This piece takes place post ep. 50. Major spoilers all over the place.
This is also essentially a prequel for Where Black Met Gold, but should function independently of that story. Originally, this was going to be a long one shot, but I have decided to divide it up into a few relatively short chapters.
Rated M for some fairly occational language, mild adult themes and infrequent violence, but nothing more gory than you might see in the anime itself.
Oh, and I'll be eternally greatful if you review!
March 31st , 2009
A train whistle? he thought groggily in the pitch darkness.
It was the roaring-whine of an engine, the backhoe that was tearing away at the concrete boulders above him.
Ironically, the collapsed balcony had saved Haji's life; the thick concrete had shielded him from the subsequent bombs. However, blood deprived and terribly wounded, his body went into a sort of death-defying stasis that lasted for over three years.
The pitch black ignited into blood red as the afternoon sun burst through his eyelids, but the act of opening them, let alone moving his body seemed impossibly strenuous.
The sound of the engine ceased.
Someone shouting in English.
"What the hell is that?!"
Footsteps, coming closer.
"Look at him."
"That's just weird man."
"The body looks so fresh, like he died yesterday. Doesn't stink or nothin'."
"Yeah but this dude should be a pile of bones, like the other ones."
"Maybe he's part of the night-shift cleanup crew and some shit fell on him, that'd explain why the body's so fresh."
"Clean up crew in a tux?"
"What's all this shit?"
"Looks like red broken glass."
"Heh, check it out, here's his other arm!"
The two men were lifting the smaller rocks off him, one by one. The feeling reminded Haji of ascending through the depths of the ocean, the sensation of crushing pressure gradually fading away.
"His arm's burned-up real bad, and look at the size a that hole in his gut! Damn! Looks like he got shot with a bowling ball!"
"Didn't the boss say we should tell him if we find anything weird?"
"I'd say this guy counts as weird."
"I'll go get the boss, you stay here."
"Stay here? What? In case the dead guy walks away?"
"To shoo the crows, stupid."
Virtually too weak to move, Haji finally managed to crack open an eye and glance at the young man, now absentmindedly smoking a cigarette over him, wearing a yellow hazard suit, the mask and hood hanging unused around his neck. Haji immediately noticed the various emblems indicating affiliation with the American military. To be seen by this man's superiors would almost certainly result in his becoming their prisoner.
That is absolutely not an option.
His plan was created and executed out of desperation. Haji intentionally let out a weak groan, gaining the attention of the man standing over him.
"No way," the young man muttered. "Must be the gasses escaping or somethin'."
Haji let out another groan, and with a burst of effort, grabbed the man's ankle.
"Holy shit!" he shrieked as he jumped away. He panted for several seconds before slowly re-approaching the body.
"You alive?" he asked in terrified astonishment.
Haji lifted his hand and beckoned to the man with a few curls of his index finger, trembling slightly from the sheer physical strain of the movement.
The young American hesitated a few seconds before crouching down beside him.
Dusty, cracked lips slowly peeled apart.
"Closer," Haji croaked almost unintelligibly.
"What was that?" the young man asked, in morbid fascination.
The young man leaned down, his head turned horizontally, his ear within an inch of Haji's mouth.
Mustering all of what little strength the wounded Chevalier had, he lunged forward, glinting fangs fully visible for the split second before they were buried in the man's neck.
He seemed to be too shocked to struggle at first, and by the time he had regained any of his wits, Haji had siphoned enough blood to make him pass out.
The wounded Chevalier released him far later than he would have ordinarily preferred. Under normal circumstances, he would take no more than a trivial amount of blood, and he rarely even did that.
These were obviously not normal circumstances.
Haji lay motionless as he felt his wounds begin to close and some vestige of his strength returned. He knew it would take more for him to recover fully, but killing that young man was to far beyond his self-imposed moral code, even in a crisis.
He grunted softly as he finally stood, glancing around for the aforementioned limb, which lay a few feet away. He bent over stiffly, grasping his own severed arm, and holding it against his shoulder until he felt the bisected humerus began to knit together.
It was a process that self-loathing had caused him to neglect in Vietnam.
He wasted no time in lifting a nearby hunk of rubble, unearthing Saya's sword, and took a moment to look down at the pale, unconscious clean-up worker.
"My apologies," he mumbled as he disappeared.
April 16th, 2009
The sign in the window flipped over, announcing the start of the day's business. Or lack thereof. Of course, Kai had no problem with this. Quiet time is priceless for any parent of a three-year old, let alone the single father of twins who possessed super-human strength and speed, and craved human blood in addition to the usual candy and soda.
