|Because I can.
||[Jun. 22nd, 2005|02:16 am]
The All-Holy Shrine to Flut!
|||||enigma - sweet lullaby||]|
More like because Rem and Star told me to...
Big Zack/Rem ficcie-thing, post-RP. Nothing explicit, mostly hinted, loads of angst. Fun, =D
Title is Star's fault, btw.
If I Never Knew You
Rem had never lived off a human before; never ingested the sweet flavour of living Magatsuhi, the gentle flow of it like strong young blood through his veins. He’d never had such a hunger for the essence of a mortal, such a need to have it, to feed only from his master, the one who – voluntarily! – supplied his every want, his every need. Who, bit by bit, with every feeding, was giving up his life.
And it tore him apart to take that life, time and time again, despite what little choice he had in the matter.
“It’s worth it if it keeps you alive,” Zack had told him quietly, every time he protested, everytime he expressed his guilt at having to take what did not belong to him, having to ask, having to look his master in the eyes and request that he drain a little more life from him, a little more time. He’d never in all his years – centuries – imagined that a human would volunteer to sacrifice himself for him, a demon. It was just something that didn’t happen.
But it had happened, and it was happening, and it would continue until all the Magatsuhi in his master’s body was spent, drained and gone, leaving him empty, lifeless… leaving Rem alone and hungry for more.
They’d discussed it, of course; a conversation he’d rather forget. About what he would do when this was all over. About how he was to live from then on. About what would happen when Zack… died.
He shivered when the thought crossed his mind, and he banished it every time. He didn’t want to consider it. He didn’t want to remember that one day he would be the cause of his master’s suffering, his lover’s demise. He didn’t want to remember that one day… Zack would be gone.
Life continued, though, despite his half-ignored fears. Zack worked, and came home, and he kept himself busy with mundane chores and pestering Zack about his habits. He cooked, Zack ate, they talked, they slept (Rem tried, really, and over the years he’d managed to sleep through the whole night, despite the noisy city around them), they made love when instincts and feelings brought them to that need. They lived, which is more than Rem had had for a very, very long time. He couldn’t even remember when things had been so peaceful. He dreaded it sometimes; peaceful times would always fade and become chaotic again. They would always cave and make way for a darker day, leaving nothing in its wake but lost feelings and fading memories…
But for now, he reminded himself as often as possible, For now the feelings are our reality, the memories are our life. They will not be lost, they will not fade. I will not lose him completely as I have lost so many others…
His thoughts drifted, briefly, to someone he had almost forgotten, someone who had been so important, so treasured. Lost like a candleflame; tiny glimmers in a world full of shadows, his memories were. Swallowed by the dark, forever unwilling to spit it back out for the sake of his mind, his humanity.
Lost humanity, he added sadly, and turned away from that train of thought. It was too much, to think of his master’s eventual death and shift straight into one he’d experienced before. Too painful; unbearably so.
So he ignored it, but it festered. Sometimes he forgot, sometimes he remembered. But mostly, he waited.
Ten years they’d been together, living this way, having their fair share of fights, of laughter – his master had taught him to laugh, to cry, to hold and to cherish and to love – ten years, too short, but too long for a human, even one so enhanced and modified and… inhuman, in many ways. It wasn’t enough to make him immortal, and it wasn’t enough to save him from the internal clock slowly winding its way towards the end.
The end, Rem knew, always came too soon.
He knew something was wrong when Zack returned from work more tired than usual, his movements sluggish, his eyes worn and disturbingly empty. He shrugged it off, blaming it on a plethora of meetings he’d been trapped in all day, but Rem could tell something was different, and he didn’t hesitate to say so.
Again, he was ignored. “You worry too much, ‘ki,” Zack grinned faintly, seating himself on the couch, trying to look relaxed and failing because of his visible exhaustion. “You know it’s been pretty hectic these past few weeks. Maybe it’s just catching up on me.”
“Master,” Rem protested, “You have been resting well, and up until now you’ve been behaving normally. If you were tired I would have noticed earlier!”
“You’ve been kinda distracted too, though,” Zack commented, raising an eyebrow. “I’ve been driving you crazy with my late nights and all.”
