Rubies on Emeralds
Snowman was unsettled, and very few things rattled her nerves. She often told herself that she didn’t fear anything, that nothing could harm her. But today the truth had surfaced in her mind and she realized her weakness. It was quite obvious, to be honest, but it had worried her nonetheless. There was no doubt that Scratch was already aware of it, as well as what she was about to do. And while she did not fear the so-called “doctor,” his master was another matter.
It did not matter. Neither would stop her tonight.
The great, emerald mansion was quiet. If anyone else was awake, there was no sign. She slipped from her room with all the grace and silence of a cat and briskly made her way down the hall. Her heels thudded softly on the rug-covered hard wood floor and she wondered if anyone could hear her. Under normal circumstances, she would have simply transported herself there with a mere thought, but there was the danger of there being someone there when she arrived.
She made her way down the grand staircase, opened a door on her left, and then descended once more into the cellar. It was dark down there, as well as quiet. She didn’t think anyone who wasn’t supposed to be there was lurking behind the wine racks and so continued on. She came to a halt at the base of the stairs, raised a hand, and pulled on a small, thin chain.
The light flickered on. The sight that greeted her was both horrifying as well as expected: there lay Spades Slick, unconscious and lying in a rapidly growing pool of his own blood, his hands bound tightly behind his back. This was not exactly uncommon and usually, the sight would bring her some measure of pleasure, or at the very least she would feel nothing at all. Indeed, when they dragged him in some hours earlier, she could not help but smirk upon seeing her archrival once again beaten. But this had gone beyond simple rivalry—as much as she hated him, she did not want him dead.
She watched him for a moment, once again going through the pros and cons in her head. Eventually, she kneeled, undid his bonds, and carefully scooped him into her arms. He groaned and shifted, but did not wake. Already her dress was drenched in blood. Oh well. She had a dozen others like it, anyway.
She stood, adjusting her hold on the wounded creature in her arms before casting a wary look around, ushering a pained moan through his lips. She contemplated doing a quick check of the entire wine cellar for anybody lurking in the shadows before leaving. But time was short.
With a silent breath and a thought, the mansion was swept away and replaced with concrete sidewalks and small, dingy buildings. Now if she could just remember which house it was…
She began to wander, on the hunt for any landmark that might jog her memory. She was sure it had been in this area. She had only ever been there once, and she remembered the inside of the house better than the front.
The air was crisp and cold, and the night was quiet. Only the click of her heels on the ground and the sound of every shuddering, labored breath from Slick could be heard, as well as perhaps the distant sound of a car here and there.
Then, “Hey… Snow….”
She barely graced Slick with a glance. “You shouldn’t speak.”
There was a pause, and then he pressed, “Snow…”
She sighed. There was no dissuading him from doing anything, ever. “What is it?”
She heard him chuckle, and then cough, and she cast a glare down his way. His face was cradled against her right breast and he had that stupid, familiar grin on his face. She knew what he was going to say before the words were ever said.
“Ya got….nice tits.”
She rolled her eyes skyward, readied a snarky reply, and then returned her gaze to him only to find that he had promptly passed out once again.
“Idiot,” she mumbled with a shake of her head. “You never listen.”
There, of course, was no reply.
She continued her search, Slick shuddering now and then, possibly from either the cold or, more than likely, from blood loss. This sped her onward, and she soon came upon a familiar townhouse in the middle of the neighborhood.
She stifled a sigh of relief as she lay Slick down at the foot of the door, pausing a moment to wipe away a line of blood trailing from his lip. She hesitated before ringing the doorbell, and then quickly disappeared.
Hiding herself away in an alley across the street, she kept watch as the door opened and a weary Diamonds Droog appeared. His head swiveled this way and that, his eyes narrow with sleep. He took a step forward, perhaps to get a better look to see who was there, and unceremoniously stepped on his wounded boss, whom he had failed to notice.
There was a choked cry and a string of obscenities, and Slick was quickly dragged inside and the door shut. He was safe. Her work here was done.
And yet, she found herself hovering there, in the alley, wondering what to do next. The logical thing would be to return to the mansion and act as though none of this had ever happened. If anyone asked, she had been asleep in her bed and hadn’t heard a thing. Spades’ friends must have come to his rescue, obviously. Couldn’t dream of him just walking out on his own…
But a part of her wanted to see this through, to ensure the risk had not been taken in vain. After all, if Slick died, what was the point of her coming all the way out here to stand in the cold? She had to see to it that his worthless existence persisted, and with a foggy winter breath and a thought, she was gone.
“Shit, Slick,” Droog complained as he hoisted his boss up onto the guest bed, which he had taken the time to cover with a multitude of towels. “How many times are you going to turn up bleeding on my doorstep? You’re getting blood all over my pajamas.”
