This is a flut that I wrote a while back, but never got about to posting. A het RP pairing of Kiri/Ark'd, not usually done, but me and Star like it, so there. >.> This one has a slight warning, though for some *cough* rape later, and the appearence of Ark'd's darker side, Hakuma. *evil cackle*
You have been warned. >)
"I know how men in exile feed on dreams of hope."
~ Aeschylus (525 BC - 456 BC), Agamemnon
~:Before We Wake:~
Feel sorta stupid, saying it. Don’t really need permission to come in, even if we’ve been apart for a while. Life catches up, ne? Family, friends, obligations, food…sometimes it’s just a little difficult finding some time alone. Guess that’s why I’m so late. Too late. She’s…already asleep. I can see her head where it rests against the whiteness of the pillow, sweet and relaxed. I go as quietly as I can, shutting the door carefully behind me. A little color escapes my hands, though, soft, iridescent blues and silvers…I’m so happy to be home.
I slide out of my clothing, grinning. A good surprise for when she wakes up! Or maybe not…I do it all the time, after all. Still, it feels good, better than good, to slip under the silken sheets, curling against her. So warm, so warm…and she shivers, smiling, her slumbering mind informing her that’s it’s only me, only Ark’d. I glow for her, faint and white, bright and low…I take her in my arms, letting her sleep on, my face buried against her neck. And I go deeper, deeper than that…into the light-washed places within, where the dreams rest.
I follow the path of color, of warmth and life and living, to where she is now, waiting for me. I grasp the tethers around me, star-core bright, melding them and painting them anew, making something wonderful for her. It’s worth it, always worth it, because she smiles and laughs at my jokes and holds me close. All that matters is her as I step through the world I made, seeking her out, as I always would.
I give no thought to nightmares.
Kiri knew it was a dream. She could always tell…it was always too beautiful to be real. A beach, this time…the moon so close and full she could almost reach up and touch it, tracing its golden smoothness with her trembling fingers. A thick, emerald and indigo-tinted forest was at her back, whispering at her with the voice of the wild and the wind and the wonders hidden just behind the gleaming edge. The sea that murmured in and out of the shore was a rich, midnight blue, gleaming with highlights of silver and white.
And it was snowing. There were no clouds in the sky, nothing to hide the flickering, happy stars from view, nor obscure the moon. Yet the snow was there, bright as the stars themselves, shining and gleaming and tracing cool, gentle patterns on her skin. Such a counterpoint it was to the warm air, cold but not unpleasantly so, just there and wonderful and sweet…just like the white figure she could see leaning against a tree nearby, that lopsided grin on his face. Kiri smiled, eyes full of love, but, a hint of mischief seeping into her expression, she stepped away, head falling backwards to let the snowflakes pepper across her cheeks.
Then she started to dance.
She needed no music, no tune, because it was already there, in her heart, in her smile. Slowly, gracefully, Kiri dipped and twirled, arms spread elegantly behind her, or in front, nightgown twirling into silken folds with every spin, every curve. The snow accompanied her, trailing after, catching at her hair and clothing and sparkling like white flames, like jewels or flowers. She knew what he was doing, matching her step for step with his colors and his dreams, so she went faster, daring him, challenging him, laughing out loud.
His response was to suddenly be there, beside her, weaving with her in his clumsy, graceful way. She giggled, brushing past then back around again, teasing and light, and he followed, white hair gleaming, dark eyes smiling with love and happiness. His hands sought her out and she let him find her, wrapping her hands around his neck and stepping in close, still leading them in gentle, heartfelt rotations, the snow spinning and billowing all around them, their light brighter than before.
"Okaeri nasai…," Kiri said softly to him, using the words he had taught what felt like lifetimes ago. "Welcome home…"
"Tadaima…," Ark’d whispered to her, a hand stroking her hair. "It’s good to be home."
"I missed you," she murmured, swaying gently to their love, arms resting on his shoulders.
"Missed you, too, koishii…," he said in return, nuzzling against her cheek. "I don’t like having to be away so long, but you know Rem…always so damn pushy when he needs something. He really should make Zack’s anniversary present by himself, but the baka has practically no taste, soooo…"
Kiri only giggled, snuggling close, reveling in the feel of him, how real and comforting, even in a dream. "You’re here now, silly, and that’s all that matters."
