uakari: (Unfortunate souls)
[personal profile] uakari
Continued from Part I...

Fay is draped over the opposite edge of the mattress when Kurogane wakes the next morning, having scuttled away sometime during the night. He’s sweating – drenched in it – and the pink flush has finally left his cheeks; Kurogane sighs in relief as he runs a hand across Fay’s forehead and finds his fever greatly diminished. Fay mumbles quietly in his sleep as Kurogane shifts him back onto the mattress and wraps the blankets around him before rising and stumbling into the kitchenette.

The sun hasn’t fully risen yet, but for once he feels well-rested and at peace as he bangs the grounds out of the metallic percolator and digs in the small cabinet for coffee. He frowns at the sink, still slightly fouled from the night before (of course that wouldn’t be one of his endless waking nightmares) and blasts the tap high and hot. The water steams quietly as he cuts a piece of stale bread from their loaf and gnaws at it mindlessly, staring out the small window into the streets. 

There is a rustle of skirts, a glimpse of long black hair, and for a moment he’s not certain he’s entirely awake as a face he’s not seen in years steps through the crowd. The half-eaten bread clatters to the counter, suddenly forgotten as he raps excitedly against the window pane. 

She turns (along with the rest of the passing crowd, but they’re not important and he’s not interested in the strange looks they throw in his direction) toward the sound, a slow smile creeping across her features as recognition sets in. A moment later and Kurogane is hurrying to the entry way, careful not to make too much noise as she shuffles into the small apartment.

“Kurogane!” there’s a sudden weight around his neck as the girl springs forward to embrace him, “What are you doing here?”

“I-uff” he sets her down gently and takes her coat, suddenly aware that he’s not wearing more than his pajamas and feeling slightly self-conscious, “We live here, you fool.”


“Yes – we,” he pauses, looking incredulously at the girl, “Tomoyo, you do remember Fay.”

Tomoyo flashes him a brilliant smile and he swears her eyes sparkle just a bit brighter. “Of course,” she says, laughing, “I’m just surprised to find the two of you here, of all places.”

Tche,” Kurogane drags a hand through his hair and looks around the tiny flat, “Not all of us can be wealthy dreamseers working for the government…”

“Not what I meant,” Tomoyo assures him, “I’m so happy to see you, finally.”

“Me too,” Kurogane manages, “What are you doing on this side of town, anyway? Stopping by to see Sakura?”

“That, too,” she says, wistfully, eyes travelling slowly up to meet Kurogane’s, “I felt a…pull. Something in a dream insisted I come this way,” she pauses, taking a deep breath, “I wonder if it was you…”

Tche,” Kurogane rolls his eyes wildly, “Trespassing through my nightmares again?”

Tomoyo only grins. “Well, maybe if you would drop a line or two, or, god forbid, stop by to visit I wouldn’t have to!” she sighs melodramatically, “Honestly Kurogane, we spent our entire childhood together and you don’t even come by on the holidays!”

“I…” he trails off, knowing he’s guilty, and decides to change the subject, “You want a cup of coffee?” 

“Let’s go out,” she suggests, tugging at his sleeve, “Then we don’t have to worry about waking Fay.”

Kurogane grimaces and scolds himself silently for forgetting about the moron before agreeing. “Let me just change…”

He makes quick work of dressing and makes one last stop at the side of the bed to reassure himself that Fay’s fever is indeed gone and leave a gentle good-bye kiss on his forehead before heading out onto the chilly morning streets. Tomoyo laughs and skips along their way, regaling him with ridiculous stories of her family and life since they last met. He can’t help but smile to himself; it’s been far too long and he’s forgotten how her effervescence has always managed to put him at ease.

His cheerful mood is soon shattered, however, as they arrive in front of the Veterans Administration hospital and she releases his hand.

“There’s no coffee here,” he grunts, eyeing her suspiciously.

“No, but this is where you need to be, isn’t it?”

