[Siegfried x Karna] Sharing Warmth

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Source: pixiv.net

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order

Rating: T

Pairing: Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, fluff, humor

Characters: Siegfried, Karna

Summary:

Siegfried needs warmth. Karna is warmth.

Surrounding Chaldea was a boundless area of rocky mountain ranges, gnarly trees that had only branches on which snow clung instead of leaves and blinding white. Siegfried didn’t know how the outside world, the actual world, was like – he had accidentally overheard the Doctor and Mash discuss a few times but hadn’t really paid any attention – but here, in this world where Chaldea resided, Chaldea itself was the only spot where life could be found, and even that was a bit stretched since the major population of this facility wasn’t qualified as ‘living’.

The inhospitable, desolate environment, of course, didn’t bother Siegfried at all; he had seen, had been to, worse areas, being a traveling knight during his lifetime. Moreover, in Chaldea it was always bustling with all sorts of activities that it was impossible to be distressed over the lifelessness of the landscape. What bothered the fabled Dragon Slayer was the weather, trivial as it might sound. Under normal circumstances, Servants weren’t affected by temperature, and even in the most severe condition, a number of them were still wearing entirely weather-inappropriate outfits – bearing too much skin or burying their whole bodies in fur. The same could be said about Siegfried: his outfit wasn’t the most covering, showing most of his chest and back and not once had he felt the slightest touch of chill. However, all had changed when Siegfried’s Master succeeded in his third stage ascension. Fafnir’s blood flowing in his veins had given him both significant boost in all stats and draconian features: he had grown a pair of curved horns, wings and, to his own embarrassment, a scaly tail, all of which he still hadn’t figured out the uses for; it wasn’t like he would use his horns to gorge or his tail to whip his enemies – that was unsightly and unknightly. And his wings could only carry his own weight in a short distance at best, never minding another. His youthful Master was quite fond of his new half-dragon hybrid look though, and he had openly announced Siegfried his “coolest-looking Servant”, much to a couple other Servants’ chagrin. As long as his Master was pleased, he guessed he didn’t mind Elisabeth’s childish nagging or the looks of disdain from a certain King of Heroes; the king had nothing but insults and scorn for just about everyone in Chaldea anyway, deeming them all “lowly mongrels”.

Siegfried supposed it made perfect sense that once his humanity receded for him to lean toward the slumbering dragon inside, drawing its powers and using them with more ease, he would share its weaknesses, too. Dragons, big and small, were creatures of fire and even the strongest of them wouldn’t fare so well in freezing weather.

In short, Siegfried felt cold. Much as he was bothered by this newfound affliction, he didn’t breathe a word to his Master; the young Magus had already had his hands full with fixing the singularities and seeking required items (most of them painfully rare) for his Servants’ ascensions, so Siegfried wouldn’t want to add to the heap of responsibilities. This issue of his was entirely personal, as he appeared to be the only Servant to be at inconvenience. Kiyohime seemed comfortable enough in her usual thin kimono, but again he and Kiyohime were fundamentally different from each other – her full-blooded while him only a human imbued with dragon blood.

So, the Dragon Knight dealt with this matter in his own way of solving most problems in his life: if he could not fight it and triumph then he would endure it with all the stoicism his years as a knight had trained him with. It was not something fatal, Siegfried told himself, and his stats as well as fighting capability were not reduced so he could still go to battles when his Master required him to. Compared to that, his own discomfort was trivial.

Nonetheless, he still subconsciously expressed some reluctance when asked by Karna for a sparring session.

Siegfried and Karna had been summoned to Chaldea in the same occasion. Needless to say how elated their young Master had been to see their forms materializing in front of his eyes; the chance of summon each of them was abysmally low and it could be a miracle itself to get them both at once. Their Master had declared that he had used up all his luck in this lifetime, jumping into the magic circle right after the completion of the ritual, flinging his arms on Siegfried’s shoulders – he would have done the same with Karna but for the fear of being charred by the Lancer’s cloak of fire. His grin had been so wide that Siegfried had feared that it might hurt.

Perhaps his Master’s delight has been contagious, perhaps he had been immensely pleased with this unexpected turn of event, Siegfried had felt a warm tinge of happiness in his heart. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt such a pleasant feeling. Always putting others’ needs and wants before his own, such was the essence of his knighthood, and he had followed that way of life to the extent he had forgotten how it felt to be happy on his own, not because he had fulfilled others’ wishes, making them happy. When he looked to his left side, Siegfried saw a small smile clinging at the corners of Karna’s lips, and he knew it was mirrored on his own.

Not so long after their collective arrival, on a random day when they had scavenged some time to relax before the next fighting chapter began, Karna had asked Siegfried to spar with him. There had been no malice or challenge in his even tone, only an earnest desire to cross weapons with a worthy opponent. Naturally Siegfried had agreed; he too had been yearning for a chance to see for himself if the son of the Sun God Surya was as great a warrior as history had recorded.

It didn’t surprise Siegfried in the least that Karna had chosen the vast landscape outside Chaldea to be their fighting ground. Siegfried would have suggested the same location for two reasons: one, the training ground in the facility, although huge, was never not crowded. The number of Servants were growing by the week and not all of them were taken to the battlefield, so naturally, those who found themselves off-mission would want to sharpen their skills or simply have some constructive fun with a like-minded fellow. Siegfried didn’t fancy the rambunctious atmosphere and closed, crowded space – his Master had told him that he might be a little claustrophobic, and he suspected neither did Karna. Another reason was that both his fighting styles and Karna’s were highly destructive in nature, therefore a large space in the wild where they could stretch their limbs freely was much preferred than an indoor area. When Karna suggested that they headed out of Chaldea, Siegfried simply nodded.

From then on, they had been continuing their sessions on a weekly basis at least, or whenever they could procure some free time and wanted a little exercise. The Saber had enjoyed them to a great extent; the Lancer had proven that he was true to his legend and much more. Siegfried had an impression that he had crossed swords with Karna before, perhaps in a different timeline, but even if he raked his brain, he couldn’t recall it. That didn’t matter though; to be able to encounter an opponent of such caliber, Siegfried considered himself extremely fortunate in spite of his pathetic E-rank luck.

It hadn’t posed a problem to Siegfried, fighting in this lethal weather that would normally kill a mortal, until recently. He felt the sharp blade of the chill acutely in his marrows and to say it was inconvenient was a blank understatement. Much as he tried, the Saber sometimes failed to contain the light quiver in his arms. Needless to say, his sparring companion had seen right through him.

Karna, being Karna, had to point it out. “You are shivering,” he said.

Someone else might find the Lancer’s bluntness offending but not Siegfried. He hadn’t detected any malice the first time he had found himself at the receiving end of Karna’s straightforwardness, and over the time, he had grown rather fond of this particular quirk. Honesty made for a more relaxing relationship.

It was no use hiding things from Karna, who was hailed as a walking lie-detector, so Siegfried opted for the truth. “I’m cold. It wasn’t an issue before but after my third ascension, I’ve inherited more of Fafnir’s traits. Being susceptible to cold weather is unfortunately one of them.”

If Karna was someone else, he might suggest the Dragon Slayer do something about the cold, perhaps putting on more fabric or covering his bare chest, but this was Karna and it’d rain candies in Chaldea before he said such things. Instead, to Siegfried’s surprise, he simply stepped closer and took the Saber’s hand into his slightly smaller one. Karna’s fingers were long and delicate and it was a mystery how he was able to wield his enormous lance with them. However, such thought did not occur to Siegfried until their sparring session was over, late into the night. Right now, all that was on the Wandering Hero’s mind was how warm Karna’s skin was. Not the kind of warmth that made you uncomfortable but the pleasant warmth like the first sunlight signifying spring’s arrival after a long, arduous winter. That kind of warmth had spread from his fingers – where their hands were connected – to his every muscle and bone like a gentle stream of water chasing away the cold that had been nestling in his body. Siegfried could help neither the small sign from his lips nor the blush on his cheeks.

“Do you feel better?” Karna asked, his face still wearing that serenely emotionless mask. Yet somehow Siegfried could detect an iota of concern in his voice. It could be his optimistic imagination though.

“Yes, it’s really warm,” replied Siegfried. He didn’t clarify whether “it” referred to Karna’s hand or the bloom in his heart. Unconsciously he touched the light on his chest with his free hand while the other remained in Karna’s, daring to interlace his fingers with the Lancer’s nimble yet powerful ones. Karna didn’t comment on Siegfried’s remark or object to the small gesture.

The vast barren landscape outside Chaldea suddenly became small and its flesh-biting blizzard seemed a little more tolerable.

The Wandering Hero’s cold could only be warded off for a while but not vanquished and so from then on Karna continued providing Siegfried with his sun-warmth in a similar manner: touching. Somewhere along the line, Karna’s touch extended to other parts of Siegfried’s body, not only his hand. And he did it so casually, so naturally, that Siegfried almost couldn’t believe it had happened. One late afternoon, after a satisfying fight, Karna asked in his usual, familiar even tone whether Siegfried felt cold. Siegfried was about to open his mouth when he had to swallow his words back because a warm palm was pressed against his chest, right on the pattern of light. Jaws slack and speechless, he searched Karna’s face for any unordinary signs and found none, his face still pale and beautiful and showing no visible emotions. Yet he was touching Siegfried’s chest, causing his dragon heart to jump in surprise and then thump wildly against his rib cages. He wondered what was in Karna’s mind if he felt his raging heartbeats.

And if he really did, he said not a thing; the riddle of whether Karna was aware of his effect on his sparring partner remained Siegfried’s to be solved.

Karna did ask for his permission if he could touch the Saber’s back. It might be cold, he explained, feeling the need to assure the Saber as it was a sensitive spot for him, pun not intended. Siegfried momentarily tensed, startled by the sudden offer, and then relaxed. Indeed it was a spot he’d rather have no one touch, not even his past lovers. The only time it had been touched, with the tip of the betrayal blade, he had ended up on the side of an untrodden road, bleeding to his death. Yet Karna would never hurt him in such a cruel manner, stabbing him behind the back, and he trusted Karna and his sense of fairness and honor more than he trusted anything in his life. Then, with a light nod, Siegfried gave his consent.

For a millisecond Siegfried thought he had been scalded, that despite his trust for the revered Indian Heroic Spirit, Karna had tried to harm him. It had felt so hot where Karna’s hand made contact with his skin but Siegfried soon came to the realization that it was an overreaction produced by the very sensitive, very human part of him that had been neglected by touch for so long. The heat quickly faded into a warmth which was just a notch higher than the one he had grown accustomed to. It made his toes curl and a strange sensation traveled down his spine. Siegfried wasn’t sure what it was but he didn’t like it, so he tried to quench it down with the shameful thought that he had hastily doubted the purity of Karna’s intention. Seeing how he was unable to restrain a soft moan from escaping his throat, Siegfried was sure he had failed.

It took a while for him to notice that Karna had retreated his hand. The heat pooled on his leaf-shape patch of skin and wormed its way into his flesh. It would keep him warm for days, he didn’t doubt, while Karna was taken on a new mission.

Karna was as expressionless as ever but somehow, by a trick of light or a transient hallucination, he thought he had seen the Lancer’s lips form a tiny smile. His heart skipped a beat; his gaze was magnetized towards those pale, thin lips. Had they always looked so tempting or he had only realized it just now? Tempting enough to touch them with his own lips, feeling the texture, tasting the flavor, if there should be any. What was wrong with him? Siegfried mentally slapped himself. To harbor such thought toward his respectful opponent and companion, how could he?

Fortunately for him, Karna saved him from dwelling deeper into his own embarrassment and probably not finding his way out: he brushed his hand on Siegfried’s wings, making the Dragon Knight nearly jump out of his skin. “Can you fly with these?” he asked, his tone hiding a childish curiosity.

“Not really far,” Siegfried answered, feeling the urge to scratch his… horns, “and I’m unable to carry an extra weight.”

He was not sure if Karna’s soft hums were of disapproval or something else. He seemed to be quite fascinated with Siegfried’s wings, smoothing his palm over the thin, velvety skin that made up most of the wings or lightly picking a scale with his fingernails. He had probably never seen a dragon in his life before, and Siegfried had heard that the Eastern concept of a dragon was vastly different from the Western one.

The Dragon Knight nearly dropped his jaws when Karna asked him for a demonstration.

At the end of the day, Siegfried obliged the Lancer’s request, seeing no point in not granting such a simple wish and disappointing a friend although he found the notion that Karna would be disheartened by something so trivial very unlikely.

Siegfried was not fine. The blizzard had been raging outside the walls of Chaldea for a few days, resulting in the temperature dropping abysmally lower than normal, which, of course, was bad news for Servants with draconian traits. Even Kiyohime, who never appeared to care about the weather, was complaining. For Siegfried, it was another example of how his E-rank luck was trying to screw with his life. Between the diving temperature and Kojirou’s snores (the Assassin usually didn’t but it appeared to be a temporary condition caused by the weather; otherwise the Japanese swordsman was fine), Siegfried had been having sleepless nights.

Technically, Servants didn’t need sleep. Nor did they require food, drinks, rooms or entertainment. Nonetheless, here in Chaldea, the staff had aimed to provide the majority of the population the living conditions as human as possible. Servants were spirits now, but they used to be flesh and blood and though some of them might never admit it, they did miss being a human and indulge in mortal pleasures. They might not need food to fill their stomach, but their taste buds delighted in flavors. They didn’t drink to survive but to enjoy the pretense of getting lightheaded from alcohol. And some, like Siegfried, found comfort in having a feather-soft mattress under their back after a hard fighting day and just drifting off to dreamland.

Siegfried hadn’t known he was having circles around his eyes – or capable of having them for that matter – until Karna pointed it out. Their young Master was quick to confirm that.

“Oh my gosh!” exclaimed the magus in a rather dramatic tone – such was his flair. “Did you not sleep well, Saber?”

Shame burnt his cheeks hotly for allowing such trifle to concern his Master. “I’m sorry, Master…” he opened his mouth, ready to brush the matter off by telling his Master that he was alright and it wasn’t something worth his attention.

“He’s been cold,” Karna said matter-of-factly.

“Karna…” Siegfried groaned softly. Some time ago he had shifted to calling the Lancer by his true name instead of his class like the normal courtesy between Servants. In turn, Karna had grown used to addressing Siegfried by his name.

His Master’s face lit up as if he had made a great discovery. “Right! The weather has been beyond horrible these days. I keep hearing Kiyohime’s complaints but have never realized that you’re affected too. Sorry, Saber. What terrible Master I am.”

“No, Master. It’s not your fault.”

“Siegfried can come to my room.”

Eh?

Did he hear it right, Karna’s suggestion, or were his ears deceiving him?

“Brilliant idea, Lancer!” the young magus applauded. “You’re the only occupant so there’s plenty of room, it’s super-warm and Siegfried’s half-dragon so he should be fine.”

“… half-dragon so he should be fine”, what was the meaning of that?

Karna nodded in agreement.

While Siegfried was busy picking up his jaws from the ground to voice his protest, his Master had already made the arrangements for his moving into Karna’s room.

Thus when the night came, the Wandering Swordsman found himself wandering the corridor outside Karna’s room, his pillow in hand. The door was closed, and no sound was coming from the inside. Should he knock or just wait? It would be rude if the Lancer was taking a shower or doing something private.

The door was noiselessly pushed open and Siegfried’s dilemma was solved. Karna’s sharp gaze softened to see the swordsman towering awkwardly in the glaring fluorescent light, a pillow stuffed under his arm. His glacial eyes sparked with amusement when they lingered on the white pillow case, decorated with a chubby dragon. There was only one Servant whose pastime was embroidery in Chaldea and sometimes, he’d give out his products to those he deemed a worthy warrior. Karna himself had a towel with a sun sewn on it.

Karna opened the door fully in an inviting gesture and Siegfried wordless entered.

Karna’s room was about the same size as his and Kojirou’s but the sparseness of furniture made it appear more spacious. This was due to a rather unpleasant fact that his cloak of fire tended to spread fire to the things around it and to prevent such a grievous disaster from taking place, his room was especially insinuated to be fireproof and furniture was kept to minimum. Having led a minimalistic lifestyle, the son of Surya had never breathed a complaint.

“So… we’re going to sleep on the floor, aren’t we?” Siegfried asked after scanning the place and finding no sight of a bed. Frankly he didn’t mind lying on the marble tiles; soon as he set foot inside the room, he had immediately felt the gentle warmth – Karna’s warmth – dancing on his skin. Having been a traveler in a dark age for most of his life, he found this to be a luxury.

“Not really,” answered Karna before laying his cloak of fire on the floor. Without its fluffiness, the Lancer looked really thin and fragile, as if he could be easily swept away by a gush of wind. Siegfried could trace the outlines of his protruding hip bones underneath the skin-clad suit. His face felt hot for no obvious reason. Karna lied down on the cloak and gestured Siegfried to do the same.

Fire could not harm a dragon, Siegfried had learned that from his battle with Fafnir. That explained why when his skin was touched by Karna’s cloak, although he immediately knew it was neither fur nor fabric but a flame mystically shaped and weaved into a piece of garment, he wasn’t burned. The distinctive heat of fire was there and were it not because of his dragon blood, he would be instantly reduced to smoking charcoal. The grim realization did not deter him from curling on the cloak so that he could get the maximum contact. It felt so nice, really, to have the heat coursing through his body, chasing away every vestige of the cold. The dragon in him reveled in the fire, energized by it. Siegfried nuzzled his cheek into the cloak, feeing blissful sleep descending on his eyelids.

Never did he know that from a short distance from him, Karna was watching his exposed back with a smile.

The nights after that, they continued sleeping in the same room even after the blizzard had passed and Siegfried was no longer plagued with chill. He hadn’t felt it for a while; Karna’s warmth during the night was more than sufficient to keep him well during the day. Still, he was hesitant to return to his former dwelling: for the very first time in his life he had harbored a selfish desire. After having spent most of his existence being a wish-granting hero, to want something for himself was a foreign and thrilling experience. As long as Karna was willing to accept him, Siegfried was determined to indulge himself, and as far as he was concern, the Indian Heroic Spirit didn’t seem to mind.

Days turned into weeks and weeks to months since Siegfried’s migration to Karna’s room. During that time the distance they’d put between their bodies out of a taciturn agreement had grown shortened little by little every night so that every morning, they woke up just a little closer to each other than the night before. Neither paid any mind to their body’s tendency to gravitate towards the other, thinking it a natural occurrence, until one day…

Siegfried woke up somewhat disoriented, not knowing what time it was or whether it was day or night; there was neither clock nor window in Karna’s room – their room now – to tell the time. Judging by his grogginess he assumed his Master wasn’t in need of him; otherwise his Servant system would flare in full operation in response to the Master’s summon. In a rare bout of indolence, the Saber decided to close his eyes and treated himself to some more sleep when he was jolted by a newfound realization. He was pretty sure he had he had kept his arms by his side when he drifted off to sleep last night, and yet at the moment he found his left arm in a rather compromising position: draping on someone’s waist, with his hand splayed over said someone’s stomach. Okay, it wasn’t “someone” since this room had no third inhabitant. Siegfried’s face felt scorching as though his skin was set aflame, and he’d rather face Fafnir one hundred times than learn what had happened during the night for him and the Lancer to be loosely spooning. This position spelt intimacy and though Siegfried wasn’t abhorred by the idea of getting intimate with Karna (maybe because it was Karna and not someone else), the thought of them lying together, back to chest, and sharing more than just warmth had never crossed his mind. His era had had a less than accepting attitude towards intimacy between two men and Siegfried doubted if Karna’s had been any different. But time had changed, and humans had become more tolerant of one another’s differences. It was the knowledge the Grand system had given him, perhaps so that he wouldn’t experience a social shock. He hadn’t thought it was necessary, seeing that he had not been exactly averse to that kind of relationship as a human. As a Spirit, he had even fewer reasons to care. This thing between him and Karna was just… overwhelming, to say the least, but not necessarily bad.

On a trivial side note, Karna’s waist was really small, or should he say “slender”; he was not stranger to the Lancer’s figure – the spearman’s outfit didn’t leave much to imagination, but to actually trace its hard curves… Thin and fragile though might he look, Karna was still a man in every sense and his body didn’t possess the softness of a female one. Siegfried preferred the hardness anyway, as it was partially proof of his merit as a warrior. And to hold a warrior in his embrace, feeling his waist fit into his hands… Verdammter Mist! He had to stop this train of thought before it got out of hand. It was… indecent to think about your friend and companion that way! What had gotten to him these days? Had he been possessed by some unknown force lurking in Chaldea? His magic resistance wasn’t the highest of all Sabers but it was certainly not that bad.

Anyway, first thing first, he had to take his disobedient arm back and put some appropriate distance between himself and the Lancer. Quietly as the shadow of the moon moved so that Karna wouldn’t be roused from his sleep. And then he only needed to think this was a passing incident and act like it had never happened. Just like that and they were back to friends and sparring partners.

“You’re awake?”

A voice drenched in silky drowsiness startled Siegfried, causing his dragon heart to skip several beats and race up to make up for that. Almost at the same time, a hand quickly caught his wrist midway so that any hope of quiet retreat had become a pipe dream. The Dragon Knight felt as though he had been caught red-handed, pun somewhat intended.

“Ah… y-yes… I j-just woke up,” Siegfried stuttered. He was mildly relieved Karna had his back to him so he couldn’t see the Saber’s flustered face.

“We have a day off,” Karna casually replied. “Master informed me no mission is carried out today so every Servant has the day to do whatever they want.”

Siegfried had no idea while Karna was telling him this – actually he did understand why Karna was telling him this: yesterday he had missed the Master-Servant session – but what puzzled him was why Karna was using such a relaxed tone. Was he not aware that the Saber had had his arm around his waist and they had been spooning throughout the night? Was he not offended by such an unchivalrous and disrespectful act?

“What’s your plan?” Karna’s voice once again disconnected him from his thoughts.

“I… Actually I don’t have any plan.” Five minutes ago he hadn’t even known that their Master allowed them a day to do as they pleased.

“Good, I have a plan,” Karna said, and to push Siegfried to a whole new level of confusion, his hand catching Siegfried’s wrist pulled with a subtle yet unyielding force so that the Saber’s arm resumed its former position: on Karna’s waist. Siegfried was pretty certain that was a deliberate act; he just failed to fathom the message Karna sent him. So, not only was he not offended, but he actually… encouraged the intimacy? Whatever it was, it made Siegfried blush so hard the tips of his horns might be turning red.

Karna, whether genuinely ignorant of his effect on Siegfried or feigning to be, continued seamlessly, “I’m thinking about spending the morning replenishing our energy with sleep. How does that sound?”

Others might be surprised by Karna’s proposal but not Siegfried. For his time of acquaintance with the Lancer, Siegfried had learned that he was quite a sleepworm whose greatest pastime beside fighting worthy opponents was holing up in his room and slumbering the day away. He had knocked on Karna’s door one day only to find the Heroic Spirit flesh out of sleep even though it was mid-noon.

Wait, the key word in Karna’s sentence was “our”. Did he mean for Siegfried to join him?

“You mean, you and I?” Siegfried blurted, somehow getting his hope up for no sound reason.

“Yes, unless you are occupied with another plan.”

Karna’s hand hadn’t let go off his wrist but he could sense a molecule of hesitation. “No, I have no plan,” Siegfried answered truthfully. Sleeping didn’t sound too bad, especially with Karna. Especially with Karna spooning against him. Gott, what had happened to him?

“Good. How about a little fun after lunch?”

Blood rushed hotly to Siegfried’s face. “A little fun?” he echoed, his mind running amok on what this “little fun” could be.

“A spar outside, how about that?”

Right. A spar. What else could he be expecting? Siegfried mentally exhaled a sigh of relief. “A spar would be great. Since Master won’t be expecting us, we could fight to our heart’s desire.”

It was likely his imagination running wild but he heard Karna’s light chuckles. They were contagious and Siegfried soon found himself smiling. They were decidedly his favorite sounds.

After a while, Karna became quiet, his body going lax and inching closer to Siegfried’s, his back pressing against Siegfried’s bare chest. The warmth seemed to go all the way into his heart. It made him lightheaded and drowsy. Sleep found his way back to his eyelids easy enough.

Little could Siegfried guess this was the beginning of something special.

Epilogue

I had considered myself extremely lucky to be able to summon both Siegfried and Karna in one go. Perhaps I had used up all my luck in this lifetime and if I ever became a Heroic Spirit (unlikely) or a Counter Guardian, I would be granted with an E-rank luck. Perhaps the fabled wish-granting Hero had heeded my wish and the Hero of Charity had decided to show his charity. It was impossible to tell really; all I knew was that I was on clouds nine to have the both of them in my little party.

And the icing on the cake was the two seemed to get along pretty well. The biggest pain in the ass was having two archenemies on the same team. Trust me I’d been through that once. On a good day they’d go at each other’s throat every chance they got, giving me a migraine and grating the nerves of every other Servant. On a bad day I’d have to use a Command Spell to stop them from killing each other. In the end I was forced to give up both of them for peace’s sake. And so I’d clasped my hands and thanked The Man Upstairs I hadn’t summoned both Karna and Arjuna (how low was the odds?).

