||[Oct. 31st, 2011|01:15 am]
Azazel & Riptide's Kingdom
Title: Don't Let Me Fall Again 2/?
Warnings: Discussions of violence, sexual situations
Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with the Marvel corporation and express no ownership over it or the characters used. I profit in no way from this use.
Summary: To be with someone is to accept them for all that makes them who they are. But there is a difference between knowing what a man is capable of, and seeing it. When Janos' past becomes a part of his present, he is confronted with a side of Azazel he wishes he'd never seen.
Janos studied the pictures, trying to keep himself detached.
She was filthy, her hair hanging in thick, unkempt locks around her grey face. Her very grey face. Her skin was the color of the sky outside, and her hair, though dirty, was undeniably slate blue. Her eye color was indeterminable from the quality of the picture, but they looked dark.
She couldn't have been older than ten.
The bruises on her face were fresh on top of old.
He slid her picture below and took a look at the other one, but as with everything involving his brothers, it only got worse.
This one was only eight, if she was a day.
Her skin was covered in something like snake scales, a pretty copper color, while her eyes were bigger than a human's, greenish-yellow, slitted. Her nose was almost flat, her lips thin on a wide mouth.
She was even more bruised, her left eye swollen, thin lips cut and bleeding. She'd been crying though, whereas the other one's eyes had been as dry as bone.
Both girls were mutants, young mutants. Young, beaten, and maybe even broken little girls.
God, he'd never considered they would sink so low.
There were descriptions, in Joash's careful script. They didn't know what the little blue-haired girl's ability was, he was sorry to say. They had not yet managed to work it out. The other one was showing amazing evasive skill, and her bite was poisonous. Very poisonous.
His hands were shaking, he realized, and he pressed his palms against the table, controlling his breathing carefully. He opened his cigarette case and took one out, lighting it and taking a deep inhale.
What were they thinking? Was the money really that good?
His mother's face swam into his vision as he pinched the bridge of his nose, her sense of poise and self-possession stealing over him. She had been a handsome woman, his mother, and she'd told him often he was the image of her brother. He was the only one who had taken after her side of the family, his brothers all wearing the sharper features of their father. And she had been different, he remembered.
He took a look at the files again, trying to think of this as just another mission. Lehnsherr had obtained arrest records from the police departments, lists of properties owned, a map with several locations circled and some German written on the side. And pictures.
Joshua's was the best of the lot, clearly taken by a spy with skill. His profile was sharp in it, good-looking. He was wearing his hair short and clean-cut, an expensive watch glinting in the light on his visible hand. He had been a man when Janos had escaped, and his features had not changed in the decade they'd been apart.
Joash's was a photo from a police station, an American one, he thought. He was defiant in it, smirk curving up. He looked wild. Just the sight of him was enough to make Janos afraid, even if it had been ten years. He could still feel the oppressive weight of Joash's ability.
Jesimiel's was a bad picture all together, not that Janos could blame them. That they'd even managed to get a picture was a feat. He was a blur of dark hair in it, an above profile shot that just barely showed his eyes and the top of his nose.
Then there was Josiah, hands clasped in front of him, looking to the side. He'd grown to be the tallest, the strongest. He looked no different than he had ten years ago, the last time he'd taken Janos by the back of his neck and held him down for Joseph.
He pushed all of the files away, across the table, and smoked quietly, gathering his thoughts. This was not a good mission for him, and he needed to tell Lehnsherr. There were too many risks with him, too big a chance they'd tear him to pieces again. They'd always been especially talented at that.
“Are you aware of how loud you're projecting?” Emma stood in the doorway, wearing a white dress with white stockings and white boots.
“I am now.” He replied smartly, taking a drag. She smirked at him, and walked over, turning one of the photos with the tips of her fingers. It was Joseph's, and she raised an eyebrow at it.
“He doesn't look much like you.”
