Claimer: Our characters, plz.
Warnings: yaoi, yuri, language, angst, angst, ANGST!
Placidly, Dragomir allowed himself be lead by the guard to the adjoining cell where he was to await his visitor. Pervious disobedience had taught him that it was better not to struggle; he had a bruise on his left eye to show as proof of his lesson. He didn’t know why he had fought back, anyway. He was already long past to point where struggle could get him anywhere.
When the Colonel gave the order to arrest him, Dragomir been taken so off guard that he practically let it happen—three officers rushed at him, easily overwhelming him, and dragged him over to the Colonel. Like an idiot, he’d tried to fight then, but before he knew exactly what was going on, he’d been handcuffed.
Dragomir heard Niles before he saw him, and at the sound of his screams, Dragomir’s rage went in overdrive; viciously, he attacked whoever he could, however he could manage, as he fought to get to Niles. The last thing he remembered before they knocked him out was seeing Niles, struggling against two more officers who’d been ordered to restrain him.
Dragomir came to as they were depositing him in the cell, and the first thing he did when he was uncuffed was hit the guard hard enough to break his nose. He knew Niles would come to see him, and he was desperate to see him, but at the same time, part of Dragomir didn’t want Niles to see him like a criminal…
After thinking it all through, Dragomir realized he still didn’t know why he was in jail, but even if it had been an innocent mistake, he’d probably gotten into enough trouble already to warrant the punishment, and that fact made him even more ashamed to see Niles. He had a stupid tendency to make things worse for himself, and it always affected Niles.
The room the guard led him into was divided roughly in half by a crude wall of thick bars, and the sunlight, the first he’d seen since the day before, made an uneven checkerboard-like pattern on the floor. Dragomir blinked rapidly to adjust to the light, and the guard pushed him into a chair roughly. Dragomir stood immediately, whipping his head around just in time to see the guard disappear through the door from which they’d come. Dragomir sighed, sitting again. At least they were granting them the courtesy of a private meeting. He looked anxiously to the door at the other side of the room, waiting apprehensively for Niles.
Niles took a deep breath and willed himself, for the hundred-millionth time in the past few minutes, not to cry when he saw Dragomir. The officer who was to take him in regarded him coldly; obviously, the friend of a traitor was no friend of the military. Niles regretted not coming in uniform, at least to get some respect, but it was a weekend, and he hadn't thought about it. All he could think of was getting to Dragomir.
He waited anxiously as the guard checked his parcel, paranoid that something would go wrong. He had, in a moment of forethought in the sleepless night before, packed a few things Dragomir would want: a clean outfit, an assortment of salted meats he knew Dragomir liked, and a large blanket. He couldn't even conceive of what it must be like in jail, but he wanted to do whatever he could to make it even the tiniest bit better for Dragomir.
After what felt like eons, the parcel was okayed, and the guard waited for Niles to carefully retie the paper and string before unlocking the door to the adjacent room and holding it for Niles, informing him that he had half an hour, and shutting and locking it behind him. Niles barely noticed anything the guard did, however, because once he was inside the room, his eyes went immediately to Dragomir. Behind the cold metal bars, he stood, forlorn, sullen, still covered in dried blood and filth from the night before. It took a moment for Niles to absorb it all, and then all his will broke. Parcel cast aside in emotion, the tears came full-force as he flung himself against the bars as if he was the prisoner, sobbing wretchedly. "Oh, Dragomir, Dragomir..." was all he could manage, choking on his tears.
“Niles!” Dragomir gasped, pressing against the bars as well and squeezing his arms through to place them around Niles in a feeble attempt to hold him. The metal was cold against his body, but Dragomir didn’t care; he was with Niles, at last, and though he was acutely ashamed of his current circumstances, that didn’t matter either. Niles mattered. Dumbly he asked, as if they’d just been reunited after last night’s mission, “You’re not hurt, are you?” He felt miserable, and acting as if nothing was wrong and ignoring the horrible situation didn’t help nearly as much as he wished it would, but it was an important question, and he had to know the answer.
Niles nodded hurriedly, sniffing sordidly. "After they...they took you away, they brought me back and punished me..." he winced unconsciously at the memory of the bruises that had been left by the strong men who had been restraining him, "but I didn't feel any of it, Dragomir, I was just so worried about you." His tears came harder, and it took a moment for him to get control of himself, but Dragomir's arms around him through the bars calmed him slightly, and he was able to speak again. "Oh, Dragomir, they think you're the traitor! The girl that died, the records they couldn't get...I don't know what happened, I only heard bits and pieces, but they...they think it's all your fault. I don't know why, I don't know what to do..." His condition quickly dissolved again and he crumbled into hysterics once more, his sobs shaking his body against the cold metal.
“What?” Dragomir asked, disbelievingly, a bit of anger prickling within him at the very notion of having anything to do Berceuse Malheureuse. He tried to press a little closer to Niles through the bars to soothe Niles and seeking comfort himself. He couldn’t understand what might lead them to think he’d been the one passing all the information, that the death of that girl had been his fault. There was no proof, there couldn’t be! He was innocent! Surely…surely they didn’t think he’d go back…? “Why?” he choked out plaintively, gripping the folds of Niles’s coat and breathing a little harder with the emotion of it all.
