After arranging his hair so that it was slightly tussled, in what he hoped would be a sort of carelessly attractive fashion, Perceval knocked twice in rapid succession on Algernon’s door before opening it and letting himself in. He shut the door behind himself and dropped into an extravagant bow, allowing another strand of hair to fall forward off of his shoulders. “Hello, Commandant,” Perceval said with a smile as he straightened up. “I hope I’m not disturbing you on this fine afternoon?” He’d just come from Lt. Colonel Delancy’s office and was still giddy from the success of his plan to punish Warrant Officer Christian, and he was eager to tell Algernon all about his new endeavor.
Algernon looked up from his desk when he heard the knock at the door, wondering if he had forgotten an appointment, when he realized that it was Perceval coming to see him. Smiling, he beckoned Perceval over to his desk, tapping the edge to indicate that he take a seat. "Not at all," he assure with a smirk, "It's always pleasurable to entertain your company, Percy." It amused him to see Perceval in such a giddy mood, and he couldn't help but be curious. "To what do I owe this visit? You seem especially beautiful today...you're positively glowing."
“Why thank you, sir.” Perceval covered the distance to the desk gracefully and took a seat, beaming, as he crossed his legs. “Well sir,” he began, happy to share his good news, “I have that Christian working with his old commanding officers again, as I’m sure you’ve heard; they’re investigating the leak to the Berceuse Malheureuse,” Perceval paused briefly, feeling proud of his own cunning and how perfectly everything was working out, “I stopped by there this morning, sir, to deliver a file, and I was delighted to find that Colonel Lawley is finally keeping all that scum that’s been building up in that office in line.” He smiled sweetly and pushed some of his hair back behind his ear, waiting just a moment to revile the best part of his story. “And, Warrant Officer Christian seemed to be feeling quite miserable.” Perceval added somewhat deviously as he folded his hands in his lap and waited for Algernon’s reaction.
Algernon smirked, nodding and absently twirling a lock of Perceval's hair around his finger. Though Perceval's cheerfulness amused him, he couldn't help but be pleased to hear of Christian's suffering. "I'm glad to hear it, Percy. I always did like that Lawley..." He smirked up at Perceval. "As always, Percy, very well done..." he let a hand wander to rest on Perceval's thigh. "I dare say...perfect."
Perceval smiled seductively at the touch and hoped Algernon would continue. “Thank you, sir.” He said breathily, unfolding his fingers and leaning back against his arms, savoring the feeling of the other’s hand in his hair as he gazed adoringly at Algernon, pleased by the praise but still longing for another reward of a different nature.
Algernon smirked, withdrawing his touch only to gather his papers and set them aside before moving to sit on the desk behind Perceval. Wrapping an arm tightly around his waist, he pressed a light kiss to the back of his neck. "You think you deserve a reward?" he murmured against Perceval's perfectly soft, pale skin, noting the pleased expression on the General's face. He trailed kisses down the back of his neck, then nipped and licked his way back to Perceval's jaw and pressed his lips to the spot. "You're lucky I'm so indulgent.... Ask nicely, hm?" He smirked.
Perceval shivered at the sensation of Algernon’s mouth at the back of his neck and mewled slightly as Algernon bit his skin lightly, leaving Perceval desperate for more. “Please,” Perceval whined, sounding a bit more desperate than he’d intended, “give me what you think I deserve,” he murmured, leaning back against Algernon, relishing their close proximity, and feeling quite deserving of something substantial.
Grasping Perceval by the chin and turning his head to face him, Algernon smirked. "Very well," he murmured, leaning in close before pressing a hard kiss to Perceval's lips. Careful not to break the kiss, he pulled Perceval's legs up onto the desk and straddled them so that he was completely underneath Algernon before pulling away, nipping slightly. "For doing such a good job, you deserve a bit of a reward..." He couldn't help but smirk again as he began to pull at the Perceval's clothing; it seemed that Perceval's good mood was rubbing off.
