Eiji's face lit up when he heard just the faintest noise of the door opening and closing, and he looked up from his book, pushing his hair out of his eyes with a sweet smile as he put his pen down.

Somebody had already scrawled notes all over the texts, but he was writing his own sort of language with symbols and pictures to help him understand and memorize quickly. It usually took him a few hours to memorize all the necessary information per book, but this one on anatomy was particularly thick and had a lot he wanted to learn.

He marked the page, put the pencil down, and closed the book, sliding off the bed and running to Reven, throwing his arms around the man's neck and burying his face into his owner's hair. He usually wasn't so affectionate, but Reven had been out for several days... and Eiji had missed him.

No, Inoue… he reminded himself, feeling the minor sting in his gut any time he said it but fighting the nausea. I'm Inoue for this man.

Reven caught the laugh in his throat, and pressed his lips to Inoue's instead. What a welcome, eh? And from what he could see, he'd been studying again - it was good to see him at those books again.

He sighed - he'd forgotten how good Inoue felt - the touch of him. He was a lot stronger now, his body filled out from good food and the cessation of his punishments. The hair had a glossiness to it that had been lost when he found him again - the scars and marks were blending into his skin, no longer the sharp vivid scarlet against pale flesh.

It had been a bad time, Reven thought. He was damned glad to get back! Seemed he had to go further and further away now for the work - the requirements were more and more dangerous. He still felt hostility sometimes from the people he dealt with that was nothing to do with the usually healthy fear that even his employees had of him. He supposed that it was good for him - it tightened up his procedures; made him that much more ruthless; more effective. And the money was still there for him.

And he didn't need friends for fuck's sake, did he? He had Inoue back!

He ran his hands down the man's body, then took hold of his chin and lifted his head to look at him carefully. No harm, no distress...that was gradually fading as time went on.

Still that flicker of ambivalence in his eyes, though. Still the conflict between Eiji and Inoue. Reven suspected that sometimes Inoue was purely a mask that Eiji put on, just to please him.

It had to be more than that, or how could they ever move forward? He couldn't let the man out of the apartment alone - he couldn't share his work, or the world he moved in. Not until he knew Inoue was back to mental as well as physical health.

He smiled, kissing him again. Inoue loved that! Like he'd never received such a touch... like he didn't remember. This role was so different for Reven, he had become Inoue's sempai, though against his will.

He liked it.

Eiji licked at Reven's lips until they were teased open, then opened his mouth and waited for the tongue to slide between his lips. He was still poor with his speech and much use with his tongue other than one or two base functions that had served in the brothel, but he was trying, because Reven, Owner, wanted him to try.

He remembered that he was told Inoue was always serious, always in command, and regained composure, accepting the kiss but no longer clinging desperately to Reven.

Cool, collected, calculated. That was what he was supposed to be.

That was... who he was...

Eiji shuddered as Reven's tongue snaked in his mouth, hot and slick, and tried to be assertive... he took hold of Owner's ass and grabbed it hard, while filling his other fist with Reven's thick hair, sucking heavily on his tongue.

Reven groaned inside. His body shuddered with the excitement that he always felt from Inoue's touch; his head went back, baring his throat for the man's mouth, relishing the firm hand at his ass.

But that wasn't how it continued, was it? Every day, the man that was Eiji shrank further and further into the body in his arms, and the character that had been Inoue showed more glimpses of itself. Except in bed. Eiji had obviously been an intelligent and cunning role player in his captivity - but he couldn't act well enough for Reven to believe he had his partner back. Not entirely.

Always knew it'd be a long job, didn't I? thought Reven. And in all honesty, he enjoyed this man in his bed - his pliant obedience to Reven's sometimes frantic need; his pleasure at being taken; his shocked delight when he found response in his own forgetful body. It was damned good, he thought. He curled his hand back into the red hair, savouring its clean smell, letting himself be consumed by the memories, old and new.
"We must work on your defence skills today, Inoue. You have to be able to protect yourself, when - well, when you need to." When you're back in circulation, he'd nearly said. When you're yourself again.

"Say your name, Inoue!" he growled, the anger and frustration suddenly rising again. "Tell me who you are!"

Eiji pulled away from the kiss.

The drills had come a little sooner than expected today.

