This is quite a strange story for my first Detective Conan fic, seeing as how I am dying to write for Haibara. However, the idea for writing a story of this nature would not leave me, so I had to give in to it; you know how plot bunnies are. I got the idea of writing for Chianti, Korn, and Calvados after seeing that no one else writes any stories about them on this site (and I've only seen them mentioned a few different times). It's always about the famous and popular members: Gin, Vodka, Vermouth, and Sherry (not that I don't love these guys as well, because I really do). Therefore, this is the first story (to my knowledge, and please, someone correct me if I'm wrong) about Chianti, Korn, and Calvados - three cocktail members and snipers in the Black Organization - on this site.

This story is, of course, based off of Episodes 345 ("Head-to-Head Match With The Black Organization: The Two Mysteries in the Night of the Full Moon") and 425 ("Black Impact! The Instant that the Black Organization Reaches You"), which can be found in manga Volume 42, Files 5-10 and Volume 48-49, Files 9-4 respectively. These are some of my favorite story arcs, and are must-reads. However, most of this story is solely my conjecture from the little clues and hints about the characters found throughout the story arcs, so I've made this as in-character as possible based on that.

Dedication: This story is dedicated to Chianti - if she wasn't so strangely intriguing to me, this would have never been written. Also, kudos (ha!) to my mom for the awesome title, seeing as how I had no idea what to call this difficult-to-write piece until I had already spent two months writing and editing it.

Rating: T for sensuality, violence, mild language, and thematic events

Disclaimer: I don't own Detective Conan. ...Well, actually I used to; Gosho Aoyama just stole it from me. I asked Kisaki Eri to be my attorney at the court case, but once she figured out I would write her and Kogoro back together again, she refused and defended Gosho instead. So I lost, and Gosho got the copyrights. Ah, well. At least there's fan fiction.

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Sniper's Soliloquy

By Eeveebeth Fejvu

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"Hey…"

Her greeting came out cold and unyielding, despite the fact that she was feeling unusually disconcerted at the moment. But there was no reason to be disturbed. There was no one close by to hear her talking to the slab of stone or to see her standing on the hill with apricot leaves falling around her, twisting and meandering about in the bitter breeze.

The ends of her dirty blonde hair flowed back and forth with the soft gusts, but with it being cut level with the bottom of her ears, it did not fly into her face. She stood quietly for a moment, her hands tucked in her overcoat's pockets, mulling over the scene in front of her.

She had been planning on saying something – she had known what she wanted to say for a while – but the words she had so carefully chosen had evaporated from her mind. She wasn't sure what she wanted to say now, or even if she wanted to say anything at all.

"…It's me, Chianti…"

Obviously.

"…How are you doing?"

That was a dumb thing to say. He was dead. How well could he possibly be doing?

"… I… apologize for not coming here sooner… Calvados…"

It had been awhile since his death, but it wasn't her fault that this was her first time here.

It had taken forever for her to find out where he had been buried. Apparently, the Organization members in charge of such matters had decided to put his real name, his full birth name, on the headstone. That had been her first difficulty. She had felt stupid for not expecting it – who would put an alcoholic codename on a tombstone, even if it was the only name anyone alive knew you by?

It was funny, really, Chianti thought, squatting down so she was eyelevel with the engraving. After all of the years they had known each other, she had never learned his full name until he was dead. Funny.

But, perhaps, it was not surprising. What real life had either of them lived that had not been given to them by the Organization? The Organization was everything; it was their world. What had happened to most members before their entrance into the Organization (provided they were not born into it, of course) was never something to dwell on for too long, full names included. He had never known her real name, either. Now, he was dead, and he never would.

The second difficulty, once she had learned his name and tracked down his plot, had been to find the right time to go and see it. The Boss didn't like his members to visit any sites that the police, or in particular the FBI, might be watching, for fear they could follow a member back to one of the Organization's headquarters or hideouts. The gravesite of a recently deceased cocktail member, whose codename and status was known by the FBI, was high on the "do not visit" list. If she was going to get by with it and not get caught, things had to be planned well in advance.

Since a week before, when she and Korn had received the plans for an assassination of some shifty low-ranking politician who knew too much, she had known that the afternoon after the job would be the perfect time to visit. The mission had been executed that morning without the slightest hitch, so, per usual, both snipers had been given the rest of the day off for their job well done. The better you were at your job, the better the Organization treated you, and Chianti and Korn were the best.

After making sure no one would miss them, she and Korn had left headquarters with the excuse of "going for a drive" at the ready in case someone decided to ask their whereabouts later on. She had slid into their car's driver seat with a composed face, though she had felt slightly nervous – something she never felt when going after some important or famous person on a job, or doing something that was really critical like that.

Driving had calmed her down considerably, as had Korn's quiet, frowning presence. Though the Dodge Viper was actually his, she was the one that always drove it. Korn preferred to sit in the passenger seat, presumably so he could look out the window and think. Chianti liked the vibration of the roaring engine, and the feel of the hot accelerator under her feet. Its fury reminded her of herself.

Chianti stood up, glancing down the hill and past the iron fence. She could see Korn waiting for her outside of the Viper. He was leaning against the passenger side, which faced away from her direction. She couldn't see his face from here, only his fierce gray hair under his hat, but she knew what he was doing: frowning and staring off into the distance from behind his sunglasses. Obviously, he was trying to give her some semblance of privacy.

She felt a smirk appear on her face. She had never considered not telling Korn what she was up to, knowing he wouldn't mind anyway. It was a risky thing to trust any other member of the Organization completely, because who knew when someone might go crazy and turn traitor like that Sherry girl that Gin was so obsessed with? Even those who worked with appointed partners, such as herself and Korn, knew it was best to stay wary of their colleague.

Still, Chianti couldn't keep herself from trusting Korn with everything. Their lives had become too intertwined over the years, even before they became partners, for her to ever forget what she owed him. And there was nothing she could even halfway repay him with except her total trust.

-----

She was not afraid to sleep in even the darkest of Tokyo's forgotten alleyways. The darkness was a comfort, both piercingly cold and thickly warm at once. The atmosphere slowly enveloped her body, then her mind and soul, and she began to feel even more at ease. For sure, no dirty alley with its stinking garbage and whirling flies was cheerful, but who wanted to be cheerful? What was there to be cheerful about anyway?

She had no reason to be cheerful like a normal child of the age of eight. She had no home, after all; she was an orphan. Well, not exactly, but she considered herself one. It was better than the alternative, much better, which included a perpetually absent father and a screaming mother who hit her at the slightest provocation (or none at all) and called her the worst names imaginable.

She had always ignored the dirty words her mother yelled at her that she didn't understand. Instead, her hatred was aimed at the ones she knew, like "stupid," "worthless," and "ugly," and the most horrible, which were "repulsive" and "deformed."

The worst thing about it, the very worst, was that all of it was true.

She really was ugly. Her straight shoulder-length hair was not the beautiful, wavy, white-blonde color of real ladies' hair, but an ugly, dirty gold that looked light brown in dim light. Her face was a harsh, jagged shape, and her nose was too pointy. Her eyes were a dull gray, her eyebrows were too long, and she lacked the long eyelashes that made some of the other girls her age so adorable. All of it added up to "ugly."

The "repulsive" and "deformed" came from the mark under her left eye.

It was sort of purplish in color, and though it never did herself any harm, it always made people stare at her for the longest time. She must have been born with it, for she never remembered not having it, though this only seemed to make her mother even angrier. Apparently, her mother believed that the mark was her fault, seeing as how she had delivered her daughter herself, and was always screaming up at the sky, asking what had she done to deserve such a monster for a daughter.

One day, the screaming woman's monster of a daughter had dared to hit her back, and the girl had run away from home, her skin covered in purplish bruises – the only marks on her body that had really been the fault of the mother.

The time after that was a blur that she hated to even think about. Police officers had taken her to live with several other families, but it never lasted long. If a child from one of those families decided to stare at the mark under her eye for too long, she would feel ferocious anger well up inside of her and would begin to beat them as hard as she could. If they were close to her, she would strike with her fists, but if they were farther away, she would throw any nearby object at them. She always hit them if she threw things, even if they were running away; she seemed to be good at that. Hitting them was the only thing she could think of that would stop them from ever calling her "ugly" or "repulsive," but it always resulted in her being sent to someone else's house.

