Chapter 34

See the Extra Biker Out

⚞ ¥ ⚟

Another set of tiger balls delivered successfully, Yen waved his goodbye to Luke and rode slowly out of the narrow dead-end alley into Rat Trap proper. The glowing neon signs were helpfully reflecting in the ice on the road. Realizing just how many of them he could see on the ground, Yen decided to go slower. Coming in he had better traction, but then the place was called a Trap for a reason.

“Hey Fu Manchu!”

Yen flinched despite himself. He glared coldly in the direction the voice came from. Lo and behold, two Undying assholes stood smoking outside a strip club. Well, that explained the overabundance of Harleys on the sidewalk. Yen put on the most unimpressed expression and turned his eyes back to the road. And rightly so, because some high idiot stumbled into the middle of the street, making him brake sharply.

“Watch where you’re walking, dumbass!” Yen shook a fist at the glassy-eyed bum.

“Huh?” The man turned around, and instead of walking away, stopped where he was, bent over and started retching.

“Oh great…” Yen rolled back, trying to get out of the range of the splashing vomit and ride around the guy, but before he managed, the two assholes from before materialized between him and the bum.

“I’m talking to you, Yellow Fever.” The Undying to Yen’s left was wearing sunglasses. At night. In winter.

“See, I’m trying so hard to feel offended, but you guys are too damn pitiful.” Yen sneered. “If you are looking for another thrashing, you might want to take those shades off first. You don’t want your eyes full of cheap plastic.”

“Oh? You think you can take both of us? That’s one cheeky chink!” The other Undying laughed. His face was very red, and his words were slurring.

“Maybe Charlie Chan can’t see too well with those slits-”

The guy did not finish. He landed on his back on the vomit-stained asphalt. Yen was on top of him, punching again and again with no regard for the pieces of sunglasses his knuckledusters were hammering into the man’s bloody face.

“What the fuck?!” The other drunk biker stumbled back. “C-crazy chink! Mental!” Stumbling over his feet he ran towards the strip club.

Yen breathed heavily, adrenaline pounding through his system. He rose on unsteady legs. The guy on the ground looked like his face belonged in the meat aisle. Yen spat on him, then, shaking a little, got back on his bike.

Thankfully, the puking hobo seemed to have sobered up and fled, just like the other Undying biker. Yen started his bike and rode over the unconscious asshole’s hand. He heard a commotion behind him as the other Undying rushed into the street. He was almost at the corner, turning, when he heard the shot.

His front tire blew mid-turn, and Yen didn’t even manage to swear before the asphalt rushed towards him. His bike flew out from under him and crashed into a wall, while Yen rolled and slid over the icy asphalt that tore right through his jeans and scraped the hell out of his legs. Yen swore. He barely avoided hitting his head on the ground, even so he was disoriented as fuck. He crawled half-consciously towards his bike, more worried about it than he was about himself. He didn’t make it all the way. Someone grabbed him by the hair, swung him around and punched him in the face.

“Fucking chink! Know your place!”

Another punch came. Yen grabbed the hand in his hair and tried to kick the guy blindly in the crotch. He hit his thigh instead.

“Motherfucker! Hold him down!”

Yen’s eyes barely managed to focus on the guy that was punching him when he saw at least three others beside him. Two guys grabbed his arms, while another one, a heavy bastard, sat on his legs. The guy that had punched him flexed. 

“Now the fun begins.”

⚞☆⚟

“Help, please! Someone, anyone! Please!”

Luke looked through the mostly boarded up window at the scantily dressed woman outside. She was running towards the tenement, struggling with the icy alley in her huge heels.

Luke sighed and headed outside.

“No need to run, if there’s another story El needs re-enacted, I will gladly help, just please don’t hurt yourself.” Luke walked towards the woman, who looked at him startled.

“What?” She winced. “No, it’s not that! It’s real! Is Xenia or anyone else who can fight here? They’re killing him!”

“Killing whom?”

“Yen!”

Luke’s heart fell. No one was home. Not Neha, not El, not even Anezka, only Alena and her granddaughter were there. And Xenia hardly ever visited the tenement.

“Lead me to him, I’ll do what I can,” Luke blurted on instinct and ran after the courtesan. 

They ran through the street, and soon had to maneuver between the gawkers, who stood in respectable distance from the street corner where four men appeared to be beating the life out of a sprawled figure.

“Police, have you called the police?!” Luke asked, panic enveloping him.

“They won’t make it! Please, someone, do something!” the courtesan cried out, covering her mouth in horror and helplessness. Some of the other women on the street looked equally upset. One of them was searching through her purse, looking like she might try to interfere.

Luke turned to the men beating Yen. The guy who seemed to be doing most of the beating knelt down and pulled out a switchblade. He said something and laughed. Yen squirmed violently.

Luke ran towards them.

“Stop it! Leave him alone!”

The bikers didn’t even turn.

Luke reached under his shirt as he ran, and tore the amulet off of his neck, tossing it on the sidewalk. He ran across the road, one goal fixed in his mind. Keep Yen safe.

“I said, let him go!” Luke shouted at the top of his lungs. His voice sounded different, but he didn’t notice. What mattered — the bikers did.

