title: what can be bought
fandom: Blood+
characters/pairings: Saya/Haji, Joel, Ansel, original characters
rating: G/Teen
warnings: none
summary: Haji's life, or parts thereof.
notes: some series spoilers, erm, mostly for around ep 22ish. also, some speculation, so possibly consider it au...

His sister Sophie clung to him so tightly, he thought he might drown in her sobs. He was scared, because everyone around him was acting scared, and he wasn't prepared for something that would scare everyone. They were huddled together in the antechamber to the theater's office, waiting. For what?

He didn't really understand, but he was uncomfortably hot in Sophie's too tight embrace.

"They can't be serious," Eliza shook her head, hiding her tear-stained face from him, as if he didn't see. "They just... can't be. This is a joke."

"It's not a joke," Daniel said gravely from the dark corner he was standing in, his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes trying to bore holes in the door.

Sophie hiccuped furiously at their oldest brother's dark proclamation, and sobbed more forcefully on him.

"Oh! I know!" Julien jumped to his feet and grinned, looking down into his eyes. "They want him because he's so pretty, right? Well, why don't we cut up his face and stuff? Then they won't want him anymore, right?"

He squirmed a bit more into Sophie's embrace, shrinking away from his older brother. Eliza came up behind him and slapped him across the back of his head. "Idiot! Like we can do that!"

"Well, we can't let them take him away!" Julien protested, rubbing his head.

Sophie moaned, and tightened her arms around him until he felt like he couldn't breathe. "Why? Why would they even think of this? It's inhuman!"

"Think about it," Lorainne sighed. "There's seven of us. Times are lean. It doesn't matter how well we perform, people just don't have francs to spare on performers." She looked forlornly at him. "There's just... just nothing...'

"No!" Sophie cried. "He's our precious little brother! We can't give him up! We can't! How can mother and father think about that?!"

Victor stepped back from the door. "Well, mother is bawling, begging father not to do it. But father's accepted the money." He looked over at their little brother, like he was looking at a corpse.

Scared, he clung to Sophie.

Daniel pushed away from the wall, and came over, gently shoving Sophie aside. "Listen to me, Haji. This is important. You must understand this. We all love you, so much. Hopefully, this will give you a better life, in a fancy house, with rich people... Behave, keep your eyes open, learn as much as you can, and always know your surroundings. If they hurt you... if... if they make you lay with them at night, or touch you badly, or mistreat you... Just keep your head down. Grit your teeth. Don't cause a fuss. Bear it out. And then, keep watch. The first chance you get, run away, and come back to us. We won't be far away. We promise." He pulled Haji into his arms, and kissed his cheeks.

Tears started to roll down Haji's cheeks. He was really, really scared now. What did Daniel mean, lay with them at night? Was that some sort of euphemism for sex? Why was this happening to him? Was it really because he was pretty? Was he that much prettier than the rest of them? Maybe Julien was right, and they should cut up his face...

The office door opened, and he could hear his mother sobbing. That just made him want to cry all the more. Daniel wiped the tears from and kissed both of his cheeks, and then stood up, and turned away. Sophie flung herself into Eliza's arms, and Julien stomped out, his face red.

Lorainne just stared at him sadly.

His father came and kneeled down in front of him, but he couldn't look Haji in the eye. He patted Haji's shoulder, and cleared his throat a few times.

"Son, it's not that we don't love you. Your mother and I love you, so much. Th-that's why... the thing is, we're just... we're just barely hanging in here, son. And." He licked his lips, and ducked his head down, and Haji was horrified to find that he was sure that his father was crying.

The small and overly well-dressed older man behind his father patted his father's head gently. "Now, now. I promise. Haji is going to have a good life. We'll take care of him, you wait and see."

"He has a good life with us!" Sophie proclaimed, and ran out of the room. Lorainne and Eliza ran after her.

Haji stood up slowly, and brought his chin up. "Let's just go." It was already too hard as it was. And.

He was never going to see his family again. He could feel it.

The older man nodded slowly, and led Haji away, outside the theater, to a carriage in the back alley. It was nicer than any Haji had been close to before, with black lacquered doors, gold painted spokes on the wheels, and red velvet interior. It made Haji nervous, just sitting there, like the palpable sense of not belonging would become tangible enough to eject him from the carriage.

