Ba Ra Kei

8

Seraphim Grace

CXR

May contain some scenes readers may find disturbing. Not suitable for anyone under eighteen.

"you have no right

to ask me now

you were never that around"

His white coat was spattered with blood and his hands felt empty and naked without his sword, left with Yohji in the ruins of Koua. Aya felt light headed, having cut away his braid, and the back of his neck felt exposed. His face was implacable and inside he felt as desolate as what remained of the academy they had so thoroughly destroyed. What was he supposed to do now, he wondered? There was nothing left: his vengeance achieved; Esset destroyed; Rosenkreuz destroyed.

Schuldig opened the door. The hair to the left side of his face was singed away and melted into clumps, there was an angry red mark on his face, and his silk shirt was soot blackened. In the years since Aya had seen him, imaginary or not, he still dressed as loudly as he always had. He looked older and tired, which was the first time Aya had ever seen him as anything less than perfectly, in his brash manner, turned out. The cigarette that dangled from his lips was unlit and broken. "Ran," he said the name when in Aya's head, although he had not been seen since Esset had fallen, he had always called him Aya. "He's at the hospital, will you come with me?"

"Is that a threat?" Aya asked, "are you going to pull out a gun and force me to go?"

"No," Schuldig said, "I just thought you'd like to say goodbye, even if it's only a rot in hell you bastard goodbye."

Aya blinked in shock. He tried to vocalise something, anything, but nothing came. After long moments when his mouth hung open and his throat hurt trying to force words, shapeless, formless airy things that never solidified into language, he just nodded.

It had been years. He hated him. He hated Crawford with every bone in his body and the very core of his being for what he had done, both to his family and to him, but in his heart, in some recess immune to the hate was the boy Aya had been, was Ran, and Ran had loved Crawford. Schuldig ran his hand through the left side of his hair and then frowned when his fingers caught. "Truce, for now. I won't kill you and you don't kill me."

Aya didn't answer him, he just sloughed off his coat leaving it across the bed of his anonymous hotel room, and his cravatte on the floor, so he wore only his trousers and shirt, which he untucked as he walked, "are you coming," he said as he went to pass Schuldig at the door.

"All these years, Ran," Schuldig said with his usual sneer, "and you're still his bitch."

"All these years, Schuldig," Aya replied with his face implacable and his tone even, "and you're still jealous that it wasn't you."

Schuldig didn't have an answer for that.

They sat in silence in the taxi, Aya was buzzing with adrenaline from the mission, and Schuldig said he didn't trust himself to drive, and the taxi was nicely anonymous. Schuldig sat back, with his head against the antimacassar on the back of the car seat and laughed. "Like it matters any more." He said, and then smiled to himself. "Here," he reached into his pocket and pulled out an aged and folded piece of paper. "He wrote this for you."

Aya looked at the paper disdainfully but neither opened it or threw it away.

"Not going to read it? I thought you'd want answers."

"It's too late for answers." He told him calmly.

Schuldig brayed out a laugh, then from his pocket took a small plastic bottle of aspirin, the sort you could get over the counter and shook two out into his hand, dry swallowing them. "It's only too late when you're dead." Aya pretended to notice how Schuldig was shaking, so with his thumbnail he broke the piece of tape that held the piece of paper closed.

Crawford's handwriting was small and neat, but there was something about the paper that suggested it was older than it should have been. It was written in Japanese, but strangely, only in katakana and not kanji such as a child might write.

He scanned the letter once, twice, a third time, and then he folded it, pressing his lips hard against each other and fought back the sob that had formed in his throat the size of a small planet.

"I've had that letter," Schuldig pointed out, "since I was fifteen. Oracles, eh?"

"Hn," Aya said because he knew he wouldn't be able to say anything else.

Hospitals were hated. They were white antiseptic buildings that lingered, where the corridors smelt of cheap floor polish and sickness, and Schuldig didn't hesitate at the reception desk, he went straight to the elevator and gave Aya's moment of hesitation, that he might futilely sit vigil at another bedside, by simply looking back at him.

The nurse wore a bubblegum pink and looked up at Schuldig with a rather sad smile, "You found him," she said, "we were worried."

"You don't know him," Schuldig replied, "he won't go yet."

Something within Aya shattered at that and Ran was left in the wreckage, the sweet and rather shy boy he had been when he had known Crawford- when Crawford had been his superman. Schuldig noticed the change because he looked back at him and for a moment looked rueful, as if he himself had done Ran a great wrong, when he had just stood witness.

