Disclaimer: Characters and settings are property of Square Enix, and no profit is sought from the writing of this fiction.

I bring angsty one-shot set it Duodecim, after the official quest in which Cecil remembers Baron military. It is deliberately ambiguous, but can be slashy if you wish it to be. Written because I think there's more to Cecil than he lets on.

Also: I keep forgetting I can do this. Dedication is to wonderful fandom friends, especially ones who share such gorgeous shining ideas with me. ;) Feel free to tell me how badly I've butchered Kain's characterization.

Blood filled Cecil's throat, warm and thick. It seeped from his nose, running the contours of his cheek, and dripped into his ear. He swallowed. It was that or choke. He gagged at the taste, and the jerk sent a scream of pain through his chest, where he knew his shattered armour had sent jagged metal into his flesh. It burned and ripped, but in the centre of the wound, he felt nothing. The numbness seeped outward.

Cecil looked up at the black sky and the blurs of stars, and the darkness inside of him shrieked and raged at him to get up. To rip through the enemy and roar over their broken carcasses. It roiled, slimy and tar-like, oozing black flames that desired only to destroy.

Foul-tasting liquid tickled his pharynx, and he sputtered, spitting and shaking.

Cecil had ignored the repugnant voice living in the back of his mind well throughout most of his life. It was the one that stared into the hypnotic dance of flames and wished to burn. It was the one that whispered during his spars with Kain, begging to rip apart that skin, because wouldn't he be beautiful, crimson running down the shape of him, seeping into the fairness of his hair? Cecil shoved it down, the black curiosity and desires, drawing on its power when he saw fit. He didn't know why it had rebelled from his—

No. He caught the lie.

Maybe it was the light, the bend of the moon, but the manikin he descended upon, spear slashing down toward its head, had flashed green. Its slight female form had cringed—he had not known they could show fear—and it had become green. He'd gasped, choking on the scent of burning flesh and the blistering heat of fire engulfing the town, turning buildings and corpses alike to ash. His darkness had reared, singing at the memory, and it was but a moment of distraction.

It had been enough.

It ripped through him now, black flames seeking an outlet, and he clawed at it. To suppress it, to destroy it. He didn't know. It was the stink of fear that kept his head clear. It would consume him, he knew. It was only strength that held it at bay, appeasing its cavernous appetite only enough to keep it a needling voice and not a gouging surge.

Cecil chuckled, spitting out a mouthful of blood and feeling it speckle his chin. Strength was in short supply.

He could see the manikin now, stepping forward with several others, surrounding his broken body. It raised its hands, red with fire, and he stared, entranced at the lick of the flames.

He heard it then, the whistle of air sliced apart. Ahh, he thought. Death brings delirium. Red Wing down. Red Wing down, he heard the cry in his head. Bring in the Dragoons.

There was a slam of noise, a distorted screech from the manikins, and crystal dust rained down on Cecil's face, stinging and bouncing.

"Cecil!" There was a shake to the deep voice. Anger. Fear. It was compressed to flatness, tension in its every inflection. "You will rise, Cecil!"

He had always been breathtaking in his rage.

Cecil opened his eyes, and he saw the man in the air, twisting to slash. The manikin split with a sharp crack, pieces suspended in midair before shattering to dust. Light blazed along the length of the lance, and he kicked out a foot to a manikin's head to propel himself higher into the sky. For a moment, he hung, motionless and in perfect balance, and then he plunged into a spiralling plummet, driving through a manikin that had raised its great sword over its head and evidently misjudged the speed of the dive.

The sharp beak of the helm swung toward Cecil. There was a wordless cry, and the man was angling his fall, limbs held tight to his body to speed his descent.

Cecil glanced about, and he saw it, the manikin that stood over him with its blade raised over its head.

"Cecil! Fight!"

Cecil noted with detached interest that there were two more, leaping into the air and poised to drive their swords into his body. They were not things that would waste a good chance, he supposed.

"Coward," the voice above him roared. "Coward! You dare—" The voice cut off in a grunt of impact.

Cecil closed his eyes, hearing the clash of metal on crystal, the increasing grate of desperation in the battle cries.

