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The Fool on the Hill

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One night in San Francisco, Azazel decided to drop in the local mutant bar, a hole in the wall in one of the more artistic districts. It was like a hundred other tiny places where the password was a display, where there were no windows, making it one of the only places on Earth Azazel could go and drink in peace.

The place was dark, for many reasons, but even in the dark, Azazel could not hide. Men and women followed him with their eyes as he walked past, to Danek at the bar. Danek extended one scale-covered hand to Azazel in familiar greeting, his pitch-black eyes crinkled at the corners in delight. “Azazel, my friend, what brings you?”

“Certainly not your face.” He told him, making the man laugh, showing the bar his very full mouth of pointed teeth.

“You are winning beauty contests now?” He asked, pouring Azazel a shot of clear alcohol, and himself one as well. He toasted the man, and they both downed them. “Tell me, is there job?” Danek, a Czech, had worked with Azazel before, and had been a good partner, smart and capable.

“What use would I have for you?” Azazel lit a cigarette, and offered the pack to Danek, but was refused, as always. “I had a job. It is done.”

“You are busy as always?”

“Busy enough.” Danek smiled, showing his teeth again. Azazel had become used to it long ago, but it still made people recoil, he saw, as they should. Azazel still carried the scars from their first meeting. “How have things been for you?”

“Peaceful, as I like it. I run bar, I am left alone. And the water here, is cold. Like it should be.” He poured them each a new drink and raised it in toast. “To proper weather, my friend.” Azazel agreed and raised his own glass before downing it. After a moment though, Danek noticed Azazel's tail, flicking back and forth. “Something is wrong?”

“Tell me Danek, who is looking at me?” The man laughed as his black eyes searched the room.

“I never did understand how you do that. Ah, I see. Your five, in the corner.” Azazel leaned back enough on the stool to see, but it took him a moment to pick out the target in the crowd. There was a group around him, women mostly, pretty women in fashionable unfitted dresses and long, straight hair, trying to look as disaffected as possible. A few looked too young to even be in the bar, schoolgirls worrying their parents.

The man in their center, sitting in the corner of a table, was the one who kept glancing over, and even now, he looked up. He saw Azazel's gaze on him, but instead of looking away, he met it, dark eyes in a beautiful face surrounded by dark hair. He was Hispanic, if Azazel had to guess, though if they were not in California, he would have guessed Spanish. Dressed well, in a blue shirt that buttoned, he was smoking, like many in his group, like Azazel himself, but he made the habit...provocative.

“They call him 'Riptide'.” Danek supplied. “Pretty thing, isn't he?”

“Riptide?”

“His little birds gave him the name.”

“How many of his little birds does he take home at night?” Danek grinned.

“None, from what I have seen. Maybe their songs give him headache?” Azazel laughed, and let Danek tell him in more detail about what had been going on since the last time Azazel had been through. Gossip was a useful tool, if you knew what to pick out, and Danek did know. After he had caught him up, he moved on to asking questions about where Azazel had been, fishing for information about home.

“Things get worse every year.” Azazel told him, not enjoying being the bearer of bad news. “People disappear still, and now I hear talk of work camps in the uranium mines.”

Danek shook his head sadly.

“And resistance?” Azazel shrugged. As with his own country, he did not put much stock in resistance. “Is a good thing we left when we did, yes? Or where would we be?” Azazel shrugged, preferring not to talk about things that hadn't happened. He poured them yet another drink, and raised it in toast. “To knowing when to cut our losses.” Azazel toasted with him, and drank. “So, Azazel,”

“Azazel,” A voice repeated, almost in his ear, sounding out the strange name. “So is that your name?”

Up close, where Azazel could see him properly, Riptide was gorgeous, and Azazel had to take a drag so he could look away and regain his wits.

“It is. Is it of interest to you?” Danek left them alone, eyes lit up in good humor at Azazel's brief moment of speechlessness.

“Yes.” He had been expecting flirtation, or something teasing, not the open assent Riptide gave. He turned to him again, prepared now for his beauty, and studied him a little closer. The posture, the way he had tilted his head forward so that he could look at Azazel through his eyelashes, these were signals Azazel understood, but he could not quite believe them. What game was this man playing? “Do you want to know my name?”

“You are Riptide.” This made him smile, one corner of his mouth lifting a bit higher than the other.

“Did you ask about me?” He looked pleased at the idea.

“You were staring. Is very rude to stare.” He was getting hard looks from the girls who had surrounded Riptide, none of them brave enough to be so close to Azazel. The men who had been lurking in the corners glared too, angry that they had been slighted in favor of Azazel. “Your birds are missing you.”