Rem pursed his lips, visibly uncomfortable, and remained silent for a moment. Finally, he said, “Perhaps if you went to sleep early tonight, you would feel better for tomorrow.”
Zack shrugged again. “Wouldn’t hurt to try. I’m not even hungry…” He frowned, giving Rem an apologetic look that was brushed off. “I might just go straight to bed.”
The demon nodded in almost reluctant agreement, fighting to ignore the ache in his chest. “I will save the meal for tomorrow, then.”
“Sorry,” Zack murmured, but once again Rem gave no response. He then blinked. “Wait, it’s the middle of the week, isn’t it?”
Rem frowned, immediately knowing what he was referring to. “… Yes…” he forced out, eyes averted, “But in your current state –”
“Don’t even try it,” Zack scowled, pushing against the couch to rise. “Over ten years now and we’ve never broken the schedule. Why start now?”
“… Because… you’re tired…” Even when the words were forming at his lips, Rem knew how pathetic the excuse was. Zack was right; come hell or high water, as his master would say, they had trained themselves onto a regular feeding pattern, whether Zack was tired or not. Today was no different.
So Rem gave in under Zack’s scrutinizing gaze, stepping closer to meet his master in the center of the room, lifting his hands to Zack’s shoulders and drawing him into a loose but warm embrace. It was their way, now; had become their way. It wasn’t stolen, or one-sided in any way. A gift, Zack had said, given and received, and they always made certain it didn’t appear any other way.
Rem closed his eyes, his grip tightening, as he reached out with his mind, mental fingers grasping at his master’s steadily flowing Magatsuhi, the energy drawn forth from one body to another, filling the demon’s needs, satiating his hunger slowly, gently. It never took long; just enough to keep him alive for another week, just enough so that he would remain as himself but could still function normally. Nothing was different, despite his master’s exhaustion. Nothing was different, despite the fact that Zack held him a little more tightly, his voice a little more breathless, his heart beating a little faster. Nothing had changed.
Nothing, of course, until he had finished, until he pulled back, until Zack slumped against him, utterly drained, until Rem realized that everything had changed, everything was different, and it was over, all over now.
Within a day, several calls had come in, all of which did not end well. Zack was alive, as he told those on the other line firmly, but would not be for much longer. He was met with a variety of responses – the most memorable being President Rufus’s outrage, seconded only by Fei’s horrified surprise. Rem wasn’t surprised, soon afterwards, to find Fei at the door, breathless as if from a run, eyes wide, blurting out a jumbled, “Where’s Zack?!”
Rem responded with little more than a blank stare, but he stepped back to lead the other man inside, to the bedroom where Zack lay, unconscious; his skin was pale, his breath heavy, but his heartbeat was still strong. For that, Rem thought to himself, he was grateful in one small way.
Though he knew Zack wouldn’t last a week, and even then, there would be no more feedings, no more Magatsuhi. No more Zack.
Fei approached the bed uncertainly, then whirled back to the demon, eyes wide and frightened. “What happened?”
Rem shrugged. “His Magatsuhi supply has reached its limit. Now it’s simply a matter of time before his time is spent.”
Fei stared, jaw agape. “He’s… what?”
“He is going to die,” Rem stated flatly, fighting to keep his emotions reined in, his expression blank, his heart from aching so much it would break. “This is not unexpected; you were told of this many years ago.”
The younger man fidgeted, swallowing hard, and turned his gaze back to the figure on the bed. “I… I know… I just didn’t… I mean… it’s only been…”
“Ten years is a long time to withstand steady feedings,” the demon murmured, “Even for a being such as himself. Why are you surprised?”
Another stare, nothing more than incredulous for a moment… and then, at a speed Rem had never seen from the other man, he moved, reaching out to grasp the demon’s collar, eyes narrowing – there was fear in his eyes, for the most part, but the flames of anger were flickering to life as well. “I’m not-! I… stop looking like that!”
Rem didn’t even blink. “My appearance has not changed, Sir Fei.”
