To the few people still reading this oh god I love you so much D: I'm crazy sorry about how long this took. I guess I just lost all inspiration and interest for a while. I'm terribly sorry.
Disclaimerz: Song and song lyrics of Standing In The Way of Control belong to The Gossip. Do not own.
- - - - - -
Your back's against the wall
There's no one home to call
You're forgetting who you are
You can't stop crying
- - - - - -
Aesha looked across the room, his dark eyes searching out the familiar face in the darkness, wrought with anxiety and something frighteningly close to fear. His own features softened at the display; he understood the young man's feelings perfectly. Yet at the same time, he couldn't even attempt to imagine the magnitude of them. They were about to change the world.
He was about to change the world. A skinny, blue-eyed, blonde-haired man barely into his third decade of life, young and naïve and terrified out of his mind.
His large hand found the shoulder, and wasn't at all surprised when it trembled beneath him. "It'll be okay."
Sebastian barely spared a glance; his arms were by his side, rigid, hands clenched into fists. His eyes remained focused on the grand doors in front of them, as if counting down the seconds until they opened. "Yeah."
Aesha's lips tugged slightly. He gave the shoulder a gentle squeeze before letting his hand drop to his side again, smoothing over his stiff pants. The clock behind them chimed – it was time. "I'm right here with you."
The second promise seemed to reach him properly – the boy turned his head and gave a half-smile. Timid and tighter than Aesha would have liked, but a smile nonetheless. It said more than any words could have.
The doors swung open all at once, and Sebastian flinched as a loud, clear voice boomed to his right.
"Presenting his Royal Highness, Prince Emilio Phallon Lauceston."
"Never going to get used to that." He breathed, and Aesha bit back a laugh as they were swept into the room, the applause almost deafening.
"Get used to it, your Highness."
- - -
Shaun tilted his head back, eyes squinting up at the ludicrously bright ceiling. Why was it that the whole damn building was the same dull monochrome bullshit, but that room? He was pretty sure that one office held more colour than all the other rooms in the facility combined.
His stomach growled; he couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten. Before Jet had killed himself. Before Sebastian had been revealed as a complete lie. Before Rogue had kidnapped him, taken him back home. What had been left of it, that is.
He couldn't even bring himself to feel hungry.
He jumped when fingers touched his head lightly, his head snapping up in a panic to meet Marie's kind eyes. "Isabelle will see you now."
"Thanks." He muttered, pulling his body up and good Lord, he felt so tired. His bones, his skin. Everything ached, was so heavy, and he longed for a soft, warm bed to crawl into and sleep. One decent sleep was all he asked for.
He followed the elderly woman's directions, hesitating for only a moment before pushing through into the psychologist's office, finding her seated at her desk with an array of papers splayed on the desk in front of her.
He paused, more unsure than nervous. He wasn't particularly close to Isabelle. Other than trying to convince her he wasn't crazy, and being a spectator during her constant battles with Sebastian, he hadn't had a reason to interact with her, and quite liked it that way. She seemed too cool, too aloof and closed off to be an appealing friend. But when it came down to it… who could he really consider a friend? Jet, but Jet was dead. Sebastian, but Sebastian wasn't Sebastian anymore.
Rogue could never be a friend.
"Good morning." Isabelle's voice seemed to have lost some of its edge, he thought, but that could have just been tiredness. The skin under her eyes seemed darker, worn. She looked worn, and somehow that was kind of reassuring. That he wasn't the only one going through a rough time, and maybe they could help each other somehow. "How are you, Shaun?"
He lowered himself into the chair, sinking into the soft cushions with much relief. His head was beginning to ache – again, he put it down to lack of food. "Uh, alright. Thanks. Yourself?" It was a quick afterthought, realising that he should probably attempt to be courteous.
She smiled. It didn't reach her eyes. "I'm good, thank you. How can I help you today?"
What a loaded question, he thought tiredly. Let's see. My home is rubble, my family is dead, there's an assassin I can't seem to stay away from and I don't belong here.
Where on earth could he even begin to start from?
His eyes flicked to the window, teeth grazing over his lip as he sucked in a breath. It was bright outside, and he had no doubt that it was absolutely scorching beyond the walls of the facility. Where to begin? He might as well start small.
Well. As small as their problems ever got.
"Sebastian." He said slowly, dragging the 'a' out as his teeth took his lower lip, muffling the name slightly.
If he had been watching her, he would've noticed the tension that suddenly overtook her. Her stare's tiny flinch, the way her breath hitched just enough to be noticeable. "What about him?" She silently praised herself for keeping her voice so calm.
Inside, she was anything but.
"Everyone's saying he's the Crown Prince."
Isabelle's eyes flicked to the papers in front of her, before squeezing shut for a split second. When she reopened them Shaun was looking at her curiously, and she cleared her throat. "Everyone is right. Except he's the Prince now, I suppose."
For a moment Shaun wasn't sure what to feel. Ever since he'd gotten off the roof (with Rogue, again, and god, when would he learn?) it had been nothing but a whispered rumour, started by the nurses in Quarantine and spread through the base like wildfire. No one had been able to really confirm it – no one had seen either hide or tail of Sebastian or the General, and this only seemed to fuel the rumours.
"Right." He said simply, grimacing as the nausea worsened.
