Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters and the song lyrics at the beginning are from "Gollum's Song" from The Two Towers.

Shadow of Destiny
Resurrecting the Shadow of Memories

Where once was light now darkness falls
Where once was love, love is no more
Don't say goodbye.
Don't say I didn't try.

Eike could feel the chill of night air on his skin but inside everything felt boiling hot. He watched his breath condense into vapour before him and tried desperately to calm himself down when he realised how fast his breathing had become. He slowed his pace as he walked down the street, then finally stopped when he came to a bench. He sat heavily on the wooden seat, but instantly regretted it. Walking had at least given him a way to vent his frustration, or in some way distract himself. Now that he was no longer moving it was as though all his thoughts had caught up with him.

But he didn't have the heart to get up. Instead he slumped forward and buried his face against the palms of his hands, fighting angry tears.

Of all the things that could have happened... all the ways this strange story could end it had to be like that. With that final, disgusting truth which, now that it was unveiled, he realised should have been obvious long before now. So many hints had been dropped here and there... and not just by Homunculus.

//Homunculus...//

That... that... Eike couldn't find a word. There were plenty of words he might have used but none that he felt he could use. It was so confusing to him that it wasn't anger he felt towards the demon... no. It was betrayal. As if this truth had betrayed them both. Or was that the action itself. Eike wasn't sure anymore. He wasn't sure of anything.

//He ruined it,// Eike thought to himself. //He ruined everything... and so did I.//

Yes. Eike couldn't force the blame entirely on Homunculus anymore. After all, it had been him, Eike, who had started all this. It was both their faults. But the anger that suddenly welled up in the young man's heart was because he now felt that Homunculus had ruined something other than the lives of those he cared about. He had just ruined them.

Them... Eike and Homunculus. The little djinn, in his horribly misconstrued perception of what was right had ruined what they had. How in hell's name was Eike meant to forgive this, let alone forget it? How could he look Homunculus in the face again knowing what that djinn had done to him. He could get over being used because, when he thought about it, he had been saving his own life as well and not just the djinn's. But this... Even after forgiving Homunculus for all the terrible things he had done before now Eike couldn't forgive this because he knew that it had been done to him.

And the spell would always be there. Soon... in a few years perhaps... he would forget all this. Everything that had happened with Dana, Margarete... and Homunculus. He would forget all the people he cared about and loved...

Eike's shoulder's shook as angry tears began to fall and sobs coursed through his body uncontrollably.

*******

Delicate fingers ran over the books on the shelves. For a second they appeared to consider a book in particular, seizing it... and then letting go again to continue searching. Soft footsteps ran through the house as the only being left there searched desperately.

Homunculus was looking for anything to distract his mind. He was desperate not to think about the consequences of what he had done. He didn't want to think that Eike might never walk back through that door again... or if he did it would only be to say...

The djinn was glad his eyes had been too full of tears to see the look in the young man's eyes when the truth had finally been revealed. But now he was trapped in a torturous uncertainty that threatened to drive him insane. Would he come back, or wouldn't he? And what if he did... or didn't? What would he, Homunculus, do then? What would Eike do besides eventually forgetting everything they had shared, everything that had happened? He'd forget his anger, that was true, but he would also forget his love, if it still remained there after what had just taken place.

His search became more frantic. He would /not/ stop and break down again. He wasn't certain how much of this shaking emotion his fragile body could take. Even his mind, strong as it was, was beginning to fracture under the unbearable strain of guilt and sorrow.

"Eike?"

The young female voice and the sound of the front door opening made Homunculus freeze in his step. He stood in the kitchen, his hand outstretched to one of the cupboards, absolutely still except for his eyes, which flicked back and forth in something approaching fear.

"Eike?" The voice spoke again. And this time Homunculus recognised it. It was that girl... Margarete. The one he had...

Guilt seized Homunculus as he once again remembered everything he had done. Now he began to tremble. It was bad enough that Eike was gone now, possibly forever. Did he have to deal with others making him feel such terrible guilt? Unable to bear the prospect of this, Homunculus prepared to dissolve his body into his own reality...

