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Enchanted by the Dark
#1
Their only plan to find the Regus was seek him out. The Baccarat Mansion was gone. That would only scatter the Atharim making them harder to find. But the Vatican still stood. If it feel much more than their hidden society would fall - parts of the world might go down in hail of glory - everyone against everyone. It reminded Aria very much of the doomsday feeling she got from the parchment so many months ago. It had really only been months. Not a year or years - months.

The greatest irony of all was that Aria was still receiving funds from the Atharim. Her apartment was still in good standing. Whatever had happened at Headquarters had deterred the Regus from whatever he intended to do about her. She would play it safe, but she wasn't a traitor yet. If he were dead - well and truly dead, she could still function within it's ranks. She was Atharim and there was nothing more to her than that.

Aria could use this knowledge to enter known safe houses, replenish supplies and even ask about the Regus' whereabouts without raising any flags. Not anymore than usual anyway. It was knowledge that she sought, and someone had to have some idea. Martin was dead. The Regus has been injured - Aria was sure of that, but here she stood without a scratch. She was completely whole - in every sense of the word.

Her gift returned. Something she would hold to until the end of her time. It was part of her and it was like dying without it. It was in those memories of pain that Aria remembered the solitude that she'd sought and found again... Returned from his travels without a word. Not that Aria expected anything of Dane. But she had been so busy focusing on Ascendancy she'd missed the change in venue when Dane purchased tickets to Moscow. Aria hadn't checked in on it, she knew where he was.

And while she needed to see Nox and figure out how they would proceed in the future she felt the crushing pull to find that which she was obsessed with. Wandering the city seemed a pointless venture. She knew he'd stayed at the Ritz Carlton before that was where she would start.

Aria was thankful for the casual business attire she'd been given after leaving the hospital. It was most uncomfortable and very not her, but she wouldn't stand out much in the lobby of the grand building. She could easily walk in and search floor by floor for the presence she was looking for.

Aria bore no weapons over the black dress pants that fell over a pair of black heeled boots. The green button down was a close match to her eyes. The weather was cool, but not cold. Spring had sprung and Aria wore only the matching jacket over the shirt. Her oroborous tattoo was fully covered by the shirt and jacket, not that it was a major deal breaker but Aria wasn't certain that people would recognize the symbology of it from the images leaked to the world.

Aria extended her senses to cover only a few rooms at a time. She glided through the halls like she belonged there. She moved with a purpose. The man she sought had to be here...
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#2
Dane was comfortably seated in his room, reading about the impending memorial for Declan. His brother's body required some time to recover and return home. Apparently it had been in such a poor state, it was decided he would be cremated. So his brother was slated to be ashes, a jar of dirt. He remembered Declan playing in the dirt as a boy, digging with his shovels and building dirt and sand castles. It was a stupid game, Dane remembered, and hated how his brother would call and call for him to join. How many times did he have to tell him no? To come inside for a better game. But Declan always found Dane's games boring and dumb.

He sent a message back to his parents declining the invitation to the memorial. If they held the memorial in Moscow, he was likely to attend, but he was busy here and did not have time to fly west. Furthermore, he was tired of flying. He wanted to be settled. He was even thinking about finding an apartment here. Someplace more befitting his lifestyle. He was the heir, now, with Declan gone.

Closing the correspondence on his Wallet, he gathered a wool tweed sportcoat about his shoulders, closing the button at his waist. He fixed his hair in the mirror and departed the room. He left his scarf and gloves behind as he was only intending on going to the in-house restaurant and bar. The live pianist was scheduled to begin any minute, and Dane wanted the chance to speak to them before they started. He loved piano.

He departed the elevator, emerging into the lobby. There were numerous people about, but he ignored them all and aimed toward the maitre'd. Soon, he was seated near the pianist, and he watched her as she laid out her music sheets, swirling a goblet of dark red merlot.



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#3
Aria smiled at the people she passed in the halls. But the higher in the hotel she went the less that smile reached her eyes. It wasn't that she was tired. The walk itself was invigorating. Feeling the emotions of others radiated through her body humming with each one. Love and lust. Sadness and guilt. Depression, anger and angst. They all tasted differently. Fear and Hatred were tinged with a sweetness that made Aria smile. Anger rolled off of a person in a nearby room. Aria could hear his angry shouts but there were no accompanying voices between the silences.

