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Hani Kim


0 · 3,602 views · located in Brooklyn, New York

a character in “Dirt & Opulence”, originally authored by SleepingInTheGardens, as played by emotionless




||"Don't treat me like I'm a toddler, I can look after myself, thanks"||




Hani Kim



South Korean





Dark Brown

Naturally Black
dyes it often ~ color depends on her mood


120 lbs

Honey is blindingly beautiful, though petite. She stands at only five foot, two, but that doesn't keep her from turning heads. One lingering look is enough to make a man fall to her feet, and you best believe her family uses that to their advantage. She is soft spoken, and carries herself elegantly, something that has been drilled into her mind from the moment she came out of the womb. Amidst the glitz and glamour of the Mafia life, Hani grew accustomed to the finer things in life, most of all the fashion. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories, make up and glitter make up a big part of her every day attire. She doesn't dress to impress, because there is no one she is set on impressing. She enjoys getting dolled up, even if just for a night out. She believes it to be the last means for her to express herself freely, considering all other aspects of her life are dictated. Fashion is the only thing she had control over, and she takes advantage of that fully.



Few things can lift her spirits the wat a good shopping trip can
fashion and shopping go hand in hand - she loves to dress the whole family
Anything sugary is like a blessing to her
Mostly espresso, as strong as it can be
despite her parents' wishes, she hates staying at home doing nothing, where it's "safe". Hani is a full-time thrill seeker
Hani adores her older brother, just a bit more than the rest of the family
How else are you going to make friends?

She's a part of it because she has no choice
she's much stronger and capable than her family gives her credit for
One of the main reasons she hates the family business
Most are quick to judge and make assumptions based on the fact that she is part of a rich family
She can't keep her mouth shut when she sees someone being treated unfairly

[Being Late]
[Sneaking out of the estate]



Seeking out pleasures, adventure and thrill is something Hani holds very high in her list of the most important things in life, so long as they don't involve hurting the innocent. Unlike the rest of her family, Hani's love towards the business is practically non-existent. It's true, she enjoys the comfort and riches that come from it, but she would be much happier if they were provided by a different source. Shady business, bloodshed, living in fear and distrust towards everyone around her, these are things Hani could do without. She likes to pretend that her family is what society would consider, average. A father, a mother, two loving older brothers. Sitting down the five of them to eat dinner, going out on family outings, traveling together. None of these things are of importance to anyone but her, at least that's what she believes. Wherever the family goes, chaos follows.

Hani's will is strong, but her heart is weak. She trusts easily, believes anything, loves anyone. Things such as these make her emotionally fragile. Not that anyone takes notice. It's difficult. Looking past the cheerful smile and hopeful doe eyes is not something others tend to do. To uninterested perspectives she is a rich girl, pampered and protected. Nothing less, nothing more. Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends, this is the world she's destined to be part of. Only one person truly knows her. Her fears, her wishes, her strengths, her weaknesses. More than a brother, he's a best friend. Even more than a best friend, he is her sanity.

Hyunso Kim || Father
Hyejin Kim || Mother
Jinhwan Kim || Eldest brother
Jaehyun Kim || Second eldest brother


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Kim Hyuna (HyunA)


So begins...

Hani Kim's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Jasper Callaghan Character Portrait: Chloe Williams Character Portrait: Simone Bates
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The Brooklyn sub rosas, cage and coop of something bound for victory and moved on the backs of rats who dreamt for better lives. Puppets in buildings by the string yanking of a cosa nostra sensation. Labs go east, west. North. South. Between. Pocketed in those non-English-speaking districts where the cards are cut just by bare management. 'Cause it can go one of two ways: riches or ruin. These stockrooms range from coffee houses, basements, titty bars, to crack dens. Each front has its purpose. The mass production of analgesics, opiates and stimulants is the foremost. Branded Zaire.

A familiar theme 'round these parts is the devil's song and frequent libido to dance to it. The opposite of the bible is the parables written in this place, where indulgence is courtesy of opted intent for dirty glory. If one can't find it in an empty wallet and scattered teeth of a sidewalk, they will find it in the rippling of their blood after selling their soul. Euphoria is never too far for the willing hedonist. But prestige? Big guns never lose it when they're unafraid, against the odds without hesitation toward the next spirit they break. It's why this neighborhood is gutted down the middle.

Two kings. Two houses.

Bel sat under the crown of cold hard cash. He'd accept nothing less in the absence of his father. His former brother in arms, Gunner, resided on the diametric side, with significantly less losses. It was because of this that Bel found himself at war even more so internally than out - the agony behind painful self questioning never garnered him reason. Never explanation.

Why was it that, as Cristobel and Senna's father became a ghost, Gunner got to speak to his one last time? Why in all of this, did Gunner's spine stiffen to a formidable code he wouldn't break, not even for his best friend? Why wouldn't he tell anyone anything? Why didn't he want the family he grew alongside to have closure? Why in Andres Zaire's memory, was there only the aftermath of Gotti Bates and his perpetual stain on Bel's family? Why did any of the Bates stay in New York? What gave them the nerve? How was that family name still remotely alive in the streets? Was Bel just fucking their only daughter in the name of some sworn counter play? Was he next to be taken out? These things were contemplated quietly. Inside the glock-tapped-temple of none other than Cristobel.

ImageHis morning routine involved casting aside his blatant love for Julia Bates and all the vindictive poison for the rest of her bloodline. Somewhere beside the discarded sentiment was likely an empty bottle, Rolex, and an iPhone loaded with missed calls. A few inches beyond the dangling wrist of a mattress ornament. His nocturnal penchant. Sun stream trickled through the window and ignited the curves of her silhouette, glittered on dark hair but failed to lighten under eye shadows. Cocaine coma. She was nameless and catered to, he was a stack of Benjamins richer. Bel inhaled the aroma of some catty perfume stuck to his sheets, half lidded, hand down the front of his boxers. A lone thumb lazily grazed Calvin Klein's in a hazy blur of ink. Just another successful night in paradise.

The rough skin of a tattooed palm came down his face at the realization that morning was actually noon and noon was surely ticking past 2PM. With a knuckle slide along the ribs of his clientele and concubine, he murmured, "Muñeca I got shit to do." No movement. He assessed his stubble from mandible to chin point, waiting for a response.

“Vamos,” he snagged the comforter from where it rested just enough to protect her dignity below, tugged on one of her ankles and gruffly spoke up, “Salir. Now.” The baritone spilled out of his mouth in autocratic excellence without room for second thoughts or apologies. Not like he ever gave either, anyway. The Latina hissed in recoil, “Yo sé cómo funciona!” She went vertical, suddenly turning the rounded tip of her nose up and gathering material around her naked frame. He was pleasantly surprised by her comprehension, being that it was almost impossible to recall whether she spoke English or at all the night before. “Cálmese. I don’t wanna’ fucking cuff you. No te hagas ilusiones.” It appeared she was mocking him, but he attributed it to her beauty sleep being disturbed.

“Nobody owns Cristobel Zah-ree.”

It appeared his generous assumption was wrong. Nope, this was home-brewed loathing. But all he could do was furrow his brow at the rolling of her tongue around the syllables of his name and let a grin split across his face. There was real anger behind the full red mouth that was barking at him, stainless cotton falling from her grasp in her audacity. As her dialect proceeded into a flood, he scrolled through his phone, acknowledging the common case among all of the texts. More or less a block party at The Little Lady which would be warped into a business opportunity the minute he stepped foot on the property. Live music, good food, maybe they’d even open up the outdoor dining portion if the sun stayed at it. A cocked eyebrow hit when the firecracker threw a hand toward him, breasts jiggling at every point she made, babbling about him not even listening.

Had to love the sass and fearlessness of a Latina, the disrobed pride and promise that he would miss her when she was gone. That she swore. His response was unmoved by her passionate script, but hell if it wasn’t entertaining. “Si, si.” He’d say. Hypnotizing, really. Watching the bounce of her chest and allowing her voice to fade into static. Just smile and nod. Offer her a ride home and try not to laugh.

By the time she’d finally relented and caved for a cruise in the A6, he was short on time. He didn’t get her name. Back to the pad and swiftly into the shower. The usual nine yards. Shit, shower, shave. What greeted him in the mirror was prominent cheek bones once made way for by the clearing of condensation. A pair of dark riddles above his nose, the steel jawline complimenting surfeit of symmetry. Dead set terrain down his abdomen showed in washboard fashion. Somehow it was maintained by the occasional shake and two hour gym session. Casual slap of Armani aftershave, finger rake through chocolate hair at the hard part, pomade to keep it in place. Save for the clothes in the bedroom, he was just about done.

Pregaming lone wolf style would have him fashionably late for the bash but no one would mind. Julia, maybe, but it wasn’t like she could come sit in his lap either way in a place like that. Not with the odds of her brothers showing up. Senna would reserve a table or a seat at the bar, clock him with her tiny hand and chide him without any real effort whenever he decided to make an appearance. Everything else would be handshakes and exchange.

Bel neglected pulling a shirt on until the last possible moment, lethargic in sliding a denim jacket over it as well. The permanent medallion across collar bones barely peeked over the white seam. And when he rocked himself to his full posture of six feet and then some, floorboards creaked under his shoes.

The atmosphere was friendly, happy enough. Light. Yeah, that’s what he would use to describe it. Lots of family-oriented cordiality and the smell of home cooked recipes. The doors were propped open as if to say, “Everyone is welcome.” Immediately behind the counter with a twist on his mouth was what Bel assumed to be the owner or head chef, muscles wrapped around his arms and twitching when something was out of place. At his side, a young girl, maybe six or seven at the most. She pulled on him and suspended from his side in the way children do when they really want something.

It didn't take Bel long to spot Dominic Bates, cigar between teeth and sidewise to the commotion. The rest of the clan would surely be arriving if the least-involved tramp was there. So when Leigh slid up next to Bel, voice meek, maintaining just enough distance to be his shadow, the reminder of advantage was cognizant. One of his arms went around her shoulder to whisper something into her hair. Similar to how a federal agent holds up a piece of clothing to his dog and starts the hunt, but more refined and indirect. Her tresses were ambrosial of Tsubaki and it lingered on him when she split off.

ImageThere were the regulars, then. Neighborhood-y faces recognized easily. Malkov with his Russian charm, something in his glass, patting backs and politely regarding matrons. In fact, he was just a short distance from Bel’s little sister, who was eyeing the cracked-concrete look of an arm laid on the bar top. The back face of its palm had a song bird tattoo. Had to belong to a junkie from the vein structure. Someone paler than a ghost. Tall and thin, akin to a specter, too. Must have been one of the kids that showed up to Bel’s HQ with a jittering violent need that couldn’t be sated by just any product. He was shameless, bumping Senna and causing a spilled drink when he readjusted himself. Judging by the carriage and slick smile, it had to be Jasper. Senna was regaining her composure, waving it off and saying it wasn’t a big deal as she dabbed at her dress with a napkin. Typical. But at least it was handled.

Bel held a menu in his hand. The place was stacked with decent options, none of which he’d get to sit down and enjoy with sniper-eyes in every corner but. He’d take a mental note of it and return on a less crowded day. The sandy-haired hurricane herself blew in a moment later, eyes buffed black by make up. Julia totally avoided her brother, curved anyone else and went straight for the bar. Eventually the brawn known as Gunner showed up, then a Kim [or two], and Simone in the ironed perfection of a tailored get up.

Suddenly it felt congested.

Upon ordering himself a bourbon, Bel found himself next to a familiar patron, scarlet shade pinning crux on her. But he knew all about Chloe. Her habits, her cool exhibition of being the secret aficionado. He ordered her a vodka and cranberry, mouthing, “It’s on me.” She was pressed to the bar by the back of the Yakuza’s daughter [really strange seeing her out in the daylight, let alone somewhere like The Little Lady].

Moving between the crowd was a blue-haired girl, anxious in mannerism, serving plates of food. She dumped an appetizer tray in front of Chloe and Bel, looking flustered. The air constricted, thickened with the humidity of bodies packed and much too comfortable whether in a drunken state of food or booze to move. Bel closed a hefty tip in her free hand and waved her off. He tried to keep his gaze off of Jubes, raising his glass to toast with Chloe, “So aside from the obvious, what do you do in your free time? You don’t strike me as the regular New Yorker, and I’m all sorts of curious.”

Read Jubes' Post Here

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Jasper Callaghan Character Portrait: Chloe Williams Character Portrait: Simone Bates
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Every coin has another side, cleaner or dirtier is a matter of perspective, and the West dealt with midnight, back-alley dealings and baseball bats breaking bones of those too stupid to pay up. Relying on a gusto of gnarled thugs, frost-wielding transport trucks, and bearded brothers to keep their business running like freshly greased cogs, the Bates starlight business of narcotics, premium nose candy and dirty work clambered to the top, with their neighbourhood Colombians. They kept their fingers in everyone's pie. Rubbed shoulders, shook hands, buried bodies. Knowledge and connections might've been powerful, but it's the ones that back it up with ripped knuckles and gnashed teeth that get to keep it all. And if there's something to say about the Bates family, it's that they're damned fucking determined to keep what they've earned.

While Dominic sat in the second throne, narcotic-crown as soft and delicate as flowers on his head, Gunner was at his side. Behind his chair, at his feet, arms crossed and always waiting: a bearded beefcake, a dog with a short leash, and a penchant for abusing their own merchandise. Frequently. If anyone actually noticed, they didn't say anything. Too much of a bother. And for once, in that damning instance, Gunner knew more than his older brother, and his attempts at drowning out his father's wrangling words ended up in barely-recalled nights heating spoons and taping clean needles, passed out in the hallway of his home; clothed or unclothed.

Why had his dad reached out to him first? He wasn't in charge. He'd never been in fucking charge, so why had he pulled him aside, bright eyes like delirious lanterns. Gripping his shoulder like a drunken man holding onto a pillar. Why couldn't he have just left him out of it? Instead, he dropped a handful of shit into his hands, and took off to god-knows where. No instructions as to what he was supposed to do with what he told him. What was he supposed to do? One person couldn't stand up to the shit-storm that was brewing in the distance, and the sickness swirling in his gut told him that he didn't want the change that was coming. Something would burn to the ground. And they'd expect him to tickle his fingers across his glock: friend or not.

His own morning routine wasn't as glamorous. Gunner didn't rake his teeth across a stranger's thighs, didn't transpose his room into a tourist attraction and click his tongue at a nice pair of legs until they felt compelled to trail their way inside. He'd never been like that, much to Bel's disappointment. How many times had he dragged his sorry ass to strip clubs, or dumped a friend of a friend into his lap, hoping for something entertaining to happen? Too many times to count. Mornings like these were spent wallowing in the tangled sheets, leather belt just barely slinking down his forearm. His phone buzzed off the coffee table, and clattered on the ground until the caller finally gave up and left a nasally message. Hardly any sunlight trickled through the bamboo blinds, carefully shuttered close to prevent his head from spinning when he finally cracked his eyes open. Feather-light foot treads pounced on the corner of his bed, clambered up his spine, and settled beside his face. A lady of the feline persuasion. A rattling purr sounded, nestling itself under his jawline. Better than any alarm clock he'd ever had.

A soft sigh sifted past his lips, buried in fur, until he rolled to the side, and pushed himself up, disentangling himself from the thin sheets. He didn't bother with heavy blankets, no duvet, because it was too hot and nightmares addled his narcotized dreams. Dragging heavy hands across his face and through his hair, Gunner dragged his knuckles over his bleary eyes. Lidded at half-mast, they combed across the room and found the glowing numbers blinking up at him: 1pm. Wasn't like he had much to do today, but sleeping in when he should've been slinging dope, or following Dominic's instructions, wouldn't bode well for him. He dropped a hand across the feline's head, scratched at the back of it's ears, and murmured a barely intelligible word before slipping off the bed and stumbling towards the bathroom.
An initial bout of inertia made Gunner's shower dismally miserable. His head swam like a fishbowl, splashing over it's sides. Soap, scrape, forehead pressed against the tiles, finished. He swiped his palm across the surface pf the wall-sized mirror, clearing the condensation to expose a slice of raccoon-eyed bags, like purple and black prose, and drifting lower, a flat-lined frown. Thick, dark eyebrows, framed murky eyes, or puddles, or shit, for all the baggage they carried. Aquiline nose, crooked. Lip, scarred. Fortunately, they weren't bloodshot. Clipped his beard so he looked less like a lumberjack and more like someone who had their life together, which was hilariously inaccurate. Taming the scruff of brown hair with pomade, and briefly spraying his collar with whatever was on the counter. Probably Dominic's stuff.

He flicked through his phone, halted on a few texts, though they generally said the same thing. When was he getting there? The Little Lady—a party of sorts, and there'd be business, because wherever the families went, there was always fucking business to take care of. Almost made him want to stay in. Tuck himself back in bed. Send himself off in another ceiling-raising stupor, drifting away from everything that made his knuckles crack. Gunner took a deep, withering breath and snapped open his closet.

Clothes. Clothes made the man... or whatever his pops used to say, tightening tiny ties around the boys' necks whenever they were allowed to follow him around. It stuck with him, like a rough-housing growl in the back of his ear, even if he deliberately ignored it. His style allowed for brisk movements, bloody fists, and future stains, because blood was unforgiving on designer suits and shiny shoes. A plain white shirt, fitted to his stocky form. Black dress pants, fitted with a belt for ulterior purposes, and a pair of ass-kicking boots, prime for extracting teeth from pretty faces. Slipping a leather jacket over his bulky shoulders, he shook out the collar and sucked at his gums, hesitating at the doorway. Aviators completed the ensemble, to hide the mess of restlessness splayed across his face like a crime scene presenting itself to his betters.

But, it wasn't the glasses he'd been wondering about. It didn't make him rock back on his heels, fingers resting across the door handle. A bump. That's all he needed right now, before throwing himself neck-deep into whatever was going to happen at The Little Lady. He wasn't stupid. He'd been avoiding Bel like he carried the bubonic plague, like he had rats scurrying at his heels, threatening to infect everyone around him. Might've been cowardly, but Gunner didn't have a way with words, and something told him that whatever he managed to say would end up in broken bottles and flying fists. It wasn't what he wanted. He raked his fingers across his face, exhaled sharply and lurched back into his room. Only took him a few seconds, fishing out that tiny bag of paradise, of silent sanctum. Meticulous movements, dividing pure whiteness into lines, and sending it straight up his septum. A few head shakes, sniffles, and he was right as rain.
Showing his face late wasn't anything out of the ordinary, though he was neither fashionably late or cared enough to come early. Sometimes, he didn't bother showing up at all. Shaking hands and clapping shoulders didn't appeal to him. Now, busting heads and making people cry, that was a different beast altogether. Nettled energy sizzled through his fingertips, jettisoned up his spine, and wriggled down his neckline; sordid warmth, cat-calling him to break things, run, expend it in any way possible. But this was the wrong place. Everything in the Little Lady screamed civil, organized, friendly. Jona's bearded gruff greeted him first, eying the establishment through the eyes of someone who cared too much. Gunner took another deep breath through his nostrils and felt the bitter, residual lick dripping down his throat, numbing the portions it touched. And he was calm, for the most part. He licked his lips, hooked his aviators in his shirt and bustled through the gathering crowd of locals.

Bel was hard to miss in the crowd, even if he'd rather go without seeing him here, he knew it'd be impossible. Of course, he'd be here. Wouldn't miss it for the world. Besides, they had business to settle, and he wasn't saying a word about it. How awkward would this be? Gunner slipped a hand to the nape of his neck and scratched at his hairline, idling closer to the bar, than anyone's table. Usually, he wouldn't cut through the crowd and plopped right down beside his upscaled, swanky partner in crime, but times were changing and he didn't feel like facing him just yet. Not without a drink warming his belly. He noted the shaking phantom bump into Senna, and spill her drink, and almost stepped over to see if there was a problem, until he overhead him apologizing. Jasper, that's what his name was. Just another junky. Kinda like he was, he supposed. His gazed lingered on the youngest Zaire, dabbing her dress and waving Jasper off like it was no big deal, because it wasn't, but that's just how she was. They were contradictions, reacting in distinctive ways. She was too good, sometimes.


