[Cherik] Caught

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: X-Men: Movieverse

Rating: from K+ to M

Pairing: Cherik – Erik Lehnsherr x Charles Xavier

Genres: Fanfiction, slash, alternate universe

Characters: Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), Charles Xavier (Professor X), Henry Phillip “Hank” McCoy (Beast), Raven (Mystique) etc.

Warnings: violence, (probably) sexual contents, etc.

Summary: A collection of short stories centered around the relationship of Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) and Charles Xavier (Professor X). Set in alternate universes (expect ghosts, mythical creatures, vampires, werewolves, etc.)


First story of Cherik Fantasy AU


Erik had expected, with joy budding in his bosom, an excellent catch as he pulled up the net. Through the rope he felt a formidable weight and, for a passing second, he thought the thick rope might give away under the strain. It could very well be his heaviest catch in this year, and anticipation swelled in his chest and fueled the strength in his arms, tanned and scarred by years of fighting and hardship.

Once the net landed on the deck with low thud, Erik’s eyes were wide with surprise as he caught sight of what had been lured into his net.

There was an ancient superstition that an encounter with those creatures when you were sailing far from land was an omen, whether good or bad still remained to be seen but the sheer act in itself was close to a miracle. During his years of fighting in the sea, Erik had acquainted with those stories, often by overhearing the old seafarers and fishermen sharing their seemingly never-ending anecdotes with the young men on board, green, wide-eyed and impressionable, who eagerly absorbed those tales as though air to breath, a means to ward off soul-crushing boredom when battles were scarce and catches were scarcer. But Erik, both atheistic and skeptical, tended to dismiss those stories as old wives’ tales. He believed in sea monsters, yes, those giant octopi that could sink a ship with their tentacles, humongous fish that could swallow a vessel whole, or those vicious sharks that were keen to blood as hounds to games, but sirens, selkies and merfolk? He found himself involuntarily and indignantly scoffing whenever someone in his hearing proximity claimed, swore even, to have seen one. Still, as he was now, witnessing with his own eyes a living, writhing proof of the supernatural, he felt a sudden urge to bite his tongue and curse in all the languages he could speak as what was before his eyes demolished every brick of his body of beliefs.

What Erik had thought to be a particularly big fish turned out to be less fish and more – more of what, he was at loss for a word to describe, for the initial word to roll at the tip of his tongue was ‘human’, and he refused with his every fiber of his being to accept this creature as his kind. Yet, no matter how much in denial he was, the visible truth remained that this deep-sea specimen was every bit a man as he was, at least from his waist up.

Perhaps a little too beautiful to be considered a man. Ethereal. The word slipped mentally before he had a chance to stop it.

From his waist up, it – no, he, should he be addressed as ‘he’ – possessed the torso of a typical man – flat but firm chest and waist so slender it could fit right into Erik’s hands. There was not a single blemish in his skin, pearly white and smooth as the inner side of a seashell. It was glistening as droplets of seawater freely rolled down his naked collarbone and chest like silver pellets, further amplifying his unearthly presence. But the semblance to human ended just a couple inches below his navel, where skin gradually receded to give way for cyanic scales to cover a huge fishtail, complete with large fins dyed in the same mesmerizing color. Under the moonlight, the scales glittered like they were made of fine crystal and probably cost more than sapphire stones, considering they came from something as unreal and mystical as a merman. Erik found his hand move on its own accord, yearning to touch them, to feel their shapes, their texture. He gritted his teeth, fighting hard the temptation, and losing by the seconds.

“Oh, do touch them, my friend, since you look so devastatingly tempted. I don’t particularly mind a grubby hand or two.”

Erik’s hand halted in the air as if frozen, his inside shuddered as he sucked in a cold breath upon being spoken to out of the blue. Did the merman just speak to him? He stared at the glossy ruby lips, which had curved into a half-smile like the creature could read his confusion, and perhaps appall, if it wasn’t already written all over his sea-kissed face. His eyes, impossibly blue and glowing like some sort of electrifying liquid in a magician’s glass tube, bored into Erik’s own with such queer and chilling intensity that the young seafarer’s instinct was begging him to avert his gaze lest himself be bewitched into diving headfirst into the inky ocean like many a tale had predicted. His whole body went rigid with tension.

“What are you?” Erik asked, and was immediately hit with a pang of shame at how retarded it sounded. Of course he knew very well what this specimen was; still, his befuddled state could be excused on account of his shock. It was not every day a merman was trapped in his net and spoke to him in such casual manner as though they were indeed old friends.

The smile deepened, bordering to transform into a smirk, which was infuriating and unsettling at the same time. Were all merfolk this disturbingly calm in capture? Did they not possess the slightest clue of what a fate might befall them at the hands of humans? Or simply what humans deemed common sense entirely evaded their alien brains? Erik couldn’t tell as his knowledge of this species was sorely limited to verbal stories woven by a combination of unverified facts, imagination and ale-loosen minds.

“Oh, can you not tell by your human eyes, because I believe the evidence is abundant? Also, I am definitely not wearing any glamor,” the creature replied mockingly, his voice laden with a hint of chuckle, grating Erik’s nerve. His fingers, pale and spidery, hooked the net as he continued, his voice rising a notch. “Congratulations, human, for you’ve managed to capture the rarest and most elusive creature of the ocean. Now, what are you going to do?”

Frankly, Erik was at a loss for an answer. He had thrown the net with a simple intention to catch some fresh food for his crew; they had been putting up with tasteless cured meat that required more effort to chew than acceptable and hard, dried gourds and pumpkins for almost two weeks. The men were getting cranky and morale was low, which something fresh and less bland might help improve. But as fate would have it, what had turned in his net proved to be entirely inedible.

“I can offer a couple suggestions, if you don’t mind.” God, here he opened his damnable mouth again, and with a sing-song tone no less. “You could hold an auction and make a fortune for yourself, enough to allow you to live your life with abandonment until you’re grey and wrinkled. As far as I’m concerned, there are always plenty of souls willing to pay a dear price for a half-man, half-fish thing. Or, alternatively, you could consume my flesh and achieve the single thing mankind has yearned most.”

“And what is that?” Erik asked incredulously, though he had a vague idea what it could be.

A sharp glint flashed his eyes, too wicked to not be missed. He licked his lips swiftly and breathed, “Immortality, my friend.”

The words came out soft as a whisper, heavily laced with seduction. For a second, Erik was almost fooled into believing that the merman was engaging in pillow talk with his lover and not with a human whose stomach he had just fondly suggested to be his final destination. Erik shuddered, being reminded of those tales in which men were seduced to their untimely and often gruesome deaths by a merfolk’s enchanting voice. His hands trembling ever slightly, he felt sweats beading at the nape of his neck in spite of the winds howling.

“I don’t need eternity,” Erik curtly replied, his voice shaking. “Nor do I desire it.”

“Do you?” mocked the merman.

It was the truth. The idea of living on forever he had never entertained, not even in his idle hours spent sharpening and polishing his sword on the deck. Erik was a man of the present, who neither dwelled in the past nor fantasized about the future, and at the present he had a clear, definite goal for which he was ready, willingly to give everything he had. He didn’t really see past that goal because Erik Lehnsherr didn’t see himself coming out of it alive. Not that he would mind, though.

So no, there was no place in his mind for such a flimsy notion as immortality, especially when it was proposed by a member of the merpeople, whose trickery and whimsical nature were legendary.

“I don’t,” came his ultimate reply.

The ruby lips pouted and disappointment veiled the beautiful face – it was hard to tell if this expression was genuine or a mere act. “Then, what shall you do with me when you’re quite adamant about not getting my most precious prize?”

What should he do with him? Erik quickly turned the question in his head. He had no intention to eat him – just a thought was enough to make his stomach churn, and he wasn’t going to make a fortune auctioning this singular creature – money was right next to immortality on his priority list. What he could do before everyone else on this ship found out about this quaint visit was to treat him the same way Erik and his crew would a poisonous crawfish or a fish so hideous it would be a crime to their eyes.

“Does your kind always have this habit of babbling nonsense?” Erik asked as his hands deftly untangled the next.

Erik half expected a dry remark from that pretty mouth; what he got was a look of surprise and forlornness that flashed across his countenance and dispersed so quickly he nearly mistook it for imagination. There were moist in his eyes as he shook his head. “I wouldn’t know,” the merman said, “for I have never in my life encountered another one of my kind.”

Erik’s eyebrows arched but made no comment, focusing on his task at hands. The net yielded effortlessly, leaving the merman free.

“What are you doing?”

Erik certainly did not imagine the low, undignified yelp when he lifted the creature in his arm and walked to the hull. He was heavier than he looked and Erik fathomed most of the weight was the lower body. Briefly, a grotesque thought of separating the man part and the fish one manifested in his mind, bringing him an unexpected chill. He took in a deep breath to clear his head and calmed himself before unceremoniously dumping the merman into the ocean below.

A loud splash but fortunately, no one seemed to be bothered enough to go and check. Erik heaved a sigh of relief and was already turning on his heels to return to his cabin when a melodious voice rang in his ears again.

“You’re a strange man indeed.”

The merman was staring him with those glowing blue orbs of his, a cheeky grin plastering on his youthful face.

He looked frighteningly like a human lad who had just won a bet.

“Go,” Erik commanded, exasperated, “to wherever you came from. Others might not spare you like I did should you get caught in their nets.”

“Thank you,” he said, his tone soft, free of mockery. “And goodbye, Erik.”

“How did you—”

The merman tapped a finger to his temple, winking at Erik. “We shall meet again, my friend,” he promised, before diving to the murky water, leaving Erik to contemplate his words.

TBC


This short story is inspired by a fanart featuring a merman Charles.

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Source: Abbitr (Twitter)

This merman storyline may or may not continue.

[Siegfried x Karna] Không phải công chúa cần được cứu (1)

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Disclaimer: Nhân vật thuộc về những người đã tạo ra họ

Fandom: Fate/Grand Order; Fate/Apocrypha

Rating: K

Pairing(s): Siegfried x Karna

Genres: fanfiction, AU (tức ai không biết gì về Fate/Grand Order và Fate/Apocrypha cũng có thể đọc), hài

Characters: Karna, Siegfried, Arjuna, có nhắc đến Kunti

Summary:

Arjuna có một người mà cậu cần giải cứu khỏi nanh vuốt của con rồng hung ác. Bạn có thể nghĩ người đó chắc chắn là một công chúa bởi vì chuyện cổ tích vẫn thường đi theo hướng đó. Theo nhiều cách thì đây đúng là một câu chuyện cổ tích, và Arjuna là một hoàng tử trẻ tuổi, đẹp trai, dũng cảm (đừng hiểu lầm, tôi không phải fan cậu ta đâu!). Thế nhưng, ngay cả khi đã hạ gục con rồng hung ác, cậu nhất định không có được cái kết hạnh phúc mãi mãi về sau. Vì sao á? Bởi vì người cậu muốn cứu không phải công chúa cần được cứu.

Summary viết tối nghĩa quá? Vậy thì đọc truyện đi là hiểu ngay ấy mà.


Bản tiếng Anh: Đây


Câu chuyện diễn ra như thế này: Một Hoàng Tử trẻ tuổi, anh tuấn cưỡi trên lưng chiến mã đáng tin cậy vượt qua muôn trùng sông núi. Bao nhiêu chướng ngại hiểm nguy chàng đã chinh phục trước khi đến được hang ổ của Con Rồng Hung Ác. Tại đây, Hoàng Tử dũng cảm chiến đấu với Con Rồng Hung Ác trong một trận chiến đáng ghi thành sử thi kéo dài nhiều ngày và cuối cùng, chàng đã hạ gục nó. Kiệt sức nhưng hân hoan, chàng hiên ngang tiến tới trước mặt nàng Công Chúa Xinh Đẹp và cầu hôn nàng. Sau đó, họ sống hạnh phúc bên nhau mãi mãi…

Arjuna là người anh hùng của câu chuyện đó. Đúng, cậu là một hoàng tử, một hoàng tử trẻ tuổi và anh tuấn trong tương lai không xa sẽ thừa kế ngôi báu từ hoàng mẫu và cai trị toàn vương quốc. Đúng, cậu đã vượt qua muôn trùng sông núi, đã chiến đấu với bệnh sốt rét ác nghiệt và những đàn muỗi khát máu, đã chinh phục những hiểm nguy không thể kể ra để quyết đấu với con rồng hung ác (không cần viết hoa đâu, cảm ơn). Đúng, cậu cần giải thoát một người khỏi nanh vuốt của con rồng và đưa về vương quốc của mình.

Câu chuyện của cậu vốn nên diễn ra như thế, trừ việc trên thực tế, nó đã đi theo một hướng khác do hai thay đổi lớn. Đầu tiên, cậu không đến giải cứu một công chúa xinh đẹp mà là một hoàng tử tuấn tú. Và trước khi máu shipper của các bạn chạy rần rần vô số viễn cảnh (đầy kích thích) thì ‘hoàng tử tuấn tú’ đó là anh trai cùng mẹ của cậu. Được rồi, có lẽ đó là fetish của một số thành phần fangirl ngoài kia nhưng thôi, mình sẽ không bàn đến việc đó. Lớn hơn Arjuna tám tuổi, vị hoàng tử đó lẽ ra là người thừa kế ngai vị, và từ nhỏ anh đã được nuôi dưỡng và dạy dỗ với mục đích này, nhưng đó là trước khi một việc không may xảy đến.

Ký ức về cái ngày định mệnh đó vẫn còn rất mới trong tâm trí Arjuna mặc dù khi ấy cậu chỉ là một nhóc tì bảy tuổi thò lò mũi xanh. Và có lẽ cho đến cuối đời, cậu vẫn không thể xoá nhoà nó.

Sự việc diễn ra quá nhanh và quá đột ngột đến nỗi tất cả những gì hoàng tử bé là cậu có thể làm là trân mắt nhìn và há hốc miệng, lý trí vỡ vụn và tản mác trong cơn gió nhẹ lẽ ra đã xoa dịu dù chỉ chút ít cơn nóng hừng hực của mùa hè. Cậu đang đi đến đại thượng uyển để khoe với anh trai cung thuật của mình đã tiến bộ đến mức nào kể từ lần trước – cậu vốn vừa ngưỡng mộ và vừa ganh tỵ với tài bắn cung của anh mà – thì một cái bóng khổng lồ sượt qua đầu cậu và che khuất mặt trời. Cả người đông cứng vì sợ hãi, hoàng tử bé đứng chôn chân tại chỗ, trong đầu chỉ có một suy nghĩ đang chạy loạn là một mảng lớn bầu trời đã rơi xuống. Rồi, ở rìa tầm mắt của cậu, cái bóng đáp xuống và hiện ra một con quái vật khổng lồ. Cơ thể nó được bao bọc trong lớp vảy đen như hắc diệu thạch, lấp lánh dưới ánh mặt trời, cặp mắt của nó là lửa hoá lỏng và khói toả ra từ hai lỗ mũi trong khi cái đuôi dài và to bằng cả người Arjuna đang đập xuống mặt đất theo một nhịp điệu nhàn rỗi. Không nghi ngờ gì, cả khu đại thượng uyển sẽ bị thiêu rụi chỉ với một hơi thở của nó. Ajuna đã kinh hãi đến mức ý thức về môi trường xung quanh dường như vụt tắt và cậu không hề nhận ra là con quái vật đã quắp anh trai cậu bằng móng vuốt – đủ to lớn để hoàn toàn che phủ anh – rồi vỗ cánh bay đi. Chỉ khi những tiếng kêu thét của lính gác và người hầu ném cung điện vào sự hỗn loạn thì cậu cuối cùng mới thoát khỏi trạng thái tê liệt nhận thức.

