ii. Poor Bastard
The music blared high that vibrated the walls. People were crowded- bodies touching and the smell of sweat and perfume lingered against the liquor that was pouring like a fountain. Women were being dragged to the laps of high-end rollers with cigars in their mouths. Thousand-dollar suits and gold along their necks were setting these women with exposed chest and thigh high dresses. Pretty red lips and shiny eyes were attracted to the shine of their men's personal bank.
It was all about the money. It was about the fame. What little glory there was had gone to her pride. She had to be different. She had to be skilled. In a sport dominated by men, she had to just be more than a woman.
Dakota walked through the crowds of dancing people. It smelled of pure sex and degrading scents. Her eyes set on the second floor to a group of men sitting with women next to them, while waitresses offered them drinks. Dakota was not dressed for the occasion as she found the club scene a little too exposed for her sanity. People here were enjoying the stress-free life, while those above them had a much-twisted view on life.
She wore a simple pair of blue jeans with her black converse sneakers. A plain t-shirt and hair pulled up into a messy ponytail. Dakota stuck out like a sore thumb when she stood in front of the man she had been searching for. She got stares from both genders because of how she was dressed. No one would dress in such plain and simple clothing. This was a club where woman dressed to impress and men were offering drinks on their salary.
"So, the guest of honor has shown herself. Could have dolled yourself up if you wanted to have a little meeting with me, darling." His voice dropped like honey to Dakota's ears. The women around him were like goo with his voice, but Dakota was not one to fall for such cheap small talk. She had heard it all from men before. Talk simple. Talk smooth. When you speak words to make her all hot and bothered, the woman you were after will be caught in your web.
Dakota despised men such as him.
"Darling?" She raised a brow and crossed her arms over her chest. She was not here to be someone's high end doll to sit on their laps. Dakota was here for business. "I was promised the underground and only got a measly seven hundred for my victory. The men get much more of a deal and I have nothing. Tell me why that is, Vic?"
Vic- the man Dakota was staring down intently- was picking at his teeth with a toothpick. Not a care in the world plastered on his face. The women around him gave her dirty looks; she was ruining their night. His boys were ready to pounce on Dakota any moment. Not that it mattered seeing as how those on the second floor were a part of the same crowd. A crowd Dakota noticed that wore the same ring.
Vic threw the toothpick at Dakota and she moved out of the way. Her face disgusted by such barbaric tactics. No one treated her this way! She was far and above these men. The men who pay her bills and keep her from the streets.
"You should be grateful that you get paid at all. Look, darling, you are cute. The men love seeing you out there with your savage nature. It gives them something to look at and you want more money?" Vic pretended to be hurt. Dakota noticed the shine to his pinky finger and saw a new ring. One much larger than the others- another spectacle of his greed. Dakota was not impressed to say the least. Men like Vic thrived on the pain and hard work of others.
Dakota had to put a stop to his tactics or else she would go hungry. Living on the streets was not a woman's world. There was danger if one was not careful. Dakota closed her eyes for a moment. The music was loud enough to make you go deaf. The smell was lingering and settling in her mind. Dakota hated the club scene as it was nothing but trouble.
"I have trained hard to be where I am. No other fighter that has entered that ring can move like me. I am the best you have and bring crowds. I deserve my share or I will leave." She threatened. "My skills are hard to find. If I leave, where would the money pour? When the well dries and the people starve for my presence."
Vic only laughed at Dakota. The man was not taking her seriously or as serious enough to want to be a begging man. "Where would you go? Do you believe that you will make a name for yourself in a competitive sport? Darling, you are much better off here where I can care for you. I do have some of the best trainers and best fighters. You are unique, but do you truly believe you will make a name for yourself?"
A waitress came by the booth and offered drinks. Shooing the pretty girl away, Vic leaned into his seat. The women moving to the side as to see that he placed his elbows upon his knees. "Darling, there are some things that you cannot comprehend in this world. There are some like you in ways you do not know. Surprising enough that you have come to me. If only you knew."
Dakota clenched her jaw. Her eyes narrowed hard at his words. Vic had control over her income. Control over her training. Dakota knew coming to him was a long shot that could not be achieved. She was desperate to put her name out there. To show the world that she was worth something. To fight away her demons that seemed to always appear, but they had aided her into the fighter she is. She was unique in a way. A valuable asset to Vic. Not to mention she can take a hit to that pretty face. Why a girl like her would never want to get bruised and broken was beyond his understanding. Dakota brought in the money from her skills. She was being talked about and it shows from her attitude.
"I can make a name for myself if I was given breathing room." She had a comeback for everything. A true spitfire that one. Shame no man has been able to tame her running mouth. She's too pretty to be bloodied.
Vic had enough of the same conversation. It seems as of late; Dakota was coming to him. Wanting more in a raise. Wanting everything in the world, but she asked for something that Vic was trying to reach. She wanted to be known. She wanted the stars to align for her and yet, here she was. The world wouldn't make her happy even if he was able to give it to her.
"Why not be a proper lady and actually dress like one. Come back here when you learn your place." Dakota spit in his general direction in a sign of disrespect. He wanted her to act a lady, well she was known as the gladiator in the fighting world. Vic did not seem to upset that her saliva was on his new pair of shoes.
