... and despair! (hieronymousb) wrote,
... and despair!
hieronymousb





The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him.

No. That’s not really true.

They could explain the damage to the body, but not how it happened, nor why, nor (and this is important) by what dark miracle he’s still alive.

The hospital staff mistook Chrome for a sister, at first.

Let’s see. Broken ribs, punctured lung, ruptured spleen. For a start. What the hell happened to this boy? And where are the parents?

(Your parents, they initially asked about, and she swallowed.)

I don’t know, Chrome could tell them. I think maybe they died. Or I think maybe he killed them. But we don’t really talk about it.

Instead, she says, “Um.”

What must her face look like in those lights, with that closed, helpless expression.

On some level, you must understand, she knows (half-instinctually), that they must think her a sort of idiot. A not-quite-mute, a not very bright girl, because this is how the inarticulate are regarded. It’s not a speech impediment, but Chrome stutters on occasion. Stutters because she’s trying to think how to answer without dropping secrets. His secrets and hers.

She can’t tell them that Mukuro-sama immigrated to Japan from Italy. She won’t tell them that he’s just been released from prison. She actually isn’t certain of his birth name or identity -- he’s never told her, and she certainly would never ask. Why would she?

But then someone whispers to someone, and someone asks someone, and the prison records float over from the Vendici.

Rokudo Mukuro.

Here’s all that we’ve gleaned from studying him.

Just released.

Well, well. Welcome to freedom, young man. Let’s get you fixed up, shall we?

There are nods and murmurs. Understanding that even though his insides have been imploded, he survives because he’s something slightly more than human, or something slightly less, or something to the side of human. The kind of person you want to put under a microscope. Maybe after he’s been treated.

We don’t like hospitals, Chrome wants to explain.

And Mukuro-sama has been having a hard time. His body is like this because a very bad person took it and then grew giant mouths on it, which licked its torso. Boss beat it up, used a massive force and flame technique on it. He had to. (But the internal damage --!)

So we’re worried. I’m worried.

So, please -- just repair everything. Thank you.

But there’s no way she can say any of that, so she just says things like “good luck” and “please” and “thank you” and she tries to patiently nudge their attention towards him, even knowing they both dread a place like this. Even if she doesn’t want to be here, and doesn’t want him here, and he doesn’t want to be here, either. Mukuro-sama doesn’t have to say a word for Chrome to understand that.

She remembers, after all, the words he told her at the beginning of that first meeting between them.

Similar kinds of people. Him and her.

~*~


“Welcome to freedom,” Mukuro says after the morning after the night of the dream with the pig-burger and the teeth.

It’s an echo (deliberate, Chrome knows, and half-mocking, the usual) of the nice sentiments from the adults surrounding them.

It chills her, momentarily, when she realizes he’s not just mimicking them, but that he’s also addressing her.

“Freedom?” She wets her lips. Lets her fingers play with the ruffles of her skirt. This time, it’s Chrome in the doorway, having returned from a little shopping trip for food, for fresh air, but this time, when she comes to see him again, the sunlight is streaming into the hospital room. Chrome hasn’t adjusted the curtains or the shutters or the windows.

It wasn’t her doing, in this instance.

It was Mukuro’s. Here and now.

Mukuro-sama is up and standing, leaning heavily against the corner of wood beneath the glass of the window. Leaning as though he’s trying to push it into the wall; an optical illusion, of a sort. Chrome shakes the errant thought aside.

She has had sufficient training in bodily efforts alongside Mukuro, beneath his tutelage – primarily in the arena of combat, yes, but – and she has moreover shared a body with him long enough to recognize the symptoms of discomfort, in how he holds himself. Like when you clutch a bleeding side. Her fingers twitch. She remains unmoving.

“Of course,” Mukuro-sama says. “I needn’t explain, I trust?”

In spite of his pain, in spite of the gloomy, sterile aura of the hospital, the way it tugs at the places Chrome would rather never re-visit in her consciousness, he looks peaceful, at ease. The light catches his eyes and sets them at brilliant odds with one another.

No, Chrome thinks. No, I understand.

“You’re free,” she says, in the breathless stillness of noon. The world waits.

“And so are you,” he answers.

(Oh. Oh, that. I -- )

~*~


You’ve never thought of yourself as enslaved.

Your master was the one held captive, and held within you, breathing from your lungs, your nose, your mouth. Embodied inside of your skin. Embodied; entombed. Chrome remembers buying food and feeling him taste the flavour of the dissolving sweets. Remembers reading manga and feeling his watchful eyes. The soft eddies of appreciative, play-derisive laughter. Remembers walking anywhere, knowing another set of feet would be by your side. Down the shadowed alleys, or across the brightly lit city streets at the fall of evening.