The man with the knife got up and turned to Luke, the rest of them were also glaring at him. They were like a pack of jackals, leering over their bleeding, helpless prey. One glance towards Yen turned Luke’s stomach, but he could see the biker was still breathing, and that sent a jolt of energy down his spine. Luke stood tall as the thug with the knife walked towards him.

“Or you’ll what?” The man spat, bloodthirsty and amused.

“Or I’ll make you,” Luke said. Suddenly, he felt no hesitation. He could kill this man. He knew he could. And with what they’d done to Yen, he couldn’t see how that would be a bad thing.

The biker with the knife laughed, then he took another step forwards and swung with his blade.

His swing went wildly off, as his foot slid out from under him on a patch of ice. The man flailed, trying to regain his footing, but ended up falling face-first. A crunch came as his face connected with the asphalt. His body slumped with his ass up in the air. Luke stepped over him.

The three bikers stared at him wide-eyed.

“Get. Out,” Luke said coldly.

“What the fuck, fuck you!” The man holding down Yen’s right arm jumped up to his feet and rushed at Luke.

With a loud crash, a big chunk of ice cracked off of the roof above and knocked the biker to the ground.

Luke stepped over his immobile body too.

“I said, leave.”

He expected his heart to be hammering in his ears, cold sweat to be running down his spine. But there was nothing. He felt nothing. He was completely calm. And he wasn’t going to let these men or his powers hurt Yen. His eyes moved quickly from one startled thug to another, then to a flicker behind them. Several feet away Yen’s bike lay on its side, wrecked and leaking fluids that now suddenly ignited. Perhaps it was a cigarette butt tossed from a window above, or maybe it was just his luck. But Luke knew what it meant and like in a slow motion movie, he threw himself forward as the bikers stood up. He landed on top of Yen, shielding him, as with a loud pop a huge burst of flame shot up from the burning motorbike.

The remaining two thugs screamed as they were engulfed in flames. One ran to the side, while the other tripped over Luke’s legs and fell. Both of them kept screaming on and on, animalistic high-pitched screeches. Luke glanced towards the one that fell. The man was rolling wildly, but instead of putting out the fire that seemed to only be making it worse. His long beard and hair were also aflame now, smelling like the feathers burnt off a poorly plucked chicken. Luke winced and looked down at Yen to assess the damage. Yen looked awful, but he was blinking with one eye and breathing, and Luke felt content with that.

Suddenly, his confidence faded, and Luke tried to subdue the desire to protect Yen, fearing it could hurt the both of them, now that the other targets had already suffered. But as he began trying to clear his mind, he heard another crash above, and another chunk of ice fell on the rolling burning biker’s head. He stopped screaming. His comrade was running through the street, still on fire and yelling, as he struggled to get out of his burning leather jacket.

Gathering all his strength, Luke lifted Yen into his arms and hurried with him to where his amulet lay, across the street. A car came around the corner, and Luke jumped forward, barely avoiding getting hit. He almost dropped Yen, but managed to stumble towards his amulet. He lay Yen down as gently as he could and put the amulet back around his neck, tying the torn ends of the leather strap.

Yen shifted shakily, curling up into a fetal position. He looked awful. His face was unrecognisable, black, red and purple. 

Luke hid the amulet under his shirt and lifted Yen into his arms again.

“A doctor, I need a doctor!” Luke shouted.

As he looked around, he realized some of the gawkers had dispersed and the remaining ones were looking at him in horror. Only the courtesan who had led him there appeared to be crying with relief. Everyone else looked anything but relieved.

Luke walked towards them, and some of them fled.

“Blaise…” Yen muttered.

“Huh?”

“Take me to Blaise…” Yen croaked hoarsely.

“You need a hospital-”

“I need Blaise. Fuck hospitals.” Yen forced an eye open and glared at Luke.

“Right…” Luke decided not to argue and turned to the woman who had led him to Yen. “Can you please, get us a cab?”

“Sure.” She nodded and ran towards the nearest payphone.

Luke followed her.

* * *

Luke felt both anxious and stupid, as he paid with the money Monica, the courtesan, had given him and hurriedly climbed out of the taxi to pull Yen from the backseat in a way that wouldn’t leave any bloody stains in the car. The biker was only somewhat conscious and moaned every so often, much to Luke’s relief. Luke kept thinking he should have taken Yen to the hospital instead, but as if in response to his doubts, the door of the house they’d arrived at opened, and a man walked quickly towards them.

He reached them shortly after and unburdened Luke, leaning Yen’s weight on himself and then gathering the biker up in his arms. “I’ll take care of him,” he said.

“Mh… Daddy,” Yen muttered and visibly relaxed.

“Do you need any help? Will he be alright?” Luke hugged himself, no longer having someone else to hold onto. “Should we take him to the hospital? He told me to take him here…”

“And you did well bringing him to me. Thank you, Luke, and God bless you, but you’ve done enough. I’ll take over from here.” He carried Yen in his arms up the steps of the house. “You can help by closing the door behind us.” With that, the man went inside.

