Ch. 41: "Epilogue"
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
I'm living for the only thing I know
I'm running and not quite sure where to go
And I don't know what I'm diving into
Just hanging by a moment here with you
"Thank you, please come again!"
Omi's cheery voice followed the chattering customers as they left the small shop, albeit reluctantly. Ran stood pointedly by the door, broom in hand to insure that everyone was leaving. Finally the last of them drifted out, and he shut the door firmly. Yohji blew a loud sigh, taking off his apron and flinging it carelessly beside the register before giving an exaggerated stretch. "Yare yare," he sighed, already patting his pockets for his cigarettes. "We've been back in business for a week and they're still flooding in like this. Tiring."
Omi smiled as he untied the apron strings around his neck. "Aa," he agreed. "They're just glad to see us. I think they thought we'd shut the shop for good."
"Maybe we should've," Yohji grumbled, tugging his cigarettes and lighter from his back pocket. He caught Omi's look. "I'm going outside," he said indignantly. "Chill, chibi."
There was the sound of the back door in the kitchen opening and closing, then a lazy drawl calling out, "Anybody home?"
Ran glanced up from where he was sweeping by the door as the three members of Schwarz wandered into the shop. Schuldich held up a hand in greeting and smirked at them all. "Yo."
"Konnichiwa," Omi said brightly, his eyes on his lover. Nagi smiled gently back at him.
Yohji held his cigarettes out of reach as his German companion looped one arm slyly around his waist and reached for the pack with his free hand. "Get your own," he protested, but was cut off by a sultry kiss.
Crawford glanced skywards- his idea of rolling his eyes -and strode past them to Ran, leaning heavily on his cane. The doctors had done all they could for his injury, but his knee would never completely heal. He'd spent almost a month in a wheelchair and physical therapy before he'd been able to walk with the aid of a cane. "The shop's closed for the day?"
"What does it look like?" Ran demanded, but his voice didn't carry the harsh tone he'd used to use all the time in the presence of the American.
"Where is Aya-dono?" Nagi inquired, helping Omi to lift a heavy bag of soil.
"She's coming," Schuldich murmured from where his face was buried against Yohji's throat. Omi flushed and made a face at the two of them. "Do you two always have to act like perverts in front of everyone?"
Yohji flicked the younger boy a tolerant look. "Quiet, chibi."
They heard footsteps on the stairs a moment later, and Aya appeared in the kitchen doorway, beaming at them all. "Schu-san," she greeted cheerily, nodding to the others cheerfully. "Crawford-san, Nagi-kun, konnichiwa."
As always, Ran's face softened at the sight of his sister. "Done with your homework, Aya-chan?"
"Un." She made a face. "It took longer than I thought it would."
"If you need help, just ask," Omi offered, and Nagi nodded in agreement.
"Arigato." She turned towards her brother. "Oniisan, you said you'd take me to get my driver's license today," she reminded him, giving an extra sunny smile. "You didn't forget, did you?"
"Ehh..." Ran looked suddenly like he wanted to bolt. "I didn't forget," he said meekly. "Are you sure you've had enough practice?"
"O-nii-SAN," she protested, pulling her best adorable pouting look. Omi had taught her how. "You promised! I've had plenty of practice. You, Schu-san, and Yohji-san all drove with me before. I'm ready! Honto ne!"
Her brother looked a little green around the gills, but he managed a watery grin. "A-aa.."
I feel sorry for whoever evaluates her, Schuldich remarked dryly.
No kidding, Yohji groaned. She drives worse than you do.
"We'll take you, Aya," Crawford promised smoothly, sealing Ran's fate. "When did you want to leave?"
"Now," she said promptly, and smiled winningly at him.
Ran sighed in helpless affection, fighting a smile. "Fine. Go get your jacket."
"Hai~" she rushed from the room.
"Good luck," Schuldich said cheekily.
Ran scowled at him. Crawford wisely held a smirk in check. "I'll go with you," he offered bravely.
Ran shot him a grateful look.
"Still want to go to the library?" Nagi asked his lover quietly.
