Through the Bars
A/N: Heavy spoilers and lesbian witches.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bayonetta.
There were bars between them. The child and her mother, those gentle hands and those pale gray eyes that cradled her with a lullaby when a mother's arms could not.
Though there were bars, the child did not fear them so much as she disliked them, hated them almost. Because even though there were bars, there were slots between each iron bar that a hand could reach through. She could still touch, she could still be touched.
So Cereza did not need to feel so alone.
But her mother died and the bars stopped being a home and finally became a prison.
Until the pale little girl with hair the color of sunlight appeared on the other side of the bars, and her hand reached through to touch soft black hair.
Jeanne laughed, she smiled, she joked, and she filled the prison with light that was unlike that from the sun or the moon. Soon, Cereza remembered how to do the same, and their combined voices filled the cell and curled round their ears.
There is hatred in their eyes, because she's grown older, stronger. She knows what they know, she knows more.
The moonlight glistens on her body and in her beautiful dark hair because she is beautiful and she is a witch.
The child born of light and dark is as blessed during the day as she is at night, and no elder knows how to stop such a blessing. No curse is strong enough, so they keep her behind the bars.
But her green gaze meets gray, and the corners of her lips twitch and she turns her head away from the sneers. Not in aversion, not in shame, but in defiance. She will not meet their jealous and boiling gazes like a lamb to slaughter, she will be the stone in the river's path, forcing them to bend and break around her.
And she can, because even behind the bars she is not alone. Just outside their catch, just beyond her fingertip's reach, there is a gray gaze and a head of blonde hair that also reaches out to her.
No, she is not alone, and she is not hated by the entire world.
Even if it is only one person, that is all that matters. One person is all she needs to hold onto to be strong.
The moonlight spills in through the stained glass, painting the stone of the temple with brilliant colors of red and violet and green.
Clothing rustles and skin brushes against the bars. Eyes touch, breath meets, fingers entwine.
Jeanne's hair spills down her shoulders and rests over her breasts, her body cloaked in gorgeous crimson. The gilded thread of her headdress, forgotten on the ground, glistens as the pearls glow in the multicolored light and Cereza smiles upon seeing it. Her own eyeglass, discarded and carefully placed on the stone floor also casts reflections, the small gems glittering prettily.
One of Jeanne's hands reaches through the bars to twirl a midnight lock around her finger. Cereza's pale hand reaches up to guide her hair away, and draws the other witch's hand to her cheek, feeling the softness of Jeanne's palm on her skin.
"Cereza…are the bars frightening?" Jeanne asks in a whispery voice, hushed when the other reaches both hands beyond the bars to embrace her. They've done this enough it is no longer an awkward circumstance.
The black haired whoreson grins assuredly and glances beyond Jeanne, to the stained glass on the farthest wall.
"They were…" she begins, her fingers tracing a familiar pattern along the back of Jeanne's neck, "but I no longer fear them. I fear for you," she added, green eyes slithering down to Jeanne's amused face.
Jeanne brushes a lock of wavy hair behind her ear and out of her face, her lips parting as she smiles, eyes half-lidded.
"And why is that?" she asks.
"Because I am not inside of the bars," Cereza replies quietly, one hand tilting the fair witch's chin while the other wove through pale, pale hair.
Moonlight reflects off of a pale throat.
"Then I wish to be on the outside, with you," Jeanne whispers, breaking their kiss.
"As do I…" Cereza agrees, pressing her forehead to Jeanne's, feeling the bars pressing against the edges of their faces.
…As though trying to keep them both further apart.
"Imagine…the both of us…Free…" Cereza whispers dreamily, and she begins to sing of the moon and Mars whilst Jeanne nestles against the bars, having learnt where and how to be comfortable long ago.
"You are all I long for,
All I worship and adore…"
Panic and havoc seize them, all of the witches. Powerful women shiver and tremble, their hair falling in long coils from beneath their hoods and in their hands their guns tremble with their bones.
But Jeanne stands tall and she is not afraid…or she does not show it. In her eyes is determination and anger, the burning desire to protect boiling in her veins.
Her home…her sisters…the Left Eye…Cereza.
Cries and screams come closer, the women prepare for battle and shriek madly with rage when the townspeople try to barge in, aided by the Sages.
Blood splatters of Umbran Sisters and common humans. Jeanne is fierce, her aim is true and her body is liquid. Nothing can touch her, nothing distracts her, and nothing scares her, because Cereza is not behind the bars and is standing beside her, guns in her hands and at her ankles.
Jeanne must not be afraid, because Cereza is not afraid.
And this is what brings Jeanne's heart to freeze in terror.
The townspeople are dealt with; the witches' numbers are cut. The sages believe there is no fight left, the sun still burns outside.
The moon is far away.
They do not expect the remnants of Umbran blood to fight back. They are surprised.
But then there is blood and the scent of fear in Jeanne's nose when Cereza's scream shatters in her ears.
It is this scream, not those of her last sisters, which pulls her around.