“You know what I mean!” Fei cried out, pushing him until his back hit the wall. “You… stop acting like it’s nothing! Stop treating this like it isn’t… it…”
“Isn’t what?” Rem asked, lip twitching ever-so-slightly, trying not to react. This was Fei, his master’s best friend, a… companion. It wouldn’t do to attack him, especially not while his master slept a few feet away.
“It’s…” Fei’s voice choked off, and his head lowered, shoulders shaking. “Don’t act like it isn’t hurting you!”
Rem froze at that, fingers half-lifted to pull Fei’s hand away. Was he that transparent? That easy to read? In their years together, had Fei learned to recognize the feelings he tried to keep so carefully hidden from all but his master? … all but Zack?
“It is not…” he began, voice trailing off just as it began. Who was he fooling? Not Fei, from the look on his face, even half hidden beneath his bangs, and certainly not himself.
Is it wrong? To just… let things go? Let the world see that I am… affected?
… that I am dying inside with every shattered breath he takes…
“It is… difficult,” he said quietly, eyes averted, “To express how I… am feeling.”
Fei looked up abruptly, eyes widening again. “You could just… let it show,” he whispered. At Rem’s sidelong glance, he flushed, pulling back to brush a hand across his eyes. “I mean… I… know you don’t really…”
“I do not cry,” Rem said curtly, lips pursed. … often.
“Isn’t he worth it?” Fei countered, his voice barely audible, eyes almost challenging. Rem didn’t have an answer to that; not one he could speak aloud.
He is worth everything. This world and beyond, -everything-…
Their eyes were drawn back to the bed by a faint sound, kneeling in unison at Zack’s side as the man’s breathing became more erratic, forced and choked. His skin was deathly white, moreso than ever before, his entire body covered in a cold sweat.
“He needs… t-to go to the hospital,” Fei looked up at Rem uncertainly, hands clenched in the bedspread. “They could-”
“They cannot help him,” Rem cut in, shaking his head. “It is past the point of salvation now.” It was past the first time I reached out and stole his life away…
“We have to do something!” Fei tried again, eyes desperate. “I won’t just-”
And again, Rem interrupted. “There’s nothing we can do.”
“How…” Fei looked down, frustrated. “How can we just give up?! There has to be something we can do!”
“Why?” Rem questioned, his gaze dull and disturbingly empty. “Why must there always be a solution? Is it so impossible to accept that nothing can change this?”
“…..” Fei stared again, jaw dropping. “That’s… no!”
“Then accept it and move on,” Rem murmured, turning away, one hand touching the wall to help him rise. He paused mid-way, eyes widening slightly; he had not really needed the extra support, so why…?
Humans have… affected me a great deal…
… this… disturbs me. Pushing away from the wall, he stood on his own, turning away.
Fei stopped him abruptly. “Where are you going?”
Rem paused. “My business is not yours.”
“You can’t just leave him!”
He’s going to leave –me-. He crushed that thought instantly, not daring to continue on that road. It was not his master’s fault, nor his choice. It was simply… something that had happened.
I am at fault. Not him…I could not blame him when he has done so much for me already…
“I am always here,” he answered quietly, and left without looking back. There was little point in interrupting the man’s grief; little reason in allowing Fei’s disconcerting anger to ruffle him.
Later…when he is gone, when we are alone, perhaps… I can break, a little. I can show what I cannot let this man see.
Zack… he will know.
But not yet. Not yet…
Fei remained in the room for several hours afterwards, and it wasn’t until Rem noticed him leaving the apartment that he heard Zack call to him, and realized the other man was finally awake. He hurried in – trying not to look like he was hurrying; he was who he was, after all – and stopped in the doorway, studying the figure on the bed for a long moment. A million thoughts came to his mind, but somehow he couldn’t form them into words.
“…Master,” he finally said aloud. All he could say.
Zack’s eyes were averted, staring unhappily at the wall opposite from him. “Naoki,” he greeted, and Rem was surprised; it wasn’t often than Zack used his full name, the name no one knew but him, but when he did, it made him listen, moreso than usual.
And… that is probably why he uses it so sparingly. A tiny smile quirked at his lips, but it faded in an instant. “Yes, master?”
