For once in his long life, Lech decided to let silence do the talking. Plan? What plan? Dreesen was an unpredictable narcissist and a grade-A lunatic. The plan stopped the second they walked in his door, whether he'd made one or not. If Dreesen was in a good mood, they'd be in and out with whatever they wanted and oh, I couldn't let you go without a bite to eat. If Dreesen was in a bad mood... there was a distinct possibility that they didn't leave the sewers at all. At least, not in the shape they'd entered them.
He followed along the finned woman. Dreesen agreed to greet them, which was nice, but the rest of it was concerning. It certainly didn't bode well for their getting what they wanted out of this situation. A housewarming. For what house? he chided the not-man silently. Dreesen had been under the city for longer than he'd been in it. Housewarming his ass.
"Gambling?" Lech laughed. "My luck... let me put it this way: there's exactly one person in the universe who can kill me dead, and she wants my head." His luck had been shit since the day he was born the dark half, not the beloved blessed half, and it had continued in the same flavor for the latter majority of his existence. He'd met men with worse luck, but none of them were still alive.
"My friend here on the other hand... he's a well-known gambling man." He clapped Kaien on the shoulder with as big a grin as he'd ever had. Hesitate to throw Kaien under the bus? Him? Never.
For a house that looked shitty on the outside, it was surprisingly neat and clean on the inside. The floors shone. The walls gleamed. Lech almost felt bad for trampling muck all over the house, until he remembered that this man was the only reason they'd entered the sewers in the first place.
Midna gave them a small smile and led the way deeper into the twining hallways.
Lech looked around, mildly concerned. From the outside, the house had only been about ten-by-ten feet. This hallway alone stretched twice that. Someone had upgraded his lair.
Something twisted in his stomach, an uncomfortable foreboding. How well did he know Dreesen, after all? He furrowed his brows and thought back. It'd been nearly... fifty years since he'd last stopped by. Anything could have happened. Dreesen could have died, even. But here they were, marching deeper into his lair. He swallowed. He couldn't help but feel like the fly, merrily marching into the spider's den. [i At the very least, I'll make sure the kid gets out,] he decided. He was a vampire, and a nigh-unkillable one at that. Kaien was sturdy, but not that sturdy, and, perhaps most importantly of all, good food was hard to come by.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/tYswO9i.png]]Right. Just, fuckin-
“I know what the fuck his group’s made up of,” he whisper-yelled in response, sticking closer to Lech than he otherwise would’ve if they were. Y’know. Above-ground. Not being accosted by crocodile-man and his croc-posse, from the looks of it. “I’m alive, ain’t I? You think a street rat survives out there without knowing who to avoid?”
But then, he’d also spent one half of his street rat days behind the bars of a rat cage-- the other conveniently trapped behind a bender-induced haze-- and that’s where the validity began to gradually fall off. How much of his life had he even ended up [i spending] in this city, in the end?
Not enough to call it [i his,] that was for sure, and [i definitely] not enough to properly give half a shit.
This, though. This was something.
Kaien watched crocodile-man hurry off somewhere behind one of the fifty identical makeshift buildings stacked up side-to-side. [i Wait here.] A simple-enough request, and still Kaien felt his eyes wandering, the steady thrum of-- something hot beneath his skin. He crossed his arms decisively across his chest.
Wait. Right. He could do that. He’d done more than enough waiting in his life. Nothing wrong with some more.
A group of-- they looked to be kids, of varying non-human specifications, passed by the pair of them in a rushed silence. Some dozen steps away, the conversation resumed, hushed words exchanged in rapid fire. One of the girls glanced back- a tiny thing, green-purple-blue-tinged skin and beady little black eyes like a target on her round face- only to snap her head back forward when met with Kaien’s stare.
He glanced at Lech, their gazes connecting in understanding: they were too conspicuous here. Baseline? They stood out too much. But with the clear instructions they’d been given, they hadn’t been left with much of an alternative.
Not that they’d be hard to single out in a crowd like this.
Kaien sighed. “You know Dreesen’s a sociopath, right? A narcissist, for one.” ‘Not that you get many leaders out here with any substitute qualifications,’ hangs unsaid in the stale air between them. “Please tell me you have a plan. I’m all for following your lead, oh gracious senior, but after that last stint with Mike, I just wanna know-”
“Gentlemen?” a raspy, but distinctly feminine voice cut in. Kaien turned to give their guest a once-over, meeting with a pair of large eyes on a too-small face. Her eyes were all sclera, no iris, milky white and glassy. A pair of identical fins framed her face on either side. Kaien was generally a good judge of character, which was why he [i generally] didn’t trust a [i goddamn] soul out there, but for what it was worth, she didn’t immediately set off any alarms. Again. [i Generally] a good sign.
