"One of those days I am going to shove Rayhe on the plane and leave this damn city for good," the tall brunet said gloomily, staring out of the window with disgust. The rain kept unleashing its fury, and it didn't seem that it would calm down any time soon. "Gonna move someplace where it doesn't rain… Ever," he added with a firm nod and drank more coffee out of his mug.
"No, you won't," a petite redhead said absent-mindedly, her pencil pausing above a sheet of paper. "It will drive you nuts."
"The absence of rain?" The brunet snorted and emptied his coffee mug. "It would be the greatest gift ever…!"
"No, it wouldn't," the redhead sighed and briefly glanced at him, tearing her gaze away from the paper on the desk. "Rain gives you something to bitch about," she grinned. "If you won't have anything to bitch about, you'll go nuts!"
The brunet snorted and set his mug on the windowsill.
"Believe me," he sighed and jerked the curtains closed, isolating himself from hateful water outside. "I will always find something to bitch about," he nodded again and glanced at the clock. "It's a gift," he shrugged when he saw the expression on redhead's face. "Anyway," he sighed with more defeat this time. "I was hoping that it would clear up by now, but I guess I will have to deal with this crap if I want to go home."
"Suck it up, Rae," the redhead grinned once again.
"Yeah, yeah," the man muttered. "Have fun, Tess…!"
"Don't you know it," the redhead nodded busily while returning her full-undivided attention to the paper in front of her. "See you tomorrow, Desmond…"
The brunet was about to say something when his phone rang. He let out a small sigh and dove his hand into his pocket.
"Yes, Rayhe," he said in somewhat mild tone several seconds later. "I am coming home tonight even though it's raining like no… What?" he frowned and glanced around as if looking for something. "Why…? Just tell me," he rolled his eyes. "Dammit, Rayhe…!" he growled impatiently and yanked the television remote control from underneath the redhead's elbow. "Fine, fine…" he muttered while pointing the remote control at the TV that sat by the wall. "You do sound weird," he shrugged to himself, noting that the redhead put her paper away and looked at the TV screen with mild curiosity. "I am not hanging up on you…" he said several seconds later when TV came to life. "Which channel…? Got it…" he pushed the button on the black gadget several times, quickly scanning through the channels. "Why…?" he frowned at something the phone said. "Rayhe," he rolled his eyes and turned up the volume. "I don't need to sit down. I don't think that I would be shaken to my fragile core…! It takes more than some news report to shake me to…"
Here he stopped talking, frowned deeper than before, and turned up the volume even more, staring into the screen.
"…The memorial service will be held tomorrow at four in the afternoon," the reporter was saying, grave expression on his face. "It is certainly a great loss; Julian Salamander was one of the most magnificent figures in…"
"Holy hell…" Desmond said slowly. "I need to sit down…"
"Uh huh…" Desmond said into the phone several hours later, a cigarette sticking between his teeth. "Kid, you are stuttering…! Right," he hemmed and pulled that cigarette out of his mouth, absent-mindedly stabbing it in the ashtray. "Don't get too drunk, kid," he nodded a minute later. "Make sure that the fire-guy gives you a bucket on the way back so you don't puke all over the car… You never know," he shrugged at the something that came from the phone. "Uh huh…Later, kid," he grinned and snapped the phone shut.
"He is celebrating, isn't he?" came a sighing question from behind his back.
Desmond turned around.
"Yes, Rayhe," he nodded and slowly sat down. "He is celebrating."
He fell silent, thoughtfully staring into the wall. Rayhe let out another sigh and sat down as well, watching him with a small frown.
"Holy hell," he said finally without shifting his gaze from Desmond's unmoving face. "Are you actually grieving…?"
"I am not grieving," Desmond didn't bother with an eye roll. "I…" he paused for a few seconds, and then frowned. "I don't know what I am feeling," he said finally and looked at Rayhe, tearing his gaze away from the wall. "On one hand, I can't believe that he is dead because I wished for it so many times…! On the other hand…" He reached for cigarettes again. "Well," he shrugged after he lit one up. "I can't believe that he is dead…" he nodded. "I wonder if it's some sort of publicity stunt…"
"No," Rayhe shook his head immediately. "He doesn't need any more publicity…" Here he frowned. "Didn't need," he corrected himself.
