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.
A/N: Now with 90 % more blasphemy.
Part I. Chapter 1 | Part I. Chapter 2
The matter of the bomb required delicate handling. Its origin was easily traceable - the resistance cell responsible did a poor job of covering their tracks, flaunting their sneaking into Buckingham Palace - and its fallout absolutely had to be controlled. When Rook accepted the job, he had promised himself he would use his position for the good of humanity. It was time to act on his promise.
The regime was in desperate need of a civilised justice system instead of Fergus's men tearing people apart on sight. Rook interfered, offering a compromise. They had the resistance fighters interrogated and sent to be harvested for blood, thus compensating for at least some of the losses. He made sure they survived the proceedings and, for once, Fergus didn’t sabotage his instructions.
Rook considered the case closed with minimal losses, but he had drastically underestimated Yorke’s foul mood. Yorke was staying in a flat, the location of which nobody seemed to know. He signed a few rather radical decrees that toughened the restrictions in the city, and started working on a project of setting up resettlement camps. Rook’s phone calls, texts and emails had amounted to communicating with a brick wall.
The future looked grim.
Those new decrees and a draft of the project were arrayed on Rook’s desk. One bomb was all it had taken to change the man's mind - if his willingness to heed Rook’s advice hadn't been a ruse in the first place. Rook felt at once furious and sapped of his resolve.
Sending innocents to those camps was that much worse than signing over his own soul. He jolted to his feet and grabbed the papers from his desk and then his coat. In his pocket, there was a note with the address, which had cost him some effort discovering.
He drove the BMW he had been assigned - his own Lexus had long since perished in the riots - and showed up at his maker’s doorstep.
Yorke opened the door and gave him a dark look, without asking how he had found him. “What?”
Rook declared flintily, “I did not sign up to work for the bloody Third Reich.” His eyes gleamed with anger, the facade cracking. “Your new decrees are on an entirely different level of monstrous than harvesting blood. Perhaps you yourself ought to move to a camp if you’re unable to handle the palace.”
He didn’t require an invitation to a flat owned by the vampires but he made no attempt to enter.
Yorke looked at him indulgently. “My decrees are monstrous because I am a monster. I thought you knew.”
“I’ll have none of that talk! You’re acting like a child throwing a temper tantrum.”
“You think I'm throwing a tantrum? What about them, your precious humans?” Yorke chuckled. “Please, Dominic, for the hundredth time, stop lying to yourself! You're not mad because of the decrees. You don't give a fuck about humanity except when your own is under threat. You constructed an image of me that helped you to cope with the change you've been going through, and now you can't accept my true nature. But it's not going to be any different. This is me. I don't take blows lying down. My home was attacked, I retaliated. It's as simple as that.”
Rook's eyes narrowed. “Fifteen against hundreds that will rapidly turn into thousands? This is not retaliation - this is genocide.” He paused. “You have constructed an image of me as someone hiding behind his ideals because he cannot stomach the ugly truth but that’s not who I am. I cannot abide by your new policies and being a vampire has nothing to do with it. If your true nature is a sadistic reprobate with a concentration camp fixation, I'm resigning right here and now.”
Yorke rubbed his nosebridge wearily. “Oh, for heaven's sake, come in and stop attracting attention. This is supposed to be a secret location.” He dragged Rook inside and slammed the door shut. “Did you even read the bloody project? Where on earth does it say that it's a concentration camp?”
He produced the papers from his briefcase. “Please see the commentary.” He pointed at the highlighted passages and at his own frantic scribblings squeezed in between the lines. “Pardon the handwriting, I haven't had the opportunity to type it up.” He finally took a deep breath to calm himself.
“Dominic, it's a resettlement camp. Which only means humans will be segregated. I know it sounds unpleasant but trust me, I have no intention to send them to gas cameras or crematoriums. The idea is to create close-knit and well-monitored communities, to provide them with jobs and just generally keep them too busy to be making bombs. It will benefit us all.”
“Perhaps I have mixed my historical analogies in my agitated state. I shall try again: death marches. Ethnic cleansing. The Trail Of Tears. Rings any bells? I found not a single mention of hospitals or educational facilities and I'm not even insisting on churches!”
