A/N: Another roleplay, this time with myself and Clarediva, edited into story format. I really enjoyed this one in particular, and it was her first time roleplaying ever!

Inoue is a cold killer for hire, and Reven is a young trick who lands in the lap of the wrong guy. Inoue decides to take Reven under his wing, and things get dramatic and dangerous quickly.

This story is not for the faint at heart, or those that like all to go well for the main characters.





Blood and Soot






Lighting a cigarette casually, Inoue looked over his shoulder and down the road with a clear violet gaze.

He was alone as far as he could tell-- this would have to do. Slowly he reached into his jacket pocket and removed a small object swathed in cloth, which he stashed under a trash can before stepping back into the main street, looking around and ensuring nobody had seen him.

"The perfect crime," he whispered to himself with the ghost of a smirk, walking casually down the sidewalk and listening to sirens wail in the distance. The fucking cops would never catch him.

He blinked and swore as something collided with his chest, and looked down to see what had hit him.

It was a small, heavy duffel bag, spinning across in front of him. Before he could cry out in protest, there was a sudden curse, the voice high and sharp, the words almost unintelligible, and something far more substantial followed the bag. He felt fingers grasping the cloth of his jacket, then slipping away - he felt the brush of a body falling sideways across in front of his own.

The heel of a foot caught at his thigh, sending him stumbling back against the trash can. More cursing - a loud laugh - and the splash of some warm, viscous liquid against his outstretched hand. Something landed at his feet with a thud, and a splatter, in amongst the muddied puddles left from the earlier rain.

Inoue stood back up quickly, sneering and wiping at his pants angrily. "You fucking moron!" he barked at the man before him, grabbing his collar and pulling him onto his feet forcefully. "Watch where the hell you're going!"

It wasn't even a man, Inoue realised, just a kid. A tall, thin kid, though he could feel wide shoulders under his shirt. The kid's face was twisted with anger - and something else? Fear? - and his body wriggled in Inoue's grasp.

Inoue could see now the liquid that had splashed him - something dark in the neon lights of the street - something thicker than rain, and dribbling own his hand unlike mud.

It was blood, he realised, with a sudden, cold shock. Who the hell was this kid? What was happening - and where the hell had he come from? It was like he'd fallen out of the fucking sky...

"Like it's my fault you're creeping about, sneaking outta the alleys like some kinda pimp...!" Reven felt the words burst out of him like gunshots - he did not want to admit he was scared, but where the fuck had this guy come from?

The strong hands were tight on his shirt, and he wriggled furiously to get free. His knees hurt from where he'd fallen - his heart was thumping hard against this guy's chest. He wasn't a cop, surely - though the only idiots he knew who crept in and out of alleys with that sorta look on their faces were pimps or city detectives.

Sure swore like one!

He didn't want to meet the guy's eyes, couldn't afford to get caught now - he looked instead at the smear of blood across the man's smart, dark jacket. He knew at once it was his blood, glistening thickly in the neon lights of the street. Fuck, he thought, dully. I've been cut...

Inoue blinked as he realized his front was soaked with blood, and he dropped the kid, pulling away in horror. What the hell was this? And the kid reeked of sex and alcohol!

"The fuck...?" he muttered, wiping his hands on his jeans and realizing he had just thrown a wounded kid on his ass. "Er.... you ok kid?" he added, still aghast.

Reven cursed Ė again. He could swear along with the best of 'em! Damn guy, hauls his ass about, then dumps him back in the stinking wet..."None of your damned business," he snarled.

He felt a little more confident, now the guy was obviously not looking to arrest him or something. But sitting here on the ground, the pains were creeping back. It'd taken all his energy just to grab his bag and crawl outta that bathroom window. He'd forgotten he'd been taken up to a first floor apartment - forgotten to bend his scrawny little legs as he tumbled out.

Probably a good thing the guy had broken his fall... probably...his thoughts faded in and out, his head hurt. His eyesight was blurred - there was more blood coming out, soaking his jeans. Damn things weren't even done up, he thought, ruefully. Talk about a quick getaway! He felt sick - he leaned forward, trying to scramble back up to his feet. Had to find his bag and get outta here...

Inoue grumbled, staring at the kid who was obviously floundering, obviously suffering and distraught. He rubbed the back of his head angrily, looking away and very tempted to leave. He did not need this right now...

The crimson-haired man growled and bent down, grabbing the boy's bag and making sure the kid was holding onto it firmly before slipping his arms beneath the kid's knees and behind his back, lifting him like a bride.