They were silent then, simply enjoying being together, here in a place of beauty and their shared affection. They slowed, though the dance didn’t stop, taking them back and forth across the silver and golden mix of sand and snow, their feet caressed now and then by the warm, warm sea, or the few velvety scrub and sea grass that poked up here and there. If Kiri wasn’t already sleeping, she would have drifted off, so relaxed was she. It was almost as though there was no darkness in the world, no problems, nothing between her and her love. As though they could stay here forever, in happiness.
If only his back wasn’t so cold. It bothered her a little, even as she held him close. The chains painted onto his skin had a texture, after all, different from his pale flesh: hard and rough, almost enough to cut. Sometimes she thought she could hear them, clinking against one another as he moved, giving the illusion that they shifted and clung within his body, under his skin. But that couldn’t be so, could it? If it was, it would certainly hurt him…and that hurt her, too. To know that no matter where he was, whether in the world or in dreams, something inside would still ache, still deter from his happiness.
Not fair…not fair…if only I could do something…
Well…this was a dream, wasn’t it? Kiri would be able to try things she normally could not, attempt to help in ways that weren’t available when she was awake. And if it worked, if she somehow managed to free him from that pain, that darkness that wouldn’t leave him be…and even if it didn’t, it was still just a dream. They would wake up, laugh sadly, softly, and go on, with nothing changed. But at least she would have tried.
Coming to a decision, Kiri slid her hand lower onto his back, seeking for a place, somewhere to reach inside. And, as if responding to her search, her fingers found a tiny catch, one link higher than the others…a weak link? If so, if she could just…just take hold of it…and pull it out…
Ark’d danced on, unaware of what she was doing, eyes shut and face relaxed, resting against her without a care in the world. Kiri had to smile at that, at his childish, handsome face and lidded eyes. Yes, it would be worth it, for him to just have that face, that peace, rather than everything else. To have this happiness and love, just it and it alone. How wonderful it was, her hand grabbing tight and gently pulling the chain free as she rubbed her cheek against his neck, calm and soothed.
For you, nen’erth…
Everything shattered when Ark’d screamed, the spirit lurching away from her as darkness swept down around them. The sky cracked and bled countless shadows, the pristine snow beneath their feet crumbling into ash, the trees blackening as they wept their dead, brittle leaves away. A cold deeper than the abyss was crawling across the world, the wind with frigid claws tugging and prying at her suddenly dull dress, tangling in her limp hair. There were…sounds, terrible sounds, deep moans of horrifying agony and distant, aching screams of helpless despair, tinged with those shouts and roars and sneers of hatred and bitter loathing.
Pain, pain everywhere, in all directions…but Kiri only had eyes for Ark’d, the spirit tumbling to the barren ground several feet away from her. "…Ark’d? Ark’d!!"
He didn’t hear her…and how could he? He clawed helplessly at the twisted snakepit of writhing chains his back had become, impossible blood running down his arms and sides in glaringly bright rivulets. He screamed and screamed and screamed, never able to pause for breath, flinging red across the ground and over his quaking body as he desperately thrashed for an end that seemed would never come. And yet it did…the deepest black by far blossoming from his shoulders and down, a cocoon of jet emptiness claiming his body for an instant that was nothing but broken, hollow silence.
That was too much for Kiri and, desperation consuming her, she ran towards him, stumbling painfully over the jagged rocks and wasted ground. But it didn’t matter how it cut into her skin, or how the arctic air seized her chest and burned her eyes, or even how their beautiful dream had become…become this…all that mattered was somehow reaching Ark’d before…
"Shimatta, Kiri-chan…always have to pry, don’t you…? Always poking and prodding and sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong…"
Before something terrible happened to him.
"Ark’d…?" She questioned softly, approaching the huddled form slowly, carefully…she wasn’t afraid, she wasn’t… "Ark’d, what happened…? Are you…alright?"
"Well, let’s see…," he murmured in a strange voice, lurching and twitching before finally staggering to his feet, balancing strangely with his head tilted back. "What do you think, Kiri-chan? Honestly now…you know I love the truth."
It took all she had not to scream. He was literally covered in blood…it dripped from his hair, his hands, over his arms and legs, from his eyes…he was literally weeping red. His clothing was stained beyond recovery, tinted with crimson and gray and deepest black…but it was more than that. The wispy spikes of hair that drifted in front of his face were dark…too dark. And far longer now, the previous too-short part extending down into a long, twining tail that grew steadily thinner at uneven intervals. It was so black…black as his eyes had been.
