Author: shirogiku, Shaitanah
Timeline: post-vampire revolution
Summary: Hal Yorke took three things from Rook: his job, his integrity and his faith. To get them back, Rook gambles everything he's got left. [Hal/Rook, Hal/Cutler]
Disclaimer: Being Human belongs to Toby Whithouse and the BBC. Quote by Arthur C. Clarke.
A/N: It goes from witnessing God to sex... or maybe vice versa.
Part I. Chapter 1
Rook received an innocuous memory stick from Yorke in the evening. There was no note attached to it, nothing that would give a clue as to the contents. He inserted it into his laptop, expecting some work-related files. Computer pranks weren’t Yorke’s style.
“What on Earth-!” He overturned the chair in his haste to get away from the screen.
He screwed his eyes shut, concentrating on dispelling the images from his mind, but it was no use. He approached the laptop as though it were a ticking time bomb and gingerly put his hand on the lid. His eyes darted to the video again and anger mixed with shame mixed with stirrings of arousal washed over him like a tidal wave.
“Fuck.” He never swore. “Fuck.”
He had spent the day elaborating on his earlier proposals but, apparently, the nice week-end was over before the due time. Yorke was back to spinning revolver chambers and nasty shocks, such as this recording of Alan’s death. He snapped the laptop shut furiously.
Then he took off his shoes and tiptoed his way around the room, careful not to make a sound. He located the first bug exactly where he had expected it to be. His hand hovered on the brink of tearing the cable out. He leaned into it instead, and said in an undertone, “Party like it's 1984, is it? I know the appeal.”
He withdrew to straighten out the chair. His phone rang and he answered it with an amiable, “Good evening.”
Yorke murmured, “You didn't really think I'd leave my own new recruit without supervision, did you?”
“Of course not. It would be imprudent.”
And yet he had failed to consider the possibility because he hadn’t been thinking like a vampire.
“I see you liked my present.” Yorke sounded deliberately teasing and innocent at the same time, as if it was really just a souvenir.
Rook knitted his brow in confusion, and opted for saying, “I am not entirely au fait with the etiquette: I didn't realise it was a present.”
“It's not part of any protocol, just my initiative. I thought that, with your scientific inclinations...” Yorke uttered the last two words in a drawl “...you might find it interesting. Know thyself, and you might know the whole race better.”
Rook exhaled loudly. “In that case, the video has been... enlightening.”
Bloody Yorke - now Rook knew that he would rewatch it.
“I'm glad to hear that.”
He paused, just brushing his finger pads over the receiver. “You must have had a look at the materials from the archive by now.” He had to discover what Yorke was going to do with them.
“Oh yes, though I haven't had the chance to go through all of it. I must commend your dexterity, Dominic. The collection is incredibly comprehensive, not to mention all the cases you have worked on.” Yorke paused. “How on earth did you manage not to clash with our clean-up teams?”
“It was all in the timing, although some believed it was due to 'invisibility spells.” He suppressed a tiny guilty wince. “If you ever happen to require any sort of commentary... well, it would be my pleasure to assist you, my lord.” He couldn't bring himself to use the man's first name.
“I'm sure that I shall take you...” Yorke trailed off, rearranging some utensils on the desk judging by the sounds, as if lost in thought “..up on your offer as soon I have the time.”
He twisted the phone cord around his hand. “Splendid.”
He didn’t use to be even remotely as reactive. If he was in the vampire equivalent of puberty, God help him.
“I shan't take any more of your time tonight. I know the week-end is a workaholic's worst enemy, but I trust you'll muddle through somehow.” Yorke sounded teasing again. “See you soon, Dominic.”
“Likewise.” He hung up and glanced down in humiliation.
* * *
On Thursday, Yorke left for Paris, ostensibly on Mr Snow’s summons. Saturday evening found Rook in his office - certain things never changed, reflection or no reflection.
Cutler peeked in with a jovial, “What’s up, Rookie?”
Rook didn’t look up from his paperwork. “I really would rather your visits were work-related, Mr Cutler.”
Cutler’s presence had not become any more tolerable in the interim, even if he could be an eligible source of information on their common denominator.
“And the name is Rook, one syllable.”
"I bet he calls you..." Cutler simulated their maker’s drawl with startling accuracy: "Dominic."
Rook slammed the papers against the desk. “What do you want?”
Cutler sauntered closer, ignoring the question. "I suppose you didn't know that bloke too well, did you?"
