Lain took a seat on the couch and picked up the two knives he'd left there, turning the cleaver over twice and nodding with satisfaction. He didn't even test to see if the blades were sharp; this was the house of a killer. Of course they were.

He hid the cleaver under the middle cushion and slipped the smaller knife into the belt, on his left. Then, calmly, he lay down on the couch with his left side pressed to the back, and his head on the armrest, facing the door. Lain let his eyes slide closed, and relaxed the muscles in his body, allowing his lips to part slightly and his head to tilt just a little to the left.

Feigning sleep was the easy part.

Resisting actually sleeping was where it got difficult, but he decided that he would do it no matter what. All he had to do was remind himself what was at stake here.

Sphynx. Reven.

His eyebrows lowered in a vicious frown, but he remembered that he was pretending to be asleep and forced his face to relax.

The door opened slowly, softly, noiselessly. In the moonlight, the glint of a silver key flashed in the room before disappearing into a pocket.

Pale, snowy-white locks appeared through the door as it was closed behind a slender body, just as silently. A golden plait of hair rested on the shoulder of the body in the entrance, and the shadowed face looked around quickly.

With feline precision, the figure seemed to glide across the living room, towards the bedroom. As it passed the couch, it paused, and turned its head to look down at the figure sleeping there; white teeth glittered in the moonlight as the figure smiled, though whether it was a menacing grin or the expression of a lover wasn't visible.

One hand lifted from the figure's side, and approached the head of the sleeping body.

Lain's eyes were open in the dark; he hadn't awoken from noise so much as something pricking on the back of his neck, warning him, demanding he wake. First instinct was to kill, second was to lecture himself for falling asleep at all, and third was to find out who it was.

But, any and all instincts were gone as a hand closed around his throat less than a second after he'd been startled awake, and he was pulled into a sitting position, the hand tight about his throat.

The figure in the dark bent forward slowly, and its face approached Lain's, until he could feel hot, slow breath rushing across his ear.

"Marco," the blonde whispered, barely audible even to Lain.

A shiver ran down the brunette's spine as the hot breath left his skin, and the lithe figure drew away once more.


It had been their little game, their series of code words for different situations... When one of them was in trouble or knew something was about to happen, he'd whisper to the other one of the words. Sanctuary meant to meet up behind the church near Main.

Home meant that a game of tag was to ensue; be it passing something between the two of them to keep it hidden, or each taking turns sprinting with a package to deliver and avoiding being caught.

Marco was one Lain had never actually used with Sphynx-- it meant that something very, very bad was about to happen, and for them to meet in their secret hiding place afterwards: the Ampolonius club, where children often sought refuge for a day or two when in the worst of trouble.

The owner of the Ampolonius allowed any and all to stay under his roof for a short time under the condition of neutrality while there... and the sign on the front of the club was in poor condition, with the a, m, n, i, u and s all burnt out, leaving only 'polo' lit up in yellow on even the darkest of nights.

Marco, the figure had whispered.

Polo, Lain's throat wanted to rasp in reply.

Reven shifted gently under the cover and wondered what the whisper in his mind was. He knew on the moment of waking where he was - that he was alone in his room - that the apartment had drifted into the darkness of the night time. The moonlight through his blinds gave the slightest glimmer of illumination, though not enough to see into the lounge through a door he'd left ajar.

He knew almost immediately afterwards that there had been movement in the lounge.

Lain was still there.

Maybe the boy had just woken for the toilet. Maybe it was nothing more than a cushion falling.

Maybe it wasn't.

He moved with a well-honed instinct, sliding from the bed and drawing on a pair of loose sweat pants. His hand slipped under his pillow and he palmed a small knife. He could defend himself with bare hands - but he had no idea at present what he might be facing.

There'd been no sense of anyone breaking in - yet he could feel the disturbance in the raised hairs on his neck. He moved to the bedroom door and looked out from behind its cover.

He could make out Lain on the couch - but there was a shadow beside him, as tall as a man. As a young man. A figure that swayed slightly up from Lain's body - a figure that Reven knew as familiar.