The kid's light, he thought with surprise while lifting him and drawing the youth to his chest. "I'm taking you to a hospital," he muttered, barely believing this was happening. Of all the rotten luck...!

"No!" Reven tried to shout, but his voice was weak - and he was scared of drawing any more attention to them, there on the street. There were already passers-by staring - a couple tramps muttering in another doorway. He thought he could hear sirens in the background, and he knew he had nowhere else to go.

Dammit, at least Chad wouldn't catch him there - Reven knew he was due another beating for refusing tonight's client; for refusing their latest sick little game of 'carve my name'... if he could dodge Chad for a couple days, he might give up on him, concentrate on his other, more willing boys.

Reven knew he'd always been trouble for his pimp - always a rebel. And this guy? Couldn't be any worse, could he? Reven stared up at his 'rescuer' at last, through bleary eyes; flaming red? Fuck colour hair was that? It looked good, though - damned good... he felt the world swim around him, and he slumped in the guy's arms.

"No, kid, no, you don't get to pass out on me! Kid!" he shook the kid, but he was already going limp and near unconsciousness.

Inoue snarled to himself. The kid had worked up a fuss about going to a hospital, and on top of that, how was he supposed to admit somebody into the emergency room without his name or what the hell had happened to him?!

His bright crimson locks hid the twitch in his left eye as Inoue stepped up to the curb and kicked the door of a waiting taxi, waking the driver who sprang to life upon seeing blood dripping from potential customers.

"To my place," Inoue muttered. "Main and Fifth. Fast."

The driver opened the door and Inoue got in the car, leaving the boy draped across his lap as he pulled the door closed and reached into his pocket, throwing a fistful of bills at the driver.






Reven woke slowly - and painfully. His leg throbbed like it were in a vice; his head hammered like he was still in Chad's club, pressed up against the stage, feeling every thump of the music's bass. But he felt surprisingly warm - and more comfortable than he'd ever known a hospital to be.

He'd been a couple times, when he'd first been in the city and lost all his stuff - then when Chad got a little too rough, teaching him the rules. And both times, he'd snuck out before anyone came asking questions, like who he was, where he came from, where were his parent/guardians...he forgot the answers himself, sometimes!

Then he realised he wasn't in the damned hospital at all - he was in a room, looked like someone's lounge. He felt couch cushions under his back - deep ones; soft ones. Leather, or something. Money, he thought, and then felt sick at that being his first, instinctive thought.

He struggled a little, to get upright. Looking down, he saw his jeans ripped open, and bandaging on his cut leg. He saw a table beside him, with a glass of water. He saw other furnishings, in pale wood and chrome, and bare walls. He ran a grimy hand through his long, black hair, feeling dirty and insecure - then, looking across the room, he saw the guy who'd picked him up - in all senses of the word, he supposed.

He sat on a chair, arms resting on his knees, in his shirt sleeves. Watching him wake.

The kid didn't look surprised that he was in a stranger's home... he didn't even look worried that he had been carted away from wherever he'd been headed.

And then there was the bag the boy didn't seem to want to give up-- even when he was unconscious he had gripped the bag like his life depended on it.

"There's aspirin on the table," Inoue muttered, slipping his hands into the pockets of his ripped jeans and standing.

He had been worried for a while there, debating throwing the kid out while unconscious... having a person die in his place wasn't what he needed at the moment. For now, he needed a cigarette.

He stood and walked over to the balcony, walking through the open doors and staring out over the city from his view at the thirtieth floor. Pulling his lighter from his pocket, he lit the cigarette that had been dangling from his lips for over an hour as he sat there staring at the kid, analyzing him, and wishing he would wake.

Reven took a quick look round. His hand had reached instinctively for his bag - it was beside him on the floor, and he swallowed the sigh of relief. Guess the guy might have been through it already, but there was nothing in there that'd make any sense to him.

He watched the guy stand, and move across the apartment - he was tall, and sorta graceful; Reven felt a frisson of something he supposed was envy. Guy had clean clothes; guy had his own place. Money for a cab, too, as he'd obviously brought Reven here somehow - and enough money to compensate a cab driver for blood stains and God knows what else it looked like they were up to. Had cigarettes, too!

"Gimme one?" Reven asked - his voice came out hoarsely. "You can call me Reven. If you want."

Inoue looked back when he heard a rasp of a voice and couldnít believe what he thought he heard. He walked back into the room and over to the couch, looking down at the kid with one eye narrowed.