Gunner averted his gaze, because it was never good looking at her for too long when Bel was around. Instead, he wandered to the bar and leaned his elbows across the smooth, clean surface, glancing up at the grisly bartender, “Two shots of rum, each. Thanks.” He didn't look at Jubes for a second. Only shifted his position and leaned his back against the bar, regarding everyone else flitting from group to group. Simon was smoothing ruffled feathers. It was a knack he had, churning turmoil into something a little lighter. Then, there was everyone else. Businesses rubbing elbows in the dark, smoke puffing from lips; Russian, American, Colombian, Yakuza alike. It would've been strange if he wasn't used to such shady company, and if he didn't belong in it himself. Once the drinks arrived, he slid one over to his younger sister and took a whopping gulp of his own, sighing over the rim of his glass, “Hope you're having a better day than I am, Jubes.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Jasper Callaghan Character Portrait: Chloe Williams
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Heaven was all cut up. Its percolation of sunlight chased the night away and apprehended the moon for daring to be so full. Senna considered herself a hellion in all Luna’s phases, even the bare semi circular solitude that often hid behind skyscrapers. The trope didn’t go unnoticed by those that it awakened. Especially not her. Real life vampires didn’t prey on blood so much as themselves and gluttony, and they walked dauntless in the daylight, even if a bit hungover.

From the stretch of area between the door and bed, there was nothing but a trail of evidence. It littered its way across twelve or so feet. Started with a purse vomiting keys on tile, paused about seven squares in for the alleged 4AM, “I think I’m gonna’ be sick”, and ended centimeters from the boxspring in the soles of abandoned heels. It had to be considered a small victory if nothing else. Making it to the bed and leaving the shoes. Not bottling out before the left one was completely removed. Counts for something, right? Discounting all of this sloshed disarray, the Brooklyn flat was as nice as ninepence. Everything was ivory. Squared and neat as a pin. The place was small, but so was she.

Slate tides imbued flushed cheeks that were being slapped into consciousness when Senna peeled herself from the mattress like she’d been steamrolled. The mess of a mane hid all the features of her doll-like visage. Peeping out like a lone captive was the edge of her nose, accompanied by sulking lips, plush and parted in desperate need of H2O. Her feet thrashed their way out of a sheet tangle, then went still with precaution. One hell of a wake up call was catching a bony knee to the groin. A kick in the shin. She half-expected morning prologues necessitated by being sloppy while she assaulted herself. “Hello, hi. Senna. And you? How do you take your coffee? Do you need to charge your phone?” Numbers done, no matter how stupid in a potion-induced narcosis, were never a reason for loss of manners. Each time she’d open sleepy eyes to the relic of a crazy night, she’d divulge her reception. Apologies if necessary. Flash a smile just a few teeth short of a grin. Awkwardly avoid bodily contact, go as the crow flies to the Keurig. But for the third morning in a row, she’d woken up alone, and likely gone to bed the same.

She’d overdosed on the accessibility of carnal companionship. Or, how that rapport fattened her pockets and left her inattentive to suitors. Men with their cups running over who couldn’t speak on fetishes unless behind a dead bolted door. Divorcees, usually. Vagabonds. Bartenders. CEO’s. The usual femme she’d be fixated on. One she’d find under some magenta light off of Greenpoint Ave. The prevalent niña bonita, someone to loop arms, bang out some lines, barhop with. It was no longer unprecedented. It was fucking depressing.

There were those nights with Gunner, though. They fell between the cracks more often than she’d like to admit, lost in a mantle of blurred reverie. He was an amulet for things strayed in her life. An apparent exclusive constant. Their scattered encounters never became less charming or homely, come what may. She’d seen the aortal throb in his neck many times, from withdrawal, from compulsion. Made sure that he didn’t hurtle himself over some precipice when playing with pin pricks and powder. Acknowledged his infernal need the way he did hers, with the acceptance and lack of interrogation she’d always desired. They were asylums to each other. Quiet sometimes. Tempests the others. The rare times he wished to speak sentiment, she perched herself on palms to listen. When it was her turn she’d flop on the force of his chest and mumble, “I’m glad you’re still here. I’m not interesting by myself.” The rest she’d slur in Spanish so that there were still secrets worth saving. He’d pick out only the words he knew as a result of being around her family growing up, the ones she commonly hissed or crooned. They’d forget in sleep about everything and meet again in the morning. It did the pair no justice to call them friends, victims of circumstance - acquaintances. And to call them lovers was de trop all together. He may have learned every dip and curve of her body by note, but this wasn’t from a sultry handful of stunts. It was from holding her hair back and having to carry her over his shoulder when she was KO’d by virtue of dope.

Usted me salvó en más de un sentido. You are the last good thing about this life.

It was to no surprise that landing her ass on a barstool at the Little Lady came with consequences of conflicting company. There existed little justification to shower and start fresh for such a shit show, so she’d tied her hair back in a frayed bun and threw on some gold, some Carisa Rene half white, half mint dress. Victorian lace tailoring that made her an oblong detail. An oddity in the backdrop of a cafe packed wall to wall with boojie mafia offspring. Hell, she’d even showed up early. However, ask her, and she couldn't tell you how it was that she got there. How she managed to remedy delirium tremens from the night before without having to be wheeled in wearing a paper bag and sunglasses. But by golly, she god damn did it.

ImageHer mother’s rosary dangled from her narrow neck like a heavy memorandum as Bel approached not far off, bone-paled pressure at the skin of his hands when he tallied up the Bates presence. His scrape was sluggish over Julia which he didn’t realize until Senna backhanded his thick skull, “Dog.” Whereas Bel was insolent and strapped, Senna was a surveyor not froggy enough to leap when it meant all out genocide. She felt Gunner come in and sit seven seats down the way but she didn’t look once. Even in innocence, there were tremors that would tip the boiling pot. It was stupid to assume otherwise. Stupid to even bat an eye at a hot little mess who had nothing but desire to watch the world around them burn. Stupid all around to gamble in a small space. One not their own. Stupid, stupid. Someone was always watching, even stupid assholes knew that. In a snap of a retort he’d shine through Senna with his mirthful grin, make a joke and go on assuming his little sister knew absolutely nothing. Pendejo. Stupid, stupid son of a bitch.

By what Senna presumed a counterstrike, he steered in tight beside Chloe. Ever an enigma of a woman [a good one at that], she moved to face him probably only to show homage to her drug dealer. But she wore a smile like a good luck jewel that could turn black as any stone in the event of being crossed. If Bel didn’t see that, then he was just as much the fool only Senna knew him to be. Chloe reciprocated niceties, delicate poise in her wrist as she sipped cranberry juice. Underneath all that sociable gimmicking was a very poisonous predator. The type of carnivore that came to be as a direct result of knowing only survival for a very long time, it’s why she glittered like forbidden fruit. On this particular day she looked more business than tenth-story latex fetish where she and Senna last bumped heads, and the mutual nod of regard was given in a sort of, “You wanna’ do it again sometime?” way. Before she could open her mouth to extend an invitation, a dove-decorated palm accidentally splashed her personal space and sent a scotch spilling on to the jade cotton of her skirt.

Forgiveness was such a timely tool. She used it in waving Jasper off, lips quirking without a trace of irritation, “No worries, I gotta’ get it dry-cleaned anyway. No, por favor, it’s fine.” The flats of her fingers pressed the fabric dry with a bar napkin as a bearded man behind the lines handed a few extra. His bebita bounced up and down like he requested backup on matters [he didn’t], and bundled a bunch in her tiny paws to offer to Senna on tippy-toes. “Gracias hermosa, sheesh. You run this place? No wonder all these people are packing in, you’re one hard worker. You gotta’ treat yourself.” A riddled expression passed over the girl. Senna folded a five dollar bill and balanced her weight on one rung of a bar stool to present the mini barista with, “You know, reward yourself! Thanks for the napkins.”

There Bel went again. Half in conversation, half out. He eyed Dominic Bates at his crook. Found Senna’s ex by the door, daffodil-colored hair weaving through the crowd, and again settled on the tenebrous presence of Julia. Like they had a fat bone to pick, she was icing him the fuck out, and Bel was apologizing with baby bister eyes in a room full of people. The fatale ordered a drink piled high with whipped cream. Sat up right beside Gunner with Simon mere inches left. And what did this do but put Baby on Julia’s radar as the next best socket for her brother’s fuck ups. Senna already guessed the beverage was coming her way, and accepted it warmly knowing she was much better at quarantining pestilence than anybody else in the vicinity.

You wanna’ go walking in the moonlight with me, honey? You wanna’ hold my hand?

That expanse of gray matter was churning like the seven seas and had a tendency to ebb at the very edges of Gunner’s sanity and nip at Bel’s heels. Baby knew both well enough to pin outcomes to the board without a single error. It was a leaden storm cloud which encompassed the substance of impending bloodshed. And at this rate one might as well have written Senna up as a damned meteorologist. Because a shit storm was a’brewin’ and she’d spotted it ten miles back, high in the sky, clearing all the light out of the world. It blew in by and by, abaft pissed off pique worn like Valentino in chic finish.

Just like somebody’d painted animus on her, she exuded cognitive sass that spelt, “Miss Do Not Fuck With Me”. Though certainly not the baby, she had the chip on her shoulder to match. Which Senna could level with, honestly. She herself was never one with the lunacy which trafficked etiquette and opiates, gun slinging, the severing of fingers and tongues. But there Julia was. Surrounded by brothers that loved her, who would fight to a bloody death in her honor. Good men [gone astray, but good men nonetheless]. And she was what - rejected? A black sheep? Fat chance.

How blind was she to see only Bel as a worthy place to put her energy? And brush off her family in this devil-may-care teenage tantrum trip? That was something Senna could not level with. However, the brazen display in Julia’s little friendly drink reassigned the divide. It set them worlds apart. She was bouncing on the splintering floorboards of warfare in someone else’s territory without a second thought while Senna bore the least amount of weight on frailties. She was just trying to get through the night, Julia wanted to swing from entrails. The only thing keeping them synonymous in all the chaos was their taste for shameless sacrilege.

“That’s a nice secret you got there, where’d you get it?”
“...Your brother.”

The hourglass had been flipped like a switch, and the only ones listening to the hiss of sand were these two. Julia put some sway in her hauteur, like she was about to take her clothes off to the havoc on the horizon. Like it was really getting her off. Quiet, Baby threw an elbow up onto the counter to stare dead into her adversary while barely touching the brim, absorbing the pitiful intent behind the note beneath. Thoughtfully she laid a cheek to her palm, sucking the whipped cream off an opposite index. Full on fellatio: painstaking without the smirk. She imitated finger-licking before picking up the glass and handing it to Bel with her knuckles knocking his chest, interrupting him mid-toast as he flirted, “You’re a party kind of girl, huh.” If Julia was still playing the game, she’d know it wasn’t holding Senna’s interest. Cheap.

ImageAnd all at once - Gunner heard the hissing. Dominic’s head snapped in the direction of it, too, like there was a snared line directly attached to his head and Senna’s collision with Bel’s sternum. High spirits hindered in him and his shoulders tightened. Honestly, she was surprised the shot glass in his hand didn’t shatter. Instinctively Chloe reached for one of Bel’s arms at the same time Senna did, “You mentioned a party? Vamos hermano, Chloe and I know this really nice club by the Mandarin. Come on - let’s just go.” There were children present. Families. This was probably all up to par with Julia’s plan, but Senna was not going to allow it. Nobody had time [nor stomach] to digest what was going on between sheets and family, not here. Not now. Having brought that blowjob to light was also a misstep on her part, ‘cause now it was looking like one of the Bates boys sent an innuendo down the bar. Senna as the beneficiary: 99 problems and a bitch is the main one. Well, shit. It was better than the alternative, right? Well played, Jubesy, well played. But I got more tricks up my sleeve.

“What are you going to do, fucking fight your best friend?”
Tick. Tick.

Fragments of glass were sent across the oak countertops. There it is, the royal flush. The final and averting move. Got ‘em. Whipped cream wept over the wooden surface in its non-finished acclaim. Blood coursed between clenched digits that went flayed in seconds, “That pedazo de mierda is no friend of mine.” Bel’s vernacular became icy and intrepid. Wine color stained denim as he rolled up a sleeve and shoved his way toward Gunner, one mitt still full of broken glass with intent to shred skin. Hani, petite even still, in peripherals, pressed her way toward the madness, bumping the shoulder of Fiona on the way. Senna and Chloe had lost their grip and released Bel like a rabid dog. It was looking bad, and sounding worse. Abruptly Dominic barked something, sent Gunner to his full height, even Simon, too. Stentorian disorder. This is how Senna imagined massacres, without breathing room and options came the solution of liquidation. One way or another, she was gonna’ figure out how to prevent it from getting that far. “Hermano!” She shouted in a taut rasp as he neared Gunner and a multitude of noises exploded in her eardrums - wares dropping, timber snapping.

How much is this gonna’ cost me?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Jasper Callaghan Character Portrait: Chloe Williams Character Portrait: Simone Bates
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Two heels to the soft, carpeted floor and she was up. She was the only one up at such an hour, as usual. Six in the morning and the petite honeypot was ready to take on the day. More or less. There was a dim strip of sunlight leaking through the thick, red curtains of her ever so prestigious bedroom, as if the sun were afraid to wake her. What poor mister sun didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. The space was clean, almost untouched, because it basically was. Hani had spent the first hour past midnight pretending to be deep in slumber, and the better half of the night patrolling through the new York streets, even catching a quick coffee with Jun. Today, more than usual, she needed an escape. A lot was going on. Too much, too quickly. Business here, business there, that’s all the Kim family ever touched on. Simple Good mornings, Good nights or even How was your day had practically vanished years ago, along with the five strangers’ sense of family. Hani never complained. Not out loud. Not anymore. She would, had she thought it would make an inkling of a difference, but why complicate things? As if they weren’t already.

”Good morning Ella, you’re looking extra cute today” dark haired girl beemed. If a gray tabby’s attention were all she ever needed in life, she could consider herself the happiest human in existence. The soft purrs hung at her heels, carefully tracing every step. Who would be lonely with company such as this? As if through clairvoyance, Ella strutted a few feet ahead, making every twist and turn before Hani did, leading them both to an empty, unwelcoming kitchen. Yet another tradition Hani had grown used to. The refrigerator. This was always her first stop. Other pit stops in her mornings included a freshly brewed cup of Italian espresso, a generous helping of waffles and/or pancakes and attempting to leave the “protection” of the estate without being apprehended. Generally, most of those checked out. This morning would have been the perfect one to do so. However, it’s routine was a bit askewed. Jahyun was clearly still asleep, after the night he had, it came as no surprise to his sister. To ignorant eyes, one would think that only the two of them formed part of the this extended, too large family in this too large house. Regardless, Hani was grateful. Grateful for him and grateful for her sanity.

One. Two. Three? Is three too many? How many pancakes was one allowed to have at a time again. Was there a rule for this? She was neither a cook nor a food expert. Three seemed like a nice, rounded number. Three circular clouds of dough with a side of too much syrup and just enough of the hot, semi-bitter liquid to wake him up. The soft purrs continued to follow her. Across the kitchen, up the twirling stairway, down the hall to the last door on the left. Was there a need to knock. If so then it was too late. Once inside, she resorted to tip-toeing. The objective of this mission was to wake him up, but seeing his peaceful face hidden in between piles of blankets and white pillows completely crumbled her resolve. What to do now? Breakfast was already served. A quarter past seven in the morning but the alarm resting just a few feet away was set for half past. Was it cruel to wake him up fifteen whole minutes earlier.

This could have been planned out better, honey

The sense of urgency slowly returned to her and two small palms pressed against the soft mattress beside the sleeping figure. ”Jaejae, I’m up, the sun is up and the pancakes are fresh!” Too chipper? It appeared so, but there was no taking it back now. A few noises escaped the no-longer sleeping Jaehyun, tugging a smile from Hani’s naturally rosy lips. ”morning”. A quick peck on his cheek and she was gone. He could handle the rest of the morning on his own, or so she hoped. In any case, nothing a quick shout for her wouldn’t fix. Ella left her owner to join the comfort of her uncle’s bed sheets. Sooner or later he would kick her out. The morning crawled by in conjunction with Hani’s lack of motivation to do anything other than clean around the house to keep busy. At an old snail’s pace the hours passed. One, many times had she cleaned the same spot again. It had reached the point of robotic motions while her mind was who knows where.

ImageReplacing the duster with her mobile device, the notification light shone in her still make-up-less face, bringing with it a glimpse of hope. A party. A party? Was this the sign she had been waiting for? Who, what, why? All questions she should have asked herself before leaving, but were overshadowed by excitement and the eagerness of going out on the town. It was daylight out, which meant there was no need to be sneaky. The entirety of her closet was raided, and somehow she ended up wearing the very first items of clothing she had found.

Hair. Check
Make up. Check
Cell phone. Keys. Money. Check

It was crowded, as to be expected. Everyone showed up all at once as if summoned by a higher being. Two quick glances around the space and he was spotted. Kind of hard to miss. In the midst of her internal battle between right and wrong, shoulds and shouldn'ts, he shifted, moved across the car with ease to keep Chloe Williams company. Good for her. She looked like she could really use some. Not that Hani didn’t, but that was a whole other ball game. A quick of raspberry vodka and she was set. It was only a matter of time. The family didn’t like this settings, nor did they want her being a part of it, not that this ever halted her search for adventure, but eventually they found out, threw out a couple of profanities and sent her back to the estate. At least for right now, she could enjoy the chaos of the atmosphere around, and boy was it chaotic. There was something rotten in the air, a sense of tension, distress, anger, perhaps all of those combined. One thing was for certain, something was about to unfold. And unfold it did. The yelling, the snarls, hissing, shattering of glass and everything in between was enough to send any rich girl running for the hills, but some things were more important than saving your own life. Seconds away from fists being flung and no one seemed to be able to handle the situation. Tables smashed, insults thrown like daggers and guns poised, ready to fire. The petite twenty-two year old acted on pure instinct. WHat would she do? What could she do? That didn’t matter now. Whatever it took to stop this, to prevent anyone from getting hurt. She hardly managed to make it through the hostile crowd, bumping a few shoulders here and there, not bothering to mutter her usual apologies.

”Bel!” her voice was soft, but with just enough bite. Why she was even trying was beyond her. Not a single soul had been able to settle the brawl, how did she expect to. That’s an issue she didn’t think of once until it was but too late. She had to get out. He had to get out. Or they would both end up with the permanent mark of bullet holes. In a momentary lapse of common sense, Hani’s arm wrapped around the enraged man’s tats, quickly pulling him out. Away. As far away as physically possible. Hani knew he hadn’t resisted. Had it been the case they would still be planted in the same spot, as if nailed to the ground. Why hadn’t he resisted? Not that this mattered now. ”It’s not worth, it’s not-” out of breath and resolve, but she got her point across.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Jasper Callaghan Character Portrait: Chloe Williams
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There was a reason Brooklyn was so unholy. God had backpedaled after just a few plagues and hopelessly pined reconciliation through the failures of baptism. He himself had cold feet when it came to cradling the heads of Andres and Gotti, with more design met in drowning them than breathing new life into their already so fatally fucked up marrow. It came do a point where only death could offer the salvation required to save their souls. And even that doctrine was paved with spattered renditions. There was not a hand they’d shake without insidious intent, God would be no exception. To be swindled by mortals in and of itself was a sin. Before you start a war, know what you’re fighting for. War or not, any providence would end in flames like they were kerosene soaked beside a lighter carved by the initials ‘B&Z’. God did not want this one. Andres took an axe to church, Gotti to state. And people wondered why they were filthy rich as if the drift was hard to catch. They snubbed out the smallest spoors of opposition and wrote it off as a business expense.

What an empire. Divided as it were, it stood no less lucrative. Sons soon to be kings. The same way their fathers planned, only cleft. Daughters, sisters and mothers were just gardens lining the gates. Distractions. Manipulations meant to dissuade from a terminal path. Flowers were prone to get trampled in here, just a happenstance of flores en este jardín. In this kingdom of cranked up and cracked out chronicles. Patriarch was a motherfucker.