"I don't know! I don't understand. I just...I don't know!" Niles choked, shaking his head. "I don't know, Dragomir, I'm so sorry..." He swallowed a few times and willed his tears back, looking up to meet Dragomir's eyes. "I'll find a way to get you out, I'll do everything I can," he promised. "I love you, Dragomir." He smiled weakly, trying his hardest to even make Dragomir feel the tiniest bit better.
Dragomir nodded slowly, still a little shaken by the newest information. “I know you will.” He managed, not quite able to summon up a smile. He swallowed weakly and looked into Niles’s eyes, taking comfort in the other’s reassuring presence. “I love you so much…They won’t be able to keep me in here. I’m innocent.” At that moment, Dragomir wished more than anything he could hold Niles unhindered by the bars. After only the few hours they’d been apart, it was already beginning to feel like they’d been separated for eons, and Dragomir could hardly stand it. He closed his eyes and let out a shaky breath; they’d be together soon. “I know you’ll get me out.” He spoke with more confidence this time, and opened his eyes, pulling Niles a little closer through the bars, just barely managing a soft kiss to reaffirm his love and devotion.
Niles pressed desperately against the bars, trying to make the fleeting kiss last, to make it more tangible, solid, but in a second, it was over, and he drew back slightly, clasping Dragomir's hands in his reassuringly. "As soon as I can," he assured, "You'll be out of here in no time." His smile was still weak as he tried to convince himself, but he knew his determination wouldn't let him rest until he had fulfilled the promise.
Pulling away for a second, he collected his parcel and brought it back over to Dragomir, passing it to him through the bars. "Look, I brought some things for you... I know it's not much, but there's a change of clothes, since those are all soiled, and a blanket, in case it gets cold in here, and some things to eat, I had some of that venison I know you like specially prepared, and it's salted so it will last a while, and if you want anything else, you let me know, and I'll bring it in tomorrow, okay?" He swallowed, fighting back his tears and managing another watery smile.
“Thank you…” Dragomir at last found a weak smile, and wiped at his eyes with his sleeve so that it could show, as he hugged the parcel to him, admiring Niles’s foresight. “This…this will make a big difference.” Dragomir gulped, biting his lip and feeling that his thanks were quite inadequate to express how grateful he was for the few small comforts Niles had assembled for him. “I can’t…I can’t imagine being away from you…” Dragomir reached for Niles’s hand through the bars and held it tightly, thinking absurdly that he simply wouldn’t let go when their time ran out. “Will you be all right?” he asked anxiously, worrying that someone might try to do something to Niles because of his situation. “And you’ll come tomorrow?” Dragomir added, feeling childishly insecure and already dreading the inevitability of being alone.
Tears came to Niles' eyes again, and he nodded quickly. "I'll-I'll be fine," he assured with an even-weaker smile. He had not slept the night before, he had not been able to eat, and when he had tried, he had retched not long after, he had barely been able to think beyond Dragomir, but he knew he couldn't tell Dragomir any of it. He had to make sure Dragomir wasn't worried about him, as well, had to make sure Dragomir at least had peace of mind about one thing. "And I'll be here tomorrow as soon as possible," he promised. "I'll try to bring another change of clothes, if you like, and I'll have the ones from before cleaned, if you give them back to me. Is there anything else I can bring you?" He swallowed, pressing his body back against the bars, anything to be as near as possible to Dragomir. "Oh, Dragomir, I can't imagine being away from you, either... I don't want to go..."
“No…it’s all right. Don’t worry about me.” Dragomir wrapped his arms around Niles again, dreading the passage of time. “Just getting to see you…even for such a short time…makes all the difference.” At least he had Niles, no matter what. Niles knew he was innocent, and he’d visit him. Dragomir knew he could make it with Niles’s visits to look forward to, and with the knowledge that Niles would be working to get him out.
Algernon sat idly at his desk, strumming his fingers against the wood in boredom. He was at the office on a Saturday, as he almost always had to be, to finish paperwork and manage assorted other matters. However, this morning, he found himself wondering how Perceval's scheme to get his cousin's captain arrested had gone, and he hoped Perceval would make an appearance at some point to fill him in.
Perceval dressed carefully, examining himself from all angles in a mirror several times over before he was at last satisfied with his appearance. Today was a somewhat special occasion in that he would be paying Algernon a visit outside of his own duties to the military and would therefore not be wearing a uniform. So often, he only appeared to Algernon in the same old thing, so he relished any chance he got to dress up nicely in something different. Declaring himself ready, Perceval headed to his automobile with a bright smile. Not only was he getting to visit Algernon, but he had exceptionally good news as well, and he couldn’t wait to share it.
Perceval spent a long time in front of Algernon’s door straightening his coat; it had gotten wrinkled during the drive over, and he couldn’t stand to show himself in any condition less than perfect. Shaking his head lightly do that a few strands of hair fell naturally out of place around his shoulders, he opened the door softly and slipped inside. “Good morning, sir,” Perceval said enthusiastically, smiling happily in his high spirits and eagerness to see Algernon. “I thought I’d pay you a visit, sir, if you have a moment to spare for me.”
Algernon smiled when Perceval entered the office, setting his paperwork aside. "And a very good morning it is, Percy, now that you're here," he remarked. "Mind you lock the door behind you." He rose, making his way to where Perceval stood, and took in the sight. It wasn't very often that he got the pleasure of seeing Perceval in civilian clothing, and though Algernon appreciated him in anything, he had to note that he looked exceptionally good in his outfit of deep chocolate tones and golds. Pulling Perceval into his arms and placing a brief kiss on his lips, he smirked. "I always have time to spare for you, Percy. Especially looking so beautiful."
