Five by Elf Asato


Title: Five
Author: Elf Asato
Warnings: Slash, AU
Disclaimer: All characters used belong to Yuki Kaori.
Notes: This series of short ficlets is based on a challenge and inspired by Brigdh's Five Things That Never Happened to Hisoka, a wonderful fic in the Yami no Matsuei fandom. The basic outline of the challenge is that you pick one character and write five AU vignettes centered around that him/her. My character: Riff. Because I am eternally lazy in thinking up good titles, I used song names from the album The Young and the Hopeless by Good Charlotte and stuck them in where they might fit the best.

By Elf Asato

One: The Young and the Hopeless

A kiss received on the neck - two, three; each one barely chaste, but not asking of anything more. And Riff didn't ask for anything more, as he knew he had already had his time in the spotlight of the master's least, until he called upon Riff's services once more. Quiet, languid sighs dominated the atmosphere, growing as if with passion, but then receding until there was barely anything left. Riff loved afternoons like that, where his master called upon him for pleasure and devoted his attention for an hour or two solely to the willing servant.

After all, that's what Riff did best.

He couldn't exactly recall how long ago it was when the master gave him a job as a servant to the Hargreaves household... It seemed silly for him to not know, though, seeing as how it was near when he lost almost everything; the only thing he had left was his life. Not even his dignity survived.

Riff could honestly say that he truly hated his younger brother. Had the opportunity arisen, or had Riff been that type of person, perhaps he would have burned the house, the evidence, everything down to the ground. But as it was, his childhood home still stood with his brother gloating glory at being the favorite son...the only son, as their father had seen to it...

Being born as Rifel Raffit, he had come from a strict, no nonsense, and law-abiding family - a good family with high morals. But that was the problem; they had no tolerance for "sexual deviants", especially within the family. Namely, homosexuals like Riff. As long as no one knew, though, there was hardly a problem with it...but his younger brother Clyde found out a few years ago, at what Riff would call an unjust invasion of privacy. A courtship and engagement with an influential woman, the daughter of the hospital director, while off at medical school served as a suitable cover for Riff's "abnormality", as the rest of the world saw it. Clyde wasn't deterred by this farce, though, and after revealing to her what his brother really was, even eloped with her on what was supposed to be their wedding day.

And for a year, that was alright with Riff; he spent a good portion of that year purposefully playing unjustly victimized to his parents in order for them to look down harshly upon their youngest son. He was free to practice his sexuality, and no one had any suspicions whatsoever... Until Clyde, broke and in debt, came back and revealed absolutely everything through rumors and letters about Riff.

That was when his world collapsed.

Riff was horribly bitter at being cast out of the family by the man and woman who raised him and made him into who he was, who unwittingly shaped everything about him. However, though his family turned their backs on him, the Earl of Hargreaves took him in and even gave him a place in the household daily life.

He was employed as a servant but of a different kind; one that did no cooking or cleaning.

In all actuality, Riff liked his job and the man he worked for. The other servants were nice, but they did give him strange looks at times. Riff was well aware of the rumor circulating around the Hargreaves his duties didn't include casually doing the odd job... It didn't bother him, though, that they hit the truth at times. All that mattered to Riff was that his master was satisfied.

And this afternoon Riff had apparently done that very well.

Settled on his master's shoulder with his lips idly at his neck, Riff gave a muffled sigh in relaxation as he felt the master's strong voice vibrate. "I have a meeting with Lord Campbell soon..."

"Mm, don't go..." the servant protested languidly as he wrapped his arms around his master's neck.

The Earl of Hargreaves let out a low chuckle as he stroked Riff's pale hair, "I'll be back later tonight, my pet, and we shall continue this then..."

Riff sat up on an elbow and bent down to give a kiss on the cheek. "Mm, nice..." He breathed a soft sigh as his master cupped him by the chin and gave a long, lingering kiss to his moist lips.

A few moments afterward, the earl released the kiss and sat up to get out of the bed fully. "Until I return, you have the rest of the day off," he instructed as he gathered fresh clothes and methodically attired himself, with Riff as a voyeur. Once his clothing was on and situated, he bent by the bed again and gave the smirking Riff a brief kiss on the lips. "Wait for me to return, will you Rifel?"

As Riff watched his beloved master move across the room to leave, he replied simply with full obedience, "Of course...Alexis-sama."

Two: Movin' On

When Riff looks out the window he sees sunny, blue skies with the top of an oak tree that is home to dozens of birds. He sees this same sky even when it's rainy, which is quite a lot. Riff doesn't like the rain, so he pretends that the sky is sunny and blue all day long.