Luke did as he was told. He stood on the porch for a long moment after. Behind his back the taxi drove away, but he didn’t mind. He could use a long walk. He needed to come to terms with what he had done.

⚞ ¥ ⚟

Yen tried not to move. Everything hurt when he did. Absolutely everything. Even wincing in pain was in itself painful.

It was a little less so now that his face seemed to no longer be covered in caked blood and his split lips and eyebrows seemed more firmly in place. He opened his eyes, but it didn’t make a difference. Was it that dark or was he blind?! Was he dead?!

“Ugh, hlm, me…” Yen moaned, not entirely sure where he was or who he was whining to.

There was a quiet sound, like footsteps.

They stopped and gave way to a familiar voice.

“I’m really surprised you went this long before you got yourself into a fight.”

“I get myself into fights all the time,” Yen said with relief. “But I usually win.”

Blaise came closer. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Yen thought he could vaguely see him. “Well, then I do hope the other boys look even worse.”

“… I think they’re dead. So if they don’t look bad right now, they will soon.”

“Then I guess you won this fight as well. Just don’t make a habit of it. Here.” The priest brought a glass to Yen’s lips.

Yen drank. He downed the entire glass. “Water. I am underwhelmed. I hope you at least blew on it or spat in it or something? Where’s the magic?”

“Oh, it’s done its part. Now it’s just bedtime for you.”

“Not yet.” Yen groaned and tried to sit up. “I need to take a leak.” He tried to sit up again, but his entire torso was killing him. As were his arms.

He did not have to ask for help, the priest was at his side without a word and lifted him into a sitting position, then helped him walk to the bathroom.

”You should probably sit down, unless you want me to be present,” he told Yen when they arrived at their destination.

“Fine, I’ll sit.” Yen squinted at the bright light, cringing because of it and then trying not to cringe because cringing hurt.

Blaise left him to his own devices, and Yen found his legs worked much better than his upper body. Still, it had been a good idea not to piss standing, because rising from the crapper he got a bout of dizziness so bad he had to lean heavily against a wall.

”Is everything alright there?”

“Yeah, yeah…” Yen wanted to add something witty, but his eyes fell on his reflection in the mirror above the sink and all witty comments died on his lips. There were stitches on his left eyebrow and his upper lip. One of his teeth looked chipped and his gums were bloody. His eyes looked like he had tried to stuff them with wild blueberries. They probably looked even worse before, when there was still eyeliner smeared there. But Blaise had done a phenomenal job. Except being puffy, stitched and off-color, his face was still mostly the same. There were scabs all over the place, and he was afraid to touch his nose, but even that seemed to be holding up much better than it should have. He had been sure the bastard that did most of the punching had broken it more than once.

The memory made Yen feel sick, and he washed his hands quickly, trying to chase those thoughts off. “I’m ready to go back.”

“Splendid.” Blaise opened the door and entered, letting Yen lean against him. He walked him out and back to the bedroom where he helped him get back into the bed and tucked him in.

“Did you suck out my broken nose and spit it into the toilet?” Yen asked.

The priest sighed. “Just go to sleep, boy. Spare me these mental images.”

Yen smirked. He was about to close his eyes when something occurred to him. “Hey, um, could you please call Nakhti, and tell him to do me a solid for old time’s sake and distract the rest of the club from watching the news for the next couple of days? I don’t want to deal with Sam’s lamenting and arm-wringing in my current state.”

“I’ll let him know.”

“Thanks, Daddy.”

It didn’t take too long for him to drift off.

* * *

A siren wailed in the distance. Yen winced and opened his eyes. It was still dark.

Great. He needed his fucking rest more than ever, and this dumbass city couldn’t stay quiet for one goddamn night. Fuck it.

The more he tried to ignore the siren, the more he focused on it. Until it finally died down in reality, and only echoed in his mind, leaving him grouchy, aching and hopelessly awake.

Yen was lying on his back, which wasn’t the norm for him, but when he tried to turn to his side, his ribs and midsection protested so violently he almost threw up. So he stayed as he was. He sighed.

He did not want to lie on his back now. It was too close to lying on his back on the asphalt, with those three assholes holding him down while the fourth coward beat the shit out of him. Luke had made it right on time, the cowardly fucker said he was going to cut Yen’s junk off, and judging by how he had gotten busy with Yen’s pants, he wasn’t joking. Yen shuddered a little, and the pain sent stars dancing in front of his wet eyes.

He could have taken that fucker one on one, he could have fought them all at once, and even if he lost, and they kicked him half-to-death on the ground — he would have been fine with that. But he hated them for holding him down. He hated the memory of his helplessness as he’d strained until he injured himself, but still couldn’t break free.

It was a hauntingly familiar feeling.

Yen saw evil grinning faces above himself in the darkness. Vile, cowardly whoresons, ganging up on someone smaller, weaker and younger than them, knowing full-well he had nowhere to run, no one to turn to, and that they wouldn’t be punished. If anything they’d be praised for tormenting him.

Yen sniffed. He suddenly wanted very badly to take a shower. To scrub at his arms and legs where the Undying scumbags had gripped him. He’d thought he’d never be so helpless again, that he was free of that life. 

