Actions

Work Header

Shorts

Chapter Text

Few things ever really angered him. There was plenty that certainly annoyed him, but he could count on a single hand (convenient for those forcefully left monodextrous) the things that inspired within him pure, blinding rage. Government contracted hacks like Providence definitely made the list, but above that, above all else, was being detained.

Not that he was unattractive in restraints.

Minutes crawled their way to hours, hours tediously dragging along, and there was no visible indication of how much time had passed since Providence had taken him into custody. Since then, he hadn’t been granted the opportunity to wash up. The vehicle he’d been standing on at the time of his defeat had been sent spiraling down a damn ravine while he was still riding, leaving him a sandy mess. Dirt clung to every fold of his clothing, irritating his skin, making him feel filthy. He could not so much as soothe his itches, his remaining arm raised upward, manacled above his head. His ankles were cuffed as well, so the most he was able to do was flex his fingers and wiggle toes.

His cell was closed off by a type of reinforced glass; the walls were transparent, giving him a view of the neighboring EVOs housed within their own prisons. Idly, he wondered if he ought to feel flattered. He wasn’t an EVO, yet they had gone to the same trouble in holding him captive. He could almost feel himself blush.

“Fascism at its finest!” Gatlocke called out, his legs protesting the way he was forced into a constant upright position. He could allow the manacle above him to support his weight and simply hang off of it, but that alleviated nothing. It only moved the strain, putting it onto his stump of an arm where flesh met the cold material of his remaining cybernetic prosthetic. That's all it was now: a prosthetic more than a weapon. The blasters were disabled (smashed), by the grunts here who probably wouldn't know a wire from a hair tie.

“Fascists, the lot of you!” His cries for attention weren't entirely for naught; though he received no answer from the guards, he disturbed his newest conversation partners. His shouting unsettled the rowdier, animalistic EVOs who joined his noise making, adding to it a cacophony of primal howling and shrieks. The prisoners who’d kept a handle on their humanity after they’d mutated hissed and bitched in response.

“Shut. Up!”

“The hell is your problem, buddy?”

His problem?

“Well, the ambience around here is a little lacking is all!” He shot back sarcastically. However, he thought he made a fair point. Considering all the dosh that got thrown their way, they could have set some aside and invested in an interior designer. Or at the very least, bought some cozy drapes since there was something to be said about the lack of privacy.

The chaos was beginning to reach its peak as ugly beasties smashed into their perimeters, testing the strength of their walls. The building trembled with the effort of containing their might and Gatlocke could feel their hate vibrating away within his bones too. He inhaled deeply, taking in all the air that he could fit into his lungs.

Then he screamed.

All of the accumulated frustration pent up inside of him was released in one furious roar. Good thing that, because if he’d held it back any longer, it might have given him an ulcer. Eating away at his insides was sheer humiliation.

The humiliation of being a caught fish in a sorry pet bowl.

Of having his own arm ripped away, the other one damaged and rendered useless.

Of having had his job buggered up by some half-wit, EVO sonofabitch!

The facility was a sight to behold, and a torture to the ears of anyone who did. What began as a slow morning quickly spun out of control without much of a warning.

A door was abruptly slammed open, its clang nearly lost in the commotion of the afternoon. Gatlocke stopped his shouting. While he could not see the visiting soldiers, he could faintly make out the sound of their boot clad feet marching into the prison halls. He watched the agitated EVOs become still, their muscles growing lax under thick gas that was released into their containers. One by one, they fell unconscious, the noise steadily winding down until the silence was deafening.

They hadn't slipped him any knock-out gas.

The sound of footsteps poured out of the hall until they were too distant to be heard. At first, he thought he would be left to bear the silence alone. Then a blonde figure stepped into his line of sight on the other side of shimmering glass. Immediately, Gatlocke was certain he was looking at a man in charge and, because he always researched his targets beforehand, assumed that this was none other than Captain Calan. He radiated authority even though his armor was Providence’s standard bland black and white. Blemishing his flesh was pinkened scar tissue trekking up beneath his eye. The old wound ran along his pale eyelid, stopping before his hairline.

“Gatlocke.” The man greeted in an American’s southern drawl, although it didn't sound like he was only here for well wishes.

Utilizing the only movement that he could, Gatlocke sneeringly displayed two fingers in response, showing blondie just what he thought he ought to do.

