Happy 3rd anniversary of joining FanFiction . Net to me! I can't believe I kept writing for all these years.
The second installment to this will be posted sometime…I don't know when. If you could spare some concrit for both chapters, I'd love it.
I tried to give all three pairings in this equal importance, but my bias leaked in and I gave way too much attention to the last pair. It kind of became its own separate, monstrously long oneshot.
:the human condition:
Between them on the bed was a crumpled excess of pearl-grey sheets, a wrinkled border somehow twisted during their sleep to separate them. Smiling, he pulled one end of the bedding towards him and it straightened out. Very quietly so she wouldn't wake, he set to straightening out the numerous other sheets one by one. The precision of the task compelled him, for it made him aware of her every breath and that he was treading softly on her consciousness each time a sheet glided over her body.
The border disappeared, the sky whitened, and she woke anyway with the sheets taut over her belly. He sank one hand in her hair and pretended it had been there all along. "Hi…"
She turned towards him and they tangled legs. "Good morning." Her face lacked the somberness that was always around it, a tiny inhibited spark in her eyes gone for the better. "Is your body better?"
She touched the back of her finger against his cheek. The past few days he had found that matter was more sensitive than antimatter, and the darkened patch of skin tingled and shivered, making his lips part in surprise. He told her he was fine.
They lay there for a while, listening to the awakening morning. Last night they were enraptured in lust, but this, the aftermath, was peaceful and wholesome. Yet still there was a leaden weight in his chest, a heart useless to him because he could not die here permanently. This world had no hold on him, and it was wrong to stay while he knew what was going to happen to it.
When she was almost back asleep, he decided she had a right to know as well. It was too cruel to bed her and leave her longing for time that was out of both their grasps. Slowly he moved closer and whispered on her eyelids, "Want me to tell you something I know?"
She nodded. He closed his eyes and soothed the curve of her back with his fingers.
"It's about the sky. Your father's going to bring it down."
A tiny huff of resignation escaped her lips. "Please…not in the morning…"
"You should know this." He trailed fingers down her scalp. It was an apology of sorts, telling her, because he shouldn't have gotten swept away in human desires and damned them both. "The final few days of the Sheltering Sky are here. The cocoon will be split wide open. All things will come to closure."
She curled a hand and her eyes lifted, a challenge in them. "You're still preaching him?"
"And the new humanity will arise," he continued, "from this Cleansing Flood."
He kept her too tight in his grasp to let her turn away. Her voice grew somber again, her face quickly resuming the mask of indifference and self-sufficiency he'd peeled away in one night. "And you and your friends will orchestrate it…yes?"
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because I don't want you to be taken by surprise when it happens. You deserve to know."
"No…that's not what I mean. Why tell me this now?" She shook her head, stifling her voice so that only breathy, trembling whispers passed through. "We're here now, aren't we? None of that is going to happen yet. I want to stay here with you. Why say it now?"
She held his forearm and his shoulder and refused to let him go.
He said, "Don't be worried. The Cleansing Flood is only an end of the material world. Our spirits will carry on." As much as he wanted to wipe away her tears, he knew it was better to leave them be.
"What proof is there of that? Is that something you know, too?" She clung on stubbornly. "I'm material and you're becoming material too."
He could not answer her. He knew—it was something he knew without question—but his regret was for his incapability of expressing it to her. How did he know? That could not be explained; it pulsed through the veins of the world and resonated in that indistinct flow the universe kept, but you couldn't put it into words.
He pressed his forehead to hers anyway and tried to tell her, but she could only keep crying.
"I wonder what it really means," she was saying as she invited herself into his room unasked and twirled the edges of her mink coat before shucking it off on a chair. "Cleansing Flood…"
He was sitting in a rocking chair, staring out far past the window into the wavering sky, but gave it up once she jumped onto his bed and wrinkled the covers. Lately she'd been doing that a lot, coming into his hotel room at whatever time of day without regard to him. He thought part of the reason was so she could have somewhere to lick her wounds without being alone; Tatsuya had been out of reach the past few days, quietly secluding himself from her, poring over his sister's cocooned body.
"Still puzzling over it?" he asked.
"What Kiyoko-san said." She shrugged helplessly. "I just don't get it. Do you?"
She sat, twisting her hair around her hand mindlessly. "Really? What a bummer, I thought you were supposed to know everything."
"Maybe, but I was never that contemptuous about it," he replied wryly.
"Oh, you…you annoy me. So you don't know, after all. For once all that maturity and… studiousness the Countess praises you for didn't help, right?"
