Disclaimers:Cowboy Bebop belongs to Sunrise and Bandai.
Warnings and rants:Slash (yaoi/shounen-ai) between Vicious and Gren. ^_^ Yes, a GREN fanfic! I love Gren. Anyway. I haven't written Grenfic for a long while. This is a separate timeline from White Crow, Promontory Point, Compos Mentis, and Juno's Identity, my other fics involving Gren.
If only I could make you look at me.He thought, as he flipped his cards up. He didn't register the curses and snarls and grunts as the other men around them threw down their cards in frustration. One of them stood up and spat, the wad of saliva landing not two inches from his boots, and he willed himself not to flinch, not to cower.
"Asshole." The man muttered under his breath, and turned on his heel, walking away, shoving his fingers through his beard, as if detangling it. Gren watched him as he walked away, blue eyes suddenly taking on a far-away look, as if he were somewhere else.
"You have cards up your sleeve?" One of the other men asked, good-naturedly, and brought Gren back down to reality again, from where he had been. Blue eyes stared at the other man uncomprehendingly and a scarred and calloused hand pointed down at his cards.
Four aces and the king of hearts.
Gren stared at his own hands and compared them to the other man's, in his head. His own weren't tough, they hadn't worked, they hadn't been blistered and rained on and stepped on.
He gave the other man a smile, an absent one. "I don't think so."
It didn't seem like the right answer, because the other man's countenance darkened even though the smile was still on his face. "You either are or you aren't." His eyes then stopped looking at Gren, and looked at something else.
Gren followed the gaze to where it had settled, to the pile of little treasures that had been the items of the bet. There was a gold watch, there was a chocolate bar, there was a silver chain with a little cross on an end, there was a leather wallet, a bronze ring, and there were paper slips, fluttering in the wind, money.
It was his.
Gren took the items and deposited them in his pockets, his hands feeling strangely cold and weak, watching as the other men, the ones who lost, watched him, their eyes unforgiving, cruel, speaking of things that they'd like to happen, what would happen, if they had won, instead of him. It was only the first day of the war, it was only the first day since they had gotten off the transport ship and landed on this pale and barren wasteland, only a day, and now Gren had already made enemies.
Gren stuffed the money in his the left pocket of his military jacket, and caught a movement of silver out of the corner of his eye.
The pale-haired man, grey eyes, had been watching him ever since they got here. He had watched him too, gazing warily, and then he had let his guard down. Let him come over and beat on him like everybody else did. It was only a matter of time before somebody asked him why his hair was so long for a man, why he didn't cut it like everybody else did, why his hands were so smooth, why his eyes were blue and without will and why he didn't curse and say vile things like everybody else did, because he acted like a goddamned woman.
But he had walked away, disappeared into a trench that they had dug that afternoon. Gren felt his hand let go of the coins they had been about to put into his pockets, and he found himself winding the turban material around his neck like a scarf, uttering half-goodbyes as he walked off in search, to look, to wonder, what it was all about.
The coins fell to the ground, and the men who had lost the poker game looked at the tokens with disgust, and then looked at Gren's retreating form with something similar. They hadn't noticed the movement of silver like Gren had. They didn't think about things like that.
The windswept hair fell in his face, his high cheekbones and delicate nose and mouth were pale. The soft, muted colors of his garb refracted the light when it undulated the way water did. The slender pale hands were more apt for playing a musical instrument than for handling weaponry. There was an absent, gentle, refined warmth in his eyes that spoke of naivety, sudden infatuation.
He was different, of course. He was much more different than the other men, their unshaven faces, their slurred words, their drunken actions and their blurry, unseeing eyes.
Wasn't it like that with Julia?A voice whispered in his head, sadly. She was different than other women. She was quiet, she was patient, she didn't demand. She was different, and that's why you wished to know her, that's why you wanted to touch her, that's why you wanted her.
He pushed the thoughts away and pretended that they weren't there, but his grey eyes followed the graceful, dream-like movements of the man who had seen him watching him, felt Vicious's eyes on his back when nobody else was looking, when nobody else noticed.
