Haine's forty minutes late when Badou realises that he doesn't know where he lives. He doesn't really worry about it, because it's just another thing he doesn't know about Haine. Like where he gets his guns from, or why he can't touch women.
He digs around in his pocket for the last of his change, feeds it to the pay phone coin by coin. Stabs the number in by heart. It rings three times before clicking softly, Haine's whisky-smooth voice pouring down the line.
"Bastard," Badou chews out from around an unlit cigarette. "We said eleven. I don't see you."
Haine sighs, coughs, mutters something and hangs up (always one for conversation). The phone reluctantly gives Badou back half his money. He lights up his smoke and makes his way back to the church.
Badou can't make his rent for the third time, so his landlord changes his locks for him. He tries to bum a bed at Buon, but Kiri's got a full house. So he goes to the church. Bishop pulls a face, but Nill gives him a pillow and a blanket, and he sleeps out flat on one of the pews.
Haine comes around midnight, the left side of his hair matted down with dry blood, jacket bullet-torn. He presses his hand against Badou's hip, his teeth against his neck and sleeps on top of him, blood flaking off. Badou can't really breath, but it's warmer like this, so somehow he sleeps again.
When he wakes up, he expects Haine to take his smokes and give him a gun, but instead finds him gone. He doesn't see him again for a week. By then he's got his apartment back anyway.
It's become a matter of speed now, more than anything else. The various syndicates and circles know about him and Haine, like the fairytales told to children. They've become the bogeymen. So they usually have to follow up a tip the day (hour) they get it. The traffickers pack up fast and more regularly. Not because they know Badou and Haine are coming, but because they've assumed that they're always coming, following, like a shadow.
It seems to work well, seeing as half of the dumps they hit are empty, and have been for a while.
So this one's especially rare – the door askew and the rooms empty, but the lights still on, poker half dealt on the table (Texas hold-em) and, most important, the girls still shut away in the back rooms.
Badou checks them over, speaks quietly to them. Gives them his jacket to huddle under.
Haine checks the main room, the poker cards, the knocked over chairs. There's a dartboard on the wall, five throwing knives in it, all clustered around the centre, buried through into the wall behind. There are glasses on the table, cheap whiskey; ice cubes sitting three in each glass. Something trickles up Haine's spine.
Badou comes through and leans at the doorway, lights up a smoke (hasn't had one for an hour, in case they hit trouble). "The kids are good," he says. Inhales. Exhales. "We need to call Bishop, come pick them up."
Then Haine has his gun out and aimed before he really thinks about it.
Haine comes in while he's in the bath and lays out flat on the floor beside it. He's still dressed from the street, all black, the heavy boots smearing city dirt on the white tile floor.
Badou doesn't pause, doesn't even ask how he got in to his apartment. His hair is pinned up high on his head, leaving his neck and shoulders bare, sharp and brittle looking. He slouches back in the bath, and Haine just lies there, listening to the sloshing of the water echo around the room.
"I saw an old friend today," he says, eventually. He stares up at the ceiling, counting his fingertips with his thumbs. One-two-three-four, one-two-three-four.
Water splashes lightly over him, and he blinks up as Badou leans over the edge of the bath, red hair framing his face like a mane.
"I don't need anything from you, Haine, you know," he says, voice solid in the room.
Haine knows he doesn't mean it the way he says it, cause he needs his help plenty of times. Needs his guns, his speed. Needs his ability to never fucking die.
Haine gets up and strips down, throws his clothes in a pile by the door, climbs into the bath opposite Badou. Their legs tangle together, but there's enough room, so Haine stretches out.
They stay like that until the water goes cold.
The way they walk together could be seen as an art. They curve through crowds, around them, slicing and separating and merging back together, like water running around stones. They don't talk much, just a few stunted conversations every now and then. It's not cause they don't have anything to say; they just don't need to say it.
They slide easily into the City, like everything else; cause the City is really one giant heart, pumping blood and poison alternately.
Haine likes to tell himself that the only reason why he teams up with Badou is cause he's the only person he knows that's as good with guns as he is (at least almost.) Sometimes he acknowledges that they might be some sort of kindred spirits. Stray dogs, beaten, battered and used, abandoned out on the street.
But it's only like this, in the dark, in Badou's apartment, lying on Badou's mattress, staring at Badou's ceiling, that he lets himself want this. With Badou sprawled out beside him, limbs stretched out like a cat, only the tips of his fingers, the tips of his toes, the tips of his hair, reaching, touching Haine, that he lets himself look at him.
