Roman coughed and hacked up what felt like several lungfuls of dissolved Grimm as he pulled himself out of the Griffon’s carcass. Fuck, that had been close. If it hadn’t been for that lucky bit of shrapnel hitting the creature, he would have been done for. If he ever saw Ruby Rose again they were going to have a real problem. Collecting his hat and cane, Roman took stock of where he was (near the entrance to Beacon’s tower) and looked around for Neo. She had to have been fine, right? She had gotten blown away, but she was still under her own power. It would take more than a few Griffons to kill her, right?
Roman pulled out his scroll and sent her a message.
rascallyThief messaged noiselessParasol
RT: Neo? Where are you?
NP: Roman! Are you alright?
NP: I saw your ship go down and I was so worried.
RT: I’m fine.
RT: Actually, that’s a lie, I’m very sore and irritated and I think I might have a concussion.
RT: But I’m not dead or dying, so we’ll just call that a win.
NP: That’s a relief.
NP: I’m alright, I made it to ground safely just outside Beacon.
NP: Where are you?
RT: By the tower.
RT: Can you meet me there?
RT: I’m not sure I’m up to crossing the grounds alone with all those Grimm around.
NP: Yeah, I’ll be there as soon as I can.
NP: Stay safe.
rascallyThief closed message.
Putting his scroll away, Roman ducked inside the tower. The place was a mess- what the hell had happened to the elevator? He idly looked around to keep himself occupied. A whole bunch of Beacon secrets had been knocked about and left spilled in the open. Roman found himself looking at one in particular, a little dais with what looked like a particularly demented ‘how many triangles are in this picture?’ puzzle etched on it. There was a little label next to it in elegant green handwriting.
‘Transportalizer.’ it said. ‘Unknown origin, but not believed to be connected to S. Transports to unknown destination, does not appear to harm traveler but energy signature suggests potential extra-dimension/universe traveling properties. Unwilling to engage in human testing at this time.’
So it teleported people to other universes? Where the hell had Ozpin gotten that? Roman would probably have to resign himself to never knowing; considering the state of Beacon’s tower, there was about an eighty percent chance Cinder had burned the guy to death by now.
Roman’s thoughts were interrupted as Neo suddenly appeared in the doorway, dropping her illusion and running in to give him a hug.
“Hey, Neo.” said Roman, hugging her back. “Good to see you’re fine.”
“Are you alright?” Neo signed as she pulled away.
“I’m kind of beat up, but it’s nothing that sleep and a hot shower won’t fix. I’m afraid I didn’t manage to kill Little Red for you though.” Roman thought for a second. “But hey, if we’re lucky, maybe she died in the crash.”
Neo shrugged. “Now what do we do?” she signed.
“What do we do?” Roman wondered. He weighed their options for a moment.
Cinder’s plan had worked; Beacon was thoroughly fucked, even if Vale proper managed to pull through by the skin of its teeth. Unfortunately, Atlas was going to be sticking around for a while, and after the stunt with the airships and robots, Roman was going to be at the top of General Ironwood’s shit list, or possibly his successor’s if the guy died tonight, but still. The rest of the world probably wouldn’t be too keen on him either.
Of course, they could stick with Cinder. Who was an unstable, power-hungry woman who used other people like tools and didn’t care at all about the danger they wound up in (not that Roman was making any moral judgements; he just preferred that sort of thing to happen to people other than him and Neo), and who was working for some mysterious higher-up whose goal was, as best as Roman could tell, to destroy the civilized world.
Even in the more immediate sense, the grounds were swarming with Grimm and Hunters, neither of which would exactly be welcoming.
There was an enormous crashing noise from the top of the tower. Enormous chunks of metal debris plummeted to the ground, and a stupidly huge dragon Grimm flew by with an awful roar. Roman cast a glance at the weird teleporter. It was kind of spur of the moment, but another universe sounded awfully nice right about now.
“Say, Neo.” said Roman. “How would you like to take an all-expense paid vacation, destination: anywhere but here?”
She flashed a thumbs up at him.
“Great.” Roman directed her onto the transportalizer, fiddled with it until he figured out how it worked, then sent the two of them vanishing away in a flash of green light.
An instant later, the two of them were standing in a poorly-lit warehouse in a dark city.
Neo seemed to think of something. “How is it ‘all-expense paid’?” she signed.
“Because anything we want, we’re going to steal, of course.” said Roman.
Neo grinned. Roman grinned back at her, and the two of them stepped out to see what their new city might hold.
Your name is Spades Slick, and you’ve got yourself a little problem. You see, Midnight City is your town. Not anyone else’s, not some other gangster’s, and especially not the goddamn Felt’s. Sure, with as many exiles as you’ve got in this city, there’s other criminal outfits around, but they all know not to cross you and your associates, or else they learn real quick-like. (Except they don’t actually learn, because corpses can’t learn things.)
