AN. A long, long one shot. Very proud of this actually... Did anyone else notice that no one said what happened to Tien and/or Chiaotzu during that Black Water Mist dealio? Well, I was curious, and this sprang into my mind. I can imagine Chiaotzu with this little quirk too, which makes it more realistic in my head anyway...
The light slanted through the open window, highlighting swirling particles in the air, sending a white rectangle shining off the tile floor. The room was basically silent, gleaming clean, but for the gentle sound of splashing as the water in the bathtub sloshed gently against the rim.
Then, suddenly, with a great choking sound that echoed around the room with its volume and suddenness, the surface of the water broke as a head and shoulders emerged. It was a small boy, his eyes slitted as he coughed and spluttered. His skin from the neck down was white, but his face and neck were bright red. He had a lone black hair on top of his skull.
He draped himself over the side of the bath, his arms hanging out, his fingertips barely brushing the ground, cool air washing over his bare upper body. His chest heaved as he continued to cough, a rough, hacking sound that grated out of his throat.
"Damn…it…" he managed to say. "So…close…"
There was a knock on the door and he looked up, his coughing lapsing into harsh pants.
"Chiaotzu? You alright?"
Chiaotzu's lips twitched up in a smile when he heard his brother's concerned voice.
Fine, he called telepathically. Just…holding my breath again.
There was an amused chuckle from outside. Chiaotzu could, however, hear the relief in it, and guilt touched his mood as he lowered his head, resting his forehead against the cool rim of the bath.
Sorry if I worried you, Tien, he added.
"It's alright," Tien said, and now Chiaotzu could hear the smile in his voice. "Just don't push yourself too much. I can break this door down but it won't take you long to drown and I'd probably be too late, got it?"
The red in Chiaotzu's face was slowly ebbing away, his skin returning to its usual pallid white, except for the two red circles that were always there. His breath was also returning slowly, the ache in his lungs fading until it wasn't noticeable. He lifted his head and looked at the door, smiling guiltily.
"I… I'm alright, Tien," he said, and though his voice was breathy and weak, he knew it would comfort Tien a little to hear it. "I've got my breath back now."
Tien laughed again, softly, and moved away from the door, his ki heading towards the kitchen. Chiaotzu just knew he had waited to make sure that his young brother was okay. Chiaotzu turned and slipped back into the tub, the warm water enveloping him. He glanced towards the door, lightly chewing on his lower lip.
"Once more," he said quietly to himself. "Just once. I was only five seconds away…" He searched out Tien's ki, finding it once more in the living room. "I'll come up before I get that out of breath again…"
He looked down at the clear water, then hefted in a huge breath, his chest expanding, his cheeks swelling, before he slipped beneath the surface of the water yet again.
This was something he did whenever he took a bath, something he had been doing for over twenty years. He had first done it completely by accident, when he'd fallen asleep during his bath and slipped beneath the water. His eyes had flown open to the sight of the moon from under the water, something he had fallen in love with instantly.
Before long it had become a competition with himself. How long could he hold his breath? How long could he stare up through that shimmering curtain into the world above him? He had almost drowned a couple of times, sure enough, but had always pulled himself back up at the last second. Tien was worried, of course, what brother wouldn't be, and because of this was always on high alert whenever Chiaotzu took a bath.
Now Chiaotzu blinked lazily, staring up at the slanted sunlight that sparkled through the water before him. It wasn't hard to fight against the buoyancy provided by a chest-full of air, and he lay on the bottom of the tub, his lips curled in a wide smile, his eyes alight with pleasure.
Then something happened that dampened the light in his eyes and made fear spiral in his chest.
The light coming from the open window above him was growing somehow darker, dimmer, as though blocked by cloud. His eyes narrowed a little, then dark purple mist began to creep into his line of sight.
His mouth opened a little and a tiny bubble of air escaped his lips. He put both hands over his mouth to hold back a scream of absolute terror, his heart freezing solid in his chest, the air he held fighting to burst from his lungs. No, he had to hold on, he had to stay under until this terrible mist was gone.
He wasn't a smart boy, he hadn't had a proper education, he couldn't do maths or anything like that, but his energy was highly tuned to the Earth and those that lived there, his very being knew when the world around him was suffering, and he knew in the depths of his soul that this mist, whatever it was and wherever it had come from, was bad.
He fought back his screams and forced himself to remain submerged, his eyes wide with fright as the mist hovered over the surface of the water. To his relief, it didn't seem able to burst through, to get him. He remained below the water, bubbles of air occasionally drifting from between his fingers to disturb the surface, sending ripples out over the image he could see, until the purple mist dissipated and the air above the bath was clear once more.