Hoàng mẫu đã khóc cạn nước mắt nhiều ngày liền, từ bỏ mọi hy vọng rằng đứa con đầu lòng có thể sống sót vượt qua khỏi số mệnh ác độc nhường ấy, nhưng Arjuna không hề nhỏ một giọt nước mắt từ ngày hôm đó về sau. Hai hốc mắt cậu ráo hoảnh, hy vọng rằng bằng cách nào đó Karna vẫn còn sống đong đầy trái tim thơ dại và quyết tâm của cậu trở nên vững chắc: sẽ có ngày cậu tiêu diệt con rồng quỷ quái đó và cứu thoát Karna, đưa anh trở về. Quyết tâm vững như bàn thạch đó tiếp sức cho nỗ lực không ngơi nghỉ trong việc rèn giũa cung thuật để rồi trong vòng tám năm, toàn vương quốc đã không còn ai có thể sánh ngang cậu. Đến khi bước vào tuổi trưởng thành, cậu còn không tìm nổi một đối thủ ngang tầm nào ở các vương quốc láng giềng. Và như thế, cậu nghĩ mình đã sẵn sàng.

Bao nhiêu nước mắt lẫn doạ dẫm sẽ từ và tước bỏ quyền thừa kế ngai vàng từ hoàng mẫu đều không thể lung lay quyết tâm bước vào hành trình hiểm nguy đến hang ổ con rồng bị nguyền rủa của hoàng tử trẻ tuổi.

Nhiều đêm nằm dưới tán lá dày, Arjuna có rất nhiều thời gian để hình dung nhiều viễn cảnh trong tâm trí chập chờn, không thể đi vào giấc ngủ. Cậu tưởng tượng trận chiến với con rồng kéo dài suốt nhiều ngày mà không đến được kết cục, trong đó không ít lần cậu bị đẩy tới bờ vực cái chết. Cậu tưởng tượng chiến thắng khó khăn sau cùng nhờ một tia may mắn, và bản thân cậu, dù mỏi mệt và tả tơi nhưng vẫn gom đủ sức mạnh vào đôi chân rã rời để chạy đến bên anh trai, người tuy gầy gò và ốm yếu nhưng bằng phép màu nào đó vẫn còn sống sau mười năm bị giam giữ. Cậu tưởng tượng mình sẽ ôm lấy thân hình chỉ còn da bọc xương ấy, úp mặt vào bộ ngực gồ lên những giẻ xương sườn rồi để mười năm nước mắt bị kiềm nén được tự do tuôn trào. Cậu tưởng tượng mình bại trận, một kết cục không thể tránh khỏi mà cậu đã biết trước nhưng không hề trông chờ do khát vọng cháy bỏng muốn giải cứu Karna và sự tự mãn của kẻ trần tục vào cung thuật của mình. Cậu tưởng tượng mình bị ngọn lửa của con rồng thiêu sống, tiếng kêu thét đơn độc của cậu xuyên thấu trời cao trong khi anh cậu chỉ đành đứng một bên nhìn niềm hy vọng vừa nhen nhóm đã bị dập tắt. Thậm chí cậu còn tưởng tượng mình đặt chân đến hang rồng sau muôn vàn gian khổ không kể xiết dọc đường để rồi phát hiện ra Karna đã rời bỏ thế giới từ lâu, và tất cả những lao luyện bấy nhiêu năm qua đều hoàn toàn vô nghĩa. Cậu hình dung sự tuyệt vọng sau đó sẽ hút sạch toàn bộ của cậu cho đến khi cậu chỉ còn là một cái vỏ rỗng mang hình người.

Trong tất cả viễn cảnh cậu đã dựng lên rồi phá bỏ để nhào nặn lại cái mới trong đầu, điều cậu nhìn thấy sau khi leo đến đỉnh của dãy núi đá không thuộc số đó. Thời gian dường như xoay ngược về ngày cậu chứng kiến Karna bị bắt, và hoàng tử trẻ tuổi, anh dũng bỗng chốc bị thay thế bằng nhóc tì bảy tuổi run rẩy, bất lực không thể làm gì ngoài việc trân mắt nhìn anh mình bị mang đi. Bên tay trái cậu là vực sâu không thấy đáy, và Arjuna cảm thấy trái tim cậu cũng rơi tọt xuống đấy rồi. Dũng khí lẫn ý chí chiến đấu của cậu đều bị cuốn trôi tuột đi, khiến cậu giống như một cái bao rỗng sau khi gạo đã tràn hết ra ngoài.

Arjuna đang thấy gì mà lại có phản ứng cực đoan như thế?

Cậu đang thấy anh cậu, Karna. So với trí nhớ của cậu, Karna đã trưởng thành hơn – đó là tất nhiên – và cơ thể anh cũng phát triển hơn, với những thớ cơ bắp như được đẽo gọt từ bàn tay thợ khéo lộ ra nơi y phục, trông đôi chút rách và phai màu, không che phủ. Gương mặt anh đã bỏ đi vẻ bụ bẫm trẻ con và có những đường nét rõ ràng hơn, xương quai hàm sắc cạnh hơn còn gò má thì nổi bật hơn. Karna trong ký ức của Arjuna rất đẹp và vẻ đẹp của anh vẫn luôn giẫm lên đường phân chia mỏng manh của giới tính, khiến anh trở thành đối tượng của cả khao khát lẫn ghen tỵ. Không dưới vài lần Arjuna nghe được các quan lại thì thầm với nhau rằng gương mặt của Karna thiếu hẳn những nét uy nghiêm của bậc quân vương tương lai, rằng sẽ tuyệt diệu biết bao nếu anh sinh ra là một công chúa thay vì hoàng tử. Khiến Arjuna muốn cắm một mũi tên vào mấy cái đầu đặc sệt thiếu tôn trọng ấy mỗi lần cậu nghe được. Karna nhất định sẽ trở thành một vị vua tuyệt vời và công bằng, người nhìn thấu mọi lời dối gạt, xu nịnh của bọn quan lại như thể chúng được che giấu bằng một chiếc hộp thủy tinh. Không gì có thể khiến Arjuna thay đổi suy nghĩ đó.

Điều gây nên nỗi ngạc nhiên lớn nhất chính là Karna đang cười. Không phải nụ cười khép miệng lịch sự mà người ta biết anh vẫn dùng với tất cả mọi người trong cung điện, cả hoàng mẫu cũng không ngoại lệ; đây là nụ cười không gò bó, để lộ hàm răng hoàn hảo như những viên ngọc trai của anh. Và âm thanh nữa… Arjuna chẳng nhớ ra được có dịp nào mình được nghe âm thanh du dương như thế. Những bức tường cao vút của cung điện cấm đoán âm thanh đó và đập tan nó trước khi nó có cơ hội được ai đó nghe thấy.

Lẽ ra cậu phải vô cùng sung sướng khi thấy anh mình còn sống, khỏe mạnh và hoàn toàn trưởng thành. Lẽ ra cậu phải phóng đến bên Karna, ôm lấy anh và nói cho anh biết rằng thật may mắn làm sao vì cuối cùng cậu đã tìm được anh, rằng cậu sẽ đưa anh về nhà và khôi phục quyền thừa kế ngôi báu của anh, và rằng sự sống sót diệu kỳ của anh sẽ được vô vàn thi sĩ ngợi ca để nó trường tồn hàng trăm, hàng ngàn năm và hơn nữa. Cậu không hề làm vậy; thay vào đó, Arjuna đứng sững như một pho tượng đá, chỉ có đôi mắt còn sống và chuyển động để quan sát anh cậu đang được cánh tay lực lưỡng của một người đàn ông ôm trọn. Không phải một người. Quan sát kỹ, Arjuna không thể nào bỏ sót cặp sừng cong, nhọn hoắt trổ ra từ mái tóc bạc hoang dã. Cậu cũng nhận thấy những mảng vảy đen lấp lánh rải rác trên làn da trần cùng cái đuôi dài, lớn quấn quanh cổ chân Karna theo một cách gần như là mang tính sở hữu. ‘Gần như’ là do cái đuôi không đóng vai trò một cái cùm để ngăn anh cử động. Nó co lại rồi duỗi ra, di chuyển lên và xuống bắp chân Karna, mô phỏng một bàn tay để vuốt ve và khiến anh bật cười. Việc người anh trai dè dặt, có phần xa cách và lạnh lùng của cậu lại cho phép sự tiếp xúc cơ thể thân mật như vậy khiến cậu rung động đến nỗi mất một lúc sự kỳ dị mới được đầu óc cậu ghi nhận. Người (hơi miễn cưỡng một chút) này là thể loại gì mà lại có đặc điểm cơ thể của cả con người và quái thú? Arjuna chưa từng thấy thứ này bao giờ, và cậu cũng chưa bao giờ nghĩ một thứ kỳ quái như vậy có thể tồn tại trên đời. Không có tài liệu nào về ma thuật và quái thú mà mỗi ngày cậu đều dành hằng giờ để nghiền ngẫm đề cập đến nó. Ít nhất là những tài liệu ‘trắng’ thì không. Vẫn còn một vài bản ghi chép ‘đen’ mà người thầy già nua, thông tuệ vẫn giữ ngoài tầm với của cậu, theo cả nghĩa đen lẫn nghĩa ẩn dụ. Luôn có một giá đắt mà những kẻ nhúng tay vào ma thuật đen phải trả, thầy đã nói khi mang biểu cảm khổ sở ám chỉ một trải nghiệm bản thân. Bây giờ Arjuna đã hối hận vì lúc trước không dám trái lời thầy.

Do quá kinh ngạc với bước ngoặt không hề được mong đợi trong câu chuyện, Arjuna đã buông lỏng cảnh giác và quên mất mình đang đặt chân vào nơi được cho là hang ổ của rồng, và hậu quả là cậu giẫm phải một cành cây được đặt một cách ngẫu nhiên và đầy bất tiện dưới gót giày cậu. Âm thanh gãy giòn khô khốc thông báo sự hiện diện không được chào đón của kẻ xâm nhập. Gã nhân thú (gọi như vậy được không nhỉ?) lập tức cảnh giác khi đôi mắt gã, đỏ rực và phát sáng như hai hòn than đang cháy, nhìn xoáy vào Arjuna, khiến tim cậu lỗi một nhịp. Buông Karna ra, gã đứng lên, cho thấy một thân hình cao lớn với cặp cánh đen đáng sợ to gần bằng cả người gã sải rộng. Một họa tiết giống như một dạng bùa phép bằng ký hiệu bắt đầu từ bụng, lan ra gần hết ngực và kết thúc bằng một nét mảnh trên má gã. Họa tiết đó phát ra thứ ánh sáng xanh đầy tính đe dọa cùng lúc với âm thanh kinh dị của xương cốt bị bẻ gãy lọt vào tai Arjuna, và gã nhân thú bắt đầu biến đổi thành cơn ác mộng thuở ấu thơ của cậu. Hai lỗ mũi bốc khói, lớp vảy gồm những mảnh hắc diệu thạch lấp lánh và đôi mắt như hai khối dung nham nóng chảy phản chiếu nỗi sợ cùng sự bất lực của hoàng tử trẻ tuổi về phía cậu. Chính là con rồng đã cướp đi anh cậu trong khi cậu câm lặng dõi theo đến khi thân hình nó mất hút trên bầu trời xanh thẳm, máu trong mạch đặc quánh bởi nỗi kinh hoàng choáng ngợp nhận thức rằng cậu sẽ trở thành bữa ăn của con quái vật, rằng da thịt, máu xương của cậu sẽ bị nó ngấu nghiến chẳng chừa lại gì. Cơn ác mộng ướt đầm mồ hôi cứ lặp đi lặp lại của cậu. Là động lực liên tục, liên tục thúc đẩy cậu đến mục tiêu kết liễu nó. Nhưng Arjuna đã không còn là nhóc tì nô đùa với kiếm và cung của ngày đó; cậu là hoàng tử và cũng là một chiến binh, mang bên mình những kỹ năng được rèn giũa không ngừng trong nhiều năm cùng một món vũ khí được chư thần chúc phúc. Vì vậy, cậu sẽ chiến đấu và nếu như các vị thần rủ lòng thương, cậu sẽ giành được chiến thắng. Cậu rút một mũi tên từ ống tên bên mình và lắp lên cung. Thân mũi tên toả ra ánh sáng xanh dương đặc trưng cho sức mạnh của cậu. Khi cậu ngắm – nhưng thật ra thì không cần bởi vì với mục tiêu to lớn như thế thì không thể nào bắn hụt, Arjuna cảm nhận được ma lực của mình xoáy tròn quanh thân mũi tên như một cơn lốc tí hon, tụ lại ở mũi nhọn, kêu gào được giải phóng.

“Dừng lại!”

Giọng nói như một xô nước lạnh xối lên tinh thần sục sôi của Arjuna. Bị thân hình đồ sộ của con rồng hoàn toàn che khuất từ lúc nó biến hình, Karna lúc này đã bước ra và đứng giữa Arjuna và con rồng. Với một tiếng ‘vút’ lớn, ma lực của Arjuna tiêu tán, mũi tên trở lại làm một mũi tên bằng gỗ và sắt bình thường vốn không thể xuyên qua lớp da-giáp của con rồng. Vị trí Karna chọn vừa khéo lại chắn ngay trước trái tim của con rồng, và nếu như Arjuna bắn, mũi tên sẽ xuyên qua người Karna trước và bị giảm đi một nửa sức mạnh, từ đó không thể tiêu diệt mục tiêu ban đầu của nó. Với mũi tên thấm đẫm ma lực đủ để hạ gục một con quái thú… Arjuna không dám tưởng tượng cảnh anh cậu bị nó bắn trúng.

Mặt khác, dường như Karna cố tình chen vào giữa họ. Từ những gì Arjuna quan sát, anh khá… thân thiết với con rồng, và không có gì ngạc nhiên nếu anh không muốn nó bị thương hại, kể cả khi anh phải đặt mình vào nguy hiểm. Ý nghĩ rằng anh trai cậu, một hoàng tử cao quý, một vị vua tương lai, lại đứng về phía một con quái vật nhen lên một đốm lửa trong tim Arjuna và cảnh tượng trước mắt nhanh chóng biến nó thành đám cháy lớn. Cổ họng cậu co thắt và mỗi lần nuốt đều đau đớn. Miệng cậu tràn đầy vị chua và đắng.

Phía bên kia, con rồng không có vẻ bình tĩnh hơn Arjuna bao nhiêu, vì bàn chân mang những móng vuốt nhọn và cứng như thép đang rạch hết vệt này đến vệt khác lên mặt đất mềm. Mồm nó há rộng, nhe ra hàm răng lởm chởm và khói thoát ra từ sâu trong cổ họng nó như ngọn núi lửa đang hoạt động. Tuy nhiên, dù đứng đó hầm hừ thế nào đi nữa thì con quái vật vẫn ngoan ngoãn ở yên sau lưng con người nhỏ bé như thể trong mắt nó, con người kia bằng cách nào đó đã trở thành một bức tường sắt không thể phá huỷ. Karna vuốt ve mõm nó và nói với nó bằng một giọng nhỏ đến nỗi Arjuna không nghe được. Không rõ Karna đang nói gì nhưng những gì thoát khỏi đôi môi anh có tác dụng xoa dịu con rồng đang khích động. Con thú nhắm mắt và cọ cái trán quá khổ của nó vào lòng bàn tay anh. Những cái vảy sắc chắc chắn sẽ làm trầy da anh nhưng nụ cười của Karna hoàn toàn chỉ có sự nuông chiều.

Giá như lúc trước anh từng cười với cậu như thế…

“Sao anh lại bảo vệ con quái vật đó? Trả lời em đi, Karna!” Arjuna buột miệng hét lên, cảm nhận cơn sóng thần cảm xúc cuộn trào trong lồng ngực.

