Praxina Dzeko had thought she’d be used to this by now, and she was right.
She’d been on earth for months now, in quaint little Sunny Bay. Between attacking princesses and lounging like cats in the cave, she and her brother had eventually given in to working with Lev, the creepy little thief. Part of his plan was to become musicians. As ridiculous as that sounded. Mephisto banded together with DJ Ezra and was to get Iris all alone, and Praxina was supposed to establish herself as a pianist before cornering Auriana. Lev had saved Talia for himself with a pretty little smirk, and had something in mind for the older Borealin and Calixian.
She didn’t like not holding the cards. But it got Gramorr off of her back, and the four of them had moved into an earth house, so it was even for now.
The piano bar was an odd place for gigs. Useful for establishing herself, but odd. It was classy, a bit smoky, full of patrons who reminded her of some far off golden age she couldn’t place, of controversy and raciness that aged as poorly as cheap alcohol.
But here she is, in a fine white and gold dress that draped loosely over her frame, hair pulled into two buns with red crystal butterflies holding them in place, a rose-tinted shawl over her shoulders and a pair of rose kitten heels over her feet.
Up onstage, the last act before her was still drawling on, so she settles at the bar.
“Wha do you want tonight, Xina?”
Praxina’s lips twitched up. Her new best friend, bearer of alcoholic beverages, Nathaniel.
“The usual. How long have those clowns been up there?”
“Long enough to make this place feel like a carnival.” He says it as he starts making her a strawberry daiquiri.
“Joy.” She sighs and pops a peanut into her mouth, just for the crunch.
By the time Nathaniel slides her drink over, she’s beyond done with the bozos onstage. They felt dated, but more like a raunchy film than a fine wine. She hoped the company would enjoy her music more than theirs.
They finish their set by the time she finishes her daiquiri with a flash of a smile to the audience, and the only return being polite clapping.
“Just waters from here on, darling.” Praxina winks coyly over her shoulder at the bartender. Nathaniel nods, and a blonde slides into her seat.
The regulars, upon seeing her, whoop in excitement before she’s even settled into the plush seat.
She pulls the microphone towards her.
“Are we ready?”
There’s a chorus of cheers, the loudest coming from the bar. She sheds her shawl with another wink, and then her fingers descend on the keys.
The princesses had no class. They had flair, sure, but not true, cultured style. Blending runician ballads with earth instruments, crooning to a crowd of people in a smoky brick establishment with a hazy spotlight on her? Now that was the perfect way to perform.
She just had to get the hyperactive voltan here, and she’d have the princess wrapped around her pinky finger.
Her voice was low and husky, the tones of the ballad soothing and quiet and sweet. And of course, the piano echoed her hauntingly. It was lovely for a calm evening like this one. Some of the tables were gently talking amongst themselves, with cigarettes and low glasses, while others tipped margaritas and red wine to their smiling lips while keeping their eyes on her.
She liked when people just watched her, eyes wide, soaking her in. She was a princess herself, after all. She was meant for things like this.
Most of all, Praxina felt eyes from the bar. Her eyes kept drifting back to them.
The blonde who’d stolen her seat was new to the scene. Teal button up with loosely rolled sleeves and leather bracelets, dark leather shoes, a beanie and slacks. She could tell that his eyes were dark, even from here. She wondered if they’d even reflect light, unlike Nathaniel’s nearly glowing pair behind him.
Her closing notes wane into a cacophony of clapping and whoops, and she hopes the clowns from before had stuck around to hear it.
Two songs later, she makes her way back to the bar. Sweat had twinkled on the back of her neck and her brow onstage, but outside the furnace of the spotlight she drew the shawl closer around herself. The blonde was still there, twirling his straw absentmindedly, dark eyes on her.
Praxina thought he might look familiar, but she wasn’t sure.
“Still water?” Comes Nathaniel, cutting through the staring match.
He begins making it with an amused smile on his lips. The blonde speaks.
Her eyebrows rise.
“Your songs really spoke to me.”
“They actually sang to you. That’s how that works.” She corrects, lips pursed.
He laughed, lifting a drink up to his lips. It was dark too, and in the shadows of the bar, she still couldn’t see anything in those eyes of his. “Maybe so.”
Praxina accepts her shirley temple. Some other act fills her absence, a whiny little thing, crooning about midnights and lost lovers. She was sure the girl was trying to win an award for being most generic, but sips her drink anyways. “What do you want?”
“I just have a request for the lady.”
“And what is it?”
“To come back to my place and sing for me.”
Her eyebrows rise and a snort bubbles up unwittingly. “Really? You think I’d sing in a second location? I chose this one for the atmosphere and exposure.”
“Exposure?” The blonde leans forward, giggling. “Now that’s something.”
“Nathaniel, can I ask you to remove this clown from the building?”
“No on several levels. I’m not like, a bouncer, and I actually asked him to come.”
Praxina’s eyes snapped to him. She was sure that they conveyed her sense of betrayal. “You invited him?”
“Yeah, and the proposal isn’t just from him.” Nathaniel leaned forward on his elbows. “Not pressuring or anything, you can say no anytime.”
“We’re not assholes, we just like you.” The blonde adds helpfully, cocking his head towards the brunette.
Praxina narrows her eyes. “After my set is done.”
The blonde fist pumps. She’d be annoyed, but the good mood creeps back up on her.