Zack went quiet for a while, as Rem watched him curiously, trying to figure out why he had been called if the man wasn’t going to give him a reason. Finally, he sighed, briefly closing his eyes. “How long was I…?”
“No more than a day,” Rem answered flatly, lifting his chin a little. Zack raised an eyebrow at his behaviour, but he didn’t falter. Orders were orders, requests were requests, and despite their relationship his status had never changed. Only the most difficult of questions could cause Rem to hesitate.
Or situations, Rem thought absently, and winced. Zack didn’t miss it – he rarely did. “A day, huh… that’s not so bad. I’m feeling better than I was before, though.” He grinned crookedly. “Told you I was just tired.”
Rem didn’t return the smile; Zack hadn’t expected him to. It didn’t take him long to lose it as well. “Look, Naoki… we shouldn’t have to hesitate. We both know what’s happening.”
“You’re dying,” Rem responded. Again, no hesitation, though he fought back his voice’s attempt to waver. That was a weakness; it would hurt then both, and he would not allow that.
Zack shook his head. “I’m… running out of time,” he corrected carefully. “I’m going to die. But not yet.”
“There’s still time,” Rem agreed, reluctant to offer that hope. His time was still severely limited – why make him believe there was some chance of happiness in the short amount that remained?
There is no room for joy anymore. He will die, and I will fade, and then it will all be over. There is never hope in death.
I learned that long ago. But I did not think it would be I who taught my master…
Zack didn’t respond to that, and instead gestured with a hand. “Get your ass over here,” he muttered between his teeth, in that voice, the tone that Rem could never refuse. He was not about to start now. When he reached the bedside and moved to kneel, Zack’s hand shot out and grabbed his wrist, pulling him forward with a strength he didn’t think his master still possessed – pulling until the demon was on the bed with him, spluttering protests in a way that only appeared when he was thrown into situations of such discomfort.
“M-master, what are-“
“Shut up,” Zack growled, in that voice, and Rem shut up before his master’s lips pressed against his.
They lay like that for a long time, a tentative duet of tangled limbs and seeking lips, a playful chorus of murmurs and half-hearted objections, a symphony of rustling sheets and discarded clothes, until Rem was above him, straddling his hips, and Zack pulled back, fingers gently stroking the demi-Fiend’s hair.
“Make me forget,” he whispered, no tone at all, his eyes aflame, yet flickering, like the last desperate bursts of a candle about to drown, crying out its glory before submitting unwillingly to its fate. “Make us both forget.”
A request was, after all, a request… and leaning down once more, Rem did just that.
They didn’t speak until long afterwards, weary, drained, heartsick and longing to hold onto their bliss, hold on to that mystical forgetfulness that clung to their minds like music, a melody that faded as time passed without play. Rem lay facing the wall, staring at it, hating it, hating his cowardice, his back pressed against Zack’s stomach, an arm slung around his waist to hold him there, hold him close. He hated it and loved it, wanted it to end and wanted it forever.
Happiness came with a price, and he’d been prepared to pay it until the collector came knocking at his soul’s door.
A debt you can’t run from, his mind thought coldly, and the melody was gone, gone, and he remembered, and he knew he could never forget again.
Wishes are for humans, seeking what they cannot have…dreams are ideals that can never be achieved.
What is a dream, if not an empty goal that will do nothing more than die?
Can demons dream?
Rem shivered, his hand lowering to cover Zack’s, fingers twining around each other, a deathgrip that would not relent. “…Master.”
Zack chuckled faintly. “Hey… thank you. I think… that helped me.”
“Helped you?” Rem echoed, trying to keep his voice from sounding bitter. He didn’t think he was very successful. “What have I done, but stolen a little more of your energy, more of your time? What good is a moment of forgetting when it kills you even sooner?”
He knew Zack was smiling when he answered; knew and wondered why, and wondered why he still wondered such strange things after all this time. “No,” he said softly, “Helped me make my decision. Helped me choose.”
Rem blinked, genuinely surprised this time. “Master?”
Zack shook his head, leaning forward to rest his head against Rem’s back. “Remember… what you promised me? About what you’d do after I died?”