“If you can't keep your goddamn trap closed for the rest of your stay, we can find ways of shuttin’ it for you.” Calan warned.

“Now don't tease a man...” Gatlocke leered,  mouth twitching amusedly when his words pulled an expression of disgust from the other. But something he'd said made the pirate backtrack questioningly, “What are you on about? ‘The rest of my stay?’”

He wasn't foolish enough to think they were letting him go free.

Blondie straightened, and he could see the indecision in his eyes, debating whether or not it was information he should be giving. After deeming it harmless, he answered him.

“Providence takes care of EVO threats, and this prison’s for detaining them. What happens to you ain't our problem. You'll be handed over to the proper department where they'll deal with you. It’s only a matter of when they decide to move you.”

The proper department? The sound of that made him more than a bit uneasy. They could very well decide to have him extradited over to England. He hadn't been back home in... years.

“And to think I was beginning to like you.”

“This is your only warnin’.” He narrowed his eyes. “You best keep a tight lid on it, or you'll find yourself in even more trouble than you're in now.”

With that, he turned and left.

But if he’d made a habit out of doing as he was told, Gatlocke never would have wound up at Providence’s mercy to begin with. Suffice to say, he was bad at staying inside the lines.

He was let out of his chains exactly twice a day for bathing and bathroom purposes only. Each time, he never failed to make things as difficult as possible for his escorts. Picking fights with guards equipped with weapons and armor was difficult all on its own. Doing it with a single, broken arm? Impossible. He'd given up his hope of escape, only doing it to piss them off now. So he wasn't going to be Providence’s problem for long, but he was going to be the very definition of the word before they finally wiped their hands clean of him. They were sure taking their sweet time on that too.

He hadn't been keeping track of the days, but he knew that handfuls of them were slipping by without so much as a hint as to what was going to happen to him. Not even a peep. He was in limbo for the time being, and if he had to guess why, it was probably due to his number of crimes in various nations. Maybe they were puzzled over where to send him; and if they were, maybe he wasn't going to be shipped back across the pond after all.

Whatever reason they had for so kindly putting him on hold, he'd never had so much time alone to himself before. There was so much thinking capable of being done when he had only himself as company. It didn't reform him in the slightest, it was simply strange. When he wasn't antagonizing the guards, he thought about the things he'd do once they finally decided where they were sending him off to.

Not England.

God, don't let it be England.

Nothing against his motherland--

Actually, forget that. Full offense intended, he held no warm feelings for England. It wasn't a place he remembered fondly. Last thing he wanted was to go back. There was a reason he'd not visited once since leaving, and it was because there was nothing for him there. It hadn’t been all that difficult for him, parting ways with his roots. In films, they often portrayed the severing of one’s ties to home as some great hardship, but saying goodbye had been one of the easiest things he'd ever done. Being the anarchist that he was, he obviously didn't think himself a patriot. His life’s work made him well traveled, and he'd seen so much of the world to feel that his identity was tied to one town.

And they were debating whether or not to send him back.

***

 

It was after one of his showers when he met Caesar Salazar.

The guards were leading him back to his cell, and Gatlocke thought that it was the perfect time to loudly voice his complaints about the terrible living conditions he was being subjected to. He hadn't been given the one phone call he was entitled to, according to all the American prison flicks he'd watched before.

Once they arrived at his cell, the guard manhandled him inside, unceremoniously throwing him against the back wall. His shackles were fixed back in place and he was left alone.

Almost alone.

There was another person who had been awaiting his return from the showers, an olive skinned man of average height and charcoal eyes. His dark hair looked like it’d been carelessly combed through with fingers that gave no serious thought toward his appearance. It unfortunately worked a little too well for him. This one was easy on the eyes.

“Hello, Gatlocke.” Oh and what a pretty accent he had, far better than Captain Cornfed’s. "I am Dr. Caesar Salazar--”

“Are you the one who’s going to see to it that I get my phone call?”

Dr. Salazar didn't tell him ‘no’ or ‘shut the hell up already,’ as he'd been told continuously by everyone else here. Instead, he cocked his head and inquired with genuine curiosity, “Who are you wanting to make a call to?”

This made Gatlocke pause because he had only been making noise with the expectation of being brushed off. It was never about the phone call, but about making himself a nuisance. Now that he was asked about it, he was caught off guard. Damn him. Right, he'd introduced himself as Doctor Caesar Salazar. Better not have been a sodding Psychiatrist. Talk about a real turn off.