“I take after my mother's side.” He told her with a shrug. If he had been projecting, Emma likely already had an idea of this, but it made him feel better to voice it aloud, let her know she could have the information freely.
“How bad is this?” She asked quietly, her mouth in a serious line.
“Worse than you know.” She sighed and came over to him, running her manicured hand through his hair with a sad smile. “I don't want your pity.”
“Pity and empathy aren't the same thing, sugar. You know that.” She was very beautiful, he thought in an offhand way. They had always had that in common. It was what had bound them together in the beginning, two people who were only ever seen for their faces. “My sisters aren't much of a treat either.” Janos nodded, already privy to that, but Emma's sisters had only been cruel in the way of neglect.
“It's not quite the same thing.” Her eyes darted over the hand holding his cigarette, and the clear outlines of scarring that the weak light from outside only made more apparent. “Azazel keeps asking about them.”
She laughed a little and walked towards the stove, taking down the kettle from the overhead so she could rinse it and fill it with water.
“You two certainly took long enough.”
“Emma,” He warned, pointing at her with his cigarette, but she just smirked and put the kettle on, heading for the cabinet where the mugs were kept and getting down two.
“Now that you two have finally uh, how do I put this, come to an understanding, things are a lot easier for me.” She found the teapot and put the tea leaves in the strainer while she waited for the water to boil. “Less tension.” She smirked again, and Janos made her hair move, just a little. “I swear Janos, if you blow my dress up again, I will-”
“I'm sorry, am I interrupting?” Lehnsherr had come into the kitchen unnoticed, smiling in that predatory way he always did.
“Of course not.” Emma said, with a polite smile. She was trying to get along with Lehnsherr, as far as Janos could tell, but there was something about him holding her back. He frightened her, and Janos was a little scared to ask why, to ask what she had seen in his mind that made him more alarming than Shaw. Emma had told him what was in Shaw's mind.
“Tea?” He nodded at the kettle, as it started to whistle behind Emma.
“Janos and I like tea.” She said, with a well-bred smile, and she turned the burner off, pouring the hot water into the teapot, over the tea leaves, then putting the lid back on.
“I see.” Lehnsherr advanced, and Janos just barely kept himself from withdrawing. “What brand do you smoke?” This was directed at Janos, and he offered the case in answer. Lehnsherr took one, and used Janos' lighter to light it. “These are French?” Janos nodded. “They're nice.”
Emma slid Janos' mug to him, having already stirred in the honey for him, and he took a sip, wishing Lehnsherr would take the hint and leave. He had to know he was making them both uncomfortable, standing over them like he was.
“What did you think of the files?” He asked, all too casually. Emma sent Janos a feeling of reassurance, but his irritation at Lehnsherr even asking this of him was too much for Emma to soothe. Lehnsherr may have taken over, and they may have chosen to stay, but that didn't mean he had any right to order Janos around with a smirk.
“I think your plan is a bad plan.” He said, eyeing the files. Emma raised her eyebrows at him in shock at his tactless honesty, but Janos couldn't muster up the same fear of Lehnsherr that she had.. “I think you need a better strategy. This plan of yours, to just walk in and pay? That plan is dependent on a best-case scenario..My brothers,” He shook his head, “My brothers are not like that. I can't...” He took a drag and tried to keep his hands from shaking in front of Lehnsherr. “They like hurting people.”
Lehnsherr pulled out the chair he was leaning on and sat down. Janos liked being on eye level with him, but he didn't want to have this conversation, not with Lehnsherr. Janos didn't trust him to not use it against him later.
“Can you tell me what their abilities are?” Janos hated the way he was talking to him, like they were friends.
Janos looked to Emma, and gave her images, ideas. He let her see his brothers using their abilities, so that he didn't have to tell Lehnsherr, didn't have to risk slipping somehow. Emma would know the right words, the terms.
