Hello, my fellow fans! Welcome to Ways and Songs and Flowers, a collection of writings about the relationship between Caius and Yeul, a dynamic that so far seems to be sadly neglected within the fandom. (Two fics? Seriously?) I hope that eventually this collection will range all over the timeline, into all moods, and explore all the possible ways that these two could have related to one another over their long, long time together. Or a lot of them, anyway. I will probably favor a romantic bent (because I think they make an adorable couple), but there will be pieces where their relationship is familial, or friendly, or merely professional. Hundreds of lifetimes gives quite a lot of room for variation...
Many thanks, as always, to the marvelous Poisonberries, who ensures that I do not inflict writing of inferior quality on the Internet.
Disclaimer: They belong to Square-Enix. You can tell because of the tragedy.
Here Comes the Rain Again
Twilight gathers outside Academia.
Ordinarily, Caius would sink into the state of awareness that he has developed over the centuries as the best way to keep Yeul safe - a detached trance that sees everything but does not anticipate action. But today, this state eludes him. He notices that the city lights up in defiance of the thickening darkness; he hears the rumble of thunder that precedes the coming storm. But most of his attention is focused not on his surroundings, as it should be, but on girl in front of him.
"It is nearly time," she says, and looks back over her shoulder at him. In preparation, she has removed the veil that ordinarily covers her face, and brushed her hair - the same color as the clouds above them - out from its heavy chignon.
The last time that her hair was loose, she was recovering from the vision that brings them here.
She reaches for his hand, and his fingers slip automatically into hers. He lets his hand linger, as though he can hold her here in defiance of the vision. But defying the vision would only bring the same consequences, in the end.
"Shall we?" he asks. His voice is as ragged at the edges of a wound. He does not let go of her hand.
She squeezes his fingers. Whether the gesture is a nervous one, or whether she is trying to bring him some measure of comfort, he could not say. "You promised, Caius," she says, her eyes fixed on his. "Once you have brought me to the right place, you must leave." She squeezes again, tighter.
He lowers his eyes. His emotions are a complicated swirl of hurt and acceptance. He wishes that she trusted him not to act on his thoughts of rebellion. "I will," he says. He squeezes back, and looks into her eyes. "As you said. I promised."
Her head bows. As she read his thoughts of defiance, she reads his hurt at her distrust. "I..."
"There is no need to apologize," he tells her. He is telling the truth. He is lying through his teeth.
She smiles at him - halting, regretful, apologetic.
The sky grumbles, and the first drops of rain fall spot the ground between them.
Caius looks out towards the city, where Yeul will die tonight, and opens a portal.
"Let us go," he says, and his vision blurs.
Caius stands on Valhalla's shores, where history is visible to those who look, and watches. He sees what Yeul saw - the city awash with rain that does not cleanse, scattered with dying citizens and shambling crystal undead. He sees a reflection of himself manipulated like a puppet by an artificial fal'Cie, orchestrating the chaotic dance of death and damnation. And he sees the cause: a young man in black and blue and a young woman in pink and white, ignorant travelers of the timelines, authors of tragedies.
The water laps at his ankles as he watches Serah and Noel pursue his simulacrum through the doomed city. Cloudy crystal pieces, hewn from their foes, crunch beneath their boots - tangible indications of the lives they have destroyed. Will destroy, in their blindness.
He watches each step bring Yeul closer to this death.
She waits on the other side of the city, a still and self-possessed point in a maelstrom. In the riot of artificial light, her eyes shine like another illuminated billboard. Her hair hangs in a heavy, shining curtain down her back, and her thin clothes - designed for the heat of Gran Pulse, not the chill of the vipers' nest - clings to her pale skin. She must be cold, but she does not shiver.
Caius folds his arms, and his fingernails scrape against the stiffened leather as he tightens his grip. He would not care about the hypocrisy of interfering with the timeline if it meant saving Yeul's life, but she ordered him away. His vows, given before he was trapped in this nightmare, bind him to her command. Academia is forbidden to him until she breathes her last.
As Serah and Noel finally reach their destination, the Cie'th begin to descend on her. Yeul steps forward, arms outstretched in welcome of her end. Caius grits his teeth, and his fingernails open crescent cracks in his black armor. Ten, and ten more, and yet another ten, within the space of a few seconds. Whether his vision is good or whether memory sharpens details that might otherwise go unseen, he notices a knot of hair beneath her left ear, its curves glistening in the rain.
She was never able to untangle that, he thinks, inanely, as the cursed human wrecks hurtle towards her.
But she stumbles before them, and they pass overhead. Relief, sick and hot, coils in his stomach, though he sees her wince as one misshapen wing catches some of her hair and rips it from her head in its momentum.
Noel screams at the creatures. They swoop towards him and Serah, who stands resolutely if inexpertly by the boy's side. In all probability, they were the Cie'th's targets from the beginning.
Caius pays little attention to the battle that follows; Noel confirms within his first few sword swings that he has gained in skill, if not self-control. Instead, Caius watches the girl kneeling in the rain, face pressed close to her knees. Her hair hides her face, but Caius has no need to see her expression. He knows the pose from this Yeul's childhood: she is afraid. For all her self-control, she is afraid.