“Birds?” His accent was not thick, but his English was very precise, as though he had to think carefully about what he was saying. Spanish was his first language, Azazel was sure, but his own was not good enough to pinpoint the exact accent. “I am afraid you have lost me.” Azazel nodded at the table, and Riptide looked carelessly over his shoulder at them. “Ah, I see. They do chatter a great deal. But they seem afraid of you.” Azazel shrugged. “Maybe if I sit with you, they will stay away.”

“What makes you think I will invite you?” The music changed, switching from something upbeat to a lower voice, one Azazel liked better.

Riptide pulled himself up on the bar stool beside Azazel, still smiling. “So maybe now I will say you are sitting with me.”

“You are an arrogant one.”

“I like 'confident' better.” Azazel leaned over so that they were closer, holding his cigarette away so that the smoke didn't waft up into their faces, though the bar was filled with it.

“And what exactly are you confident of?”

“That you will like me.” He kept his eyes on Azazel, not an easy feat. He swore he could feel Danek's smirk burning into his back even from here, and he hated that Danek actually had something to smirk over. Riptide was beautiful, and he was interested in Azazel. It was not every day that he was so fortunate.

“Do you not have enough admirers?” He nodded at Riptide's flock again.

“I find birds, uh,” He grinned, eyes flicking up and down Azazel appreciatively, an extremely foreign concept for Azazel, “Lacking. You know my meaning?” Azazel most certainly did.

“I know your meaning.” He confirmed. He held up his hand, letting Danek know he wanted another drink. “What of it?”

“Then we know each other's meaning.” Danek brought them both something on tap, a dark beer that reminded Azazel of home. He expected Riptide to put it down in distaste, knowing what he did of Spanish drinks, but he drank it easily. “Where are you from?”

“Russia.” Azazel was at the end of his cigarette, so he let it die in the ashtray, lighting another. “Where are you from?”

“Mexico.” That surprised Azazel a little, because up close, Janos looked Spanish. “You are very far from home.” Azazel shrugged. “You do not like my questions?”

“I do not like Siberia. That is why I am very far from home, as you say.” The arrogance that had rested on Riptide's shoulders seemed to withdraw for a moment, as he bit his bottom lip, maybe thinking he had inadvertently angered Azazel. He could have left it there, let Riptide leave. Instead, he kept speaking. “I am here for a job. And I like this city. Is cold, not so cold I freeze though.” Riptide relaxed again, his smile creeping back up.

They spoke easily, light questions and answers that would not offend, and Azazel had actually started to consider taking Riptide up on what he was so clearly offering when three of the little birds finally worked up the courage to approach the two. The prettiest of the three, who was very aware of her ranking, was the one who spoke. “Riptide, I love this song!” She exclaimed, grabbing him by the arm. “Won't you please dance with me?” She was not taking no for an answer, and Riptide did not seem like he was the kind of man who shoved a woman. He let her drag him out, and Azazel noted with amusement that his flock was now coming back. Riptide would likely not escape them now.

He finished his beer, paid the tab, and walked out the side door, intending on teleporting back to his hotel. He decided to finish his cigarette first though, and enjoy the night air for a moment in the secluded entryway. He sensed no one else, so for the time, it was safe.

“You have not left,” The door had opened, and Riptide slipped out, looking pleased with himself.

“No, not yet. How did you get away?”

Riptide shook his head, looking annoyed. Even that expression was attractive on him, Azazel noticed. Or maybe the possibilities in Azazel's head were overcrowding his judgment.

“Danek will be very unhappy with me, let us say.” He sauntered over, into Azazel's personal space, and plucked his cigarette away, inhaling and breathing out smoke into the clean air.

“Your arrogance is astounding.” Azazel said dryly, impressed at his boldness.

“I told you, is confidence.” He gave it back, smiling prettily and looking up at Azazel through his black lashes again. It was more alluring out here, where there was no one to see but Azazel. “Do you know what you should do?”

“I am sure you will tell me.” Riptide somehow moved further into his space, a risky move out here in the open, so that their chests were touching, his mouth hovering just out of reach of Azazel's.

“I think you should come home with me.”

“Should I? And what will we do there?”

“Well,” He raised his eyebrows innocently, “I could make coffee. We could continue our conversation about music. Or, you could fuck me into the bed.” Azazel let his tail wrap around Riptide's thigh.

“Tell me Riptide, how do I get all three?” Riptide smile grew as his lips just barely brushed Azazel's.

“You can start by calling me Janos.”

-

Two months later and he had yet to leave San Francisco. He found another job, his contact having been given by the employer he had just finished with.

