"Mine - and Not"

Karasu spends most of his days alone.

It's not his choice. It's not even his instinct. There is nothing that he wants more than to leave the storage room with its dusty floors and cobwebbed corners and sleep in the bedroom right next to it (she's offered, so many times). Part of him (a small part, but still) even wants to dress in the clothes of this dimension, to go with her when she runs her errands, to watch her play with her friends (she always looks back before she leaves, hoping he'll have changed his mind). There is no one, not now, not then, not whenever or wherever that he loves more than her.

This is why he sits here, alone.

He shifts, a small movement made more out of desire to do something rather than out of any actual discomfort. It's late - perhaps midnight or even later, judging by the quiet of the house - but he hasn't the will to sleep. Energy flows through his veins, burning his skin and demanding to be unleashed. It doesn't show though - it never does. His unwavering stoicism is what earned him his name and he can't remember it ever failing him, aside from two very notable exceptions.

Of course, both exceptions revolved around her.

He shuts his eyes, focuses on stilling his own breath to listen to hers. It isn't long before he hears it - tiny, fragile, but there, music that only he can appreciate.

He counts them (one, two, three) and then stops himself. It isn't right to hear her; he hasn't earned that privilege yet. It's difficult, reminding himself. She isn't his - or isn't yet. The latter seems much more likely now. Though she hasn't called him it, he knows she thinks of him as the future Yu - and being the Dragon Torque, reality would have to follow suit. He's tried to dissuade her from the idea by not affirming it directly, but he can see it in the way she looks at him when she thinks he won't notice (as if there is ever a time where he is not fully aware of her tiniest flinch) or the way she looks at Yu. Whether she's seen any actual resemblance, he isn't quite sure, but the puzzle of it seems to endlessly fascinate her.

It's strange - to feel pleasure from being chosen, and despair from the consequences. Because she can't just choose him, she'd have to choose all of it and that included La'cryma. She'd have to choose the terror, the bloodshed, the martial rule; her own destruction, him standing there useless, unable to stop it -

A knock stops his thought but the voice extinguishes it entirely.

"Karasu?"

He looks up as the door opens, not waiting for a response. She knows better by now than to expect one.

"Oh good," Haruka whispers, her smile shining brighter than the light behind her. "You're awake."

She closes the door behind her and toes in, oddly hesitant and suddenly quiet. Having nothing to say himself, the room is left in awkward silence, as she switches on the light and walks over to sit next to him. It's a safe distance - she is (always was, always will be) strangely aware of the boundaries he's drawn for himself - but with an air of falsehood about it. Perhaps it's the way she's clearly forcing herself to avoid looking at him; or perhaps he simply knows her too well. Either way, he knows she's just biding her time, leaning over the cliff to see how far the fall is.

She speaks, and he steadies himself.

"I hope I didn't wake you."

He relaxes - but only slightly.

"I mean," she continues, "I did just kind of assume, but you could have woken up when I knocked on the door."

He stops her then, knowing she'll just keep going if he doesn't, rambling as far as her nerves could take her. "I wasn't sleeping."

"Okay."

Another silence. Then:

"Why were you awake? You're not still hurt or anything, are you?"

Her words, of course. He shakes his head, and she smiles.

"I guess tonight's just a night for being awake then."

Silence comes again, but it's interrupted by a patter at the window - rain. It's light at first, but it doesn't take long for the storm to grow in force, driving the quiet back with steady fire. It's a welcome event, both for the noise and for the climate (it's been hot, far too hot, and nowhere is it hotter than the storage room at midday), but it's only a distraction for so long.

"Karasu?" she calls again.

"You are Yu, aren't you?"

He keeps silent again, and she continues in a rush, "I guess that's a silly thing to ask. I know you're Yu; I can see it. It's just that I was thinking that you two don't look the same like Ai looks like herself or Isami looks like himself, or even like Miho looks like her daughter. And, I was thinking of how even though they were different and older, I couldn't stop myself from thinking of them like I think of them in this dimension, but - "

She stops, suddenly unsure of herself, but it's only a momentary hesitation. "But I don't think of you like I think of Yu, Karasu."