He doesn't remember if he liked birds before coming to this place, where a woman takes care of him and speaks in a soft voice, but he likes watching them fly across that bright and eternally blue sky. Early in the spring he sees the baby birds just learning how to fly; he can tell that they're babies because they don't fly with the grace of their parents. Birds sing pretty songs, he thinks, and the woman he sees every day tells him he's right. Riff likes her. He thinks she's nice and pretty; she reminds him of his mother.

Once a day, if he's good, she takes him out of his room and down to a game area where other men like him play billiards and bagatelle. Riff doesn't know how to play those games so he sits and watches everyone else, occasionally engaging in conversation with someone new. Sometimes if it's quiet and he's paying attention, he can hear the soft tinkling of a piano next door. Riff likes the piano and the woman who cares for him tells him she used to play it as a girl. He likes hearing her tell him stories, over and over again.

When Riff asks, the woman tells him gently that he's at Bethlehem and that makes him happy; it reminds him of a song he and his brother used to sing during Christmastime. He doesn't remember who his brother is, but he knows he had one because the woman says so. Riff asks if the oak tree outside his window is his brother because he likes it, and the woman always humors him and tells him yes, the oak tree outside his window is his brother. And that makes Riff happy.

Sometimes he has a visitor. About once a week the same man visits and talks with him; he reminds Riff of his father, so he likes that man. And Riff thinks the man likes him, too, because he visits him so often, but sometimes the man scares Riff because he has a pushy tone and doesn't care to hear about how many birds flew past his window that morning.

Riff likes the woman better because she listens to him.

The man who visits Riff tells him that his name is Alexis, but Riff sometimes has to ask him what it is because he forgets. Alexis always asks him to come to his house and work for him, but Riff doesn't want to leave the nice woman, his brother the tree, or even the billiard and bagatelle-tables he never plays at; he tells the man this, but Alexis offers to teach him how to play those games and even says that he'll plant an oak tree outside Riff's window. He tells him he has a room of his own and Riff likes hearing this, although he says he likes the room he has now better.

Alexis has visited him for years, but Riff won't go home with him. He says he's happy and content where he is; he likes the blue skies and the tinkling of the piano. Sometimes Alexis gets impatient and he yells at Riff, telling him that he'll still see blue skies at his new home and he'll even be able to play the piano, but then the woman who cares for Riff cuts off the visit and tells Alexis to go home; but he comes back again the next week with the same question.

This week when Alexis visits Riff, something new happens; Alexis brings a visitor. This makes Riff happy because he enjoys seeing new people. He likes going to the game room for this reason because he meets someone new every day there, but he wonders why he doesn't see some people anymore. The woman who cares for Riff tells him that it's because those people were "cured" and were able to go home; she tells him that Riff can go home whenever he wants, but he chooses to stay.

Riff smiles at Alexis' visitor. He thinks he looks like a blackbird that lives in the oak tree outside his window, and when he says that, Riff's blackbird blushes. Alexis introduces his visitor as his son Cain, but Riff is content to call him Mr. Blackbird because he can't think to remember his name.

Alexis tells him that his son is fifteen years old and he'd like to see Riff become friends with him. Riff likes that idea and on the subject begins to tell Mr. Blackbird about the oak tree outside his window and the families of birds that live there. Alexis' son is a little shy, but he doesn't seem to mind hearing about the things his father thinks very mundane; even if he did mind, though, Riff would tell him anyway.

He likes telling about those things.

Riff tells Mr. Blackbird about how the grandfather clock in the game room stopped and how that made him sad because he really liked the pendulums that swung back and forth. That seems to remind Alexis' son of something he read recently and he asks Riff if he's ever read Edgar Allan Poe, but even though he can, Riff doesn't read. He says that the black ink and small letters look unfriendly so he tries not to read if he can help it.

This response seems to make Mr. Blackbird smile and laugh, and that, more than anything, makes Riff happy. He decides he likes it when Mr. Blackbird smiles and he tells him that a smile makes him cute.

Mr. Blackbird blushes and their visit comes to an end when the woman who cares for Riff ushers Alexis and his son out. That makes Riff sad, but the woman tells him that Mr. Blackbird unwittingly had an unacceptable influence on Riff, so he stares out the window and tries to look for blackbirds flying into his view of the blue sky.

Against the woman's wishes, Alexis comes back alone and talks with Riff for a bit. He tells Riff that Mr. Blackbird grew attached to him quickly, which was very rare for his character. This makes Riff happy and when Alexis asks him if he'll come home and work for him, Riff tells him yes.

Alexis smiles and Riff asks if he's made him happy. The man tells him yes, and when Riff asks why, he says it's because his plan is working.

And a blackbird flies across the sunny, blue sky.

