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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2016 7:59 am GMT 
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He'd never been much of a storyteller; he'd said so himself on numerous occasions. At that moment, of course, he would gladly have said anything to keep Raphael's eyes on him. Even then, the thread of the story was slipping away from him. His life was a great textile, in some places tightly woven, in others little more than a tangle of string. Turning it into some kind of story was like trying to unravel it, lay it out one unbroken thread at a time. He'd found the thread of this story in easy reach: his early history with Kip, their acquaintance at school. There was more to the story than this, he knew there was. And yet, as he tugged at that thread in his memory he felt it snag, and the words stopped coming. What came next? What would Raphael want to hear from him?

Feeling an acute need to buy himself time, he stopped the flow of his words against Raphael's collarbone, kissed across his chest, the scar. Already by this point in their acquaintance there were very few parts of Raphael where his mouth hadn't been, and the list was dwindling rapidly. With his head bowed, the falling water swept across the planes of his face and ran in tiny cascades from his nose and chin. By the time the words came, he'd already eased down to kneel on the slick tile floor.

"<He was two years behind me. The rest of his friends were in my year. We all graduated at the same time. Then midway through Kip's third year, he dropped out. And I paid for his plane.>" The sound of the water swallowed his laugh. "<I was still in the hospital at the time. Hadn't told anyone. So when I heard he was scrounging around for money--this sixteen year old multilingual genius dropout--I figured, what the hell. I had the money. Someone should be enjoying it.>" His palm was a flat, warm weight against Raphael's thigh.

For someone like Raphael, who'd had very little previous experience with physical contact, Sascha would come as a shock to the system. In his everyday life, he seemed to radiate coldness, an unwillingness to touch or be touched. Even in high school, he'd been on varsity soccer nearly two years before anyone had ventured to clap him on the back. And yet, once that gate was opened, it was nearly impossible to recall that it had ever been otherwise, as though some sense of ownership had freed him from previous constraints: hands ruffling through Raphael's hair, a casual brush to his shoulder, back, thigh, a passing caress against his face, an arm around his waist. Little reminders of their bond, and with them a sort of lazy sensuality which Sascha, in his coldest moments, did not seem capable of.

"<So, what do you know. The three of us up in that plane and you were the most educated one on board, college boy.>" There was a light mockery laced through his tone though, as ever, it was hard to tell whether he was aiming it at Raphael or himself. Either way, there was no hostility in it--just a lazy, smirking irony. For whatever reason, he cherished the prospect of Raphael as a student at university, pursuing his passion in the sort of place where possibilities were limitless, where it seemed anything could happen. As much as he loathed the idea of needing some degree for validation, he wanted that validation for Raphael. For the opening chapter of a new life, an art degree wasn't a bad start.

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2016 12:25 pm GMT 
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It was true. Dautzenburg and the physical warmth and contact that came with him-- some of the time-- still felt a little alien. The long hours in the hold had lessened that to a degree. Things change quickly under pressure, and in the heat and blindness of that three-day night he'd found himself evolving and shedding past armour. If only, of course, at the end of Dautzenburg's kiss and the touch of his hands. He was still new to this. The faint shiver Dautzenburg would feel as he kissed down his body was a testament to that. That wasn't to say he didn't find it intoxicating.

So as the man before him-- then of course, a boy, had lain in bed and healed slowly, he'd extended a financial olive branch out of bored charity? Raphael doubted it. He had long since learnt that there was more to him that met the eye.

College boy.

He smirked down at him and laced his fingers into his hair, twisting ever so slightly- enough to make him look up and meet his eye. He eyes glittered as he spoke with that same insolent drawl.

"<Hey, I can play the truant, rich kid.>"

As much as Alesandro fancied himself a far cry from a man who could speak of his past, he had still spoken. On the blank canvas of an abandoned beach the colour of bone, he'd painted the story of his mother in the sand with a voice so apathetic it had seemed to bleed. Here and there with sporadic unease he'd dropped the odd anecdote about an absent, long-dead father, and little clay fish, and sporting achievements. The ghosts of his past had presented themselves to Raphael dressed in silks and diamonds, and had grinned out behind the glossy sheen of faded photographs. He had given Raphael the faint smell of an operating room as he had illustrated the course of those scars. He'd erected small windows into his soul.

