Let's Kill TonightMature

Welcome to Hell. I hope you enjoy your stay.
No, that wasn't the summary. That was me letting you know that this one-shot, (not-so-)short story is not going to be rainbows and glitter.
Warnings for brief abuse. It's taken care of fairly quickly, though, so...

In a small apartment block on the rougher side of London, there were two kids.

Their names?

Ethan and Aideen.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

"Hey, Alice. Wanna come in for a bit? Maybe have a cuppa with me?" The tired-looking woman was leaning against her doorframe.

An equally exhausted young mother was standing across from her, holding a small boy in her arms. "Are you sure, Mia? I was just thinking of popping by, I don't want to be a trouble."

But Mia waved her in, her own daughter dozing off, curled into a couch cushion.

Setting her son down, Alice watched him run off towards the sleeping child, shouting "Deen! Deen! Deen!" all the way. Then, she turned and went into the kitchen - there wasn't anything in the living room that could possibly hurt the two youngsters.

"I don't think he's ever going to grasp the fact that her name's Aideen," Mia commented, Alice chuckling to herself.

"No, I don't think he is." She said, sitting down and grateful for the brief break from being a single mother.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

"You cheated!" The young boy bellowed, and the Irish girl across from him looked indignant.

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!" At that point, he launched himself at her, fingers tickling wildly at her sensitive sides.

"Eath! Ethan, no!" She giggled uncontrollably, before sticking her own hand out and embedding it in his armpit.

"Agh!" This time, Ethan was the one squirming on the cheap carpeting, body convulsing with laughter.

Enjoying torturing the boy, she ignored the uncomfortable tightness in her chest, the wheezing that was pushed out of her small body with every exhale until they were both sprawled out on the floor, limbs everywhere, lying next to one another. Ethan wordlessly gropes around on the carpet until his short fingers close on her inhaler, thrown aside.

She takes it, and he unsteadily counts to five for her as she takes her medication.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

The first time she ever calls him dearie, it's when he's sitting on the ground will bloody scraped knees, the two of them on the dirty pavement of a less-crowded sidewalk.

"Okay, okay," She's rummaging through her patched-up bookbag, before finding what she was looking for and triumphantly holding up a plastic baggie with several Band-Aids enclosed inside. She rips one open, applying it slightly crookedly to his knee, before repeating with the other knee and kissing each of the not-bloody-anymore joints, remembering how his mum would always do that for her whenever she came crying to Not-Mom Alice with a wound.

Grabbing his skateboard, she helps him up, and murmurs to him, "It's alright, dearie. It's alright."

And they continue along, two ten-year-olds alone in the middle of London walking home from school, parents out and working to support them.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

They don't like to go home.

Ethan usually tags along, not wanting to go to his own apartment (they're still pre-teens, and woefully underprepared for what life has thrown at them), but Aideen hates her flat.

"C'mon, Deen. You've got Rosie to take care of. I'll even help you, I love the little scoundrel." Being the person he is, only Ethan can wheedle her into doing things like this. Even though it's true, her baby sister does love him.

But fists and bruises and blood and fear lie inside his flat. She wouldn't wish him back in there for the world. And sure, Not-Mom Alice directs as much as she can towards herself, but...

But. Ethan doesn't like her to get hurt. So Aideen keeps him with her, teaches him how to throw a punch because she already knows. Out of necessity, she already knows. And she hates having him inside her place, the flat full of abandonment and emptiness and the knowledge that her mum's out with another bloke.

Her mum usually is.

It pays the meagre bills, though, and they scrape by like always.

So they go in together, lights left off except for the kitchen one, and they feed Rose and Ethan plays with her and they make themselves a scant dinner. They're just shy of thirteen, but the routine is the same.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

It takes them a long time before they can go into Ethan's flat together that night.

They're both scared of Bram. But Aideen's never had to stitch a cut back together before, and she hopes to never have to again. Ethan is still favoring his left arm.