So it was true. Sebastian really was the Prince. He really had fooled everyone, and what was that all about? How could he have done that? In the cafeteria he had told Shaun that the royal family were the true heirs, and were the only ones that could remove Montague from power.
So why had he lied? He could have helped out the world a long time ago. Maybe saved it. Montague was nothing but trouble – Shaun didn't know much about the world now, but he was definitely sure of that. Sebastian could have erased him completely, and possibly have saved countless soldiers' lives.
What had he been thinking?
"It's all a bit of a shock, isn't it?" It wasn't really a question; Isabelle looked to the side as the lump in her throat rose. She knew she had no real grounds to be upset – Aesha couldn't have told her. She understood that. It would have been too risky.
Sebastian didn't tell anyone, she could hardly have expected him to… magically open up and spill his deepest, darkest secret to her. That was a stupid, ridiculous and downright foolish thing to have hoped for.
But regardless of all the logic that screamed at her, it hurt all the same. She was pretty sure the fact that it hurt was upsetting her more than what she had been originally upset about.
Love, she thought disdainfully, was a real bitch when it wanted to be.
"Understatement." Shaun muttered, and he leant forward a bit to cradle his face in his hands. A yawn escaped him, and he had never felt so goddamn tired. Nothing made sense anymore.
Isabelle cocked her head to the side, latching onto an idea with crazy fierceness. Anything to prevent her from thinking about Sebastian any longer. "How have you been sleeping?"
The brunette shrugged heavily, lifting his head to peer at her. "I dunno. Alright, I guess."
Shaun frowned, a cold shiver racing up his spine despite himself. Doubt struck – should he really tell her? She was a psychologist. What if she locked him up in the mental hospital (did the base even have a psych ward?) and forced him to take all sorts of crazy drugs?
What if she thought it was something serious, something bad and crazy and wrong?
"Shaun?" Isabelle paused, noting the wary expression on the young boy's face. "Anything you say to me here is strictly confidential. Nothing goes beyond this room."
He bit his lip again, wincing at the tenderness of it. Stupid Rogue and his stupid crazy sharp teeth. "Well, I. Uh. I've been having… these dreams, I guess. Nightmares, maybe. I, um, I told Doctor Jay though." He added quickly, defensively.
"Ah." She leant back in the chair, lacing her fingers in her lap. "May I ask what happens in them?"
Shaun snorted bitterly, hunching his shoulders as the nausea began to ebb. He made a mental note to eat as soon as this meeting finished, before he wound up in the infirmary or something. "Things. I dunno. I'm not really sure. It's all really… disjointed. All over the place. It's just lots of lights and hands and… noises. Mostly noises."
"I see. What did Doctor Jay say about them?" She didn't miss the stiffening, or the way Shaun's fingers tightly wound around the armrests. He didn't meet her eyes; kept his eyes on her mouth, and her own eyes narrowed slightly. "I won't –"
"Nothing." Shaun broke in flatly, moving his hands to his lap. He grit his teeth for a moment, before meeting her eyes. "He didn't say anything."
She nodded, not believing a word. "Fair enough. Did you want to talk about them more, or…?" She trailed off, leaving the meeting in his hands. It was obvious something was troubling him, but she knew when not to push.
His brow furrowed as his fingers subconsciously brushed against the waistband of his pants. Right where the knife had been. Rogue's knife.
He had saved him.
"No." He murmured, and his voice sounded so far away even to him. He wondered what the assassin was doing right at that moment. He wondered when he'd drop back for the stupid knife. He wondered – hated wondering – what was going to happen when he did. "No, thanks."
"Is there anything –?"
"I need to go." He stood abruptly as his face flushed stupidly; he should've known better than to follow that particular train of thought. God, what the hell was wrong with him? Why couldn't he just say no? And now everything was going to hell, and the last bloody thing he needed was this. Was this insane, disturbed, messed up relationship he'd somehow fallen into.
He didn't wait for her to reply, just strode out with burning skin and half-lidded eyes. He couldn't let it keep happening. Not anymore.
He had to sort out his own problems, his own demons. Rogue, those awful dreams. Especially those awful dreams. His heart panged – Marcella would have been so, so helpful right about then. She would've known exactly what to do.
But instead she was dead, had been dead for years, and he never even said goodbye. To any of them. He couldn't even visit a grave, lay down some flowers. Tell them how much he would miss them, how much he did miss them, how much he needed each and every one of them to be back and breathing and there, because he didn't know what he was doing anymore.
He stopped, had to. He sunk against the wall, hot tears streaming down his cheeks.
- - -
"How'd that go?" Aesha pressed his shoulders back against the seat, hissing in momentary pain when his spine cracked loudly. His hands grasped at his tie, already sick of wearing it. He loathed suits. Ties always felt like nooses to him.
Sebastian shrugged awkwardly, his head in his hands. "Could've been worse, I guess."
The General half-smiled, dumping the tie on the narrow table in front of them. "It could have been a lot worse. At least you didn't have to wear a suit."
The blonde lifted his head to give the older man a wry smile. "Why, sir, I think you look dashingly handsome in a suit."
He rolled his eyes. "You know, you don't have to call me 'sir' anymore."
"Are you going to start calling me 'your Highness'?"
