A/N: Written for a 500themes LiveJournal writing challenge community. The prompt was #395 - The bitterness of mortality.

Disclaimer: Hotaru Odagiri and all associated companies are the rightful owners and I claim no association with any of them. This work is in no way associated with them, and no profit is being made of this.

Warnings: mild shounen-ai.


One Life Is Not Enough For It All

Kuroto has seen it all before: the death, the life, the struggle, the fight, the bloodshed, and the rebirth. The endless, painstakingly recurring rebirth, which will not let go of any of them; never ever again and will allow them only the briefest flirt with death before pulling them back from its grasp and shoving them into the wheel of samsara, yet again. For a Zweilt, death is not an escape – the rite of life and death breaks for them again and again. For a Zweilt, nothing is final – because even after everything is said and done in this life, there comes the next one. After death comes a new life and old memories. For any other human knowing that rebirth will follow death and a new life will replace the dreadful darkness would be a blessing, a hope. They would be relieved; they wouldn't have to fear the unknown that is parting with this life anymore. For a Zweilt, not knowing this and not remembering the previous lives would be the true blessing.

The memories bring back everything they have experienced across centuries of previous existence. And while there are happy moments and victories, and anticipated meetings which occur over and over again and the happy thrill of finding each other again across time, there is also sadness, and pain, and loss, and death, despair, inevitability, and hate. They can't help but remember friends, relatives, and lovers who were lost to the grinding stones of the eternity's mills turned by an invisible hand of something higher and indifferently powerful. There are people there, ground into thin memory dust who will never come to live again, their souls shattered by the hands of Duras, never to be pieced back together. And maybe it's a blessing for them as much as it is hell for those left behind. And while the dead ones disappear and become one with nothingness, they will no longer go through the vicious cycle of desperate struggle, pain, loss, bitter memories, and the remembrance of those just like them who were lost to the wheels of time. They are free as much as they are trapped, unable to go either back or forward.

Of the currently living Zweilts there isn't a single one who wouldn't have known somebody like that, who wouldn't have lost somebody dear. Their numbers are dwindling. The pain is not. Every time they are born, and someone else isn't, is a reminder of how it all ends. But even then it doesn't end. The spiral turns, stretches out into infinity, and everything is just another curve upward, another predestined turn, and they are forever trapped.

Kuroto hasn't wanted any of this – a new partner, a new life, and all the old memories. He still remembers the moment when his partner died and the world coloured red and black and ashen grey. An eternity isn't long enough to grieve for his loss, to mourn the severed bond, and to live on while the spot where someone else used to be remains perpetually empty. It's hard to accept Senshirou as his new partner because the memory of his previous partner is still sharp and clear, and the pain is still burning a hole through his chest every day anew, and because Kuroto knows what kind of life exactly Senshirou is signing up for while Senshirou himself doesn't realise… Kuroto doesn't want to see any more deaths of people who have become dear to him, no more than he has already seen. He knows that after every Zweilt only pain and ruin are left. Where they go, destruction follows. Where they go, souls perish and heartbreak blooms. Where they go, is an endless circle of rebirth, turning up and down, and around, reminiscent of a spiral. But if it is a spiral, it is a mock one where the end is connected with the beginning. And if Senshirou enters this loop, he will learn about heartbreak, and pain, and futility every time anew with a brand new sharpness; he'll learn more than he'd ever wished to know. And before long, he will wish to have it all end, unable to sever the bond himself because then he'd leave his partner and his new friends behind, mourning him, remembering him, hurting because of him.

Kuroto doesn't want Senshirou to join the Zweilts, but it is not his decision to make. And he feels that, even if it were, Senshirou would still somehow manage to convince him into accepting it. And Kuroto accepts because, for a moment, he sees himself in Senshirou's eyes. He sees his own loss, and he remembers… The peace can never last. Rain comes after the sunny days. Darkness swallows the light and a lightning flash brings thunder with it. After death, there is life, and in life there is pain and despair. And once upon a time, the world coloured red, and black, and ashen grey… Kuroto accepts him as a new partner, as a substitute, to silence the old pain, but instead it is screaming even louder now at the back of his mind. Instead of just pain, there is now guilt. Instead of remembrance, there is now dread. Everything is a reflection of things that will happen in the future. And Senshirou is a resonance to a Zweilt's existence. Nature does not leave a spot empty, but Kuroto wishes that it had – at least this once. But now that they are bound together – by chance, by choice, and by resonance – he cannot leave Senshirou hanging. He has to see it through till the end, has to try and stay alive because a clumsy fool bound himself to a Zweilt's fate. He has to follow through with a revenge which is now shared, and no, the burden has not become lighter, now that there are two of them. Hell does not scare him. Eternity does.

Senshirou smiles and Kuroto wants to hit something because he knows that the smile will change. It will grow solemn and then sad around the edges, bitter lines eventually worming their way into his expression. Kuroto knows that he will pretend. He knows that sincerity will turn fake and all the quiet moments – meaningless. He has seen it life after life; he knows it before it has even happened. He looks at Touko and he sees it there, in her every smile. She's breaking, breaking, broken… It's a heavy burden and it's suffocating them all. He looks at Hotsuma and sees it there, in his eyes. They are haunted sometimes, bordering on madness, and it's a miracle they're not all crazy here. And then there is only defeat in his gaze, and grave acceptance. You can't fight back forever and retain your sanity. One has to be given up. He looks at Shuusei and sees that he is broken already, and tired besides. He has almost lost the will to fight, and it may not be long before… But he holds on, clings to life because he has to, because they all have to, otherwise those who are left behind will face more loss than they can shoulder. And there's Tsukumo, hiding behind an artful denial. He hides from the world and the reality, donning the mask of an airheaded dreamer, but he no longer dreams. They only see nightmares and it's easier that way because each pleasant dream is just another small needle driven into the heart to the very eye and beyond, and there is no thread attached to pull them all out again.

Senshirou cares for him and Kuroto wants to scream because not too long ago there was another who cared, who promised to stay with him forever, who joked about meeting in the next life again, but he isn't and he won't be, and they'll never meet again. Senshirou doesn't look forward to a new life; he has no past to remember and he doesn't know, not yet, but he will if he makes it through this one. Kuroto wants him to make it through. He wants it more and more with every passing day because, no matter how hard he's trying to push Senshirou away, it's already too late, and he can't – won't accept another loss so soon. And he won't, won't, won't bear the weight of Senshirou's death, his decision to become a Zweilt, his decision to join the vicious cycle of remembrance and mourning, and war. But it's too late, several years too late because Senshirou is a part of his life and Kuroto cares

Senshirou smiles and Kuroto finds himself frowning back at him because he cannot, will not smile. But it's already too late and Kuroto has a new partner, and a brother, and a kindred soul for the rest of eternity.