Dakota turned to walk away from the loud music and disrespectful man. But what she failed to realize was that there were two pairs of eyes looking at her. Two men whom she will have the pleasure of encountering soon enough when life was going her way. Unfortunately, Dakota did not realize that the ring Vic wore had a symbol of a black cross.
You fucked up this time.
She always seemed so lost in her thoughts. Her eyes always staring straight ahead as if she was locking on to something far away. There was this expression that she always held. Her brows meeting, eyes losing its shine, and she always had clenched fists. There was something that could not be explained about Dakota and it seemed her body moved on its own without her thinking of where she was to go. Her days seemed so occupied by training that she spoke so little of herself. Where she had come from and who she was as a person was never brought up in light conversation.
Dakota would rather keep to her own thoughts. Sure, the woman talked and bickered with Alexios over subtle things. Dakota was in training to survive in this world. She knew the risks of everyday life and sought out how to best cope with it. Her interactions with the people still was at an all-time low- only hanging around the misthios when it was of convenience. Phoibe- because she always seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Let's not forget Markos- whom Dakota accused of many occasions of being rather sketchy. Though she tolerated the man with humor as she got her way most of the time.
Life seemed to become a routine for Dakota. Her body changing to the climate and diet. But it seems that something was pulling the strings of fate that intertwined her and the ancient world. Dakota would not voice it, because she was already a stranger in a strange land. She has yet to say she was from the future; who would believe her anyway. As far as she was concerned, she was the woman of the sea.
Just another orphan.
She bumped into somebody. Her musings rattled her thoughts to the world around her. Rubbing her nose out of irritation, she found that she was looking at the back of the infamous misthios that has taken her in. She may need to have a reality check pretty soon. For one, she was falling for the bastard. Two, Dakota would never voice it. And three, she hated her growing fondness.
Not that it mattered. He was handsome to the eyes, she'll admit that. Nothing more, brain.
"Is it always so fun around here?" She questioned as she tried to think of a better distraction.
They were at the bottom of a hill where the grapevines grew. Much could be said about who owns the place and how he got it. Dakota just wanted to pick conversation out of boredom. So, she says to herself.
"Fun?" It seems that Alexios did not understand her meaning of the word. Rather she was sarcastic about the way things have been developing recently. The two were always at a standstill. She was just a strange woman.
"Trouble seems to find you when it is necessary. Who did you piss off so badly that those men wanted to kill you?" Dakota had been a curious one. She has seen some shady things living in a crime infested area. She knows danger and those who follow it.
She stood in front of Alexios. Her eyes sharp as a hawk and wit as cunning as a fox.
"I know you are more the what they say. I don't want to dwell on what you do when no one looks, but do I have to watch my back around you?" She was not afraid of what lies ahead. Alexios was somewhat stunned at how brash she could be. She was not afraid to speak what was on her mind- though it could lead to her downfall if she was not careful enough.
"Men like are born of danger. Waiting to be called upon in dire times. I've been trying to figure you out for many weeks and I come up empty. Not that I want to know you on a personal level." She backtracked quickly. Raising her hands in defense. "Are you a threat to me?"
"You see me as a threat?" He played along, wondering where this was coming from. Dakota smirked at his choice of words. A reaction that sometimes could be taken out of context. So, he has a sense of humor? "When I found you close to death. Taken care of your weakened state. Training you to survive. You, woman of the sea, see me as a threat?"
There was something about the way he spoke. Dakota's smirk had faded from her lips when she noticed people staring at them. It wasn't hard to figure out that they thought of the two as a couple in a bitter disagreement. She took a step back to give them space. They were much too close that she could almost hear his heartbeat.
"I see you as a man with ambition. Purpose with every decision that is made within that head of yours" She pointed to her head. "I woke up in a strange world, surrounded by faces I have never seen. Before this life, I was nothing. No one wanted me or sought to find me." She clenched her jaw tight. The buildup anger from her years of solitude and living without those to rely on had surfaced. "I won't give you a sob story to feel sympathy towards me. Maybe I did not thank you properly for saving my life. You are no threat to me. I've seen men scarier than you and they were faceless." She looked to the people that had walked by. Their eyes staring at Dakota's shape and form. Seeing her walk tall and mighty would have given off an impression of her arrogance.
Alexios knew there was something so familiar about her. She had a sense of loneliness that was covered up into anger and bitterness. Dakota was not one to cry or to show it. Alexios knew loneliness better than most, but to see her fighting against herself was but an act of defense.
"They attacked my country when I was very young. I do not remember it, but I've heard the stories. These men will recruit others by force into their army." She licked her lips. The sun beating down hard upon her making the sweat roll off her brow. "Then, the enemy changed. Far from this land lies something that I cannot explain. What I saw out there and what I've heard."
She closed her eyes to the sound of gunshots. Her men yelling in the distance while the sands blew around them. Covering an unseen enemy that struck them down one by one. Dakota was the u lucky one to have survived that day. She has yet to reason why it let her live.
