A cool breeze blew through the town, but no one in the small village noticed. Branches shivered under the force, sending a few leaves drifting to the ground, but nobody saw. The stars themselves could have fallen and not a single person would know, for it was the time of darkness and all were sleeping peacefully in their beds.
Everybody, that is, except the King of Bandits.
After hearing this tidbit of information, one would naturally assume that he was after some miraculous, wonderful treasure that only he could steal. Was there any other reason that the King of Bandits would be awake at the late hour he was on the average night? But that was the thing.
Tonight wasn't the average night.
used to captivate me
By your resonating light
Now I'm bound by the life you left behind
Your face it haunts
My once pleasant dreams
Your voice it chased away
All the sanity in me
My Immortal, Evanescence
Home Is Where The Heart Is - A Jing/Cassis Songfic based off My Immortal
Jing jerked upright in his bed, breathing deeply. His fingers grasped the snowy white sheets as he gulped in the stale night air. A crack in the drawn curtains allowed the moonlight to shine into the room, revealing the cold sweat that clung to him.
"Cassis..." he whispered.
His ash gray eyes sought out the clock. He sighed when he realized that it was only three in the morning and, knowing he would get no more sleep that night, tossed back the covers. He stood up, running a hand through his messy raven hair, and jammed his feet into his shoes. Then, he crept from the room as quietly as possible in hopes that Kir, who was still asleep on the chair, would not hear him.
Once he was outside, he released another sigh. He had known the dream was coming; it had haunted him every year on the same night for the past ten years. Every time, he tried to avoid the dream by using every method he could think of. Every time sleep would overwhelm him. Usually, he could go days without sleeping - he was the King of Bandits, after all. However, once a year, he had no control. A smirk formed on his lips and he shook his head.
Like she would ever let herself be ignored.
He wouldn't be affected nearly as much as he was if were just a normal dream. But rarely was anything normal for Jing: he didn't just see and hear her in his sleep, he felt her. He could feel the silkiness of her blonde curls, the woven cloth of her skirt, the warmth of her skirt. On the annual nights, he could even smell the combination of clover, sunshine and spices that was her and the smoke...especially the smoke.
When it came to her, the King of Bandits didn't dream. He re-lived.
The day that Kir had first come to him - the first day Cassis had ever been forcefully parted from him for more than a few hours - was still fresh in his memory. He could easily recall the way she had woken up hours after they had returned home, trembling violently with fear in her lovely eyes. Countless times prior, Jing remembered that she had been the frightening one as she wielded her bat. Never before had he seen her as terrified as she was then, and he had had to sit with her for over an hour before she calmed.
Not once in that time had the thought of leaving her crossed his mind.
That incident had occurred over twelve years ago, and it still remained as clear as if it had occurred the night before.
A soft smile gentled his features as the memories of all the times they had fought came to mind. He had loved teasing her to make her mad, although half the time it took very little effort on his part to get her screaming. The bandit could only recall one time that he had not wanted to fight with her. His smile became a smirk at the thought of when they were roughly eleven.
The young teen groaned softly as he collapsed bonelessly into the chair. He laid his head back against the fabric and rubbed his temples, shooting Cassis a pointed glare as he did. She failed to pick up on the glower as she paced in front of him. Normally, Jing would have been having a great amount of fun with this situation. Unfortunately, he had woken up that morning with a ferocious headache that only seemed to be getting worse. The blonde's angered ramblings weren't helping. He thought about telling her to shut it, but knew from experience that all he would get was a smack upside the head from that wooden bat of hers.
Running his hands through his hair, he studied her, contemplating. A wicked idea formed in his mind and he grinned, leaning forward and resting his hands on his knees. They didn't call him the King of Bandits for nothing. He could steal anything, right?
It only took Cassis a minute to see that he wasn't listening to her. She whirled on him, eyes flashing and a stinging remark on the edge of her tongue, and froze when he rose to his feet and touched her cheek, cupping her chin. "What... What are you do-" He didn't give her the chance to complete the sentence. Instead, he kissed her lightly, successfully stealing her first kiss.
She had finally shut up after that, too stunned to do anything but stare. Of course, being Cassis, she had figured out why he had done it and out came her bat, leaving his headache about twenty times worse than before. But if given the chance, he would do it again. After all, it had been his first kiss too, and he still could not imagine a better one.
