Date: Sat, 15 May 2010 17:55:32 -0600 From: Katya_Dee <email@example.com> Subject: The Year of the Salamander, chapter 24 Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. All the resemblances are completely coincidental. All the characters, situations, and everything else in the story is owned by myself beloved. Contains descriptive sexual scenes between males. If you are not supposed to read it, do not read it! Feel free to e-mail me. This is a sequel to Specter' Gamble </nifty/gay/sf-fantasy/specters-gamble/>. You don't have to read the first one in order to get this one, but it would make it easier to understand the characters in this story. - XXIV - "Oh, hell, no...!" they said at the same time when they saw each other. Sam and Gabriel frowned in a comically similar manner, but Desmond and Blair failed to notice that. They stared at each other for a full minute, and then they slowly shifted their gazes to dumbfounded Sam. "That's him?" they said in yet another unison. "Errr..." Sam blinked somewhat rapidly, looking completely confused. "Yeah..." he said very carefully. "That's a `yeah' to both of you... Why...?" Desmond could not believe this. Out of all the people in the bloody world, Sam had to fall for a freaking Guardian... And out of all four (well, three now) of them, it had to be this guy! "You gotta be kidding me..." he muttered, failing to notice that Blair mouthed the same thing at the same time. Well, Desmond thought. That explained his weird eye color. Apparently, if this guy's eyes became completely yellow, there would be some mild troubles to expect... His first impulse was to say, `Screw this shit!' turn around, and storm out of the house. Then he thought, "Oh, hell, no! I am going to be the one in control. I am not going to let him have the satisfaction... I am going to be the better person here..." Therefore, he turned towards Blair, mastered a sincere smile, and stretched out his hand, only to realize that the damn `fire guy' did exactly the same thing, as if they rehearsed it or something. "I am Desmond..." "I am Blair..." A slight pause after inevitable unison. "Nice to meet you..." Another unison and a simultaneous wince. "Crap," Desmond thought. "Fine, let's play." The `fire guy' blinked and looked at very thoughtful Rayhe. "Umm," he said and let go of Desmond's hand finally. "Blair..." Desmond made sure that he didn't massage his hand. The damn bastard squeezed it so hard as if he was trying to get the blood out of it, which was probably the case. Desmond returned the favor with gusto, however, therefore he was positive that the bastard's hand felt the same way as his did. "Gabriel," Rayhe was saying meanwhile, shaking hands with the bastard. "Come in," the bastard said in a composed voice. "These will be very long two hours," Desmond thought darkly, following Sam and that bastard into the living room. Rayhe grabbed his elbow and Desmond looked at him. "What the hell...?" Gabriel mouthed, and Desmond slightly shook his head, as if saying `Not now.' Gabriel let out a small sigh and nodded. ..."So," Desmond said after the first hour of this torture. "Claudia tightened her leash on you guys? After one of you ran off to Reagan?" Sam and Gabriel closed their eyes at the same time. Blair, however, didn't even blink. "Somewhat," he agreed with a small `screw-you' smile. "But it's not too bad... I mean, Pledge alone didn't turn our lives into some sort of a military-school-controlling-hell when we have to ask permission to breathe from a headmistress." Sam let out a small snort. "Rayhe," Desmond thought furiously even though he kept his small, relaxed smile. "Make a single sound and I will stab you in your sleep." Gabriel seemed completely unshaken, however. He didn't even smile. "Goose?" Sam said, and Desmond looked at him with a small frown. "More goose...?" Sam said in a smaller voice, gesturing towards the almost untouched baked goose in the center of the table. "No, thank you," he said lightly. "I am quite full; all that food was delicious..." He looked at Blair again. "Local deli?" Now it was Rayhe's turn to let out a snort. He immediately transformed it into cough, however. "How very perceptive of you," the bastard said as lightly. Desmond shrugged and crossed his legs. "It's simple reasoning, really," he nodded. "Sam can't cook anything to save his life... Unless it's scrambled eggs," he nodded again, ignoring Sam's furious glare. "And you don't seem like a cooking type." "Neither do you," the bastard crossed his legs as