He sat on the edge of his seat, and stared at the floor, trying not to be too obtrusive, as if he might be left behind if he could just be quiet enough. The older man sat next to him, and tried to smile at him. The door on the other side of the carriage opened, and a large, square man with a receding hairline came in, shaking the whole carriage. He sat down loudly, and then looked across, at the older man and Haji.

"Oh for the love of... Joel, he's a child!"

"He's the perfect age. He and Saya can grow up together."

"You're exasperating. How long do you expect to live, anyway?" The noisy, rude man knocked on the ceiling of the carriage, and the driver whipped the horses. "He smells, you know. And I daresay he'll need something other than those threads if you expect your precious Saya to see him as anything other than a large rat."

Haji furrowed his brow, and tightened his mouth. He did not smell! He had bathed last week, and his sisters were always spraying him with their eau de toilette. And it wasn't his fault his clothes were ratty! They were Julien's hand me downs!

"Now, now, Ansel. I've arranged for a tailor for Haji. Everything's going to be fine." He patted Haji on the head, and Haji bent his head down as far as he could, trying not to look at anything. Trying to pretend that he wasn't being taken away from his family to go live with these mean, old, rich people. "Haji." The man called Joel lifted his chin, and smiled softly. "Don't worry, Haji. Nothing bad is going to happen to you.

"I hope that you will like living in our Zoo."

Ansel snorted, and crossed his arms over his chest. Haji decided not to like that Ansel.

He wandered around the hallways, sticking close to the walls. It was so dark, he could barely see at all. The moon was completely hidden in the storm. The windows shook, and so did the floors, and it scared Haji terribly. So, he decided it was as good a time as any to get to know the layout of the house.

During the day, as soon as he woke up, he washed up, dressed, and went to Saya's room. That insufferable brat... all day long, she ordered him around. Haji! Get my shoes! Haji! Make sure my coffee isn't too hot! Haji! Fix these stockings! Haji! Smile! Haji! Be more interesting!

He hated it.

She was supposed to be his friend? Like that could ever happen! As far as she was concerned, he was hired help. As far as he was concerned, she was a pain in the ass.

Though, Eliza disapproved of foul language. So she would have to be a pain in the neck.

There was a bright burst of light, which failed to illuminate anything because of its intensity, and a clap of thunder so loud, it shook Haji's tiny body. He quickly scurried under the nearest table, his heart pounding, and his head aching. He wanted to cry, but how pathetic was that?! So close to home... but despite Daniel's promise, Haji knew the troupe was leaving town soon. They might already be gone. He'd be left alone here, in this scary place, with that horrible brat as a friend, and no one would ever care about him again...

Loud, heavy footsteps started to come closer. Haji froze; there was something weird about this house and that old man, and there were most definitely monsters in this place. He bit his lip, and shut his eyes tightly, and tried his hardest not to make even the slightest noise.

As the monster got closer, Haji recognized the sound of his footfalls. He relaxed marginally, but didn't let himself make a single sound.

It was Ansel, after all.

He was holding a flask of something, something... red... and it clung to the sides of the flask. And he was muttering to himself. Haji stayed perfectly still and watched Ansel pass, slipping into a secret compartment in the south wall. Once the hallway was quiet again, Haji let out a deep breath.

Ansel was worse than a monster.

He decided to go back to his room. He was sure it wasn't far. He passed a room with roses on the table outside of it... Saya's room. He touched the doorknob, letting his fingers linger. When he was afraid at home, his brothers were always with him. He sisters slept on the other side of the curtain. He could always slip under there, and curl up with Eliza, or Lorainne. There was never anything to be afraid of, even if they were poor, and they had to water down their porridge, and they had to save clothes all the time, and they were never sure where they might be able to make a few francs. There wasn't any reason to be scared when they were happy.

He strode away from Saya's room. She wouldn't hold him, ever. She'd never let him cry on her shoulder, or cuddle him tightly. She was just a rich, spoiled brat.

He trudged back to his room, to climb into his cold, tall bed, and hide from the storm by himself.

He noticed that she was pretty for the first time in the sunshine, the day after she had embraced him. She kept ordering him around, just as always. But he looked into her eyes, and he thought that maybe, maybe, she actually didn't know any better.

