One week before the very end. Ashley and Sydney.
Ashley honestly thought Sydney had died. Not too long ago, the other man lost his noted "Blood Sin" tattoo to Guildenstern, which put it mildly because the tattoo was cut off from his back. Anyone else would have died of the blood loss, but Sydney didn't, and after everything that happened, Ashley had no reason to be surprised.
The other man looked as healed as he possibly could be. Blood wasn't gushing out of his back, but his eyes looked sunken, his breath came out in gasps, and he looked ready to fall at any time. Still, he walked, determined, making sure that he didn't end up on his knees. Ashley closed the distance, and at the center of the roof, embraced each other.
"Sydney, why are you up here?" He asked, his hand curling around Sydney's blond hair.
"I just wanted to make sure you won. That's all."
"I did. It's okay now."
Sydney pulled away, but only a little. "No, no, this place will collapse. We have to get out of here."
"Where is everyone?" Ashley asked right before the tower started crumbling. "Oh damn!"
"Don't worry about them. They'll be fine!" Sydney tried to run head, but he fell to his knees. "No! I can't have this!"
"It's okay! I've got you!" Ashley grabbed him, pulling him up. "I won't let go."
"You better not," Sydney replied with a chuckle. "I intend to die in a different way."
"No! You're not going to die at all!"
He never gave the other man a chance to respond, because he half-carried, half-walked Sydney down the stairs, down other rooms, and down everything he knew about the now dying city. Monsters didn't concern either one of them because they died. The death of Guildenstern caused the deaths of anything that would get in the way. Stones, however, proved a greater challenge. They fell everywhere, and worse yet, the ground shook, which made things more difficult for Ashley. Still, he didn't give up in the beginning, so no way was he going to give up now. Not with Sydney at his side, doing the best he can, trying to survive for a purpose that Ashley didn't worry about yet.
/The Cathedral. Just gotta get to the Cathedral/! Ashley kept that thought going with each dodge, with each time he almost lost Sydney, but thankfully didn't. /The Cathedral/. He first met Sydney there as an enemy. Now, toward the end of it all, he considered him a friend, or at least a temporary ally.
They finally got out. No more rock gymnastics, no more watching monsters disappear into the darkness, and no more worrying about anyone except for each other. Sydney finally sat down on a fallen pillar.
"Are you okay?" He asked, lowering his head.
"You don't have much room to ask that question," Ashley answered, looking around him. The city died all around him. Small buildings became little more than rubble, while the bigger ones still sustained heavy damage. He didn't see any bodies or the remains of Tyrant. He looked back at Sydney. "I'm okay, though. What about you?"
"I need to get back to the Duke."
"We need to rest first."
"Yes." Sydney nodded. "That too. Ashley, you have the Blood Sin now."
Ashley blinked. He didn't even think about the Rood Inverse until Sydney mentioned it. "It's on my back, isn't it?"
"Yes. I've lost it, and no one else is worthy of it."
Ashley sat next to Sydney. "I'm not going to be like Guildenstern, if that's what you're thinking."
The other man smiled. "I was counting on that. It's why you're here."
They didn't nap in the city; that would have been stupid. Instead, they slowly walked outside, resting once they found a nice, big tree to sit under. Ashley looked back at the dead city.
"I'm not ever supposed to look back, but I'm doing it anyway," he said.
"Don't worry about that now," Sydney replied. "My brother is okay, and so is your partner. Mine, however . . . "
"No, don't be. I'm sure Hardin gave his life to save your friend and my family."
Ashley nodded. "So, what now? Where are you going to go?"
"Back to my father. I have to. We both have sins to pay for and we'll pay them together."
"Wait, what do you mean?" Ashley demanded, not liking Sydney's implication one bit.
"I mean that you have your path and I have mine."
"I'm going to mediate between darkness and light," Ashley answered. "I won't abuse the powers given to me. You always wanted it this way, didn't you? Everything played into your hands, right?"
Sydney nodded. "It took you this long to figure it out?"
"Look, I was just trying to get the job done and move on. I didn't think things would be this way."
"I just need to go back to my father. You'll have a new life then." Sydney handed Ashley a black trench coat. "Here, take this. I found it on the way out of the city. You'll need it."
"Why?" Ashley took the coat anyway, but that didn't stop from wondering.
"Because your backside attracts more attention than my arms do."
Ashley thought of the new tattoo on his back. He had to be honest with himself, he liked it on Sydney, but he also knew that anyone with the intelligence of stone would remember it. "You're right, but you'd attract attention too. What are you planning? What's the rush with going back to your father?"
"He is going to die, so I have to see him before he does." Sydney lowered his head. "It's my last chance for both of us to atone."
"Wait! I have to see him too!"
"Don't worry. I have that all taken care of. You'll see him, yet you won't."
Ashley shook his head. "What do you mean?"
"I'm going to go disguised as you, and then we will both die."
"Die?" Ashley felt a pang in his chest. "No, wait. We, we, how long? How long do you have?"
"A week. Nothing more. We have some time to rest, but not much."
Ashley couldn't believe what he heard. One week didn't amount to anything in terms of time. Even if they were now allies, it wouldn't last, and all that remained would be memories. "Then, we should rest."
Sydney leaned back against the tree. "I have no regrets, and I don't you don't either. Even after what's happened, it's all for the best. You'll be okay." He closed his eyes. "You know what to do."
"Yes, I know," Ashley sat close to the other man, and just held him. He honestly didn't want to do anything else. "I just wish we could have been more than just temporary allies."
"We can still be that." Sydney's lips brushed against Ashley's. "We'll just do it while we can. When I get through with you, a week will seem like an eternity, and all your memories of this will seem like it all happened yesterday."
One week later, Ashley looked up at the Duke's manor, rain masking any tears he might have shed. Once he sensed that Sydney finally died, he just walked to the next destination wearing his partner, Callo Melrose, as a disguise. Guards everywhere looked for Ashley, but they would never be able to find him. Sydney always knew, and it didn't take long for Ashley to figure it out. He had a new life now, one full of memories in short times, and one full of new deeds to be done. Ashley never looked back, but then again, he didn't have to.