Alastor was in a good mood. Was being the operative word.
He was in a good mood until he heard music blaring from outside his manor.
It was not just any music. There was a certain quality to it that immediately tipped him off to its source. Not only did the timbre have that synthetic quality to it--not like good old fashioned tubes and soft-woven speakers--but there was a distinctive clip of the pitch, like that from a damaged speaker.
He was forced to tolerate the awful racket until he finished the task at hand: sewing up a particularly raw gash in his leg, courtesy of the very man he was sure was currently serenading him from beyond the boundaries of his manor. Magic could only do so much against the electro-chemical burn from a certain media menace.
He nipped the thread and stood sharply, straightening his trousers with a smart snap. The fire that shot up his nerves from his damaged leg only fueled him as he strode toward the French doors. With a wave, the doors swung open before him, thick curtains billowing on either side.
Alastor’s gaze shot immediately toward the boundary of his back garden, certain that no one could have slipped past the wards and spells writ upon his borders--and he narrowly caught something flying up at him from the ground level.
And below, the one who had thrown it: Overlord Vox.
“How in the nine circles did you--”
“Be gz-gx-gentle with that rz-rx-rose, Alastor!”
The radio demon had very nearly crushed it in his bloody grasp. He unclenched his hand, eyes narrowed suspiciously at the overlord. With a flick of his eyes, he glanced at the rose. “You cut this from one of my bushes,” he said in a flat tone, fingers poised to crush it once more.
Vox swept a cape across himself, clutching it at his breast. “I gz-gx-give it to yxxxou as I wz-wx-would gz-gx-give you my hz-hx-heart…!”
Alastor groaned under his breath and summarily crushed the rose to petals in his fist. “I’ve well and truly blown your circuits this time,” Alastor said as he rained the naked stem and bruised rose petals down on their giver.
Vox looked much worse for wear than usual. His screen was infected with a technicolor glitch that made his gay apparel all the more ridiculous. He’d made time to change outfits since their earlier bout, traded his ripped and bloodied suit for a frilled silk blouse of his signature neon and trim, high-waisted trousers. However, he seemed to have hardly found the time to suture the gaping tears in his static-dark flesh as evidenced by the dangerous sparks spitting from his breast. The entirety of his dangerous silhouette glowed ominously, and oily, black blood seeped to stain his fine blouse.
“What are you doing here,” Alastor asked in a dangerously flat tone. As amused as he was that Vox had gone to such lengths to retain his attention, it was meted by the grinding irritation brought by this invasion of his privacy.
“I knz-knx-know you’re not a fz-fx-fan of PDA,” Vox said, turning slowly on his heel with a sweep of the music. It was unclear whether or not he was making an idle observation or answering Alastor.
“Did you hear me?” Alastor’s voice rose, crackling with radio distortion over the music. “That outfit is just as loud and offensive as this music!”
The music jumped down several notches in volume and Vox fixed Alastor with a smile. “You lz-lx-like it?”
Alastor felt his eye twitch; a response only Vox was capable of eliciting from him. At a reasonable volume, the music was far from unpleasant--a lively Spanish beat picked out in accordion and strings. A tango. Fitting.
“You wz-wx-were in fxxxxine form tz-tx-today,” Vox barrelled on, long strides carrying him across the worn, moss-choked cobbles of Alastor’s courtyard. The click of his heels with each measured step fell in perfect time with the music.
“I could set my watch and forecast the weather by your moods,” Alastor mused as his hands wrapped around the iron railing. Vox was not merely stalking through his courtyard, but stepping in invitation, drawing a map. A dance.
“Thz-thx-then you know whz-whx-what time it is,” Vox said lightly. He executed a flourish of steps and swung one arm wide toward Alastor.
“Time for you to die,” Alastor said, brightening with a pinched smile. “You are in a suicidal mood today, darling. First you dive right into the path of my claws, and now you tempt your fate by barging in on my garden?”
“You sxxxxee what lz-lx-lengths I go to for your ez-ex-embrace?” Vox asked with a slow turn, toe dragging along the cobbles.
Alastor narrowed his eyes at Vox, a smile toying at his lips. Vox moved gracefully; ever so more for his benefit alone. His every step smoldered and seared an electric path. Alastor hated how his muscles burned to move in tandem.
As if on cue, thunder rolled across the heavy banks of cloud hanging ominously to the north. Alastor relaxed a hair, his smile smoothing with content. “And the forecast looks like rain,” he said pleasantly. “Do you truly have a death wish, Vox?” he asked as he lowered himself to his forearms upon the railing. “You’re going to get rained on,” Alastor warned with all the concern of an executioner.
Vox must have had a few wires crossed, for the thunderous herald of the storm that normally sent him swift back to his lair did nothing to deter him now. “You dz-dx-dissapoint me, Alastor,” Vox lamented. “You’re gz-gx-going to let a little rz-rx-rain do your job for you?”
The thoughtful drum of Alastor’s fingers stopped mid-roll. Just what had gotten into Vox? He was not only more insufferable than usual, but determined to a self-destructive level. Alastor would be lying if he denied he was… intrigued.