Had been, because now there was nothing there…just white on white, glaring out at her with an emotion she couldn’t comprehend. She could only gasp and stare and ache deep inside. "Ark’d…"
"Speechless, eh?" He said with a grin, the wonderful, familiar expression twisted and broken as he swung his head forward, hunching his shoulders against some unseen weight. "Some people…get like that…but you, Kiri-chan? Such a surprise!!"
He threw out his arms dramatically, a mockery of his happy, childish ways. A mockery, because his hands—clawed hands, they were clawed—caught at the blackness swirling around him, bending it, shaping it, twisting it like some inky potter’s clay. Rusty, stained lengths of cloth twined and wrapped around his openly bleeding arms, stemming the flow but dragging at his previously light, unhindered form. The tainted tendrils spread, catching at his throat, jerking his head back as if choking him, nearly tearing his legs out from under him where he stood. They didn’t cover all of him…no, tight white clothing still clung to him, though there were great, open slashes, exposing pale hips and sides. The bandages—they were, they were bandages—simply caught at him in many places, dragging at him, holding him down, dripping a red rain that steadily grew darker and darker…
Only his eyes…only his eyes were not stained…instead, they were blind and glaring, empty of everything…white…
"I know…it’s there, in me. Hakuma…my white devil…"
"Well…why don’t you say something?!!" He demanded, lurching back upright, motions jerky and wrong…Ark’d was always so graceful, or so clumsy…but this, this was wrong. Tight and broken, restrained and terribly wild, like an animal under a mountain of barbed chains. "I’m WAITING, Kiri-chan!!! You did this, after all!! Aren’t you going to make some comment, some pithy remark about me and all my best sides…?!"
For all the world, Kiri could not speak, her words stolen by the tightness in her throat, the breath leaving her lungs as one hand caught at her chest. This…this wasn’t him, it couldn’t be…but she had just seen it. The darkness, the pain, the blood, those awful screams…so it had to be Ark’d. It was him, in some terrible, terrifying way, the truth and wrongness of it tearing at her like the shadow’s wind and the ashen colors of the world.
It was him, that thing inside of him that he was always afraid of…
The word escaped before she could stop it, whispered in fear and despair and shock and so many other things that shattered her memories of that pale, smiling face. That same face, the same and so different now, twisted into a grin equal in familiarity and horror, teeth that were far too sharp gleaming out at her from the almost-blue lips.
"Bikubiku, Kiri-chan!! Is that fear I hear in your voice? No need to be afraid!! It’s just…," those eyes narrowed, darkened in their bone-white depths, black, black hair swirling over and beyond them. "…it’s just me."
She didn’t even see him move, but, in an instant that took her courage away, he was there in front of her, face mere inches away. He was cold…Ark’d had always been cold, just a little…but he had always warmed himself for her, both of them together, under sheets or on the carpeted floor or beneath the gleaming stars. But here…here he was as a figure of death, a clawed hand reaching up to trace ice down her cheek, burning it a moment later as she felt a trickle of blood slide down to her neck.
"A-Ark’d…," Kiri started, eyes wide and despairing, but a hand was suddenly against her mouth, a pair of fingers pressing her tongue down.
"Kusumu!!! Quiet, Kiri-chan, quiet…," he purred in a deadly voice, the murmurs reminiscence of all those times he whispered to her endearments, yet so, so different. "You’re always talking, always asking, always wanting to know, to demand something from me…and I’m sick of it."
Kiri could say nothing, couldn’t even bring herself to try and push his hand away. She could only stare with glistening eyes, throat and shoulders trembling, heart fracturing in her chest…Ark’d would never do this. He was always so kind, so loving, so tender with her, the gentlest of lovers ever known to the unworthy stars. He laughed brightly, shone with his smile, painted the world in precious, beautiful colors, loved her with all that he was…
"Sick of all it, really…," he muttered darkly, blank eyes and ravished face suddenly distracted, twitching as if maddened. "Everyone, so damn annoying…their little lies, their hurts, their whining complaints, their bitterness, and bothersome quarrels…why the hell won’t they LEAVE ME ALONE??!!! Every bit of their darkness, every time they come near…clinging, clawing, burrowing into me…kami-sama, it HURTS, Kiri-chan!!! Why do I have to carry all of this??!!!!!"
