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|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Crime/Noir||PG-13||Positive||N/A|
|...Won't Kill You|
It was a cold morning in Republic City. I had walked twelve blocks down from my apartment, and by the time I got to the thirteenth, I was seriously starting to regret not just taking a cab.
For the last seven blocks, I'd been fighting the urge not to take off my gloves and use my firebending to keep my hands warm. It just seemed like too much effort and I kept telling myself, 'Oh, you'll be fine. You can make it. Stop being a wimp', but by the time my hands started to go numb, I figured it was time to take 'em off.
I guess that's what I get for buying fingerless gloves in the first place.
I yanked them off as quickly as I could, stuffed them into my coat pocket, and cupped my hands together in front of my face. Then I let out a few tiny puffs of fire from my mouth, warming my hands up a significant amount. For about five seconds, that is. I had to keep constantly breathing on my hands, which really made the process more annoying and made me curse myself once more for buying fingerless gloves.
Truthfully, though, as annoying as that was, it was the least of my worries. I was on my way right now over to Ito's house in order to do what I thought needed to be done. I was gonna tell him about my involvement with the Triple Threats. I know, right? Heavy stuff. It's not exactly a benign thing to tell your boyfriend, or really anyone for that matter, that you work for professional killers.
It's not like I was gonna give him any details about my job, though. I wasn't gonna spend all morning telling him what I'd seen or really anything about the nature of the business. It wasn't for him to know. I was just gonna very plainly tell him that I was a soldier for the Triple Threats and that I thought he deserved to know.
The most important thing, though, was that I trusted Ito with this information. That's the reason I knew it was okay to tell him. We'd been together for about a month now, and I trusted him more than any other man I had ever been with. Well, actually, he was the only man I had ever been with that I trusted at all. In fact, I had never been in a relationship with someone as long as I'd been with Ito. It's not like the city was full of assholes or anything. I'd just never felt that spark with anyone else.
But I did feel that spark with Ito, and that's why I had to say something to him. Sooner or later, he'd ask me about my job and if I kept it a secret, it had the potential to drive us apart. I wasn't gonna let the first guy I actually really cared about slip away from me because of this, and that was really all there was to it.
Then, finally, after walking nineteen blocks down the sidewalk, I reached Ito's building. I took a minute to breathe and prepared myself. Then I made my way inside.
Once I'd finally made my way up to Ito's apartment, the fear of what he might say had left me. I was completely composed, confident, and ready for whatever he might say. I knocked on his door and only had to wait several moments for a reply.
His door swung open, revealing Ito on the other side wearing a white undershirt and with shaving cream covering the right side of his face. He looked at me in surprise, which made sense since I didn't tell him I was coming over, and his lips broke out into a smile. "Song!" he said. "What a nice surprise. What are you doing here?"
"I came over here to tell you something," I said. "Do you have a minute?"
"Uh, sure. Come in," he replied, before walking hastily over to his bathroom. "Just let me get this shaving cream off my face."
I made my way inside and took a seat on his cozy, leather couch, as I waited for him to finish shaving. While I was waiting, the nervousness I felt from earlier came sauntering back into my mind, like a model walking the red carpet, blowing smoke from her thin, little cigar into my mind that turned itself into fear.
As more and more of the thick, smoky fear whisked itself into my brain, I began to think of the repercussions of what I was about to do. Stuff I hadn't really thought about before. If I blabbed about all this to Ito, and someone found out about it, that would make me a liability. Ito would become the fourth person to find out about my triad-related activities, right along with Gan, Ishi, and the cab driver she was with on what I've come to call, The Night of the Four Murders. And seeing as how they all found out about it in the span of about two months since I joined the Triple Threats, my street name may as well have been 'Loose-Lipped' Song, which may as well have been synonymous with 'Dead as Fuck' Song. Trust me, there was no room for people with loose lips in this organization.
Before I had time to regain the confidence I walked in here with, Ito finally came back from the bathroom, the shaving cream having vanished from his face, and his undershirt having vanished from his body. He went into his closet and grabbed a button-up shirt to put on, then came over to me. "Make it quick, babe," he said, quickly throwing his shirt on. "I've gotta head to work in a few minutes."
"There's something I need to tell you," I said.
"What is it?" he asked, hurriedly.
Motherfucker! I wanted to tell him so badly, but now there was just too much I couldn't be sure of. This was something that was too important for me to be unsure, so this whole conversation would just have to wait. Awkward as it was, I would just have to tell him 'never mind', then probably go talk to Gan and see if I was making the right choice.
