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Chapter 9: Rectification
palladian23 wrote in superwebnovel
Author's Notes: Warnings for this chapter - Bad language, frank discussions of sex

Many thanks to my wonderful editor gwoman for her work on this chapter!

Back to Chapter 8

Lex left Casey’s room as she turned on the television again and headed for the set of clothes on her bed. Slipping back into Serena's room, Lex closed the door before turning towards where Serena sat and gasping in surprise.

She’d changed into a black leather bustier with matching neck and arm bands and a long crimson leather skirt lined in black. Serena turned slightly to show off the cut of her skirt—short in the front with the sides longer as they flared out in either direction. Underneath, Serena wore dark red fishnet stockings and short black boots with spiky heels. As always, she’d done her makeup flawlessly; this time, her face looked pale but she had on lipstick that matched the color of her skirt and a black beauty mark by her lip. Her hair was spun up in some sort of complicated updo that included sticks to hold it in place. As Lex neared, she caught a whiff of the sweet scent Serena favored.

“What do you think?” she asked with a smile.

“You look gorgeous,” said Lex, shaking her head in disbelief that all of this had happened while she’d been talking with Casey.

“You could turn a girl's head,” Serena replied, her smile deepening as she gestured to her bed, “but I'm not quite done yet, so have a seat. I put some other things out for you to wear that I forgot earlier, by the way.”

Lex looked at the clothes on the bed. She picked up a silver metal belt with small open links that ended in a dangling ankh. She fingered the end, giving her reflection a grin, and then put it on.

Serena returned her smile in the mirror. “I also put out some stockings that I got for myself that ended up being too big. They should fit well on those muscular legs of yours, though.” She shook her head as she paused. “I can see that if I hang out with you I'm going to have to work out more, or you'll steal all the attention away!”

Lex laughed as she smoothed the stay-put black fishnet stockings over her thighs. “Thanks, but I wouldn't be too worried about that!” She held up another article of clothing she found on the bed, her fingers sliding over the fabric’s slick texture. “Should I wear these, too?”

Serena gave Lex’s reflection another look and nodded as she continued to adjust her hair. “You can if you like. I noticed that you’d scratched your hands up a bit, so I thought that if you wanted to wear those, you could. I was about to get rid of them because they're old and I've stretched them out, but I thought they might look like nice with that outfit and I was sure they'd fit your deliciously strong arms. Try them on and see what you think.”

Lex finished unfolding the clothing to find a pair of long black satin gloves. She put them on to find that they reached high onto her upper arms. Stepping behind Serena to look at the whole effect in the mirror, Lex nodded, liking it.

Serena smiled, looking at her in the mirror again. “You look hot enough to start a fire. Now sit and let's chat while I finish.”

Lex perched on the edge of the bed and looked down at her gloved hands, feeling a bit nervous. “What would you like to talk about?”

“Well, I remember something about your family from what Casey asked during your interview, but one thing you didn't mention...are you a native of this area?”

Lex shook her head, relaxing a little at the rather innocent question. “I was born on an army base while my father was still in the service, but we moved here by the time I was about two and it’s all I remember. My father had left the service by then and came here to look for work. He ended up getting some old service buddies of his to invest some money and set up a martial arts studio. I guess they got paid back eventually, since he ended up opening a string of them in the area. You may have heard some of his advertisements on the radio.”

Serena shrugged and shook her head as she adjusted her makeup in the mirror. “I don't usually listen to that thing.”

Lex sighed and felt her shoulders relax. “Thank goodness. Sometimes when people hear my last name they start chanting the damn jingles at me.”

“So,” Serena said, looking at Lex in the mirror again, her curiosity evident, “it doesn't sound like you were destitute as a kid. Did something happen later?”

“Well, I guess you could say that,” said Lex, swallowing as she felt the familiar tension in her guts yet mentally vowing to tell the truth nonetheless. “My father and I...disagreed when I turned 16. I wanted to get a job to make my own money, but that meant I’d have to stop training with him, or cut way back. Our disagreement finally came to the point that he told me to leave home or he’d kill me. So, I left and it took years until I could build the sort of foundation for myself that a lot of people take for granted.”

“What a flaming asshole,” said Serena. “I hope you never let him off the hook for that.”

Lex looked up from where she’d been clenching her hands together in her lap, surprised at Serena’s words, to see the woman shaking her head in the reflection as she brushed a big, open makeup brush over her whole face, wafting the scent of powder in Lex’s direction. She met Lex's eyes in the mirror and continued.

