Notes: Dedicated to Becky because she is rocktitude. Beta Read by Reccea and Kinneas, with help from Schuschu. Post OAV, somewhere during Dramatic Precious.

* * * * *

Damnation
By Gen X

* * * * *

The stains on your soul are mirrored on your claws, and you watch the red droplets as they fall. In the instant before they drop, they form an orb. A tiny perfect globe before crashing to the floor. You turn your wrist, maneuvering the blood across the steel. Fascinating.

This is all you have left of the mission: stains on your hands, bodies on the floor. Only six people, far too few targets for you liking. Their blood has stopped flowing; their wounded flesh looks almost black under all the liquid. Now it only moves on your blades, changing direction with every twist of your hands. Obeying your whims.

It's a shame you only got to kill three of them. They didn't even put up a good fight. What a rip off.

Clickety-clack.

You can hear Omi at the laptop. Kritiker needs the info; they've just got to know. His fingers fly over the keyboard. You can't type that fast-not that you've ever wanted to. There's nothing to do but stand around. 'How boring,' you think. Weiss shouldn't be reconnaissance. Weiss is only execution.

A soft click. A tiny crackle.

Yohji's lighting up a cigarette. Everyone's dead and the carcinogens are helping another on his way. He slumps, relaxed, against the wall. Most likely saving his energy for later tonight. He probably can't wait to get laid. You hope he goes to her place. You want to sleep tonight. He makes too much noise.

Silence.

Not a twitch. A stony glare matches perfectly with the silence. The red hair doesn't move. His guard is down a bit, the katana is at his side. Still, he looks more like a statue instead of a human being. Some things simply don't change, and Aya-Ran-whatever he prefers-is one of them.

Sometimes you wonder what keeps him here. It used to be the missions that were always for his sister, who is safe now. You're doubtful that it's allegiance to Kritiker. Perhaps, he simply doesn't know anything else. Besides, he's good at his work.

Just like you.

You don't even consider this work any more. It's a thrill. You're always the first in line for new missions. Someone else's last breath makes you feel strong. It's a primal rush, inarticulate, and all consuming. It's the only thing that makes you feel alive.

Snkt, snkt.

Blades retract and extend, an impatient gesture on your part. The blood has dried, robbing you of your distraction. How strange that long ago you couldn't bear to look at it. You nearly broke down the first time, but you survived. Mission after mission you came back home. Smile, for the kids on the grass field. Smile, for the girls in the shop. There's no way you could have lived this long and not become desensitized.

A gaping hole.

Where your heart used to be. It died a long time ago, you know that, although you can't recall exactly when. Perhaps when your hands stopped shaking. Perhaps when blood stopped flowing through your dreams. Perhaps bit by bit as you moved steadily away from the innocent boy you used to be. Maybe one day you simply woke up and knew you had already gone too far. Perhaps suicide some time ago would have been the better sin. Pity you weren't that strong.

But now, a thump.

You all freeze. You all tense. The typing stops as Omi drops into a defensive stance, a dart already in hand. The cigarette is still burning on the carpet. Yohji not bothering to stop on it. He's as taut as his wire. Aya's katana, now vertical, deadly, prepared. His eyes are narrowed, but yours are wide with anticipation. You clench and unclench your fists. The mission may not be over. You can't wait to find out. Your hands shake with need.

Yohji jerks his head to the right. That way. Down the hall. You're closet to the door so you nod. Whoever's still here, you'll handle it. You wet your lips absently. Aya is giving you a guarded look. You don't even care that you don't know why that is.

The claws extend; they're hungry. Your anticipation is high, nearly coming off you in waves. Perhaps, they'll fight back. How splendid. That way you can dodge and weave, parry and strike. You can tease by wounding. In short, you can play.

First injure a hand or a shoulder, then puncture a lung or the stomach. Then watch blood trail down their mouth as they try to cough. The human body never looks more frail at that moment. How pathetic it is.

Open an office door and a stifled whimper tells you that you have the right place. Sounds female. How disappointing. The light from the hallway makes you look surreal as you step into the room. It illuminates behind you, hiding you in it's depth. You are a white hunter, after all. There were no women in the mission briefing.

Too bad for her. Random variable. Up to the team's discretion. How unfortunate that she got you.

You kick the desk away. She gapes. Mouth opens. Mouth shuts. No sound comes out. The words were surpassed by terror and she can't do anything but stare. Her clothes, you notice, aren't that fancy. You haven't a clue who she is. She probably works here. A secretary or some sort.

Will it even matter in a few moments?

