Belief Cannot Absolve Sin

In the darkness, Takaya lay stretched out on his back. The cheap hotel room was quiet, save for the constant clicking of Jin's keyboard; a noise that Takaya had grown to expect. It was almost comforting, the steady rhythm like music as Jin's slender fingers tapped a dance across the black keys. Takaya's golden eyes were half-open as he fumbled for his glass of water, which he could swear he'd left sitting on the side table flanking his bed. Ah… There it was. Takaya slowly hauled himself into a sitting position so that he could drink long and deep from the slightly smudged glass provided by the hotel. The dirtiness of the room didn't bother Takaya; the members of Strega often slept in much worse conditions—behind alleys, on park benches, even in Tartarus a few memorable times.

Takaya saw that Chidori was sitting in a ripped vinyl chair in the corner of the small room, her sketchbook beneath sleep-loosened hands, her head tilted slightly to the side. She was sleeping. The bed Takaya sat on was a queen, but Chidori had an issue when it came to personal space, so Jin was supposed to have slept in the bed instead. Glancing at the other side of the bed, it was clear to Takaya that Jin had yet to sleep. Running a bony hand through his hair, Takaya yawned. The clock on the side table told him that it was three in the morning. Takaya had slept a total of two hours. He was still ragingly tired, and he had no reason to be up so soon. Except that his nightmare had woken up.

Gritting his teeth slightly at the memory of the nightmare, Takaya lay back on the two thin pillows behind him. Not even really pillows, but cheap sheets of cotton with pillowcases yanked over them.

"Jin…"

The music of Jin's fingers hesitated for a mere second before continuing on.

"Yes?"

"It's three in the morning…" Takaya's voice was still filled with sleep; his eyes saw only bleary images. His head pounded with fatigue, and he closed his eyes against the pain. Takaya heard a neat little click and recognized it as the sound of Jin closing his laptop. Then a slight rustling and a weight dropping into the bed told Takaya that Jin had finally decided enough was enough. No, Jin hadn't decided. Takaya had, and Jin was merely obeying. As it always was.

The two were half an arm's length apart, but Takaya still felt slightly comforted. Whether it was by the mere familiar presence of the younger male or if it was because he felt secure knowing only a few words from his mouth could make somebody do something… Or maybe it was a mixture of the two? Or something else altogether? Whatever the case, Takaya's eyes slowly slid closed once more and he slipped back into a thankfully dreamless sleep.

-

The morning brought with it not only harsh sunlight streaming through graying old curtains, but also a sense of work to be done. Strega always had something to do; they rarely sat around twiddling their thumbs. Takaya woke to find that Chidori was no longer in the room at all. In fact, when he turned towards the space Jin should have been occupying, he saw that the computer hacker was no longer in the room, either. Takaya sat up and predictably, began coughing violently. He caught a great deal of the blood in his palm, but some of it leaked through his fingers and onto the sheets.

In the middle of Takaya's great coughing spell, Jin entered the room, suitcase in hand. He had his usual hasty air about him; Jin always seemed to have enough energy for the three of them. Certainly Takaya and Chidori weren't half as energetic between the two of them.

"Here," Jin sat beside him on the bed, handing Takaya a new glass of water and two pills. Takaya gratefully took them, tossing the pills to the back of his throat and draining the entire glass quickly. He placed the glass beside the last one on the side table with a loud, overdramatic clink and sighed deeply. He could still feel something in his chest that pained him, but he ignored it.

"Where's Chidori?"

"She went out for a walk. She's probably just drawing again," Jin said dismissively. Takaya frowned. Chidori had been spending a lot of time out "walking" lately. She had never really spent much time with Takaya as it was, but it seemed she was on her alone much more than usual.

"Doesn't she know what an undertaking we have spread out before us? This is no longer only about the Revenge Request work anymore. We have a concern of much higher priority now. There's a group of rapscallions—natural persona users—out there, and they appear to be much stronger than we are; undoing everything we're striving for and all she cares about is some artwork?"

