A month after the incident with Glaw and Ciaran was still no closer to getting Arik into his bed. The Uswian had distanced himself from Ciaran and though they interacted for missions, any other attempt at conversation was brushed aside. It was driving Ciaran crazy and made living with him difficult. Ciaran was alone with his thoughts, which was never a good thing.
“I hate him!” he spat out viciously as he slammed the door to his room and yanked the knob for volume up on his stereo, letting the rock music pound into him, the English lyrics complimenting his mood quite accurately.
‘Fucking people is what you do best,’ his inner thoughts corrected.
A thin smile tilted his lips upwards, the movement pulling at the bruises along his cheekbones. “That too.”
Ciaran surged up off the bed, moving through her as he headed for the door, turning off the stereo as he went.
“And that’s the problem.”
He left behind in his room, propelling himself through the apartment, to the door, outside into the clear night air. He left the building behind for the street, the only place he had ever called home. Pulling a cigarette from his pocket he lit it and took a deep drag, hoping it would calm the tense jangle that was his nerves. He let his feet take him whichever direction they chose, eyes focused on the ground, his mind, for once, focused only on himself.
The sting of nicotine on his half-healed lip made him grimace but he ignored it, just like he ignored the rest of the bruises that were already fading. He had received them not in a fight but in a form of punishment for letting Glaw go.
He didn’t regret the move. He regretted nothing that he did. He had taken his punishment silently from the man they served until Arik had intervened, pointing out in his calm, quiet way that it wasn’t their fault that the assassin chose to take his own life in the man’s office some weeks later. And Ciaran had been spared the indignity of unconsciousness from a regular businessman’s beating by Arik’s carefully chosen words. When they had arrived back at their apartment building, Arik had locked him in his room and had turned his back on Ciaran.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” Ciaran had asked him.
“Why? The deed is already done.”
“You always have something to say.”
“You say and do enough for all of us.”
And he left Ciaran to his own thoughts, ignoring him for the next few days. Ciaran had sulked. He hated to do that, but he had had nothing else to do. The past month had been tense and hostile between them, affecting their work and the other two. The tension was as much sexual as it was anger and the two would never give into each other. So where he was, back on the streets, looking for another escape and knowing he would never find it. The day he had accepted this life in exchange for the silence had been the day he had sold the last shred of his soul.
He smiled humorlessly as he touched his fingers to the underside of one wrist. Suicide scars, needle scars; skin marked from a life that had never showed him any kindness so was it any wonder that he lashed out as he did, that he was who he was? It couldn’t be helped. Society had molded him and he had provided the details with the tools the world had given him. And this was who he was. He could never change.
He dropped the filter to the ground and pulled out another cigarette, still walking. He had no destination in mind, only the need to do something--anything--to get out of this funk that he was in. He didn’t know how long he had walked, only that when he had gone through the last cigarette in the third and final pack hidden in his jacket, he looked up and found himself in front of the flower shop where Glaw’s boyfriend worked. It was late in the night, early in the morning and maybe he had meant to come here after all. Maybe the person sitting on the curb had somehow called him, who knew?
Ciaran spat out the cigarette and smiled, his voice, though low, carried enough to be heard. “Bad night?” he mocked.
The person jumped to their feet, reaching for a blade that was not there, violet eyes full of hate. “You!” Dierk hissed.
Dierk stared at him warily, unwilling to go any further without a weapon. Ciaran laughed and in a blink of an eye he had crossed the street, leaning in to whisper in Dierk’s ear before the redhead could react, his voice mocking.
“I fucked him first.”
With a wordless cry, Dierk turned to punch him but Ciaran had already moved away. He laughed at look on Dierk’s face, an expression of anger, disbelief, and fear. The Qolian brushed some of his hair out of his eyes and tilted his head. It was getting out of hand again.
“I don’t believe you!” Dierk snarled in a harsh voice.
“Of course you don’t. Because you don’t want to,” Ciaran’s smile became hard.
With a last laugh and a bow, Ciaran bounded away, his fast stride leaving Dierk behind in a sea of uncertainty. He smiled to himself. He felt better already. Perhaps a walk to clear his head and cloud another’s was all he had needed after all.
He arrived at the apartment as dawn broke the night sky. Tired from his night out he shoved his key into the lock and opened the door, finding Arik waiting for him in the living room. The Uswian was seated on the couch, legs crossed, eyes closed. Ciaran rolled his eyes and kicked the door shut.
“You didn’t have to wait up for me,” he said. “I’m a grown man. I can take care of myself.”
“Sit down, Ciaran.”
There was an edge to the Uswian’s voice that made Ciaran pause in his step and actually consider obeying the order.
With a mental shrug he moved over to the armchair opposite the couch and fell into it. “What is it? Not enough sex to keep you occupied? Oh, wait. This is you we’re talking about.”
Arik opened his eyes stared at Ciaran, studying the bored expression. He was used to Ciaran’s mood changes and ignored the comment. “This isn’t a game, Ciaran. We’re nearing the completion of the first stage.”
“Let me guess. You’ve seen how it will all play out.”
“I need you cooperating with us,” Arik continued, brushing aside Ciaran’s statement. “I need you willing.”
A thin brow quirked upwards. “That can be taken two ways, Arik. Which way do you want to take it?”
“Get your mind out of the gutter.”
Arik’s blue eyes narrowed slightly as he got to his feet and pulled something out of his pocket. “Are you willing?”
Ciaran stared at him over the gun calmly, smirk still in place. “New orders, Arik?” he asked quietly. “Council’s? Yours?”
“Yes or no?” Arik replied just as softly. “Because I’m seeing two different futures and whether or not you live is based on the answer you give me.”
Slowly Ciaran got to his feet, the gun following his heart as he did so. The smirk had disappeared and in its place was a mask of blankness that Arik had never seen before. Ciaran reached out and touched his fingers to the gun, rocking forward to meet the barrel with his body. Green eyes bored into blue, morning light flickering over the shadows on their faces, and the answer fell into the silence between them, a dozen meanings in the words.
“Haven’t you figured it out yet? For you, I’m always willing.”
They stayed like that for several seconds before the click of the safety broke it and Arik drew the gun back. Ciaran let his hand drop and he turned away without another word. Arik watched him leave with a troubled gaze, the gun pointing at the floor. For a brief second, as they had looked at each other, he could have sworn he had heard real emotion in Ciaran’s voice. Or maybe it had been his imagination; what he had wanted to hear. But still.
There was a first time for everything.