Still, he didn’t move. Only a raised eyebrow indicated he was waiting on her to get on with it. She smiled at them, sharp-toothed.
It seemed earnest enough.
“Dreesen is ready to see you now,” she said. Her hands were clasped behind her back, and she looked almost… expectant. Excited, somehow. Kaien held his more prominent scowl at bay and merely inclined his head, waiting for her to pivot on her bare heel and begin leading them back into the fray.
Her back turned, he gave Lech one long, pointed stare, and started after her. Nope. Not ominous at all.
After a grand total of three and a half seconds, she piped up again, this time more reserved. “Okay. I lied. Dreesen is not ready to see you now. Not for what you want. But he [i does] want you to join him. He said- this is what he said.” Her fingers- still intertwined at the small of her back- twitched. Curled. Relaxed. “He said: ‘we don’t house many visitors here,’ and then some things about housewarming and surprises.”
She led them through the thinning crowd towards easily the biggest building in the entire underground city. It towered over the others by at least several stories, and though Kaien had assumed, it was gratifying to learn egomaniacs were just as predictable underground as they were up on the surface.
“I’m Midna,” she said, opening one side of the doors and trailing through them. Not a single otherwise-person inside spared them a single glance. “Tell me: how are you at [i gambling?]”
Lech glanced at Kaien. "We don't have another opt..."
Water sloshed behind them. Lech froze. Slowly, he turned around.
A hunched man stood out of the sewer water. Sludge dripped off his body. Glowing golden eyes glared at the two of them. Rough scales crawled over his bald scalp and down the back of his neck, where they disappeared under his shirt. A clawed hand clutched a chewed-up PVC pipe like a staff.
Flanking him on either side, a pair of low shapes wallowed in the sewer water. One of them opened its snout and hissed at Lech and Kaien, white teeth shining.
[i Crocodiles. Figures.]
"You seek Dreesen?" the man asked. His voice caught in his throat, rough as stone, hissing at the edges.
Lech inclined his head slightly. He'd worry that the man might not see, but the glow in his eyes indicated that he'd easily see in the low light. "We would like to speak with the collective," he said smoothly.
The man took him and Kaien in. Then he nodded and started off again, deeper into the sewers. Lech followed him.
"Dreesen's group is mostly made up of those non-humans that can't walk around the city," he muttered to Kaien. It was fifty-fifty on whether his charge already knew or not; plenty of people dismissed Dreesen outright for being irrelevant, but the sewer-folk saw things no one else did. Everything the gangs and criminals threw away ended up down here at some point--bodies, weapons, drugs. No matter how hard they tried to bury it, as long as some of it got flushed away, it would turn up down here.
The crocodilian led them along the wider tunnels and through the winding paths of the sewers. Unbothered by the stench or the putrid water, he stomped straight through the muck. His two crocodile partners followed like pet dogs. They trotted happily at his heels and swum through the water when it got deep enough.
Lech did his best to sidestep the deeper puddles, but it was a hopeless task. By the time their guard ground to a sudden halt, he was splattered in the stuff. His waterproof pants were soaked up to the knees in sewer juice. Even if they were waterproof, it still felt gross. He could feel the dampness from the far side.
"Is there a problem?" he asked.
Rather than answer, the crocodilian vanished into the wall.
Lech stared. He blinked, then realized: there was a flap of fabric there. He ducked through after the crocodillian.
A blast of sound burst out around him. He flinched, startled, but there was no harm. It was conversation. A market. No--Lech's eyes widened as he took it all in.
Before them stretched a massive cave. And in the cave stood a city.
Corrogated iron, old tires, cardboard, cloth. The buildings were handmade and ramshackle, made of trash and leftovers. They leaned and tilted, but they stood. The tallest stood several stories tall, but most were shanties, barely able to hold themselves up, let alone a second story.
Sturdy pillars stood here and there around the cave and propped up the roof. In the very center of the roof, a huge lantern hung, providing a false sun for the underground city.
Under the false sun, between the ramshackle buildings, non-humans of all sizes and descriptions hurried about. Lamias swayed past on long tails. Harpies fluttered from nests they'd built into the roof of the cave. A large rabbit with an impressive rack of antlers shuffled by on its hind legs. And more. So many more than he could name or describe. Feathers, scales, claws, all of them flashed by. The city was a mess of color and life.
[i I had no idea Dreesen's group was this big.] Lech stared at the creatures and shook his head. This was impressive. No--frightening. If he massed all the non-humanoids living under the city, the hunters would be completely overrun. It wouldn't even be a fight.
Belatedly, Lech realized he and Kaien stood out. First, for looking human; second, for being covered in sewer shit, which everyone else in the city, crocodilian barred, seemed to have somehow avoided. He grimaced. [i Damn that Dreesen.] He'd bet anything there was a way directly to this underground city, but the secretive reptile wasn't about to share the secret with anyone.
