disclaimer: I don't own ASOUE

A/N: honestly this pairing is going to kill me ... sigh

Their relationship was a trainwreck, speeding towards a disaster that was going to come sooner or later anyway, and they both knew it.

It was a surprise that they made it this far, to be honest.

She'd long seen those little signs, those slight indications that she pretended weren't much of a big deal. His darker, crueler side, occasionally showing through the cracks of that volunteer mask. But she knew it was hard to remain idealistic and pure in an organization like VFD, and probably in this imperfect, chaotic world, too. So what if he was a bit nasty or cynical or intentionally hurtful, who wasn't?

It was just one of those bitter truths you couldn't avoid.

She told herself it was nothing to make a fuss about.

Maybe it wasn't. At least at first.

The night at the opera changed everything.

Perhaps he would've walked the paths of villainy anyway, but she couldn't help feel that she was at least partially responsible for pushing him onto it.

She could pretend to others that she didn't really know what was going on as she passed the poison darts to Beatrice that night. She could say she hadn't been informed about the whole operation and its consequences.

Technically, she really hadn't been.

(She just figured it out herself.)

A part of her hoped that she was wrong, and was convinced that she should do anything to help the organization, including fulfilling the missions assigned. She was first and foremost a volunteer, after all.

Another voice inside her questioned harshly her loyalty to an organization that was clearly falling apart, with orders coming down from high up sometimes contradictory because of the schism. She tried her best to ignore it, an effort that was mostly successful, as she became a perfect volunteer.

Though she was less and less sure about what really made a perfect volunteer.

In hindsight, she really shouldn't have waited this late to confront him. Not when he now had the perfect ammunition to fire back.

"Ironic that you should be talking to me about being noble, don't you think?" He drawled, his voice a nasal laugh, his eyes oddly sharp and piercing.

She could still pretend she didn't know beforehand what her actions that night led to, except when their eyes met, she realized that he'd always understood her a little too well.

The half-lie stuck at her throat, and she swallowed it back.

He pursed his lips in some sort of satisfaction, but as he glanced away at some faraway point on the horizon out of the window, it seemed to disappear away.

"It's different," she finally said sharply, even though she wasn't that sure anymore.

"Different shades of grey," he agreed, his eyes sparkling sinisterly now. "It'll only get darker from now on."

Perhaps he would've walked the paths of villainy anyway, but she suspected that she was at least partially responsible for pushing him onto it.

She was probably right.

"At least I'm trying to do good," she shouted, frustration seeping through her voice one rainy night. Far away, she could hear the thunder somewhere.

"And what good did it bring, exactly?" he retorted, derisive. "I could say I'm trying to do good too, and it did bring positive effects to my fortune."

"I thought you despise clever word games," she sneered back.

"I do, because your pretentious brother loves it," he shrugged. "But we're all products of our education."

It struck her, the amount of truth behind that statement. Her mouth twisted, as if tasting something bitter and sour.

"You're a villain, and you know it."

"And you're a hypocrite," he said slowly, his mouth pulling upwards into a cold smirk, "I just wonder when you'll realize it."

She froze, and his eyes sparkled victoriously as he leant in closer to her. She realized what was going to happen before it actually happened, and her brain screamed at her to push him away, but in the end, she still didn't.

His lips met hers, and they seemed to burn and then melt away together. She started kissing back intuitively, like there was only one way for this to go, so natural, so instinctive, like she'd ever only ever known one truth.

She finally came to her senses as they broke apart 2 minutes later. "We're over," she said, determined and cold, and yet there seemed to be an underlying sadness deeply concealed.

"Nearly," he panted, staggering backwards a bit as he wiped his mouth. "But I don't think we'll ever be truly over, will we?"

As much as she loathed to admit it, she felt that he was probably right.

"That, was our second to last kiss," he began.

"As Lemony would say, penultimate, a word which here means –"

"You always know how best to annoy me," he murmured, "I'll miss that."

Their eyes met for a moment, and he began again. "That was our second to last kiss," he promised. "One day, I'll give you the last one." He stared out at the pouring rain, and grabbed her umbrella. "Guess I'll keep a souvenir until then."

He left the house, the door slamming shut behind him.

She was lying on the pile of books, barely conscious of her surroundings. And then a touch on her lips woke her, and suddenly memories were rushing back, of the taste of the past, of the taste of buried young love that really only should belong in the past and yet –

"I told you," he said weakly. "I told you I'd do that one last time."