"Distrust & Escapades"
"So much for 'I'll never sleep with that murdering bloodsucker in the same room'," Ken noted drolly, glancing over his shoulder at the gently snoring occupant of the single bed.
Farfarello grunted distractedly, gazing up at the starless sky with a slitted eye. Ken sidled closer to him on the balcony, giving a quiet sigh of relief and reaching up to rub the weariness from his eyes. The elevation seemed to help somewhat with his headaches. Most of the deaths in New York apparently happened on the ground, and though the touch of it still lingered in the back of his mind and throat like a bad taste, it was bearable. He gazed down at his lover's strong hand clasping the rail and began to trace its scarred surface with a finger. "What are you thinking about?" he murmured.
"...Nathan," Farfarello answered flatly after a moment.
Ken frowned slightly, drawing a nail lightly across the other man's skin. "Mm.. You mean his little slip of the tongue? I wonder how he knew you used to be called the Berserker."
"Hm?" Ken glanced up.
Farfarello finally tilted his head from the sky to pin his lover with a fierce one-eyed stare. "He wants you," he said bluntly.
"Don't be jealous, koi," Ken chuckled quietly. He offered a lazy smile, running his fingers lightly across the back of Farfarello's calloused hand. "He's a peacock used to getting what he wants. He's just fascinated by the idea of having a Necromancer so close by. Every power-hungry person we've met-- human or otherwise --has had the same interest."
Farfarello snorted, looking away again. He said nothing, neither disagreeing or agreeing with his partner's statement.
Ken dug his fingernails into the pale skin under his own. He watched in detached fascination as a few drops of blood beaded up under his nails when his pressure broke the skin. After a moment he scraped his fingers down the hand on impulse, watching as he left four scratches behind. Slowly blood began to ooze from the shallow wounds.
He looked sideways at his lover, but Farfarello hadn't noticed. A frown tugged at the Necromancer's mouth. He lifted his hand and put it close to Farfarello's face.
The Vampire turned his head at the scent of blood, caught a little off guard. He followed Ken's pointed stare and observed the scratches on his hand clinically. After a moment he lifted the hand and lapped the blood off before returning his attention to the clouded sky above.
"The metal in your body," Ken said abruptly, glaring stonily out at the city lights. "Felix put it there, didn't he? It's why you have trouble getting through metal detectors." He paused, mouth tightening. "It's why you can't feel pain."
Farfarello glanced towards him in silence.
Ken glared up at him, letting the silence stretch. With a speed that came naturally after years as an assassin, he pulled the small dagger from the sheath on his lover's arm and slammed it into the hand still resting on the balcony.
The blade drove through skin and muscle and buried itself deep in the wood.
Farfarello had tensed at the sudden movement, but he gave no indication that he'd felt the unexpected, brutal attack. He fixed his partner with a fierce look.
"Not even that," Ken said in a quiet, intense voice, glaring back. "Fuck, Farfarello. What did he do to you?? And why didn't you tell me? I thought it was something you might have been born with. Or maybe you just knew how to block out the pain. But you really don't feel it, do you??"
Farfarello seized the knife with his free hand and yanked it free with one powerful jerk. Blood spilled from the wound to spill down the side of the balcony and drip onto the tile. His eye never left Ken's face.
"You never asked," he pointed out in a monotone. He lifted his hand and held it up for inspection, his face devoid of emotion.
"It's not your dominant hand," Ken snapped impatiently. "And it should be healed in a few hours. Answer me."
Farfarello dropped the hand by his side, losing interest in the horrible wound. He ran the blade over his lips and sheathed it. He licked the blood from his mouth with a few quick swipes of the tongue before responding. "You heard what Nagi said. When Nebel and Schwarz fought, Felix targeted me."
"Because no one had beat you before?" Ken guessed.
"Aa." Farfarello's gaze lifted towards the sky again, but his look was distant, as if he was seeing something invisible to his lover's eyes. Looking into the past. "Crawford had killed the Teleporter. We thought we'd won. Jackson was down to one of his silly metal toys." His lip curled in scorn. "An eye for an eye. It.. exploded." His eye narrowed at the memory. "Hwang helped. They must have talked about it before. He made the metal go inside and stay...." He reached up with his ruined hand to touch his abdomen in an unconscious gesture.
