As I finish changing for the fire show I peer out to see Vladik standing stoically at the front of the stage. I shake my head at the stand in bouncer. He doesn’t have anywhere near the intimidation Maximus has, this could get dangerous tonight. I need to be more careful than usual. As the show starts the music begins and the crowd takes off as the flames light up the stage.
The first stage jumper is a heavy set guy who is soaked in enough booze that he almost sets himself on fire in the stage flames. Vladik tries to wrangle him off the stage as the crowd around laughs. I make sure my rhythm doesn’t slow down as I swing the poi’s around my scantily clad body. Then another man jumps up on the stage to my right. He starts dancing and jiggling as he drinks his beer.
My heart is hammering in my chest at the thought of burning these guys. I look over at Mitch pleadingly as he drops his headphones to jump on the stage as well to try to kick off the latest crasher. The guy Vladik was trying to wrangle tackles him off the stage into the crowd and the crowd starts to surf their bodies around the dancefloor. I can vaguely hear Vladik scream and curse.
I see a fight break out near the bar and Justin and the new guy are caught in the thick of it. As Mitch tries to boot off the guy dancing on the stage he has to abandon his efforts as another climbs up onto the D.J stand and starts to play with the music. I almost feel sorry for that guy. Mitch is going to tear him apart. Another crasher jumps up on the stage and makes a move to try and grab me.
I jump away from him as I blow out a breath of flame towards him warningly. He dances drunkenly as he makes another grab. Out of nowhere a gladiator storms the stage to grab the drunken lout by the collar of his shirt and throws him into the crowd with supernatural strength. As grateful as I am to see Maximus that display of strength could get us all in trouble.
I hear Vladik screaming across the dancefloor at Maximus as he marches towards my other stage crasher. I’m actually fearful for the guy’s safety as Max approaches him with murder in his eyes. I watch on in horror as Max winds up and punches the guy across the jaw sending him flying back off the stage into the drunk cheering crowd.
Maximus turns to shoot me a quick wink before jumping down from the stage. A shiver travels through my body at the sight of his obsidian eyes winking at me. Vladik grabs Maximus by the collar and starts to scream in his face pointing to where Justin and Hayden are still trying to break up the fight. Max looks towards the fight and just laughs and shakes his head at Vladik.
I hear the music wind down and I quickly finish my routine and put out the flaming poi’s in the sand box. I pull a black shirt back over my head behind the D.J. booth as Mitch asks if I’m okay. I give him thumbs up as I jump down from behind his booth to find Max waiting for me. He looks so menacing and almost malicious, like he’s enjoying the brutality of what he just did.
I try to smile at him determined to not show him my concern. He winks again through those dark pools of ink and I feel him grab my arm as he leads me back towards the bar. We’re hindered at every possible point and he lets go of my arm to hold back the crowd as we move. I’m knocked into hard from the side and I fall to the floor.
I sit dazed for a moment until Max —realizing that I’m not behind him anymore —turns around and looks down at me seemingly confused by my position. I huff out in annoyed disbelief as I get myself to my feet and storm past him. I jump back behind the safety of the bar to continue working as assumes his post by the front door. We wrap up a little early for a Saturday night, because if we don’t something terrible is going to happen here.
When the doors finally close on the last patron all of the staff seem to physically collapse on the spot from exhaustion. “Maximus. My office now!” Vladik’s voice booms demandingly as he marches along the balcony back towards his office. I look at Max concerned, he just shrugs at me nonchalantly. I suppose after a trip to Hell a little chewing out form Vladik wouldn’t really worry him. I just wish I saw a trace of regret at the way he handled those stage jumpers earlier.
Max shoots me another wink and a playful smile before ascending the stairs to the upper level. “Who else thinks we should just leave this shit and get the fuck out of here tonight?” Luka calls out to everyone. I smile as they all echo his idea. I look around the destroyed club. Then at the expectant Luka. I sigh in defeat.
“Alright everyone get out of here.” I call out to them. “Thanks for tonight.” They all cheer appreciatively as they grab their things and make for the door.
“We’ll come in early tomorrow to clean it. I promise.” Luka announces and they all nod in agreement. I shake my head at them.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll call a cleaning crew. This place could use a good going over.” I tell them. They all cheer again before they disappear into the night. I turn around to come face to face with a very annoyed looking Nina standing with her hands on her hips.
“You better not be planning to clean al this up yourself.” She scolds me angrily. I shrug innocently at her.
“I’m just going to collect the glasses, but I really am calling a cleaning service to come in here in the morning.” I try placating her. She smiles proudly at me as she helps me gather up the glasses and dump them on the bar top near the glass washer.
“So what was up with your boy tonight? He seems a little—.” Nina’s voice trails off as Max and Vladik descend the stairs from his office. I call out to Vladik that I’m calling a cleaning service in to give the place a going over in the morning. He just nods acceptingly, because what else is he going to do? Clean it himself? I smile at my errant thought as I look towards Max.
