He lay back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling, calming the tension in him that was rising once more at bringing back these memories. Even as he spoke he was barely remembering some parts himself, and it was like re-living the horror... but he'd do it, so that Reven's heart could be at ease.

"When we were in that dingy room and I realized exactly what was going on... saw the pincer attack, saw the expression of pleasure at catching long-sought prey in the eyes of our pursuers... I stopped thinking. All I could hear was my own heart beat, slamming in my chest, and your breath, quick and alert, as you I'm sure came to realize the same thing.

Trapped together in a solid room, weapons aimed to kill, only one exit. There was no fanciful idea of self-sacrifice, if that's what you've been thinking all this time. I saw them, heard you, heard my own heartbeat-- and moved.

As the first muscles were moved and the first trigger was pulled, all I knew was that I had to get you out of there. That you weren't meant to die in that rotten hole, slaughtered like some useless animal in the street.”

I heard the gun fire as I pushed you with all my strength, and from there I don't recall much, other than screaming something, hoping the words would come out, hoping you'd understand; you needed to leave, you needed to continue being rebellious, and stubborn, and hot-headed. You needed to smile another day longer, you needed to see more than just twenty years of hell; you needed more.

That was all I could think about as my voice would carry no longer, and I knew that I was on the ground. I saw a blurred image of your feet running up stairs... and then nothing mattered any more.

Because, I knew you'd gotten away...

And really, as long as you had, I didn't care about anything else. I just wanted my Reven to be free."

He still couldn't make eye contact, and took a slow, shuddering breath. Eiji was weeping, but Inoue was holding it back, and though his eyes were watering, he wouldn't let the tears fall.

Reven gazed; his breath was nothing but a gasp. You needed more, was all he could hear, in Inoue's cool, low voice. I just wanted my Reven to be free.

The ache was more than he could bear. The knowledge of Inoue's thoughts and feelings - after all this time! - was a shock that swamped him; that made his head swim. The slump of Inoue's body on the floor; the hollow sound of his feet on the stairs, running, running away...but running away to live his life afresh. To be the man he'd only just started to find inside himself.

It had been what Inoue wanted - his freedom, at whatever price had to be paid.

That price...

"Tell me, Inoue. Eiji." He wanted his voice to soothe - to caress. This man was so precious to him. He wanted to touch him again - to look into his eyes, but they were still held away from him, and he had enough respect for Inoue to know that both he and Eiji needed their own time. "Tell me what you can."

He clenched his jaw tight as the memories flooded him, now a combination of his own and Eiji's.

Taking one more steadying breath, he released his death-grip on the sheets and continued. "I woke up, and honestly was startled to be alive. I remember hands and feet, chests, legs, arms... closing in on me, standing around me, but I can't see faces yet... I don't know why. Probably, my mind is blocking off those memories to keep from further trauma..." The only way he could explain it without Eiji really bursting into tears was to speak from a clinical standpoint, but it too was failing.

"But, I can't see faces, only dark smears where their faces should have been. I was no longer in that room, but still in my same outfit; everything but my weapons. Each and every last blade and wire had been stripped of me, and my body was in pain, burning all over, concentrated on my stomach." He stroked the entry wound absently. "It was possibly a fatal wound, and I was debating my chances of survival with internal bleeding if I tried to kill them all and manage my way out of wherever I was.

The chances of hell freezing over were better, and I knew that my life was in the hands and at the mercy of these men, leering, standing, waiting for my return to consciousness.

As soon as I moved a hand--intending to wipe some of my own blood from my face where I had been lying in a pool of it as it dried--it was their cue to pounce. Boots and point-tipped shoes were slammed into my ribs, against my back, driven down against my arms and legs, aiming to break limbs.

They laughed, and I felt the cold saliva on my skin as my clothes were torn from the thrashing and they spit on me like a lowly dog, saying my name over and over, mocking the titles I had earned over the years.

Inoue the Killer.

The Night Hunter.

Death for Hire.

They were epitaphs... parting words to me as the blows became deadly rather than aimed to prolong pain..."

Inoue couldn't fight Eiji's tears and keep himself from breaking down at the same time, so he allowed them to fall, though he didn't sob and didn't shake with weeping. He forced himself to continue speaking.

"Then... then a voice told them calmly, coolly, to stop. I can't see the face of this man either, but he's got confidence in his voice and stature-- they respected him. The bodies parted and he approached, crouching down next to me. He took the cigar from his lips and smiled, then pressed the burning tip into the entry wound from the bullet, pushing it in deep, extinguishing the cigarette inside of me, searing the wound.

I held back the scream even as I tasted my own blood even stronger in my mouth, and he nodded, mentioned words of approval at the discipline I had. He commented on my body, and how fine it had been before he had brought me to ruins.

Another smile came across his face, and I couldn't fight back, couldn't so much as muster a curse, because if I allowed my lips to part, nothing but a scream would escape me. He whispered into my ear, leaning over and pressing his knees into my broken arm, that he had decided upon a fate better than death for the likes of me."

Inoue lifted his hand and angrily smeared away the tears on his face.