Aesha snorted. "Not on your life. You'll always be Sebastian to me. As irritating as you are." He added with another roll of his eyes for good measure, and Sebastian cocked a smirk.
"Then, sir, I guess you'll have to deal." He leant back against his seat, squinting out the plane window. "Kailey didn't seem at all surprised. Did you…?"
"I told you – the only ones that knew were myself and your doctor. I didn't tell her anything." He paused for a moment. "She's always held a soft spot for you, though. I suppose she too thought there was something else about you."
"Well," Sebastian said slowly, "I am devilishly handsome."
"And you're going to be ruling the world." Aesha shook his head grimly. "Lord help us."
Immediately, Sebastian's golden face tightened, casual demeanour dying as his stomach twisted violently. Ruling the world.
What the hell had he gotten himself into?
"Relax." The General said gently, reaching across for the bottled water. "You have everyone beside you. You'll make a great King."
"Yeah." Sebastian whispered.
He had never felt so terrified.
- - -
Rogue leapt back with a gleeful cackle, landing gracefully some ten feet away from his adversary. His eyes narrowed slightly, mouth in a delicious smirk. "You're pretty fast, y'know."
The scorpion didn't answer; it watched him closely with its beady eyes, pinchers raised threateningly. Its tail was practically leaking venom, and the thought of it sent a little shiver of excitement down the assassin's spine.
A challenge was a rare thing these days, even if it was just a little scorpion. It was something, and that was better than nothing. There weren't exactly a lot of people that could match his speed, strength or skill. Unless he wanted to hunt down a beast, and that was never a good idea.
When he was young, younger, at least, and all shades of dumb he had tried that, at every available opportunity. Had hunted them down like prey, sought them out just to have a quick battle. Thinking he might actually get the upper hand and win.
He learnt pretty quickly that winning just was not worth the risk.
He groaned, his head dropping almost mournfully. Nothing ever went his way. With a scowl he reached for the communicator, lifting it to his snarling mouth. "What? This had better fucking be –"
"Ace is requesting your presence in his office."
He bit back another groan, clicking the device off and giving the scorpion a sly smile. "Lucky you, babe. Maybe next time, eh?"
As luck would have it, Ace's quarters were on the other side of the base. It was at least a twenty minute walk, through half-decayed stone buildings and bustling militia, a noisy and exhausting affair. He loathed the journey, but it'd give him a chance to think things over, if nothing else.
Not that he needed to think things over, because there was nothing to think about. No one. There was no one to think about.
And immediately, completely unbidden, a heart-shaped disgustingly human face flashed before him. Ridiculous mop of brown hair, guarded, defensive brown eyes that flashed with alternating fits of rage and pain. A snarling mouth that could be surprisingly gentle when it wanted to be, softer-than-soft brown skin that seemed to stretch on forever.
Heart. Twisted and torn and completely beat-up, but beating and fighting and there.
Fucking hell. He was doing it again.
"Stupid fucking human fucking brat of a fucking… ugh!" He threw his arms up as a rivet of fury tore through him – the stupid kid was the centre of all his problems. And he still had his bloody knife.
It shouldn't have turned out like this. It shouldn't have become whatever the fuck it was becoming – if he was feeling calmer, and a hell of a lot more rational, he might have admitted it was partly (mostly) his fault. He had let it, after all. He had returned to the boy, time and time again, for reasons that had made sense at the time but now completely baffled him. But he wasn't feeling very calm, and rational was out of the question altogether, and so all his resentment and blame was focused entirely on the dumb kid.
He had saved him. What the hell had he been thinking? Maybe it would have been acceptable, alright in some small way, if he hadn't previously been, y'know, ordered to do the exact opposite.
He had been point-blank told to kill the brunette, no ifs and buts about it. It was an order, a direct order from Ace and instead… instead he had saved him.
He had never felt so fucking dirty.
"Ugh." He tore his hands through his snowy hair, wrenching his head back to glare moodily at the sky. Trust his luck. Only he would be unfortunate enough to become entangled in such a, such a… revolting affair.
He was a human. A full-blood, no-doubt-about-it human being, a preposterously overemotional bag of flesh and bones with no real purpose. The kid didn't even have enough guts to join the ESF, for Chrissakes. He just moped around the base and wept about his long-dead family. He wasn't even useful.
"No more." He muttered angrily, giving the hard ground a vicious kick that would have shattered a human foot. He was moving away from the noisier areas, into the more silent and secure parts that eventually led to Ace's section. Only the soldiers possessing access to the highest security frequented this area, and they were few and far between. "I am not going back to that fucking place if I can help it. And if I ever see him again, I'm going to slit his fucking throat myself."
Except for how the kid still had his knife.
"Fuck!" He shouted furiously, kicking again and his voice echoed and bounced off the walls. "Fucking stupid humans and their stupid… ugh!"
"Boyfriend trouble, Rogue?"
The assassin spun around in shock, his mouth falling open at the sight of Ang standing rather calmly behind him, arms folded behind him. Since when the hell had Ang – or anyone – been able to sneak up on him like that?!
Oh, yeah, since silly human boys decided to distract the hell out of him by ruining his life. That.
"I beg your pardon?" He cocked an eyebrow, cold indifference returning. "Is there any particular reason you're out here? You should return to your room – you might run into something nasty."
