It had been three years to the day that the Englishman had stumbled and forced himself into Larra's life. The peculiar thing was, ignoring the endless bottles of alcohol, the intoxicating drugs, the lonely nights; she had never felt so close to someone after her own death. She had spent centuries believing she would spend the rest of her damnation alone and afraid, waiting for that one day where she would no longer be welcome in the world of the Undead simply because she was different. And how ironic that was, being a strange outsider in a land that thrived off its creatures of the night and broken humans who struggled to simply drag themselves out of bed on a daily basis.
It all turned around when Larra met him, though. The tall Brit with the gaunt face and those deep eyes that became murkier day by day. His reverberating voice and polite mannerisms allowed her to look past the reality of a man who had murdered hundreds but it was weeks before she understood his true identity.
He was nothing more than a man who had lost his heart and was desperately searching for someone to blame. His family had abandoned him by their twisted morals of integrity and purity and while he travelled across Europe he battled against the mental disorders that plagued him, cast off as a freak for something no one could understand. But how terrible it must have been, to be literally dropped into death by its burning ropes and have your lover scream your name as your spine snapped from the force of the fall.
But Larra still wasn't sure if that justified someone's reason for murder. She may have been dead, and he too, but it didn't dampen the absolute sin of murder. Of course, he was far different than the killer she had first pictured him to be. When he arrived, he was a mess, but he was at least trying to behave, trying to recover. These efforts were fabricated by his excessive use of alcohol and opium, however, and he lashed out at Larra in his own confused mental state. She forgave him and he did improve but his addictions only became progressively worse. She always noticed the mood swings, more prominent after dark; always noticed the bitterness in his voice and the flaring anger burning in his eyes; and the shakes that plagued him for days on end after a particularly horrid night.
He was broken, but a killer? The newspapers was doing its best to retain his reputation as a cold-hearted psychopath, to convince the people of the Underworld that he was good for nothing and was to be avoided at all costs, but it had been three years and the Englishman had been doing all he could to prove the media wrong.
Like one night, where he had stumbled into Larra's home clumsily. Larra was flicking lazily through the newspaper in the living room when he dragged himself in, and at first sight she ran towards him and caught him by the shoulders before he collapsed onto the floor. He raised his head, cocking it towards her with a dazed confusion and Larra was met with a swollen lump of skin over his right eye.
"What happened?" she snapped with worry, guiding him towards the closet lounge. She released her grip and allowed him to gently flop onto the sofa but his disgruntled groan told her she would be the one to play doctor tonight.
Getting a good look at him, she saw a large tear in his dress shirt and immediately gulped, knowing that underneath was a deep gash across his ribcage. Simply glancing at his face was bad enough, with the black eye, bright red graze on his forehead with a fine layer of skin peeling away and cheeks spotted with developing scabs.
"Goddamn neurotic whores," the man choked out icily, narrowing his one good eye at the very memory.
It was one of the many traits that were soon becoming an associating attribute of his personality. He used to control his dialogue extremely well, making sure to preserve appropriate etiquette in front of Larra at all times. He would never have sworn in front of her but as their friendship evolved, his mannerisms slowly disappeared, a cynical, sarcastic and snide vernacular taking over.
Larra kneeled down, already slipping his coat and shirt off carefully, "Would you like to expand on that statement?"
"I was being friendly with the kids, that's all. From that orphanage up on MacArthur Road. The little ones were screwing around outside and they were the ones who approached me, so I thought it best to interact with them."
"And did the caretaker see you, then proceed to have a heart attack, as she believed you were a pedophile and were attempting to abduct her children?"
He nodded grumpily, his lips contorting into a tight pout similar to that of a young child who had been denied candy. She couldn't help but smirk, inspecting the deep wound in his torso. It was exactly as she had suspected.
"I'll do it myself," he said, "I know how to patch myself up."
Larra stood up, bemused, "I know. I'll get one of your many medical kits and patch you up myself. You look like you're about to knock yourself out. Get some rest." She ignored his feeble protests and headed towards the horror that was his bedroom. Only becoming progressively messier, his bedroom was worthy of being condemned. His possessions were sprawled in every possible space available and the growing number of stains she found from dropped chemicals and other potentially dangerous experiments was beyond ridiculous. However, she managed to find a leather satchel that contained all the equipment necessary for a simple patch up.