He walked his fingers along the desk’s edge and Rook moved the folders and the stationary out of the way, watching him icily.
He had tried to warn Rook, during their first tête-à-tête. Why? Or had he known Rook wouldn’t heed that warning? Had he been in on it from the start?
Cutler cleared his throat. "Anyway, I can see you're in Phase 3 already. A real prodigy."
Rook frowned. “Excuse me?”
Cutler gave him a look of mixed pity and that other, unreadable emotion he had been displaying. "Well, the sex'll be great, is all I'm saying. It's the rest of it that'll be the problem.”
Rook was still processing that statement as Cutler continued: “Hal's having his magnificent tea party with you-know-who. So I was wondering..." He held up a whiskey bottle he had been hiding in his briefcase. “How many of these do you need to get plastered?”
Rook said over the onset of headache, “I haven’t got the faintest idea.”
"There’s only one way to find out." Cutler winked.
By the end of the bottle Rook found the wherewithal to inquire if such intimate acquaintanceship between makers and recruits was a custom or an idiosyncrasy.
Cutler didn’t give him a direct answer. In an alarmingly blunt tone, he offered to suck him off instead, a sly twinkle in his eye - straight from Yorke’s repertoire.
Rook stared at him. Cutler seemed to have taken a keen interest in goading him - when he wished nothing more than to be left alone. He insisted that it was out of the question.
Cutler leered. "You're cute when you're flustered. Makes you look less like someone’s creepy uncle."
Rook replied in an ingratiating voice, his fingers twitching around another pen: “You are a public sanity hazard, Mr Cutler.”
“Honestly, children, can't leave you alone for a minute.” Yorke was standing in the doorway.
Rook inadvertently imagined how this could have gone if he had accepted. Not that he would have. Yorke's opening line would probably have been the same.
Cutler grinned like a cat that ate the canary. "What? We're just having a friendly chat." He filled a third glass.
“Oh, Nick, I'd be touched if I really believed you expected me.” Yorke sauntered up to the table and took the glass. “There is someone missing at this family picnic, but I suppose some of us do have to work. Cheers, gentlemen.” He drank up.
Cutler frowned. "Didn't you like the new poster? I thought it was rather stylish, if I do say so myself."
Rook put down his drink, his look spelling: ‘Did you mean garish?’
“What new poster? Cutler, I was out of the country, for heaven's sake.” Yorke sat down on the desk.
Cutler’s confident tone slipped. "I'll show you on Monday, then. It's... red. But the fashionable kind of red."
Rook studied them silently, trying to verify Cutler's claims as to the nature of their relationship. For all Rook knew, he could have been lying but their body language indicated sufficient familiarity. It opened yet another can of worms.
“I'm already impressed.” Yorke sounded anything but. “How's your Sunday, Dominic? Free?” He asked that without turning to him.
Cutler had the audacity to give Rook the thumbs up, although his eyes burned with jealousy. That was what the emotion was. Jealousy.
Rook cleared his throat, severely uncomfortable with the situation. “Yes, it's free.”
Yorke looked at him over his shoulder. “Great. I'm holding you to your word then.” He hopped off the table and headed to the door. “Night, gentlemen. I am going to...” He made an enigmatic pause and then said, “Sleep. And if anyone delivers me a report on agriculture on the following several days, I will have them chopped to pieces and used as fertilizer. Pass that message along, will you?” He left.
Cutler laughed. Rook stared at him. Cutler whispered conspiratorially, "How about I bribe you to replace Fergus' weekly report with a report on agriculture, Mr Home Secretary?"
Rook said, “Hmm. Let me think about it.”
Cutler watched him expectantly.
Cutler sighed. "Never works." He stood up. "Nighty-night." He made it look like he was following after his maker.
Rook massaged his temples wearily.
* * *
The next day Yorke sent Rook a text message telling him to come to the library. It was currently used as the archive storage both for vampire relics and confiscated materials.
In a spur-of-the-moment decision, Rook donned more casual clothes than usual. His shirt was blue and his trousers were mid grey. He wore neither a tie nor a vest. It brought back memories of undercover operations - this one might just have gone too far.
He looked around and started walking past the shelves. Yorke was sprawled in an antique library chair. He wasn't wearing a suit this time either, but rather a pair of jeans and some old-fashioned cross between a shirt and a t-shirt. He was trying to hit the archivist’s head with a tennis ball that kept flying past it and bouncing off the wall.
