Disclaimer: Suikoden? Not mine.
A/N: I decided to go back and fix the errors, and then figured I'd just post it as its own story because I have that sort of power and I couldn't figure out how to work the change chapters-y thing.
Forgive any out-of-characterness and yeah.
They are dying days, and most days die arduously. Sure, the mornings are all right: He wakes up when the trees are still black and the faded orange on the horizon shows between spaces, and night still drifts above before shifting to day. The afternoons here are blue like a kingfisher's plumage, and the forests are a lot more agreeable than the arid deserts he's used to, but he misses something that goes beyond climate and tangibility.
Nights are the worst. He's grown used to sleeping alone, eating alone, the whole bit, but dozing off on a rock is a lot less comfortable when Kelley's not making obscene jokes next to him or when Elza's not poking at the fire as he watches it match off with the gold in her hair. There's no warmth on the ground; it's just a hard and dirty stretch of weary mineral, where he has to search for nooks and indents just to feel slightly more relaxed. By the time he gets to sleep, there are hawks skating across the sky and flapping wings before snapping the neck of their dinner. Even though he detests the guttural sounds they make, there's some hollowed amusement in how much they're alike.
Mostly he's treated to a dreamless sleep, where thoughts and worries and unfathomable rages seep away like a teabag in tepid water. There's always the odd night when he's back in that ugly Courtyard, or if he's had a really bad day, in a place he doesn't know, where he's surrounded by sand but it's unfamiliar and holds no warmth. She's right there before him, Mond leveled between his eyes, and she smiles a little gallantly before she fires.
He doesn't die instantly, but there's an awful feeling of his heart dropping through his stomach and his muscles contracting painfully before he hits the ground. His hands fly around him, and by this point he's awake. He remembers where he is and that he hasn't fallen to the ground; he's been there all along.
His days are traveled on the worn leather of his boots. When he does allow himself to rest, he cleans off Storm with all the watchful fragility of a maid tending to china. Today, that's what he does, in between gulps of water and dried fruit. He takes out his last rag and runs it over the places on Storm's barrel, places where rust is showing up or the coarse gray gunpowder's began to hold to. By the end Storm shines like a new penny, just enough for him to see his reflection in the metal.
He stares, unbelieving, at the dull sandy hair and tired grey eyes of the old man mirrored back. Even his pallor's beginning to fade, leaving him with a long, thin face with hollow cheeks and lidded eyes. "You're not forty," he says to his likeness, but nothing changes.
Today, his feet slip tiredly. Today, the sky is the dismal color of gritty flint. Today, there is only one thing to live for, and there's so much resolution in his veins that his wrists pulse almost painfully. Wounds along the skin are one thing; pain so internal that it causes his heart to hurt above all else are something he's never had to cope with.
He shoots a rabbit in a sleet of soaring blood, his aim on the mark as always. Tired as they are, his eyes never fail him when it comes to seeing things. At least that's what he likes to think.
With a map spread on the ground, with the night obscured by a cradling forest, with a fire striking feebly at the darkness around him in a halo of gentle light, he eats alone. He marks his steps and travels into Elza's mind, one he knows well enough to predict where she'll be next, and draws his finger to the destination. It's a long-shot, but it's all he's got to live for at this point. He fears what he is without the mantle of executioner on his shoulders: He's alone again. At least right now, the faint promises of justice are a whisper on his skin. They're so tempting, so easy to agree with that he lives by their rule and company.
A predatory bird is stalking his campsite from up in the branches, a dark little thing with hollowly black eyes and its beak just slightly ajar. Its eyes are on the rabbit in his hand, the exposed meat of the kill burnt and sweet. He licks his thumb and, having had his fill, throws it to the bird, hoping maybe someday the same will happen for him so he can finally put this journey to rest.
He takes out a pack of matches from his pocket to feed the dying fire, lights one and throws it in. On the back of the package is the name of a bar the three of them used to frequent. He thinks of the way Kelley's face would turn red after too many shots and he cocks an eyebrow, willing for more details. Kelley's eyes had been brown. Not a nondescript shade, but a brilliant amber color that peeked out from under dark, thick brows; they were warm but tough and audacious, just like Kelley. He'd always smiled a lot, too, in a way that sent his teeth blazing white against his tanned skin.
He thinks of Elza, too. He'd always thought she looked like a stealthy cat, with upturned blue eyes and a tilted smile and a scar that cut a startling, oblique red line across her skin. He tries to think of what she used to look like when Kelley made a stupid joke and they'd all laugh, but it's a face time has told him is impossible to fully recall.
By the time he comes back to himself, his arms are cold with gooseflesh. The match did a feeble job of keeping the fire going, and unwilling to tear away another match, he goes to sleep.
Tomorrow, in another week or another month, in a year or a decade or on the gasping precipice of his last breath, he might just find Elza. For now Clive lies awake to avoid any dreams, his eyes strained with exhaustion, his heart pulsing at hell-bent speeds.