After taking a big gulp of water, Maya lazily plucked a few strings on her bass. The band’s new album was being showcased. It had been a good crowd and a good show. Afterward, she was sure she might be asked to sign an autograph or two.
“Thank you,” she said into the mic. “And now, one last song. It’s not ours, but this is for Tyrus for showing me kimchi jjigae might just be one of the best hangover foods ever.”
She began strumming away on the bass. The other band members joined in, guitars, keyboards, drums, all familiar with the song. She smiled toward the rhythm guitar player as she stepped back up to the mic.
“Well I live with snakes and lizards
and other things that go bump in the night,
'Cuz to me everyday is Halloween
I have given up hiding and started to fight…”
The crowd began to cheer. Maya spied a familiar figure raising a glass in salute. It was Raphael. The first time he’d been out in weeks. Another smile crossed her face. The night had just gotten that much better.
“It’s so fortuitous you mentioned Tyrus, my lovely!” Raphael exclaimed to her later as he placed a friendly kiss on her cheek. “Look there.”
She followed his finger to a table toward the back of the venue. First, she saw the cab driver, Malak, then Tyrus. Both men were leaning over a candle illuminated table in a scene of intense study. It took Maya a few moments to realize they were in the middle of a game of chess. Morgan and Natasha stood on either side of Tyrus like valkyrie bodyguards.
“It’s really not surprising to see him playing chess in a place like this,” Raphael observed. “It is surprising to see him giving Malak so many opportunities to challenge him.”
With the crowds, it took a little bit to reach the table. Someone had to tell Maya how much they loved the show. Raphael was stopped by an old boyfriend, whom was promptly dismissed. It was Morgan and Natasha saw and acknowledged the two of them as they approached.
“Ladies!” Raphael began with dramatic flourish. “Such a pleasure to see you both out. And may I also compliment your taste in company.”
“Well you know this one,” Morgan said, gesturing to Tyrus. “He gets to playing a chess and the building could catch fire and he wouldn't do anything until he finished his move.”
“Of course. Of course. Tyrus, my lovely, when you break from your meditation, I’ve brought someone by to say hello.”
His green eyes shifted only slightly, a bare acknowledgment he heard the words spoken to him. Slowly, he moved his rook, taking Malak’s knight without much effort, but an obvious surprise by the gasp that echoed across the table. Then, Tyrus reached for his glass, taking a cordial sip of whiskey the color liquid bronze that both smelled and tasted of spun gold and the lazy sunlight of warm autumn afternoons.
“Raphael, my dear, how nice to see you again,” he said. “I’d heard you’d been staying in a little more lately.”
“Just for a few projects, but I couldn’t miss this show,” there was a nod in Maya’s direction.
“A place like this requires glamour,” Tyrus said. “And you have always been the glamour in this scene, no matter what anyone else says.”
“You’ve always been such a dear,” Raphael chuckled.
“Hello, Tyrus,” Maya said suddenly. Although she might be interrupting, she at least wanted to get her greetings in.
“That was a good cover,” he returned, taking another sip of whiskey, before shifting his attention back to the game, making a move with one of his knights. “Check. Malak, really, you need to practice more.”
“Don’t be so harsh now,” Natasha scolded. “He’s trying.”
“Your lessons are rudimentary, at best. Or he’s a poor study.”
“A little of both,” Malak said, shooting Natasha a wink and smile. “If you don’t insult me when we play, I worry you’re angry with me.”
“I do not get angry.”
“Can I buy you another drink, Tyrus?” Maya asked. She didn’t like feeling like she was being snubbed.
“An attempt to get into my good graces after the pop-by the other night.” It wasn’t a question.
“Now, Tyrus,” Raphael put in. “I know you’re in the middle of making Malak look like a sub-standard chess players in front of these lovely ladies. However, a little civility is in order.”
“I’ll let you know when I’m not being civil,” his gaze shifted toward Maya. “If you must, get me another drink, but it’s not required.”
“I’ll go with you,” Morgan said. “It looks as though everyone could use a round.”
“I better help too,” Malak offered, standing. “Thank you for the game, Tyrus. I’ll try paying more attention to Natasha when she’s teaching me.”
“See to it.”