But eyesome. One person couldn’t imagine the number of times the families had been stopped when all together, days back by Maui's waves. All those dusky-tressed babies scattered over the shoreline, some with effulgent fixed looks, Gunner’s obsidian beneath furrowed slants, Dominic with his sparkling blue. Simon fair like a diamond cut above the rest. “You are such a beautiful family. Really lucked out.” Cesspool symmetry, genes never hitting the skids. The prettiest people do the ugliest things. All alone as always was curiosity wrapped in blond hair, impulse pitcher than the eyes of what would be her lover, the golden maverick who never looked the part of a Bates or a Zaire. Bound to serve a platter of palpitations in her future and embody temptation.

Temptation. A pendulum drop in a room full of bass everywhere he went. First it was her. And really, always her. A hung up eidolon with honey framing her face, the inevitable type of trespass Bel would die to get his hands all over. I’m a sucker for the way you slip between my fingers and gather at my feet. She strayed like it was her job, and came back around with fire in her chest as though somebody had choke-chained her to a fence. It was hard to leave her. One pygmy glance and you knew the girl was knee deep in batshit crazy, but God and the devil both knew one would never leave her. Owed to the fact that she could touch you once and intoxicate your faculties, haunt you in camera-eyes, missed zeal at the borderline of your bed. Stain you a thousand shades darker than the skeletons in your closet but feel so damn good doing it. And you’d miss her when she was gone. Or, apologize for never calling.

Swing focus. The art of multitasking came difficult with so much noise moving through the room at a gait that could lose anyone. Good thing for Chloe, anchoring him quick with a reply much appreciated. A tough proposition which readily riled his interest. ‘Cause that boy sure loved a challenge, but Baby came in hot apace with them, like a bartender telling you when you’ve had enough.

C o c k b l o c k e d.

Image"Long strolls down Long Island would have placed you somewhere worse than my front door," he joked in reply to Chloe, "But you know what they say. Life is a beach, after all." Arsenic - not dormant, but patiently waiting, was stocked against the back of her canines just biding time. Senna was cagey in every aspect of his front. Like he didn’t know the sleeping wolves he tantalized with red meat. “Quit it, Sen,” he divulged sidelong to her tawny glare, “Usted me subestima.” This statement, put in the hole by his deceiving grin, quieted her for the time being. “She’s always trying to rob me blind when it comes to women,” the joke wasn’t empty, “Especially in casual situations. Lil’ mama has more grace in this setting than me, but you could already tell that.” Jasper too, could attest. Having been a recipient of one too many second chances. Senna was smooth, gliding on the finesse of her natural social ease. Who forgave someone for spilling Scotch on a vintage piece they loved more than life itself? Senna.

His spirit of inquiry got lost down the way again, which his little sister also slapped a chastity belt around using the unyielding force of a mini fascist [that only she could execute so fucking resourcefully with teacup fists]. “You’re a party kind of girl h----”, hot air piped out of him, harvest of Senna’s indication nearly spilling whipped cream down his jacket, “uh-g.” The crosshairs of her survey lingered where his once did. Past the oceanic hair of a waitress he'd previously tipped, now rubbing elbows with rival beasts and looking far less overwhelmed by work in her position. A corner of the boxing ring where only Bates’ resided, half upkept by the threads of vogue taste, half by the rugged constrait of prerogative and loss of sleep. Nice, man, I see you graduated from Cocaine High.

There wasn’t time left in a jar to avoid the inevitable. That lid had blown way off, blasted a hole through the ceiling and hid somewhere in the sub stratosphere. A scary amount of dead air swallowed The Little Lady. Its occupants only creaked to turn their attention towards a standoff where one dude held a blowjob and the other a tab. Shot in the dark or light - it didn’t matter. Gunner had just plodded his way straight into No Man’s Land, dragging his epicene baby brother along for the ride. And Bel's old boy might have been tumid bank to bank with muscle, but Bel hadn’t spent the past ten years deflated eating twinkles, either.

The clock in for slaughter had him a couple pounds short of a hundred and eighty, cattle-fed and carved up. Two soft hands fought to encircle his convex bicep which could split denim at any minute. Senna whirred weakly in the backdrop of it all, trying to desperately clutch the wheel after realizing what she’d just taken out of mothballs. He blinked briefly, catching a vision of the white petals against her almost ebony mane before she referred to his sworn enemy as his best friend.

This set off a causal nexus that completely wiped rationality off the map. Whatever happened next, whatever he said, he wasn’t sure. It ruptured in a medley of mother tongue and years worth of acrimony. To even tickle the death of their father with mischief or a maneuver was a foul move on Senna’s part, but rarely did she do things so leaden without purpose. His palm twitched, sudden consciousness of the glass iotas sunk into it. A beam fused across his expression, a shake of the head. “Pendejo. I hope you got some sleep between banging dope and now,” he slogged north, “I want this to be a fair fuckin’ fight.”

Unlike that shit your father pulled.

Image When the owner's staff came down on the apex of his spine, a zap of surface pain rippled across his epidermis. All that was rendered from it was a jaw click and flash stop. Less than a twinge. The velocity in which his veins were working had him feeling every tingle of adrenaline and none of consequence. The metallic chime of a Beretta behind a belt buckle interrupted awe-found silence, safety clip not a luxury known in this state of tension. Bel cocked back, bore all his weight in feet that were planted at shoulder width, but did not turn. Barrel-faced, the bearded old head didn't so much as flinch. Neither did Bel. His eyes sidled toward the man sporting a limp, robustly clenching a cane like a new age Merlin [far less gray, hatless, certainly quicker moving] extracting his revenge. Did I just get punked by The Lord of the Rings? This dude topped him by an inch or two, but that was minor league. Bel crawled home from worse scraps with bigger foe. Nothing for nothing, he could handle himself well for a lone son without a jeering pack of hyena brothers to back his shit up.

What was at hand - for once - spoke no threat on the Bates' behalf. It was a colony of Little Lady supporters, burners ready. Bel's finger tensed on the trigger. "Everybody's got a crew," his Adam's apple bobbed against a tattoo, soft chuckle caught in between, "Everybody." He refocused on the iron gaze given by Gunner and didn't blink, "You have to when your friends wouldn't hesitate to kill your family. That's what you gotta' do here, huh señor? Protect your family."

He was so thick in the throat, talkin’ from the scarcely touched place, that he hardly felt her fluid collision. How she pinned herself between a splintered table, a dozen firearms and him. She swathed him, tiny but mighty, pale against the saddled surface screened by needlework and a heavy sleeve. Murmured into his chest before yanking him with all the force in her body. One hand moved to instinctively support her head. Hold it to him while the opposite forced shards into his skin by the ligature of a steady aim. Plasma trickled down the grip of the gun, he whispered something to her. That she didn’t need to help him or try to fix things, that she shouldn’t be here.

But neither should I.

Firearm sinking like a slowly capsized ship, he glanced into green disdain held by someone with more backup, "I got you. I was just protecting mine." The owner didn’t move from his post, though a pair of childish eyes peered out from a hiding space. “Yeah, I wouldn’t want that for anyone’s baby.” It was hardly audible. His stare settled on Gunner. Senna shrank in wake of the words, wrapping one arm decorated in black skin abstraction around herself. She shifted to raise a long retired boxing glove, "Bel, I just wanted to leave. Ahora.... Ahora you need to go." She looked so frail that way, almond eyes gazing up, pastel color enveloping her in a momentary purity that reminded him of the day she was born. And that's why before she even thought to say, "Jump." he would jump. Why he put himself in these situations. Even if he bucked and looked like a total jackass. 'Cause there was, in reality, so little left of what he loved. A martyr or class act - he'd take any title to keep her safe.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” He growled to the opposing side, consequently being dragged away from it by an elfin thing with rounded features fit for a seraph. “Bel!” Hani snapped, pygmy paws all over him. He let her pilot, but blustered at Dominic and Gunner, “Don’t you fucking look at her.” Senna uneasily breathed, watching him go, knowing it was her he spoke of, not Hani.

Could practically hear her relief as he was pulled through the door by Hani, almost feel the words gushing from her mouth in ample apologies for what her brother had done yet again. One last glance showed her fumbling for her purse with pink brushstrokes across her embarrassed face. Contrite, handing over all her cash, checkbook at the ready, “I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry. Por favor. Por - please, let me. I cannot apologize enough - I will reimburse you for whatever, I... He - he’s just...” Same shit, different place.

All for you, bebita, your safety, your honor. The flowers in your hair that nobody ought to touch.

ImageBut how safe had he really kept her at all? What amount of preservation had he provided that kept her out of the mess that was ten years worth of hostility and cartel competition? All he allowed her to do was dip her little nose in man-made snow, changing her from the voice of reason to a semi-sage addict who cleaned up after him. And even in this, was it just him, underestimating her all of this time?

“It’s not worth it, it’s...” She was breathless. Back to earth. They were alone. The moon sloped overhead, held by invisible strings and drawing out the sweat on Hani's brow from saving the day. “Yeah, hey,” he sniffed hard, tucking away the cold steel and wiping his hands, “I know. I should have known better. Why’d you come up in there like that, huh?” For a minute he could feel she wouldn’t look at him. The same way Senna might refuse to now. Fingers to muzzle, noninvasive, a millisecond linger, he touched her succinctly, “You coulda’ got seriously hurt, Hani.” By some shadows a drunken man stumbled to settle his kickstand into gravel as Bel zeroed in on his mistakes. “You mad at me?” He let distance fall between them, voice quieting in the dark, "I'm sorry for all of this. Really."

Funny, how the lever was weighed in the ‘off’ position by the incantations of something so untainted. The sterility outside of him that he tiptoed toward. Like he was afraid to say too much. Do too much. She’d walked in at the worst time, parts he would have rather she never converged with. Because she was too good.

And he was not.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Jasper Callaghan Character Portrait: Chloe Williams
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▲▼▲▼ JUNKO takayama ▼▲▼▲


A single cobalt ray made way through the thin crack between heavy curtains, a flickering beacon of light in the night of the room. It followed a path over haphazardly removed boots, and a stretched out scarf, up to the sleeve of a woolen coat lying messily on the sheets, and it curved over the shape of a motionless body underneath the covers. The young yakuza woman lay still on her back, black eyes half-lidded and staring up at the peeling ceiling. Dark purple streaked her eyes having forgotten to wipe the coverage up hours before. She needed not to crane her head to the lucky cat clock hanging by her door. She always woke up at the same time. It was just a matter of when she got out.

She wishes she could stay. Junko would never say that aloud, nor acknowledge it personally, but the morning was quiet. It was predictable. Because there was nothing to predict. Nothing except that in about five minutes she would hear footsteps pace outside her door, which usually belong to her little Akecchi, headed to freshen up for school. The low rumbles of the water pipes would course through the wooden floors of their aging rowhouse. And she would probably spend too much time on her face to realize that she would be running late. This short 30 minute period on weekday mornings was probably the closest to the “ordinary” life Junko had always fantasized of. A sudden pang of the previous day’s events knocked on Junko’s thoughts and then threw her back into the real world.

Momentary vertigo accompanied Junko’s movements as she sat up in her bed, her eyes still glazed over with a film of contemplation and exhaustion. She sat hunched over, somewhat uncomfortable having remained in her clothes from last night as opposed to her nightwear. She clamped a cold hand to her forehead and pushed her hair back, remembering the brief moment of escape with Hani in that sultry café. She stood and walked over the scattered objects on her dusty floor to her own bathroom. Slovenly, she tossed her garments across the tiles and beared the shower’s ice cold water on her tepid body. A quick dry-off with a towel and a makeup remover rag later, she stood naked in front of her mirror, feeling the closest to pure a hitwoman could feel. In a stride she put on a dark blue crewneck and black tight jeans. Topping her armor was a fresh new mask-- nothing out of the ordinary that day. Just the run-of-the-mill black wing and nude lipstick, and generally liked what she saw. Before leaving her room, she picked up her purse and her .380 lying in her wardrobe.

As expected, the twenty-three-year-old finished her morning routine before her younger sister. High schoolers care too much, she supposed. Walking toward the stairs, she passed by her younger brother’s room-- his door left ajar and the young bozo in question snoring naked on his floor. Of course. She quickened her stride and sure enough, downstairs her brother’s latest victim was at the door, putting on her shoes for her escape. The girl was just a kid, probably even younger than Akecchi. She turned wide-eyed at the sheer coolness of the big sister, her movements hastening to get the hell out. Poor thing, probably had some traumatizing fight with her daddy or something. That’s how Seiji picked up most of his girls. Junko would’ve taught him otherwise, ‘cept it’s kinda just how the way things are with the men in her family. All of them.

Junko stood silently, her presence as foreboding as her look. As if she had a band of men at her side. She looked down in contempt, watching the girl struggle with her excuses. “I’m Seiji’s friend,” he let me stay,” I’ve nowhere else to go.” Her face remained unchanging, her eyes black daggers. The girl’s excuses turned into insults, most likely just a plan B defense. Not that Junko cared. Scaring the kid off might save her from falling into their lifestyle. She didn’t seem cut out for it, and this was the woman’s way of showing mercy.

Incoherent babbles were all that left the now sobbing kid when Junko decided to finally pull the plug. ”Get the fuck out of my house.” Poor thing. She yelped before making her escape, her shirt still unbuttoned and hanging loosely from her purple and blue chest. Junko oughta strangle her brother for playing rough with children, but she’s got work to do. A job, really. She greeted her mother’s shrine, small and simple on the countertop, then left for the casino.

ImageThe Aneesan leaned tiredly over the bar, watching her lackeys go about in the dayless room. Business was slow on weekdays, and her father was out doing the big jobs. No one rang her up for a job yet, and her little brothers took care of the other stuff. The chores. Collecting money, controlling family businesses, beating up wise guys who thought it smart to pick fights with them. Being second-in-command was pretty boring. Junko appreciated the quiet, but damn, a nice intelligent chat with someone would make the hours pass that much quicker. She thought about Hani, the only good thing that’s happened to her outside of her own gang. The boys seemed well-behaved enough. And it wasn’t like they were gonna do anything stupid, either. Those who hang around the headquarters know better. Even the kids. She pulled out her phone to make a call, but stopped upon seeing the alerts.

The sullen lieutenant wasn't anti-social or anything. It was more like she didn’t have a natural penchant for parties. Okay, no, wrong-- she’s the goddamn outcast of outcasts. Her job requires her to show up only to smooth shit over if any of her little brothers got out of line. And even with the bigger missions, they’re usually ran solo. Not to mention the extent of her connections were mostly acquaintanceships or brief clientele. So much surprise was met with her appearance at The Little Lady. The place wasn’t nearly like her usual drinking spots, but if anything, it was refreshing. Then of course came the recognition of certain faces.

Shackles raised higher than they naturally had. Smoothly, she walked over to the bar, but changed her mind about the drink, feeling the need to distance herself from big boy Zaire, more for the sake of having nothing to say to him than an actual precaution, though that's important to not as well. A young scamp made his way, making Junko press onto the lady behind her. Slightly chuffed, she was granted the satisfaction of seeing the boy blunder-- on the baby Zaire nonetheless. She made her way to a table in the corner, facing away from the crowd. Alone, she wonders what was she even thinking? This wasn’t where she belonged. Her portrait is that in front of a band of extortionists and fallen bodies. Business. This place wasn’t her business. There were, god forbid, children in the area. Even amidst the most prolific individuals of the underworld, she didn’t belong there.

Juno’s internal soliloquy was interrupted with the sound of broken glass, and a slew of profanities. She looked vacantly across the empty seat, tensing under the air. Of course a room with both the Bates and the Zaires would ultimately end up this way. Hand clutched over her revolver, she stayed hidden, listening to the exchange. She would only involve herself if necessary-- is what she told herself until she heard a familiar chime of a voice. The Japanese woman turned her head abruptly to the scene, eyes magnetized to her relatively delicate companion clinging onto the arm of the hunk of dynamite. She looked so small next to him.

The yakuza woman stood slowly from her seat, making brief eye contact with the eldest of her allies before returning her specs to the woman she had no control over. Only hope. When they left the scene, leaving a mess of overturn tables and broken glass, Junko’s eyes stayed glued to the exit. Whatever was eating at Bel was beyond Junko’s concern-- it’s the one who’s tagged along she’s worried about. What a party. For now, she couldn’t think of how else to approach the situation besides glancing toward the Bates. Her eyes read only one thing, as did many others. What’s their next move?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Jasper Callaghan Character Portrait: Chloe Williams
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#, as written by Ivisbo

Simon always had a certain knack for sensing a problem before it arose, one of the reason's Jubes little note caught his eye. He watched the bartender pass to down the line of drinking patrons, but quickly lost attention as Jona planted his drink in front of him in record time. The Little Lady was beginning to fill- the usual ambiguous noises of a bar created a dull buzz that Simon actually found comforting. He liked being so surrounded by people that you had to lean close to anyone you really wanted to talk to. It was intimate and made you feel much more alive to be in a crowd- being alone always made him revert inside his own head and think way too fucking much. Alcohol and weed helped him with that, but going out and forcing himself to not think was the real cure to any sort of anxiety inducing mind paths.

“Already got you covered kid. By the way, you look like hell.”

Green eyes narrowed and flicked up to furrowed brown, a glare evident on the young Bates's face, "I feel like hell" He grumbled, eyeing Jona over the rim of his glass before taking a sip of the spicy liquid, both parts irritated and amused. The bartender always had a certain ability to see through Simon's flamboyant mask- one of the reason's the bearded male interested him so much. He felt a certain amount of gratitude towards Jona for always being able to see Simon for more then just the silly gay baby Bates- though it scared the hell out of him as well. Simon released a sigh, about to reveal his shit hole of a night when Jona's gaze moved behind him and he drifted away.

Sienna slinked up to his side and distracted him from his thoughts- honestly Simon was grateful that he had an excuse to move out of Jona's scrutinizing gaze. Smile firmly back in place, he turned to his small blue haired friend as she smirked up at him, "You do know where you are right? A bit over dressed I'd say, but you look stunning Sime."

"Its always better to be overdressed then under. You know me" Simon leaned back on the bar, taking a sip of his drink while he unbuttoned the stiff wool suit jacket. He knew he looked good in the outfit, but he was starting to think that three-piece may have been a little much- it was hot in the bar and the wool didn't breath at all. "Are you staying around after your shift tonight? I thought maybe-"

Rustling of bodies and voices raised caught Simons attention immediately, cutting him short as he turned towards the Zaires down the bar with an irritated expression. It was a fucking party with family- Simon thought he caught Jona's daughter sneaking around behind the counter in his peripheral. Bel was throwing a fit over something, he couldn't hear him over the noise but he was sure it involved the impeccably dressed dark haired vixen next to him. Glass broke, voices rose, and Simon felt the tension shift in the entire bar. Gunner's posture change immediately- he could practically feel his older brother's anger bubbling. Simon had never been on the receiving end of Gunners hostility, but he knew that he could be fucking terrifying if he wanted to be. Bel had turned towards them at this point, his face a mixture of hatred and unfiltered disgust...

Fucking hell. It was a party, although he knew by now anywhere that both the Zaires and Bates showed up usually ended in some sort of shit show. Simon was honestly sick of it- the nights he chose to be by himself ended so much more comfortably then when he was with his family. The thought of leaving a starting something then with all this has crossed his mind... but he would never actually shake them- that would be like trying to shake his own arm off.

He was moving before Dominic gruff orders reached his ears, pushed himself away from the counter and moved in front of Sienna while knocking back the rest of his drink. If he could have chosen how the night should have gone, he would finish his drink slowly, eye-fuck the gruff bartender some more, teased Gunner for the hell of it, get Sienna to dance with him, and maybe end the night by taking a certain drugged out heroine addict home....

But instead he had to stand next to his overly-violent coke head of a brother while Bel Zaire headed towards them looking like an angry rooster in a cock fight. Rather then have the two uncontrollable ex-friends beat each other in front of a full bar over god knows what, Simon prepared to step between them and fulfill his mediator role in the family. Although he wasn't one hundred percent sure that Bel wouldn't just deck him and move on.

He didn't noticed Jona move from behind the bar till the bartenders cane came down on Bel's shoulder. Simon smirked a little- even with that limp Jona was still intimidating. He was much more controlled then Gunner, less antagonistic then Bel- more like a thunder storm that you should just leave the hell alone. Although Simon really didn't want this to come down to fists, maybe he wouldn't mind seeing a little of Jona's rough side (rougher then his normal prickly nature, that is).