Yorke said tentatively, “Perhaps the proposal does merit revision.”
Rook opened his mouth and snapped it shut, rocking back and forth on his feet with the unspent momentum, scrutinising Yorke. Finally, he regained his composure and said, “I do apologise for bursting in on you like this.”
“I shall take your comments under consideration.” Yorke moved towards the kitchen. “Drink?”
He blurted out: “Yes, please.”
Yorke poured him a glass of whiskey and a glass of blood. “Not feeding again, eh?”
“Oh. I thought I'd forgotten something.” He downed the blood at once, gasping as the relief came over him.
“You do enjoy suffering, my dear Dominic.” Yorke sat down, looking at him with amusement.
“I was busy.”
After a moment, he removed his coat and folded it over the back of the armchair before sitting down. He took a very small, medicinal sip of the whiskey.
“Too busy to remember you were hungry? You should start a support group for vampires on the wagon. Perhaps we should give you a new department of grey-clad vampires who would be too busy to indulge their bloodlust. The UK would be the safest place on earth.”
He gave him an affronted look. “I really did forget.” He twiddled with his glass. “In my experience, those wagons invariably end in tears.”
“I'm glad you understand that.” Yorke smiled. “I confess I've missed our... conversations.”
Rook blinked, caught off guard. He had seen artifice in men time and again but never this much, never layer upon layer of inspired falsehoods that Yorke presented as genuine facts. He had been mistaken in taking Yorke’s promises to consider his ideas at face value. But in that case he was even more in the dark as to Yorke’s endgame in this.
He played along, though, taking it a step further. “You are a hard man to befriend. Not that I would presume to.”
He hadn’t had any friends since he started working for the Department, except Arthur. He wouldn’t want to get used to it - looking forward to someone's company. He thought he had cut that part out of himself long ago.
“So I've been told.” Yorke moved the decanter towards him.
Nevertheless, there might be a grain of truth to Yorke's words about the vampire condition: ‘Feelings, thoughts, decisions. Everything will be as natural to you as it always was.’ Except feelings had never come naturally to Rook and recruitment had obviously skewed the paradigm.
He refilled his glass, his hands almost steady. “I've been told it's frowned upon to always drink from the decanter.” By the ever so helpful Cutler.
Yorke smiled knowingly. “If you suggest we go out and kill somebody, I'm all for it.”
Rook flinched a little. “I know you are. I was merely wondering if my reprieve was temporary.”
Yorke chuckled. “I wasn't going to torture you if that's what you're thinking. I'd much rather see you come round on your own.”
Rook nodded curtly, putting down the empty glass.
Yorke rested his elbows on the table top, leaning forth slightly. “We do have an unfinished dialogue if you remember.”
“Yes, of course. Shall we discuss the corrections?”
Yorke smiled slowly. “You know very well that it's not what I meant.”
“Oh.” He swallowed nervously and then steeled himself. “I don’t think it's a good time for that. It shouldn't influence our decisions regarding the policies.”
“I wasn't going to make any decisions right now.” Yorke shrugged. “You?”
He was constantly making decisions around Yorke, and more often than not poor ones. He shouldn’t have accepted the drink - it always seemed to lead to one thing. It was incredibly exhausting to always teeter on the edge.
Rook stood up, walked over to Yorke's chair and placed his fingers on Yorke’s shirt button.
“I shall wait for your revisions, my lord,” he murmured, and moved to retrieve his coat.
“Fuck that.” Yorke grabbed him by the belt and spun him round, kissing him, impatient, demanding.
Rook pushed him away firmly. “Sorry, but not like this.” Or at all, at this rate.
Yorke arched his eyebrows in surprise, then his eyes darkened like he was about to do something volatile. He stepped aside and poured himself a glass of whiskey, then glanced at Rook. “Don't you have work to do?”
He readjusted his suit swiftly. “Good night, my lord.”
Inside his car, he wiped his mouth with a handkerchief. He took the stake out of his coat’s breast pocket, staring at it fixedly. He had had one perfect opportunity that might not present itself ever again and he hadn’t used it - on the off chance that Yorke would make the revisions and his efforts hadn’t been in vain.
Was he aiding humanity or was he merely playing the game?