Perceval’s smile broadened and he closed his eyes with satisfaction, taking pleasure in the moment and savoring the feel of Algernon’s lips against his own. The fact that Algernon had instructed him to lock the door was a very good sign; the morning certainly did promise to be an excellent one. Perceval sighed serenely at the compliment and opened his eyes partially, looking adoringly at Algernon. “I have some fantastic news for you, sir,” he cooed smugly.
"Oh?" Algernon's interest was piqued; he was truly curious to know how Perceval's plan had gone through. However, he made no move to let go of Perceval, instead leading him back over towards the desk against which he leaned, pulling Perceval tightly in his arms again. "Please do share," he drawled, nibbling at Perceval's ear.
Perceval let out a soft breathy cry of pleasure, tilting his head slightly and shifting to lean against Algernon with ease and contentment, pleased that Algernon wasn’t letting go. “Everything went perfectly according to plan, sir.” Perceval sighed happily, finding Algernon’s hand and slipping his own into it. “We lost the documents, but it was a price well worth paying in exchange for the blow dealt to that Christian.” He spat the name, continuing his narrative with an easy smile. “Hirlea is jailed with no chance of bail; he will soon be interrogated and tried. I understand they’re both miserable, and things are only going to get worse. We may even be able to appoint an executioner, as this is a case of high treason.” Perceval smirked, opening his eyes to look up at Algernon with an air of self-satisfaction and near blood-lust.
Algernon smirked. "Excellent, Percy," he commended, pressing a kiss to Perceval's neck, "Absolutely perfect." He was extremely pleased at the thought of his cousin's misery, and very nearly excited by the thought of his captain's execution. This was certainly one of Perceval's greatest achievements to date, and Algernon decided that he ought to be rewarded. Placing another kiss at his jaw, Algernon murmured into his ear again. "Such good work deserves some sort of reward, don't you think, Percy?"
Perceval’s heart leapt at the tantalizing suggestion, and he nodded smugly. “Yes sir, I think it does,” he said pragmatically, somehow managing to keep his tone completely even so as not to show his mounting excitement and eagerness.
"Wonderful," Algernon replied with a smirk, turning around so as to pin Perceval against the desk. Pressing a hard kiss to his lips, his hands made their way to Perceval's collar, pulling it back roughly. He was rather more excited that he usually found himself, and was a little surprised, but, after all, it wasn't written anywhere that he couldn't enjoy Perceval’s reward, too.
Pierre walked to work feeling numb. That morning, they’d received a telegram from the military informing them that Dragomir had been arrested for treason. Viorica got angry and left the house immediately, but Tatiana cried, and Pierre couldn’t get Amelie to stop crying, either. He didn’t care about his brother-in-law or what he did, but he cared about his money. And Pierre cared about his family who would suffer for his brother-in-law’s actions, whatever they’d been.
Tatiana was certain that Dragomir was innocent and Pierre trusted her judgment implicitly. Left to his own opinions, he would not hesitate to believe what the military had suggested; they must have done a through investigation, after all, but Pierre believed in Tatiana, and trusted that she knew her brother. Still, he was bitterly angry at Dragomir for whatever careless mistake on his part had caused the accusation.
When he arrived at the manor where Dragomir lived and Niles employed him, Pierre immediately noticed the depressing atmosphere that saturated the property, and felt sick. He couldn’t work; he couldn’t keep his mind on his tasks—not with all the worries running through his mind and all the troubles they’d soon be encountering.
Before all the trouble with his brother-in-law, things had finally been looking up. With his own salary, which was steady and reliable for the first time in his life, Viorica’s, and Dragomir’s, their economic status had really been improving. Amelie was a happy, healthy baby, but Pierre knew they relied on the money from the three combined incomes to keep things running smoothly in the house, and Dragomir had always been the primary breadwinner. Pierre couldn’t even imagine how difficult things would soon be with out his brother-in-law’s paycheck, and at that moment, he couldn’t bare to think on it.
Dismally, he went to the kitchen. Unnoticed, he slipped into the pantry and found a bottle of cooking sherry. Pierre saved drinking for only the most desperate of circumstances, so he knew that it wouldn’t be long before he was too drunk to dwell on his family’s demise. He didn’t like the idea of drinking cooking alcohol, but he didn’t want to steal the more expensive wine and be expected to pay for it if he was caught. Besides, he thought with a bitter laugh as he uncorked the bottle, Niles’s cooking sherry was probably a higher quality drink then the stuff he could ever dream of affording in a bar.
Niles wandered downstairs abysmally, feeling empty after having been forcibly separated from Dragomir. He had clung on through the bars until the very last second, until the guard had to escort him out, all breaking up and in tears. Upon returning home, he had gone back to bed, then gotten sick and emptied his already-empty stomach before once more locking himself up in his room and crying himself back to sleep. He was surprised to find that quite some time had gone by when he awoke, and decided to try to eat again.
Unable to bring himself to communicate with anyone, he made his way, alone, into the kitchen, then to the pantry to try to find something agreeable to eat. Instead, however, when he entered, he found Pierre, a bottle of alcohol in hand, slouched against the wall looking almost as miserable as he. Wordlessly, he stood, not knowing what to do or say.