Con rồng gầm nhẹ; trông nó như sắp lao tới do bị giọng điệu của Arjuna kích thích, nhưng một bàn tay nhỏ, cứng rắn chặn đứng nó. Biểu cảm lãnh tĩnh trên gương mặt Karna vỡ tan bởi sự ngạc nhiên. Bằng một giọng trầm hơn trong trí nhớ Arjuna, anh hỏi, “Cậu là ai?”

Chưa bao giờ Arjuna từng biết ba từ giản đơn lại có sức ảnh hưởng mạnh mẽ lên một người như thế. Cậu cảm thấy nước mắt nóng hổi quanh vành mắt như thể cậu là một đứa nhóc bảy tuổi bị anh lớn bắt nạt, trừ việc cậu không phải một đứa nhóc còn Karna thì chưa bao giờ bắt nạt em trai. Khép kín và hầu như luôn ở ngoài tầm với của Arjuna nhưng Karna không bao giờ hằn học với cậu hay bất cứ người em nào, đó không phải điều bản tính lương thiện của anh có thể thực hiện. Arjuna nắm chặt cán cung đến nỗi hình dạng của nó được khảm sâu vào lòng bàn tay cậu để ngăn nước mắt rơi xuống. Cậu không được phép trông như một đứa nhóc trước mắt Karna, người cậu đến giải cứu. Cậu muốn anh thấy cậu đã trưởng thành và cậu là người đáng tin cậy.

Suy nghĩ rằng có thể Karna không nhớ ra đứa em trai của mình chưa bao giờ xuất hiện trong tâm trí Arjuna vào những đêm không ngủ. Cậu không rõ từ đâu mình có được sự tự tin rằng Karna sẽ luôn nhận ra cậu bất kể họ đã xa cách bao nhiêu năm và cả hai đều đã thay đổi rất nhiều; cậu chỉ có một niềm tin chắc chắn. Giờ đây niềm tin đã cắn ngược lại cậu.

“Là em, Arjuna đây,” cậu nói như van xin, “là đứa em trai luôn lẩn ra ngoài và lẽo đẽo theo anh đến mỗi buổi tập bắn cung đây.” Trong lúc nói, cậu cố gắng triệu hồi những cảnh tượng thuộc về thời thơ ấu của mình, bấu víu vào hy vọng rằng mười năm bị giam giữ vẫn chưa cướp đi năng lực độc nhất vô nhị của Karna và anh vẫn đọc được suy nghĩ của cậu cho dù cậu chưa mở miệng giống như ngày xưa. “Anh luôn chiều em và không bao giờ hé ra một lời với Hoàng Mẫu. Thỉnh thoảng anh dạy em vài điều về cung thuật mặc dù cây cung quá to so với em. Anh còn tặng em một cây cung được đặc chế cho vừa với kích cỡ và sức em để em có thể tập luyện. Nhưng em chưa có cơ hội cho anh thấy em đã tiến bộ như thế nào…”

Đến lúc cậu trút hết những điều dồn nén tận đáy lòng suốt chừng ấy năm, Arjuna đã thở hổn hển và đôi tay cầm cung tên của cậu đã run rẩy. Cậu không chắc bản thân còn đủ sức để bắn hay không.

Vẻ ngạc nhiên trên khuôn mặt Karna dần dần chuyển thành nhận biết. Karna mở miệng nhưng không nói tiếng nào mà chỉ thở ra một hơi. Đôi mắt sắc lạnh nhìn khuôn mặt Arjuna chăm chú, cố gắng so sánh những đường nét của chàng trai này với ký ức thuộc về quãng đời trước, vốn không tránh khỏi bị dòng chảy thời gian xói mòn ít nhiều.

Mười năm quả thật là một khoảng thời gian dài và ắt hẳn là cần nhiều hơn đôi ba đường nét quen thuộc để lấy lại những gì đã mất. Thế nhưng anh thật sự đã nắm bắt được những hình ảnh của tâm trí như Arjuna đã muốn. Những hình ảnh đó chạy trước mắt anh như các cảnh của một vở kịch câm chỉ có hai diễn viên duy nhất. Một cậu bé tóc đen, da ngăm bám theo người anh trai có nước da tái nhợt, và từ góc nhìn của cậu bé ấy, người anh trông thật cao lớn, thật mạnh mẽ. Cậu bé ôm cánh cung được chế tạo riêng cho mình vào ngực, toét miệng cười thật lớn đến mức hai bên khoé miệng nhưng nhức. Cậu bé nắm chặt cây cung trong bàn tay nhỏ và bắn hết mũi tên này đến mũi tên khác vào mục tiêu gắn trên thân cây, không chút nề hà việc vai cậu bắt đầu đau vì vận động quá sức…

Karna biết cậu bé đó, biết thời điểm cậu đến thế giới này, thời điểm cậu bắt đầu chập chững tập đi hay mọc chiếc răng đầu tiên, biết cả tiếng khóc, tiếng cười của cậu.

Karna biết cậu bé và chàng thanh niên trước mặt là một.

Môi anh cử động và một cái tên được xướng lên, “Arjuna.”

Còn tiếp

—-

Fic ra đời từ ý tưởng trên mạng: “Giả sử khi hoàng tử/hiệp sĩ đến cứu nhưng công chúa nhất quyết không về vì công chúa trót yêu con rồng mất rồi.”

Không thể tin nổi là có ngày bạn sẽ viết fic với POV của Ấn Đen (Arjuna) dù bạn không ưa bạn trẻ này cho lắm.

Karna có khả năng ngoại cảm (nhưng không, anh không phải mutant); điều này sẽ được giải thích ở chương sau.

 

[Desus] Motorcycle

Part I of When There Were Me & You

*Roommate AU: Detective Daryl & art student Paul

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Photos not mine, but the edit is

“Hop on,” Daryl instructed, lightly patting the passenger seat of his motorcycle.

Paul eyed the sleek majestic structure of steel with both awe and wariness. This beast had been the object of his silent admiration since the moment he first saw his roommate, clad in black leather and donning a pair of shades, riding it into the garage; but he had never actually touched it – that it was Daryl’s ‘lover’ was nothing sort of truth. Still, that hadn’t stopped him from fantasizing about sitting his ass on the passenger seat and wrapping his arms tightly around the rider’s firm middle as they raced along the endless highway into the blazing sunset. Okay, the sunset bit was a little cheesy, even for him. God knew how many times Paul Rovia had woken from a dream like that to the sad, disappointing reality that he had been harboring a heavy crush on his older roommate, Detective Daryl Dixon, since he moved in two months ago, and his feelings were probably unreciprocated because Daryl was likely as straight as a flagpole.

He had to be, right? One look at the guy and you can practically sense his machismo seeping out of his pores.

Growing impatient with Paul’s standing rooted in his spot while a dumbfounded look was painted on his face, Daryl patted the seat again, louder this time, to shake the art student out of whatever reverie he was having. “C’mon, we don’t have a whole day.”

“Err… Thank you, but I can take the bus,” Paul replied, internally groaning. While every cell in him was yelling ‘yes’, his rational mind was firmly stating ‘no’ and sadly, it was the one to have the final say about what could leave his mouth and could not. Don’t give yourself false hope, Rovia. You will only have many sleepless nights ahead.

“Bus stop’s ten-minute walk,” Daryl said, “five if yer runnin’. And ya were already half an hour late.”

Indeed today Paul had woken up half an hour later than usual – damned his late-night marathon of The Walking Dead and his broken alarm. He wished his hair was long enough to hide the flushed tips of his ears. Been thinking about growing it out for a while.

But wait, Daryl noticed!

A helmet was thrown at Paul and he deftly caught it.

“Unless ya wanna be late. Get on.”

Daryl put on his own helmet. Truth was Paul didn’t want to show up late at his favorite professor’s class and he could really, really use a ride. Especially when the rider happened to be Daryl.

Muttering a “thank you”, Paul put on the helmet, which was a little big for him but he would definitely not complain.

The seat, on the contrary, was a little small so he had no choice but to sit very close to Daryl, like body-touching close, which he would definitely not complain either.

The engine roared and in an almost careless move, Daryl stepped on the accelerator. The sudden movement had Paul let out an undignified yelp. Out of pure reflex, his arms wrapped around the detective’s torso, and he was holding onto Daryl so tightly it must be a bit uncomfortable. But Paul had spared it no thought; he was too busy being afraid that the next bump might send him flying to the side of the road.

Daryl was riding along the highway so naturally, he wasn’t going slow. Paul dared keep his hold on Daryl, emboldened by the fact that the cop hadn’t complained about having Paul’s chest pressing against his back. A giddy smile spread across his face. Maybe, just maybe, this is not false hope at all.

Little did he know, Daryl couldn’t contain a little smile either. Sure, he’d rather stuff his head in the sink than admitting the reason for his out-of-character move earlier was to have a certain roommate cling onto him for dear life.

End

 

[ScuDeacon] The Vamp & the Tramp

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Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: Blade Trilogy

Rating: Mature

Pairing: Deacon Frost x Joshua “Josh” Frohmeyer aka Scud

Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe

Characters: Scud (vampire), Deacon Frost (human)

Warnings: language, brief mention of tortures, stalking

Summary:  

“He’d be so fucked if he allowed the subject of his obsession to one day end up a drained, mutilated beyond recognition and maggot-infested corpse in some muddy alleyway.”

Or… Scud was obsessed with a certain human. Said human was captured and sold on the pet market. Could Scud sit still with the knowledge that his human might end up in the palm of a sadistic vampire and suffer the worst fate imagined? Hell no.

Scud shifted his weight from his left leg to his right, feeling confined and itchy all over in his fancy suit – like a claustrophobic trapped in a closed room. Ironically he had almost wrecked his wardrobe in searching for this piece which consisted of black dress pants, black waistcoat and jacket, and a wine-colored silk shirt. Never a fan of formal attire Joshua Frohmeyer was; for him it was always trashy T-shirts, ripped jeans that had a bit too many holes to consider publicly appropriate, hoodies or denim jackets and well-worn snickers. He felt comfortable and confident in his casual clothes even though his choice of fashion was frowned upon by many of his kind, who fancied showing off their status and wealth in thousand-dollar tailored suits, Rolex watches and Italian shoes. In turn, Scud snorted and sneered and retaliated with sarcastic remarks whenever he ran into one such “pompous dick” that had the urge to establish their so-called higher place in the social ladder to him by making fun of his fashion taste. This more often than not resulted in Scud limping to his shabby studio with a few broken bones that’d take hours to heal – lover, not fighter – but the young bloodsucker would do it again and again, consequences be damned. The inability to learn and zero self-preservation sense was probably the reason why Scud’s sire had left him to his own devices a couple years past. An utter failure, she had spat through gritted teeth before vanishing from Scud’s life as fast and suddenly as she had crammed herself in. To this day not once had Scud missed her; as far as he was concerned he had been doing pretty fine surviving on his own. She had been a lousy mentor he could have done without anyway.

With a soft grunt, Scud fixed the straps of his mask for like, the thirteenth time, looking for something to divert his anxiety other than biting his nails. It was one of the persevering vestiges of his human days, thanks to which he was never able to grow his claws out like his fellow bloodsuckers. It was ugly and disgusting, Scud was painfully aware, but it somewhat calmed the rushing of blood in his veins and eased the god-awful feeling of his own skin tightening on his muscles. The blaring music from the giant stereo system overhead and the mixture of various brands of perfumes and colognes did nothing but aggravating his condition. God, Scud hated this place no less than he did his suit and all the mask-wearers present here; all he wanted was to push his way to the entrance, turn the engine of his Impala on and drive the fuck home, where an unopened box of Krispy Kreme and the whole seventh season of The Walking Dead were faithfully waiting for him – die-hard (no pun intended) fanboy of a certain sexy Georgian redneck. He couldn’t, not when he had painstakingly dug this piece from the bottom of his drawer and braced himself against the hellish traffic to drive half the town here, and that was where his misery lied. He breathed noisily through his nostrils, ran a hand through his dark chocolate strands, for once styled and gelled, and flopped down on one of the plush chaise lounge lining the walls. His eyes traveled the length of the auditorium to the stage in vain hope to find the sole reason which had brought him out of the comfort of his home to this torment. He heaved a sign, having expected to find an empty stage and still being disappointed. They wouldn’t show the ‘merchandise’ before the midnight show started and now it was roughly half an hour to midnight. Pouting, Scud grabbed one of the cocktails from a bunny-masked server’s tray – he could grab the server instead and no one would bat an eye but he decided to be a gentle-vamp and settle for the drink – and decided to kill the time by judging other patrons and enjoying the privileged treatments reserved for the potential customers of this facility. O negative, with lime juice, honey and a dash of Vermouth, not his favorite but definitely not bad at all.

When Scud was on his third glass, the technicolor lights dimmed and the blasphemously loud rock music turned into a soft classical piece. Scud downed the remaining content of his glass in one gulp and instantly veered his attention back to the stage, which was carpeted in deep crimson and glaringly empty. He expected it to be occupied pretty soon. Gingerly leaving the comfortable spot he had been attached to for the last half an hour, Scud moved like a shadow towards the center stage, trying his best to avoid bumping into any of the mask-wearers. Being as conspicuous as possible, that had been his top goal since stepping through the gate. Once tonight ended, he expected no-one here to have a sliver of idea that someone of his description had entered this building. Scud found his ideally neglected corner where lights didn’t quite reach with little effort. That it also provided him with an unobstructed view of the stage came as a plus. He appeared to be on Lady Luck’s favored list at the moment; hoped it’d last until his ‘business’ was done. Leaning against the wall, he checked the glowing screen of the little multi-purpose electronic device that served as his watch. Six more minutes.

The low whirring noise of the motors was all Scud’s enhanced hearing picked out despite the cacophony of sounds flooding the auditorium. By the MC’s booming voice, the auction had commenced and the merchandise was being brought into display. From the basement under the stage ubiquitous metal cages were elevated, each of which containing a dazed-looking young man or woman in fifty shades of chains. These humans were known around Scud’s community as ‘pets’, harvested or ensnared from every nook and canny of this city, encaged and drugged so that they were pliant while the vampires examined them and bid on the ones that caught their eyes. They were always at the apex of youth – late twenties to early thirties at most – and ranging from good-looking to stunning. The vampires liked them young and healthy – to make quality food source, and their beauty made them fancy accessories for their potential masters, who would likely show them off to their peers. As a matter of fact, the price of a pet was tied to their appearance: no bidding price was ever too outrageous for an exceptionally gorgeous pet.

Truth was, Scud had never intended to keep a pet. No, it wasn’t the act of dehumanizing a living, breathing human that disturbed him at all; it was the whole masters-can-do-whatever-the-hell-they-want-with-their-pets stuff that he found pretty cringe-worthy. A number of vampires treated their pet humans kindly, just like a number of humans treated their pet animals kindly, and while some masters were simple-minded abusers, some defined and worse, exceeded, the definition of ‘depraved’. Hadn’t Scud the unfortunate to know? If he had a pet, Scud would make sure all the things he did with his pet were fun and pleasure rather than torture and pain, which he himself was outrightly against. Unlike some other bloodsuckers, Scud was pretty squeamish when it came to pain: he enjoyed being on neither the giving nor the receiving ends. Not every bloodsucker was a sadist or masochist, thank you.

Nonetheless, the bottom line was he had no pets simply because he couldn’t afford one. Not all vampires were created equal: while some lived like kings and queens, others like Scud struggled every single day to make ends meet. His meager savings and odd jobs barely managed to pay his rent and at the fifteenth of every month, he suppressed the primal urge to chomp his landlord. He wouldn’t, of course, because that’d cause a lot of trouble, and Scud loathed trouble. Forget everything you know about vampires’ preternatural ability to accumulate wealth – that’s some TV bullshit made by humans who know next to nothing about the vampire world.