In return for his efforts he hadn't been given much. They found me in a trash can. I miss my friends, University. Army wound. There was a boat. At the mention of a first kiss, he had cut the conversation at its root so abruptly Dautzenburg had backed down.

Out of the two of them, Raphael was not the storyteller.

"<I first dropped out of school when I was twelve. And then at thirteen.>"

Dautzenburg's eyes were, as ever, dark with intelligence. And Kip's had been alight, and his tongue supple with all the words he could weave out in as many languages; of the people he flew to, and of the plane he ascended to the sky within. In contrast to them, he felt a sudden rush of embarrassment and shame. Without a certificate each they had plucked out the eyes of empires, and clawed at the sides of Giants with their wits, sharp as razors.

He hesitated.

In their shadow, how hard it was to say- They thought I was a lost case. That my mother, whoever she was, must have had a drug problem. Falling so short of educational milestones they could not be bothered to put me in the race. So when he spoke, his words were surprisingly staccato and hesitant and his eyes half-turned away.

"<... My school... Well. No one really knew about dyslexia back then. It took some bright-eyed trainee to notice I wasn't actually an idiot.>"

He glanced out through the thick steam to the glimpses of the bed beyond it, and the crumpled note that lay on the pillow. Something in his face softened.

"<I remember the first time I read Neruda, I...>"

The words faded, and he shifted a little self-consciously, his hands coming up to rest on the back of his neck. He steered his gaze towards the haze of the ceiling.

"<... Whatever. Buy me a plane sometime, old man.>" He grinned down at him, cat-like. "<As a token of our friendship.>"

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2016 7:32 pm GMT 
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At first, the only indication that Sascha had heard was a slight rise in the angle of his eyebrows. It was strange to think of Raphael as a dropout, but then again he'd never thought of Kip as one, either. Kip had been such a good kid, well-mannered, well-behaved. They'd always thought Sascha would be the one to quit: the administration, the counselors, his friends, even Sascha himself. He'd thought about it often enough. In the end, though, he'd stayed. Unlike Kip, though, Raphael had come back. Again and again. The corner of Sascha's mouth curved up into a lopsided smile.

"<Lucky you,>" he replied. The expression on his face was inching its way towards insolence. "<I only ever had attitude problems.>" Then he pressed his face to Raphael's stomach, still grinning to himself, and climbed to his feet. "<If I had a nickel for every time I'd been suspended... Well, a nickel's not a whole lot of money, but I could probably at least get a cup of coffee. Turns out the school cared more about getting its hands on my father's tuition money than about expelling its problem children, so... Lucky me.>"

He ran his fingers through his wet hair, half-turning away from Raphael and closing his eyes to let the hot water beat against his face. Then, the humidity in the air having become a bit oppressive for his taste, and judging them both to be reasonably clean, he turned the water off. He wiped a few droplets out of his eyes and blinked away the rest. "<A plane, huh. ...yeah, sure, why not. Put it on the list. After all, you're gonna need somewhere to keep your phonograph.>"

The thick steam was already beginning to dissipate. And as it did so, the vapor melting away into the hot afternoon air, a faint sound reached them: a steady, rhythmic pinging sound from the computer Sascha had left on the desk. Immediately the smile dropped from his face.

"Shit."

He shot out of the shower and cast around for a towel. Running it vigorously through his hair, he tried in vain to glimpse his reflection in the steam-fogged mirror. The best he could do was smooth it down and hope it looked decently. Slinging the towel around his waist, he dashed out into the main room and snatched his shirt up off the floor. The sound, now quite clear, was coming from the computer he'd left on the desk. He swore again under his breath and whirled back towards Raphael. "<Keep quiet. And stay out of sight.>"

Then he dropped into the chair, combed his fingers through his hair one last time, and opened the laptop.

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 6:41 pm GMT 
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Any brief relief he'd felt when he realised it wasn't the sound of his own cell vanished with Dautzenburg's change of expression.