She had run away from the last house the previous night, before the parents of the latest kid she had hit with a heavy paperweight found out and called the police to pick her up. She hated the policemen; they were always so cheerful when they talked to her, not understanding that she didn't have any reason to be cheerful or even appreciate cheerfulness.

Sleeping in the alley had not been so bad; a little hard and unclean, perhaps, but it was a lot safer than where she could have had to sleep. She was sure the policemen were looking for her, and she knew they would probably find her soon, but maybe before they could… she could find somewhere to stay forever, where no one would ever look at the mark under her eye and stare in repulsion.

She was sitting in the alley with her back against a trashcan, thinking about what it might be like to have beautiful, wavy, white-blonde hair, when she heard a succession of muffled blasts coming from down the street. Immediately, she was on her feet. She had heard sounds like that on television before; they were gunshots! Panicking, she looked around to see where she could hide until the sound of the shots went away – behind the trashcan, maybe? – but she never had a chance to move.

Around the corner of her alleyway came three men, all big and burly, and all wearing dark clothes and sunglasses. To her horror, their large hands were clutching long guns with tubes attached to the top, and they were running in her direction.

She froze in terror and surprise, half-expecting her body to become even more deformed from bullet holes at any time… until she realized that the three men were still looking over their shoulders as they came to a stop several yards away. They were breathing heavily, and one muttered to the others, "That went so wrong… That turned out bad… real bad…"

Another replied cautiously, "We must have lost those cops back there, though. Man, my nerves are frayed for life. We haven't cut a job that close in awhile…" They were still facing away from her. Perhaps, then, she had another fleeting chance to hide before they noticed her presence…?

She had no such luck, however. One step backwards was all it took for her to fall flat on her butt with a hard thump, a hiss of pain escaping her mouth as the palm of her right hand landed on a sharp rock on the ground. Instantly the three men rounded on her, their weapons up and trained on the maker of the noise. After a moment of recognition that the noise came from the small girl staring at them from the ground in fear, their guns slowly lowered and looks of confusion crossed two of their faces, a frown remaining on the other's. The three men and the girl stared in silence at each other for a long moment.

"Oh… it's only a kid," one of the confused men finally said to the others, relaxing his grip on his weapon and taking a step towards her. She immediately tensed at his movement. The man laughed, and so did the other that had been confused. The frowning man continued to frown. "Hey, don't worry, girlie," he chuckled mysteriously, "We ain't gonna hurt you. You ain't one of those nasty policemen."

The man suddenly began to remove his sunglasses, as if to get a better look at her in the shadows of the alley, causing the other man that had laughed to quickly say, "Hey, now, don't let her get a good look at your face. Then we would have to kill her, 'cause she'd run home and tell her mommy what you look like. Then she'd tell the police. And we've done enough killing today."

The man paid his companion no heed, placing his sunglasses in a pocket on his vest. He grinned at her, wide-eyed and leering. "She wouldn't tell nobody, would you now, doll?"

Suddenly, as it often happened, her mind lost control of her mouth, and she heard herself say, "No! I won't! I don't have no mom or no home to go to, and the police are after me, too!"

The man apparently found this highly amusing, though he seemed to be staring at her face more intently than before. "Oh? An orphan-type, eh? And what did you do to the police? …Scare 'em with that thing under that eye of yours?"

It was the wrong thing to say.

Her fear evaporated instantly. Never in her life had anyone insulted her in such a straightforward manner, so there was no way she would let this man get by with it, no matter how big and burly he was.

Forgetting that all three men had dangerous weapons in their hands and that one had mentioned killing people, she sprang to her feet, her right hand clutching the stone that had pierced her skin when she fell. She could feel the pure adrenaline of anger rushing through her as she swung her arm back, stared straight at the man's uncovered left eye, and hurled the stone at him with all of her might.

Even from a distance of several yards, her aim was dead-on. Squalling like the kid she had hit with the paperweight, the man dropped his gun and clasped his hands to his eye in anguish, bending over double in pain. A spark of jubilation at this success shot through her, until she realized that the second man was starting to raise his weapon, even as he laughed and exclaimed, "Well, now, I warned you not to mess with her, didn't I, bro? Guess she's sensitive about that. …Well, even though we have killed enough today, one cheeky girl won't make too much difference, will it?"

She felt fear consume her once more, knowing for sure that this time the bullets would fly, when suddenly, the frowning man's hand reached out and batted away the gun that was aimed at her forehead. "Stop that," the frowning man spoke, continuing to scowl dully. After a tense moment, the gun was slowly lowered. The frowning man turned to face the girl. She could feel him staring her in the eyes, though all she saw was the black lenses of his sunglasses. Then, he gently leaned his own gun against the brick wall on one side of the alley, and began to walk towards her.

His piercing gaze and lack of visible weaponry soothed her enough that she stayed put and allowed him to kneel down in front of her so that they were on the same eyelevel. His short brown hair stuck out from under his hat violently and his jaw was hard and square, but he seemed almost… gentle. After a moment of him frowning at her and her staring at him just as solemnly, he asked, his voice low, "You do… not have any home… to return to? …You are living… on the streets, with no… parents?"

She wondered if she should lie or tell the truth; for some reason, it seemed to be a question whose answer meant life or death. But she was taking too long, so words came flying out of her mouth without restraint. "That's right. I don't have no parents, no home, nothing. …And the police are looking for me, 'cause I hit other kids the way I hit that man over there." She nodded over the frowning man's shoulder towards the man who was still groaning in pain over his eye.

After a moment, the frowning man nodded slowly. "I see." He seemed to think about her comment for a moment. Then, he continued. "You know… you have very… good aim to hit… him in the eye… from that far… away. …You've got… good, sharp eyes. …You could… be a talented… sniper, if you… wanted to be."

She wasn't exactly sure what a sniper was, but it hardly mattered. This man had just complimented her! It was amazing! She felt a surge of happiness course through her, its intensity almost as high as that of her usual anger. Suddenly, she found herself talking once more in a rush.

"Thank you very much, sir… but I don't think I could be a… a… sniper. I'm quite repulsive to look at, see." Her words actually surprised her. She had never called herself any of the names her mother had called her before, but, well… it was the truth.

"Looks hardly… matter if you… want to be… a sniper," the frowning man replied slowly, "All three of… us are snipers… and what are we… to look at?" She almost laughed, but he was still frowning, so she didn't. "And… you aren't repulsive… There is nothing… wrong with you… You simply… have a… birthmark…" And to her surprise, she was suddenly staring at the frowning man's whole face, void of his sunglasses. She didn't get a chance to look at his eyes – something she would regret later on – because she was too busy taking in the purplish splotches across his eyelids and forehead.

Her hand went to the mark under her left eye as he replaced his sunglasses on his face. So it was called a birthmark. She blinked wonderingly. That didn't sound so bad, and he had said it as if that meant she was not deformed… so maybe… she wasn't?

As the frowning man continued to kneel in front of her, she realized that he was waiting for some sort of answer, though she wasn't exactly sure what the question was yet. "If you three are snipers…" she started, almost stopping in nervousness but finally continuing, "does that mean that… you kill people with those big guns?"

His answer to her was simple. "Yes." She blinked at his abruptness. "…Does that… bother… you…?"

She thought very seriously about it for a moment. Killing someone had never really seemed like an option to her before; she had only hurt people with her hitting and throwing of things. Killing was a lot more permanent, she knew, but… a person would never be able to say bad things about her ever again if they were dead…

"Not really," she replied to his question with a shrug.

The frowning man nodded slowly once again. His eyes seemed to pierce her through his sunglasses once more. Then, he asked the kind of question she had been waiting for. "Then… if you have… nothing left here and… would be willing to… kill people, how… would you like… to come with… us and train to… be a sniper for… our Organization?"

The word "Organization" made her tremble excitedly; it sounded so mysterious and thrilling. It only took half a second for her to decide.

"Yes! Yes! I'd like that! I'll do it!"

The frowning man didn't smile – perhaps he never smiled – but nodded once more. Slowly, he held his arms out, and she immediately went to him, throwing her arms shamelessly around his neck. A moment later, he had stood up and was holding her carefully in his arms.

"Hey!" The man who was still in pain from her attack was suddenly staring at them with his one good eye opened wide in horror. "Korn! What do you think you're doing!"