She learns the blonde’s name before they leave the piano bar, her mask of indifference quickly fading. She’d have felt too idiotic to ask it, so she waited until Nathaniel crooned it in the blonde’s ear, an arm swung around his shoulder affectionately, his other hand in hers. Her face had heated up, but the streetlamps were inconsistent, so she hoped they wouldn’t notice.
“Doug” was familiar, too. She had finally decoded where she knew him from, and hoped he wouldn’t recognize her smirk or burgundy hair, either. She did recognize his cell phone, and hoped he wouldn’t mind if she didn’t want to participate in any selfies.
They finally reach the little apartment, on the wrong side of town, a full moon arching above their heads.
Inside the stairwell, Doug takes the lead. With each stomp of his feet against the steps the candles melted onto them come alight, illuminating a little bit of the curving structure. She hadn’t thought, from the cobblestone and weathered siding, that there was anything interesting inside…
Just like she’d assumed that the blonde was nothing more than just a tool, something for her to use to make a monster.
Her heart fluttered with excitement, and she could hear Nathaniel snickering behind her.
Inside the apartment, there’s massive windows from the floor to the tip-top of the building, and the room they’re in was shaped like an arrow. There was a huge area above them, rafters and cobwebs aplenty. And all of it was right in the path of the moonlight.
Doug stands in the center, framed on either side by moonlight. Praxina waits at the top of the stairs, intrigued, and the room explodes in color.
Not literal explosions, fortunately. But fake ones, candles and lamps and stuff.
“Doug, do you want to freak her out?”
“Oh come on Nate, she’s an alien!”
Praxina’s eyes widen. “Excuse me?”
Nate drapes an arm around her shoulder. “You weren’t exactly subtle.”
Doug comes closer, grinning from ear to ear. “I always knew there were aliens and stuff! Plus you have magic too, and that’s the coolest thing on the planet! And off it, I guess.”
“You recognized me.” She replies flatly.
“More than that,” Nathaniel begins, voice deliciously without conviction or judgement.
“We’re interested in you.” Doug finishes.
Praxina feels something swell in her chest.
They end up settling on a large mountain of pillows and blankets, more closely resembling a batidae’s nest than a bed. She swore that somewhere she’d discover the tiny mammal, but with the kitten heels shed and a boy lounging on either side of her, comfortably, she decides she won’t press the matter.
“So, go back to what you two said earlier?” Praxina prompts. It was only fair of them, that had definitely thrown her for a loop. Honestly, all of this had.
“We’re interested in you.” Nathaniel repeats. “Like, romantically and other stuff.”
“Other stuff. What does that mean?”
“I want you to teach me magic! If you want to. Or just step on me, that’s fine too.” Doug nodded serenely, as if he’d put a lot of thought into the matter. She rolled her eyes.
“I’m not stepping on anyone.” That’s met with two mildly disappointed grunts, eerily in unison. “And I’m pretty sure my magic and yours aren’t even compatible. And if they were,” Praxina shows her magic circle, unable to quantify the satisfaction when she sees the shape reflected in his eyes. She’d learned, in the moonlight, that they were actually a honeyed brown, and that it was just the haze of the piano bar that’d made her see things. She does, however, prefer the atmosphere of the piano bar. Her fingers itch to play more melodies.
“I’m not… in the right magic range to even try to teach you.” She concludes, slowly, mildly embarrassed at the pause.
“Then that’s fine.” Doug nods. “It was just a thought.”
Praxina stares at him.
“Did you think we’d pressure you, or something?” Nate asks.
She looks at him.
“We’re not really that kind of people.” He shrugs.
“How do you fit into all of this, anyways? I’m an alien and he’s…” Praxina trails off, eyes lingering on the blonde.
She accepts it. “A witch. So what are you?”
Nathaniel grins slowly. “Very, very interested.”
She tips her head back, reaching up to dissolve the crystal butterflies and let her hair fall back to its natural pin-straight form. She feels a pair of eyes, different as night and day, on her.
“If I agree to this, you’re both going to have to help me.”
There’s a pair of nods, from one dark head and one light.
“I’m trying to take Iris down a peg.”
Nathaniel freezes, and Doug peeks at him.
The moment is suspended, and Praxina turns to look at him.
“What’s she done to deserve it?”
“Not much, yet. But if I don’t get her down, she’ll make our planet implode with political bullshit.”
Doug blinked. Nathaniel stared.
“Her mother’s a terrible person, and if she becomes queen again, which she’ll do, even if she has to kill Iris to do it, then she’ll destroy the planet with her greed.”
“Does Iris know?” Nathaniel asks, softly.
“No, but she wouldn’t believe me anyways. That’s why it’s my brother’s job to keep her out of the way.”
The boys share a long look.
Praxina glanced at Doug. “When do we start?”
Doug and Nathaniel nod, slowly.
The blonde cups her chin. “Now?”
She nearly melts into the touch. She’s well aware of Nathaniel’s bright eyes on her as she leans forward and steals a long kiss.
Just as she’s aware of Doug’s dark eyes when she turns over her shoulder to share another with Nathaniel.
And as she’s sure they’re aware of her watching while they lean up, over her, to kiss, Nathaniel’s dark hand mussing the light hair, both of their faces showing the barely withheld excitement.
She thinks that she likes having atleast a pair of aces in her hands, for now.
There’s a melody in the back of her head as they hold hands and whisper and kiss, long into the night.