Finally, release from obligation. Relief caused him to shudder as Reven's lips covered his own, and Lain let his eyes slide shut as the familiar tongue darted over his mouth, sought entrance and found it quickly.

Talking about Aniki made him feel confused inside—half pleasant, half horrified. He didn’t like it, and therefore he didn’t do it.

Once, Lain had confessed most of what had happened with Aniki to Sphynx, ages ago.

The blonde had listened silently and then made a whistle of disbelief when the tale was complete; Lain had known then that the teen didn’t believe much of what had been told to him. He thought the brunette too weak, too kind-hearted to ever be able to pull the trigger on somebody.

Especially on that person…

But Reven believed him. He could see, feel it—the dark haired man understood the boy and accepted what had been said, rather than dismissed it. He felt some comparisons between Reven and Sphynx rising up in the back of his mind, but pushed those away as well as the delving tongue pushed against Lain’s and woke him back to reality.

The brunette whimpered softly as he was pushed deeper into the mattress and Reven's hands slid under the large shirt that he’d dressed Lain in when they’d gotten home, far too big for the smaller boy’s body and smelling of Reven. When the kiss parted momentarily, he opened his eyes and looked up at his newest friend.

It was almost as if Reven needed to comfort Lain the same way the brunette felt so compelled to comfort his elder. Wasn’t this the basic outline for a mutual relationship? In Lain’s mind, it was the exact definition; it was how he wanted all his relationships to progress. Usually he’d start as the one seeking to comfort the other, and eventually the other would return the feeling.

So far it hadn’t worked with Sphynx, either. The blonde needed a lot of love, though—and Lain did believe that he was loved in return, but not in the same way. Not the way Reven was showing.

He whimpered again as the cool hands slid along his heated skin under the shirt, and Reven dove for another kiss, his hands sliding downwards now, under the loose folds of the pants he’d lent to the teen as well. Lain lifted his arms immediately and wrapped them around the man’s waist, arching his back into the silken caresses as he forgot completely about Aniki and the past, Sphynx, and shooting the men in the restaurant.

Lain felt so good! Reven didn't know if it was the relief after the restaurant debacle, or whether it was his own need reawakened. Watching Lain sleep, he'd found all kinds of new thoughts in his mind - all kinds of strange, long-buried memories returning. About himself - about his life with Chad, and others before him - about Inoue. That was when his life really began, he admitted.

And now Lain was a character in the melodramatic farce that was his life. Kalain - a mixture of naivety and sense; a mixture of wisdom and need. He said he wanted to help and comfort Reven - and he had. Much more, too. He'd excited him - stimulated him.

Satisfied him.

Reven liked the feel of his smooth, young skin; liked the swift, greedy way he responded to his touches. He stroked at the body on his bed, caressing it. He liked much more about the boy than he'd admit to himself just yet - it was too soon. There were too many other things he had to consider.

His hand nestled between Lain's thighs, and he nudged the pants down the boy's hips, to his knees. They were a little too large to start with, though both of them were slender.

He touched him, almost aimlessly - watched how Lain arched up and moaned. The youth's cock sprang free, throbbing gently against his palm, and Reven closed his fingers firmly round it. He wanted to comfort the boy - though the feeling went much deeper than that.

Lain's arousal was hot and hard, with a morning fierceness that excited Reven. He slid down on to the bed beside him, his head and hands at Lain's groin. He leant over the boy and nipped gently at the flushed skin around his hip and navel ; he licked roughly and quickly at the ripples of young muscle there.

Lain bucked and gasped with pleasure underneath him, provoking him further.

Reven began to pump - very slowly; teasingly. His finger slid in the pre-cum at the tip of Lain's flesh - smoothed it around the shaft as he rubbed up and down, drawing its ecstasy out further with each move. Lain was panting now.

Reven smiled. His own body pulsed with desire but he was enjoying this intimate torment so much that he left his own needs alone. He dipped his head below his fist, down between Lain's legs, nuzzling at his balls. They crinkled with the delightful shock - Reven slipped his hot possessive lips around them, savouring them each.