His name was Gren, Vicious overheard, and he had just won the poker game with all four aces and the king of hearts. He had taken all the winnings but had left a few coins behind. Arrogant bastard, leaving tips for those who amused him, they murmured to themselves.
But Vicious had watched Gren, hunched over, a fire beside the group of men playing cards, and he had seen his expression when he had won, and it had not been victorious, or smug, or patronizing. His eyes seemed empty, although his mind seemed occupied by something else.
His hands strayed into his pocket, where a skeleton of a music box lay, and his finger traced over the line of the handle and he wanted, suddenly, to bring it out and wind it up, listen to the faint notes and torture himself over thinking why he had deserved it.
The same voice in his head laughed at him and told him he was dead, that of course, if he was dead, then why would he care about such things? What would make anything different?
He looked at Gren again before turning in the opposite direction, and he took the music box out of his pocket, jerking the handle angrily.
Indecipherable screams and yells and calls fell against him like the tide did on the beach. He seemed not to hear it, and pretended he couldn't hear it.
The soldiers had been tightly packed, marching in formation, before the hail of bombs and gunfire had torn everybody apart, this way, that way, and Gren had run off on his own to hide behind a cliff somewhere, grains of sand whirling about him mercilessly as he pulled the material of his turban over his eyes some more, and then prayed that if he was shot, hopefully, he would die quickly.
He watched from his position as one man, who had played cards with him a few weeks ago, ran to the front of the line, and without any warning, flew back so that he was lying down on the sand, on his side. Gren watched the sand around the man turn to a sickly red color as he bled, and he turned his face away, shutting his eyes.
Something fell from one of the planes up ahead, making the ground shake. Gren lost his balance and fell down, his finger pressing down on the trigger of his gun, bullets flying blindly as he struggled to get back up, stand back and watch everybody else bleed shades of red and crimson and scarlet as he hid away. Maybe, if he could dig, he could dig himself into the sand and never come back out again.
Gren gave a start as a bullet grazed his ear, cutting the material of the turban, the piercing scream of it's speed sending a shock through him.
He raised his hand up to his head-- there was a rip in the cloth. He pulled his hand away and his eyes widened slightly when he saw the blood on his fingers. A dead feeling settled to the bottom of his heart, something unspoken, something fearful, and fearless, at the same time. He felt his lips curve in a bitter smile and he sank down to his knees, wrapping his arms around himself.
If I get shot,he mused, they won't hit my vital organs.
I have nothing to lose,he thought, and felt himself start shaking. I won't be leaving anybody, anything. I won't care... I don't care.
They had retreated, after all. They had retreated farther than they thought they would have, and had ended up where they had been stationed two weeks ago, not in the middle of nowhere, but back in the city, where crowds of anxious people awaited news of these mercenary soldiers and the outcome of the battles.
He pressed a hand to his eyes, grinding his teeth as everybody else rested in the darkness. It smelled like bleach and soap and vomit in the infirmary.
He hadn't expected that he would have gotten shot. He was an expert gunman and swordsman, capable of dealing with close-combat. He had signed up as a lowly soldier because there was something he needed to leave behind, something he needed to abandon. But the stray cat of a thought kept coming back to him, scratching at him, hissing at him to remember, don't forget.
Vicious had watched as the inexperienced soldiers scattered when the first gunshots were fired, when the bombs from the planes had started to fall. They hadn't expected anything so unfair. Where were their planes, their pilots? But he had stormed on ahead, the commander was absent, cowering, like the rest, and only he followed the planned course for assault. He hadn't even come close when the ground shook beneath him and he was thrown into the air like a puppet with its strings cut loose, his body flailing wildly as he fell to the ground, feeling the impact as he landed on his arm, and he felt something crack under his weight, felt a biting pain travel up through his arm, a lump forming in his throat to scream, a dull heat behind his eyes waiting for him to cry.
But he didn't.
He lay very still, as if he was dead, watching the discolored sky above him change shapes as his vision went in and out, he watched the clouds as they seemed to distort each other and twist upon themselves like snakes writhing in agony. Sand blew into his eyes and he struggled not to blink. His hand itched for the gun beside him, it wanted to take it and make him stand up and fight again, charge at the nonexistent enemy he didn't hate, kill people he didn't know.