Aria continued to move and the when the last room yielded nothing she took the elevator down. Emotions fluttered by. The empty calm she had sought was no where to be found in the building. The bright lobby was still full of people and soft melodies of the piano floated from the bar. Defeated by the outcome of her search Aria sat down in a lounge chair and let her senses drift wide. Maybe she'd searched to narrowly, maybe she could find the last vestige of his presence and find him. The need and desire to lay eyes on him drove her ability to the farthest of her reaches. The emotions of the world drowned out her other senses. It was painful and Aria relished the feeling. She had missed the weight of the world and now with in the mass of everything she found the calm.

It startled Aria as much as it had when she'd felt him earlier. To feel his presence so close. The sounds of the piano pierced her revelry of the calm. The place that had taught her control. Aria stood and walked towards that calm center, coincidentally towards the bar.

Aria stood just inside the entrance and looked around slowly, she knew where in the room he was, but she looked anyway - scanning the room. It had been months since she'd last seen him, and she didn't want to think about the last time she'd seen him. Only knew that she had to see him...

The maitre'd came up to Aria with a smile and a greeting. Aria shook her head and answered, "No, I'm waiting for someone."
Which was only a partial truth. She was looking for someone, waiting implied she was meeting him. Aria had no idea what kind of reception he would have of her.

Aria's eyes fell on Dane finally. He was dressed as always the proper gentleman. The wine in his goblet reminded Aria of other things - darker things as it swirled through the crystal. Fear and desire stabbed through Aria's body. Aria saught the calm of the man before her but his grey eyes were fully on the pianist. A jab of jealousy joined the fear and desire.

Aria was torn between approaching Dane and standing where she was to watch him like he'd watched her so many times...
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#4
The pianist shuffled her papers across the stand. Dane found the use of paper sheet music amusing given the day and age, but anything else would have been odd. The grand piano was at least 100 years old as far as he guessed. The bench was an antique. The glow of a display screen would have been wrong. There was something sensory to the act of turning the page between notes that otherwise would have been lost.

The woman that played tonight was unfamiliar. Dane recalled another brunette played the night he had drinks with that American reporter, Nicholas something. They played a duet, he and the pianist. She gave him a phone number later, but he never called her.

This woman noticed that she already had an audience, and Dane smiled charmingly, lifting his glass in toast to her. "Can you play Debussy's Clair de Lune?"


She bowed her head and shuffled the papers. Soon she pulled out a crisp booklet and showed him the title printed in the front. It was as he requested, and Dane's brows, pleased.

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#5
The pianist played her lovely song. The notes echoed in the bar not quite as they would in another room meant for piano's or live music in general, but it was a good replication. Aria had sat at listened to the choir and the musician's practice in the Vatican cathedral when she was young.

But Aria didn't really care about the music. Only the man watching her tickle the ivories with her long lithe fingers.

Half way through the song Aria moved to the bar and ordered a water while she waited supposedly for her someone. She'd found who she was looking for and Dane's eyes were all for the pianist. Aria could decipher no emotion from the man who had become her obsession. He sat in an eerie calm that very few possessed. Where as the pianists emotions rose and fell with the keys she played. Her body played the music, it felt every note, and it resonated with in her.

Aria smiled. Music was never something Aria was interested in learning. It never helped her fight the monsters she was destined to. She envied those who had the ability and fostered it. Creativity was never her strong suit. Point her in a direction and she'd follow that path until it was completed.

Before the song ended Aria removed herself from the bar. The song was in the last throws of it's beautiful harmony when Aria pulled a chair out from table Dane sat at and stood next to the inviting chair. Aria smiled and carefully chose her words. "May I sit?"
She could have just sat down and grabbed his attention that way but Dane was always the gentleman.
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#6
The pianist began to play and a sense of calm washed over Dane. He rarely sat with complete silence in his mind, but when he listened to the piano, he let it consume him. He would perform the piece better himself, but when a player was adequate, he could enjoy the respite.

His drink was merely adequate as well. It served its purpose, warming his skin and relaxing his body. There were far more tasteful choices in wine, but the selection was limited here. Surprising for such an opulant Ritz Carlton, but it sufficed.

He was vaguely aware of a woman encroaching on his periphery. The dark cut of her clothing was about the only thing he noticed for a while, until a pale hand reached out and touched the chair nearest him.

He nearly waved her away without so much as a glance, annoyed by the intrusion in his entertainment. But he cut short the bite surely to have sprung from his tongue thinking of how he should behave instead.