That wasn't necessarily better or worse than just being selfish, but it was something, because perhaps, she was lonely, too. He asked her if 'that man Joel' had bought her, too, and she got quite indignant, before becoming quite sad.

Then she grabbed him by the elbows, and he was surprised at how strong she was, and she shook him, asking him if he wanted to leave.

That seemed like an exceptionally stupid question, because it should have been obvious that he wanted to leave, but when she asked him like that, he definitely thought that she was lonely, too.

He told her he had no intention of leaving.

He stared at her in horror as she ate. He had never seen anyone, not even Julien, consume so much in one day, so much as in one meal. He'd eaten with her before, but, then, he had kept his head down, and excused himself as quickly as possible. Now that he was properly eating with her...

He blinked, realizing that she was trying to ask him something, but her mouth was too full of food, and he couldn't make out the words. Disgusted, he made a face. "Swallow, Saya!"

She rolled her eyes, and swallowed hard, and then took a deep breath. "Are you going to eat that?" she asked, but her fork was already in Haji's pork chop.

He swatted her hand away. "Yes, I plan to eat that! Your table manners are atrocious!"

"You sound like Joel," she sighed, squirming in her seat.

"You should listen to him. Don't chew with your mouth open. Keep your elbows off the table. Don't eat with your hands. Take small bites, and chew thoroughly. And don't pile up your plate like that, it makes you look like a pig." He straightened up, sitting very primly on the velvet cushion. Well, he had nice clothes, and he smelled like fancy soap and perfume, and he had a silk ribbon in his hair. It was almost like he was a real gentleman.

Saya stuck her tongue out at him. "So many rules! I can't help it if I'm hungry!"

He smiled affectionately at her, despite himself, and that made her smile back at him. "You have the appetite of an elephant. Well, I suppose it's because you're at that age. My sisters were like that, too. They could never get enough. But it was easier to sit across from them at a table."

He heard the sound of cutlery clattering to the floor, and by the time he looked up, Saya was at his side, throwing her arms around him. She clung to him so tightly, he had trouble breathing. "Haji! What do you mean? Sisters? You don't have any sisters!"

"Sa-Saya..." Haji started, confused.

"We're each other's family now, right? Haji! Those other people, they let you go, they sold you, and they made you cry. I... I made you cry, too, but I... I promise, I'll be a proper lady. You and Joel are all that I have. It's not fair if you have someone else you'll go back to someday."

Blinking, he tried to figure out just what to say. He patted her awkwardly on the back, and sighed.

"Don't worry. I... I belong to you, right?"

"With me," she sniffed.

"Huh?" Haji furrowed his brow, and shifted around so he was in less danger of suffocation.

"You belong with me. Right?" She pulled back, giving him air, and a chance to look in her watery eyes.

"Idiot. Yes, I belong with you. You spoiled brat." He ducked his head down to try to avoid her headlock, but it didn't work.

She completely had him in her grip.

The door closing woke him up, but not enough that he lifted his head. But then he felt the weight on the bed.

"Saya. We can't do this anymore. We're too old."

"Don't be stupid," Saya grumbled. "How can we be too old? We've always done this." She pulled up the sheet, and scooted into bed with him.

His cheeks burned bright red. He could tell her that it was never right, but she never listened to him, anyway. "Saya. We aren't children anymore!"

"I'm older than you," she argued reasonably. "And I can't sleep. So be quiet." She slipped her arm around his waist, and curled right up to his back.

He was wearing thin pajamas, but he could still feel her breasts pressed to his back.

He wasn't going to get any more sleep.

"Ah! Am I doing this right? This stuff is so smelly..."

"No, no, you're ok... more of a circular motion. We'll wipe off the polish next."

Saya rolled her eyes. She'd been chased out of her room because they were polishing the floors. She had been chased out of the library when Ansel had come in, making snide comments, as always. Joel was very busy in his office.

She'd found this little nook in the garden to read in, but she could hear the maids working in the dining room through the open window, and it was driving her nuts! They'd hired a new maid, and she was so noisy. Soon, Saya was going to have to leave here, too.

"Excuse me, Marie?" She stiffened. Haji's cultured, low voice sent shivers down her back. Why was he in there with the maids?! "Someone needs to go into town to pick up the dresses for Saya today."