The darkness within him writhed in pleasure, aching for more. He wanted to hear the voice crack, even if his breath caught with revulsion at the desire.


The numbness splintered, the taste of blood, the chill of the night air flooding back into his senses. The pure, unmasked fear he heard in the voice hurt. Had he ever thought it would be enjoyable? He felt a touch of pressure, the weapons beginning to sink into his body. His eyes flew open, and he retched, even as black flames exploded from his body, billowing out in a rolling wave and engulfing the manikins. There were sharp mangled shrieks before the brittle noises of breaking crystal resounded.

The roar of fire rang in his ears, and it was a long time before it faded into the crisp plinks of cooling stone.

His breath seized in his chest, pain rippling upwards. He hadn't been able to control that blast. Had Kain—

Warm fingers pressed to the pulse point in his throat, and breaths ragged with exertion rasped over his head.

Cecil sighed, the fear and whatever strength he had left draining away.

Kain huffed, and Cecil wasn't sure if it was relief or exasperation he heard. The hands moved down, brushing over the sluggish leak of blood from his chest, and he jerked, his breaths coming faster and harder.

"Forgive me," Kain murmured. "This will hurt."

Cecil nodded, fighting the tension in his shoulders. His breath hissed through his teeth. "Do it."

He heard the pop of a bottle uncorking, and the bitter smell of potion drifted.

The pain was a leaden scrape of sensation.

Cecil concentrated on his breathing, forcing it to remain even, and dragging his mind from the agony clawing through his ribcage. When Kain's fingers, made slippery by blood, lost their grip on a shard of armour they had been working carefully free, he jolted, tilting his head back to bite down the scream.

Kain swore, rough fingers wrenching his jaw open and forcing something between his teeth.

It was Kain's lance, Cecil thought, tasting of sweat and weapon oil. He felt the trickle of blood in the corner of his mouth, and he realized that he had bit his tongue.

Cecil stared up at the sky, trying to count the stars as Kain began applying a potion-soaked cloth to the gashes. The sizzling noise threatened to make him gag, and the flavour of magic overwhelmed his mouth.

He'd managed to distance himself from the pain like a good soldier after that, because it was a while later before Cecil noticed that Kain had stopped moving, a hand resting still on his chest. The lance was gone, but his jaw ached.

Cecil looked up at the jagged dragon mask, its eyes glittering brighter than the low light could afford. He licked his cracked lips, drenched with blood and magic, and he croaked, "Thank you. I'll live."

Kain's voice was low and hard. "What were you doing?"

Cecil kept his breathing even with vicious force, ignoring the roar of black fire. "What do you mean?" He bit back a wince. He had let the silence go for too long while he fought for control.

"I'll not have you lie to me, Cecil," Kain said, a growl in his chest. He leaned over, snapped open the latches with red fingers, and he tugged Cecil's helm from his head.

The back of Cecil's head hit the ground with a muted thump, and he flinched. Pale hair settled messily onto his face.

Kain brushed it away impatiently, and he stared down at Cecil. "Why did you stay your attack for so long?"

Cecil looked up at the hook of the black beak, where he knew Kain's eyes were focussed unblinkingly on his face. He kept his own wide as he could, and he pressed a hint of fear into the confusion colouring his gaze. "I... I am sorry. I was only gathering my strength." He tilted his chin so that his eyes caught the light, and he saw the frisson run through Kain's shoulders. Bile coated his throat, but he ignored it. He had learned to use his appearance to his benefit long ago.

Kain was silent. It was a while before he sighed, dropping his head.

A calloused hand rubbed over his face, wiping away flakes of dried blood and resting over his brow. Cecil shut his eyes. He felt sluggish, dehydration making his head pound.

"—not now."

Cecil blinked, catching only the end of Kain's soft mutter. "What did you say, Kain?"

It was quiet for a moment. "Nothing."

Warm pads of fingertips were brushing over his eyes, and Cecil fought to stay awake. "Wait," he said.

"Just sleep. I will stay with you." The fingers were replaced by the feathery brush of lips.

Cecil let out a slow breath.