"She's… coming with… us."

"What!" The other man shrieked. "You can't just take in every kid off the streets, Korn! The Organization is a business, not a charity!"

The frowning man, whose name seemed to be Korn, seemed unperturbed by the others' exclamations. "I know… talent when I… see it… She'll train to… be a sniper… and from the looks… of it, she'll… be a lot better… than the two… of you… Now grab my… gun, and let's… get out of here."

As Korn walked past them, she could see the other two snipers staring at her in disbelief. This troubled her not. She simply held onto Korn tighter, and buried her nose in his neck, enthralled by the feeling of safety and not noticing the frowning man tense in surprise.

She was leaving it all forever: her mother, the beatings, the families with the mean kids, the police. Korn would show her how to be a sniper, and if someone ever called her a name, she would be able to kill them so they couldn't say it again. It was almost too much. She had actually found somewhere to stay forever.

Hopefully, this "Organization" would be a place where no one would ever look at the mark under her eye and stare in repulsion.

-----

Chianti turned her eyes away from the Viper and the man leaning against it at the bottom of the hill, and fixed her gaze back on the gravestone in front of her. Yes, she had trusted Korn completely from the moment they had first met, but he had not been the only one she had trusted against the Organization's better judgment. There had been another she had trusted completely as well.

"You know… I trusted you, Calvados… I trusted you to come back alive, even when you left… I trusted you to…"

She stopped speaking, her icy tone freezing in her mouth. The chilly autumn breeze was shooting right through her overcoat, leaving her trembling against her will. Was Calvados sending her some sign…?

She felt stupid, really. She was talking to a carved piece of rock and a patch of weedy dirt. Calvados was not here. For sure, his cold corpse was lying six feet under the soles of her shoes, but his body had not really made him who he was. Certainly he had been a handsome man, but there were plenty enough of those in the Organization. No, it had been the person shining through his eyes and his smile, like a beacon of light in her world made of darkness, that had attracted her like a moth to a flame, that had made her become so… trusting of the independent sniper.

But had the person she had trusted even existed anymore by the time his body's heart had stopped beating?

She began to wonder mildly, as she gazed at the tombstone through half-opened eyes, if he had really been as handsome as she had remembered. Already his image was starting to fade from her mind. Most likely, he hadn't been a bit good to look at and she had simply been delusional the entire time she had known him. If he had been handsome, why had he chosen for so long to spend time with someone such as herself, the angry woman with the ugly birthmark under her left eye?

But had his looks even really mattered to her? Of course not. Her own appearance had not seemed to make any difference to him. To him, what had seemed to matter was that she was the one who had "saved his life" so many years ago.

-----

Four years of careful nurturing by the Organization members in charge of both the sniping division and the educational division had done nothing to quell her violent temper. In fact, she was more prone to want to hit something – or rather shoot something, now that she knew how – than she had been before Korn had first delivered her to the Boss for examination.

The Boss had obviously seen something in her during all of the tests she had had to endure her first days at headquarters, for he had agreed with Korn that she would be a talented sniper, once she got some instruction in the art, some schooling, and on-site experience, of course. He had even commented that there was a possibility that she would grow up to become a cocktail member.

But only if she reigned in her temper.

Her irritability aside, she was in the process of becoming quite the force to be reckoned with amongst the Organization's trainees. Her schoolwork was nothing special (though book smarts hardly mattered in her case, seeing as how she wasn't a scientist), but her marksmanship and skill with weaponry were improving by the day. By now, she was far better than the two men that had been with Korn the day she had been rescued, just as Korn had predicted. The feel of the sniping rifle in her hands and the feel of the scope against her eye were already familiar sensations that sent the sort of thrill through her body that she had been desiring her whole life without ever knowing what it was. It was the thrill of being the predator that had any person, any prey, she wished at her mercy; it was the thrill of the hunt.

To her great fortune, the Boss seemed to have noticed her rapid progress, perhaps deciding to overlook her troublesome attitude for the time being. Recently, he had offhandedly remarked to Korn that he had a potential codename in mind for her, despite her tender age of twelve. That was a very good sign.

However, the girl was hoping desperately that the Boss did not get wind of the most recent trouble that her roused temper had caused.

It had not really been her fault that the main water pipe line in the shooting range facility had burst open, even though the entire box of rounds that had punctured the pipe all came from her rifle. That pipe shouldn't have been uncovered in the first place; who knew when an innocent bullet could go astray?

Nevertheless, she had been punished for the occurrence, much to her great indignation. Some of the more unpleasant of her superiors had suggested that they recreate the scene of the accident with her body in lieu of the pipe, but luckily, Korn had stepped in and given her the Organization's equivalent of "community service" until further notice. She was sent to work in the hospital a few blocks away from headquarters.

This hospital was no ordinary hospital, of course, but a place of great secrets. Those in charge of the facility, as well as the majority of the doctors, were Organization members. However, the hospital was open to the public, just like every other hospital in Tokyo; the patients and the regular staff just didn't know that a secret crime syndicate was using many of the available resources (including people) for their own private research.

It was rather contemptible, she thought as she lined up the cold medical instruments on the small metal table in front of her, for a trained killer to have to work in a place where people were supposed to be saved from dying. Five days ago, she had been put under the supervision of one of the more high-ranking doctors in the syndicate, though that had not turned out to be nearly as bad as it could have been. He seemed nice enough, and had decided to send her around to all of the recently vacated rooms to clean up and reorganize the beds and supplies. It had given her something useful to do while keeping her away from other people, so as to give her the time she needed to "think about why she was being punished."

She folded a small hand towel tidily and gently laid it across the table in a neat manner. Even though the work wasn't bad, it was still torture to be trapped in this place; she had not even been allowed to sleep in her dormitory room at headquarters, but in an empty hospital bedroom like the one that she was in now. She started to reach for the next towel, but let her hand drop back down. It was time for a self-designated break. She stood up, then stretched, and made her way towards the open door of the room.

She leaned against the doorway and sighed. Boy, did she want out of this place. Would Korn ever come back to rescue her?

Suddenly, her attention was drawn to a commotion that seemed to be taking place down the right end of the hall. She poked her head out of the door, and her heart leaped in happiness. It was Korn and the doctor that was supervising her! A moment later, however, she realized that neither was coming for her.

In Korn's arms was a boy. A badly bleeding, roughed-up sort of boy. Her eyes grew wider, wondering about the story behind this mess. As the group drew nearer, she looked closer at the boy's face and realized that he was about her age, though rather lanky and small. He was unconscious, which wasn't too surprising considering the fact that there was a bullet hole through his right shoulder, as well as many other wounds.

"Sir!" A nurse was crying, tugging on the doctor's sleeve as he strode briskly down the hall at Korn's side. "The patient in Room 309 is in need of immediate attention or-"

"Not right now," the doctor cut the nurse off. His aquatic-hued eyes were staring intently at the boy, assessing the many clearly-visible injuries.

"But-"

"No." She quickly fled behind the bed, in order to fake industriousness, as the doctor and Korn drew level with the doorway. To her surprise, they turned and entered her room. Korn caught sight of her immediately, and she was about to open her mouth to ask what had happened, when Korn turned his head towards the doctor instead.

"Doctor M-" The nurse's frantic voice was cut off abruptly as the doctor shut the door in her face.

The doctor paused for a moment, his hand on the doorknob, then snorted despairingly. "The man in 309 is supposed to die if my latest trial works out…" the doctor muttered, most likely to himself. "…He knows too much about us anyway…"

"This one…" Korn said, indicating the boy lying limp in his arms, "…is not to die…"

The doctor rounded on him immediately, though his tired face showed no sign of irritation, only exasperation. "What happened now?"

"Son of our… latest target…"Korn muttered, frowning deeply, "We got his… parents, but when… Pisco went to finish… this one off… he got the gun… away from him, and shot Pisco… in the shoulder… without hesitation…"

The doctor laughed loudly. "Ha! Poor old Pisco! He'll be at my doorstep any minute now, whining for me to fix it up for him!"

"Please…" Korn only frowned harder at the doctor's amusement, "…I want the… Boss to see… this one… He's got… the right instinct…"

The doctor immediately grew serious. "You seem to have a knack for finding talented assassins, Korn." The blue-green eyes shifted to the girl behind the bed, and she twitched. She had thought they had forgotten she was there. "But I'm busy. I'm in the middle of an important experiment right now, concerning the-"

"Doctor!" The nurse had obviously not given up. She was now pounding on the door.

