DISCLAIMER: All "ER" characters and institutions are the property of Warner Bros., ConstantC Productions and Amblin Television. This is written strictly for entertainment value, no infringement of copyright or ownership is intended, and nobody is making a profit on this piece. As always, any errors in continuity, characterization, or common sense are entirely my own fault.
Yes, this is actually an ER story, despite appearances. Trust me. I'm just letting my demented little imagination run a little more berserk than normal this time around. This is what happens when you read a bunch of Neil Gaiman comics and then write fan fiction. Let's see how long it takes everyone to identify the two primary characters. (Hint: Dali is not someone from the show, so don't let her confuse you. I just made her up.) Once again, if you don't like f/f slash, DON'T READ! Happy Halloween, everyone. SEND ALL COMMENTS (positive or negative) to scottjwelles@yahoo.com

Hallows, by Scott J. Welles

Part One...

There are only three stated rules at Hallows'.

The first rule: Consenting Adults. Anyone is free to covet anyone else, male, female, or anything that blurs the line. Homo, hetero, trans or polymorph, it's all okay, as long as the one you want wants you, too. And don't even bother coming if you're underage. They'll know.

The second rule: Safe Sex. That means not merely contraception and prevention of disease, but also freedom from coercion or abuse. Unwanted abuse, that is. If you're into the rougher aspects of sex, that's okay as long as your partner's on the same page. But no matter what your game, hardcore S & M or just an old-fashioned fuck, the word "No" is law. From anyone, for any reason. Try to force someone, in any way, and you're eighty-sixed permanently. And you won't be walking when you leave.

The third rule, the one that really gives Hallows' its reputation: No Real Names. It doesn't matter who you are on the outside. You may be married, attached, committed, monogamous, or celibate. Relationships and responsibilities out there mean nothing in here. Once you come in here, you're someone else, and whatever goes on is just fantasy given form. Your real life resumes tomorrow, so tonight is up for grabs.

Gail, as she preferred to be called on nights like this, strolled into the club just after midnight.

Her metal-studded leather jacket and biker boots were by no means the most outrageous outfit to be found in a place like this, but they still would have shocked any of her co-workers at County. That is, assuming that they could recognize her with her brown hair tucked up under the baseball cap. To them, she was sweet and pretty, in a plain, ordinary sort of way, a woman who worked hard but didn't seem to have a private life, beyond gripes about her ex. That was when she went by the first half of her first name. When she donned the leather and went by the second half, she became a different person entirely.

But that was what Hallows' was for. A place to go and be someone else for a while. Nobody used their real names here, or dressed the same way they did the rest of their lives. You don't come to a place like Hallows' to be the daily version of yourself. You came to get down, get drunk, and get laid. No questions asked, no strings attached.

Gail felt her nipples stiffen as her thin cotton tee shirt glided over them. She wore no underwear, never did when she came here.

The thumping bass of the music hit her, along with the smells. An olfactory kaleidoscope of perfumes, colognes, natural body scents, cigarette smoke...and sex. That natural combination of pheromonal secretions that triggered your state of readiness at the first whiff.

She stood just within the entrance, lighting a cigarette of her own. The entrance was carefully designed so that the same thing happens whenever you walked in. You stand in the doorway, unable to see a thing until your eyes adjust to the different lighting. Long before you can see anything or anyone inside, they've gotten a good look at you. And by the time you catch your first impressions of them, they've already sized you up. Are you someone they want to be with tonight? They know before you do. That's how it works at Hallows'.

Gail could feel the unnumbered pairs of eyes on her as she drew deeply on her cigarette. She stood still, letting them take a good look at her. Ninety percent of them, she knew, would hold no attraction for her, but she enjoyed being an object of their attraction.

When she'd posed enough, and could see again, she strolled inside.

The dance floor was pretty full, though not jammed. Most of the tables surrounding it were occupied as well. You didn't have to come here for sex if you didn't want to. A quiet conversation over a soft drink or a cup of coffee was okay, too, as long as you observed the third rule. That meant no griping about your day, or your boss, or your spouse, or anything else personal. Talk about politics, religion, philosophy, music, culture in general, or even the weather was cool, as long as it didn't ask the other person to give away their identity.

Without half-trying, she spotted a dozen different styles of dress among the patrons. Mohawked punks in chains and spiked leather, retro-seventies outfits out of 'Saturday Night Fever', Yuppies in Armani suits, cowboys and cowgirls, surfers in wetsuits, and a few Bruce Lee clones. Some people dressed like extras from Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis', some dressed like refugees from Mardi Gras, some looked like they'd just come from a Renaissance Faire. At one table, a couple who would have looked square and uptight in a 'Leave it to Beaver' episode was drinking with two women dressed as the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat. There was a man dressed like a Viking, dancing with a woman in full bridal gown. Or was it a woman?

