Authors's Notes:

This is one of the few pieces that I actually still like, even though it's bordering on a year old at this point. The basic storyline is that the embodiments of Sin and Virtue, (whose true names are Nicolas and Michael, if you're at all curious), have been battling against each other for centuries, until they discover another being who could destroy this balance for them both.

While this was originally one, full length story, I split it up into four installments for this. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

Dedications: To Wenston, who is a great and beautiful and wonderful writer who also gave me an award for this story on another site, to Peri who loved this enough to write me a sequel and to Kitty because she's beautiful and lovely and I love her. Muah!


The red…

I remember you.

The morgue was dark and cold, as such places are meant to be.

The lights had long since been shut out, the living having gone home to their families and warm beds. There was no fear of the more permanent residents going anywhere, for their blood had long since stopped flowing in deadened veins. There was a mechanical hum echoing from deep within the building, the freezer keeping the corpses chilled as they waited so patiently within a wall of metal doors for their time to be buried. Whatever their cause of death, it was no longer important, even while it was forever etched upon each body, as the cadavers lay entombed in a perfect marble cast. No life or blood allowed emotions to writhe across their frozen visages.

The darkness held them all in its cold embrace, no place for the living in the impersonal shadowed surroundings. Somewhere in the building came the sound of breaking glass and then the sound of a door being opened, but no alarm went off. Who, after all, would waste their time breaking into or out of a morgue?

Hard footsteps echoed in the artificial stillness, reflecting off the metal doors and the linoleum floor. A soft whistling sounded from the shadows, and leant an eerie cast to the place, as if the reaper himself were paying a visit, just to look upon his handiwork. A moment later the darkness was broken up by a small flame bursting into life, lasting only long enough to light the end of a cigarette before it had gone out again, only a small glow lingering in its wake. It was shockingly sterile, even in shadows, the place smelling of formaldehyde and ether, though already the wafting smoke was beginning to permeate the air.

The darkness was again shattered in the next second as the stranger flipped a switch setting the row of fluorescent lights flickering to life in a white synthetic glow.

Oh yes, I remember you.

The blood is still on your hands.

"Veritas…" A quiet mocking voice sounded from the man's lips as he shook crimson red hair from his face. Sin, for no other name truly fit, possessed the same cold perfection as the bodies, but a sadistic smirk was etched upon his face. His eyes tilted arrogantly even as they burned the same red as his hair, a preternatural fire lighting fiercely in his gaze. He was dressed simply, in faded jeans with chains hanging loosely from his pockets and tears in the knees. A black tee shirt covered his lean frame, with a faded leather jacket encasing his arms and with worn black boots on his feet. Smoke rose around him in a cloud from the cigarette hanging from the side of his mouth, even as he breathed it in.

Pale fingers with nails stained black trailed along the metal doors, the smile forever on his face. A swagger came into his steps as he walked, tracing lines along the steel surface. "Veritas…I know you're awake. I can fucking feel it." His voice was both harsh and liquid as he paused against the wall, a chuckle escaping his lips with a strange forceful and destructive need. Laughter spilled from his throat, even as he continued with slow measured steps, the sensuous glide of a snake in every smooth movement he made. He slowed again, head tilting slightly as his fingers curled around one metal handle; the dangerous glint flashing sharply in his eyes. "Come out, come out, wherever you are…"

With a sudden, wrenching movement, he yanked the door open, stepping aside as the frigid table rolled from the freezer, a white sheet covering the still form underneath it. The smile on his face grew broader as one hand drifted over the white sheet, hovering just above its surface. He closed his eyes for a minute, feeling the other man's power hovering just below the surface of his skin as life slowly returned to frozen veins.

Cold…

Why won't this end?

Long fingers grabbed the edge of the white sheet, pulling it back to the man's waist. Sin tilted his head curiously as he studied the corpse, red hair spilling across his face and casting his crimson eyes in shadow. The man was undeniably beautiful, even in death, with chin-length hair that was a silver white in color, though it was black at the roots. His eyes were closed, but Sin knew them to be a bright blue that could put the sky to shame. The only thing that marred the seeming perfection was the thick rigid slash across his throat, long since turned black and no longer bleeding. A simple black cross with a circle around it was tattooed on each of his shoulders, but nothing else marred his pale skin.

"I wonder what it will take," Sin mused softly, leaning back against the wall as he studied the other man, inhaling the smoke from a half forgotten cigarette, just before flicking it out across the floor and drawing a fresh one. The other man had shifted slightly, and Sin could hear even from where he stood the steady thudding of his heart as it began to beat again. He closed his eyes, tipping his head back against the cool metal surface. For the moment, the smile was gone from his face, instead his brow creased with something akin to worry, and not quite fear. "How many times must we die?" He had to whisper the words, some amount of despair creeping into his throat as he waited, ever patiently.

