tired, making his slow way back through the streets. Damned tired. The contract
had been nothing like he expected; the employer had been late and distracted
throughout the deal. The money had been less than promised, and when Reven
complained, the guy stared at him like he was mad.
Like - you think you'll get anything else better? And he was right - the work had been sparse recently, his contacts elusive. He knew he was one of the best - he'd been pursued for his work for years. But things had been difficult ever since his rescue of Inoue, in all truth. It had left him time to help his partner recover from his ordeal - but he was fractious now, wanting to be busy, wanting to be occupied. And yet there seemed to be a silence on the streets as far as he was concerned.
He'd left today's meeting dissatisfied - but worse, he'd felt that tingle of apprehension at the back of his neck that warned him whenever there was something wrong.
Things were wrong - very wrong. But he didn't know why - or what to fear.
Eiji sat on the kitchen counter, one foot up on the edge and his chin propped on his knee as he read a soft cover book casually, a long cigarette dangling from between his lips as his eyes flicked over the words.
He had taken up smoking because it gave him something to do with himself when he was tense, and because it made him use his mouth and tongue, which helped him speak better every day. Reven loathed his smoking-- but Reven wasn't home at the moment and Eiji still didn't have a very keen sense of guilt.
As for the tension... it never seemed to stop any more. He still wasn't the same after reliving the death of his Master, and just a few weeks ago he'd gone through the horror of remembering most of his training with the beloved man. Coldness was growing over his heart, and taking over the vulnerability, the soft weak man that was Eiji.
Whether that alone was what 'Inoue' consisted of he wasn't sure, but if it was, it seemed as though he'd be Inoue before he even recognized it.
Eiji tapped the ash of his cigarette into the ashtray Reven had grudgingly brought home, and looked up suddenly, alert and lethal as he heard the clumsy sounds of somebody opening the front door. That was definitely not Reven.
He closed his book and slid off the counter silently, placing the tip of the cigarette between fine, full lips and striding to the kitchen entrance, staring into the living room where the intruders would have to enter if they wanted access to the rest of the place.
It had been a strange, tense time with Inoue, too. Damned guy was doing so well, in many ways - Eiji was hardly ever to be seen. Inoue studied, and worked out, and every day he looked stronger and more capable, and almost as assertive as the old days. His speech was improving - on some words, the slur was barely noticeable. Reven was reluctant to think the smoking had helped with that - but maybe it had, as a warped kind of physical therapy.
He hated to see Inoue smoking again - he'd given up himself, hadn't he? Damn stuff was filthy, and distracting from his full concentration at work. Eiji hadn't yet let Reven remove the collar and cuffs, though they planned to do that soon - Eiji explained haltingly that he himself would get hold of the tools. Was he scared at what lay underneath?
Scarring? Cuts? Wasted flesh?
Reven reckoned there was nothing that could shock him now - but maybe it was a step too far for Eiji, to lose that final reminder of his previous self.
And then there was the return of Inoue's interest in his previous life; he spoke no more about his Master, but he seemed to have remembered much of his old skills and knowledge, and he wanted to know all about Reven's work - what had been their work. He wanted to know who the targets were; how he planned to kill each one. He offered suggestions in a cool, pragmatic way that Reven had to admire.
They worked together on strategy, nowadays - they sparred sometimes; they searched the books together for obscure references, when neither of them could call something to mind. It was beginning to be a partnership again. But the change of attitude chilled Reven, nonetheless. There was a core of cold violence in Inoue that was reappearing - sometimes he would suddenly turn on Reven with blank fury in his eyes, hand raised, until he seemed to recognise him afresh; then he'd pull himself together with an effort and continue as if nothing had happened.
Reven wasn't afraid of Inoue - but he was afraid of something that he couldn't name.
Eiji watched calmly as several men skulked into the house, carrying guns and brass knuckles. They didn't look as though they expected anybody to be home, because their guns still had the safety on.
The first finally took notice of Eiji as the redhead arched an eyebrow questioningly.
Kill them? he asked himself simply.
No, not yet. Let's see who they are.
"Weeeeeel, look at this! Reven has himself a whore, all cuffed and collared!" the first man leered, looking Eiji up and down slowly. "Seems familiar..."
Eiji allowed his bondage ring to be snagged by the guy's fingers and easily went on his knees when it was pulled on and a gun was pointed at his temple, the cold metal nice against his skin.
"You're going to be a good little whore, aintchya, boy?" the man sneered, pulling Eiji over to the middle of the living room so his snickering partners could see the man that got to take it from the well known man, Reven, any time the dark-haired killer got hard.