Initially he'd started to follow him out, his guard up again. He was already starting to estimate how many steps it would take to reach the gun in his bag, and to revise once again the layout of the streets below. Dautzenburg's command, however, was enough to make him fall still, and stay lost, off-screen, in the doorway of the bathroom.

He was silent as he watched the other man's quick attempts to right himself. Shirt, hair, abrupt and hurried efforts to appear respectable. He hadn't made such a visible effort since Shen. The thought that whoever waited on the other end of the connection carried even a modicum of that man's power daunted.

Blind, he groped his hand behind him to snare his towel and trace it over his body as he watched. Tense as a bowstring, and half-holding his breath. He tied the towel about his hips and settled back against the wall, arms crossed, to watch, and wait.

The outside world had pierced their momentary haze with surgical precision. It had been stupid of him to forget even if only for a moment somewhere back there, in the steam and the scent of citrus, that they lived in borrowed time.

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 10:23 pm GMT 
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"You're early." Sascha spoke first. His voice was flat, controlled. His hands, hidden from view beneath the table, were twisted into the fabric of the towel. "I wasn't expecting to hear from you until tomorrow, day after."

"Yes, well."

From the sound of the speaker's voice alone, it was impossible to tell who he, or she, might be. The voice was deep, a robotic monotone. Obviously, it had been scrambled. Although Sascha's eyes remained riveted to the screen, there was no way of knowing whether he could even see the face on the other end, or whether he was speaking to the anonymous eye of a webcam. In any case, he was meticulous not to betray Raphael with a stray glance in his direction.

"You should know," the voice continued, "that chatter has exploded in the past eight hours. It started around 0400 your time. US Air Force off the coast of Yemen sank what looks like a fishing boat registered to Malaysia. Claim it was smuggling weapons to Yemeni militants. That's as may be." The contact's shrug was practically audible, even through the scrambler.

"Okay." Sascha's hair had begun to dry in the warm air. As it did so, it slowly resumed its customary configuration: namely, sticking up at unruly angles in a jaunty mess. "And...?"

"At precisely the same time, security forces in unmarked vehicles, no uniforms, stormed Oliver Shen's compound in Hong Kong. Shen's people opened fire and a six-hour standoff ensued before they were finally put down."

Sascha's expression was as level as ever, though some of the color had drained from his face. "I see. And you think this was a concerted operation of some kind?"

"Damn right. Phones and Internet down all over Hong Kong. Chinese security services' fingerprints are all over this one."

"Any word on Shen?"

"No. He seems to have disappeared. I have it on good authority that the Chinese don't have him. It's reasonable to suspect he's gone to ground."

"And how reliable, exactly, is this authority?"

"This one's from Mossad. I'm told that if the Chinese had him, they would know. That's the best I can give you for now."

"Then it will have to do. I take it this is the last I'll be hearing from you for a while," Sascha added, arching a brow.

"Correct. Unless I hear anything on the passports, I think we'd both be safer keeping radio silence."

"Fine. But if you hear from Shen, I expect you'll help him to the fullest extent of your ability. He's under my protection, and is entitled to any assistance you can give." It was strange, strange enough perhaps to make Raphael wonder just what he was hearing. It appeared for all the world as though Sascha, half-dressed and still in a bath towel, was giving orders to this faceless, voiceless contact whose call had provoked in him so anxious a state.

The only answer, however, was a curt: "Understood." Then the computer chirped, signaling the end of the call. For a long moment after, Sascha sat motionless, staring in grim silence at the empty darkness of his screen. Then he closed the laptop and pushed his chair back from the table, slouching down into it even as he did so. Only then did he raise his eyes to meet Raphael's.