The demon’s eyes widened, realization suddenly flaring to life in his mind. “… Y… yes…”
“... he made me. He found me, as my world was dying. It was him... he who was cast down from the light... who took away my humanity, so that I could lead his armies and destroy... everything.”
“I will return to him someday, just as broken as before…”
“Refuse him! Don't go along with him! I'd rather die than be dragged along in some mad scheme…”
“I think you can. I -believe it-.”
“... if you... if master... if Zack believes in me... then maybe... I d-do have... courage...”
Releasing Zack’s hand abruptly, he spun around, staring at his master incredulously. That day… that day he’d made a vow he hadn’t had the courage to make before, the day he’d learned to laugh, to cry, the day he’d smiled and blushed and clung and made love and done everything that made them more human, despite what they were. The day he’d wept for his fate and denied it, told the man he served and followed and loved that he would not die for nothing.
“I’m not dead yet,” Zack continued faintly, and his eyes were hard again, determined, the wavering candle replaced by solid stone, though not cold; warmed by firelight, burning brightly in the shadows of night. “I’m not… empty, I guess is the word. Can you feel it?” He grasped Rem’s hand again, pressing it against his chest, over his heart. Rem could feel it pounding beneath his fingers. “I… still have plenty left.”
“You should be conserving it, master,” Rem cut in, studying him warily. He wasn’t certain as to where this was going, but he didn’t like it, either way. “The longer you-”
“Don’t start,” Zack rolled his eyes. “That’s all Fei talked about, too. ‘Save your strength, Zack. Don’t overexert yourself.’ I talked about this with him, too. Can’t you understand it? I’m dying. We all knew it. Us especially. No amount of relaxing will bring the time back, ‘ki.”
Rem closed his eyes, the pain twisting like a knife in his heart once more. The name, the words, the way his master was looking at him, all conspiring together to make this all the more painful…
Now I cannot even forget how he feels around me… holding me, lying here with me…
Why is it always so –hard-?
“I know,” he whispered instead, holding Zack’s hand a little more tightly, not bothering to hide the brokeness of his voice. Why hide it here, in this place? Why from him?
Why lie to a dying man right before the end?
He felt soft lips against his own, a finger lightly stroking his cheek. “It’s over, but it’s not. You have to survive; you have a promise to keep, don’t you?” He could feel Zack’s warm breath against his skin, an arm lifting to draw him near again. “You’ll need my strength when you leave.”
Rem’s eyes flickered open, wide and suddenly frightened, understanding yet wishing blindly that he didn’t. “You are…”
He couldn’t even say it; his mouth was dry, his mind empty of the words necessary to properly object to such a suggestion.
But Zack could, and Zack did. He always did. “Take it,” he murmured, and his hand pressed down on Rem’s, holding it there against his heart, pounding, pounding, living, dying. Asking for death.
“Take it all and go,” Zack continued, lifting his free hand to place a finger against Rem’s lips, cutting him off. “And kick that demon’s ass for me. Prove to me I haven’t died for nothing…”
For nothing? No, it hasn’t been for nothing. It never has…
I’m alive because you have kept me alive. I’m alive because you have done this. And now you want me to-
“I- master! I can’t!” he blurted out, staring, wanting to say more, to say no, to refuse and hold the man and keep him there forever if he could. There was nothing he could do to make that wish come true, but for what else did wishes exist except to seek them out?
“Why not?” Zack countered, eyes narrowing. “What else am I supposed to do, lie here and waste away? Enjoy that countdown to death locked away in my bedroom? Just how am I supposed to spend my last moments, if not giving you something that might keep you alive later?!”
“Why can I not keep you alive?” Rem demanded back, his expression warring with itself between anger and desperation. “Why should I kill you even sooner?”
“Because I want you to live though this,” Zack whispered, his own eyes pained, but not torn, never that. He knew what he wanted and wasn’t turning back. “I don’t want you to be satisfied with just the attempt. That wasn’t what you promised… you said you’d win. You said you’d try, Naoki…”
“I will! I will try! I will try with all my soul and I will not give up but don’t…” Rem trailed off, seeking the words that so easily avoided him.
