Approx. 3 months later...
A smile hovered on Ken's lips as he rubbed his thumb absently across the bottom half of the scar running over his left eye. He could sense Farfarello hovering just behind him, obviously waiting for his comment. "I'm impressed," he admitted, turning slightly to grin at his lover. "I wasn't sure it could be done and not look like a shit shack."
Farfarello snorted, some of the expectant tension easing from his shoulders. He didn't necessarily give two shits what his people thought of the place; he was more concerned about Ken's opinion. He was going to live there as well, after all.
Ken reached out and took the Irishman's hand in his. "Show me our room?"
Farfarello nodded and led his partner down the driveway to their new home.
Farfarello had had the old warehouse exit redone inside and out to create a new base for his people. When Ken had suspiciously asked Crawford- the money manager of Schwarz -where it had all come from, he'd told him it was all the Berserker's. Farfarello had barely even touched the money given to him by Rosenkreuz for his service in Schwarz. He'd had no interest in it and no use for it; it had merely been sitting in the bank since his first day as an assassin for Rosenkreuz. He'd pulled from the account maybe twice-- once for a set of knives (including his favorite serated one), and once for the bed he and Ken had shared in the caves. The amount left over was staggering, at least to Ken. It had been more than enough to renovate the warehouse.
It had been sectioned off into two floors, with the bottom cleared out of all equipment and trash and transformed into a common room where all the Turned could comfortably fit for meetings or simple get-togethers. For once taking into consideration the suggestions and urgings of his people, he'd allowed the most fashionable of them free reign on the interior design. The various couches, throw pillows, tapestries, chairs, and small tables were lavish, expensive, and pleasing to the eye. Farfarello didn't care how much it cost, and his people were happy with the arrangement, so it all worked out. There was even a bar and a small stage for entertainment.
As Ken followed his lover through the main floor, he made a mental note to have the curtains around the stage drawn if Aya or Ran ever dropped by. The strippers, whores, and drunken women that would inevitably be lured to dance there would not be going home at the end of the night, and he knew his friends wouldn't approve.
Dinner and a show, as Flint had so crudely put it.
The top floor consisted of a private meeting room, a couple guest rooms (most likely they would end up being exclusively for visits from friends like Aya), and the room Ken and Farfarello would share.
Crawford had made the calls, presented Farfarello with the paperwork, and taken care of all the legalities to buy the private property and insure police would look severely upon trespassers. It was now a comfortable hideaway for all the Turned that followed Farfarello. Their living arrangements were not his concern. Many of them blended in with the humans and got ordinary jobs or lived as hermits in apartments. Some disappeared to whatever hidey hole they'd found themselves and were only seen when they came to the warehouse.
But Farfarello and Ken would live there themselves, as they had in the caves underground.
Ken sent a silent thank-you to the architect Crawford had hired that had fixed the treacherous metal staircase as he trailed after his lover up to the second floor. There was a small metal walkway at the top that led to the upstairs door, and it was being guarded by the biggest man Ken had ever seen.
"Who's the Rambo?" he asked, eyeing the stone-faced Vampire warily.
"He is Pureblood," Farfarello said shortly, flicking his fingers as he strode up. The door guard moved aside obediently, pulling the door open for them.
Ken stared over his shoulder at the closing door as he trotted down the narrow hallway with Farfarello. A month ago he'd been surprised at how narrow it was before he'd realized that was to allow the rooms to be that much larger.
"Farfarello," he hissed, snagging the back of his partner's vest, "what is a Pureblood doing here??"
The Irishman neither looked back nor slowed down, apparently unconcerned. "After the fight, a few of them came back," he said simply.
"And you let them?"
Farfarello's smile was fierce. "Not all of them," he said meaningfully.
"Why didn't I know about this?" Ken demanded.
Farfarello shrugged carelessly. "I killed most of them. The Adir'avar hunted down all of the rest-- the ones that didn't leave Japan. That one back there is the only one left. He swore fidelity. He has his uses."