"Did they say what happened?" Desmond tilted his head slightly to the right.
"No," Rayhe shook his head again. "They just said that it was some tragic accident."
"Accident…" Desmond repeated doubtfully. "I don't believe in accidents…" He grabbed his phone again. "Rayhe…" he glanced at the other man. "Go pack a bag; we are going on a trip."
"Why?" Rayhe blinked at that. "To pay your last…"
"No," Desmond interrupted him impatiently. "I won't believe it until I see him in the goddamn coffin with my own eyes!"
"Just don't take any pictures," Rayhe sighed and got up.
"Gabriel…!" Desmond called after Rayhe turned around, ready to leave the kitchen. "Stove," he said quickly and returned his attention to the phone pressed against his ear. "Evening," he said into the phone. "I would like to reserve two tickets for the next flight to…"
Gabriel lightly smacked himself on the forehead when he realized that he completely forgot to turn off the stove. He quickly turned the knob, and then thoughtfully stared at the burner, his arms propped on his sides
"I can't believe it either," he muttered finally and left the kitchen with a small sigh.
"I am wondering how many people are going to show up with smiles on their faces," Desmond said in a low voice, glancing around.
The street was all but flooded by cars and people. Almost every single car was black.
"You mean, except for you?" Gabriel asked in the same low voice.
"I am not smiling," Desmond replied seriously, glancing around once again before finally crossing the street, heading towards the white building of the church.
"You finally mastered self-control," Rayhe hemmed, walking next to him. "Didn't think you could."
"That and I don't feel like smiling," Desmond shrugged, ignoring several somewhat puzzled looks he received because of his usual denim attire.
"Des," Gabriel sighed after they paused behind the line of people. "You seriously need to invest into at least one pair of slacks…"
"I might," Desmond said absent-mindedly, and Gabriel blinked at the lack of expected 'Shut up, Rayhe!'
They waited in line for fifteen or so minutes, and finally, they were close enough to be able to see the impressive size coffin on the pedestal.
"Holy hell," Desmond muttered. "Rayhe, this is real…"
"Yes," Gabriel nodded slowly without looking away from that coffin.
"Thank you for coming…" they heard several minutes later and shifted their gazes at the same time. "It means a lot…"
A minute later, they came face to face with a slender, rather short man, with bizarre eye color - one of his eyes was light blue while the other was dark brown.
"Thanks for coming," the man said, stretching his arm forward automatically, his strange eyes fixed on something only he could see. "It means…"
"Raven," Desmond interrupted him quietly, and the man finally blinked.
He looked at both of them with a small, slightly confused frown and slowly lowered his arm.
"What are you doing here?" he asked with dull curiosity. "You hated him…" Here he hemmed and glanced at the line of people behind them. "Then again," he shrugged. "So did everyone else here…" He shifted his gaze towards Desmond's face, and suddenly, there was a small, eerie smile playing on his mouth. "Had to see it with your own eyes, huh?" he asked in a low voice, and Desmond blinked.
"Raven, we are sorry," Rayhe said quietly, and Raven gave him an absent-minded nod.
"Where are you staying?" he asked suddenly, and Desmond tore his gaze away from the coffin.
The blond looked just as he always did - impeccable. Except now, that perfection was frozen.
"Continental," Desmond said, and Raven nodded again.
"When are you leaving?" he asked when Desmond was about to nod his goodbye.
"Sunday night," Gabriel answered, and received yet another absent-minded nod. "Goodbye, Raven," he said a couple of minutes later when the smaller man became quiet again.
They went away, hearing continuous 'Thanks for coming' behind them.
"He is empty," Desmond said suddenly when they were crossing the street.
"How so?" Gabriel yanked him to the right to avoid a rather large puddle of water that Desmond completely ignored.
"No thoughts, no feelings, no emotions," Desmond followed him without arguing. "Something stirred when he saw us, but now…" He glanced behind his shoulder at the endless flow of black-wearing people. "He is empty again."
