A/N: Inspired by EtchCantrellorLightningHeterodyne's 5+1 kisses: Kimtooth Edition (Thank You!). This is how my brain works: reads a tragic story? Must write these poor souls a happy ending. Read a happy ending? Make these poor souls weep!
In another life, Soon Kim, drowning in grief over Mijung's death, let no one in.
("I can't lose another love.")
After Kraagor died, the paladin accepted the loss of his adventuring party.
("The oath was to not interfere with each other's gates." Girard pulled Soon closer, "I don't give a fuck about your gate.")
After establishing the Sapphire Guard and tying his soul to the gate, Soon Kim had nothing left to live for. Aged by grief, he died barely a decade after his wife's passing.
("This is so unfair, why do you get the pretty silver hair," Girard grumbled, running his fingers through silky silver-white locks.)
But paladins, even ones who get second chances at happily ever after, are not known for long lives, nor peaceful deaths.
"Fall back!" The red-garbed goblin ordered. The fell creatures slipped into a mountain pass a fraction too small for the armored paladins to follow.
"No, you shall not escape again." Soon Kim leapt upon his Pegasus and spurred the winged beast over the mountain pass. "Meet me on the other side," he called to his guard as he flew. Thankfully, this servant of the Dark One had no teleporting spells. Once the narrow path below widened, Soon's Pegasus swooped upon him. "Smite Evil."
"Destruction," The goblin cast.
Soon felt all his bones and muscles twist and rend as though they were going to fly to pieces. His whole body wrenched horribly, but the feeling passed, leaving him in agony, but alive. He struck the high priest, again and again and again. "Smite…evil."
The goblin fell, dead. Soon slumped against his Pegasus, struggling to breathe. His sides burned with every breath. "L…la…lay…on…" A coughing fit kept him from finishing the phrase. Blood splattered on the rock wall before him. He swallowed, moistening his throat with the metallic taste and tried again. "L-lay…on…hands."
The worst of the damage healed. He didn't have enough to do any more, but he would not die. Soon Kim patted his Pegasus, "Thank you…loyal steed. Now to…"
Hisses came from every direction as arrows struck his mount. The surprise attack was too much. His Pegasus died and vanished back to the realm of Celestia. Soon fell to the rocky ground.
"You human bastard!" A goblin charged him but an elder held the youth back.
"No, don't go near. Best to put him down like a mad worg." Bowstrings stretched. Arrows flew. Many bounced off Soon's armor, but more found vulnerable flesh. The paladin glanced between the two passageways, both packed with goblins, and picked the one with fewer eyeshine.
"Your master would have destroyed the world." He charged to break the trap.
A dozen goblins drew from their quivers. A dozen arrows flew. Soon Kim stumbled again, one arrow piercing his knee. Every step was exquisite agony, but he kept going. "Smite…evil." One goblin after another fell, but not fast enough. More arrows sunk into his back as the goblins on the other side fired. The surviving goblins scrambled away from him and fired again.
The third volley of arrows did what the first two couldn't. Soon Kim sank to the ground, coughing up blood again. He tried to stand on shaky, screaming limbs but more arrows brought him down. The epic level paladin lay where he fell, gasping and coughing as his lifeblood drained from him.
"You couldn't possibly understand human." One of the goblins said, daring to near the fallen paladin. "She was trying to save us." The goblin lifted a spear.
Soon lifted a finger, dipping it in his blood like a brush. He wrote on his bracer. The spear pierced his back and out his chest. In a flash of agony, all sensation from his torso down cut off. A relief. He kept his strokes steady and kept writing. Another daring goblin stabbed him. He didn't stop. More struck. He kept writing. Finally, the last letter done. Soon Kim let his hand fall and closed his eyes for the last time.
"You godsbedamned fool." Girard's words echoed in the empty throne room of Azure City. Even Lord Ronjo had left 'to give Girard some privacy'—what privacy he could get without doors to close.
The spirit of Soon Kim appeared, shocking even Girard—hardened adventurer that he was—floating to the ground and standing on the stone floor as though his feet wouldn't phase through it. As though he was still alive.
"Girard, love, I'm sorry." Soon reached out a hand, but of course his fingers passed right through his husband.
"We could have resurrected you."
"I would treasure it." Soon said. "Even another minute, another second. Just long enough to say goodbye." He bowed his head, "But another would have treasured the resurrection more."
Girard scoffed, but there was no heat in it. "Typical Paladin. Can't you be selfish for once?"
"It's against our code. Along with removing the stick."
That elicited a huff of laughter. "There was never any stick. I checked. Thoroughly." Then the smile slid off his face. He held up an arm bracer. "Did you write this?"
"In your blood, with your last breath."