He did not notice when he began to sob.

He felt the mattress shift and soon fingers combed gently through the hair on the side of his head. 

Yen blinked in surprise. He had thought this was a guest bed. He hadn’t imagined Blaise had put him on his own bed and was sleeping next to him. Well, this was awkward. Yen made an effort not to make any noise as he tried to subdue the tears.

“You can cry freely. It doesn’t make you weak, not in my eyes.” Blaise said quietly and kept gently stroking his hair. “Your past was a rocky one, but you left that life behind. It has no power over you, and it never will again.”

Yen started. Had he been so delirious that he had said something out loud? Or was Blaise reading his thoughts? How could he possibly know? Yen brought a hand to his face and wiped away the tears. They were starting to sting the cuts. “What would you know about my past?” He frowned, feeling a cold, slithering sensation in his guts. “And why do you give a damn? What do you want, really? I’m just your courier, we haven’t even banged in months, and yet you act like you…” He struggled with the word… “Care.” No, it was too absurd. “What is in it for you, Daddy? You’re not the Mother Theresa kind like Sam, who just needs to help everyone. So why?” He knew what he wanted to hear, and a part of him feared that Blaise knew it too. 

The priest stayed silent for a while. He sighed. “I might not be the easiest man to understand. If it makes you feel better, you are not one either, I just have my ways. We all have our secrets, but if you really need to know mine, I had a son once. It was long ago, and I lost him,” Blaise said. “I cannot say that you remind me of him, because he would probably be nothing like you had he ever got a chance to grow up. So rather, you remind me of how it was when I was a father. It’s not why I like you, but since you’re so desperately looking for an ulterior motif, here is one.”

Yen felt his heart beat heavily in his chest. “So… I’m like a son to you?”

“You have been for quite a while now, in case you failed to notice.”

“Is that why you didn’t want to fuck anymore?” Yen asked a little too loudly.

“We did approach this from a strange angle at first, didn’t we?” Blaise managed to somehow sound serious and amused at the same time. “But yes. While it was an interesting experience, I know you better now, and you have no trouble finding sexual partners. And while I know that you have your friends, and you have Sam and Nana Riley to call your family, the thing with friends and family is, it’s always good to have more. And so perhaps it’s kind of late in life for this, but if you think that at 20 you could still use having a father that loves you, I know I wouldn’t mind having you as my son.”

“Why do you have to put it into words?!”

“I believe you explicitly asked me to do that,” Blaise said, and Yen could hear a smile in his voice even though he couldn’t see his face. “And since I have to write sermons every week, I’m afraid I am quite proficient at putting things into words without hesitation.”

Yen lay staring at the ceiling. It was one thing to be virtually adopted by a stupid goodie-two-shoes a couple years older than you and his spunky grandaunt, but just acknowledging that what he had with Blaise was a father-son bond of some kind or the notion that it could be even more so — it was too much. Yen felt a rush of anxiety and hope. A very stupid kind of hope.

“You’d really be into that? This- this weird, playing house?! I-” Yen choked a little. “You mean it? You’d want to like… be my dad? What… like… do dad shit?” He began to cry. “Like all the stupid going fishing, doing shitty DIY carpentry, playing baseball stuff they have in the movies?”

“I’ve been sort of trying to do that, in my way, I suppose,” Blaise said in the breaks between Yen’s sobs. “The murder basement lessons, showing you some of my craft. I’m a strange kind of father, I know. But yes, I wouldn’t really mind trying out those other, more commonly acknowledged father things.”

Yen reached out tentatively in the darkness and found Blaise’s shoulder. He squeezed it, unable to speak for a moment.

“Well I take that’s a yes.” Blaise put his hand on Yen’s and squeezed it back reassuringly but when Yen started turning towards him, he stopped him. “As much as I would like to embrace you right now, I think it’s better if you stay as you are. You should go back to sleep. And try not to spend the whole night thinking. Or attempt to run away. We will get back to this tomorrow and inconvenience you by putting even more things into words. I took time off and will be here until you fully recover.”

“T-they let you do that?”

“Priests are supposed to take holidays.” Blaise confessed. “We are also supposed to have one day of rest weekly. They stopped trying to force me to take any of that after some years. But well, I finally have a reason to. A family emergency.”

Yen smiled in the darkness. He squeezed Blaise’s shoulder again, then wiped away his tears and followed the advice of trying not to think on things.

Blaise moved closer for a moment and kissed him on the forehead. “Well then. Goodnight, son.”

“Goodnight.” Yen croaked, smiling. Not thinking would be so hard.

* * *

Yen lay in bed for a while. He opened his eyes for a moment to see it was light already, very light, then let himself drift asleep again. Finally, the urgent need to piss made him crack his eyes open in what looked like early afternoon. It was weird to see Blaise’s bedroom in full daylight. It was a clean and neatly arranged space. White walls, sparse dark furniture, some potted plants, but except for that not even a taste of the murder basement on the shelves, just some books, almost as if a proper priest lived here. Yen remembered the morning when he woke up here, and Blaise did his eyeliner. And now… now they were…

Yen rubbed the back of his neck. It didn’t hurt. He frowned — that hurt a bit. Trying to sit up convinced him that he had in fact been in a very bad fight the night before. But it didn’t hurt enough. It was odd. Unless he had been in a coma for a week. Then this rate of recovery could be possible, if still unrealistic.

