Regret (nothingtoregret) wrote in runaway_tales,

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Blueberry Yoghurt #14; Blue Raspberry #15; Malt

Author: Regret
Rating: 15
Story: Radial: Unravel
Challenge: Blueberry Yoghurt #14 - A Miracle; Blue Raspberry #15 - A Procession
Extras: Malt - ichthusfish's Green Light, Red Light challenge
Word Count: 3,400
Summary: Milos is set to perform on stage but Alex has bigger things to worry about: a threat, however nebulous, is still a threat—one that brings back some faces from the past.
Notes: This is a bit longer than I'd intended and it's only now that I realise the 'miracle' part might not be as obvious as I'd intended: it's Milos's much-prayed-for reprieve from finally singing (Travis's Driftwood, for the record) in front of an audience. Also, the Crow Prince has some form with this kinda thing.

Milos drummed his heels against the side of the box he was using as a seat and stared miserably at what part of the audience was visible from the side of the curtain, his arms resting across his thighs, his hands shifting nervously from one form to the other and back again. “I can’t do this.”

“You can.” Alex didn’t look up from his phone.

He stared down at the claws that rapidly became fingers again, then blurred and melted back into claws. Maybe attacking someone would help. Not Alex; he knew better than to waste his time. Maybe Marrok. Maybe being tased to within an inch of his life and thrown into Research could be a welcome escape after all. “Why couldn’t you have gone first? You can actually sing.”

“You can’t disrupt the running order.”

“Screw the running order,” Milos grumbled, shifting back to fingers long enough to scratch at a spot on his jeans—why should he make an effort to look nice when he hadn’t wanted to be here in the first place?—then back to claws, holding them up in front of his face to watch light glint over the polymetal.

From the corner of his eye, he saw Alex finally tear his attention from the device in his hands. “Don’t even think about doing something stupid,” and, ignoring Milos’s mutter of too late, added “you can stop doing that too. If you do that on stage there’ll be hell to pay.”

“Why? They’ve seen it all before.”

“You can’t legislate for spouses.” He stared at Milos’s hands until the alfa grudgingly shifted from claws to fingers again and settled them beside his thighs on the box. “Good.”

“What’re you doing, anyway?” Milos craned sideways to look at the phone, wobbling precariously on his perch with the effort. “Shouldn’t you be practicing?”

I don’t need to practice.” Alex gave him a disdainful look, then resumed tapping at the phone screen. “You, on the other hand...”

He sighed and stared back through the gap in the curtains. From beyond came the pretty sound of a female voice. She had to be at least halfway through the song. At least. “What’s the point? If I can’t sound even halfway decent now, then pissing everyone else off by trying off-stage isn’t going to help, is it?”

The only answer was a derisive snort.

His gaze fell on the front row of the audience, on one specific point: a narrow face with salt and pepper hair and a wolfish expression, gaze fixed intently on the stage. “It’s not like it matters, anyway.” From beyond the curtain, the female voice reached a crescendo then died away, leaving only two heartbeats of silence before the audience broke out into enthusiastic applause. Milos pulled a sour face and wondered how long it’d take before someone remembered to clap politely for him too.

He glanced back at Alex in time to see the other man give him a humourless smile and gesture with a flick of the back of his hand to the stage. “Off you go.”

“What were you saying about the paperwork for Research?”

“Too late now.” Alex’s gaze slid past Milos as the woman slipped back offstage between the curtain and wall, giving Milos a faint but supportive smile as she went. She obviously hadn’t heard his last attempt or she’d be moving faster and making for cover.

He slid from the box, hesitating at the curtain as the compère announced his name in a bright voice that belied the fact he knew exactly what Milos’s singing was like and was glad he wasn’t going to be on stage when it started. The poor man had given him such a stricken look when he’d heard him try earlier that Milos hadn’t had the heart to try again since. “Really too late?”

He’d expected smugness, not Alex’s carefully closed look. “Yes.”

Milos sighed and tried to force a smile, but judging from the way Alex’s gaze lingered on him for a second longer before returning to his phone, it looked about as convincing as it felt. “Better not keep them waiting.”

Alex snorted again but his lips curved into another smile and Milos could feel his eyes following him as he ducked around the curtain and onto the stage.

