Title: The Art of Trapping Minotaur
Fandom: Ergo Proxy
Pairing: Raul/Daedalus, implied Daedalus/Real
Warning: spoiler up to ep. 21
Disclaimer: not mine.
Summary: It's human's nature to blame others for their own mistakes.
We are never sad
Cause we're not allowed to be
There's a metallic scent of blood filling the air, so stark and thick, almost tangible in intensity that it might as well have been his own life essence that oozing onto the floor, polluting the air with its rich, rich scent, and staining the pristine white marbles with a color so dark and deep and beautiful even the most elegant ruby would envy.
But it's not his though.
He's sitting on the couch, not moving at all, his mind silently trying to process the overload of emotions suddenly running through his head. Something – something important is happening right now, right in front of him, yet he can't seem to bring himself to digest just what it is exactly that's happening.
He looks up, only to find Real standing a few steps in front of him (when did she move from his side?), her white gloves drenched in crimson, crimson red (blood?), head looking down at something on the floor.
Right. The floor.
Real turns to him then, a hesitant smile on her lips, a familiar bright light in her eyes – she's seeking for his approval, waiting for him to praise her like usual, and he ought to do so now, or at the very least, say something, so that she would know that he's appreciating what she's done, that he's not ignoring her; but for some reason, he just couldn't seem to get his lips moving. Or perhaps he has just forgotten how to string some words together in order to form a proper sentence. Or possibly both.
Don't look down. Ever.
Against his better judgment, he looks down. And stops.
He hears Real call for him, but it seems so far away, so distant they may as well have been in different Domes altogether even though they're clearly in the same room, sharing the same space and air.
There, lying at Real's feet, covered with deep red, red blood all over from head to toe, is none other than Raul.
Daedalus wants to tell him.
He wants to tell him everything - including the proxies, the Regent's secret, and the real truth behind the Romdeau Dome itself – because Daedalus knows, even if most of the time he acts as if he isn't aware of the happenings around him. And he knows he should, because Raul is the current Security Department Chief and he ought to know everything that happens inside the Dome he's been sworn to protect.
But then Raul looks at him in that particular way he always does, and the words died on his tongue before he could even open his mouth.
Then he starts to wonder if telling Raul everything would actually worth it, and—and he doesn't.
There are times – times when certain things are better left unmentioned, unknown, and now is one those times; and no, he reminds himself, he's not making excuses.
It's definitely a good thing he's always been good at lying to himself.
"You want revenge," Daedalus says, "And I can't have that. You're going to kill Vincent Law."
It's subtle and not really noticeable, but Daedalus can see Raul's eyes narrow at him, a first sign of the crack on his perfect mask. Daedalus wonders if Raul himself actually realizes it.
"What makes you think you have a choice?" brisk and clipped, yet still Daedalus notices the poison in Raul's voice, the sharp edge barely covered. He's cracking, but still very much in control. Daedalus thinks he should give the man some credit for that.
"I don't answer to you." Daedalus replies, turning back to his computer and processing the data his AutoReiv assistant has just handed him. "Your heart rate and tension are rising, by the way. Why don't you take a break for a while and get some rest?"
There's a chuckle, a sound of rustling clothes, and before he even knows it, Raul is behind him, his breath hot on his exposed nape. "I know certain things," Raul begins, "That would make the higher-ups get you to answer to me."
Daedalus' fingers twitch. "Are you blackmailing me, Security Chief?"
"And here I was hoping I wouldn't need to spell it out for you." Raul says, taking a step back and adjusting his suit casually in almost bored manner, like this is just another one of his regular field inspection and he's talking to an unusually dumb officer.
Daedalus' lips part, but he thinks better and doesn't say what he means to say. Instead he analyzes and assesses all the connecting dots in his mind, figuring out many possible future scenarios that would most likely happen. And no, it's still too early for Raul to find out anything valuable at this time. A beat, and then his fingers are already typing again. "You have nothing on me."
Raul smiles – a sharp, cutting edge on every crease of his smile, and Daedalus is surprised he doesn't break skin.
"Yet." Raul says with more fervor and confidence than humanly possible for someone in his current position. He turns to the exit, his long coat fluttering dramatically after him.
"I've got a few defects in my body." Daedalus tells Raul, "I can't age."
There's a pause, a moment in which Daedalus can see Raul watching him, something close to disgust in his eyes. A corner of his lips quirks up. How predictable.
"What, you're immortal?"
