“Thank you,” Gabriel said, and that made Desmond blink and look away from the dirty window finally.
He looked up and realized that Rayhe was thanking the waitress who took their empty plates and was now walking away. He glanced at the table and frowned when he saw that his plate was gone.
“You finished your food,” Gabriel said quietly, and Desmond looked at him thoughtfully.
“Right,” he muttered.
“I ordered coffee,” Rayhe said as quietly as before. “I’m sorry,” he added after several seconds.
Desmond gave him a questioning look.
“For asking that question,” Gabriel didn’t look away. “I’m sorry.”
“I haven’t thought about that in almost fourteen years,” Desmond muttered with a crooked smile. “It’s interesting how it doesn’t even feel like it happened to me when I think about it now... It feels like it happened to someone else.”
He fell silent when the waitress came back to their table, carrying the coffee pot. He watched the girl pour coffee into their mugs, and gave her an absent-minded smile after she was done and was walking away.
“How old are you?” Gabriel asked.
“Twenty-nine,” Desmond said after gulping some coffee down. “You?”
“Thirty-two,” Rayhe sighed.
“Old fart,” Desmond said seriously and Gabriel smiled at that. Desmond thought that his smile looked relieved for some reason.
“We need to figure out where to go,” Gabriel said after they were done with their coffees. “I don’t want to stay at that place much longer... You know a good place?” he glanced at Desmond.
Desmond thought of his apartment and about the fact that thankfully, he covered the rent for the next three months.
“Nope,” he said indifferently.
Gabriel sighed and set his empty mug on the table.
“Well,” he said. “I guess we’ll stay at that house for tonight... I’ll figure something out by tomorrow.”
“Sounds good,” Desmond nodded and got up, forcing Gabriel to do the same. He felt a weak tickle of satisfaction when Rayhe’s lips tightened ever so slightly.
...It was almost eight in the evening, and they were playing cards again. They picked up a brand-new deck on their way home from the diner. Desmond was on the winning streak tonight.
“Read ‘em and weep,” he said seriously after Rayhe foolishly called while having a lousy three-of-a-kind.
“Damn,” Gabriel muttered after seeing the assassin’s full house. “Goddammit...”
“Pay up,” Desmond stretched his right hand forward. “Come on, cough it up!”
“Yeah, yeah...” Gabriel muttered, digging in his pocket. “Hold on...”
That was when Desmond’s instincts shrieked at him in full-blown alarm. He had no idea what was wrong, and he wasn’t even trying to figure it out. That would be the waste of time.
“Duck!” he yelled, diving onto the dirty floor, handcuffs immediately biting into his wrist. “Duck, goddammit!”
“Where?” Gabriel looked around with extremely puzzled expression. The whole thing would make Desmond laugh his head off under different circumstances. Right now, however, he had no sense of humor left.
He jerked the chain of the handcuffs, making Rayhe to stumble off the chair and drop onto the floor next to him.
“That hurt...” Gabriel muttered, his eyes wide and confused, left hand flying up to the back of his neck. “Damn, what the...”
Then his eyes rolled back, and Desmond cursed loudly and desperately.
“Rayhe!” he shook Gabriel hard. “Rayhe, wake up, dammit! Rayhe!”
Gabriel’s eyelids fluttered and his eyes half-opened very slowly.
“Come on,” Desmond muttered, trying to get him off the floor. “Come on!”
His fingers ran over something on the back of Gabriel’s neck, and Desmond closed his eyes for a second. It was cold, very cold. An icicle-cold. He half-pulled, half-broke the object out of Gabriel’s neck, knowing only too well what he was going to see. An icicle.
“Shit,” he whispered. He used this technique himself more than a couple of times before, and he knew exactly what was inside that icicle. “Rayhe!” he shook the man again, knowing that it was useless, but he tried anyway. “Gabriel, wake up!”
To his utter amazement, Gabriel’s eyes peeled half-open once again.
“Come on!” Desmond growled, trying to get up.
Gabriel slowly ran his fingers over the handcuffs’ ring, the one on Desmond’s wrist.
“Go...” he mumbled, his eyes almost closed again, and Desmond felt the cuff sliding off his wrist. “Go, Des...”
“G...Go...” and his eyes closed for good this time.
“Fuck!” Desmond screamed.
He looked around wildly, searching the area. He didn’t see anything, but he knew that it wouldn’t last long. If they used the icicle, that meant they were going to be here in less than three minutes. Desmond bit his lip and looked at Gabriel. He lay on the floor without moving.
“Fuck!” Desmond said again, a little softer this time. Then he heard footsteps.
He ran towards the broken window in the opposite wall. He was running in a crouch, making sure he stayed below the visionary line. He made it to the window just in time and leapt outside when the front door of the house burst open.