Alastor stiffened as a series of cables streaked across the distance and anchored against the facade behind him and the railing before him. Vox lifted effortlessly from the cobbles and was carried aloft toward him on their serpentine trail.
“Cz-cx-c’mon, Al. Put on your dxxxxancing shoes.” Vox grinned and produced another rose. He offered it toward Alastor, extended delicately in dangerous claws that had mere hours ago written violence across his chest.
“... You’re half as clever as you think you are.” Alastor gave that grin the side-eye. His smile curled. “And twice as charming,” he relented with a sigh.
Vox leaned closer and tucked the rose behind Alastor’s ear. As he did so, Alastor felt a strange flicker, a brush of Vox’s current that traveled right through him. His eyes widened and jerked down sharply to look at his clothes. That had been no ordinary rose. Using some bastard technological magic, Vox had altered his shirt and trousers. He now found himself in a svelte black dress and spiked heels to match.
“Really, Vox,” he said through an ever-sharper smile. “You're far too predictable.”
“You lz-lx-look twice as good as I’d hxxxoped,” Vox returned the smile with a broad, twinkling grin of his own.
“You break into my garden and now you think you can play dress up with me to fulfill your fantasies... Selfish, vile-- ” Alastor sneered, winding up.
“Cz-cx-can’t tango in heels?” Vox cut him off.
Alastor balked. Then, with brows set in determination and grin as hard as flint, he lifted razor sharp claws and placed them oh-so delicately upon Vox’s shoulders. “I will wipe the floor with you in heels, darling,” he said ever-so-sweetly.
Vox took Alastor by the waist, lifting him from the balcony. With a theatrical twist as they descended, Vox then returned to the courtyard with his dance partner.
Alastor melted into position in his arms, the very picture of that requisite smoldering passion the dance demanded. But just beneath the surface, Vox could feel that adversarial fire so uniquely Alastor’s.
“I wxxxasn’t sure you knew how to tz-tx-tango,” Vox told him as they caught the beat in perfect harmony.
Alastor parried Vox’s steps with his own, stalking back, then forth once more. “There are so many things you don’t know about me,” Alastor replied before delivering his first attack, snapping his calf between and then over Vox’s electrified legs.
With a look of delight, Vox stepped deeper. “Mz-mx-more and mz-mx-more with each passing dxxxxay, it seems,” he responded, twisting Alastor once, advancing, and then twisting again.
“Does it make you love me more or less?” Alastor asked with a sweet gaze while threatening claws dug into Vox’s hand and shoulder, following the media overlord’s lead.
Vox laughed. “Jxxxust when I think I can’t love you any mz-mx-more,” he sneered, driving Alastor back, step after measured step in tight embrace, “I fz-fx-fall for you allxxxx over again.”
Alastor slid from Vox’s grip in smoky shadow, whispered from his hands like sand, only to grab him up once more on the next beat, taking the lead and challenging him step for step, culminating in a sharp dip that sent sparks flying from Vox’s joints. “You sentimental fool. You’ll fall for me a thousand times over and never learn.”
Spitting static, Vox wrenched himself upright and redirected Alastor with a sweep of his leg that threatened to trip his partner. “Lz-lx-lxxxxearn whz-whx-what?” That banded eye on his screen was a smear of colors, screen tilted at an unnatural angle.
“You’ll never best me,” Alastor said with a silk-smooth smile, running his hand along Vox’s chest. With a push, he sent Vox spinning out.
Battered or not, Vox’s feet moved underneath him with precision. He continued to turn until he had circled Alastor, taking him up from behind with an ever more intimate hold about his waist.
“Whz-whx-why should I want to bxxxest you, sz-sx-sweetheart?”
That low-hummed voice came too close to Alastor’s ear for comfort, revealing words Alastor never expected to hear from the power-hungry overlord. The dreaded intimacy was worsened by the way Vox had cinched him back-to-chest, the sizzle of Vox’s electric current in the air vibrating right through his bones at this proximity.
“Yz-yx-you bring out the bxxxxest in me,” he went on in a confidential tone as they strode together across the courtyard.
Alastor’s hand found the one at his waist, claws creeping over claws as his eyelids lowered, brooding over his next attack. “You call this your best ?” he whispered. With a flick of red eyes and a smile like a dagger unsheathed, he wrenched Vox’s hand from his waist. An acrobatic scissor kick over Vox’s hip and he was behind him, twisting that too-bold hand up behind Vox’s back.
A fountain of sparks erupted like fireworks up Vox’s spine as he was jerked into place, straight-backed and at the mercy of Alastor’s hand twisting his wrist toward his shoulder blades. “Are you mz-mx-mad because I pxxxulled one oz-ox-over on you?” He let out a tight laugh.
Alastor shoved Vox forward. With hardly a tripped step, Vox took to the freedom with long strides. As if trapped by some invisible tether, he stopped after several steps and turned on his heel, extending a hand of invitation.