They were at the park with their uncles, whose presence was only tolerated due to the help it afforded. Careful prioritizing was essential in situations such as this; these precious moments of peace had to be spent wisely. Kai glanced around the familiar scenery of the pub, but instead of settling on a suitable occupation, his eyes fixed on a tall, back lit figure standing in the doorway.
His slight gasp trailed off into a pleased grin.
"I saw your flower at the tomb yesterday, so I've been wonderin' when you were gonna drop by."
True to form, Haji said nothing, simply gave a slight nod in acknowledgement of the statement.
"I'm not tryin' to pry or anything, but what the hell took you so long, it's been, what, three years?"
Haji's eyes shifted, forming into a familiar, far-off, pensive look.
"Eh, you don't have to answer that. I'm sure you came as soon as you could."
"Well c'mon, sit down," Kai offered, gesturing toward the bar. "Let me get you a drink."
Haji made his way over to a barstool, "No, thank you."
Kai laughed. "C'mon! An old friend walks into my pub and doesn't get one on the house? My dad raised me better than that." He set out a shot glass and reached under the bar into a small refrigerator, and before his guest could protest further, had poured the contents of a half-empty blood-pack into the small cup.
"Gotta keep this stuff around. I'm the only human in this house."
"Don't worry, it's not mine. I get 'em from Julia."
He still hesitated. To him, blood-drinking was akin to bathroom habits, something to be done in shame and secrecy.
Kai reached for the glass. "I could warm it up for you -"
Haji realized he had lost this particular battle of manners, and reluctantly downed the contents of the shot glass.
Kai busied himself drying some dishes.
"Always knew you were alive. You know why?"
Haji sensed that it was a rhetorical question.
"Because she wasn't that upset," Kai's tone turned a little more serious. "I figured that she would have been way worse if she actually thought you were dead, I mean, we both saw what happened after Riku, and he was only part of her family for a year and a half, plus, if anyone knows what will and wont kill you, it's her."
"I am glad that she was happy at the end."
"I wouldn't say happy, she was a little mopey. My guess is that she missed you."
There was a long pause; Haji wasn't sure how to respond to this, so he eventually changed the subject.
"Did everyone else make it out of the building unharmed?"
"Yeah." Kai paused. "They're all fine. David and Julia live on the other side of town, they've got a kid now, and another on the way. I heard Joel got married, and his wife's pregnant too - not sure how that works, but I guess if you're the richest paraplegic in the world, they'll probably find a way to stick a bun in your wife's oven. Lewis is back in the states, last I heard, he lost like a hundred pounds, says he only got fat so his old CIA buddies wouldn't recognize him - yeah right. Oh, and last I heard, Mao and Okamura -" he paused and laughed in spite of himself, "- look, you can shut me up any time now."
No sooner than the words had left his lips than he noticed that Haji's eyes had fixed on a framed picture hanging on the wall, depicting a pair of toddlers standing in front of two men, both in suits, one in elegant black silk, the other in eggplant-purple corduroy.
Solomon Goldsmith and Nathan Mahler.
"Look, I know what you're thinking, and once you get to know 'em, they're not half bad," he paused and laughed, "probably more like three-quarters bad." He laughed again. "Nah, but seriously, they've really helped me out a lot, though. I know, seems weird that they'd wanna pitch in, especially Mahler - man, I think he's just on a mission to drive me crazy a little bit at a time, but Solomon, well, I'm pretty sure I know why he's being such a suck-up," the latter half of the sentence was said with an exasperated groan. "Whatever, I'll take all the help I can get. Mahler's actually really good with the kids, or at least way better than you'd expect from a blood-sucking drama-queer. And Solomon - the twins just adore him," he shook his head, "the ole ladies' man, but I wish he'd stop trying to give me money. As you can see, business isn't booming, but I get a decent stipend from the Shield. They're out right now by the way, took the twins to the park, but I bet I don't need to tell you that, I bet you were waiting for them to leave. But yeah, they just showed up a few years ago, wanting to help out, funny story really."
He glanced at the silent Chevalier and stood from his stool.
"Heh, listen to me, babbling away again," he chuckled as he walked across the room. "You probably just came by to get the scoop on Saya and to pick up your cello."
Haji followed obediently until his host pulled open the door of a closet.
