Champagne ran one elegant hand over the leather seat, fixing a squirming Gothic with a questioning look. "What's wrong?" she asked.
Gothic frowned, crossing and recrossing his legs. "Nothing," he said quietly. He stared out the window for a few seconds, then leaned closer to his sister. "Did...did we have to take the limo?"
Champagne frowned. "You said you needed to be dropped off at the airport, didn't you?"
"Well, yeah," Gothic said crossly. "But you could have driven me yourself..."
"Gothic," Champagne said tiredly. "David is employed by Mother and Father as a chauffeur. If we didn't occasionally use the limo, he would be out of a job. You wouldn't want that, would you?" She gave him a look.
Gothic sighed. "I just don't want Cola to think I'm being a snob, or something..."
Champagne pursed her lips delicately and looked out a tinted window. "Well, if you're dating him, I suppose he isn't going to think you're a snob. Or if he does, that can't be very...healthy..."
Gothic looked away. "We're...we're not dating anymore," he said quietly. "Not really."
Champagne raised a well-manicured eyebrow. "Well," after a few seconds. "I can't say I'm displeased, Gothic. I was dreading having to tell Mother about it, and you know that Father would have disowned you."
Gothic snorted derisively. "If he noticed..."
"Anyway," he continued, cutting her off. "I'm going to win him back, so you can stop celebrating."
Spice pulled up to the curb. "Okay. Don't kill Gothic while you're in New York. I can't bail you out, you know how poor I am. So be good."
Cola rolled his eyes. "Why would I kill him?"
From the backseat, Blondie snorted. "Gosh, I don't know," he said sarcastically. "Because you've been talking shit about him the entire time?"
"Yeah, Cola," Spice added. "A whole hour of almost non-stop trash talking makes me fear for the worst."
Cola sighed as he opened the door. "Don't worry about it, kids, I'm used to spending time with people I don't like. I grew up with Rum, didn't I?" He grabbed his duffel bag from the trunk. "Don't worry." He slammed the trunk down, waving good-bye as he walked away.
After he walked into the terminal, Spice sighed and pulled away. "This isn't a good idea, is it?"
"Hell no!" Blondie said cheerfully. "Doesn't mean we shouldn't do it, though."
"Double negative," Spice said absentmindedly as she managed the freeway back into town.
"Whatever," Blondie said. He climbed over into the front passenger seat. "You already upgraded Cola's seat to first class, right?"
"With Gothic's credit card, of course." She patted her shirt pocket. "And I'm going to take care of the reservation situation when I get back home."
"So it's really too late to not go through with the plan. Don't worry," he said cheerfully. "Everything will be fine."
"I guess..." Spice sighed. "You know, not to change the subject, but look at what I'm doing. I just dropped off one gay man so he could meet another gay man. All the while accompanied by yet another gay man...when do I get something to do?"
Blondie raised his eyebrows. "Wow, you sound just like Jennifer Aniston from...that one movie."
Spice frowned. "Great. Thanks. I love being compared to Jennifer Aniston." She flipped on her indicator and merged with the traffic. "You realize I'm never going to get a boyfriend at this rate."
"If it makes you feel any better, Gothic's not totally gay..."
"Again. Great. Thanks. Gothic's available to me, yay. Hold. Me. Back," she drawled sarcastically.
Blondie grinned. "Your sarcasm is getting really good. Have you been getting lessons from Licorice?"
Spice flicked him off.
"Okay, so there's just one bed in the room, right? One bed, and, yes, I know this is a weird question, but no couch or anything, right?" Spice frowned into the phone. "A chair? Hmm..." She paused, thinking. "Okay, so, how much money would it take for you to take that chair out of the room? Twenty bucks? Great. Now -- what's your name? Larry? Okay, Larry, when a man named Gothic checks in, you let him know he owes you twenty bucks, all right? Thank you so much. Bye!"
