A/N: Sorry I couldn't get this out on time! I've recently...had some trouble. I'm fine, but I'm sure I won't be in a few days. Just bear with me if I don't update in two weeks. I'll try my best to make sure I keep on schedule, but I don't know how to handle this thing I will most likely fall into, so I don't know. But I won't disappear - not anymore. So don't start sharpening your pitchforks :)
A/N2: In the previous chapter, where Mikhail mentions a lost bet against Teito, it was about whether Frau would find them in time or not. Mikhail, forever doubting Zehel's ability to even function properly, said he wouldn't make it in time. Thank goodness he lost, right? Thought I should make it obvious in case anyone didn't understand, since I don't plan elaborating on it any further.
A/N3: Aaaand. There are other concerns that have been raised, like the mysterious collar that comes in and out of this fic. Yes, it's like a mood ring. Suppose to help the idiots with their feelings for each other, but since they've never bothered to figure it out, you weren't meant to figure it out either (but for the sake of you curious readers who like reading into things, and reminding me that I keep forgetting to elaborate on them, this is for YOU). It holds other significances, which I'm sure I pointed out with Frau's adorable tsundere-ness~ And yes, Teito HAS lost his collar again -facepalm-
A/N4: As always, you guys make me feel invincible – incredible, regardless of all the holes in my writing, and my terrible grammar/punctuation xD I treasure all of you, from the regular reviewers, the one-timers, the newbies, and even you lookie-lous~ It AMAZES me whenever I have the chance to check the Traffic for NL. So many PEOPLE! From all OVER THE PLACE! Gawd. Your words of adoration, praise, and criticism never go unnoticed, and I really wish I could reply to all of you – I'm just so LAZY! That's why this story has an age of two (three?) years~
A/N5: HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY TO YURI SUZUKI-CHAN~~ Glad I could give you the best present ever xD
Word Count: 10, 109 (OHLYSNAPZWTF? That's an update xD)
The first thing Teito thought when consciousness was slowly waking his mind was that he wished to go back to sleep. He did not want to awaken in that dark room – the blackness was something foul and stale, rotten; a strange combination of leather and metal digging into his flesh as he struggled for freedom, and having to face inhumane interrogations, of which he had no answers to give.
If he came to, those questions would be asked again, and Teito wouldn't know how to respond so he would be punished for it. They had already gone and broke all this toes, his nose, a few of his fingers, and shattered his kneecaps. The extent of the rest of his injuries was a mystery. He couldn't even speculate what was bruised, sprained, fractured, or broken. Everything just hurt; he was one giant throbbing ball of pain.
They would probably break the rest of his fingers, or peel off his fingernails – he heard Hyuuga request that.
Teito forced a lump in his throat down, taking a cautious twist of his wrist to see if anyone would pounce on him like a starved lion, but seconds trickled away and there was no malicious laughter, no sarcastic greetings or inquires to his health. Everything felt smooth, soft. His now fully conscious mind began cataloging his injuries.
His head still throbbed, but not as badly as before. His face no longer hurt; shoulders felt supported and relaxed. Fingers moved without much pain. His breathing was still a bit labored but otherwise better than before. And he could feel his toes. Move them even.
Teito chanced the act of opening his eyes, and was startled to find a blue-hued ceiling littered with painted stars. The air was crisp and clean, the teen could even feel a soft wind coming in from somewhere within the room. He turned his head, mindful not to make so much movement, and was more than startled to find a tiny black toy with a broad stitched smile welcoming him in a motionless sort of way. Its white face had dulled a bit in color, but it was a greeting Teito would never forget.
Sore muscles pulled his hand from underneath the covers, and moved un-inflamed fingers towards the doll. For a moment, emerald eyes marveled at the thinness of his fingers, unable to understand for a moment that they were naturally that way. But his attention quickly left as long nails traced the thick stitching of Zehel's smile, the fine lines that pulled together black and white fabric. Then he grasped the doll and hid it to his chest.
From his position on the bed, Teito took in as much of the room as he could. As far as he could see, there was barely any furniture in the room, the only thing that signaled it belonged to someone would have to be the painted stars on the ceiling.
A small high window allowed sunlight and clean air into the room. Just the bed Teito was in and a desk were visible. It looked like the room he shared with Hakuren when they were still studying for their Bishop's Exam, only smaller.
That seemed like ages ago, the Bishop's Exams. Teito had been so determined to go to the land of Seele and regain his lost memories, but so much drama had gotten in the way of it all. He wondered if Hakuren had gotten his Bishop's Pass. He had never even bothered asking, when he was brought back to the Seventh District after his last excursion, if Hakuren ever passed.
Probably not, since a partner was required and Teito had failed to even remember about Seele. He had been too worried, too distraught, and if Hakuren had never mentioned anything, he supposed his blond friend understood that Teito was in no position to be testing for anything.
But it was still selfish of him to assume that the world would bend to his needs. It certainly didn't seem that way. He had left to keep Frau safe, only to find out the stupid idiot had charged into the First District anyway. But he had never heard talk that Frau was actually looking for him; he knew Hyuuga and that pink-haired child, Kuroyuri, would have been more than pleased to taunt Teito with such delicate information.
Did Frau even look for him after that attack on the First District? Or was Frau even looking for him at all? He more than understood if the man didn't want to bother with him anymore; Teito had promised to remain with him and broken it without sparing a glance behind him when he left Frau at the hospital.
He couldn't have done so otherwise. Even a glance at Frau's resting form would have rendered Teito incapable of fleeing (because that was what it was – not concern for Frau's well-being). And now look at the mess he had made. All because he was afraid of what might happen to the last person in this world he cared with all his heart. His young, childish, trusting heart. If he had stayed in that hotel room – stayed in the comfort of Frau's protective arms, none of this would have happened.
They would have arrived back to the Seventh District, Hakuren and Teito would have gotten their Bishop's Passes, and Teito would have gone to Seele to recover his memories and finally understand who he was, and why he was the person he was.
He had fled when Frau had yelled, too dejected and distraught to think properly, wanting nothing more than to escape. But with that damn collar on his neck, how could he? So he looked up the only person who knew how to remove it.
The same person that wanted him dead.
Teito knew that was the stupidest thing he could have done. But he had lost Mikage, and he couldn't handle Frau with his usual snappish, snarling self. He had felt genuine hurt of what Frau had told him (he couldn't even remember what they had fought about in the first place), but it had been enough to push him over the edge of sanity. Any other day, he would have called Frau a douche bag, kicked him in the chin, and stormed off to sulk in a corner or something.
