"Well, this is getting us nowhere fast," Karla snapped once the found themselves looking back at the dressing room door again. "Darkness have mercy, I'm tempted just to light this place on fire and then see what happens."
|"We burn to death in a hallway that goes on forever," Warren grumbled, facing the door and glaring at it as though it was the source of all of his troubles, tonight.|
It was only the source of his more immediate ones.
"We could try again..."
He didn't sound terribly convinced that heading down the hallway again would give them results that were any better than they had been the last few times.
|"You are acquainted with Einstein's definition of insanity, right?" Karla asked, barely refraining from snarling out the question. There was no reason to take her aggravation at the hallway out on him. She had plenty other reasons to be aggravated at him already.|
"Look, I know you don't like this any more than I do, but I think we're going to have to go back in there. It's the only place for us to go. There's got to be more in there that we didn't find yet. The key to all this."
|"The key to all of this involves having sex in a dressing room while we're possessed? Really?"|
Call him crazy, but Warren had a few issues with handing over total control of his body to a stranger. For starters, every time someone or something else managed to push him to the back, he seemed to wind up with his insides hanging out. Not a great track record, there.
|Keep throwing past mistakes up into her face, Warren! Mother Night!|
Unaware of the snarky direction his thoughts were trending, Karla gave him a sour look. "No, the key isn't have possessed sex in an old-timey dressing room. It's what we say while we're building up to that. Don't you remember what I said before?"
|Warren's eyebrows arched somewhat at that.|
"Undress you? It's just another costume?"
Seemed an awful lot like it was leading to sex to him.
|Now he was being deliberately obtuse. Maybe if she whacked him a good one right in his thick skull...|
"I was thinking more about the lines about how I was afraid and, specifically, what if he finds us." Karla looked at him, triumphant. "They were secret lovers, and whoever that 'he' is, they were scared of him. I'll bet you that pathetic twenty in your billfold that this 'he' is why we're stuck here. And why they're stuck here!"
|Warren just rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, and then, in an exaggerated gesture, reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and then flicked his twenty at her.|
He conceded that she was probably right. Right there. See? No need to go in there and hand his body over to some horny ghost.
"I'm not going back into that room, Karla."
|"So, you're acknowledging that I'm right, but we're just...not going to do anything about it," Karla said, looking from the twenty in her hands up to him and then back. "We're just going to camp out in front of this door and...do what what exactly?"|
|"And, I don't know, not hand our bodies over to the crazy sex-ghosts? Wesley and the others are out there somewhere. They'll come looking for us sooner or later, Karla. We just have to be patient, here."|
Remember patience? Warren did, distantly. He kind of missed it.
|"Or, they'll get trapped in a different version of the same crazy maze we're trapped in? After all, Angel and Cordelia left at the same time we did and we haven't seen them at all, have we?"|
You can keep your patience, Warren. Karla was going to use this funny thing called 'logic.'
"So we have no idea if they can get in here, or if they do, if they can get into this specific instance, but you keep waiting out here. I, however, prefer not to be a damsel when I can help it."
Karla was a much bigger fan of rescuing her own damn self, thanks much.
|"Karla, please," Warren murmured, the fight draining out of him as he looked at the door. "I'm not asking you to be some weeping princess waiting for a knight in shining armor, here. I just... I lost myself when we went in there last time. I want to get out of here just as much as you do, but how can you be sure that if we go in there, it'll be us coming back out again?"|
He gave his claws a nervous flex, looking down at them.
"I don't like not being in control of my own body."
|Rather than make some kind of cutting retort and |
"I understand why you don't want to go back in there," she said slowly, measuring each word before she said it. "Control over yourself is really important to you and when it's taken away, bad things happen." Like getting eviscerated. Becoming an alien monster. Panicking and letting her get kidnapped. Failing the test in Panem.