well. "I am not great when it comes to cooking," Desmond agreed immediately. "However, I can always tell the difference between a homemade goose and a purchased one... Don't get me wrong..." He raised his hands slightly. "It is really good... It's just..." He let out a small sigh. "Homemade one has certain..." He half-closed his eyes, as if searching for the right word. "...warmth to it," he finished, and Gabriel let out a sigh, which sounded like a mix between a laughter, a moan, and a sob. The bastard smiled without baring his teeth, and he looked like he was about to say something, when Sam exclaimed with desperate cheerfulness: "Cards!" Both – Desmond and Blair – looked at him with confused frowns. Rayhe, however, nodded almost immediately. "I would love that!" he said. "Nothing like a good game of poker..." He smiled gently at both fuming behind their smiles men. "Sounds fantastic," Desmond felt like his face was about to crack from all the smiling. "Indeed," Blair said in the same tone of voice. "Five games?" "I was about to offer seven, but sure..." Desmond shrugged. "All right, nine it is!" Blair flashed his teeth briefly. "Let me get the cards! I will be right back!" "Umm," Sam said. "We'll need the table..." Blair frowned for a second, very thoughtfully. "Kitchen should be spacious enough..." He glanced at Desmond. "Unless you find brighter lights uncomfortable..." "The brighter, the better," Desmond flashed him an equally toothy smile. "I will be right there," the `fire guy' smiled again and walked away. "Okay, Desmond, what the hell?!" Gabriel and Sam hissed the minute Blair got out of the room. "Do you know each other?" That was Sam. "What did you do to each other?" That was Gabriel. "Rayhe, I will tell you later... Kid, I need coffee..." Desmond got up. "I have nine games ahead of me, and if I lose tonight, I will murder him, a Guardian or not..." "You are so confident," Rayhe hemmed and got up. "You are just so sure it'll be you and him at the very end, huh?" "Oh yeah," Desmond nodded seriously and followed Sam into the kitchen. "The kid is going to drop out after probably, the fifth game..." "Hey!" Sam said somewhat angrily, and Desmond ignored him. "You might last until the eighth," he looked at Gabriel. "But believe me, the ninth game will be just the two of us." "What are you going to do if you end up losing to me?" Rayhe asked with a small smile. Desmond looked at him very seriously. "That is not going to happen," he said, and Gabriel believed him. **** It was almost four hours later, and they were on the ninth game. Desmond and Blair were the last men standing. Just like Desmond predicted, Sam dropped out after the fifth game, and Gabriel lasted until the eighth. Rayhe was smoking by the open window, and Sam was nervously chewing on a stick of celery. "Thirty," Blair said shortly without bothering to say, `raise.' Desmond threw his thirty in without glancing up. Blair dropped a card and reached for another. Desmond watched him through his eyelashes. The bastard looked as indifferent as they got. Desmond dropped another card as well. He slowly drew another one. "Okay," he thought. "Call now or never..." He had a Straight Flush; he doubted that he would get anything better. They both looked up at the same time and said in another unison: "Call!" This time, neither of them winced. Sam locked his teeth on the celery stick, and Gabriel dragged on his cigarette without taking his eyes off Desmond. Blair slowly laid his cards face up, and Desmond did the same. "Straight Flush," he said in the even voice, and Blair shot him a very quick glance. "Same," he said. "Goddammit," Desmond thought furiously. "If this is a tie..." They shifted their gazes to the cards, and Rayhe flicked his cigarette out of the window and stepped closer, as did Sam, that celery stick sticking out of his mouth. "Seven through Jack..." Sam breathed after he looked at Blair's cards. Gabriel slowly raised his head and looked at him. "Eight through Queen," he said with an unwilling smile. For several minutes, the only sound in the kitchen was slight electrical buzzing of a light bulb. Finally, Blair took a deep breath and stood up. "Good game," he said in the even voice and stretched out his hand. Desmond got up as well and shook that hand without any hesitation. He noticed that the bastard didn't squeeze his hand as hard as before, so he decided to hold back as well. "Indeed," he said without a smile, even though he felt like laughing manically. "I'm gonna clean the