Above all things, Raimundo hated being alone the most.

As a boy, the circus he traveled with was like his family. There was always something going on; it was impossible to find a moment of peace because someone was always yelling or performing or laughing or dancing or…anything. The circus was pure, unrestricted movement, and Raimundo loved it.

When he moved to the temple, he had worried that the chaos he'd grown up with would vanish. It didn't. You couldn't live with three teenagers and a neurotic dragon without life being even a little crazy. It was hectic, but it was amazing. Of course there was much less people in the temple, so obtaining solitude was much easier, but there was something…more about it. Being at the temple had been far more fulfilling than all of his years in Brazil. The temple possessed something that his past life had not; love. The love between everyone was dizzying. Raimundo knew if he was ever in a jam, they'd be there in a heartbeat, and he'd do the same for them.

Which is why it had been such a blow when he betrayed them.

Raimundo hated when he was by himself. It reminded him of how truly lonely he was.

Wuya had tempted him with power, fame, and glory, but craved something else entirely. He needed the love that he had lost when he turned to the dark side. He needed that warm, protective embrace of friendship. The feeling that assured him that no matter what, someone would be there. So he wouldn't have to be alone.

Because, in reality, being alone scared Raimundo. It forced him be his own company, and the more he delved into himself, the more he found that he didn't like.

Whatever…or whoever he found underneath that veneer of bravado, was frightening. Raimundo didn't like being around it. He didn't like being around himself.

Wuya had tried to occupy him with animated stone, but it had been no use. Wuya was too enfolded in world conquest and herself to bother with a sad, scared teenager. The stones were no better; sure, they kept him company, but they didn't possess emotion. Nothing he did would garner a reaction from them, unless one would become enraged and use its brute strength to destroy. He'd cast them off a while ago; being alone was a little better than being around impassive, heartless rocks. A little.

Raimundo sighed and tucked his knees under his chin. He really didn't know why he was here. The paradise that the witch had created for him was beginning to become more like a prison, and the longer he spent there the more he longed to get out.

It didn't matter now, anyway. Even if he did escape, where would he go? They wouldn't take him back, not now. Not after all he's done. He'd seen their eyes when he crossed over. He'd seen their hearts break as he admitted what he had done. The love, the family feeling he adored, shattered completely, and the remains iced over with disgust and malice and shame. They'd never take him back. He was a traitor, and no one could love a traitor.

It was times like this, when he was at his ultimate low, that he wanted nothing more than to cry. Not weepy, overdramatic sobs that those in similar situations were prone to succumb to; he was above that. He really just wanted to sit in the center of his personal nirvana, arms wrapped tightly around his legs, and cry. Quietly. Soaking his jeans with his tears and muffling his gasps and sniffs with his knees. He wanted to release his pent up self-hate and guilt, and allow all of his fears and insecurities to manifest into the streams and rivers he was dying to let out.

He sat that way, in the center of the room with his arms wrapped around his legs, for hours. He wanted to, but he simply couldn't. Crying would mean he was weak, and the moment he admitted he was weak was the moment that the thread that held him together would snap.

Besides, he was a bad guy now. And bad guys don't cry.

There was a crunch from the other end of the room. Raimundo started at the sound, untangling himself and rising to his feet. He quickly scanned the scope, only to discover that nothing was there. Nevertheless, he remained in his fighting stance, slowly rotating to thoroughly view every last inch of the chamber.

"I know you're there." He called, jumping to the right when he heard something accidentally kick the leg of a chair. "Quit being such a coward."

Something caused a row of pool sticks to topple over, and Raimundo leaped to the area and swat aimlessly at the air. "You can't avoid me forever!" he cried in between unfocused kicks and punches. "I can do this all day!"


He froze. He knew that voice. He spun around, fists still clenched and held high. He saw nothing. But by now he knew better.

Suddenly, with a rustle of fabric and a soft sigh of defeat, the Shroud of Shadows fell to her feet. She hadn't dyed her hair or piled it on top of her head in some extravagant, trendy style. She hadn't squeezed into a neon green miniskirt or adorned her wrists with enough bangles to completely conceal her forearms. She came as she always was; ebony hair, parted down the middle and split into mirroring pigtails. Red tunic, black shoes. Simple. She came as herself.

She came as he liked her best.

"Well, hey." He dropped his eyebrows and his lip twitched at the corner, jade eyes glinting sinisterly. "Nice of you to swing by." She drew a breath, face dead and eyes locked with his. She wasn't there for idle chit chat. Obviously.