Blondie grinned at Spice as she hung up the phone. "All taken care of?" he asked.
"Yep. Just one bed, then the floor. Cola's way too nice to let Gothic sleep on the cold, hard floor." She bounced across her dorm room and sat down on the bed next to Blondie. "And, hopefully, Gothic's not too dense to take advantage of the situation."
Blondie snickered. "He is pretty dense, though."
Spice rolled her eyes. "Whatever. That's the end of the line for us, Blondie. From here on, it's all up to him."
"What do you mean the room I reserved isn't available?"
The man on the other side of the counter shrugged apologetically. "I'm sorry, sir, I have no record of your reservation."
Cola sighed in frustration. "No record at all? I used my credit card..." He trailed off. "Are there any other rooms available?"
Larry shook his head. "I could call another hotel..."
Gothic stepped up. "Why don't you just room with me?" At the look Cola shot him, he took a step back. "I'll sleep on the floor and everything."
"Fine, fine..." Cola sighed. "God, am I living in a sitcom or something? Next, we'll get handcuffed together, or end up in jail, or something...." He walked off with his luggage, still muttering.
The man behind the counter stopped Gothic as he went to pick up his luggage. "Hey, you owe me forty bucks."
"You're Gothic, right?"
Gothic nodded, confused, and the man continued. "A girl called. Spice something-or-other, and she said that if I 'lose' your friend's reservation, she'll give me twenty bucks. And an extra twenty for taking the chair out of there." He grinned and held out his hand.
"All right, all right..." Gothic fished in his pocket and pulled out two twenties. He started to hand it to Larry, but then grinned and pulled out a hundred instead. "If you accidentally send a bottle of champagne to my room tonight, it's yours."
"Can do, sir, can do," the man said, pocketing the hundred with a wink.
"What the hell?" Cola sat his bags down on the floor of the room. "There's no chair! All hotel rooms have at least a chair!"
"Maybe it's out for cleaning?" Gothic asked as he set his bags down.
"Where the hell am I going to sleep?"
"You can have the bed. I'll just sleep on the floor, like I said."
Cola sighed. "I can't make you sleep on the floor, Gothic. It's your room, and no matter how much of an asshole you are, I can't make you do it."
"We could..." Gothic paused. "We could both sleep on the bed."
"Oh, that's a great idea," Cola snapped sarcastically. He opened his closet, hanging his garment bag there. "Let me know if you have any more startling strokes of genius like that."
Gothic sighed. "Fine, fine. I'm going to take a shower."
Gothic came out of the bathroom, toweling off his hair, and noticing that Cola was gone. He frowned, and turned on the TV.
A few hours later, the champagne the clerk had winkingly delivered was sitting in a bucket of melting ice, and Cola was still gone. Gothic sighed, flipping off the television. He pulled one of the blankets off the bed, spread it on the floor, and settled in for the night.
Separately, Cola and Gothic entered the large studio, Gothic already surveying the scene.
A fashionable woman approached them, smiling. "Hi, you're Cola and Gothic, right?"
They both nodded.
"I'm Intense Dark Red, the director of this shoot. Usually, I'm just the accessories editor, but Kyla decided she needed some time at the spa, so..." She shrugged and held out her hand.
"Nice to meet you," Gothic said, shaking her hand. "I'm Gothic."
"Ah, yes, you'll be taking the pictures, then. Not our normal routine, but I suppose we could use the angle..." She paused, looking them over. "You two seem really familiar. Aren't you..." She paused. "Are you two from Rosewood?"
Cola nodded. "Hey...wait. Intense Dark Red. You're Intense Copper Red's sister, right?"
"Oh yeah..." Gothic said, smirking. "I heard you guys had a screaming match in the Dye Bar..."
