Far Gone

See disclaimer in the Prologue

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Memagurushii jikan no mure ga

Hashiri nukeru machi wa sabanna

Kawaru ga waru syu-ru na nyu-su

Asu ni nareba daremo wasurete'ru

Ikite-iru, ima ikite-iru

Sonna naka de nanika wo motome

Mogaku you ni nukedasu you ni

Kono chikara wo tameshite mitakute

Kitto dokoka ni "kotae" aru

Umarete-kita kotae ga

Hito wa minna, sore wo motome

Yarusenai nogasenai yume ni mukau no

Kizutsuku koto wa kowakunai

Dakedo kesshite tsuyokunai

Tada, nanimo shinai mama de

Kuyandari wa shitakunai

Here we go! go! hashiri-tsudzukeru

Dare ni mo tomerare wa shinai

Mirai no jibun e to

Give a reason for life todoketai

Hakari shirenai ooki na yami ga

Oto wo tatete mukatte kite mo

Asa ga kireba dareka ga ireba

Kokoro ni aru zetsubou wa keseru

Motto tsuyoku ime-ji shite

Hohoende'ru jibun wo

Shinjite'ru omoi, sore ga

Nani yori mo dare yori mo yume ni chikadzuku

Go-ru ni motaretari shinai

Tatoe, tadoritsuitatte

Atarashii yume ga kitto

Watashi no senaka osu kara

Here we go! go! hashiri-tsudzukeru

Dare ni mo tomerare wa shinai

Mirai no jibun e to

Give a reason for life todoketai

Kitto dokoka ni "kotae" aru

Umarete-kita kotae ga

Hito wa minna, sore wo motome

Yarusenai nogasenai yume ni mukau no

Kizutsuku koto wa kowakunai

Dakedo kesshite tsuyokunai

Tada, nanimo shinai mama de

Kuyandari wa shitakunai

Here we go! go! hashiri-tsudzukeru

Dare ni mo tomerare wa shinai

Mirai no jibun e to

Give a reason for life todoketai

-"Give a Reason" (Slayers opening theme)

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A soft flash of green and white lit his vision, then faded.

Letting out a muted moan, he realized that he'd opened his eyes for a split second, and decided to try again. As he did, the pattern of white shapes on green bloomed before him; he was staring at pale flowers studded within long soft grass.

Smiling, he reached forward to touch one silky petal, then stopped as he saw his own hand before him. With a small frown, he turned his wrist, opening and closing his hand.

I'm... alive...?

Slowly, he sat up, his movements careful. He was sitting in a wide field, surrounded by a thick carpet of mingled grass and flowers, which were pressed flat where he'd been lying; there was another indentation not far off where, presumably, someone else lay.

With a sudden gasp, he remembered his injuries, and pressed a hand to his abdomen, his concern turning to wonder as he realized that he touched not blood or open, torn flesh, but a patch of rough, scarred skin about the size of his palm. I've... healed? How can this be...?

A gentle breeze stirred the grass, making him shiver; he had awakened almost completely naked--he only wore his choker collar. As the breeze strengthened, it ruffled his hair; a soft silver curtain blew around him, and his heart nearly stopped in shock.

Shaking his head, he reached out and gently caught a fistful of long white hair. What the...? How long have I been here...? My hair can't possibly have just grown this long unless I've been here for years... I don't understand. Looking back at the ground, he shook his head. That couldn't be. If he'd been lying there for much longer than a week, the grass below him would've died; he'd have awakened on bare earth. And yet, while his hair had been cropped short when he'd... died, gone comatose, whatever... now it was as long as Kiri's had been.

Straightening up, he caught a flash of brown in the hollow near him, and reached out to touch the broad shoulder. "H...hey... wake up."

The groan and shift confirmed his guess; it was Kaze there. Slowly, the gunner sat up, staring at him in first confusion, then disbelief.

Kumo, too, stared. Kaze's hair rippled down his back, unbound, in familiar red-brown mahogany waves, but on the right side of his head, one long tuft of hair was wolf-silver.