He seals eyes that burn, and curses the Heart beating within his chest. It was not enough for Etro to give him an impossible task; She also granted him the ability to be torn afresh by each failure. That, it seemed, was the true power of the Heart of Chaos: the power to be broken, again and again. To force its owner to endure pain that should long ago have faded into numbness.
It is only when the sounds of fighting fall away that he opens his eyes again. He knows that Yeul's escape was but a reprieve. He waits for the inevitable blow.
As Noel coaxes Yeul to her feet, Caius sees movement above them. Another Cie'th, hulking on the roof of a nearby building, with writhing, tentacle-like spines where it might once have had fingers.
Caius sees the creature and knows Yeul's killer.
Before Noel realizes the danger, the Cie'th has raised its arm, and the tentacles fly forward like arrows from a bow. They imbed themselves, to Noel and Serah's horror, and Caius's resigned distress, in Yeul's back. They whip backwards, and they carry her with them, until at last the spines work free of her flesh. She tumbles to the ground, rolls over and over. The scrapes she collects show red-raw on bare skin; as red as the blood on the back of her shirt.
This time, when Noel throws himself at the Cie'th, Caius does watch. He will encounter Noel again; he needs to know the limits of the boy's ability, his strengths and weaknesses. The same applies to Serah, who has been learning faster than he would have credited. As Noel's sword bites deep into one of the swollen, pulsating tentacles that have woven themselves into a barrier between the Cie'th and the attackers; and a fire spell cast by Serah leaves a radiating black scorch mark; Caius concedes that they are strong. They are skilled. They will be suitable to the task at hand, and this brings some small satisfaction.
Then the tentacle writhes, revealing Yeul's broken body on the wet pavement, and Caius looks away.
The footsteps behind him are the least welcome sound in the worlds. He knows to whom they belong, and he swallows hard.
The crunch of sand under metal boots pauses. Whether her surprise is genuine or she wants him to know that she notices his weakness, Caius does not care. After a moment, the footsteps resume, until his spine tingles with her nearness.
"Caius." Her voice is soft and level.
He inhales deeply, holds it until his lungs burn to match his eyes, his throat. He exhales slowly, forces his eyes to return to the battle. Noel and Serah have cut through the tentacle barrier, and are making their assault on the creatures itself. "Why are you here?" he asks.
"I have a stake in this, too," she replies.
They watch in silence as Zenobia reweaves its shield. Noel's strikes are a frenzy, but Serah retains her head; the tentacles turn green as she infects them with Poison. An increase in the damage that Noel is dealing suggests an adroit casting of Deprotect. A detached part of Caius approves; a good strategy will win a battle more often than brute strength.
"Your sister fights well," he says.
"She's always been a fast learner," Lightning replies.
Pieces of the Cie'th twitch on the pavement. Noel kicks one aside, viciously, and thick, inky blood stains his shoes. The shield has been reduced to ribbons, and the Cie'th draws what remains of its appendages away. An unwise move, but the mind of a Cie'th is only a vessel for anguish and hatred of the living. It does not strategize.
"Why aren't you there?" asks Lightning, quietly.
Caius watches as Noel underestimates the tenacity of his foe and runs for Yeul. "Are you trying to goad me, Lightning?"
He's not surprised by the answer, but repeats it anyway. "No?"
"Don't play dumb, Caius," she says, and there's something in her voice that hints at kindness. "We're both trying to save someone we care about."
Noel cradles Yeul in his arms, begs her for answers.
"You didn't answer my question."
Caius bows his head. "Listen."
"I saw death. If I were to live, it would bring contradiction to - to the timeline."
A bitter chuckle bubbles from Caius's throat and corrodes the silence that follows. "You are right. We are both trying to save someone that we care for." He looks at Serah, on her knees in the rain like a puppet with cut strings, clutching at her necklace as though it will hold together a world breaking apart. His gaze returns to Yeul, who uses the last of her strength to smile at Noel. "And both of our efforts are in vain."
A lonely wind moans down the shore. It stirs Caius's hair, exposing the back of his neck. How much Lightning has changed, he thinks, that he does not feel the bite of her blade for that comment.
A world away, in Noel's arms, Yeul convulses, face twisted in agony. In Valhalla, Caius struggles for breath.
Lightning's words swirl in the wind. "If you really believed that, we wouldn't be fighting." The sand crunches under her feet until he can see her pink-and-silver form out of the corner of his eye. "If you really believed that, you would have given up a long time ago."
Yeul's form goes limp, and Noel presses her head to his chest. Caius watches the rain wash away the blood still seeping from Yeul's wounds. He watches it until the rain runs clear, and Serah coaxes Noel to let the dead seeress go. They head towards the next gate, and they move like it hurts them. Serah's shoulders hunch until the straps of her dress strain across her shoulder blades. Noel looks back several times, his eyes full of the same anguish burning in Caius's chest.
He's so focused on the scene before him that when Lightning starts to walk away, the sound of metal against the sand shocks him into flinching. She doesn't seem to notice.
"Go on," says Lightning. Her voice seems to be a part of the wind, the waves. It could be the voice of Valhalla. The voice of Etro Herself. "Bring her home."