"Unless we love and are loved, each of us is deeply lonely."

-Mortimer Adler

When he was still a boy, a blissful boy with a sister, Subaru had nestled into his grandmother's arms and listened to the story of the boy whose heart had been pierced by a sliver of ice, and it turned him cold and cruel. How the girl braved many dangers to rescue him and retrieved the ice shard from his heart. "The moral is that love," his grandmother had whispered. "Can overcome all." Subaru had carried this message inside his own heart like a little wren. He would be good and kind and help others to overcome their sufferings. Kindness was strength.

Until Tokyo had devoured him. Hokuto's blood stained the mirror whenever he dared to peer into it. The face of a dead girl looked back, echoing his sins. He no longer looked into mirrors, nor did the sight of smiling couples bring his heart a gentle joy. Everything merely served as a reflection of all that he had had once and had lost irrecoverably. First, he had pulled out his hair, strand by strand, whenever her face rose from the ocean of his memories, and then he burned her into his skin. Sixteen scabs for the sixteen years they had had.

Only the consuming flames of revenge animated him now. Blood for blood, an eye for an eye, a life for a life. Was that not how the universe kept itself together? Blood had to be repaid in blood. In his gloved hand, Subaru held the address to Seishiro's latest haunt: a veterinarian clinic in a moderately well-off neighborhood. In his pocket, an idle hand turned over the knife Subaru intended to plunge into Seishiro's black heart; he'd coat himself in the blood of his sister's killer, his killer.

The window lifted easily, and Subaru eased himself inside the clinic, revolted by the stench of blood. Of course, this was where the bastard used his patients as scapegoats to soak up the effects of the spells. Eyes hard, he said a quick prayer for the dead, before slinking to Seishiro's bedroom to wait for his return.

Time passed strangely. Items discarded carelessly across the room awoke scenes from Subaru's mind of kinder times. The ticket stub from a movie Subaru had liked, the get-well cookies Subaru had baked molding by his closet. The obsidian stone that Subaru had forced on him, laughing that it reminded him of his eyes. Picking it up, Subaru felt its impossible smoothness, before throwing it against the wall in rage. It struck a photograph, knocking it from its perch on the shelf.

He cursed his foolishness when he felt the crackle of a magic spell nearby. Shit. Seishiro knows.

His worst fears were confirmed when Seishiro entered the room, energy surging around him like electricity. He was faster that Subaru remembered. In a instant, he had seized Subaru's dominant arm and given it a harsh pull.

"Shall I break it for you again," Seishiro whispered, eyes glittering with something Subaru couldn't name. Malice? Hatred? Another hand tugged on Subaru's hair.

Subaru had planned a thousand retorts to this scene, but he found himself voiceless in Seishiro's presence. Again.

"Well, that's not a no." Seishiro transferred his hand from Subaru's hair to his neck. Thumb on Subaru's major vein, he began to press down on his neck. "But I think your neck should be snapped first. You do keep causing me trouble."

Subaru gasped at the sudden pressure, and began to desperately struggle against Seishiro's grip. Amused, Seishiro relinquished his grasp on his neck, only to slam him into the wall. Blood splattered from Subaru's face, and several ribs caved in. Subaru coughed blood onto Seishiro's expensive shoes.

"Why must you struggle? Why do objects put on a show of defiance? Objects don't feel." Seishiro whispered, as he tugged Subaru up by his hair again. "Anyhow, I'll just break you again. You lost our bet, and so you must uphold your end of the bargain."

"I'm not an object," Subaru spat. "I'm a person. Hokuto was a person."

"Perhaps you are. But I am a finely crafted object of death, so it hardly matters."

A blinding burst of pain, and Subaru's left arm dangled useless from his side. Subaru fought back tears of pain. He wouldn't waste any more tears on this bastard; if he would die here, then he was resigned to it.

"I was crafted by the finest hands," Seishiro continued. "The leader of the Sakurazukamori. Like any good swordsmith, she beat out my flaws and submerged me in fire when I was young so that I may live up to my potential." He dipped his finger into the blood streaming from Subaru's face for emphasis. "And then to prove it, I killed her. 'Kiss me, my little robin,' she'd always say. 'Touch my breast with your hand. Come lie with me.' " Seishiro tilted his head. "I felt nothing for her. Not even when I kissed her with a mouthful of her own blood. It tasted like peaches."

"What?" Subaru managed. "You were young, and she asked that of you?" Something else awoke in his heart, amongst the heat of revenge and the unspoken desire that had not gone out. Subaru searched Seishiro's face for the first time since Hokuto's death. "She raped you?"

Confusion registered on Seishiro's face. Was this the first time anyone named it as such, Subaru wondered.

"You're not an object, Seishiro. And you couldn't have chosen that for yourself." Despite Subaru's resolve, tears began to mingle with the blood. "She raped you. Again and again. No wonder you can't feel."

"That's the value of an object."

"Goddamnit, Seishiro, you're not an object!" With his one good hand, Subaru reached out for Seishiro's hand.

(The boy with the ice shard in his heart.)

"You're a person! You're not a tool or a sword or anything but a person!" Subaru could hardly see through the tears, but his hand found Seishiro's cold one. "And I love you, and you must have felt something for me or you wouldn't have spared me as a child! You would have killed me last time we met. Seishiro, I love you, and I love you as a person! A person who smiled and laughed and held me at night and kissed me-" He broke off into sobs. "You made me happy."

Confusion returned to Seishiro's face. "Why are you crying?"

"I'm crying for you. For your pain. I can hardly feel my own underneath all of it." Subaru gently squeezed his hand. "What a heavy burden to carry all these years."

Something moved across Seishiro's face, before a single tear fell and he clasped Subaru against him. Subaru choked on his sobs, one hand travelling from Seishiro's hand to his back to complete the embrace. The soft smell of cologne that Seishiro always wore smelled of home.

"I thought you wanted me dead," Seishiro whispered, his voice cracking.

"Not you," Subaru replied, feeling the beat of Seishiro's heart. "Never you."

They remained that way for some time, Subaru's sobbing resounding throughout the modest room.

And from a distance, invisible to both, Hokuto smiled.


Notes:

So this is the happy ending that a friend of mine and I decided on. Written for sakurazuka-subaru, who introduced me to the suffering that is Tokyo Babylon.