Ken stared up at him, catching the vaguest hints and blurry images of what had happened that day. Blood, so much blood... Farfarello's blood. And the pain, like a thousand knives. And then, suddenly, no pain at all.
Farfarello gave a one-shouldered shrug, looking suddenly bored. "The Four showed up. I went into surgery. But to get all of it out was impossible. So.." He made a sweeping gesture down his body, indicating the metal detector the airport cop had used on him.
"Nerves?" Ken asked quietly. "He did something to your nervous system?"
"Hn." Farfarello leaned his elbows on the railing, ignoring the blood. "Something like that. I wasn't interested in what the doctors were saying." His fangs flashed in a quick, demonic grin. "A small price to pay," he murmured. "He was an idiot if he thought I would regret the loss of it. Of the pain." His finger idly traced a long scar on his forearm.
Ken gazed at him in silence for a long moment before giving a loud sigh. He changed the subject tactfully. "You're crazy, Farf, you know that?" he said with a note of affection. He leaned forward to kiss the Irishman on the cheek, then headed inside. "I'm going to try to get some sleep. I think it'd be better if you slept on the chair so you don't freak out Gabriel."
"Hn." Farfarello waited until Ken was inside before glancing over his shoulder to look at him. He watched in silence as his lover dug a white bottle from his suitcase and popped a few pills, swallowing them with a gulp of water from the sink. Sleeping pills. An attempt to chase away the nightmares.
Farfarello lifted his bloodied hand and gazed at the wound thoughtfully. He allowed the first stirrings of wary unease to settle in his gut. How long had he been ignoring this? Or had he simply not noticed? Schuldich had tried to warn him, shortly after the battle in the subway. He'd shrugged it off as the paranoid babblings of an idiot. How long had these little clues been piling up right in front of him? Was he really so far gone himself that these little warnings seemed perfectly normal to him? He clenched his teeth in a flash of inner anger. He had let it get this far before he'd noticed. He'd been shrugging it off as a 'tough image' Ken had been trying to portray to convince the Vampires he was not one to be fucked with. And maybe it had started that way...
He remembered clearly the day he had walked in on the tail-end of a conversation between Ken and a young, uruly Vampire. Ken had said he'd deal with it. Farfarello had allowed it; his lover tended to be more diplomatic in that area. Most of his people only listened because they knew Ken's word was backed by Farfarello's brutality. But the look on the Vampire's face as she'd hurried from the meeting... the look of fear lingering in the backs of her eyes...
Like a child who'd just come face to face with the monster under its bed.
Things that had used to bother Ken, things that had gone against his morals and his beliefs, no longer seemed to bother him as much. That couldn't just be a front. Ken had always been one to stand up for what he believed in. He wouldn't watch in silence as Farfarello took care of those who needed to punished-- not without trying to intervene. But now he just.. stood there. Watched. And so many other little hints.
Farfarello clenched his fist tightly, causing the blood to ooze faster. Ken had known for a long time that pain was an unknown factor to his one-eyed lover. He knew a Vampire's wound could heal overnight. But Ken was still Ken. He was still human. Hurting his lover to make a point would never have occured to him a few months ago. Yet without even batting an eye, without any hint of regret or...
Farfarello snarled quietly to himself. He blamed himself for this. He was the one who'd dragged Ken into this life. He'd taken away the other boy's innocense. He'd been blind to the hints of something dark growing in the other boy.
For the first time in a long time, self-doubt nibbled at him. He wondered as he watched his lover climb carefully into the bed by Gabriel, if it was too late. If Ken had already fallen too far. Too far to be dragged back from that edge.. the edge Farfarello himself had plummeted over so many years ago.
Gabriel jolted awake just after midnight, choking back a scream of horror.
He took deep, shaking breaths, reaching up to push sweat-soaked bangs out of his face with a trembling hand. He glanced quickly at the still body beside him, reassuring himself that he had not wakened the strange man.