Narrowing his eyes in honest irritation, he lied, “My mother. What's it to you?”

“Your… mother?”

"Yes, my mother.” Gatlocke gave an offended sniff. “Even evil has loved ones, believe it or not.”

“I don't think you are evil.”

“No?” He scoffed, looking pointedly around his cell. “Suppose all this is just for the giggles then.”

“I mean that I don't think there *is* evil.” Dr. Salazar clarified. “Only people with differing agendas that interfere with each other at times. You aren't evil, but you were in the way. Providence had to ensure you wouldn't be a problem anymore.”

Gatlocke blinked at him a few times. “Put that way, sounds to me like you're the bloody evil ones...”

Salazar hummed in acknowledgment.

“My problem with words such as those are that they are far too subjective for me, so I don't really like them. They could mean whatever you want them to; thus, meaning nothing at all.” The doctor shrugged. “But actually, many might agree with you. Not very long ago, Providence once killed EVOs, even human ones. There are those who will call what they did to them very evil. Others might say that it was only completely necessary.”

“Believe you me, I'm well aware of Providence’s old ‘Kill on Sight’ policy. I was the last person calling bets that they, of all people, were gonna be the ones to start fighting for EVO rights.” He agreed with a snort. “Big surprise that one was, I never saw it coming.”

There was a bit of wry humor in Dr. Salazar’s eyes, as though he was privately laughing at some bitter joke which only he knew. “Neither did I.”

“So if you're not here to give me my phone call, what do you want?” Gatlocke asked suspiciously. “Not a Shrink, are you?”

“No.” He chirped. “If I was, I do not think I would be a very good one… Psychology is not so much my ‘thing.’ I'm here to take a look at your arm.”

The end of his statement was thrown out so casually, Gatlocke’s heart almost didn't have the chance to skip a beat. But it did, and a huff of incredulous laughter escaped him.

“What?”

“Your. Arm.” It was repeated more slowly for him, words emphasized, suggesting that he thought him too daft to understand the first time.

Dr. Salazar closed the space between them, reaching out to touch the base of his prosthetic. Held prisoner, he had no way of resisting, arm pulled taut by his handcuff. His body tensed underneath studious eyes, the scientist's gaze roaming over the ports of connection that circled his residual limb. He felt… like a thing. Like a grade schooler’s frog to be dissected, or an EVO under examination lights.

He didn't like it.

Cold fingers gilded above his elbow, brushing against sensitive skin ending where metal began. Unbidden, a shiver jolted up Gatlocke’s spine.

“How did you lose them?”

“That's a little personal, in’it?” Gatlocke tersely deflected. Not a Shrink, but he sure knew how to pry like one.

“It is. But you're a pirate so privacy is not one of your values.”

“It is when it's my privacy.”

“So you're a pirate and a hypocrite.”

“Guess I am. Prison changes a man, it does. Brings out the worst in him. Don't normally resort to using strong langauge either."

He was being rather dramatic considering he probably hadn't been there for longer than a few months. Caesar made no further comment, and instead busied himself with his work, humming some unfamiliar little tune. Relaxing was impossible, and it took all of Gatlocke’s effort not to squirm beneath his touching. He almost breathed a sigh of relief when he was let go of.

Caesar made a few notes onto a clipboard he'd set aside, assuring him in a pleasant tone, “I'm finished.”

“Finished with what? Come just to feel me up and run off, have you?” His brows rose with skepticism. “You didn't do anything.”

Dr. Salazar chuckled and amended, “My apologies. I mean that I am finished for now.”

He turned to leave, but before he did, he tossed a farewell over his shoulder.

“I'll be back another time.”

It became something of a routine after that. Once a week after shower time, Dr. Salazar could be found in his cell, waiting to tinker away at his arm. He was always always humming that same, bizzare little song under his breath. When it grew annoying enough, Gatlocke finally snapped and asked what it was.

“Oh.” Caesar seemed surprised then, like it hadn't occurred to him that Gatlocke could hear him. “You just remind me of a song. Well, not a song. A lullaby really.”

“A lullaby?”

“The Ugly Doll.” Caesar answered brightly. “I used to sing it to my little cousins.”

It probably wasn't intended as an insult, but it was there, however unintentional.

“Thanks ever so…” He said dryly.

