Chapter 1 - Vanity
"Send the traitor in," a dark, foreboding voice spoke from behind its owner's mahogany desk, rumbling like thunder portending the End of Days, yet maintaining an unsettling calmness. "I'd like to deal with him personally." As commanded by the voice, a tuxedo-clad assistant walked across the dimly-lit office and drew open its double doors. What followed was a calamity of angry cursing and screaming in Spanish as the accused was pushed in, his arms bound tightly behind him by the gloved hands of his once-equal, a behemoth of an American boxer with a mangled face befitting his demonic name. Once the doors were closed, the supposed "traitor" felt himself thrown forward, landing hard on the black marble floor.
"So... it seems someone doesn't know how to follow orders." The figure stood up and walked toward the fallen man, the light of the single lamp above illuminating his silver grieves, then his blood-red suit, his black cape, and finally, an evil sneer that made the subordinate at his feet shake with fear. The large man's steel-covered foot swung forward and drove deep into the thinner one's gut, ripping out a pained scream as he was sent flying into a wall behind him.
He wasn't caught off guard by the attack, though. Vega already knew what was coming when he made his decision to spare Chun-Li's life. But he couldn't let anyone of such rare beauty die, especially by his own hands. It was a difficult decision for him to make, though, with the chances that his own unequaled beauty might be erased as a consequence of his betrayal. Landing on his side with a mixture of grunt and growl, Vega retained just enough strength to slowly push himself to a seated position, and glared up through the eye-holes of the mask shielding his perfect visage from damage into his employer's eyes. Those cold, evil, ugly eyes, glowing with the lavender light of Psycho energy. The next thing he knew he was looking down into them instead, his body suspended by a massive hand clamped around his neck, his boss keeping him against the black-painted wall in a choke-hold. "I'll give you one more chance, Vega. Go back and kill the girl."
"No." Vega's soft voice took on a strength matching his resolve. "I will not ruin such beauty. Do what you will to me, Bison, but I shall not kill anyone who isn't ugly enough to deserve death."
Bison's mouth curled into a wicked smile. "Very well... I shall
do as I will with you. Balrog, leave us..." The giant who'd brought Vega in left as told and shut the doors of the office behind him, but they did nothing to filter out the pained screams that followed...
"Honey, why do you have to be so picky?" Eliza grumbled as she put the chocolate candy bar back into the pile she'd plucked it from. "Every time we go to the market together, I swear..."
A strong arm wrapped around her narrow frame and pulled it into one much more chiseled than her own. "Aw, c'mon babe," he chuckled as his other arm joined the first, wrapping the girl up tight. "I've gotta be careful what I put into this body. You wouldn't wanna see these abs turn into a big beer belly, would you?"
Eliza spun around in the embrace and grinned as she looked into her boyfriend's clay-brown eyes, and he in turn slipped each hand into a rear pocket of her skin-tight khaki capris. "I guess not, Ken," she said to him as a delicate hand moved over the muscles in question, exposed as a vagrant summer breeze made his open red shirt flap behind him like a cape. "Then I couldn't do things like this!" Without warning, she began tickling him relentlessly, making him laugh against his will.
"Gyaa!!! E-Eliza! Hehehehee... p-please stop!" he begged as he nearly doubled over from her playful actions. "You... y-you know I'm... heheh... t-t-ticklish there!" But she wouldn't relent, and soon the two were weaving in a whirling, laughing dance through the crowd of others at the market, ending up in the small alleyway near where the street market's entrance was, where Ken finally collapsed onto his back, Eliza still locked in his arms. "I give up!" he screamed, trying to push his girlfriend off but only succeeding in moving her bikini-clad torso upward and leaving her hands even more room to attack his hypersensitive belly. "You win! Heheheh..."
"Oh yeah? So what's my prize?" She flipped her ashen blonde hair out of her face, keeping Ken pinned to the ground and looking over his features.
"You already got the best prize of all, babe. Me." Ken flashed a confident grin, and Eliza looked away in feigned annoyance.
"You're so vain, Ken..."
"Yep. Oh, hey, did you know that Carly Simon wrote a song about me?"
"Goofball..." As she opened her eyes and looked around the area where the two had made their landing, a sudden look of shock crossed her once-mirthful face. "Oh my God... Ken, look!" She pointed toward something against the wall of the alleyway and released Ken, giving the man a chance to get up and investigate.
A male figure laid in a pile of garbage, beaten and unconscious. "What the..." Ken immediately recognized him from the purple snake tattoo across his bared back and the mask tossed haphazardly next to him. "Eliza, I know who this is!"
"He's not..." Eliza's voice shook as she placed a loosely clenched fist to her chin, "...dead, is he?"
Ken placed two fingers to the person's throat and waited a few moments. He could feel the vein beneath the still-warm flesh flutter. Then again. Then twice more. Then twice more. "No... he's got a pulse." The pattern continued to repeat itself steadily against Ken's fingertips. "A strong one. He's just really badly beaten." He slung the person's body over his shoulder the way one might carry a heavy sack, gripping feet in front and letting the torso limp against his back.
Looking at the bloodied yellow-and-purple tights and strawberry blonde braided hair, Eliza grew more concerned. This guy was definitely not from Seattle. "Who is he?"
Ken stared straight forward as he moved through the alley, taking a shortcut to his apartment, his girlfriend following closely. "Vega."
"Wait, you mean the
Vega? The same Vega from Shadowloo
"That's the one." Ken turned his head to look back to Eliza. "But whether he's an enemy or not, he's an injured man, and I can't just let an injured man lie. You know that."
