|Summary||Rohan takes Ciel on her first job. It doesn't go awesome.|
It was meant to be an easy job: Rohan and Ciel in tandem, old hand and new girl with a cocky list of qualifications, taking out the driver of a single truck speeding along one of India's many dirt roads and returning with its cargo. Except it turns out that the drive has three buddies, all well-armed and well-armored, and bullets aren't working quite as well as they might like. The truck keeps its speed, barreling forward with a cloud of vision-obscuring dust kicked up behind it, which makes it difficult for Ciel to keep up despite her judicious use of mid-air portals. Rohan fares better as he veers off-road on his bike, pacing their prey, but it's difficult to drive and aim at the same time.
There's a flash, a quick shimmer of a Ciel-sized portal, and then she crashes into him from behind, throwing the bike's balance into a dangerous unsteadiness as she finds her seat behind him. It's a dangerous move - stupid, even, without warning - but she doesn't seem to notice as she leans forward to yell over the wind, her voice at his ear, "We've got to get closer! Get them off the road!"
Rohan lets out a sudden shout of protest as the bike rocks beneath him, abandoning aim for the moment to steady the bike with a motion of his gunhand, like soothing a nervous horse. "It helps if we live through this, you know," he offers dryly, the wind ripping the words from his mouth, but still he aims said dirt bike at a diagonal path toward the truck, the wheels kicking up dust that clings liberally to them both.
"You can handle it," Ciel assumes, blithely dismissive as he steadies the bike. Bits of hair whip around her face despite the tight pull of the ponytail high on the back of her head, and her arms latch tight around his middle, borrowing his balance for her own. "Get me close enough, get me three seconds of straight visual, I can get the driver down. We need to do this fast."
"Well." Rohan's teeth flash in a mad grin, bright through the clouds of dust. "Nothing's killed me yet." He revs the engine, asking for whatever the (admittedly slightly rickety) mercenary dirtbike has left, and aims at the truck, so close now their sleeves brush against its side. The truck and the bike rattle across the dirt road, neither yielding just yet.
One minute Ciel is wrapped around Rohan on the back of the dirtbike, and the next she's gone. She lifts weightless into midair, and a portal opens in a flash, delivering her into the passenger's seat. It makes putting a bullet through the driver's neck an easy task. He makes a choked, gurgling sound as blood bubbles out through the hole in his throat, but he puts up enough of a fight that Ciel finds it harder to wrest the wheel from him than she'd like. The truck swerves dangerously, angling toward Rohan and his bike. Two guards have climbed their way to the truck's roof, and one of them shouts as he slips backward, then drops flat to cling to the criss-cross of bracing. The other, though, lifts his gun for a wild shot at Rohan below.
Rohan's bike wobbles again, in a combination of being unbalanced by Ciel's rapid depture, running through a rut, and having a truck heading toward it. Rohan swears, the words lost in the wind. He is too busy steadying the bike to shoot back; instead he swerves and waves, only half in control and really hoping not to hit the truck. The bullet goes wild, biting into the dirt near Rohan. In the truck, Ciel's thrown hard against the door as one of the tires finds a rut and it starts to tip. It's an angle that favors those on the truck; two of them now send a scattering of bullets toward Rohan, while a third climbs in from the back to take aim at Ciel. Rohan ducks instinctively, and then straightens up, glancing toward the truck. He is still swerving a little, the bike moving at bonerattling pace, but he is secure enough in his steering now that he takes his gunhand off the handlebars, and shoots wildly back.
<COMBAT> Rohan attacks Thug1 with Pistol - Serious wound to Left Arm. <COMBAT> Thug3 attacks Ciel with Pistol - Serious wound to Left Arm. <COMBAT> Thug2 attacks Rohan with Pistol and MISSES! <COMBAT> Thug1 attacks Rohan with Pistol and MISSES!
Ciel's breath hisses in through her teeth as a bullet digs into the flesh of her arm, and she drags herself upward, fingers scrabbling against the door behind her in desperation. She finds the latch in the same instant that another bullet slices through the air, and falls backward into midair. A second later she's falling from much, much higher, and she twists in mid-air with an unsteady wobble. The truck has righted itself somewhat, and the guard in the cab is struggling now to gain control of the wheel. One of the guards atop the truck has pressed flat against it, clinging with one arm until suddenly he's not. He falls, disappearing behind the truck in a plume of dust, while the second takes another handful of shots at Rohan.