“I'm sorry to have asked about that; I didn’t know the answer was so terrible. I'm not a prying bitch all the time, but I haven't had a chance to talk to you yet, and Casey is pretty tight-lipped when it comes to talking about other people. I bet she hasn't told you too much about anyone else, has she?”

Lex shrugged uncomfortably, not wanting to say anything too negative about her friend. “Well, she told me that it's tradition to let people here talk about themselves, or to ask.”

Serena laughed, then turned a critical eye to her hairdo, eventually causing her to tumble her hair down and brush it out. “I guess that means she hasn't told you much about anyone; I figured as much. So, I should probably fill you in on myself, then.”

Lex smiled at Serena in the mirror, watching her braid some tiny plaits into her hair as she wove it into another complicated style. “You don't have to, but I'd like it if you did.”

“OK, then, first off, I'm going to have to warn you that I come from a rich family. Oh, don't give me that look! I'm not like your ex.”

Lex laughed, continuing to meet Serena's eyes in the mirror. “That look, as you put it, is more surprise than anything. You don't seem like it, from what I've seen, and I do mean that in a good way.”

“Oh, I understand, unfortunately. I had my whole childhood to learn that it seems like some people look at everything in life one way—how it can be of value to them. I just never fit into that, I guess. I always spoke my mind, wanted to dress and act how I felt like, and be with people who interested me. I wanted to be free to be who I was. There was no percentage in that to either one of my parents. My mother just wanted a little, well-behaved doll to dress up in fancy clothes and take to tea parties, which didn’t work out since I was sort of a tomboy. My father just wanted an heir to the family business. I didn't fit in to either of those things. I think they were so disappointed after they had me, they decided to give up the whole business of reproduction.”

Lex bit her lip in sympathy but watched entranced while Serena carefully worked with her hair as if it were in some other universe than the words she was saying, at least until Lex noticed how tightly her friend was holding her hairbrush. “Well, it all really started going to hell around the time I was ten and my teacher caught me in the school coatroom sucking off one of the boys in my class.”

Lex caught herself before she gasped, but her eyes flew wide open for a second, which Serena saw in the mirror. She gave a little laugh and smiled a small, rueful smile as she continued. “Well, I got switched out of that school right away!”

“You know, it's perfectly normal for kids to do things like that. Just because your parents overreacted-” Lex began, tentatively, not sure how to help to take that sad look from Serena’s eye.

Serena sighed, interrupting Lex. “I know, I know. Most of the shrinks they took me to said stuff like that, but it didn't make any difference to my parents.”

Lex met Serena’s gaze in the mirror, her expression serious. “I'm sorry. That didn't make what they said wrong, though; you were just acting like lots of other kids.”

Serena's eyes dropped for a moment, and looked brighter once she looked back up at Lex, blinking quickly. “I guess, if you say so. Anyway, I had a cousin who made a big impression on me. She was a few years older and very wild. After she heard about my adventure in the coatroom, she sat me down to have a safe sex talk with me and to give me pointers. Boy, did she have some advice!

“Anyway, for the next few years, my parents bounced me from school to school as they heard about my antics. They sent me to a whole bunch of shrinks, some good and some horrible, but it finally ended up with them locking me into a crazy house when I was in my teens to try to treat my 'sexual addiction' issue, as they put it.” Feeling her eyes widen again, Lex put a hand over her mouth, which she’d opened in disbelief. Serena scowled and shook her head before continuing.

“I hated it, but the place was on lockdown, so I couldn’t leave at first. Fortunately, after a month or so there, I learned how to use my special skill, so I just showed up at home one day and asked my mom, 'What's for dinner?' She almost had a heart attack she was so scared!”

Lex caught Serena's eye in the mirror, intensely curious now. “What is your special skill? That was another thing Casey told me to ask you about.”

Serena smiled widely, gave a few final touches to her hair, and stood up. “Get ready,” she said, and then she vanished.

Lex blinked, shaking her head quickly, then began looking for Serena.

“I'm over here,” she heard the other woman's voice from the far corner of the room behind her.

Lex turned to see Serena walking in her direction, away from the projection of the seascape. “What-” Lex began, not even sure what question to ask.