Three: Wondering

The ticking of the clock helped distract Riff. He leaned with his elbows on the mahogany desk, kicking a leg of the chair he sat in as he stared at the two separate pieces of parchment in front of him; one was covered in scrawled writing, and the other was completely blank except for a salutation in his own handwriting: Dear Clyde. He looked at the other parchment, a letter to him from his brother, and read the beginning for inspiration on how to begin the reply, but his mind drew a blank.

It wasn't as if he wanted to reply to Clyde's letter, but out of common courtesy and decency, he felt forced. That letter from his brother didn't exactly put Riff in a good mood, though. According to him, Clyde was a slacker, and Riff certainly didn't like those types, brother or not. Of course, it obviously didn't help that the two had never gotten along since childhood.

In a careless manner with complete disregard of all tact, Clyde had stated in his letter that he would be visiting and staying at the Raffit household for a number of weeks.

The slow ticking was almost mesmerizing as he tapped a fountain pen against the parchment, staring at the two words occupying a small space. Any decent way to forcefully decline his brother's visit was lost to Riff. The household staff, like himself, disliked the master's younger, wilder brother; in fact, the only one who would be happy to hear of this news would be his wife, Lucinda. She had always seemed partial to the younger Raffit, and no one seemed to think it suspicious besides Riff.

At the moment the lady of the house was visiting a friend in Oxford; she had been there for a month and was scheduled to come back later in the day.

In a burst of inspiration, Riff scrawled quickly, Thank you for your recent letter. As quickly as it had came, though, it died down and he was resigned to tapping his pen against the parchment, staring at his recent addition to the letter; he felt irritated at the fact that he couldn't compose a simple letter to his brother.

The clock kept ticking, and soon Riff adjusted his tapping to match that of the clock. It failed to help him at all, though. He put his head in his hands and tried to think of what all he wished to tell his brother.

Well, plenty of subjects presented themselves, but none that were decent enough to mention.

Riff heard the muted squeak of the doorknob, but didn't even bother to look up to see who it was. He knew already; it was the same person who ever cared to interrupt him whenever he holed himself up in the study.

"I brought you tea and biscuits, sir," the light tenor said in a near whisper as he shut the door behind him.

Setting the parchment aside, Riff sighed and muttered as he ran a hand through his hair, "Thank you, Cain."

The servant moved to lay the tray complete with a silver teapot, cup, and biscuits on the freshly cleared spot his master made on the desk. "My pleasure," he smiled and unloaded the cup, taking the teapot by the handle and pouring the hot liquid through the spout into it.

Riff took the cup from him and when his fingers brushed up against Cain's, he turned to smile at him, almost wearily, as the touch lingered on. Eventually he lifted the cup to his lips, drinking slowly, and the contact broke.

Waiting by his side, Cain asked without diffidence as he leaned casually against the desk and watched his master sip lightly, "Was that letter this morning from your brother, Clyde?"

"Unfortunately yes," he replied, looking vaguely put out as he set the cup down on the tray. Riff retrieved the letter from its placed shuffled with the unfinished letter and various other documents; he passed it to Cain who read it with dismay.

Cain discarded the letter back on the desk and muttered haughtily, "You honestly cannot be thinking of allowing him to stay under this roof, Riff. He treats us like we are objects not people and harasses some of the younger maids."

A wayward smile graced Riff's features as he gazed at his servant in brief amusement. "I believe you are too spoiled, Cain."

"Well you made me that way," he retorted in mock offense as he moved to lean his hips against the master's chair. His arm draped along the back of the chair almost in a possessive manner, but the servant still kept an aloof poise.

Riff moved to shuffle the discarded letter neatly in a pile; to an outsider it seemed as if he stuck papers wherever haphazardly, but it was actually a complicated system of organization known and understood only by him. That's why Riff preferred to work alone, but such distractions as the servant before him were certainly welcomed. "It's not as if I can change that now, now is it?" he muttered off-handedly as he set the unfinished reply letter directly in front of him.

Cain stiffened and withdrew his arm from its lazy position, crossing it with the other instead as he distantly spoke, "If you are unhappy with my performance, sir, then I'm sure there are several other employees who would match your satisfaction."

Immediately breaking his concentration from the task before him, Riff turned to his servant, taken aback for a second, but then his features softened and even a smile played upon his lips. " are irreplaceable, Cain. I am very pleased with your performance and you satisfy me indefinitely." To add to that, he took a bare hand from the servant and as Cain's crossed arms unraveled, he pressed his lips against the back of the cool hand for several moments. Though he broke the gentle kiss, he still kept the hand in his own, looking up at its owner's softened expression. With a definite glimmer in his eyes, Riff asked teasingly, "Will you ever forgive me for those harsh words, my love?"

