~*To Stand Alone*~

*To Stand Alone*
A Legend of Dragoon Fanfiction -- Chapter 2
Written by Rap's (RaptorJNB@aol.com)


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Very, very slowly, the faintest traces of light began to drift into the room. From the blackness that her eyes struggled to dispel, the world opened upon four white walls that gradually became more and more bright. Focused upon vision that swayed briefly amongst the thoughts of a still distant mind- Rose heard the voice of one spring loud in confusion.

~Where... am I?~

And it was then, perhaps, that the raven haired dragoon finally realized she was laying down; carefully strewn over one of the firm white medical tables. Her eyes blinked, remembering the Infirmary. And where vision served as a sort of placement for her thoughts- a disoriented mind took root of the situation and first alerted Rose to a prominent throb that beat throughout her head. Had she fallen?

At the moment, she wouldn't favor that idea. Despite the overwhelming urge to sleep, her shoulders attempted to lift- to sit upright and access this new discomfort. The numb muscles of her arms obliged, if however slowly, and helped to further the motion. Test the awkward pain.

hooo... bad idea.

Body falling limp as if struck, Rose abandoned the notion entirely as her fists clenched in frustration. The beat throughout her skull was looking to be quite the annoyance... With a sigh she let her mind wander- carefully stepping through what could be remembered in an attempt for explanation. The crows nest... that was a point that jumped immediately to mind. But then how...?

She stilled, and turned her head to find Albert sitting nearby with a sudden and fierce start of realization.

Her body shot upright...

And Rose literally moaned aloud.

Sinking back down onto the hard table, she let both hands fly to her temples in a futile attempt to coax away the pain. Albert just blinked. After a brief moment, he folded an open book in his lap and returned it to a nearby shelf; standing to begin across the cold floor.

"Good thing your awake... Any longer and I would have called for a doctor."

Rose grit her teeth. "No damned doctors!"

"I know. That's why I hadn't gone to fetch one as of yet."

He walked to her side, gently taking the left of her head and rolling it to the right as if to inspect an injury. To tired to bat him away, Rose just managed a gruff; "What happened?" and then closed her eyes against the throb that raced along the back of her skull.

"You fell; and have quite the nasty bump to show for it too." He pressed along the base of her neck. "Does this hurt?"

Rose growled.

"I suppose so...." And Albert released her, one thin gloved hand moving to a pouch at his waist. A moment later, and he came up with a small blue vile. "Here- Drink this down. I found a merchant up and wandering the decks about half an hour ago..."

Rose took the small container, this time far more careful in propping herself upright then before. Her hands traced the small, clear glass, and she blinked a moment as if in confusion.

"A... healing potion..." Her eyes narrowed. "How long was I out?"

Albert leaned back on his heals, brushing a strand of hair from his eyes. "Just over two hours, now..."

Her mind whirled. "Two hours..." And Rose drank the bluish water, mouth twitching as the ice of it's liquid rolled down her throat. The taste wasn't at all pleasant- but then how could one expect a compound such as this, laced with the touches of white magic, to be delectable? In anycase, almost instantly she began to feel the throb within her head slowly leak away. A cold, numbing sensation took root over her injured arm.

Rose lowered her head, sat upright, and stared somewhat absently as threads of white healing began to stitch away her wound. In and out- around... through her skin without the slightest sound or feel; pulling the flesh together and closing the wound.

"It's fascinating in it's own way... isn't it?" and Albert retreated to the table beside her, seating himself as Rose watched the delicate twine.

She tilted her head, glancing at him. "hmmm..." And her head shook once. "It is. I suppose you don't really notice while in battle." She allowed herself to remove the bloodstained gauze- now finding no more then a thin line of red in the place of an open wound. This too- was rapidly fading.

Albert nodded softly. "No.. one wouldn't, would they? I'm afraid it scared the proverbial *hell* out of me the first time I required one. But then again, I was only 6 or so..."

Rose let the traces of an evil smirk adorn her face. "Or just a wuss..."

He smiled with a *hmph*

Rose was more then glad that the air of hostility between them had passed. Misplaced as it might have been- unsure as she'd felt before... her mind was very aware that another episode of similar substance wouldn't do her well. Not at all. With a slight, almost nonexistent sigh, She sat back against her arms- quiet. Albert leaned against the wall from his seat on the medical table; both wrists settled upon one knee that he'd drawn up towards his chest while the other stay on the floor below.

