Goodbye

SUMMARY: There was one thing Rubedo wanted to tell Sakura before she died.

GENRE: Tragedy/Angst
RATED: PG / K+
NOTABLE CONTENT: Brief/Mild Themes Regarding Death/Suicide
PAIRING(S): (Slight) Rubedo/Sakura. A teensy-weensy sprinkle of Albedo/Rubedo sweetness, too. :)

COPYRIGHT NOTE: I don't own Xenosaga
STORY TAKES PLACE IN: Pre-Miltian Conflict; cross-references flashbacks in Episode II and Xenosaga I&II


Goodbye

Aiselne Nocturnus


Sakura…I…

There was one thing Rubedo wanted to tell Sakura before she died.

I…It's not fair.

True, "it's not fair" was a very childish way of interpreting a situation, especially a death, but Rubedo did not care at the given moment. Regardless of him actually being a child, the twelve-year-old boy certainly did not lie when he claimed the moment was undeserved. Frankly, this crushing milestone was a textbook definition of the word "unfair."

I…I'm not perfect.

Rubedo was not created to be stupid, nor was he blind to the truths regarding his existence. He was a U.R.T.V. bioweapon for heaven's sake! The child was created to be an instrument of war, and therefore he killed more innocents than he could remember. Furthermore, there was that crimson demon inside of him, something that Number 666 did not want to think about at this moment, or at any moment for that matter. On top of his malevolent existence, Rubedo possessed a nasty temper and stubborn streak, and the redhead was not the most pleasant of boys to be nearby when a fuse blew. So, no, Rubedo was not perfect, but neither was anyone else! Rubedo was human; an artificially-made, genetically-enhanced human…but a human nonetheless. Humans were inherently imperfect.

Even so, did an immoral birth and a short temper justify Rubedo's current situation? No matter what he did throughout his life, and no matter how many times he faltered, did Rubedo really deserve…this?

I wish you'd wake up, Sakura.

"She's not gonna' wake up…i-is she?"

"…I don't think so, Rubedo."

I screwed up.

It was not fair. The redhead wracked every cell in his brain to try and understand what he did wrong. Mentally, Rubedo retraced his steps, trying to pinpoint a specific time and a specific location where he made the fatal error. But try as he may the child failed to find the answers he sought.

What did that mean? If Rubedo could not recall the moment of his error, did that mean there was no error made in the first place, or was he just being ignorant? Obviously, Rubedo must have done something wrong. Why else would he be peering into the Yuriev Institute's infirmary window, staring at the body of a motionless brunette girl?

I want to be with you, Sakura.

Under normal circumstances Rubedo would be inside that infirmary, standing by Sakura's side in the event she took a turn for the worst. Similar instances occurred over the most recent months of her deteriorating health, and each time Rubedo was first to her bedside. He would run to Sakura's bed as quickly as his short legs allowed, and thereafter he would keep her hand intertwined with his until she recovered.

All the while, Rubedo would pleasantly talk to her, tenderly squeezing her soft hand. The skin of Sakura's palm would cover his 666 tattoo, momentarily metamorphosing the redhead as her angel instead of the devil he was underneath. Sakura's central nervous system disorder prevented the girl from physically responding to Rubedo's small signs of affection. Still, deep down, the red-haired U.R.T.V. believed his efforts did improve Sakura. He knew she was grateful.

However…now, how was it possible that Sakura took the worst "turn for the worst," and Rubedo was stuck watching her from the outside? Who gave a damn if he pouted like a child? He was a child, and this moment was unfair.

Rubedo's first instinct was to blame his father for the restraints. Currently, Dr. Yuriev only allowed immediate family to visit Sakura, because the man believed such was only proper. In a way, Rubedo understood his father's ideology, but the boy still felt insulted. He may not have been a blood relative of Sakura Mizrahi, but that did not mean she meant any less to Rubedo than she did to her mother and father. Sakura's dad never even visited the Yuriev Institute, leaving Juli Mizrahi all alone in the room of her deceased daughter.

