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Needle in a Haystack
She offered to shake hands. “I”m Rune. Did I say that already? Oh well, can’t remember.” she shrugged and stuck out an arm. She realized almost too late that her hand was dirty, so she swiped it on her chest then tried again. “Ewe, gross. Sorry about that.”

“Dont worry about going hungry. I got protein bars, and if you’re not too annoying, I might share,” she added with a lopsided smile and pat her jacket.

Only then she realized that rolling around fighting the choop probably smushed them. Oh well, they would still taste good.

“But if we get lost down here, I won’t go hungry. You look like you got some meat on yah,” she gave him a little punch on the arm. It was friendly but not exactly light.

“Sorry about saying you were stinky before. You do stink but not like homeless,” she explained. “But don’t get offended. Not a stink like that. I can smell folks,” she tapped the side of her nose. “Really I can only smell violence. Fights and stuff. The worst are murderers. You aren’t a murderer are yah?” She gave him the side-eye.
Rune- that was girlie's name- stuck her hand out, only briefly worrying about what was on them. Mik didn't really care. I mean, ok. He did. Some stuff. But he doubted she had shit on her hands. Anything other than that, was what it was. 

Her grip was firm and hands rough. Which didn't bother him. Hands were hands. And of course it came with a quip that made him laugh. Which made a difference. Sure, a doll- a real living breathing hottie- might look fun. Look being the operative word. In his opinion, most of the dainty ones were a snooze fest. There was that chicky- what was her name? Katya? Katie? Penny. Yeah, that was it. Hot as fuck. And she knew it. And somehow- for her anyway- that translated into her just laying back and letting him do all the work. So there he was, doing his best and all- you know, all the stuff he knows does the trick everytime- and just...silence. Like seriously, nothing. So at some point- he doesn't even know how much time has passed but he's getting nothing- no reaction or movement or even a shift in breathing- so finally he pops his head up and asks, Do you want a carrot? She looks down at him, slight puzzled smile on her face. Sorry. What? And he just looked at her for a moment before saying, I just figured it would be nice to hear you doing something while I worked. Crunching on a carrot or whatever. Her laugh was tittering and dumb and whatever remaining interest he had disappeared at her response.

So of course he left. Told her he had a bus pass that was about to expire or something. Just got the hell out of there.

Where was he? Oh yeah. Dolls. Boring ass people who bored him to tears with their boring ass life and way they lived. 

So yeah, rough hands and goofy banter was a plus. At least tonight wouldn't be boring. He stretched one arm out slightly, turning it. "Yeah. I got like maybe....I don't know. Week or two of food on me. Can't speak to the flavor, though. Probably all gamey and shit. 

He shrugged. "But hey, I'm 100% organic. Some real health food here. Make your spleen do...well, do whatever spleens do.

He was about to comment on his smell when her words made him pause. He peered ar her, now interested. Not cuz she was cute. That was already established. No, this was something different. "Violence? You can smell it? The wonder in his voice wasn't faked. Not at all. 

"I mean, there's magic and stuff out here. All kinds of weird stuff I hear rumors of. Of course. But do you do it? What does it smell like? I've hurt people- no one that didn't deserve it. Mostly. You know how it is. He shrugged unapologetically. But that's about it. Lady Fortuna with Spectra's face smirked at him, eyebrow raised. He half smiled. "Do I smell? Aside from my normal awesome natural cologne, I mean.
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
She laughed at his offer. “Nah tastes like chicken. Not that i would know!” She added after the fact, eyes wide. Then a chuckle to break the spell that strung together this strange little role play of cannibalism. But hey, Rune would do what she had to do to survive if it came down to it. Luckily, it wasn’t.

The wonder in Mik’s voice made her nod emphatically. Yep, she grinned big and broad, lips drawn thin over her teeth. She was about to keep teasing him when he started admitting a few things that should probably make her worried, but Rune didn’t judge. She grew up rough and if she could smell herself (it didn’t work on yourself), she might smell it too.

