Author's Note: Wow, guys. Guess it's been a while, huh? I realized just the other day that this fanfiction was left incomplete. I'm such a bad person XD Thanks for all your patience and your awesome reviews: zenbon zakura, Lt. Commander Richie, Jasaiya Hawkins, Neejie, crazykilt, blueballad, reader, Eleannor, Cormick, Astaline Nihtingale, BlueFox of the Moon, Akira Johnson, silverfire113, whatthehellwasithinkin, xplacebo, TeChNoLoGiC, spotsgiol, CHoCoDoLL, .simplicity, aya, Lucy-Kira, deletedpetals, jam2599, DragonScale, Nush-Mish, TodundLeben, poisoncoacoa, Cess007, asdfasdfg, Lord-Hermione, and everyone else for your favorites/alerts.
That was all he could think. It was bitter cold. Beside him, men trembled from the temperature as well, like him in nothing but the tattered remains of their uniforms. Their eyes were dark. Icy, almost. Others were broken, sad. He had to wonder if they saw the same thing in him. Was there defeat in the green eye not hidden by dirty bandages? Shaking his head, dirty once-red hair brushed against his shoulders. No, he told himself. In his filthy hand he clutched at a photograph, staring at the smile he craved more than anything. Even food, water, a bath. Even more than the ridiculous orange scarf she said she was knitting.
Her name—Lavi kept having to say her name over and over again—was something that kept him functioning. If he didn't, the pain and hunger and cold would get to him. His expression would empty and his hope would be gone like some of them. Lavi couldn't let that happen. He made a promise; one that he was going to keep despite everything that opposed him, even the men with guns outside. His determination did not waver in the slightest. All Lavi focused on was getting back home, back to his girl who wore that bow in her hair and that smile that had been elevated almost to the same level as breathing air.
"Fuck this," someone muttered. Another person coughed. All of their breath rose up in clouds before them, except for the boy in the corner, who had died sometime during the night. They sat away from him, not looking at the still form. They couldn't face what might happen to them in the cramped, unsanitary cells. What waited outside was worse. It was all about surviving another day, just to live through another night, in order to do the same thing all over again.
Someone came in yelling in Vietnamese. Lavi quickly tucked the picture away so they would not take it from him, not knowing how he would go on if he didn't have the comfort during the nights of Lenalee's smile. Instead, the redhead solemnly stood with the rest of the prisoners, barefooted and freezing, as they were led for another round of torture. Pointless, bruising pain. Yelling, beating, fingers broken. The wounds that had been treated upon his arrival to this hellhole had healed enough to sustain the daily abuse. He just experienced twice the pain as everyone else, his right eye throbbing and bleeding into the disgusting gauze around his head; the injury to his side that made his body seize up in agony when it was struck.
But when they hit him, Lavi did not fight. When they kicked him, he did not rise. When they thrust his head beneath the cold water, he held his breath as long as possible. When they shocked him, he thought of the sunny day out at the pier, with his hand in Lenalee's. Shelling overhead, his feet on a dirty floor, and then finally back into the cell for the remainder of the night. No food, no water. His stomach gave a weak whimper of protest; his broken fingers wailed in silent agony within him.
Another night, another day, another night, another day. More men dead, more cold, cold nights. More broken fingers. More staring at Lenalee, wanting, wishing, hoping to go home.
"Do you remember…what food tastes like?" asked a cellmate one night. He was a young kid, maybe around Lavi's age. The Vietnamese soldiers liked kicking him around more than the others. Lavi had the terrible suspicion that they raped him in the back room where he disappeared during the daily torture sessions. It was unfortunate he had such a pretty face.
"Shut up," said the man next to Lavi. Oriental accent, maybe Japanese. Lavi thought his name was Yuu. Or maybe that's just what people called him: hey, you. Angrily, the dark haired man who may or may not have been named Yuu, finished: "Or I'll kill you."
"Don't be such a bitch," said the boy across from them, pushing dirty hair from his face.
"You're the bitch," said Yuu. Dark eyes went darker and the boy fell silent, looking down. Everyone sat in quiet for the rest of the night, not wanting to say anything else. By the time evening fell the next night, the boy was lying on his side, his forehead bleeding from a wound that had been inflicted upon him in that dark, back room. There was blood on the seat of his pants and Lavi felt his heart clench as his fears were realized.
"What's your name, kid?" Lavi asked, going over to him. No one would get close to him. He'd be dead soon, they all thought, so it was no use, but Lavi couldn't stand by and watch anymore. His swollen fingers pulled at some spare cloth on his pants leg, pressing it against the wound on the boy's forehead in an attempt at a tender gesture.
"Timothy Hearst…" he said, trying to move away from Lavi's hands, but the redhead kept him still.
"That's a good name," said Lavi in reply, maneuvering Timothy's head on his lap. At least that way they could be warm. Gently doing his best to clot the injury, Lavi continued: "Where you from?"
"North Carolina," Timothy answered, closing his brown eyes. He looked so relieved that someone was speaking to him, taking care of him, so Lavi continued to ask him questions quietly, ignoring the stares of the men around them in the cell. He was so small and so young, probably wrenched away from his mother's clutching hands, her weeping, sobbing chest. "Thanks," Timothy said, after everyone had fallen asleep.