Lain yelped. Reven still pumped lazily, but now his mouth was at the soft skin behind the balls, licking sensuously; stroking; devouring. He could feel the pressure inside Lain's cock - he could feel the tension in the boy's body. Lain's hand nestled briefly at his head, as if nervous of gripping at his hair for anchorage.

"Come for me," Reven murmured. "I want to see it - to taste it. Let it go, Lain." He tightened his hand and teased at the tip of the hot, anguished flesh. He rested his cheek against Lain's upper thigh - the hairs of his groin tickled at Reven's mouth; the hot throb of his approaching climax nudged at Reven's face.

Completion would wait no longer - there was a hiccup and a groan wrenched from Lain's throat. The boy's legs tensed against Reven's hold, and his cock swelled in Reven's hand.

The older man gave a slight gasp - he glanced up to look at Lain's face; to see his pleasure. It was an awesome thing! Lain's face was flushed and twisted with ecstasy - his hands gripped the sheets at either side of his body. Reven grinned, mischievously - he leant forward again and his lips brushed up the column of flesh. Lain's answering cry was almost a shriek - the seed pumped out of him like a dam bursting, spitting softly and hotly, splattering against his belly and Reven's face.

Reven nestled in against it, welcoming it. He felt the arcing threads against his lips, and his tongue slipped out to lick at them. It was sweet - sour. Sharp with Lain's excitement and his body's desperation. Reven felt the drops on his throat - some on his cheek. It was like a mark - but not a wound.

Yes! he thought. It was good!

It was very welcoming indeed.

Lain sat up shakily, his breath sharp, short gasps through parted lips as he propped himself on the bed with his hands and leaned in quickly, tilting his head to the side and flicking the tip of his tongue at a droplet of his own seed left on the corner of Reven's mouth.

"What was that for?" he asked gently, lifting his chin and murmuring affectionate noises with soft kisses along the man's cheeks and lips. "I'm supposed to be the one doing that for you after a rough day."

He smiled and kissed the slight crease between Reven's eyebrows once.
"But if I were to guess," he added playfully, "that wasn't for the sake of my pleasure alone."

The brunette sat up fully and pulled Reven's head down so that he was hugging it to his chest, burying his face in the thick black tresses, feeling the warm breath against his skin, and blushing as he felt a darting tongue swipe against him and then the nip of teeth, as though to assert who was really in charge here.

Closing his eyes, Lain pressed his cheek to the top of Reven's head.

"I'll do anything for you, anything I can," he mumbled, running idle fingers through the soft locks. "I'm sorry that I did that in the restaurant... but I want to help you. I have to help you." It wasn't a question or a proposal any more-- it was a fact. The boy needed to do this; it was everything he believed, it was everything he held dear, it was everything he stood for.

It was everything he wanted.

All that remained other than this, should he ever dare to hope for a perfect life, was to have Sphynx begin to act out the love for Lain the brunette knew his partner felt inside. And perhaps a place to live, him and Sphynx together. And Reven.

Frowning slightly, cobalt eyes opened, though he didn't release Reven's head from his embrace.

Something had... something had pricked at his gut, inside.

When he thought about a future with Sphynx and Reven.

The brunette swallowed hard as something that he'd been avoiding finally forced its way to attention. There was no way he could keep both Reven and Sphynx as great loves in his life at the same time; each commanded a certain level of attention from Lain... and as long as one was being focused upon, the other was being ignored.

Of course he'd known this; he had recognized Sphynx's outstanding understanding of Lain's need to comfort this once-stranger. Lain had done it before. But he had never been this involved, this interested, and Sphynx wasn't a fool; he was sure the blonde knew just how badly his partner was drawn to this new light, a moth to flames.

What seemed strangest of all was how well Sphynx was taking it.

Especially the last short while.

That sharp pang struck once more, and Lain loosened his grip on Reven, though he still kept his face buried in deep ebon waves and immersed in the man's scent.

This was the same feeling he got when there was a danger he couldn't locate hovering on the horizon.

But, the sensation was forgotten as Reven lifted his head and closed his mouth upon Lain's, sealing lips together in a crushing kiss, stealing his breath and his fears.