But he screwed up, as usual.
"Does God hate me, Zehel?" Teito whispered, nuzzling his doll and smelled the faint smell of…smoke? He frowned and sniffed again. Yep, smoke. Earthy, like charred wood, and a bit like Frau's cigarettes.
The smell, regardless of the way it grated his nostrils, was strangely soothing, and made a pain in Teito's chest flare to something unbearable that he found himself struggling with a swollen throat and irritated eyes.
Teito wanted Frau, wanted everything Frau had to offer him. It was a frightening need bubbling in the pit of his stomach, and his resolve to quell and ignore this need was fading into nothing.
He had learned this painful thought during his time away. Teito didn't understand it, but wanted to trust in it. Frau was something secure – freedom with a safety line, in case things went wrong.
And the more he drunk in the offensive smell of burned tobacco and wood, the more Teito longed for Frau. And not in such an innocent way either. He blushed as his thoughts strayed, head turning so he could hide his face in a feather-stuffed pillow.
With a shuddering sigh, Teito relaxed his tense muscles; he was relieved it only left him mildly sore, instead of throbbing in pain. But remaining in bed now was impossible.
Even dozing back to sleep, especially with the bright sunlight streaming in through the window.
So, with nothing better to do with his time, Teito slipped out of bed and out of the room with the finesse of a limping cat, mindful of his sore knees and twitching leg muscles.
Dressed in a simple pajama set, Teito was careful to inspect the hallway, listen for any approaching footsteps, before venturing further out. The hallways appeared familiar enough, though without a proper landmark, Teito was just wandering about like a blind man.
But as he pressed forward, artificial light became natural, and soon the smell of clean air filtered through his nose again.
At a bend, Teito emerged into the vast courtyard of the Seventh District. He was struck shocked as his emerald eyes passed over the roaming hills of debris and building materials, the half-erected cathedral, and the buildings with men standing on scaffolding boards to patch what seemed like random openings on building walls.
It left Teito wondering why now the church decided the District required such an extensive renovation.
With too many questions, and with no one around to answer them, Teito felt a twinge of impatience and set out in search of a familiar face. But once he had a step out into the courtyard, he retracted. If he were found, Frau would find out.
And, at the moment, Teito did not want to meet with the bishop just yet.
His sudden realization that Frau, unlike him, would probably be less than pleased to see him, because of his actions, made Teito worried of their reunion. He took to the hallways, wandering about in vain hope that Hakuren would miraculously appear.
Hakuren he could deal with.
As his wanderings trickled away the minutes, Teito noticed the appearance of new and old hallways, archways, floors, and walls.
There was no uniform pattern for the restoration, and he wondered again what exactly happened within the Seventh District during his absence.
Then a far off door, deep within a random hallway, guarded by four full-grown bishops, spiked Teito's deadly curiosity. He had nothing better to do to pass the time, and with the thought that maybe they were discussing the construction currently taking place in the courtyard, Teito looked for a way inside.
He observed his surroundings, hidden out of sight, before circling into another hallway, looking for any hidden entrances leading to the room. Then he noticed small ventilation shafts spread at an equal distance from each other down the length of the hall.
With a quick glance around, Teito ran towards the wall. His ankles throbbed in pain, his legs painfully sore, but he managed to place a well-angled foot on the wall and push upward.
Thin fingers slipped, a bit forcefully, into the ventilation grill, and for a moment was left dangling there, plotting his next move, when he tugged at the metal. It slid out without much battle, leaving Teito flailing for a moment before he latched onto the inside of the ventilation system. He slid the object inside before splaying both hands on cold metal, faintly squeaking as Teito struggled to pull his sore body inside.
He somehow managed the task, and crawled his way deeper inside.
Teito attempted at stealth, and moved forward with the strength of his forearms alone. The metal around him groaned from time to time at his weight, but as the faint mumble of human voices echoed across the vents, Teito advanced forward with much more care.
He caught snippets of conversation, not understanding what they were discussing. Then he immediately froze, eyes glued to the faint artificial light glaring through a shaft from the room's wall a few feet away.
"Look, we simply cannot just –"
"Archbishop Frau, I do believe it is rude to interrupt when someone else is speaking."
That was Frau, arguing with a voice Teito didn't recognize. He knew his blond's baritone voice anywhere. The other, not so much. It was light, deliberate, with a hint of smugness. It was nowhere near like the cockiness of Frau's tone; where his was playful, this unknown man's was spiteful.
"And I believe it is rude –," Frau shot back, his tone falling an octave to that growl that always caused his chest to rumble with a powerful force.
"How dare you talk back to the Pope!" This was another new voice, high as well, childish and grating. "Must I remind you that he has years of experience with this sort of thing while you stole the title but a week ago?"
"First, I didn't steal anything." Frau sounded outraged.
"And second," Teito pushed his thoughts aside, and put his attention back on the conversation. "It's been more than a fucking week! And lastly, I've dealt with more bullshit than your oh so precious Pope there has probably seen in his lifetime!"
Teito advanced forward, careful to keep his feet from banging into the metal walls. He stopped advancing once he caught Frau's figure, standing at the head of a table, through the slits of the vent. At his right was Castor, leaning towards him though Teito could not see the man's expression. And to Frau's left was Labrador, though because the man was giving his back to Teito, he could only identify the bishop because of his unmistakable lilac hair.
Castor whispered something to Frau, which made the man immediately scowl.
"I will not calm down! This asshole can't just waltz into my District and act like he fucking runs the place!"
"Did you just call the Pope an-an asshole?"
"I did. What of it?"
"Please excuse the Archbishop," Castor rose from his seat and placed a hand on Frau's shoulder, which was immediately shrugged off much to Teito's amusement. "He has other matters on his mind."
"What could be more important than the Pope's presence?" there was that arrogant, holier-than-thou voice again. Teito had half a mind to see who it was to kick their ass later.
"He's about five foot two, shaggy brown hair, big green eyes, and an attitude ten times better than yours, assface!"
Teito unwillingly blushed.
"Perhaps we are due for a recess," Labrador added helpfully, and from his vantage point, Teito watched as the people within his line of sight relaxed at the idea.
"No, we will continue this until it is finished. And so far, you are not doing too well, Archbishop," the same grating voice spat it like a curse.
