Dream of Crimson – Epilogue

By Vikki

Disclaimer:  Almost all characters in question are owned by Takehito Koyasu. Please don't sue me; I am broke.

Flame Policy:  I'll use them to light my celebration bonfire.  ^^x

Pre-notes:  Okay, I admit that this is silly, but … does anyone have any fanart for this story?  Or would they make some?  I'm planning on building a website for this fic, and if you want to make fanart because you are a nice person at heart, I will gladly host it on my site and thank you forever and ever. ^____________^x  my e-mail is chan_minako@hotmail.com!!

*   *   *

                The wind was rushing in my ears when I came to, but I was against something wonderfully warm.  Everything hurt so badly; my pain threshold was so low that the contact of my clothes with my skin seemed to burn.  I huddled desperately into the warmth I felt, barely opening one eye.  (My fuzzy-feeling brain didn't quite process the fact that it was my only eye.)

                I was curled against someone's chest.  We seemed to be moving awfully fast.

                That was red hair I saw.  I tilted my head back, looking up at violet eyes and eartails.

                "A … Aya?" I mumbled.  That wasn't quite right.  Aya was dead.  I was pretty sure.  Maybe not.

                "Go back to sleep, Ken," Aya said – without moving his lips.

That was possible?  Okay.  Sure.  I didn't have the energy to argue.  "Oyasumi, Aya," I whispered, drifting away again.

                I was asleep before Aya could reply.

*   *   *

                I woke up in a hospital room.

                I stared at the white ceiling, and for a moment I didn't dare to breathe.  How could I have gotten there?  The last thing I remembered was collapsing at the Kami no Kaze shrine, several hours away from the rest of civilization ...

                "Ken?"

                Kenji.  Okay.  So I was in Tokyo again.  Probably.  "Kenji?" I tried to say, but my throat was parched.  I croaked instead.

                Kenji loomed into my vision.  There were dark circles under his eyes, and there was a long thin scab on his cheek.  He smiled very slightly.  "It's good to see you awake, Ken," he said as if a loud sound would shatter me.  "Here." He lowered a straw to my mouth.  I sucked and swallowed water, and with that I realized that I was dying of thirst.  I sucked the water down greedily until I had to stop for breath.

                "Um … Kenji … where are we?  What's going on?"  I brought my hand up to massage my forehead, where a slight headache resided, and encountered bandages.

                Oh yeah.  Lost an eye.  I drew a shuddering breath and turned on my side, curling up under the sheets, the events of the last … day? … rushing back to me, along with their implications.  Aya was dead.

                Good.  Happy thoughts.  I forced myself to pay attention to what Kenji was saying.  "… School Bus Hospital.  You've been in a coma."  I must have looked startled, because he hastily amended, "but only for a week or so."  Kenji paused, fidgeting with the cup of water.  "Ken, I'll understand if you don't want to explain … but what happened at the shrine?  Some … some very strange things happened around here …"

                Strange things?  I was suddenly gripped by fear.  "Where's Youji?  Omi?  Are they okay?  What happened?" I demanded, reaching up and grabbing Kenji's shirt despite my aching arm.

                "They're alive, Ken," Kenji reassured me, grabbing my hand and squatting so we were eye-to eye.  He smiled wanly.  "It's all right.  They're alive."

                "But not okay?" I whispered.

                Kenji's slight smile faded.  "Physically … Omi-san's got a broken leg, but nothing more major.  Youji-san's fine.  But … psychologically … I'm sorry, Ken.  Omi-san was attacked by gaki with the appearance of you and Youji-san.  He came close to a mental breakdown.  He won't talk to me."

                I swallowed hard.  "And … Youji?"

                "He's faking it very well."  Kenji squeezed my hand reassuringly as my grip on his shirt loosened.  "I don't think you can help him, Ken.  He needs to figure out how to deal with this himself."

                I nodded mutely.  "And … you?"

                Kenji laughed, then sobered when he saw I was serious.  "Ken, I've seen far, far worse things than what happened that day."

                "Then I'm amazed you're not crazy," I said flatly.

                Kenji said nothing.

                "Hidaka-san!"  A chipper nurse suddenly appeared next to the bed.  "You're awake!  Yamamoto-san, for shame.  You promised to tell me when Hidaka-san came to."

                Kenji's smile was fake.  "I'm sorry, ojou-san."