“Joseph is a telekinetic. Not terribly powerful,” She gave him a considering look, making sure she was correct in her assessment. Janos had never heard the word she used, but could guess the meaning. “Jesimiel is a hydrokinetic. Stronger than Joseph. Josiah is strong, and durable. And Joash,” Her blue eyes, much darker than Azazel's, went wide in surprise as she tipped her head to the side inquiringly. Janos nodded at her in confirmation. “Joash can repress mutant abilities. Not completely, but to an extent.”
Lehnsherr rubbed his thumb over his bottom lip, obviously deep in thought over the revelation. Joash's ability had inspired the same wonder in Shaw. Then he had met them. It had only been once, before Azazel ever joined them. Janos hadn't even known he'd done it until he returned. It was the first time he'd ever seen Shaw reject mutants before they'd even been seriously considered.
“Could Joash be recruited?”
“I don't think that's a good idea.” Emma answered for him. Janos looked up at her, making eye contact, and knew she'd seen. “I don't think any of them are good for recruitment.”
Lehnsherr looked between them, eyebrows drawn down and eyes narrowed. “I don't appreciate being kept out of the loop.”
“Janos is a private person.” Emma said, trying to look appealing. He knew all of her roles, and this was her attempt to be flirtatious. He projected the idea of it being useless, that Lehnsherr was lost to his cause. She modified her expression slightly, made it more pleading and sweet.
“Frost, I'm not Shaw.” His voice was cold as he looked at her, something like disdain in his face. “Your games won't work on me.”
“Can't blame a girl for trying.” She said, and he gave her a dry smile in return. Janos hoped it would distract him enough, but Lehnsherr had the focus of a shark who smelled blood. He turned to Janos with a smile that didn't reach his eyes.
“Don't have private conversations in my presence.”
“Why should I follow your orders?”
“Because I tell you to.”
“That's not enough.” The spoon Emma had left on the table lifted, and started to bend, sharpening as it twirled in the air. Janos watched it out of the corner of his eye, praying to God nothing was giving away how afraid he was now. “Are you threatening me?”
“Do I have to?”
“Perhaps not your smartest idea.” A deeply-accented voice said, as Azazel appeared behind Lehnsherr, tail pointed at his throat. Janos glanced at Emma, and though she gave nothing away, he knew she had to have called him.
“Azazel,” Lehnsherr said, in a very casual way. Janos could see the way his eyes darted to the tail though. “I wanted to speak with you today, actually.”
“Threaten him again, Lehnsherr,” Azazel almost growled. “And you will be asking me out of another mouth.” The point of the tail pressed into Lehnsherr's skin, and Lehnsherr inhaled sharply.
“Understood.” Azazel withdrew his tail, up and over his shoulder, but he didn't move from behind Lehnsherr. “Your loyalties to one another are commendable.”
“Your approval means much.” Azazel's voice practically dripped with sarcasm, and Lehnsherr obviously heard it. He smiled again though, as the spoon, now beyond repair, gently fell onto the table. “What are you discussing now?”
The look Azazel gave Janos made him want to hide. There was anger there, and betrayal. He wanted to know why Lehnsherr was being told something that had been denied him, when Lehnsherr was a stranger, and Azazel was everything. He would have to explain, the sooner the better.
“Are you really?”
Emma was looking at Azazel sharply, obviously trying to project something to him, but Azazel had to be blocking her, to judge by her frustration. It was one of the things that irritated her about him, how often he shut her out.
-He's angry-, she told Janos, -Really angry-.
-I don't need you to tell me that.- He sent back, watching the man, trying to look sorry. Azazel was not softening though, and they'd been silent long enough for Lehnsherr to realize that he was again being left out of some kind of communication.
“Do you want to be left alone?” He asked, and thought it was obviously more sarcasm, Janos got up, shoving his chair back, and left the room.
“Janos!” Emma called after him, and he heard her making excuses, filling Lehnsherr in on what he needed to learn about his new “brotherhood”, and why pushing Janos was always a bad idea. She would smooth everything over, he knew, though that almost bothered him. He wanted Lehnsherr to know that he was crossing lines by invading Janos' past, by asking questions no one but Azazel had ever asked. That no one but Azazel was allowed to ask.