table," Sam said with badly hidden disappointment. "I'll help you," Gabriel said with more skillfully hidden joy. "I'm gonna step outside for a smoke," Desmond said with perfectly hidden glee. "You can smoke inside," Blair said in the same even tone of voice. "I need some fresh air," Desmond replied honestly this time. He felt like he was about to start gasping for air any minute. He went outside and lit a cigarette, enjoying the cold air on his skin. Dammit, he thought. The bloody `fire guy' turned out to be tougher than he thought. There was something about him, Desmond narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on; something he couldn't quite identify; something he... "That looks familiar," someone's voice said above his ear, and he blinked. Of course, it was that damn `fire guy.' "I have seen this somewhere," he said, looking at something next to Desmond. Desmond followed his gaze and frowned. Apparently, he drew something in the small pile of snow on the bench with his fingertip. Desmond had no idea he did such a thing. It was doodling at its best. The doodle looked like a circle with some complicated-looking entwining, crisscrossing lines. Weird, he thought while puffing on his cigarette. He could not recall doing this. "I have no idea what this is," he shrugged honestly. "Was just doodling, really." "I have seen this somewhere," the `fire guy' nodded slowly. "Have no idea where though..." Desmond silently handed him a pack of cigarettes, but the `fire guy' shook his head. "Thanks," he said somewhat stiffly. "Quitting?" Desmond asked politely and shoved the pack into his pocket. "Never started," the `fire guy' grinned. "Really," Desmond hemmed. "Interesting... I would expect the Fire Guardian to..." "...smoke like a chimney?" Blair finished, and grinned again. "I guess... It's funny, but I am the only one out of the group who is smoke-free... Even Felix smokes, and he is the Water..." He shrugged, staring thoughtfully at Desmond's doodle in the snow. "It just never caught my interest..." "I see," Desmond nodded as politely as before. They stood there in silence for several minutes. Then Desmond flicked his cigarette away and lit another one. He looked at Blair after he did that. "If you do *anything *to hurt him," he said calmly. "...you will be sorry," he finished with a small nod. "I don't care if you can call upon the Fire; I don't care if you will ask your friends for help; I don't give a damn..." "*Hurt *him?" Blair interrupted him incredulously, without even bothering to ask what the hell he was talking about. "*Hurt *him?" he repeated slowly. "Look... Desmond..." he said almost forcefully. "I don't know why in the world you would think that I would want to hurt him, but believe me when I say it..." He took a quick breath, warm air creating a small cloud above his head. "I would burn anyone..." He looked at Desmond without blinking. "* Anyone *who would look even remotely dangerous to him... Do you understand that?" Desmond narrowed his eyes ever so slightly, thinking something along the lines of, `Buddy, you have no idea who you are talking to,' when Blair let out a small smile and said: "And yes, I believe you... I know what you are capable of... Specter," he added a second later, and Desmond stared at him without blinking. Blair smiled again. "If you think that I am going to rat you out to Salamander, then think again... First of all, if I am pissed at someone, I deal with them by myself, without involving anyone else... Let alone rat them out. And second of all..." Here he smiled again. "I*hate *the Salamanders," he finished with great feeling. "Son of a bitch," Desmond thought furiously, making sure that he keeps the same blank expression. "Sam...! I don't care who you are doing, but keeping some information private would be nice..." "I have no idea..." he started. "...what I am talking about," Blair nodded. "By the way, Sam never breathed a word..." He shrugged and looked at Desmond's doodle in the snow again. "See," he said after a minute. "I was really curious about Sam... Ever since I've met him for the first time... Then I found out his name and did some research. I found some interesting stuff," he glanced at Desmond briefly. "I found out that his father was quite a character. I also found out that he managed to get his position thanks to his ties to Julian Salamander... Now, I have a very good idea who Julian is and what he is capable of..." he said darkly and shifted his gaze toward the doodle once again. "However, Julian