Julian sat with his hands folded neatly on top of his desk watching and waiting. He was watching Niles discreetly out of the corner of his eye to make sure no more cruelties befell him before General Rousseau arrived in response to the letter of complaint. Julian submitted the letter an hour or so earlier, and so with any luck, it would only be a matter of time before it was delivered to General Rousseau and he arrived for inspection. Until then, Julian would simply have to wait and pray that the new officers stayed away from Niles.
Vivien strummed his fingers on his desk, wondering what was going to happen with the letter of complaint that that one captain had submitted. He wasn't particularly nervous, though he was dwelling on it slightly, but that seemed to be more than either Lawley, who was, for the most part, staring at the Lt. Colonel, or his brother, who was playing with a pen mindlessly as he looked over some of the files Lawley had given them. However, Vivien didn't have much time to think it over, because at that moment, the door was opened rather grandly and Brigadier General Garnier entered the room.
Vivien felt a shiver run down his spine; even though he worked with Garnier on a regular basis and viewed him more as an annoying parental sort of rule-enforcer, his towering height and imposing stature were still rather effective. He surveyed the room with cool indifference as everyone rose and bowed before offering an icy smile. "As you were, please."
His deep voice never seemed to have the intended effect on Vivien, and he relaxed and was at ease at once. If Garnier was the one inspecting the misconduct, they'd be in no trouble at all, and they wouldn't even have to rely on their clean records to get out of it.
"Colonel Lawley, Major and Captain Holtcombe." Garnier's voice meant business, and Vivien noticed Bastien making an annoyed whine. He felt the same way; he hated getting "that talk". It wasn't as if it was going to change anything, anyway.
When the three subordinates gathered around Garnier, the Brigadier General began to speak to them, below the level of the rest of the room so that no one else could hear. Glaring at Vivien, then to Bastien, he rolled his eyes. "I told you specifically not to get into trouble with Rousseau, Hotcombe!"
Vivien wasn't sure which he meant, but he decided, as the elder, it was his job to speak. "But siiiiiiiiiiir, we were just going about normal business. How were we to know that Christian actually has friiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeends now?" He knew whining drove Garnier crazy, and slipped a grin as he finished speaking.
Garnier sighed exasperatedly. "All right, I'll take care of things, but please try to avoid trouble? You may punish Christian, but within reason, unless I command you, understood?"
"Ooooooh, all riiiiiiiight," Bastien whined. Garnier shook his head annoyedly and moved on to speak with someone else while Lawley looked bemused.
Garnier strode to the middle of the room. "All right, please let me know, who was it who made the formal complaint? I'd like to speak with him first."
Julian stood up immediately and bowed as elegantly and respectfully as he could to disguise his nervousness; he’d been expecting General Rousseau, and was quite thoroughly unprepared to face General Garnier, who Julian found rather terrifying. “I did, sir.” He said as he straightened, keeping his voice calm and level. “I was, however, under the impression that Brigadier General Rousseau would be making the inspection, sir.” So as not to seem rude, Julian bowed again quickly, and kept his eyes low even after standing back up.
Garnier nodded. "Please, at ease, Captain...Kaiser, was it?" As he’d been expecting, this man would not be a problem. "I have been informed that General Rousseau had business with the General Commandant. As to the matters at hand...Colonel Lawley has informed me that no military rules were broken, and that punishment was only dealt when the receiver had warranted such by disregarding specific orders. Is that true, Captain?"
Dragomir sat up to watch the proceedings unfolding in front of him; it was a good idea to try an official complaint, but Dragomir didn’t think it would work, especially since Kaiser appeared so nervous. It was likely that even if the Captain did manage to make a point in Niles’s defense, the General would be able to intimidate him into recanting his accusation.
“Yes, sir, but the punishment implemented was inappropriate and uncalled for.” Julian stated clearly. He refused to be pushed around, not when Niles’s fair treatment was at stake. “Sir, I believe that the Officers Holtcombe have stepped out of their jurisdiction. Their methods, sir, are medieval and unbefitting of this institution.” He bowed again, trying to be assertive enough to make his point but at the same time avoid offending the General.
Garnier glanced over his shoulder disinterestedly at Christian, who appeared to be doing his best not to seem like he was cowering, then back at the other man. "Warrant Officer Christian does not appear to be hurt, Captain. He does not appear to be harmed in any way." He thought a moment. "Christian!"