With a sigh, Eliza nodded. "Yeah... I know you can't. Just... I hope you know what you're doing, that's all." Ken gazed at her for another few moments before making his way out of the other side of the alleyway and to his apartment building. "Ken... be careful..."
"Hnnggh..." A soft grunt came from Vega's throat as he came back to. The last thing he remembered was feeling Bison's grungy fists and dirty boots drilling deep into his stomach. Over... and... over. At first he thought that maybe he'd been left in a crumpled heap on the floor of the Shadowloo boss's office. But no, the light invading his eyes was far too bright for him to be in that dark place. No, not bright... bright would imply a harshness, but this was gentle. Illuminated... yes, that was a better term. Illuminated. His vision was still blurry, but it looked like this room was white... no, pale blue. And it smelled of steaming water. "żD-dónde... estoy?" he gasped in his native language, wincing as the harsh sting of soapy water touched a particularly nasty scrape on his back. He got no response from whoever it was, but as his eyes adjusted, he could see that his tights, shoes, mask, and breifs were all piled neatly on the floor to the side. His body ached, but the warm water he was laying in soothed him. "Por favor... d?*game donde estoy..."
"Shh... calm down," a voice said behind him. A deep, masculine voice, hushed and using a soothing tone. And speaking English. "You've been badly hurt. I'm only washing your wounds."
"Where am I?" Vega repeated, this time in the other man's tongue. "What happe- agh!" He grunted as the washcloth once more rubbed over an open wound from his beating.
"I found you in the alley. You were hurt." The bruised figure could see a strong arm descend beside him, soaking up more bathwater into the washcloth. A fighter's arm. "Bad." The edge of a red sleeve, rolled up to the middle of that forearm, could be barely made out as the man's hand squeezed the excess water from the cloth and left Vega's view again, returning to cleanse his bloodied shoulders. "Thank God you didn't have any broken bones or anything, but I'll bet Bison probably meant to leave you with some."
"Bison!" Vega leaped from the bathtub, ignoring the searing pain and sudden shock of cold as he whipped around and faced the other guy. "What do you know about him!?" He recognized this man. Ken Masters. One of his boss's greatest enemies. "Why am I here!? Tell me!"
"I already did. I took you here to help you recover from your injuries," he answered, standing up himself. "Now get back in the tub."
"No. Get away from me, I'm leaving."
"I can't let you. You're too badly hurt... not to mention naked." Ken smirked as the slender man looked down and grasped his exposed crotch, blushing furiously as he tried to hide himself. "Don't spaz out. Not like I've never seen one before." His hands landed on Vega's shoulders, spun him around, and dragged him back into the bathwater. "Besides, mine's bigger. Now shut up and let me finish washing you."
"Get off of me, y- gghh!" As much as his mind fought against it, his wounded body send shockwaves of pain through him as he struggled, giving him no choice but to allow Ken to finish. He crossed his arms and fumed. "Esto aspira..."
Vega grunted as he limped toward the queen-sized bed in Ken's room, supporting himself using a combination of the wall and Ken's shoulders. "I don't understand why you are helping me," he asked, still thoroughly humiliated by having this man wash him. "I didn't ask for your pity."
"Which is difficult to do when you were beaten to unconsciousness
and dumped in a pile of garbage
. Besides, right now, I'm not looking at you as a Shadowloo agent, just as a man who's hurt." He assisted Vega in getting onto the bed before backing off and leaning against the wall. "Now rest. I'm taking your clothes to Eliza's to get them washed."
"My girlfriend. She's the one who first saw you." He frowned as Vega gave him a confused look, still unconsciously hiding his privates behind one hand. "What? You think that I wouldn't
have a girlfriend, as good-looking as I am?" Ken leaned against the unstained dresser across from the bed, folding his arms over his chest and cocking his head upward pridefully.
"No. Not really." He sighed and stared up at the slowly spinning ceiling fan. It was simply that he'd never really looked at Ken - or any of the other men and women he'd fought against, for that matter - as anything more than some unattractive thing to shred into bloody ribbons, to eradicate from this world for its ugliness. He wouldn't say that to Ken, though. He couldn't give that man the satisfaction of knowing he was becoming more human to Vega, especially not so quickly. His thoughts were broken as he felt thick cloth hitting his leg. Looking down, he saw that it was a pair of simple cobalt blue jeans, holes worn through both knees from wear, not unlike the ones Ken was wearing now.
"You look like you're close to my size. Put those on. Unless you like lying naked in another man's bed." He was met with an annoyed glare before Vega slowly pushed himself into the denim, one aching leg at a time. Ken was right; they were looser than he was used to, but they did fit him rather well. "That's what I thought. You can borrow whatever clothes you like. Anyway, I'm out." With that Vega was left alone, in another man's apartment, on another man's bed, wearing another man's jeans.
Vega sighed again and returned to gazing at the fan above, circling about in an almost hypnotic manner. He still was puzzled by the kindness with which he was being treated by someone that, if he wasn't so badly hurt, he wouldn't think twice about killing, who knew he wouldn't think twice about killing him. Or maybe he would think twice about it, just to double the joy he'd get out of it. Even if all he did was simply run away, with his injuries like they were, how far would he get? Even putting those jeans on was an ordeal. It was decided; he would have to stay. Only until he was well enough to escape. And as a return for Ken's kindness, he wouldn't exterminate him from this world.
At least not for a few days.