"The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul"*
by Lachesis Fatali

I've read a good share of "after death" stories between Hokotu and Seichirou which have everything happily resolved within seconds, the two reverting back to their old mannerisms with total forgiveness, and to be honest, I just don't see it happening. There *is* an undeniable bond between them, but he killed her and she killed him. That does not make for a particularly healthy relationship. Not to mention the Subaru issue. So this is just my idea of their "afterlife". Enjoy.

(* title blatantly stolen from the Douglas Adams book of the same name ^^;)

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She looks like a normal girl.

Her skin is pale cream and satin textured, an ever so delicate flush of good health apparent on her sculpted cheeks. She is thin, but not overly so; just the willowy slender form of a teenage girl. Ebony hair creates a stark contrast to her pale beauty, bringing to mind the myth of Snow White, two extremes blended together in harmony in one body. Black and white never suited her tastes, though; her costume more than makes up for her natural starkness, it's deep red and darkened silver tones spread about her on the ground like flower petals, delicate ruffles of blood and starlight. She looks ethereal; she looks divine. If there was any fault to her form, it might be the almost comical wideness of her eyes, their sparkling green depths still displaying a hint of youthful naiveté and mischief, but more importantly an unswerving innocence. A smile quirks at the corner of her delicate rouge lips, and she places a single card face down in front of her in triumph, looking ridiculously pleased with herself.

You would not know she was a killer.

You would not know that she is dead.

If you did know, and addressed her as such, it would not make any difference in her perception, or your perception of her. She would merely laugh merrily, the sound of a thousand crystal bells shattering on cold stone, the ruffles of her silk gown echoing as she turned to you. I had to protect my brother, she would say, shaking an admonishing finger at you, winking. What good would I be if I didn't look out for him?

But that does not change what she is. What she did. A man is dead because of her; another dies slowly, his soul torn between she and her deed, between one love and another. She does not see, because she does not wish too. And not seeing provides a barrier between herself and what she has done, reality suspended by a fervent whim. It is much the same way that people perceive her. They want to see a girl, they want to see a child brimming with life and joy and hope, not the hardened, darkened, loving killer that she has become. So she smiles, and offers them tea, hiding her bloodstained hands behind grace and ruffled regalia.

She flips another card over, frowning at it this time. It takes much of her concentration, what little power she has left, to see these glimpses of the future. And what she sees does not please her. Evil begets evil, and revenge begets revenge. Whatever you do to another shall be paid back to you threefold. Everything has a consequence. All things she has heard before, but she has ignored them. What she has become weighs even more heavily upon her now, but she still denies it.

Especially now that *he* is here.

He sits on the ground across from her, sipping carefully from one of the perfect china teacups she brought with her picnic basket. He appears her opposite, but you also gain the deep, abiding feeling that they are connected, that somehow his soul and hers are of the same kind. Pale but ethereal, dark and light, his one good eye deep amber and wise as time, though less moral. People sometimes perceive him as charming; but here his presence is unsettling and foreboding; a eloquence of form which hides a dark intent, swathed in black robes of his desire and design. He knows what he is, and he is at peace with it: a killer, a liar, a minion of evil in a world that has already seen far too much. He is more truthful than she, and therefore less dangerous, less dark. But they are so alike.

She has yet to acknowledge that.

"What do you see," he asks, the alto timbre of his voice sardonically amused. He never believed in fate while he was alive; he sees no reason to change that now. She smiles up at him from her work, the gesture tinged with the love and hatred that remains of their shared life.

"Subaru is suffering because of you. Again." The words are cheerfully said, but the remark is biting, holding a deeply hidden enmity. She hates him; oh how she hates him, this dark phantom with whom she now spends her days. But she loves him also, loves who he once was and even who he is now. Her love is unconditional.

"He needn't. Everything has been resolved." He never learned how to love.

She does not look up again, flipping another card over bitterly. "You knew this would happen. You planned it from the beginning."

He is wise enough not to deny it to her. He merely smiles lazily, glancing around at the Eden like surroundings, feeling the warm yet empty glow of the false sun they have created in their world as he reclines back against a sakura tree. "I knew he loved me, yes."

"That doesn't answer my question," she rebukes calmly, but does not push him further. It has always been as such them. There were rules that both observed, boundaries they did not cross. Even in death, they hold. "More tea, Sei-chan?"

He accepts her offer gravely, smirking as he raises the cup to his lips. "Not poisoned, I hope."

Her laughter is somewhat forced. "You insult my hospitality."

"It is because of you, I am here." The words are simple, but they hold a deeper meaning, pulling the darkness she hides to the surface. "You are somewhat responsible for my death."

"You had a choice." The merriment in her voice is somewhat more genuine now, the sparkle of mischief and a plan well though out apparent in her eyes. "All you had to do was leave him be. To walk away." She nibbles almost absentmindedly on a scone, the crumbs disappearing before they touch the immaculate silk of her frock. "Besides, I thought is was only fair, considering you're somewhat responsible for my death."

He nods sagely. He is no stranger to regret and revenge. "Yet we both died for the same reason. We both killed for the same reason." There is something freeing in the words. "We did it for him."

She giggles, breaking the solemnity of the moment, looking for all the world like a lost little girl led astray by a big bad wolf. To be frank, it is not far from the truth. "You're quite the romantic, for someone who claims not to love."

An elegant bow is her answer. "Chivalry at your service."