"I wanted you to know," Soon's eyes were earnest, pleading. "It was the most important thing I could have said."
"You romantic sap," Girard croaked, voice wet with grief. He gazed at the poem, then back to the ghost of his husband. "I'm gonna visit. And I still don't give a fuck about your godsdamn gate."
"How could I ever have thought otherwise." Soon smiled wryly. More seriously, he added, "Please, protect your gate too. The world is much more than you and I."
They couldn't touch, but Girard cradled Soon's hands. "Yeah, I'll keep at it. Showing the youngsters the hoops. Hmph, might even stick around for another crop of ankle-biters."
When Girard left, he left with the arm bracer carefully cradled. On it, in blood, were the words:
dear, love I cannot
One couldn't set a clock by Girard's visits. Sometimes he would stop by twice in two months. Other times a year or more would pass before he made the journey. But he came. He always came. A little older, a little grayer, with stories of a few more grandchildren or a child with another great- in front of grandchild.
Soon was always glad to see him, even if he felt guilty that Girard wasn't moving on.
"Bah," the illusionist waved a hand, "Too old for moving on. And don't you tell me what to do," Girard chastised.
"Never," Soon said with a fond smile. "Still, your health…"
"You have no legs to stand on talking about health. You're dead." Girard scoffed. "'sides, it's not the trips doing me in. Damn rift couldn't have opened on some beachfront property. It's the desert that's aging me. And the kids," he caught a strand of pure white hair. One of the few he had left. "Nothin' ages you like kids. Crawling down the trappiest—well, you know. And one of those curmudgeonly little bitches went and joined your guard. My own granddaughter."
"I saw her initiation."
"Where she got that contrary, I have no idea."
"Of course not," Soon's eyes crinkled with mirth. "She would be happy to see you too, even if she would never admit it."
"Don't worry, gotta tell her someone's proud of her. Even if she is worshipping a bunch of barnyard animals."
"Tigers and dragons aren't typically found in a barn."
"But pigs and rats and chickens and horses—" Girard broke off into a coughing fit.
"Girard." Soon reached an incorporeal hand, which helplessly passed through.
"I'm fine. Fine." Girard caught his breath. "Better go visit her before I croak."
"I love you." Soon said. "I'll wait for you."
"You'd better, cause you're going up first." Girard's worn, leathery features softened slightly. "I love you too."
But Chaotic Neutral people weren't known for keeping their promises. Months turned to years and the lack of Girard stretched out, long and lonely until Soon overheard some news…
"…head of the family, and my grandfather."
"I understand. Take the time you need."
"Thank you Lord Shojo."
Once the redhead was gone and they were alone, Soon Kim appeared to the new lord of Azure City. "Was that...?"
"I am truly sorry Samurai Kim. Your husband has passed."
Girard Draketooth found himself in front of a desk. An actual desk, with a spirit dressed in a suit. And paper files. What was a chaotic neutral spirit doing wearing that monkey suit? "The case is like this—" began the spirit, pulling out a folder.
"What the hell are you doing with paperwork? We're chaotic neutral. We use paperwork to wipe our asses."
The spirit cocked an eyebrow like it hadn't heard these strange terms in life. "True, you were, but your adventuring party, whom you spent a number of formative years with, was not." It flipped through the file. "Neutral good. Lawful good. Neutral—"
"Serini was as chaotic as I was," Girard protested.
"And look where you are," the spirit spread their hands at the paperwork-cluttered desk. "Now normally a few years adventuring is nothing compared to a century of life, but that paladin—"
Girard's eyes narrowed, "He never tried to convert me. And I sure as hell never changed—"
"Everyone changes. He lost the stick up his ass. And you? You started thinking about others. You had that list of 'decent people who don't deserved to be robbed blind'. Your family might not always abide by it. But you did. They were strangers. Didn't matter one way or another to you or your family but you targeted exclusively assholes."
"Assholes are richer."
The being nodded, "Still, decades of that. And I've got a promise kept on your list—"
"He died! Using his last moments to write me a bloody poem. Literally. In his lifeblood. While he was being turned into a pincushion. A demon couldn't have refused that promise." Gods, that had been heartbreaking. By the time the Sapphire Guard had gotten to the ambush point in that gods-awful Snarl's crack…it had been far too late. Nothing but burned bones being crushed underfoot and armor.
Including the piece with the poem.
Suddenly, in a puff of smoke, the desk, the paperwork and Girard's chair vanished. The spirit was on the cloud floor, laughing so hard it was bursting out of its monkey suit. "Hah! The look on your face. You believed it."