He didn't surface straight away. He stayed a moment longer, frozen in fright, before the awareness that his lungs were screaming for air occurred to him and he burst up into the air. He stayed there for a moment, coughing and hacking and trying desperately to keep as silent as possible. He coughed up a mouthful of water and realised that in his fear he must have accidently inhaled some.
He remained still for a couple of moments, then cautiously stood and flew out of the bath. He towelled himself dry quickly before getting dressed, the soft cloth of his clothes picking up the moisture still left on his skin. He heard a loud crash and jumped, staring at the door with wide eyes.
It came again, a sharp splintering sound that punched through the air of the otherwise silent cabin, hurting Chiaotzu's ears with its sudden volume. Terrible fear filled him, and he realised that no matter how quiet his coughing had been, how controlled, it would have carried beyond the small room he was in, and alerted his ever-vigilant older brother.
"Tien," he breathed in a soft, horrified voice. "Oh Kami no… Tien!"
He rushed towards the door, pulling his shirt over his head as he did, and yanked the door open. What met his eyes gave him such a horrible jolt that he let out an involuntary scream, both hands rising to clutch at his ears as he shook his head in a fierce denial.
Tien was standing in the shattered remains of their living room, his back to Chiaotzu, his shoulders heaving and his head bowed. At his feet lay the shredded remains of one of Chiaotzu's surcoats, which he had left to dry in front of the fire. The fire itself was out, smothered by the strange mist that had assailed it. Chiaotzu calmed down a little, lowering his hands and blinking in shock at his big brother.
Chiaotzu's voice cut out as Tien whirled to stare at him. That was the face he knew so well, but on it was an expression he had never ever seen before. Tien was grinning, a horrible mad-man's grin, his teeth bared in what was almost a snarl. His chest was heaving with each breath he took, and from that terrible grin came snarling, slobbering growls.
Chiaotzu backed away, his back hitting the doorframe to the bathroom, his eyes wide. He wasn't afraid, a little shocked maybe but not afraid, and why would he be? This was Tien, after all; his big brother. Tien would never hurt Chiaotzu, never ever, not in a million years.
But then he saw the red twinkle in Tien's pupils, all three glowing a demonic red as he growled and snarled at Chiaotzu. And he knew that redness, he had seen it before, many years ago.
Chiaotzu was afraid now. He let out a scared little whimper as Tien turned to face him front-on, that horrible grin widening. Yes, Chiaotzu had seen those red eyes before, back when he had died at Piccolo Daimao's hand and been tortured by those of the Demon Clan.
It had been darkness where he had been, completely and utterly pitch black, but those eyes had stood out in the dark, had seared into his soul and torn his body apart. He had never been able to see his tormentors, but he still had nightmares about those eyes.
"Tien, don't," he whimpered as Tien started forward, striding with the purposeful air of a man who knows what he wants and will stop at nothing to get it. His teeth, bared in that snarling grin, were sharpened to fangs, gleaming in the light.
Tien didn't talk. It seemed that he couldn't. His words were lost in a sea of snarls and growls. His three red pupils lighted on Chiaotzu, burning into him, and Chiaotzu found that he couldn't look away. All he could do was plead, beg, and pray to Kami that this wasn't happening.
"Please, Tien, don't do this. What's happened to you?"
His words fell on deaf ears. Tien towered over him, then bent and wrapped both hands around his upper-arms. Chiaotzu didn't fight; there was no point. Tien was stronger than him, he had always been stronger, and though Chiaotzu knew on some deep level that if he really wanted to he could freeze Tien and run for help, another bigger part of him wouldn't allow it. Tien would never in his right mind hurt Chiaotzu, and Chiaotzu was damned if he was going to be any different. Tien was his brother, and they had sworn never to hurt each other.
And so he allowed himself to be hoisted roughly into the air, Tien's hands bruising his white skin so tight was his grip, but he didn't look up. He heard Tien's growls, felt the overwhelming strength in the hands gripping his arms, but felt a little spark of comfort. This was Tien, after all; his big brother. Right?
He looked up, meeting Tien's eyes. Seeing those sparkling pinpoints of red was like a nightmare come true; too often in his worst dreams he saw Tien as one of those who had tormented him, one of those mindless slaves who had bent to Piccolo Daimao's will and made Chiaotzu's death torture.
