PART 9

 

Reven watched the blond boy walk his way through his apartment like he reckoned he lived there; he watched him walk out of the door and close it behind him like he didn't care whether he did or not.

Sphynx was unique - Sphynx was an enigma.

And yet maybe not as mysterious as he would like to be! Reven had met many more people in his life than Sphynx had; he'd encountered an astonishing range of motivations and fears - and behavior that could either delight or disgust. He'd seen more horror and devilish machinations than the boy could ever imagine.

More blood and death - and more sorrow, he believed.

And so he thought he understood more of Sphynx than the blond boy suspected. Whether that kept him one step ahead was still to be proved. For now, his body felt used and weary, and the muscles cried softly with complaint. Lain at his waist was a welcome comfort; he ruffled the boys brunette locks gently.

"You didn't hurt me, Lain," he said quietly. "I'm glad you took me there. It - will help me, I think. I just… it's too much at the moment to assimilate. You must give me time to absorb it; to come to terms with it."

The boy snuggled more closely to him: looking down on him almost fondly, Reven couldn't forget how Sphynx had pushed him away when they fucked - how Sphynx had rejected his partner, seeking instead to take and enjoy the man, Reven.

"Lain?" he said, a little hesitantly. "Did you want to leave with Sphynx? I won't keep you here against your will." Sphynx had bullied the boy and ignored his devotion - fuck, the guy had all but spat in Lain's face!

There'd been no call from Sphynx for Lain to follow him when he left - no word of goodbye or friendship. But Reven was wise enough to know that relationships weren't always based on mutual respect. "It's kinda hard for me to understand that you want to stay around." But I want it - too! For the moment, he thought, surprised at himself.

He stirred carefully, not wanting to disturb Lain's caress, but getting comfortable on the bed. "I have a couple of appointments tomorrow - I'd like you to come along with me - give me your input."

Something intrigued him about the boy - he was teased with slight amusement, imagining Lain beside him when he went to meet a new client! "It's a new organization, I'm not even sure who's in charge. I was suggested to them for security - for my contacts. Just an initial meeting, to scope each other out. You could give me your opinion of them - see what it is they really want; see if they're straight with me."


Lain sat up and brushed the hair out of his face, staring at Reven. He smiled gladly at the assurance that he hadn't hurt the man, and his own body filled with warmth as he saw the trust in Reven's eyes towards him when he mentioned having Lain's company while he worked.

He was making progress; he was earning the man's trust. Slowly but surely.

"No, I talked with Sphynx before. He understands that I want to be with you right now. I don't want to leave." He crawled on top of the body laid out before him and placed a kiss on the tip of Reven's nose, lying on the man comfortably. "Sphynx can survive without me easily. I'm the one that depends on him and we both know it. But he loves me, and I love him, and that's why we're together; but he's an understanding man if you just explain things to him."

He nestled his head on Reven's shoulder and wrapped his arms around the man's neck. "Are the meetings scary?" he whispered. "Even if they are, I'll go."


Reven gave a short laugh. Scary?

"Sometimes. I'm not dealing with primary school teachers here, Lain. I have skills that aren't on any fucking job description. I don't have interviews - I don't do training with the office staff." He didn't want to scare Kalain - but the boy needed to know what he was getting in to.

"I - well, after Inoue went -" Why could he never say died? "I wasn't much good as an assassin any more. To be honest, I hadn't the taste for it. So I've been working in other areas - protection - security - whatever you want to call it. When they don't have anyone of their own, or no-one they can trust to do a job right, they call on me."

He didn't tell Lain how he'd also needed to take months of recovery after the last battle with their nemesis, Carl Hellman - and then he had to keep a low profile for a while, while the federal investigation got pushed to the bottom of an in-tray.

Reven was used to living with risk. But Inoue had wanted him to stay alive; had wanted him to continue with his life. It was only sensible that he took precautions with himself.
"You can stay close to me, and no-one will bother you." He smiled at the slender body, lying across him, folded into his arms. He couldn't agree with Lain about the devotion he obviously had towards Sphynx - and this whole arrangement seemed odd in the extreme.