“Fuck yer stupid duck pajamas. ‘Sides, ya probably got another hundred pairs stashed away somewhere…An’…. ’S th’ first time,” he slurred, scowling. “I ain’t ne’er come t’ ya fer help, asshole.”
“Oh, yes, right. Never. Except for, you know, the time Snowman fucking poked out your eye. Or when she ripped off your arm. Or the other, what? Six times she beat the shit out of you?”
Slick’s scowl deepened. “Wasn’t her this time…An’ I’m pretty sure… you’re exaggeratin’.”
Droog sighed. He didn’t have the patience for this. “You’re bleeding all over the place. Stay here while I go get some gauze.” He paused, surveying the damage for a moment. “Lots of gauze…”
“Where’m I gonna go? The fuckin’ supermarket?”
Droog ignored him and stepped out into the hall. It was all he could do to keep himself from getting too angry. It was in moments like these where he found it particularly easy to become agitated with Slick. It didn’t take much to get him angry, but he couldn’t stand it when his help went unappreciated, which was often the case when it came to the leader of the crew. And yet he always found himself coming to his aid whenever Slick found himself in some sort of trouble.
Retrieving all of the gauze he had in supply as well as more towels, he returned to the room. “So,” he began as he set to work, “if Snowman didn’t do this to you, who did?”
“Dunno… Didn’t get a good look at him… Too da---AH!” Letting out a slew of curses, he threw his head back and hissed, slapping weakly at Droog’s hands as he pressed a clean towel against the worst of his wounds. “AUGH SHIT!”
“Stop squirming. You’re making it worse.”
“FUCK YOU AND FUCK YOUR MOTHER, ASSHOLE!”
“It’s not that bad.”
“YOU DON’T KNOW SHIT!”
Droog took a deep breath. Count to ten, count to ten, count to ten… He should have been used to this by now. He only went through this every time… Slick could handle pain about as well as Clubs could hold his liquor.
“Maybe you should concentrate on something other than berating me for helping you,” he suggested through gritted teeth. “Like telling me how you got here, for example.”
Slick took a few labored breaths before slumping back onto his pillow, his voice thin as he murmured, “Don’t remember… a whole lot… but… I remember wakin’ up and seein’ tits.”
“What’d they do, dump you at a strip club? How considerate.”
He snorted. “I wish… No…. Some dame was carryin’ me.”
“‘Some dame’ wouldn’t happen to be Snowman, would it?” Droog couldn’t hide the contempt from his voice. The woman was the source of the majority of their problems—particularly when it came to many, if not all of Slick’s prior injuries. “That bitch is bad news, man.”
“Don’t need t’ tell me twice,” he growled tiredly, but Droog knew better. Slick was infatuated with the girl, despite his hatred for her. But telling him to do or not to do something was like telling a wall to move and expecting it to get up and do a jig. It just wasn’t going to happen.
Gently, he peeled back the bloodied cloth and replaced it with a fresh one, earning a pained wince and groan from his injured friend. “I’m gonna need to go towel shopping. Again,” he mused aloud. “I swear, I spend more money on replacing towels than I do on food every year.”
Slick didn’t have a reply to that. He was already starting to slip in and out of consciousness again. Droog would have to work quickly to stop the bleeding. He could already tell that it was going to be a long, sleepless night…
By the time he had managed to stem the flow of blood and patch his friend up, the moon had reached its peak in the sky and had begun its descent back towards the earth. The night was about to give way to morning, and he had never been more sorely in need of a drink.
For the moment, Slick slumbered somewhat peacefully. He could spare the moment it would take to slip down to the kitchen and pour himself a glass of whatever concoction he had ferreted away in his pantry. It wouldn’t take long, and the odds of the wounded mobster waking up or dying while he was away were slim. Or at least, he hoped they were slim. Not that it mattered—he was getting that drink, anyway.
He stood, his limbs creaking after sitting on the hard, unforgiving floor for so many hours. He groaned as he popped his back, and then quietly slipped out of the room and down the stairs. The kitchen light flickered slightly when he turned it on, and the fridge hummed loudly and irritatingly in the corner. He had been meaning to get both of those fixed, but the money was now being diverted to the ever present new towel fund.
This really needed to stop. He was tired of constantly having to nurse Slick back to health. He’d thought of maybe shrugging off the responsibility and giving it to one of the others, but Boxcars manhandled everything and Deuce was an idiot. No doubt they’d end up accidentally killing Slick instead of helping him. He sighed. The man just simply needed to get over his hatred for hospitals.
During the course of these among other thoughts, Droog had unearthed an old bottle of whatever—he didn’t much care what kind of alcohol it was—and had downed a good portion of it. Already he could feel that blessed buzz.
