Monochrome
Spoilers, Makoto-centric. The tones of grey.

In a way he knows Itsuki will never really understand, and Helena would mock, Makoto likes seating in Coach transcontinental. The passengers mix; the engines are hard, beating in his ears in endless bass waves when he is sitting too far back. The waits are long. Layovers waste hours, and sometimes his luggage is scuffed.

Bodies swell. The terminals are flooded with travelers, exhaling steady streams of carbon dioxide and body odor. The crowds press against each other in waves.

Makoto is lost inside them. He is accepted as an individual while still being included as part of the mass. No one knows enough to disqualify him while he plays pretend.

Faceless plots of land stretch out in chunks outside the right-wing window. Surrounded by the hum of the human, Makoto flips through the complimentary catalogues placed conveniently in airplane seatbacks. He marks off things he would like to own, but never will. In the hours between takeoff and landing, Makoto assembles apartment after apartment in his imagination, following the tradition of a Foundation-child who has been trained to pick its life from the pages provided.

The furnishings Makoto chooses for his mythical apartments all vary, but establish themselves eventually in reduced tones. Makoto has learned long ago that he has no eye for the mystical realm of supplementary and complimentary, additive and subtractive hues.

None of his apartments come home with him. Makoto might have wanted to draw as much distinction in his life as possible, but obedience to the Foundation keeps him in line when it came to outbursts. Makoto holds no illusions that he is indispensable. He has already learned the price of open rebellion. If is one thing that he wishes to avoid, it is a repetition of the failure of youth.

He doesn't need it. Childhood had provided nothing in the end but a plethora of reasons to compare and contrast. Himself. Helena. Itsuki. Other D's, once he came to recognize them and his particular relationship.

The Foundation lives in his habits. Even while he flies transcontinental incognito, another misspelled name in a mass of ticket stubs and squalling babies, Makoto reaches for the catalogues and flips through his life. He chooses furniture that begins in hue, but in his mind's eye, the fabrics all fade to grey.

In monochrome, it was the shape of things that became important. Their original colors, forgotten.

- - - -

In the morning of one particular layover, Makoto opened his eyes and saw the world in blue.

Without the sun full up on Nirai-Kanai, the dimmer dawn reflected off the ocean and sent oblique light skimming through the curtains. Makoto, sitting up, found the sheets clinging to his chest and arms and legs, sticky with night-sweat. The blankets were a tangle of moth-wings gone flaccid in the rain. He pawed at them.

Unhatching himself, the D peeled himself out of bed, and listened to the silence of the house in pre-dawn.

Whenever Makoto's travels took him near Nirai-Kanai, Makoto chose to insert himself into the Kisaragi-color world. Itsuki rarely minded. It never came up in discussion after the first evening that found Makoto pushing his way in through the front door, exchanging a long, level stare with Quon before he asked where his luggage should be stored.

Makoto never thought much of his borrowed-home security until he arrived one weekday night, dropped off by taxi, and found the house silent.

The spare key on his ring had granted him entrance. Walking the dead halls, he had found his way to the guest room and dropped his suitcase by the bed.

His dreams had been full of white noise.

When the sun rose and screamed brilliant orders into his bedroom, Makoto was already dressed. He could smell coffee on brew. The scent wound its way through the processed breeze of the air currents. He followed it to the kitchen.

The rooms of the Kisaragi residence never ceased to discomfort Makoto. Despite the greenhouse-glass paneling of most of the walls, Itsuki kept the temperatures strictly controlled. Quon was sensitive to the cold. But boiling alive in one's house did very little good, and the life module gathered the damp into bacterial chafing underneath Quon's arms, between her breasts. Itsuki kept the air conditioning running as a result, and the eternal mechanical hum bore its way into Makoto's eardrums whenever he visited, reminding him of Foundation chambers he'd rather never see again.

Itsuki's residence had a kind of helpless organic, a wet-winged chick's confusion over flying. Though it was visually tame, the Kisaragi house breathed. At any given time, Quon or Itsuki himself would be walking down the halls, filling the rooms with afterimages of life; a clean hallucination of nature. The house was glass, but it radiated blue.

