DISCLAIMER: In the words of someone quite wise... "Roses are red, violets are blue, I don't own, so you don't sue." There you have it.
A/N: Certain bastages have decreed that we may no longer use song lyrics in our fanfics, even if they are disclaimed, so all the lyric bits in the beginning of each chapter have been removed. If you want the TRUE version of each chapter, email me. Chapters correspond to (in this order) the songs Hoshi no Suna, Hikari, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Crash and Burn, Bring me to Life, Must Be Dreaming, Breaking the Habit, I Surrender, On the Way Down, Haunted, Romancing Train, and Give a Reason... NONE OF WHICH ARE OWNED BY ME.
Subject Warning: This story is SERIOUSLY not recommended for anyone under the age of 13. It deals with the subjects of rape and homosexuality (among other things) with varying degrees of intensity and contains several "adult situations" as well as some severe language. If you can't tolerate, don't read... don't say I didn't warn you.
Pairing Warnings: Mostly Kaze/Kumo, with several other couples in the background, i.e. one-sided Kaze/Lisa, possibly Cid/Miles, one-sided Kumo/Crux etc. etc. Also, this story will play heavily on the past-tense incestual relationship between Kiri and Kumo... as a positive thing. Once again, if you don't like don't read.
One More Warning: If for some reason you tend to side with Chaos and the Deathlords, or if you like them, or try to defend them, or whatever, this fic is really not for you. As far as this story goes they are being evil bastards and you will completely hate them when I am done. If you don't like, go away. I mean it.
...This is the last one, I swear: If you flame me, I'll give you to Juggernaut as his new chew toy, and when he's done with you, you'll have to deal with my muses and my friends. If you don't like you don't have to read goldangit!
He'd come back from the battlefield not long ago. To a casual observer, he might have seemed to be perfectly fine, but she, who had spent so much time watching him, had seen how his hands were clenched so tightly that his knuckles seemed white, how his normally graceful fluid movements seemed stiff and wooden, how his warm beautiful eyes were cold as frost. Every little thing about him screamed anger, screamed hatred, screamed pain. Something had happened to him out there, after she was called back. She was worried for him...
He had gone wordlessly into a large empty chamber of the airborne castle about half an hour ago, and since then had not come out.
She was truly worried.
And so, she followed him, waiting to be sure no one was watching. He seemed to desire solitude, but she knew that while he was not by nature a social creature, it pained him to be alone while he was hurting. And he was hurting.
He sat alone in the corner of the room, his long slender form curled into a tight ball, clutching something darkly colored to his chest. His head was bowed, and his soft bangs spilled into his face, covering his eyes. Because of the distance she wasn't sure, but she thought his shoulders were trembling. Was he actually...?
Hesitantly, she came within a few feet of him, then paused, unsure of how to approach him. "Kuriyu...?"
At the sound of her voice, he slowly looked up, turning to face her. His large jadeine eyes were very dark, filled to the brim with heartache and tears threatening to spill over. Unguarded, he looked like a small child, hurt and alone and needing someone--anyone--to comfort him.
She realized that he was holding a folded square of cloth, deep crimson in color, slightly tattered and stained with blood, pressing it to his heart as though he'd never let go, just before he pulled her into his trembling embrace.
"I... I... I..." She stared up at him, confused and slightly alarmed by his unusual behavior. He had squeezed his eyes shut, disregarding the hot tears that were beginning to spill down his cheeks as he did. "Niisama... I... I...!"
And with absolutely no warning at all, he promptly broke down and began to sob, curled into a ball around her small form and the folded cloak, his frail frame heaving with the power of his raw grief.
"Kuiyu..." Awkwardly, she pressed against him, trying to let him know that she would do what she could to comfort him, to help him.
"He's dead and it's my fault," he said through tears, speaking into her hair. "It's all my fault..."
And after that she simply could get nothing out of him. He was lost to his own guilt, lost to the grief that was threatening to overwhelm him body and soul. All she could do was be there for him, and hope that somehow that alone would be able to make him feel just a little bit better.