It wasn't the first time he had come home after being beaten up. There were Undeads that still resented him, that still didn't trust him. They had good reason, too. If Larra hadn't been forced into having the man reside with her then she would have been suspicious, too. But she knew better, because despite his increasingly grouchy attitude, he was incredibly smart and extremely talented. He could speak four languages at least. In fact, due to the Council appointing him to Larra, not only had he discovered the reason for her multiple arms, he had uncovered the mystery of every Hotspot and the scientific reasoning behind their differences. The man knew science like the back of his hand, and chemistry was his forte. He had devised medicines of his own accord that could speed up the process of healing, prevent infections and disease, and even mend bones the right way. Larra knew too many people that had broken a bone and had become disfigured as a consequence of it.
The medical advances fascinated her. She struggled to understand how they could possibly work, considering the Plague was still evident throughout Europe and there was a majority of the population who still couldn't grasp the concept of basic hygiene.
Returning to the living room, she pulled out the few things needed for a simple patch up. He looked awful and was about to slip into unconsciousness until he saw Larra, sitting up immediately to give the impression he wasn't in pain at all, "Took your time," he croaked.
"Maybe if you didn't leave your shit all over the bedroom floor I wouldn't have spent so long searching. I think it's time for an intervention," she said, gently wiping the cut along his torso with antiseptic cream, "I'll introduce you to the wonders of spring cleaning."
He winced at the initial sting of the cream, "It appears messy, but it has order within the clutter."
"A system, I presume, that only you know?" she raised an eyebrow, "If you insist. What were you doing in town, anyway? Were you looking for a fight?"
He smiled, "All I wish for is a better reputation. I never defend myself or fight back. I figure, if I continue this, then the media will surely notice, as will the people, and the tables will have turned for it will be the citizens that are barbaric. I, on the other hand, will finally be regarded as docile and my restrictions will be swiped."
Larra bit on her lip as she began taping him carefully, "I doubt it will be that easy. The Council has never been one for forgiveness, and you know very well that the media will refuse to publish any material that the Council hasn't approved of. Small, individual contact can hardly make a difference."
"But it does. It's the children, Larra," he explained, "We value the children here, don't we? We value them because it is vital to preserve what is left of their innocence. Should that innocence be taken away, then the society loses its sense of humanity."
"I'd say you have put a lot of thought into this, but," she frowned, "it's only an idea. Of course, you can try and show the world your own innocence through the children, but you speak of the Undead like they are one person. Everyone is an individual person. You can't assume they have the same values."
"But you value– shit!" he clenched his teeth together at the sudden explosion of pain, "Be more careful," he hissed.
Larra rolled her eyes, finishing the job on his ribcage. The sting of the medical cream added with the pressure of the tape probably hurt but she knew it was nothing too serious. He was simply overreacting, "Don't be a baby. Let me see your face." She took his jaw and yanked it towards her, inspecting the grazes and the swollen eye.
"Antiseptic cream will be enough. The swelling will go down sooner or later."
She was tempted to return to the conversation but thought against it. He was still trying to understand how the Undead worked, which was ironic in itself because he had to realise that the Undead were simply people. People that had seen a lot of sadness in their lives, but ordinary people nonetheless that were just as similar as those who lived in the Mortal World. He was talking about philosophies and ideas but none of them would aid his cause. People were far too individual for philosophies.
Instead, Larra applied the cream with care, almost afraid she may poke out his swollen eye despite not being able to see said eye.
"You need to shave," she commented lightly, noticing the rough hairs growing along his jaw line.
"Actually, I'm starting to like it this way," he remarked, instinctively rubbing his chin.
Larra smirked, "As long as you don't allow your sideburns to get out of control."
"But I wanted mutton chops."
"Don't even start," she snickered, packing away the medical kit, "Now get some rest."