How had he got into the apartment? Had Lain let him in? Reven felt a pang of anger. Was the boy's devotion nothing but a ruse? Or perhaps his new lover was not as independent as he thought he was. His earlier possession of Reven had been fierce and confident and irresistible - but he was still a boy. And one who'd shown an alarming obsession for the street rat called Sphynx. Reven knew he had no idea of what really bound them together - what their shared history may have been.

The situation felt even more volatile. He stepped forward around the door, knowing he could now be seen. Lain's head moved sharply towards him, but Sphynx's moved far more slowly.

"You choose a strange time to come calling, Sphynx," he said, softly. "Want to give me some explanation?"

Reven knew every inch of his apartment - knew where to step to be aware of everything in the room - knew where to stand to have access to everything he could possibly want, to his advantage.

Without moving his head, his palm brushed gently at the wall beside him, flicking on the side lights. His eyes flickered quickly, accustoming him to the new brightness suddenly illuminating his lounge. And he focused on the scene in front of him.

He hadn't heard Reven either, but in the back of his head Lain knew the man was there, was near.

It made no difference to him, though he wondered briefly if Reven would interfere with the business Lain had to take care of.

In an instant he moved, pulling his throat from the figure's grasp and taking hold of the serrated knife at his side, swinging it through the air in a high arc and bringing it down just as the light flicked on, illuminating everything.

The blonde didn't have time to react as the knife sliced clear across his waist and stomach, from one side to the other, parting his abdomen like a fat gazelle and sending a crimson splash of blood cascading onto the floor.

A gasp, then a choked cry that didn't escape the blonde's lips was heard, and Lain rolled off the couch, slipping his hand under the cushions and drawing the cleaver out as naturally as possible.

He gripped the handle tight and brought the heavy blade high in the air, swinging it down while the blonde was far too worried about his torn stomach to notice; there was the heavy, wet crack of metal to flesh and bone, and the cleaver lodged itself in the blonde's spine, halfway through his neck.

Lain's eyes narrowed viciously and his mouth remained hard-set and downturned as he watched the body fall, letting the cleaver go with it, still embedded in the neck and the serrated knife still in his hand.
He drew his upper lip back in a snarl as the dying gurgle escaped the blonde, and steel grey eyes rolled into the back of the intruder's head.

"Close, but Sphynx smells different than that," the brunette growled down at the Sphynx impostor, who had even gone so far as to put on ragged street clothes and cut and braid his hair like the boy's blonde lover.

He turned to Reven then, droplets of the man's blood cooling on his young, soft face and darkening the creases of his frown.

He wasn't necessarily enraged at Reven; the man had, in every sense of the word, done nothing as the one-sided fight had commenced. What incensed him was that Sphynx had obviously set this up, to let Lain escape and to have Reven killed.

That, or to possibly give Lain the chance to run and let this assassin fall under Reven's knife, then send another, more skilled master of death later on when the dark haired man thought everything was over and he'd defeated his enemies.

Likely, the second choice, Lain decided, as he wiped the serrated blade clean on his jeans.

"Another will be coming, then more," he said flatly to Reven, finally. Lain paused and yawned casually, stepping over the body and picking up the cleaver as he walked to the bathroom to wash his face and tools off.

Reven watched the boy turn and walk out. Or rather, he saw him turn - then he moved more quickly than Lain might have expected, stepping around the cooling corpse on the floor and his strong hand reached out and fixed on the younger man's arm. "Lain!"

Lain paused again, but his head didn't turn back to Reven. Reven saw the way his fingers gripped the handle of the cleaver; saw the shallow breath in the boy's chest. Small drops of blood from Lain's arm trickled over the back of Reven's hand, and dripped to the floor to join the rest of the pool.

"So..." Reven tried to steady his shocked voice. "What the fuck was all that about?" The smell of the intruder's blood was in his nostrils; sharp and metallic. The ripped body lay sprawled on his floor, the final spurt of living blood still seeping out underneath the twisted limbs. He could see now that it wasn't Sphynx, as Lain had said.

