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Chapter 5

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*o0o*

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I'm just letting the story take me where it will now. Not many chapters left now. Things kind of hit a whole new level of fucked up here, so I hope that doesn't scare anyone off.

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The surreal quality of the situation was fogging her brain and blurring her vision, numbing the nauseous feeling in Schala's stomach. Janus the Prophet had seen her to her door, leaving her with a lingering kiss that made her toes curl and her body tingle despite the release she'd already had less than an hour ago. She sat on her bed, attempting to follow his instruction to rest, but almost as soon as he was gone, the door opened and Janus, young Janus, came in.

She stared wide-eyed at his dour face as he approached her. "Hello, Janus," she offered weakly, hand moving to her stomach without conscious thought.

"You weren't at dinner." A small silence. "I saw the Prophet leaving."

Schala heard his unspoken accusation. After all, her brother had always been more aware than most, more real than most. More important to her than anyone. He halted just a few inches from her. "You spend too much time with that man," he stated darkly, eyes older than his small body belied. "I don't like it."

"You don't understand, not yet," she heard herself say, buzzing in her ears. She looked at him, remembered bouncing him on her knee when he was a toddler, remembered rocking him to sleep when their mother didn't have the time or inclination. Those time were more often than not, and his crying only ceased when she was there to soothe him, even then. "Someday you will."

It sounded trite, but she didn't mean it in the way he clearly took it, as though she was treating him like the child he had never really been. His eyes narrowed, irises still clear green, as he drew himself up to his full, if small, height. "I am not ignorant of carnal matters, despite my youth," he said angrily.

Insanity swirled in the back of her mind, barely held off by her will. The sickness in her stomach doubled, her voice weak and empty. "No, Janus. That's not what I meant."

A small, pale hand took hers. "What is it, Sister?" She looked at his hand, at his face, and all she could think, all she could see were the horrors that would ravage him, twist him into something different. Into someone so precious to her.

A strange sensation rippled through her as she brain struggled with the lunacy circulating inside it. She couldn't bear to think of her little brother hurting, but equally abhorrent was the idea of losing her soulmate. And Janus, Prophet-Janus, insisted that his own marooning in the far future was absolutely necessary to their timeline... but she had her doubts. Wasn't it possible, Schala thought, that he could stay here, grow up at her side, and they would still find each other eventually? If they were meant to be together, wouldn't they be, no matter what?

"Schala?"

She tried to imagine feeling the same rush of passion for a verdant-eyed, smooth skinned Janus; tried to envision him holding the same dominion over her body, over her heart. It felt... different... in her head. Wrong, somehow, in the way her affair with her brother should have felt all along. No matter how she applied herself to the task, her mind's eye filled with visions of work-roughened hands, a scarred chest, and blood-colored eyes filled with a desperate need that only she could fulfill. Yet they were both her brother; they were both Janus.

Was she really going to do this? Going to let Janus strand himself where he'd be tortured and changed? A small sob stuck in her throat.

"Please, what- what is it?"

The look on his young face only increased the anguish. She pulled him to her, clutching him close. "I'll always love you, Janus. You know that."

"Schala-"

He sounded even more frightened now. She was adding to his pain, she realized, and tried to bring herself under control. "Forgive me," she said, standing. "It's been a stressful day. Spending time with the Prophet gives me a modicum of peace, just as seeing you does." She swallowed around the guilt in her throat. "Come, Brother, I'll read you a story."

"I can read it myself," he said testily.

"Of course you can. But I would enjoy reading to you, as I did before you knew your letters." She touched his head gently as she stood and glided to the bookshelves. "Which would you like to hear?"

He acquiesced, as he always did where Schala's needs were involved. That much was the same between the two versions of him. She read for hours, until his tiny form was curled against her, his chest rising and falling evenly with sleep. She held him all night, feeling half of her heart breaking as her tears soaked his hair and their child fluttered inside her stomach.