"For what?" Lavi asked, removing the cloth from his forehead. A gaping hole was directly in the center of his brow. It bubbled and bled outwards once the pressure was gone, so the redhead hastily covered it again, even when the liquid soaked through and coated his fingers in sticky crimson.
"For being so nice," Timothy said with a small smile.
"No problem, kid," Lavi said. By morning, his smile was set in stone and his chest no longer rose and fell with life. Lavi held the dead boy upon his lap without crying, even though he wanted to. Timothy had been so young. It wasn't fair.
It just wasn't fucking fair.
"Do you think…anyone is coming for us?" Lavi asked, through a swollen lip and black eye sometime a few nights after Timothy's body had turned cold and been carried away. He shivered to think of that kind boy in a shallow grave somewhere in this God-forsaken country.
"No," said Yuu, because his name was Yuu after all. His eyes were black as coal in the dark and Lavi looked down and away.
"You got a girl at home?" Lavi asked. Yuu didn't answer, giving Lavi the opportunity to pull out Lenalee's photograph again. It was worn, dog-eared at the corners. There was a crease down it too, but her smile was still resilient as ever. "I've got a girl at home. Waiting for me. Said she was gonna make dinner when I came back. And I said I was gonna marry her." Lavi gripped at his hair, his eye hot; the right one stung as it bled into the bandage. "I really wanted…to marry her…"
Yuu said nothing.
January brought school again, which led Lenalee back to high school. Her eyes were sadder now, gait slow and lethargic. She tapped her pencil in class and didn't take notes, staring out at the white landscape beyond the window during lecture. Gossip, girl chatter, and Allen Walker's constant concern were the things she desperately wanted to escape. She didn't want to talk, or be spoken to, or do anything at all. Her days at the diner were long stretches of time without smiles and shaking hands that carried cooled plates of pie to hungry customers.
At home, Lenalee sat in her room and read, and reread the letters from Lavi over and over again, despite knowing them by heart. She looked at the pictures and tried not to think about the redhead she'd fallen in love with, out on the battlefield where he had died so alone and abandoned. Lenalee felt a flicker of anger inside of her that was quickly extinguished. Krory hadn't had any other choice. He had to leave Lavi behind, even if he was still breathing.
"Lenalee," said Komui, one late night when she was already tucked into bed and trying to sleep. It never came to her, but she went through the motions anyway. Showering, dressing in comfortable pajamas, and then lying down upon crisp sheets for another sleepless night. Komui noticed. Her brother always noticed.
"Yes," she answered in quiet reply. The mattress dipped slightly as he sat down next to her. Her back to him, she was grateful she didn't have to meet his gaze.
"I…do you…do you need to talk with someone about this?" Komui asked.
"No," she said. "I'm fine."
"You don't seem fine," Komui countered.
"I just need time, brother," Lenalee said, stopping her tears momentarily by sheer force of will. Beneath her pillow, her pale hands clutched at Lavi's crinkled letters. Around her neck, the cool metal of his dog tags rested against her heart. The heart that had stopped beating when he died.
"Are you sure?" Komui asked.
"Yes," she said, her tears falling silently in the dark. "I'm sure."
Lavi lost count of the days.
There were so many days that blurred into too many long-suffering nights. The men in the cell next to theirs had been executed the day prior. Everyone had been ushered outside and forced to watch as a firing squad took down men in their ragged fatigues. Some prayed to God. Some wept. Others stared forward with their chins held high. They were all gunned down, sending a bloody mist skywards. It wasn't the artillery that was the most disturbing; it was the sound of their bodies slumping to the ground. It was watching as their life poured out of them and onto the ground, onto the flags upon their arms that they had fought so hard for.
Their battle was finally over.
"We're next," Yuu said, the night after it had happened. They were nursing injuries, huddling for warmth as the Japanese man said this. A heavy silence fell over them and all Lavi could hear was the sound of their breaths in the small space.
"I don't want to die," said the man next to Lavi. Everyone shook their head in agreement as Lavi pulled out Lenalee's photograph again, rubbing his thumb over the creased surface.
"Me neither," Lavi whispered softly in the dark, folding the picture and placing it back into his pocket. I'm sorry, Lenalee he thought, placing his palm over his heart. I'm sorry I had to break that promise to you. I thought that maybe somehow, someway, I'd get out of this, but…Heart still beating with life and will, Lavi looked up at the men who shared his prison. They were all from different places, different backgrounds, different races. But they were all men and they all had something to live for.
"I," Lavi began, bringing everyone's attention to him. It was something he hated: staring. It reminded him of the day he'd gone into the diner looking for something to drink. The intense stares from the crowd had been far from his mind after seeing her smile. The smile he so desperately wanted to see one more time.
"What?" asked Yuu gruffly, staring at him fixedly.
"I'm not…I'm not a religious man," said Lavi quietly, looking down with his only eye. He bit his lip. "But maybe…we should pray."
"Why would we do that?" Yuu asked. It wasn't meanly, it was merely curious. The men—no, they were really boys like him, weren't they?—had the same expression upon their own brows.