It was a fair attempt to impersonate him - the man was the right build and height, and had moved in the same confident, stealthy manner. Reven knew he had been fooled for a few moments. Fooled for long enough that he spoke to the intruder, rather than attacked without warning.

Had the attacker known that - intended that? Was it Lain that he'd been after? Or Reven himself?

He gripped Lain's arm more tightly. This was not the pleasant boy he'd had accompany him around the apartment. This was someone else - someone darker, crueller, and more ruthless - and a fuck sight better equipped with deadly weapons than Reven had ever suspected.

"Your name is on the black list of somebody powerful, obviously. Excellent resources to be able to find a suitable Sphynx imitator so quickly, and Sphynx had to have something to do with it if they knew to use his look-alike in the first place," Lain replied in a dry tone, looking over his weapons.

These were alright for make-do equipment, but they weren't everyday killing knives; they were meant for meat that was already dead. He'd have to find some of his own, since it was obvious Reven didn't intend to provide him with any.

"That was my chance to choose between him and you," he added, finalizing the statement flatly.

He didn't clarify what his choice had been, though to credit himself some, he was still in the apartment, rather than running into Sphynx's arms.

What Lain wasn't sure of was if it was his only chance to choose Sphynx.

He had a new look on things lately, especially within the last few hours... the blonde wasn't the man innocent Lain, stupid Lain, naive Lain had thought he was. Yet, there were some things that weren't deniable about Sphynx... if he was such a monster, he wouldn't have given Lain the opportunity to meet up with him, wouldn't have used that code word.

And on top of that, there was the chance that it was a setup by whoever was trying to kill Reven; perhaps Sphynx was in their clutches and they'd forced the code word out of him, trying to separate Reven and Lain so that each could be killed off individually, or perhaps captured for worse...

His head hurt.

Lain jerked his hand out of Reven's grasp and glared up at the man.

"Don't talk to me like some child," he growled.

For a second they glared at each other.

"OK," said Reven, sharply. "I understand." He saw that Lain noted the change in his tone - the way that he stared at him as an equal. "But if that's how you want to play it, there are things you need to do, and fast. You'll clear this trash up and you'll ensure that no traces of your work tonight are left for anyone who follows. That will include the clothes you're wearing now and the knives. I won't have carelessness put either of us at risk. You'll tell me anything else you might suspect about Sphynx, and who he might have told about this place - and then you'll be silent unless you have something else of value to share with me." He knew he was being harsh - but he was matching Lain's attitude.

"Then we'll leave here before dawn." Reven was already gathering things together in his mind. He was always ready to move at a moment's notice - no ties, no commitments, no trails that enemies might follow. It's just that he hadn't felt the need for some months. He didn't need to know all the details of why - just needed to take him and Lain somewhere else where they could regain the advantage.

"There's no point in being cornered here, waiting for whatever or whoever may be sent after us. I have places we can go, the other side of town. We can discuss it further there. Places no-one else knows." He watched Lain move away, to wash himself before the blood hardened on his skin.

Perhaps I won't even tell you, Reven thought. For your protection. He glanced over the carnage in his room; remembered watching with amazement the confident sweep of Lain's hand - the efficient killing of the intruder. Perhaps for mine, too.

Lain heard the words Reven spoke to him, but he didn't speak any agreement to them. He simply walked away from the man and proceeded to wash himself up.

Cleaning the body up had been relatively easy as well; after the first time, it's a cinch, he thought with a dour expression as he was mopping up the blood with paper towels, which would be stuffed in the same plastic bags as the dismembered body.

Once he was finished cleaning the mess, he stripped himself of all clothes and wrapped the knives in them, then tossed them into the bags as well. Standing naked in the hallway, he glanced Reven packing a small bag in the bedroom.

If the assassin thought he was going to receive the complete volume of things Sphynx was and wasn't and everything he was capable of, he had another thing coming. Lain would clean up any messes he made, but he wasn't some simpering idiot who would blubber out anything that was asked of him to somebody who happened to be fucking him at the moment.

He caught a glimpse of a few knives going into the bag, and a firearm; the same gun Lain had used in the restaurant.