"Aa. I just need to get my notes," Omi said hastily. "They're in my room." Fingers still linked, the two boys disappeared into the kitchen.
"Omi and Nagi, sitting in a tree," Schuldich sang with a snigger.
Yohji pinched his arm. "Behave. You act more immature than the kids sometimes."
"Yes, dear," Schuldich mocked, then dug his hand into the man's butt pocket and steered him towards the back door. "Oi, liebhaber, lend me a cig. I didn't buy any."
"Miser," Yohji accused.
Ran looked up at the tall American beside him once they were alone in the shop. Crawford caught his look out of the corner of his eye and turned his face to look down at the younger man. "Have you heard from Ken?"
Ran nodded slightly, looking at the potted irises nearby without really seeing them. "Aa. He dropped by two days ago for a visit. He still won't tell us where he's staying, but he seems healthy and.. happy enough. For what he is, anyway."
Crawford shifted his weight to his good leg. "It's strange what happened," he remarked. "Do you believe what he says?"
Ran hesitated before giving a slight shrug. "It sounds impossible," he admitted, "but then I've seen a lot of 'impossible' things in the past two months."
"Farfarello believes him," Crawford pointed out.
Ran's dark scowl told the other man all, and he gave a nearly inaudible sigh. "Will you ever forgive him?" he asked bluntly.
"No," Ran said shortly. "He's done too much to be forgiven for." He snatched up his broom in a sudden temper. "Let God decide whether a creature like that deserves forgiving," he spat.
Crawford reached out and pulled the broom away from the slender man. "Perhaps," he allowed. "And I can understand why you would hold a personal grudge against him for how he manipulated your sister and killed Ken. However.."
"I'm not getting into this argument again," Ran declared hotly. "Drop it."
Crawford set the broom aside firmly when Ran reached for it. "Fine. I just find it strange that Aya can forgive him and yet you cannot."
"Drop it, I said," Ran growled.
"Always so hard-headed," Crawford remarked calmly, reaching up to brush wayward crimson bangs from the younger man's face.
Ran flushed at the touch, but didn't quite pull away. "Don't do that," he protested.
Crawford arched a brow. "Do what?"
Ran scowled at him, cheeks stained. "You know what," he grumbled. "Don't touch me."
"I don't like it."
"I mean it," Ran warned.
Crawford seemed amused. "Must you be so difficult?" he murmured, his tone heavy with a suppressed chuckle.
"Must you be a jerk?" Ran shot back. He knew he was being childish, but he didn't care. He turned his back and reached up to untie his apron. Strong fingers brushed his aside and deftly undid the knot. Ran pulled the apron off and put some distance in between them so that he could hang the garment up on a hook.
"Did you ever figure out why Farfarello didn't die when Thomas cut himself?"
Ran looked back at him blankly, startled by the sudden question. He recovered after a moment and shrugged slightly. "It isn't his name, is it? His real name. When Ken and I talked to that damned Irish Vampire-"
"Yes. The one from the roof- the one Talon made a truce with," Ran said impatiently. They had found out later that the mysterious, short Vampire had travelled from Ireland just to observe the Berserker. "He called Fafarello 'Jei'."
Crawford nodded. "Aa. I suspect, had he tried to kill Schuldich in the same manner, it would have failed as well."
Ran was a little surprised by this. "That isn't his real name, either?"
Crawford shook his head. "No. And before you ask, no I don't know his real one. He has gone by that name since Rosenkreuz tore him from his mother's arms." Ran looked away with a weak scowl. He could still remember the other man's anguished scream, and the images of memories that had flashed through his mind as the Salem persona fell away.
"I don't want to talk about that man," Ran reminded Crawford irritably. "Farfarello."
Crawford arched a brow, but didn't push the subject. "Aya will be here in a few moments," he remarked dryly, stepping towards the other man. "So..." The cane slipped on the floor suddenly, and he stumbled. Ran reacted instinctively, diving forward and wrapping his arms around the older man to support him. Too late he caught the triumphant smirk on the man's face, then firm lips were covering his own in a soft but deep kiss.