Ang's eyes narrowed at the bared fangs, the wicked carnal sneer, and he merely shrugged. His hands slipped into his coat pockets, fingers brushing the syringe carefully stowed away. "I thought you might have decided to walk, and decided to join you."
His sneer shrunk, lips pursing slightly at the casual tone. Warning bells were going off loud and clear – something was off somewhere. Ang never voluntarily spent time with him, much less trekked around to seek him out. "I'm not in the mood. I suggest you piss off before you piss me off."
Ang's lips quirked at the threat, stepping forward as several men approached them, belts and buckles gleaming madly in the sun. "I don't think you're in a position to be making threats, Rogue."
The albino paused, hackles raised as his eyes darted to and from the men, counting them silently. Eleven. Eleven purple-coated soldiers, each with their hands on their holsters, and the uneasy feeling rapidly grew. What the hell was going on? They spread out around him, flanking Ang until Rogue was caught between a wall of men, and a wall of stone.
His voice was low, deadly. "Whatever you think you're trying to pull you better quit right now."
"Or what?" It was nothing short of a dare; Ang's face was contorted with excitement, lip raised in a primal grin.
"Or I'll tear you all to pieces." He growled, fists clenching by his sides and he glare travelled over the men's faces slowly, dangerously – not a single one so much as flinched, and that was unsettling within itself. There wasn't a single soldier on the base foolish enough to face off with him – in all his years he had never, ever been threatened. Half the time they didn't even dare to look at him let alone try to harm him.
They all knew what he was capable of, knew he was more than able to make good on his threats and held no reservations about doing so. So what the hellwas going on?
"Really, now." Ang mused, the sharkish grin on his face widening with each passing second. "And what if you can't?"
Rogue's eyes narrowed to slits and goosebumps rippled across his neck as someone moved behind him – he spun around just in time to dodge a man's lunge, the knife slashing through the air in a wide arc. A shot was fired and he ducked, kicking over another man to dodge another calculated slash. His eyes darted up, around as he twisted through the air in a flurry of white, searching for an escape route of some sort, or at least higher ground. He wasn't completely idiotic – despite his abilities facing off against eleven men in a very confined space was not a good idea. Realistically, he could heal from everything they threw at him within minutes, and the chances of him actually dying were pretty damn small, but it was still a situation that could turn pretty unpleasant if it all went belly-up.
Besides. He had a very bad feeling about this.
He landed in the fray, hands snapping a neck even as sharp pain exploded in his shoulder; the wound healed by the time he twisted around, his hand automatically reaching for his knife and grappling at air.
"Fuck!" He cursed loudly, and in the split second he was distracted by his weapon (or lack thereof) hands seized him. He snarled viciously as more hands clamped down; at least eight of the men had thrown their weight against him, wrestling him to his knees. Fingers ripped through his hair, capturing the soft locks and wrenching his head back in one rough yank. He hissed fiercely, struggling madly even as the heavy bodies weighed him down.
"You disappoint me, Rogue." Ang sighed, closing the distance between them. A satisfied simper played on his thin lips, moustache practically jumping with delight. "I expected a bit of a fight, at least."
"Ace is going to have your fucking head." The assassin snarled, his neck beginning to throb from the angle it was twisted at. He could feel a knife pressed against his lower back, the tip of it already at least half an inch into him. There was a cold hardness against his left temple – a gun, no doubt – and each frantic twist of his body sent the knife further into his flesh.
At that, Ang released a bark of laughter, throwing his head back as his shoulders shook energetically. He faced the smaller man with a deep, ecstatic smile, as though he had never been so happy in all his life. "Who do you think ordered this, moron?"
Rogue's struggling paused for a moment, complete disbelief overwhelming him. Ang was lying, he had to be lying. Ace wouldn't have ordered this… unless he was testing him? It made no sense, no sense at all. He must be testing him.
Ace needed him.
"You're lying." He hissed defiantly, his lower back wet with blood. It had begun to trickle down his backside, dripping onto the cold ground beneath them. "You're fucking lying."
"Am I?" He cocked his head to the side, a playfully curious expression on his face. He dipped his hand into his pocket, pulling out the capped syringe as though he were pulling a rabbit from a hat. Rogue's eyes narrowed suspiciously at the clear liquid inside the glass tube, and at once his skin prickled. "If I was lying, how would I have gotten this? Who would have given it to me, if not Ace?"
Recognition dawned, and at once Rogue's tongue turned to lead. His stomach dropped, heart racing in the closest thing to fear he'd felt in a long, long time. "That isn't –"
"Oh, but it is. A remarkable little creation, cooked up by our good friend Phaos. I think you're well aware of what it does." The sharkish grin was back, all teeth bared in a feral grin and Rogue swallowed thickly.
This couldn't be happening. It couldn't be happening.
"You see," Ang continued as he began uncapping the syringe, examining the liquid with obvious appreciation. "Ace doesn't tolerate failures. And unfortunately, dear Rogue, that's what you've become. He sent me to clean up the mess you've made, starting with yourself."