“Goddamn it, Tomoyo…”

“Kurogane,” she pleads quietly, all traces of her former light-heartedness wiped from her face, “Please.”

“What have you been doing,” he growls, “Conspiring with that idiot? Do the two of you have nothing better to do than meddle?”

A small chuckle. “How would we conspire?” she wonders, “Besides which, the things you call meddling are nothing less than love.”

Tche,” he scowls, first at Tomoyo and then at the gaping entrance in front of him, “Fine. But don’t expect anything to come of this. I’m fine.”

“I know you are,” Tomoyo assures him, “Now go.” She gives him a final hug and a shove toward the door.

Kurogane growls, but says nothing as he stomps through the double doorway into a large waiting room. The nurse at the desk is unfamiliar (how long has it been since he’s kept an appointment here?), she shuffles him off with a mountain of paperwork which he finishes with an appropriate amount of grumbling and sends him to wait in the crowded room for his turn. There’s nothing to do now but suffer the stifling heat and the ragged, sagging chair until he is called.


“Hmm?” There’s blond hair tickling his nose as he lifts his chin to free his lips from their resting spot as the base of Fay’s neck.

“What will you do when you’re done here?”


Fay snorts, breath catching in a bitter chuckle as he rolls away, blankets bunching around his waist. “You can’t be serious. Why on earth would you want to reenlist in this mess?”

“Nothing better to do,” Kurogane crosses his arms over his head and stares at the roof of the tent.

“What about your family?” Fay is staring at him incredulously, which is really more irritating that Kurogane would care to admit.

“My family is dead,” he says simply, then turns sharply toward the bedside table and turns a picture of a man and woman face down, a sudden flash of embarrassment sweeping across his face.

Fay laughs at the gesture and leans quickly over the other the other man to snatch the frame before Kurogane has time to complain. He stares for a moment, then quietly, “Are these your parents?”


“How did they…? If don’t-”

“First wave of the Blitz,” Kurogane answers, taking the photograph from Fay and slowly tracing the lines of his parents’ faces, “Our town ended up being the test-ground for whatever new spell those bastard Valerians conjured that started this whole mess.”

Fay is silent for a long moment, and Kurogane is almost certain he can see tears threatening to spill from his eyes. “I’m so sorry…” he whispers, laying his head against Kurogane’s chest.

“What are you sorry for, idiot?” Kurogane claps a hand over the pale shoulder and shakes it, “It’s not like you had anything to do with it.”

Fay chuckles darkly. “The magic…”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Kurogane grunts, now well and truly annoyed, “Just because someone else misused magic you think you have to-”

“I’m sorry, Kuro-sama,” Fay cuts him off, “…Yuui - he...too.” He falls silent once again.

Kurogane exhales deeply, for once in their acquaintance wishing that the moron would just keep talking. The silence filling the tent is overwhelming, making the few inches separating their bodies feel more like a million miles. He closes the gap, pulling Fay into his chest and wraps his arms tightly around the other man. “What about you,” he murmurs against the blond crown, “What will you do when you’re done?”

Fay stiffens, then coughs dryly. “Hadn’t thought that far…”

“Because you’re an idiot.”

“So I’ve been told,” Fay breathes deeply, caressing the skin of Kurogane’s chest with his cheek. “Let’s take the kids and go far away,” he says at last.


“You don’t want to?” Fay looks crestfallen and Kurogane has to steady his breathing.

“It,” he sputters, “It’s not that… It’s just… Where the hell is this coming from?”

Fay grins wryly, “It was nothing, Kurogane, don’t worry about it.”

“Goddamn it…” Kurogane hisses out the breath he’s been holding, “Don’t do that. Don’t just shut down like that. It’s so fucking irritating.”

“I’m sorry…”

“And stop being sorry!” Kurogane rubs roughly at his face, “I just…don’t know what to say to that.” He lapses into a momentary silence. “It sounds…nice.”

