Ch. 35: "Checkmate"

Disclaimer: WK does not belong to me. Neither do the lyrics that proceed each chapter- they're taken from various songs from the "Queen of the Damned" soundtrack. Any songs from different sources will have a disclaimer at the bottom. Don't sue. =pp

Carry me away
I need your strength
To get me through this
dare to believe
for one last time
and then I'll let the
Darkness cover me

Ken couldn't sleep.
He sighed as he held his watch up to the moonlight. Almost one in the morning. Across the room, Omi's bed was empty. Ken had seen him sneak out an hour ago; he had a pretty good idea where the young boy was headed.
He pushed his covers away and slid out of bed, reaching for his shirt. Maybe he would relieve Yohji of his watch. The man needed to sleep to get his mind off of Schuldich.
He padded down the hall and spotted a light in the kitchen. He poked his head inside curiously.
Aya was backed against the counter, head turned to the side, and his entire body was rigid. Crawford stood before him, hands on either side of the counter, trapping the younger man. He was speaking, but his voice was too low for Ken to make out the words.
"Urusai," Aya rasped. "I don't care."
"Don't you?"
"Leave me alone," Aya ordered in a strained voice.
Crawford remained where he was for another moment before taking a step back, out of Aya's personal space. Ken ducked away and tiptoed towards the den, frowning. What had that been about? Had they been arguing again?
Is that you, Ken?
The voice in his mind startled him at first before he recognized it. Manx.
I'm in the den.
Ken stepped into the room, his eyes flicking instinctively towards the armchair Farfarello had been sitting in earlier. He was still there, head lolling, face relaxed in slumber. Manx was watching the Irishman with an emotionless face from where she was standing by the window, arms crossed. Did you need to talk?
"Iie." Ken glanced around. "I was going to relieve Yohji."
"I sent him to bed." Manx sighed as she pushed her hair over her shoulder. "He was too agitated. I took over for him. Get some sleep, Ken; you look like you need it."
"I couldn't sleep, either," Ken admitted, still watching Farfarello. He looked so young when he was asleep. He tore his gaze away and faced Manx. "I haven't seen Birman in awhile."
"I called her earlier to tell her where we are," Manx said, covering a yawn. "She said she might drop by and relieve me."
Ken nodded. That was good. He couldn't help but trust Birman a little more- she was simply more likable than Manx. "OK. You want me to take your place until she gets here? You look more tired than I am right now."
Manx managed a weary smile, and Ken noticed for the first time the shadow in her eyes. He wondered suddenly if she was as worried as the rest of them were. "I'm all right." She nodded towards the blanket that had fallen off of Farfarello. "It's going to be chilly. Why don't you cover him up again?"
Ken bent and retrieved the quilt, draping it over Farfarello carefully so as not to wake him. Ken couldn't hold back a small grin. "He must really be exhausted if he didn't jump up and stab me in his sleep."
Manx chuckled, and Ken glanced towards her in mild surprise. He couldn't remember the last time he'd heard the woman laugh.
"I'm going to get some coffee," she said, and wandered out of the room. Ken sighed and looked back down at Farfarello. He gave a little jump on finding the single golden eye trained on him. "Jesus," he breathed. "You scared me. I thought you were asleep."
"You woke me up," the Irishman accused.
Ken rolled his eyes and seated himself on the armrest with a little sigh. Farfarello grunted, moving his arm a little to make room.
"Farfarello.." Ken hesitated before rushing on nervously. "There's something I've been wanting to ask you for awhile. Don't get mad at me; you don't have to answer if you don't want to. I was just wondering."
Farfarello was gazing solemnly at the embers in the fireplace. "You want to know why I didn't kill the brat in the basement."
Ken blinked. "Ah- yes."
Farfarello was silent for a long moment, and Ken was just beginning to think he wasn't going to get an answer when the madman finally looked him in the eye again. His face was carefully devoid of emotion. "I had a sister."
Ken stared at him, almost afraid to breathe. He had a feeling this was one of the pale man's biggest secrets. "You mean... before you were Changed?"
The man nodded silently.
"Where is she now?"
Farfarello's mouth twitched, but he controlled himself. "Dead."
"Oh," Ken said quietly, looking away. "Gomen nasai."
"For asking?" Farfarello sneered. "Or for her being dead?"
The fierceness to his voice that barely hid the pain made Ken's chest hurt. "Both," he murmured, looking at the floor as if he wished it could swallow him whole.
