Colours of the world;
Spice up your life.
- Spice Girls
Rio de Janeiro in February wasn't a city, it was an organic entity. A throbbing conglomerate. A hub of power, if you knew how to tap it.
Sometimes he thought he was only living year to year for these weeks of Carnivale, all the petty diversions of the months in between merely marking time.
Restlessness was not unusual in one on his Path. Dissatisfaction with the things of the world, however, was.
But now was not the time for entertaining such thoughts. Not when the city waited for him outside, spread out like a spangled skein of spiderweb silk, waiting for his weaving. It seeped through the cracks even into this most elegant of restaurants, slithering along the edges of varnished furniture and sparking to life. There, in the tilt of a diner's chin as he savoured a fine wine. There, in the surreptitious decadence of the last mouthful of dessert. And especially there, in the lascivious sweep of woman's eyes away from her (older, filthy rich) husband to the waiter walking past her table.
Who was, actually, a most worthy recipient of such a glance, Karl had to admit. Sleek and dark, there was something about him of the rusalki, who seduced their victims into drowning. He slid under the gaze of the covetous woman as if he were already between satin sheets, but there was something that set him apart. Some part of him still that Karl might, in another situation, be tempted to describe as "undefiled". Instead, he found himself thinking of "unawoken".
The boy cleared away the final elements of Karl's meal, the coffee cups and chocolate dish. "I trust everything was to your liking, Mr Urban?" His accent was not local. What was a British boy doing waiting tables in Brazil?
"Magnificent, as always," Karl replied, sitting back in his chair and watching the boy. Or rather, watching the violet eddies of energy stirred by his hands on the fine china.
"Can I do anything else for you?"
The invitation was so masked that another man might have thought he imagined it. The boy wasn't even looking at him. Didn't look even when Karl asked, "What's your name?"
"Orlando Bloom, sir." He didn't look, but the lightning that crawled over cultery from his fingers darkened and reddened, pulsing in time to the rhythm of the city.
"Just the cheque, Orlando," Karl said.
"Very good, sir." Not a tinge of disappointment, and as he walked away, the sparks that shook from every line of him were still crimson and lustrous.
But interesting as the boy was, Rio was waiting for him, and Karl wasn't one to disappoint such a generous mistress.
When he looked back at the door, Orlando was leaning over the trophy wife, pouring wine into her glass and a fall of unnecessary energy over her. Karl laughed, and stepped outside...
...into the whirlwind firework of Carnivale.
The city was hot and heavy around him, torrid and tumultuous and thick with intoxication. It was energised. What he'd seen in the restaurant was barely the faintest echo of the power that ricocheted through the streets, sizzling through crowds where the each individual reveller had become a firefly in a swarm, a voice in a choir... an element of ritual. They built with their bodies a cathedral of sweat, exhiliration and sensation. Karl walked its naves and aisles, felt its buttresses soar into the heavens all around him as the electricity of their emotions crackled over him. Showers of effusive silver, sprays of jubilant blues, the jagged edges of unnatural greens, searing lines of vivid red lusts.
It unravelled all around him, the power of pleasure, so bright and beautiful that he could touch it, manipulate it, braid it into complex tangles of his own bidding. But he didn't. Merely let it flow around him. Through him. Buoying him up and pulling him under into the rich depths of the night's revelry.
It was late morning, the sun doing nothing to mute the rememberances of the night lingering in the streets, when Karl found his way back to his hotel.
He was accustomed to the boil of his blood in his veins; greeted it as an old friend. His smile to the girl on the front desk left her blushing and lowering her eyes (even as her pulse sped up, he could hear it) and he ran a few steps for the lift as the door began to slide shut. At the last minute, he jammed his foot between door and closed.
Even as the door rethought, Karl knew there was someone in the lift already, and at the next heartbeat, he knew who, could feel him.
"Orlando," he said as the door slid open again. "Good morning."
