My first fanfic post! I hope you like it. (This is Part 1 of 2)

The door to their apartment looks just the same as it did the last time I visited. It's still a plain-looking face of white-painted wood that stands guard in front of their dwelling. There is nothing on the surface that would indicate that 2 of the world's top assassins, or more accurately now, ex-assassins, take residence on the other side of this simple white door.

As I enter the apartment, I look down the short hallway that leads towards their living area. Diffuse daylight from the mid-morning sun fills the room. I am struck by the comforting familiarity of it all. Though I have only been inside once before, many times in the past I was a silent spectator to their daily rituals. I admired the Girl from a distance, behind the rooftop chimney on the building across from theirs. How long has it been since I last laid eyes on this place? Has it been months? Years?

The walls have been refinished, bullet-holes filled in to hide any evidence of the onslaught of firepower from the Knights of Paris. The first item to greet me as I move forward and look over the corner is a new table. I had been expecting to see the pool table that served as a desk for the Daughter of Corsica. However, it appears that the pool table did not survive the battle and has been replaced by a dining table with matching executive-style chairs, and a soft-looking area rug right below. A new computer sits on the table, now a standard store-bought laptop instead of the custom unit she had that was specified to handle the heavily encrypted transactions that were made in the past. With the new computer settled on one side, and what appears to be a large closed book with various art supplies spread across the other, this table looks to be the new working desk. Sensible change, really. I have never observed either of them actually play pool on the old table before.

I take a quick glance around the living area that stretches across the entire width of the apartment. It looks like they have restored the apartment to be fully livable again. No one would be able to tell that a messy gun battle was waged here. However, besides the working table, there are other things different now. There are 3 potted plants thriving under the farthest right window, each with colorful flowers in full bloom, all sitting on top of a new low cabinet. There are fancy new curtains decorating the windows, a new panel television hung onto one of the sloped far side walls between the windows with a swivel arm wall mount, and a new bookshelf has been placed in the corner by the far left window, sparsely filled with what appears to be the beginning of a book collection.

My feet seem to be moving along with my sight. I walk past the half-wall that marks the division between the living area and the bedroom. …Their bedroom. I intentionally hold my sight away from the entrance of their sleeping quarters, only catching a glimpse in the corner of my eyes of the sofa still placed along the far bedroom wall. I refuse to let myself see the specific place where the Girl and her partner might have been sharing the most intimate of moments… perhaps even just the night before. I come to my senses, and shake my mind away from that still somewhat, difficult thought and resume my tour of the re-finished home.

I lay my eyes on the eating table, the centerpiece of the left half of their living area. Fresh-cut flowers are arranged in a crystal vase right in the center of the wooden surface. It must have been one of the few pieces of furniture spared from the rain of bullets, as it is the same one where we sat at that one time. The memory of that evening is still clear in my mind, and it still brings a smile to my face. The lights were turned off, and the room was bathed in the glow of the most beautiful moon I had ever seen my short life. We had tea and biscuits here, all of us. The delicious flavor of the Orange Pekoe, made by the Girl herself, is still fresh in my mind as though I had just sipped the liquid just minutes before. That night, I received a gift... Her gift. I reach into the small pocket under my cloak and take it into my hands. The two-pronged dessert fork that she had in her sleeve shines just as much as it did the night she gave this to me. Despite her original motive of taking this, and what she ultimately did use it for, it is a souvenir from that perfect evening, and is still my most treasured possession.

I return my treasure to the safe confines of my pocket as my steps take me down the center of the room. I circle around the eating table and continue until I face the new bookshelf on the far wall. The shelf appears to be custom made for this corner as the entire right side has been made in a slant, and slots into position in perfect alignment with the original sloped wall. The lower shelves seem to be reserved for the accumulation of all sorts of new and old books. The Girl must be trying to catch herself up in her worldly education. The small collection here is impressive based solely on the sheer variety. There are encyclopedias, fictional novels, magazines, and books covering everything from art to mythology to history to science to children's fairy tales. I catch myself smiling just a bit. I wonder if the Girl finally knows what Alice in Wonderland is about now.

I raise my eyes to the upper shelves. These are obviously being used for more decorative purposes. Numerous framed pictures here are positioned across several levels of shelves. They show photographs of various sizes taken of the two women together. …always together. It looks like they have been traveling frequently, based on the varied backdrops in the pictures.

She looks so happy. So happy with her…

I close my eyes for a short moment to calm my senses. Part of my subconscious is still yearning, still feeling pain for what I wasn't meant to have. But now is not the time for such self-pity. I am here, not to be haunted by the past. …I just want to see what her life is like now.