Farfarello snorted, closing his eye.
Ken fidgeted for another minute or so before venturing another question. "What was Ireland like?"
Farfarello cracked his eye open to look at him in exasperation. "Why all the questions?" he countered.
Ken shrugged meekly. "I dunno. You act so freaking mysterious all the time, and I guess.. I don't really know much about you. Schuldich seems to know a lot. Crawford, too."
"Schuldich knows because he digs in people's minds without permission," Farfarello said shortly. "Crawford knows only what Iragadachi told him when they... 'recruited' me for Schwarz."
"So are you going to answer the question or not? I mean, you have to remember it-- you were nineteen when you were, uh, Changed, right?"
Farfarello turned his head to stare at him. "Nineteen," he repeated.
"Well," Ken said, confused, "Vampires don't age, right? So you're the same age as when you were Changed."
Farfarello rolled his eye heavenward. "Will you leave me alone if I answer your asinine questions?" he growled.
Farfarello gave an irritated sigh, burrowing deeper into his blanket and scowling at the fireplace. "No. I wasn't bitten when I was nineteen. I was twelve. Children who are Changed continue to grow until somewhere in their mid twenties. Purebloods can pick any age to stop aging. Therefore, I was a whelp when I left home. I don't remember every stupid detail."
Ken stared at the man in horror. "They Turned you when you were twelve?? But... you were just a kid! Why would they do that to a kid??"
"I don't want to talk about it," Farfarello snapped.
Ken swallowed. "Um, OK... but I don't believe you about forgetting Ireland. You were twelve, you have to remember something. What's it like?"
Farfarello gritted his teeth as if to hold his failing temper. "What do you care?"
"I've never been there," Ken said irritably. "Do you have to be so contrary? Stubborn ass."
Farfarello's mouth twitched just a little in amusement. "Plains," he said simply. But his eye seemed to lose focus, as if he were somewhere else. "Lots of grasslands... and villages."
Ken watched him carefully. "Do you think you'll ever go back?"
Farfarello blinked, and he was back again. "No," he said shortly. He turned away slightly, tugging the covers to his chin more snugly. "Go away."
Ken stuck his tongue out at the man as he started to rise.
Farfarello reached out and snagged his shirt, yanking the startled man up close. Ken stared breathlessly into the Vampire's calm amber eye, his heart leaping into his throat. "Schuldich would say that's an invitation," Farfarello said calmly.
Ken had no idea where the comeback came from, but he felt like kicking himself in the head for what came out of his mouth. "And what if it is?"
Farfarello studied him silently for a long moment, almost thoughtfully, and Ken's heart began to drum frantically in his ears.
The Irishman pushed him away abruptly. "Only snakes stick out their tongues," he muttered, settling down and closing his eye again. "Go to bed and quit bothering me, pet."
"Yes, mother," Ken managed to say sarcastically, but it came out a little breathlessly. Cursing himself under his breath, he turned away and hastened out of the room.
He almost banged into Manx in the hallway, and she juggled her coffee mug frantically.
"In a hurry?" she asked drolly.
"Sorry," Ken mumbled, ducking his head. He didn't want her to see how flushed he was. "I'm kind of out of it."
Manx took a careful sip of coffee. "It's been a long day," she agreed.
Ken looked at her, noting how worn out she looked. "Go to bed," he said firmly. "I'll wake you up when Birman gets here, if you want."
Manx opened her mouth to argue, but the doorbell cut her off. "There she is now," she said in relief, setting her mug on the stairwell banister. She strode quickly towards the door, straightening her skirt. Ken trailed after her.
She opened the door and blinked, staring up at the man towering above her. Ken's heart did a jump before he realized who it was.
"Ryo," Manx said in surprise. "I didn't know you were coming with Birman." She opened the door wider. "Come in. Be careful, most of them are asl--"
Get away! Farfarello's voice shot through Ken's mind like a bolt of lightening. Crying out in pain, he stumbled back. Manx turned to stare at him in confusion.
Ryo reached out and slammed the door open completely, shoving the smaller woman away carelessly. She cried out in shock and crashed into Ken. "Ryo-" she shouted angrily. There were footsteps in the hallway as Aya and Crawford came to investigate.
Get AWAY! Farfarello's voice was fierce and impatient, and it hurt Ken's head. Get away from him!