"I get that. But I don't like sitting back and just waiting for a rescue, especially if there's something we can do for ourselves. It's not just being a damsel that I'm afraid of." She closed her eyes. How she loathed admitting she was afraid. "It's the sitting and waiting for rescue when we don't know that it's coming. Or worse, the possibility is that something is coming and it's not something good."
|"And if something not good is coming, we want to have our wits about us, don't we?" Warren wasn't trying to be difficult, now. He was just barely hanging on to his ability to talk without panicking. "I can't just pull myself out of that again, Karla. We barely got out of there the last time we went in."|
|The gentle pulse of calm and comfort she sent him was second nature by now. Warren didn't take to hallways well--and the last thing either of them needed was him in a full-out panic attack.|
"What happened to us in there wasn't terrible," she said, evenly. "I'm not saying it was great--no one likes being possessed, right? But the ghosts had us make out a little while providing us with information that I think is really important. Information that might get us out of here. And other than waiting around, I am not seeing any other options. The other ones we had, we tried, and they failed. We've been in this hallway for what feels like hours and we haven't see anyone, even though we kept ending up back here. That...doesn't bode well for our chances of being rescued."
|"It doesn't," Warren murmured, his eyes on the floor. "But if we're in there undressing one another and something bigger comes along, are we going to be stuck on that script? If we're not there and it all goes to hell?"|
He shuddered, not entirely voluntarily.
"I have no complaints about kissing you. But we can't even defend ourselves if we're not even us."
|"I'm not going to pretend this is a flawless idea," Karla said. Hell, she could admit, even if only to herself, that a great deal of her current bitchiness stemmed from fear. The ghost had managed to sneak up on her and get under her shields and she hadn't even noticed. Granted, she hadn't been focusing on her mental protections at the time but it was still frightening.|
And Karla didn't deal well with being frightened. So she defaulted to anger instead.
"I'm not a huge fan of it myself. But...I'm a Black Widow. If something happens, I can keep us safe. Keep us both safe. I was taken by surprise and it rattled the Hell out of me. But I won't be taken by surprise again. If I invite the presence in, I can kick it back out."
|"So our options are to sit here and wait for rescue that's probably not actually coming," Warren said, trying desperately to not sound half as miserable as he felt, "or go in there, get possessed, hope that we say something that'll help us get back out again... and go from there."|
He hated feeling so helpless. It was a feeling he was starting to get used to all over again, lately.
"You're sure you can kick it out again?"
Someone might be underestimating the power of Warren kisses, but just the ghosts by themselves? Yeah sure. She could handle them.
"You know. If you trust me."
That little dig courtesy of the legitimate grievance she had against him right now. She was hurt, Warren. Honestly and truly hurt.
|If she was aiming for a wince, then good on her, she definitely got one out of him.|
"Of course I trust you."
He wasn't going to argue. He was too tired of arguing and too anxious about being trapped in here to try. High tempers and fear were making it difficult for him to swallow what she was telling him they were going to have to do, and throwing barbs at one another wasn't helping, either. But he didn't think she was going to just toss him to the ghosts and walk away or anything.
|The lack of retort kind of took some of the wind out of Karla's sails. "Well...good," was all she could come up with to say.|
Closing her eyes and taking another deep breath, she proposed a plan. "Okay, so this is how it's going to go. If you are really willing to do this, we'll go in. If it seems like it's getting out of hand, or it's getting dangerous, or even if it just goes too far, I'll get us out, okay? Just leaving the vicinity of the room seems to be enough to stop the influence. So if anything starts going the least bit hinky, we come back out here and wait till Wesley finds something in a musty book to get us out."
She gave that option a snowball's chance in summer, but if it made Warren feel better, then that's what they would go with.
"Does that sound workable to you? And--honestly, Warren, are you willing to do this. Because if you're not, we won't."
It would be a bitchy and angry wait, but Karla wasn't going to force him into it.
|"It's all we've really got right now," Warren sighed, looking down at the doorknob as though it was likely to jump up and bite him. "I... just want to get out of here."|
That didn't mean he wanted to do this. That didn't mean he liked the plan or was even remotely comfortable with what it entailed. It mostly meant that he was going to suck it up and try it.
|Karla reached for his hand. He was agreeing to this against every instinct he had; he deserved what little comfort she could offer him.|
"Look, I know you hate this, but you're doing it anyway. You're brave in a way I've never had to be. Just wanted to tell you that."