It took only a few minutes until the other man groaned, shifting under the sheet, and another few moments until his brilliant eyes flickered open. He stared up at the sterile ceiling for a long time, breath harsh as he drew in air to lungs that had stopped functioning hours ago and feeling the horrid agony as blood began to seep through frozen veins ones more. His skin was on fire with pain as his body tried to remember what it was to live, and his eyes shut, gasping for air as his fists clenched and unclenched. Sin watched on expressionlessly as the man struggled with his own body, but finally blue eyes slipped open, staring again at the glowing ceiling. He had to blink a few times to get his eyes to focus again, but then he caught a glance of the other man in his peripheral vision and his head tilted, staring at Sin with narrowed eyes.

"You," he whispered. "I remember you."

Sin chuckled, tossing his hair from his face. "Of course you do." For a moment his red gaze met the other, holding his eyes for a long time, letting him gain some measure of just what they both were, eternally, and inescapably. Then his eyes fell away, the grin back across his face as if the hand of the sculptor who had formed him had carved it there. One hand pulled a knife from inside his jacket, toying with the blade and ignoring the feel of the others eyes upon his skin. His gaze was focused only on the cold steel within his hands, running fingertips over the razor sharp edge and reveling in the blood that pooled on the freshly made cuts. "Do you remember what would happen if I slit my own throat with this?" he asked, raising an eyebrow and tilting his head at the woken corpse.

You're bleeding again.

My blood.

Veritas was staring at him with narrowed eyes, resignation showing in his gaze as the memories began to return to him. Death always had a strange effect on them, though he was inclined to laugh at that thought as well. They were only dead for a little while before the turning of life ripped them back up from their graves, pitting them against each other in an eternal battle. Whatever their true names had been were lost somewhere in the dark past, torn from them as brutally as they had cut each other apart. It had been so long and each death ripped more of their memories away from their minds. After so many deaths, that they had forgotten anyone that had existed in their past, as well as themselves.

All that existed now was the killing.

"I would do it for you, but the result would be the same," Veritas said harshly, twisting around on the cold metal and keeping the white sheet wrapped around his waist. The strange and sad hatred that Sin had always associated with the other was back in his face, but Veritas could find only sorrow in his heart. "Have you come to kill me again?"

Sin laughed again, straightening and ignoring the drops of blood that fell in tiny tears upon the ground. For a moment, the smile slipped away, in full view of the man that was in every way his antithesis, and he did not see the disturbance echoed on the other's face. For the one brief instant, his arrogance and certainty wavered, though Veritas could not see why, and confusion replaced his cold expression. "I should, I really fucking should," Sin said slowly, looking down at his fingers again as the knife dug into the skin of his palm, drawing a long bloody red line, watching as if it were another's flesh, and not his own pale skin that bled so easily. "It's what we do, isn't it?" He laughed harshly watching the red liquid well up on his flesh, and ignoring the shocked and confused stare he was receiving.

They had been enemies for the entirety of their existence, and yet they knew each other better than anyone else alive, better than they knew themselves. They could never be friends, even if they wanted to. It wasn't in their nature. Not when one was the embodiment of mortal sin and the other was named for the truth and virtue he was meant to uphold.

And yet at the same time, the world was changing around them, even if they did not, and the old lines of black and white were fading into shades of gray.

I think I hate you

My blood is all over your hands.

He sighed heavily, sheathing the knife and meeting Veritas' gaze squarely, the doubt gone from his eyes, only a strange despair that shocked the paragon of Virtue. They stared at each other as if for the first time, and yet it seemed a wider abyss than the foot of cold air separated the two. Centuries of pointless battle, of killing each other a thousand times and rising again a thousand more, of forgotten memories and bloody wounds, and yet never in all that time had they simply stopped and wondered if there was any other way. It was impossible in every shape of the word, for Virtue and Sin could never exist side by side, their own existence prevented it, and yet for a moment, in the strange stillness of the morgue, it hovered like a vague hope in the back of both their minds.

"I came to ask for your help," Sin whispered quietly, unable to speak the words any louder, as if they would shatter like glass. It was only because it was such a strange moment that Veritas did not slay the other then and there, though he had no weapon at hand. Instead he merely stared up at the red-haired man, smelling the acrid stench of smoke as it wafted from the end of his cigarette. He stared at Sin, face emotionless even while on the inside he was shocked. The other man seemed shaky and unsure of where to start, completely unlike the darkened creature of pain and destruction Veritas had been hunting for all of his existence. He found himself more willing to listen than he would have been years ago, for he too had grown weary of the same fight, watching and waiting with interest for whatever news had shocked the other so thoroughly.

"There is a man. A real bastard. His name is Azriel," his eyes were narrowed and Sin had turned to stare at the floor again, taking a long drag from the cigarette that was already burning out. He didn't even notice when the flames reached his fingers, burning his skin as it turned to ash. "I don't even know…" He laughed harshly shaking his head wildly and sending the two rings in his ears to clink against each other as red locks flashed about his face. "He's bad news. Worse than me, if you can believe it. He fucks up everything and I…I don't think that I can kill him by myself."

