Really, Shawn should have just gone back home after the parade ended. It was swelteringly hot outside, he had an early shift the next day, and the chaos and the press of bodies was starting to feel oppressive instead of celebratory, which just made him irritated and sad. Last year, with Cody, this had been so much fun. Of course, that was before Cody decided to go fuck some bartender in the East Village like the perfect fucking cliche that he was, so…
God. This just utterly blew, but Jamie and Bryn had dragged him into their favorite club with the explicit plan of cheering him up, and he didn’t quite have the heart to ditch them just yet. At least there was air conditioning inside. And alcohol. And Jamie was buying the drinks, which was sweet even if it was just because she was trying to talk him into finding some random stranger to take home and slake his broken heart with, or what the fuck ever.
He took another morose sip of his drink, vodka and artificial blueberries cloyingly sweet on his tongue, as Jamie nestled against his side, scanning the crowd with all the shrewdness of a buyer at a horse auction. Finally, she nudged him with one sharp elbow and pointed toward the far end of the bar.
“What about him? He’s cute.”
Shawn followed her gesture. The guy was pretty hot, at least if the drab paramilitary look was your thing: tall, dark-haired, a spiky, abstract tattoo half-visible on the side of his neck, disappearing into the collar of his plain black t-shirt. He was holding himself like he was expecting to get attacked at any minute, arms folded, expression closed-off as he scanned the crowded bar, looking like nothing so much as a blot of dark ink in the middle of the cheerful whirl of color that was Pandemonium at the height of Pride.
Shawn grimaced. “No way. Look at him, he’s probably a cop.”
“You’re such a cynic,” Jamie said. “Maybe he’s just shy. Or closeted.”
“A closeted cop,” Shawn said. “Thanks, but I’m pretty sure I can do better. I’ll just enjoy the eye candy from over here, where I can make a quick escape if he breaks out the handcuffs--don’t even start,” he added as Jamie opened her mouth, a puckish gleam in her eyes. “Please. We agreed not to mention that.”
“I never agreed to anything,” Jamie said, grinning, but she let it go. “Okay, fine. We’ll leave Mr. Tall, Dark and Broody alone.”
“But I am getting you laid.” She slipped an arm around his waist and he let her, dropping a kiss on the top of her head, where her short hair was stiff with spray-in glitter. “You need to stop moping over Cody and get back out in the game.”
“Please don’t bring up the C-word.”
“Cody, Cody, Cody… Shawn, it’s been a month and a half. I’m done watching you cry into his old t-shirts. You need to move on.”
“I shredded his old t-shirts, actually. It was therapeutic.”
“I’m proud of you,” Jamie said, only a little condescendingly, and slipped away from his side. “Fine. I’m going to go find Bryn and make sure they haven’t decked anybody yet.”
“You mean you’re going to go find Bryn and drag them into a dark corner to make out,” Shawn said. She shrugged like that was more or less the same thing, which, yeah, it probably was. It was also a tacit apology, and a more tactful one than Jamie usually managed. He waved her off when she made an apologetic face. “Go, go. Have fun. I’m just going to stay here and mope a little more.”
“You break my heart,” Jamie sighed, but she leaned up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek before slipping into the crowd, making her way toward the dance floor where Bryn was holding court, the matching glitter in their hot pink Mohawk sparkling under the rainbow lights. He watched as Jamie slipped in between two cute leather-clad boys to loop an arm around their waist, as Bryn grinned huge and sweet and pulled her into a kiss, and then he looked away before his battered heart could implode entirely from jealousy.
Tall, hot, probably-a-cop guy was still standing by the end of the bar, still as stiff as if he’d been ironed and then strung up on an invisible clothes hanger. There was a deep furrow between his brows as he peered into the chaotic crowd like he was looking for something in particular. Something, or someone. Great. It would be just his luck if this turned out to be a police raid in the making.