He waited for her to take back the statement, hands folded in his lap. She looked cross, her lipstick smudged and her eyes slightly veined with red. He resigned himself to another one of her sulks, assuming another failed attempt at comforting Tatsuya.
After two seconds' pause she caved in, saying, "Sorry. I am grateful to you about what you did for me, though. I wouldn't have been brave enough to go to my original's house on my own."
"Nothing to be grateful of," he said frankly. "My past is yours. And Tohru's. We had to do it."
"I know. I'm satisfied now. But I can't stop thinking that these days are going to be so…fleeting."
She lay back down onto his bed. He watched her from the window. "I don't know. But Kiyoko-san said something is going to happen to the sky. Twice before something has been done to it: once from XX and then from the October Project—see that broken tower? So many people died that I wonder if this Cleansing Flood won't end up as another apocalypse, you know?"
The mattress creaked as she settled on her back, staring at him upside-down through her mascara and waiting for him to fashion an answer.
And whatever answers there were eluded him wherever he turned, to look outside the window at the passing shadows of clouds or to look inside her pale blue eyes. He couldn't know, only peruse reason and rationale, things the world often rejected in favor of spontaneity. "Yes, but both times people survived those apocalypses. If it is an end, some people are sure to last through it."
"But what about us?"
That caught him off guard. Suddenly her upside-down features were wrinkled and her eyes squinting out tears, before she turned over and smothered her face in his pillow, her voice rising muffled from it.
"I want you and me to survive it. I think we did a lot to get to the truth about ourselves, and we deserve to know that truth a little longer, a lot longer…I think after all the shit we've been through, we deserve to be old and happy, not to die like our originals!"
She was angry, her head down against his pillow, the bed shaking a little. Again he waited, this time for her hysterics to pass, because they were too intense to last. She'd tire out and recharge, then approach Tatsuya again, be driven away by his refusal to open up, and come barging into his room. He knew her better than he knew himself; funny that she always kept him waiting but he'd never dream of leaving.
For all her wit she was beyond words, and if he told her they wouldn't cease to exist and other dreamt-up lullabies she wouldn't be comforted. So instead he said, "Hey, stop that. You'll get your lipstick all over my pillow, and I'll have to sleep on it tonight."
The words sounded frivolous to him, but she lifted her head partway and he saw she wasn't crying anymore. Instead her cerulean eyes sparkled in a familiar way, the sun striking the incoming waves like a layer of tinfoil on the tides.
"Come here," she said, pouting and turning onto her back again. "You're so far away."
He rolled his eyes but stood anyway and wandered over to his bed, where she guided him onto it like it was hers by tugging on his wrist insistently. He held her by the biceps and kissed her, trying to put unsaid things into every touch. She seemed to understand. She seemed to be too hooked into the moment to wonder about the sky and the Flood, hooked in a careless manner he could never replicate, but that was the way she lived. He knew her better…
By day, this had been a ghost town. It only came alive at night, by degrees, one neon sign at a time. The Core Settlement had lit up like a colony of fireflies, too fiercely ensconced in its own earthly light to give the heavens any call. Disco clubs threw patterns of luminous spots outside. Many a drunken couple staggered out of a bar to jump into public fountains and make love above all the pennies and wishes sunk to the bottom. People forgot about the sky here and indulged in the nightlife, becoming slaves of the body and tormentors of the soul.
That had ended, partly because of their interference to the one company sponsoring the Settlement. She lay a hand on a cool cavalcade of stones unearthed from the cracks in pavement. Rocks and debris were what had come out of this doll of a city.
Walking a little further, she could see the damaged horizon, a line of buildings in which some had fallen from view or slanted with their upper stories blown off. The Turangalila had been a part of that line, and now it stood with its top snapped off somewhere, its garnish of an angel buried under the city it had guarded.
She stopped, reaching another area where the Core Settlement had violently turned inside out. She'd come for this. The rocks had blood on them, long-dried blood where she had once been stumbling along and mourning the weight of her left leg, shot through with a substance that converted her body to a hazy blue finish of matter.
Touching one of those rocks wouldn't tell what happened to her after death. How could she know whether the cockroaches set her down on their spears or if they rent her body apart by ripping them out? The blood was no clue, only evidence that her previous lifetime was accounted for and real. A small portion of the rock crumbled in her hand, and she let the pieces fall over the road. To think that the only proofs of her existence were the bloodstains on these rocks and perhaps a carnal glint in that depraved man's eyes…if little remained of that life, did that mean little it accomplished?