Rubedo did not consider the aforementioned to be very fair, either. Dr. Mizrahi deserved consolation. Juli was a strict but compassionate woman, having underwent severe levels of emotional turmoil over the recent years of her life: her daughter's disorder and her marriage's separation. It did not seem fair that when Dr. Mizrahi needed comfort the most she was left alone. At the very least, although Rubedo was deprived from visiting Sakura, he still had a comforting hand massaging his shoulder. Juli was not so fortunate. Granted, Rubedo's younger brother could not take away his pain, but Rubedo would have been lying if he said he was unappreciative. The redhead could not handle this moment alone.

"Come' on, Rubedo. We should probably let Dr. Mizrahi be alone anyway."

That was true. During at time like this the last thing Juli needed was an audience gawking at her. Rubedo did not intend to be rude, but…he still found himself unable to tear his eyes away from the window. He certainly was not staring at the grieving Juli, but instead he was gazing at…a white sheet.

I want to see you, Sakura.

It just was not fair. If Rubedo could not visit Sakura one last time, he wanted to at least see her beautiful face again. Yet, the doctors had already covered her face with an ivory sheet. He understood that it was a traditional custom out of respect for the deceased, but…he truly wanted to see Sakura again…one more time.

Rubedo wanted to see her peachy skin, her soft cheeks and pink lips.

He especially wanted to see those glistening green eyes that made his heart flutter.

He wanted to see her playfully cock her head, causing her short brown hair to tickle her cheeks.

He wanted to hear her giggle coyly while her lips curled into a radiant smile.

He wanted her to make him smile.

I'm glad I met you, Sakura. Really glad.

Rubedo wanted to be there with Sakura…just one more time.

Am I…being selfish?

Perhaps he had been thinking childishly, but a hunch told Rubedo that what he was feeling was not merely juvenile selfishness. The emotions overloading his throbbing heart were not induced by greed or possessiveness. It was true that Rubedo became very protective of Sakura since he met her, but that was his duty. It was Rubedo's responsibility to protect, and ultimately save, Sakura Mizrahi. He was the U.R.T.V. possessing the perfect wavelength, destined to be Sakura's salvation. Indeed, he was her guardian angel.

I wish I could've–

Unfortunately, Sakura's guardian angel was a devil in sheepskin. Angels were meant to save lives, devils were meant to end lives. Like it or not, Rubedo exemplified the latter. The most painful part was that Rubedo did not literally end Sakura's life. He would sooner kill himself before harming a hair on Sakura Mizrahi's head. Alas, the redhead did not have to be the Reaper for Sakura's life to expire. Somehow, someway, somewhere, Sakura's self-proclaimed angel screwed up and failed. Without realizing it until it was too late, the girl that Rubedo grew to love had supposedly taken her own life.

He did not understand why Sakura chose suicide. He did not understand the suspicious whispers Dr. Yuriev made when filing Sakura's final medical records. He did not understand why the words "U-DO" and "incident" surfaced in a few autopsy reports. He did not understand his twin brother's uncharacteristic condolences for a girl he never seemed to like until after she stopped breathing. Rubedo did not understand anything.

Everything blurred. Too many questions, not enough answers. Too much pain, never enough alleviation. The atmosphere felt palpable and occasionally choked the distressed, dizzy link master. Alas, the only conclusion Rubedo ever drew was that he proved unsuccessful in preventing Sakura from slipping through his fingers.

I tried. I really did my best. I wanted to save you, Sakura.

But…whatever I did wasn't enough. One could "try" as much as he could, but "trying" and "doing" were not necessarily the same. Instead of trying to save Sakura, maybe matters would be different if Rubedo did save her. But then how could Rubedo have done so without trying in the first place? It was a vicious cycle he could not win, and he lost miserably.

The truth was that nobody knew precisely how to save Sakura Mizrahi. Indeed, Rubedo tried his best; everyone involved in Sakura's case did their best! But did they actually know the answer to her illness? Thinking back, Rubedo knew that he never quite understood the full extent of Sakura's disorder from the beginning. He never concerned himself with the scientific, technical mumbo-jumbo. All Rubedo cared about was making Sakura happy.