With the exception of the lone mic stand the stage was empty. It was a shame the same couldn’t be said for the seats beyond. Even huddled into the corner of a city center doorway he’d rarely seen so many people so tightly packed together, and that every eye in the room was focused on him didn’t help. Taking the place so recently vacated by the sweet-sounding singer before him, he found himself bathed in a green spotlight that someone had obviously thought would compliment his skin but which he was pretty sure just made him look vividly unhealthy instead. He could guess at whose idea it’d been and there, in the audience, was the slow smirk to prove it.

Revenge. This was Alex’s idea of revenge, more surely than anything they’d done together in the office. Inflicting a tone-deaf alfa on the man they both hated, and a lot of innocent bystanders on top of that.

He grit his teeth, swallowed painfully and, with both hands clutching the stand like it was the only thing keeping up him upright, began to sing.

It went about as well as expected, in that even Marrok’s smirk cracked under the onslaught of the first verse and Milos found himself closing his eyes rather than have to look at the audience. If they thought it was bad they should try being him, hearing this voice come out of his mouth and wishing he was anywhere but here, embarrassing himself under the hot lights.

He took a deep, shaking breath and opened his mouth for the chorus—then clamped it shut again, eyes snapping open as a hand wrapped around his upper arm and almost dragged him off his feet. “What the hell?!”

Alex grinned and in a voice almost too low to be heard said, “I’m saving you, what does it look like?” Louder, and directed into the microphone as he leaned around the other man, he addressed the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen and others,” he smirked down at Marrok, who even in the dimness turned an interesting shade of puce, “I’m really sorry to deprive you of this unique singing voice but I’m afraid something urgent has come up. Please accept our apologies.” With that, he treated them to the most beautiful smile Milos had seen and dragged the alfa offstage.

“Something urgent?” He hissed as Alex hauled him through the backstage maze of crates and towards the rear exit, ignoring the echoing chatter of the audience and startled stares from other performers. “What’s wrong?” He paused, suspicion settling into his stomach as Alex shoved open the door and pulled him into the unexpectedly gloomy early evening car park. “Something is wrong, right?”

“You will never make sense.” Alex said, his grip briefly tightening on Milos’s bicep. “Yes. Something is wrong, as you put it. And I could have gone alone but I thought you might want to not have to sing.”

The alfa glanced at Alex’s serious expression and laughed. “I could kiss you sometimes.”

“Maybe later.” But Milos was sure he saw the flash of a grin before Alex shoved him towards the car. “Get in or I’ll leave you behind.”

He might as well have announced he was taking him back to finish performing; even his permanent terror of Alex’s driving couldn’t stop him flinging himself into the passenger seat before he could make good on this awful threat.

And judging from the smirk as he slid into the driver’s seat, Alex was fully aware of that.

* * *

It was almost completely dark, but the glow from the lamps and torches turned the night into a second sunset as Milos followed Alex through the crowds. “You’re sure about this?”

“You’re not the only one who knows people who knows people, you know.”

“And you say I don’t make sense,” he muttered, dodging a trio of loud men clutching candy floss and an improbably large teddy bear. Along the sides of the street stalls had sprung up offering everything from sweets to hotdogs and more than one opportunity to lose money to a game that Milos was pretty sure was likely to be, if not rigged, then at least severely weighted in favour of the owner. The crowds were starting to make him nervous. If he flexed his claws here Alex would be furious.

But then, he decided as he looked around at the milling groups, it was unlikely anyone would notice. Riotous colours clashed with over the top costumes that made what his body did by itself—even his skin tone—look normal in comparison. How Alex expected to find anyone in this morass of noise and light he had no idea.

“For God’s sake! Are you going to stand there all night?” A hand grabbed his wrist, squeezing hard enough he’d have a dark ring there tomorrow, and Alex jerked him forwards again. “We need to get a move on.” With a vice-like grip he pulled him through the middle of a loud group and past the stalls into the relative dimness of the edge of the street. “He should be around here somewhere. He’s waiting for the parade, apparently.”

“How long before it starts?” Now would be a good time to let go of his wrist, he thought. Before his hand fell off.

Alex’s mouth compressed into a thin line and his hold actually managed to tighten, sending a spiky burst of pain down his fingers. “Ten minutes.”