But when had his life been anything other?


So.

Reven had finally said it.

It didn't seem like he'd actually noticed he'd admitted to it, but he'd finally told Lain outright that he took lives for money. At least, he used to.

Lain tensed slightly at that, but said nothing on the subject, instead concentrating more on everything else the man had said.

"I'll stay close to you forever. But... how close?" he asked playfully. "This close?"

He kissed Reven's neck.

"This close?"

He kissed up along the man's jaw line.

"Or maybe this clo--" his words were cut off as Reven's mouth crushed against his, and Lain blushed slightly, still unused to such displays of affection.

Sphynx kissed him, certainly, but it always felt so different than when Reven did it.


Reven liked the way the boy arched underneath him when he kissed him; he liked the sound of the laughter underlying Lain's voice; the youth and enthusiasm bubbling there.

It wasn't his way - well, it hadn't been for years. Sometimes he felt that he became more like Inoue as the time passed - the seriousness; the dogmatic approach to everything. The commitment. He wasn't sorry to carry his mentor's legacy like that - but he had his own character, albeit hiding, albeit mourning. So it was refreshing to have Lain's character around him!

He rolled Lain gently off him with a laugh of his own, and stood up, stretching. "Get dressed, Lain, or take a shower if you want. I'll make us some food and then you can do what you like until tomorrow. I don't have much to entertain you, but there's a radio in the lounge - and an old TV that I used for developing a camera system once.

It should still work, or I can fix it for you." Lain was looking up at him, even as he wriggled back into his jeans. Reven smiled at him, knowing what he wanted to ask. "I'll just read, Lain. I have a couple of books I'm working through. It's enough for me. I'm a quiet companion, eh? Maybe too boring for you."

He'd had months of restricted mobility - months of reduced strength, after the battle.

Reven had taken that time to brush up on his reading - to improve his skills. It had been an escape of sorts - a way of shutting out the horror and grief of his life. A way of living through other imaginations, other minds. He'd read anything he could get his hands on - Inoue's old text books; fiction; history.

Sometimes he jotted notes for future reference - sometimes he found original words on the paper, as if he wrote for himself. He thought that was nonsense - he scrapped most of his early attempts. But now he would sometimes write, too - short, contemplative pieces, about people who had never lived, or who never would.

It was therapy, he laughed scornfully to himself.

"And there are chores that I have to do, living on my own," he sighed. "Laundry - cleaning. Ain't my forte - but it has to be done." Did his life sound lonely to Lain? He guessed so. He couldn't be worrying about that. The boy had to take him as he was; as he'd become.


Lain showered and ate the meal Reven had prepared, fawning over it and praising the man's culinary skills.

When the dishes were done, and Reven set about to his cleaning, Lain simply followed him around silently, or helped where he could-- moved items for vacuuming, learned to fold laundry and helped with that too, once he got the hang of it.

After that, he watched Reven exercise, and stretch, showing off his flexibility and strength. Lain had been more than impressed then, staring with awe at how much the man could lift and how far he could push his body.

When the dark haired man finally settled down on the couch with a book, Lain took a seat behind him, putting his legs out on either side of the man's hips and placing one single kiss on Reven's spine.

He felt the man stiffen slightly, ready to object, and Lain beat him to the first words spoken between them since lunch. "I'm not being silly; let me do this, please?"

He reached up and took hold of Reven's shoulders, and pressed lightly upon them, moving his fingers in circular motions and shifting the muscle gently, adding a little pressure. As Kalain suspected, the ex-assassin's back was riddled with tension, probably left unattended for ages.

He began his massage slowly, and purposefully avoided the areas with tender or fresh wounds, but still worked to the best of his ability.

"Just relax and read and let me do what I want," he murmured softly, while massaging the muscles of Reven's left shoulder.