Niles jumped to his feet and bowed hurriedly when he was called. "Y-yes, sir?" The General beckoned to him, and he scurried over, afraid that he was to be punished again.
Garnier turned to him. "Did either of the Holtcombes injure you by means of punishment for a most recent infraction?" He knew Christian would be too terrified to answer yes.
"N-no, sir, they did not." Niles looked down at his feet, scared to even look up at his superior.
"Thank you, Warrant Officer. You may return to your duties." Niles bowed again and was gone.
Garnier turned back to the Captain before him. "I believe that settles that matter, Captain Kaiser." He glared. "In the future, please do not send false claims, as I'm sure General Rousseau, not unlike myself, does not like to have his time wasted." And, with a final imposing look, he turned on his heel and left the room.
Julian stood there for a moment, rather stunned by how quickly everything had happened. Why hadn't Niles said anything? Even if one of his arms had been bandaged, the other wound was still fresh, and it would have been easy to prove if Niles had only rolled up his sleeve. And his hair, Julian lamented; perhaps the General didn’t notice, but it was such a terrible, uncalled for punishment. Julian could scarcely believe Niles didn’t say anything, and began to wonder just what his old superiors had put him through to cause him to be so frightened that he couldn’t even admit to the horrors that had befallen him. With a rather dejected final look to Niles, Julian turned away. There was nothing else he could do; like Hirlea, the best thing for him to do now was to return to his desk and try to stay away from Niles.
As Kaiser walked past him looking crestfallen and depressed, Dragomir, who’d stood up again angrily when the General left without doing anything, got his attention with a gruff “hey”.
“What?” Julian asked sharply, not particularly wanting to be addressed by the monstrous Hirlea at a time like this.
Dragomir struggled for a moment, not really wanting to say what he felt he owed the Captain. “Thank you for trying,” he growled so that it sounded more like a threat than an expression of gratitude. “Something will work,” he added shortly and took his seat again, his leg aching painfully.
“Oh,” Julian said, rather surprised. “It was the least I could do, seeing as you’ve been doing absolutely nothing as of late. I suppose the situation is beyond the scope of force alone.” Julian said bitterly. Even if Hirlea was making an effort, he wouldn’t have any of it; after all, Hirlea was just as bad or possibly even worse then the new superiors. The hypocrite hurt Niles, after all, probably on a regular basis. Clenching his jaw, Julian turned and sat down at his desk, picking up a stack of papers and holding them up in front of him. He didn’t want to hear Hirlea’s response now; he felt too much like a failure himself to take anything from the other Captain.
Dragomir shook with fury as Kaiser walked away from him and slammed his fist down on the desk abruptly, trying unsuccessfully to ignore both the pain in his leg and the insult. For Niles’s sake, he couldn’t make a scene; he couldn’t do anything that might cause the Major to find some reason to punish Niles again for something he’d had no part in.
Niles sat vacantly in front of his vanity mirror, fingering his now limp and ragged hair. Once it had been long, perfect, one of the only things about his appearance that he had been proud of, and now...now it was cut short and jagged, now he was even uglier than he had been before. Staring longingly into the mirror, tears suddenly sprang to his eyes, and he began to weep silently, hopelessly.
“Niles…” Dragomir said softly, biting his lip as he limped across the room to where Niles was seated. After they got home, Dragomir immediately went to find some scissors, and in the time he’d been looking, Niles had returned to their room and moved to the mirror. Dragomir couldn’t stand to see Niles cry, and he felt a pang of resentment for Captain Kaiser. The feeling however, was a stupid one; it could have very well been anything to set the new officers off. If not Kaiser, even he could have been the one to do something to cause them to lash out at Niles. But to cut his hair…it was too cruel.
Dragomir had to do something to help him, and as he approached slowly, scissors in hand, he reviewed the damage. It was a sloppy cut just at the shoulders, but it looked like it could be repaired without losing too much length. Dragomir set the scissors down on the vanity and knelt beside Niles, relieved to get the weight off of his injured leg, and looked into Niles’s tear-filled eyes through the mirror. “I can try and fix it for you.” Dragomir said softly, running his hand through what remained of his beautiful golden hair. “It won’t be the same, but…I can cut it so that it’s even.”