Dr. Salazar’s visits consisted mostly of arm examinations but sometimes they would have full-length discussions about everything ranging from biomechanics, to political philosophy, and even films. Even when they didn't agree on something, he couldn't find it within himself to be annoyed about it. Caesar was so entertaining even when he felt that the scientist was (so obviously, painfully) wrong. If he didn’t know any better, Gatlocke would almost call these visits nice.

Too bad he did know better, and that knowledge was firmly cemented one day, when he was reminded of just who exactly Providence was.

Caesar had come in with a metal tray instead of just his clipboard, which should have been warning enough. He couldn't see any of the objects on it, they were wrapped in sterilized packages.

“The craftsmanship behind your prosthetic is a work genius.” He said, his eyes alight with fascination. Gatlocke had to quash down the sudden feeling of flattery wanting to warm his face.

“I'll pass your compliments along to the chef.” He played nonchalant, trying to appear aloof.

“It wasn't you who made it? I assumed from your knowledge of--”

“Well, you know what they say about making assumptions.”

Not offended, Caesar chuckled and picked up one of the packages on the tray. He peeled it open to reveal a sharp little tool that sent Gatlocke’s pulse racing.

“As I said, your arm is a work of genius.” Caesar continued,“It's become too difficult to study while still attached to you.”

He knew where this was heading. The news had him writhing violently against his restraints, trying in vain to break free as the other man made his way closer.

Jesus Christ!

The little bastard was going to take his arm.

“This should be relatively painless.” Caesar promised, holding onto his elbow.

“That's easy for you to say!” Gatlocke snarled and desperately strained against his bonds, unable to move away from Caesar’s touch. "Keep those hot little hands off of me!”

He was breathing faster now, bordering on hysterical.

The tool was dug into the port connecting his arm to his body. The bolt was oh so slowly slid out, and he had to bite down on his tongue to keep from hissing. Muscle clenched around the absence of the screw, throbbing like a missing tooth. It was tolerable. He’d had much worse done to him really. The real agony started when they were all out, and Caesar began removing his arm.

At the first pull, his body seized up in shock, his eyes tearing up. It felt raw, a searing hot burn flaring up his shoulder. The wires tethered to nerves and muscle stretched from Caesar’s movement, but he managed to lock his teeth together and kept from screaming.

He couldn't quite stay silent at the second tug which exposed his wiring, baring it to the open air. A howl tore its way out of his chest, causing Caesar to stop what he was doing. There was no remorse to be found on his face, only confusion.

Gatlocke’s chest rose and fell rapidly, choked little gasps leaving his lips. Every pleasant exchange he'd shared with Dr. Salazar had lulled him into a false sense of security. He'd forgotten. He'd forgotten who he was and who Caesar was. Not a friend, definitely not now.

“This hurts you…?”

“Of… course it… hurts!” He managed to grit out. "It's attached to me!”

“It wasn't supposed to hurt…” Caesar wasn't talking to him but more so to himself. “I prepared for this however.”

He reached over to his metal tray and plucked up a syringe. Keeping a hold of his half removed limb, he used his free hand to slide the needle into the soft part of his shoulder, injecting him with god knew what.

“This should help with the pain.”

Seething, Gatlocke hissed at him, “W-Why didn't you do that before you started?”

“Like I said, it wasn't supposed to cause you any pain.” Caesar sheepishly said, but that didn't make it any better.  

He didn't immediately resume work on his arm, waiting patiently for the drugs to take effect. When sensation in his shoulder was finally taken from him, so was his arm. At least one of those would return to him, he wasn't entirely sure if his prosthetic would be given back. Dr. Salazar made quick work of disconnecting the wires, it was painless this time. Physically.

He was aware that he was shivering but he couldn't stop. It was just so cold. He couldn't help but feel violated, staring blankly at his arm lying uselessly on the metal table. It was different from when he'd lost his other. That had happened so quickly in the heat of battle, there hadn't been time to so much as blink.

“Until next time.” Caesar said, exiting his cell.

Hopefully there would be no next time.

***

Without his arm, not even bothering the guards lifted his spirits. He was not accustomed to being so vulnerable. He hated it. He hated the EVO freak who'd  landed him here to begin with. He hated Dr. Salazar.

He had no right to feel betrayed. He knew that, but he couldn't help it. The man had taken his remaining arm. The prison was nightmarish after that. Whereas before he'd only been extremely uncomfortable, now he was bloody miserable. He had no way to defend himself against the guards who he'd brassed off during the length of his stay. If they happened to shove him too hard, he was easily knocked off balance.