"What the fuck are you on about?" The assassin snarled, though there was a sinking feeling in his gut that told him he had a fair idea already. He had never betrayed Ace, had never countered his orders or failed anything. Except…
"Your little boyfriend. And while I admit it's kind of cute, watching you trail after a lowly human like a pathetic lovesick dog, it is quite the scandal. Especially considering you were ordered to terminate him. Couldn't do it, could you?" He tsked, shaking his head dejectedly. "That's too bad. Just means I'll have to do it myself. After I'm done with you, of course. Don't worry, don't worry – I'll be sure to give him a proper goodbye."
With a ferocious snarl Rogue twisted sharply, ignoring the knife that split through his middle and kicked out his leg, sweeping under feet and sending half the men crashing to the ground. He flipped over the others, hand flying for his gun at neck-breaking speed and firing rapidly; three fell before something slammed into his side.
He stumbled, his head darkening for a split second before he mashed his hand against his eyes and moaned groggily, free fingers groping for the wound in his side. Instead, they closed around a thin cylinder and he pulled it free as his vision swam momentarily.
A tranquilizer dart.
He frowned, confused and dizzy – one dart wouldn't be enough to take him down, and why didn't they just use bullets? It didn't make sense and what the hell did Ang mean, 'a proper goodbye' and oh god his head swum.
"Come on, now." Ang's voice sounded so far away, and Rogue stumbled back when the man appeared right in front of him, sneer firmly in place. "You're not stupid enough to think I'd let anyone but me kill you."
"Fuck you." He snarled, but it was weak and he was so dizzy. He lifted his gun, vision swimming dangerously and found himself faced with two Angs. "You don't know fucking shit. I was going to kill him – I am going to kill him."
"A bit too late for that now, Rogue. You should have killed him a long time ago. Do you love him? Is that it? Did the great big bad fall in love with a pathetic little human? No, wait, that's ridiculous of me. You can't love. You're nothing but a guinea pig, a homemade monster; you're incapable of feeling anything." He twisted his head as his lips twisted predatorily. "Maybe he's just a real good fuck. Is that it? Maybe I'll have to try him out sometime."
A new, unfamiliar anger swathed him, slashed through him until it just about exploded from him; he slammed his fist into the other man's face, nose crunching as his elbow flew into the thick column of neck; Ang choked, spluttering wildly as the wind was knocked clean out of him.
"F-Fuck." Rogue stumbled back as darkness swamped his vision again, the ground seeming to topple out from under him and he barely had time to regain his footing before he was caught under an avalanche of men again.
Ang coughed roughly, gasping in great mouthfuls of air with much relief, as Rogue struggled and fought beneath the army of bodies. Once he'd gotten his breath back he smirked, striding over to the squirming assassin. "Getting a bit dizzy, are we? That's too bad."
"Fuck y –!" He was cut off by the piercing pain in his throat – the syringe tore through his skin like paper, finding its mark in his neck and for a moment he couldn't move, couldn't breathe.
Everything went white.
He came to less than a second later, vision returning hazily and he parted his dry lips, eyes blinking slowly, confused at the sudden nausea swirling in his gut, the men gone. What just hap…
"I warned you. I am going to kill you." A voice purred in his ear, hot and close. "And I am going to enjoy every fucking second of it."
Rogue squeezed his eyes shut, desperately willing the dizziness to stop, he needed to fight, needed to, needed to… god, what was happening? "I –"
Ang slammed the blade into his gut and gave it a vicious twist.
- - -
"God, Dominoes." Shaun murmured, pressing his face against the glass. "I would kill for some Dominoes right now."
The soldier beside him let out a cheery laugh. "I think there might be some in the library. They have all sorts of old games there."
"Huh?" He was completely lost for a moment, before making the connection. "Oh. Oh, right. No, um… thanks."
It wasn't worth trying to explain.
He picked up the plates of mediocre food, his stomach practically salivating at the thought, and carefully carried his tray over to a small, empty table by the wall. He didn't particularly feel like company – the amount of noise and movement happening around him was definitely more than enough, and he tried to ignore it as much as possible.
It was the little things he missed the most, really. Being able to order takeout. TV shows, god, he missed TV shows. He'd never be able to find out the endings to any of them. Going to the movies, eating overpriced oversalted popcorn, home.
Parks. Beaches. Streets and neighbours and towns. Politicians, even politicians. AFL. Trampolines. Barbecues. Pets and angle grinders and freedom.
He wiped at his burning eyes, holding in a shudder as a wave of nostalgia ripped through him. He didn't think he could ever get used to this world. This time. It wasn't his. He didn't belong there. He would never belong there.
He jumped when someone slid into the chair opposite him, heart racing until he recognised the face, and then it seemed to stop dead in his chest.
"Hi." Sebastian said simply, doing his very best to ignore how deathly silent the cafeteria had become. He kept his eyes firmly locked on Shaun, only Shaun, and not on the dozens of faces gawking at him. He couldn't deny the nervous twist of his gut though – to be honest he had been pretty apprehensive about returning to the base, but had so far managed to avoid everyone's questions and comments.
"Uh." Shaun stared at him blankly, his fork half-way to his mouth, before swallowing awkwardly. "You're the Prince."
Sebastian winced; he'd really hoped that wouldn't enter the conversation just yet. "Yeah. I guess I am."
"You guess?" Shaun repeated, incredulousness creeping into his voice. "Why the hell didn't you… you lied to me!"