Wait, what was that? He could have sworn he’d heard something moving somewhere overhead. Perhaps Slick had a fit of stupid and had gotten up to pee or something. Nah, he wasn’t that retarded. More than likely what he’d heard had just been his imagination and nothing else.
Shrugging it off, he took another long swig from the bottle, and settled down for a nice, solitary drinking session.
No, wait—that was definitely the sound of a door being shut. Slick had better not be up and about and ripping out his stitches, or so help him…
Bringing the bottle, Droog made his way up the stairs. He didn’t see any blood anywhere in the hall, which was a good sign, he supposed. Just a couple drops of water on the carpet, for whatever reason.
Woah, wait just a goddamn minute… Was that….? That was definitely humming. Someone was humming.
And it was a woman.
Without a moment’s pause, Droog burst into the room and sure enough, perched on the edge of a sleeping Slick’s bed was none other than the voluptuous Snowman. He stared at her a moment, unable to really process what he was looking at. Her back was turned to him as she carefully dabbed sweat from her archrival’s brow with a cold wet cloth, ignoring the drunken man that had just recently stumbled into the room. Her dress was soiled with something red. It looked like rubies on emeralds in a sick, twisted way. The realization that it was Slick’s blood that stained the woman’s skirts brought Droog’s anger back, white and hot, tenfold.
“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?!” he snarled.
“Were you aware that he has a fever?” she returned calmly, not even bothering to grace him with a glance.
“Get the fuck out of my house! Get away from him before you smother him in his sleep or something!”
“As if I would. It’s hardly sporting to attack the helpless, don’t you think?” She turned to look back at him apathetically. “He has an infection. You didn’t clean his wounds properly.”
“I cleaned them just fine!”
She stood, plucked the beverage from his hands and took a look at the label he had neglected to read earlier. “Whiskey. I would prefer Vodka, but I suppose this will do nicely.”
“Hey! Bitch, gimme back my booze!”
“Shush. You’ll wake him.”
“Did you just shush me? You did not just shush me!”
“If you want to wake him now, be my guest. But he will feel this, and I will leave you to deal with his complaints,” she warned, waving the bottle tauntingly. “I don’t think you want that headache.”
He had to admit, she was right on that. Lowering his voice, he growled, “What do you care about his wellbeing, anyway? You do this sort of thing to him all the time---“
“I do not beat him nearly to death.”
“You took out his eye.”
“That’s not the same as killing him.”
Droog folded his arms across his chest and fixed her with a glare. “I don’t understand you and him.”
“Oh? What’s this?” Her almond eyes sparked with amusement. “Are you jealous, Diamonds?”
His hard exterior faltered. “What?”
“Don’t act like you don’t know I’m aware of how you look at me.”
“If you’re so intent on having me all to yourself, why don’t you just say so?” She moved closer, and he instinctively took a step back. This continued until his back was flush against the door, and her face was mere inches from his. He could feel the sweat bead upon his brow.
“I…. I don’t…. uh…”
She was smirking, the amused spark still present in her pale eyes, and she breathed, “Go on, Droog… If you want me, take me.”
“I…. I… You….!” he stammered, his embarrassment rising and with it, his anger. “You insufferable bitch! I’m leaving!”
She let out a chuckle. “You do that.”
He pushed away from her and wrenched open the door, marching down the hall. Huge bitch! Horrid woman! Goddammit... of all the times he needed a towel…
After he had gone, Snowman quietly shut the door and turned her attention to Slick. The Dersite was still quite asleep, despite all of Droog’s hollering. Good. That made her job that much easier.
Reclaiming her spot on the bed beside him, she carefully began unwinding his bandages, humming softly to herself. It was a tune she played often on her violin, and once, she remembered happening upon Slick playing a similar refrain on his piano in the corner of the room. Of course, he had been embarrassed that she had found him out, and covered it up with false anger and profanities. She both hated and loved the tune—she hated it for the way it made her think of him, and loved it for the fact that they had, in a way, shared it.
She frowned to herself as she cleaned his wounds, her thoughts elsewhere. Silently, she wondered how things would be different if she was still the Black Queen, or if she’d never been queen at all, or if Jack Noir had always been Spades Slick. Would her end still be written in stone, or would there have been a brighter future in store?
Thoughts like these ran through her head as she worked, and eventually she let out a resigned sigh. It was useless to speculate on such things. It would never change what was here and now, and it would not stop the future from coming.
She was just about to pour the whiskey liberally over one wound when from the corner of her eye, she saw Slicks head raise and then droop. This made her take pause, and she looked up at him. He was clearly out of it, and his vision was blurry. He peered at her, his forehead crinkling with confusion. “Droog… When’d ya get tits?”
He reached out, and before he could give them a good squeeze, she let a large portion of the contents of the bottle pour out onto the wound. That was a wakeup call, and he sputtered and reared backwards, cursing up the predictable storm. Calmly, she waited until he’d finished before chirping, “Oops,” and corking the bottle.