                The nurse began to fuss over me while Kenji left the room like a shadow.  I never did get around to telling him what had happened at the Kami no Kaze.

*   *   *

                I would never see out of my left eye again.

                The doctors had done their best to reconstruct the eye, but there was nothing they could do for it, and they feared an infection.  I could have a glass eye, if I wanted …

                I turned them down, unable to stomach the idea.

                The Gladius Deum stood on a stand in the corner.  They said that when they found me moaning in the waiting room of the hospital, I had been holding the sword to tightly that it took two doctors to pry my grip open.  No one knew how I had gotten to the waiting room, though.

                I was lucky to be alive.  I had lost so much blood they had doubted the transfusions would bring me back.

                Yeah.  Lucky me.

*   *   *

                Youji was good at faking it.  He came by the next day and went on and on about the strange things that had happened on the Day of the Dead.  (I had thought it was the Night of the Dead, but it hadn't seemed to make a difference in Tokyo.)  Zombies had wandered the streets; covens of vampires and witches clashed openly, and Grim Reapers appeared.  And there had been gaki as well.

                "It was a supernatural zoo," Youji said with a shrug.  "When things got crazy, Kenji dragged us off to his weapons shop and we fought from there.  I think he had a bullet or gun for every sort of creature in question!" he laughed.

                I wanted to laugh with him, but I could see how haunted his eyes were.  "Youji … you don't have to pretend with me," I said.

                Youji looked at me quizzically.  "Pretend about what?" he asked.

                "Pretend that … that becoming a vampire hasn't hurt you."

                But Youji only shook his head, smiling.  "Kenken, you're such a mother hen," he joked.  When I sat stone-faced, he sobered slightly, looking down.  "I talked to the Necromancer kid about it," he said to his lap.  "He said that I couldn't do anything about it … that I had to just accept it."  He looked up at me again, green eyes dark with unfathomable feeling.  "I'm trying to do that, Ken.  It's not as if it's changed much of anything …" his eyes went distant.  "But … I can feel your sadness and frustration … and I want to suck it away."  He swallowed.  "And ... and I can hear your blood pounding in your veins."

                I tightened instinctively and tried to control my breathing.

                Youji's eyes focused sharply on me again.  "It's a temptation … but I've lived with that before.  I accept this.  I accept that I am … a psi-vampire.  There's nothing I can do but control this new power inside me."

                But I knew Youji wasn't happy.  Who would be?

                Kenji was right.  He had to figure out how to handle this himself … because he wouldn't let anyone in to help.

*   *   *

                I stood, trembling slightly, in front of the mirror of the private hospital bedroom.  I had to lean on the sink for support.

                Slowly, with my good eye closed, I unwrapped the bandages around my head that were covering the remains of my left eye.

                I gathered my courage and peered into the mirror.  One dark brown eye and one whitish-grayish, uneven one looked back at me.  I shuddered without meaning to and collapsed into my wheelchair.

                I cried in the bathroom for so long that a nurse picked the lock and came in to make sure I wasn't committing suicide.

*   *   *

                It took me about a day to recover from the idea that my eye would always be bizarre and unpleasant to look at, but I couldn't reconcile myself to the idea as a whole.  The doctors said I was fortunate that the muscles around the eye were largely undamaged.  The eye still mostly moved to 'look' in the same direction as my right eye.

                I just felt numb when they explained.  I didn't know what to think, so I pushed it away to occupy a far corner of my mind, mechanically determined to learn how to cope – but never how to deal.

                They warned me that it would take a while to get used to a lack of depth perception.  I kept knocking over the cups of water on the nightstand because I couldn't judge exactly where they were to grab them.

                I was going to recover fully from all my other injuries.  They were a little upset, though, that it took me only 48 hours to go from one hospital stay to another.  After they stitched me up again, they swore I wouldn't leave for two weeks.

                I asked to see Omi.

*   *   *

"Hidaka-san, be careful," my nurse advised me as I wobbled out of my 'chair.  "You're not really strong enough for this yet."  She had wheeled me to the psychiatric ward to see Omi. 

A psychiatric ward.  And I'd always been of the opinion that Omi was the most sane of all of us.  "I'll be fine," I said despite a creeping headache and struggling to deal with my reduced eyesight.  I longed to have Raphael in my body again.  I wanted his confidence.  (And his sense of balance, but that was another matter altogether.)