Ken opened his mouth, then shut it again helplessly. He wondered absently why he wasn't more upset at the fact that his lover had just wiped out the entire Pureblood clan on the continent with the exception of one man.
Farfarello halted at the last door, effectively cutting off Ken's dark thoughts. The Irishman settled his hand on the knob and glanced back at him. The slight tension was back in his shoulders, unseen on his face. Ken hid a smile. This had been the one room off limits to him during the construction; Farfarello had wanted it to be a surprise. He nodded to show he was ready, and Farfarello turned the handle, pushing the door open with a forced air of casualness, as if he wasn't at all nervous about whether or not his lover would appreciate the room's setup.
Ken stepped past him, but before he could get more than a glimpse, calloused hands covered his eyes, tugging him to a halt. He flinched in surprise, then laughed helplessly as he felt his partner press up against him from behind, his lips right near Ken's ear.
"Will you stay here?" he murmured.
"Farfarello," Ken protested, amused. "I haven't even seen it yet!"
Farfarello hesitated, obviously figuring out how best to say whatever was on his mind. "Some of the places Schwarz stayed in during assignments were... nice," he said almost hesitantly. He sounded calm- almost detached -but Ken knew his lover well enough to tell something was obviously bothering him. "Like Crawford's apartments. Aya said..." he trailed off, fishing for the words.
"I remember," Ken said, puzzled by the subject. "She said it was like a miniature palace. I'm sure it wasn't that great, but it was certainly nicer than anything we've ever had. You're saying some of the places you stayed at were that nice?"
"Aa. Even my room."
"I sense a 'but' in there," Ken said drolly.
"There were still bars in the window."
Ken stared at the blackness of Farfarello's hands over his eyes and remained silent for several moments. He turned in his lover's arms and ignored the room, looking the Irishman in the eye. "No matter how beautiful the cage, a cage is a cage, right?" he said softly. "Is that what you're afraid of? That I won't want to stay here?"
"You're not a Vampire," Farfarello pointed out, scowling slightly. "They don't see you as one of them. You could.." he hesitated, changing his words. "The pyro has started..again.." Farfarello stopped, frustrated and on edge.
Suddenly Ken understood. He took the other man's strong hands in his own and squeezed them encouragingly, meeting the shielded gaze. "Farfarello," he said softly, "I don't need to find a new life or try to be normal. I don't care if I have to live in a tree or a leaky sewer pipe. You don't have to build me the Taj Mahal to get me to stay. I just want to be with you."
A golden eye flicked back and forth, examining his face as Farfarello weighed Ken's words. After a moment, evidently satisfied, he carefully pulled his hands free and settled them on his lover's shoulders, turning him around to face the room.
Ken drew in a quick breath of surprise.
Their old "room" in the underground taverns had been sparsely and plainly furnished because that was Farfarello's taste and Ken wasn't overly enthusiastic about anything fancy himself. This time, an extra effort had obviously been put in.
The old bed had been replaced with a large sleigh bed with new silk sheets the color of blood-- Ken had the suspicion Farfarello had probably accepted Schuldich's "help" for that. Cotton worked just fine for the both of them, and it probably never would have crossed the Berserker's mind to get silk. Looking at the high curved head- and footboards, Ken gave a little involuntary shiver. He already had a pretty good idea what those would be used for. Leverage, for starters...
He quickly turned his eyes from the bed, examining the rest of the room and quelling his momentary flash of lust.
They had both enjoyed their inground tub in the tunnels, and Farfarello had purchased an impressive sized jacuzzi for their new quarters. Ken grinned in delight at the sight, and saw Farfarello's mouth twitch out of the corner of his eye; obviously he was pleased that Ken was liking the setup so far.
A full-sized dresser was pushed in the corner, which was better than the tiny little closet they'd had before. Not that either of them were used to wearing too many outfits, but with Farfarello as Japan's Vampire Lord, there would always be occassions where they would both be expected to dress up- such as meeting with other Lords.