Gail snorted. Nothing new, not for this place.

She decided against the dance floor, turning instead to the bar. She found a seat down by end, next to a guy who could have passed for Teddy Roosevelt. He had his hand on the thigh of the woman - she double-checked; yeah, an actual woman - who appeared to wearing only a loose wrapping of gauze. They glanced briefly at Gail as she sat down, the forest of slogan badges pinned to her jacket clicking together gently, then returned to their conversation. Gail couldn't hear what they were saying, and didn't care.

"What'll you have?" the bartender asked her.

She ordered a soda without looking at him. There were a lot of things she could get away with as 'Gail' that she wouldn't otherwise allow herself. But drinking wasn't one of them. That aspect of her life couldn't be compartmentalized.

Her eyes drifted over the crowds, scanning idly. If you came to Hallows' with a specific image of who you wanted to meet, you probably wouldn't meet them. The only thing to do was to see who's there and wait with an open mind for the right person.

Gail had only been here a handful of times, the first shortly before her divorce became final. One of her friends, perceiving her loneliness amidst the crumbling excuse for a marriage, had told her about the club, giving her the basic ideas and suggesting she drop by sometime. She'd taken it as a joke at first, but when the intriguing notion wouldn't go away, she'd finally thrown on some old clothes that differed significantly from what she usually wore, made up the first alias that came to mind, and ventured into Hallows' for the first time.

Sometimes she didn't find anyone she liked - there were no guarantees, after all - but she always felt better for coming. Stronger, more in control of her own destiny and more certain of her attractiveness. Twice, however, she'd spent the night with someone she met here. The first was a man seven feet tall if he was an inch, and built like Michelangelo's David. He was strong enough to break her in half, but he was also the gentlest man she ever met, and the night she spent with him was the best sex she'd ever had. She'd never seen him in here since. Another time, she'd ended up with a pair of brothers dressed like bikers who took turns with her until all three were exhausted. Neither of them was as good as the first guy, but she still considered it time well spent.

Gail sipped her drink, listening to the music with half an ear. The mix at Hallows' was always eclectic; Motown R&B could give way to New Age, followed by Heavy Metal, Techno-Pop, 50's Doo-Wop, Disco, Bluegrass Country, Psychedelia... You could dance to Reggae one minute, and Beerbarrel Polka the next.

Gail was distracted by another sound, off to her left, and looked toward the sound as it came again. A voice - a real voice, not part of the music - in what sounded like an advanced state of arousal. And it wasn't speaking, just moaning. Gail glanced back at the bar. The bartender was down at the other end, and the other people drinking didn't seem to have heard the voice. Teddy and Gauze Girl had gone elsewhere.

She looked back toward the voice as it moaned again, louder this time. It sounded female, and seemed to come from a doorway marked 'Employees Only'. Gail craned her head toward the doorway, her curiosity piqued. While there was no listed rule against having sex on the premises, it was nevertheless discouraged by the management. Much like the unspoken ban on drugs other than caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol. Still, there was always someone willing to bend the rules.

Gail got up from her stool and ventured to look into the other room.

It was a storeroom for drinks, snack foods, napkins, and the like. Perched on the edge of a cardboard box - Gail couldn't tell what it contained, but it must have been something sufficiently solid to support someone's weight - was a young woman who could have been anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five. She wore a halter, miniskirt, thigh-high boots and a silver-studded collar, all made of glossy black leather, over some sort of sheer mesh body stocking that was open at the crotch. She was thin, but not unhealthily so, and as far as Gail could see, had no hair at all, from the top of her head to where her legs disappeared into her boots.

Those legs were draped over the shoulders of a figure, age and gender indeterminate, in a black cape, who knelt before her, back turned to Gail. The young woman's hands clutched at the caped figure's head and she squirmed, thrashed, and squealed under her lover's obviously expert oral ministrations. She dug her heels into the folds of her companion's cape and arched her back, deep in uncontrolled ecstasy.

And then her eyes opened and looked straight into Gail's.

There was a moment of connection...and invitation.

The girl let out a final, half-muted vocalization, her mouth forming a silent scream, and she climaxed, all her muscles taut as bowstrings. She released the tension slowly, sliding off the box until she was sitting on the floor with her lover, leather-clad legs wrapped around the caped figure's waist. They kissed deeply, the girl's arms around the shoulders of her friend. The high, upturned collar of the cape prevented Gail from seeing any further details of the other person.

The slim, hairless girl looked at her again, over the other person's shoulder...and Gail's nerve broke. She fled.

It was an effort to turn away from the private tryst, and the wetness in her jeans testified to how much the sight had affected Gail. Returning to the bar, she finished her soda and migrated toward the edge of the dance floor.

