{chapter six}

He'd never really learned to swim, of course. Didn't need it in the city, and he never really had the friendships to go to the pool or the beach, to learn. That's why he was drowning, obviously. Though it wasn't as horrific as he'd always thought it would be. The water was deliciously hot - it felt soft against his skin, and the smell around him was clean and fresh. He was naked, and someone was holding on to him, so that the water never seemed to get higher than his chest. He grinned, slowly. Hoped it was someone hot.

The pain was a vicious reminder of the last day of his life. He cried out, waking to the agony in his hand, and the straining of every other muscle. He splashed awkwardly, not recognizing where he was, scared suddenly of the strong arms round him and the unfamiliar skin against his own. "What the fuck -?"

The arms tightened painfully and he gasped, trying to catch his breath. The chill struck through him, even in the hot bath. The assassin had him in some kind of death grip. Inoue had him!

"Ugh," Inoue grunted, as the kid began to splash. He had no interest in dealing with a temper tantrum, and so he dunked the kid's head under the water, shutting him up for a minute as he coughed and sputtered. "I can leave you to try this on your own if you'd like," he growled darkly into the boy's ear. "Your bones have been set and I'll re-bandage your wounds, then cast your hand. But if you keep pissing me off I'm going to drown you here and now."

He drew his hand out from behind Reven's head and watched it crack against the edge of the tub, though he didn't slide out from under the soft legs and ass resting on his thighs-- it was an interesting feeling to hold somebody so frail and breakable and small on his lap. Inoue was trapped with conflict; he didn't want to be anywhere near the boy, but at the same time by doing these things he was experiencing what Master must have felt, and enthralled with the idea of being more like that man than he already was.

Reven spat the bathwater from his mouth and calmed his thudding heart. "OK, OK," he gasped. "I'm sorry - I didn't know - I -" He felt the body underneath him, the sure hands pragmatically cleaning him. He felt like the crockery in the sink, being washed up - but the other body in the sink along with him was scary, strong and astonishingly sexy. Reven despised himself for being so aware of the limbs beneath him, the nudge of the man's cock against his thighs as he wriggled on his lap. He kept quiet as Inoue bathed his body and some of the wounds that had reopened. He bit his lip whenever something brushed his broken hand. And when Inoue wiped against his hair and neck, cleaning him there, he tensed with sudden fear.

But he said you'd live the night , he mocked himself. If you got out of the cuffs. Is he a man who keeps his word?

Inoue grunted behind him with disgust, wiping out some of the tangles and vomit in his hair, with no concession to gentleness at all.

Reven winced, but his heart calmed a little more. Yeah - he reckoned Inoue was a man to keep his word.

When the boy was clean, Inoue got out of the water, carrying him. He placed Reven on the lip of the tub and tossed three towels at him, then grabbed his own and toweled himself off before moving to the kid and patting him down. He left one towel on the head while lifting Reven up bridal-style, and he carried the teen into the bedroom once more. "Stay still. Shut up," Inoue ordered as he went back to the bathroom.

He returned with bandages and some strange items in a box, as well as a small tub of warm water. Lifting Reven's hand, he straightened the fingers out and laid each one against a metal rod with foam padding on it, binding each to the hand with gauze. When the hand was out straight, he then unwrapped a special pack of gauze and dipped it piece by piece into the hot water, wrapping it around Reven's hand and between his fingers and down his wrist. He added layer after layer until a thick white cast was created up to the boy's elbow and between his fingers, the rigidly-bound fingers also wrapped up in regular gauze and pointing outwards from the end of the bulbous cast.

"Sit still, it'll take time to dry," Inoue growled, as he moved to the boy's knife wounds. For those he soaked a cloth in iodine and wiped them down, then bound them tightly in gauze as well. When the kid was patched up, Inoue stood and put his medical supplies away, then returned to the room and checked the cast. Seeing it was dry, he resumed ignoring Reven, and set about getting dressed in a black turtleneck and black pants, then strapping weapons to near every inch of his body.

Reven was fighting the nausea again. Every stretch of his injured fingers had been torture. His only distraction had been to watch the professional way that Inoue set his hand and tended to his wounds. Guess he'd done this before...

He wanted to ask for painkillers but he rather thought that Inoue was a guy who thought pain an inconvenience to be dismissed, rather than a way of life. He watched, fascinated, as the man started to dress and arm himself.

"Is it starting now?" he asked, aloud. Damn the man, he was sure he'd earn himself another blow for interference, but couldn't he know what was going on? "You're starting Hellman's job tonight?" Didn't he need to plan - to prepare? For the first time, Reven thought he saw what Inoue was made of. He was the killer - not his weapons, not his equipment, not his plans or scheming. Inoue himself was the walking weapon - the midnight murderer. It would account for his success to date - the fact that he left no trail or evidence behind him.

And Reven sat - naked and wounded - in his bedroom.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked, simply.

Talk to me, Inoue...

