CHAPTER 1

Yes, there WILL be smut in this here series, so if you are chaste of heart and hand… BEWARE!

. . .

Kidding with the hand comment, guys, hahahah, BUT! You DO need to prepare yourselves for lotsa Maeda Jun x Yanagi Nagi songs! They are AWESOME and match this fic well (like the title, for example!). But then, for some reason, as I'm planning things and writing ahead, Shane Harper's "Hold You Up" is pleasantly surprisingly evocative of the emotions in here…? I'm not kidding. I LOVE IT because it resonates with this and is so very… whatever, you guys don't care. I wanna leave the pairing a surprise (depends on if the summary thing let me), and (lame) translations will be provided in and outside the text. Try not to let OOCness get to you too much, yeah? And forgive me medical inaccuracies, I'm researching, but it's damn HARD to get information sometimes!

DISCLAIMER: I DON'T OWN KARNEVAL, ONLY MY OCs (Reine).

OxO

From the End of the World

Acrid smoke poured forth into the sky, and against the night sky the funeral pyre flared a beautiful red, dark and deep and devious as blood. Even when the fire ate at her clothes and tore at her body, Rei didn't stop—the only thing she could think of was finding him. Her one and only friend.

If she didn't…

She imagined the world without him there, to protect her. To keep her from the loneliness. Which was creeping in closer and closer and closer, even as the conflagration raged on and everything was consumed and destroyed.

Her steps faltered as a loud boom resonated, and her eyes widened when the familiar rosy spires of what had been her prison split and fell, crashing into the grounds below. Another explosion of dust sounded a second after, and another and another. Even as the rest of the palace collapsed and her world burst and fell to ashes, she ran forward through the palace gate, past the burning gardens and the silently screaming greensward sentinels she'd named with him.

It's all my fault, she thought, barreling through the last line of flaming rosebushes. If I hadn't said that, he wouldn't have… he wouldn't

Her steps faltered as a crack rang out, loud and close. She looked up, and her body stopped moving completely as the great big tree of wishes in the garden's center split and cracked and fell behind her, on her, the garlands everyone had tied together spiraling down, around her, to the earth, in a whirl of black and white and red. Bright, fiery red.

Everything was red as the tree pinned her to the ground, the heat warming her and telling her it would be all right as bits of fire started eating at her again.

Everything will be all right, his voice assure d her, and she closed her eyes. Everything will be…

"…all right," Reine murmured, opening her eyes.

She quickly closed them again at the bright shafts of sunlight falling in from above. With a small sigh she sat up and stretched, yawned as the last bits of sleep floated away with the afternoon light. She opened her eyes completely when she remembered, and a small smile lit her face.

"Today's the party in Touji."

Reaching over to the nightstand, she groped around until her hands found the eye patch. She languidly sat up and rubbed the grit from her left eye before she slipped the patch over it, shrugging out of the hospital garb as she did. "I have to hurry," she mumbled to herself, sifting around under her bed until she found the small bag she'd packed earlier that in the day, before she'd taken her nap. "I need to leave before he comes by…"

"Before who comes by?"

At the doctor's familiar voice, she looked up and heaved a sigh. "I want to go to the Touji festival, since Tsukumo is performing. Nyanperona's going to be there too."

"I don't see how it matters, since you've already seen the performances countless times already."

"Seeing it on film isn't the same as seeing it live," she muttered, slowly making her way to the window. She placed a palm on the cool glass and sighed at the white walls empty of the colorful flags and streamers she knew would be decorating the little harbor town miles and miles away from here. "And nothing is the same as doing it yourself."

She laid her cheek against the glass, pulled away when the one-eyed wraith in the glass coughed.

"You know perfectly well why you can't."

She wiped at the bright splatter of red on the clear glass, leaving a smear that fell away and disappeared into the short fall of pink in the reflection. There was a noise behind her, the rustle of paper and the crackle of sheets, and another sigh left her lips. "Stop watching over me, Akari. You seem like a stalker. It makes me uncomfortable."

