an Escaflowne fanfic

by Serenade

--- Author's notes ---

Spoiler warning:

This story is set after the end of the Escaflowne series. If you haven't seen all the episodes, you may encounter a number of significant spoilers.

Disclaimers and other notes can be found in Part 1 of the story.

Thanks as always to Nat-chan for beta reading and advice.

--- Part 5: And Trust ---

Dilandau sat by the pond, one knee crooked up in front of him, tossing pebbles into the water with restless energy. The guards hovered in the distance, talking quietly among themselves and casting an occasional glance his way. He knew they were alert for an escape attempt, but Dilandau had already assessed the situation and judged the wall of the garden too high to scale, even if his arm hadn't still been in its sling. He could wait for a better opportunity; his broken bones were knitting together day by day, and he was sure Allen didn't suspect how rapidly he could heal.

Dilandau smiled to himself, and hurled another stone into the water. It skipped twice before vanishing silently into the murky depths.

"Enjoying the afternoon sun?"

Dilandau jerked his head up. For a moment he couldn't make out who it was--a woman in a white dress, framed by guards, her face in silhouette. Then he saw the sunlight shimmering off her blonde curls, and he drew in a sharp breath.

It was *her*. The crazy bitch who'd done his arm in. Princess Millerna.

He hadn't seen her again since that night, and for one wild moment he wondered if she meant to carry out her threat to have him executed. There was nothing he could use as a weapon, unless he hoped to pelt her to death with pebbles. And then there were her guards to consider. On the other hand, Dilandau had his own guards. But would they protect him from the princess?

There was no sign of hostility on her face as she seated herself beside him on the carved stone bench. "There used to be fish in there," she said conversationally. "I remember trying to catch them when I was little. My nurse threw a fit when she saw me with my skirts all soaked." She leaned forward, peering at the opaque green surface. "I wonder if there are still any left?"

"What are you doing here?" he managed at last. "Come to finish me off?"

"I wanted to see how you were."

"Fine. No thanks to you." He raised his splinted arm at her.

"Don't be a baby, it's healing," Millerna said, and for an uneasy second Dilandau wondered how much she guessed.

"Did Allen send you?" he asked in suspicion.

"No. He didn't." Millerna contemplated her folded hands. "Actually, Allen doesn't know I'm here. He doesn't want me to see you until--until you're feeling better."

*You mean less likely to attack someone.* "So you're here without his permission?"

Millerna arched a golden eyebrow. "Permission?"

Dilandau was sharply reminded of just who outranked whom here. "Aren't you afraid of me?" he said, belatedly trying to regain control of the conversation.

"Yes," she said. "But I'm more afraid for you."

"Spare me," Dilandau said. "Why should you care if they execute me? I did everything they say I did."

"Allen's not going to let anyone hurt you." Millerna's gaze flickered away, then back again. "Look, is it so hard to open up to other possibilities? Do you really want to go back to what you were before? Haven't enough people died already?"

His mouth went dry. Migel. Jajuka. All of them. All dead. All dead. "It's not my fault!" he burst out. "I didn't force them to follow me. They chose to do it! I didn't, I didn't--" He stopped short, aware of the rising hysteria in his voice. *I didn't kill them.*

Millerna was staring at him as though he had grown another head. Then she said, slowly, "I see. It's all right, Dilandau. It's all right."

She was looking at him thoughtfully now, as though weighing up the merits of an operation, or diagnosing a particularly elusive complaint. Dilandau stared back at her, refusing to be the first to look away. Eventually, Millerna glanced aside, but a faint smile twitched the corners of her lips.

"You know," she said, "sometimes it's easy to rebel against everything people tell you, simply out of habit. But you can waste years, trying so hard *not* to be what they want you to be. It can make you lose sight of what it is you really want. Do you understand I'm saying?"

Dilandau wasn't sure he did--wasn't even sure if her oblique comments were targeted at him. "So what are you telling me to do?"

"I'm not telling you anything," Millerna said. "That's the whole point." She stood up, dusting fallen leaves off her dress. "You have to choose for yourself--before other people decide to choose for you."