Serena grinned freely and laughed, coming back to sit in front of the mirror again. “I'm not exactly sure how all of that works, really. The only thing I know came from a scientist they brought here to study me. He finally ended up talking a lot about some Uncertainty Principle and the movement of electrons around atoms; he seemed to think it worked something like that. All I know is that I finally figured out at that crappy hospital that if I could think hard of someplace I'd rather be, I could just go there.”

“So, you can travel anywhere?” Lex asked breathlessly, finding herself grinning as well.

“Well, there are some limitations,” Serena replied. “I have to have gone to the place before, but if I've ever been there and remember it, I can go back. If I can see where I'm going, though, I don't have to have been there before. It takes more energy the farther I go, too. For example, to go to the back of the room like I did is hardly anything, but if I go to my parents' place in New York, I feel a bit tired once I get there, I guess because it's farther away.”

“But you can really just go wherever you want, pretty much, whenever you want to? That's amazing!” Momentarily overcome, Lex got lost thinking about what she could do with an ability like that.

Serena smiled at her in the mirror and then turned around to face her. “Thanks. It's probably less cool than it seems, but I like to be able to do it because it keeps me free. If I'm somewhere I don't like, I don't have to stay. If I want to be somewhere else, I can just go.”

“Can you take anyone else with you?”

“Sure,” said Serena, grabbing Lex's hand with a firm grip and pulling her off the bed.

The next moment, Lex was looking at the room from a different perspective. After taking a moment to readjust, she realized she and Serena stood in the corner of the room where Serena had appeared a few minutes previously. She shook her head and just looked at her friend for a moment, wonderingly. Serena smirked in return.

“It's less amazing when you're used to it, I guess. What do you think?”

Lex shook her head again. “It didn't seem like anything. I was just suddenly somewhere else.”

Serena smiled again. “From my perspective, it's about as interesting as walking somewhere, because I'm so used to it. Anyway, are you about ready to go? I'm starting to get hungry.”

“Yes. I'm ready to eat, too,” Lex agreed, hoping her stomach didn’t start growling in protest at the wait.

“I forgot to ask: how's Casey coming along?”

“She's probably watching TV, waiting for us. I made a few suggestions about what she might want to wear.”

Serena grimaced in response. “Thanks. She was probably just going to wear whatever she had on, right?”

“Uh, well...” Lex trailed off, squirming a little and looking at the floor.

Serena grinned and grabbed Lex's arm. “Figured! All right, let's get Casey and get going. We're going to go to one of my favorite places to eat first, my treat. Then, we're going to go out and be seen.”

Lex nodded in agreement, taking one final glance at herself in the mirror, as if looking at a stranger, before they went out the door.

Serena and Casey remained mostly silent during the cab ride to the restaurant, with Lex's occasional forays into conversation going nowhere as they virtually glared at each other. She sighed to herself as they all got out and went into an unassuming one-story brick building, thinking about how she should break the deadlock.

Lex blanched as they entered, since the older man who greeted them actually wore a tuxedo. The last time she’d eaten at a place like this she’d gone out to dinner with Kurt in that ridiculous pink dress, which had probably been more appropriate clothing for a restaurant like this than what she was currently wearing. The man showed them right in to the main room, however, not taking note of what they wore. Lex looked nervously at the cream-colored tablecloths, the intricate silver settings on the tables, and the wall coverings, which appeared to be made of silk.

Serena and the man who led them spoke as if they knew each other well. He asked after Serena’s health and her work, and showed them to a table that had a commanding view of the room but felt private since it had been situated in an alcove shaded by potted trees. Some of the other diners dressed more in keeping with the black tie motif looked put out, but he ignored them steadfastly. Casey and Serena ordered drinks immediately and Lex got a soda.

She found herself waiting patiently through the silence and glares until they had all ordered dinner. Finally, with her two companions looking in opposite directions, she struck.

“OK,” Lex said, knowing her annoyance was showing in her voice, “it's time to talk about this! What’s going on between the two of you?”

Casey and Serena stared angrily at each other across the table for a moment, both of them looking as if they almost wanted to attack the other. Finally, Serena looked away.

“Ask her,” Serena said, her tone harsh.

“Casey, what’s the problem?” Lex asked, her hands open on the table in front of her.

“She asked me out!” Casey replied, glaring at Serena.

Lex considered this for a moment. “Serena asked you out, Casey? Is that it?”

“What do you mean? Serena asked me out, and I said no!”

Lex waited for a while longer until she realized that she’d actually heard the full story. “So, that's all that happened?”