“Excuse me, excuse me, thank you darling.” A flurry of movement to his left, and then somebody jostled him hard enough to spill most of his drink over his wrist and arm. There was a shivery slide of silk against his bare skin, and the man who had just bumped him turned, placed a warm hand on his elbow, just briefly. He looked like a kaleidoscopic dream in the uncertain light, glitter smeared across his cheeks and an intricate tangle of chains falling over his bare chest, diaphanous silk draped across his shoulders like a robe. It was no stranger than any of the other outfits Shawn could see in the press of bodies, but something about him seemed ethereal, otherworldly, too vivid: like a painting that had been clipped out of its frame and pasted into this dull reality. He blinked, stared, and then the man patted his arm, said, “Excuse me, my dear, I’m so sorry,” and slipped past him into the crowd.
Shawn blinked after him, then looked down at his drink, then blinked some more. A moment ago, it had been the dregs of vodka and blue syrup and ice in a flimsy plastic cup. Now, his fingers were wrapped around a crystal Collins glass, frosted and filled to the brim with something that shimmered lazily where it caught the light. His sleeve, which had been soaked through an instant ago, was entirely dry.
What the fuck?
There was a peal of laughter from the other side of the room, and he looked up in time to see his mystery man come to a stop in front of the guy who was, actually, probably not an undercover cop from the way his face was softening, from the way he reached out and settled a palm against the other man’s cheek, smiling like he was in on the best kind of joke. Shawn hadn’t particularly been attracted to him when he’d looked like a scowling statue, but now—
“Magnus,” he was saying, half-laughing. “What is this? How much did you have to drink?”
“Oh, it’s a celebration.” The other man--Magnus--snapped his fingers, and there was suddenly a glass in his hand that Shawn hadn’t noticed before. “Now. Try this, I promise you’ll like it.”
“Like the last three, you mean?”
“No, no, this one’s perfect. I promise.”
“I really don’t trust you,” the man said, laughing, but he accepted the glass.
“That hurts me,” said Magnus, but he was smiling, watching avidly as the other man tipped the glass up to his mouth, took a drink, then licked his lips. “Well?”
“It tastes very… blue.”
“Blue.” Magnus’s mouth was twitching, something that was both amused and frustrated building in his handsome face. “Alexander, my love, you are perfectly infuriating sometimes.”
“I’m serious,” although he was grinning, a wide, happy smile that made him look like an entirely different person all of a sudden. “Here. You want to try?”
“Of course.” But when he reached for the glass, it was only to set it down on the bar top. Then he cupped Alexander’s face between his bejeweled hands and drew him in to kiss him, deep and thorough. When he finally pulled back, he tapped his mouth thoughtfully, then said, “You’re right. It does taste blue.”
Shawn snorted, dropping his gaze to his own cup, which, yeah, was still made out of glass and still full of something that was definitely not the cheap mixer that Jamie had bought him.
Weird shit happened at Pandemonium; everybody knew that. It just wasn’t something you talked about. Sometimes you’d see people with horns slipping into the VIP lounge, the layout shifted without warning and with no sign of ongoing construction, the bathrooms were always clean and the music was always just what you wanted to hear and occasionally--every once in a while--you might wind up with a drink that didn’t look like anything you’d ever tried before without meaning to order it, and it would be absolutely perfect.
Bryn had once told him, only half-joking, that the owner was a wizard. At the time, he’d laughed at them. But now—
He glanced up again. The two men were slipping away toward the back room, but the shorter one, the one who’d been called Magnus, glanced back at him and smiled. For a moment, just a moment, his eyes seemed to gleam an inhuman, draconic gold.
It might have been a trick of the light. Maybe. Before he could get a better look, they were both gone.
Still, Shawn found himself smiling, something loosening a little in his chest as he turned back to the dance floor. Bryn and Jamie were grinding together to a song he didn’t recognize, something with a dark driving beat that he could feel in his bones. He’d been thinking about heading home, but maybe he’d stay a little bit longer. Maybe he’d even go dance.
He lifted his glass to his lips and sipped; it tasted like frozen sunshine, sparking on his tongue and spreading warmth through him.
It was Pandemonium, after all. Anything was possible.