"Hmph," the brunette turned on his heel and headed into the bathroom, turning on the shower and closing the glass door behind him.

As he showered and the blood seemed to melt off of his pale skin, he mulled over what was to be done about this. Though it really was Reven's mess in the first place, Lain did have responsibility in it now that Sphynx was involved.

He lifted his hands in the shower, up to the nozzle spraying down the gloriously hot water, feeling it running through his fingers and down his arms like hot, fresh blood. Cobalt eyes closed and his lips parted as he let the hot liquid flow over him, unceasing, mesmerising.

A choice between Reven and Sphynx, he thought to himself, feeling the hotness flow across his face and down his cheeks, into his mouth, pooling within it until it flowed out from between his lips.

Several minutes later, Lain walked out of the bathroom, scrubbed clean and still naked as the day he was born, his hair matted to his back and shoulders as he walked through Reven's bedroom and put his hands on his hips.

"So?" he asked almost sarcastically. "Is there anything you've decided I'm to wear if we're going to be doing things your way, or am I free to make that choice?"

Reven's eyes narrowed. He knew his eyes flickered over Lain's body as it stood there, naked and very provocative, but he hid his reactions. "I have no time for attitude, Lain," he said. He kept his voice low for the last thing he needed was an argument at the moment.

He wanted to be conciliatory - it was an element of his personality that had been alien to Inoue. Inoue had always demanded to be in charge, and for others to follow. But Reven knew the approach sometimes had its uses, to get things done swiftly. "The job is done, and we'll go now. You can choose from the clothes that I've left here on the bed. They're all anonymous and comfortable." He moved to zip up the bag in his hands, as he saw Lain's eyes skip over it, inquisitive.

He turned suddenly and took the two steps to stand up against Lain's body. The boy didn't move back, but Reven saw his flesh shiver with surprise. He felt the vibrations, too - Lain's skin was still warm from the shower, and droplets of water still trailed across one shoulder.

Reven took hold of his chin and tilted his head up to face him. "Let's get one thing clear, Lain. You have many choices in life - but tonight you've narrowed them down to only two. By your own actions, I'll remind you." The boy's pupils dilated - but he stared back at Reven with as much challenge as before. Reven removed his hand abruptly - though one of his fingertips brushed almost carelessly against Lain's lower lip as he did. "You can come with me, which will involve doing a certain amount of things my way, as you say. Or we can part our ways now. Those are my choices - and they're the ones you've chosen for yourself, too."

"There are always more than two choices," the brunette replied evenly, letting his tongue slide out from between his lips purposefully and licking once at the place where Reven's finger had touched him. He smiled then, frank and charming. "I like this game."

Heading to the bed, Lain chose a pair of extremely baggy pants and held them up with several belts wrapped around his small waist. Next came a shirt that was extremely tight and ended just above his navel, and was cut high at the throat, ending just beneath his jaw.

Over his shoulders he strapped a set of suspenders, black like the rest of the clothing, and attached them to the lip of his pants. Finally he slid on a black jacket, also too large, with buckles on the upper arms and around the waist. He did up the ones on his arms but left the jacket open, pulling his hair out from beneath it and letting it fall over the hood and shoulders.

A few feline stretches later, Lain was ready to go. He turned to Reven then, and smiled once more, leaning in slowly until their lips were nearly touching.

"Everything I said that upset you... I didn't mean to," he murmured melodiously, looking up into the man's eyes. "Call it the porcupine effect, if you will; you can pet and play with one all you like without getting pricked..."

He closed his mouth upon Reven's softly, letting his eyes slide shut and holding the kiss for several long moments before drawing away and finishing, "but the moment it doesn't feel safe..."

He kissed Reven once more, shorter this time, though with more passion; his tongue delved into the assassin's mouth but once before he drew back.

Lain smiled once more, a warmer smile this time as he let the subject drop. "Does the other apartment have a lot of windows?" he inquired cheerfully.

Reven's eyes raked up and down the youth's body, clothed now. He was reassured that Lain seemed to be calm after his frenzied attack - and he was warmed by the touch of the boy's mouth, however much he thought it inappropriate at this very moment.