"I woke up again without remembering when I'd left consciousness, and found myself in a bed, someplace new once more. The room was decorated lavishly, but the bed itself had been stripped of the sheets and pillows, and there was plastic covering the mattress, for easy clean-off of my blood.

I wasn't strapped down or anything so crude... it wasn't like I could run away with a broken leg and broken arm, and I could hear dozens of people outside the doors, as well as armed guards. Doctors, nameless, faceless, heartless... they came and went, and ensured my recovery, though I was never given anaesthetic.

My leg and arm were set by three of the more muscular of the men under the doctor's guidance as I thrashed, and then splinted accordingly. One fracture being re-set I could handle, but I had multiple per broken bone... it was a new level of pain, and I wasn't mentally prepared to handle it.

I choked myself into blacking out—something you hate-- and when I woke next, my arm and leg were in splints and bound securely to ensure clean healing. From there... it begins to cut out a lot. There are still huge holes in my memory... and I don't want them back, either.

From there, Eiji begins to take over, though I do remember the last point at which I knew myself as Inoue and nobody else."

He turned on his side and pulled a pillow under his head, staring at Reven's waist before him, comforted simply by the youth's presence.

"I was left alone as far as a prisoner can be for the first few weeks as my limbs mended, and then one day I woke with these on." He lifted his hand and watched the ring of the bondage cuff on his wrist glint in the light. "My good hand was chained to the bed, as was my good leg. And he was back... I hadn't seen him since that first night, when he had declared I'd get something better than death.

He smiled again, and sat on the edge of the bed, murmuring about my first day of service under him, and how much he was going to enjoy himself.

Several of his henchmen came in the room and held me down, and I didn't struggle until I saw what he was doing. Casually he played with bottles and his lighter and several instruments to concoct a mixture of drugs and sedatives, but nothing lethal, and nothing that would rob me of consciousness-- in fact, there were several things that would keep me fully alert, but render my motor skills useless.

Several injections later, the men released me and left the room, and I was left staring at him, watching his smile as he revealed what he called his 'magic wand'...

"‘This magic wand will turn even the toughest of men into nothing more than a kitten; a plaything,' he cooed happily, waving the scalpel in front of my eyes.
I didn't feel the first cut, or the second. For the most part I didn't feel anything...

But when he pushed his fingers between my lips and took hold of my tongue, and I couldn't resist, couldn't so much as bite those damn fingers..."

Inoue shuddered violently, clenching his fists tightly once more, his knuckles white as Eiji gasped softly, then clenched his jaw shut, trying not to sob.

Reven couldn't stay still - he had to reach out and touch the shuddering man. His whole body was chill - the tension racked through him like steel rope. Reven touched at his mouth, at the memory of the horrors he'd been subjected to. He pulled Eiji's body into him, feeling the remaining damp of the tears against his skin.

The scars on his body - the terrible damage to his tongue - none of these were even a fraction of what had been borne inside! Reven could only imagine the terrors that Inoue must have known - his own heart was full of shock and disgust and fear.

"Don't!" he urged. "Don't torture yourself! I don't need to know - that time's gone – Fuck, Eiji, I don't want you to suffer any more -!"

Eiji leaned into the touch, needing Reven's voice, Reven's comfort. But, he needed something else, too. "I need to tell you now Reven," he breathed softly, closing his eyes tight before opening them and looking up at his Owner and former student. "I need to say it now because I know you need to hear it; and maybe it'll help me if somebody else understands."

He knew he looked like hell-- he felt like hell.

But this needed to be done, and the longer it festered, the worse it would get.

"Inoue doesn't remember a whole lot after that... a few more torture sessions with... Owner..." he faltered at calling the man that, after it had become an endearing term when referring to Reven.

But that man had indeed been Eiji's first Owner.

"Owner delighted in Inoue's screams when he could get them... and soon he stopped adding sedatives to the drugs he filled me with, so I could feel every single drag of the blade, every burn from hot irons, every chemical he could fill open wounds with to burn and ruin the flesh. Inoue snapped shortly after, even though he tried his best to resist.

But no human could withstand that, and in the end, that's all I am... human."

He sighed, and pulled Reven closer to him, pulled the body down until they were lying parallel, and he could cling to his lover as he shuddered. "Then I came in. Inoue's mind was vanquished, and Owner called me Eiji, so that's who I became. I was Eiji, the good pet, the obedient pet, the one who would do anything to avoid being hurt...

But that wasn't good enough. No, he didn't want an obedient Eiji. He wanted an empty shell Eiji, a mouth to suckle and a hole to fuck. Willing hands and dead eyes.
I don't know for sure-- but I think it was three months into being Eiji that I was completely and utterly lost within my own mind. Nothing mattered to me any more... not even myself.

I couldn't care a whit about my own life. Even if I was tortured, it didn't matter to me whether or not I lived through it any more, and Owner became bored of me once I was broken. I was tossed into one of his worst brothels and worked there for what felt like a lifetime, though again a lot of it I can't remember very clearly any more.

And then... then..." Eiji's lower lip trembled as he finally looked at Reven openly, allowing the tears to spill.