The point is, you weren’t bothered by the pair of weird-looking aliens setting up shop in your town, as long as they stayed in their goddamn lane. But now the tall one’s gone and crashed through the lane divider to drive the wrong way in traffic, because the other night he got Deuce at a card table and cleaned him out of five crates of explosives, a bunch of guns and clubs and shit, and a ridiculous amount of boondollars. Deuce says he could have sworn he had a royal flush, but when he laid the cards down they were different, which means the alien guy cheated. (Of course, Deuce had probably been cheating in order to have a royal flush in the first place, but your guys are allowed to cheat.)
And so now you and the boys are headed out to find the cane guy and the umbrella girl for some unfriendly conversation, followed by even unfriendlier violence. Simple.
You finally find them at a shady warehouse near the far edge of town. The place is packed with stuff; these two apparently have quite a knack for thievery. Cars, crates of money, weapons, fancy clothes, you name it.
Cane guy is sitting at a desk in the middle of the room with his feet up, reading a newspaper. You’ve gotta admit, he’s a classy dresser, even if white’s not your color. Honestly pretty easy on the eyes now that you’re getting a good look at him. He’s even got a pretty nice hat, so he looks respectable too. Umbrella girl, on the other hand, is pushing herself around the room in a rolling chair, and has what is in your opinion a rather unpleasant pastel aesthetic. But hey, no point in dwelling on it, everything’s going to be all painted red in a minute anyway. They both sit up and pay attention as you and the boys walk in.
“Good evening, Mister Slick.” says cane guy. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Shut up, cane guy.” you tell him.
“Huh?” you say.
“The name’s Roman Torchwick, and she’s Neo. It’s not that hard.”
“Whatever.” You’re not really in the mood to argue. “Listen here, Torchwick, you conned my guy out of some valuable stuff the other night. We can’t be having that. Give it back.”
Torchwick just rolls his eyes. “Yeah, like your guy just happened to get a royal flush there. It was a perfectly legitimate interaction between two gentlemen of fortune. If you have any actual business with me, I’d be happy to discuss it. Otherwise, I would politely suggest that you leave.”
“Wrong answer, pal.” you say, pulling your cast-iron horse hitcher out of your jacket as you walk up to the desk.
“So that’s how it’s gonna be, huh?” says Torchwick.
You don’t bother answering him before smashing him in the head with the horse hitcher. Torchwick shatters like a stained glass window.
Before you can figure out what happened, the real Torchwick comes out of nowhere and whacks you in the head with his cane. The Neo who was sitting in the rolling chair shattered at the same time as the fake Torchwick, and the real Neo comes out of nowhere, hooks Deuce’s collar with her umbrella, and flips him into a big stack of crates.
Illusions. Neat trick, but it won’t be enough.
Deuce is going to be digging himself out of those crates for a while. Neo flips over a railing onto the stairs and skips up to the catwalk that goes around the building; Droog and Boxcars follow her. That leaves you against Torchwick, and that’s fine by you.
He comes at you with the cane again, and you parry. The two of you start going at it hammer and tongs; this clearly isn’t Torchwick’s first time trying to beat someone to death with a cane. Of course, this isn’t exactly your first rodeo either. As Torchwick manages to hook your horse hitcher and send it spinning to the floor, you slip a knife into your off hand and stab him right in the chest.
Or at least you try to. It almost feels like he’s got some kind of forcefield; instead of digging into his heart, your knife just skids off. Torchwick still gets knocked back into the wall like you punched him in the chest, though, so you guess it wasn’t useless.
With Torchwick knocked back, you spare a glance to see how your subordinates are doing, just in time to see Neo kick Droog in the head and knock him off the catwalk. Boxcars is swinging away at her, but she’s too agile; he looks like he’s trying to swat a mosquito. You have to do everything around here, you swear.
You whip out a gun and take a few shots at Neo. She opens her umbrella, which is apparently bulletproof, and blocks the bullets, but it distracts her enough that Boxcars manages a grazing hit.
Before you can do anything else, Torchwick lunges in and knocks your gun away. You kick your dropped horse hitcher into the air, catch it, and whack him across the face. He falls behind the desk, but when you start to follow, he kicks the desk into you and knocks you back.
Torchwick gets up and casually brushes the dust off of his jacket while he catches his breath.
“Well, isn’t this bracing.” he says.
You’ll show him ‘bracing’ when he needs to wear a back brace for six months, the smarmy pretty-boy. You start walking over, hitcher at the ready, when suddenly the wall explodes.
You look to see who the hell it is, and oh, great, it’s a bunch of guys from the Felt: Crowbar, Quarters, Matchsticks, Itchy, Doze, Clover, and Sawbuck. The only people in town you like even less than Torchwick right now. You’re just about to tell them to fuck off when Torchwick beats you to it.
