bittermixin the third
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Drunk. Faded. Spots of white clouded Arthur's vision and the booze weighed his veins down like lead. Chocolate, roses, some fucking softcore erotica for a bathtime smelling salts read- it didn't matter, he just needed something, anything to stop him from spending the night out on his ass.

February 14th. The night air whipped his face to a suitably ruddy hue, the dip and flicker of a busted street lamp illuminating a slick stretch of pavement. This walk usually felt like a few minutes. With just a few hours before sunrise and cold sweat across his back, Arthur felt an eternity pass in every step.

A sharp left landed him across a small cobbled path, the mismatched stones nestled between an array of pastel buildings. Trinket stores and sweet shops. The oddities you buy for a laugh or out of burning curiosity. This was the place to find them.

But the streets felt fruitless. Every shiny steel shutter was like a needle pricking his brain. Arthur felt fear and frustration chill his gut. Em was going to kill him- string him up like a hunted fox, poke holes in him with the bottle of brandy she'd probably nabbed the other day for the third year in a fuckin' row…

He didn't even really like brandy. It was just whiskey's snobby older brother. Where the fuck are the open signs? Never did he think that his 24 years of life had resorted to him cursing under his breath at the sight of 'Miss Bamboza's Spiritual Trinkets' being closed up.

He sank against the brickwork, head back, eyes wild and gluey with sleep. He might as well spend the night here- and the next, and the one after that, then perhaps a year or two until Em properly cooled her jets. Maybe a stray dog would come along- or a cat, like Bob. Maybe he could meet a street cat named Bob, rewrite the book overnight, and give that to his honey bun the next morning.

Somehow, he felt as if the odds would be against him.

It was only when he snapped back into the soft orange glow of the streetlights that he noticed the other man. Perhaps a foot taller, with a rounded face and a mop of tangled hair. Any branding on his clothes was shrouded by the licks of shadow- but he was unusually under-dressed.

His lips quirked into a knowing smile, and a soft sigh filled the space between them. Arthur's eyebrows furrowed towards him like a dart.

"Valentine's, ey ?" The mystery man spoke, an Irish tang in his voice spiking horrid memories of garish green pubs and choppy neon signs.

"Mrm." Arthur responded with a murmur. He didn't have the time or the breath to make small talk, he needed to-

"Rosie's gonna make my head spin when I get back. Didn't, ah-" He idly turned a small glass bottle around in his hands. "- ah, fuck, now I'm talkin' to strangers. Doesn't matter."

Arthur jerked forwards, then caught himself and combed his fingers through his hair. "No- no, go on." He blurted, slightly embarrassed at how eager he was to fill the sucking, swirling void of empty panic.

"Got her this." The man raised one hand. Clamped between his fingertips was a small ornate bottle, a deep amber-gold in colouration. Inside, dark liquid bobbed and swirled around the honey-coloured glass. “Perfume. Vanilla and rose water. The fuck was I supposed to know she was allergic to vanilla?” The irishman scoffed, his grip tightening. “Not as if the twat’s gotten me anythin’ fuckin’ worthwhile. Just another bottle of whiskey.” Arthur’s eyes widened, slightly bewildered by both their matched taste in drinks and the sudden surge of strength in the other’s accent.

Another sigh. Arthur lay in a small crumpled heap against the stone. Mystery man let his head sag, into his shoulder for a moment or two before piping up again.

“D’ya want it, like? It’s proper good shit. Birds love it.”

Arthur shifted uncomfortably, the sweat becoming a hot flush of embarrassment. “I mean- nah, like- yeah, it would help, like. Needed somethin’ for the missus meself.”

A quick, dry laugh made him jump. “Lucky fucker! Have a go.” Suddenly, the bottle was hurling towards him- reflexes did their work and the bottle landed comfortably in his palm. It was cool to the touch, and a lot lighter than he had anticipated.

“Forget about missus. Two spritzes a that shit and you’ll be a pussy magnet.” The irishman stood, burying his hands into the pocket of a tracksuit and turning on one heel to tread ever so gently down the winding cobbles. Arthur’s face twisted into a mix of anger and surprise as he called after him. “Woah, woah now, ‘ang on a second-“ He scrambled onto two feet, world spinning slightly as he jogged to catch up with his guardian angel.

“Must a cost you a fuckin’ fortune. Sure you can just give it away?”

The tracksuit sneered. “No worries, mate. Just remember. Two squirts. No more, no less.”

Arthur’s smile dwindled slightly at that last remark. He gazed into the softly illuminated glass, watched the liquid suck and heave as he twisted it between his fingers. Mesmerising.

“Thank y-“ He looked up, expecting the familiar rounded face, but saw nothing. The irishman had simply been swallowed into thin air. Artgur stood, feeling rather naked and vulnerable in the small stoney clearing.

He returned his attention to the bottle. It glittered with moon and street light. Its stopper slid off with a soft shnk. It’s contents whispered soft nothings into his mind, and he couldn’t stop but spray the scent onto his wrist- just for a sample. A sample and nothing more.

The smell was strong and pleasent, but decidedly not vanilla. More akin to a hard cocoa. As Arthur inhaled the rich vapours, he became aware of a sudden unease that had worked its way into the atmosphere. Something had changed, for better or for worse- and knowing his luck, the latter option seemed more realistic.