Sphynx had taught him how to do this, what places to concentrate on-- the blonde often needed kinks worked out of his back after a long day or a hard night's dancing, and Kalain was pretty sure he was good at this.

An hour later, his hands getting sore, Lain slowed the massaging and finally stopped, letting his hands come to rest around Reven's waist and relaxing his head against the man's back, closing his eyes.

He could sleep like this, easily.

The silence of the apartment was so different from the constant noise of the street... the beat of Reven's heart was a lullaby and a ballad.

He sighed, at peace for the moment.


Reven sat at the kitchen counter, stirring his tea and turning the pages of an atlas rather aimlessly. He heard the stirring in the bedroom and was startled for a moment. That was followed by the creak of the bed, then bare footsteps padding across his lounge. He turned just as Lain appeared in the doorway of the kitchen, rubbing carelessly at his tousled hair.

The boy's eyes were sticky with sleep - there were creases across his nude torso from the sheets. He wore nothing at all, just as he'd slept all night beside Reven.

Reven was amused at how relaxed the boy obviously felt.

"You slept well," he grinned. "Snored in my ear on the couch last night, so I had to carry you to bed."

"Undressed me?" mumbled Lain, a slight flush high on his cheeks.

"Yes," replied Reven. It had been a strangely non-sexual thing to do for the boy - but very pleasant.

"Are we ready for work yet?" asked Lain, his voice waking up some eagerness. His eyes strayed to the counter, to the tea.

"Eat breakfast first. We're expected at ten. No-one has official business any earlier than that in the businesses that I deal with. I'm to meet someone called Paola - I don't know if that's a first or second name. It doesn't really matter." He glanced over at Lain again, his eyes raking up and down the slim body. Lain stretched gently, pulling an arm down behind his neck. It straightened his shoulders - opened out his smooth, pale chest.

His nipples were sharp little brown nubs, perking up since he'd left the warmth of the bed.

"Get dressed then," Reven said. Seems he was always saying that to this boy... "I'll make the breakfast."


Lain dressed quickly, and they ate, then headed out the door after a quick wardrobe change. They had to look presentable, Reven had said. So Lain now donned clean black trousers and a white button-up shirt that was a little big for him, tucked into the pants.

He felt like a rich man, and laughed a little, dancing about in his clothes as Reven put on a similar outfit, though his shirt was blue and he wore a leather jacket overtop.

He was ushered into a sleek car and Reven got in the driver's seat-- the boy watched admiringly as his host drove, his body poised and calm in the plush seat, his breathing steady and his eyes hidden behind mirrored sunglasses.

They stopped at a large, fancy restaurant before he realized they had been traveling for long, and Reven got out, so Kalain followed suit.

Reven took a seat at a table near the back of the restaurant, facing the doors, and Lain sat beside him. A few minutes later after the waitress had taken their orders, I'll have an espresso and the boy will have water, three men came and sat on the other side of the table with them, two looking rather ugly and burly and the middle one lean and hawk-like with dark glittering eyes and an insincere smile.


Reven didn't rise when the men approached their table - didn't offer a handshake when they sat themselves down. He knew the type. These were lackeys. The guy in the middle - the lean one - was maybe less of a drone, but he still knew he wasn't in the presence of the brains of this operation.

He wondered why - he assumed they thought him insignificant enough to be dealt with by minions.

He didn't have the energy to be either intrigued or insulted. He'd take the job or he wouldn't - it would be his choice alone. That's how it had been for the last few months. That was the way he insisted upon.

"So - none of you are Paola, I assume? What message do you have for me?" He kept his tone brusque - assertive.

The heavies looked instinctively toward the Hawk. His dark, beaded eyes flickered quickly as if he were angry at being taken for nothing more than a messenger boy, but he covered it well.

Reven readjusted his opinion of the man slightly. When Hawk spoke, his voice was low, and slightly hoarse, as if his throat hurt him somehow.

