Title: The Fine Print

Warnings: Yaoi, peculiar narrative

Pairing: Homunculus/Eike

Prompt: June 14th - Shadow of Destiny, Homunculus/Eike: power play - dangerous games

.

"Hello, Eike."

"Do I know you? Who are you?"

"Such a cold reception. I had hoped you would remember me after our little adventure. Still, there must be a reason for your forgetting. How are you, Eike?"

"I'm good, I think. Were we friends?"

"Of course we were. See you soon."

.

Dear god, it was a cold day. Eike pulled the zip on his coat up to his chin, nearly catching skin as he did, but it was worth the risk. A vest, a t-shirt, jumper, coat and scarf, but he was still freezing. At first he'd thought the worst on seeing the small black figure in the snow, but when he'd approached the pale creature looked up and smiled as if he had known Eike for years.

"Do you need a coat?" Eike asked, wondering if the boy had hypothermia; wearing so little in this cold was dangerous.

"I can assure you, I'm quite alright. Are you?"

"I guess so. I'm just looking for somewhere to eat. Know anywhere good around here?"

"No, I can't say that I do," said the boy before standing up and brushing the snow from his clothes. "Keep looking. You'll find something eventually, I'm sure."

"Oh. Well, thanks anyway," Eike replied, turning and looking at the shapes of housing in the distance. "Do you want to come?"

"No thank you. I'd rather stay and watch."

Eike blinked. "What are you watching?"

The boy laughed, once, then slipped back into a smile and disappeared.

.

"Hello again," came a voice from behind Eike that sounded at once familiar and unlike anyone he knew. "You look well."

"Thanks," Eike replied, clutching his tin-opener tight just in case the stranger meant him ill. "What do you want?"

"To see you, of course," the answer came, and Eike turned to face his unexpected visitor, could barely make out the shape of him in the dark.

"Do you need the light on?"

"Not particularly." Eike felt warmth as the stranger neared and almost dropped his tin-opener in surprise when lips drawn tight in a smirk came within inches of his own; did stagger back, letting a sliver of moonlight cross the stranger's face. White skin. Red eyes.

Red eyes.

"You still don't understand what's going on, do you?" asked the boy, laughing and shaking his head before leaving.

.

Eike looked up at the apple presented to him, barely registering that it had to have been presented by another person because he was so, so damn hungry, tearing into the apple regardless of its core and almost choking with the speed of his eating.

"You should slow down. I wouldn't want you to die again."

Eike took his third mouthful before looking up at his benefactor and wondering if hunger had taken his mind again, because there couldn't be anyone else - he was alone, he hadn't seen anyone else in as long as he could remember, and red eyes belonged on albinos. Albinos didn't have black hair, did they? Unless there were different kinds... "Eternal youth has its drawbacks, doesn't it, Eike?"

"I'm not immortal," Eike replied. What the hell was the stranger talking about? He couldn't be immortal, that was impossible -

"Of course. And not invulnerable either, but I'm tired of watching you starve to death." The pale stranger sat down, pulling another apple from the depths of his trouser pockets and handing it over.

"Why are you helping me?"

"Why shouldn't I? I'm the reason you're here. Or have you forgotten saving my life?" The stranger trailed off before smiling strangely. "Don't think of it as a rescue, more the unexpected discovery of a conscience. I'm going to give you a normal life."

"Who are you?"

"I am Homunculus," came the reply as the red-eyed boy took a strange looking device from his pocket. "What time would you like? 2001? Or maybe earlier?" Homunculus' smile turned into a grin. "Tell me, Eike. Where do you belong?"

Eike bit into the second apple, trying to think past red eyes and the madness of his own survival. "When was I happiest?"

"I don't know that you were ever happy, Eike. Don't be so vain as to assume I watch you all the time; I had supposed you would follow humanity into extinction, but you're proved quite stubborn."

"What are you going to do?"

"You'll see," Homunculus replied before touching the device in his hands, changing the numbers and shifting uncomfortably close. "Our one-year anniversary. Not that you would remember."

.

Eike had forgotten how loud life could be, dropping down into a sheltered park that felt all too familiar as so much of this had, barely catching himself from falling onto Homunculus. Judging by Homunculus' anxious expression the pale boy was as delicate as he looked. "Mind yourself," Homunculus cautioned before settling down against a tree. "How long do you want this time, Eike? Fifty years, perhaps seventy?"