I opened the door to Omi's room and let myself in.  The first thing I noticed was that it was dark, the lights dimmed.  The second thing I noticed was his empty bed and I panicked before I heard,

"Who's there?"

I winced at the severity of Omi's voice; I winced at the terror in it.  "Omi, it's me.  It's Ken," I said as gently as possible, trying to keep my voice from squeaking.  "Where are you?"

Omi peeked his head out from behind the bed.  "K-Ken-kun?"  His blue eyes were wide.

I wobbled a few steps forward.  "Yes.  'Ken-kun'.  Omi, you should be in bed."

"Ken-kun, is that really you?"

The doubt in his voice felt like a physical blow.  "Of course it's me!"

"How can I be sure?"

I stopped where I was, staring at Omi's frightened blue eyes just visible over the bed.  My breath rattled in my ears.  "What happened?" I murmured.

                Omi watched me warily.  "I have a shuriken with me, so if you're a gaki I'll kill you," he snarled.

                For a long and horrible moment I wished I could snatch Bel'uah back from Hell and cut its head off for making the youngest of us paranoid.

                "Omi … would a gaki know that you cried yourself to sleep in my arms in a church?" I asked quietly.

                There was no response for a moment.  Then … a broken voice said, "Ken-kun, I need help getting back into bed."

                I sighed with relief and worked my way unsteadily around the bed.  Omi 's lower leg was in a cast, and he winced as he kneeled on the floor in his hospital gown.  His features were pale and wan.  I struggled to help him lift himself into his bed, a blind man helping a lame man.  Finally we managed to get Omi lying on his back in the hospital bed, and I sat on the end, looking at my lap.

                There was an awkward silence.  Omi broke it, saying, "I'm sorry, Ken-kun.  I just …"

                "It's okay, Omi," I said reassuringly, but Omi shook his head furiously.

                "No!  It's not okay!"  Omi trembled with emotion.  "I'm scared, Ken-kun, and I can't be scared!  I hunt the shadows of the night!  I can't be afraid of them." His voice cracked.

                "Omi …" I couldn't think of anything to say.  "Don't blame yourself," was all I managed.

                Omi stared at me.  I grew increasingly uncomfortable until he finally blurted, "Ken-kun!  Your eye!"

                I winced.  "Never mind that, Omi …"

                "N-n-no!  That's … I-I feel like it's looking right through me." Omi shook violently.  "I know I shouldn't feel that way, but I do …" his face crumpled as if he was in pain and he hugged his knees to himself.  "I-I don't know what's real anymore …"

                I felt my throat close up and hot tears sting the back of my right eye.  I pulled Omi to my chest; his hands pushed against my aching ribs in a feeble attempt to get away, but I held on.  "This is real," I said as soon as I could trust myself to speak.  "This – don't pull away! – this won't change.  This hasn't changed for two years."

                I could feel Omi's tears in my shirt, but his sobs, shaking his entire body, were silent.

                I knew it would be a long time before Omi was okay again.  And I decided that I would have to take care to wear sunglasses around Omi until he was better.

*   *   *

                I had nightmares off an on – less often than I had expected.  I managed to avoid ever telling the story of what had happened at the shrine beyond explaining that Bel'uah was gone for good and Yumi was dead.  The only downside was that while everyone else had come to accept Aya's death at my hands, I was … re-coping with the death.

                It was impossible to erase the image of his head being torn off his body from my mind.

                Trust me … it's a pretty disturbing thing to see when you close your only seeing eye every night.  It was a good portion of why I felt constantly depressed.

                Omi was released from the psychiatric ward only two days before I was officially released from the hospital.  Youji visited daily and kept me from sleeping 24 hours a day.  Kenji was there almost constantly, keeping me updated on the real world.  Even Manx stopped by one night to let me know that Persia considered the mission completed, and that he sent his condolences concerning Aya's death.

                Poor Manx; she was the one who got stuck listening to me cuss Persia out before falling asleep from sheer exhaustion.

                We held a little private memorial the day after my hospital release.  It was an appropriately rainy day; we stood on the plot where Aya was 'laid to rest', even though we didn't have his body.  It was a nice ceremony, considering that the last thing Omi knew Aya as was a near-murderer and the last thing Youji knew of him was that he had changed him over.  But everyone somehow managed to focus on the happier memories.

                We weren't far from the apartments, so Omi and Youji walked home together while I stood absently by the empty grave, thoughts running through my head over and over.

