He dragged at his sluggish limbs, and could feel them moving to his command. He knew he'd had weapons when he entered this room - he wondered where the hell they were.

Like Hellman would have left them within reach! Like he'd have allowed the two of them some shred of hope, at all -

Then I'll kill him with my bare hands, Reven thought. His head was full of pain and echo and a thumping pulse, from the effort of getting up. His hands slipped on the bedclothes, slick from blood and sweat.

He wanted to be silent, but he knew that he couldn't hold back the gasps of pain and awkwardness - and anyway, he wanted Eiji to know that he was coming for him. To help him!

To bring retribution to this death dealer, who took so much more than skin and blood with his ministrations - who took a man's spirit, and pride and humanity...

He swung clumsy legs over the side of the bed, trying to clear his misted sight. He could see Hellman crouching over Eiji - Eiji himself was contorted on the floor, barely recognizable any longer.

Sick fuck! he gasped to himself. He pushed himself up to standing - tried to measure the steps needed to get to the crouching man, to put an arm round his neck, to plunge angry fingers into his sickening eyes -

He coughed suddenly, blood spilling out down his chin. He couldn't have stopped it if his life depended on it.

Which it probably did.

Hellman halted - his shoulders tensed. Even as Reven started his stumbling way towards the hideous tableau against the far wall, the kneeling man turned towards him. The scalpel glistened - there was a frown on his face.

He stood, and turned to face Reven.

Hellman was enraged—not only had this horrid child stolen his attention from the death throes of Eiji, but he was up and about and causing trouble so soon.

He should have been prepared for it; this was Inoue’s disciple after all, and he too probably had a built-up tolerance for narcotics and poisons of all kinds.

Well, it was no skin off his nose—he’d simply eliminate the kid first and watch Eiji die afterwards. Yes, perhaps it would be better this way; he’d get to watch the final contortions of pain on the redhead’s face as he saw his pupil take a last breath then expire.

Hellman made his move before Reven could so much as touch anything on the tableau, snatching the youth by his thick black locks and ripping his hand down towards the floor, sending the younger assassin crashing to the ground face-first. “Nice try!” he bellowed at the injured man. “But you’ll have to do better than that to save yourself!”

Within seconds of Reven landing on the floor and his nose being broken against Hellman’s foot, the psychotic man had hold of Reven’s hair once more and was sitting on the youth’s wounded back, clenching his thighs around the gashes to his kidney, causing him to cry out.

He lifted Reven’s head up off the ground, exposing his neck fully, mere feet away from Eiji as he leaned in and pressed his scalpel to the dark-haired assassin’s throat, ready to slash from ear to ear.

The redhead’s eyes snapped open as he heard the cry so near to him—the only cry in existence that could possibly bring him out of his state of nothingness and stir aggression.

His right hand twitched at his side.

”Say goodbye to your pretty child, Eiji,” Hellman said slowly, low in his throat as his eyelids hooded. “And prepare to see hell, Reven!”

He didn’t know who he was at all, Eiji or Inoue.

He didn’t know what he wanted any more.

He didn’t care about anything, except the being held before him now with the knife to his throat, staring at him with wide brown eyes, begging him to do something.

His hand twitched once more, and lifted slightly. All was silence; he couldn’t hear each vocalized breath escaping Reven’s smooth throat, he couldn’t hear Hellman’s ongoing cries of finality.

He couldn’t hear his own breath any longer.

But he could hear his heart beating, slowly, throbbing in his ears as his working fingers and thumb closed around something cold pressed to his chest inside his jacket, something he’d picked up on the last floor…

Time seemed to slow as his hand slid back out from his jacket, clutching the heavy, cold object and aiming it directly between Hellman’s eyes, touching the tip to the bridge of his nose.

With his ring finger, he pulled the trigger of the Colt .45 and the sharp burst of gunfire rang in his ears as Hellman’s eyes widened in shock, and he dropped the scalpel.

The gun hit the floor as well, and the hand that had wielded it fell limp before Reven’s face, as the redhead’s body relaxed further.