“Don’t die for you?” Zack asked faintly. “I already am.” Rem flinched. “Don’t make it worse than it is.” His expression softened, touching the demon’s face once more. “You know why I did this.”
There was a long silence as Rem mulled that one over, leaning into his touch, desperately keeping his eyes from meeting the other man’s. He knew if he did it would be over. “Master,” he choked out, “Master, I do not want you to…”
“I know. Naoki, look at me.”
His eyes lifted, unwilling, but commanded. That voice. He wanted to hate it, now. Couldn’t, because it was Zack’s, and how could he hate anything about him now?
Zack smiled, unmoving, just… asking, with those eyes, with those hands, with those lips. Asking for an answer he couldn’t give, yet one he couldn’t refuse.
He doesn’t want to die this way… but… if he must…
He… has made his choice. How can I say no to this…?
He didn’t answer. He never did, really. But, giving his master – his lover – one final kiss, he shifted, rising from the bed and reaching for his shorts. Zack watched as he changed, silent, waiting. He didn’t make a single sound, didn’t flinch, even when Rem turned back to him, fists clenching and unclenching, eyes glinting with indecision.
Zack met those eyes with a grin, shifting to lie on his back on the bed as Rem leaned over him. “Hungry?” he quipped. One last attempt at laughter, one final stab at the cold hand of misery. It didn’t work, but it wouldn’t be Zack if he didn’t try.
“I am not,” Rem murmured in response, but his hand lifted anyway, pressing down on the smooth skin of Zack’s chest, reaching out once more, feeling the demon side of him respond eagerly – not in hunger, though he knew he had never taken enough to truly satiate it, but in greed, in pure instinctual desire – calling forth the Magatsuhi it so desperately wanted. Zack didn’t close his eyes this time, and so neither did Rem; he wanted to watch his master until the end… not to watch him die, never that, but to see him as long as he was alive, let his eyes trace the shape of his body, the smile on his face, the glow in his eyes that was so strong, so bright, but… faded. Not as distinct as it used to be.
And it seemed as though the more Magatsuhi he took, the more the glow was dimmed. His smile stayed the same, his body never changed, but his eyes were shifting, losing their focus. Beneath the glow of what his master had explained was mako, he could see the true colour shining through; a soft brown, not gold at all. His expression shifted to one of confusion, questioning it, but Zack didn’t answer, merely lifted his own hand to cover Rem’s, holding it there. He wanted to ask, wanted to pull away, but something in the man’s grip made him continue, the way his eyes spoke that kept alive their silence.
Everything had been said that meant anything; not all words were meant to be spoken aloud.
Even… the things I want him so badly to know…everything I could say to him now is…
It is over. It is over yet not, for my life must continue… isn’t that what you wanted?
I… don’t want it. I don’t… but…
… he does. And he is going to die for me…how can I let myself die, knowing that…
“Prove to me I haven’t died for nothing…”
“Not for nothing,” Rem whispered chokingly, his fingers tense against the man’s skin, nails almost digging in. Zack’s hand closed around his in response, not cutting off the contact that drew out the Magatsuhi – the red strands were beginning to trail out from his entire body now, endless rivers of energy that swirled and glowed. There was something different about it, something mystical, powerful, ethereal but real, so very real he could feel it echoing in his soul. This was no simple draining, no slow surrendering of the heart for the sake of one final battle. Something was growing within him, brought to life by the wealth – lingering, diminishing, but still there, still so alive – of Magatsuhi in Zack’s body. He could feel it, almost see it, just barely beyond his reach.
And then it was there.
Rem bit back a cry, feeling a sudden boost of energy – essence, really – explode within him, stretching outwards towards his back. He realized a moment too late, trying to pull away, feeling the difference, but Zack’s hand was still clasped around him, his grip strong even as his soul grew weaker every second. He smiled, his expression gentle, telling Rem that it was alright, that he could trust him, that he knew what he was doing and what he was doing was for the best.
“no part of you is 'bad' to me…”
… why should this change anything?
I am… afraid.
But I trust you. I do…
Keeping that thought in mind, he stopped fighting it, allowing the Magatsuhi to wash over him once more.
