Julian was nervous, but he knew he was ready for this. After more than a month of rehearsing and practicing he was finally back on stage ready to solo. His wrist was finally healed up, and although he had had one or two setbacks involving the blows to the head he'd gotten when he'd been roughed up he was finally back in shape. Better than before, he hoped. He'd already overcome one traumatic injury in his career. He supposed he was just proving how stubborn he really was.

He'd been playing with the Symphony for the last month, but he hadn't been ready to take on a solo part again. He hadn't thought so, anyway. That opinion hadn't been shared by many - but Julian had lost a little confidence in himself after having two accidents threaten his career in the last few years.

Evgeni and Jan, mostly, had helped him recover this time (with no small amount of help from Tavi, too). He had moved in with Evgeni pretty much the day following their incredible night together, and he hadn't looked back. The massive panic attack he'd had while there had shown him that he wasn't as cool and calm about the kidnapping and beating as he'd thought. As a result, he was also seeing a therapist.

The combined efforts of his friends and the calming presence of his therapist (a sweet middle-aged woman named Dr. Emily Callaway who looked like she should be someone's grandma but had a way about her that was like velvet-clad iron), Julian had regained his equilibrium for the most part. The best part about Dr. Callaway was that she was a familiar and Julian didn't have to tiptoe around the vampire issue - not that it came up often; with everything that had gone on with Julian the fact that none of his multiple lovers was actually human wasn't even an issue. No, all of his problems revolved around what had been done to him.

Still, being able to mention what they were helped when Julian was trying to talk through things that helped and things that hurt. His friends, they helped. After the big panic attack he had been disappointed when he continued to have them; he'd thought he was over them after his sister's death but the trauma of being kidnapped and beaten had started them up again. The bond with Evgeni, the secondary bond with Jan, were a huge help. Tavi's presence soothed too. They had no bond like the one he shared with the others, yet she always seemed to know how to soothe him, when a touch would help or when space would help more.

He'd thought it before, but it didn't hurt to remember - Julian had never felt so loved, so supported. And now, less than six months later, he was standing again on stage under the spotlights, bow poised, ready to play. He didn't fear that he'd forget the notes; this was a song everyone could hum to. The first of several solos this evening. Julian was going to be back with an explosion, if he had any say in it.

The spotlights narrowed in on him and he couldn't see where his friends were sitting. He knew they were there though, and he felt what they felt because in these months he had never even tried to master the technique of blocking Evgeni (and by extension, Jan) out. He couldn't. Never would. The idea terrified him.

Julian took a deep breath and nodded to the conductor. And just like that, the song started, one of his favorites, Palladio by Karl Jenkins. Julian immediately lost himself in each note but he couldn't go away entirely. When he'd finally picked up his violin again he realized he had a perpetual audience of two. And he loved it, loved that Evgeni and Jan felt the music like he did.

So he played for them, knowing they could feel what he felt as well. His nerves, his excitement, his utter elation as he drew the bow across the strings and his violin didn't wail or scream like it had in his earliest nightmares. No, it sang for him finally, the rich beautiful tones filling the concert hall, lightening his soul. He played for Tavi, trying to make her feel it too without the benefit of the bond. His arm had never felt so sure and his fingers had never been so accurate on the strings, flying over them with every arpeggio.

The hall could have burned down and Julian wouldn't, couldn't, have stopped playing.

Evgeni 10 years ago
Evgeni smiled at Tavi who sat next to him and squeezed her hand. Her small fingers were gripping his tightly and he could see that one of Jan's hands were similarly occupied.

"He is fine. I promise.”

"I am nervous for him.” Tavi whispered, smiling up at him with green eyes. She only spared him a tiny grateful glance and then her eyes were back to being glued on Julian's handsome form.

It had been a busy whirlwind recovery for Julian and perhaps a surreal time for all of them. Evgeni found himself in a crowded apartment and he would be the last person to complain about it. Julian had been with him every night, except when he was out with one of the others but always there was someone.

Tavi had become closer to all of them. He thought had thought it was odd in the beginning and he had held out only the barest of hopes that she would have anything to do with him and Jan. Evgeni thought that perhaps they could all be friends for Julian's sake and that would have been a blessing but it was far better than that. It was a dream he didn't know he had been dreaming come true.

She and Jan were thick and thieves and most nights they spent some time going on about fashion and music. Picking outfits for clubbing and gigs had become committee affairs and they had each acquired a few special made or altered pieces of fashion done by their resident designer.

There was talk of getting a bigger place for all of them. Tavi even said that she would join them, at least part of the time. She was a part of a pack and needed to spend time with her people but she had told him that she thought the space from the R'asa might be good for her and her family. At the moment her father was busy with her little half sister Christine and the women of the pack were all baby crazy. She said it was better not to be a young adult woman while they were in that mood, especially not when the baby was a part of her immediate family. One minute they would be oohing and aahing and the next they would be trying to back her in a corner and demand to know when she was going to breed and why she hadn't picked a nice pack member to mate with.

Evgeni could see where distance was a wise choice.

Right now they were as far away from babies as a person could reasonably get. Most people didn't bring infants to symphony.

[You look handsome and you are going to do well. We all think so.] He sent to Julian quickly before the solo was about to begin.

They had heard a more private version of this performance more than once in the previous weeks but there was something different about seeing Julian play for strangers. The audience was a part of the experience and Evgeni drank that in also, as he knew Julian did at least in some part.

He could feel his lover's attention, both on his violin and on the special members of the audience that he played for.

Leaning down, he spoke quietly to Tavi who didn't have a supernatural bond with Julian to tell her such things.
"He is playing for us.”

Fingers slid from his grasp and patted him gently on his hand. Tavi's green eyes rested once more on him, amusement making them sparkle. Then the glance was gone and her attention was totally for Julian. "I know.” She answered and her hand reached out for his once more.

"That was divine.” Jan said, after Julian finished. He reached over and poked at Evgeni, though it wasn't at all necessary since he could have sent to him perfectly well and even more quietly. "Tell him!”

"Tell him we are proud of him.” Tavi said.

"Tell him we'll shag him rotten later.”

"I will not tell him that. He has other solo.” Evgeni shook his head. "Make him behave. He listens to you.”

"He's your clan mate.” Tavi retorted and then wrapped her arms around one of Jan's.

Two sets of green eyes now looked at him, one set pale as mint and the other like emeralds. Evgeni sighed softly.
"I am telling him.”