—Visiting the grave, hmm? his voice rang in her mind, a fellow Gilgamesh. —And scattering the ashes…
—Where are you? she asked, though she knew she could be aware of his presence just as he was of hers.
—Here and there. I'll come. It must be disheartening to see the place of one's own death.
He teleported before her, landing on tiptoe. He leaned against a protruding slab of rock, catching a few rays of sun that rolled and spread over his belly, eyes hazel with a pearly luster.
"It must be most disheartening for you, considering this whole city is your grave," she said.
"I don't think so."
"It is," she insisted. "You died up in that tower and it affected everything down here."
"Not that." He idly traced the juts and curves of the rock with the backs of his hands, then pulled them back to his lap. "It's not disheartening. I think the Settlement has never looked better. That tower was a curse on the city, and I brought it down."
He met her eyes as if asking her to challenge that. She couldn't.
His eyebrow was raised, his fingers drumming away on his thighs. Nothing was missing of him, but everything was infinitely changed, like her. To live once and die was a wholly different experience than to die and be reborn. She remembered nothing of that in-between, huddled with him and the others in a state of nonbeing, close to Mother's womb before being fully recast into a body. If she died now, again and again and again, she would regain physical form and consciousness, up until the Flood came to wipe everything clean. Far from giving her a sense of invincibility, it weighed down her limbs and tied her to the earth.
"Don't enjoy it too much," she warned him. "Nothing can outlast the Flood."
He looked at her, then boldly raised his eyes towards the jagged skyline. "Of course you'd say that. You have such high standards. How were you able to survive these last fifteen years, being so unyielding?"
"I have been anticipating this time." She stared at his collarbone and then at his hair, the same burgundy-auburn color of the blood on the rocks. She remembered those times from the past life when they were partners in the Turangalila operation and before, when roaming the city on the day the sky turned blue, he'd commented on how beautiful it looked. "Have you grown attached to this place?"
He denied it, and now his gaze drifted downwards like a handful of ashes on the wind. "But we might as well get a feel for this while we're here."
"Why bother?" she murmured. "Neither my blood or the ruins of this city will remain in the millennia to come. By then, what will attest to the fact we were once here?"
She again touched the stained rocks. They were cold from laying in the shade. He looked up.
"You've been trying to come to terms with the end," he said, "Something you regret of the way you've lived?"
"No," she said. "We are to play the part of machines. It doesn't pay to feel with our objectives."
"No, it doesn't," he agreed, shrugging. "But I bet you want to feel anyway, hmm? Despite the inconveniences, we are humans as much as we are gods. We feel the pull of emotion as strongly as the pull of denying that emotion in favor of power. But neither takes priority so we can't have both." Then he blinked away and ran a hand through his hair. "I guess I took that risk of letting myself feel, didn't I?"
"You must find it unbearable now to die," she said. "It couldn't have been worth it."
"Oh, you wouldn't know that. If you look at the world and give yourself to the human condition, you see beauty in all things. Even more so because we've been focused on thinking like gods and calculating things for their value all our lives."
They were the ones who transcended flesh and blood, given superior genes. They were the experts of the body. She studied him and observed his open palms, the lean curve of his torso relaxing against the rock, the way it resonated in tandem with the quietness of his mind she felt like a presence in her own.
"I don't understand," she said. "If you have lapsed into your emotions for this earth and the people on it, how can you be so peaceful anticipating their end and yours?"
"I don't think it's the end," he said. "You asked what outlasts the Flood."
"We will," he said, and came forward. "People will. Humans will, their spirits will, their souls will. I feel it. It's somewhere in the air." In one motion he undid the two buckles on her neckpiece and let it fall to the ground like a cuff. Then he carefully touched a vein on her bare neck, and she could feel her pulse echoed in his fingers as he came close.
"It's not the Professor's will for us to survive," she protested softly, and they backed up until the insides of her knees met with another large rock.
"No, it's something else," he murmured.
"What else?" she breathed, her lips softening, grabbing onto the rock behind her because she suddenly felt unsteady. She knew his answer before it came.
"Something that the Flood can't destroy when it comes. Feel it? It's not out of our reach…"
They sunk to the ground on which she had died, in the city he had given his life to bring down, and as she tangled fingers in his wild red hair she saw the sky above her in whatever space he didn't take up. It was pale pink and blue and shiny purple like the inside of a seashell, and as he kissed the plait around her forehead she saw it slowly coming down to swallow them both. In a couple of days it would lower fully to consume them, but for now when she looked up the lights in the sky seemed like ghosts dancing above.