"We believe you have a reputation on the street. That you accept commissions for money; that your success rate is -" the man paused, then continued with the hint of a sardonic smile at this mouth, "impressive for one so young. There've been few who've made that mark - few before you. Or so we believe."

Reven felt Lain stiffen beside him, reminding him that he had the boy to think of as well. "We?" he said. "And who is we? The commissions I accept are maybe less than the legend - yet more than in common knowledge. But I work only for the organizations that I know - that have similar standards. Who do we represent?"

Hawk didn't answer, and for the first time Reven felt a stab of irritation - maybe something stronger.

He didn't like the man's arrogance - he didn't like the way his eyes narrowed when he spoke, and the way they glanced in disdain at Reven's companion.

"The boy -" said Hawk, acknowledging Lain for the first time. His voice was a sneer. "Do you bring children with you? Is he some kind of a pet for you? I suggest you send him away whilst we talk business. You can play with him later."

Reven could feel Lain's rage emanating from the boy beside him - and maybe something else. Fear? Some kind of a message for Reven that he wasn't able to decipher? "He's with me here. He stays with me here. You don't need to know anything else."

Hawk raised an eyebrow. "So… he has your protection, does he? I'm intrigued to hear that a man like you -" he paused again, and smiled openly now, " - a man like you has such a weakness in him!"

Reven felt the hair on the back of his neck rise - he fought down his anger at the man's insolence. He glanced quickly at the men on either side of Hawk, measuring them up without them even realizing. He felt the first frisson of adrenalin rushing through him - the preparation for danger. He had no fear for himself.

But for Lain…

That was something else.

He didn't turn to Lain, but his words were directed to him. "Tell me what you think of all this, boy," he said, softly. "Tell me what you think of this man, and the business he wishes to discuss with me."

He saw Hawk's eyes widen with astonishment and anger, at Reven's involvement of a mere child. He saw the heavies on the other side of the table look puzzled; uncomfortable with his behavior; off balance.

But that was how he wanted them.

Reven sat back in his seat as if fully relaxed, and folded his arms across his chest.

"Tell me," he repeated. "I'm bored with this man's ill manners, and his grating speech. I want to hear you speak now."


Lain straightened in his seat, nodding once to Reven. Part of him wanted to offer a smile, but his better judgment told him this was not the time to be making people comfortable.

He turned his head to face the brute on the very left and began to speak immediately, having evaluated all three men throughout the short conversation and even before it.

"Young, angry. Something happened when he was very young, scars indicate burns on the neck and likely across the entire left side of the body, as he has a slight lag in both left leg and arm and rests his weight habitually to the right. Has the gleam of the hardened soul in his eyes, and has no qualms with taking lives. Has done so for years. Will betray others easily to prevent being the one betrayed first."

He glanced over to the man on the far right now. "That one is a soldier, a warrior-- he is given an order and does not think, he simply acts. No matter what the command, he'll do it as long as he gets paid. He isn't even listening to me right now; he's only doing what was ordered of him, and that's to keep his company alive and break bones when the situation arises. His eyes are glazed over with complacency."

Lain placed his chin in the palm of his hand and rested it there, looking directly at the hawk-like man, his eyebrows lowering.

"You. You are nervous, and embittered. But mostly nervous and trying to hide it. You seem like you're about to betray somebody. You're scheming and trying to come out of the situation looking like a hero. If I were to guess, I'd say you're planning to hurt my partner here with the gun you have hidden in your sleeve, peeking out at the cuff. You'd just tell your boss he attacked you, and you'd be praised for taking out the rebellious killer."

When the man's eyes widened in horror, Lain clenched his jaw.

Now was the point where he relied on the evaluation he had of Reven-- that the man really was an incredible killer with natural talent and frightening reflexes. Hawk man slid the gun all the way out of his sleeve and stood immediately, pointing the gun at Lain's head and letting out a roar of anger and fear. "Devil child!" he screamed, pulling the trigger.


