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random fic-bit, an X-man in a bar; nightcrawler

random fic-bit, an X-man in a bar; nightcrawler

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nightcrawler: sleeping
Picture this:

There's a young man at the bar, drinking something familiar yet strange. His head down and sucking down some import bier from Bavaria. He's a long way from home and this has un-nerved his cheerful loneliness. All that is here, is a man drinking beer. Drinking away his sorrows or getting warm and close with. Look closely now, see how it's not quite right. The guy pays the bar tender, except he puts the money down on the counter, like an old lady in front of a post-office teller, and slides it across the bar. His hands seem a little strange like there should be two fingers when there are four. He keeps his head down and his body to the counter - he sits uncomfortably and twitches in the seat, trying to find a better position. Maybe there's something -- he had an operation on his ass and you can practically feel every every awkward wiggle and thank god that you are not the poor bastard. The door opens, some roughs with bandannas and an air of half-assed intimidation. The dark room is flooded by light. You see something. That shadow - it doesn't look like a man at all, sitting there with hooves and tail. And he's drinking beer, quietly, looking something human. He tucks his head further down, he knows trouble is coming, and that armadillo-like contraction just attracts their attention. That is the poor devil's first mistake.

They're trying to look big. Bravado, that's the word, totally synthetic, 100% man-made fibres, size triple-x large with dried on ketchup crackly and faint down the front. They haven't really got It. Kids playing as big boys, they've seen it in the moves and they are playing at cops and robbers. Hard-ass bikers, pushing their shoulders out and standing tall.

Only one of them has got it, and he has it Real. He's the one that spots the mark, the nervous, lonesome one who isn't with the other kids. He doesn't need to pull himself up, doesn't need to feel big, because he's big already. Why the hell he is here with those weekend-warriors is past you. He steps up behind the guy, and he's text-book perfect.

"Who do you think you are, Errol Flynn?"

Once the quiet-drinker turned his head, you really noticed it, the hair, the eyes and the scarf tucked around his neck. Somebody familiar yet wrong in some not quite identifiable way. The shadow of the tail not really there, unfurls from around his body. Once you know it's there, once you have seen the shadow, you can't not notice it, it just draws your eyes until it's the only thing you can see. It's flexing there and unworking some kinks, like a guy stuck sitting on a production line all day clocking off and moving for the first time, all tired limbs and cricks in the back. It is not a good look on Flynn.

"Yes."

Not quiet but not loud, a shut-off shut-away voice in the darkness. You wonder if the lights are down, some bulbs gone, because is it just you, or are the shadows darker, creeping into every corner? The darkness is getting darker and you can feel your soul shiver like a nun on ice.

Every sound is fading away into a dark heavy silence, pushing on your shoulders like a barrel and making the air so thick it chokes. The quiet's heavy and thick like the smoke in a house-fire, so hot and toxic that it eats all the breath in your body. Imagine that, a dark, smoky bar that smells like hell-fire. You begin to look for an exit, looking for the sign, looking with the desperate hyper-ventilation of a suffocating man. You want to get out, but the goons are still at the door and you can feel their eyes looking for easy game. Easier game than a man in a bar with nobody but a beer. That makes your heart catch - could that be you, you ask yourself, as you push yourself back into that welcoming darkness.

One small flat little word, that is all it was, detachment is the worst thing you can do. Getting intimidated, rolled for money, beaten, dumped somewhere. All that, it's just a bed of roses; you know what's coming, you know what you're getting and you know when to duck. And if you don't duck, you get rolled for cash, kicked for kicks and gifted an insurance bill. Now, the devil in a dark coat, far darker than when you first saw him, it had been green and now it's practically black. You glance away for a moment, looking at that Peter Pan shadow, pointed ears and Struwwelpeter hair. Errol Flynn looks unfazed but he's put his glass on the counter-top and pushed it to the bar keeper. It looks considerate as if he's just returning his empty glass. The only sign otherwise is a sideways look as he tries to watch the whole room.

~~~

That flat answer, the yes, the detachment is the worst thing you could do. If you're afraid, you get rolled for your money, beaten into the floor and left there bleeding. That answer; it's a challenge. Sure, the man on the stool - the devil on the stool - is not even feigning his indifference, just more interested in his beer.

The bastard in black he just looks, trying to intimidate, getting nothing. Then the man with the beer, the devil wearing his hollywood face




***

You do [stuff] like this ever again, I come and pull you personally back to hell"

[you go away for lunch and your fic-thing falls flat on its nose]
[ *fail* ]
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