His head hurt like someone had struck it with a crowbar. He could see dazzling lights behind his eyes, and the pain was overwhelming. He gasped, coughing, on the ground, until presently he was aware that he could feel his hands and knees. The reawakening of his nerves burned like scalding water on frostbite. He tried to move a finger and found he couldn't remember how to do it. His muscles felt weak and his frame emaciated, and the loud pounding of his heart alarmed him. The flood of mixed up thoughts and loud emotion seemed to deafen his senses and his mind, and he lay there, reeling, waiting for the cacophony of unaccustomed feeling to subside.

Presently, through some great effort, he managed to open his eyes, and the white light burned them closed again. He tried again, squinting, and saw nothing but whiteness. It took a few minutes to understand—he wasn't used to thinking—that he was on the inside of his mind. Which meant…What did it mean? He hadn't thought about anything further than the pain, and now the concepts of a why and how and where came flooding in and his head began to ache again. He forced his eyelids to stay slightly open, so he could somehow get accustomed to the painful light.

After a while (he could only vaguely grasp the concept of passing time) he tried the problem of why—why he was there, and why everything hurt so badly. His memories seemed faint and scrambled. He could remember his name at least—Satoshi-sama. Only…Something was wrong with that. He wasn't remembering something correctly. He reached for other names—Krad. Krad-sama? He shuddered involuntarily, and wondered why. The thinking really hurt, and he was thinking so much at once now.

Krad…sama…It was…It was an important name. He was sure of that. It meant safety, and protection. And…and maybe, distant fear. The fear was far off, and he couldn't figure out its reasons. He knew that there were memories before the faint images of white feathers and hushing, quiet whispers. The thought of those whispers made him sleepy, and his head began to droop. Making his own decisions was so hard…

He woke up later, and still, there was no one there to tell him not to think. No whispers of "Don't worry. You are safe now." He shivered. He was alone. He wasn't supposed to have to do this—to deal with pain and doubt. He hadn't done it in a long time.

Reluctantly, he began to work at the puzzle again. Krad was…Krad-sama was…Important to the why's and how's. He made the decisions, so he must have chosen for Satoshi-sama—Satoshi?—to be here. If there was a here, there must have been a there. He remembered brighter colors, and red hair—another name, but he couldn't bring himself to recall. The voice had been worried—it had called his name…Niwa. That was it. So there was someone there named Niwa. And there must have been others…but he couldn't remember. He vaguely recalled a boy with blue hair and…glasses…with a hard expression…very cold, but brittle…the memory made him shiver again. The boy's eyes frightened Satoshi, and he wasn't sure why.

Then he realized he was moving his finger. He flexed, experimentally, and felt the unused nerves sting with the motion. So he could move. He could control himself. He tried his other hand. It barely twitched. He lay there for a while more, thinking vaguely of the blue-haired boy, concentrating on initiating movement in his arms and legs. It might have been hours or days, but suddenly he found his left foot moving, and then his hand. He became aware of sounds again, and his breathing sounded ragged and unnatural, as though even his lungs were unaccustomed to working on their own.

He lifted one hand slowly, carefully, and touched the back of his shoulder. There was a scar there. It was wide, and straight. He suddenly remembered pain, intense and terrifying, and whiteness like that in his mind bursting bloody from the wound—he closed his eyes and tried to brace against the sudden onslaught of emotion.

He must have passed out again, because he woke up with his hand clutching weakly at his shoulder. He lifted it with his other hand and, carefully, placed his palms on the ground and attempted to push himself upright. It took a few strenuous attempts, but at last he was sitting up, his palms pressed hard against the ground, supporting him. This was progress.

He turned his mind inward again—to the memories and names. The whiteness that had made him bleed returned immediately to his memory—and he winced, but concentrated on the whiteness, not the pain or bleeding—and it occurred to him that the whiteness was not his. It came from inside him, but it was Krad's…Krad-sama's? No. Krad's…wings.

Feathers. He remembered now. Feathers everywhere, and bleeding. And whispers, urging him to give in, to give up. The dreams designed to make him lose all hope…But what had happened? He must have lost his hope, because everything looked very bleak now. There was nothing here but him. Even Krad was gone.