* * *
Hal stoically refrained from doing anything as dramatic as flinging the glass against the wall. He was angry, but he couldn't even say why. He should have expected this. He had let his patience wear thin and he had come on too strong. That was not how the game was played. Now he would either have to scrap the project or - god forbid - apologise.
When the doorbell rang, Hal was prepared to greet the returning Rook with a snippy remark. However, it wasn't Rook on the doorstep. Instead, Hal was met with a snakelike smile of Mr Snow.
"I'm here to see how you're faring," Snow said nonchalantly. "In the aftermath of the bombing."
Hal frowned and finally remembered to step aside and let him in.
“That was two weeks ago.”
"I know." Snow took a seat in one of the armchairs. "Yet you are still here. So it is fair to assume there is a trauma."
Hal poured him a drink. His greatest trauma at the moment was the realisation that his supposedly secret address was not as secret as he had thought.
“Not really. I just don't feel like going back yet.”
"You don't feel like doing your civic duty?"
For some reason, coming from him, it sounded hilarious. Last time they met – in Paris, for tea – Hal had expected a conversation about Rook and the victory over the DoDD or perhaps about the resistance and the War Child. But it had really been just tea. Snow had launched discussions on anything from classic Greek dramas to modern agriculture - and none of that had anything to do with the current situation in the UK.
Hal said cautiously:
“I am doing my job. I just feel that at this point it is better if I stay away from the office in case there is another attempt... to, uh...” Hal paused. “You're not here to talk about that. You know I haven't been shirking my responsibilities.”
"What about the new Home Secretary?"
“He is also doing his job.”
Hal looked at Snow sternly.
“If you've got something to say, say it.”
"I've got a question to ask you, Hal. How much of this is personal for you?"
“I don't know what you-.”
"You and your dual personality have been the source of my amusement for centuries. You always need a failsafe. When you're good, you need someone to pay for your sins; when you're bad, you need someone to store all your nobility in. This is why you run from evil, this is why you play cat-and-mouse games with good. You chose an idealist, a man of faith for a prominent position within the government that he cannot possibly agree with. What are you expecting? That he will change your mind? Or that you will destroy him, thus destroying your own vestiges of humanity? You've been going in circles for so long. Perhaps it's time to walk a straighter path."
Hal said coolly:
“I keep my head in the game. You don't have to hold my hand.”
Snow chuckled. "Don't worry, Hal. You have always been my favourite. I trust you."
Hal had difficulty taking that statement seriously. He said, almost vehemently:
“We need men like him. I chose him because he is focused and dedicated. We need men who think outside the box, yet are prepared to make necessary sacrifices. We need... we need men who would forget to feed because they are too busy planning our brighter future!”
Snow burst out laughing.
"Forget to feed? I like that. Yes, let them forget." He rose, prepared to leave. "Like I said, I have complete trust in you and your judgment."
Hal hesitated, then stopped him.
“He wants schools and hospitals in the camps. I have half the mind to indulge him.”
He was certain Snow would protest. Snow cocked his head, thinking, and replied:
"Yes. Give him what he's asking for. Give them schools, give them all the benefits. After all, the more you give them now, the more you can take away later. And they will know it is their fault. You did all you could."
Snow was right. Of course. It was so simple. Hal was doing the best he could. He was trying that balancing act Rook had suggested. If it didn't work, it wasn't his fault but humanity's fault. They couldn’t appreciate all the effort. Humans lived far too comfortably and displayed no gratitude for it. Well, if carrot didn't work, Hal was only too happy to pick up the stick.
After Snow left, Hal made all the necessary revisions. Let them have all they want. Like bonus points. They fuck up - they lose the privileges. Perhaps Snow was right about the living situation too. It was time to go back to the palace.
* * *
Rook’s clandestine visit had taken much less time than he had anticipated and the entire evening spanned before him, his head abuzz with fruitless speculations. This new London wasn’t a city for driving around and so he returned to the palace. Under the thin moon juxtaposed with the pale bruise of the sky, its windows seemed forlorn and haunted.
Against his better judgement, he sent Cutler a text message and there he was, lounging on the settee with his feet on the tea table and sipping Rook’s whiskey. Rook’s armchair was at a safe distance but he wouldn’t sit down, pacing the room restlessly.
