Lightning Strikes

Ren leaned against the cool glass of the window, trying to concentrate only on the falling rain. Trying to forget. A large raindrop caught his eye as it plummeted towards the wet ground. He only saw the raindrop for a few fleeting seconds before it collided with the earth, exploding into tiny droplets. It was a brief meeting before it became something entirely different. Before it fell. . Falling. All of the raindrops fell towards Earth, never knowing that the only thing waiting at the end of their path was the hard ground. Unable to change their fate.

Ren laughed. He was never really one to ponder things like this. No, that was…

The blonde screamed in surprise as a colossal sound shook the earth. Thunder. It was only thunder. Still, Ren had never liked storms. It was almost comical, really. After all the traumatic experiences he'd had, after all the horrible images forever imbedded in his mind, Ren still shuddered at the sound of thunder.

"Sounds like its close…" Ren murmured as he calmed himself down. Still a bit shaky, he wrapped his arms around himself. Light streaked across the sky like cracks in mirror. Shattering its world. Shaking his head, he braced himself for the coming blast.

He was never afraid of storms. He was never really afraid of much. True to his name, he seemed to like listening to the thunder and lightning. But he would always comfort Ren during a storm. He always made Ren feel better. But now Ren was so used to the feel Rai's warm arms around him as the lightning neared that he felt empty. Try as he might, he couldn't replace his shield.

"Pull yourself together, Ren." He chided himself. "You're seventeen, not a baby! You don't need someone to hold your hand when you're scared anymore." What a joke. There was no fooling himself, Ren was lost without Rai.

A bright light snapped the reminiscing boy out of his memory. Again he held himself, waiting for the thunder. But there was no answering rumble, and the light never went away. Then, he heard it. The sound of splintering wood and cracking flames mingled with the screams of trapped residents. Lightning had struck, as swift and deadly as…as its namesake.

"Ren! What the hell are you doing?" Kyouya shouted at him as the boy dashed out of the house.

"I have to go help!" Ren's faint reply barely reached him, as he was already far away.

There was a crowd milling around the burning building, but no one did anything. Ren elbowed his way through the crowd and into the house, ignoring the stares of bystanders. He ran deeper and deeper into the blaze, barely conscious of his actions. The only thought in his head was simply: run.

Finally, Ren couldn't ignore his aching legs anymore and gave in. Looking around in confusion, he searched for a way out.

"Why the hell couldn't I just stay with Kyouya?" He shouted angrily. "All of the survivors were probably saved by the firemen anyway! Stupid..stupid…ugh…HEY! IS ANYONE THERE? SOMEONE! ANYONE!" Ren screamed into the merciless flame. The only reply he received was the smothering smoke filling his lungs.

"Shit…why isn't anyone coming? DAMMIT!" He swore, kicking a nearby wall.

Ren yelped in shock and leapt away from the weak wall as it felt it give beneath his weight...nearly colliding with a wall of pure fire. As he looked on horrified, the wall he had been on just seconds before collapsed and erupted into flames, sending out deadly sparks like devil-spawn. Trying to back away, Ren's back met another wall of fire. Glancing down, he watched in terror as the flames licked the floor mere inches from his feet Fire, everywhere. No way to escape. And no protection.

With no other solution, Ren threw himself against the remaining wall. He desperately prayed to whatever God out there that fire wasn't lurking behind it. But the prayers of a devil go unanswered. The wall easily gave way, revealing the sinister flames waiting for him. An inferno raged around the boy as he screamed in agony. He could hear nothing, see nothing, but the crackling red and orange.

No…there was another sound. Faint, muffled laughter drifted past the ears of the barely-conscious teen.

"Ren, what have you gotten yourself in to? Trying to fight without your shield…Don't you see, Ren? You need me." A muffled voice whispered. Ren cringed. There was no mistaking that voice.

"Rai…?" No. Not Rai. Nebiros. He had to remember that thing was not his friend. Was it even Nebiros? It didn't matter. Whether he was hallucinating or already dead, the scene wouldn't change when he went to Hell. Another laugh resonated through his skull.

"Talk about déjà vu. Dying just like your mother did." Ren snarled into the flames, not knowing or caring if his fallen friend could see him. "But we can't have that, can we? Didn't you make a promise to me? I suppose I can help you, just one more time." Rai/Nebiros said in a teasing tone. For a few agonizing moments, Ren lay surrounded by flames. Then, he heard another faint scream.

"Wait! My friend is still in there! Please, sir, get my friend out!" A desperate voice that resembled Rai called out, breaking the silence. There was a pause, and then the sound of a collapsing wall. Footsteps.

"He's still breathing!"

Ren was lifted up. He floated out of the building. He lay on clouds, without a care in his head. Then, he felt something wet. Rain, cascading on his face. His little world dissolved and reality set in.

"He's coming around!" Someone shouted in relief.

A sea of faces surrounded him, all blending together as a shapeless mass. Blinking, Ren tried to make sense of the swarm. Voices called to him, trying to ask him if he was all right. Ren ignored them all, his eyes meeting the only face that mattered. A flash of lightning lit up his face, and Rai was gone before he heard the thunder.