Disclaimer: I don't own Noir – I wish I did, but yeaaaaah, no. So don't sic anybody after me. This also has nothing to do with my doujinshi fan-sequel, Le Deux Retour. Chloe isn't alive in this story, and none of the characters from there will be appearing here unless it's in drastically changed form. Time period is roughly a month or so after the end of the series. Mirelle has turned nineteen, and is a little over a year older than Kirika, who is still seventeen.

The story itself came to mind while I was doing research for Le Deux Retour and started taking note of the "True Noir" eyestyles. This special style is the way Chloe's eyes are always drawn, and Kirika's eyes are done in this style when she is in her 'True Noir' mindset, especially near the end of the series and during her battle with Mirelle at the Manor. I always found this 'signal' of Kirika's mental state interesting, and after hearing Mirelle's comment of "I have a little Noir in me, too" in the last episode, I wondered if there was a similar type of situation or trigger for Mirelle. After watching all twenty-six episodes again, I found several moments where Mirelle actually does gain the True Noir style – and amazingly enough, most of them happen when Kirika is in physical or mental danger that doesn't relate to their job, or when she is faced with Chloe, her 'rival' for Kirika's affections. Which, when combined with my perverted muse, resulted in this 'what if?' little story. The rating comes for later chapters, which will contain shojo-ai and some yuri. The pairing is Mirelle / Kirika, if anyone hasn't guessed it yet.

Note: Yes, I know the Japanese spelling of Artena's name is – obviously – done with an "r." The use of Altena is a personal choice because it sounds better in my head, so I tend to type it that way.

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Part One: A Shower of Remembrance

Kssssshhhhh –

Mirelle Bouquet – one half of the legendary assassin team known as Noir – stood naked beneath the shower's warm, thundering spray, luxuriating in the steamy heat that plastered her golden mane to her back and flushed her pale skin to a delicate pink. Although it was late spring here in bustling Paris, the air still had a faint chill until early afternoon, and the nineteen-year-old Corsican enjoyed her warmth when given the choice. Long, hot showers, like shopping, were one of the few guilty pleasures she allowed herself. They also gave her time to relax, unwind and think.

Tilting her face up toward the showerhead, Mirelle closed her eyes, letting the water stream down her lean, athletic body. There was certainly no shortage of things to think about. It had been a month and a half since she and her partner, Kirika Yuumura, had limped away from the rain of blood and gristly death that had marked the end of Le Grand Retour, their final trial as candidates worthy to bear the name Noir. The end of a pilgrimage to the past they had begun nearly a year before, an ending to a dark, violent chapter in both their lives. In the short space of time since then, there had been no end to the dozens of things that had to be taken care of, set up or mended.

Some of them had been easy, like the first step of seeing to their wounds. Eyes still closed, the Corsican assassin fingered the two thin, scarred lines where Altena's glancing bullets had burned their marks into the flesh of her left shoulder. Although her more serious injuries – the knife wounds she'd received from Chloe – had already been well-bandaged by Kirika, the bullet burns had still needed to be dressed once they returned to the Jeep. Of course, her more pressing concern had been Kirika's gunshot wound. For a few heart-stopping moments, Mirelle had actually feared the bullet might have damaged her intestines or other internal organs, but thankfully, it had missed most of the major trouble areas. Still, blood loss and infection had been an extreme worry.

Mirelle shivered slightly in spite of the water's heat, remembering the feel of Kirika's lifeblood oozing past her fingertips as she applied pressure and dressed the injury. Luckily, her assassin's instincts had convinced her to stock their transport with as many first-aid supplies as she could gather. After some quick, careful cleanup and a change of fresh clothes, she'd settled her partner in the passenger seat with several soft blankets and begun the long drive back home to civilization.

They'd arrived in Paris after three a.m. the next night, exhausted and aching, but relieved to see familiar sights again. The first stop had been to a small, well-equipped clinic run by one of her 'doctor' contacts, a discreet man in his late twenties named Patrick who hadn't so much as blinked when they showed up. He'd patched the two of them back together with calm professionalism – Kirika first, under Mirelle's watchful gaze – then packed up a bag of supplies and made sure they would be safe getting home. The apartment had come soon after. Mirelle smiled faintly, reaching for the shampoo as she remembered the surprise on Kirika's worn face as she limped slowly inside the door. "You – cleaned up." She'd spoken quietly, reddish-brown eyes scanning the apartment. Mirelle hadn't been able to suppress a smile, tired and drained as she was. The day between her first meeting with Remy Breffort and her decision to go to the Manor had been a long, lonely one, mind and emotions shattered nearly beyond repair. Cleaning the chaos left by the Knights of Paris had been thoughtless busy work, something to keep her hands busy while her head was elsewhere. The fix had been far from perfect – the long terrace windows had still been shot out, the walls and pool table riddled with bullet holes, and both their orchid and the customized computer had met tragic ends. Still, it had been home, and as the sun showed a golden hint over the horizon, it had been enough for them.