Rubedo failed to save her life, but… Did I at least make you happy, Sakura?

When people die, a common consolation is, "Now she's at peace," or "no longer suffering," "in a better place," and so forth. Even in this era where humans and technology continuously evolved by leaps and bounds, the afterlife remained mystery. Was Sakura really at peace, happier? Rubedo did pray that her suffering ended, but he could not quite stomach the idea of Sakura being happier in death than she was in life. If death was so much better, did that mean Sakura's life – and her time with Rubedo – was worse than dying?

Death is supposed to be a release. If you really did take your own life, was it because you wanted to be released from…me, Sakura?

It was then that Rubedo realized how asininely he was thinking. If there was anything from which Sakura wanted to be released, it was her illness. Sakura did not die just to run away from Rubedo! In dying, Sakura not only left him but she also left her family. The sick girl always told Rubedo how much she loved her mother, father, and even her unborn little sister. Sakura loved her family with all her heart.

Absentmindedly, Rubedo's hand discreetly caressed the cheek where Sakura once kissed him.

She loved Rubedo, too.

Sakura, I…

Rubedo still had his reservations about Sakura's alleged suicide, but whatever the case, he knew none of this was her fault. He could not blame her. Perhaps he should not have been blaming himself, either, but…

I know you wouldn't want me to blame myself, Sakura. But…but…I really wanted to prevent something like this from happening. It was my responsibility to prevent this. I was supposed to save you, dammit!

Maybe that was why Rubedo was deprived of seeing her one last time. Try as he might, he still failed. Technically speaking, Sakura was an assignment for the U.R.T.V.s, and failed assignments were always punishable. This was Rubedo's punishment; this was why Rubedo was punishing himself. What right did he have to visit Sakura's deathbed?

I shouldn't be here. I don't deserve to be. By visiting, by showing his sorry face, Rubedo would only insult Juli, along with tarnishing Sakura's memory.

I let you die.

He felt like a puppy punished for making a mess in his house, left outside in a cold doghouse for the night. Rubedo was too ashamed to look Juli, or anyone, in the eyes. The boy felt cold, disheartened and hollow, like a part of him died. Loosing Sakura was like losing his heart…that is, losing the heart Rubedo gave to her.

Rubedo's other heart just remained by his side. "Rubedo…we really should leave."

"I know, Albedo, but…" No matter if Rubedo knew he should leave, he could not bring himself to carry out the deed. Am I a selfish hypocrite, Sakura? "I…I really wish I could see her again. I…didn't even get to say goodbye…"

I should have told you sooner, Sakura.

"Maybe…it's for the best, Rubedo. Sometimes…sometimes having to say goodbye is worse than not saying it at all. Goodbyes…they hurt."

Albedo was speaking from experience, or at least from predicted experience. Both twins knew the younger brother feared the day he would have to say that dreaded "goodbye" to the one he held dear. Even thinking about bidding their farewells twisted Rubedo's insides, causing him to wince painfully. Now was not the time to imagine another loved one dying. Albedo never, ever wanted to say goodbye.

I don't want to say goodbye, either…not to Albedo, Nigredo, and not to you, either, Sakura.

But maybe Albedo was right. Maybe Rubedo would be better if he kept his mouth shut, never uttering the bittersweet word. Sakura would not be able to hear him, anyway. It was too late for Rubedo to actually say it to Sakura whilst she was unable to physically hear him. Chances were, if Rubedo barged into the infirmary and told Sakura his belated farewell, it would be utterly pointless, it would hurt Juli, and it would hurt himself.

This moment hurts enough.

So Rubedo heeded his twin's advice, tearing away his watering eyes from his last image of Sakura Mizrahi. He did not want to cry, even if he had a right to mourn, and even if Sakura was worth every tear. Minutely, it was Rubedo's stubborn pride that held him together. But dominantly, the boy was simply too stunned to do anything more productive than stare lifelessly at Sakura's corpse. This moment was too surreal and unbelievable. Paralyzed and heartbroken, Rubedo barely felt the comforting arm that his younger brother wrapped around his shoulders. Almost mechanically, the redhead leaned into Albedo's partial embrace, so warm…yet Rubedo felt nothing.