He was filled suddenly with a terrible, ripping conflict. Should he be scared or comforted? Scared of the hands gripping him so tightly he bruised or comforted in the familiarity of those hands, the memory of a gentle caress to soothe nightmare fuelled fears? Scared of that insane ruthless grin or comforted by the fact that those lips had been twisted into a much more gentle smile, one that was seen too rarely in this world, that was usually reserved only for him? Scared of those glowing red pupils, or comforted because he had seen those eyes filled with every emotion known to man, from anger to joy to sorrow? Should he be frightened of the demon clansman standing before him, or comforted because it was his brother through thick and thin, life and death?
These were stupid questions, any sane man would answer that he should be scared to every one of them, but Chiaotzu loved Tien with everything he had, and love twisted his thoughts and made rational answers false. And so he was comforted even as Tien snarled and growled, even as his grip tightened and his grin widened, because Tien was his brother, and that kind of love wouldn't be swayed by demonic possession.
Tien's eyes flitted away from his, and Chiaotzu blinked in confusion. Then he felt where Tien was looking, his gaze like a branding iron that seared his skin, and his stomach dropped away.
Tien just growled, the tip of his tongue flicking out to run over his new fangs. Chiaotzu fought back tears, then nodded.
"If it's what you want, onii-chan…then do it…"
He tilted his head to the left, exposing the soft, smooth, still slightly wet skin of the right side of his neck. He clenched his eyes shut as Tien leaned closer, his breath horribly hot against Chiaotzu's skin, before the tips of those fangs grazed over his neck. The tears in his eyes spilled onto his cheeks as he bowed his head, bracing himself internally for the pain he knew must surely follow.
"After all, we share everything else…why not our blood as well?"
Tien let out a soft rumbling growl, and then his fangs plunged into the unprotected skin of Chiaotzu's neck.
Chiaotzu jolted, pain spreading like fire through his entire body as he let out a scream of pain. Tien didn't let go, didn't pull away, but his grip on Chiaotzu's arms became somehow gentler, looser, not as rough or harsh as before. Blood, hot, sticky and vividly red, began to pour from the spot, splashing over Chiaotzu's shoulder and soaking into his clothes.
They remained that way for a moment, Tien's fangs buried deep in Chiaotzu's neck as the boy whimpered in pain and blood pattered to the floor. Then Tien let out an appreciative growl, pulling away and licking his lips. Chiaotzu started to tremble, his body shuddering violently, his eyes widening as pain continued to race through him, as though someone had tipped acid into his blood.
"Tien, it hurts," he whimpered, holding out both his hands towards Tien, his brother, the one who had bit him, the one whose lips were stained with his blood, the only one who he knew truly cared about him, the only one he really trusted, the only one he really loved. "Make it stop, Tien, make it stop."
Tien growled again, a little gentler this time, and leaned forward again. Chiaotzu started to cry at how intense the pain was, but tilted his head to the other side anyway, revealing the unbloodied, unbitten side of his neck. This time when Tien bit down it wasn't quite so painful, his fangs didn't sink as deep, and it seemed more careful than the frenzied attack of before. Chiaotzu still let out a quiet scream, but it quickly died in his throat.
Blood started to run down his neck on both sides now, pooling in the shallow dip between his arm and Tien's hand. Tien pulled away again, licking his lips and growling as his glowing red eyes fixed on Chiaotzu's face.
"T-Tien," Chiaotzu said.
His words were slow, his voice thick. It took effort to speak now, and though the pain racing through his blood was sharp and brutally intense, he was getting sleepy. His eyelids drooped, his body grew lax but for the occasional involuntary shudder that twisted through him. He forced himself to keep his head up, though his body dangled like a rag-doll's in Tien's grip. Tien was still looking at him. The grin that had been so horrifying before was now far worse because blood reddened his fangs and ran in rivulets down his chin.
Chiaotzu managed to twitch his lips up in a smile, though exhaustion was taking over. It was hard to believe that the man holding him so tight had been so worried only a few short minutes before, that the last words he'd said had been in an amused, slightly concerned voice, a gentle warning about the dangers of Chiaotzu's quirks.
"I love you, onii-chan," he managed to say finally, though his voice was slurred and the words were barely distinguishable. He only just heard Tien's confused growl before the world went dark and he fell completely limp in his possessed big brother's grip.
His head throbbed viciously, his stomach was churning and his entire body ached. Everything hurt, muscles he didn't know existed where burning, and the headache he felt was similar only to one he had gotten after someone had forced their way into his mind. It was strange, but feeling this pain also made a strange sense of joy well inside him, a sense of triumph.
Chiaotzu blinked his eyes open and stared in wide-eyed, open-mouthed horror at the room around him. It was barely recognisable as the cabin he lived in with Tien. The room was a shambles, shattered furniture and destroyed clothing scattered around. It looked as though a bomb had gone off, completely annihilating the interior of the cabin.