Somehow, he found himself living here, in Janos' apartment. Cohabitation was nothing new to either of them, but Azazel was almost uneasy of how easily they had adjusted to each other's habits. It helped, he thought, that they were both a strange mix of utilitarian and indulgent. Janos had little in the way of furniture, only the necessities, and he lived on a steady diet of coffee and cigarettes, with the occasional meal thrown in. Azazel was not terribly different. However, Janos appreciated pretty things, especially clothing, and what he lacked in furnishings he made up for in his wardrobe. It was endearing, oddly enough.

“You look like you are thinking,” Janos teased, leaning over his shoulder. Azazel had been sitting on the floor, reading the newspaper, scanning for art exhibits. So far, a lot of modern art, not something with high resale value.

“I am often thinking.” Janos huffed and folded his arms over Azazel's shoulder, resting his weight on him. “Do you need something?”

“I am bored.”

“Go outside and play like a good boy then.” That earned him a twist of cold air up his undershirt, so he was forced to abandon the newspaper and tackle Janos to the floor in revenge. “You are going to be annoying today, aren't you?”

“How dare you call me annoying,” Janos replied, stretching as luxuriously as a cat underneath Azazel. “I do not know why I put up with you and your insults.” He could not quite fight the smile on his face, and he stopped fighting it at all when Azazel got up on his hands and knees and started to unbutton Janos' shirt. “Oh yes, now I remember,”

“You are a spoiled brat.” Azazel said good-naturedly, helping Janos get the shirt off so that there was only golden skin under him.

“And whose fault is that?”

Someone knocked on the door.

Janos frowned at it, obviously confused, as he should have been. It was the middle of the day, not normal hours for their associates.

Azazel sat up and pulled Janos up, handing him his shirt so he could slip it back on. Even as he kept a leery gaze on the door, he smoothed it down and fixed his hair, vain to the last.

The knock came again, louder.

Azazel grabbed one of his swords and took up a position behind the door, within easy reaching distance of Janos. Him opening the door was risky, but it wasn't as though Azazel could do it.

The knocking was insistent now.

“Who is there?”

“Azazel, open, please,” It was not English, but slurred Czech. Azazel moved Janos aside, his sword thumping against the carpet. On the other side of the door, Danek was covered up, leaning on the door frame, gasping. The moment he saw Azazel, he collapsed against him, the entire side of his jacket damp and sticky. Azazel teleported them further into the room, Danek too heavy for him to carry without injuring him further.

Janos was quick, the door slamming shut and locking without so much as an order, and he was by Azazel's side in a flash, a box full of aid supplies from the kitchen in his hands. “Get his jacket off,” He ordered, digging into it. “Get everything off, I need to see.” The jacket refused to undo, stuck together, so Azazel teleported back to the door, grabbed his sword, and teleported back so he could just slide the blade under and slice it apart.

There were three bullet wounds that had ripped through his arm, bloody and awful. Azazel stood and moved away, his shock and fear too much to handle. Janos, on the other hand, was as calm as ever, calmer even. All the laughter was gone from his face, his mouth in a straight line as his steady hands cleaned the wounds.

“Move, my friend, just a little,” Janos ordered, helping Danek turn so that Janos could see the back of his arm. “Very lucky, they went right through you. Otherwise, you would have to live with bullets in you, yes?” Danek smiled weakly, his teeth almost jutting out of his mouth.

Azazel found a bottle of vodka while Janos treated Danek, but when he offered it, Janos waved him away. “Alcohol make you bleed more.” Danek reached for it with his good arm anyway, but Janos shoved him down with a scowl. “You want to bleed all over our floor? I do not. Very messy.”

“I am in pain,” He growled in Czech, but Janos refused to let up. He stitched Danek back together with practiced ease before wrapping him up in clean bandages. Danek complained throughout the whole process, in a nonsensical mix of Czech, English, and German, but Janos never reacted.

“Azazel,” Janos called, getting his attention. Finally, there was something he was needed for, something to make him feel useful.

“What is it?”

“I need you to go to hospital, get antibiotics.” Danek groaned again. “And painkillers.” Azazel concentrated, and thought about the city hospital. In his mind, it became a blueprint, with lights moving, warm, living bodies. Most glowed white, but some burned with the blue of their kind. A few inconsequential mutations. One was in a small room, a closet maybe, alone.

Azazel disappeared in a cloud of smoke and reappeared in front of the shocked woman. She was a cleaner, and this was her supply closet. Her mutation was a minor one, the ability to purify, and not at all useful against Azazel, but she at least recognized Azazel for what he was, and not a demon.