"Wait here," the crocodilian ordered, and hurried off as fast as his webbed feet could take him.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/tYswO9i.png]]It took a stunning three minutes of listening to the distant sounds of shit and piss for Kaien’s mood to plummet. He trudged behind Lech mutely, expression pinched into a permanent state of discomfort. Even the [i steps] he took sounded sticky, pronounced by the echo of an open space . Foul. Dirty. He [i really] wasn’t a fan of [i that] particular sensation, no matter how temporary. He had to keep reminding himself why, exactly, he was here. . It didn’t matter how uncomfortable he was. This was a job- those took precedent.
He listened to Lech’s response, fighting off the urge to run up and drop kick him in the head much like Silas had those some days ago. Unless he had a [i better plan]? [i Yeah,] it’d been [i don’t go into the fucking sewers in the first place.] It’d seemed like a great plan when he proposed it, and its appeal was rising [i exponentially] with each moment that ticked by.
Kaien sighed, pulling his arm over his nose for the inhale. No good. He was getting frustrated. (Frustrated?) [i Annoyed] felt like a better descriptor for the emotion pulling his facial muscles this way and that, rustling the delicate tranquility he’d spent all these years carefully cultivating. Not annoyed at Lech. Not really. He couldn’t imagine the man was any happier about their current predicament than Kaien was. Not even at the targets, either, which really only served to make his mood worse, because no cause meant no outlet, and there were only a few things Kaien disliked [i more] than having to feel like he was being cornered by something out of his control .
“Let’s just get this over with,” he muttered, quickening his step to fall in line with Lech. The sooner they found them, the sooner they could get the hell out of this hot, rancid sewer-pit. “ Don’t think they’re all too-likely to speak to us peacefully, though. Answer our questions- aren’t we in their territory? Dreessen’s kinda a freak, if the rumors are true.”
Kaien wasn't any more pleased with it than Lech was, but he didn't fight going into the sewers first. "Perhaps he wanted to fulfill the stereotype? Crocodiles in the sewers, and all."
He waited up top while Kaien descended. Once the man vanished, Lech took one last, long breath. He couldn't go entirely without breathing, but he could go much longer than a human. If he didn't speak, then he could go even longer. The less sewer air he breathed, the happier he would be.
Even without breathing, he could feel the damp humidity of the sewers pressing in around him. [i Oh, it's dank,] he thought, shuddering. It was so dirty down here. He was no germophobe, but anyone would be a little squeamish about walking around in the sewers. All he could think about was how much cleaning he'd have to do when he got out. [i Wash the clothes, soak the boots, wash myself a dozen times, maybe even an alcohol bath to be safe.] Ugh. Kaien was right; this was horrible.
He arched an eyebrow at Kaien, then realized, reluctantly, that he'd have to speak, and thus, breathe. Lech sighed mentally . "Question them. If they don't respond well to questioning, then I suppose we'll have to fight." He gestured for Kaien to follow him and started off down the sewers. He could try to track them by scent, but he had absolutely no desire to breathe that deeply, much less use his nose.
No, the informant had given him a general quadrant. They were in that quadrant, so they'd wander around until someone saw or heard something. It was the best they could do, really. "Unless you have a better plan," he allowed, giving the younger man a look. He was willing to hear out his subordinate, like a good boss.
The sewers descended, winding along under the city. Here and there, access shafts led upward, distant sparks of sunlight filtering down. It was dark as night. Although his nose protested the sewers, the rest of him relaxed. This deep, the darkness was almost absolute. Even a young vampire would be safe down here.
There had been a time when a colony of vampires had lived under the city. [i How'd they survive the stench?] he wondered, lifting his shirt to take a breath from under it. If he'd had the option to live in the sewers or die in the sunlight, he wasn't sure he wouldn't choose to just step out under that burning globe and end it all.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/tYswO9i.png]]Kaien’s face scrunched up in open disgust. “So knightly of you,” he muttered, dropping into a crouch. The initial release of stench was strong, but nothing compared to being right above the opening, and Kaien felt his eyes begin to water in response. “Oh, fuck.” He blinked the moisture away, focusing on the darkness instead of the smell. Or at least trying to. “How big of a clown do you have to be to hide in the fucking sewers. What’s so bad about an old-fashioned run-down building?” It was a good decision from a tactical standpoint, objectively speaking, he could see that, but it was also [i real] fucking gross.
Fingers gripping the curved edge of the manhole, he swung his legs over, let them dangle for several moments while he emotionally prepared himself, then dropped.
It was a lot worse down there.