His lips curled up in a wide smile, and then he started to laugh silently. Oh Kami, what had happened? Why was their home destroyed? And why couldn't he stop laughing?
He tottered a little on his feet, swaying uncertainly as he turned to look at the open door to the kitchen. He could hear footsteps and horrified swearing that made him smile. Tien never swore unless it was startled out of him, and in this one moment more profanities than Chiaotzu had ever heard were now filling the cabin.
"Oh shit, oh crap. Kami damn it, what the fuck happened in here!?"
Chiaotzu's laughter, suppressed to silent gasping, now burst forth in a raucous, joyful sound that wouldn't be contained.
Chiaotzu was still swaying back and forth, unable to control it, his laughter dying to hysterical giggles, when Tien appeared in the doorway, still looking back into the room he had left.
"Oh thank Kami you're in here, Chiaotzu, I was so worried. Someone's completely fucked up the kitchen, I mean, everything's gone. It's… I…"
Tien turned and Chiaotzu's laughter welled in him again, this time purely from relief. True, there was still a crusting of blood beneath Tien's lower lip, Chiaotzu's blood actually, smeared around his mouth, but his eyes were wide and clear, no sign of glowing redness anywhere there, his pupils back to their usual black as he looked at Chiaotzu.
But there was no relief in Tien's eyes. Instead, horror was filling them, as well as overwhelming concern and fear.
Chiaotzu grinned at him, wondering if his own teeth were coated with blood, before tottering again. Tien was at his side in an instant, his hands gentle as they steadied him. Chiaotzu realised dimly that his skin was cold and clammy, coated in a thick liquid that had gone cold before it had dried.
"Oh shit," Tien muttered again, his eyes wide as Chiaotzu looked up at him woozily. "Damn, shit, fuck…"
This surprised cursing made Chiaotzu giggle, and as he did something flashed a bright spark of pain in his neck. He flinched, but it didn't take away his smile.
"Onii-chan," Chiaotzu said, reaching up one hand towards that kind, concerned face above him. "We're back, we're really back."
"Chiaotzu, what are you talking about? Why are you covered in blood?"
Chiaotzu didn't need to look down at himself to know it was true. His cold skin told him that much, but there was something wrong, something different, and he had no idea what.
Tien's surprised exclamation told him what it was, and as Tien scrabbled for a bit of usable cloth he felt the slight warm trickle that traced down the right side of his neck and over his shoulder.
"Shit, shit, shit!"
Tien found something and moved closer, tilting up Chiaotzu's head as he met his eyes.
"What I'm going to do is gonna hurt, okay?"
Chiaotzu clenched his eyes shut and braced himself, and the next thing he knew Tien had pressed the shredded cloth (he only just recognised it as part of his surcoat) to his neck and his entire body had lit up in a quick neon flash of pain.
He let out a quiet scream, fighting to get away from Tien's hand, but a soft soothing murmur from Tien made him still.
"I'm sorry, Chiaotzu," he said in a sincere murmur. "But you're bleeding… I don't know how long for, but it has to be a long, freaking time coz you're absolutely soaked in it…"
Chiaotzu whimpered as he clenched his eyes shut, his teeth digging into the insides of his cheeks. Tien saw and lessened the pressure a little, frowning.
"You've got marks here, Chiaotzu," he said softly, and tilted Chiaotzu's head to the left, exposing his neck. Chiaotzu bit back another cry of pain, because he knew if he let it escape it would sound suspiciously like a laugh.
He looked up at Tien and saw the concerned light in Tien's eyes flicker and slowly be replaced with utter fury, a brutal rage that sparked so hot and bright it was almost like seeing the demonic glow once more. Chiaotzu flinched a little as Tien brushed his fingertips over the offending spot, his touch gentle despite the fury blazing in his eyes, his other hand wrapped securely around Chiaotzu's upper arm to steady him.
"It hurts, Tien," Chiaotzu whispered, tears starting to run down his cheeks again. "It really, really hurts…"
Tien's lips drew back in a furious snarl, baring his still blood-stained teeth.
"It's a bite mark, isn't it?" he asked in a low, furious voice. Chiaotzu nodded, unable to help the slight smile that touched his own lips. Tien didn't seem to notice. Chiaotzu knew his big brother was probably only able to see red and the bleeding holes in Chiaotzu's neck. He wasn't even sure they were just holes: Tien had bitten so hard and so ferociously they could be torn, jagged rips in his flesh. He couldn't be sure, he couldn't see them.