[That was beautiful, Sunshine, perfect. We are all very proud of you....and cannot wait to congratulate you.] There, that was the spirit of the message, more or less.
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
This was catharsis. Julian knew the second he started playing that he was back, he was in better shape than ever, and his fingers landed unerringly on the strings. Notes flew from his violin, it sang, it wept lovely music, it cried out everything that was in Julian's heart and soul.

And when he'd finished the song, which they had all known would get great applause due to its popularity, the crowd rose and offered thunderous applause that brought tears to Julian's eyes.

All he could do was look for his partners, although in a hall this big his odds of finding them were slim. Then he heard Evgeni's voice in his head, and he smiled quietly as he pressed his hand to his heart and bowed again.

[Thank you, Zhenya,] he sent back. Then his tone turned to irony. [I don't know which of you was aroused during the key change, but damn, that got me, um... very focused. Intense. Yeah. I liked it, for the record.]

He was blushing as he sent that but it was the truth. He hadn't paid much attention at the time, but he'd known the sensation was there and it had given his music an edge. Now he had to calm himself down for the next song, and after that he had another solo.

[Will you stay for the reception afterward?] he sent to Evgeni as he took a chair at the back of the violin section. As a contracted soloist, Julian did not have a formal chair. he played with the violin section but did not play Principal. It was an arrangement difficult to understand for someone not in the music world; Julian's purpose there was very specific. Usually a contracted musician wouldn't remain with one Symphony for more than a few seasons, if that long, but Julian's contract had been extended last year. he liked to think he was getting a name for himself, but if he really wanted to get himself out there he had to start recording. Which he planned to do, hopefully with some help from his lovers.

Now, sitting there playing Beethoven with the rest of the violins, Julian had approximately ten minutes to unwind and chat with Evgeni before he had to solo again. The next piece would be a medley of Irish reels, some of Julian's favorites. He loved fiddling. Could easily do it for hours, until his arms fell off.

[Apparently I've got to rub elbows with Nachton's elite, since they paid a lot for their tickets. Not to mention the VIP access to the reception. I'm allowed guests at shows, but I've never used the privilege... so I don't see anyone objecting to the three of you coming along.]

He couldn't help it if it was a little hopeful. His friends certainly weren't obligated to hang out at the reception after the concert; Julian could meet them elsewhere for drinks (well, for them. Julian had promised to lay off the booze and he had, limiting himself to one drink every night if they were out, and only the occasional glass of wine at home).
Evgeni 10 years ago
"You it goes...busted?” Evgeni looked to Tavi for confirmation of the term and then grinned at Jan as the target of his words.

"Pardon?” Jan raised his eyebrows and looked innocent. "I was simply enjoying the music.”

[A little too much. Julian was able to sense it.] Evgeni sent to Jan instead of explaining that detail, even in a whisper, among the quiet seats where they sat.

[Well he did fine despite it. Playing amid distraction is a good skill to have.] Jan's sending had a lofty tone to it.

[Because you never know when you might have to play the violin in the middle of a war zone?]

[Fiddle, Rome, burning. Could happen. That's all I am saying.] Jan sent back completely unrepentant for his personal enjoyment of the music.

Evgeni turned his attention back to Julian and sent about their mutual lover. [He feels that way about music quite often. I love that about him. He tries to pretend to be distant but I have seen music drive him to tears, or joy or delight. You could not ask for a better audience than Jan, I am thinking. Tavi also. ]

"What are you two going on about? Why are you busted?” Tavi barely breathed the words into Jan's ear. Most people would not have heard her at all.

"My appreciation of the moment...” Jan's soft voice trailed off.

"Well he does look really damn good in the tux.”

"And bent over that violin...”

Tavi smiled. "Jealous?”

"Nah, he can use it for practice. Keeps him nimble.”

[It is a good thing you do not have solo right this moment.] Evgeni sent to Julian. [Your talents are being discussed.] He wasn't immune to the imagery and the feelings Jan had that accompanied his observations of Julian's form were added to his own appreciation of the sight of Julian bent over his violin, lost in his music. His desires would be harder for Julian to ignore, being stronger and closer through the more direct bond. However, it seemed to him that Julian understood and picked up on Jan's thoughts and emotions better and better every day despite having no direct bond to the other vampire.

He and Tavi were also discussing a bond between them and he suspected that Julian would quickly be able to pick up her thoughts and feelings through the echo of their link together. Evgeni wondered if Jan would also be so perceptive.

"Julian is wanting us to stay for the reception.” Evgeni said to the other two.

"That would be good.” Tavi smiled. "My dad would appreciate it if we did make an appearance since he is pretty busy right this moment. Tell Julian that I will even be on my best behavior...but I can't say the same for my dates.”

[We will be there. Tavi says she will behave but we might not.] Evgeni smiled and contemplated how his life had taken such a strange turn. It had twisted many different times since he was a human child brought into a noble family but this latest development was still enough to surprise even him. [No one will kick out the Mayor's daughter and her young date so you need only to vouch for me. I will remember my manners.] He might even use them.
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian enjoyed sitting in the back of the violin section, sending back and forth to Evgeni. He wished he could speak to Tavi and Jan this way too, but he wasn't going to knock what he got. He felt a little bad using Evgeni as a living post-it note, but they didn't have an option. No one else could communicate to each other the way Evgeni could.

[Hey, I liked it. Maybe that makes me a kinky bastard but... well, it was good. I mean, maybe it makes me a kinkier bastard. Hell, I don't know. I love those things about Jan too, though. Among other things. You all bring plenty to the table.]

He slept with three people on a regular basis and was looking into living with all of them on a permanent or at least semi-permanent basis. Julian figured that qualified as kinky. As far as qualities to love, Julian adored all three of his partners and tried to make that clear. None of them was just a fuck buddy in any sense of the word. He loved them each and could easily list the different reasons why.

[They're discussing my... talents? The musical ones, or are we talking about the kinkier ones?]

Boy, had he ever received an education in the past few months. Julian would have said he thought he was a pretty considerate lover, and he'd never had any complaints. Certainly never been called boring. But damn, he knew a whole lot more now and applied his lessons at every opportunity.

Before his mind could wander too much Evgeni told him about the reception. He was still getting used to Tavi being the Mayor's daughter. Had he known that when they'd met he probably would have been a whole lot more nervous about dating her but he hadn't learned it until a while after they'd been going out. And he had already acknowledged, by then, that he cared a great deal for Tavi.

