...to prey

            He had woken to an unfamiliar ceiling.  He wasn't really used to seeing a ceiling to begin with, much less one that was white.  He had lived his whole life on the fringes of planets and stars with nothing but black space in all directions, not even pin-point lights to guide one's way.  The universe was empty, or had seemed so if one was to look.  There were no comforts there, only isolation and silence.  Sometimes, when he was lucky, he would wake instead to the smell of her hair, soft pink and tainted blue, the color of what humans called cotton-candy.  Those strands would flood his vision in the dim light that glowed from their tree Mother, the sacred Makaiju Tree who guided their every step.  These days, though, all he saw was white and non-existent dreams.

            This world that called itself Earth was waking, he could hear the stir in the outside world.  The Makaiju Tree, Mother of their existence, sang a soft tune that came like listening to the evening breeze without the hum of traffic.  Yet, so used to it, he did not take too much notice or cared.  Understanding the words of the sacred tree had long proven fruitless.  Ail closed his eyes and enclosed himself in the familiar darkness behind his lids.  He recalled with perfect clarity the stretch of endless emptiness that lay in wait beyond the white ceiling and the blue skies, beyond the illusions of color and the moving bodies of the human species.

            The dreams that plagued his mind retreated as did the demons within.  Any moment now they would return and the Hunger would burn him to the core.  Ail forced his muscles to relax, savoring the few moments of peace left in the pre-dawn hours.  He felt his senses stretch over the city and heard the throb of energy.  He could feel Life that pulsed incessantly like human blood vessels, its sweet, energy force traveling in all directions, a thousand different paths waiting to be plucked, waiting to be sucked dry.  The ignorant, lazy meals that slumbered with ease, unaware of the danger he presented was also sweetly calling to him in its ease to catch.  Ail's lips twisted into a sadistic smile, he felt the burning demons rise with each throb as did his hunger.  He felt as if he were floating, watching the city slowly rousing, watching the world that begged to be taken till the Hunger was sated and Mother was strong.  Every ounce of him hummed with the unheard song of the Makaiju Tree, hummed with the life forces that left his mouth watering for more.  And this was how he lived, starved, and fed.

            The lives of his prey called to him.

            Snarling, he snapped open his eyes, back arching, fighting the Hunger that rushed throughout him with an animalistic craze.  No, he must not lose control, he must not blow their cover.  He fisted his fingers tightly against the sheets, wished for a fleeting moment for Ann to be there to sooth the pain.  The moment passed so quickly he would not remember it later when he was once again calm.  He withered and twisted on the human bed he used to rest upon.  The agony deep inside him demanded to be released. Unable to satiate the aching, Ail banged his fist against the wall in hopes of overcoming it with pains elsewhere on his body, but still it persisted like a tide that threatened to pull him deep into the ocean of his madness.

            Cool fingers brushed his brow, a voice called his name.  "Ail?  It's okay.  It will pass."  The murmurs were only slowly beginning to make sense.  He opened his eyes after long, suffering moments with the craze still within the depth of his gaze, but the glazed look was fading.  Ann's pink hair poured over her shoulder, strands flung over and around him as she hovered, watching him with a concern that she tried bravely to hide.  He had never come so close to losing it since they had arrived on Earth, not until today.  Her hands held his sweat dampened face, soothing him with soft, wordless sounds.  "Good morning," she said when she saw the last of the Hunger fade, though he was still panting from the exertion of holding it off.  Her lips curved into a humorless smile, but the relief was clear on her face even as she began to pull back.

            "Good morning," he said slowly, deliberately pronouncing the words as concisely as possible to disguise the weakness that now lay deeply within his limbs.  She carefully brushed his blue-bangs aside to better see his face.  His disguise had long fallen away during the night.  There was a tender look that came upon her face, but it quickly faded before it could be identified.  Ail saw but did not know how to name it as she pulled back completely, knowing the danger had passed.

            "I came to tell you that we should be heading to school soon," her fingers lingered on his cheek for a moment more.  It made him feel something he also could not name.  But the touch was soft and fleeting, as were his thoughts upon them.

            "Today will be hard," he answered.

            Ann's soft and comforting smile became a knowing smirk.  "Don't worry," she assured him as she rose onto her feet.  "I'll get us a snack."

            She misunderstood.