Almost to the point of placidity, Cain nodded in wordless affirmation, locking his softened gaze with Riff's mischievously clandestine eyes; the only hint of what lie behind them was a glimmer resembling that of a much younger boy.

Riff discarded the servant's hand beside him and reached at Cain's waist to pull him closer to him, forcing the younger man to bend slightly over the arm of the chair and lean against him. With his other hand he then grasped the collar of Cain's suit and pulled him closer, kissing him fully on the lips as his other hand traveled curiously from his waist to down his back.

Leaning further into the kiss, Cain grabbed the lapels of Riff's shirt hesitantly, pulling him closer, as his master's hand traveled increasingly further down his lower back and rested with slight teasing movements on the base of Cain's tailbone. With a soft moan the servant broke the kiss for a brief second and moved to straddle Riff's lap before placing his hands at his master's cheeks and resuming the fervent kiss.

His hands displaced, Riff lightly rested his palms on Cain's back again and slowly brought his hands down, feeling with his finger tips the texture of the fabric carefully as he made the descent, to either side of the servant's waist, resting there as he made lazy circles with his fingers and felt Cain's hands slide down to his shoulders. All the while he submitted almost artfully to Cain's passionate osculation, letting a soft gasp escape his lips as the subordinate slid his tongue instead down to Riff's jaw line, giving slight nips and licks.

Slowly, as if not to disturb, Riff guided his hand up underneath Cain's vest and along his trousers until he found the top button. As his fingers worked deftly to loosen the button, he felt Cain's hot breath travel down to the base of his neck and his lips latch onto soft skin. Emitting a pleasured sigh as Cain attacked his neck with a barrage of bites and kisses, Riff moved on to loosening the second button in the line after the first was undone while his other hand traced a tender path from Cain's waist up repeatedly before slowly drifting down his back.

As he continued at his master's neck, Cain guided his hands downwards over the span of Riff's chest, moving over to where the first button of the vest rested and toyed with it slightly; it eventually became undone and he went on to the next. His teasing receding, Cain felt Riff's hands on his trousers as he trailed with his lips to the other side of his neck and his fingers sped up their work, unbuttoning the last ones. He began to brush with his fingers up against the smooth fabric underneath the vest in familiar exploration. Lingering over a small, hard nub felt through the fabric, he circled around it with a fingertip, casually gracing over, and elicited a sigh from Riff as he shifted his weight in his lap.

Interrupted by the sensations he felt, Riff only remembered the task before him when Cain's shift in position forced him further against him, making it hard for him to unbutton Cain's trousers without outright groping him.

Not that Riff was complaining, though.

Sliding what he could get of his hand in the brief opening of the half undone buttons, Riff did just that - grope him - and he was awarded with a vaguely surprised, but very audible, moan from Cain, who had resigned to licking Riff's collar bone. Although it had been muted against his skin, the very fact that it was noise made Riff actually blush, and the way Cain rubbed himself against him, requesting more in low whispers into his ear, did nothing to control the heat of the blush and dizzying feeling he felt...

...Which was why the two of them nearly jumped at the sound of a knock from the other side of the door.

Cain quickly removed himself from Riff and looked at him, very startled, with an expression that commanded instruction. As Riff swiftly redid the buttons to his vest, he remained in the chair and gave the go ahead for Cain to answer the door.

"...Cain!" he whispered abruptly as the servant had turned. "Button up yourself!"

The servant hissed a brief expletive as he struggled to attend to his appearance without leaving the door unanswered for an unnecessary amount of time. The second he opened the door, though, he appeared professional as always to the footman on the other side. "Yes?"

Riff was entirely too amused by the turn of events.

"A telegram as arrived from the lady of the house, Mr. Cain... Is Master Riff with you?" the footman began and when his superior answered affirmatively, he proceeded to deliver the telegram and bid them a good night.

As he closed the door behind him, Cain's professional exterior shed as quickly as it had been constructed and was replaced by the familiar, open manner he reserved for Riff. "Telegram from your wife," he stated as he handed it over and sat on the arm of the chair with his arm casually around the master of the house's shoulders.

Opening it and reading curiously, a small smile graced his lips as soon as he was done. Folding it back up, Riff handed it back to Cain and summarized as he watched him, "Lucinda won't be back tonight as planned and instead is scheduled to come back tomorrow afternoon."

"Oh...what a shame..." Cain said in exaggerated falseness.

Riff leaned his head back against the servant's shoulder and sighed melodramatically, "I know... Of course, I was very much looking forward to her returning, seeing as how I've missed her so much. What will we be forced to do instead of wait for her arrival tonight?"

