Author: Sailor Panda PM
An alternate ending to the manga. It's Christmas the season of love, joy, and celebration. And Chrno spends it thinking of his most important person.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - Words: 3,814 - Reviews: 29 - Favs: 17 - Published: 12-15-04 - Status: Complete - id: 2174055
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Promised fic #2. Thanks goes to Asako for beta-reading, introducing me to Chrno Crusade (both the anime and manga), and prodding me into writing this fic which I have ended up liking quite a bit. Thanks also goes to Astral Contract which is hosting a fanfiction contest that prodded Asako into prodding me into writing this fic.
I hope you enjoy!
As the faint light from winter's moon filtered in through the window, bathing the room in a pale blue glow, fragmented images from the dream from which he woke returned to him. He remembered. Then he realized that whether he was awake or asleep had no meaning for he could see the same scenes replaying over and over again in his thoughts no matter what state of consciousness his mind was in.
He wished he were still asleep.
At least, then, he could pretend that it hadn't been real.
The room was cold. But he didn't notice the bite of chilly air as he rose, blanket pooling around his waist as he shifted to sit on the edge of the bed, the faint sounds of creaking springs and rustling cloth the only noise to break the stillness of the silent room. All the while, he studiously avoided looking behind him, not wanting to see the empty spot beside the impression his body had made. It would have been too much to see that other side, smooth and unwrinkled and cool to the touch, so unlike that of crumpled mess he'd made of his, still warm from the heat of his body.
The contrast…it was such a small thing. Such a small thing, so insignificant in the grand scheme of the world and yet…and yet he simply couldn't bring himself to look upon it.
It would have broken his heart again.
Then again, maybe he deserved the pain. No, he did deserve it. Sinners must pay penance for their sins, after all.
And his was the greatest sin of all.
The sin of failing.
The sin of destroying when he was supposed to save.
The sin of killing…one who was the most important to him.
Sins should be punished. Sinners should be punished. And as one who had sinned, perhaps it was only right that he constantly relive those moments of anguish, loss, and pain. He had earned it with his foolishness and to be tormented by the results was only just. An eternity of God's divine punishment…
Even that would not be long enough to grant him atonement.
Faint movement caught his attention, distracting him from his train of thoughts if not the mood that had overtaken him. Drawn by a vague sense of curiosity, he crossed to the window to gaze outwards from within the prison that could force upon him no more solitude than his own heart.
It was snowing.
It was beautiful.
It was cold.
And none of it mattered.
The important thing…his most important thing…wasn't there. Anything beyond that, at that moment, he couldn't bring himself to care. Nothing existed that could penetrate the walls that trapped him, shutting him off from everything else that should dare try. But such a thing was meaningless for, in his quiet surroundings, there seemed to be nothing that even cared to make that attempt.
He was alone. But that was not new. After all, hadn't he always been so? Even amongst his own kind, he'd always felt set apart from them, his views and morals, his wants and needs seeming so much different from theirs, creating an ever-widening gap that was hopeless to bridge no matter how much he may have tried. Then he was labeled a Sinner, forced from the world from which he was born, no choice left but to retreat to the world of mortals and humans.
It was all the same.
That world or this world, in either he was hated; in either he was hunted for what he was. In either, he was different from everyone else. In one, he couldn't even claim to be of the same race. But it was in that one, the ultimate of ironies, that he'd found true happiness, however brief those moments were. Those moments where he hadn't cared about differences because they hadn't mattered to the one that had mattered to him, they seemed so far away now.
Distant sound caught his attention, a welcome distraction, and he absently strained his keen sense of hearing to distinguish the source. Through the pane of glass separating him from the outside world, the hint of laughter and jingling of tinkling bells carried to him on the winter's air. When it was followed by the faint strains of music and voices raised in song, he realized something.
It was Christmas.
He wished he hadn't remembered.
Christmas…a time for love and laughter shared amongst family, friends, and lovers. It was a time of joy and peace and celebration.
And he felt none of those things.
Memories…he had memories of such times, times when he had felt joy, at peace, and full of celebration. They were happy times that filled his heart to overflowing with emotion at the remembrance and hearing now the sounds of joyful revelry in the distance merely brought to home just how far away those memories were, memories once past that could only be seen in his dreams.
