warning: the following tale contains relatively heavy gore and other possibly triggering subjects. please don't read if any of these things make you uncomfortable.

rating: +8+x

"How does it feel?"

Agony. Agony, agony, agony as the sensation of red-hot pain ripped open across his neck. His vision blurred and he was clutching at the wound and the blood spilling out of it, but it wouldn't stop and he was dying. He could feel it, he was dying and there was no way to stop it. It was too late and Atlas stood above him, bloodstained and flushed and smiling.

Why wasn't he dead yet? In shows and movies when this happens it was shock and then death, but instead he got to slowly die as his killer loomed above him, waiting for a response.

"C'mon, how does it feel? I wanna know!" Atlas grinned and he tried to speak, to scream, to do anything, please. What started as a scared trembling became a violent shake, and he could feel his life leaving his body and the burning started to fade and he stopped trying to scream.

Praen approached Atlas from behind, wrapping his arms around Atlas and using a finger to wipe a bit of blood off of his face.

"Hm. They never told me how it felt."

"That’s ‘cause you cut through the jugular. They can’t speak when you cut the jugular."

“And how did you know that, Mr. Scientist?" Atlas said, playfully.

"I learned."

"Ooooh, mysterious." Atlas chuckled, a warm laugh that always made Praen go soft.

He smiled, hugging Atlas just a bit tighter. Atlas wriggled out of Praen's grip and laughed again, turning around to face him.

"C'mon already, come help me clean up!" Atlas grabbed Praen's hand, leading them both through the halls of Level 5 in a discordant, strangely elegant dance.

Atlas was clean and refreshed. The high he'd received from killing had yet to wear off, and Atlas intended to enjoy it while it lasted. His habit of killing hadn't sprung from the thrill of the act in itself, but it did start somewhere. Atlas knew that much. He knew how he had started off in the real world. From a young age they told him he was wrong.

He was wrong because he was better?

He was better. His parents should have felt no shame when they were told what he could do. Besides, was it really his fault that he couldn't hurt? That he wasn't limited by frail human morality? If anything, he should have been exalted for what he could achieve.

But, unfortunately, he wasn't. He was fucking sheltered and hidden away because he was "showing the signs" (it was just one fire, not really his fault that he couldn't feel it) and when he did see other kids they were playing outside and free to do as they pleased. And really, that's all he wanted, so when he turned nineteen he took it upon himself, he freed himself (1, 2). He felt so much fucking better after, and he decided he would get rid of the doctors and the cops that had damned him to the cage that was his home as well (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

After 10, he was caught but still, it felt so good so euphoric, so—

So death row wasn't really a problem. Like he'd said before, he wasn't scared of dying. He was just disappointed that it had ended so soon. Atlas knew there wasn't any way out, really, but he still wanted to do more. He knew he could, he knew if they would just free him he could save society, remake it to fit his own glorious plan. No one like him would be shamed like he had been. His righteous work lay just out of reach.

They dragged him along and he laughed, he laughed because the only thing they were getting out of this was safety. Sending him to the seat in which he would die wouldn't "make him pay", it wouldn't evoke anything inside him and he knew that but these idiots thought they were achieving something.


They put him in the chair, strapping his wrists down and he just kept laughing and laughing and the buzzing of the lights grew and joined his violent chorus. With his final breaths he planned to just keep laughing, but the buzzing grew louder until it was everything surrounding him and he opened his eyes and he was free again.

Maybe he was a god.

Praen sat with Atlas in heaven. The clouds around them, the occasional Aria song chiming in against the ambiance of wind and sky.

"Praen, how did you get here?"

Praen raised an eyebrow towards Atlas.

"You heard me— we've been here together almost 20 years and you haven't said anything about what came before this place in your life."

Atlas smiled at him, and Praen brushed a hair out of Atlas's face.

"I'll tell you later."

"Later when, exactly?"

"Let's dance instead. I want to dance."

"Bold of you to think I know the first thing about dancing."

"You can learn."

Step, one two— "You aren't very good at this."

Step, trip two— "Yeah, well I'm sure you're not great at plenty of things, jerk."

don't get distracted.

Praen was taken aback for a moment. Calm. Calm yourself, idiot. He had stopped dead in his tracks, grip tightening slightly on Atlas's shoulder.

"Tesoro? What happened?"

"Did you not hear that?"

"Hear what?"

Praen remained quiet.

n… no? distracted from what? who are you what the fuck

distracted from the mission. i am. i am i am i am i help you two because you help me.

with what? what mission?

feed me.


"Mio caro? What's wrong?"

"Nothing, nothing."

"You have to open up to me at some point… and I thought we were close." Atlas jokingly said, pressing his head against Praen's. He hated to admit that at some point, back when they first met, Atlas had hit a growth spurt and was now the slightest bit taller than Praen.

"Fine, fine; I'll tell you about before I got here. Happy now?


Praen was born out of blood. From birth he was surrounded by violence, because that was what his life had been planned to be. He didn't hate it— doing this helped him with all kinds of things. He handled anger better than most, he didn't have as many moral reservations as others, and his stomach for gore was definitely much, much stronger than most. He lived by two rules- one he made for himself, and one that would get him killed if he didn't follow it.

1. Keep things clean. Nice and tidy.

2. Keep your secrets, keep your job.

He didn't have much of a choice on what job he had, since he was born into it, but it paid well and he was good at it. What's a bit of blood when you're getting hundreds of dollars each time you slam a body bag onto the table?

He was sure of the order of the timeline, but the events within it were faint in his memory, as if he had memorized it off a sheet of paper.

— My biological parents die. He takes me in.

— I am raised. I turn 15 and he lets me choose my name.

— He was weak. He got caught.

— I'm in charge now. I don't get caught. No one ever suspects me, and they never will because to them, I don’t even exist.

— My last payment in the real world, on my 20th birthday.

— I enter hell, then heaven, and meet my savior.

Atlas chuckles. "How romantic."

Praen rolls his eyes. He understands Atlas can have trouble with empathy, though it was refreshing to have someone hear that and not run away screaming or give him some stupid look of pity.

"So, to put it short, you were a hitman? Which— okay, yeah that makes sense. When we first met, you had told me that the world desensitized you, and you hated it for that, which is why we got along so well. Good thing we're inseparable now, because the world doesn't stand a chance against you and me." They had stopped dancing a while ago, and they now stood holding each other in the clouds.

"Thanks for telling me. I'm… I'm sorry it's hard for me to really understand the emotions that come with that but—"

"Don't be sorry. I'm glad you don't." Praen pulled Atlas in for a hug.

"Oh. Okay." He felt Atlas smile and hug him back.

The night sky of Level 9 was peaceful to Atlas. The level was calm for him and Praen, and they were safe from danger.

Atlas wondered why sometimes.

he's distracting you, isn't he?

what? praen? no, of course not.

if i get rid of him you'll feed me more

cazzo cosa? no. if you get rid of him i'll kill you myself. i'll rip you limb from limb.

you can't.

do you really want to test that and find out? i've killed hundreds of people here. who says you're any different?

are you kidding me? i'm a god

and i'm not?

i'll leave him be for now if you feed me soon.

chiudi quella cazzo di bocca.

ho fame, dovresti sbrigarti.

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