Title: Wrong
Fandom: Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World
Rating: M for descriptive sexuality.
Pairing: Richter/Emil. Obligatory mentions of Richter/Aster.
Summary: It wasn't Emil's fault, of course – how could he possibly have known that his face was a chilling mirror of beautiful, dead Aster?
Events take place somewhere between the end of Chapter 3, where Richter and Emil run into each other in the wilderness, and the beginning of Chapter 4, where the Balacruf Mausoleum sidequest becomes available. Let's pretend that Emil didn't promptly return to the party's campsite after defeating the Schizo, and instead decided to (...pine after...) hang out around Richter for a little while. XD


It was all wrong.

From the very beginning he knew this, almost from the very first moment that his eyes had met those of the boy whose path would continually cross his own, and so Richter could not help but find himself overcome by a morbid fascination at the sheer wrongness of this situation – and at the absolute cruelty of fate itself.

He would not have been surprised if this was somehow the universe's idea of a malicious joke, taking the face and the body of someone he had come to know and trust with all of his being – someone he had seen die before his very eyes – and removing all traces of the soul that had once existed within. To hear such doubt and self-hatred escape those familiar lips, to see such confusion and sheltered innocence in those shining green eyes – eyes that had once enthralled him with their stormy blue depths –, to find himself watching after a clumsy, uncertain figure, instead of the sure, steady gait of a man whose maturity belied his age…

It was maddening, painfully frustrating in a way that Richter could never have imagined if not for the fact that fate had decided to thrust this boy – this… this living, breathing replica – into his path at the most inopportune of moments. He'd been conducting an investigation in Luin, a sleepy city now despite its repeated misfortunes, when a chance encounter had turned his entire universe upside down. In hindsight, Richter was surprised that he was even still alive to remember their meeting in Luin, considering how certain he was that he'd died the moment their eyes met.

It would have been perfect, bizarre and impossible but perfect nonetheless, except for the fact that this boy – this Emil Castagnier – was not Aster, and was in no way anything even remotely like Aster save for their ridiculous likeness, a truth that he unknowingly reminded Richter of in everything that he did.

It wasn't Emil's fault, of course – how could he possibly have known that his face was a chilling mirror of beautiful, dead Aster? Even more twisted was the way in which Emil had been drawn to him just as Aster had, considering him something of a mentor and friend despite the fact that Richter had not meant for him to get wrapped up in the Vanguard's affairs or his own personal vendetta. It was not, nor had it ever been, Richter's intention to gain the boy's trust as quickly as he had, and the reverence with which Emil watched him sometimes was enough to fill the older man with a sick combination of fascination and shame because there was so much that he did not know.

Still, the more Richter attempted to push Emil away – for his own good, for his own safety – the harder Emil insisted on pushing back, reminding him in that honest, naïve way of his that he wanted to believe in Richter despite the looming threat of his objective to pursue Ratatosk's core to the death. How Emil could shakily swear his allegiance to Marta's cause in one breath, all the while proclaiming that his faith in Richter would not falter in the very next moment, was a strange, amazing puzzle to Richter, who desperately wished that Emil would just listen and get himself out of this mess while he still had the chance.

Because when the time came, when the day of reckoning arrived, with Richter finding himself on the precipice of a monumental decision that would literally take place at the gates of hell, not even Emil himself could stop Richter from reclaiming Aster. Anyone who came between him and his desire to breathe life back into the only person he had ever truly loved would pay dearly, of this much Richter was certain.

And yet…

And yet, threats of that dark future and the possibility of one day slaying Emil seemed unreal to him, making Richter question whether or not things would ever reach such extremes. How could they, when only hours earlier he and Emil had stood together, back-to-back, weapons drawn to fend off against the shared threat of an errant monster? Fighting alongside Emil was the most natural thing in the world, a beautiful, discordant dance of clashing metal and fervent emotion – strange, because Emil was Emil, and yet not Emil, but beautiful nonetheless because he and Richter were completely in-synch, moving together with a mixture of fluidity and brashness, overwhelming the enemy in a brilliant show of power and grace.

Truth be told, he'd never felt closer to Emil than when they were locked together in the heat of battle.

