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The neons of Neo-New York are blinding, the lights burning through his retinas and bathing Elisei in an ever endless vomit of saturation and seizures. Blood bathes his blade tonight, as it has every night for the past two weeks, and a migraine dances along his brain and refuses to let him any rest. His tired eyes burn, eyelids twitching intermittently, and the world around him blurs every so often. People steer clear of him as he walks the streets, hushed voices whispering in fear of him and the blood-soaked plastic bag in his right hand, and Elisei sighs.

Soft jazz plays from a club he passes by, his feet coming to a slow, eventual halt so that he may peer up at the flickering neon sign: Starfighter, the name reads, and Elisei huffs. His left eyelid twitches and he rubs the back of his right hand over his eye, then he closes both eyes shut tightly before exhaling and continuing his walk back to his employer.

Blood pools at the bottom of the plastic bag, distorted ever so slightly by the cheap white, and his sword drags noisily on the broken sidewalks beneath him. An old, ratty, yet populated enough electronics store blares with all TVs turned on, though only one with sound, and they all play the same thing to every citizen walking by.

On the screen plays the murder of a rich couple, their bodyguards, and every single employee in their mansion, all done at the hand of Elisei - the god, Deimos, made vengeful - and he walks past, ignoring the looks of the shoppers in the store as he passes by. His neck aches, his spine cracks as he straightens his back up only to fall back into his hunch, and he hums the rest of his walk over to his employer’s building.

Today is a good day.

 

“I’m home.” Elisei yells out while he shrugs his bomber jacket off and throws it over onto the sofa in the small flat. His voice cracks on the second word, his throat burning and pinching tight, and his tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth. Classical music plays in the flat, quiet and low, absolutely unnoticeable from outside but utterly gentle in, and Elisei holds back a sigh.

Ethan is in his room with his hands resting on his belly, the plastic bag of the IV drips running almost empty and Elisei’s eyes widen. He drops the grocery bags and rushes off to the kitchen, grabs a new plastic bag, and clicks his tongue as he replaces the nearly empty plastic bag. He gives Ethan a look, then brings both his hands up to rub his thumbs against his indexes, his stare never once leaving Ethan.

 

All he gets is a shrug. “You seemed really tired lately,” he says, “and I knew there was enough to last two weeks, so don’t worry, okay?” in response, he spreads his hand flat in front of him and drags his index down quickly, brows pinching together, and Ethan guiltily looks down. “You’re just very busy lately,” Ethan says, “and I know you would’ve noticed before anything got bad, right?”

Elisei rolls his eyes, then stands to grab at the grocery bags and he heads off to the kitchen to cook himself something real quick. The food is bland, tasteless, once it is made; not enough salt, no spices, the chicken is a bit too overcooked and the rice is hard to chew, but Elisei eats it all nonetheless.

A chime echoes in the apartment, overpowering the classical music as his phone also vibrates furiously on the coffee table, and Elisei swipes it off and looks through the recent contact he has gotten. He goes back to Ethan’s room, where the other is staring at his silent TV - taking in the news with a blank gaze - and he looks up when Elisei gently knocks on the door.

He curls his left hand into a fist, raises it, and taps the back of his hand gently with his right fist, and Ethan gives him a small smile. “Have a good day at work, okay?” Ethan says, “be safe.” his gaze drifts back onto the TV, eyes reading the lips of the news anchor while the remote remains untouched to his side, and Elisei just watches him for a moment.

Ethan looks back at him a few moments later, his smile not reaching the glint of his eyes, and a question hangs unspoken between them. He motions his hand up as though drinking a glass, then brings the same hand in front again - three fingers raised, pinky pressing against his thumb, and he moves it back against his chin while opening his mouth in a small ‘o’ shape alongside the motion.

“Okay, okay, I will. And no carbonated, right?” Elisei shakes his head. Ethan grins, then shoos him off. He finally takes his leave, sword being picked up again and his gun - unused for years - is settled into his holster around his hip. He grabs his leather jacket instead this time, sliding that on, and the hallway drowns him in its broken saturation the moment he steps out.

Today is a usual day.

 

The way Ethan’s eyes brighten up as he brings his hands up, flat in front of him, and alternates in sharp waving motions between left and right, stirs a tightness in Elisei’s chest. The pungent smell of iron is strong in the room, to the point that he has to go and turn on the air filtration system in Ethan’s bedroom, and still he stares at Elisei with eyes bright and wide.

“Can I really?” he asks. Elisei lifts one fist up and moves it back and forward quickly, nodding his head minutely as well, and Ethan laughs joyously. “Thank you.