I felt terribly bad once I’d learned Siegfried had been enduring the cold. My poor Dragon Knight, too polite, too gentle to demand his Master’s help even though it was my responsibility to keep my Servants in their best condition. While I was raking my brain for a solution, Karna offered one. A perfect one, if I might add. The world needed more people like this ethereally beautiful Lancer, who was always so eager to give his help to those in need.

So far, so good.

Wearing a beam on my face, I strode to Siegfried and Karna once the battle was over to give them my congratulations.

“So, how’re you doing? No longer feeling cold?” I asked.

“Thank you for your concern, Master. I’m not cold anymore and ready to fight in full strength.”

That was just Siegfried being Siegfried.

“I’m just wondering if you’d want to move back to your room. Kojirou made a passing comment the other day about the room being too empty without you. I think the guy kinda misses his roomie.”

Soon as the words left my mouth, I felt a surge of heat licking my back. An enemy’s sudden attack? How could this be? I was having Siegfried in front of me and Karna a few steps behind my back; how could they not sense anything and act? Taking a gulp, I whipped my head to see what had just happened. To my surprise, there was no sign of a threat, just my Lancer casually leaning against his over-sized spear. The heat kept rolling though and I soon realized the source was Karna’s eyes. Had I ever mentioned that he could shoot sun beam from his eyes?

Oh, allow me to clarify myself. Karna wasn’t shooting sun beam at my back – he was too nice a Servant to try that; in fact, he was just standing there, leaning on his giant spear and staring at us with his glacial blue eyes. And yet somehow in his stare I could feel the heat. I knew I wasn’t imagining because when I turned to Siegfried, the big guy was giving me one of his smiles that spelt “I’m sorry”.

He really needed to change his habit of over-apologizing.

But why was he apologizing anyway?

“Sorry, Master, but I think I’d like to stay at Karna’s.”

Wow, wasn’t this the first time I’d ever hear him express his preference. Before, when it came to personal matters like this, he’d merely gone with whichever assigned to him. That was definitely an innovation.

“Well, that’s fine as well,” I said to him, patting his armored shoulder. “Karna’s is good. Fire and dragon, can’t find a better match.”

Just like that, the heat on my back vanished.

Siegfried lightly bowed to me and walked over to Karna’s side. He flashed Karna a smile, and the son of the Sun God instantly returned the gesture with a small but genuine one. Wasn’t that something new? I hadn’t seen him smile at any other Servant. Then Siegfried leaned down a little and whispered into the Lancer’s ears, which broadened the smile on his lips.

Looking at them, I couldn’t help an inkling that there was absolutely something going on.

Huhm, very interesting.

End

[Desus] (The World Was on Fire) and No One Could Save Me But You (5)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: The Walking Dead

Rating: K+

Pairing: Desus – Daryl Dixon x Paul “Jesus” Rovia

Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe, vampire AU

Characters: Paul “Jesus” Rovia, Daryl Dixon, Rick Grimes

Summary:

For all the short time Paul had been acquainted with Rick Grimes, he had never heard the tough police officer’s voice break like when he informed Paul, “Daryl was shot.”

Alternate universe. Established relationship.


Chapter 1     Chapter 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4


 

… And No One Could Save Me But You

Wicked Game

The rain had toned down to a drizzle.

Daryl had cut down his speed to no longer be at break-neck level, just barely within the speed limit. The impulse to indulge in reckless speed had died with the rain and now it was merely a scratch at his guts.

Something on the side caught his sight, and the brain part that was responsible for his curiosity deemed it worth a stop for closer inspection. He supposed he wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere and could spare a minute or two.

It was the decomposing carcass of some pretty large animal, probably a buck, that he saw in the grass. Daryl got off his motorcycle and squatted in front of it. It was easy to tell the creature been dead for some time by the bones with brown chunks of flesh clinging to them. The eyeballs were gone, leaving vacant sockets from which streams of red ants poured out. It was a disturbing sight from which most humans should avert their eyes as they hurried past and yet somehow Daryl had been inexplicably drawn in. A part of him, a feeble, normal and human part, was weirded out and wanted to just get on his bike and ride away while another, stronger, more pressing part had his eyes fixed on the gouged out sockets as if there was an enigmatic pull from within the twin voids. His hand was halfway reaching out when he had to stop himself from actually touching it.

It was death, Daryl rationalized, which had prompted this bizarre fixation. Death was the one thing that he and this creature had in common. All living things had to die – that he had learned from a young age with his dearly departed mom, and the scene his eyes so drank in was the inevitable end of every human. It was his mom’s end when Daryl was but a snotty five-year-old and twenty-two years later, his old man’s. It was Merle’s end eight years ago and it would soon be his. Except it could not be his. While the concept of immortality was unnatural according to nature, it was also ironically nature that had permitted its occurrence. Paul had expired his lifespan for a couple centuries and his could be not be a unique existence – many times Daryl had pondered about all the vampires out there, cloaking themselves under civilian guise and blending in amongst their designated preys. Now the same existence was offered to Daryl. Had he ever thought about it or wanted it during the late nights he went to bed and woke up in the morning with a vampire snuggling to his side? Would he want it now that it was his only option to continue that mundane domestic routine, one that he would give the world for? Daryl couldn’t answer it, not yet. But he was beginning to consider it, whether he truly desired immortality. Weird as it may sound, the mortal fear of death inflicted upon him by studying this macabre scene did spark a light in his fog-shrouded mind. The light grew in intensity until it pierced through the confusion and uncertainty plaguing him since his body sprang from the bed. A final, concrete decision wasn’t within his grasp yet but he had seen a vague outline of it. Although there was a haunting dreadfulness in the notion of walking the earth till the end of time, he couldn’t deny a forbidden sense of thrill lacing with it.

When the rain had stopped he couldn’t tell, lost in his own mental world. Daryl stood up and made to his motorcycle. Not too keen on wearing a stuffy helmet with his dripping hair, he decided to forgo it.

The scenery was laminated in gold and silver when Daryl entered the woods – gold from the radiant sunlight after a heavy rain and silver from the myriad droplets of water clinging to the tree branches and leaves. He had switched off the engine and was walking his motorcycle so as not to wreck the perfect serenity of nature and scare off the little creatures making this place home. He took a moment to close his eyes, take a deep breath to enjoy the clear, cool air spiced with the soothing scent of damp wood before parking his vehicle a few feet from a particular tree. Under its canopy he spotted a figure that couldn’t be more familiar to him. He was leaning casually against the trunk, his hair wet and crudely swept back. His thin white shirt appeared transparent and sticking to his skin. In his hands was a small brown squirrel which his fingers were petting now and then. Signing softly, Daryl thought he should be surprised to find Paul here but in fact, he wasn’t in the least. Being a sneaky prick was one of Paul’s less endearing vice Daryl had learned to tolerate.

“Ain’t ya gonna eat it? Why bother playin’ with yer food?”

Paul’s huge eyes left the critter and traveled to Daryl, and the detective could feel his gaze lingering on the strands of dark hair cupping the sides of his face. Huffing, Paul laid the squirrel on the ground. It immediately ran off and disappeared in a blink.

“Detective Dixon,” said Paul, “please don’t jump right to the conclusion that I bore any ill will toward that poor animal when you’re having no evidence.”

“First time I met ya, ya were chompin’ a squirrel,” Daryl snorted, “an’ havin’ a couple more layin’ dead at yer feet.”

“Good Lord, you caught me at a bad time once and I’m never going to live it down. Firstly, that wasn’t our first meeting. We first met when I moved into the derelict house opposite from yours.”

“A brief glance–”

“But still counts. Secondly, I hadn’t made my contact with the local blood bank yet and was on the brink of starvation. You don’t like me when I’m starving.”

“I thought ya a weirdo. Turns out it ain’t too far from the truth.”

“So I’ve been told,” Paul replied with a small smile. He crossed the distance and stood close to Daryl. “You didn’t break up with me because of my quirks, crazy as they are.”

“I’ve met worse,” Daryl said, his hand itching to tug a loose strands of hair behind Paul’s ears. So he did, earning a wider smile from the shorter man. “Ya followed me here, didn’t ya?”

To his surprise, Paul declined, “No, believe me I did want to, but I didn’t. I just didn’t feel like showing up at my class so I called in sick. Having plenty of sick leave can come in handy. I thought a lot, you know, about us, about our life together all these years, about our future, if we have one. And I had a feeling that you would come here, seeing how this place has claimed a special spot in your heart. Now here we are. Must be destiny.”

Paul punctuated his speech with a nervous chuckle.

“I thought a lot too, ‘bout–”

Out of sudden, Daryl felt as if his legs had vaporized right under him. He would collapse face first into the thick carpet of decayed leaves on the ground if Paul weren’t extra-quick to catch him. His ample strength made up for his smaller stature and he supported Daryl’s most of weight with ease. Gently and slowly, he helped Daryl sit down under the tree. All the carefreeness had drained from his handsome countenance; now he was wearing the same pained expression Daryl had seen earlier in the morning. It caused an ache in Daryl’s side and erased his concern about his own condition, even just temporarily.

“What’s happenin’ to me? Why can’t I feel my legs?”

“It’s beginning,” Paul explained. “The paralysis that signals your time is running out and continues until you’re…”

“I’m dyin’, got it. Shoulda known I’m runnin’ on borrowed time. First it’s my leg, then my arms an’ torso and finally my head, righ’. Fuckin’ sadistic, I’d say.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Paul replied. “Have heard about it but never been through it myself, though.”

“How long did it take ya to make yer decision?”

Since they were sitting shoulder to shoulder, with Daryl leaning against Paul’s chest, he felt a puff of air on his cheek from Paul’s laughter. It wasn’t the full, hearty laughter Daryl had gotten used to hear; it was soft and deprived most of humor. “I practically leapt at the chance to be turned, so you can guess it took me no time at all. I was a vampire before I had even registered the weight of my own death.” Taking a short pause, he continued, “I had been severely sick for a while and my family ended up taking me to the House of Death, where they expected me to spend the rest of my remaining days. Fewer mouths to feed. Looking back, I couldn’t blame them; I expected to die there as well. Then my sire came to me with an offer in exchange for my indentured service. I guess I just didn’t want to die.”

His voice quieted at the last sentence, and there was a slight tremble in it.

“Ya never said anythin’ about this until t’day.”

“It’s no rainbows and unicorns so I’d rather not tell it at a drinking party.”

“Ya ever regretted it? Becomin’ a vampire.”

Paul brushed his dampened fringe out of Daryl’s forehead. “It’s had its ups and downs and there were some dark periods when all I wanted was to lie desiccated in the coffin like a dead man that I was. But, to be honest, I’ve never regretted. It’s a wonder beyond measure to see the world change little by little until it’s no longer the one you were born in, and to see yourself change with it in order to adapt. Given the chance a second time and I would have made the same choice again.”

Silence stretched between them after Paul finished. Daryl seemed to be in contemplation of what he’d said so Paul didn’t feel the urge to break the silence. Instead, he laced his fingers with his lover’s.

Daryl’s fingers only twitched but gave no otherwise response. Paul’s heart sank like a stone thrown into a cold, bottomless lake.

“Take my left hand,” Daryl said. “Ain’t numb as shit yet.”

Paul took his hand, the one that could feel, and brought it to his lips. He kissed every knuckle, mumbling, “I’m sorry.”

“Because you compelled Rick to forget what he saw?”

“Yes, Rick, the doctor, the nurses. I’m sorry I broke my vow.”

Daryl felt Paul’s hand gently squeezing his.

“On the way here, I thought a lot, ‘bout many things,” he said, picking up from earlier. “I thought ‘bout whether ya’d undo Rick’s compulsion, how he, Carol an’ a handful of people I know would react.”

“The compulsion would instantly wear off with a vampire’s end,” Paul said. Although his tone was light and maintaining its casualness that was very Paul-like, Daryl’s lungs felt chilled as he took in a cold breath.

“But ya won’t…”

“Nothing lasts forever, Daryl, even vampires. Sometimes the end comes sooner than we expect.”

“Where would vampires go?”

“Frankly I don’t know. No one has ever told me and I don’t know who to ask. Well, certainly not my late sire, God bless his soul, if he had one. Where do you think humans would go? I know you aren’t the most religious man I’ve met but ever given it a thought?”

Daryl shook his head. Paul shifted to give him a little more comfort even though Daryl’s torso was heavy like lead and just as numb. It took no Einstein to figure at this rate, he’d soon be completely paralyzed.

“I spotted some carcass on the road. Probably a buck an’ dead for some time. I was magnetized to it – death attracts death, I guess. As I looked, I remembered my mom an’ Merle, even the sick bastard I called my dad, how they all looked like this beneath the earth, an’ how I’d look like that too. I thought ‘Well, death sucks’.”

Daryl had always a man of few words and more actions; this was by far his longest speech. Thus Paul patiently waited for him to perhaps regain his breath and gather his thoughts.

“I ain’t hopin’ we’d be united in some sunlit heaven or shit. Ain’t no teenager. Maybe I’d end up in that dark limbo again, all by myself, an’ that’s fuckin’ scary. But what’s even scarier is that I know I won’t never see ya again, won’t never wake up to yer shit-eatin’ grin again, won’t never feel yer touch or yer warmth again. That hurts so much, ya know.”

“I know,” Paul whispered, his breath fanning Daryl’s cheek. “I know.”

“I don’t wanna die. There’s a chance I’ll regret it one day but right now I don’t wanna die an’ leave ya.”

A drop of water fell onto the skin below Daryl’s eyes, too hot to be the rainwater dangling on the leaves.

“So you’ve decided…” Paul croaked.

“Ya don’t mind haulin’ my immobile ass back to the house, right, ‘cuz I don’t suppose ya brought a blood bag along.”

When Daryl craned his neck and looked up, he saw Paul frantically wiping his eyes. A smile had formed on his lips, wide enough to show his white teeth. This was the first true smile Daryl had gotten from him today, same as the one which had caused his heart to skip a beat when he stared a little too long at the ponytailed young man carrying his stuff into the derelict house across from his. While his torso was still numb, the heaviness on his chest had been lifted.

“On the contrary, I always come prepared” was Paul’s reply.

To be continued

Finished it for a while but I was busy writing another Desus fic so I delayed editing and posting it. Immense apologies to you who have been waiting for an update. Next chapter is the last.

[Desus] (The World Was on Fire) and No One Could Save Me But You (4)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: The Walking Dead

Rating: K+

Pairing: Desus – Daryl Dixon x Paul “Jesus” Rovia

Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe, vampire AU

Characters: Paul “Jesus” Rovia, Daryl Dixon, Rick Grimes

Summary:

For all the short time Paul had been acquainted with Rick Grimes, he had never heard the tough police officer’s voice break like when he informed Paul, “Daryl was shot.”

Alternate universe. Established relationship.


Chapter 1     Chapter 2     Chapter 3


The World Was on Fire…

Wicked Game

As Daryl was riding down the route the rain showed no sign of stopping anytime soon and the incessant noise on his helmet became more maddening, as if it was possible. He had traveled in worse weather, so this had never been a huge issue to him. Yet back then he hadn’t had supernaturally enhanced senses, which translated into overactive reception of each and every stimulus, however small and would be easily brushed aside were he normal.

Normal. Daryl received a mental kick at that word. Thinking of himself as formerly normal brought forth an implication that Paul was different, strange, abnormal, all of which accompanied by negative connotations according to Daryl’s conservative and biased upbringing that he had fought to leave behind in the dust. Daryl had not once thought Paul was the ‘other’ despite having learned the seemingly younger man was anything but an ordinary thirty-something. Heck, for Daryl’s limited knowledge of vampires, Paul defied lots of stereotypical traits of a vampire as portrayed in pop culture. He didn’t look pale, for one. While his skin tone was decidedly fairer than Daryl, who preferred spending his time in the sun than in an office, he was nowhere near chalky. He wasn’t brooding nor would he sit for hours wallowing in his existential crisis and guilt while having his victim’s blood on his chin and their lifeless body by his legs. At least Daryl had never seen him in such state during their two years of living under the same roof. He opted to live in a modest two-story house and drive an economic car and wasn’t filthy rich. He taught teenagers self-defense martial arts at the local center Monday to Thursday, volunteered on Friday, loved tending to his little garden of flowers and herbs and sometimes had friends – a majority of which being humans – over on Friday night to trash the living room and get wasted. He went to see the latest movies, often dragging Daryl with him if the cop wasn’t working overtime, teared up at particularly emotional scenes and ranted about it later on his wall; his Facebook account had quite a number of followers. All in all, Paul posed extremely well as a human, aside from a couple quirks like his personal blood stash (supplied by the local blood bank) in his fridge or his inability to have hickeys, but hey, many humans possessed more peculiar quirks. Daryl would say he blended in with humans even better than the homicidal detective himself did in some of his more trying days.

This line of thought was going nowhere so with a soft grunt, Daryl abandoned it for another. Ironically enough, to not think was entirely the point of racing his motorcycle along this straightforward route leading into the woods. To feel the wind, the sun or the rain on his skin allowed him a temporary getaway from his jumbled thoughts while the woods with all its wild animals provided him with solace, just like it had given him shelter from his old man’s temper and leather belt. A couple hours later, he rode back the track feeling lighter, better and ready to deal with whatever shit coming his way given his line of profession.

Nevertheless, it was impossible to sweep all his thoughts under the rug and not think of anything for a while no matter how much Daryl wanted to; heck, even if he was hypothetically able to shut them all up, he knew he wouldn’t gain a fragment of peace for his mind. Literally going through death and being pulled back to life was no shit joke and anyone with a mind couldn’t spare it no thought at all. As a matter of fact, there were so many thoughts bustling about inside Daryl’s head that he had no idea which to focus on. It was similar to working on a case where there were so many clues, many suspects and many motives, all lurking behind a thick veil that Daryl had to lift so as to see for himself which was relevant and which was red herrings. Right now his helmet was the veil. Rivulet after rivulet of water blurred his visor and distorted his view. With his left hand he undid the clasp around his chin and took off his helmet.

Drops of rain felt like nails being hammered on Daryl’s face. Soon his hair was soaked, strands of his long bang clinging to his forehead and temples. He brushed them back with a sweep of his hand, recalling how Paul loved to do this when Daryl was fresh out of shower so that he could plant a kiss on Daryl’s forehead, on the lines that had formed there. His eyes saw the road better without his visor as his mind was clearer without the torturous noise and a prominent thought emerged from numerous others. Like a man lost at sea spotting a lighthouse, he swam toward it. Going back to be human was impossible, so he had but one option to go forward from there and make the decision: to die today as a human or to live forever as another sort of existence. Other questions all paled in front of this crucial one, to which he had promised Paul an answer before the sun went down the sky.

Daryl was not surprised to find out Paul hadn’t slept a wink that night. He himself had had only brief patches of sleep interlacing with extended moments of lying with his eyes shut but his mind open, conscious and drifting between the dark limbo realm and the real world. And when he had indeed slept, his dreams were fragments of his dying instant rewinded over and over. He had thought not of his own death but of his untimely parting with Paul, and regret penetrated deeper than the iron in his chest.

Daryl opened his eyes to the sight of Paul propped up by his side, his hand caressing Daryl’s cheek gentle and cool as a ghost’s touch. His eyes were sunken, and the usual light in them dimmed. His lips were set in a straight line. Daryl hated that he saw every sign of exhaustion etched on Paul’s handsome countenance with such clarity.

Dawn had already broken, the sun was up and their bedroom was enveloped in a glowing silken veil.

“Morning,” said Paul, softly. There was a hint of hoarseness in his voice Daryl only scarcely heard. “Did you sleep well?”

“Did ya?”

“No,” Paul admitted. “I closed my eyes and tried to find sleep but to no avail. Technically I don’t really need sleep to function so I figured I could afford a sleepless night. And you?”

“I got some sleep an’ a couple of dreams.”

“Bad dreams?”

“Past dreams. Didn’t matter no more.”

The answer he gave didn’t soothe the worry in Paul’s eyes but he didn’t push Daryl for more detail. He pecked Daryl on the lips before sliding out of the duvet and sitting at the edge. “What do you fancy for breakfast? Bacon and sunny-side eggs? Cereal? Or pancakes and maple syrup?”

Before Paul finished listing the choices, Daryl too had slid out from under the duvet. The air instantly raised goosebumps on his bare skin as he padded to their wardrobe.

“Daryl?”

“I… I need some time,” said Daryl, picking a simple button-down navy blue shirt and a pair of washed blue jeans from the clothes rack. “To process it, to think abou’ it. On my own. I hope ya understand.” He threw his black leather jacket over the shirt and put on his leather fingerless gloves.

Paul’s gaze dropped to the dip in the mattress where they had laid. “Of course,” he replied softly, head nodding.

He looked as though he was enduring a silent pain that Daryl couldn’t help but crossing the room and pulling him into his embrace. He felt Paul’s breath ghosting on the skin of his forearm and shivered. It still mesmerized him how a vampire’s breath could be this warm.

“Give yourself as much time to think as you’d like,” Paul murmured against his skin, “but please come to me before sundown.” He sniffed. “No matter what your decision is, I need to know… and I will respect it.”

The last words seemed real struggle for him.

Daryl kissed the top of his head. “I will.”

And then he let go, feeling Paul’s eyes on him even when he was descending the stairs.

The first thing Daryl did once he was standing on the threshold of the door was stretch his arm out to the early morning sun. He had half expected the heat and his skin being set aflame despite Paul’s previous explanation that he wasn’t yet a vampire. Instead he only felt a light warmth, and his skin remained perfectly normal, no blistering, no bursting into flame. Stupid. Daryl chastised himself before stepping out to his motorcycle. He put on his helmet and ignited the engine.

Daryl hadn’t had a definite destination in mind but before he was able to come up with something, his body had autopiloted and taken him down the path he traveled every morning to work. On that path there was a diner where he often had a decent breakfast of eggs and bacon and a hefty dose of caffeine to brace himself against another crazy day at the office. Sometimes Rick joined him, sometimes he ate alone, savoring the comfortable silence in his usual booth by the window and away from the rest of the patrons.

Daryl felt a familiar tug once he was close enough to the diner and could see it. Since he had nowhere else he wanted to go first, he decided he could stop by, ordered his usual food and figured out what to do with his last day as human. His heart was weighed down a little with the word ‘last’; after today, there would either be a vampire or a cadaver buried six feet under.

That remained to be seen.

His footsteps halted just before his hand pushed the glass door open. What if Rick was also here? After all, this diner was a part of his best friend’s morning routine as much as it was his, although recently both of them had not frequented it as much as they used to, favoring homemade meals instead.

The last thing Daryl wanted right now was to run into his best friend, who had witnessed his death and was likely to flood him with questions should he see him walking around all fine and alive, so he turned on his heels. Just when he was about to stride back to his bike, the door opened.

“Daryl!” called a voice. “Been a while since you came here. Come in, come in.”

For a second, all the blood in Daryl’s veins seemed to stop flowing and he stood frozen in his spot. That was unmistakably Carol’s voice. Carol was good friend to Rick and Daryl and the reason why they had become regulars here was because Carol owned and ran this little cozy diner.

“Yeah…” Daryl managed a hoarse respond. “Been a while.”

“I almost thought I’d lost my two loyal customers. But what can I say? Nothing beats homemade food made by gorgeous partners.”

Carol winked playfully at him and Daryl forced a small smile despite the uneasiness twisting his guts. From her tone and demeanor, it appeared she might not have heard about his incident. Something didn’t click right. Had Rick not told her anything?

“You’re looking a little pale. Is everything alright?”

“Nah. Just been lackin’ some sleep’s all. Work’s been hectic.”

Carol held his hand gently, jerking her head toward the door. “Come on in. I’ll have them prepare your usual.”

A refusal was formed in the back of his throat but never found its way out of his mouth, so he allowed her to lead him inside. The air was stiff since there weren’t a lot of customers yet, and Daryl was surprised to be able to sense it so acutely, almost as if he could ‘read’ the currents. His preferred booth was fortunately unoccupied. After telling her employees to prepare his order, she lingered by his table to catch up with his life since the last time they had had a chat. He tried his best to carry the conversation as casually as he normally did, but he knew for sure he must have slipped a note of reluctance in his tone or his body language, which Carol was likely to pick up on, keen woman that she was. Still, if she noticed something off about her friend, she didn’t point it out at once or even gave away her suspicion with a frown and for which he was grateful. Carol was sharp but she also respected privacy – she wouldn’t prod the subject unless her friends decided to tell her, eventually. This was one of the many reasons they had been close friends for years.

Nevertheless, Daryl was mentally relieved when the young waitress brought out his order and a rush of customers came through the door and Carol had no choice but to leave him. Sitting by himself, Daryl stared at the food laid out before him for several seconds as though hypnotized by the tendrils of steam rising from the sizzling eggs and the coffee. The smell was the same as he remembered, and so did the taste when he slowly chewed a mouthful of egg. The only difference was his sore absence of appetite. His empty stomach was still grumbling at the sight of food, but when he actually swallowed it down he felt… unfulfilled, like having swallowed nothing. He put down his forks and reached for the coffee mug. Again, same warm smell, same bitter-sweet taste, just the lack of savory on his side. He guessed he shouldn’t be surprised. After all he was dead, and whereas his senses were overloaded with sensations, they were at the same time desensitized to the normal delights of a human. Food did not arouse his appetite, unlike blood, whose sight and scent had caused his throat to constrict and his mouth to parch.