"Raimundo." She repeated.

"Listen girlie, I know why you're here. Let's just cut to the chase, ok? And don't think I'm gonna go easy on you just cause you're a girl."

Her limp fingers, as if suddenly awakened by volts of electricity, cinched into taut fists. She still had her temper, and he always was good at pushing her buttons.

"I'm not here to fight, Raimundo." Kimiko replied, her face still showing no flicker of emotion. "I'm here to talk."

"Oh?" he asked sarcastically, a sardonic smile crawling across his face. He held up one finger, gesturing her to wait, and trotted across the room to retrieve his armchair. He dragged it to where she remained fixed, making a show of plopping down comfortably and crossing his legs. "Alright then. Let's talk. How are the wife and kids? Lovely weather we're having. Still taking up tennis on the weekends?"

"Raimundo, what are you doing here?" She remained aloof but her voice wavered, only slightly, but enough to make Raimundo take notice. He chuckled and slumped his cheek into his open palm, drumming the fingers of his free hand on the opposite armrest.

"That's a stupid question, now isn't it? Please don't tell me you're naïve enough to not know the answer."

He hated this. This wasn't him talking, it couldn't be. He'd floated out of his head the moment she arrived and now hovered above the scene, watching horrified as the sadistic thing that lurked inside him came into form. He hated hurting her, hated rubbing her wrong and hated making her loathe him more than she already did. He'd never say those things to her. He'd never slice her to the bone with his razor-sharp words.

But he couldn't stop.

Because he had an image to keep.

She turned her head and coughed, giving him a moment to examine her lovely profile. She really did have a nice nose. Not even cute, but nice. Delicate, even. It sloped just enough without being too deep. She'd make a good silhouette, he reasoned.

She was pretty good at maintaining her act, but he was better. He went on, kicking his legs up over one armrest and reclining against the other.

"Besides, the payoff for being evil is much better." He laughed and gestured to his expansive collection of electronics and other various games. Kimiko looked back at him, cerulean eyes narrowed.

"So you sold your soul...for a pinball machine?" His smirk was dark enough to spit black ribbons.

"I haven't sold my soul-"

"It was a metaphor."


It was getting harder for her to continue with the charade, he could see her breaking. Every so often the hardened air the surrounded her would crack with a flare of anger or a streak of pity and sadness. She was fast enough to caulk them over, but not fast enough.

"Stop it, Raimundo." Her voice was devoid of the sorrow her eyes betrayed her of. It was sharp and hot, like the tip of a blazing sword. He warned himself not to push her further, but he couldn't bring himself to obey.

"Aw, am I upsetting you? What are you gonna do, cry?" His tone would dip and curl with mockery and condescending apathy. Her nails were embedded into her palms now; he could even see a few faint trickles of blood from where she punctured herself. With the languid flow of an aged cat, he stood up and approached her; far enough to not let on to his own feelings, but close enough for her to slap him if need be. "What are you really doing here, Kimiko?"

Her eyes clicked into position with his, shades of the sea flirting dangerously, and took a breath. "I already told you." she spoke monotonously, practiced, calculated. "I'm here to talk." He chuckled and rolled his eyes, scratching the back of his neck concealed by his hood.

"We've been talking this whole time, girlie."

"No we haven't." She unflinchingly took a step forward, shortening the gap between them and momentarily surprising him with her boldness. "We haven't spoken one real word this entire time. You won't talk to me. You use insults and ridicule to drive me away. The sarcasm is just to avoid the subject."

He snickered again, coldly bringing his hands together and yet still unable to look her in the eye. "Oh, good job there, Kimiko. You got me all figured out. I'm just gonna tease you until you leave me alone. Man, I'm brilliant."

Having discovered his ruse, Kimiko remained unphazed by the comment. She was gradually gaining the upper hand, but didn't rush it for fear of losing it again.

"Why are you here, Rai?" her voice was sweeter, a calm caress of silk against his tired, worn body. He couldn't respond to her, hoping his silence would suffice enough as an answer. She refused to relent her sapphire stare, and it pierced his marble mask and straight through to his soul. Even without looking at her, he could feel her gaze burning into him, setting his insides ablaze. "This isn't you, you're not meant for this. You don't belong here.

"And how do you know where I do and don't belong?" He whispered it, to hide that it wasn't as biting as he originally hoped it would be.

"Because I know you." She chanced another step, dove-like fingers outstretched to touch his face, but he anticipated the move and slid backwards. She closed her hand, disappointed, and let it fall back to her side. "I know you're better than this. You're one of us, Rai. You belong with us."

