before and after
pt i: water pistols
rating: pg-13, I guess? It's sort of a bummer
It is the first time Damian has ever worked with other children.
Of course, he has met others his age in the past – after all, he's not a leper
. Many of his missions do involve passing through public places, and several of his mentors have introduced him to their own offspring. Not that any of those encounters have gone particularly well, but they had
been enough to satisfy his fleeting curiosity in his supposed peers. Children were bizarre, aimless, chaotic creatures. Over time, Damian has become grateful for his parent's decision to keep him isolated from his peers; it allows him to remain focused and serious on his studies. Which frankly, is far more befitting to the future ruler of the world anyway
.( more here, bros.Collapse )
But these ones are different.
While most of them are taller and older than Damian, there are one or two that are wiry with round faces and they look like they might be his age. It's difficult not to stare at these boys in particular, because somehow they look so much like him. Not exactly
like him, of course. They've all got dark skin, short kinky hair, and wide, slanted feature. In contrast, Damian is paler than most, with the kind of features that make Kapela call him haole. Even so, there is something familiar in their features that he doesn't spy on other children: a seriousness, a calmness, some kind of simple determination
which Damian just couldn't find on the faces of the others he's met.
Seeing these other boys
makes something in his chest feel bizarrely tight.
He makes such a job of looking at the others that he does not immediately realize the meeting is over. The loud voice of General Ali has stopped, and instead the room is filled with the low sounds of chattering and fidgeting. Feeling somewhat dazed, Damian glances around the room and feels a rush of embarrassment when he meets the steady gaze of the general.
He made a mistake
It would have been much more appropriate for Damian have stood at the man's right hand during his whole speech; a symbolic gesture of Damian's elevated status compared to the other boys and his connection to the military. Instead, he allowed himself to be in the middle of a bunch of miniature foot soldiers - like he was their equal or something. Damn
Hoping that the General won't tell his mentors about his mistake, Damian puts on his most regal face as he moves through the crowd and to the man's side.
It's another hour before Damian's personal meeting with General Ali is over.
that he's made a good impression with the General. To make up for his earlier mistake, Damian made extra sure to distance himself from the other children - he'd even referred to them as barbarians to drive the point home. Of course, it hadn't hurt to also remind the General who
exactly had been responsible for the delivery of new ammunition. And while Damian had been slightly concerned about not being invited back to the General's tent for tea, he had pretended to be in a hurry to get to his own accommodations in order to save face for the both of them.
Now that he was in his tent, however, Damian had run out of ways to keep himself busy. It was not yet noon, and they were not scheduled to begin marching until the following day. He had given all of his guns a thorough cleaning, did his daily workout routine twice, listened to his English CDs, and had even
read a chapter of the incredibly dull finance book Emanuel had given him. Bored beyond belief, Damian was sitting lotus style on his bedroll - attempting meditation -when something from outside slammed into his tent with a loud WHAP
By the time Damian is outside, gun in hand, most of the boys have run off.
He looks up just in time to see a half-dozen bare-chested boys disappear around the corner of one of the shacks amidst a loud combination of laughter, swears, and yells. Only one remains, a stocky boy clutching onto a battered ball, looking like he's about to piss his pants.
"Don't shoot!" The boy squeaks in stilted-Arabic, ducking down into a little ball as if that
would do anything for a gunshot wound. Damian cocks the pistol, and the boy's whole body flinches. Pathetic. Damian makes a 'tt' sound before shoving his gun back into his waistband, instead choosing to give the boy a swift kick in the ribs. The boy says a loud thing in a language Damian doesn't understand, but he seems to realise Damian isn't going to shoot him because he peers up at him from where he's prostrating. "It was Mahamat and Ali and them, they thought it'd be funny."
"Ask Mahamat and his little friends how funny
it would be if I lined them up and shot them." Damian says in a cross voice, frowning in the direction where he knows the boys had escaped to. When he looks back, the boy is still on the ground, which is infuriating. Damian nudges his shoulder with his boot, "Don't be so worthless. Get up." The boy clambers to his feet, dusty from the ground, and gawks at Damian. Damian glares back in response, and after a moment of eye-contact he spits out, "What
"Are you with the UN?" The boy asks immediately, looking desperately excited at the very idea. Stupid.
"Does the UN have a practice of regularly hiring seven year olds?" Damian says dryly, but apparently the kid doesn't speak
sarcasm - he still looks excited. Damian rolls his eyes, -tts- again, and sighs, "No.
"Oh." The boy looks a bit crestfallen, but then he brightens up again, "Is your father, then? Or you mother? I knew a boy whose father was, he used to live in my village - well - not really, he lived in the white people buildings, but he was pale like y-."