Daedalus shakes his head. "No, not immortal. You shoot me, I die. It's just like I said: I don't age. I stopped growing, forever stuck in this teenage body – that kind of thing."
"What is this, a joke?"
"I sure as hell am not laughing." He looks at Raul pointedly, stuffing his gloved hands into his labs coat's pockets, wondering if Raul would actually hit him should he start laughing now just for the hell of it.
"Right." Raul's tone is still skeptical, edging on almost carefully casual – like he's only humoring him and his delusions, even when his eyes already looking at Daedalus like he's nothing more than an infected AutoReiv which should be demolished as soon as possible.
Well, at least his skill to be a hypocrite is still intact, even if he already loses everything else.
Daedalus sighs and feels a headache coming his way. All this time Raul always not-so-subtly demands him to tell him the truth, and once he tells him bluntly without any veiled pretenses, Raul chooses not to believe him. Figures.
Dark clouds are already hovering on the Dome's once-always-calm sky, despite the fully activated protection ward around the Dome's perimeter. Daedalus can sense it; the world is nearing its end. Or perhaps it is only this Dome. The point is, they all are in danger, and if they didn't do anything soon, it can be certain there would be no remnants of the Romdeau Dome to be left at all.
"Why the sudden honesty, then?" Raul asks, a strange contemplative tone to his voice.
"You're so slow in catching up that this game has become so boring." He puts his arms around himself, feeling cold all of sudden.
"You're just a little kid." Raul says, sounding as if he is trying to tell himself exactly that. "A kid with extraordinarily dangerous toys, but still a kid." If this was in any other situations, Daedalus might have laughed at the way Raul seems so uncharacteristically troubled by this revelation. But as it was, he only sighs tiredly.
"Surely you don't think the elders and the Regent himself would be so careless as to put a mere kid as the head of the Health Department, no matter how smart the kid is?"
"I have no right to presume what the Regent himself would do."
Daedalus rolls his eyes. Typical. "You're really such a good Fellow Citizen, aren't you?"
Raul looks like he has something to say to that, but the door suddenly opens behind him to reveal Kristeva, and he decidedly holds it back. Coward, Daedalus mouths to him, not even caring of the fact that his little act is seen by Kristeva, whose system is still connected to the main server of the Dome.
Raul pointedly ignores him. "Yes, Kristeva?"
"It's time for the meeting, sir."
Raul closes his eyes, and Daedalus presumes he must be counting one to ten silently in his head. That seems like something a person like Raul would do, after all.
"I honestly hope you would stop this nonsense, for your own sake." Raul says, his voice back to its detached quality Daedalus dislikes so much. "It wouldn't do for the head of the Health Department to appear less than sane." And with that, he walks out the door, leaving an exhausted looking Daedalus behind.
"You have no idea." He tells the empty room. "You have no idea."
He's been living too long and he's watched people come and go, be born and die and he's still there unchanging and he's bored and sick out of his mind and doesn't care about the consequences anymore – except he still does. You can't live for such a long time without learning the consequences of each action and not learning to fear it.
He's bored of living and he certainly doesn't mind dying, but every time he thinks of it and sees Real, he just couldn't continue that thought.
She needs you, the Regent had said to him.
She's reborn by his hands even if she doesn't exactly die by his hands, and what the Regent said is enough to convince him to continue his seemingly meaningless existence. But if he was actually needed by somebody, then how could his existence be meaningless?
Because Real doesn't know she needs him, and every time she gets to the teenager phase, she would stop seeing him completely and chase after the one thing she thinks she can't have but already has.
He is the one who keeps bringing her to life again and again each time she dies, and he knows he can kill her just as easily every time even if he wouldn't. He doesn't know why he keeps continuing this sick carousel, except for the fact that this is the only thing keeps him going and he doesn't have anything else.
It turns out that he's not all that ready to die, after all.
Raul is pinning Daedalus to the glass-wall of Monad's examination room by his neck, and all Daedalus can think is how this is rapidly becoming a regular occurrence. He also definitely doesn't think this is healthy.
"You're way too emotional." Daedalus tells him, his hands trying to loosen the grip Raul has on his neck – to no avail. "Besides, this is so unbecoming of a Security Department Chief, don't you think?"
Raul's eyes narrow, and that is all the warning Daedalus gets before he feels the grip tighten yet again, cutting off most of his air supply. And it hurts – it hurts like nothing before, feeling your own life being squeezed out of you forcefully.