                                                *          *          *

            Ail ran his fingers through his copper colored hair and loosened his collar.  He stepped onto the roof, and walked to the edge.  Fingers curled over steel as he rested his head tiredly against the fence.  Today had been a draining day.  In keeping up appearances, he had found the effort to have been more difficult than before.


            He froze, turning his head to see blonde-odangos bobbing as Tsukino Usagi poked her head out onto the roof behind a beaming Kino Makoto.  "Hey there, Seijuro Sempai!" Surprised, Ail only blinked at them before inclining his head politely.

            "Hello there, ladies."  He answered smoothly to his relief, hiding his surprise.  Makoto near swooned as she dragged a much more reluctant Usagi behind her.

            "We saw you come up here," Makoto explained as Ail leaned against the fence, paying more attention to the blonde behind Makoto.  "I know you probably want to be alone, but I also noticed that you don't have a bento today, again."  Beaming Makoto produced a large lunch box, seemingly from out of nowhere.  Ail could not help but take note of the sudden perk in Usagi's demeanor.  "So why don't the three of us have a picnic, I cooked enough for four?"  Makoto shot a knowing look at Usagi while Ail raised a brow, "Though Usagi has a tendency to eat like four people, maybe she'll hold back a little today and share."

            "Hey!"  Usagi protested as she made a grab for the revealed dumplings, "I do not!"  The "not" part was a slurred as the blonde popped the dumpling into her mouth and started to chew vigorously, with a delighted expression coming over her face at the taste.

            Ail smiled at both of them.  With Tsukino Usagi so close, he could feel warmth spreading within him as she sat next to her friend, eating and arguing.  He was beginning to feel better already, and it seemed that just being with Usagi had made that possible.  Ail took note of the warmth he felt, deciding it be best that he raise the startling discovery when he could talk to Ann next.  Makoto was still popping open her lunch boxes, chattering all the way.  There was the beautiful day to discuss, the heavy set of spring slowly passing into early summer.  There were worries of exams and the beauty of the world blossoming.  There were shared jokes between close friends as the two girls bantered, teased and mocked each other and those they knew with ease.

            "So," Makoto turned to Ail as he poked experimentally at a piece of what looked like fish in one of the many layered bentos spread about.  "Where did you learn to play the flute like that?"  The brunette was digging into a dumpling while Usagi ate like a mad-woman beside her.

            Ail chuckled softly at the sight.  He hardly ever spent any time, especially not quiet afternoons, with humans before, or anyone for that matter.  In space, Ann and he had spent most of their days asleep, trying to stave off the Hunger while they traveled from planet to planet.  Sometimes, there were sights they had never before encountered, and had been fascinated with.  But most times, they were hunted when their identities were blown.  Up to now, Ail had not been able to relax for a moment, not like this.

            "I've known it for so long, I can't quite remember when I started," he lied.  "I guess it came to me naturally."  He ducked his head to hide his amusement at his own lies, though to the girls in front of him, he must have came off as modest.  "A relative gave me the flute, and I've treasured it ever since."

            "That's so romantic," Usagi murmured, awe in her voice.

            Ail looked up startled, it was the first time she spoke to him directly since the two friends had arrived.  Makoto glanced sideways at her friend slyly, "Wow," the brunette exclaimed, startling them both.  "You actually got Usagi Chan to stop eating for a moment to speak!"  Makoto beamed even more brightly at Ail than he thought was humanly possible.  Makoto also tactfully ignored Usagi's fierce protests to her observations.

            He laughed again, the sound carefree even to his own ears.  In those moments, eating with the girls, laughing at their antics and enjoying their warm company, the Hunger was forgotten.  When the bell rang, signifying the end of lunch, Ail was almost sad to see them go.  The time had never passed so pleasantly.  At one point he had played them the song shared, once, only between him and Ann.  For once, there was a different feel to the notes he was so familiar with.  The power beneath his fingers had felt changed somehow as it left him.

            "Do you always come up here?"  Usagi asked as they shuffled down the stairs to their perspective classes.

            "When I want to think," he answered vaguely.

            Usagi decided to smile at him brightly then while clasping her hands together.  "Well, it was nice spending time with you!  I hope we can repeat it again, hm?"

            Makoto nodded in agreement, before she whispered something in Usagi's ear.  The blonde looked positively evil for a moment, slyly grinning at her friend.  "Is that so?"  Ail asked in amusement, pretending not to have noticed the change in Usagi's demeanor.  Makoto on the other hand had the decency to blush in embarrassment for both Usagi and herself before shoving Usagi gently ahead.

