There was no animosity coming from the men as I walked down the white halls of the hospital. In fact, those that followed my movements seemed to hold a strange respect in their eyes, like they'd been expecting me and were pleased that I'd met their expectations. It does not matter. In this situation it is obligatory that I at least show an effort of making an appearance. And I would much prefer paying my debts now rather than later.
I had asked Boris and the others to stay behind. I did not require their services tonight and seeing as this was meant to be a personal endeavour, I did not wish to involve them anymore than I already had.
Finding the room was easy; simply follow the row of men in black. Bui was the only man to stop me and I almost smiled at his silent demeanour. No words were needed; everyone knew why I was here and so I silently handed him my guns as another man did a customary although half hearted pat down. I glanced blankly at the stone faced guards before nodding to Bui as he let me into the room.
He knew, as the rest of the Triad knew, that Hotel Moscow would not send its leader to into the dragon's lair for something as low as shooting a man unable to fight back.
As I stepped into the room, I was hit with the rather unsavoury smell of burnt flesh and antiseptic. I heard Bui shut the door quietly behind me and I took the rare opportunity of privacy to wrinkle my nose and frown in disgust.
The man I was looking for was sprawled messily on top of the only bed in the room dressed in his underwear with bandages taking the place of a shirt. I tried not to laugh at the dragons on his boxers but I did let a snort tear my way out.
White blankets were pooled by his feet and one bandaged arm was hanging over the edge of the bed. Taped to it were several IV tubes leading up to different fluid bags. My eyes skimmed over the antibiotics, the blood and the morphine as my mind flashed at what would happen should I suddenly yank them out. The uncharacteristically quiet room was constantly interrupted by a steady beeping sound from a nearby heart monitor and after the fifth beep I was already fighting the urge to beat the machine to pieces.
I suppressed this urge by distracting myself with the patient's face. Funny, he looked much different without the hideous sunglasses. An oxygen mask was strapped to his face and he looked ridiculously normal; almost peaceful. It was hard to believe that such a man was the head of the biggest mafia family in Roanapur. I almost laughed again at the absurdity of it. I wonder, how many times does this man walk the streets under everyone's noses? There's no question he could pull it off. Without the uniform he'd be looked over in an instant and I feel a small stab of jealousy at the luxury he can have of that I cannot. It's hard to blend in when half your body is covered in scars. Besides, a tall, blonde, Russian woman only draws attention of the unappealing variety.
Lost in thought I find myself taking a seat in one of the plastic chairs, staring at the window, the floor and then again, him. My ears were starting to grow accustomed to the heart monitor's shrill beeps and I realize I can hear him breathe now. It's deep but slightly raspy, enhanced by the breathing mask to punctuate the stuttering and the slight pauses.
I suddenly realize how vulnerable this man is; lying there and oblivious to the world. I could kill him. Even without weapons it would be so easy to unhook an important IV, puncture a vein with a needle, strangle him with my bare hands. All those possibilities sound appealing and my mind distracts itself as it plays out every scenario. What would it like to watch him suffocate to death? What would it feel like to have his blood on my hands? I should at least take a picture of his sorry state for future blackmail no?
But part of my mind knows it would not do well to kill him. This damn man is practically indestructible, both in body and spirit. His skill and his speed with the gun are formidable and I admit that he has seen action much more then I have these past years. While I send my men to do the work he likes to make things personal and I admit that I have not been keeping active with my training as of late. Never the less, he is only human, as am I, and watching him lying in front of me reminds me that we all fall.
But Roanapur would shatter to pieces without his presence. What little cooperation we have with the other mafias would be blown sky high and not even Hotel Moscow could stem the flow that would follow. Under Triad rule, Roanapur has managed to stay in low profile with the rest of the world, allowing us to do as we please without so much as a slap on the wrist from Thailand. If news of Roanapur's deeds were to spread, Thailand would be forced into action and war is the last thing we need. Yet right now, the only thing keeping that dam at bay is this pathetic man lying in his boxer shorts before me.
I frown at the thought of one man holding such power. When I arrived at this city in '93 he had already claimed it as his own. Not even I know how long he's been working this city, digging it up from ashes and building an empire of every man's dreams. Knowing how low this city was in the beginning and now seeing how much the city's changed since I first arrived, even I must admit that he has worked hard for his position. I will give him that much.
Still, there are too many layers, too many secrets. I hear the rumors; the man is a former police officer. He knows the rules better than anyone and he knows when to draw the line. At least, he's supposed to know. But he is unpredictable. His jokes and his buffoonish grins are not natural in the world we live in. His carefree attitude and wit is not normal. He takes good news with a laugh and a glass of wine and he takes bad news with a sigh and a crease of his eyebrows. I've never seen him angry. He can be commanding, yes, irritated, frustrated, but never angry.