"Ih... Ih-oo-ee..." he said, only stumbling once this time. He shuddered as he said it, but said it anyways. "I ahm Ihoue."

He clenched his fists, then blinked in surprise. No nausea that time. It really was becoming easier and easier to get through this new role, this new person...

No, this old role, actually. He took Reven's word on it that he really had once been Inoue, and the pain at the memories he often suffered only proved it. He remembered things that Reven never told him about, things the two of them did together.

In fact, he hadn't mentioned it to Reven, but he had started having dreams within the last two days, while his owner was out-- they were raw, horrifying memories of taking life, swiftly and stealthily, both with and without Reven at his side.

He bit his lower lip.

Reven had never demanded he confess any dreams he had, but it seemed wrong to keep it back. He lifted his hand and took Reven's into it, writing onto the palm with his finger when there was too much to try and painfully slur out.

'I've been having dreams. Of killing. Of murder for hire. Alone, and with you. In the dreams I both hated and loved doing it. I was angry.'

Worry crossed his face as he saw expressions that definitely weren't pleasure filling Reven's eyes.

'When I was little, there was a man with me. He was showing me how to do it. He made love to me like you do. He loved me. Where is this man?'

His curiosity was burning brighter inside him than the headache that was starting to pulse at the front of his forehead and behind his eyes.

Asking always hurt... but learning the answers usually made it stop.

Shit! Reven saw the turmoil in the man - his desire to communicate, even when he found it so frustrating. Shit, he thought again, what the hell do I care what he's called, when it's the spirit that matters? Inoue's spirit pained him - tortured him. And all he, Reven, did was give it encouragement.

"You're remembering your life before," he said, through a suddenly dry mouth. "Before you met me." Inoue had never told him much about his history, but Reven wasn't a fool - he'd worked most of it out. There would have had to be an 'Inoue' of his own, a sempai just like he was to Reven as a boy. "A man brought you up - trained you. Loved you."

He knew what Inoue was signing, even without seeing it. "No," he said. He could hear his voice sounding sad. "It wasn't me. I've never been your Master. I never knew him - or what happened to him. But you loved him. Then you took me in." He couldn't say it - say that he loved Inoue, too. Perhaps he was jealous of this long-held memory - the man who'd shaped Inoue. Why should Inoue remember him before he remembered his life with Reven?

He could see the familiar shiver starting up on Inoue's body, as he struggled to remember, to regain himself. He gripped his arm, harsher than usual. He was fucking tired of being on his own - tired of watching every word, tired of nursing a shattered mind. "Remember him, Inoue! Tell me what happened between the two of you! Remember how I came to you, how you felt! What we did together - how we worked together. Either of us, man - remember!"

I can't, he wanted to say. I cant! I cant!

The grip on his arm tightened, and he was shaken as his headache grew worse.

'Tell me what happened between the two of you' was the last thing he heard clearly as his eyes widened.

There was a grip on his arm, and somebody was shaking him violently, asking who the hell he was, holding a knife to his throat. He was just hungry... he was just looking for some food and had followed the rich-looking man back to his place. He still had the taste of the crappy food in his mouth and was wishing he hadn't eaten it.
He screamed at the man to let him the fuck go or he'd kill him, and the man laughed... laughed slowly and cruelly, before tossing Inoue across the room so that he slammed against the fridge, breaking his arm.

But, he didn't cry when it was broken; he got up, grabbed a cleaver from the counter and threw it at the man's head.

The man dodged it easily, but appeared suddenly interested. He grinned wickedly, sheathed his own knife and grabbed Inoue by the good arm, carrying him like he weighed nothing and throwing him onto the bed viciously, making him cry out with pain as he landed on the broken limb.

As he cried out, a ball gag was stuffed between his lips and strapped to the back of his head, and his good arm was handcuffed to the bedpost.

'You,' the man said in a low, calculated voice, 'are a lucky little boy.'

Eiji's heart thundered in his chest as reality came back to him, and he was on his back in Reven's bed, staring at that same canopy he always seemed to wake up to.
Reven was above him, looking infuriated.

Reven watched the expressions on Inoue's face with fascination. He stared at Reven, yet he wasn't seeing him. He was seeing something else - someone else. From long ago - from before Inoue had become the man he was, the cool, professional assassin. The man who hadn't wanted to be bothered with a stupid street kid, but who'd taken him in and taught him everything. Everything!