Reven knew that Lain wanted to please him in return; he could feel the boys' hands at his waist, clinging to him as they kissed. But he felt a shiver of emotion in Lain that was from something other than their play - and the boy himself had referred to the restaurant again. Perhaps he was still shocked - still upset about both that time and his own memories.

Reven didn't want to distress him further. He drew back, gently. "That's enough for now, Lain. It's all behind us now, OK? You helped me, I can assure you. Though there are things we need to work out between us if you accompany me again. It was my fault - I should have prepared you better. Though how the fuck I could have anticipated it going that way -"

He shook his head, impatient to forget it all. The experience would be stored against future events. Hell, he'd thought to leave the assassin life behind him, for a while at least. Was there evidence in his expression - blood on his calling card? Seemed that violence would still follow him.

"I have free time now that the job is aborted. Do you want to go out somewhere? Or we can stay here and I can get you settled in a little better. Like I said before, i don't have a lot of entertainment here. But I have the books - and I could show you around the gym equipment...

"Books?" the boy asked cheerfully, a bright smile washing away any last traces of doubt or distress.

"Aniki used to read to me under the trees. But when he couldn't, I'd read them myself and get lost in the worlds between the covers. It got me in trouble a few times, because I didn't hear things I needed to, too lost in books." Grinning sheepishly, he whispered, "I like the happy endings."

Lain watched as Reven got off the bed, and the boy pulled the loose fitting clothes back onto him, following the man out of the bedroom and into the living room.

Reven looked up at the shelf that had been strictly forbidden before, then glanced back at his short guest, almost hesitant. Lain tilted his head to the side, curious.

Not only was he wondering whether he was allowed to touch these books now or not, but the boy was also permitting himself the risky hope that it would be a good book Reven picked for him to read.

There was a momentary... something in the eyes staring at Lain that the brunette couldn't read, but he parried with a warm smile for Reven, lacing his fingers behind his back to show that he wasn't going to reach out and grab anything like a greedy little kid.

Secretly, though, he was biting his tongue, holding back a hum of excitement and anticipation.

A book, one of the precious books for him to read or have read to him!
Quick tingles shot down Lain's arms and the backs of his legs as Reven's fingertips ran along the spines of several books slowly; it was exactly what Aniki used to do when picking a book, making Lain wait, teasing him, making him beg for it.

Reven's thoughts drifted away from Lain as he stood there, eyes raking along the line of familiar texts. Inoue had never read for pleasure - had no time for fiction.

Yet some of his books had been more than dry textbooks - their training guides had been more than just lists and instructions. Reven's finger paused at a slim, well-worn spine, and he smiled. He slid the book out of the shelf and turned back to Lain.

He was amused to see the boy's eagerness - pleased, too. He'd thought Lain might want to spend time on the more physical pastimes; Reven hadn't missed the fact that Lain was fascinated by his exercise schedule, and with the way he pushed his body on the equipment. But seemed the boy wanted more out of life than just to be physically strong.

But Reven was still glad he hadn't picked the text on poisons!

"It's an unusual book," he said. "It has no single topic. It's about the people of the world - the countries they live in; the clothes they wear. Their customs; their religions; their education. The environment; the climate - the taboos and the entertainments that they each seek." Inoue had kept it for reference - it helped him understand a wide range of human nature and its characteristics.

It had also helped him with ideas for disguise and infiltration and just in changing his attitude so that he could blend in anywhere and any time.

But Reven had suspected that Inoue drew more from it than the facts. He'd often found his partner perusing it, on his own, engrossed in one chapter or another.

Reven found it just as fascinating - not just the knowledge that there were so many different people in the world that he would likely never meet or whose lives he would never experience - whose home worlds he would never know. But he also found the text enchanting and sympathetic - the writer had had as much delight as the reader in discovering these worlds.

It was illustrated with superb photographs, which Inoue had also seemed to appreciate. Reven understood the need for the minimum of personal effects in the life they'd led together; but he thought that Inoue may have occasionally regretted this.

He suspected that his partner had known beautiful things - had known luxury and sophistication at some time in his life; but had either lost it or rejected it. Or both.
There should always be room for appreciating beauty, even at the most basic level.