And then she opened the door and stepped into the room beyond.
|Warren didn't let go of her hand. He couldn't quite bring himself to, even though he was pretty sure just being this close to Karla would make him ripe for the picking, or the possessing, the moment he crossed the threshold into the dressing room.|
"I'd love to start feeling some of that bravery," he murmured as he followed her into the room, giving her hand a squeeze.
And then he started to lead her toward the chaise.
|Karla sat, tugging Warren down beside her. "I'll get us out if anything goes bad," she promised again. Repetition couldn't hurt, right? "Even if it just starts getting to be too much."|
Making out while they were possessed was one thing. Making love was something else entirely.
"We'll just...wait for the ghosts, I guess." She looked around, looking for something, anything to suggest a ghostly presence. "Ghosts? C'mere ghosts! Here we are, two lovers just waiting to reenact your tryst or whatever!"
|Warren wrapped a wing around her, looking nervously around the room. This... didn't seem to be working.|
"Maybe... we need to give them a... cue? What were we saying before? Um. Just another costume... Only alive when- You know." He wrinkled his nose. "I'm not afraid."
|"Only alive when you're inside me?" Karla's mouth kicked up in a wry grin. "Don't get me wrong, I feel pretty amazing when you are, but that's not the same thing."|
Because that's what you did when you were waiting for ghosts to come and possess you. You cracked jokes. It beat picking fights.
Her hand curled around his. Because he was afraid. Terrified. "I love you."
|The jokes. Warren would take those jokes. Fighting was... best left tabled for later, if they did indeed end up fighting. Was it too late for him to hope for a mature, calm discussion, after the way he'd leaped to the worst possible conclusion earlier that night?|
Maybe he'd start that discussion with an apology. Right up front, and...
But that was all later. If they ever managed to get out of here.
"I love you, too," he murmured, and then, half apology and half compulsion, he leaned toward her and kissed her.
|The kiss was hard and thorough, his hands cupping her face while his body gently nudged her backwards. There was a fluttering now, at the edge of her awareness; something wanted in.|
*You're here as a guest,* she informed it sternly. *To be evicted at my discretion.*
Unsurprisingly, the flutter didn't respond, simply becoming more insistent. With an internal grimace, Karla let her shields down slightly, letting the flutter in. It wasn't a ghost so much as an emotional echo, reliving these few moments over and over again. Karla was surprised at that, at the lack of consciousness--and then she was kissing Warren back with a fervor, her hands sliding up over his chest and into his hair, not thinking about anything other than how much she needed him, how much she loved him.
How afraid for both of them she was.
"This is wrong," she gasped in an instant when her mouth was free.
|Kissing him back suited Warren just fine. The echo had up and swept him away, and now all he was interested in was taking Karla as he could get her, against the door, against the wall, on the lounge chair... it didn't matter all that much to him, except that he got to be together with his love.|
"Hush," he breathed, leaning himself over her, crouching low to nibble at her neck, to cover as much of her as he possibly could with kisses.
|"You don't know him," Karla said, even as she held Warren's face to her throat, her leg coming up to wrap around his. "He has power..."|
It was hard to continue this argument when all she wanted to do was hold him close and make love to him.
|Really, Warren planned to make it far more difficult than that.|
"The power to do this?"
That would be his hand, stroking her between her legs. Just in case she wasn't sure.
|Karla gasped, fingers knotting in his hair. Why had it suddenly become so hard to breathe? She couldn't get enough air, couldn't concentrate on the important things she had to say! There was Warren and his fingers and nothing else was important at all.|
They could just stay here all night, right? The show could go on without her. She cared nothing for the show. Nothing for anyone or anything outside this room.
Oh, if only that were true.
"Stephan, his power is unnatural. He could..." Could what? Karla couldn't remember anymore. Not with his fingers doing that. But it was something. Something bad.
|"What?" Warren, or Stephan, as the case apparently was, really didn't seem all that concerned. Or particularly inclined to stop touching her, for that matter. "Kill us?"|
|"Worse," Karla moaned, tipping his head up to devour his mouth again.|
|There was something worse than death? Warren-no-Stephan didn't seem terribly convinced. He gave in to that kiss for a few moments more, and then he murmured in low, unconcerned tones, "Kurskov owns the company. He doesn't own you."|
|"He doesn't know that," she said, bitterness in her voice, her eyes, her very expression. "He thinks I'm his."|
Which was why they were resigned to this--secret, hurried meetings with Kurskov's shadow looming over them both.