"Kaze, your hair..." he said softly, reaching out to touch the streak. "How did this happen?"

The gunner shook his head. "And what happened to your eye?"

Kumo blinked. "Wh-what do you mean? I can see alright..."

Kaze pointed, careful not to actually touch Kumo's face. "Your left eye... there's a red fault in it, near the pupil..." Realizing which hand he'd used to actually point, he stared. It was his right.

"Kaze..." Kumo gasped, his eyes huge. "The Magun... you're free!"

Slowly, Kaze pressed his hand to his own chest; warmth spread over his entire body as he felt the soft pulse of his heart there. "The Magun is... gone... I've been released by Fate..."

Kumo put his arms around the gunner, giving him a gentle hug. "I'm so happy for you... you've been waiting for this day all your life, haven't you?"

"For many lifetimes, it seems," Kaze murmured, kissing the side of Kumo's throat. "But how...? How did we survive...?"

Kumo shook his head. "I'm not sure... I can't remember it clearly... but we shouldn't have. I mean... it wasn't just the fact that I'd been hurt, or you gave yourself up to summon... there was extensive damage done to our souls... either we shouldn't exist now, or we should be recovering under the care of a guide..."

"My spirit... feels whole to me," Kaze said softly.

Kumo frowned as a brief flash of memory lit his mind. Held in someone's arms... I was in so much pain... I tried to move and couldn't... tried to scream but couldn't... wanted to cry, but... they held me, spoke to me... what did they say...? Can't remember... just warmth and words of love and red...

Red...?

A softly spoken phrase filtered through his mind and heart. "I told you, ototo-chan... you have to live, for the both of our sakes..."

His eyes went huge, and he pulled out of Kaze's arms, both his hands pressed to his mouth. "No... oh, God, God, Nallorn and Gaedrian, it can't be..."

"What's wrong?" Kaze asked, drawing close again.

"Your spirit, your soul... does it... feel like it's all there... all you there?" Kumo asked, his voice trembling, tears forming in his eyes.

Kaze frowned. "Of course it..." He stopped abruptly, his frown deepening. "Wait... it isn't... but why...? What are you implying?"

Kumo shook his head. "Niisama... it was Niisama who I remember holding me, when I felt like my soul itself was coming apart... he told me... told me that I had to live, then..." He shook his head again, his vision blurring as tears spilled down his cheeks. "I can't believe it... I can't believe it...!"

Kaze stared. "Are you saying... that your brother gave up his soul... fused it to yours... just to keep you alive...? And that's why your hair, and your eye... why you aren't bleeding to death right now...?"

Kumo nodded. "And you... it must have been that poor girl... Lou... she... and Niisama... I can't believe it... I just can't...!"

Kaze carefully put his arms around the swordsman's body as Kumo shuddered, beginning to sob.

"But... that way..." he said softly, trying to work it out. "They're still alive, aren't they?"

"They don't even exist anymore," Kumo wailed into Kaze's shoulder.

"But because of us... because we're alive, they're alive as well, right? They became one with us in order to keep us alive... so they too are alive... because we are now one and the same... isn't that right, Shiroi-chan?"

Kumo shook his head, staring up at Kaze with huge tearful eyes. "But... but... they... they deserved to live just as much as we do... Niisama had to go through so much, and... and Lou... she was only a little girl...!"

"They are alive," Kaze said softly, kissing Kumo's cheek. "They loved us so much... and those emotions will always survive, whether they're conscious or not... you know that I would do the same for you, if it came down to that... and I would do it without fear, knowing that I would still be alive in you, seeing and feeling all you did, even if I couldn't consciously know it."

"Kaze..." Kumo curled close to him as Kaze shifted to sit in lotus positon, leaning into his chest, crying until his tears ran dry, safe as his love held him, letting him weep.