His fingers dug into the American's shoulders in shock, and every nerve in his body exploded as the older man's experienced mouth and tongue patiently coaxed a response from him. His face was flaming, and he knew he should be pulling away, but his limbs felt like putty. He'd never been kissed like this before. Hell, he'd never been kissed period. This was what he'd been missing?
Crawford pulled away just when Ran was sure he was going to run out of air, giving a smirk that was almost as sultry as his German partner's. "You're predictable," he murmured. Ran could only stare up at him dumbly, face flushed, heart pounding.
"I'm ready~" he heard his sister sing, and hastily pulled away from the American. The girl bounded into the room a moment later, smiling broadly at them both. "Come on, slow pokes," she exclaimed, coming over and looping her arm affectionately through her brother's. "Iku yo!"
"A-aa," Ran replied meekly, hoping to god she didn't notice how red he was. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Crawford smirk in that self-satisfied way of his, and shot him a dirty look.
Damn American. He bit his tongue and tried to pretend his lips weren't tingling.
Together the three of them walked outside into the sunlight, Aya's happy chatter making their hearts light and softening the smiles of both men.
It was night.
Ken rubbed his arms to fight off the chill, gazing up at the moon and watching his breath puff on the air. Autumn was almost over-- soon it would be winter, and he would need to start wearing his jacket again. Jesus, his fingertips were turning blue. He stomped his feet to keep them warm and looked around to distract himself. He didn't want to dwell on what was happening on the other side of the big oak several yards away. He could just barely hear the sound of voices, but politely tuned them out.
He reached up, absently rubbing the scars on his throat. They were jagged tears, rather than the small fang marks Farfarello had been careful to give him before. When he had deliberately enraged the Irishman, Farfarello hadn't been exactly gentle. He'd ripped into him as if he'd wanted to tear Ken's throat out. Maybe he had wanted to. Luckily for both of them, it hadn't gone that far.
He blew into his cupped hands to warm them and glanced back towards the tree. Just thinking about what was going on on the other side of it made his hair stand on end. He wondered- not for the first or the last time -if he would ever get used to this new, unexpected twist to his Gift.
He had been a breath away from death, a month ago. By all accounts he should be dead.
But Elizabeth wouldn't have that.
She'd lived her life. She wanted to die. But Ken... Farfarello needed Ken. He must live for her. At least, that had been her reasoning. Ken had thought the whole bizarre conversation between them had been some strange dream.
Until breath whooshed into his lungs and he had opened his eyes to find Farfarello shuddering with silent sobs in the chair beside his bed.
He'd lived and Elizabeth had died. Ken was of the suspicion that it had been a trade- her life for his. But he tried not to talk about it anymore. He didn't want Farfarello to feel an unconscious resentment towards him. And besides, he wasn't one hundred percent sure himself if that's how it had happened.
He opened his hands and gazed at his palms in silence, feeling another shudder wrack his body, but not from the cold.
He'd brushed death. That changed a person. And in his case, it had changed his Gift-- or his Curse, rather. On some perverse level it was still Healing. But it no longer Healed the living.
It Healed the dead.
Temporarily, at least. He had-- what had Talon called it? An affinity for the dead. Having brushed death himself, he could always sense when there were dead about, now. His scars no longer throbbed in the presence of Vampires. Rather, he felt it, deep inside. The same went for whenever he passed an unmarked grave or a graveyard. Or even the scene of a recent murder. It was unnerving and he didn't think he liked it very much. Especially the other part of the Curse. The ability to raise the dead.
Temporarily, of course. He wasn't sure how long he could keep a dead person out of its grave, but he hadn't tried to find out. The ones he'd 'experimented' with had been raised for the short amount of time it took to question them, then he had hastily sent them back into their eternal sleep with a touch and a comforting word. He'd raised two in the past month already-- one had been Persia, of all people. Manx and Omi had wanted to speak to him. The other had been an old Hunter friend of Talon's. He would have raised Tatiana, but her body had been in so many pieces he was terrified to try to Raise her. Talon had returned to America shortly afterwards.