The exhilaration of those moments was over now, though – it had been hours since the battle had ended and Emil had compassionately pleaded for Richter not to slay the orphaned monster who appeared before them, instead suggesting that they find a spot to set up camp for the night. Darkness had been fast approaching, and despite Richter's protests that Emil's ridiculous little party would worry and come looking for him, the boy was determined to make the most out of their encounter, meekly proclaiming that he couldn't very well leave Richter alone in the middle of the wilderness without anything to eat.

It was laughable, really, that this awkward, petite teenager was so concerned about Richter's well-being, but those brilliant green eyes did things to Richter's resolve, wearing him down until at last he relented and grudgingly trudged ahead to find a clearing suitable for a camping area. He wished he could've ignored Emil's barely-contained happiness, because really, it wasn't as though Richter were accepting him or anything – he just couldn't find it in himself to protest when the tired ache of a day's worth of journeying was already starting to settle in.

And so they'd stopped, wordlessly going about the task of setting up camp, Emil's arms full of the ingredients that he'd brought with him in his knapsack while Richter promptly ignored him in favor of starting a proper fire for cooking and warmth. He'd wondered absently if Emil had noticed that the bright, flickering flames that appeared suddenly came from a snap of Richter's fingers – because, indeed, he'd felt Emil's awestruck gaze on his back the entire time – but if the boy had noticed that he was capable of conjuring magic, he didn't say a word about it.

Instead, soft, cheerful humming filled the air as Emil busied himself with dinner preparations, seeming genuinely happy at the prospect of being able to do something for Richter. It was all Richter could do to not let the guilt and annoyance drag him down like a lead weight, because it seemed that there was simply no way of getting rid of this infuriatingly persistent – ridiculously beautiful – boy who wanted desperately to be close to him, swearing time after time that Richter was important to him – meant something to him – as if… as if they were actually friends.

He couldn't help but feel the annoyance welling up inside of him then, laced with shame at the thought that someone other than Aster could fill him with this uncharacteristic fondness and a flicker of something, something that he wouldn't let himself feel because everything about Emil confounded and fascinated him all at once and he simply could not allow himself to fall again. Never again.

Richter made it a priority, then, to be as silent and stony-faced as he could muster over dinner, ignoring Emil's meek attempts at conversation and grumbling in affirmation when the blonde tentatively asked if the food was to his liking. Truth be told, Emil was a wonderful cook – and how could he not be considering all the care and effort he put into cooking? – but that was hardly the point because, frankly, Richter didn't need another reason to hold the boy in high esteem.

Emil seemed saddened by Richter's withdrawn attitude, but he didn't press the matter – Aster certainly would have, seeing as how the young scientist was the epitome of curiosity and persistence, and yet Richter had to remind himself again that this boy was not Aster, no, nothing like his Aster – and so the rest of the evening passed in relative silence with the two staring into the depths of the crackling fire before them, Emil hunched over timidly while Richter sat with all the rigidity of a marble statue.

It hadn't been long before Emil finally gave up after several failed attempts at starting conversation – Richter saw him open his mouth hesitantly, once, twice, then pull his lower lip between his teeth in the most infuriatingly endearing way – and moments later, the boy was on his feet and melting into the inky blackness of the forest surrounding them, presumably going off to sulk on his own and wonder what he'd done wrong.

And so it was that Richter found himself alone, head swimming with a thousand and one thoughts, jade eyes narrowed and piercing sharply into the flames dancing before his vision. He tried to clear his mind, tried to gather up every last ounce of will-power he could manage to gain mastery over his emotions again, but knowing that Emil was in close proximity, with the constant threat of that soft voice, that earnest expression, those impossibly green eyes lurking nearby, rendered him absolutely powerless.

Emil was dangerous, that was for certain.

Richter sighed then, let the air press out through his lips in a short, annoyed burst, wondering absently if Emil had gone far before shifting his thoughts to the possibility of the clumsy boy getting himself into some sort of trouble. True, he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself if he had to, but the moonless night was dark and foreboding, filling Richter with an uneasiness that forced him to his feet before he could stop himself.

Dammit, he thought to himself in a mixture of irritation and suppressed worry, stalking through the shroud of shadowy trees surrounding the clearing all the while imagining what ridiculous dangers Emil was capable of discovering – a bottomless pit covered in dead leaves, perhaps, or a ravenous pack of nocturnal monsters lying in wait for some poor, aimless traveler.

