Title: Keep Your Photograph
Summary: Cassis and Jing are determined to move on, but how can they when it means giving up a part of themselves?
Genre: Song based fic - Romance/Angst
Disclaimer: I don't own the Jing series nor the song Broken (by Seether and Amy Lee), but I do own Nikko Kazuo, whoopie.
Edit: I have gone back and changed a couple of things so the fic would flow a little bit better.
The young boy started as his companion jerked awake. Her body was coated in a thin sheen of sweat, and her breathing was forceful as she stared off into space. Hesitantly, he laid a cautious hand on her shoulder. She tensed, turning fearful turquoise eyes onto him, before slipping her arms around his waist and clinging to him, burying her face in his chest. It was his turn to stiffen, before he relaxed and his smoke grey eyes softened when her body trembled from the force of tears. Tenderly, he embraced her in return and soothingly stroked her tumbling blonde curls, ensuring her of her safety.
The nearly unintelligible sound was still loud enough to catch his attention. His head snapped around and his gaze locked on the partially open door, where three children and a bird wielding a camera peeked in. Noticing his glare, the group scattered. Rolling his eyes in mild amusement, he returned to comforting his friend.
I keep your photograph and I know it serves me well
I wanna hold you high and steal your pain
'Cause I'm broken when I'm lonesome
And I don't feel right when you're gone away
Jing ash colored eyes grew fond as he regarded the photograph. His fingers gently brushed against the image of the little girl who held so fiercely to the boy, tracing the line of her slim form as it rested against the mattress.
"Cassis..." the name slipped unbidden from his mouth as he reclined in his chair and sighed. He detested the picture because of how vulnerable it made her appear. She wasn't fragile nor made from glass that would shatter easily, as the picture implied. She was energy, passion, strength, beauty, joy, love and laughter all combined into one. An ever-changing storm of emotions with expressive eyes that glimmered beautifully no matter what emotion she was feeling.
How he missed the way she would smile whenever he returned home, the way her sea-colored eyes would light up when he entered the room. He even missed the way her eyes would flash in anger, the sound of her voice as she hollered, the pain of the bat as it struck it his head... A soft, unhappy chuckle left his mouth as he gingerly massaged his head. Okay, perhaps the headaches were the one thing he did not miss.
But that fact remained – if he missed nearly everything about her so dearly, why had he left her in the first place?
His grip tightened on the delicate and aged photograph. It was nearly ten years old and had been cherished for just as long. The day the camera had captured their image had been one of the best and worst days of his life. That day had been the day he had met the partner who now accompanied him everywhere. Kir had been a faithful companion since then, when he had learned how to use the Kir Royal for the first time.
However, it had also been the first time Cassis had ever been taken away from him forcefully for more than a few hours. It had been his first reaction to totally freak out, but he had somehow managed to restrain himself under the guise of remaining calm in the eyes of his "brothers". Had they seen him panicking, their own state would have doubled. From the moment he had discovered she had been kidnapped that day, he had been drawn tighter than a string on a bow. It wasn't until they had been home once more and she had been weeping in his arms had he calmed down.
Jing gave another somber sigh before rising from the wooden chair and impulsively striding over to the window. He pushed the shade up and opened the shutters, allowing the cool breeze and the last of the sun's rays to spill into the room The King of Bandits took in a deep breathe and closed his eyes for a moment against the dazzling shades of pumpkin orange, cream yellow, cherry pink and crimson red that were streaking across the sky.
The breeze tugged and teased at his unruly raven hair and threatened to pluck the photograph from his an instant, he opened his fingers. The picture was out of his grasp in an instant, fluttering away on the wind like a butterfly. Only at the last second did he capture it once more.
Releasing the photograph would mean releasing all of the hopes and dreams he had once harbored, and Jing wasn't sure he was strong enough to do that. He had already let Cassis go once. Could he gather the courage to do it again?
A lovely young woman stretched her back with feline grace as she stepped out onto her balcony. Resting a pale hand on the wrought iron railing, she leaned her body against the sturdy structure and gazed at the marvelous sunset with tumulus ocean eyes. The wind ruffled her silk nightdress, bringing scents from far away to her nostrils, and when she closed her eyes, for a moment, she felt as if he were with her.
The sudden burning sensation caused her breath to hitch. She shoved her fists into her eyes, swearing that she would not give into the tears. She had gone months during which he appeared in her mind only once or twice a day, about as often as one would think of an old friend. But now, without warning, he was in her thoughts constantly, as if he had only left the week before. She had believed she had finally moved on. She had believed that finally, she was over him. So, why now of all times for him to haunt her? Why?
Why did it have to be on the night she agreed to marry another?