Teito watched as Frau resisted Castor, who was directing him back into his chair. They whispered back and forth for a moment, before directing their attention back to the meeting.
Teito listened on for a moment but again understood nothing of it. They spoke of relations between districts and he could only assume it had something to do with the attack the Seventh had directed toward the First. He wondered about that as well, and decided it was about time to start asking for answers.
As careful as he was getting into the vents, he slipped out, slid down the wall, and hazardously placed the metal frame on his way down. He tiptoed down the hall and rounded a random intersection when he unconsciously called out Hakuren's name at the sight of a longhaired blond. The young man stopped, turned, and immediately raced toward Teito.
Teito was thrown back, Hakuren landing on top of him. The brunet hissed in pain as it shot like a spread of thorny vines throughout his body, and with a string of apologies and curses, the blond helped Teito up.
The injured teen rested against the nearby wall, calculating his new bruises and calming his breathing.
"I am so sorry, Teito." Hakuren gushed, battling with happiness and concern for his friend. "I completely forgot you're injured. I just saw you up and about, and I –."
Emerald eyes chanced a look up to see violet eyes brimmed with tears. He panicked; hands raised and face expressing his shock, Teito stuttered to reply. "H-Hakuren! W-why are you –?"
"Why do you think, idiot?" the blond turned his back to the other, attempting to compose himself.
Teito swallowed a pain in his throat, wondering how many times he was going to go through this emotional rollercoaster in a single day. "How long was I unconscious?"
"Three days," the blond sighed and turned back to the brunet. A smirk pulled his lips as he extended a hand in greeting. Startled for a moment, the brunet observed the pale hand presented to him, but easily shook it. The taller teen's grip was firm, almost to the point of injuring his bruised hand, but Hakuren relented after a moment and looked down to his feet. Embarrassed or ashamed, Teito wasn't sure.
"I have so many questions I want to ask, but you must be tired," he looked up to smile at Teito. "You should go back to your room."
"I have questions too," at that moment his stomach growled. "And I'm hungry, apparently."
"Can you walk? We can go to the dinning hall and see if they have any leftover lunch?"
"Yeah, that sounds good." Teito nodded, and blindly followed Hakuren as the boy led the way, smiling when he knew the blond wasn't looking. He didn't realize how much he missed that mocking grin, his flamboyant tone, everything. He even noticed that Hakuren's hair had gotten longer, wavy at the ends with bangs coming close to obscuring his eyes.
Didn't the boy think about his appearance anymore?
Over a small lunch, Hakuren explained the past events to Teito, noticing the unaltered shock in his emerald eyes as the brunet ate a flower-stalk soup with a cheese sandwich. Teito said nothing but to seek validation of Frau's rise in position. Then it was Hakuren's turn to question.
"Where did Archbishop-sama find you? He wasn't very specific when he practically drove his hawkzile into the courtyard. Just mentioned something about a bell of some sorts."
"He, um," Teito pressed the end of his spoon to his temple. "I'm not entirely sure."
Hakuren raised an eyebrow in question.
"I don't remember."
"You weren't conscious?"
"I don't think I was. I'm pretty sure I wasn't."
Hakuren observed Teito for a moment, noticing the boy's quiet distress. Though he did not wish to do so, he abstained from questioning Teito's reasons for his disappearance and what exactly occurred where he was held captive. So that pretty much left him with no answered questions, but he knew Teito would talk, once he was comfortable enough to share such a traumatic event.
"So how are you feeling?"
Teito opened his mouth to reply but Hakuren was quick to add "and don't say fine. Labrador needs specifics; even if it's something small, like a bruise, tell me."
The brunet sighed and stirred his soup.
"My knees hurt," he ruefully admitted, eyes kept on the swirl of light-green liquid but quickly looked up at the shaky breath Hakuren released. "What's wrong?"
"Y-you're knees… Th-the bones –," his voice hitched, an unwanted sob clawed its way up Hakuren's throat.
"Y-you saw?" Teito's tone was filled with alarm, fear. He wasn't certain of how he may have looked like to other people, because Mikhail had tucked his consciousness away until he woke within the security of the Seventh District, but Teito just knew his injuries were extensive and disfiguring. He experienced most of them when they had been dealt; he had at least seen the way they broke his fingers and toes. Teito had not wanted his friend to see him in such a condition, and much less cry for him.
"I was the only one around to assist Bishop Labrador," he admitted, violet eyes watching Teito from underneath overgrown bangs. "You were fighting, screaming. Archbishop Frau was beside himself with rage. He…" Hakuren pulled in a shaky breath, nervously playing with his fingers and finding them far more interesting to look at than Teito's startled features.
"He was too quick for us to stop him," the blond whispered down into his hand, not noticing the food Teito had long ago abandoned. "He snapped Labrador's wrist because he was hurting you. He snapped it like…like a dried up twig. And I was almost certain he would snap Labrador's neck too. His hand was squeezing so hard. Castor-san had to bash the side of his head with a wooden stool. There was blood everywhere; you were screaming, I could tell you were, but you didn't make a sound. And even with his injured hand, Labrador pushed through his pain to heal you."
Hakuren drew in a deep breath, steadying himself. "So with Castor begging Frau to calm down, restraining him by using his body and hoping the man wouldn't kill him, and with Labrador injured, sweating from pain and exertion – seeing you as you were has quite certainly –," he released a bit of hysterical laughter, but sighed to calm it away. He didn't bother continue where he left off, just began once more, having collected his thoughts again.
"Almost every bone in your body was fractured or broken. You were spotted with bruises. Massive internal bleeding and so much brain damage… I was relieved," he stole Teito's hands, ignoring the spoon sandwiched in the middle of their hands, "that you even remembered my name."
"Don't you ever do that to me again." He squeezed Teito's hands, brought them to his forehead. "Don't you ever scare me like that, Teito, for heaven's sake. Shit."
"I'm sorry," the brunet whispered, his chest constricting in pain.
"You better be sorry," Hakuren snapped lightly, finally releasing Teito's hands. Still hunched, he took to scrape at the wooden table with a fingernail; an irritable frown pulled down his lips. "Now hurry up and finish your food. It's been too long since your last meal, I'm sure."
And from the corner of his eyes, Hakuren watched Teito slowly eat his food, fighting the happiness that threatened to overflow his violet eyes.