He trashes against Raul with all he's worth, with all the energy he doesn't realize he has until now, and just as he thinks Raul is definitely going to kill him off for good this time, he lets go – he always, always lets go at the last minute, like he's only testing out how long Daedalus can hold on every time, like he's expecting Daedalus to disappear on him, like he's wondering why Daedalus hasn't ended his own life already.
As Raul takes a step backward, Daedalus' body slumps to the floor, gasping for breath frantically, like he can never get enough air to fill his lungs. Crouching on the floor, he tries his best to get his breathing under control again, while his hands trace the soon-to-be-bruises on his neck, carefully assessing the damage. Five days – a week at most to get it to recover.
Daedalus grits his teeth.
Each time it takes longer to recover than the last, and what's worse in his opinion is the fact that Raul would never really try to kill him – at least not yet. And this very knowledge is exactly what makes it obvious to Daedalus – if he hasn't known already – that this is only one of Raul's ways of punishing him (for things that are definitely not his faults). And every time, every fucking time, Raul only watches him, eyes colder than frozen ice in the coldest winter.
"You do realize doing this kind of thing to me won't bring everything back together, right?" he manages to choke out, sounding raw and scratchy, like a broken record that's been forced to keep playing again and again.
"Tell me, Daedalus, are you even alive?"
Daedalus stares at him. "What are you on about?" he would be damned if he doesn't think this is so random of Raul (anomaly!), and considering the increasing frequency of randomness that comes out of Raul's mouth ever since Vincent Law's escape, he has a right to feel weirded out.
"You just watch as Real be born, grows and dies over and over again in front of your own eyes. Aren't you tired of it? Of being rejected over and over again every time she is reborn, while you stay the same?"
It's not pity, exactly, what he finds in Raul's tone of voice, but it's close enough that he finds himself vent in anger. You had no right, Daedalus thinks but doesn't say. You had no right to--
"I'm as alive as I need to be. What's this sudden interest in Real, anyway?"
Oh yes, Raul definitely notices the barest hint of anger there, for he is looking at Daedalus as if he has just won some kind of prize, a smirk-shaped line on his usually inexpressive face.
Were he in any other emotional state, Daedalus would find it unsettling, for such an expression is just so alien, so uncharacteristic of the usually predictable man, that by Raul's standard, that is already bordering on psychotic and downright insane; but as it is, Daedalus fails to recognize the anomaly in favor of venting out his own anger – something that he hasn't done since God only knows when.
"If you're really alive, then where are you, Daedalus? Or better yet, who are you?" Raul continues, ignoring his last question. His voice is getting lower with each word he utters, and if Daedalus didn't know better, he would say the man is actually taunting him, mocking him. "No human except for each of the Head of Departments and the Regent himself know what you look like; and for all the Fellow Citizens know, the genius man named Daedalus Yumeno, who is also the head of the Health and Walfare Department and the creator of the prototype of the original AutoReiv, is nothing more than a myth." Then he bends down until his mouth is in a level with Daedalus' ear, and whispers in a soft tone that sounds as if it was meant to be hurtful, "How does it feel to have your existence reduced to a mere myth? To have the only person you ever care about keeps persistently ignoring your very existence?"
Daedalus stares at the man in front of him in disbelief. That was just too close to home for his comfort, and it shouldn't hurt – for he knows the reality of his devotion to Real only too well – but try as he might, he couldn't stop it from hurting. "Ever think that perhaps I preferred it that way from the start?" he bites out, well aware that he is probably revealing more than he would like with his tone.
"I think it's enough testimony how I don't even need to use my training to know you're lying." And the man actually has the gall to sneer openly at him.
Daedalus glares defiantly at him, a thin line forming on his lips. "You think you know things, but you really don't. All those dirty things you found are only what they let you to find, and nothing more. You don't even know that you're just the same as the rest of Fellow Citizens – a puppet."
"Oh?" Raul's eyes narrow dangerously, but Daedalus barely notices it.
"You're one to talk about being alive. Weren't you just the same as me – worse, even – before you lost your family to Vincent Law and Monad Proxy? How does it feel to see your own wife and baby kid killed right in front of you?"
Daedalus cradles his bruised cheek. The hit is not entirely unexpected, but still it stings when it comes
"Oh, by the way? I'm taking your 'toy'."
Daedalus' eyes widen, and before he even knows it, he has leaped off to the other side of the room in an instant, hands grabbing Raul's jacket in a tight fist. "Don't you dare—"
With barely any effort at all, he pushes Daedalus away from him disdainfully, dusting his clothes off. "I would review again where I'm standing if I were you." He says calmly, and struts to the exit without a backward glance.