He looked even better in the light of day. His hair, slicked back at the restaurant, was breaking free now and starting to show its true curl. He too was still wearing the clothes of last night, black dress pants low on his waist, and the white shirt hanging open at the front. Mostly, Karl noticed, because four of the buttons had been ripped off and the fifth was dangling loose.
"Mr Urban." Orlando's eyes were bright and sharp, pivot point of the muted buzz of energy that slunk around him.
"Karl, please." He pressed the button for his floor - three below the one already lit, he noticed - and let the doors slide shut uninterrupted this time. He leaned against the back wall of the lift next to Orlando and watched the reflected etheric image in the dull metal of the door. "So, how was she?"
"Who?" Unhurried. Lethargic with satiation. Like a lion in the sun. Like Karl felt.
"The trophy wife." Karl turned to watch Orlando, to see the faded rust and gold sparks that danced as he turned as well.
"Do you really care, or are you just showing off?" The challenge was lazily delivered.
Very interesting indeed. This time, when the thread of curiosity blossomed inside him, Karl let it come. Replete now, yes, but he would be hungry again by sunset and this boy...
Karl was beginning to suspect a great deal of Orlando.
He smiled. "Just making chit-chat."
Orlando leaned his head back against the mirrored wall with an intangible sussuration of static. "Hardly a polite topic."
The lift stopped and binged discreetly, drawing Karl's attention to its LCD display. Even so, he felt Orlando's arm approaching before the fingertip touched his skin. He tilted his chin back slightly to allow it, the contact trailing along below his collarbone where the sinuous spike of ink shadowed the bone, nudging aside the collar of Karl's shirt that had been unbuttoned some time during the night to allow this in the first place.
"Interesting tattoo," Orlando noted, after his finger had left Karl's skin.
The lift door slid open - they were on Karl's floor - and Karl turned his back on them to stand half in front of Orlando, close enough for energy to arc and earth. He could feel like seeing the scarlet line of Orlando's mark over the indelible black tattoo. "Are you working tonight?"
"No," Orlando said, eyes deep and steady. Karl could feel him pulse, like the city rendered solo, and he smiled. Orlando added: "I thought I might take in the Carnivale."
"If you can."
Orlando's turn to smile with steel-blue satisfaction. "I'll find you," he promised.
Karl turned away and walked out of the lift, letting the door close behind him.
He went out of town that afternoon, visiting the umbanda of an old acquaintance and taking his ease against a more sluggish beat. By the time he wound his way back into the city, the sun was loitering close to the horizon, the hour dragging towards late.
Karl considered going back to the hotel. He hadn't slept. He didn't need to sleep while the Carnivale held him in its grasp. But he could meet Orlando.
The boy had said he could find him. Let him prove it.
The streets were feeling the first tingles, stretching and shuddering beneath his feet as he walked them with a soothing pace, like stroking a cat. Knotted gatherings were nodes of power, connections made in arcing leaps of faith that slithered past as Karl wound his way between them. Night oozed over the city and the nodes pulses and expanded, joining together in conglomerates, starting to form the shifting topography of energy that would blend them all into the one primal medley. By the time the sky went black - colour lingering late in this season - the night was alight with light, sound and the etheric reverberations of both.
Shortly after that, Karl turned a corner and almost walked into Orlando.
It was a narrow side street, quieter, and the thu-dum of Rio rippled along it the stronger for that. It brushed against the edge of Orlando's bundled energy and rippled, echoed, bounced away. Orlando didn't blink, though Karl had stopped barely a step away from him. He looked... fucking delicious. Karl wasn't hesitant to admit it, to allow his pulse to pick it up, to let it glow in his eyes. The boy was all dark, his simple clothes, his tousled curled hair, his eyes. All dark, limned in crackling crimson that skittering across the paving stones under his feet.
"I told you," Orlando said, and Karl could hear his voice with more than his ears.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
"I told you," the boy repeated. "Orlando Bloom."