“What do you want?” She hissed, still clutching the shelves. “This is a hospital!”

“We need assistance. Painkillers, antibiotics.” She shook her head. “You seem to be under impression you have choice.”

“You can't be serious.” She hissed. “What do you expect me to do? I'm a maid, not a nurse! Only the pharmacist has access to the pills, and only he knows what the pills are. They're all fucking M&Ms to the rest of us.” He grabbed her by the elbow, wrenching her towards him.

“Where is this pharmacist?”

“Oh god damn,” She swore. “Please, I'm just a maid. Don't hurt me please,” Azazel smiled, and stroked her face with his tail.

“Be easy, sister. I ask for help, yes? You take me to this pharmacist, and he will give me what I want. You only need to direct me. Which room is it?”

“Are you going to hurt him?”

“No sister, of course not.” She did not believe him, and she shouldn't of. Still, she gave up the information, and Azazel teleported a floor up. The room had pills in containers, unmarked for the most part, with rows of orange bottles stacked against the wall. This was useless, he needed the pharmacist. He backed up against the wall and knocked over a scale.

When the man came in, he slammed the door shut and shoved him up against it, a hand over his mouth. His tail snaked up over his shoulder, tip pointed towards the man. “Now, this can go two ways my friend. You can give me what I need.” He took his hand away.

“...Or?” Azazel grinned.

When he reappeared back in the kitchen, he grabbed a dishtowel and wiped off his tail. There was splatter on his shirt though, a shame. He'd liked it.

He felt a little bad for lying to the woman, but it wasn't as though he could let a human see him and live. And it had been a quick death. He'd barely known what happened.

“Janos,” He called out, stripping off the shirt and popping into the bedroom. The shirt he threw in a pile on the floor, intending to burn it later. He grabbed another, and teleported back into the living room. Janos reached for the pills with barely a glance in his direction, intent on Danek, and the wounds in his side. Azazel had thought they were bullet wounds too, but now that Janos had cleaned them, he wasn't sure what they were.

“Your friend was in a fight.”

“Obviously.” Janos studied the bottle of antibiotics, reading the directions carefully. He tapped out two and bullied Danek into swallowing, with the promise of a painkiller to follow. After that, Danek started to drift off.

“Is funny though. In English, he kept saying something about Egypt, and old problems.” Azazel's heart dropped into his stomach. Janos' tone was deceptively casual, but there was something there, something that had never been between them before. Janos was angry.

“I am sorry.” He knew what Danek was referring to, and it was nothing good. A job gone wrong, horribly wrong, and he and Danek had barely gotten out of the country with their skins. This was only the first strike, if they had managed to track one of them down. Janos muttered something in Spanish and finished with Danek. “Janos, I am sorry.”

He stood, waving him off, and went into the bedroom.

“I think I got you in trouble, my friend.” Danek murmured in Czech.

“You only think?” Azazel snapped. “Why did you have to get yourself shot?”

“Sorry.” He replied grumpily, the strange lids of his eyes sliding over the black.

Azazel followed after Janos, but when he entered the bedroom, he found Janos, holding the shirt, the towel at his feet. The blood-splattered section was stretched out between his hands, and even in his wildest hopes, he knew there was no lie he could tell that would cover this.

“Janos,” He started, but the man shook his head.

“I knew, you know. I knew that whatever you did, it was probably best I did not know. When you come back in the middle of the night, and you shower before you get in bed. The money. The gifts.” He dropped the shirt. “But this. This is...”

“Please, Janos, it is not always like this. Egypt, everything went bad. Very bad. Does not normally happen.”

“Who did you murder today Azazel?” Azazel was not sure what to make of his tone. It was not what he expected, not horror, or even shock. Not for the first time, Azazel wondered about Janos' past.

“He was just a man. Not one of our kind.” This did not have quite the reaction he'd hoped for, as Janos frowned, looking almost indecisive. “Where did you learn all of that Janos?”

“Now is not time for that story.” He sighed, and went into the washroom, to scrub his hands from the sound. Azazel trailed after him, leaning on the door frame, watching as Janos used a nail brush to get out the dried blood in his cuticles. “It is unlikely he was followed. They would have been here by now. To go by the blood on his hands and teeth, there is no one left to follow.”

“More will come.” Azazel pointed out, though he was loathe to do it. Janos dried his hands and turned, resting his hip against the counter. “Janos, I am sorry. I should never have let this come to your door.”

“No, you should not have. And yet, here we are.”

