The apartment stank - there'd been no fresh air in there for two days, but worse than that, he'd given no thought at all to the implications of leaving a half unconscious guy nowhere near the bathroom. Stupid idiot, he berated himself.

The stench made him want to vomit again. There must be all sorts of things he'd never considered about life as an assassin. Like having medical supplies around - like the use of many different weapons - like how to take a shit when you were beaten up and half dead on a bed.

He could see the slightest gleam from the bed - Inoue's dark eyes, watching him.

He meant to dump the food within reach and run. Like you should have left him and his bleeding wounds when he first staggered back home, sneered his mind. Something was nagging at him, though. Whether it was the helplessness of the man there - or perhaps the reawakened memory of thick, firm lips round his cock...

Inoue was staring at him. Inoue looked less than grateful that he was here. Reven debated dumping the food and water just out of reach, but thought that particularly childish. That was something that Inoue wasn't, he suspected. He walked over to the bed and looked down on the man there.

The red hair lay tangled on his forehead, his limbs still in the same position he'd left him. "You want some water?" he said. It was as good an opening line as any, he supposed.

No, he would have snapped could he speak. I've been without food and water for two days and came home already near dehydration. I'd rather go without the water, thanks. Can I have some crackers, maybe? How about a handful of flour? Nutritious and delicious.

Instead, he simply lay there, wishing he could move and smack the kid upside the head for being a dolt.

Memories of his 'dying' thoughts came back to him, however, as he stared up at Reven. Inoue's biggest regret as he was lying in his bed counting down the minutes till his heart stopped was that he'd never taken on an apprentice and carried Master's legacy to the next generation. He stared up at Reven in a new light for just a heartbeat-- just an instant, before that fleeting thought was pushed away sourly.

Reven? An assassin? He didn't even have basic logic down, how was he supposed to learn intricate explosive arming and disarming or several styles of defensive and offensive fighting?

Reven saw the anger in the assassin's eyes. He bit back any more pathetic comments and fetched the water bottle. He sized up the state of Inoue, then poured some into his hand and dripped it into the man's dry, pursed lips. He did this several times, until he could see that Inoue's swallowing got smoother. He didn't think he'd be ready for food yet. Next he found the kitchen, ran a bowl of hot water and grabbed some cloths, and he came back to clean up the mattress as best he could. It reminded him of looking after his dad, all those years back. It wasn't as if he hadn't seen worse.

He could see Inoue wanted him gone - though occasionally a flash in the man's
eyes told him he wanted more water. He wasn't completely useless, then.

"So you're wondering why the hell I'm here, right?" he said, softly. He didn't expect a response. "Stupid kid, didn't take the opportunity to go undercover and try to hide from the mighty Midnight Assassin." He stared suddenly into Inoue's eyes, his expression fierce. "Like I wanted to! But someone had wiped me - and everything I had - out of the whole damned place. They're running about like headless chickens, scared of their own asses, and no-one even knows where to begin to find you. Some of 'em want you because they know you did it - some of 'em want you to employ you for their revenge. It's a mess." He wiped at Inoue's legs, noticing the bandages needed sorting out.

"So I've lost all my choices in life at the moment, right?" He looked away, angry with the dullness of Inoue's expression. "You might as well know I set a batch of red herrings for them to follow. Spread a few tales about an assassin rumored to be on the other side of town. A few other tales about some of the bosses meeting someone like you in a city hotel in the east. And a few more tales about someone like you running a kids brothel by the river..."

He sighed and got up to run some more clean water and dry his hands to dress the wounds again. "I'm here because I've got fuck all else to do, perhaps. And because now all anyone knows about me is bound up with you." He flexed the fingertips of his cast hand, feeling the stiffness in them. "I thought I was pretty tough before I met you. But I've seen such horror since that I'm kind of glad to be out of it." He stretched by the doorway, seeing Inoue's eyes on him as his thin arms shook out the joints of his shoulders. He peeled his sweaty vest from his body, sliding the knife swiftly into the top of his pants. "You're not going anywhere yet, I reckon. I can do some more clearing up - I can spread some more confusion out there on the streets. It'll buy you some time. Then the least you can do is offer me a mattress here to sleep on, right?"