Scud had told himself he could be patient if he wanted, repeating it like a mantra in his head as he waited and waited, tapping his foot on the granite tile in sync with each drop of his patience vaporized. His fingers and lips were itching for the cylindrical shape of a cigarette, which he couldn’t have because the asshole suckhead who owned this building happened to be pretty crazy about the idea of ‘going green’ and prohibited smoking on the premise. Dumbest thing Scud had ever heard. The craving for a smoke made his skin crawl underneath his suit and he chewed his lower lip until he tasted copper, all in the effort of trying not to curse verbally. Contradictory to the sloppy impression he might give, Josh Frohmeyer was quite an organized and methodical bloodsucker, so naturally he hated wasting his time. Moreover, he loathed wasting his time in a place he abhorred, among the company that would look down on and jeer at him if they were to cross paths outside these plaster walls. But waiting was Scud’s only option right now: the pets were sold in rounds and in each round, one cage was open for the customers to have a closer inspection and decide if the human was worth their dough. And the only one Scud had his eyes on was scheduled in the final rounds, which translated into some more time wasted worrying his lip and tapping his foot.

Scud strained his eyes a little but even so, he failed to get a clear view of the last cage on the right as he would like. Inhabited that cage was the reason Scud had come all the way to this hellhole instead of being at his home sweet home, a male in late-20s. Like other pets here, he was drugged and chained and slumping against the metal bars. Despite his pristine white shirt, pressed slacks and neatly combed hair, he looked worse than Scud’s fond memory of him. The young vampire was used to seeing this man three to five times a week in a more disheveled state: loose strands of sandy hair falling in front of his forehead and frosty blue eyes, his tie loosened around his open collar and his sleeves rolled up asymmetrically to his elbows. Every time Scud saw him, the man always seemed to be in a hurry to catch the last train home. So worn out by a hard day’s work that once he sat down in his seat, his tense shoulders relaxed under his creased shirt, he dozed off almost instantly, never having noticed a young, pale man in trashy tee and ripped jeans following him all the way to the threshold of his door. Scud found that image much more attractive than this pliable pet ready to be sold. His stomach twisted partly at the thought of what those vampires had done to this human during the week since he’d been abducted and partly at a peculiar gnawing feeling inside him that spelled guilt. The worm of conscience, you could say. He had been there to witness the abduction and done absolutely nothing to help. Scud was a lover, not a fighter, which was, if he was honest to himself, a poetic euphemism for ugly cowardice. He wouldn’t fare well in a one-on-one combat; what had he had against a group of three possibly older vampires?

Yes, he had just expressed concern and guilt over the misfortune befalling a human even though Joshua Frohmeyer had made a solemn vow on his first night after the turn to not give a fuck about any asses other than his own. Now that in retrospect, he realized he had spent too much time and effort on this particular human than considered healthy, and that was something considering bloodsuckers had painfully low standards for what were deemed healthy. It was clearly not fascination – fascination was when someone caught your interest and after a certain amount of time it would eventually fade. Fascination was not stalking someone from their workplace to their home week after week simply to get a look at their face because the shrine you’d built of their photos at home lacked the allure of only the living person could exude. Fascination was not knowing by heart every big and small detail of someone’s life despite not having spoken a word to them. Fascination was not coming up with a plan as elaborate as it was risky and insane and that could cost your immortality with one misstep while you could be safe and enjoying yourself with comfort food and cable TV. So no, it was clear as hell not fascination; obsession was a better-suited name once he was done psychoanalyzing himself – had watched more than enough TV shows to be able to do that. Since his obsession with this man was bordering on lunacy, tonight Scud would leave this place with him strapped into the passenger seat either breathing or not.

And what Scud would do with him after that, no one could tell, not even Scud himself. If there was one blind spot in Scud’s plan, that was his action following its success.

If his crazy plan was successful. His gut feelings were assuring him that it would; this was the single most painstaking project he had ever worked on, proofreading each tiny detail to perfection. His sire would roll her eyes if she were to learn that her failure fledging was able to reach such level of dedication. On the other hand, it was also his guts that were churning with a fear that his plan would utterly fail and he wouldn’t live to see another night. Scud was a coward who was afraid of death amongst other things and he had every reason to be: after all he was still a young man in human age and a baby in vampire age. In spite of his fear, Scud remained in his post, waiting for that man’s cage to open.

Lost in his musing, Scud had missed it when it finally did and the human was dragged out of the cage. His legs seemed wobbly and he struggled to not stumble by the harsh pull of his collar. Scud looked up in time to see the host grabbed his jaw and turned his head sharply towards the audience. The human’s eyes instantly came ablaze with defiance and if it wasn’t for the cold nimble fingers gripping his jaw like vices, Scud imagined a ‘fuck you’ would be rolling from his colorless lips, following by a spit; his hands clawed vainly at the vampire’s wrist. The seams of the vampire’s lips distorted as he tried to keep his professional smile from becoming a scowl as he clenched his hand and yanked the chain, forcing the man to drop to his knees with an audible thud. Laughter roared around Scud and he caught a strings of comments, “wild”, “in need of discipline”, and “good to break”, to name a few. He snorted and checked his watch.

This round finished sooner than others because somehow the human’s defiance despite being under the effect of drugs had turned a couple of vampires on, especially those whom Scud knew to have pain kinks. They had come to this pet market looking not for subdued and obedient humans but the ones with a little bit of fire in them like this young man; they would make the breaking so much more fun and gratifying. Scud knew the bloodsucker who won the bid pretty well in spite of the long-horned goat mask hiding his entire face; he wouldn’t mistake that distinctly low-pitched laughter – like the gurgling sound of water in the gutter – for anyone’s. Francis had the reputation for being a sadistic bastard with an insatiable lust for fucking those who caught even his slightest interest, literally and figuratively. His sole redeeming quality was that he didn’t discriminate between males and females, white and colored, humans and vampires; as long as they were young and pretty enough and having a spirit then he would derive pleasure from breaking them apart so both their beauty and spirit were ruined beyond repair and they would be tossed away unlike trash. Plus he was old and wealthy and capable of getting away from his atrocities. And reasonably, Francis was the one whose manners and habits baby and toddler vamps like Scud taught themselves to learn by heart so that they could stay a mile from him at all cost. Scud didn’t need a much imaginative mind to visualize what hell was awaiting the young man.

He’d be so fucked if he allowed the subject of his obsession to one day end up a drained, mutilated beyond recognition and maggot-infested corpse in some muddy alleyway.

Scud straightened his gait and hurried after Francis and a handful of his closest underlings out of the auditorium to the huge parking lot. If his heart was still beating, perhaps it would have already burst through his ribcage. Scud was beyond grateful it wasn’t; the adrenaline, however, was fueling his entire being and giving him a false sense of confidence that he could take on the world.

He couldn’t, that went without saying. Scud didn’t even have the guts and strength needed to confront Francis and steal the human – his burly henchmen would beat Scud to a pulp if he so much as stood in their way and after that, tossed him into the backseat to join the human. Crouching on the cement ground, Scud hid behind one of the SUVs, watching Francis strutting to his vehicle. The human had fought his new ‘owner’ with all what was left of his might, which had earned him a heavy kick in the guts and a slap that left a bleeding cut on his left cheek thanks to a vampire’s claw. As a result, he was out cold and being dragged all the way to the car like a filthy rag doll, his shoes skidding across the cement making an irritating sound. Although his remaining life was seemingly bled dry, Scud knew his human was still kicking; Francis was a motherfucking sadist but also a sadist who had expert control of his strikes so as not to snub out the real ‘fun’ before it even began.

Scud held his breath, counting every step that led them to his designated spot, where he had planted a couple of UV bombs – his latest invention which he was proud to call his magnum opus. He had gotten the material for his bomb from the pawn shop that had given him the axe because he had spitted in the pot-belly owner’s face at the suggestion of a blowjob. Naturally Scud had sought compensation in his own way. Making the ping-pong-sized bombs had been no easy job; but a more challenging task had been getting them to where they were supposed to be. Like a damned rat he had sneaked in several days before the auction, spread the bombs in every section of the parking lot, and scurried off under the guards’ nose. The process itself was another Scud’s unsung masterpiece, and it had cost him many a night since he had to lay low and wait until it was most vacant – usually near dawn – and he could only have planted one or two at a time; otherwise they would have been discovered and his plan foiled.

And yeah, after this night, he would have to spend a couple others to retrieve the unused bombs. Couldn’t leave them here; that would be a waste and a risk Scud couldn’t afford.

X marked the spot. Scud allowed a tiny triumphant creeped to his mouth as he pressed the blue button on his watch device. Screams were heard and the nauseous smell of sizzling flesh invaded his nostrils. He dared rise to his feet to see the aftermath.

The scene presented to his vampire eyes gave Scud both the chill and thrill. Chill because this was a vampire’s worst horror:  the expensive shoes and suits remained good as new on top of a sizzling gooey mess vaguely shaped in human form. The black smoke gave off a foulest stench ever known to vampire senses. Thrill because his bombs had worked perfectly the way he’d designed: soundlessly and deadly and most importantly, there wasn’t a single clue leading back to their creator. Clean as a whistle! Scud seriously considered advertising them on the black market; someone out there, be it human or vamp, would pay dear cash for these babes.

A grip on his left ankle startled Scud in the worst way and he almost toppled over, landing face first into one of those gooey puddles. Luckily for Scud, he managed to catch his balance just in time and glancing down, he was greeted with the disfigured face of Francis the Sadist. His skin had peeled off, baring the raw muscles underneath, his eyeballs bulging, nearly falling off his sockets. He was a nightmare made flesh and briefly Scud mused, if one’s appearance reflected one’s soul, Francis’s look wouldn’t stray too far from this. But it was not in Scud’s habit to judge when the only thing he wanted was to get the fuck out of here. He produced a sprayer from his pants pocket and gave Francis a generous amount. His ankle was released from the grip as Francis was writhing on the ground and howling. After a few seconds, he joined his subordinates, another indistinguishable puddle to be cleaned off later. Scud grinned. No better cure for burned skin than a spray of garlic essence.

Some time later, Scud was racing his car through the heart of Los Angeles, his blood tuning in with the death metal on the CD player. He felt like the fucking Dark Knight at this very moment, having rid the city of its filth in the quiet depth of the night and asking for neither recognition nor celebration. It didn’t stem from an unselfish intention nor was it for the sake of goodness but hey, anyone who looked at it would say “Good riddance”, wouldn’t they? Several future asses were saved tonight and the city was one evil fewer, all thanks to the Scudster. B should be so proud of him. For the first time in his life, Joshua Frohmeyer had experienced a sense of heroism, of justice, buzzing in his every fiber from head to toe. It was like the best kind of drugs, and he was fucking on clouds nine.

Heroic or not, his act was not without reward though: in his backseat the young human was lying, unconscious and breathing shallowly but very much alive and very much…… his.

(To be continued?)

About the title, if you think Disney’s Lady and the Tramp then bingo!

Should there be a second part?

[Tiêu Liên] Like I’m Gonna Lose You

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Art: Victoria Frances
Pairing: Tiêu Liên – Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang x Liên Thành Bích (Tân Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang)

Genres: BL, fantasy, alternate universe – AU

Rating: 10+

Nhân vật: Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, Liên Thành Bích, Thẩm Bích Quân

Chú ý: Hình tượng và tính cách Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, Liên Thành Bích và Thẩm Bích Quân lấy từ phim truyền hình Tân Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang (2016).

Preview:

Đôi tay anh nhấc lên rồi dứt khoát hạ xuống, mười ngón tay thanh mảnh dồn sức bóp chặt cổ người nằm trên giường.

Không chống cự.

Liên Thành Bích chỉ buông tay khi âm thanh “tick, tick, tick” tắt hẳn. Anh nhìn xuống đôi tay mình, mỉm cười nhẹ nhõm.

“Xin lỗi, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang.”

“I found myself dreaming

In silver and gold

Like a scene from a movie

That every broken heart knows”

(Em thấy mình đang mơ

Trong màu vàng và bạc

Như một cảnh trong phim

Mà mọi con tim tan vỡ đều biết)

Liên Thành Bích nghe thấy ca khúc mà anh vô cùng yêu thích. Giọng ca dịu dàng của Jasmine Thompson từ xa vọng lại, thoáng chìm, thoáng nổi như ý thức của Liên Thành Bích lúc này.

Dạo gần đây Liên Thành Bích hay mơ. Mỗi lần như thế, tuy ý thức anh như chiếc phao thả trôi dòng nước nhưng anh đều nhận thức được là mình đang mơ. Và chính vì biết mình đang mơ nên anh không cảm thấy dù chỉ là một tia sợ hãi.

Cảnh tượng xung quanh không hề thơ mộng như ca từ trong bài hát, đối lập là đằng khác.

Xung quanh Liên Thành Bích không có màu vàng, màu bạc hay ánh trăng mà chỉ có lửa.

Bốn phía là lửa, khắp nơi đều là lửa.

Lửa bén đến chân Liên Thành Bích rồi, chỉ mấy phút nữa thôi sẽ thiêu cháy anh.

Đó là nếu như khói chưa giết chết anh trước.

Liên Thành Bích từ từ khép mắt, tận hưởng cảm giác bàn tay của thần chết chầm chậm bóp chặt tim, phổi.

Sẽ không lâu đâu, Liên Thành Bích tự nhủ.

“We were walking on moonlight

And you pulled me close

Split second and you disappeared

And then I was all alone”

(Chúng mình đang đi trên ánh trăng

Rồi anh kéo em lại gần

Chỉ một khắc thôi và anh biến mất

Rồi còn mình em ở đây)

Giai điệu của bài hát vẫn nhẹ nhàng và êm dịu như thế, tựa như lời an ủi một người sắp chết rằng cái chết chỉ là một giấc ngủ sâu, không có gì đáng để sợ hãi, hoảng loạn. Cuộc đời cũ chấm dứt, cuộc đời mới mở ra, tươi sáng hơn, tràn đầy hy vọng, không còn âu lo, đau khổ, vĩnh viễn yên bình. Nhưng đó không phải lý do Liên Thành Bích bình thản tiếp nhận cái chết của chính mình. Anh không sợ hãi chỉ vì anh biết chắc chắn đây là một giấc mơ, và một giấc mơ dù kinh khủng đến mức nào cũng sẽ chấm dứt. Chỉ cần anh chết trong giấc mơ, anh sẽ bừng tỉnh, biển lửa không lối thoát này sẽ trở thành một câu chuyện phiếm lúc nhàn rỗi.

Liên Thành Bích bình thản đón nhận cái chết, người khác lại không thể. Lẫn trong tiếng hát của Jasmine Thompson là một giọng nói đang tha thiết gọi tên anh, và nếu Liên Thành Bích mở mắt, chắc chắn anh sẽ thấy khuôn mặt tràn đầy kinh hãi và đau đớn của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang vì cố sức vượt qua bức tường lửa và thất bại.

Liên Thành Bích không mở mắt.

Đã bao lần Liên Thành Bích bảo Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang bỏ cuộc nhưng Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, với bản tính bướng bỉnh của mình, chưa lần nào nghe lời. Một là cùng thoát, hai là cùng chết, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang nói. Kết cục luôn là cả hai đều bị lửa nuốt chửng trong khi lẽ ra một người có thể sống sót.

Liên Thành Bích căm ghét kết cục này nhưng không thể nào thay đổi nó. Việc duy nhất anh có thể làm là không nhìn và chờ giấc mộng này chấm dứt.

