Disclaimer: Do not own, spoilers abound, and unbeta-ed.
Today's theme song: Sis Puella Magica, from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (violin cover by violinpiano2). Searchable on youtube using 'QB's Business Themes.' More notes at the end of the story.
walk to the bottom of pandora's box
Time ceases to have meaning when immortality comes into play.
Days, weeks, months, decades, centuries…
The distant sound of footsteps, growing steadily louder, echoes through the hall.
Though her eyes are closed, she can feel Arf glancing up from where she's been idling, ears prickling; in all but the regal form of an ember wolf by the foot of her chair.
The footsteps, she finds herself noting, are soft and sure.
Once upon a time, they were hesitant and childlike.
( - and a part of her wonders how long ago was that - )
The movement stops.
She says nothing, and her eyes remain closed despite his presence that she had sensed the moment he entered through the door.
But she knows he knows she's aware of his presence, even if she has yet to move from where she sits, the left side of her cheek resting on a closed fist.
"We have found it."
It, he says, and there's a strange, muted sort of hope and trepidation lurking in his tone.
But she's not moved.
Time really does have that strange effect on you.
"We're sure, this time," he says, "we've the path mapped out. We can get there."
She feels him stepping close to where she sits, and this time, his footsteps are soundless.
"And?" She asks quietly.
There's a hint of humor in her tone.
She cracks open an eye.
There's something weary and hurt and sad in Erio's tall posture, even if his gaze remains stubbornly defiant.
(- his gaze is a shade of blue, darker than the ones she wanted to see once upon a time - )
Then he's moving again, and this time, he moves to stand in front of her, and he's leaning down and gripping the armchairs of her chair tight enough that she sees the edge of his palms go white. The black cloak he wears, clasped to his left shoulder with a gold, dragon pin lined with pink stripes, brushes against her feet.
It's a pin that has never left his side for the longest time.
Fate wonders, for a brief moment, if it's healthy to cling to memories like that.
But she supposes that it doesn't really matter.
Strands of his red hair is brushing against hers, and his head is bowed; they are close enough that they would touch if she moves (she doesn't feel the inclination to).
She can't see what expression he's wearing.
But she thinks she can tell anyway.
Years and centuries do have that strange effect on you, doesn't it?
He breathes in, deeply, as if summoning all the restraint and control he has.
"You're angry at me." He says then, more statement than question.
She doesn't respond, and he continues.
"You're angry at Vivio and I."
Still she remains silent.
This is when his grip tightens further, and the chair shakes a little.
"You can say you aren't angry, but we know you, Fate-san. We know you." His voice is pleading and desperate for something she can probably tell and doesn't.
He exhales. "And it matters, Fate-san. It matters."
She closes the one eye she opened.
"No," she counters softly. "It doesn't."
"We could end all these. We could end all these, Fate-san."
She finds that she can't help but smile a little at that.
"The world has ended, Erio." There are no daggers in her tone, no reproach, no hurt, no anger, nothing.
But Erio reacts as if he had been stung.
"Fate-san - "
"I can't believe that."
Erio jerks, not expecting the intrusion, and steps away from her chair, turning to look at the one who spoke.
"Vivio..." he whispers.
Fate cracks an eye open, again, to see the girl, in her barrier jacket, with a cloak similar to that of Erio despite the lack of a dragon clasp. She's standing by the mahogany doors, hands curled tightly into trembling fists.
The girl - woman - strides forward to them purposefully.
She looks angry enough to take down anything in her path.
"I won't believe that, Fate-mama."
Fate doesn't react.
Her daughter comes close enough, drops to the floor by the chair, and grasps her hands tightly.
"We can change all these," Vivio whispers. "I know we can."
She feels a hint of wry humor seep into her. Vivio is so much like her.
She remembers her name.
But sometimes, she has difficulty recalling how the woman she loved had looked like. She remembers slate blue eyes, like storm and electricity, yet hinting on noble violet, but, beyond that...
"Help us, Fate-mama. Please. We - we have everything set up. We can start immediately. We just - we need you. We need you, Fate-mama."
And finally, finally, something moves her. Maybe it's that tone, maybe it's because she can feel Arf agreeing wordlessly, maybe it's the fire she sees burning in that heterochromatic gaze that is so, so familiar...
Or maybe it's just a whim of boredom.
She lifts a hand to brush against her daughter's cheek gently.
"You know you're playing with forbidden things."
There's no hesitation in those eyes despite what she said.
"One that I wouldn't condone, a long time ago," she murmurs. "Not after how my mother had set an example of why it's the worst possible idea."
From the corner of her eyes, she can see Arf flinching. Her familiar, who had remained silent and by her side.
Vivio's only reaction is to grasp at her hands more tightly. Erio tightens his fist.
She eyes them both, and doesn't feel anything beyond muted amusement. The marks Precia gave her - gave them - would never fade, would it?
Not so much in a direct sense, perhaps.
But it was Precia Testarossa who perfected the cloning technology that Jail Scaglietti founded.
She sees the resolve harden in heterochromatic eyes.
"Even so, Fate-mama." Vivio whispers.
It's a minute silence before she speaks again.
"You're determined." Fate says to them both, more statement than question.
"We..." Vivio falters for a second, and that is the moment when Erio presses a hand to the younger woman's shoulder.
Her children looked at each other, briefly, and she can only imagine what they are communicating with each other.
The faltering gaze disappears when the blonde looks back at her; squeezing her hands tightly once more.