~He was right. You know he was right...~

Rose closed her eyes, and not for the first time that night- wished she could forget.

Wished she was not such a fool for believing that was possible.

From wherever the courage came to speak again, and of the subject that had landed her once near death and twice injured, it was not from a well that ran full. Perhaps tears wished to fill it, or perhaps the guilt that consumed her would do the same.

But it was there, startling her mind, and calling forth a realization that came as both violent and sudden.

~I have a chance. Here- with him. I have a chance to say that I'm sorry. What happened before I had fallen unconscious was no dream nor absent moment. I remember.~

And it was absurd, perhaps futile, possibly vain- but she could not escape the voice that quivered and bid her words to life.

"I want...." And she paused- questions slashing at the fabric of her mind. She wanted peace. She wanted hell. She wanted happiness. She had wanted to die. She had wished Marius safe. Rose watched helplessly as Albert regarded her with all the calm, serene practice that was his nature. His eyes, always holding that weary edge of sadness, closed and looked away.

~I want....~

"Rose."

~Someone...~

"It's alright. You know I'll listen."

~To hear me.~

And he said he would listen. And he had said many, many things of the *before*. That of which Marius might have spoken in terms of the future. If she should have only heard him then. If he had only fought back. Killed her. Not gazed upon her dancing sword as a token of his fate. Not Marius- savior and friend and companion. Father in his own respect. When he had looked to her... watched the insanity of her eyes...

"...Why?" A weak question without substance crawled from her throat. "Why must you resemble him so?"

~You- young king of whom I hardly know- hardly care? Why you? Why would you hear me?~

"You speak of Marius." A statement. "And I have no answer."

"And you knew who I meant. Even when you asked me who Marius was- you knew."

~You understood me when I did not understand myself. You forced my eyes open to something I hate. To something you have shared.~

Albert was gazing distantly into the room, arms folded across his chest now- legs still planted firmly; one on the floor and one on the table. He blinked, tilted his head. "I assumed, Rose, but that was all. Marius is a name of my heritage. Ungranted to none other then he, or so the books have read." He sighed. Let his head rest against the wall. "And that is my knowledge of the 1st of my ancestry. Information so long buried is a thing not even my studies can grasp."

Rose felt her voice again. Such a slight thing.

"I knew him, Albert. A good friend."

The ash-blonde slightly turned his head to regard her, almost as if sensing the hesitation that suddenly clouded further words. The Dark Dragoon met his gaze, felt the truth.

"And I killed him."

~Oh- god....~

"And I'm sorry!"

~Please...~

"But I hadn't ever- EVER wanted this! I hadn't ever wished it! I hadn't... I didn't-!!!"

Now- she couldn't stop the words. Apology, explanation, and guilt pouring from her lips like shattered ice. Her shoulders trembled as if sobbing, although no tears fell, and she didn't even care that to Albert- how could this matter? How could this apology fix her sin? How could telling he, who was only a descendant of a man that he should never know, make any difference!?

And Albert did what no other had. Simply listened. No judgment or anger or hate evident across the features that so strongly resembled the slain. No difference in the expression he held now- and that which Marius had died wearing.

"I was a fool-" her voice continued- urgent and pained. "He had only wanted to help me! I- I hadn't thought... I'd wanted revenge. Marius had kept me from reaching Zeig. He- who was already dead! Should I have run to that place, the destruction would have rained upon me. Everything was dying. As the bodies fell- and as the sky became littered with ruin- There was a temple for the injured. Marius held and fought my rage. I.. I had blamed him for Zeigs death... I'd wanted to kill him. To justify it all! Just- just to... just to know I had fought to save the life of my beloved! And all because Marius would not let me commit an act of pure, disillusioned suicide!"

Her voice sounded so garbled. The words were memories- and the memories were coming to fast. Her body quivered.

"Years later- I would act upon my hate. My insanity was his death. His fate, because of ME! Because *I* was selfish and enraged! Roland- his son... I can still remember his son!!!"

Tears would threaten- if she could cry.

*****


"FATHER!"

She looked upwards- Frame in trembles.
Her hands desperately moved to find a pulse.