He paused in the doorway, knowing that if Inoue could have moved, he'd have had a knife in his back by now. "And for fuck's sake, tell me where to find something to cope with your bathroom duties, OK?"

Inoue lifted his hand slowly, weakly, and pointed to the bathroom where he kept the catheter for just such occasions. When he came home injured and knew he'd be bedridden for days or when he planned on meditating for days at a time he used it, and when he was younger and Master had beaten him so badly that he couldn't move or he was forced into meditation it would be put on him as well… so he was rather used to it.

Violet eyes turned away from Reven and remained staring at the wall as he heard the kid move to get it. He scowled. Taken care of by a child… his victim no less… he was shamed. Master was shamed. What a horrific, bloody mess this all had been, all for pride's sake-- he'd decided to try and complete the entire mission in one night rather than two, and this was the price. Never would Inoue admit to himself that he had pushed himself to complete the mission too quickly so that he could get back to the boy in his apartment.

He kept his gaze away from the boy even as his legs were parted and the catheter was put into use. It wasn't that he was shamed about what Reven was doing or exposing his body-- Inoue didn't give a whit who saw his cock or not. It was just the fact that he was being taken care of by somebody who looked like he was fresh out of Junior High, and who should have been dead days ago. But, his needs came before his pride; he needed water and eventually he needed food, though he could go weeks without food as long as he had water. All of his training had paid off; a lesser man would have been dead by now.

He needed Reven if he wanted to survive. He needed somebody else.

An apprentice, a nagging voice in the back of his head appealed. You need one; it was your dying regret. And this kid is here now; he's obviously toughened inside enough to deal with what you do if he's back here. He has the right amount of fascination and gall; he's got some strength to him, and he doesn't cry when you do as you please to him. He passed the test for breaking his own wrist to get out of the bed; he's had the chance to run away and he's still here.

Inoue turned and looked at Reven silently, eyes narrowed as he evaluated the kid.

No. Impossible. He would never take on this brat. Never.

Reven was tired, and tense from having Inoue's eyes follow him everywhere round the room. There were other rooms he could have crashed in for a couple of hours - he knew he was reasonably safe from Inoue himself, as the guy still couldn't move easily. But something made him want to stay in the same room.

He could have got on the bed beside the assassin - even as he thought of it, he realized that was what he wanted to do. He wanted the smell of the man's sweat and skin in his nostrils again; he wanted to feel the heat from the muscles; the tangle of the red hair in between his fingers. He dragged breath in like a dying man, and shook his head, impatient with himself.

So he turned from the bed and went to lie on a small couch against the wall. He'd placed a small bottle of water by Inoue's head, which he could probably just reach if he turned his head on the pillow, and put his lips round the nozzle. There were damp, cool cloths by his bedside; clean bandages on his limbs. The burns were still angry and weeping, but Reven couldn't see that they were any worse than before.

"I'm gonna sleep now," he said. "I know you don't want me here - guess you're just waiting to get some feeling back and get me at long last, eh?" He could feel a prickle between his shoulder blades every time he passed the bed. "But I'm too exhausted to leave this time of night, and I'm fucked if I'm gonna spend another night in the park when there's a softer surface and some blankets here. Try and keep your homicidal tendencies at bay for a couple of hours, right? Let's try to make this a fair fight, whatever happens." He moved a couple of books off the couch to make room for his long legs, and he glanced at one of the titles with curiosity.

Penthouse magazine it wasn't. He read the dry medical title with fascination - he was tempted to open the pages and see just what there was about the dissection of bodies that could keep someone amused for what must be 700-odd pages.

He glanced at the bed - Inoue's eyes were drooping a little. He needed some more rest of he was going to fight off the injuries. Maybe later, thought Reven. I'll take a look at it later, when he's asleep. He folded himself on the couch, pulled a blanket over his bare chest, and started to get as comfortable as he could.