This was what he had wanted, wasn't it? To take his rage out on nonentities, to take his revenge on them out of other people so he wouldn't hurt them, because even though he hated them, he still loved them.
Vicious wanted to kill himself for the thought. He didn't want to forgive them. He didn't want to tell them that they could come back and smile at him without any trace of guilt in their eyes, any trace of sadness behind their lips-- if they were going to come back and kill him, Vicious wanted them to scream at him, grab his collar and try to wring his neck, sink their fingers into his skin until he bled. He wanted them to do that so that when he killed them, he wouldn't feel any remorse, either, that their punishments would be just.
He wondered why he was thinking about it now, half covered in sand, oblivious to the shouts of anonymous soldiers, to the distant rumbles of thunder and explosives, to the sharp cry of bullets as they flew over him.
He had lain there for what seemed like hours, and then he had marveled at it all when the gunfire had stopped, when the shouting had grown more frustrated, more intense, and he felt the vibrations of the ground as a thousand feet stormed over the sand, away from him. He wanted for them to go, he wanted to die alone, he supposed. To die alone, without anybody there, waiting for him, without arms to fall into, without eyes to gaze into. He could own the entire desert around him if he died alone.
But someone had came, someone whose breathing was harsh and rushed and frantic without trying to be, someone whose blue eyes eerily resembled Julia's, whose whispers of denial and gratitude had left Vicious's ears deaf to whatever had come next.
Hands had moved over him, their touch gentle and insistent, trying to assemble into a position as if to carry him. A ghost of a touch moved over his face, the trembling hands whispering over his eyelids, over the bridge of his nose, over his lips.
Something told him that if he wanted for it to be Julia, it could be Julia.
And when Vicious opened his eyes, denying the fact, yet wishing, somewhere back in his head, that it was true. But it wasn't Julia, and it never would be.
Gren's face had been turned away from him, lines of desperation etched into his features, as he called for help, for the others, and Vicious had barely managed to catch Gren turn back to him, shock and relief in his azure eyes, before his eyes slipped shut again, burying him back into an gossamer black.
The living in him breathed again as the dead retreated and something in him said that he wanted to live.
"That's a nice song." He remembered saying, or saying something like it.
He had learned that the man's name was Vicious, grey eyes, silver hair, and foreboding demeanor. He'd overheard it when he was playing cards again, playing cards with the rest of them, the usual people gathered around a pile of fleeting bets. There were a few people missing, dead from the last battle, but everybody pretended not to notice, pretended that it was like before, with the cursing, spitting, laughing, and camaraderie that had existed before their illusions of war had torn their hearts in two.
Then again, it had never existed.
And then one of the men said something about Vicious being out of the infirmary in two days even with an injury like that and Gren had given a start. What was his injury, he remembered asking, and the man scoffed and had taken a few sips out of his gin flask and had said something about broken arms and broken hearts, the latter probably referring to himself.
Gren had won the game again with amazing speed, collected the bets, endured the glares and whispers of cheat from the men around him, and then had left the circle. He didn't care what they thought.
Something possessed him to go look for Vicious, who had seemed so cold, so far away, like a distant tide coloring the sea with reflections of the moon at night.
And he had found him, sitting by himself in one of the newly-dug trenches, staring at a music box with empty, glass eyes.
They hadn't said much, hadn't said anything at all. But somehow, when the scene finished and Vicious's knife was not an inch away from his face and a scorpion cried it's death, Gren had ended up with a music box in his hands and he had watched Vicious's retreating form walk away and then he had turned his eyes on the music box, the fragile thing, had wound the handle, had listened to the tinkering notes as they blended in with the sounds from the men at camp, like raindrops falling into the ocean.
Something surged in him, something that had been lying asleep, and he felt himself give a smile, a wandering one, quick to flight, a lonely dove in the eye of the storm.
It would be a few more days, the commander barked at them, until they moved out again. He had told them, in a few, sparse, words, to enjoy themselves, while they could. He'd said this in a leering tone, one that said that there is no hope in tomorrow, there is no hope in today, but there could be. He'd turned his back on them and walked away, a bitter grin on his face.