Fay chuckles again, though the teasing smile that usually dances in his eyes is nowhere to be found. “Don’t worry too much about it, there’s plenty of time to decide. Might not even make it out of here…”

“Shut up,” Kurogane growls and fists his hand through the blond hair, pulling sharply to angle Fay’s eyes toward his own, “We’re both getting out of here.”

Fay looks dangerously close to laughing once again, but Kurogane denies him the opportunity by mashing their lips together, tongues tangling hot and hungrily. His hand slides down Fay’s back, drifting slowly over taut muscles – fingers dancing lightly over their ridges – and slips gently over the curve of the other’s ass. He grips tightly, squeezing and caressing, drawing a long, low moan from the other’s lips.

“Kuro-pon is always so physical,” Fay teases, the playfulness back in his eyes, “It’s like he never learned how to speak anything other than curses.”

“I can curse, if you’d prefer,” Kurogane grumbles as he nibbles along Fay’s jaw line and slowly rolls the other onto his back.

“Mmmm,” Fay grins as Kurogane laves his throat and nips at his clavicle, “I’ve heard all that before…”

“Then why are you complaining?” 

Kurogane’s fingers are tracing the curve of Fay’s thigh, dipping below his balls, teasing lightly up the shaft of his cock. “Not…complaining…” he breathes, gripping on to Kurogane’s neck and pulling their mouths together once more. Tongues meet and taste, slipping slowly across one another, as lips fondle and caress.

Kurogane closes his eyes as he grips Fay’s cock firmly and begins to stroke, his rhythm easily matched by the lascivious press and slide of their mouths. Fay moans and strains beneath him, hips rocking slowly upward, and Kurogane grinds his own erection against a slender thigh. He opens his eyes to half-lidded blue, rolling backwards into their sockets – bright and dazed – and jerks his hand faster, shivering as Fay arcs against him. 

The taste of Fay’s moans pouring over his tongue as the other writhes are exquisite; he prods harder, drinks deeper. His arm is coated in a sheen of sweat, collected as it courses over the skin of Fay’s belly, fine hairs tickling against his skin as he sweeps back and forth, gripping and stroking, the pad of his thumb tracing rough patterns against the crown of Fay’s cock. He can feel the tension building in Fay’s muscles, the slow trembling in his thighs that quicken to sharp spasms as Kurogane rolls and twists, encouraging, demanding. Fay comes with a gasp that smacks pointedly against the back of Kurogane’s throat; Kurogane smirks and swallows the long, keening cry that follows, draining Fay of his breath as his palm works the last of the other’s orgasm into the co-

“Mr. Suwa?”

“Huh?” Kurogane snaps to attention, a forgotten, tattered waiting-room book clattering to the floor as he jumps to his feet.

The attendant smiles, clearly amused by his confusion. “Dr. Ichihara will see you now.”

“Right…” he follows the attendant down a dimly lit hallway, craning his neck to take in some of the more bizarre portraits on the walls. A shrine to witchdoctors, he thinks dryly as he’s led into an office. The décor is obnoxious – too many swoops and swirls of fabric – and he wrinkles his nose in disgust. Excess – that’s what this is – everything screams of indulgence that’s not been seen in this country for years; not since it was torn apart by a war it couldn’t afford. That’s why he hates coming here (well, that and it’s obnoxious, excessive, indulgent inhabitant), and that’s why he’s about to turn around and-

“Have a seat, Kurogane.” Dr. Yuuko Ichihara is seated behind a desk, dressed as extravagantly as her office is decorated with long, dark hair spilling over her shoulders and piercing red eyes regarding him with a smirk.

He turns to glare, but complies. “Witch…”

“That’s a very rude way to address a ranking officer, don’t you think?”

“I’m not in the army anymore,” he reminds her gruffly.

She lifts an eyebrow, amused. “You’re not?”

“Don’t fuck with me,” he snaps, “Just…do whatever messing around with my head you’re going to do so I can get back home and get on with my life.”