Immediately to the left of the shelf, I notice the recessed nook that was built right into the middle of the wall. This was there before, but the old decorative pictures that were there have all been replaced. More framed pictures of the pair dominate this area, similar to the ones on the shelf, but larger. However, the largest picture placed right in the middle of the nook is unique. Small roses are finely etched into the gold surface of the frame, which encloses not a photo but a hand-painted portrait, and is also the only picture I have seen here that shows only one by herself. It is a portrait of Mireille Bouquet, and I am astounded as I admire the exquisiteness of the painting. It is not difficult to tell that the painter had a deep admiration for the subject. The fine gentle strokes; the rich, vibrant palette; the depth in the eyes… The blond Corsican's obvious beauty is captured perfectly in a meticulous blend of colors. I glance down to the signed bottom corner of the painting to see the owner of the talent that produced this work, and only half-surprisingly find the fine paint strokes spell out the name, "Kirika Yuumura".

The discovery that the Girl has learned this skill at such a level indeed surprises me. This Girl, the most gifted assassin I have ever had the privilege of witnessing, is now also a remarkable artist. This knowledge brings a wave of warmth to my heart, and I close my eyes as I again realize a smile has already formed on my mouth. Really though, it shouldn't be too surprising to me since I know she is smart enough and strong enough to do whatever she wants in life. It just has never occurred to me that one of those things would be to paint. Also, with the aura of love and admiration conveyed in the portrait, there can be no doubt as to the identity of the artist since there is only one who loves the Daughter of Corsica as much as Kirika Yuumura.

…Kirika …Yuumura. It was a fabricated name, but she seems to have taken the name as her own. In her new life, the name is no longer false, no longer a work of fiction printed on an ID card. It seems it no longer matters whether or not it is her birth-given name. The name is real because she made it real, to herself and to her lover.

I turn away from the wall and gaze towards the span of the apartment from this broad vantage point. I begin to recognize that every decoration, every piece of furniture has been carefully arranged in fluent harmony to reflect the shared tastes of the tenants. Living here must feel like a blessing to them now. I even allow myself to steal a long glance towards the direction of their bedroom. Red roses in another vase adorn the top of their glossy new dresser. White silk sheets are carelessly spread over the bed, with various garments littering the floor beside it. There is only one single large pillow but the creases in the fabric from the previous night are so close together, one might think only one large-headed person slept on it. So my intuition was probably right: There was very likely more than just sleeping on that bed last night. But strange… At this moment, I feel almost at ease with the idea. I know now, that this place is something much more than it was. It had originally been a sparse place that reflected the lonely hearts of the ones who lived inside. Now, it's a place saturated with love. I can feel it as I breathe the air. Every corner, every surface, every arrangement tells a story of the most loving bond between the tenants. It gives me a sense of contentment that the Girl has found such a life, even if it's not with me like I had originally expected, and wanted.

I do not feel any malice or anger towards the Girl for what she has done. Not anymore. She made a decision, one born of complete and total honesty, to me, and to herself. In truth, I asked for that honesty when I attacked her friend. Of course I still feel some sadness and perhaps even some bitterness that it wasn't me she chose. However, based on what I was led to believe, the entire course of my life built upon a false destiny, I might even think now that she made the right decision. If the destiny had been realized and we became Noir, I would have led her and myself right down into the depths of darkness from which I now fear we would never have been able to escape. I do love her, and my heart still aches knowing I can never be with her, but I don't know if I would ever have been able to see past her false persona of sin she hid herself under in order to cope with the blood on her hands. How much more black can our souls be, how much more of the remaining humanity in us we would have killed away before it became too late to ever see the girl she so desperately wanted to be?

I wonder how she remembers me. What was I to her? Does she remember me as a simple short-term associate? Or was I simply a link to her difficult past, which she has now cast aside? Am I only a part of the horror of her dark memories, which brings her nightmares when she sleeps? This train of thought is frivolous, and obviously selfish on my part. But somehow, I wish I can know that she remembers me fondly, as one who cared for her deeply. I wish she knew I only wanted what I thought was the best for her, for us.

I had been so jealous of Mireille Bouquet. For so long, she had no idea how lucky she was. She had the Girl by her side, something I so desired for the longest time. When the Girl chose her, it was to me, unthinkable. That was not supposed to happen. It should have been me. It could only be me. But now I see. It was going to happen this way all along. They had already chosen each other long before I made the Girl choose. Ironically, it was my own actions that forced the Girl to make known the choice she already made, with a thrust of the only weapon available to her upon my chest. The Daughter of Corsica realized her own choice when she couldn't make herself feel the hatred she was supposed to feel towards the one who had killed her family all those years ago. In a way, I admired that about her. Mireille Bouquet turned out to be a much stronger person than I ever gave her credit for.

