in unending storms
in unending storms
we search for space to breathe
how our hearts are worn
we've come so far.
'Shine', Vienna Teng
Linali takes a deep breath, closes her eyes: Dark Boots are heavy and yet light when she jumps up high in the air, and it seems effortless to push herself up and away from the laws of gravity that say that she will fall, must fall.
For all that she hates these boots, there is a second, before she has to start practice or before she has to fight the akuma, before the weight of her imposed shackles settles down when she's free: it's her and the sky and breathing in and out, no past and no future. Way up high, there is always a second where it would be just oh so easy to forget and keep on going high up, reach over the clouds.
Then she feels again: Komui. Her brother waiting back at Head Quarters, her brother perhaps looking up, doing his best to keep his face from showing too much concern, her brother waiting for her and she remembers that these days she doesn't want to fly away.
Linali then twists, turns around and fights for her brother, fights for the people who now mean home.
Komui's dreams are in Chinese, soft watercolor tones, jasmine tea and peach scented. He opens his eyes and there's laughter, Linali playing with Ah-lam and with Xiao Ling with dolls their mother made for them, Mother chiding him about falling asleep instead of studying, Father and Sheng already inside from working on the fields.
When he sits up, Komui doesn't dare take a deep breath, knowing this is a dream and knowing it will end. But meanwhile he has two little sisters and two little brothers, a Father and a Mother, and when he is up Xiao Ling and Linali run towards him, hugging him, asking for another story please, brother, tell us more about the stars, and Ah-lam smiles at him and rolls pretty gray eyes even as she goes to help mother, even though she looks pale, still sick.
In his dreams, his sisters are sixteen and six years old, his brothers eighteen and ten years old, and Ah-lam will get married soon, as soon as she recovers a little. Komui tries to tell them that she won't get better, that she will die at sixteen, and that their mother will be heartbroken, but that it will be Sheng the one to make the pact with the Earl of the Millenium, and no-one will know anything about it but Linali, sweet Linali with her eyes that are always a little too wide, a little too focused, the only one who suddenly was scared of kind, patient Sheng.
His dreams remain peach-and-rose, Mother's herbs in their jars and Father's old coat on the wall even when Sheng unravels, unfolds, twists upon himself and grows up into a monster, and the monster that once was his brother kills Mother and Father, devours Xiao Ling when he trips and Komui won't ever forget his eyes right then.
And Linali doesn't scream as he holds her, even as she keeps on crying, big fat tears rolling down her sweet little face, and Komui presses her face against his chest, whispers to hell to hold on tight and Komui just prays so that whatever happens now will be quick, so he doesn't see the quick flash of silver and gold that wraps around Linali's ankles, doesn't see the way that seems to stop the monster from killing them both.
The scent of dark, heavy coffee makes him open his eyes, remembering who he is, where he is, why he fights for: he locks his dreams deep inside and searches for his smile.
Linali's first memory is of fire and screams, her brother's arms tight around her, too tight, something too heavy on her feet. She could feel the way Komui was shaking, pressing her face against his chest.
"Don't look, Butterfly, don't look," he kept on saying, and with the way he was holding her, she could hear the way Komui's heart was beating – thumpthumpthumpthumpthump – something to almost drown away the screams that kept on saying 'monster, monster'.
So she clung to her brother and closed her eyes tight; closed them to the flash of red light that her brother's chest wasn't enough to hide, closed her eyes to the people that were running around them like ants did, closed them to everything but this nightmare, closed her eyes to the confusion and the pain in her throat and in her chest and.
Seconds after that, they were caught.
There is blood on her uniform. It takes Linali a few moments to realize this, because everywhere she looks there is gray and white and black, no other color here in this place. Everything is black and white and gray, even the monsters she has to fight, black and white and gray with only blood on their faces.
She tries to walk and she can't; Linali looks down and finds glass stuck to her thigh, cutting through her uniform, and the Finders come to her, tell her not to try and pull it out and she obeys, waits for the General to come by.
Linali's tired but not hungry, and even when she lays down she can't sleep. There is no difference at all whether she has her eyes open or not, no difference at all if she speaks or not, if she dreams, talks or even breaths.
No-one would miss her, she's sure. Linali thinks she remembers someone with kind words, with careful hands. Brother, she called him, but she doesn't remember much more, and she could have imagined him, like all the other people she has seen in the Order that doesn't really exist, people that have smiled at her and been kind, but when she asked for them no-one knew about them.
No-one would know about her, too, and there'd be no-one to cry for her. Not in this white-gray-black world with white-gray-black people, not in this world with monsters and boots that let her fly but not high enough, never high enough, boots that crushed her legs day after day to make sure she would never, never, run away.
Rinali takes out the glass from her thigh and she is surprised, for a moment, when the blood that comes out is red.
When he arrives at England, his English is perfect but for the light tilt from his accent, softening around the 's' and the 'r' every now and then, and he has spent the last three and a half years doing nothing but what he's been ordered, trying not to look too closely at the faces of the Exorcists, because if he does all he will see is Linali's face and he's not strong enough not to crumble. He's known more than enough people in the last few years that have died for this cause, more than enough people that haunt his dreams.
"You will be supervised," Komui is informed, and he tries to keep his heart from hammering too hard inside his chest. "You will only be allowed to see her three times a week at first, at least for two months."
Until they decide that he won't take off with a precious Exorcist.
He had considered that at first, when he had just joined as a finder. He'd find his sister and he'd get away, find somewhere to hide. Before he had joined the Scientific division, before he learned about people Falling.
Now, Komui thinks, he'll find a way to help Linali from inside, will make their jail as bright and kind to her as he can. He has seen children who should be laughing withering inside the walls of every quarter he has been in his way to Europe, children with empty eyes and mouths that no longer remember how to smile.
So if his heart breaks when he sees his little sister for the first time in more than three years, he says nothing of it. He nods his head towards the matron, makes a distant note to remember the kindness in her eyes when she touched his arm and Komui walks to Linali's bed, sits down by her side.
She looks so big and so small at the same time. Komui has to take deep breathes to stop himself from crying when he sees her bound, when he sees how thin she is, her face pale and bruised, as if every bit of sunlight had left her.
Linali startles when he touches her face, her eyes too wide, her breathing fast and heavy. Komui makes his voice as soft as possible and he speaks in soft Chinese.
"I'm home, Linali."
Somewhere deep inside of her, Linali knows that there are secrets her brother hasn't told her. Sometimes, when he thinks she's not watching, Komui watches her as if it hurt. She has never truly asked about China, about the six years she has no memory of, and in her selfishness, she isn't sure she wants to know.
Her chain is linked to his for good, within their secrets and things that are real, within the ghosts they know and the ones that just whisper secrets against their ears. Linali flies with shackles around her ankles that make sure that she won't ever fly away, she dances up into the sky even when she feels the weight pull her down, always down.
She smiles at Komui and she thinks: I'll be back, I'll always be back, there is no way that I wouldn't come back.
"Wish me luck," she says instead and drinks the Innocence, drinks her blood, makes sure she will be able to fight once more.
Because her brother will always be there, Linali knows, the strength she never had before, even with blood on her hands, with crushed dreams and life that has gone by.