"Ciel!" exclaims Rohan, but he's a professional. He takes aim again as one thug falls, still speeding along on his bike, face caked with dust. Blood shows, brilliant scarlet, on the arm he's steering the bike with. He falters, just a little, but still squeezes off a shot.
<COMBAT> Thug2 attacks Rohan with Pistol - Serious wound to Head. <COMBAT> Rohan attacks Thug2 with Pistol and MISSES!
"Fine!" Ciel calls, and then she's colliding into his back again, her good arm coming hard around his waist. "Shit." She braces her forehead against the back of his shoulder for a breath hissed in through her teeth before she says, "We can still--" Whatever she thinks they can still do is cut off by the sound of a second engine, closing fast on the truck they're chasing. And then a third and a fourth. Whatever they're after is important enough to justify reinforcements, apparently, and they're coming in force.
"Fuck," says Rohan through his teeth, staggering a little as a bullet tears through his scalp. Blood begins to trickle down his forehead. He is wearing goggles in deference to the dusty roads, but that won't help that much if blood cakes them. Beneath the dust, his face is pale, and, without a word, he wrenches the bike in the opposite direction, toward the side of the road.
"Drive straight," Ciel says. She jerks her head up, fixing her gaze on the countryside ahead of them. "And /hold on/." A portal opens in front of them, outlined in glimmering sparkles. Beyond it, the country in the distance is much, much closer.
"Lots of places to hide in this country," says Rohan between clenched teeth. "Valleys and ruins and caves. If we can get there." He draws a deep breath, and focusses on driving straight, toward the portal.
They barrel through with a sharp jerk of the bike as it veers from one surface to another, wild. When they emerge, the truck and the pursuing bikes are a good mile behind, and Ciel's gritting her teeth. "That's all I've got in my," she tells Rohan's shoulder. "Get us somewhere safe.
Rohan nods, a quick movement that sends the bike wobbling for a long moment. He straightens up again, driving like someone who knows the country, opting for a turn off onto a smaller and even more rutted road before pulling off and concealing the bike under a tree. "Come on," he says, taking her hand to lead her cross country and to a dark hole in the side of a mountain.
Ciel moves quickly behind Rohan, following him despite the blood flowing down her opposite arm.
Rohan is a little unsteady, a little pale, but he leads on, into a cave. It is tight, but just tall enough for him, and tunnels branch out in different directions. "Get far enough in, they'll never find us," he whispers. "On the other hand, we better remember the way out."
"You good at that?" Ciel wonders. She ducks in after him, breath hissing sharp as her wound pulls. As they go deeper, the light fades, making it more difficult to see the twists and turns. Eventually Ciel takes to placing tiny, quarter-sized portals ahead of them, providing a faint glow by which to find their footing.
"I've been here before," Rohan assures her with a breezy confidence quite at odds with his current pale, staggering state. Finally, when they reach slightly wider cavern, with a tiny underground stream flowing through, he seems to have judged they've gone far enough, and collapses, dropping the bag he totally took off his motorbike before stashing it. "First aid kit in there," he says. "And all sorts of delicious, not-really-real-food nutritional products."
"Flash light?" Ciel hopes. She gives the cavern a glance around, taking it in with a quick sweep that contains a remarkable attention to detail for its length before she finds a wall, leaning her weight into the cool rock as she slides slowly down to the floor. "Shit."
"Torch," corrects Rohan with a faint sigh for American use of language. "And, yes. You'll find I'm prepared for all manner of conting...contin...con..." His voice trails off and his eyes close as he rests his head against the stone.
Ciel leans forward, and then slumps backward again. She opts instead for the easy way out, sliding her hand into one portal and out the other to draw the pack toward her. "How bad is it?" she wonders, fumbling at the latch with her good hand.
"It looks worse than it is," insists Rohan, straightening up a little. His voice is cheerful, but still weak. "You know. Head wounds. Bleeding. But I just needed to close my eyes for a moment."
"You pass out, I'm leaving you here," Ciel says, but there's little threat in it. The kit falls open, and she digs into it, jerking her chin toward him. She finds the flashlight - torch - first, flipping it on, and she lets the last of her small portals fade out with an exhale of relief. "Can you do my arm?" she says. "Then I'll see about that sexy headwound.
"Left to die in Indian caves by an American," murmurs Rohan. "Seems fitting, somehow." He is still a little unsteady, but his fingers are sure enough as he binds up her arm. "So you think headwounds are sexy, do you? Have you always had this attraction to blood?"