"My knight in shining armor," she teases, her voice somewhat softened. It almost seems a return to the way things were, to the light and incense of childhood when she played matchmaker for her sibling and this dark man, admiring the lovely, tragic picture they made together. Light and dark, good and evil. The Eternal enemies and Eternal loves, bound together in reams of crimson thread by time and destiny. That is how she pictures them. Naïve, perhaps, but also true.

Fools and children tell the truth. She is one. He is another.

"You're not the only one he loves," she informs him, watching him for a reaction almost curiously. If she expects one, she will be disappointed. She tires of his stoic demeanor, and returns to her cards, admiring what she has wrought in fate. "There is another. And he's a cutie too." The words are punctuated with a wink and a sparkling grin.

He frowns then, but does not look overly perturbed. "I assume you refer to the Kamui of Heaven." It is not a question.

Her smile is all but radiant. "Of course." His frown deepens, and she sighs, reaching across the gulf between them to ruffle his hair. "Don't worry, you're cute too. And he still loves you, despite the fact you're a heartless bastard."

Insults return him to firmer ground. "A loveable heartless bastard," he corrects, grinning charmingly though his eyes are cold, dispassionate. He may not feel love, but he feels possession. He feels jealousy and hate. Love is merely a combination of these; it cannot be that different. "I'm rather hurt that he replaced me so quickly."

"Silly," is her affectionate response. "I said he still loves you. You stole his heart." Her voice hardens slightly as she remembers. "Almost literally."

This time his smile is cold and cruel, not an attempt to humor their situation. "I wonder what it would have looked like," he muses softly, glancing down at the blood silk and white lace that make up the picnic blanket. "Perhaps pure and white and sweet, the soul of a child." She resists the urge to slap him. "Or perhaps as sin stained and blackened as mine."

"Subaru is not like you," she snaps suddenly, her composure in turn breaking as she glares across the wide expanse of tea and tarts between them to catch his amber eyes.

He merely shakes his head, taking a perfunctory sip of tea. "I fear you have more faith in your brother's soul than I."

"It's the truth." Her voice is stubborn set. Like before, she refuse to see that which does not suit her. But then again, so does he.

He dismisses her with a wave of his hand. "It is a wish, a hope. A dream, at best."

"Dreams are true as long as they last, and do we not live in dreams?" she asks, and there is a glimmer of a secret in her words. He notices, but does not comment. He has secrets enough of his own.

"You've become rather philosophical since I've killed you." The observation is tinged with momentary amusement; he never knew her to brood. "I don't think I approve."

She smiles. "It's grown on me. Life is rather boring without it's riddles."

"Death, you mean," he corrects firmly. She smiles again.

"Life too. I have one for you." She leans forward, staring intently into his amber eyes, searching for a flicker of who she once knew. "Dark it is, in dark it lies, and lost are those who find it. Cold it burns, and heartless lives, and no mortal chain can bind it."

He answers without hesitation. "Jealousy."

She rocks back on her heels, disappointed. "No fair. You've probably heard that one before."

"No, I'm just familiar with it," is his jovial response, a false smile on his face as he glances down at the cards spread out in front of them. "Though I doubt that *boy* can save him. I doubt that he can even love him."

"Love springs up in the most unlikely places," is her reminder, a look of triumph on her face. "For once, I got the better of you. You're dead, and he can still love."

"But he can hate now also," he says, in a self-satisfied sort of way, an artist admiring a sculpture for all the emotion his voice holds. "My gift to him."

She snorts indelicately, disbelieving. "Some gift."

He sighs, somewhat annoyed. "Gifts are misunderstood at first. Always." He is quoting Tacitus, but she would not know; and if she did, she would dismiss it as melancholic dribble. "But soon you'll realize just how powerful it is."

Suddenly she realizes his meaning. "He won't turn." Her arms are crossed over her chest, and she looks faded and childish. Stubborn until the end, even in the face of fact.

"You have amazing faith in him." He humors her, but in a way that is his stubbornness, refusing to let go of the person he was for them, even though it was false.

She refuses to accept his disbelief. "Like I said, it's not faith. It's the truth."

"Truth is rather biased."

She smirks, resting a weary head against his shoulder. "Of course it is. How else could we bring ourselves to believe it?"

For a moment, he seems at peace. "I've missed you, my dear."

"I've missed you too." Her smile is less burdened then before, but it still carries regret. "And now Subaru misses both of us."

"Well, if all goes according to plan, he'll be joining us very soon." He paused surveying the dream-like surrounding which held no avenue of escape. "In heaven, or in hell."

The fall silent, looking out over the wide expanse of the empty garden, wind whistling mournfully through the perfect trees, fragrant blossoms swaying in it's wake. It is quiet, and it is peace; that's what makes it torture. For within the silence of both day and night, when you are alone with yourself and your thoughts, you are prey to all the demons of your past, the regrets of your present, the uncertainty of your future.

What more could purgatory be, than silence?

"Why do you do it?" Her voice is tired, but at peace. As much at peace as she can be.

"It?" He ignores the obvious question.

"Everything." She sweeps a hand out in an all-encompassing gesture, indicating the world, them, heaven, hell. Life and death. "Why love him, hate him. Destroy the world, but save one life. Lie to him, and then tell him the truth. What is it all too you?"

He pauses, caught off guard; and for a moment she believes there is a softening in his countenance that was not there before. "A... dream."

She blinks. He smiles, having gotten the better of her.

"Life is but a dream," she murmurs, looking torn between exasperation and amusement. "You're so silly."

An arm drapes around her shoulder, as he chuckles. "How long are we going to be here together?"

"Until we save ourselves," is her answer, and she pours him another cup of tea, smiling.

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O.o And they all lived happily ever after. The end.