The doctor rolled his eyes. "…And besides, Korn, how loyal to the Organization could he ever be if we offed his parents?"

"He's a… killer…" Korn insisted. The girl copied Korn's frown. She didn't like the doctor questioning Korn's ability to judge a person. He had been right about herself, after all.

The doctor seemed unimpressed. He gave the boy, who was twitching reflexively in Korn's arms, another look-over. He sighed. "It wouldn't have taken Pisco much to finish him off…"

"…Atsushi…" Korn spoke quietly.

A moment passed, and the girl watched in awe as a look passed between the two men. Finally, the doctor sighed. "Very well, but you can't keep bringing in more children if they're as critically injured as this one is… I don't have the time, between my research and my job here, and I've got my own children to take care of as well…"

"Thank you," Korn nodded, still frowning, though by now, the girl could tell the difference between his mad-frowns and his pleased-frowns. He was content with the doctor's answer. He stepped further into the room, and carefully deposited the bleeding boy on the bed she had made a few minutes ago. The white sheets were instantly stained crimson around the boy's body. Korn straightened back up slowly, and the girl realized how heavy the boy must be, even though he was rather skinny.

"You," the doctor suddenly rounded on the girl, taking her by surprise, "Use one of those towels to stop the bleeding in his right shoulder; that's the worst. I'll be back in a minute."

He turned to Korn, a glint in his eyes. "I need to check on the man in 309 right now and see if he's died yet. If this one," he jerked a thumb towards the boy on the bed, "isn't dead by the time I get back, I see what I can do. But if he lives, he better heal quickly, because I'm probably going to need a new test subject soon…"

Seeing Korn scowl even deeper than before, a sarcastic smirk appeared on his lips and he quickly added, "Just kidding." Then, the doctor opened the door, pushed past the nurse waiting right outside, and shut it before anything else could be said.

The girl stood there, watching Korn stare at the door, until he turned to her and muttered, "…Well?" She suddenly remembered what the doctor had told her to do, and felt a wave of irritation wash over her. Why the hell did a girl training to be a sniper have to help save some stupid boy's life? Didn't that go against the rules of being a killer?

But she had not forgotten what Korn had done for her; she would never let herself do that. He was a sniper, too, but he had saved her life. Now, she would do what she was told and help this boy, even if it was only to please Korn.

She grabbed an unfolded towel, almost knocking some of the instruments off the tray in her bottled-up resentment, and heaved herself onto the edge of the bed, her long legs dangling down off the side. She folded the small towel twice, making a four-layer cushion, and looked over her shoulder towards Korn. But he wasn't there. She looked towards the door. It was closed. Korn must have already left.

She sighed crossly and muttered some foul words under her breath. She had wanted to ask Korn when he was planning on getting her out of hospital duties and back to the target range. How would she ever get her cocktail name if she couldn't practice her sniping?

Carelessly, she pressed the cushion onto the bleeding bullet wound in the boy's shoulder, jumping in surprise as the unconscious boy flinched. She muttered to herself gruffly. What a pain.

She sat like that for what seemed like forever, the cloth growing dark red with time. Suddenly, she felt the boy stirring, and a small wave of uncertainty crept through her. If he was going to wake up, she really didn't want it to be while she was here alone with him, because surely he would start talking and she didn't feel like saying anything back. It was too late, however, as she found herself suddenly staring into the boy's wide-open eyes.

"…Am… I dead?" He whispered, his voice hoarse.

She scoffed, and put her gaze back on his shoulder. "No."

He made a motion as if to sit up, but gave in to the pain almost instantly, flopping back onto the sheets. "I thought not. If I was dead, I wouldn't be hurting this badly."

"Too true…" she muttered under her breath, hoping that he would stop talking. She pressed down harder on the wound; his movement had made it start to bleed again just when it had stopped. He hissed slightly at the pressure, but didn't move. After a moment, her eyes shifted back to his. He was blinking as if to adjust himself to the light from the overhead lamp; then, once he stopped blinking, he stared her straight in the eye.

She couldn't stand it for very long. "What?" she growled in annoyance.

"You're… kind of cute."

She blinked. He had said his last sentence in what seemed like total innocence, but she felt herself become defensive immediately. "You must be hallucinating," she informed him wryly, feeling her heart flutter the tiniest bit.

"I'm not," he whispered.

She could feel her cheeks begin to burn against her will. However, his insistence and her own instinctual reaction only served to make her chest grow hot in anger. She shot him an angry glare. He had been staring her in the eyes when he had said it, so he must have been insulting her birthmark. "Shut up, you," she snarled.

He grew quiet, much to her relief. She continued to apply pressure to the wound, though she was still fuming. She had to keep reminding herself that she was doing this for Korn.

Suddenly, he spoke up again. "You're angry a lot, aren't you?" he asked, looking up at her with solemn eyes. "Are you bipolar?"

"Shut up!" she hissed again. This boy was really starting to get on her nerves. He needed to be brought down a notch or two. "If you keep that up," she threatened, her eyes narrowing, "I'll take this towel away, and then you'll keep bleeding 'til you dry up and die!"

"You wouldn't let me die." The boy was suddenly grinning. She wasn't sure what brought that on. He seemed to have more confidence than she figured he ought to have.

"Yeah? Well, try me," she huffed, then turned her nose up and leered at him. "I'm not afraid to kill anyone. I'm a sniper."

"Are you?" His eyebrows rose as if interested, though the girl felt she was just being mocked. "Then… have you ever killed anyone?"

This knocked the wind out of her sails. She froze in surprise for a moment, then muttered quietly, "…No…" Seeing him grinning once more, she quickly added a threatening "…not yet."

He chuckled slightly, though he seemed to stifle it almost instantly. The action must have hurt him. "But I'm sure that, with you being the respectable sniper that you must be, you wouldn't want your first victim to simply die because you felt like being spiteful. Wouldn't a sniper rather her victim die by her own bullet that by someone else's?"

"You better be glad I don't have my rifle with me," she countered moodily, "or I'd go ahead and snuff you out in a heartbeat, already injured or not."

He seemed to find this entire exchange rather amusing, and for some odd reason, the girl realized that she was sort of… enjoying it as well. Even though she was pretty ticked off at some of the things he was saying, she wasn't boiling over in anger like usual.

Both fell quiet for a moment. The girl looked away from him, and lifted the towel up slightly. He seemed to have stopped bleeding once more. She replaced the towel and sighed. When would Korn or the doctor ever return?

She heard the boy give a gentle cough, as if to clear his throat. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He was staring at her, and he opened his mouth as if to say something, but then closed it. After a moment, she found herself blurting out, "What?"

He remained silent for so long that she almost gave up. When he finally spoke, his voice was even and detached. "This… Organization I heard these two guys talk about… when I was still at my house… Are they the ones that killed my parents?"

She didn't know what else to do except bluntly reply, "Yes."

He began to stare her straight in the eye again, as if to ensure that she was telling the truth. "…That guy that brought me here-"

"Korn."

"-is one of them as well?"

"Yes. The doctor that's coming back here in a minute to treat you is, too. In fact, everyone that works in this hospital is in the Organization." The last part was a bit of a white lie, but she didn't let it faze her.

"Are you… part of the Organization?"

She hesitated, but only for a second."…Yes."

He stopped his questioning after that. She noticed that his eyes seemed to be staring at some far away place that she couldn't see, so she asked a question of her own. "Do you care?" He blinked, his eyes suddenly back on her face. "Do you care… that your parents are dead?"

After a pause, he slightly shrugged and winced at the pain that the motion caused. "Not… really." When she continued to stare at him intently, he added, "No love lost there."

She nodded sagely. She understood very well. He seemed to know she understood, too, because he began to question her once more. "Why did they let me live?"

"Korn said that you got Pisco's gun away from him and shot him in the shoulder."

He grinned a bit at whatever memory he had of the event. "Ah. That. …Wouldn't that be an even bigger reason to kill me?"

"You must have taken a good shot or something. Otherwise, Korn wouldn't have brought you here." She readjusted the compress on his shoulder wound, ignoring his wince. "The Organization likes people with natural talents in… things."