"My kinks are many and varied," Ciel assures him, tilting her head back into the rock as she watches him work. She studies the lines of his face, gaze sliding up to the blood streaming from his forehead. "Shit," she says, smile twisting in quiet sympathy. "They really got you.
"Maybe I should get shot in the head more often," murmurs Rohan, giving a final tug at her bandages. Blood trickles down his forehead, and plasters his dark hair to his scalp. "I have had worse," he assures her. "Would you like to inspect my manly scars?"
"Whoa there, tiger," Ciel answers, breathing amusement as she gives her arm a tentative lift. She winces, then sets her jaw as she shifts enough to fix her attention on his wound. She presses a bandage to it, holding it firmly in place while she waits for the flow of blood to stem. "Way too dark for proper exploration.
Rohan takes a deep breath to steady himself as she sees to his wound. It takes a while for the blood to stem, but eventually it does. "I suppose so. I can't show off my entire history of lawless combat off properly under these conditions."
"Funny how it's always the scars they want to show off," Ciel murmurs, wiping blood away with a steady, careful hand. "'Hey, check out this sexy evidence of the time I fucked up.'" She gives him a crooked smile in the dark, lightening her words.
"You are welcome to admire the smooth unscarred portions of my body as well," Rohan replies, matching her crooked smile to crooked smile. "Look at all the parts that I successfully managed to avoid getting shot in."
"You really know how to romance a girl," Ciel answers with a low breath of laughter. She gives his temple a final swipe, then leans backward, studying him in the dim light of the torch. "So how much is that fuck-up gonna cost us?
"You're laughing," points out Rohan with a grin. "I consider that a win." He is more serious in a moment, pressing his lips together. "Well, a great deal of blood and some uncomfortable hours in a cave. Other than that...I don't know. The bosses are likely not going to be happy. Usually the less they tell us about what's in a cargo, the more important it is."
"Shit," Ciel answers, turning back to settle against the cave wall. "I was afraid that was the answer." She rolls her head sideways to look at him, cheek pressed against the cold rock. "That was a lot of firepower. A lot more than we were told.
"Another argument for whatever it was being important," says Rohan wearily. "With a capital I." He watches her in the dim light, face strange beneath smears of dust and blood and shadow. "On the other hand, _if_ it was suspect there was going to be that much--they'd have sent more of us. Mercenaries don't grow on trees, at least most of the time."
"Not ones with our particular talents, anyway," Ciel answers. Her brows lower a touch as she gives him a closer study. "What exactly is yours, again?"
"Minor telepathy," says Rohan, a touch defensively. He hesitates, resting against the stone wall, and finally says, "I can nudge people sometimes, toward things. Call it the power of very minor suggestion. Nothing complicated or that they're resistant to." Well, it sort of sounds like the truth.
"Then why the fuck was I trying to wrest a steering wheel from a dead man?" Ciel answers, brow furrowing as she watches Rohan and his defensiveness. She rolls her gaze forward, breathing, "/Fuck/. I shouldn't have gone into the field without-- I don't know. A demonstration. More detail. This is how people end up dead.
"Because I find it really difficult to concentrate on telepathy while riding a dirt bike in a gunfight," replies Rohan, eyes falling half-closed. "Because this mission was really about testing _you_. My powers are generally not that useful in outright combat. I specialize in sneaking. I mean infiltration."
"Oh, awesome," Ciel answers, exhaling a dark laugh as she tips her head back to regard the cavern's ceiling, somewhere very far above and lost in the darkness. "I sure passed that with flying colors." Har har. Flying.
"A great deal of flying, including colours," murmurs Rohan. "I'll give you a passing grade. Unless you really want to get shot at and stuck with a cave with me again." He weakly waggles a blood-spotted eyebrow.
"You're grading me?" Ciel's eyes flash sideways, light in the dark, and for a moment she regards him with a dark expression, lips turned downward in a frown. Her gaze lifts to the waggle of his brow, and her frown gains a worried edge.
Rohan sighs, closing his eyes and resting his head against the stone wall. "Joke," he says. "Mostly. I was only grading in that if the bosses wanted me to give them the word whether you were as good as advertised or actually grossly incompetent."
Ciel watches Rohan in profile. She's silent for a long span, and she fills it with a tentative flex of her arm. Eventually she tells him quietly, "I'm better than advertised. Usually. We should have been better prepared.
"I'll keep that in mind," Rohan replies in a murmur with the faintest suggestive edge to it. He adds, quite seriously, "Intel dropped the ball there, I think. We'll do better next time. As long as you survive, you can do better."