A tiny smirked found itself in Cain's expression as he bent down to steal a kiss, "I suppose we shall just be forced to entertain ourselves..."

"Mm, indeed we shall."

Four: Hold On

It's raining; it always rains. If it doesn't, then Riff never even notices. He walks home from work on the streets of London, soaking wet. A week ago he had an umbrella, but a strong gust of wind carried it away. Riff felt too apathetic to replace it so he walks to and from houses in the rain. As a doctor, he knows he's going to get very sick, especially with influenza spreading and killing the lower classes, but he figures it'll give him something to think about - like a happy vacation from his mind.

Although Riff never likes to do so, he's always thinking about something. Walking home from work, he thinks of the various patients he's had during the day, like that cute little girl with the pink ribbons in her hair. Her father was rich and liked to give her whatever she pleased, but Riff didn't quite think she wanted syphilis from him. Even though he wanted to say something, he didn't; it wasn't his business, anyway. He had more important things to think of than matters that didn't concern him.

Like that little boy with the sister who liked playing the piano. Riff thought yesterday that his condition wasn't dire enough to prescribe medicine that the family couldn't even afford, but this morning he was dead. That part of a doctor's job bothers Riff. He hates making a mistake and especially having everyone know that he made one. People were so hopeful for a miracle these days, though, that he knew his reputation as a doctor wouldn't suffer. Riff wouldn't be able to bear it if business plummeted.

Not only would the Raffits have more financial troubles than they already had, but Riff would be forced to think of something other than work, like his home life.

No matter how dirty the job is, Riff always prefers work to home, though none of his friends who know this secret can figure out why. To them, Riff has a happy, cheerful, and docile wife named Lucinda and their children are just darling and ever obedient. Riff doesn't tell them how it really is, though; he knows better.

Riff often feels ignored at home even though he's the breadwinner and head of family. Lucinda barely talks to him anymore - she hasn't really since they first became engaged - and when she does, she complains about their finances and their social standing. It's a pity they don't communicate often; Riff has a lot he'd like to tell her.

Their extended family doesn't think highly of Riff anymore because they think he works too often and can't manage his finances well. In reality Riff manages them very well - if he didn't, their entire family would be cast down among the lower class.

He knows they have the wrong idea about him, but that's the problem with Riff; he won't speak up and defend himself. He stands there silently and takes the blame, regardless of if he deserves it or not. That part of himself bothers Riff sometimes. Everyone thinks he's shy and it's partly true, but he just doesn't like to trouble anyone. The two things he hates most are change and confrontation. No matter how bad it gets, Riff would rather take that than something new and unfamiliar.

Besides, his home life isn't completely bad. Riff likes their five children because they're always laughing and playing when he comes home; he likes that because he sees a lot of sick and dying children in his job. Sometimes when they know Riff is in a good mood, they ask him to play with them. He likes that, even though he doesn't think he's a very good playmate for the children.

The children never call Riff "father," and he doesn't mind. He doesn't think he'd be able to take it if they did; somehow Riff thinks he might lose his sanity. He's usually right about that sort of stuff, but like the little boy with the sister who liked to play the piano, he figures that time is the best healer. It never is, though; time always makes things worse.

Riff knows the children aren't his, but he loves them anyway.

He often wonders if he loves Lucinda, but he knows he doesn't; he also knows that she doesn't love him. How could she when she's been having an affair with his brother? Riff knows about this affair and he doesn't like it - he doesn't like his brother much, either - but he's never said anything about it. The reason why their financial situation is so bad is because Riff's brother Clyde either steals the money from them and wastes it, or he and Lucinda go off on a trip, with Lucinda lying to her loyal husband about it. Riff knows about all this, including the fact that his brother fathered their children, and he tries to tell himself that he doesn't care, but he actually does.

What Riff really wants is a change, but he's deathly afraid to admit it to himself.

He doesn't like change one bit, especially if he can control it. If it's out of his hands, Riff can handle it, but if the responsibility of change is his, then Riff can't bear to be in charge of it. He never wants to be accountable for something gone wrong, although he is all the time. Sometimes when he talks to them, Riff's friends don't think he's quite sane anymore.

A part of him says that he should take charge of his own destiny and live a new life, but Riff doesn't like that part of himself; it scares him. He can't even bear to acknowledge that something needs to change. He thinks everything's fine, but it's not.

The smell of the Thames reminds Riff that he's walking the route home in the rain without an umbrella; of course, the last part he doesn't care to acknowledge. And he wishes he didn't have to acknowledge the first.

That river doesn't have a pleasant odor, actually. Maybe it's just the entire city of London. Riff doesn't actually know, but unlike some of his colleagues, he says he doesn't believe that toxins float through the air by the stench; he actually hopes it's true, though.

