When Alexis and Nia arrived at the bowling Alley, Alexis realized too quickly that she was sticking out like a sore thumb. She had pulled some of her curls back and pinned them out of her face. She had decided to go with a pink plaid shirt and blue jean shorts. Nia had thrown on a crop top with her shorts. They had thought that they would fit in.
There were people cosplaying characters from cartoons and others dressed as fantasy races. There were people from shows she knew and more that she didn’t. Everyone was dressed up in some way and they looked at Alexis and her sister like invaders. They did not want Alexis and Nia there. They did not appreciate the two impeding on their space. The worst part was that Nia and Alexis were nerds in their own right. They deserved to be there under normal circumstances, even if they stuck out now. Walking into the hall, Alexis was bombarded with elaborate fantasy music and a scent reminiscent of a forest.
Alexis contemplated leaving for a long moment before she saw Nathan waving her down. He was dressed in a tunic and pants with what looked like chainmail. His bright smile was accented by detailed scale makeup on his face and hands, and a crown upon his hand that glimmered gold. James stood next to him in a more simple outfit with a fake lute on his back. He was dressed in brown linens and slightly elongated teeth and ears. As they got closer, Alexis noticed how he wore cat eye contacts, and his nails were painted black.
“You didn’t tell me it was a costume party!” Alexis hissed when they got close enough.
“Jordan was supposed to tell you.” Nathan glanced between her to James and then his eyes narrowed. “He didn’t…” The two groaned and seemed to pass messages with each other with their eyes. “I’m sorry. I should have told you.”
“What is this for?” Nia asked before Alexis could complain more.
“It’s the kick off for the Fantasy and Lore convention.” Jordan answered from behind them. Alexis turned, ready to scream at him when she saw him and her heart fluttered. He had icey-grey skin and his veins were painted blue. His eyes were behind silver contact lenses that made his eyes look nearly reflective. Pointed ears and teeth, he had a black wig on his head that was pinned back a bit. In one hand he had a bag and in the other he held his phone. He tossed the duffle to Alexis. She opened it to see what looked like a few different skirts, pants, and tops. There were accessories and a variety of additional things to make the outfits.
He smiled at her as if begging her to question him further. She contemplated telling him off as Nia grabbed what was in the bag, and dragged her off. Alexis protested with stomps as Nia took them to the bathroom. Once there Alexis felt comfortable enough to complain. “How could he do this?”
“Even if he told us, do you think we would have had supplies?” Nia started to rummage through the bag. “Last I checked, I didn’t.” Nia took out items and then threw the bag to Alexis, before moving to change.
Alexis had a halloween costume from a party the year before, but it was obviously a costume. It would not have compared to the clothes that the other customers were wearing, let alone what Jordan gave them. Throwing on a tunic and a skirt over her shorts, She tied on a belt and helped her sister into a faux corset that was all look and no structure. They added accessories and left Nia looking like a princess and Alexis like her female knight.
The boys saw them and eyed them before motioning to follow James. The five walked to their lane and placed their things down. James began to input everyone’s names into the system and started the bowling session.
“How much do I owe you?” Alexis asked him.
“It’s on Jordan.” James answered when Nathan went up to bowl first.
“I have to pay you back.” Alexis looked to him.
“No need. I have my parents money. It is of little consequence to me.” Jordan told her, relaxing back with posture that revealed him as dangerous. This was, perhaps, the first time that Alexis was able to get a sense on his aura. It was deadly but safe. He was a danger but not to her, and she could tell that. He was the sort of person she wanted on her side. His eyes drifted away to some others that stood further back. He winked at someone behind Alexis and then turned his attention back to his group. Jordan Brooks knew how sexy he looked and how well he fit the drow role.
“Are you going to the convention all weekend?” Nia asked glancing at her phone as she pulled up information on the convention.
“We have the sword fight tomorrow, and then Jordan is entering the costume competition.” James told them. Nathan reutrned and traded off with Jordan. Quickly James caught him up on the conversation and Nathan sighed.
“Jordan is a major nerd. He’s going to be there all weekend. Unlike some of us, he has no responsibilities.” Nathan complained.
“A nerd?” Alexis repeated.
“Of all kinds. Collection, games, cosplay, comics, anime. You name it, he probably knows it.”
Alexis could hardly picture it. She watched him bowl seeing him in an elaborate costume, and knowing it was reality. He was a major nerd. However she could not divorce him from his bad boy persona that he put off. For a moment Alexis questioned everything until she wondered if his personality was formed around defending himself from bullies due to his interests. Was that, perhaps, why she could not get a read on his personality? She had met people in similar circumstances before and had similar reactions to them.
Nia was next and Alexis looked to Jordan. “Are you unapproachable because you were bullied?” She asked to be sure, to know why it was that her gift reacted so differently to him.
Jordan blinked at her before laughing. “You are not very subtle.”
“I approached you. I doubt that makes me unapproachable.” Jordan leaned on the table against his hand. “But yes, you could say that.”