Hakuren was playing with Teito's stuffed Zehel and a small toy soldier he had found outside in the gardens when a knock came to the door. The blond stole a glance towards Teito, who was entranced in a book, and decided to answer the door himself. He assumed it would be a sister, having come to inquire on the brunet's health, but was more than startled to find his Archbishop standing in the doorway.
The man raised an eyebrow, smirked, and gave the teen a casual salute.
"'sup, kid. How ya fairing?"
"Better, I suppose. And the Pope?"
"Um, about that," Frau rubbed the back of his head, a sheepish smile tugging his lips. "I kinda volunteered you to chaperone him around the District tomorrow."
Hakuren looked horror-stricken, but before he could protest, the taller blond raised a hand for silence. "I know, I suck. I'll make it up to you, I swear. I would've done it myself, but the Pope and I aren't exactly…buddies at the moment."
"Yeah, you definitely owe me," he mumbled in retaliation as he shoved the toy Zehel onto Frau's chest and exited the room with a backwards wave and a quick 'Bye' to Teito.
Frau watched the teen disappear down the hall before directing his attention to the toy in his hand. Gloved fingers followed the trail of stitches composing the doll, weighing the object in hand. It felt a bit heavier than he remembered.
"Teito," Frau muttered to the toy in his hands, "We need to talk."
"I forgot" the brunet rushed to his feet, tripping over the legs of his chair in his haste to stand "I have something to do."
A hand slammed on the doorframe, arm extended to signal that passing through was not allowed. Frau knew that could hardly stop Teito if the boy really wanted to leave; he was still small enough to pass under his outstretched arm, but something was keeping the brunet inside. Whether shock, or curiosity to what Frau might say, the blond wasn't sure but too much time left in silence and he knew the boy would start getting edgy. He presented the plush back to its owner, fighting a smile when it was taken with gentle hands.
Teito gingerly picked lint off the toy, distracting himself from the horrible throbbing in his chest and throat.
Frau was overwhelmed with so much happiness that it scared him. Labrador had told him to prepare with the possibility that Teito could have suffered from extensive brain damage, and amnesia as a result, but he was glad Labrador had been wrong. Oh so very glad. But his happiness was dampened by the boy's need for a hasty retreat. It was as if that happiness, the unadulterated joy to find Teito well enough to be up, was stabbed with a rusty knife.
And his unwanted insecurities resurfaced. Clawing their way up to the surface and whispering harsh words into his ears.
"Why do you keep running away from me?" He asked before he could stop himself, but it was something he wanted to know. Something he needed to know. And though he felt shame at having asked, he felt no regret.
"I'm not –!" Teito immediately stuttered, taking a step back as if unexpectedly struck. He pressed Zehel to his chest, still dressed in his pajama flannels, appropriate apparel for the darkening world outside. "You can't –, th-that's not fair. You're not allowed to say that."
Frau's patience snapped that very instance. His insecurity and rage boiled and surfaced, and over took his sanity, crushing it into near oblivion. But instead of unrestrained anger, it was something controlled, contained, freezing cold.
"Not allowed?" he steadily spoke, pronouncing each syllable carefully.
Teito stared at his feet as he shuffled backwards, watching Frau's booted feet follow close behind. And the click of a locked door startled him into looking up, catching sight of Frau's sapphire eyes looking down at him. "You can't ask me something like that while looking like that!" he shouted, and managed to startle himself by doing so. His face flushed red, his body trembled. Teito backed up until he bumped into the desk with a squeak.
"Looking like what?" Frau loomed over Teito, certain it was fear flickering in Teito's eyes, along with defiance. Which made sense since Teito replied rather defensively, snappish.
"Like if you're hurt! Like if I've done something wrong!"
"Because you haven't?" Frau continued to attempt at calm and collected, but he felt the twitch in his frown, and was certain his frown showed more than what he wanted.
"Of course not!" Teito immediately protested, eyes darting back to his bare feet and noticed his toy beside his swollen ankle. When had he dropped it? And he really needed to get off his feet; the throbbing in his ankles couldn't mean anything good. He had been feeling it earlier, a strange numbing pain shoot up and down his legs, but he hadn't realized it was his ankles swelling.
"I see," Frau nodded leisurely, taking his time to process what he was hearing before turning a foot at an angle, and then a moment later, turning the rest of the way to leave the way he came in. "I should go."
"What? No!" Teito looked to Frau's receding back. "You can't just leave!"
Frau was at the door by the time Teito spoke, hand on the knob, but he wrenched it away and pounded a fist to the wooden door. "And you can leave whenever the hell you want to?" His anger had won, boiled and overflowed. He couldn't chill it and keep it under control anymore than he could keep himself from lashing out at the teen.
He had wanted to keep calm, to take everything in stride. He wanted to be in control of the situation, but whenever it concerned Teito Klein, he was far from being able to accomplish such a task. Frau felt his anger was justified, and he no longer tried to ease Teito of the burden he had created.
Because Frau wasn't a monster that lashed out at everyone. That growled and hissed and spat at his friends. He had a right to be angry. Furious, even. He should have moved on with his life, as he had attempted to do before, but things were never as simple as that. The feelings he had been trying to eradicate had come back, full force, and Frau knew he was in too deep now to turn back.
But that certainly didn't mean he had to take the brunet's bullshit laying down like an obedient, masochistic dog.
"But of course, you can!" he continued with a false grinning flair, sadistically satisfied when the boy cringed away from his icy glare, "Teito Klein can do whatever the hell pleases him, no matter of the trauma it causes everyone else!"
"Trauma?" Teito looked utterly confused, "I didn't –."
"You didn't plan on it? You didn't mean to?" it was asked with complete sarcasm that caused Teito to raise his chin in defiance again. "Well la-di-da," Frau sing-songed, untroubled by the resistance the teen was attempting,"you've succeeded regardless."
"Who did I traumatize –?" Teito near shouted, hands clenching the desk behind him for support as Frau stalked towards him like a livid lion. His glacier eyes had darkened – sharpened into a glare Teito had never seen before. It cut straight through him and made him deadly afraid.
'This man can kill me' he finally seemed to realize, but certainly didn't expect what came out of the blond's mouth next when gloved hands slammed into the desk on either side, sending the stack of books he had been reading down to the ground.