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"On a side note, dvorak, looks like the Pope is recognising your authority in Sainting people. Can only be one person representing God on earth at a time" -TFP


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 2:48 am GMT 
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Through the software that warped the voice of whoever spoke to them, the desaturation of emotion made a strange, apathetic laughter seem to materialise. At least, to Raphael's ears. With that sardonic robotic drawl came images of hellfire. Dautzenburg wasn't looking his way, and, liberated from that chain, Raphael let himself look upward. The light that fell through the window caught the bright orange bedsheets and threw up in turn a pale gold reflection onto the ceiling. It scattered and waved with every shiver of the tree's branches outside. The wind chime still sang. Cats slept on hot brick walls, and there was the faint peal of laughter from returning school children.

He imagined tiger skins coming alive again, to twist and leap as flame reduced them to embers. Malik's all-American smile he had cultivated with such dedication flecked with blood, and the hold flooded with sea water still steaming from the engines. Floating bones. A long white beach where the sea rhythmically licked crimson tracks from the sand.

Raphael was becoming accustomed to hearing voices that described to him the blood that drenched his hands.

The US and the Chinese.

He folded him arms and sank back a little further against the arch of the doorway. His skin was a shade too dark to give him away with pallor; instead it was only privately he felt the cold grip of fear deep beneath his ribs. Yet as the voice continued to speak, it was given away instead to a vague numbness, or rather a steely sort of apathy.

His gaze was once more turned to look towards the two of them. His protector seemed pale, his-- what was that? Colleague? Subordinate? Nightmare? -- still an enigma. The way Dautzenburg's fingernails blanched didn't go unchecked. Raphael felt a subtle, strange feeling, akin to what he had experienced in the jungle as he had watched him unconscious on the floor and brushed leaf mould from his cheek.

Understood.

The line fell silent, the chair creaked, Dautzenburg's eyes met his.

Children still laughed. The tree's branches played against the windows. Cats basked. The room was filled with the same white noise left after a gunshot.

The anonymous contact was gone, yet he didn't move initially from his place. After a heartbeat he stirred, stretched, wandered over to where Dautzenburg sat. He leaned against the desk. He knew better than to ask who it had been, and certainly more than to point out the hallmarks of his fear. With his hands stained with what might be Oliver Shen's blood, he didn't get reach out to touch his old school friend, not yet. At least, thank god, there had been no mention of Kip.

The wind chime sang.

"<Does this change your upcoming plans?>"

The question was a quiet murmur. His thumb traced an irregular pattern on the wood beneath it. His eyes accidentally caught the sight of the knee brace before moving back to Dautzenburg's face. That curious sensation twisted within him once again, and it felt cold, like split glass.

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 9:44 am GMT 
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"<I could ask you the same.>" Sascha leaned back in the chair, drawing a slow breath that caused his chest to rise and fall beneath his shirt.

He did not mourn the loss of the smugglers' ship. Malik had meant nothing to him, and with so much at stake, one more meaningless death could not weigh heavily on his conscience. They'd chosen a life outside the law; he suspected Malik's hands, too, had been stained with blood. The attack on Shen, however, disturbed him greatly. In his mind's eye, he saw a distorted mirror image of himself, and of what might have befallen him, had he stayed. Raphael was poison, a Jonah bringing down wrath and ruin on all who sheltered him. They'd always known, Sascha and Oliver both, that they'd built their kingdoms on shifting sands. Still, like all empires at their peak, it has seemed like something that could last.

It taxed him to imagine his polished colleague on the run, hiding like a rat as the nets around him tightened and closed in. Then again, he supposed he was in a similar boat himself. No one who'd known him then would have believed, seeing him now, that this was the same man. Or so he thought, the back of his mind crowded with images of a boat set adrift in moonless seas, an airless hold with the darkness closing in, the battering waves on an unforgiving sun-bleached shore, the long march through the jungle on a leg shattered with pain.

Then again. Perhaps this was who he'd always been. And in that moment, he believed--needed to believe--that Oliver was like him. That, under pressure, he would neither bend not break. That he would fight tooth and nail until the very end. That the end was a long ways off yet.

"<If I'd known how completely fucked we were, I wouldn't have bothered to quit smoking.>" Seeing Raphael's eyes linger on the knee brace, he hooked it off the table and began strapping it on, pulling it tight. "<So I have to ask: why Germany? Suppose you do make it there. You really think that will be enough? That they'll let you live long enough to do whatever it is you've been sent for?>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 3:08 pm GMT 
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"<You've still got time to get a smoke.>" Raphael replied slightly dryly.