"Hey, are you-"

The sharp intake of breath, which interrupted the question not only told Homunculus that he had been discovered, but that he had also been recognised. It was typical really. How could the girl forget about the being that had tricked her brother, destroyed her family and then disappeared in a fountain of red chemicals before her eyes?

He sighed and then turned to her, trying to maintain some dignity, even though he was aware that he had been crying and the evidence might still be there for her to see. The look of horror and realisation on the girl's face almost made the poor djinn break down yet again. It reminded him so much of another face he had seen and only recently allowed himself to remember.

"Hello" he managed to murmur, thankfully without his voice breaking.

"You're... you..."

Homunculus only nodded, and then lowered his gaze, trying to collect his thoughts and his nerves. When he looked up again, more ready to deal with the inevitable onslaught of insults and accusations he saw only a slow and steady realisation in the young woman's eyes. He frowned, wondering what she could be thinking.

"It's you... You and Eike... you're..."

It took a moment for Homunculus to understand what she meant, but then he realised that Eike must have mentioned to her something about his new... relationship. Though it appeared he had left out the part where he explained /who/ his new partner was.

Former partner, a little voice in his mind corrected. And at this Homunculus felt himself begin to tremble again. He managed to hold himself together only to hear Margarete's question:

"W-where's Eike?"

The djinn felt his eyes sting and a familiar ache deep inside him at the question. He opened his mouth to speak... to answer her question with some sarcastic remark to send the girl running away from him. He had to get her out of the house and away from him. He wasn't going to cry in front of her...

But the only sound that came out was a choking sob, which freed the way for more sobs and tears, which now began to flow freely from his red-eyes. Ashamed of himself for crying in front of a mere mortal, Homunculus attempted to cover his face and turned away from her. But, unsteady on his feet suddenly, he felt himself begin to fall. He briefly managed to steady himself on one of the kitchen counters but the weight of his own body was too much for him and he couldn't uncover his face...

The feeling of warm human arms on his arm and round his waist made him start. For one blessed moment he thought Eike had returned and turned with a look of hopeful joy to the person. But there were no green eyes... only soft brown ones. Maragrete... not Eike... was supporting him.

This both saddened and confused him. Why was she helping him after everything he had done? He struggled to voice his question, but exhaustion defeated him and he sagged. Desperate to regain some dignity he tried to fight her off and grab hold of a sturdy surface. But he failed and finally resigned himself to Margarete's tender help.

"Come on... you need to sit down."

Everything was a dizzy blur for a little while as he was led to a seat and lowered gently into it. Homunculus was a little grateful and surprised that Margarete seemed to understand his need for delicate handling. He looked up at her as she took another chair beside him, still holding him upright.

"Are you okay?" she asked softly, genuine concern laced in her words.

Homunculus managed a snort of amused bitterness. "And what on earth do you care? Shouldn't you hate me with every atom of your being?" Margarete seemed too shocked to respond so he continued. "I ruined your whole life. I stole you away from your parents... I ruined your family... I killed your brother... why the hell would you help me?"

Margarete's astonishingly simple reply stunned him into silence.

"Because you need help."

He stared up at her. There was a hurt, indignant look in her eyes, but also one of genuine concern, so similar to the one he had seen in Eike's eyes. He couldn't think of anything to say... just looked at her.

"I know what you did. I remember what Eike told me about you. But..." she seemed to think for a second. "I don't think Eike would be with you if he hadn't forgiven you... and if he forgives you... after you used him... then why can't I?" More silence. "And I'm not unhappy here. In fact I feel so much better here. I feel like I finally belong and I should be grateful for that and I am."

Homunculus was awe-struck. All this forgiveness... it seemed to come so easily when he felt as though he was the most unforgivable creature in existence. He had never expected to meet two such extraordinary people. Perhaps he had underestimated a human's capacity to forgive. Both Eike and Margarete had forgiven him for all the terrible things he had done... except...