The reflection of the man ignored her and continued on with its work, the quiet clink of tools behind her the only sound in the otherwise quiet room.

It annoyed her.

"You should leave," she murmured, turning to look at him. But their eyes didn't meet. They never did.

That situation suited the both of them quite well.

She opened her mouth, and he plopped a thermometer in.

"High," he noted as he took it out.

She rolled her eyes with a soft snort. "Isn't it always?" Her body maintained a constant temperature of more than ninety degrees. This was fine with her, since she liked the heat—it was comforting and reassuring.

Not at all like this guy, she thought as Akari removed a syringe from the medical kit. "Today's just a simple injection. Once I finish, you can get back to your failed escape attempt."

"There's no need," she said, turning her face away as he bent closer to her. She pulled aside her hair, a lock of pink falling free as a small pinprick of pressure appeared by her ear, below her jawline. "Whenever you're with me, I don't feel like playing with anyone else anymore."

As always, her comments earned no rise from him, and a smirk pulled softly at her cheeks. She admired how Hirato always managed to move him to lively red-faced anger when her words did nothing to chip away at his cold stoniness. To her he was ice, and for she that thrived in flames his presence was anathema.

She was often required to stay in the Research Tower though, for all the health issues that arose around her, because of her, so she had to deal with him whether she liked it or not.

She didn't like it.

The pressure lifted, and she let the curtain fall between them.

"Azana was waiting for you in my office, but I'll let him know you don't want to see anyone."

A small frown pulled her face down, but it quickly straightened out when he raised a brow at her. "No need to trouble yourself," she murmured coolly, quickly edging past him for the door—she didn't want him to touch her more than necessary. "You do enough already."

More than enough. So much that she wished he would leave and never come back.

That last thought forced a sniff from her. She was starting to become like those nurses she disliked so much.

Her steps sped up when she felt him near but getting farther away, and when she rounded the corner to Akari's office and saw the reason why, annoyance kindled in her, refreshing and welcoming. She always tried to keep her anger from showing, but her body always responded by increasing its temperature to match, and so she was several degrees warmer by the time the nurses finally noted her presence.

"Azana." Her call hadn't been loud—she had rarely spoken above a murmur the past six years—but he heard her anyway, and when he turned around the faces of the nurses surrounding him flattened into neutrality. His countenance relaxed considerably though, despite the scowl on hers, and he hurried to her.

"Reine, I was going to come find you!"

"I'm not seeing anyone right now," she told him. He blinked owlishly at her for a moment before belatedly replying. "Oh. Well, um, okay… then."

"Since I'm not seeing anyone right now, it'd be fine if you wanted to stay with me for a bit." She smiled at him then, a small, fleeting thing that couldn't have been all that bright, but a beam lit his face in return. The warmth that had been flowing rapidly through her lost some of its hostility and centered comfortably in the middle of her chest as he took her outstretched hand and positioned himself on her good side, where she could see him.

"You have a funny sense of humor Reine," he laughed, in his usual quiet, self-conscious way. A heartfelt sense of contentment settled over her, and instead of answering she merely pointed the direction, and he started them on their way. She all but ignored the turn of heads, acknowledging them only by latching onto Azana and holding him closer to her. What she did and who she did it with was none of their business, but the staff at the Research Tower, particularly the female personnel, always made it a point to hide her away. Not that their interference worked—Azana sought her out once his official business was done. Always.

She laid her cheek against his sleeve and slowly rubbed back and forth. "How long are you staying this time?" she asked.

"Well, I'm expected back on the shuttle in about one hour, so…not that long."

She slowly exhaled. That would have to do then. "What do you want to do, Azana?"

"I, um… can we go to your room? I have something to give you."

Curiosity turned over in her stomach, and she bit her lip. "Okay."

Beneath her fingers his body warmed, though if it was from bashfulness or her she couldn't tell. They walked together in quiet until they reached her door, and she gently ushered him in, locking the door behind her as she did.