"What do you mean? Do I belong here?" Eike asked, unable to shake the feeling he knew this place, had... lived here?

Homunculus rolled his eyes, head cocked to the side. "Humans. All so obsessed with escaping your fates, but you still want a destiny. I don't have to give you a normal life; your soul is mine, by rights. Take your turn and do something worth watching, this time."

"Like what?"

"Oh, I wouldn't know," Homunculus replied, spreading his hands and tilting his head to the other side. "Cure cancer, bring world peace - that's all you humans ever seem to think of. Surprise me, Eike, if you can."

.

He knew Homunculus this time, waking up after being hit by a bus with his head in the boy's lap.

"Oh, Eike. What am I going to do with you? I was generous enough to give you a new life and you've wasted it yet again. If it weren't so distasteful I would have put you on a leash by now. This ownership game is quite tiresome."

Eike couldn't help feeling a little taken aback by that, not least because he was sure the topic of masters had come up before. "You own me?"

"Not quite."

"Then I - but how? Why would you keep me alive if I'm supposed to be your master?"

"I thought perhaps you could answer that question, Eike."

Eike nodded before becoming a little more aware of the fact that not only did he still have his head in Homunculus' lap, but he felt strangely comfortable there. "Am I a better master than the others were?"

"Good to see you putting two and two together. Any other thoughts?"

Eike thought about moving out of Homunculus' way but found he didn't quite have the heart to do so, looking up at red, strangely soft eyes and the glint of a gold ear cuff. "You found out that you break easily because of them."

"Better than that, Eike. They made me fragile on purpose. More 'controllable'. Born domesticated, how embarrassing." Homunculus' smile was peculiar then because, as far as Eike could tell, it was genuinely embarrassed - not a thin mask for disgust or hatred of the men who'd made him this way.

Then again, with his powers, he had probably punished them all appropriately. "Do you hate them?"

"Immortality is an education," Homunculus replied before running fingers through the loose front strands of Eike's hair. "We should see how you cope with something similar. I'll let you keep your memories this time."

.

It was almost a relief, dying again, after having to rely so heavily on memories to avoid walking into himself. Living in the next town over made life easier, but still - still, he'd needed to know, once in a while, needed to make sure he wasn't just mad. The book on alchemy he'd guarded until it had almost turned to dust gave little information on Homunculus and Wagner's research data was long lost; Homunculus' existence seemed to be the very proof of his existence. No records, no pictures - only the occasional story and brief description, most of which were all too romantic in their details; rubies and garnets, ivory and porcelain, ebony and sable. Nothing concrete, nothing definite.

He managed to hit fifty before a cruel winter hit him with pneumonia and bronchitis, putting him in a hospital bed and sleeping away his last in a coma.

"Well," Homunculus announced from his sitting place on the door. "That was a better effort than last time. Still boring, but I can't expect miracles. Why do you still insist on researching my existence? You know my most recent creation was centuries in your past."

"If I made you stronger, you might... oh, I don't know. What if I could stop you breaking?"

"That's very noble of you, Eike, but unnecessary." Climbing down from the door, Homunculus sighed. "It's been a pleasure, Eike, but you know why I brought you here this time."

Eike nodded in agreement, held out his hand. "Thanks for the memories." Homunculus smiled in turn before flinching as Eike raised his hand for a second to touch the gold cuff on his ear. "Always wondered if that was a piercing." Lowering his hand again, he curled his fingers around Homunculus' and took a slightly unsteady breath - though any remotely comfortable breath since the pneumonia was welcomed - asked, "Will it hurt?"

"For you? No," Homunculus replied before gripping Eike's chin gently in his free hand and bringing their lips together, closing his eyes and breathing deeply for what could have been seconds, could have been forever. Eike would never know. "Never again," Homunculus said as Eike's body crumpled, falling to its knees and over onto its side, vacant.

He had his strength, now. The others had made him fight for their souls; had forced him to drain them while discorporated after their murders of his form.

He had kept his promise; years and youth in exchange for a soul. The contract had been fulfilled.

Homunculus let Eike's soul settle in his newly strengthened body, and pondered how best to make its sacrifice worthwhile.

.

The End