He only made it to the foyer before Azazel caught him, his tail wrapping around Janos' forearm to hold him back.
“Why does he get to know?” Azazel demanded. “Damn it, Janos, do not try my temper!”
Janos pulled away, insulted. “And now you're threatening me? What exactly do you think I am? I'm not a woman Azazel, and I'm not weak! Don't ever think you have any right to tell me what to do!”
Azazel grabbed at him again, this time by the shoulders, his hands heavy there. “I would sooner slit my own throat than cause you pain Janos, you know that. Don't pretend you don't.” Janos was confused, but he refused to give any ground by showing it. He kept his face impassive, blank. “Don't pretend you do not know how much command you have over me.” He released Janos, backing away, a show of submission. “I would kill him though.”
Janos could certainly believe that of him, and he was afraid at how much pleasure the thought gave him, that Azazel wanted him that much.
“Why would you tell him anything?” He asked, sounding less angry, more sad. Janos hated the idea of him being sad, but he hated the idea that Azazel might not trust him more.
“Did it ever occur to you that I didn't want to? Lehnsherr has decided that my brothers would make ideal business partners.” His voice took on a mocking tone, as he fell back in the role he was best in. “He wants me to go down there and have a family reunion. And while I'm there, he wants me to buy two children that my brothers are selling. Because apparently, they felt they hadn't brought our name down far enough. Now they sell slaves. Now they take little girls and they,” He stopped, the jest too far, even for him. Especially for him. “You know, when I was younger, no matter how much I hated them, I believed they could still be saved. But now I don't think there's anything left to save.”
Azazel said nothing, and though he looked like he wanted to, he did not approach Janos or try to touch him. He was grateful for that, that Azazel still knew how to read him.
“Were they ever worth saving?” He finally said, tail curling back and forth over his shoulder.
“We were always taught that God could save anyone. This, though. This, I wonder.” Azazel didn't manage to hide his huff of laughter, and Janos glared at him. “Just because you think there is no God, Azazel, don't mock my faith.”
“Don't expect me to take you seriously when you start talking about that. You know me better than that.” Azazel said, with no small amount of derision.
“I'm not in the mood for this. I need to go outside.”
“It's freezing outside, and still raining.” Azazel warned after him, but Janos ignored him, striding out into the storm.
Outside, he felt like he could breathe again, and he inhaled the wet air in great lungfuls, angry at everything and everyone. Damn it, this was not him, he did not behave like this. He had to get himself under control before he drove everyone away.
Azazel would only take so much before he started to wonder where the man he knew had gone, where the confident Janos who always had a quick retort went. That was the man he liked, the man he wanted, not this mess of nerves. There was only so much sex could do before Azazel got tired of dealing with this and ended it.
The thought made his stomach hurt, and he walked faster, towards the edge of the land where the water was. It was grey and choppy, the rain breaking the surface into a thousand pieces.
He'd loved Azazel for so long, had ached over him so many nights, and by some stroke of luck, Azazel wanted to try with him. He had to stop this now, had to be something worth keeping, or he would never get to stay with him. Azazel would find someone else, someone better, and Janos would be left alone, without even his friend.
This was the worst time for this to be happening, for him to fall apart.
He walked into the water without another thought, the cold of it nothing to him right now, as it swirled about him, welcoming him. It knew him, loved him, the same way the wind did, Around him, the storm picked up, turning into something wild, and he tipped his head back, the ocean to his knees, fingertips just brushing it.
It had been like this before, he remembered. This was what he had done when he'd escaped them. He'd wandered into the water until he felt free of them and their stranglehold.
“Again!” His father ordered, and Joseph obeyed, using his ability to fling a swath of sand at Janos, stinging his skin as he covered his mouth and eyes. Nothing else happened though, and his father huffed, stalking over and hauling Janos to his feet by his hair. “You did it once boy, now do it again!”