“Messing around with your head?” Yuuko throws her head back and looses a deep, rolling laugh, “And why is that you’ve come to see me today, Kurogane, that you’re afraid of me messing around with your head?”

He stares blankly, cursing himself for being talked into coming here, for having to deal with this insane bitch of a doctor. “The nightmares – memories of the war,” he forces through clenched teeth, “I need to find a way to stop having them.”

“They’re upsetting you, are they? The night-terrors? They do say that dreams are the gateway to the soul – is your soul so dark and dank?”

“They’re disrupting my sleep at night,” he hisses, “I’m falling asleep during the day, and it’s very troublesome. I just need you to tell me how to stop them.”

“It’s never as simple as all that, though, is it?” Yuuko counters, “If you could simply stop them, you wouldn’t be here, would you?”

He can feel the acid rising in his throat, the searing rage festering just behind his eyes. “You-”

“Why don’t you describe them to me,” Yuuko interrupts, resting her chin on her hands as she observes him, “In detail. After all, a dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that has not been opened. ”

His jaw falls slack, the stream of curses hanging from his tongue silenced for the moment. He’s come all this way, pestered and cajoled and riled…and so he gives in and tells her, in all the detail she requests, of the Valerian front, the mass confusion, the hysteria, the burning, the screaming, the stink of smoldering flesh on the air.

“Such an excruciatingly detailed dream,” she says quietly when he is finished. “You say it’s a memory, and it could well be; you describe smells and tastes – two senses which are rarely present themselves to the subconscious mind. Did your unit see much action?”

“No,” he admits, “We were stationed for the most part in the outer provinces. We saw plenty of minor scuffles, but the Valerian front was really the first time we were involved in anything major.”

“The Valerian front?” Yuuko frowns and flips through a folder.

“Yeah. Front lines, it was…”

“It was…?”

“It’s giving me a headache to think about,” he admits, surprised by his own honesty, and rubs at his temples.

“Well, that’s to be expected,” Yuuko says slowly, lifting her eyes to meet his gaze, “You were never stationed at the Valerian front.”

“What?” he stares, dumbfounded and unsure whether to rage at the doctor for her obvious incompetence or storm straight out the door and never look back. In the end, he chooses to gape helplessly.

“Your file states that you were a mechanic in the 6th regiment, serving under general Zagato. Your unit was scheduled to leave for the front on August 3rd, however-”

Bullshit,” his hands curl automatically into fists, “I was there. I remember it. Recheck your records, lady. We were discharged with honors after serving at the front.”


“Yes. Private Fluorite and myself. He was there too – I’m not just making shit up!”

“Hmm…” her brow furrows noticeably, “I am quite well acquainted with Private Fluorite. He served under my command for several years before his transfer to the 6th Regiment… Tell me, Kurogane; what else happens in this dream?”

“I told you, it’s not a dream, it’s a memory-”

“Then why do you still have your arm?”

“It’s part of a memory,” he corrects, “It’s…wrong.”

“What is the scenery like, in this dream?”

“What? Why does that matter?”

“Everything matters,” Yuuko smiles and Kurogane feels his skin positively crawl, “If we are to determine the meaning of this dream.”

“For fuck’s sake – it’s not…” he cuts himself off in midsentence – there seems to be little point in arguing with the delusional bitch – “There are mountains. And strange trees with purple fruit.”

“Anything else?”

“No! That’s all I remember before everything descends into chaos. From there everything just goes dark…”

“You certainly aren’t very accommodating,” Yuuko chides, scribbing notes, “But, I suppose that can’t be helped. Now, what you’re describing here is watching the people closest to you die in what would surely be a stressful situation for anyone. It’s a common theme for nightmares, and likely nothing to worry about.”

“Have you not listened to a word I’ve-”

“I’ve listened to many words you’ve said, and now I am offering you an interpretation and a piece of advice.”

Advice? I’ve yet to hear any advice from you, you-”

“It’s just a dream, Kurogane,” she interrupts swiftly, “All you need do is wake up.”