~What have I done?~ and despair consumed her, slender hands still searching, slipping in the crimson that pooled aside her body and under the murdered king.

~WHAT HAVE I DONE!?~

his small child- crying. Her sword dropped to the floor.
Hatred in such young eyes.
Betrayal.

Gods forgive me! Soa- please!
Marius...

MARIUS!

His eyes lay open. Dead. Roland was quiet in the grasp of mourning.

She was broken in the light of misery.


*****


Rose had to fight in keeping herself steady. Determined, this time, to let the horrible memory slip past her conscious without incident. As it was, her mind felt to be reeling. A sensation very similar to that which had nearly landed her body a five floor fall over the hard deck above. Her hands bit at the table ledge- head shaking. At another time she might have both cursed and condemned herself for this.... vulnerability.

She hated the word.

As Rose turned her head upwards slightly, she realized how very alert Albert had become. He was studying her carefully- concerned- with a hand slightly reached to steady her if need be. A brief flicker of confusion ran upon her features.

"Are you alright? Rose?"

She blinked. Shuddered.

"How... do you know?"

He settled back, seeing that Rose had begun to regain herself. "You completely drained of color. The same occurred before you passed out- and also at the railing." He shook his head. "What is this? What could cause that sort of... of reaction?"

She looked at him- and found immense irony in such a slight sentence.

"Memories..." Came her simple answer- having come easily. For once. "Albert- you look so much like him. Everything. From your personality- your appearance." A near panic-stricken chuckle took the place of what tears asked to fall. "Even your goddamned voice. At the crows nest... I remembered. Seeing you then brought Marius back to me."

Albert lowered his eyes. "I... If I was the cause of all this- I'm sorry."

"No-!" And Rose felt herself tense. "God- no! You don't have one damned reason to say that to me, Albert. None. If this hadn't happened... If I didn't..."

~Didn't what?~

With a murmur composed of horror and pain, she grasped her head and knelt forwards- drawing a breath of air to her lungs and then releasing it as a shudder into the room. Rose was tired of questioning herself. Growing to hate that voice, from wherever it came.

"I didn't... hells..." She snarled the word; shooting her gaze to meet his. "I found myself wanting to tell you. As childish as it seems. As utterly STUPID-" And her eyes squeezed shut. "-as this all is! I wanted his forgiveness, Albert. And I know I'm far to late. And I know I have NO right to ask for such a thing.. But somehow.. I... in you-"

~In WHO!? Who is he, Rose? He is NOT Marius! You expect Albert to grant a thing impossible!?~

In a violent swing of her arms she was standing- stalking across the room in the grip of despair.

~Where is your strength!? Where are your illusions, Rose!?~

What was she thinking?! What was she trying to reach!?!?

In a way, she thought herself at the railing again. Close to a fall- but not yet dead. Confused- still able to register the wind and sea water that tore her eyes open. She was going to fall, and she was going to die. She was finally going to die, and by fault of her own mind.

Albert grasped her arm.

"Listen to me." He spoke as Rose stumbled back around. She felt so very misplaced; as if one wrong step would send her to the floor and into unconsciousness yet again.

~Rose! damn you- Stop! LISTEN to me!~


Her eyes closed. "Marius..."

"No." And Albert shook his head, angled his neck so that they were at eye level. Both thin hands moved to take her shoulders. "I'm not Marius, Rose. But whomever he was, and wherever he may be now- I know you have his forgiveness."

Rose stood quietly, shivering. The ever present confusion of her mind stayed as it was. Simple- but so complex. Not wishing to hear or understand him as Albert gently released her. In a state that was somewhat like mourning, or perhaps just distant remembrance, she lifted her gaze to the king before her.

"How could you ever know?"

"Because you yourself had said I resembled him greatly- and not only in a physical sense. If this man had any of my understanding, it is true."

"It was wrong..." she began, suddenly wanting the hate of contempt to flair within Albert's voice.

"It will always be wrong." Calm, smooth tones. "But it is just as wrong to carry this upon yourself like a chain of the past. Another that you, of all people, don't need.

~I am the Black Monster, Albert. Could you justify this?~

"Your no monster."

Startled, Rose jerked away from him in surprise. Had he said that?! had he heard her!? Gods but it seemed he had. Many times, now... She almost feared to think- as if those hazel eyes might draw further from her memory.