When seen from this perspective, I guess I should be blaming Altena for what happened to me. All this time, I was only a tool she used to bring forth her true idea of Noir. But I do not blame her. In fact, I feel so sorry for her. Thinking about Altena actually brings me the heaviest of sadness. I consider what kind of things she has had to go through to feel such vengefulness at the world. The world is truly filled with great evils. I have been close witness to countless examples. But I know now that sometimes, if we are lucky, we can find our way out of the darkness. Kirika Yuumura and Mireille Bouquet found their way out with the greatest of love for each other. I feel I am beginning to find my way out both by admiring their love, and by my desire for understanding as to why the Girl did what she felt she had to do.

It is unfair that Altena was never able to find her own "Kirika Yuumura" in her lifespan, someone to guide her out of the darkness and ease the pain. Somewhere, wherever she is, I wish Altena has finally found peace, be rid of those memories, and is finally able to cleanse the hatred so deeply embedded in her soul.

My thoughts return to the dwelling I have been trespassing through. I am in no hurry to leave, although it doesn't feel right for me to linger here too long. The two left this morning on another holiday. I was told they went to the Canadian Rockies this time. I let out a contented sigh. Judging from all those pictures, I think they would plan to see every corner of the world eventually.

I walk alongside the slanted wall where the windows are recessed in each of their own little alcoves, while my eyes continue to scan the place the Girl calls home. I pass the eating table, and step into the one side of the work desk where the large closed book rests.

The book looks well used. The spine looks as though it had been opened and shut a million times. It is a sketchbook. Could this be where the Girl practices her painting skills? Curiosity gets the better of me and I reach over, and gently open the cover. Page by page, the book showcases the growth chart of the Girl's artistic talent. Intricacy and detail increases incrementally with every turn of the page. Brush edges become more defined. Colors become richer. The subjects begin with various Parisian sceneries, and later onto different sketches and paintings of her favorite model, the Daughter of Corsica.

I eventually reach close to the end of the book, and I notice that there is one page that has a clear plastic sheet lined over it, presumably for protection. I open it for full view, and the image here take me by surprise so much that I almost fall backwards.

There can be no doubt as to the identity of the one she has drawn here. She has painted… me, and with amazing detail and clarity. It is more surprising, that she has drawn me happy. My hair is flowing with the wind, my mouth in a half-open smile, my eyes bright with joy. Certainly, this picture is not drawn in a way that could ever indicate the artist bears any fear or reflection of ill will towards the subject. She remembers me, like I hoped she would. There is something written on the left side. I pull my gaze from my own portrait to read it. "Thank you for everything, Chloe. Goodbye."

It takes a few moments, but slowly, my initial shock and disbelief after seeing the painting sinks into a pool of joy and satisfaction. Tears now well up in the corners of my eyes. Seeing this has made me so happy, so filled with a kind of sheer joy I never thought I could experience again. Not even a second passes and my face is already dripping with tears. I feel my body soften and start to fall to my knees, but at this moment, I don't mind, and allow myself to fall.

I sit there, kneeling on the floor, for several minutes. I am simply basking in this moment. The widest of grins has been pasted on my face, and a flood of warmth has washed over my body. I never thought this was possible, to be able to see the way she now regards me in her memory, and it turns out the best way imaginable.

I eventually manage to pull myself back standing up. I pull one of the sides of my cloak and wipe my eyes and face dry enough to see the painting again. This time, I am savoring the view. I relish every stroke of her paintbrush, every letter of her written words. It may not be the exquisitely refined framed painting the Daughter of Corsica has, proudly displayed for both to see everyday. But this is more than enough for me.

I can be content to stare at this for the entire day, but I know I'll have to eventually pull away. I take one final look, and then gently close the sketchbook.

I take an enormous breath of air into my lungs, and hold it for a moment before letting one tremendous sigh to leave my mouth. It was good to come here, to see the world in which the Girl now lives.

I take myself around the work desk, and towards the start of the hall that leads back to the apartment entrance. I turn, and take another last scan across the loving home of Kirika Yuumura and Mireille Bouquet. The smile I gained in this room still stays with me now. Content to have seen what I came here to see, and much more, I leave my farewell to the former Noir.

"Goodbye, Mireille. Goodbye, my darling Kirika." I take a second, then turn back, and begin to walk towards the door. Without bothering to use the knob, I walk right through the white-painted door, back to the apartment hallway...

There is a second half to this story, and I'll post it later. For now, please review after reading!