If only those were the only dreams and memories he had…
But that was not to be. As if mocking his cherished memories of happy times spent with that important person of his, his mind sought to flash images in a continuous roll of the most painful moment of his life.
Lifeless and unmoving…
The pain in his heart was sharp and stabbing. It matched the pain that sang through his palms when clenched fists curled his fingers and nails inwards with enough force to break skin. And when the scent of blood reached him, he didn't stop, he didn't care.
He'd eaten up her life, caused her death, killed her.
She was gone. And he was alone.
The sound, the sudden brightness, had him whirling around in an immediate self-defensive crouch that froze mid-motion at the sight his eyes beheld. Rooted in place, he could merely stare while calm words laced with a touch of gentle humor floated to him.
"Well, this is hardly the way to spend the holidays now, is it?" The words were accompanied by a familiar impish grin. "Aren't you glad I'm back?"
He finally found his voice, though the sound came out rusty and hoarse. He couldn't seem to bring himself to do anything more other than stare at the vision before him, appearing like a gift from Heaven that part of him was afraid was merely a cruel joke to be snatched away just when he dared to believe that it was true.
The vision regarded him thoughtfully, posed in the threshold with one hand still on the light switch. The longer she stared, the longer the silence between them stretched, the more the welcoming brightness in her smile leaked away. Then she blinked, eyes narrowed, and she was suddenly striding towards him in burst of rapid no-nonsense motion until she was before him and took his hands in hers.
It hurt. But he welcomed the pain. It meant that this wasn't another dream; she was real, she was touching him.
She was here.
"Look at what you did!" Familiar tone, firm but gentle, scolding. "They're deep and they're still bleeding. Geez, I can't believe this. It's a good thing I came back ahead of schedule. Who knows what else you might have done to yourself then!" She shook her head. "Stay here. I'm just going to fetch the first aid-"
He stopped her, with his voice, with his touch. Unmindful of the pain, of the blood that was smearing itself on his flesh and hers, he turned his palms over and took her hands in a firm grip. He stared. Her hands in his, proof that they were together again. Her skin was cold, but the blood beneath rushed hot and he savored the warmth she emitted. He gave a silent prayer thanking whatever powers had brought her back safely to him and held her tight, not wanting to let go.
"Chrno…" Her words were soft, understanding. "We have to treat your injuries."
He shook his head.
She sighed, but made no effort to move away. Suddenly a quiet chuckle filled the confines of the room and, startled by the unexpected sound, his gaze flew from their joined hands to her. He found her regarding him with a mixed expression, part amusement, part sad.
But all of it was affection.
"I really can't think of you as a demon," she said. "And I can't believe that other people would either if they could see you like this. You're too emotional, too sentimental to fit in with the ideas of what people think a demon is."
"I don't care what other people think."
"Liar. If that were true, I wouldn't have seen you hurt by offhand comments cast your way."
"Fine. Then I don't care about other people as much as I do you."
Another sigh. "I didn't think it would be this bad. I'm sorry."
"Why are you apologizing?"
"I shouldn't have taken a mission that would keep me away so long."
"You're back a week earlier than expected." His tone was mild; his eyes were not.
"And the look on your face tells me that it was still too long."
"I don't like it when we're apart."
"Neither do I. But you know why I did."
"Doesn't mean I like it."
"I didn't expect you to." She leaned forward until they were touching forehead to forehead, another connection of flesh other than the link of hands. Her expression was soft, concerned. "Chrno, I want you to stop torturing yourself. It wasn't your fault."
His face contorted. "I know that. I do. But then I remember, and think 'if only I hadn't-'"
One hand broke from his grip to lay gentle fingers against his lips, halting his words. "Those kinds of thoughts never do any good. Besides, the way you're talking is like you're the only one to blame. A contract is made by two people, after all."
"But you died." He jerked away from her then, breaking off contact. And she let him. "I killed you."
"Hmph! I think of dying and being killed as something a bit more permanent." She spread her arms wide. "But here I am. With you."