The mosaic of dancers had changed. Many of the same people were still there, but dancing in new styles, with new partners, and the overall pattern was unpredictably different. Something electronic from the 70's was playing wordlessly, and Gail had no idea what it was. She let her eyes roam over the dancers, searching for someone she might want tonight. There was no question, after watching that hidden display, that she wanted someone. Anyone.

She lit another cigarette, and was about to take the first good drag off of it...when a slim, perfectly formed hand with flawless skin snaked around her shoulder and plucked it from her lips.

Gail turned, indignantly, and was brought up short when she recognized the hairless girl close behind her. She put the cigarette between her own lips, took a deep drag of smoke, causing the tip to flare eerily, and exhaled away from Gail, all the while looking straight into Gail's eyes. Up close, Gail could see the faint eyebrows and the delicate lashes, so fair as to disappear against her skin. The sheerness of her body mesh, combined with the smoothness of her naked scalp, gave her the semblance of nakedness, despite the leather she wore.

"I'm Dali," she cooed in a soft, girlish voice, placing the cigarette back in Gail's lips. She could taste the faint flavor of Dali's flesh-colored lipstick on the tip. "I haven't seen you before."

"Hello, Dali," Gail responded, the cigarette bobbing as she spoke around it. She didn't feel attraction to women, but when someone at Hallows' starts a conversation, it didn't automatically mean they were coming onto you. More often than not, it was worthwhile to take the time to hear what they had to say. "I'm Gail."

"I saw you watching me," Dali told her, the china-blue eyes guileless. "I liked it."

"Oh. Thanks, I guess..." Sex was always a possibility in everyone's future at Hallows', and Gail had no problem with that. But there was something slightly disconcerting about talking casually to someone who had been in the throes of orgasm just minutes earlier.

Dali smiled at Gail wordlessly, without seeming to feel any need to make unnecessary conversation.

Gail dropped her cigarette in the remains of someone's abandoned drink. "What can I do for you, Dali?" she asked.

"There's someone I'd like you to meet," the girl replied easily. "Here she comes."

Gail turned, following her gaze, and saw Dali's companion approaching. The cape's blood red lining, the dye-darkened hair and the black lipstick only highlighted the paleness of the skin and the delicate arch of the brows above the penetrating eyes. The cape closed in front, and made its wearer appear to have just stepped out of a coven. Given the deliberate distortion of appearances at Hallows', it was unlikely that the new arrival was an actual practitioner of witchcraft, but one would never know that from looking at her now.

They recognized each other immediately, each freezing in astonishment. A name sprang to Gail's mind, and she thrust it away reflexively. No Real Names, she reminded herself.

She could almost see the same train of thought in the other woman's mind, parallel to her own. There was a tense expectancy in the set of the caped shoulders that hadn't been there a moment ago.

"Gail, this is the Lady Kara," Dali told her, gesturing to the caped woman like Vanna White rotating a vowel. "Lady, this is Gail."

Gail raised her brows even more. A Lady, was she? In Hallows' parlance, the founders and owners of the club were referred to as 'Lord' or 'Lady'. Gail would never have pegged this woman as the sort of person to visit a club like Hallows', let alone be one of the powers behind it.

"What are you doing here?" Lady Kara asked, her voice lacking the customary crispness that Gail expected.

Gail stiffened, suddenly self-conscious. "Same as everyone else," she shot back. "I'm here for a good time. There a problem with that?"

"Of course not," the Lady replied, unperturbed. "Forgive me, I should have rephrased. I meant to ask, what are you looking for?"

Gail glanced from the Lady to Dali, who stood by, calmly observing the exchange without participating. "I'm not certain," Gail responded, uncertain exactly what was going on here.

"Then how will you know when you find it?" Lady Kara asked.

Gail had no response to that.

The Lady peered intently at her, as though considering her own question. "Never mind," she said at last. "Perhaps it will find you."

She held something out to Dali, an ebony rod capped with a crystal ball clutched in a silver eagle's claw. The girl took it without word or change of expression as the Lady stepped carefully closer and took Gail's arm.

The music changed to something slower by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

"Dance with me," the Lady told her softly, "and we'll see if I can find some way to...unlock...your heart." There was a quiet but undeniable emphasis on two of those syllables. It was perilously close to a violation of the third rule.

Gail accompanied her onto the floor, feeling the Lady's weight against her. They danced, slow and close.

Something was happening, something that Gail would never have expected, even here. She had never been with a woman before. In fact, in her regular identity, outside of the club, she would never consider the possibility.

Twice, during previous visits, women had approached her, one inviting her to join a group of lovers, the other alone but proposing an exotic sex act that would, Gail suspected, require considerable stretching in preparation to avoid severe muscle cramps. Each time, Gail had been more flattered than repulsed, and both women had accepted her polite refusals with good grace.

If Lady Kara asked her now, Gail didn't know what she'd say.