The rain begins to downpour, but Riff doesn't really care - with good luck he'll get himself sick.

"Excuse me, sir!" a light and childlike voice says politely, startling Riff.

Riff turns and sees a young girl under the shelter of an umbrella. She's standing in front of an antique store and very much unlike Riff's, her long, blonde hair is dry and untouched.

"Would you like to take shelter with me under my umbrella until the rain lightens?" she asks, her blue eyes shining happily with generosity and good will.

He doesn't know why, but Riff nods and silently makes his way under her umbrella; he has to hold it because he's so much taller than her.

"I hate the rain because Brother will never let me go outside and play," she laments as she looks at Riff curiously.

Riff tries to smile, but he doesn't know how it comes out because it's been a long time since he's done so. "It is very good that your brother restrains you. Dampness will make you susceptible to chills and illness."

She looks vaguely put out as she retorts, "But he always goes out in it! Today has been the only day he's taken me with him; sadly, though, he's not doing anything interesting."

Chuckling slightly, Riff tries another smile, and this time, he thinks it looks like one now.

The young blonde returns the smile cheerfully and introduces herself briefly, "My name is Merryweather Hargreaves."

"Good evening, Miss Hargreaves," Riff says politely and he almost tells her who he is, but she exclaims at the young, dark-haired man coming out of the antique store, calling him Brother.

The young man stops immediately, barely acknowledging her, and instead eyes the tall man with their umbrella suspiciously. His sister seems to see that and immediately chirps, "Brother, this man did not have an umbrella and it was really raining hard, so I offered for him to share mine. See, I am not a selfish and spoiled brat like you said I was this morning!"

Riff notices that the young man ignores his sister again and their eyes lock; Merryweather's brother has green eyes tinged with gold and it reminds Riff of the little girl with pink ribbons. "Good evening...Mister Hargreaves, I presume?"

Her brother doesn't answer and Merryweather begins to harp on her brother's bad manners, but he continues to ignore her and instead finally says as he looks off somewhere, "...A little reckless to walk around London in a downpour without an umbrella, is it not?"

Riff notices that the young man is flushing slightly along with sounding out of breath. The doctor in him tells him that he's sick, but he's not so sure. Their eyes meet briefly once again. As Merryweather's brother breaks the gaze almost at once, Riff sees that his face is flushed even more.

It makes Riff remember that he can take charge of his life; something makes him want to start anew.

"Perhaps," he answers finally, a bit embarrassed for a reason not readily explained.

Merryweather's brother clears his throat and suggests, "Well...the rain probably won't let up anytime soon. We have an umbrella and our house is nearby..." His face flushes a bit more and Riff's only beginning to figure out why.

It seems like he's too embarrassed to continue, but Merryweather finishes pleasantly, "Would you like to accompany us to the house so that we may have a proper umbrella for you? You should not walk around in the rain without one! You could catch a chill; you said so yourself!"

Half of Riff wants to run away while the other wants to stay; he doesn't know what to do, but he has the feeling that things are changing. He wants this change - he wants to be in charge of his own life.

But the resident part of him declines, feeling guilty when he sees the green and golden catlike eyes flash something unrecognizable briefly. He doesn't know what it is, but it makes more of Riff want to be lured in.

"...The rain has stopped, anyway," he mutters, trying to avoid her brother's eyes as he hands the umbrella back to Merryweather. She's cheerful about it and doesn't try to stop him or give him any more advice; her brother is silent.

Riff thinks to himself as usual as he walks away a few meters. He thinks of the little girl and her impeccable blonde hair, of her dark-haired brother with the green eyes sprinkled with fairy gold; that's what it is, fairy gold from the end of an iridescent rainbow. He can't stop thinking about the unfamiliar flashes in those eyes, how he sounded out of breath at times, how his cheeks flushed on occasion. Riff finds himself wanting to stop and stay, take up their offer although the rain has stopped, go on an adventure...

But he becomes afraid; he's too logical and he curses that. Adventures are unsafe and unpredictable. They're unfamiliar and they make things change; they require a confrontation head-on with destiny. Riff's heart pangs as he knows he can't do this. He just won't let himself, but he still can't help wondering what would happen if he did...

He knows it's his heart that directs him to look back again, and Riff finds that he's trapped again in a gaze from those remarkable eyes. The young girl skips around, playing with her umbrella; she's unaware of the indecision and uncertainty in this stranger's mind.

And it's then that Riff realizes what it was that repeatedly flashed in this young man's eyes.

It sways his decision to walk away from this adventure in life, to continue walking down his lonely road. It hurts, and Riff doesn't even want to think of why. He thinks that time is a good healer, but it's really not. Time is cold and emotionless; it won't cure love, but he thinks it will.

