1964-05-30 - Act I - Loki Bound
Summary: In which Kai attends a party that dances on the edge of madness.
Related: Loki Bound
Theme Song: None
kai rogue 

It's not the Village Vanguard or Black Cat, more famous venues attracting vast swells of humanity from across New York and the United States. The Vault occupies a strip of dark road, better called an alley, few lights at the back of a forgettable building, accessed by a plain door below street-level. Ample soundproofing gives little indication of the happening club behind such a boring, square facade. Don't judge a book by its cover, after all. The labyrinthine maze of rooms are a testament to easy living and decadence, little chambers decorated in carpets and ample cushions and mats, each interconnected by doors and hallways. In the space of a hundred feet, three dozen people might totally lose track of one another.

Grey and blue smoke hangs in the air. Indian hashish lends a particular aroma to some quarters. Marijuana replaces it elsewhere, and if that's not a favourite poison, there are plenty of others to have. Dancers slink around one of the largest rooms, taking partners, parting for another, and figuring out the right way to catch the groove to the experimental music played there. Some of it doesn't make a lick of sense to hear, sonic beeps and caterwauls, and some has the decided dark taste of proto-industrial psychedelic or an inkling that one day will become Berlin techno, fed on the waters of Detroit.

It is, in short, the perfect place for counterculture to thrive. A pair of girl in paisley paper dresses stumble past, laughing over their plastic trumpets full of some fizzy brew. A man frowning in thought paints a girl's back with mehndi designs, dipping his brush in the henna while her blonde friend holds the canvas-girl's head in her lap. In another, a barechested man in a fringe vest accepts grapes from the fingers of a bronzed fellow who might have been a guardian to Pharaoh. This is what the Velvet Underground will become, what it wishes it could be.

This is a place Kai has to go to, driven by a latent fear that he will get stuck in one age and the world will go on without him. If it's new, if it's cutting edge, and if it's counterculture, it's for him. He's even got some color in his clothes tonight. Black chinos, sure, but the fifties are out and the sixties are on their way in. The beatniks are in that middling point between becoming hippies. A nod to that is his shirt, paisley in psychedelic colors, its top few buttons undone. He's already sampled the marijuana. For him, it's got to be edibles and a lot of them. Enough to make a mortal trip for days. Maybe he'll do some H later. It'll depend on if he'll want to fly or float.

He's cool enough not to gape, but he takes it all in with avid interest. The first thing he gets is one of those fizzy things in the plastic trumpet. It's new. He hasn't had it before. In passing, he tries not to give the barechested man and his bronzed companion too much attention, but it's something he takes note of. Safe places to, ah, be oneself are at a premium.

Rogue has partially disconnected.

Not every tune picked out here and every pastime explored on a sprawl of brightly-shaded pillows will turn into a trend. Some certainly will. The music humming out has an oddly technical beat, like someone experimented with plugging an electric guitar into a synthesizer and possibly added a blender, powder on a turntable, and a fish tank. Staccato warbles run off the walls, and the dancers gyrate and groove as best they can to this interpretive style. One girl sings in a style almost unknown in these parts — Inuit throat-singing. Not great, but incredibly haunting, matching the strange, dark melodies spun by pale limbs clad in sheer, black voile or bits of old lace.

The painter dips his brush and scores another sinuous line down the prostrate girl's back. Stains like rust transform her into a taut painting of wet lines in elaborate coils and twists, mandalas and Celtic knotwork linked together. She utters a sigh, and her partner dips her head. "Pan, you are the bomb. Seriously…"

Pan merely smiles. The more Kai looks, the more he'll see those designs gracing not a few limbs or swatches of open flesh. His humble arts are mixed up in bowls, ashtrays, whatever is conveniently at hand.

Where the elf looks, privacy is a given, but some bold looks are returned. The bronzed fellow doesn't look over, but his companion does, eyes dark as coals rising over the plastic rims of his glasses. Not rude so much as fascinated, even as the light obscured and scratched in the room gives everything a manic sparkle. Alkyl nitrates are shot through half the drinks in the place; a crazy rush comes pouring out when swallowed, giving a rush better than the amphetamines tossed out like candy in bowls.