He leant back a little more, and watched the shadows dance to and fro as Dautzenburg worked the straps. It was still a novelty to see him care enough to do so. Good hotels aside, Dautzenburg was the only man aside from himself he'd seen be so ruthless with his body. He was also the only one he'd met with more points of weakness, laid out in that fine blueprints of scars.

"<Germany... The people I need are in Germany. That's the end goal. Besides,>" he added cooly, "<If it was a matter of them 'letting' me live, I'd be dead already. As ever, it's just a matter of running a little faster. They're still a week behind us.>"

He straightened up then, and wandered over to the bed. He fell back on to it, arms folded behind his head and tracing the little cracks in the paint above him with his eyes. And then he closed them, breathing in deeply, and unseen beneath the pillow his fingers gripped the sheets.

"<It's more complicated with you around, of course. My people want you gone, so communication with them's difficult. It might be a matter of them learning to trust you, but I doubt it's going to be that easy.>" He glanced over at him with a pale smile. "<I mean, no offence meant, you're the one letting the breadcrumbs fall. As soon as that man identified you in that restaurant they could already look towards Shen, towards his networks, smuggling ships on his payroll. You've got a modus operandi. I doubt my people like it.>" His smile widened. "<And for some reason, they think you're a bad man.>"

His life consists of selling. You're a profit margin to him. The voice had not been winsome or persuasive; it had been bleak and factual. A plea for him to open his eyes. Yet despite that, it grew hard, now, to keep that flame of cynicism alight. Still, remember; as a child he was given chessboards. His passions peak fast and then crash and burn. How long was it he had been addicted to cocaine? A week? Perhaps Raphael too was reaching his expiry date; another product to be bought, and tried, and sold on.

The sheets he lay on smelled of citrus. He turned his gaze towards the window.

"<But when it comes to them, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, one way or another. Same goes for Germany.>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 4:08 pm GMT 
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"<For some reason,>" he repeated. An ironic echo of Raphael's smile flickered across his face.

He slouched deeper into the chair, long legs splayed out in front of him. He ran his thumb along the line of his jaw, rough with stubble, and grimaced. Raphael was right, of course, though Sascha hated to admit it. Since the first time their passed crossed in Saint Louis, he'd created as many problems as he'd solved, or very nearly so. Better not to run an exact tally, given the very real possibility that the scales might tip against him. Now, more than ever, he needed to be at his sharpest, his best. And that meant staying cold and aloof, and thinking strategically. Accepting the outcomes, even the ones he didn't like.

His eyes strayed to Raphael where he lay sprawled on the bed. His smooth brown skin glowed where the sunlight fell on him, gleaming off the lines of his muscles, illuminating the whiteness of the towel. Even as he watched from across the room, Sascha could feel his pulse accelerating. He exhaled a short breath from between his teeth, and looked away.

"<My contact,>" he began. "<You might as well know the facts. Smart guy on the NSA payroll, high security clearance, until about a year ago. Government caught him leaking its dirty little secrets to foreign intelligence agencies. Surveillance, torture, illegal detentions, war crimes, extralegal operations both onshore and off. He claimed to be acting out of patriotism, rather than foreign interests... but of course, he was met with almost-total public apathy, and he hasn't exactly been living in penury since he fled the country. Long story short, I got him out of the States and into the loving arms of some foreign handler, on a commercial flight, right under Homeland Security's nose. So this ain't my first rodeo, as the people say.>"

He stretched in the chair, rolling his head back on his neck. It cracked audibly and he swore under his breath. "<...but still. Facial recognition software has come a long way, even in the past couple years. And because our fine friends are running some kind of shadow operation, I have no way of predicting what level of scrutiny we'll run into once we hit the airport. This is where it gets complicated.>"