Four days passed with the child taking care of his elder. Over those days, Inoue spent the entire time mulling through the pros and cons of taking this child and turning him into something this world wanted.

Reven stirred in his sleep and his hand scratched aimlessly at his crotch. The blanket had slipped to the floor, but the room was warm enough. He was dressed in nothing but a pair of sweat pants, another set he'd borrowed from Inoue's clothes drawer. Mad old time, he thought, in a half-dream state. He'd found a regular bed on this couch over the last few days - snuck in and out of the apartment to get food and cleaning stuff on a daily basis. He kept his ear to the ground and listened to the progress of investigation on the mass murders - or the lack of it. No-one could find Inoue, or whoever they suspected was the perpetrator. The mob families bitched and struggled to keep hold of their empires, and Hellman was still hidden in his mansion. Or so the story went. Maybe Hellman was biding his time, waiting to take back control of things. Reven wondered sometimes if the old man had the balls - or the brain to mastermind it. He'd been less than stable since Lucas' murder.

Or then there was the other theory that Reven had picked up from the mutterings of some tramp in town - that other bosses were sweeping into the vacuum left by Hellman's absence and the other guys' murders. Someone was gonna be taking the reins soon, for sure. Reven didn't know what the hell was going on, but he recognized a highly volatile situation when he saw one.

He wriggled his legs, stretched them out. Moaned gently in his sleep. The room was full of the smell of medicines and antiseptics and other crap, but he'd grown used to it. He'd made himself pretty much at home, really, though he'd been careful to keep away from Inoue's things - in the man's sight, anyway. He'd been the dangerous man's nurse for every day now; washed him down, fed him, stared out the wild and angry eyes and still he was there. Inoue obviously thought he was mad - fuck, he thought he was mad - but they rubbed along in this strange manner from dawn to dusk, while Inoue healed slowly and Reven occupied himself with keeping them both alive and reading up on Inoue's books.

Wash him down, he thought drowsily. His dreams were rather vivid and erotic nowadays. Maybe because his hand still hurt like fuck, and he expected a violent death on a daily basis. Or maybe it was the company in the dim, claustrophobic bedroom. His fingers nestled in the dip between his thighs and he started to rub lazily against his half-erect cock. He woke every morning now with sticky fingers and panting in his chest.

He's my wet dream, he thought, knowing even in his sleep what a dangerous nonsense that was. But lying a few feet from Inoue every day, hearing his occasional groans, seeing his body, naked except for the bandages, sometimes creeping to him while he slept and smoothing the wisps of red hair out from between his damp lips...

He liked washing him ... oddly soothing. Oddly stimulating. Running a damp cloth down the long, strong limbs, avoiding the worst of the wounds, running his hands along the planes of Inoue's torso, his tight belly... The assassin had no false modesty, he let Reven touch wherever he had to, but as always there were those fierce, dark eyes glaring at him. This is only a temporary situation, they said. Don't get fucking used to it.

Reven turned on the couch so he was facing the bed, though he wasn't fully conscious of it. His hand pushed the fabric of the pants away impatiently, and his fingers cupped at his balls, uninhibited in his sleep. He needed some attention, but was too tired to wake and think about it. At nights he stayed up too late, reading those weird books that Inoue had. Learnt a hell of a lot of new stuff - the time he'd spent in Hellman's office had been good training, before he got a job on security.

He'd read a lot then - brushed up his speed reading skills, struggled round legal and technical terms until they were familiar to him. Never been much of a scholar, went his thoughts. No chance. Streets not exactly a school for books, though the 'lessons' there were fucking educational...Inoue is obviously pretty smart, well read. Very, very smart...

It had been a shock, the day he read a whole chapter on burns. He realized what he'd seen on Inoue's body as he tended to him. Whatever had swept across the man, it had ripped away not just the skin but the underlying muscle and fat - the whiteness of the tissue under the dark brown burn had turned Reven's stomach more than once. Immediate medical attention! he'd read. He'd looked at Inoue's face, stern even as he slept, and laughed bitterly at that.