Niles nodded quickly, sniffing and trying his best to blink away his tears. "Yes, please...thank you," he hiccupped, not able to bring himself to look at Dragomir directly. Even more than he was upset about how his hair, he was upset that he must look ugly to Dragomir now. He knew that Dragomir had liked his hair, Dragomir had said so on so many occasions, and Niles already was sure it was the only attractive feature he had. But now that it was gone...now Dragomir must think he was terribly ugly, and that thought, more than anything, depressed Niles.
As Dragomir set to work on his hair, Niles said softly, "I'm sorry, Dragomir..."
“Why?” Dragomir asked concernedly through the comb he was holding in his teeth while he brushed Niles’s hair out carefully. He took the comb from his mouth and ran it through Niles’s hair to get a straight line and made the first cut, level with Niles’s shoulders. Dragomir then looked back up into the mirror, trying to catch Niles’s eyes. “It’s not your fault at all, don’t be sorry.” Dragomir bit his lip as he realized Niles was avoiding his gaze. He seemed very upset about it, and Dragomir was growing more worried by the moment. “It—it’ll grow out again...” he said stupidly, trying to be reassuring.
"I know...it's just..." Biting his lip, he began to break down again, tears once more flowing freely from his eyes. "You must think me terribly ugly without it...I know I'm not very attractive at all, and my hair was the only thing that made me even vaguely pretty... I'm sorry that you'll have to look at me like this..." his voice cut off as he began to cry harder, doing his best to blink away his tears and failing miserably.
Dragomir dropped his tools and immediately wrapped his arms around Niles, pulling him into an embrace. “No, that’s not true at all!” Dragomir said firmly. “Niles, how could you think that?” Dragomir asked softly, letting Niles cry and feeling terrible himself. “I think you’re very attractive.” He said truthfully, looking into Niles’s eyes. “Your hair has always been pretty, even now I think it’s amazing…” Dragomir ran his fingers through it again, hoping both to calm Niles and reassure him. ”But it’s not just your hair, Niles, I love every bit of you…I think you’re beautiful.” Dragomir said, blushing without meaning to, and pulled Niles a little closer still, holding him tightly.
Niles nodded slowly into Dragomir's shoulder, swallowing and trying to catch his breath. "Well, I just thought...you're the only one who's ever thought I was attractive... I know I'm not very pretty at all, they-they always used to tell me so...and, my hair...it was the only way I could make myself pretty..." He hiccupped, wiping his eyes on Dragomir's jacket only to have more tears come. "You don't have to say that... I know it looks horrible now..." Glancing at the mirror and seeing the jagged edges Dragomir hadn't yet cut, he descended back into hysterics, his tears coming harder again. "Even if you don't mind...I want to be pretty...to be pretty for you..."
“You are pretty,” Dragomir asserted, “don’t listen to what they used to tell you.” Dragomir had a pretty good idea who the “they” Niles was referring to were, and he couldn’t stand to think that Niles would actually consider their opinion. “And even if your hair looks a little strange now, as soon as it’s trimmed I know it will look good again, because you always look good no matter what.” Dragomir smiled honestly and looked into Niles’s eyes again, wiping back Niles’s tears gently with his thumb, before leaning in and pressing a light kiss to Niles’s lips. “Besides,” Dragomir added, pulling back, “I think you’ll look cute with shorter hair, at least until it grows out again.”
Niles sniffed again and looking into the mirror. "...You think so...?" he asked, looking back to Dragomir. He looked so earnest, so caring, that Niles found it hard to disbelieve him. "...You really mean it?"
“Yes,” Dragomir smiled again warmly, “I’m quite sure of it.” He laughed lightly and ran his hand over Niles’s cheek with fondness. “Please don’t doubt how attractive you are, you’re perfect.” Dragomir smiled with sincerity and reached again for the scissors and comb. “So, I’ll see what I can do about your cute new haircut,” Dragomir said laughingly, hoping to bolster Niles’s sprits.