After that, she decided to stop talking. She wondered if she had said too much about the Organization to this wounded boy. Apparently she had; he seemed quite intrigued. "Really? …Is that… Is that why that guy, Korn or whatever, took me with him? …Because I shot that one guy when he went after me? I was just… doing what I had to in order to stay alive, but… I really did try to kill him… I just missed his heart by a bit…"

"A gunman needs instinct," she replied to his ramble, feeling educated.

"But is that why they brought me with them? They want me to be a sniper, like you?"

"…Perhaps… I don't know…"

"…What if I refuse?"

She was sure about this one. "You die."

"Ah." The grin came to his face once more. "…I kinda like that. It's all very simple."

She sent him a look, telling him that he was crazy. Then, she wondered why it was so crazy anyway. The truth was simple, after all – kill or be killed. That's what happened in nature all the time. And wasn't it the same pious idiots, like the police or the infamous FBI, who went on and on about morality that also killed people just like the Organization? The only difference was that one was labeled 'legal' and considered 'heroism', while the other was labeled 'illegal' and considered 'sinful', which in theory, was no difference at all.

She couldn't stand to think of these kinds of things for long, so she shrugged to herself and put it out of her mind. She suddenly turned her head towards the door, remembering. Where the hell was Korn? Or that doctor?

As if her thoughts had influenced reality, the door of the room suddenly swung open, and the doctor stepped into the room. The annoying nurse was gone and he looked rather pleased with himself, she thought. The man in room 309 must have died according to schedule.

"Ah, he's awake, is he?" the doctor said, his aquatic eyes skimming over the boy who was staring back at him with the same amount of interest. "Well, that's a good thing for you," he continued, turning his attention to the girl as she continued to hold the towel on the boy's shoulder. "Korn said that if I came back and you were still helping without throwing a fit, then he would take you back to headquarters and get your superiors to start training you again."

"Really?" She perked up instantly and hopped off the edge of the bed, leaving the towel sitting on the boy's shoulder. "Where is he?"

"He's waiting outside for you in his car," the doctor replied. "And you better go quickly, before I override his decision – seeing as you've been quite helpful these past few days – and put you back to work. …I can do that, you know."

"Don't worry, I'm gone," she replied, feverish with excitement, and was halfway to the door when she heard a voice call out to her.

"Hey." She glanced around impatiently. The boy had tilted his head up slightly off the bed and was staring at her with a lonely sort of expression. "…Thanks."

She wasn't sure what to say to that, seeing as how she couldn't remember the last time anyone had ever said such a thing to her. Gruffly, she replied, "Whatever," and continued out the door.

Hurrying down the hall, she barely heard him hoarsely shout after her, "I'll be seeing you later, then."

-----

To Chianti, what had really mattered about Calvados was that she didn't have to share him with anyone else – that he was hers and hers alone. And he had belonged to only her, because she would have known by instinct if he had had another woman – in the Organization or out – and she had never felt anything when she would lie in his arms at night…

Except for the last time she had seen him alive.

And by then, it was already too late to stop what had been set in motion.

Chianti felt her hands suddenly clench at her sides, and she gritted her teeth at the rage that suddenly filled her being. She glowered at the gravestone hatefully.

"…Vermouth…"

Vermouth had killed Calvados. There was no doubt in Chianti's mind that Vermouth was the cause of Calvados' death.

When she had first learned the bad news, Chianti had not even believed Vermouth's story of what had happened at the docks that night under the full moon. It was only after several members of the Organization's forensics team had confirmed the fact that Calvados had indeed pulled the trigger that had ended his life that she was forced to accept it as suicide.

Still, that did not explain the other bullet wounds, the ones that were impossible for him to shoot into his own body. Chianti had immediately blamed Vermouth for that – she had shot her own fellow cocktail member in cold blood, forcing him to put himself out of misery - but the blonde actress had yet another explanation. This time, Vermouth pinned the wounds on Akai Shuichi, the formidable FBI sniper sometimes codenamed as "Silver Bullet" within the Organization. She even had some holes in her own skin as proof of Akai's appearance.

And the Boss believed every word. This served only to increase Chianti's anger. Sure, the Boss liked his talented sniper, but if you put Chianti up against the master of disguise… of course the Boss would believe anything that Vermouth told him. She was his precious pet; she could do no wrong in his eyes. Everything she told him was the absolute, undeniable truth. Of course it was. End of story.

The most infuriating of all was that Vermouth's tale matched perfectly with the evidence, the timing, everything: a perfect alibi for not killing Calvados. But still, Chianti was not convinced that the mission at the docks had only been a confrontation with some FBI agents gone awry.

Vermouth had killed Calvados; even Korn agreed with her on that point. Obviously not in the conventional way (a bullet through the temple), but Vermouth had caused his death. It was her fault. She had allowed him to die to save her own skin. Most likely, she had told him to die if it would save her own skin, and he'd listened to her, caught up in his new infatuation. If it were not for Vermouth and her "a secret makes a woman, woman" ways, Calvados would still be alive and well.

Right now, he would be hanging out at the holographic targeting range, most likely, waiting with that mischievous smile on his face to see if Chianti would show up, with Korn at her heels, to practice with him and maybe have a friendly tournament to see who could shoot the farthest and still hit the bull's-eye. He would be in his room in the dormitories tonight, his door unlocked in welcome should she feel the need to see him, talk to him, lie down beside him and let him stroke her left cheek, or anything else she felt like doing in the dark.

If not for Vermouth, he would be alive.

I'll kill 'er… I swear I'll kill that… that… A string of violent cuss words escaped her lips in a hiss, which was all she could do in her fury. What she really felt like doing was shooting something, but her rifle was in the Viper with Korn, and it would just waste bullets and draw unwanted attention.

She continued to curse until she felt her body slowly relax. Upon concluding the release of her anger, she sighed and suddenly wondered uneasily if Calvados would think that she was swearing at him. She quickly added a few sentences onto her curse, using descriptions that would only be appropriate for the witch. That completed, she stood in silence and stared at the gravestone. There; Calvados would certainly be appeased now that he knew who she was talking about.

And then, her heart grew cold. Maybe he would be angry with her for saying those things about Vermouth. There was no way he would have known, no way for him to know at the time, that he was being used… But he wasn't even here, just his dead body.

Most likely, Calvados had died thinking that the actress was not acting, and that she was just what she pretended to be – the sweet angel of his dreams.

-----

It had been a long, hard day. First, she had been reprimanded by her superiors for throwing a violent fit when another sniping trainee had grabbed her favorite weapon from the rack and had refused to give it back to her. They had informed her – for probably the billionth time - that a sniper had to be calm and collected at all times, but really, her hand had been on the gun when he had… Apparently, it didn't matter what had happened; she simply was not allowed to let her anger get the best of her. It could critically endanger a mission if she accidentally fired her weapon out of rage at the wrong time or at the wrong target.

Then she had been fussed at for her jaw ceaselessly shaking when she was trying to aim. Really, what did they expect of her? She was containing her fury, after all, and that was difficult enough without having to actually stop being mad. She was still concentrating well, and hitting ten times closer to the target than that other trainee (even though he had her gun), so what was the problem? According to her instructors, the problem was that she would probably be hitting the pinpoint bull's-eye already if she weren't shaking in rage.

She had thrown another tantrum at that, and then another as they snottily – in her opinion – informed her that it was time for her to do something about her shoulder-length hair as well. They were ready to get her started on some on-location practice, and her hair would blow into her face too easily if she were targeting outside in a breeze. Either she would have to let it grow out long enough to put into a ponytail, or she would have to cut it short enough so that it wouldn't fly about at all. Seeing that this did nothing to placate her, they had sent her back to her dormitory to cool down before she shot out another pipe. In mortification, she had immediately left the target range, feeling the laughing eyes of the other trainee on her back as she went.

She had stayed put the rest of the day, refusing any company or dinner in exchange for the coolness of her bed sheets and the darkness of her room. Once her anger had faded – and it had; they should have just given her a little more time – she had felt embarrassment hit her full force. What had she been thinking? Hadn't her stay at the hospital a few weeks ago taught her anything? Since that time, she had been trying her best to not get in trouble, but it just wasn't working.

Sure, she knew she was a good shot, but what could the Organization do with a sniper that they couldn't control? Eliminate said sniper, her mind had told her viciously, so that she can never cause them any harm, by accident or otherwise. It was not a comforting thought.