Sascha hoisted himself out of the chair, still favoring his bad knee despite the brace--or perhaps because of it. When he stood, Raphael would see the way it dug into the skin and muscle of his thigh. That knee had given out on him once. It seemed he wasn't taking chances of a second time occurrence. He walked over to stand above Raphael, his gait stiff, and looking down at him with a steady gray gaze. Then he sat, lowering himself onto the edge of the bed and leaning back on one hand. "<Here's the thing. My operation was run under cover from a legitimate front. I drew a wholly legal salary, filed taxes, everything, like any other law-abiding businessman. Your friends are right; I'm a known quantity. Driver's license, business directory listings. I've been photographed. Not often, but enough. Which leaves the question: what about you?>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 5:21 pm GMT 
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"<That's easy. No one gave a shit who I was.>"

He watched him approach, and hadn't bothered to disguise the way his eyes travelled to the brace wrapped tight around that leg. Perhaps he was noting the results of his work, or seeing just how much damage that each of those torturous steps he'd forced Dautzenburg to take had cost him.

"<I never had an official driving license. The records I had in the army were taken care of by my people, though it was a surprise to me that they hadn't already been lost in the system. They can say what they want, but it's all paper. Same goes for the orphanage documents.>" He grinned a little, and held his hand up to the light to examine the back of it; the small cuts and old lines of scars and abrasions from the labour jobs with salaries so small the that the bureaucracy had waved away tax forms- saying it was more expensive to process than it was worth. The camera had been broken during enrolment, and his student card had borne his signature, not his face.

"<I'm that kid who fell through the cracks in the system. That man only knew my face because he's seen it in person on the island.>"

His hand fell back to his chest. It fell still, and then his thumb idly began to trace the edge of the scar as it travelled down his body. For a moment he was silent as he mapped out the ugly ridged mark that held his body together. He watched the dust hang and spiral in the air in the glowing light that shone from Dautzenburg's shoulders.

"<... That being said. I was a success story at the hospital. I'm probably in a case study somewhere. I don't know if they took photographs. If they did I wasn't conscious, so who knows.>" He smirked, and then laughed-- the tone warm and surprisingly young despite their shared words. "<If the doctors that save me end up being the ones that pull the trigger, I'll be laughing at the irony when I die.>"

I'm a known quantity.

His eyes lingered on the strong lines of that broad back, and the shift and pull of the tendons on the back of his hands, and the shadow of stubble at his jaw. The scars, the brace. That face marked with a new tan about his cheeks, a new iron will in his eyes- but for all that the system he despised so much knew him. It wouldn't be his first bus ride alone, he thought abruptly. For at once Dautzenburg made himself a beacon and a guard, and a target to shield him with the bold numbers painted over him that revealed his worth. Social security number. Bank accounts. Drivers license. Birthday. The lines of his face.

That blood on his hands already had a taste of it, but he found himself wondering just how long it would be before he could boast that this man's lifeblood stained his skin.

"<How is this going to work?>" He closed his eyes, and his voice softened to that same lazy, drawl, the ends of the words half lost. "<Same as this time? You send me on ahead, travel by a different route, and we meet and pray we don't die when we open the door?>"

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 8:33 am GMT 
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With his eyes closed, Raphael would feel, rather than see, Sascha's long fingers slipping through his. The hand which had rested on Raphael's bare chest was lifted, Sascha's hand curling around it, fingers laced. His thumb traced the rough edges of Raphael's palm, the insignificant nicks and scratches which had marred his skin. Sascha's hands were smooth by comparison, callused only along the fingertips where the faint scent of ink and glue still hung about him like a wisp of half-forgotten perfume. He raised their hands to his mouth--not to kiss, just to rest there against the dry warmth of his lips.

"<No. I'm the risk factor. This time I'll go first. I took the chance to scope out the airport when I came in from Chennai. I can talk you through the whole thing before I leave. My contact will be monitoring the whole thing. He'll keep an eye out for red flags. Then once I'm through customs, I'll send the all-clear and you can follow.>" His voice, like his hands, was steady. Outwardly, he appeared calm. Nothing in his face or tone belied the crushing ache in his chest. They'd come for Oliver, after all, those faceless men who wore no insignia, professed no allegiance.