Rook blinked at the tableau. “Good afternoon, gentlemen.” He inclined his head at Yorke but included Regus into the greeting.
Yorke waved at him lazily.
Regus rose. "This would be my unpaid replacement then?"
Yorke laughed. “Would you rather I found you a paid replacement, Regus? I didn't know people had to be paid to spend time with me.” He grinned at Rook. “What would you say, Dominic? Do you want money?”
Regus grumbled, "So not what I meant..."
“The pleasure of your company would be quite enough,” Rook answered sardonically.
Yorke made a face at Regus that spelled: ‘See?’
Regus rolled his eyes. "I'll be at the pharmacy, buying a new inhaler, if you need me." He walked past Rook and muttered, "The pleasure is all yours."
Yorke laughed, then looked at Rook. “I can't help it. He makes it too easy.”
Rook smiled noncommittally and gravitated to the familiar boxes sitting on Regus' desk, picking up the tennis ball on his way and finding it a more suitable place. He glanced at Yorke, waiting for further instructions.
Yorke rose gracefully and strolled up to him. He positioned himself on the desk next to the boxes and said, “Well, go ahead. Provide commentary.”
Rook nodded. “These seem to be the case files. Ordinary attacks... Oh, the Box Tunnel Twenty Massacre.” How on earth did these folders end up here?
“Mm... John Mitchell, was it? I knew his maker. Never liked him. Heard he died... twice.” Without any warning, Yorke leaned closer and slid his hand into Rook's trouser pocket. He fished out the pack of cigarettes nonchalantly and opened it.
He shivered at the contact. Smoking in a library? “Hmm, you know the story, then.” Probably better than Rook himself. “And here's John Mitchell’s recruit, a brutally murdered twelve-year-old boy. Before we could take him into custody, he fled Bristol with his mother. He continued recruiting sick children until they collectively fed on the mother, still human at that point.”
“Let me guess: in this fairy tale, the children are the demons and the mother is the victim. According to you at least.” Yorke lit a cigarette and offered it to him.
Rook gave him a sidelong look and shook his head. “The mother made her decision when she accepted the vampire child as her own son. The rest is history.” He moved onto a second box. “Oh. This is interesting. We unofficially... assisted an institution seeking a cure for lycanthropy.”
“You do know that's impossible, right?’ Yorke laughed. “Oh, please don't tell me you may have been looking for a cure for vampirism as well!”
Rook glared at him. “You sound so certain. Magic is just science that we don't understand yet. The same applies to the preternatural.”
“No. Sorry, but no. Magic is magic and science is science. I've seen both, and if you mix them... well, to quote a classic American film: shit happens.”
Rook winced. “While I'll be the first one to admit that those experiments were a disaster, may I ask what exactly you’ve seen?”
“Uh... let's say I once took part in a certain ritual that went a bit... wrong. That taught me not to take part in any rituals ever.”
Rook's eyes widened and he studied Yorke's face curiously. “Well. Despite calling ourselves 'magicians', we hadn't actually dabbled in magic since early 20th century.”
“Good for you. Little piece of advice: if you happen to take a shine to a woman who thinks it's a great idea to summon some dark forces, find another way to get into her knickers.” Yorke exhaled some smoke. “Or at least check if there are any virgins present during the ritual.”
Rook said warily, “That sounded rather extreme. And necromantic, if I may add.” He paused. “There used to be a running joke in the department about a talking skull. Everyone would say they'd seen it before it was transferred to another location.”
“Did it actually exist?”
Rook snorted. “Nobody knows.” He personally hadn't seen it. “Do the dark forces actually exist? Besides those present and accounted for?”
“Yes.” Yorke smiled like they were discussing a new brand of ice cream or their colleagues' children.
He had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “But...” His voice faltered. “Darkness cannot exist without light.”
Yorke said in a less frivolous tone, “If by ‘light’ you mean God, I can assure you I've never met him. Which doesn't prove anything of course.”
Rook looked away. Why would God want to meet any of them?
“Someone or something must lend power to the religious paraphernalia, or how else would it repel vampires?”
Yorke laughed. “Dominic, Dominic.” He rose to his feet and circled around Rook. “You give me entirely too much credit.” He frowned, and Yorke continued with no small amount of malicious delight, “If God personally powered your cross, how would I have overcome it unless I was his equal?” Yorke leaned into him, waiting for his reply.