In a mad fury like that of a wounded lynx, Jeanne's bullets fly true and her hair, pulled back tightly in her headdress, vibrates with the power of the wind. She paints the familiar stone of the temple with the blood of sages and sucks the air from their lungs. She dances in a flurry of wind and bullets and raw power, but it is not enough. Though these sages were defeated, she hears more coming.
Turning to Cereza, she sees her kneeling on the stone, gasping for breath, several sages and their sisters lying around her. She looks up at Jeanne, and Jeanne sees the fear in her eyes.
I don't want to die.
I want to be free.
Jeanne's chest hurts and she draws her dagger. She is not stupid, she knows her home, her sisters, are lost. But Cereza…she will not allow Cereza to be lost.
"I will not allow or treasured Left Eye to fall into the hands of another," Jeanne cries, and she steps towards Cereza.
There is a flash of realization in Cereza's eyes, but she is not comforted. Jeanne feels her eyes burn but does not allow tears to form. She must be strong.
In another life, Jeanne's blade would have pierced her beloved Cereza's skin, her spell wrapping around her and rescuing her from this danger.
But the medallion is stronger than the skin of a witch, and Jeanne's blade is cast aside. Cereza stares up at Jeanne, her fear is gone. She lifts her knees from the bloody ground and stands, drawing her guns and taking aim.
Jeanne understands, and aims her own weapons. They will fight.
If only a little longer.
But they cannot prevent the inevitable, and time must take its course.
It is later…not then, not now, not much later, not sooner, but later. Jeanne is nursing her wounds and clutching a blood red stone to her heart. Cereza is not standing beside her.
The moon is up and Jeanne feels its power, but it will never be enough to evade the sages. Her eyes loom over a lake that is gray as her gaze, and with finality she makes her decision.
Bayonetta has little care for what goes on in the world of the humans or Purgatorio or even Inferno, so long as Enzo keeps the gas tank full and Rodin gives her nice guns and shakes her drinks just right. She is not tired of the past twenty years, she's not bored. The angels certainly see to that.
She does not miss the memories she does not remember.
Why miss something you've never had?
She'll remind herself of that and finger the jewel placed in her medallion, the only weakness and comfort she allows herself.
There is something about those gray eyes and the figure in red that churns the veins in Bayonetta's body until they are boiling.
Fighting alongside her, a mirror image, the spatters of blood painting the plane wing are almost poetic and light glistens off of the red leather.
The woman with fair hair is a perfume of nostalgia and copper and gun smoke.
Bayonetta doesn't understand why.
Luka is a persistent thorn in her side, but she's growing accustomed to him. He's followed her this long; he is no longer an annoyance.
But his comments stab her and unsettle her bones, her liquid bones…
Rosemary…so long has she filled her senses with that aroma, it is a part of her. With startling clarity she doesn't want to acknowledge, Bayonetta almost considers why she chose Rosemary.
Ironically, she doesn't remember.
…Or at least, she tells herself she doesn't want to.
Glimpses, peeks at memories…
Are these even memories? Her own? Who could possibly know, truthfully?
Perhaps they are memories of another, another sister, another Umbran Witch? Lord knows she's collecting the hearts of her sisters for her own gain, perhaps she's finally seeing hallucinations?
An awful pass of judgment from karma seems to fit here, wouldn't it?
Weighing Scarborough Fair in her palm, Bayonetta lifts the barrel to slide her lips along the cool metal.
Perhaps…it's true. They're her memories. Hers, her past, her answers, her explanations.
Does she really care who stuck her at the bottom of a lake? She's a fish out of water, now, right?
Does she care what happened to the others, so many centuries ago? She's alive, right?
Does she want to know these secrets? She's perfectly fine how things are, right?
If they are her memories…what is she supposed to do with them? Will an angel descend from the heavens and guide her? Will a devil rise from the murky depths of Inferno and take her by the hand? Will a mortal human chase her in the right direction?
There are too many questions all at once, and Bayonetta is tired of them. So when a murder of angels flies upon her, she is all too eager to lift her guns and dance.
Muscle memory is all she can really on, and it feels so fucking good to let her body lead the way.
This little girl, this tearful little Cereza, will surely be the end of her, the witch is rather certain.
With the little one skipping about between her legs as they walk, chattering nonsense and making cat noises to her dolly, Bayonetta feels trapped.
The little one is like a physical embodiment of a cell, and the feeling her mere presence brings of nostalgia and anxiety is driving the woman's hair on end. She is all too eager to simply drop the little urchin off somewhere, discard her and the oppression weighing on the witch's shoulders.
But glancing down into that little face, it brings a maternal sense of protection to Bayonetta's expression, and she knows she will not just plop her on a tree stump and leave her.
Because awful as it feels to be caged, a contradictory sense of calm also befalls the enigmatic woman's nerves with the child so near.
Bayonetta has felt this before, and her muscles are relaxed.
Jeanne is a never-ending storm of pain and torment, but Bayonetta perseveres.