Pierre put down the bottle, looking wide-eyed and startled up at Niles. He pushed it behind him, wiping his mouth with his sleeve as he swallowed what had been only his third gulp of the disgustingly potent alcohol, and glared up at Niles. He was going to lose his job, he just knew it. Now that his brother-in-law was a criminal, Niles had no reason to look out for their family, and probably wanted nothing to do with him, a mere servant, especially not after he’d been caught. There was nothing left for Pierre, so he stood up defiantly, waiting to hear was he had heard so many times before, and cursing his bad luck. Niles never went into the kitchen, so, naturally, as soon as Pierre decided to do something illicit, Niles just happened to stumble across him. When it rains, it pours, he thought to himself. That was just the law of the world, and everything, it seemed was conspiring against his unlucky family.
Niles stared at Pierre speechlessly for another moment, watching him as he stood and gave a defiant look. He didn't register that Pierre had been breaking rules or not doing his job, he could only be reminded once more of Dragomir, and everything that depended on him. He couldn't image how it must have been for Pierre, with the baby, to now be stripped of financial security, and it only made him miss and worry about Dragomir all the more. His will crumbling, he began to cry, collapsing forward against Pierre for support and not thinking anything of it.
Pierre put his hands up unconsciously, backing against the wall as Niles moved toward him, crying. It was a completely different reaction than he’d expected, and quite honestly, Pierre felt almost afraid. He had no idea how to respond to Niles; should he…comfort him? Should he pretend nothing had happened, that nothing was wrong? Or, perhaps the most appealing of all options, should he push him away? Pierre deliberated for a moment, stiff and pressed entirely against the wall with his arms up away from Niles, before slowly relaxing, slightly, with a resigned sigh. Curling his lip in distaste, Pierre lowered his arms carefully, placing them on Niles’s back and murmuring some hollow words of reassurance.
Niles was surprised when Pierre began to comfort him, and was even more surprised at the embrace. "Things will be all right," Pierre was telling him, "Everything will be fine," and he wanted very badly to believe it. Looking up into Pierre's eyes blearily, he asked pathetically, "Do you really think so?"
“No,” Pierre said flatly. “He’s in a lot of trouble and I don’t think he’ll get out of it.” He scowled, narrowing his eyes. “Even if he’s innocent.” He had in mind to release Niles, but for some reason, he decided that it would be too cruel. He would have laughed at his own contradiction had circumstances not been so abysmal, so instead, with another sigh, he looked at Niles and tried to soften his expression. “Nothing can change unless someone does something. Other than sulk.” Again, he felt hypocritical, so he abridged his statement, directing it entirely at Niles. “If you can do something, you should do it, or else don’t complain.” He looked away at the thought of the implications. “If you get rid of him now, at least you’ll be rid of some extra baggage…” That was the honest truth; Niles would not only be free from dealing with Dragomir, but the whole rest of the family. Surely the rich viewed the poor as nothing but abhorrent peons, anyway, and Niles was probably eager to distance himself from the scandal.
Niles blinked, tears slowing slightly, though not stopping altogether. "Well, I am doing everything I can, so that means things will turn out okay, right?" He sniffed, confused by Pierre's next statement. "Why would I want to be rid of Dragomir? What are you talking about?" he asked. "What do you mean by baggage?"
Pierre narrowed his eyes, regarding Niles carefully. “Don’t you get it? We’re all just leeches. You’d better off without us, especially without Dragomir.” Pierre paused for a moment, wondering if Niles really could sort things out, and hoping for a split second that something could be done. He dismissed the thought abruptly however, and continued in his previous tone. “Whatever you try to do, you’ll just get your hands dirty. My brother-in-law’s an idiot if he thought he’d escaped his past, and I’m sure he doesn’t want you to be dragged down with him,” Pierre practically spat, his tone contradicting the sentiment he’d inadvertently expressed.
He couldn’t help feeling concerned for Niles, his employer, and that was perhaps why he had a sudden investment in helping him somehow. He didn’t think he could make him feel better, and Pierre frankly didn’t even know how to go about such a task, but he felt that he was no longer in the position of abandoning Niles in his current state. Pierre knew that he’d sunk to quite a low level, but he ignored the feeling, and continued. “He’s doomed for sure, and even if you do something, you yourself will just arouse suspicion. Don’t you think the military will wonder why you give a damn about a poor immigrant with strong ties to the Berceuse Malheureuse? Of course they will. And then they’ll find out about your unnatural relationship, and you’ll both end up in a bad position.” Pierre paused at length. “Although, I suppose, if you don’t do anything, he’ll be executed…which is certainly worse than simply being court-martialed…” His voice changed a little with conviction. “If you think you can do anything, you should do it. It certainly can’t make things worse, at least not for him.” He was surprised by the note of encouragement he’d ended on, so he added a bit of cynicism for good taste. Life was about suffering and disappointments, after all, and he refused to sugarcoat anything. “You’ll ruin your own life, though.”
Niles brightened significantly at Pierre's words. "I don't care if I ruin my own life! If I can get Dragomir out, then that's what matters! I'll do everything I can!" He spoke for the first time with absolute conviction, momentarily setting his misery aside to swear that he would do everything he could. "Even if I end up in prison, if Dragomir is free, then I'll be happy." He was thoughtful for a moment, his heart sinking back down, though not quite as far, with the situation. Biting his lip and thinking over what Pierre had said, he frowned. "And I don't care what you say. I wouldn't ever be better without Dragomir, even if it means I'm stuck with you being mean to me all the time. Besides, you're not so bad sometimes." He half-laughed, surprised at his own ability. "You've been really nice right now. Thanks." He sighed, somewhat amazed that Pierre, of all people could cheer him up, and he was actually beginning to have a slight appetite. Maybe he'd eat something after all... "Do you want something to eat?" he asked vaguely, not really thinking about it.