He had to turn his face away, unable to meet his enemies gaze as a tear slipped from one of his eyes, hating that his weakness was there for the other to see. He needed Veritas, whether he could find the words to admit it or not. It was stupid that he felt this way, and felt it so strongly; the despair that had wormed its way into his veins and was seeping through his skin. Never in his life had he felt so worthless than on the instant he had looked upon Azriel, a being so perfect he could only be an angel fallen. The being that was both Virtue and Sin so wholly that the entire fabric of his being felt as if it were being torn in two. He understood, with a horrid certainty that here was the one who could replace him. If he were to die again, this time it would be forever, and the fallen angel would take up the powers of Sin, become all that he was. Take away his only reason for being.

A part of him wanted to let it happen. Part of his soul cried out so fiercely for the grave that it felt like agony every day he took another breath. But at the same time, centuries of this life had seared it into his blood. He was Sin. It was who he had become after too many years to count, and he was not ready to let it go, especially to a being he could not help but hate. It was ironic in a way, that he hated the one most like him and could hold such respect for the man he should have killed even now.

Why won't this stop?

It always hurts...

"If I die again, than I'm dead for good. He'd take my place. So I guess what I'm asking is which of us you'd rather see dead," Sin said softly, forcing a smile upon his face and turning his blurred red gaze to the other man who still sat on the edge of the steel table, staring at him. The strangeness of the moment did not escape either of them, aware that they were separated from frozen corpses by a wall of metal doors, and that one still held the barely healed scar across his neck from a death too recently awakened from. They both knew that they should be trying to kill each other, for the nature of the universe would allow no other outcomes. Neither could die, and yet neither should live.

No emotions or secrets were visible behind Veritas' brilliant blue eyes, as he simply watched and studied the other man. After a while, Sin shifted again, turning his gaze away and lighting up another cigarette, tension hanging as heavily in the air as smoke. He stared off into the room, not able to meet the other's gaze. It was very possible that Veritas held the key to his life or death. What hurt worse was that he was still trying to make up his own mind about it.

"I'll tell you what," Veritas said suddenly, startling the other man so much his cigarette slipped from his fingers. For a moment, a smile hovered across the virtue's face, and he saw an unusually hesitant one crease Sin's features. His train of thought slowed for the moment, staring at the other and trying to work out in his head what this all meant. He knew he had the opportunity to kill this man, if he wanted. His own death still hung heavily upon him, remembering the horrid darkness that he felt every time his life slipped away from the overused shell of flesh. And yet he had done the same to Sin so many times he had lost count. It had created a strange bond between the two, and yet now he knew he could free the other. To stop the neverending circle for one of them, even if Veritas could never be free. If it was what he wanted.

He could let him live. Or he could set him free.

"Let me get out of here," he said, mind snapping back into focus. A wry smile creased his face. "Then we'll talk."

Sin smirked, rising from his spot against the wall and trying to regain some semblance of who he was. This was uncharted territory, for as long as they had lived and died, they did not work together. They had never been allies in any sense of the word, Sin indulging in whatever gave him even the slightest bit of pleasure. He had been a murderer, for the pure thrill of watching another die, and he knew that Veritas could not forget that, not when Sin still felt no guilt over it. Veritas of course, was the epitome of all that was good and pure, practically incapable of being anything short of a saint in actions, even while he withered into ash on the inside. It had reached the point now where they were both empty of anything except living for the next day, for another chance to kill one another.

Veritas followed him wordlessly, trying to rub some feeling back into his hands and arms. He felt somewhat vulnerable, covered only in the white sheet and trailing after a man he knew he should kill now and damn the consequences. He was surprised when the moment he walked out the door he was struck in the chest by a bundle of clothes, and Sin's grinning face staring at him. "Catch," he chuckled belatedly, and Veritas only stared back at him with a strange look on his face, even as the other turned around to let him get dressed.

"You're not worried I'll stab you in the back?" Veritas asked, even as he pulled the loose jeans on, gaze still focused on the other man's back. There was nothing on his face to betray whether or not he was serious, and Sin remained where he was, leaning against the wall and lighting up a cigarette, laughing softly at some private joke. He ignored the other for a moment, shaking his hair and spilling red locks over his face as he stared down at the ground. "You are truth. If you wanted me dead, you wouldn't bother with this charade. Besides," he added, glancing over his shoulder with the grin forever on his face, for a moment his gaze drifting over Veritas' frame. "You're not armed."

"Like it would matter," Veritas responded, yanking the tee shirt over his head as he brushed past him, rubbing the fresh scar on his neck. Sin watched him go, smoke floating about his head in a heavy cloud. He hesitated, all the doubt clouding his mind making it impossible for him to move for an instant, frozen and unable to deal with the desperate choices that were forcing his hand.

"No," he whispered after a moment, dropping the cigarette to the ground and snuffing out the embers with his foot. "I suppose it wouldn't."

I am truth.

And you are death.

-†-