I haven't updated in absolutely ages, and I'm sorry for it. But here we go. Chapter 5, and have fun. By the by, I still don't own anything.
Chapter 5: Revelations
Basil woke again. This time, events came to him faster, and he didn't flail around in panicked reaction to half-remembered happenings. This time, he was calm. He turned his head gently to look out into the room. It was dark, lamplit, but that meant nothing underground. There was no day here, only night. Only an endless night through which Ratigan moved like Beelzebub through Hell, with a kind of patriarchal caring, and an utter ruthlessness. Basil caught himself at the thought, shaking it away and blaming his pain for it. And there was pain, a dull, endless ache in his leg and head.
A stir of movement caught his eye, and he followed it to the harp corner. There was a black shape blocking his view of the harp's base, something wrapped around it like a shadow. Something moving. Then the shadow lifted its head into the lamplight, and Basil stared at it in utter shock.
Noticing the wakeful Basil, Ratigan stood, carefully so as not to upset the delicate instrument, and stretched slowly, spine arching back and clawed paws reaching for the ceiling. He shook himself, for all the world like Toby would, and padded over to the bed where Basil lay, still staring numbly at him.
"Good morning, detective," the rat greeted him, obscenely cheerful for someone who'd apparently just spent the night on the floor wrapped around a metal object. Basil tried to reply, but just couldn't, the image of Ratigan curled up like a child on the floor still seared into his brain. The implications ... Why wasn't Basil the one on the floor, or, even more sensibly, in a cell somewhere? Why was he sleeping comfortably in his arch-nemesis' bed while said enemy slept coiled on a floor? It made no sense!
"Not talkative this morning?" Ratigan asked. "Or just unsure it is morning, and you're not still dreaming?"
"You ..." Basil managed, gesturing helplessly at the harp. "What ... Why?"
Ratigan looked back, gaze lingering fondly on the instrument. He shrugged. "I like music. One of life's small wonders, and a beauty accesible even to me, down here. Do you know how little there is of beauty underground, detective?" He looked back at Basil, that same inscrutable look in his eyes as there had been last night when he'd held Basil in his arms. The detective shook his head numbly. Ratigan smiled. "Almost nothing. Nothing of true beauty lasts long down here. Things change, adapt, grow hard and ugly as the life they live. But not music. Music lives and changes, but it is always beautiful. Always free. More than anything, I want to possess what's beautiful, and make it last. Some things don't, some things get broken anyway. And some things ... just become more beautiful for being damaged." His gaze lingered on Basil's face, on his wounded leg.
Basil was lost, as he often was with emotions, so he did what he usually did in such situations, and returned to his original query. "I meant," he clarified, "why were you sleeping on the floor?" Ratigan smirked a little.
"Have you forgotten whose bed you're in?"
Since this explained nothing, Basil started to re-ask the question, but Ratigan cut across him, ignoring his obvious frustration. "Tell me, detective, do you like music? Do you appreciate its subtle, insidious beauty? Can you bring it to life, yourself?" Basil shook his head angrily at the evasion.
"I play the violin," he snapped. "But that's beside the point! Why won't you tell me ... "
"The violin. Interesting. A classical choice, of course, considered as high status as the piano, but far less cumbersome. A high level of skill involved. Yes. An interesting choice indeed. I suppose it sings mournfully for you? You always seemed the melancholy type to me, detective."
Basil looked at him, suddenly, inexplicably, very afraid. "Why does it matter to you what music I play?" he whispered, the slightest tremble of fear in his voice. "Why does it matter what type of person I am? Answer me, Ratigan!" He looked up at the dark shape that was London's most powerful, most monstrous, most fearsome criminal. "Why does it matter to you that I am hurt? Why do you sleep on the floor so I can heal in your bed? Ratigan, tell me. Why do I matter to you? Why?" He trailed off, unable to continue, watching for a response both feared and ... desired? Ah, what a mess.
Ratigan looked down at him, face shaded, expression hidden. The huge form was still, very still, locked immobile by some inner struggle that Basil couldn't fathom. A hand reached out hesitantly for him, then stopped, quivering in midair as Ratigan restrained whatever impulse had led him to extend it. Then, without warning, Ratigan span away from him, marching out into the room. Clawed hands fisted, then tore the air as their wielder pounded them into a wall. A dull thud resounded, echoed once, twice, three times more until the force of the blows drove through the wooden planking of the wall. Only then did Ratigan cease his show of violence, lowering hands now bloody and torn from splinters. He had made no sound.
