Dance of Shadows: Chapter 16

“You want me to go to a fraternity party?”

Alley lay propped up in her bed and couldn’t be bothered to do more than give Finn an incredulous eye from where he stood in the second floor hallway. He spread his hands wide and adopted the most hopeful expression ever seen outside of a cute puppy. Then he fell to one knee before her, cinching the deal. Alley laughed at him before throwing her pillow at his face.

“Fine, but I don’t see why you need a wingman. I heard you and Amara last night.”

“That’s…not what you…well, it is…” Finn cleared his throat and said, “Things are going in nice directions there but we haven’t arrived. Not that it’s any of your business. And I’ve never seen a fraternity party! It is, I understand, an essential part of the American experience. How can I go back home having missed this singular opportunity?”

“They party all year long, you’ll have more chances.”

“Then think of poor Nate.”

“Jesus, you’re not bringing him, are you?” Alley pulled off her t-shirt and started fishing around for something a little nicer to wear. Noticing Finn’s slightly poleaxed expression, she just waved a hand at him. “I’m sure you’ve seen a bra before, English. Now, why do you want to bring Nate? You know they’ll eat him alive, right?”

“Would they?”

Alley finally found a nice tan skirt that went well with a thin-strapped white top. She stripped out of her jeans first, mostly to make Finn squirm in the hallway. Dressing quickly, she then began the hard part; finding shoes. “Take my word for it; Nate weighs like fifty pounds less than they do, wears Doctor Who t-shirts and can’t small talk to save his life. Don’t get me wrong, I think that adds character. But fraternities exist to pick on people who aren’t like them. Well, I suppose they drink too.”

“If you feel that strongly about them, why are you getting dressed up?” Finn said, crossing his arms.

“Free booze!” She grinned. “Besides, I might get lucky.”

Finn’s eyes went wide. “I thought you-“

“C’mon, English. Even the United Kingdom must know the magic formula for turning straight girls gay for a day. It’s simple math: Alcohol + Male Attention = More tail than Alley can chase. If the only price for banging a hot chick is some guys watching, eh.” She shrugged.

“You’re a complete nutter.”

Alley slipped her feet into a nice pair of heels and sighed in satisfaction. “Love makes you nuts,” she said as she picked up her ID, just in case. “I’m in remission. Let’s go. No Nate, though. I know you guys are besties but it’s not just Amara you need to worry about. Here, I’ll show you,” she added when she saw the confused look on his face.

The pair of them headed downstairs. Jia sat in her customary spot in the couch nearest the door, legs curled up under her as she studied a textbook. Nate was also in his usual place on the middle couch watching the big-screen tv. Julie Campbell, his after-hours telepath and quasi-jailor, sat next to him absently stroking Nate’s Siamese, Perpugilliam. No Amara tonight unsurprisingly. If the cute short-haired brunette had been around, doubtlessly Finn would not be up for a party.

She paused at the top of the stairs and concentrated. All of her thoughts dwindled into a single frame, a mental picture of a fraternity and Nate in the middle of it. When Julie glanced their way, Alley pointed at her own head. The telepath looked warily at her but then the tension left her. It returned in full force a moment later, her eyes widening slightly before she looked at Nate and shook her head. Tellingly, Julie scooted an inch closer to the boy.

“Thought so,” Alley said, nudging Finn in the ribs. “Let’s go, English. Hey everyone, we’re going to a party, we’ll be back later.”

“What kind of party?” Nate asked, finally looking away from the screen.

“The boring kind,” Julie said.

“Have fun,” Jia said.

The image of the smiling, smolderingly hot Chinese girl stayed with Alley the whole HCP lift ride. Thankfully, Finn started up an endless chatter of amusing anecdotes. That boy had one of the most remarkable knacks for storytelling she’d come into contact with. His social engineering ability must be huge. Alley smiled, nodded, and quietly earmarked him for future activities.

Given how much time they spent in the HCP, it didn’t exactly surprise Alley that she didn’t know where they were going. She’d learned enough of the campus to be strategically useful if certain scenarios came up. Otherwise, she knew where classes and food was. The path Finn took led them beyond that point, down old sidewalks towards the fringes of campus.