Cutler declared: "If you're wondering, yes, I had other plans for the evening, it's just your rookery is a bit of a step up from the chaps.” He had been snooping around appraisingly, as if drawing comparisons with other palatial suites.
“I’m flattered,” Rook replied dryly.
Cutler snorted. "Well, don't be. The list of things that are better than the chaps include a zoo and the Tube during the rush hour."
Rook snorted. He wanted Cutler to talk but he didn’t want any of what had just transpired between him and Yorke. Luckily, Cutler was overly fond of talking. Rook could make a bet with himself as to for how long Cutler would go on unprompted.
For less than five minutes, as it turned out. Cutler was watching him expectantly. "What’s got you so buggered, anyway? If you don’t like Hal's new policies, do stand up to him, should be amusing. Oh, and I bet you didn't like the way Miss Snotty spoke to you either. This one you might want to gossip about."
Rook started saying, “Actually...”
Cutler interrupted, "It stings, doesn't it? To go from playing the lone sheriff to being just Hal's new boy?”
“For God's sake, this isn't about my pride!” Rook had always been a modest man.
Cutler rose to his feet and came closer. “You didn’t even have a say in the changes, did you? Happens to the best of us."
Cutler didn't possess what one would call an intimidating presence but his uncanny perceptiveness about anything Yorke gave him an advantage he never hesitated to exploit.
"You need to pull all that tweed off your lovely eyes, Dommy. You're not Hal's employee of the month - you're his property."
Rook froze, struggling to regain his composure, his nerves frayed, paper-thin. Cutler trailed his fingers over Rook’s tie. "When he's done with you, if you're lucky, he'll let you pick up the pieces. So, what was it that you wanted to discuss so badly?"
A leaden silence hung in the room.
"Looks like you need a drink," Cutler muttered.
Rook found himself being pushed into the armchair and accepting a whiskey glass numbly.
Cutler scanned the room. "Haven't you got any blood? Not that it’s a shocker."
Rook snapped, “You’ve got no right to patronise me, Cutler, I’m not a child!”
Cutler chuckled. "About time you dropped the 'Mr'. Also, there, I told you it was about your pride." He took a seat. "I used to be a solicitor, you know. Sorted out other people's messes. Just like you." He winked at him and turned serious again. "If you want things to get clearer, answer one simple question - not to me, to yourself."
Rook asked wearily, “And what question might that be?”
Cutler put his hands on the armrest, leaning into him. "What exactly do you think you want from Hal?"
Rook was on the verge of violence. Instead, he put on a smile that was too sharp. “And wouldn't you like to know, Cutler. How threatened you must feel by my presence!”
Cutler blinked and burst out laughing. "Incomparably less than you do at the prospect of spreading your legs... for Hal." He grinned.
Rook reached the end of his tether. He snarled, grabbing Cutler by the throat, relishing his open fear.
He squeezed until Cutler’s face reddened, growling: “That was the last unsavoury comment I heard from you, do you understand?” He loosened his grip just enough to let Cutler speak.
Another grave error. “And there I thought you wanted the sex talk,” Cutler mouthed. "Talk about mixed signals! Why, I was even going to ask if you weren’t feeling like transferring some of that fixation elsewhere, but I suppose not."
Rook uncurled his fingers immediately. “Do invite yourself out, Cutler.”
Cutler readjusted the collar of his dandyish shirt. “Alright, I admit it, I’ve taken it a bit too far. Got carried away. It was just a bit of friendly teasing, seeing how the subject made you so uncomfortable.” He smiled amiably, as trustworthy as his maker. “You need friends, Rook, you really do, and who else is there? Your former colleagues? Please, they won’t even look you in eye. Unless you’re still in touch with La Resistance...”
Rook shot him a warning look. Cutler should have learned by now that he didn’t appreciate idle threats.
“Think about it.” Cutler moved for the door, saying over his shoulder: “You used to be so much scarier as a human, you know. Now you’re just the rule, not an exception.”
What Cutler might actually be saying: ‘Hal will get bored with you soon enough.’
Rook said impassively, “Perhaps you ought to see a specialist about your... verbal incontinence.”
Cutler smiled from the doorway. “Perhaps you ought to be nicer to your new family.”
