3-27-01: Another day, another fic. ^_^ This one is about Subaru from X. Basically, the only warning on this so far is a humongous angst warning. Torture of Subaru happening here! ^_^ Eventually there may be a yaoi warning to go along with the angst warning... but then again, there may not be. ^_^ I hope you enjoy it either way. Since this fic mostly takes place during volume 12 of X (Dark Kamui and Subaru's fight, then Subaru's subsequent hospital stay, so far...), then if you haven't read up to there, there be spoilers abounding! ^_^ Take that under advisement.

The pain is excruciating, just as I expected it would be. It fills me with a perverse sort of pleasure. One more lie to add to the stack that he fed me, one more bit of proof that he isn't to be trusted... that he should never have been trusted. What else did I expect?

A quiet sob off to my left nearly makes me open my remaining eye, but I refrain. I'm not ready to face anyone yet, much less him. Can he possibly know how much it hurts just to be near him? How each move he makes cuts into me like a knife? How each word he utters is a bruising reminder of how much I have lost? No... He doesn't know, doesn't understand. With any luck, he never will - not if I have anything to say about it. That seems to be my only purpose left in this life - to prevent him from becoming the same burnt-out husk that is all that remains of me. That, and my Wish.

I misled him into thinking that my Wish had been fulfilled with this recent tragedy. The loss of my right eye, to make up for the loss that occurred so many years ago. It saddened him - that is why he sobs now. That I would sacrifice so much just for him. That tears at me, as well. He is so much like me... For did I not once sit at someone's bedside in just the same manner, crying bitter tears over the very same loss... for the very same reason? No. Not the same reason. But close enough for now. And I'm not sure that anyone else would understand the distinction, anyway.

The door to my hospital room opens and closes with a quiet snick. Two new sets of footsteps fill my hearing. My power reaches out to identify them before I'm even aware of the action: Arisugawa Sorata and Kishuu Arashi. Guilt over my predicament is rolling off them in easily palpable waves. My goodness... is every single one of my fellow Seals going to claim responsibility for a foolishness that was solely my own? Sentimental idiots. It's harder and harder for me to remember what it was like to be one of them. Don't they understand? If I had wished to avoid Kamui's strike, I could have. Do they think me so weak that that is not the case? With a bitter smile, I open my remaining eye to gaze upon their concerned expressions - they probably do.

The truth is, I am not that weak. But I am that pathetic. That is my own little secret - a fact that no one else knows. I am that pathetic because these little reasons for living are all that is left to me. Once they are discharged... then I will be able to surrender myself to my Wish. But for now, these little responsibilities hold me here in an iron grip. Perhaps some of them suspect this - I'm not sure that Kamui does. He truly is that na´ve. So, what to say that will reassure them all that I'm still sane? I have to think back nine years to try to find something... ah. That will do. "Gomen ne. I did not mean to trouble you like this..."

My voice sounds so weak. It frustrates me as it reinforces the opinion that a weakened body means a weakened soul. But my soul is not weak, it can not be weak. After all... it bled to death nine years ago and no longer exists.

Arisugawa-san has sent the other two out of the room. I wait in idle curiosity for his words of wisdom, for I am sure that he has a few to impart. He surprises me by asking what it is that I wanted to say to him. Well, perhaps I did have something to say. I just wish I knew what it was... Perhaps I should try the truth. Arisugawa-san actually looks like he might be strong enough to hear it.

I clear my throat, trying to force my voice into some semblance of its normal self before I speak. There is no need to appear weaker than I am. I meet his gaze evenly for a moment, then start to speak, "What happened today, it was my fault." He is wiser than his years, he doesn't try to interrupt me with meaningless denials. Perhaps he just wishes to spare my strength. I don't truly care, as long as he lets me finish speaking, "However, Kamui blames himself, and will surely keep on doing so. I believe that he has been sitting up and watching me since the fight last night. If he continues on in this manner, he will collapse. Please take care of him."