Somehow the situation was saved by a sweet little mouse of a girl appearing at Bel's side, speaking to him in a soft voice and taming that temper. Simon was impressed- usually took some sort of physical force to get Gunner to calm the fuck down. But then, Simon didn't have tits to help him out . He watched the tension simmer as Bel was pulled away, the crowd parting to let them through to the entrance. Gunner's hulking mass backed down and he grumbled off to another empty spot on the bar, which allowed Simon to relax his shoulders and whistle out an exaggerated sigh.

"Well shit" Simon remarked, mostly to himself as he loosened his shoulders and leaned his back against the counter again. He looked back at Dominic, locking eyes and raised his brows in question, waiting for some sort of signal that this was all well and good before he returned his attention to Sienna, "A regular night at The Little Lady, am I right?"

Simon's let his eyes casually roam the crowd, passing over the people he didn't know while he searched for his most recent interest. Jasper was sitting by himself, looking his usual shit self that somehow attracted Simon even more. Maybe blame it on his fucked up family and how he was raised, but he had a weird thing for the damaged goods. Jasper fucked with his head so much but Simon enjoyed the mess the other man was- he forgot about his own insecurities when they spent spent he night fucked up together. He let his gaze openly pass over Jasper before making eye contact and smirking devilishly. Maybe the night was salvageable after all?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: November Mae Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Jasper Callaghan
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There was a sort of melody to the way each individual reacted to the scene at hand. Backs drawn straight, shoulders squared up, eyes sharp and watchful; hands lingering either on the cold, deadly steel resting inside their coats, or ready to grab anything else in a second of fight or fight…because there would be no flight in this company. One could take this moment, attach classical music to it, and call it art for those more fortunate to gaze longingly at.

Reactions were quick, swift here and taunt there, a group of those waiting for orders, and a handful of those ready to take action. It was no surprise to Dominic when Jona moved first. Limp or no, a man protecting what he owned was no less threatening than a lion protecting it’s young. The strike that landed across Z’s back wasn’t a winning blow, but instead a warning; one Dom hoped Bel would take in stride. Gunner obviously waiting for a reason, waiting for Dominic to let go of his leash so he could just pounce. Each detail swirled around him while his jaw clenched, teeth ground together.

After the initial violence of first responders, there was a silence through The Little Lady as Kingpin and Chef faced one another, separated only by the dark threat resting in Bel’s outstretched hand. The words from the oldest Zaire’s lips rang through Dom’s head, wrapping around his mind in a vice grip that refused to let go and promised to seep poison all the way down to his heart. Protect your family; said in so many different tongues he wasn’t sure if he even knew who was who anymore. It wasn’t the first time he would hear it, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. The sacred law. The one rule. Necessary, regardless of the evils of the trade. Necessary.

Small, pale, fragile…placing herself in the middle of a fire just waiting for a chance. Brave, or ignorant, depending on where one stood. Willing to be burned by the wildfire that would strike eventually, because Cristobel Zaire was a match that would never be put out. Not by her or any other. Not by those who grew in the dark, or by those who could see the shards of broken light.
Surprising control, eased tension, slowly lowered violent promises. Dominic met Gunner’s gaze first, giving a slow nod before his brother slumped against the bar, still vibrating with tension. Next, Simon’s, eyebrows raised, a question that didn’t have to be asked. Dominic gave another nod, assuring. Senna’s voice, catching his attention, adding her belief that Bel needed to leave, get out, go. A goddess in the sea of a world unholy, baby’s-breath decorating her hair even after all the years, shining too brightly not to be in the nights sky…

“Don’t you fucking look at her” piecing through his heart shaper than any blade that had ever done the same to his skin. Dominic’s gaze never faltered, watched the shudder of small shoulders from the uneasy breath. Until Bel was gone, and distraction came in purr he knew all too well, behind a veil of lightly blown smoke.

Large brown eyes blinked up at him, lush pouty lips curving into a slow smirk as soft fingers glazed over his, dislodging the glass of whiskey he still had a firm grip on. He let it go, tension dropping from his shoulders with the knowledge that it was over.
She had always been good at distracting him from the messes laid at his feet. He’d much rather lose himself in her, fingers tangled through long brown hair, hands pressed to curves he knew all too well. His eyes slid over the tight material of her dress, caught on the deep dip of the neckline that left little to the imagination of the swell of her chest. Tongue swiping across his bottom lip before he placed his cigar between his teeth once more, accepting the press of a glass back into his palm.

He followed her attention across the room, watched with tightness in his muscles as Gunner drew up next to Senna. Gathering a comment on the back of his tongue, he was relieved slightly to see the man go for his wallet instead. Good man, Dominic thought with vague approval. Mend bridges, before they fall to pieces.

"Never mind, I think I can guess." As Dominic’s gaze continued to travel, her words left him with the reminder that he’d never been attracted to innocence. Dark hair, mischievous eyes, and mildly damaged. Didn’t matter the gender, hardly mattered the person; felt like home, felt like something he knew how to handle. Something he refused to think on more…Apt fingers switched smoke for the burn of alcohol, and Dom gave one affirming nod to the woman in front of him.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: November Mae Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Simone Bates
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"There ain't no way in fucking hell I'm letting you out without a scratch."

In a sense, Jona shouldn’t have been surprised that the snot nosed kid didn’t go down on his knees. He has, most likely, gone through the wringer under much worse circumstances but that did not phase the bartender. If anything, his body itched to connect fist to jaw with any applicable force it could throw at him. Green flickered down at the gun now held by the opposing force. He never liked guns. They were toys given to overgrown children who never knew how to use them correctly, and all these children had short tempers, much like the one that stood before the grisly man.

Staring down hard at the Zaire’s boy, Jona stood his ground. Fingers gripped tight on the cane. Ready at any moment to bring it down on the boys head if the situation called for it. Only a grunt came in reply to the first words Bel spoke. The older man silently agreed with that statement. Everyone had someone to back them up. Never forget it. A barrel of a chest rose softly and lowered quickly, breathing through his nostrils to calm him down. Guns had joined the game of intimidation. It would not be wise to let fury take hold and lash out its vengeance upon the world. Like a boulder that had no chance of being moved, the bearded bartender stood his ground. Never once looking away from the gun pointed at him. It only served to add more kindle to the blaze of spite that raged in those green pools. They bubbled and sparked with the ferocity of bear whose home at had been disturbed.

Papa bear, as the little one so loveling referred to him, did not care to see his Little Lady damaged any further. The boy needed to leave as he has come to learn that none of the big families can ever be in the same place at the same time. Doing so was just beckoning hell to opens its gates, and let loose all its inner demons into the tense fray, yet somehow an angel appeared in turmoil inspired by a hatred seeded some time ago. Corners of a thin mouth dipped down into a frown of something akin to disapprobation. Such a little thing shouldn’t throw herself into the still and silent fight. A fight that seemed to occur in mind and with high emotions. The little thing pulled at him but the boy chose to speak just a little bit more. He remained silent as he delivered his last words and his sister added her two cents. The older man couldn’t imagine all the times she must have stepped in to provide those little words. She could be rich for every time she did he was guessed.

Jonathan wasn’t sure if the Zaire’s kid left because he wanted to, if the angel convinced him with her light touch or his sister's words pushed him away. All he knew was that he was glad he was no longer under his roof. Broad shoulders relaxed now that the source of tension had relieved themselves of his presence. He glared chillingly down at all the Little Lady's patrons. His eyes lingered on the boys who carried the Bates name on their backs. They were trouble makers just like the Zaires kid but since they did not join in on the brewing pot of violence, they were currently lower in his list of people he disliked.

Returning to the back of the bar, Jona squatted in front of his beloved daughter. With a grim face, you'd think that she would be scared. Surprisingly, those noodle thin arms found themselves hanging loosely about his neck. A show of affection that the bartender gladly returned. His hand dwarfed the little ones own hand as he stood up and pushed her towards her mother, who now approached the bar. Her hand reached over to grip his muscled shoulder, thumb moving in rhythmic motions reminiscent of a circle. The other Zaire popped up, blabbing about paying for the costs. She pushed loads of cash and pulled out her checkbook at the ready. At the sight of this, he frowned and Anna took charge.

Almost on cue, the Bates boy, Gunner, saddled up next to her and pulled out his own treasure chest of cash. This only made the bartender they were trying to appease frown even more. "I don't want your fucking money you spoiled brats." His hands, having previously been perched at the edge of the bar, pulled back and he took an old rag and began to wipe down the surface. He was careful to pick at the shot glasses shattered remains, no thanks to Bel's furious grip. Anna frowned as well, not appreciating her husbands harsh words to the two. Turning to face them, with Meg perched on her hip a bit uncomfortably it seemed, a smile flashed across her dark features. Her eyes flickered over to a newcomer but left it alone. She was a pretty thing but Anna did wasn't in the mood to socialize with anyone, unless it was a necessity.

"What my husband means to say is that now that . . . Well he means exactly as he says. Now isn't a good time to try and rebuild damaged bridges so I suggest coming back in the morning if you really mean on paying for the damage your brother caused Senna." Annalise's voice was soft like silk yet had a tint of huskiness in it. Her brown eyes shifted over to Gunner, not once losing that welcoming sparkle. "The same goes for you although since neither you nor your brothers damaged anything you're exempt from having to pay anything." The older women very much meant what she said, leaving no room for arguments.

Jona glanced at them under his furrowed brow. Wondering if they were honest in their intentions. Still wiping down the bar, Jona overheard Simon's comment and he snorted in protest. "Like hell I want this to be a regular thing." His tone still held a bit of an edge to it but as time went on, it faded. The same occurred with the rest of the restaurants current inhabitants. With the tension gone, it began to gradually buzz with activity. Employees began to clean up the mess Bel left for them, others subtlety urged the patrons to leave. It would seem all the commotion was bringing about an ache to the front of Jona's head. His grimace grew worse until finally he spoke up and told everyone to leave.

The loss of his cool easily prompted the regulars to exit, especially those who were not accustomed to his gruff ways. Little by little they began to trickle out of the Little Lady and the grimace on the bartenders face lessened. He welcomed the quiet atmosphere and slowly began to close shop, making sure any and all stragglers were kicked out. The majority of the employees were sent home as well, save for a couple. Eventually they too left and it was just the Moore family and whoever else that refused to leave.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: November Mae Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Aedan Rory
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"Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents' strife."

Where would her bones go to rest if this was all that lie ahead? To sooner be found in a grave than a bed as a means of peace was morbid to contrive all together, but this was a habitual theorem. Where there was war there was masochism. Suicide wasn’t the ultimate form of self annihilation. Being dilatory in the madness was. Fucking flagrant. Avoiding all the exit signs, fingers twisted ‘twix those of the ones you loved the most, who pulled you away from fire escapes swearing that adjusting to the smoke was all you needed to do and the blaring alarm would eventually become just stark background noise.

At sixes and sevens one second, apologies the next. Childhoods composed in such luxury rarely did a bang up job of establishing p’s and q’s [properly at least], but Senna had it down pat. Suppose that’s what came of constantly walking the same tight rope only a few steps behind her brother. Always at the heels of a ticking time bomb and learning one thing from it: discipline. Reserve. The strength of apologies, resolve, recognized mistakes, and reconciliation.

The truth of it is, you gotta’ make your own decisions. Step up. ‘Cause if you don’t take a step, the world will take it for you. And that can get really God damn dangerous.

The amount of times Senna had been in this very same situation was unable to be juggled by hands or feet. She’d accepted a long time ago that she couldn’t harbor any real loathing for it, that this is just how Bel was and how he’d always be. If he wasn’t jumping the gun for a beautiful woman or greenback proprietary, he was either sleeping or in a fist fight. He’d been known to eat his heart out only among few. From the look of Gunner’s face, mussed with splenetic storm astern to her brother’s apparent rhetoric, he’d long forgotten that part of Bel, too. But Senna didn’t. And if Julia had half a heart or brain, she didn’t either. To be known true blue and bare was rare in this world at all. More with these two families. If Bel went six feet under any time soon, the chiselings of philanthropy and kindness might not be found on his headstone. But a monster? That’s something he wasn’t. He still had close-mouthed dreams, fire in the belly about eventually going somewhere better. Being better. The sad thing was his pride and comfortability in malice, in money. He stuck around this long to settle scores, perhaps with a swelled head. But somewhere buried deeper than the secrets behind their father, was heavy love. His chest just never much caved to show it. Guess it couldn’t, not when every side of the world he knew swung baseball bats and blasters in his direction.

However, no excuses were made for the arrogant rush of testosterone ruining somebody else’s day. Senna never even entertained the thought of pardoning it or following her brother out. Hani could handle this one. Everyone knew that girl was fuller than the temple for mercy and moderation, something few lineages in proximity had. And she could stop him. She did stop him. With feather-fine efficiency, swept him right out, hushed the gunshot bedlam coming out of him and coaxed him into the calmer night.

Digits went staggering for amends before Hani had gotten him to the doors. Senna propped her handbag open, shuffling through it, not realizing she’d began to express her regrets in Spanish novels. It wasn’t until eerie quietude took the atmosphere by storm that she paused to look up. She’d gone glassy with remorse and humiliation. The white of her eyes strained to stay chaste, and breakers eating the dust of ocular tensity made her blink like Bambi would at a shotgun. Mercurial nerve loss. A tick brought knuckles to her brow bone, then to a high cheek where an unalloyed beauty mark resided on the right side. She thought hard. Pursed lips sealed temporarily while her scrutiny fell back to ATM-fresh bills. “I would really like to square up in more than just money,” she whiffed in this bitty feline fashion, “I can’t apologize enough. I’ll help clean up and - whatever you need, I would like to compensate you for your... Your losses. My brother has zero sense of reproach and I am so, so sorry.” She’d said this all a hundred times. It brimmed fluently from her but she was no less genuine, sable lofty lashes trying to bat away the cerebral pain. A headache slithered from the notches of her mental, in due time accompanied by a far more physical presence. She’d been a bit meek to meet his survey. Thankfully he was hardly giving it.

Politic Gunner. Wise enough not to gnash his teeth too loudly and streetwise to the point of knowing safe distances at the drop of a hat. Or, almost-bar-fights and family-brewed, brazen ballistics. He’d spoken in such a noiseless tongue that it took her a minute to form the words. Anxiety stabbed itself into her neck as she reclined sideways on the bar for a minute to reply, currency in hand. Secondary to his admission, “Some bullshit,” slipped out of the side of her pout, “Please don’t be so austere, G. This was not your fault, por favor no lo hagas.” To be subliminal was not entirely out the window, so her movements were vague and gentle. Senna grazed his gesture for his wallet with an elbow, careful to only barely touch him. As expected he refused. Wasn’t much for letting her clean up after anyone but herself, something he expressed plainly on more than one occasion. But she could feel the tremble in his posture from being hot under the collar. From labored inhibition. Which in turn made her only want to jam his wallet back into his pocket, pay off Mr. Little Lady with her own money and see herself out. Maybe text Gunner ‘round the witching hour mark asking if she could come fix him some morphine tea and explain. She held all the tickets and manifested as the tax of disturbance dealt by Bel, and it made her tired. Worse. Sober.

Just let Gunner handle it kid.

But God damn. Wasn’t it her mess to handle? Sure was with Bel outside, no doubt in her mind trying to butter Hani up and mew ‘sorry’ tenfold while completely forgetting what a shit show he had put on. Regardless, Gunner meant no ill intent, didn’t want this on Senna’s plate. No one on his side did. Except for Julia, and lookit’ here, she got what she wanted. ‘Cause at the end Senna was taking the heat in all reality, like good old Jubesy knew she would. One fatal flaw put Julia’s game plan off though - Gunner’s integrity. It would only spark up more rage, but for now she’d receded somewhere. Probably to stalk out the situation with Bel and his nightly flavor, not like she was about to offer any explanation for the scene to her brothers.

Senna wasn’t surprised by the raging rejection that Jona fire-breathed. When his wife came in to intervene, Baby just nodded, avowing her appearance in the morning because really, what else could she do, now? She glanced at Gunner, shook her head and backed up.

Temperance made her teeter. Like chinaware on the bad tail of a richter scale. “If you wanted to get snowed in together later,” she sidelined, “I think I might know what happened.” She simpered, gracious, knowing only he heard the flat invitation with her back to him. If he took her up on it there was a 90% chance they wouldn't even discuss the chain of events. They knew each other well enough by now to gauge conversations in time spent together, right? She felt the looming shadow of him, torrid and tickling her spine. Whatever they decided to tell later followed the code of few dull moments either way.

ImageNight’s still young, even if busted in framework. Senna was at the edge of the room then, smoothing fabric that had been scrunched by her grip and released in pastel green rimples that were dampened with cold sweat. From the corner of her eye, a small head quavered back into existence. Out of camouflage, with perplexity finding her at her father’s side, was the same little girl from earlier. Senna now presumed ‘Jona’ as leader of the pack and terribly rustled man. Father. A strikingly whiskered figure who’d hammer the fear of God into anyone with a look or, as fate had it, a cane. Just the thought of absorbing that kind of blow made Senna wince. And made total sense. “Hey,” she lulled to Jona’s cub, “You’re lucky you know? Your papa eats bozos like my brother for breakfast. I wish I had his appetite, then I wouldn't be in so much trouble right now.” Modulation of her words curled around Colombian articulation in an almost maternal song. She spoke the way her mother always did, rarely raising her voice. Always steady. Like the last thing a person desired to hear before falling into REM, not only comfort and safety from nightmares, but promise to protect them the next day and all that followed. And that was enough. For now.

Dialing it back, Senna rounded to be met with a chimerical phantasm in drawn material. White teeth flashing behind steamy prattle, surely something she’d heard before. November. The sweetest of all miasmas, just in the way she shifted rolling hips. A Bel backer but not a lap dog. Senna closed the distance, chin resting on her shoulder with a tilt that let lips tickle the nape of her neck, “Hold me,” she joked, “My brother is a jackass, I’m but frail and weak. And overworked. And underpaid.” She beamed over November’s bone structure at Dominic who held a full glass. Esteemed him with words not found but the velvet of seeing his face again after so long. Nothing had granted her a bed of roses - but the consciousness of guitar strings slid across by fingers, now scarred and tattooed with rugged strife. They still weren’t ordinary. Not even in a place like this. And she felt at ease, pulling a slipped stem from behind her ear and laying it over the top of his glass. Floral restitutions never mislaid. Not even at the fists of someone who weighed in at two hundred pounds and ground his teeth at her family name, never. The love between these two was effective anesthetic in a world of malady and bloodshed. Toasted to with tacit oaths to never come apart or go blind when there were motley gardens waiting for them, some place at the edge of town where their damnation hadn’t yet touched.

Image “I’m gonna’ dip. See you later, maybe, Nov.” She’d brushed between Simon accidentally on her exit, arm snaking away from November and skimming the finer fabric of his pieced ensemble. Nice. Steamed, pressed, perfected. Even up to the shaped eyebrows and hedged facial hair. He’d make a hell of a fashion consultant, if he was his own, that is. A petite nod of approval and a quiet, “Sorry,” and she was moving through the dissipating crowd once again that only once grabbed her attention as she escaped.

Still here? Junko was inhabiting the post-entropy with intimidating polish but had found her attention snarled somewhere else. Senna could guess a few things, knowing that she sat at the second sovereignty of a formidable clan. Whatever was witnessed was small time shit for her. She’d fried way bigger fish just in the time it took most people to get dressed for work, so she may have been less concerned about what had Bel PMS’ing. Buuuuuuuuut taking her mode into consideration, she assuredly saw him as a smirch on the evening. Maybe Hani too. And Baby could not argue that him getting his mucky paws on her was a disaster in the making. Please don’t look my way and think I have anything to do with that.

October could have gone a little easier on its wind chill but the compromise was a low sixties strength that made it possible to wear dresses in a whirlwind of apricot leaves. A breeze whisked through her delicate build as she fared toward a flickering row of street lights, into twilight. She retrieved a cigarette, failing to find a lighter in her bag when the goosebumps from autumn’s wheezing made her raise her focus. Fancy finding you here.

