Special thanks to my beta, diluain!

Chapter 30

Dinner was more than just painful. Yet, Jason had already made up his mind. His family had the right to know what was going on.

It was Amber who finally broke the silence, "There has to be a way to save you!" Jason could tell that his baby sister was trying hard to keep in her tears. "I'm sure Vince will find a way. He'll find a way to save everyone…"

Jason just smiled, even though it hurt to see Vincent torture himself. He wished he could help, but he knew he couldn't. If he helped, it would only further torment Vincent.

…Whoever came up with the shit, 'Love Conquered All', was definitely living a fucking sheltered life.

Still keeping his silence, Jason sipped his wine as Amber listed out numerous impossible and illogical solutions to the situation. The only other participant of the conversation was his mother. Everyone else was quiet, so quiet that the heavy atmosphere was palpable. Like he could have reached out and grabbed a fistful of gray substance out of thin air.

There was only one solution, after all, and they all knew it.

Sometimes, fighting simply wasn't enough.

"Jase! What are you thinking? Don't go! There's still time to think about this!"

"Time? Amber, there isn't time anymore. Only one week left. In God's world, that doesn't even amount to a second."

Probably, the only regret he would have was to never be able to tell Vincent those three words. There were a lot more things he wished for. Yet, regrets and wishes were, in the end, useless.

He smiled bitterly, feeling so hollow he could have almost wept from the emptiness. Him, Jason Blackwell…wanting to cry? He had never thought it possible.

But it was.

Although he had stopped seeing Jason, Vincent felt like Jason had been with him all the time. He had practically traveled the world, pored over every relic he could find, and searched every corner of Hell…

People always said that hope was a good thing. That hope was something that should and would never die. Hope was what helped people go through their lives, with excitement, with color. With meaning. The driving force that defined life itself, sometimes.

He understood that.

And for four hundred of years, Vincent had taken it upon himself to be the protector of people's hope. For four centuries, he had hoped, with them, for some way out of Hell.

And yet, none of that mattered anymore.

Hope was painful.

Hope was a phantom that he could never touch, an illusion that haunted his mind. He had been drinking from the mirage called hope for all those years, but now, reality had finally caught up with him.

Reality that evaporated hope into thin air, reality that forced him to realize how empty he really was.

Time, the worst of reality. Something he was powerless to stop—something that even gods could not tamper with.

The more one hoped, the more devastating the despair accompanying that hope would be.

And despair was paying Vincent frequent visits, draining him of everything.

It was raining that night. He stared out the tower, drenched and cold. Naturally, Vincent knew what Jason was doing. He knew exactly what Jason was doing. Consequently, his logic and his emotions were at war.

So far, logic had the upper hand. He hated himself even more.

Freedom: such a faraway, elusive cloud.

His fingers twitched when Jason was wounded, but he didn't move from his spot.

He had to wait. Had to wait.

Jason was doing this for him. Fighting off the Neodemons in their lair, his last fight.

Doing this so Vincent could kill him without as much suffering.

…So Vincent could pretend he was killing Jason for another reason.

Vincent curled his legs and hugged them, burying his face in his thighs. His heart was protesting angrily in his ribcage, but he ignored it.

Even with those four hundred years of experience in ignoring his heart, this time it was particularly painful. Particularly suffocating.

He didn't cry, however. He wouldn't let himself feel better.

They were sacrificing their personal hope for the hope of a greater cause, he recited mentally. Hope that Vincent could not share, but hope he had vowed to protect. They had come this far in their fight against God, after all. This was the only way they could come remotely close to winning.

But Vincent didn't feel happy at all. Even as they inched towards victory, he wasn't feeling a bit happy.

Another fatal wound. Vincent winced, his nails digging into his arms and drawing blood.

Finally, after what seemed longer than all his years as the Holy Guardian, Jason appeared on the roof of the building, heavily wounded.

Getting up, Vincent walked towards Jason's broken body. "You've done well," he said softly, staring down at Jason. He chuckled when he noticed that Jason's face was unharmed, but his laughter came out as choking sobs.

Despite his condition, Jason smiled back, triumph gleaming in his undefeated eyes. He was too heavily wounded to speak, his lungs were punctured by broken ribs and his gut had a hole in it.

Vincent gathered himself together and teleported his sword. He knelt down to hold Jason's quivering hand, the tip of his blade poised above Jason's heart. He stared into the sapphire blue eyes, holding the gaze for one last time.

The pouring rain was deafening. The blade was shaking.

Then, his trembling hand dropped the sword, and it fell to the ground with a splash and ringing clatter. "…I can't do it…" he choked, his eyes foggy with tears. "How am I supposed to kill you? I came here to save you, not kill you! I came here, four hundred years ago, for you alone!" He tightened his grasp on Jason's icy hands.