"Eike's gone..." he managed to choke out to the girl. "He left... he's... gone..." He felt himself beginning to tremble again with his own sobs.

"You mean..."

"He left! He was angry and he left. He's gone and... I don't know if he'll ever come back and... I feel so..." angry sobs interrupted the flow of words and Homunculus bent his head, covering his face with his hands. He hated that he was crying in front of this girl, but he couldn't say anything other than the sorrow and pain he felt for what was happening.

"You made him angry?"

The innocent question prompted more sobs and only a nod could be given in response. Homunculus drew on his remaining strength and tried to drag himself away from Margarete, who still held on to his arms. He didn't want to be comforted. At least... not by her.

"How?"

"I... I did something I shouldn't have done... and now..." Homunculus shook his head. "I think he hates me now." And here his trembling reached an unbearable level, actually threatening to break his fragile body into pieces. Suddenly he felt so unbelievably tired from all his sobbing and trembling. Maybe sleep... or even black oblivion would be a good idea. At least then he wouldn't have to think about things.

"Is it really that bad?" Homunculus stared up at her, puzzled. "If he cares about you that much... if he knows you care about him," she went on, "it can't be that bad."

"It can be," Homunculus spat out, suddenly filled with self-loathing instead of self-pity. "I /made/ it that bad. It's my fault. This whole damned thing is my fault and now I've ruined it all... After everything..."

"Calm down," Margarete said, desperate in the face of the djinn's bitter sorrow. "You'll only make yourself more upset thinking that way... Surely you can get through this. One fight... it doesn't end everything. Eike forgave you for everything else. Why is this different?"

"It just /is/, damn you!" Homunculus almost shouted at the poor girl, venting his anger at the only other person present. "It's changed everything for him in a way you can't even imagine! And he'll probably leave me for it. I... I even think he /should/." Homunculus words began to come slower now as he began to realise something. "I don't deserve him. He should be... with... But he can't. I've ruined everything for him. It's all my fault."

Margarete refused to allow Homunculus' words hurt her or stand in her way. "If you caused this then you're the one who has to fix it!" she said, standing up and actually daring to pull on the demon's arm. "And you can. I know you can. I know about all the other things you did. You can make this work out for both of you. But it's up to you. /You/ have to convince him to stay."

Homunculus watched the girl, his mood now more dejected than hateful. But he couldn't deny the sense the girl made. She was right. He couldn't expect Eike to sort out every little problem they had along the way. One of them had to do something and... No... /he/ had to do something. There was no question about it. It was /his/ responsibility and he would shoulder it even if it cost him everything...

"You're... right."

He never thought he'd say it and mean it with all his being. He stared up at Margarete and saw the smiling determination in her face. That was what he needed. He had to have that, and this girl had set him down the right road.

He shook off her hands, not out of shame but simply as a display of new resolve and strength. He wanted to stand on his own feet, be his own responsibility again. He was grateful, he could admit to that, for Margarete's help, but he had to do this on his own. He had to show that he was worth something, even if it was only forgiveness and not love.

"Thank you," he said, collecting his energy together to speak. "I... I need to go."

Margarete's smile broadened. "Yeah, I know. Good luck."

"Thank you," he murmured again, and managed a grateful smile at the young mortal before slowly dissolving his body into his own realm...

"Where are you, Eike?" he whispered to himself, turning to his window, filled with the beautiful image of a distant sunset, an image that changed to long dark streets lit with lamp light.

"Where are you..."

*******

Finding it impossible to keep still, feeling restless and angry, Eike was on the move again, not really paying attention to where he was going, just staring at his feet on the cobbles.

Cobbles... So he was in the square now?

He finally looked up, and there was that damned tree. He glared at it like it was offending him with its presence. It brought back the memory... of when he was walking with Margarete and found the stone hidden in the branches like an egg in a nest. What would have happened if he had left it where it was, or had not found it at all?

//I guess in one reality that's what I did do// he thought, almost smiling as he remembered all Homunculus' lectures on time.

