Author's Notes: Haven't had time to do a lot of recreational writing, lately; I've been busy with MotS volume three. This was actually written a few months back, but I forgot to post it. Oops.

So here's some Enzai-fic, with my favorite pairing, Evan/Vallewida. Warnings for implied torture and noncon.


Beneath
It had been half a year ago, lying on the lumpy cot in his cell and staring at the ceiling, that Evan had decided.

The thought wasn't something terribly deep, or interesting, or even very exciting- in fact, it was something the journalist suspected he'd always felt was true, on some level. Namely, that life was short, and that chasing after possibilities he was powerless to force into existence was a bit of a waste of time.

Common sense, really. Nothing to it.

But it had been a marked change from the oppressive sense of despair that he'd felt immediately following his conviction- and the man had taken it to heart, mouthing the idea aloud to himself into the chill night air until he decided that it was a good one. Because he may not get out of here alive- probably wouldn't, he conceded when he was being honest with himself- and no matter what the quality of life here, it was all the life he had left.

So Evan had thrown himself into it with abandon, laughing often, talking loudly, gambling everything he owned and winning back twice as much and more.

And when sometimes his thoughts offered up pictures of the outside world- of Lusca slicking his hair with water before a trial, casual and confident; of his little brother, voice soft and eyes gentle, turning to ask a question; of a notepad filled with his own writing, cramped and rushed and messy, ink fresh from a recent interview- the man swallowed down the bitter taste of dissatisfaction and grinned until it passed.

Except for every once in a while, when there was someone nearby who would know exactly what it meant that the smile had faded.

And then the images could stay, and it wasn't such a betrayal to think: I'll never have those things again.

Because Vallewida simply watched him, eyes like calm, dark water, his own smile chased away.


"You need to get this looked at," Evan insisted, hands not pausing in their motion; twist, and wrap, and the bandage closed another circuit around Vallewida's arm.

Despite the blood already staining the white of the newly applied fabric, there was a mild, subdued amusement in the reply. "Aren't I?"

The journalist snorted his disdain at the response. "By someone who can do something about it, I mean."

"There's not much else to be done," Vallewida remarked, sounding very much as though the chunk of flesh missing from his upper arm wasn't currently the matter under discussion. Until the next layer of the wrap pulled tight, at least, and he grimaced with the pain of it, a soft noise escaping him.

"Stitches," Evan said evenly, "for a start."

"Which they won't-" The man broke off briefly as the end of the bandage was pulled snug and tied, the only sign of the pain a soft intake of breath. "-won't consider necessary."

A black look crept into the journalist's eyes, and the scowl that twisted down the corners of his mouth proclaimed exactly what the guards could do with their perceptions of 'necessary'. "If Durer doesn't let up," Evan muttered, voice harsh with contained anger, "There won't be any of you left."

Vallewida's smile was a tentative thing, fragile and experimental. "I'm fine," he insisted. "It's no worse than usual."

The response was a long moment in coming.

"I know," Evan agreed at last. "That's what worries me."


It was fascinating to watch Vallewida's fingers as he worked.

How a person could make boot leather and thick, coarse thread seem as delicate as needlework would perhaps ever remain a mystery- even to Evan, who prided himself on being able to get going at a fair clip once he put his mind to what could only be considered singularly unrewarding work.

But somehow, there it was; even on days like today, when the soldier was frighteningly pale, trembling where he stood, there was no hesitation in the gentle jab and tug of the needle held between those pale fingers. In and out- thread pulled taut- tie- and a shoe was finished.

Then deft hands were coaxing the coarse thread through the needle once more and beginning anew, calm, dark eyes never leaving their task.

Only once had Evan seen him falter- just once, when Vallewida had risen his gaze in time for the journalist to be caught staring. He'd flashed his most winning smile, of course, and tipped a wink, as though sharing a secret joke between them.

The blood had welled up startlingly red from the tip of Vallewida's finger where the needle had pricked him.


"So, what's on for tomorrow?" Evan asked with a grin, slipping into the soldier's cell without waiting for an invitation.

The expression that the sudden greeting yielded was mixed- amusement, certainly, but something something else as well, something a touch fonder. Absently, slender hands reached to tuck a scrap of paper between the pages of the book cradled on Vallewida's lap, marking the place where he'd stopped reading.

"Perhaps a trip to the library," the man answered, consideringly. "I suspect that one more chapter won't take long to finish."

There were words beneath the response, of course- the assumptions that lay below the surface no matter how simple a conversation they shared. Because in this place, any thoughts of the following day came tempered by a necessary string of ifs; it was implicitly understood, and the both of them had spent long enough in prison that the knowledge could remain between them, not mentioned at all.

Perhaps the library tomorrow, Vallewida had meant, if he found himself well enough then to walk there. Perhaps the library, if he wasn't bleeding in a penance chamber for some trifling, half-invented error. Perhaps the library tomorrow, if he was alive to visit it.

As he had so many times before, Evan ignored the words beneath the words and laughed. "Keep this up and you'll be out of books. What'd you do then?"

The smile was faint about Vallewida's lips, soft and pale. "Start again, I suppose."

owari--