"I know," Marie said cheerfully. "I was going to go myself, but I've been a bit longer training this one than I thought I'd be."

"I'm sorry!" the noisy one said, and then she giggled. What an annoying noise.

"It's all right," Haji said gracefully, "as long as the dresses are back in time for a fitting before dinner."

"Don't worry, Haji, sir. It'll be done," Marie assured him.

"Thank you," he said, and she could tell that he bowed to her. "And don't call me 'sir.' I'm not one of your superiors."

That annoying maid in training started to giggle again, and then she dropped several pieces of cutlery. "Oh, Marie, who was that gorgeous man? I think m'heart is gonna just leap right outta my mouth!"

"Don't speak like that in the house," Marie cautioned her good-naturedly. "That was Master Haji. He's been here for years. He's Mistress Saya's personal valet. Or... something like that."

"Mistress Saya, huh... Who is she? Everyone talks about her. She's that pretty girl who wears pink; Master Joel's daughter?"

"Something like that," Marie muttered. "Stay away from her, Candice."

"Why? Is she bad-tempered?" Saya's body was rigid, and her eyes were narrowed. She was very interested in Marie's answer.

"No. But they tell tales about her. Some of the older servants say they've been here since Joel first adopted her. And she's not aged in ten years. The master is a kind and generous man, but he's into some strange things. Just keep your distance, and all'll be well. And that goes for her manservant as well."

"No!" Candice protested, giggling. "But he's so handsome! Surely a man like that wouldn't want to be saddled down with a child-like girl like Mistress Saya," she said, and her voice sounded suggestive.

"I mean it," Marie warned. "You don't want to get on that girl's bad side. Just leave it alone."

"Oh," Candice pouted. "No fun!"

Saya didn't remember ever being so furious. The servants talking about her like that! And that filthy girl, thinking impure thoughts about Haji, of all people! Maybe she would tell Joel to send that Candice away. They couldn't have harlots working for them!

"There you are!" Haji sighed, exasperated. "I've been looking for you."

She looked quickly over her shoulder, and then shot up, grabbing his wrist, and she ran off to the other side of the garden.

"Sa~ya. What are you doing?" Haji asked, irritated. She looked over her shoulder and scowled.

"Haji! Stop being so..." Well, she couldn't tell him to stop being handsome. She liked that he was handsome. She wiggled her finger in his face. "Stop flirting with the maids! It's unseemly!"

"Fl-- What? When have I ever flirted with a maid?" Haji asked, dumbfounded. "Saya. I need to speak to the maids to do my job for you. I don't ever flirt with them."

Her cheeks burned bright red. "Well! It's probably because you've gotten so tall and your hair is so pretty and you talk like that! But I don't want anyone to think they can seduce you and run off with you!"

"Who could seduce me?" he asked, his voice deep and husky. He stepped closer to her, and she tried to back off, but she was engulfed in his arms before she knew it, and he pulled her close to his chest. "No one could, not as long as you were alive. No, there's no one else."

She sighed, defeated, and closed her eyes, wrapping her arms around him to press her face against his chest harder. "As long as you never forget."

They ran from where they had decided to picnic that day to the broken ruins near the riverbank, trying to escape the downpour. He held his coat over her head, because that was all the protection he could offer. Still, her dress was a mess.

They found a doorway that gave them some protection. Joel had warned them about this part of the estate, so they weren't inclined to wander far, even though there seemed to be better shelter around. They had to press very closely to keep out of the rain.

"Honestly... Joel told you the weather was going to change this afternoon..."

Saya was chuckling, though. "Oh, don't be cross, Haji. It won't last long. The sun was shining a minute ago!"

As if to contradict her, a huge clap of thunder shook the crumbling doorframe they were in just then. Haji leaned forward, pressing Saya against the wall. He looked over his shoulder, and sighed. "Doesn't look like it's letting up..."

"It's ok, isn't it?" Saya asked shyly. She slipped her hands around his waist, pulling him closer. "It's not the first time we've been caught in the rain."

He looked back at her, and blushed. The last time... He couldn't help looking down, at her dress clinging to her bodice...

Swallowing hard, he looked away. "Ah. Well. True."

