The Road Home
By P.A. Lovas
A faint rustling sound swept through the trees, clipping dying leaves from where they clung to the feeble traces of life that ran through shriveling veins. The foliage feathered slowly lower, crying a solitary tear of fresh, morning dew in its final resting spot. It cried for the life that was being extinguished in such a trivial amount of time; for the decay that would soon follow; and more importantly, for the boot that crashed down over it, smashing the crumbled remains into the soft, wet ground.
Zaha sighed as he skidded to a stop, surveying the surrounding area.
"Nei?" he tried in a smaller voice, inexperience and innocence making this seem like a wise choice. "Damn it. Where the hell is he?" he mused aloud, imitating the tone he often heard Geiß use, most often when referring to Zaha or the aforementioned Nei.
"Huh?" Zaha raised his eyes as something brittle wafted down to rest in his hair. He reached up a hand, his nails biting into the dry flesh of the leaf, as he shifted his gaze to the tall, nearly barren tree that stood twisting its branches above him. He bit lightly on his lower lip, pondering the stability and distance of the limbs. He'd been a climber since before he could remember, which has given him a good eye for what was scalable and what would result in another memory of dropping painfully back to the ground.
A quick assessment told him this one would keep him safe from broken bones and bruises. Tossing the leaf to the ground, he raised a hand toward the highest branch he could reach and swung himself up, ascending to branch after branch, climbing as high as the sturdy limbs allowed. He gazed down, the ground appearing dark and vast beneath the tangled wood, and he smiled, swinging his feet lightly. For some illogical reason, he always felt safest when he was in up high, his legs hanging carelessly, unsupported by the brown earth. The wind was always cooler up here; the air, sweeter; the breeze, friendlier. Maybe it was because he never quite fit into the demonic mold proudly born by the other Toei inhabitants, but for whatever reason, he felt happier the farther he was from the earth.
There was a voice from below him, using a tone that fell somewhere between question and reproach. "Zaha…"
"Huh?" Momentarily forgetting his position, he spun around, only to find his balance lost, as the branch that had been supporting him slipped away. He cried out, squinting his eyes shut, the once friendly breeze zipping by at a speed that made it appear painful. He yelped as his body jarred suddenly, the fall ended, but not nearly as painfully as it should have been.
Had falling become painless since he'd gotten older? Maybe he'd fallen one too many times and had now become immune that particular sensation. He mused over the idea, tossing it around carelessly in his mind, deciding that was, obviously, the most logical answer.
"Eh?" Zaha was shaken from his thoughts. That voice was back again. But where was it coming from? Why was everything so dark?
"Probably just a bit of shock."
Shock? From what? He wanted to scream, teetering between panic over his sudden blindness and confusion as to what was going on. That's right, I fell…but...
"Open your eyes, you idiot."
"Ooooh," he breathed, realization causing his voice to dip. He pulled his lids apart slowly, blinking as the daylight invaded his eyes, before gradually falling into focus. "Geiß! What are you doing here?" A small chuckle ripped his attention away from Gieß and his eyes widened slightly, his smile growing to a nearly painful size. "Nei! Nei's here! Gieß, Nei's here!!"
Geiß rolled his eyes in the usual manner and muttered a small obscenity under his breath. "Remind me why I got myself into this?"
Tangible sarcasm twitched the corners of Nei's mouth as he touched a tapered finger to his lips. "I believe," Nei began, tapping his finger gently in mock thought. "I think you said something about being 'bored' and 'having nothing to do'. But than again, that was an awful long time ago. I could be misquoting you."
Gieß's eyes narrowed. "Fuck you."
"You first," Nei spat back, his expression a colorful mix of both amusement and irritation.
Zaha sighed as he freed himself of Gieß's steadily strengthening grip, and dropped to his feet. "Now now," he scolded, holding his hands between the two demons. "We shouldn't fight-"
"Shut the hell up!"
Zaha winced, sticking his fingers in his sensitive ears. "Well, at least they're getting along," he grumbled, twisting his fingers gently, trying to will the ringing to stop.
Zaha had often found himself wondering why two demons that were so much alike, couldn't seem to get along for more than two minutes at a time; unless there was trouble of course. Then the two of them swung into action, Geiß using his brains and strength to compliment Nei's assets. His powers, his agility, his strong physic…
Zaha blinked as that last thought crossed his mind. Why would he think about that? Why does he know every curl of Nei's muscles, the way his hair swept across his forehead, lightly falling into his eyes? Those eyes…
He jumped as his name was called, feeling his cheeks flush slightly as if he was caught doing something he shouldn't. As if his thoughts were exposed.
"Y…yes?" He stammered, raising his eyes weakly, noticing that Nei was now missing. There was a small touch of surprise that faded quickly, disappointment filling the void in its stead. That was often how their squabbles went; harsh tones, moving to harsher words, and finally resting on one of the two storming off in a huff. Sometimes, Zaha thought they often resembled quarreling lovers, more so then demon leaders.
"Come on," Geiß said, his eyes softening all his harsh edges, causing Zaha to smile as he scuttled after him.
Gieß dropped a hand to Zaha's head once the youth had come to walk beside him. His eyes never dropped from the road before of them, always looking one step ahead.
Zaha's grin grew wider, and he bit down gently on his lower lip. Watching Nei always confused him, but, watching Gieß made him smile.
"Where are we going?"
The response was simple, but it filled Zaha with a warmth he didn't often feel in Toei. Only when he was with Gieß did this word mean anything. The two were linked in his heart, forever the same.