Alexis pouted for a moment knowing not to cross a line further than she had. He was taking it as a joke but she could sense apprehension from him. It was enough to set her at peace about his manufactured aura and to move on. She pointed to his hand. “How long did it take you to do that makeup?”
“Not much time at all.” Jordan smiled a long sly smile and James choked on his drink. “Now Jim, you shouldn’t drink too fast.”
James coughed a bit before laughing. Jordan had lied and he had taken hours to prepare. The idea of it made her smile a bit. “I suppose you aren’t so terrible.”
“You thought I was terrible?” Jordan tilted his head at her.
“Only a bit.” She teased him before standing and going up to take her turn at bowling. When she returned to the tables, switching with James, Nia was discussing food with the guys. Alexis let them decide on what to buy, not caring about what they ate.
“You’re a music major, right?” Nathan asked her.
“Can you play any instruments?”
“Guitar.” Nathan’s smile was sweet. Unlike Jordan who looked as if he could swallow you whole, Nathan almost looked innocent. She doubted that he was.
“Why did you pick a drow?” Alexis asked Jordan when costumes came back up.
“Underland Elf.” He corrected her. “Underland Elves change their skin color depending on the time of day, as opposed to Highland elves who are colored based on the region.” She was at a loss for a long moment before James supplied the answer. “Its from a series.”
“Oh!” Alexis nodded. “I don’t know it.”
Jordan shrugged and excused himself to go get their food.
“How did you all meet?” Nia asked switching into small talk easily.
“Jordan and I have known each other since we were infants.” James answered. “We met Nathan in Middle School.” He smiled at Nathan who nodded, but was starring off somewhere else. “We’ve been inseparable ever since. The three amigos.”
Alexis looked off to where Nathan was starring to see Jordan talking to some girls, obviously flirting. It looked so natural that Alexis thought nothing of it until Nathan stood. “I’m going to help Jordan.” He went off quickly, leaving them in silence.
“Does Jordan have a problem?” Alexis asked.
“Girls are flirting with him. He—“ James paused for a moment. “He will get preoccupied and forget about us if we don’t stop him.”
“He’s that much of a playboy?” Nia laughed.
“He likes the chase, but he will never fully commit to anyone.” James shrugged. He looked to Alexis and gave her an expression that had her gasping. “Just so you know.”
“I wouldn’t say yes to him anyway.” Alexis had no reason to defend herself, yet she did.
“He has a way of convincing people to sleep with him, and then breaks their heart.” James shook his head.
“Sounds like commitment issues.” Nia laughed.
“It’s exactly that.” James answered. “We can’t all be perfect. I’d rather that my best friend wasn’t a terrible human being. More than he already is, obviously. He’s terrible at being human.”
Alexis laughed along with him and when Nathan returned with Jordan, they had the food. Bowling resumed as did small talk.
The next day Nia booked two tickets and dragged Alexis to the convention center. This time they were better prepared, and were better dressed in walking shoes and graphic t-shirts. Nia took Alexis to booths and halls before they made their way to the large performance space. Sitting in their seats, they watched as group after group went up with bad skits, and musical numbers, there were some transformation costumes, and then Alexis watched as James, Jordan, and Nathan walked out. Unlike the night before, Jordan looked like himself. His hair was slicked back and he wore Victorian inspired clothing.
The three of them looked as if they had stepped out of some steampunk universe, with swords that were painted with gears and fake guns at their sides. Jordan and James walked to one side of the stage as Nathan stood on the other. They were introduced to rapturous cheers, and then a hush consumed the audience. The act began then. Nathan walked towards Jordan and James as they walked towards him. Nathan hit Jordan’s shoulder and Jordan spun around.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Jordan snapped at him.
“I apologize.” Nathan went to leave when James stepped onto the other side of him.
“Where have I seen you before friend?” James asked him.
“Nowhere.” Nathan answered, backing up, his hand to his sword.
“Methinks I saw you the other night. Thief.”
Objectively, their acting was terrible. It was pretty unbelievable, and a little forced. They looked awkward saying it all, very clearly focused on what was to come next. However no one seemed to notice. Instead the tension was rising in the audience with a sharp breath as Nathan drew out his sword. It wasn’t real metal, Aleix reminded herself, despite the way he wielded it. It seemed like it had real weight to it and then the fight began.
Jordan and James fought against Nathan in a two against one. The choreography was beautiful to watch like a dance on the stage. The acting had been horrible, but the fight was almost magical. They leaped, dove, dashed and turned about each other. The sharp clang continued to sound as they deflected each and every blow that was sent out. By the end of the battle Nathan had won and walked away to deafening applause and cheers. There was a general feel of awe and excitement that carried on through the rest of the acts, even those that did not come to par with the trio’s fight.
As soon as they were allowed to leave, Alexis and Nia were out hunting the guys down. They found them surrounded by people congratulating them on their choreography. Nia went to shout a hello at them when Jordan turned and waved. He no longer looked like himself. He had gotten back into costume, similar to the night before. This time his had made his skin pasty white and drawn on the ice colored veins. His eyes were black instead of white, with silver for irises. His ears were pointed and he wore a silver wig. Last night he had looked sexy but now he looked beautiful, haunting, and terrifying all at once.