            "Go before you're late again," Makoto said roughly, though there was laughter in her eyes.  Usagi, with a less than dignified response, put her finger under her left eye and pulled, childishly sticking out her tongue as well.  But with the warning bell going again, the girl quickly scrambled away.

            "So," Makoto said awkwardly when they paused before her classroom, her hand on his elbow to prevent him from leaving.  The brunette quickly dropped her hand when he paused to look at her, still blushing.  "I wanted to know, if you thought about what I said--" she paused "--about love, I mean."

            Ail looked surprised as he tilted his head and studied the woman.  He got similar feelings of warmth from her as well, though not as strongly as those given off in Usagi's presence.  "Aa," he tucked his hands into his pockets as he looked to the windows.  "I don't understand how you can say that love cannot be possessed if one has the will and the power to do so.  This love, it can be taken by force and won.  Nothing in this world is given for free, no one shares anything willingly, especially for such precious things."

            All those human stories of long ago spoke of such emotions thusly, did it not?  Love was won, it could be won if the hero of the tale was strong enough and brave enough, at least.  Makoto sighed in defeat, "I guess I can't stop you if you want to think of it that way."  She relented slightly, "But still, just think about what I said, hm?"  Her green eyes sparkled, a color that matched the leaves of the Makaiju Tree when they weren't withering.  It was an intriguing color, as were her words.

            "Aa," he complied politely.  "Love, is the sharing of one's heart and not to be fought over like a prize."  He repeated with a slightly indulgent grin and this time he knew Makoto was red for perhaps, a different reason.  "Good day, Makoto San."

            She smiled at him with a wave as she stepped into class, thoroughly late.  "Bye, Seijuro Sempai!"  He could hear the rise of the teacher's voice, the polite apology, and the vague threats of detention as he left.  Yet, he was amused by the tall, brunette girl for a different reason.

            Humans, these creatures were indeed very strange.  Shrugging, Ail walked towards his own classroom confidently.  "Spending time with two little nosy worms?"  Ann's legs dangled as she sat on the window sill, her back to him as he passed her.  Ail stopped but did not turn.

            "Jealous?"  He asked with a smirk on his lips, cool and detached.

            She snorted at his comment, tousling her red tresses as she shook her head in annoyance.  "As if," she sneered.  "I do not get jealous over your affairs with worthless, stupid worms.  They're good for nothing but meals after all, but you seemed to forget that these days."

            "That's good," Ail calmly answered, not at all acknowledging her latter scoff.  "I was beginning to worry about your inferiority complex when it came to these "worms" of yours."

            Ann turned to him, rage flashing in her eyes.  "What did you say?"

            Ail turned to her, his fingers closed around her throat lightly but his grip was firm and his threat was clear.  "Don't patronize me, little sister."  He emphasized the last part as if to remind her of her place, at least her place in the eyes of the humans around them.

            She grasped his wrist, red eyes fairly glowing and the air around her crackle in response to her volatile emotions.  In that moment, Ail was mesmerized by her power, by the beauty she possessed as she stared him down.  The moment passed like many other moments, "What are you two doing?  Why aren't you in class?"  A teacher demanded as his voice cut through their standoff.  "And young lady, it's not safe to sit out like that!  That was totally indecent of you!"

            "We'll talk about this later," Ann whispered as she leaned into him.  She then easily twisted out of his grasp and away from him.  In her own way, Ann was telling him that she was allowing him to toy with her.

            These moments between them always passed, and nothing ever changed.

                                                *          *          *

            The apartment was eerily quiet.  Ail set down his book onto his chest as he leaned his head back onto the soft cushions of the couch.  Ann had not returned yet from her evening strolls, and as much as he rather not admit to it, he was worried.  Ann didn't tend to think before she acted, her actions depended on her moods.  In that, Ann tended to be unpredictable and dangerous, but such things went both ways and sometimes it was an advantage to her enemies.

            Ail just couldn't understand her, especially not these last few days.

            There was a click as the door closed.  A bad habit really, Ann using the front door nowadays as if she were human.  Sometimes though, if she was really avoiding him, she would teleport into the Makaiju room without even bothering with disguises.  On nights when she used the door, it usually meant she wanted to see him.  In these moments, Ann acted more human out of the two of them though Ail knew she'd adamantly deny such claims should he ever bring it up.  On night like these though, she tended to check up on him in his room, saying goodnights in a whisper after many minutes would pass with her studying him from his door frame.  Many of those times he would wonder what went on in her head as she watched him in the dark.