The blonde sighed heavily. "I lied to everyone, Shaun. Don't take it personally."
"Oh, like that makes it fucking okay." Shaun growled, spite lashing out and stabbed at his tomato rather ruthlessly. "You lied to the whole fucking world. You could've –"
"Don't." Sebastian cut in desperately, his voice cracking and Shaun was alarmed to see the panic in his eyes. "Please. Don't. I've copped that from everyone – I don't need it from you too. You're meant to be…"
The words hung in the air, unspoken, and Shaun looked back down at his food with an unreadable expression, not really sure how he felt. "Yeah." He said finally, his voice thick. He didn't know if he was agreeing or not.
"They want to move me out of the base." Sebastian mumbled, his fingertips smoothing over the edge of the table, and Shaun snorted bitterly.
Sebastian frowned, chewing on his lip. He just wanted to get this over and done with so that he could see Jackson. He was aching to see him. "Not… not really. I said no. But, um. I just wanted to check up on you. Say I'm… sorry, I guess."
"You should see Isabelle." Shaun remarked suddenly, desperate to change the awkward tension in the air. "I think she misses picking on you."
Sebastian fell silent, inwardly wincing as he remembered her lips pressed to his. "Yeah." He mumbled, hunching his shoulders and tapping the table distractedly. "Sure."
"You get bodyguards now?" His eyes swept over the two men behind him, and Sebastian grimaced, shrugging awkwardly.
"Yeah. I guess. Crazy security and everything. That's why they want to get me out of the base. Until I can… make an heir." He gave a short, unamused laugh and folded his arms over his chest. "You should've fucking been there today. At the stupid meeting. They… god. They pretty much decided the rest of my life. I have a press conference tomorrow."
"Fun times." Shaun said, and he still couldn't quite wrap his head around the whole thing. It was bizarre, completely unexpected and bizarre and Sebastian was the Prince.
He didn't know how he – anyone – was supposed to get used to that. It was Sebastian, for God's sakes.
Sebastian sucked in a breath, the anxiousness in his stomach mounting. "Yeah. Look, um. Can I just quickly go see Jackson for a sec?"
Shaun blinked in confusion. "…Why are you asking me?"
"No, no. Uh. Will you still be… around?" Sebastian bit his lip again, face flushing. "I mean. Can I meet you back here?"
"You want me to wait?" Shaun clued in slowly and the blonde looked pained.
"Yeah. I mean, no. Just… I should be back by the time you're done eating. If that's alright. I just… a familiar face would be real good right now."
Shaun glanced down at the mountain of food, and shrugged tiredly. "Yeah. Okay."
A half-grin broke out on the blonde's face and he quickly stood, shoving his chair back in roughly. "Thanks, Shaun. I'll only be a sec."
"Sure." Shaun muttered as he watched the older man practically bolt off, bodyguards close behind. He picked at the salad with his fork, suddenly feeling even worse than before.
He put his head in his hands, swallowing painfully.
He was still so tired.
- - -
Sebastian was practically humming, shifting from one foot to another with a grin quickly unfurling on his face as he waited for the doors to open.
"Are you sure it's safe for you to be down here?" The balding bodyguard, Maurice, asked suspiciously as the doors pinged and split.
Sebastian laughed; he couldn't help it, he was going to see Jackson, and practically skipped down the hall. "Trust me; I'm safer down here than anywhere else."
"What makes you so sure?" The other, a thick short fellow called Pietro, sounded just as suspicious and Sebastian spun around to face them at the red doors, face split from ear to ear with the biggest grin they'd ever seen.
"Because my very best friend is down here, and he would never let anything happen to me."
The pair exchanged dubious looks, but followed their charge through the doors into the Quarantine section, and into Jackson's open, brightly-lit room.
"Jackson!" It was like breathing – the absolute joy that filled every damn inch of his heart and soul, threatened to bubble out of him because it was just so much.
He was sitting on the bench in the cube, his arm outstretched as Doctor Jay was bandaging it, and immediately his emerald eyes sparked to life. "Sebastian!"
"Whoa, no." Jay threw his hand up quickly when Jackson made to move off the bench; he glowered at the redhead and gave the bandages a pointed look. "Wait until I'm done, please."
"Hey, Doc." Sebastian grinned at him, relief flooding his bones. "Glad to see you're back."
Jay gave him a nod, returning to the task at hand. Jackson was practically trembling with excitement, his face split by a grin and he almost smiled himself. They were cute, in an odd and slightly disturbing kind of way. Tragic, though. He couldn't see anything ever happening between them – especially now that everyone knew who Sebastian was. In a way he was glad for that.
The very idea of anything happening between them was a dangerous, dangerous thing. Jackson himself was too dangerous, not to mention it was all shades of illegal.
"So am I." He finished clasping the bandage, and barely had time to blink before Jackson was on his feet at the door, fingers tearing through his crimson hair.
"Hey, kid." Sebastian smiled gently, swiping his card through the lock and stepping inside. A delicious warmth spread through him at the redhead's smile. He wanted to hug him. Just reach out and take the thin body in his arms and never let go. Then again… there were a lot of things he wanted to do to him. Nothing he could, and the thought sent a jolt of pain through him; his smile faltered for a moment before he forced himself to clear his throat. To act normal, normal. Like he wasn't falling desperately in love with the pale-skinned boy before him.