"I want you to shut up and stay there like a good little fuck hole," Inoue growled, annoyed with all this chatter. He reached into a drawer and removed four lengths of rope, and pushed Reven onto his back on the bed. He tied off each ankle to a bedpost, then Reven's good wrist, and finally he wound the fourth rope around the boy's throat and tied that to the headboard.

"There. I'm keeping my promise. You'll live through the night. I'll think about what happens to you in the morning while I'm out." He tossed some blankets over Reven to keep him warm through the night, and turned to leave, pulling on his boots and lacing them up tightly.

The first thing he was aware of was the cold. The fucking blanket had finally slipped right off him. He had no way of clutching it round him, and each time the cramp got too bad and he wriggled his body to relieve it, the blanket moved. He'd taken nothing but naps, woken time and again by the pain of his wounds, or the ache in his limbs from his binding. If he woke suddenly and tried to rise, the rope round his neck threatened to choke him. A couple of times the panic had swamped him, until he'd learned subconsciously to wake slowly and carefully. Inoue had promised him some more hours of life... but fuck all use it was to him, trussed and in pain like this!

Reven despaired of his helpless anger, but at least it kept him warm.

But it wasn't the cold that had woken him this time. The apartment was pitch black and he strained to make out the shape of the sparse furniture. There'd been a noise. All through the night he'd marveled at the silence round the apartment, even the lack of passing activity outside. But now - there'd definitely been a noise.

It was in the apartment. Fuck, he thought with mounting hysteria. Was he going to live through this monstrous night, only to be gutted by some burglar?

In Inoue's apartment? scoffed his common sense. There's likely a skull and crossbones on the doorway and a cross in blood, warning anyone that far worse awaits them inside than out...

There was a gasp of breath, and a stumbled step. He could make out the shape of a man's body - a body he knew rather better than he'd ever thought he would. Inoue had returned - but not with the usual deadly stealth. What was wrong?

Shit. Fuck. Shit!

He stumbled and hit the floor, landing on his side and staying there for a few moments, taking wet, slow breaths, shuddering, thinking.

The 48-hour 'challenge' hadn't been a challenge at all. 48 hours was more than enough time to take out all the men Hellman had laid out-- but Inoue had made it a challenge for himself and taken out all of the listed men in this one night, and he'd paid for it. A nick in the first battle turned into a bullet wound in the next, several knife slashes across his body in the next and a stab to the gut in the final one. He'd barely managed to stay alert while driving his bike back home, and hand almost crashed several times.

He was losing too much blood too fast, and was in too much pain to tend to it himself. His shirt had been torn off and most of his pants were gone from the explosion; his boots were shredded and some of his hair was singed at the tips. Inoue forced himself to his hands and knees, and then to his feet, willing mind over body as he moved to the bed and made it to the side, seeing Reven was awake.

At least give the kid a chance to run away then, he thought as his legs threatened to give out. If you're going to die, then it's payment in exchange for letting him live. Master wouldn't have left you to rot and starve to death on a bed if he'd come back dying.

He reached into one of the few holsters still strapped to his body and held out a knife close to Reven's throat with intent of cutting the rope, but dropped it at a wave of pain rushing through his body from the burns on his legs. With a bloody cough that sent crimson splashing down his bare chest form his mouth, he collapsed on the bed, half-atop the boy's legs, and unconscious.

Reven was stunned into stillness, though when the knife had come shakily to his throat he'd tried to wrench himself away. What the fuck was up with Inoue? When the man collapsed on to him, he realized he must be seriously hurt. Hell, he could smell the blood, and feel the warmth of it on his limbs where Inoue had dragged himself across the bed. He shifted experimentally, but Inoue was a dead weight on him. He strained to hear, and thought he could still hear a breath. The assassin was alive, but unconscious.

What now, then?

Reven saw the blade of the dropped knife glinting in the dark room. It called to him; it promised things to him. Far better than a paperclip, he thought. With a supreme effort, he gritted his teeth and slid the cast hand over his chest towards it. It was the only limb not tied up. He had to keep his head still for fear of choking himself, and so he couldn't see very clearly - and the unconscious body still lay over him, its warm blood dripping more and more slowly on his skin. But he nudged his painful fingertips around the blade and pushed it up against the rope around his other wrist, and began sawing.

It seemed to take ages to cut through the rope, during which time he was half afraid that Inoue would die on him, and half afraid that he'd wake. He suspected that it'd take more than a serious injury to keep the man from punishing his escape. But then his good hand was free, and he could take the rope from his throat, and start on the ones round his ankles. He rolled Inoue's body to one side to slide out from under him, and heard a grunt of hoarse breath. He ran his hand over torn clothing and ragged skin - the man had taken a terrible beating! The risks of his trade, he thought, a little uneasily. He scrabbled across the room on wobbly legs to find some clothing, and snagged a pair of sweats in a low drawer. He couldn't find any shoes - his half-nakedness would have to do. He put out his hands to guide him to the door - and to freedom.