I expected that to be the end of the conversation. I said my piece, Arisugawa-san will nod, vow to watch over Kamui, and that will be all. Instead, he surprises me a second time. In a subdued voice, he speaks, "Compared to his physical wounds, Kamui's emotional wounds are far more severe..." Well that is certainly true enough. He was forced to watch as the man he loved killed the woman most dear to him as he lay helpless. He was forced to watch as the man he loved took the eye of another who was only now becoming dear to him. It was a wonder the boy was holding up as well as he wa--. "...as are yours, Subaru-san."

What? All I can do is stare at the younger boy. In spite of my mental note not to underestimate the young monk, I am surprised. I hadn't expected him to be that perceptive, nor to have the brass to say it out loud to me if he was. I have allowed the others to think what they will about my aloof, often cold demeanor - and I'm well aware of what they've chosen to think. That I am cold, unapproachable, and unfeeling - that I only fight along side them because I am forced to by destiny, rather than for any real care for the human race. They are only half right. I fight with them, not because I am forced, but because it suits my own needs. Just as he only joined the Dragons of Earth because it suited his. Not a one of them thought to dig beneath the surface to discover why - none except Kamui... and now this boy.

Perhaps sensing that this is a topic that I have no wish to pursue, he changes it, "We will look after Kamui, Subaru-san."

That is something that I can respond to, at least. Once I have, Arisugawa-san veers our conversation towards small talk. Somewhere in the depths of my dead soul, a giggle tries to surface. Since when does small talk involve discussing the stasis of your friend's gouged out eye? Shouldn't it cover things like the weather? But like so many things that I keep hidden, the giggle stays deeply internal and I don't share my amusement with the younger boy. Somehow, I don't think he would understand.

He seems disturbed by how quickly I deny the possibility of saving my eye. He seems even more disturbed when, on a whim, I tell him that this is what I wanted. It is almost amusing to watch those expressions play across his face, and makes me wonder what else I could say to bring that expression of horror trotting back across it...

That thought brings me up short and I start to shake inside. Is this how it starts? Curiosity? Detachment? Kami-sama... what kind of monster am I becoming? I am becoming like him. I remember what he told me once: ~I wanted to feel something for you. Hate, love - anything would have done. But I feel nothing. A year of trying, and I still feel nothing more for you than I do for a rock or a baseball bat. I can break you just as easily, and still I feel nothing. Why is that?~

He couldn't have always felt this way - he was born human, just as we all are. He became this way through training, and eventually through ceremony. But... is this how it started for him? The thought scares me as nothing else has in nine years. It holds me back from a precipice that I had been unaware of until that moment. Somehow, I know that if I take that final step... that final slide... I will become like him. Unable to care and unable to feel, instead of just unwilling.

Shaking and terrified, my mind tries to curl up in a little ball and hide... but that isn't the answer, and it never was. Unsurprisingly, it is Kamui's hesitant protests that arouse me enough to reconnect to the outside world. He wants to stay with me... In spite of myself, the sentiment warms my heart. A feeling of relief washes through me - I can still feel. Well, I'm going to hold onto that for as long as I can. When the ice threatens a second time, I will know how to fight it. I raise my hand to slowly brush across Kamui's pale cheek, "It is better for you to go home and rest now, Kamui. Please. Arisugawa-san is correct."

Kamui's eyes are still wide and fearful, but he will not argue with me. Instead, he merely asks if he can come visit again sometime. I allow my thumb to lightly caress his cheek even as I nod my assent. I can not deny him that, at least. The sunny smile that breaks out across his face as he raises his small hand to hold mine nearly breaks my heart. Oh Kamui... Don't do this. Don't make me feel that deeply... I don't think my heart would survive it a second time... and it already belongs to someone else. Someone who doesn't deserve it, someone who doesn't appreciate it, and someone who would as soon destroy it as care for it... but I can not change that. And I can not give you something that I no longer have. Gomen ne, Kamui... gomen ne.