* * *
Hal hadn't warned anyone in advance that he was returning, so naturally his arrival caused a ruckus. In the middle of the night, the members of the staff roused by the event they had not anticipated were running about, trying to make the place look presentable. Their efforts amused Hal. He caught one of the maidservants, handed her a folder and dispatched her to Rook's quarters, telling her to pass it to him. Inside were the revisions marked as final. He would have no more discussions on the matter but he didn't think Rook would object this time.
Having re-emerged from his self-imposed exile, Hal did his best to make things hum. He gave a radio interview, oversaw the preliminary works on the territory of the future East London resettlement camp, was present at an execution of a resistance agent, reviewed budgetary matters, and finally got bored.
The dust had somewhat settled and one of those days Fergus rang Hal, saying that they had something interesting for him down at the cells. Hal could only imagine what that was, but he went there without a second thought because it was either this or more never-ending, mind-numbingly dull paperwork. Besides, Fergus usually made an effort to cater to Hal's tastes.
This time, however, Hal was beginning to doubt it. The promised curiosity turned out to be a scrawny young woman, largely unresponsive to any disturbances. Hal wrinkled his nose. A lyco, judging by the smell. He addressed Fergus a questioning look.
“She doesn’t look like much,” Fergus said, “but observe.” He leaned against the bars and pronounced clearly: "Mr Rook". The lyco's head snapped up and she wailed like a banshee. Fergus grinned. “Funny, innit?”
Hal raised his eyebrows. That was... unexpected. And indeed rather curious.
“Looks like we should invite the man himself down here. Give him a ring. I should very much like to know what brings this reaction on.”
He scrutinized the woman who was still quivering, reeling from Fergus’ little trick. She was young, but her haggard appearance made her look older. Her eyes seemed vacant for the most part, and only that name, spoken aloud, had sparked a semblance of animation in them.
As soon as Rook arrived it became clear that he didn’t have the faintest idea what the summons was about. Fergus pointed at the cell, still grinning, and Rook approached it warily. The lyco saw him first and screamed, huddling into the corner. Rook's eyes widened and he murmured to himself:
“The Bronzefield incident. Hello, Ms Bradley.”
“Bronzefield?” The name sounded familiar. “The prison?” Hal came closer, both to Rook and the bars, and whispered: “Looks like you've got dirtier secrets than I have imagined, my dear Dominic. It is not often I get completely overlooked in favour of someone else.”
Rook's expression was grim.
“For Christ's sake, don't we have any sedatives? Ms Bradley suffers from extreme PTSD and other mental disorders.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Ms Bradley was sentenced for the murder of her stepfather. We failed to take her into custody before the full moon and she transformed within the prison grounds. The clean-up was... It was a carnage. We found her plucking a guard's insides out, in human form.”
Hal's eyes lit up.
“Just when I was beginning to lose interest in you...” He grinned at Rook. “Don't ever stop surprising me, I beg you.”
Fergus snorted in amusement. On the outside, Rook remained impassive. Even his eyes, bright as they were, betrayed nothing of his inner state, which Hal found both disappointing and intriguing.
“I released Ms Bradley into the world the day you stormed the archive,” Rook said.
He turned to Fergus, asking him to open the cell door, and Fergus complied, after a glance in Hal's direction. Rook walked up to the trembling girl and she rose, muttering bits and pieces of nonsensical speeches that sounded suspiciously like something Rook would say. You’re a vicious beast… you must be locked up. It’s for your own good, as well as for the good of the world. Just doing our job… keeping the world safe from monsters... like you. Then she bit her tongue and spat the blood out into Rook's face. He shielded it with his elbow in time by a pure fluke. He darted back and the girl lunged after him, trying to smear her blood over the exposed skin. They danced around each other. Rook feinted, distracting her, and managed to grab her by the head. He snapped the girl's neck seemingly without an effort.
Fergus cheered, muttering something about newfound guts. Hal watched the spectacle silently, with a smile. If Rook hadn't done anything, Hal would have ordered a dog fight, but this was in a way even better. Hal entered the cell and looked down at the lyco's body. It was something of a waste; the girl could be rather pretty. Hal could bet she would have cleaned up nicely. But, oh well. Didn't this feel liberating?