All pale skin and scrawny muscle, the red (orange) hair darker in the half-light from the city lights outside, lying like a pool of blood against the mattress. The eye patch cuts across his face like a scar, black, splitting.
Badou shifts in his sleep, pulls away, stretches out. Shifts and reshapes, like water pouring through cracks, till only the knuckles of his right hand press against Haine's elbow. Haine falls asleep that way, somehow, with Badou's mattress all lumps beneath him, and his guns digging into his thighs, and Badou's damaged hand touching, anchoring him.
They're just a bunch of street punks, all wiry muscle and arrogance and half-cocked fists. Nothing compared to Badou. Gnats compare to Haine. But Badou's just had a smoke, and that makes him slow to draw. Lethargic and sluggish. The violence and spray of bullets doesn't appeal to him so much when he's got that cloud of nicotine to float by on. But this punk, the one with the knife against his throat and the arm around his shoulders just happened to knock his smoke out of his mouth in his rush to get a Badou-shaped shield between him and Haine. And as the fog of nicotine starts to recede, Badou finds himself staring down the barrel of Haine's gun into Haine's unwavering, hard-as-fucking-steel eyes.
Still, the punk and his friends think they have a chance, cause, really, Haine hasn't drilled them full of bullets yet.
"Pretty, isn't he, your friend," the flat of the knife slides back and forth over Badou's throat. He swallows, but keeps his face as hard as Haine's.
"If he wasn't so damaged, I'd take him with me. Have a bit of fun," he presses his face closer to Badou's, trailing the blade up to his jaw. His mates snicker. The blade point moves up his cheek, pressing harder, blood welling up, like acid running up his face. Haine's face stays hard, gun arm still straight, his other hand hanging loose at his side, wrapped around his other gun like a safety blanket.
Badou's fingers twitch.
The blade reaches his cheekbone. "Still," the punk says. "Could be a rarity, like. Unusual. Might be worth a go, eh." The blade moves that last centimetre, cuts the strap with a snick, and the elastic springs away and leaves his face bare in a cool rush of air. But all of that is what the point is not, as Badou's mind hones down on one vital fact.
The knife is now nowhere near anything of importance.
Badou, like this, tastes of cigarette-smoke, and gun-smoke, and city-smoke. Haine has him against the wall, presses his tongue against his ribs, fingertips against his elbows, teeth against his cheekbone. He wants to run his mouth over his eye patch, taste the fabric, snare his teeth in the strap, snap it off. Leave his face bare and naked, like the rest of him.
But this time, like sometimes, like rarely, Haine doesn't do what he wants to.
Mihai worries at him, sometimes, sitting in Buon Viaggio. He points out that Haine's a wild one. Says no one knows enough about him. Badou's always careful at these times not to mention Haine's ability to just turn up sometimes, torn up and covered with blood, with death blazing in his eyes.
"I've seen a lot of kids," Mihai says. (Badou secretly hopes that when he's old, he'll be able to use it like Mihai does, like a weight, like a weapon. Badou secretly hopes that he'll live to be old.) "And a kid like your friend? Well, all I can say is his bite's gonna be worse than his bark."
Badou shrugs, goes back to his coffee. Still, he knows that. Knows they've all got secrets, got things hidden. Knows Haine's bite's real worse, seen it in his face, guns blazing, wicked smile like a scythe cut across his face. Knows his bite's worse cause he's got the teeth marks on his neck, his shoulder, his ear. Some still red and raw, some dull and shiny, little white dashes in his skin that pattern around to form a semi or a full circle. And he knows Haine's bite's worse, real worse, cause of what it feels like when he's got his teeth sunk in Badou's flesh. Feels like any second he'll jerk his head like an animal and rip a chunk of skin and meat out of him. Rip his ear off. Rip his mouth open across his face; tear his cheek apart. Badou knows all this. He just doesn't worry about it like Mihai.
Then it's just a blur, really (like it always is). He's under and away from the knife and has Haine's gun in his hands before he can think about it. Sprays them all as full with lead as he can, sprays their innards over the walls, tears their flesh apart, until they're all sprawled on the floor like so much meat.
Then he's back again, the smell of blood (iron) and gunsmoke bringing him out, back to back with Haine, the gun in his hands still attached to him by a chain, wrapped around them both. He lets it go, and it swings down around Haine's feet.
Haine's got three knives in his chest, and he pulls them out, one by one, dropping them to the floor, the sound wet and thick. He coughs as blood bubbles up his throat, trailing down the corners of his mouth, over his chin. Badou finds the sight vaguely familiar, vaguely comforting. He shoves a hand in his pocket for his smokes, and Haine breathes heavily while his lungs re-stitch themselves.
