Title: Nine
Rating: PG-13 (dark undertones)
Characters: Kensei, mentions of Kaito
Beta: The fabulous gidgetzb - any mistakes here are my own!
Disclaimer: Dude, if I owned them, this is what you'd be seeing!
Spoilers: Up to 2x05, "Fight or Flight," just to be safe; AU after that.

Notes: This is an odd one, and it's a side piece, of sorts, to a larger fic I'm planning, one based around my idea that West and Claire were switched at birth - and that this entire vendetta against them is, in fact, fueled by that. You'll see the fic itself soon, but this can stand on its own, heh.

Teaser: It only takes him a week to privately sign nine death warrants and to carry out the first.

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It takes him months to put the pieces together, understand them all and the infuriating puzzle they fit together to show him, but it only takes a week to privately sign nine death warrants and to carry out the first.

His recklessness increased over the years but he thinks more now as well, makes himself consider his plans when it comes to making decisions that could turn around and cause him even more trouble. If he does this, he knows, there will be a mess to clean up, ties to sever once and for all— but when it's over, he'll have what he wants.

They're old anyway, won't last much longer.

Everybody keels over in the end.

Even making himself think on it, though, it only takes a week for him to decide his course of action— he's angry, and it's an odd feeling, one he hasn't experienced in a long time.

Anger had dimmed through the years, been left watered down and washed out by time and weariness. It's flaring now, leaving him quietly enraged in a way that frightens even him. Killing is hideously easy when needed, just a matter of walking into death with someone else and walking away after alone— fires that burn him down to his bones, crashes that send him through glass and metal that tear him apart, even poisoned food.

Poison finally stopped working on him a little past his first century, although once in a while the strongest doses of something new can leave him woozy for a few seconds— nothing he's found can ever affect him more than once, however, so he isn't sure it counts.

His body, he has found, is an impossibly stubborn creation.

Nonetheless, falling still gives him a bit of a thrill.

Even though he knows he's going to be fine, even though he knows even the pain will never affect him the way it does every other person in the world (except for one, and that's the point of this, isn't it?) there's always that moment before he hits the ground, an absence of everything except for him. He does it when the full truth of what he is becomes too much, finds the tallest building he can easily get onto and simply drops himself off without any kind of grace.

That moment of nothing (just the air whistling past his ears and the world rushing up to meet him as if it's missed him) leaves him feeling better after it's over, as if breaking his bones heals his mind a little bit.

They hadn't all been in the thick of it, one was even innocent in it, but they'd kept the secrets and told him lies.

He hadn't planned how he would do it, the overly dramatic drop off their old friend's building and yet it had fit, shifted something inside him and told him, in no uncertain terms, that this would be the proper way to end him. And the rush of emotion he'd felt when he'd watched him had done the rest, a surge of feeling that he hasn't felt in too long making him faster than he usually would have been.

Kaito was old, easily breakable and as frail as the rest of them are now.

He's much older but there's nothing about his body that's frail— his mind, yes, but not his body, never his body.

For three days, he grieves after he leaves the body on the street, one of those he had watched bloom and then wither. He's gotten good at grieving (or maybe he's just good at keeping himself from needing to grieve, he's not sure) but he lets himself go for those three days, lets his heart bleed with fury and sorrow until he's wrung every last drop out of himself.

It's like falling, letting go for those three days, and he feels better after he's done.

Yet the real anger's still there and he decides with an odd flutter inside him that he likes it, enjoys the way it makes him feel heated, enjoys listening to his blood pound in his ears with emotion he had forgotten. This isn't the momentary lust he can sometimes muster with women or the annoyance he feels among normal people who damage their own bodies to keep from aging but true emotion, overwhelming and overpowering and…

Real in ways he has forgotten— more real than shattered bodies on concrete, than muscles that knit together and bones that grow back from nothing, than promises that give out like old hearts as years become lifetimes that refuse to end.

In the end, in the beginning, he starts living again the day he privately signs nine death warrants.