A/N: I wrote this to get rid of some mental issues, so it's pretty dark. That said, I do really think Mercurio and Romero are buddies (Even tough the only hint is Mercurio calling Romero 'One of his best customers') and they make for a fun double-act in my head. So, enjoy.

Sunrise. For most people, this meant rise and shine, as their day started. But for others, it meant that their day had ended. For some on a more... disgusting note then others.

"Black. Sludge. Everywhere." Mercurio slowly said as he opened the door to his apartment, covered in the aforementioned sludge, his face completely sour. A few steps behind him was a very apologetic looking Romero.

"Probably should've told that after a rainy periods, those zombies can get bloated and... gooey." He carefully said, scratching the back of his head.

"Probably?!" Mercurio roared.

"Look, I'm sorry, okay? I usually don't get someone to help me out." Romero tried, attempting to calm the other Ghoul down. "Really grateful for that, by the way. It's a lot more rewarding when you get to shoot zombies with a pal." This seemed to work, as Mercurio just sighed. The both of them really didn't have much of others watching out for them, so he understood the feeling.

"Forget about it, okay?" He told Romero. "Listen, I'm going to clean myself up. How 'bout you prepare us a nice post-massacre booze-up? Beer's in the fridge." Mercurio told him, before heading to the bathroom. Romero went to the fridge, took a look inside, and got an idea.

"Hey, how 'bout we skip beer and immediately go straight for the Vodk-..." He started, opening the bathroom door.

He immediately froze, half-spoken word stuck in his throat.

Mercurio had just taken off his shirt, revealing his back.

His damaged back.

Scars criss-crossed around it in a twisted, crazed pattern, punctuated with burns from what looked like cigarettes. Even Romero, who'd seen some nasty shit in his days, was taken aback by it. This was beyond collateral from the occasional bout with the city's dark side. This was a slow, deliberate process, meant for pain, not Death.

Mercurio also seemed to notice his stare, and soon, Romero found himself staring at the door that was slammed in his face.

"GODDAMNIT ROMERO! Didn't your mother ever tell you that when people are in the bathroom, they might want some fuckin' PRIVACY?!" Mercurio shouted, sounding both angry and... ashamed?

"Even if I remembered, people usually lock the door when they want to be alone." Romero retorted. A short silence.

"Forget it! Just... forget it! Forget what you saw and get that Vodka ready." Mercurio shouted as Romero just sighed and headed to the apartment's main room, pouring himself and Mercurio a shot of Vodka. After a while Mercurio, fully dressed, joined him. An awkward silence followed.

"So..." Romero started after a while.

"So." Mercurio curtly replied. "Got anything else to say?"

"Not really." Romero said, getting one of the shots of Vodka. "But you gotta admit that what I saw will be pretty hard to just forget."

"You shoot zombies for a living. A couple 'a scars freaks you out?"
"Those weren't just 'A couple 'a scars', Mercurio." Romero countered. "Your back's looking like a road map to Hell." Mercurio just sighed dejectedly, leaning back against the couch, staring at the ceiling.

"Not just my back." He muttered. "The front's just as bad." Almost instinctively, he hunched forward, grabbing his own shoulders and trying to make himself small.

"Shouldn't your monthly dose have fixed it right up?"
"This is from my pre-Ghoul days." Mercurio explained. "My life wasn't exactly sunshine and roses even before vampires were introduced."

"You're from the Seventies New York mobster scene, right?" Romero guessed, Mercurio just nodded.

"Pretty much the same job as I have now. Need something? I got it." Mercurio said. "However, it got me in some hot water. Had to do time in Attica."

"Attica? Ouch." Romero said.

"Ouch indeed. People even then said you didn't experience Hell until you've experienced Attica. They were not kidding." He took a shot of Vodka. "Still, I managed to make myself fairly comfortable. Made some deals with people. However, I also made enemies." He kept quiet for a moment. "His name was Ezekiel. But everyone called him 'Zeke'. And he was fucking NUTS." He sighed. "For some reason, he... didn't like me. Or did too much, I dunno. Like I said; nuts. He was always talking crazy shit about owning me and me being his eventually. I didn't think much of it. I had made some friends with people high in the Attica hierarchy. He couldn't get to me. And then the fucking riots happened." He looked Romero dead in the eyes. And Romero was stumped by just how fragile the look was. "He got a hold of me. Made good of his threats. He... he pretty much owned me for the better part of two weeks. And he took his sweet ass time to... to... you saw the results." Mercurio looked down at the floor, remembering and sharing what happened obviously taking a lot out of him.

"No need to go into detail, I get the picture." Romero softly said, placing his hand on the other man's knee as a sign of comfort.

"I've been at some low points in my life, but that one takes the cake. And when I got out of that alive, I promised myself, that I'd never let anyone EVER do that to me without paying the price for it."

"He got his due?"

"Oh yes he did." And with that, Mercurio smiled darkly, before reverting back to his more sombre mood.

"How many people know about this?" Romero asked him.

"Not many."

"Yeah..." Mercurio said, sighing. "He has a knack for making me spill everything. Damn Blood bond..." Another sigh. "It makes me feel so weak, talking about it. I wasn't someone's servant, or even someone's slave. I was someone's property. I promised myself I'd never let that happen to me ever again. Fat lot of good that promise did."

"Listen, I..." Romero started, not really knowing what to say. "At least LaCroix doesn't use your body for his own amusement." A sad chuckle.

"Yeah..." Mercurio said, before setting the glass down and taking the whole bottle for a swig. "Here's to hoping I'll get drunk enough to forget." Romero simply sighed sadly, before tipping his glass.

"Cheers." He said, not knowing what else to say or do.