His eyes were pitted apart by a narrow nose and hollower than the history he was known for, not just their own. Striated, he didn’t even smirk to acknowledge her. Only gazed into her without surprise. Like he knew she’d be down this road in particular. She wondered what had him at the same place, if the hands that moved to light her up were in anyone’s entrails lately. But if there was anything she’d learned from Aedan over their seemingly sempiternal scores, it was to not be surprised. Not by the needle nor nerve. Not by the scarlet-soaked slacks that didn’t make it quite into the hamper but instead threatened to bathe tile in DNA. He always cleaned up his own messes and everybody else’s. Made a killing doing it - and yes, that’s a considered conceit. A breath held itself in her sternum, mouth sulking for a moment and splitting into a smile at the turn of events, “Gracias, stranger,” gray coils hissed from a glowing cherry, “Are you just wandering or working?” She also knew with Aedan, she never had to worry. There was no fear associated with him in the way other people cowered. But was he scary? Absolutely. To her? No. Could he be if he wanted to? Yes. “Tuve una mala noche. Bel caused a whooooole mess back there, wanted to kill Gunner for some stupid...” She caught herself, refrained immediately, “Ah, fuck it. Nothing important. You got time to get a drink?” Aedan was different. A man of his word. Cold blooded, sharp, and every bit the dingo that would eat your baby.

It’s just the god damn heroin...

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: November Mae Character Portrait: Bel Z. Character Portrait: Gunner Bates
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    November Mae
    "Live fast, die young be wild and have fun."



Dominic’s low monosyllabic response, if it could even be called that, made her grin. He always had a way with words. Leaning back on the bar behind her, she propped herself up with her elbow. Her eyes traced Dom up and down from the corner of her eye, her fingers ran through her dark tresses. Clad in all black, whiskey in hand, he had all the command of a business executive in a tailored suit standing in front of a board meeting. ”Ever so eloquent, eh?” She teased.

Despite his stoic nature, November could see below the surface. She knew the glint in his eye all too well, her figure shifted underneath it. Suggestive language pushed against her lips, but before she could get the words out a gentle hand snaked around her torso. Any other persons touch would have made her jump, but November immediately recognized the silken skin against her shoulder as Senna.

“Hold me, my brother is a jackass, I’m but frail and weak. And overworked. And underpaid.”

This elicited a chuckle, November gently used her fingers to massage Senna’s hair behind her ear. She moved her cheek to press against Senna’s, it was like satin. ”Babe, welcome to the club.” She joked, ”As for Bel, you know he’s just looking out for you.” her eyes slid over to the man down the bar who had undoubtedly been the source of Bel’s rage, although Senna’s attention may have already been shifted to the older Bates boy. November knew better than to wedge herself in the conflict between the Bates and the Zaire’s. The families had known each other for years, their bonds went deeper than any kind of relationship November had experienced, but at the end of the day November always had Bel’s back.

Senna’s motions were pure poetry, November watched with intrigue. Wordlessly, Senna plucked the flower from her hair - delicately placing across Dom’s whiskey, a note of her affections. November would never understand the relations these families had, the complexities were too much for her. The love they had for one another was evident, the children had been raised together in a world of drugs and violence. Each of them was so beautifully destroyed and rebuilt in their own fashion, lined up one after another.

She kissed Senna’s cheek gently before she left, hoping she would in fact see the girl again tonight. November had no issue with casual drug use, but Senna’s fanaticism was anything but casual. It was the product, their livelihood - not their lifestyle. Of course November indulged herself in a few lines, a few pills - but at the end of the day everything was professional to her. Someone had to keep their wits end in this cluster fuck.

While Dom remained his ever stoic self, she could see under again to the pain he felt over Senna’s destructive behavior. Amazing the choice she had in men, both emotionally unavailable and overbearing of a girl with no limit of reckless behavior. November slipped off the barstool, smoothing out the skin tight dress. ”She’s fine you know.” she said casually, resting a hand on his thigh. It crept up slowly, tantalizing the skin on the inner side of his strong, sturdy thighs. ”But you have to realize this Gunner thing will lead to nothing but destruction for both sides.” It wasn’t her place, and she knew that, but if anyone could hear her candid opinion and not blow it out of proportion. Her hand lingered, her eyes suggested they were to cross paths again that night, but who knew with Dom? He always kept her guessing.

Most people had already left The Little Lady, the petite doe eyed Hani passed November on the way out. Her face was written with the remorse she knew only one man could create. She couldn’t resist the grin as she walked out to see Bel, now alone under the moonlight. The people were still pushing through the doors, some stared at Bel as they walked past, fear in their eyes. While it seemed that the majority of those leaving had a sense of direction of where to go next, one blonde haired fresh face seemed a little next to clueless. November could swear she recognized the older woman she was with, had seen her in the neighborhood or something along those lines. When they didn’t seem to beeline for a car, November breezed past. ”Honey, if I were you - I’d cab it home real fast.” She could hear how condescending she sounded, but it was meant as genuine concern.

Leaving the pair behind, her heels clacked her way over to the Colombian boy everyone was too afraid to stare at. ”What happen to mail order? Some head lights scare her off? She asked about Hani, taking out a cigarette.

Bel was well aware of November’s inability to play nice with his little playthings. He had so many, he couldn’t expect her to like them all when she hardly liked many people anyway. There was always a note of possessiveness that undoubtedly got under his skin, she couldn’t resist. No one knew Bel like she did, could take all the twisted things inside and welcome it as if it were her own pain. It wasn’t the fucking around that bothered her, she knew who they both were. It was that she knew no matter how long Julia and he had their tryst, no matter how hard girls like Hani tried to mend him - it would always be November. He could come to her, hands bloodied, mind in a craze, really in any kind of state and she wouldn’t bat an eyelash. Hell, he had literally held a gun against her head and fucked her only seconds later. There was nothing that November could see of Bel that would change things between them. They were messy, and even if it led to the occasional blowout, anything else wouldn’t make sense for them.

She tucked a cigarette behind her ear, then lit another. November couldn’t usually be seen without a cigarette, either between her lips or behind her ear, it was her addiction. She stood in silence with Bel for a moment before noting his hand. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another with this boy. ”Let me look.” she said, they were past delicacies and gentle touching, she grabbed his hand before he could protest. Shifting aside the bandana, the blood smeared onto her fingertips. Wouldn’t be the first time she had Bel’s blood on her hands, wouldn’t be the last either. ”Baby scratches,” she knew he would downplay whatever injuries he sustained anyhow, might as well beat him to it. A vixen like grin struck her features as she glanced up, his jaw still tense.

She dropped his hand and brought her blood stained cigarette to her lips, looking back up at the moon. Things with Bel would never be simple, hell - things with November never could be simple. ”I just have to ask, starting shit like that - how did you expect that to end?” once again, November was speaking out of her place, but with Bel or Dominic, November had earned her right to speak out. She opened her mouth to say more, how Senna would continue to do as she pleases and he knew it, how burning bridges with Jona was not a good idea, how important it was to keep cool around the Bates - but he already knew all these things. Instead she just asked. ”Do you want to go to prison, or worse?” All of those eye witnesses inside, if it had been anywhere else but The Little Lady - who knows what would have happened. The Zaire legacy would crumble in Bel’s absence, and sometimes it seemed like he forgot that, or didn’t care. It wasn’t anyones job to babysit Bel, he had to learn to control himself on his own. Sadly they both knew that self-control wasn’t his strong suit.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: November Mae Character Portrait: Chloe Williams Character Portrait: Bel Z.
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-[fluff post until next scene]-

Calming thunder was a practice uncharted. Less than a rain dance. Because no amount of tripping light with the ebb and flow of hips under the sun would bring heaven’s woe when a drought was in place. Like all great things and disasters, it was what it was. Would be what it would be. And ain’t no sun shower gonna’ come between the temper of makers when clouds are shaking like the seven archangels are having a bowling match. Innate fury could only be deterred. Never stopped.

The angry dog in him barked about his loss while the civic prince told him his time would come. To be patient. In his back pocket were a forgotten log of texts and missed calls, magnum grating bone and denim, not far off, a sister left in the lurch, but none of this mattered. Because in front of him was ambition. Low-pitched and looking fragile. Cleaner than him. She didn’t look his kind of sick or starved, and he prayed she never would. He had to make her understand the things that everyone in aftershocks already knew. The ones that mattered. But how could he? Without scaring her to pieces or being too militant. If she were maimed or upset by anything he pulled then - he had a lot more than just apologizing to do.

“You could have been killed.”

‘Bout as well as any other man in there. There was risk in just crossing the street, and having embodied a bolder fraction in peril and possibility, Bel knew what she said to be true but shook his head. A loose wave of hair fell into his face from its pomade mold as he did so, “Yeah, but that loss is significantly less distressful than yours. If you got hurt, fuck... Killed, I couldn’t live with myself. Hani, don’t feel like you gotta’ keep me from doing dumb shit, okay? It’ll only drag you down with me and much as I don’t want to catch a dozen bodies, I would if something happened to you. Don’t think that I think you can’t handle your own. I know you can. But this...” His hands went wide as an explanation for the holy mess caused inside. “This isn’t your problem. It isn’t Sen’s, either, but she knows how to deal with all this. She’s my sister. She’s got to. I don’t have to chase her down and apologize, ‘cause tomorrow when she’s less pissed off we’ll figure it out like we always do. I just don’t want you turning away and... Shit, I don’t know. Being upset with me.” The confession set him back in the ways of feeling as though he was in control. If she spotted the weakness, he’d feel it like a shot but all she did was linger fleetingly with itty bitty grasp on his bloodied fist, wrapped in a token of her divinity. “You I gotta’ apologize to, here and now. You don’t have any familial obligation to not be pissed off in the morning.”

Only encouragement to settle rancor was given. Though Bel was sure Senna didn’t storm off in a fit like Jubes might, with wildfire welling between her ribs and greed telling her to make the world pay. Baby felt things at a slower pace, but more rooted, which made her a formidable enemy and even better consort. Bel was lost in the leaning when Hani wandered a few steps backward, galvanizing as she departed from him. The honey slicked road to heaven, edging further off with one hymn, refusing to take no as an answer, “Go on.”

He would. Just not where she intended. “Si, si bonita,” he called out to her, “Let me get you dinner tomorrow, alright?” A kittenish smirk was all that was left of her and his proposition, “Okay - the next day?” His baritone followed her into the venue but he hung back. It even allowed him to laugh quietly in the dark. “Shit,” he said to himself, heel milling pebbles underfoot, flexing five semi-mangled stalks too often garnished in an array of burnished rings that had broken too many teeth. Not tonight. That Kim girl was a consecration in a bounding main of sharks and other serpents. She’d saved him, he wasn’t sure that she knew that though. Suddenly apprehensive of the type of man he was for this small moment of privacy, he grunted, “Don’t know what the fuck I did in a past life but I must have gotten something right.” If there were more than two trees on the street, they would have thrashed in October afterglow as a means to reply to his ascetic monologue. Like, “God damn, lucky son of a bitch. Up to your eyeballs in women, bread, success and the amity of good girls who don’t know no better.” None of it came without an albatross around the neck. That’s what he’d tell ‘em if they dared speak in his presence.

But they didn’t sway hard toward him with branches curved to break on the mission to knock some sense into him. November would do that for them. All curves. No brakes [or breaks]. She was a coating of tar, perennial to the bidding of lace and lavender that belonged to Hani or any other woman. More shadowy than Alaskan gloom, all thirty days of it. The bed of roses sitting on top of thin ice. She was something of a nightmare wrapped in a radiant mirage, plain and simple.

Henna plaits overpassed her image in the faint lambency, all too familiar against her rapturous yet taunting expression. Bel rocked on his heels at her unanticipated company among tranquility. Her current came slow, and then all at once. Wasn't that why she felt so much like home? Why he found himself on her doorstep habitually, looking sicker than the starved mongrel without her looped around him. To the fucking hilt. Because in spite of knowing increments, she dug her blade deep, smooth talking it in. But she made damn sure you’d remember how the final inches felt as they punctured an artery. Proof she’d been there and that nothing would be the same after she split. Another gnawing sensation of no longer being in command, strikes that would be counted against him if not for their dividends sowed within the confines of a firearm fellatio. Delusions of November’s nails raking down his stiffened soma almost pulled him from sheer reality until she nabbed his injury, her initial greeting coming to light.

“What happen to mail order?”

If she really wanted to drive her point home, she would have ashed her cigarette in his palm. But she had a feeling Bel was getting it without the amplification, his plasma dying her predilection blush. “There’s the November I know.” He echoed close to her, “Don’t bang on about Hani too long, you might start to sound jealous. You know,” his breath was hot counter to the precinct of her collar, “Threatened.” Unwritten like an omen to the blind eye, a carnal call to the cunning. The clawing need to smear his blood across her mouth and mark her as his dominion. But November? She was free. No holds barred, and nobody’s property. He’d coerced himself into recognition long ago. That her backbone wasn’t the firefly captured in jars, but nature herself. Someone who made the rules when the rest of the world failed to realize their fates had already been decided. Her spirit of inquiry came from honest wondering, but...

ImageBel gathered her hair, retained it in a hook that didn’t tug or yank. “But don’t you worry ‘bout rising to the occasion, ‘cause I know you got your hands full of arrangements with somebody who’s still sittin’ inside. And that’s alright, baby.” He stared into her face, indulgent of her vulnerable position in his grip, “I ain’t stupid. And you ain’t mine. That much is clear.” With her neck arched that way, him respiring more her tobacco than she, he daubed his thumb across her lower lip to emphasize, “But I’m aware of what I’m doing, as you are of your shit.”

Forsaken. Giving her ground. As she deserved, as a partner, as a grown woman. Not with a shove, but a slackened hold. The confidence he had in her allowed her to operate in plain sight behind enemy lines as a playmate. Not a spy. Not a narc. Not anything but genuine November. He drew up his muzzle enough to develop lockjaw where her romps with Dom were concerned, and he could live with it much as it gave his patience its best shot. He’d survived worse things and real betrayal. This was not one of them. After he let her go, he snipped the cigarette from her mouth and threw it aside, “Does this mean I get to ask you what you think is gonna’ come of you dropping neck between me and Dominic Bates? ‘Cause if so, I would love to hear your theory. We all gonna’ be one happy dick sucking family?”

The drag through his nose sounded something of a bull in the lead of a red target. Did he mean to scare her - taunt her? Nah. Just put things into perspective. Remnants of November’s smoke were squashed under one of his soles and he laughed, and laughed. And laughed. Perturbed nail beds by scraping his scalp in the post-lightbulb-interrogation, “Anyway, that there wasn’t about Dominic. ‘Cause ‘least I know he loved Baby enough to never disrespect her in the way that one of them did tonight. You know I know that? If I didn’t, I wouldn’t grapple with this fuckin’ mess of you doing what you do in your free time. You expect me to sit around and smooth my fuckin’ hackles when someone comes for Senna? I know you don’t. So why we discussing this?” The granted window was only about five seconds long, and if that wasn’t enough, the bell was ringing. She didn’t have anything in words. Lord knew she had it in physical assault but, it wasn’t the time. Just the way it was. “You got me, I got you. Loud and clear as always. You know when you go do whatever you wanna’ do, I don’t bark around your tree for answers. Don’t come for mine when your first objective was him.” A stern index pointed to the doors of the Little Lady.

“Not me. We can play games all night long, baby, and I wouldn’t rather play with nobody but you. You wanna’ crack a joke about somebody less tainted and vicious than you? Alright. You go ahead and bear your teeth. Nobody’s gonna’ handle it like you do. That’s a fact. But you question ‘why’ when you know why? You come out here after you got your hands on Dominic Bates and run a smear campaign on Hani? That girl ain’t done shit to you and never will. Priorities usually fall in line with tangible threats, November. You’re definitely smart enough to know that. Difference ‘tween me and you is I’m not gonna’ slight the shit out of someone who isn’t here to defend themselves. Certainly not Dom. Like I’m fuckin’ dumb enough to start a war on your body.”

He moved beyond her, pausing with a foot or so separating them, “You look beautiful tonight. You wear it and you know it. Talking about these other girls. That’s just a war that can’t be won.” His fingerprints went flush to his temple at every syllable in motion to his diction, “Come on. Common fuckin’ sense, who needs cheap shots when you look like that and have the best of both worlds? I’ll see you around, kid. You got a hangover tomorrow, I’ll have the coffee. Sorry I wasn’t in the mood to play reindeer games tonight. Just remember it was you who told me 'no' when I said I loved you next time you get some itch to play ‘piss on the fire hydrant’.”

A wave through the glass to his token redhead and he was wrapping up business in this part of town. Better things awaited back at the condo, less eyes. Less noise. More business. More pleasure.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: November Mae Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Jasper Callaghan Character Portrait: Chloe Williams
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#, as written by Ivisbo

Simon wanted to tear his eyes away from Jasper, he fucking knew he should. He was taller and larger then the drugged out fiend, broader of shoulders and hell of a lot more charming. But fuck, the way Jasper let his eyes shamelessly crawl all over him, how he slipped off the booth and didn't break eye contact as he prowled his way through to The Little Lady towards the bar made Simon's grip on his drink turn knuckle white.

He wanted to answer Sienna- ahe was inches away from him, asking him a fucking question, but he was stuck, completely riveted as he watched Jasper basically shove someone out of his path. There was a point that Simon tried take a hard look at why he was addicted to Jasper, but he never really figured it out. Some fucked up part of himself, the part that was titled Bates and was born from the demons of the city. The part of him that ragged when he couldn't keep on, the part that hated hi father and was jealous of his brothers. He needed a reason beyond sex, because while Jasper was as fucked up in the bed as he was in real life, Simon needed there to be another reason beyond physical. He could get great sex anywhere he wanted- he didn't need to be throwing out the family stash to this self-entitled nobody. Simon refused to say he was addicted to anything he couldn't control- weed, alcohol, cigarettes were his choice, they were as permanent in his life as his family. But the demon that was making his way towards him was something that he wanted in a shaky junky sort of way- they kind of shakiness that fucked with your head and left you wanting more.

Jasper slipped up next to them- up close, Simon could see the red bloods-shot eyes, dark bags, transparent skin, greased hair....all things that should not attract his attention, but did anyway. He took another long sip of the old-fashion, eyes drinking in Jasper like he was the last glass of whiskey in the bar.

“Maybe it was something along the lines of how open you’d be to holding a camera while the two of us fuck,” He choked, eyes wide and immediately going to Sienna. Fucking hell, he loved this girl, he had yet to share this specific detail of his fucked-up sex life with her.

Sienna smirked, humor evident in her eyes and Simon knew he was going to get an ear full later, []"I didn't know Sime made little sex tapes now! As long as I get a little pay I'll do it." Sienna said throwing a wink their way.

Simon rolled his eyes and tilted his head back, finishing off his drink in record time, "Trust me, you don't want to know what this guy is into" He leaned back against the counter just as Sienna tucked in closer to him, standing on her tip-toes so she could whisper in his ear, "Didn't peg this to be your type, becoming a bit of a slut are you, Sime? And to think I started this." Simon rolled his eyes, giving her a look of 'not-fucking-now' as she pulled away with a cheshire grin in place.

"Well, that being said, have fun with my sloppy seconds Jasper, sure you'll enjoy them and you kids shouldn't get too rowdy." With those last few words she shot a wink at the two and left The Little Lady, respecting Jona's wishes.

“Speaking of which,”

Simons attention was immediately pulled back to Jasper, who had leaned up against the bar next to him and was now only a few inches away. The closeness made the ache worse- he had to remind himself they were in public, his brothers were here, and Jona was probably keeping his ever watchful eye on the entire bar.

"I hope that look had some intention behind it. Not that all this bad blood between families isn't doing it for me,"

"You're fucking sick, you know that?"

That smirk, like a cat that cornered its prey. "Ready when you are."

It was pathetic, the way Simon removed himself from the bar and followed after Jasper like a dog in heat. He should have stayed, should have ordered another drink, fucked with Jona as he closed up, and gone home with Gunner. He had more dignity then this- or he thought he did. But instead he hastily followed Jasper's route through the crowd and towards the exit, buttoning his jacket back up and slicking his hair in place.