"Aren't I?" She managed through a strained voice, loosing it's last threads of control.

~After all you have seen and known- after the revelations brought to my past in just these recent days... you could actually say such a thing!?~

Albert quietly regarded her and did not answer. Instead, right hand brushing at a fall of loose hair, the eyes that could unnerve her so easily moved away and towards the door. They closed a moment- then reopened. When he turned back to her, Rose simply bowed her head and shook it. At a loss for words- and perhaps of mind, she wished she could not care anymore.

"Come with me." Albert said gently, and reached a hand towards the raven haired dragoon much as he had far earlier. "Please. I want to show you something."

Rose hadn't even realized she'd taken it as they walked from the chilly medical room.

***

Wind. It was still as active as before- tousling her hair as if each was a piece of the night that reigned above. It burnt her face slightly; running over skin that was, despite all her years, vulnerable to the elements. What was she doing here; hands unconsciously finding each rung and pulling upwards? Why was she returning to the crows nest; following Albert with a steady, silent gait?

Rose didn't dwell over the trivial motivations that summoned each hand to grasp yet another icy handhold. All she knew was that she was doing so- ignoring the cold air and it's brewing weather. Following the passage of time for no other reason then to escape the present- afraid of what it might bring.

~Am I so immune? All of what has happened tonight should seem ludicrous if so. Minor- and irrelevant. What damned fates chose that I should find Marius again? Locked within the threads of my mind? What stupid game am I now playing with myself- or that it should seem Albert is playing with me? Why can't all this be clear? Precise?~

Her hands hit the flatboards above, and with the slightest breath she hoisted herself fully into the lookout. The smooth, metallic sound of her armor in motion was a reassuring one; a proud echo that could make her feel easily at home. It was with brief, absent wonder that she found no such stability now. If anything, Rose almost wished to slink away from it. Hide from herself.

Albert, ahead of her, seemed oblivious to these silent torments. Standing where Rose had been perched some time ago- he grasped the railing and tilted his head into the night. She would only look on a moment or so until he finally turned back around; kind face both patient and set.

"Tell me what you see." He asked, an arm raising gently to the sky.

Thank the gods. Bless them- but her face managed an incredulous look. Finally her person was solid again. Able and ready. Even with her mind a numb, broken creature- her facade once again stood true. Had it needed only that brief walk from the infirmary to set once more? Had it needed only to keep away from his knowing gaze?

It didn't matter, she supposed. But Rose felt she could cry with joy when, in speaking, her voice did not tremble as it had before.

"What sort of question is this?" And now that she could speak- the misplaced triumph brought a tone of arrogance to her words. "We stare at blackness. At the night."

He only shook his head. Quiet- collected.

"Rose- look."

She wrung her defiance for all it was worth, clinging to it nearly in having found the ability once again. Her chin lifted- dark gaze scanning the darker horizon. When her face returned to him, confused, Rose narrowed her eyes in questioning.

"What are you asking me to acknowledge, Albert? What did you bring me here for?"

His smile was so very unexpected, Rose almost found herself taken aback.

"I wanted you to see the stars." He replied smoothly, watching without reaction as Rose drew herself up and straightened her shoulders. The Dark Dragoon quietly splayed both arms and looked upwards. Her mannerism spoke for her, control now regained.

"Stars..." And she shook her head, eyed him almost warily. " What *stars*? It's black as death this night."

Gingerly, he leaned back against the railing- gaze distant, calm, and ever patient. "But they are still above, aren't they? Even when you cannot see them?

She was still, watching him with a blunt, but present edge of fascination. It was somewhat unnerving, as it had been in previous hours, to find herself regarding Albert as nearly mysterious. A twenty six year old *child* in comparison to herself- who had yet gone and seemed the driving influence behind this encounter. What was he to her? How could he just....

Rose forced her thoughts of Marius astray, horrified in understanding that with him came the severe levels of emotion and pain she had experienced in the infirmary.

~And dealt by the man that stands before you. What irony is this?~

"Do you remember what I had told you? Before you spoke to me of Marius?" Albert watched her back- having turned to him in previous minutes. Rose had drawn both arms to her chest, crossing them as she gazed out over the sea.

"Yes." Was her faint reply.