Kai watched as Haji's eyes wandered over it's contents. The dresses were the most conspicuous, half-a-dozen identical black and white school uniforms, a short zippered jumper made of burgundy leather and a satin ball gown that could have easily been mistaken for a wedding dress.
"I don't suppose you want this stuff. I can't quite get rid of it."
He saw Haji's eyes fix on the last garment on the rack, a torn, bloodstained pink dress.
"I'd have definitely thrown that one away, but Julia says it has to be burned on account of the blood – but seems like a creepy thing to do."
Haji bent down to retrieve the cello case that lay flat across the floor, and heard the clang of steel as he pulled it away. A battle-ax fell to the floor.
Kai sighed. "Lulu passed on last month. Julia's treatments gave her a little more time, but Schiff are Schiff, can't prevent the inevitable."
"I am sorry to hear that."
"They're all together now, the way they wanted – and no one's gonna forget them."
Haji nodded as he threw his meager belongings across his back. "Thank you. I will not take up any more of your time," he said quietly as he made his way toward the door.
Kai spoke before he reached it. "Mahler and Solomon say that thirty years is only approximate, that sometimes it's as little as twenty, sometimes as many as forty-five."
"They say that only the Chevalier knows when it's about to happen, they say that you'll know when the time comes. You'll let me know, right?"
Haji nodded again.
"Hey, we've got a pretty badassed lock on the tomb now, the combo is 841833. No one else knows, but I figure I'd better tell someone, just in case I drop dead or something, and I cant think of anyone else I'd trust with it.
A long pause.
"So, what's the plan? When she wakes up, I mean."
Haji would have been a liar if he said he hadn't considered it yet. It was nearly a minute before he answered.
"The choice is more yours than mine. You are her brother. I am only her servant."
Kai shot him a questioning glance. He knew as well as anyone that Haji was definitely more than a servant, despite the fact that it was still anyone's guess as to what they were like in private. Curiously, during the course of the war, Kai had found himself spending more and more time wondering about the nature of Saya and Haji's relationship, devoting considerable amounts of cognitive energy to weighing the mountains of ambiguous evidence. Despite that, he had never been able to discern if they were as strictly platonic as they seemed to want people to think, or if their moments alone were occupied by discreet lovemaking. It wasn't until the end, until witnessing the first second of that shy kiss, when he finally understood that the truth was just as paradoxical as the evidence.
"You really think that, Haji?"
Another long pause.
He calmly pushed the door open. "I will watch over her forever. But when she wakes, she will need a family more than a protector. It was you and your family, who made her smile again." There was a strange, wistful quality to his statement.
"But you love her, don't you?!" Kai called after him, but by the time he had finished his question, his guest had vanished.
"See ya…" he muttered as he sat down at the bar. "I have a feeling things are gonna get really weird in a few decades."
January 17th, 2038
"That's dad to you, Ruka!" the now middle-aged Kai hollered from the kitchen.
"Someone's at the door, says he needs to talk to you!"
"I'm a little busy!" he shouted, long cooking chopsticks poised over a pan of sizzling taco meat, nearly ready to meet a bed of rice. "Who is it anyways?"
"Um, some tall European-looking guy carrying a - what is that thing? A coffin?"
The chopsticks fell into the pan without a second thought as Kai sprinted toward the door, slightly winded by the time he reached it.
The pale pallbearer spoke. "It is time."
Kai nodded and continued to pant.
Not two seconds later, Haji's eyes fell on the two young women standing behind his old acquaintance, two identical faces with a unique elfin quality, due to the combination of their mother and father's features.
For once, Kai could tell what Haji was thinking.
They look just like Diva, after she took Riku's face.
Haji might have noted some mixed feelings toward the girls, had there not been more pressing matters at hand.
The arrival of Saya's elusive companion sent the whole house into chaos for the next half-hour as they prepared for the drive to the tomb.
Kai was hastily filling the largest lunchbox he could find, while his wife stood nearby.
Fifteen years prior, Kai had been dismayed to find that his beloved Colt M1911 was in need of maintenance and ammunition. Civilian possession of firearms being unlawful in his country, he had no choice but to turn to the local yakuza for the necessary goods and services, and consequently, came in contact with Mao Jahana. It didn't surprise him one bit that the ruthless, and often frightening young woman had recently taken her aging father's place as head of the Jahana crime syndicate.