Kaze was respectfully silent, gently rocking Kumo in the rhythm of his shaking, sympathetic but knowing that soon the swordsman would feel his brother's spirit as he felt the girl's, her life and love swirling around him in a stream of pure and gentle joy just at living. As Kumo began to regain control, he looked up into Kaze's long face, his eyes wide with the outward expression of his fragility, the seeking of the same sense Kaze had, of the need for love and safety. The gunner smoothed his long hair, touched his lips and chest and the dip of his navel, and kissed him deeply.

"I love you," he whispered into the soft white hair.

"And I you," Kumo murmured back, his arms tightly fitted around his love.

In their moment of joining, as Kaze entered him, he felt a crimson spiral of exultation rise within his heart as the part of him that was Kiri awakened, thrilling at the knowledge of the true depth of emotion.

---

As they lay entwined within the soft grass and the whiteness of the flowers, Kumo spoke.

"What happened to the others...? Do you think they made it?"

Kaze leaned in to kiss Kumo's collarbones. "We did. I'd say it's a certainty."

Shifting, Kumo smiled and closed his eyes, but quickly opened them, pulling out from beneath his love's body and sitting up. "Did you hear that?"

"What?"

"I could have sworn I just heard the echo of a propeller, carried on the wind..."

Kaze sat up as well, straining his vision as he searched the horizon. "Shiroi-chan..."

"Yes?" Kumo turned to him, the odd crescent of crimson beside his pupil flashing.

"I think that something's coming."

The two of them stood, clinging to each other, unable to express the wild hope that thrilled through both their bodies, and watched the cobalt dot draw closer and closer.

"I think..."

"No way. Those lucky sons of bitches. I'll be damned."

"It really is them!"

Silvia dropped to the grass, and the side hatch opened, letting Cid, Lisa, the twins, and their parents spill out, running towards them with happy cries.

"You're alive! You're alive! I can't believe it!"

After trying to get each other's stories out of each other at the same time, they promptly gave up and started laughing--even Kaze, just a little.

"Aren't you two cold?" Cid asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh... uh..." Kaze and Kumo just looked at each other, remembering that neither of them was wearing anything at all. Kumo's entire face flamed pink, and a tinge of red touched Kaze's cheeks.

"Let's get some blankets out here for now," Cid called, laughing again.

A long rectangle of burlap was passed to Kaze, and a folded square of soft crimson cloth to Kumo.

"This..." Smiling sadly, Kumo hugged the red cloak to his chest before throwing it around his shoulders. "Kansha suru."

"So, tell us..." Joe Hayakawa said as they trooped onto the airship. "What happened to you two? How did you survive? And... you look... quite different."

"It's a long story," Kumo said softly. "And you?"

"The Comodeen found us in Gaudium's wreckage. Cid had repaired the damage to Silvia, and they searched the ruins after the castle exploded," Lisa explained. Her face coloring, she pulled something small and silver out of a pocket of her belt. "Um... Kaze, I think this is yours..."

The gunner reached out and took it, his eyebrows going up in surprise. It was the silver, garnet-studded earring he'd always worn; neither he nor Kumo had realized it was missing. With a slight smile, he pressed it back into Lisa's hand. "Keep it," he said softly. "It would look better on you."

The black-haired woman smiled slightly. "Thank you..."

The blue vessel of dreams headed on through the sky, carrying those whose tasks were complete into the future on the wings of the past.

fin

Author's Note: I bet you all thought that the previous chapter was the end, right? Well, I wanted this to end better, and besides... as they say, it ain't over till the fat lady sings, and I didn't hear any fat lady then!

(crickets chirp)

Carlotta: La la la la LAAAAA

(more crickets)

Ooookay, then. So... yeah. That's all, everybody. Hope I didn't offend you too badly or scare you too badly, either. The translations for the lyrics in the epilogue and Chapter 10 can be found on the Animelyrics website, in case you want them. And by the way, I'm sorry if I missed any of the typos while going back and fixing the old drafts of the chapters. I really do want this story to work right...

Everybody always complains about Kaze and Kumo's deaths; since I don't have "Huta no Kizuna" yet, I can only make my own version of a story where they live. It's an angsty love story with a happy ending. I like happy endings. So sue me.

See you all next time...