"If I'm one of you, then why did I get left behind?" He raised his voice, he tried to prevent it but it happened anyway. His tone was peppered with resentment, and he could actually hear his indifferent façade hit the ground with a clang. Raimundo moved a few paces to the right, his back to the Japanese girl so she would not see him. The real him. Because, for some reason, it was bad if she saw him when he was vulnerable.

Unseen to him, Kimiko's brow furrowed in confusion. "What are you…?" her face brightened in realization, her eyes zeroing in on the back of his head. "Is that what this is all about? You're mad that you didn't make Apprentice?"

Raimundo shifted his weight from one foot to the other but gave no other response. Her scoffed in disgust, shaking her head and brushing a stray onyx strand out of his eyes. "I don't believe this…I don't believe you. You're telling me you disregarded you morals because you were jealous?"

"That's not it, Kimiko."

"Well, then enlighten me!" Her voice was rising in pitch, as it often did when she was piqued. He imagined her flailing her arms out to her sides to emphasize her point or stamping a foot to validate the emotion she bore. Raimundo remained silent, crossing his arms over his stomach and keeping his eyes fixed on the ground.

"Raimundo, look at me when I talk to you!" She flew to where he stood, gripping his broad but slumping shoulders in her fine teacup hands. With one swift twist, he was about face and eye-to-eye with her. The disconnected camouflage that she had so meticulously painted on had completely melted away, and her soft features were defined by the incensed shadows that danced across her face. Livid indigo stabbed into him repeatedly, as passionate and unpredictable as the element she honed.

"We never ditched you, Raimundo. We've always been here! If you weren't so selfish and pig headed and power hungry you would see that!"

"Oh, give it a rest!" He slapped away her arms with ease, his rage nearly matching hers. "Do you really think I'm that stupid? That self absorbed?"

"I don't know what to think anymore! I thought we were friends, but apparently I was wrong about that one!" Her hair was falling from her trademark pigtails and her shouts were powerful enough to rumble the walls. Raimundo absently worried that she would be found if she continued to go about at that level. But consciously he was so furious he didn't care if they killed her where she stood.

"Sure, Kim, sure! We were best friends and I was the bastard that turned my back on you! Is that what you want me to say?" His hood fell when he cocked his head to accent a word. Chestnut locks obscured peacock eyes, but vanished with a flick. Kimiko groaned and buried her now-red face into her hands.

"I want you to tell me why you really came here!"

"You really want me to tell you?"

"YES! God, I want to know what possessed you to be so-"

"I was scared!"

His bellow exploded from within him, effectively hushing Kimiko and dispelling her anger, if only momentarily. Raimundo, realizing his hood had fallen, reached back and righted it, visibly shaking and vainly attempting to hide his face.

"I…was scared." He repeated, shallow and weary with the words, as if it were extraordinarily difficult to voice them. "You…all of you…I-I didn't like being the only one. I felt…weak. I couldn't match up with you and I felt…alone."

Kimiko stared blankly at him, as he fuddled with the front pocket of his shirt and uncharacteristically stuttered. She couldn't help but feel sorry for him. It was in her nature to comfort, to be a support. As much as her mind berated her for feeling anything towards him, her heart ached with grief and sympathy.

"You were never alone, Rai." She muttered, prompting him to glance up. She breathed something vaguely resembling a laugh. "Not when you were with us."

"Don't you get it?" he barked. "I was never with you. I was always two steps behind or five minutes too late!" She flared again, her sympathy dissolving.

"So you switch teams the moment things get tough? God, grow a pair."

He was too flustered to articulate what he wanted to say. Ultimately he wanted to explain to her that he had felt cut off, like a broken link in a chain that they all comprised of. That, after being crushed by the darkness and disintegrated self worth that had always been precariously hovering over him, he'd felt forsaken. That he turned to the first person, or thing, that offered him guidance and acceptance.

That he was so terrified of being alone, that he was willing to compromise his dignity for a moment of companionship.

"I didn't have a choice." Raimundo's voice was husky from being out of breath and from projecting so much in such a short amount of time.

"You always had the choice!" Kimiko shrieked in reply. She paused, letting it sink in. "We didn't abandon you, you chose to be." His gaze had been locked on his pigeon toes that would occasionally grind into the dirt. Kimiko sneered and fluttered to where she had discarded the Wu previously. "It was pointless for me to come here, I don't even know why I did. I promise you won't see me again until we're here to kick your butt." She snatched it up, casually throwing it over her shoulders before lifting it over her head.