[Ah... is that how we're playing it? Jan gets to be her date? Then does that mean I get to claim you as mine?]

Since returning to the Symphony Julian had decided not to hide anything. Up until that point he'd only dated women and many of his fellow musicians knew that - at least, they'd only seen him with women. But since discovering he was bi, or at the very least, he was just as attracted to Jan and Evgeni as any woman he'd ever met, he hadn't tried to cover that up. It wasn't his way. He hadn't specified that he was dating all three of them at once, but it was well known now that he would go out with any one of the three of them and that was it. He got a little bit of teasing about keeping them all on the hook but Julian didn't see any reason to try to explain that they were all in it together. It was enough that they knew he saw both men and women, and that his playing field had become very narrow indeed.

The rest of it, that was their business. Just between the four of them. If anyone guessed the truth Julian wouldn't deny it.

By the time his next solo was up he was ready for it - well, he was always ready to fiddle. He refused to do so in a tux jacket though. Bad enough to be doing Irish reels in a tux at all. He had moaned and bitched about it until he'd been allowed to take the jacket off at least. Now he was allowed to fiddle in his shirt, vest, and slacks. A little better.

He didn't move much while he played; it was difficult with his hip and knee. He wasn't graceful, couldn't bounce or leap or anything. But he did get into it; once his foot started tapping it didn't stop, and his upper body moved and swayed with the beat of the reel. Mostly he focused on his fingers, which were probably even more nimble than they'd ever been in his life. He took the beat faster and faster, challenging the rest of the players to keep up with him, never missing a note, adding in little trills and flourishes.

The audience, too, enjoyed music like this. Julian would have preferred to do it outside the rigid structure of the audience and hall, but at least this brought the music to them. In his opinion it was better suited to places like the Long Bar, casual, cozy, prone to spontaneous drinking and dancing. This was fine though.

The whole concert took about two hours, but Julian only had one more solo, a beautiful lament after intermission. Normally he'd have played more but with this being his first concert since his return from his injuries, no one wanted to push him and he was more than willing to not be pushed. Come the new year, he would take on more and more. He couldn't wait.

((ooc: feel free to advance them to the dinner/reception deal afterward. Figured it'd be in another conference hall or something, maybe a buffet sort of deal. Very high society, however. There might be a musician auction too.))
Evgeni 10 years ago
Evgeni explained that the discussion was about more than one of Julian's talents. He also agreed that Julian could claim him as his date, acquaintance, friend or whatever other term would make Julian happy.

The rest of the performance was excellent. Julian's personal cheering section all believed that he was the most talented violinist on the stage and that the best parts of the night were when Julian was highlighted. There might be some bias but they were far from uneducated in the matter of musical talent.

They entered the reception with Evgeni following behind Tavi and Jan. Several people greeted their girl, asking her about her father and the new baby. A couple of people wanted to know what her mother felt about the whole thing but Tavi was doing a good job of steering clear of the gossip.

Much to his clanmate's surprise, Jan received a few greetings as well from people who had seen him on stage at Eternity and perhaps other places.

[We are here. I am not sure we will be able to extricate the two of them from high society for a while.] Evgeni sent to Julian and then drifted away from Tavi and Jan. He headed straight for his boyfriend, sending as he went. [We might need to come to their rescue soon. I am sure Jan can manage a distress signal if it is necessary.]

"Julian!” He grinned and slid through his lover's circle of admirers. "You were wonderful, performance was amazing.” Evgeni reached out and grabbed Julian and pulled him close for a kiss on each cheek.

"Better than ever, yes?” He asked the nearest people around them. Everyone seemed to agree, some with more thought toward the music but one or two seemed to be thinking of Julian's form if the blushes and quick nods were any indication.

((OOC: Add what you like. I described mostly people so you could tailor the event to your liking. I figure Tavi and Jan will escape all the questions and come to find Evgeni and Julian soon.))
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian felt fantastic. He'd headed over to the reception as quickly as possible but he'd arrived well before his lovers. It took a while to clear out the concert hall, apparently, and to winnow out those few who were allowed in. After the show he'd let the ushers know he had three guests and he'd given their names to them.

He got waylaid by several people, one after the other, but Julian was used to that. He smiled, schmoozed, and acted perfectly happy to be swamped with admirers. All he really wanted was Tavi, Jan, and Evgeni nearby.

He didn't have long to wait before they were, though. Julian heard Evgeni and saw him at the same time. He looked gorgeous beneath the decorations, which were silver and gold with touches of red and green for the holidays.

Julian was stuck in a crowd of admirers and well-wishers, several of them regular Symphony patrons who had noted his absence. He was sticking with the 'car accident' story, since it had served him well so far, and there was a great deal of sympathy heading his way, which he didn't particularly want.

[I have a lot of faith in them both to handle any unwanted attention,] Julian sent to Evgeni. [So long as I get a little bit of their time while they're being all elite and stuff.]

Evgeni was there soon, the taller, slimmer man leaning in to kiss his cheeks. Julian smiled and returned the little kisses but stole a soft kiss on the lips from Evgeni before letting him move away.

"Thank you," he murmured in response to the praise that came his way. He didn't miss some of the more speculative glances, though, and they caused him to sidle up close to Evgeni. Julian had never been particularly codependent but since his kidnapping he had been reluctant to be left alone at all and, when out in public, chose to remain close to one of his partners if not all three.

He was getting better, though. His therapist was a big help and he knew he had been right in seeking out her help. Julian wasn't equipped to handle serious psychological trauma on his own, even having been through it once before. She had told him, and she'd told Tavi, Jan, and Evgeni too (on the occasions they had accompanied him to his appointments), that his behavior was normal and acceptable, not to be worried about as long as it was improving and not becoming a problem.

They were offered champagne by a passing waiter and Julian took a small flute as his one glass for the night. After spending a couple more minutes with that particular group he slipped his hand beneath Evgeni's arm, made their polite excuses, and drew his partner away to the next crowd. They weren't allowed to linger in one place - or, well, they were encouraged not to.

He did stop in a little out of the way nook with Evgeni though, behind a pillar in the corner, to steal a slightly longer kiss.

"Thanks for coming," he said with a soft smile. "You going to buy me if they auction me off?"

The Symphony had done a musician auction before. They 'sold' several musicians or groups of musicians for hour or two-hour long intervals to play, with the proceeds going to charity.