He was even with me ten years later, when he was an adult and I was –

Not.

“I told you that we’re leaving today,” he reminds her.

He’s standing across the room. Just standing there. Just being a fragment of existence. A real, tangible existence. Hospital gown exchanged for jeans that are one size too baggy, a T-shirt, some tacky ultramarine tie-dye, strands of hair sticking this and that way rebelliously, and bare feet. His toes are a little too large, slightly imperfectly crooked, and Chrome can see elbows where the short sleeves end.

She looks. Looks. Thinks. Wonders.

Was he like this in the fabric of illusions, too?

She thought she had memorized his face, then. His hands, his neck, his scent or absence thereof.

When you wake from a dream, and it’s vivid, at first: burned within your memory, so you are certain you could recite any details from the scene. There’s a flare, a daguerreotype, a photo negative. Neon outlines in darkness, the world during a rainy night.

So it had been: Mukuro’s haloed skin, unnaturally aglow, bordered by strange luminescence, by sensations that were only the brain’s neurons dreaming through a noise of intangible, non-material substance.

But within a moment or two, the dream is gone, abating, and you’re left forgetting all that you knew you would remember. And through the day, it’s only a haunting edge of pleasure or uneasiness that creeps into your waking actions. A slight bit of nothing to tug frowns or smiles at random moments, perhaps as you write your essays in class.

Chrome reaches inside of herself for comparisons. Finds nothing to hold onto. Windblown seeds; dandelion, salsify.

Mukuro packs a plastic bag (inappropriate, in place of a suitcase); stands injured, beautifully vulnerable in the light.

Chrome listens to him breathe.

~*~


You don’t fall in love with a dream.

You don’t dream a second dream of the day that the first dream will end so you can meet in a place beneath the real burning sun.

And if that day comes, you certainly don’t pause, forget yourself in a hiccuping moment of time.

Swallow down all your words.

And say nothing.

Or maybe you do. Maybe that’s what falling in love is. A realization of distances that lead to perfection. An idol. A poster on a wall. An image, or a storybook, or a fairytale, or a figure conjured flawless in your imagination. A distant hill, a distant light, a distant smile; the unknown is needed, if you are to fall in love.

So when you learn it, feel it, touch it, that is the end of the falling.

But the falling is not the end of love.

~*~


Mukuro still has magic, of a sort. He checks himself out of the hospital. The paperwork is a non-issue, impossible, when it shouldn’t be; there are forces at work in the world which will see to his coverage. “We’re on the payroll of the Vongola now, of course,” he jokes, to Chrome, as they stand at the front desk, and he prepares an exit for himself with a few extroverted sweeps of pen and paper and voice. The normalcy is painful. The lobby is filled with tired people, sore people, crying children.

Outside, he shudders, like a bird shaking water from its feathers. Purging the memory of pain and lights and machines. Things neither of them want to know and yet always have. His step is a glide, quickened. At ease, Chrome might say.

The wind is blowing, a little. He shrugs on a jacket from the bag. Shrugs it down when the air slows. Chrome puts on a hoodie; her nose itches. Her face must redden, from the cold and –

Mukuro turns. Laughs, as always. She catches a reflection of herself on the transparent doors of an abandoned building. Bundled above her skirt. Wide-eyed, questioning without questions to ask.

“I think I’d like an ice cream,” Mukuro says. “Or perhaps tea.”

He finds a shop where they can stand outside and order. Complicated six-flavour sundae for Mukuro, swimming in chocolate, and simple two scoops of chocolate and vanilla for Chrome.

She cups her mouth to the coolness. Lips it, body slightly open, no tongue and no teeth.

Are you hurting, she wants to ask.

Are the stitches already healing.

It’s good that the mouth is gone. It looked scary. And your body opening like that –

The ice cream melts as sunshine overtakes the scant cloud cover. Half of a lingering scoop (the chocolate) falls on Chrome’s shoe; staining the shoe, staining the sock.

She repairs it white with a thought.

Feels Mukuro-sama’s gaze.

“You’re becoming more efficient, I see,” he teases. “Now to put your instincts to other uses, hm?”

Battle is buried within the words. The threat of violence hangs over their enclosure of relaxed breathing. Chrome remembers the future. Where I was a child and you were not. Who was that woman that I became? I never saw her in the mirror. Never saw her in portraits. Felt her in a stinging of the cheek, someone’s hand – the one true imprint of Chrome’s legacy, ten years from now.

( (And your arms. They were warm.)

The future: The end of the world. I dreamed about you -- there. Grown-up Mukuro-sama.

The past. A long time ago: I dreamed about a woman. She was. She was beautiful.

(A woman in a mirror or a woman in a portrait.)

But Chrome is just a girl.

(A woman in a mirror or a boy in a mirror.)

But not anymore.

