Hiya. I know I start too many stories and leave them unfinished but I already wrote the ending to this one. I'm a couple chapters ahead so as I finish a new one I'll update. That means check your alert box.

Warnings: Gender Flip, swearing, violence, insanity, hints of romance, and blood

Rating: T


Molting

First Sign

It began early in the morning, before the sun had even risen. The pain was more than sudden and seemed to last an eternity. The pain had simply been there, as though she had just now noticed it. Through it all, she managed to stand up from where she had fallen and return to her room, desperate not to wake up the boy she used as a stuffed animal. I don't want the nightmares to make me scream, I don't want... As the door shut hurriedly behind her, she collapsed, shaking. It was as though her entire being had been pricked with flaming needles, tearing into her flesh in places it was impossible for hands to reach. The worst was on her back, her torso akin to the whipping post she had sometimes been used as.

Don't cry out, she ordered herself silently, desperately. Don't make a sound, don't let them hear! She closed her eyes and bit her lip. She had to ignore the pain. She had to find the source and block it out. The pain wouldn't matter. If only she could move to feel, if only she could...

It was gone. There was no pain, just sweaty, filthy clothes and and accelerated, panicked vitals that were calming as fast as they had risen. Timidly, she moved her hand to touch her back under her long shirt. It felt sticky. No surprise. She had gotten slashed there in a recent fight. The stress opened up the wounds again was all. There was something else there, soft, stained. Pulling back the hand, the lithe girl began to shake.

On her fingers were the remnants of a torn feather.

A woman with brownish-red hair watched in pure silence as their small guest stumbled back towards the bathroom. She sipped her tea, blue eyes shining with an anxious feeling that she could not name. As the door slid shut, another opened next to her own. Distinctly deep grumbles came from a taller figure, a spiky-haired male to be precise, as he leaned on the frame.

"What the hell was up with that?" he muttered irritably. "It's bad enough he sleeps in my bed but did he have to wake me up? God damn..." She rolled her eyes with her usual good-natured amusement, flicking him casually on the forehead. He clapped a head to the now red flesh, pouting at her as he did so. "What the hell was that for?"

"You're making too much noise," she replied, placing her tea on her table. "Go back to sleep. You've got a couple hours left before school." He obeyed, still muttering derisively. As soon as she heard the familiar thump of body against bed, she headed toward the bathroom and knocked gently on the wood.

"Akito, it's Rika. Can I come in?"

For a moment, the woman heard the shattering agony of silence. Finally, there came a soft reply, using her real voice."...Uh-huh."

Opening the door revealed a pathetic, naked creature huddling on the tile. Her too-baggy "boy" clothes were on the other side of the large bathroom, thrown in a heap. Akito shook in silence, biting her lip until it was dotted crimson. Her back bled terribly from many now open wounds. Two showed themselves in the way a show-off did: small slashes near the spine that came from no weapons but the cruelest of wielders. They were jerky lines, formed from what appeared to be the inside-out. Rika hid her recoil and peered closer. There were odd little white fibers floating in the splashes on the skin. The small girl shivered, not from pain or cold, but from the intense scrutiny the older women was showing her. Even though it was a kind gaze, she wasn't someone meant for exposure. At least that was her own opinion, right or wrong.

Rika gently shut the door behind her and moved forward. Akito flinched reflexively before seeming to relax and give up, trying to force herself back to her feet. The redhead assisted the blue-haired teen in standing back up, feeling every tremble in her body. Akito ambled toward her clothes as blood clinked onto the tiling. Rika winced, watching how, with the presence of another in the room, she defied her pain, pretending to be strong. Rika was likely the only one who knew this truth about the blue-haired child (aside from Ume, who just had the ability to understand things she shouldn't). She hid it so well, even when she had freely walked across their home naked as a baby. It seemed like such a simple secret, being a girl. Hiding it was something the sister-like mother failed to understand. Turning away, she started the bath water, watching steam fill the room with the temperature change.

"D-Did...?'

"Did what?"

"D-Did Ikki-kun...wake up?" Rika nodded calmly and winced at the sight of the girl's crestfallen face. How can someone like this be so selfless? "I-I'm sorry..."

"It's fine," replied the woman dismissively, watching the girl without her mask. When she didn't smile, Akito looked very close to suicidal. Smiling hid the pain she struggled through, hid the fact that she had lost her mind just to keep herself from dying, and even hid the secrets that she locked tightly away. Rika had been told as a child that she could see what was behind people's eyes. Helping the girl now, hopefully trying to fix battle wounds and not self-mutilation (because she didn't care that this wasn't her child and the poor broken shark would pitch a fit, she would call this child a therapist and forcibly adopt her), she wished she couldn't. "That boy needs to learn to get up early anyway." Softly, faintly, Akito giggled as her hands scrubbed almost frantically against the fabric. "Aren't you in pain Akito?" The blue-haired female stiffened for an instant. Then something in her gave and she replied flatly.