It seemed like whoever (“The Salamanders, of course! Who else would it be?”) knocked Rayhe out, didn’t even bother with securing the perimeter first. Desmond started zigzagging through the back yard of the house, thankful for the absence of light and ridiculously tall grass. He almost made it to the other side of the street where he knew he would be safe, when he came to a screeching halt. He stood there, under an old oak tree, his hands clenched into tight fists, his eyes closed, breathing fast. He stood there for almost three minutes. Finally, he moaned:
“Oh, fucking hell...”
Is he insane? Is he really considering going back there for Rayhe? The man abducted him, for crying out loud! So, he was good in bed (“Not just that and you know it...”), so what?! Is a good lay really worth risking his life for? No way, Desmond shook his head furiously. No bloody way would he go back there! Rayhe is on his own.
“Go, Des...” he heard in his head.
Son of a bitch... Desmond felt like screaming. He didn’t do that, of course. Instead, he turned around and trotted towards the abandoned house he just escaped. He only did it because (“Go, Des...”) Rayhe’s ass was his and his alone. He would be the one who gets to kill him; he would be the one to decide when to kill him; he would be... (“Go, Des...”) Oh, damn it all to hell!
Desmond maneuvered around the wild bushes that surrounded the house, and congratulated himself silently for not managing to fall into one of them when he leapt out of that window. That would’ve definitely made some serious noise, not to mention, it would hurt like a bitch as well.
He slowly walked towards the same window he just escaped from; his head shrunk into his shoulders, his knees bent, heartbeat so slow that it could qualify him for the best place in the morgue. Carefully, so very carefully, he dared to pop his head above the windowsill, trying to look inside. Trying to see who else was there. He knew that since they couldn't care less about the perimeter, it meant there were at least two of them. At least. Probably, more.
He moved beneath the windowsill (“Yup, they just saw you...”), making sure he stayed underneath the damn thing, and tried to listen in. He heard nothing. So once again, he risked popping his head above the sill, just a tad. What he saw made him blink in disbelief. There wasone single person.One. That’s it. Desmond immediately tensed up, waiting for a voice to speak up behind him; for the palm to land on his shoulder; for the cold feeling of the gun pressing against his temple – anything. There was nothing.
Finally, he decided to risk it some more. He slowly moved behind the sill, getting his head up just a bit, so he could see what the hell was going on inside. There was a man hovering above Rayhe, and he had a “You-Are-Not-So-Tough-After-All” look on his face. Desmond immediately scanned the area with his eyes. Nobody. The assassin slowly shook his head, not believing this. Finally, he crept around the wall and pulled himself onto the windowsill, silently thanking whoever built this house. The windowsills were made out of some interesting-looking rock and not out of wood. The wooden ones would definitely creak like no other by now.
“Too bad you can’t hear me right now, Rayhe...” the man was saying. “Your little stunt with the spell had upset Julian, you know. I am the one who got hit, by the way, so once you are awake, I’ll make sure you get your payback.”
Desmond made his way towards the man who didn’t have a clue he wasn’t alone with Gabriel in the house anymore.
“I am going to...” the man started saying in a dreamy voice when he was interrupted by an urgent:
“Psst!” behind his back.
Clearly bewildered, he turned his head and stared into Desmond’s green eyes that were an inch away from his face. The man blinked in confusion for several seconds before reaching for his weapon. Several seconds was enough time for Desmond. He placed both hands onto either side of the man’s head, as if he planned to give him a kiss, and then he twisted the man’s neck in one quick, precise motion. The neck snapped almost immediately, and Desmond carefully lowered the body onto the floor. He still wasn’t sure if anyone was nearby or not and he didn’t want to risk it by making unnecessary noise.
Then he lifted Rayhe’s limp body off the floor and dragged him towards the front door of the house. “Holy hell, he is heavy...” he thought, wrapping one of Gabriel’s arms around his neck to balance the unconscious man somewhat better. “He sure doesn’t look like he’d weigh a ton...”
...It took him almost an hour to get to his apartment because he had to make sure he kept away from the main roads and busy streets; therefore, he had to make his way through the dark alleys and back streets, staying out of anyone’s sight. That and the fact that Rayhe indeed felt like he weighed a ton were the reasons it took him so much time to get to his place that was only two lousy blocks away.
When he finally got to his building, he was thankful that his apartment was on the first floor. If he had to drag Rayhe up the stairs, he’d probably ended up dropping him. The key to the apartment was long lost, of course, but Desmond didn’t even consider it a bother. He unlocked the door with one of the paperclips he found in one of Rayhe’s pockets, dragged unconscious Gabriel inside, and kicked the door shut.
He dropped Rayhe on the couch and straightened up, panting. He sure could use a drink now, he thought, and went into the kitchen. Desmond tutted with great annoyance when he realized that he only had some water in the fridge and ice cubes in the freezer. “Well, damn,” he thought, grabbed several ice cubes, and went back into the living room. He chewed up his ice cubes, enjoying the cold, crushed mess in his mouth, dropped himself into a big chair next to the couch, stretched his legs out, and after ten minutes or so, he was asleep.