I didn’t see you in the glass. Mukuro-sama. That wasn’t you.

(Bundled up, one eye looking back at her. Lip-biting, nail-biting, wan staring.)

Where you came from. Hell. You showed me, Mukuro-sama. Once. They were going to kill you. They would – they would take your life.

But. Did you ever -- go to classes? Like me? Like Boss? )

“I – “ (She has these thoughts. But her own words, inadequate.) “I’m glad to meet you. The real you.”

It’s too simplistic. It doesn’t cover near-executions, parental abandonment, torture. Hell. It doesn’t encompass a war at the end of a dark world a decade from now and a grudge ten generations before. It doesn’t explain how we felt when we lost our bodies and minds. Again, again, again. When she lived dead and dying; he lived, captive, always reborn anew --

Eating ice cream in the sun. Contradictions.

Mukuro leans close, a patient expression he uses only with those who belong to him, and eases a replacement scoop into Chrome’s cone with the edge of a tiny plastic spoon.

~*~


They purchase o-inori from the local shrine.

Chrome halts as if writing a composition for school. Her greatest wish has been fulfilled already. Biting of the lip.

I would like to have this, forever. A cliche. She deposits the paper, drying black ink marks, ancient priestess smiling down at her with crinkled-around-the-edges eyes. The fading press of Chrome's lips to the corners of her prayer, sealing it. Candles during the day.

"For a religion to which I don't subscribe," Mukuro says, outside, hands in his pockets, and Chrome wonders what it was that he wrote. Sincerity, dishonesty, a half-truth.

They neck in the shade of the nearby forest, its green a contrasting brilliance against the painted red wood of the shrine; leaves and shrubs. Grass prickles Chrome's knees.

Slow but wanting, then hesitant, then scared by the third kiss -- not of him, but of what it is, of what it means. How fast it's moving (but you waited for this, a distanced physical eternity), and someone could see. Mukuro-sama still tastes of ice cream.

He pulls back, abruptly. Chrome breathes. Coughs, and covers her mouth, suddenly embarrassed.

“Do you think that I wrote that I wanted to dominate the world?” Mukuro asks, his own smile reminiscent of the tapestries of gods. Trickster-deities. Playful. Interested. A gleam in the eye.

Did she think that.

Chrome stares at the palms of her open hands, as if to read her own fortune on the lines.

These hands that were his hands.

“I – isn’t it – “ The peripheral vision of her one eye nets an image of the bag Mukuro-sama brought, behind his upraised knee from where he sits beside her. It spills get well cards. The corners poke out, advertising themselves. Chrome had assumed he would trash them. “It’s your wish . . . “

“So I am aware.”

She flushes hotly. Feels silly, foolish, girlish. Somehow warm. In love.

I’m so embarrassed and you make me embarrassed but it’s all right, isn’t it.

“I guess . . . “ she tries anew, “ . . . it’s for you to know, Mukuro-sama.”

He pushes his hair from his face; two fingers sweeping strands aside. His eyes are haunted. His mouth is a hard curve. They could prepare a sheet and sit, like a normal couple, at a picnic or a park bench, but that isn’t right, is it. It’s all mundane, when you’ve been here before, and farther still.

Mukuro takes Chrome’s hand, palm up, and presses his thumb to her fate lines.

“Someday,” he says, “I wonder if you will be so agreeable.”

And maybe it did occur to her that he wrote on that paper that he wanted to dominate the world, to bring ruination to the mafia, to succeed in his childhood dreams. Or maybe she believed he wrote something else.

Maybe she wondered, half-hoping.

He laughs, always softened edges, even in the real world, and the sun cuts through the shadows, and the voice of cicadas, and Chrome closes her eye; simply feels him feeling her, until Mukuro leans over, cupping her face, breath searing her cheek, and whispers –

The words of his prayer, his wish.

~*~


Hey, isn't that Chrome sitting there on that bench --

The sun is setting and Tsuna is still out because Lambo ran away again, and he's been searching everywhere for him, but Haru just called this time and said Lambo is there right now (again), and so Tsuna clutched his head and sighed and got ready to turn around and walk home, but there's Chrome, and is she reading a book or -- ?

"Chrome," Tsuna says, remembering all the dreams and everything lately, how it's been weird; maybe she's doing homework, and he has homework which he's not started on, and does Chrome go to school -- "Um. A-are you all right?"

Maybe she's studying her Italian again, but she's looking down, and no, it's not books she's holding. More like. Flowers.

And she blushes a little and looks away, and then looks back, and then says, "Boss."

But at least they aren't bloody or sunflowers being whacked apart or anything --

"Chrome. Do you need help with that? I just -- " Was walking home and um, you're alone, and where is Mukuro and the others, and is it too forward, offering to walk with you (but you're a girl and not Kyoko-chan and it's just the two of us -- !), but at least it's not like that time when Lambo was at the bench with you and you were saying poo and pee and things girls shouldn't be talking about -- "Where is Mukuro?"