"Uh, I just came over here really quick to tell you I wanted to see you tonight," I said.
Ito shot me a quizzical look as he started putting on his tie. "You couldn't have just called and told me that?" he asked.
"Oh, well, I just thought I'd stop by and surprise you," I said, coming up with the best excuse I could. "I mean, why not, right?"
"Alright then," he said. "How 'bout we meet back at your place at seven once I get off work. That sound good?"
"Yeah, sounds great," I replied.
"Alright, now I gotta go," he said. He walked over and gave me a quick peck on the lips, then went over to his closet and speedily put on his suit jacket. "Be sure to lock the door once you leave," he said as he walked out the door.
Feeling like a complete and total coward, I picked myself up and slammed my fist against the wall, inadvertently denting it with my earthbending. Then I trotted outside Ito's apartment in anger, locking the door as I left.
About ten hours later, I was back in my apartment. My day hadn't exactly been productive, unless you consider lying around listening to the radio, taking a three-hour nap, and eating one-third of a box of Varri-cakes productive. But I did go out and buy some normal gloves instead of the fingerless ones, so that was something at least. And besides, any day off was a good enough day for me.
It was about five in the afternoon and I was getting ready to head out to Gan's nightclub. I figured that he was, as usual, the only person I could really turn to in this crisis of indecision. I mean, truthfully, it would've been better to speak to an actual triad member about this, seeing as how they would know best about how safe it was to go around distributing this kind of information, but it wasn't exactly like there was anyone like that I could talk to. And besides, Gan had always come through for me before, so there was really no reason to doubt him now.
I threw on my coat and put on my gloves, then made my way over to the door. I threw the door open and as the cold, outside air blasted inside, I saw a man standing in my doorway. A man I hadn't seen in about a month now. And as much as you'd think my spirits would sink upon seeing his grizzled mug, I gotta be honest. I was kinda happy to see Gun again. "Hi," I said simply.
"Hi, Song," he said in his usual deadpan tone. "Can I come in?"
"Yeah, sure," I replied.
He stepped inside and, I guess, decided to make himself at home. He went over to the couch and put his feet up on my coffee table, then took off his hat and put it right next to him. He'd grown a thin, white goatee in the last month since I saw him, revealing his true age to me. This whole time, I pegged him for being, like, fifty or something. Seeing him now with his white beard and his bald head, he had to be in his mid-sixties at least.
I closed the door and went over to sit in my chair. "It's good to see you again," I said.
"Really?" Gun slightly smirked. "I would've thought you'd be happy to be rid of me for a while."
"And what? Leave me with that psycho bitch, Yin?" I replied.
"Yin can be a little intimidating," Gun admitted. "But you were gonna have to get used to that sooner or later."
Typical Gun response. Whatever kind of trauma he directly or indirectly put me through was always 'necessary' in order to make me a better soldier. I guess he was right, though.
"So where have you been?" I asked him. "I was starting to think something had happened to you."
"Well, that's what I came over here to tell you," he said, leaning forward. "Now you're not gonna like this, but you have a right to know, so I'm gonna tell you."
Unsure of what I was about to find out, I sat up and braced myself for anything he might say. "Alright," I said, nervously.
"Now, first of all," Gun said. "Do you know anything about the witness that was being held in that safe house you and Yin went to?"
Great. My favorite subject.
"All I know is that someone killed her brother," I replied. "And that she was right there when it happened and she was gonna tell the police who did it."
"The person who killed her brother was me," Gun said. "That's why I've been gone for the last month. I've been laying low."
There was a silence that filled the room for a few moments after those words left his lips. The first thing I thought after he said that to me was how stupid I was for not realizing it sooner. Of course it was him. Why wouldn't it be? Is there any reason at all why I wouldn't suspect the man who shot a fireball into the head of an innocent civilian right in front of me without even blinking? Just when I was starting to warm up to the bastard too, he had to go and give me a reason to keep hating him. My eyes were burning, but I didn't let him see any tears. I felt so fucking betrayed and I didn't even know why. It's not like we were friends or anything. I just felt like someone had taken the sharpest blade ever carved and stuck it right into my back.
I leaned forward and glared at him. "Why?" I demanded through clenched teeth.
"It doesn't matter why," Gun said.
