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Lunges

Setting: After Manga Volume 3, and that whole debacle in Rabona.

Lullaby by Nathan Yuen

Shadows of trees flickered and danced as Raki threw more fuel into the roaring fire, his eyes twitching every which way. In the firelight his face looked pale and wan, an eerie contrast to the darkness surrounding him.

His companion was similarly pale, though not by nature but by choice. From her resting place on her sword she looked at him with a hint of concern on her face. "Are you all right, Raki?"

At the sound of Claire's voice the boy seemed to rally his wits about him. "Yeah, I'm fine. It's just… after that stint in Rabona, it's hard to think of any place that's safe."

In response, Claire said, "There really is no place that's safe from the yoma. They can appear anywhere, at any time. Only the warriors from the organization have the power to stop them."

Raki smiled gamely at her. "Then I suppose there's no safer place to sleep than in the presence of a Claymore."

Claire said nothing, though Raki thought her eyes crinkled slightly. In the warmth of the fire, he felt his body droop heavily with drowsiness. "I guess (yawn) I'll get to bed," he said, and began unpacking the sleeping bag.

"Don't worry, I'll keep watch," were the last words Raki heard before drifting off…


The darkness smothered him.

He twisted and turned in it, writhing in his despair, trying to see, trying to call. "Hello? Is anyone else out there?" he cried.

The darkness lightened, and the scene gradually faded in…

But what he saw didn't make him feel any better.

He was back in the old house. the house where home and stability were supposed to be. A yoma stood over the gutted forms of his mother and father.

No; it wasn't a yoma, it was his brother, face twisted into a grin far wider than humanly possible, veins bulging at the temples, hands covered with gore.

"Zaki?" Raki gasped out.

"We finally meet again, brother. Did you honestly think you could escape me forever?" The possessed form licked his fingers. "I'm ever so hungry, too…"

Raki scrambled away, trying to find a corner to hide in –

and fell into the waiting forest ravine. He bounced and tubled along, body slamming against rocks, loose dirt and roots. A few moments later he came to a stop. He looked up and gulped.

He had landed at the feet of the false Claymore. Her beautiful face looked terribly pleased. "Well, looks like I found you again, little one…" She bent down towards him, face transforming into a bile green monstrosity. "Want to be mine forevermore?"

The boy scrabbled to his feet and ran past her. He looked back. There were two of them now, the false Claymore and Zaki, chasing him across the blistering wastelands.

"Claire…help me…" he sobbed, but there was no Claire here. No, Claire never existed. There was only Raki, helpless little Raki, and he was going to get eaten no matter what…

He looked ahead. He was in the cathedral again, the light of the torches flickering upon a walking desiccated body, which was rapidly filling itself out. He stepped in Raki's way, cornering him. "There's no way out for your boy, not this time."

Raki turned to run back, but the two grinning yoma blocked his path.

Despair crushed him, dragged him to his knees. No escape. Inevitability. Weakness. All he could do was look up at the faces that would end his life. "Claire…Claire…" he mewled.

Then he smelled it. It was faint at first but rapidly getting stronger: the scent of blood. The scent of a Claymore.

The three yoma twitched, looked up and around uneasily, as if they smelled it too. Then Claire's voice came from everywhere at once, in a melody that was soothing and soft:

"Sleep, love, sleep,

My heart is yours to keep.

Sleep, love, sleep,

Dream, no more to weep.

I'll be here when you wake,

From me, you they won't take."

The yoma covered their ears, doubling over in agony at the lullaby. They managed one scream before they shattered, taking the dark cathedral's hallway with them.

Raki found himself standing in the middle of a sunlit forest clearing. The scent of blood, rather than being a source of terror, was a source of comfort. The wind kissed his forehead once, warmly –

And then Raki opened his eyes.

The sun was just beginning to shine through the trunks of the trees. He blinked once and rose from the sack. The fire had died down to cinders; everything was in order. So it was all a dream, Raki thought, though that… was that really the wind?

He shook his head of the thought. I guess I'd better start preparing breakfast…

So befuddled was he that he didn't see that Claire was resting far closer to his sleeping bag than normal…or the smile that graced her face in sleep.

END

Author's note: The plan was for me and Sideris to submit a Claymore fic simultaneously – mine was to be "Lullaby," a slightly platonic WAFF while his was to be "Hush," a dark lemon – in order to create a 300 matter/energy conversion that would wipe out all OOC shuojo-ai and Gary Stu of the Claymore section.

If you're reading this, then the attempt has failed.

Oh well.

At least you get two more Raki x Claire fics gracing the forum now…

Pre-read by Sideris.