The bandit's eyes suddenly widened at the sight in front of him. Subconsciously, while his thoughts were occupied, his feet had brought him back here. Back to the clutter of burnt objects that were scattered around with no order, making it nearly impossible to tell what anything had once been. The putrid aroma of smoke still lingered, and Jing didn't even dare to blink. He knew that if he closed his eyes for even a second, he would be able to see the flames surrounded his house.
His home. The only home he had ever and would ever know...
Almost hesitantly, he began to make his way through the ashes of the "house". His throat burned as he tried carefully, not wishing to step on something that could have once been precious to him.
As he crept thought of the night after Rose had kissed him so suddenly struck him. She had come into his dreams that night, acting like anyone but herself. Anytime he tried to touch her, she would escape from his grasp and turn away. When he had spoken, she would ignore him. She refused to look him in the eyes, and when he finally took her chin in hand and lifted her eyes to his, He regretted it when he saw the hurt in her beautiful turquoise eyes. The night after he had kissed Stir had been far, far worse. His entire dream had been filled with her weeping. It had broken his heart to see her cry, but no matter what he said or did, the tears continued to trickle down her cheeks.
Jing's quiet footsteps came to a halt when his eyes registered the beginning of the half burnt forest. Slowly, he turned his head to the right and there it was.
The sight that had been calling to him.
An old tombstone, positioned right in front of the oldest and largest tree of the forest. As he approached, the faded writing, memorized long ago, became visible. He knelt beside the grave and laid his fingers against the familiar letters.
Friend and Sister and Loved One
Rest in peace Cassis, for you will always be in our thoughts
A wry smile filled with grief touched his lips at the irony of the last sentence. There hadn't been a day that passed in the last ten years that she wasn't present in his thoughts in some way.
He traced the letters of the third line. Even though all he had wanted to do was sit and cry, he had tried his best to act strong for his "little brothers" and for Kir. Two days after she was buried, he had added the last three words when he thought he was alone. He had thought he had successfully carved it in secret,
But once he had finished, he had turned to see Kir hovering behind him.
The bandit had fully expected a smart comment from the bird, but it never came. Instead, Kir gave Jing a soft, sad smile that spoke volumes, told him the others were searching for the boy, and flew away. Kir had remained by his side ever since.
Although she hated to admit it, Cassis used to have nightmares. Like him, she had lost her mother while she was young. Every once and a while, she would come to his house during the darkest hours of the night and in the morning, he would find her curled up beside him. The first time she had accidentally knocked over a chair and when he had come down to the kitchen, he had been ready to scream at her for waking him up. But when he saw the tears in her eyes, his anger died and he simply held her as she cried.
Even with the knowledge that she felt the same way, he had never found the courage to open up about his own mother to her. He had been well aware that Cassis and his mother had known one another well and that his mother had loved Cassis like the daughter she never had. Despite this, he could not talk to her about his mother's death. It was the one subject he constantly pushed her way over, and because of his stubbornness - She had died.
And Jing would never forgive himself for it.
The King of Bandits released a soft sigh as his eyes closed. Finally, he allowed himself to recall what he had been leading up towards ever since he had awoken. He recalled the night that Cassis died.
It had been exactly seven days after the anniversary of his mother's death, and he had planned to visit her grave for the last time of that year. Cassis had begged to be allowed to come with him, but Jing refused. She had screamed at him for his rejection, shouting that he wasn't the only one who loved and missed the woman before she stalked away, just as she always did.
Dismissing her anger, the bandit went to visit his mother alone as he always did. Like the past times when he wouldn't let her come, he expected to return home to find her furiously avoiding him for the next couple of days. Eventually, she would forgive him and return to his side.
But things didn't go as they always did.
The young child dusted himself off as he stood up, gazing down at the plot of land that contained his mother. "Good-bye, okaa-chan," he said quietly, turning to leave. He halted in surprise when he caught sight of Kir sailing towards him.
"Jing!" the bird yelled, relieved at finally finding him. "Jing, trouble!"
"What's wrong?" asked Jing, blinking.
"Cassis is in danger!"
Kir continued to speak, but Jing was no longer listening. He was already racing down the path towards his house. His heart constricted with every step he took. The closer he got, the more aware of the wrongness in the air he became. When he rounded the final curve, he froze in astonishment at the sight of flames devouring the wooden structure he called home.
"Aniki!" voices called out. "Aniki! Cassis-nee-chan is still inside!"