Back in high school, Kai had given Mao the cold shoulder immediately following a second-date, backseat conquest, and subsequently lost all interest in her. But in the years following, Kai had developed a peculiar appreciation for dangerous, emotionally wounded women, and Mao, a mob boss still bitter from an ugly divorce with Okamura, fit that bill rather nicely. Mao, for her part, had been cured of her love of real bad-boys by her profession, thus the vastly matured, non-smoker family-man (who still rode a motorcycle, as it should be noted) was such an ideal mate that she was willing to overlook his ungracious behavior in high school.
Naturally, they soon found themselves to be in love, moved in together, had a son and got married, in that order.
Mao leaned into her husband's field of vision. Once a fool but never blind, she was somewhat apprehensive about the arrangements that had been made for Saya to live with them.
"Kai, we need to talk."
"Look, I may have been an idiot back then, but even I could see that there was something between you and Otonashi."
"What?!" A rice ball shattered on the floor.
"I mean you had a serious thing for her!"
Kai was speechless for several seconds. "Where are you even getting this? She was my little sister!"
"Who you had a bizarre obsession with!"
Another pause. "She was the only living being that could save the human race from being destroyed by monsters! Of course I was obsessed with her! We all were back then! I was no more obsessed with her than David, or – or – you!"
She scowled at him. "Look, lie to yourself all you want, all I'm saying is that – if your priorities aren't straightened out yet, they better get that way quick, because if there is even a hint that you're thinking about pulling a Woody Allen on me, I will dump your ass so fast you wont know what hit you, 'cause there is no way in hell I would stick around long enough for people to feel sorry for me!"
Kai glared off into space for a few seconds.
"Are you done spouting random crap? Haji looks like he'll blow a fuse if we don't leave in the next two minutes," he grumbled irritably.
"Yes, thank you," Mao said with deceptive sweetness.
Her husband resumed his previous occupation filling the large bento, and she made her way into the living room, finding her nieces-in-law standing close together, both hovering over a cell phone, which, upon their step-mother's entrance, was promptly hidden behind one of their backs.
Mao's eyes narrowed as she examined the guilty countenance of the two teenage girls, who were in fact grown women in their early thirties.
"What are you two doing?" she interrogated.
The two Queens shot nervous glances at each other.
"Nothing," they answered simultaneously.
"Nothing, eh?" One arm extended out, palm up. "Give me the phone," she demanded sternly.
The twins knew better than to defy her, and Akahana reluctantly handed over the device.
With the tap of a few buttons, Mao had navigated her way to the outbox, and looked over the message that had been sent a few seconds ago, taking note of the contact.
Her arms folded across her chest. "Alright, what did he bribe you with?"
"Motorcycles," Akahana answered timidly.
"WHAT!?" Mao roared. "Ooo! I am going to kill that son of a bitch!"
"Well it's not like we can get killed or crippled in a crash," Ruka retorted.
"And it's not like that ever stopped dad!" added Aka.
"Girls, we've been over this, no freakin motorcycles!"
They shot a pair of dismayed glares at their Stepmother. "You know, just because we look like we're sixteen, doesn't mean you can boss us around."
"The hell I cant!"
"Yeah, well, as soon as Saya's adjusted to life here, we're moving back into our place!"
"Yeah, we're only here because we owe her for saving us from that crazy guy when we were babies."
While it had been some years since they had been made aware of and come to terms with various events that occurred before they were born, including their mother's unfortunate death and far more tragic life, neither had been told of Saya's attempt to murder them as infants.
Kai strode into the room, effectively diffusing the argument. "C'mon, let's go. Look, Haji's already sitting in the car. Aka, Ruka, you two get her room ready."
"There isn't enough room in the car anyway, and make your little brother do his homework when he gets back."
It was already dark by the time he stepped out of the car. The moon was nearly full, and the tropical humidity lingered in the air along with a shadow of the afternoon's sweltering heat.
Kai leaned out of the driver's side window. "Go get her, bro," he cheered.
Haji gave a silent nod, and the rest of the party remained in the car.
Mao turned to her husband. "After all these years, you're just gonna wait in the car?"
Kai glanced at the departing Chevalier. "This is his moment. He's a good sport just for inviting us."
Haji approached the stairs, his calm expression belying his pounding heart. He had ascended these stairs many times over the last few decades, and each time he made the pilgrimage was in desperate anticipation of this moment.
Little by little, the tomb appeared at the top of the stair, his most recent floral offering standing sentry before it's massive stone door. Haji savored the feeling of each step as he approached, each bringing him closer to the woman for which he lived and breathed, but was stopped suddenly by a disconcerting realization. His superior senses told him that he was not alone.
Common sense left no doubt in his mind as to who it was.