Daedalus grits his teeth.
There would be a next time – he would make sure of that.
Something – something whispers to him in the dead of the night, when the Dome is silent and there is no voice to distract him.
Destroy the dome, it says. Destroy it. You know you want to.
Daedalus doesn't know who it is, doesn't know where it comes from – it feels like it comes from his head; but it's impossible, isn't it? - doesn't know why it whispers it to him, of all people. The only thing he can be sure of is that it is powerful, and he doesn't think it a good sign.
All we need is to put in the codes, it says. It's that easy.
He closes his eyes, but still it finds him there, invading his dreams without his will, and he doesn't know how to get away in his own dreams.
You know you want to.
And Raul and Real actually wonder why he's such an insomniac.
"Stay." He's not so much saying it as pleading it, but he couldn't afford to think about anything else right now. It's not like he has any pride left to begin with. "You're really going to die if you insisted on going now. Stay. You know I can fix you – I, I can fix this whole Dome, and I know you know it. Stay – it's going to be alright, so please, stay."
It certainly will take time, but it's possible – fixing this Dome, that is – it is definitely possible. At least if he could ignore the sweet, taunting voice in his head that keeps whispering to him to destroy this Dome, then he could just easily force himself to repair the damage.
It's not like Raul has ever heeded his words before, but he's allowed to hope, right? That perhaps, just this once – just for this last time – Raul would actually listen. But Raul doesn't even glance back at him, nor does he give any indication that he's heard him. Even from such a distance, Daedalus can see all the effort it takes for Raul to just stay upright, to keep walking slowly forward, to not just give in and let himself fall like his body clearly demands him to.
"Stay!" Daedalus says again, voice louder than he intends it to, sounding way too desperate even to his own ears.
Please, choose me.
Real is still standing in her spot between the two men, not moving an inch, watching with eyes that do not see, although Daedalus knows she is keeping track of each of their movements, waiting – for what, Daedalus does not dare to guess.
"I'm not sorry," Raul whispers, voice just barely loud enough to carry across the room, the strain clear as a day in every syllable he manages to force out past his parted bleeding lips. "I'm not."
And it is as much an apology as he would ever get, and Daedalus hates it; hates it like he has never hated anything before, because it sounds like a farewell, like a final goodbye, like this is the end, and from the sure way Raul says it (with no hesitation at all, despite how raspy, how broken his voice sounds from the pain) he definitely means it to be.
It feels too much like a rejection, and Daedalus is – couldn't –
He just couldn't. Not like this.
"Please." He whispers, voice barely heard. "Please, just this once, stay."
Don't leave me here alone.
"I wonder…though. Does – does this mean you win?" Raul says again, the strain visible in his voice, in the way he talks, in every muscle of his body, and Daedalus has to bite his own tongue in order not to shout at him to please save whatever left of his energy, that whatever it is he wants to say he can say later after he's been treated and healed. "I did what – what I wanted to do, and I – and I got the retribution accordingly. My mistake, my lost. And you win by default."
There's a pain – somewhere from the direction of his hands, a pain that Daedalus entirely welcomes for it provides him a distraction, something that he truly needs right now. "Then don't make me lose you too."
Raul's lips move – just barely, but it is there – and form the faintest impression of a smile, and Daedalus feels like crying for the sheer incredulity of it all. "I definitely do not envy your ability to survive."
You're gonna be fine even without me.
He will be – he will be, but he doesn't think he wants to. "Ra—"
"Congratulations." He salutes to Daedalus' direction, and disappears from his sight.
Daedalus let himself slump to the floor in defeat, his body shaking slightly. He's barely aware Real hovering close by, a slight confusion in her usually cold demeanor.
Daedalus considers his option; He has blood in his hands, a ruined office, a girl who is unable to love anyone who isn't Vincent Law or Ergo Proxy, a dying Security Chief – who is possibly already dead by now – and a bunch of numbers that he can use to override the Dome's self-destruct system.
Real doesn't think anything of this place (she's too busy chasing after Ergo Proxy).
Raul thinks there's nothing left in this place (he has lost everything – his family, his job, and now he loses his life, too).
And Daedalus is – Daedalus is. He doesn't have a wish – the only person who could grant him his wish is already dead – but he would be happy to grant other people their wishes; if they want this Dome to disappear, then so be it.
He punches in the codes, and laughs.
It's over now.