The noises and chatters that were typical to this place had become too much for him to bear. Not wanting to upset Carol by leaving food on the plate, Daryl finished the meal with haste and made to the door, giving a quick goodbye to his friend on the way out.

The fresh air somewhat soothed his nerves. Inside his pocket, his phone buzzed and Daryl pulled it out, half-expecting it was Paul sending him a text. Instead it was Rick, asking Daryl to take a day off to recover from his… flu and not to worry about the case because he had it covered. Daryl peered at his screen, trying to register what was going on. Rick had been at the scene and there was no way he would have confused a fatal shot with the common flu, unless Paul had altered his memory – one of the vampire tricks Paul had up his sleeves. Daryl had always thought compulsion, or the tempering with the human mind and free will, to be absolutely repulsive and Paul had sworn to never use it on Daryl or his friends. Perhaps this was the first and only time Daryl actually didn’t feel a spark of anger and betrayal when finding out that Paul had broken his vow.

Daryl typed a short reply to Rick. As he hit the button ‘send’, a question raised in his head of how his friends, Rick and Carol, and everyone he knew would react if he were to die today. He wondered if Paul would undo his compulsion and give them the truth or he would make up something else, something that was less sudden and more expected like a terminal disease. That wasn’t the real reason for the sudden chill creeping up his spine though; he shuddered at what he would do if he was the one to possess compulsion. He’d rather no one remember him than anyone be grief-stricken by his death. Especially Paul, with his heightened emotions that always made things take a turn for the worse.

That thought refused to be shaken off his mind long after Daryl revved up the engine and rode off.

To be continued

Sorry about the slow update. Here’s a little confession: this was supposed to be the last chapter but as I wrote, the number of words kept increasing to the point I decided that I should split it up into more chapters. If nothing changes, there’s two chapters left.

Carol wasn’t in my original idea at all.

 

[Desus] (The World Was on Fire) and No One Could Save Me But You (3)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: The Walking Dead

Rating: K+

Pairing: Desus – Daryl Dixon x Paul “Jesus” Rovia

Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe, vampire AU

Characters: Paul “Jesus” Rovia, Daryl Dixon, Rick Grimes

Summary:

For all the short time Paul had been acquainted with Rick Grimes, he had never heard the tough police officer’s voice break like when he informed Paul, “Daryl was shot.”

Alternate universe. Established relationship.


Chapter 1     Chapter 2


The World Was on Fire…

Wicked Game

The morning after…

The rain battering his helmet had never felt so maddening as Daryl was riding his trusted old friend at break-neck speed. This was beaten track for him, one he had raced down countless times before, many of which during a downpour just like this. Odd torrential rains had never much bothered him; as a matter of fact, he rather enjoyed a cool down after a series of sweltering days. The smell of the first drops of rain splattering on the burned asphalt road was unpleasant to some but not Daryl, quite the opposite actually, and the heavier the shower hitting his body became, the better his mood improved. The sound of water violently beating down on plastic was not infuriating in the least; rather, it had a calming effect on his mind. Daryl supposed this was subconsciously tied to his less-than-peaceful childhood, of which he had spent the better part hiding from his father and his dear old leather belt, taking shelter somewhere in the woods whenever the old man was ‘under the weather’, hoping the heavy rain and rolls of thunder would mask the deafening beats of his scared heart.

The old man had been gone for years, and the sight of a worn leather belt no longer made him on edge, but remnants of the past were still residing deep within his psyche, at times manifesting into sporadic bouts of anxiety and depression, of which the rain proved to be an effective, albeit temporary, therapy. It gave him a sense of security to race down the empty lane on a rainy day.

But this time it wasn’t the same, and Daryl doubted things would be the same after yesterday’s afternoon.

Before Daryl was aware that he had been shot, there had already been a bullet bursting out of his back. As he fell down to the tile floor, all he saw was a huge shapeless bright red blotch on the wall behind. The blotch swelled until it occupied all his vision and he went blind. He heard Rick’s panicked shouts somewhere across the room but he couldn’t picture his best friend’s face. Daryl knew he was done for and the only thing on his mind was the mute sadness overflowing from Paul’s ocean-blue eyes.

And then there was darkness. It sounded like some cliché shit but that was exactly what it was for Daryl. Nothing but undiluted darkness that caused him to doubt whether he had lost his sight. In fact, all five of his senses were rendered completely useless: no light to see, no sound to hear, no scent to smell in the air – provided there was air after all, no flavor to taste – even the tang of blood in his mouth had gone – and nothing to feel. He found out soon enough that he couldn’t move his fingers, his limbs, his head, his whole body. Total paralysis was a terror Daryl had never experienced before, which made his father’s inebriated rage and merciless leather belt a child’s play in comparison. Nothing beat being entirely alone in the dark where you were unable to move an inch. Despair in its most appalling form. He wanted to scream, to hear his voice. He did, and discovered grimly that he had none. A burning need to cry was hurting his head but he didn’t, doubting if he had tears. He thought of Paul, of his blue eyes, twinkling with mischief, and his kind smile in that morning. Regret cut through Daryl like a hot knife through butter at how he hadn’t a chance to say goodbye to Paul, and at how Paul would feel upon receiving his body. At how Paul would grieve over his corpse, his tears filling the hole dug out by an ill- but actually well-aimed iron. Vampires were emotionally fragile creatures – the words were reverberating in Daryl’s mind – and dangerously so. Over his course of six centuries, Paul had only lost once, and once was enough to scar him for life. Daryl had never thought it would be this soon when he made Paul relive that cycle of agony and century-long recovery process. His regret already transformed into guilt.

And guilt seemed to be a way to pass the time in this limbo state because at some indefinite point of time, Daryl’s guilt receded into the dark at a slight tug at his fingers. All of sudden he could feel now. His overwhelming relief was short-lived however, since the tug hastily became a violent pull. It hurt, really. By instinct Daryl rattled his sleep-addled limbs and tried to fight the pull. His struggle was only promised more pain and an inevitable defeat as he was dragged forward into an invisible gaping hole…

… whose other side was a tight, lung-crushing embrace, which only loosened at his gasp. He didn’t gasp due to the crude embrace – frankly it was nothing compared to the pull – but rather by the earth-whooping swift from dead to alive. Daryl’s ears were ringing with his name being repeated over and over but he couldn’t respond just yet. His head was spinning so he was reluctant to open his eyes. Still he recognized the voice and that, coupled with a warm, living presence washed away the horror of the limbo. He found his quivering lips mumble a name and though it came out softer than a whisper against snow, he knew it would be heard. For why else there was a hand gently messaging his nape and a pair of full lips lightly pressing on the sweaty tip of his ear?

“I thought I’d lost you…” Paul rasped. Then he immediately captured Daryl’s lips. It was very passive, the kiss, and like none of the passionate make out sessions they’d had before; no gliding, no sucking and certainly no tongue, and yet in it passiveness it profoundly conveyed his hopeless attempt to reach inward to Daryl’s soul and touch it just so he knew his lover was not lost to the Ripper’s clutch. There was salt on Paul’s lips from his unrestrained tears.

When they finally pulled apart and Daryl opened his eyes, he was greeted with the sight of a tear-stained face. Paul’s eyes appeared huge not only because they were wide-open but also due to the twin hollows under his lower lashes. Grief affected the inhuman as much as they did human, Daryl noticed with a twitch of pain in his chest. His thumbs caressed the skin below Paul’s eyes as if this mere simple gesture could rub away the impact of his death on the vampire.

“When we kissed this morning, you…”

Paul exhaled. “Yes,” he admitted, “I made you take my blood with neither your consent nor your knowledge. I can bear you getting mad at me, lashing out at me, never speaking to me or looking at me again; it’d give me hell but I can live with it. But I can’t bear the thought that something terrible might happen to you out there, an armed robber, a drunken driver, an accident, and you’d be taken away from me. So I’m glad I did it, I really am. Easily the wisest thing this old bat has done for centuries.”

Daryl waited patiently for him to finish. Then, to Paul’s utter surprise, he said two words:

“Thank you.”

Daryl didn’t know what he thanked Paul for. Saving his life? Not quite. Their relationship had gone past that point of saying those words because if the situation had been reversed, Daryl knew he would have done exactly the same. That was the reason why he had not found it in his heart to immediately confront Paul upon first discovering his sneaky act even though Daryl Dixon liked it the least when people did something behind his back. But it seemed to be the words that needed to be said at this moment despite their artificial meaning, even more so since he didn’t know what else to say. He wasn’t mad at Paul, no; why should he be? He was just exhausted, body and soul.

“Thank you,” Paul whispered against his temple, “for forgiving me.”

In an attempt to change the subject, Daryl did a quick scan of his surroundings, feeling strangely relieved that this was their bedroom rather than a hospital room or worse, the morgue.

“I was in the dark,” said Daryl. “Pitch black. No light, no sound, nothin’.”

“I know,” Paul replied, nodding. “I was there. All vampires were. We dub it the ‘threshold of death’.”

“I thought about ya, about how abrupt things were, how we didn’t get to say goodbye at least.”

“We don’t have to say goodbye,” Paul hushed, pressing his palm to Daryl’s cheek. Daryl’s stubbles tickled his soft, thin skin. “Not yet. Hopefully never.”

“Am I like you now?”

Outside the open window the crescent moon was high in the starless sky. Were it daylight, Daryl would be stretching out his arm to test if the sun should make his skin sizzle like rashers of bacon in hot oil. In order to provide evidence to his confession, Paul had taken his daylight ring – his sole protection from the sun – off his right ring finger and exposed his hand to sunlight. Daryl remembered having to use the fire distinguisher before his boyfriend became a living torch.

Paul shook his head. “Not yet,” he said. “Just a moment.”

He flashed out of the room a blurred of colors using his preternatural speed. It still struck Daryl as both awed and unsettling even though he had witnessed Paul’s abilities countless times before; he guess it was a grim reminder of Paul’s inhuman nature despite his very human appearance – too human that Daryl subconsciously chose to forget their fundamental difference. But this time, alongside awe and unsettlement, there was a rising curiosity. Daryl wondered how it felt to move at a speed the human eyes couldn’t follow, and whether Paul had trained himself to get adjusted to it or it had naturally become a part of him amongst other vampiric attributes.

Paul returned with a blood bag in his hand, retrieved from his personal stash. Daryl’s throat and mouth suddenly felt very parched while his stomach churned with the sight of crimson. In spite of the sealed plastic container, the sanguineous scent hung thickly in the air.

It appeared the blood flipped a switch inside Daryl. His senses became much too keen – his eyes being able to make out the creases in the curtains and his ears picking up the distant roars of vehicles even though their home resided in a quieter suburban residence – and he was overwhelmed. To say it was uncomfortable was an understatement. The pricking underneath his skin did nothing to help but aggravate his condition.

“It must feel terrible,” Paul said, sitting down on the edge of their bed and reaching out to Daryl with his empty hand. “The enhanced senses and the sudden acute awareness of your surroundings.”

“Ya went through the same things?”

Soon as the question left his lips, Daryl realized it was stupid and redundant.

Paul nodded. “You’re in transition,” he explained. “Neither human nor vampire. Neither dead nor alive. My sire told me that it’s because you’re trapped between two worlds: one foot is in the living world while the other stays in limbo until your decision.”

“My decision?” Daryl echoed.

“To take the final step and become a vampire or…” his throat clogged and the struggle to finish the sentence was evident in his creased eyebrows and his mouth agape. “… to die. This time for real.”

“The final step bein’ this?”

As if handling a fragile and sacred object, Paul handed the blood bag to Daryl with both hands.

Daryl looked down on the tempting object in his hand, thinking about how its content was practically singing to him. Just one gulp and this current discomfort would be gone. And so would the man named Daryl Dixon. He locked eyes with Paul. Although the vampire was sitting as quiet as a statue, his whole body was radiating a silent plea. His straight, stiff back. His fingers curling into fists on his laps. The tight press of his lips. The blue of his eyes shifted ever slightly when the feeble moonlight hit them as if there was a miniature ocean in each. The oceans were shadowed with an imminent storm.

Daryl’s left chest where the bullet had hit ached. Without looking, he fingered the wound, finding it bloodless, mended and whole. He bit the inside of his cheeks until he tasted copper.

His heart throbbed as Daryl gingerly set the blood bag on the nightstand. “How much time do I have before I kick the bucket for real?” he asked.

Paul’s voice was uneven. “Twenty-four hours, the exact same amount of time as the vampire blood stays in your system. Starting when you wake up from your limbo.”

“Tomorrow evenin’ then?”

Paul nodded.

Something about his downcast eyes told Daryl that Paul had already known what he was to say next. The vampire had always had good intuition.

“Tomorrow evenin’ then.”

To be continued

Sorry about another cliffhanger.

So if a person dies with vampire blood in their system, they stays dead for some time (I made up the limbo stuff in this fic) and wakes up neither human nor vampire. Then they have 24 hours to decide if they want to live as a vampire or die a human. If they want to become a vampire, all they need to do is consume human blood.

[Diệp Phó] Hải Thị Thận Lâu (4)

Pairing: Diệp Phó – Diệp Khai x Phó Hồng Tuyết

Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe

Rating: 10+

Nhân vật: Diệp Khai

Chú ý: còn 1 cp khác nhưng chưa được tiết lộ

Preview:

Là bằng hữu cùng vào sinh ra tử, là huynh đệ bất kể huyết thống, cũng là nguyên nhân của cơn ác mộng đáng sợ nhất với hắn.

Trên hết, là một người đã chết.

“Phó… Hồng… Tuyết,” Diệp Khai khó nhọc thốt lên ba chữ.

Chương 1    Chương 2     Chương 3

4. Phó Hồng Tuyết

Diệp Khai tỉnh lại cùng với cảm giác một bàn tay lành lạnh, mềm mại vuốt ve khuôn mặt hắn. Hắn không nhớ mình đã thiếp đi lúc nào, không, chính xác thì hắn không thiếp đi. Sau ba chén Niệm tửu, hắn thấy trước mắt tối sầm rồi mất đi tri giác. Khả năng đầu tiên hắn nghĩ đến là mê dược, nhưng nếu đây là mê dược thì lạ quá, cảm giác đầu tiên khi hắn tỉnh lại không giống mê dược chút nào! Mê dược có rất nhiều loại, thế nhưng cảm giác đầu tiên khi tỉnh hầu như chỉ một: thần trí rối loạn, đầu óc bưng bưng do tác dụng của thuốc chưa rút đi hoàn toàn. Hắn dám khẳng định vì hắn tự tin mình đã thử qua rất nhiều loại mê dược trên thế gian, từ nhẹ đến nặng, từ phổ biến đến hiếm lạ. Với kẻ mất ngủ kinh niên, mê dược là giải pháp cuối cùng nhưng xem ra ngay đến nó cũng không cho hắn được giấc ngủ trọn vẹn.

Diệp Khai loại bỏ nghi vấn bị hạ dược. Hắn cảm thấy như mình vừa thức dậy sau một giấc ngủ dài không bị gián đoạn, một giấc ngủ thật sự, yên bình và không bị những ký ức xa xưa quấy nhiễu. Cảm giác thư thái không biết bao lâu rồi mới được biết đến khiến Diệp Khai gạt qua một bên vô vàn nghi vấn khi hắn thức dậy ở một nơi hắn không biết là đâu, bên cạnh một người hắn không biết là ai. Cơ bắp toàn thân thả lỏng, mắt vẫn còn nhắm, hắn cho phép bản thân buông lơi cảnh giác, hạ xuống đề phòng để tận hưởng sự chăm sóc dịu dàng từ bàn tay người lạ. Rụt rè như thể hắn sợ bàn tay chỉ là ảo giác, sẽ tan biến nếu hắn lỗ mãng, Diệp Khai chạm vào bàn tay.

Bàn tay ngưng động tác nhưng không hề biến mất. Những ngón tay thon dài, mát lạnh nhẹ nhàng đan lấy ngón tay hắn.

Trong ký ức của Diệp Khai, hắn chỉ biết một bàn tay có nhiệt độ thấp như vậy. Hiển nhiên, bàn tay đó không hề mịn màng, cũng chưa từng ban phát cho hắn nửa điểm dịu dàng bất kể hắn thèm khát điều đó thế nào.

Nếu vậy, hắn đã thật sự tỉnh chưa, hay đây là một giấc mộng đẹp đẽ, ngọt ngào và không thật?

“Khách quan, ngài đã tỉnh.”

Một giọng thiếu niên trong trẻo như suối lọt vào tai Diệp Khai. Giọng nói này sao mà quen quá, hắn đã nghe ở đâu rồi thì phải. Cả cách xưng hô trang trọng nữa, lâu lắm rồi không ai gọi hắn là “ngài”, cũng phải thôi, ai đi gọi một lão già lôi thôi, rách rưới, trong hầu bao chỉ vài đồng tiền lại nay đây mai đó là “ngài”. Diệp Khai chỉ lờ mờ nhớ mình đã ngạc nhiên thế nào khi đặt chân vào căn lầu và được tiếp đãi như khách quý bất kể bề ngoài thế nào… Căn lầu… phải, căn lầu mang tên Niệm Lâu. Còn giọng nói như thế chỉ có thể là gã tiểu nhị tuổi đời còn nhỏ nhưng ăn nói lễ độ, hơn nữa còn rất biết làm vừa lòng khách. Vân Thâu… một cái tên rất ý nghĩa.

Diệp Khai từ từ mở mắt, một gương mặt mờ mờ xuất hiện trong tầm mắt hắn. Hắn chớp mắt vài lần, đưa bàn tay không cầm tay Vân Thâu lên dụi mắt. Gương mặt Vân Thâu trở nên rõ ràng, gã đang cười, nụ cười ôn hoà, ấm áp như vạt nắng xuyên qua cửa sổ, chiếu xuống đầu vai hắn. Cảm giác chệnh choạng khi vừa tỉnh giấc đã rút, thần trí hoàn toàn tỉnh táo, Diệp Khai nhận ra hai điều: một, bây giờ là buổi sáng, xét theo cường độ của nắng thì có lẽ hiện đang là giờ Thìn. Hôm qua hắn đến Niệm Lâu vào buổi chiều, bây giờ là buổi sáng, chẳng lẽ hắn đã ngủ một đêm ở đây? Nhắc đến việc ngủ, điều thứ hai Diệp Khai nhận ra là hắn đang nằm trên một chiếc giường vô cùng êm ái, khác xa những tấm gỗ ép ngụy trang giường ở những quán trọ xập xệ hắn thường trú. Và có giường tất có phòng, hắn đảo mắt một vòng quanh phòng, thu thập những chi tiết về nơi đã chứa chấp hắn một đêm. Phòng không lớn hơn một căn phòng trọ phổ thông bao nhiêu; ngoài chiếc giường hắn đang nằm, trong phòng còn một chiếc bàn, vài chiếc ghế cùng một chiếc tủ trong góc, tất cả đều được chế tạo từ gỗ mun đen bóng. Trong không khí tản mác hương hoa nhưng hắn không thấy một nhành hoa nào, cũng không dám khẳng định đó là loại hoa gì. Giống như diện mạo của Vân Thâu, hương hoa cho hắn cảm giác vô cùng quen thuộc nhưng đào bới ký ức một hồi, hắn vẫn không tìm ra nửa điểm manh mối. Bỏ cuộc, hắn thở dài, bàn tay đang đan lấy tay Vân Thâu bất giác xiết lại. Thật kỳ lạ, tiếp xúc với da hắn nãy giờ vậy mà bàn tay của Vân Thâu vẫn hệt như ban đầu, tựa hồ thân nhiệt hắn vô phương thẩm thấu qua làn da mong manh của gã. Diệp Khai biết trên thế gian có một môn công phu kỳ dị như thế: thân nhiệt người luyện luôn luôn thấp, dù phơi mình dưới nắng nóng hay ủ trong chăn bông cũng không thể nào ấm lên. Nhưng với tuổi đời của thiếu niên này ư? Không thể nào… trừ khi gã bắt đầu luyện từ khi mới lọt lòng hoặc giả, tuổi thật của gã lớn hơn diện mạo rất nhiều.

Công phu có thể cải lão hoàn đồng Diệp Khai không phải chưa từng nghe qua.

Tính tò mò nổi lên, ngón tay Diệp Khai lần xuống cổ tay của Vân Thâu, nhưng hắn chưa kịp bắt mạch môn thì gã thiếu niên như linh cảm được ý đồ của hắn, nhẹ nhàng thu lại bàn tay.

Không rõ vì sao Diệp Khai chợt cảm thấy có chút hụt hẫng. “Đây vẫn là Niệm Lâu sao?” hắn hỏi.

“Đây vẫn là Niệm Lâu,” Vân Thâu cười đáp. “Tiểu nhân được lệnh thu xếp để ngài ở lại căn phòng này. Vì gấp gáp nên có chi sơ sót, mong ngài lượng thứ.”

Diệp Khai cười nhạt, ngồi dậy. “Chỉ sợ hầu bao của ta chẳng đủ chi trả ba ly rượu chứ đừng nói đến tiền phòng.”

“Về chi phí thì xin ngài đừng bận tâm. Được tiếp đãi ngài là vinh hạnh của lâu.”

Cười nhạt biến thành cười lớn. “Vinh hạnh sao? Một gã ăn mày như ta thì đem lại vinh hạnh gì?”

“Xin ngài đừng nói thế, danh tiếng Tiểu Lý phi đao Diệp Khai thúc phụ ngưỡng mộ đã lâu, chỉ mong được một lần tiếp đãi. Thúc phụ đã căn dặn rất kỹ, nếu là ngài thì mọi chi phí đều thuộc về lâu.”

Tiếng cười của Diệp Khai tắt hẳn, nét trào phúng trên mặt hắn cũng biến mất, chỉ còn lại sự nghiêm túc. “Tại hạ cũng rất mong được diện kiến chủ nhân Niệm Lâu để đích thân cảm tạ sự rộng lượng của người.”

“Xin ngài thứ lỗi, thúc phụ đã giao Niệm Lâu cho tiểu nhân tiếp quản, một mình ngao du sơn thủy, chưa biết chừng nào mới trở về.”

“Thật đáng tiếc,” Diệp Khai chép miệng, đứng dậy, phủi phủi những nếp nhăn không thể nhìn thấy trên y phục cũ nát đến hắn còn chẳng nhớ mình đã mặc từ khi nào. Câu hắn vừa thốt hoàn toàn không phải lời khách sáo; hắn thật sự thấy tiếc vì lỡ mất cơ hội diện kiến vị chủ nhân của căn lầu truyền kỳ này. Niệm Lâu là chốn tàng chứa vô vàn bí ẩn, đến gã tiểu nhị cũng không phải một thiếu niên tầm thường, chủ nhân của nó liệu sẽ là nhân vật thế nào, Diệp Khai rất hiếu kỳ. Tiếc là hắn còn việc muốn làm, vả lại ăn uống trên sự chiêu đãi của người chưa từng gặp mặt, hắn không quen.

Vân Thâu cũng đứng dậy, lùi lại, giữ một khoảng cách cố định với Diệp Khai.

“Tại hạ vẫn còn một số việc cần làm, không tiện làm phiền quý lâu. Nếu còn duyên hạnh ngộ rất muốn cùng thúc phụ của ngươi hàn huyên,” Diệp Khai nói.

“Thúc phụ cũng đã nghĩ đến việc này nên đã căn dặn tiểu nhân không được phiền nhiễu công chuyện của ngài. Chỉ là, trước khi rời lâu, xin ngài cho phép tiểu nhân đưa ngài đi tham quan một vòng quanh lâu. Đây cũng là dặn dò của thúc phụ.”

Diệp Khai dĩ nhiên không thể khước từ. Người ta tận tình tiếp đãi hắn mà hắn còn khăng khăng từ chối thì chẳng phải thất lễ lắm sao? Hơn nữa, hắn thật lòng muốn biết bên trong căn lầu này nhìn như thế nào.

“Xin dẫn đường.”

Vân Thâu mỉm cười, chậm rãi bước đến cửa. “Thỉnh khách quan.”

Bên ngoài cánh cửa là một hành lang dài hun hút khiến Diệp Khai không khỏi ngỡ ngàng. Hắn mường tượng Niệm Lâu rộng lớn hơn vẻ bề ngoài rất nhiều nhưng đến mức này thì hắn chưa nghĩ tới. Hai bên hành lang là những cánh cửa sơn đen giống hệt nhau, khi Vân Thâu đóng cánh cửa sau lưng Diệp Khai, nó liền gia nhập hàng ngũ những cánh cửa khác, không hề phân biệt. Trên cửa không hề có số hay bất cứ ký hiệu nào làm dấu, Diệp Khai tự hỏi bằng cách nào khách trọ có thể tìm được căn phòng của mình.