Oddly enough, the past few hours did not feel strange. Instead, they felt like reality, finally crashing into the little dream world he'd been living in with Janos for the past two months. It had been nice, possibly the best two months Azazel could remember.

“When he is well enough to move, I will take him somewhere. Stay away.”

“And what good will that do for me?” Janos took a hair tie and pulled his hair back, leaving his profile unobstructed. The gesture caused an ache in Azazel as he realized this might be the last time. He might never be able to return, and even if he did, he might find Janos gone. Their little world was over.

“They do not know about you. If they did, you would be dead.” Janos laughed at that for some reason and pushed past Azazel, picking up his pack of cigarettes off the side table. “Danek and I must leave.” He wished he had his own pack at the moment. “I would rather not leave you.”

“Azazel, sometimes I think,” He put one in his mouth and lit it, throwing the pack on the bed carelessly. “That you are an idiot.”

“Why?” Janos tossed him his own black-packaged pack from the table, and the lighter.

“Do you think I am not coming with you?” The spark was back in his eyes, mischief in his face.

-

A month later, Janos had adapted well to Azazel's lifestyle. And Azazel was shocked at how much he liked having him there, liked coming back to whatever penthouse they were borrowing and finding Janos waiting.

It was like the apartment, only better. They lived like the most spoiled of kings, attending plays and orchestras in private boxes, seeing films in the backs of dark theaters, taking whatever they wanted, doing whatever they wanted. Azazel had never allowed himself to be so self-indulgent, but when Janos invited him to bed and kept him there for a day, who was he to say no?

In the back of his head, a voice he thought he'd silenced refused to stop making dire predictions. It was the voice they had hammered into him from the first day, the voice that told him decadence was an evil of capitalism, of monarchy. This was what had led to the downfall of his country, of the czars, had it not?

What consequences could they pay though? They felt untouchable, or at least Azazel did. He had everything he had ever wanted, for the time being, and nothing could take it away.

Until the day came in Boston when he walked into a destroyed room.

The curtains were lying in shiny puddles on the floor, ripped off the hangers. The bed was a mess, feathers everywhere. Someone had driven a knife through it.

In his head, he could see it. They had surprised him while he was sleeping, but Janos had escaped them. He had fought back, that much was obvious to go by the scale of destruction. But they had subdued him in the end.

There were no helpful rags smelling of chloroform, nothing to give him a hint of how they had dragged away Janos. There was no blood, but that meant nothing.

The note they had left was written on hotel paper. An address, and a taunt.

Come and get him.

They had him. They had him, and they were going to kill him. If they had not already. It was possible he would only be collecting a body to bury. Did he even want that?

If it had not been for Azazel, Janos would be safe in San Francisco still.

He owed him a burial.

The address was down by the docks. It was the middle of November, and the place would be freezing. Janos hated the cold here. He'd been considering taking them somewhere else, maybe Greece. Janos would love Greece.

His blades he grabbed without thought, but he lingered over the dresser for a moment, hand hovering over Janos' coat. It would do him no good if they'd already killed him, but still, Azazel found the thought of Janos cold distasteful. He took it in hand before he could waste more time overthinking it, and teleported to the docks.

The wreckage he found was vast, the warehouse in shambles, the ones around it obviously having taken much damage as well. The one on the right was creaking ominously, swaying in the freezing wind.

In the middle of it all stood Janos, barefoot and shivering, looking furious still.

Azazel appeared beside him, and Janos snatched the jacket away, bundling himself into it while he scowled at Azazel as though this was all his doing.

“Did you,” He almost could not believe it. Janos' power had potential, he knew, and he'd always suspected Janos was holding back on him, but this was more than he had thought possible. Most of the dock was freezing over, puddles of seawater everywhere, as though Janos had... “Did you bring the water up?”

“Of course.” He snapped nastily, curling into Azazel despite his less than welcoming attitude. “They had a mutant with them. He made me sleep.”

“Where is he?” Azazel glanced around warily, tail arching up, the point of it stiffening into something dangerous.

“Dead.” The darkness in Janos' tone was as surprising as the rest of this, and again, he was reminded that he actually knew very little about Janos as a whole. “As are the rest of your old friends. I do not much like egipcios .”

Azazel did not know the word, but he could guess, judging by the distinctly dressed corpse lying a few meters to the left, his taqiyah still on his head.

“You are uninjured though?” Janos snorted and Azazel took it for agreement. “You did all of this? Truly?”

“Take me home. Now.” His tone had a hint of desperation to it, but Azazel was too impressed to hear it.

“You are remarkable,” He breathed, looking around, taking it all in. The warehouses had stone foundations, concrete, and even that was just rubble now. The amount of force it had to have taken, the rage Janos must have felt at being caged. It was beautiful.