"Orlando Bloom." Karl let the name curl around his tongue, rippling it through the tight-bound twist of his own energy. He smiled to see the boy's shoulders twitch. "Do you even know the depth of the water you're swimming in?"
Those shoulders squared. Ah, bravado. That would have to go. "Teach me," Orlando demanded.
"Why should I?" Though he knew why, knew he would, for the insistence of the beat around him and the vivid tongued lightning that haloed his feet and the fascination that thrummed at him, making him feel alive in a way that had nothing to do with Carnivale.
Orlando took a step closer, chin up. Challenge; that had to go as well. "I was initiated by Angelina, in New York. But she couldn't take me as far as I want to go. As I need to go. She told me to find you."
Ah, Angelina. Passionate, brilliant, wild. Flawed. Trapped in the mundane and impeded by her physical needs. She would have hated what was burning in this boy. Would have tried her best to break him open. Would have told him to find Karl like telling him to go to the Devil. "And you did find me."
Orlando's smile was easy and insolent. "It wasn't hard." And pride, yes, that would be the first thing to strip away from him. "I've been circling closer for months. And the closer I got, the easier it became. Now," he drew in a breath, "now I can practically taste you."
Could he now? Karl wondered if the smug whelp could feel the surge of his blood, too. Feel it as it washed power through him, and that power demanded.
As if Karl had been likely to refuse. He didn't bother taking the step to close the last of the gap between them. Just reached out and wrapped his hand around Orlando's neck, the back of his fragile skull, and yanked him forward against Karl's mouth. Let him actually taste him. Forced him to. He plunged into Orlando's mouth with tongue and teeth and burning, surging, raging power. It ripped through him with wild insurgency and he knew how it must rattle Orlando's bones, jangling through his every extremity before earthing, rejoining the city's grid. They were just one more circuit in the immense system of the Carnivale. Karl felt himself subsumed, torn away in jubilant release to tangle in Orlando's molars where his tongue pressed, before sweeping away into the anonymous mass.
Orlando was fighting it. Karl could tell by the way he clove to him, the tremble against him under his hand sweeping down Orlando's back. He could tell by the desperate slant of Orlando's mouth and the whimper he gave.
But Karl didn't relent. He twisted Orlando to open his mouth wider with a sweep of tongue against teeth. He kissed Orlando deep and wild and hard, tasting the burning of that last bland refuge of sleep, before morning came in red and gold.
Orlando's hands were on Karl's shoulders, fingers curled and ineffectual. There was a moan in his throat and he pushed weakly, but Karl pushed back harder, gathering him closer with an arm around his waist. Pressed against his length and felt them both jolt. The city surged through them and Karl wouldn't let Orlando go. His potential - God - his spark; it would be the worst sort of betrayal if Karl let him give it up, let him falter on the Path that demanded everything but rewarded tenfold.
As if he could stop. Not with the city beating around him and Orlando beating in his arms and Karl kissed him until he thought maybe it was going to be too much, it was going to burn him out entirely.
But then Orlando shuddered against him, his fingers flexing and gripping in Karl's shoulders and Karl felt him flicker, and then surge.
Like wildfire, like a livewire, Karl felt Orlando come alive in his arms, energy crackling over Karl's knuckles buried in curls. Orlando's mouth slanted against his, his tongue slithering across Karl's and he tasted of lust and power. He pulsed under Karl's hands, hard against his mouth and Karl bit his lip, bucked against his hips and let him go when he gasped.
"You cheated." Orlando's voice was breathy but strong. Karl lowered his head to bite at his jaw, the line of his neck. "You used the festival. You're only supposed to use yourself."
Aah, Angelina and her limitations. Karl laughed against Orlando's throat, and felt it buzz through both of them. "You use whatever you've got," he corrected, pushing Orlando back towards the wall of the building behind him. "What have you got?"