Lửa đã tắt, trần nhà mà Liên Thành Bích nhìn lên là một màu xám xanh, bốn bức tường xung quanh cũng là màu xám xanh.

Khi sáu bóng đèn neon đồng loạt bật lên, chúng trắng toát lạnh người. Khi đèn tắt, chúng thành màu xám xanh ảm đạm.

Chúng không bao giờ trở thành màu đen bởi vì vẫn còn ánh sáng lọt qua khe cửa. Bên ngoài phòng là hành lang quanh năm suốt tháng một màu trắng toát.

Đã quá nửa đêm nhưng bước chân người chưa hết hối hả.

Trong phòng, tiếng hát của Jasmine Thompson dịu dàng nhấn chìm âm thanh của những đôi giày vải trắng vô trùng miết lên sàn gạch…

… cùng những tiếng “tick, tick, tick” khô khốc đều đặn.

“I woke up in tears

With you by my side

A breath of relief

And I realized

No, we’re not promised tomorrow”

(Em bừng tỉnh trong nước mắt

Và anh ở kề bên

Em thở phào nhẹ nhõm

Và chợt nhận ra

Không, chúng mình không được hứa hẹn ngày mai)

Tiếng hát phát ra từ chiếc máy phát nhạc mini đặt trên chiếc tủ cạnh giường. Tối nào cũng như tối nào, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đều bật bài hát này, không chỉ vì đây là bài hát Liên Thành Bích thích nghe nhất mà còn để giảm bớt tiếng ồn. Bằng một cách bí ẩn và diệu kỳ nào đó, bài hát đã len vào giấc mơ của Liên Thành Bích.

Tất nhiên Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không biết, Liên Thành Bích không hề thấy phiền vì những âm thanh đó. Ngày nào cũng nghe, sau một thời gian bất cứ ai cũng quen mà thôi.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang đang ngồi bên giường ngủ gật. Anh vẫn mặc nguyên bộ com lê như ban sáng đi làm, chỉ tháo bỏ cà vạt cùng cởi vài chiếc khuy trên cùng cho dễ thở. Một tay chống đầu, tay còn lại nắm chặt tay Liên Thành Bích.

Như thể anh sợ chỉ cần mình buông lỏng ngón tay một chút thôi, Liên Thành Bích sẽ trượt khỏi tay anh.

Bản tính của Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang là hễ có được thứ gì, anh sẽ nắm thật chặt, nhất quyết không bao giờ buông tay. “Dogs with bones,” Liên Thành Bích từng trêu anh như vậy. Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không giận, chỉ tếu táo sửa lại: “Sói, không phải chó. Và tôi không ngậm chặt xương, chỉ giữ chặt cậu thôi.”

Không cần nói cũng biết lúc đó Liên Thành Bích cảm động như thế nào. Chỉ là bây giờ, anh rất mong Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang buông tay.

Hình ảnh cả hai cùng chết cháy trong mơ không phải sản phẩm của trí tưởng tượng mà là ẩn dụ của tương lai, là nhắc nhở không ngừng của tiềm thức.

Cơn ác mộng trong đời thực này sẽ kéo dài bao lâu nữa? Năm năm? Mười năm? Cả đời?

Không chỉ tiềm thức mà ý thức của Liên Thành Bích cũng hiểu rõ.

Nếu Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không buông thì Liên Thành Bích phải là người dứt khoát.

Liên Thành Bích ngồi dậy, bước đến bên Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang.

Dù đang ngủ nhưng nét mặt Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang không hề thư giãn. Căng thẳng, phiền muộn, mệt mỏi hằn lên từng đường nét anh tuấn.

Đây không phải nét mặt một người mới hai mươi sáu tuổi nên có.

Liên Thành Bích vòng tay ôm Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang thật chặt, đồng thời hôn lên trán, lên khoé mắt, sống mũi.

Đôi môi Liên Thành Bích chạm vào môi Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, nhẹ như cánh hoa đào lìa cành, đáp xuống mặt hồ như gương dưới gốc cây.

Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang vẫn say ngủ.

“So I’m gonna love you

Like I’m gonna lose you

And I’m gonna hold you

Like I’m saying goodbye”

(Vì vậy em sẽ yêu anh

Giống như em sẽ mất anh

Và em sẽ ôm anh

Giống như em đang nói lời vĩnh biệt)

Điệp khúc chấm dứt, Liên Thành Bích rời Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang, trở lại giường. Đôi tay anh nhấc lên rồi dứt khoát hạ xuống, mười ngón tay thanh mảnh dồn sức bóp chặt cổ người nằm trên giường.

Không chống cự.

Liên Thành Bích chỉ buông tay khi âm thanh “tick, tick, tick” tắt hẳn. Anh nhìn xuống đôi tay mình, mỉm cười nhẹ nhõm.

“Xin lỗi, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang.”

Thẩm Bích Quân bắt đầu ngày hôm nay như mọi ngày khác. Cô đến bệnh viện đúng bảy giờ bốn mươi lăm phút sáng—cũng là giờ bắt đầu ca làm việc, thay đồng phục, vấn mái tóc dài đen mượt thành một búi gọn gàng sau gáy và đội lên đầu chiếc mũ của y tá. Môi điểm nụ cười, cô sẽ đến phòng y tá trưởng làm thủ tục có mặt. Tiếp theo, cô sẽ ghé phòng B204 để kiểm tra tình hình của bệnh nhân phòng đó như thường lệ. Sau khi đã ghi đầy đủ các chỉ số như huyết áp, nhịp tim… vào sổ theo dõi và chắc chắn bệnh nhân không gặp vấn đề gì, cô mới thật sự bắt đầu ca làm việc của mình.

Năm năm qua, mỗi sáng Thẩm Bích Quân đều thực hiện chừng ấy công tác, chưa từng thay đổi. Cô làm việc ở bệnh viện này được năm năm, bệnh nhân ở phòng B204 cũng nằm tại căn phòng đó được năm năm.

… và người thân duy nhất của bệnh nhân đó, một thanh niên trạc tuổi anh ta, đã đi lại bệnh viện này được năm năm. Ngày mưa cũng như ngày nắng, ngày thường cũng như ngày bão, người ấy đều đúng giờ xuất hiện tại phòng bệnh: một lần vào tám giờ sáng trước khi đi làm, một lần vào sáu giờ chiều sau khi tan sở. Thỉnh thoảng anh sẽ qua đêm tại phòng bệnh và sáng hôm sau, Thẩm Bích Quân sẽ gặp anh trước tám giờ. Cả hai sẽ trò chuyện vài câu không đầu không đuôi trong lúc Thẩm Bích Quân làm nhiệm vụ rồi cô để anh lại với bệnh nhân còn mình thì đi làm việc. Buổi chiều cũng như vậy, sau khi thăm khám xong xuôi, cô liền từ biệt người thanh niên ấy để ra về, kết thúc một ngày làm việc.

Qua những cuộc trò chuyện chóng vánh như thế, Thẩm Bích Quân biết được bốn điều: một là thanh niên mỗi ngày đến thăm bệnh họ Tiêu, đang làm việc tại một công ty tương đối lớn, thu nhập cũng không tệ, vì vậy khả năng tài chính của anh không những đủ để duy trì sự điều trị của bệnh nhân phòng B204 mà còn đủ để bệnh nhân được ở phòng riêng, không phải ở chung với nhiều người khác.

Duy trì sự sống cho một người hôn mê không biết chừng nào tỉnh là một việc rất tốn kém.

Thứ hai, thanh niên họ Tiêu đó là thân nhân duy nhất của bệnh nhân, ngoài ra không có người thứ hai. Suốt năm năm, Thẩm Bích Quân chưa bao giờ gặp ai khác ngoài thanh niên họ Tiêu trong căn phòng đó.

Thứ ba, bệnh nhân ở phòng B204 mang họ Liên và nguyên nhân khiến anh ta rơi vào tình trạng này là do ngạt khói từ một vụ hỏa hoạn.

Đó là một vụ hỏa hoạn lớn, chấn động thành phố, dĩ nhiên Thẩm Bích Quân đã nghe tới. Tuy nhiên, điều khiến cô chú ý là những vết sẹo chằng chịt trên cả hai bàn tay của thanh niên họ Tiêu. Bình thường, anh đều đeo găng tay đen, chỉ khi ngồi xuống bên bệnh nhân, anh mới tháo chúng ra.

Thẩm Bích Quân không dám hỏi, cô chỉ dám phỏng đoán những vết sẹo đó có lẽ là do bỏng lửa.

Thứ tư, thanh niên họ Tiêu chắc chắn rất yêu bệnh nhân trong phòng B204. Bằng quan sát và bằng trực giác nhạy bén của mình, từ ngày đầu chứng kiến họ, Thẩm Bích Quân đã nhận ra điều đó. Thời gian chỉ chứng minh cho nhận định của cô mà thôi.

Ngoài bốn điều trên và những thông tin cơ bản về bệnh nhân được lưu trong hồ sơ bệnh viện, Thẩm Bích Quân không biết gì hơn. Theo quy định của bệnh viện cộng với bản tính nhạy cảm, cô không đào sâu vào quá khứ của hai người họ.

Thế nhưng điều đó không hề ngăn cản Thẩm Bích Quân yêu mến cả hai con người ấy; cô xem họ không chỉ là một phần của công việc mà là một bộ phận trong cuộc sống của mình.

Sáng nay, khi Thẩm Bích Quân đến phòng y tá trưởng, cô nhận được chỉ thị là từ nay trở đi, cô không cần theo dõi chỉ số sức khỏe của bệnh nhân phòng B204 nữa.

Vì sao? cô hỏi.

Bởi vì bệnh nhân phòng B204 đã qua đời vào rạng sáng hôm nay, thi thể đã được khám nghiệm và đưa xuống phòng lạnh, y tá trưởng đáp.

Thẩm Bích Quân rời phòng y tá trưởng với cảm giác phân nửa linh hồn cô đã bị sụt xuống một hố đen.

Mới hôm qua các chỉ số còn bình thường cơ mà, làm sao hôm nay lại ra đi đột ngột như thế, cô không hiểu.

Chầm chậm đi dọc hành lang, Thẩm Bích Quân tình cờ nghe được hai y tá trò chuyện.

“Chị nghe tin gì chưa? Bệnh nhân phòng B204 vừa qua đời rồi,” một y tá nói.

“Sao đột ngột thế? Nguyên nhân là gì?”

“Em nghe các bác sỹ nói là trụy tim, nguyên nhân hoàn toàn tự nhiên.”

“Thật vậy không?”

“Bác sỹ nói vậy mà, nhưng em thấy hơi lạ…”

“Lạ gì cơ?”

“Thì em nghe các chị y tá bên kia nói trên cổ bệnh nhân có một dấu nhàn nhạt, tựa như ngón tay ấy.”

“Không phải là… chứ? Nghe nói đêm qua người nhà bệnh nhân đó ở lại phòng…”

“Nếu vậy thì bác sỹ phải phát hiện ra ngay chứ, đằng này… nhưng chị nói không phải không có lý.”

“Thì thế. Chị nghe nói là năm năm trôi qua rồi nhưng bệnh nhân đó không hề có dấu hiệu tỉnh lại. Có khi nào thân nhân kia tuyệt vọng quá rồi—”

Thẩm Bích Quân bước nhanh qua hai y tá nọ, không quên tặng họ một ánh mắt sắc lẻm khiến cả hai sững người, gián đoạn cuộc nói chuyện.

Mưu sát ư? Thật vô căn cứ. Không đời nào người thanh niên họ Tiêu kia lại làm vậy, không đời nào! Anh ta yêu bệnh nhân phòng B204 đến thế cơ mà. Thẩm Bích Quân cảm nhận được, và cô dám khẳng định anh ta không tuyệt vọng đến mức làm nên chuyện này. Lần trò chuyện gần đây nhất cô còn thấy hy vọng lấp lánh trong đôi mắt mỏi mệt của anh ta.

Nhưng, cô hiểu được anh ta bao nhiêu phần mà dám khẳng định?

Bước chân Thẩm Bích Quân chuyển hướng, không đến phòng bệnh y tá trưởng mới phân công mà đến phòng B204.

Phòng trắng toát, trống không như chưa từng có một bệnh nhân đã ở đây chẵn năm năm.

Trên chiếc tủ cạnh giường là chiếc máy phát nhạc mini.

Thẩm Bích Quân nhận ra chiếc máy. Ngày nào thanh niên họ Tiêu cũng bật bài nhạc duy nhất trong đó, để chế độ tự động lặp lại mỗi khi bài hát kết thúc. Anh từng nói đây là bài hát mà người nằm trên giường lúc trước thích nhất.

Trong lòng dâng lên thôi thúc lạ kỳ, Thẩm Bích Quân cầm nó lên, nhấn nút “play”.

Kỳ lạ một nỗi, bài hát dài gần bốn phút trong máy giờ đã bị thu gọn chỉ còn đoạn điệp khúc.

Da diết và ám ảnh như lời trăn trối.

“So I’m gonna love you

Like I’m gonna lose you

And I’m gonna hold you

Like I’m saying goodbye”

(Vì vậy em sẽ yêu anh

Giống như em sẽ mất anh

Và em sẽ ôm anh

Giống như em đang nói lời vĩnh biệt)

Nếu lắng tai nghe thật kỹ thì Thẩm Bích Quân sẽ nhận ra một giọng nói lạ ẩn sau giọng hát:

“Xin lỗi, Tiêu Thập Nhất Lang.”

Hết

Đây là lần thứ mấy bạn trẻ Joel viết truyện có yếu tố hoang tưởng lấy bối cảnh bệnh viện (và phải phòng B204 mới chịu)? Chắc bạn bị bệnh viện ám ảnh…

Cảm hứng để bạn viết fic này là lửa (tại sao thì bạn không rõ), chết cháy (please đừng hỏi tại sao >”<) và quan trọng nhất là ca khúc Like I’m Gonna Lose You bản cover của Jasmine Thompson (mà bạn nghe được trong tập 11 – Wild at Hearts của The Originals mùa 3). Nếu bạn muốn nghe thử, hãy nghe bản này, đừng nghe bản gốc. Cá nhân bạn Joel thấy bản gốc hát vừa nhanh vừa giật, không còn chút cảm xúc nào. Có lẽ vì nghe bản cover trước nên bị ấn tượng như vậy.

Đây là fic bạn Joel viết với hy vọng sẽ hack não người đọc một tý. Bạn không thấy hack não? Okay, bạn Joel fail rồi ~~.

[Fanfic] What’s Your Order?

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Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms: Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful (2014)

Rating: M

Pairing: Dracula/Alexander Grayson x Dorian Gray

Genres: fanfiction, crossover, humor, probably a little OOC, modern AU

Characters : Dracula/Alexander Grayson, Dorian Gray

Warnings: reference to violence and murders …

Preview:

Dorian was wrong. Alexander wasn’t jealous at all, perhaps annoyed, irritated, enraged—who wouldn’t be when arriving home after a hard day’s work to find their bedroom trashed by their partner’s having a fun row (sometimes maybe two or three) with a virtual stranger, again—but absolutely not jealous, not after, like, eight times of this month alone, not mention the whole year, and the years before.

Alexander Grayson arrived home at the ripe hour of 10 p.m., worn out and very much frustrated. His mood was not particularly high, that was for sure, as he had had another scorching debate with his board of directors about the new regulations to be introduced in his corporation (whose idea was it to have invented this damnest thing called ‘‘board of directors’?), and having to restrain himself from tearing their stubborn conservative heads from their senile necks had consumed the majority of his vitality, so much so that he ironically abhorred the notion of going on a late-night hunt in spite of the hunger clawing inside his throat. He hoped there were still a few blood bags in the refrigerator—cold, tasteless meal was better than no meal at all.