“Azazel,” His hand on Azazel's face brought him back, and he looked at him, awed still that Janos had this much power in him, possibly more. That he could bring the world to its knees if he so chose. “I am freezing.” His shoulders were trembling under Azazel's hands, lips quivering.

He took them back to the suite, sitting Janos down on the settee instead of the destroyed bed. In the washroom, he ran the water, and teleported downstairs to the empty kitchens to retrieve a bowl. Back upstairs, the water had started to steam.

He took some towels, and a now full bowl, and reappeared back in front of Janos, kneeling down in front of him. He soaked one towel, and then lifted one of Janos' feet, as cold as ice in his hands. He hissed in pain when Azazel wrapped the towel around it, but remained still in his hold.

Carefully, he repeated the process several times, until Janos started to uncurl from the sofa, his shivering ceasing, the coat falling open, and eventually off.

“Are there any more of your friends I should worry about?” He asked after a time, voice heavy with sleep.

“I do not think you have anything to worry about from anyone Janos.” He answered with a chuckle, teleporting back into the washroom and dumping the bowl out. He came back to find Janos standing over the bed, looking put out. Careful of any hidden injuries, he wrapped his arms around him from behind, enjoying the opportunity to kiss his neck. “I have spoiled you horribly if you cannot stand the absence of a few feathers.” Janos swore at him in Spanish, and a gust of wind blew away the feathers stuck to the bed and comforter.

“Is a waste of a bed.” He complained, but climbed in anyway, tugging the covers all the way up to his shoulders. He must be tired, Azazel thought, to not even insist on a shower. Or a change of clothes.

After he had stripped and climbed in as well, he ran a hand down Janos' spine, still curious as to where Janos had picked up such a cavalier attitude towards being taken hostage, towards killing.

“Janos,”

“Azazel,” He answered, turning over so that Azazel could see his dark eyes. “I am fine. But I do not want to tell that story. I will not. So do not ask me.” It was a warning, a line drawn. It was the first time he had ever done so.

So Azazel didn't.

He watched him sleep instead, and considered villas in Greece.

-

“Congratulations,” Janos told him, the pinch of his needle making Azazel grimace. “This is going to scar, mi amor. Another one for your collection.”

“He was faster than I thought he would be.”

“Obviously,” Janos' tone was as dry as dust, but there was the tiniest hint of amusement. “He missed this, at least.” Even if Azazel could not see him, he knew what Janos was referring to. The black fire-bird inked into Azazel's shoulder blade had somehow avoided ruination yet again.

“The fire-bird is lucky.” Azazel told him, wishing for a cigarette. Janos never let him smoke when he was stitching him up, claiming it distracted him. Azazel thought that was a tad unfair, considering he was the one in need of a distraction, what with the constant stabbing of a needle.

“Shame you did not get it over your whole back then.” He inhaled sharply when Janos' needle bit into his skin particularly hard.

“I think you are making fun of me.”

“Never.” Janos replied in a shocked tone. “Why would I make fun of a man who lets people draw on him?”

“I told you, is not drawing. They take needle, put ink in skin.” Janos snorted. “You are being very judgmental today.”

Judgmental.” Janos repeated the word, sounding it out. “You think I am judging you?”

“I think you are.” Janos huffed and bent closer, his breath on Azazel's back as he concentrated on something, poking around at Azazel's wound. “Are you in a bad mood with me Janos?”

“No.” It had a distinctly sulky tone to it that Azazel knew well by now though. “What did he hit you with?”

“His arm. Had spikes growing out.” Janos tsked and poked some more before finishing the stitches, knotting them neatly at the top. Azazel waited, and despite Janos' obvious bad mood, a kiss was pressed over it. “If you had been there, he never would have gotten so close.”

“If you had listened to me and waited another day, I would have been able to go with you.” Azazel tipped his head back enough that he could see Janos, washing his hands at the sink.

“I missed you.” He was rewarded with a kiss, Janos drying his hands on a dishtowel while he did it. “Hm. I missed you more than that.” His tail reached and grabbed Janos by the arm, pulling him off balance so that he had to steady himself on Azazel's shoulder.

“Too bad, I have things to do.” Azazel tugged him down into his lap, despite Janos' half-hearted struggles, and kissed him a bit more thoroughly. Janos gave in after a second or two, looping his arms around Azazel's neck, wrists still damp against Azazel's bare back. “Azazel, I am supposed to meet our buyers.”

“Danek can do it.” Janos' mouth slanted against his easily, opening to him for a moment before he pulled back.