He had to use his arms to sit up, and he traced the walls with his hands as he walked to the bathroom. His face looked much the same in the mirror, but less puffy. Maybe the purple around his eyes was fading a bit. He had a bit of a stubble, but not enough to bother shaving with the stitches in his lip.

When he came back to the bedroom he found clean new socks, boxers, pajama pants and a t-shirt waiting for him. Yen looked at the bloodstains on the t-shirt he slept in and nodded to himself. His jeans were probably even worse off. He stared down at his legs expecting to see massive wounds from the scraping fall, but instead saw only sizable scratches. He almost felt cheated.

Then he felt that he had cheated somehow, when after taking a shower, he found his jeans in a bag in the corner of the bathroom. Blaise was kind enough not to throw them away outright, even though there were massive holes in them, all caked with blood. Yen compared those to his scratched up legs and had a hard time believing his eyes. He should have skinned himself in a few places, judging by the amount of blood and the damage to the fabric. And yet.

Dressed in his new boring getup, Yen gathered his dirty laundry in the bag with the jeans and went downstairs.

“Um, Blaise…” Yen said, feeling awkward.

There was a rustle of papers, soon after which the priest emerged from the living room. “Yes, son?”

Yen’s ears and face grew red. He half-smiled, then winced a little as it tugged on his stitched lip. He looked away, suddenly uncomfortable making eye-contact, uncomfortable wearing weird pajamas, standing in the hall like this, like he lived here. It was too surreal.

The priest seemed completely unfazed by the situation. ”I’m glad to see you’re doing better. Hungry?”

“Yeah, sure.” Yen fought with the urge to grab onto the bottom his t-shirt or manifest insecurity in any physical manner. He followed Blaise into the kitchen.

“Here, sit.” Blaise moved one of the padded fancy wooden chairs at a small table aside. “No matter how well you feel, you shouldn’t stand or move around much yet.” The priest helped Yen sit down at the kitchen table. “I honestly don’t know what to do with all this free time on my hands, so between bringing some homework from the chancery, I got plenty of groceries. There is fresh bread.” He gestured towards the bread box. “So I can make you some sandwiches if you tell me what you want them with. There is orange and apple juice. And there’s also this.” Blaise turned back to him with a box of Lucky Charms cereal.

Yen’s eyebrows rose. “Nice try, Daddy. But I can’t drink milk.”

Blaise snorted and lifted up a carton of soy milk. “Nice try son, but I’m well prepared.”

“Oh.” Yen was impressed. “Bring it on then.”

The priest took out a bowl from the cupboard. Then after brief consideration, he took out one more. He set them on the table along with two spoons. Then he frowned at the milk carton and the cereal box.

“I must admit I’m not sure which you kids put in first.”

“What kind of question is that? Obviously, cereal first, milk second. Sam is the only milk-first heretic that I know.”

“Very well then.” Blaise opened the cereal package and put a generous amount of it in Yen’s bowl and then in the other one. “Is there a reason behind this creed?”

“If you put milk in first, that shit floats and falls out, and the universe implodes a little. I’m also pretty sure you get cursed, but that’s too mundane and trivial a problem for you, I bet.”

“I see.” Blaise nodded, then opened the milk carton and poured it into both their bowls.

“Are you seriously going to eat Lucky Charms with me?”

“Why, don’t you think it’s a suitable meal for a shaman?”

Yen almost choked on his first spoonful of cereal. He snorted and shook his spoon at Blaise appreciatively as he chewed.

“Besides, I suppose I should know what I’m feeding you. I have never eaten this kind of thing before.”

“You make it sound like we’re eating Soylent Green.”

“Well it is soy. Unfortunately I really don’t know what you’re referencing.”

“Soylent Green is people, Daddy!” Yen laughed. “You need to watch more sci-fi.”

“People. Well, as you keep letting me know, we repeatedly eat the same person in church everyday so I suppose this should be more of the same.” The priest ate his first spoonful. “The amount of sugar in this spoon alone is probably my daily intake. I’d take the communion wafer over this anytime.” He commented and continued eating.

“Is communion wafer cereal a thing for priests? Do you eat it with holy water instead of milk?”

“No, and before you ask, we don’t eat it with wine either. But I am sure if the wafers were this sugar coated and coming in different colors then people would be swarming churches.”

“Yes, imagine all the little children, it’s like a buffet for you people, pick and choose.”

Blaise looked at him with the usual fed up expression Yen so enjoyed inducing. “I’m afraid I already chose my child. It’s a little overgrown now, but I guess it will have to do. Now eat your cereal, boy.” The priest shook a finger at him and continued eating.

Yen looked into his bowl, feeling awkward. He chewed in silence for a change. After a while he stole a look at Blaise. It was so weird to see the man eating Lucky Charms. Yen couldn’t hold back a chuckle. “Pf, you look so weird, Dad.”