He shook his head, backed further away.
She lowered her arms. After contemplating the tight expression on his face for a moment, she ended up scratching her head with a rueful look crossing over her features.
"I guess I just can't do anything right these days."
He stared back with wary eyes.
"It's been months since that last battle. Months since Aion and Eden. And I've done everything I can think of since then to help you let go of the guilt and the fear of having me die on you, but we don't seem to getting anywhere. I thought taking a mission without you and showing you that I can come back safe and sound would help, but I was obviously wrong. I just don't know what to do anymore. What is it going to take?"
At her words, her tone, her expression, the guilt in him increased. It made him ache, and though he longed to be able to snap his fingers and be the way she wanted to him to be, all he could do was to tell her the truth as he knew it.
"I don't think there's anything that can be done, Rosette. These feelings…I can't just turn them around because I want to. The image of you," he swallowed hard, "at that time, what I felt when I thought you were dead…I think I could live until the end of eternity and still never recover from it. It was so painful. It still is. It showed me what life would be like if you're well and truly gone, what life will be like." His eyes were full of agony. "I'm killing you bit by bit. After everything, because of me, I've already eaten up most of your lifetime; it feels like I'll see that future without you in it all to soon and I just don't think I can bear it."
With the rawness of his words hanging in the air, she couldn't think of anything to say at that moment. Letting her actions speak for her, she shifted closer to him, her soft gaze meeting his pained one as her arms lifted, hands reaching towards his agonized features. They cupped, caressed, and –
"Ow, ow, ow!"
- pulled painfully hard.
Tears in his eyes for a different reason now, he almost forgot the pain in his stretched cheeks as he took in the glint in her eyes. They were narrowed, dark and –
"Idiot!" she spat angrily. "Do you think you're God? You're acting like you have total command over my life, deciding when I live and die. Well, guess what? You don't. I'm the one who asked for the contract in the first place; I knew what I was getting into. And you know what?"
He opened his mouth but she didn't give him time to answer.
"If I had it to do over again, I still would have done the same. I don't regret making the contract. If anything, I regret that you're hurting over it so. That you seem so resentful of it is the only thing that makes me question my decision."
"In fact," she continued on in a rage as if she never heard him, "at this rate, maybe it would be better if we just got it over with. Just use up the rest of my lifetime and then you won't have to deal this or me anymore!"
His eyes widened.
"The sooner we get it over with, the sooner you can start to move on. I'm just being a burden and seeing you like this is hard on me too, you know." Her hands dropped from his face, reached for the clock. "We can just-"
His hands covered the clock before hers did. Shaking, heart thudding unsteadily in his chest, he stared and met her widened eyes with fire burning angrily in his gaze.
"Rosette!" Fury laced his tone. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
"You- If I hadn't-" He shook his head, for a moment too angry for coherency. "Did you think I'd ever let you pull that off without doing anything? Attempting a stunt like that – are you trying to kill yourself?!"
He resisted the urge to do her physical harm when she actually laughed.
"-I thought that was your job."
He paused, blinked.
She was smiling at him, relaxed. "I want to live. And from your little outburst, I'd say it's pretty obvious that you want the same thing." She laughed again at his baffled expression. "It was good to hear you blow up like that. You have done it since…well, since then."
His gaze narrowed. "You planned that?"
"Oh, don't get me wrong, Chrno. I meant what I said and the tone in which I said it. I didn't like doing it or saying those words. They're mean, cruel even, but…I've been tiptoeing around you trying other methods that were more peaceful, subtle." She grimaced. "I forgot that those aren't exactly my strong points. I was holding back, trying to be kind and considerate while you worked your way through it. But obviously that hasn't worked, was never more obvious if it's gotten to the point where I actually had to switch on the light before you noticed someone else in the room with you."
Another flash of guilt and shame.
"It's okay," she told him, reading him clearly. "For all that you're a 'demon,' you're very human and dealing with those kinds of emotions is part of the package." Changing track, she asked him, "So do you feel better now?"
"After getting angry at me like that." Her smile was teasing. "You know, your hands are still on my…clock."
Blushing, he hastily jerked away.