Pierre blinked, stunned by how quickly Niles’s mood had improved. As Niles laughed however, he let go of him quickly, reminding himself that there was a possibility that Niles’s disgusting affliction of attraction to the non-female persuasion could be contagious. He tried to move away, closer to the wall, but was unsuccessful in his venture. Niles’s devotion was downright creepy, and quite unhealthy, Pierre determined. He couldn’t understand why anyone would be so willing to give up everything they had for someone like his brother-in-law, especially. After all, by joining the Berceuse Malheureuse in the first place, he’d already thrown everything he had away. Why should he deserve a second chance? Pierre folded his arms in both defense and defiance, adopting his usual sneer. He’d gotten out of getting into trouble, Niles was no longer sulking, and perhaps the other servants would finally stop lamenting that their master wasn’t eating. Still, Pierre was not inclined to join him for a meal and asked snottily, “Well, if you wind up in jail, what do you think Dragomir will do, huh? If you do anything, you better make sure you do it properly, or else things will be just as bad as they are now.” He was beginning to feel very pragmatic, and rather full of himself. “And I’m not hungry,” he concluded arbitrarily.
Niles' expression turned grave for a moment. "If need be, I'll draft a will, and if I get imprisoned, I'll kill myself." With a nod of determination and that problem out of the way, he crossed his arms and frowned again. "All right, well, that's your choice. If so, then, tell the kitchen staff to prepare something bland for me, then get back to work. The ballroom is getting dusty again." He began to walk away, then glanced over his shoulder, giving Pierre an almost-smile. "Thanks for cheering me up, though. But that doesn't mean you can slack off." And with that, he wandered towards the dining room. Maybe he'd be able to eat now.
Dragomir didn’t know what he’d done. He sat on the small broken cot in the corner of his cell with his face in his hands lost in thought and memory. What had he done? How could they possibly think that it had been him? He was not a traitor. All his life he’d been unfaltering in his loyalty to each faction, and he had no desire or thought of switching sides again. Dragomir wanted nothing to do with the Berceuse Malheureuse, didn’t they know that? He thought the last time the military imprisoned him for his years spent in their midst had been proof of his determination to get away from the foul organization. He felt sick to his stomach at the mere thought of any renewed connection with Donavan D’Aubigne, and he hated being forced to recall so much of his past experience in jail. His only consolation was that this time he had Niles. Niles would do something to get him out; of that, Dragomir was certain. If he could only keep himself from dwelling on his past mistakes and misfortunes and focus on Niles, he knew he could pull through. Sighing, Dragomir tilted his head back and leaned against the wall, staring grimly up at the ceiling. Niles would visit him again tomorrow. Somehow, he’d just have to find away to wait until then.
Dragomir awoke with a start, sweating lightly and breathing hard, feeling panicked. For years, he’d been plagued with nightmares, but it had been so long since he’d last dreamed that he was unused to the sensation of waking up and feeling lost in an unknown location, startled out of a terrifying reverie. Being with Niles seemed to stave off the horrible dreams of war and of killing, and now that they were separated, the imagery had returned.
In the windowless cell, there was no way to tell the time, and Dragomir was surprised he’d been able to sleep at all. He looked around the cell, trying in vain to discern the hour, jumping as the door slid open and a guard approached, informing him he had a visitor. Dragomir’s heart leapt with relief; perhaps a day had already gone past and he would get to see Niles again. Patiently, he waited as the guard made preparations to move him to the other room, and cooperated almost congenially with all of his orders. Dragomir couldn’t bear to sit down in the chair once the guard had left; he paced, anxiously awaiting his visitor—Niles, his sole salvation.
Lawley smiled smugly as he walked confidently into the prison building, the twins giggling and twittering at his heels. They would have been extremely irritating (and Lawley didn't even want to think of why Vivien was limping so badly) if Lawley wasn't so looking forward to interrogating the foreigner. He was extremely curious as to how he would handle it; would he break and confess, or would he continue to deny his obvious guilt? How quickly would he crumble? Lawley was greatly looking forward to enjoying the show.
The guard who let him in closed the door behind him, and Lawley was pleased to find three chairs and a table, as well as writing utensils and paper, set out for him. He didn't sit yet, however, making his way to stand so he could look the foreigner, who was currently seeming much like a caged wild animal, and gave him an icy look. "I must admit, it is disgusting to think that someone so seemingly devoted and loyal could be a traitor to the military...however, if you confess now and turn over any accomplices, I'll see to it that you get a lighter sentence." He raised his eyebrows, making his way to his chair and waiting for the twins to sit beside him. Lifting the quill from the ink, he gave the foreigner a smirk, waiting.