Long ago, her mind had accepted the fact that he would not return. Yet, for a great amount of time, her heart had rejected every man that came before her. Always, each one had fallen short of him, and so her answer had been no to each. But after a severe warning from one of her girlfriends ("You'll end up old and alone, Cassis, if you don't give one of those men a chance!") she had found someone who cared for her. She had created a new and happy life for herself.
That's correct, she was happy.
A deep, mournful sigh forced its way out of her throat. Once again, she was lying to herself, trying to force her heart to believe something it knew was not true. Cassis was not happy; hell, she could hardly remember what happiness was. Because ever since Jing had left her, she had not known any emotion except grief.
On the surface, she was content. She had actually begun to date with an open mind, shooing away any prejudice against them, and after a few months of searching, had discovered a suitable man. Now, she was about to be married. To those around her, she had finally moved on.
But in her dreams, she was a child once more. An innocent little girl whose life revolved around the King of Bandits, who had little more to worry about then sleeping when she was tired and eating when she was hungry and swinging her bat when she was mad. A tiny, naïve kid who had always felt safe so long as she was with him. And along with those beautiful dreams came a wish. One wanted more than anything else in the world. So, she wished this special, simple wish with so much strength that when her eyes closed, she could almost feel her body moving through time. When it seemed that everything was as it should be, she opened her eyes, ready to gaze into the eyes of the one person she loved the most.
She found herself gazing at a darkening sky and miniature pinpoints of light.
Her knees weakened, and she fought to avoid collapsing to her knees and sobbing like the child she so desperately wanted to be. But no, Cassis was now a twenty-two-year-old woman, soon to be wed to someone she did not love, and not a child any longer.
It was said that the older you became, the stronger you got. But for Cassis, it seemed just the opposite. She had begun her life as a strong, capable child who thought she could do anything, who had the up most confidence in her abilities. But every year, month, day, hour, minute, even second that she was away from him, she grew weaker. She had never imagined that all of her strength came from him, but as time went on, she knew that it was true. Even though she remained fit and active, the strength she needed – the strength only he could give her – was conspicuously missing.
Jing could steal anything; she had known that since she was born. But she had never thought that he would steal her will to live.
The King of Bandits perched on the windowsill, one leg dangling freely down the outside wall of the house. The photo was still captive between his index and middle fingers, but he was no longer looking at it. Instead, he stared upwards at the stars that dotted the sky. There was a strange look in his eyes that any observer might have described as longing.
In a way, Jing was glad that he suffered every day, because he knew that he deserved it. It was a knowledge that haunted him; that he had been the one who had left her. He was the one who had chosen to go off on his own. Kir had begged him not to go, and then, had pleaded with him to at least say good-bye to Cassis. Because he was stubborn and stupid at the time, he had stead fastedly ignored the bird's good advice.
Countless times during their adventures, Kir had questioned their abrupt leaving. Just as many times, the King of Bandits had told him the same thing – that they needed a challenge. It wasn't necessarily a lie. The small village where he had been born was of no use when it came to bettering his thieving skills. The majority of the people who lived there had stopped trying save their property from him and most just allowed him to take what he wanted. However, saying that a search for a challenge was the only reason he had left would be an outright lie.
One of the reasons he had left – perhaps the real one – was the difference he had begun to notice in Cassis. The sparkle in her eyes when she had a new project in mind, the shine of her hair when the sunlight struck the strands just so, the fullness of her lips when she pouted, the way her body was beginning to develop curves... It terrified him.
So every time he became aware of another change in her, he tried to envision her as the same violent tomboy he had grown accustomed to growing up with. He tried to replace her vivacious laughter with deafening shrieks of rage. He had tried to substitute smooth, unblemished skin for cuts and scrapes gained at bat practice. Rarely was he able to twist his mind away from her growing beauty. He felt as if he were a bumblebee who had only just observed a blossoming flower; a flower that he just had to taste.
So for the first time in his life, the King of Bandits took the cowardly way out by running.
A soft, somewhat bitter chuckle left his mouth. He could just imagine the headlines that would make. What kind of fear would he strike into someone if they knew he had fled from a girl? More than likely, he would be laughed out of a profession. But it had been the only solution he had been able to think of at the time. He had been so young that he did not understand the consuming feelings that were appearing in his mind and heart. He did not understand his near obsessive protectiveness, nor his strange need to be with her all the time. He had done the worst thing possible and panicked. Now, so many years later, it was painfully obvious to him.
He had fallen in love with glowing turquoise eyes and cascading golden curls.
The bandit had tried many times to convince himself that it was just puppy love; just a little crush. He had been only twelve years old, and that was far too young to have such strong feelings. But he knew that he was fooling himself. When it came to age, love obeyed it about as well as Jing himself obeyed the law.
