A/N: Yet more stuff for my 100 themes challenge. Woot.
I love this anime. So. Much. It's probably my favorite anime ever created (after Baccano! of course). I enjoyed the manga, but I ADORE the anime. I've been wanting to do some fanstuff for it for a while.
Informin's: Follows the storyline of the anime, rather than that of the manga. Let's face it, the anime just made more sense. Pairings within are one-sided KaitoXFalis, one-sided FalisXDommie, and FalisXAlita (I don't usually like yuri, but this is TOO CANON TO BE IGNORED! :P). Alita and Falis will be referred to by their ACTUAL names in narration, to avoid confusion.
Rated for language and moderately mature themes that lil' chilluns should not be readin' about.
Not in chronological order. Don't hurt yourself.
BLOODSTAIN BADGES AND THE DECENCY OF DEATH
Falis watches the blood run down his face with a twisted sort of satisfaction.
She waits for the cry of pain that won't come, because he's so damn deep in shame because he knows what he did was so wrong and he knows he deserves to pay for it.
She thinks of Alita, how she will later see her brother's grievous injury and fly into a panic, she remembers how desparate she sounded when they fought - Don't kill him - and there is a pang of guilt for what she's done...
But then she remembers how the tears burned in her eyes while she watched them fade, her only family, and how the bastard just stood there and watched and waited, and she is elated to see the blood again.
But then she remembers when she was down in the depths and that monster had her, and victory seemed so hopeless and she remembers when he came charging out of the blue, a knight in shining armor, and later he showed such concern when she spoke of leaving, and even if it wasn't really for her, but the sister whose body she now resided in, it felt good to be cared about.
And then she remembers Dominikov's biting comments later - You in love? - and how she laughed him off - Don't be ridiculous - and he knew her well enough to know he'd met his mark - Just remember who's body you're in - and she relented, and he smirked, he loved being right.
She, admittedly, had loved that about him.
She remembers how badly she'd wanted to scream out in frustration when she looked at Kaito later - I loved you and now that I can finally tell you I don't love you anymore -
And she remembers how she didn't, how she'd simply walked on by and calmly said the same thing she says now -
"The only reason you're still alive is because a certain brave girl wants it that way."
Keep it in your memory
If there's one thing Falis has learned, it is that time does not heal anything. Whoever came up with that crock of shit, she vows to track them down and gut them.
A year gone, and she still cannot shake the feeling that something is missing, something as vital as a heart or a head. Dominikov and Pete no longer trail along after her, Pete silent as a stone and Dominikov bitching like the wind. She no longer hears shouts of "Could have done that so much better" in battle, she has to stop herself from calling, "Hey, you, the bitchy bag of bones over there, some help might be nice!"
She never noticed how much food she left uneaten on her plate. Her eyes were always, always bigger than her stomach, she'd pile her plate high and stop once her corset felt as though it would rip clean off abdomen. Before, she had - almost subconsciously - shoved the rest at Pete. Now, she sits looking at what's left of her plate and then at the empty seat across from her and knows there's no one else here to eat what she hasn't.
The table is empty. Pete and Dominikov always sat with her to eat, Dominikov reading a book and occasionally making some snide comment about whatever Falis was chattering about, but even those two had enough presense to make her feel as though she were surrounded by dinner guests.
She leaves. Some wounds just don't heal, but those that do not typically have the decency to leave you dead. Not this one.
"We live in a kingdom wracked with misforutne."
Falis hears the statement and is secretly annoyed because it isn't the direct result of something she did. She doesn't like playing this valiant heroine, she is used to being the careless bounty hunter leaving a path of misfortune in her wake.
Later that day she sits in her chambers, Dominikov across the table from her, reading a book.
"I'm so bored."
"Let's play chess."
"Mm... I get tired of beating you all the time."
Falis huffs. "Lotta nerve, talking to your boss that way..."
Falis rolls her eyes and goes back to staring out the window. After a while, Jodo and Alita come up with a pot of tea.
"Enjoying the lazy afternoon, Princess?"
She snorts. "Not in the least. I'm bored out of my mind. I wish something bad would happen."
Jodo is appalled. "A princess should never say that!"
"Yeah, well, it's the only way I have anything to do around here. Nothing major, just another gaggle of monsters or two."
"Don't wish that on us. I'm actually enjoying my downtime," Dominikov comments. "You should be too. With what's coming... We won't get much that isn't misfortune around here."