And it unnerves me, for I know what it's like to lose control to the depths of rage. I've seen men, pushed to the edge, snapping under pressure. The power they hold, the dangers they are to those around them. But he has never lost control and a part of me childishly fears for the day should it ever happen. The day his face becomes etched with grief and loathing would be the day of his biggest rise, and at the same time, his greatest fall. I would of course kill him should he prove more threat than help but even now I do not deny that I would regret the action and come to yearn for the return of his off tilt personality. Funny, I think the very things I hate about this man may actually be the very things I'd miss should they ever leave.
I loud beep jolts me out of my thoughts as the man by the bed gives a small moan. I freeze instantly, eyes refocusing on the man as drug glazed eyes slide open only to wince harshly at the bright sunlight streaming in from the windows opposite me.
I watch his pathetic attempts at trying to turn over, away from the light, half relieved that he looks nowhere near coherent enough to recognize or even notice me. With a sigh and a roll of my eyes I snatch the dark sunglasses resting on the nearby night stand and place them on his face. I tried not to poke his eyes out in the process but I won't deny that the thought had crossed my mind.
I smile humourlessly to myself and I stay standing by the side of his bed, watching the tension drain from his face as the sunlight becomes less blinding. I can't exactly tell if he's watching me but I know he's not really all there anyway.
With the sunglasses on, he looks much more like how I'm used to. Funny what a simple object does to ones appearance. He doesn't look weak. Vulnerable yes but not weak; as if he is a slumbering beast ready to attack any who dare awaken him.
I find myself compelled to this beast and I absently run my hand through his hair as I speak for the first time in hours.
"You are fool," I say softly, eyes drifting out the window.
I'm not expecting an answer so I feel nothing as I naturally do not receive one. I continue. Words must be said and I'd prefer to say them now when I have an opportunity of not being interrupted.
"You I cannot fathom no matter how hard I try, and believe me when I say, I do try. My first impression of you back in '93 was a fool who was biting off more than he could chew. Since then you have impressed me. You have treated me as an equal unlike others who see me as a tool and for that I am flattered but my first impression still remains. You are a fool and last night was proof."
My words come out with a bit more force than they did before but my hand remains in his hair as if my mind and body cannot agree on how to react to this man in the bed. I do not dwell on it. Instead, I focus out the window, watching people begin to walk the morning streets of Roanapur as the sun makes is trip higher and higher into the sky.
"However," I sigh, knowing that this is more of an admittance to myself than to him, "I do appreciate what you have done and most of my men would not have survived last night had it not been for your help. I did not ask you for assistance but I suppose I still am in your debt."
I look down and I find the need to muster a wry smile when I realize the man has dozed off again during my admittance, his face slack as his large chest moves rhythmically up and down with every breath. I remove the sunglasses from his face, tossing them back onto the night stand as I note the time. I was in here for less than half an hour but already it feels like an eternity.
I take the liberty of repositioning the man slightly from his sprawled position before I leave. At least it would make him look a bit more dignified.
Once all limbs are on the bed and the sheet is pulled up to his waist I make to leave but not before, in a moment of weakness, I place a delicate kiss on his cheek.
Perhaps it was an expression of gratitude or something more. A giving in to temptation? A grab at a priceless opportunity? I respect him yes but perhaps there is more...I wrench all thoughts out of my head as I straighten abruptly and leave without another glance. I didn't even know I could do delicate but I don't want to think about it and no one will ever know. It'll just be my little secret.
"Chang. Good to see you back on your feet."
"Ugh. Well I'm back if that matters. Did you just come here to gloat?"
"On the contrary I came with a little word of advice. In the future, all my men are more than capable of taking care of themselves and should unfortunate events arise they are more than willing to sacrifice themselves for our cause. There is no need for you to rush in after them to play the hero."
"I'll try to keep that in mind the next time I take the hits. Tell Boris he's welcome by the way."
"Very well...And Chang. If it makes a difference...I would like to say...thank you."
"Hmm? Already did Fry Face. I actually think I'm the one that has to say it."
"What are you-mphft!"
The kiss is soft and delicate. I didn't know any of us could do delicate.
AN:/ Writing the first part without using Chang's name was annoying and I'm not really sure how it turned out...And yes. I can picture Chang with dragons on his boxers. Can't you? :P
Sorry if Balalaika was a little out of character. I'm supposed to be writing a short story for English class about a nurse who takes care of a comatose patient and eventually falls in love with him (from the nurse's pov). Obviously, English class is boring and I just so happen to be reading a ChangXBalalaika fic by unkeptsecret (which just explains everything doesn't it?) :P For the record, if you like this pairing you should read her fics Sweet Attack and Favors! They're really great! :D
Now to completely rewrite this without the Black Lagoon references...