Dark Red paled slightly, then quickly changed the subject. "Anyways, we've got a lot of work to do today...Cola, Daniel will show you where the clothes you sent up are stored. Gothic, if you need help with your equipment, Anne can do anything you need. The models are in makeup and they'll be ready in about fifteen minutes." She motioned towards a long table set up at the back of the room. "If you're hungry, there's the table. I'll be around, but I have to make a few calls." She smiled. "See you around." She hurried off.
Gothic raised his eyebrows. "That was a lot of information..."
"Hmm..." Cola crossed his arms over his chest, scanning the area. "This is way bigger than the discount shop's shoots..."
"Well, you know how it is, Cola...moving into the big time..." Gothic smiled at the other man.
"Shut up, Gothic," Cola muttered as a nebbish man in black approached Cola.
"Cola?" the man asked. At Cola's nod, he smiled. "Great, I'm Daniel. The clothes are just over here."
As they walked off to a corner of the room, a pretty brunette approached Gothic. "Hi!" she said cheerfully. "I'm Anne. Dark Red said you were bringing your own equipment and might need some help with set-up?"
Gothic nodded absentmindedly, his attention on Cola's figure.
"Great! Well, let's just get set up..." Anne frowned. "Hello? Gothic? Are you ready?"
Gothic blinked, and laughed apologetically. "Yeah, sorry. I was...just distracted. Is it over there?"
Gothic sat on a folding chair, half-heartedly eating a sandwich. The makeup artists were doing some touch-ups on the models, but Gothic's attention was focused on Cola, who was talking animatedly with Daniel. He scowled.
The pair finally stopped what looked like a far too intimate conversation, and Cola walked over to the catering table, casually avoiding Gothic.
"So...where did you go last night?" Gothic asked, his voice artificially casual.
Cola picked up a shrimp from the table. "Out."
"Gosh, I think I guessed that."
Cola dropped the shrimp back onto the tray. "It's really none of your business where I go, Gothic. I don't have to tell you."
Gothic crossed his arms. "It might have been nice...so I wouldn't have to worry."
Cola scoffed. "You, worry? Gothic, king of absentminded nasty klutzes was worried about me? I'm so touched."
Gothic rose to his feet. "That's not fair, and you know it." His voice grew low. "Of course I was worried. You disappeared in a strange city and didn't come back until this morning."
Cola's mouth compressed into a thin line. He looked up at Gothic, his eyes narrow. "At least I wasn't catting around with my ex-girlfriend," he said coldly.
"You never had an ex-girlfriend, Cola!" Gothic frowned, and shook his head. "God, I did not just say that."
"Sure sounded like you did," Cola spat out. "But I guess it's what I should expect from you."
Gothic glared at him. "You know," he finally said. "One of the reasons I first liked you was because you were so nice." He paused. "I guess I was wrong."
Cola laughed incredulously. "I am nice!" he shouted. "I just don't feel like I should be nice to you. If you don't recall, you did make me indirectly sleep with my twin brother!"
"What?!" Gothic stared at Cola. "That's ridiculous!"
"I don't think so," Cola snapped back. "And not only that, but you continued to sleep with your bitch of an ex-girlfriend when I was going along happily, in lo--" He stopped himself. "Were you two laughing behind my back the entire time or was it just towards the end?"
"No! It was nothing like that!"
"Well, tell me then!" Cola straightened and stared angrily at Gothic. "Tell me what it was like, Gothic, because I'd really like to know. I'd love to know what it was like to fuck that slut right after fu--"
Both men, startled, turned to see Dark Red looking at them crossly. Behind her, everyone on the shoot was staring at them, some with annoyance and others with rapt attention. "Look, guys," Dark Red said with a sigh. "Whatever it is, deal with it on your own time. I have five more designers to photograph for this article, you know what I'm saying?"
At their nods, she looked around the studio. "Look, that's it for today. We'll wrap it up tomorrow."
Gothic sat on the floor of the hotel room, staring up at the TV. After a few minutes of channel surfing, he turned the television off and looked up at Cola on the bed. "Are you going to disappear again tonight?"