“Let’s get out of here.” He commands and I look at him seriously. I turn away from him defiantly to hug Nina.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I whisper in her ear. She smiles proudly at me for my display of defiance. I thank Vladik for his help tonight with the crowd. Max chuckles a dark laugh next to us as he scoffs.
“Yeah great help you were.” He says sarcastically. I turn on Max angrily.
“What is wrong with you?” I demand as Nina and Vladik make themselves scarce. Max has the decency to look chagrinned as he reaches out to take my hand in his.
“I’m sorry. I think I was away from you too long. The darkness of where I was its toxic, like a poison. I may not be myself for a few days.” He says looking like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. My heart breaks for him as I reach up on my tip toes to kiss his cheek softly.
“Let’s get out of here.” I say more playfully than he did and he smiles a crooked smile at me. Max insists that it would be safer if I drove with the way he’s feeling. My heart feels so heavy the entire drive, the toll that place took on him and he wasn’t gone for that long. I hope his visit to Hell wont hinder my plan to make him see his grace.
When we get home I can’t help the strange feeling that I’m being watched as Maximus enters the house first. I look around sharply trying to find a pair of eyes in the shadows, but find nothing. The darkness is empty. Empty? I think to myself, something about Max tonight has seemed empty. Something is missing, I wonder just how much of himself that place takes each time he’s there.
A cold chill wraps itself around my body before a strong set of arms pull me over the threshold of the house. We walk in the darkness as Max leads my body into the living room showering my neck and shoulders with greedy kisses. We fall onto the couch, but the coolness from outside is still seeped into my bones. Then it occurs to me. The warm glowing fire I always feel at Max’s presence isn’t there.
My stomach suddenly feels like a brick of ice is lodged in it. I try to push Max off me a little determined to talk to him and not just fall into bed. “Maximus.” I say using his full name to get his attention. His hungry mauling of my body doesn’t desist. “Maximus!” I exclaim a little louder using more force against him to push him.
He exhales in frustration as he leans back to look at me. The streetlight from outside make his pure black eyes look completely dangerous as he tries to smile at me seductively. I shiver as I shoot off the couch to the far side of the room. “Who are you?” I demand shakily. There is no doubt this is a Daemon, but Max has never looked at me with pure obsidian eyes before. Especially not when we get physical like this.
“Baby, what are you talking about? I already explained I might seem a little off. Now get back over here so I can show you just how much I missed you.” He says condescendingly before dropping the last scrap of clothing from his body. I eye him warily as I flick on the light in the corner of the room. Every detail is perfect; this is Max’s body down to the very intricate scarring on his shoulder blades. Yet somehow, he’s not Max. My head starts to swim; this doesn’t make sense.
How can he be Max and not Max? I try to reason as he holds out his hands towards me begging me to come to him. Every fiber of my being wants to fall into his arms, all but one small pit in my stomach that is pure ice at the thought. My mind is about to explode as I rationalize his reasoning for his behavior. I don’t know how that place affects people, I’ve only ever met the daemons that come into the club with Kane. If those creatures are anything to go by then Max’s story rings true.
I shake my head trying to dispel every thought so I can focus on my heart. My papa was always right about us seeing clearest with our hearts. “What’s wrong Daarnya?” His voice calls from the couch. My head snaps up.
“Get the fuck out of my house Daemon.” I shoot at him icily. He looks shocked by my outburst.
“I thought you didn’t care that I was a daemon? I thought we had something special.” He pleads and my heart is clawing in my chest to reach out to him. I shake my head vehemently.
“You’re not Maximus.” I tell him certainly. He shakes his head sadly.
“I thought I explained this.” He sighs audibly. “Maybe I should come back tomorrow when you’re more receptive.”
“Don’t come back here. I don’t know who the Hell you are, but you are not Maximus.” I scowl at him. “Now get out.”
“How can you think I’m not me? You know me better than anyone, I’ve never let anyone get as close to me as you have. Now I stand here after returning from Hell to be with you, and you reject me.” He pleads looking heartbroken. He looks devastated. Please God don’t let me be wrong about this.
“You’re not him.” I choke out again fighting the tears in my eyes as I start to worry about where Max really is. Even as he sits looking completely desolate there is no trace of the ocean blue in his dark eyes. Max’s eyes that I know better than I know my own. Suddenly his eyebrow crooks up at me. The look is almost unhinging, that signature indulgent playful look of his.
“What makes you so sure that I’m not me?” He asks with a smile like we’re playing a game. I start to sense the danger this daemon poses.
“Like you said. I know him better than anyone.” I explain evenly as I take a step towards the door. His smile grows.
“Are you going somewhere?” He asks as he moves like lightning to block the exit. “Are you afraid of me my pet?” I shake my head defiantly.
“Of course not. I’m just not interested in whatever game it is you’re playing.” I tell him sternly taking a step back away from him. He laughs to himself.
“I do love games.” He teases wickedly. “Perhaps we can play a few.” He threatens a bit more darkly as he stalks towards me. He looks curious all of a sudden. “How are you so sure?” He demands reaching out to caress my face. I shake my head to pull it away from his touch disgusted.