“Isn't that enough?” Casey replied, scowling at Serena, who still looked away.

Lex sighed, and turned to Serena. “Serena, when did you ask Casey out?”

Serena still wouldn't turn to face anyone. “It was just after Casey got better, when she first joined the team. And she's been mad ever since. She acts like I'm some kind of criminal or something.” Her voice sounded hurt, and Lex could feel her heart going out to Serena.

Lex thought about it for a minute. “Serena, from what I remember, Casey told me that she wasn't long off the farm when she started with this team. Now me, I'm a suburban girl, but well, sometimes things are different in the country.” She tried to catch Serena’s eye, giving an apologetic smile in her direction.

Turning to Casey, Lex asked her, “Casey, do you have a problem with women dating each other, or is it something else?” Lex kept her tone gentle, thinking that it seemed unlike Casey to be unkind to anyone.

“No! No, I don’t, I just…” Casey trailed off momentarily and then continued in a quiet, embarrassed voice. “It’s just something that these jerk guys at school used to call me when I grew a lot taller than them. It’s actually why I threw that guy out the day you came for your interview, him calling me a lesbian.” Casey looked sheepishly at Serena out of the corner of her eye, rubbing the back of her neck.

Lex looked over at Serena then. She still wouldn't turn to face the table, her expression a mixture of anger and embarrassment. “Do you mind if I make a suggestion?” Lex asked. “Can we try this? Casey, just as a pointer from someone who's been asked out by girls before, can you try treating it as a compliment, like a request from some guy you're not interested in? You know, just say you’re not interested and move on?”

“All right,” Casey replied gruffly, looking as if she felt a bit foolish.

“So can we get on to trying to be friends now?” Lex asked.

“Sure,” Casey said, looking at the table.

“Serena, well, next time-”

“I know, don't pick on farm girls until they've had a chance to get accustomed to the big city,” Serena interrupted, smiling self-mockingly as she finally turned to face Lex.

“It was just a misunderstanding,” Lex continued, trying to smooth things over. “I like you both, and I think we could be great friends. Can we put this aside and give things another try?”

“OK,” they both replied, almost simultaneously. Casey and Serena looked at each other in surprise and then at the tabletop. It was quiet for a moment before Serena spoke. “I like your shirt.”

Casey looked up in surprise, then back down. She smiled and took another drink of her beer. “Thanks. You'll have to thank Lex for choosing it for tonight, though.”

Dinner arrived not long after and interrupted the conversation, so the three of them set into the food. Lex thoroughly enjoyed her stuffed shells, especially since the cheese and marinara sauce were both lively with spices. Casey appeared to enjoy her pasta dish as well, while Serena had ordered what she said was her favorite—a complicated-looking seafood dish. By the end of the meal, the tension felt mostly dissipated, and Casey, Serena, and Lex had begun to talk comfortably.

“Well, I've had the chocolate mousse before,” Serena advised Lex, “and it's really good, if you like chocolate.”

“Looks delicious,” said Lex, shutting her menu. “I think I'll try it.”

When the waiter reappeared, Lex ordered her dessert, Serena got coffee, and Casey ordered tea.

“So,” Lex asked when the waiter had left to get their order, “can you tell us where we'll be going tonight?”

“It's a surprise,” said Serena, taking another sip of her nearly empty drink. “I think you'll like it, though. We'll all fit right in, the way we're dressed. I've been there a few times before and the first time I went, I didn't think I'd like it, but the feel of the place is a lot different than how it looks from the outside. I really like the people there and I think you will, too.”

“OK,” Casey said, finishing her beer. “I'll take your word for it. Next time we go out, though, I get to pick the place.”

“All right,” Serena replied, her lips curving up in a small smile, “You've got to tell us what we should wear, though. I don't want to be showing up dressed like this in a sports bar.”

“You’re so picky,” Casey retorted, laughing softly.

Lex and Serena exchanged a look, smiling at each other, and then Lex asked, “It seems like you’re friends with the man who seated us. Who is he?”

Serena’s smile brightened a little. “Oh, Sal. You’re right; he’s an old friend of the family. He worked for my father for many years, so I've known him since I was little. He...well, I think he understood me a lot better than my parents did, and he was always very kind to me. He retired some years back, but he got bored after he moved back to DC to be around his family, so he opened this restaurant to 'have some fun,' as he puts it. Anyway, it's been nice to be able to see him, so I come here a lot.”

