“You fucking snitch,” Kurapika presses his gun against Tonpa’s big meaty forehead, watching the man’s dirty green eyes widen in horror. Just like he’s planned.
“Kurapika,” he tries, voice barely audible even in the steady silence of the empty building. “Pup-please—“
“Out,” Kurapika orders, tightening the muscles in his forearms so the gun trembles in his fingers. He’s not a good actor, but it’s convincing enough to make the man leave. A life’s a life, even though this particular one ain’t worth a penny. “Now.”
Tonpa’s feverishly shining eyes are transfixed upon the barrel, and Kurapika fights an urge to roll his eyes impatiently. His sweaty bangs stick to his forehead, and he desperately wants to brush them back. Absent-mindedly, Kurapika promises himself to get a haircut if he manages to not die.
“ Now, ” he barks out, and Tonpa finally obeys with a yelp, almost tripping over his own feet as he rips gaze away from the gun and turns back to run towards the exit.
Kurapika bends his arms at the elbows, taking a deep breath. He knew the motherfucker was easily the weakest target of them all, not to eliminate but to sabotage, and it was only a matter of time until he’d break; and Kurapika calculated everything perfectly: the rest of his team ended up miles away from here, completely unaware of the position Kurapika’s decided to put himself in. Tonpa’s assistance was just an inevitable inconvenience he had to tolerate in order to keep him out of suspicion, and now he’s gone, too. Everyone is safe, at least for tonight.
Well, except for himself. But Kurapika doesn’t even remember the last time he considered himself a person.
His eyes have already adjusted to the darkness, and he begins to move towards the darkest spot, conveniently carved into the walls of the farther hall. Nearing it, Kurapika recreates the axonometric projection of the building, figuring it most probably is going to lead him into the kitchens and then out to the main conference hall. It’s large and centered, and even if Zazan’s gang chose somewhere else to reside, the echo would eventually lead him into the needed chambers. They broke too many walls creating an easy-access labyrinth to keep themselves completely safe.
The remnants of the kitchens are too dark, and Kurapika has to wait a few moments to make out at least a silhouette. He’s in a bad, very bad position, but the recording he has running would most probably be useful if he ends up facing anyone of the group. He’s a master of dirty talk, especially with criminals. He’s good at making them speak even if all they want is bullet hole in the back of his throat.
Carefully avoiding making any sounds, Kurapika finds a door. It leads him into a corridor, air inside it stale and reeking of dead rats and stray dogs, currently being devoured by maggots. Zazan is a ridiculously ambitious and revoltingly pathetic leader, there is no way she would’ve chosen any other place to hide.
Another door, this one leading to the section of balconies above an amphitheater. Kurapika licks his lips, brushes his hair back for the fourth time in five minutes and takes a step inside.
It’s a dark place, but quiet due to much smaller space.
That is why someone else’s breathing is not hard to detect.
Kurapika straightens his arms swiftly and blinks a few times, frowning. The breathing is muffled, probably against a cloth. Or a mask.
“Considering you’re alone here,” the voice, barely above a whisper, says a few meters away from him, “I wouldn’t want to do anything stupid.”
“You’re not Zazan’s,” Kurapika whispers back coolly, narrowing his eyes in another pointless attempt to make something out. Predictable. The bitch is not half as clean as she thinks she is; and she’s got a shit ton of debts. The news of her latest success couldn’t have left everyone impassive. Now, not only he has no help at the nest of a psychopathic terrorist with a tenderly-nurtured god complex and a tendency to torture police officers for weeks after capturing them; he’s most probably surrounded by God knows how many more serial killers, mass murderers and their respective cliques. Peculiar boast, but alas.
“Neither are you.”
“How very observant,” he scowls to earn a dark chuckle.
“Just making things clear.”
Kurapika hears something else before the voice drops, immediately jerking forwards and pushing his invisible companion down so they both fall onto the ground, covered in a thick layer of dust and filth, just a heartbeat too late though. He’s almost not surprised to hear his own flesh ripping under the raw pressure of a bullet a bit lower than the joint that connects his arm to his body. Lucky him. Could’ve stayed without an arm.
For a few seconds all he sees is white, and not because of the fire. The pain is vivid, it steals all his focus, it’s greedy and everlasting, frantically sending shock impulses through every other muscle under his skin, but Kurapika has been through worse. He clenches his teeth and breaths out, trying to focus on the sounds around him. Distraction is also a treatment.
Then he shifts and shoots four times, angling the barrel upward a little more and more each pop.
Someone’s body falls down, a sound so lifeless and poetic in the darkness that still devours him completely, itchy on his skin. It’s followed by disgusting gurgling sounds, and Kurapika focuses on his own breath, trying to calm down. Fucking motherfucker.
“Dude, you shot?”
“‘M fine,” he manages to say, voice flat, but all he hears is the roar of blood in his ears. And gunfire.
Kurapika tries to stand up, but his legs refuse to listen. Falling down hurts him even more, the bullet still buried deep in his flesh. The front of his shirt is wet, and while the wound burns hotter than Saharan sun, a shiver runs down Kurapika’s spine. It’s easy to imagine it be his Death’s gentle touch, Victorian poets are rather fond of this particular turn before sending their blossoming leads to a grave.
He’s not sure, but there’s someone saying things to him, a face close to his he doesn’t see but manages to feel.
Kurapika screams when someone touches his injured arm. He’s never been good at tolerating pain, even if he thinks the opposite.
The last thing he registers is a touch of cool fingers against his burning forehead.
“What a pretty little thing you’ve got for a friend, Feitan.”