Niles managed a smile and wiped away the remaining tears with the back of his hand. Nodding, he blushed slightly. "I'm glad you think I'm perfect..." He leaned over and kissed Dragomir lightly on the lips before Dragomir returned to his hair. "I'm sure you'll do a perfect job." It was amazing how Dragomir could lighten his mood; he was already beginning to feel like maybe this new haircut wouldn't be so bad.
Perceval arranged the small collection of stylish paperweights he kept on his desk in a new order, experimenting with an asymmetrical layout. Apparently, asymmetry was coming into fashion, and Perceval felt that it offended his sensibilities. Nevertheless, he wanted to keep up with the trends, and he decided to allow his paperweights to remain in their current state. He looked up from his desk at his office and began to wonder whether the perfectly symmetrical layout would have to be rearranged as well; perhaps he needed a focus, a focal point to arrange his room around… He let his mind wander as he thought about each of his expensive sofas and fine cherry cabinets, wondering if he could stand to change the layout he’d had so long. Sighing, Perceval pulled out a mirror and examined his hair, deciding to brush it a bit while he waited for Colonel Lawley and his subordinates to arrive to discuss their plan regarding the discovery of the Berceuse Malheureuse informant. A smirk made its way to his lips as he imagined their pitiful efforts; all of it would come to nothing because he would never be suspected.
Lawley rolled his eyes as he made his way down the hallway to Brigadier General Rousseau's office. Trailing behind him, the twins were bickering about something pointless, and he found himself wishing that they’d be a bit more mature at times like these. Still, he only had a small task to complete before he got to go home for the day: to fill in the General about his plans to find the informant.
As the approached the office, he straightened his jacket out of habit, then turned and gave the Holtcombes a glare before knocking on the door and hesitating before entering. Once inside, he bowed respectfully, then, when the General permitted, took a seat at the centre of the sofa across from his superior, forcing the twins to break it up and sit on either side of him. "Good evening, sir, I hope you are well? As ordered, I have come to inform you of our plans. May I begin?" He smiled, pleased with his plan and eager to share his genius.
“Yes, please go right ahead, Colonel.” Perceval smiled, finding nothing to critique about the Colonel’s behavior. He was quite curious about the plan Colonel Lawley had come up with and was eager to learn just how the investigations unit thought they could catch an informant as clever as the one they were currently dealing with.
Lawley nodded respectfully. "With the help of Lt. Colonel Delancey, I have begun the planning phases of a raid of a Berceuse Malheureuse building in the near future. My subordinates and I have gone through the files of all of the men working in the office, and have chosen six men whom we find to be under high suspicion due to multiple factors. To each of these men, we will give a fact about the endeavor that is unique, and, when the mission is carried out, we will see which factor the Berceuse Malheureuse compensates for. This will make it clear to us who the rat is, judging by which fact is leaked." He smirked, proud of his plan. "Does that sound to be a satisfactory plan to you, sir?"
“Oh, yes, of course. I don’t see how else you could manage.” Perceval found the idea quaint; it didn’t take into account numerous factors that could alter the results of the test. “You will have to be careful, though, that none of the men under suspicion share their particular details with each other; the life and livelihoods of men under my command are at stake, and I’d hate for a mistake to cause the false accusation of an innocent.” Perceval pretended to be concerned, but really he couldn’t care less about any of his subordinates. He was however, interested in whom exactly the investigations unit had deemed suspicious, and he posed the question delicately. ”I do hope it would not jeopardize the mission in anyway if I were to know which of my men you believe have the potential of informing the Berceuse Malheureuse?”
Lawley blinked. "Oh, of course you can know, sir, you're not under any suspicion." He chuckled slightly at the idea, then thought a moment. "The men under suspicion are Atherton, Badeau, Bontecou, Hirlea, Pomeroy, and Weser. The facts given, please excuse my vagueness, are about snipers waiting in surrounding buildings, a back door entrance, another entrance, a whore we have working for us in the location, a man we have working undercover, and the location of half of the backup, respectively. Does it all sound satisfactory to you, sir?"