            On these nights he never turned to greet her, but her declaration at being home always made him relax enough to feign sleep.  "Tadaima!"  She called out cheerfully as he heard her shoes falling onto the tiled floors in the front hall, heard the rustling of her jacket being discarded.  "Ail?"  She hadn't paused to look anywhere else and he heard her open his door.  She sounded happy for some reason.

            He chose not to answer and instead, waited for her to find him.  She did, after frantically calling his name a few times when she found that he wasn't in his room.  "Ail!"  She exclaimed when she finally located him on the couch, slouched and silent.  "Why didn't you answer me when you heard me call you?"  She demanded with great agitation, fists planted on her hips.  She had shed her human form, and her appearance a familiar sight to his eyes.  He wondered for a brief moment if he put his lips on those strands would they taste as sweet as their color suggested.  The idea was too strange to even consider, and he immediately dismissed it.  "Ail!"  She sounded worried now, if not a bit on the whiney side, another nuance she had picked up from contacts with humans.

            "Stop," he commanded her softly.  Ann froze at his words before the silliness of abiding by his commands made her shake her head as if she were clearing it.

            Now she was glaring at him, "What do you mean stop?"  Her hands landed heavily on their living-room table, rattling it with the force of her weight behind her actions.  "Why the hell did you ignore my calls?"

            "I didn't feel like answering, Ann."  He answered casually.  "You don't answer to me do you?"  He watched the play of emotions on her face and took note to remind her to work on hiding it better.  "So, it would only be fair if you were to return the favor and acknowledge the fact that I do not need to answer to you."  It was good to know she worried about him as much as he did about her.  Now they were even.

            "What the fuck are you talking about?"  Ann swore, "I don't give a damn about what you do, but if you heard me call your name you should have the decency to answer, damnit!"  She was a bad liar.  Her eyes shone a little too brightly from the lights outside.  It was getting darker in the living-room since they hadn't bothered to turn on any of their own electric lights.  Even so, there was a sheen that made her eyes shine brighter.  Ail was slow to recognize the brightness to be the beginning of tears.  Struck by the weakness she was showing him, he remained silent, any retorts he had on his tongue was forgotten.  But Ann was the first to turn away, her shoulders shaking slightly.

            "Don't," he finally said.  He wasn't exactly sure what he was aiming for when the word left his mouth but he felt the need to say it as clearly as he felt the Hunger.

            "Don't what?" she sounded miserable.  "Don't what?"  Ann seemed to have regained control and squared her shoulders.  She seemed to have regained her earlier anger as well.  "Don't worry about what's going on here?  Don't care about your silly infatuations with a worthless worm?  Don't what, Ail?"  There was but a momentary pause before she finally spoke what she really wanted to know.  Ail would have been annoyed with her calling Tsukino Usagi a worm if it weren't for his surprise.  "What happened to us, Ail?  We were never like this before."  There must have been something in his eyes that made her narrow her gaze, "What changed, older brother, Seijuro?" she sneered out the name of his false identity.

            But he was ignoring the last of her questions, ignoring her distress and the fury that stemmed from it.  He focused on their age old arguments instead, the things they had fought over a thousand times, already.  Those things were less personal and safer.  "What about that Chiba Mamoru you keep hanging around with, or should I say, hanging off of all the time, hm?"  Ail asked coolly.  "Is he not a "worm" too?  Should he not deserve your scorn as well, little sister, Natsumi Chan?"  He threw her words right back at her.

            Ann turned away before turning back on him again so quickly that for a stunned moment, he did not realize that she had slapped him.  The blow came so quick and so hard that he ended up facing the window, his ears still ringing from the loud, cracking sound it made.  "Fuck you!"  She spat, the quiver in her voice was the only thing that betrayed her, and in the next moment she had turned to storm off.

            He touched his cheek gently.  She hadn't come in contact with him for a long time now, he realized.  He never thought there would be a time when the only reason she would touch him was through striking him.  She reeked of humans now, and he hated that smell that clung to her body.  He hated the way they were drifting apart and how he unintentionally encouraged it every time they were near.  "What are we now, Ann?"  She froze by the hallway, every line of her body seemed ready to bolt away, but she didn't go anywhere.  Instead, she waited him out, listened to the soft and helpless despair in his tone.  "Are we friends?  Are we siblings?  Are we lovers?  Or are we now something completely different?"