Climate was carefully tinkered. Quon did not like to be chill, but she was not supposed to sweat either. The result was a wilderness of carpet and bare feet, both Kisaragis wearing minimal unless they'd been forced to engage in company that day, and then they wore too much.

Wandering through the maze of barred glass and doors, Makoto balanced a coffee cup in hand, blowing on the steam repeatedly to cool the liquid down.

He found the Kisaragis in the drawing room that served as Itsuki's studio. Paired, awake. Two animals. One cage. Quon had a bathrobe wrapped around her body, pinched in front by a hand and hanging loose around her torso as she leaned over Itsuki's shoulder. Itsuki's neat white doctor's jacket was flung over the back of his chair; the man himself wore shirt and pants, legs spread as he straddled the space around his easel.

As Makoto watched, Quon tucked a curl of her hair behind one ear, where it threatened rebellious escape.

"What are you doing, brother?"

Itsuki smiled to the canvas before him. "I'm painting in shades of grey."

"Why?"

"I think I like it better without the color. Don't you?"

Makoto watched them sing strange duets of conversation to one another, over the rim of his borrowed mug.

When Itsuki had given Quon that answer on black and white, his sister only looked back askance. Head tilted, questioning, wondering why he would do such a thing. Verbalized it in the form of, "But the colors are all still there, brother," and Itsuki smiled at the riddling wisdom.

"Don't tell anyone," he replied. "I don't mind if you're the only one who sees. In fact," he added, setting down his paintbrush with a slender clack, "I think I prefer it. Just like that."

Makoto took another sip, the hard line of his mouth hidden.

As if on cue, both Kisaragis turned. They faced him in set, Quon with her hand on her brother's shoulder, Itsuki with his hair loose, in disarray. Makoto found his face contorting underneath their stares, a gradual wrinkle of his nose that he forced smooth under rigid control.

His voice, when he spoke, was terse.

"Giving up on normal pictures?"

Itsuki broke silence first, easing into the role of old friends. "Most people say good morning, Makoto. What time did you get here?"

"Last night." Makoto didn't voice the snappish demand to know where the Kisaragis had been, but he was tempted.

Itsuki heard it anyway. The B's ability to translate was sharp as ever. "Quon was receiving additional tests last night, Makoto." His throat was summer-warmed wood in contrast to Makoto's cold irritation, the pitch carefully tuned for maximum effect. "We had to stay late. If I'd known you would be coming, I would have left something out for dinner."

Quon left them without a word. Her hand slid away from Itsuki's shoulder and she brushed past Makoto, silent, her face already trained upon a sight invisible to both men. Makoto turned long enough to watch her vanish down a hallway, bathrobe clinging to her body, and then he focused back upon the studio.

Tubes of paint littered the palette at Itsuki's elbow. All were capped; the sharp smell of pigments hung upon the air. Itsuki's choice of subject matter was a landscape, to judge from the incomplete sketchings of sea. The central form was the only area fully defined. Lines pulled themselves together to describe a dress caught by the breeze, matching hair that was flying free. The person--a girl, Makoto decided--was looking away into the distance. No other features were visible.

Makoto surveyed the painting with a hand folded at his waist, self-satisfied as a museum patron finding fault in a masterpiece. "I didn't know Quon's hair was black."

"Quon's hair is red, Makoto."

"And mine is white." Makoto's mien was too smug, too resolved on his conclusions. "Even Helena's is pale. You're the only dark one among us. So who else could this girl be, but your sleeping nestling? Though I don't know why you've done her hair like that. Planning on a dress-up, are we?"

Itsuki's sigh was a crescendo welcome to the D's ears. The surrender pulled itself long. "Why are you arguing with me so early, Makoto? I don't know who this person is. But I know... there's something about her that I think I... love."

Behind them, the hands of the grandfather clock clicked.

Makoto found himself mute.

He launched himself into a deft attack all too quickly, vaulting over the surreality of what he had just heard. "Love? What is love exactly, Itsuki? Just the desire to breed." Judgment harsh sprang from Makoto's lips, his voice coming surer as the lecture gathered more strength. "And what is the desire to procreate? Only the wish to leave something of ourselves behind. There's nothing special about that. Genetics, that's all that it comes down to--you and your love. You can't breed with a painting."

