Ashes and Dust

'Anyone who hasn't experienced the ecstasy of betrayal knows nothing about ecstasy at all.' Jean Genet

The two men stared at each other from opposite ends of the small, white cell. Eventually Raven spoke from where he was half-crouched and restrained at the far end of the cell from where Serge stood,

"There is, I suppose, an ironic synchronicity to this situation."

The former commander of STAND shook his head slightly and then continued,

"Are you even supposed to be here?"

A slight smirk twisted the corner of Serge's mouth as he answered,

"None of them seemed too pleased when I informed them that I was going to. But I believe that Macus convinced them that attempting to keep me from coming here was not worth the structural damage to their nice, high-security facility."

Raven found a matching smirk twisting at the corners of his own mouth and commented,

"I hear they're calling you the Saviour of the World now, anyway."

Serge coloured and then scowled,

"I believe that that was created as a convenient excuse not to have to try and arrest me."

There was a bitterness in Serge's voice and they both heard it and they both knew what had caused it. Serge frowned,

"They're afraid of me."

Raven inclined his head slightly,

"Shouldn't they be?"

Serge's scowl deepened,

"I have no great desire to declare war on the entire world."

Raven frowned,

"They're going to want you under their control."

Serge smirked slightly at this,

"I know they're going to want to try."

There was an edge of something to Serge's voice. It wasn't precisely bitterness and it wasn't precisely uncertainty, but they were both there. Serge turned away from Raven and began to speak again, his voice still tinged with that uncertain mix of emotions,

"I have been asked to address the UN with my recommendations concerning the future of STAND."

He whirled around to face Raven again,

"One of the subjects that is to be addressed is your future status."

Raven kept his tone bland, disinterested,

"And what recommendation do you intend to make?"

Serge's face was expressionless, his voice was not,

"What recommendation do you require of me, Captain?"

Raven stared at him for a moment, taken aback. He then spoke,

"What is the current status of STAND?"

Serge considered this for a moment,

"Status is uncertain. Full repairs, however, are being carried out."

Raven nodded,

"Who is carrying out these repairs?"

Serge smirked slightly,

"Zainell technicians. However, they are being overseen by Erika, Mirei and Yuiren, who are making life exceedingly difficult for them."

Raven felt a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth and asked,

"How so?"

There was a full-out smirk on Serge's face as he answered,

"I believe that today's comment was that 'Zainell technicians wouldn't know how to repair a Variable Gear if one danced naked in front of them, waving a full instructions manual'. I believe tha they are genuinely offended by the amount of time it's taking several full teams of technicians to repair the Gears."

Raven smiled slightly, Mirei had never been particularly appreciative of the talents of Zainell technicians under the best circumstances.

"And what of Macus and Jouichirou?"

Serge rolled his crimson eyes in remembered exasperation,

"Jouichirou is angry and Macus is feeling guilty. At the moment we're making sure to keep them as far away from each other as humanly possible while they're both staying in the same facility."

Raven nodded.

"And what is your status, Serge?"

Serge frowned,

"Halcyon Scarlet is almost operational."

Raven frowned,

"I asked for your status, Serge."

Serge held Raven's gaze for several moments, before he had to look away,

"The Incubator has been destroyed. I am uncertain as to what my purpose now is."

Serge looked anywhere but at Raven, as if unwilling to further expose his weakness,

"My memories are confused, but I know that I existed to fight The Virus I created. Now that that has been accomplished, I do not know what my purpose is."

Raven kept his voice even,

"Your purpose has always been what you have chosen it to be, Serge."

Serge turned on him, suddenly inexplicably angry,

"No. My purpose has always been what you have chosen it to be."

There was anger in Serge's voice and that was easy, that made sense, but there was something else there, something that was not anger, something that made no sense at all. Raven spoke carefully, trying to avoid the (had it been longing) something in Serge's voice,

"You have Erika."

Serge brushed this off, something like frustration in his voice, at least that could be identified,

"My memories…cloud my emotions…about some things at least. Other things they make very clear. Erika and I could never had had anything together."

Raven stiffened,

"What do you remember?"

And whatever it was that had been simmering in Serge's words was in his voice as well and for a moment this shocks Raven. But then he remembers the feeling of that voice brushing against his skin. And he remembers the scent of that pale hair across his face and those hands, so mercilessly tender. And he looks at Serge, really looks, and he remembers the feel of that body pressed so close against his own that they could be one person, and he wonders, just for a moment, how different Serge would feel around him.

Raven knew that the something in his voice was all the things that he had thought he could no longer feel, the things that he had thought he had lost along with everything else in the Black Valentine disaster. Serge hadn't answered him, but maybe he didn't need to, maybe he knew and remembered what Raven remembered. Because he had always understood what Raven was thinking, at least before the end, and that was why standing in Serge's way at the end had been the hardest thing that he had ever had to do, because it meant that they still couldn't understand each other. It had harder even that having to accept that Donna had not come back to him, that she had merely been the Virus trying to trick him. And he had ordered Serge to destroy her and all that he had been able to think was how Milan would have laughed and called him a fool, because there was no such thing as ghosts and the dead couldn't talk to you.

Then, even as he thought this, Raven realised, chained as he was in a high-security cell, that it didn't matter that Serge wasn't Milan, that he still needed him. And he realised that he had been a fool to avoid Serge since he had come to STAND. He should have taken Serge to his bed as soon as he had arrived and never let him go. And then he saw that Serge wasn't wearing the collar, and for a moment that hurt almost as much as it had to see him for the first time and see nothing but hatred in those startling crimson eyes. Then he remembered that the collar had been destroyed in the battle and he wondered for a moment if he could persuade Serge to wear another one, but this time one that was not a weapon. Then he recalled how Serge had wanted to kill him and he asked,

"Do you still wish for my death?"

Serge looked lost, so hopelessly confused that Raven had the greatest desire to hold him in his arms and never let go. Serge answered slowly,

"No. At least, I don't think I do. I am…unsure as to what I want."

And Raven realised that it was not too late, he could still have what he wanted, he had not ruined everything as entirely as he had thought. He wanted to kiss Serge right there in the white blankness of the cell, but the restraints were heavy around his wrists and he wanted this in the right time, and it would not be what he wanted in the emptiness of this cell. So he spoke, keeping the desire out of his voice as best as he could,

"We still have work to do, Serge. I want you to get me out of this cell so that we can begin to do it."

And there was such relief on Serge's face as he nodded and made to leave the cell that his departure didn't hurt as much as Raven had thought it would. Then he remembered the uncertainty of the emotion that had been in Serge's voice and he knew exactly what he needed to say, exactly what Serge needed to hear.

"Serge, you are still loved."

And Serge left, but there was something like a smile on his face, and Raven knew that he would not be in that cell much longer, and when he was out, then he could begin to repair what he had almost ruined.