The treatment he was giving seemed to be OK though - cold cloths and water to cool it. Loose, clean bandaging, being careful not to break any blisters. He shrugged to himself at the time, knowing he was doing all he could, but he still listened carefully at night to check Inoue had no breathing problems. The man slept like the dead anyway - some kind of intermittent breathing, or so Reven had read in another book - but he was still alert to any changes.

During the day, he wanted to talk to Inoue about it - wouldn't the damned man know more about his treatment than he did? But Inoue wasn't open to idle chat. Reven felt a little more comfortable around him now, and the assassin moved what parts of him he could when it was required for Reven's nursing.

Sometimes he even forgot to growl at him.

Reven supposed he should take that as an achievement. It's just that the confusion and fear was taking its toll. He contrasted the rigid figure on the bed with the man who'd been so violent and so vibrant... who had fascinated him ... who had tried to kill him. He knew he'd get no thank-you flowers for this latest business - but he still tended him.

Just wished he knew what the fuck the man was like - what made him tick. Whether they could be in a room together without one or other being close to death.

...Yeah, it was taking its toll, even in his sleep. His dream was full of the memory of the man's anger and aggression when he was fit, taking Reven without a care, taking whatever he wanted from him. The memory of the wet, firm grip of his mouth, sucking on Reven - the memory of holding the older man's body down with his good hand, crouched above him, fucking his mouth...

Reven started to moan softly, and his hand sped up. His palm was damp already with leaking seed. It didn't take him long to come these days. Too tired to try anything else - too disturbed by the sleeping man in the same room. His fingers squeezed at the crown, then stretched the skin down fiercely, letting it wrinkle back up to the top as he caressed his balls. Then up to the top again, brushing a finger roughly over the slit, spreading the lubrication, pumping back and forth. He spread his legs unconsciously, kicking down the pants. His hips tilted up a little, lifting his ass from the couch, making his body strain up towards his touch.

In his imagination, strong fingers gripped him. Taut legs straddled him. Sharp-boned hips forced his thighs open. Angry eyes demanded his attention, and swinging red hair brushed against his throat. Sometimes there were teeth - biting his shoulder, testing the taste of his jaw. He sobbed with pleasure; his hand gripped more tightly. The dreams were a good distraction, and he surrendered to them happily. Very happily.

Reven woke with a start - his leg had slipped from the couch and he was breathing too heavily for relaxed sleep. It took another second to feel the dampness between his fingers and the tangle of the sweats around his legs, then he knew what had woken him so abruptly. "Fuck!" he said, aloud, scrambling to right himself. He had his hand down between his legs again, trying to calm his still aching groin and rearrange his clothing, when he heard the slightest rustle from the bed. His head whirled round, his eyes staring in the early morning dimness, still clouded with sleep.

Inoue was awake.

Inoue was awake!

Reven cursed again, but to himself. How long had Inoue been awake? Was he, the watcher, being watched for a change? Fucked if he was going to get embarrassed, he thought, but his heart was thumping too quickly and his eyes were drawn irresistibly to the other man's deep, dark gaze.

He tried to read the expression but it was like stone. He tried not to shudder.

"What is it?" he said, belligerently. He sat upright on the couch, ran his least sticky hand through his tangled hair. He supposed it was time for the morning routine of wash and clean bed and food. "Let me clean up a bit, get some clothes. Then I'll get the bandages and stuff." He wondered why he talked like this, rambling on like some fatuous hospital nurse. Some days he only ever heard the sound of his own voice. He grunted with frustration. He got up from the couch and came to stand by the bed. "What do you want?" he asked, clearly.