Outside, he grabbed Jaspers marked up arm and tugged him back, his hand coming up to grip Jaspers jaw and glare down at him, "Don't fucking talk to her like that" He barked, face twisted into a scowl as he loomed over the smaller man, "And don't fuck with me like that in public. You know what this is" His eyes stayed a steely glare as he tilted Jaspers head to the side, letting his gaze roam down. Jasper's clothes were always ratty and uncared for- the opposite of Simon's constant perfect and trimmed image. He wanted to tear that stupid oversized black shirt off shit body- he much more enjoyed what was underneath.

"Your place or mine"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: November Mae Character Portrait: Bel Z. Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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November always had the habit of running her mouth before thinking her words out thoroughly, becoming too comfortable with the people she had grown familiar with and stepping over her bounds from time to time. She had never witnessed such an intricate, incestuous lot of people - most of them having grown up in the lap of luxury. November spent her life on the road with only her mother, friends she made were fleeting. As soon as she say Bel’s face at her words, she knew she had pushed him too far.

“Don’t bang on about Hani too long, you might start to sound jealous. You know…..threatened.
She couldn’t help but to laugh at the idea of her feeling threatened. Threatened how? About Hani taking Bel, sure she would make him feel a little less damaged for a period of time - but the poor thing had no idea what she was getting herself into. Jealous, maybe - although November probably preferred the term possessive, because although Bel was free to do as he pleased and she could do the same they both knew no matter what they would own a piece of another. November knew she would never be able to tie Bel to her, nor did she want to. If you wanted to tie something down, you needed it to be tethered to something stable enough for it to stay, which November was not.

His dark eyes were glazed over from adrenaline, she could feel in his touch he was still itching for a fight. As his roughened digits crawled up the back of her neck, gripping her hair, she took a sharp breath. Her lips parted as he pulled her head back, her cigarette hanging by a thread at the corner of her lip. His words pointed out her hypocrisy, here she was taking shots at the only person in the Little Lady who had the opportunity to give Bel the slightest sort of escape, when her only escape from Bel was a source of the Colombians angst. She averted her eyes, they never spoke about her affairs with Dominic, at least not directly. His name would rarely be mentioned between them, he was more of some mythical other man who shared mutual pleasure with November when the time called for it.

“I ain’t stupid. And you ain’t mine. That much is clear.” She would have smiled if she wasn’t in such a position, his thumb tracing her bottom lip to halt any kind of reaction. It took everything in her not to close her eyes and lean into his hand, disguising a moan within a heavy intake of air. “But I’m aware of what I’m doing, as you are of your shit.”

Granted he had a fair point, but the two situations were nothing to compare. November could see the way Bel and Hani looked at each other, there was a sweet affection that her and Dominic would never share - not that they’d want to. Honestly neither of them would be capable of such emotion, and that’s exactly what November wanted to explain to Bel. People like her, Bel, Dominic , and half the people that remained in The Little Lady, they were all cut from the same cloth. November knew exactly what she had with Dominic, pure carnal desire. They knew what they were, and she never expected anything outside of what they did in the bedroom…or in his truck, or against it.

Bel didn’t know what he was getting himself into with Hani. Yes, November had her own selfish reasons for wanting Hani to stay at the distance - but outside of that their relationship would end in nothing but pain or blood, or both. Someone had to be the one to say it, but Bel would hear none of it. Her eyes watched his features carefully as he plucked the cigarette that had been dangling precariously from her mouth. “Does this mean I get to ask you what you think is gonna’ come of you dropping neck between me and Dominic Bates? ‘Cause if so, I would love to hear your theory. We all gonna’ be one happy dick sucking family?” His words were harsh, as he intended. He pretended his actions were all an act of valor to defend his sister, as she would expect Bel to. November knew it was nothing but bullshit, Bel loved a good fight, he got off on it. November knew too well to believe his bull shit. She searched his eyes, which had hardened to match his expression. Anyone one else should have been scared, but November didn’t show anything but amusement.

“You got me, I got you. Loud and clear as always. You know when you go do whatever you wanna’ do, I don’t bark around your tree for answers. Don’t come for mine when your first objective was him.”

She couldn’t help but to smile at that as he pointed at the doors of the restaurant, where Dom could still be seen through the windows. There Bel went again, being the usual conceited fuck that he was. Did he honestly think that’s the approach she would take if she wanted to take him home that night? November knew what cards to play with that was her intention, and he knew that. He was just so high up on his horse he had to put November down as just another one of his whores that came to lick up whatever he was putting out. This wasn’t a game like he wanted to think, this was November doing her job. But she kept her mouth shut, better to let him think that he was better than her for whatever reason than to open that wound.

Bel released her, putting distance between them. She just smiled, laughing under his breath as he continued to insult her, he was right - she didn’t need to wage a war. She wasn’t the one who had twisted a joke into a massive argument, but what else would she have expected from the hot headed compliment. ”You got a hangover tomorrow, I’ll have the coffee……..Just remember it was you who told me 'no' when I said I loved you next time you get some itch to play ‘piss on the fire hydrant’.”

She had to give credit where credit was due, the kid knew how to make an exit. Again he felt better making her out to be the bad guy when November was doing her job. He didn’t bring her in to be his trophy girl, that wasn’t where she belonged. What would have happened if they allowed that to happen? Neither of them would have been happy, it would be months of them fighting, lying, cheating on each other until eventually November packed up and left town. The feelings November had for Bel was as close to love as she had even known, but underneath Bel’s play boy persona he was a hopeless romantic, wether he wanted to admit it or no. He wanted to believe he could have a sweet, loving, caring relationship - November knew differently. Their type didn’t allow that, as much as they may have wanted it. Bel would always fill a void in November that no one else could, complete fantasies no one else could. He could show up, covered in blood of someone else, and November would suck the red off every finger and invite him into her white sheets. Hell, she could find him in the act and fuck him right there, writhing in a pool of blood while his victim sat lifeless feet away.

These were things that she knew no other woman could give him, things that he knew he needed. He needed to know it wasn’t just him, wether he knew it or not. In a life of nothing but darkness, there was a yearning they both had to know that there was someone else in the world who could take as their own without batting an eye lash. November knew she was made for this life before she had even experienced it. Perhaps she had spent her whole life looking for it, maybe it just happened to fall in her lap - but she walked into it like she owned it, and she did. She wouldn’t let that all far apart because of petty things like love, or whatever people wanted to call it. She knew better than that.

But she kept these things to herself, watching him walk away with a brief wave inside. November couldn’t look away, staring until he turned the corner. His words rang again and again in her ears, making her laugh and laugh in disbelief. She easily could seem crazy to the strange passerby, but she wouldn’t correct them. She had to be fucking crazy to put up with these people, right? November looked through the window at the lot of them, most of them getting their last drinks at the bar. Hani sat alone at the bar, staring off in a sad, soulful kind of way. This is how Bel would always leave her, she didn’t have it in her to laugh at the pain he caused. Hani was too sweet, and Bel would have to learn the hard way what November saw so clearly, how he would hurt her no matter what he did because he simply wasn’t made of what it was that she needed.

Dominic remained at the bar, dashing and commanding. He was everything Bel wasn’t and then some. Meg approached him innocently, and his face lit up in a way only a child could elicit. The entire interaction was beyond endearing, making November shake her head. Dominic continued to surprise her every day, where as Bel she had down to a fine science. She looked back down to where he had disappeared, but she knew he wouldn’t come back. Anything he wanted he would have waiting for him at his home, she knew that much.

The door opened behind her, November nonchalantly looked over her shoulder. The tall, menacing figure looked her up and down, she recognized that look. Everything was simpler with Dom, perhaps because he rarely said more than five words per conversation. She smoothed down her hair from Bel’s aggression, her body moving under his gaze. Hell, she wished Bel was here now so she could have Dom slam her against the window of The Little Lady and take her for all to see.

“You ready?”

Two words, at least this time it was actual words. November let a few beats pass, just long enough before Dom would straighten himself and leave without her without another word. She looked back to where Bel left, his words echoing in her head. Fuck him she said in her mind, poison dripping. Turning on her heel, she walked to Dom. “Yeah, lets go.”

She let him walk ahead to lead her to his truck, they went wordlessly. He unlocked the truck and she let herself in, rolling down the window as soon as he turned the car on, the radio softly playing the Stones. He offered her a cigarette when he grabbed one for himself, she obliged. The ride was brief and wordless, she appreciated these moments. With Dominic there was never a need for explanations or pointless chatter, never any drama that had to hashed out or any sort of obligation. He pulled into his house, and November walked close behind him, pushing herself against him as he opened the door to the Bates home. Her fingers spread across the nape of his neck, gripping what hair she could. Once the door opened, her hand traced along his back, tantalizing the soft fabric.

She couldn’t wait any longer, barely giving him enough time to lock the door behind him. Gripping his hand, she led Dominic to his own room, it was time to forget about what Bel needed and focus on her own needs. She shut the door to his room behind them, slamming herself against it and pulling Dominic into her. Dominic was indisputably an alpha male, but right now November needed to take a little bit of control. Their lips crashed into each other with the same fire of passionate lovers, never skipping a beat. November tugged at his belt, taking his hand to wrap around her thigh as she wrapped her leg around him, the tight leather of her skirt riding up until it was more of a shirt than her actual shirt was. “Treat me…like I’m worthless.” She breathed into his ear, grinding into him, nibbling on his lobe.

Bel, who?


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: November Mae Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Chloe Williams
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That was Bel’s night. More crooked than roadwork, with apertures and ample admonition to qualify. Had him roughing up someone else’s feathers. Someone not necessarily intended, as fate would have it by the furious eyes of Jonathan Moore. His stern expression environed by furrowed brow and beard. Then there was Hani, orderly and affectionate at all the right places with nothing but integrity in her heart as though the man Bel had become deserved any of hers. But that’s not what Bel thought about. It was Gunner, his bygone. Trophy friend gone rogue yet never off the radar. The eldest Zaire had to smother out any real gut reaction to it, the things forfeited. A friendship lost to the grind and mind of revenge. It formed like a blister on the surface of expectation. And that was just the beginning.

Everybody in that place thought the worst of Cristobel. Dollars to doughnuts, ‘cause the way he strutted his shit on the whim of what looked like a tantrum was not at all becoming. He knew it. They knew it. Best thing to do was move on from it and not trip up. There was Chloe, there was Sen, there was Hani. Few finer-wisdomed heads.

What about the rest? The leftovers? November. Resplendent, sucking on tobacco in his flak. Welcomed the sequel with more polish than what was red on her ten taking branches. When he left her there like that, he knew a likely score was contempt and cold shouldering for God only knows how many days but, Bel was Bel. His hunches always sat on the tip of the wagging muscle between teeth. Never in the belly, never the gullet. He was impulsive, compulsive and indelicate. Divulging a lapse to her had its consequences. Fidelity didn’t really have a reserved spot in the psychopathy of their perseverance, and he knew it all along. Why he even bothered was beyond him. Because it’s not like he was surprised to see her head tilt, mahogany gun dipping with non-caricatured partiality. Giving him his answer before she let it escape her lips, heavy. She’d been upfront with him. So he was with her, even if especially insensitive when it came to his own bruised ego.


The panacea was in place by witching hours, reckoning his violence with safe words that wouldn’t get used. Animalistic excursions labeling him the beast he needed to make himself into to get rid of the pain of being a man. He buried it in the Merlot-flavored gluttony that was Chloe, and she countered with ire she’d forgotten but needed to purge. Oaths taken for November by intrinsic infatuation were minced and let slip. He’d no doubts she was doing the same, which made it that much easier to feel the slope of another woman’s jaw and leave his mark all over it. Like a knife through butter. Chloe really knew how to make temporal concerns wither. Blotted out. All lackluster next to the image of epicene authority, she blew the brains out of Bel’s bothers in blow-by-blows. Leather straps flush to her flesh. Russet streetlight creeping through the venetian secrecy begging for a peep show, her versus and never obedient. His desirous invasion was omnipresent, leaving none of her untouched. The spiked heel of her stiletto left impressions on his chest and he permitted her malediction hungrily. Would have tasted the sole if she told him to. Waiting for her critical hair-pulling, laced and lit as hell from the opioids in her arteries. Compliments of BZ.

Be easy now, heh.

Capital ‘f-u-c-k-m-e’s didn’t echo in this place without some slaughter. Only sound he wanted to hear was struggling breaths, his and hers, the split between ecstasy and affliction when her body tensed. His razing flashes when she pulled on the belt. When her choke-chaining dominion edged them both off into necrosis nirvana. Climax? Make that plural. We’re gonna’ lose count after an hour. Shit, Chloe totaled him and then some. She looked better than most things painted with respect to war and glory, straddling him, sadistic. Who would have guessed under all that business casual shit there was a dominatrix who couldn’t wait to get her hands around somebody’s neck?

Image“Be a good boy.” The reminder came like the devil’s serenade, much too persuasive to disobey. He’d bring down the house with that body mantled against a set of bow lancets for the city to see, an arm under her leg and Chloe entirely aslope. Rush, bucks and thrusts threatening to shatter glass with each impact. Flat tongue lilt, the perpetual neck tattoo. Bel wanted to feast on every last fucked up part of her, but only if she gave her blessing. Cardinal rules... They were her thread and needle. Embroidered Bel into her bodily vending whether she was riding him or she was twined down below; he used her. She used him. Pharmaceuticals, poison, poetry. She was a finished fusion en masse, ribs etched to the surface of her hide, gasping, palming his vertebrae with one appeal, “Comply.” Catch Bel in the street and he wasn’t one to take orders. But with Chloe? Here? He’d play Abaddon’s second fiddle, like he was on the last ark to his final destination. You’re gonna’ drip all around me, I’m gonna’ toe the line but not until you’re thinking better of yourself as a god. ‘Cause I got mine, but you got yours too. And I’m not just talking about the drugs. When it was all said and done he’d slip into state less up to snuff than being inside of her. But scrimmages weren’t meant to last three, four, five hours. Theirs just always happened this way. And the break of day meant their time was up for the night.

They’d found sleep somewhere along brush strokes of five or six in the morning, botched and broken down. Buxom form lost beneath a sea of raven sheets, Chloe didn’t so much as twitch in her comatose proviso. Meridian went wounded across the lid with flushed sunlight. Chloe didn’t budge, not even when Bel went from facepalm to full on self assault. Spit swaps and slipped swigs between them both must have left some Oxycontin soup in his head, ‘cause now it was swimming like a twenty gallon tank that needed to be cleaned r e al b a d. A hangover never hurt like this; this - this was a comedown. He decided to recalibrate in water hot enough to make hellions he slept with feel more at home, get his shit together. Because he sure as hell hadn’t forgotten what went down and how Senna would be needing that cup of coffee for atonement, as well as aftereffects of her own.

Condensation scrubbed from a reflective panel supplied the battered state of his thew down the front. Purple dyed stalwarts, abdominal muscles aching not from the art on the topside but the travails executed in collisions and stomach knots only conceived by orgasm aristocrats. She made a mess of him, perchance reciprocated. That girl knew what she was doing. He chomped on a toothbrush, vain grin plastered all over him. He was in the next world. From women, windfall and wisdom. Kismet had been considerably kind. He was unexpressed about it but damn, ever grateful. Especially to the women. Arrogance couldn’t negate that. A chuckle locked off in his passage so that he wouldn’t gag on toothpaste, his own principle being that he kept so many of them around because he was trying to express gratitude in a fucked up way. Yeah, right.

Maybe though.

ImageFool’s paradise, definitely. Bel wasn’t amnesic to the country created by cheeky initiative, and he had to set it correct eventually. That day wasn’t today. It wouldn’t be tomorrow, either. But eventually, it really had to be done. Before someone fucked it up or got killed. Well, before someone important got killed or fucked it up more than usual. Another chuckle choked off. He tried to keep his banter to a minimum as he buttoned a thin denim shirt around his frame, staring down at the lorelei still somnolent in his bed. Cuffed apparel right before the boot, he was looking half decent. Half. Didn’t have the fashion sense of someone like Simon, and didn’t quite catch anything helpful from Senna being that her specialty was Victorian lace and Louboutins. He did alright though, he guessed. Thank God for the mug, sensibility in hair styling and ebonized rings. He rounded the bed and wondered what was next. Playfulness was mostly out of the question, but since Chloe showed him a hell of a time, he tickled her foot as a wake-up call rather than snatching blankets. But nothing! Apoplectic. Her toes didn’t squirm and she didn’t mumble. Running the cool metal of his hand down her sole, Bel dualized, yawning and lulling her name. He expected foot-to-jaw action so stepped back immediately, scrolled through his phone, replied half-assed to few, then tickled Chloe’s foot again. That was the key. Increments.

When she fussed he left her alone and got sucked into a text thread full of Novi-esque passive aggression, à la mode. He could picture her sitting in a Bates breakfast nook, phone in hand, cigarette swinging every time she tapped the keyboard or speculated too hard. Hatefucked hair still unkempt but looking chichi as hell on her. Si, que la conocía bien? C r i s t o b e l. And imagine that? None of her messages were that of her taking him up on propositions of cafe beverages, just business as per usual. November being November, cold and consummate. Nobody’s. Everything and nothing, but a divine being even so.

All he did was click some shit back to her about the strip club banger. Weakly promised that he wouldn’t pull anything tonight, that he was aware of who else would be there and that he owed it to her. To Senna. And to Hani, which he didn’t mention. November countered his ambiguous apology with docile disbelief. Much expected, for sure. This is how they worked. “Chloe, ya es tarde.” His voice was louder than the last time, “It’s only getting later. You’ll probably wanna’ go home and get ready for that blowout at the titty bar, yeah? I’ll be there but I can’t guarantee I can repeat last night. I never thought I’d see the day where my dick was broken.” Linens retired and she sleepily stemmed, the declivity of her hips gluing his focus to the merit like he was ready to call her Magdalene. “Scratch that, it’s still working.” He snorted and jammed his phone in his pocket, “I’d offer you a ride but I know how you handle your business transactions. So I left a bag in your purse, complimentary for the... Uh.” His palm grazed the crotch of tailored jeans as he smirked, “Yeahhhhh. I think whatever your tongue absorbed like... My tongue absorbed too because my head was fucking spinning when I got up, I gotta’ pop a few ibuprofen and get some caffeine. Don’t know how you do it. This shit...” His dark eyes widened then went half-lidded, “Eh. Not my thing.”


The breathlessness from a post-oracle salute told her all she needed to know. Combustion in her palate whimpered about leaving a beau behind, something chosen. Someone. The right one. Much to the displeasure of prose, that’s not what this would be. Whether edict was dramatic or not Gunner would never be just some small figment. A story for grandchildren or something mentioned opposite to, “A blast from the past.” He was very much human, addled in inclination and ire, everything she perhaps wanted but didn’t know she needed.

That’s the thing about soulmates, isn’t it?

They don’t rule out unlikelihoods. Or the least practical of ideas, apparently. Pint-sized paws held his visage, the pinch of her impulsive consequences not enough to churn dreams just yet. She’d have apologized for kissing him if it would have felt right to. But it didn’t. Crossing the bridge of a prodigally anticipated and fully meant gesture like that was a long time coming, and she had to savor him. They were both still here, and he hadn’t looked too abashed or injured. He wore the same pain she did - it just looked better on his funereal components. His words were a requiem she’d tack on to the corners of worse days to come, as always. When he offered his hand, she took it and followed him to the tighter tetrad ridges of his bedroom where she didn’t have to hang tough for suavities. They were gone and so was the possibility of spectators. Besides, she wasn’t going to lay in his bed looking like Hannibal Lecter’s latest entree.

Fortunately she was well-coordinated. When the dress dropped in a puddle at her feet, she was arrayed from silk the exact hue of Abraham Darby’s in spring, one-pieced and clasped. It almost looked like something worn for sleep anyway. Senna glanced over her shoulder at Gunner, then dragged herself along his mattress and mumbled, “I’m going to miss sleeping here, your bed is so much better than mine - hey. Stop. Stop looking at me like that. I’m not disappearing from your life forever, we just... Can’t... You know. You know?” Bearing on the edge, she grabbed him and tugged him down with her, smoldering her writ into his hair, “We need to sleep. We do sleep really well, you and me.” Pacific, she stretched a blanket over him and circled a familiar feline in one arm to perch on his chest. “I’m never leaving you in spite of how bad shit looks right now. Never, nope.” Senna hummed to herself, nose nuzzling that of the little lynx, “Porque te amo.” Torpid vagaries would take them, but not before she’d bestrewn soft pecks along Gunner's shoulder. Like making the bed for the most sublime siesta. Things might not be the same, but they’d still be her favorite.