She wanted to answer, to comfort…and to run, run far from this anger and fury, from the pain and insanity tearing at his expression. But he had her…he had her and he wasn’t letting go. His hand pressed harder, deeper, and she couldn’t hold back her cry, muffled as it was by his fingers. It drew his attention back to her, his eyes gaining some semblance of rationality again…only to darken in their own grisly way.
"You said…you’d help me, Kiri-chan…," Ark’d…no, no…Hakuma said to her with brittle amusement, his other hand reaching up slowly, slowly… "Will you help me now???"
He grasped her tightly, cruelly, sharp nails tearing through her nightgown and into her skin, causing her to cry out again from pain and fear. This was nothing, nothing like how he always was…he squeezed and pulled with too much strength, too much speed. He did it only for himself, rather than her, reveling in how her eyes clenched shut and her hands fluttered up, weak and shaking, trying to stop him.
"Will you still say those things, Kiri-chan…?" He asked her in a low, cold voice, somehow more painful than his rage had been, his hand drawing back to pluck painfully at her with his claws. "Will you say those things when I give you this pain I have…?"
Her only response was to let the tears start to flow. And he laughed…Hakuma laughed, voice bright and full and so empty it hurt to hear it. "I told you Kiri-chan, I told you…you don’t have to be afraid…"
Hakuma tore his hand free of her mouth, the metallic taste of blood gathering on her tongue, but was instantly wiped away as he claimed her lips with bruising force. He prodded and thrust, lapping up the droplets of blood and loosing new ones with his teeth, drinking in her soft, unhappy cries. When he at last released her, hands tight on her shoulders, he licked the mix of saliva and blood from her lips, from his own, and smiled in that wicked way, with all the horrors of the universe contained in his eyes.
"Just take this gift, Kiri-chan…you little nakimiso…," he leaned in close again, hands brushing over her chest, down to her stomach, tearing her clothing away inch by inch. "You always seemed to want it so bad…this agony of mine…"
A single painful flick of his fingers and she was exposed to all the cold that had been made in this place, shivers traveling all down her body. And, though the world was a wasteland, the greatest chill came from him, from the hands that caught at her skin, the breath that raked against her ear, the slender leg that took hers out from under her. It hurt, the impact of her back and head against the ground, but not as much as the hand that caught at her thigh, claws loosing tiny droplets of red as they sought and pried.
No, they tore and Kiri cried out again, squeezing her legs shut, but his knees were there, forcing them back open. Hakuma’s hands held her arms tightly against the ground, the rocks and frigid ashes burning nearly as much as his claws. Those sharp, sharp teeth cut at her chest, a tongue cold as death stealing the feeling from her skin, leaving her numb and wounded. And oh, oh, that coldest place, down there, where he was pressing closer and closer…
This time she screamed, the sound high and lonely in the darkness, fighting with all her strength to escape the violation, how frozen and unyielding it was. But no, no, he held her tight, laughing at her pain, shoving harder, deeper, all the way, reveling in how she spasmed and shook, her whole body trembling. Kiri heaved against him, away from him, struggling with everything she had, but it was nothing, nothing in the face of his impossible strength, the pain and hatred in his savage smile.
Ark’d…Ark’d…where have you gone…?
Kiri sobbed then, her cries tapering off as her breath caught in her throat, her struggles ceasing as she gave into despair, into the pain that took her body, each thrust causing her head to beat back against the ground. And Hakuma was there to lick up her tears, smiling gently, cruelly, cold, cold body scraping away at hers until she thought nothing would be left of her in the end.
"Do you like it, Kiri-chan?" He asked her, his chest shoving hard against hers, causing her further hurt just to show that he could. "Do you like it? It’s all I have…all I am!!! You wanted to see me, didn’t you? See this, feel it? Of course…of course you did…and you are certainly feeling it now, ne?!!!"
And he released her arms to latch onto her hips, dragging her against him, making her match his pace, his frenzied motions. But it was more than that, much more…black was rising behind him again, those stained lengths of cloth that strangled his body whipping around him. They beat against her, bruised and marked, yet with each movement they harmed him, too, tearing his skin, loosing the blood that never seemed to stop flowing. Every now and then one would claw at his eyes, at his mouth, trying to gag him, strangle him, kill him…but they never finished the job.