Rook drew away. “It wasn’t my intention to imply anything of the sort.” He changed the subject: “You also sounded as though you'd met the devil.” He gave in and lit a cigarette for himself.
Yorke said flippantly, perching himself on the desk again, “Perhaps I have. I most certainly have been called one. I find it flattering.”
Rook fell silent, taking a long pull and exhaling smoke, and Yorke watched him placidly.
He returned his attention to the files. “Type 1 - ghosts - had proved to be the most elusive subjects. We trained to attune our senses to their presence but even after years in the field I could barely tell a difference. Take dealing with malevolent spirits: to exorcise them, one needs an open death door and a qualified exorcist. How are we to proceed? Bide our time until someone else dies there?”
Yorke’s cigarette was long gone - he took Rook's wrist, brought his hand with the cigarette up to his mouth, took a pull on it and let go. “That, or you kill somebody to make a door, which is faster.”
Rook stared at him, every muscle in his body tensing. “Indeed.” A homeless person no one would look for. An illegal immigrant. An elderly neighbour. There had always been an acceptable candidate.
“But you wouldn't do that, would you? At least not every time. Only now you ask yourself why. There's one bulletproof argument in favour of being a villain, Mr Rook.” Yorke leaned closer and murmured, “Less room for cock-ups. Even if you have them, it's usually what everybody expects.”
Rook's gaze shifted from Yorke's lips to his eyes. “Do me a favour, my lord: never make me do the laugh. Or grow a goatee.”
Yorke started, then smiled and said conspiratorially, “I shall make every effort to resist the temptation.”
Rook smiled too, feeling a tad awkward. He turned back to the boxes. “We have also been studying the differences between the human and the vampire DNA. I’ve been unable to locate the data here, unfortunately.”
“What about personal profiles?” Yorke got off the table and went over to other boxes. “Have you got anything on us? On me, for instance?” He looked back at Rook. “I'd be only too happy to correct all the errors.”
“Oh, of course.” Rook followed him and unearthed a thick folder, blowing the dust off it. “I shall summarise it to you and you will comment if you like. How does that sound?”
“Sounds like fun.” Apparently one of Yorke’s many ideas of fun was to point out other people's mistakes. He appraised the size of the folder. “Looks detailed.”
“Not as detailed as we would have liked it to be.” Rook started from the beginning, in a slow, equanimous voice. “You are an Englishman, of... humble origins. You first appear on our radar circa mid sixteenth century - you can imagine why. Your assorted military careers, incomplete.” He pointed at the entries on the timeline. “Associated incidents. The rise through the vampire ranks. Eighteenth century, already an Old One. Your disappearances off the grid seem to follow a cyclical pattern.”
“So far so good.”
He nodded, the compliment tugging at his professional pride - but pride was another mortal sin. He moved onto the 20th century. “According to our sources, you have taken part in the First World War but not in World War II - why is that? World War II had been something of a vampire hot spot, if you don't mind me saying so.”
Yorke shrugged. “I got bored of wars. We chose to sit this one out, Fergus, a couple of other lads and I. I don't actually know anyone who fought. Except for some fanatics who believed that the Nazis could do black magic.”
Rook snorted knowingly. “Wasn't an Old One named Ivan an acquaintance of yours? Or John Mitchell's maker, Herrick? Speaking of, perhaps you could enlighten me as to the Old Ones' stay in Bolivia: wasn't the climate a tad... stifling?”
“So many questions.” Yorke smiled. “Such an inquisitive mind. How about you answer mine after I answer yours?”
Rook blinked. “That seems fair, yes.”
Yorke leaned against one of the desks, folding his arms over his chest.
“Ivan was one of my best mates. He was in London during the Blitz but he didn't fight in the war. He was... sort of a tourist. He enjoyed visiting hot spots. I knew Herrick but I despised him. I might have met Mitchell too, but I don't remember. If I did, he would be out of the spotlight at that time. Herrick's entire line is rotten. I heard he tried some kind of a takeover in Bristol and was torn apart by a werewolf. Then he came back and was staked. A fitting end, I'd say. How's that for blending magic with science?” Yorke chuckled. “I've never been to Bolivia and I have no desire to go there but I could ask Mr Snow the next time I see him why he chose it.”
Rook listened to him attentively, concealing his surprise well this time. “I see. Thank you. We had no information on Herrick's demise or the fact that such a thing as a vampire coming back was possible at all. I assume it was because he hadn't been staked the first time? And, no, I wouldn't burden you with making inquiries to Mr Snow.”