was not my main concern... I mean," he shrugged. "A good Salamander is the dead one, but Julian is a different matter... Anyway, I wasn't curious about him..." He glanced at Desmond again. "I was curious about other things..." Desmond looked at his cigarette and realized that it was about to go out. He puffed on it immediately, returning it back to life, still without saying anything. "So," the `fire guy' continued. "I ignored Julian, and concentrated on the other things..." He stared at the doodle once again. "Things like the fact that he had a major bone to pick with a certain assassin..." He shot a quick glance at Desmond. "Specter... I have heard a hell of a lot about Specter," he hemmed. "I was almost in mourning when I found out about his demise..." He hemmed again. "However," he continued. "I also realized that Sam's sick-fuck-of-a-father was working as an accountant for the Rayhe's family at one point; and that Rayhe-Junior was somehow involved into the whole `Specter Operation'... And then Sam mentioned something about `Desmond's mate'... Gabriel..." He chuckled weakly. "With all the research I did, the name immediately rang a bell, so..." He took a deeper breath this time, and shrugged. "Believe it or not, I managed to put two and two together... I couldn't believe it at first, but then Sam said that his dog's name was Specter..." He didn't laugh this time; he simply stared at the doodle. "I mean..." he shrugged. "Why in the world would you give your dog such a name, right...? Therefore, I went farther down the road of two-and-two, and I figured that Specter was quite live-and-kicking after all... I realized that Sam was living with the damn assassin... I had no bloody idea that it was, in fact, you..." he stuttered slightly. "Frankly," he shrugged. "You were the last person I would even think about... However, the facts were speaking for themselves..." He sighed and tore his gaze away from Desmond's doodling. "I never told anyone about what I found, and I am not going to. Not because I care about you and your secrets, but because I care about Sam. You are important to him, so..." he shrugged again. Desmond took a last drag on his cigarette and flicked it away. "I have no idea what you talking about," he said calmly. "I know," Blair said without a smile. "I'm going to go get Rayhe," Desmond straightened up. "I want to go home." ...A half an hour or so later, they were driving home. Gabriel glanced at Desmond, somewhat surprised by his silence and lack of expected bitching. He slowed down just a little, waiting for Desmond's "Rayhe, step on it already!" It never came, so Gabriel slowed down some more. Desmond just smoked silently with thoughtful expression. "All right," Gabriel said finally. "Des, what the hell is it?" Desmond blinked and looked at him with a puzzled frown. "What?" he asked, completely ignoring excruciatingly slow speed of Gabriel's driving. "You are quiet," Rayhe said. "Why?" "Oh..." Desmond rolled down the window and threw his cigarette outside. "Just thinking about Sam's `fire guy'... There is something about that guy..." He frowned thoughtfully. "I can't figure it out... It bothers me." Gabriel cleared his throat. "Did he, by any chance, remind you of someone?" he asked carefully. Desmond looked at him for a minute. "Yeah," he nodded finally. "Yeah, that's it! You too, huh?" "Eerily so," Gabriel said seriously. "Whom though...?" Desmond frowned again. "Whom did he remind you of? He is an arrogant, stubborn asshole with a bad temper... Rayhe, what are you smirking about?" "Oh," Gabriel sighed. "Nothing, really... Can't figure it out, huh?" "No," Desmond said with slight irritation. "Stop trying to be coy and just tell me already!" "You have seen him somewhat recently," Gabriel said without taking his eyes off the road. "When?" Desmond frowned again. "I don't know," Gabriel shrugged. "When was the last time you looked in the mirror?" Desmond stared at him speechless. "That's not funny!" he finally said very sharply. "No, it's not," Gabriel agreed with him. "It's eerie." "I am nothing like that asshole!" Desmond fumed. "Oh, sure you are not... You are not stubborn, arrogant, or short-tempered," Gabriel said very seriously. "And the fact that you were saying... oh... pretty much everything at the same time is just a comical relief, right?" Desmond's green eyes narrowed, and Gabriel knew what he was about to say. "Shut up, Rayhe!" Desmond said, and Gabriel just sighed. "Step on it already!" Gabriel sighed again and did just that.