Time: After Beside A Black Tarn
Place: New Bangkok, Barbary
"Where you off to looking like a thundercloud, Ver?" Corny straightened from where he'd been fussing with Rosa's hooves.
Damn it. Verin had hoped he could slip out without seeing anyone. "Somewhere."
"You need company? I might could come along if you give me a minute."
"No. Did I ask for company?" Verin cringed inwardly. That was harsh.
"All right, then." The hurt in Corny's voice was muffled as he bent back to Rosa's hoof. "Don't mind me."
Trailing steam, Verin stomped out of the cargo bay. Fuck it. I don't have to explain myself. Never made any promises that I'd tell him everything or shit like that. This is me still. My life. And I'm gonna do whatever the fuck I want.
People scattered from his path as he stomped out of the spaceport and into the streets of New Bangkok. Because he could, and because he was running a little late, he hailed a tuk-tuk, surprised when the first one stopped for him. Usually took a few passing him before one stopped. He climbed in and gave the driver the address.
The driver's eyebrows rose. "You sure that's where you want to go, Mr. Demon?"
"Yeah, I'm fucking sure. I tell you where to go. You drive. That's how this works. First day?"
"Ha. Funny demon." The driver snorted and eased back into traffic, heading uptown.
Once they arrived, he paid the driver a little extra for not making any smartass remarks. Yeah, this place was in a fancier part of town than he'd normally go, and yeah, it was kinda pricey. He got why the driver didn't think he belonged. Didn't mean he appreciated it. Ballsy judgmental humans.
No sign hung over the door to the establishment. Just a plain black door and a person either knew the place was there or they didn't. Verin squared his shoulders, strode in like he belonged there, and only let out a little puff of smoke when he saw they had another new receptionist.
She gave him the hairy eyeball as he approached the desk. "Can I help you, um, sir?"
"Yeah. I'm here to see Gino."
Her perfectly applied cosmetics threatened to crack when she wrinkled her forehead. "Do you have an appointment?"
"No, I'm just here to cause trouble 'cause I'm a demon. Of course I have an appointment. You could check first before going all snooty as gold shit on me."
"Sir, there's no need to take that tone—"
The heavy red curtains behind the front desk flipped open, revealing a beautiful human in skintight shorts and crop top, his makeup much more artfully applied than Ms. Thing's at the desk. "Tara, is my ten o'clock— Oh, there you are, Mr. Hammer! Right on time. Why don't you slide on back here with me? Tara will sign you in."
The receptionist stared from one to the other and Verin was more than happy to stride past and leave her gaping. Gino took his arm with a smile, hips twitching as he walked Verin through the velvet-lined corridor.
"The usual today, handsome? Or did you need something…special?"
"Usual's good, Gino." At the alcove where Gino held the curtains aside for him, Verin stopped and scuffed a clawed foot on the carpet. "Maybe horns, too?"
"They do look like they need some attention," Gino crooned, stroking along the outer curl of the left one. "Hop up on the chair, sweetie, and put those glorious scaly feet in the water for me."
Verin did as he was asked, knowing the foot tub Gino used for him was three times bigger than the normal one. Good to have a place that understood. He let out a grateful sigh as his feet went into the ginger-scented, Epsom salt water. Hell's fucking gates, that always feels good.
Perched behind Verin on a stool, Gino started on his horns while his feet soaked, filing away rough spots, polishing them to high shine. "Sure you don’t want any color today? You know I can do your nails in a nice black if you want."
"No." Verin let the steam trickle from his nostrils, doing his best not to sound so short and sharp. "Thanks, Gino. No color."
He let Gino chatter away at him, the stream of small talk swirling around him in soothing waves while he had his claws clipped and filed. Gino fussed at him for letting one of them split so badly, but even that didn't annoy him. This was time away from everything, away from the galaxy and all the weird shit in his life.
When he returned to the Brimstone a couple of hours later, he was relaxed enough to be thinking of an apology for Corny. He hadn't meant to hurt his cowboy. It was all just so…
"There you are." Corny's hands slipped around his waist from behind, his chin on Verin's shoulder as he drew in a deep breath. "My, my, someone smells powerful nice."
Strong hands took him by the arms and turned him. Verin expected Corny to be laughing at him, but those eyes were full of understanding instead. "Bull-headed sometimes, Hammer. You are that. You should know better by now."
Verin frowned. "Know what?"
"That I ain't gonna be makin' fun or saying you're unmanly for things you hanker for. You got your nails and your horns seen to. They look damn good. Ain't nothin' to be ashamed of."
"But it's… It's a fucking pedicure. I mean, fussy demons like Shax might get that done…and then they always wanna add some damn color, too. It's not, you know, a really butch place."
Now Corny did snicker. "Sorry. I was just thinking you could call it a horny-pedi. And if you wanted color, so what? Could paint your claws bright red and you'd still be twice as tough as nails."
Verin rested his head on Corny's shoulder. "Good. Shit… Yeah. It's good. Wanna come with me next time?"
Another soft chuckle rumbled through Corny's chest as he wrapped his arms tight around Verin. "You know, I think I just might."
About The Brimstone Journals
Extra treats for our Brimstone readers, Brimstone Journals will post every Tuesday. Short scenes from characters' lives before, after or during the stories.
About the Author