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Sicheng never thought he'd spend his birthday night going on a killing spree.

Any other night this would be routine—suit up, gun up, get the job done as quickly as possible so you can get some decent sleep before your actual job—but tonight, his birthday night, should be spent locked in the poor excuse of an apartment he calls home doing mindless zapping and eating takeout. It's basic human decency, although Sicheng doesn't expect his boss to have a pinch of that. Decency doesn't exist in his dictionary.

So here he is. He's suited up. Gunned up. Memorized the address, floor and apartment of the target. Targets. Five men minus the bodyguard Sicheng's already taken out and that is now lying face-down on the floor, drowning in his own pool of blood.

Happy birthday to me.

At least he got to have some knife action, his weapon of choice since he was, what, seven? Even at that age he found guns boring. So cold. So impersonal. So loud. Nothing like the feeling of a razor-sharp knife slicing the skin, silent as death. Does that line of thought make Sicheng a psychopath? Of course not, that’s just his life philosophy. It’s what you get when you replace actual parenting with slasher movies.

It's been about fifteen seconds since he sliced that guy's throat, and normally he'd have bursted into that room and finished the job by now but he can't do that yet. Why? Because his partner is running late again.

This is actually on Sicheng. He knows Ten is always late by definition and that's why Sicheng usually picks him up at his place before a job, but tonight, on Sicheng's birthday night, Ten decided to come on his own. And Sicheng agreed. So, yeah, it's on him. 

The worst part is Ten knows it's Sicheng's birthday so Sicheng expected him to at least have the courtesy to arrive on time. It's not like he's physically incapable of sticking to a schedule. It didn't seem like it when they went out on their so-called dates. 

Maybe Ten is only early when there's fucking involved. Is that all Sicheng means to him? Doesn't he know Sicheng chooses knives over guns, that he's a romanticist at heart? Oh, the dating world is tough.

"Hey, you."

Sicheng wishes he didn't get goosebumps every time he hears his voice.

Ten is wearing his usual all-black suit, the one that gives him his code name. Crow. Although if Sicheng had to describe him he'd say he's a different type of animal, one on the feline side. Calculating. Deadly.

Ten's cat eyes take in the corpse at Sicheng's feet and the ever-growing pool of blood. "Looks like the party's already started."

"You're late."

"I'm sorry." Not a second passes and Ten is already a breath away from him, gracing the neck of Sicheng's navy-blue suit with his phantom touch, "I had to take care of something."

Everything about Ten is breathtaking. He has that kind of timeless beauty, one you'd find staring back at you from a centuries-old painting buried inside a pyramid. The beauty of pythons and poisonous flowers. 

A beauty that's forgotten about Sicheng's birthday. Of course he has. Ten's always preferred the distant kiss of the gun, not the blade.

Sicheng summons his best stoic self, "That's not very professional of you."

"You're gonna tell on me?"

"I'm not a snitch. I just don't like waiting."

Sicheng swallows as Ten's fingers make their way to Sicheng's neck, then down, down to close around his tie, pulling just enough to grab Sicheng's attention, "Then let me make up for it."

Their lips are centimeters apart now. Ten could drag Sicheng down and close the distance with just a slight pull from Sicheng's tie if he wanted to, but that's not in Ten's fashion. Ten likes to bait.

Sicheng musters all the will power in his body to stand still. "Let's just get the job done, Crow."

Ten purses his lips. He hates when Sicheng uses his code name. "As you wish, Reaper."

Ten lets go of his tie and steps back, and it takes Sicheng a few seconds to come down from the Ten cloud. Once the air clears he sees Ten crouching to leave a small bag on the floor, where the guard's blood doesn't reach. "What's that?"

"Nothing."

"Is that why you were late?"

Ten's eyes give away nothing. "Rule number three, don't share personal information with your partner."

Right.