His chuckle ended abruptly, and he stared at the table between them, mortified. Why was this so easy? Suddenly he kind of lost his appetite. He moved the colorful floating treats with his spoon, looking despondent. Something was gnawing at him. “How do you know about my past? And what do you know?”

Blaise’s expression grew serious. “The answer you want to hear is that it’s because I am a priest, that as such I spend a lot of time with people, that I have seen children from broken families before, therefore I can read you like a book. But I don’t think I need to hide this from you, so the answer I will give you is still the same one I’ve been giving you before to no avail. I am a shaman. In fact, I am more than that. I can tell certain facts from the past and present and even future with a little help of some implements you’ve seen in my basement.” Blaise explained calmly. He looked absolutely unperturbed and continued eating his Lucky Charms.

“And so you dug up my past?” Yen frowned, then shrugged. “I guess that’s fair. Many jobs do a background check. But like, what else do you know?”

“Enough to wish I could have been there for you.”

Yen looked him in the eyes, alarmed. “What do you know?”

Blaise put his spoon down and looked at him seriously with his grey eyes. Yen noticed there were actually specks of lilac around the pupils. “Do you really want to know? Is knowing what I know going to make you feel more at ease, or is it going to make you so uncomfortable that you will want to run away? Because I do not want you running away. I meant everything I said last night.”

Yen thought about it. “I wanna know what you know. Otherwise I’ll keep guessing and shit. I won’t run away. Not in this state.”

Blaise sighed. “Very well. I know that you were born Victor Charlie Brown, to a hippie mother and a father that your mother’s husband thought to be Vietnamese. Based on this, he proceeded to ruin your life, starting from naming you the way he did despite your mother’s protests. Your siblings who your step-father loved more, in the literal sense of this word, made your life a living hell on a daily basis, including but not limited to siccing the family’s dog on you. A dog you killed on the day you ran away from home. You renamed yourself to Yen already in this city, when you met a Vietnamese old man working for a pimp called Romeo, and tried to immerse yourself more in Vietnamese culture, which did not quite work out. This was about the time you tried to steal from the donation box in my church. Sam found you eating a sandwich from a trashcan and took you in, but you ran away the same night with all the cash you could find in his home.” Blaise fell silent, gauging Yen’s reaction.

Yen stared at him in outrage. “Does the F.B.I. call you when they need a background check on somebody?! What the fucking hell?!” He stared at the priest like Blaise just grew an extra ten thousand heads. “And what do you mean by ‘thought to be Vietnamese’? I am Vietnamese. Well, half-Vietnamese.”

“No.” Blaise stated matter-of-factly. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you are actually half-Chinese. I could even find out where your biological father is, if you wanted me to, though I don’t suppose he remembers the one night he spent with your mother. She couldn’t tell a difference, and your step-father just assumed. After all, all Asian people look the same to white people.”

Yen stared into space. So that was why the Undying called him a chink. Apart from the fact they were racist assholes and probably couldn’t tell the difference. Apparently, he was also a racist asshole and couldn’t tell the difference either. Yen thought about his situation in silence for a long moment. Then he spoke again. “I suppose it’s a relief that at least I am not Japanese Yen. Or my purchasing power would be pretty damn low.”

“I’m glad to see your humour coming back, and I would hope you considered your purchasing power to be pretty good lately. I’ve been trying to offer fair employment terms. Well, are you satisfied now? Had me poke a stick into the anthouse of your past, and are finally ready to think about what you want on your sandwiches presently?”

Yen looked down at his soggy lucky charms. He picked the bowl up with both hands and gulped the soy milk down, then shoveled the gooey cereal into his mouth to get it over with. “I want ham or bacon or whatever meat products you have available. If you make me a steak sandwich, I won’t refuse.”

Blaise got up, leaving his mostly full bowl on the table. The charms started bleeding color into milk. “Then meat sandwiches it is. By the way, I contacted that friend of yours, he will be coming to visit you in the afternoon.” Blaise opened the fridge and took out what looked like roasted pork tenderloin, then fished out some glazed ham.

“Neato.” Yen nodded passively and tapped his fingers on the table, kind of excited about the sandwich that he didn’t even have to make for himself — being an invalid wasn’t all that bad. He stopped tapping and froze. “Wait a minute, where did you get Nakhti’s phone number?” The answer came to him a moment after he asked the question. “Ah. Was it Roon Casting? How’s that guy doing by the way? Is he related to McDollarface?”

The priest busied himself preparing sandwiches. “Yes… Roon Casting is incredibly helpful in these kind of situations. The man you call McDollarface can be too, and he uses Roon Casting as well. So in a way you could say that yes, they are related. Now, is there something more significant that you still want to ask?”

“Not yet, I guess. But I wouldn’t mind finding out more about Mr Casting and the McDollardude and what his deal is. We’ll have plenty of time to hang out, I imagine.” Yen poked around his midsection and winced. He was recovering miraculously quickly, but not that miraculously.

“You imagine right, son.” Blaise put a couple sandwiches with enormous piles of ham on them in front of Yen. “Now eat, and then be so kind as to tell your father what exactly happened yesterday, so that I don’t have to rely on the unreliable sources that are the television and radio or resort to Roon Casting for this one.”

