The brisk, winter air did little to stop the man, trudging about as wisps of snow whirled like tumbleweed through the deserted air of the alleyway. His polished shoes, tailored nicely to attribute his suede jacket, clopped over the uneven cobblestones. Poland was a lot like London in these times. All poverty and no respite. Not one to generally care, the man pulled up his collar to keep pretense as a gaggle of misfits ran by, donning rags that hung loosely from their thin, famished frames. He paid little mind to the hooligans as they passed by, no doubt plotting what pocket to pick next in their hurried whispers that he caught with his acute hearing. Had he a mind to he could have warned the woman rounding the corner of her soon-to-be misfortune, but who had time for such trifles these days. Not he as he plodded on, turning a sharp corner.
The stench of the city left him the further he wound himself into the streets and crannies, the dizzying design of the city's layout blocking out the shite the humans left rotting on the sodding walkways. With a twist of his lips, and a thought of how sweet it would be to get out of the bloody place, he kept pace with the winds and hurried to his destination. Why an associate wanted to meet here he had no idea, but half a mind to tell him of the rotten ordeal.
A squeak caught his attention, the sound of a little mouse. Only the little runt had a bigger heartbeat than that of a small rodent.
"Proszę mi wybaczyć, sira," he heard, translating in his mind the words quickly, having studied a bit of the language enough to understand the boy.
Gracing the child with an appraiser's eye, he noticed something different. The little boy, whose round eyes couldn't possibly get bigger, could also not have been more than four. Maybe a shaky five. He wore the remnants of what was once a white male cardigan that dragged on the grimy floor. His rosied cheeks were smeared with the soot and undoubtedly assorted other things. Freckles dusted around his button nose, nearly imperceptible but with the man's extraordinary sight he could see down to the color of those dots. The bugger wore no shoes and his hair was a matted, greasy shag atop that mess of head. The child shivered as a gust tore through the passageway. He opened his wide eyes to stare at the imposing figure before him, craning his neck up to stare deeply into the brown pools of the stranger, his eyes guarded before the boy.
'Tak?" Yes, he asked the boy, eyes narrowed.
'Could you spare some change?' he gazed around guiltily, feet shuffling over the other as his eyes gave sudden interest to the dirt on each toenail. 'Madame Strauski gives us very little..."
She no doubt had sent those earlier ruffians out into the streets to collect her more money to gorge herself on. Pity was an uncommon and unbecoming trait of the man, but he found empathy with the boy. He rationalized it as a likening to his own youth. Hell, he probably looked worse in the brothels and out on the streets of England stealing the coin bags of the foolish.
Bending down, his pants giving an audible creak as they stretched over the taut muscles of his thighs, his lip curled at the tip while the sentiment never reached his eyes. 'I'll do you one better,' he spoke at eye-level with the youngster, peeling the coat off his back, shucking his arms out, and wrapping it around the minuscule frame of the boy. The jacket lacked the warmth of a person's naturally emitting heat, but the man sufficed that the boy would simply deduce it to the chilled weather and nothing more. What more could the child even suspect? 'There, now you can tell your missus to 'sod off' and give her a good one for me.'
Standing, the cold never having affected him in the first place, was pleased to see the wind that buffeted the boy next had less an impact on him with the jacket pulled around him like a bleeding blanket. Whirling on a clipped heel, he hoped to restart his hastened journey, knowing full well the wanker he was set to meet would rather be waited on than waiting. A voice cut him off yet again.
'I know what you are.' The boy had spoken in his native tongue, clear and concise, but as the man turned to face him again slowly, he saw a young innocence in the gaze that met his.
Plastering a cocky grin to his face, he gave a muted laugh. 'What, English?' Bones reciprocated in the same language. 'Well, you caught me red-handed, son.' Lifting his arms up at the elbow for emphasis. He jerked back to go down the street when what spilled from the runt's lips next had him slowly turn back to the boy.
'Wampir,' though accented, the word was as clear as it was spoken. With the conviction of a man five times his age, the boy stood with his fists balled, and his legs separated as if expecting challenge from the stunned man.
Hiding his shock behind a composed mask of stoicism, then looked at the boy from down the line of his nose coolly. His head tilted to the side as he considered the defiant runt stare up at him with that hard set frown and those eyes – sweet Mary, those eyes looked too smart for their own good, that they did.
'Nie boję się, choć.' He ventured again, voice resonating with both innocence and knowledge far surpassing his years. The jacket that shrouded him like a cloak, seemingly devouring his small frame, only made him look like a three year old babe.
The man scoffed, loosening himself up. 'Not afraid, are you? Well who says you should be?' in the next instant, after an unnatural whoosh of air ruffled the boy's hair, he stood behind the child, crouched and kneeling so his whispered words caught in the child's ears. 'But then who says you very well shouldn't be?'
In a whirlwind of gusting air, closing the boy's eyes for a fraction of a second, he was back in the same spot, as if nothing had transpired. Flippantly, he check his pristine nails and flicked his hand out in indifference.
'Not to worry, lad, you won't remember any of this in a moment.'