Circling the easel, the D set his cup down hard enough on Itsuki's palette that hot liquid slopped out, and began to seep into the gobs of paint. Brown coffee introduced itself to gesso. The result was a milky trail that threatened to infect the neighboring black.

"Helena's bloodline is restricted. And me," Makoto railed, clipped and harsh in his own self-damnation, "I'm sterile. I'm not designed to make anything that will last beyond my own lifetime. Only you were expected to become an instrumentalist. And here you sit, falling in love with a person who doesn't exist except on paper."

Itsuki's brush snapped sideways. Rocks and sand smeared together into an indistinguishable grey blur; one of the man's knuckles left a fishhook dent in the paint as he slammed the brush onto the easel tray. Itsuki's jaw was a straight line as he clenched his teeth. Only gradually did he let it relax.

"As you said, Makoto, it was expected of me to find an Ixtli. But I failed." Shoulders animated by shallow draughts of breath, Itsuki spoke each word with precision care. He refused to look up. "Since there's nothing left for me to do, you could at least spare me my hobbies."

"Liar."

Makoto's fingers lashed out, yanking Itsuki's shirt up, untucked. The red Mu-brand rested like a bloodstain underneath; Makoto splayed his hand over Itsuki's skin, touching his palm to the inverted finger-pattern that lined the B's stomach muscles.

"You still have color."

"I have Quon," Itsuki corrected, the last word coming hard. He did not twist away from Makoto's touch, but his face went tense high in the cheeks. "And I have my painting, which is not fit for psychoanalysis. Not everything is as simple as black and white, Makoto."

The twitch of the D's annoyance was a tongue-snap against his teeth. "I see everything in black and white. Whereas you," Makoto confided, cold, "try to define all this in colors that the Foundation wants, instead of making your own rainbow."

Itsuki narrowed his eyes.

"Your commentary, however apt, is unappreciated."

Gears in the grandfather clock shifted.

"Let go, Makoto."

Fingers tensed into flesh, gripping the Mu-scar and ribs alike.

"Makoto."

Gradually, the D's hand unclenched. Itsuki's breathing steadied. When the B reached over to pick up his brush once more, Makoto didn't react.

Halfway through the reconstruction of the disaster-ruined coastline, Makoto spoke.

"You used to paint normally before, Itsuki. In fact, there's a particularly ugly picture of yours on the third floor of the Mitre Building--something with violets, all in blues and purples. What happened?"

The fringed arc of Itsuki's brush made its way around the shoreline. "Last week." Short words exited Itsuki's mouth, as mixed with reverence and dread as an oracle. "The house. It was full of bells, Makoto, everywhere I went. Bells and yellow suns. No matter where I looked, that was all that I could see. That, and... her."

Makoto stared at him, at the untouchable strangeness that defined Itsuki as forever a creature different from the D.

"Just what does that mean?" His voice was peevish, and Makoto knew it; inward hatred at the preternatural senses of the B's had long-turned to sullen resentment over the years.

"I'm afraid," Itsuki replied, turning his face so that his bangs coated his expression cloaked, "that I may be disposable soon. All the trace arias we've been monitoring have shown the signs," he continued, far too reasonable for admission of his own death knell. "The tracking year of my brother is almost seventeen. Haven't you noticed the changes in the most recent songs we've picked up from the Dolem?"

Pitched back into annoyance, out of shock, Makoto fought back his glare. "I don't hear them, Itsuki." Cold reminder. "Not... for a long while."

Not since the mud-doll.

Over the years, Makoto had watched Itsuki grow steadily more and more confused in his glass prison. Directionless. Much too accepting of his fate as little more than Quon's watchdog, an Ollin-eunuch that was considered impotent because he failed.

Makoto rarely spent time in his officially assigned apartments. As if in direct opposition of his own tastes, Itsuki used up all too many of his hours at home. He shuttled between work and his quaint residence by the sea, until even Makoto was uncertain if Itsuki knew there was a world beyond a prison an island's size small.