Cola scowled. "What I do is my own business, Gothic."
"Yeah, yeah, it is." Gothic sighed. "Look, Cola. I'm sorry about today..."
"Spare me, Gothic," Cola said, rolling his eyes and grabbing his wallet.
At the slam of the door, Gothic sighed in frustration and threw the blanket over his head.
Gothic looked around the small room he was in. The walls were painted a light gray, with silver swirls of paint patterning up the ceiling. There were no windows, and the only object in the room was a single folding chair which had been sloppily painted a garish red.
"Huh..." It was all he could think to say, and as soon as the silence was broken, a form began to materialize in the chair. It took a few seconds, but it was, finally, a young woman with copper colored curls.
"Spice?" Gothic reached out to touch her shoulder.
Before he could reach her, she turned and he stumbled back in shock. Her face had been painted a stark white, save for two black circles around her eyes. She smiled, revealing a mouth of bloody teeth behind the white net veil that had suddenly appeared around her head.
"Why did you try to find out about the plan?" the woman asked. "I'm not going to tell you anything."
Gothic stepped back, stumbling. "But...But I didn't..."
She rose from her chair menacingly, and Gothic scrambled away, colliding with a mannequin he would have sworn wasn't there before. "And now it's clear you can't be trusted...."
"...We're going to have to kill you," a new voice finished. Gothic spun around just in time to see Blondie, his hair spiked up and whiter than usual, standing barely inches from him. Blondie raised a knife, which Gothic tried to backpedal, but before he could move, the knife slid into his chest....
Gothic jerked awake, breathing heavily. He pulled the blanket closer to himself, trying to calm himself.
Up on the bed, Cola yawned and opened his eyes. Looking around sleepily, he saw Gothic, and smiled affectionately. "Bad dream?" he said softly.
"Very bad dream," Gothic said.
"Poor baby," Cola mumbled. He turned so he was facing Gothic. "Can I make it better?" He patted the space on the bed next to him.
Gothic raised his eyebrows in surprise. He paused for a second, then nodded. "Yeah," he said, climbing into bed, reaching under the blanket to cover Cola's hand with his own.
Cola caught his hand and intertwined their fingers, the bed dipping as Cola moved closer to Gothic. Gothic slipped his leg over Cola's lower body, pulling him into a close embrace, their faces almost touching.
Cola blinked a few times, a confused look coming over his face as he slowly woke up. "Gothic..."
"Shh..." Gothic whispered, cutting him off with a desperate kiss, pushing his hands under Cola's pajama top, sliding the thin cotton up. He lowered his head, running his tongue around Cola's navel. "It's been way too long..."
Gothic slowly woke, looking around the bed, sighing heavily when he realized that Cola was no longer beside him in the bed. Sitting up, he looked around the room, frowning when he saw Cola sitting on the dresser, looking moodily out the window. "Hey, good morning..." he said huskily as he rolled out of bed, walking over to stand next to Cola. He bent to give him a kiss.
Cola flinched away. "Don't," he mumbled.
Gothic frowned. "What?"
"Don't touch me."
Gothic sighed. "What is it?" He stepped away slightly. "Look, Cola, I care about you, and I thought last night meant you still cared about me..."
"Don't." Cola jumped to his feet and started pacing around the room. "You of all people know I'm not responsible for what I do in the first few minutes after I wake up..." He sighed. "This is all fate's fault. My reservation gets lost, the room is mysteriously empty of chairs, and you..." He stopped pacing and looked intensely at Gothic. "What did you say?"
"I said I care about you."
Cola swore. "And now you go saying things like that. Stop it! Just...God, Gothic! Why do you have to mess around with my feelings like that?"
"I'm not 'messing around with your feelings' like anything! I really do lo--" He stopped himself. "I really do care about you, Cola. And I want to try to make it work again."
Cola shook his head. "You certainly sound sincere..." he said quietly. "But how long will it be before you start fucking Misty again? Do you know how awful that made me feel?"