Wake up?” he’s nearly screaming, can feel the veins in his forehead throbbing, “I come in here because I can’t sleep, you bang on about the solution not being simple, and your advice is to wake up?”

“Yes,” she grins, “Wake up.”

“You’re out of your goddamned mind,” he growls, finally getting to his feet and stomping to the door.

“And yet you’re the one imagining he was stationed at the front.”

“I’m not imagining anything! I was there, no matter what your phony records say. That scrawny bastard was there with me – we’ve been living together for seven years! Are we both delusional?”

“It’s entirely possible,” Yuuko murmurs, “Though I imagine a bit of honesty from Private Fluorite would go a long way in relieving most of your troubles.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Yuuko smirks. “The word ‘dream’ itself has roots in older Germanic ‘truegen: to deceive or delude’ and cognates in many languages implying deception and occasionally outright harm. Perhaps you ought to ask your friend what he knows of illusions and dreams.”

“What are you saying?”

“You may want to examine the last seven years of your life, Kurogane. Not everything is as it seems.”

He slams the door without waiting for more.

The sun is high in the noon sky as he stomps back home, scattering the crowds around him in his defiance. That fucking bitch! He should have known this would be a waste of time – he did know this would be a waste of time, but no one wanted to listen. Not everything is as it seems. What the hell was that even supposed to mean? Was she suggesting Fay was somehow fooling him into believing the last years of his life were something they weren’t? How – with magic? The fool wouldn’t use magic for the simplest of tasks, let alone to…

No, he is certain. They had been discharged and moved to this backwater province seven years ago. Syaoran and Sakura had joined them several years later after…after…when the hell had it been? It didn’t matter; he’d made plenty of other memories…

Anniversaries, birthdays…surely he could recall those at least. Moving into their flat? His first day at his job?

Everything is blank.

He breaks into a run, mind whirling, grasping at anything – anything at all – that might convince him his life is not a complete empty slate. Is this what that witch was talking about? Has that bastard done something to his memories?

The apartment door thuds against the wall when he throws it open and stalks through. He wants answers and he is going to have them, now. For seven years he’s trusted, cared for, fuck – loved that bastard; it’s nigh unthinkable that he’d betray him like this…

He catches himself. It is unthinkable. He forces himself to calm down before tiptoeing through the entryway. It’s that bitch that’s the problem, not the magic-impaired idiot. There is an explanation here, he can feel it down to his bones…

On first inspection, the room is empty; the bed has not been folded away and the other sparse furnishings are pushed messily about the room, but there is no trace of Fay. Kurogane frowns and winds through the clutter, anxious for reasons he’s afraid to admit. When he finds him, sprawled across the floor and half tucked beneath the bed frame, Kurogane’s first impulse is to panic, though this fades away as he realizes the other man is still warm, still breathing.

He lifts him gently from the floor, half-mumbling curses and slurs about the blonde’s clumsiness as he does, and feels the panic once again rise in his chest as Fay’s face is exposed. The blond hair is matted and caked with blood where it sticks; blood and thick jelly seep from the empty socket of his eye. There is no blood staining the mattress, no mess staining the floor where he laid not seconds ago – Kurogane has no idea what has transpired in his absence, no clues as to how or who or what might have done this. 

He rips the pillow cases, wadding the fabric into the wound to stop the bleeding and wraps the remainder around Fay’s head. There is no time to think; he throws the blankets over the other man and gathers him up roughly, turning swiftly to run out the door and into the street.

The crowds are thick and moving away from the hospital. Kurogane has never seen so many people on the streets in his life – why now of all times? He forces his way through, shouting and screaming as he lunges, desperate to break through this never ending sea of faces. The crowd pulses around him.


He whips his head around to find Sakura at his side, clinging to his arm as she battles the passers-by.

“Kurogane, I made sandwiches! I come eat some!”