            Are you scared now that we are enemies, like I am scared?  But those words were left unspoken.

            "What were we before?" she asked him instead.  The silence that followed was the second longest one in his life.  "I won't betray you for a worm, Ail, if that's what you're worried about.  So you can stop considering something that stupid."  Ann finally spoke, brusque and short, her head tipped forward.  "I hope it's still the same on your side of the... deal."  But before he could deny her accusations or answer her earlier question, she was gone.

            Ann didn't go seeking the comfort of the Makaiju's presence that evening like she usually did, at least not that night.  She didn't stay in her room, though her TV was left on (another annoying habit to Ail) which meant she had been in the room earlier.  Ann had gone out again and it was the first night she stayed out and didn't return.  The Makaiju Tree was stronger the next day, so Ail had a pretty good clue where she went and what she did.  However, it was the first time she stayed out the entire evening, and Ail didn't know if all she did was hunt.

            Ann finally came home in the early morning reeking of human flesh, human blood and a strong touch of alcohol.  She showered first before standing at his door and studying his back a long time.  The atmosphere around her was still tense, though tainted with grim satisfaction and something infinitely sad.  She didn't whisper a "good morning", or even attempted to give an explanation of where she had been.  She didn't ask if he had been worried about her, or if he slept well.  "Get up.  School's going to start soon."  She finally broke the tense silence, which told Ail that she had a pretty good idea he was wide-awake.  And then she left.

            It was the first time Ail walked to school by himself.

                                                *          *          *

            In biology class that day a student had jokingly said, "You know, the female tended to be the more deadly of any species."  Ail didn't know where that had came from or what had prompted those words or even why he listened to it, but it gave him pause.

            Later that evening, he felt the confirmation of those words while he was lounging on the balcony.  The Cardians had been more and more restless, even Ann had a hard time bending the magical beings to their will these days.  She always did pick the better card for the right situations, though there had been a few times when he did so himself when she had not been around to consult.  Lately, their partnership was strained and distant, though the Hunger grew stronger and demanded that they be tied more closely together so to find more energy.  Lately, when he looked at her, he was bewildered and confused.  Lately, even Usagi's image could bring no comfort to him and many times, while he dreamed, Ann will appear again and again till he sometimes couldn't look at her when he was awake, afraid of what he would do or say if he did.  She had stopped checking up on him when she returned home, if she returned "home".  And the early morning walks to school became lonely and long.

            Even surrounded by sunlight and people, Ail felt that there really was no difference between where he stood and the black space he came from.  Once, he had thought that he felt this emptiness only because he was surrounded by it.  But now he was slowly learning that such emptiness could not be filled with noise and the presence of others.  Even surrounded by all these humans and Earthian beasts, living in a world filled with things, along with promises of little hunger and no more darkness, in the end, nothing changed.  It had felt as if all of it was only a superficial change of scenery and nothing more.  Only now that he had lost Ann and the little comforts she had always offered him, did he find himself missing her presence more than he was willing to admit.

            The problems between them though, remained unspoken and unsolved.  They fought and bickered over little things, petty things when they were no longer forced to work together.  When one of them would find the courage to skirt around the topics they really wanted to talk about, the other usually brought up something else to distract and argue over.  The air between them fairly crackled with tension while the same things were left unsaid.  Ail continued to eat lunch with Usagi and Makoto once or twice a week on the roof, but he was becoming more and more quiet and withdrawn since all he could think about was Ann.

            Makoto brought up his silence a few times, and each time Usagi looked equally concerned, but there was nothing they could do.  "Why doesn't Natsumi San ever make you lunch?"  Usagi had asked guilelessly one time, "Doesn't she know how to cook?"  The latter part was said with a stormy, sneaky expression that blotted out the usually cheerful look on the blonde's face.  It was the only time Ail ever snapped at her for having touched a sensitive issue.  "Sorry," Usagi had apologized immediately, hurt and guilt stricken, if not a bit ashamed of her own, earlier actions.  Something about Usagi reminded Ail of Ann, but it confused him since the two seemed to have nothing in common except their petty fighting.