Oh god... Homunculus.

The thought of the djinn brought a lump to Eike's throat, which was already sore from crying earlier. He was so confused about his feelings for him now. He felt like he should hate him, and part of the young man wanted to hate him. But something else simply wouldn't allow it. Something deep down felt too much for the djinn to hate him.

//I love him too much to hate him,// Eike realised with a kind of cynical affection. //But... do I love him enough to...//

"Eike?"

The sound of Homunculus' voice shattered the otherwise blissful quiet surrounding Eike. He wasn't certain whether he was glad to hear those unearthly tones so soon, but he turned to face the demon anyway, drawing himself up as though he were about to face a fight for his life.

He was surprised by the look of determination and relief on the djinn's face, though that was explained in the words that followed.

"I was almost afraid I wouldn't find you. I... I missed the opportunity to say something. You left before I had the chance..."

Eike stared at the djinn. It was strange to see him like this, so eager and determined, especially when he was normally so calm and collected, even with his new emotions. He was intrigued as well. What else might need to be said? And then, before he could stop himself...

"What? Got another interesting detail about my ruined life that you feel obligated to tell?"

Homunculus was in a bad enough way as it was. As soon as he had appeared in the square and called Eike's name he had felt his seemingly unshakeable determination begin to slip from him. He had begun to feel afraid again, and the tremble in his body was returning, and gradually getting worse. To hear Eike, sounding very angry and upset still over everything, was not helping him at all, and made his situation, and his intended words, seem all the more hopeless.

Worst of all, it awoke and deep born instinct that threatened their already precarious situation.

"You humans... you /ask/ for the truth and then you act as if it would have been better if nothing had been said," he spat out bitterly. "You never learn. It's as if you want everything ruined for you."

"Well congratulations, Homunculus. You did a hell of a good job ruining everything for me."

"You wanted the truth... I gave it to you. As far as I'm concerned you brought this on yourself. Just like you brought your whole fate on yourself when you summoned me and made that idiotic wish."

Eike's fists clenched by his sides. "Don't you dare try and make out that this is all my fault, Homunculus. Just because /you/ got hurt never gave you the right to hurt others. You didn't have to twist my wish, but you did. And now look where it's brought us."

"So hate me then, if it makes you feel better. If it makes you feel blameless," Homunculus was still trapped in his sarcastic facade, but it couldn't hold for long. He could feel the ache and the sting in his eyes... more palpable by the second. But he forced himself to go on looking into Eike's face, staring into green eyes that showed too many conflicting emotions for him to pin down.

"If I could hate you, god damn it, I would with all my soul. Oh but you've probably taken that already haven't you. Is that how you won me over so easily before?"

Eike couldn't believe he was saying these things. Moments before he had been considering forgiving the djinn. Now it was like they were mortal enemies and this was their final confrontation, where words were far more powerful than magic or physical blows. But he couldn't stop any of the words and he wondered if Homunculus was having the same trouble as he was...

He could not have been more right.

"How nice that you think that little of me," Homunculus snarled at the young man. "Perhaps I should remind you of the family you disregarded in order to summon me? The people you forgot about... when my spell took affect... the..." Why did he suddenly feel so breathless?

"That spell was your fault. You did that to me. It's /your/ fault."

"How very human... of you..." //Everything's becoming a blur...// "To blame everything on someone... else." Homunculus took a step back, suddenly needing a wider base in order to keep himself upright.

"You're the..." Eike saw Homunculus stumble back slightly. He faltered at the sight, and his body jerked as an instinct told him to run and support the djinn. But he forced himself to hold his ground. "You're the one you tries to find a blame for everything you do."

"I..."

That was as far as Homunculus got before the ache inside became overwhelming and his knees weakened under him. He felt himself falling forwards and watched as the world, and Eike's image began to spin in front of him, still blurred and distorted, almost beyond recognition.

Thankfully, he sagged rather than fell, which made the impact less hard on his fragile body. But he felt so weak... he had only felt like this once before...