He dutifully kept his mouth shut while he waited for Lech to follow up, arms coming up to cross at his chest in restraint. It was a show of [i pure unobjectionable discipline] that Kaien hadn’t turned [i right] the fuck around and climbed back out the instant his feet had touched the ground.
Looking out into the distant darkness, he gave his eyes time to adjust to the sudden shift. It wasn’t instantaneous, not like with nocturnal creatures, but by the time Lech had joined him, he was already glancing around, picking out the several routes, all of which had the potential of completely wasting their time. What if Dreessen’s and his big band of associates had decided to step out for a coffee and a bagel as one unified group? Kaien wasn’t too thrilled about how likely that sounded. Dreessen was as capricious as they came. Kaien [i knew] whimsy.
For a brief instant, he considered losing the gloves, activating his ability and making this easier on them both, but quickly disregarded the thought with a mental slap to the wrist. He didn’t trust it. As generally safe as that amount of use tended to be, he didn’t trust it now. He’d slipped so [i easily] last time that even the gloves—a consistent emotional buffer—failed to put him at ease. [i No.] It wasn’t-- [i he] wasn’t reliable. They’d have to do this the old-fashioned way. He was just glad Lech hadn’t thought to suggest it either.
“Purely out of curiosity, but,” he began in low tones, “what’s the actual plan here? If we find them, that is.”
Lech scruffed Kaien's hair. "Rather take a murder scene than a sewer?" he asked. "I'm not going to a murder scene dressed like this. Let's head to the sewer first, then we can pop by this murder of yours."
The sewer was a concrete lead; as concrete as anything got. The murder was just another murder in a town where a massacre didn't even make front page news. Anyone could've killed those people. [i Anything,] he amended. Back in the day, [i he] might've killed those people. A small smile tightened his lips across his teeth. Ripping apart lush, soft bodies, the crunch of bones, blood dark as wine splattered across the walls.
[i Shit, stay focused.] One bite and his mind was already going back there. He'd just prove his sister right. If there was one thing he refused to do, it was prove her right. As much as the idea of a blood-fueled murder orgy, now was [i not] the time.
He looked at Kaien. He really did not like the sewer, did he? [i Wonder what it is.] There was so much about the sewer that was objectionable that he really had no idea what in particular Kaien hated. The smell? The grossness? The unsanitariness? Shit and piss? He felt like there was something there he could use to mock Kaien forever.
[i Or blackmail him into letting me--]
Lech shook his head hard, banishing the thought. No, he wasn't going there. Not ever again. It had been a bad idea in the first place and it was a terrible idea now to eat the delicious blood that his tasty-looking subordinate...
He sighed deeply at himself. No matter what, he was beholden to his instincts. Even after so long without drinking, it was so easy for him to fall back into that pattern of thinking. He thought he was so above other vampires, but when it came down to it, he was no better than anyone else.
A familiar scent caught his attention. Lech looked up. "Over here," he said, gesturing Kaien closer. He walked over to a storm drain and crouched,then hauled the lid up. It barely felt heavy. [i Because I ate,] he reminded himself. Even if he didn't eat his subordinate, he should definitely keep eating. There were less painful ways to commit suicide.
Darkness awaited them. Darkness and the distant scent of rotting sewage. Lech hesitated. [i Oh, it really reeks.] "After you, princess," he said, gesturing for Kaien to go first. He certainly didn't want to go first.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/tYswO9i.png]]Silas knew something. Had [i seen] something, and depending on what he’d seen, Kaien would either have to ask him to keep it to himself, or bludgeon him into a permanent bout of amnesia to secure his job. The debauchery was fine. He didn’t care about that, but if he’d seen something [i else,] and was considering serving it up to the [i boss]...
Kaien crossed his arms, watched Silas leave, eyes following his hurried departure.
“‘Uhm, uhm,’ yeah, let’s go.” [i ‘I don’t trust him’] seemed an over-embroidered statement in correlation to someone like Silas , but that was the ultimate take-away. In the case of Lech, Kaien knew… more or less what to expect. He’d surprised him a couple of times , but when it came down to a baseline of [i okay] as opposed to [i not so much], Lech checked out. With Silas… there was too much Kaien didn’t know, and taking his supposed [i clairvoyance] into account ... yeah, he wasn’t getting tangled up in that.
Besides, he already [i had] a tentative partnership he was in the process of figuring out, and [i one] glorified babysitter was generally more than enough. He’d remember to ask Aries about Silas, though.
“So,” Kaien began after they’d left, hands relocated to his pockets and eyes pointed ahead, “the sewers? Really? We couldn’t find something else to do? Stakeout might be more fun.” [i Definitely] a whole lot more hygenic, and a whole lot [i less] fucking rank, but he wasn’t the one calling the shots here. [i Was he?] He side-glanced at Lech’s unbothered profile. No. No, he wasn’t. Didn’t really even want to, either, if he was being honest.
