Adam craned for a look at the audience from the side of the stage. "They're there again."
Kyle followed his gaze. "They're just groupies."
"They get closer every show," said Adam.
"They've figured out how to get better tickets," Kyle said with a shrug. "Or they've saved their money or something."
Adam chewed the inside of his cheek. These two . . . He didn't even know if they were men or women, couldn't tell, but . . . They were like flip sides of a coin. One was fair, the other dark. Other than that, they were more or less identical. They had long hair and wore trench coats, which was weird, but fans wore all kinds of weird stuff.
"Maybe one of these days they'll get passes for a meet and greet," suggested Kyle. He laughed at Adam's stricken expression. "What? They don't look any more dangerous than anyone else."
"There's something . . ." But Adam had no way to articulate the feeling these two gave him. Dread? That was probably the most accurate word. He stepped back from the stage and turned to hole up until show time. Let security do their job.
"Tell me again why we keep doing this?" Seladion asked.
"Because it's fun?" Amaurodios answered.
"For whom?" Sel wondered. "We should get it over with. Should have gotten it over with the first time." He looked at Am from the corner of his eye. "You like them too much."
Am didn't answer. What would be the point? Sel was right. Instead he asked, "Why do you do this?"
"It's something to do."
"You like working for her."
"I like working against him," said Sel. "Anyway, I never asked you to follow me. Not to this wretched world, and not in this work either."
Am hung his head, and his long, dark hair fell around him. Every time it came into view, it reminded Am of his betrayal. He supposed that was why Durandios had singed him on the way down—a permanent rebuke. Sel, on the other hand, had retained his silver-white hair. He was as beautiful as ever, at least on the outside. Seladion's burnt pieces were all hidden from view.
"I suppose you want me to wait until the show is over," Sel said. "And don't think to ask for another abstention. I've already put it off too long."
Am wondered that Sel had ever granted his requests to wait in the first place. Could it be that Sel had a care for his feelings? Or maybe Sel simply enjoyed the music. "How does she choose?" he asked.
Sel gave him an odd look. "How should I know?"
But Amaurodios knew Seladion well enough to know it bothered him not to know the system. "You haven't tried to figure it out?"
Sel only shrugged. "You should buy a tee shirt if you're going to," was all he said.
Was it the lights? The music? Am didn't know what continued to draw him. He couldn't relate it to Argyros, not exactly. Argyros was bright and full of music, true, but the emotion was different. Simple joy and pleasure filled Argyros. But the music in this world was dark and thick. Even when considered "happy" it was tainted by angst and fear and sorrow and loss.
It was the difference between vanilla and dark chocolate, Am decided. He liked both, but it surely depended on one's mood. And now he would never taste vanilla again.
"He's frightened." Sel's lips near his ear made Am jump. Am watched the lead singer—Adam his name was—do all the same kinds of dance moves he'd done the previous three times. But yes, there was something in the way Adam rolled his eyes and gritted his teeth that gave away an underlying anxiety.
"He's noticed us," Am realized as Adam's attention came to them time and again.
"We're just faces in a crowd," said Seladion.
"Yes, but we've been in the first few rows of the last three concerts," Am said. "And, you know, we don't look like most people."
Seladion glanced around. "So much the better."
"I'm only saying we're a bit conspicuous, even at one sighting," said Am.
"And whose fault is it we've made it four?" Sel asked. "Oh, don't give me that sad dog look. Come on, we need to do this." He began to move toward the aisle, never bothering to apologize to the mere mortals on whose feet he tread. Most people moved when they saw Seladion coming in any case.
"Before the encore?" Am called after him.
Sel's blue-silver eyes blazed and Am, apologizing profusely, obediently followed.
Adam ducked backstage for a bottle of water and came face to face with the two tall, thin creatures from the second row. "You," he said dumbly.
"Me," said Seladion with a tight-lipped smile.
"Us, actually," Amaurodios amended and handed Adam a water from the ice chest.
"How did you . . .?" Adam glanced down the hall. Where was security?
"It's better not to ask," Am murmured.
"Okay, well, I—" Adam looked at the bottle he was holding, momentarily confused by how it had gotten there. He switched hands and shook the one that was wet with condensation. The roar of the crowd was becoming steadily louder, a thrum like a heartbeat picking up speed.
Seladion reached out one spindly hand toward Adam's forehead. Am could see Adam's desire to take a step backward, but he didn't. He couldn't. He was rooted to the spot. The most he could do was lean back slightly away from the oncoming palm.
"I'll make it quick," said Sel. "Consider it a small blessing."
He is incapable of blessing anyone or anything, Am thought. He is damned. We both are. He looked at Adam, his fear and confusion evident in his eyes.
"Stop," Am said.
Seladion did not lower his hand, but he did look at Am over his shoulder. "What is it?" he snapped.
"This will damn him."
"Look, it doesn't matter what she does with them."
"But maybe it does," said Amaurodios. "What does she do with them?"
"I don't know. I've never asked," Sel said through clenched teeth.
"Let him go," Am begged.
Seladion did drop his arm then, and Adam stumbled a couple paces back. "Really, Am, this is too much. Why would you risk her wrath for him?"
Am looked at the singer. "Go," he mouthed and flapped a hand. Adam needed no other prompting; he turned and hied back to the stage.
Sel sighed. "Now I'm going to have to go get him."
"Don't," said Am.
The music began anew, and Am silently admired Adam's ability to throw himself into it after everything that had just happened.
"You'll have to at least wait 'til they're done now," said Am. "But I'm hoping you'll reconsider."
"And what will I tell her?" Seladion asked. "'Oh, but Am really likes him'? Or were you planning to take his place?"
"I would," said Amaurodios softly. "I'd take all their places if I could."
"You should have stayed in Argyros," said Sel. "Anyway, she has no use for you."
"She has no use for him either!" Am cried.
"They can't live forever, Am."
Amaurodios looked up, surprised by the gentleness of Seladion's tone.
"Go on. You don't need to be here to see it," Sel said.
Tears filled Am's eyes. He turned to go. Stopped. "You'll make it painless?"
"It's never painless," Seladion told him. "But I'll make it as quick as I can."