They stayed that way for some unknown expanse of time--perhaps hours, perhaps days; she had no way of judging. All that she knew was that eventually his stark, painful sobbing began to cease.
"I apologize for my outburst," he said softly, releasing her. His manner was unusually stiff and formal; she guessed his natural reticence was trying to reassert itself. "I shouldn't have troubled you with my emotions. I was out of control. Please forgive me."
"Kukuriyu," she replied, trying to sound cross. He didn't need to ask for her forgiveness! He'd been in dire need of someone to be there with him, and if she had been that someone, so much the better. There was nothing to forgive.
He tried a smile; although it held, his deep liquid eyes told her he was about to start crying again. "I'm sorry."
"Kuu..." She flitted back to his arms, pressing her face against the soft side of his throat. The least he could do was stop apologizing.
He enfolded her in a gentle embrace, leaning back against the cold metallic wall. When he spoke, his voice had stopped shaking. "I know... I'm sorry."
She sighed. He was such a hopeless case.
For a brief moment, he hugged her tightly and fiercely, then let go. "At least I still have you, right?" She blinked at him, hoping he wouldn't notice how her face had flamed. "Now go on, get out of here. You'll get in trouble."
She nodded and flitted off, but perched in the high alcoves near the ceiling of the room. She wanted to make absolutely sure that he was alright, trouble or no. She was the only one here who actually cared about him, and he the only one who cared about her. They had to look out for each other.
He headed back against the wall and sat down again, fingering the folded red cloth at his chest. "Oh, Niisama..." he whispered. "Why...? Why did it have to come to that? Wasn't the pain of losing you once enough for them? What did they do to you to turn your mind like that?" He curled up, pressing his face to his knees. "Or did... you always hate me?"
She saw, and ached for him.
Without so much as a creak of warning, the door to the chamber opened noiselessly. She felt a prickle at her back as she realized who it was--her creator, the necromancer... Oscha.
"Oh, no, my dear Makenshi-dono." He shot up, jadeine eyes widening in shock, clutching the cloak to his chest. "It took rather a while to convince him, and our most extreme measures... you should have heard the way he screamed for you."
At Oscha's words, his hands balled into fists again, the knuckles whitening just as before. The hatred, the explosion of anger, was building again, faster and more furiously than ever.
"You bastard," he growled in a voice quite unlike the one she usually heard. "What did you do to him! ANSWER ME!"
Oscha seemed to deign the order beneath his time and went on with business as usual. "His Excellency is calling for you..." he said in silky tones. "He seems to desire an outlet for his frustration at Pist-sama's failure to capture Clear. You had better report to him quickly, Makenshi-dono, one of the four Deathlords of Gaudium..."
"No!" The word burst from his throat with more force than any word she'd ever heard spoken. She stared--he was standing ramrod straight, dual-bladed pride and hatred in every inch of his body. "I won't be the plaything of Chaos any longer! Go back to him, servant, and give him my answer--I will NEVER go to him again! I have had enough of ALL of it!"
Disconcertingly, Oscha burst out laughing. "No?" His tone dripped in condescending scorn. "My dear Makenshi, one does not simply say no to His Excellency..." His shadow drew a little closer to the righteous figure in white who stood still beside the wall. "Do you not... enjoy His Excellency's attentions...? I would have thought that someone perverted enough to sleep with his own brother would have loved every second of it..."
"Shut up," he snapped, his voice little more than a snarl.
"Dear me, such manners!" Oscha mocked. "I believe it is time that you learned to behave..."
Moving more swiftly than she would have believed possible, the twisted necromancer's form slipped forward and grabbed him by the throat, pinning him against the coldness of the wall. Within instants, all the hate drained out of his eyes, to be replaced by sheer terror. Her heart began to jerk uncomfortably in her chest.
"No... please..." His voice a broken whisper, he tried to shy away from Oscha's touch. "Don't... I beg of you, please..."
"It's far too late for that," Oscha replied, his voice filled with cold amusement.
And she, unable to turn away, saw it all.
Crux, the marionnette with free will, saw the truth of it.