With a resigned sigh, he continued, because [i yes,] of [i course] they just [i had] to do this in the end. “There was a mass killing last night, up by the clocktower- [i real] messy: missing body parts, bodies cut [i open]... the works. No signs of struggle or anything from the looks of it; just a massacre. You said your ‘associates’ hadn’t figured out the exact location. We could start from there, use it as a reference location.” He really wasn’t looking forward to today. Nothing that began with having to go sewer diving for clues could possibly end well for [i any] of the parties involved.
He smirked. "Glad you're in a good mood." He did look like a fisher, no denying it. "Finish picking out your accessories, princess, and let's get moving."
Just leave? That was his style. Corrupting the golden boy, what a perfect way to go. He raised an eyebrow. Would Aries be okay with that? [i Maybe too late to ask that after I already bit him,] he thought, a mixture of shame and amusement rising at the thought.
He tilted his head. Go alone, or with a chaperone? He certainly didn't think Aries had suggested a chaperone for [i his] sake. "I'd think that was at your discretion, not mine," he murmured. Especially after the bite.
Lech led the way to Silas's office. He didn't know where Silas's office was, but Silas smelled distinctly of human and not-human at the same time. It was an almost tingly edge to the usual human smell, and it made him extremely easy to pick out from a crowd. He'd always noticed it, but never had the motivation to pick out who smelled like that. But now that he could match the scent to a name and face, he could lead them to Silas with no hesitation.
Silas looked up from his computer as the two arrived. He glanced at Kaien, then away, embarrassed. He hadn't meant to look in--wait, wait, he was being super suspicious right now. He should act like nothing had happened. "Hey guys, what's up?" he asked, forcing himself to smile.
He never lasted long in groups. This wasn't the first time. They'd notice that he knew, and it would be awkward, and he'd be on his own again.
"Are you coming with us?" Lech asked, looping an arm over the wall of his cubicle. His hand dangled over the edge, fingers half-clenched. Silas's eyes were drawn to it, how pale it was, how perfectly sculpted the fingers. [i How did I never notice?] It was so obvious, now that he knew.
They were looking at him expectantly. Silas startled and realized he'd been asked a question. "Uhm, uhm--coming?" Where? To lunch? He took in their clothes, and the memory hit. Silas' eyebrows shot up. [i Shit!] "Oh, man, I totally forgot! Give me a second, I gotta go--get dressed!"
Lech gestured for him to go. He made eye contact with Kaien as Silas ran for the wardrobing room. "Last chance to ditch him," he whispered, raising one eyebrow. They didn't have to take Silas with them. If they disappeared, he'd probably just sit back down in his cubicle, like usual.
[center [pic http://i1225.photobucket.com/albums/ee397/Sakura-chi/k2_zps6odp3n0i.png]]
He glanced up at the sound of footsteps, indicating someone’s entrance. He knew who it was well before Lech strolled in, looking, for all intents and purposes, [i exactly] like someone you’d see skulking through mud and muck. Or a fisherman. He kind of looked like a fisherman, too.
“Howdy there, partner,” he said in mock-salute, tugging the gloves on. They didn’t fit [i nearly] as well as his, but they fit well [i enough], which was about as much as he’d expected. Beggars couldn’t afford to be choosers, in his case. “Dunno about me, but [i you] sure look ready to catch a big one. Pick that out yourself? We could find you a nice hat, if you’re looking to complete the outfit.” Kaien’s clothes didn’t matter. He was planning on tossing them after today, and their owner had known that when he’d handed them over for Kaien’s convenience.
Lech’s question pulled him up short, though, and he paused. Tagalong…? Who was…
It dawned on him at the same time as the recollection of his and Silas’s conversation from last night. Right. Silas, who was apparently some type of clairvoyant or something. He didn’t much like that, to be honest-- even more than last night. “Probably,” he said. Silas’d mentioned something about seeing him tomorrow, in any case, but all of that was word of mouth. “We can leave, and then if he comes looking for us, or calls, we’ll know for sure.” But that meant being alone with Lech, and potentially talking about something other than strictly work, and Kaien hadn’t yet decided how he felt about the whole biting thing.
Or, [i well]. He knew how he felt about it, but he also knew he’d been the one to initially suggest it. Kind of. He’d offered Lech an alternative, but had he really expected a starving vampire to skip out on a chance to feed? It hadn’t crossed his mind, then-- because he hadn’t cared either way-- but now? [i Ugh.] Professional. He needed to be a professional about this. How he felt was second to the job.
“Let’s go ask,” he said ultimately. “He should be on this floor.” He needed to check. To know. What if Silas had lied? What if he’d seen everything Kaien’d gone up to last night and was currently in the process of ratting him out to Aries via email? Him [i and] Lech. No. He couldn’t take the risk. Silas’d promised to keep quiet, but people were fickle. “Would you prefer it if we went with just the two of us?”