The book had been part of his life for so long, and yet always had something new to show him.

He wanted to share it with Lain now.

Reven took a seat on the couch in the living room, and Lain sat beside him, curling up in the plush cushions and nestling up to the elder man’s warmth with a small smile.

The book was opened slowly, reverently, and Lain looked over each picture slowly, drinking it in and savouring the gorgeous illustrations and photos as Reven read quietly.
The brunette found his cheeks warm and his smile steady as he listened to Reven’s calm voice and heard each word he spoke, alongside the man’s breathing and the flutter of pages.

He felt like a small boy again, having stories read to him—leaning against a strong, steady frame and hearing a deep voice speak to him.

When Reven turned the next page, a few minutes into the book, several yellowed sheets of paper tumbled out from inside the book, onto their laps. Lain blinked in surprise and looked up at his dark haired companion, to see the same expression of surprise written on Reven’s face as well.

Picking up several pieces of paper each, Lain looked through the ones in his hands as he straightened the pile. These were sketches! He smiled immediately as he recognized the face in the picture.

A charcoal-shadowed, younger Reven stared up from the page, gazing off in the distance with his lips slightly parted and body relaxed, leaning against a window. He was dressed in only a pair of jeans, left unbuttoned at the top, and a stray lock of hair was curled across his cheek, drawing attention to the round, soft curve of it, making the viewer want to touch it.

Lain glanced up at Reven, who seemed to be engrossed in whatever he was seeing on his papers, and continued looking through the ones in his own hands eagerly. The next sketch was of Reven asleep, in ink this time, lying on a large bed shadowed with curtains. The brunette had to restrain a squeal of delight at these images; whoever had drawn them had done so with such care, and obvious adoration for the model.

The next image was a quick, half-complete sketch in pencil, of somebody that was not Reven. This man’s face was more rigid and had no traces of youthfulness left in the hard-set mouth or lowered eyebrows. And yet, the man was beautiful in his own ways—he had captivating eyes, which the artist seemed to have focused on the most.

The pencil was darkest around the lashes and the rings around the irises, as well as the pupils, which were near black from pressing down on the paper with the pencil. This man’s face was staring directly at the viewer, and his rigid shoulders and unforgiving expression spoke of discipline and hardship.

His hair was long and straight, well groomed but allowed to rest over his shoulders, and his jaw was well-defined but set firmly.

Lain lifted up the image of this man for Reven to see, parting his lips to ask a question, but stopped when he glanced back up at his host to see the man’s face contorted with something that wasn’t joy.

What the fuck -? Reven picked up one of the papers, wondering where they’d come from. They were none of his – and he knew that Inoue had been obsessively tidy with his documents, let alone allowing them to be scooped up into a mere book. He lifted one thin sheet – then another. The blood drained from his face; he ceased to be aware of Lain’s soft breathing beside him.

Something hurt inside of him; something broke.

It had been a pleasant time so far, sharing the book with Lain – a mixture of education and discovery. The city they lived in had plenty of ethnic quarters, especially around the areas that Lain had frequented; it was fascinating to see some of the antecedents of these immigrants and refugees in the book; intriguing to read about some of their customs, even if they’d integrated fully into the same life as Reven and Lain by now. Or perhaps he was just enjoying the comfortable press of the boy’s body against him – Lain’s ingenuous questions – the boy’s growing awareness of a life and its people beyond his own experience. He soaked up information in a way that reminded Reven of himself when he was younger, though he’d never been so comfortable with his own reading; he’d struggled to keep up with Inoue.


He must have drawn these sketches – there was no other explanation. Reven recognised himself in them – of course he did! But he’d never seen Inoue with paper or pencil in his hand – never been aware of being studied. These had been drawn in secret; from the man’s memory. From his own reserves. They showed a talent and a perception that Reven had never credited his partner with. How could he have missed a part of Inoue’s life such as this? Why had the man kept it secret from him? Did he think it was a weakness to admit to creativity?