Within seconds, the boy was at the front door of the house. He snapped at the children to stay back before touching the doorknob. He gritted his teeth at the feel of the searing hot metal and stepped back. He brought his shirt up to cover his mouth and nose as he gave one well-aimed kick to the weakened wood. The door splintered and a wave of smoke and heat rushed over him.
He was terribly aware of the time that was passing. Seconds seemed to last like hours that flew by as he searched frantically, earning himself several burns in the process. Finally, he found her because he tripped over her body.
She had passed out on the ground.
Tearing his jacket off, he covered her limp form with it and hoisted her into his arms. Hunching forward in an effort to protect her, Jing grimly ducked under a piece of a burning wood and trudged towards the back door. He wasn't sure if they would make it out alive, but damnit, he was going to try.
Jing curled his legs underneath him and rested his head on his knees. For a moment, he looked just like the little boy he was remembering as his face creased in pain. They had escaped the building, but he had had no choice but to flee through the forest before he could check on Cassis. By the time he managed to exit, the fire trucks had arrived and he knew that if they were found, too many questions would be asked. He knew Kir would have taken the boys to a safe place, so Jing felt safe in pausing without worry on the other end of the forest.
As soon as he had been able to stop and check on Cassis, however, he wished he had kept running to keep the truth at bay.
The boy coughed as he gently laid the prone form on the ground. The second his coughing stopped, he laid two fingers against her wrist to check the speed of her pulse. How fast or slow it was would determine his next actions.
He was stunned to find that there wasn't one.
Jing's eyes grew wide and he felt his heart skip a beat. His mouth opened but no sound escaped as he placed a hand in front of her mouth, hoping to feel air escaping. When there wasn't, he laid his ear to her chest and listened as hard as he could for a heartbeat. He prayed for her to slap him for touching her there.
But she didn't.
The boy lifted his head and gazed at her face. Her skin was pale, almost the same color as the snow that came in the winter. There was no blood in her cheeks. There was no doubt about it even as his hands found her shoulders and he shook her, lightly at first, then harder.
"Cassis... Come on, get up," he pleaded, his eyes filled with concern and the beginnings of anguish. "Please! This isn't funny. Look, I'm sorry I didn't let you come with me to see Okaa-chan. You can come next time. Now, come on, get up."
The body remained motionless.
His eyes widened more as the full reality of what was happening came crashing down around him. "No..." he whimpered, tears stinging his eyes. "No!" he cried, hugging her body, as if pleading would cause her to open her eyes. "Please, Cassis, please! Get up! Cassis!"
But she did not move.
A single tear escaped those brimming in his eyes to trickle down his cheek. He could not summon the strength to brush it away.
The others had found him the next morning, still seated in the same place, still clutching Cassis as if the world would end when he let go. He didn't cry when he revealed the awful, horrible, painful truth. He didn't cry when they buried her in private later that night. He didn't cry when he ventured out of the town where he had grown up and met her in.
But he had wept the night after the fire, and every year on the anniversary since. The wounds were so fresh on his heart, the grief so agonizingly strong, that sometimes he felt as if he had lost Cassis a few weeks ago.
And yet despite the tears he shed and the pain he carried around with him every second, he had never wished that he didn't feel it. It was his fault Cassis was dead - he deserved the pain. If he had let her come to visit his mother, then she would still be alive. She would still be with him. But she wasn't, and he would never forget it.
He could never forget it
"Jing! There you are!"
The bandit didn't turn to face his companion, but he did wipe the tear from his face with his shoulder. "Hey, Kir," he said quietly, closing his eyes in the direction of the grave.
"Where have you been?" Kir demanded, sounding worried and exhausted at the same time. "I woke up in the middle of the night and you were gone."
"...I've been here."
The bird then realized where they were, and when he spoke again, his voice had softened. "Oh... You came home."
Jing's eyes parted, revealing a deep grief and weariness as he rose to his feet. "We have no home, Kir," he stated, striding past the bird in the direction they had come.
Kir was silent for a moment. "You know, Jing," he said at last. "They say home is where the heart is."
The King of Bandits stopped as these oddly insightful words, but he did not turn to face his partner. Instead, his eyes locked on the beginning sunrise. "But what if the person who holds my heart is dead?" he whispered, an anguished smile spreading across his face. "What if she's dead, Kir, and she's never coming back?"
Kir had no answer for his suffering partner.
Instead, he merely flew to Jing and perched on his shoulder, watching the sunrise. It was said that the King of Bandits could steal anything. It was a lie. There was one thing that, no matter how he tried, Jing could not take.
He could never steal back Cassis' life.