Secretly, Dominikov agrees with her reply.
It's odd to see Falis smile, in the same body that used to be Alita's.
It's not the innocent and sweeter-than-honey smile everyone was used to seeing from Alita Forland, this is more like a sneer, supercilious and leering but beautiful in its own right, adding a certain hard glint to her ruby eyes.
The first time Alita sees a sweet, girlish smile is when Falis meets Kaito for the first time. A blush rises in her cheeks and she stutters a bit and says "Hello, brother," in a tone that sounds more uncomfortable than anything Alita has ever heard from the woman.
She almost wants to laugh. This woman, who felled Jittbagh the forest guardian with barely an indication of having nerves, has been reduced to a giggling, blushing teenager in the presence of the man who is supposed to be her brother.
Alita hopes he thinks nothing of it. God knows her reputation would take years to rebuild if the kingdom learned that "Alita" had an incestual attraction towards her brother.
It makes Alita want to give Falis her body back more than anything, because they would be so good for eachother, Kaito and Falis, warrior king and queen, Murder Prince and Murder Princess.
The kingdom would be practically invincible.
Alita finds she quite likes the smile. Falis spends the next few days grinning like a fool, trying to avoid Kaito and at once trying to spend more time with him, even if it would raise suspicions.
The smile, though, like all things, is fleeting.
It is gone the moment they are exiled from the kingdom, taking the short-lived romantic interest with it. After the destruction of the Old World's remnants, smiles are gone altogether.
It is a long time before Alita sees one again, on the fields of battle, that old bloodthirsty ruby-eyed sneer.
Most often, they sit in silence.
They both prefer it that way, words are just too goddamn hard to string together and more often than not they end in an argument. So they sit now, the only sound between them the sharpening stone against Dominikov's scythe. Once he's finished that, he gets up and goes over to their pile of belongings, taking the Princess of Cranes. He sits down and starts to sharpen that too.
Falis smiles. "I didn't ask you to do that."
Dominikov does not look up. "You never do it yourself. Figured that was my invitation."
"For me being your boss, you aren't too compliant."
"Get a new slave, then. I'm not some loyal idiot who will throw myself at your feet every time you speak to me."
"I think I like it better that way."
"Yeah, me too."
A long while passes. Dominikov sets the sword aside.
"...You know something else?"
Falis turns. "...What's that?"
"I like you a lot better when you aren't talking."
"Why is that?"
"Because you are the Princess. Tomorrow, you will be queen."
Falis groans and throws the corset. "I'm laying down a new law: No woman will ever again be forced to wear one of these. In fact, I outlaw them."
"You can't do that."
"Because your power isn't absolute."
Alita watches as Falis growls and slinks over the retrieve the corset. Ever since arriving here, she has questioned every single thing she has been made to do. It is almost like babysitting a rambunctious child. Why can't I drink wine when I want to? Why do I have to go to sleep now? Why the hell does it matter which fork I use? Why can't Pete and Dommie join me at the dinner table? Why can't I walk around with my sword on my belt everywhere I go?
And her favorite: Who in the hell decided it was a good idea to invent the corset?
"Women should be able to feel good about themselves and still be able to breathe." She waves the corset in Alita's face. "I'm setting a bad example by wearing this."
Alita frowns. "You are not. You are upholding your dignity as a beautiful and graceful woman."
"I can be beautiful and graceful and still have a waist to speak of!"
Alita sighs, there is silence for a while.
"Alita, answer this question honestly."
She listens. Falis looks distressed.
"Ever since we switched bodies, you stare at me. You help me get dressed every time I change. You prattle on about how I have to take care of myself. I know this is your body; I know you miss it. But there's no mirror in your room. The body you're in now is very different. So tell me: Do you think my old body, the one you have now, is ugly?"
Alita is taken aback. Falis's true body is indeed vastly different from Alita's, a bit stockier and more well-muscled, heavily scarred, but it is not ugly. It is beautiful in its own right, dangerous, hard and lush all at once, as opposed to Alita's slender, delicate form. Truthfully, Alita is admiring of the way Falis has taken her body and managed to make that beauty, once so fragile, hard and sharpened as the sword at her hip.
"No, Falis, no. I could never think that."
"Then why don't you have a mirror?"