This was critical, wasn't it? A breaking point, maybe. Reven tried to keep the man's eyes on him as he lay on the bed - Inoue had stretched his arms out, mimicking something in his mind, face grimacing with pain or distress of some kind. Reven grabbed at his arms, holding him down.

"Boy," he hissed, wondering what words to use - trying to remember how Inoue had been with him, all that time ago. "Show me what you're remembering! Tell me!"

"I mahl...!" He had parted his lips to speak, and his tongue felt rough, ruined, thick...

Eiji remembered that he couldn't talk, that he wasn't Inoue, that he was Eiji. He blinked quickly and shook his head, half in the vision and half with Reven before him.

He moved the arm that had, for some reason, been up by the head of the bed, and began to write on Reven's upper arm, since both hands were holding him.

'I saw him, the first Master. I saw when I first met him. I knew... that I was Inoue. And it doesn't hurt too much. I...'

His hand dropped away and his eyes widened as he felt the hot spray of blood across his face, but it wasn't really there, and he tasted it in his mouth, smelled it, heard it...

His pupils shrank to pinpoints as he saw his Master looking at him warmly, for the very first time... a real smile on his face, kindness in his eyes, tears on his cheeks as he reached out for Inoue, touched the side of his face with a broken, bloody hand.

Why was this happening? Why was Master hurt? What was going on!

Eiji… no, Inoue! Inoue shuddered and shook his head.

I don't want to remember. This hurts. This hurts!

His head was pounding, he could hear every noise, the light was blinding, Reven's voice was deafening and his hands were burning against Inoue's flesh.

"MATHTER!" he roared, lurching on the bed and throwing Reven off of him, struggling to his hands and knees, reaching out with one hand desperately at nothing before him, and also the vision of his Master before him, still smiling warmly, even as his head seemed to explode from the back, and a tiny hole appeared in his forehead, a trickle of blood flowing down it. "MATHTEEERRRR!" he shrieked, lunging at his Master and hitting the floor heavily, tears streaking down his cheeks.

Eiji had been able to suppress his bouts of tears rather well lately while pretending to be Inoue, and at this point he wasn't certain which of the two he was right now, but all he knew was pain as he wept bitterly on the floor.

Inoue's hand was spread on the floor where he'd fallen, and it was fast - the signing frenetic. Dead! he saw Inoue's fingers slide on the smooth floor, the skin grazed as it tried desperately to reach out at something. He's dead! They killed him!

Reven dropped to his knees beside him, trying to hold him still, but his body shook and his shrieks burst at his eardrums. For me! the hand continued to sign on the floor, though Reven didn't know if he even saw him any more. He told me to go - they didn't stop me. They only wanted him - he gave himself to them - The tears flowed like running water, Reven felt the hot salty wetness on his hands as he touched Inoue's heaving shoulders. For me! To save me! He loved me!

Reven felt pain in his own chest. "Inoue? I'm here - Inoue, come back!"

But the pain still wracked the man on the floor - his anguished wails of 'Master' reverberated in Reven's ears. He still signed - he wanted so badly to exorcise these memories - to live them again, it seemed!

"You told me to go, too," whispered Reven. "That night, when we were ambushed. You told me to get the hell out - you let them take you, to distract them."

Eiji shook his head.

He'd never had to deal with death like this before... certainly, he had seen several die before him, but he had never cared about them, never really paid attention...

He wept against Reven, clutching him as his body shook. All he could moan was "O goh, o goh..." over and over, a plea to whatever god did or didn't exist to make the pain stop-- he felt it both as Inoue and as Eiji, old and new agony at the loss of the man he had both known for several years, and also only a few moments.

Inoue told him to shut up, stop crying.

Eiji felt it like a physical blow, and took a sharp gasp.

Shut up. Stop it. Quit clinging to Reven like a child. You're the elder here.

That was right... and crying wouldn't solve anything, it never did. He wiped his tears away and sat up stiffly, pressing his trembling lips together in a firm line and hardening his expression.

Eiji frowned and stood shakily.

There, your honour has been stained, but at least you've stopped crying, he told himself. Be Inoue. You are Inoue. I am Inoue.