There, no more screams… all he could hear was the heartbeat, soothing, calming.

Things were… right.

The heartbeat slowed.

Reven had never felt so helpless, and stupid and like shit - what the fuck did he think he was doing, dragging his broken, shaking body across the room, seeking to outwit Hellman?

He'd stumbled with shock at the sight of Eiji, crumpled there on the floor - for a hideous second, he'd thought he was too late - that Hellman had killed him already!

Was that it, then? No time to speak to him again - to tell him how they were gonna take this man's life, to win over this foul monstrosity - to tell him what he really felt about everything they'd ever meant to each other, built together, done together ...?

And then the maniac had his hands in his hair, and had thrown him to the ground, stretching his legs astride his back and setting his thickset body down hard on his spine.

Reven thought he might never forget the poignancy of that pain.

Thought he wasn't gonna have to remember for much longer, was he? He laughed insanely at himself - at his arrogance. At his imminent death.

He knew he had nowhere to go.

Hellman's hands still gripped his hair tightly, and Reven felt his head wrenched up, baring his neck, straining the muscles of his shoulders beyond endurance. There was a low growl from the man; then there was the cold, slick edge of his scalpel, teasing at his throat. Reven tried to stop breathing - to stop swallowing. Fucked if he was going to give the man any better target than he already had.

And what of Eiji? Inoue?

Reven cried out then, with the last thread of breath before Hellman's hand tightened even further, stretching his windpipe so far that all vocalising was lost to him. He opened his eyes wide and he willed Eiji to see him - to know him!

The red-haired head lifted so very slightly that Reven wasn't sure he'd seen it. The bruised eyes showed nothing but a slit of awareness - but they opened to him.

Look at me! urged Reven's tortured mind.

He clenched what muscles were left to him - he braced his body for the cut; for the cold, smooth slice that would end it all. He just wanted to see Inoue when he went - he just wanted, oh a fuck of a lot of things, but that would be enough!

He barely saw the movement of his partner's hand - was only half conscious of the fact that he'd brought something out in his palm, was holding it up to Hellman's head. He felt Hellman's body tense suddenly above him; the scalpel seemed to waver just a little, and he instinctively tried to pull his flesh away from it.

What the fuck -?

The sound was strange, and yet familiar; it was sharp, yet dulled by his tormented senses.

Hell, he laughed inside, a little hysterically, if i didn't have a blade at my throat, I'd think that was my gun! The one the bitch knocked from my hand on the floor below - the one that slid right out of my reach - guess i was never sure what happened to it -

He could smell the tang of gunpowder - the stench of burnt flesh, from a gun held very closely to the skin. Hellman shuddered above him. There was a metallic clatter on the floor as the scalpel fell from lifeless fingers, and the man's body started to slide to the side, releasing its hold on him.

Reven stared again at Inoue. At Eiji. At the man's widened eyes - at the gun falling from nerveless fingers, a thud at his side.

He had never been so aware of feelings - of sounds - of his partner's anguish.

And then he watched the violet eyes begin to glaze again.

Reven was hovering above him, and his lips were definitely moving, but the redhead couldn't hear anything other than his own heartbeat.

The dark-haired assassin's movements were frantic-- several times he pointed to the window, and there seemed to be something distressing him to the point of tears welling in his eyes, then spilling freely down his soft cheeks.

His partner continued to hoarsely cry out something, but the words fell upon deafened ears.

He was being moved now, pulled into a sitting position against the wall, though he had no idea what good it would do. In fact, it seemed to make the wound across his belly open wider and allow viscera to spill forth, but he couldn't feel that any more.

As though this was another being's body, and he was a mere observing entity...

He saw his hands being grasped in Reven's bloody, desperate fingers, and watched as soft kisses were placed on his lips and cheeks, across his face lovingly.


The one before him had begun their journey together as a boy.

Struggled through it, found his own way...

Here before him now was a man, a solid man with independence and strength.