No. He keeps his voice level as he suggests (hoping, praying, that she'll accept), "You didn't know the others in my dimension for very long. You didn't have time to see them as different people."

She thinks about this for a second. "But I do know you, which is why I see you differently?"

Yes. He grunts an affirmative, and she thinks about it again.

"I guess that makes sense then, when you say it like that."

There's another pause, but he knows better then to think it'll last. Very soon, she starts again: "So why don't you look like him?"

He doesn't answer immediately. Words are a careful business, the wrong one having the power to change everything with someone like her listening. "There are many possible reasons."

"Like?"

"Simply time, for one."

She considers this. "I guess a lot can happen in 15 years, huh?"

She can't possibly understand how true her words are.

"Do you mind if I look?"

He turns to her, betraying nothing as he takes in her wide eyed expression and she continues, "I just want to see if I can find the similarities."

"No" is the answer he should give. No, go to bed, go to sleep, forget about it.

Forget about me.

But he's tired, energy all burnt out, and she's here, she's here, so the words all die at his lips. He finds himself sitting up straighter. To her (only her, always her), it could only be seen as a "Yes". She scuttles closer, slowly, intentionally so. She's trying not to seem too excited - she probably didn't think he'd allow her (and he shouldn't, so why is he?)

She's not his Haraku.

She's not his Haraku.

She's not his -

Her hand wavers, an inch from his face, before finally making contact.

But she is a Haruka.

He stares at her, eyes intense as always, but she doesn't back away - instead, she gently pulls back his hair from his face, trying to make an opening in the long silver mess. Once satisfied, she sits back on her heels and looks up with an expression of scrutiny so earnest it might have made him laugh, in another time.

Or would make the him of this time laugh.

"You have the same nose," she proclaims. "I couldn't see it before, but you definitely do. And I already knew about the eyes."

There. Done.

Yet she doesn't take her hand away, so he raises his own and grips her wrist, tightly but not too tightly. He doesn't carry the movement through though. It wouldn't help if he did - he needs her to make the decision now, to not want to continue in this dangerous fashion. He just needs to remind her, because as long as she isn't stepping down, he needs to do it. He has to be the mature one here - and what a strange reversal of roles that is. His Haruka always had to be responsible for both of them - he didn't have the temperament.

'I guess a lot can happen in 15 years.' It was still so painfully true.

"You should sleep," he says, when her hand remains undaunted by his.

"I can't."

"Try."

He pushes her hand down, decisively but gently - he's aware of how much stronger he is than her physically - but she doesn't move from her spot in front of him, proving how much stronger she is where it really counts (always was, always will be).

"When did your hair grey?"

He doesn't answer. She doesn't even wait for one anyway, because she continues: "I can't think of him like I think of you. He's not you."

Silence envelops them again, the rain having finished its attack at some point. They somehow just didn't notice, too lost in themselves to care.

She raises her hand again (for what purpose, he didn't know) but he stops it. He says the only thing he can say - the dooming statement he never wanted to commit to existence, even as he sees it already becoming set in stone: "But he will be."

And until that day, you can't be mine.


So, yeah. I wrote this what seems like forever ago - heck, I think I still had Audley betaing when I did this (on that note, I'm not entirely sure whether or not she did this, and my current beta hasn't gotten to me on it yet; it's such a small little fic though that I've looked at dozens of times that I'm putting it up just for the sake of getting something up, with the promise that I will fix any typos or errors you guys might catch and replace it with the betaed product ASAP; and dang, longest parenthetical ever, huh?). I just never put it up because I wasn't sure about it, either in terms of the story itself or how it would be interpreted given the exact versions that are involved here (I find the dynamic absolutely fascinating but I can see how others might be uncomfortable). However, reading back over it and fixing it up (which took longer than it took to write it, I think), I decided to just bite the bullet, so here we are.

Happy Valentine's Day. Until we meet again.