“What?” he sputters in disbelief, shaking the girl from his arm, “What are you-” But Sakura is already melting away, dripping along the lace of her dress in a mess as green as her once beautiful eyes-

He’s dreaming.

That goddamned witch.

He needs to wake up.

“Mr. Suwa?”

“Huh?” Kurogane snaps to attention, a forgotten, tattered waiting-room book clattering to the floor as he jumps to his feet.

The attendant smiles, clearly amused by his confusion. “Dr. Ichihara will see you now.”

“Right…” he follows the attendant down a dimly lit hallway, craning his neck to take in some of the more bizarre portraits on the walls. A shrine to witchdoctors, he thinks dryly as he’s led into an office. The décor is obnoxious – too many swoops and swirls of fabric – and he wrinkles his nose in disgust. Excess – that’s what this is – everything screams of indulgence that’s not been seen in this country for years; not since it was torn apart by a war it couldn’t afford. That’s why he hates coming here (well, that and it’s obnoxious, excessive, indulgent inhabitant), and that’s why he’s about to turn around and-


He sputters, flails, nearly falls over in shock. “Tomoyo?”

“Kurogane,” Tomoyo smiles and gently takes his hand, “Do you know where you are?”

“I’m at the VA,” he looks around to be certain, “You – you dragged me here.”

“I did,” she says, a guilty frown pulling the corners of her mouth tight, “It’s time.”

“Time for what?” he demands. Everything is a blur; the scenery around him seems to fizzle and fade with the drumming of his pulse. “What the hell is going on?”

She bites her lip, pain creeping into her expression. “What do you know,” she asks slowly, “About Yuui Fluorite?”

You fucking bastard!

Kurogane ignores the taunt and continues to pack his belongings.

“You sent them away.”

“They’re safer this way. They’re with the family that raised me after my parents were killed.”

Fay cannot argue with this, but it doesn’t quell his rage. “You didn’t even let me say goodbye.”

Kurogane looks up from his piles, eyes steady and defiant. “You were in the infirmary.”

“So I was.”

“You were in the infirmary because you refused to fight. You refused to fight and you were taken down by an inexperienced mage who you could have defeated with a single blow. Instead, you let yourself get torn to shreds without lifting a finger to defend yourself. You! A trained mage yourself!”

Fay holds his eyes, lips curling into a snarl. “You know damned well-”

“I know damned well that you’re a coward too wrapped up in guilt for other people’s misuse of magic to make good use of your own. I know damned well that you’d rather wallow in that guilt than save your own life. And I know damned well that neither of those children needed to see you die.”

“You don’t know anything,” Fay growls, “Yuui-”

“Is dead,” Kurogane snaps, finally at the end of his chain, “You’re alive, or at least you pretend to be.” He stuffs the last of his clothing into his pack and heads for the door.  “Get your shit packed, we’re leaving for the front in the morning.”

He imagines the nights in Valeria will be much colder without the idiot sharing his bed.

“Yuui Fluorite is dead,” Kurogane says dumbly, wondering where Tomoyo picked up the name. “He died years ago, after…after…” he stops, realizing he knows nothing else about Fay’s twin.

“After the deaths of their parents, the Fluorite twins became wards of the Valerian state,” Tomoyo pauses and holds up a hand to halt Kurogane’s protests, “They showed great potential both as dreamseers and mages and were enrolled very early in the military academy, where they specialized under the guidance of a mage known as Ashura. I knew them well when we were younger, having met many nights when everyone else was fast asleep. Fay was naturally gifted in offensive magic; Yuui in illusory magic. As their powers grew and developed, they caught the attention of not only the Valerian government, but our own as well, who feared they might be used as a weapon. In response, the twins were locked away and their powers studied – the Valerian government desperate to harness them in the face of a growing conflict with our own nation.”

Kurogane forces his mouth closed, unaware until now that he’s been gaping. “But how-”

“Their magic is rooted in their eyes,” Tomoyo continues swiftly, “To harness this power…” she trails off, aware that her point has been made.