"They're on the other side too, Tien," Chiaotzu said in a soft voice. Tien's eyes blazed even brighter as he gently turned Chiaotzu's head to the other side. The holes here (Chiaotzu knew these would be distinguishable, little circular holes in his skin, because of the care Tien had taken the second time around) had probably scabbed over since he couldn't feel anything trickling down his skin.
"By Kami, they are…"
Chiaotzu fought back another giggle at the sound of Tien's voice. Tien's fingertips brushed over these marks too, but they didn't send the same spark of pain through his body.
"Chiaotzu, you have to tell me who bit you," Tien said, a slight note of gentle care noticeable beneath his furious tone. Chiaotzu was probably the only person on the planet who would have heard it, so deeply was it buried.
Chiaotzu smiled widely, but before he could answer his knees buckled and he would have tumbled right to the floor if Tien hadn't been holding him up. Tien's grip tightened a little and his hands agitated the bruises that marred Chiaotzu's upper arms.
He took in a soft hissing breath and Tien gently moved him to the ground, laying him flat, his head resting in one of Tien's palms. The second Tien removed his hands from Chiaotzu's upper arms his eyes widened again.
"Who did this to you, Chiaotzu? Tell me, I'll kill 'em, I swear it…"
Chiaotzu saw the complete conviction on Tien's face and felt a little flash of fear.
"Don't, Tien, please…"
His soft whimper broke through Tien's anger and he calmed a little. Chiaotzu couldn't stop himself from smiling as Tien said in a gentler tone, "Tell me who did it, Chiaotzu. Please?"
Chiaotzu didn't laugh, though he really wanted to. Instead he had only a slight smile on his face when he looked up at Tien and whispered, "It was you, Tien."
Tien's mouth dropped open in horror and Chiaotzu felt a pang at the pained disbelief in Tien's eyes.
"I didn't," he said softly, horror dripping from every syllable. "I wouldn't…" He swallowed, his eyes flitting between Chiaotzu's face and the still-bleeding bite marks in his neck. "I didn't bite you…did I?"
Chiaotzu let out a tired little laugh, lifting one hand. It wavered in midair for a moment before Tien grabbed it, his own strong hand folding around Chiaotzu's small one, squeezing tight. Chiaotzu closed his eyes as he smiled widely, partly out of his own woozy tiredness and partly so he wouldn't have to see Tien's face when he said the next bit.
"Of course it was you, Tien," he said, his exhausted smile widening.
"Impossible," Tien said hurriedly. "I would never…ever…"
"I wouldn't have let them," Chiaotzu continued as though Tien hadn't spoken at all. "It had to be you, Tien, coz I woulda fought if it wasn't…" He let out a giggle as he felt Tien's concerned confusion. "I wouldn't have let anyone else bite me when they were like that, but I let you…"
He yawned widely, and the stretching in the sides of his jaw seemed to pass down into his neck, agitating the bite marks there, turning his yawn into a grimace. Tien soothed him, murmuring softly and gently running his hand over Chiaotzu's forehead.
"Onii-chan, I'm cold…" Chiaotzu mumbled, starting to shiver a little. "I can't…stay awake…"
"Oh shit," Tien cursed again, making Chiaotzu giggle sleepily. "Shit, you must have lost a lot of blood. Don't worry, Chiaotzu, I'll clean up this mess…just…don't leave me, okay? Don't you dare leave."
"Okay…onii-chan…" Chiaotzu smiled widely even though his eyelids drooped. "I…just want…to sleep…"
He only managed to hear Tien's short biting curse before his vision faded to grey yet again, only now under more pleasant circumstances. He could feel Tien's arms gently slipping around him, lifting him, and he felt a bright spark of pure joy that this time when he fell limp in his brother's arms he knew he was completely safe.
It felt like hours later when he woke up. His entire body felt as light as air, almost empty, and when he remembered Tien's statement about blood-loss he had an idea that neither of them had any clue just how bad it was.
He slitted his eyes open and saw Tien almost instantly. He had his back to Chiaotzu, but instead of destroying this time, he was cleaning up, sometimes bending to collect broken furniture, sometimes stretching up to reach broken glass and wood that was imbedded in the ceiling.
Chiaotzu's voice was a hoarse whisper, could barely have carried across the room, but Tien froze and turned, a relieved smile spreading over his face.
"Oh, Chiaotzu, thank Kami, I was so worried." He dropped what he was holding, the trash scattering over the floor and blending almost perfectly with the rest of the destroyed room. Chiaotzu could feel that the surface beneath him, almost certainly the bed they shared, was clear and smooth, that there was nothing beneath him.
Tien knelt beside the bed, his hand gently catching Chiaotzu's as he smiled.