Perceval smiled, bemused by the Colonel’s little joke. He then listened as Colonel Lawley listed off the names absently, uninterested until he recognized a particular name: Hirlea. The corner of his mouth twitched with a suppressed smirk as he began working though a new plot in his mind. By ruining Hirlea, Perceval was certain Christian would be made to suffer as well. He could kill two birds with one stone without lifting a finger; he needed only to inform the Berceuse Malheureuse of the military’s plan to implement a prostitute in their next raid. That way, Perceval could protect his identity by insuring that Hirlea took the blame for the leak. “Excellent. I’m so glad you’ve worked this all out, Colonel. You’ve done a fine job,” Perceval praised, feeling quite thoroughly pleased with himself. “Well, then,” Perceval smiled, getting to his feet, “Thank you for reporting to me. I do believe that is all I require of you for now, gentlemen.”
Lawley nodded, rising and bowing to the General before wishing him a good evening and stepping back out into the hallway. The twins, a few paces behind him, immediately picked up their argument where they left off, but now, Lawley wasn't concerned. Having consulted the Brigadier General about his plan had only strengthened his assurance that his plan was perfect. Perhaps, once he had gotten the rat, he might even get a promotion, and certainly he would win over the Lt. Colonel. He smirked to himself, returning to the office to collect his things. Life was good.
Donavan was sorting through stacks of various handwritten documents looking for ideal resources to pass to Faustino, whom he had copying the handwriting and especially the signatures of various people, important and unknown alike. It was unlikely Faustino would have use for such a skill in carrying out his part of Algernon’s scheme, but Donavan considered forgery to be an important art for Faustino to cultivate. Aside from that, Donavan had caught himself making excuses why not to start Faustino’s real training on a number of occasions, and he imagined his current fixation on teaching Faustino to forge a signature was just another silly excuse. Still, it was useful, he justified, and like everything else Faustino did, he seemed to have a natural knack for the activity.
“Oh, this is a good one.” Donavan smirked, passing Faustino a document he’d taken from his cousin while they’d been staying with him. It was signed by an important criminal prosecutor that worked for the military’s justice department, and Donavan, too, took note of the curious way the man wrote his ‘f’s. “Why don’t you see if you can copy that?”
Faustino smiled. "Okay!" Leaning over the desk, he took a closer look at the signature, then dipped his quill in ink and began to write. It being his first time with this particular signature, he wrote slowly, copying the shapes exactly. Still, when he was finished, the writing was blotchy and unnatural looking, because he had written so slowly and stopped at points. Laughing slightly in embarrassment, he glanced up at Donavan. "Let me try it again."
Donavan laughed lightly as well, reviewing the work. “Not bad, for a first try, though. If you can do it faster, you’ll be on the right track.” Donavan grinned and watched as Faustino practiced, deriving the utmost satisfaction from the simple act of watching his protégé perform. Faustino was brilliant at everything Donavan taught him, and Donavan never ceased to be impressed by his skills.
Faustino was just passing Donavan the paper with his third attempt when there was a fast knock at the door at the maid hurried inside to Donavan and knelt to whisper quickly, almost panicked, into his ear, “There’s someone here for you, sir.” Donavan’s eyes narrowed and he sat for a few seconds, deciding on what should be done. Judging bit the maid’s reaction, the man was almost certainly from the Berceuse Malheureuse, though in what capacity he’d come, Donavan could not tell. As far as he knew, no one from the organization even knew he was staying at the Esparanza manor, and he was curious as to how they’d learned his whereabouts and why they’d come.
“Well, show him in.” Donavan said plainly after a second’s hesitation. As the maid bowed and left, seeming somewhat frightened, Donavan cocked his pistol in his holster; this man could have very well been sent as an assassin from his father’s faction, one that was against cooperation with the military. Keeping his hand on the hilt of his pistol, Donavan turned and smiled apologetically at Faustino. “I’m so sorry for the interruption; I’m sure this will only take a second.”
Faustino blinked. "Oh--okay, then, I'll keep working, then." He smiled, though he was feeling a little unsure; he had seen Donavan put his hand to his gun, and he was worried that something might happen to him. He still had nightmares about that time so long ago when Donavan had lain, bleeding, on the floor of that church, and he was horrified of something similar happening again. He had figured on his own that Donavan had enemies, and he didn't want anything bad to happen to him.