"Me! I'm not some pup you can abandon on the side of the road, you selfish little sonnavabitch!" he shouted, roared. Frau knew his height always intimidated the teen, knew his anger frightened the boy to no end. And yet he had used it against Teito and all because he was angry.
Angry at the teen.
At the situation.
But mostly, Frau was angry with himself. At his inability to control even the smallest aspects of his life. At being so easily manipulated that it made him feel weak, helpless. He wanted his strength back, his power.
And he realized too late that there were other ways of getting that back.
Not by belittling a boy who, obviously, was as lost as he was.
Frau watched defiance contort with pain, and suffering, and unclouded trepidation. "…I-I didn't mean that –," he hurriedly tried to soothe, his voice soft and expressing remorse.
But Teito didn't respond to it. He lifted his fists to wipe away the tears in is eyes; he swallowed hard to keep his throat from closing.
And he fought to control the storm brewing inside his heart.
"Of course you did," he replied with a calmness he was rather proud of, expecting that his voice would betray him. "Everything you say when you're angry is what you really feel; it's why I usually listen to you when you yell at me. I-I'm s-s-s –," his voice finally gave way. He was wondering when that would happen.
"Teito, don't cry –," Frau nearly begged, and was relieved when the teen quickly snapped that he wasn't.
Unable to restrain himself, Frau crushed Teito to his chest, wrapping an arm around the boy's small waist, and running a hand through his disheveled brown hair. He tightened his fist into that hair, nuzzled it as he breathed in the smell of dirt and oil.
"Fuck, I've missed you so damn much."
At that, small hands clutched to Frau's coat, trembling with the force of their grip. The blond heard Teito choke back a sob, and he did his best to comfort by stroking the boy's hair instead of pulling it, by loosening his grip around Teito's waist. The teen sighed away a cry as he nuzzled into the blond's chest.
"Kid," Frau chuckled after a moment, "you really need a bath. You smell."
"You stupid –," he was caught by a sob again, and went to beating Frau's chest with his fists.
After a few trickling moments later, Teito's half-hearted attempt to injure Frau died, and he sagged against the stronger built of the man before him. He was easily lifted up into waiting arms, cradled so gently he nearly started crying again but managed to restrain himself, and didn't even bother asking where they were going when Frau led them out of the room.
As they walked darkened hallways, lit by candlelight and the half-crescent moon's glow, Frau admitted his fear though no one had asked him to.
Teito was a bit glad he did, because now he understood why the blond had been so violent. Why he seemed so guarded, even when they were alone together. Teito placed an ear to Frau's chest, listening to the sound of nothing but the blond's calm breathing.
"I'm afraid that every time you leave…you won't ever come back. What am I suppose to do then, without you?"
Frau rested his head against the moist stone railing, body splayed across the two small steps to the private tub in Jio's quarters. Drowsy sapphire eyes watched Teito splash around in the water, lightly flinching at the droplets that hit his face. Every so often, his hand twitched, and the blond soon found himself trailing pale fingers through the short hairs at the teen's nape.
"Frau, what are you doing?" Teito questioned, momentarily distressed by the strange shiver running rampant up and down his spine.
"Hn?" Fingers froze before Frau pulled them away and dropped his hand to his side. "'m tired, is all. You almost done?"
The moment they had reached the rooms reserved for the Archbishop, Frau had dumped Teito into the tub of warm water. The boy really needed a bath; he smelled worse than dried road kill. And he couldn't help but want to touch warm skin.
So after much debate, Frau had removed his gloves, calmed his nerves, and assisted Teito with washing his hair. That probably wasn't the best idea he had all day, considering the faint sounds of approval coming from Teito went straight to his groin.
Really now? He was being turned on from giving Teito a bath? Was he so deprived?
Of course, he was. It was stupid to ask.
But Frau, being the gentleman that he was, pushed his needs aside and completed his task. Relieved too, that both marks on his hand did not react to Teito's bare skin.
"Just go to bed," the teen sighed at Frau's question, "I'll be there in a minute."
When no reply came, Teito called out to the man behind him. He received a "hrn?" for his efforts.
With a quick glance over his shoulder, he found the blond with his eyes closed and a light snore escaping his partially open mouth. Teito rolled his eyes before quickly finishing his bath, wincing at every other step as he raced into the Archbishop's room to scavenge for a towel Frau failed to bring him.
After opening and closing several drawers, the brunet had a towel around his waist when he came across a drawer filled with clothing that definitely did not belong to the blond currently unconscious in the bathroom. He lightly lifted the layers, finding all assortments of clothing – from sweaters and shirts to jeans and slacks, Teito even found a few sweater vests he would never wear, regardless if a threat to his life hung in the balance.
Searching the drawer below it, Teito found more clothing around his size in all kinds of colors and fashions. An unwanted blush rushed to his cheeks as trembling hands clutched to a pair of dark olive boxer shorts.
He wasn't dense enough to not understand what it meant to have so much clothing in another person's room, Mikage had made it his priority to teach Teito the finer points of developing romance with all the damn shoujo manga he made the brunet read.
And this, all the clothing packed into those two large drawers (and Teito certainly didn't know if there was more), definitely meant that Frau wanted their relationship to continue forward, regardless of the things Teito had done.
Or, at least the brunet assumed it had been Frau who bought so much clothing. There were only three other people within the blond's immediate circle of friends that knew about their relationship. In fact, he was certain that Frau only had two friends – he didn't count Hakuren because he was more certain than not that his blond friend had been trying to steal his boyfriend while he was gone.
A figurative tiny little pipe inside Teito's head just burst at the sudden realization. To distract himself, he imagined distressed little workers running around, shouting at each other to assess the damage and figure out a solution, while the scene faded in and out with flashing red lights and the wailing of bells in the background.
Oh, one of the little workers just spontaneously combusted. That was strange.
But back to the real world.
Teito slapped his forehead, attempting to control the flow of blood to his face with will alone. It wasn't working too well.
Of course, they were "together"; Teito understood that much of their relationship. Unless he misunderstood Frau, but that just didn't seem possible. The man had indirectly admitted to it: he had been devastated when Teito had abandoned him. Certainly, a man such as Frau would never admit to something like that without actually meaning it. Even then, a man such as Frau would never admit to feeling anything at all.
Teito, single-handedly, had broken Archbishop Frau, perverted womanizer, and turned him into a giant slop of emotional stew.
"At least now the pervert knows how ridiculous it feels to be rendered like that," the teen thought bitterly as he shoved the drawer closed.