The fraternity house lay on the other side of one of the athletic fields. It was truly sprawling, almost an apartment complex in scope with enough rooms to house a good twenty people or so. At the moment, the house was so overfull of people they’d spilled out onto the lawn. Pulsing music blared out the open windows, turning the grass field into an extended dance floor. With a layer of tall shrubs bordering all sides of the property, they even had a relatively decent layer of privacy…and sound break for their poor neighbors.

Alley grinned as she came into contact with the enemy, a familiar wall of boy and girl flesh that reluctantly parted as she pressed against it. Finn followed in her wake, looking a bit stunned at being surrounded by so many nearly naked bodies writhing and gyrating against each other. The sun was just starting to set by the time they reached the front door and made their way inside.

The music surged through her teeth. Alley snatched up a red solo cup and pressed it into Finn’s hands. She grabbed another and took a drink before making a face. The beer had a decided lack of awesome but that just added to the authentic party experience.

Even in Florida, there was a kind of white girl that was drawn to handsome black men and Finn was quickly picked up by a cute redhead in a pink bikini. She considered saving him but lost most of her ability to coherently think when a pale girl with raven-black hair gave her a come-hither look and crooked a finger.

They almost made it through one song before they had their mouths on each other. Alley wished she were a little more buzzed but couldn’t complain about the company at least. Raven-hair kept peeking around to look for someone so she probably wasn’t alone. Judging by her eagerness, Alley wagered the gorgeous girl was hoping her boyfriend would get turned on watching his girlfriend make out with another girl. The alternative, that she was hoping not to get caught, seemed increasingly less likely when Raven-hair slipped a hand under Alley’s skirt.

Things were just getting interesting when a hand fell on Alley’s shoulder. She turned with a smile, hoping it wasn’t a frat boy she’d have to push back to voyeur status. Then her heart sank.

“Mike, there you are!” Raven-hair was breathless and sweating slightly with how far things had gone on the dance floor. “Have you met…” The drunken cutie swayed slightly and only now seemed to realize she didn’t know the name of the girl she’d picked up.

“We’ve met,” Alley said, carefully extracting her arm from around Mike Cavil’s girlfriend. “Hey Mike. Hope the nose’s okay.”

The tall boy with brown hair had traded his glasses out for contacts at some point. His nose looked perfectly fine. The rest of him blended in perfectly with the fraternity, a cocky attitude matched with an athletic build that would give way to beer weight if he wasn’t careful. Mike was pretty obviously as drunk as his girlfriend.

Dumb fucking luck.

Mike just stared at her for a moment. Sadly, Raven-hair tipped the encounter past the point of saving when she licked Alley’s cheek while reaching a hand up under Alley’s top. Mike went shock-still. Then he swung his arm back and threw a punch right at her face.

Since Alley’s normal range of motion was encumbered by too much cute girl on her, she just twisted her head to the side and dodged it. Instead, she stepped inside his reach and pulled Raven-hair with her. Mike was suddenly surrounded on both sides by girl.

“We’re good,” she whispered in his ear. “Your girlfriend looks up for any hard feelings you might have. What do you say we settle this on the sheets?”

Unfortunately, Finn took that moment to notice his roommate was being accosted by the telepathic frat boy that followed Nate around to all his day classes. Putting two and two together, the British black man shook off Pink Bikini Redhead and closed the distance. Ignoring Alley’s warning glances, he put his hand on Mike’s shoulder.

“Leave my friend alone before you do yourself a mischief.”

Mike hadn’t made up his mind how to react to the girl sandwich but he was still predictably male when it came to other males. He hit Finn across the mouth and knocked the surprised man down. Alley groaned, gave Raven-hair a regretful look and promptly kneed the other girl’s boyfriend between the legs.

In long drunken seconds, the party disintegrated into a brawl. Two frat guys grabbed Finn off the floor, having seen their buddy Mike go down and assuming he’d done it. Alley caught up with them and suckerpunched one before he could hit Finn in the stomach. She kicked the second in the face, barely avoiding a gouge from her heels. Finn scrambled free and shook his head, seemingly stunned.