The alluring thought of returning to the village to find her had crossed his mind several times. Each time, he had firmly dismissed the thought. There was no doubt in his mind that Cassis probably hated him for leaving without a word. At the very least, he figured she had moved on and found someone to marry, although it made him sick to imagine her in another man's arms. Still, there was no possibility that she still thought of him the way he thought of her.
There was no way she could still think about him the way he thought of her.
Cassis sucked in another deep breath and clung to the railing as she continued to battle the urge to break down weeping. The threat of being caught by a friend was all too real to the young girl. Laying her forehead against her knee, she shuddered as a sob caught in her throat.
When Jing had left her, she had faithfully waited, positive that he would come back and hated those who said he would not. After all, he couldn't just leave his home – the place he had grown up in, the place his mother had died in – like that; he couldn't abandon his brother's like that. But most of all, Jing would not leave her heartbroken like that.
The blonde had waited for years, steadily unwavering in the knowledge that he would return. Then, one day, she had made her decision, packed her few possessions and gone out looking for him. His reputation preceded him, but it was much more difficult to track him down than she had anticipated and eventually, her hope had dried up, like a puddle of water left out in the sun for too long.
She had been fully prepared to end it all.
But then Nikko Kazuo had shown up like a comforting rainstorm. He had taken her back to his home, nursed her broken form back to health, shown her beauty in the world once more. He was there to dry her tears when the reason for them was not. He gave her compassion whereas Jing had teased and infuriated her. Kazuo had stayed with her when he had left, and as such, she was getting ready to marry him, not Jing.
So why, then, had the world appeared so much more vibrant when Jing was with her? Why was it easier to laugh when he was around? Why was it so much harder to cry when he was there? Why wasn't she marrying the man she loved instead of the man she didn't?
For a second time, Jing's fingers closed tightly around the photograph. He knew that he must do, no matter how much the thought inwardly killed him. His mind brought forth all of the secret desires he harbored about her and he drew in a deep breath, preparing himself. His eyes lingered on the picture once more, memorizing her hair and her clothes and the way she clung to his younger self. A depressed smile gentled his features as his hand relaxed.
The wind snapped the photograph up in an instant and carried it away.
Jing pulled his legs inside and stood up. He closed the shutters and pulled the shade down, the returned to bed, taking care not to disturb the slumbering Kir as he slipped between the covers and closed his eyes.
Cassis had more than likely moved on ages ago, and now, it was his turn to do the same.
The brimmed over, spilling freely down her cheeks at last. A self mocking smile curled her lips as the salty liquid trickled down her face. She had known she would loose the battle; she always did. The tears always won.
A gasp escaped her mouth as a pair of strong arms embraced her waist, and for a moment, she threw caution into the wind and allowed herself to hope, to pray. "Jing..." she whispered the name before she could silence herself.
She could not bring herself to feel regret when she turned in the loosened grip and looked into wounded hazel eyes. "No..." her fiancée whispered.
A fake smile touched her features. "My apologies, Kazuo, I was lost in my thoughts of childhood and momentarily forgot myself. I meant nothing by it."
Uncertainty touched his eyes, and he hesitated. Then, he shook his head and sighed. "Come along, Cassis, I don't want my bride-to-be catching a cold."
Instinctively, she winced, fighting against the nature that shouted she was no one's bride to be but Jing's. Pressing it down and locking it away, she smiled sweetly, took his hand and followed the man she was going to marry inside.
Had Cassis remained outside a moment more, she would have found a photograph caught in the iron of the railing. It was an old photograph, the colors slightly worn and distorted by fingerprints, depicting a time and a place when things were simple and children in love could smile with genuine warmth. Clearly, it had been well cherished at one time, but now, the owner had given up and given in on what he thought could not be.
I don't feel right when you're gone away
'Cause I'm broken when I'm lonesome
And I don't feel right when you're gone away
You've gone away You don't feel me here anymore
Broken - Amy Lee and Seether
A/N: The last time there was a big hurricane getting ready to hit around Houston, I stayed up all night working on this story. Now as we're preparing for another one, I find myself going back and looking at it all over again. However, this time I'm not nearly as pleased as I was before.
The one thing I've always loved about Cassis's character was her strength, her power; she's the main reason I've returned to Jing fanfiction as much as I have. But looking at this story, I do not like the way I have represented her. It does have a realistic touch, and I think I was going for all the feelings a person hides when they're hurting, but it just doesn't feel right to me. Cassis is too weak, to willing to give in, too clingy, and I hate it.
So there will be no sequel to this fanfiction as I had originally planned. I don't think I would be able to continue to write a Cassis who is way too dependent on Jing, because that's just not how I see her anymore. Sorry for all of you who had been waiting for so long (though I doubt that there are any of you left, since it has been years).