It's been almost two days now, and Kamui still hasn't come. I'm torn halfway between relief and disappointment. I'm glad to have a little distance to analyze how I feel, but at the same time, I find myself missing him. It has been so long since anyone has been able to shed light into my shadowed existence, yet he does it with such ease. I didn't think I needed that kind of light anymore, but every time it shines on me, I can feel my dead soul turning and grasping for it, as if it is trying to grow...

I'm not really sure what to think of that. I've been dead for so long... I don't think I remember how to live. I want to hate him for making me want to try again, but I can't. I can no more hate him than I can fulfill my Wish on my own. I'm not entirely sure what I feel for him except that it is strong. Whenever he is near, a deep, burning tenderness fills me. It makes me wish to shelter and protect him with everything that I am, flawed though I may be.

I've only felt this strongly about two other people in my life. One is dead, and the other... the other is the one who killed her. I nearly choke on something that is either a laugh or a sob at that thought. I am truly damned... how can I even be thinking of opening myself up to another? That road only ever brought me grief.

The quiet snick of my door opening and closing rouses me from my thoughts. I nearly growl at the ridiculous hope that surges through me as I look up, then need to bite back a further surge of disappointment when I see that it isn't Kamui. I don't suppose I'm really surprised to see this visitor, though. All of the other Seals have stopped in to see me, as well, each one bearing some version of an apology that none of them owes me. I suppose the only surprise is that this one took so long to get around to it. I force a smile onto my face as she hesitates in the doorway, "Yes?"

She flinches as if I have struck her. Naze? As the guilt scurries across her face, I have my answer. She's so young... younger than all of the rest of us. Even Kamui is older - though not by much. Nekoi-san still needs looking after, and none of us are really equipped for the job. She should be with her family, not baring her throat to the Dragon. But then, life was never fair. It took me a long time to learn that lesson, but I have learned it well. Most people, especially those with a Gift, are forced to grow up long before their time. I just hope that she survives it.

In a sudden fit of nervous energy, she rushes to my bedside and bows over nearly double, the apologies and explanations pouring from her lips almost faster than I can comprehend them. The inugami who never leaves her side presses his head against my leg, pushing his nose against my bandaged forearm. It is the first time in nine years that I have been so close to a dog... even though I once loved them so dearly that I could tell each one from the others by his bark alone. The urge to run my fingers through his thick, dark fur nearly overwhelms me, but I resist it. He is disappointed but does nothing further to draw my attention from his mistress.

Looking up once more, I break into Nekoi-san's string of apologies, keeping my voice low so as not to startle her further, "There is no need to apologize to me."

She stares at me as if I have grown a second head. Now what did I say wrong? Adolescents can be so difficult to understand sometimes... She looks away, breaking our eye contact, "But... I need to. Because I didn't do anything, you got hurt. Even though I didn't hurt you, it's still my fault - at least a little." She looks up, suddenly meeting my gaze head on, "And because I care about everyone, it hurts me when one of you gets hurt. Do you understand?"

Oh child... you have no idea how well I understand. I used to feel the same way. Every injury suffered by another, that could have been prevented if I had been there, I felt as keenly as if it had been inflicted upon me. But you can't live that way - not if you want to stay sane. And yet, I can't bring myself to tell her that. So I temporize, "I am not worthy of such affection."

For some reason, it is important to me that she understand this. I once used to believe that I was deserving of people's caring and compassion. That was before I lost the better half of my soul, the bright, joyful, living half. Everything in me that deserved a human connection died with her. She was my rock, my redeemer. Without her, I am just a husk, a burn-out shell that only causes others pain. And without her, there is no way for me to make up for all the pain I cause others through my carelessness. It is far easier to remain separate from such attachments - prevent people from trying so I won't accidentally hurt them. But, for some reason known only to themselves, they keep trying and I keep hurting them. She needs to know that before she tries to get too attached. Kamui is already caught, I don't want to snare another innocent. However, trying to put that into words is not easy. I have never been good with words, but I need to try so I press on, "I don't deserve such consideration. All I do is hurt those who care about me. I am selfish..."