Lex smiled. “It's a beautiful place. Thanks for bringing us.”

After finishing her dessert, which Lex pronounced tasted like heaven on a cloud of chocolate, she watched Serena grin widely and hand the waiter her credit card. “I thought you might like it,” Serena replied.

As they got ready to go, Lex glanced out at the sea of faces in the packed restaurant and grimaced. As she turned, she saw that Serena had noticed her expression.

“What's up?” Serena asked.

“Oh, I’m just not looking forward to having to walk out through all of those people. They're just going to stare and say rude things about us.”

Serena looked at her with a smile. “But, Lex, that's one of the most fun things about coming here! Just look at all of us. As beautiful as we are tonight, we deserve to be stared at. Look,” she said, gesturing towards a nearby table, “some of them have been staring at us the whole time we've been here, and they can't even really see us! Just wait until we get up to walk out. All of the men and most of the women will be staring. Sure, they might say something snide to one another, but that's not what they're thinking. They're really jealous, wishing they were us or that they were with us. That's part of the fun, though,” Serena continued, smiling wider. “We're three gorgeous women, and we're going to stand tall, survey the room like we're bored, and sail on past all of these people like they’re not here, because there's nothing they can do to make us stay.”

Lex grinned in return, letting out a small laugh at Serena's description. “You really like this kind of thing, don't you?”

Serena nodded, raising an eyebrow. “So, are you willing to give it a try? Come on, do it with me.”

Lex smiled a little wider as the waiter returned with the final bill. She thought Serena's confidence might be catching as they all rose to their feet and seemed to stand a little taller than they had when they’d come in that evening. Lex tried to ignore the tension settling in her stomach as she followed Serena’s lead.

“Come on, girls, let's get out of here and have some fun,” Serena said more loudly, stepping lightly onto the main dining floor. Lex stepped down between her and Casey, who moved to walk just behind the other two.

A sudden silence swept the room, followed by knots of whispering. Lex let her gaze slip across half of the room with a bored, regal speed, and she could see it, just as Serena had described. The wealthy people dressed in formal clothes attempted to look disdainful of the three of them, but really seemed envious. She turned her head slightly to look at Serena, who peeked at Lex out of the corner of her eye. As their gazes met, Lex couldn't help laughing slightly, acknowledging Serena's observations. Serena's broad smile widened a little more.

As they reached the front of the restaurant, Serena stopped briefly at the front desk to speak to Sal. There was a line of people waiting to get in, but he took time to speak to Serena as she arrived, making the people continue to wait.

“Sal,” Serena said, “thanks for a lovely meal, as usual. I wanted to introduce you to my friends, as well, since I didn't have a chance to when we came in. This tall drink of water here is Casey, and this is Lex.”

Sal shook both of their hands firmly, smiling at them. “So very nice to meet the both of you. Serena,” he said, turning back to her and holding her hand in his for a moment, “as always, you brighten up my place. Please don't wait too long to come back again.”

Lex thought Serena's eyes looked a little shinier than normal as they all stepped into the cab. Her voice sounded firm as she leaned forwards to talk to the driver, however. “Do you know where the Vampyre's Nest is?” she asked.

“Sure, ladies, I'll take you right there,” he said, pulling away from the curb.

“The Vampyre's Nest?” Casey said, looking at Serena and Lex in the backseat, her eyebrows quirked up.

Serena just smiled in return. “Hey, this is my turn. You can suggest wherever you want to when it's yours.” Casey just smiled and nodded, and Lex turned her attention to watching the streets change ahead of them as the cabbie drove.

Several minutes later, the cab pulled up at the curb to let them off. Casey insisted on paying for the ride, so Lex and Serena got out in front of an older building in a fairly well-kept, business-oriented neighborhood. The building stood several stories tall, one in a row of connected offices and storefronts. It looked as if it had been a bank at one time, showing a façade of carved stone, tasteful and solid looking. A black signboard with “Vampyre's Nest” printed in thin, silver letters now covered the area where the name of the bank had probably once been imprinted into the stone. When Casey caught up with them, the three walked towards the building. Instead of going to the back of the line of people waiting to get into the club, however, Serena walked to the front and approached the large man standing in front of the door preventing the crowd from entering as he checked IDs. She ignored their glares as she moved closer to him.

“Hey, Vinnie,” she said, putting a hand on his waist.