“Danek scares people.” Azazel shrugged and inclined his head so that their lips met again. The buttons of Janos' shirt slipped out of their holes under his fingers, giving him access to skin for the first time in a week.

“And notice no one haggles with Danek.” That made Janos laugh, and his protests, however minimal they had been, gave way to enthusiasm as Azazel helped him shift so that he was straddling him, giving them some friction. Janos managed to get the front of their trousers undone and pushed aside enough that they could rub together, taking both of them in hand while Azazel steadied him.

His tail joined the mix, wrapping around Janos' hand so that it was the two of them, together. Later, he thought, it would be his mouth, so he could make Janos shout loud enough to wake the dead. But for right now, this was more than enough.

“A week without you,” Azazel groaned. “I thought I would go insane.”

“It was no better for me, mi amor,” Janos told him, his back arching as Azazel pressed kisses up the column of his throat. “Do you know how dull other people are?” Azazel laughed, and pulled him in tighter, the kitchen chair probably not the best place for this. It was too narrow, too easy to fall out of. But Azazel loved this, loved being the thing that held Janos up.

“You think all humans are dull,” Janos moaned when Azazel dug his nails in, so he did it again, just to see him shudder, one hand wrapping around Janos' waist so that the other could snake up under his shirt, pressing into the warm skin.

“They are,” He gasped, the heat of his orgasm splashing up onto his bared stomach and chest, some of it on Azazel's chest as well. “They are all useless, stupid creatures. We are like gods among them.” His own cock was going flaccid, but Azazel was still hard, almost over the edge, but not quite. Janos kept going, working his hand up and down Azazel, just the right grip. He always knew what Azazel wanted. “Do not tell me you think they are our equals, Azazel.”

“No one is your equal Janos.” His voice was embarrassingly broken as he skirted the edge. “You do not need me to tell you that.”

“Tell me again,” His eyes were half-lidded as he rested his forehead against Azazel's, pupils blown wide so that there was only the slightest hint of brown.

“What do you want me to tell you?” The hand on his cock slowed to an almost painful pace as the corners of Janos' mouth tugged upwards. “Janos, play fair,”

“Tell me,” Azazel knew a command when he heard one.

“You are a god among them Janos.” He complied, and Janos rewarded him, bringing him over to satisfaction. “You are also the vainest creature on this planet.” Janos just shrugged and reached over onto the table, picking up the dishrag he'd used to dry his hands, using it to clean them up a bit before they set themselves to rights.

“Maybe if you stopped telling me I was the most beautiful creature in this world, I would stop believing it.” Janos told him airily, smoothing back Azazel's hair.

“I do not believe that for a moment.” Azazel snorted. “You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen though.” It was the truth, and he loved saying it, because Janos was his.

“And I am yours.” Sometimes, he thought, it was as though Janos and him shared one mind. Janos almost always knew what he was thinking, what he wanted. And he almost always knew what Janos was thinking. “You like pretty things Azazel.”

“I like you best.” Janos smiled at him, the gentle upturn with soft eyes that Azazel liked to believe only he saw. “You know that.”

“I do.”

-

Months later, in one of Shaw's safe houses, Emma came to him, her beautiful scrunched in irritation.

“Azazel,” She hissed. “I have a headache. So either you persuade Riptide to stop playing that awful music, or I will persuade him to go jump off a cliff. Your choice.”

“Why do you not just persuade him to turn it off?” She gave him a long-suffering sigh in return.

“Do you people think telepathy is magic? Do you know how precise that is? I have a headache and I'm exhausted. If I try to do something like that, I'm liable to just make his pretty head explode all over your bed.” She glared, and Azazel raised an eyebrow. She knew she did not frighten him, hard as she tried, and it frustrated her greatly. “Azazel, please,” The 'please' was a nice touch, and Azazel did not want to spend the next week with her in a foul mood, so he tipped his head and teleported away.

Janos' music was loud, and it was irritating. Something Spanish, and repetitive.

“Janos,” He looked over at Azazel. “Turn it off.” Janos made a rude gesture at him in answer. It was only then that Azazel noticed the empty bottles beside him.

He walked over, instead of teleporting, and lifted the needle off the record, turning the player off with his tail. Janos did not appear to care, only continued to stare up at the ceiling with the fuzzy focus of the truly drunk.

“You are irritating Emma.”

Emma can go to hell.” He spat in Spanish, waving a hand in the air. Azazel looked down at him, curious, but Janos did not appear able to concentrate on him. He turned his head to the side instead, staring at the wall now.