Saya laughed, and hugged him. "Haji, you're making a strange face. You almost look sick. Come on. It's not so bad, being with me, is it?"

"I-It's not the being with you part..." Haji muttered, looking up at the sky, praying for relief.

"You're being very strange, Haji," she sighed, exasperated. She pulled him closer, and her hand slipped down, touching his rear. "Why don't you relax? It's raining too hard to move, anyway."

He felt his heart thumping, and as close as they were, she must feel it, too. Her hand was still grazing his backside. That was definitely inappropriate. He should tell her that. In a minute, perhaps. "Saya..."

"You're so strange," she complained quietly, rubbed her cheek against his chest. "Haji. How much more are you going to grow, anyway? If you got to be much taller than me... it would be hard to hold you like this."

"I won't grow much more," Haji hoarsely assured her.

"Good," Saya murmured, and then sighed. "Haji, you're warm. Put your arms around me."

It was dangerous, of course, and inappropriate, and a million other things, and he knew he shouldn't but he wanted to, so he held her close, resting his cheek on top of her head. Her hair smelled fresh, and clean, the rainwater both heightening and enhancing her natural smell. Her arms were strong, and he felt simultaneously like he was sheltered and sheltering as he held her. She, too, was warm, and alive, and beautiful...

His heart was going to jump out of his chest, he was sure.

"Haji. There's something weird..." She pulled back and started to feel around his pants. "I thought I felt something."

He might actually spontaneously combust. Surely... she was older than him, she had to know about...! Of course, she lived a rather insulated life as a proper lady. Maybe she didn't know... He tried to pull back, but she wouldn't let go. "Saya! Don't... it's nothing!"

"But look!" She was staring at his crotch. He might actually die right in that doorframe. "There's a bulge! Are you all right?" She felt his forehead. "You seem somewhat flushed. Do you have a fever?"

"Oh for... I'm fine, really, just... stop..." he shook his head. How could she be so dense?

"But it's... look at this! This can't be right!" She started fumbling with his belt, trying to open it.

"Saya! That's a completely unladylike thing to do!" he chastised her quickly, pushing her hands away from his belt buckle.

"Haji, I'm really concerned! You shouldn't just bulge like this!" she proclaimed, and she put her hand right on his...

Moaning, he pulled back, hitting the other wall so hard, he knocked the back of his head. Pleasure had shocked through his system, and he felt like his brain might really melt right out of his head. "Saya! Ladies do not... touch gentlemen... there, not... not unless... I'm fine! Oh, this is..." He pulled away, stepping into the blessedly cool rain. He turned back and fixed her with a hard glare. "Don't move a step! I'll be right back with an umbrella!"

She called out to him, but he was already moving away. It took a few steps for him to be able to walk normally. The cold rain helped, as did his mortification. Soon, he was able to break into a run.

She'd actually touched his...

His cheeks would be permanently red, he knew it.

He entered the house, heedless of his soaking wet state. He marched right up to Joel's office, despite how he was dripping, and threw the door open. Two maids and a butler had followed him, protesting about the carpets, but he didn't care.

Ansel was sitting opposite Joel, but Haji marched right up to Joel's desk, scowling. He put his sopping hand on the corner of Joel's desk, and leaned forward.

"You have to talk to her about sex."

He turned on his heel and marched out, tuning out Ansel's booming laugh. Asshole.

He went back to the front door, and fetched the largest umbrella they owned, and went back out into the rain.

He tried to wipe the blood off of her cheek, but it didn't work. He had blood on his hands. Damn.

He still felt shaky, and strange. He... he had died. He was sure of it. He had looked at Saya as he died... but he was here now. He was with her.

She was shivering. He had forgotten how to take her into his arms. She looked wild, afraid. She was such a gentle person, despite her strength and her skill with the sword. The violence she saw...

He had died.

"Haji." Her voice had changed. It was strange. It was her, but new. "How much did your life cost? How much... how much did they pay to take you away from your family? To give you to me? To send you... into this hell?"

He inched closer to her. He wanted permission to put his arms around her. "You are the only family I want or need."

She surged forward, and clung to him. "Haji. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, let's go back. Maybe... maybe something can be salvaged. Maybe.

"I want. I want to hear you play the cello again, Haji."

He took her move to be the cue he needed, and he put his arms around her. "If that is your wish."