So Riff walks on.

Five: Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous

Riff rather liked mornings, although it seemed the rest of the household didn't. He had to admit that waking up and getting out of bed was a bit difficult at times, but through powers of persuasion and persistence he had refined it to a sort of art form. Riff could almost refine anything to a form of art, although he never considered himself too creative; he tried his hand at painting and playing the piano once, but it didn't quite work out. Rather it was Cain who fulfilled artistic ventures within him. Riff always told him that he should pursue something in that field of interest, but Cain was content to let his talent squander away in a mere hobby.

Sometimes Riff really didn't understand him.

As he looked at his reflection in the mirror he noticed that the bottom portion was smudged with what looked like a child's handprint. Unless there were unknown children running loose in the house, it was most likely Merryweather's doing, although he didn't for one second rule out Cain since he had exhibited that sort of carelessness before. He reminded himself to ask about it later that night when the three of them were together for dinner.

Picking his toothbrush up out of its holder, his mind began to wander as he coated the bristles with a layer of toothpaste. Through the monotonous brushing motions he laid his eyes on Merryweather's brightly colored toothbrush; she loved bright things and it even had a little motor inside that spun the bristles around when you turned it on. Throughout a portion of her childhood it was what she considered one of her prized possessions, much to Riff's encouragement, and he had even wished that something like that had been around when he was a child.

Riff had to admit, although the world wasn't as safe as it used to be when he grew up, modern children - even Cain's generation - had it easy; he was almost envious.

The weekend was coming up and Riff looked forward to it, although it wasn't free from work by any means. He had set aside time to tend to the lawn and plant more flowers simply because Merryweather had told him one day that their front yard needed to be happier; she had requested different kinds of exotic and native flowers, but Riff limited the selection based on how the different plants would interact along with the type of soil they required. And even though Cain was allergic to most plants, he agreed to help Riff plant them because it would make his little half-sister happy; she loved flowers more than anything, but wasn't aware of Cain's allergies simply because he had never told her. Through such considerations, Riff considered the three of them a family, although he was only related to Cain and Merryweather by love. Despite what the law said, though, that was enough in his eyes.

Riff had only to run his brush quickly through his damp hair to make it presentable; a morning shower always left him feeling fresh and ready. He supposed he was lucky enough to have short and kept hair, unlike the little girl of the household. Riff felt she was forever preoccupied with her hair and complexion when she should be preoccupied with making the most of her limited childhood. She wouldn't remain a little girl forever, he always told Cain, but that concept never quite seemed to reach him. Merryweather was growing up too fast for Riff's comfort, entering her seventh year of school soon, and he knew there would be a day when Cain would finally realize that.

Perhaps it couldn't be helped that he felt more like a father to her rather than a family friend.

He had to admit that children preoccupied his thoughts most of the time - being a pediatrician had that effect - but they were second to Cain. Riff figured in the back of his mind as he washed his face that he felt like a father to Merry because he felt like a husband to Cain.

And why shouldn't he, after all? They lived together as lovers, as a family despite the fact that the outside world may have seen it differently. They took care and provided for Merryweather, and although Riff doubted she knew the true depth of his relationship to her brother, they were happy together.

The delicious scent of bacon drifting through the air coaxed Riff almost hypnotically to the open kitchen where he found the object of his affections diligently cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast. He never quite knew why Cain suddenly decided he had to make breakfast for them every morning; it just happened. It would have been easier and a lot tastier anyway to have been given toast or a breakfast bar, but as of most things with his green eyed affection, Riff found, it was just a force to be reckoned with. You simply did not question his thought processes.

As Cain saw Riff out the corner of his eye, he gave a surreptitious smile as he tried to turn an egg over, but most of it stuck to the pan. Looking over his shoulder, Riff saw that most of the eggs were like that: accidentally scrambled instead of intact.

A definite improvement from last week.

"G'morning," Riff muttered through Cain's hair as he pressed his lips against him, his arms snaking around his waist in a light hug. Cain's dark hair always smelled nice, like the herbal shampoo he'd always use; he could recall Cain once saying that he only ever bought that kind because he knew that Riff liked it. It had kind of a peachy, fruity smell.

Cain took pains in flipping over another egg, ensuring that the entire and intact piece was on the spatula before turning it over; he returned the greeting afterwards with a satisfied, "'Morning, love." Turning his back to the stove, he faced Riff and included a kiss in their exchange.