Reven had already moved. He'd blanked his mind of any surprise at what Lain might say - it wasn't the true purpose of his request for his opinion. All the time the boy was talking in his soft, clear voice, Reven was already moving; already taking back control of the situation.

Even as he heard Lain's gasp beside him, and saw the dull glint of the gun in Hawk's hand, his hands were under the restaurant table and lifting it easily, flipping it towards the three angry men. It slammed straight into Hawk's chin, and also caught the others as they scrambled to their feet.

The muzzle of the gun was deflected up, there was the sharp bark of the shot, and a light fitting above them shattered, spraying sharp glass down over the floor. There was a scream from the kitchen - the waiting staff scattered.

Reven pushed Lain sideways, but the boy was already leaping away to take cover. Reven himself moved like a wild cat - fast, smooth, and deadly. He had no time to watch himself - to see how quickly his reflexes still were; he just knew what he would do. His knife was slipped out into his hand like an extension of his very arm.

He leapt swiftly over the fallen table, slicing quickly at the man on the right and seeing him fall to the ground, clutching a throat that pumped hot, dark blood. The blindly obedient soldier was neutralized quickly - he'd serve no other purpose except to hinder.

He kicked out to the other side, connecting with the other man's jaw, knocking him back. There was an unnaturally deep groan from him; an ominous crack of bone, and his body stumbled back on to the restaurant floor.


Reven knelt over Hawk as the man tried to get back to his feet. He was stunned from the blow from the table - he reached helplessly for his gun, but it had fallen from his hand as he himself fell. Reven saw it behind the man's back - he saw Lain sheltering there, too, and wondered if the boy would try to grab it, to protect himself. He had no time to worry about the reactions of allies - only enemies.

He pressed a firm hand to Hawk's neck, holding him down and half blocking his breathing. Hawk floundered - his limbs flailed as he tried to suck in what remained of his life. Reven's other hand held the knife, still shining with the blood of the other man. And he pressed it none too gently against Hawk's breast.

One slow, forceful thrust up between the ribs, and it would all be over. He looked into Hawk's wide eyes - the man knew he faced death in the next few seconds.

"So you're the one about to betray someone, to save your own putrid skin. So tell me who you plan to betray. Tell me who your boss is, and what they want from me. Dead or alive."


Lain reached for the gun hesitantly, taking it into his hands. It was cold, and heavy.

He put his finger over the trigger and held it in both hands, pointed to the floor as he watched Reven hover over the hawk man.

The brunette shivered slightly.

Such a weapon, making others so easy to kill...

The hawk man parted his lips to speak, but suddenly the doors to the restaurant were flung open, and a man with a larger gun barreled inside, aiming for either Reven or the hawk man, Lain couldn't be sure. What he knew was, Reven was in danger.

He didn't think, he just acted.

On instinct, and reenacting something he'd prayed he would never do or see again in his life.

The gun went off, and Lain remained standing, legs apart and arms braced as he held the gun out, hands shaking. The interrupting man blinked, shocked, and dropped his gun, lifting his hands to his chest and clutching the gaping hole he found there, pouring his crimson life out onto his stomach and the floor.

The interrupted killer fell to his knees, releasing his chest, and then collapsed face-first amidst the upturned chairs and food all across the floor. Lain refused to release the gun, though he did lower it with trembling hands as his world went silent and not even Reven was real any more.

He shuddered and blinked slowly, shaking his head.

I didn't mean to... it was an accident. I'm sorry...!

He squeezed his eyes shut but remained perfectly still.


Reven heard the shot; saw the falling man. He had already twisted the grip of his knife, ready to throw at the new arrival, but he might not have been sure of being faster than the gun.

But Lain had had that covered, it seemed. He glanced over the boy's stance, well balanced on his feet, arms held rigid and both hands clutching the gun that was too heavy for him.

His face was whiter than the restaurant tablecloths and his body was now starting to shake - but he'd reacted well, and swiftly. Reven wondered what might have been in the boy's past to have taught him that.