"That I dance for him." At some point, a Russian accent had crept into her words; it was strong and noticeable now. "He is nothing but a deluded fan. He thinks I love him."
Russian was really good for getting scorn across.
|Stephan actually sat up a little at that, his hands reaching for hers. Was the ballet really worth this to her? Worth tolerating the insane advances of their employer?|
"Come away with me. Now." He nodded back toward the door. "Tonight. We'll disappear. Even he won't find us."
|That was enough to get her moving, letting go of his hands to pace across the room. "I..."|
Part of her wanted to go with him. Wanted to be with him forever, wanted to escape Kurskov's deluded affections. But she was a dancer. Above all things, she loved the dance. The thrill of being onstage. The adulation of her fans, the beauty of the music, the way her body moved in grace. She was alive when he was inside her, but free when she danced.
"Stephan, everything I worked for is here."
|He sat, watching her to move away from him incredulously for a moment before he was on his feet and following her.|
"You can still dance."
There would always be the dance. She was young, beautiful, talented. They would leave, and she would still have her arms, still have her legs and her beauty. There was nothing stopping her from dancing.
|"Can I? I don't... Not yet."|
He thought it was just so easy. That there weren't a hundred young, beautiful, talented girls for every available spot in the ballet. That she wouldn't have to go, start over in the corps, work her way back up the ranks to the front. That she wasn't aging; that the months and years she spent getting back to this position weren't going to take their toll on her.
That one ballet owner wasn't like the rest, who saw the corps as their own personal playground.
"Maybe when we're..." More financially stable, perhaps? When they wouldn't need to scrounge to survive going from a prima ballerina to a nothing?
|"Don't." He shook his head. "Don't make promises."|
Promises were where it always went wrong, weren't they? They couldn't make it here, with him breathing down their necks. The last thing he wanted to hear were promises.
Promises were excuses.
|"Help me." She looked at him with wide, frightened eyes, holding her hand out to him. He was her strength. Maybe if he thought they could do it, really believed in it...|
"Help me be not afraid."
|Stephan didn't speak, now. He just nodded, pressing another kiss to her mouth as he took her hand and stepped up to her. His arm slipped around her middle, his chest pressed against hers. And then he was lifting her easily, taking her in his arms and carrying her back to the lounge.|
He would help her to forget, he decided, as he unfastened her dress and slipped it down over her shoulders, his mouth following it over her skin, soft and reassuring and passionate.
|He was weaving a spell with his mouth and hands. That was the only possible explanation. His magic was as potent as Kurskov's--no, more, because where Kurskov could make her fear and command her body, Stephan could make her want and need. He could command her heart.|
And, well, also her body. He was making her moan right now, for one thing. If she'd been an opera singer instead of a ballerina, he'd have her wailing out an aria.
Her bodice was pushed down by her waist, the hemline up to the tops of her thighs, and he was unfastening the front of his trousers. "Oh no..." she whimpered, though why she was saying 'no' was beyond her. Wasn't this exactly what she wanted? Stephan inside her, making her feel alive?
No. This wasn't Stephan, this was Warren! Karla pushed herself upright, tugging on her straps. "Oh, no! Warren!"
And then she slapped him. Hard.
|And Stephan found himself rocking to the side, wide-eyed, his hand flying to the side of his face. The sting lasted for only a moment, but the echo had been broken, had been interrupted, and Stephan couldn't--|
He looked down at her with wide eyes, his breath caught in his chest. She'd pulled him out of it, had shaken him loose of the possession, just as she'd promised.
Probably for the best, because that was right about the time the man in the comedy mask grabbed a handful of his feathers from behind him and yanked.
|Of course she had. Because she would always take care of him. In fact, this could be a very warm and fuzzy moment for them, except how there were creepily masked people ruining it! A man in a tragedy mask came barreling in behind his cohort, a sword raised to swing.|
"Behind you!" Karla yelped, abandoning her straps. She could make herself decent later, when there were fewer people attacking her boyfriend. A blast of Craft sent the first one flying into the wall, his hand still holding several feathers.