Ken Hidaka... Gabriel wasn't sure what to think of him. He hung out with Vampires, yet he wore silver claws. And he had saved Gabriel from those murderers who had hurt Eric. That didn't make him a good guy, but Gabriel wasn't sure if he should label him a bad guy, either.
His abrupt awakening from the nightmare didn't seem to have bothered the man. Gabriel let out a quiet sigh of relief and quickly looked around for the other man-- the one who looked like he belonged on an episode of America's Most Wanted.
There he was, sitting in the hotel armchair, arms crossed, head lolling against his shoulder. His one eye was closed, his chest rising and falling slowly in slumber. Gabriel gritted his teeth to bite back a curse. The scarred Vampire had maneuvered the chair so it was blocking the door. Whether it was to keep enemies out or prevent Gabriel from escaping was unknown, bu he wasn't about to stick around to find out what they'd do with him in the morning. Kill him, most likely. Even if that Ken guy had said they wouldn't hurt him, no doubt his freaky looking companion would tear his throat out the instant they were alone. Gabriel shuddered. No sir, not for him. He swung his legs over the bed and rose to his feet silently, holding his breath. His eyes darted from one man to the other, but neither moved. He retrieved his filthy jacket from the floor and slipped it on, edging towards the balcony doors. He'd slipped away from the orphanage often enough when he'd first been brought there, and he'd lived on the second story. He didn't need a door to leave.
He reached the doors and slid them open as slowly as his patience would allow. One quick glance over his shoulder-- still no movement --and then he was stepping quickly out onto the cold patio, shutting the glass doors silently behind him.
He gave himself a mental pat on the back for outsmarting his two captors, and hurried to the balcony rail. He had one foot in between two poles and was actually boosting himself up on his hands to lift himself over when he looked down and realized just how high he was.
Gabriel had never been too intimidated by heights, but this was insane. He'd been higher than this, of course, but he'd never hung himself over the ledge of something this high. He'd never scaled something like this without some kind of ladder or rope. Still half-perched on the rail, imobile in sudden fear, he clutched the rail and looked around wildly, his torso in mid-air, his shaking legs locked between the rails.
The balconies on either side of his own were too far for him to jump to, and the water pipe to his left looked thin and unstable. It would never hold his weight. He looked up, hoping maybe to find a ledge or a fire escape, but there was nothing but the bottom of another balcony. He chewed his lip, thinking quickly. Maybe if he got up on the actual railing, he could reach the lip of the balcony overhead.. pull himself up, sneak out that person's front door... Hah! Ken and his freaky friend would never know how he'd escaped. It would completely baffle them.
Smug excitement at his own cleverness overrode his fear, and he found he could move again. He hoisted himself onto the railing, crouching there for a moment to make sure he had his balance, before rising to his feet, excrutiatingly slow. He lifted his arm as high as he could... but the edge was just out of his reach. He clenched his teeth in aggravation and anxiety and rose carefully to tip-toe.
His fingers brushed the edge of the balcony. He leaned forward just a bit-- there! His fingers wrapped around the ledge, and he allowed himself a fleeting smile of triumph.
Suddenly there was a hand on the flat of his back. Before he could even jump in shock, the hand was leaning into him-- pushing him.
Terror erupted inside of him. His breath froze in his lungs, his heart leapt up into his throat, and his limbs locked. This all happened in an instant. In the next, his brain and body seemed to jerk him back into real awareness, and he let out a piercing shriek of panic.
He'd barely fallen forward, the shriek barely out of his mouth, when the hand suddenly turned into a fist, seizing a handful of his jacket and hauling him backwards.
The jerk was strong enough to pull him off the edge. His scream turned into a breathless grunt as he impacted with the solid body behind him and tumbled to the ground. Panting hoarsely, heart still thundering in his ears, he scrambled around on his butt and stared up at the shadowed face of the man standing over him.