He started in surprise and turned around. The man had a strong, angular face, tribal tattoos running down his left arm, a ring through his lip, and long, dark hair pulled back in a low ponytail. When he saw Serena, he went from trying to seem tough to looking very glad.

“Serena!” he said, reaching over to hug her. “It's been too long since you've come to the club!”

Then he looked over at Lex and grinned and raised an eyebrow, but when he saw Casey, his eyebrows nearly lifted off his forehead and his smile grew.

“And who are your gorgeous friends?” he asked, smiling at Casey as he continued to size her up.

“This is Casey,” said Serena, grinning at his obvious interest. “And this is Lex.”

“Ladies,” Vinnie replied, bowing a little, “welcome to the Vampyre's Nest.”

Lex watched as he lifted the velvet rope to let them in and as he whispered something into Casey's ear when she walked by him, even though he had to stand on tiptoes to do it. She turned and looked at him skeptically.

“I'll consider it,” Casey retorted, obviously trying not to smile.

Lex looked at her friend curiously as they continued walking. “Consider what? Or shouldn't I ask?”

Casey laughed in response. “He asked me to save him a dance for when he's on break later.”

Lex smiled back. “Maybe you should. He seems to like you, and he’s not too bad to look at, either.”

Casey shrugged dismissively. “Maybe. I'm already spoken for, though.”

Lex stopped in her tracks, gaping up at Casey. “What? Why didn't you ever mention it before?”

Casey sighed, stopped, and looked down at Lex. “I think I've mentioned it before, but don't ever talk about anything at headquarters that you don't want everyone and our sponsors to know about, since we're monitored all the time.” She paused for a moment and bit her lip before continuing. “Also, though no one's ever really come right out and said it, they seem to discourage you from dating when you work for the agency. I've always just had a weird feeling about it, so I never say anything back there. Promise me you won't, either.”

Lex shook her head. “Of course I won't say anything about it if you don’t want me to. Can I meet him sometime, though?”

“OK, it's a deal.”

They saw Serena appear from around the corner at that point, scowling at the two of them. “Come on! They'll never let you into the coolest spot here if we're not all together!”

The two of them duly turned left to follow Serena up a narrow staircase as they reached the main floor of the club. When they got to the top of the stairs, Serena greeted a tall, willowy woman standing by the stair rail. She wore a shiny black latex, form-fitting jumpsuit that zipped from neck to crotch. She’d left the zipper open enough to show off a bit of cleavage, and her bobbed black hair fell to the side to reveal the tattoo of a snake slithering up her neck. Lex could see something shiny on the woman’s tongue as she responded to Serena, but she couldn't hear what the two said because she stood too far down the stairway. Serena gestured for Casey and Lex to come up a moment later and introduced them to the woman.

“Zenith, these are my friends. Do you have room up here for us tonight?”

“Sure,” she said, nodding easily. “You can have your favorite place over in the corner, if you like. Yes,” she continued, looking up at Casey, who had an eyebrow raised, “my parents were hippies. I think they were high most of the time, and I believe I was named after the television.”

Casey cleared her throat and looked embarrassed. “Sorry, I wasn't trying to be rude.”

Zenith smiled, humor showing in her eyes. “No offense taken. Enjoy yourself, ladies.”

The three of them made their way past Zenith along the balcony, which appeared to go all the way around the club. Some of the space seemed to have been carved out into offices in the back, but the rest had been left open with tables on either side of a walkway. Serena led them to a table along the balcony rail at the corner of the room where it started to turn. The three had a long view of the room below, most of which had been dedicated to a large dance floor, but bars stood on either side, and a stage along the back held the DJ and his equipment. A few lone dancers moved on the floor, and knots of people stood talking near the bars and along the sides of the dance floor. The balcony along the other side of the club had a few occupied tables, but Lex got the feeling that the club wouldn’t be packed until much later in the evening.

“I guess you must know these folks pretty well,” Lex said, turning to Serena.

Serena shrugged. “Well, I do know Vinnie intimately,” she said with a sly smirk, “but I've also been here a few times so they remember me. It’s a good place; the people here are really friendly, even though they don't look like they would be.”

Casey eased back into one of the metal chairs and looked around. “Is there a bar up here? I wouldn't mind another beer.”

Serena shook her head. “They’re all downstairs.”

Lex stood up. “OK, my turn to buy. What do you want, Serena?”

“Get me the house special, please. Thanks, Lex!”