"Ah," she chuckled. "It's been a long time since I've seen you do that too."
Red-faced and irritated, he glared. "Are you done having fun at my expense?"
"Not even close," she promptly responded. "This is how we were before; it's how I want it to be again. And it hasn't been like this for so long. Now, I'm not completely stupid; I know it'll never be exactly like it was before. But you know something?"
He was listening.
"I think it can be even better."
The expression he gave her was both questioning and surprised.
"We know what we have now, better than we did before. We've also had a glimpse into what it might be like if it was taken away. Both of us have. And I think, because of that, we'll treasure it better and appreciate what we have now even more."
He thought about it, slowly nodded.
Her sudden exclamation startled him, as did the bright smile on her face.
"I've decided! I want to live. You want that as well, I know. But I won't be happy just living on my own. To make my happiness complete, you've got to live too! With me." She poked him in the chest. "That means no living in the past."
"I don't expect you to forget completely. How can I? I wouldn't be able to either. But you've got to stop holding onto those memories so tightly, stop punishing yourself with them."
"I don't know if I can."
"Do you like to see me hurt?"
"No! Of course not."
"Well, seeing you do that to yourself hurts me. Not to mention, it makes me feel guilty myself."
"It's not your fault, Rosette."
"Nor is it yours. See what I mean? It's not anyone's fault, but getting yourself to believe it is hard. And I don't expect it to go away immediately, but I do want us both to be willing to try and let them fade on their own. Stop trying to hold onto them so hard." She wagged a chiding finger at him. "You know how I feel about being negative."
He had to smile at that. "I do."
"I'll try," he conceded. The admission made him feel better. He still had a ways to go, but he felt relaxed enough to slide her a teasing glance of his own. "So you've been holding back, huh? I should have noticed sooner; no wonder why the atmosphere felt so weird with things so calm."
She twitched. "Hey!"
They shared a look. Then they laughed.
It felt good.
"So," she finally said, the hint of laughter still in her tone. "Can I tend to your wounds now?"
"They'll heal soon enough on their own."
"It's the principle, the principle. If I were hurt, would you let me go untreated?"
Knowing he couldn't win, once again he conceded.
"And after we get you cleaned up," she chatted as she swabbed the injuries with antiseptic, "lets join everyone else, shall we? When I bumped into Sister Kate on the way in, she said that you'd told her that you weren't feeling well and wanted to remain shut up in our room for the rest of the holidays. She's worried about you; some of the others are too. It would be nice to put in an appearance just to reassure them that you're okay."
He winced and it wasn't from the antiseptic. "I don't know. I haven't been very friendly lately."
"All the more reason to go."
"I'd really prefer it being just the two of us."
"We won't have to stay long. And after, then it can be just us."
Comfortable silence fell between them. He watched quietly, half-smiling as she set aside the antiseptic and reached for the bandages. As she worked, he finally asked the question that had been bubbling in his mind since he'd first laid eyes on her tonight.
"Why did you come back so early?"
"Silly." She smiled at him. "It's Christmas. When I first took the mission, I thought it would be okay. Even if it would be our first Christmas apart since we met, I thought that it was more important to prove to you that I could come back you. But, you know me. Do first, think later. It wasn't until I was actually on the mission that I thought that it would be harder because it was our first Christmas after everything that happened. I had committed to the job though, so I had to see it through." That impish grin again. "I just saw it through as fast as I could."
He chuckled. "And how much more damage did you cause because of that?"
"Um, I'd really rather not say." She winced. "I'm sure I'll hear enough from Sister Kate after the holiday."
She finished and rose. He did the same.
Flashing him another smile, she took his arm and led the way. "Now, how about that party?"
"Not long, promise?"
"Of course! I want our gift exchange to be private. I can't wait to see what you think of what I got you!" She winked. "Or what you got me. Whatever it is, I'm sure I'm going to like it."
Sliding a sideways glance at the corner desk upon which sat a gaily-wrapped gift, small but big enough for a ring, he let the constriction around his heart loosen and cast a glance to the future. As she led the way, arm linked through his, his response echoed in the room as the door closed behind them.