ImageIn the morning she’d maintain symmetry by luck more than anything and try not to disturb Gunner - which, really wasn’t the hardest part. It was avoiding holding onto the walls for guidance down the hall and slipping from the house unnoticed. Apparently gravity was heavier than her conscience, proved by the desperate grasp of the kitchen table when the front door was in sight and Senna got a little too eager.

“Oh, shit...” She whispered, immediately finding the pedicured feet [far too pretty for Dom or November] below her. Steadying herself she followed the legs to satin slipped between virile thighs, also too hairy to be November’s, and up to a groomed beard. Simon. Undeterred by being ‘caught’, Senna shamelessly gaffed the fabric with a dress slung over the crook of her elbow, “Is that fucking Tom Ford?" Theoretically she was in lingerie. And looked slightly the part of a roughed up hooker. Tiny fingers skimmed the material, her eyes full of admiration, "Is this Tom Ford?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Simone Bates Character Portrait: Bel Z. Character Portrait: Gunner Bates Character Portrait: Junko Takayama Character Portrait:
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A haze of regret, adrenaline and apologies. That is all Hani’s night had been. Should it have come as a surprise to her that her family not only found out about what happened at The Little Lady but also that she had been there. That she had willingly put herself in the eye of the tornado. How? She never questioned that anymore. They had their ways and she had her reasons. Apology after apology was all in vain, because, according to them she was defenseless. She couldn’t handle the heat and chaos that came from a situation like that. She was unequipped, useless. Hearing it so often was beginning to carve a brand into her skin. Clueless rich girl, incapable of anything. Might as well tattoo it on her fucking forehead. Maybe then they would stop reminding her.

What would you have done if someone had shot you?

Well that was a useless question. What else could she have done other than die? Excuses and apologies weren’t being heard. Not like they ever were. And why was she apologizing? Just a habit, that was truly the only reason that came to her boggled mind. A habit of "I'm sorry" and "It won't happen again" when it clearly would. When no aspect of what had happened had been her fault. Was she expected to just let two people she cared deeply about tear one another apart? Because she cared. She cared about them more than they'll ever know. Even if she could never fully show it, even if they never figured it out, she would still care. Now there was nothing for her to do but suck it up. Force the words back down her throat and leave in peace. Anything else would just prove to be troublesome. Picking up her furry friend on her way to her bedroom, she ignored that calls of her indignant parents threatening to lock her in as if she wasn’t already. Like a caged in animal. WHy was she back here again? That’s right, because where else would she go if she left.

Nothing but rich kids with fake friends.

Falling asleep wasn’t a struggle. Waking up was. Hani’s muscles ached from the very smallest one in her feet to the biggest one, pumping rhythmically inside her chest. There was a sense of pressure, as if the air was growing thicker, closer, with no objective in mind other than to suffocate her. She woke up with a sudden gasp of air, head spinning, a raven black curtain effortlessly falling over tense shoulders. The tailed companion beside her hadn’t a care in the world. How many times had she wanted to trade places with her. Not that her loving family treated the feline any better. The bottom of her thin tank top rose up slightly as her arms were outstretched over her head. Setting both feet on the plush carpet was only the beginning of her morning. Soon after she stretched as usual, fed her companion [something she never forgot to do because god knows Ella is the only one that’s always there for her] and started on breakfast. None for her this morning. Her stomach was in knots and drowning her sorrows in fluffy pancakes and too much syrup wasn’t going to fix that. Not this time. She needed something new.

No one was up yet. That was always an advantage. Leaving breakfast at the reach of anyone that wanted it, the twenty one year old tip toed her way back up to the bedrooms. Jae wasn’t awake yet, and she wasn’t going to be the one to wake him today. She need the alone time and he needed to rest. Taking a moment to gather some clothes, she stepped into her squeaky clean bathroom. Her reflection frowned back at her as the rundown of the night before slowly worked it’s way back into her psyche. From the bar to the streets to the look on Bel’s face before she left. A sigh escaped her.

Ah Bel...what could you possible want with me?

Her small hands worked their way through the small tangles in her hair. Oh how much simpler would life be if people said what they meant and meant what they said. How many problems that would solve. And no, she didn’t think about this with Bel in mind. Honestly was far from being a problem with him. It was her. It was Hani who hid behind fragile smiles and the occasional comforting smile. That’s as far as she allowed herself to go. No part of her made it possible to speak her mind, and no part of him implied that he needed to hear it. In fact, he would be much better off if he didn’t. The wrong words at the wrong time could be heavier than an anchor.

Another sigh. It was all she seemed to be doing this morning. Through the haze and attempts to divert her mind from all thoughts, and brand new bottle of hair dye jumped out at her. Since a sweet breakfast hadn’t been the answer, maybe this was. A change was certainly never a bad thing Without allowing herself a second for second thoughts, she pulled whatever else she needed to complete the transformation. How long this would last depended on how long ‘til she needed another stress relief. What would come next? Red maybe?

The smell of hair dye woke her senses, finally feeling alert. New. Bleached and air dried hair accompanied by a well coordinated outfit and she was ready to sneak out, not bothering to clean up the mess in the bathroom. No one used it besides her. Leaving it there would give her something to do once she came back. If...she came back.

Of course you’ll come back, where else would you go?

Suppressing another sigh, she pulled out her phone. Who could deal with her this early in the day? Jun was either sleeping or intimidating some trollop that had the nerve to step into her home. Jae was either asleep or pretending not to know that she was awake. Bel… Bel had no need to deal with her today. After the horrific defames that were spoken about him the night before, he would be better off if he didn’t see her for a while… in fact, he would be better off if he didn't see her ever. She flipped through her contacts a little helpless, finally, the corners of her pink tinted lips curling up slightly when she came across a comforting name. Simon never failed to make her feel better. Not to mention how long it had been since they had seen one another. The night before my no means counted.

[To: Simon]
[Hey...a drink? If you’re free]

ImageThe odds of him being free were slim to none, but there wasn’t any law against trying. Stuffing the electronic device back into the small pocket of her cut off shorts, she made her way back down the steps just as quietly as she had gone up. Leaving the estate took no effort. Her usual route of escape was still unknown to the rest of the house residents, though she had an inkling that Jae knew. It didn’t worry her in the least. He pretended not to know and not to care, but she knew he did. That was more than enough for her. Once out in the streets of the always bustling streets of New York, she let out a breath she hadn’t even realized she had been holding. What now? Wander around on her own was really the only option. As plain and unexciting as that seemed, It was certainly countless times better than being trapped inside that too large house.

A cage is still a cage, no matter how fancy.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: November Mae Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Chloe Williams
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Blood’s got a stamp stickier than drying wax, labeled me C a m b i o n. I’m quenching the demons of fate while they flick through Benjamins and beg to attack saints. One thing I’m sure’a’s been the same, pleasure ain’t ever free.

The question has come a thousand times, written on the wall then imbued by the back splash of a blown brain. It used to look like, “Have you always been like this?” One persuaded glance at Chloe and he knows for god damn sure he hasn’t. In spite of it, eternal damnation is calling and he’s always eager when the doorbell rings. Bone to chin, the knuckle-pop pressure left his neck corrugating in repercussions. He’d stirred her up. But she was likely reigning supreme, he’d have to admit it. Transposed his entire universe and they knew, both of them, that this would not be the last time. Sex was becoming just as much a dependency as the capsules lingering in her clammy palms, at least on that concept she was frank. She was innately all the hues of fire and brimstone, tresses fierce but silken wrapped around his wrist. Contingencies were messy but true blue all the’ same. Hell was a state of mind and fleeting venue placed between her thighs: cozy.

Bel held habits and contradictions like accolades complimenting an outfit more fitting than his Rolex. Jonathan Moore had a point on his smear campaign, the kid sure was an impertinent little fuck, all things considered. And like all other things, Bel wore this too, unabashed and rolling tight shoulders with his head high. He might not have grasped full landslide. On the way up, he was still making power moves. The common denominator was degeneracy. Fractions prepared for the fall when gutter virginity manifested, but that was few and far between. Morality Chloe was anything but. Her tongue was the snake of sin, crooning a pet name as she shamelessly left as though not much had occurred to have her there in a morning after sort of fashion. Adios bonita. Until next time. ‘Cause being real? There would be at least a dozen next times.

Simplicity mixed with the uncontaminated good intentions of hope came around less than full moons. Where was she after that mess of a night? He half worried about the place Hani skittered off to like astral flickers in wake of an explosion, but somehow knew she was fine regardless. Felt bad for leaving. And on the same note, she wasn’t sticking around after ensuring he’d been alright from the upheaval at the Little Lady anyway. Bel swiped through his contacts and shot her a message on the loose spectrum of reminders, gratitude. You gonna' let me take you out for treating me so damn good? He’d chased a symbolic lunar constellation, underway, and pondered why she’d ever look twice at a man like him. Daily reflections had him humbled. Might have been monumentally manipulative, mean-minded, shambolic and commitment-fearing but he never forgot anybody. Never dreamed of overlooking genuine warmth that tingled long after somebody was physically gone. He’d promised her dinner, and she did that thing she was prone to do, pitched smirk, like she wanted to say yes, but knew a hell of a lot better. Tireless, that’s how he’d keep it up until she at least caved for a drink. Sporadic meetings, ten minute coffee sit-ins. Porque tengo miedo. No estoy entero. Tengo miedo de mí mismo. Y tu no. Because he was never going to pass over her. Because he couldn’t and had no desire to, inclinations slanted aggressively toward keeping her around. For something whole to keep him at anchor.

And still the son of a bitch wondered where the descent began. Where it would end. If by some terrible twist he’d be another dope fiend in the grand scheme, if there was a chance for a total loss or if losing his father was enough. He couldn’t survive another slip with Senna. Bebita didn’t know it but she kept him alive most days, and had she decided to be iron-willed again one day, run off shaking no dreams, love or daisies from her hair, he’d be a ruined man. All of this was hers, for her, at the end of the day. Nobody knew it.

Exceptions to the rule oscillated between Dominic Bates and sweet November Allen. And providence would have it so cruel as to intertwine the two on a tangental plane not completely intangible to Cristobel. He fuckin' wished he couldn't feel it. By hook or crook he coped, knowing how often the stars put his back to the wall. Tough love was still love at any rate. He’d never own Novi, she’d always cognize the pieces of him she sank her nails into and Dominic would be a glorified soul without regard to strife or time. Dice rolls were hard-hearted, that’s something even Dom told him. Perhaps he instilled it more aggressively in Senna, to a point of undying affection and admiration. ‘Cause she’d go running to him when she was bleeding, on the last skirt of balance. And Bel could never be upset. Couldn’t figure this was the flattened toe step of boundary-crossing, when all Dom had ever done was love Baby like she was his own.

He coulda’ sat on the bow of a bender, cursing the man who stole any woman he’d needed to keep, but Bel was not that deluded.

There were times to reflect on. Where things were put plainer. When Brooklyn nights were mid-July and hotter than the home Senna knew away from home, quiet. Too fucking quiet. Funny how taking something so mild out of a room changes the entire atmosphere. How thinking it ain't gonna' cause a huge difference, just like a framed portrait shifting two inches to the left. But when she decided to go every picture fell askew. She was just a child. What could have been done to stop a stubborn child who thought she was in love?

ImageDom always let her go wherever she wanted 'long as she was confident enough in herself to get through grated shins, which would extend into afflictions of the mind in due time. He took the edge off of everything in a way Bel nor his father could. Promises, and dandelions or some shit that Bel's lacking in lyrics could never stand up to. But even Bel couldn't wrap his head around why a person composed in such coarse loyalty coulda' stood the sight of Baby going away. 'Cause if it was hard on everyone, it was harder on the man who held her fragile pinkened hands and helped her walk rickets out of knocking knees. The man that bebita went like lightning to if ever anything was out of place, or she simply needed a crutch or a word of advice. She never ran home to Bel. He supposed this was all his fault. At least, he did the night that he was a shot off from being alcohol-influenced into drunk driving.

The doors of a dive were propped wide open and the sound going in and out melted around traffic, jive and sexual tension not participated in by himself. Which is strange. And anyone could say that if they saw him. Luckily for him, only person who saw him that night was an iron treasure chest for secrets. Guard mutt not trained to bite unless in protective measure. Bel remembered how he knew without looking 'cause of the way Dom's hand closed around his shoulder and shook in one sturdy gesture. Behind it trundled, "Y'alright, now, that's enough." How he had to suffocate the malice mandated by someone Dom's very own age, sweeping Bel's kid sister off her naive feet. Sapping her wouldn't do any good, either, though. Baby was aware enough at the very least, to know what kinda' royal fucking mess she dove head first into. Isn't that why she did it? Thinking messes were immunity, that she knew it well enough by residing in perdition for the living - to fix it? Did she wanna' fix that trainwreck of a human named Lazarus or was it authentic ardor? Either thought made him sick, or, maybe that was the bourbon and lack of food in his stomach.

"Hardly out of high school, Dom. Fuckin' kid." Yukked, choked, swiveled an empty glass in hand. "God damn kid."
"Smart kid." Dom countered.
"Yeah, right."
"Now look Bel, can't say I'm happy either, but Senna is gonna' come home one day, and she's gonna' be the one to leave; she's smart."
"Changed her number," Bel interrupted, slurring a blurred intent for his own perspective, "Hasn't said shit to me."
"Well, what can y'do, turn your fuckin' liver inside out and hope she calls you up and you get to play hero?"
"Huh, you know saying some shit like --"
"Spare me, Bel," Dom paid off the eldest Zaire's tab, "This ain't about you, not Lazarus, it's about her."
"But she just --"

The indicative inhalation of frustrations mustered into words of wisdom. Timber creaked under the sitting weight of Dom, who smelt of foreign tobacco and an aged musk that Bel, at twenty four, couldn't yet fully appreciate. Under different circumstances Bel would have yapped something more slick. Threatening. But where they were and the turn of events reviewed, they both knew it wasn't right. And it would never be like that. Besides, Bel was way too sloshed to throw a punch let alone pave the path of years lost to rage and secrecy. He needed Dom's guidance and he'd accepted that even in the face of bitter wrath boiling against his gums to expose pointed teeth. And Dominic was a tree trunk of a gent who was by no means above breaking fingers backwards to make a point, so it was what it was and Bel agreed to what was coming.

He needed it.

"She just fell in love, and some motherfucker spotted her miles off and knew she was gold so he wanted her, and she was taken with him. She came up in the filth even though she had nice things. All she knows is this life. The people that get stuck inside of it. So he mighta' sparkled lil' bit, 'cause he's not just a junkie, he's smart and knows what he's doing. Said a few things and she dropped her Sylvia Plath book to listen to his story instead, what do we get to do... Kill him? Drag her kicking and screaming back on to Brooklyn? That little girl is becoming a woman and we see her as a child and that’s why we’re fucked up right now. She’ll come home, Bel. Just think ‘bout that. She will. She’s our Baby but she’s not just that, she’s a lot more. Can’t keep taking credit from her when she’s off in some other part of the world doing things her own way. She’ll learn from this somehow and there ain’t no telling what it will be right now but she will. She loves you, she’d never stay away too long without explanation. Right now she’s got her hands full of decisions and she’s living her life.”

When did they stop thinking of Senna as a child? Was it when she slipped into heels instead of ballet flats or was it when she started romanticizing narcotics and the spirits they possessed? Could have been anything amid all the bittersweet developments. Was she smarter now, free of a shackled relationship and just drifting among wreckage she thought was pretty? Was she the wreckage? Who knows. Who really knows. All he could say at present was that she really was shrewd. Even if from an external standpoint she looked foolish, Baby was quick on the uptake.

ImageAnd apparently ignoring his texts or passed out at her apartment. Bel figured he’d see her at the club which was sending for him by the point of NYC’s sunset modeling like an abscess glowing Abutilon on a blanket of reds and blues. The jaws of a chill settled into him but ten minutes into a VIP booth, leather was clung to olive skin and intolerable. He tossed it over a vacant chair, tried not to think too hard about every event that led him to this very location. Brooding would become a deterrent, high stakes pinning him in crosshairs couldn’t be snubbed if he wasn’t vigilant. He eased his phone into his pocket and hung his head back against a vinyl slip [guess this shit was easier to clean body oils off of] for a few slow blinks leading up to visual attendance.

Women moved without reticence. In lieu of inhibitions and wool sweaters they wore glitter grease, rubbed the toned thighs of hustle hanging by poles. They'd serve as a good distraction when Gunner inevitably palmed through the drapes and sat his ass down in the same subdivision. There’d be enough of a production without enmity, Bel reminded himself to dial his shit back as he twisted soft bolts of dark hair between tattooed extremities and focused on the cadence of hips nailing bass beats. Exposed brick turned black in the discotheque, asses clapped and baby dolls hung off of his neck, plump lips whispering.

Who was gonna’ walk through those curtains?
The last person most people wanted to see, he was sure of it.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: November Mae Character Portrait: Caroline Beaumont Character Portrait: Aedan Rory
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Dahlias, Lilies, Tulips, Narcissus.

Pinks, oranges, yellows, whites.

Soil staining the knees of his already threadbare jeans, scratches down his back still fresh and pulling taunt in protest when he leans over. He thinks about cursing November and the knives she claims are nails, but knows that he deserved them. Knows that he earned them, and he can't really be mad about that.

He misses her already.

But she's not his to keep.

He wipes his sweaty forehead off in the crook of his arm, spreading streaks of dirt across his face and failing to care. There's a long night ahead of him and he already knows this. Bates and Zarie's and women as vicious as vipers. He's not worried, never is, but as his large hands cup under a baby bud, a soil transfer to get it more sun, he wonders briefly if he's ever going to tire of holding life in his hands.

There's baby's breath growing in bushes. Thoughts of her. All for her, always for her. A garden full of flowers that should have ended up laced through her hair, if life hadn't done them the way it had. He supposes it's for him now. For his stress and his pain. His need to claw at the Earth and make something beautiful appear, if even for a moment. It's lackluster and superstitious but he can't find it in himself to give a fuck.

There's flowers for Senna, sure. But there are also flowers for his mother, for Gunner, for Simon. Flowers for a boy he once knew between panted breaths and prison bars, a reminder of something other than the blood under his fingernails when it all went to hell. Flowers for girls like Novi and all the lost souls. Flowers for a man permanently stained red who he never can seem to get out of his head. Flowers for the past, present, future.

Flowers for Bel, even.

And he'll be damned if he lets any of them die.

It's his garden. His responsibility.

It's too dark, too loud, and the scent of sex and cheap cigarettes clog his nose. His eyes narrow in irritation, jaw clinched over the fact that he can't cover his ears, and already the back of his tongue tastes gross. Reminds him of teenage years spent on his knees in cheap hotel rooms, putting his mouth around something without really knowing where it'd been. Stupid. Kind of like strip clubs. Where no doubt girls were behind thick curtains doing lines on shit they shouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. Promising to stick their hands down some bikers pants for the promise of just a little tip.

He's never been a fan of these places. Never been a fan of paying for blue balls.

The whiskey is good, though.

He arrives alone, even though he knows he won't stay that way for long. Takes a spot at the bar, orders a drink, pulls a cigar from the pocket on his shirt. He debates not lighting it, not smoking something that says money and a big dick, not in a place like this where every cardinal whore is looking for a few extra bucks and a good night. Then he remembers he's Dominic Bates, and he doesn't need a fancy smoke and a glass of the finest to prove those facts. His reputation does it for him.

The bar is safer, away from the stages. Not as much room, not the VIP section the older Zarie takes too. Dom doesn't glance at him, doesn't have the time. He's too busy focusing on the best 'not interested' face he can muster, and wondering why his life decisions got him here. Gunner slides in next to him, a little off kilter, but still his usual self. Power rolls off him in waves, and Dom knows his brother is like raw steak to the hungry dogs in a place like this. The kind of Bad Boy that looked like he could fuck them up real good, but still wrap his arms around them and call them 'sweetie' at the end of the day.