Tonight Ken had Raised Elizabeth. It had actually been his idea. Farfarello had to talk to her one last time before he could cope with her death. They were there, now, behind the oak tree, standing over her grave and talking in low voices. Ken had made sure she could speak and she recognized her brother before he'd walked off to give them privacy.
Necromancer. That was the title Talon had given him-- not without an undercurrent of disgust and something akin to fear. Ken hadn't missed those emotions, but had pretended he had. Talon was an ass, but he had saved their bacon, crashing Agammedo's party with an army of Vampires.
"You're out late tonight."
Ken continued to gaze up at the sky, undisturbed. He'd sensed the Undead coming towards him, and he recognized the voice. "Just wrapping things up," he replied quietly.
The short Vampire appeared from the shadows a few feet away, watching him solemnly. Ken looked at him out of the corner of his eye, a little warily. It was Michael, the Vampire who had spoken to himself and Ran on the roof the day Farfarello saved him from a nasty fall. He wasn't an Ancient, and certainly no Pureblood, but he was just old enough to instill a wary respect in Ken. Michael had been the one to offer his help to Talon. In truth, he was an ambassador from Ireland, sent to check out the Traitor and see if he was dead or if he could be convinced to return to Ireland. Farfarello, however, had no further need for his homeland. Too many bad memories lay waiting for him in the grasslands of his youth. Instead he had stepped forward to take the mantle as Tokyo's new Vampire Lord. Young as he was, the Vampire community was afraid of him enough to respect him. No one had argued. To his face, anyway. The Purebloods might mutter among themselves because he was the Traitor, and so young. But the Changed-- those who had been human once, and for the most part coexisted with Man --supported the Irishman. Who would have thought Schwarz's old Berserker would be the one to wade in and stop the needless bloodshed between Vampire and Man? Kill what you need to eat, and kill when I tell you to. Start a war with Man and feel my wrath. That was the new law, and none had the balls to go against it. Yet.
Michael seated himself on an old, crooked gravestone, folding his hands neatly in his lap. "You have no need to fear me," he said with smug amusement. "None dare touch one the Lord holds so dear. Even those who have never seen your face know of your scars."
"I'm not afraid of you," Ken snapped, irritated. But he knew what Michael said was true, and was secretly grateful for it. The tears on his neck and the scar on his left eye identified him as Farfarello's, and no one was foolish enough to try to feed off of him. That was Farfarello's exclusive right, though he rarely practiced it, even after Ken told him over and over again it was all right. He didn't mind, when it was Farfarello. But the Irishman was acutely aware of the fact that it had been his fangs that had almost killed Ken. When he did drink from Ken, it was sparingly, and usually during moments of passion. Ken felt his face flush with heat and bit his lip to hide a smile. Moments of passion like last night...
He caught Michael watching him with amused interest and scowled at the other man. "Did you just come here because you were bored?" he demanded. "Or did you actually have something useful to say?"
"My, being under the Lord's protection has made you bold," Michael observed. "Rash, almost."
"I've always been rash," Ken said bluntly. Always the hothead, Ran had said more than once. "What do you want, Michael?" The Vampire may have saved them with his army, but he still held a sullen grudge against the short man for the first conversation they'd had-- when he'd called Ken a Feeder on the rooftop, as if he was some two-bit whore. Smug jerk.
Michael shrugged and dropped it. "Those men you asked about-- the ones from Rosenkreuz. I asked around." Ken stood straighter and listened. They'd never found out what had become of Souma and Iragadachi. In the end he'd had to ask Michael to sniff them out. Vampires did have the best connections, after all. "There's been no sign of them, but there's rumor among the Purebloods that they are in hiding. They may have left the country for all we know."
Ken frowned. "And the woman? Birman?" Manx had said she'd killed the other woman with Ran's burning trenchcoat, but Farfarello hadn't found her body in the underground chambers.
"Disappeared as well," Michael declared. "One man says he's seen her before on the streets, heavily bandaged to hide her burn marks. That's all I've heard on her. She must still be alive, and in hiding."