"Hey." Jackson whispered, emerald eyes shining. He moved aside as Jay swept out, giving them a roll of the eyes on his way, and he clasped his hands behind his back as the sudden urge to just… touch the older man took over. His eyes darted to the floor, hair falling in his eyes as his skin flushed. God, what was wrong with him? "H-How are you?"
"I'm alright." Sebastian glanced back at the two bodyguards, lips pursing for a moment. "Crowded, as you can see."
"You're the Prince." It wasn't a question, and Sebastian met his eyes reluctantly.
Jackson studied his face silently, teeth digging into his lip in thought. "You didn't want anyone to know."
"No." Sebastian agreed quietly, and he wished to god Jackson would stop looking at him like that. "I didn't, I guess."
Jackson tilted his head slightly, a light dusty pink covering his skin steadily, teeth gnawing at his full lip. "You… you shouldn't have."
It was all he could say. He didn't know what else to say, how to even begin to thank him. He refused to let his mind dwell on the matter, but at the same time he couldn't stop. Sebastian had unveiled the most heavily guarded secret in his life… to save him. To help him. And surely that meant that Jackson was important to him, right? Surely it meant that he was very important, and the question was just how much?
He stopped, forced his mind to stop on its little path right there and then. He couldn't go down there, could not think about that sort of stuff. Not when Sebastian was right in front of him, and he could barely keep his emotions under control.
Sebastian smiled gently, unbelievably gently, a smile that lit up every inch of his face and made his eyes sparkle. "I did."
He froze, every muscle in his body locking up when the smaller body crushed against him, long arms winding around his neck and face burying in his neck. He could actually feel the younger boy's heartbeat against his own chest – it was racing, and that only caused his to pick up speed until it practically pole-vaulted into his throat.
"Thank you." Jackson whispered, his voice choking up for a moment and he nestled his face further into the crook of Sebastian's neck, where it was warm and smelt like Sebastian, clinging to him as if his very life depended on him. As though all he wanted to do was wrap himself up in the older man.
The blonde swallowed thickly, his hands rising awkwardly. He had no bloody idea where to touch, what to do. Jackson was far too close, too available and one wrong move could be his undoing. Eventually, he settled on resting them on the narrow shoulders, and half of him wished Jackson would pull away so that no mistakes could be made. The other half of him was silently begging the teenager to never let him go.
Jackson moved back, his arms sliding down to the Prince's waist, green eyes searching the golden face. Sebastian almost grimaced; this position was so much worse. He could still hear the boy's heartbeat thrumming against him, and he swallowed again. His mouth was dry, his lips aching to close the distance between their faces and just kiss him.
"Sebastian?" It was scarcely more than a whisper, his voice thick and unsure and when his tongue darted out to wet his dry lips Sebastian's eyes followed its every move.
"Y-Yeah?" He didn't mean for his voice to shake. He didn't mean for his hands to slip from the bony shoulders to the crooks of his arms, an awkward angle and heat rushed from the feel of bare skin against the palms of his hands, his fingers. He didn't mean for his head to start spinning, or the lump in his throat to be so thick (he was pretty sure it was his heart), he didn't mean for any of it to be happening.
Jackson's eyes met his, shining brilliantly amongst the red strands of hair, and his lips parted soundlessly; he had no idea what he was going to say, going to ask, but his stomach was twisted almost painfully in a mix of terror and excitement, and he could barely bring himself to even breathe.
"I hate to break this up, but I need to perform some tests." Jay's voice was taut, almost forced, and both boys snapped around at once at the sudden sound, arms quickly dropping back to their sides. The doctor's eyes were narrowed slightly, his expression unreadable.
"Yeah." Sebastian swallowed, his throat dry. "I. Yeah. Sorry."
His face burned and he couldn't meet the doctor's eyes, or Jackson's. He turned away quickly, whipping his hands through his hair and closing his eyes. He needed to breathe.
He needed to pretend none of that happened, and he refused to believe that Jackson was completely oblivious to it. He had seen the look on the redhead's face, and the thought both terrified and excited him. If Jackson knew, knew that the air between them was too thick, hot and too everything and he was still around, then… maybe… maybe he didn't…
He couldn't let himself think that for even a second. If one single part of him believed Jackson was okay with it, then he didn't think he'd be able to stop himself anymore. And he could never let that happen.
"Are you alright, your Highness?" Maurice asked hesitantly, exchanging looks with Pietro. He had no idea what to make of what he'd just seen, and to be honest he didn't really want to contemplate what it meant. That wasn't any of his business anyway, but he had to wonder if the General and Council knew what was going on.
"Yeah." Sebastian opened his eyes, and he couldn't bring himself to look back at the teenager. "Let's go."
He left, his bodyguards in tow, and Jackson's arms wrapped around himself as despair set in. Had he done something wrong? He must've.
Jay was angry at him – he could feel it. He turned around to the doctor reluctantly, and he almost wished Sebastian hadn't come at all.
- - -
Shaun jumped when Sebastian's hands slammed down on the table, eyes widening at the furious look on the Captain's face. Except he couldn't really be called Captain now, could he? He was a little bit beyond that, above that. He was above everyone, even Aesha. Even Montague. Especially Montague.