"Oh, it's worth the stuffed suit and paperwork routine just to pull that one." The spirit staggered upright, the tux replaced with a pair of ripped jeans and a holiday sweater depicting many cute fluffy animals buggering each other in true holiday spirit. "Man it's a good thing you fell for it when you did. Couldn't keep up the act any longer."
"Fine then. That was your official welcome into the Chaotic Neutral realm."
Girard glared at the spirit. "You'd better not bitch about me bustin' outta here like granny from the retirement homes."
"Lo, look upon the field where I grow all my fucks," the spirit gestured to a barren cloud.
Guard duty grew more monotonous without his husband, but who awaited him in Celestia? So guard Soon did: even if it was an empty room most of the time. He circled around the perpetually open doors—to keep the lord of the city more honest—then floated back to the sapphire. The very thing he'd bound his soul to. The stone taunted him. Never had duty weighed so heavily. Perhaps he could have visited—
Soon Kim flinched from the sudden sound. The silence was not only broken, but sent to minus ten hp by Girard's laughter. He turned to see the other spirit rolling in mid-air. "Oh my gods that was friggin' hilarious. You jumped. A ghost got scared by a ghost."
Despite the prank (or because of it) Soon smiled. Almost any break in the monotony was welcome but none more welcome than this. He'd almost forgotten what Girard had looked like when they first met: vibrant red hair and sparkling blue eyes, though not a single laugh line on his face. After so many years, he at last gave his husband a proper hug and his incorporeal body felt solid and firm as flesh. "Love, gods how I've missed you."
"Missed you too, you lovable sap." Girard kissed Soon and reveled in their first, proper kiss in…gods it had been decades. Solid and wonderfully warm. What was a quick touch on the lips deepened as they explored each other once more.
Just as well no one invaded the room that day.
Afterwards, still reveling in the ability to properly touch, Girard asked casually: "So, why did you bind your soul? Or would telling me violate your oath?" Despite the mocking tone, his expression was serious. "Cause we can't have that."
"I…I have told you of my family," Soon admitted. His husband didn't like to talk about family, but not in a 'keep the family secrets' way of not-talking about family.
"I am not confident anyone would be there for me in Celestia and if they were…I would much rather stay with you instead."
Girard hugged him close. "That sucks man."
"Hardly the worst of fates."
"Well, since you're all soul-bound here, it means I can drop in anytime. Pretty sure Celestial angels would have kicked me out if you'd gone up to the lawful good shack."
Soon smiled, "And now you understand the other benefit of my plan."
When Soon bound his soul to his gate, he had expected to defend said gate. He'd been prepared for the possibility of banishment. Even the more horrific possibility of total destruction via unleashed Snarl due to his being the last destroyed.
(If he wasn't willing to risk the fate he condemned Kraagor to, he had no right to call himself Lawful Good, let alone a Paladin).
He was not prepared for a Fallen paladin from his own guard to destroy the gate after he had succeeded in defending it. Nor had he really prepared to ascend. Yet, after giving what comfort he could to a dying Miko, ascend he did to an awaiting angel.
"Welcome Soon Kim, please, have a seat and we'll see if the Celestial realm is right for you." The Deva beckoned him to a chair across from her neatly arranged desk.
"Thank you," he said politely and took his seat.
"You are a paladin who has spent much of your life protecting all of existence from…that thing…" they shuddered briefly. "You even risked your existence and tied your very soul to the gate to further guard it. I can only find one cause for complaint in your entire file." The angel looked over the paperwork to him, suddenly serious. "The oath you swore to Serini Toormuck and the remaining members of your adventuring party: The Order of the Scribble."
Soon bowed his head, he had thought…but no matter, the beings of pure law and good knew such things better than he. "Then I will not trouble you any longer." Soon stood up, "In life, I thought the honor of a paladin was unbreakable, only to learn differently with Miko. Yet I should have looked to myself first."
The Deva put the folder down and sighed. "Take your seat again Soon. Technicalities and the letter of the law are Lawful Evil's toys and while you constantly kept the company of temptation in one Girard Draketooth—"
And what a heavenly temptation.
"—you never broke your oath to inquire about the other gates. The temptation was always there but you never gave into it. You could have gone about keeping your oath more efficiently by avoiding Girard altogether," Soon winced, what a lonely life that would have been, "but we don't judge on efficiency. The fact that you never broke your promise, despite constant attraction to do so—"
"That wasn't the attraction involved."
"—speaks for itself. Welcome to the Celestial Realm Soon Kim."
"Thank you." He bowed, "You would not happen to have a visitation policy of some sort?"
"Your father will explain everything to you."
"My father?" Soon asked. Suddenly the mountain he was to climb seemed far more daunting. "I see."
"He did make an honest effort to be lawful and good," the Deva pointed out, "All the way to the end. That matters. He could have gone about it more efficiently, but again we don't judge on efficiency."