"Eike..." he managed to murmur.

It was wonderful to feel the young man's presence by his side suddenly and feel his supporting arms around him. There was so much warmth in that embrace and Homunculus had never felt more grateful for it. He found himself struggling for words... trying desperately to say something.

"Homunculus, what's wrong. Speak to me! What's wrong?"

Eike's desperate words cleared his mind for a second and the djinn opened blood-red eyes, finally managing to get them to focus properly on the being he loved so much. He felt his thoughts clear, but something deep down told him it would not last for long. He had to do what he needed to do /now/.

"Eike... I never got the chance... you never let me say... that I'm sorry for everything. I love you and I'm so sorry. And..." he was weakening again. His vision was growing dark and his sentences were clipped. "I want to spend eternity... making amends. With you right beside me."

"Oh god, no," he heard Eike say above him, though he couldn't see him anymore. And the sound was fading too now... "No... don't you dare..."

And then there was the blackness of oblivion. But it was no longer sweet and inviting. Instead it was cold and empty... but he had no choice anymore and, it seemed, no hope.

*******

It was painful to move, even to open his eyes, but Homunculus did because he had to know. He forced the heavy lids back. When his vision was clear enough for him to make any reasonable judgement of what he saw, Homunculus realised that he was staring at a bedroom ceiling. A familiar one...

"Eike?" he murmured softly, not sure if he expected the young man to hear but definitely hoping.

"Yes?"

The sound was from another part of the room, but as he listened he heard footsteps come closer. Then weight on the edge of the bed as a familiar and welcome face appeared in Homunculus' limited field of vision.

Homunculus, despite the situation, couldn't withhold an ironic smile. "Did I ever explain deja-vu to you Eike?" he asked.

He was relieved when the blonde actually smiled but knew it wouldn't last for long. He struggled for the right words... the words he had practically branded into him own mind.

"I'm sorry, Eike. I'm so, so sorry."

"Ssh," Eike hushed the djinn quietly, not wanting him to strain himself too much. "I know. You've already said." For a moment Homunculus was confused, then he remembered what had happened before, at the moment he had blacked out.

"I was almost afraid I had imagined saying it... and that I'd left it too late," he murmured.

"No," Eike said. "I heard you loud and clear. And I understood you."

Now Homunculus was confused. His delicate brow furrowed in question as he looked into the green eyes above him.

"I'd... I'd be honoured to stay by you for eternity, Homunculus. I'd love to. Back in the square, when you blacked out... I thought I'd lost you for good. I was scared you wouldn't wake up. But you have, and... and now it's my turn to apologise."

"For-?"

"For what I said before," Eike said, knowing what the djinn's question would be. "I had no right to blame everything on you. There's so much blame that I need to take as well. I was wrong to try and throw it all on you."

"It's not as though I'm entirely blameless myself, Eike."

"I know... but still," Eike let the sentence hang, a nod from Homunculus confirming that he understood. "And I want..." he smiled slightly now, "to make a deal."

A sceptical eyebrow was raised. "I'm surprised. Given the deals we've made in the past you should know better."

The joke, Homunculus realised too late, could have backfired and ruined everything, but mercifully all he received was a half-amused, half- disapproving smile from the man.

"I'll forgive you... if you forgive me."

The djinn smiled contentedly at this, his hopes realised and his doubts scattered. He shut his eyes as he felt the relief wash over him that everything really would be all right. All it took was three little words.

"I forgive you." He murmured, opening his eyes and staring Eike straight in the face, wanting him to see the utter sincerity in his eyes. The smile he was given in return bathed him in warm happiness.

"I forgive you."

And then a soft mouth was lowered against his, and the two kissed gently, but with more emotion than anyone could begin to describe. Homunculus sighed against Eike's mouth, wishing he had the strength to reach up and hold the man. Instead he let Eike wrap him up in a gentle embrace and kissed him more deeply, before pulling away.

Three more words were needed here...

"I love you."

And that smile again...

"I love you too."

****The End****