She didn't want anyone to disturb what little time they had together.

She walked over and fell onto the sheets, her legs wind milling in the air for a few seconds before falling back. "Azana—"

"What… that's…"

Reine sat up, and when she looked over Azana was standing in front of a large canvas splashed with swirling paints. "That's something I did a long time ago. I couldn't finish it," she said, standing up and walking over. A small exhalation sounded beside her, and a hesitant hand rose above the whirls of dye. "It…"

"It's dark," she finished. And it was. The painting was one of the brightest memories she could conjure up. Under a sky dark and fathomless as humanity's evil the world paid for its sins and burned, wisps of blood curling into the darkness.

Azana sighed. "It's beautiful," he corrected. "I see the wolf at the bottom, but… is the dark bird a phoenix? Its tail is trailing in the fire. Because it's being reborn from the fire?"

"You're really smart, Azana," she said, laying her head against his shoulder. A tremor ran through her body as he laughed, a breathy, self-conscious thing. "No, I just like looking up as much as I can about the… things I care about."

Her head shot up in interest. "They have a phoenix in Vinto?"

"No, but it's… good to be prepared." He shifted around, and Reine tilted her head when he brought out a small package. "They have these in Vinto though. It's, um… a small gift for you."

"What… is it?"

"It, um… it's a cactus." He blushed when she tilted her head, her one eye narrowed.

"Azana, I'm… hot. I might kill it."

He waved his hands. "Oh, no, that won't happen this time! This plant can survive in the heat, and it doesn't need that much water, so..."

At her silence, Azana stopped and looked down. "Well, it's, um, very prickly, and it's sort of… small. And, uh, well… I'd get it if you didn't like it, so—"

He stopped when she wrapped her arms around him. "I like it," she murmured, burying her head in his chest. "It's like me."

"Reine is—"

"Short, prickly. Hot."

And sort of wet, sometimes.

Her innocent Azana didn't need to know that though.

She sighed and pulled away. "I don't have anything for you…"

"No, it's fine," he replied. "I… seeing you smile is good enough. Akari-sensei says you don't do it enough."

"That's because there isn't much to smile about without Azana there." That earned her a blush, and she smiled again so that she could pull her face into a pout. "And Azana's going to leave now."

"Oh, right. Time is up." He sighed.

Pulling his arm, she led him to the door. "I'll walk you."

He laughed when she ran into the door jam. "I'm going to walk you," he corrected with a kind laugh. He gave her a gentle push through and closed the door. "Why don't you cut your hair, Reine?" he asked as he led her down the halls towards the shuttle landing.

"I want it to grow as long as it can, before it has to go short again."

"Oh, right." They walked for a moment before he spoke again. "Um, your painting… I understand the phoenix, but… what does the wolf mean?"

Slowly, she took her hand out of his. When he turned to look at her she smiled, and, standing on her tip toes, gave him a kiss on the cheek. As his breath hitched, she leaned farther and whispered into his ear, "It's a secret" before she took a step back.

"Since I didn't have a gift for you, that'll have to do for now," she smiled, patting him on the cheek before she made her way back to her room, where she sat in silence for the rest of the day, bathing beneath the window and casting almost shy peeks at the new companion sharing the warmth wih her.

OvO

HAHAH! Betchalls thought I was gonna have SOMETHING happen huh, with that secretive language?! Hah! No! That's later! But ahhh, Azana is so cute~! Oh wells if mine isn't like the real one… but I really liked the anime depiction of him, in Rinoll, with his snow floppiness…! =A,=

Aherm. Pay attention to small details, they'll be a big clue for what's to come. I do (most) things in my stories for a reason. Or at least… I try and hope it works.

Was so conflicted over the pairing for this. There are so many scenarios running through my head, but not all of them can be seen through to the end in here! But I've decided already. Tidbit? This was originally a Jiki vs. Yogi fic, hahahah! The stars now had minimal roles then, but then…

But soft! What light over yonder window breaks?! *disappears and drops a picture*