He walked to the bathroom and washed his face, then looked at himself in the mirror, the frown still set and his mouth in the same hard line, just to keep from quiet little sobs.

He frowned deeper and pushed the pain away, deep inside of him, just as he used to do to memories. So what if his Master had died? He was a grown man, an intelligent creature, learning over again how to take lives. He couldn't be a simpleton over this sort of thing.

Reven sat back on his heels, as Inoue rose and made his way to the bathroom.

It had happened to them both, hadn't it? Some kind of epiphany. Inoue's distress had thrown his own mind back to the day they were first separated - when there'd been no way of escaping the bullets, and he'd stood there, frozen with shock. Inoue's body had fallen in front of him, the wide violet eyes glaring at him, even as they registered the pain slicing through his body. Run! he'd hissed at him. Reven, for fuck's sake, get your ass out of here -

Reven had run, all right. Run, and left the man he worshipped to fall in a pool of blood on the floor. he'd looked back only once, to gauge the distance he'd put between him and the gunmen. Inoue had been staring at him, even as he lay there unmoving. Staring - and his eyes had seemed softer than ever.

And Inoue?

Reven had seen him pull himself together after this fit, and the expression on his face had been pure Inoue - pure confidence and self-control.

When he was completely calmed, Eiji walked back into the bedroom, and took a seat on the bed, helping Reven up off the floor.

"I wan to thake a liff," he said firmly. "I have beeh wreathin boothhs foh thoo lonh."
His words were heavily slurred, when he had meant to say, I want to take a life. i have been reading books for too long.

He didn't give Reven room to question it, throwing his dice, knowing that if Inoue said such a thing it would be obeyed.

It seemed to work... Reven didn't say anything, and Eiji resisted looking back at his owner, because if he did he'd lose his nerve. "No weapons; I'm doing this barehanded." His voice softened, "The same way Inoue was made to the first time. The same way you were. I will follow the tradition."

He cracked the knuckles on his right hand, grabbed a black trench coat from the closet, and opened the front door, walking out with his footfalls heavy and his gaze deadly.

Somebody was going to die tonight... many would pay for the death of Master, even if they really had nothing to do with it.

Reven put out a hand to his arm, stopping him in the doorway. For the first time he saw more of Inoue in this man - and the Eiji that struggled behind his eyes was trying to master it; to regain that spirit.

"It's dangerous," he said, shortly. "It's been too long away - and your injuries -" He meant mentally and emotionally, of course, and he saw a flash of anger in Inoue's eyes at the implication. He looked at the man in the coat, and his hand dropped away. He was as fit as ever - he'd been working out daily at the apartment. he was calm - he was properly dressed, carefully composed. He looked the part. And he was looking to become it once again.

Reven couldn't fault that, could he? he'd had the same desire, the same determination, when he first started. And whilst Inoue had scorned his mistakes, he'd also encouraged his strengths; his enthusiasm. This was the first time for months that Inoue had shown such commitment towards himself.

I might lose him, Reven thought. You will either way, he chided himself. "I want to come with you," he said. "Just like you say - like tradition says. I need to be there."

Eiji's hand shot to Reven's neck at the touch, something lethal burning within him, and he tightened his grip momentarily before releasing it, letting his arm drop limp to his side and looking away, disbelief at what he'd done.

Reven was his owner, his lover, his friend... and he had done that!

The first thing that rose to his lips was a plea for forgiveness, but that same thing inside of him demanded that he not say a word. He frowned once more, clenching his jaw and pushing Reven out of the way, walking down the hall and out of the building, into the street for the first time in weeks.

He didn't know directions by seeing them, but he had memorized map after map of the city... Main was to the north.

He moved swiftly, appearing no more than a man going for a walk with a friend following close behind, until he spotted his target. Eiji slipped into the shadows as Reven had several steps away, and walked into the alley, slinking up behind the pimp waiting at the other end of it.

His hands lifted quickly and closed on either side of the pimp's head and he flicked his wrists, expecting the man to fall dead to the ground.

Fall he did, but it was apparent that the neck hadn't been completely broken; the pimp's face was contorted in horror and pain as he lay face-up in a puddle.

Oh god, he hadn't done it right...!

Eiji's heart began to race as the realization of what he was doing hit him like a brick. He was killing this man, and he didn't even know him. He was taking a life that was probably important to somebody.

