Title: Megumi
Author: s1ncer1ty
Fandom: Wolf's Rain
Spoilers: Episode 11.
Warnings: Pure, unadulterated angst.
Summary: It was supposed to have been so beautiful. They were so close. Hige licks his wounds in the aftermath of Episode 11.

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i feel just like i'm sinking
and i claw for solid ground
i'm pulled down by the undertow
i never thought i could feel so low
and o darkness i feel like letting go

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Toboe!

The cub had been the last thing on Hige's mind, before the earth gave way beneath his feet, before lightning heat wracked his body and tore him from the very ground. Blood had gushed from the wounds as taut skin, stretched too tightly, split and hemorrhaged. Dimly, even as consciousness slipped away into a realm where nothing moved and everything ached, he could hear the young pup whimpering.

"We were so close. We were so close. We were so ..."

"Toboe?" Hige managed a tiny whisper, the boy's name alone. It lifted the veil, just a little. His throat felt as if it, too, might tear away beneath the pressure of simply speaking.

"Hi..ge?" The word, broken in the middle by a sob.

Somehow, he managed to claw his way closer to the cub. Something, everything felt broken, dislocated. But he licked comfortingly where he could reach, which happened to be the back of Toboe's neck. He tasted blood and charred fur, could smell the young boy's tears. Toboe was in a worse way than he was. Hige's heart was hammering, Toboe's was stuttering.

"We were so close, Hi..." Another sob, and Toboe couldn't finish as the pain overcame even tears.

Don't let his heart stop beating don't let it stop.

A whimper. A lick. And then the world split apart once more. Hige huddled close to the younger wolf, unable to stop his trembling. Toboe wouldn't notice -- he smelled of sleep, of a heartbeat easing into molasses. A piercing cry rent the air, squealing above the thunder of gunfire, and the air stank of burning fur.

"Tsume," Hige said, to no one in particular. The scent of blood was strong. He'd never make it to Tsume's side. Even if he could, Tsume might very well snarl, bare fangs, tear flesh in the way of a mortally wounded animal.

It seemed as if the thunder would never end. Even with his eyes closed, Hige saw the blood red flickering behind the lids. He could hear Kiba alone snarling, his very soul pouring from his throat. A coil, a spring, a bark sailing on desperate paws. Kiba was fast, but the guns were faster.

Sensory overload. The tearing of gunfire, snarling whimpers of pain and defeat, the rasp of the cub's breath as the stink of blood filled his lungs. And above all, the girl, the flower, that teasing bringer of Paradise and destruction in one. Cheza smelled of fear and tears and heartbreak. She had brought it upon them all.

And she was the one to stop it.

By the time the smoke had started to lift, Hige could barely smell her tears. She was leaving them, broken and battered, a pack that would never roam the earth the same way again, ever. The world greyed out as the aftershocks, trembling within broken bones, hit in a blinding wrench of pain. And her scent of roses and lilacs and moonflowers spilled the last of its healing across the shards of the pack.

After what felt like an aeon of grey and ache, Cheza was at Hige's side. Running her fingers through his pelt like she'd done while they were trapped in the labyrinthine forest. Comforting light. It made him forget his shattered ribs and charred fur, for just a moment.

"Cheza?"

"I have to go, Hige." Her tears fell onto his pelt, burned as they hit, and skin melted into skin.

"Toboe... I can't hear..." A breath, painful. There was just too much weight. Too much pain. Physically fading, mentally overwhelming. It hurt. "I can't hear Toboe's heart."

Cheza kissed him atop his muzzle. The light and the ache in his chest faded, eased. Throbbing still, but he could breathe again without feeling as if his lungs would split apart. He didn't even bother to try to move. It would only make the pain that much worse.

"Toboe." Heartbreaking concern filled her voice as she moved to the cub, kneeling beside him, and Hige felt warmth flowing from her, surrounding her like a lamp. Warm, glowing, but fading. She was wilting, stupidly expending her energy on a dying pack.

A yowl of excruciating pain, and Toboe's heart stuttered back to life, breath flooding bruised lungs. As her warmth stole tendrils around the pup's body, filling gaps in his split skin like mortar, Hige could hear the barely audible whines breaking free in a torrent from Toboe's throat.

"Ssh. Don't try to move, Toboe."

"Che..za. Cheza."

"Daijoubu. Everything will be okay."

"Don't leave, Cheza. Don't leave." Desperate. Aching. A series of whimpers overtook the young pup. Hige wanted nothing more than to cry with him.

She stood, staggered, nearly toppled over. Hige couldn't even tell her to fall atop him, much less scoop her into his arms. He couldn't protect her. He couldn't protect her or his pack. Without her, they were nothing. It was all over.

No. No!

The final thunder as the Nobleman's stinking ship took flight gave way to resounding silence. And as Cheza was lifted from their miserable lives, Hige could hear the collective heart of the pack shatter. He was helpless to stop it. God, but it hurt.

"It's not fair. She shouldn't have done it." Toboe. He hadn't moved, and his back was to Hige. Curled in upon himself. But his pulse was steady beneath charred fur, matted blood baked into flower-scented wounds, healing.

"Nnh?" Words were ill fitting in his numbed, wolfish mouth.

"She should have given all her light to Kiba. Or Tsume."

"Ne, what good would that have done, chibi?"

"They could... have fought..."

"The four of us couldn't take that bastard on. What makes you think Kiba would have been able to fight alone?"

"I... I just..." Tears spilled from the boy's eyes, steamed where they hit the molten ground.

"Ssh. Relax. You'll only hurt yourself more."

Toboe snuffled, unable to move even a paw to his muzzle to wipe the tears away.

"Cheza..." Hige drew a throbbing breath. The air was hot, too hot. The lingering flower that had once smelled so sweet was far, far gone. "Cheza said it would be okay."

And Cheza wouldn't lie. She wouldn't lie.

The cub struggled to clamp down on the tears. He huddled his body closer upon itself and choked on hopelessness.

"Daijoubu." Hige gave the boy a comforting lick behind the ears before rolling, twitching, fighting to sit up. His ribs, once broken, itched as they healed. At some point, Cheza had even re-located his shoulder. The ship where the Nobleman had taken her had long disappeared from sight. God, but it hurt so damned much.

The ground was smoking.

And they were gone. The Nobles, Cheza, and Paradise.

It was all supposed to have been so beautiful, a glorious re-entry to Shangri-La on a path strewn with white, moonflowers. The moon was still so full, but had bathed in a torrent of crimson, streaked wolf blood across its face. Red light spilled down on the broken bodies of his pack, still unable to stand but for their incapacitating despair.

Hige lifted his muzzle to the moon -- that fat, traitorous, blood-dripping moon -- and howled into emptiness.

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if all of the strength and all of the courage
come and lift me from this place
i know i can love you much better than this
full of grace

~s. mclachlan