"He is not empty," Gabriel sighed and pulled a set of car keys out of his pocket. "He is frozen. There is a difference."
"Maybe," Desmond shrugged and looked at him. "Give me the keys, I am driving."
"Like hell you are," Gabriel nodded seriously and walked towards the driver's door. "This is rental; I don't want to pay extra just because you managed to ruin something inside it by driving like a maniac."
"Get in the car," Gabriel nodded again. Then he sighed and straightened up. "Des, just get in the car," he said in unexpectedly tired voice.
Desmond looked at him for several seconds, and then simply nodded and slid into the passenger's seat, rolling down the window, his expression thoughtful.
On Sunday morning, Desmond woke up because of loud knocking on the door.
"Go away," he called without opening his eyes.
The knocking continued without even stuttering. Desmond sighed and opened his eyes, searching for the clock.
"Bloody hell," he muttered when he saw it was only six in the morning.
He got out of bed and pulled on his pants, imagining the sound the broken neck of whoever was abusing their door would make after he got his hands on it.
"Prepare to die," he muttered and jerked the door open. Then he blinked. "Raven," he said slowly and stepped aside, letting the man in.
"Woke you up, huh," Raven said in a thoughtful manner, eyeing Desmond's wild hair, bare feet, and lack of shirt.
"No, no," Desmond shut the door. "I was wide awake; I don't bother with shirts or hairbrushes when I am inside," he nodded, and Raven's mouth twitched in a slight resemblance of a smile. "Coffee?"
"Sure," the other man nodded and followed him to the kitchen area of the room.
"Hey, Raven," someone said several minutes later when Raven was watching Desmond work the small coffeemaker.
He turned around.
"Hey, Gabriel," he nodded. "Sorry for waking you up."
"No, no," Rayhe shook his head and suppressed a yawn. "I was wide awake…"
Raven blinked at that and said nothing. All three of them were silent until the coffeemaker started to hiss with annoyed satisfaction. Desmond looked in one of the cabinets for several minutes, and then sighed and pulled out three plastic cups.
"That's all they have," he said darkly. "I guess they don't want guests to steal dishware…"
"That works," Raven nodded, his expression calm once again.
They drank coffee in silence, and finally, Raven lowered his cup and looked up.
"The funeral is today at noon," he said calmly. "Close friends and immediate family only… I want you to come," he finished with a slight nod.
Desmond frowned at that, and Gabriel leaned on the wall without lowering his plastic cup.
"Raven…" he started saying slowly, but the smaller man interrupted him.
"After everything that we've been through," he said in the same tranquil manner as before. "You certainly qualify for 'close'… Not friends, of course," he shrugged. "But definitely 'close'…"
"Raven…" Gabriel sighed, but Desmond interrupted him.
"We'll be there," he said quietly, and Raven gave him a small, absent-minded smile.
They stood in silence once again. Raven set his cup on the table very carefully, as if he were afraid that the cup would break into pieces if he weren't cautious.
"Sorry for waking you up," he said with another slight nod. "I will see you at noon… Oh, yeah," he blinked and put his hand into his pocket. "This is the address," he put a folded piece of paper on the table, next to his cup. "Almost forgot."
"What happened?" Desmond asked suddenly when Raven was about to turn around and head towards the door.
The smaller man froze in his spot for several silent seconds, and then he let out a sigh and looked at the plastic cup on the table.
"A black stream," he said evenly. "Obnoxiously open, unmasked black stream. Whoever sent it didn't even bother to camouflage it. Came out of nowhere, without any warning," he looked at the cup very thoughtfully.
"Just one?" Rayhe asked quietly, and Raven nodded without looking at him.
"Yes," he said. "Just one. Pure brute force, unbelievable strength… Good aim too," he shrugged and finally looked away from the cup. "He didn't stand a chance."
"How do you know it was a black stream?" Desmond frowned. "You can't see any streams, can you?"
"Black streams are different," Gabriel sighed. "If it's unhidden, you don't need to be able to control magic; you just see it. Black light," he nodded. "A flash of black light," he sighed again.
"Do you know who sent it?" Desmond asked after several minutes of silence.
"No," Raven straightened up. "Nobody could trace it. I will see you at noon," he said with a slight nod.