"Don't talk aloud, Chiaotzu," Tien said gently, cutting across him. "Your voice is all torn up…" He looked a little upset as he added, "You screamed a lot in your sleep."
Where are we?
"In the bedroom," Tien said softly. "It's…unrecognisable, I know, but still..." He smiled, squeezing Chiaotzu's hand. "I cleared the bed before I put you down. That's where most of this stuff came from." He gestured to the torn cloth scattering the floor near the bed. "I don't know what happened, but whatever it was only spared the clothes we stood in."
Chiaotzu snickered, then frowned a little.
What about the clothes I was wearing? Weren't they…?
Tien flinched and nodded. "Yeah I…uh…"
Chiaotzu noticed that Tien wasn't wearing his shirt and smiled widely. Oh…
"Well, you were absolutely soaked in blood, your clothes were beyond saving. I threw them out and gave you my shirt," Tien said, flushing. "I even had to give you another bath you were so bloody. For Kami's sake, Chiaotzu, I couldn't have done that to you. I couldn't have hurt you so bad you bled like that and not even remembered it…"
You were possessed, Chiaotzu sent, still smiling. I think it had something to do with that mist…
I was holding my breath again, Chiaotzu started, flushing. And the mist came in through the window. I was so scared, Tien, I couldn't move. When it was gone I went out, and you were… Your eyes were…
He couldn't finish. No matter how much he wanted to, no matter how much he wanted to ease Tien's curiosity, he couldn't say how horrible it had been to see those glowing red points, that wide, malicious smile.
"You don't have to tell me, Chiaotzu, not if you don't want to," Tien said gently. "It's okay."
No, I do want to. Chiaotzu bit his lip, fighting back tears. It's just…hard… The Demon Clan, I know it had something to do with them… They changed you, then when you bit me, I think you changed me too…
"Why would you let me do that, Chiaotzu?" Tien asked. "You know I would never want to hurt you…"
I also know you promised you'd never leave me alone, Chiaotzu sent. And with you like that and me normal, we were both alone. This way we could at least be together.
Tien flinched, then nodded. "I guess so," he said uncertainly. "But did you really have to let yourself get hurt so bad?"
Yes...because I knew if I'd fought against you even a little, tried to make you calm down, then you probably would have killed me. I don't know why you bit me…but I wouldn't have let anyone else do it…
Tien squeezed Chiaotzu's hand tight, guilt twisting his smile as he looked down. Chiaotzu smiled widely back, his smile filled only with happiness and contentment. He turned his head a little and flinched at the spark of pain it triggered.
"Don't move your head too much," Tien murmured, one hand resting on Chiaotzu's cheek and gently turned his face back to the front. "I bandaged your neck as best I could, but it's a hard spot to reach. You have to be careful with it, okay? I don't want it to start bleeding again. You can't afford to lose any more blood."
Chiaotzu didn't move his head, but was unable to resist lifting an arm and resting a hand on his neck. The soft cloth that met his fingertips told him that Tien had utilised another shredded item of clothing to form a makeshift bandage. His smile widened.
"I love you, onii-chan," he said in his soft, broken voice.
Tien didn't tell him to be quiet, to not use his voice, to speak telepathically. He just smiled and gently kissed Chiaotzu's smooth, white forehead.
"I love you too, little brother," he whispered. "Don't scare me like that again. I swear, seeing you soaked in blood and smiling that ridiculously happy smile almost killed me."
Sorry for smiling then, Chiaotzu sent, and laughed softly.
Tien laughed too, his voice a little less carefree, and gently cupped the top of Chiaotzu's head with his palm. His eyes filled with concern and a tenderness that warmed Chiaotzu's chilled skin, and he murmured, "You really scared me, you know that? I mean…it was a nightmare come true…"
Chiaotzu's smile wavered, before he closed his eyes for a moment and let out a soft sigh.
I know what you mean, he sent. I felt that way exactly…when I saw your eyes…
Tien frowned. "That's twice you've mentioned my eyes now," he said softly. "Why?"
They were… Chiaotzu tried to make himself go on, couldn't, then decided to try a different approach. Remember Piccolo Daimao?
Tien's face hardened instantly, his jaw setting and fury sparking in his eyes. "Yes," he said in a bitter voice. "How could I forget?"
Chiaotzu smiled and put his hand on Tien's cheek. Well, I told you about when I was dead, right? Tien nodded. Your eyes were like that…that red thing I told you about… When I saw your eyes glinting red like that, I almost couldn't breathe. It hurt, Tien, seeing you like that… I had to follow you; I couldn't bear to leave you…
"I was a demon clansman?" Tien asked, frowning even more now. "How did that happen…?"