“They killed Yuui,” Kurogane mumbles in disbelief, “They killed his brother to-”

“After the first strikes were made against Nihon,” Tomoyo says softly, and Kurogane knows exactly of which she speaks, “Their facilities were raided and Fay was granted asylum in this country. He was fitted with a geass that would repress his magic and placed under the command of General Ichihara, where he was watched closely before the two of you met. However…”

“However what?”

“It would appear that Yuui Fluorite is more powerful than expected.”

What? You mean he survived? How? Does Fay know?”

“’Fay’ knows very well,” Tomoyo says, sadly, “As it was he who surrendered the name many years ago.”

“It was Fay who died…” Kurogane breaths, guessing more than understanding, “It was his magic they harnessed to- Oh god…” A wave nausea courses through him as he recalls his burning childhood home, the faces of his parents, the pained expression on Fay’s face the night he’d… “How do you know?” he croaks.

“There was an incident,” Tomoyo says, “Your regiment was ambushed on the way to Valeria. During the battle, a powerful illusion was cast; both sides were affected. Mass hysteria ensued, friend was indistinguishable from foe. You all attacked…”

“What does this have to do with Fa-with Yuui?”

“He is the only mage powerful enough to cast that illusion, let alone break the geass that was placed on him,” she pauses, looking away, “He is the only one capable of keeping you here.” 

“Where is here?”

Tomoyo rests a hand on his shoulder, gently reassuring him. “This is a dream, Kurogane. It’s because you are dreaming that I was able to find you. It’s because you are dreaming that you were able to contact General Ichihara. It’s Yuui who now guides you through this dream.”

“Dream?” He’s going to be ill, he can feel it in his knees, rising up through his gut…

“It’s time to wake up, Kurogane,” Tomoyo smiles, “You’ve done your duty here. Now, you must wake up…”

“My duty?” he splutters, “I haven’t done anything! What happens if I wake up?” 

“I don’t know,” she confesses, “But I pray that we will meet again – outside of a dream.”

“Damn it, Tomoyo – don’t leave me here!” he screams as she fades away.

There is nothing now but the darkness.

He coughs and sputters as consciousness once again takes hold. The air reeks of death – charred flesh and panic. The sky is black, and the screams of the dying ring through the stagnant air.

He has returned to his nightmare, but knows there will be no shocked awakening to save him now.


The voice is quiet and airy, and Kurogane has only to shift slightly to find its owner. He’s hunched over, a mess of wounds across his back where his fatigues appear to have melted against his skin in the shape of a phoenix. Blood pours from his face; a ragged hole once filled by a blue eye, and Kurogane needs only to focus on the jelly between his own fingers to understand where it has gone. Kurogane rolls – tries to roll – but is unable. The stump of his shoulder, burned and cauterized where his arm used to swing, prevents him from moving.

“I’m sorry…”

“Shut up!” Kurogane hisses, barely able to speak. “What have you done?”

“I…” Fay’s head tilts forward, “I saw you fall. Your arm… And I… I couldn’t control it.”

Kurogane sighs, unable to say anything more.

“I’d wanted you to stay…asleep. At least until…” Fay gasps, and coughs a thick mass of blood, “You looked so peaceful.”

“Your eye,” Kurogane murmurs quietly, finally understanding, “You can’t sustain it anymore. We have to find…”

“Stop moving,” Fay commands with a vehemence Kurogane would not have imagined possible moments earlier, “You found Ichihara. She’ll send back-up.”

“But your eye – if we don’t get you treated somewhere soon, you’ll die.”

Fay laughs bitterly. “I doubt they’ll let me live after this anyway. I only wish I could have kept you more comfortable.”

Kurogane will not listen to another word and struggles to his feet, hauling the would-be magician with him and marches toward the foothills. Whatever battles remain can only be fought if they survive.

There are lights beckoning in the distance.


January 2013

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