A short, bitter laugh left him as he inhaled on the cigarette and took it from his lips, holding it out for the kid between two fingers as he exhaled.

"It's a dirty habit," he mused. "But you're probably not worried about your body's condition in that trade." He inclined his chin towards the obvious hickies and scratch marks across Reven's neck and chest, and the rest he had seen on the boy's inner thighs while wrapping his wound.

It had become painfully obvious what this kid did for a living with each minute that had passed once Inoue had entered the apartment and started stripping him down, hunting for the source of the blood. The bites, scratches, bruises... especially the bruises.

There was a set shaped like two hands where one would grip at Reven's hips to keep him still while thrusting into him.

Reven flushed. Shit, he thought he was pretty used to the jibes by now - the contempt he saw in most people's eyes. Hadn't seen much else in anyone's for a long time. He drew on the cigarette, trying not to cough, as his chest stretched painfully under the deep breath.

Looks like he'd hurt more than his knees when he jumped. Or maybe it was the client - and his two friends. They'd been particularly brutal tonight - Reven had gone limp in their hands as soon as he realised he was out of his league. But when they held him down, and started to carve an initial on his inner thigh...then he'd fought back.

He looked at the bandage - it was well done. Hid the evidence - hid the pain.

Inoue leaned on the couch back slowly, staring at the kid. He was cute for sure, with his long locks and large eyes, but he had the taint of innocence robbed about him. He watched the cigarette burn down to the filter and pointed to the ash tray on the coffee table beside the couch. "So. Reven. Are you planning on staying long?"

Reven stared at the guy - what the fuck? What sorta joke was that? And then - he amazed himself - he laughed aloud. Chad liked him to laugh - said it was attractive. Said he had the face of an angel, and the laugh of a demon child - a bold, rich, infectious sound, rippling out of his thin little kid's body.

He threw back the hair that had fallen over his forehead, and his eyes locked on to the guy's sardonic look. "You're the host, right?" he grinned back. "This is no hospital - no gutter. You brought me here - and I ain't complaining!" His leg throbbed again, and he winced. "Looks like I can't go on the run just yet anyway. You give me the option, I'll take it - I'll stay as long as I can pay the rent!"

Reven knew it was just bravado - knew the guy was just waiting for him to wake up to throw him out. He caught the guy's eye again - couldn't make him out, for God's sake. Why had he bothered to patch him up? Did he want sex? What other reason did anyone ever do anything for him?

Inoue had asked, just so he could get a feel for this kid-- understand how he worked.

It was easier to learn about a person's attitude and habits if you caught them off-guard and made them talk.

This one liked to hide his true feelings behind a smile, but his last comment had been honest...

So. He needed a place to live did he?

"We'll see. I'm not sure about you yet, kid." He stood back up and yawned, then opened one eye and looked at the clock. "Christ, it's morning," he muttered drowsily.

"Take the damn pills, kiddo-- I need to sleep and I can't relax unless you're out cold at the same time I am." If the kid thought Inoue was joking, he was sadly mistaken. He walked around the couch and sat on the edge of the coffee table, watching until the pills were swallowed. "You're sleeping in my bed and you're not getting out until I'm awake, got it? If I so much as think you're going to try and screw me over, you're out on your ass."

He had had whores in his house before-- who hadn't?

Inoue had learned the first time the hard way. You don't go to sleep when the whore is still awake, you don't let them know you have a lot of money, and you don't answer the door when you wake up with your valuables missing along with the whore.

Usually, there was an angry pimp on the other side of the door, looking for his whore and more money from the man he had been informed was rich.

Reven had struggled with the pills - his throat hurt, too. Fuck, he was a wreck - he wasn't gonna be going anywhere soon. He couldn't risk meeting Chad - he couldn't risk being hobbled like this out on the street. He realised the guy was no virgin, here - he knew how things were.

So perhaps he'd not look for the easy money today - he needed the rest, and he could think things out after that. See what the guy was up to - see what he could make from it. See what new mess he'd got himself into... he yawned. He was having trouble seeing anything, in all honesty.

He cursed the loss of blood - cursed the pain. Cursed the fact he hadn't eaten for a couple days, 'cos he didn't think there was much protein in cum, and now he was weak as a kitten...

He opened a half bleary eye - the guy was still staring at him. Appraising him. "Gonna take me to bed then?" he yawned, cheekily. Might as well give the guy a laugh! "Can't offer you much in the way of games, though - kinda less than at my best..."