He tries to stand on shaky legs immediately, and he is leaning against a bloodsoaked Elisei soon enough, one arm wrapping around to settle on his waist while the other is splayed across his chest, and he sinks lightly into him. He trips on nothing, knees buckling and body tumbling forward, and Elisei catches Ethan before he comes crashing down onto the floor.

“I’m sorry.” Ethan gasps out, face flushing hot and eyes glimmering, but the only thing Elisei does is shake his head and wait. They repeat this process a few times, the blood drying in Elisei’s hair and on his skin, clinging onto him in a manner unlike Ethan’s trembling grip.

He runs sticky fingers through pure white hair, the strands taking easily to the darkening crimson on his hand, and Elisei holds back a sigh. “Helpless.” he says as Ethan struggles to take a few steps forward, his grip tightening around Elisei while he keeps stepping forward. The veins on his legs bulge with the effort, standing stark against alabaster skin, and he cradles Ethan carefully when he finally slumps over and into Elisei.

They shuffle back to the bed, and Elisei is slow and careful when he puts all the needles back into Ethan’s thin arms, hooking the nasal cannulas into his nose after he notices the difficulties the other is having after their exercise. He points at Ethan and lifts his thumb up afterwards while moving his hand in a circle. “It’s okay,” he manages to wheeze out after a few moments, “I just - I got… I got really excited. I’m okay. I’ll remove these things once I can breathe again, okay?”

Elisei nods his head, then scrunches his nose up when he takes Ethan in properly; red handprints paint his face, crimson in specks in his hair, and his gown has a bloody outline against it. He flicks his fingers outwards from his fist towards his head, as though trying to splash drips of water onto himself, and Ethan nods. “You have to help me, though.”

He gently waves his right index and middle fingers in one line, thumb curling into his palm, and taps on the top of his left hand. Ethan smiles. “You go shower too, okay? You smell terrible.”

Today is a wonderful day.

 

 

 

Alexei’s cracked grave stands tall against the pouring rain, thunder roaring in the background. The rain isn’t really all that strong, but there is a chill running down his spine and Elisei exhales slowly. Alexei’s last name has been scratched out, has been for years, and the name won’t come to mind now - half a decade will do that to you, he thinks as rain pelts against the grave marker.

Water slides down Alexei’s name, like smudged makeup down a broken face, and Elisei’s umbrella isn’t enough to completely shield him against the downpour. The bouquet of flowers is held carelessly in his loose grip, the flowers few and far between, and still he remembers the way Elisei’s face glowed when he has shown him the bouquet he has bought.

The colours are gentle, the petals soft, and Ethan strokes each of the flowers with thin fingers, eyes glimmering. It takes him a few moments to feel out every single flower, hands trembling, sometimes so much so that Ethan has to stop every so often before he then goes back to playing with the flowers. He grabs the stem of one of them, runs his fingers down the green body, and then looks up at Elisei with big eyes.

“Have a good day.” is what he says, before he is leaning over to turn the TV on and to watch a random, terrible movie from decades ago, and Elisei is leaving for the graveyard. And now, here he stands: face to face with Alexei once more, another gift to join the many wilted atop his mound of dirt, and he stares at his name.

His lips part.

“What does it feel like to be dead?”

The rain pours mercilessly against his umbrella, pelting it with quick taps, and drenches him through as the wind shifts. The sparse flowers in his bouquet sway with each hit of the rain, and Elisei bends down to place the arrangement on top of the corpses of the others. His fingers linger over on the wrapping, thumb drawing circles on the pink wrap, before he is standing straight and staring back at the crying name. His throat squeezes tight, raw and itchy, when he says, “Ethan’s still so nice to you.”

Today is a reminder.

 

 

 

Praxis is a face he hasn’t seen in years.

His face in fear is one he personally has not seen, and so when the reunion happens… Elisei has to tamp down the laughter bubbling in his chest. “Deimos?” is what Praxis asks, his voice escaping him in a quick, wheezing exhale, eyes wide, and hands dropping the gun. Elisei stares at him, his smile hidden underneath his black bandana, and Praxis takes a step back. “Why are you here?”

He looks over at a poster on the wall and Praxis is slow in following his gaze. There is a stretch of silence hanging over both men; Praxis a bodyguard now, decked out in combat gear for his sketchy boss, and Elisei stands with blood dripping from his blade and clothes stained with it. “I’m not going to be able to stop you, am I.” he says flatly, looking back at Elisei, and he shrugs. “Whatever you are now… I don’t want to get in the way.”

Elisei looks down at the discarded gun, then back up to witness Praxis standing aside, hands clenched into tight fists, and he looks into mournful eyes.