* * * * *

From the window of his quarters--and when had he started thinking of them as his quarters?--Dilandau could see the first stars glimmering into existence above the palace walls. A light breeze stirred his hair--it was past time to get it cut, but so far no one had ventured to approach him with bladed objects of any kind. He would have to argue that with Allen sometime soon.

Dilandau could hear the distant sounds of human activity below--somewhere in the palace, cooks were yelling at kitchenmaids, guards swapped stories as they came off duty, and stablehands trotted horses back to their stalls for the night.

He could hear all this, but not see it. The courtyard beneath his window was empty, as though invisibly cordoned off from the rest of the palace. No one ever came, except for the guards who stood outside his now locked door. It was a stark contrast to the simmering chaos of barracks life he had been used to. Back then, he'd hardly had room to breathe, days and nights crammed with other people's faces and voices. Now he had all the space he could ever have wished for.

Dilandau leaned out the window, straining to suck the night air deep into his lungs. What had Millerna meant, telling him to choose for himself? What kind of choices did he have?

An explosion of cawing split the air as a flock of seagulls wheeled over the palace roof, their cries echoing across the wild blue sky. Suddenly, Dilandau didn't want to be in this room anymore; he didn't want the silent, empty darkness. He didn't know where he wanted to go--the only imperative was *out*.

Dilandau pushed the windowpane out as far as it would go. Looking down, he saw a ledge beneath the window, running the length of the wall. If he could reach that, he could probably inch along it until he reached the sloping roof of the adjoining wing. From there--well, who knew?

Dilandau slipped the hated sling from his arm and flexed his elbow a few times. The joint was a little stiff, but it no longer hurt to move. He ran finger and thumb along his forearm, testing for soreness. There was no sign, and he untied the splints from around his arm. He dropped the bandages out the window, watching them flutter down to the flagstones far below.

After one last look around his room, Dilandau climbed out the window, setting each foot carefully down upon the ledge. As he gripped the windowsill, the awareness of empty space behind him prickled his skin with goosebumps.

Now wasn't the time for freefall flashbacks. Dilandau turned around, so that his back was safely against the wall. The ledge was only a foot wide. He looked off to the left; the roof was but a short distance away.

A distant rapping intruded onto Dilandau's awareness; with horror, he realised someone was knocking on his door.

"Dilandau? May I come in?"

Allen's voice. Shit. Dilandau spun around to haul himself back through the window. He heaved himself up on his arms--and his left forearm seized up in pain. His elbow buckled, and he fell.

His foot missed the ledge as he dropped past it; his right arm, flailing desperately, caught onto the edge. He must have cried out, because Allen shouted "Dilandau!" again, and there was the slam of the door against the wall as it banged open, and Allen's voice with a strangled curse, and then Allen was at the window, looking down, his face chalk white.

Dilandau could only guess at what his own face looked like as he stared back up at Allen. He could feel nothing around him, except the grains of stone beneath the fingers of his right hand.

"Hold on," Allen was saying, "hold on, I'm going to get you." Dilandau brought his left hand up, so that he clung to the ledge with both hands. His shoulder twinged, but he ignored it. Allen was reaching down towards him. Their fingers met.

"Take my hand, that's it...." It was slippery with sweat, or was that Dilandau's own? His other hand still gripped the ledge, while his feet dangled helplessly in the air.

"Give me your other hand." Allen was leaning as far forward as he could, the angle all wrong for proper leverage. "Give me your hand, Dilandau!"

If Dilandau released his grip on the ledge, there was nothing to save him if Allen let go or if his fingers slipped. He didn't want to die, not now, not like this, his men had *died* so he could live--

Allen leaned over him, long, yellow hair falling wildly down, strain pulling at his face. "I won't let you fall," he said. "Dilandau!"

Dilandau let go of the ledge and stretched his hand up. "Allen--"

No answer, but the tightening of strong fingers around his own. Then his arms scraped stone as he was lifted past the ledge. He scrabbled for a foothold, found one, pushed against it to boost himself up, just as Allen heaved him up and through the window. They collapsed in a heap on the floor.