The mist, Chiaotzu said. It had to be the mist…
"So, why are we better?" Tien asked.
Dunno. Chiaotzu's face split in a wide grin, his eyes sparkling with tears. But it doesn't matter. We're back, Tien, and we're together again. That's all I care about.
"Well, I'll postpone the celebrations until your blood-level's back up, yeah? And you're not allowed to move until those marks heal." A humourless smile crossed his face as he said, "I bit deep; it'll take a while."
Stop beating yourself up over it, Tien, Chiaotzu sent in a warning voice. There's no need. I've already forgiven you; I did before it happened. Hell, I told you to do it.
"Yeah, I guess." Tien looked a little uncertain, but at Chiaotzu's happy little giggle he relaxed. "Okay, I'm going to leave you to rest a little more. I'll clean up everything. You stay here; if you move so much as a muscle I will be forced to take drastic measures."
Tien smiled, catching Chiaotzu's hands and squeezing them tight. "Such as tying you up," he said, surprising a giggle from Chiaotzu. "Now be still. I'll clean up in here first, then move on to the other rooms." He looked around and let out a little, sad sigh. "We're gonna have to get new everything." He glanced at Chiaotzu, teasing disapproval in his eyes. "Let's make a pact, right now, if we get possessed again we'll spare at least a few pieces of furniture."
Deal, Chiaotzu said, grinning.
"Good." Tien bent and gently kissed Chiaotzu's forehead. "Sleep if you want, little brother. Don't worry; I'll look after you."
Mm-kay. Chiaotzu felt his eyelids droop even though he must have slept for a long time just before. Love you, onii-chan.
"Love you too, little brother…"
Chiaotzu felt Tien kiss his forehead once more, before he slipped slowly into sleep, his eyes sliding closed, the few muscles in his body he had been using relaxing completely, his hands tightening on Tien's for a moment before falling limp. He barely felt Tien gently move them to his sides before the warmth of his presence left his side.
Days passed, then weeks. Tien didn't allow Chiaotzu to move from the bed, but he managed to get the house cleaned up alright. He went out for hours on end and by the time Chiaotzu was allowed up the house was refurnished and they each had new sets of clothes. When Chiaotzu raised his eyebrows at Tien he just shrugged and slipped his hands into his pockets.
Then one day they got a visit from Yamcha. They were completely unprepared for it, and Chiaotzu had had to make him coffee while Tien got dressed from his bath. Tien had entered the kitchen with a towel draped over his shoulders and a wide smile on his face.
"So, you two seem to be doing alright for yourself," Yamcha said, leaning forward on the table and looking around the refurnished kitchen. "Is all this stuff new?"
Tien and Chiaotzu exchanged a glance, before Chiaotzu giggled and Tien put a hand over his mouth to hold back his laughter. Yamcha looked between them, then blinked.
"Yes," Tien said quickly, to forgo any questions that Yamcha might ask. "We decided to remodel the cabin a couple of weeks ago. We only just finished."
"Looks nice." Yamcha leant his chin on his hand, looking around. "Why'd you remodel?"
"No real reason," Chiaotzu said. "We just thought that it was time for a change…"
There was a short pause where both Tien and Chiaotzu tried to fight back their laughter and Yamcha continued to look around the room.
"Hey, did you guys notice anything funny about three weeks ago?" Yamcha asked, and both of them felt a strange sinking in their stomachs.
"Funny like what?" Tien asked.
"Like…you woke up and had no idea what had happened?" Yamcha looked down at the table-top, the barely noticeable pink of a flush creeping onto his cheeks. "That happened to everyone else cept Gohan, Krillin and Piccolo."
Tien and Chiaotzu exchanged a glance again, nervous confusion in their eyes.
"Did they tell you what happened?" Chiaotzu ventured cautiously.
"Well, Krillin said it had something to do with something called the Black Water Mist," Yamcha said, frowning.
"The mist…" Chiaotzu murmured, his eyes widening.
"And apparently I bit Piccolo."
"Bit…" Tien mumbled.
They looked at each other again, Chiaotzu's hand lifting to rest on the right side of his neck. The left side had healed completely, the little circular marks not even scarring, but the right side had been different. The right side had scarred him badly, the jagged rips from Tien's abnormal fangs causing raised thick sections of white on his already pale skin.
"Yes, we remember something like that," Chiaotzu whispered.
"Just vaguely though…" Tien added, his voice no louder than Chiaotzu's.
"Where were you guys?" Yamcha asked. "I was in the middle of East Capital. I mean, from Kame House. That's nuts, man."