"Not being able to trust your intel is a real problem." Her eyes linger on Rohan, without so much as a twitch for suggestion. "We'll do our own next time."
"Our own intel?" Rohan seems to consider this idea at length, and then asks, "But when we will get to the pub then?" Not that there is a pub.
"When we're still alive at the end of the day, with pay for the job we actually completed," Ciel returns with a flick of her brows. "Without bleeding."
Rohan considers. "You're very practical. I'm not sure yet whether I like that or not."
"No?" Ciel snorts, rolling her head to look forward again. "What do you prefeR?
"Thorough enjoyment in the pleasures of life," Rohan tells her with a solemnity that is only partly convincing. "After all, tomorrow you might be dead. On the other hand, I do rather enjoying life, so practical has its points."
Ciel's lips curl slightly at the edge, and her mouth settles into a lopsided smirk. "They're not mutually exclusive, tiger. Trust me.
Rohan hitches a dark eyebrow, and murmurs, "Perhaps I shall have to let you show me that. I sort of went to one extreme after I discovered how things like principles and selflessness don't work out very well in the long run."
"That's very dire," Ciel tells him, smirk fading into something darker and harder to read in the shadowed light. "You believe that?
Rohan opens his eyes to watch her, face shadowed. "I prefer to live and let live," he says. "But experience has taught me there are some very unpleasant people in the world, and taking them on only brings misery."
"The universe doesn't leave you alone just because you want it to," Ciel answers without looking at him. "There's misery everywhere. Sometimes in return for what you do. But if you don't do it--" She breaks off, her breath drawn in short and sharp.
Rohan draws in a deep breath. It sounds shaky. He stares at the opposite wall of the cave. The tiny underground stream burbles in the silence. "There are a lot of people who don't get what they deserve," he says finally. "One way or another."
Ciel answers that with a sudden laugh, head turned sharp toward him to watch the shift of his inhalation. "Damn right they don't. I suppose that's why we're mercenaries.
Rohan tilts his head toward her--and then flashes a smile to match her own, bright. "Exactly," he says. "It's a living."
"It's a living," Ciel murmurs in dry echo, watching Rohan and the flash of his smile with a gaze gone slowly considering.
Rohan watches her, that gaze, and wonders, "Were you expecting something more than a living?" he wonders. "I stopped expecting that a long time ago."
"Here?" Ciel answers. Her gaze slips away from his before it can hook too strongly. "No. No, this-- this is definitely a /living/.
Rohan watches her still, one eyebrow still arched. "What brought you here, Sky?" he asks quietly. "Why do you want a living?"
"Better than dying, don't you think?" Ciel answers with an upward flick of her brows over a smile that does little to mask the edge in her expression.
"True enough," says Rohan. He watches her, and then says, very quiet, and very serious, "Not a question you need to answer, not to me. I'm sorry for asking."
Ciel is less serious when she meets his gaze to ask, "Why're /you/ here, tiger?" with a teasing lilt to her voice.
"I'm exploring my heritage," Rohan tells her, with a twitch of his lips. "Granted, my mom's family isn't from _this_ part of India, but close enough. It's a big country."
"Was her family fond of dark, cold holes in the ground?" Ciel wonders. Some small tension she hadn't been aware she was holding in her shoulders and the line of her spine eases at the twitch of his smile. "Or is that just you/
"Apparently when my great-grandfather came to England, he immediately rented a dark, cold hole in the ground," Rohan says, that smile lingering. "He called it a restaurant."
"Shit," Ciel answers immediately, twisting toward Rohan. "Are you telling me there's /food/ to be found in these things? Because I could really go for some tikka masala right now.
Rohan wiggles a little along the wall, closer. "The food's only in restaurant-caves, I'm afraid. But," he adds, "When we get out of here." When, not if. "I'll make you tikka masala. Mum's recipe."
"Oh, he /cooks/," Ciel answers, watching that wiggle with a lazy amusement before she turns her gaze forward again. "What other talents are you hiding?
"My mum ran a restaurant," Rohan says. "I wasn't allowed _not_ to learn to cook." He wiggles a little further. "I'm full of hidden talents. I can do exciting things with clay," he adds, with a lift of his eyebrows.
"With clay?" The answer startles Ciel for some reason, and the look she gives him this time is a little more curious. If she notices his further wiggle, she says nothing. "Exciting how?
"Well, maybe not _that_ exciting," allows Rohan. "I...well, sculpting sounds a little grand, don't it? But I like to make things out of clay. I find it relaxing." He raises his hands, and mimes it in the air, long fingers caressing imaginary clay into shape.
