Fate: Redone, with gratuitous and amazing help from Liviania. Worship! Go forth and worship!

Disclaimer: Look, it wasn't ours the first time around, either.

"Do you remember that trip we took to England?"

It's quiet inside the apartment. Quiet, with rain whispering against the windows. His forehead is pressed against the glass and black eyes are closed. "It rained so much, then. It always rains there, I heard. It was the first time I'd been."

He stands up at last, a smile vaguely crossing his face as he looks at his forearm. There's a scar on it. It's broad and somewhat reddened still. It aches, and he presses it against the cool glass to bring the temperature of it down.

That small smile dances across his lips again, the vague look so characteristic of him. "Rain reminds me of so many things. It reminds me of ice and of lakes, of being on the crew team in high school, of breaking my ankle when I was sixteen and playing soccer downtown, of going out onto my balcony and watching the kids play street hockey in the alleys and getting them Band-Aids when they got hurt. It reminds me of Elena pushing the old ladies aside and telling them off. It reminds me of grave soil, of blood and bullets and money. It reminds me of you pushing me down and sitting on me with that permanent grin and permanent scowl, always fighting for possession over your face."

He stops. Massages his temples. Covers his arm back up. Doesn't turn around.

"Now you're just getting weird, man."

He smiles, melancholy and wonder showing in his reflection."Getting, Dee?"

"Well, you've always been a bit off." Teasing, trying to break the odd, thoughtful mood. Tension and discomfort hovers in the air,thick in the dark-haired man's throat. He pulls out his lighter and warms the end of his cigarette with the flame. He takes a drag and lowers his head,staring at the floor as he exhales. "Not in a bad way," Dee adds,taking another almost-nervous drag.

Ryo looks over his shoulder, beautiful and seductive and naïve as ever. "I've always been this way." His focus returns to the rain. "People paint me as effeminate and blonde and clueless and grounded. I'm down to earth and out of it, the girly-man and the boy next door, ditzy blonde-haired American and brilliant black-eyed Japanese. I'm not allowed to be anything but extremes, and so...I become strange and less than human. Grating. Not quite real."

He doesn't turn around all the way. He knows what he'll see. He can see it reflected in the glass anyway. Confusion, contained frustration, all melded together into a dark-haired, slender figure sitting on the floor up against the couch in a tumble of limbs, smoking a cigarette and watching him from under thick black lashes.

Exhale. Smoke hanging in the air. "Why are you telling me this?"

Blink. One hand traces a strand of blonde hair past one ear,rubbing over the old piercing in the cartilage. Just a simple prick, m'boy. It'll bleed a bit, now. Hollow needle, just a pinch, and then thread it through. Didn't hurt? You want some more? You come back tomorrow, m'boy, and think it over.

There's not a needle in the world to dull the pain in just the right way.

"There's nothing else I can do."

Smoke in the air, sultry and seductive. He has no need to take the habit up himself. He'll breathe all the tar he wants, never protesting the secondhand smoke. Never demanding that Dee try and dodge the slow, inevitable death.

It's just another painless poison. Choose the way you want to detach yourself from the world. Make it as slow and easy as possible.

Ryo can sympathize with that.

"Nothing else to do? So what is this, 'Dear Abby, I'm bored?'"

He bursts out laughing. Hysteria bubbles in the back of his mind as he swallows the numbness and turns away, dark circles showing around equally dark eyes. "Well?"

"Well what?"

"Well, where are the random advances? The insinuations? Bikky's at Carol's house for the night. You're not trying to seduce me? I won't back out now." Reckless, mirthless smile, smooth and masochistic.

I want my ears pierced. Right there. With that one. The death's head. I won't feel it. I won't back down. Do me.

"You - ! Stop provoking me!"

He looks out the window. "Police officers are the second most likely category of people to commit domestic abuse." He turns away, facing into the smoke.

"What are you talking about? Ryo!"

"I don't want to be a statistic." Smile at the reflection. "I don't want to hurt anyone." Think about what motivates you. "I don't want to fail anyone. To think that dealing my own pain out to others would save me. I don't want to be like that. But I don't know how not to be. I don't know how to deal."

Close your eyes as the pain rushes back.

Maybe you didn't want to feel in the first place.


He's lost and confused and doesn't know what's going on. He's young and bewildered with the world doing its little rumble as a precursor to crashing down around him. He's a skinny New Yorker with a tumble of black hair and a nicotine addiction like you wouldn't believe. He's a boy still not quite grownup but with an old, old soul. He's a hotheaded guy with a smart mouth and a habit of getting in over his head. His name is Dee Laytner, and there are ashes falling onto the carpet from his cigarette.

"Ryo," he breathes. "Ryo, what's wrong?"

The window slides open and Ryo puts one hand out into the rain. "I wish I knew," he says, soft and husky like water falling on skin.

"You're acting like..." He closes his eyes, shakes his head. "Don't do something you'll regret. Don't push me and push me and push me, because I'll break. Don't..."