His low mood reached a new low when he spotted a pair of Converse snickers discarded in a devil-may-care fashion at the entrance to the living room. Nothing annoyed the former Romanian monarch than untidiness and cheap knockoffs except the combination of both. The continuous giggles from his, no, their bedroom his super hearing picked up further grated his strained nerves.

Alexander all but kicked open the door (unsurprisingly unlocked) to their shared place, causing a loud enough noise to shock the king-sized bed’s occupants out of their heated session, well, one of them at least, as the other was too used to his ruthless treatment of the furniture in the house, sometimes even played along and had his fair share of damage. On the luxurious bed were two male bodies arranged in a position that left very little imagination for what sort of activity they were engaging. His winter-blue eyes glided over their uncovered skin, both possessing an intoxicating pale complexion so contrastive with the deep scarlet of the bed sheet, and their piercing gaze seemed to claim all he wanted at this moment was to rip their birthday suits off them like peeling grapes and string the remains on a pole. One of them squirmed visibly to his murderous intent blatant in the air while the other, again, was too accustomed to it to produce even the smallest reaction.

“Welcome home. You’re back just in time,” greeted the fearless one with a smile more suited for a civil, fully-clothed summer occasion amongst the elite peers than a debauched setting that he himself had architected. He laid a hand on his ‘bedmate’ who was feeling more and more unnerved by the second. “Josh, I’d like to introduce you to my landlord and the master of this fancy house, Mr. Alexander Grayson.”

“You don’t own this mansion?” the young man called Josh asked with great disbelief at the truth just revealed to him.

“I am, shamefully, a no-good freeloader.” A careless shrug and a more careless smile which might appear childlike and innocent to those who hadn’t learnt of his less-than-pure nature. “Mr. Grayson here is gracious enough to allow me to stay for an indefinite time length, provide for me also, otherwise I would be crawling on the street right now, begging for change from passers-by.”

Said the guy who had possessed the electronic key to unlock the security system and strut into this pseudo palace like he owned every inch of it. A dazzled Josh had drunken this impression like a fish and harbored not a doubt.

With the look of someone who had been kicked in the face with a spiky boot, Josh gathered his discarded jeans and T in haste, and just when he was about to bring his ass out of this awkward situation, he was grasped by the arm. “Don’t be in such a hurry to leave. There’s still more fun to be had. The night is young after all.”

If it were a mere few minutes ago Josh would be enchanted by this beautiful young man’s flair for literary, heck, by anything that came out of those kissable lips naturally—who could resist that alluring British accented voice—but as he could feel on his goose-bumped skin the tension in the atmosphere skyrocketing, he only felt the urge to vaporize from this lavish suite. He had only wanted some no-strings-attached fun with a gorgeous creature all right; there was no need to get sticky in a bad jealous case.

Damn, wasn’t his grip too strong for a sissy-looking dude?

“But Dorian,” Josh said, “I think I’d better go now. Got some business to attend to. See ya later.”

… Provided Dorian survived his ‘landlord’ first.

“Darling,” Dorian drawled, and it took his next words for Josh to realize he wasn’t referring to him, “dear Josh is dying to leave and obviously I’m failing to persuade him. Would you come and grace us with your skills? We could use a fraction of your multi-talents.”

What the heck? Josh cursed in his head. Is this Dorian dude out of his fucking mind? Normally Josh wouldn’t turn down a tempting opportunity to get some booty with not only one but two good-looking guys (he did find the other man, Mr. Grayson or whatever, attractive despite everything) but no, not this time. The thought of fucking, or being fucked for that matter, by a guy who looked like he wanted to skin you alive and string the remains on a pole and might very well attempt it wasn’t very hot, thank you very much.

How someone with an unimpressive build like him could at the same time be so intimidating, wondered the captain of his college’s football team.

“But of course,” said Alexander, stalking towards the bed with a menacing air shrouding his suited form.

Out of the corner of Josh’s eyes but within Alexander’s, Dorian was smiling his little weasel smile. Surely he enjoyed the next turn of event, and he didn’t bother to hide that he was very much turned on just by watching his darling bloodsucker sink his elongated fangs into Josh’s vein with more force than necessary. Someone must have had a rough day, no doubt.

Alexander drank deep and completely free of mercy, as befitting his status as an ancient vampire, and those who were unfortunate enough to find themselves at the receiving end of his pointed incisors, alas, never truly comprehended the cause of their deaths. Poor, poor Joshua. He hadn’t a chance to scream, let alone struggle.

Without neither its life nor Alexander’s arm for support, the corpse dropped at the feet of the bed in a brief, dull thump, its head lolling to the side as it was barely connected to the neck by a few torn shreds of flesh.

Talk about anger issues.

Nevertheless, Dorian wasn’t the least disturbed by the obscene degree of bloodshed (or the lack of it, since the vampire hadn’t had a single drop wasted) in this confined suite, if his joyful humming of a nameless tune and the everlasting smile plastered on his face were anything to go by.

Alexander scanned the hopeless state of their bed—crumpled bed sheet and what the hell were those whitish stains—and spent longer to examined Dorian. Although what he saw was nothing strange to him, he couldn’t help a growl at the conspicuous red butterflies dotted his milky clavicles, flapping their tiny wings further and further below.

“Was he any good?”

“Tasted like the frat boy trash that he was,” Alexander remarked. “It was a miracle he didn’t do drugs. Where did you pick this?”

Dorian reclined on the bed, pillowing his head with his right arm. “Places frat boys frequent, which are plentiful in this metropolis. It took me hours to single out one that was neither snorting cocaine nor hooking with someone. Clean frat boys are so rare a species these days.”

With his free arm Dorian reached out to Alexander, fiddling with the golden cufflink on his shirt and soon abandoning it for his lean fingers instead. “Come on, I deserve a compliment for my effort, don’t I?”

“Judging by the look, I’d say you were overcompensated. Thank you for the meal. It was indeed better than blood bags.”

He gave Dorian a quick peck on the lips, shading the light pink with a smudge of red.

Dorian licked his lips and grinned like a cat. “Where’s my reward?” he purred, tugging Alexander’s arm with some considerable strength, the kind of which had impeded Josh’s fleeing out of his designated fate—a quintessential bonus from decades of diligently mixing blood with a vampire. It took no Einstein to get what kind of ‘reward’ he was determined to claim.

Alexander replied with a smirk that stated his refusal to be pulled down into maybe a kiss and what hotly ensued. When it boiled down to this tug-of-war play, there was no guessing who would be the ultimate winner between an immortal whose strength grew with time and one who did not. He indulged Dorian from time to time though, knowing how his mate adored a taste of domination over a mighty creature, however ephemeral it might be.

As it was proven that Dorian was unable to drag Alexander to his level, he borrowed the vampire’s strength to lift himself off the bed. His arms draped around his lover’s toned shoulders and leaned on him for support as if he suddenly became boneless and couldn’t stand on his own. Although he was a good few inches taller than Alexander, in his drooped posture, he appeared to be somewhat inferior to the straight-backed vampire in height. He moistened the skin on Alexander’s neck with his tongue as he breathed, “Don’t be so jealous over a little plaything.”

Alexander’s first thought was directed to denial, but then he was quick to remind himself how ridiculous and undignified it would be having to argue this triviality. Plus, it would only serve to prove Dorian was correct.

“Am I?” he asked with a slight arch of his fine eyebrows and a tiny curve of his lips. Then, not waiting for any response, he said, “I’m going for a shower.” Short and crisp—Dom mode on.

Of course Dorian wouldn’t be Dorian, Dracula’s companion, if he was deterred by the commanding tone. “May I join you? I could use a bath also,” he whispered, nibbling the line of Alexander’s ear with his perfect human teeth.

Tickling. And arousing as hell. Trust Dorian to never fail in tempting his other lust beside the one for blood.

Since that was what Alexander had in mind as well—his keen vampire sense couldn’t stand the frat-boy odor permeating Dorian’s skin in the process, he let Dorian maneuver him into their deluxe bathroom.

“Be sure to rid off the trash later.”

“Yes, darling.”

This was one out of various occasions when having a possessed, flesh-devouring portrait in their basement could come in handy.

“And the cheap Converse knockoff, too, while you’re at it.”

Dorian was wrong. Alexander wasn’t jealous at all, perhaps annoyed, irritated, enraged—who wouldn’t be when arriving home after a hard day’s work to find their bedroom trashed by their partner’s having a fun row (sometimes maybe two or three) with a virtual stranger, again—but absolutely not jealous, not after, like, eight times of this month alone, not mention the whole year, and the years before. It was true Alexander’s fury had been peerless the first time such incident happened—so long ago that he hardly recalled that victim’s appearance. Was it a man or a woman? Blonde or brunette? Fair-skinned or tanned? Muscular or lean? Anyway, no matter how that one looked, they had been certainly attractive enough to catch Dorian’s eyes and Dorian, being simply Dorian, would never be unsuccessful in getting what or who he wanted once they had managed to intrigue him. The thrill in the new things, he claimed. To Alexander, it was a quirk in his character he didn’t quite appreciate. Needless to say how he had felt upon returning home to see a stranger taking his place on the bed. His mask of civility had quickly succumbed to his bestial wrath, and the beast manifest to tear that unfortunate somebody’s head clean off their neck in one swift strike. Truly a sight to behold later: with red splattering the wall behind the bed and soaking the mattress and almost every object destroyed. The room had to be repainted and refurnitured afterwards. The blamed culprit of all this hellish scene remained cheekily unfazed, much to Alexander’s chagrin, and there was no way to swipe that smirk off his face even when Alexander had him against the wall in one of their roughest copulations in their long years together (if a record had been kept, that was).

Well, theirs was far from the healthiest relationship; so were the majority of relationships involving immortal partners. Living forever kind of had that nasty effect your mentality, except when you were already messed up to begin with.

There wasn’t a single monogamous bone in Dorian’s youthful skeleton, and soon after their room was done with renovating (more like rebuilding), another incident happened and its result was devastatingly indifferent from the first. Then the third, the fourth and the fifth made up a chain of heads torn, walls smashed and general rebuilding. Dorian’s attitude remained the same as he rode through Alexander’s jealous tantrums as if nothing serious occurred and all of these violent bursts were just exotic spices to fight off the monotony of their immortal, sometimes too bored, existence.

“Darling,” Dorian called, stretching his long, graceful limbs on where his body was draping over, the plush sofa, “I know you grew up and have lived most of your life in extravagance, but do you think it’s terribly wasteful to spill their precious juice in that manner?”

Alexander propped up on his elbow, his body language showing that Dorian had gotten his attention. His mood had improved a great deal and his jealous flame put out after hours of ‘blowing up steam’ in practically every surface in the mansion. As proof of their unholy recreation, their sleeping chamber was a hopeless mess and there was a stiff cadaver, head and body detached, at the foot of the bed.

“I did take great consideration in picking only the prime-aged, healthy and cocaine-free ones after all. Well, if you catch my drift…”

Oh. Realization dawned on Alexander’s chiseled features as well as a minuscule portion of mortification. In his jealous frenzy, he hadn’t really retained much rational thought, but to think about it now… yes, it was indeed a waste to let it drench the walls and carpet while all of its vitality could have been spent on energizing his vampiric mechanism instead.

However, in Alexander’s defense that he wasn’t a brute blinded by jealousy, being a vampire did exaggerate his emotions in a way that more often than not resulted in dismal outcomes.

“So… that’s why you brought them home?”

“If it was merely for fun, I would be fine anywhere, say, the not-very-sanitary restroom at the back. Save the trouble. However, I wouldn’t say I take no pleasure in watching you put out their lives.”

Alexander couldn’t help a laugh. “All is a sport to you, isn’t it?”

“Something to keep me out of boredom when you’re away. Since you work hard to provide for the freeloader that I am, I suppose the least I can do is make sure you are not malnourished, to return the favor, so to speak.”

“Positively housewifey.”

Dorian didn’t deny.

Since then Dorian had transformed his nocturnal pastime into a real manhunting. Alexander was surprised to find out Dorian was every bit a sufficient hunter, even more than himself if he had to admit, even though his looks and manners suggested otherwise. Or perhaps they were played to his advantage. Humans, no matter aged or young, green or experienced, couldn’t help being on guard when around Alexander, who exuded dominance and conquest through his every pore—such came as his default mode, but Dorian, with his easy smiles, shining eyes and sensual voice, could charm his way into their hearts within a matter of minutes. And before they realized how enormous their mistake was to put trust into this seemingly harmless youth, they were already caught in his toxic sway.

Being the former monarch who had reigned over a part of Eastern Europe, Alexander had his pride and a reputation amongst his bloodsucking peers to uphold and thus, he never abandoned his hunting habit to be fed like a domestic beast. To savor the taste of his prey’s despair was a predator’s ecstasy and vampires were nothing if not the predators at the top of the food chain. Dorian of course had no dispute over it, as he, though sincere in his words, was never diligent in his work. He went out if he was in the mood for some brief fun the mortal world could offer; if he wasn’t, he simply stayed in and locked himself in a marathon of whatever series available on their paid cable networks. But that was not to say Alexander never received a pleasant surprise from his ageless lover. From time to time he would come home to find dinner already served: slender or robust, light-skinned or dark, they came from different walks of life to this mansion to meet their ends at the fangs of an ancient vampire. The sight of their occupying his bed touched his nerve each damnable time—blame it on his amplified emotions, yet he would never say he didn’t enjoy the tastes their veins offered in abundance. He wasn’t aware he had a specific ‘type’ until Dorian casually pointed it out that the tall, slender brunette lasted him much longer than others.

No one said keen observation wasn’t Dorian’s strength.

Alexander wondered if Dorian noticed that it came to tall, slender brunette, none of these humans gave an exquisite and prolonged ecstasy like one unique individual…

“So, darling, what’s your order for tomorrow night?” Dorian asked one random evening while casually flipping through the channels.

From his side of the sofa, Alexander lifted his eyes from the pages he had been reading for a couple hours. His eyes studied Dorian’s form thinly covered by the silky bed robe, paying a little more attention to the delicate blue vein than the rest.

“Order for?”

“Dinner, darling, and by that I don’t mean the Antoine’s where we dined the fortnight—superb meal by the way.”

Alexander was genuinely surprised. “Why brings this up all of sudden? Normally you would pick according to your preference and I wasn’t complaining.”

Dorian had finally found something to last him for the rest of the night and stopped flipping through channels. “Season three was out already,” he murmured. “I was thinking about something different for tomorrow. Special even.”

“What’s the occasion?” Alexander asked as he simultaneously worked his memory. Nothing particularly stood out.

Dorian didn’t look too upset. “Ah, remember the night you were seen feeding on a lovely barmaid and you gorged out the voyeur’s heart afterwards?

That night,” Alexander laughed.

“Well, lately I’ve been somewhat reminiscent of London and the 19th century. One question struck me: How would it be now if I hadn’t followed you to that dark alleyway, merely heading back home as my dearly departed butler—God bless his soul—often preached?”

“It would have happened at another night, another location,” replied the vampire, “because you were never good at doing as told.”

A light chuckle. “So, what’s your order? Any type, any build, any color… I’ll try my very best.”

“Oh, I’m afraid that may leave you out of home the whole night.”

“You’re underestimating the allure of the Crescent City, darling. The mortal population has never been short of variety.”

Alexander’s gaze landed on that spot on Dorian’s neck again and he felt aroused just imagining what was running underneath. He tamed his lusts with little effort; saving for tomorrow night was what was in his mind.

“Tall, slender…” he answered after a while. “… dark of hair and light of skin… with a pair of amber-colored eyes. If you catch my drift…”

Always trust Dorian to read between the lines.