Men had hiked to the subway station, not a few miles away, lust glittering nervously behind their eyes, their hands trembling with the anticipation they'd been denied, money safely hidden in the backs of their pockets. They'd exchanged crude, wary words to each other, for the first time, meaning empty in the tones that pretended to be ones of friendly camaraderie. Their minds were focused on other things that were fleeting, sex in the alleys, food in their stomachs, long, silky hair that belonged to women with painted faces.
Those who had approached him before had found him unsocial and cold, a harsh beacon of light in ice among their lukewarm identities. Rumors had spread about the white shadow that lurked by himself, his reasons for conscription and living and death, all a mystery.
Other men had joined the war for a chance at glory, a chance to spit a skeleton on the face, or a chance to hold a gun in their hands, to kill for a purpose without the risk of guilt and overshadowing conscience. There was that temptation to laugh at Death in the face, to laugh at what haunted you the most because you felt like you had power over it when in truth, it still held reign over you.
He'd wanted to get away from Spike and Julia. He'd ended up meeting their ghosts here, on the battlefield, a distant reminder of what would come when he went back to the Red Dragons.
If he went back.
Oh, but he gave his word to the elders, didn't he? And they'd let him go, a featherless bird flying on naked wings, a collar still strapped around its neck, as it tried to pry free of the cage and the bony hands that tried to force it back in. Only now, the hands were at rest, although bony eyes still watched his moves behind a veil of knowing that threatened to bring him back if he made one wrong move.
War was a respite for him, a vacation that seemed eerily like what his mind had been like, a turmoil of thoughts and envies and jealousies and hurt and death, before he had come. Nothing had changed, after all.
Vicious reached into his pocket and felt the bereft emptiness there, once filled by a small music box which had sang Julia's name, her identity. He didn't know what had inspired it, but he had let it go, had given it to Gren in a moment of silence and while a voice whispered frantically that the music box and her love wasn't his to give away to anybody, he had ignored it, and as he had walked away, he had turned back without knowing why he did so, and had seen the happiness and the longing in Gren's eyes as he'd wound the music box.
He'd felt a hushing content, a wind had seemed to blow in his heart, airing out the last traces of unspoken tears and unspent blood, and he'd stood there, stunned, at the way Gren's lips had curved and the ways his eyes had shone because of his gift.
Julia had never smiled like that for him, because of him. Julia had never, and he had loved her with a passion he had thought would kill him if she was taken away from him, his golden-haired, blue-eyed doll of submission who seemed to walk on water when she moved, a token to grace and solemnity.
If only he could say the few words that would make a difference in what was just watching from afar, a longing in his heart, an unspeakable hopelessness, his hand wanting to reach out and take another hand and hold it in his own, to trail his hands down the sides of that face, to know what that voice sounded like in situations given that...
Vicious turned away, angrily, his mouth thinning and his hands clenching at his sides, walking off to join the rest of the men, sitting in huddled groups on the tram.
He didn't deserve it.
Gren had taken the second tram to get to the city, and it seemed like he was the only one on it-- the rest of the soldiers had left on the first one, eager to get their hands on real food, real whores.
He was late only because he was looking for someone. Maybe he could ask him why he was given the music box when they barely knew each other. Maybe he could ask him why they had singled each other out, unknowingly, yet aware of it, all the same. He could ask him why, when he had glanced at him across the mess hall, the other day, why he had suddenly seemed like he was a deer caught in headlights and why he had looked away so suddenly, his jaw clenching and his eyes cold as marble.
Maybe he could ask him for a drink, invite him so, if he could find him in the city. Hopefully he was there. Hopefully he was still looking around the street corners and in the alleys and in the bars, hopefully a whore wasn't already kissing at his neck and settling her hands down by his hips and pressing herself against him, her scent of perspiration and cheap perfume mingling with his own of frost and metal.
His head spun with the image, the possibilities. Gren just wanted to invite him to have a drink, that was all. Maybe talk for a little. Watch those pale lips open with the potential of words that could be anything, anything at all, hear the whispering words saying nothing, murmuring something, saying something, by his ear, lips moving against the curve of his ear, so close so that Gren would be able to hear every word and feel every word, like lovers.