"Isn't that what you do all the time?" Ryo demands,whirling on him. "Push me and push me and push me, but when I start to break you back out and call me a...?"

Dee stares. "I don't want you to cheapen yourself," he finishes lamely.

"What, by giving in when I...when I...oh God..." Ryo whispers, clapping a hand over his mouth and closing his eyes, sagging against the window.

"When you what?" Dee asks, pacing forwards until he's just within reaching distance of the other man.

Ryo looks at the floor. "Nothing."

"This is how it always is," Dee muses. "You'll never say what you're thinking. It's transparent on your face, but you'll never say it."

"I don't understand my thoughts," Ryo whispers. "And when I try, it all goes wrong. I still don't understand, but you don't want me to articulate what I do know. Do you?"

"You weren't trying. Do you understand? That wasn't you," Dee snaps. "You've got more backbone than that. I don't want to hurt you more when you're broken and in pieces. And you would have been hurt. I don't ever want to see you hurt."

"But I wouldn't have had to feel," Ryo murmurs."And that's all that matters."

Dee closes his eyes briefly. "Is that all that matters to you, then? Don't you want to feel, just a little?"

Ryo opens his mouth, then closes it. "No. Yes. No. Oh God. Yes," he finishes with a shudder. He slowly pulls the window shut, then draws the shade down over it. "Yes."

"Do you really mean that, or are you just saying it for my benefit?" Dee demands.

Ryo turns back to him. "You know how I told you never to scare me again?"

Dee nods jerkily, swallowing.

"I never wanted to feel like that again. But..." Ryo stops, with what might be rain or what might be tears glimmering on his lashes. "I still never want to feel like that again. But..." he says again, still struggling for the words. "I never want to be able to not feel like that again."

"What do you want, then?" Dee asks.

"What can I want? Do I even have a right to want something from anyone, the way I've been? The way I treat you?" Dodge and dodge the question again. Tie the querant up in knots and duck away.

Dee's eyes drift closed. "Do you remember that time in England? I asked you something. Something important. And you brushed me off. Just like always. You don't even answer me now."

"I can't even answer myself." The unspoken so how the hell should I answer you? hovers between them with the smoke from Dee's cigarette.

The dark-haired man extricates himself from his self-imposed knot of arms and legs and stalks over to the window. The cigarette smolders gently in the ashtray, forgotten. Smoldering, just like the man.


Dee releases the sill and grabs Ryo instead with just as much force, swinging him around and yanking him closer.

Ryo once wondered where Dee learned to kiss. He always uses his tongue and always uses his teeth. It's always deep and passionate and sometimes almost painful but you don't really notice because your blood's on fire and you don't ever want it to end.

Not even when you're scared or angry or confused as to why your new partner is pashing you with a broken arm under a tree.

Ryo's learned to stop wondering about the really confusing things in life. Curiosity has its place, but so does succumbing to destiny.

That sort of thing happens when your life doesn't care whether you know what's going on or not.

He's being pushed up against the wall by that selfsame skinny boyish man with the unruly black hair and big wide shadowy eyes, and it's like being back at the tattoo parlor as a nineteen-year-old all over again, pain and relief and dreams all melded into one hollow needle.

Those big smoky eyes stare at him - there's grey under the bright hazy green - incredulous and worried and hopeful and fascinated. "You're not...?"

Ryo's head slowly falls, dropping to rest on Dee's shoulder."I'm not."

Dee's hand awkwardly starts running through his hair. "What's this?" Fingers trace the old piercing, whispering along the outer curve of his ear.

"I had that done right after my parents died. And my tongue, and my eyebrow," Ryo confesses. "I took them all out when I decided I wanted to forget."

"But do you really want to forget?" Dee sighs. "Or is it just easier that way?"

"If you don't remember, you can't get hurt," Ryo rationalizes.

"If you don't remember, you can't find out whether it will hurt or not." Dee's fingers ghost over the hole in his eyebrow, then down along his jaw. "Ever considered putting them back in?"


Dee laughs softly. "I can't answer any of my own questions. It's why I ask them. If you keep pushing them away, I'll just keep pushing them back."

I won't back down.

"I won't back down," Ryo repeats out loud. "I won't."

"Do you remember that trip we took to England?" Dee asks hesitantly. "That was when I started to really get scared about losing you. Because it seemed that everyone around us wanted to break us up." He looks out the window at the receding clouds. "Rain doesn't remind me of a lot. It only reminds me of discovering that I didn't want to let you go."

"You don't have to," Ryo tells him. "You really don't have to."

"Is that your way of saying you reciprocate the sentiment?" Dee teases.


"Don't answer that."

"But – mmph!"

Close your eyes and let everything go.

God help me I'm falling and I don't want to be saved...

I've sold my soul to the devil and I'd never want it any other way...

Fluffy: There. Hopefully it's clearer and such. Muah to Liviania and all the reviewers who commented before, and here's hoping someone sees the new one.

Duel: Reviewers! Come baaaaack!