"I love you."

The words seem to plunge from his lips, spiraling uncontrollably until he could no longer contain them. He had to tell her. She had to know that he wasn't a calloused criminal, but a lost, petrified little boy who wanted nothing more than for someone to care for him.

He wanted love so desperately it was agonizing. He had so much to give it was only fair that she reciprocated.

The Shroud slinked back to the ground, revealing her full body in tensed shock. She moved to face him, shuddering with regret etched all over her porcelain face.

Her eyes, though, gave her away every time. Sky-like gems, glistening with happiness and relief and...exactly what he yearned for.

"Rai, no…" she murmured meekly.

"And you love me."

Kimiko kept her traitorous eyes looking past Raimundo, as if at a foe just beyond his shoulder.

"No…I…I don't…I…"

Then she looked at him.

"I can't lie to you."

She collapsed into fragile, gentle sobs and he swept her into an embrace, enveloping her with all of love he was able to offer. She pressed into him, her tears sinking through the thin fabric of his shirt and running races down his bare chest.

"That's why you came here." He whispered, his cheek burrowing into her endless ashen hair. "You love me." He felt her nod into him, and he felt himself become drunk on her warmth and affection. The frigid hole in his heart thawed and filled with her tender, undeniably staggering adoration.

He pulled away a little, his arms still wrapped around her lithe, slender form. When she detached herself, he would not break the gaze they held. He leaned in as if to kiss her, but hesitated, as if waiting for her approval or dissatisfaction. He drew a breath, and he closed the gap. Lips met and clicked into place like they were made specifically for each other.

It was too brief for its own good, as the best are. It was a beautiful kiss, chaste and simple but haunted with the lingering, underlying feeling of a mutual love too tremendous for either side to comprehend.

They broke when the sound of footsteps began to grow. Raimundo, panicking, released her abruptly and pushed her towards the exit.

"You have to get out of here."

"Not without you." She answered, her ivory, elegant fingers still laced with his. He willed himself to rip his hand away, but to no avail.

"Kimiko, if Wuya finds you, she'll kill you. You need to leave." Her brows set into their typical stubborn expression, and the Brazilian's anxiety heightened. "I can't go with you, Kim. I-I have to stay here." His voice dropped. "I don't want to. But I have to." She was pleading with her eyes, compassionately stroking his cheek and beckoning him to return.

"Rai, please. Don't do this."

"You have to go now." He harshly muttered. "Go." She silently maintained her stance, begging for him to return.

"GO!" He screamed, and he put every fragment of his love for her into his element, sweeping her up and forcing her out of the window at the peak of the tower. He wouldn't hurt her again. She was light enough for the wind to drift her out of harm's way and into the security of the temple and the Dragons. Who probably had no idea where she had been.

Raimundo fell to his knees, exhausted both emotionally and physically, just as the Heylin witch entered.

"Raimundo?" she purred, sauntering in and searching the room suspiciously from the top of the stairs. "Are you alright? I thought I heard another voice."

"Oh. Yes, that was me. I was…talking to myself." He mumbled unconvincingly, not even able to rise in her presence. Wuya's mouth twisted in a skeptical manner, but she didn't bother commenting.

"Very well. I just stopped by to say I'll be…out of commission for the night." That was her way of saying that someone was going to be tortured. Brutally. "Is there anything you would like before I go?" He shook his head, wishing she would just leave. With a shrug and a haughty sniff of disinterest towards her ward's well being, she departed, letting the door slam after her. Raimundo looked around after she left, at the cell of pleasure he'd let himself build around him. Try as he might, the vacant items couldn't replace the one thing he died for, the one thing he had…and let go. Then, for the first time in a very long time, Raimundo realized he was alone.

And, sitting in the center of his personal nirvana, arms wrapped tightly around his legs, he cried. Quietly.

Agh! The lengths it took to get this story up! I waited until two in the morning only to find that documents weren't uploaded ACK.

Well, anyway, here it is, my first XS fic. It was a race to the finish about whether to put up this one or my other OMG RAI AND KIM ARE IN LURVE story(which I may not submit at all for fear that it becomes too cliche.). Substance over fluff, I guess.

I like this pairing :)I also like alliteration, didja notice? So, anyway, leave me a comment if you read and you like. Or if you read and you DON'T like, I'm a comment whore. Just give me validation for staying up til two :)