End

Set in the distant future of Why Won’t You Die?, together with Like It Rough

 

[Trilijah] Untitled 07

07

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Continuing after Offer

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5

Christmas in general wasn’t an event which Darren would get too excited about. Maybe years and years ago he had had a true Christmas, complete with a decorated tree, glittering ornaments hanging around the house, big meals and the anticipation of Santa Claus’s arrival churning in his little tummy, but it was such a once-upon-a-time that the vague memories seemed like someone’s fairytale, not even Darren’s. His less-opaque experiences of Christmas were comprised of his father’s lack of presence and his mother’s sore absence until it was well over. Off to celebrate with somebody else other than her only son, obviously. He hadn’t had even a proper dinner, let alone decorations and presents. His last Christmas as a human had been spectacularly dismal. Being the swimming team’s captain and the school’s golden boy, Zack had the responsibility to uphold his status by throwing the biggest party in town… right under Darren’s room for two days straight. God knew Darren had had to bar the door to prevent his room from being mistaken as some makeshift fuck-space. The voracious noise guaranteed that he wouldn’t have any decent sleep without the blaring music penetrating his dreams. And don’t even mention the glorious mess afterwards.

It was funny how his first Christmas as a non-human was truer in both sense and spirit than his many dulled and meaningless ones. The Mikaelsons were many things, Original vampires, founding fathers and mother of New Orleans, ancient monsters with a millennium’s worth of blood and more often than not harbingers of misfortune and disasters, but none could say they didn’t possess a merry spirit. That spirit particularly flared when it came to celebrations. Celebrating in proper manners and style was just as deadly serious as any other business to them, those ancient beings whom young ones would think as having gone through too many lifetimes to even care for the differences between Christmas and Thanksgiving. Darren had had the exact same expression and was then proven very wrong when he woke up one morning to witness the biggest Christmas tree of his life so far erected in the middle of the yard. The holiday spirit hung thick in the air with the influx of servants rushing in and out of the compound to meet their wealthy employers’ many elaborate demands. His legs moved on their own why his mind was so entranced by the atmosphere that it got a temporary shutdown, and he blended right in with the human servants and offered his vampiric hand to the job. None questioned his sudden appearance nor his preternatural abilities on blatant display, wordlessly accepting him as another helper. Conveniently compelled, all of them.

“My my, aren’t you a helpful one?”

He heard Rebekah’s footsteps on the stairs and her voice rang in his vampire ears like clear silver bells amongst the sea of indistinct noises. She looked a little less than her best, having just returned from a foreign trip and in the middle of adjusting to the time zone by burying herself under her blankets. In fact, these were her very first words to Darren since she laid eyes on him upon her return. He had noticed the sharp edge in her tired eyes at once, being too accustomed to that mildly-surprised and doubtful look people often gave him thanks to a certain ancient doppelgänger.

“You’re Darren, aren’t you? The kid Elijah picked up during his ‘fun’ time as a history teacher? God, my brother actually thought being a teacher was fun,” Rebekah said, leaning against the wooden rail.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Darren replied. He was thankful that Rebekah didn’t refer to him as his former history teacher’s pet. If only he got a dollar every time he heard such…

“Didn’t you have a home? Were your parents OK with their son’s turning into a vampire?”

“Well, my dad fled from my mom and my mom fled from me,” said Darren with a shrug. Bringing her up hurt less these days, and it was surprising even to him how he could mention her in such a nonchalant tone. “I think she’s better off without a child anyway. She remarried after all, and suddenly I had a hotter and undeniably wealthier dad than my biological one.”

“You sound bloody like Flowers in the Attic, don’t you know that? Tell me, have you any siblings?”

“No, not really,” Darren sounded uncertain, “I was the only child, unless you count my ex-stepbrother. What’s Flowers in the Attic anyway?”

Rebekah waved her hand. “Nevermind. I heard you recently became one of The Strix.”

Darren nodded while hanging golden and silver tinsel on a branch. “I still had no idea whatsoever why I was qualified as ‘passed’.”

One blink ago Rebekah was leaning against the rails and in the next, she was standing by Darren’s side with one hand on her jean-clad hip, startling him.

“Did you know Tristan had me staked and cursed and then Aurora bloody dumped me at the bottom of the ocean? Those two bloody loons,” Rebekah asked, her blue eyes squinting.

Of course Darren knew all about it. One of the first things Tristan had drilled into him on day one was the significant events with the Mikaelsons from past to present. It was like going through History 101 all over again, except that his ‘teacher’ was extra-homicidal and would prefer to send him home with a neck snapped than a bad grade. The number of surprise tests being taken up to eleven was yet another spice added into the hellish stew.

In sum, yes, Darren knew all about the nasty things Tristan and Aurora had done to the Original sister, and how she had retaliated afterwards. What he didn’t understand was why Rebekah brought it up to him merely after some minutes of idle conversations. It caused anxiety to rise in the pit of his stomach.

“I did,” he replied, glancing warily at Rebekah and expecting a blow. He would consider himself extremely lucky to get away with only a broken neck.

Rebekah’s unexpected slap on his taut back caused him to lose his balance and tumbled down, only to get caught by her arms.

“Don’t give me that eye as if I were about to bloody bash your skull,” she chided him, not harshly. “I’m mean, true, but not that mean. Plus, even if I wanted to, I would never hear the end of it if I so much as lay a finger on Elijah’s boy.”

Just when he thought not being referred as ‘pet’ was an improvement…

“You’re having your arms around me, not your finger.”

Smiling, Rebekah released him from her grip. “You’re witty, aren’t you? I like that. The thing is, kid, you’d do better to stay far away from that bloody lot, especially Aurora and that stuck-up twit who might be your distant ‘relative’. I would have stuck that bloody cursed stake right up his arse if my brother hadn’t already done so for as long as I could remember.”

Darren’s face put on an expression that could only be classified as ‘comically horrified’. “I’m pretty sure I don’t want details.”

“About the stake-up-arse part or the other?”

Her feigned innocence couldn’t fool a kid, let alone a straight A teenager.

“Neither,” he said, trying not to sound like a huff. “Moreover, why are many people assuming I’m related to Tristan? It’s been more than a thousand years and right now most high school students know the gene pool is not limitless.”

There was that elder’s half disappointed and half amused look like Aya often gave him again. Well, at least Rebekah didn’t overact like Aurora.

“Have you ever heard the name Tatia? It must have popped up somewhere in your Strix’s supernatural Wikipedia, huhm?”

Darren nodded. “She was the reason why we are here and not six feet under?”

“Not bad for a high school student,” said Rebekah with a smile. “Tatia was but one link of a long chain of related people magically looking like carbon copy of one another. Want to hear more about that bloodline?”

“Something tells me that involves racing through basically every shop in New Orleans in a late Christmas shopping.”

He had learnt that Rebekah was Aurora’s sire, and if Aurora was a terminal shopaholic, he didn’t see why Rebekah was any different.

“I’m liking you more and more, kiddo. Now you wait a few minutes while I freshen up and you’ll help me get my niece a nice present.”

“Alright,” Darren replied, sounding a little defeat.

Nice kids got presents from Santa Claus while naughty ones got none, that was common knowledge. For years and years Darren had been convinced that his name was forever on Santa’s naughty list, for rarely had he received a present that wasn’t from the online game developers. To be fair, Zack did give him a present in their first Christmas, which was nice if you overlooked the tiny fact that he had gotten it from one of his many admirers at school. There was even a Merry-Christmas card directed to him inside the box.

Fortunately Darren had made good use of that hand-knit scarf.

This year was different though. Darren supposed somehow he had miraculously gotten off the naughty list and even made it to the other one. He had started the day by helping with decorating the house and then escorted Rebekah on her shopping escapade as she raided the shops in Nola − not yet an expert but he had acquired excessive experience from countless times playing Aurora’s bag-carrying boy. He spent the other half of the day babysitting Hope so that Hayley could do a late Christmas shopping for her in-laws, who happened to be plenty, while being involuntary accomplice in Freya’s arson. Moral of the story: never allow a witch and a baby vamp in the kitchen. Period. Compulsion and money existed for the sole purpose of preventing these incidents. The only good thing to come out of it was their providing quite an entertainment for the little hybrid girl.

So, Darren had been a “good, extra-helpful kid” as per Rebekah’s words and thus was entitled to receive a number of presents on Christmas night, much more than all the gifts he had been given in his entire human life. Hayley brought him some homemade desserts from her in-laws in the bayou and, unlike Freya’s failed attempt, they were edible and actually delectable. Point taken: Wolves cooked much better than vampires and (ancient) witches because they had to do it on a daily basis instead of staring into a chef’s eyes for some seconds or having absurdly wealthy vampire siblings. For helping Freya, whether in burning down the kitchen or cleaning up the mess afterwards, the Mikaelson witch had made it so that his daylight ring was firmly attached to his finger, thus no more worry about dropping or having it stolen by some elder vampire bullies. Aya sent him a black envelope containing a sleek black card that granted him access to The Strix’s exclusive bar and a whole year of free-drinking. Not keen on another hour-long lecture about underage drinking from his former history teacher slash sire slash unofficial guardian, he tucked the card in the depth of his jeans pocket with the intention to pay it some visits in the near future. The most unexpected gift was from Klaus, who had ordered a complete set of flat-screened TV, surrounding stereo system plus gaming arcade installed in his room. “You entertained my sisters well and since it’s Christmas, I can be charitable,” he nonchalantly declared, stunning Darren. Somehow the set had occupied most of his living space but being the self-entitled hikkomori who could stay inside for days to play a new video game that Darren was, he couldn’t really complain.

“You’ve got quite a huge Christmas stocking, haven’t you?”

A large hand on his shoulders woke Darren from his trance of contemplating the massive wardrobe Tristan and Aurora had delivered to the Mikaelson compound when the clock struck twelve. The elegant card that accompanied this extravagance read: “Dress well when you’re back to school. PS: The ties are entirely Aurora’s contributions.”

Yes, Darren was coming back to school in spring because according to Tristan, “A Strix without at least two degrees is no Strix at all.” If Darren wasn’t a nerdy kid who had spent most his life devoted to studying and playing games, he felt that he would revolt and run away − one didn’t simply become an undead in order to come back toiling at school.

“Can I just wear the hoodies and jeans Rebekah bought me?” Darren asked Elijah, who had just entered his room with a tumbler of bourbon in his hand. “Not these suits and funny ties?”

He finally understood why Tristan, who wore mostly grim and solid colors would opt for ties that appeared so out-of-character. They all came from Aurora, no wonder. Somehow Darren was convinced even if Aurora gave him jester’s outfits, Tristan would wear them with his head held high because they were his sister’s gifts imbued with love.

“You wear whatever makes you feel comfortable,” replied Elijah with a smile. “Take that little weasel’s words for reference, not commandment.”

“Aren’t you and him wearing suits 24/7?”

As far as Darren could observe, that style was strictly instilled in every member of The Strix. As (reluctant) one himself, he thought he was no exception.

“Out of choice, Darren, which I think should apply to you also. “Speaking of Christmas gift…”

A carefully wrapped box was laid next to Darren, startling the newbie vampire. “…mine is a bit humble being put next to these grandiose displays, so I thought I’d wait until deep in the night to give it to you personally.”

“Elijah…I…”

“Come one, Darren, open it,” he urged.

Darren’s eyes widened with every layer of the bordeaux-colored wrapping being peeled off. He was rendered speechless with what he was holding in his hands.

“Judging from your expressions, I can safely say I’ve chosen a decent gift. Being newly introduced to vampirism can be such an overwhelming experience that you’ve neglected what you loved. This fourth installment of the series is to be released a week later, but as I have some acquaintances in the company…”

Since his wording procession had come to a block, Darren sought to express his heart-swelling attitude in a tight hug. “It’s… perfect… Thank you, Elijah,” he murmured in the front of his sire’s jacket.

“What do you say we put Niklaus’s present to good use right now? The night is still much young,” said Elijah with gentle pat on Darren’s back. “But before that, would you kindly surrender Aya’s black card? I believe we’ve already discussed extensively about underage drinking.”

End

 

[Trilijah] Untitled 06

06

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Continuing after Offer

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4

Panting with exertion and clutching his side, Darren took a step back and scanned his opponent through blood-veiled eyes: five feet seven in height, built like a goddess of war and standing in her immaculate outfit without a single bead of sweat – the perfect opposite of his current state: mussed hair, bloodied face and dirty clothes. As soon as he felt his ribs putting themselves back together, he charged at her with all the strength and speed his infant vampire body could muster.

So close. He was so close in landing a blow on her that he could actually feel the texture of her sleeve through his fist when she flashed behind him to land a kick on his back, sending Darren across the dome room and into the steel wall.

He took small comfort in the dent he made in that mass of metal. At least his spine didn’t break for nothing.

“OK,” a voice said, or boomed, judging from where he was lying, flushed against the concrete floor and next to a pair of killer heels. “Time out, please. I want to borrow Darren.”

No one ever said Aurora’s timing wasn’t flawless.

“Sorry, Aurora,” Darren bleated, turning his head to the other side so it didn’t look like he was gazing up her mini-skirt. “I’m a little busy here. Do you mind coming back at another time?”

She was probably hit with the urge to ravage every boutique shop in New Orleans… again. Since Tristan was always busy dealing with one business or another, Aurora felt entirely justified to grab the closest thing, ahem, person to her brother for substitution.

Aya held out her hand in front of him, which Darren unceremoniously took. As she helped him to his feet, more like pulled him to his feet, she smiled and said, “That was actually an improvement, kid. Next time, try to be less obvious about your aim.”

“Thanks,” replied Darren with a slight groan, straightening his back. There was no pain like a broken spine; he was sure to remember it for the rest of his un-life.

“A Strix who cannot at least defend themself is no Strix at all,” Tristan had told him after Darren’s admission to The Strix with a gentle pat on his shoulder. While the high-schooler-turn-vampire wasn’t particular enthusiastic about his newly granted membership of this douche (Elijah’s implication) organization, he too agreed that he should find a way to be stronger. According to Tristan, Elijah had tons of enemies and who knew some of them might see “Elijah’s little pet” (he hated it when Tristan referred to him as such) as possible leverage. If there was a role for him in the Crescent city, the last thing Darren wanted was for it to be the damsel in distress’s.

‘Twas the brief summary of how he had ended in this special training room with the strict Aya as his coach. Looking out for our baby brother as she said, hence a variety of wounds and broken bones Darren hadn’t known were possible on a body until he experienced them on his own.

So much beating had he taken in these weeks that he forgot to ask sometime whether Elijah had trained her in the same way back in her early vampire years.

“Aurora, we’ve agreed that Darren’s training time is sacrosanct,” Tristan, who occasionally joined their session to monitor Darren’s progress, spoke from his chair.

“That’s what you said. I didn’t say a thing. Come on, let the poor boy catch a breath!”

“Whatever you say, sister.” Tristan was defeated.

“So, Darren, what’s your last name?”

“Uhm… Hayward,” Darren answered while wiping his face with a towel.

Aurora scribbled something down on a large sheet. “Good, that means your father is a Hayward. And your grandfather’s?”

“…Hayward, too.”

“Great grandfather’s?”

This was getting weird. “Possibly Hayward?”

“Charming. And your great-great grandfather’s?”

“How should I know?” Honestly all except his own last name were mere guesses. He had never met his grandfather for goodness’s sake and researching his paternal family’s legacy wasn’t exactly his pastime so…

“How could you not know?” Aurora was positively offended. “As you ancestor, I am very disappointed.”

Darren rolled his eyes at her. “Since when you became my ancestor?”

The look on Aurora’s face suggested that Darren had just said something so retarded she was rendered speechless.

Well, nobody would say Aurora didn’t possess a dramatic flair. She would make a perfect drama queen if she didn’t have a tendency to eat her co-stars.