"You okay?" He asked hesitantly, more for the sake of being polite than anything. He still wasn't too sure how he felt about the whole royalty thing, or if he was totally fine with the amount of Sebastian's lies in the past. Then again, they'd always had a pretty rocky relationship.
Sebastian snorted angrily, jerking away with a scowl. "Yeah. Just being a fucked-up fuck-up."
The brunette frowned, looking to Maurice questioningly. The man just shrugged, and Shaun sighed. "What are you –?"
"Can we go now?" Sebastian interrupted quickly, impatiently. "I have to get my stuff."
"Yeah." Shaun blinked, but stood and gave his half-finished food an almost mournful look. "If you want."
"And would you all fucking shut up?!" He spun around with a shout, and immediately the entire cafeteria fell silent. "You think I can't hear you whispering about me?! Just shut the fuck up already and mind your own fucking business!"
"Whoa," Pietro grabbed his elbow, steering the fuming blonde out of the room at record speed. "Let's get you out of here."
Shaun gave the soldiers in the cafeteria a helpless, apologetic look as he trailed after the trio, before sighing and shaking his head. Sebastian was going to have to get used to people talking about him. Nothing this big had happened in a very long time, and in some ways it could be considered a good thing. A useful thing.
If the Prince was back… then Montague was out. And if Montague was out then so were his ridiculous rules and quests, orders and sacrifices. He knew that the base's death toll was getting a little bit out of hand – Sebastian could fix that. Montague could be taken out of the picture completely; Kailey and Aesha could actually have a chance.
The possibilities were endless.
"You should probably try to avoid losing your cool in public." Maurice was saying in a chastising tone, his hand smoothing over the smaller boy's shoulders. "You haven't even made a public announcement yet. You don't want them to think you're incompetent."
"Do you have to make a public announcement?" Shaun scrabbled to keep up with them, ignoring all the wide-eyed stares that followed them down the hall – he felt naked, exposed somehow, and wished they'd all just quit gawking at them already. He couldn't help but feel a smidge of pity for Sebastian; the man was going to have to put up with that 24/7 now.
"Yeah. That's tomorrow." His voice was low as his stomach tightened nervously. A public announcement, to the base and to the Plants. Somehow explaining his absence, apologising for said absence and… and what? Promising to somehow help win the war? How the hell did he even start? As if he knew how to do anything like that.
He was going to fail them. Again.
"So they're moving you out of the base?"
"Yeah." He latched onto that with desperation, needing to distract himself from the thoughts inside his own head. Because, god, he was going to fail them. "Yeah. For now they're just… moving me to a higher security area or something, I guess. I… I haven't told Jackson."
Shaun's eyebrow hitched at the mention of the redhead, and old familiar disdain washed through him. "Does he need to know?"
The blonde paused mid-step, his stomach sinking simultaneously with the ferocious blush eating his neck. "Yeah."
Shaun rolled his eyes, but didn't say anything else about it. He'd learnt a while ago that Jackson was a sensitive subject for the older man, though he still had no bloody idea why.
"Right." He muttered instead, his hand pushing the door open and he stopped dead at the sight, his breath catching in his throat.
Rogue was sprawled on the floor, lithe body twisted at an odd angle, neck stretched out and even from where he stood Shaun could clearly make out the black handprints against his sallow skin. His white hair was bloodied, and there was a rather gruesome mess of a wound in the centre of his stomach, looking as though someone had tried to disembowel him or something. His limbs were covered in various cuts and bruises, and for a moment Shaun couldn't move.
Could scarcely think.
"What the fuck…?" Sebastian trailed off behind him, almost numb with shock. He stared over the brunette's shoulder, before shaking some sense into himself and quickly striding across to the electronic pad on the wall, dialling the appropriate number. "Oi, we need a medic! And some fucking guards – Rogue."
Shaun stood there, unable to move, his lips parting soundlessly. That couldn't be Rogue. It couldn't be. Rogue was too strong, too powerful, he healed too fast and… no one could lay a hand on him, let alone do that much damage and why hadn't he healed?
"Sir!" Maurice and Pietro drew their guns the moment Sebastian dropped to his knees beside the assassin, and he shushed them with his hand quickly before grasping for a pulse. He found one, barely, and threw his head up at Shaun.
"He's alive. Barely."
"Who would do this?" Shaun whispered, his voice thick and he couldn't tear his eyes away from the handprints around the assassin's long, pale neck. Very human-sized hands, and something twisted deep inside, so tight he felt like he might snap.
"I dunno." Sebastian muttered darkly. "But whatever can do that to Rogue can do that to people, and that isn't a good sign."
"Why didn't he heal?" Shaun's voice was barely audible; he felt sick, horribly violently ill and his fingers curled, defying their sudden urge to touch. "He, he should have healed."
Sebastian clicked his tongue impatiently. "I don't fucking know, Shaun. I'm more worried about what the fuck he's doing here."
Shaun didn't reply. He couldn't even breathe, and when the paramedics burst into the room he had to turn away. Before he could work out what was wrong with him he dropped to his knees and vomited.
- - - - - -
I promise it'll definitely be less of a wait for the next chapter! If anyone's still reading this, heh. Take care! Apologies for any mistakes.