Như đọc được suy nghĩ của hắn, Vân Thâu cười, đáp, “Khách quan đừng lo lắng. Tuy những cánh cửa giống hệt nhau nhưng tiểu nhân xin đảm bảo ngài luôn tìm được căn phòng của mình. Đó là điểm đặc biệt của Niệm Lâu.”

Diệp Khai nhẹ gật đầu, không tiện hỏi sâu thêm.

Hành lang tưởng chừng không có điểm dừng, vậy mà hai người chỉ đi mấy bước chân đã đến cầu thang. Tiếng nhạc, tiếng trò chuyện huyên náo từ đại sảnh bên dưới vọng lên.

“Căn phòng ngài đã ở thuộc cánh đông,” Vân Thâu giải thích. “Niệm Lâu có bốn cánh: đông, tây, nam, bắc, tất cả đều dẫn xuống đại sảnh nơi ngài đã xem Điệp Vũ tiểu thư biểu diễn…”

Trong khi Vân Thâu tiếp tục thuyết minh, Diệp Khai chầm chậm bước xuống bậc thang.

“Ngoài ra Niệm Lâu còn một hậu viện. Bây giờ đương mùa mai nở, hậu viện một mảnh trắng xoá…”

Đến giữa cầu thang, bước chân Diệp Khai đột ngột ngưng lại còn người hắn như hoá thành một pho tượng đá. Ánh mắt hắn đăm đắm nhìn vào góc phía tây của đại sảnh.

Góc phía tây như thế nào? Chỉ là một góc ít náo nhiệt hơn phần còn lại của đại sảnh, giống như góc mà Diệp Khai đã ngồi uống Niệm tửu hôm qua.

Bàn trong góc chỉ có hai người ngồi, một người áo trắng, một người áo đen. Tuy bên người họ không thấy bóng dáng của kiếm, đao nhưng hai tấm lưng thẳng băng như thân trúc chẳng khác hai thanh kiếm, đao sắc bén đã tuốt vỏ. Người áo trắng nhất định dùng kiếm, Diệp Khai dám đem tính mạng ra khẳng định, thậm chí Diệp Khai còn có thể hình dung thanh kiếm y không mang theo cũng trắng toát, lạnh lẽo hệt như chủ nhân của nó. Còn người áo đen chắc chắn dùng đao, thanh đao vốn là vật bất ly thân của hắn cũng đen tuyền như hận thù chủ nhân nó mang trong tâm. Đây không phải suy đoán mà là điều Diệp Khai biết, cơ bản vì hắn biết người áo đen, cũng từng nếm thử sự bén nhọn của thanh hắc đao trên chính da thịt mình. Trong cuộc đời mình, Diệp Khai đã trải qua vô số thương tích nặng hơn, nguy hiểm hơn nhưng vết đao đó là thứ duy nhất để lại một vết sẹo trong lòng hắn.

Và người dùng đao chính là người duy nhất có thể tổn thương hắn.

Là bằng hữu cùng vào sinh ra tử, là huynh đệ bất kể huyết thống, cũng là nguyên nhân của cơn ác mộng đáng sợ nhất với hắn.

Trên hết, là một người đã chết.

“Phó… Hồng… Tuyết,” Diệp Khai khó nhọc thốt lên ba chữ.

Còn tiếp

[Fanfic] Doppelgängers (2)

IMG_3469

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: The Boondock Saints, Blade

Rating: Mature

Pairings: Connor MacManus x Murphy MacManus (yeah, it’s incest, or twincest), Deacon Frost x Joshua “Josh” Frohmeyer aka Scud

Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe, zombie apocalypse

Characters: Connor MacManus, Murphy MacManus, Scud, Deacon Frost

Warnings: incest/twincest, vampirism

Summary: On their journey to the south, Connor and Murphy encounters some of Murphy’s doppelgängers along the way.

Sequel to Methuselahs – might turn into a series

Scud – Joshua “Josh” Frohmeyer (Blade II)

Part I

Part II. To Wake a Vampire

With the cooler snuggled under his arm, Scud scanned the mostly vacant space, hoping to find none of the intruding signs. He let out a puff of breath in relief before tiptoeing his way to the rusty door in the left corner, avoiding stepping on all sorts of hazards littered on the ground: usual garbage, bricks, dissembled metal parts, jagged glass pieces, broken syringes, et cetera, et cetera. He was fairly sure the place had seen better days before zombie apocalypse. The bolt creaked as Scud slid it out and opened the door just enough to reveal a dark passage. He squeezed his frame through the rather small opening, wincing as the cool, damp air hit his face. He slid the bolt back in place, checking that it was secure enough to barricade intruders and descended the staircase, the soles of his boots on metal loud enough to wake the dead. The bottom of the staircase was a confined cellar lighted only by a stained bulb on the low ceiling. Scud had to crouch a little so as not to give his head a concussion. The air was stagnant, and layer upon layer of dust produced a smell that tempted his nostrils into a sneeze. Good thing Scud kind of got used to it so he was able to contain his sneeze.

“I’m back, D,” Scud announced, placing the cooler on the ground, causing the dust to flutter in the air. “Look what I’ve brought. I consider myself very lucky today.”

No response came out of the shadow where the feeble light of the bulb was shy of reaching. The eerie silence, coupled with the lighting and atmosphere, gave off the vibes of an old tomb which hadn’t seen daylight since forever. That it was buried beneath the earth surface didn’t really help.

A tomb for a dead man, how fitting, Scud mused. He stepped gingerly to the edge of the shadow and rummaged with his hands for a couple seconds before his fingers found an arm that was so cold and rigid that it might very well belong to a cadaver. Instead of jolting with fright, Scud smiled fondly to himself as he grabbed the arm and started pulling it out of darkness with all his strength. Inch by inch, the arm was revealed to the light, followed by the messy head, the torso under a shirt that was sullied to the point its original color was no longer recognizable, and finally the whole body. “You sure sleep like a log, D, a very heavy log,” Scud panted, a light sheen of sweat glazing his forehead, sticking his long bang together despite the generally lower temperature in the cellar. He had landed his ass on the ground and was now supporting the unconscious man’s torso with his own, slinging his left arm around the stiff shoulders. “D, wake up,” he called, patting the hollow cheek. “C’mon D, open your eyes, I brought your favorite for dinner.”

Between the cadaverous skin tone, the absence of body temperature and pulse and the unresponsiveness, Scud couldn’t decide which made the corpse in his embrace more……. corpse-like. But Scud knew as clear as the sun that Deacon Frost, his former master and suckhead in his care, wasn’t dead. Well, technically dead, but not dead-dead but rather dead-alive; he was just hibernating like a couple of animals did when winter arrived and the food supply became too scarce, the only difference being that he wouldn’t wake up at the first creak of spring and would hibernate into oblivion if no one was kind enough to put food into his mouth.

Joshua Frohmeyer considered himself kind enough; that was why he was rolling up his sleeve. The pristine white gauze had been besmirched with a shapeless maroon blotch but it was still good thanks to Murphy. Scud clucked his tongue, wishing that the older man hadn’t been so good in bandaging that now the tight knot was giving him a hard time trying to undo it with one hand and a considerable weight leaning against his torso. After some unsuccessful minutes, he resorted to using his teeth to tear the bandage. He fingered the gash, finding it dry. The bleeding had long stopped and the skin had begun to tighten in the initial process of healing. Without giving himself a proper warning, Scud jabbed his forefinger and middle finger into the wound. Blood spurted out instantly in response and although he was hissing – having low tolerance of pain used to be the reason for Josh to be jeered at and name-called various degrading terms, he was rather satisfied with the result. The tips of his fingers dipped into the crimson liquid and smeared it on the vampire’s ashen lips. The vivid red contrasted horribly with the pasty complexion, giving the vampire a look that was ridiculous and terrifying at the same time. It briefly reminded Scud of some Asian horror movie he had watched on a worn VHS as a kid (blame his double-shift, stressed-out single mother), of the ghosts with stringy black hair, skin too pale and lips too red that would haunt his sleeps for weeks to come

“C’mon D,” Scud pled, caressing the vampire’s lips, pressing a finger into the small crease between the upper and lower lips. Then he waited for his blood to drip in the cavern of the vampire’s mouth. Scud could be very patient when he needed to; after all, patience was the one factor that had made his relationship with the notoriously short-tempered Deacon Frost work through. His arm had become mostly numb when he received a reaction: the jaw twitched and the cold, dry tongue slowly licked his finger before wrapping itself around the digit. Shriveled eyelids pulled back to reveal the frosty blue Scud was all too familiar. The pupils were enlarged and unfocused while the irises were veiled; all signs pointed out that Deacon was not yet fully himself, his mind swinging back and forth between the light of consciousness and the need to feed like a relentless pendulum. Scud really shouldn’t be surprised when his finger was pricked by something pointy; he let an undignified yelp escape his lips nonetheless.

“I thought we were way past nibbling, D,” Scud complained. For some reason unclear even to himself, he kept his finger in the bloodsucker’s mouth.

A deep, animalistic growl from Deacon’s throat reverberated in the confined cellar when he allowed Scud’s finger, shimmering with a mixture of blood and saliva, to slip from his mouth. The cracking of bones immobile for too long was heard as he mechanically peeled himself off his former pet’s body and lowered his head to the source of the strong coppery tang teasing his newly awakened sense. Scud expected the pain of being punctured where his flesh was already damaged but there was none; instead, he was caught off guard by the clammy sensation of a tongue lapping his raw wound. Soon after a pair of chapped lips scraped his skin and suction applied. He felt keenly how his blood was drawn out of his veins in small but steady streams. It was odd, really, and he couldn’t say if he’d ever get accustomed to it. After the initial nick of the finger, Deacon only sucked, not bit and for that, Scud was rather grateful. The vampire held his wrist in his steely grip even though he didn’t have to; Scud wouldn’t move an inch when being fed on, a lasting habit instilled in him during his days as a pet: if he struggled he’d be hurt; if he remained still he might even gain some pleasure from the act – some shit about vampire saliva containing aphrodisiac elements, aside from anti-coagulant, he had read that somewhere, perhaps Whistler’s archives. A reimbursement of sort, and Scud certainly wouldn’t complain as he draped his other arm over the vampire’s shoulder.

Scud lost track of the time – he always did while feeding happened – and he might as well die sorely without the knowledge of the exact moment his last breath was squeezed out of his lungs and his mortal coil severed. Willingly or not, every time he allowed master to sink his teeth in his flesh, he was put in a trance that was not unlike riding a fucking drug high: everything was hazy and nothing seemed to matter as much as the sound of blood rushing in his veins in a hurry to be extracted from his body. Again, the chemical substances in vampire saliva working its magic on a calm, pliant prey. Thankfully for Scud, his bloodsucker had excellent control of his own body functions, honed over the decades, and he knew precisely the moment to stop so that no irrevocable damage was done. With one last lick Deacon loosened his grip on Scud’s wrist and lifted his head, gazing into the glassy blue eyes with his bright, piercing ones full of life from the warm, new blood in his system. Their situation was reversed: it was now the vampire that supported the human’s weight.

It wasn’t until there were lips crashing onto his own and a tongue demanding entrance with purposeful licks did Scud finally snap out of his trance and into immediate response. While his tongue joined Deacon’s in a hungry, passionate tango, his hand grabbed the back of Deacon’s head, bony fingers weaving through the dirty strands, pulling them, forcing the vampire to crane his neck backward so as to have an illusion of gaining dominance from a powerful creature that could off him with a flick of his wrist. Deacon allowed his former pet the pretense, even played along with him; he was in exceptional mood after waking from so long a slumber to a scrumptious hot meal. Not entirely satisfied but enough to keep him active for a while. Scud tasted mostly the same as he had remembered, minus the slight bitterness of nicotine; he wondered if Scud had willingly given up the killer joints or it was simply too difficult to find cigarettes in this apocalyptic world.

It was very much like feeding, when they made out, in that Scud lost track of the time until they separated at last, Scud flushed and panting heavily whereas Deacon looked pale and calm as ever, with only a gleaming sheen of saliva on his lips as evidence.

“Why didn’t you just go away?” he asked.

“What?” Scud was feeling lightheaded from the blood loss and the head-reeling kiss, so he didn’t grasp the meaning of Deacon’s question.

“I ask why you didn’t just go away,” Deacon repeated. “You’re no longer my familiar, or any vampire’s for that matter. You’re free to go wherever you want, do whatever you want. And frankly there was nothing I could do if you let me down here to rot.”

“You hit your head on something or old age’s finally catching up with you?” Scud scoffed, wrapping the wound on his arm with the bandage he had undone earlier. The human grunted in frustration as he struggled to tie the knot with only one hand until Deacon unceremoniously patted his hand away to finish the task himself. “I’m no one’s pet now, true, so whatever I’ve been doing since the world literally ended is my own free will. How many times have I already explained this to you, huh?”

“It’d be easier for you if you didn’t have to drag a desiccated body around, wouldn’t it?”

“I don’t know, D,” Scud replied, shrugging, “but I’d have better chance at survival keeping an active vampire with me in the world swamped with zombies.”

“The thing is, Scud, I can’t be active without blood—”

“That’s why I brought this,” Scud said, tapping his forefinger on the cooler. “Pocketed it among other supplies from a medical facility only infected recently. If you go on a stringent diet, it should last you a while. After that, well, there’s me.”

“I understand the free will and all but why’re you doing this?”

Scud exhaled an exasperated sigh like he was fed up with explaining himself to this muddle-headed suckhead, which, of course, he wouldn’t say out loud. Deacon’s temper had gotten tamer since their master-pet dynamics was broken but it still wasn’t something to be taken lightly.

Cupping Deacon’s cheeks with both hands, Scud said, “Because you, Deacon Frost, is a good fuck. That and yours is the only cock around that isn’t festered and falling off.”

Deacon smirked, flashing the human his gleaming fangs. Cupping the back of Scud’s neck with one hand, he brought their faces closer until their lips were merely a couple inches apart. His breath ghosted over Scud’s nose and lips, chilling and blissfully not stale. On the other hand, it didn’t give the feeling of human breath either, more like a puff of cool air than anything. With those frosty blue eyes, Deacon mesmerized the human as he got rid of Scud’s tattered jacket and slipped a hand under the shirt, drawing imperfect circles with the tips of his fingers on bare skin. Scud shivered with the touch, goosebumps raising on his skin.

“So eager to drain me right after you pumped some energy in me, huh?”

“God knows I’ve been starving,” Scud whispered, pouring truth in every syllable and capturing Deacon’s lips to punctuate. The coppery taste was still there but since Scud was too used to tasting his own blood that he wouldn’t mind. He wasted no time in decimating the chasteness of the kiss, transforming it into rough smashing of tongues and teeth. The temperature in the cellar had risen up a few notches and their clothes were in the way, so Scud sought to rid themselves of the offending garments, an incredible feat considering he did it without destroying the fabric or breaking the contact. Once they were bare skin against bare skin, Scud instantly wrapped his legs around Deacon’s waist as the vampire laid him down on their scattered clothes. As Deacon brought three fingers to Scud’s mouth, he took the cue and dedicatedly coated them with his spits. They’d need more than just saliva for proper lubrication but Scud simply couldn’t give a damn; it wasn’t like he had been lucky enough to come across an adult shop with its merchandise untrashed. A soft moan escaped his lips as Deacon dipped the first finger inside him, from the pain of having been neglected for so long rather than pain from the intrusion itself. The second and third fingers joined in easily enough since Scud had already been slick with his arousal. His body reactions spelling loud and clear how much he yearned for Deacon brought a wave of affection surging in the vampire’s cold, dead and still heart. He prepared himself by smearing the early dews along his shaft and eased his way in Scud’s entrance, kissing the human with a tenderness that surprised even himself as he did. Only when he was fully inside Scud did Deacon allow a sharp breath to be exhaled from his pale lips. He too had been waiting too long for this moment.

When Deacon entered him, Scud caught a glimpse of heaven despite knowing so damn well the likes of him would never make it there; heck, hell suited him better anyway. When Deacon began moving just seconds after – the vampire had never been renowned for his patience, deep, sure thrusts that aimed for the secret spot inside that made him lose his mind, Scud felt his heart go up in his throat, chocking him, rendering any words on his tongue incoherent groans and hisses. His jagged, gnawed fingernails dug into Deacon’s shoulder blades, decorating the plane of his back with various lines ranging from pink to crimson. The vampire grunted, his hips speeding up in response to the human’s urge.

When he came Scud didn’t know that he did as his soul seemed to disengage from his body and float to heaven, his eyes temporarily blind by the pure light there. His soul did return however, and he felt Deacon’s orgasm keenly as though it was his own. He fed on the warmth spreading inside him as Deacon rode the waves of high until he came to a halt and collapsed on top of Scud.

Thoroughly drained, as he had joked. Scud found tiny pride in his heart for that.

“How did you get injured?” asked Deacon, fingering the bandage.

They were spooning on top of their discarded clothes, Deacon being the big spoon.

“Scraped myself while running for dear life. Almost got torn apart, y’know.”

Deacon’s fingers stilled.

“But I got my ass saved by a pair of Irish brothers.”

Deacon furrowed his eyebrows. “There’s still uninflected humans out there?”

“Uninflected, yes, but human, no. They didn’t tell me what they were exactly but my money’s on ‘bloodsuckers’. They had that same hungry I-wanna-bite-you look as you when they saw my blood. But they did an awesome job keeping their teeth in check, I give them that.”

“And here I though my race had been extinct by the zombie outbreak.”

“Not your race, though, as they walked unharmed under the sun.”

Deacon scoffed. “Like the Daywalker?”

“Nah, not really. I’m pretty sure B couldn’t have been able to destroy a horde of zombies bare-handedly without breaking a sweat.”

“No vampire, pureblood or not, could. Mindless as they are, those walking corpses are a force to be reckoned with.”

“The brothers wanted me to come with them.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I don’t know,” Scud admitted, half truth, half not. “Maybe because two’s a company and three’s a crowd and I don’t like crowds.”

“Or maybe because you already have one bloodsucker too many in your life,” Deacon chuckled dryly.

“Yeah. But they told me there was a human community in the south. You think we could go there? I drive by day and you by night.”

“You say it on the premise that I could drive.”

Scud’s eyebrows nearly shot to the ceiling. “And you couldn’t? What kind of vampire—”

“The kind that can afford drivers. I didn’t say I couldn’t; it’s been a while since I was behind a wheel. But I suppose can manage some driving with the junk you have there.”

Scud huffed. “Just make sure you won’t kill me in my sleep and we’ll be fine.”

“We’ll see about that,” Deacon replied, brushing the bangs out of Scud’s forehead to land a light kiss there. “My biological clock dictates there’s about two hours left till dawn. You could use some sleep.”

Scud rubbed his eyes as he tugged Deacon’s lower lip playfully. Releasing it, he said, “Do me a favor and haul yourself into the trunk before sunrise, will you?”

A snort was Deacon’s answer.

End

Sorry the smut is a bit short.

[Fanfic] Doppelgängers (1)

IMG_3469

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: The Boondock Saints, Blade

Rating: Mature

Pairings: Connor MacManus x Murphy MacManus (yeah, it’s incest, or twincest), Deacon Frost x Joshua “Josh” Frohmeyer aka Scud

Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe, zombie apocalypse

Characters: Connor MacManus, Murphy MacManus, Scud, Deacon Frost

Warnings: incest/twincest, vampirism

Summary: On their journey to the south, Connor and Murphy encounters some of Murphy’s doppelgängers along the way.

Sequel to Methuselahs – might turn into a series

Scud – Joshua “Josh” Frohmeyer (Blade II)

Part I. Doppelgänger

“Yer alright, lad? Can ya stand?”

There was something like a jolt of electricity shooting through his entire being once Murphy’s eyes, silver and hidden behind his shades, and the kid’s met for the first time. The very same blue (that both he and Connor had once had) changing minimally when the light was reflected on the irises, Murphy noticed, and he needed no mirror to tell the kid was wearing an eerily exact replica of his own visage, from his suntanned eyebrows, half covered under his long, messy bang, the tip of his nose, to the small dip between his lips and the little mole above his mouth. Younger, but the same. Alive, but the same. Human, but the same. He saw the black pupils boring into his face enlarging as if the kid was on drugs, undoubtedly no less flabbergasted by their uncanny resemblance than he himself was. Yet Murphy masked it better; he wouldn’t have lived for a hundred odd years and was unable to conceal his emotions.

The word ‘doppelgänger’ sprung to his mind and he couldn’t help shaking his head, smiling to himself, which confused the kid even more and it was shown on his face. Feeling a twitch of guilt at that, Murphy repeated his earlier question, offering his gloved hand.

With a wince, the kid took his hand, and Murphy all but lifted him up to his feet, gently and carefully as his inhuman strength allowed. Under the tattered red jacket and baggy khaki pants, the kid was probably quite thin, if his pale gaunt cheeks and light weight were any indications. Murphy felt sorry for the kid who bore all tell-tale signs of malnourishment and fatigue; he might not have had a decent meal and good sleep since forever. Life wasn’t particularly easy for humankind these days, what with the apocalypse and the plague spreading all over the world. A dead men’s curse that was way more sinister than just massacring humans: it turned the infected into mindless starving cannibals and damned them to keep on walking and feeding even when their maggot-infested flesh had fallen off their skeletons. War, hunger and death reigned by its side like the Four Horsemen, making the earth a more dreadful place than Hell.

Connor and Murphy had been going for months without seeing an uninflected human before they encountered this boy. It was Connor who had spotted him, a living scent so thin it was mostly buried under the sea of putrefying smell, yet it struggled, and it fought in a flimsy hope to be detected, to be saved before it resigned to its fate. Connor had always had keener senses and firmer belief than his younger twin, and if there was even one survivor within their sensing radius, it was Connor that found them first and came to their rescue. This time it was no different. The undead had been but an arm’s length from ripping the boy to pieces and making him one of them when Connor tore through the mass of rotten flesh like a furious tornado, Murphy closely behind. And now, while Murphy was speaking to the human to calm him from the shock of nearly losing his life, Connor was putting the rest of the hoard to peace.

They had recently taken this job although the Lord hadn’t assigned them any task concerning it. Their job was to destroy evil, but since evil was too scarce in this apocalyptic world, they took it upon themselves to put any dead souls crossing their path to rest.

“I am Murphy,” Murphy elucidated, his tone assuring as he felt the light tremor where his hand made contact with the kid. From shock or apprehension he couldn’t tell. Maybe both. “That’s me brother, Connor. What’s yer name?”

“Josh…” the kid replied, a mere whisper. He cleared his throat and repeated, fearing the stranger hadn’t been able to hear him, “Joshua, actually. But people call me Scud, like, y’ know, stud.” He laughed nervously. He used to make this statement every time he told people his name, thinking it his trademark default introduction. It didn’t feel right as before, and he felt like an awkward teenager making a fool of himself in front of his heaviest crush.

“Or cuddle,” Murphy quipped. “Aren’t ya tha cuddly type?”

“Close but not really.” Scud wanted to scratch his perpetual bedhead and realized his right hand was still in Murphy’s. Separated by a layer of leather and yet somehow Scud could tell his hand was cool. Like way too cool for a normal human being clad in leather in the early July weather. It should have but didn’t weird him out, and Scud decided he really didn’t mind having his hand held by another; physical contact was so rare nowadays he was almost starving and he wanted it to last as long as he could manage. Besides, he wasn’t stranger to lower-than-normal body temperature after all.

Something else tickled Scud’s spidey sense. The human often prided himself on having exceptional survival instincts; otherwise he wouldn’t have made it to today, having wormed his way through the dangerous underground world of vampires and now zombie wonderland; the incident today was but a chink in his luck. That was to say Scud could sniff it out when danger was rearing its ugly head, which was about now. There was nothing ordinary, or if he dared think, human, about his saviors. From their ubiquitously pallid skin tone, Murphy’s unusually low body temperature to the ease with which his brother Connor laid waste to the zombies with no weapon other than his gloved hands. These mindless walking corpses didn’t possess much more strength than their former human selves; still, what made them the single mass-destruction force were their gargantuan number and unrivaled savagery. Scud had had the privilege to witness them decimating a whole club of suckheads, and till this day, he had never had a more harrowing experience. Yet here none of them had been able to lay a single decomposing finger on Murphy’s brother. As a matter of fact the remaining ones appeared hesitant in attacking, milky, soulless eyes darting back and forth between their destroyer and the disembodied parts scattered around their feet in a too-human manner. If Scud didn’t know so well he might be convinced they were scared.

Maybe Scud didn’t know so well as he believed.

And, if he did know better, he too should be scared by this pair of brothers. He wasn’t afraid, perhaps a little bit wary but afraid, definitely not. That Murphy and he were bearing striking resemblance might have something to do with it. To judge a book by its cover, that was Joshua Frohmeyer.

Again, Scud was no stranger to the inhuman. Had served some, had killed some, had screwed some. Had even loved one. All before another kind of undead ruled the world.

“Ya aren’t afraid o’ us, are ya?” Murphy asked, gazing toward his brother, who was sending the last of them to the afterlife.