No! It didn't matter! If he couldn't take this life then he wasn't worthy to take any, wasn't worthy of being Reven's Inoue!

His lip trembled but he stiffened it once more and lifted his heavily booted foot and brought it down on the man's face, crushing the cheek bone. The man cried out in agony, still not dead, and Inoue's fists clenched tightly as he lifted his foot once more, aimed a little better, and smashed it onto the front of the man's skull, crushing it.

A shudder rang through him as finally, the body stopped moving, stopped making noises, and he barely felt it when Reven's hands crept around him. He was shaking violently, and Reven was saying something about noise, and needing to leave.

Eiji felt sick.

Christ, what a mess! The man's face was a bloody, oozing pulp, bits of broken bone sticking through the skin, blood still trickling out into the oily puddle, catching the occasional reflection of a far distant streetlight. At least he was dead now - Reven had held himself in check as Inoue had worked, knowing so vividly that he couldn't step in to help. Inoue had shown the correct technique - he'd just underestimated the force required, or maybe his own, depleted strength.

Now Reven held Inoue's body, trying to lead him away. The guy had been waiting for someone, as far as he could see - he'd never have taken him out here and now, if it had been his decision. But Inoue had chosen the time and the place - and the victim. Now all he could do was get them both away from here before someone came and found them.
"You OK?" he said, urgently. Was Inoue going to be sick? His chest was moving in spasms - his eyes were wide. The terror of Eiji stared out at him through the violet pools.

"Rihht?" he heard Inoue say, the word sticking in his dry lips and cursed tongue. "Deh?"

"Yeah," said Reven. "He's dead. You did it right. You killed him." The other questions were only sparks in Eiji's eyes, but Reven knew them as clearly as if he'd spoken aloud. "Yeah, that's what Inoue might have done. You did well. Now can we get the fuck out of here?"

He parted his lips to agree, but doubled over and gagged, near throwing up.

Eiji held it back, kept it in. No trace of himself at the scene! It would be a disgrace if he left any sort of indication!

His boots, they were bloody, and would leave prints... he drew away from Reven momentarily and splashed his boots in the puddles to wash off the last of the blood, then straightened his hair so that he appeared perfectly normal.

They headed back out of the alley calmly, even though as Eiji walked he could feel his legs shake, trying to give out on him.

He needed support in this; he was Eiji, not Inoue, and this wasn't something he could do alone-- the redhead took hold of Reven's hand and laced his fingers with his owner's, clutching the hand tight.

It was probably painful for Reven, but Eiji couldn't let go, as they walked back towards home and he kept his jaw clenched firm, swallowing anything that came up and tried to leave him.

"It was good, Inoue," said Reven, carefully, as they turned the final block that he reckoned would confuse their trail effectively. "But could have been better. You know that yourself, don't you?" The man's face turned to him under the neon sign of a bar, and he nodded. He looked damned white - still nauseous. But Reven couldn't have him going off like a loose cannon, just to prove a point, right? He deliberately called him Inoue, though at times in the apartment, it seemed he preferred Eiji. You wanna be Inoue, Reven thought fiercely, you better answer to it!

"We'll go over it later, right? You need to practise strengthening your wrists - the cuffs have scarred them - weakened the tendons. You need to work on your breathing - controlling your stomach's reaction." He wanted to tell him not to go out again without Reven - they needed to be a partnership, now more than ever. To protect each other - to help each other.

Eiji woke long before Reven, and he got out of the bed, walking over to the bathroom. He promptly threw up for the fifth time that night, rinsed out his mouth, and washed his hands before heading into the living room.

The redhead took a seat on the couch and picked up one of the books he had favoured most back when he was Inoue, directing a person the fastest ways to kill another barehanded.

He had, of course, made mistakes yesterday... and he knew how to correct them.

Reven had mentioned something about his shackles, though. The metal of the bondage ring hanging from his collar was cool to the touch as Eiji's eyes glazed over.

The cuffs and collar were a part of him... but it looked as though they would have to be removed, not only as a step towards becoming Inoue, but also to improve his strength and skill.

He sighed and let his face fall into his hands.

This was a choice he was making, becoming Inoue again, wasn't it?

He just wasn't so sure any more that he really wanted to remember everything, and have that life again...

Or if he had much of a choice after all.