“Herrick was a very far-sighted fellow. I have no idea how he laid his hands on such arcane knowledge. The trick to long life, Dominic, is to always have someone ready to bleed for you. Herrick did.”
Rook found it impressive, on a clinical level. He commented, “Well, your recruits seem very... devoted to you.”
Yorke said in amusement, “Not all of them.”
Rook took that as a dig at himself. “As much as could be expected, I suppose.”
He waited for Yorke's question with some trepidation and Yorke kept him waiting for a few minutes, just poking around some old boxes, then asked without looking up:
“How did you get this job? How do people get such jobs? Do they just wake up one day and go all: Mummy, I want to be a shadowy figure in the government of dubious moral qualities?”
Rook lied: “The Permanent Secretary approached me when I was in the army. I hadn't had any encounters with the preternatural before that.”
He studied Yorke’s face and relaxed a fraction when he became certain that Yorke believed him.
Yorke knitted his eyebrows. “You look so... relieved. What did you think I would ask about, pray tell?”
Rook let out a strained chuckle. “I imagined some sort of an uncomfortable question.”
“Oh dear, and here I was hoping this was uncomfortable.” Yorke sounded playful.
Rook affected a smile. “Then it was dreadfully uncomfortable.”
“No need to indulge me, I don't play at giveaway.” Yorke fished another folder and opened it. “Oh. I've been wondering what had happened to this one.” He dropped the folder on the floor and took out some more. They all followed the first one. “Dead, dead, also dead. The new generations view us as magical creatures, perhaps a whole other species. But the secret to being an Old One is... simply to stay alive long enough.” He looked up and chuckled.
Rook's fingers twitched reflexively. “They may be dead but they still exist as... data. Unless you choose to destroy it, of course.”
“I am neither heartless nor sentimental enough to do that.” Yorke stepped over the pile of folders.
Rook bent down to pick the folders up and stacked them back into the box neatly. He cared for the data, not the faces. Vampires didn't get memorial services.
He mused, “‘Speaking of staying alive, near immunity to diseases and prolonged lifespan, why, perhaps there are grounds to call that evolution.”
“So you're finally coming around?” Yorke moved closer. “Strictly speaking, none of us asked for it. If anyone tries to tell you it was their choice, they're lying.”
Rook said in a guarded manner, “I am merely weighing my prejudices and beliefs against my new environment.” He met Yorke's eyes. “None of us asked for being born either. The fact doesn't absolve us of all responsibility.”
“Of course not. But the vampires have existed for three thousand years. In my book, that's long enough to stop being considered an unfortunate anomaly. You give all the priviledge to humans - and on what basis? We are addicts and murderers that have evolved from other addicts and murderers. And yet, you wasted your entire life on trying to protect them from us.”
Rook faced him, deceptively calm. “Be that as it may, put an average vampire and an average human into the same room, unprepared, and it's invariably the vampire who survives. Or compare the percentage of murderers and addicts among the human population to, well, one hundred percent. I think it's obvious which race is more dangerous - even having in mind the witch hunts you brought up before. We had a reason to protect one side and not the other.”
“Or perhaps you just wanted some bonus points for when you died and went to heaven.” Yorke scoffed. “I like your idea of finding balance. But notice how you only came up with it when the situation changed so radically both for you and for humanity in general. There are simply too many of us to go out in the streets with a good old stake now. Now you want to negotiate. Now you think of us as people instead of animals.”
“Now that you have fallen back to personal gibes, I’ll admit that if I still had been of the mindset to consider us mindless animals, I would have staked myself by now.” Rook's hostility subsided. “I’m glad that you like the idea.”
Yorke laughed flippantly. “Don't do that. I need a civilized conversation partner and I've already grown accustomed to having you at my disposal.” He stepped away, picked up the tennis ball and headed towards the exit. “You can play around here, but it's Regus' sandbox, so do try not to mess up his artistic disorder. Thank you for being so informative today. We should do it again sometime.”
“Certainly.” Rook's smile was almost genuine this time. He watched Yorke go and went back to the boxes but found himself distracted by the oddest details: not the memory of Yorke's words in themselves but the rich texture of his voice and the way his lips moved around the vowels.
Rook accidentally crumpled a piece of paper. He decided he needed a cuppa, and that gave him a pause. He had been drinking tea after his recruitment without noticing any difference and he had entirely forgotten about human food, much like he used to forget about his lunches.