~I'm speaking about you. What you try to hide. If you never let anyone within, Rose... It's going to kill you, just like it nearly did me.~

Amazing she could recall his words with such clarity. Odd further that she somehow knew exactly to what he referred.

"And you understood."

She blinked, slowly. "What I *don't* understand why this is relevant now."

"Why shouldn't it be? Marius is a product of that refusal."

An overwhelming need to shout at him was violently tossed aside, and replaced with the acceptance of a truth she didn't want to face. Still- eyes fluttered away and disregarded the words. As if trying to make him think she didn't believe in what he'd said.

"Your a fool."

"Am I, then? A fool for denying the truth- or letting you take liberty with such a burden?"

~God DAMN you..!~

Rose tossed an angry glare in his direction, letting it's hostility seep away over the next few moments. Hair wavering in the brewing air, her brows raised and arms crossed.

"I have been dealing with this life to the point where time seems a foreign creature. Are you here to tell me what Dart had so bluntly put? A ludicrous but heartfelt- *your not alone* as if those three words somehow made all my hurt and hates go away?

The tone of her voice was nearly bitter.

Albert shook his head. "I did not bring you here to retell and old verse."

"Then what? Gaze at the void that surrounds us!? To say *Never let anyone within* is to say, with equal resolve, *Never be hurt again.* Nothing you can ever tell me will make any of this different. It's the only way I know. It's the only way I survive."

In an abrupt toss of his shoulders and a wild billowing of the ashen blonde hair that adorned him; Albert faced her as Marius had done only a thousand times before. His eyes were not angry- nor mouth set in a scathing frown. It was simply a pose of ability, ready to subject itself to her stubborn nature without the slightest glance back.

"There is a difference between knowing and understanding, Rose. As thin a line as it might be- it is both present and drawn. You know your not alone. You simply don't understand it. I see this in every sword movement, every gesture, and every flicker of interest you have demonstrated in myself and the other dragoons."

He again beseeched the sky with gaze alone- leaving Rose to take a step back.

"Like the stars- we are present. Night or day- just as they burn, we stand beside your actions and judgments. Whether or not you chose to acknowledge either us or the heavens above, it will always be the same. Seeing- is a choice all your own..." And he sighed heavily, accepting a sudden weariness without struggle. "... Just as your survival can lead only to damnation if this should be the road you forever walk."

Rose felt her body grow ridged and an arm swipe the air violently as the words struck her mind. "This road!? A path you dare to judge!?"

"A path I dare to question."

"Shut UP!" Rose growled, face twisting in a fury that had risen with such force- it consumed her. "I have been alive- have seen more- have heard more then you could ever know in your entire life! Who are you to tell me any of this!?"

"No one, really." Albert replied. A calm overture to her anger. "An irrelevant in your life, whom has found hurt in the eyes eyes of someone who refuses the help of others. Who refuses her pain and anguish- and who refuses to ever speak of them."

"It is futile to do so!!!!"

"it is HUMAN to do so!" the king spread his arms, as if to unveil something to which she was blind. "Human- The part of you that I almost think you fear. Something you were forced to crush in becoming the black monster, that has hidden away Marius, and Zeig, and god knows how many other torments that lay dormant in hopes of simply being able to carry on. I should never know of these, Rose. None of us ever will until the day that each reaches a peak of guilt or fury- and then breaks to leave you wounded all over again. It is not WRONG to seek the help of others- just as it is not wrong to speak with them! To reach and- just once- find comfort in the arms of another!!"

The dark Dragoon had stalked away from him, hands tightly crossed about her chest. Eyes closed sharply, she refused to look at him. Refused to hear further.

"...Your wrong, Albert!"

Albert tossed his head. "If I am so wrong- then Marius should not even have existed! You have kept he, just like so many others, entangled within your memories to the very verge of insanity. SPEAK, Rose! Simply tell of them! I swear that such pains CAN slowly heal!"

"They..." And she shuddered.

"They can. They did at what seems an eternity ago- when I was still a child left alone in a brutal war."

The deep violet of her armor shimmered softly as a floodlight from below chanced to flicker upon it. Rose stay silent, a constant but gentle shake of her head denying everything. Wanting to- if her mind could not... And When at last Rose found her legs in motion- they again shuffled wearily in place- and let her turn an open expression to the king of Serdio.