He shrugged, chuckling as she exited the living room. He was tempted to sleep but it was hardly in his best interests. He had matters to sort out. For the past couple of months he had been formulating plans to gain positive attention from the media, while also building his influence within the Council. The restrictions they had on him were enormous, preventing him from more than half of the records that would aid his understanding of the government. He needed records of the Hotspots.
Larra had told him enough of what they did to the Hotspots. It was pure torture. They were kept underneath the surface like filthy animals, hidden away from the public like they were ensuring the safety of their people but in reality it was nothing more than the Council desperately seeking for answers, even if it meant morality was no longer applicable.
He wished he hadn't helped them at all. He wished he wasn't forced to carry out their assignments and to experiment on someone he considered his closest friend like they were nothing more than vermin. He extracted her blood. He took her prints. Every single part had been thoroughly analysed, and he had managed to crack it.
It was called a mutation, something that occurred during the Healing Process. Unfortunately, he was one of the few that understood the science. Many of the Undeads were unfamiliar even with the most basic principles of physics and for them to grasp a complex concept such as biological mutations within the DNA were plausible. Science was still difficult, even in the Underworld.
Larra had grown two arms because of a spider. The spider's venom had travelled through her body for too long, and while she was healing, her body became confused and assumed she had certain elements that needed to be healed; in this case, it was an extra pair of limbs.
So, with the added knowledge of Hotspots, he figured he would be able to help future Hotspots by gaining a positive reputation with the public and teaching them about how the mutations did not necessarily make them violent people. Larra was suffering enough in the open world. It wasn't like she had any other friends. He could only fathom the pain of all the other Hotspots within the Council walls and how brutally treated they were.
Fortunately, he did manage to find someone who maybe could help him for his plan. Iamus, another domestic Hotspot who had been allowed freedom in the Underworld. Obviously Greek, judging by the name, his mutation was even stranger than Larra's: pyrokinesis, the manipulation of fire. How that was scientifically possible, he wasn't sure, but he was keen to find out. Iamus however, resided in the Demonlands and due to the restrictions placed upon him, it was difficult to gain access into them.
Sighing, the Englishman glanced around with a bored expression, finding Larra's discarded newspaper next to him. He picked it up and scanned the first page apathetically.
"Isn't she gorgeous?"
He jolted at Larra's voice, "Didn't hear you walk in."
She had her eyes glued to the front page, "Alexandra DeMatos. Have you met her?"
He frowned, "Why would I?"
"She's an Authority, and you've met a majority of those. I just assumed you would have her, too."
"I only talk to Michael and Thomas, really. The other Authorities have nothing to do with me. They have their own divisions, right? And Alexandra is all about economics and finance, isn't she?"
Larra nodded, "She's still a stunning woman."
"And I care because...?" he narrowed his eyes, sensing where the conversation was heading.
Larra already saw the danger in his eyes and quickly discarded the topic, "I thought I told you to get some rest."
She would have liked to have pressed on about the Authority. It wasn't so much that she was interested in the title, it was that she had a feeling her friend was a little bit lonely. He had invested all his interests into his assignments and there was nothing else he cared about. She may be the strange freak among the Underworld, but at least she could find other people that could look past that. She wasn't totally alone, not like he was.
He refused to even allow her to say his name. Benjamin. It was such a lovely name yet he detested it because it reminded him of his past. He was terrified of his past, terrified of the memories of murder, the memories of his family, and most of all, the memories of his lover that he would occasionally cry about when he thought no one could hear. It had been years since his death but his heart was still torn into pieces. He'd bawl his eyes out and consume himself with alcohol and opium for nights on end, and Larra knew it wasn't healthy. He had to, at some point, accept the past and get on with his life.
He needed someone he could be with comfortably, that could provide him with the happiness he desperately required. Larra was a close friend, but she could never be anything more. That was confirmed three years ago. She'd seen him go through hell.
Somehow, she had to pull her friend out of the dark hole he was living in and show him the true nature of the Underworld. He needed to find his humanity. He needed to replace his addictions with something healthier.
If not, then his future scared her. He could destroy himself, trying to justify his past actions with these assignments, these meaningless plans. And even worse, he could destroy her.