He bends down, still coughing, fishes something out of the mess on the floor, and hands it to Badou. He takes the blood soaked elastic and slips it into his pocket. Lights a smoke. Says, "Thanks." And inhales.
Haine's got a long neck. It's stupid, noticing it, but Badou guesses it's hard not to think about Haine's neck, knowing (not really knowing) what's there. Badou also thinks it's stupid not to be glad over the length of Haine's neck. This is cause the length of it means that there's a space, a bare stretch of skin between Haine's jaw and the white gauze wrapped tight around his throat. This is the space that Badou claims. He thinks that's stupid too, having a favourite space, bit, section of skin. But this section's special, cause of how close it is to the bandage, like pushing your mouth up against a barbed wire fence, electricity humming through it, big DO NOT TRESPASS signs.
This is the no go zone.
So Badou's space is no man's land, smooth and soft, pale. The smell like when you hold a coin in your hand too long. Copper and warm, earth, metal. Badou keeps his mouth these as long as possible, nipping and licking, claiming every inch he can, til Haine gets wise and pulls him off. Still, he'll always make his way back these, like those abandoned army dogs, wandering the battlefield forever. Badou thinks it's stupid to be this poetic about it, so, he just isn't.
Badou's current apartment furniture amounts to five, most of it found on the street, the junkyard, or donated by friends. An old standard lamp sits tall and rusty in the corner by the window, lampshade long gone, just the frame left to break up the light from the bare bulb. He has a cooker, and a fridge (that whistles when the compressor switches on), and an old metal chair, wide and shaped like it was actually worth something when it was new. He sleeps on a futon mattress, lumpy and moth eaten. It takes up half the room, like a flattened cloud spread thin on the floor. There's two doors, one to outside, and one to the bathroom (the reason Badou got this apartment, cause it's huge and clean and has a proper bath), and there's a blanket pinned over the only window, but that's more for privacy then to keep light out – it's so thin that Haine can make out the shapes of individual buildings through it at the right angle.
He turns around to see Badou strip his shirt off. It's half soaked with blood (other people's) and it sticks sickly to one side of his chest and he pulls it up and off, chucks it on top of Haine's bullet-knife-torn jacket, already abandoned on the floor.
"Fuck," he says, running his hands through his hair, along his scalp, pulling it back so his face is bare.
Haine, like always, does what feels right at that moment.
Haine takes his coffee black, which is a good thing, cause Badou is crap at remembering how many sugars or how much cream when he's this late. And while Haine doesn't drink coffee every morning, just when he feels like it, (like everything else) Badou finds stopping in Buon Viaggio for two cups useful, cause often Haine's drifted in there anyway.
Haine never asks, and Badou never asks him to.
He pulls Badou against him, hard. Presses his mouth over his, into his, around his. Coaxes his lips open with no real effort, twists his tongue inside until it's all just lips and teeth, blood and smoke.
He grabs at Badou's hair, pulls his head back and his mouth away. Runs his teeth down his throat, biting hard at the space beside his jawbone.
Badou's hands scrabble at his shoulders, snatch and pull and claw, and then, sharply, push him away. He stumbles slightly, half tripping on the futon, ends up stooped, curled in like an animal, staring at Badou.
Haine kisses him, and Badou pushes him away.
They stand, breathing.
Badou's face seems incomplete without the eye patch, the scar it had hidden jagged and unnatural looking. The eye itself, milky white, still moving like it has sight. The cut trailing up his cheek is still bleeding sluggishly.
Slowly, Haine uncurls, steps towards him, again.
There's no real space between them, as they breathe, as Haine's head tips. His hair brushes Badou's nose as he licks up the cut, tasting, cleaning. The white scar tissue is rough under his tongue, rising and falling, smooth and damaged.
This time, when Badou pushes him, he does trip, landing sprawled on the futon.
Blood is smeared over Badou's face, his chest, his neck. He grins, nicotine sharp, and climbs down over Haine.
The train station is busy the way the City always is busy. The crowd pushing this way and pulling that, always heading for a goal, a destination, always never stopping. Always looking the other way.
Haine and Badou walk against the tide easily, like a knife through water.
Badou pulls out two scraps of paper from his pocket, identical lists printed on each in his own sloped hand. "I'll take the first two," he says, passing one list to Haine. Haine raises an eyebrow, and Badou shrugs. Lights a cigarette. "I'll be fine on my own," he says, blowing smoke up at the sky.
Haine glances at the list and then shoves it into his pocket.
"Just don't be late," he says, and Badou nods, and they both step away, opposite, separate, disappearing into the crowd.