Title:: Night Ballade
Characters:: Frau, Teito
Genre:: Drama, Friendship/Romance
Warnings:: language, hints of shounen-ai, spoilers through Kapitel.59-61 (Predator, Runaway, 50/50)
Disclaimer:: I do not own any of the characters. Every credit goes to Ichihara Yukino & Amemiya Yuki.
A/N:: I'm very grateful to Onyx for the beta work she did on the story. Thank you!
At night, the hunger arises from the scythe with so much force that he can't even let himself sleep. At night, the whole world seems a good deal darker.
But Frau has to grit his teeth and concentrate. He has a boy to keep safe, after all.
ETA 13.12.2013: The lovely ТО.Опоссумы translated this into Russian! Available for reading on ficbookDOTnet under (slash) readfic (slash) 1483356
(can't link here, URGH)
Pure whiteness erupted in the air, soft and bright, in the form of glittering snowflakes twisting gently in the night wind. The sky was as cold and dark as a frozen lake when there's no breeze to ripple her waves, no movement, no touch of sunshine till the end of winter. And the winter inside Frau never seemed like it was coming to an end.
Eternal chill... Yeah, that's just like me – only calmer.
Frau sat at the side of the bed with his back to the wall, arms loosely crossed against his chest. His blue eyes wandered to the large window beside the bed again and again, quietly noting that the midnight scenery outside was quite morose – and much more frightening, in a way, than peaceful. At least for Frau.
He pressed his lips into a thin line and took the risk of glancing down to his ever-so-precious companion. Teito was sleeping soundly, dark locks falling into his forehead, hiding parts of his face, but the closed eyes were clearly visible: the shadowed eyelids softly fluttered in his sleep. He had this calm, peaceful expression on his face which made him look like a defenceless, innocent kid, and not the worn former slave whose heart hardened somewhere between the bitter trials of life.
Frau reached his hand out, suddenly feeling like touching the dark mop of hair but on a second thought he drew his hand back. No use of trying something like that, moron, he thought to himself. Teito's already not safe beside you, so why risk his safety even more? True enough, just a quick glance of that damn kid was enough to stir up the demon inside Frau. Looks like the scythe never went back to sleep after that incident – it was up and stirring, completely aware of the closeness its host shared with the boy it wanted. Desired…
Reach out to him… He is right beside you! So pure, so beautiful…
No! Frau clenched his fists and moved further away from Teito, as far as the bed made it possible. He didn't want to run away, not again like he did yesterday, because he needed to be able to press the scythe's evil suggestions back with his own mind, own power – but damn, it was hard. His eyes stayed fixated on the sleeping boy while a never before experienced hunger formed in his body.
The brat has no defence right now. You would be able to take him easily. Isn't that what you want? What you have been wanting for ages?
No, that's what you want, Frau hissed in his mind. I'd never harm him.
He could have sworn he heard – or felt? – a light chuckle in his head. It was rather uncomfortable, like an undesired stir of a severe headache. I know I'm not the only one who wants that boy. Both of us are starving... for him….
Go away! Go away!
Sharp pain ripped through him so Frau tightened his hand around his right arm – into which that evil scythe was sealed –, and gritted his teeth in concentration. I have to protect Teito, no matter what. He remembered his own misery from yesterday when he came around to the sight of his hand buried deep inside Teito, trying to take his soul. He remembered the shocked, frightened, terrified expression on the boy's face, the blood on the side of his trembling lips, his fragile-looking body shaking in fear... Frau had to concentrate on these painful memories to gain more mental strength so that he could overpower the cursed scythe and will it back into temporary obedience. I never want to see him looking at me like that again. Never again, he thought.
By the time the scythe's evil intentions finally left his head alone Frau was panting heavily from exertion. When minutes passed without one stir of crazy hunger, Frau slowly relaxed his clenched fists and let out a deep sigh, sweeping his wet blond locks out of his eyes.
He swallowed before looking down at Teito. The brat frowned in his sleep and the fingers sprawling on the sheets twitched but otherwise, he made no sign of waking up. One would expect a former war slave to be more vigilant than this. But of course, he can't be blamed for being dead tired.