Reven looked up at the apartment building, almost bracing himself to go home. Inoue's new assertiveness had finally reached the bedroom, too. Reven had assumed that the time in captivity had broken Inoue's sexual strengths too - he never got an erection, even when Reven knew he was enjoying their lovemaking.
Even when he thrust into him, finding the sweet spot that Inoue loved, provoking moans of passion that Reven craved to hear.
Then a few nights ago, Reven had woken in the middle of the night to find Inoue at the foot of his bed. He didn't speak - his eyes glinted at Reven in the half-light of the room, and his breath was heavy. When he slid naked into the bed beside Reven, it had been an excitement - but when Reven rolled him gently on to his side to enter him, there'd been a brief tussle.
Before Reven really knew what was happening, he found himself on his back, with the redhead rearing up on his arms over him. The kisses had been fierce - Inoue's hands had been harsh on his soft flesh. Reven had arched underneath him as his fingers found their way into him, as his lips began to nip at his bared neck. But when Inoue's hands had reached inside his thighs and pushed his legs apart, he was startled.
Memories flooded back to him - the older man above him, eyes sharp and possessive; Inoue opening him for his use, taking him even as he offered himself willingly; Inoue filling him, deep inside him, becoming part of him…
It hadn't happened that way that night, though. There'd been a soft sound from Inoue, almost like a sob. Then he'd dropped back down beside Reven, and pulled the younger man over on to him, letting him take him as usual. Reven had been highly aroused; the sex had been fast, and quiet except for their rough breathing, and Reven could only guess at what pleasure Inoue may be receiving from it. The man had been almost totally silent throughout Reven's pounding into him.
Things were changing all around him, Reven thought grimly. Not for the first time these days, he wondered whether he should get out of this game. He had money put aside - he had his photo; that was his 'insurance policy', that no-one knew about. And he had Inoue's company back.
He realized he had no idea whether Inoue would follow him, whatever he chose to do, wherever he chose to go.
He sighed - he slipped quietly into the lobby.
Konrad looked with distaste at his guy dragging the whore about the apartment. "For fuck's sake, keep your brainless dick in your pants for the time being, won'tcha?" he growled. Stupid gorillas, good for nothing but pulping flesh! Hands like pork steaks, and just as clever.
This was a problem he hadn't foreseen - another guy there, a witness - another body to deal with! Everyone knew what a killer Reven was - they all talked big about revenge, and wiping him out, and then they passed it to him didn't they, to actually do the filthy deed?
No way, he'd said, no way I'm going in there without a team of guys! I want double time, I want a piece of the money when this document's found, I want that new pretty-girl whore before she gets too used...
"We gotta find the document, the book, whatever," he snarled. "That's what the deal was - what the boss wants." He didn't give the whore a second glance - he wasn't into guys, himself, not even for fun, leave that to the goons. There'd always been plenty bodies at the club to keep 'em all amused, whatever they fancied. "Then we take out the kid before he even knows what hit 'im. Then you can do what your dick damn well pleases with the hooker. I can't be bothering with 'im, he's nothing to do with this - he's just meat..."
Eiji learned who the leader here was rather quickly, and licked his lower lip as the gun was taken away from his temple.
Oh, no, that wouldn't be happening any time soon.
Reven was his.
Reven belonged to Eiji.
Wait... when had that happened? Eiji blinked as he realized that he no longer saw it as being owned by Reven, but instead felt possession and like an elder towards Reven, wanting to protect him.
Eiji's blood ran cold when he heard the silken step of Reven walking down the hallway, and his saunter was careless, casual. The redhead knew for a fact that if nothing was done, he was going to watch that tiny hole appear between Reven's eyes as well as blood painted the walls behind him, just like Master...
Another thrill whispered across Eiji's skin as he got to his feet slowly and heard the thugs taking the safety off their guns, no longer paying attention to him but instead to the door.
He's mine, Eiji thought calmly, exhaling smoke slowly as he cracked the knuckles of his right hand. Reven. Is. Mine.
His pupils shrank to pinpoints as the guns were lifted to head-level towards the door and the knob started to turn slowly, and in one fluid movement Eiji reached out and snapped the neck of the man beside him, moving on to the second, who appeared startled at the sudden movement and the fact that his partner was on the ground.
"You're all dead!" Eiji hissed, his gaze fierce and rabid with predatory hunger as he swiped at the man's face, digging his nails between eyelids and gouging out one of the man's eyes, sending him screaming towards the door.