Lech woke with a start. After the initial jump, he stared at the wall, slowly computing why he'd woken. The noise? There were more people in the office now, for sure. It usually wasn't enough to wake him, if he meant to sleep. Honestly, that was most of what he did in his office: sleep. [i Maybe I should put a bed in here and be done with it.] But then what would he do with all the stacks of paperwork? Couldn't put them on the bed.
A scent. It was a scent.
Lech let out a deep sigh. Ah. So Kaien had arrived. It was truly embarrassing that he was attuned to the kid's presence to that extent after one bite, but that was the price of his pride and not eating for far too long. He was awake now, though. Nothing he could do but get up and face the music. Or, in this situation, two young hunters and an office full of humans.
He emerged from his office, startling a passing office-lady who nearly dropped her files. "Sorry!" she stammered, then took off, hurrying as fast as her heels could carry her. Lech stared after her, still a bit sleep-drunk. [i My outfit that bad?] his brain spat out about a minute too late. He shook his head, yawned, and wandered over towards Kaien.
[i It's not all bad,] he said in his mind, running through the conversation. [i If you get lost or captured, I can find you very easily.] Yes, because Kaien really wanted to hear that Lech was now stalking him at a low level for the rest of his life. Or at least the next two or three weeks. No, that was a good point, wasn't it? [i It doesn't last too long, probably,] he threw out there. Imaginary Kaien didn't look too impressed at that one, either. [i It's normal for vampires. It's not like I did something special just for you.] Oh yeah, yeah, [i that] was the ticket. Let Kaien know he wasn't special [i and] get weirdly defensive.
And there he was. The man himself. Kaien was... rifling through the wardrobe room, looking for who knew what. He looked the boy over. A big pair of waterproof boots, hopefully. "You ready for the sewers?" he asked, leaning against the wall to wait while Kaien searched. Kid hadn't seemed too excited about it last time they'd talked about it, but hell, who was? If Kaien had been all about the sewers, he would've been much more worried.
"Is the tagalong coming?" he added casually. He couldn't remember if Silas was heading into the sewers with them or not. Was he a part of the partnership now, or had that been a one-off?
[center [pic http://i1225.photobucket.com/albums/ee397/Sakura-chi/k2_zps6odp3n0i.png]]
“Kaien, [i there’s someone unconscious on the--]”
“[i Shut up,]” he muttered, the flat of his palm pressed up to the left side of his face. Ugh. Ugh. What a fucking spectacle. Annoying. He’d woken up a total of thirteen minutes ago, and he was already annoyed. Annoyed because he had control of himself again, annoyed because of what he’d done last night, and most importantly, because of what he’d let transpire in that abandoned building.
“[i Hangover?]” his host asked, observing Kaien’s taut form from his leisurely recline on the couch. ‘Someone unconscious on the floor,’ and here he was, taking up the entire couch.
“[i Worse,]” he said, and, without a second glance at the ground, padded through the main area and into the adjoining bathroom. He stepped up to the sink and flicked the overhead lights on, bathing the room in artificial rays. He didn’t look half as horrible as he felt, from what he could see reflected in the mirror. In fact, he looked pretty good all around. Healthy. Radiant skin, bright eyes. The works. He inclined his head to the side and leaned in, focusing in on the smooth, unblemished skin of his neck. That side. That was the one Lech’d bitten into. Figures he wouldn’t have gone for the mangled side. Fucking vampires. [i Fucking vampires,] fuck.
He was furious, and made more irritable by the fact that he’d let it happen. He’d allowed it. He’d let a vampire bite him. After all that talk of trauma, and scars, and hate, the moment his control slipped, all of it ceased to matter. His past hadn’t mattered. The unhealing scar on his neck hadn’t mattered. His detest hadn’t mattered. None of that. He’d let Lech bite him just because it’d been convenient for him in that moment, and nothing more.
Kaien took a breath. Held it. Released.
His thoughts were… muddled, at best. He couldn’t focus. Too many things--there were too many things bouncing around in his head, and he was having trouble grabbing hold of any one concrete thought. Just another in a line of a hundred downsides. The memories were all there, as were the reasonings behind all his actions , and that was really just making this entire experience three times as trying.
That was how his ability worked. It [i wanted] this- for him to get overwhelmed by the whys and the whats and the moral yeses and noes that popped up every time he woke up to realize that all those things he’d done last night, and the day before, and the day before, suddenly weren’t just arbitrary anymore. Guilt never hounded him, however, no matter what he’d remember doing, but it didn’t have to. He never felt guilty. He never cared, like he assumed he was supposed to--like he expected he would’ve, if his ability, and the consequent catch, had manifested as anything else.