After all, it is entirely my fault, Frau decided. True as it is, he shouldn't have agreed when Teito suggested taking this room – not when he knew that only one bed was available. Even without the unnecessary closeness Teito was practically in constant danger beside Frau. And it was not even a day ago that he went mad and tried to consume the boy's soul! Really, he should put some money on the table, leave Teito here, and disappear unnoticed in the favour of the night. The brat would be safe and sound here. Safer, than he'd be with Frau, anyway.
Oh, but you can't, a little voice whispered in his head. Frau closed his eyes, hoping that it wasn't the scythe. Or maybe he really was going mad. Remember the collar? Tick tack… Forty-eight hours fly away in an instant, and you can say farewell to the kid... The voice chuckled.
Frau bit his tongue to hold the curse back. God! The bloody slave collar had almost escaped his notice. But now that it was in his mind he knew for sure that he can never leave Teito – well, at least till they somehow get the damned collar off of the boy. Because he just couldn't have Teito die. He won't let it happen, ever.
Even if staying with Teito dangers his life, Frau will grit his teeth all the more and think of something. He has to, if he want the brat safe.
But Teito can be so innocent and naïve! I trusts Frau, he says. Great. And so what? It's sweet, alright, but mere trust won't hold back Verloren's scythe. It wasn't going to work, and Frau didn't even dare to think of what could've happened had things gone a little more out of control. What still could happen in the future.
And he couldn't do a bloody thing about it beside trying to talk down the goddamn scythe and hoping for the best.
Frau was so cold he literally shivered. From the chill in the room, from the despair he felt upon this miserable situation. Had one asked if he felt fear, he'd have denied it. Frau and fear were not compatible.
But hell, he was desperate!
He didn't want the scythe to swallow him – just this one possibility was already more than enough to make the hair stand everywhere on his body. But now, that the damn thing went so out of control that it was constantly threatening the life of his bishop trainee… Words cannot express the self-torture he felt.
Teito, as Pandora's Box, also preserved an unthinkable power within his body, and there was no Mikhail now to keep back that power. One foolish misstep, one tiny little mistake, and the whole world's gonna see to its end. Yet he can close his eyes and sleep, even when there's probably no beautiful dreams to calm his mind. Teito has something in him; something more powerful and tremendous than Frau ever dreamt of having.
No wonder everyone wants a piece of him, really.
Frau moved back to the side of Teito, and after lifting his hand, he tentatively touched the silky hair of the boy. Teito stirred a bit, then relaxed his body against the bishop, burying his nose into the thin layers of Frau's shirt. A small smile appeared on the older man's face while he lifted the blanket and pulled it higher up on both of them.
Freezing as he was, the warmth of the breathing, living body next to him was beyond description. "Sleep well, brat," he murmured, leaning back to the cool wall.
Frau himself, however, did not close his eyes. Oh, he was tired, indeed, but the events of the last two days simply did not let him sleep. He couldn't afford sleeping. It was way too dangerous – for Teito, and for himself, too. So instead, he stared out of the window just like he had been doing since the setting of the sun, and quietly admired how the shiny snowflakes danced in the pale light of the moon. The evil in him remained silent, but the cold never left his heart.
Well… so much for the night's sleep.
Frau looks awful, Teito observed. The deep azure eyes of the bishop were cold and stony, and had noticeable bags under them; the broad shoulders were stiff, the movement of his arms slow, and the usual smirk nowhere to be seen – all in all, his figure was screaming of tiredness. And frankly, Teito didn't have to think twice to realize what could have been the cause of this.
He swallowed, then (even knowing it'd probably be the wisest not to ask questions), decided to approach the man nevertheless. It was a sad thing, to see Frau in this state.
Ever since Mikage died, he was practically the whole world for Teito, and so he didn't want to see the bishop break down.
"Frau," he said quietly, and after a brief lock of eyes, sat down onto the floor beside the blond. O-kay, Teito thought then. Now ask him. "Are you, well…"
"Alright?" Frau let out a small laugh which made Teito's chest a little bit lighter. That's the normal Frau. "What, kid, are you trying to say I look like shit?"