Farfarello looked even more terrifying in the dark than in the light. His face was almost indistinguishable as a human's, the eyes gleaming slightly from the city lights. The angry accusations that immediately sprang to his lips faded into a breathy noise of fright. Had he been trying to kill him? Scare the fuck out of him? Threaten him? Was he here to kill him slowly, to drink him dry? Gabriel scrambled back until his back connected with the hard, unyielding railing.
The eyes followed him in silence-- wait. The Vampire had one eye, didn't he?
His attacker/savior stepped forward into the dim light, staring down at him with a solemn frown.
"That was stupid," the older man pointed out quietly. "What if you'd fallen? Are you trying to get yourself killed?"
Gabriel gaped up at the man. "You're the one who tried to push me off!" he cried hoarsely.
"I was demonstrating your stupidity," Ken corrected calmly. He looked unimpressed and irritated. He obviously did not appreciate having been woken up in the middle of the night. "Get your ass back inside before you fall off and break your fucking neck. You stupid punk."
The harsh words triggered Gabriel's temper, and he scrambled angrily to his feet. "What do you want with me??" he demanded angrily. "Are you saving me for when that circus freak gets the munchies? Let me go! I won't tell the cops!"
Ken's jaw twitched in annoyance. He reached out for him; Gabriel dodged, but there was nowhere to run. The railing was at his back and Ken was blocking the balcony door.
Farfarello was still in his chair, in the same position, except now his one golden eye was open. He watched with an expressionless face as Ken burst back into the room, hauling the thrashing, yelling orphan inside by his ear. Ken dragged the boy in front of him and gave him a hefty kick in the ass that sent him sprawling on the bed with a loud "oof!".
Farfarello looked on in silence, knowing the explosion that was coming. Not much tipped his lover off as quickly these days as being woken up in the middle of a rare night free of nightmares.
"It's one thirty in the goddamn morning, you dirty little runt," Ken snapped, almost in a shout. "You're not as sneaky as you think you are, and you're not going anywhere. How thick-headed are you?? What do you think is going to happen when Nathan and his followers run into you again? They think you're dead! And what was with the monkey act outside, you beef-breathed, skinny little runt?? You read too many Spiderman comics if you think you can just--"
Gabriel was having a hard time following the fast Japanese, but he understood enough. His holler overrode the tirade. "Lemmie go, you slant-eyed Vampire lover! This is kidnapping! You're in America now, you freaks, you can't do things like this--"
"Stop whining, you obnoxious midget!" Ken shouted furiously. "Go to bed and shut the hell up!!"
Gabriel drew in a breath to yell back, but Farfarello had obviously decided he'd heard enough bickering and shouting for one night. He gave a huff of annoyance and rose liquidly to his feet. The movement effectively silenced Gabriel, and Ken paused to glare at the other man, demanding back-up with his eyes.
"Both of you shut up," the Irishman growled. "Go to bed. You can kill each other in the morning."
"You just want to kill me--" Gabriel started to protest. He snapped his mouth shut at Farfarello's long, cold look. After a long hesitation, he spat a florid curse at them in English and buried himself under the covers to sulk.
Ken turned his glare from the lump in the covers to his lover.
Farfarello arched a brow at him. "I thought you liked kids," he pointed out tonelessly.
"This one's an ungrateful brat," Ken hissed, jabbing a finger in the lump's direction. "He's rude, he stinks, he won't listen, or even trust us a little, and he woke me up! I wasn't having any nightmares, Farfarello. Peaceful sleep for the first time in months, and this little worm wakes me up with an idiotic escape attempt that could have gotten him killed. And drawn the cops' attention to us, might I add."
Farfarello pat him on the head like a dog.
Ken smacked the hand away and scowled darkly at his lover. He was Not Amused. "Don't tease me, Farf," he snapped.
"Go back to bed," Farfarello ordered, heading back towards the chair.
"I'm not sleeping in the same bed as that--"
"Oyasumi." Farfarello flopped down into the chair, stretched out his legs, crossed his arms, and closed his eye.
Ken opened and closed his mouth a few times in offended outrage. Finally he threw his arms up in the air with a loud noise of disgust. He knew from experience that Farfarello could go out like a light in mere moments. Grumbling, he glared at the occupied bed before snatching an extra blanket from the end. He plucked up his pillow, tossed the blanket on the ground, and made himself a sleeping area by the balcony doors.