You're more like him every day, murmured his conscience, and he was startled by his own thoughts. Like Inoue - you're showing his intolerance, his obsessive self-restraint! Did you forget the rush of adrenalin after a kill? The excitement in your veins - the thrill in your body that could manifest itself in so many, sensual ways? He looked back at Lain's smile. The boy looked like he was treating it all as a game - as light-hearted fun.

Reven wouldn't make the mistake of underestimating him again, though.

He picked up the bag and ran his hand round the boy's jaw, tracing the movement of his smile. "Enough for light," he said. "Yet not too many to leave us vulnerable. It won't be as luxurious as here, Lain, you must understand that. It's somewhere to hide out and a base for us to find out more about this night."

And plan our retaliation, he thought.

"And when we get near there, I'll blindfold you." He felt Lain tense. "It's for your own good, until we decide if we'll stay there or move on again. Trust me. I'll let you know everything soon."

Lain's tongue pushed idly against his left eyetooth behind closed lips as he stared at Reven.

He was agitated at the thought of being blindfolded, more so than he allowed to surface in his expression. What little of the gentler Lain that had been peeking through for a few moments there was immediately stifled at the mention of it.

"You don't seem to understand the larger picture here," Lain finally mused, as they left the apartment and walked down the hall towards the elevators. He spoke quietly, so that even if anybody was listening, they wouldn't be able to hear it. "It's a large organization that can do what they've done so far, plus they have more inside information than most thanks to Sphynx. You can't just keep running in the same small city, though I do think leaving this place to regroup is wise. Yet, you can't take them head-on, either."

They entered the elevators, and Lain remained silent until they left the building and were inside Reven's car.

"So, there are obvious options presented before you," Lain continued as he was seated comfortably in the passenger seat, crossing his legs and pulling his shoes off. He leaned back against the seat, and relaxed his neck against the headrest, tilting his chin up and letting his eyes slide shut. Reven started the car and they began to drive.

"You can accept their offer as it was presented earlier, though I'm sure this time round you wouldn't be paid for your services. In exchange, you'd simply agree with each other to avoid stepping on one another's feet in the future. A shaky truce, if you will..." He sighed quietly. "If you can trust the word of the people that would use a street kid to get to an assassin. Or, you can simply move away from this place entirely, to somewhere that the tendrils of this organization... don't reach..." His words trailed off as the hum of the engine and silence Reven replied with lulled him out of reality.

He felt so tired. Being this Lain wore him out, through and through, and he hadn't gotten much sleep on that couch, either.

He almost wanted to revert back to innocent, pliable Lain. Almost.

Reven listened to him, quite calmly. So the boy had made all the same connections that he had himself - that this latest attack had been as a result of the scene in the restaurant.

Despite the fact that their own men had chosen to attack Reven, probably against orders, the organisation would be seen to get its revenge for his killing of the whole group. They had inevitably sent last night's attacker to kill, or at the very least to do Reven some serious damage - despite what Lain thought, Reven didn't believe the look-alike had come to negotiate with him! Yet maybe there was still an option to meet with them and consider this shaky truce that Lain described.

He was only one man after all.

And the boy was right - he couldn't run for ever. Nor was it his way.

What is my way? he thought, enjoying the pull of the car underneath him, the speed of the vehicle as he took a well-known route to the outskirts of the city. What am I doing here? I just wanted to be left alone... to do some work that no-one else wanted to do - to keep myself occupied - to remain unknown.

Merely to exist.

But am I now being drawn back into that life? But without Inoue beside me?

He looked across at Lain and saw the boy drifting asleep. That was good. The grim set to his features was easing as he relaxed - his limbs were softening back to their gentler guise. Perhaps he wouldn't need to blindfold him after all, if he wasn't aware of their destination for some other reason.

He was still very wary; shocked at Lain's twist of character into a killer; angry at Sphynx's obvious betrayal of Reven, and maybe of his own partner, Lain.

And still fascinated by the youth he had taken in, and the way he had started to entwine his life into Reven's.

He accelerated the car, eager to leave the events of the last few hours behind them.