Dragomir stopped pacing as the door opened, and his heart sunk as his gut wrenched when he saw just who had come to visit him. The Colonel. No doubt he was now to be interrogated like a common criminal. He practically snarled at the Major and Captain as they joined the Colonel at the desk. The Colonel’s pompous attitude and presumption enraged him, and he began to pace again furiously. “I’m innocent!” he yelled, stopping again, momentarily unsure of how to act. “I did everything you told me to, sir!” He added the honorific as an afterthought, clenching his jaw and narrowing his eyes, refusing to take a seat. “I have nothing to confess. You have no evidence!” Dragomir growled, crossing his arms.
Lawley raised his eyebrows. So he was going to be difficult. How interesting. "Captain Hirlea, you were the only one to know of the involvement of the late Ms. LeRoy, and now Ms. LeRoy is deceased. I'm afraid the situation doesn't look particularly promising for you." He sighed, shaking his head. "However, we only wish to get to the truth. You need to give us an account of what happened that night, as well as answer any of our questions if you want any chance of being proven innocent." He smirked. "However unlikely it seems." He heard the twins snickering on either side of him, mirroring his feelings. There was no way that the foreigner could possibly be innocent, but Lawley would have fun playing with him.
“What does that mean?” Dragomir demanded, forgetting himself. “It’s not my fault! I did everything I could!” He was seething with anger, though he knew he should calm down and handle the situation with all the rationality he could manage. He anger obviously wouldn’t be of any help to him now. He let out a hiss of breath threw his teeth and forced himself to sit down. “The whole thing went wrong. Everything was off schedule,” Dragomir stated. He knew that it had all been part of the Colonel’s plan, and was beginning to blame him entirely for the failure of his mission. He ground his teeth, trying to recount the events. “When we found her, the Berceuse Malheureuse already knew of her involvement with the military and had already burned the records. They caught up with us and killed her before I could do anything.” Dragomir was beginning to feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny of the three officers, and he shifted ueasily, wishing the Officers Holtcombe would stop sniggering. Apart from that, he had little other evidence in his defense; all he could do was hope they could be made to see reason. He had absolutely nothing to so with the Berceuse Malheureuse, and he was willing to do whatever it took to prove it.
Lawley handed the note-taking to Bastien and rose, sauntering towards the cell but staying out of the foreigner's reach. "Is it true, Captain, that previous to your military service, you were in the employment of the Berceuse Malheureuse?" He raised an eyebrow, waiting for an answer, and heard the twins giggling behind him.
"Is it true you were working directly under Donavan D'Aubigne?" Bastien added.
"Is it true you were most trusted by Donavan D'Aubigne?" Vivien elaborated.
"Is it true, Captain?" Both joined in simultaneous chorus, cocking their heads to one side, arrogantly. Lawley smirked. "Please answer the questions, Captain."
“Yes,” Dragomir said coldly, wishing the identical officers were not present. “I worked as his bodyguard,” he stated plainly. Dragomir wanted to get off of this topic as quickly as possible; already he’d confessed so much to the military, and he was sure whatever they wanted to know could be found in his file. “I see little relevance to the current issue,” he lied. They assumed he was still in contact with Donavan. The idea disgusted him, but he was unsure of how to prove it. “I hate the Berceuse Malheureuse and I would like nothing more than to put an end to it and everyone involved. I would never work with them under any circumstances.” Plain and simple; he knew they’d force him to keep talking, but maybe they could read his conviction and understand his hatred at least somewhat. Somehow, he had to find a way to appeal to them and convince them of his innocence.
"What conviction," Lawley noted blandly. "Be sure that you note that, Major."
"'What conviction,'" Vivien echoed, leaning over towards Bastien.
"'What conviction,'" Bastien confirmed, writing. "Buuuuut Lawley, doesn't that sound cliché?"
Lawley smirked. "Sometimes life is cliche, Major Holtcombe. Though cliché conviction is by no means any indicator of innocence, we must report what we hear, mustn't we?"
"Yes, sir," the twins replied, sighing. Lawley nodded and turned back to the foreigner. "Thank you, Captain Hirlea. Now, if you could please tell me, when was the last time you spoke with Donavan D'Aubigne or any known member of the Berceuse Malheureuse?"
Dragomir clenched his fists, flushing with anger. They were deliberately mocking him. “I told you,” he said slowly, trying not to shout. “I don’t want anything to do with anyone from that organization.” He glared at the Colonel, gritting his teeth. “I haven’t had any contact with him or anyone since I got out, seven years ago, when I enlisted.” He added the time, hoping they’d factor in his extensive service to the military and his time spent in Hispania. “I know you’ve read my file. Everything is in there.” He had a good track record—how could they accuse him of treason? Dragomir began anew to argue in his defense. “I gave the military everything I knew after I left the Berceuse Malheureuse and they’ve had a price on my head ever since. There’s no way I could possibly communicate with them; Donavan D’Aubigne wants me dead.” There. The rational explanation. It was physically impossibly for him to pass any sort of information to anyone in the Berceuse Malheureuse without being killed. It was that simple.
Lawley nodded slowly, as if deliberating. "It would seem so...outwardly, at least. But as you must know, Captain, appearances can be deceiving." He paced back and forth twice, then looked back to the foreigner. "Well, Captain Hirlea, since you continue to proclaim your innocence, might you have any idea who could have leaked the information to the Berceuse Malheureuse? You were given specific orders not to let anyone know of your job, but if you did, now is the time to tell. The punishment for stupidity is much less than that for treason." He smirked, wondering to whom, if anyone, the foreigner would try to pass the blame.