“Well, not really…” Scud spoke, trying to not sound like he was telling a blatant lie because he wasn’t. “How can you tell? I don’t think I’m shitting in my pants or something.”

Murphy sniggered at the kid’s lack of refinement. “No, yer not. But fear has a smell an’ it’s unlike shit, I tell ya. Yer not reekin’ o’ fear though; yer reekin’ o’ fresh blood.”

Without waiting for Scud’s response and still holding his hand, Murphy rolled up the kid’s torn and dirty sleeve. A deep-red gash that ran from Scud’s upper arm to elbow was revealed to his sight. It looked nasty and it was weeping blood, and though it had the possibility of getting infected, it wasn’t something life-threatening. Fortunately just a flesh wound. The strong alluring metallic scent, however, was rawly fraying Murphy’s nerves. His mouth felt parched, his throat constricted and a tremor passed from his head to his toes; he was very tempted to run his tongue along the gash and gathered all the ruby nectar that was all going to waste anyway.

The mesmerized look plastered on Murphy’s countenance alerted Scud. “Uhm… Murphy?” he called, none-too-subtly attempting to yank his hand from the older man’s vice-like grip. Why was he staring at his bloody gash like he hadn’t eaten for months? What was he, a suckhead?!

At Scud’s voice, Murphy snapped out of his sanguinary trance. Grunting audibly, he let go of the human’s hand and started pacing around the place they were standing, which happened to be a medical facility. After emptying a few drawers out in a devil-may-care manner, he found a bottle of antiseptic, hopefully unexpired, and roll of clean gauze. He poured almost half the bottle on the wound, feeling a sense of guilt budding in his chest at Scud’s hiss, before bandaged the kid’s forearm to his elbow. Thankfully it didn’t require a deft hand or much skill as Murphy hadn’t had to treat a wound for decades, just rolling the gauze up the arm and making sure it was secure enough but not too tight that it hindered the blood flow. Once he was done Murphy was even a little proud of himself. Not the best dressing in the world but this would do in the meantime.

“Ya should thank yer luck that ya didn’t get infected,” Murphy told Scud, his voice coming out an octave lower than normal. “If ya did, I’d have no choice but ta put ya ta rest like ‘em corpses.”

“Thank you,” Scud mumbled, examining the knot on his bandage for a few seconds before covering it with his sleeve. “Must have hurt myself while running for my life. But no, I was incredibly lucky I didn’t get my ass bitten.”

Out of the corner of his eyes Murphy saw Connor approaching, brushing off bits of flesh from his jacket and frowning as they left stains on the leather, and turned around to call out to him. “Come, Connor, the lad’s alrigh’.”

The astounded look on his twin’s face was the same as his when Connor scrutinized the kid for any other injuries than the one Murphy had bandaged, and… perhaps to catch a glimpse of his soul, a habit he didn’t share with his brother – Murphy only dissected a human’s heart when he was certain he would sink his fangs into their neck whereas Connor wanted to see for himself how each person looked like on the inside. Under Connor’s intense gaze, the kid seemed to squirm, a tiny movement one wouldn’t notice if one weren’t a sense-freak bloodsucker. His blue eyes looking at Connor spoke of distrust, his lips pressed firmly and he was clutching his wounded arm in a defensive stance. Apparently he was more comfortable in the presence of a man whose face was identical to his.

Having realized he might be intimidating the young man with his stare, Connor cast his eyes down and he cleared his throat in an attempt to break the tension he had unconsciously created. “Glad ta hear yer unaffected.” He glanced around. “There’s enough fuckin’ body parts ‘round here.”

Sudden Murphy raised his voice, startling both Connor and the kid. “Ya wanna come with us? Yer all by yerself, aren’t ya? It’s not easy ta survive on yerself. Maybe next time ya won’t be so luc—”

Murphy didn’t know why he cut himself short once Connor placed a firm hand on his shoulder, but he did shut his trap at once. In the temporary silence engulfing the three of them Murphy already regretted his offer. Not only had acted impulsively again, making big decision without consulting with his brother first, he also had broken their vow to never have a human companion again. A human would neither adapt to the peculiar lifestyle of bloodsuckers nor feel entirely safe in the company of those whom they knew well to have a crave for their vein. Plus, the inevitable agony of outliving the human was something they could do without. Knowing all that and still, Murphy felt the need to take this lonely and vulnerable young man under their wings and give him protection and care so that never again did he have to run for his life or suffer injuries. Part of his rationality doubted if he would bear the same thought if the boy didn’t look more like Murphy’s twin than his real one. There had to be some sort of mystical connection beyond their nearly identical faces; Murphy just failed to figure it out.

Scud’s eyes flicked between his two saviors, neither of whom gave him a total sense of safety, or at least that was what his instincts had been telling him for the last hour; they were far more lethal than the living dead, or even the suckheads he had spent the greener years of his youth living amongst. Despite so, he felt inexplicably drawn to one of the brother. He wanted to trust Murphy, wanted to tail behind him, even if that meant giving up his hard-earned freedom to wear the collar – he doubted he would protest if Murphy were to clasp a literal collar around his neck or tattoo his glyph on his skin, turning Josh Frohmeyer the man back to Scud the pet all over again. And this time he wouldn’t defile his master, he would obey. Better be pet than dead, torn apart and eaten.

Nonetheless, he wouldn’t come with Murphy and Connor, not while he was still breathing and moving on his will…

Still clutching his arm close to his body, Scud fingered the fabric of his sleeve, under which he knew there wasn’t only the damaged flesh but also an unmarred glyph spelling the name of a certain suckhead in suckhead language. He hoped that Murphy only thought of it as an exotic tattoo and nothing else.

Because of it, Scud would turn down Murphy’s offer for protection.

“Nah, thanks, really appreciate it but I can’t go with you,” Scud said, kicking the cooler by his legs with a childish bore. It was the sole reason why he had come here and almost lost his damned life. “Got a place to go…… and someone to go back to.”

Those last words came out light as a breath but Connor and Murphy heard them just fine. Murphy’s eyes widened as his jaw dropped slightly. On the other hand, Connor looked calm as though he had already known the answer, anticipated it even. His hand on Murphy’s shoulder gave a reassuring squeeze, his head nodding.

Murphy felt a little knot in his chest as he watched the kid haul the cooler on his shoulders. It spiked his sense with a strong familiar smell and he briefly wondered what Scud intended to do with it.

None of his business though.

“Ya take care,” said Murphy, fully aware this was farewell. “There’s a thrivin’ human community if ya move ta tha south. We’re headin’ there.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for this information and for saving my ass.”

With that Scud began walking away from them. Murphy’s eyes were on him until the kid’s sight completely vanished. He took little assurance in that Connor had erased the undead in the vicinity and the kid should be safe. For now.

“Wow, that kid looks like yer twin than me. Ya sure ya haven’t fathered any offsprings along the way?” Connor quipped. “Should I be worried there are little Murphies runnin’ around?”

Murphy smacked his brother’s head, laughing hard. “None that ya know o’.” He took a pause to compose himself. “The doppelgänger legend is real and we jus’ saw mine.”

“‘M envious. When do we get ta see mine?”

“Hopefully tha next time we round tha corner, find a distressed human an’ ya got ta put on yer hero hair,” said Murphy. “I kinda hoped tha kid would go with us even though after Rom’s death we swore we’d never take another human. Who knows, he might not have enough luck ta see another day.”

Connor exhaled than took in a breath – all out of human habit than necessity. “‘M pretty sure tha lad has enough bloodsucker in his life already. Saw how he fidget ‘round us?

“Wait, did ya jus’ say there are bloodsuckers other than us?”

“‘M surprised yer surprised, Murph. After all we exist, an’ tha world is swarmed with walking corpses, so I don’t get why the idea that vampires exist is far-fetched. I stole a glance at his soul, didn’t I?

Murphy chuckled. “Wish I had done tha same. That way I wouldn’t be curious by how our ‘cousin’ looks like.”

“Pretty like Twilight, minus tha sparkle,” replied Connor.

(To be continued)

Note: Please excuse my attempt to write dialogues with the Irish accent.

This takes place after the events in Methuselahs, so Connor and Murphy have been vampires (created by Judas’s blood by God’s order) for roughly a century. The setting is zombie apocalypse although it’s not like The Walking Dead (I haven’t watched that series despite Daryl Dixon’s probably Norman Reedus’s most famous role). My initial was that Connor and Murphy encountered many Myrphy’s doppelgänger, or other characters Reedus’s portrayed over the year (like Scud from Blade II, Young Man from Dark Harbor, Travis from Gossip, John Rollins from Messengers II: The Scarecrow), on their way to the south (as stated at the end of Methuselahs). I started with Scud because he seems to be a fun character to write and I ship ScuDeacon pretty hard (blame Deuces Wild for that, fun movie, just watch it); let’s see if inspiration will hit me and I may write more for other characters.

The second part is for Scud and Deacon.

 

[Cảm nhận] Vice Versa (fanfiction)

Warnings: spoilers, ngôn ngữ không đứng đắn, xen lẫn tiếng Anh và tiếng Việt

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Nguồn: pixiv.net (Hình chỉ có tính chất minh họa, bạn đem vào vì thấy hợp với fic)
Tên: Vice Versa (tạm dịch là Ngược Lại)

Tác giả: drunkenCharm

Link: http://archiveofourown.org/works/347153/chapters/564083

Thể loại: slash fanfiction, alternate universe, supernatural, angst

Độ dài: 10 chương/78,347 từ

Ngôn ngữ: tiếng Anh

Fandom: Blade

Pairing: Deacon Frost/Scud (Joshua Frohmeyer)

Rating: M (dành cho người trưởng thành – mature)

Tóm tắt: Scud never chose to be a pet, but somehow he ended up as one. Here comes the misery.

(Scud chưa bao giờ chọn làm pet nhưng bằng cách nào đó, gã lại trở thành pet. Đau khổ bắt đầu từ đây.)

Cảnh báo: có tình tiết rape và tra tấn

*Ghi chú: tuy là fanfiction nhưng bạn có thể xem đây là một câu chuyện hoàn toàn độc lập.

Khá lâu rồi bạn Joel không viết review cho fanfic. Không phải bạn ngừng đọc mà trái lại, bạn đọc nhiều là đằng khác. Tuy nhiên, bạn thuộc kiểu kén ăn nên số lượng fanfic khiến bạn hài lòng ít hơn rất nhiều so với số bạn đọc. Khi đánh giá mức độ hài lòng với một fanfic, điều đầu tiên bạn để ý là cách viết. Fanfic tiếng Trung không bàn đến vì bạn không biết tiếng Trung nên tác giả viết sai hay đúng ngữ pháp, câu cú lủng củng hay không thì qua bộ lọc thần thánh của Quách Tĩnh ca ca (tức QT – phần mềm Quick Translation), truyện nào cũng na ná nhau, ngôn tình giông giống đam mỹ còn kiếm hiệp với tiên hiệp là anh em một nhà (hay mỗi bạn thấy thế nhỉ?). Với fanfic tiếng Anh thì khác; do bệnh nghề nghiệp mà bạn cực khó chịu khi tác giả ẩu tả trong dấu câu, ngắt câu, ngữ pháp, trình bày… – giống như ăn cơm mà mỗi miếng lại nhai phải sạn vậy. Dẫu biết tác giả fanfic phần lớn là amateur nhưng bạn nghĩ cẩn thận luôn là một đức tính và chăm chút cho những gì mình viết ra, đứa con tinh thần của mình, không bao giờ là thừa. Vì vậy, cách viết là điểm đầu tiên bạn ‘soi’ khi đánh giá một fanfic, tiếp theo mới tính đến nội dung có ‘máu cún’ không, nhân vật có OOC một cách vô lý không, tình tiết và tính cách phát triển có hợp lý không, tác giả có quăng lôi cho mình đạp hay không, vân vân và vân vân. Cũng do kén chọn quá mà số fanfic bạn Joel cảm thấy hài lòng đã ít, số bạn muốn viết review còn ít hơn (điều này một phần còn vì bạn đọc nhiều oneshot hơn long fic mà oneshot dù hay đến mấy nhưng ngắn quá nên bạn không biết viết bài tán nhảm thế nào). Vice Versa của tác giả có bút danh drunkenCharm là một fanfic đáp ứng đầy đủ những yếu tố trên: cách viết tốt, nội dung hay, phát triển tính cách nhân vật và tình tiết ổn, không quăng lôi cho bạn đạp, và quan trọng hơn là fanfic đã hoàn thành với kết cục HE. Đọc xong một fanfic như vậy mà không có mấy dòng bày tỏ quả hơi phí, cho nên sau đây là cảm nhận của bạn Joel về nó (nãy giờ là lan man *icon packman*).

Ở đầu bài là tóm tắt truyện do chính tác giả viết, và do đây là fanfiction nên có lẽ tác giả cho rằng tóm tắt ngắn gọn như thế với người đọc – phần lớn đã quen thuộc với fandom Blade – là đủ. Nhưng với người đọc chưa biết gì về fandom thì tóm tắt này có phần sơ sài và chưa đủ lôi cuốn. Joel xin mạn phép viết lại một tóm tắt mới:

Thế giới trong Vice Versa là thế giới nơi sinh vật hút máu đặc biệt nguy hiểm – còn gọi là ma cà rồng – sống lẫn với con người. Phần lớn con người không hề hay biết sự tồn tại của ma cà rồng, chỉ một phần nhỏ được biết và phần nhỏ này chính là familiar và pet của chúng. Nếu như familiar thường lo những việc từ lớn – như đâm thuê chém mướn – đến nhỏ – như dọn dẹp nhà cửa, vườn tược – cho ma cà rồng thì pet phục vụ những nhu cầu ‘riêng tư’ hơn như ăn uống hay giường chiếu, ờ bạn hiểu ý mình rồi đấy. Nhân vật Scud của chúng ta là minh chứng của câu ‘Không có nhọ nhất, chỉ có nhọ hơn’: không những bị bắt cóc và ép trở thành pet mà gã còn gặp phải chủ nhân là một ma cà rồng biến thái lấy việc ngược đãi, tra tấn pet làm niềm vui, mặc dù việc đó bị cộng đồng ma cà rồng lên án (giống như bạn là người và bạn ngược đãi chó, mèo nuôi trong nhà ấy mà). Trong lúc bị hành hạ thừa sống thiếu chết, Scud được Deacon Frost, một ma cà rồng đối thủ của chủ nhân mình, cứu và đưa về nhà hắn. Tuy nhiên, cuộc đời lần nữa chứng minh ‘Ánh sáng cuối đường hầm là ánh sáng của đoàn tàu xe lửa’ khi Scud nhận ra Deacon tuy không hành hạ Scud nhưng dường như hắn còn nguy hiểm hơn cả chủ nhân cũ của gã. Và Deacon tuyên bố Scud là pet của hắn. Quá tuyệt luôn.

Đó là tóm tắt/giới thiệu câu chuyện về cuộc sống chung (bất đắc dĩ) giữa một con người vốn không muốn trở thành pet nhưng đã quen làm pet và một ma cà rồng chưa từng nghĩ đến việc có pet nhưng khi không lại rước pet về nhà.

Bạn Joel biết đến Scud dù bạn chưa bao giờ xem bất kỳ phần nào của Blade trilogy và cũng không có ý định xem. Bạn biết đến Scud do gã là một trong những nhân vật do Norman Reedus thể hiện và được khán giả yêu thích, bằng chứng là gã xuất hiện khá nhiều trong fanart về Norm trên pixiv.net. Dưới con mắt của họa sĩ fanart, Scud… lầy lội theo một cách rất đáng yêu: nếu không phải bu bám Daryl (và gọi thợ săn zombie siêu badass này là ‘Daryl-chan’) thì là giành giật Connor với Murphy (bằng donut mới buồn cười) hoặc cư xử như bạn trai/pet nham nhở của Blade (kiểu như thanh niên nghiêm túc Blade số nhọ vớ phải gã bf đầu óc tưng tưng). Kể cả khi đứng một mình trong fanart, Scud trông vẫn cực hài hước với mái tóc dài bờm xờm, vẻ mặt ngáo đá, thường trực bên miệng là chiếc bánh donut gần như trở thành trademark và thỉnh thoảng còn thêm ba Powerpuff Girls bên cạnh. Những fanart đó đã cho bạn Joel ấn tượng Scud là một tên cà lơ phất phơ, vào phim với mục đích gây cười là chính – một trong số ít những vai hài hước của Norm, giờ mới để ý – và những việc khác là phụ. Tất cả những điều trên đều không xuất hiện trong Scud của Vice Versa. Nếu chỉ dùng một từ để miêu tả Scud trong fanfic này thì bạn sẽ chọn từ ‘broken’, từ trên xuống dưới và từ trong ra ngoài. Số phận thử thách Scud ngay từ lúc gã còn nhỏ bằng việc bắt gã chứng kiến mẹ mình bị ma cà rồng sát hại dã man. Gã bị đưa vào viện mồ côi, gặp phải những người một là vô cảm trước bi kịch của đứa trẻ mất mẹ hai là muốn lạm dụng gã. Gã trưởng thành, thoát ly viện mồ côi và sống trong những góc tối của thành phố Los Angeles hoa lệ cho đến ngày bị bắt cóc và ‘chào đón’ đến một thế giới còn tối tăm và nguy hiểm hơn cuộc sống vốn không mấy sáng sủa của gã: thế giới của những ma cà rồng giàu có, quyền lực. Có lẽ cuộc đời cảm thấy gã chưa ăn đủ khổ nên quyết định ném gã vào bàn tay một ma cà rồng bệnh hoạn chỉ coi pet là những món đồ chơi tức thời, chơi một lúc rồi bỏ, và dĩ nhiên ‘bỏ’ đồng nghĩa với chết, hơn nữa còn chết rất đau đớn. Như một con gián, Scud lê lết qua những đày đọa đó, dù là sống hèn, sống nhục nhưng vẫn là sống, cho đến ngày gã được Deacon cứu và cuộc đời gã sang trang mới. Về một mặt nào đó, Scud rất ‘cường’ bởi trải qua bao nhiêu chuyện như thế, gã vẫn chọn sống tiếp thay vì tự chấm dứt đau khổ của mình. Tuy nhiên, vượt qua được không có nghĩa là gã còn nguyên vẹn, lành lặn. Những vết sẹo rải trên người gã, trong tâm hồn gã, khiến gã ‘broken’. Từ ‘broken’ ngụ ý rằng thứ gì đó vẫn còn thể sửa chữa được,” bạn Joel từng nghe Elijah Mikaelson (The Originals) nói; thế nhưng đã broken đến mức độ của Scud thì liệu còn sửa chữa được không, và ai nguyện gánh vác trách nhiệm đó khi người duy nhất chi phối, tác động lên cuộc sống hiện tại của Scud chỉ có Deacon Frost.

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Gif not mine
Deacon Frost là ai?

Là một ma cà rồng không thuần huyết (ma cà rồng thuần huyết sinh ra đã là ma cà rồng, chưa từng là người) những ma cà rồng khác chỉ nể hoặc ghét chứ chẳng yêu thương gì. Là một ma cà rồng vốn từng là người nhưng lại căm ghét và khinh thường con người, xem con người là đáy của chuỗi thức ăn, thái độ với pet thì không cần phải nói. Trước khi đọc fanfic này, bạn Joel chẳng có tý ấn tượng gì với nhân vật Deacon Frost; nếu như fanart Scud khá nhiều (vì Norm khá nổi) thì bạn tìm đỏ mắt may ra chắc được vài tấm fanart của Deacon. Bạn bắt đầu chú ý đến Deacon khi thấy trên AO3, số fanfic ship Deacon/Scud nhiều ngang ngửa số Blade/Scud, dù xét theo canon thì Blade và Scud mới là cặp dây dưa ân oán tình thù. Tò mò, bạn google và (không bất ngờ), Deacon hơi bị đẹp trai (khuôn mặt gần giống Wes Bentley bên American Horror Story và bạn rất thích Wes Bentley). Với máu ship trai đẹp với nhau bất chấp không gian, thời gian và logic, bạn Joel ‘duyệt’ ngay cp Deacon x Scud. Bạn cũng biết được Deacon là boss cuối của Blade phần 1, và, qua những oneshot đã đọc trước Vice Versa, bạn hình dung Deacon là một tên khốn bị điên (hay tên điên bị khốn), máu nóng (hơi lạ với ma cà rồng nhỉ), tức dễ nổi cáu, nhưng ngụy trang dưới vẻ mặt lạnh lùng cho hợp với cái tên ‘Frost’, có khuynh hướng bạo lực và thích chơi SM (tất nhiên hắn là S),… – hay ít ra thì các tác giả khác đã hình dung hắn như vậy. Cũng hợp lý thôi vì Deacon là boss cuối mà, hắn hiền lành nhân từ tốt bụng ấm áp vân vân và vân vân thì hoá ra Blade, hero của phim, thành kẻ xấu à?! Trong Vice Versa, Deacon vừa giống canon cũng như phiên bản của nhân vật này ở các fanfic khác vừa khác biệt. Giống ở chỗ hắn vẫn nóng tính – một núi lửa chực phun trào ‘cosplay’ seme băng lãnh, vẫn tàn nhẫn trong cả lời nói lẫn hành động, vẫn ưa dùng bạo lực và giết người không ghê tay, tóm lại là cách chuẩn ‘người tốt’ vài năm ánh sáng thôi, không nhiều. Hắn kéo Scud lên khỏi bờ vực cái chết không hẳn vì lòng nhân từ hay cái gì tương tự trỗi dậy mà vì mục đích cá nhân, và trong suốt chiều dài truyện, hắn không dưới một lần tổn thương Scud, tinh thần lẫn thể chất. Thế nhưng, Deacon trong đây khác biệt ở chỗ hắn vẫn còn một ‘soft spot’ dành cho gã pet hắn nhặt về (cả nghĩa đen lẫn nghĩa bóng) và tuy đúng là hắn có mục đích cá nhân với Scud – nói trắng ra là lợi dụng – hắn thật sự không muốn gã con người đã trải qua quá nhiều đau khổ này chết hay chịu (thêm) tổn thương. Đây là điểm vớt vát thiện cảm của bạn Joel với Deacon vì bạn không tiêu hoá nổi thể loại quan hệ mà một đứa bạo hành đứa còn lại, cho dù đứa bị bạo hành chấp nhận bị bạo hành.

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Gif not mine
Nếu là trong thực tế, hai kẻ kỳ lạ như vậy khó mà sống dưới một mái nhà chứ đừng nói đến phát triển tình cảm. Tuy nhiên, đây là truyện và tình tiết truyện buộc cả hai phải chung sống và phát triển tình cảm, nếu không thì lấy gì cho độc giả đọc giải trí. Cả Scud lẫn Deacon đều là những cá nhân tràn đầy mâu thuẫn và chính điều này tạo nên sự thú vị khi người đọc được quan sát hai nhân vật tương tác, ảnh hưởng lẫn nhau. Một mặt, Scud rất ham sống, gã chịu đủ mọi tủi nhục trút lên mình chỉ với mục đích là không bị vứt xuống một cái hố nào đó chồng chất những kẻ như gã, tàn tạ, rữa nát và bị lãng quên như chưa từng tồn tại. Ý chí sống còn nơi gã đủ mạnh để gã cầm cự đến thời điểm gặp Deacon thay vì cắn lưỡi ngay sau lần đầu bị lạm dụng. Thế nhưng trong đầu gã thỉnh thoảng lởn vởn những suy nghĩ mang khuynh hướng tự sát và có nhiều lúc, gã rơi vào trạng thái ‘đếch quan tâm’ – muốn đánh muốn giết ra sao cũng được. Gã sợ bị tổn thương, bị tra tấn và cố gắng hết sức để làm vừa lòng ‘chủ nhân’, cả chủ nhân cũ và chủ nhân hiện tại, Deacon; cũng chính gã lại có suy nghĩ chuyển hoá thành hành động khiêu khích Deacon để xem tên suckhead (từ Scud dùng để chỉ ma cà rồng với ý khinh miệt) ngoài lạnh trong nóng này khi nào sẽ bùng phát và dung nham sẽ tràn xuống, thiêu chết gã. Scud thèm khát sự quan tâm, chăm sóc, gã cảm động với mỗi cử chỉ lịch sự, chưa nói đến tử tế, nhỏ nhất, vậy mà bản thân gã cảm thấy mình không xứng đáng nhận được sự tử tế và tệ hơn, tất cả những gì thối tha cuộc đời quăng vào mặt gã đều do gã đáng bị như thế. Suy nghĩ thường thấy ở nạn nhân bị rape và bạo hành đây mà. Cuối cùng, Scud một mặt ghét ma cà rồng, hiển nhiên rồi, Deacon không phải ngoại lệ, mặt khác gã vô thức để mình bị Deacon thu hút; well, sao trách Scud được khi bỏ qua tính khí không mấy dễ chịu, Deacon vẫn là kẻ hấp dẫn và thực tế là hắn đã trải qua vô số (bed)partners trong cuộc đời bất tử của mình (nghe đồn trong canon Deacon là bi). Chuyện phải đến (tác giả bảo) sẽ đến: từ bị thu hút Scud dần chuyển sang có tình cảm với Deacon; tình cảm đó phát triển như thế nào và đến mức nào cũng như kết cục ra sao, Joel để bạn tự mình đọc và khám phá.