What Richter did not expect was that he'd recognize Emil's voice before he could even make out his figure in the darkness. His tone was hushed and urgent, barely above a whisper and so quiet that Richter, even with his elven ears and superior hearing, had to strain to make out the direction that Emil's voice was coming from.

He should have known exactly what he was walking into, should have suspected as much from the quiet desperation in the boy's voice, and yet Richter couldn't stop himself from rounding the next corner to find a familiar silhouette pressed along the length of a nearby tree. It only took a moment for Richter's sharp eyes to adjust to what little light the moonless night allowed, and it was then that he took in a sight that should not have been his to witness – Emil, with his lithe, petite figure leaning heavily to the left even as his shoulders slumped forward shakily, one gloved hand grasping the wooden trunk for support while the other circled around to the front of his body, fingers wrapped tight around himself in an awkward but firm grip.

Richter found himself stunned into silence, frozen where he stood only a few paces away, perfectly still and practically melding into the dark canopy of forest that surrounded them. He did not move – could not move – because Emil was utterly captivating in all his awkward, boyish glory, shifting slowly but firmly into the warm circle of his own hand, bright blonde hair shining through the darkness as his head bobbed in concentration. Almost in spite of himself Richter saw him – Emil's face in his mind – eyes heavily-lidded in pleasure and embarrassment, cheeks flushed with his mouth faintly parted, completely lost in his own little world.

Richter didn't need to imagine what he sounded like, no, because Emil's voice was gorgeous, sinful music in the darkness, soft, breathy sighs and little hitching moans, gasping wordlessly with such boyish fever that Richter could not help but feel a surge of shame – and something else, oh yes – forming in the pit of his stomach. This was not a sight meant for him, and yet here he was, a silent intruder defiling a moment of innocent pleasure and discovery because Emil was only a boy, still such a boy, and whatever he chose to do in the cover of dark was no business of Richter's.

It was then that Richter's body finally reacted to his guilt, eyes flickering away from the beautiful image before him, hands clenching stiffly at his sides, legs finally moving to turn him back in the direction of the campsite clearing.

He should have moved a little faster, should have fled the scene as quickly as he possibly could, because the next thing he knew the universe turned upside down right before his very eyes, set aflame with a wild fire that burned through him in the instant that he heard that soft, trembling sigh murmur, "R… Richter…"

It was impossible, utterly and completely impossible that anyone could turn his insides into liquid fire the way that Aster had been able to – only Aster –, and yet here he was, thoughts flashing wildly in an incoherent torrent because all he could do was feel, breath caught in his throat, chest clenching in an almost painful tightness. His name on Emil's lips was nothing new, a familiar sound, and yet the darkness and the desperation with which the boy had whispered those two syllables, sounding so very urgent and quiet and broken, left him utterly undone.

Before he could register what was happening, Richter found himself moving, dreamlike, towards Emil's slumped, quivering figure, eyes focusing solely on the beautiful boy before him. He had no idea what he was doing – there had to be a small part of himself somewhere screaming for him to calm these dangerous impulses – but it was suddenly too late, because Richter was standing directly behind Emil, practically towering over him in the darkness, so close now that he could almost feel the shudders wracking the blonde's body.

He stood there for a moment, hovering over the precipice of reality and insanity, wondering what in the world he was even thinking, and then Emil's voice drifted to him at a proximity that broke him, a wordless whisper laced with his name, so strong and captivating in its simplicity that Richter could not stop himself – one hand moved forward, gripping the curve of Emil's hip with a forcefulness that pulled a gasp from the green-eyed boy, while the other snaked around and covered Emil's trembling fingers, wrapping tightly around that hot, delicious hardness.

Richter could feel Emil's entire body stiffen, frozen and immobile even as the redheaded man pressed him back against himself, and there was a single moment where Richter was sure that Emil would break away from him in mortified shock and burning shame – only it never happened, because Emil was thrusting suddenly into his hand, slow and shaky at first, then quickly and more firmly, gasping in response to every brush and squeeze of his fingers.

It was only a matter of time before Emil's head dropped back heavily onto Richter's shoulder, tousled blonde locks tickling his cheek, and Richter simply could not stop himself from breathing him in. The shock of his scent was both painfully jarring and impossibly arousing – Richter had never stood this close to him before, no, never this close, and so the reality that Emil smelled exactly like Aster hit him in a wave of tortured euphoria, wrenching a groan from his lips that tickled Emil's ear and caused the boy to shudder in pleasure against him.