I feel numb.

A very important part of himself had been stripped away, leaving Rubedo incomplete, vulnerable, and dispirited. His relationship with Sakura was so short-lived, identical to a flower unfairly killed just after its brilliant bloom. And despite this being the "end," Rubedo felt no sense of closure. Sakura died before he and her could do so many things they planned.

I wanted to take you to the beach. We would've had so much fun.

He never told her, but Rubedo even wanted him and Sakura to eventually do… "couple stuff," like a normal boyfriend and girlfriend. The red-haired bookworm read old novels about relationships; dates at cinemas, romantic boat rides across a picturesque lake, and sharing seats on carnival ferris wheels. Yes, the ideas were corny, ancient Lost Jerusalem clichés. Nevertheless, Rubedo still wanted to share those clichés with Sakura, even if they were impossible tasks for one sick girl and one boy who rarely left the Yuriev Institute. Above all, he just wanted to be with her and make pleasant memories.

I wanted us to be happy together.

But now that Sakura was dead…there was no time for dates, rides, or clichés. Rubedo would have to sate himself on the handful of memories he and Sakura shared during the few months they knew each other. He knew the saying "life is short," but Rubedo's brevity with Sakura felt too short. Hell, there was not even time for Rubedo to say goodbye, never mind tell Sakura how much she meant to him. She would never know, and that lack of fulfillment was what cut Rubedo the deepest.

There was one specific thing Rubedo wanted to tell Sakura before she died.

Sakura…I…

…But of what benefit were Rubedo's words now, when Sakura would never know?

Reading his twin's melancholic thoughts, Albedo discreetly bit his lip. He was not exceptionally fond of the deceased girl, but he was not fond of watching Rubedo deteriorate, either. Already, the younger twin harbored a grave fear of Rubedo's death, but Albedo's nightmares usually catered to "physical" death. Until today, Albedo never considered the consequences when a person dies "on the inside," grief-stricken by losing a beloved.

For Albedo, seeing Rubedo riddled with confusion, sorrow, pain, and sinking deeper and deeper was no easier than watching Rubedo physically die. It was the last thing Albedo wished upon his other half. And though he disliked Sakura, Albedo knew she would not wish torment on Rubedo, either, especially on account of her death.

Furthermore, like Rubedo, Albedo also blamed himself for Sakura's demise. Rightfully so, too.

There were never any "right words" to say during tragedies. However, when Albedo heard his twin poorly stifle a sniffle, the younger half wanted to say something that might reduce Rubedo's pain, even by a microscopic fraction. After all, the hurt that Rubedo was currently enduring was the very agony Albedo feared he himself would experience whenever his dear half-heart passed away.

Rubedo and Sakura's relationship had irritated Albedo. But no matter how sickening the lovebirds behaved, the jealous twin was not blind to the couple's lovey-dovey, fluffy, yet unconditional affections. Albedo always noticed how Sakura looked at Rubedo. He knew that look. Seductions aside, her green eyes were always full of admiration, as though Rubedo truly was the most wonderful person in the world. And yes, Rubedo was the most wonderful person, the axis around which Albedo's world revolved religiously. Only in that belief did Albedo and Sakura share a common ground, even if Sakura's feelings were a mere sliver compared to Albedo's devotion to his other heart. Both kids loved Rubedo, and they did not need words to confirm it.

Rubedo did not need words to confirm his love, either. Though there were still many things he wanted to tell Sakura before she died, Albedo knew Rubedo was just needlessly torturing himself. Squeezing the half-hug around his trembling twin, Albedo whispered into Rubedo's ear, "She knew, Rubedo."

The End


A/N: I'm surprisingly short on comments for this fanfic, so I'll cut my babbles short and just thank you very much for reading. Reviews are appreciated, too! :)

Oh! And for those who are interested, my FFnet profile is running a poll for Xenosaga: Episode I's 10th anniversary (*cheers*). If you haven't voted yet feel free to stop by! I love fan feedback!