"You're actually going through with it."

Knuckle winced at the bitterness in the officer's voice but did not rise from the bedside to face him. "I am," he said simply, clutching the rosary in his hand. He should have known that Alaude would confront him during his evening prayer.

For a moment, silence. Knuckle kept his eyes closed but dared not to continue reciting the prayer. The memory of Alaude's scowl when he told him about his decision remained all too clear in his mind, and this was the first time he had come to him since.

"You are a fool," Alaude spat.

"I do not deny that."

"You would give up everything for one little mistake."

Knuckle's lips curled. He stood, the beads of the rosary still wrapped around his wrist but the crucifix now dangling by his leg. "You call my taking of an innocent life a 'little' mistake? Do you say the same of the men you arrest?"

Alaude's cold blue eyes were as hard as the last time they met. "Their mistake was not that they murdered. Their mistake was that they chose to murder."

"That does not make me less guilty."

Another moment of silence. "I have killed, too. Do you think I should take vows of poverty and celibacy to repent for those lives?"

Knuckle looked away. The drawl in the way Alaude referred to the second vow did not escape him. "You do not kill innocents."

"Neither do you."

"That man―"

"Knew the risks. Fists are as much weapons as revolvers and swords. If he ever thought that he was safe from death in any given match, then he was a fool." A beat. "Just like you are."

"We're back to that," said Knuckle, his hands clenching into tight fists at the memory.

Alaude moved closer to Knuckle, and for a moment he worried that Alaude would strike him. Instead, he found his lips upon Alaude's, rough and unforgiving, unlike any they had shared in the past. Before Knuckle could think to react, Alaude shoved him onto the bed and climbed on top of him, forcing Knuckle's mouth open and ripping his shirt off.

Knuckle knew, like he had many times before, that he needed to pull away, to push Alaude away. But like many times before, he found his hands fiddling with the buttons on Alaude's jacket, his hips rolling into Alaude's, his tongue exploring his mouth. The desperation this time, however, was not one of lust or adrenaline. It was just as different on Alaude's part as it was his own, though he could not decipher Alaude's except that it was not the same as his. It was not the agony of a last night of passion.

After the final thrust, Alaude lingered, catching his breath. Dizzy, Knuckle drew the back of his hand along Alaude's cheek, a move he had never dared to try before. At that, Alaude snapped his head to meet Knuckle's eyes.

"You... are still going to go through with it."

Knuckle nodded. A flash of something unfamiliar came across Alaude's face, and he pushed off of Knuckle and quickly dressed.

"You are a fool," he spat once more before leaving the room.

Knuckle did not chase him down. He instead reached for the fallen crucifix on the floor and stared at it.

"I know," he murmured.