                You were … such a mysterious person.  I never really knew you.

                I wish I'd managed to save you …

                I'll find your sister.  I promise.  I sighed and blinked the rain off of my eyelashes.

                I really did know nearly nothing about Aya.  I always just  assumed he was cold, nasty … mean.  But how much of that was Bethany, and how much of that was really Aya?

                And … he had said that he never wanted to kill me, although he'd come quite close a few times.

                And … now that I thought about it … he always tried to give me fair warning as to how to avoid Bel'uah's wrath.

                Aya had always been on our side.  I had just been too blind to see it.

                I felt the now-familiar sting of tears behind my eye.  I bowed my head and let the tears leak out.

                " … of all people, I didn't expect you to hover here."

                That voice …

                "Is my body really there?"

                I spun around, my mouth hanging open. "Aya!"

                Sure enough, there Aya stood, dressed in his tan casual trenchcoat and hideous orange sweater that clashed with his hair.  He looked at me coolly.  "Who else would be asking you about that grave in such a manner?"

                I just stared at him.  "… Aya?" was all I could say.  I shook my head violently from side to side, unable to process what was going on.

                And he'd spoken without moving his lips.

                I thought for a moment I remembered rushing wind and quiet words.  I grit my teeth and shuddered.  "This … this doesn't make sense … you can't be here!"

                "I am.  Stop wishing that, Hidaka, you might force me to disappear," he said flatly, again without a word passing his lips.

                I realized that I was hoping that this was a dream and that I wasn't going crazy.

                How did he know that!?

                "I … sorry.  This is just …"  I struggled to gather my thoughts.  Obviously, Aya didn't think this was anything out of the ordinary, so I had to relax.  There was an explanation.  "Okay.  Okay.  So … you're not dead?"

                "Of course I'm dead," Aya snapped irritably.  "Bel'uah twisted my head right off my shoulders!"  He subsided and his eyes went distant.  "I'm just not ready to pass on."

                I stared at him, not quite swallowing the idea that this was for real – and suddenly noticed something.

Aya wasn't getting wet.  The rain poured down around him – onto him – but it passed right through him to hit the grass unbent under his boots.

He had no substance.  I instinctively drew back.  "Then you're a ghost?  Are you … haunting me?"

                Aya looked at me again and actually snorted.  "No.  No.  I'm … here to protect you.  You and my imouto-chan."

                I blinked at him.  "… any particular reason why?" I managed, too shocked to really argue with the situation.

                Sadly, the pieces fit together all too well.

                Aya looked at me for a long time, his violet eyes gripping me like ice and holding me in place.  He spoke directly into my mind. "Because …

                "… Aya-chan always said to follow my heart's desire."

                The gaze broke off, and I looked away quickly, staring at the grave again.  What did that mean?

                "You will protect Aya-imouto-chan, won't you?"

                My gaze wandered to my toes.  Oh.  That … that makes more sense.  "Of course, Aya," I murmured, wholly meaning it.  "I … I'm honored."

                Aya's voice actually strangled with emotion as he 'spoke'.  "Ken … please.  Aya is my sister's name.  Please …

                "Call me Ran."

                When I turned around in surprise, he was gone.

*   *   *

                The weeks following were awkward ones.  Persia attempted to get us a new partner right away, but Omi was still 'together' enough to put up such a fuss (and so clutter Persia's e-mail accounts) that Persia agreed to give us a little time.

                Omi still isn't quite altogether 'with it', although he doesn't have the urge to hit anything he doesn't recognize immediately with a shuriken (which was an early concern, letting him out of the hospital).  And Youji is as good at faking happiness as he ever was.  As his mask gets thicker, it gets harder to see the real him through it.  I think that having such a thick mask is part of the way Youji manages to frustrate me enough to siphon off energy.

                Did I tell either of them about Aya – er, Ran?  No; there was no need to alarm them.  And apparently, Ran is invisible to them anyway.

                Kenji comes by just about every day now to help out at the shop.  He's officially on the payroll of the Koneko.  He's almost as good at barking 'If you're not going to buy anything, get out!' as Aya – er, Ran – was, and he's – well, to be brutally honest, he's a far better friend than 'Aya' ever was.  After the crises of Bel'uah, he helped Omi get through his trauma whenever I couldn't … and he coped with Youji's devil-may-care attitude far better than my short temper allowed me.  I never see Ran around when he's around, though … I still don't know why that is.