For once, he lost track of time. Hours later, he borrowed some books and finally headed back to his suite.
As he stepped into the opulent foyer, he heard a brazen outcry even before he caught a glimpse of the obscene act unfolding on the staircase. He clutched the books to his chest, a volatile reaction not unlike what he had experienced at the video swiftly replacing his initial shock.
Yorke sank his teeth into Cutler’s shoulder; Cutler’s shirt hung down his arms and his trousers pooled around his ankles, while Yorke’s clothes were only slightly rumpled. Cutler laughed breathlessly, catching Yorke’s forearm and exposing his wrist. Yorke did love to put on a show - and so did Cutler, apparently.
Rook backed away but found himself unable to stop watching. If either of them turned around… but no, they were too absorbed in the act. The railing rattled under Cutler's grip. Yorke groaned and bit Cutler again, clenching his fingers around him. He made Cutler turn his head and captured his mouth in a rough kiss, drowning the moan he made as he finished. The palace truly had wonderful acoustics.
Rook clenched his jaws hard. Yorke whispered something into Cutler's ear and nipped at his earlobe, Cutler smirking and murmuring a reply.
Yorke laughed. “Greedy, aren't we?” He pulled away, adjusting his clothes. “I expect this palace to stand for centuries to come. You know how much I hate moving.”
Cutler tugged up his trousers and leaned into him. “We could always go someplace... sturdier.”
Yorke imitated a strenuous thinking activity, then grasped the front of Cutler's shirt and dragged him upstairs.
Rook lingered on the spot after they were gone, the images burned onto his retinas. He walked over to the railing and ran his hand along the wooden top, which seemed shaky. It had weathered times and tides but not Yorke's depravity.
In his suite, he unpacked a cloth-wrapped tome and hissed in pain as he tried to open it. He read from it until his vision blurred completely.
He put it away. He had been drinking, irregularly, bottled blood. He had been an accessory to each and every murder that went on out of his sight. And murder was the most straightforward item in the programme. God might have never wanted him but he couldn't live without faith. In something.
To bring the country into balance he first needed to learn to balance his own life - a truth he had grasped only after becoming an addict.
* * *
Unfortunately, nothing stopped for the sake of his existential crisis. A few nights later Yorke sent him an invitation to dinner, without revealing anything more specific.
He had an onslaught of anxiety, flashing back to the witnessed scene. He spent a quarter-hour carefully putting himself back together. He wore his usual grey suit, both an armour against Yorke and a cage to keep his own inner demons in. As they said, if you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.
It turned out that the dinner wasn't for two. A few other vampires were present: Cutler, Jacob, Italy-bound as he often was, and another Old One, Hetty. She eyed Rook suspiciously as he came in. He offered her a polite smile and took his seat to Yorke's right.
No sooner had he removed the napkin from his plate, he inadvertently caught Cutler's smug look. Rook was the first to break the eye contact, suddenly finding his empty glass fascinating. He could practically hear Cutler's smirk from across the table and couldn't fathom why he let it affect him to this extent. Cutler was the one who should feel ashamed; he should feel cheap.
And Rook shouldn’t be imagining sinking his new set of teeth into Cutler’s throat - anyone’s throat, for that matter.
Dinner was served in a very regal style. The conversation remained civil and fluctuated between matters of politics (though nothing of the human resistance) and Jacob's upcoming departure.
Hetty kept drilling Rook with a hard look and finally asked, “So. How's the great experiment going? Seen all you wanted or do you need a bigger microscope?”
The conversation swiftly wound down and everyone's looks were on him. He didn't bat an eyelash. “I'm afraid that is no longer a part of my job description.”
“Yeah, sure, and cows can fly.” Hetty turned to Yorke. “Sweetie, you've got smokes, haven't you?” He gave her a cigarette and she continued, “What is your job exactly?”
Rook said levelly, “Home Secretary.”
She snorted. “Don't you mean Hal's Secretary?”
Rook blinked. “If you like.”
“Doesn't matter what I like as long as Hal's happy, right?” She winked at him.
Jacob murmured, "Somebody's had too much to drink."
Rook plastered on his default smile and didn't comment on that. He cut his food into neat little pieces and ate just enough to fit in, not really tasting it.
When the dinner was over, Yorke wished Jacob a pleasant trip and the guests left. Rook rose as well, but Yorke asked him to stay.
