Disclaimer: I don't own anything worth owning except three mutts.
Author's Note: If it's any defense for the concept, "'cause no one else would." Much thanks to ElvenSailorGirl, my friend from real life, who was kind enough to beta this—without her patience this fic would not be here.
stray cat is crying, so stray cat sings back…
They walk to his apartment a pitiful, defeated pair, and once they've made it, he gives her the bed amid her half-hearted protests. Points out the rooms (three besides the bedroom, which is two too many), the conveniences, and then tries to leave her alone, like they aren't experiencing the same guilty feelings.
"If you need anything, Tsukiko, just tell me," he says in closing, but the words sound hollow even to him.
She's still just standing beside the bed. The blood's drying on her skirt and some detached part of him wonders if that's the only one she has, while the rest of his mind remains fixed on the scene they've just left.
"I don't need anything."
Not a question, a statement. She nods.
He walks to the door, hesitating. He wants her to have at least pretended it was something simple, not even an obstacle so much as a nightmare. But it's not, and she doesn't.
There's no healing for this for either of them, and he thinks they both know it. The images keep rushing through his head, flipping through the moments like magazine pages—Ren in his house, Ren sleeping on the bed Tsukiko hasn't as much as touched. Rai in the condo, Rai as Nebiros, the Spirits.
He sits on the bed, gestures for her to do the same. And though nothing is said, there's comfort in the silence.
He's quit school and for all the wrong reasons, no one is surprised. His grades have suffered severely for the past month and a half, his attendance record is poor, and the rumor that he had mugged passerby has been established as fact. No questions are asked when he drops out of sight entirely, when the teachers stop calling his name during roll call, when his gum-coated desk disappears from the classroom.
It's all right, the anonymity. After all, he can't really imagine classmates twenty years from now at a reunion, asking "Kyouya, that guy in trig, he just dropped out one day, whatever happened to him?" and someone else knowing that he had died. Painting a tragic, stupid picture of the classmate they'd hardly known, as so stubborn to keep the illness a secret that he'd left before anyone could find out.
It all fits. He had turned down the day once before in his life. Now the day is turning down him.
But he didn't count on her quitting after he did, and if he had known she would he would have willed himself to school until the day he'd died. She doesn't tell him until the next day; when she wakes him up at nine o'clock with breakfast wearing a T-shirt and jeans.
"Don't worry about it, Kyouya," tone nervous, explaining, "I wouldn't have been able to pass anyway. I… wasn't ever that good of a student…"
He explodes, mind reeling off all the possibilities she's just cut out of her life for someone so ridiculous as him. High-school graduation. College. A way out of this, of all of this, the prostitution she'd only left behind because he was there, the homeless begging on the streets.
"That doesn't matter! You can't throw your future away like that! I'm not worth it, Tsukiko!"
She looks at him, sadly and steadily, saying nothing, and somehow that hurts worse than anything.
They watch television together, game shows, soaps, and reality T.V.—anything but eighties horror movies—Kyouya giving a commentary occasionally, if he's seen it before, and Tsukiko nodding away. When that grows tiring they rent movies, a dozen at a time, every title that catches her interest.
"I never watched very many movies," she says, as though it's a crime and this is her apology. "Many good movies, I mean. My uncle—sometimes he'd have some to show me… he'd tell me to imitate them when—"
His stomach lurches and he glares at the ground, thinking of the brutality that man inflicted on itself without the help of devils.
"Get all the movies as you want."
"Are you sure, Kyouya?"
So she gets six more, and he pays for them, and when they walk out of the store he takes her hand.
He feels stupid for doing it but he calls all of the personalities Tsukiko, as they don't give him any other name to go by. It's easy to tell when one of them is in control. Something in her eyes changes, and the way she holds herself, the way she speaks—it all hardens, becomes colder, unreachable.
Some of them talk to him about the Diabolo, about being Diabolo—the one that was Fleurety is especially prone to this, whereas the normal Tsukiko can't speak of it without crying. It's too horrible for her, too much to take that she'd not only tried to kill but had killed, and he thinks if the personalities hadn't already been there she would have created more to deal with that, too.
"She wished for power," she says almost idly, pulling a bowl of oatmeal out from the microwave. "So that everything would be on her terms. She never had any control over her life, you know."
He nods slowly.
"You haven't eaten."
"I'm not hungry."
"You'll worry Tsukiko. I think she believes you'll get over what you're dying from if we all stay with you."
He doesn't answer.
"But that isn't here or there, right, Kyouya? Why don't we... why don't you tell me your wishes."
"I thought you knew."
"I could guess, but you never told me."