"Now you're just being unfair," Ciel murmurs, letting her gaze linger on those long fingers as he no doubt intends.
"Me?" asks Rohan with an air of exaggerated innocence, dark eyes dancing with mischief. "Unfair?" He does, however, carry the gesture a little longer than might be necessary. "And what sort of hidden talents do you possess?"
"Smoke rings," Ciel answers him, meeting the dance of those eyes with another crooked smile. "It's my best party trick.
Rohan wiggles still closer. He is quite close now, his hip almost brushing hers. "What _sort_ of smoke rings are we talking here?" he wonders.
Ciel turns her head still more to hold his gaze as he settles next to her. She studies his face, her eyes tracing the shadowed lines of it in what light there is, and then she shifts abruptly. She tilts to one side, lifting her hip with excessive care for her bandaged arm. "Back pocket," she says, and sure enough, the tell-tale rectangular bulge shows clearly through her pocket, and her lighter is nestled in beside it.
"Ah," says Rohan, gaze lingering on that back pocket. On the pocket. Really. "Feel like smoke rings?" he asks with a grin, reaching toward her pocket.
Ciel lifts her brows at him, hip still tilted upward. "I'm gonna lose my balance if you don't speed it up, tiger," she tells him, even as her good hand braces against the cold rock opposite him.
Rohan grins wider, and takes his time, fingers slipping into her back pocket and moving slowly, lingering, as he fishes out the contents before presenting them to her. "Rawr," he says.
Ciel snorts, fixing him with a dry gaze for either his answer or his linger. It's difficult to tell which, but her hands are all business as she takes the pack of cigarettes from him, leaving him with the lighter. She taps one out one-handed, tucking it between her lips with practiced ease, and cups the hand of her good arm close as she flicks her brows up and leans toward him expectantly.
Rohan flicks the lighter with the gesture of someone familiar with them at least, the tiny flame casting flickering shadows across his face. He leans in close, eyebrows raised, face a few breaths from the end of the cigarette as he lifts the lighter to light it.
Ciel inhales sharply, breathing the cigarette to life as the flame warms her cheeks and his in equal measure. She lingers for a moment, light eyes fixed on dark, and when she draws back, it's with a smile gone crooked toward a smirk again. She takes a few quick puffs, then tilts her head back, drawing her mouth into a perfect 'O' before she forces smoke free from the back of her throat. A series of three rings floats free into the cool air of the cave, drifting outward with the slow spread that will eventually dissipate into nothing.
Rohan tilts his head back, watching the smoke rings drift through the air. "Pretty," he says, sounding surprised. Surprised, and fascinated. He watches, gaze going a little dreamy, and his face a little pale, until he sways a little, and, with a sudden catch in his breath, lowers his head. "Should be a little more careful with a head wound," he mutters.
"Shit," Ciel answers, and with that word, whatever moment had been building dissipates entirely. She shifts forward, still careful of her arm, and gives his forehead a squinting study before she says, "Let's get out of here. If we can get back to the bike, I can get us home."
Rohan collapses a little, leaning forward, his head coming to rest on her shoulder, the blood seeping through his bandage clear in the dim light. "I think I might need a few stitches," he says. He rests there for a moment, taking a couple of careful breaths before he pulls away and slowly climbs to his feet.
"If it hurts too bad, I'll hold your hand," Ciel promises. She's a little stiff under the lean of his weight, and she hisses in a sharp breath as his collapse twists her arm painfully. "Come on, tiger. Up. And dig out one of those granola bars. I need a recharge if I'm taking us home." She drags herself upward after him, cigarette left to hang loose between her lips.
Rohan leans down to pick up his bag and the torch, which may not have been a good idea; he seems in danger of falling over but manages to pull himself back up. "Granola bar," he says, presenting her with one after a certain amount of fumbling in his bag. He begins to make his way along the tunnels upward, very slowly. "Maybe you should drive."
"Oh yeah, great idea," Ciel says, dry as she glances down at her blood-soaked arm. Then she takes him in a bit more closely and mutters, "Shit. Yeah. Okay. Let's get out of here before--" She breaks off, leaving their possible terrible fates unspoken, and instead shakes her head. The drive home is-- interesting. Her control is poor and made worse by the shifting terrain of portal-hopping, but they do make it home eventually, and in one piece. She does not actually hold his hand.Rohan manages to retain consciousness the entire way. He is quiet, trusting to this strange girl he's just met to see him home safely.