Whatever illusions Rook had harboured when he had walked into the cell were now dispelled. This was not an act of mercy, but a fight for survival. The fight, which Rook had won.
Rook turned to Hal, his eyes black. Hal returned his look and said:
“Are you hungry?”
Rook glanced back at Bradley’s body and growled:
* * *
In the aftermath of the bombing, a rigid curfew had been imposed, but of course there was always someone bound to break it. They moved away from the reputable parts of the city towards the outskirts where all sorts of riffraff stirred at night like rats. Rook found that he was perfectly comfortable thinking about them this way. Inhibitions, moral guidelines, good sense – all gave way under the pressure of the thrill of a hunt.
Rook had stepped out and his hunger had filled the vacant spot. They ran into a mismatched group raiding an abandoned building for supplies. He didn't wait for Yorke and attacked, swift and deadly.
Blood from a decanter had nothing on the nectar from the vein. Rook discarded his first prey, his lips and fangs smeared with red. His tongue darted out to lick off the residue. It was hard to imagine that his life had not always held such intense sensations. Blood eradicated all doubt, drowned out the remorse and made life feel like less of a burden. But more than that, blood revealed purpose. It highlighted the difference between them and the cattle, proving that they deserved this world no less than humans did, perhaps even more so.
He caught up with another straggler, a young woman who tripped and twisted her ankle. He murmured:
“Now, now, where are my manners? Let me help you, miss.”
He picked her up easily, only smiling darkly at her efforts to struggle. He trailed his mouth over her neck, the heartbeat fluttering like a trapped animal. He would set it free too. Suddenly, she pressed into him, her breasts soft against his chest, and begged him to recruit her. He snorted, his gaze flinty.
“That isn't what I'm after, miss.”
"Please." Her voice was husky in a misguided attempt at persuasion. He let her think what she would, depositing her on a windowsill and guiding her thighs apart. Yorke was busy with a girl of his own, but Rook sensed his stare like a chilly caress up his spine. Vampires were overwhelmingly physical beings, and he was beginning to understand why. Bodies were just another instrument of control. As if testing a theory, he pressed his fingers between the girl’s legs. Her temperature was elevated and her heart rate sped up. He sank his fangs into her neck, tasting the pleasure warming her blood. Not the worst way to die.
He heard the thud of a body dropped on the floor behind him. Yorke marched up to him, but simply stood watching. There was a speck of blood on his chin. Rook wiped it with his finger and licked it off almost as an afterthought, moving past Yorke to the empty street. He was still hungry, in spite of, or perhaps due to, all the fire that ran through his veins.
There was little hope finding anyone else at this hour, but there was a church at the end of the street. The first thing the vampires had done upon seizing control had been to shut down most churches. Some were blown up, others sealed. Yet it was a well-known fact that some priests still held services in those closed churches; some even lived there. When they reached it, Hal flashed him a conspiratorial grin and walked in. Rook halted in front of the church, something moving in him nauseatingly. No, he did not want to come down from his high, not now, not yet, not ever.
Yorke reappeared a moment later, dragging out a priest, a young man, almost boyish in appearance. Rook fixed his gaze on Yorke and his prey and felt the ghost burns from his own cross stir and fade.
Hal bit at the priest's wrist and held his other hand out to Rook, offering a treat. The young man was paralyzed with fear but the pain made him snap out of it. He struggled without much success. Hal ripped the priest's jacket and sank his teeth into the man's shoulder.
Rook found himself accepting it. The priest's blood tasted just like everybody else's. A tad malnourished, perhaps. He trailed bites to the crook of priest's elbow.
The priest found his voice and tried reading a prayer. It made Rook wince, though in Yorke’s presence the pain seemed muffled, as though he was being stabbed through a comforter. Hal took off his tie and gagged the priest. Then he casually sneaked his hand into the priest's trousers as he continued drinking. He made it look like a favour.
Rook reeled at that but he was unable to stop watching, transfixed by both the wicked light in Yorke's eyes and his hand. Finally, Rook's fingers closed around Yorke's wrist.
Hal moved his hand faster. The priest was moaning, though it was hard to tell whether the reason was pleasure, pain, shame or fear. Hal's lips were smeared with blood. He licked it off, slowly, sensuously, maintaining the eye contact with Rook.