Kai can't help it, he's a natural flirt. He doesn't even realizes he's doing it! The way his gaze drops, and he glances up through lowered lashes. That smile, showing every bit of his fascination for these fleeting people. They live so hard, throwing themselves into each moment. They have to. The moments are so few.

With a few drinks in him, and more than a few amphetamines, he's dancing to the strange, haunting music. This is where he feels freest, eyes closed, his body moving where and how it will. He's got a knack for movement, another unconscious talent. For a moment, in his buzz, he tunes out everything but the music. Those bold lookers are given something to look at.

Fingers trail out of space, passing hands content to trace his skin and touch his shirt, his hair fascinating to at least someone who wants to pet it. License is taken where it would never be elsewhere, not in the outside world. A few shoves intentionally pull Kai deeper into the morass of life, which has its own gravity. If he slinks through the other rooms, he'll find different facets of the same kind of lively scene, some far more private and some far more energetic than the ones where the musicians play. A woman twirls him in her mad lucidity, and pushes him back to a pile of pillows that opens up, a sea of parting limbs and dewy skin framing the walls.

The painter smoothly lurches out of the way. Unless the elf catches himself, he'll be among company of other minor luminaries. One of them smells of the rich loam of deep woods, the other more spice and Arabian sands. "Good gods, what did the wind blow in?" That, the latter.

"Come, sit."

Kai laughs as he's pet and pushed. He opens his eyes to see the swirling colors and faces. He won't stay this high for long, so he throws himself into it, twirling when he's twirled, following where he's led. He falls back on the pillows, and it feels like he's falling for years. He inhales deeply the scent of the forest and sands. He misses the wilderness, though his New York loving beat kid self would never admit it.

He gazes up at his new friends, smiling dizzily. "Hello," he says. "I'm, like, Kai."

"Ember," says the coppery man, holding out a stable hand to ease Kai into place with them if he wants to follow. "That's Shel."

Shel has his dish of grapes, and he plucks one of them up. Red, and bright, almost wet. Bringing the fruit to his mouth, he takes a bite. The grape is crushed easily enough. "Delicious. You want to try one?"

The painter finishes up with the girl and sits back on his haunches, looking at the new addition. The brush dances in his hands, an unspoken offer found in a long look.

"Oh, c'mon," Shel drawls. "Pan takes any who give up their skin to the brush. He's not shy even if he acts like it. You here with someone?"

"Yes," Kai says without hesitation to the offer of trying a grape, and when he sees Pan with his brush, he sits up and starts to take off his shirt. "Of course you can paint me," he says. He fumbles with the shirt since he's still just buzzed enough he's forgotten about buttons. "I'm here alone," he says.

Then some cautious afterthought prompts, "But I have a friend who's expecting me." Which is technically true. Loki is very friendly with Kai, and he would be surprised if Kai wasn't around tomorrow.

The grapes are splendidly full fruits, ripe as they get. A few are plucked and Ember takes them, offering one in pinched fingers that dent the surface without breaking the skin. "Here. Help yourself." Kai can take it as he wants, or rely on her help. It's really up to him, and he is unconcerned about the qualms of feeding another.

The buzz is a low pulse in the mind, a deepening spectrum of widened senses. Time is its ally, kicking the high into higher gear with proximity.

Shel sits up a fraction to allow for shirts to be thrown, pillows rearranged, and one dancer to slide right past them en route to a room with a hookah and a bowl of rose petals to be sampled. He laughs, glad for that fellow's fine humour. "Hey, more the merrier, and that. Will they be joining us? We have space."

Truth is, they do. Pan picks up a bowl and gestures to the paint-flecked blanket they're using, a wash of greens and yellows blurred into one another. "You eat first. I paint. Any design you have a wish for?"

Kai takes the offered grape in his mouth, and he savors it, biting down til its juices burst, then he licks them off his lips. Kai smiles serenely. He finally gets his shirt off, and he splays himself upon the blanket, laughing with a sort of pristine delight, uncomplicated and guileless.

"No, I don't think he will. It's too bad, he's a real happening cat." He rolls onto his stomach, offering his bare back as a canvas. "I miss the forest. Paint a tree."

The rainbow platitudes pouring over Kai's mouth are rich and full of the taste of fruit. The fizzling high soars and opens to another vault of awareness. He is offered more, or there are the various bowls. One of them contains a powder that smells of strawberries. Another has more of those little round tablets painted in a dozen colours.