Sicheng turns to the door and gets his gun ready, and a few seconds later Ten does the same. It'd be great if his heart took the racing down a notch but maybe that's too much to ask when Ten has decided to wear the same cologne that is still clinging to Sicheng's bedsheets. He just had to wear it tonight, on Sicheng's birthday night. How cruel.

Sicheng puts his hand around the handle and looks at Ten. Ten nods.

Fucking show time.

Sometimes Sicheng wishes he wasn't this good at his job. A true bloody massacre is what he longs for but instead he gets this, four men in their underwear playing poker. They're not even armed, who are these clowns? Maybe they're just regular people. Politicians, probably, given the bodyguard.

It all ends in less than twenty seconds.

"Amateurs," Ten says with a scoff.

Sicheng contemplates the scene with a grimace. A few chairs got turned over and a layer of cigarette smoke hangs over the corpses like fog on a still river. Not a whole lot of blood which is always anticlimactic. Sicheng can't believe he dragged himself out of bed for this.

"Let's get out of here," he says.

It's a painful elevator ride. Ten is unusually quiet and Sicheng can't shake this unsatisfied feeling off him, this hunger for ultraviolence. He should become a serial killer. This job is too tame for him.

Ten only breaks the silence to offer to be the driver. An unintentional birthday present.

As they drive away from the crime scene Sicheng gazes out to the city in despair. He should be glad they managed to do a clean job, it means he'll get five hours of sleep instead of his usual three. Five hours of sleep between sheets that still smell like Ten.

He should end it. Ten isn't interested in him, not really. He barely tells him about his personal life and always insists on meeting in Sicheng's place or some random motel. It's clear they're both looking for very different things.

By the time Ten pulls up at Sicheng's place, Sicheng's already made up his mind. The street is quiet and deserted when he turns to Ten, "I think we should stop seeing each other."

Ten's face falls. "What?"

"I think we're looking for different things. At first I was okay with it but—"

"What do you mean, different things?"

Sicheng shrugs, "I'm not really into casual stuff. I wish I was because I kind of like you and you knowing what I do for a living makes things a whole lot easier, but I can't change the way I am. I'm a knives over guns type of guy."

Ten just stares at him. A single car rushes by and lights up his face and the blood stains on his left cheek. Sicheng resists the urge to wipe them off.

"Are you saying," Ten says, "that you wanted us to be something... more?"

"Yeah."

There's a beat of silence. Ten lets out a long sigh, "Close your eyes." 

"What?"

"Just close them."

Sicheng does as he says. There's some fumbling and the crunchy sound of a plastic bag, then the distinct click of a lighter. 

"Alright, open them."

Oh. That's why he was so late.

Ten's face is lit up again, but now because of the warm light of a candle. A candle that's stuck right in the center of a pink cupcake.

Ten smiles, "Happy birthday, Sicheng."

If Sicheng had been raised by rom-coms he'd say his stomach has been taken by the butterflies, but what Sicheng really feels are the sharp, sweet cuts of the blade.

"You remembered."

"Of course I remembered. I was gonna ask you out on an actual date but then you pulled the Crow card on me."

An actual date. So Ten also wants something more?

"I… don't know what to say."

"Just blow the candle, it's starting to melt."

Sicheng does. First wish, that their first actual date goes well. Second wish, that their next job is a bloody one. Third wish, uh, whatever, the other two are enough.

Sicheng looks at Ten through the candle smoke and furrows his eyebrows, "You really want to go out with me?"

"Of course I do, dummy."

"But… you're a guns over knives type of guy."

Ten reaches out and cups Sicheng's face with his hand. Nevermind the candle, Sicheng's body is the one that melts. "You're aware that doesn't make any sense, right?"

"Sure it does. There's nothing more intimate than the kiss of the blade."

Ten gives him his feline grin and leans forward, just enough to grab Sicheng’s attention. “You sure about that?”

Bait.

Here's the thing, Sicheng doesn't like admitting when he's wrong yet sometimes the truth is so glaringly obvious that he has no choice but to do just that, and this time it's Ten the one who's right. His lips might not cut, but they're just as sweet.