A slack gaze- somewhat hurt. Perhaps fearful. Albert regarded her with that same expression of simple kindness that he could ever hold so well.
.
~And this is what you should show me... The understanding you have that I try to deny.~

And... it truly was such a very thin line. Between knowing- and understanding in itself...

The threads of her own defeat.

In a few silent moments, Rose was startled to feel a tender hand at her face. As her gaze lifted to Albert's concerned but gentle features, only then could she place the heavy wetness at her eyes to the soft plead in his words.

"Please... don't cry."

It was shocking enough that Rose could even recall the feel of tears.

Was... she grateful for them?

~Yes. For everything.~

***



"ROOOOSSEEEEE!!!!!!!"

A crash. A muttered curse- and then a giddy spurt of laughter.

"Rose- Come on! We're almost at Rouge!"

With a quiet grumble, Rose felt her head shift slightly from side to side, taking in the concept of wakefulness. Normally she was the earliest of all to rise, but at the moment not even Meru's cheerful voice could quite shake her.

"Rose! Rose Rose ROSE!!!"

The raven haired Dragoon heard a scurry of sandals nearby- and could almost imagine that insane bowtie flying behind Meru's petite frame. With something like a stifled yawn, she gave a jerk of one shoulder and opened her eyes the next instant. Two huge, ruby red pupils met her own.

"Tch! ABOUT TIME!" The Wingly grumbled with a smile.

Rose blinked. Scowled.

"Awwwwww, don't be a meany! Not a morning person huh!? The heck did you sleep out here for ANYWAYS?"

"... What?"

To answer her, she then became aware of both the hard steel railing against her back and the just as harsh flatboards of the lookout below. With a start, Rose felt her body jerk upright. Meru stumbled away from her sudden action- but grinned all the same.

"The... crows nest..." She echoed, blinking.

"Well duh. Now come down the ladder! Darts awake an' so are all the others. Although Albert was a pain..." Meru laughed- her silver and blue hair giving a bounce. "You know I had to literally jump on him ta' wake the guy up!? Do all kings sleep that late or something!?

Quietly displacing a vagrant string of black from one eye, Rose stilled in remembrance.

"Albert..."

"Uh huh." And Meru tilted her head curiously, watching as Rose slowly stood from the cold ground below. Her arms coiled and then relaxed as she flexed both in turn- Black hair tossed gently in the breeze that toyed with the light strands. "Now are you coming or what!?"

Rose distantly regarded her with a thin grimace. "Yes. In a few moments..." And with that Meru shrugged- beginning an energetic hop to the ladder near them and jumping on without a seconds hesitation. She dangled a foot in the air; tilting backwards to glance at Rose upside down. Her hair flew in ribbons as a quick wind took giddy control of her odd position.

"Meru?"

"Sup?!"

"Is Albert below? At the moment, I mean?"

The Wingly gave a semi-shrug, and nodded her head under the bright morning sun. "Yeah! He's talkin' with Dart-boy!" And then, after a curious shake of her head and an upright position was restored- Meru let her full lips purse a moment in question.

"... Why? I can bring him up here, if ya want...."

Rose only shook her head- briefly recalling the events of last night with such an odd mix of emotions they should be impossible to sort through just now. She remembered herself at the railing again. She remembered his nod, and then decent to the decks below. It had been a mere moment after his departure that she quietly sank to the floor... and then this. Awaking here as well.

"Ey... Rose?"

"No... it's not necessary." And she gave the girl a soft smile- to which Meru looked on in absolute astonishment. "But would you tell him something for me?"

A nod. "Sure!"

With a soft, but unhindered sigh, Rose quietly turned towards the sea and dangled her arms over the railing- leaning into it's firm structure as her head tilted to the breeze. Off in the distance was Rouge- bathed in a splash of color and sunlight that struck her eyes as beautiful. Peaceful. A lull before the storm yet to come, but a lull nevertheless.

"Thank you."

"Huh?"

"Please... tell him that."

And despite Meru's obvious look of confusion, the girl shrugged once and haphazardly began down the ladder- a soft but jittery tune beginning over her lips.

Rose moved her gaze up into the wistful blue sky, and watched the stars.


~Fin~

*Revised 7/24/01*