… and screamed as a sharp pain lanced through his body, the energy, raw power bursting out in the shape of two perfectly formed wings, one white, one black. Perfect replicas of the wings that existed within his master’s – no, once existed –
Rem’s thought train derailed at that, eyes startled wide, and his eyes lowered, the last of the Magatsuhi flowing into him. His mortified gaze met Zack’s.
Zack smiled again, still that sad, trusting smile that made Rem’s insides twist. Tears stained his cheeks, tears Rem hadn’t noticed before, had never wanted to see. He opened his mouth, barely there, barely making it from one breath to the next.
“Naoki,” he whispered, a single exhale, nothing more. And went.
It was several weeks before Fei was able to truly concentrate on day-by-day tasks without remembering. You don’t get over the loss of a ten-year friendship overnight, whether the death was known or not.
He’d called the apartment the next day, and upon receiving no answer, made the trek over once more. Zack had given him a key long ago, though he rarely used it; if no one was home he had no reason to be there, and if they didn’t answer the door chances were they were… otherwise occupied, and he didn’t want to interrupt. He’d never really understood their relationship, how affection, care, even love could form from such a twisted, uncomfortable beginning. Rem had tried to kill Zack when they had first met, gone from a murder attempt to little more than a servant in moments, and from there… Fei hadn’t seen most of the changes as they occurred, and part of him wished he had somehow been able to interrupt them, to pull them away from one another.
Deep down he knew Rem had needed Zack, and however difficult it was he had to admit Zack had needed something, and he’d found it in the demi-Fiend who called him his master. Even so, when Zack had told him, all those years ago, that he had decided to return the favour, to serve Rem in the only way he really could – with his life, with his soul – Fei hadn’t really been able to accept it. It was… too much to imagine, losing Zack to keep a demon alive, comrade or not.
Yet… it was so like Zack, wasn’t it? To give so much of himself until an alternative could be found. Except in this case, there was none. And he’d never faltered…
If I had to give my life for Mei… I wouldn’t hesitate. I’ve always known that…why should he be any different?
Perhaps what angered him, though, was the fact that Rem was nowhere to be found.
Zack was there; Fei had found him in the bedroom, clean and quiet and dressed in his favourite clothes, smiling faintly in a dream that wouldn’t end. Fei couldn’t remember much of that moment, what he’d said or done for a long time after seeing him there.
His friend had… said goodbye, in a way, before he left. The way he spoke, the way he smiled, the way his eyes narrowed a little when Fei said he would see him again soon. They were all warnings that Fei couldn’t bear to accept, and now here he was, forced into it, eyes wide and staring at the death he’d denied from the very beginning.
He’d called Mei, then, when he was finally able to rise again and look away. He’d told her, shakily, that they needed to take care of things now, that Zack was gone but they’d be okay. He wasn’t certain who he was trying to reassure; she’d sounded a lot stronger than he when she replied. After hanging up, he had taken a look around the apartment, studying it, distantly making note that he’d have to come back to clean it out, how long he should wait before doing so, in case Rem came back.
It hadn’t surprised him, that the demi-Fiend was gone; he had no idea why, but he knew there had been no reason for him to stay. The thought saddened him, a little, how the years they’d spent together meant nothing to Rem. Granted, they’d never been close, but they were far from strangers, either. Fei respected him, cared about him as a friend and ally. They’d fought together, traveled together. Surely they could mourn together?
I wonder… if Rem knows -how- to mourn, he thought absently, and then felt guilty about it afterwards. But the anger remained.
He hadn’t returned for the funeral, though many of their friends had. It was a quiet ceremony, nothing overly elaborate, aside from the expected military accompaniment. The media had been something of a problem, however; everyone wanted to know why Shinra’s general, someone who was probably the only surviving SOLDIER left on the planet, had died so suddenly overnight. No answer had been good enough, though Fei had been forced to give the full story to President Rufus. The man’s response had been helpful against the media, though not by much – even weeks afterwards, his house was still bombarded with phone calls and the occasional visits of people who couldn’t accept the story given to them.