He pushed open the doors to hq to find it sufficiently lively, people milling about and chattering idly away. Trish noticed him immediately--he was beginning to think she’d singled him out--and greeted him with a tiny wave, a smile on her face. She never looked tired. He remembered that about her. He gave her a nod, and continued deeper into the building without a word to anyone.
The sewers. He didn’t want to go. He [i really] didn’t want to go, but that was the difference between this Kaien, and the Kaien of last night. One knew the meaning of responsibility, of dedication to finishing the job and finishing it [i right]--[i the one that’d had the foresight to borrow a set of clothes from his friend and spare his own wardrobe]--and the other wouldn’t have gone simply because the sewers smelled and didn’t go with his mood.
Good thing, too. Lech knew where he lived now. If Kaien hadn’t shown up, who knew? Maybe Lech would’ve decided to pay a visit and drag him out, and that [i definitely] wouldn’t have gone over well. Kaien was stubborn on the best of days.
He took the stairs one by one, taking his time. Gloves. Before anything else, he needed to pick up a pair of gloves.
There was no success to be had at the tiny dive bar that was now his territory. No success to be had anywhere. He wasn't sure how large this territory he had won was, but it certainly lacked any prey worth having. There was no class. No... taste.
Neither did any of them seem particularly interested in him. He sighed to himself on the way back home, scratching his head. It turned out removing himself from the scene for a few decades was a terrible idea, huh? And he'd never exactly been part of the scene in the first place. Rather than seduction, he'd rather have the thrill of the chase, cold night air and the rush of the dark. But that was no longer an option.
He slammed the door behind him. To hell with it. He'd starve again. It was less effort. Made him feel less like a pile of worthless shit, and that was saying something. Too lazy to find his way past the entryway, he plopped down in the foyer to sleep. Fuck it. Fuck it all.
He was up at the crack of dawn, well before the sun rose. Only a few hours of sleep, but it didn't much matter. He didn't need much sleep. Ideally he'd sleep through the day, but he was working for humans, now, and humans worked during the day.
Lech had to flick on the lights in his apartment to find his overalls and boots, it'd been so long since he'd used them. He found them tucked away in a distant corner of the laundry nook, sealed inside a plastic bag to save him the reek. He found a pair of old clothes he didn't care for, sweatpants and a t-shirt someone had handed him for free that promoted some bar or another. He caught a glimpse of himself in a passing mirror and grimaced. How could anyone go out on the streets dressed like this? Did they see themselves?
With the overalls and the boots on, he looked even worse. Redneck fisherman was the description that came to mind, no matter how flawless his hair and skin.
Lech sighed deeply. There was no helping that. At least once he pulled the watertight jacket on over it, the whole thing started to look more like a uniform.
No one was on the streets to see him look like a fool on his way to the headquarters. He slunk into the office, head swiveling to look out for Aries. No sign of the man so far. Good. He slid into his office--dank, dark, dusty and unused--and slumped into his chair. Might as well get a nap in before Kaien showed up. Even if the sewers were underground, being up during the day still wore him out. He wasn't built for it. Lech managed a bit of a doze as the rest of the staff slowly filtered in, humans arriving at much more reasonable hours than his early time.
The train last night had been delayed. Silas lurked in his cubicle, staring at the screen and mired in his own self-hatred. He'd said fifteen minutes. He'd meant to stick to it. but the damn train had been half an hour late. So now he had a certain image of Kaien plastered to the inside of his brain. He rubbed at his eyes and sighed out. Damn it. Damn his eye.
[center [pic http://i1225.photobucket.com/albums/ee397/Sakura-chi/k2_zps6odp3n0i.png]]
See him tomorrow? Kaien doubted it, but he stood quiet, observing Silas’ form get farther and farther away, until ultimately, he disappeared behind a corner and our of Kaien’s field of vision.
He didn’t trust him-- it was completely plausible that Silas’ had lied about everything he’d told Kaien, but that he’d just done it very, very well- well enough to potentially convince him. Rookies like that existed. [i He’d] been that kind of rookie- manipulative, and a liar, the type of person who solely looked out for himself and his interests. Granted, he was still all of those things, sans rookie status. Was Silas those things, too? He could be. Kaien doubted it, of course- something about Silas’ expression, his eyes, that didn’t hide pain all too well- but he hadn’t survived thus far by trusting his initial hunches.
Well, he thought, no use pondering. If Silas continued unnerving him, he’d handle it. Or him. But, for now, he’d take Silas’ word for it. He had nothing else to go off of, in any case-- he wouldn’t pretend he understood that ability of his.
He retreated back into the office. Approached Silas’ desk. He’d left it on, his pc. Unattended. Kaien leaned over the chair and gripped the mouse, waking the screen up with a brief jitter. [i Dear A] greeted him in black serif font.