Lex headed back down the stairs and turned towards the nearest bar. She noticed the music more on the main floor. It wasn't a song she knew but she paused to listen to the dark sound and the driving, compelling beat. Lex looked out onto the dance floor, watching the few people dancing for a moment, and then continued to the bar. Later, she thought, I'll get out there, too.

She stopped by the empty end of the bar and waited for the bartender, who was busy at the other end, to come down to her. Suddenly, she heard a voice in her ear. “Beautiful.”

Lex turned halfway around to find a man standing not far behind her, studying her back. He raised dark eyes to meet hers. “There's a lot of history written there,” he said with a subtle smile.

Turning to face him fully, Lex felt off balance and sensed her cheeks flame in confusion as she tried to process what he'd said. She managed to smile with a confidence she didn't really feel and tried for a clever response.

“Well, these days, I prefer to be the author and not the text.”

Lex watched the man more closely as his dark eyes widened, and then his smile followed. She took a moment to study him, taking in his dark curly hair that he’d cut longer on top and shaved closer on the sides, the various heavy rings in his ears and the one through his eyebrow, and the heavy leather collar he wore that had a D-ring in the front. He also wore a sleeveless, tight black t-shirt and black leather pants with heavy boots. He’d stepped close enough that she could catch a small whiff of cedar coming from his direction. Lex felt unsettled and hot, drawn towards him in a dark way. She found herself thinking how pale and vulnerable the collar made his neck look and felt like she wanted to take a bite out of him.

“That sounds like an invitation. Is it?” he asked with a wicked grin.

The bartender arrived then, giving Lex a chance to put her thoughts together a bit. She ordered the drinks for Casey and Serena and a tonic water and lime for herself, and then turned back to the man. He waited for her exactly where he’d been standing before, the grin still on his face. Lex took a deep breath and decided that since radical honesty had been working well for her lately, she might as well go with it.

“Even though I don’t know your name yet, I like you. I also find myself somehow wanting to do strange things to...er, with you.”

His smile brightened noticeably. “Good.”

Lex sighed as she continued. “Unfortunately, I have to admit that my friends brought me here tonight so that I could hopefully forget that my former fiancé ripped my heart out today, to the point where I had to break things off with him.”

He grimaced. “Sorry. Bad timing.”

Lex shrugged. “It’s not your fault, it’s just I know it's going to take a while for me to get over it. He...um, well, his opinion of my scars was exactly the opposite of yours.”

“I'm sorry you had the unfortunate luck to date a fool,” he replied, along with a snort of derision. “I know there are a lot of lovely ladies here who will probably try to turn your head, but let me assure you that there are lots of men who aren't complete idiots and will worship you like you deserve.”

He moved to the bar, took a card out of his wallet, and began writing on the back of it. “I understand how you're probably feeling right now, but if you're interested in writing some history sometime down the road, or if you just want some company and would like to see my face again, call day or night. Cell phone number is on the back.”

Lex took the card and looked at it. It was a slick print that had the name of a high-priced consulting firm on it, as well as announcing him as Brian Coombs, System Administrator. She looked at the number on the back and then tucked it away in the top of her glove, since she had no pockets.

“Brian,” Lex responded, putting her hand out to him, “my name is Lex. It's been very nice to meet you. I hope we do meet again.”

He took her hand and kissed the back of her glove. “Very glad to meet you, Lex.”

She watched him for a moment as he walked away, restraining herself from gazing too long at his leather-clad ass. Feeling a little dreamy, Lex paid the bartender and made her way back upstairs with the drinks.

Forward to Chapter 10

Comments about anything you liked or that you thought could be improved are extremely welcome!

By the way, just a reminder if anyone has been enjoying the story and would like to help me publicize it, if you could review it on Muse's Success or Web Fiction Guide, or just vote for it on Top Web Fiction, it would be much appreciated.

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*looks confused* Why did Serena put up her hair and then put it back down? Is it some kind of hair thing I'm not aware of because I'm male, or is she just playing for time to talk with Lex, or what?

One thing I find a bit confusing is that Lex seems surprised by the very idea that someone could be sympathetic to her father's abuse. I mean, ok, there are indeed self-centered jerks. Not every human on Earth is Mother Theresa. And I know if a stranger told me something like that, being somewhat more reserved than, say, Serena, I wouldn't be comfortable enough to jump straight to "insult someone's father" without knowing if they're going to be offended or not (those things are kinda touchy, and not every victim reacts with anger and hate). So the whole thing has the potential for being an awkward mess instead of a heartfelt message of empathy and support and stuff. But surely she has got to have met SOME people who showed her sympathy beside her new teammates, even if you don't count close friends?