She can fight - dirty, she's a streetfighter, she uses broken bottles and presses cigarette butts into her victim's skin. She does everything she can not to lose. When she was younger, she was scared, but at the age of half of thirty, she has nothing that she can lose. She fights with raw desperation.

Ethan used to try and stop her. He was the only person who'd never been on the receiving end of her fist before (save Rosie and his mum).

Now she turns her whirlwind of fists and kicks and snarls onto Bram.

That night, they're delirious with success and Aideen has a bloody grimace on her face as they celebrate. It's almost a grin, but it's too metallic for that.

Her asthma had acted up again.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

"Shh, shh. It'll be fine, it'll be fine, Deen. Come on bruv, you'll be fine." He rubs her back with trembling fingers as she coughs wretchedly and he can feel his hands shake with the feeling of helplessness - because they were so stupid, so stupid. Her inhaler is underneath the couch back at her flat.

Aideen’s mum's still sleeping around. The older woman always did enjoy being the target of somebody's lust. Certainly likes it more than checking on her two daughters. But it's been a year since Bram was driven out, and his mum is doing so much better. He's...

He's not perfect.

But he listens to his best mate wheeze her lungs out in a back alley after school, and it hits him that they've still got two years until they're free.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Aideen finds him drowning his liver when they're seventeen. Her knuckles are badly scraped, and her right eye is swelling up.

Ethan's on the floor, and there's bottles littered around him. He's slurring, and she can see that he also dipped into her stash of vodka.

She's so tempted to join him - because she's not the hero, goddammit. She may have played one for this boy - no, not a boy. She may have played a hero for this teenager more times than she can count, but she is by no means anything but a massive screw-up who is not good at anything but bandaging her best friend up, fighting, and taking care of her little sister.

She downs two small bottles of Grey Goose before she stops- she has much better alcohol tolerance than Ethan does, which is probably why he got himself drunk to his gills in the first place - he wanted to. At least he had the good sense not to do it in his own flat. Not-Mom Alice would have freaked.

She takes the bottle he's holding from his fingers - she's not gentle. She rips it out, because he was so stupid and she's tired. She's tired from so many things.

They just stare at each other for a moment. They stare at the twin messes that they are.

And afterwards they just hold each other in her empty flat, wondering how they managed to fuck up so badly.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

She gets a scholarship.

It shocks everybody.

It's not that they didn't think she was smart. It's just that they didn't realize she was that smart.

So she goes to med school. She's still in London, but she sells the flat (somehow she found out that her mum's been living with a guy in Birmingham, but the older woman is still using the same bank account, so Aideen can tap into that if she needs to) and moves into residence. Not-Mom Alice takes Rosie. The woman is more than happy to, and she's found a somewhat-decent-paying job, anyways.

Ethan doesn't do anything after high school ends. He's clever, he just... lacks motivation.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

And then there's a man in a suit.

And then Ethan disappears for three months.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Aideen drops everything, telling the university that her mum is deathly sick, writing a false document granting her leave.

She uses blackmail and cashes in favors and beats people up. Eventually, someone finds her a lead.

When she arrives at the 'research facility', she isn't fooled for a second.

Windermere is a front. She just doesn't know what for.

Aideen finds the hints of a still-alive Ethan, and she-

She leaves. She's no hero.

This time, not even for her best friend.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

When he comes back, he says he has a well-paying and stable job as a personal bodyguard for a prestigious scientist.

She throws a beer bottle at him and ignores his shout of "Deen!"

She misses on purpose, and it shatters against the wall, but he can see just as well as she can that she is a dangerous animal.

And Aideen is furious.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

It takes fourteen weeks before she talks to him again.

Partly because of her overwhelming conflicting emotions, and partly because of his newfound occupation.

She calls him dearie again right before he leaves for the night, and he thinks they might be okay.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Once in a while he comes back from the trips he goes on 'as a bodyguard' (Aideen isn't stupid, has never been stupid, she grew up with this boy and she knows when he's lying to her) and he's bruised and sometimes he's hurt.

She doesn't press. But once she heard some whisper of the codename Icarus in association with his name. She crushes the rumours before they can become fully-fledged, but she still keeps it in the back of her head, filed away.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

And then...