“I can't Papa! I don't know how!”
“You have to feel it Janos! Rage will unlock it!” He stepped away and signaled to Joseph. Again, Janos was knocked down, this time so hard he slid along the dirt, and when he stood, his arm and his stomach were bloody, while his face felt raw. The whole of him burned from the pain, and his throat grew tight as he started to cry.
His entire face exploded in pain when Joash suddenly struck him hard across the other, unwounded side of his face.
“There's something there Father, I can feel it.” He said, regarding Janos with his hard, clinical eyes. “He's just not using it. He's too stupid, aren't you Janos?” Janos screamed in rage and kicked at his brother, but Joash just hit him again, making him see stars. “Get up, little Janos. Get up and fight.”
“I can't!” He yelled, managing to get to his feet again. He was struck again though, in the stomach, this time by Josiah, and it was hard enough he fell backwards, Josiah not even trying to harness his ability.
“Get up, Janos. When you stay down, you shame this family. You shame me. Get up, now. Right now.” His father ordered.
Janos struggled to his feet, but again, Joash knocked him down.
“Maybe it knows you're not worth it.” He hissed, bending over Janos. “Maybe it knows you're just the runt of the litter, not worth a thing in this world. Everyone else knows it. Father knows it. The only one who didn't believe it was Mother. But Mother is dead, isn't she-!”
“Shut up!” He screamed, throwing his hand up at his brother. Around him, the wind roared, in his ears and in his blood, as much a part of him as the hand that controlled it. Joash hit the garden wall with a thump as Janos got to his feet, his breathing ragged.
“Finally.” His father drawled. “Jesimiel, clean him up.”
In the kitchen, Jesimiel cleaned his wounds and bandaged them, not unkindly, his face lacking any expression at all.
“They don't mean to be cruel.” He said, after a moment. “It's just how they are.” Jesimiel's sleeves were rolled up, so Janos could see the great big scar, like a snake under his skin, that went from his wrist to the crook of his elbow. “They're only trying to make you strong.”
“Why does it have to hurt?” Jesimiel looked up at him, his eyes dark and sad.
“I admit,” He said, his tone awkwardly kind. “I do not much like their methods.”
“Janos!” A hand closed around his arm and he was gone, suddenly, back on the beach, his legs soaked and numb, as he shivered, his teeth chattering. “Have you lost your mind?” It was Azazel, of course. Only he would follow Janos out into a storm, out into the ocean.
Something wrapped around Janos' shoulders. It was Azazel's coat, and now Azazel was in just his shirt in the rain, the red of his skin showing through the quickly dampening fabric.
They disappeared together, and appeared in Janos' bedroom, where Azazel took back his jacket. Janos wasted no time getting out of his wet clothes, not even caring that Azazel was just standing there, appraising him.
This was it, he knew. This was the last bit of insanity Azazel would put up with. Now he would tell Janos how it was too much, how this hadn't been what he wanted when he and Janos had fallen into bed together. He wanted someone independent, someone who didn't need him like Janos did. Not someone who had nightmares and kept secrets and argued with him.
“Why are you hiding from me?” It was not what Janos expected, and he had no answer. “You have never been like this with me. Emma, yes. Other people. Never me. You have always told me what I have asked of you. What am I doing wrong that you think I cannot be trusted?” He was angry, but not for the reasons Janos had thought. “I want you, want to be here with you, but not like this.”
There it was, and it hurt so much worse when Azazel said it, than when he had thought it.
“Just get out then. I need to shower.” He tried to walk away, but Azazel grabbed him and forced him to face him.
“Don't do this.” Azazel said, his voice suddenly desperate. “Please, I just need to understand.” Janos wrenched himself away.
“If you're going to leave, leave. I don't care.” It was a lie, and it wasn't even a good one. Azazel was angry and frustrated, but not so much he couldn't spot one from Janos.