Dragomir swallowed hard, glaring up at the Colonel. “I didn’t tell anyone.” He said darkly. No one but Niles knew what he’d done, he was certain, and he would never get Niles involved. He looked abruptly from the Colonel to the twin officers seated at the desk. “What about them?” He demanded. “They knew, didn’t they? How do you know no one else from the military overheard the three of you discussing things?” Dragomir spat the question, having completely lost the patience for any civilities.
Lawley laughed internally. Of all the choices he could have made, blaming the twins was probably the worst. He might have well blamed the General Commandant for the crime in regards to the amount of grief he was going to get. Instead of speaking, however, he looked back over his shoulder to the identical officers behind him, giving them his permission to do as they liked.
Identical smirks crawled across Vivien and Bastien's faces as they rose, glancing to each other before returning their gazes to the foreigner, both wearing eerie smiles.
"Brother, I believe that Captain Hirlea has just blamed us for his crime." Bastien's voice was dangerously sweet.
"I believe you're right, brother," Vivien replied, though his eyes never left the foreigner, narrowed into a glare that was only more frightening because of the saccharine tone of voice and drippingly sweet smile. "Brother, do you remember what happened to the last man that threatened us?"
"I remember that he was court-martialed and discharged from the military, brother." Bastien's smile twisted at the corner in a disturbing half-smirk.
Simultaneously, the twins looked back to each other, turning their backs to Dragomir and clasping hands as they turned and moved back towards the table slowly. Somehow, however, they projected their voices so that those behind them could hear, and Lawley was fairly impressed.
"No one threatens us with blame for crimes we didn't commit." Their voices together were so similar and so well timed together that it was hard to tell that there were actually two.
"Don't you think-" Bastien pulled out Viven's chair for him.
"-that it's a shame-" Viven pulled out Bastien's chair for him.
"-that Captain Hirlea is going to be executed?" Both twins sat.
Lawley raised his eyebrows, turning back to the foreigner. "It is a shame...however, pinning the blame on my subordinates was rather idiotic, Captain. We took the utmost precautions to make sure this mission was a success, and now you've just made me angry at you. It isn't wise to bite that hand that could free you from prison."
Dragomir shuddered, hating the two officers more than ever before and standing up violently enough to knock over his chair as the two sat down simultaneously. “I wasn’t suggesting-!” Dragomir said quickly, though he knew he was quite done-for already. “I meant only that someone could have heard—you never know who could be listening!” He was sweating nervously, and shaking considerably. Had it been a threat, or did they really mean to put him to death? “You don’t have proof,” he said shakily, trying to reassure himself and point out the last fact that could still save him. “She could have done it to herself,” he said without thinking. He had no intention to blame the girl for anything, but he knew he was innocent, and he had to find some way to prove it. She’d said something, but he could no longer think clearly, he couldn’t remember what she said when they found her. “She—she was so young, she could have made a mistake!” He was aware he that he was beginning to sound rather desperate and sat back down, trying to breathe evenly and think back to what exactly had happened.
"A plausible, though unlikely, situation." Lawley sighed and shook his head. "Really, Captain, you're only succeeding in making yourself seem all the more guilty. I highly suggest that you confess; if you do so, I can promise you that you will be saved from the death penalty. However, if you continue to deny the charges against you, I can almost assure that you will be executed. The military does not look kindly on traitors." He motioned to the twins, then made his way towards the door. "We will return tomorrow, Captain. I expect you will have made your decision by then." And with a final smirk, they were gone.
Dragomir watched them leave bitterly before putting his face in his hands. What was he going to do? He would not admit to it; the idea of pleading guilty to a crime that he did not commit was completely intolerable. But…he didn’t want to die. If…if for some reason Niles couldn’t find a way to get him out, Dragomir would have to make up his mind and decide whether he’d rather be imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, or die defending his name. Whatever he chose, he’d be separated from Niles, and that alone made either choice appalling. He wasn’t afraid to die, but he was worried about the people he’d leave behind.
Donavan watched with satisfaction as Faustino expertly dismantled a pistol before setting about to clean the entire instrument thoroughly with precision. He enjoyed watching Faustino’s small fingers work their way expertly over the mechanisms, disassembling the deadly instrument with the ease another child might play with a set of building blocks. The contrast of the innocence with which Faustino handled such an evil weapon intrigued Donavan, and made him eager to watch the boy destroy something with an equal sense of innocence and contrived justice.
That desire had prompted Donavan to make a contact with a local breeder of hunting dogs, who’s stock had unfortunately come into recent contact with a rabid animal. Donavan bribed the man to keep any of his animals that presented with the symptoms alive, and release one for his pupil to execute. It was a rather sick plan, but Donavan felt the destruction of a higher speeches of animal was called for to gauge Faustino’s progression in the acceptance of death.
Earlier that morning, Donavan received a telegram informing him of a dog's unfortunate affliction of hydrophobia, and that the animal was to be released that afternoon at three. Donavan smirked at the recollection, and looked up at the clock. It was nearly time. He watched as Faustino finished assembling the hand gun, and smiled at the boy as he finished before getting to his feet.
“Excellent job, Faustino. You were about a minute faster this time,” he praised, waiting for Faustino to stand as well. “Bring that gun with you, we have an errand outside.”
Faustino rose, smiling brightly. "Wow, a whole minute! I'm so happy!" he exclaimed, looking from the gun back to Donavan. At the mention of an errand, however, his expression melted into one of curiosity. "Oh? What's up, Donavan?" he asked inquisitively, blinking up at him and cocking his head to one side.
