Title: Imperfect Various Things
Fandom: Guilty Gear
Parts: 1 of however many it takes
Characters: Testament and Dizzy-centric
Contains: Copious amounts of backstory fixing.
Imperfect Various Things
It starts out slowly, to the east. Just a shift in the sky, reaching up from far behind the mountains, spreading lines of a deeper blue. If he keeps sitting there, and he will, it will shift further, the blue mingling with an ever-growing haze that wavers into a softer shade of golden-green, like a transparent curtain, before it all goes tipping and spilling over into a harsh, rich crimson, flooding the valley with a blood-red dawn.
Testament checks his footing, pulls himself up that last bit of the way so he can lean against the branches, turn his face towards the rising sun. Here, in the heart of the woods, where the trees stand almost bark to bark, boughs curling together so tightly that he could walk across the canopy like a carpet, nary a light reaches down beneath the leaves, giving the forest floor an air of perpetual gloom. He likes it that way, much prefers not to see what lies beyond, the vastness of a world that has lost its meaning. Dawn is the only time he allows himself to do so, to climb to the top of the highest tree and watch the night turn into day. To ascertain, in the manner of someone who has been asleep for too long, that everything is still in place, the Earth is still turning, and it will be another quiet day in the below.
In the moments he retained from another time, dawn was a relief, an end to the grip of primal fear that took a hold of men when they were lying in a pitch-black hole, clutching at what may well have been twigs for all the good they were going to do, listening to the staccato of their own breaths in the darkness and praying that they would remain the only ones. Dawn was something to be greeted, celebrated even, a joyous kind of collective relief sweeping through the ditch at something that should have been a matter of course, but wasn't. He remembers different dawns, long ones, gray ones, brilliantly piercing ones, and he remembers thinking them beautiful in the way an amnesiac knows that a portrait of a person used to mean something, but now...
Now they are all the same.
Dizzy would laugh, were she with him.
Dangle her feet and twitter her protest as she points, eagerly, here and there and every which way — that cloud wasn't there yesterday, and neither was this one, besides, the sky is more pink today, and look, look, the owls are coming home, hello, Mr. Owl! — to prove him wrong. She isn't here now, stopped coming along some time ago, perhaps driven away by his silence, perhaps too aware that it's useless, that there is something in him that can never agree with her.
Always too perceptive, that child, so tender-hearted that she doesn't even have to pry, pluck the thoughts directly from his mind.
Testament can feel it sometimes, when he is trying to teach and she knows he isn't teaching her all there is, the impatient pin-pricks in the back of his mind like a pair of tweezers trying to lift a lid, but letting go before they can get a good hold. She doesn't know, though, seems scarcely even aware, and he hasn't told her.
At first, he didn't because she was too small, a pitiful thing barely taller than his knee that followed wherever he went, a hand fisted in the hem of his clothes — hardly what Justice would have wanted her to be, could have meant for her to be. Testament can only guess how she would have turned out with more time in the vat, with Justice there to make adjustments, to measure, judge and compare the developments against a template only she knew. No way for him to tell what is right and what isn't, and for the most part, he found himself a tad more preoccupied with the things he could see, the tricks of the eye that would seem less and less like tricks, the ones that would send faces rippling across those tiny wings; just there and gone again, a pair of smirking grotesqueries.
Now, he doesn't tell her because whatever was meant to kick in and turn her from this soft little girl into the ruler of the Gears hasn't kicked in, and it is all too easy to picture the abject horror on her face, the wide, fearful eyes as she shrinks away from herself, lips fluttering no no no in a soundless plea that wouldn't change anything. It is foolish, he knows, to want to spare her the pain of her existence, to think he can, but at the same time... what good is there in telling the truth? He can't even help her to control it, can't do anything other than shrug and stare helplessly at the difference between what she is, and what she was meant to be.
Better to be grateful for every moment that keeps her from wondering.
It wouldn't do for Dizzy to start looking at dawns the way he does, to see the sun rise over an unresolved past and set over an endless future, with no hope of beginning to unravel the web of regrets and lift from it the one moment where it all went wrong. Better that she feel the distance between them, the barrier that keeps him from seeing the world her way, and recoil from it.
The sun is almost fully out now, withdrawing the last patches of fire-glow from the trees, its warmth slowly turning towards autumn. A cool wind picks up, tugging at his hair and shaking the treetops. He listens for a while, picking out the scents and sounds that tell tales of distant happenings. The harvest has begun on the mountainsides, carrying the smell of drying grass and smoke, which means the forest will soon find itself swarming with unwanted guests, pilfering its bounty without an ounce of self-awareness.
Shaking his head, Testament drops from his perch and down into the lower branches, to the crutch where she has built her nest. It's made like a bird's, twigs and leaves woven in a way he never taught her, and she sleeps like a bird, too, arms and legs tucked close to her body with both wings wrapped firmly around herself. One is always awake while the other plays the part of a harmless and indistinct blanket, scanning the surroundings for any signs of danger. He should feel comforted, he knows, that Justice would give her this kind of protection, and yet, he finds himself unnerved every time, for how much they are not like their owner.
The black one is unpredictable, and keeps eyeing him like a piece of meat, held in check only by the tenuous leash of Dizzy's kindness. The white one is the guardian, tugging and fussing in an odd display of motherly concern. It doesn't like him any better, all prissy flicks and wary stares, but at least, it doesn't seem to want to make a tableau out of his innards. For one reason or another, he never managed to convince either of them of his sincerity, isn't sure whether it is something he did early on, some kind of criterion he failed to fulfill, or whether they simply treat everything as a hostile presence.
He's in luck today; the white one is out for the vigil and grooming itself by using a shard of ice as a mirror, smoothing a fingertip along its feathery brow. Its mood sours when it notices his extended stare, lips pursing into a startlingly human expression of displeasure.
We will move?
It doesn't speak, never to him and not in words, but he can understand its intent anyway, learned to read its idiosyncratic gestures somewhere along the line.
Another minute passes, just so it can make clear that it isn't following any request of his but rather doing things of its own volition, before it turns, bending down to poke the black one into wakefulness. Testament drops out of sight before it can rise with all the morning cheer of an ill-tempered demon king, and settles against the trunk to wait. The wind whispers again, bringing news of the things moving along the slopes, bound for the tanglewood grove.
He wonders what Justice would think of it, her once great general lurking in the obscurity of the underbrush, ducking and dodging like a hunted deer. Laugh, probably, delighting as she did in the oddest of things, and perhaps, in another time, he would spare a laugh or two of his own — bitter, and self-mocking, and a little amused at the irony of it all — if not for the thought of his precious charge, who is just now starting to stretch the sleep from her limbs.
A/N: Pretentiously stealing Cummings quotes for nefarious purposes. More whenever time allows. Expected deviation from canon: moderate. Basically, none of that "found and raised by old couple" stuff. XD Thoughts and comments greatly appreciated.