Julian attempted the big blue-green fluttery eyelash look on Evgeni, peering innocently up at him.
"I've never been sold before. They might not be nice to me."
Evgeni 10 years ago
[I am sure they will manage.] Evgeni agreed about Tavi and Jan's ability to handle the crowd.

When he found Julian he wanted to take him in his arms and steal him away. He had settled for a couple of quick kisses and was pleased that Julian stole one more before pulling away.

As they talked to the other people around them Julian kept close to him. Evgeni wrapped a protective and slightly possessive arm around his boyfriend. He didn't want to flaunt their relationship or anything so crass but he wanted to be close and supportive. If that happened to discourage a few overly familiar admirers from getting too personal then he thought Julian could handle the loss of that particular type of attention.

Soon Julian was pulling him away from this crowd and toward another. He noted with mild amusement that the route led them through a more private alcove. Evgeni was not surprised when they stopped briefly.

When Julian moved closer for a kiss, Evgeni wrapped his arms around his partner and pulled him tight against him. Moaning softly into the kiss, he expressed the type of reaction he had to seeing Julian dressed so nicely and hearing him play so well.

"Of course we would come. Don't be silly, Julian. For you, we would all have season tickets.” They would all come as often as their schedules permitted. Occasionally obligations conflicted but he suspected that Julian was likely to have at least one very personal admirer at every show.

He raised his eyebrows at the idea of Julian being auctioned off.
"I was not knowing this would be happening.” Evgeni sent to Jan, who murmured to Tavi and then answered him back.

"You do not need to worry. We are pooling resources.” He smiled down at Julian. "I think three people is enough, yes?” He doubted that Julian would seriously consider anyone else but he, Jan and Tavi weren't going to give anyone else a chance to have alone time with their boyfriend.

"We will make sure you go home with us. Do not worry.” Evgeni grinned. "But perhaps we will not be so nice.” He regarded Julian with serious deep brown eyes. "You might be required to play all night for a demanding audience.”

((OOC: It might be humorous if someone gave them serious trouble with buying Julian. Say someone or someone's with a lot of money.))
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian only pulled a whisper's length away from Evgeni. Hearing that soft moan was an instant turn on. "Shit," he said, with a soft, airy laugh. "You do crazy things to me, Zhenya."

He smiled softly when Evgeni said he didn't know about the auction. Leaning up toward his taller lover, Julian softly kissed the tip of Evgeni's nose.
"I didn't know about it until just before the concert. I'm not obligated to join in, since I'm contracted and not a regular member. But they asked so I said yes."

Smoothing his hands over deceptively strong shoulders he watched Evgeni's face while he spoke again. Julian shook his head again, a tender smile on his lips.

"I was joking. I'll live, Zhenya. You guys don't have to pay money. These things are fun, really. Some little old ladies will put their money together and have me play at a tea party or something. It's all for charity. I did one last year, too."

Julian grinned at the memory.
"I ended up playing for someone's yacht party during their lunch. After it was over we were out at sea so they loaned me some trunks and invited me to join them."

That had been a great afternoon, and he still kept in touch with the family who'd won him too, as a matter of fact. Nice folks, they had him over for dinner on occasion and he'd played for their anniversary a few months ago.

His lover's grin was infectious, and Julian's own grew in response.
"Hey now," he teased. "You get me for an hour, two max. After that you'll have to sweeten the offer to get more."

He finished that with a soft, tiny bite to Evgeni's lower lip. Then he closed his eyes and sighed.
"Come on, lover. I wish we could slip out right now with our other halves but I'm supposed to mingle." Julian wrinkled his nose. "That actually is in my contract."

He twined his fingers in Evgeni's, though. There was no rule that said he couldn't bring a significant other (or three) with him to any event, and Julian being Julian, he didn't give a tin shit whether anyone thought more or less of him for going hand-in-hand with another man.
Evgeni 10 years ago
His desire was magnified by Julian's emotions that were sent back to him. Evgeni was just about to lean down for another kiss when more desire and amusement struck him. Jan's voice drifted, smooth and dry, into his thoughts. [What are you two doing over there and why couldn't you wait for us?]

[I believe the saying snooze you lose.] He sent back and then smiled down at Julian.
"The feeling is very mutual, Sunshine.”

Julian told him that they didn't have to buy him. He looked unconvinced but listened to his boyfriend's account of a previous stint into musical servitude. The experience didn't sound horrible. He shrugged slightly.

"We will see.”

Evgeni laughed when Julian said that they only got him for an hour or two and then they would have to make it worth his while to stay longer. "I believe we can manage to 'sweeten' deal. I will let the others know, perhaps they will say. 'Eh, two hours is fine and then Julian can sit out and watch or maybe he would like to leave and do some errands, is ok.” He gave his partner his best nonchalant look though they both knew that nothing of the sort would happen.

He sighed softly as Julian moved closer again, biting his lip teasingly and then moving away.

[Come on guys, seriously. Surrounded by old ladies here.] Jan sent to him sounding slightly pained. Then desire coursed through him again, coming from his more distant lover. [Okay, not completely surrounded.]

"Perhaps this contract needs to be renegotiated.” Evgeni muttered but followed Julian as he led them back toward the people. "Is there a minimum amount of time to this mingling obligation. Five minutes, ten?” He asked hopefully, gently squeezing the fingers twined with his. "Then we could celebrate more...privately.”
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian felt a little wave of warmth when Evgeni used the nickname he'd given him. He loved that he had one. He'd only ever been called Jules or J.

Evgeni's teasing made him laugh softly; he didn't think for a second he'd be relegated to 'watching' at all. Not if past trends were any indication of his lovers' combined appetites.

"I'll take up knitting or something to pass the time," he said, trying to be solemn about it. "That way I won't be in the way or anything."

The truth was, he'd really rather leave the reception and go home with his partner. More than really, really. But he couldn't. He sighed and nodded at Evgeni even as they headed out, feeling the little echo of desire that meant Jan was aware, and reciprocating.

"I'll bear it in mind when my contract is up. Hopefully they'll offer me another."

Before all of this, Julian had thought he might not renew his contract with the Symphony. He did want to travel, after all, and earn some recognition. Now, though, it seemed far more important to stay with the people who cared about him. With his folks, he'd just wanted to get away. In spite of how much they all loved each other, his sister's death still hurt and he needed his room.