The voice is unfamiliar, and although yes, thank you very much, as if Kurapika has never been told that he’s short before, the words don’t sound teasing. If anything, they sound...fond?
Kurapika frowns, an absolutely unwanted buzz creeping up his skin. No one talks fondly of him, what the—
Then, he remembers the warehouse.
He opens his eyes abruptly, trying to sit up, but there’s a strong hand on his chest, pinning him to whatever horizontal surface he’s occupying. Kurapika can’t help but pout, head still dizzy and vision unclear, as if he’s wearing someone else’s prescription glasses. He has to get his shit together, he might be fucking dying right now.
“Shh, beautiful, just a few more minutes and you’ll be off.”
Kurapika blinks again and turns his head slightly.
Looking back at him is a pair of very dark, very pretty eyes on an equally handsome face, and Kurapika tenses even more, because what the fuck , he’s probably drugged if he allows his mind wander in these peculiar directions. He clenches his teeth and tries to snap out of it, gaze boring into the man’s face that is now shifting from polite calmness to slight concern.
“What, does it still hurt?”
His skin is pale, almost transparent like wax, probably because of the cool sharp lighting of the room that, however, as ugly at it is, cannot spoil the exquisite features the man possesses, such as a long narrow nose, a pair of pale lips, the lower one slightly plumper than the upper, naturally curved into an expressive line; a strong jawline that leads one to expect equally sharp cheekbones, but the apples of his cheeks are carved delicately, the edges prominent but rounded by god’s tentative hands, to give an impression of tenderness, even on a face so handsome. Though, Kurapika thinks the man’s eyes is what strikes the most — not black, but extremely dark grey, like natural charcoal the academics use in their naked body studies, a void, disturbingly empty with an endless flow of thought and emotion. And then there’s a tattoo.
The cross tattoo in between the man’s eyebrows is enough to identify him. Odd, Kurapika thinks, no less oddly tranquil, he’s just in his late twenties, and he certainly doesn’t look like a criminal. A very wanted, alarmingly successful criminal, the leader of the most feared organization out there. The Phantom Troupe.
Kurapika must be staring too shamelessly, because the man arches his dark eyebrow and chuckles.
“We gave you local anesthesia to pull out the bullet, it was really deep in your shoulder. Machi’s finishing patching you up as we speak.”
The hand on his chest is back even before he decides to move again. Kurapika scowls and tears his gaze away from the man to see another two strangers on the other side of him. There’s a girl, pink-haired and red-cheeked, eyebrows furrowed and shoulders tensed as she saws Kurapika’s wound, and the other man, short, with a cloth covering his mouth and nose, is watching him from under his long dark bangs with a calculating squint of his eyes.
Kurapika swallows and attempts to clear his throat.
“You pushed me down and got shot by one of Zazan’s men,” the guy in a mask speaks, his voice is naturally quiet, hoarse and accented, and Kurapika realizes he was his invisible companion in the darkness of the foyer.
“The spot ain’t too bad, but he shot from a rather short distance, so it got in pretty deep,” the girl speaks, gaze fixed on Kurapika’s skin. Her voice is deep, firm, like her little fingers. “Didn’t lose a lot of blood, too. You’ll be fine.”
The girl—Machi—nods, the short man doesn’t take his eyes off Kurapika. He’s angry, it’s understandable, for being indebted to someone. Criminals don’t do that usually, but Kurapika must be really lucky. His corpse could’ve been rotting now, abandoned on dirty floors, swimming in his own blood.
With a soft sound, Machi cuts the stitch and stands up.
“Danchou,” she nods again, and Kurapika turns to look at the tattooed man. He looks down at him, too, with a calm smile in the corners of his lips. The door closes, and the hand Kurapika forgot he had on his chest is gone, too. He shivers involuntarily, making the man chuckle again.
“There,” he presses a glass of water against Kurapika’s lips, the same hand that has been holding him down now on the back of his head, tilting it up gently.
Kurapika drinks, painfully aware that it’s not just water. He’s unbelievably stupid for a federal detective. He blames it on anesthesia.
“What happened to Zazan?” he asks, finishing the liquid. The man puts the empty glass on the table and looks at the clock.
“She’s dead,” he says matter-of-factly as Kurapika studies his face. “Why were you alone?”
“Places like that are no good without a team,” he says, watching Kurapika watch him. Too bad he’s a cold-blooded murderer. It’s a face to die for.
Kurapika mentally stabs himself in the eye.
“I had...reasons,” it’s already hard to speak, but Kurapika focuses on the man’s face to stay awake as long as possible.
“Your selflessness is something to admire, isn’t it,” he says quietly, and there’s fondness in his low tone that is absolutely unnecessary, given the circumstances. “Thank you for helping Feitan.”
Kurapika nods, breathing heavier. There’s a hand in his hair, but he’s not sure whether it’s just appeared or has been there the whole time.
“Don’t fight it, beautiful. You need to rest.”
He’d do anything to snap back at the nickname, anything to avenge his fucking dignity, but he can’t. Motherfucker.
The eyes never leave his, big and round, with heavy eyelids and dark curled lashes. Right when Kurapika thinks he’s caught a glimpse of colour in the dark irises, a better look proves him wrong. He wants to climb inside them, to find a way in the cosmic abyss, to solve the equation, to see the outside from there. He wants to bath in cool silence, to hold his breath and see how much he’d last.
“It was lovely to meet you, Mr Kurta,” he hears the voice again, already unaware of anything but the eyes.
Kurapika prays he didn’t say it back by accident when he hears a quiet melodic laugh after finally giving in and closing his own eyes.