South America, 20XX

Heaven's War

She knew how badly she was going to hurt him and it broke her heart. She sat at the edge of the bed, watching him sleep, his eyes closed. She loved the peaceful expression on his face when he slept. She wished she could see that peace more when he was awake. But war didn't leave much a chance for it. The lantern in the small room had long since burned out, but she knew his face well enough to picture it in the dark. The village had been abandoned during the war. Amber's forces had taken up residence. Hei had chosen the small house in the middle of the village, with Pai in the next room.

It was no secret she loved him. She had known that ever since he had smiled at her. At that moment, Amber had known her heart belonged to him. She'd thought she was beyond that. The past five years had taught her a great deal: trust nobody, open to nobody, and betray others before they can betray you. But only with Hei did she feel a sense of being whole again. A reminder of what she once was.

It tore at her that he had been forced to this. He killed ruthlessly and without mercy. She couldn't begin to count how many Contractors had fallen to Hei at this point. She didn't remember who'd given him the name Black Reaper, but it had stuck. It was appropriate, even for one who wasn't a Contractor. While most only saw the cold front he projected to the world, Amber knew that she was one of only two people who saw the kindness he'd long since buried. Only she and Pai saw that side of him. Hei had covered the best of himself, becoming a living weapon.

She'd meant it when she said she wanted to go away with him and Pai. Just the three of them at a place far from Contractors, or Prices or Heaven's War. She could imagine it now: living in a place under the stars, where nobody knew them, raising Pai like a normal girl. And every night, holding him close…seeing that smile again.

But she knew it couldn't happen and never would. Such an offer had been irrational. But she meant it when she said she always wanted to see him smile. Amber reached out and brushed a hand over his cheek. Instantly his dark eyes snapped open and his hand came up, yanking out the knife he kept beneath his pillow. The look in his eyes turned into relief when he realized it was Amber.

"Don't do that. It isn't safe." He said gruffly. Amber grinned at him, her eyes-the color of which had led to that favored name- gleaming playfully. She knew he couldn't see her in the darkness, but she liked to think he could picture her smile.

"You look so cute when you're asleep, I couldn't resist." She said. "It's almost over, Hei…is Pai-"

"In the other room. She's paying her Price. She's used her powers a lot today." She noticed the deep look in his eyes. Hei had never enjoyed taking life. He'd done it so Pai wouldn't have to be alone. She wondered if it disturbed him that he was so good at it.

"Of course…it's almost over, Hei." Amber said with a smile, sliding closer to him. "The war's nearly done. We've nearly reached the Gate. Carmine cleared out the final path."

Hei gave a nod barely visible in the darkness. Amber knew there wasn't love lost between him and the most violent, dangerous Contractor of all, and she knew how much talking about Carmine's work disturbed him. She leaned in and wrapped her arms around him. "It's just this, Hei…I promise."

"And what then?" He asked, reaching his hands to her shoulders.

"Name it," She whispered, feelings his hands go down to her back. "Where do you want to go? Who do you want to be? We'll disappear…we'll live a quiet life…we'll see the stars every night."

"How long will we have?"

"Silly…" Amber smiled. "We'll have forever."

"There's nothing that lasts forever." Hei whispered and she gave a smile, feeling his lips on her neck.

"If I can't give you forever…let me give you tonight." She whispered.

I'm going to hurt you. She thought. God, I'm so sorry…but maybe you'll see why one day…you might even thank me…Maybe you might even forgive me.

She let him work her out of her shirt and pull her closer, their lips pressed together gently at first, and then with more passion.

I hope you don't lose that smile…and I know it's selfish…but I want to see it again...I'd do anything…

After, as they lay spent in one another's arms, Amber leaned in to kiss his forehead gently, reaching a finger to trace his lips. It was dark enough so he couldn't see the expression of pain on her face. When she felt him smile at her, she felt her heart break in two