Somehow, I don't expect the outburst that follows my blunt explanation. She clutches her hands and her chest, her gentle eyes wide and full of horror, "Iie! Subaru-san that isn't true! You aren't selfish - you're kind and wonderful and brave... and self-sacrificing." Her voice drops so low that I almost don't catch the next few words, "I don't know if I'd have been able to do... what you did. I care for Kamui - I care for him a lot. And I know that as a Dragon of Earth I'm bound to protect him... but I'm scared. I'm so scared. I don't know if, when it comes right down to it, I'll be able to make that sacrifice. But..." Her head comes up abruptly, her eyes boring into my shocked gaze as she holds up her hand with her pinky crooked, "But even so, you have to make me a promise! You have to promise that you won't take all this responsibility onto yourself. Because maybe... maybe if we all work together, we won't need to make any more sacrifices... ne? So, if anything happens, call on me and Inuki. Surely, if we work together, no one needs to get hurt! Promise?"

I must have the most incredible expression on my face, because she has just caught me completely flatfooted. Her argument makes sense, but something in me is rebelling against making that promise. But... I can't tell her why. I certainly can't explain how making such a promise would compromise my Wish. And since I can't tell her why I don't want to make that promise, I really can't avoid it. And something makes me want to agree to her insane request. Maybe it's her pleading gaze, her bouyant expression, her certainty that in our partnership we can accomplish what neither can alone... or maybe it's just that ridiculous pose - hand outstretched, pinky crooked - something so like what She would do... that tempts me into agreeing with this insanity. I don't really know. But sometime during this little mental debate that I'm having with myself, I discover that my hand has already made the decision for me. My pinky is curled around hers and she happily shakes it up, then down, then lets it go. She's beaming so wide I'm surprised her face doesn't break... Was this really that important to her? It gives me some food for thought, that's for certain.

I finally give in to temptation and allowed my hand to drop to the inugami's head to run my fingers through his fur. His eyes close in pure pleasure - I was right. His fur is soft, so soft... A silence falls over the room. It feels strange after Nekoi-san's outbursts... but in spite of the strangeness, it is a comfortable silence. The kind shared between two people who are connected on such a deep level that there is no need for words. Hokuto-chan and I used to sit like this often, hard as it is to believe that she could be quiet for any length of time. We would sit quietly, side by side, basking in the glow of each other's company. Then, after a time, she would pull me down to rest my head on her shoulder or her lap, and would run her fingers through my hair. It was so wonderfully soothing... nothing on Earth could ever upset me so much that her gentle touch couldn't wipe it away - at least temporarily.

My hand suddenly clenches in Inuki's fur as a surge of grief comes up and blindsides me from nowhere. That was careless. I should know better. I force my hand to relax, stubbornly telling the ever-present lump of tears to retreat back into my chest where it belongs. People say that the pain of losing of a loved one eases with time. Perhaps it does... for some. The pain of losing my twin, however, has never lessened. I feel it as keenly now as I did nine years ago - I've just gotten better at ignoring it, avoiding thoughts that will bring it roaring to the surface. But being around Nekoi-san... it made me careless. She is quite a lot like my sister, actually... though there are differences. I force myself to catalogue them in an effort to gain a little emotional distance. She is shy - almost painfully so at times. Hokuto-chan was never shy. She is... hmm... traditional. I have the distinct feeling that she would never be caught dead in most of the outfits that Hokuto-chan wore on a daily basis. And perhpas most important of all... she is young, a child. Hokuto-chan was never a child. Even when we were in our swaddling clothes, she had already assumed the responsibility of looking after me.

Main Index | Teasers | E-mail Me!