"...Yes I am."

"I'm impressed at your strength," noted the redhead as she turned off the bathtub water. "You didn't make a sound this whole time, even though those injuries would have had even those of us from Sleeping Forest complaining."

"...I'm not supposed to."

Rika turned from where she was by the door, having intended to give the girl some privacy. "What do you mean?"

Akito hung her clothes gently from a bar on the wall. "No matter the pain, even if I am dying, I can't make a sound. It's a sign of my worthless weakness and selfish wants. Besides," She lowered herself into the tub, muscles relaxing against the hot water. "No one answers anyway." Sinking all the way in, the slender girl closed her eyes, almost appearing asleep. Rika, now thoroughly shaken from the calm, motherly way she always managed to show her younger siblings, left the room. Making it back to the safety of her bed, the wrestler sat down and shuddered.

Despair, she thought with an almost revelation-like misery. All that lives in that child's heart is despair. Ikki needed to know.

We have feathers growing out of our back. It was a testament to how sleepy Agito was that she sounded more childish than normal.

Yeah. Akito's answer was followed by a wince at the sight of crimson-tinged bath water.

What does it mean? Can we stop it? Akito simply sat there in the tub and wished she could cry. But she couldn't, not for herself. That was a selfish thing, not allowed. She knew that, she knew so much, yet she couldn't even...

She hesitated, forcing her urges from her head and trying to find the right words. I think it means...change. If I'm right, then it's likely there's nothing we can do. She was right but she couldn't say that. There had to be a little hope for Agito. She had not been there, she did not remember. Not even those two knew the things Akito herself understood.

Agito was quiet, waking up a little more. Akito thought back to the beginning, where she had been "born". It had been cold, a strange sort of capsule. There had been voices everywhere and someone had held up her tiny body toward the sky.

(Sky... even thinking the word now makes your heart begin to burn right? You want to run don't you? Run far and fast, until you aren't running anymore and you're actually-)

The people there at the time were all adults. They spoke of things your new mind couldn't possibly process except for one. That man watched you with an eerie glimmer in his eyes and moved closer. Even though you knew nothing, nothing that stayed, you knew to fear him and shied away man had smiled and reached for you, his hand blocking out everything...

Akito! She jolted, splashing water startling her. In their mind, Agito was peering at her almost irritably, hands on her slender hips in a scolding gesture. She was obviously fully awake now, judging by the gleam in the golden stare.

Ah sorry, she murmured hurriedly, scrubbing her skin roughly in embarrassment, ignoring the slowly appearing scars on her skin. Whoever created makeup was a genius. I guess I zoned out. What were you saying?

Agito huffed, just a bit offended at her other half ignoring what she obviously important to her. I was asking if it was weird to you.

If what was weird to me?

We could be dying yet... Agito paused, clearly not sure how to phrase this. You're not scared. At all. Shouldn't this fact, you know, bother you?

Akito thought about it a moment, wondering why, after the initial knowledge, she had simply calmed down about it. The answer bolted in her head, really obvious once it did. I can't change it Agito. If I'm going to die, that's just how it is. Plus, I was taught I would die young. But considering I don't think I've actually lived, would it really change much of anything?

...I guess not.

The spiky-haired teen banged loudly on the bathroom door. "Would you hurry up?" he half-shouted with annoyance. "I need to get in there!" Honestly, first he wakes me up, now he's taking too damn long in the bathroom. Can't this kid give me a break? He stepped back as the door slid open. Akito was wrapped in a towel. He was smiling blankly, not glancing at the taller male. Clutching his clothes, the blue-haired child hurried away to his own room. Ikki frowned. What was that about? Usually the boy at least greeted him. Sighing, he went to get ready. He really hated school.

In her room, Akito sighed exhaustedly, pulling on the dress shirt. Why do girls like wearing tight clothing? At least this I can move around in. Agito shrugged. Akito tried to smile but the other didn't return it, caught up in gloomy thoughts Akito couldn't understand. She was thinking those things more and more lately, things about death, about pain, and about the inexplicable "breaking" that seemed to come from their legs more and more.

Agito is suicidal.

Akito flinched away from the words, from the thoughts in her head. She focused on getting dressed, on rebuilding her mask so it was unable to be seen through, even by herself in the mirror. Agito wasn't suicidal! She just wasn't! If Agito left, if she disappeared...

(Good job Akito. You're complete, my pet.)

Look at all the blood Sanao-san! Look! I did that all by myself! I made Onii-chan smile! See? See what I can do?

She clenched her hand around the pant fabric. She couldn't do it again. But did she have a choice?

Her back itched and a feather fell from the loose fabric. It was stained red.

Soar again, my little Crimson Angel. Soar again and dapple the shattered sky in blood.

She wasn't sure anyone would be able to stop her this time.