They just kept hurting him and Kiri…she couldn’t bear to watch. There was so much else to tear her attention away, that cold fire within her, how he gave one last desperate thrust, ice unlike any she had ever felt before rushing between her legs and deeper, so much deeper…but she kept watching those things that tore at him. She watched as he arched back, maddened, angry bliss on his face, pure, broken, agonized horror in his eyes, absolute terror about him in the form of shadows and pain.
I…I have to…
Kiri found the strength go beyond the pain, the fear, the violation, and she reached up with trembling hands, finding Hakuma’s cheeks and clasping him tightly. He stilled, every sound and motion tapering off as her trembling fingers traced the pale brows above those lifeless eyes, the outline of that slim jaw, her voice—broken and faint as it was—imploring him from what felt like far, far away.
"WHAT??!!" He screamed at her, violently yanking his head away, dragging himself out of her body and stumbling away. "WHAT CAN YOU POSSIBLY SAY TO ME TO MAKE THIS BETTER??!!!"
Though she hissed at this last shot of pain, at the desolation and lonely, brokenhearted betrayal in his voice, there really was only one thing to say. Even with his darkness, the darkness he was forced to bear, surrounding him, surrounding her, buried inside her own body now, burning and freezing as it went…there was still only one thing she could say. She looked up at him with her tear-stained face, a trembling, hurt, oh so truthful smile on her face.
"…I love you."
And the world heaved again, Hakuma staring at her with wide, wide eyes…growing ever wider, a look of purest horror and realization sweeping across his features. He screamed again, fracturing, shattering, doubling over as his clawed hands clasped at his head, tearing at his hair and skin and the stained tendrils that clung to him. Yet he struggled back up, up again, to look at her, to seek, to cry, to beg, needing, desperate and lonely, lonely…everything terrible at once, every hurt and horror that anyone could ever face, each one tugging at him, breaking him, healing him, holding him tight.
But he kept looking at her despite it all.
"Don’t…," he whispered, and his voice was changed, it was returned, it was fragile as the glass in which he was painted. "Don’t wanna…go…"
A sudden silence followed, pure silence, the world halting, shuddering to a terrible, all-consuming stop, the bandages suddenly limp, the darkness falling like an onyx rain. He looked at her, kept looking…and that warm, liquid black slid into his eyes again, tears of red and black and white and crystal clear sliding down his cheeks.
And then, without any sound at all, a crack swept through the fabric of the world between them, his image shattering into so many brittle pieces, taking with it all the scenery and existence itself.
Kiri fell, screaming his name, into nothingness.
"ARK’D!!!" Kiri was still screaming when she bolted up in bed, eyes wide and frantic, chills and shivers rushing through her body. She looked around desperately at their small, cozy room, seeing at once the absence of the lithe, pale body that had slept beside her for so long.
He’s gone…he’s left me…
"No…no!!" Kiri whispered with as much strength as she could, fighting back the images containing that ravaged face and empty eyes. She couldn’t believe that he had been lost to that…his last expression, his words…
Making her decision, Kiri quickly tore the sweat-soaked covers off her, doing her best to overlook the welts on her skin…it had been so real, to cause that. Even just thinking about it made her ache painfully, tears catching at her eyes at the so clear memory of what it felt like to be torn, to be beaten inside…to recall the wild, frantic happiness in the eyes of that…of Hakuma…of that nightmare inside of Ark’d. But Ark’d was gone…everywhere she turned, where she peered into the dark corners, beneath the heavy drapes, past the worn, elegant furniture, chosen by Ark’d because he always knew what she would love…
"…where are you?" Kiri whispered at last, stepping silently, sorrowfully, through the darkness, eyes searching the shadowed confines of their private place and finding nothing. His clothing, the chairs, the door…nothing was changed, or out of place…
Only Ark’d…only he was out of place…he wasn’t with her, he wasn’t there, smiling, laughing, touching, gentle…he was gone.
"Ark’d!!! Ark’d, don’t you dare!!!" She screamed into the silence, demanding, needing, breaking… "Don’t you dare leave me!! You said…you promised!!! Don’t you go where I can’t follow…"
This was a different pain. Different from the feel of him rending her with every angry, desolated thrust…different from the mouth with it’s sharpened teeth cutting her lips, her skin…different from the laugh, the scream, the heartbroken sob…no, it was her pain, not his…not the pain placed in him by someone, by many, who couldn’t bear to carry it themselves. This was what Kiri carried…and she stopped her cries abruptly, realizing that what Ark’d needed wasn’t this. It wasn’t her voicing her own agony to him, not her tears or anger or betrayal. He needed…
He needs me to understand. To be there…like I always have…
…like I always will.