"We've nothing to lose," Vivio says, quietly. "Not anymore."
There's nothing hesitant and wavering in that tone.
She can't help but smile at that.
And Fate doesn't know what is it that Erio and Vivio see in her smile, but whatever it is - it's enough to make tears gather by the edge of Vivio's eyes, and for Erio to look at her with a strange, desperate hope lurking behind his hardened gaze.
She sighs, disengages her hands from Vivio's grip gently; and brushes against her daughter's hair lightly before moving to stand up.
Vivio stands, too.
Idly, she notes that Vivio is her height. Erio is half a head taller than her.
And both of them do not look a day over their early twenties.
But, she supposes, the same could be said for herself.
She doesn't look a day over twenty-five, either, despite the fact that three centuries have passed.
( - immortality is your name - )
"I'm only doing this for the both of you. Nothing else." She lifts her hand, palm upwards, and her triangular device flickers into existence.
"Yes sir. Stand by, ready."
A flash of yellow.
White cloak billows.
She moves, first, to stand in the middle of the large hall. Vivio and Erio follows, the former flanking her right, the latter on the left.
She doesn't need to ask them if they are ready.
She knows they are, for they would not have come to her otherwise.
Erio waves a hand; and blue screens, multiples of them, hovers around him.
"Setting coordinates," he says. "Adjusting jewel seeds."
Strada hums and buzzes in his hand, blinking periodically. The boy - man - had called out his device in a blink of an eye; and twenty one triangular gems floats in front of him. Thin blue beams flickers in and out as they attempt to connect to each other; the seeds moving in a circular motion, sometimes cutting into the line to move to a different arrangement -
Then, finally, they stilled in mid-air; now a thin strand of a glowing azure that ties the seeds in position.
He glances at her, them, briefly, expression indescribable; and focuses back on the blue screen in front of him. "Adjustment complete." A pause. "Vivio."
Her daughter clasps a fist to her chest, and breathes in deeply.
"Sacred Heart," she murmurs. "Begin incantation."
Fate wonders if Vivio has perfected the barrier she said would bypass the dimensional rift that made all magic null. She's not sure if it is even possible. Tampering with nature is one thing, playing God is another.
She wonders if Vivio knows what she is doing.
But she supposes she will find out soon enough either way.
She taps Bardiche on the floor.
A bright, bright magic circle, yellow and gold, expands from where she stands until it covers the whole hall.
"Arf," she says, once and only once.
"Yes." Her familiar's magic circle flickers into existence too, a dark yellow and almost orange; and she feels the energy from Arf flowing in, controlling the energy of the jewel seeds.
"We will change things, Fate-mama," Vivio whispers. "We will. This time they won't die. They won't."
There's muted desperation laced in her determined voice.
Fate doesn't respond to that. She has nothing to say to that, because she had already said what her thoughts were.
She's only doing it because they want to do this.
The rest of it...
It's actually a little funny, in a strange sort of way. She should've died. Vivio and Erio should have died, as well.
But they didn't.
Be it by a twist of fate or something else, Jail Scaglietti had achieved things that should have never been possible.
Because they are clones, the virus did not affect them the way it did everyone else.
Because they are clones, the virus did not corrupt their minds the way it did others.
Because they are clones, the virus granted them immortality instead of death.
And they lived to see the world die.
"Start the transfer," she says, softly.
She feels the power and magic from the seeds envelop her device.
Fate closes her eyes, briefly.
"Both of you realize we may not even reach it?" She asks. She had to ask. "And even if we did, you may not find the solution you want."
"We do," Vivio says, quietly. "But even so. Even so, Fate-mama, we..."
"We will still do it." Erio.
Her eyes opens.
"I see." A pause. "Raise the barrier, Vivio."
A globe of ivory envelops them.
She glances down at her device, and lifts it up to rest her forehead on the cold yellow globe briefly.
Then she breathes in, once, and her voice is a whisper when she speaks to it.
"Cut open a path to the dimensional rift, Bardiche."
"Yes sir." It glints, the cartridge set rolls and hisses until all the bullets are used.
Fate wields her scythe with one hand like she would a sword, and strikes forward, once.
The hall they are in explodes.
The ground rumbles. Soon, this place will break apart. This place, which they have occupied for the past century. And a place it's all it is.
Home, it is not.
She feels the magic - her own magic - draining from her reserves.
It almost makes her dizzy.
And she can see it now - the widening crack in front of her - that despairing red and black and silver path that is the dimensional rift; making her altogether nostalgic, sad and happy.
How long has it been since she saw something like this?
She wonders what Nanoha will say - would have said - about this. About what Vivio is doing.
About what Vivio is attempting.
And she wonders what Nanoha would say to her lending a hand to VIvio.
But it's no good.
She doesn't know anymore.
She can't tell, anymore.
It's all so distant, now.
But, oh, well...
If it's what Erio and Vivio wants, even if she thinks it futile.
Al-Hazard, it shall be.
A/N: Uhm. This was written a while ago; sometime in May 2011 specifically. Fic is probably influenced by the Madoka anime, if you get my very obvious drift. I completely forgot about this until sometime a couple days ago, when I was...spring cleaning my PC. So, yeah. Definitely collected a lot of dust. Oops. And no - no continuation, sorry. Meant to be a what-if one shot, particularly because this fic defies a lot of logic that I'm not inclined to work my way through (aka plot holes).
But, I hope it was entertaining to read. I think a bit of variety from the usual things I do would be refreshing. :)