Itsuki kept playing music. And painting. The covered canvases that the B kept putting out were inevitably shelved, save for the few that were shipped to Bahbem each year to decorate the Foundation's halls. Novelty items. Art by an almost-Ollin, adorning a storehouse of half-creature failures.

The brush in Itsuki's hand swept strokes as Makoto watched. It patiently repaired the undone stones and surf, erasing the error as if it had never occurred at all.

Makoto started to reach down to reclaim his coffee, but stopped when he touched wet paint instead. Frowning, he danced his fingers over to the nearest paper towel. "This will all change, Itsuki." The declaration, grumbled, was punctuated by each crisp wipe of his hand. "I will change everything. I will tune the colors of this world into a palette of my designs. Don't you want that?"

Itsuki didn't look up. The shake of his head was automatic, barely pausing his brushwork to do so. "I don't want another world. It's too late, Makoto. For you... and for me. We have to accept that."

Frustration flushed the D's face hot. "And you'd rather have this?" The accusation, snapped. "Thrown away by the Foundation because of ridiculous natural laws? Painting a girl you don't even know, while your replacement gets sheltered inside Tokyo Jupiter? How can you choose such a thing?"

Itsuki's stifled anger was a kaleidoscope behind his skin. It lit him from the inside, stuffed him full of light. "That's my fate, Makoto. We're both products of our creator. Nothing we do will let us escape that."

"No." Makoto's lip curled into a sneer. "I refuse to accept that. I--"

"Shh."

Cut short by the B's hissed breath, Makoto blinked. "What--"

"I can hear her."

Worry was not a part of Makoto's working vocabulary. He couldn't be, didn't allow for it. So the lurching in his stomach when Itsuki's eyes turned strained was not concern, but something else entirely. And while he was debating this, Itsuki's face shifted from distant all the way into pale, and then Itsuki was sliding off his chair with one hand shaking. Spread.

Itsuki, on his knees. Pawing out with one arm extended, exiting the safety zone of the dropcloth. He pled to the air invisible, the expression on his features plaintive in strained silence.

Makoto watched it all through his denial, the unattainable mystery that elevated Itsuki into musical scales beyond the D's grasp.

What was Itsuki doing?

"Makoto." The D's name was a hoarse fret in Itsuki's throat. "Where has she gone?"

She?

Makoto searched the air; lacking any other clue, he swiveled his baffled gaze back to the painting. No answers there. The girl in the picture lacked the curls of Helena when the blonde's hair grew too long, and for the life of him, Makoto couldn't think of anyone else Itsuki might be involved with. Save for that fling in college with some human tart--but the picture didn't match the sparse paragraphs that Makoto had collected on Haruka Shitow. Too innocent.

"There's no one here, Itsuki. I told you I can't hear anything--Itsuki, stop it."

Only when the B's fingers hit the fine Persian carpet and smeared sloppy greys over the weave--only then did Makoto finally react. He descended in a slap of hands, one palm to Itsuki's wrist, the other to the man's forehead. When Itsuki's arm started to twist up, Makoto leaned his weight upon it until the fingers shuddered and went slack.

Whenever they got sick at the Foundation, one of the nurses would rub them on the backs, make soothing noises.

Makoto glanced at the bow of Itsuki's spine, and decided against it.

Itsuki was shivering against Makoto's leg. The B's body was slowly crumpling down, Itsuki's head against Makoto's arm, his pianist fingers curled and stained with horizon-lines of black and white.

Makoto didn't like having to crouch on the floor to keep the man from pitching forward. Itsuki was supposed to be weak, was supposed to give in to Makoto's goals. Not the Foundation's. It was uncomfortable watching the B's heritage reappear and Makoto didn't like it, so he merely knelt there, awkward, hating the feel of his own skin too tight on his bones.

"I don't care what your damned copy is doing." The oath, whispered, was just as quickly devoured by the hush of the air conditioning through the studio. "It doesn't matter if he's waking up or not. I'll make my own rainbow. And you have no choice, Itsuki. None whatsoever."

The goddess-stranger on the canvas kept her back to them both, uncaring as Makoto pressed his body against the B. The grandfather clock chimed.

Makoto waited as the sound died, listening to the fading brass reverberations until Itsuki became human once more.