Now the opposite was true. Things had happened here that reminded Julian he wasn't invincible, but instead of running away he wanted to stay closer. As close as he could. But he didn't think that made him weak. He didn't feel weak. Maybe not as solid as he used to be; he knew he leaned on his partners a lot. But he was getting better every week and he still wanted to be close to them. He thought that was okay.

Julian wandered from crowd to crowd with Evgeni, not releasing his hand unless they had to, sipping slowly at his single glass of champagne and declining any other drinks. He did eat, and he was beginning to get good at making it sort of look like Evgeni was eating, too. There were lots of little things they could do that made it appear as if they were sharing food while Julian consumed most of it.

Soon it was time for the auction to begin, and the Director of the Board signaled for everyone to gather around. There were ten auctions. Seven were groups and three were single performers, one of which, obviously, was Julian himself. He was eager to see if Evgeni, Jan, and Tavi would make good on their promise to keep their kept man, or if someone would outbid them. He loved the notion that he'd be going to his own lovers though, and he idly wondered if they'd actually make him play for them for an hour... and what they'd be doing in the meantime.
Evgeni 10 years ago
"I am sure Tavi can teach if you want.” Evgeni smiled at Julian. "Ah, but she will be too busy. Good luck with knitting. Is a good skill.” He patted Julian on the back in mock comfort.

They mingled for a while and Julian's words about his contract being up and hoping that they will offer him a new contract made him wonder what they were all going to do together when they couldn't all be together. Right now everything was fine but they each had connections and obligations that could be a problem. If there had been just him and Julian then he would happily move to where ever Julian wanted to go but Jan and Tavi both had family in the city. They likely couldn't just leave and what if being a rockstar and a vampire was possible? Jan might want to tour the world with Nox Aeternus. How would they manage to that?

[What are you so moody over?] Jan sent to him.

[I was just wondering what we would do if one of us needed to live away from the others for a while.]

[Like they needed their space?]

[No, like Julian might get a contract elsewhere next year. We cannot all pick up and leave the city to join him.]

Evgeni then spent some time clarifying that no Julian did not express a want to leave, quite the opposite. He could almost hear Jan's shrug. [Dude, we'll sort it out if and when the time comes. I don't think Julian wants to leave and the rest of us are pretty content to stay here....Yes, Tavi says she's staying in the city too. We just might need to give Julian a job if he ends up without a contract. You can tell him that I think I can get him something.]

Jan proceeded to tell him what and he dutifully relayed the message to Julian while they were mingling with some ambassador's attache and his gallery owning date. [Jan says if you do not get another contract then he says he is sure he can get you a job as a musical telegram performer.] Evgeni inwardly groaned at the very idea of Julian wasting his talents in such a way. [Please, do not piss off your boss. He is talking costumes. It will not be pretty for you.]

Eventually Julian had to leave him to gather around someone with a microphone. The auctions were going to begin. Jan and Tavi found him now that everyone's attention was on the charity event.

"Hey, Hotshot, done monopolizing Julian's attention?” Jan asked with a grin.

"You are done selfishly stealing all the time with Tavi?” He asked in returned and reached out an arm for the beautiful woman in question. She smiled brilliantly at him and stepped in close, wrapping one arm around his waist.

"I don't know. Give us time to find a nice broom closet in this place and I will let you know.”

"We'll have to do that later.” Tavi gestured toward the stage and then gave Julian a small wave with her free hand.

"They will save the best for last. We've got time.”

"No, we are needing to decide how much we can bid together.”

"However much it takes for Julian to be ours.” Jan said nonchalantly like that wasn't even a potential problem.

"There are rich people here.”

"And we are two of them.” Jan hugged him on the other side. "How hard is it likely to be?”

((OOC: Figured that was a good place to cut it so that we can find out how bad it might likely be. I was going to get this up before you went to bed but I went looking for a pattern and it turned out to be video and then I lost track of time. ))
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian stared at Evgeni for a second when he sent to him about Jan getting him a job if he wasn't re-signed by the Symphony. It took him a moment to realize that one or both of them might have worried that he was going to leave Nachton, and he grinned, his smile white even among the white, silver and gold decor.

"I'm not leaving you," he said. He leaned down closer to Evgeni's ear. "Any of you. I don't care if I end up teaching violin to some irritating eight-year-old who makes it sound like a cat in heat. I'm staying where you are for as long as you all want me here."

He spoke out loud because no one was paying attention to them and he wanted to brush his lips against Evgeni's skin. Hopefully the resulting reaction would pass through to Jan, and maybe somehow from him to Tavi. Julian loved all three of them. It could have been a mess, but somehow it worked for them.

All too soon he was standing on the stage watching his fellow musicians get auctioned off. The string quartet was auctioned first for a very respectable five thousand dollars. Then there was a duo of bassoon and oboe, and they earned a good sixty-five hundred after several minutes of spirited bidding. Julian settled in for a bit of a wait; the concert had been good, the musicians had done some damn good mingling, and their patrons were in the mood to be giving. He could very clearly see Evgeni from where he stood now, and right beside him the smaller forms of Jan and Tavi. He shot them a cheeky grin and winked one green-blue eye, tossing some of his curls away from his face.

The soloists were himself, the principal pianist, Leslie, and the principal flautist, an older gentleman named Jacques, who everyone called Queso out of a joke gone way, way overboard. The man seemed to love it, though, which was why the nickname had stuck. Someone bid against Leslie's husband and won her skills for an hour for twenty thousand dollars. That was impressive until Queso went for a group bid of twenty eight thousand, apparently for someone's wedding which the man would probably have done for free - hopeless romantic.

Julian listened to the Director announce his name and was surprised at the amount of applause he received. He gave a happy wave to the crowd in general but his eyes kept straying to his partners where they stood. Would they actually bid on him? He would hate for them to waste money on something he would gladly give them, yet oddly he was warmed by the idea that they would do such a thing. It was okay if it was for charity, right?

To that end Julian stopped looking at them, afraid his expression might convince them to go one way or the other. Instead he gazed out at the crowd, as the Director started the bidding and someone immediately raised his hand to pledge five thousand dollars.

Well, go him!
Evgeni 10 years ago
Apparently his moment of brooding had been obvious to both Jan and Julian but he was happy to hear that Julian wanted to stay, even if it meant teaching the violin to annoying eight year old children. [What about annoying five hundred and eight year old children? And what if it meant wearing an Easter bunny costume while playing violin?]