Lying in discouraged misery, she barely noticed the day change into night through her small window. However, she realized just what time it was when she was awakened from her stupor by a soft knock at her door. She sat up in her bed immediately and glanced at her clock. It was past midnight, so who could it possibly be? Was it one of her superiors, come to eliminate her? She almost panicked – she didn't have a gun on her, of course – but gradually made her way to the door. They wouldn't knock if they had decided to kill her, and there was no way to defend herself (or even a reason to do so) if they did want to kill her. At any rate, they'd certainly get angry with her if she didn't answer.

Turning the knob, she opened the door just a crack, and was surprised to find a wide eye staring back at her at her eye level. Quickly, she opened the door up wide enough to realize that it was a boy who looked about her age.

It was the boy from the hospital.

"Wha…?" She started to ask, but before she could say any more, he grinned at her and gestured toward the hallway.

"Come on," he whispered. She stared at him, wide-eyed. What on earth was he thinking? …And how the hell had he found her! He gestured again. "Come on… before someone notices that I escaped the infirmary…" He suddenly took off down the hall on silent feet, leaving her to make a split-second decision. She followed, shutting the door quietly behind her.

She had remembered his last words to her, but she hadn't thought she would actually see him again, at least so soon. Obviously, he had survived (most likely, all thanks to herself, of course) and had been sent to the small private infirmary here at headquarters. She could see the white bandages wrapped tightly to his right shoulder due to the wide neck of his faded nightshirt; it would still be awhile before he was fully healed.

To her surprise, he led her up to the flat roof of the building. She wondered how he already knew the layout of headquarters so well; perhaps he had already escaped the infirmary before but had just now found out where her dormitory was. Even more surprising, she found herself running across the concrete and scrambling up the shingles on the angled roof of an adjoining building with a sort of thrill filling her body. She had no idea what was going on, but whatever it was, it seemed… important. She followed him right up to the top, where she hesitantly sat to his right on the highest angle of the roof.

She waited, watching him in puzzlement.

Finally, he turned to her and spoke, grinning. "I thought you might like to see the stars. You can see them very well from up here."

This was something new. She had thought that this crazy boy was going to show her or tell her something important. But the stars? The familiar feeling of anger flooding her, she was about to shout at him when she realized what a bad idea that would be. Some member prowling about inside the building might hear her and come to the roof to investigate, and she really didn't want to cause any more problems for herself, not after everything that had happened earlier.

So she looked up at the stars. They were sort of okay, she thought, though nothing really special. They looked like tiny bullet holes that someone had shot into a black wall.

She glanced back over at the boy and bluntly asked, "Why the hell are you stalking me? You must be, to find out where my room is."

He grinned, perhaps amused by such language coming from a girl. "I'm not. …I found out because I asked someone about you. …I just wanted to see you again, to tell you thank you for saving my life."

She snorted. "Well, are you going to say thank you, then?"

"I just did." He grinned wider as she rolled her eyes. Suddenly, he seemed to become more serious, and a soft smile came to his face."…They said that… once I'm healed, they're going to train me to be a sniper, just like you." She wasn't surprised about that. "…I heard that you're getting ready to get a cocktail name."

She nodded, feeling proud that this bit of gossip was going around the headquarters now rather than retellings of the pipe episode. "The Boss told Korn that he's setting a date for the ceremony. And he hinted that I'm going to be named after a red wine."

"That's cool," the boy replied sincerely. The girl wondered why it seemed so easy to talk to him. She knew she could talk to Korn about pretty much everything, but this boy still seemed easier to say things to. She felt herself began to talk again without thinking.

"I'm not sure if I'd like a partner or if I'd rather work independently, though. If I was partnered with Korn, that would be great, but he's always worked independently… you know, he'll go on missions by himself or with whatever group needs him. I doubt I'd be any good if I worked with anyone else, though, because they'd probably just make me mad and then I wouldn't be able to shoot right because my jaw would be shaking…" She was suddenly very angry with herself. Here she was, spouting off a bunch of personal things to a boy that she barely knew. How stupid was she?

The boy didn't seem to mind, though. "If your jaw shakes when you aim, why don't you put something in your mouth?" She stared at him. "Like… they give you a picture of the target you're after, right?" She nodded. "Hold that between your teeth, then, and your jaw can't shake."

She blinked. "Who the hell are you to give me advice!"

"I was just trying to help," he shrugged imperturbably, and looked out at the sky.

She stared at him for a long while, not sure of what to think.

"Why are you so nice to me?" she suddenly asked him. Such a personal question had been fairly easy to ask, but only because this whole situation was so ethereal – she sitting on a roof with a crazy boy who wanted to look at the darkness around them and give her advice.

He just smiled a beautiful, mischievous smile, and after a quick glance in her direction, gazed back out at the stars, his eyes twinkling in secretive amusement.

"Well?" she prodded, as he remained silent.

Suddenly, he spoke, his voice light and eager. "Do you believe in angels?"

This was obviously not the answer to her question, but for some reason, his strange inquiry did not make her mad. Instead, she found herself wondering at the answer.

After a moment, she shrugged. How was she to know? If angels were real, it was most likely she would never get to be one once she died, especially if she continued to train to be a sniper. A person didn't get to heaven by killing other people, even if they were only doing what they were told.

The closest thing to an angel she had ever known had been Korn. Angels were supposed to save people, weren't they? Korn had saved her and had given her something that was not quite hope, but somewhat like it. Stability, perhaps, and something to do with her life. But then again, angels weren't supposed to kill people, and Korn was a hell of a good assassin. She supposed, then, that that made Korn like everyone else – just human.

Suddenly, a question of her own came out of her mouth. "Why? …Do you?"

He didn't say anything or move for such a long time that she almost though he had fallen asleep; she felt ready to drop off herself. Finally, when he turned back to her and spoke, his voice was full of such light that she almost forgot the darkness around them.

"I had a dream that night after I saw you, when I was lying in that hospital bed. In it, there was this angel – you know, with wings and a halo and white robe like you'd see in a picture, that kind of thing. She was really beautiful, but she was different than normal, see. Her robe had all of these red stains and bullet holes all over it, and the feathers on her wings were black, but I wasn't afraid of her at all because I just knew that, deep down, she would never hurt me. She's like me, see. And when I asked her why she was there, she told me that she was watching over me. So I asked her why. And she told me back that when she had first seen me, she had liked me, so she wanted to protect me forever."

Seeing the odd look that his companion was suddenly giving him, he grinned wider and added, his hand suddenly coming up to gently touch her cheek beneath her birthmark, "And she had the most beautiful blonde hair."

The girl felt her cheeks grow warm under his fingertips' gentle caress. Her mind screamed at her to get him to go away, to hurt him and punish him for daring to touch her, to perhaps even push him off the roof, but her heart seemed to scream at her to stay still. It actually felt good to feel someone else touching her in a such a gentle, kind way, and she, in all honesty, didn't want him to stop. She wanted this feeling rushing through her body to go on forever. So instead of screaming aloud, she asked in a nervously haughty manner, "…Was her hair long, or short?"

His grin seemed to soften a bit, and to her immense disappointment, he withdrew his fingers from her face and stared back out at the black sky. "I can't remember exactly, now that I want to. …I think…" His eyebrows furrowed in concentration. "…I think, that maybe… she had short hair, I dunno… Yeah, it was short, real short, I think… about right here…"

He held his hand up level with the bottom of his ear. Her hand automatically came up to mime the same length on her own hair, but she barely noticed her own movements. She was too busy staring at his shadowy profile, her mouth hung open slightly. Had he been hiding at the target range earlier and had seen everything? She didn't ask him, though, but continued to stare at him, waiting to see what he would say next.

He didn't say anything after that. He only glanced at her surprised face and smiled that beautiful smile.

The next day, she asked Korn if he could find someone to cut her dirty blonde hair off right below her ears.

-----

Standing in the bleakness of the cemetery, with sixteen more years of experience in life than she had had that night on the roof, it seemed painfully clear to Chianti that Calvados' story of his dream angel had probably only been some childish tale he had made up to lure her in. She had readily taken the bait too, for how often was a sniper called an angel, even by a fellow sniper?