His hand moved gently against the frame of the music box in his pocket, almost caressing it, even though his face wore a dead expression, a fire behind his eyes quickly doused with cold water.
She put her hand in his, grasping it firmly, as he calmly lit her cigarette, her face suddenly lit by the glow of the flame. She wasn't unattractive, he thought, as he put the lighter back in his pocket. Dark curly hair framed her face. She had high cheekbones, dusted faintly with rouge, her eyes were a dull hazel, her eyebrows were almost too perfect in shape. Her lips were full, her bottom lip prominent, and although she was smiling, it did not reach her eyes.
"Army?" She said. It took him a moment to realize she was talking to him.
He nodded, signaling the bartender to get him a shot of whiskey. She followed his gaze and then turned back to him.
"Are you ever scared?" She asked him, trailing her nails up his arm. "Of dying?"
He didn't reply, just stared straight ahead. But he was thinking. No. I'm not scared. Dying is second nature to me.
The bartender placed the shot glass in front of him and he drank it in one gulp, savoring the burn of the liquid as it forced its way down his throat, the heat of the alcohol making his stomach churn in a smooth boil.
"You don't say much, do you." She laughed, releasing his arm, and yet he still felt her fingers there. "I guess you're a man of action. Am I right?"
He turned his eyes on her, fully seeing her for the first time. And her she was, a women of her own profession, afraid of dying, afraid of the dark, afraid of losing awareness of who she was or where she was, and yet she was doing this, offering herself to anybody who walked her way.
He stood up and she followed him, and he supposed he had given her some sort of agreement, some sort of a permission for her to take his hand in her own and lead her up the stairs, the dimly lit hallway, to a room which she had the key for, to the bed which smelled like a million other bodies, alcohol of different years, the smoke of different cigarettes, reeked of the sex of a million other people, men, women.
He remembered reaching a climax but it was insignificant, a pinpoint of light in a whirlpool of other lights, memories of guns and roses and people he had known, people he had wanted to know, people he had loved.
Vicious lay on the bed, a cigarette held in his hand, poised over his lips, and the girl was propped up on her elbow, staring at him with a wisdom in her eyes, a strange naivety. His army fatigue was thrown haphazardly over the floor, his shirt was inside out, his cigarettes falling out of one pocket, one cigarette on the wooden planks of the floor. The light from the sign outside the window streamed in and illuminated the girl's features with a seemingly sad intent, making her look like a statue there, staring at him, contemplating him.
She lay down next to him and yawned, stretching her arms above her head.
"You're not the first person to do that." She said, and he could hear the amusement in her voice, the smile there.
"Do what?" He heard himself say, smelling the smoke of the cigarette, watching it as it burned in his hand. The smoke wound up in the air in grey tendrils, forming smoky lips that laughed at him, before they disappeared into their surroundings.
He'd watched Vicious as he descended the stairs, and was about to walk up to him and greet him, maybe talk for a little bit, pester him a bit. He knew the other man wouldn't enjoy his company. He didn't enjoy anybody's company, but the awkward silences between them two wouldn't be awkward silences. Gren wouldn't have wanted them to be that way.
Vicious had walked down the stairs, a strangely intent look on his face, concentrated, his eyes cast downwards, as if watching his feet. And then a girl had appeared behind him, hurriedly gathering her curly hair up into a bun, ragged strands flying out every which way.
He had expected his heart to drop in his chest at the sight, a wind of breathless anxiety take over his lungs. He had expected his head to spin, his vision to cloud, and ultimately, for him to walk out of the bar like a stricken animal, wounded, unable to even limp its way across the plains.
But he didn't, and he watched Vicious, he watched the girl.
Vicious sat down at the bar, his arms on the counter, hands clasped, as if in prayer. His lips were quite still, his eyes didn't betray anything. The bridge of his nose and the curve of his cheekbones stood out, proud, in the dim light. The quiet, the contemplating, the brooding. Gren suddenly wished to be like him, to stare fear in the eye without flinching, without emotion. There was a sudden urge to wish for those arms, lean, solid, to wrap themselves around him and perhaps they'd give him some of their quiet determination, their strength. To become like Vicious, to love him.
