Hello!

This is my first posted Vagrant Story fic, so please be nice.  I just loved this game so much it was essentially inevitable that I should eventually write a fic for it.  THIS IS ACTUALLY *gasp* A ONE-SHOT!!!  Oh, my God, I actually wrote a short piece outside of class!  *grin*

I meant for parts of this to feel a little surreal, detached to fit the feel of the game.  There's also a little bit of the darkish, grimy feel the game possessed.  This is a short scene between Ashley and Sydney during the events of the ending.  Therefore, THERE ARE SPOILERS for anyone who has not yet beaten the game.  Also, if you aren't familiar with my work, I should let you know right now that I'm a shounen-ai/mslash writer, so this may contain elements of that, though only if you're looking.  Please don't be offended.

This is a work of FANfiction.  I do not own Ashley, Sydney, or anything associated with the game.  I'm just playing here, and I'm broke anyway, so don't try to sue.  I'm a college student, and therefore, the epitome of broke-ness.

Please enjoy my little ficlet!

Fire Dance

Heat.  Fire.  Rhythm.  The flash of flame on glittering steel, on gold, on supple feminine limbs.

Ashley blinked, and the world blinked with him.

It was as though the whole universe was suddenly crashing down, but he stood atop the Cathedral, no above it, suspended on a flickering field of light, that even now was failing beneath him, just as the Great Cathedral itself crumbled.  Only a day ago, he would have scoffed at the thought that mere light could hold him up, but now such a strangeness felt normal; after all, that power now lay at his very fingertips.

Did it?  That thought confused him.  He knew the spells from the grimoires now, spells of healing, spells of destruction, but he surely could not create something so big as this, so powerful.

He fought the impulse to scratch at his itching back.

Silent and graceful as a shadow, Ashley leapt down from the heights above the Cathedral to land on its crumbling roof.  Guildenstern was dead—thank God, even if that made no sense, if the Rood really granted immortality—but Ashley knew a couple more men who would be dead if he didn't get moving.  He swung in through the window into the top room of the Cathedral, a reflexive prayer flickering through his mind when he stepped on the 'sacred' stone within.

Why was the stone floor inside the building hallowed enough to warrant prayers, when the stone of the roof that covered it all was not worth thinking of?  Was a Cathedral still sacred in Leá Monde, where the feet of heathens, heretics, monsters, and the dead had traversed and marked its every stone their own?  Was this place still sacred when the stone thirstily soaked up the blood of the compassionate leader of a heretic cult, half-murdered by the monstrous leader of a band of Holy Knights?

Heat.  Fire.  Rhythm.  The flicker of long-fingered hands trailing fluid silk through the red light.

Ashley picked up the too-still, too-pale form of Sydney Losstarot easily.  He weighed so little, save for those metallic arms, and curled into Ashley's grasp like a drowsing child.  Well, perhaps the soft whimper of pain that escaped Sydney's lips betrayed the lie in that impression, but it was so much more comfortable to believe the other was merely resting…

Ashley clung to the memory of Sydney's pained sound, the smell of his blood in the air, the sight of his back, stripped of skin.  He could no longer afford self-delusion.

His shoulder-blades itched, but he could not reach back to alleviate the discomfort and still bear poor, broken-bodied Sydney away from here.

Holding the other man securely to him, Ashley started to run; down, away, fast, away, away, knowing all the while he couldn't possibly run fast enough to escape, burdened as he was with Sydney.  There were obstacles he couldn't hope to navigate with the other, some he had barely crossed himself.

Heat.  Fire.  Rhythm.  The flutter of thick lashes downswept to hood eyes lit from within by too much knowledge.

Maybe he could teleport?  He didn't know if it was possible to carry another with him when he 'ported.  Certainly, he'd seen Sydney send Hardin, Merlose, and Joshua Bardorba through a portal without even stepping into it himself.  He hadn't even had the aid of a magic circle's power.  But that was Sydney, who was powerful beyond Ashley's ken, who knew what he was doing.

Who now lay half-dead and helpless in Ashley's grip, utterly dependent upon him for his continued survival.

Ashley's back twinged in sympathetic response to the pain radiating in tangible waves from his burden.

He couldn't do that, hadn't the arrogant power, the casual but utter mastery over it to perform such a feat.  But neither could he simply abandon Sydney, or give up altogether.  Too much had happened.  Too much had been said and done for him to let it end.  Just yesterday, he might have welcomed death as a lover—either sweet and tender, or fierce and passionate, it would not have mattered.  Now he fought it like a daemon, fought the despair it sent to leech his will from him.

Obviously, he and his lover, with whom he'd danced on so many occasions, were in the midst of a bit of a spat.