Soon stayed silent. There was nothing good for him to say. He wished he'd stayed tied to the gate.
"That's what you get for dating out of your alignment," his father chastised. The first words out of his mouth since he had passed decades ago.
"Greetings to you as well. How have you been? And mother?" Soon looked around at the otherwise empty house.
"Hasn't arrived yet. Wouldn't surprise me if she never did. No sense of duty. Never let it be said I didn't do mine, unlike you. Where's your children?"
"Girard and I decided not to adopt. He felt he had enough children already and the perilous nature of our respective duties would have made that unwise."
"I meant from your proper marriage. What was her name? Migung?"
"Mijung," Soon corrected with the softness of a tiger's footfall. "And she was disinterested in having children." Nor would he ever have forced them upon her.
"Oh for the twelve gods' sakes, that is the most important part of your marriage duties: having children, continuing the family. Hmph, if I'd been alive I could have done something about that…how can you marry a Chaotic Neutral? They've no respect for anything."
"Girard Draketooth. He is a person, not an alignment." Before his father could continue criticizing his life choices, Soon asked: "May we please continue with the orientation."
"You ungrateful little bastard."
Should I have been so lucky. Soon did not say that aloud. The faster they got this over with, the faster he could leave.
"Whadya mean I can't get into the lawful good afterlife. Dude, I'm not looking to stay." Girard struggled against the grappling angel. "I'm just here to see my husband. If he's not somewhere in your pearly gates I've got some words for your standards."
The Angel gripped the wayward spirit harder. "While I respect your marriage to Soon Kim, who dwells within, non-lawful, non-good alignments are not allowed entrance into Celestia, even on a temporary basis. Be grateful this isn't the lawful neutral afterlife. They would—"
"Girard!" The sorcerer twisted in the arms of his captor to see Soon was running flat out toward him. He crashed into the golden gates of Celestia, still reaching with one desperate hand. "Girard. No, wait, please."
The angel paused between the two desperate spirits. "As long as you don't actually enter the lawful good afterlife. And I'll be watching." This last bit she directed to Girard before releasing him.
They touched each other once more, even if it was between bars. "Hey Law."
They couldn't kiss though, not through golden bars.
"Can't he come out and visit then? This isn't a jail cell you know?" Girard gestured to the golden gates.
"Of course you can leave Soon. You may only visit another afterlife if they agree to let you in though," the angel said.
Girard groaned, "Chaotic neutral won't."
"Perhaps we can meet in the middle?" Soon asked hopefully.
The angel looked genuinely contrite. "I am very sorry, but most afterlives have rules about who is allowed entrance and who is not, either officially or unofficially."
"Oh fuck you dude."
The last thing Girard saw before being banished back to the Chaotic Neutral afterlife was Soon Kim, looking like the world's saddest puppy dog behind the Celestial gates.
The Gods did not argue between pantheons. Not after the first time. They debated. Carefully. Amid a set of pre-existing rules to ensure the first Snarl was also the last. "We cannot bend the rules for every exception. If we allow alignments run wild and mix, we may as well be the limbo afterlife," said Bull.
"So you'll let your paladin stare out of the Celestial gates toward the Chaotic Neutral afterlife like a charity commercial?" Thor asked, gesturing below to the paladin. "The Celestial realm is not a prison."
"We have given him…them…what we can, within the rules," Dragon said. "But you know as well as I why those rules exist…and why no exception can be made." He looked down at the mournful paladin below, "But I shall speak with him. He deserves closure, at least."
There is a house in the Lawful Good afterlife. It alone is bare and without joy, owned by one who cannot be contented with the lower levels of Celestia, nor ascend to the higher.
There is a house in the Chaotic Neutral afterlife. It is massive and overflowing with family and chaos, save one space which is empty oft as not. He's gone over to the law, the other Draketooths jest.
There is no house for the two lovers. No place for good law and neutral chaos both to be. Even the Chaotic Good afterlife, which believes people matter more than words, must bow to Dragon's words: "There are more non-good gods than there are good gods. If any of us break the rules, evil will be glad to break them in turn. We have created many worlds but only one Snarl. We cannot risk creating another."
Soon and Girard cannot move on, but cannot be together, parted by golden bars and golden rules.
A/N: While writing this, I did wonder about the Kim family. The Draketooths are the only Scribblers' family explicitly mentioned but it's telling that Soon did an epic level quest, died relatively young for a healthy adult and tied his soul to his gate. Not the actions of a man with family support, in life or afterlife. There could be many reasons for this, but I decided to do the 'dysfunctional family', which also contrasted nicely with Girard's more supportive and loving family.