When he stopped to look at her, she paused. When he looked at her like that, something stuck in her chest like a rock, and she saw an opening. When he asked if he smelled, and she’d already established that he did, just not that way, she decided to be brave. She stepped into his shadow, leaned her nose in close to his neck, and drew a long, deep sniff. When she pulled away and looked in his eyes, she deadpan nodded. “Yep. Stuh-eenk.” But a wink followed because she was a bad player at this game. She suddenly feeling that weight in her chest again, and shrugged as she hurriedly stepped away. 

She went on to explain. “Nah, not really. It’s more like a general aggression rather than violent. Maybe you’ve been bored for a few days? The smell fades after a while. All except the worst stuff. Like serial killer horror movie stuff. That smell will stay for months, like rotten eggs.” She fake-gagged. “Sometimes the whole undercity reeks of it. Other times it’s not so bad.” 

She hitched her belt up on her hips. The nylon was old. The buckle worn down from years of use without replacement. Then she walking again sniffing periodically as she went to test the path ahead. She honestly didn't really have a destination in mind.
Mik barked a laugh. "Yeah. Chicken of the sea, maybe." He waved around at the tunnels around them. "Well, the sewers, anyway."

He looked back down at her and went still as she moved into his personal space filling it with the warmth from her body. Head at his cheek, her breath hot on his neck, he heard her inhale deeply. Somehow, it felt quiet and intimate in that single instant and he felt breath catch. Yeah, not expected. That's for sure. 

Shit like this was why he loved random nights. You never knew what was gonna happen. The Lady grinned at him and disappeared. 

Good thing he was a fairly clean person. As in, he didn't like his clothes to walk around when he wasn't in them. And showers were nice. Best part of waking up. Well, one of them. So, smells, his in particular. Yeah, there was probably a bit of sweat. But he knew from experience that natural exertion scents were nothing bad. Not at all.

Nah, truth be told, a good earthy smell was downright hot. Like for instance now. She didn't smell bad. Not at all. Just very human. And boyo, did he like human. Not that he was a species-ist. He'd seen some robots that were sexy as fuck. Like that vintage Def Leppard "Women" video sexy. And plenty of body-modded folks about with animal-like features, dudes with leopard spots across broad shoulders and muscular back, women with pointed ears and fur flanking that delicious swell of hip and breast, non-binaries with scales along the side of their face, framing piercing yellow eyes. 

Hell, he had no doubt if a hot alien showed itself, he'd be dtf. Not even a shred of a speck of a doubt. 

But yeah, he did like this. Her anyway. To her quip and wink, "Well, doll, I better quit my day job as a pig wrangler. Not if my smells are gonna drive you away.

He watched, feeling the slight cool as she moved away. Which sucked. But the night was young. And this was fun so far. He thought about her words as she started to sniff the air. She had him pegged, that was for sure. (Not that way, of course. As he said, the night was still young.) But totally. Bored indeed. 

As she quested this way and that, sniffing in different directions, he took another look. Her clothes were maybe threadbare? Maybe? Whatever it was, he did not mind in the slightest. Nope. There was something about the way a well worn fabric hugged the ass. And hers was a nice taut one. Idly, he wondered if she could smell horniness. If so, he was in trouble. Serious trouble.

Course, he was a guy. Not like it would be a hard guess anyway. So yeah, checking  out her ass (not leering, just appreciation, mind) he said "Well then, let's use that cute little, uhh...sniffer of yours to chase us down some trouble. Find your uncle. Kick that ass you mentioned. And maybe, get you something to eat aside from protein bars."

He patted his chest, mouth and eyes grinning both. "This gamey chicken tasting tough piece of gristle doesn't feel like being a meal. Not yet anyway. Lead the way, doll.
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
Finally! Someone with a sense of humor who could take a damn joke! She laughed more these past few minutes than in the past few months. All the better that it was with someone else besides the voices in her head! (kidding: there’s no voices). Chicken of the sea made her laugh particularly. And here she thought only ‘mericans was subjected to that stuff.

“Chicken of the sea aint too bad. Just add enough mayo. Maybe you’ll be the same eh?” she gave him another shoulder punch a bit harder this time. Then she frowned and shook out her hand for the soreness. Karma?

“So i dunno what we’re gonna find. I’ve been searching for him for months. I swear he better have amnesia and think his name is Rob Roy and he’s some long lost sea captain.”