Confused and disoriented, Ken grabbed Manx's arm and dragged her backwards. Fear lanced through him. Farfarello, what's going on??
"Siberian, let go," Manx was saying irritably. "I can..." she trailed off, eyes widening in dumb shock as Ryo pulled a shotgun from over his shoulder and aimed it at them.
Ken bumped into Crawford and glanced up at him quickly. The American's eyes narrowed at seeing the gun. "So," he murmured. "That's how it is?"
Aya's hand was on the hilt of his sword. "What are you doing?" he snarled at the huge man in the doorway.
Ken heard the snarl in his mind at the same time his scars began to ache and throb. He clapped a hand to them; the others immediately went stiff on seeing him do so.
Farfarello stepped into the hallway, glaring at Ryo dangerously, fists tightened over the handles of his two favorite knives.
"You-" Manx gasped, staring at Ryo. "You traitor! You're in league with them!"
"Actually, he's worked for Rosenkreuz all along," a familiar voice said.
Ryo stepped aside, still pointing his shotgun at them all. Manx gave a low moan.
Birman stepped forward, hands cocked on her hips. She smiled endearingly at them all. "Silly girl," she chided Manx gently. "You told me right where they were."
"You're his informant?" Manx spat. "How could you??"
Aya and Ken could only gape at Birman in stupefied horror.
"Well, lots of reasons," Birman laughed. "One of them being better pay." She pointed towards Farfarello. "You. Outside." Her smile was unpleasant. "There's about a dozen Vampires who have a bone to pick with you. And the rest of you will be coming with us."
"Aya," Crawford said sharply.
The redhead didn't need to be told twice. He thrust his arm out, and Birman gave a little squeal when her skirt caught on fire. A second later flames began licking at Ryo's clothes.
"Run!" Crawford barked. He seized Manx around the waist in one strong arm and led the way as they ran down the hall. Ken had to drag Farfarello, who was eager for a fight.
Windows shattered as howling Vampires leapt through them, fangs gleaming and eyes wild with bloodlust.
"Upstairs!" Manx gasped from where she was being jostled. "Get the others-- and put me down, you oaf!!"
Omi, Nagi, and Yohji appeared at the top of the steps, looking bewildered.
"Run!" Ken shouted up to them, hand still wrapped around Farfarello's wrist.
"Is that such a good idea?" Birman shouted after them. "Do you really want to leave behind your precious sister, Abysinnian?"
Aya ground to a halt. So did everyone else.
As Ken whirled around, he caught the look on Aya's face out of the corner of his eye. Horrified disbelief.
And then there she was.
Looking frightened and confused, struggling in a laughing Vampire's grip, her hair loose and falling about her face as she screamed. "Niisan! Taskute!"
"Aya-chan.." her brother could barely speak the name. His eyes filled, and he seemed to choke on his words. Emotions warred in his eyes- joy at seeing her awake, and horror at seeing her captured. He took a stumbling step forward.
Aya-chan twisted away from her captor and made a dash for the stairs, sobbing. The Vampire leapt for her again, growling. "Niisan, taskute!"
Aya was shoving past Ken when it happened.
And everything changed.
"Get away from her!" Farfarello howled. He jerked his hand from Ken's grasp and leapt clear over the banister.
The Vampires shrieked in victory, even as the madman landed on Aya-chan's attacker, tearing into him viciously with his daggers.
"Aya-chan!" Aya was pounding down the steps, his katana appearing in his hands as if by magic.
"What is Farfarello doing?" Omi gasped.
They turned and barrelled down the stairs, unwilling to leave the three alone to the Vampires.
Aya was hacking his way savagely through the horde of Vampires, making his steady way towards his sister, when the girl managed to wrench herself away from the nearest Vampires.
"Oniisan!" she shrieked.
"Verrat, stay back!" Farfarello shouted furiously, his knives a blur as he cut into the advancing Vampires.
'Verrat'? Something in Ken felt cold with dread. Something was wrong... Something..
"Oniisan, look out!" Aya-chan screamed. But she wasn't looking at her brother.
She was struggling to get to Farfarello.
"A.." Ken tried to find his voice, even as a grinning Vampire darted towards him. "Aya!" he shouted frantically. "Don't!"
But Aya had already reached his sister.
She whirled at his touch on her shoulder and looked at him for the first time.
She should have been overjoyed to see him. The expected reaction would have been a happy cry, a hug, a look of love and joy.