Alexis and Nia made their way closer and helped the boys escape the crowd.
“That was amazing.” Nia told them once they were able to walk a bit away.
“Thank you.” Jordan laughed.
“It’s not accurate. Real sword fights are determined in a few moves and have no fanfare.” Nathan sighed, flexing his wrists.
Alexis had assumed that Jordan had dragged them into agreeing with the fight, but now she was second guessing. “Do you do martial arts?”
“Yeah.” Nathan admitted with a laugh. “I know a variety of different sword form and weapon martial arts.”
“He also knows parkor, free running, and a few other martial arts.” Jordan put his arm around Nathan. “He’s our resident fight scene coordinator.”
Nathan threw off Jordan’s arm and laughed. “I liked the idea of sword fighting and knife fighting, but I thought it would be cooler to know how to do flips and spins as well as free running when doing the sword tricks. I want to be a action film fight scene coordinator.”
“That’s cool.” Alexis had never met someone who had such a specified goal before. Nathan looked at her and smiled sheepishly before Jordan interrupted them.
“I need to go get ready for the costume comp. Can you take the swords out to the car?” Jordan asked them.
“Sure.” James took the swords and waved Jordan off as he walked towards another hall.
“Will he be okay?” Nia joked.
“No.” Nathan groaned as Jordan got distracted by some men.
“I can go. You stop him.” James sighed, holding the swords tightly.
“I’ll go with you.” Alexis offered Nathan. Nia went off with James and Alexis walked up with Nathan to stop Jordan from flirting with a man with a long plastic sword.
“Sorry. He has a competition.” Nathan interrupted.
“I thought you were putting away the swords.” Jordan looked to him and then Alexis. Jordan seemed humored by the interruption rather than irritated.
“We are. James is. Come on.”
The guys said a few things about the cosplay competition and Jordan invited them to watch before they walked away. By the time that Nathan got Jordan toward the new hall, he had stopped five times. It was almost as if he were drawn to do it. He did not do it maliciously but as if he were distracted. It seemed like he was searching for something he could not find. Jordan then wished them a farewell and went backstage.
“He’s terrible.” Nathan sighed before motioning to sit. Alexis followed him and they saved seats.
“What’s your favorite part of the convention?” Alexis asked him, wanting to forget Jordan for a bit. Nathan gladly took the segue and the two began talking. By the time that James and Nia arrived, the room was beginning to get crowded.
“There are people standing.” Nia whispered once time got closer to beginning. Alexis looked back to see the entire room packed to the brim.
“The costume competition is the cream of the crop.” James told her. “They have to apply and be accepted. A year in advance. Jordan has been accepted for the last three years.”
When the competition began, the cheers erupted and the competitors began to show case their clothes. There were transforming dresses that made Alexis believe magic was real. There were sets of armor from video games that made her question craftsman ship and if perhaps they could bend physics. There were elaborate costumes that were super authentic to their source material that made Alexis do a double take on if they had not come from the comic it self.
Then Jordan came out in a hand embroidered draping outfit that looked ten times heavier than his body could carry. It was clothes of no culture she had ever seen in this world. It vaguely reminded her of a hanfu, but was reminiscent of wester European clothes. It was heavily beaded and glittered with each and overstep. His skin looked reflective as if it were ice itself and his eyes were solid black without the silver of before. His eyes were not real. His body was not real. He was not… His white wig dropped behind him pinned back out of his face. He looked androgynous, and intimidating. His ears were pointed and Alexis could not see where his real ears ended and the the fake ear began. He had fanged teeth as he smiled and his lips were tinged blue. He had walked across the stage as if he had been gliding and when he stood in the center stage starring out to the audience, Alexis heard the collective gasp.
That was when he smiled. His eyes curved up and his smiled did as well, but the smile was far from peaceful.
“Holy hell.” Nia whispered.
“What is he doing?” Nathan leaned to James. “This was not what he said he was doing.”
“It’s approved.” James’ voice held anger in it.
“What’s wrong with it?” Alexis asked them.
“Nothing inherently.” James answered trying to calm himself with the words.
“It’s just cheating. How is anyone going to compete with that?” Nathan complained. There was something else to it that Alexis could not press, but it was as Jordan was walking off the stage that Nia realized that she had felt the full force of his aura for the first time. It had been like a serene tide, and it had felt unfathomable.
When Jordan won, no one was surprised. When they met him after, he had changed out of the custom and was looking as he had leading up to it. The magic of his current costume had worn off in comparison to the ethereal beauty he had been before. He had locked himself back up and once again Alexis read nothing from him.
“What are you thinking?” James hissed when they found him.
“Nothing bad is going to happen. Relax.” Jordan shrugged him off. James looked like he wanted to say more but Nathan nudged him and he dropped it. Jordan then turned to Alexis and Nia announcing it was time to go to panels and the dealers room.
By the time that Aleix and Nia had gone home, they had bought unnecessary fandom things and elf ears. It was as she was laying down in bed, listening to Tiana talk about her day that Alexis wondered about the door again. She wondered why she had ever forgotten it.