Cereza is lost somewhere, and Jeanne is standing in the way with her guns and her cryptic words that Bayonetta has no time to decipher or pretend to give a fuck about.
She would probably tell the blonde woman this, if it were not only her live at stake.
The rain pelts down on them, pings off of the steel of the plane. Jeanne's form is beautiful and lovely, and Bayonetta is outraged and awed all at once.
Again, Jeanne looks at her with disgust and she does not understand. But she also does not care, and with a new strength she crashes through the bar-like defenses of the crimson witch.
She must reach Cereza.
Anger and hatred.
They are like blood and chocolate, never meant to mix but oh so delicious. Thick and concealing, misleadingly harmless, but ever so deadly.
Bayonetta knows the taste of both, but never together.
These feelings congealing in her stomach, oozing into her body and making her limbs feel heavily dangerous as lead, yet light as feather-thin blades. There is no name, there never was, for the emotion she feels now as she glares upon Jeanne.
Cereza and Luka are dead and Jeanne is alive and she is smiling.
Bayonetta is not a vigilante, a pursuer of justice. But she will even this score.
Lies, deceit, encryptions, code, none of Jeanne's attributes matter now. All that will matter is when she is dead and Bayonetta hopes she will feel better, ignoring the fact – which is ever present as the scent of rosemary – that no one's death will atone for the little one and the man's.
But atonement becomes a double-edged sword that strikes Bayonetta coldly in her heart.
Jeanne is dying and all should be right…
Jeanne is dying and nothing is right…
Jeanne is dying and Bayonetta remembers.
Words fail, explanations are waived, Bayonetta holds her sister's hand.
Jeanne's gun fires, Bayonetta's ears are ringing and her head is light. When she looks up, Jeanne is still dying and she's smiling.
And then there's a missile, and Bayonetta can't see Jeanne anymore.
She can't see because she's flying through the air from aftershock and unable to put everything together in her head.
The broken glass crunches and parquet-styled marble floors glow and shine.
Bayonetta wants to be angry, wants to scream, wants to do SOMETHING.
But she can't.
She can't, because she's remembering Jeanne and she's looking through her memories like an open photo album. Everything comes back. Jeanne's laugh, Jeanne's neck, Jeanne's hair, Jeanne's scent. Jeanne's hands and the feel of her lips on her skin.
But Jeanne was dead and Cereza still had so much to say.
Jeanne was fighting and she was on the other side of the bars. As children they were separated by bars but they did not see two different sides. Somehow, for some reason, Jeanne had placed new bars between them, these many centuries later.
Bayonetta…Cereza…did not understand. She did not want to.
She wanted Jeanne back, but she bitterly reminded herself that such was impossible because she was dead and Cereza still had to keep going.
When Luka appears, with the little one in his arms, Bayonetta is filled with relief and grief all at once.
Smiling to conceal herself, she decides to remain as Bayonetta, and leave Cereza behind with Jeanne and the stone.
"Don't fuck with a witch."
Balder is dead, the little one is back where she belongs, and Luka is safe. Bayonetta feels accomplished; she can ignore the aching emptiness Jeanne left behind.
But then Balder is alive, and there is pain and pain and pain, and Bayonetta doesn't want to think anymore. She submits to the burning ache, and allows herself to become Jubileus, somewhere deep in her mind her sense is screaming.
The next thing she knows, Jeanne is crying over her and her hands are pulling her back into a realm of life and breath and mortal pain. Bayonetta, no, Cereza, gasps and clutches weakly to Jeanne, unable to decipher this as reality or another dream, a final glimpse.
But there is no mistake that Jeanne is real…yet all too suddenly; Jeanne is being pulled away, pushing Cereza down because the crimson, no, the white witch will save her. Jubileus is awakening, and Jeanne is being pushed away into the dark depths of space and this entire length of existence is ridiculous and Cereza is shattered when Jeanne's fingers slip out of her grasp.
Jeanne is dead again, and Cereza is fucking pissed.
The searing heat of the sun warms her face, and Bayonetta gazes coldly down into the hydrogen where Jubileus burns like a lost soul in Hell. The God is deserving of every ounce of pain, and Bayonetta knows she deserves it, because Jeanne isn't standing beside her to watch the destruction with her.
At this point, speechlessness is too many words. Ridiculous just about sums it up.
But nonetheless, Cereza does not stand for Jeanne's repeated vows to protect her.
"We're going home together."
And Cereza means it.
Finally, the fragments and bones of the bars that had held them apart for so long had been incinerated within the sun.
"A bit ironic, you know…Considering…" Jeanne had mused, brushing a lock of ebony hair behind Cereza's ear.
The bars are gone, and Jeanne and Cereza finally got what they had wanted. The freedom on the outside of the bars surrounded them, engulfed them, fulfilled them, and entwined with the scent of rosemary, it made them light-headed with the girlish giddiness neither had felt for over five hundred years.
Gazing upon Jeanne who is looking up at the nighttime sky, Cereza smiles. Bayonetta, Cereza, she is both, neither name must be cast away. All that matters is that with Jeanne…
She is free.