Disclaimer: The series Count Cain is the creation of Kaori Yuki.


Cain remembers the first time he saw Riff. Or he thinks he does; it might have been a dream. He remembers Riff speaking to, with him, and being surprised at that, but everything after that was a haze of pain and his father's voice.

Still, when he regained some semblance of clarity, it was to the stinging of cool liquid on his back that hurt nearly as badly as the lashes, applied by tentative hands that shook and barely touched him enough to be useful. Riff looked pale and sickened, but did not leave. So it was not a dream.

Riff can be like an old man in some ways. His quiet manners, his sense of propriety. Cain knows he surprises Riff, shocks, possibly horrifies him, but Riff doesn't have to look at Cain or what Cain does to see a child he will reach out instinctively to put his arms around, to comfort and protect. In that, he seems innocent, even younger than Cain himself, and Cain doesn't have to think before throwing himself between Riff and harm.

But then Riff will also carry out his commands with unquestioning obedience, even knowing that they will cause harm to others.

Riff is a good servant, a valued companion. Cain admits he is jealous. Of Riff's attention, and anything that might take Riff away from him. He doesn't think it is anything to be ashamed of. The others, they are petty, ambitious, greedy, dishonest and most of all stupid, trying to take Riff away from him with sex or by clumsy deceit.

Now they are dead or in prison. Deservedly so.

He feels no guilt about it. He merely gave them enough rope with which to hang themselves. And if Riff will not object to his machinations, so much the better.

Beautiful women are pleasing to look upon, assuredly. He feels protective and chivalrous tendencies towards them to some extent, but they also have the tendency to drop dead in his vicinity. Which is unfortunate, of course, and every time it happens, he has to choke down niggling self-doubt about his inherently evil nature and the curse of his blood, courtesy of his thrice-damned father and the poison he ground into Cain's flesh with his lash - but Cain only has to look at Riff to see a beautiful thing that has not been destroyed by association with him. Not yet.

Riff is a good servant. A proper servant. Loyal, quietly competent at whatever task set him, perfectly concerned, discreet and so reserved that Cain wants to grab Riff and shake him until his proper face cracks and he tells Cain, Yes, master Cain, I love you, or No, master Cain, I love you and I want to protect you, but you are a child and this makes me uncomfortable, but if Riff can take all that they've yet faced in his stride, Cain's not sure anything can faze him.

Cain sighs, and looks away. At least Riff makes good tea.

end Looking