The three of them headed to the bar. Behind her, she could hear Morgan and Malak talking about some event in the next few days. It was one Erik was helping to set up and Maya’s band might be playing. She could hardly think about that. Her thoughts focused on Tyrus. After her breakfast of kimchi jjigae, Malak showed up to spirit her back home without much conversation or even a chance to say farewell Cerberus and Tiamat. It bothered her, and she wondered, wanting to ask Tyrus, if his quick dismissal, his attitude toward her now, was some sort of passive-aggressive retribution of her mistreatment of him a year ago or something else. Something deeper and darker.
“I’m buying,” Morgan said as they reached the bar. “Maya, what would you like?”
“I think I’ll join Tyrus in a whiskey,” she replied.
“I had money,” Morgan sighed. Her smirk and wink dismissed any notion of there being an offence.
“Well, I see Dolittle’s decided to make an appearance,” Despite herself Erik’s voice got Maya to jump.
His thinning hair was pulled into a viciously tight ponytail, which seemed to stretch the skin of his face with a cruel thinness across his skull. He was dressed in a back tank top, as to reveal his muscular arms, cream colored skin, and the few tattoos he liked to sport, as well as black pants with combat boots. His eyes and smile sometimes reminded Maya of a feral dog that had just cornered either a kitten or a small child. Those times, her attraction to him was replaced by fear. This was one of those times.
“I didn’t think you were coming,” she said. She wanted to ask him about the redhead, those few nights ago, but the words died in her throat.
“I decided to surprise you,” Erik replied. By his tone it was easy to tell he had been drinking and was clearly upset. “And I was surprised to see you in the court of the Lizard King.”
“Erik Prescott!” Morgan snapped, her eyes narrowing. “You mind your manners!”
“Hey, I’m not the freak with a house, that hardly anyone knows where it is, full of creepy-crawlies,” he shot back.
“Probably to avoid the judgements of pricks like yourself,” Malak said, edging close to Maya and Morgan, forming a wall of flesh.
“This is not your battle, Children,” Tryrus’s cold voice seemed to come from every direction and nowhere all at once.
He was walking up with a purposeful stride, Raphael and Natasha behind him. Erik half sneered, knowing he was outnumbered, but not willing to back down. He straightened himself mentally calculating his next move.
“I’m certain being the jealous kind is charming to some, but it loses its effectiveness when you’re having dalliances with any girl who will fall for your attempts at seduction,” Tyrus said. Slowly, he finished his whiskey, his eyes narrowing. “How was Beatrice anyway?”
“Fuck you, Dolittle!” Erik sneered.
“Awfully defensive. Is that guilt I smell?”
“What about you and Maya?”
“What about her?” Tryurs inquired. “Malak thought it was okay to drop her at my house and I sobered her up with tea and kimchi jjigae while she bitched about how you were less than subtle about your efforts to all but fuck Beatrice in front of her, which shows a sense of class I am absolutely in awe of.” In a single stride he closed the distance to the bar, looking down at Erik. “Whatever would your sister say?”
That drew a collective sharp breath from those gathered around. Caroline was twenty-two when she was sentenced to death by leukemia. It was sometime within the last eleven months of her life that she went to dinner with Tyrus. The half-joke from Raphael was they shared dinner, dessert, and almost three-hundred breakfasts afterward. In those last eleven months, Tyrus never left her side. He was the one who managed her affairs when the disease finished its execution. Erik, on the other hand, had gone on more than one prolonged bender to deal with it, and couldn’t even be bothered to show up for the funeral.
Twelve years later, the slightest mention of Caroline was enough to cause bristling and posturing. Erik’s fists clenched and he worked his jaw. The last time she was mentioned, he actually took a swing at Tyrus and somehow found himself laying on the floor in a daze. Raphael would later remark Erik was lucky he didn’t end up as food for Tyrus’s lizards.
“You mind your mouth about my sister,” Erik growled. Something that sounded like a chuckle came the back of Tryus’s throat.
“I will share my company with whomever I please,” he said. “And I will go as far as to say the same for any of my acquaintances, such as Maya.” He leaned even closer, his large form almost causing Erik to fall backward. “If we have to have this conversation again I may become…cross. Understand?”
“Good boy,” Tyrus said, spinning on his heel and disappearing into the crowds. “So pleasing you can be taught.”