The amount that some of the other musicians were going for raised his eyebrows a little bit but he was not particularly worried. He had enough money to cover even the most expensive or everyone together though it would hurt his soul to pay such a price for anyone but Julian.

Tavi was squeezing his waist rather tightly. When he looked down at her, she was biting her knuckle and looking up at Julian. He couldn't read her expression or guess her thoughts which made him wish for that bond that would have given him at least a little hint.


"Yeah, I know crime solving shows are all the rage and everyone in them lives the good life with great fashion and fancy cars...but detectives don't make a lot of money.” Tavi looked up at him with big emerald green eyes. "I couldn't even afford the cheapest, wow that sounds bad...Yeah, I couldn't afford anyone up there apparently.”

"Don't worry we got this.” Jan leaned across Evgeni to smile at Tavi. His clanmate then looked up at him. "We got this, right?”

"Da, we got this.” Evgeni hugged them both and then raised his hand. "Eight thousand.”

Someone off to the side increased the bid to ten thousand.

Jan raised his hand.
"Fifteen thousand!” The music gave Julian a brilliant smile.

Which fell when someone in the back spoke up. "Twenty thousand.”

Evgeni nudged Tavi.
"Bid something higher, try not to go crazy.”

Tavi hopped a little and raised her hand. "Twenty two thousand.”

"What? That's not going to fly very long.” Jan said shaking his head.

"He said not to go crazy.”

"Well you could have gone a little crazy.”

Evgeni sighed softly to himself and looked up at Julian. [We are doing our best, Sunshine. Do you think they will let me offer a singer and detective as part of the barter for you?]

Meanwhile the bid for their boyfriend was now at forty thousand. Jan looked a little shocked and Tavi was somewhat more pale than he remembered her being a few minutes ago.

Evgeni raised his hand.
"Forty five thousand.”

"What was this charity again?” Jan murmured next to him. "and how do I get to be the next cause?”

((OOC: I kept the who anonymous for now so that we can decide on who that is going to be later if we want. I figure more people are bidding in the beginning anyway. ))
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian tried not to laugh out loud when Evgeni mentioned the Easter bunny. [Wow, Zhenya. Do you have a yiffing fetish no one told me about?]

He was just proud of himself for knowing what yiffing was, really.

As the bidding warmed up and Julian tried to keep his gaze from his friends, he couldn't avoid hearing their voices. Evgeni, then Jan, then Tavi, the price increasing as someone else outbid them.

[Do the singer and the detective know you're trying to be sneaky and cut them into the deal?]

There was amusement in his tone; Julian loved the way they could all tease with each other. He loved ribbing his lovers, just as much as he loved when they gave him hell back. To be fair, they had all been a little gentler with him than usual lately given everything that had been happening, and the fact that he supposed he had been a little... fragile. But things were getting back on track and he recalled having been the butt of some pretty spectacular one-liners last weekend. Stuff like that made him laugh.

Meanwhile Julian's price tag climbed out of the twenties into the thirties and he felt himself blushing a very deep red. Mr. Campbell, the one who'd won him last year, was bidding furiously with Mrs. Campbell nudging him in the side. A few other people he didn't recognize were still in it too and Julian didn't know quite how to take the fact that he was apparently pretty popular for music. He was flattered and mortified at the same time.

Evgeni's voice cut through the crowd again, raising a murmur that swept over them at when he said forty-five. Julian's eyes snapped to Evgeni's now, glancing at all three of his friends in turn with slight panic. Did they even have that much money?

Okay, yeah, famous musician, former Tzar... detective. Two-thirds of his lovers were probably rolling in it. Tavi probably had access to all kinds of wealth as the Mayor's daughter among other things, but Julian didn't think she would ever have been content to live off daddy's accounts. He suspected she lived off her own modest salary.

Another voice rang out, a new bidder coming late to the game.

"Fifty thousand."

Julian didn't see the bidder, but he responded by clapping a hand over his heart and staggering back a few steps in a mock heart attack. He then straightened, leaned over the director's microphone, and made a show of swallowing nervously and tugging at the collar of his dress shirt.

"You, uh, realize you're bidding on just one violinist, right?"

There was light laughter and someone called out, "One really hot violinist who rocks guyliner like no one's business!"

Julian's red face got even redder and he glared at Jan for a second. He knew the liner thing would come back and haunt him. Obviously some of Nox's fans managed to be here (the ones with rich daddies), and they weren't going to forget that Julian had been talked into 'stage makeup' on more than one occasion. Not that it was Jan's fault... Julian had actually enjoyed it, too.

He cleared his throat again and said into the mic,
"It is a little warm up here, yeah."

((ooc: We're not naming any names on who decided to 'goth' Julian up some for any shows. He says damn straight he rocks the guyliner.))
Evgeni 10 years ago
[Of course not, Julian. If Singer and detective knew of side deal then it wouldn't be very sneaky.] Evgeni gave his boyfriend on stage a small secret smile.

"Wow, he's adorably embarrassed. I think this might be worth whatever we end up paying.” Jan said with a small chuckle. He then pulled out his phone and snapped a picture or two of a red faced Julian. "Potential blackmail later.”

"I doubt that would be very effective.” Tavi said dubiously. "but I agree, he is adorable when he blushes like that.”

Someone mentioned the guyliner and both Jan and Tavi laughed. Jan's band was definitely the reason for Julian wearing it but Tavi had quickly become everyone's favorite makeup artist when she was around. She was much better at applying...well anything they wanted applied and much faster at doing it. According to her she had plenty of practice with disguises.

Julian claimed that it was a little hot up on the stage. Jan's voice rang out above the murmuring and bidding. "Then it's a good thing you don't have any eyeliner on now or it might run.” The singer smiled sweetly up at Julian and then turned the innocent smile on the people who turned to look at him.

"Do we get to bid on you too?” One young girl said. She appeared in perhaps her early twenties. "I would pay over fifty thousand for the both of you.” She gave Jan a speculative glance.

Evgeni smiled slightly and tapped the side of his cheek. [My devious plan is working.]

"I tell you what. If you manage to win Julian then I will join him.” Jan gave her a sly smile.

With a sharp intake of breath, Evgeni jerked his clanmate's arm, hard. He likely left finger shaped bruises.
"Shut up, we are trying to win Julian. Don't make this more difficult.”

The girl turned around and raised her hand. "Sixty thousand.”