She found the one-eyed glare he sent her way amusing. She smirked back at him, setting the bottle aside as she spoke, “Good morning, Slick. I see you’re still as curmudgeonly as ever. That’s a good sign.” He merely sneered and lay his head back onto his pillow, the fight seemingly gone from him the instant it had shown itself. She frowned. “Your wounds are worse than I thought they were.”
“What?” He snickered, rolling his head over to fix her with an amused look. “Worried ‘bout me, Snow? I’m touched. ‘Scuse me. I think I’m gonna blow chunks.”
“I think I deserve a proper ‘thank-you’ for saving your life,” she coolly replied. “I could have just left you to bleed to death on the cellar floor. Or I could have finished the job myself, nice and slow.”
“Nah. You wouldn’t do that.”
“Ya wouldn’t have anyone to fuck with if ya did.”
“This is true. I do so love fucking with you.”
He laughed, but it was tired and ragged. His laughter soon dissolved into a fit of painful coughs, just as his expression transformed into something sour. “Goddammit…”
“You should rest,” she murmured.
“I don’t wanna rest. I wanna kill the little fuck that did this to me.” He scowled. “Don’t suppose you could tell me who the hell he is.” She shook her head, and he sighed irritably. “’Course ya can’t. Who am I kiddin’?”
She said nothing and simply stared blankly back at him. There was so much he didn’t know—couldn’t know until the time was right. Not that she would have out-right told him if she could. Not until he begged for the answers. Maybe not even then.
“….Thanks, I guess.”
She blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Nothin’,” he replied a little too quickly.
“I believe I heard you say, ‘Thank you’….”
“What? No. I said, ‘Fuck you.’ Don’t be puttin’ words in my mouth, bitch!”
She smirked and shook her head. “You really are a piece of work, Slick.”
“Yeah,” he grumbled. “And you’re a huge bitch.”
This was growing tiresome. Placidly, she selected the deepest and most painful of his wounds, lit a cigarette, and pressed the hot end to his tortured flesh. He gasped and began to squirm, odd, strangled noises emerging from his mouth.
“Say ‘Uncle,’” she chimed pleasantly even as his ruby blood began to soak her fingers.
His features screwed up in pain and loathing as he barely managed to wheeze, “G…go to Hell!”
She pressed harder, tapping a rhythm on her knee as she waited. “Uncle!” he shouted, pounding a fist into the mattress. “UNCLE!”
“Hmmm,” she mused as she let up. “You seem to have ripped your stitches, Spades.”
“I hate you…so damn much…!”
She discarded the soiled cigarette and lit another. Slick flinched. “Relax,” she soothed, blowing a smoke ring in his direction. “Baby.”
He coughed and sputtered, swiping a hand at the fog that had settled around him like a frame. “Will you put that goddamn thing out? You know how much I hate it.”
“Yes, I do. And no, I won’t.” She blew another ring for good measure, and he dissolved into a coughing fit, pain etched onto his face. “Hold still.”
“No way in hell!” he snarled as she made to grab the needle and thread Droog had abandoned in the first aid kit. “I know you too well—you’ll probably sew my mouth shut or some shit.”
“That’s not a bad idea, actually. It’d be nice and quiet for once. But no, that was not my plan. You pulled out your stitches with your struggling---“
“You were BURNING me!”
“---and all of my hard work will be undone if it is left untreated.” She threaded the needle as she spoke, ignoring the evil way he eyed her. “Therefore, I am going to fix it. So don’t move.”
“For the love of God, at least give me some pain killers first!”
“Hmmm, no I don’t think so,” she replied. “You need to toughen up. Be a man.”
“I’m a man with too many fuckin’ holes in ‘im to care about bein’ tough. Gimme the damn Asprin—I know he’s got some in there.”
Instead of bothering with a reply, she merely set to work with cleaning out the wound and then sewing it shut again, ignoring the tantrum he threw, and reveling in the pained noises he made. “You really do complain too much. I might just sew your mouth shut after all.”
He groaned, but surprisingly made no other sound or complaint as she tied off the thread and snipped off the excess with a pair of scissors she’d unearthed from the kit. Then she bandaged it, and stood, smoothing out her skirt as she did so. “Now that that’s done, I think I’ll just be on my way.”
“Yeah, yeah… I can almost hear Lord English callin’ ya. Better beat it.”
“Yes, I’d better. But one more thing.”
Before he could react, she had crushed her lips to his, sharp teeth biting both tongue and lip. He let out a small sound of minor surprise before responding in kind. Before he could do much damage of his own, however, she pulled away, her trademark smirk tugging at her lips as she wiped a hand over her mouth.
“Catch you later, Slick.”