The majority of the floor was covered in a beautiful, lush rug in a design Ken didn't recognize. He hurriedly toed off his boots and pulled off his socks, stepping onto the rug. He clenched his toes in the soft material, grinning at Farfarello over his shoulder. "It's soft," he exclaimed. "Where did you get this?"
"Hannigan," Farfarello grunted. "It's from my homeland. It's the gift his sister brought over for the alliance."
"I love it," Ken assured him. He walked across the rug, enjoying the soft feel of it under his bare feet, and paused in front of what looked like another dresser, taller and slimmer than the other one. Opening it, he gave a small gasp of surprise.
It was filled with books.
Ken turned quickly, his mouth opened for a startled question. Farfarello had very little interest in books, and Ken had learned early on never to leave one of his novels lying around for Farfarello to find and carelessly chuck out of the room.
Farfarello spoke before Ken could get the question out. "Keep your silly fairy tales in there," he grumbled defensively. "...The coloring books are from Schuldich."
Ken laughed and went over to his lover, draping his arms around the strong shoulders. "It's great, Farf," he murmured reassuringly, and took the other man's lips in a lingering kiss. "All of it. Thank you."
Farfarello adopted a look of tolerance. "Hn," he snorted, but his arms came up to wrap possessively around Ken's waist.
Ken was facing the door now, and looking over his partner's shoulder, he saw the decoration over the door, and wondered why he felt no revulsion at the sight.
It was Jenell's skull, nailed over the doorframe.
"I wish we had two skulls up there," he said impulsively.
Farfarello pulled back slightly to catch his eye, brow quirked. "Only two?"
"Okay, I'd like a line of Nebel skulls," Ken relented. "But Riddle's would look nice up there, too."
Farfarello scowled darkly at the mention of the man who had managed to escape his wrath. Ken quickly changed the subject. The fact that the greasy zealout had somehow slipped past his search parties and presumably left the country still irked his fearsome lover. If Ken was honest with himself, the disappearance of Riddle didn't bother him overly much. After all, his attack on the tunnels had been what had forced them to move aboveground and create their new home. And not even Aya believed the man to be "evil". Mentally disturbed, perhaps, but not evil. So Ken had let it drop. Farfarello had not, but that was to be expected.
"So when's the house warming party?" Ken asked impishly, rocking against his lover. The irritation on the Irishman's face was immediately wiped away, replaced by a more hungry look.
"Party?" Fararello repeated, hands tracing patterns over his lover's back.
"Yeah, you know-- to show everyone the new place and shit." Ken shrugged. "I'm not saying invite everyone in Tokyo. Maybe... you know, just throw a party downstairs for the Turned. Break the place in. Let them test it out. And maybe we can invite Ran and the others."
Farfarello shrugged carelessly. "They can do their little party if they want," he said. "I'm not setting it up."
Farfarello frowned slightly, then shrugged again. "Let Himeno do it," he said indifferently.
"Good idea." Ken grinned. "So was she a help with this whole setup?"
Farfarello's eye darted towards the bed, then back to Ken again. "A little."
Ken laughed. "I should've known. I would've assumed it was either her or Schuldich that would suggest that bed. Seriously, though, are you going to keep her?"
Farfarello nodded slowly. "She had plenty of chances to betray me during the war," he admitted. "She didn't."
"She won't be another Rinata," Ken finished for him, giving a quirky grin. "Don't take me wrong, I'm glad to have her on board. She'll make a great Advisor-- she's tough, she's seen a lot, and she's not scared shitless of you like some I could mention. I'm just surprised she would leave the Adir'avar for it."
"She didn't," Farfarello corrected. "If they have a job, she will go too, unless she's needed here. But I am her master before Raphael is. This job comes first."
"Maybe it's because of the deaths," Ken said quietly. "They lost two of their people. It kind of takes the wind out of your sails." He trailed off, eyes unfocused with pain.
Farfarello leaned in abruptly and kissed him roughly, nipping at his bottom lip almost hard enough to draw blood. Ken made a muffled noise of surprise, then gave in and kissed back, effectively distracted from his dark thoughts.
