There were benefits to being ignored, Cole thought as he made his way past cheap shopfronts and the hotel driveways. The mundane charlatans and cheap hawkers directed none of their offensive voices towards him. Hefty tourists and packs of young hedonists stepped out of his way, exhausted gazes sliding from his face without the barest hints of register. You got used to being ignored until it suited you, and it suited him in cities like this.
When Cole’s fellows learned where he was going, they’d shaken their heads. A few had laughed. They all knew he was going to loathe the brightly illuminated city and its shrines to human vice. It was called Sin City. Of course he, being the ever righteous Cole, would hate it.
They were not entirely wrong. He hated the way the manufactured grime stuck to his skin at all times and the press of too many people on a single street, even if none touched him. But the other things, the glittering hotels that turned to eyesores during the day, the neon crested gambling dens, and the sidewalk carpet of calling cards left by pimps, those were nothing new. Not really.
It was the thing that bemused him most about his friends. They expected him to balk at women in bathing suits and betting houses. He’d lived and died a young warrior, hauled off to another desert to fight people someone else had told him were worth fighting. War had its share of vice.
He remembered the dice games and the ale fueled brawls around fires at night. While he’d avoided the hollow-eyed women who followed their camps, most men had not. And then there was the slow creeping sloth between battles, and the red tinted wrath during them. He was familiar with each.
Sometimes it was depressing that people, over hundreds of years, couldn’t change all that much. The same things still tempted them and brought them low. Other times Cole found comfort in it. Even surrounded by unfamiliar masses, their eyes fixed to iridescent screens he didn’t understand at all, people were still as they’d always been, human.
It was a reminder he apparently needed. While the world ignored him, he’d returned the sentiment with distance and disregard. Now, he was firmly entrenched in the middle of everything humanity had to offer.
Speaking of which, he was being summoned. Cole marched up her hotel’s expansive drive and into the gilt and marble lobby. No one protested his presence, and he was content to wait. It wasn’t long, as usual the universe tended to nudge him into the time and place he needed to be, leaving it to him to figure out why he was needed .
The stained glass globe above one of the elevators lit up. The doors opened, she stepped out. Unlike everyone else’s, her eyes caught him immediately. She was wearing a brilliant crimson gown that emphasized the bright gold of her hair, making her stand out like a beacon in the lobby. People stared, he did too.
“Think you can manage a tux?” She asked when he approached.
Cole gave her a questioning look. “I don’t know. I can try.” He’d never tried one on. Even with the heeled shoes she always seemed to wear Cole was still a good deal taller than her. He had to look down to meet her eyes. Cole didn’t know how she managed to walk in them. But she did.
She shrugged dismissively, like it didn’t actually matter. But then why had she asked?
“I have a gala to attend, and I need a date.” Her lips, colored the same red as her dress, quirked with a flash of humor. It even reached her green eyes.
His stomach dropped slightly and he exhaled. Cole was beginning to think it wasn’t modern society and its complexities that were so difficult to navigate. Interacting with her was all the reminder Cole needed that he, like the rest of the world, was still human.
He offered her his arm, and she took it, laying her palm against his.