This time Orlando lunged, sliding into Karl mouth and ether, until Karl could shove him back, shove his shoulders against the wall and pin him there with hips and hands and his tongue wrestling Orlando's. Slick and thrusting and sinuous, the boy was so lithe, so young, so full of power and potential. He squirmed under Karl and against him and through him. They were both hard, they were both alive with it, Karl shivered at it vibrating his skin.
"Do you feel it?" he demanded, pressing against Orlando arching up to him from the wall, his fingers buried so deep in Orlando's hair and his in Karl's flesh. "Do you feel it?"
"I... almost." Orlando groaned, arched against him, his eyes wide and bright and glazed over with energy. "So close. I want it, Karl. Take me there."
Karl growled and kissed him, hard, laving, sharing, demanding. He pulled power out of himself, out of them, out of the city and swirled obfuscation around them, wrapped them both in ignorable blankets of energy. Because this would happen here, had to happen here, nowhere else, even if Karl could think of stepping away from Orlando. Here, in the midst of the city starting to careen wildly about them in sparks and explosions.
He pushed a hand between them and stroked his palm the length of Orlando's cock through his trousers, letting him gasp, letting his body ricochet. "Yes," Orlando demanded, sinking his teeth into Karl's lower lip.
"Yes," Karl confirmed. "Turn around."
Orlando did, fumbling with his belt while Karl was unfastening his own trousers, staying so close that their electricity remained cojoined, lacing together in a scarlet fretwork. It spiderwebbed away from Orlando's fingers splayed on the wall, dripped from the tailored lines of the pants Karl pulled down over his hips. Karl bent over him, laid them together, pulsing in unison as he ran his hands up Orlando's side under his t-shirt, back down to his hips. Orlando undulated under him, pressing back and up and always. So stunningly bright when Karl closed his eyes.
"Take me in," he murmured by Orlando's ear, knowing she would have taught him this, always her favourite trick.
"C'mon," Orlando rasped.
Karl drew back to brace himself. He passed his hand, slick with congealed power, along the length of his own cock, and then slid into Orlando long and smooth and slow while every particle of light held its cosmic place.
His vision exploded into the etheric. The night shattered into shards of power and coalesced again into the body of light that entwined with Karl's own, that slipped and slid, that he plunged into and through. (His hands were sweat-fused on Orlando's hips.) All was chaos, all was wild and heedless in the first out-of-time thrusts and arhythmic joinings.
Then they stuttered and found each other. As they beat together, that pulse resounded, greater than the sum of its parts. (Orlando pushed back against him, keening.) Each pushed them further, Karl both guide and slavedriver, enticement and whip, taking Orlando with him as they plunged downward. Inward. Where no words of mundane senses could suffice and the clay fell away until the light was pure, incandescent, released. Realised.
The writhing snake disappeared in the surging demand of fire that welled out of everything, wrenched out of him, sweeping over Karl with more force than he'd ever known in its rush to get to the boy, to brand him, consume him, renew him, fill him. Accept him. The conflagration took them.
When the mundane returned, Karl had to hold Orlando up, limp with the sating of more than his body. Karl tidied and smoothed them both, and let slip the obfuscation. The city itself still cradled them in her mystery, in an eddy of soothing quiet. She knew, as well as Karl did, the splendour and force of what had happened here.
The boy's eyes were clearing as Karl steadied him against the wall, but knowledge remained seared with dull fire upon his forehead. "Karl." The name fell from his lips like the only way to express anything.
And Karl understood. He smiled. "Orlando Bloom," he said, "you will do very well." Orlando was still trembling, burning with it, and Karl pressed a kiss to his sweat-sheened temple. "Be true," he murmured. To yourself, to the Path, to this momentous power awoken in and to you. He would be a Master one day, this bright and beautiful boy.
Karl let him go, and walked away into the melting crowd of Carnivale. He did not look back.
Phoenix by dee
For my beloved Brenda for being herself, for another year of evil glee and collusion, but mostly for her birthday.