“And by somewhere,” he gave his wrist an experimental tug: Alex’s grip didn’t falter, “you mean anywhere, don’t you?” The nod he received in confirmation made his heart sink. Crowds of people and a wholly too generic description of the target; maybe staying on stage and taking his humiliation like a man would have been preferable after all. He pulled his arm back again and, as if he hadn’t noticed before that he was still squeezing, Alex’s hand fell away. “We should get on with it, shouldn’t we?”

Alex gave him a curt nod and glanced up the street. “You find him, you sedate or subdue him then call me. Got it?”

Heart crawling up into his mouth, Milos nodded in response. What else was there to say? Good luck? That wouldn’t come into it and they both knew it.

Alex gave him a final long stare, then turned and slid into the crowd again, somehow failing to look out of place despite the suit and shirt, and Milos turned his attention to the smattering of alleys that lined the street instead. If there was one thing he knew about cities, it was that even the most innocuous corner could become a strategic hiding place. Just because every one he checked seemed to contain at least one drunken man peeing up a wall didn’t mean that another wouldn’t contain his target, even if the chances seemed to be slimming at an alarming rate.

Turning away from a couple who obviously couldn’t wait until they got home, eyes automatically shifting to the crowd in the hope of catching sight of Alex, he didn’t see the man until he walked straight into him. “Shit!”

“You’re Milos, right?”

He stepped back, almost tripping over the kerb in his haste. “The hell?!”

“You’re looking for someone, aren’t you?”

Milos finally gathered his wits enough to look at the stranger, rather than just open and close his mouth like an idiot. A pale young man, shorter than him, with glossy black hair and a glossy black—he tried not to stare open mouthed at what looked for all the world like a wing for a left arm. It was a costume. It had to be.

Alex had warned him before about letting surprise distract him from what was happening in front of him. He only remembered the warning when a hand snagged the front of his T-shirt, pulling him off-balance as the man stood on his tiptoes and pressed his mouth to Milos’s.

He wanted to gasp, yell. He knew instinctively it’d be a mistake, even without the faint slick pressure of the other man’s tongue skimming his lips. It couldn’t have been more than a second or two before he gathered his wits enough to shove his palms against the man’s shoulders, sending him stumbling backwards, but it felt like a lifetime. “Get the hell away from me!”

Giving him a hurt look, the other man drew the back of his hand over his mouth then stepped forwards again, clearly intending to have another to go.

“What do you think you’re doing, Crow?” Alex stepped from a shadow and gripped the collar of the man’s shirt, yanking him backwards and away from the alfa; Milos wondered if he knew how Alex’s hand had hovered for a moment over his hair before he’d seized his clothing.

“Alex,” he pouted, looking for all the world like a spoiled child caught in the act; Milos wanted to punch him, “you never let me kiss you. Why do you let him?”

“I can’t fault your intelligence.” He let go of his shirt only long enough to grab his shoulders and spin him round to face him. “At least as far as information goes, anyway. When it comes to your intelligence, you’re sorely lacking. What do you know about tonight?”

“Nothing.” The pout grew. It was amazing how one pushed-out lower lip could make a grown man look so much like a sulky brat. “I’m just here to watch.”

Milos opened his mouth, but it was Alex who spoke. “Watch what?”

“Watch me, maybe?” An unfamiliar male voice with a faint Irish lilt made the hairs on the back of Milos’s neck stand on end. A chill raced across his shoulder blades only a second before a body pressed against them; before he could jerk forward an arm embraced his neck and pressed with enough force to be a warning against Milos’s immediate attempt to prise it away again. “It looks like I’ve been caught. I didn’t expect it to be you, Alex.”

For one moment, hard as it was to tell in the gloom with the red backlighting of the lanterns hanging from stalls, Milos could have sworn that Alex paled. If he did, there was no indication of shock or surprise on his face as his eyes moved slowly from Milos to the man behind him. “What do you think you’re going to do? Squeak him to death?”

The man laughed, a chuckle that reverberated into Milos’s chest and made him feel ill. “One shout and I can render him deaf. He’d be useless to you then, wouldn’t he? Or I could try a bit harder. I could kill him. Would you prefer that?” The arm around his neck tightened and a hand snaked up to grab his jaw to hold his head steady. He could feel the man’s cheek brush against his own and swallowed down the urge to scream. “Be a shame though, he’s pretty isn’t he? I thought it was the pretty girls you were into.”