Gothic looked at him seriously. "Look, Cola...I know I fucked up. But the thing is....I'd do just about anything if you'd give me another chance..."
Cola's expression softened. "Anything?" Gothic nodded. "Anything at all?"
Dark Red looked at Gothic, then stifled a giggle. "That's an...interesting new look for you. So you decided, spur of the moment, it was time for a change?"
Gothic looked at Cola, who was smirking, then sighed. "Yeah...I thought it would be a good image change for me," he said bitterly. He ran a hand through his newly bleached hair and tried to tug down the hem of his cutoffs at the same time as he walked over to his cameras.
"Well, it's certainly...different," one of the models, a leggy blonde, chimed in. "But are we gonna get started or what? I have another shoot in a few hours..."
Dark Red frowned. "Natasha, you'll be there in time, cool your jets." Walking towards the models, she turned suddenly to look at Cola. "I hope you guys resolved whatever was going on between you two."
"Kinda," Cola shrugged, sewing a button back on a shirt.
"And this..." Dark Red gestured. "New look of Gothic's has something to do with it, I'm assuming?"
"Kinda." Cola looked up, an eyebrow raised.
She laughed. "I thought so." She shook her head. "Look, Cola, it's none of my business, of course, but you two make a cute couple, so..." She pulled out a card. "I know the owner of this club in town. You guys go there tonight, let them know you know me, and they'll treat you right."
"I don't think..." Cola shook his head.
"Look, I can tell it's not totally resolved -- give me a little credit for some perception. But you're in New York -- go out, have some fun. You don't even have to take him if you don't want to."
"I...I'll think about it," Cola said, pocketing the card.
"Good," Dark Red said with a smile. "Because you know, I always feel better when I'm meddling in someone else's business. Or, at least, that's what my sister says..." She smiled and turned towards the group, clapping her hands together loudly. "Okay, people, Princess Natasha has to be somewhere in a few hours, so let's move!"
Gothic looked at his drink with a sigh, letting the loud music from the club swirl around him. Sure, he'd been getting offers from just about everyone in the club, but Cola had disappeared, leaving him alone for the last hour or so.
To make matters worse, the last time he'd seen him, Cola had been flirting rather heavily with a muscular redhead. Things were just not going to plan.
"You about ready to go?"
Startled, Gothic looked up at Cola, who had just appeared out of seemingly nowhere. "Go?" he asked, barely audible over the booming music.
"Yeah...we have an early flight tomorrow, remember?"
"Oh...yeah..." Gothic reached for his coat, then stopped. "So that's it?"
"I mean, I do all this stuff you ask me to, and we just go home early to sleep for our flight?" He scowled and downed the rest of his drink. "Were you just fucking around with me?"
"So what if I was?" Cola sat down next to Gothic with an angry thump. "You sure as hell deserve it."
"You're right. I do." He sighed and rubbed his temples. "No, wait. I deserved to be kicked out naked. I deserved to have my stuff thrown out the window. I didn't deserve to be jerked around when I apologized and offered to make it up to you. If you didn't want to try again, you should have just told me." He paused, then said shakily, "If there's no chance, just tell me."
Cola looked down at his hands, nervous. "I...I don't know."
"Look, Cola," Gothic said, shouting to be heard over the music. "Spice told me you don't like to say things like this first. So here it goes..." He took a deep breath. "I love you."
"Oh, no..." Cola said quietly. "That's not fair..." He leaned into Gothic and let his arms steal around Gothic's waist. "That's just not fair at all..." He pressed his lips to Gothic's with a sigh. "Because I love you too..."
They kissed for a long time, holding each other close. When they finally parted, Gothic looked at his lover. "Can we give it another shot?"
Cola sighed, but then nodded. "Yeah..." He smiled. "On one condition."
Gothic raised his eyebrows.
"This time...I get to be on top."