"See you then," Desmond muttered, watching him walk towards the front door. "All it took was one single hit?" he looked at Gabriel after Raven left the room. "Why hasn't it happened sooner…? I mean," he shrugged and walked towards the bed. "With his reputation… If it was this simple, then why…"
"Oh, that's not simple," Gabriel interrupted him and grabbed a pack of cigarettes out of Desmond's hand. "Black streams are never simple. To begin with, they are rare, which is a very good thing," he nodded firmly and threw the lighter on the blanket. "And to kill someone from the distance with one single jolt…" He shook his head. "Requires a hell of a lot of strength and power. Definitely not simple… Almost impossible, actually," he frowned. "I guess whoever did it, knew that they only had one chance," he looked at his cigarette. "Because if they used more than just one, he would be able to block everything after the first hit. It would probably make him sick for a couple of weeks, but that would be all. To kill him with one single jolt… Damn…!" he said with feeling and dragged on his cigarette.
"I see," Desmond said thoughtfully. Then he blinked and frowned.
"What?" Gabriel narrowed his eyes at Desmond's expression.
"I just thought about it," Desmond said slowly, frown deepening on his forehead. "Do you think our Blue Line will get cancelled?"
Gabriel blinked at that.
"Probably," he nodded after a minute of thoughtful silence.
"Well, shit," Desmond said gloomily.
They shivered in a sudden burst of cold wind, and Desmond winced when he felt a raindrop land on his face.
"Dammit," he muttered under his breath and glanced around again, ignoring whatever the funeral caretaker was saying above the open grave.
There were seven people at the cemetery, Desmond and Gabriel included. Desmond recognized one of them - it was a man, whose built reminded Desmond of a wardrobe, his posture rigid, expression blank. When he saw Desmond walk into the cemetery half an hour earlier, he blinked quite rapidly as if not believing his eyes, which was probably the case. Then he frowned thoughtfully, after seeing Raven exchange handshakes and several words with both men, and after Desmond looked at him, the man gave him a curt, stiff nod, which Desmond returned.
That was the only person Desmond recognized. There was a man with painfully rigid back, whose hands were clasped tightly behind his back; identical twins, whose fingers were entwined with each other's; and a tall blonde woman, whose expression was a mix of gloomy annoyance and hesitant sadness.
Desmond looked at the blonde thoughtfully - she reminded him of Julian. He figured that it must be Salamander's sister. He shivered in another sudden blast of the wind, and sighed inaudibly when there were more raindrops prickling his skin.
"Let's go, Rayhe," he said quietly some time later, after the grave wasn't open anymore. "It's raining," he nodded when Gabriel looked at him silently.
"Right," Gabriel muttered and threw a quick glance at Raven.
"He is not coming," Desmond said in the same quiet manner. "He is…" he narrowed his eyes slightly. "He is wondering whether he would need a tent," he said slowly without looking away from Raven, whose face was a blank, tranquil mask.
"A tent?" Gabriel repeated dumbfoundedly. "Why would he need a tent?"
Desmond sighed and looked at him.
"Because he is not going anywhere," he nodded. He glanced at Raven once again. "He is going to stay next to that grave," he muttered thoughtfully. "For a very long time…" He shook his head. "Let's go, Rayhe."
Gabriel followed him towards the cemetery gate without saying anything.
"Rayhe," Desmond said when they were by the car, and Gabriel silently handed him the keys. "No," he shook his head. "I don't care about that right now…"
Gabriel shrugged and unlocked the car.
"Rayhe," Desmond said again after they got inside and shut both doors. "Don't ever leave me like this…" He glanced towards the cemetery.
"I won't," Gabriel said quietly after a minute of silence interrupted by methodical explosions of raindrops on the roof of the car. "If I am about to die, I'll make sure that I kill you first," he nodded firmly, and Desmond seemed thoughtful for a few seconds.
"That works," he said finally, his expression serious, and Gabriel gave him a quick grin.
Desmond sighed and put his hand on top of Gabriel's, entwining their fingers together around the gear stick.
"Step on it, Rayhe," he said softly, and Gabriel obliged.