The Virago sat in a nondescript pink stucco building at the forgotten end of Pico Boulevard. A Corona sign beckoned in the noonday alcoholics. A muscular man in a black wool suit and carrying a metal briefcase stopped in front of the entrance and double-checked the location on his Blackberry. A seagull landed on top of a lamppost across the street and stared down at the man, who turned around to meet it's gaze.
"You can watch me all you like, but you can't stop me," said the man under his breath. The seagull screeched but didn't move from its perch.
The man opened the door to the bar and walked in. The interior was lit with green neon. Two pool balls cracked together in the far corner. An old woman was smoking at a booth, even though there was an ordinance against it. The man looked around and noticed that all the inhabitants of the bar were women. He walked to the bar and took a seat on a stool covered in cracked ancient leather. He placed the briefcase on the bar top.
"Get that off my counter," said the bartender. She slowly walked toward him from the other end of the bar. She was hunched over, not out of any visibile disability, but her stringy hair hung over her face, covering scars that ran down her hairline, in front of her ears, and under her chin. Her face itself expressed remarkable beauty, but she kept her eyes generally downcast, avoiding the gaze of others. The man knew he was in the right place.
"It's for you," he said.
The bartender stopped in front of the man and his case. She pushed it back towards him.
"Get it off my counter," she repeated. "And you can buy a drink or you can go back to Venice Beach."
"Don't you remember me?" he asked.
"I don't usually bother to look at people's faces," she said, hardly able to get the words out before they faded into a pained sigh.
"That was my fault," he said.
"You," she said, glaring at him from the corner of her eye. "Never thought I'd see the day. I thought you went up the mountain."
"No. I was. But not any longer. The mountain...it's gone now. Faded from the hearts of men."
"I'm not surprised." She ran her hand over the surface of the briefcase. "You know, I gave up being angry at you. You took my source of power, you twisted it, abused it for your own uses--"
"--I was given a mission--"
"--following orders. Yes. I'ver heard that one a lot over the millennia. Generals throughout human history owe a lot to you. How they lionized you. Before they forgot you." The bartender grinned.
"And not every mission is worth it in the end. I craved glory, but it didn't last."
"And so, now we let go of the childish emotions we clutched onto for so long. Us both?"
"That's right," said the man. He pressed his thumbs to the locks on the briefcase, and the tumblers spun, then the latches disengaged. The lid opened of it's own accord.
When the bartender saw what was inside she gasped.
"It really is it, just as I remember. You removed it from Aegis," she whispered.
"He gave up a fight," he said.
"He always does, but you've proved yourself a champion again."
The man smiled with a slight embarrassment.
"Take it," he said.
"You should look away," she said, and he did so.
"What about the others?"
"They won't notice," she said. "They've already forgotten us, remember? Our powers are gone from this world."
She reached into the box and drew out her old face. It was a shimmering and transparent gold. It was ringed with golden snakes that writhed and hissed. She pressed the face to her head and it immediately fused. Blood ran into it and filled it with healthy pink flesh. The snakes dove into and under her skin, and remained, in the form of faint tattoos.
"I am whole again," she said. "My heart is full that you would perform this kindness for me."
She looked up but the man in the black suit was already gone.
"Thank you," she said. Then she started to wipe down the bar, her posture straight, and with a contented smile.
Note: I detest this song (got it from one of those free Starbucks/iTunes giveaways), mainly for the phrase "I are", used only to rhyme a line with "bar". Grrr.