Takaya grabbed his prized revolver from the night table and gazed down at it with fondness, turning it over. It felt heavy and comforting in his hand. A mechanism for violence. A mechanism for peace. The smooth metal was cool to the touch from being left on the table. Takaya liked the feel of it in his hands. It was an instrument to drive sinning souls from this world and into the next, where divine judgment could at last be executed.

"Our lives were stolen from us," Takaya's voice was low, cat-like eyes tracing the silvery lines of the revolver. "Any dreams we once had were taken when the Kirijo Group took us from the hardships of the street and placed us in their little experiments. They gave us these powers, though we never asked for them. They pinned to us a short life of incessant inner conflict; unable to live even the most mundane existence because our own 'inner selves'—not meant to be brought out in such a harsh manner—want to destroy these disgusting, ephemeral bodies they're anchored to." Takaya paused, glancing over at Jin. "Despite the drugs, we struggle. Because of the drugs, we die early. But while we're here, we have this power, and I intend to use it."

"You were the one who told me that the future and the past don't matter," Jin reminded Takaya, perhaps sensing that Takaya was feeling suicidal—again. "That we can only live in the now."

"And that's true," Takaya stood with a sweeping motion, sliding his revolver into its usual position in the waist band of his decrepit jeans. "The now is all we have, Jin. There is no tomorrow. There is no yesterday. The only time frame we can possibly manipulate is now. And right now, our power is being threatened. They eliminate the Dark Hour, they eliminate us."

Jin looked down at his hands for a moment; resting in his lap, then back up at Takaya.

"Their group isn't as strong as they appear; from our observations, it's clear there's quite a bit of strife between the members. A little more information can easily be utilized to separate them."

Takaya smiled slowly, stroking his chin as he thought. He liked the way Jin's mind worked. His input was often more valuable than Takaya would give him credit for, but it was appreciated all the same.

"Hmm, for now, however…" Takaya rested a hand on his revolver. "I'd like to hear what we're doing tonight. I trust there are new jobs by now?"

"Oh yes!" Jin snapped open his briefcase and pulled out his laptop. "The website is slowly gaining in popularity." Jin looked up at Takaya and grinned, pushing up his glasses as they slid down his nose. "By setting up ads in the right places and planting the right rumors, we've been getting more attention. Still not enough for any government agents to notice us, though. I've been doing my best to keep it very hush-hush."

Takaya nodded. It was important that the government not get involved. It was best if they thought each job was only another random act of violence that had nothing to do with the last one. A sudden spike in violent activity would be suspicious, but if they timed things just right, the police would never know the events were connected. This deplorable world thrived on sin, much as it disgusted Takaya. Rather than fighting against it, he had decided to capitalize on it.

"The jobs?" Takaya asked, tilting his head lazily and watching as Jin opened his laptop and typed, bringing up the required information.

"There are several new ones, ranging from the ludicrous and going right up to murder."

"Details?"

"Babeluvr69 says he wants us to give his ex a real scare," Jin said, reading the words on the screen and paraphrasing them. "But he doesn't specify what that means. And TruBlu is jealous of her best friend's boyfriend and wants us to frame him for doing something really terrible. She says she prefers something perverted that'll follow him forever."

Takaya's eyes narrowed. How petty these people were. How petty humanity was. Dirty, filthy, sin-caked; stained with the sins of the world that raised them and left them knowing nothing but sin. If only there was something he could do about it, but cleansing an entire world of sinners was simply something he could not do. For the time being, he would have to exterminate them via this little project of his.

"Well, what are you sitting around for? We have work to do."

-

If you read it, review it—I don't care if it's short. Faster updates, etc. Jin's POV next. Also, this will be Takaya/Jin slash. Do I have to say it? Cue heavy sighs here. Don't read it if you don't like it.