"I'm sick and tired of people saying that!" I hollered, shooting up out of my chair. "Give me a reason why!"
Gun was pissed now. Pissed that one of his subordinates was making demands of him for one thing, and pissed that I was shouting at him for another. He made eye contact with me and took a moment to calm himself before he proceeded. "You want a reason why?" he asked. "Alright. He was a deli owner. He said he was getting tired of paying us thugs any of his money and he said he was finished. So I took him out."
I started taking slow, sharp breaths that got quicker and quicker as the amount of rage I felt grew higher. "So you killed him. Then you had her killed. That's a great fucking way to take care of your problems," I snarled.
"Oh, wait, I wasn't finished," Gun said, rising up to my level. He held eye contact with me the whole time he spoke. "His name was Jong. He was also a pro-bending fan. And a car enthusiast." I backed away as he took a step closer to me every time he spoke. "In his spare time, he was a painter!" he said louder. "He had a best friend named Lee! He'd wanted to be a restaurant owner since he was fifteen!"
"Stop it!" I shouted.
"Does this make you feel better, Song?!" he yelled. "Now that you know who he is, you feel any better about me killing him?! It doesn't matter who they were or what they did! What matters is that they're both dead and that's all there is to it!"
The tears fought their way to the surface and began to pour down my face. I stormed over to my door and flung it open as fast as a bolt of lightning. "Get out!" I sobbed.
"I'm not going anywhere until you grow up and start living in the real world, Song!" Gun roared. "Until you stop breaking down in tears every time someone gets hurt!"
Finally, I had reached my breaking point. I didn't give one single fuck if he retaliated or not. I ran over and socked him in the chest, pushing him back only a little bit. "GET! OUT!" I ordered.
Without even bothering to fight back, the old bastard just stormed out of the apartment in a huff. I slammed the door behind me so hard, I thought it was gonna somehow fall off.
I went over to my kitchen, pulled out a bottle of scotch from my bottom cupboard, and immediately started pouring it into a glass. I wasn't going to Gan's anymore. I didn't give a fuck what I said to Ito at this point. If Gun or Qin or anyone else had a problem with me telling him I was working for the Triple Threats, then they could lather it up with lube and stick it up their ass.
I brought both the glass, as well as the entire bottle over to the couch and kept drowning my sorrows in the scotch.
Two hours later, and I was royally hammered. Normally I wouldn't want anyone seeing me this way, let alone someone I was seeing, but to tell you the truth, I really didn't care. Ito was a scotch drinker just like me, so I figured he'd be pretty understanding of it. He'd probably even ask for some himself. And it certainly wasn't the first time I had been drunk in front of him, let me tell you. He and I had both gotten pretty drunk some nights, but those are stories for another day.
I finally heard the knock on my door and my head perked up at the sound of it. "Come in!" I hollered across the room.
The door swung open, and Ito came in looking dashing as ever. "Hey, babe," he said. "How are you doing?"
I let out a large sigh and shook my head. "Not good, not good. Not good at all," I said. "I've got to, um... tell you something. I've gotta tell you something."
Ito chuckled as he walked over to sit next to me on the couch. "Song, are you drunk?" he asked.
"Yeah," I nodded. "Yeah, I'm pretty drunk, but I still gotta tell you something."
"Alright," Ito said.
"Now this is really important, babe, so you've gotta listen, okay?" I slurred.
"Okay, okay," he replied. "Just go ahead and tell me."
I attempted to get serious and focus, because I still understood on at least some level how important this was. But the fact remained, I was still totally hammered, so rather than give it a hundred percent, I gave it about forty-five to fifty instead. "Now you know how important you are to me," I started. "And I know I'm important to you, so you're not gonna judge me for what I'm about to say, right?"
"No, of course not, Song," Ito replied. "I mean, unless you murdered someone, I think I'll be alright with whatever you have to say."
You'd think that would've freaked me out, but seeing as how I hadn't actually murdered anyone, I actually felt like it was fine to continue. "No, no, I haven't murdered anyone," I said. "But you should know that I'm... uh..." I was having difficulty getting the words out.
Ito helped me by putting his arm around me and encouraging me to finish. "Go on, Song. It's okay," he said. "You're what?"
I took a deep breath and just decided to put it all out there. No holding back. No regrets. "I'm a member of the... the triads," I said softly.
Ito's expression shifted to one of concern. He leaned in close to me and looked me in the face. "You are?" he asked. "Which one?"