Crawford looked very small in the wide hospital bed, there were tubes and machines and Ran didn't know what they were for, but he knew it was futile, that the machines were holding on and not much else. Crawford was dead but the machines were holding on for him. When he saw Ran he smiled. There was a bloodstain on the pillow beside his ear where the blood had come. It was surprising the machines could still keep him alive, he was as pale as the sheet, but more bloodless for most of his blood, it seemed, had already seeped into the linen.

"I wasn't sure you'd come." Crawford said, "i told Schuldig," he paused drawing in breath slowly, "not to let me go until you came, I..."

"I'm here," Ran said and offered him a rather shy smile. "Just rest, it's going to be okay."

Crawford started to laugh but ended up coughing instead, there was blood in the spray that escaped his mouth. He sat down beside the bed and took Crawford's hand in his own, running the pad of his thumb over the back of his hand, careful of the IV plug that was there. "It's not, love," he said, "it's not, just don't hate me."

"I never hated you." Ran lied. "Just rest, I'll be here as long as you need me."

There were tears in Crawford's eyes. They were blood-tinged and pink. "Massive cerebral haemorrhage," Schuldig said behind him.

Ran looked over him, holding his hand and took a deep breath, before he began, softly, to sing, "Long afloat on shipless oceans I did all my best to smile 'Til your singing eyes and fingers
drew me loving into your eyes." He reached across and swept back the white hair that had fallen across Crawford's forehead.

Crawford smiled, it was wan and pale. "I remembered this," he said, "I loved this song because of now."

"Just rest," Ran repeated. He fought back a sob and started again, "And you sang "Sail to me, sail to me, Let me enfold you." He made a hacking sound at the back of his throat, "here I am," he made another noise, trying to sing past the lump, even sub-vocally as he was, "here I am" he scraped angrily at his tears, "waiting to hold you."

"I've got monsters,

How about you?"

"Ran,

I write this having made my decision knowing that I will always regret it, that no matter what I do and what I have done, that this choice was made with my complete knowledge and with every apology.

I know that I will hurt you, that by the time you have read this that you will probably hate me, that you think that I have cut out your heart, and that I did so willfully. If you have this letter then I have asked Schuldig to hand it to you. I made this decision knowing it would hurt you but also that it was the only real decision I could make.

I have known and loved you all of my life. I will always love you. I snatched every moment I had with you, and every hurt I gave you I felt a thousandfold. You were my torment and my heart and my choice was either to be with you and be happy when you were older, or I could save the world.

Which would you have chosen? The same as I.

You were my sacrifice, my own life was forfeit before Rosenkreuz even suspected that I might be of interest to them. I knew the options I was given. I know that I have made you hate me, because that is the last great gift I could give you.

I'm sorry I had to hurt you.

If there had been any other way.

Those six months I spent with you were stolen, I could not resist. You were only a child, but there was no time to wait, there was no room for me to manoeuvre that we might have had longer. I rushed you because I could not stay away. I went that night to the university just to see you. I was going, I think, to avoid you, to watch you, but you were so beautiful, so much more than I ever hoped you'd be, bright, shining, witty and I could feel you love me. How was I supposed to resist? I ripped myself open every time I touched you knowing I would hurt you and how.

I will have told you by now that I could see the future, and I could not resist you. I am only human after all, even if I hid that from you.

I made my decision to destroy Rosenkreuz, to bring down Esset knowing that every gifted child after that would be free of their taint and their dominion, in my own little way I saved the world.

I ached for you, I do ache for you.

But I knew our futures, all of them, I remembered what it was to be your lover, to be with you forever, to grow old and die with you and I am sorry, my love, that I denied you that. I was a child when I made my choice, and it was a choice, and I chose to be a hero so that you would look at me like I was superman.

The greatest hurt I gave you was denying you the future that we would have had together, because I will always both remember and cherish it. I have seen your face in the shade of wonders and miracles and older, full of rage and pain and doubt as we argued. Do not think, even for a moment, that we were idyllic. Of course we argued. We lived in a large house in a small town called Telluride. I bought that house, you know.

I am so sorry that I denied you that lifetime,that I denied you everything, even the ability to live without me because Kritiker surely now owns you, I could apologise until forever and it would not change the decision I made. I wish I knew that it was the right one.

Everything I have, small as it might be, I leave to you. Schuldig knows this and will facilitate, do what you will with it, destroy it, burn it, give it away, I don't mind. Just remember me, that's all I ask.

I'm sorry I hurt you, I loved you completely before I drew my first breath for I have always known you.

I love you.

C.