"Warren! You okay?"
|"I'm fine," Warren replied, and he was halfway to laughing in relief. He was back in his right mind, and now all they had to worry about were some guys in creepy masks? "I'm great. Those who were probably interrupted by Count Kurskov, or by guys like these, right? So, we get to just be us from--"|
Oh. Right. Fighting. Warren's wings flared, less a few feathers, and swung toward Tragedy as he raised his sword.
|"Less cheering, more ass-kicking!" Karla yelled as several more masked men ran into the room. "Also, I think I'm officially done spending any more holidays in this dimension or one like it!"|
Seriously. Tara and Wesley could come visit Fandom for holidays. This was getting ridiculous.
One of the comedy minions raised a sword at her. "Oh, bitch, don't even try it!" she snapped, calling in a knife and whipping it towards him with Craft.
|"Just a few more months of Sunnydale," Warren promised, "and then we get to focus on not getting killed by people in Glacia, instead."|
He didn't have Craft, and he wasn't exactly carrying his Eyrien sticks on him at the moment, either. Which meant all that he really had at his disposal were his wings, his claws, and his wits. Clearly, the thing to do was to launch himself at the Tragedy that he'd thumped around, and to tackle him to the floor.
|Karla has sticks, Warren! She could call them in at anytime! You just had to remind her, because she wasn't thinking about arming you when a Tragedy and a Comedy were both trying to stab her.|
Her shields went up in a flash of Sapphire light, and she picked up one of the minions and tossed him into the other, sending them both toppling into the vanity. The delicate wood shattered beneath them, sending them both slumping to the ground.
But Karla barely noticed that, because in the mirror above the vanity, she saw the bright glint of metal in a gloved hand--"WARREN!"
|The stiletto blade to his gut was not how Warren had envisioned this scuffle. Which, really, was a dumb move on his part, considering the sword this minion had been carrying before. He'd just been snapped out of possession. He was not on top of his game. Less so, now that there was a blade pressed into his abdomen.|
He grit his teeth, pulled his arm back with his hand wrapped around the man's neck, and then pushed his head back down against the floor, hard enough for the crack sound to echo through the room.
"Thanks," he growled through grit teeth, rolling over and pulling the stiletto out, and then throwing it across the room to impale one of Karla's masked assailants through the chest.
|Karla flew to his side, balling up his shirt to press against the wound. "Are you okay?" she asked, casting worried eyes up at him. "Are you Healing or do you need help?"|
Look, she had some bad associations with Warren getting gut-stabbed. This was the third time and that kind of thing really tended to stick with people.
|"I'll be fine," he murmured, looking down at the shirt. "I'm fine. Careful I don't heal into that."|
Funny, gut-stabbings and possession seemed to be best of friends.
"... Can we get out of here now?"
|Karla glanced at the wreckage of the room, dropping the mirror corner first on the minion that seemed to be stirring. "Let's," she said, standing up and offering a hand to Warren. "And if we still don't have a way out, I suggest we revisit the 'burn this place to the ground' option."|
|"Killing it with fire is starting to sound like a better and better idea," Warren admitted, accepting her hand and pulling himself to his feet, bringing the fallen minion's sword along with him.|
And then... coughing and nodding down.
|"Are you okay?!" Was this a sign of internal bleeding? Did the stiletto nick a lung? Was he...|
...Just trying to remind her that her gown was still mostly shoved out of the way and exposing a lot more skin than it was intended to?
Yeah, okay, definitely that last one.
Clearing her throat and looking not at all discomfited, really, Karla tugged her skirt down past her hips and finished pulling up her bodice, turning around so that Warren could fasten it back up.
"Now're we ready?" she asked.
|"We're ready," Warren replied, fastening her dress with one hand and giving her a little smile. "Come on. Let's find a way out of this mess."|
He reached for her hand, gave it a little squeeze, and then led her back toward the hallway as the last of his injury faded away.
[Yet more of Angel s03E13 "Waiting in the Wings," mashed about to make it shine thanks to wesleynotponcy and preplayed with glacial_witch. Follows this, this, this, and this. NFB, NFI, OOC is love.]