Solitude. Proper medical attention. Water. The catheter to be put in properly. To bathe alone. Food. Anything but to be tended to by a useless brat like you and degraded daily. Not to have to listen to you whimper my name like that every morning. All good suggestions but instead the assassin just uttered, "Check the mail." There were probably fistfuls of requests and assignments sitting in his mailbox-- the world would know soon enough that Inoue was either dead or out of commission. That was dangerous-- competition got cocky and enemies started licking their chops and looking harder for his location, smelling weakness and hoping to go for the kill.

He couldn't stay here a hell of a lot longer. Especially with the way Reven had been coming and going from this place plain as day without even thinking to hide his face or appearance. Didn't he understand that if somebody saw the 'dead' victim of the assassin moving around, obviously alive, then they would know that something was up and they would follow him? Then the both of them would be discovered, and with the assassin in this state, he might as well have a sign around his neck that read 'dead meat'.

All he could do was move one arm around, and very little at that. He was useless and a far sight away from being healed. The redhead couldn't even believe that he'd managed to get back home and struggle to his own bed with Reven on it with the severe burns he'd had-- he remembered the sounds of pieces of burnt off flesh-- his burnt off flesh-- slapping down onto the pavement in wet chunks, left behind as he struggled to walk on deep-fried legs. Adrenaline was what had kept him alive and moving, as well as a little insane determination; without those he would have passed out right at ground zero of the explosion and would have been picked off within hours.

He loathed that coming home to this child had saved his life. It ate at him whenever he saw the boy tending to his wounds; his life was still in the hands of this creature with every passing day.

So he supposed he could deal with the kid masturbating to the thought of Inoue fucking him in exchange for care the assassin would never, never ask for on his own. And that debate in his head about what to do with this child once Inoue could move... he was losing that debate with every passing day. He had no method of payment for the child either; even if he wanted to let the kid ride his dick, he couldn't; he was too burnt on the hips and legs to allow it without excruciating pain and further damage.

Reven stared at the grim hatred in the assassin's eyes and felt his own heart harden. Fucking man was a walking stone. He'd thought for a while - because Inoue hadn't killed him out of hand, because he'd touched him, and fucked him - that he might have found Reven to be something different from the corpses the guy seemed to leave in his wake. No fucking way, he thought, bitterly. If the man could move, he'd kill him, no doubt about that. And here he'd been, creeping around the town, stealing supplies from the hospital basement so he wouldn't have to show his face too much, waiting for food to be dumped at the end of the day so he wouldn't have to go into any shops. It wasn't just to save his hide, but Inoue's too.

So why the hell was he bothering?

He thought about the care he'd taken with the wounds, the secret studying late at night of all the medical books, and he wanted to spit in Inoue's face. "I've taken in the damned mail," he growled back. "Every day. Thrown out all the 'to the householder' crap and put the personal stuff on the side for you to look at when you can. I've searched round the building every time I come and go, just to check no-one's watching it. I've done all that stupid secret agent stuff with wet hairs on the door jamb, to check no-one's tried to get in while I've been gone. And I've crawled round in the rain and the mud in alley ways just to get supplies and keep an ear out for what's happening. But you wanna do it all yourself, so be it. You sort your own bandages, clear up your own shit, turn yourself when the sores start to threaten. You think I'm here for my health? Some kind of extreme vacation?"

He could hear his voice rising dangerously, but he couldn't hold back. "I get better company in the alley, you know? At least the rats make some noise - notice me a little." He took a step back. "I'm outta here. I'll find a new life somewhere else. I'm the one with the clean slate, remember? Well maybe that can be an advantage now. I can be whoever I like. No-one wants me - no-one needs me. Least of all you." He grimaced, and turned to pick up his shirt from the floor. He was going. Should've done it days ago.

The mail. The mail was of utmost importance. He didn't really listen to the child's rant though some of the things he had said were useful-- the assassin needed to know what assignments had been given in hopes of determining who knew he was not available. "Reven!" he barked from where he lay on the bed. "You are dead. You show your face to a soul and your life will be a hell far worse than this. Bring me the mail!" He saw that his words only spurned the child to leave faster; Inoue became enraged, and-- he hated to admit it-- desperate. He could not do anything for himself right now and he needed Reven.