They came to a cross-roads in the tunnel by then. She had to turn her flashlight back on since there was no electricity here. It came and went with different parts of the undercity. She sniffed but nothing told her anything about a good direction to take, so she picked a right-hand turn on impulse.

“So you know what I'm doing. What are you doing down here anyway?” she asked as she picked her way over a log jam of debris.

The flashlight caught a glimpse of something wedged up under it. Next to a dead rat she saw a bone. A curl snarled her lip for the grossness, but it was obviously human.

She stepped clear of it and moved on.
Her fist was small, but that only made her punch sharp. Prolly leave a bruise. She did shake out her hand as if it hurt. He play mocked injury for a moment. "Ouch!! Careful, Iron Fist. Gonna ruin the money maker."

He then wrinkled his nose slightly. "Mayonnaise...ewww. That's an American thing, right? Mayonnaise sandwiches and all that?" He jokingly made his voice proud and his Russian accent thick. "You try thick rye bread slathered in bacon lard. That's a meal. Put meat on you. Then he purposely looked her over again, voice returning to normal. "Then again...

Yeah. He liked Rune. Didn't have a stick up her ass or an attitude. Everyone wasn't the end of the world. I mean yeah, it could be. All kinds of shit going on. Things were changing fast. He tried to keep track of them but sometimes it felt like it was overwhelming.

And so about that time, he'd say fuck it, have a drink and a smoke or maybe a bump. You know. Clear your head. When you didn't try to keep track of everything, things seemed to make more sense. Seemed to fall into place.

Which only proved what he always suspected. Sometimes you could think too much. And frankly, overthinking was overrated. As in, following instincts, letting life sort of happen, yeah, that was the best way. Spectra nodded at him. He got it.

Like now. Rune was leading the way, chatting and sniffing. You ask him this morning and he would not have been able to guess that he'd be in the tunnels with a cute girl with a cuter ass who could smell violence and was using it to take them to a fight. I mean, come on!! How fucking cool was that?

So when she asked him what he was doing here, well, not like it was a secret. "Looking for trouble, mostlyl. I was down here once before and found an interesting fight with a leather faced monster. Not gonna lie. It was fun." 

He glanced at the way her short hair bobbed as she moved her head this way and that. "You called it, earlier. About me, I mean. I was bored. Like seriously. All that energy up there- tension building and whatnot. Just set me looking to blow off steam." He looked down one way as she looked the other. "Glad you showed.

He followed as she stepped over someone's remains. He whistled to himself appreciatively. She was a tough one. Didn't break down or freak out or nothin. 

"For your uncle's sake. I hope he thinks he's Mayor McCheese. Keep those fists of fury away from him.

The tunnel they were in was getting narrower and he had to stoop now, permanently. Wasn't this nice. "Jesus, who built this place? Far ahead in the distance there was a faint light that was barely visible. They approached but more slowly. Mik fingered his lighter and felt the power call. He seized it and everything lit up in his mind. The nastiness of everything around, of course was first and foremost. But he could also smell Rune again, like when she was up close to him. He liked that. And the view, of course.

And then a slight gust of wind brought something pretty fucking gross that made his nose curl. He touched her shoulder and whispered. "Up ahead. Your sniffer got any intel?
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
“Ooh!” she nodded emphatically. A leather-faced monster sounded pretty epic. Wonder what kind it was. Rune was suppose to masquerade as an exterminator. She supposedly killed things like mutant ninja turtles and alligators in the sewers, but she was definitely intrigued. She didn’t ask for more though. Seriously! What was it?

“You got a weird hobby! Most guys play D&D or video games or just go out drinking,” she shrugged. Those were all things she kind of was secretly jealous to enjoy. She played a lot of online video games in the car when she and Uncle Seth drove around the country. “I like the 1st person shooters myself. The bloodier the better! Not like its real life,” she smirked and ducked into the tunnel without much of a second thought until something dripped on her forehead. She hoped it was just water and wiped it away with the back of her hand.