            "No, my fault," and he meant it.  Though Ail knew if Ann ever heard of this, she'd probably bite his head off and then head straight for Usagi to do something far worse.  He very much doubt that Ann will take any pleasure in him beginning to think of the two girls before him as his friends, though Usagi held an air of fragility around her that made him ache to protect her.  The two girls didn't go near the subject of his "little sister", again.  That made him grateful and lunch luckily did not end awkwardly.

            Still those words lingered in his mind without reason, "...the female tended to be the more deadly of any species."

            When he went home that evening no one was there to greet him.  Ann did not walk with him anywhere these days.  She didn't wait for him after school, and the Makaiju was the only one who knew where she went.  He fixed himself a drink in the empty apartment, finding that he enjoyed the Earthian foods introduced and provided to him by Kino Makoto.  He tried his hand at this "cooking" thing a few times, and found that he wasn't half bad at it.  Somehow, he ended up on the balcony, overlooking the city to where Ann was probably prancing around proudly and sucking people dry of their energies for both of them to live off of.  Her activities made her more susceptible to fatigue, and Ail was getting the distinct feeling that she was leaving him with most of the energy.

            Sometimes, Ail felt useless in times like these, but then again the Cardians had been failing them lately because of those despised Sailor Senshi.  They were hard pressed to get any energy if Ann didn't go about it her way.  And after that wild card, Cardian... Ail shuddered slightly at the thought of that day.  Something was going terribly wrong, and not just between Ann and himself.  Such thoughts though, fled at the sight he found himself unable to look away from.

          Did you wanted it this way?  The power flowing in your hands, me supposedly betraying all that I felt for you?  Obsession clouding my eyes for you?  I'm there now, Ann, is this what you wanted?  Ail snarled, his knuckles white against the rail as below him, Ann laughed up at another man that very evening.  A dark-haired "worm", she should be calling that human as she should have been standing beside Ail to observe this.  But she wasn't, she didn't and she most likely, won't.

            This love, it can be taken by force and won.  It is not something one shares willingly.

            Are you getting me back for Usagi, the "odango idiot" you believe to be my pet?  Do you hate me that much now?  What are these feelings inside me, demanding for me to drop my disguise and come upon this worm of yours and rip out his little tongue for daring to speak to you?  Why are you laughing up at him like that, the way you never do for me anymore?  Why aren't you stealing his energy right now instead of parading him before my eyes like this?


            This was all pretenses before.  What changed?  We are the hunters, and had always been.  We were only hunted when they discovered we could destroy and kill so completely.  We are stronger than they are, different from these humans.  We do not fear for we do not fall to their pettiness and greed.  We do not envy their small, insignificant world and their infinitely smaller lives.  Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?  Ail growled deep within his chest, it rumbled throughout his body like poison, the emotions he could not express otherwise.  Ann turned to look up to him briefly but quickly glanced away and waved goodbye to the dark-haired man.

            Don't what?

            I hate you, Ail snarled down at her.  For the power you have over me, controlling my emotions and my moves and my motives.  How I hate you!  Ann appeared beside him, sitting on the rails.  "I hate you," she answered him in return, looking at their reflection from the patio door.  "I won't forgive you, and especially not for her."  She tilted her head and ran her fingers through her long, strawberry hair as she sat in her red suit.  Ann ignored him and he returned the favor, she ignored the pain she inflected upon him knowingly and he pretended that she could not accomplish such things, that she hadn't the power to do so.

            We were never like this before.

            He was her enemy now.  Her eyes turned to him while he stood in that weak, human form.  A challenge shone in her eyes as she watched him.  "Why?" Ail asked softly then, captured in the heat of her gaze.

            What are we now?

            Ann smiled, openly and honestly for the first time at him.  He never seen such a smile on her lips, never felt so confused.  The smile turned wasteful and far away, like what had subtly happened between them was inevitable, a defeat that could not be overturned.  "It is the only way," she explained vaguely and turned away.  Pausing, she looked as if she was deciding whether or not to continue, but obviously she chose not to and remained silent.

            Are we friends?

            "What do you mean?"  Ail finally asked, getting angry himself.

            Are we siblings?

            "No, nothing," she answered.  "Nothing at all, older brother," Ann watched him when she returned the hated, lying title onto him.  But he would not allow his composure to slip even once under her close scrutiny.  No, Ail wasn't going to let her win this one.  He would make sure that she never knows how much she could, and already did, hurt him.

            Are we lovers?