The kid was making jokes, but the man with flaming red hair wasn't interested in play any longer. He needed sleep for his line of work.

Inoue nodded at Reven's obedience with the pills and leaned down, scooping the light frame into his arms once more and carrying him into the bedroom.

To anybody else, he'd offer food and a warm drink.

To this kid whose stomach he could hear rumbling quite plainly, he would offer nothing of the sort-- he had suffered heavy blood loss and was already likely starved. Throwing too much to eat into the mix would land the kid with nausea and eventual retching... a body can only take so much.

He laid Reven on the waterbed gently, and left the room, returning with a mug of warm cream. He had no milk, so this would have to do, plus cream would be good for the kid-- he probably needed the calcium and vitamins.

He wasn't going to force the kid to drink, though-- Inoue put the mug down on the night stand closest to Reven while walking around to his own side of the bed, pulling his shirt off in the process. He dropped it on the floor and unzipped his pants apathetically, then pulled off his socks and sat on the edge of the bed, pulling his feet up and flopping down heavily against the thick pillows, his eyes sliding shut as sleep called.

He had thrown a sleeping pill into the mix he had given Reven-- he didn't have much to worry about. So, he let sleep call to him.

Reven bit back the groan as he was carried again, into an equally elegant bedroom. Just a damned big bed, and little else except for a wardrobe, couple chairs, bedside tables and lamps.

There was a picture on the wall here, but it was just an abstract swirl to him. Wouldn't know if it was worth a cent or not. He was laid on the bed, and felt it shift underneath it, moulding gently round his thin frame - he gasped. He was yawning a lot now - he reckoned he'd had more than aspirin, but he hadn't the strength to complain.

Guy wanted to sleep beside him that was OK. Guy wanted to play with him while he was unconscious - well, it'd happened before, OK? Though the thought of it made him sick. He watched the guy fetch a jug of something, put it on the table beside him, then get undressed on his own side of the room. When he lay down, Reven felt the bed shift again, adapting to the pair of them. He sneaked a look at the guy, lying beside him. He had his eyes shut. Naked, except for some rather classy boxers.

Good skin, slight covering of dark red hair on his chest - the crimson hair on his head fell softly round a slim, long neck. He was pretty muscled, though in an understated kinda way. He was no weightlifter. Long legs - hands lying carefully at his sides. Reven's eyes widened as he saw the markings on the guy's arm and shoulder - what the fuck? Some kinda tattoo - Reven had seen worse.

But he was somehow surprised to see this guy going for that sorta thing. He yawned again - his eyes were closing. Didn't look like the guy was in the mood for anything else, after all. Reven was relieved - of course he was! His last words before sleep were muffled. "You gotta name, man? In case I wanna call it out in my sleep, y'know?"

Inoue opened one eye drowsily. He had almost been asleep when the kid had spoken.

"Drink the cream," he muttered, rolling onto his chest and planting his face in the pillows. A muffled "Inoue," came from within the plush cushions as he felt the bed sway with Reven's movements.

He could tell this kid his real name for two reasons... first of all it didn't matter, he didn't use his own real name for work anyhow. And second, if Reven ever did pose a threat, it wasn't hard to kill a wounded and starved whore.

He pushed his boxers off and kicked them to the floor, drifting back into near unconsciousness but denying himself sleep until he was sure the kid was KOed.

Weird name, thought Reven. Weird tattoo. Nice butt - he didn't often get such as good view of his johns. Then he laughed at himself, at such a load of ridiculous crap going through his mind.

The cream had felt soothing on his throat, warm in his belly. Yet another bizarre act of care - this whole thing was bizarre! Hell, whatever the guy said, he might ransack the apartment - he might throw up on the sheets - he might steal every penny and vanish into the night..."Drop it", he told himself. "Shut the fuck up and sleep. That's all you're good for at the moment." His eyes closed - he sank into blissful nothingness.



Inoue woke before the kid, and realized that his arm was about Reven's waist, and the boy was snuggled up against him, his breathing soft against the redhead's chest.

He sighed and watched the boy sleep. He didn't look quite so desensitized when he was asleep... though he retained the wounded expression on his face.

Inoue sat up slowly without waking the boy and slid out of the bed with catlike grace, glancing at the moon outside. It couldn't be much past nine with the height of the stars.

Perfect.

He began his routine stretches, first with his neck and then his arms, working his way down to his back and thighs, then his calves and finally his feet. He grunted and stood back up after the third toe-touch, putting a hand to his stomach absently while heading to the washroom.