She finds a clean spoon and starts to eat, looking as though it didn't matter to her whether he responded or not. He does, surprising himself.
"I was just bitter. Like everyone else the Diabolo trapped. I didn't have a wish in mind so much as I wanted revenge for all the crap that had happened to me."
Oddly enough, she almost smiles.
"No, that's not all you wanted."
"Really? What else did I want?"
"To be a part of something, even if it was destroying the world. You wanted a friend, didn't you, Kyouya?"
"I guess I did."
"Did you find one?" she mocks. "In any of us?"
"Yes," he says, completely honest, taking her aback.
She sets the spoon down, looking somewhere between amused and surprised, crossing her arms.
She laughs bitterly.
He starts taking naps during the day, amidst all her worry. In all honesty, if it hadn't been for her he would have slept the days away long before now. She promises to wake him up, so they can watch a movie together (four hour long epics, not so much because she loves them as it is she can ensure it means for four hours he'll stay awake) or have lunch or dinner. And she does wake him up, at the exact time he tells her, so he swallows all the complaints about how tired he still is and watches or eats with her, even when he's drifting from sleep to wake or the fork feels like the heaviest weight to lift up to his mouth.
It's all hurting worse now. The pain that had been sporadic up until this point is sending him into agony.
It's about that time when he starts to take the pills he'd long since been prescribed but never touched until this point. He makes himself get up earlier than her to take them, always stuffing the canister in the back of the cabinet, always washing out the glass of water and putting it back after he'd drained it.
He hates the deception of it but knows it's best she doesn't find out, because that would make her worry even more. It's enough—it's too much, far too much—that she's sacrificed school for his idiot benefit. The last thing she needs is to think he'll die addicted.
It numbs the pain but numbs his mind, too, makes things fuzz out like bad reception on a radio station. He thinks Tsukiko suspects something but isn't sure.
And he doesn't know what it is, whether it's a side-effect of the drug or his guilt or the simple fact of his own mortality kicking in, but there are more nightmares as well, dazed dreams in black and white and blood. The condo, looming and overshadowing all like a heathen idol: the other Spirits, Nema, and Master.
He's up. There is no pain but what he inflicts on others, no death but what death he gives. He's Agliarept, sword in hand, lusting to kill, to destroy. And after all, he thinks as some part of him begs for reconsideration, the blood is so sweet, so sweet, and so avenging.
It doesn't matter how high the death toll becomes. The other Spirits mutter out of jealousy but he delights in the indulgence. Fleurety is the only one that really stands out of the shadows, grinning madly and telling him not to worry so long as he saves some for the rest of them. Bodies are lining the outside of the condo like flowers to a garden.
(saul hath slain his thousands and david his ten thousands and agliarept his…)
Some familiar, most not—kids from the high school with wide eyes that never counted on this their last day alive, businessmen in jogging outfits trying for their own way to cheat death, women with strollers screaming out loud and in his mind as he reads their souls, not the baby, oh please not the baby.
And Ren. Ren in open-mouthed horror from the betrayal, splayed face-forward on the ground, cell phone somehow ringing and ringing in his blood-covered jeans pocket, on and on to a drone—
She's grabbing him—pulling him up—and her eyes are filled with an awful concern that makes him curse his existence through the ache of being ripped out of the nightmare and back to the world.
Her hand touches his sweat-covered forehead.
"Are you all right? Please, Kyouya… please be all right…"
Her quiet words are amplified a million times by the pain in his head. He wants to scream at her to shut up, stop acting as though nothing's wrong, let him dream all the nightmares he wants because nothing aches there like it does when he's awake, let him die, but the pain is consuming him, eating away at every thought but hurt, oh it hurts.
Until the spasm ends and he finds her crying with the bottle of pills in one hand.
Today he turns eighteen—no real milestone for one completely bedridden now, but Tsukiko makes of it a party without presents.
"I made you a cake," and she presents it six inches from his nose, chocolate with the words happy birthday Kyouya written carefully in icing across the top. He notices the lack of candles and wants to tell her which cabinet they're in when he sees her produce two from her pocket, a one and an eight shape from the supermarket. She sets the cake down on the nightstand and sticks them in, lights them with a match.
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…"
There's something in her eyes, so hopeful, so expectant that it makes her radiant for that moment. She wants something to happen—after all this. After all the things they don't speak of she wants a miracle for him.
He cannot keep himself from dying. Even the Diabolo had not promised that, but that's the miracle she wants. That's the miracle she deserves, and he can't give it to her.
He that had come close to causing the world's destruction can't even walk now. So he tries to force himself to sit up from the bed, just this once, blow out the candles half-melted into wax as she watches him.
And for one last time, he does.