Giống như Scud, Deacon cũng đầy mâu thuẫn. Đầu tiên là việc hắn cố tỏ ra mình là kẻ lạnh lùng, tàn nhẫn. Có lẽ bao nhiêu thế kỷ lăn lộn, tranh giành quyền lực, lãnh địa trong thế giới ma cà rồng đã tạo ra một Deacon như thế bởi nếu không, hắn chẳng tồn tại quá một năm, nhất là khi hắn không phải ‘thuần huyết’. Như đã nói trên, hắn có một soft spot dành cho Scud: không chỉ lo cho Scud nơi ăn, chốn ở tử tế, hắn còn nghiêm túc thực hiện cam kết bảo vệ pet của mình khỏi mọi nguy hại trong khi chính hắn lại chán ghét việc ma cà rồng nuôi pet người. Bất tri bất giác, hắn quan tâm Scud và sự quan tâm đó thể hiện qua những hành động nho nhỏ nhưng đủ để Scud cảm kích, thậm chí có lúc hắn còn cảm thông với gã con người số khổ này. Chỉ là những lúc như thế lại có một giọng nói trong đầu Deacon nhắc nhở rằng hắn là ma cà rồng, hắn nổi tiếng vì sự căm ghét con người (lý do vì sao thì Joel sẽ không spoil để bạn đọc tự cảm nhận), để rồi hắn quay ngoắt 180 độ và tổn thương Scud bằng lời nói độc địa hay hành động. Sau mỗi lần như thế, hắn hối hận và tìm cách ‘bù đắp’ cho Scud – tất nhiên là theo cách không tổn thương đến ego của hắn, và vòng tròn lặp lại. Nói theo suy nghĩ của Scud thì cuộc sống của gã ở căn hộ sang trọng của Deacon sẽ dễ dàng hơn nhiều nếu ‘chủ nhân’ ngưng làm gã bối rối và nhất quán trong cách đối xử với gã: mặc xác gã tự sinh tự diệt hoặc dứt khoát giết quách gã cho xong. Vấn đề là ở chỗ đến chính Deacon còn không xác định được hắn nên đối xử với Scud thế nào thì làm sao Scud đòi hắn nhất quán được. Mất một lượng chữ không nhiều, không ít để hắn chạy vạy tìm lời khuyên từ những người mình tin tưởng rồi não hắn mới ‘thông’ và tìm ra giải pháp cho mối quan hệ giữa hắn với Scud.

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Nếu gọi tình cảm giữa Deacon và Scud là ‘tình yêu’ thì e rằng hơi miễn cưỡng bởi vì từ đầu đến cuối cả hai chưa từng nói yêu nhau (may mà không nói vì nếu nói thì bạn Joel thấy… sến). Tuy nhiên, tình cảm giữa Scud và Deacon là chân thật và dù nó không đẹp đẽ, không hoàn hảo thì nó vẫn tồn tại đủ mạnh để gắn kết hai kẻ lạ kỳ này với nhau đến cuối truyện và có thể là sau đó. Bạn Joel nói rằng tình cảm này không đẹp đẽ do nó không tạo nên một mối quan hệ lành mạnh. Ngay từ ban đầu nó đã mang màu sắc chiếm hữu: Deacon cứu mạng Scud nhưng hắn không hề cho Scud tự do – quyền cơ bản nhất của con người. Scud sống trong căn hộ sang trọng của Deacon đúng nghĩa từ ‘pet’: cả ngày gã quanh quẩn bên chiếc ghế xôpha và mấy mét vuông quanh nó bởi vì ngay đến ban công Deacon cũng cấm gã bước ra; cánh cửa chỉ mở khi trợ lý của Deacon mang thức ăn đến và sau đó lần nữa khoá lại. Scud cam chịu cách đối xử của Deacon giống như gã cam chịu nhiều điều tệ hại đã xảy đến với gã; dần dần, gã có tình cảm với Deacon và tình cảm sinh ra trong cảnh ‘cá chậu chim lồng’ mang hơi hướm Stockholm syndrome. Cả Scud lẫn Deacon đều không đả động đến vấn đề này, hệt như cả hai không đả động đến nhiều vấn đề khác trong mối quan hệ của họ, tỷ như Deacon chưa từng hỏi tên thật của Scud hay muốn tìm hiểu quá khứ của gã trước khi trở thành ‘Scud’, và Scud cũng không có ý định chia sẻ với Deacon, và chúng ta, người đọc, chỉ biết được quá khứ của Scud qua những đoạn flashback rời rạc. Hay như khi tình cảm đã xác định rồi thì Scud trở nên phụ thuộc vào Deacon: gã tiếp tục sống chỉ khi Deacon còn tồn tại, nếu Deacon chết, gã có thể không tự sát nhưng ý chí sống còn nơi gã đều bay biến. Điều này khá lãng mạn, nếu ta bỏ qua chuyện nó ‘độc hại’ đến việc xây dựng một mối quan hệ tình cảm lành mạnh và bình đẳng. Có lẽ tác giả ý thức được điều này nên giữa Deacon và Scud không phải love mà là “this is as close as they will ever come to love”, và về mặt nào đó, nó rất hợp với Scud và Deacon trong fanfic này. Và thay vì khẳng định một tương lai bên nhau vĩnh cửu như nhiều câu chuyện tình người–ma cà rồng khác, cái kết chỉ đưa ra một hy vọng, hay một hint về tương lai như thế. Với tư cách người đọc đã dành ra khá nhiều cảm xúc cho fanfic này, bạn Joel hài lòng với điều đó.

Bầu không khí truyện nhuốm màu ảm đạm từ những đoạn flashback và suy tư của Scud cũng như suy tư của Deacon, vì vậy bạn Joel ‘tự ý’ thêm tag angst vào thể loại. Truyện cũng rải rác một số chi tiết hài, ví dụ như khi Scud va đầu vào nắp chiếc ‘quan tài’ kiêm giường ngủ của Deacon (bạn trẻ này có chiếc giường thiết kế kiểu quan tài với nắp đóng–mở), Deacon đã rất thông cảm đưa cho gã một……. bịch máu trong tủ lạnh để áp lên vết thương giảm đau; tuy nhiên sự hài hước khá lép vế trước sự angst bao trùm suốt mười chương. Truyện có tiết tấu khá chậm, không nhiều tình tiết gay cấn vì tác giả dành khá nhiều câu chữ để đi sâu vào nội tâm của hai nhân vật chính. Chương 10 kết truyện, theo cảm nhận của bạn Joel thì hơi vội vã và anti-climatic, đặc biệt là sau cliffhanger lớn tướng cuối chương 9 “Deacon chết rồi!” Bạn đã trông chờ một cuộc showdown giữa Deacon và chủ nhân cũ của Scud sau tất cả những khiêu khích, đe doạ, dằn mặt nhau ở các chương trước, thế nhưng điều đó không xảy ra (có phải bạn đã spoil?!), và bạn có chút thất vọng, nhưng xét lại truyện này nhấn mạnh vào tâm tư, tình cảm của nhân vật mà, đòi đánh đấm, hành động, cái kết hoành tá tràng thì có vẻ làm khó nhau quá *icon packman*, vậy nên bạn hài lòng với những gì tác giả viết, dù chưa thật sự thỏa mãn.

Tóm lại, Vice Versa là một fanfic đáng đọc, và càng tuyệt vời hơn khi bạn không cần xem Blade, cũng chả cần biết Scud là ai (biết gã do Norm thể hiện thì tốt^^), Deacon đến từ vì sao nào hay chuyện gì đã xảy ra ở canon là phim mà vẫn có thể thưởng thức trọn vẹn cái hay của truyện. Với những bạn thường đọc Đam Mỹ, sao không thử đọc fanfic này nhỉ, vừa đổi gió vừa rèn luyện tiếng Anh một chút (yên tâm là tác giả không đánh đố người đọc bằng từ ngữ quá cao siêu đâu).

Chút chuyện bên lề trước khi kết thúc bài:

Chuyện bên lề 1: Đây không biết là lần thứ bao nhiêu bạn Joel gặp fanfic mà nhân vật của Norm ‘nằm dưới’ (hint: Vice Versa có cảnh ‘xôi thịt’). Không rõ anh chú ăn ở thế nào mà fan gái khi viết fanfic rất hay ‘ưu tiên’ để anh chú ‘được’ áp thôi, bất kể đối phương là ai. Ngay đến men-lì như Daryl còn không thoát nữa là các bạn còn lại.

Chuyện bên lề 2: Thú thật là bạn Joel đến giờ vẫn không hiểu fan gái dùng cơ sở gì để ship Deacon x Scud. Đồng ý là hai bạn chung series nhưng người ở phần 1 kẻ phần 2, không có tương tác gì mà sao fan gái ship như đúng rồi thế nhỉ?! Mà 1, 2 fanfic, 1, 2 fanart còn hiểu được vì đa số crack cp đều vậy (chỉ 1, 2 người ship nên hàng ít), đằng này số fanfic và fanart từ Mỹ sang Nhật ngang ngửa số Blade x Scud rồi.

(Không lẽ nên xem phim để tìm hiểu?!)

Chuyện bên lề 3: Nhà bạn Deacon bộ có cái hồ bơi lộ thiên thả một đàn vịt cao su (?!) hay sao mà sao fanfic nào cũng nhắc đến vậy??? Nếu thật thì quan ngại cho tâm sinh lý và gu thẩm mỹ của bạn suckhead này quá.

Chuyện bên lề 4: Bạn muốn viết một fanfic ship Deacon với một trong những nhân vật của anh chú Norm, nhưng đang phân vân không biết nên chọn Scud theo truyền thống hay Travis (Gossip) hoặc Young Man (Dark Harbor) cho mới lạ?

Chuyện bên lề 5: (cập nhật 28/03/17) Bạn Joel rốt cuộc đã hiểu vì sao cp Deacon Frost x Scud ra đời. Số là ngày xửa ngày xưa có một bộ phim tên là Deuces Wild nói về hai băng đảng – Deuces và Vipers – ở Brooklyn vào thập niên 50. Số là ân oán tình thù giữa thủ lĩnh băng Deuces, Leon Anthony (Stephen Dorff – Deacon Frost), và thủ lĩnh băng Vipers, Marco Vendetti (Norman Reedus – Scud) là mâu thuẫn chính của phim. Đến đây là bạn đoán được rồi nhỉ?

[TBS] Methuselahs

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Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: The Boondock Saints

Rating: Teens and up

Pairing: Connor MacManus x Murphy MacManus (yeah, it’s incest, or twincest)

Genre: fanfiction

Characters: Connor MacManus, Murphy MacManus, Romeo, mentions of others

Warnings: incest/twincest, vampirism

Preview:

“Ya emit fear, Rom,” Murphy lazily cut him. “We smell it. One of tha many perks…”

“… of being vampires,” Connor finished for him. “Can’t blame ya though. We’re afraid of ourselves too.”

“But the priests all call you guys the Methuselahs. The long-lived ones, not some bloodsucking shits!”

Murphy sniggered. “Vampires,” he corrected. Let’s not bullshit it an’ call it like it is.”

The Lord had spoken to them thrice during their long lifetime.

The first time happened right after they had killed the two Russian thugs, turned themselves in and not been convicted. Their powerful awakening. Thunders from the dry, clear sky roared and deep understanding seared through their consciousness. His voice boomed and it resonated in their eardrums as their bodies sprang forth from the rickety beds, every muscle taut like a bow string, every fiber fiercely alive. A spiritual orgasm it seemed. In that dark, damp cell reeking of moss and old-timed filth they saw more than they ever had under the hot, glaring sun. Their eyes had been sewn shut and now they were cut open and staring at the ultimate truth.

“Destroy all that which is evil…” Connor began.

“… so all that which is good may flourish,” Murphy finished, flawlessly, not missing a beat.

And thus they faithfully heeded His command, picking up loaded guns and shedding blood in His name. Never once had they doubted the merit of each successful job.

Even when they were surrounded by God-fearing men, firearms raised and eyes behind plastic visors warily following the slightest move of their limbs. He was silent the whole time, giving them none of His guidance. They could do nothing more than dropping their guns to their feet. Executioners by the law of God surrendered to the law of man and put behind steel bars. Steel bars that could rust and turn to dust but never their faith. Together they prayed every night in their shared cell, hands clapped and faces lifted toward the tiny hole served as the window, bathed luxuriously in the thin stream of moonlight. After that they sought to comfort each other in the only way they knew since they were old enough to be aware of their heart’s desires and give in instead of fighting to suppress them. Sweaty skin on sweaty skin, ragged breath on ragged breath and naked limbs tangled on top of the rigid cement surface making a lame excuse for beds. With nothing to smoothen the passionate thrusts, they made do with what their own bodies produced and learned to grow accustomed to pains that would sting for days, barely faded until the next encounter. This was the only heaven they could reach, confined between closed walls without His guidance. Their refuge in difficult time. The Lord had not condemned them when they first did, and He sure wasn’t doing it now.

Neither did He speak to them, not in this sealed place, in this stale air. He would not speak to them in this place so stained with human faults although the last time he had reached them inside a cell. But that time was different. They understood and so they waited for the next sign, however long it might take. They even told Romeo such, when they saw one another during the brief break in the yard. Patience was a virtue rare that one had to fight to attain.

The second time the Lord raised His voice, it was in the secret cellar embedded deep in the bowel of the earth, under the holy foundation of an ancient church, mostly isolated from urbanization. Smecker and Eunice had busted them out of the Hoag by the skin of their teeth – not so bad for former FBI agents who had been classified ‘deceased’ for a couple of years. Then they had taken the brothers on an extraordinarily bumpy ride out of the city and into the road less ventured, till they reached this tomb of a Catholic church. It must have been glorious in its old days, but now all remained was layer and layer of dust piled up on the pews and altars like snow from yesteryear. The statue of Jesus Christ had been removed, leaving behind a glaring empty space. The basin for the holy water was filled with cobwebs. Neglected. Deserted. Lifeless. Void. Murphy, always the first to open his mouth while Connor was busy contemplating their new location, voiced their collective concern of where they were and why.

Smecker and Eunice, unable to answer, exchanged a look.

“Because the Lord has spoken,” said a voice behind the closed door of the confessional, “His voice loud and clear. And we obey.”

Connor and Murphy instantly reached for the guns hooked by their belts, given to them by their rescuers for self-defense. As they stared at the wrinkled but benign face, the well-worn rosary hung in front of the faded robe, they lowered their weapons, crossing themselves as they spoke at once, “Forgive us our impudence, Father.”

Wordlessly they followed the servant of God like sheep did their shepherd; Smecker and Eunice and Romeo trailed after them, also in silence. Down the stone steps they descended into the earth, the light going weaker and weaker until the candle in the aged priest’s hand became the only source of light.

Up until now, Connor and Murphy had never forgotten the moment they reached the end of the stairs and were graced with the blinding light from a thousand candles carefully arranged into a circle whose center was the statue of Jesus on the crucifix. His bronze skin was polished and glistened as if there was potent life moving underneath it. As they gazed at Him, speechless and awed, the Lord’s voice was a tidal wave crashing down on their consciousness, washing away the vestiges of their three years in prison so that their sand was pristine for His words to be etched on, bold and clear. Smecker, Eunice and Romeo watched them step in the circle and sink to their knees at the feet of Jesus Christ, all their movements synchronized like a machine, and they all realized they had never truly seen the brothers till now. They had seen the boys fool around, had witnessed they kill, but they had never looked at Connor and Murphy like this: solemn and faithful as they knelt in the presence of God, awaiting His command with their heads held high and their absolute belief illuminating their skin better than a thousand candles.

The old priest presented to them a wooden cup, or should they called it a ‘grail’ as it was rather distinct and bore a striking resemblance to the holy object described in the Holy scripture. No explanation needed to be given; the Lord had passed it down to them in their previous trance. It was Connor who took the grail and sipped its dark contents. Connor who always called the shots in whatever situation they were in. Connor went and Murphy flowed. Connor began the sentence and Murphy finished it. Connor drank from the grail and soon Murphy did too. It was salty, coppery and thick, what they drank, and it burnt through their throat like liquid flame. Images flashed like a film fast-forwarded: the supper, the crucifix, the crown of thorns, the unforgiving sun, flesh smoldering and the falling of bones, blood boiling… The final confirmation of what they just consumed. They felt themselves die, their flesh rot and their bones withered. Turned to dust, and dust to nothing. A thousand dawns condensed in a few seconds. From nothingness they were reborn, different and yet the same. They were Connor and Murphy MacManus and also they were not. They felt that they could understand the truth of the universe and also their knowledge did not amount to a grain of sand.

They opened their eyes and saw everything in a new light. The old priest, Smecker, Eunice, Romeo and a handful of other priests standing in the shadowed corner, hands clasping in mute prayers. Their surroundings were sacrilege beyond their vocabulary. Their senses flared and not only could the brothers make out every single detail on their features, they could also hear their heartbeats and the flow of blood singing in their veins. They had never heard more captivating music.

With their new eyes they looked at the statue of Jesus. In a split of a second his visage was altered – morphed into the face in their visions, one with the clouds of treachery in the fathomless depth of his eyes – before it returned to Jesus’s.

“Perhaps he too wished for redemption,” the old priest whispered, probably to himself but Connor and Murphy heard him all the same. A look of understanding crossed their faces: the dark-colored liquid they had consumed was blood and they didn’t have to ask whose; they just knew.

Nonetheless, their transformation was both complete and incomplete. In order for them to become what He willed them to become and serve Him, the brothers needed to be ‘baptized’. A seemingly abandoned eastbound warehouse, a storage and transiting place for one Asian gang’s heroine. Imagine the poison spread to Boston and all the state, countless lives festered and rot.

The old, stern priest gave them the location and they needed info but no weapon. The church was never in possession of firearm; it was against the principle of God. They wouldn’t be in need of guns and bullets anyway, the priest informed them, and they knew without any experience that he was right. Still, Connor and Murphy took the guns Smecker and Eunice had provided, meager as they were; otherwise their hands would feel empty without the cold, sleek metal. With their rosaries snuggled against their chests, giving their skin a burned imprint, they ascended the stairs and disappeared into the night.

“So…” trailed Romeo, lost for words as he was looking warily at the brothers, with their blood-soaked faces and clothes and silver eyes shining brighter than the fluorescent lights in their humble, temporary hideout.

They were on the move most of these days: slumbering by day and moving and hunting by night. The sun did little harm to them given the protection they had, but they both agreed their nature and activities were more appropriately confined to the cloak of night. Because in the night, the evils stirred, and so did they.

Connor and Murphy flopped down on opposite ends of the grease-stained couch in the middle of the place, never minding that their long limbs tangled uncomfortably. Although they were brimming with fresh blood, having fed on a whole branch of an Italian mafia organization, they were weary to the bones. They did not find the effort to peel themselves off the couch and wipe the blood, starting to congeal on their turtlenecks and pea coats.

Blood was a nasty thing. Hard to wash off and more often than not ruined the whole article. They found themselves out-wearing clothes at alarming rate these days.

“You guys alright?” Romeo found his voice at last. He had been feeling pretty useless these days. Redundant. Un-needed. Retreated to snooping on gangs in the local area and reporting to the brothers, but actually being on the ‘field’? Scarce as the Mexican desserts’ rain. Though neither of them said it out loud, it showed in their eyes that they’d rather go by themselves, just the two of them. Romeo found himself uncomplaining about this arrangement; he wasn’t sure he was after having witnessed the boys hobble back to the threshold of the abandoned church, their faces red like the Devil’s.

“Aye, Rom,” Murphy replied, “we just had an all-you-can-eat buffet. Why aren’t we?”

They weren’t. At all. Not after they had managed to drag each other back to the abandoned church drenched in blood. An unorthodox form of baptism and oh-so fitting to this new existence they had been bestowed. For the good to flourish the blood of evils should flow like a river and in it they would swim and bathe and drink. It was the Lord’s will and He was always right, therefore it was right and it should feel right. But somehow it didn’t. Not when bits of human flesh scattered in their mouths and human blood fouled their breath and clung to their skin. Weren’t going for the flesh but it got stuck in between their teeth all the same. Felt like fucking cannibals although they had to constantly remind themselves that they were literally of another species merely masquerading as humans.

“You guys need a towel or something… to wipe the-the…” Romeo stuttered, using clumsy gestures to make up for his verbal inadequacy.

It was always like this after the boys came back, an awkward, heavy silence engulfing the confined space between the three of them until Connor and Murphy snapped out of whatever occupying their mind, which could take hours, even days, each time stretching just a little longer than the last. Back then it was never like this. Back then they would have scotch or tacos or sometimes both after a mission well done because good food and alcohol were best companion to their raging adrenaline. All of that felt like once upon a time.

“Yer afraid of us, Romeo.”

It was Connor who spoke, his voice bordering on fatigue. Not physically, of course. Never physically.

“No—yes—no, I mean—”

“Ya emit fear, Rom,” Murphy lazily cut him. “We smell it. One of tha many perks…”

“… of being vampires,” Connor finished for him. “Can’t blame ya though. We’re afraid of ourselves too.”

“But the priests all call you guys the Methuselahs. The long-lived ones, not some bloodsucking shits!”

Murphy sniggered. “Vampires,” he corrected. Let’s not bullshit it an’ call it like it is.”

“For tha record, we drink blood,” Connor said, his forefinger raised. “Shitton of it an’ we still want more. A lot more. Never enough. Never satisfied. Even as yer standin’ there, we see ya as a talkin’ blood bag. No offense ta yer person. It’s just the way we’re.”

Romeo dug and dug and found no humor in Connor’s joke. The truth was glaring too hard that any halfhearted attempt at humor dried up instantly.

He and the boys were different. They had been before but their difference could be effortlessly brushed aside due to their faith, their views and their purpose, due to their being humans. Now it wasn’t so easy to overlook their difference as it’d grown into a fucking ravine.

“Don’t worry, we keep our teeth in check,” Murphy assured him. “Barely, but we try. Moreover, these serve as our muzzles, ta make sure we won’t sink our canine into undeserving jugulars.” His finger tapped unrhythmically at the bangle around his left wrist, nail on metal creating a unique tone.

Around Connor’s right an identical bangle gleamed. Each one was carved with a cross and then filled with crimson liquid, which had crystallized and now looked like dark ruby. The old priest told them it was Jesus’s life essence collected from his crown of thorn. It served both as a protection and a reminder, a safety lock should their guns ever get out of control. To wear Jesus’s blood on their hands while Judas’ was flowing in their veins, they thought it the biggest irony to ever happen in their life.

“And if we take them off, well… tha sun, tha flame, wooden stakes, garlic, holy objects… ya name it, it’ll work wonder on us. Before ya know, ya’ll be scoopin’ up our fuckin’ ash from tha floor.”

“For how long?”

Connor reached into his pocket for his crumpled pack of cigarette. He gave one to his brother, bit one between his lips and lit them both. “Till there’s no evil left…” he replied, inhaling and blowing a ring of smoke, a far cry from the perfect circle his brother could produce with ease.

“… which is probably when humanity ceases ta exist,” Murphy murmured. He held the fume in his lungs, enjoying the burns since he knew it couldn’t do him any lasting harm. “Maybe then we’re finally be able ta retire from our job.”

Romeo’s gaze was transfixed on the tendrils of smoke curling around the boys’ fingers. The ‘Veritas’ and ‘Aéquitas’ inks only they knew how long they’d had glimmered on marmoreal skin. Their peculiar blood bleached and smoothened their skin – Connor’s lost its golden tint while Murphy’s became pure snow – so much so that they resembled a pair of marble sculptures if they remained immobile. The inks on their hands seemed even more alive than them at times. It didn’t help that they had developed a habit of lapsing into catatonic state when immersed in thought, which was unsettling to the only human in this odd trio.

“What would become of you guys then?” Romeo asked, feeling a shudder creeping his spine. Somehow he was afraid to hear their answer. He knew by then he would have already been long gone; not only him though, everyone they knew, Doc, Smecker, Eunice, Duffy and Dolly, would have been long gone and the boys would be left alone on their path. Such thought pained him so much he almost choked on his breath.

Murphy finally exhaled the smoke, having been able to hold it in longer than he could as human because he only breathed out of habit rather than necessity. His eyes on the plume of white smoke escaping his twin’s lips, Connor whispered, “And as the Almighty God created you…”

Murphy’s lips curved into the smallest of a smile. “… Now he calleth you home.”

Romeo could only hope that would be the case.

So he prayed for that every night before going to sleep, from that day to the day he left this realm.

The Lord had not spoken to them for a long while, and the brothers felt safe to assume He was pleased with their job; otherwise He would have them known by one biblical reference or another. The MacManus twins roamed from state to state and even went abroad, leaving in their wake a series of bizarre and gruesome murders where the victims’ throats were mangled and their blood mostly drained. They still saved their signature offing method to the one of the highest rank at the scene, more often than not having already shat himself after witness the carnage they’d engineered, to leave a nod for the human law enforcers and for the world at large that it was truly them and not copycats. On the other hand, they thrived on anonymity, drifting from one major city to another like shadows and keeping the lowest profile. Not once had they turned their heads upon hearing their names and deeds.