You grab her wrist and yank her to her feet. Swiftly, you're behind her-your left hand covering her mouth. Can't draw any attention, or distract the others. They trusted you to deal with this, and you're not one to let them down. She shakes her head, as if reading your thoughts, but you tighten your grip.

Lightly, ever so gently, you let your claws rake over her clothing. Another whimper, as you dig in deeper. The cloth takes a second to give, but it does split. Wrong place, wrong time. Fate was cruel to you, why should it be any different for her?

Soft breath against your hand that gets heavy-now frantic-as the blood starts. You wonder what her eyes would hold. A silent plea? Incomprehension? Condemnation? Abstract fear? Or just the tears that flow down your hand?

You know you've gone insane, you're not fooling yourself by denial. It's just that you can't stop. Not that you want to. Sometimes it's like outside looking in, you rail against your actions and weep for your soul as you watch in fascinated horror. Sometimes, it's a rush, and all consequences fall away. And sometimes it makes you feel empty, cheap. Then you remember that you're already dead, but everyone else isn't. Not yet, at any rate.

Growing up you were taught values. Morals. The golden rule. And these are the values that they worship, that they put their trust and faith in. Later you learned that what goes around doesn't always come around. Sentiments that have nothing done thing but betray you. Lies. All of it. No wonder you can't stand them.

Why bother with delusions?

People who deserve punishment don't always receive it. It seems so hard to leave it up to Him. To wait for judgment until after death-to trust someone else to do it for you. There are people that deserve His grace and are spurned. Or just abused. Like Job. Like you. Like the woman before you. No one is hear to save her from the dark beast you've become. She's probably a good person...

Her knees are getting weak as blood disappears into the darkness of her clothes. Not long now.

If life isn't fair, why expect death to be?

You set her gently down to the ground. Her limbs are heavy, she's not struggling any more. There's still some time before Aya comes looking. You retract the claws on your right hand and move up to her neck. Her eyes are heavy, lethargic. Blood loss will do that to a person. She probably wants to sleep.

For a moment you just look at her, and in your eyes is nothing.

A sickening crack.

It's a wonderful sound.

Being born can take hours-months depending on how you look at it, but death can be instantaneous.

You shut the door soundly, locking it from the inside. You lope back to the others. They're probably be more typing, smoking, brooding. Right now, you feel alive. Fresh blood on your blades and if you arc your hand you can almost recall the feel of her neck as it snapped.

You wonder again who she was, but it doesn't matter now.

A look, nothing big, is all you receive. Problem handled. Nothing to worry about. Lie directly to the purple eyes, looking at you skeptically. Yohji's self absorbed blowing smoke in the air. Omi's busy shutting down the laptop. There is silence as you slip outside. Weiss is discreet, a trail of bodies in their wake but no blood trail to follow.

No one ever says a word, leaving the others to their own vices. Before the silence used to bother you-it seemed that everyone slipped away nonchalant. That they pretend nothing had happened, and maybe, for them, it hadn't. Then you hid-grateful that the quiet stopped anyone from asking why your hands were shaking so.

Now you enjoy it. Savor even, as you let the last moments of those people replay in your mind. A choreography of motion, as you feel phantom like tender flesh beneath your fingers. You're sated, with a smile upon your lips.

The Seven roars along the highway. Yohji likes to drive. You do too, but tonight you're content to be a passenger. Your mind is distracted, happily so. Besides, the top is down and the window cools your flush skin. Thank God, it's not Aya's car.

He's sitting beside you. There's no need to look over and see the familiar vapid expression upon his face. He never changes. Besides, you're playing with your claws. One off, one on, your scraping the dried blood carefully, holding it for a moment before letting the wind take it away.

An uncomfortable feeling, as if you're being watched.

You shift in your seat. Your eyes narrow with suspicion but the feeling doesn't fade. Perhaps... and you turn your head. Aya is staring at you. His expression is hard to place. Part horrified, yet it looks as if there's pity in his eyes. How strange.

You blink blankly at him.

Aya's not your concern.

"Ken..."

Almost a whisper. Barely breaking the silence. The tone is not what you expected from him. It sounds wrong coming from Aya. It's mournful... your name on his lips. Strange how he can convey emotion when he wants. But his tone it's fitting, even if it's far too late.

You died years ago.

You turn away. There's nothing to talk about. Self conscious, you put your bugnuck's down. Damn him for making you uncomfortable.

But it's not Aya isn't it? The feeling's one you've had before, he's just brought it to life again. You stifle it. After all, there's no way you can be saved-not in this lifetime.

You sigh heavily, and close your eyes.

To save yourself, you'd have to be born again.

And once was enough.