It had been so long since he'd had dreams of the moment he'd gotten his human arms replaced. They were brought back with horrifying clarity, leaving him unable to get some rest. It was after one of these night terrors that the source of his unrest stopped by for the final time.

He was blearily awake, sweat cooling against his skin when he heard the metal doors slide open.

It wasn't night watch.

His cell was opened and in walked Dr. Salazar, pushing in a sheet covered cart. Gatlocke blanched at the sight of him.

“What in the hell do you want?” His voice rose an octave. "Come to take another limb?”

“For a thief, you are strangely offended by my borrowing.” Caesar commented, a twinkle of amusement in his eyes. It wasn't funny. He wasn't as entertaining anymore. Gatlocke’s eyes searched frantically for escape.

“What do you want?”

“It's against regulations to withhold medical care from prisoners.” As he spoke, Caesar pulled the sheet off of his cart, revealing a new set of prosthetic arms.

Gatlocke balked.

“I couldn't recreate your work while you were wearing it. I am sorry for any discomfort it may have caused you…”

Moving closer, Dr. Caesar pulled a syringe out to begin reattaching his arms, chattering away all the while like everything between them was just fine, “They're not completely the same. I didn't add your weaponry--”

“Why didn't you tell me?” Inwardly, he was fuming.

“...That I didn't add your weapons? I thought that went without saying. You are a criminal--”

“You didn't tell me why you were taking my arm, you sick bastard!”  

“Didn't I?” Caesar blinked thoughtfully at him, realizing that he was right. "Well, to be fair, you never asked.”

Chapter Text

He once thought that monsters might have taken comfort in the night because sins were so well guarded by the dark; but he no longer held that belief, its implication being that monsters felt anything close to shame under watching eyes. Monsters felt no remorse, regret is what made a man. Vulnerability was the real reason why the hours after the setting sun were such a reprieve. As monsters welcomed moonrise, so did men who then forgot themselves and their defenses.

Six was very good about not forgetting himself. The way he put up walls was near predatory; a sleek jungle cat who kept to himself and all shaded places the sun seldom touched. He never let Knight have an inch on him. ‘Course, it wasn’t like Knight blamed him.

His biggest regret was trying to kill Six.

But the feeling hadn't come ‘till later. Much later.

They’d finally built enough trust to cautiously work with each other, and New York was having some of the worst weather it had seen all year. Might’ve called it a bad omen, if Knight bought into all that hoodoo trash, but they could not postpone their assignments another day. Forced to proceed, they carried on, soaked in rainwater and crap luck.

This was the first assignment in which they left the safe house together. One unit. No meeting up at a rendezvous point. Another omen?

“Something wrong with your leg?”

Six almost reacted to Knight’s words, but he was accustomed to the lack of silence by then too. Waving him off, he dismissed his question with a shake of his head, “It's nothing.”

Because they parted ways so often however, Knight thought nothing of it when they had to split up and get to work.They infiltrated the targeted building from different locations, both tasked with their respective jobs. For Knight, this involved eliminating security, keeping them occupied while Six finished off their real mark. Wasn't hard, the building they were holed up in provided no easy means of escape. Yeah, there were fire escapes, but the structure was also three storeys tall. Cash cows had to be real fast or real lucky, ‘cause three storeys was ample time to start firing.

It was supposed to be real easy money.

But when the length of time he spent waiting for Six to rejoin him grew into something less than comfortable, some of that ease fell away. Confusion made each of his steps awkward on his way to the main office. What reason did he have to care that the mission was dragging along? So long as it got done. They'd already been paid half upfront.

The halls were dark, but not quiet. Interrupting the silence were the harsh splatters of rain against the glass of the windows, and his own footsteps echoing off the walls. He was usually very careful not to make sound, but the dead could not hear. They wouldn't tell that nerves made his steps heavier, and that it was hesitancy slowing his hand as he pushed the door to the office open.

Thunder clapped outside, a flash that briefly illuminated the dark.

Knight swore violently.

There were not one, not two, but three bodies motionless on the floor. He didn't have to study them long to get a mental picture of what had happened. Guy slumped over his desk was obviously the target, the man by the door must’ve been a guard he had missed. Walked in on Six mid-kill.

(So it had been Knight’s fault.)