He turned his eyes back on to the captive Hawk, but he directed his words to Lain. He didn’t know what shock the boy may be in – didn’t know how volatile he may be, and with a gun still in his hand. Had he asked too much of him? Led him into a danger that he didn’t deserve?

“Boy!” He was conscious of keeping Lain’s name out of this – but he needed his attention, quickly. “Listen to me! Stay with me. Come to me – give me the gun. It’s over now.”

From the corner of his eye, he saw Lain stir. The youth moved carefully, as if he weren’t sure of the steadiness of his legs; he skirted the bodies on the floor, stepping over small rivulets of blood seeping out from under the dead men’s limbs. Reven felt him stand beside him at last – he could sense the boy’s confusion and misery.

Underneath his grip, Hawk whimpered. Reven turned back to him, viciously.

“Another one dead!” he hissed. “There’s no help from there now, is there? That truly was your last hope.” He pressed the knife closer; it sliced through the fabric of the man’s jacket. He smelled the man’s fear. “Give me a name, you piece of shit. Tell me what you came to me for. Else I start slicing your flesh.”

Hawk’s hoarse voice was even more ragged. A last flash of hatred was in his eyes, though every muscle of his body shrank from the blade’s caress. “They need you to find the missing son of the family. I don’t know why he’s gone, where he’s gone. What he may have done to them to piss them off. Or what the fuck they want you to do with him if you find him! But there’s something that threatens the family – the business. Never seen them so agitated.”

He tried to cough; failed. The sound was a gargle in his bruised throat. “Salasso, that’s the family name. You’ll read about them in the papers – in the financial columns. They’ve got interests everywhere. You hear me? Everywhere! So you better watch your own step, you bastard! Paola will kill you for this!”

“So who is Paola?” Reven pressed the knife to Hawk’s shaking flesh; gripped again at his throat. It was a woman’s name. Another member of this family? Of this client who met his negotiations with a gun and the attempted murder of both him and Lain? But Hawk’s mouth was shut; his eyes hooded. He was drifting in and out of consciousness.

“What’ll you do with him?” came Lain’s soft voice, no more than a whisper. Reven thanked God the youngster had the sense not to call him by name. There were convoluted ways that his clients contacted him – and he never released his real name to them.

He realized how rash he’d been at bringing Lain with him today – there were all kinds of issues about the way he ran his life that he’d never had the thought or time to explain to the youth.

“I think he’s forfeited all reasonable rights, don’t you?” he said, almost as softly, though his voice was like grit against Lain’s young treble.

“I’ll kill him, of course.”


Lain heard the words Reven said, heard the request for the gun.

He moved closer to the dark-haired man, until he was standing barely a foot away from his side, but he didn't relinquish the weapon, nor did he say anything. His heart was pounding in his chest and his mouth was dry. He stared down at the man held at knifepoint, and his eyes widened.

The youth took a slow breath as he watched the little twitches of movement from the hawk man, the way his eyes darted about wildly.

This was no man. This was an animal, a stupid, crazed beast that had tried to harm Reven.

Tried to kill Reven! Tried to kill Lain!

Reven spoke now, I think he's forfeited all reasonable rights, don't you?

"I do," Lain replied. Animals don't have rights.

The same hardened look that had darkened his expressions against
Sphynx what seemed like weeks ago crossed the brunette's face again, and he lowered his eyebrows, narrowing his eyes and taking another slow, calming breath.

He lifted the gun and pulled the trigger easily in one fluid movement, and like that, the thing, the beast stopped moving. Its skull and blood were spattered across the floor and much of it had gotten on
Reven, but blood washes away. Blood of a thing meant nothing.

Lain let the gun drop from his fingers onto the still corpse and released the breath he'd been holding. No more threats against Reven, no more threats against Lain. Things were alright now. He could relax.

His shoulders sagged some, and the muscles in his face and body released their tension as the brunette returned to his normal self.
Yet, they were relaxing too much; he realized too late that he was falling, and still couldn't bring himself to mind that it was happening.