Jason still held onto Vincent's gaze, coughing weakly as blood started to clog his throat. "Vinnie-boy…" he wheezed, barely audible. "Just kill me. Kill me and stop the Program—or everything we've done will be for nothing. Everything you've suffered will be for nothing. I don't want…to be the reason…" His breathing was labored, and yet he didn't show the excruciating agony his wounds were giving him. A smirk twitched the corners of his bloody lips. "You can't…save everyone, Vinnie-boy."

"You're right…I can't save everyone," Vincent agreed, biting his lip, trying to stop himself from trembling. "I can't save everyone, and I don't give a flying fuck anymore—I only want to save you."

Jason chuckled weakly. "…Where the hell's your 'good judgment', Vinnie-boy?" He coughed violently again, and dark, thick liquid gushed from his wounds and lips. "Don't…give up."

Vincent wanted to heal them.

Vincent could heal them.

Vincent had to heal them.

"Good judgment, Vinnie-boy. Don't lose it."

Rain. Mercilessly stabbing his skin with its ice-cold needles.

In the end, Vincent killed Jason. Watched the light go out of those blue, determined eyes. Felt Jason's life slip through his trembling fingers…

Tore his other half apart from him with his own hands.

For hell knew how long, he just sat there, staring into the sky. Rain washed away the blood staining his hands, substituting as his non-existent tears.

Then, the sound of splashing puddles. "Jase!" Amber screamed.

With dispassion, Vincent watched as Jason's sister rushed to her brother, watched her wail as she hugged the lifeless corpse.

Vincent just watched, too far gone in his own despair now. With his own hands, he had killed his companion, his other half. Killed the soul that had been beside him for trillions and trillions of eons. He couldn't imagine that Jason—Shade—was gone. His other half.

…His love.

And the stain on his hands would never go away. The hole in his heart would never be filled again.

"It's all over. He's gone." He didn't say that for Amber. He said that for himself. He had to say it to believe it. Rain was blinding him, and yet he was too weak for tears.

Amber snapped her head up, glaring at him with venomous rancor. "…You! It's your fault!" she snarled. "If you had only…if you had only accepted your destiny! Why didn't you save him? Aren't you our Holy Guardian?"

Why indeed? Why did he have to be so stupid as to ever hope he'd escape this prison called life, why had he ever hoped he could break the chains of 'destiny'?

He wanted to laugh. Laugh at everything, laugh at the ridiculous concept of destiny, but, most of all, laugh at himself for dancing into an elaborate trap.

Destiny was just a load of bullshit for those who wished they knew the meaning to their obviously meaningless life. Destiny was just a fantasy that comforted those who were lost in the void called life. God's stupid plans weren't called destiny.

Jason wasn't destined to die. Vincent wasn't destined to kill Jason.

They had chosen this outcome together, and they were responsible for their choices. Blaming destiny was just escaping responsibility, escaping reality.

How ironic Amber's words came to him. She knew nothing, and she'd be happier off knowing nothing. Ignorance was bliss, after all.

…Ignorance was, truly, bliss.

His fingers curled and dug mercilessly into the flesh of his palms.

Indeed. He wished he had never known what would happen, never remembered anything. Wished he could have just enjoyed the last short years of his life with Jason, believing that they had finally won their little rebellion. Wished he had been able to spend time with Jason without torturing himself with the knowledge he held.

But all of that was just empty wishes now. In the end, he had chosen to remain chained forever, and Jason had chosen to be his chain.

He wanted to shed tears again, but he didn't. Not for his mistakes. Not ever. He hardened his body and stared at the corpse with detachment. Then, he looked up, regarding Amber coolly. Jason had died for her, too. Vincent would respect it.

Take the blame, as always.

…And make her hate him, since he deserved the hate.

"I couldn't save him. I can't save everyone, you know." The words tasted so bitter, but he didn't show it.

Vincent watched her silently, letting her words pierce him like poisonous blades. How he wished she had meant what she had screamed at him.

Amber collapsed to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. "This is a nightmare…this has to be a nightmare…!"

True. It all seemed like a long, long nightmare—a nightmare that had lasted for centuries. A nightmare he would never wake from.

Silently, he replied, "…Sometimes, nightmares can become reality."

When Amber finally went to call for help, Vincent knelt down again and touched Jason's cheek. It was cold, stiff. He kissed the lifeless lips one last time before he stood and gazed at the blond, burning Jason's face into his mind.

Jason Blackwell. Shade.

"I love you," he said softly.

But Jason was never going to hear those words. He was gone, his soul evaporated and dispersed into the imaginary dimension. He was never coming back.

Even dead gods couldn't be revived.

Vincent teleported to the Door, tracing golden symbols with his fingers.

Godslayer—that was who he once had been when he had worked with 'God'.

Godslayer, later known as Vilde—the Devil, the Prince of Darkness.

"Well, God," he said softly, "it's time you and I settle this."

And he left.

The End