The door opened presently, and a rather scruffy, fat man entered the room, followed anxiously by the maid, who looked quickly to Donavan, as if seeking a confirmation that he really did want to speak to the somewhat suspicious looking character. Donavan smiled to her slightly, and she seemed to understand and left the room quickly, shutting the door behind her. Donavan got to his feet and smiled at the man disinterestedly, moving to stand in front of Faustino. That being done, he drew his weapon and raised it to the level of the man’s face. “State your purpose,” he said plainly in a tone that did not match his actions in the slightest.
The man put his hands in the air and sputtered quickly, “I was sent to give you a message! Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” He waved his hands wildly and shut his eyes, flinching away as if expecting Donavan to fire at any second.
“Oh? From who?” Donavan asked, at last sounding interested, but still not malicious, despite the fact that his aim had not strayed from the man’s forehead.
“I don’t know!” the man said loudly, defensively. “I-I have a letter, it’s in my pocket, if you’ll just let me—“
“Which pocket?” Donavan interrupted, striding across the room in a few paces to stand next to the now terrified man and press the weapon to his head.
The man was shaking violently with fear now, but he managed to sputter, “In my vest!” in an unnaturally high voice.
Donavan smirked cruelly, and reached into the man’s vest pocket, retrieving a small piece of fine paper that could have only come from Perceval. Smirking, Donavan broke the wax seal and skimmed the lengthy letter written in a code he and his cousin had devised as boys, and skipped right to the postscript. Following the lines “your most sincere and affectionate associate in whose thoughts you constantly reside,” and a fake, illegible signature, Perceval had written somewhat hastily, “this poor little pidgin I’ve been keeping to make my deliveries is looking quite feeble lately…I worry he may have seen something to upset him. He suffers so much, I wondered if you could help him?”
Donavan understood immediately, and he was quite sure the script had been added last minute because he found Perceval’s efforts quite lack-luster. But obviously, the man was on to the two of them, and Perceval wanted something done about it. Folding up the letter, Donavan started guiding the man out of the room by applying pressure to his temple with the gun, and called back to Faustino as he reached the door, “Sorry Faustino, I’ll only be a minute.”
On his way out, Donavan kicked the door shut with his foot and pushed the man roughly to the end of the hall, ignoring his feeble cries and excuses as he fell onto his hands and knees at Donavan’s feet, begging for forgiveness. Donavan merely laughed and kicked him in the face so that he fell to the floor, writhing like a dog, and died, pissing himself, when the bullet struck his temple. Smirking, Donavan extracted the handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the blood from his face and jacket before summoning the maid to clean the mess and returning to Faustino with a bright smile. “Sorry for the interruption.” Donavan beamed, taking his seat across Faustino and pulling the stack of papers he was still sorting in front of him.
When Donavan drew his gun, Faustino began to feel even more nervous, now knowing why Donavan considered this man to be a threat. He waited anxiously as Donavan led the man out of the room, and was just beginning to calm down enough to wonder what was going on when he heard the gunshot. He jumped; he felt as if his heart were in his throat. Sure, Donavan had been armed and ready when they left the room, but what if the man had managed to disarm him? What if he had surprised Donavan? What if-
But then Donavan was striding into the room, a bloodied handkerchief in hand, and Faustino couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief, rising from his chair and running to Donavan's side to throw his arms around him. "Oh, Donavan...I'm sorry...I was afraid for you!" At that moment, however, he began to realize that, since Donavan was still alive, the other man must be dead. Still, he was reluctant to let go, and so he instead just looked up at Donavan. "What did he do to you...did he try to hurt you?" It wasn't that Faustino blamed Donavan for anything; after all, whatever Donavan did had to be okay, but he just wanted some sort of explanation for such a drastic event.
Donavan had expected Faustino to be shaken, but he was surprised to find that Faustino had been worried about him. Nevertheless, Donavan held on to Faustino and realized that this was the perfect opportunity to teach him one of the most important aspects of his training; he had to grow numb to death. If it affected him, if the death of a useless man struck a chord and drew any sort of sympathy, Faustino would never last in the world Donavan had dragged him into.