The AC unit buzzes on, filling in the silence where they cannot, and Elisei breaks his gaze away and steps past Praxis. A hand jerks up, grabs his elbow, and he looks over his shoulder to see big, open eyes and eyebrows shot straight up. “Is – is Abel okay? Is he still with Cain –”

“Cain is dead.” Elisei says. Colour drains from Praxis’ face. “And Abel –” he stops himself, yanks his arm out of Praxis’ grip, and then marches away. Before the news airs, he makes sure to remove any footage of him and Praxis talking, and news reporters are hounding the man in an attempt to get an answer from the sole survivor of the company’s massacre.

Today is a reunion.

 

 

 

Ethan is quiet when he comes home. He makes himself some cold soups with cheap ingredients that make all of the soups drag like sludge down his throat, but still he eats what he has made anyway. A visit with the underground doctor has him holding onto salt crackers and hesitating at Ethan’s door, the other man still not having looked at him. The TV isn’t playing, though loud classical music is. When he notices Elisei standing there, he turns the volume of the music down and then sits up to watch him, eyes on the crackers in his hands.

He makes a duckbill with his hand and taps it against his lower lip, mouth parting slightly, and Ethan doesn’t respond. He holds his hand out for a small corner of a cracker, and he is slow in eating it; his presses the back of his hand against his mouth, eyes pinching shut, and Elisei sets the crackers aside.

Those dulled eyes open up when Elisei puts a hand on Ethan’s shoulder, the other coming up to tap his forehead with his middle while the other fingers are splayed outwards, and he gets a small nod. He puts the crackers away and comes to a stop when an unbearably fragile hand grabs his wrist.

“I’m going to die soon, aren’t I?” he asks. Elisei gently removes his fingers from his wrist, eyes focusing pointedly on the sheets Ethan is laying under, and he moves away. “Please,” he tries again, “I know I’m going to die soon. We have to talk about this.” he tenses up, looks at Ethan, and feels his throat constrict. He brings his hand up, ring and pink curling into his palm while his thumb, index, and middle all extend outwards, and he shakes his head while bringing his index and middle down onto his thumb at the same time. “We have to.”

He does the sign again, backing away slowly, and Ethan jolts himself up – Elisei presses him down onto the bed, forcing him to recline down instead of sit up, and then eases him up extremely slowly, carefully. “Eli…” Ethan begs, and he looks at his lap instead of up into those eyes. “Please. I’m going to die soon.”

There is a long moment of silence.

Elisei brings his left fist up, and slowly moves it back and forth. Ethan sighs shakily. “I know it’s going to happen soon. And… I’m not scared, anymore. I’m ready for it. Okay? But – what are you going to do when I’m gone?” Elisei continues to stare at his lap. His hand is still stuck in the previous sign, refusing to move, and Ethan’s fingers are spidery-thin when he wraps his hand around the left and brings it to his chest. “Don’t ruin yourself. Please.”

He sighs heavily. Ethan brings his hand up to kiss his knuckles. “I never got to tell you this, but… you know I love you, right? I love you.” with his right hand not pressing up against Ethan’s slow, gradual heartbeat, he brings it up – middle and ring curling into his palm, while pinkie, index, and thumb splay out in a familiar combination. He moves it back and forth slightly, and Ethan laughs.

“I’ll miss you. I know I will. And I know you’ll miss me too, so you don’t have to say anything. But… you’ll be okay after I’m gone, right? I’m worried for you.”

Elisei slips away to bring both arms up, the left arm above the right in a criss-cross, and he shakes his head while cutting his arms outwards. Ethan smiles.

“You’ll be okay. I love you.”

 

 

 

Ethan’s grave isn’t next to Alexei’s, a request by the former himself. Elisei personally buries him somewhere far away from the other graves, but still near enough for him to be able to visit Alexei, too. He has to engrave Ethan’s first name into the makeshift marker himself and he sits down on his haunches to stare at the grave. The graveyard is painted in blaring pink and red neon lights, still so very close to the sleepless city, and the clouds aren’t dense enough to completely hide away the sun either as thin, small rays of light pierce through.

The conflicting colours all dance along Ethan’s grave, splashing up against Elisei, and he exhales. He raises his left fist with his middle and ring curled inwards and pinkie, index, and thumb painting outwards and he moves it side to side slowly.

He presses his left palm underneath the messy, scratchy Ethan, and he rubs his eyes with his right.

To his right, atop of his bag, his phone chimes – quieter than at home, but still audible – and Elisei looks over at it for only a split second before he looks back at Ethan’s grave. He breathes in slowly and closes his eyes, then exhales out just as slow. He drags his palm down on the stone, bends over to his left, and shifts back after from the dirt mound as he lifts up two flowers – pink and red carnations.

He places them on the mound.

Work calls.