"OK," Ken breathed, drawing back and grinning coyly at his lover. He reached up and threaded his fingers in spiky orange hair. "Now how about our own house warming party..?" He glanced suggestively towards the bed.
Farfarello wrapped his arms tighter around the other man's waist and lifted him effortlessly, carrying his laughing lover towards the bed.
Ran stepped away from the counter, wiping his hands off on his apron as he looked approvingly at the pots and pans hanging on the wall and the line of cooking utensils. He checked the ice box one last time to reassure himself that there was plenty of food, then switched off the kitchen light and padded out.
He came out directly behind the register, where he undid his apron and hung it on a peg on the wall, his eyes drifting over the room with satisfaction.
When Crawford had suggested he and Aya start over, Ran had taken him literally: he had purchased a small two-story apartment and converted the bottom floor into a cozy family restaurant with his final paycheck from Kritiker. He would do the majority of the cooking while Aya ran the register and waitressed. She had put in a good word for a couple friends from school, and he had hired them as extra hands. Now, with tomorrow approaching as opening day, he was both excited and nervous. A part of him was worried it wouldn't work, that there was no way they could actually start over and be happy. The other half of him was simply excited at the thought of doing what he had once done as a teenager. Aya seemed just as enthusiastic about it all. She had been supportive of him in his hardest moment, when he had hung his katana over his bed, just out of immediate reach. He had turned his back on the assassin world, and while he didn't regret it, a part of him still felt lost without the weight of the sword at his hip.
"Garson," Schuldich called mockingly. "Oh, Garson. There seems to be a fly in my soup."
"You don't have any soup, Schuldich," came Crawford's patient reply.
"Does the word 'prude' mean anything to you?"
Ran snorted to himself and walked over to the only occupied table.
Crawford was leafing through the Wallstreet Journal, sipping at his coffee calmly. He had taken an interest in stocks lately; with his precognition, he could usually tell when to buy or when to sell. Ran still "nagged" (as Schuldich put it) him to find a real job, since Crawford's visions were so unpredictable. There was a newspaper by the American's elbow opened to the Help Wanted page. He had obviously discarded it in disgust; he thought it beneath him to look for odd jobs in the paper.
Schuldich was slouched in his chair, dipping his crackers in his Bloody Mary and munching on them loudly just to annoy the hell out of Crawford. Aya was seated beside him, sipping her green tea, eyes glued to her schoolwork. She had a lot of catching up to do for all the school days she had missed.
Ran took a seat beside Crawford and reached for a little package of crackers, tearing the plastic bag and breaking off a piece to munch on. "Find anything?" he asked, looking pointedly at the newspaper.
Crawford pretended he hadn't heard rather than get into an argument.
"He can start his own psychic hotline," Schuldich suggested with a smirk.
"Call me now," Crawford intoned in a horrible Jamacian accent without even looking up from his paper.
Ran choked on his crackers. Schuldich's face did an odd little contortion before he burst into helpless laughter. Aya hid her mouth with her cup to muffle her giggles.
Crawford glanced up just in time to see the small smile Ran was unable to hide. He caught the redhead's eye and they shared the shadow of a smile between them.
Aya, watching them like a hawk and grinning into her cup, elbowed Schuldich in the ribs. "Schuldich, isn't it time to bring Tomas to the airport?" she asked innocently.
Schuldich looked at his watch. "What? We still have twenty mi-"
"Traffic can be a bitch at this time of day, Schuldich, you know that," Aya said, getting to her feet and practically dragging the German from his chair. "We don't want Tomas to be late for his flight!"
"You are so fucking transparent," Schuldich complained loudly as she hauled him towards the door. "I don't care if they get all kissy in front of me.. ow!"
Ran flushed, watching them go, then focused on his crackers intently. He heard a low rumble and glanced up, surprised to find Crawford chuckling into his coffee mug.
Ran couldn't do anything but shake his head hopelessly, fighting a small grin of his own. When the American set his coffee aside and leaned towards him, Ran met him halfway in a soft kiss.