“Damn it, Janos, if you don't want me, tell me! Don't treat me like this! Don't treat me like I don't know you! We are friends, we have been friends.” He smoothed his hair down, the pomade having come loose in the rain. “I wanted this. I thought if I had this, I would have everything I wanted. But ever since, you keep pulling away from me, hiding things from me. Before, I had everything from you but sex. Now, that is all I have. That's not what I wanted.”
“Azazel,” He was so cold, down to his marrow, and very little of it had to do with the ocean water he'd stood in. The numbness he'd wrapped himself in as a child, the only way he'd had to protect himself from them and their methods, had kept him safe for so long. Azazel, and Emma to an extent, had been the only people who had managed to break through. But now by keeping himself safe, he was hurting Azazel.
“Do you still want me here?” Azazel sounded so helpless, and it broke Janos' heart. “Or are you just doing this because you think this is what I want? Just because we slept together doesn't mean we have to keep sleeping together. We can forget this, can go back to how we were, if that's what you want.”
“Why are you so convinced I don't want you?” Azazel sat down on the bed, rubbing his temple. Janos had rarely seen him like this, distraught and confused. “You don't know, do you? You really don't.”
“I feel like I don't know anything right now.”
“Azazel, how long have we known each other?”
“I don't know. Eight, seven years?” It sounded about right, and Janos nodded in agreement. “Why?”
“If we have known each other for seven years, then I have been in love with you for six and a half years.” Azazel turned to him, eyes wide, and Janos wanted to take the words back, hide in himself where he couldn't be hurt. “Six months after we met, you took me to Spain. Do you remember?”
“You took me to Spain because I said I missed being able to speak Spanish, because my English was still not very good. So you took me to Spain for the night. There was a carnival, and everyone was wearing masks. So you hid your tail and pretended you were something else. And no one knew the difference. You bought me this.” He picked up his cigarette case from the table, silver and worn with age. “I didn't ask you to. You just saw me look at it and knew I wanted it.”
“I liked you.” He had been generous with Janos, poor Janos who had never had a friend. Suddenly, there was Azazel, who read books Janos had never read and listened to music Janos had never heard. He was opinionated and loud about those opinions, and he told stories that made Emma and Janos laugh until they cried. He was mischievous, and liked to play jokes on them, only ever in good humor. He drank alcohol that made Janos' eyes water, and he smoked cigarettes rolled in black paper.
That night at the carnival, Azazel had been everything Janos could ever have asked for, and he had been happy, so happy. He had thought only of his friend as being that, until they returned and he realized he wanted more. He wanted to invite Azazel back to his room, wanted to know what Azazel kissed like, how he would touch Janos.
He had been angry with himself for ruining something so important, for refusing to be reasonable.
But over time, the desperation inside settled to a quiet kind of want. His love changed and grew over the years, into something strong and real, but it never once wavered. He found other men, men who gave him satisfaction for a night, but they were never Azazel, and he never once considered letting any of them ever even know his real name.
And now here they were.
“You didn't love me then. I knew that.” Janos confessed. “So I never said anything.”
Azazel laughed, a little, and his tail wrapped around Janos' arm, bringing him close. Janos was down to his underwear and his shirt, but Azazel's slow and careful fingers started to undo the buttons on the former, baring Janos' stomach to him.
“Do you remember the first time we argued about religion?” Janos thought back, over the many times they had fought over the subject, but couldn't pick out the first time exactly. He shook his head, as his arms came to rest around Azazel's neck. “We were in France. At that church.” Now Janos remembered the stone church, in Nice. It had been force of habit to dab his fingers in the holy water and cross himself, head bowed to the Blessed Virgin and her Son.
Azazel had chuckled, and lit a cigarette.
“I nearly punched you.” He mused fondly, and like he had then, Azazel laughed. “Why?”
“It was after that. That was when I realized I wanted you. You were so angry with me, so unafraid.” He ran his fingers through Janos' hair, something that was quickly becoming a habit for him, Janos noticed.