"Too late.” Tavi intoned flatly. She then leaned across his body to hiss at Jan. "What were you thinking?”

"I...well, I...” He sighed. "I was thinking that if she did win then maybe Julian wouldn't want to go alone but I didn't think about the other.” Jan looked over at them both. "Ooops?”

[Don't worry she won't bet any more.] His clanmate's sending was certain. Sure enough the girl looked vaguely worried all of sudden and then she turned her gaze to him and appeared almost pleading.

"Sixty five thousand.” Evgeni said with a calm that he was starting to lose. He wasn't breaking the bank but it was getting more serious by the moment.
The girl looked relieved. She clutched her small purse and offered no more opposition.

However someone in the back offered another bid which brought it up to sixty eight thousand. Jan turned around and looked toward the back room, his eyes narrowed and his demeanor focused. Then he turned around and faced the front. A feeling of nervousness came through the bond.

[What did you do?]

[Uh...It would be more what I didn't do. I didn't succeed in glamouring the other bidder which means...]

[That a vampire older than you wants Julian to come play.]


[Don't worry, Jan's nervousness, not mine. He was trying to be clever and it didn't work.] Evgeni sent to Julian so that the echo of Jan's emotions and now his own wouldn't make Julian think that the money was a problem.

"Seventy thousand.”

((OOC: If you want we can decide when I get home who the other bidder is. ))
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
[Zhenya, that's devious, underhanded, and ridiculously sexy of you. It's a good thing I have a jacket on because I don't need this audience to see what I'm sporting under it. I swear I'm going to jump you in the parking lot.]

Between the heated kisses from earlier and Evgeni's current line of teasing Julian was turning into a hot mess on the low stage. All three of them knew exactly which buttons to press with him, but sometimes it was easier for Evgeni simply because he could send to Julian and get him amped up from anywhere. That little bit of aggressive possessiveness in Evgeni's tone never failed to get Julian hot, fast.

Meanwhile the bidding was reaching epic proportions and Julian was both nervous and ecstatic about that. God, he didn't want his friends killing themselves over this, but the fact that his skills were apparently desirable - was he really getting a name for himself here in Nachton? He knew he'd done well at tonight's performance. He'd practiced until his fingers were raw. He was better than he'd ever been. But the entertainment industry was a tough one, a competitive one, particularly for musicians. Classical musicians. They needed an edge, they needed something that set them apart, and Julian's agent had told him that with his fiddling and his electric violin, he had the potential.

Playing with Nox had helped a lot, too, and he definitely had both Jan and Evgeni to thank for that. He was giddy with the idea that he might actually be turning into a -someone-.

That giddiness faded slightly when he felt a little echo of nerves from Evgeni... or Jan. He didn't know, it wasn't prevalent. Evgeni explained it quickly though, as the bidding war continued on. Two voices seemed to be vying for him, the bid going from sixty-five to seventy, the last bid in Evgeni's sure tones.

[Give him a kiss for me,] Julian said. [Jan is always clever. And shit, don't break the bank, Evgeni. This is too much. Way too much.]

"Seventy five thousand."

A third, new voice joined in, and the crowd was way too thick now for Julian to see who was engaged in this battle for his skills. The sheer amount of money involved was staggering to him, and he felt his own nervous flutter. He wanted to close his eyes, run from the stage, fan some of the heat from his face, and take a few deep breaths, but that wasn't his job. His job was to make money for charity by selling himself as best he could so instead of doing any of the above he tossed a bright smile in the direction of the newest voice.

I want a name for myself, he thought, but I'm not this good. I can't be worth this much. Shit. This is way too much.

Queso, still standing closest to him, nudged him in the ribs with his elbow. "Relax, son," he said. "This is fun for them. And it's a good cause. They can afford it, and you just have to go play your ass off for an hour or two. No different from any other afternoon for you, eh?"

Julian shot the older musician a smile and huffed out a soft breath.
"Yeah. Just like any other afternoon."

Queso grinned at him and made a sweeping gesture with his hand. Then he called out to the audience, "Come on, we had a bet that Julian would go for at least the amount of everyone else combined!"

Julian stared at Queso for a second, shocked by that news and not even sure it was true. The older man turned back to him, eyes sparkling. "I bet on you," he said. "It's in my best interest to whore you out a little more, kid."

That had Julian snorting in laughter coming from the older, seemingly distinguished man. The Director, following their conversation, did some quick math. "Well, if you want to win your bet Julian's got to go for eighty-six thousand."

"Not impossible," Queso mused.

Julian goggled at him.
"What do you win if I get sold for that much?"

"A free shake from Meg's."

Unable to bite back his laughter Julian just pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head, shoulders shaking with mirth. Some days, his life just seemed way too unreal.
Evgeni 10 years ago
[In the parking lot, Julian, you take me to all the best places.] Evgeni sent the words along with his amusement and desire. He wouldn't mind being jumped in the parking lot, not at all.

Of course the first order of business would be to get to the parking lot. For that to happen they needed to either win or lose this auction. He was still determined not to lose, especially not after Julian confessed that he needed his jacket on up there.

The bidding continued but now they seemed to be down to someone in the back and themselves. Jan had found that he had tried to play his glamour tricks on the wrong person which suggested someone older than Jan. A person that old could have stashed away quite a bit of money.

[I suppose I should have tried for the blue haired guy or maybe the blond one with her. I mean blue hair, how old could he be, right?] Jan cast a glance backward and then quickly looked back toward the stage. [Great now she is watching me and so is her pierced friend.]

Evgeni resisted the urge to look back and see who Jan was talking about. He just hoped the vampire behind them wouldn't make a scene in public. Wrapping his arm tighter around Jan, he whispered softly.
"Just behave yourself from now on and let's hope we can all get out of here in one piece.”

"A good goal.” A smooth feminine voice said behind him. She sounded amused but that didn't mean anything. He was pretty certain Ellis could kill someone with a smile on her face from all the stories he had heard about their former clan leader. That trait, unfortunately, wasn't unique to her.

"Eighty Thousand” Evgeni said and then turned to looked at the woman who was now right behind him.

She was pretty and Asian. Her eyes were a startling gold that matched the sequined sheath dress that she wore. Her companions were equally exotic. The blond looked fresh and clean in his tux and glasses. He looked serene and studious with his neatly styled hair and perfect posture. The accents on his tux were gold which made him and the woman look like a stunning couple. The other man was in a class all by himself and clearly conforming to convention wasn't not something that concerned him.