Things were alright now. So, it was ok if he went to sleep¦ just for a bit.

Lain's eyes were closed before he hit the floor with a dull thump, body entirely limp and head back, lips parted to take shallow breaths.



Shit! Reven hadn’t expected it – hadn’t expected Lain to hold on to the gun; to point it once again at Hawk; to blow his brains out all over the restaurant floor.
He would have done it more discreetly – more efficiently.

Coldly.

Lain’s approach had carried a dangerous, volatile anger. It had caught him unprepared.
What kind of professional am I? Reven cursed himself. Not to have considered it – not to have anticipated it! Supposing Lain had been really disturbed – where the hell might he have pointed the fucking thing then?

Then the boy was crumpling at the knees and Reven had only enough time to whirl away from the blood spattering all over the place and watch Lain fall, insensible.

He didn’t waste time worrying about what might have been. Sure, there was a hell of a mess in the restaurant, though he assumed it was a ‘tame’ place anyway, probably owned by the same organization that had owned Hawk and his assistants. But the gunshots had been unfortunate. Guns brought noise and fright and horror – and often police in their wake.

He picked up the gun, shaking off remnants of blood and body matter. The less evidence of their presence here the better. He knew there’d be no fingerprints from him – but in any kind of a fight there was always the risk of some trace being left behind. And he wouldn’t have Lain involved any more. Didn’t he owe that to the boy?

The gun in his pocket, his knife sheathed once more, he bent at the knees to scoop up Lain in his arms. He gathered his coat around him, covering the worst blood stains on his shirt.

There was chattering starting up in the kitchens – there’d be calls going out to the Salasso family, whoever they may be. He was wary of leaving by the kitchen, not knowing how many staff were there, or what caliber they may be. Yet he knew he must get out of there fast before others arrived, especially as he’d be hampered by a collapsed Lain.

He stepped quickly around the pooling blood, nudging a stiffening limb out of the way with his boot, and made swiftly to the door. There were a few people already gathering across the street, maybe having heard the noises. Reven turned to face back into the restaurant, and stepped out backwards – it made it seem as if he just passed by, and was looking in, same as everyone else.

The bundle in his arms could have been a child, could have been his laundry – could have been anything really. No-one was interested in another damned spectator.

He moved sidewards, blending in with people of his height, of his build, until no-one would have known if he were there or not – or if he were hurrying back up through the side streets, carrying the unconscious boy back to his apartment.


Lain sighed softly and turned on his side, curling up closer to the warmth beside him and wondering what exactly it was.

That made him realize it could be a whom instead of a what, and he lurched out of slumber, sitting upright with a start. He glanced around and saw that he was in Reven's arms, back in the bed that was quickly becoming familiar and back in the safe, quiet apartment.

He looked over into the steady man's gaze and was unsure as to exactly what he was seeing-- a slight sternness obviously, with some confusion... and if he wasn't mistaken, was that concern?

The brunette offered a warm smile and lay back down next to the dark haired man as memories of what had happened before he'd blacked out came rushing back to him.

His smile wavered slightly, but he held it as he looked up into Reven's face and tried to disarm the concerned stare.

"Morning?" he offered softly, lifting a hand and running his fingers along the man's bare arm gently, feeling the muscle tone and warmth.


"You feel OK?" Reven asked. He deliberately softened his voice. He'd been awake most of the night, researching on the net, browsing through his books. He told himself he just wanted to know what the fuck that had been about, that scene in the restaurant.
Wanted to know something more about the Salasso family; the businesses they may be involved in. But he had to admit that he'd also felt the familiar thrill of preparation - of anticipation of maybe more confrontation to come. Like the old days!

He'd watched Lain too - and when the boy shivered in his sleep, he'd curled up beside him to give him extra warmth. Lain's sleep had been troubled - there had been soft inarticulate cries, and twitching limbs. Reven wondered whether they'd been dreams or nightmares.
Now Lain was awake, and although he wanted to be gentle with him - you want to caress him sighed his less disciplined thoughts - there were things that needed saying, too.