His eyes were refusing to take a look at the last body, lying in front of the long, wooden desk. Knight felt that he must have seen dozens upon dozens of bodies by now, in various states of being. Up until now, they were all the same to him: alive, dead, naked, clothed, dismembered, and even dissected. It took great effort to will his gaze to this one however.

Six.

He was curled inwardly on his side, bleeding a small pool onto the polished floor. His fingers were splayed along his abdomen, as though he could keep his insides from spilling out with his hands alone. He was alive. His breathing was labored, and it seemed like he was smaller somehow. It was so strange watching him tremble, on the edge of death. Because surely if Knight left him there, he would die.

'I could leave him.'

He thought that it would be rather easy. It wouldn’t be killing him exactly, but he could certainly do that too. Put him out of his misery. After all, that was why they first met. Knight had been assigned to kill him and instead walked away with him. If he followed through now, the Consortium probably wouldn’t welcome him back with open arms, but he had made enough of a name for himself as a mercenary that he could move on just fine without Six.

It would only be a mercy killing really.

But as he approached his body, the sound of a stifled, pained moan broke him away from his thoughts. Though tiny and nearly inaudible, it was the worst, most heart-wrenching thing in the world. And it was then when it all came crashing down. Harder than the rain. Harder than a blow to the face. 'Oh god.' He realized, 'Oh god, I don't want him to die.'

His horror came, not at the thought itself, but from the reason why. The Consortium trained their agents well. They were taught to keep a lid on confidential information, even under the strains of torture. He knew how to hold secrets, but it was his heart he’d have to take to the grave now.

He didn't want to move on without Six. Everything and nothing had changed. The circumstance was the same, there he stood before the same dying man. It was just that now, he was taking everything in with new, love-addled eyes.

Anger was a much easier thing to let himself feel.

“You’re freakin’ kidding me.” He snapped.

Though wounded, Six tensed at the sound of his voice, bracing himself as Knight stalked over to him. He dropped down into a crouch beside his body. Six’s fingers blindly flitted against the floor, searching for something (a weapon?) Knight didn't know.

“The hell is this, Six?” He demanded, a hard edge in his tone, “This really how you want to go out? Dying in a pool of your own blood like a stuck pig?”

He took Six’s fumbling hand and stilled it in a vice tight grip, turning him onto his back. Shucking his coat, Knight pressed it to his stomach in an effort to stop the bleeding as best as he could without access to proper medical equipment.

This wouldn’t be a death fit for The Sixth Most Dangerous Man in The World. Six was too good. This was just pathetic. In fact, the situation was almost disorientating enough to make Knight sick. In a single instant, his understanding of the world had been so harshly checked by reality that the room was nearly spinning. The red slowly staining his fingers served as a reminder that no matter his titles, no matter his prestige, Six was still only human and could suffer the same fate as any man.

“We don’t have the goddamn time for this. We need to leave. Now.” Knight hissed through his teeth, tying the coat around his midsection and hitching him up into his arms. It wasn’t likely that someone would enter the building again until morning, but that didn’t mean that they should test their luck. They couldn’t stay longer than necessary.

Six muttered something against his neck. Suspiciously, it sounded like he was saying, “Nobody is asking you to stay.”

“Shut up.” If he tried speaking, Knight really was going to end up killing him.

He tried not to think too much. About the warmth from Six’s body pressed up against him. About the puffs of breath released against his neck. It wasn't trust, it was weakness that made him pliant and unguarded.

At least the rain had let up. The clouds had parted enough to let moonlight stream through. It was only lightly sprinkling, but the alleyways were still slick, water having collected into dirty puddles. Their car wasn’t far, a black, sleek Plymouth Road Runner that Knight all but ripped the door open to. He set Six down into the passenger seat and slammed the door shut. Ordinarily, it would have been Knight riding shotgun.

He was unable to keep his eyes from drifting back to Six at every stoplight or lull in traffic. Hospitals were going to ask too many questions. He had to see what he could do on his own first. Cursing under the shriek of tires, he jerked the car around a hard turn toward their safehouse.

Knight only made a single stop along the way. Given the situation, he made it fast, grabbing what he needed from a convenience store without lingering. There were many things they didn't have at hand, like antiseptic or bandages. Cleaning wounds out with whiskey should only be left as a last resort really.