Dilandau lay gasping in relief and receding terror. His pulse was still racing at a hundred miles a minute. Allen's heart was also pounding; Dilandau could feel its furious beat from where he was leaning against Allen's chest. He realised their fingers were still locked together. Allen seemed to come to the same realisation, and gently disengaged his hold, allowing Dilandau to sit back. Dilandau could feel the blood returning to his hands.

Allen pushed a tendril of hair away from his face. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah. I think so." The skin of his palms was red raw, and it was possible he'd bruised his hip when he'd come through the window. But he'd been through worse, and after all, he was not now lying three stories down on the cold flagstones of the courtyard.

"What did you think you were doing?" Allen said in a thick voice. "What did you think you were doing?"

"I wanted some fresh air," Dilandau said.

Allen stared at him in disbelief, as though unsure whether Dilandau was lying or merely a reckless idiot. Dilandau decided not to give Allen the satisfaction of knowing, and pasted a cocky smile onto his face. "You should put in a balcony or something."

Allen gave him a hard look. "Don't you ever do anything so stupid again. I won't always be around to catch you."

Dilandau waited until after Allen left before allowing himself to close his eyes and just breathe. It had been a near thing. He rubbed his fingers absently--Allen had a grip of iron. Dilandau wondered what would have happened if Allen had been unable to pull Dilandau up.

Somehow, he didn't think Allen would have let go.

* * * * *

Neither of them mentioned that night's incident again, but Dilandau sometimes found Allen watching him with troubled eyes. Whenever that happened, Dilandau would pretend not to notice, becoming louder and more obnoxious until Allen was pulled back into engaging with him. It was odd though--under these circumstances, baiting Allen lost some of its fun.

Late one night, Dilandau was staring out the window, listening to the distant voice of a woman singing, when there came a soft tapping at the door. A few moments later, the door creaked open and Allen poked his head in. "Oh, you're awake. I thought you might have gone to bed already."

"No, not yet." Dilandau shut the window and turned. "What is it?"

Allen stepped inside, clasping his white-gloved hands in front of him. "There's someone I want you to meet." He moved to one side, revealing a thin, stooped figure carrying a large black bag.

"Oh please, not another bloody doctor. I told you, I'm fine." Dilandau wiggled his fingers to demonstrate. "See? All healed. You can stop with this circus."

"This is the last time. I promise." Allen gestured for the man to come forward. "This is Doctor Vulpis. He's just going to give you a quick checkup. Then you can go to bed."

Doctor Vulpis was a middle-aged man with a sallow, lined face. He seemed vaguely familiar, and Dilandau wondered if he had seen the man before in the parade of doctors he'd endured over the past few weeks. They all looked alike after a while. He scowled at the doctor, who responded with a benign smile. "This won't take long, young man. Just sit down and relax." He began to unpack his equipment.

Dilandau sat on the edge of the bed, glaring at Allen. "You're like a bloody mother hen, always fussing. I don't need you to coddle me. I went into combat once with two broken ribs."

"Yes, you already told me that," Allen said. "Humour me."

Dilandau let out a loud sigh. "Oh, all right. Let's get this over with."

Doctor Vulpis didn't answer, continuing to lay out his instruments on a metal tray. Allen knelt in front of Dilandau so that they were at eye level. "You understand this is for your own good, don't you?"

Dilandau turned his head. "Just get it over with already. I want to get some sleep."

"Lord Schezar." The doctor had donned his gloves and was holding something in his hand. Allen rose and retreated.

"Are you ready to begin?" Doctor Vulpis inquired.

It was the way he said it. Dilandau's response died on his lips as he remembered the last time he had heard those words, that question, that tone of voice. He stared at the man in front of him, who was smiling with reassurance as he brought his hand towards Dilandau's arm. Dilandau focused on the object the doctor was holding.

It was a hypodermic syringe.

Dilandau scrambled up onto the bed, backing away fast. "What the hell are you doing? This isn't--"

"Relax," Doctor Vulpis said, moving around the bed. "I am here to help you."