But the emotion that lit up the girl's face wasn't love.
It was fear- and hatred.
"You!" she cried in such genuine horror that Aya actually took a step back, his face blank with shock and confusion.
Her hand made a quick movement, and suddenly she was holding a dagger.
Oh my god Ken thought numbly.
Then the Vampire was on him, wrapping strong fingers around his throat, and he forgot the confusion with Aya-chan in the sudden frantic struggle for air. He gasped, writhing and clawing at the hands tightening around his throat.
He thought he heard Yohji call his name, but it was hard to hear above the noise.
Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Farfarello give a slight pause, looking quickly from him to Aya-chan. He looked torn.
How does he know her? a small part of Ken's mind wondered curiously.
The rest of his mind screamed AIR!!
Crawford drove a fist into the face of the Vampire strangling Ken, and it stumbled back with a screech. Ken gasped raggedly for breath, and Crawford seized him by his elbow, steadying him as he coolly fired silver bullets from his gun into the crowd of Vampires.
"There's too many!" Nagi shouted above the noise, sweeping his arm and slamming half a dozen Vampires into a wall. "We can't keep this up forever!"
"We have to retreat!" Omi agreed, leaping over a tumbling Vampire's head and kicking two more with well-aimed, savage kicks. "Someone grab Aya-chan!"
Manx was grappling with a Vampire. "I can't reach her!"
"Hold on," Yohji growled, slicing off a Vampire's head with his wire. He jumped on the Vampire's shoulder as it started to topple over, and leapt across the room, over the shrieking Vampires' heads. He landed on the Vampire beside Aya-chan and managed to grin cheekily at the startled girl. "Put that up, now, that's a good girl," he said, reaching out and plucking the knife from her hand. "Stay behind me."
"Help my 'niisan!" the girl begged, grabbing his arm.
Yohji started to turn towards Aya to see if he needed help, but she pulled more frantically on his arm, pointing towards where Farfarello was steadily being overwhelmed. "Please help him!" she cried.
Yohji gaped at Farfarello, then at her.
"Br... brother?" he squeaked.
Ken had no idea what was going on with Aya, his sister, and Farfarello, but he didn't have time to sit there and think about it. His claws came free of their sheathes with a metallic sound, and he began methodically tearing his way through the crowd, struggling to get to Farfarello before the other man was brought down.

Crawford fired coolly at the Vampire nearest to Aya and stood scowling down at the blank-faced man. "Snap out of it, Weiß," he ordered curtly.
"But.. Aya-chan...." Aya looked up at him with shocked eyes. "She.." His eyes were bright with unshed tears of anguish.
Something about the whole thing was screaming "deja vu".
Crawford caught a glimpse of light catching metal out of the corner of his eye.
One of the Vampires had bumped into Ryo, and his gun swung at a downwards angle as he almost lost his grip on it.
His premonition.
Without even stopping to think how incredibly fucking stupid the act was, Crawford took one quick step forward and shoved Aya roughly to the side.
There was the loud report of a shotgun, then unbelievable pain was exploding in his knee.
Crawford couldn't supress a cry of pain as he went down.
Shocked, Aya clumsily tried to catch him, but the older man was too heavy for him. They fell together, and Crawford began cursing in English at the excrutiating pain that suddenly ran up his leg like wildfire.
"Why- why?" Aya was gasping in complete confusion as he struggled to get his sword out from under the man's dead weight. He yanked it free and slashed savagely at the advancing Vampires. One of them caught the blade in their bare hands and wrenched it away with a scream of triumph. Its companion reached for Crawford.
In a flash Aya had pulled the silver dagger Crawford had given him from his belt. He slashed at the American's attacker in a sudden fury, cutting him across the face. The Vampire stumbled back, screeching in pain and hate as his face began to sizzle and blacken. Aya looked around frantically for a chance to use his Gift, but he couldn't risk hitting his teammates-- or Aya-chan.
He couldn't get up without leaving Crawford on the floor to the mercy of the Vampires, so he gritted his teeth and stayed where he was, slashing with his dagger at anyone stupid enough to get within range.
They're going to win, he realized numbly. There's too many of them.
Then Ryo was in front of him, swinging the butt of his shotgun at Aya's head.
The world went dark, and Aya fell gratefully into blissful unconsciousness.

Disclaimer: lyrics from "Darkness" by Disturbed

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