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Distance was important.

The choice of dragoon as one of his meisters had been a very practical one with several deciding factors behind it. It was one of his father’s specialties anyway, and it seemed natural that he should have an offensive option to fall back on. More importantly, guns allowed the young exorcist to keep a certain amount of distance between himself and his opponent. It had been vital during his early years when he wasn’t physically or mentally strong enough to handle the reality of the battlefield.

Even as he grew stronger, that distance was still just as important. Maybe even more so. Distance kept things impersonal. A squeeze of the trigger, a bang, and on to the next enemy. He could stay in the fight while holding reality at arm’s length for a time. Complete the job, do what must be done, then clean up the mess. No emotions. Distance kept him cold inside, the essential ice to his brother’s fire.

Of course, this strategy didn’t account for anything crazy enough to bring reality to him. Couldn’t plan for that wicked smile that grew back time and time again, always up close and personal as skin warped and teeth crunched back into place. Couldn’t block out the jets of blood almost hot enough to burn as they spattered over his uniform. Couldn’t unsee the the bits of wrinkled gray tissue that clung to bloodied skin alongside youthful freckles.

They both lived the death over and over, laughing and snarling and winning and losing and never regaining that distance that would put things back into perspective. That would make it clear that no amount of bullets would put an end to their vicious dance. Nothing on his tool belt would stop that taunting. No weapon would silence that infuriating laughter for any longer than it took vocal chords to grown back, but he had to make it stop because he could feel the heat building behind his eyes and he could never have been prepared for the smiling and the lies and the disturbingly well-placed truths and-

So much for distance.