Fei wondered, frustrated and annoyed, if this was one of the reasons Rem had disappeared; Zack would have warned him of this, and if there was one thing the demi-Fiend hated, it was the uneasy, frightened, or hateful scrutiny of people who couldn’t possibly understand him. He would not have handled well the endless stream of reporters and journalists demanding the truth, and – if they ever got a hold of it – they would not have accepted him, knowing he was the one responsible for Zack’s death.
It was a life given freely, but who in the city would have listened, without Zack to confirm it?
Fei sighed to himself, trying to bury his thoughts in the dishes, as he had done a great deal lately; menial, empty tasks that required little thinking, if any. It was easier to forget that way, living day to day without looking beyond his own home, his own small corner of the world. He had a family, a job, his own house to worry about. There wasn’t time to fret over a dead man, a missing friend.
That’s what he told himself, anyway, but he’d never been a very good liar, and there was no fooling himself in this case. Zack was dead, Rem was gone, and he was worried sick about… everything.
He was nearly finished and was about to head outside to feed the chocobos when he heard a knock at the door. Curious, dreading another reporter come to pester his family – and valiantly wishing he was as assertive and firm as Meiro when it came to dealing with them – he headed over and opened the door, surprised to find not some typical media detective he’d come to expect but a simple teenager, short dark hair and pale skin contrasting with one another, clad in simple black pants and a striped orange t-shirt, with a thin, long-sleeved black shirt underneath it. Pale blue eyes studied him uncertainly, as if he hadn’t expected Fei to answer the door of his own house.
“H-hello,” Fei stammered, trying to think of a reason why this boy might have come to him. He looked young, and very familiar… Meiro might have teased that he was a fan of the races, and the very idea set his face aflame. “Can I… help you?”
The teen smiled weakly, shifting the bag slung around his shoulder. “Someone else was… at the apartment,” he murmured. A strange explanation to give. “I didn’t think it would still be there, but… I wanted to see it anyway.”
Fei started at the boy, eyes widening, recognizing what those words meant, who this was. He could see it now, why he was so familiar, why the voice and the face and the figure were something he should have remembered, yet couldn’t believe. Everything else had changed; his clothes, his skin, his expression, the way he moved or spoke, his eyes…
His eyes aren’t gold anymore. I…didn’t know they were blue…they’re so bright compared to…
“Rem,” he breathed, unable to believe it yet wanting to, wanting to know that there had been hope, that Zack had died accomplishing something, that he’d finally done what he always wanted to do.
The teenager frowned a little, shaking his head. “Rem… is dead,” he said quietly, uncomfortable, but he didn’t look away. “But it’s better this way.”
Better… you can live without killing, you’re -human-, aren’t you?
Yes… this is better. Zack wanted this all along…
“Who… who are you then?”
The boy grinned, the expression hauntingly familiar… yet Fei found it didn’t hurt to see it. “My name is Naoki.”
“Naoki… I… see.” Fei hesitated, uncertain of exactly how to respond to that. “You… just got into town?”
The boy nodded. “Yes, I’ve… only just returned. It’s… good to be back.”
Fei smiled back, unable to do otherwise. “I’m really glad… you… I mean...” He paused again, searching for the words, searching for what to say and how to say it.
He found it a moment later, smile broadening, seeing something in the young man that had long been missing, forgotten, lost. Found again.
“Welcome home,” Fei said quietly, his voice gentle, unafraid.
Rem – Naoki – continued to grin in response, expression filling with gratefulness, exhaling sharply with a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding. Fei stepped back, moving aside to let the boy in, and he couldn’t help but wonder if… somehow, he’d welcomed a little piece of Zack inside his home once more.
Back where he belongs. It’s…not over. Memories aren’t always of death...
If I never knew you
If I never felt this love
I would have no inkling of
How precious life can be
And if I never held you
I would never have a clue
How at last I'd find in you
The missing part of me
In this world so full of fear
Full of rage and lies
I can see the truth so clear
In your eyes
So dry your eyes
If I never knew you
I'd be safe but half as real
Never knowing I could feel
A love so strong and true
I'm so grateful to you
I'd have lived my whole life through
If I never knew you