But if Calvados had really thought that the angel of his dream had been Vermouth, he had been sorely mistaken. Who had, for all of those years, been the one to return to him, time and time again? Who had been the one that had watched his back on all of those group sniping missions? Who had been the one that had saved his life? If Chianti herself wasn't Calvados' angel, Vermouth definitely wasn't. Chianti was fairly sure that Vermouth didn't even believe in such things, though sometimes, if she walked past a preoccupied Vermouth at headquarters (and managed not to grind her teeth in hatred), Chianti would hear her muttering to herself about someone named 'Angel'. Perhaps the actress had codenamed someone important to her outside of the Organization by that name, though Chianti didn't care.

She sighed, her mind filled with unpleasant thoughts. It would make sense for Vermouth to be called an angel, though, if one considered appearance. What angel had short, dirty blonde hair? Angels always had long, wavy hair, and if it was blonde, it was white-blonde in color, just like the kind of hair that Chianti had dreamed of having when she was young. Just like the kind of hair that Vermouth had. That was always the way it was in those pictures in stained glass windows.

What did it matter, though? He certainly hadn't had a guardian angel, or he would have been able to escape the docks that night without having to resort to suicide.

But, in all honesty, it wasn't Calvados who angered her the most, but Vermouth. Chianti had thought she was going to die of rage during the assassination missions at Edie P and Vane B when she realized that she would have to work with Vermouth for the first time since Calvados' death. She had had to contain most of her anger and hate, seeing as how Gin, Vodka, and Kir were around as well, though she had wanted nothing better than to blast a round straight through the black Porsche's window at the blonde actress (though Gin wouldn't have appreciated all of the broken glass and blood stains in the backseat of his precious car one bit). She had tried to stay cool, but it had been so very difficult. And when Kir had turned up missing later on, Chianti had almost cussed, not because of her fellow cocktail member's disappearance, but because it wasn't Vermouth that had vanished.

Obviously, Chianti was not coping with Calvados' passing well, and she knew it. But really, she shouldn't even need to cope with his death at all. She shouldn't be this attached to him. She really shouldn't. Wasn't it bad enough that she had total and complete trust in Korn?

So what if she had enjoyed Calvados' company? It hadn't been like she had been… She had been devoted to a fellow cocktail member… so devoted… so devoted that it was almost… it was almost as if she…

-----

"Calvados?" She spoke quietly, hoping to hear his soft breathing nearby. Her eyes were extraordinarily sharp, of course, but everything was pitch-black; she wouldn't have been able to see her hand in front of her face. No illumination came in from the window behind her, for there were no Tokyo skyscrapers nearby to shine their lights into his dormitory, and the almost-full moon was hidden behind some dark clouds.

Hearing no answer, she crossly decided to get up off of the bed, but before she could even fling the sheets aside in irritation, she felt a gentle touch on her waist tugging her back down. He was still there, then. Wondering why it had taken so long for him to respond, she reluctantly allowed him to pull her close enough that she could feel his chest press against her own.

Against her will, she found herself relaxing in his embrace, feeling his nose press into the skin of her neck below her choker and savoring the delicious sensation that it caused. That was more like it. After a few minutes of this pleasure, she felt compelled to return the favor, nudging his head aside and burying her own nose under his chin. He smelled like the brandy that was his alias, with the scent of apples and apricots as well as a hint of chocolate and butterscotch.

She smirked softly in the dark, her eyes slowly shutting. Such a relaxing combination of aromas was the perfect thing to send her to sleep after a long, busy day of tailing her latest assigned target through all of Tokyo. She had only found the opportune moment to bump him off a few minutes before sundown and had raced back to the Dodge Viper at full speed, impatient to get back to headquarters and Calvados' room (just as they had agreed two weeks ago knowing they wouldn't see each other for a fortnight due to their current assignments) before she fell over in exhaustion. Weariness had overtaken her anyway, so she had asked her partner to drive. He didn't ask why but simply drove them back, nor did he ask her where she was going or if she wanted him to file their completed assignment for her once they got there. He already knew the answer to every question, so at headquarters he had quietly whispered a farewell and stalked off with his permanent frown on his face, failing to notice her fond smirk at his brusqueness.

She suddenly opened her eyes, though there was no change in what she could see. There was something else besides the scent of the brandy that lingered on his skin. She could barely smell it, but it was a strange scent of spices that she couldn't remember ever coming across before. What had Calvados been drinking, besides his own liquor?

They had known each other for sixteen years now. A few weeks after meeting the boy for the second time, she had received her codename, "Chianti," and had been, to her surprise, partnered with the formerly independent Korn. It didn't take her long to find out that this partnership had come to pass because the Boss didn't want her to work alone, for fear that her anger might get out of control on the job, and that the Boss believed that the only person who could keep her from totally blowing up was Korn. This didn't really bother her, seeing as how it was true anyway and she got what she had secretly wished for.

At first, Chianti hadn't known if Korn was pleased or not to now have a partner, and such a young one at that; she gradually came to realize that he had been hoping for company in his missions for quite a while, and he liked her companionship. Though they were equal partners now, Korn had stayed in charge of their activities until Chianti had grown into adulthood; then, he had progressively and voluntarily stepped aside to allow her to take the lead for them, as well as drive his brand new Viper. As the years progressed, they became quite the infamous sniping duo among the members of the Organization's Tokyo branch, as well as the branches in Osaka, Kyoto, and wherever they were sent throughout Japan.

The boy she had saved at the hospital grew up just as Korn had predicted. He had such a natural ability in sniping that it was not too many years before he was given the codename "Calvados" and assigned to the Tokyo headquarters as an independent. His camaraderie with Chianti and Korn had only increased as they inadvertently met up and amused themselves at the shooting range together, lounged about the lobby together on their time off, and were occasionally put on assignment together. It was not at all odd to see the three snipers moving about headquarters as one, and new Organization members sometimes even mistook the three for being an assigned trio.

It did not take very long for Chianti to figure out that Calvados was also eager to spend time with her when Korn was not around. After a few years of his coquettish flirting and her scoffing at his foolishness, she had begun to feel the same yearning that he felt and finally decided to give in to his peculiar wooing to see how things went. Things had fallen into place with that, so she had allowed their trysts – not encouraged but not condemned by the Organization – to continue, much to their mutual pleasure.

Years went by as Chianti lived day-to-day, assignment-to-assignment, and rendezvous-to-rendezvous. Her untamable fury – which she and Calvados had finally found a (in)decent use for – had not cost Chianti her job, though as Calvados liked to joke, it had turned Korn's hair gray before his time (though Korn was getting up in his years, which troubled Chianti greatly whenever she thought of it). Not too long ago, she had been surprised to find that she was only two years shy of being thirty. Thirty. It seemed so old compared to the age she had thought she would live to before her entrance into the Organization, which had been less than fifteen. But age didn't really matter. She had stability and something to do with her life, and that was enough.

As she lay in the darkness with her eyes wide open, she found herself searching her mind for what the strange spices in Calvados' scent could be, but came up with nothing. Most likely, she had come across the drink before but it had been mixed with something else as an aperitif, leaving her clueless as to what the original ingredients had been.

The almost-full moon was slowly beginning to peek out from behind the dark clouds, finally allowing Chianti to catch a glimpse of Calvados' face as she pulled her head away from him. His eyes looked distant.

"Calvados… why are you so quiet tonight…?"

"I… thought that you were really tired. I figured you just wanted to sleep, rather than anything else."

"I'm tired, but I'm not that tired. And we haven't seen each other for two weeks…Don't you want to-"

"And… I was thinking about some things. That's all."

Chianti grew quiet and contemplative, the strange spicy scent lingering in the air around her enigmatically. Something was wrong; Calvados was not usually like this. "What… were you thinking about?" He didn't answer for a long moment, so she exasperatedly prodded again. "What-"

"Well… Vermouth requested my assistance with a job…"

Her eyebrows furrowed together in confusion. The beautiful blonde American that the Boss was so fond of? "Vermouth?" she questioned aloud, puzzled. Why the hell would that… Suddenly, she felt her stomach churn uneasily. "…Didn't you just get off of a mission that she was overseeing…? What does she want with you?"

Chianti heard him chuckle perceptively, though there seemed to be a hint of nervousness in his voice. "Now, now, don't be like that. She just says that she needs a good sniper for backup for some great undertaking of hers or other-"

"I don't like the sound of that," Chianti heard herself blurt out. The distrust was loud and clear in her voice. "What's the assignment?"