"Oh, c'mon, there's no need to be shy; I think I'll die from your flattery."
Teito let himself smile a bit but his brows frowned then, taking that the situation is dead serious. "Hey, quit joking it away. I'm worried."
Frau's smile never disappeared but the pretended humour completely left it. The man lifted his arm up and shuffled Teito's hair, ignoring the annoyed protests of the boy, and quietly stated after a few passing moments: "I know. Sorry, brat."
It was the first time since that dreadful incident that Teito and Frau were relatively alone – relatively because Castor and Labradorhad suddenly made an appearance that night. They wouldn't admit it, and Frau didn't say a word, but Teito figured the other two bishops must have been eye-, or at least ear witnesses to Frau's "mad moment".
Before Teito realized it, it was decided that all four of them will go to the Hawkzile Race.
Castor and Labrador weren't here now however: they left ten minutes ago after having a brief conversation with Frau. They'll come back, that's for sure, but Teito guessed this would be the right moment to have a few words with his sour-looking mentor.
He didn't have to fear that any outsider would overhear their conversation, so he looked up at the sky with seeming indifference and said in a quiet voice: "It's the scythe again, isn't it? It's going out of control." It was not a question but a statement.
Frau's brow darkened. "It's been doing this for quite some time now. In fact, I've been dancing on the edge of a blade ever since we left the church. You can't even begin to imagine this, brat – spending every minute of your existence trying to hold it back, trying to be in control, concentrate with every breath of yours not to pounce on your protégé… It's killing, and it's slowly getting the worst outta me."
"No, I can imagine it pretty fine: I felt the same when I realized I'm Pandora's Box. To know that one moment can be enough to let the biggest evil out into the world is…"
"But you weren't about to kill your friend."
Teito's heart made a loud thump inside his chest. He couldn't help it; this was the first time Frau referred to him as a friend, even if it was already quite obvious. "No," he stated, "I'm about to kill everyone else. Well, everyone else who's not important to that bastard Ayanami."
Frau then looked at him before making a short, dispirited laugh. "Okay, I get it. Both of us are in a rather shit situation."
"Well, that's the main point, right?" Noticing Frau's questioning eyes Teito explained: "We're in this together, you know. You promised that you'll stop me when… if the time comes. And I promised you the same. But I believe in you, you moron. I know without a doubt that you won't let the scythe dominate you."
The blond's reply was no more than a whisper. "I don't want to hurt you."
"I know that. But you aren't going to hurt me or anyone else. The two of us are pretty much invincible, in case it has escaped your notice. And you're not alone in this – you taught me that, remember?"
For a long moment Frau just looked him in the eyes, as if he was searching for something… then his lips relaxed and twitched – and for once it wasn't the usual arrogant smirk which appeared on his face but a real, warm smile. Teito blinked in surprise. It was fascinating to see Frau smiling. Not that the man was often moody or depressed – quite the opposite, actually – yet he rarely let others see his real emotions. He usually hid what was truly inside of him and paid attention to what was inside of others. A rare sight, it was, watching his honest smile. Teito felt the gentle tingle of warmth spreading inside his chest.
"Yeah," Frau murmured still smiling, while pointed his deep blue eyes high up to the sky. "We're in this together. Now come 'ere, damn brat" he suddenly said and grabbed the boy's shoulders, pulling him against his own body playfully. "All at once, you're like a grown-up. What could've happen to my sweet baby boy?"
"I'm not a– Hey, stop it! Frau!" Teito shouted when the bishop roughly tousled his brown hair, almost choking him with the arm still around his shoulders. "Quit it already!"
Frau laughed and Teito was the most shocked to realize that he's smiling as well. It was a strange feeling, to know all the terrible things that can happen to them – to all of them – anytime and yet here they were, laughing together. In a sense, though, this was what made the whole situation bearable.
"Thank you, Teito," Frau suddenly said then, still not moving his arm away from the boy who shifted uncomfortably.
"I didn't do anything."
"Oh you did." The bishop fondled Teito's hair for a moment. "You did."