"You've handled a gun before," he stated. He saw Lain flinch, but he had no time to nurse a child anymore. And Lain had shown him behavior that was far from childlike. "Tell me when and where. I need to know in case there's any backlash from that meeting." He drew a breath. "If you're going to be with me, Lain, you need to be totally honest with me. It's the only way we can get to trust each other."


He fidgeted for a few moments, but soon saw that he wasn't going to get away with silence. Biting his lower lip, he snuggled closer to Reven, closing his eyes and taking in the elder man's scent. "I don't suppose we could skip over that conversation?" he asked gently, glancing up into the dark eyes once more.

A stern glare denied the request outright. The brunette sighed and looked away, turning his head slightly and bowing it, shadowing his face with locks of deep chestnut. As he dug up the long-buried memories, he shivered slightly.

"I... don't..." his voice left him, and the brunette shivered once more, pulling closer to Reven.

This wasn't how it was supposed to work. He was supposed to comfort Reven and learn more about the man, rather than the other way around. He was supposed to be the support here, the one to rely upon. And now he was being viewed as a liability.

Somehow, Lain would have to correct that... but for now the only option was to give Reven what he wanted.

"I shot somebody important to me," he muttered quietly, unsure whether or not he could even be heard. "Aniki taught me how to use the gun, but I never had to until..." his throat closed and Lain's voice trailed off as he turned away from Reven completely and pulled himself tighter into a ball.

"I've killed somebody before," he finally whispered. "I'd do it again, and again, and again forever if I was put in the same place."

He gnawed at his lower lip, staring at his balled fists with concern.

"I don't like talking about it," he finally breathed, feeling a chill cross his entire body like the spindly fingers of ghosts from the past caressing his skin and bones.


Reven was silent for a while, watching the boy's body language. He knew he needed to know more about Lain - else he'd not be able to involve him in his life any further. The risk was too great - to both of them. But whether to press for it now... he wasn't sure.

The boy had been shocked by the whole event – but Reven wasn’t so blind as to see that he was slyly avoiding giving any further information; that although he was obviously genuinely distressed, he had a natural stubbornness that he clung to. He’d handled the gun well – despite his horror, he’d aimed and fired with complete confidence. And now he confessed to having killed someone already! Only fifteen, and already a killer…

Reven had glimpsed an anger in Lain’s eyes at the time of the shooting – a bitterness that went deep; far deeper than his current relationship with Reven, even though it had been Reven that he’d been defending. That name – ‘Aniki’ – the boy had used it again today.

Whoever or whatever his brother had been, it was all linked in with the shooting.
A mystery…

But Reven remembered how Lain had nestled up against him when he woke, refreshed after a night’s sleep, and with large eyes that looked at Reven for his tolerance. Don’t make me talk about it! his gaze had pleaded. And hadn’t he given Reven support when he’d needed it? Hadn’t he let Reven have the same sympathy, when he’d been reluctant to share his own history?

Reven reached out to the huddled boy and touched his face; traced his smooth jaw with a caressing finger. “Not now, then,” he said. “I won’t ask more from you now.” His breath hitched a little – Lain’s skin was warm, and under his hand the boy unfurled his slender body, arching sensuously into Reven’s touch. Reven let a smile begin on his lips.

“Not words, anyway. Not talk.” He turned the chestnut-haired head and tilted Lain’s face up towards him. The boy was white-faced – but his looks were as striking as ever; his eyes as soulful. It had been amazing, the analysis of the henchmen he’d made in the restaurant; those same trusting eyes had narrowed, and found a perception that was far beyond most people his age.

Reven dismissed the memories – the meeting had turned very, very sour but it was over now. There’d be other jobs – other sources of income for him. It wasn’t important. He realized that he was thinking that something – or someone - else was. He drew a breath, and dipped his mouth down to taste the morning sleepiness of Kalain.