But the petty thought didn't make him at all happy, or relieved. His hands were still shaking, his heart was racing, and above all, he had the sudden urge to pack a bag and run away. If Mikage had been around, he would've given Teito an answer to his anxiety.
Firmly shaking his head to banish the depressing thought, Teito quickly dressed into his boxers and into one of Frau's shirts that he found during his raid of the man's closet, and went to rubbing his hair dry with his towel as he trekked back to the bathroom.
It would do him no good to cry over his lost friend. It certainly wouldn't bring him back, and wherever he was guarding Teito from now, he wouldn't be too happy knowing he was the cause for Teito's pain.
With that resolve in mind, the brunet prodded Frau's bulky shoulder with a finger, knowing that with every passing second his resolve was crumbling and he needed a goddamn hug.
Not that he would ever ask for one.
"Frau. Frau get up; you can't fall asleep here," Teito called softly as he continued to poke the bishop. The man stirred, mumbled something the brunet didn't quite catch, and went back to sleep. With a frown, Teito continued to prod until he poked a spot just below the ribs and above the hipbone that caused the blond to violently jerk and scramble a few inches away before he finally opened his eyes to take in his surroundings.
"…are you ticklish, Frau?" the teen asked with a hint of amusement stroking his tone.
"What? No! Freaking startled me, is all," he grumbled in defense, working his speech around a yawn as he continued, "Thought you were some, hrm, psycho trying to kill me." he rubbed his eye, "Almost snapped your neck there, so don't do it again."
"I won't." Teito took Frau's hand and tugged him forward, eyes lingering on Zehel's symbol burned onto the back of the blond's hand.
Frau caught him staring as he obediently rose to stand, snatching his gloves in the process. Though he would never admit to feeling reluctant at releasing Teito's hand, the Archbishop felt a strange sense of loneliness when he slipped his gloves back on to create a barrier between the skin-on-skin contact.
Even more so when the brunet did not take his hand again.
"Are you wearing my shirt?" Frau inquired in order to change the subject, though he knew the answer to it already. The dark material drenched Teito's small form, the sleeves barely hanging onto slim shoulders and coming so far below the hips that it almost hid the shorts the brunet wore beneath it. Frau was having a very difficult time reminding himself that the teen before him was, in fact, a minor and he could go to jail, his choice of activity involving said minor consensual or not.
But he was briefly rewarded with a blushing, frowning teen, so it made the waiting bearable.
"It is, isn't it?" he continued to tease, even when Teito threw the wet towel to his face. "It looks good on you," he smirked once said towel was removed and discarded.
"What? I just paid you a compliment,and I get an eff bomb for my efforts?" Frau watched the teen storm towards the dresser stocked with clean towels, and dry his hair furiously with one of them. "Remind me not to get you anything for Valentine's Day, snarky little runt."
Teito looked up from the mistreatment of his head to stare blankly at the man approaching him. Gloved hands swatted away his own as they set to do the work of drying his hair, only gently and not so hurried.
Of course, he was blushing as he stared down at his bare feet, clenching and unclenching his toes as he mulled over a thought in his head. After a while of just listening to Frau hum, the teen spoke. "You were going to get me something for Valentine's Day?"
"…well, originally I wasn't," Frau admitted, thankful for the towel keeping Teito's eyesight down. He wouldn't know how to explain the panic he knew were clearly show in his eyes. "It's not a holiday I celebrate often, or for the right reasons. But, um, it feels like I have to now."
"…do I have to get you something too?"
"Traditionally speaking, yes, but you don't have to."
Teito raised an eyebrow. "Traditionally?"
"Traditionally, the girl gives the guy chocolate on Valentine's, and the guy returns the favor on White Day."
In one swift movement, Teito yanked the towel from his head, and with his other took a fist-full of Frau's shirt into his hand. "What the hell are you implying, pervert?"
"Oh come on, really?" the blond smirked as he gestured to himself with both hands.
Teito's frown deepened.
"Fine," he rolled his eyes, "I'll be the girl if it gets you so bend out of shape."
Teito sputtered for a moment before he replaced the towel on his head, attempting to hide the unhealthy blush crowding his face.
With a small smile tugging his lips, Frau placed his hands on the teen's cheeks, gently coaxing the brunet to lift his head but failing. "Unless you want to be the girl. I have, absolutely, no objections with that. And I will definitely make it worth your while. After all, the only job the girl has is stand there and look pretty while the guy does…this," a peck on the towel on Teito's head. "And this," another on his forehead after nuzzling the towel out of the way. "And a little more of this," another on his cheek as Frau finally coaxed to get the boy to lift his face up. He continued with his light kisses, until he managed to get the teen to open his painfully closed eyes with a kiss to the temple.
Teito glared at the floor but shook his head.
"I know you're not a girl, Teito. I just helped you take a bath, remember?"
"You're sleeping alone tonight, asshole!"
Towel thrown to his face again, Frau removed it just in time to watch the teen stalk towards the door. Grinning, he jogged the short distance to the teen and finally had an excuse to wrap his arms around him. "Don't go! I'll get lonely!"
"Deal with it, pervert!"
"Come'on! I was just teasing; don't get so grumpy about everything."
"Don't care! Let me go!"
The arms encircling Teito slowly began constricting to the point where pain became known, and the teen winced as he was pressed almost uncomfortably against the blond's chest. Too quickly that it frightened Teito into releasing a startled cry, he was swept off his feet, and carried toward the bed.
Before he could question, the teen was dropped onto it, and opened startled green eyes to find a menacing Frau towering before him. Teito moved to sit up, anything to give him some height so Frau's wouldn't be so intimidating, when the man placed a hand on his chest and shoved him back onto the mattress.
"Frau?" It came out as barely a whisper, something like the timid meuw of a lost kitten.
"…I'm not," Frau cleared his throat, tone coming out husky and dry. "I'm not letting you go; not anymore."
"No, I won't... –"
"You had promised me, a long time ago, that you would never leave –"
"Technically, I never promised –."
"Well promise it now or get the fuck out of my sight this instant!"
Teito swallowed the protest he had ready, trembling in fear at the menacing form hovering above him. Frau's eyes were too dark to be recognizable, flooding with too much pain and anger that it continued to startle the teen at how easily the blond was allowing himself to succumb to his random spouts of emotion. Frau was always the calm one, the clear-headed one. To see him so distraught, in pain, the teen couldn't help but feel a slight panic rush through his veins.