Romeo stuck with them through and through despite the fear still inaudibly present in his dark pupils, at times feeble as a dying cigarette tip and at times a vivid torrent threatening to manifest into something unsightly that could break their bonds for good. As a matter of fact, Romeo was the one to stay with them the longest, after the others had heeded His calling. Doc was the first, naturally, expectedly. His death descended upon him on a humid summer afternoon, swiftly and soundlessly. In the incessant cicadas’ cries he collapsed onto the floor, the glass he was cleaning slipping from his dotted hands and shattering into pieces. Connor and Murphy attended his small funeral from afar, wanting nothing more than to approach Doc’s coffin so that they could bid proper farewell to the old man who had become their family besides their Da and Ma. They couldn’t in apprehension that their presence would probably crush the solemn peace old dear Doc deserved. That and the fact they were failing to contain their tears, red and shining as they drew stark crimson streaks on their pallid skin. They no longer cried tear; when their heightened emotions became too overwhelmed, it was their victims’ blood that spilled instead.

Duffy’s and Dolly’s deaths came next, unexpectedly. Two years after Doc – the twins had been counting so they could remember – the news hit them on a crispy dawn in a modest B&B that two of their few friends had departed from this world. The TV was small and occasionally shown a static screen, and on top of it were the small, unphotogenic pictures of dear old Duffy and Dolly. Perished on the line of duty the news said. They had uncovered a cocaine-distributing lair of a Chinese gang, and as the Asian mafias paid a high price, the two brave detectives paid with their lives.

Despite their immortal bodies crying for a needed rest when the sun peaked through the clouds, they raced to the airport and caught the earliest flight to Boston, the blood of their recent kills buzzing in their systems. In the same week the two law enforcers died, the Chinese gangs supposedly responsible for their demises were wiped from the map in a manner that could only be described by the evening news later as ‘gratuitously brutal’.

They prayed and asked for His forgiveness as they, His hammer, had struck down with a personal cause.

Smecker’s and Eunice’s deaths were, fortunately, thankfully, a couple of decades later, when the two former-FBI-agents-turn-vigilantes reached their ripe old age. The brothers attended both funerals, lying about being the deceased’s old friends’ children coming to pay respect on behalf of their parents every time a curious person raised a question. They managed to keep a solemn and dry face throughout the service, saving their tears for later, when they were back in their hideout, which was usually a cheap motel where no receptionist would ask for their IDs as long as they had enough cash. Only then were they allowed to mourn their old friends, sobbing their blood tears into each other’s shoulder in both sadness and relief that Smecker and Eunice would be welcomed to the Silver City and joined by Greenly, Duffy and Dolly.

When it was finally Romeo’s turn, they were in a dingy motel somewhere near the border. The brothers had spent a few years in Mexico partly because Mexican soil was a futile bed for cartels and all sorts of wayward souls, and partly because they knew their friend’s time was near. It wasn’t a guess or a hunch but rather a hidden power they had discovered within themselves not too long after their turning. They had never told Romeo once that every time they sank their fangs into a human being’s vein, it was not only blood that they drew; it was the soul of that individual they drank, every flaw and every sin they had committed up until the moment of their death rolling on the brothers’ tastebuds – scrumptious if they were asked about the taste. The Lord was unmerciful to sinners and there was simply no redemption for those who found themselves at the ends of His Methuselahs’ teeth; their souls were torn apart, consumed and completely eradicated altogether so that they would never again soil the earth with their sins. So as not to pass wrong judgement Connor and Murphy were bestowed the ability to penetrate a human soul and obtain everything there was to know about that human, including their exact time of death. They kept that bit from Romeo, not intending to add more reasons for their friend to be afraid of them than he already had.

The brothers sat by Romeo’s deathbed, Connor to hold his shaking, bony right hand and Murphy the other. The couple last few years had robbed Romeo of his eyesight, and their friend no longer saw with his eyes but with his hands instead. He could tell with astounding precision which brother by merely a touch of his shriveled skin, and his occasional seizures could be calmed by Connor and Murphy holding his hands. How a simple gesture could do such wonder was beyond them, but it gave them huge relief that they were able to relieve their last friend of his pain, even just a little. Maybe there’s something holy in you that you never realize after all, Romeo said in one of his rare lucid moments, temporarily free from the clutch of painkillers.

“It’s been one hell of a ride, and I’m glad I’ve stayed with you guys as long as I could.”

With those words Romeo used up his last breath, his hands gone limp and slipping from Connor’s and Murphy’s grips. Their last friend, no more.

They didn’t shed a tear before, during and after Romeo’s Mexican funeral because if they did, Romeo would no doubt rise from his coffin only to laugh his ass off at their ‘being pussies’. Instead the twins brought whiskey and tacos to his grave, pretending for a night that time had rewound a couple of decades, their friend was with them and they could actually taste the delicious burn of chili sauce. Every kind of food tasted like ash on their tongues; only the blood and souls of the sinned possessed flavors. Being blood suckers had its perks like that.

The MacManus twins had started this mission by themselves and from now on they would carry on by themselves; no helpers, no friends, and the least connection to the human world if they could help it. No more blood tears and gut-wrenching pain in the inevitable loss of yet another mortal they’d outlived. Day after day the brothers battled loneliness with their cool skin gliding smoothly against the other’ and with their cold, hard arms wrapped around each other’s lithe form until they were thoroughly washed and cleansed again and again by their powerful twin climaxes. This was the only heaven they could reach as they lay curling around each other like the time they had shared their mother’s womb, and they found solace in their thought that their Da and Ma and their few but precious friends were enjoying eternal peace in the Silver City. One day, they hoped, when it was all over, the Lord would allow them to be reunited with their family and friends.

Without a short notice, apocalypse descended like God’s wrath, only it wasn’t the Beast that brought it but rather an outbreak. No one knew its exact cause, what with numerous unbacked theories floating around, but everyone knew it was deadly and it spread faster than an asteroid plunging into the earth’s atmosphere, and the damage it wrecked was nothing but awe-striking. One day it was peaceful and fine with people swarming the bustling streets just like any other day and the next, the same people were ripping their friends, their family apart with their bare hands, their eyes veiled by an opaque milky sheen, their skin falling off their flesh and soon, their flesh off their bones, and the single force driving their entire being was chomping as much meat, organs and brain as possible, preferably from their own kind. Those who miraculously didn’t get infected by the lethal disease soon found themselves slaughtered and devoured, and what remained of them would join the rapid-growing legion of mindless cannibals.

It was utter chaos that made Lucifer’s domain pale in comparison.

Connor and Murphy had slept over a day, bone-tired after a large-scaled mission, and when they rubbed their cold, sleep-laden eyelids and rose from their shared bed, the world outside their apartment had spiraled into absolute hell. Electricity was cut and the water supply soon followed while the waters in the lakes and river surrounding the city were already contaminated with blood and body parts. Everywhere the brothers went it was practically the same scenario: the buildings burnt and destroyed, the streets littered with bodies piled up, the dead roaming the earth, hunting the few surviving humans. Connor and Murphy managed to save some of them, but even those they’d saved soon succumbed to either the lethal virus lurking in their bloodstream or the severely degraded living conditions of no water and scarce food. Before long the brothers found themselves the only remaining proof of the human society. Oh the irony.

They had prayed to Him the very night the world turned upside down, beseeching His signs, His guidance. Their prayers went unanswered; around them only the incoherent snarling and hissing of the once-humans pervaded the air, His voice unheard, unspoken.

They began to think the Lord had forgotten them, and the human race in general; why else would He allow this catastrophe to happen? Even if there were a second coming of Christ, what would the savior do when there was no one left to save but a pair of God-blessed bloodsuckers? Then after some time, that thought had slowly warped into a belief made more and more concrete with each night passed that it was the Lord’s beckoning them home. They were supposed to destroy evil so that the good may flourish right? Well, take a look around. Was there any evil left? Any good? Everywhere it was the putrefying stench of dead minds that was alienated from both good and evil. Good and evil had both been flung into oblivion, alongside civilization, religion, the human society. They hadn’t seen a soul for such a long, long time they didn’t think they would be able to see through one if they happened to meet one. Starvation couldn’t kill them; no, that would be too generous of it. It gnawed at their insides, sapping their life force, sucking the marrow out of their bones and making them truly feel their age. They became sluggish, lifeless, the ‘Methuselahs’ not much different from the moving corpses surrounding them. They were worn out, body and soul, their faith as dry as their mouths. Hour and hour they asked each other when He would finally allow them their long-awaited retirement.

“If ya ask me,” Connor said, running his right hand absent-mindedly up and down his brother’s forearm, “the flame has certain poetry in it. Imagine our ash scattered in the wind. We could be everywhere. And as a plus, we won’t be worryin’ about our remains becomin’ zombies’ snacks.”

Murphy laughed, feebly. “Now ya wanna build a fuckin’ pyre or somethin’. For all I know, we can barely move our arses from this fuckin’ spot, let alone stand up and gather twigs. Hungrier than Bobby fuckin’ Sands here.”

Connor smacked his twin’s head without any real force, not that he had any left. “Yer fuckin’ retarded when yer hungry, ya know. ‘M not talkin’ about the fuckin’ pyre; ‘m talkin’ about the sun, man.” He flicked a glance at his right wrist, the ornament piece around which glinting as it caught the moonlight. He lifted his other hand, fumbled with the clasp for some seconds before he succeeded. The silver thing dropped to the ground with a clank. “If ya get what I mean.”

Murphy breathed a small laughed and did the same with his own bangle. It landed next to its brother. “The sun it is,” Murphy said. “I wish we had a joint right now. Wouldn’t it be heavenly ta have our last smoke before we’re crisped?”

Connor tsked but he laughed too. “Ya remind me the last time ya fought a horde of zombies fer a pack of cigarette.”

“Fuckin’ worth it. Literally the last pack on earth.” He took a short pause. “Ya think they have cigarette there, where we’re goin’?”

“Smoking might be a sin condemned, depends on where we’re goin’.”

“I hope Ma an’ Da are there,” Murphy whispered, after a while. “An’ Rocco, an’ Greenly, an’ Doc…”

Connor continued, seamlessly, “an’ Dolly, an’ Duffy, Smecker, Eunice, an’ Romeo. I miss them, Murphy. Really miss them.”

“Aye, so do I.”

Connor pulled Murphy’s head down so that his brother’s chin rested on his shoulder while he enveloped Murphy with his body.

“What’re ya doin’?” Murphy bleated, his voice muffled by the thick, coarse material of Connor’s jacket.

“Holdin’ ya like any big brother does.”

“Who appointed ya big brother?”

“C’mon Murph, we both know ‘m tha older one; just look at our sizes. We came ta this world intertwined, we’ll leave it the same, don’ ya think?”

Murphy huffed indignantly but protested no more. “Aye,” he said, clinging to Connor and burying his nose in the crook of his brother’s neck. His twin smelled old. He betted he had the same smell.

“Hey, want me sing ya a lullaby?”

“Fuck that.”

Connor’s frame shook with a laugh. He did not sing though; instead he was humming an old tune they used to hear their Ma singing to herself as she was preparing dinner in the kitchen. Murphy could almost sniff at the aroma of her stew dangling in the air. He had loved it and always asked for second.

With Connor’s humming in this ears, Murphy was lulled into the familiar dream of lush green Irish field, where he and Connor used to run barefooted, sun beams dancing across their naked, sweat-glistening backs.

It was almost comfortable when the first sun ray hit them, like reliving good childhood memories; nonetheless, it didn’t last long. It was hot, unpleasantly hot, and after a couple minutes, it became agonizingly hot. There was smoke rising through their outfits, then the fire started and their intertwined bodies were engulfed in white-hot flame. If they weren’t too busy trying to hold onto each other as they writhed in tremendous pain, they would be amused by how very much they resembled meat on a barbecue. Their skin sizzled, blackened and then burst, revealing the pinkish flesh inside, only to be cooked to a deep brown. The smell was hinting toward charcoal.

Still, the brothers made not a noise. Despite their being roasted alive, their minds were crystal-clear and they felt an odd sense of peace and content spreading along the flame, for they knew their suffering would be short-lived, and what awaited them once they were reduced to ash were the familiar faces of their loved ones, radiating with warmth welcome.

Or so they hoped.

It was as if someone switched the only neon bulb in the room off and darkness instantly took over. One blink ago it was a sun-lit midsummer day and the next, the sky was a solid black. Moonless, starless black. The flame died like a dying ember dumped into water before it finished its job on them. Connor and Murphy looked at each other and if their heavily disfigured faces were still capable of expression, they would both be painted with a look of bewilderment.

A single pillar of light penetrated darkness to bathe their bodies, or what remains of them when the skin and flesh had been melted off. Confused, they tried to crane their necks and looked up, yet it was so blinding that even with their enhanced vision, they saw nothing beside white.

And then His voice poured down on them. They were literally bathing in His words, His command.

Their path had not ended. He still had a mission for them, His Methuselahs.

They hadn’t felt the tears until they stared at each other’s face and noticed the shining red streaks, a stark contrast against their marmoreal skin. Their faces had healed. The light felt like warm liquid, gently submerged them, cradled them. They were in their Ma’s womb again, warm and safe and whole. Their bodies had been restored as they had been on the very night of this immortal existence. As they rose to their feet and stood with their backs straight, their heads up, they were two angels freshly descending on earth: pristine, mighty, divine. His power were coursing through their veins like electricity, changing them, rewiring them, renewing them so that they were once more His chosen servants, fitting to carrying out His assigned task. Not only their flesh but also their minds were revitalized with a flooding sense of purpose, of worth, of hope. Torching like this single pillar penetrating through the eclipsed sky. A hundred years of doubt, of uncertainty, of starvation and fatigue and despair from seeing the world doomed beyond save, washed off, clean. Just like the time in the secret underground church the twins were reborn a second time. From the very threshold of death they came back, stronger than ever, and they were ready to begin their journey anew.

The boys picked up their own bangle and clasped it around their respective wrist. The metal was unmarred, unsoiled and its cool, firm grip gave off reassurance and promise. This time, the Lord had shown them a glimpse of their longed peace. As long as they kept up their good work, the gate of His home would never close for them.

The sun had come up again, promising a humid day. The boys looked at each other and they burst into laughter.

“At least He shouldn’t leave us naked like this,” Connor said. “It’s symbolic, I guess, the rising from ash an’ all, but indecent.”

“Aye,” Murphy agreed, brushing off tiny spots of ash from his shoulders and arms. There was no telling if it was Connor’s ash or his. “Especially when we’re surrounded by such a large audience. Not a really fan of naturalism.”

Connor glanced at the mass of undead forming a tight circle around them but shying from approaching or attacking. Perhaps they were awed by what they had witnessed with their milky eyes, soulless as they were, or they were cautious merely out of primal instinct.

“Remember when I said I’d tell ya when we’re gettin’ low?” Connor asked. “Now we’re really gettin’ low, robbin’ tha dead of their clothes.”

Murphy wrinkled his nose, not trying to mask his disgust. “Jus’ wash ‘em first.” Taking a pause, he then added, “Then we’re goin’ south. Let’s hope one of those junks still work.” He glanced at the abandoned vehicles by the side, paying attention to one particular chopper; he hoped against hope that it wasn’t too broken because he really wanted to ride it. “I’d hate to walk; it’d be a long, long way.”

“Aye, ta south.”

To deep in the south, where the Lord had shown them, where a small yet persevering tribe of humans resided. Those survivalists had banded together to form a community of sort. And that was all the twins needed to know.

Where there were humans, there was good and there was evil.

Where there was evil, there were them. The Saints, the Methuselahs, the Shepherds of God.

Ready to obliterate the bad seeds so that the good may flourish.

End

Note:

Please excuse my attempt to write dialogues with the Irish accent.

I was inspired by the Trinity Blood manga in which vampires are called ‘Methuselahs’. The vampiric traits like silver eyes, pale skin and blood tears are my own inventions though.

[Tiêu Liên] Cún con đi lạc

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Pairings: Thành Tuyết – Diệp Cô Thành x Phó Hồng Tuyết (Lục Tiểu Phụng truyền kỳ x Tân Biên Thành Lãng Tử), Tiêu Liên – Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang x Liên Thành Bích (Tân Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang)

Genres: EG, one-shot, modern AU, breaking the fourth wall

Rating: 10+ (vì 10 là một số an toàn)

Nhân vật: Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, Diệp Cô Thành, Tây Môn Xuy Tuyết, Phó Hồng Tuyết

Chú ý: Hình tượng và tính cách Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang và Liên Thành Bích lấy từ phim truyền hình Tân Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang (2016). Hình tượng và tính cách nhân vật lấy từ phim truyền hình Lục Tiểu Phụng truyền kỳ (2006) với Nghiêm Khoan đóng Diệp Cô Thành và Tân Biên Thành Lãng Tử (2016) với Chu Nhất Long đóng Phó Hồng Tuyết.

Riêng Tây Môn thì không có hình tượng cụ thể.

Preview:

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang tự nhủ hắn uống rất tiết chế (vì Thành Bích nhà hắn ghét mùi rượu bia), trong khi đồng nghiệp đã xỉn quắc cần câu, ý ới gọi điện cho người thân, bạn bè đến rước thì hắn vẫn còn lái xe được. Chẳng lẽ hắn say mà không nhận ra mình say?

Nhưng nếu Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không say thì ai thương tình giải thích hộ hắn chuyện gì đang xảy ra với. Tại sao trước mắt hắn là khuôn mặt của Thành Bích, khác biệt duy nhất là đôi tai đen tuyền nhọn nhọn vểnh lên thay vì đôi tai trắng muốt cụp xuống hắn vẫn thường vuốt.

Và tại sao “Thành Bích” này vừa thấy hắn đã khập khiễng bước tới, hít ngửi rồi… Sao chú mày lại liếm tao?

Phần tiếp theo của Nhân Thú

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang là người yêu chó. Đây là sự thật cả tổ trọng án đều biết. Nếu không phải vì hắn sống trong một căn hộ thuê cấm nuôi bất kỳ thú cưng nào, kể cả cá cảnh, và hắn tương đối (rất)…… lười, có lẽ Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã nuôi hẳn hai, ba con chó cho thỏa niềm yêu thích.

Tất nhiên, đó là trước khi Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang thừa kế căn hộ từ cha nuôi cùng… con thỏ của ông. Di chúc cha nuôi để lại ghi rất rõ, căn hộ khang trang, đầy đủ tiện nghi tọa lạc ở trung tâm thành phố chỉ trở thành vật sở hữu của hắn nếu Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cam kết sẽ chăm sóc chu đáo con thỏ tên Thành Bích và ngàn vạn lần không được sang nhượng nó cho bất cứ ai.

Với một kẻ đã sống nhà thuê giá rẻ từ lúc còn là sinh viên của học viện cảnh sát, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang có thể từ chối khoản thừa kế này sao?

Dĩ nhiên, đã muốn hưởng thừa kế thì phải nghiêm túc thực hiện điều kiện trong di chúc. Thế là một kẻ độc thân đến chăm sóc chính mình đôi khi còn lười như Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã thay đổi một trăm tám mươi độ, không những chăm chỉ trong sinh hoạt hơn mà còn bỏ bớt những cuộc vui tới tận khuya mà khi trước một tuần bảy ngày thì hắn đã chơi hết sáu.

Cơ bản do con thỏ cha nuôi Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang để lại không phải một con thỏ ngốc nghếch chỉ biết gặm dép lê bình thường mà là một Nhân Thú—sinh vật cực kỳ giống người cả về hình thức lẫn trí khôn nhưng không phải người, và chăm sóc Nhân Thú, như mọi chủ sở hữu Nhân Thú đều biết, đòi hỏi nhiều tâm sức hơn chăm sóc một con thú cưng bình thường rất nhiều.

Đã có thể chăm sóc một con thỏ khó chiều như vậy, lại thêm nhà cửa rộng rãi, thông thoáng, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang còn ngại gì mà không nuôi hai, ba con chó như mong ước lúc trước, vừa trông nhà vừa bầu bạn với con thỏ cả ngày hắn đi vắng?

Câu trả lời: Không thể được. Thứ nhất, hiện giờ phần lớn thời gian trong tuần Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đều mang Thành Bích đến nơi làm việc (sếp hắn đã cho phép sau một lần Thành Bích tình cờ giúp tổ phá một vụ trọng án) nên nó chẳng cần bầu bạn. Thứ hai, quan trọng hơn, Thành Bích cực kỳ (in đậm, gạch chân, font chữ to) ghét chó, hễ để nó nhìn thấy chó là thế nào cũng có chuyện, nhẹ thì trầy xước cộng xin lỗi, nặng thì đền tiền thuốc men. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang khẳng định Thành Bích của hắn chắc chắn là một “cao thủ” trong giang hồ của loài thỏ vì mỗi lần “choảng” nhau với chó nhà hàng xóm, bất kể đối phương là chó bull hay bẹc-giê, nó đều chiến thắng oanh liệt mà chẳng bị thương tích lớn nhỏ gì mới đáng nể.

Tóm lại, có Thành Bích thì không có chó, chấm hết.

Quay lại chuyện Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang là người yêu chó. Tuy không thể nuôi chó nhưng không vì thế mà Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang bớt đi tình cảm với động vật bốn chân siêu trung thành, siêu tận tụy này. Chính vì yêu chó nên hắn rất ghét những kẻ ăn thịt hay ngược đãi chó. Có một nơi đặc biệt dưới địa ngục dành riêng cho kẻ đối xử tàn tệ với chó, hắn tâm niệm như vậy.

Và chính vì yêu chó nên ngay lúc này, lửa giận của hắn đang bốc lên đầu.

Trước mắt Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang là một con chó nhỏ chừng bốn, năm tháng tuổi. Toàn thân đen tuyền không có lấy một sợi lông khác màu, nó nằm thoi thóp trên đống rác như hoà làm một với màu đen của bao rác. Khiến Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang phẫn nộ nhất chính là chân sau của nó bị thương khá nghiêm trọng, trường hợp xấu nhất là đã gãy rồi.

Bao rác màu đen, con chó cũng màu đen, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang dù tự tin thị lực 20/20 cũng không nhìn thấy máu. Thế nhưng ánh đèn từ cột đen ngay bên cạnh đống rác đủ để Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang trông thấy chất lỏng loang loáng trên lông nó. Hắn tiến lại gần và nhẹ nhàng sờ lên chân nó. Màu đỏ sậm và mùi tanh tanh đã chứng minh giả thuyết của hắn.

Bị xe đụng, bị những con chó khác tấn công, bị những đứa trẻ xấu tính hay chính chủ nhân của nó hành hạ?

Chó mực, hơn nữa còn là chó mực có bộ lông đen thuần, luôn bị những người mê tín xem là điềm tận xui. Vì vậy, không lạ gì nếu người chủ quyết định vứt bỏ, thậm chí giết chết ngay khi một con chó mực xuất hiện trong lứa đẻ. Từ trước đến giờ Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã nghe không ít câu chuyện thương tâm như vậy. Tuy nhiên, người chủ của sinh vật đáng thương trước mắt hắn đã không vứt bỏ con chó ngay khi nó vừa chào đời mà nuôi nó lớn đến chừng này nhưng vì nguyên nhân nào đó lại ném nó ra đường. Với Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, nuôi một con chó lớn lên, khiến nó quyến luyến hơi ấm con người rồi đang tâm vứt bỏ nó là chuyện càng nhẫn tâm và đáng giận hơn là bỏ nó ngay từ đầu. Nếu biết chủ nhân của con vật đáng thương này là ai, chắc chắn hắn sẽ cho kẻ đó một trận nên thân rồi muốn ra sao thì ra.

Trước khi cơn giận trong lòng kịp nguội, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã thấy mình ôm con chó bị thương trong ngực và đứng trước cửa nhà Diệp Cô Thành.

Tại sao lại là nhà Diệp Cô Thành? Có ba lý do:

Thứ nhất, nơi Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang phát hiện con chó chỉ cách nhà Diệp Cô Thành một dãy phố.

Thứ hai, bây giờ hơn mười giờ đêm, bệnh viện thú y đã đóng cửa, ngoài những ca cấp cứu thì họ không nhận bất cứ trường hợp nào trong khoảng thời gian từ bảy giờ tối đến tám giờ sáng hôm sau. Hơn thế, sau khi xem xét, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hiểu rằng thương tích của con chó tuy không nhẹ nhưng chưa đủ để thành ca cấp cứu.

Thứ ba, Diệp Cô Thành là bác sỹ thú y có tiếng. Không chỉ vậy, tuy bên ngoài lạnh lùng nhưng Diệp Cô Thành có lẽ là bác sỹ duy nhất trong thành phố sẵn lòng nửa đêm rời giường nếu có ca bệnh cần đến mình.

Vì vậy, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cho rằng mang con chó đến nhà Diệp Cô Thành là quyết định sáng suốt nhất trong ngày.