Tavi turned to look when the other woman spoke. Her eyes roamed over the three people behind them and then stayed on the blue haired man. "Nice colour.”

Her own hair was done for winter, according to what he had been told. It was dark brown at the top and around her face and then faded into an icy blue white that hung in waves down to her lower back. He had to admit that it did look like her brown hair was slowly being frozen over.

Evgeni sent to Julian [ Do you know this woman behind us?]
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
[We'd get farther if you stopped turning me on so bad... so good. Whatever. I'm just a weak little human. I can barely hold it in.]

Julian's humor was evident in his tone and he knew his amusement must have carried over too - at least he suspected it did. He loved teasing back and forth with his friends, his lovers. The three of them made him feel so comfortable. He was scarred, inside and out, by the events of the past few years, but when he was with any of them or all of them it just didn't seem to matter.

The next time he heard Evgeni's voice in his head, it was to ask about the woman behind them. Julian let his gaze wander over the crowd, lingering on the lady in question. She was beautiful, whoever she was. Her face was, maybe, slightly familiar, but not in any way that made Julian take notice. He might have seen her at another concert, at the store, or walking down the road for all he knew.

[No, Zhenya, I don't know her. Or either of the men with her.]

Two men, one on either side of her, were clearly her companions by the way they leaned in and spoke to each other and to her. One of them Julian knew he wouldn't have forgotten because, seemingly at odds with his tux, the man sported a hairstyle worthy of Adam Lambert on a big hair day, in three different shades of blue. Not to mention a surprising number of facial piercings, all of which Julian could clearly see from where he was. The other man was smaller, slighter, but looked surprisingly serene next to the Asian woman. He was Asian as well, but he had bleached-out hair that was a much lighter shade of brown than it should be. Where the man with the blue hair was animated, the light-haired man was incredibly still.

Evgeni's outside voice brought Julian's attention snapping back to the Russian, and he uttered a soft sigh as his lover placed a bid that would guarantee Julian played his fingers raw for them all. And perform any other... er, pieces, in his, uh, repertoire. Right.

The bid was a very clear challenge, it seemed. Julian wondered what the other bidder could want him for. For a brief second he actually hoped she'd win so he could find out. And then the fear of the unknown sent a jolt through him and he shook his head slightly. Maybe joining this auction had been a bad idea. There was nothing to fear, he'd done this before... but that little 'but what if...' wouldn't leave him alone.
Evgeni 10 years ago
[You better hold it in. I do not believe the symphony would condone that kind of display...however you might fetch more money that way.] He was pretty sure high society was not ready for spontaneous orgasm on stage. They probably wouldn't see much under the tux but the noises and motions would probably give Julian away.

[Not that you are going, bottom basement prices, now.] The words were sent with a slight pause as he thought over whether that was the correct slang. Evgeni wondered why basement prices were cheaper. His experience said that things sold out of a basement tended to be illegal and that rarely meant cheap. Perhaps he would remember to ask Jan later.

Julian said he did not know the woman or the men with her. [Hmm, she seems intent on buying your skills. I would think perhaps she was at least a regular or something. A fan. ]

"Yes, he has a style all his own.” The woman smiled at Tavi with a glance at her blue haired friend. She then turned her gaze toward Jan and then looked back up at Julian on stage.

Evgeni felt Jan's nervousness rise slightly and he also noticed that while Jan looked at the woman he never met her eyes. A fact that seemed to make the vampire smile a little more.

"You all seem very determined to have Julian's services.”

"We are very determined to have Julian.” Tavi answered bluntly.

Dark eyebrows rose but Evgeni noticed the woman did not seem very shocked or scandalized by their girlfriend's words. Or even the muttered "repeatedly” from Jan.

"I see. Well I wouldn't want to stand in the way of love...or lust, whichever it might be. Shall we make at least sure the flautist wins his money?” She raised her hand and bid eighty five thousand.

"What is another couple of thousand at this point?” Evgeni shrugged.

"Indeed.” The woman said from behind him.

He raised his hand and bid
"Eighty six thousand.”

"I wish you all well.” She shook her head when the auctioneer looked in her direction. Then she leaned very close to Jan and whispered softly in his ear. "I don't blame you for trying.”

Evgeni watched as the woman and her party slid through the crowd and toward the front of the stage. Even though she was further away, her words, seemingly innocent, carried clearly to his ears. She smiled up at Julian and waved a farewell saying "Work hard, Julian. Perhaps next time.”
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian now had to hide his laughter behind his hand. [Damn it, Zhenya. I'm going to choke on my own spit. How's that going to look?]

Controlling himself, he tried to squint out at the woman in question without looking too obvious, but at this distance he really couldn't see facial features. He got that she was Asian, and from here he still had the nagging feeling he should know her from somewhere. That was it.

[Could very well be she's a regular,] he sent back to Evgeni. [Just, she's not ringing a bell right now.]

The bidding reached its (he supposed) inevitable conclusion, with his lovers forking over far more money than they should have to. Julian was... he wasn't sure. Gratified, mortified, flattered, excited - lots of things. The woman who'd been bidding against Evgeni approached the low stage and Julian finally got a better look at her face. He practically felt himself perk up when he recognized her from months ago.

"Hana?" Julian beamed at her, delighted now to realize that regardless of who'd won the auction he'd have been okay. Any remaining nerves fled. "Next year, d'you think?"

He hurried to the very edge of the stage before she could leave, now that she was closer. In low tones he said,
"Hey, really, do you need me for something? You know I'd be happy to help out."

He glanced back at the Director who was trying to pretend he didn't see or hear anything. Julian was pretty sure this wasn't strictly professional of him, but hey, whatever. Hana was someone he'd consider a friend, and he was genuinely curious to know what she'd have had him do.

His blue-green eyes flickered up to Evgeni, Jan, and Tavi, and his face turned slightly pink.
"I mean, if those three, uh, ever let me stop, um, performing."

He shrugged sheepishly at Hana.
"Really. I'm happy to help."

The Asian man next to Hana remained silent, content, still practically oozing zen although his eyes were sharp and he seemed to miss nothing. The man with the blue hair (and blue eyebrows and, closer up, swirling blue and yellow eyes - and was he wearing a skirt?) looked at Hana and cocked an eyebrow at her.

is offering," he said. Julian nodded in agreement.