The trail of carnage and destruction in their wake could not go on forever. The noose was tightening, meaning that one way or another, this--all of this--would soon come to an end.

"<If you ever need money, you can sell a passport. Seven or eight thousand, American, and the black market guys'll have it changed and back in circulation before anyone traces it back to you.>"

Outside the window, the sun had just passed its zenith. A breeze stirred the leaves, bringing with it the faint salt smell of the ocean. Unknown varieties of bird chirped and squawked in the branches. Absently, he wondered whether this was the calm before the storm. Or, perhaps more aptly, the eye of it. Beyond the walls of this room, life spun forward at a dizzying pace. That world was unchanged, unmoved by the specter of death that hung over the two of them in the warm sunlight.

His eyes followed the play of light and shadow across the planes of Raphael's face. He thought: I could die for him. Maybe I will.

Moved as though by a sudden presentiment of his own mortality, he lay down, wedging himself onto the narrow mattress. His head dropped to the pillow beside Raphael's. "<If anything goes wrong, go north. Get out through Pakistan. Or by boat, though that's obviously... riskier.>" Sunk off the coast of Yemen, for example.

"<Not,>" he added, suddenly cheery, his tone laced with bristling sarcasm, "<that my plans ever go wrong.>"

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"On a side note, dvorak, looks like the Pope is recognising your authority in Sainting people. Can only be one person representing God on earth at a time" -TFP


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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 10:30 am GMT 
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"<You're infallible.>"

Throughout, his eyes remained closed, almost aloof. Privately he let his senses shifted towards touch, smell and taste. The new sweetest of the air as the day shifted towards evening mingled with citrus. Dautzenburg's chin scratched against his already roughened hand. His lips were smooth, and his breath warm as he spoke against his skin. The words were low and unshakeable and calm. Rhythmic as the murmur and hiss of waves on a beach.

He felt the mattress strain and buckle, and the new-found heat of his body close by. For a moment he was still, and they lay together. Then, after gently disengaging their fingers he rose to his feet. With the quiet groan of wood and drag of bed legs on a tiled floor the beds were pushed together-- as in Chennai-- in a wordless gesture. He loosened the sheets and lay back down, a little further from him. His hands rested behind his head; looking to all like a simple backpacker, a young man taking a tour of the world after the chaotic tutelage of University.

He grinned.

"<If it goes south, head north. Sell the passport, look to Pakistan. Got it.>"

What eye could say he wasn't some kid looking for a last few thrills? Alistair, and Callum, and Hafeez- he'd been their equal, hadn't he? Bar for a scar on his chest. The hostel keepers hadn't even glanced at him when they came back in their group. Truly, Dautzenburg was the weak link here.

Shen's disappeared. Sunk off the coast of Yemen. The smile faded, his eyes hardened. My husband and the doctor were run off the road. Ah, God. Bolivar didn't deserve to die like that. Unbidden came the memory of a hoarse, guttural cry, and the vision of Dautzenburg's body spasming in the lead mould. They knew his face--

"<Don't come to the airport.>"

The words came suddenly, almost abruptly at first, though his usual timbre and nonchalance was quickly restored. He held his tongue for a moment; and continued. "<.. Too many cameras. You should find some other way.>"

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 4:27 pm GMT 
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As Raphael shifted away, Sascha rolled over onto his stomach to occupy more space than the outermost edge of the mattress. Propping himself up on one elbow, he studied Raphael with one eyebrow raised. When Raphael spoke, the other eyebrow went up as well, the finishing touches to an expression of aloof surprise.

"<The student becomes the master,>" he remarked dryly. Despite the breezy quality of the words, he couldn't quite hide the irritation that prickled beneath them. Sascha had never responded well to being told what to do. Suggestions, it seemed, were not exempt. Even now, he was who he'd always been: giving orders, not taking them; calling in, rather than repaying, favors. The last time he'd let Raphael tell him what to do, he'd been heavily drugged and half out of his mind with pain. Still, he made a conscious effort to bury that flare of hostility before continuing.