"-The United Nations," Damian says, in his best authoritative voice, "Are useless meddlers who aren't worth the breath it takes to speak of them." This was the word-for-word response he got from Seamus when he asked him, but that didn't matter, "I am with the League of Assasins
"Oh, are they better?" The boy asks, innocently, looking hopeful.
"Yes." Damian says emphatically, frowning at this ignorant boy in front of him. "We're your allies
. We give the Freedom Army the weapons necessary to fight the Western puppet army of this nation." A sudden vivid picture enters his head, and he swells out his chest as he says, "We are the scissors to cut their string." The boy scrunches up his dark face in confusion, and Damian chest deflates when he realises his pretty analogy has been lost somewhere in translation. Damian sighs, "We're much
better than them."
The boy does not look entirely convinced, but he at least looks less confused and his face breaks out into a shy smile instead. "I am Manto," He says, gesturing to himself and inclining his head politely to Damian, "And if you help us then I have to thank you." He holds out a dusty hand to Damian, who considers the pale callused palm carefully - he's not sure what others would think of him shaking the hand of this child. He is sure that Manto is not the type of child his parents would wish him to associate with, at least, he does not imagine they would want him to. If he were ever allowed to meet them.
The thought makes Damian feel dark and greedy inside, and he grabs Manto's hand so tightly that the boy flinches.
As it turns out, before he had been capt- well, recruited
- by the army, Manto had been the best student in his class. The son of a teacher. His English is not quite perfect, but he's even better at it than Damian is. So they talk in English instead of Arabic, and it's ends up one of the most interesting conversations Damian has ever had in any language.
Which is strange, looking back, because they don't speak of important stuff.
Damian tells Manto about the weapons he has back in England, and the things he's done. He lies too, because Manto's eyes are so wide. He tells him about dusty cobbled streets filled with people, grocery stores overflowing with foods, and grand old stone buildings. It doesn't matter that Damian has not seen any of this from the sterile steel and glass building where he lives. Manto, of course, will never know that Damian's floor on the second story is not high enough to see properly over the iron-wrought fence, where there's only a field of grass anyway.
In return Manto tells Damian about his combat details, which fascinates him. He tells Damian about sneaking into silent villages in the dead of night, he tells about the time he got a headshot from a block away, and of grown men begging him - him, a little boy - for mercy. Big men, too, Manto says - waving his head high above his head in demonstration, his voice rising in excitement.
They talk a lot about the men.
Manto is the youngest boy now; three of the others died in battles, and one just couldn't march anymore. So he's forever having to run errands for the men, and they try to 'toughen him up'. Damian would kill any of his mentors if they ever tried to whack him
with the blunt end of a pistol, but he still knows what Manto means. Some of the men he works with find it hilarious to shove a crying girl at him, some prisoner or other, especially if she's younger than them. And Damian is never sure what exactly he's supposed to do
with her, but that just makes them laugh harder. Then inevitably, one of them will drag the squealing, screaming thing somewhere, and they laugh when Damian complains about the noise. So Damian understands exactly why Manto's open face suddenly darkens, and he recognizes the fierce look he gives when he says, "Someday, I will be a bigger man than all
And Damian speaks to Manto about his
father, who is not a schoolteacher but a fierce warrior. One of Damian's absolute most favourite things to do before he goes to sleep is to make up stories about his parents - so he has lots of things to tell Manto about. "Everyone says I look just
like my father, " Damian says, with a modest shrug, "But that's not entirely true - I get my eyes from my mother. My father's eyes are black. Not brown, mind you, but black
. My hair too, it's like my mother's. Father's hair is all crinkly -- yes, sort of like yours. We have the same face, however, and everyone says I'll be as tall as him. He's very tall. Taller than anyone
here -- Yes, yes, even the General. He's much taller than him."
Manto doesn't want to speak about parents anymore, though, and so Damian and him talk about weapons instead. He even pulls out the prototype custom XM-25 that his mother sent him for his birthday, and Manto slides a finger up the glossy black of the gun enviously. The Freedom Army strictly uses cheap, Russian made machine-guns - Manto wears his slung across his back since it's too big for him, and it's dented some on the side. In comparison, Damian's weapons are so new that some of them aren't even on the market yet - not that Manto would know. They're toy-like affairs, perfectly sized for Damian's small hands. "They're gifts from my mother," Damian explains, showing off a small silver pistol that he keeps flat against his belly, "I only get the very best from her, naturally."
They speak on and on, talking about nothings until Damian slumps over onto his bedroll. He's too tired to kick out Manto, and they end up exchanging low, drawled out sentences broken by long pauses.
The last thing Damian recalls before his eyes drift closed is Manto asking him what sort of food they have in England.