That pain in his gut would be there for the rest of his life. It was a reminder, never to let your heart get in the way of your missions. His expression hardened as he turned on the shower, full-blast and hot to the point of scalding but not enough to wound.

Reven woke abruptly, though his mouth was dry and he was a little disorientated - for a second, he couldn't remember where he was. He moved his leg and groaned - it was stiff now, as well as painful. He hoped to God there wasn't any permanent damage.

A glance at the bedroom window showed that it was darkening outside - he guessed he'd slept all through the day. It was an unheard of luxury. Just one night ago he'd been in a very different position - he'd been half-naked and fighting for his life with some drug-dazed lunatic client, who'd slapped him hard when he protested about the 'script' - several times, with enthusiasm, until he'd been too dizzy to think straight.

But he'd seen the knife coming - the bright blade, clutched in a vengeful, frustrated grip - and he'd twisted quickly, taking the brunt of the blow in his leg, rather than his side. Then he'd run - and jumped - and ended up here.

He shifted his body again - he needed to pee.

No sign of the red-haired guy - had he gone? Reven lifted his legs over the side of the bed, marvelling again at its movement under his thighs, and wincing with the soreness of his wound. He raised himself slowly, and the tattered remains of his jeans caught on the edge of the bandaging.

Damned things were near rags anyway - he struggled for a few moments, pushing them down off his legs, so that he stood in just his washed-out briefs, and his overlong tee shirt. Then he took some tentative steps towards finding the bathroom.

Inoue had half his body in the shower when Reven appeared in the doorway, looking drowsy and disoriented. The redhead sighed and stepped back out, walking across the cool black marble and looking down at the kid.

"Arms up," he said nonchalantly, taking hold of the bottom of the boy's shirt and waiting.

Reven peered through the steamy heat of the room. Suddenly, he felt a little young, and weird. The red-haired guy - Inoue, that was his name, right? - had been getting into the shower, looked like. Reven had been startled - he'd stopped where he stood, unsure of his welcome. "It's the drugs - the shock," he told himself.

Nothing to do with the sight of the tall, attractive man, stark naked, and ready to wash himself in what looked like a fiercely hot shower. Nothing to do with the cold black floor under his feet - nothing to do with a sudden desire to sob. When Inoue stepped over to him, and started to help him undress, the passivity overcame him.

He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a proper wash - perhaps the guy would let him sponge himself down after his shower. He could wash his hair, for God's sake, it felt like rats' tails, and he'd always been so proud of it...

A burning shower was the absolute last thing this wisp of a kid needed right now. Hot water to tender skin was insanity, and on top of that it wasn't wise to get the wound wet. If Inoue knew anything, he knew about wounds and what was best and worst for them.

He slipped the kid's shirt over his head and hooked his thumbs into the tattered underpants, sliding them down carefully and avoiding the bound thigh. If the boy was embarrassed, Inoue didn't know or didn't care.

He lifted Reven up once more and carried him across the large bathroom to the edge of the shower, sitting him on the ledge where he usually kept his towels. Steam wafted over the thin body as Inoue turned the cold water knob until the stream flowing over his shoulder was just above lukewarm, and he took a face cloth off the rack beside Reven, soaking it in water before wiping the cloth over the boy's dirty cheek.

He felt like he was bathing an infant, but he couldn't do anything other than continue. This kid made his gut ache almost as much as stretching did.

Memories of his own sordid youth would swirl over Inoue's thoughts any time he looked at the kid, and his attempt at kindness was reinstated. He rinsed and soaked the cloth several times, running it down the boy's neck and chest, giving Reven some idea of what he was supposed to do to clean himself.

He skipped the hip area and moved right to the boy's legs, gliding the cloth across them and avoiding the bandages. When he had washed everything but between Reven's legs, he handed the cloth over and stepped fully into the shower himself, turning the cold back off and putting his shoulder-length hair under the torrent.

Reven flinched - as he realised what Inoue was about to do, his hand wavered at his side, ready to push the attention away. What was he - a kid or something, to be washed for the day's school? But it fell back. The face cloth was as soft as the towels he'd used in the past - the water was warm and soothing. Inoue's hand was firm but careful. Reven felt his head go back, as the cloth wiped on down to his neck and shoulders.