"I remember that day. No matter how many times I try to drink it away and fight, I see them." She opened her eyes once more. Looking up to the sky and Ikaros was flying overhead. She may not have seen it, but the eagle was looking at her.
"You have seen war." It was more a statement then a question. Alexios may not have been one to choose sides at this point- his past making it clear he would rather fight for himself and the innocent. "Those that have seen war, have your eyes. They are haunted and dark. They see something that no one else should have. You have been trying to understand me as I of you."
Dakota smiled slightly at the conversation. She never said much about what happened that day or for that matter what occurred during her time in Egypt. It was a haunting memory of the past.
"We all are fucked inside. We see things and we move on. We fight until there is nothing left. I guess that is why I do what I do in these circumstances. I know you have seen the likes of war being that these are troubling times. Why not fight besides being who you are now?" She looked to the man with question.
Alexios held no emotion to her words. His memories of his childhood were maybe some of the happiest times of his young life. Then it changed one night for reasons he did not know. "This is not my war." He said.
Dakota could not press the matter. She could probably find ways to get an answer out of the man, but who was she to pry into another's life without consent? Dakota nodded her head feeling rather left out. She practically spoke of her matters and Alexios spoke so little. They were one in the same in ways that she could never understand.
They left the conversation at that. Dakota walked behind Alexios up the hill to find Markos talking withis farmer. There seemed to be annoyance and concern regarding making wine. What was so hard about that? But she would rather keep her thoughts on the matter since wine was not something Dakota took into favor. Wine was for rich and snooty people who took advantage of those less fortunate. Dakota would have rather stayed behind, but she wanted to know more about the situation that had played out. Three men were unconscious- if not already wobbling their way back to this cyclops guy. They fought against Alexios and had their assess handed to them.
When Markos noticed them, he was rather reluctant to see him and very happy to see Dakota. She grimaced at the thought of his advances and would punch the fat man in the gut. But she rather pitied the man and let it slide. Would not be the first time some slick man hit in ya. Gross.
"I always kinda had a feeling about you." Dakota spoke. She had caught the conversation between the two men. Business for women were always talked behind closed doors, but Dakota made it well known the first day she met the man that she did not like to be in the dark.
"What kind of feeling?" Markos said. His cheery façade speaking volumes of his character. Dakota rolled her eyes slightly in annoyance.
It wasn't that Dakota cared much for the lives of others. Since her fate was intertwined with this timeline, she thought it best to make most of her situation. And by the looks of how Alexios was angry with Markos about buying a wine farm. She would rather be training then be in the presence of a man who was just ignorant and stupid as he seems.
Poor bastard, really.
"Why not? I like wine. You like wine. Everybody likes wine. Everybody buys wine. Why not from me?" Markos stood up for what he truly believed in. One thing can be said to him and then Markos would do the opposite. Dakota had sighed heavily and wanted to make a smart-ass remark in the matter, but Alexios knew to say something before Dakota could even utter a word.
"Because you don't k how to grow grapes or make wine." He spoke, making Dakota cringe on the inside. They seriously getting into it about fucking grapes and wine?
"I'm a fast leaner! You grow grapes on the vine, then you get some wine." Markos stated.
"Can I make a suggestion?" Dakota spoke which the two men looked to her.
"For you, my sweet vine, anything." Markos almost took a step but Alexios was not done with the man yet. Dakota walked pass him and flicked Markos in the head. It was nothing to cause major harm, but Dakota wanted to punch the idiot. This is wasting my time!
"For one thing, no pet names. Two," she put two fingers in up and put them in Marko's face to an exaggerated degree, "Did the gods truly believe that you can one day be a wine seller? Because if that is the case, I hate you."
She flicked his nose next and Alexios sought it best to keep Dakota from getting a little violent. Does everything make her so mad? He thought as he lightly placed his hand on her shoulder and moved her aside. Dakota threw her hands in the air and shouted 'men' to the gods.
"It's that simple, isn't it?" Alexios continued on with the conversation. Markos rubbed his nose, but had a shit-eating smile upon his face.
"You know me better than to think I don't have a plan. Markos always has a plan!" Dakota could feel her eye twitching.
"Can I please have an opinion?" Dakota stated once more.
"No," Alexios looked to her and then back to Markos, "Alright then. Do you have the money you owe me?"
"Do I have the money I owe you? Of course. Of course. Well, no. Not at the moment." Markos staggered for a moment. Dakota raised a brow and kind of knew they were both shady. Great, she was caught up in business she should not be a part of!
"Instantly my friend, instantly. But- maybe you should do that. There is a merchant in Sami- I'm not good as these things as you know." Markos could see the threatening stare of the man before him. Alexios could be threatening when he needed to be and Dakota has pushed many of his buttons.
"You want me to collect my own debt?" Alexios was a bit dumbfounded. Well, he kind of known this sort of situation was to arise anyway. Dakota did not hold back some laughter- to which Alexios gave her a dirty look.
"What? You said it, not I." Dakota shrugged.
Alexios had many problems. Many, many problems. Dakota was a mix of a angered spit fire to one of the most annoying women Alexios has ever come to cross. Do the gods truly favor him or where they laughing at him and sent Dakota to fully become his punishment?