Oddly enough, the big, cool hand resting on his head suddenly felt really safe… and really nice.
"In my world, you're alive…"
Frau opened his eyes, blinked, and found himself staring right up at the ceiling. Profound silence filled the pitch-black room in which there was nothing – not even a small candle or a blinking night-light – to disperse the darkness. The blond man slowly sat up, ignoring the creaks of the bed, and tousled his hair back from his face. Now, where the hell was he?
One look around was enough to refresh his memory. Oh yeah; a tiny little brat by the side of him, a Hawkzile Race to win and fucking freezing weather.
Frau closed his eyes and imagined he was sinking into a steaming hot bath, the sweet scent of soup filling his nose... The idea alone was enough to give him gooseflesh all over his body.
Then a not-so-old memory showed up inside his head for real. "I was so worried…" Teito's quiet voice filled his mind, the ghost-feeling of the warm water everywhere around his skin made Frau shiver. It was not long ago, remember…
Teito, softly taking the bishop's hand in his own. "In my world, you're alive."
Big green eyes, bright and glistening like two emeralds, silently screaming with true worry; thousands of emotions.
The same pair of eyes with terror, fear and shattered beliefs reflecting behind the dilated pupils…
Damn it! Frau swallowed the curse which threatened to escape his mouth but he couldn't help clenching his fists tightly. For a brief moment he reflected on everything he felt since they entered for the Hawkzile Race… or rather, everything he felt since the damn brat literally dropped into his life. The time they've spent together was very precious to Frau, even if he'd rather bite his tongue off than admit it. He remembered things he thought he had forgotten forever. He had this silly brat now to lead, to help, and to take care for… God, he never felt this alive since he died – maybe not even in his lifetime.
Teito said he's alive. After spending painfully long years with the sour Castor and freak Labrador who reminded Frau every day and every night that they're no longer breathing, living people – hell, not even proper human beings! – he never considered himself as one anymore. But that has somehow changed now. The damn brat had given him a goal: the type of goal which he thought he'd never find anywhere after his death. It all seemed so simple and great, especially in the midst of all the awful events of his current… well, not life but existence.
Really, he should be damn grateful to God for throwing the brat right in his way. Frau's just as in need of Teito now as the kid's in need of him.
One long glance was all Frau intended to cast at the boy but the next moment he found himself beside Teito's bed, bending over a bit to get a better look at the sleeping face. Teito somehow felt his presence: the dark eyelashes fluttered and then opened, exposing the sleepy bright green eyes. Knitting his brows he tried to sit up but upon realizing it was Frau who has disturbed his sleep Teito let his head fall back on to the pillow and closed his eyes. "Oh, it's just you," he said in a drowsy voice, clearly not in hurry to guard himself from the man.
"Yeah, just me. Not enough to put your defence on?"
"Stupid bishop," Teito muttered before lifting his arm up to lazily grab the man's hand. "Still thinking about this? I can see through you. You're not someone I should fear, so be quiet and go to sleep." He pressed his face deeper into the pillow.
Frau couldn't say a word. He just stared at his right hand wrapped in Teito's own and felt like the small fingers literally burnt holes into his skin. The boy was so warm it felt hot like fire – soft, gentle fire-touches on his ever cold body. It was like a wonderful sun next to his winter-like existence.
And then Frau felt it: hunger. A heavy and aching need, coming deep inside from his body, wanting satisfaction. It urged the man to reach for Teito and touch the dark mop of hair, the undoubtedly warm cheeks in a pure, wonderfully simple human contact.
And as strange as it was, Frau didn't feel the scythe had anything to do with this unexpected urge.
Maybe remaining in silence was not the best choice to make because Teito suddenly looked up again, this time with slight worry reflecting in the emerald eyes. "Hey, say something."
"Something," Frau said automatically.
Thanks god the worry left the boys expression! Frau couldn't bear it – it made him feel way too uncomfortable. "Lovely to see you being this lively so early in the morning," he said with a low purr that didn't seem to have the desired effect on Teito.
"Right now, I'd rather not see anything but my pillow," the boy growled before suppressing a yawn... well, more or less. "And definitely not your face."
