Valentine said that there was a war coming. Maybe that's why I was so uneasy everywhere I went after that night. I wasn't sure whether or not Valentine was a nutcase or a saint, but he knew enough about me that I just couldn't let what he said get away from me…

December 9th. Evening.

Cody Maroon woke up beside his lover with morning wood. It seemed impossible that it was already eight o'clock, but two extra glances at the alarm clock confirmed it and he rolled out of bed groggily. He staggered into the bathroom and stripped out of his boxer-briefs and climbed into the shower.

He worked the third-shift at The Queen – a local gay bar only a few blocks away – as a bouncer. The job didn't seem fitting, as his size was a little less than average. Not that he was short; it's just that he had very little muscle. Hell, he hardly had anything to him; the longer black hair with the red bangs was the biggest bulk of his body. And, while the shift didn't start until nine (and it only took him about fifteen minutes to be completely ready), he always loved to wake up an hour early so that he could spend more time with his lover.

He was brushing his teeth with one hand while applying shampoo with the other when his boyfriend Michael's voice echoed in the bathroom. "Cody, you've got mail. I put it on the table."

"Thanks, Michael."

"Yeah, no problem." said Michael and then, "Just hurry up, will you? I'd sure hate to come in there and get you out."

"Oh, don't tempt me to take my time." Cody humored before dipping his head under the faucet to rinse out his hair as he spit out the toothpaste.

He finished his shower and strode out of the bathroom naked, toweling out his hair and winking to Michael, who traded rooms with him. Michael would be taking his time in the shower tonight, Cody knew, as his lover didn't work tonight – he had a business meeting in the market town of Haytea. When the bathroom door closed, Cody tossed his towel to the bed and picked up his piece of mail from the counter. The envelope was light red and there was no return address, so he opened it with caution.

Inside, there was a single folded piece of paper printed in dark red script and he pulled it out.

meet me at the rooftop. 8:30 and don't be late.


"'The fuck is this?" Cody asked aloud, but he knew exactly what it all meant. He knew what rooftop the letter referred to, and something about the style of the letter told him this wasn't just some random stalker.

There was something familiar about this one. He checked the clock, rushed into some clothes and took off out the door without saying a word to Michael.

Cody's home was a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in a complex at the heart of Magnus-Kharlon. The city itself was a metropolis of epic proportions; a multibillion populace known internationally for its lively nightlife. For this, it was not uncommon for the majority of citizens to work under the moonlight, as the sunlight these days was far too much to bear.

An elevator took him to the first floor where he exited the complex and strolled to a parking garage. It was at the roof of this garage where he knew this Valentine could be found…

(Cut Scene)

The roof was always empty at this time of night, leaving a barren plot of concrete with yellow parking lines and two empty security towers. Cody walked cautiously beneath the light of the streetlights with the gentle night breeze brushing back his bangs. His clothes were fit to his body and black – black shoes, jeans, and a black shirt with matching gloves – with the exception of his white duster.

From the shadows there came the voice. The voice Cody had expected. It had a familiar hum to it, but it was ultimately unknown to his mind.

"You're early."

Cody stopped. His ears traced where the voice was coming from – from his right – but he did not turn to face the mystery man. He would allow the stranger to face him if he meant so much.

"I'm always early," Cody said briskly, "though you knew that already, didn't you?"

"I didn't expect much less from you, if that's what you're asking." The voice replied, and he could sense the figure pacing around in an arc to bring him just to the edge of the lighting. "You must have some questions for –"

"Who are you?"

"Didn't you read the signature?" The voice chuckled, "I am Valentine. I have –"

"Show yourself then, Valentine."

There was a short silence – so short, Cody almost turned and left out of impatience – but then the voice said, "You are not ready for that."

"Then I am leaving," said Cody, and he turned to leave.

A hand wrapped around his shoulder, but did not turn him around. It was a grip he had felt before, but his mind wouldn't place where. He closed his eyes and tears fell from between the mascara and the eyeliner. He reached up with his gloved hand and touched it to the stranger's equally gloved hand. There was a sensation felt from this and Cody suddenly didn't care so much about the appearance of his visitor. He did not want to move from this moment. Yes, he had an idea at that moment who his visitor was, and he understood why his appearance was so pivotal to be kept hidden.

"Did you bring me out here in the cold just to torment me, Mr. Valentine?" He asked, noticing the first of the snowfall reflecting off the lighting above. After a moment's silence, he added, "Then tell me why you brought me."

"A war is coming. I want –"

"I don't care. How does this affect me at all, except the taxes?"

"Because it is your lover who caused it."

"Bullshit, Valentine. Bullshit." Cody whirled around and saw only a remnant of his visitor disappear back into the shadow. Another tear provoked his makeup to linger down his cheek, but he did not care. "Michael is a respectable employee of a fucking toy company, Valentine. What did he do to cause a war? Replace Barbie's head with a G.I. Joe dick? Christ knows that wouldn't even be enough for a war."

"It's not about his job as a third-shift doll-maker, Cody. It's about his associations with Machine."

"Machine?!" Cody took a step back and threw out his arms, "You're a fucking nut job, Valentine. Get your shit straight. I can't possibly be the right guy, because there's no fucking way that Machine and Michael even fucking know each other."

"Cody –"

"No!" He screamed, "Fuck you, man! I know exactly who the fuck you are, and you're dead. You're fucking dead, Lawrence, so just stay the fuck –"

He clapped a hand to his mouth, his sentence fading behind the palm. Valentine had stepped into the light, and Cody realized with distinguished horror why his appearance was kept secret.

The man before him stood in a mustard yellow fox mask with a mass of unclean, frizzy blond hair. His suit was a simple black belt across the hips of a red jumpsuit, filled with holes caused almost surely from bullet spray and there were darker shades of red around each hole. Valentine's appearance was kept hidden, as he knew he was monstrous to newer eyes.

Cody fell to his knees, throwing his face in his hands to sob as, above him, Valentine disappeared off the roof and into the skyline via cablegun. The snow seemed to fall harder with every passing second, but Cody's conscious being disregarded this as he was far too overwhelmed now to care about anything else. He knew he would be calling in sick tonight…