Cover art graciously provided by kimagattinanera on DA. c:


Prologue

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He woke up feeling like something was trying to tear its way out of his skull. It was the single worst thing he ever felt, and hadn't he been through a lot? He couldn't exactly remember. The pain in his head consumed his focus. He lifted himself up only to retch all over his front. He felt glass cut into the palms of his hands and the naked skin of his body. Was this hell? He couldn't remember much of anything, but felt an ache inside him at the thought he was in such a place. The feelings, both physical and emotional, were horrifically familiar to the tales.

He focused on remembering the events up to now. Where had he been, what had he done, who had he been with? He was alone now, he knew that. And he was in the dark, which his eyes had yet to adjust to. The pain of the glass breaking his skin swelled to the point he winced.

Remember…remember…remember…

It came to him all too clearly.

She had clutched him tightly. He held her so close to his body he thought they might be physically unable to ever part (and yet here he was, sitting alone in hell). Her hair tickled his face and her scent was so sweet and poignant he nuzzled deeper into her neck. They were doing their best to place their focus elsewhere. Somewhere that wasn't their skin sizzling as it peeled away from their bodies.

A tear slipped down his cheek when he recalled her first cry of pain. She had always been sensitive; this pain she was feeling now was worse than any other she'd ever felt and it was pure agony. She just wanted to die already. Itachi held her tighter and shushed her when the next cries didn't end. He told her it was going to be okay, that it wouldn't last for long. He told her to breathe deeply, to look into his eyes, and to imagine they were lying in his bed again, just holding each other. She didn't hear him. She cried out louder and he couldn't help but quietly follow after.

Their skin slowly sizzled and burned from the inside out, peeling and blowing away with the wind. They were being shredded and cooked alive. Would it never end? When her hair crumbled with the breeze, he expected her to pass out; he could see the white bone of her shoulder darkening. She screamed louder. He gripped her tighter and screamed with her.

Why couldn't they just die?

Pulling himself from the memory, he heaved a second time. There was a liquid around him, stinging the cuts the glass made. He closed his eyes, ignored the deep ache in the pit of his stomach, and tried to adjust to the dimness around him. If this was hell, he would have a least liked to see his captors. Then again, maybe that wasn't the best idea.

After a moment, the light of the waning moon gave way to a silent brook. He lay on the bed, half submerged and entangled with several rocks. So this wasn't hell. But it felt like it.

He pulled both his hands to his face without a care for the well-being of his body pressing harder into the rocks. He covered his swollen eyes, felt the tears burst against the raw skin, and shook with the force of his emotions. He was so spent, so wasted, and so exhausted with existence. Couldn't he just die? Why did he have to continue living with such a memory as that clawing its way to the front of his mind? He needed death. He needed her.

If he was alive then was she? He didn't know whether or not her survival would be a good thing. She would be suffering from side effects similar to his, forced to live with the torturous memory of feeling her skin burn and peel away for what felt like an eternity. Death would be a mercy. But he still didn't have the answer to his question of where she was.

Determined as ever, he carefully lifted himself to his feet, unmindful of the aches and pains wracking his body. That didn't matter. None of that mattered. He just needed to find her and then everything would be okay no matter what happened. If they had each other, he knew things would end well. A love like theirs didn't come along only to be extinguished like a candle flame. No, their love was a different kind of a love. A different breed entirely. It was one that evolved the definition of love itself. Truthfully, he didn't know how far that extended, but he was completely willing to find out.

He staggered through the rocks littering the bed of the creek, stumbling when particularly sharp ones tore at his feet. It felt like he was walking on glass, but the thought of her pushed him onward. He couldn't give up. He had to keep moving, keep looking for her no matter how long it took. This was bigger than just his trauma. This was her.

And that's just what he did. He kept moving forward without ever looking back. When he did glance over his shoulder, he saw shadows crawling up the side of his vision. He felt faint and sick, like something inside him was broken. Was it because she disappeared and he couldn't find her? He needed her like a fish needed water. From deep within him all the way to the top of his skin he knew she felt the same way. Their love burned bright before…whatever had happened.

The mystery of their curse never ceased to haunt his every waking thought. He could remember most things—some all too clearly—but the explanation behind this torment escaped him. Who would do this and why? It was sick. Disgusting. Evil.

At first, he didn't realize what had happened after he woke up. He didn't feel much different, physically. So when he looked in the mirror it took his breath away. He was in some other person's body. Every physical attribute was so foreign to him it was frightening. He felt the same. He liked the same things, felt the same things, and missed her just as acutely. Eventually, he grew used to this body and continued his journey searching for her. The first time, it only took him a few months to find her. She looked as different as he had, but the way her heart pulled him to her…he just knew it was her. She was the same as she was since the moment they fell in love. She was the same, just like he was.

But she didn't remember.

She didn't know who he was when he first approached her, but she later admitted to understanding what he meant when he said he felt pulled to her. She felt the same way. She just couldn't remember. Before he felt comfortable explaining the details of their love (their curse), it happened again. They fell madly enough in love to trust each other with their lives, so he decided to tell her what he remembered from their first life. He knew she would believe him. But then…they burned. He had planned to make love to her, then tell her while they lay together fitting like the perfect puzzle. He was holding her tightly, showing her just how much he needed her with his body, when her skin started to sizzle.

They held each other while their skin peeled away to reveal bone, waiting for it to end. She asked why this was happening. He said he didn't know. She asked if he knew this would happen. He said yes. She asked why. He didn't answer, because she didn't say anything else after that. She didn't scream anymore. She lay in his arms while he quickly followed suit.