Oh, this was wrong, so impossibly, wickedly wrong, to hold Emil flush against his own body, face buried in his hair, breathing him in until he felt that he would drown in him and die here with him, overcome by the force of emotions that he had sworn he'd locked away for good. But Emil was his undoing, had always been his weakness and his ruin, drawing him in with the face and scent of familiarity, of desire, of home – and so Richter tightened his grip around the boy's stiff, slender length, pumping him mercilessly until Emil was moaning in earnest now – moaning his name – over and over again.

It was with a hazy sort of awareness that Richter realized what Emil was doing then, twisting his head desperately towards him, soft lips trailing over Richter's silken hair absently and coming to rest against his cheek, breathing trembling gasps at such a proximity that Richter was sure he could taste him. And maybe it was madness, want and desire and complete madness, that drove Richter to respond, to smother those beautiful moans with his own mouth, swallowing Emil's gasps and growling wordlessly against him as he kissed him with all the force and passion his body would allow him to unleash.

Emil's response was overwhelming, uncertain and hesitant one moment, eager and hungry the next, and for an instant Richter wondered what shade he would see if Emil opened his eyes – radiant green or murderous red – only it didn't really matter because Emil was Emil no matter what, gorgeous, captivating Emil, drawing Richter into a spiral of confusion and need so strong that he wasn't sure he would ever be able to break free.

And then it happened – Aster's name was in his mouth suddenly, a bitter taste that shocked Richter's eyes open from the sheer force of shame that hit him, only it wasn't Aster who was thrusting wildly into his hand, jerking his hips in reckless abandon, trembling helplessly against him in unabashed pleasure, breaking the hot, breathless kiss to gasp in that sweet, boyish voice.

"Emil," Richter found himself murmuring instead, keenly aware that not even the memory of Aster could break the intimacy of this moment, and it had to have been his name on Richter's lips that sent Emil over the edge, because he was coming wildly into the older man's hand, emptying himself across Richter's fingers in short, shaking bursts of warmth and wetness, over and over again.

The beauty of Emil's release was stunning and painful all at once, and it dawned upon Richter in that instant that he simply was not prepared to have shared something so deeply personal with the boy he had sworn would one day be his enemy. This was wrong, all wrong, Emil slumped back against his chest in exhaustion, those impossibly blonde strands spilling across Richter's shoulder, his own arms circling Emil's body and holding him upright as they stood silently together, neither daring to meet the other's eyes.

It could have been seconds – minutes – hours – an eternity – before Richter found himself able to move again, and it surprised him that he had as much composure as he needed to release Emil from the embrace, shaking the wetness absently from his hand though sweet, sticky droplets clung stubbornly to his fingers, reminding him silently that he had done something unspeakable only moments before.

Emil seemed to come to his senses shortly thereafter, fresh embarrassment lacing his every movement as the boy scrambled to regain his composure, fumbling to tuck himself back into his pants and smoothing down his clothes in the darkness, all shakiness and awkward, jerky movements. Richter watched him wordlessly from the corner of his eye, passive and stoic as ever, though the very air between them seemed to have changed subtly, charged with the sparks of a thousand unasked questions, a thousand unspoken words.

Emil hesitated for a moment, stood uncertainly without moving for what seemed to be an eternity, and then slowly, very slowly, he turned on his heel to face Richter in the darkness, searching for the other man's eyes almost desperately. It took all of Richter's will-power to still the breath that was threatening to escape his lips, because Emil's eyes were alight with an emotion that Richter had ever only recognized in one other person, the person that haunted his every waking moment and made it impossible for him to give himself to another.

Emil must have seen it in his face, the brief hesitation, the silent rejection, because it only took a moment for the light in his eyes to die, hopeful emerald flames extinguished to reflect a dull, confused green. Emil was quiet then, and Richter stood wordlessly, expectantly, waiting for him to speak, because Aster would never have let him get away with such an intimate exchange without demanding to know why he had done it, what had possessed Richter to seize him with such force and passion for no apparent reason.

But Emil was not Aster, would never be Aster, and something twisted in the pit of Richter's stomach as that quiet, dutiful voice drifted to him through the darkness, "I… I'm sorry."