"Look at the sky!" she says. "It's gorgeous!"
The sight of it turns his stomach.
Doesn't matter. The mission is over. It was easy. No one was hurt. They have two hours before the boat leaves, and they have the field all to themselves. The horses are happy. Ali is happy.
Is that her name? Or is it someone else's memory of a name?
He sits down in the fragrant grass, offering her a hand, and she straddles his lap, puts both hands on his chest and shoves him backward with a mischievous grin, her skirts covering him like a cloud. Through them he can feel the lines of her suspenders running down her thighs, and the lace at the tops of her stockings.
He reaches up to touch her face, and his hand looks strange to him. The fear intensifies, and he's not sure where he is, if he's here with her, or if he's somewhere else, watching.
The sky is so clear.
That doesn't mean anything.
It doesn't mean anything good.
She gazes down at him, and she doesn't belong here. She doesn't belong in a war. It's not that she can't fight, it's that she wasn't made for this and neither was he. He belongs in a…
Who was he before the war? Why can't he remember?
Does it matter? He's not really a soldier. He didn't choose his weapon, his weapon chose him, just like her weapon chose her. He hates her Innocence, and if he can figure out how to set it down for good, they will both do it and run.
He brushes a stay lock of hair off her cheek and tucks it behind her ear. I'll get you out. I promise. I will take you far away from here, where there's no Innocence and no Order.
Don't say that!
Whose voice is this? Who is yelling fear in his head?
Don't say it! Not even to yourself!
No, he doesn't have a son, not yet anyway, although she's promised him one.
No! Never promise anything!
Wait. Is this his twin? Does he have a twin?
The face above his becomes a boy's face, a boy with her eyes and her smile, and a scar over the bridge of his nose. Is this his son? He reaches toward that beloved face, and it becomes a broken marionette, a grinning Demon cackling in triumph. Is that what he's afraid of? Does he turn his son into a Demon? He knows better than that. He would never do that, nor would she, never.
Or would they? Would they give in to the Earl if they lost a child?
Is that their son looking at him with a smile like a painted puppet? No. Please, no!
The voice of wind in the grass, an echo from another world.
Come on, Kanda.
Who is Kanda?
His vision narrows, as if all of the life is draining out of him, but he can't feel pain. He can't feel anything except depletion and despair. The mission went well, didn't it? Or was he thinking of the wrong mission?
He's dreaming. That's what's wrong. This is a dream, but he can't wake up. He can't shake the clear sky or the sharp stench of blood in the air. The face above his is streaked with gore, and it's his fault, his fault, he wasn't strong enough or fast enough. It's his fault.
Kanda. There's a brush of lips on his face, but she's dead, or will be soon. Is it the Demon? Do Demons kiss?
Wake up. He has to wake up.
He does, with a gasp of breath that's almost a convulsion, and he opens his eyes to a rickety bedside table, a chair with a faded needlepoint seat, and a threadbare rug covering a wood floor gone dark with age, illuminated by faint slivers of gaslight coming through worn shutters. A muscled arm wraps more tightly around him, and there's another gentle kiss to his cheek, a brush of hair against his skin. "It's all right, Kanda," Allen whispers. "It's all right."
That's who Kanda is. He is Kanda.
He closes his eyes, wishing he could pretend he's still sleeping, but he knows he can't. Even so, he doesn't say anything, he just lies still and breathes, centering himself on the present, on this small room in a pub, cheap sheets washed soft over time, Allen's undeniably male body pressed against his back.
He's glad for that. It's a thick, black line between himself and the man who shares his brain. That wasn't Kanda's nightmare. Those nightmares are different.
Allen's forehead drops to Kanda's temple, and Kanda simply breathes. The room smells like damp wood, and Allen smells like a lot of different things mixed together. He was clowning the day before, and the stuff he uses to take his greasepaint off is made with rosewater and beeswax. The soap he used to wash that off smells like tallow, and underneath that is the smell of his skin and hair, no smells of grass or earth or field flowers in noonday sun. No smell of blood.
A gust of wind rattles the shutters. It's raining, not hard, just enough to add a chill to the air. Allen pulls him closer, and Kanda relaxes into the heat. Allen burns so hot it's like lying next to a furnace, uncomfortable when it's warm out, but tonight it's good. It's a reminder that cold, rainy nights are kinder than sunny days.
He wonders what kind of dream he woke Allen from. Allen sleeps a little better now, maybe, but it's a change of degree, not of kind.
He wonders who Allen is really comforting, Kanda Yu or the man who died knowing that he failed to save the girl who should have been his bride. He can still feel that grief. He will always carry it with him, mingled with his grief at the death of his best friend. He killed Alma twice, and felt it both times.
He will not cry for the dead, quiet or unquiet. He will absolutely not cry for himself, especially not now, when he's so much closer to the end. Kanda Yu was never meant to exist, and was not built to live to a ripe old contented age. He's not even sure he's human enough to become a father.
He wasn't meant to so it doesn't matter. He squeezes his eyes tight shut, steadies his breathing, thinks about Allen's scar, that ever-present reminder of what happens when people refuse to let go.
The wind sends another staccato patter of rain against wooden slats, and Allen kisses Kanda's cheek before settling back into place behind him, pulling the blankets up over their shoulders, stroking Kanda's arm. Kanda catches that hand in his, and runs his thumb over the heavy callouses. Although Allen wears gloves to perform, he doesn't always wear them to practice, and every trick has left places where he blistered and bled until the skin grew thick and insensitive to protect itself. Allen's left hand is marked by fate, but so is his right, and the fingers of it intertwine with Kanda's. One last kiss, to the back of Kanda's neck, and they lie still, listening to the wind and rain.
The rain doesn't remember the rain of yesteryear.
A year is a trained beast with no memories. -Yehuda Amichai, The First Rain
Author's note: Ffnet's being a jerk, so for the sake of being able to hit the post button and make it stick before I go to bed, I'm going to offer a collective thank-you for your reviews. They encourage me and teach me, and I'm more grateful for them than I can say.