But now he saw the damage he had done, the insecurities he placed on a man that never had a care in the world. And he reached up with trembling hands to cup cold cheeks, sadly smiling as icy tears ran down his thumbs, spilled over the back of his hands and down the length of his arm until they melted into his warm skin.
"What have you done to me?" Frau whispered, eyes searching for answers on the planes of Teito's features.
The teen merely shook his head, smile disappearing as he responded. "I don't know."
Frau sighed deeply as fatigue snared and encased him in an uncomfortable cocoon. He nuzzled into Teito's warm palm for a moment before he pulled away and went about the room performing various tasks. He picked up and properly discarded the towels into a hamper hidden in a wardrobe, he pulled out a blanket and threw it in Teito's general direction, and finally trekked the length of the room to a small table by the entrance to his room. He pulled a silver salver from within its drawers and a small metal box.
Within the box, Frau produced a strange five-petal flower, black in color with vibrant green leaves and vines pooling around it. The flower gave an odd mist once it was set on the salver, and continued to fume as he walked it back towards his bed.
"Is that to help you sleep?" Teito whispered as he watched the blond place the plate at the foot of the bed.
Frau said nothing; instead, he pulled away sheets, tucked Teito into bed, snapped the lights off, and dropped onto the bed exhausted, still fully clothed. He was nearly lost to sleep when a blanket was hesitantly draped across his torso.
Sapphire eyes watched Teito while the boy meekly withdrew, wrapping sheets and blanket around him, back facing Frau. The blond chuckled lightly, shifting about as he knocked off his boots and pulled the teen toward him, keeping the boy swaddled and warm against the cold.
"It's to make sure I stay asleep," Frau muttered into brown locks, indulging in the heat radiating off the teen in his arms. It was a comfort warmer than an absurd amount of thick blankets could offer him; it certainly made him feel lighter, content. And though there was a painful itch at the pit of his stomach, an animalistic urge to devour the small boy before him in both body and soul, he found the will to suppress both animals inside him, and just…
"I love you, Teito."
The boy blushed, deep and red, as the arms encircling him tightened their hold. He wasn't sure whether it was Frau trembling or his own body, or both, but he was shaken, and it terrified him how much three simple words had an influence on his self. He inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly. He attempted to quell his anxiety, to reassure himself he was in no danger.
But that type of talk was lost to the fear, dark and black and thick, filling his chest, pushing its way into every crack and corner of his shattered valor and strength. His eyes burned and watered, blurring his vision, while his throat closed in on itself and made breathing difficult.
Sweaty palms latched onto bare, cold skin, fighting their way through the confinement of blankets. His breathing was erratic, forced. He fought to control unwanted sobs, fought to keep control of everything. But the fear, the uncertainty and pain, made control impossible. Completely impossible.
Frau's worried tone cracked Teito.
The teen screamed, wailed – tears, unrestrained, flowed freely. He threw his head back, eyes screwed shut as he attempted to remove the vice-like hold keeping him place. Unsuccessful as it was, even as he dragged nails across skin, leaving angry red marks in their wake. He could hear his name being spoken, hear it over his own hysteria – but he didn't understand it, didn't want to understand. He wanted to scream, and cry. He wanted to run away, hide where they could never find him, never think of looking for him. He wanted solitude.
Teito didn't want to care, didn't want to love.
Such things never lead to anything worthwhile.
They lead to pain, doubt, fear and insecurity, the feeling of abandonment. He didn't know how to deal with such things, no one ever bothered teaching him. It hurt him worse because he always ended up caring too much. Like a child, he would give all his trust – incomplete as it was, Teito would give his entire heart to the person he loved. And as such, they held him in the palm of their hands, balanced his world on the tip of a needle.
Teito could not handle his world shattering again.
"Teito – Teito, look at me," gloved hands pulled tear-stained cheeks upwards, forcing Teito's face out of the comforts of the small crevice he had created with his knees and arms once Frau released him just an inch.
The teen refused to open his eyes, instead went to biting his lip to keep the screams scratching his throat from surfacing. His shoulders shook from the effort of controlling his wild emotions, fingers digging into the fabric of the mattress.
"Teito… Teito, please," Frau pressed his forehead onto the brunet's, feeling the dampness of his chocolate hair and watching tears roll down the curves of his cheeks. He grimaced, frowned – Frau grinded his teeth as he screwed his eyes shut. "I don't know what to do when you cry," he admitted in a whisper.
"Y-you can't," the teen shook his head, forcefully stealing a breath and shivered as it left his mouth with a shudder. He forced himself to swallow, to rearrange his muddled thoughts, to control his need to cry and plead to be left alone. "You can't l-l…" he couldn't even say the damn word.
"I can do anything I damn well please."
The words ghosted cold over Teito's lips, clenching at something inside his chest. And, at that moment, Teito decided to just stop…caring.
To stop caring about tomorrow, the following week. To stop caring about his uncertainties, and the qualities about himself that he loathed. To stop caring about not caring. To stop caring about the wrongness of loving someone.
Teito reached up with trembling hands, tangled nimble fingers into golden blond locks, and tugged the man down. He heard, or more like felt, a muffled response of surprise as he moved his lips, unskillfully, over cold unresponsive ones.
Dejected, the teen slipped his hands over Frau's broad shoulders, and began to push away when his face was pulled upwards in such a sharp movement he heard a bone snap in place somewhere along his neck. But soon Teito found himself not caring as hungry lips met his own.
They crushed his, devoured him. A dreadfully skillful tongue parted his hesitant lips, and he struggled to imitate the erratic dance it was performing with his own.
Teito pulled away too quickly, out of breath and body itching for more.
Frau, on the other hand, took the initiative to continue. He placed kisses along sun-kissed skin, down the rounded edges of Teito's jaw, down the delicate curve of his neck and bit down at the soft flesh on his shoulder.
Teito gave a cry, confused by the pain and jolt of electricity that gripped him firmly and sent his entire body into disarray. Then Frau began to suck at the sore spot, and Teito unwillingly moaned into the cold air. He twitched beneath Frau, unable to remain still as pain and pleasure sung through his veins at the new sensations, all coming to pool at the pit of his stomach and further down.
Erratic and greedy, Teito's hands found their way under the hem of Frau's shirt, ghosting fingers over cold skin as he felt them clench underneath his touch. Above him, the blond gasped and encircled a hand around the brunet's small waist, lifting his lower half off the mattress to grind between Teito's legs.