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*o0o*

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There was no doubt in his mind; something was off with his sister. She seemed to be spending any moment she had away from the Mammon Machine with him or with the Prophet, and every time she left him, she held him tightly, professed her love, and bid him farewell. She was so troubled he couldn't bring himself to complain as much as he normally would about the outsider, because he could tell how much the man meant to Schala. So Janus made himself available to her, as much as he could. He let her hold him, coddle him, nurture him, because he could tell the nurturing was satisfying something deep inside her.

Then, one morning, she told him goodbye, and it sounded... final. She put her hand over his heart, and told him that as long as the amulet she had given him was with him, she was with him. Then she was gone.

Later was the first and only time the Prophet had approached him. He came to him in the courtyard, tall and imposing, the black wind swirling around him and coming to encompass Janus as well. "Janus," he said simply, his voice lower than usual. "You must come with me."

He regarded the huge man as the swirling dark clouds roared silently around them. "Is it Schala?" he guessed, letting his silver bangs cover his face.

The Prophet hesitated, then pulled his hood back, revealing his serious expression. He seemed to be searching Janus' face intensely. "It is only ever Schala for us," he admitted quietly. "She is everything that matters."

Janus nodded sagely. It seemed that his aims and this suspicious interloper's were more similar than he could have predicted. "What is wrong?"

The older man seemed to hesitate, considering. "Someday, she will need to be saved, and you will have to be the one to do the saving. You must become stronger, so you can protect her. Do you understand?"

Instead of fear, he felt a determination, a rightness settling inside him. He nodded.

"Then come." Janus walked half a step behind the Prophet, seeing that they were heading towards a Skyway. When they had traveled a ways and were well alone, the Prophet began to explain, his voice deep and serious. "There are a things you must know. You will not see Schala for a long time; it is necessary."

"Why can you not do this thing?" Janus grumbled, interrupting. "You stay away from her,"

He nearly ran into the Prophet as the man stopped short, then swung to face him, furious. "If only I could," he snarled, red eyes menacing. "I would be honored. There is no one who can do this but you, and you alone, you sniveling child!" The depth of anger was breathtaking. "Where I will take you, your strength will grow exponentially more than it ever would here. There will be trials, and there will be pain." Janus felt the terror now, looking to the intense crimson eyes. "Is your own comfort so important to you that you would leave her to die, or worse, at the hands of Lavos? You disgust me."

Backing away from the strange intensity, the boy stuttered, "L-Lavos? I didn't - I mean, I knew Mother was lying. I knew - No. I'll go. I'll not leave her to Mother and her 'Immortality'."

The Prophet nodded stiffly and replaced the covering on his head, turning to continue the journey. "That is essential. You must defeat Lavos. It is the only way to save her, to bring her back to you. You must train, must become powerful, more powerful than anyone around you, until you can summon Lavos and attempt destroy him. You must crush anyone who tries to block your path to this end. Do you understand?" he asked again.

"Yes."

They continued the rest of the way in silence, exiting the Skyway onto the continent. Janus had never been in the blizzard before; the winds buffeted him this way and that, and he struggled to keep up with the Prophet's seemingly unaffected gait. The older man never turned to be sure Janus was near, only continued onward to a small cave that it took them several minutes to reach. Once inside, Janus shook his cloak free of snow in the relatively windless was a sibilant curse behind him, words he couldn't understand that turned his blood icy in his veins. He spun around and saw the Prophet was backing away from a strange floating sphere, bluish black and deep as nothing he'd ever seen. "What is that?" he asked.

"It is a portal." There was a small silence. "Take these." The Prophet produced a few skins of water, a small pack with various breads and dried fruit from within his cloak, handing them to the boy. "You remember what I told you?"

Janus looked up into his shadowed face, calming his nerves as he constructed the information into a list, a mantra. Train... Grow stronger... Destroy your enemies... Summon Lavos... Save Schala... "I do."

