a Galactic Heroes fanfic

by Serenade

Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

Late Season One. No spoilers.

Author's Note:
Most quotes are actually based on canonical references.

I don't own these characters. They are the creation of Yoshiki Tanaka. I'm only borrowing them because, well, it would be a crying shame not to. This is a non-profit work made for the enjoyment of fans. Please don't sue me - it would be evil. ^_^

* * * * *

I am the first to wake, as always. Somehow the soft predawn light touches off a signal in my mind, coaxing it through layers of velvet sleep to surface into grainy consciousness. I hardly think about it anymore. It's simply become habit; ingrained, perhaps, through the years of military drill, and the constant need for watchfulness that I have learned.

The stars are fading as the sky grows pale. It was always under starlight, in the stolen hours of true night, that you whispered all your dangerous dreams to me. Those moments now are midnight and unreal. Yet how can I ever lose the memory of your hand reaching out to grip mine, to draw me into a future I hardly dared believe?

Sometimes you make me afraid, even now, with your dauntless will and your slow-burn anger. Fearless as a lion, you despise all lesser beasts. Warm eyes for those you favour; cold disdain for all the rest.

It has never been an easy task, living with your complexities. Cruel you are and kind in the very same breath. *Siegfried? What a common name. But Kircheis - I like the sound of that. It's like the wind across the plains.*

Your moods can shift so suddenly, like the movement of water on the face of a pool. I am often soothed by your soft voice, your light laugh, as you lace your fingers absently through my hair. *It's like red jade,* you say, fascinated by the dark shining strands. But compliments turn to insults when we quarrel once again. *You bloody-haired fool,* you snarl. *You're so stubborn and naive.*

I've learned to absorb the barbs you thrust out; I know what they defend. Half my life has been spent by your side. I know the contours of your self, as naturally as I read my reflection in a glass.

They call me your shadow, and I do not deny it.

Was I the first, to see the fire kindled in your eyes, to be compelled by the spirit and the purpose burning in you like a torch? To be drawn by the dazzling vision that rivets a man's soul to your allegiance? *Come with me,* you said, *we'll take the universe together. Come and join me, Kircheis.*

There was no choice really, not in the end. It was inevitable as gravity, like a comet falling into the sun. Is this what they call destiny?

How strange are the chances that come to shape our lives. A van that pulls into an empty house. The sound of children's voices, and the boy next door. And a young girl walking homeward from the shops, as a black limousine cruises slowly by.

I am the second most powerful man in the legions of an empire that spans stars. And I stand at the right shoulder of the man who would bring it down.

*I will give you half of everything I get,* you said. *Fame, power, wealth... anything.* Back then, we had nothing but ourselves, and the consuming resolve to remake the world anew. Even now, years later, you have forgotten nothing. Each victory, each triumph, you share with me, and no matter the sidelong mutterings of the envious.

I've pledged you all I can offer, even my life. *You mustn't die before me, Kircheis. Promise me that you won't die before I do.* The only time I've witnessed the threat of tears shake your voice. *Everyone else has been taken away from me. You are the only one I have now.*

I follow you, as I have always followed you. But I sense you gliding forward into a world that has no need of me. A world that will be careless of your shining dreams; a world that would make, of the boy you were, a man whom that boy would hate.

I will stand against the enemies who challenge you; I will guard your back against daggers. But against the subtler treacheries of temptation and compromise, what counsels of mine will you deign to accept? I dread greatly that in the desperate maelstrom of intrigue and deceit, you will sacrifice what should be most precious to you.

I do not want to see you destroyed, whether by your opponents or through the machinations of those who profess to be loyal to you. The serpent's poison may be deadly to foes, but it also taints the one who uses it. This is the path we swore we'd never walk. If you ask me to follow you into shadow, I will have to make the choice I do not want to make. If you force me to that point, I will have to choose between breaking my honour and breaking my heart.

*We won't be like them, will we, Kircheis?* I want to believe you. I have always wanted to believe you, just as you have always needed me to believe. *Do you still think I can succeed? Do you think I can win the universe?* We both know what the question really means. And we both know the answer off by heart.

We've come a great distance together, you and I, your ambition driving us forward like the chariots of the sun. But ambition is a relentless thing, and it will find a way to devour you if it can. Then you will look at me with a stranger's eyes, and the memories which have shaped my life will be worth no more than dust. My fingers tighten their grip on the edge of the window. How do we survive without abandoning our dreams, or must we betray who we are? What will become of us, and the bright promises we once made?

"Kircheis." Your sleep-stained voice drifts over to me. "What are you doing?"

I answer without turning. "Nothing. Just looking at the stars."

"You can't see them anymore." I can sense your gently mocking smile. "The sun's coming up."

"I know. But they're still there, aren't they?"

Soft laughter. "You're a hopeless dreamer, do you know?"

I turn away from the window towards you at last. Yellow light spills onto a tumble of golden hair. Your clear blue eyes, like sun-warmed ice, watch me with tender amusement. My chest constricts with a sudden pang.

"Yes," I say. "I am."

When have we ever deserted one another? I cannot make those bitter choices today. The trust you hold in me has never flinched or wavered; it leaves my soul shaken.

I made a promise, long ago, about devotion that will not yield to time or adversity. If I can but hold the darkness at bay, I will judge my days to have been well spent.

I reach out my hand and close the distance between us.

- fin -