            "Whatever you want, little sister," she was gone from his sight before he could see the expression on her face and in her eyes.  Ann was in her room now, the first time in a long time, actually.  But now Ail didn't want to see her, wasn't ready for the answers she had for him and his questions.

            Or are we now something completely different?

            Inside, he felt as if a great bird had come upon his small heart and dug its claws deeply into the organ.  He felt and identified, for the first time, that emotion called fear.  Fear of losing her, fear of what was to happen between them, fear of himself and his words, and fear for their lives at the way things were going.  It was his fear of being alone and failing them both.  It was his fear of losing that person that had always been there for him, who he always expected to be there for him.  Ann was the one who shared everything with him.  The one who hunted beside him, who held him on nights when the Hunger had been too painful to resist and too unbearable to turn away, and she was the one who held him on nights of loneliness too empty for words.

            Are you scared now that we are enemies, like I am scared?

            The Makaiju Tree continued to sing, the TV that Ann never turned off continued to blast away, and the traffic went on at a snail's pace.  The world moved on as if nothing had happened.  These moments between them always passed, and nothing ever changed.  Nothing had changed, had it?

            What are we now...?

            Ail closed his eyes and smelled the night air that was tainted with pollution and the stench of human filth.  He remembered her words and her eyes as he tried to block out his disgust, his Hunger, his emotions...  He wondered how much Ann meant what she had said to him.  He wondered how much she had meant when she had wrapped her fingers around the arm of that strange human.  Ann had always been honest and would say exactly what she felt with him before, but he hoped this once she had been lying to him.

            What were we before?

            Ail looked out over the city and saw only pin-prick lights shining far away in darkness, too far away to reach from where he stood.  They shone like distant beacons from faraway stars in the universe, far out of reach and only there to remind Ail of his loneliness and his fears.  He thought of the warm feeling he had of Usagi, but even her image could not fill the coldness growing within his heart.  Instead, seeing her innocent face made the Hunger rise, demanding to defile her, possess her, and destroy her.  The need to possess the things Usagi had within her that he did not was strong, and it hurt.  In that moment, he wondered if this was how Ann saw Usagi, if that was why Ann never seemed to understand him anymore when all she saw was a prey that seemed to beg to be taken.

            But Ann had left him.  She had left that place within him as surely as she had left their balcony for the comfort of her own room and her solitude.  In her absence numbness crept into his soul, burrowing and settling deep into his bones.  He wondered if, in seeing Andromeda, Perseus ever felt this way, if the ancient hero had ever felt the same for another woman.  Did such heroes ever feel as he did?  Alone, abandoned and weak, were these familiar emotions to those human males of long ago?  Did they chase after other dreams and sought warmth from other places because they had failed in the things far too close to their hearts?  But such thoughts were useless.  There were things that need not be considered because love was not something given freely but won and taken by force.  Anything else was only human ideas that were filled with needless sentiments.

            Tonight is a good night for hunting, Ail decided instead.  He allowed the Hunger to consume him as he had never allowed it to do so before.  The door buzzer rang and seemed to echo in the silence.  Usagi waited to be heard.

            "I'll get that," Ann called half-heartedly from the front hall.

            Tonight is a good night to prey.


                                                The End


Title: From predators to prey

Written by: blue

Genre: Angst/Drama

Parts: 2/2 [Two-piece vignette]

Contact by email: blueweber@hotmail.com

Mailing list: http:// groups . yahoo . com / group / insanityInBlue /

Webpage: http:// www . megspace . com / arts / colorblue / aoi . html

NOTE: Apologies to Starsea who I had promised to put this fic up at the end of last summer.  But due to the fact that I did not have this half -- I accidentally left this one home -- I could not post the first half incomplete. ^_^;; Gomen nasai, Starsea!  I hope you enjoy this though (despite the long wait)!

WARNING: Some elements of the anime was changed for the purpose of this fanfic.  I know there will be some discrepancies.  Please bare with them.

DISCLAIMER:  There were some villains created in the anime that didn't belong to this little, otaku author-ess.  They weren't very popular though.  Not everyone liked them since they were, after all, villains and they were interested in the most frivolous of things.  Then, came a computer, it wasn't the most expansive computer.  But if it were broken, someone will most likely have to pay a much higher price than what that computer was probably worth in the market today -- by money or horrid torture -- to fix it.  There was an otaku-writer who had nothing to do with either (or didn't want to, at least), but unwittingly got bonked over the head with an idea...