“Oh please, Aurora,” Tristan sighed. “Would you be so kind to us as to abort this ridiculous and futile research of yours?”

“Excuse me, what is that research?” asked Aya, whose interest just got piqued.

“My dear brother, have a little faith,” Aurora said, flinging an arm around Darren’s shoulders. “Isn’t this little one a profound reminder that we should discover our lost and scattered bloodline?”

“You mean the de Martels?”

“Yes, Aya, our family whom we had involuntarily left behind thanks to a certain Original jerk.”

“There’s no concrete evidence that Darren is our descendant. It may turn out to be a case of looking alike, which happens all around the earth as we speak.”

“Looking alike? Please, have you looked in the mirror recently, Tristan? Anyone with half an eye can tell he’s your spitting image, down to those large blue eyes. Doppelgänger blood runs in the family.”

Tristan looked as if he would prefer to embed himself into the wall than further engage in this discussion with Aurora. Darren, in the other hand, was interested.

“How is your process so far?” Aya asked, glancing at Aurora’s sheet. “Oh, a family tree with… not many branches.”

Darren tried to contain his laughter. Aurora’s accomplishment so far was putting up their parents’ names on top, followed by hers and Tristan’s with a glaring blank space between them and Darren’s name near the bottom.

“I got blocked right here. Tristan, do you remember our cousin Maria? She was expecting a baby when we left.”

“As I recall, we had many cousins from both our paternal and maternal sides.”

“Is there any chance that Tristan had sired a bastard, or several, before he was turned?”

“What makes you think so, Aya?” Tristan’s voice was edged with frost.

Still, Aya was unfazed. “No offense to your person but isn’t that the common way of noble sons back then? Going around and bedding any fair village maiden that caught their eyes?”

“I will have to defend my brother’s honor in this matter, Aya,” said Aurora. “Unlike those lecherous noble dicks, my brother had never done such thing, and this sometimes prompted our lord father to question whether Tristan was truly his son.”

Aya squinted her dark eyes. “Not once?”

“Absolutely. He had taken a personal vow of chastity until marriage and meant to uphold it.”

“Meant to?” Darren echoed, and got a chill from Tristan’s glare.

“Then along came Eli—”

“The training session ends for the day,” Tristan cut her short. “Aya, would you please see to it that Darren gets home safe?”

“Hey, I still want to ask him a few more—”

With a slight jerk of his head, Tristan instructed them to ignore his sister. Aya gave a small nod and took Darren’s arm. “Let us go, kid.”

Once they were out in the hallway, Darren finally gave in to his laughter. Aya couldn’t help a few larger-than-usual smiles despite her trademark stoicism.

“Are they always like that?”

Aya nodded. “Aurora loves to make Tristan uncomfortable and it doesn’t help when Tristan’s all oversensitive about his millennium-old affair with you-know-who, despite it is no longer a secret to everyone around.”

Darren agreed. With Aurora’s spilling the tea at such frequency, it would be very strange if there was a Strix who didn’t know.

“Thanks to the boss, we still have a few hours to spare before I give you a ride back to Elijah. Do you feel like going for a drink?”

“I think I’m capable of escorting myself back to the Mikaelson compound, Aya.”

“I’m doing my job, kid. One thing you should bear in mind: here insubordination isn’t taken too well, no matter how small the deed.”

“All right,” Darren muttered. “But isn’t it a bit early to go to a club?”

To tell the truth, Darren hadn’t really been a club-goer in his human days, and neither had he been a drinker. A few sips from time to time at Zack’s constant parties and that was all. He would rather hole himself up in his room and play the newest video game all night then go out and drink. That must have been the reason for his near-bottom status at the school.

Aya’s lips formed a tiny amused smile. “If you’re thinking about all those noisy squalors littered the French Quarter, no. Let me introduce you to our private bar, where only the best spirits and blood are served.”

“Do they have, like, age restriction?”

“No admission of vampires under three hundred.”

“Maybe I’ll come back three centuries later,” Darren replied.

“Fortunately I’m old enough for the both of us,” said Aya, ruffling his mussy black hair.

Hours later, Elijah wasn’t nowhere pleased to see a stone-drunk Darren delivered home. In reply to his question, “Whose idea was it?”, Aya merely shrugged.

Needless to say, he would definitely have a few words with his youngest protégé about underage drinking.

End

[Trilijah] Untitled 05

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Continuing after Offer

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3

“You should do best to stay away from him… and put a shorter leash on your psychotic sister or God help me—”

“You yourself know Aurora doesn’t like to be controlled and it’s not that I can restrain her either. I say it again, as I’ve said it before, it’s in my best intention to protect my sire line, your sire line, Elijah. Perhaps you could do the same.”

Over the distance of a very large room, their bickering voices were still booming in Darren’s ears. Turning to Aya, the dark-skinned beauty Tristan had assigned to look after him (not that he needed, or wanted for that matter, any ‘babysitting’), Darren asked nervously, “Is there any possibility that Tristan and Elijah might end up killing each other?”

The tension between those two was so palpable it could be cut with a knife.

Aya smirked, ruffling Darren’s hair, much to the younger vampire’s chagrin. “That’s what I love about newbies. Their naïveté and ignorance are truly adorable.”

“I don’t think it’s amusing that someone doesn’t know something just because they’re new to the game,” he rebuked.

“You’re quick-tongued, aren’t you? I could see why Elijah sired you, aside from the visible truth that you’re Tristan’s doppelgänger. You might turn out to be his descendant.”

Darren truly didn’t want to think of it that way, that Elijah made him because he was a carbon copy of Tristan, but he started to believe it was indeed the case. Plus, Aurora’s earlier question and Aya’s ambiguous tone were leading him to an uncomfortable conclusion.

“To answer your earlier question, no. Since we are all sired by Elijah, if he dies, unfortunately so will every one of us, young or old. As for Tristan, Elijah will not kill him no matter how Tristan has annoyed him, merely juggling with threats and promises of tortures. In reality, there has never been any serious bloodshed known between them. The two of them have been that way since our first encounter.”

“When was that?”

“Take your age and multiply it by a few dozens. Shortly after that, Elijah sired me. Just so you know, Tristan’s age nearly doubles mine.”

Darren mouthed an impressed “wow.” He still found it a little challenging to adapt to the concept of vampiric age. Seeing those ancient beings with youthful faces like Elijah, Aurora, Tristan and now, Aya wasn’t exactly helpful either.

“I think they have stopped quarreling.”

Aya’s stern-looking face suddenly sported a mischievous smile. “They’re far from done, kid. Just switched to a… less linguistic activity.”

Darren was about to ask “What does that mean?” when he saw a flash of redhead.

Aurora. Again. Dressed in a fiery dress to match her fiery hair and beaming with a smile so bright the sunlit room went dark for a moment.

Her undeniable beauty was a sight for sore eyes, yet Darren’s eyes weren’t sore and her presence sorrily embittered the blood he had been sipping from a blood bag provided by Aya. It was still too fresh in his memory to not recall the ‘fun’ they had had as Aurora brought him along on her one-day New Orleans tour.

“Aya, where’s my brother?” Aurora asked, leaning against the wall.

Aya shrugged and cocked her head slightly to the side. “Elijah’s here.”

A perfect eyebrow raised. “How long has he been here?”

“Long.”

“Shagging each other again, no doubt,” she muttered with a huge dark cloud eclipsing her beaming face.

Darren was glad he wasn’t chewing anything, otherwise he might bite off his tongue. That didn’t mean the air to his nasal passage wasn’t blocked for a few good seconds.

Seeing his face going beet-red, Aya couldn’t help a smile while Aurora started her evil cackles. “Oh my, I shouldn’t have said so bluntly in front of children. Should go for euphemism next time.”

“Your tact is hardly renowned, Aurora,” Aya commented.

Aurora promptly ignored her and gleefully took Darren’s arms. “I was going to have my brother go shopping with me but since his afternoon and evening are booked, you’re coming with me, mini-Tristan.”

Aya might object to Aurora’s whims, saying something like she had been instructed to keep an eye on their newest member; nonetheless, before she had a chance to open her mouth, Aurora had teleported Darren out of the mansion.

Well, so much for ‘babysitting’.

End

[Trilijah] Untitled 03

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Elijah Mikaelson (The Originals) & Darren (Wasted on the Young)

Continuing after Offer

Part 1

“Oh la la, it’s really true as the rumors spread,” cried the beautiful redhead that popped out of nowhere. It took a crushing bear hug from her for Darren to realize she was referring to him (who else in this empty yard?). Feeling a little suffocated (as if he needed to breathe), Darren tried to wriggle out of her iron embrace without unfavorably hurting her with his new vampiric strength, and only when he failed epically did a realization strike him: she was no ordinary woman but a supernatural being – a vampire like him – with God-know-how-many years in difference. She looked slim, yet Darren wagered she had to be at least thrice his strength, probably more.

Well, this was New Orleans, where the Original family dwelled, so it was unsurprising to find bloodsuckers lurking at any corner. His first lesson learnt here.

And if this diabolical strength confined in a fragile-looking figure was not convincing enough as proof of her vampirism, her demonic speed as she grabbed him by the waist and teleported them both from where they were standing was another stamping piece of evidence.

Darren was sauntering around the Mikaelsons’ compound, leisurely weighing his options to have a beignet or a blood bag for breakfast when she materialized like a David Copperfield trick, dressed to the nines and wearing a wide grin. The next thing Darren knew was that he had been practically kidnapped by a much-older vampire whose intention for him was as vague as her supernatural age.

“You’re a fan of beignets?” she casually asked in her sing-song tone after dropping a puzzled Darren in front of a shop. And not waiting for a decent reply, or any reply at all, she grabbed the infant vampire by the arm, leading him inside.

Even when he was seated in a very nice table basking in the early morning sun, on which placed practically every type of beignets the house could offer, Darren was still a little behind what was really going on.

You have to excuse him though, since it wasn’t every day he was abducted by an elder who was going to murder him alive with too many choices of beignets and a diabetic amount of ground sugar.

“I’m Aurora,” she cheerfully introduced herself, reaching for a beignet and rolling it in the plate of sugar before taking a happy, large bite. “And you?” she asked once she had finished swallowing.

“Darren,” he answered warily, his eyes alternating between the vampire Aurora and the sweets.

“Well, Darren, don’t be shy. Beignets in this shop are the most heavenly. It’s not like you’re going to gain any pound. Or…”

Aurora glanced around and beckoned a waitress to her side. “Or… you want something less in cholesterol and a little richer in nutrition? After all you’re growing, aren’t you?”

Again, Darren had no idea what this vampire meant until the waiter grasped a knife and stoically spilled her blood. With wide eyes and suppressed gasp he watched red juice fill two cups.

The sporadic few patrons in the shop seemed not to notice anything unusual. Probably compelled, all of them.

Placing one cup in front of Darren, Aurora dismissed the waitress, now looking a bit paler. She took a sip and sighed. “A little salty but not too bad. You know, my old friend Lucien said Cajun people taste better than others, probably the best. I think he was bluffing. Do you? He couldn’t have tasted all the world, could he? Oh, have your food, Darren. Haven’t you been taught not to stare at a lady while she’s eating? I’ll be embarrassed.”

Darren had no choice but to bring the cup to his lips like an obedient child who was told to drink his milk. Too busy to watch out for Aurora’s move at the corner of his eyes (not that he could try anything if she wanted to do something) that Darren lost the chance to savor the blood as he normally did. Breakfast was the most important meal of the day, human or vampire.

“May I ask why you abducted me?”

The surprises look on Aurora’s face was as if only now did she realize she had kidnapped him. “Oh, you’re not over 18 right? Is that a crime?”

Darren would turn 18 in two months from now, but thanks to Elijah, he would never pass 17.

He nodded.

“That’s too bad,” Aurora sounded like she was moaning. “I’m so, so sorry. I still have to take you with me though.”

“Why? It’s not like I’ve known you, let alone offended you.”

Aurora looked at him with a spark in her eyes and smiled a smile so sweet Darren actually felt uncomfortable. He shifted his eyes to the array of beignets and tried to busy himself with which choice to make.

“Did I tell you look like someone?”

“No, you didn’t,” he replied truthfully. “But since I came here I’ve been receiving a lot of curious looks from the local vampires although I have practically never met them in my life.”

“Did Elijah tell you anything?”

“He once said I looked like someone he’d known for a long time. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to probe into—”

Darren’s speech was interrupted by Aurora’s giggles. “What’s so funny?”

Only when her giggles subdued did she answer, or rather, ask him, “Has he bedded you yet?”

Darren gloriously choked on the piece of beignet he had been chewing in waiting for Aurora’s reply.

“You’re bit too young but who knows? Maybe that depraved Original fancies green grass. You’re certainly the type, especially with these huge blue eyes of yours. Kind of like a puppy. Oh how I wish he could look so cute like you.”

“No!” protested Darren. “There’s nothing like that. What made you think so?”

“No?” Aurora echoed with a surprise note in her tone. “He’s been worrying himself sick over nothing, that silly boy,” she muttered under her breath.

Not that Darren couldn’t hear her. “Who’s ‘he’?”

“You’ll get to know soon enough,” she said in normal volume. “You see, Elijah kind of likes you and I kind of hate his guts, so you can’t blame me if I want to have him running amok searching for his favorite pet for a day. Or two. In the mean time, I’m going to bring you to ‘him’.”

“What business does ‘he’ have with me?” Darren asked incredulously.

Aurora shrugged. “I haven’t a clue. He may kill you, you know, rip out your heart like Elijah so loves to make his kill. His jealousy is tyrannical, as they say.”

Darren clenched the fork in his hand so hard it snapped into two.

“But I doubt it so. That silly brother of mine treasures his sire line more than they actually deserve. Ah ah, don’t think about calling Elijah,” she warned, seeing him sneaking a hand into his jeans’ pocket. “I can break both of your hands quicker than you can pull it out. Or I can simply twist your daylight ring off your finger and let the sun work its magic.”

Darren grunted and put his hands back on the table.

“That’s a good boy. Now I can offer you two choices.”

Darren smirked. “Now I even have a choice. Awesome.”

To his surprise, and embarrassment, Aurora pinched his cheek with her manicured hand. “Aw, you look much cuter than him when you do this smirk. And yes, darling, you do. You can choose to behave and eat your beignets and we’ll happily go on a city tour before we come to him. Strongly advised. The second option is simpler: I snap your neck and drag you to him like a dumb potato sack.”

Defeated, Darren reached out for a beignet and bit off an angry, frustrating chunk. Aurora’s smile deepened.

“Tristan, oh, Tristan,” Aurora called with deafening volume once they entered a mansion, the final destination of their ‘happy’ New Orleans tour. “Come and see what I’ve brought for you, dear brother.”

“For a thousand times, dear sister, I strongly dislike beignets,” a male voice spoke, accompanied by steady footsteps.

Darren looked around, seeking the source. When he found it, his eyes enlarged with disbelief.

It wasn’t “look like” as Aurora and Elijah had said; this man, Tristan, was how Darren would probably look ten years later, unarguably much more refined. The dream version of himself. In fact, he doubted if he would ever reach this man’s level, no matter how many years added.

By the slight expression on his face, Darren could tell the initial surprise was mutual, although Tristan handled it more elegantly.

“The rumors are true, after all, that Elijah brought home a mini-you to be his pet.”

Tristan smiled, but unlike Aurora’s honeyed smile, Tristan’s was cold and didn’t reach his winter-blue eyes. “You know the Mikaelsons are notorious for their peculiar pastimes. And I do prefer this to your sugary beignets, sister.”

Turning his gaze to Darren, Tristan added, “I’ve heard so much about the doppelgänger legend, but never once have I thought that I would have one myself. Tell me, how are you called, my shadow self?”

End