“I have never been afraid of you.” Janos scoffed.
“I know.” Azazel said it quietly, reverently. The tone made Janos look away in embarrassment, his joke suddenly not a joke. “You will never have a reason to fear me. Never.”
“I love you. Do you understand that?” His eyes were burning into Janos, and he couldn't meet them, couldn't take Azazel's intensity. “You own me. Body, and soul, if you like.” He leaned forward and kissed the bare skin of Janos' stomach, his declaration of devotion still ringing through Janos' head, consuming him.
“Why?” He asked, overwhelmed.
“Because you are you.” Again, he pressed his lips to Janos' stomach, the gesture almost worshipful.
“Move,” He directed, pushing at Azazel's shoulders. Azazel obeyed, sliding back, and Janos climbed into the bed, putting his back to the headboard and pulling the covers over his freezing body. Azazel followed his movements, and when Janos had settled, he put his head down on Janos' lap, as though he couldn't bear for them to be parted right now. Janos didn't blame him.
For a time, they were quiet and still, Azazel using his tail to get his shoes off at some point. Janos stroked his hair mindlessly, lost in thought, and at one point, it occurred to him that Angel must have already gone to the store, without him. He hoped she remembered the apples.
“I don't like to think about my brothers.” He said, his voice low, but still too loud to his ears. “I don't like to think about that time at all.”
Azazel said nothing, but his tail came up and wound around the wrist of the hand in his hair reassuringly.
“I was the youngest. And the last to manifest. It took me many years to gain control.” He swallowed, and forced the next part out, determined to finish what he had started. “My father believed that anger was the only way to make abilities like mine work. So when I showed my powers, my father would take me out into the garden, every day, and he would have my brothers beat me. Nothing was ever too far.” He bit his lip, and he must have tensed, because Azazel's tail tightened. “Joseph broke my leg. My father said it was my own fault for not defending myself. And Joash,” Again, he paused, afraid to admit it to Azazel. “Joash liked it. And sometimes he would keep my ability away from me, just so he could keep tormenting me. Joesph knew what he was doing. And he participated.”
He could still remember his frustration, the wind just beyond his reach as Joash hit him, again and again, while Joseph laughed.
“Father grew ill, and died when I was twelve. Many people died that winter. Influenza, the Americans called it. That is not the Spanish word, and I had never heard it before. I was ill, as were my brothers, but we recovered. After that, Joseph was in charge. I never knew another day of peace. Every day was the same. Jesimiel, or Josiah, or me, whoever had angered them that day, or whoever they felt needed reminding, would be taken outside. They said they were teaching us to use our abilities, but I never believed it. After a time, Josiah became one of them. Jesimiel just went away, into his own head. He doesn't care about anything, anymore.
“When I was nineteen, I escaped them. Joash can repress abilities, but not completely. And he can be overcome, with practice. I had plenty. He was going to break my fingers again. They liked doing that, since that is how I keep a fine control on my power. I was not going to let them. Josiah has strength. That is his ability. I threw him off of me, into Joash. I ran. And I never went back.” It all sounded so much worse when said aloud, and he wanted to take it all back, so that Azazel never had to know about this, his greatest weakness.
“And now Lehnsherr wants you to go back to them.”
“They have children. Mutant children. And they are hurting them.” He sighed. “I don't see where my choice is.”
“I could rip out their intestines. There is a choice.”
Janos almost laughed, or sobbed, he couldn't tell, and cupped Azazel's head in his hands, leaning over so they could kiss upside down.
“I am serious.”
“I know.” He kissed him again. “I know.”
A/N This chapter is longer, and I hope it meets approval. I'm worried about this series as a whole, that it's heading into overly-dramatic territory, and I would appreciate reviews and criticisms from any readers on it. Especially if you spot errors. I've been quite tired lately, and overworked, to the point this is the only fiction I've been working on. I've even let a few presents languish half-finished. :(