Mik slowed and got quiet at the end of this stretch of tunnel. Rune followed suit but she wasn’t sure what made him pause until the whiff of what he smelled curled her nose too.
“That ain’t violence stink. That’s just regular stink. Sewage maybe? Decomposing body? If someone dies of natural causes it doesn’t stand out to me any more than regular ick.”

She was behind him now, so she poked him in the buttcheek. “Well go on or get out of my way.”
Yeah so for some reason, Mik felt disappointment that it was nothing. The stink was definitely ripe. Maybe it was the power coursing through him. And then he was jabbed in the ass. If her fists had been sharp, her finger was more like a needle. He glanced back over his shoulder, grin on his face. "Hey now! Buy a guy a drink at least, first. Jeez." He laughed. Normally, it didn't take much more than that.

They entered the opened area he'd noticed. And she was right. Just a body, half decayed. Sucked for them. Dying down here wasn't gonna get you buried anywhere. You just became part of the decoration. The atmosphere. He could imagine a realtor trying to sell this place. This is late 20th century brickwork. Notice the cracks spidering the walls. They add an sense of age and history to the place. And over here is a dead body. It's fairly new. Maggots are extra, but well worth the asking price. He thought about sharing but it would take too long. He was a talker, sure. He knew that. So did everyone who knew him- or at least spoke to him. It kept people from noticing how much he heard. And if they dismissed him as flighty and dumb? Well, that was on them.

He looked around the room "Yeah, not really a hobby, though. This is only my second time down here. My hobby- if I have one- is mostly looking to see what kind of trouble- and how much of it- I can get into," he added with a wink. "First person shooters are fun. For a little while, anyway. I get restless sitting too long. But a drink....yeah. I like that. Especially with good company. Tell you what. We find something good- a good fight or your uncle- and we go out celebrating. Do it up proper. Moscow style" Then he frowned. "And if we don't, well, we can go get some milk shakes.

He looked at her, hoping she'd say yes. That stench was still there. The power flooded his senses with everything around him. And of course stuff NEAR to the stuff around him. It was all quite gross. He let the power go. Everything went dark for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the new lower levels. At least the smell was mostly gone. 

He opened his mouth to comment when something from one of the side tunnels flew out at him. His peripheral vision barely had time to register movement- and feel a slash at his body and head. Whatever it was hit him hard and he bowled over, thudding to the ground. He rolled around in the muck, which fucking pissed him off. Dammit!! Now he was gonna have to get his jacket cleaned. He rolled over immediately, trying to stand and succeeding only after a moment. Silence. 

It was gone. He looked around, straining to see, to hear. Nothing. Rune seemed ok, at least, which was good. Still, he asked "You ok?" His ear throbbed with pain as did his neck. He touched them gingerly, feeling wetness. He felt for his lighter- he'd have the power with him next time that asshole tried to run him over- and for the first time, felt a bit of panic. Not a lot. No. Mik was not one prone to panic attacks. He was breathing a bit harder than normal, but that was to be expected. He was ok. He was. 

In the semi-dark, Spectra gave him an evil grin. You bitch! he thought.

He thought he did a pretty good job of keeping his voice calm. "So...did you see what that was?"
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
Now that he said it, Rune wondered if she was old enough to buy beer in Moscow. Was the drinking age 21 like in the states? Uncle Seth always bought the booze whenever she was in the mood, but he also didn’t let her have more than one at a time. But she could taste test anything she wanted. It was fine anyway, she got very giggly after one. “That way, I guess I owe you a beer!” she winked and they moved on.

“If we find my uncle, I will beat his ass this way to Sunday then we can all go celebrate. He definitely knows how to party. But you better mind your manners. He’s pretty protective of me,” she nodded big and made a scrunched up fake angry face. 

But she was also equally as good with milkshakes. There was this restaurant chain back in the states that had the very best ones. She would kill for one right then.

He was about to say something more when a blob flew out of the wall. Rune ducked on instinct but it smacked straight into Mik.

“I think it was a big ass bat!” she yelled, eyes wide. Her flash light zoomed across the wall and overhead, looking for it.

When she found no trace of the winged blob, she shone the light on Mik. It dashed across his eyes exactly the way he asked her not to do when they first met. “Sorry!” she said but not before she saw red on his cheek. She cringed, “Yikes. Looks like it gotcha,” but she wasn’t gonna baby him.