Schuldich put his car into park and turned off the engine, glancing up at the rearview mirror to see the man sitting silently in the backseat, gazing out of the window. He glanced across at the passenger seat, where Aya was sitting chewing on the tip of her braid in a nervous habit. Sighing loudly to break the silence, the German opened the door and got out. Startled from his thoughts, the Jackal blinked and grabbed his one small suitcase, getting out of the back. Aya followed more slowly.
The Jackal hesitated, looking up at the airport, his fingers tightening on the handle of his luggage.
"Well, this is it," Aya said with forced cheerfulness, making herself smile up at him. "Good luck." She offered her hand. "We'll miss you," she said a little more softly.
Tomas looked down at her helplessly for a long moment, then carefully took her hand. He lifted it up and pressed it to his lips in a light kiss. Schuldich sneered derisively from behind her.
"Thank you for always believing in me," Tomas said quietly, looking into her startled eyes. "Even when no one else did. For being my friend."
She smiled warmly back, hugging her arms around her because she suddenly didn't know what to do with her hands. "You're a good man, Tomas Hannigan. I know you'll do your sister proud. Visit us anytime you like."
He nodded, glancing over her head at Schuldich. His mouth tightened slightly in a half-frown. After a moment he gave a curt nod of farewell.
Schuldich had already lit a cigarette, and he acknowledged the nod with a quiet snort, not looking at the younger man.
The Jackal started to turn towards the airport, then hesitated, his eyes the murky color of pain and confusion. Abruptly he turned back to Aya and put a hand tentatively on her shoulder. He leaned down and gave her a quick kiss on the mouth. Schuldich almost choked on his smoke.
When he straightened, Tomas's face was a little red, and Aya was staring at him like a deer caught in the headlights. Belatedly, she blushed furiously.
"I wish things were different," the Jackal started, then stopped, shaking his head in frustration. He gave up and lifted his arm in farewell, his mouth jerking in a quirky, forced little smile. "Goodbye."
"..Bye," Aya squeaked, watching him as he hefted the small suitcase over his shoulder and strode towards the entrance doors, trenchcoat flaring out behind him to reveal the hilt of his sword. He didn't look back.
The two of them watched in silence until their Irish visitor had gone inside and disappeared from view.
Schuldich flicked his cigarette away and leered at the girl beside him. "You happy now? Your little wish has been granted. Now you can die happy." He turned and strode over to his side of the car, opening the door.
Aya shook herself out of her daze and went around to the passenger side, sliding in and pulling the door shut. "What do you think he meant?" she asked hesitantly, tugging at her seatbelt. "About things being different? I thought he'd accepted the Vampire thing."
Schuldich shot her a sidelong glance as he revved the engine. He started to answer, then changed his mind and lied with a straight face. "Nah, he's just pissy cuz he got nailed in the fight and didn't get to avenge his sister or some shit."
"..Oh," Aya said quietly, staring straight ahead.
Schuldich kept his mouth shut and pulled out of the parking lot, heading back down the highway. They remained silent for the rest of the drive, until he pulled up in front of the restaurant and they got out.
"I thought it would mean more," Aya said abruptly, reaching up to touch her fingertips to her mouth, looking down at her feet.
"You mean you actually liked the little twit?" Schuldich snorted, digging for his cigarettes again.
Aya shot him a Look, then sighed. "I don't know," she admitted. "Maybe. Instead I was just kind of.. surprised. And a little embarrassed. In a good way. But..."
"That wasn't a kiss," Schuldich informed her, lighting his cigarette and taking a drag as he leaned against his car.
Aya looked at him indignantly, hands on her hips. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"If you wanted a kiss before you die," Schuldich pointed out, smirking at her, "you should get one from an expert, not some little Irishman with a pointy stick."
"An 'expert'?" Aya shot back. "Like you?"