Ken sighed quietly. Lovely. Just what they didn't need. Three vengeful, powerful people who would like nothing better than to see the men of Schwarz and Weiß dead. "All right. Let me know if you find anything else out. Thanks," he added grudgingly.
Michael gave a sort of half-smirk. "Happy to help," he said with barely veiled sarcasm. He rose smoothly. "Give my regards to his Lordship," he said, before fading into the shadows once more.
Ken stared silently at the spot he'd been in for several moments, fighting back a shiver. Maybe Michael was right. Perhaps he had gotten a little bolder, now that he knew no Vampire in its right mind would dare lay a finger on him. He would have to be careful it didn't make him cocky.
He turned quickly at the quiet voice, to find Farfarello standing beside the oak, gazing at him with a dead eye.
"It was green, like hers. Like my mother's. Like Elizabeth's," Farfarello had told him in the safety of the night as they lay entertwined together nearly a month ago, sated from their exertions. It had been the first time they'd slept together-- though not the last by a long shot. The Irishman was surprisingly gentle in bed. Because he, too, was new to sex? Or because it was Ken? Ken suspected it was a little bit of both, but he sure as hell wasn't complaining. "It was like theirs," Farfarello had said simply. "And so I cut it out." Simple as that. That was Farfarello all around. If it wasn't needed or wanted, kill it or destroy it.
Ken walked over to his Vampiric lover and wrapped his arms around the other man in a comforting gesture. Farfarello didn't respond to the motion, but he didn't move away, either. "Put her back," he said in a quiet, hoarse voice. "I'm done. Put her back."
Ken pulled away and gazed up at his lover sadly for a moment before nodding silently. He stepped away and walked around the tree, taking a deep breath to steady his nerves.
She was sitting on the edge of her grave, watching him calmly, expectantly. "Hello, Ken," Elizabeth greeted.
Ken tried to pretend he wasn't making small talk with a dead person. "Hello, Elizabeth," he said as lightly as he could. "Are you all right?"
She nodded. "Thank you," she murmured, meeting his gaze unflinchingly. It was unnerving. The other two attempts at raising the dead had not gone well at first. Both Persia and that Hunter he had raised had refused to acknowledge the fact that they were dead until right before he'd put them back into their graves. It had not been pretty. In more ways than one.
Ken controlled a shudder. Both men had been decaying pretty good when he'd Raised them. He'd lost his lunch both times. Elizabeth, at least, had only been dead a little over a month, and she had tactfully seated herself where the shadow of the large oak covered her. She was already beginning to waste away, gray flesh stretched over pale bones. All in all, she was taking the whole thing rather well, Ken thought. "You're welcome," he muttered, then cleared his throat. "Do you... think it helped?"
Elizabeth looked past him to where she knew her brother was standing on the opposite side of the tree. "We can both be at peace, now," she said quietly, and Ken felt as if a weight had been lifted off his chest. "I would like to sleep, now," she proclaimed. She slid into the grave, into her open coffin, and stood there gazing up at him expectantly.
Ken nodded, swallowed, and stepped forward. He knelt by the grave and reached down, placing his palm against her cold forehead. Their eyes met for a moment-- brown and emerald --and a kind of understanding passed between them. "Take care of him," she murmured.
"I will," Ken promised a little hoarsely. He took a shuddery breath. "Go to sleep, now, Elizabeth," he whispered. "Go to sleep..."
Her eyes slid closed and she fell backwards to land with a soft thump, the coffin lid closing silently over her. Dead once more. Ken rose hastily, wiping his hand off on his jeans in an unconscious gesture before he reached for the shovel he'd brought to dig up the grave. His hands were trembling, but by god, he hadn't thrown up. "Go me," he muttered a little sourly.
He felt rather than heard Farfarello come up behind him as he scooped the first load of dirt onto the top of the cedar coffin. "Are you all right?" he asked without looking up from his task.
Farfarello was silent for a long moment before he walked slowly to the other side of the grave and began pushing the dirt into the grave with his feet. "I should be asking you that," he pointed out tonelessly.