Instead, she went back to searching the walls.
So Mik's ear and neck throbbed. Yeah. Sucked. But it wasn't really much worse than he might get subbing at Mistress Aurite's. No, what made this different was A: there was NO  Dom in sight (that is, unless Rune had some surprises up her sleeve, in which case...hell yess. This could be a great night.) And 3: the cool slimy gross wet that had gone down the back of his collar and down his waist, sticking his shirt and pants and to his skin

Fuck this! He scrambled around, hands in the muck feeling for his lucky lighter while he his head swiveled this way and that watching to see if the thing came back. He needed that lighter. He did. He just wouldn't be complete without it. With it, he felt warm and cocooned. With it, he could see the Lady and share the inside jokes about the universe with her. But Spectra was gone. Yun. Oriena. Katerina. Elena. Vasiliya. A hundred different faces, but always the same Lady.

He heard noise in one direction and spun. Nothing. To Rune he answered, "Fuck if I know!!" He tried to keep his voice calm. He supposed Tenzin would have recognized it. He was pretty sure this chick was the same. "Seemed bigger than a bat. Is batman real? You recognize it from your badass chick's club?"

He kept fumbling, eyes going from where he been hit to where the thing had gone. The way things were, it was probably nowhere near there. Fucking train. Sort of like that. At least with flesh. Maybe a soccer player or something. Not that he liked soccer.

Fucking boring ass shit watching a bunch of guys sweating their balls off and getting their hearts to nearly explode for 2 hours only for the game to tied at 0 to fucking 0. American football was just as stupid. Guys all padded up six ways to Sunday, running only after the hike and then being immediately stopped. Stupid bottoms or downs or whatever they were called.

And don't even get him started on basketball, with their dumb fouls every 5 seconds because some looked at someone wrong and got their ass in a sling as a result. Fucking bitches.

Nah, he thought, trying to ignore the worry. He like contact sports. Real fighting. Real hits. Cage fighting. Jui Jitsu. Wrestling. Hell, Rugby was the best. Fucking jungle game right there. Just went and went. No padding. No stops. Just hit after hit, running and tackling.

Yeah, he'd been run over alright by batman or the hulk or ... or a flanker like Reynaldo Castaneda. Damn but he could bowl him over anytime. Guy was a beast. Hot as hell too.

He finally stood, shaking off his hands, and looked over at Rune, the panic rising. Hrr back was to him as she looked this way and that. He tried. Fuck, but he tried. Her perfect ass presented itself to him and he tried to focus on it. To get in the zone. I mean it was right there and at any other time he would have taken a moment or an hour to appreciate it. But nothin. Nothing, man. How the mighty have have fallen. The Lady was probably shaking her head with pity. Poor poor Mik. Couldn't even focus.

Fuck, he was so pissed. He swung his head around just in time to catch the batman hulk Reynaldo bowl him over again. This time his left arm went up to try and catch the little bitch that had fucked him over. Both of them went down, but the thing- sort of hairy but skin all dry and sandpaper like- spun around, long greasy hair hanging down as it tried to go at him.

Mik's left arm curled, catching or at least blocking some of the swipes. Ok. Maybe mostly protecting. His face was all smushed up in its left shoulder or whatever, trying to keep from being slashed.

He was trying for the neck. The neck was where it was at. An arm around the neck or a jab to somewhere soft and sensitive usually stunned enough to give him an advantage. 

His hand touched what felt like a collar bone and his hand instinctively became a pincers, fingers strong and sharp as he desperately tried to gain some purchase around it. 

He wasn't sure he could actually get a firm grip- let alone rip it out- but fuck if he wasn't gonna try. Maybe Rune had gotten out of there. Smart if she had. He was sure the Lady was watching, laughing.

Bitch. Probably wanted to see him struggle. 

Fuck her. His fingers dug mercilessly as the thing thrashed at him. And he strained, feeling the thing go into a frenzy, the slashes at his arms- thankfully- all he had so far.

Fuck her to fucking hell! He felt on fire.
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods

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