The little one didn't gasp or register any emotion but the blank sincerity he had had since the very beginning, even as green bled out the toffee color of the man's eyes, turning it from swimming pools of the world's finest chocolate into the swirling jade of a gem. Like pinpoint lasers, they beamed down at the sooty face of the boy, as his voice resounded with practice, 'You will go back to where you came, boy. You will not remember this night, and you will continue to go about your business. Answer if you understand this?'
After a moment's pause, the boy blinked. And once again. 'Było to, że ma działać?'
The man shook his head out rapidly, green snapping out of his eyes as the dark returned in his daze. 'What do you bleeding mean, 'was that supposed to work'? Of course it was bloody well supposed to work! Why the hell else would...' his words and frustrations trailed off as he dragged his hands from where they clawed at his carefully managed hair, the tight, platinum curls rough, tousled waves instead of their usual neatness that Caesar himself would have been green with envy.
He stared down at the boy with imperceptible emotions raging in his eye, creating a whirling mixture of hazel and chestnut. Agitation was key in his facial fidgeting but the child simply gazed up at him, continually blinking and radiating with some unknown feeling. It could no longer be thought of as 'innocent' for the boy was highly attuned to the supernatural.
'How do you know about...' the man, paced for a moment then flung his hand out shaking it with his irritation as he groped for the right word. 'those anyway?'
The boy hefted his shoulders up, the jacket most likely weighing more than he did sopping wet. 'Dracula.' He answered simply – a smart lad, not wasting any words.
The man growled in contempt at the name. Oh sure, of course it was. Tepesh... he internally grumbled, a fatal tone set to the name. He could almost hear that mocking laughter echo in the chambers of his mind. Curse that ruddy sod, curse him to the lowest rung of hell where he would send that showhound!
Rubbing his brow to cease the sudden phantom pounding he felt, he knelt once more on the ground, propping his weight on a knee. His eyes widened as a small hand, black-nailed fingers and all, stuck out from the confines of the coat and steadying before him.
The child smiled brightly, an oddity given the circumstance and cheered, eyes creasing in delight, 'Nazywam się Rodney.'
The man relaxed his tense shoulders, easing his facial muscles into a smile and took the boys hand into his own, giving a firm shake that had the boy's grin widen. 'Hallo, Rodney. My name's Crispin. Call me Bones."
The memory hit him like a ton of bricks. Which wouldn't have felt like much of anything given the elevated status of his livingdom, but the sentiment was the same and just as crippling. Bones folded over, knees buckling under the weight of his grieving as he was felled by the recollections of centuries passed into the giving, newly turned dirt below him. The ground smelled so solidly of his old friend, he found himself re-awakening moments later to the sounds of fists pounding and quaking the earth. Realizing they were his own, he retracted them back into himself, feeling the thrum as his split skin knit itself back together. Pinkish tears welled at the corners of his eye that threatened to spill over and nourish the earth with his hollowing sadness.
'Rodney, Rodney, Rodney,' his voice keened on the last.
Only alone did he finally allow himself time to grieve openly and without pretense or the facade that he was alright. Bones had loved his ghoulish friend dearly the first moment he had decided to look after him. The very instant that small hand twined in his and the two walked down the streets and away from the past. The grin of belonging that remained until he had to leave for his business in the Vampiric world, settling the boy up with a suitable home, a warm fireplace, and enough servants to bring him what he wished until he was old enough to get them himself.
Crispin choked on the sobs that pressed and gurgled in his throat the more he thought on his days with the boy that turned into the wonderful man and friend, all the calls and the quick thoughts, the reliance that could never be returned. Gripping his fist once more to reign them into control, he barked out the howl of his heartache, a horrible sound of sorrow that sounded more animal than man. The watered tears tore freely down his face now as he thought on all the laughs the two had shared, the moments, the secrets. The very night Rodney had died then rebrought back into this world only to be taken back again by the hand of a cruel fate, one that didn't even belong to him. Cold, black, seething rage filled the void where his friend had settled as Bones thought on the man responsible for this.
Rising up like the whorl of a shadow – the shadow of himself – he raked a sleeved arm across his steeled face and stared past the marker where the name of a treasured friend was etched. Vengeance had a new name to it now and it spelled out R.O.D.N.E.Y, but the face in his mind was of a cackling madman whose place was six feet under. And be it the last thing he would ever do, Bones would make certain to put him there.
With one last hard look at the lump of soil, he stomped away plotting and praying to any voice that still heard him:
Cain be with you, my friend. I will see to it that you are avenged.
In the books, Bones said he took Rodney in at six. But his misperception of age here I easily attribute to the fact that reared in an orphanage back in those days, he was probably malnourished so he wouldn't look his age. And yeah...
So, raise your hands if you cried when Rodney died. You know, I didn't, but what i did do was slightly more embarrassing. When Gregor lopped his head off, i screamed out with Justina, hand flinging out in horror, 'RODNEY – NO!' and then i proceeded to cry when Bones was telling her about he and Rodney. Not gonna lie, i did cry then.
God, i love this book series. I would take five pages simply explaining my love of it. Blah! Oh, and if that ending seemed a bit 'slash-like' it wasn't meant to. At all. This wasn't slash. I mean, duh. Bones and Cat – no contest. And haha, ew, but, Rodney and Justina. And you know, everyone else with their everybody elses' except for Gregor. He gets no one. No. One.