The cashier gave him a funny look at the register. He must have made a sight. People simply didn’t go midnight strolling for medical supplies, wearing clothing smeared with blood. Knight didn't care what she must have thought. As he waited impatiently for her to ring up the items, his eyes paused on some cigarettes. Its packaging looked expensive. After a second thought, he grabbed those too and tossed them on top of the counter. One of Six’s posey preferences, and it'd be up to his standards no doubt.

After paying for his things and checking up on Six once more, he went straight back to their place without further interruption.

Once they were inside, the table where they frequently took their meals was quickly repurposed. Using it as a makeshift operating table, he peeled off the thick sweater wrapped tightly around Six, and cut open his shirt.

“Oh, hell..."

It was bad. Knight needed to get him to a real hospital. He probably needed a blood transfusion. But what could he tell them?

‘He fell and ran into my loaded gun?’

Yeah, he could see that one going over well and fine.

Wasting no further time, he began patching the man up. Six had lost consciousness by then, but maybe that was for the best. They both had a high tolerance for pain, but digging out bullets was never anyone's idea of a good time.

He stitched him with a steady fingers, and there was irony to be found in his every careful action. Many had died at his hand, under his eyes. This was the first time he was attempting to mend someone well again. He knew exactly why that was, and the weight of that knowledge was something awful. It was going to be difficult meeting Six’s gaze once he woke up. Knight wondered if he might somehow find out anyway, without needing to exchange words with him at all. Six had an intuitive way about him that made it seem as though he could somehow read thoughts.

The anticipation would eat at him over the next few hours. For now however, only he and the moon knew.

Chapter Text


June’s unbearable heat prevented them from doing anything except sleep, the bedsheets kicked somewhere onto the ground. *He* had slept through the night anyway, he couldn’t have said the same for Tw--

One.

In their line of work, the only way to earn prestige was to kill a fellow mercenary, taking their number and name as a trophy. A token to commemorate the victory. His partner’s name was now One.

It must have been after midnight when One left the safehouse. He could remember the other man beside him, the last thing he’d seen before he finally closed his eyes. Rest had come easy, and the bed had been too comfortable. The warm weather made his muscles lazier, reluctant to so much as twitch. But in the early morning, when he opened his eyes again, only sunlight was there to greet him, and nothing-- nobody else. The space beside him was left cold, a sign that it had been vacant for a while.

His partner, the fool, had gone alone to kill the previous deadliest person in all the world. His absence presented Dos with two options, all too familiar to him: stay or follow. It was the latter that lead him to stand in the hospital hallway.

By the time Dos’ plane landed in San Francisco, One’s fight with the former owner of his name was long over. Dos was able to acquire the location of the hotel he was staying in and found him there asleep, heavily wounded. His haphazardly applied bandages disguised nothing in terms of the severity of his injuries. He wasn’t usually so sloppy with his wound care. Neither of the men were ignorant toward the dangers that sepsis and infection posed. Dos guessed that he’d been too weak to patch himself up properly. From there, he forced him to seek medical attention.

Two bottles of water hit the bottom of the hospital’s vending machine, and Dos leaned down to retrieve them. He made no move to return to One’s room, loitering instead in the hall, staring at the framed art on the white wall in front of him. He tried to make sense of it. The painting’s meaning didn’t immediately jump out at him. Perhaps there was no meaning at all. It was just pointless and loud, all the colors of the rainbow senselessly spattered together, signed below with the creator’s name. Normally, he’d only stop to appreciate art if it was good. He sniffed in offense and turned away, his steps weighed down with reluctance that made his return to the hospital room a lengthy walk. He couldn't stall any longer.

His hand pushed open the door, and his heart immediately jumped into his throat.

One was awake.

He stood on the balcony’s railing, looking down at the streets below.

Slowly, Dos set the two bottles down on a hospital tray. Carefully, he stepped out onto the balcony, cautiously approaching One from behind. Before he could say anything however, One gestured to the city down below them.

A festival of some kind was being held. It almost reminded Dos of the painting out in the hall. But the scene playing out in the streets was brighter, beautiful in a way that couldn’t possibly be captured within a frame. Life itself was happening in motion: red, green, blue. An endless confusion of dizzying, visual noise.

“They seem to be having fun.” One commented, not concerned that he was teetering on a ledge. “What do you suppose they’re celebrating, Dos?”

It nearly slipped his mind that he himself had risen to the next rank too. He hadn’t been there to take the name for himself, so he would have forgotten, had One not addressed him as such. Dos glanced away from the festivities, and up at One when he answered with annoyance, “How should I know that? There are people who will celebrate a rat coming out of the ground during the Spring.”  