Mirelle's small smile turned to a wry smirk as she leaned back under the spray, rinsing suds from her thick mane. Those first few days had been rougher than even she expected. Kirika had developed a slight fever, and Mirelle had spent most of her hours watching over her partner, placing cool cloths over her forehead, changing her bandages and feeding her the antibiotics Patrick had prescribed. Any free time had been spent ordering replacements for their destroyed things and reestablishing her underworld connections, getting in touch with her contacts to find out just what was going on. She'd been surprised to find out that Soldats seemed content to leave them alone, at least for the time being. Breffort had actually put out the word – which Paula had carefully and faithfully reported over the secured phone – that he himself would welcome any friendly contact, but as long as Noir left Soldats alone, the High Council was prepared to do the same. Mirelle hadn't wanted to believe him, but she hadn't had much of a choice at the time. And it appeared that he was as good as a word, if the last few weeks were anything to judge by.

Still, that had been one of their easiest problems, and the two partners hadn't spent their time idly. After a few days of long, thoughtful conversation, both of them had come to the decision to stay as assassins for hire, albeit with a few more restrictions on their client lists. It wasn't a first choice, or even a second, but Mirelle and Kirika had admitted to each other that there were few other options in the matter. They had spent their entire lives as lethal killers, the very best in their field, with deadly instincts trained deep into mind and body alike. Going to a normal school, even taking a normal job was out of the question. At best, it would be a ticking clock, at worst, a powder keg. How long before one of them made a mistake in the heat of the moment and killed an innocent, or one of their enemies discovered their 'regular' lives and came after them? Shaking the water from her face, Mirelle laughed wryly to herself. They just weren't equipped to deal with normal life in the light, as strange as that sounded. So they would stay as Noir, angels of death in the shadows, dealing with their bloody, sometimes-monstrous heritage together.

Together. Sighing, the lean young woman reached for the soap. There was still a faint, lingering strangeness to the idea that she was still part of pair, that she still had her other half to guard her back and for her to protect. There was no real question that she cared for Kirika; she had known it even before she'd stood in the graveyard, the sky weeping with heaven's own tears, and found herself unable to pull the trigger. She'd simply never acknowledged the feeling to herself. Not until she'd faced that fiery abyss, her dark-haired partner hanging from her shaking arm, and the thought of living without Kirika had been too desolate to bear.

In her own turn, Kirika had shyly admitted during their talks that she couldn't imagine living away from Mirelle, either. Scrubbing at her arms with a washcloth, the blonde assassin snorted with amusement. They were certainly an odd, unlikely pair – the small, dark-haired Japanese girl, reserved and quiet, and the tall, golden-maned Corsican with her sharp tongue, incredible confidence and love of fashion – but in her heart, Mirelle knew they complimented and completed each other in ways no other could match.

Not that they were lovers, or any nonsense like that. The emotions of Kirika's final letter, the scene in the graveyard, Mirelle's own race to the Manor and refusing to let her partner fall, all the sacrifices and pain – none of it had come up in any of their talks. Pushing back wet bangs where they stuck to her cleaned face, Mirelle's eyes darkened slightly. They hadn't talked about it because there was nothing to talk about. Those were just the things one did for their partner, for their other half.

And if you try hard enough, commented a snide voice in her subconscious, you can almost hear the river in Egypt.

Of course, they had made some changes. Mirelle's full lips curled up in a pleased grin as she poured some lilac-scented conditioner into her palms. With Kirika cooped up in bed until her wound healed, the blonde Corsican had taken to educating her partner in non-death subjects with the same relish she showed with her own hobbies. So far, the petite Asian had made her way through several of the classics, as well as a few other, more modern titles Mirelle had searched out. She was also learning about fashion, with somewhat mixed results, and cooking, which was turning out quite well. Though even better, at least in Mirelle's eyes, was her renewed interest in drawing and painting. She'd filled up several sketchbooks already, mostly with studies and various still-life scenes in pencil, all of them presented in shy pride to her partner for comment and approval. Actually, Mirelle thought that part was rather sweet, though she'd never admit it. She made a point of looking at each piece individually, these little pencil sketches that showed off the world as Kirika saw it.

The sarcastic little voice popped up in her head again, smirking. You'd love seeing them even if they were the ugliest doodles in the world, as long as they belonged to your little Kirika.

Mirelle pointedly ignored that thought, tilting her head back so the water could pour down her chest and over her shoulders. A contented sigh escaped her. Their lives might not be usual in any sense of the word, but it was finally their own, without any puppet masters hidden in the shadows to manipulate their every move. The world was finally normal again, as normal as it would ever be for the two of them, and for that, she was grateful. Bending, she twisted the faucet knob, turning off the shower. We really made it.

"Mireyu?"

She smiled. As long as we have each other, we can survive.