The beat continued to rule Alastor’s movements, drawing him forward one measured step at a time, one elegant heel in front of the other, each footfall a click in time to the music. “What victory have you imagined this time, darling?” he asked as he took Vox’s hand and raked claws over that sparking, oozing hollow in his chest under a thin veil of silk, to fall into place dangerously near Vox’s throat.
Alastor wore confidence like a glove--a sheer glove, to Vox’s eyes. He could see right through that composure; lidded eyes, a shrunken, brooding smile, those erect ears. Vox knew he’d seeded doubt in Alastor’s mind.
“I dz-dx-didn’t dz-dx-dream this one up,” Vox told him as he fell back into an easy stride, mapping out wide, looping circles with their steps. “Hz-hx-have you sz-sx-stopped wondering how I gz-gx-got in your gz-gx-garden…?”
Alastor let out a quiet huff.
Vox so relished the little victories.
“I presume that was what your little tantrum earlier was about?” Alastor mused humorlessly.
Vox gazed into those glittering ruby eyes focused only on him. “Tz-tx-tantrz-trx-trum?” he shot back with mock dismay. “I thz-thx-thought it was more of a wz-wx-warm up…”
Alastor clicked his tongue, and averted his gaze, though he could not hide his smile. Vox drew him closer by the waist, led his steps in a tighter weave as the music waxed soft and subtle.
“Bit off more than you could chew, I see,” Alastor said as he was forced closer to the glittering malfunction of Vox’s chest.
“Nz-nx-not at all,” Vox insisted with a lift of his brow. “You’re az-az-always the pz-px-perfect little morsel--”
Alastor tripped in his effort to drive the spike of his heel through Vox’s foot.
Vox caught him with a low laugh. “I dz-dx-didn’t mean to hz-hx-hobble you, sweetheart,” he said apologetically.
“Liar,” Alastor shot back as pain lit his nerves from the injury. But, to his pleasure, his fierce grip had dealt Vox a new set of scratches along his dark neck. The distinct scent of Vox’s organic-artificial blood carried in the air between them.
“No…” Vox said, holding the metaphorical shoe aloft, “Bz-bx-but I did mean to dz-dx-distract you…”
Alastor stepped through the pain, weaving in perfect sync with Vox, carmine eyes dead-locked on pixels.
“I knz-knx-know you can’t rz-rx-resist…”
Alastor narrowed his eyes at Vox. “Unlike you, I have self control…”
“Nz-nx-not when it comes to mz-mx-me…” Vox’s hand slid up Alastor’s spine, and a shiver followed it. He tipped his screen as he felt Alastor’s frequency buzz against him. “Once yz-yx-you get your hz-hx-hands on me…” His grin bloomed as Alastor’s claws dug into him, only proving his point. “Az-ax-all it took was a lz-lx-little sleight of hand…” He drummed his claws against Alastor’s spine.
Alastor snapped back from Vox, eyes wide and wild. “You... treacherous, contemptible… ” His pupils began to flicker to radio dials.
Undeterred, Vox used Alastor’s tension to guide him into a low, dramatic dip. “Whz-whx-what’s a little trz-trx-tracking device between old friends?” he asked.
Alastor grabbed Vox’s throat; an unorthodox grip for their choreography, but Vox hardly flinched. Those pixelated eyelids dipped half-mast as his grin dripped with self-satisfied pleasure.
Vox rolled his eyes. “I wz-wx-won’t hesitate to drop you,” he murmured.
Alastor planted a heel and shot up, his hand still at Vox’s throat. “Just what nefarious, short-sighted scheme are you plotting, Vox ?”
Vox’s smile remained, his grip upon Alastor still as dance partner, not adversary.
“Oh, I’ve az-ax-already put it into mz-mx-motion,” he told Alastor.
Alastor’s grip tightened.
Vox ignored the violent claws about his throat and instead twisted his other hand with Alastor’s free one. He brought that hand toward his screen, mimed a kiss with those digital lips, and sent a little spark of electricity in lieu of a kiss to those fingers.
“Jz-jx-just this,” Vox said, his digital expression wrought with satisfaction. “Mission accomplished.”
“A mz-mx-moment alone with you.”
Alastor felt as if it were he who had something choked about his throat.
Vox’s eyes flicked up toward the darkening clouds as a growl of thunder reverberated through the cobbles. “Thz-thx-that’s my cue,” he said. His gaze returned to Alastor, that solitary look meant for his eyes only. “Bz-bx-be seein’ ya, Alastor.”
Alastor’s grip had nearly been corrupted into a caress--and then slipped through nothing but a charge in the air. The intruder vanished in a crackle of electricity, leaving behind only one artifact in his wake: the damned receiver. The tool by which Vox had snuck into his fortress.
A secret key to his sanctuary--surrendered, not kept to be used at Vox’s disposal.
Alastor bent to pick up the small device. His leg screamed at the strain, but no louder than his pulse still enslaved to the rhythm. As he stood, the last whisper of Vox’s presence left him. Spell broken, he stood alone in the courtyard in his shirt and trousers once more.
He reached for the rose that had been behind his ear and found that it was gone. A pity. He would have kept it.