter to pull out a small box. He seized the power as he pulled out a joint- a special Hawaiian blend with a few extra surprises- then touched his now fiery fingertip to the end and then took a deep puff, holding it in for a moment before exhaling. With the power coursing through him, he felt his mind expand, slowing down even as he became aware of everything much more deeply. He held the spliff out to Jaxen as he said, "Well that's good to hear, Doll. But bruises ain't always bad. Especially the hand-shaped ones on the ass like he's got." He winked at Jaxen and then tilted his head slightly back so he could see the slight silhouette of hers, appreciation on his face, eyes smiling. "Or yours."

He glanced back down the way that led to the lower levels. He'd planned on taking Jaxen there. The upper floors were nice enough, if a bit...quiet. But he wasn't sure what Jaxen's comfort level was. To Jaxen, "Down below, where the caverns well and truly start, is where the real action is at." 

He signaled to the server to bring him another drink. The chilled vodka and the warmth from the joint contrasted nicely. "You look good, Doll. All healed up." A slight frown passed over his face, the rest of the memory coming through. "Ryler... Damn, that was something. I'm guessing you've got a line on him, yeah?" An amused thought occurred to him. And maybe he was needling her a bit. No sense in playing her game- not yet."Is he still alive? You don't got him in the cages below, do you? Poor guy...," he said, shaking his head.

He didn't really know her, aside from their few interactions. And her reputation, of course. If Ryker was alive, he had a mark on his head. 

[[Slight edit]]
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
Jacob stopped to watch the replay of the boy fighting again. There was more to it than just the one fight. They replayed the moments that he'd found on the web, but his name scrolled across with other odds, other fights. It seemed he was unpredictable yet still made a show of it. Beatings to a pulp sold, but he fought with the power and yet even when he was thrashing an opponent the spray and splatter never reached the crowd. Few others in the replays fought like him. Always bloody, but still not the same. Jacob knew the boy in some of the visages he watched, yet others he did not. He flexed from one extreme to the next. The odds fluctuated with his moods it seemed.

The Atharim had a bloody good database of gods on file. Jacob had scanned through some of the most high profile names and images and ironically he saw two [[ ooc: not sure if Mik channeled with Ryker and Ori, if so he'd be three and I can amend the two to three. ]] of them both known associates of his own mark. One his boss from what Jacob gathered. He smirked with knowing. The boy would show tonight? Maybe it would be a fruitful evening after all.

Jacob watched from a distance, sipping his drink, and he'd follow discretely, though the boy was likely to be found deeper with in. Where the Oni and the fights happened. He might have to deviate from watching these gods too. There was danger in the air and the challenge was nigh. But three gods? He wasn't sure that was a good idea. The boy surrounded himself with too many powerful foes, only way was to get close. Pretend they were still friends until he could find the right time to put the dagger in his brain and watch the light fade from his trusting eyes.

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