                Because I'd promised to protect Ran's imouto, I went on a search and discovered the one remaining member of the Fujimiya family.  I found Ran's sister at the Magic School Bus Hospital, in a coma.  Ran told me the whole story as we stood there in the room, watching her slowly breathe; he even explained that Bel'uah had promised to revive her if he agreed to help her.

                I gripped Aya-chan's hand in my own and wished as hard as I could for her healing.  I think that maybe … if I do that every day … her eyes will someday open again.  And I leave a fresh red rose from the shop on the nightstand, so it'll be the first thing she sees.

                Life is very different than it was two months ago.  But … we have accepted it.  What else could we do?  Besides … we all managed to adjust to being assassins.

                And not everything is peppered with regrets …

                "Ken-kun?"

                "Hai, Omi?" I call to the door, standing and stretching.

                Ran shimmers into existence in the corner of the room.  He does that a lot; I can't help noticing, though, that today he's wearing his assassin gear and carrying his katana.  His katana was shattered at the Kami no Kaze shrine, but that certainly didn't stop Ran from creating a spirit sword that was identical in nature.  "He wants to know if you're going going to share dinner with Kenji, Youji, and himself," he says emotionlessly, his lips never moving.  Ran rarely speaks out loud to me – rather, he speaks directly into my head.  It's a bit weird to have your thoughts suddenly and randomly scattered by a 'voice' in your head that's not your own, but eventually you get used to it.  If these past months had proven anything, I believed (and still believe), humans can adapt to nearly everything.

                "Do you want to share dinner with Youji-kun and me?  Kenji-san's over," Omi offers brightly through the door.

                I glare at Ran.  "You don't have to tell me everything everyone's going to say to me," I say irritably before replying, "No thank you, Omi.  I've got … a couple of things to do."

                I can almost hear Omi's wan smile through the door.  "Don't get yourself killed, Ken-kun," he says gently before I hear his feet taking him back down the stairs.

                Omi knows. So do Youji and Kenji.

                "'A couple things to do'?" Ran says with a quirked eyebrow.

                I roll my only eye and slip a pair of sunglasses on, the way I always do when I'm out.  It's less difficult to deal with people when they're not asking how your eye got 'like that'.  Besides, I admit it – it's still a sore subject with me.  I may never tell the others what happened at the Kami no Kaze shrine.  "As if you ever had a way with words."

I throw my leather jacket over my shoulders and shrug into it; I slip my handgun into my inner pocket, sling my shotgun over my shoulder, and heft the Gladius Deum from its stand before making my way over to the two-story window.  "See you down there," I say to Ran with a smile before jumping out the window to my motorcycle parked out back.  The air is a little warm with approaching summer, but the sky is clear beautiful, full of stars.

                It's a great night to go Hunting.

                I gun the engine and ride off, laughing at Death in the wind.

So ends the Dream of Crimson.

May this fic Rest in Pieces.

*   *   *

Author's Notes:  I … I can't believe it.

It's done.

At 1:13 AM, October 2, 2002, the Weiss Kreuz fanfiction Dream of Crimson finally laid to rest.

….. wow.

Well … um.  I guess I want to start out by asking, how did everyone like the epilogue? ^_____^x  I told you Aya was dead … ::grin::

Then, I wanted to say:  Thank you.  Thank you again.  And again.  You have all truly been the best reviewers and the best fans. I appreciate it.  A special thanks to Stephanie for her glowing review, and to Keeshe for her long one … and a huge, huge, HUGE thank you to Silver Angel.  This would never have been possible without her careful guidance.  Want to make me happy?  Go here:  http://namidanomiko.fateback.com/.  Go there the moment you've finished reviewing this fic.  And read Silver Angel's fanfiction.  ^____^x

And … then … the sequel.

It's in the works.  But I need a sabbatical, so you'll all have to wait a while before I get started.  Ideas include:  Holy and Black magic.  RanKen.  Kenji/Ken.  Ken meets Kaori Yamamoto.  Human Keys to magic … all with a little death, angst, and romance thrown in.

^_______________________^x  This will indeed be fun.

Well … thank you all, again.  I can't say that enough.

Please … fanart … email it to me at chan_minako@hotmail.com!  ^____^x  And anything else you want to send, too.

Until next time,

~~Vikki