"The, um..." I started. "The Triple Threats." For the second time that night, the waterworks factory resumed production and I began to sniffle as the tears came soaring down.
"Hey, hey, hey," Ito said, trying to comfort me. "It's okay. It's okay."
I turned my head to look at him. I was obviously in distress, but I was still comforted by the fact that he was so understanding. "It is?" I asked.
"Yes," Ito said. "I just need to know one thing."
"What's that?" I asked.
"Have you killed anyone while working for them?"
"No," I said immediately, shaking my head. "I only go with them and watch. I've never actually killed anyone."
"You watch what?" Ito asked.
"It's a different assignment every time," I explained. "We collect money, we kill people. One time we kidnapped this old guy who was the head of the Pro-Bending League. But that's all, I swea-"
The next thing I felt was all of the air leave my lungs as Ito's hand wrapped itself around my throat. I began to choke and I desperately gasped for air and I kicked my legs around in an attempt to defend myself, but it was all in vain. He forced my head down onto the couch and climbed on top of me, pinning me down as he continued to strangle me.
"Now I've got you, you filthy, little bitch!" he spat.
Normally I would've tried bending, but I was too drunk to concentrate, so I just shot my arms forward, attempting to get him off of me. My vision was starting to fade and I experienced something I had truly never felt before. I could actually feel my own life slipping away, moment by moment. Ito's words were barely audible to me, but somehow I still managed to hear them.
"That old man you kidnapped? He was my father!" he snarled. "And now you're gonna pay for kidnapping him, you little cunt!"
Just when I thought my number was up, a roaring arc of fire came soaring in above me, nearly incinerating the man I previously thought was named Ito, and causing him to remove his hands from my throat.
I took in an enormous breath of air, and my eyes bulged out of my head as I released a series of rather loud, wheezing coughs from my mouth.
"Get the fuck away from her, do you hear me?!" Gun shouted, standing in my doorway.
"What's the difference?" Ito taunted. "She's gonna die soon anyway. I'll make sure our boys hit her up on the street real nice."
Gun launched another blast of fire in Ito's direction, shooting it right past him and burning the painting on the wall above my couch. "I swear to the oldest fucking spirits alive," Gun said. "If I ever so much as see you or any of your people anywhere near her ever again, I'll fucking kill you! Now get the fuck out of here and never come back!"
The ever-so-arrogant smile never leaving his face, Ito walked over to the door and past Gun, turning around to say one last thing. "Just so you know, I'll get her," he said. "Then after that, I'll get you next."
"Get out of here!" Gun barked.
He watched as Ito made his way down the hall and went down the stairs. Then Gun came inside, shut the door, and ran over to me.
I was on the floor, still just trying to breathe and make sense of all of this. I saw Gun kneel down and felt him lift up my upper body. The only word I could physically manage to get out was, "How?"
"I've had people watching your place ever since I left," Gun explained. "For your own safety. They said tonight was the first time you ever brought him over here. They recognized him as soon as they saw him and gave me a call. Thank the spirits I got over here in time."
The waterworks had an encore performance as I started to sob once more. "He was working me," I cried.
Gun pulled me in and shushed me while holding me in his arms. "It's okay," he said. "It's okay. I'm not gonna let him hurt you again. I promise."
I clung to him tightly, still bawling into his arms. It wasn't exactly hard to put together what just happened. Even if I was pretty drunk. "It was Khan," I sobbed. "It was Khan the whole time."
Gun was originally intended to be only about ten years older than Song, putting him in his mid-to-late thirties. He was meant to be a younger man, but older and more experienced than Song. In fact, his entire character was originally based on Jon Bernthal's character from the short-lived television series, Mob City. However, as I began to write for him in the first chapter, he became someone completely different in my mind. An older, grizzled triad enforcer in his sixties who had seen a lot of horrible things he wished he hadn't, inspired by a similar character played by Jonathan Banks on the television series, Breaking Bad and it's follow-up, Better Call Saul.
I tried to bury that version of the character deep in my mind, as I wanted him to be like the original version he was always intended to be and I released the first chapter keeping the description of him as a man in his thirties. But as I've continued to write for him, I've found that I cannot keep him that way and, since the second chapter, have continued to write for him as the newer version of the character. I've gone back to the first chapter and fixed the description, but I felt I owed an explanation to the people who have already read it, so as to avoid any confusion with the character's age.
For the collective works of the author, go here.