He curled up and tried to relax his mind and slip into slumber.
Sleep, however, evaded the young Necromancer. He was afraid to go to sleep; afraid of the nightmares that might plague him.
In the bed, Gabriel was also finding it difficult to relax enough to sleep. He was afraid, too. Afraid of the men in the room with him.
They both had nightmares that night.
Schuldich handed over the razor the instant Crawford walked through the front door.
Crawford took the thin blade wordlessly, arching a brow in question as he set his briefcase on the nearest table.
"Your loverboy says a weird looking foreigner came in," Schuldich informed him, settling a cigarette between his lips and rummaging in his pockets for his lighter. "Says the guy started playing some weird shit on a guitar and all the customers went out like a light." He raised his eyebrows meaningfully. "Sound familiar?"
Crawford's face grew grim. "Where is he?"
"In the back." Schuldich tilted his chin towards the kitchen. "Cleaning the hell out of it. He figured it out for himself. He knows it was Rosenkreuz."
"Upstairs. Locking up the money."
Crawford nodded shortly and strode into the kitchen. He found his partner scrubbing a pot furiously at the sink, his face dark as a storm cloud.
"I thought you said they wouldn't come looking for us," Ran said without even looking up.
Crawford stood in the doorframe, gazing at the rigid back for a moment. He glanced at the razor in his hands and thumbed the button on the side, sheathing the sharp blade. He set it on the counter and went to stand beside the other man. "They're not after you," he said quietly. "They're after Schwarz. They should have no interest in you--"
"Then why did he come here?" Ran snarled, turning his head to glare at the taller man. "He tried to kill me. If Aya-chan had been here--" He cut himself off and returned to scrubbing vigorously at the pot.
Crawford loosened his tie with a small sigh. The room was uncomfortably warm; the temperature tended to hike up when Ran was in a bad mood.
"The man you saw is called the Sandman," he explained calmly. "He has a bad habit of doing whatever he pleases. He's hard to control, but his skills are valuable to Rosenkreuz. Perhaps he came here looking for Schwarz, or maybe he came here on his own."
"Or maybe he came here on orders," Ran snapped. "Rosenkreuz knows Weiß and Schwarz made an alliance. We're their enemies now, too. And they know we have Gifts. Iragadachi is gone, so they can't take us. They have to kill us.. all of us..." The dishrag in his clenched fist caught on fire. He stuffed it into the sink, extinguishing it in the soapy water without batting an eye.
"Whatever the case, it's not safe here. Not for now." Crawford removed his glasses and dug a handkerchief from his pocket to clean them. "I would feel better if you and your sister would move to a safehouse for the time being. Schuldich can take you to one. I want to find out more about what's going on; perhaps I'll get a vision.."
"You want us to run and hide again??" Ran demanded incredulously. "We've already done that! I uprooted Aya from Tokyo, from her school and friends, just to start over here. I'm not doing it again!"
"It will only be temporary," Crawford assured him calmly, checking his glasses before settling them on the bridge of his nose again. He gazed sternly at the shorter man. "It's for your own good. Or would you prefer to stay here like sitting ducks until Felix or the Sandman comes around again? This time they might come while Aya is here."
Ran glared down into the soapy water, gritting his teeth in helpless rage.
Crawford reached out to touch his shoulder lightly. "It's us they're really after; we'll take care of it--"
Ran jerked away from him, shooting him a venomous look. "This is all your fault. All Schwarz's fault," he spat. He hurled the burned dishrag onto the counter and stormed off. Crawford watched him go in silence.
Ran's words had come from his anger and his frustration. Any other time, Crawford would have brushed them off and waited for his partner to calm down. But now Ran's words seemed only too true. Crawford closed his eyes briefly, a small frown creasing his brow.
Maybe Ran was right. They should have broken off the alliance long ago. Then Ran and his sister never would have gotten dragged into this. Suddenly he was grimly certain that Ran's life would have been so much easier if a certain Brad Crawford had never walked into it.
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