His hands stretched in front of him and they glinted in the slivers of light from the window. What the fuck -? It was blood, he realized with some horror. Inoue's blood was all over him, from where he'd moved him aside. Great stains of it, droplets still running between his fingers, the tang of it in his nostrils. He's lost a hell of a lot, Reven thought. I can smell burnt flesh, too. And he was barely able to walk across the room. He knew the seductive power of blood - and the cruelty of its loss. Inoue would likely bleed to death where he lay, a victim of his work. Alone. Untended. Uncared for.

He's a killer, Reven's sense told him. He would have killed you, several times. But his feet stayed still, just yards from the door out of the apartment. He wouldn't want help, he thought, as he turned back towards where he thought the door to the bathroom was. He despises you. He'd expect you to take this chance and flee. He stumbled against a doorway and cursed.

Now where the fuck had he seen that medical box that Inoue had used on him earlier?

He drifted in and out of consciousness several times, and was confused by the noise in the apartment. Burglars? Fellow assassins, there to finish the job? ...Reven?

Inoue dismissed the last idea and coughed up another mouthful of blood before passing out again. The pain was excruciating-- the burns were what bothered him the most. Master had put him through much training but he'd never really focused on how to block the pain of burns, nor was he used to them.

He knew he was moaning, he knew he was probably dying. He could see Master in his head, yelling at him to get up, that this was nothing, that this was an absolute shitty fucking way to die... but he couldn't really move to help himself either.

Inoue was damned strong - that's all Reven knew. Even when he lay on the soaked sheets, a dull red pool all around him, and even when Reven clumsily cut the remains of his clothes off him, and even when he attempted to clear dirt and caked blood and skin from the wounds... even then, Inoue growled and fought unconsciousness. Reven couldn’t find any painkillers, though he knew he'd need something a fuck of a sight stronger than aspirin for this. So he had to work with Inoue drifting in and out of his senses. The man's body was hideously cut and burned - Reven had to swallow his own shock and disgust to work on it. The long, strong limbs were swollen and newly scarred in many places; the hands that had gripped him in many different ways were fisted with the assassin's pain, both inside and out.

Inoue wept, but they were angry tears of pain, not weakness. He raved - there were words came from his mouth in languages that Reven had never heard. Sometimes he mentioned a name that Reven knew - so he knew that Inoue had been on Hellman's mission. Then he'd growl about someone called Master. He argued with this Master - then he almost pleaded - then his raving would return and any sense was lost again. He never mentioned Reven's name at any time.

Reven knew the treatment of cuts, though he'd rarely seen any as bad as on Inoue. He found the materials to sew up the worst wound on his stomach, and held Inoue as still as he could with his awkward, cast arm while he sewed the flesh with his other. It was a small wound, like from a stabbing knife, but deep. Matching pair, thought Reven, without humor, as he leant on another fierce scar across Inoue's belly, now long-healed.

The other wounds he cleaned and patched together and staunched the blood flow. The burns worried him most. They looked angry and red, weeping blisters. They could get infected, and he could guess what trouble it'd cause for Inoue if he didn't have the proper use of his legs. He stumbled back and forth from the bathroom with wet cloths, using them as compresses and careful not to break any of the blisters, but the skin was painfully hot even under the covers. He decided to keep going as long as he could with the cooling. Then he'd find some antiseptic somewhere and bind them.

He was exhausted himself - he'd been through a lot over the last few hours. His own wounds still hurt, he was weak, and he was still trapped in this damned apartment with this homicidal maniac. He sat for a second on the side of the bed, catching his breath. He couldn't tell how Inoue was inside of himself. The man's body was bathed in sweat and his head tossed now and then, his lips mouthing words of nonsense and anger. Should keep my distance, thought Reven. Who knows what he might do in this state. Should leave him to fend for himself, now.

So get out! hissed his conscious mind. You've done what you can - now get the fuck out before he wakes and finds you, or dies in a pool on your lap! He swung his sore legs back over the bed - stretched himself to get up and seek the door again. One last look at that body, and he'd be gone. One more look at that mysterious, horribly damaged and somehow still veryvery sensual body....

The pain had become suddenly horribly worse... and then planed off to a steady agonizing throb. Groans of hallucination bled freely from his lips as he remembered parts of his life he loved and hated.

Master atop him, fucking him...

Master atop him, beating him...

He managed to roll onto his side and vomit on the bed, adding more liquid to the pool around him since all he'd had in the last long time was water. A shudder rocked him and he trembled for a few minutes, then collapsed onto his back, lost in his own thoughts.

So this is how I die. Pitiful. If I could lift my hand I'd slit my own throat and end this faster. What a waste of a life; what a waste of all of Master's training. I don't even have an apprentice to show for everything he taught me; the line of knowledge and skill ends with me-- I've failed his legacy.

He groaned out his Master's name longingly though he didn't know he had, and shivered anew.

[end chapter six]