But Krad had been there…Was this pain because of Krad? Some residue of his dependency cried out against this—he needed Krad, Krad was the one who would take care of him, his very self was invested in Krad's being—but an older urge told him this was wrong. This pain—this inability to think and move…Was all because of Krad. Not Krad-sama. No. Just Krad. And he had tried to struggle, but Krad was much too strong…

He suddenly wanted to run, to shout, to claw at the whiteness until he ripped his way into the outside. His knees shook with the effort of movement, and he limped and crawled at first—but he realized the need to take things slowly. So he calmed himself once more and concentrated on the difficulty of standing. This was very hard. It required balance. He fell a few times before he remembered to put out his hands in falling, and, as a result, he bloodied up his nose a bit. But he persevered—there was nothing else to do. He tried too many times to count until he stood, shaky but triumphant, on his own feet. Then the even harder part began—the walking.

He forced a foot forward, then another, before slipping and falling the first time. After the tenth or twelfth, it occurred to him to ask what good this exercise would do. What good was moving if you had no place to go? He was in the middle of a nothing that had no edges. He stopped, swaying on his feet, feeling vaguely angry. What had happened to Krad?

He took another shaky breath and exhaled—and a freezing hand came icy on his shoulder. He cried out and slipped again, landing on his knees. Another hand descended—and cold fingers clutched both shoulders. He feared to hear the voice—


It was terrifying. He could hardly move. He was seeking out his freedom, this could not happen now, it could not—

"I'm sorry. I know you're frightened. Let me ease your pain."

He cried out thickly in an unused voice, and attempted to stand again.

"Don't do that, Satoshi-sama." The hands clamped down on his shoulders, easily preventing him from rising. "You'll get hurt."

This was wrong, it was horrible, it made him feel even weaker than before—he could already feel the pull to obedience through the hands that grasped his shoulders. It told him to let go, obey, be good…He was not used to resisting. Moving on his own was hard enough. But he pulled away again from Krad, who was not expecting any struggle.

He pulled himself up. "Krad…" He had to halt the "sama" as it touched his tongue. "Don't…Please…"

The angel touched the back of his head and his mind reeled. "Satoshi-sama…Don't be afraid…" It was…so tempting. He could feel himself letting go, losing awareness, relinquishing responsibility…

Some tiny part of him forced him forward, and he stumbled away from Krad. "No, Krad…I don't want…" His voice was so weak, so quiet…"Not again. Don't do this…" The world was spinning. The whiteness seemed to flash on and off now, and he wondered why he hadn't fainted yet.

"Poor Satoshi-sama. Don't worry. I'll help you."

He fell again, and turned his head to see the angel for the first time with his own free will. How could he have forgotten those terrible eyes? And the wings were spread wide and staring in the light. Krad knelt down next to him, his voice was kind.

"Satoshi…I won't hurt you. I just want you to be safe. I'm taking care of your body and I will take care of you. Trust me, we'll be happy together again."

His body…That was right, he thought hazily. He had a body. And Krad had wanted it, because he had to share it. Krad did not like to share. He would give, and take, but never share. Where was the body now? It probably had wings. Krad liked that better than the blue-haired boy. That boy was weak, and brittle…

He looked up wearily at Krad. It was too hard. He was weak, and Krad was much too strong for him now. Krad knew it, too, and he was being gentle because he could afford to. Satoshi was in no position to fight back.

"Satoshi-sama…" He shook his head. "Now, just come to me and give me your name again. I'll take all this pain away. You'll forget it. Everything will be peaceful. Come here." He reached out his hand and held Satoshi's chin. Satoshi looked down and shook, but he did not move.

Krad smiled. Satoshi felt his memories and pain drain slowly away. He felt sleep, dependence, fill him again. His head sagged under the power that drew him into Krad. His mind was fading. So this was it—this was why he had forgotten. Had given up. The softness of these wings around him was sweet and comforting. His strength was sapping out of him, entrusted, with his mind, to the quiet angel. He fell forward into Krad's arms. Krad caught him, as he always did, and held him to his chest.

"Sshhh, sweet Satoshi-sama. Now you can sleep again. I won't let you suffer again. Never again. Now sleep, my little angel. Sleep once more." Satoshi felt the fingers stroke his hair, so gentle, tender, caring. His recent trials faded quickly and vanished into the white.

Some last piece of Satoshi Hiwatari held on for a little while, holding back from Krad by blindest, basest instinct. As it fell, too, into the waiting arms, to be absorbed and taken in, Satoshi murmured breathlessly into the golden hair around him. He did not know what he was saying anymore, but the words were there. "I…won't forgive you." And the last remnant of his will faded into light, and he was helpless once again.

Krad tightened his arms round the limp body and stared into the void.

"No one ever has."