He turned toward her, ready to flash a smile and open his arms in welcoming share of his personal space. Instead, he froze in his gaze up at her. The pale skin, verdant gaze, and dark hair reached into his soul and wrenched it from his body. "Aria" he mouthed silently.

It was she, as she appeared in his dreams. As soon as the surprise settled, though, he inhaled his soul, snatching it from her grasp, and snapped his gaze away. Irritation bubbled, and he jut his chin outward, staring at the pianist swaying to the music instead. Jaw tight, fingers snug around the globe of his drink, he finally sniffed and spoke his mind. "After all we've been through, you would hurt me like you did. I thought you were different."
Eyes flashing, they flicked toward hers, piercing them with accusation, darts from a wounded man.

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#7
Aria watched the rare emotion play across Dane's eyes, but it was gone when he looked away. Aria thought he might ignore her as he listened to the music, swaying to the melody.

He was angry. It was unique. Aria slid down into the chair without invitation at his accusation and the glare that spoke hurt. She wasn't sure what he was referring to. The day they'd last seen each other had been cut short, she remembered leaving with him but more than that was almost like a dream. It had left her in a rare mood and she'd gone deep into her own darkness to escape.

Aria wanted to remove the hurt and the pain from his features. A another rare emotion from Dane. She slid her hand across the table - wanting to touch him to take away the pain but that would likely set him off more. Aria didn't want that. Her hand stayed inches from him. Aria spoke quietly, "What did I do to you?"
Aria sighed. "I don't want to hurt you."
It was never her intention to hurt him.
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#8
He was aware of her movement as she slithered into the chair. He kept the direction of his gaze averted, though. Fixed on the pianist. They could kill her together. The musician wouldn't be physically demanding, but what did it matter to fight back when gods were involved?

She claimed she didn't know how she hurt him. He always assumed Aria was a liar. It didn't bother him, until now, when a twinge of irritation bubbled to the surface. He didn't want to explain himself.

He didn't recoil from her approaching hand, merely looked down at it like it was the appendage to some alien being. This soft spoken, well dressed Aria was a fa├žade. He knew who she really was; the woman that shared his table was a lie. The fact that someone else also knew the truth burned him.

He said one word as explanation, and despite the jealousy inside, his expression remained perfectly neutral. He was also a well practiced liar.

"Nox."


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#9
Irritation. Jealousy. Things Aria didn't really peg Dane for but then she didn't really know the man. She knew next to nothing of him - except what was in the Atharim file and what she herself had seen. And she still wasn't sure exactly what had transpired. Dane was dangerous - but how.

Aria wondered how he knew about Nox. And in that moment of wonder things started clicking together. Both returned from Mexico. Aria knew Nox had been there - had returned home from there... Aria didn't want to know what they did together, but she could feel the jealousy inside welling up.

She looked at Dane his face showed no emotions. Yet Aria knew he was jealous. And jealous of Nox - she wanted to laugh, but she didn't. Aria sighed. "Nox is a friend - nothing more."


Aria could feel the urge building to touch Dane. It was the one thing she dreamed of... He'd forged a connection and it was all she wanted. Thing with Lucas had been good, really good, but she hadn't longed for his touch like Danes. Aria pulled her hand back to reduce temptation. The last time she touched Dane, they killed someone together.

Aria whispered. "There is nothing to be jealous of about Nox."
She couldn't say the same about Lucas.
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#10
Her explanation rippled waves of tension through the muscles of his neck, cording them tight as he kept his jaw hinged close. His senses of the room faded, and for a moment, he considered walking to the pianist and slamming his glass into the back of her head. Obviously, he didn't. He sat there, enduring Aria's explanation until she told him how he was suppose to feel. He shouldn't be bothered by Nox. He should forget about it. Images flashed across his mind, then. Of Nox and Aria sitting at a table eating a meal. Of them talking late into the night. Of them stealing glances, sharing jokes and conversation. Of them hunting together, those monsters that Nox described. Lurking in the darkness, together. Killing. Together.

Dane snapped his gaze toward her. She'd withdrawn her hand, but he reached out to snatch at hers instead. His eyes burrowed twin lobotomies into hers. His voice was quiet, but it seethed with passion. "You don't want his friendship. You want mine. Only mine. Forever."


He took a breath, smoothing his face of the hot emotion, and something emerged once the steam dissipated. It was a yearning. A desire that only she could fulfill. "Am I not better than him in every way possible?"


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