Ashley strode to a magic circle, ignoring the ground crumbling all around him, caving the instant his feet lifted from it.  He pulled all of Sydney with him into the circle, tried to arrange them as best he could so the power would come easily.  He reached for it…

Heat.  Fire.  Rhythm.  A second figure dancing on the pyre, at once darker and paler than the first, but just as beautiful.

At first, the power responded strangely.  He felt it try to rush to Sydney, its vessel, then flinch back as it marked his sudden strangeness.  Ashley called it from its confusion toward him, felt it reluctantly turn its attention to the mere child calling out to it, then felt it leap to his command with more ease than ever before.  He could feel the whole of the ancient city around them, curled in the throes of its power.

His back burned as he coaxed, cajoled, tempted, and bullied the power out of control of his head.

Forcefully, Ashley turned his thoughts toward the manipulation he needed to make.  He reached with his awareness outward to find all the places he could reach by teleporting.  Then he started narrowing it down.  No place underground, because that would be truly dangerous with the city collapsing; no place too far away, since he had no idea what difference Sydney would make to the jump; no place too close, because he wanted, needed out of here.

He finally decided he would break the trip into a series of smaller jumps, magic circle to magic circle.  From here in the Atrium, he would go to Rue Lejour, then the Warrior's Rest, Rue Vermillion, and at last the Worker's Breakroom.  The largest exertion would ordinarily have been no more than 55 MP, a bit over half his total.  He'd really wanted to keep it down in the forties someplace, but trying to stay aboveground made that substantially more difficult, since half the city was below the surface.  This way, the only times he had even a roof over his head were now and in the Breakroom, but there was no helping it there.  Then he would have to go on by foot.

Ashley turned the power to his will for the first teleportation…

Heat.  Fire.  Rhythm.  The dull glow of flame on an embrace of blacked steel, beckoning him to join the dance.

Ashley stumbled with the jolt of the journey, surprised with how easy it had been.  He could hear the roar of great chasms opening in the bowels of Leá Monde and the cries of its inhabitants—most dying, or dying again, but some were obviously bent on escape.  Ashley had no desire to be caught in the flood of panic-crazed creatures attempting to flee, and that combined with the ease of the first jump made Ashley alter his plans. 

Downing a mana root to recover the MP he had lost, Ashley decided to make a jump all the way to Rue Bouquet, then a shorter jump to the Breakroom.  He couldn't make the Breakroom in one 'port, but it was still one less trip.  Ashley made the two jumps in quick succession, using mana bulbs to recover after the first.

His back was aflame now, and he almost dropped Sydney upon exiting the portal, but he clung grimly on.  Moving into a staggering run, Ashley ran through the Breakroom, hearing the sounds of desperate monsters nearby, then through the Entrance to Darkness.  The grate that had been in the way previously was still in place.

Setting Sydney carefully down nearby, Ashley set to work trying to open the grate.  Finesse would not open it, and bludgeoning it had no result either.  Ashley desperately focused a high-level Flame Sphere on it, even though the power had never wanted to strike out at inanimate objects before.  It had as much impact as his previous attempts.  Finally, angry and reasonably frightened, he just reached out and hammered it with the raw power of the Dark.

The grate simply ceased to be.

Horrified, Ashley staggered back from where that solid obstacle had been, then shook himself free from thoughts of what such power could do to a living thing.  He couldn't afford any further delay.  The city was dying all around him, Sydney was probably just plain dying, there were still Knights running around the place, and Agent Merlose might need help.  Turning, he swept Sydney up again, bearing him through the doorway, across the room on the other side, and up the stair into the night air outside the city.

Heat.  Fire.  Rhythm.  The outline of another shape beyond, unfamiliar, but Ashley recognized a sense of kinship.

There was a tremendous crack behind them as the lower portions gave way at last, and the sea poured into the catacombs and the wine cellars.  Against his chest, Sydney stirred at the noise, turning his head toward it.  Then he looked up at Ashley, vague confusion touching his oddly vulnerable features.  Sydney gazed at him levelly for long moments, his strangely colorless eyes seeming to search Ashley's soul.  Ashley relaxed.  What more could Sydney possibly do to him?  Let him read what he would, or listen, if he in fact had no visions, as such; Ashley was tired, and no longer cared whether this man knew him within and without.  There was little point to further struggle.

The burn in Ashley's back had faded to a dull ache, a reminder that he might want to set Sydney down sometime in the near future.

Sydney smiled at him then, a wide sweet smile that would have looked more comfortable on Joshua Bardorba's features than on a cultist's, but Sydney made it work.  Sydney could make anything work, it seemed, even injured so horribly.  Ashley smiled shortly in return, although it felt alien on his face.  Then he moved farther away from the opening into what had been Leá Monde, and gently set Sydney down on the grass.