“Do you mind?” he says. “We’re kind of in the middle of something here.”
“Nothing personal,” says Crowbar, “but the boss wants you out of the picture.”
“In that case, then.” says Torchwick, and raises his cane.
And that’s how everyone finds out that Torchwick’s cane shoots explosions. Of course, the fact is particularly relevant to Quarters, who is now on fire and also probably dead. (Wait, if he’s dead, does that mean it’s actually not relevant to him? Whatever.)
You can deal with Torchwick later, right now you have an opportunity to mess up some of those Felt bastards. You rush at Crowbar, weapon at the ready. Matchsticks drops what he’s doing to compulsively try and extinguish Quarters. You see an opportunity and whip a knife at him while he’s distracted; Droog, picking himself up off the floor, has the same idea and adds on a burst from one of his assault rifles, and that’s it for Matchsticks.
Deuce triumphantly pulls himself free of the pile of crates, pulls out a gun, and puts a round into Sawbuck. The two of them promptly vanish into some other time. Great. You’ll deal with that later.
Itchy is zipping around the warehouse in his usual annoying manner. Torchwick actually manages to graze him with a swing of his cane, and he trips into some boxes. Doze is still standing around uselessly near the hole in the wall.
You finally reach Crowbar and start hitting him with the hitcher, though he blocks a lot of hits. Torchwick and Droog switch to shooting at Clover, which goes about as well as you would expect. Itchy gets out of the boxes that he fell into and goes to try and motivate Doze, who is still standing around uselessly. Doze stabs Itchy right in the heart with his umbrella sword. Hold on, umbrella sword?
Doze’s disguise drops to reveal Neo. Now that you glance over in between taking whacks at Crowbar, Doze is actually dead in a corner already. Neo’s efficient, you’ll give her that.
Crowbar sees that he has a lot less guys than he started with and makes a break for it. You throw a knife at him, but he parries and makes it to his car. Clover, irritatingly lucky as ever, scampers after him, and the two of them hightail it away.
“That was fun.” says Torchwick. “Now what?”
“Wait for it.” you say, watching the spot where Deuce and Sawbuck vanished.
A minute later, the two pop back into the present. Droog trips Sawbuck onto the floor before Deuce can shoot him again, and you walk over and casually rest your foot on Sawbuck’s throat. There’s no annoying time-jumping if you just strangle him.
“Is Quarters dead?” you ask Droog.
Droog walks over to the body. There’s a pause, followed by a gunshot.
Sawbuck goes limp, and you step away.
“Well,” says Torchwick, “this has been an eventful evening. Are we still going to fight each other?”
You can’t help but notice that he and Neo have taken a few steps back, so that he has plenty of room to shoot at you with that cane of his. The two of them are real professionals, you’ve got to say. Easy to work with, even if it was just briefly. Maybe you’re just in a good mood because of all the Felt goons that are dead, but honestly, this has just been fun.
“Say, Torchwick.” you say. “Let’s talk business.”
Roman was having the time of his life lately; he and Neo should have jumped universes years ago. Of course, he wasn’t sure how they would have jumped universes any earlier than they did, but still, they should have figured something out. This place was great! No Grimm, no Hunters, a lively underworld, plenty of entertainment. Best town he ever lived in. Sure, all of the inhabitants were weird aliens, but you got used to it. They ate (mostly) the same kinds of food, lived in the same sort of buildings, and so on.
He also rather liked the criminal element in this town. The Midnight Crew in particular were a real interesting bunch. After the fight in the warehouse, Roman and Spades Slick had agreed to set aside their differences in favor of messing up those annoying green bastards in the Felt, who had a way of failing to stay dead. It had gone spectacularly well so far; the Felt were getting their asses kicked any time they dared to show their faces in town. Sure, their time shenanigans were annoying, but Roman and Neo and the Midnight Crew had figured out a good way to deal with that: just keep murdering until the shenanigans go away. It worked astonishingly well.
Roman was even coming around to the weird alien ideas about romance, especially their whole hatesex dating thing. Though admittedly that was mostly due to associating with Slick. Okay, sure, the guy was an alien, but Roman had a weakness for people who were dangerous and had a neat aesthetic going on; that was about forty percent of the reason he had started working with Cinder in the first place(the other sixty percent had just been regular greed). And the sharp teeth really did it for him, he had to admit.
Yes, Roman would have very much been down for some xenophilia, if it weren’t for the fact that Slick was just so damn infuriating. The stupid bastard was always just rushing the fuck in with either barely any plan at all, or coming up with the stupidest, most uncessarily complicated plans ever; as a consummate professional, Roman couldn’t help but feel irritated. At least when Cinder had always been altering the plan on the fly there had been a basic framework that was always kept up. Droog was frankly much more professional and easier to work with, but no, Slick was the leader. Why? Just because he was good at killing things? They were all good at killing things! If ‘good at killing’ was the requirement for leadership, they should just put Neo in charge of everyone already.