"She just wants backup." Calvados sounded rather defensive. She didn't think he had any right to sound that way.

"Is the job classified? Is it in America, in her New York or her Los Angeles? Do you have to go overseas?"

"No." He sounded so much like a stubborn child when he spoke in that tone of his. "No, it's close by."

"THEN WHAT THE HELL IS IT!"

"Chianti!" He sounded as if he was about to cuss, but he held it in, most likely realizing that her fingernails digging into his back probably meant that she was getting angry, and not in the playful way.

"Don't 'Chianti' me! What's gotten into you! What the hell won't you tell me!" She suddenly released him and flew out from under the covers, her feet hitting the carpet with a dull thud. In the light from the increasingly visible moon, she heatedly watched him as he scrambled clumsily onto his knees, his fingers tightly clutching the mattress. His eyes suddenly didn't seem to want to meet hers. This was not good… this was not good at all, Chianti thought. She realized with a start that her heart was pounding wildly in her chest. He didn't seem to want to say anything, but finally he spoke.

"Chianti…" And there it was. It was the guilty tone that she had been waiting for.

"CALVADOS! …WHAT HAS SHE DONE TO YOU?" She was no longer thinking. Her rage had suddenly overwhelmed her to such a degree that she felt as if she would never come down from the high of it. "TELL ME! TELL ME, CALVADOS! …WHAT HAVE YOU AND VERMOUTH DONE TOGETHER! …TWO WEEKS! TWO WEEKS, CALVADOS; IS THAT ALL IT TOOK, AFTER ALL OF THESE YEARS, FOR YOU TO GO BEHIND MY BACK AND… AND…"

Silence. Chianti just stood there, shaking. She didn't realize that Calvados had left the bed until she felt his hands holding onto her tightly, but it only made her want to shout more.

"…YOU'VE BEEN DRINKING VERMOUTH! I SMELL IT ON YOU!" The spicy scent belonged to vermouth, all right. Chianti had had plenty of martinis before – complements of Gin, one of the few Organization members she had any true respect for - which had to have been what she had remembered the scent from. "SO HOW MANY TIMES HAS IT BEEN, CALVADOS! HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU AND HER-"

"Don't say those kinds of things about her," his tone was suddenly warning. "You don't know… you don't know what she's like… No one would ever know, until they're alone with her… She's like heaven… She's like an angel…"

Chianti felt something suddenly collapse and die deep inside of her. The stability had completely shattered.

"Oh, Chianti…" he abruptly groaned, as if just realizing what he had said. "…Chianti! …Chianti!" He was suddenly calling desperately to her, shaking her shoulders to awaken her from her state, but all she could do now was stand still and stare at him. She felt miles away from his frantic pleas.

In the moonlight, his face had looked pale before, but now, he seemed as white as a sheet. His eyes and mouth were as wide open as they could be. He had the most desperate look on his face, but all Chianti thought of was wondering if he looked so petrified because she was accusing him of something he hadn't done, or whether he looked so petrified because she had finally found him out.

"I didn't mean it like that, Chianti, I didn't… That's not what I meant to say at all-"

"THAT'S BULL! THAT'S-" And she began to curse, letting every sinful word she had ever heard come streaming out of her mouth without restraint. She was angry, oh boy, was she angry. She was angrier than she had been in years. She was angrier than she could ever remember being.

But suddenly, she saw his face slowly morph from panicked to blank, and her emotions changed in an instant.

"I… Please… Don't go, Calvados." She now held onto him with all of her might, trembling and shaking as never before. "Please, Calvados. Don't go with her. Please. Stay with me. If you go with her, I'll know that you…"

"I must go." His tone was low and gentle, as if she was an eight-year-old child once more. "I must go. I don't have a choice. Vermouth is my, and your, superior in this Organization anyway, as well as one of the Boss' favorite pets. The Organization will have me killed if I ref-"

"Then DIE!" She heard the words escape her mouth in a violent hiss. She hadn't meant to say it, she didn't really mean it, but the damage had been done. She could feel him stiffen, then release his tight grip on her body. Regaining control of her voice, she tried her best to erase her words. "…That's not… what I…"

"No." His tone was no longer gentle, but cold and raw. "I think that is what you mean, Chianti. I think you do want me to die."

"I don't, Calvados!"

"No… if I can't be who or what you want me to be – only yours – then you don't need me. For years, it's just been you and me, but when Vermouth asked me to… I… You don't need me. You have Korn to take care of you… if you need taking care of…"

"I don't… I don't need Korn the same way… as I need you…"

"You don't need me in any way, Chianti. You just think you do because we've known each other for so long."

"I do!"

"You-"

"Don't you dare tell me what the hell I need or don't need!" Her hands were balled into tight fists as she clutched his shirt.

"…Chianti, you need to leave and go back to your room now."

"No!"

"Then I'll I have to leave and find somewhere else to sleep." He pulled away from her grasp.

"Don't go! …I'm not angry anymore, Calvados, see?" She tried desperately to keep her fury from shining through her eyes. "I'm not angry. Stay here, please!"

He sighed. "Chianti, you are angry right now. No sane person wouldn't be. But you've always been angry about something, so this really isn't anything special." All she could do was gape at him. "…But I know that… One day, you'll stop being angry. You'll get tired of living that way, and you'll realize that anger doesn't solve anything. …Then, you'll be able to let it go and move forward."

Chianti stood motionless and still, her whole body numb. Vermouth had killed her Calvados. This was not the man she knew. The man she knew would not have said any of these things to her. The man she knew would never have gone behind her back and done what he had done. Vermouth had blinded him, manipulated him, then destroyed who he was. She had killed the man that was Calvados.

A strange, foreboding terror suddenly shot through her, and she abruptly began to fear for Calvados' very existence. There seemed to be a good chance that, what with the way Vermouth had obviously been buttering him up, she was preparing him to lay down his life for herself if a bad situation arose in whatever mad scheme she had come up with this time...

But before she could even think about how to put her thoughts into words, he was backing away from her and was laying a hand on the doorknob.

"…Goodbye, Chianti…"

"Calvados! Calvados, no! Come back here! …Calvados! Calvados!"

He was gone.

"CALVADOS!"

-----

I loved him… And I still do…

Suddenly, she felt even stupider than she had when she was only talking to the gravestone, so she sighed in irritation and rolled her eyes. What a dumb thing to even think. …And was it even true?

…If what she felt for that man – or at least, the boy she had met when she was just a girl – wasn't love, then she knew that she didn't have a clue as to what love could be.

Well, whatever she had felt for Calvados no longer made any difference; he was gone…

And for the first time in her life, she wanted to stop being angry. She was tired of living that way. Being angry at Vermouth wasn't solving anything; Chianti couldn't kill her without risk of severe consequences, but what would killing Vermouth solve anyway? The damage had already been done, Calvados was dead, and no research completed by the Organization's scientists had been able to bring a person back to life, at least not yet. There was no way to turn back the clock.

But still, how was she supposed to just let it go and move forward?

Slowly, she reached deep into her coat pocket and pulled out the two small glass bottles she had been carrying around with her for several days, and she knelt down in the weedy dirt once more. Reverently, she set the squat bottle of red wine and the bottle of applejack carefully against the cold gravestone, and gradually pulled her hand away.

She didn't want to leave. Whether or not he was really here, she didn't want to leave his last resting place behind.

But suddenly, a cold blast of wind shot through her, pushing her in the direction of the parked Viper. She stood up and glanced down the hill. Through the twisting leaves, she could see Korn waiting for her. They needed to get back to headquarters soon to avoid as much suspicion as possible.

A small smirk crossed Chianti's features, and she rubbed a finger across her birthmark to wipe away the moisture that had oddly accumulated there. She didn't want to let Korn see her in such a state; it was unbecoming of a sniper, and she had a tough reputation to uphold. So she began her descent down the hill, her hands thrust in her pockets nonchalantly, though it was not long before she paused to give the tombstone one final gaze, the bitter wind vainly attempting to fling her short hair into her eyes.

Perhaps, eventually, her anger would fade. Perhaps, eventually, she would be able to let it go. Then, she could move forward.

"…Goodbye… Calvados…"

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PLEASE REVIEW! I'm begging you! It won't take too much time. This is my first Detective Conan fic after all, so I really need feedback. Thank you!