"The hell you are. Get away from me!" Dilandau slid off the other side of the bed. He backed away, his legs shaky. "*I know you. You're one of them.*"

"Lord Schezar, please help restrain him."

"Allen!" Dilandau screamed. "He's not a doctor! He's Zaibach! *He's a sorcerer!*"

Allen had not stirred; was he in shock, or just having trouble comprehending? Dilandau flung a wild glance at him. "Allen! You've got to call the guards! Arrest him! Allen--"

Dilandau broke off when he realised Allen still hadn't spoken. Instead, he was gazing at Dilandau with a mild expression on his face.

The bottom fell out of Dilandau's stomach.

"You knew," he whispered. "You already knew..."

Allen smiled soothingly at Dilandau. "It's all right," he said. "Everything's going to be all right...."

Shit. Shit shit shit. Sweat trickled down the nape of Dilandau's neck. He would not panic. He would not panic.

Vulpis--the sorcerer--moved towards him slowly and inexorably. Dilandau saw the tray of medical implements in front of him and hurled its contents at his foe. The sorcerer raised an arm to shield himself, then continued his advance.

Dilandau dropped onto the floor and came up with a fallen scalpel, which he brandished at the sorcerer. "Stay away from me!"

He saw movement from Allen out of the corner of his eye, and remembered the last time they had fought. "Don't try anything! I'm warning you." And Allen froze, because now the scalpel was pointing at Dilandau's own throat.

"Don't do anything you'll regret," Allen said, his voice a hoarse whisper.

"I think you'll regret it more than me," Dilandau said, not lowering his hand. "After all, if I die, so does your precious little sister." Seeing the agony in Allen's eyes, Dilandau went on, "That's what this is about, isn't it? You want to turn me back into her!"


"Shut up! How dare you say my name! You don't care about me. You never did. You just want to *erase* me, like I never even existed!"

"You don't understand--"

"Do you think I'm stupid or something? Just get him out of here! Get him out of here now!" When Allen hesitated, Dilandau pressed the edge of the scalpel against his skin. "Do it!"

Allen motioned towards the door; with a closed expression, the sorcerer picked up his bag and slipped out, still carrying the syringe.

"Now," Allen said, as the door shut, "just put the blade down."

"Who did you have to screw to get permission to bring in one of the enemy? Was it the regent or the sister? Oh, gods--" Dilandau's hand shook, leading to an abortive move forward by Allen--"how could you do this to me?"

"Dilandau, your current condition is artificially induced. It's not a natural state. You don't know when you might get sick again--"

"You lied to me!" His voice was rising into hysteria, but he didn't care. "You said you were going to protect me, but you were planning to give me right back into their hands! You know what they did to me. And you were ready to let them do it to me again. You bastard! You sick bastard...."

Dilandau couldn't see anymore through the tears of rage. Somehow, he had ended up sinking to his knees. He rubbed at his eyes with both hands, and realised he had dropped the scalpel too.

There were hands on his shoulders, and Allen's voice saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," over and over. Dilandau was still shaking uncontrollably, his breath coming in ragged gasps.

"Am I so wrong?" Allen's voice, a bare whisper. "Is it so wrong to want my sister back?"

Dilandau jerked away. "Get out." Allen looked up again. "Get out, I said! I don't want to see you. I don't want to be in the same room as you."

Allen looked as though he wanted to say something, but on seeing the expression on Dilandau's face, he nodded and stepped back towards the door. He picked up the scalpel and the other fallen implements as he went. Dilandau turned away, refusing to watch him leave.

The door closed quietly.

Dilandau remained as he was for a long time. He felt hot and cold all over, as though in the grip of some strange fever.

There was no amnesty for him. There never had been. How had he been lulled into believing in it? The only one he could rely on was himself. It had been proven to him time and time again. You couldn't trust anyone. You were always on your own.

He crawled into bed at last, staring up at the ceiling without seeing.

But if he didn't trust anyone, why did he feel so betrayed?

- continued in Part 6 -