“Sure, Daddy,” Yen replied slyly, then hesitated. “Dad… Sure, Dad?” He gave Blaise an estimating look, then smirked. Then he smiled. It didn’t feel so wrong at all.

* * *

Nakhti froze in his tracks in the middle of Father Ivers’ living room. “What is this, an all you can eat daycare center?”

Yen looked up at Nakhti and smirked smugly. He knew his face still looked like he had been hammering nails with it, but he had never been more tended to in his entire life. He spread his arms, presenting the half-a-dozen pillows around him on the couch, the cosy blanket, strewn with comic-books and magazines and the coffee table crammed with snacks, bottles of pop and anything a sick teenager’s heart could desire. The TV was on and the remote lay in Yen’s lap on top of a small stack of biker magazines.

“This, Nakhti, is caring. You should try it sometimes.”

Nakhti snorted. “How are you feeling?”

“A valiant attempt!” Yen praised him. “Not too bad for someone who had multiple ribs cracked, I can even walk in short bursts. If you can call those ‘bursts’. Did you manage to cover for me?”

“I tried to keep everyone busy.” The club leader confirmed. “But Nana heard it on the radio and called every single one of us on the phone this morning, mostly to tell us not to tell Sammy, not to upset him. I told her and the others who are not Sammy that you’re staying at my place for now, and you don’t want to be babied. Which was a lie in more ways than I thought.” Nakhti took in the sight again, looking bewildered and amused.

“Phewh, nice save, Nana…” Yen relaxed. “I don’t want to be babied by Sam, or rather I don’t want him nagging me to death.” Yen looked content for a moment, safe from the wrath of Samut, then his expression clouded a little. “Say, how’s my bike doing?” 

“Not too well. It exploded.”

“What?” Yen turned to him calmly. Nakhti did not smirk or laugh, and Yen’s face turned ashen. “Wait, you’re serious? H-how could it explode? That, like, never happens!”

Nakhti shrugged. “I don’t know. You tell me, you were the one there. They said on the TV that there were people on fire, and I figured there might be a connection.”

“Oh?” Yen’s eyes lit up. “I sure hope it was my bike that set these jerks on fire. That would be a worthy way to go.” He stared at the magazines in his lap. They were full of bikes, but none of those bikes were his bike, none could compare. He sighed. Here was a hurt that was going to last longer than his injuries.

“Anyway, I don’t even know if there were parts left to salvage, because the police took the remains as evidence. They’ve been plaguing Nana, but she seems to have successfully lied to Sam that it’s because she’d had an episode of road rage. People are covering your butt so far, but the cops might track you here eventually because you sure as hell aren’t actually at my place. I’ll mention that to your voodoo priest as well.”

“Ha, so you finally believe me.” Yen smirked, then grew serious again. “Well, I’m not running from the cops, let them come. I’m more worried about Sam. He’s bound to have questions when I don’t show up for a few more days. I guess you can tell him that I totalled my bike, and now I am in mourning and want to be alone or some shit? I… I’m kind of in the middle of something here.” Yen gestured towards the magazines and snacks. “And I don’t want Sammy coming over to lecture me.”

“What, don’t you want them all to also finally believe your sugar daddy really exists?”

“Eh, I don’t give a fuck. And he probably prefers his privacy…” Yen chewed his lip. “Let’s keep the status quo on this one. Thanks for covering for me.” He reached out for a fistbump.

“Not so fast. And when they discover you’re not at my place, what should I tell them? I’ll need some proof of life from you at least, or you will have to call Sam and explain yourself.”

“You’ve got a point.” His fistbump unreciprocated, Yen waved his hand instead. “Say, I’ll call him, maybe later tonight. I should be back on my feet within… shit, I don’t know, maybe even a week at this rate. Sam can wait a week. I hope.”

“Fair enough, though be prepared for the fact he knows nothing so far. Speaking of calls, did you remember to call your job? Also, you sure you don’t need to be in a hospital?” Nakhti inquired. “I mean, this, whatever it is, is definitely a sounder financial decision, but someone has to ask these questions, and I suppose it’s me.”

“Woah, woah, ramp down the caring, you’ve done your monthly norm in one sitting. I will call my job, but I’m pretty sure they won’t give me sick leave, so fuck them. And I don’t think I can get this level of care in a hospital, do you?” Yen gestured at his surroundings. “But thanks for asking, as a civilized person would say.”

“I’m more concerned about the medical kind of care. Unless you tell me that the man who lives here also happens to be a doctor.”

“He is a witch doctor, does that count?”

“I mean it’s your body, so I suppose, do whatever you want with it, but if you can never ride a bike after this again because something grew back together wrong, then remember I did ask.”

“Don’t worry, the only way I’ll stop riding is if I’m in a casket.” Yen stared into space. “You know I think I could make it work in a casket too.”

“Yeah, alright, casket on wheels, I see you’re all fine, so I guess I will leave you to it. Unless you want something else from me?”