“You’ll see,” Donavan said mysteriously, smiling brightly and turning to head towards the door. He felt for his own pistol at his hip, patting it lightly. He had every confidence in Faustino’s ability to get the job done, but even so, he would take every precaution necessary until Faustino was completely accustomed to death and to killing. “We’re going on a little walk,” Donavan explained as he led Faustino outside into the late-spring sunshine, “But keep an eye out. A neighbor lost a dog around this area, and we need to find it, if we can.”
Faustino blinked, following Donavan outside. "All right, I'll be sure to be on my toes," he agreed, glancing around. He was a little bit frightened of big dogs, and he didn't want to be attacked by a neighbor’s lost guard dog. Swallowing, he inched a little closer to Donavan and bit his lip. The sooner they were able to return the dog, the better.
They’d walked only a short distance when Donavan held out his arm in front of Faustino, pausing in mid-step. He’d heard something up ahead, and if it was the dog, he wanted to make sure they didn’t startle. Sure enough, about 10 yards ahead of them, a dog appeared. It was walking in an erratic pattern, swaying back and forth and looking as though it might collapse at any moment. Even from at their current distance, it was easy to see the frothing saliva dribbling out of the corners of the dog’s mouth, and its eyes were rolled back, yellowed with illness. It continued to stumble its way toward them, and Donavan tenses, as though surprised by the state of the dog’s health. “Faustino,” he said under his breath, “Do you know what’s wrong with that dog? Have you ever seen an animal with rabies before?” He paused for a moment and continued to watch the dog’s sickening progress towards them. “It’s sick and very dangerous.”
Faustino bit his lip to keep from making any noise at the sight of the dog and paled. Not only was this dog large and frightening, but it was rabid. He shrunk back, trying to hide behind Donavan. "Yes, I know what rabies is," he said weakly, watching wearily as the dog moved farther towards them. "Donavan, I'm frightened," he practically whimpered. "What are we going to do?"
“We have to kill it,” Donavan said gravely, again pretending this very sequence of events hadn’t been part of his plan all along, “before it infects anything or anyone.” He turned and looked down at Faustino softly. “Don’t be afraid, Faustino,” he said gently. “I know you can do it. You can help this poor dog and everyone else by putting it out of its misery and preventing the virus from spreading. Just shoot it, before it gets any closer. You’re safe here, you can do it.”
Faustino swallowed and nodded weakly. Pulling out the gun from the holster Donavan had gotten for him recently, Faustino took a deep breath, carefully took aim, and, after only a moment's hesitation, fired. He squeaked when he saw the bullet lodge straight in the dog's skull, yet was relieved when it dropped over dead, knowing it couldn't hurt Donavan or him now. Looking up at Donavan, he asked, his voice shaky and weak, "Did- is that all right?"
“Very good.” Donavan smiled, ruffling Faustino’s hair affectionately. “What perfect aim.” He grinned, walking over to the dead animal slowly. “You granted it a quick and painless death, saving it from the days of suffering and the possibility of it hurting many other creatures. It’s definitely something to be proud of, Faustino.” Donavan nodded, pressing the disgusting animal with his boot and rolling it over to inspect the bullet wound. “The angle here is fantastic,” he commented. “You should be very proud of how far you’ve progressed.” He laughed lightly and smiled again, walking back to Faustino. Looking back on the dog, his expression changed slightly to one of regret. “I’ll have to tell our neighbor what became of his animal…but I’m sure he’ll thank you for taking care of him so benevolently.”
Faustino nodded numbly, not really sure how to feel. He was, on one hand, very glad that he had killed the frightening animal; it had been terrifying, and dangerous. On the other hand, however, he was still a little shaky with killing. But then again, Donavan was praising him, and Donavan always knew best. He would just have to get used to killing. It wouldn't be that bad...it was just that right now, he was so shaken, it was hard to think. Slowly making his way to Donavan's side, he grasped his arm tightly. "Donavan...I was so frightened. I was afraid that I...or worse, you were going to get hurt. Is it always going to be this scary, Donavan?" For the first time in a long time, he was frightened about where all of this was going.
Donavan knelt, smiling softly, and placed his arms around Faustino gently. “No, it won’t be scary after a while,” Donavan assured him. “You’re very good at what you do, Faustino. When you start trusting yourself, you’ll know that nothing can hurt you, and you won’t be scared.” He pulled back slightly to look Faustino in the eyes. “I have faith in you. I know you wouldn’t have let it hurt either of us.” He smiled, patting Faustino on the back. “Fear can sometimes be helpful. It can keep you safe, but you shouldn’t let it control you.” Donavan got to his feet and took Faustino’s hand into his. “I have every confidence that with experience, you’ll only keep getting better at all that you do and you won’t be frightened any more.” He gave Faustino a light squeeze on the hand and a confident grin. “Would you like to get some ice cream, Faustino? You’ve been working very hard lately, and you deserve a little reward.”
Faustino listened carefully to Donavan's words, and slowly, he began to feel more confident. Donavan was right, Donavan was always right, everything would be okay. He'd do a good job, he'd please Donavan, no matter what. It hadn't been so bad...and Donavan was right, so long as he could be confident in himself, he didn't need to be scared. Smiling a little more strongly, he looked up at Donavan, and sheepishly admitted, "I'd like that."