He smiled weakly, as he felt something within him relieved, even as the rest of him was aching with a dull, bitter pain. "And then I met you," he whispered, his voice cracking as he stared at Reven pleadingly, wishing he'd understand.

"My life, Inoue's life, Eiji's life... they haven't been beautiful. Not even close. But you're the only thing I have, the only hope for happiness I cling to, Reven."

Reven felt the tears in his own eyes, too. The suffering that his partner had gone through - the loss of everything that had made him Inoue, the man... and Reven had thought him dead...

He touched at Eiji's tears, feeling their wet drops between his fingers; he put his lips to Eiji's face, licking softly at the saltiness. All he wanted was to lie here and be with him; to comfort him; to build something again for them.

"I'm here for you," he said, simply. "I always have been. You're the only thing I've ever wanted. You gave me everything, Inoue. Remember how I came to you - how I literally fell in your lap?" he laughed, softly. "Damned nuisance I was - but you fed me - dressed me - looked after my wounds. Read to me - taught me..."

The ring on Eiji's collar jangled gently - Reven realised how used he'd become to it, over these months. Eiji had done nothing further to get rid of either the collar or the cuffs - Reven had wondered if he ever would. He touched the cold metal, and it made him suddenly angry - it was the badge of Inoue's pain; of his torture; of his attempted destruction.

"You told me once we had to live with the shock of being a killer - that it would pain me some day," he said, softly. "From my first kill to the most recent - there couldn't be that aggression without payback, emotionally. But there are worse things, Inoue, don't you realise? There's the torture and violence shown to a partner - there's the loss of the very core of your life - the loss of everything you work for, of every relationship you nurture. Those things can't be forgiven - they can't be forgotten."

Reven felt Inoue tense in his arms. He felt young again, like he had when he first met Inoue, the ignorant apprentice - yet he felt the man in his arms like he'd often held Eiji, the uke to his seme, the beaten man rubbing up close to him for help and comfort. He felt agony - and rage.

"That wasn't the end of it, Eiji - that business with the guys you killed here. You know that, don't you? For now, it is - for now you're free of them, and so am I, and there's no fucking way I'm going to let anything like that ever happen again to you!" But what was he to do? He felt a sorry helplessness - he wanted to kill someone, maybe for the first time in his life, just to kill in anger, and for revenge.

"I'll find the man who did that, Eiji..." he whispered. He felt the arms tighten around him; the body meld to him like part of his own. "He'll pay for it. We have to be free from it all..."

Inoue sighed softly once more, relaxing on the bed and drawing Reven on top of him, revelling in the weight of the smaller body over him, soaking in his warmth.

"The brighter a candle burns, the faster the end of the wick is reached," he breathed softly. "I've told you this before." He reached up, and in a rare show of affection, brushed several stray hairs from Reven's face and lifted his head, stealing a quick kiss.

"That means you have the same choice to make that you do every morning you get up; the same choice I made every day I got up, and will have to do once more if I want to return to the profession. Burn slowly, and live a long, comfortable life... or burn brightly, and be extinguished long before your time?

...I don't expect to live past thirty, when hoping for the absolute best. It's amazing that I've lived this long at all."

He kissed Reven's neck and chest, then moved across to his shoulder, brushing his lips over the skin, taking in the scent he had always taken for granted instead, an eternity ago.

"Blaze bright or burn slow, that's your choice right now Reven; and your words tell me that you want to blaze bright, you want to singe the hands that have gotten to close, trying to put you out."

His expression was soft as he stared at his partner above him. "I'll be blazing bright until I can't take another breath-- I'll die with a knife in hand and blood on my tongue, fresh from the kill. And I'd..." his voice faltered, and he cleared his throat. "I'd like it if you were to burn right beside me, whether it's bright or slowly, but I want to keep you in my life.

I just want you to understand that even if we seek revenge upon the one that did this to us... it won't change the fact that one of these times, I won't come back home with you, and there won't be a tearful reunion like this again."

Reven gazed down at him. "You've always blazed brightly for me," he breathed. "The brightest thing I've ever known - ever been allowed near. OK, so perhaps at first I was scared you'd burn me - but then I wanted to be in that flame, in that heat - beside you.

And you let me go there - you took me there, dammit! I don't want any other kinda life, Inoue. I've lived without you and I've survived - that's what I do; what I always will do, as long as I can. But it's not what I want - what I need."

He leant down carefully, heart hammering, and touched his lips to Inoue's. They were still moist from his earlier tears; warm from his kissing of Reven's own body. "Every minute I can have with you, I'll take. You've only ever had to move, and I've wanted to move with you. You're the only reason I'm still here today - doing what I do, today.

You've forced me to grow up, Inoue, to be my own man - but that's still a man who wants to be with you." He was desperate to kiss his partner more fully - to dip down and drink in his taste. "Keep me in your life? You won't get rid of me that easily, right?" He kissed - he touched - he sighed into Inoue's opening mouth. You are my life, Inoue, he thought, fiercely. I'll burn just as brightly as I can - and keep you with me while I do it!


A/N: that's not the end, folks! ^_^ just keep hanging in there. clare and i are working on it, i swear we are. but hopefully this answered a few of the questions floating about, and there are more answers to come!