Something cold, and rigid, was working its way through Eiji's system as he kept thinking of Master, and watching that image turn into Reven, his mouth open and head falling back, a bullet through his beautiful face...
Eiji roared and swung his foot, cracking the third man across the face and breaking his neck instantly, sending him straight to the ground as the remaining men aimed their guns at him now, horrified and too shocked to aim properly.
A bullet whisked past Eiji's arm and side, but he barely felt more than a sting as he dodged and moved like a master, his fingers closing around the throat of the next man, choking him, making him flail in Eiji's grasp, his feet no longer touching the ground as he was held up by the neck. The redhead's other arm reached out and took hold of the next goon's hair, pulling it tight and forcing his face down, smashing it against Eiji's knee and collapsing the skull, killing instantly.
The man in his hand stopped flailing, his eyes bulged, and Inoue dropped him as well, turning to face the last one standing, the leader.
The man arched his eyebrows and uttered a low, "You're nothing more than a dead whore," while leveling his gun.
Eiji gasped at the words-- he had heard them somewhere before. 'You’re nothing more than a whore...' Yes, he remembered, on one of the first nights after being captured, the beatings, the near-death blood loss, the torture... and this man's face above him, grinning as he worked, practiced at this like it was nothing, breaking human beings into pieces of quivering property.
Memories began to flood back and the gates were opened as the trigger was pulled, and all Eiji could do was stare stupidly, gaping at the man in sheer terror, pain, and gods knew what else... he moved on instinct.
Something stung in his shoulder, stung badly, and Inoue went absolutely, completely mad. He screamed bestially as he threw himself at the man and took hold of either side of Konrad's face, lifting it up off the ground and smashing it against the floor.
He did it again, lifting the head, slamming it down against the hardwood, tearing into flesh with his fingers as the man screamed and blood began to stain the wood.
Inoue's screams matched Konrad's, his torturer's, and he slammed the man's head into the floor over and over, until there were only his own screams, a still body beneath him, and a steadily growing pool of blood.
He sat on Konrad's chest, falling quiet, chest heaving for breath as he couldn't let go of the broken skull between his fingers, staring down at it.
The warnings hammered in Reven's head, even as he reached the end of his corridor. Surely no danger here - in his own building? Things should feel safer here, not more dangerous...
The screams reached him first. Screams of terror and pain that for one moment he thought were from Inoue - but he knew at once they weren't. He knew the man's voice so well from other times...
There was a gunshot, then a fierce, sickening thud as if something were being hammered against the floor, inside his own apartment. More screams, then one voice cut off abruptly, and this time he knew the other voice was Inoue, and there was still the cracking, thudding sound of what he knew instinctively was human flesh and bone, being pounded into broken, lifeless pieces -
He had his knife in his hand as he put the other hand to the door, noting the picked lock, noting the smell that was rising from inside, the smell of blood and fear and something even more primal...
He stood cautiously to the side of the door frame, his heart pounding with fear and anticipation of what he might find, and he pushed the door open before him.
The stench was stronger here - fresh blood, spattered over his floor and staining the wood with a deep, dark blackness. There were bodies on his floor - he instinctively prepared for any that may still offer danger, but it was quickly apparent that they were all either dead, or in the final, breath-rattling stages of life.
And there was Inoue, blood-spattered himself, crouched on another body, his hands still clamped against the person's head. His left arm hung awkwardly, and the blood was heavier there, as if from an actual wound.
He turned dark, hooded eyes to Reven.
Reven tightened his hand on his knife.
Reven was there... Reven was alive. Alive!
The image of his death came to a freeze, then melted before the dark-haired man's presence, and Inoue stood slowly, shuddering once before falling still, his breathing slowing and becoming controlled.
He lifted his right hand and slid his finger into the wound on his left shoulder, digging around before drawing it out once more, with the small bullet as well, letting it drop to the floor.
He looked around the apartment slowly as though seeing it anew, then looked Reven over as well, head to foot.
"I smell coffee on you," he grumbled dourly, before turning on his heel and heading towards the bathroom.
Reven closed the door behind him, carefully, steadying his shocked breathing. He listened for a few moments, for any response in the corridor, but there was none. The building was half empty, and the rest of the residents were away most of the time, foreign diplomats, rock stars, whatever. Looked like no-one was going to make anything of a few screams and a muffled shot, up on a top floor.
He sheathed the knife, and stepped after Inoue, his feet light on the bloodstains, careful to touch the bodies and their spilt fluids as little as possible. He stood in the doorway to the bathroom, staring at Inoue as he reached to turn on the shower,
"And I can smell smoke on you," he said, just as grimly.