“You couldn’t hurt a fly with that voice of yours, Crevan. Have you forgotten that?”

“All fixed now,” he said cheerily. “I was just going to test it out, actually, before you decided to interrupt me. I guess testing on him,” he squeezed Milos’s chin, making him wince, “is the next best thing.”

This time Milos could see the briefest flicker of surprise cross Alex’s face. “So you got a mysterious repair even the best scientists said would be impossible, and your first thought was to come and kill as many people as possible. Just when did you become a fucking lunatic, Crevan?”

“Why would you understand, Alex?” He sneered, and didn’t appear to see the cold, hard look settle into Alex’s stare. “The perfect little lapdog with his pet elf, running off to do the bidding of people who couldn’t care less about him. You’re the lunatic.”

Alex snorted once, the kind of noise that might be taken for amusement if the carefully blank look on his face was ignored, and returned his attention to the stricken Milos. “And you’re just going to stand there, I assume?”

He fidgeted from foot to foot, still clinging onto the restricting arm, and flexed his fingers. “You’re sure?”

“If Crow is here,” his hand shot out to grab the collar of the bird-winged young man who’d clearly taken this to be the best time to sneak away, almost garrotting him, “I think you don’t have that much to worry about, do you?”

Ignoring the start of a bemused question from Crevan, Milos shrugged as best he could and shifted his fingers.

The polymetal claws sliced easily through the thin fabric of his sleeve and into his flesh with barely any pressure from Milos. The man let out a howl that was only just muffled by Alex lunging forwards and clapping his hand over his mouth. The hand gripping the alfa’s face dropped away; his attempts to yank his arm free only resulted in fresh crimson lines flashing over the surface before Milos reverted and raised his fingers along with his eyes, desperate to avoid looking at the spatters already hitting the pavement.

Even with the pressure of Alex’s palm, a scream rose from Crevan’s throat that made Milos’s eardrums thrum painfully, one that tried to build until he thought his head would split—then abruptly died away. Crevan hit the pavement with a thud.

Behind him, Alex gave the jet syringe a critical look. “That could’ve worked faster.”

“No kidding.” He winced, tilting his head to one side to slap his palm against one ear like it’d help. “I think your bird-guy got away .”

He grimaced. “Don’t worry. He’ll turn up again. He always does.”

“Who said I was worried?” He scrubbed his palm over his mouth and tried not to remember the unwanted sensation. “I’d be happy to never see him again. Does he think doing that is normal?”

“He does it to everyone.” Kneeling on the pavement, Alex began to work on binding the man’s hands behind his back and strapping the wounds, ignoring the occasional strange look from passers-by that caught sight of them between the stands; Milos shoved his hands into his jeans pockets and tried not to be bothered by the lack of concern.

“Not you.”

“Not me.” He stood and stared down at the unconscious Crevan. “Come here a second.”

Milos obediently padded over. “What do you need me to—” His eyes widened as Alex sank his hand into his hair and dragged him forward into a kiss. Surrendering without complaint, he rested his hands lightly on Alex’s shoulders as the entirely more welcome tongue slipped its way into his mouth, and lost himself in the familiar tastes of Alex’s mouth.

“I did say ‘maybe later’, didn’t I?” Alex murmured with the faintest of smiles as they parted again, wiping away a spot of saliva from the corner of his mouth with his thumb.

Speechless and still trying to catch his breath, Milos could only nod.

“And now you don’t taste of Crow any more, you can pick him up and carry him to the car.”

Milos groaned. Just because he knew better than to argue... To the sounds of the procession now in full swing on the street beyond, he stooped and hooked his arms under the drugged man’s armpits, turning as he struggled up again so he was dragging him along the edge of the darkened pavement. “If I fall over anything, I’m holding you responsible.”

“I’ll make it up to you later if you do.”

Turning his head to glance over his shoulder at the man already several strides ahead, Milos grinned. “You’d better.”

Alex turned on his heel and ambled backwards, hands shoved deeply into his jacket pockets, smirking. “Falling over imaginary things doesn’t count, you know.”

“You’ll just have to let me trip over something real then, won’t you?”

“Oh, believe me,” Alex laughed, turning back with an airy wave of his hand, “I was planning to.”
Tags: [author] regret, [challenge] blue raspberry, [challenge] blueberry yogurt, [extra] malt

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