Schuldich's smirk evaporated, and he merely stared at her. Aya stared back, a little puzzled by his sudden seriousness. Usually when she caught him off guard like that, he would make fun of her, not just--
Schuldich dropped his cigarette and crushed it under his heel. Without a word he reached out and snagged the front of her shirt, dragging her forward. She had just enough time for one sputtered protest of surprise before he leaned down and captured her mouth with his in a deep kiss that she felt all the way down to her toes.
When he pulled away slowly a few moments later, she felt out of breath and dazed. She blinked up at him, unable to form a coherent or plausible protest. The seriousness on his face disappeared, and he offered a superior smirk. "There. Now you can die happy, princess."
"Why did you do that?" Aya finally managed to breathe.
Schuldich pushed away from the car abruptly, shrugging in a careless manner. He opened his car door. "Just to see the look on your face," he taunted.
Aya opened and closed her mouth, but no words would come out. She took a step back out of the way as the telepath started the engine and backed out of the driveway. As she watched him go, she reached up to touch her mouth once more, giving an involuntary shiver.
"All right," she murmured, unable to stop the shy smile that crept up. "..you Prince of Lies."
Later, as the two lovers lay exhausted and satisfied in their new bed, Ken found himself running his finger over the scar overlapping his left eye in what he was suspecting would become a pensive habit. He lay with his head against Farfarello's strong chest, staring drowsily at the bookcase across the room, tracing the path of his scar with his index finger. The chest underneath his cheek moved up and down in a slow, soothing rhythm that was slowly lulling him to sleep. Maybe tonight would be the night, he thought absently. Perhaps the nightmares would leave at last. A night without visions of an army of misshapen zombies, the faces of his enemies, walls of fire, and always the voices and bodies of his fallen friends. For the absence of that he would give almost anything.
Farfarello's hand was tracing idle patterns in his hair, twirling the locks, tugging, and combing.
Well... almost anything.
He sighed deeply and closed his eyes, dropping his hand from his face and inching up closer to his partner. Already he could feel sleep stealing up on him. "Farf," he mumbled.
"Hn." The Irishman sounded relaxed and only half-aware. He, too, was being tempted by sleep.
"I won't leave," Ken murmured, answering his lover's deepest, unspoken fear. "I won't leave you..."
The hand in his hair stilled for a moment, and Farfarello didn't respond for several minutes. Ken had just started to drift off when the fingers tightened possessively in his hair.
"Mine," he reminded the Necromancer quietly.
Ken smiled to himself and fell asleep at last. Farfarello was up long after the other boy had dropped off, holding him fiercely in his arms as if he would never let him go.
With the end of this fic, in lieu of author's notes, I would like to thank the following people:
~Mami aka Firetwit, beta/sister/best friend, for her constant threats, encouragement, beta-ing, and general enthusiasm with the story from beginning to end that gave me the will to keep going with this stress-inducing fic.
~Yami-chan, for the amusing e-mails that inevitably followed each chapter, with step-by-step commentary that always made me laugh. The weather is fine here, by the way. lol ^_^
~Shadowfyre, for not only getting so obviously embroiled in the story and characters, but for her many questions that- while they gave me a headache at the time -in the end forced me to stop and think and go more into detail with things I otherwise would have ignored but were important to the story.
~Baka Gaijin, who despite her initial, unhappy reaction to a few things and characters, toughed it out anyway and provided me with much needed encouragement when I was having a hard time with some of the more unusual parts of the story.
~Aion-chan, for being Aion ^_^ And for her encouragement for the story and the Farf/Ken pairing that I was so wary about at first.
~And everyone who read and/or commented on this fic.
Your encouragement (and threats.. lol) was greatly appreciated. XD *glompies*
Thanks for hanging in there for my first WK arc! ^__^
...P.S.: I got a few questions about whether or not there would be a third fic to this arc. o_O; My answer to that will be up in my LJ (under the heading "WADTD/V/???" most likely), for anyone interested. =p The post will also have info about the Adir'avar and Nebel one-shot background fics I was thinking of doing.
Anywho.. Ja ne ^___^
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