He thought he saw Inoue pause - he didn't expect a smile. He reached into the bathroom cabinet, pulling out gauze and iodine. Just like the old days, he thought, ruefully. "Let me see to that wound for you." He didn’t ask him what had happened - why it had happened. He didn't say that he could see Inoue's hands shaking - that his whole body may be going into some kind of shock.
He felt like he was a teenage kid again - and was tending to Inoue after a job.
Perhaps he had shock, too.
Inoue pulled away from the touch violently, his gaze fierce once more, before seeing that it was Reven. Reven's hands were older and calloused. Time had passed with Inoue gone, unable to watch it wear at those hands.
Eiji's memories filled in the blanks, and Eiji was still in him, part of him... or was he still Eiji?
He was both.
But he was neither at the same time... He had to consciously think of being Eiji to remember anything Eiji would, and think of himself as Inoue to remember Inoue's past.
"Fuck," he said slowly, tiredness in his voice, as pain became reality once more and he realized that he had just dug a bullet out of his shoulder with his finger.
Two grazes and a hit.
He washed the wounds clean and Reven stared at a bit of a distance, his expression for all the world looking as though he'd been bitten, until Inoue rummaged and found, using Eiji's memories, the kit with the needle and medical thread.
"This is a bad habit we have when first meeting," he grumbled, handing Reven the needle and walking out of the bathroom, into the kitchen. He removed a new bottle of vodka from the fridge and took a seat on the counter, lighting a new cigarette before unscrewing the bottle and watching Reven enter slowly.
"Get to work," he muttered, exhaling smoke before taking a heavy draught of the clear liquid.
Reven followed - what else was he to do? He watched Inoue take in the spirit, his body shuddering with its fiery path down his throat. He didn't make any further comment when he lit up a cigarette. Get to work he'd said, his words sharp and spare, like the old days. And if it weren't for the slightest slur on some of the consonants, Reven might think he'd never been away.
He stood at the older man's shoulder, nipped off a length of thread, and pulled the wound together. He began stitching.
"Who were they?" he asked, softly. Keep the questions to a minimum, he'd always been told. Just to cover security issues - just to improve performance for the future. He thought he might have seen some of the guys before - it was difficult to tell, some of the faces so twisted in painful death. "What were they looking for? Who were they looking for?"
He took a draught of the cool, crisp vodka. "Hired killers, the sloppy kind, but experienced. The leader was the man that tortured me after we were separated, and turned me into Eiji. They were looking for some sort of document about you, and to take your life. I was assumed nothing more than a mere whore, and tossed aside, but decided their time to die was now when I heard you approaching."
He took another deep draught before placing the cigarette between his lips, blocking out the pain of the needle. One thing being Eiji was good for, was being able to block off pain.
Reven finished soon after, and Inoue snuffed his cigarette out in the ash tray before draining one last mouthful of vodka and putting the bottle down. "Reven."
He looked at the man before him, the dark chocolate-brown eyes flicking from nervous, to incredulous, to angry, to frightened, and all sorts of things Inoue couldn't follow fast enough with the speed at which they changed. But, this was indeed Reven before him-- wiser, stronger, and definitely older, with new darkness under his eyes and the gaze of one who has taken too many lives too quickly.
He didn't know what to say, or how to follow up simply saying Reven's name, so instead he said nothing, satisfied to simply stare at this man for hours, examining each new cut, each scar that hadn't been there the last time he'd looked as Inoue.
Reven felt strangely disorientated. Inoue's eyes were so familiar - but so different, too.
He'd had months of living with the two personas - he'd struggled daily to bring the old Inoue back, whilst becoming fascinated with the submissive that was Eiji. What did he have before him now? The violet eyes were soaking up sights of him - he squirmed under their searching gaze. It was like Inoue were taking an inventory of him - like he did of his weapons - like he did of his books. Wasn't any more than that, was it?
But Inoue had saved his life - Reven knew his own experience was damned good, but maybe not good enough to have taken out all the intruders on his own. And if they'd found Eiji alone and unprepared, he might have lost him, too.
"I knew one of them," he said. "From my time with Chad. Guess we've both been drawn into this thing. It's time to show you what they were after." He pulled over a chair, stood up on it and reached inside the kitchen light fitting. There weren't many places to hide things in the apartment, but he'd found that the more stupid guys only ever looked at eye level on their first search. It would have stayed hidden for a while longer.