"…Ark’d?" She called again, softer, quieter, calmer…and was it just her imagination, or were the marks leaving her body? Ark’d always managed to do that…blur the lines between reality and unreality… "Ark’d, please come out…I know you’re still there…"
And she did. By letting all the terrible darkness of what had happened flow over and around her, away and down and into dust, she could…feel him. He was there, there…her little Yuki, her snow angel, her everything…she could almost hear his tears, see his sorrow. There were tiny traces of color in the air, of where he had passed, of what had wept clear of him as he had thrown himself from the bed and away from her. There, his head had lifted from the pillow, crimson clouds of rage and pain fading into tiny, indigo stars, tinged with faded black…his horror, his sorrow, his guilt. It tracked through the air, and across the room, until it fell…
That’s…so like you…, She nearly wept again at the thought, droplets of shattered, rebuilt happiness whispering down her cheeks. So like you…
Stepping quickly, purposefully, she kneeled beside the tiny wastebin, peeking around its dull edge and just spotting the tiny gleam in its shadow. A small shape, ornate and black but with one place that was clear…his other form, different from the wide mirror that he used to spy on her sometimes. The tiny cross, foreign and elegant, but small, easily hidden and overlooked…but she could find it. Had before, would again...always.
"Ark’d…I can see you there…," she murmured to him, voice soft, light…faintly playful. Her pain was gone, there were no more red marks and stains on her skin, no scratches on her face, no tears in her clothing. Only her understanding eyes and tones and the slender fingers that reached out to brush against the tiny item.
Had he said that? She wasn’t sure…Kiri suspected she could hear him everywhere now, while she slept and while she woke, in her dreams and nightmares and thoughts…
"Ark’d…are you going…to come out…?"
She gently clasped him, lifting the cross up to her face, into the moonlight streaming in from the window, making a soft, sad sound as she spotted the tiny crack traveling across the round mirror’s surface. Beyond it, she could see him…not just the small feather that used to decorate this form. No, he was there…his body so miniscule that she could only make out his silhouette, hunched over, face hidden by his hair…as well as the tattered, pure white pinions sprouting from his shoulders, hanging over his back at odd, bent angles.
Overcome, she held him tightly to her chest, bending her form over him, trying to take it all inside her, to keep him safe. Her Ark’d, her angel…her broken angel…she couldn’t understand fully what they meant, those wings…they hadn’t been there before…Hakuma hadn’t carried them…so why now…? But it didn’t matter!! Ark’d, Ark’d was hurt…she was hurt…they were both wounded here, wounded by the pain that followed everyone, but that he, he who loved so deeply and with such light, had to carry inside him.
"It’s not fair, Ark’d…," she whispered to him, to the tiny piece of beauty that pulsed with faint warmth against her chest. "It’s not fair…"
"....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…"
"But don’t hide it from me. Don’t go away. I want…to see you, Ark’d. All of you, everyday…don’t hide…just because…," she shook with her feeling, with his, with all that she wanted…why did it have to hurt so much and fill her heart so wonderfully? He always made her run in frantic, happy circles… "Just because they’re broken, don’t hide them…"
She smiled, even though, as he was, he couldn’t see. "Don’t be. Don’t be scared any more…I’ve seen him…I’ve seen him, your nightmare…and he didn’t frighten me away…"
Something wet and cool flickered against her fingers, a glow there of pale blue…bright and instant, then gone, like tears…
…demo…nandemo…watashi wa ikenai…
Even though Kiri didn’t understand the words, the feelings drifting through her fingers, the colors given form and light and warmth, told her all she needed to know. And the sound of his voice…sound, the one thing he did not understand, the part of him that he could never truly hide…she knew that. She would always understand it, even when he himself did not.
"No, no…," she murmured and held him up again, into the light, letting it reflect off his broken—yet pristine, untarnished—surface. "You’re not bad, Ark’d…you’re not…"
"I don’t care!" She told him fiercely, strongly, with all the strength her heart carried. "I don’t care if you can’t make it go away…as long as you stay. Stay with me, Ark’d, all of you…because it’s all of you that I love."