He didn't let his eyes leave the silver-haired man, but he walked over to the same girl that had followed him down the stairs, and gave her a smile. She smiled back, and approached him.
"Can't find anything to drink?" She asked him, and he shook his head.
"Didn't even go to the bar. Are they worth it?"
She gave him another smile. "The white, frothy ones, with lots of cream on top."
He chuckled. "That doesn't sound remotely alcoholic."
"But it gives you the same hazy feeling." Her smile never left her face. "Are you with those other men?" She gestured to the groups of soldiers, all talking among themselves, all eyeing the different women in the bar, the taken ones, and the ones not taken yet.
Gren looked over at Vicious and told himself he knew that she meant was he in the army. Yes, he found himself saying. I'm a soldier myself.
"You must be tired." She said. "It's tiring out there, isn't it? It's hard, training and battle and everything."
She said the words like she'd said them before, a million times, to a million faces, all different, all the same, the same intention.
"Yes." He said, his voice husky, but not because of her. He was looking at Vicious, and Vicious had turned his head around and was staring back at him, grey eyes meeting blue ones, and his heart was stopping with every breath and yet the pace of the beats was growing quicker, erratic. And yet the emotion behind the grey eyes was still a cipher, a code, with a wall behind the feeling, misinterpreting the true message.
Gren's lips parted and he took a shaky breath, forced himself to tear his eyes away. He smiled at the girl, who was now looking at him expectantly.
"I'm very tired." He said, almost secretly. "But not so tired as I can't die a little death."
He wished he was saying it for another set of ears, whispering to another. He wished he was looking into somebody else's eyes, undressing somebody else. Hard panes of muscle and flesh and angular, not flesh and curves and submission.
The girl took him by the hand and led him upstairs, Gren looked to where Vicious had been sitting, and was met with a pair of grey eyes, a storm behind them, a myriad of winds, all riding in opposing directions.
Before he enlisted up to fight in this, before his emotions had taken a journey into shadows, before any of this had happened, he was a Red Dragon.
He remembered the days before she came, before the golden-haired lordress of a woman had infected their presences with her calm and steely cool, before her lips had broken to the both of them.
Vicious had attended operas, symphonies, theater plays. And the male protagonist always sang out to the world, to the universe, what he was feeling, what he wanted to do, what he didn't want to do, and who he wanted to extract revenge upon.
I burn,the tenor sang. I burn.
He had walked out of the bar, feeling dazed, confused, unsatisfied. He'd given the girl her dues, had seen her smile at him, and then seen her turn to another man, with the same speech, the same tongue. He didn't remember saying anybody's name when he came. Maybe he didn't want to remember.
A pair of hands had grabbed him once he had stepped outside, had thrown him against the wall, rough material of army fatigues scraping his face as a hand reached up to entangle itself in his hair, long hair, pulling at it.
He knew who it was, and he remained calm. "Let me go."
Grey eyes bored into him and Gren almost recoiled. Tell me, He said, his voice low, menacing, yet almost vulnerable, if Gren imagined it. Did you enjoy it?
He was talking about the girl, of course, the bar whore. Gren didn't answer.
Grey eyes seemed to look at him directly, look past everything and hit the spot that hurt the most. Tell me.
"No." Gren said, not letting the tremor infuse his voice. "No, I didn't."
You didn't.He said, and stepped back. Gren watched him disappear as he turned his back and walk away, steps making no mark in the snow.
The snow wasn't there, that was why. Vicious wasn't there.
Gren was slumped against the wall by himself, the sudden winds the only thing whispering through his hair, whispering things into his ear.
If only I could make you look at me.He thought, as he flipped his cards up. He didn't register the curses and snarls and grunts as the other men around them threw down their cards in frustration. One of them stood up and spat, the wad of saliva landing not two inches from his boots, and he willed himself not to flinch, not to cower.
He didn't. A stony look crossed his face and he set his cards down, flush. They cursed at him again, one of them threatening to strike him, another good-natured one holding him back. They were all drunk.
The commander had called them back, and they were on the move again, trekking across desert storms and sanding winds, their eyes half-mast as they struggled to see where they were going, what they were doing.