It's funny, if only because Dom doesn't think they're wrong. But it's going to take someone a lot more special than a girl on a pole to hold onto Gunner Bates' heart.

He doesn't mind the strippers themselves, not really. They're strong girls, full of personality and what it takes to survive in a world of grit and blood. He respects them, more than most, for sinking their nails into life and riding it out. He just hates being in their line of sight. And they all look so goddamned hungry, eyes moving over his body, sinful smirks touching their lips. And he thinks almost for a moment that if one of them is brave enough to speak to him...he might just slide a few crisp dollars through the lace over her hips. But he doesn't want them to. Doesn't want to be here, doesn't want to deal with this.

ImageNovember appears like his saving grace, covered in angel dust with a sway to her hips. He knows what she's doing even as she walks by them, leans over the bar innocently. She's had a fun night, he can tell, so he doesn't feel bad when he wraps an arm around that perfect waistline, tugs her into him. She fits perfectly, always has, and her giggle reminds him of early morning pancakes even if it smells like luscious alcohol.

She said something, but he didn't really care. Reached for his drink, but she'd already had enough and it was his first one. He gave her a look, one that told her to behave, before he tugged her closely and let his eyes fan across the crowds. Even now, Dom didn't know all the faces. Didn't care to. Simon comes through the doors with Hani on his arm, charming smile on his face. Dom knows her. Bel's piece. Small, fragile, pale skinned innocence. He wonders how long she'll last, how tightly Bel's wrapped around her fingers. She's too good for him, he knows. She'll fight for him until she's got no fight left in her. He would pray for her, maybe even wish his brother was straight and could save her heart. But he'd long ago stopped caring about girls who danced with the devil and wondered why they were still in hell.

November in his lap provided a block. Kept the girls off him, focused on her. They liked her. She was beautiful toxicity and threw out just as much money as the men. Reckless generosity. He doesn't care, even when some girl in pink ruffles is in his lap too. Ignores the excitement rolling off Novi, because better her than him. He knew he couldn't keep her forever, never could and that was the blessing and the curse that came with knowing the intimate parts of her. She shifted to leave, but Dom wasn't done with her. Not yet. His grip tightened. She smiled. "Dom I have to go."

For Bel, he knows. His eyes slide towards the kingpin sitting alone, jaw clinched, face shadowed, eyes flickering with this emotion or the next. Always so hot, always so wired and ready to go. It's odd how even after all this time Dom thinks he should be helping Bel get what he wants...let her go, let him convince her that he could love her. Save Hani's life maybe, in the process. But he can't. Not anymore. He can't help Bel. So he won't, not even a little.

"You know I can't stay."

But she can, and he says so without ever opening his mouth. He kisses her shoulder, chapped lips rubbing over soft skin, and she tastes better than the whiskey or the smoke. She sighs, almost smiles, and tells him five more minutes. He doesn't smile either, won't give her the satisfaction, but his chin rests on her shoulder, and for the first time he notices Senna. Long dark hair, what might be a bruise on porcelain skin, and she's cuddled up to a tiny blonde thing. If he thought Hani was the picture of innocence, she's got nothing on this girl. These doll-like curls, childlike-cheeks, wide eyes. She's new, fresh, never seen their world he's sure of it. Her fingers are clean and her heart is probably pure. The kind of girl that still has nightmares about what might be hiding in her closet...not about the guy she knows lives next door. Not about the people she's seen rip throats out with their bare hands. No, monsters live in books and television screens for her.

And he doesn't trust her.

He doesn't trust her for one second. Not the way she holds onto Senna, not the calculating glance, not the air of new but voluntary. She's a threat wrapped up in a pretty package, like a dart frog sitting on the lowest tree branch, waiting to be noticed, showing off mesmerizing colors, covered in poison enough to drop people by the tens. He licks his lips and leans far enough back in his seat to get Gunner's attention. Points with his cigar to the little thing in question, arches an eyebrow. "That right there gonna be a problem." Gunner's eyebrows go up, and he takes a moment to survey the scene Dom has already studied. His brow burrows, but he shakes his head slowly. "I'm not beatin' up on some girl, Dom."

He shrugs as November shoots him a look, ignores it even though he knows what she means, and he knows he's lost her then. Doesn't resist when she gets up, even as he teeth graze his ear. He chuckles for her that time, smacks her ass as she saunters away. She's too pretty not to watch her walk away, but even when she goes to Bel, he can't stop his eyes from finding the blonde girl again. Even when the yelling starts that he can see more than hear...she's not his focus. And if she was his, maybe he would have followed her when she left, maybe he would have watched her back when she was too emotional and too strung out to do it herself. But she wasn't, so he didn't.

ImageInstead, he leans back, rests his elbows on the bar, nods at Simon when he orders a whiskey for Hani. He doesn't smile, never does. Doesn't ask how she is or care. Simon looks well, even after Jasper crawled out of his bed that morning, and that's all that matters. For now, he puts Novi out of his head, locks Bel away. For now, he keeps Senna on his mind and a blonde deity on a silver platter. For now, he waits, his eyes trained on the door.

Because he knows, sooner rather than later, a man stained in red will walk through it.

And he thinks he's rather due a date.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: Chloe Williams Character Portrait: Caroline Beaumont Character Portrait: Aedan Rory
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You'll feel better when you wake up...

Gunner didn't. Not if he was being honest. Deni's chipper tone resonated in his panging skull. A reminder of where he needed to drag his ass, if he didn't want to hear about it later. He'd read the message beeping across the screen of his phone. Strip club? Bronx escort. It almost made him snort. He smothered his cheek against his pillow and exhaled sharply. Imagined his bones shifting back into place. His thoughts shivering in sequence, huffing out the blooming ache already setting roots in his chest. Fucking pathetic.

He'd support her anyway. Always did. Always would. Needn't whisper anymore words against her birdcage collarbone. In the cress of her hairline, threaded behind her ears. That was gone. Those moments. He wondered how long he'd miss them. His hand drifted next to his face, palm-down. He drew it into a tight fist and dragged his tongue across the back of his teeth. Probably just as long as he'd miss Bel. He'd long burnt that bridge with his familial silence. Buried his chances when he walked away. It was a Bates curse that would continue nipping at his heels. A fine line he walked. Two sides that adhered to his sensibilities. Promised sharper knives and no distinction between right or wrong—silence or wagging tongues. Either way, they'd feed him to the dogs.

Just a matter of time.

Blue curtains stretched out to allow a lick of sunlight into his bedroom. Crooked enough to offer a beam of the outdoors. Gunner watched Dominic toil in the garden. Hands turning over the soil and occasionally trailing across the petals. There were sides, angles, slants of Dom that most people would never see. Wouldn't have the opportunity to see. Not like this. Hunched in the sweltering sun to transplant flowers from one spot to another, in order to keep them alive. Like he did with all of them, really. As much as Gunner strong-armed anyone threatening his older brother, and his business, Dom operated in the background. Pulled invisible strings and tipped over dominoes. Kept him from stepping over any lines he wasn't aware of. Kept his chin tipped over the surface. Kept him from drowning.

This was Dom's garden. All of it.

He was just a part of it.

Maybe, the angry-looking spotted lilies tickling against the window.

He didn't mind.

...swear to God I'll make up everything and more when I get back one day.


Strobes of red and blue danced across the walls. Painted them into strips. Revealed slavish tongues and hunched hounds tapping knuckles in perverts-row. Velvet-covered seats riddled around the circular stage. Closest to the gyrating, hip-swinging girls crawling on their knees. Buckling down for dollar bills, slipped into lacy thongs. Winking long-eyelashes and puckering full lips. Gunner noticed. He might've paid them a glance. But he wasn't interested. Not his gig. This wasn't his scene. But Dom was here—so he was too. A gun in hand. Nothing more, nothing less. He'd been here before. Of course. Knew where all the exits were located. Recognized familiar faces weaving and bobbing in the crowd of hounds. The smell of sweaty bodies greeted his nostrils as soon as they ducked inside.

Seedy business attracted all likes of gun-totting, smack-dealing gangsters. Besides what normally happened behind closed curtains, transactions occurred. Alliances were made. Blood swilled together. Fingers twisted and sometimes, fists were drawn: cocked and loaded. Why they would pick this place of all places to do business? He didn't know. He supposed only crooked cops sniffed at their heels. Here to have a good time, like everyone else. Bulky bouncers kept the place under lock and key. Kept goodie-goodies from wandering too close. They were wolves and dogs and beasts curtailing whatever herds they claimed. The whole damn place felt like a smothering blanket pressed up against his face. He didn't really want to be here, but in that grumbly haze of self-pity he'd promised Deni that he would and if Dom was here, it was his business to be here. Supposed he might've enjoyed this a bit more, under different circumstances. Running around with Bel and Senna when things were simpler. Now, not so much. Everything was complicated.
Gunner slipped in beside Dom and sat alone. Shrugged off wandering hands wrapping around his bicep. Mumbled when shots were shoved in front of him. Ignored the croons of birds who craned over his bulky shoulders, whispering that he should just have one drink. Some of the girls knew him by name and stopped in to say hi. Knew all of the Bates and Zaires because their parties often carried themselves here. But, he wasn't interested in any lingering touches. Didn't want to bring anyone home with him. Besides, he wasn't the type of guy to rip into some hapless girl if it didn't mean anything. The only necks he wrapped his hands around were those he put down. Exposed collarbones and soft fingers in a place like this hid claws and sharp teeth. Opportunists who dug into leather wallets and fled at the first sight of daylight. As wretched as he felt, he didn't feel like filling in those spaces with a warm body. He leaned his forearms across the clean counter top and glanced sidelong. Noticed November sliding into Dom's lap as if she'd been there all along. A sultry kitten wrapping herself around him, sans purr.

He noted Simon sweeping through the doors with Hani clipped to his elbow. Fashionably late, as usual. A smile almost tipped across his lips. Stopped-mid twitch and settled into a frown. He inclined his head. Nodded to acknowledge that he was fine. They were all fine, in one place. Seeing Hani step into a place like this made him feel odd. He was, however, somewhat relieved that she'd come with Simon. He trusted no one else to accompany her. Even if they hardly talked anymore... he wanted her safe. Wanted what was best for her. He doubted it was Bel. Problems clung to his heels like weights. Threatened to send him to the depths: drowned him. Even so, he was relieved there was someone to wipe his knuckles clean. Pull him away from himself. Temper the anger that bubbled and threatened to spill over. He was a bomb sizzling at both ends. Couldn't blame him. If Bel was a walking grenade tick-ticking away, he was the one dancing with lions. Cawing for a death-wish.

It didn't take him long to notice Dom leaning back in his seat. Gunner followed his gaze towards the Zaires. He would've been lying if he said he hadn't noticed Senna walk in with the blonde bomb shell. Felt the sickness rise in his guts, green-envy that made him turn his head away. But now, Dom wanted him to look. So he did. Could see the clear distaste coloring his features. Dragging his lips down into a scowl that spoke volumes. He didn't want her here, so close in his vicinity. He wanted her gone. Probably wanted him to wring his hands around her pretty little neck to make her disappear. He couldn't. Wouldn't. Not to Senna. He said as much before looking away from them. He turned back towards the counter top and stared at his battered knuckles. Opened his hands, stared at his palms and crushed his hands into fists, “She told me 'bout her.” Barely a whisper. Only audible to Dom, and maybe November, if she was paying attention.

Fucking pathetic.


Giggling pair of girls leaning into each other like proper lovers. Kissing necklines. Whispering sweet-nothings in plain view. It only seemed real when it was right in front of him. He'd support her, that's what he'd said last night. Whispering in a euphoric tundra, wasted under the weight of such a promise. Lingering in the warmth she left behind. Gunner tapped his fingers and ordered himself a whiskey. He normally tried to keep straight while watching Dom's back. Normally sniffed snow to keep him focused on the task at hand. But his head still bugled like a pair of drums and liquor had the auspicious numbing effects he craved for. He threw his head back and finished the glass before turning back towards Dom. Surprisingly, Bel had joined him. Probably bristling at the sight he'd seen. Seemed like even ladies weren't exempt from his watchful eyes. Baby always deserved better. He tended to agree.

Another body occupied the space November had left. Slinked in when he hadn't been paying attention. She wrapped around Dom like a scarf. As if she belonged there. Gunner wondered what Nov would have thought about that. Would she bare her teeth? Mark her territory? Scream at the top of her lungs like she'd just done with Bel? Would've been a sight to see. Nov was a firecracker. Dom had the habit of attracting explosive women. The kind who would build you up and destroy you in the same breath. He didn't say anything. It wasn't any of his business who Dom chose to fuck. As long as they didn't dip their toes into any of his own affairs, it was fine. As soon as Bel leaned into Dom and pointedly called Caroline a snitch, Gunner finally twisted towards them. He probably looked like shit. Exhausted, trying to conjure something up. A warning. Something that didn't sound like he was agreeing that something should be done. Despite the quiet wish tickling at his bound fists, his expression shifted. Hoped the spite didn't leak through too clearly.

It took everything in him to grumble, “Don't fuck this up for her.”

This wouldn't turn into a fucking shit-show. Not on their account.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dominic Bates Character Portrait: Hani Kim Character Portrait: Senna Z. Character Portrait: Jonathan Moore Character Portrait: Jasper Callaghan Character Portrait: Chloe Williams
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"There ain't no way in fucking hell I'm letting you out without a scratch."

That night, they made love to one another like they hadn’t caressed one another in years when in fact it had only been some twelve hours since they last touched one another, with the intent of fucking like old sweethearts. Somehow that night felt more intense than any night preceding it. Maybe it was because they had to maintain their inside voices as there sweet innocent little angel slept unawares just down the hall. It could have been because of the ruckus that occurred early during the wee hours that the Little Lady had her legs open up until she finally closed them, having experienced enough for one night. Regardless, the moment their room was sealed off by a thin piece of wood they called a door, Anna was thrust into the door at hip level as Jona buried his face into the crook of her stretched out neck. His partner in crime made giggling sounds one would expect of an innocent schoolgirl while her hands roamed and said otherwise. Somehow the idea of trying to remain quiet made the whole of it seem as if they were having an affair, desperately trying to avoid letting the wife or husband become privy to their fucking while said husband or wife was next door unaware of the interlopers. After a certain point, Jona’s leg could no longer take the weight of holding her up, so as he attempted to set her down on the bed he had been so intent on re entering her that he had forgotten that his pants were still at his ankles. To make matters simple, the pair tumbled to the floor and snickered at one another.

If they didn’t know any better it would have been easy to have judged them and see that they were still new thus being clumsy in the act of love making. Of course, they were no strangers to it regardless of the location so they simply resumed where they were.Then again, the giddy way in which they explored one another it was almost as if they were nervous and were unsure of what to do but they knew exactly where to place a warmed moist hand or where to place kisses so light the skin shivered. As a result of one of those familiar spot, a deep throated chuckle erupted from within Jona, a feat not often witnessed by those not welcomed in these parts of their home. Only the bearer of his child knew what to do with her lovers body. Of how to make him squirm and ready to burst. He knew the ropes just as well and often times it became like a game to see who would give out first. It wasn’t until their alarms went off that they found themselves in bed layered in sweat and their own sweet, nearly sickening, scent of their love. Somewhere along the way they had moved to the proper place of love making. Almost at the same time, the two turned in to face each other and smiled at one another. Jona leaned closer to give her a kiss however Anna had other ideas.

After one last round together, the two sauntered out into their shower and washed each other. It almost led to another love making moment. Wrapping his waist with a towel, Jona was the first to exit the bathroom to find his daughter sitting atop their bed. “Good morning love.” Meg grinned a gap toothed smile and giggled, “morning daddy.”.

Unlike the night before, The Little Lady didn’t have as many patrons passing through her skirts so for a moment she had a brief respite from all the thrashings that went on inside. Jona worked the bar as usual, Anna and Meg were nowhere in sight for their presumably weekly girls night out. It wouldn’t be until their little angel grew older or could understand the significance of having that night out. The grump was happy with the quiet buzz that emanated from the four or five booths and tables that were occupied. It wasn’t everyday that the bartender got some peace and quiet and while he hates to admit, is actually quite relieved that he doesn’t have to worry about his wife and daughter. The previous night had only reminded him of how foolish it can be to have the both of them there especially when those two damned nitwits were involved. Angrily wiping down a mug, Jonathan glared out into the restaurant. A few of the patrons happened to glance up and flinched upon seeing the face their bartender was giving them. Although from Jona’s perspective, he was imagining the two nitwits in his restaurant and throwing them out by the ear. “They ought to be taught some manners.” in muttering this, he realized the naivety of his words and snorted. Shaking his head, the bearded man setting the mug back in place and grabbed another one to pass the time.
As he wiped down a second glass mug, the grump thought back to earlier that morning. Senna had come in to pay her respects for the damage her unruly brother had caused. The bartender still wasn’t quite over his actions and it was up to Anna to alleviate the tension between the two. From what he understood, Anna had struck a deal with the younger Zaire. The young beauty would have to make use of herself and work for them. It would certainly have to be long enough to pay off the cost of the damage the dimwit had caused. He chose not to partake in their conversation as the mere thought of the older Zaire made him grumble under his breathe. Somewhere in him, the bartender was fuming silently, just waiting to release that pent up irritation on something or someone. As soon as he came to that realization one of the waiters called from the kitchen.
Rolling his eyes, and let out of a huff of annoyance. “What the fuck is the problem now?” With cane in hand, Jona limped over to the kitchen doors and threw them open. Brown eyes scanning the large room for the face that may or may not meet his fist. A grim line settled on his face as the waiter that called him waved him over. Stepping around on the shelves, Jona noticed that she the kitchen phone to her ear and also wore an expression of annoyance. “What?” She raised a finger as she quickly barked into the phone in rapid fire spanish. The grump rubbed the back of his head to keep himself from snapping at the waitress. He was old enough to catch most of what she was saying and he growled when he heard just that one word or name rather, Lars. At once Jona tore the phone from her grip and yelled. “What the fuckin hell did he do this time!?”

The waitress shook her head. She almost felt bad for the kid but he had caused enough trouble that she was surprised her employer hadn’t kicked him out yet. Chest rising and falling angrily, Jona slammed the phone back into the cradle and hurridely limped out. “Close up our Lady when she’s had enough. I’m going out.” The waitress simply gave a nod and threw on the jacket that meant she was in charge. He snatched his jacket from the coat rack and stormed off into the night, lighting a cigarette as soon as he stepped out.

By the time Jona had gotten there, he was just finishing up his second cigarette. Flicking it to the ground, he stomped on the remains and adjusted his jacket. He forced himself to take a deep breathe as he didn’t feel like making a scene in someone else’s place. He had enough trouble for one week, so he calmly entered the strip club and scanned the dimly lit room. Ignoring the advances of some of the dancers, the bartender spotted the troublemaker and slowly made his way over. The kid was flanked by two of the hustlers but he still had the nerve to give Jona a cheeky smile. Almost at once, all the anger that had been building up inside Jone broke through the flimsy wall that was his control. With quick steps, Jona lashed out and punched the kid square in the jaw, garnering a few screams of surprise. “You fuckin dipshit! You’re still a damn minor and you honestly think you could actually spend time in here? And you had the fucking balls to actually get it down with one the dancers!? You must be out of your goddamn mind! You’re lucky we weren’t busy today or I swear to the good Lord I would have left you here for them to deal with.” At this point, Jona was more or less screaming and had attracted the attention of the other patrons. His appearance was a bit disheveled but a quick hand running over the stray articles of clothing and hair settled it back down. Brown eyes glared from underneath lowered eyebrows, daring the hustlers to try and remove him from the premises. “Fucking bastard. What can I do?” He jerked his thumb at Adam, not bothering to mention him by name at this point. When the kid tried to speak up, Jona glared over his shoulder. The expression on Jona’s face got worse as one of the hustlers presented him with a small dose of crack. “He was doing lines on our ladies asses and even tried giving it to them. He's also underage for drinking and being in here although I don't see how the fuckin kid managed to pass with such a shitty ID.” The owner glared at the two of the hustlers and frowned. “Jesus Adam. Really? I don't know if you're trying to be like them or if you're just fucking stupid.” Jona rubbed the area around his temples and gave out a sigh. By his stance he was still pissed and unless the kid thought it a good idea to say something, he wouldn't get punched again.