Basil didn't, couldn't, understand, but something in this expression of silent pain struck him hard. Ratigan didn't move, maybe couldn't, and his figure as he stood silent and bowed, breath rasping harshly, tripped some switch with his prisoner/patient that neither understood. Basil stood, softly, carefully, gripping the bedframe to support him in lieu of his healing leg. The sound made Ratigan twitch, his head jerking involuntarily to follow the noise. Then Basil limped towards him, and Ratigan spun in surprise.
Basil didn't know how wise a move this was. He didn't know how many hobbled steps his leg would take. But he couldn't have done anything else. He moved towards his stunned captor, amazed and frightened by his own daring, and the shadowy reasons that spurred him.
He stopped a foot away, swaying. Without thinking, Ratigan reached out a hand to steady him, then saw the blood and bruised muscle of the limb. He stopped, staring at it, and the look on his face made something in Basil's chest turn over. He looked ... afraid, disgusted, sorrowful. There was frustrated longing in the way the hand was jerked back down, stuck roughly into a pocket, a strange regret in the way Ratigan dipped his head to avoid meeting Basil's eyes.
Basil limped the last foot, landing badly and almost falling. Ratigan grabbed him by the shoulders, tearing his pocket as he hurriedly pulled his hand free to support the teetering detective. Once he realised what he had done, he dropped the hands back as if they'd been burned, but Basil stopped him, catching hold of one as it passed. He brought it up between them, looking at it, studying the wounds carefully. Ratigan stilled in front of him, and there was a look in his eyes, a need, a longing, that made Basil think he might understand, might know how to help. He met the other's gaze.
"Some things are more beautiful for being damaged," he murmured, strangely pleased at the hope that sprang up in response to his words. "You won't break me, Ratigan. You haven't yet succeeded, despite your best efforts. A little blood won't make a difference." He looked back down at the hand he held. "You've done some damage, here. We should see to it." And he hobbled back to the bed, trying not to think too hard about what he was doing, leading a bemused and hopeful Ratigan.
They sat on the edge, Basil favouring his wounded leg, and bent over the hand held loosely in Basil's lap. He angled it towards the light, eyes picking out the splinters that needed removing with the same attention to detail that characterised his every study. Basil slipped a hand into his pocket unthinkingly, not pausing to be surprised that he still wore his own clothes and had his own equipment. He retrieved a pair of tweezers and set to work, handling his tool with care so as not to hurt Ratigan further. He closed off his mind to everything but the task at hand, refusing to think about what he was doing, who he was doing it for. It didn't matter. But he couldn't help the strange warmth that seemed to grow in his chest, or the curious tenderness with which he touched the wounded hands.
Basil had lived his life in the cold realms of logic and science, utterly bemused and not a little frightened by the confusion and warmth of emotional and social relationships. Recently, he'd seen a thaw in his rigid personal dealings, first with the endearing little brat, then in the sudden warmth and strength of his first friendship. He didn't understand them, but that didn't prevent him from treasuring their fragile beauty. Now it seemed another treasure would be added, this one more strange and fragile and prickly than any other, coming as it did from an impossible quarter. But somehow that only made it more precious.
He looked up and met Ratigan's gaze. In it, he saw a mix of confusion and desperation and hope that rivalled his own. Perhaps Ratigan was not so different from him as he had believed. Perhaps that was why they had returned to each other again and again, finding challenge and stimulation only in the activities of the other. Perhaps that was why their fates seemed bound inextricably together. Because they were alike. Because they needed each other.
It was perhaps the scariest thougth that had ever occured to him, and the ramifications, the implications both for his view of Ratigan, and, more terribly, of himself, terrified him. But no more than they obviously frightened Ratigan. He would deal with it. They would deal with it. They had to. But damn if it didn't frighten the sugar out of him.
Well? The story has taken a turn into obvious slash territory, but I think it's worth it. By the way, the chapter title? I called it that both because things are obvioulsy revealed here, but also because it's the chapter of the Bible that contains visions of the apocalypse. I thought this would certainly be an apocalyptic development for the poor characters involved. I'm thinking next chapter we'll have a Dawson interlude, just to see how the search for our bewildered detective is going. Till then, have fun, y'all. Oh, and could you leave me a review? I like them. Thanks.