He felt the breath catch in his chest, and some of the most knotted muscles in his shoulders ease. The cloth kept wiping - it stroked over his chest, and under his arms - he lifted his arms again, obediently. It paused when it reached his groin - he looked up quickly, catching another sardonic look from Inoue. Then the cloth carried on to his legs.

When Inoue stopped washing, Reven didn't realise at first - he was still savouring the feel of another person touching him in this most unusual way. He wondered what the ache was in his gut - hunger, probably, right? Then Inoue had stepped away from him, leaving him the cloth, and fixing the shower back to how he liked it for himself. Reven sat there, watching the man's back as he stepped in, and the water cascaded over his head and body - he wasn't sure what else he should do, really, and he wasn't sure his leg would take his full weight if he hauled himself off and down again.

And it wasn't an unpleasant sight. The guy was good-looking - he was athletic. He seemed to have no embarrassment at being naked with Reven here in the bathroom - he seemed oblivious, actually! The water trickled along the patterns of his weird tattoo - he washed himself thoroughly and methodically - this was a guy who looked after himself.

A single-minded guy, Reven thought. Doesn't need anyone else around...

When he was relaxed, Inoue turned off the shower and reached past Reven, grabbing a thick black towel and rubbing it through his hair a bit before drying the rest of his body off.

Once satisfied, he opened the towel and wrapped it around Reven like a cocoon before lifting the boy off the ledge and carrying him back to the bedroom. He placed Reven on the bed and left the boy to dry himself as he saw fit while heading to the closet.

Black turtleneck, black slacks, and black socks. Inoue decided against underwear today, picking out his clothes and tossing them on the bed, walking about the room. He left and headed to the kitchen, still undressed, and returned a few minutes later with a glass of orange juice and an apple. These he placed on the night stand in place of the mug he had offered the night before, then he returned to the kitchen, grabbing himself a glass of juice and taking a seat on the bed.

"How many days would you guess before your pimp figures out where you've gone?" he asked casually, putting his glass down and leaning back on his elbows.

Reven had dried himself hurriedly - he still felt disadvantaged in front of this confident man. Yeah, he talked a good game, perhaps, and his sharp tongue had got him out of a tight spot or two, but he wasn't sure how this guy saw him.

Fuck, look at him, wandering around his apartment naked, as if Reven weren't there at all! Right, thought Reven, with a strange twinge of anger. Guess I'm not, as far as he's concerned! His eye strayed to the juice and apple, hungrily - when Inoue sat back down on the bed, he snatched at the food as if it might be taken away again.

When Inoue asked about Chad, Reven almost choked on the bite of apple. "Don't know," he said, cautiously. "He didn't see which way I went - I had ten minutes or so on him, 'cos he thought I was passed out in the bathroom or something." Reven had heard the hammering and the angry shouts on the bathroom door, even as he wriggled out of the window. "Anyone see us get in the cab?"

Inoue stared at him, and shook his head. Perhaps he wasn't used to being interrogated by a whore, thought Reven, a little bitterly. But it was his ass that was on the line, here. Chad was no easy guy to work for...

"Days, Reven, I need to know how many days I have. Are his resources good? Does he have underground look-outs? This is the sort of thing I need to know-- I have to work it around my schedule." What, did he have to spell it out for the kid?

...Apparently so, because there wasn't any light of understanding in his eyes. "I'm going to make him disappear, kiddo," he said flatly, sitting back up and lifting his own glass to his lips, downing the contents.

He stood then and ran a hand through his damp locks, waiting till the kid was finished eating. "Drink your juice; it's good to get strength up."

Who the hell was this guy? Reven thought, stunned. He stared so hard his eyeballs hurt - what did this all mean? "Why?" he blurted out. "Why are you gonna do that? What's Chad to you?"

He wondered wildly if the guy was some kinda psycho. He couldn't remember if he'd brought his shirt out from the bathroom - couldn't remember where his shoes were. For the first time, he was scared. He couldn't get out of here easily - and he didn't know how he'd outwit this guy - this amazing guy with his casual arrogance, and his strange bluntness.

"Chad?" Good, a name-- that would come in handy. "Heís nothing to me but an obstacle. After all, you're his, arenít you? If I decide to let you stay here, we can't have him busting down my door looking for blood. So, Iíll take him out of the picture before there is one to paint."

He shrugged again. He wasn't even sure if he'd keep the kid... there were things in Reven he saw that he was liking, but there were a lot more things that would need to be drilled out of him before he was nearly good enough to take on the duties Inoue was toying with.

And, he reminded himself, he could always wipe the kid out too, if he failed to meet expectations.