He pushed the photo under Inoue's gaze. The man's eyes barely flickered. The quality was grainy, the man in the foreground out of focus. But in the background, there was a bank of security boxes, like they were in a bank.
"The box that's open in the middle - that was one they'd all want to know." The number could just be made out. Chad had got hold of the photo from a bank security camera - he'd shown it to Reven in a moment of drugged relaxation. He was gonna use it to get everything he wanted - money, position, a swanky apartment. Blackmail. "You know who the guy in the photo is?" Reven asked Inoue. "If people knew where he kept his secrets - his life wouldn't be worth shit, and his empire could be anyone's for the taking."
He'd taken the photo from Chad that night, seeing its pathetically simple hiding place, behind the cistern. Chad had fucked him listlessly, fallen asleep on his arrogant boasts, and then the boy Reven had taken his passport to blackmail and hidden it in his own meager belongings. He knew Chad wouldn't realise it was missing for days - maybe weeks. But events had overtaken them anyway, hadn't they? Only a week later, Reven had been scrambling out of a bathroom window, and falling at Inoue's feet...
It had taken years for anyone to connect the rumour of the incriminating photo with Chad's mysterious disappearance all that time ago - and then with Reven, the boy turned killer, who'd once been the closest thing to a companion to him.
"He owns the lot," breathed Reven, staring at the balding, thickset guy in the photo. His face wasn't clear enough, but that didn't matter. Anyone in the underworld would know at once who he was. "The businesses - the men - the money. Chad - the brothel where you were kept, probably. Both of us have been owned by him at some time or other." He placed a hand over the photo, almost in awe. "You see why anyone would want it? Would go to the greatest lengths to get it?" And me he thought, a chill round his heart. Now they know I have it.
He looked at the photo halfheartedly, and took a slow breath, turning his eyes to the ceiling as was habit.
"And you?" he asked slowly. "You have it; what do you intend to do with it? I don't care about wealth, or blackmail. Would you use it to extort and pillage?"
Inoue licked his lower lip slowly.
He was feeling mildly sated from the alcohol, and wanted another cigarette, but held off on that for now, simply breathing, simply feeling, simply... being Inoue, as much as he could be.
It didn't feel good to know everything once more.
Yet, he felt less ill at ease mentally, knowing that he preferred to know everything and feel agony than to be ignorant and blissful.
The redhead looked back down at Reven finally, waiting for an answer.
Reven stared at it, too. Just took it to spite Chad, he wanted to say. Bastard treated me like a thick little kid, thinking he could impress me with his stupid little plans! Never gave me credit for anything - I was just a whore to him - a go-fer. A consumable.
"No," he said slowly, the word sounding surprised in the tense air. "Don't want the damned thing, really. And there's no-one I want to hand it over to. Perhaps I'll destroy it." His laugh came out rather hysterically. "Perhaps I'll give it back to the guy himself!"
While people still thought he had it, he was in danger. No wonder there'd been hostility and fear on the streets - no wonder he was being given a wide berth everywhere he went.
But even if he destroyed it, who'd believe it? He'd still be a target. He could defend himself as well as could - but not for ever.
Yet it'd be madness to seek out the guy himself, the one who had most to lose by the photo, and try to hand it over - wouldn't it?
Inoue took the picture from Reven's hands casually, and without permission, then with a flick of the lighter the corner was aflame.
It took a matter of seconds before the image was blackened beyond recognition, and Inoue didn't bother looking down to see it crumble and burn away to near nothing on the floor, stinking of age and ash.
"I told you before that I'll kill anybody who interferes with you; you belong to me," he said calmly, lifting a hand and running it through Reven's hair slowly, feeling the silken locks slide between his fingers in a very Eiji-like action.
Eiji even smiled devilishly at Reven. "I'll kill the bastard for you, Reven," he agreed with Inoue, leaning in and stealing a quick kiss. "And none of this 'we're partners' stuff; this one I go alone, just like the first time, just like a few minutes ago. Nobody tries to take what's mine."
Reven watched the flames dying down, the shock still seeping through him. Inoue's hand in his hair - Inoue's lips teasing at his. Inoue taking on this burden that he'd been nursing to himself for years now.
"I'm yours?" he asked, softly. It was an echo of that time when he had been Inoue's - in every sense. It had been where he felt he belonged; where he was happy to be. "I'm yours," he repeated, and his mouth ghosted back over Inoue's.
He was suddenly, achingly aroused. The remnants of broken, bloody bodies lay all around them - the threat of another attack at any time hung over him. But Inoue was claiming him; Inoue's spirit was awake and claiming him for his own.