Kaien stared at the screen for a long moment, then turned away from the computer and made for the exit. Whatever. It didn’t matter. It was a non-issue, he decided, flicking the lights off on his way out. It was late. He didn’t need to think about these things right now.
The receptionist- Trish- waved at him eagerly when he passed, and he smiled at her in return- a brief simper that slipped away as soon as he looked back at his front- and in the next several seconds he was back outside. He had his jacket. He had his keys. He has Silas’ confidence, or as close to it he was likely to get at this point in time. All things considered, he was ready to go home. Get some rest. Prepare his body for tomorrow’s traipse through the sewers. Pick out a durable outfit, a pair of sturdy, odor-resistant boots. Show his dedication to his job- to this [i city.]
His city. His home.
He dug his phone out and dialed a familiar number. Placed the phone up to his ear, and waited. The call rang twice, and then the other side of the line clicked, a voice coming through. Amiable. Pleasant. Glad to hear from him. Kaien started walking.
“[i Hey,]” he said, the language coming to him as easily as breathing. “[i You at home?]” A response. Kaien grinned. “[i You’re inviting me over?]” He carried on with his leisurely stroll without shifting course. More words from the other line. “[i Your friend? Hmmm… the address?]” He received the street, and the number. He switched the phone to his other ear. “[i Sure. I’m in the neighborhood. I’ll be over when it’s done. No, don’t bother. I’ll let myself in.]” He ended the call, and put the phone away. Now that [i that] was done…
Pocketing his hands, he altered his path slightly, ducking into one of the many tiny alleyways scattered on both sides of the main street. This wouldn’t take long.
// i’ll save us both the hassle of reading through kaien’s debauchery-- feel free to timeskip to the next day, or however you’d like to proceed!
For Kaien's sake, too? How? How could that be? He blinked, trying to take a moment to figure it out. His hand lifted to the silver again, stroked it back, then forward, hiding the color. This was weird. It was strange. He couldn't understand it. But for now, he'd listen to Kaien. Listen to him, but keep an eye on him.
Kaien stepped away. Silas nodded. Slowly, but he nodded. For now. Until he got more proof, figured out what was going on. Determined, he grit his teeth and pushed his hair back firmly. If no one else knew, he did, and he'd make sure nothing bad happened to Kaien.
It took a moment for Kaien's words to filter through his thoughts. When they did, he startled and shook his head. "No, no no no, of course not! It's-- until I touch someone else, yes. But I usually pet my cat when I get home, so, so it won't..." he grimaced. The number of strangers he'd accidentally seen getting it on when he forgot, or didn't notice... "I won't, I'm not a voyeur or anything. When I get home, that's it. And if I bump anyone else on the way there, the curse watches them instead."
It had a short attention span, this curse of his.
Had he seen anything else? He peered at Kaien. Was there something else he should have seen? "No," he confessed honestly. It was a curse, not a useful ability. It existed to cause him pain. Sometimes he forgot that. Sometimes it let itself be useful, to make him forget. "No. It just-- it only shows me things that it thinks will bother me." He grimaced again. [i Or better yet, that will get me killed.]
He paused at the hallway. "So, uh, I'll see you tomorrow?" he asked. He checked his watch, then showed it to Kaien. "I'll be home in fifteen minutes. If you're worried about... that I touched you."
Lech sighed and wiped his hands on the rooster's shirt. He had the rooster by his shirt-tail, and didn't see fit to release him until his hands were clean. Dark blood smeared over an expensive graphic. He grimaced. How unsightly. He should be in there, seducing The Youth, not out here, beating its face in. It really wasn't his style, squabbling over territory, but that was what he'd become: a pathetic peon, weak enough to have to fight newborns like this one. "This territory is mine," he declared, and dropped the rooster to the floor.
A grunt. The rooster's face twisted into a snarl, and for a second, he thought the child might leap at him, but in the end, he looked away. Lech suppressed the desire to sigh again. What an accomplishment, dominating this thing. If his sister was watching, she'd be rolling in laughter. "Th--the slaves are, are in--"
He kicked the rooster in the gut. "Keep your slaves. I don't want them."
The rooster coughed, then frowned. "B... but, the accords..."
Lech waved them away. "I've had enough of rules," he growled. No pathetic slave-eating vampires were going to stand in the way of him hunting his way. His sister was one thing, and that was more than enough. Anyone else was going to meet the heel-end of his boot.
In a worse mood than after he'd finished the fight, he stalked back into the bar. Accords. What damn fools. Who? Who'd they signed them with? Which body was regulating them? Aries would be pissed if he started a turf war, but damned if he wasn't in the mood for it. Everyone was trying to tie him down, but he wasn't going to stand for it.
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