“Things are about to go to shit in a second, English. You clear? You hit your head?”

“Oh I’m fine, love. I’m the king of fine. Next time you want to kick someone in the face while wearing a skirt, though, you might consider knickers. May I compliment you on your grooming?”

Alley paused as a tide of angry drunk fraternity boys swelled around them. Then she just grinned and shook her head as she realized the angle Finn had been in for that kick. Finn got a playful pat on his cheek for being cheeky.

It was all they had time for as the fists started flying.

So Alley pulled out her phone and dialed as she stepped back from a grapple. She slipped out of her heels and kicked another in the face at the first ring. A swift leap got her on top of a drink-filled table on the second ring and, by the third, she’d skidded down to the end and tipped it over. The back end swung up and hit another frat boy in the face. By the time Nate picked up, she was perched in a window sill to stay out of the fray.

“Nate, get your ass over here, we need your help.”

“Huh? Where? What’s going on?”

“Big brawl. We could use a cover-up if you can talk Julie into it. No, don’t talk her into it. Just bring her with, fast. I mean, right now, right this instant, get off the couch and get into the HCP lift so you get over here as fast as you can.”

She hung up on him before he could invent more excuses on why he couldn’t help. Instead, Alley looked across the room and spotted Finn get shoved through a dry wall partition. She concentrated and nodded once. Mike was the reason these boys had gotten so damn aggressive.

Alley hopped out of the window and into the drunken fray. She punched, kicked, elbowed and kneed her way through the crowd. Dozens of fists came her way, each ducked or redirected with disappointing ease. Next time, she really needed to get a head start on her drinking. By the time Alley reached Finn, she’d left a trail of groaning bodies in her wake. This was turning into the mother of all spectacles. Hopefully her roommate would get here soon to clear things up.

One look spotted Mike in the kitchen, obviously tender from her knee. Raven-hair was with him, keeping a close eye on the brawlers and sending them back out into the fray if they tried to get in. Alley’s blue eyes narrowed. She should have noticed. Of course Mike’s girlfriend would be another HCP student but Alley hadn’t recognized her because they were in different years.

Too bad.

Alley pulled Finn out of the dry wall and promptly aimed herself right for the kitchen, backhanding a frat boy who got in the way. Someone grabbed a chair and swung it at her. Alley just caught it, whipped it around with the assailant’s momentum and clobbered him over the head with it.

“This ship has sailed, blondie,” said Raven-hair.

“Guess I have a speedboat, Ashley. I need Mike to get a grip, right now.”

“Do I know you?” Ashley asked, clearly puzzled since their earlier introduction hadn’t included names.

“Listen fast,” Alley said, snapping her fingers for effect. “We’re in different grades but the same program. Mike’s not just an Advanced Mind, he’s a broadcasting empath, something he discovered two weeks ago but hasn’t told anyone about because he’s still getting a handle on it. Unfortunately, he needs to get a handle right now or people are going to start killing each other out there. I’m dead serious,” she added even as Ashley opened her mouth.

“Why the hell should I listen to you?” Ashley asked.

“Because your Mom named you after Laura Ashley, because you lost your virginity to your cousin when you were thirteen and because you still sleep with your little sister’s bear she gave you when you went to college. His name’s Benedict.”

“You bitch,” Mike said, recovering at last and managing to straighten up. “I’m going to-“

“Get drummed out of our program,” Alley finished for him. “Get your shit together, asshole, you’re leaking rage everywhere. Look at those people going nuts out there! The first fatality is going to happen in two minutes, thirteen seconds. If you don’t calm the fuck down by then, I have to knock you out.”

As she anticipated, her words made Mike angry but he still had enough of a clear head despite the booze to realize how serious this was. Training went a long way after all, even for assholes. Mike grimaced, then turned to face away from them as he put both hands to his temples.

Just like that, the wind was let out of this riot’s sails. The punches slowed. People started breaking apart from the fray and standing there, looking a little confused why they’d just been brawling. The noise level dropped.

Alley sighed as everyone heard the sirens she knew were coming.

Dance of Shadows: Chapter 15
Dance of Shadows: Chapter 17

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