"Because it reminds me I have taken something that doesn't belong to me - something I don't fit into. You can look beautiful, in both this body and the one you have now, but I..." She shakes her head. "I'm not... strong enough... to look right in your body." If they ever switch back, she probably won't look right in her own, either.
Falis smiles slowly.
"You know, I used to think I never looked right. It's odd to hear you say that. You look more right then I ever did. I never thought that body was beautiful until you were in it."
Alita looks away, embarassed.
"You win, I'll wear the corset. But just for today."
The dresses are white in the morning when she puts them on, and inevitably by the end of every day they become stained with the blood of Forland's enemies.
Alita remembers being horrifed when Falis protested washing the stains out of the first one.
"Why? I kind of like them. Gives me a more 'edgy' look, you know? People like the idea of a ruler who's not afraid to push some boundaries."
"Princess, I - I mean, you are supposed to be a refined and sophisticated young woman! What will the people think if they see you wearing that beautiful dress all covered in-" - and she lowers her voice as if merely the word itself is something truly horrible - "-blood!"
Falis rolls her eyes - Alita's old eyes - and takes off the dress, tossing it at Alita. Alita almost shrieks, because the dark monster blood has soaked through to her underclothes too.
"Princess!" she wails, holding her head in her hands. "You'll ruin all of your royal garments at this rate...!"
Falis snorts and walks over to her, patting her cheek like she is being an overdramatic child. "Remember what's at stake here, 'Milano'. I should be wearing these bloodstains like a badge of honor. Maybe worry less about my clothes and more about yourself. I can't always be around to protect you, or this kingdom... It's my style to come and go like the wind. Maybe if you spent as much time learning to fight like me as you do worrying about the condition of my outfit..."
That silences her, because Falis really does have a point.
"I...I..." She looks down, ashamed. "I couldn't, Falis, I... I'm not as strong as you."
Falis shrugs. "Well, no more complaining about all the blood then. And if you're going to keep me tethered here longer, you're going to have to tell Jodo that he had better stop whacking my damn wrist every time I pick up the wrong fork to eat my salad, or dessert, or main course, or... or... whatever. If I'm royalty now, I should get to eat like I am. In peace."
Alita realizes this is Falis's way of saying she really does care, past her facade of greed and apathy.
She doesn't mind the blood so much after that.
Falis never really thought of herself as sentimental. That aspect of her should have been dead and gone the night she watched Gazel, the only family she had left, electrocuted to a burning heap by the witch who'd had no reported purpose in doing what she did.
But one day, when she walks along the path after a rain, listening to the chirp of birds and the sound of her own footsteps, she sees something she hasn't seen in years, and at all at once, she feels like a happy child again, if only for a moment.
"Dominikov, look up there!"
The skeletal figure stops beside her, examining her grinning face with an expression that is half exasperation and half confusion.
"...Yeah, boss. It's a rainbow."
"I haven't seen one in such a long time."
"Well, they've been there. You just never looked for 'em."
Falis scoffs at him and sits atop a rock to look at it for a while.
"It really is pretty."
"...Yeah. Reminds me of home."
Falis glances over, taken aback. "Home?"
Dominikov shrugs. "Everything looked like that where I came from. Like some kaleidescope of color. It was always shifting. I used to love watching all the color flow by."
Falis gives him a playful shove from where she sits. "You sound like some shit-faced poet."
"None of us have ever liked what sentimentality did to us."
She laughs and ruffles his spiked-up tuft of white-and-mauve hair, something that has never failed to effectively piss him off.
"I dunno. I could learn to live with it."
That's what it all looks like to her: gray. No color left, not even the brilliant shade of blood, which she has always liked. There is no color to be gleaned from life anymore.
A rainbow. Today, she sees one.
It lacks the color it once had.
Reminds me of home.
Home doesn't seem to exist now.
But there is light behind the clouds.
"You haven't had anything to eat in a while."
"Oh. I haven't, have I?"
"...You miss them."
Alita cuts it so straight and true to the heart that Falis feels the damned tears well up again, and she wants to scream. But oddly, there seems to be more color now, the ache receeds, if only faintly.
"...Are you going to leave?"
"Nowhere to go to. No home left."
"This place is your home, Falis. You are queen."
"...You're giving up on switching back?"
"Even if we managed it, you're the queen that saved our kingdom, not me. And I am your servant, living the rest of my life at your side."
Tears, a smile.
"...Maybe it's just me, but that rainbow's gotten some color back."