“Hmm. I think you have the animal mistaken, lover...”

“I do not care a pepper. Now get down from there before you fall.”

Instead of listening to him, One took a seat on the railing, patting the spot beside him. He was crazy. Dos leaned against the metal bar, watching him warily for any sign of unsteadiness. One was sporting a head injury after all, his forehead wrapped neatly in gauze. Dos wished he could say that a concussion was the reason behind his insanity, but he’d known him much too long for that.

They were both silent. The sun was setting on San Francisco, but it couldn’t be seen past the titanic buildings. The only sign that night was falling was the orangey sky and the air that was beginning to cool against his skin. Dos was almost enjoying himself, close enough to One that they were nearly touching. In fact, he was so close that he could smell him, his scent ruined by the disgusting stench of hospital. It didn’t let him completely relax, reminding him of why they were there in the first place. His heart was still pounding rapidly in his throat, preventing him from speaking. One really did look like he’d brushed death, his normally handsome features ruined by his fight. The unhidden portions of his skin were discolored by dark bruises, he could see some of them around his throat, as though he’d been strangled. The flesh of his lower lip had been busted and stitched back up. The line of thread was very ugly to look at.

Actually, all of him was very ugly to look at.

“You should not have gone without me,” Dos said, against the tightness he felt in his chest.

“Forgive me for that. This was something I needed to do alone.”

"And if you died? What then, eh?”

“Then you would be the deadliest man in the world.”

Never once had killing him crossed Dos’ mind. Yes, he was technically still competing for first place, but he didn’t want it. He had enough pride, enough self-confidence that he didn’t need titles to feel good about himself. He already knew he was remarkable, and it wasn’t because a ranking system deemed he was. So he scoffed at that answer, thinking it an inadequate consolation prize for One’s life. He could already picture it, like a grotesque still-life portrait. One with glossy black eyes, an unsmiling face, his body limp and robbed of all its vitality. Forever frozen by death.

“Are you… crying?”

Embarrassed, Dos jerked his face away, up toward the stars that were beginning to peek out of the sky.

“I am not. Why would I cry over this? Over you?” He vehemently denied, but he could feel the hot slide of tears down his face. Without looking at him, he made a dismissive motion with his hand. “If you want to run off and be a suicidal fool, vaya con dios. Do not let me get in the way of your ambitions--”

He’d started off strong, but he choked on the final word when his breath hitched into a sob. His teeth snapped together, his lips pursed tightly to keep it from happening a second time. There would come a day that One died, and he wasn’t naive enough to believe it would be an easy passing. Not with the kind of lives they’d lead. Despite knowing the inevitably, even though he’d had ample time to come to terms with it, and after all the people they’d murdered, he still didn’t want--

“You were worried.” One guessed, “You were worried that our time together was going to be cut short.”

“I did not say that…”

“Look at me, Dos.”

When he didn’t do so, One took his chin in his grasp and turned his gaze back over to him. Once he was sure he held his attention, his hands moved to the sides of his face. Dos’ eyes still sought to avoid contact with his, his focus resolutely on a piece of lint on One’s shoulder. But then that began to bother him too.

“It was not my intention to die,” One informed, smiling at him reassuringly. “If it brings you any peace of mind, I can promise you that I don’t anticipate dying anytime in the near future.”

Dos snorted. “We do not have a say in those matters...”

“You’re right. We all die sometime,” He agreed, carding his fingers through his hair. Dos should have felt irritation at the action for ruining his hair, but he found that he actually didn’t mind. He liked it.

“I think that’s all the more reason to enjoy the time we have now.” One added, before leaning forward to kiss him. He could feel the coarse scrape of his stitches against his own mouth, but could also taste the sweetness of his breath-- almost untainted by the hospital smell. Dos pressed himself closer to him, arms sliding around his waist, but he was careful not to dislodge the man from his spot on the railing too. He held him tightly, as if he could tether One to him, and lock him in that moment with just his arms alone.

But life was less attractive when it wasn’t moving.

After the kiss was broken, Dos continued to hold onto him, resting his chin at his shoulder.

“That festival… still looks like fun.” One commented, looking past him. “Perhaps we should go sightseeing, hm?”

Dos huffed and pulled back enough to slap him on the shoulder. “You are not going anywhere looking like that!”