"Well…" Lavi said, a bit uncertainly. "Whoever your God is, or your Gods are, or even if you don't believe in any God at all…something….something has kept us alive up until now. Something wanted us to have time. Maybe something wanted us to be saved…" Lavi pulled out Lenalee's photograph again with gentle care to stare at her image. "Maybe something wanted us to have a second chance."
"What's the point in praying, then?" asked Yuu. "If we don't get our second chance?"
"To give us hope," Lavi replied, a small smile upon his lips. "For just one more night." He pressed a tender kiss to Lenalee's photograph. The man diagonal from him made the sign of the Cross, whispering the Lord's Prayer beneath his breath. The boy beside him began to mumble to himself in Hebrew, holding onto the hands of two others in their cell. Beside him, Yuu looked around uncomfortably, tugging at a long strand of his lanky black hair.
"I don't…know how to pray," the man admitted, leaning close to Lavi so to not interrupt anyone around them.
"Neither do I," Lavi replied, just as quietly. Lenalee returned to his breast pocket and his two dirty, bloody hands instead held Kanda's. "But I think I know how to start." Yuu closed his eyes; Lavi followed suit.
And they prayed.
It was Valentine's Day when Lenalee found herself in the school counselor's office. She shuffled her feet against the white floor, listening to the sounds outside in the hallway, of girls giggling as they ran passed with boys' names upon their lips. It smelled like flowers and chocolate and young love just about to bloom. Such a pity that hers had shriveled and died so quickly and in such infancy.
Across from her, the counselor—Ms. Anderson—sat, waiting for her to speak. She had nothing to say. There was nothing to say. The love of her life was dead and gone and she was left to pick up the pieces. Lavi had said in his letter to her that he wished he never walked into the diner that day, so that he could have spared her the heartache. But then when he went and said later on that he was selfish and would have done everything over again, Lenalee couldn't more heartily agree. Despite the pain, she had been so happy when Lavi was alive. Her ring finger felt empty and her mouth was dry.
She never got to say "yes."
"Is there anything you want to talk about, Lenalee?" asked the kindly woman across the expanse of a wide oak desk.
"Not really," Lenalee answered, tucking some hair behind her ear.
"Your brother is worried about you," Ms. Anderson said. Lenalee stared stubbornly at the mug of pencils on the counselor's desk instead of into her eyes. She couldn't do that without crying. Just like she couldn't look at the letters Lavi wrote her or the metal that sat untouched in its black box on the windowsill. Her eyes felt hot just thinking about it. "As are some of your classmates."
"I'm fine," Lenalee said, her voice as hollow as her chest.
"Talking about it might make you feel better," replied the other woman.
"No," said Lenalee, looking up at her with tears in her brown eyes. "No it won't."
When he awoke, it was to sunshine. Clean sheets, fresh air. Flowers somewhere, distant. The sounds of people walking, speaking outside. Carts rattling. Breathing, beeping, a window open allowing the breeze inside. Transparent tubes dripped clear liquid in rhythm. Down, down, dripping, dripping. His brow furrowed, slightly annoyed at the sound. Body aching, head hurting, he wanted nothing but silence. Silence and something else…but he'd forgotten the words, random pictures in his mind of something he could barely remember.
"These are the prisoners from the Vietnamese prison outside of Sol," said a woman's voice, ringing with clarity in the room. "We have five identified. The other three are John Doe until they wake up. No dog tags on any of them." The sound of a man's low tenor replied. "Of course. I'll let you know immediately if there is any change." With that said, footsteps hurried away down the hallway until he couldn't hear them any longer. Instead, it was all the other noise followed by the sharp clack of a woman's heel on linoleum floors. A long stretch of time passed where he listened to her check on other occupants of the room before she finally was before him, her green eyes wide in surprise.
"Y-You're awake!" she cried, immediately setting out to checking him over, moving his aching limbs more than he felt she had to. "How do you feel?" she asked.
"Thirsty," he murmured, glad when she brought him a drink of cold water. It felt like he hadn't had something to drink in a long time.
"How are your injuries?" she inquired when he'd had his fill, turning to furiously scribble away on her clipboard.
"Kind of…hurts…" he managed to say, and she nodded without pausing in writing.
"I'll up your pain medication," she informed him, stilling her pen. "But you're going to be in a little bit of discomfort for a while. Those soldiers didn't know there were prisoners inside until the last moment. A lot of you were injured."
"Prisoners?" he repeated, not understanding. He couldn't remember anything about a jail. But then again, he couldn't really remember much about anything at all.
"Yes. You were a prisoner of war," she said softly, touching his bandaged head with a sympathetic look.
"Oh," was all he could manage to say. Her expression turned into something he had no name for.
"Do you…remember what happened?" she asked.
"No," he said honestly, an unsettling feeling sinking into his body. His injured head ached as his brain struggled to find information hidden in the dense fog of his mind. Don't ask that question. Don't ask…
"Do you remember your name?" she inquired, his fears realized.
"No," he answered, closing his eye against the sun and her eyes and the beeping, ringing, clattering sounds around him. "I don't."
I'm so mean.
More to come.