Then again, Slick going wild on some poor sap with a knife or a club was quite the sight. Not Roman’s style, but he could appreciate that kind of display sometimes. Of course, sometimes it was just messy and uncalled for, and Roman felt like he was dealing with the world’s most dangerous temper tantrum thrower. But then again, sometimes Slick would grin with those sharp teeth of his while brandishing a bloody knife, and, well…
It was all rather frustrating; no wonder hatesex romance was a formalized thing around here, if this happened a lot. Roman was rather frustrated and rather pent up and rather curious, which is why it was probably a bad idea for him to be out at a bar with no one else he knew in the room except Slick. Either that or it was a great idea. He supposed he’d find out.
Roman and Slick had been talking about their two groups’ latest joint operation to rob a bank vault belonging to the Felt, which had gone wrong in several different ways but had at least allowed them to get away with the goods. Once they had finished talking about it, they had proceeded through bantering about it and grousing about it before finally settling on arguing about it.
“It would’ve gone off without a hitch if it hadn’t been for you shooting those damn explosions around everywhere and knocking down the ceiling.” Slick snapped at him.
“I wouldn’t have had to shoot those explosions everywhere if your dumbass explosives guy had been able to kill one lousy guard without tripping an alarm.” Roman shot back.
“Yeah, like the little alarm that was only going off in the room where I already killed everyone caused the alert, and not you blowing half the roof off.” Slick rolled his eyes. “Me and the boys shoulda just done it ourselves. If we had just blown the door and grabbed the safe like I wanted instead of trying to sneak in we’d have been in and out before anyone could react.”
“Please, you would have been hiding behind a crashed car having a gunfight with the guards within five minutes.” Roman waved a hand dismissively in Slick’s direction. “Me and Neo should have just done it ourselves. We could have gotten the goods out of there without anyone even knowing about it if we hadn’t had to work around you lumbering idiots.”
Slick glared at him (was that a glint of interest in his eyes, or just hatred?).
“Are you trying to say you and Neo are better than the Midnight Crew?” he asked, leaning in towards Roman, eyes narrowing. He had a dangerous expression on his face, but it was the fun kind of danger.
“I’m pretty sure I succeeded at saying that me and Neo are better than you guys.” Roman said languidly, leaning back in his seat and smirking. Was that a come-on if you were going for the kismetics or whatever the fuck it was caled?
Slick half rose from his seat, half-grinning like a shark. “I think you maybe oughta stop talking.”
Roman was pretty sure that Slick was looking more than a little interested in him now. Well, he hadn’t gotten laid in a while, he may as well go for it. He sat up, put on his best devil-may-care grin, and quickly thought up the best hatesex sorta line he could.
“Why don’t you come over here and make me?”
There was a moment’s pause, before Slick lunged forward, pinning Roman to the chair with one hand. Jackpot. Roman grinned as he got a hand on Slick’s chest; the carapace was softer than he had expected.
“I don’t feel like I’ve been shut up yet.” said Roman. Slick snarled and kissed him. Teeth were involved. Oh yes.
The bartender coughed loudly, and a few other patrons shifted awkwardly. Oh, right, they were in public.
“What do you say we take this somewhere a little more private?” Roman asked.
Neo smiled as she came down the stairs of her and Roman’s warehouse/hideout to grab a bit of breakfast; it looked like it was going to be a nice day. She swung by a freezer, grabbed a pint of ice cream (it had fruit in it, that meant it was healthy) and entered the kitchen, where there were already two people sitting around the table. Roman was the first, of course. He actually looked pretty cheerful, which wasn’t unusual in a more general sense but was a bit odd this morning, since he looked like he’d gotten in a wrestling match with a Beowolf the night before. The other person was Spades Slick, who had marks all over his throat and collarbones and hadn’t bothered to rebutton his shirt properly.
Neo slowly looked back and forth from one to the other and grinned.
“Not one word!” said Roman, turning around to point dramatically at her.
Neo raised an eyebrow.
“They’re still words when you sign them.” said Roman.
Neo shrugged, then went and grabbed a spoon out of the drawer. Then she went and dug into her personal cupboard, pulled out a cake she had ordered some time ago, and set it on the table between Slick and Roman.
‘Congrats on the Sex!’ said the cheerful pink frosting. Neo whipped out her scroll and took a picture of the two men as Roman read it and started sputtering, then skipped out the front door under cover of her Semblance.
It was a nice day, and she had Roman, a whole bunch of stuff, and a whole city full of fun crime that was her oyster, and Roman and Slick had slept together before the end of the month, which meant that Droog owed her fifty boonbucks and a trip to his personal tailor. Life was good, and she was pretty sure it was going to stay that way for a while.