Rook couldn't pry Yorke's hand off. There was a certain clinical satisfaction to watching oneself sink so low. He closed his lips over Yorke's, sucking at the residual blood. The priest's moans jolted through him like the strongest of aphrodisiacs. Yorke wrestled control of the not-quite-kiss away from him, biting aggressively at his mouth. It set Rook's blood on fire. He groaned into the kiss, made Yorke drop the priest and aligned their bodies full-length, moving against him feverishly. He could no more stop himself than he could a landslide. The friction sent jolts of electricity through him.
Yorke slammed him against the church wall and sank on his knees, tearing Rook's trousers open. Rook hit the back of his head and barely noticed. He buried his fingers in Yorke's hair and stared at him in naked hunger, swelling with arousal. This position agreed with him much easier.
Yorke certainly knew how to make the filthiest act look like a sacrament. It was an elaborate torture and Rook enjoyed every second of it. The masks were off but it went both ways. Rook could see that more than anything Yorke revelled in having cornered him. Sex was just another weapon and Yorke used it with class. He wanted Rook to leave his past self behind; so far it was working.
While Rook had been moderately vocal during the act, his release was utterly quiet. He tensed, as though fighting it off, his lips parting, and then surrendered to it completely, riding out the euphoria and breaking a little more through his surrender. He didn't know who would emerge at the tail-end.
Yorke pulled him down on the ground, so that they were sitting side by side. Rook took out his pack of cigarettes and lit two at once, leaning forward to place one between Yorke's lips. He really did feel like scattered puzzle pieces.
Hal studied his face silently through the puffs of smoke. Rook skipped a beat, taking a pull, and lay his hand just above Yorke's knee. His palm slid upwards, in a not at all hurried fashion.
“What was that you said about giveaways?”
Hal closed his eyes briefly, his breathing shaky. There was something so raw and natural about this. He leaned forth, winding his arms around Rook's shoulders, and kissed his neck with a hot, open-mouthed kiss. Rook growled and bit the side of Yorke's neck, his hand alternatively teasing and almost punishing. He wanted this, kisses with teeth and games and death clinging to their skin like a jealous lover.
“The priest is still alive,” Rook whispered in the tone of someone commenting on the weather. He had only just noticed.
Hal smirked. “I trust he's enjoying the view then.”
The corners of Rook's mouth turned up.
“He should: they don't transmit such shows upstairs.”
Hal licked a line up Rook's throat and nipped at his jawline.
“He didn't just enjoy the show,” he snickered. “Perhaps he's not going upstairs after all.”
“Ah.” Half-moan, half-acknowledgement. “You are such a bad influence, Hal.” The name slipped out easily, unobstructed by denial.
Hal's release was quick and sharp. He moaned, letting the sound roll through Rook. Rook shuddered as though it had been his own climax, his skin tingling. Hal watched him in return, lips parted, tips of the fangs showing. Rook leaned forward again, flicking his tongue against those fangs playfully, and drew away, smiling. He walked closer to the priest and felt for the pulse before biting the unmarked arm. He drank and the pulse died in his hands. Then he returned to the porch and lit a new cigarette. Hal sprawled on the ground, resting his back against the porch, and watched him.
Rook tilted back his head and stared at the church upside down. He didn't feel liberated. He didn't even understand the concept of being free very well. Everyone was shackled by something, they simply switched sets now and then. Guilt crept in, uninvited but pervasive. The blood highs were like nothing any human drug could offer but the lows equaled the darkest depression.
Hal declared: “You should wear that blue shirt more often. Brings out your eyes.” He smirked: “Except when something else brings out another colour in them.”
Rook's eyes narrowed icily. He wasn't a dress-up doll for Hal to play with. He stubbed out his cigarette and, little by little, expelled the belligerent tension from his body.
“I shall keep that in mind.”
Hal studied his face for a moment and sighed:
Rook snorted. Despair lapped at his feet like dark, hungry waters - as hungry as he was. Hal shifted towards him.
“Why now all of a sudden? You never give yourself a break, it seems.”
“I don't know.” Rook stood up. “I think I need to clear my head. Excuse me.”