The teen flinched, tensed, and abandoned his expedition of Frau's chest to wrap his arms around Frau's neck.
At the movement, Frau stilled, panting painfully quick. The body in his arms shivered, and he knew it was not from arousal. He had pushed too far too quickly.
With a sigh, Frau sat back on his heels, bringing Teito with him.
The boy saddled his lap, a bit reluctantly Frau noticed, but refused to ease his hold around his neck. Frau traced soothing circles along the teen's tensed back, kissing his temple every so often while murmuring that everything was all right.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Teito," he whispered as he placed another kiss to the throbbing vein in the brunet's temple.
"I-I know," he stammered into Frau's shoulder. "I'm j-just not –"
"You're not ready, I get it. And I'll wait until you are." Another kiss.
Hesitantly, Teito pulled back until he was face-to-face with the blond. He was relieved to see a small smile on the man's face, and attempted to return it with one of his own. "I'm sorry," he whispered shamefully, still burning red in the cheeks.
"It's okay," Frau laughed. "Well, sort of," he admitted with a slight tilt of his head. But he knocked his forehead playfully against Teito's in some sort of attempt to reassure the teen.
It seemed to work since the brunet's smile grew a millimeter wider.
"But please, Teito," he sighed, closed his eyes, and rested his head on a slim shoulder. "Don't ever feel that what I feel for you is wrong. God knows I've been trying to reassure myself of that fact for quite some time now, and it always comes to bite me in the face." Frau gave the teen a strong hug before lifting his head again to stare into impossibly gorgeous emerald eyes. "I won't be leaving your side any time soon."
"That's going to get annoying," Teito smirked, eyes kept on anywhere but Frau's.
"Oh? For me or for you?"
"For me, of course!" The brunet recognized the playful tone and welcomed it. "I'm the one that has to put up with you."
"My apologies then," Frau smirked. But it quickly vanished as he placed his forehead on Teito's, feeling how his body greedily stole the warmth off the teen. They couldn't stay together like this much longer.
"Teito…why are you planning to go back to the First District?"
Startled, Teito looked up, caught Frau's cold stare and immediately looked away. Only one thing ran through his mind: "How did he know?"
When the teen failed to reply, Frau explained.
"Mikhail; he told me. He told me everything."
Teito tensed just a tiny bit more.
"Why do you need to go back for the rest of the Eye of Mikhail when you're safe here?" he seemed to plead, and knew he was an idiot for doing so.
"But it's not safe here, Frau," the teen whispered. "And I need to go to Seele."
"Dammit, Teito. So you need the Eye of Mikhail to go to Seele? I told you I would take you once you passed your Bishop's Exam. There's no need to have the stone if you want to go to Seele."
"I don't need it for that," he shook his head, his voice no higher than a whisper though he knew they were alone in the room. "I need it for…the thing I have inside of me."
"Teito?" Frau raised an eyebrow, confused. Mikhail had never mentioned that. "What do you mean?"
"So he didn't tell you everything," the teen laughed bitterly as he pulled a hand away from Frau to wipe a stray tear. "I'm the thing everyone's looking for." At Frau's confused expression, Teito continued. "I'm Pandora's Box. And without all of Mikhail's power at his disposal, the box will open and Verloren will awaken again."
"I know it's a lot to take in," Teito quickly added. "But it's true. I wouldn't be saying it if it wasn't."
"Pandora's Box?" Frau hissed, his arms wrapped around Teito's waist tightened just a bit. "When did Mikhail tell you this?"
"When he sensed the stone near, back in the First District. This was before they locked me away. He thought I could steal back the stone since I had been given some liberties on the military grounds."
"Teito, going now is a suicide mission. You know that," Frau pleaded.
"I know, but I need it."
"Goddamit," he hissed, head pressing against the curve of Teito's shoulder. "We'll figure out a way to get it back, but please, Teito, don't go looking for the damn Eye yourself."
"I don't want anyone getting hurt," the teen nearly whined.
"And I don't want you getting killed. And now, I have logic on my side. You can't go to the First District. Because if you do, then they'll have Pandora's Box as well, do you understand me?" Frau bit and chewed every word coming out of his mouth, more than prepared to scare it into Teito that he could not leave the District if he had to.
"But Frau –."
"No buts. We'll get the Eye back, get you to Seele, and the Pope never needs to know about this."
"…Frau, how much does the Pope know about me?"
Frau raised an eyebrow at the inquiry, especially at the small glint of fear stroking the boy's tone. "Nothing, we never had a chance to explain the circumstances to him. Why?"
"It's best to keep it that way. Mikhail told me so."
"What else did he tell you?"
"That the Pope is not to be trusted."
Frau nodded, surprised at the sudden twist in the road. He knew complications would arise, but this information: he would keep it to himself for the time being, not even share them with Castor. The man seemed awfully jumpy lately.
"That fucking angel sure didn't tell me a whole lot," Frau sighed as he untangled himself from Teito and placed the teen back in bed. After swaddling him up with the blankets again, and taking half of one for himself, he hugged Teito close and released a tired sigh.
"Teito, promise me you won't go after the Eye of Mikhail without me."
"Frau," his tone was devastated, distraught, but he sighed and nodded his compliance.
And with that, Teito knew, Frau no longer trusted him.
Because there was sarcasm lurking beneath that appreciative tone, and the strong hold the blond had around him was not loving or gentle, but frightened and possessive.
And the pain of losing Frau's trust hurt more than any pain Ayanami could inflict on his mortal body.
A/N: So it's not what you would call a "good" ending, but it isn't a cliffhanger either! Or, you know, a mean one. But you'll be missing my cliffhangers soon enough because…this fic is coming to a close! *Dun Dun Dun Duuuuun!* I can see it, three updates left. Four if I feel crazy enough to do it. (I think I might have just jinxed myself. I said the same thing on my H fic; the thing was suppose to be a two chaptered ONE-SHOT. Look at the monstrosity now *facepalm*)
A/N2: Castor, actually, was the one who bought all of those clothes for Teito, not Frau. It was a peace offering. And he had a coupon. Just bringing this up because I'm never going to explain it. Tee-Hee. (I'm doing that alot, aren't I? Not explaining things, I mean.)
A/N3: Sorry, I have no preview for you guys ):