Mornings were usually like that, only just recently it seemed to Riff that Cain's cooking skills had gotten a bit better. Riff knew that prior to moving in with him, Cain had done virtually no cooking whatsoever; maids had always done the job instead. But since moving in together, there were no maids to their household. It wasn't because of financial constraints that kept them from having at least one since Riff's job paid quite well, but...a sense of comfort and privacy. They both knew that although attitudes about their type of arrangement were changing for the better, there were still minor hostilities...which was something neither of them wanted to expose Merryweather to.

Cain couldn't help being naturally protective of his half sister, but with Riff it ran a little deeper, yet superficially. He knew what their relationship looked on the outside, no matter how it felt on the inside; a thirty year old doctor with a history involved intimately with a nineteen year old college student, knowing him since the younger was twelve. Of course, add in the fact that they're both male and a child is involved, and you get a conclusion that Riff wasn't comfortable with being presented, if not for Merry's welfare then for his career.

Like that looked good for a pediatrician.

"Breakfast looks very nice this morning," Riff muttered in Cain's cheek as he nuzzled him a bit, giving a soft kiss as he added, "Almost edible this time."

Wrapping his arms around his neck, Cain suggested, "Well, you can always get up to make it for us..."

Riff nodded, answering, "I'd have to get up earlier, but I don't suppose you'd appreciate that, would you?"

Cain yawned and wrapped his arms further, leaning into the affectionate embrace, "...Not at all. You get up too early anyway. Mm'glad classes are a little later..." He gave Riff's neck a brief hug before pressing his lips against his cheek and slowly leaving a trail of soft kisses as he worked his way over to Riff's lips, kissing them fully with a quiet fervor.

The pleasant and sated atmosphere quickly broke with the loud entrance of the Hargreaves daughter, rushing into the kitchen with her schoolbag in hand and muttering something Riff could only guess at. As they quickly withdrew their embrace from one another, she set her bag on the table and opened her mouth in a wide-eyed complaint, "I'm out of lip gloss."

Disregarding Cain's sudden irksome expression at the girl's announcement, Riff lapsed into a smile and spoke with good humor in his voice, "I had almost thought you were about to say you were out of something important."

Fueled by her obvious injustice, Merryweather stated loudly with her hands on her hips, "It is important! If I don't keep up my appearances, the girls at school will think I've lost it!"

"...But even better," Riff inputted as his thin fingers snatched a piece of cooling bacon under Cain's watchful eye, "you used it all. Won't that make a statement of your dedication to your appearance?"

Sighing in exasperation, she explained, "That's not what I mean."

"But won't it?" he offered hopefully as he bit firmly into the tip of a bacon slice. He never knew quite why she tended to obsess over things like that, but perhaps it was one of the few observations Riff managed to miss; according to Cain it was because she constantly felt the need to prove to her peers that she wasn't the street rat her background presented.

She simply looked at him incredulously, allowing a moment of absolutely silence to permeate the atmosphere. Finally she nearly growled as Cain gathered a few strips of bacon for her with an egg, handing it to her on a small plate, "No, it won't."

"You just don't get it, Riff," Cain said as he gave a mock sigh. "It's very important to schoolgirls nowadays to dress older than they are and look as much a floozy as possible."

Following suit as Merryweather sat down at a small and compact kitchen table, Riff stated gently in the girl's defense, as he was apt to do, "...I hardly think lip gloss qualifies as being a floozy..."

Cain narrowed his eyes briefly and muttered before turning to ration out the last few slices of bacon, "You know what I mean."

And from countless conversations in the past about the topic, Riff knew all too well. It simply came down to Cain's unwillingness to let Merryweather grow up and, within reason, make her own decisions; thus her feel for the need of overdramatic outbursts.

With a quick glance of his watch Riff announced as he shifted the morning's focus, "...We should leave in about a minute or two, Merry."

"Well here," Cain offered as he scooped Riff's portion of breakfast into a sandwich bag. "You've barely eaten anything, Riff. Eat it on the bus, will you? And finish up, Merry, so you're not late to school again."

Riff had to smile at the commanding air of authority Cain frequently drew about in the morning; he found that particular quality of possessiveness and interference quite endearing.

Perhaps the second Merry finished eating, the quiet kitchen was filled with the sense of everyone moving at once. Cain moved to clean up the kitchen while the Hargreaves daughter picked up her schoolbag and left to catch the city bus; Riff lingered behind to gather his things and slowly kiss Cain goodbye.

As he left the house to catch the bus to work, Riff knew that Merry would be in school shortly as he would be at the hospital working. Cain would be getting ready for his classes over in Bloomsbury, and come evening Riff would come home to find his two most important individuals finishing school work. They would have dinner together along with a little social time afterwards, and perhaps later if their energy levels and moods were right the two lovers would have an understanding in bed.

And in the morning it was the same all over again.


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