"Why, don't ya like my face, damn brat?"
"You're pretty face is not the problem here, stu-" Teito bit his tongue in the middle of the sentence and all at once he seemed really awake. He growled and pressed his face deep into the pillow, but Frau would have sworn he saw a bit of pink flush on the boy's cheeks. "Damn it."
The blond laughed at the irritated groan, and the noise made Teito's ears go bright red.
"So you find my face pretty, eh?" Frau said mockingly, a wide grin appearing on his face.
"'t was a slip of tongue," Teito muttered into the pillow. He tried to pull his hand away but Frau didn't let him; their intertwined fingers felt too damn good for that. Before the bishop could have say a word, however, Teito bit on his lip and tentatively looked up. "God, you're freezing!" he said in a low voice as if he'd blamed Frau for being cold.
"Well, sorry for that. Dead bodies don't heat up very well."
"I didn't mean it like that," the boy said more quietly. He stayed silent for a moment, then: "Want to come in?"
His little apprentice shifted on the mattress (His! The thought made Frau smile again), giving way to the older man. His cheeks were still a bit flushed and Frau could easily imagine the embarrassment Teito felt upon inviting the man into his bed. Yet the action was cute and Frau was never one to turn down a tempting invitation like this.
Even when he probably should have.
As soon as he settled beside Teito and the familiar heat of the warm body touched his own Frau felt his muscles tense. Is it the scythe again? What if he attacks Teito in his sleep? If the next moment he opens his eyes the dreadful sight of a soulless boy awaits him…?
A soulless Teito!
"Frau, don't tense up," Teito whispered, eyes closing in a relaxed way. Frau looked down at the soft eyelashes only centimetres from him. They were so close to him it was scary. "I can protect myself. But I won't need to do that now."
"Don't be so sure of that. " Frau let is own eyes close. "You don't know what I'm capable of."
It's frightening how a small touch of hands can warm up his frozen chest, bringing warmth to his whole being! Teito is so pure, so precious… he'd never bear hurting him. Losing him.
Frau's throat ached and his mouth was as dry as a desert. He didn't answer.
"Geez, just sleep already, Frau." The boy grasped his hand for a last time then loosened his grip on the bishop. "We have to continue the Race tomorrow, so you'd better have a rest, too."
Easier said than done, Frau was awake for more than an hour after that. He spent some of the time with watching the sleeping Burupya who nestled up against the outer pillow of the bed, as close to Teito as he could get without disturbing the boy. The fuzzy pink animal slept peacefully, breathing in soft puffs instinctively in synch with Teito. Frau wondered whether he could also reincarnate, if the time comes. Not as Zehel, per se (of course Zehel is able to do that), but as Frau.
He'd probably come back to Teito, just as Mikage did – even if it meant living in the form of a tiny little dragon baby.
Though, on a second thought…
Teito suddenly made a small noise in his sleep which brought the bishop's attention back to him. Frau absent-mindedly started petting the boy's silky hair and was surprised to see the boy nuzzling closer to him. When his nose touched the man's arm Teito froze, like he was not accustomed to actually reaching someone. Sad thing, Frau thought. He's still not used to being around others. He still thinks he's alone.
Wait – was he really one to talk? He, too, was not used to sharing his problems, after all. That was exactly what Teito tried to tell him earlier.
He has this little brat by his side, and the little brat has him by his side.
They're definitely not alone.
He continued stroking Teito's hair, swallowing back the strange needy feeling that stirred up inside him, and kept on doing so until the boy completely relaxed against him. Frau then stopped the movement but never pulled away his hand.
Teito trusts me. This kind of deep trust was the hardest to gain, especially from someone who has seen the most hidden, ugliest side of him. Really, Frau should be so grateful it actually pained him. But a gentle warmth spread away in every direction in his body now, and Frau knew it was not simply the body heat he felt. He let himself sink into the feeling, enjoying every silent minute, every soft heartbeat he felt coming from his companion like there was absolutely no clothes and skin in between them to act like a barrier. Everything was wonderfully direct.
With his hand on the shoulder of his protégé, after a couple of long, dreamless nights… Frau slept.