Ember pulls one of those bowls away to save them from the henna paint. Pan waits on his knees, ink of another sort and brush at the ready. Shel flops sideways to lean against Ember, laughing with easy candor of someone very high indeed. "Damn, too bad. We like the company. Makes the night better and the days easy for good company, you know?"

"We keep meeting the most interesting people," agrees Ember. The spice rolls off him, his breath cinnamon.

"What's it you do?" Shel asks, prepared to be company of a kind.

Pan dips the brush and starts with a series of wet, short strokes. They weave together, withies stretched along an axis that probably doesn't feel like a trunk.

Kai folds his arms in a cradle for his head, and he lies still, curls spilling over his hands. "I'm an artist," he says dreamily. "No, waiting tables is what I do. An artist is what I am." He utters a soft moan of pleasure, innocent in its way. He isn't trying to be come on to anyone. He's just really, really happy.

"I haven't seen you guys around," he says, "and I hit most of the clubs. Used to hit a lot more, but these days, you know how it is. My old man wouldn't like it, and there's not a lot of cats looking for good, harmless fun."

"So what's someone cool like you mixing up?" The black-brown brush imparts bold strokes and simple ones. Pan is a deft hand when it comes to dipping the fox point into the henna and applying it without a splatter. Coolness leaves a rusted streak over the elf's flesh. Lines seize and coil on themselves, tortured for beauty.

Sighing, Shel munches on one of the grapes and eagerly sucks the water off this fingers. He rests back further on the flattened, lumpy cushion. "Oh, we get around on the circuit. Some good spots, some…" He shudders, and Ember finally chuckles, his low, throaty basso a complement to the softer voices. Tousling Shel's hair is altogether familiar. Shel just about arches his back like a cat.

Shel in turn carelessly pats Kai. "It's okay. Really. He does the most fantastic work. You'll be shocked how good it looks. Don't get too frisky, it'll be there in the morning."

"I'm just here to dance," Kai says. "Move to the music, maybe pop a few pills, that's all." Used to be he'd be coming around for a lot more. Flesh without names, no numbers exchanged. Wasn't so long ago he'd be proposing something very different than an innocent paint job.

At the petting, he looks up at Shel and smiles. "I'm not going to get too frisky. I'll let it dry really well before I go back out to dance." He laughs then. "Someone's going to have to tell me how it looks unless there's a mirror."

"That's still moving! You got all those people around, they might smudge it. Or you get all sweaty." Kai's words get another chuckle out of Shel. He rolls his shoulders under his vest and pushes himself up from the ground, soon enough kneeling. He manages not to fall over Ember, the man's long legs impeding any of the moving figures around them.

Ember wraps a copper arm around his companion and sways slightly to the music, the thrum of people. He is damn near drunk on the libations offered to those who enter the Vault, peddling colour and excitement and song.

The inky lines weave around a central axis. Leaves are added, a sharp and jagged outline growing softer. "Mirror in a washroom," Pan suggests. Best he can do, convulsed by the muse.

Kai says, "In that case, maybe I'll just lay here and spend the rest of the night dozing." He lies bonelessly, languid as a cat. Maybe it's a trick of the light, or the sheen of his sweat, but there's the smallest hint of a silver glimmer on his skin. He has control over the aura, but when he's all floaty and pleased, sometimes the edges of that control wear down. Just a little.

"So where are you cats going to be next?" he asks. He lowers his head, eyes drifting closed. "We should hang out. Maybe I'll introduce you to my old man. He's a trip."

"Don't know yet, don't think we've decided," comes the answer out of Ember, who loosely weighs his arm around Shel, who is all but diving into the grapes again. Hunger is a finicky beast, all said and done, and the high as a kite young man is happy to stay high, high up there.

The silvery light might be noted by the artist, who leans back. He stares for a moment, and then blinks again and adds two more dots to the pattern. Pan picks up his bowls and moves them aside. "Yes. It would be a good night." As the quietest, he might come off definitively mindful. Profoundly distracted. He certainly isn't rude about it, blowing out and shrinking a little when the work is done.

Not so Shel. "Where do you plan on going?"

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