“What has Emma done?” Janos merely swore, still in Spanish, as he was liable to do after too much to drink. Azazel picked up one of the bottles with his tail, bringing it to his nose, since he could not read the Spanish label. He recoiled from the odor, and was amazed Janos managed two entire bottles without passing out. “And what is this?” Janos said something Azazel could not understand. “Janos, stop being difficult.”

Leave me the fuck alone Azazel.” Azazel muttered to himself as he sat down beside Janos, pushing the uncharacteristically messy hair out of his face.

“What is wrong Janos?”

Why did you say yes?” He asked, half-punching Azazel in the side sloppily, his angle too difficult, even he had been sober.

“Yes to what?”

I hate this country. I hate everything about it. I told you I did not want to go. But you told Shaw yes. Why would you do that? Why can't you just listen to me? I want you to just listen to me Azazel, and do what I want.

“I always do what you want Janos.” He protested, pulling out a cigarette to ease his frustration.

Then why am I here?” He reached blindly for Azazel's cigarette, but Azazel kept it out of reach. He was not inclined to share if Janos was going to start blaming him for things. “Why don't you understand?

“Janos,”

I hate Belize. I hate it so much.” He continued, staring up at the ceiling miserably again. “I hate everything about this part of the world.

“I know,” Azazel reassured him, and offered him a drag as an olive branch. Janos took it and inhaled, passing it back politely. “Are you ever going to tell me why?”

“No.” He rolled over a bit and put his head on Azazel's thigh, humming to himself.

“Sometimes Janos, I wonder why you are still here. You believe in the ideals, I know. But there is so much in this you do not like.”

This is where you are.” Janos said, into the fabric of his trousers. “And I need to be where you are.” Azazel hated how he felt whenever Janos said something to this effect, this greedy desire inside to keep Janos forever.

Janos' breathing grew deep and even.

 

-

 

In the end, it was simple.

He had been sitting in a window, one leg dangling out, smoking and hoping McCoy would not appear. He was quickly tiring of his endless rants about the supposed dangers of cigarettes, and to tell the truth, they often made Azazel want to smoke more, out of spite.

Still, it wasn't as though they would be there much longer. Janos was recovering well, and it would be time to return to Magneto.

Or wherever.

He could admit that he was growing tired of all of this. He had been for a long time. He wanted his old life back, if only for a little while, living in penthouses, stealing everything he felt like owning, and coming home to a man who had somehow made everything brighter, better.

He did not have that man anymore though, he reminded himself. So how enjoyable would that life really be? The past could not ever be reclaimed, as he had been told often. He of all people should know that well.

He missed him. He could admit that in his own mind, where there were no particularly nosy telepaths around. It was not even just the sex he missed. That wasn't exactly true, he supposed. He missed the sex, but he missed everything else just as much. He was keenly aware of the empty spot in his life, the role Janos had not only filled, had made. Without Azazel's notice or permission, he had carved out a place for himself in Azazel, and for the life of him, he could not remember when that had started. The ease of their relationship, their casual intimacy, these were things he had not noticed until they were gone, and he no longer had someone who hummed under his breath, admired his own clothing in mirrors, read horrible American Westerns, or fought with his hair every morning instead of giving in and getting it cut. He had not even known how familiar those habits were to him until they were no longer there to be observed and laughed at.

It was strange maybe, that he liked Janos' quirks, things that might have irritated another man. Janos' oddities had been endearing though, and the more of them Azazel learned, the more he had wanted to keep Janos. The first night they'd been together had felt surreal for him, a startlingly beautiful man inviting him home on what appeared to be a whim. Azazel had loved learning all of Janos' flaws as their relationship shifted and changed, settling into something permanent. He'd loved knowing that Janos was not perfect, that he was unapologetically vain, that he was hopelessly addicted to coffee, but only if there was cream to pour in, that he adored teasing Azazel to the point of near murder, and that lazing about in bed for a day was not an uncommon occurrence for him. These traits had made him real for Azazel, had made him interesting.

And just like that, with these thoughts, it happened. It was no lash of lightning, no great shock. It revealed itself and settled as though it had always been there, just waiting for Azazel to acknowledge it.

He loved Janos.

It was as simple as a gear turning in its place, neatly fitting into the whole, and necessary to the operation, the fact that he loved the man. Of course he loved him. That was why he'd spent an hour contemplating the aesthetic differences between watches, why he'd gone out of his way to accommodate Janos' wants, why he'd turned down a lucrative job, and why, when he was dying, it had been Janos he reached for. Why when Janos begged him to stay, he had returned to him, because in the same way Janos belonged to him, he belonged to Janos.

He sat in the window smoking for a long time.