Heat.  Fire.  Rhythm.  The third figure could not quite be made out, though Ashley could hear the murmur of his voice and see the flash of jewelry.

Ashley shook his head, massaging his left temple.  What were these weird flashes?  Why should he care who the people in them were?  He recognized Sydney, but who cared about the woman or the shadow-man?

"She is Müllenkamp, Riskbreaker."

Ashley stared at Sydney.  How the devil did the man do that, anyway?

Sydney smiled.  "I don't need powers to know, Riot.  I merely went through it myself when I took on the Blood Sin.  The one you can't make out will be your successor.  As time passes, the details of that person will fill in."

Ashley's mouth went dry.  "Blood Sin?"

Sydney smiled.  "Surely you did not believe that it could be possible for you to defeat one who bore the Blood Sin, even illicitly acquired, were you not already in possession of a bit of its power?  Slowly, so slowly, over the course of this day I have funneled a fraction of my power into you as my successor.  Once I believed you to be both the one of my own 'visions' and truly worthy of the Power of the Dark, of course."  His smile faded.  "Let me see your back, Riskbreaker."

His back.  Ashley had completely forgotten about it.  Nothing felt unusual about it, anymore.

Slowly, Ashley turned his back to Sydney.  Could he really have that mark draped across his flesh?  The symbol that had once adorned Sydney's pale back?  He felt cold, dagger-like fingers trace it on him, heard Sydney sigh behind him, though whether wistfully or in relief he could not be sure.

"I am sorry to do this to you, Riskbreaker.  It is only because you fought it so hard, because you will not let the power be used for ill, that you will not let it use you, that I passed the power to you.  I could have withheld it, and a new vision would have come, a new potential Rood-bearer."

Heat.  Fire.  Rhythm.  Müllenkamp and Sydney standing side-by-side beconing him into the blaze.

Ashley felt strange peace settle over him, a blanket after having been without one in the cold for so long.  Wordlessly, he turned to face Sydney again, casting a healing spell over him.  Sydney hissed in slight pain, and the flesh of his back would not heal as perfectly as it should, but it seemed like it needed to be that way, so Ashley let it go.

He reveled quietly in the feel of the untainted sun on his patterned back, then stood, offering his hand to Sydney, to help him to his feet.  As the fine steel fingers curled around his hand, the metallic palm warming slowly in his grasp, Ashley smiled.

"Come.  We need to wipe out my camp before Merlose gets there and starts asking questions.  She would not be able to ignore your presence or a certain large mark on my back.  I may even have clothes you can borrow.  After that, I shall take you wherever you wish to go."

Sydney smiled, rising to his feet, hand in Ashley's and looking like nothing so much as an angel rising to meet him.

Heat.  Fire.  Rhythm.  Ashley's hands rested in two other hands, one soft and feminine, one all flame-warmed steel.

"The Greylands, Riot.  I need to see my father.  I have to put this to rest."

Ashley knew it was more than their bitter quarrel he was putting to rest.  He felt sadness, but he understood the reasons.  Strange, that one so mysterious at the beginning of the day had suddenly become the one person in the world he felt he could understand; the one person he would miss out of this whole thing, save maybe Merlose and the boy, and that was so different it barely counted.

He tilted his head back to gaze at the dark sky and its scattered stars.  Would those stars still look the same in however many years it took until he passed the Blood Sin himself?  Would he be as young as he thought Sydney was, despite the ancient wisdom in his eyes?  Would he be so old that Valendia, Leá Monde, the Iocus Priesthood, and everything else he knew now had vanished into history, and he was the only place where they remained?  The only place they were not forgotten?

Ashley started off toward his camp, Sydney slightly stiff, but still moving beside him.  "Then we shall go to the Greylands," he said quietly.

One of Sydney's hands reached up to touch Ashley's back lightly.  A thrill ran up it, and Ashley shivered slightly, but looked over at Sydney.

"Thank you, Ashley."

The Riskbreaker, now Rood-bearer nodded solemnly.

Heat.  Fire.  Rhythm.  Ashley stepped forward with the aid of the guiding hands, and joined himself to the dance.

~Fin

All right!  That's it!

This fic is in part an apology for taking so long to update all my fics.  I hope it works okay, as I'd hate to be murdered before I get my FFVII universe all made and my little Xenogears fic all done!  This is also partially a response to browsing my favorite Xenogears resource site whose URL makes me think of VS, and a friend's insistent prodding.   (Naaaaate…)

As per my policy, comments, questions, concerns, and so forth are happily accepted, however, please do not flame me.  Feel free to email me or leave a review!

Thank you!

--Akuma no Tsubasa