“I feel like I should apologise for Hetty. She and I have never got along, so rest assured at least half of her malice was directed at me.”
Rook said nonconfrontationally, “Quite alright, it was no bother.” He loathed petty squabbles.
“Hetty likes to put on airs. She is after all over four hundred years old. But mentally, she's still a child. I'm not sure anything could be done about that.” Yorke gestured for him to sit down and pointed at the small table with various bottles of alcohol. “Pick your poison.”
All vampires were blood-crazed children. He looked over the bottles. “I’ll have to defer to your judgement on these.”
Yorke chose red wine and handed him the glass. “Do you agree with her though? That all of you are here to keep me happy.”
Rook twirled the glass between his fingers. “To an extent, perhaps. Inasmuch as it must be satisfactory to have us perform our roles well.”
“And here I thought she was just bitter because she didn't get a country to play with.” Yorke raised the glass. “To satisfaction then. Shall we?”
“Perhaps she got a kindergarten or a primary school somewhere.” The wine's taste was rich and full bodied. He marvelled at being able to enjoy it.
Yorke laughed. “You have a thing for vampire children, don't you? As in, you can't stand them.”
Rook’s tone darkened, “Perhaps.”
Yorke looked at him curiously .“Why is that if I may ask?”
His personal unpleasant associations aside, he would have thought it was obvious. Maybe that was why he had trouble putting it into words.
“It unsettles me in the same way as not finding my reflection in the mirror still does. A child forced into this lifestyle, trapped in a body that wouldn't grow up.”
“So you dislike them because they unnerve you? Or because you feel sorry for them?” Yorke put on a small sardonic smile. “Feeling sorry for monsters must be tough.”
Rook frowned. “I find them unnatural. An ironic choice of word, I know.”
“To be perfectly honest, I agree. I'd personally stake the one who recruited Hetty...” Yorke lowered his voice. “But for the rumour that it was Mr Snow.” He cocked his head slightly. “Anything else you find... unnatural?”
Well, they had finally agreed on something, in a manner of speaking. He said bluntly, “Same-sex relations. I was raised to believe them a mental illness.”
Yorke blinked and burst out laughing. “I was born in the fifteenth century. Can you imagine what I was raised to believe?” He took a sip of the wine. “Remind me who initiated one bathroom incident some two weeks ago?”
Rook attempted to hide himself behind his wine glass. “That incident was... completely fortuitous. Surely you remember the state I was in.”
“Do you still believe it's a mental illness?” Yorke’s tone turned teasing. “Surely, it can't be any worse than, you know, drinking blood.”
It was a side-effect of drinking blood. It was yet another physical response he couldn’t control, yet another change in his body clouding his mind.
Yorke looked at him with dark, almost hungry eyes. “You haven't answered my question.”
He felt like a cornered animal. He breathed out: “It's madness.” That wasn’t what he had intended to say.
“All human contact is madness. All life is madness. How else would you explain that we are all born with the needs we absolutely must satisfy if we don't want our life to become a nightmare? Your God, Dominic, provided he exists, has a black sense of humour.”
Rook was mesmerised. He leaned away instinctively, closing off. He had no doubts now that people had mistaken Yorke for a devil.
“Tell me: have you tried asking for forgiveness? Praying? I couldn't help noticing a copy of the Bible missing from the library.” Yorke rose and walked towards one of the cabinets. He opened a drawer, took something out, but didn't reveal what it was.
He moved the glass around, not looking at Yorke. “No and yes. I got to the fifth verse.”
Yorke came closer. “And?”
“And I couldn't stand it any longer. Not to say that I've given up,” Rook said listlessly.
Yorke slowly leaned into him. “Why do you persist in your loyalty to a God that clearly doesn't want you anymore? Perhaps he never did, considering how many of his commandments you have broken.”
He inched away until there was nowhere to retreat. “Because faith is an inviolable commitment.”
Yorke raised his hand, showing him a big crucifix - Rook’s crucifix, the one he had tried to use against him in the archive. “Loyalty through the pain. That's something to be admired.”
Rook hissed and gripped the table in sheer stubbornness.
Yorke pressed the edge of the cross to Rook's lips. “But if you don't expect to be forgiven, what's the point? What's the reward for your loyalty?”
His eyes watered as the blisters spread from the point of contact. He whispered, “I never wanted a reward.”
Yorke chuckled. “How noble.”