"Then go." The Prophet's grey hand rose and he hissed, "Megethynsi..."

The portal opened, waves of blue light pouring out with a strange pulsing noise. Janus hesitated for only a moment.

Save Schala...

He stepped forward.

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*o0o*

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He went to her as soon as the Gate had closed. Schala would be alone, and hurting, and Magus would be there for her even if he was the reason for her pain.

He found her in his old room, holding a dirty gray toy as she sat on his old bed and starting at it with blank eyes. Her delicate fingers traced the seams on the stuffed bear, tears sliding down her cheeks and onto the worn fabric, darkened drops on its stomach. "I made this for you," she said softly, voice clear. "Years and years ago. You loved him so, couldn't even sleep without your Bindal Bear until you were seven."

"I remember," he said gently, sitting beside her.

"I found it under your pillow." Her beautiful eyes were rimmed in red when she finally met his. "You still slept with it?"

"It was a part of you," he said gruffly, feeling exposed and ridiculous. "I wanted you near."

Schala nodded, holding the tattered toy to her chest. "Is it... Are you...?" She faltered, voice catching in her throat.

He understood what she was asking. "It is done."

With her sadness still streaming down her face, she kissed the bear lightly. "Janus..." Her tone was finally fracturing with her grief, and she sucked in a great, desperate breath as her hands covered her face, muffling her words. "My heart... I can't..."

"I'm here. I'm still here." He pulled her smaller frame against him, wrapping her in his cloak and holding her gently. "I have only just left, and yet already I have returned. We will never be parted again."

"What did you tell...?" she asked, burying her face in his shoulder.

"The truth. I told him of the horrors to come, but that he must do it to save you." He lifted her chin. "My choice was the same as it has been since the beginning. I choose you."

His kiss was gentle. Schala climbed into his lap, losing herself in the sweet softness of his lips, the unhurried brush of his tongue over hers. His thumbs brushed her tears away, his hands traced the line of her jaw, her neck, her shoulders, body absorbing her shiver easily as he pushed her clothing up and urged her knees apart. She settled against him, and he thrust up, letting her feel his hardness between her legs. "That is not exactly true... It's never really been a choice. I love you, Sister," he whispered into her skin.

Schala wrapped her arms tight around him, the small cloth bear still clutched in her hand against his back, as his hips jerked up to emphasize the word. Sister... It was appalling, indecent, so wrong... so perfect it sent a shudder down her spine to coil in belly. She moaned, high and begging, rocking into him. "Say it again?" she whispered, face flushing with embarrassment.

Janus didn't hesitate, falling back onto the soft mattress so Schala lay atop him. "Sister..." he breathed, gripping her hips. His long fingers pressed into the softness of her backside through the cloth. "Is that what you want to hear?" Her hips bucked in affirmation, trying to find a way to get him inside her despite the cloth in the way. It was slow, unhurried, despite the mindlessness of it. The same dark desire rose in him, but he was used to fighting such things by now.

He kept his composure and his clothing was pushed down and aside, and he was inside her on his old bed; it was odd, but satisfying. He had never thought of her in a sexual way in this bed before, but he was certain that if he had grown to manhood in Zeal, he would have. After all, it had taken only a matter of weeks for his love for her to develop once he'd found her again. He would have lain under the covers, probably confused about his feelings, hand working his cock furiously. The Janus he would have become here would have felt ashamed and disgusted by his love.

The Janus he was now felt blessed and awed as Schala kissed him and whined his name. Her voice was needy and high. He wrapped his hands around her hips and guided her, keeping her movements slow and sure. "I need you," she moaned, closing her eyes to hold back the flood of emotions that just wouldn't stop escaping. "I'll always need you, Janus."

His hands moved up to cup her face, allowing himself to simply be with her in this moment. They would be gone soon, away from where their mother could find them.

She would be safe.

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*o0o*

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To Be Continued...

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