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Cloves or Cannabis

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It is not Badou's desire in life to stick out so much. Obvious isn't exactly a characteristic of choice in this trade, but there aren't many options when he's got one eye missing and red hair, although he'll never go near a bottle of dye, it's not worth the effort or money. He tried, a little, back when he started - pinning his hair up, sticking it under a cap, but that resulted in too many ruined caps, so he eventually gave the notion up entirely. Besides, when he met Heine, with his pure-as-snow, feathery-as-a-chicken's-ass hair, and crazy leering grin, he realized just how normal he actually was. Not that he's really complaining about his partner. Badou doesn't go much for teamwork himself, but he can admit that it has its uses. Even if he usually ends up helping out more than he thinks is fair (saving Nill is one example, and Heine still skipped out on helping Badou pay their tab at Kiri's place the week after, but Nill is worth it, so he lets that go.)

He tries to temper some of the weirdness by dressing simply – only secondhand clothes, things filched from the donation racks, tracksuits, that kinda thing. (His favorite, the floor-length army trench, was actually Dave's – but no one needs to know that.) It's weird, because the one thing Heine is not a completely lazy shit about is dressing up, and he has all these fancy leather get-ups and goggles and jackets with fluffy bits, like its important to look good when blowing people to smithereens. But Heine is always the one with more blood streaming from his mouth after missions, so clearly Badou has the better idea in this respect. The cheap outfits spare him more money for cigs, anyway.

Money, again, is the reason that he and Heine are currently under fire and crouching behind some gigantic potted plants, listening to bullets whiz over their heads. His last cigarette is tapering out – damn the sudden gunfire that had made him drop his packet outside the door – and it's just their luck that the bastard they had been commissioned to take down that day – a grade A sleaze named Bartolo – has only employed female bodyguards in what looks like full-body wetsuits. It's distracting for him, and Heine is doing his usual drama-queen hyperventilation over being in close proximity to the opposite gender.

"Don't lose your shit on me," Badou warns, frantically digging around in his pockets for that elusive leftover smoke, but he's starting to worry that there really isn't any. The prospect of facing Bartolo without a smoke is starting to make him worry. Granny Liza has a tendency of giving them nasty targets after a string of mind-numbingly easy ones, and Bartolo belongs to the first class: he is, apparently, a twenty-fingered mutant with a face that is part-lizard, part-gorilla, a fact which Badou would be dwelling on more, if not for his preoccupation with avoiding getting his brains blown out and satisfying his rapidly heightening nicotine craving.

"I could say the same for you," Heine responds, with what are evidently his last, fraying threads of sanity. In a rapid motion he plucks the dead smoke out from Badou's mouth, and stamps it beneath his boot. Badou knows better than to rage about this – Heine's teeth are bared and his eyes are blown to nearly all whites, and his hand rattles where it grips his pistol. "Can we hurry this up, please?"

"On three," Badou says, resigned to the fact this can't end well. "One -"

But Heine has already stood up, and is kicking him away – hard. So hard Badou is pretty sure his hip is fractured. He flies through the door on the right side that (he thought) they'd both agreed to barge into, only marginally amazed that no bullets zip through his flying hair. Lands sprawled on his side, and scrambles up shouting, "You fucking bastard!" - then he imagines a bullet bursting through Heine's shoulder, right before a blade comes down and slices his whole arm off, the dull sheen of his bone nearly glimmering as Heine turns and strangles his attacker to death with one hand.

Badou's mind goes blank for all of two seconds, then he sees Heine jerking his mouth and he realizes that he's shouting, "Run!" Which Badou does. As gracefully as he can with a throbbing hip.

He scrambles around the room, which they had previously staked out as the firearms hideaway, with a purpose, and quickly limps back to the doorway three minutes later, lugging the hugest possible gun he could find. A bazooka. Or possibly a rocket launcher. Heine catches sight of it – somehow his arm has been re-attached to his shoulder, the skin over the joint shiny-pink, new, hideously creased – and makes a dive in the right direction, hands over his ears. The bazooka goes off like a beauty, whizzy sparks and a satisfying boom, and Badou barely even aims. Three girls get vaporized in its wake, throaty screams going up in smoke, and another twelve quickly follow. Bartolo, weapons manufacturer, has got a real baby here. They listen to him sob for a half-minute, then Heine karate-chops him on the back of the head, and they bind and gag him carefully. Badou hates these missions that require targets alive. He usually makes nothing on those; you don't get paid for failing.

He finds his eyes straying to Heine's shoulder, while he reflects about how easily reality blurs when he's low on nicotine. It looks fine, as it hitches up to tug at the ropes one last time. It looks like nothing ever touched it, except for that thin pink scar that seems to be melting away even as Badou blinks.

It could be his bad eye. It could be how dulled his sensations to pain have become – not quite as bad as Heine, maybe, but after having an eyeball and a hand stabbed through, he's pretty sure his tolerance has been leveraged to hallucinatory proportions, and he sees things that don't really happen. Watching Dave be hacked to possible death (it's the uncertainty that consumes him more than anything, really) must have contributed to his tolerance for gruesome situations, too, even if Badou is a peacemaker at heart. If he could live solely off his journalism, he would. But it's not like there's any innocent news in this town. If there are, he's not catching any of them; on the other hand, if he writes about all of the crazy shit that does actually happen, no one will believe him. How can he build up credibility when the most interesting feature he can think of is how some trigger-happy jerks are just impossible to kill?

They take turns hauling Bartolo back, and are panting heavily by the time they've reached the hideaway. "Thank you," Granny Liza demurs, passing the envelope with their payment to Badou with a flourish. She seems genuinely pleased by their work, and the fact that they were thoughtful enough to drag the bazooka back with them, too. "You do know that you're starting to gain fame in my book for dependability, don't you?" Her book, and undoubtedly, the rest of the nasty Underworld's. At this rate, Badou is never going to beat Mimi at the private investigator business.

"I live for being conspicuous," he replies, blowing out smoke.

He hands Heine his share once they're back in the Church, while waiting for Nill to recover from her shock at seeing all the blood splattered across Heine's vest. Counts out the money and pushes it into his partner's hand, then mentions that he's planning to go out for some burgers and fries and then maybe rent a video after – something a little mellow, without too many explosions.

Heine doesn't look at the money he stuffs into his pocket. He smirks at Badou, eyes lazy (now that he's calm), and says, "Go buy yourself a new jacket instead, and stop wearing that piece of trash."

He gets up as Badou scowls, and they head for the nearest diner together.