"I'm fine," Ken said immediately, kicking a rock aside and shovelling more dirt into the grave. Whummphh. That was the sound of dirt hitting a coffin. Scoop again. Whummphh. Ken stubbornly fought the urge to be sick. "So everything's all right now?"
Farfarello glanced up at him, a flash of gold in the dark. "She forgave me, if that's what you're asking," he said in that same emotionless voice. Ken wisely dropped it and continued to bury the dead girl in silence with his lover's help.
They finished, paid their respects, and left. All in a night's work for a Necromancer, Ken thought a little darkly.
Farfarello could sense his human lover's tension- the bond with their minds was still there, even now. He looked over at the other boy as they walked slowly down the graveyard path.
"I don't know if I'll ever get used to this," Ken said abruptly, feeling the Irishman's eye on him. "I don't even know if it's right-- pulling people from their eternal rest and all that shit..."
"It's what you do," Farfarello said, shrugging. "If you have the Gift, use it."
"It's more like a Curse," Ken said a little bitterly.
"A Curse that helps people," Farfarello pointed out mildly.
Ken looked over at him and sighed after a moment. "I suppose," he admitted finally. "I'm glad I could help you and your sister make ammends. And Omi got to talk to his real father. It's not right... but I guess it does have a good side to it."
"You're thinking about it too much," Farfarello grunted, fiddling idly with his serated knife. "There's nothing you can do about it, anyway."
"Yeah, I know," Ken sighed. He caught Farfarello's free hand up in his because he needed the comfort right then just as much as his lover did. He managed a weary smile. "Aya-chan had her driver's test today," he said in a determined effort to change the subject. "Do you want to go ask her how she did?"
Farfarello scowled slightly. "Her ape of a brother would not like it," he pointed out.
"Ran holds grudges," Ken admitted reluctantly. "But you did try to turn his own sister against, him, Farf. You can't really blame him. You even gave her a name like that..."
Farfarello snorted his amusement, flicking him a glance. "Schuldich told you," he guessed.
Ken nodded. "Verrat-- 'betrayal', right? You have a warped sense of humor. But anyway, you can't help how Ran feels about the whole thing. It was wrong, but it happened. Aya-chan forgave you. And Ran knows she views you as a kind of other brother. He won't upset her by being openly rude to you in front of her."
"I'm not," Farfarello growled.
Ken came to a halt and stood slightly on tiptoe, ending the argument effectively by pressing his mouth against the other man's full lips. Farfarello responded instantly, invading Ken's mouth with a quick, hot tongue. Ken reached up almost shyly, winding his arms around the Vampire's strong shoulders as hands that could easily crush him if they wanted to splayed against his lower back.
Ken was a human. Farfarello was Tokyo's fearsome Tokyo Lord. It was inevitable that Farfarello's aging process would stop, and Ken would grow old and die, while Farfarello stayed forever young and strong. Or perhaps a rogue Vampire would kill Ken, or the mysterious survivors of Rosenkreuz would return to wreak vengeance.
But Ken had learned long ago that it was useless to dwell on the future. Only the present and the past mattered-- it was what kept you fighting, what kept you alive. He didn't know what the future would bring for the both of them, but right then he didn't particuarlly give a damn.
Farfarello was here now, kissing him, maybe even loving him in his own way, and that was good enough for now.
Ken smiled against his lover's mouth and pressed closer, and in the shadowed moonlight a golden eye flashed back in a silent, answering grin.
Author's Notes: Laa~ Fini! ^_^ FINALLY, this wretched fic is over! @_@ Yeeeesh. *slumps in chair* That was disgustingly long. >< And Goddess help me, the inklings of a sequel are tickling at my brain. *screams bloody murder*
..^^;; Daijabou. I don't think that'll happen. Besides, I've got to take a break from WK for awhile. =p I've got an idea for a Gundam Wing fic in mind, anyhow. XD
Arigato ne for all those who took the time to read and/or review!! ^___^ *glompies* You've made my day. I'm glad you've all enjoyed the story. Ja ne~ XD
Translations: Liebhaber= lover, Verrat= betrayal
Disclaimer: lyrics are from "Hanging by a Moment", by Lifehouse
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