"We stayed here," Tien said.
"Didn't bite anyone?" Yamcha asked.
"Well…" Chiaotzu's hand pressed harder over the scars on his neck, smiling a little uncertainly now. "We don't think that I bit anyone."
Yamcha looked at him wide-eyed, then switched his gaze to Tien.
"Tien…? Did you…?"
"I told him off severely for letting me," Tien said, crossing his arms defensively. "But…yes, I bit him. I bit my little brother." His eyes narrowed a little dangerously. "And I bit him so badly it's scarred." He looked over at Chiaotzu, his eyes softening as they lighted on the small hand resting on the pale skin of Chiaotzu's neck. "I'm having difficulty forgiving myself."
Chiaotzu giggled. "I'm fine. Tien's too hard on himself."
"Yeah, well, you're not the one who bit your brother," Tien said grudgingly, his head lowered.
"Yeah, well, you're not the one who saw those eyes again," Chiaotzu said, and though his tone had started out playful it finished with a tone of fear. Tien instantly wrapped his arm around Chiaotzu's shoulders, holding him close, comforting him with a soft murmur.
"Which eyes?" Yamcha asked, confused.
Chiaotzu looked at him and smiled humourlessly. "I don't know if Krillin will remember," he said in a soft voice. "But you can ask if you like… Ask him what happened when he…when he…"
"When he died at the hands of a demon clansman," Tien finished when it seemed obvious that Chiaotzu couldn't. "Ask him what happened, and what he saw…"
"Why would I ask that?" Yamcha asked, complete confusion on his face.
"Because he might be able to say," Chiaotzu mumbled. "I'm only a kid…I'm too scared to remember that…that thing…"
"Shh, Chiaotzu," Tien murmured soothingly. "It's okay."
"Those eyes," Chiaotzu said, his voice still a low mumble. "Those…red…red…eyes…"
"Uh…Yamcha, do you mind?" Tien asked.
"Oh, sure, not at all." Yamcha stood up, drained the last dregs of coffee from his cup, then left with a quiet, "I'll come back later. See you."
"Bye," Tien said, lifting one hand, while Chiaotzu waved distractedly. Then Yamcha was gone and Tien scooped Chiaotzu into his arms. Tears were rolling down Chiaotzu's cheeks and his hand was pressing down hard on the right side of his neck. "Chiaotzu, are you okay?"
"Yeah…I'll….I'll be fine."
Tien didn't say anything, didn't call Chiaotzu out on this obvious lie. He just held the boy against his chest, one hand cupped around the back of his head as the small, hot face pressed into his shoulder, Chiaotzu's hands twining into his shirt.
"Th-thank you, Tien," Chiaotzu mumbled.
"It's okay," Tien said, turning around and leaning against the table, rubbing a hand up and down Chiaotzu's back as if to coax the sobs he felt threatening into freedom.
"No, I really mean it."
"I know." Tien smiled, turned his head and gently kissed the top of Chiaotzu's head. "You can't fool me even for a second, Chiaotzu. I always know."
The combination of this and the gentle motion on Chiaotzu's back seemed to finally push him over the edge and he started to cry softly. The sobs breaking from his lips weren't loud or desperate; they were gentle and quiet and Tien didn't feel the deep urge to comfort him that he usually felt. This was a relief, and it was actually kind of pleasant just holding the boy, gazing thoughtfully into the top corner of the room as he murmured soft comforts.
Chiaotzu held tight to Tien long after his tears stopped, long after his chest stopped hitching and his breath calmed. Tien didn't complain, he didn't say anything. He didn't even feel tempted to: he was smart enough to know that sometimes it was better just to stay silent. Chiaotzu knew this too. He didn't say anything as he pulled away and wiped his cheeks, smiling at Tien gratefully. Tien shrugged a little, then kissed Chiaotzu's cheek gently. Chiaotzu giggled and returned the favour, turning his head and pressing his cheek to Tien's for a moment. Then he pulled away and sniffled, wiping his cheeks and under his nose. Tien smiled.
He put Chiaotzu back in his chair, running one hand over the boy's scalp, before heading to the counter.
"Want some coffee?"
Chiaotzu burst out laughing at that, covering his mouth with both hands and shaking his head. Tien laughed too, turning around and leaning on the counter, glad that he had managed to make his little brother laugh despite the pain and suffering he'd caused. It was a good feeling and he intended to savour it.
AN. And voila. Another one shot done and dusted. This time with scene changes ooOOoooOOoo... Uh...anyway, reviews are greatly appreciated. I thank you very much :D