Sau hai hồi chuông, tiếng lách cách mở ổ khoá vang lên và một khuôn mặt xuất hiện sau cánh cửa.

Không phải khuôn mặt của Diệp Cô Thành mà của Tây Môn “đại thần”, con samoyed với tâm hồn một con mèo quý sờ tộc mà Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đã gặp không ít lần.

Nhờ trí thông minh vượt trội, Nhân Thú có khả năng tiếp thu huấn luyện rất tốt và chủ nhân có thể dạy chúng làm một số việc lặt vặt trong nhà. Bằng cách nào đó, Diệp Cô Thành đã huấn luyện cho Tây Môn làm hầu hết việc trong nhà, từ đơn giản như đóng mở cửa, tưới cây cho đến phức tạp như giặt giũ, phơi phóng và dọn dẹp nhà cửa. Lần đầu chứng kiến Tây Môn cầm cây lau nhà, thành thục lau từ trong bếp ra phòng khách, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không khỏi tròn mắt ngạc nhiên, tự hỏi có phải tất cả Nhân Thú đều có thể được huấn luyện như vậy hay Tây Môn là trường hợp siêu đặc biệt, ngàn con có một.

Anh hai, liệu đây có phải lý do anh chưa từng có bạn gái hay không?

Nếu những con chó Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang từng tiếp xúc thường chỉ có hai phản ứng khi thấy người không phải chủ—gầm gừ với người lạ hoặc vồn vã với người quen—thì cả hai Tây Môn đều không có. Như mọi lần, nó chỉ ngó sơ mặt Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhưng khác với mọi lần, thay vì quay lưng đi một mạch vào nhà thì nó nán lại, toàn bộ chú ý hầu như đều dồn vào “vật thể” đen đen Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đang ôm trong lòng. Nó tiến lại gần, đầu hơi nghiêng, đánh hơi chốc lát rồi “tặng” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cái nhìn lạnh nhất hắn từng thấy.

Cần nói thêm rằng Tây Môn đại thần bẩm sinh đã có khuôn mặt lạnh lùng rồi, bây giờ thêm ánh mắt này nữa trông lại càng nguy hiểm; nếu không phải Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang biết rõ đây là thú cưng của anh trai mình và dù có thể không ưa mình nhưng nó sẽ không bao giờ tấn công, hắn đã nghĩ ba mươi sáu kế tẩu là thượng sách (tuy khả năng chạy thoát một con chó kéo xe không cao cho lắm).

“Không phải tao,” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang phân trần, và cảm thấy mình cần làm vậy trước khi Tây Môn đại thần nổi giận “đớp” hắn thật. “Tao nhặt được nó ngoài đường, lúc đó nó đã bị vầy rồi.”

Vẻ mặt Tây Môn không thể hiện nó hiểu được mấy phần Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nói. Nó im lặng đóng cửa, đón lấy con chó con từ Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang rồi đi một mạch vào nhà.

Nhìn nó đối xử với con chó nhỏ, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không khỏi ngạc nhiên. Giờ mới biết Tây Môn có bản tính “cha hiền” đó, trước giờ thấy nó lầm lầm lỳ lỳ, cứ tưởng nó không quan tâm đến thứ gì cả, hoá ra khi gặp đồng loại thì dịu dàng hẳn.

Tất nhiên, nhận định này của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hoàn toàn do hắn chưa thấy Tây Môn tiếp xúc với những đồng loại khác, cụ thể là con pitt bull cách hai căn hay con doberman ở cuối con đường.

Ngay đến Diệp Cô Thành cũng nhướng mày khi Tây Môn mang một con chó con bị thương vào nhà, nhưng vừa thấy Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, vẻ mặt anh liền trở lại bình thường.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang lần nữa cảm thấy mình cần thanh minh, tuy nhiên, Diệp Cô Thành đã lên tiếng trước, “Cậu nhặt được ở đâu?”

Dường như sau lần Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang mang con thỏ hình người đến khám vào ba tháng trước, Diệp Cô Thành không còn thấy lạ nếu em trai sinh đôi xuất hiện trước cửa nhà mình cùng một sinh vật cần đến bàn tay bác sỹ, dù lúc đó là tối khuya đi nữa.

“Con hẻm cách nhà anh một dãy phố,” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đáp. “Em nghĩ giờ này bệnh viện thú y hết làm việc rồi nên mang đến chỗ anh luôn. Anh coi thử xem hình như chân nó bị gì thì phải.”

Nghe vậy, Diệp Cô Thành lập tức buông laptop, đi vào phòng lấy thùng thuốc cá nhân. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhìn bằng ánh mắt thán phục khi chỉ với một động tác ra hiệu từ Diệp Cô Thành, Tây Môn đã thành thục tìm một chiếc khăn lông trải ra sàn, cẩn thận đặt con cún bị thương xuống rồi khoanh chân ngồi cạnh chờ mệnh lệnh tiếp theo.

Không hổ là Tây Môn đại thần.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhìn đồng hồ trên tay, bây giờ là mười giờ mười. Hắn tính mười rưỡi sẽ phải về, hôm nay hắn không đưa Thành Bích đến sở làm mà gửi nhờ luật sư Dương vì từ sáng sớm, Thành Bích đã có biểu hiện chớm cảm. Mặc dù hắn biết luật sư Dương rất hiếm khi lên giường trước mười hai giờ nhưng làm phiền người ta đến giờ này hắn cũng thấy chút áy náy nhưng biết làm sao được, ngoài luật sư Dương, hắn không biết nên nhờ ai. Cũng may con người luật sư Dương nhiệt tình cộng với việc Thành Bích cũng thân với anh ta.

Nhìn lại bên này con chó nhỏ đang được Diệp Cô Thành chăm sóc, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang có chút bối rối. Hắn phải làm gì với nó đây? Giờ đã quá muộn, muốn đưa nó đến trung tâm cứu trợ động vật cũng phải sáng mai, từ giờ tới đó hắn phải để con cún nhở đâu. Đem về nhà thì không được vì Thành Bích không ưa chó, bất kể chó lớn chó nhỏ. Hay lại nhờ đến luật sư Dương? Không phải có lần luật sư Dương từng nói anh ta cũng thích chó và đang có ta định nuôi một con sao? Người thích chó chắc không ngại chó mực đâu nhỉ?

Hơn mười lăm phút sau, Diệp Cô Thành đóng thùng thuốc cá nhân, vuốt vuốt con chó con đã được xử lý vết thương tốt đẹp, đang ngủ ngon lành. “Gãy chân phải sau, may mà cậu đưa đến sớm nên chưa đến mức nhiễm trùng,” Diệp Cô Thành nói. “Nhưng cái chân này có lẽ sẽ thành tật.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang tròn mắt. “What the—thành tật? Không nghiêm trọng thế chứ?”

“Anh hy vọng mình sai nhưng có vẻ là vậy.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang lắc đầu chán nản. “Một con cún bị què chắc khó được nhận nuôi lắm. Em có thể thấy trước cả đời nó sẽ ở lại trung tâm cứu trợ động vật.”

… và chờ đến ngày được ban cái chết nhân đạo.

Đến thế này thì Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cũng không dám tự tin luật sư Dương sẽ muốn nhận nuôi con chó nhỏ. Thích chó và muốn nuôi chó là một chuyện, nhưng đủ tình thương và điều kiện để nuôi một con chó tàn tật là chuyện khác.

“Cậu định đưa nó đến trung tâm cứu trợ động vật?”

“Ngoài nơi đó thì còn nơi nào khác?” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang khó hiểu hỏi lại. “Em không thể bỏ nó lại bãi rác cũng không thể nuôi nó. Nếu Thành Bích không ghét chó thì có lẽ em sẽ nuôi nhưng—”

“Để anh nuôi,” Diệp Cô Thành khẳng định.

“Hả?”

“Anh nuôi con chó này,” Diệp Cô Thành nhắc lại. Ngày mai anh rảnh, tranh thủ đưa nó lên cục đăng ký, tiêm chủng và làm vòng cổ. Có gì lạ sao?”

“Ờ… không,” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đáp. Thật ra hắn chỉ ngạc nhiên vì quyết định nhanh chóng của anh trai mình, chứ được Diệp Cô Thành nhận nuôi thì xem như con chó nhỏ này trong cái rủi vẫn còn không ít may mắn. Nhưng mà…

“Còn Tây Môn?”

“Tây Môn là một trong những lý do anh muốn nhận nuôi con chó này. Cậu nhìn Tây Môn thử xem.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang liếc Tây Môn đang chăm chú quan sát con chó nhỏ say ngủ. “Bình thường Tây Môn cũng ‘thân thiện’ với đồng loại vậy đó hả?”

Diệp Cô Thành cười, nói, “15 lần.”

“15 lần gì?”

“Người nuôi chó trong khu này phàn nàn về Tây Môn. Và trong tương lai chắc sẽ còn nữa.”

Vừa nghe nhắc tên, Tây Môn lập tức rời mắt khỏi con chó nhỏ, lườm chính chủ nhân của mình. Dường như đã quá quen, Diệp Cô Thành làm như không thấy thái độ của Tây Môn. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang chứng kiến toàn bộ cảnh tượng, vừa buồn cười vừa nhớ đến Thành Bích ở nhà. Nhắc đến mới thấy Thành Bích và Tây Môn dù một là thỏ, một là chó mà có mấy điểm giống nhau thế không biết.

Chưa kể cả hai đều trắng bóc từ đầu đến chân nữa.

“Đây là lần đầu tiên Tây Môn tỏ ra quý mến đồng loại từ cái nhìn đầu tiên, chắc chắn sẽ hoà thuận với con chó con này.”

“Anh bận vậy rồi có thời gian chăm sóc một con chó con không?”

Hắn không ngờ anh trai mình thản nhiên đáp, “Tây Môn lo.”

“Vệ sinh tắm rửa?”

“Tây Môn.”

“Dắt đi dạo mỗi ngày?”

“Tây Môn.”

“Ăn uống?”

“Tây Môn.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhìn Tây Môn bằng ánh mắt vừa thán phục vừa nghi ngờ. Anh hai, rốt cuộc là trong nhà này anh nuôi Tây Môn hay Tây Môn nuôi anh?

“Có việc gì Tây Môn không làm được không?”

“Chở đi đăng ký, làm vòng cổ, chích ngừa,” Diệp Cô Thành đáp. “Cậu quan tâm tình hình con chó thì thường xuyên ghé qua. Nếu tôi không có nhà thì vẫn còn Tây Môn.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nghĩ bụng, dù muốn qua thì hắn nhất định phải qua lúc Diệp Cô Thành có nhà. Bảo hắn qua lúc chỉ có Tây Môn á? Ha ha.

Nói vậy chứ lần kế tiếp Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đến nhà Diệp Cô Thành là gần hai tháng sau. Không phải hắn không quan tâm con cún con đã được hắn cứu và tìm cho một mái ấm, chỉ là trong thời gian này hắn bận không kể xiết. Trong thành phố xảy ra án mạng liên hoàn, công việc của tổ hắn bỗng chốc cao như núi, đã vậy tỉnh còn cử thanh tra xuống, ngoài mặt thì nói phụ giúp điều tra nhưng cả sở đều biết thật ra họ đến để giám sát và báo cáo lại. Thanh tra tỉnh xuống cũng ngang ngửa mẹ chồng ghé thăm, thế là các “nàng dâu” của tổ một bên điều tra vụ án, một bên lo “tiếp đãi” thanh tra tỉnh, ai nấy thiếu điều phân ra làm hai mà thôi.

Ấy vậy mà các vị ấy còn phàn nàn chuyện Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang mang thú cưng đến hiện trường vụ án, mãi đến khi chứng kiến khả năng đánh hơi còn nhỉnh hơn chó nghiệp vụ của Thành Bích mới chịu thôi.

Đó là một ngày trời đẹp, thanh tra tỉnh đã ra về, lại thêm vụ án mạng liên hoàn vừa được phá nên sếp đồng ý cho cả tổ về sớm ăn mừng. Sau hai tiếng đồng hồ gào thét khản cổ trong quán karaoke, nhìn đồng hồ vẫn còn chưa muộn nên Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang gọi điện cho Diệp Cô Thành báo hắn sẽ ghé qua. Vừa khéo, hôm nay Diệp Cô Thành cũng có nhà.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhấn chuông cửa, chờ đợi khuôn mặt không thể quen thuộc hơn của Tây Môn đại thần.

Rất nhanh, cửa sắt lạch cạch mở ra và một khuôn mặt xuất hiện.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang sững người hết ba giây, sau đó vội vàng dụi mắt. Đáng tiếc, khuôn mặt hắn nhìn thấy vẫn không thay đổi.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang tự nhủ hắn uống rất tiết chế (vì Thành Bích nhà hắn ghét mùi rượu bia), trong khi đồng nghiệp đã xỉn quắc cần câu, ý ới gọi điện cho người thân, bạn bè đến rước thì hắn vẫn còn lái xe được. Chẳng lẽ hắn say mà không nhận ra mình say?

Nhưng nếu Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không say thì ai thương tình giải thích hộ hắn chuyện gì đang xảy ra với. Tại sao trước mắt hắn là khuôn mặt của Thành Bích, khác biệt duy nhất là đôi tai đen tuyền nhọn nhọn vểnh lên thay vì đôi tai trắng muốt cụp xuống hắn vẫn thường vuốt.

Và tại sao “Thành Bích” này vừa thấy hắn đã khập khiễng bước tới, hít ngửi rồi… Sao chú mày lại liếm tao?

Hành vi giống cẩu ghê! Thành Bích chẳng bao giờ liếm hắn, thỉnh thoảng ngứa răng thì gặm gặm tay hắn thôi. Tay hắn vẫn còn mấy dấu răng để chứng mình đây.

Trong lúc Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang bối rối thì thật may, Tây Môn đại thần đã xuất hiện cứu nguy.

Chưa bao giờ Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang thấy khuôn mặt lạnh lùng của Tây Môn đáng yêu, đáng mong đợi như lúc này.

Tây Môn bước đến… túm cổ áo rồi nhấc Thành Bích-có-hành-vi-giống-cẩu khỏi người Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang bằng một tay, nhẹ nhàng như người ta nhấc một con gấu bông. Động tác này khiến Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nghĩ ngay đến cảnh chó mẹ cắn vào gáy chó con để nhấc chó con lên, chỉ là “chó con” ở đây hơi bự và cao ngang ngửa “chó mẹ” mà thôi.

“Thành Bích” ngoan ngoãn để Tây Môn nhấc lên, chứng tỏ nó quen thuộc với cách đối xử như vậy. Lúc này Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang mới được dịp nhìn kỹ sinh vật giống hệt Thành Bích như anh em sinh đôi (thỏ có anh em sinh đôi không nhỉ?). Không chỉ có đôi tai đen tuyền, nó còn có một cái đuôi xù không ngừng ve vẩy. Và cái đuôi này chắc chắn không phải đuôi thỏ.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nghĩ đến con chó nhỏ hắn nhặt được cách đây ít lâu và không khó để cộng 1 với 1 thành 2.

Diệp Cô Thành xác nhận phỏng đoán của hắn khi cả ba bước vào nhà.

“Hai tuần trước,” Diệp Cô Thành nói. “Một tối anh về nhà thì không thấy con chó nhỏ chạy ra như thường lệ, cậu có thể đoán được phần còn lại.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhìn con chó nhỏ (chó lớn rồi chứ nhỉ, trông có nhỏ đâu) ngồi xuống cạnh Diệp Cô Thành. Tuy bước thấp bước cao nhưng nó không để chút khuyết tật đó cản trở tốc độ trở về bên chủ. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang cảm thấy mình không hề sai khi nghĩ chó là động vật đáng yêu nhất thế giới.

Ầy, nếu Thành Bích biết được chắc chắn nó sẽ không vui đâu.

“Nó cứ vậy biến thành người à? Không có dấu hiệu gì báo trước?” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hỏi.

“Trước đó nó ngủ nhiều hơn, cũng ăn ít hơn. Nhưng mỗi Nhân Thú có biểu hiện khác nhau. Lúc trước cậu có để ý con thỏ của cậu không?”

“Lúc em gặp nó, nó đã biến xong xuôi rồi,” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đáp, nhún vai. “Em được thừa kế nó từ cha nuôi mà.”

Nói rồi Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đưa tay về phía con chó với ta định xoa đầu nó. Nó là chó mà, phải không? Xoa đầu chó chắc là không bị “cạp” đâu nhỉ?

Con chó híp mắt, dụi dụi đầu vào tay Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang. Không chỉ tai mà tóc nó cũng rất mềm, khi sờ rất giống tóc Thành Bích.

Thêm một gạch đầu dòng nữa trong danh sách những điểm giống nhau giữa con chó và Thành Bích.

“Sao nó giống Thành Bích vậy nhỉ? Một con là thỏ, một là chó mà.”

“Có lẽ vì kho ADN của Nhân Thú không phong phú lắm, anh từng gặp một số ca khác loài nhưng rất giống nhau. Thậm chí anh từng thấy một con scottish fold giống Tây Môn.”

“Scottish fold?”

“Giống mèo tai gập của Scotland,” Diệp Cô Thành giải thích.

“Và nhìn giống Tây Môn?!” Chẳng trách Tây Môn đại thần giống miêu hơn giống cẩu.

Diệp Cô Thành gật đầu, đồng thời nhón một miếng bánh quy hình khúc xương (chắc chắn không phải thức ăn cho người) từ chiếc tô lớn trên bàn, mớm cho con cún. Con cún cười híp mắt, vui vẻ đón nhận. Diệp Cô Thành cười nhẹ, lại nhón một miếng nữa. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhìn một chủ một thú bằng ánh mắt ngạc nhiên pha lẫn tò mò. Dù là em sinh đôi của Diệp Cô Thành nhưng hắn cực hiếm khi thấy khuôn mặt ông anh mình xuất hiện một thứ gần giống với nụ cười chứ đừng nói đến nụ cười thật sự. Hắn nhớ mang máng ngày xưa cha hắn cũng vậy, trầm mặc, ít nói ít cười, chỉ có mẹ hắn là xởi lởi, hoạt bát; hắn thừa hưởng tính cách này từ mẹ. Vậy mà bây giờ nhìn xem Diệp Cô Thành đang cười kìa, nụ cười còn rất ấm áp nữa. Hắn bắt đầu tin những gì người ta nói về anh hắn là đúng, về việc Diệp Cô Thành hứng thú với động vật hơn hẳn con người. Nhưng, nếu vậy cũng lạ, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nghĩ, trước giờ hắn có thấy Diệp Cô Thành biểu lộ như vậy với Tây Môn đâu, ít nhất là những lúc hắn có mặt ở đây để chứng kiến.

Hắn nhìn sang Tây Môn—đang ngồi trước màn hình tivi với một tô bánh quy bên cạnh (và phải tô màu trắng mới chịu). Chắc vì con samoyed này cũng lạnh lùng y hệt anh hắn chăng?

Một tổ hợp kỳ lạ, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhìn cả ba và nghĩ, và theo cách nào đó, khá là hợp tình hợp lý.

“Chủ con cún này mà biết mình đã vứt bỏ một Nhân Thú chắc là tiếc đến mức muốn nhảy đường cao tốc.”

Diệp Cô Thành cười. “Trái với suy nghĩ của nhiều người, thật ra vẫn có những người không thích Nhân Thú, bằng không đã không tồn tại chợ Nhân Thú.”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang tròn mắt. “Có hả?”

“Hợp pháp và tấp nập,” Diệp Cô Thành đáp.

“Có phải hồi trước anh định nói em bán Thành Bích ở đó không?”

Diệp Cô Thành không thừa nhận cũng không phủ nhận. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang thầm cảm ơn trời vì lúc đó hắn không nghe theo Diệp Cô Thành.

… và vì di chúc của cha nuôi hắn nữa.

“Nó có tên chứ hả?”

Vừa nói Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang vừa chỉ con chó nhỏ. Điều khiến hắn không ngờ là mặc dù nãy giờ quấn lấy chủ nhưng vừa được gọi, nó liền nhích tới gần hắn, khoé miệng treo nụ cười đáng yêu giống hệt Thành Bích.

Có khi Thành Bích sẽ không ghét con cún này, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang xoa đầu con cún, nghĩ, có khi nó còn tưởng nhầm là bà con của mình cũng nên.

“Cái tên lạ nhỉ?” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nhìn dòng chữ khắc trên vòng tay nhận dạng của con chó, nói. “Sao anh đặt tên nó là ‘Hồng Tuyết’?”

Như để trả lời câu hỏi của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, tiếng nói, hay nói là tiếng hét mới đúng, đặc biệt lớn:

“Phó Hồng Tuyết, ngươi tưởng làm vậy là chuộc được tội của ngươi sao? Ta cả đời không bao giờ tha thứ cho ngươi đâu!”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang ngoái đầu lại, vừa kịp thấy cảnh nhân vật nữ trên màn hình cầm đại đao đâm thẳng vào ngực nhân vật nam. Hắn không nhịn được xuýt xoa, một phần nhỏ vì tội nghiệp nhân vật nam bị đâm (chắc là thốn lắm), một phần lớn hơn nhiều vì diễn xuất quá… ba chấm của diễn viên nữ. Hắn nghĩ, cảnh này lẽ ra phải căng thẳng lắm, nhiều cảm xúc lắm (cả nhạc lâm ly bi đát cũng bật lên rồi kìa) nhưng sao nhìn tới nhìn lui trọng tâm của cảnh, tức nhân vật nữ kia, hắn chỉ cảm thấy hết sức… đậu xanh rau má. Nét mặt và nước mắt giàn giụa của cô nàng dường như đang ra sức chứng minh chúng không thuộc về nhau. Chẳng lẽ cô nàng nghĩ chỉ cần đọc lời thoại không vấp và làm đúng động tác là xem như “nailed it” rồi?!

Lâu nay Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không xem phim truyền hình, không lẽ dạo này tình tình phim truyền hình đã bết bát đến mức có diễn viên như thế? Chỉ cần ưa mắt một chút thì bất kể diễn xuất cỡ nào cũng lên được màn ảnh?

Kinh dị hơn chính là Diệp Cô Thành xem phim này?! Diệp Cô Thành, với IQ trên ba chữ số, chịu được khả năng diễn xuất dưới trung bình như thế?!

Một trong những thói quen của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang là hễ não nghĩ đến điều gì, điều đó thỉnh thoảng chạy ngay xuống miệng. “Anh xem phim này à?” hắn hỏi.

“Tây Môn xem,” Diệp Cô Thành đáp tỉnh queo. “Khi rảnh anh ngó qua một chút.”

“Tây Môn? Xem ngôn tình?”

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không nhạc nhiên vì Tây Môn xem tivi—Thành Bích ở nhà cũng xem suốt; hắn chỉ sửng sốt vì thể loại thôi. Hắn tưởng tượng thể loại phim yêu thích của Tây Môn phải là phim kinh dị hay torture porn chứ.

(Nhân tiện, chương trình tivi ưa thích của Thành Bích là Master Chef. Và không, con thỏ nhà hắn chỉ thích ăn, không thích nấu.

Nhân Thú nhà người ta (Tây Môn).)

“Chính xác thì là phim kiếm hiệp,” Diệp Cô Thành nói, “nhưng dạo gần đây cũng không mấy khác biệt.”

Ừm……. nói vậy nghĩa là Diệp Cô Thành có xem phim truyền hình, bộ não của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang tự đi đến kết luận. Bệnh nghề nghiệp.

Trên màn hình, nhân vật nữ ban nãy đang nhìn nhân vật nam bị lăn qua bàn chông… Phim truyền hình này rating bao nhiêu vậy, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang ái ngại nghĩ.

Một lần nữa, cái tên “Phó Hồng Tuyết” lại cất lên, hay nói chính xác hơn là được gào lên bởi nhân vật nữ kia.

“Anh đặt tên cho con cún theo phim à?”

“Ừ.”

“Sao lại là tên này?”

“Thấy nó hay.”

“Còn Tây Môn?” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang hỏi, nhìn qua Tây Môn—vẫn đang nhìn tivi, hoàn toàn không để ý đến đoạn hội thoại diễn ra sau lưng. “Không phải Tây Môn Khánh chứ?” Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nghi ngờ hỏi lại.

“Tây Môn Xuy Tuyết,” Diệp Cô Thành trả lời.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không muốn hỏi đó là nhân vật phim gì.

Vấn đề Thành Bích nhà hắn và Hồng Tuyết nhà Diệp Cô Thành khi gặp nhau có hoà thuận hay không thì hạ hồi phân giải, chỉ biết rằng tối đó về nhà, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không những không được đón chào nồng nhiệt như mọi lần mà còn bị Thành Bích lạnh nhạt và “lơ” đẹp hệt như hồi cả hai mới sống chung.

Lý do? Vì ai đó hôm nay dành hơi nhiều thời gian chơi với cún cưng của anh trai nên mang theo mùi “cẩu” về đến nhà đó mà.

Kết thúc

Viết xong từ lâu nhưng ngâm dấm đến bây giờ mới post ~.~