Also, physics at the infinitesimal scale is hilarious. I like how particles don't really have a definite position so much as a zone where they're more likely to be.

(Oh my god I only wanted to check the "Die for our Ship" page and I ended spending like an hour on tvtropes. I gotta be more careful. O.O)

Galetta Hombre

Serena's a bit particular and didn't end up liking it, so she pulled it all down to do it over, and, subsequently, have some more time to talk to Lex. I reworked that area to make her intention a little clearer. : )

Hmmmm...it's interesting you'd ask about that, but, given my experience and those of people in the same boat as me, my response to you is that generally strangers' (or acquaintances', sometimes even friends') responses to a revelation like that is less than supportive, which is why Lex is hesitant to speak up. For some reason, many people seem stuck on the idea that parents would never do such a thing, or that even if they did that you shouldn't speak about it, or that maybe you deserved it in the first place. And then there's the ever-popular theory that you're lying. Having received all of the above types of responses when I was a kid and trying to get help, it didn't make me want to talk about what happened to me, either, and that seems to hold true for many others that I've discussed the topic with. So Lex is just like the rest of us, I guess. It's weird, for some reason people think you should have to spend Thanksgiving with the people who treated you badly enough that they should probably be in jail, simply because you're related. I don't think anyone would suggest the same thing if a total stranger was the perpetrator...

Heh, heh, I know what you mean! I love the experiments that have been done with projecting particles onto a screen, and showing that the patterns that they leave (wave, or particle?) changes when the experiment is left unattended or whether someone's watching it. :D

Sorry about that! I know what you mean, though, the TVTropes site is awesome!

Thanks so much for sharing your questions and comments, and for continuing to read. :D

Uh. I find myself more knowledgeable one the subject. People are strange. To say the least.

Oh right! I know that experiment. It's a bit more complex than that, actually. When you shoot wave-particles (or even just good ol' waves, really) at two slits, you end up with a pattern of interference on the other side. (If you're using light, it'll look like successive areas of brightness and darkness in an arc. It has to do with the variation of amplitude.) Where it gets weirder is that when you shoot a stream of single particles at slits close enough that they can go in either one, you still have the interference pattern, as if the particle was going through both slits and then... interfering with itself. Somehow. But if you're shooting, say, electrons, and you have a device to detect the electric charge as it goes past to figure out which slit it's going through, then you don't get interference. Because it's only going through one slit instead of both. There is no uncertainty.

Also, when they say "observation", it might be easier to hear "interaction". Because it's completely impossible to observe something without somehow interacting with it. For example, if you want to see something, with your eyes, you actually have to bombard the target with photons, which will have an effect. In the previous example, the device that detects the electron's passage needs to interact with the electron, which collapses the whole probability quantum thingamajib, and leaves you with only one possibility.

Sorry for all the exposition. Physics is something of an amateur interest of mine. :)

P.S. I love that my spell-checker recognizes "thingamajib" as a misspell. Instead, it proposes thingamajig and thingamabob as correct.

Agreed on that!

Yay! Thank you for the summary. I'd read about that experiment what seems like years ago now, so I assumed my memory of it was rusty. :D

What do other people think Serena does?

"He asked after Serena’s health and her work, and showed them to a table..."

I really would like to hear what he thinks her work is about. Did he say something generic like, "And I trust work has been pleasant?" Does she have a cover story or not?

Re: What do other people think Serena does?

Sal does know Serena well, but given that they didn't have much time to talk, it would have been something along the lines of what you say above. Knowing Serena, she'd just joke about it, telling everyone she did something super secret ("You know, like James Bond! With all the cuties and everything!"), or say that if she told them, she'd have to kill them. The way she usually acts, no one would probably try to go any deeper, which she would prefer...I don't think she wants people to know what she really does, either. Thank you for reading and commenting - let me know if this covered your question, if it didn't.

Edit suggestion: After "She picked up and put on" the belt, you have her put the belt on in the next sentence. May want to have her put it on only once or take it off in between.

Great update. I'm sad that I've never been to a fetish club that classy.

Thank you - that's now fixed. : )

I'm so glad you liked it! When I was writing this, I was thinking partially about one club that I've been to a few times. I can't say it was that cool every time I went there, but when the right people came out, it did have this sort feel to it.

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