His stomach turned as he parted his lips and knew what he was about to say. "You have to stay here. What is it you want from me? Money? I have more than you could dream of. I can't give you your life back but when I'm healed I can give you a life somewhere else." He knew Reven didn't want those things. He knew exactly what the boy would want out of him and he bit down hard on his tongue when he heard the front door open. Violet eyes flashed with rage. Was his life really worth this? His mind screamed no but his better reasoning said yes. He opened his mouth again and barked loudly, "I kept you alive to make you my apprentice and if you walk out now you will never know that life!"

Shit, thought Reven, his hand suddenly still on the front door. So now you start talking to me. Now you start deciding you need me - or someone, at least. Fucking too late. But he paused in his strides out of the apartment.

What had Inoue said? Something about taking him on as an apprentice? Reven's better sense laughed itself stupid at that one - like he'd want a life full of this kind of danger! This kind of thrill - of uncertainty - of pain - of power...

He despised himself, but he turned and walked to the bedroom door. "How do I know you're not just saying that to keep yourself alive? To keep me here as some kind of slave? Then you'll kill me when you like. I've let you use me, and so more fool me, but I won't do it anymore. Tell me something more about it - about what you mean."

There wasn't anything he could actually say that would keep the boy from thinking it was a lie. There was no proof that he wanted to take the boy as an assassin apprentice because he hadn't actually made that decision until this very moment-- there was no special jump suit Inoue had made with Reven's name and team number on it. He scowled at the child as his hand whipped out like a snake lunging to pierce skin with venomous fangs, grabbing the boy by the shirt and yanking him down.

Their mouths met in a crushing kiss as Inoue shuddered-- of his own free will he had put himself in the most vulnerable position he knew, and he opened his mouth for the lips above his own, his eyes sliding shut immediately and his neck craning to provide better access to his mouth. The hand he had snagged in Reven's shirt released and slid upwards, along the smooth throat and fisting in dark curls as the most degrading sound vibrated in the assassin's chest-- a low, dark moan.

Reven fell forward at first with the shock, dropping a hand to the bed to hold himself above Inoue and preventing him falling on to him. He felt the strength of Inoue's hand, even in his weakened state, then he tasted the fierce dampness of the man's mouth, and his tongue slid instinctively between the lips, probing for more of him, flickering against Inoue's own tongue, responding immediately to this astonishing move.

God it was good!

Reven realized how much he craved attention and interaction - how much he'd missed it, how alone he'd been in this strange duty. And how much he wanted this, this man's touch, nipping at his mouth, pressing down on to it so that the lips would bruise. Inoue's fingers pulled painfully at his hair but Reven arched into the touch, grasping whatever connection he could before it passed. And Inoue wanted it too, he was sure!

Reven felt the excitement raging through him - he'd never been so stimulated by anyone in his life, man or woman. He wanted to fall on Inoue, lick along those weird scars, run his hands along the man's back, feel the throb at his groin, offer up his body for whatever the assassin might want, as fast and as hard as he wanted...

But that wasn't going to happen, was it? With another shock, Reven remembered the state of the man, and what the hell was going on. With some difficulty, he pushed himself back off the bed, his mouth gasping as it peeled away from Inoue's. "No," he groaned. You're still a fool, something was telling him. This is just another manipulation... But he stared down at Inoue, seeing - or imagining? - the heavier flush on the man's face.

"OK. I'll stay. Maybe you'll kill me, maybe you won't. Maybe I'll run before that comes. Or maybe you'll tell me more about his apprentice business." He stared at the saliva glistening on Inoue's lips, the heavy rise and fall of the man's chest, heaving with the sudden exertion. "But I can live with this kind of explanation for a while longer." He stood upright, though his hand trailed ruefully along Inoue's arm as he did. "I'll get the mail, open it for you. Then I for one need breakfast. We'll take it from there, OK?"

Inoue said nothing.