“That’s more like it.” Yen laughed. “Good old Nakhti. You have done a lot already, thanks. I owe you one. Or two, or three…”

“Great, I’ll make sure to cash those out later, whatever they are. Well, have fun then, and good luck calling your mother. You can call me after you call him so that I know what story to stick to.” Nakthi held out a fist to him.

“Oh yeah, I will.” Yen fistbumped him and made an explosion sound with his mouth, wiggling his fingers. His face momentarily dropped as he imagined his bike doing a similar sound and flying into pieces, but he mustered a smirk in the end.

“I hear you two are done here?” Blaise walked down the stairs to them. He had let Nakhti in before, and he looked ready to see the extra biker out. The priest was definitely more social in the church than he was in his own house.

“Pretty much, yes. I see he’s doing alright. Thank you for taking care of him. Maybe it will teach him to be a bit less reckless.”

“I highly doubt that.”

“Hey, I wasn’t being reckless, there were only two of them when it started!”

Nakhti smirked and flipped him off.

“I apologize,” he said, turning to Blaise. “Forgot myself in front of a man of the cloth. Although as I’ve been told, you are rather liberal for a Catholic priest.”

“Have you now? Well I have heard some things about you as well, young man.”

“All good I hope.”

“Mostly that you’re heavily into Egypt, and if I ever need to dismantle a car, I know where to go.”

Yen nodded sagely. “Yeah, he’s a serial car killer.”

“Well, I’m leaving him with you then, I guess.” Nakhti shrugged. “See you later, Yen, and don’t forget to call me.”

“Gotcha, Sam first, job second, then report to you.”

Blaise escorted Nakhti down the hallway. “Very well then, let me see you out.”

Yen heard Blaise open the front door and Nakhti mention something about the police. They both went out. Yen nodded to himself. Good call, they had better sort out their versions of events for talking to the police. Even though he had stitches, Yen decided, life was good — his boyfriend came to visit, and he got to stay at home sick and pampered for the first time in his life. Yen smiled and flipped open a magazine.

Outside, Nakhti dropped what he was saying mid-sentence, and faced the priest with a questioning look.

“You do realize that there is no taking it back, right?”

Blaise sighed. “Yes, Erro. But since it’s done, it doesn’t make a difference what I do now, does it?”

“I hope that’s really how you feel about it. I never wanted to be the cause of you losing someone important.”

“It was a choice I made, and I will live with it. Yen is mortal either way, and until the day it happens, this is what I want. You have done well. But I would prefer it to be the final time you speak of it unless prompted.”

“Of course. Well, if you ever need to dismantle another car, you know who to call.”

Nakhti stepped down the stairs and walked away without looking back. The priest stood on the steps and watched him walk away. He went back in only after he heard the rev of the motorbike engine in the distance.

Yen looked up from his magazine. “So, what’s up with the cops?”

“Nothing much yet, your Egyptian boyfriend is good at staying elusive, and he didn’t talk to the police, but I confirmed that if he does, it is fine to simply say he knows nothing about it, and send them our way.” Blaise locked the door and came up to Yen’s lair on the couch. “I have contacted El earlier, and I know they have already talked to Luke, though, so I’m assuming they will be here soon, tomorrow, perhaps even later today. It seems like there are a lot of witnesses and except for your enemy bikers, they are all speaking in your favour. But we better still discuss what you should tell the police, just in case.”

“Ok.” Yen felt a little uneasy. He had never had to really interact with police one-on-one before. But maybe Blaise could snake-charm the cops or something. “If I mess up, will you be able to help?”

Blaise sat down in one of the armchairs and took an open package of potato chips. “Not quite, but I wouldn’t be worried about it. You did not kill any of those men. Accidents did. Strange accidents? Yes. Caused by you? Not really. The key is just to tell the truth for this one. If I’m not mistaken, I know at least one of the cops who will come, and that one is quite the specialist on seeing through lies.” He took a chip out of the package, regarded it, and put it in his mouth.

“Ok…” Yen watched Blaise eat the chips with open fascination for a moment, then snapped back to reality. “I sure hope that this special cop of yours is more open-minded than most people I tried telling the truth to before.”

“He’ll believe you just fine. Me? Not so much. But then, I won’t have much to say because I wasn’t there.” The priest crunched down on another chip and after a momentary reflection, concluded. “You were right. These could be rather good in church as well.”

“See! I told you, you need to get something new going with the holy cookie! And you should have dips too, like ranch, salsa, maybe cheese.”

“You did, and now I know what you meant.” Blaise grew ponderous and ate a few more chips. “Hm, I suppose we would have to rotate the dips throughout the Liturgical Year depending on what stains the least. Ranch for weddings, baptisms, funerals perhaps. Guacamole during the Ordinary Time with green vestments. Cheese, hm, I suppose it could work with a golden vestment so for Christmas and Easter perhaps. Salsa or ketchup during the Passion of Jesus or if a cardinal ever visits. And then it would have to be some beetroot based dip for Advent, since we need it to be purple.”

Yen watched him with a disbelieving grin on his face.

“So, what do you think?” Blaise inquired.

“I think you’re gonna be the best dad, Dad.”