Donavan chuckled at Faustino’s question, getting out of his chair and kneeling so that he could face him at eyelevel. “Oh, he was armed,” Donavan said casually, explaining, “I could see the weight of the pistol in his pocket—did you notice it? But he never drew the weapon.” A cruel smirk slid across his features and he said with satisfaction, “I didn’t give him the opportunity.” Of course, Donavan didn’t want to give Faustino the wrong idea; he had not killed the man because he was afraid for his own life, oh no, he’d killed the man for the pure pleasure of doing so himself. “Cousin Percy,” Donavan said affectionately with a light laugh, “Thought that that man may have found out something that would hurt him, and he asked me to take care of the problem before it became any worse. I simply removed the threat.” Donavan smiled kindly and looked into Faustino’s eyes. “Besides,” he added, somewhat jokingly, “I was angry that we’d been interrupted. I told all of my friends not to bother me while I’m here, because when I’m here, I want to be with you.”
Faustino was in a sort-of dazed state of surprise as Donavan began talking to him. Faustino was not a particular fan of killing; after all, when his father had been killed, it made his mother so sad, but here, Donavan was saying it was necessary, it was important to kill, and so he nodded slowly. If the man had been a threat to Donavan, then it was important that he die, no matter what, and, with this justification, Faustino was able to wrap his mind around it all, and he smiled at Donavan's last comment. "I understand," he replied assuredly, having lost any doubt in the process of the explanation. Breaking into a grin, he added, "I don't want to be interrupted, either. All the time you're here, I want to be with you."
Donavan smiled and ruffled Faustino’s hair affectionately. “I’m glad,” he said, standing up and taking his seat again. “I don’t want to make you do anything against your will.” Donavan laughed lightly at the irony only he could see in the statement; he was taking extra precaution to bend Faustino’s will and to make him want to do the things Donavan saw fit for him to do. Really, it was quite brilliant, but at times Donavan felt a little bad for manipulating him. Still, Donavan knew that regardless of everything else, Faustino cared about him, and Donavan cared about Faustino. That, at least, made everything unpleasant Donavan put the boy through bearable, and quite often enjoyable.
Faustino blinked. "Of course you're not making me do anything I don't want to do!" He laughed at the absurdity of the statement. "Anything you say is the right thing to do, I want to do!" He nodded decisively. "Next to mother, you're the most important person to me! I want to do anything you want me to do." He smiled brightly, hoping Donavan would believe him.
“It’s good I can count on you, then,” Donavan said genuinely. “You’re so intelligent I really have to stay on my toes to keep you challenged. Just let me know if there’s ever something in particular you’d like me to teach you.” Then, pausing for a moment, Donavan added thoughtfully, “You are the most important person to me, Faustino. It’s good to know that I’m important to you.” For once, everything Donavan said was true, and there were no hidden intentions. Donavan truly wanted to make sure he kept things interesting for his protégé, who had quickly become the only person of any worth or value to him.
Faustino smiled warmly back. "Anything you want me to do, that's what I want to do," he repeated. "After all, I love you!" It came out of his mouth before he thought about it, but once he said it, he knew it was true. Besides his mother, Donavan was the most important person to him. He knew that wherever Donavan led him, Faustino would follow, in trust and admiration. He knew he would do whatever Donavan asked of him, simply because, all else ignored, he loved Donavan. Contented in this fact, he returned to his work, lifting his pen and quickly duplicating the signature exactly.
Grinning, proud of himself, he displayed it to Donavan. "How does this look?"
Donavan was surprised by Faustino’s declaration; honestly, he’d never thought anyone, let alone Faustino, would every say that to him. But then again, he rationalized, to Faustino he was probably like a father figure. While that too was a little hard to wrap his mind around, it made the expression easier to accept, somehow. Extracting himself from his thoughts, Donavan looked over the signature carefully, and then compared it to the original. “Nicely done,” he smirked with satisfaction. “I think it came out perfect.”