“That's the last thing you need, but be my guest.” Hal lit a new cigarette. “Perhaps we have rushed this poor sod's death. Perhaps what you need is a confession. Forgive me, father, for I have killed a couple of people tonight, one of whom was you.” He winked at Rook. “What do you say? I can hear you out in his stead. Isn't that what the church expects of all good little Christians?”
Rook glared at him.
“While good Christians are encouraged to confess their sins to priests or each other, it's only God that can forgive them.”
Hal rose and walked up to him. Pricking his finger on Rook’s fang, he drew a cross on Rook's forehead in his blood.
“I am your God now.”
Rook stood rooted to the spot in astonishment and outrage at the sheer, blasphemous audacity. Never mind killing and tossing off that priest. The cross stung a little.
“Mistaking god complex for divinity is a common pitfall.”
“I didn't say I was God. I said I was your God.” Hal whispered in his ear: “You drank my blood and were reborn. Isn't that what baptism is about?”
Rook shivered. “How can you be so certain you aren't a false idol?”
“I can't be, but it is not up to me to decide. There is an element of idolatry in every religion. How can you believe your God is just and benevolent when you've seen so much evidence to the contrary?” Hal’s voice grew lower, huskier. “At least I will never lie to you.”
Rook met Hal's eyes.
“Everybody lies, Hal, especially you. And the flaw is not with God but with his creatures. It makes one wonder if it isn't all just a cosmic-scale experiment. We are all running in the spinning wheels.”
“Why do you keep clinging to yours then?”
“Because I never wanted to find out what a terrible creature I would unleash.” He smoothed his fingers down Hal's collar. “Between you and me, we could destroy the world, Hal, but who would rebuild it?”
Hal smiled slowly. His face was very close to Rook's and his lips brushed Rook's as he spoke:
“Why rebuild it when you can build something new?”
“What could you possibly build from these ruins?”
Hal's fingers skimmed down Rook's arm.
“Anything. Anything you want.”
“Perhaps that is the crux of the matter: I liked the world the way it used to be, imperfect as it was. I do not want a world where I get what I want.”
Hal snorted. “You seemed perfectly content getting what you wanted just an hour ago.”
“Perhaps you should follow through on that stopping the clocks scheme.” Rook pulled away.
Hal's voice turned colder.
“You can punish yourself however you want, Dominic, but it won't change what you did. They're still dead, their blood is still inside you and you still want more.”
Rook said quietly: “I know.” The fight went out of him.
“If you tell me you didn't enjoy every single moment of it, I shan't pressure you any longer.”
Rook glowered at Hal half-heartedly. “Yes, I enjoyed it.” And now he despised himself for it. “Do you want me to be that creature full-time?”
“I want you to stop with the self-loathing. It's unbecoming.” Hal stepped closer again. “You were magnificent.”
Rook closed his eyes briefly.
“It is also inefficient. I felt as though all the stops had been pulled out. It is as addictive as the taste of blood.”
“It is merely your tendency to overanalyse. Blood doesn't distract you, it keeps you focused. It is the craving that is distracting. And now you wish to torture yourself once more with those unrealised desires.” It sounded like a bit of propaganda Rook himself would have given the registered Type 2s before it all came crashing down.
Hal touched Rook's chest with the tips of his fingers and glided them down towards his abdomen. Rook caught his hand mid-way and looked at him pointedly.
“If that voice of yours could be bottled, you'd make fortunes off selling it.”
Hal smiled flippantly. “Why do you think I've got such fondness for the radio?”
Rook chuckled, brushing his thumb over Hal's veins. Realised desires could be as much of a torture. Anything could be if one obsessed over it. They had already established that Rook was mentally ill. And a monster.
His hand clenched around the scruff of Hal's shirt briefly and let go.
“It has been a long night.”
Thankfully, Hal didn't push any further. He stepped over the priest's body and walked up the street, back to where they'd left the car. The ride back was mercifully silent. Once they reached the palace, Rook retreated to the questionable shelter of his room. Not for the first time he resolved to move out and then reasoned himself out of it. If he had had any literary inclinations, he could have written volumes on mental self-flagellation and possibly even won something like the Booker for that. Not that he desired acknowledgement.