"<Look, I appreciate your concern, but what else am I gonna do? Swim there? Besides, if I get through without tripping any alarms, we'll know it's safe for you to follow. Otherwise you could be walking into a trap.>"

What was it he'd said? My people want you gone. Veering closer to the tightly organized security of Western Europe increased the danger to Raphael. As for Sascha, there was no telling when, or if, he'd be safe, even in the unlikely event that all this ended with both of them still alive. He was being stalked by an unknown enemy, and the closer he stayed to Raphael, the more danger he was in. And yet...

Well. He'd be damned before he played by someone else's rules.

"<Your... 'people,' you mentioned. How much do they know about me?>"

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"Because studies have shown that dvorak's a genius" - Dass
"On a side note, dvorak, looks like the Pope is recognising your authority in Sainting people. Can only be one person representing God on earth at a time" -TFP


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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 4:55 pm GMT 
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You wish you were a master of mine.

He'd glanced towards him, and seen that flame of defiance in the other man's eyes. It made his own will rise instinctively. They bated eachother, they always did. Moments of passion and abrupt conflict and quiet tenderness came and went, tugging at their throats like leashes.

Dautzenburg seemed to lay it to rest, though his words had left their mark and both their guards up. With a clench of his jaw Raphael rolled over onto his side, back to him, his damp head resting on his arm and watching the blue of the sky visible from the balcony window.

Those words were a bitter pill to swallow. He knew they should be sweet. As he listened, he recalled dimly every time he'd wryly referred to him as an employee, a servant to his client. That was Dautzenburg's punishment for St Louis; to be humiliated and hurt and bled of his wealth, his health, his life.

If I get through without tripping alarms... that means it's safe for you.

He imagined himself as a young Emperor handing his wine to a taster with dark grey eyes and watching him drink; waiting for him to gasp and writhe with the poison in his blood. That had been Dautzenburg's promise, after all. How was he to defy that, he thought, bleakly. His fingertips curled into the sheets.

"<... They know your name, your business- though it sounded like it was from word of mouth. I didn't keep them on the line long enough when I found out they knew you were with me still. Wasn't my priority at the time. Since then I haven't been contacted.>"

He watched the light dance across the tiles, a lone leaf scitter to and fro on the balcony nudged by a gentle breeze. He was aware of those eyes on his back, but he didn't turn.

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: The Cost of Freedom { Alt. 2009 }
PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 5:34 pm GMT 
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Watching Raphael turn away from him, he felt an immediate pang of regret. The pattern with him was well-established, and all-too-common: speak first, think later. Feel sorry, possibly, but never quite enough to change. He sighed and rolled onto his back, letting his eyes wander over the ceiling. This bed, like most, had not been designed with someone of his height in mind. With his limbs splayed out, his feet nearly hung off the end of the mattress.

In the yawning silence, he could hear the muted rumble of traffic, children's voices, a dog's bark. It had been quiet, like this, in the long hours he'd spent at the desk, waiting for Raphael to arrive. He'd felt himself drowning in that silence, felt it smothering him, sticking to his skin like sap. In solitude he became invisible. He'd been alone most of his life, of course; it wasn't until recently, though, that he'd found himself feeling lonely.

He chewed his lip. His eyes flicked sidelong to catch a glimpse of Raphael, who did not seem to have moved, then back up to the ceiling. He sighed and levered himself up into a sitting position, slumped forward, his shirt collar askew.

"<Look, I'll take a different flight. But it's a hell of a long way from here to Germany. Any other mode of transport would take too long. I don't... want to spend that much time... you know. Apart.>"

It wasn't much to soften the blow of his earlier refusal. Nonetheless, it needed saying. They'd split up in Chennai, of course. And again on the road to Goa. Now, though, as their faceless enemies closed in, he found himself unwilling to commit to any long separation. After all, there was no telling how, or when, they would meet again--if at all.

"<Besides, this is Germany we're talking about. My ancestral homeland. I guarantee you'll want me around.>"

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"Because studies have shown that dvorak's a genius" - Dass
"On a side note, dvorak, looks like the Pope is recognising your authority in Sainting people. Can only be one person representing God on earth at a time" -TFP


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