Reven was disturbed by the pictures of himself; he’d never seen himself in such a way. His body drawn in strokes of pencil – his eyes closed; his limbs at graceful rest. The lines of his profile were sketchily done, but a perfect catch of his essence. It made his heart ache to sense the strength and delicacy of Inoue’s touch. And the familiarity with which he committed Reven to paper.

Then the last sheet slipped out, and his fingers paused in sorting them. His face stilled; his nerves shivered. The room was far away – the people in it from another world. He was sucked into the picture – into the maelstrom of pencil strokes. Bold, angry, agonised lines – fast, furious shadings, as if the inspiration might fade. As if the artist had wanted it to fade.

This was a very different picture.

It showed Reven again. There wasn’t much of him, just the naked head and shoulders, his hair swept forward but only half coloured in. There were dark, angry scrapes of black movement across the picture, not all of it clear enough to make out the meaning. There were puddles of liquid that may have been rain – but just as likely to be blood. There were half faces, disembodied limbs – a thickset, rough looking man in restraints, with marks on his face and a hand at his throat that wasn’t his own. Another body drawn face down, its spine strangely twisted, with nothing to identify it but the edge of a paper under its smashed head – or maybe something smaller, like a photo. There was a crying child; a woman’s face screaming with anger. There was the lick of fire.

It was a horror movie on paper.

The eyes of the pictorial Reven looked out at the viewer, and there was no mistaking the anger there. It was so bold as to be a shock, to see his emotions laid so bare! And yet he couldn’t think of when he’d looked like that – when he’d shown that very specific face to Inoue. It was almost an after-thought, but his eyes were drawn to one last detail. On each of his shoulders was a hand – a hand that was larger than his, the fingers long and flexible. There were scars on the knuckles. They clutched at Reven’s body as if to hold on to it – to restrain it. Or maybe it was something more tolerant than that. There wasn’t enough to recognise a person – only the touch. The hands were drawn down as far as the wrists, half hidden behind the rest of Reven.

There were thick metal cuffs on the wrists.

Lain caught sight of the image that had captivated his host with such a frozen, horrified face, and he stared at the sketch silently, the hood of innocence pulling back from his expression once more as he entered his state of observance. They remained silent together, cobalt eyes darting over the page just as quickly as Reven's, though one gaze was unable to turn away and one was searing over the page voluntarily, like a hunter.

He didn’t need to speak his analysis aloud, but once it was done, Lain felt a twist of sorrow in his gut.

Here the artist had sketched Reven, focusing intently on his eyes and expression… and little glimpses of situations that one would probably never forget if seen, or if the viewer had been directly involved. …Possibly, or probably the cause of the situations as well, Lain reasoned. Blood, so much blood and death. And for killers to reminisce on these events meant that those who were slain had meant something to them.

A lot of what he saw when separated and focused upon didn’t make sense individually, but when Lain sat back and took in the whole image, it was obviously meant to portray the chaotic purgatory surrounding Reven.

Those hands on his shoulders as well… they weren’t clenching tightly, as though to hold him back. It was almost a comforting gesture or an embrace, perhaps even support through the hell around him. A slight frown crossed Lain’s face as he noted the cuffs upon the wrists. Some sort of symbolism? Was the one trying to comfort him held back by a restraint he couldn’t break?

He tried to understand the picture, but in the end was only left with more questions, and the little he was sure about wasn’t comforting at all. It seemed that everything Lain did to try and share quiet moments with Reven only resulted in the man receiving more agony!

White knuckles were still gripping the paper as Lain returned to himself and he glanced up at his host warily. The brunette wasn’t sure what he should do; certainly he wasn’t alike to any of the people in the picture, but he wasn’t sure if Reven was even focused enough to differentiate between reality and the drawing that had pulled him into his own reality so quickly and viciously.

Truly, he looked very much like several of the gaping people with bloody marks slashed across their faces, through throats and into bellies. Still, this paralyzed state of terror was not beneficial to Reven and needed to end.

Lain pushed himself up onto his knees and placed his hand over the center of the image, blocking most of it from view as he lifted himself quickly and put his head between the paper and Reven's line of sight as well. “It’s over,” he whispered quickly, urgently. “Come back to me, Reven.”