If there was but one saving grace the redhead thought he had, it was that he had tried his best with this beautiful child... and if he was able to forgive himself for the wrongs that had befallen Reven, perhaps there was a chance at redemption.

The baby-soft lips pressed to his once more, and the redhead's eyes narrowed as one emotion began to register. He didn't need to hear the words being screamed at him to know what was being said, and he returned them silently.

His lips moved ever so slightly, pulling back weakly, as his gaze settled into Reven's.

Inoue smiled.

Reven felt the shivers of his own shock wracking him - but he held Inoue's hands inside his own, knowing it must be agony for his partner, but so very reluctant to lose any connection with him now.

The sirens had started soon after the gunshot, reverberating in the cold room, breaking the hideous spell that had been weaved around them both. Hell, however exclusive the neighbourhood, someone was going to see such extravagant explosions and call the cops!

"It's the cops, Inoue," he stammered out, through gritted teeth. He stared into Inoue's eyes, swimming in the pain there. He couldn't see very well - there seemed to be tears running freely down his face now, though he didn't remember them starting.

"They'll be bringing the emergency services - there'll be paramedics - there'll be help for us. For you! Yeah -" he thought his smile was rather twisted, but he persevered with it, "Like I know you hate hospitals 'n all, but desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Don't give me any fucking trouble about it or I'll be whipping your ass!" He couldn't understand why neither of them was laughing, poor though the joke was - why the tears still flowed down his cheeks.

He couldn't understand the look in Inoue's eyes.

Couldn't understand the way he looked at him.

He leant forward again and kissed at the man's face - and again, touching his bruised and bloody skin with reverence; with anguish; with possessiveness.

"Don't leave me, Inoue," he whispered. Didn't seem to matter if the red haired man heard him or not - it had to be said. "You just have to hang on a bit longer. I don't want you to go. Remember what you said once? You'd be blazing bright until you couldn't take another breath - and you wanted me blazing right there beside you. And I said that was fine by me - that you'd not get rid of me that easily!" His voice was cracked now, and muttering, and rambling fast - as if he wanted things said between them before anyone else came to find them. That's how he felt.

"I said every minute I can have with you, I'll take. That's what it's all been for. Do you hear me, Inoue?" That was the man he wanted to reach! Eiji was dear to him - but it was Inoue that he so desperately wanted to save. How could he say the things that attacked his heart like a physical pain? That saturated his emotions - that couldn't ever really be put into trite little words?


How could he make Inoue understand?

He kissed at Inoue's lips, lightly, and then the man pulled away from him very slightly. Reven caught his gaze - stared at him again, bemused.

There was noise from down below - people making their cautious way up to the top of the building. Cries of horror as they must have struggled their way through the carnage and debris on the floors below. Calls to see if there were any survivors.

Reven could feel his control slipping - his senses fading into unconsciousness. Not yet! he cursed, but his body was rebelling against its treatment - it demanded shut down. He clutched at Inoue's hands, his mouth opened to speak again, but clamped shut with fresh waves of debilitating pain. All he could do was pour his thoughts into his own gaze.

And Inoue smiled.

The desperate pleas slowed, until Reven stopped making them, still clutching cold hands in his own and struggling to stay awake.

It was obvious his body was fighting for release, and he was resisting; but it was a losing battle.

Rest, Reven... sleep. Relax. All is well, he thought, wishing his partner could hear him.

The dark-haired man's eyelids were hooded though his expression was very clearly a plea for the redhead to remain with him, and moments later he collapsed against his partner's chest, like a worn-out child falling into open arms and tumbling into the depths of deep, calm sleep.

Violet eyes lifted slightly and watched the heavy doors being pushed open, and new beings flooding into the room, carrying instruments and cases, rushing to the both of them propped against the wall.

Yes, everything is alright now.

Several of these new beings crowded around the both of them, and immediately drew Reven away, examining wounds and calling for more help.

The redhead continued to smile softly, relaxing as sleep called to him, too.

He closed his eyes.



A/N: this isn't the end, though I suppose we could leave it there. part 24 is being worked on... please read and review and let us know what you think!