He trailed the cross down across Rook's chest and abdomen and stopped at his crotch, pressing lightly, Rook fighting down fresh waves of searing pain mingled with an echo of arousal. It was a losing battle, if he had ever seen one.
“Looks like you may be mad after all. But then...” Yorke put the cross aside. “We are all mad here.”
Silent tears trickled down Rook’s cheeks and Yorke leaned into him, licking a teardrop off. “I think... if you don't mind me saying... that you need to figure out what it is you want. As opposed to what the world or God want from you.” Yorke's voice came out in a husky, ingratiating whisper.
Rook's gaze refocused and he turned his head towards Yorke, their lips only a hair's breadth apart. “I do not dare ask for forgiveness but of course I yearn for absolution anyway. I need my life under control. But even more I need to know that if I lose control, I won’t lose myself.”
Yorke whispered, “The only way to find out is by trial and error.” He didn't move. It was Rook's choice.
There was a decanter within his reach and yet his attention was seized by the man in front of him. Drinking blood was another roulette: which appetite would be slaked, which would rear up and overwhelm him? Was there truly a difference anymore? Hunger and thirst had lost their meaning outside of the red-tinted need that had absorbed them into itself.
What he was about to attempt felt wrong on a visceral level but he indeed wanted a better lens for his microscope. He could remain a helpless spectator or he could learn how to turn Yorke’s new weapon against him.
He closed his eyes and took Yorke's lower lip between his. It was a tentative, drawn-out contact that tickled his senses rather like a fine wine. He hadn’t fully expected to enjoy it. The beast in him demanded so much more but he couldn't simply leap into it like the last time. His reservations held him fast, their grip tightening before the inevitable downfall.
Yorke responded in the same manner, making it almost gentle. Rook opened his eyes, filing away Yorke's expression - or rather the mask he was wearing for the occasion. Yorke’s gentleness terrified him more than his cruelty - it was an unknown factor.
Yorke cupped the back of Rook's head as he sank on his knees in front of his armchair. He held on to Rook's knee for purchase, leaning into the kiss that was inevitably quickening, flaring up with passion that Rook tried so hard to restrain. He felt Yorke’s fangs against his tongue.
He pulled away for a moment, his eyes widening at the sight of Yorke kneeling between his legs. He dipped back in, his fangs grazing Yorke’s neck. Yorke released a small half-sigh half-moan.
He loosened Rook's tie and started unbuttoning his shirt, fingers skimming over the dent at the base of his throat. Rook mirrored his actions. Yorke leaned forth and swept his tongue along Rook's throat.
He was drawing a line of open-mouthed kisses down Rook’s chest when a low rumble rolled through the palace. The walls seemed to tremble.
Yorke raised his head, irritated. “What the-?” A loud noise followed, and the heavy chandelier came crashing down from the ceiling. Rook darted out of the chair, dragging Yorke with him.
It had sounded like the divine wrath itself. Rook mentally slapped himself. “A bomb.” He let go of Yorke immediately and did up his shirt.
For a moment Yorke looked just as startled as he was. Then he marched up to the phone and dialed internal security. “What the fuck is going on?” He listened. “Christ. How many? No, I'm still... I'm still in the dining-room. I'll leave immediately. Get back to me on this.” He slammed the receiver back down and gestured at Rook to follow. “Blood storage. Fifteen dead. Fergus' men are looking for more explosives now.”
“Goodness gracious!” Rook strode after him, reeling.
“Forgive me but your mates from the resistance, if indeed it is their handiwork, are fucking morons. Depriving my entire staff of blood only means that we shall have to acquire more.” Yorke's eyes flashed black in anger.
Rook would have liked to protest but he couldn’t help sharing the sentiment.
It was raining outside. It cooled Yorke off and he requisitioned Rook's mobile phone and rang up someone who wasn't answering.
Cutler rounded the corner and walked up to Yorke from behind, tapping him on the back. The phone buzzed in his pocket. “Aww, I'm touched you remembered about me.”
Yorke turned around, his face unreadable. He looked like he could equally hug and stake Cutler. He said with a sarcastic smile:
“I wouldn't dream of getting rid of you that easily, Nick.”
“That's reassuring.” Cutler grinned at him boyishly, letting some of his relief show, and did hug him.
Yorke stiffened, but touched Cutler’s shoulder briefly, acknowledging the hug. Then he pulled away.
“I expect full reports on the incident as soon as they're ready.” He was addressing both Cutler and Rook. “Go do your job.” With that, he left them.