And then.

She's bought herself a tiny little flat near Not-Mom Alice and Rosie, moving out of residence, and she's still in her twenties.

But Ethan is pressing clumsy fingers into her doorbell and she lets him in.

His arm is at a horrible angle, and he's in a bloodstained and war-torn ill-fitting suit. There's crimson soaking through the white dress shirt, and his legs are torn up by slashes of... something.

She helps him lie down on her couch, uncaring of the blood that's seeping into the fabric, and her heart is beating a steady rhythm in her ears because for one of the very few times in her life, she is scared.

She is scared.

She doesn't try to phone the police, this isn't something they can help with. This isn't even something they're probably cleared to know about. She knows this much.

She shoves his arm back into its socket, does the best she can with the hairline fracture in his forearm. She picks pieces of shrapnel out of his legs and sterilizes and bandages the slashes.

She-

She digs a bullet out of his torso.

It missed all the vital organs, all the major veins, all the important stuff.

But she digs a bullet out of her best mate's torso.

She throws up in the loo twice before she can start working on him again, bandaging everything up nice and tight, and cleaning everything obsessively to eradicate any chance of infection.

Then she doses him with painkillers until he goes to sleep.

She manages to get him out of his pants and shirt and jacket, leaving only his boxers on before coming back and wrapping him in a thin white robe.

Then she seats herself in the chair next to the couch and waits for him to wake up.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

"Nothing gold." She says when his eyes crack open, letting a sliver of light in.

It's their code. Has been for years. It means tell me everything or there is something very wrong.

He sighs. She knows him better than he knows himself.

She hands him a plastic cup of water and watches him try to drink it, liquid sloshing over the rim and dribbling down his chin.

"I-" He rasps. "I'm working for this agency, and..." He tells her everything. He tells her about how the mission had gone to shit, about how his communications device had gotten fried by an electric pulse, about how he couldn't make it back to HQ, about how she was the closest and she had always protected him.

She was still better than him at hand-to-hand.

She slaps him - right on his swollen cheek - and leaves the room for exactly twenty minutes. She throws up sour yellow bile into the bathroom sink because there's nothing left for her stomach to eject and then brushes her teeth and stares at her blurry reflection in the mirror for fifteen of those twenty minutes.

He can probably tell by the dark crescent moons shadowing her eyes and the worry lines on her forehead and the tremors of her fingers that she does not forgive him for this.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

She helps him to HQ, and stares in suspicion at the surroundings of Windermere Research Facility.

When somebody tries to keep her out, she punches them in the gut, knocking the wind out of them, and keeps going, supporting her hobbling best mate.

At this point, the med school has probably guessed that she's not coming back this time.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

They tell her she knows too much. She tells them that she always has.

They ask her if she wants to join them. She asks them if that's a job offer or a threat.

"Fine." She says when the eventually answer her.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Ironically enough, they give her the codename Hiro.

She's never been anyone's hero but Ethan's. She's never been good.

But maybe she can try.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

The last time she ever calls him dearie is when they’re in Barcelona.

They’re walking through a tiny little market, sun beaming down upon their exposed necks, wandering around and waiting for somebody to retrieve them and take them back to HQ.

The sky is so blue it’s hard to believe it’s real, and the old buildings are breathtaking. Ethan stops to look at one for the better part of ten minutes, and she watches him admiring the cathedral with all the patience of somebody who’s been by someone else’s side for their entire lives.

“Come along, dearie,” She says, and she smiles.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

The last thing he says to her is "Goodnight, my Deen, my hero."

Even though she never was.

He was always hers, but she was never his.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

In about 25 years, she'll watch him die.

She'll leave Rosie with Not-Mom Alice and follow him three months after.

She always does end up going where he does.

And besides, if she's not there, who will be there to keep him safe?

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Their story ends much the way it began:

In a morgue hidden in the basement of Windermere Research Facility, there were two bodies.

Their names?

Ethan and Aideen.

The End

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