Gren stood up, not collecting his winnings, and ignored the silence of the rest of the men as he left the circle, his cards lying on the ground, his cards unmasked, unlike himself.
Far away from the camp, there was a cliff that overlooked an ocean, an ocean of acid and majestic heights, one that gleamed purple in the distant sunlight. And it looked familiar, smelled familiar. There wasn't anything he could imagine it to be otherwise.
He sat down, his boots crunching on the stone and the sand, he gave a start as they slipped off the edge of the cliff, dangling precariously. His hands were clenched on the edge of the cliff, knuckles white, bony. His eyes strained to see down, his mind telling him, let go, and the wind giving him encouragement in the direction of the fall. The sea beckoned to him, the tide going in and out, the white wash of the foam a thousand bubbling cries, the crash of the ocean a tortured roar. Rocks slipped loose from his grip, from the cliff, and were sent, plummeting, like sun rays to the earth.
Gren hoisted himself up, the muscles in his arms aching, and gave a gasp of breath as he fell back towards the ground, sweet ground, the taste of dirt straining to color his lips.
A pale hand reached down and Gren glanced up, startled. Vicious was crouching beside him, in his hand, the music box.
He must have dropped it when he'd almost fallen, it must have fell out of his pocket, somehow, had its own mind, to stay instead of leave. At least that would have been left there. At least something beautiful would have stayed behind, a legacy of something, a memorial.
Gren sat up, accepting the mechanism back, tried to speak, but nothing would come of it. But it didn't seem like Vicious expected words, expected the ideal of communication. Grey eyes stared into the distance, at the setting sun, like a speck in the sky, and Vicious sat down, next to Gren.
He didn't want to glance over at the motionless figure, at the noble face, for fear that his eyes would betray him, for fear that his lips would break out into a smile, a smile that threatened to speak volumes his heart wouldn't let him.
So he didn't.
But it wasn't that he felt unhappy. No, he felt at peace, somehow, sitting there with his body only far enough from the ledge, he could trip again, yes, trip over himself, fall into an open abyss, laugh as he went down. For some reason he felt complete now, life felt complete. A dull golden feeling had spread through his body, to the tips of his fingers, and an ethereal smile appeared on his face, a fading memory of the aching, a prophecy of the bitterness.
His fingers wound the music box on his own, set the emotions to rest, set the sun to sleep.
The familiar melody found its way to his ears and Vicious forced himself to keep seeing, to keep hearing, to not block it out and stare at it with a empty, marble eyes.
And he could.
Maybe it was because the setting was different, he wasn't somewhere where he could think, he wasn't somewhere where the thoughts and images could come back to him and scream in his brain, maybe it was because he was sitting next to Gren, and the very thought of that was so surreal because he was playing Julia's song, and Vicious hadn't remembered to forget Julia yet.
He would forget, a voice said in his head, determined. He could forget about everything before and start something new. Be reborn in the middle of a war. He didn't have to torment himself, he could just forget, he could let it go.
And a part of him whispered that it wasn't Julia's song, it wasn't his song.
It belonged to the man sitting next to him who had almost fallen off the edge of the cliff, azure eyes focused on the vast sea below them, watching the waves crash against the shore, like his memories against his eyes, like his speech against his lips. He had given it to him, freely.
And what had he gotten in return?
Vicious stared into the distance, grey eyes unfocusing, lips parting slightly, a swallow trying to quench his erratic heartbeats, trying to suppress the hope.
It was a gift.
This feeling, this thing surging through him, something unleashed.
Perhaps he could let it go.
He dared to look at the man sitting beside him, dust in sunlight, the wisps of hair framing his face, the shift of cloth as he settled to sit, to be content to sit here, just the two of them. And Gren noticed this, this quiet, contemplative looking, but didn't glance back. He didn't need to.
A smile, timid, shy, appeared on those lips, and Vicious turned his gaze away, clenched his hands.
Maybe he could let it go, the past; dust in sunlight, memory in corners, start something anew.
And a part of him murmured, alone, would you trust to hope?
Notes:Should I write more to this? Maybe something-something post-war? Everything has already been covered in White Crow, Promontory Point, and Compos Mentis, my three Gren-fic-trilogy-type-thing… _