And it was true. Despite…everything. Despite the hurt and the loss and the fear and the desolation that she had felt, the deep pain and violation, she hadn’t…hated him. Been afraid, been wounded, yes…but never did her love disappear. Kiri felt that it never would, no matter what happened. No matter what terrible darkness she might see in him, what terrors clung to him and never let him go. She couldn’t…it wasn’t even possible for her to lose the feeling that filled her, overflowing again and again.
"Yes, really…," she whispered, smiling for the tiny head within the mirror that moved and shivered and looked up at her with dark, dark eyes. "…always and forever, Ark’d."
And suddenly he was there in her arms, glowing form materializing against her, burying his face against her shoulder as he wept and wept and wept, clinging to her like a lost child found again at last. He was light again, so light…yet there were still changes, still things she could see so plainly. His hair, though white again, trailed down in that strange, thin tail, pooling on the floor beside them. And his face, though her glimpse of it had been brief, was marred now by a long, sharp line in white, white skin…trailing from above his left brow and down his face, curling under his jaw. A crack…one to match the mark that would now be on his art forms for the rest of his existence.
"You’re the only one that breaks me, Koishii…every day, my heart nearly breaks at your smile…"
"Ark’d, Ark’d…," Kiri whispered again and again, unable to stop it, holding her arms tight around him.
"…daijoubu, daijoubu…," he responded in a similar litany, both to himself and to her. "Domo…domo arigatou…Koishii…Kiri-chan…"
They stayed that way for what felt like an eternity, the moon slipping beyond their view. The sky beyond the window was starting to lighten when Ark’d seemed to at last find himself again, leaning back and gazing at her with those full eyes, so changed and so very much the same. How strange it was…all of that, and yet here he was, her life, her everything…here again, and…
"Ark’d…," Kiri whispered breathlessly, staring with wide, wide eyes, as the light from the dawn streamed gently through the window, catching at his gleaming hair, and behind it.
Dazedly, as if in a dream, Ark’d turned his head, staring behind him with uncomprehending eyes. They were…small, too small for flight, and still bent so strangely, out of place…as if they were hurt long, long ago, and had healed the wrong way. But, as the sunlight shed itself into each glowing feather, they shone and danced in white, in many colors, for white light held all the colors, all the beautiful things. They were broken, they were still broken…but not a single chain clung to Ark’d’s skin like a burn, the terrible blackness no longer hurting him always.
The darkness was gone…leaving those broken wings free…free to heal at last.
"…nani?" Ark’d mumbled, blinking lazily with confused eyes, a brow lifting ever-so-slightly. "Got…things…in m’ back…"
And Kiri found her laughter again, the joyous sound bubbling free of her throat as she nearly doubled over, clinging to his shoulders for support. She felt rather than saw Ark’d turn his head back to look down at her, and she glanced up, giggling anew at the almost sleepy, faintly affronted expression. Truthfully, Kiri suspected that the situation had become too much for him, his mind refusing to process everything.
"What’re you…laughin’ at me for…Kiri? S’not funny…they could be, like…growths or somethin’…"
Her only answer was to smile and laugh and shake her head, trying to find words and failing and not caring at all. All that mattered was that Ark’d was here, here with her…here and free, those terrible things gone because she had borne them with him, when all others had been able to do before was archive their darkness in his heart and run away. He had been left alone so many times, had to carry such pain…but, violent as it had been, he had given it to her, and she had accepted it and, together, they had gone beyond it.
"Ark’d…," she said at last, sitting up again and, filled with courage and light, reached past his head, letting her fingers run over one misshapen pinion, marveling at its beauty and its feel, the feathers soft as starlight on her skin. "…what was your name again? The name for your painting…? Not the nickname, but the real one."
"Mmm…," he cooed, unconsciously leaning back into her touch. "It was…Binding Broken Wings…"
…yes, of course…what else would it be? But now…now it’s not true…
Kiri’s smile almost hurt, so great was its feeling.
"Here’s a better one," she whispered, leaning against him, listening to the sound of his heart. "These are your wings, Ark’d…yours, your light, your heart, your happiness…we found them…"
"We…we did?" he whispered into her hair, curling against her, trembling with everything that was just starting to hit him, to become real to the mind and heart so long abused. "We did…"
She nodded, lifting a hand to run it through his long, long hair, then around and over his face, to the changes, to the expression she had known so long and loved so deeply. "So why not…a new name…? I just thought of one…"
Oh, the dawn that was breaking had to be the most breathtaking she had ever seen…
"…Finding Flight Again."