She looks -- blank for a moment, and then shakes her head, and, "It's fine." Stands up. Falls into step beside Tsuna. (Um -- ) "He . . . returned."

"To Kokuyo?"

She nods. Quickly, quickly nodding. "But I stayed behind for this."

He doesn't really understand. But. "Well, do you want to go home, Chrome?" Grinning, so she's smiling back, like they both understand while understanding nothing, and not having any right words. "Because it's getting dark and it's scary at night. It's scary for me, I mean. I -- well, I'll come with you, I guess, if you want . . . "

"It's scary for me, too," she admits. Transitions from blank, firm, to open, vulnerable. Not a dropping of a mask, just being a whole person now. Jittery, frightened Chrome, or Chrome at ease. Just Chrome. "The darkness still scares me."

"Me, too. But you don't have to worry with me! More like . . . "

There's no shame between them, and no judgment.

"You can worry, but it's okay. I don't mind."

And even though Chrome was a part of the scary things, like the dream with the broken teeth and all the flowers, and even Mukuro himself, it's like she's always making things better, and being unafraid, and then being scared when you need someone to be scared with, which is important, too.

He thinks back on how she helped them during that big fight before, the battle with Daemon Spade, and he's thankful, and so is Enma, he knows. And that scary future; well, I guess we were both kids the whole time, so who knows, and it's like maybe there'll be more fighting ahead, but I hope not . . . and anyway . . .

It gets dark on them.

They both wear hoodies in the cold, making them look larger.

The sunset comes and the world is pink and orange breaking through clouds, and the street lamps turn on, and moths and bats float and fly into the sky.

A bat swoops down and Tsuna screams and runs because bats freak him out, and Chrome looks surprised, but rushes to catch up. She doesn't drop her flowers. Holds them carefully.

He wonders a little, but doesn't ask. It's Chrome's business.

"Boss," she says, very pink, and he looks down, and almost screams --

To realize that, when he ran, and she ran behind him, he -- without thinking -- reached back and grabbed her arm. And took her hand.

So they're holding hands, right around sunset, and walking together, and oh no what if Kyoko-chan or someone sees --

Maybe Tsuna should let go.

He looks at Chrome.

She looks at him.

Tsuna doesn't let go.

"I really don't like bats!" he says.

"Yes," Chrome says.

Tsuna shrugs and scrunches up on himself, shivery-like, eyes near to closing through all the smiling. "Hey, Chrome. I-it's good, though, isn't it? That he's free again?"

"You worried about us." And she doesn't sound uncertain at all.

"I guess I still worry, a little."

But is Mukuro afraid of the dark, or afraid of anything? Maybe nothing, or maybe a lot of things. It's hard to know him.

"We ate ice cream and he was happy for a little while, I think," Chrome says.

Candidly, with a tight look, as if it's a huge secret. Eating ice cream. Don't tell anyone.

"I'm glad," Tsuna says. And he is, even if Mukuro gives him the creeps. Creepy people should still be able to enjoy ice cream, or maybe he hasn't been so bad lately. And Mukuro helped them, too. Several times.

"Please," he says, a little more seriously -- "Be careful. Both of you."

The stars are coming out now, but the winds are relaxing, and the night is, finally, warm.

Chrome takes off the hoodie and Tsuna shrugs one shoulder out of his, and as he's freeing himself, she turns and presses against him, her body so soft and hot that he knows he's the one blushing and stammering again, and then she pulls back, re-establishing safe distance.

"It was a hug," she explains.

Chrome. One of these days you have to learn you can't just quietly sneak up on people and ambush them with kisses and hugs and everything and then act like it's nothing and not even surprising! I don't know if that's Mukuro's influence but --

"We're almost there," she says.

"Yeah." And Tsuna looks up at the sky, at the small white moths and nameless stars and the vast open world, here or half a lifetime later; feels the pressure of Chrome's hand, still tightly clutching flowers, her fingers that are smaller than his -- and her smooth palm, cool and dry where his is moist with sweat, and warm. "I guess we are, aren't we?"

Knowing you should let go, but.

He still wonders, as the high smoggy-glassed windows materialize -- (the place out of that first ever nightmare, but it isn't so scary anymore, just a mudslide victim, now) -- what Chrome is doing with those plants.

~*~


A lamb to the slaughter, he comes.

You like the window stains, somehow, even though they should obscure your view. When the girl dropped the ice cream on her sock -- or the blemish of her missing eye -- what are stains and scars besides imprints of life and living, the untidiness of death and injury, the cost of humanity and time. That's how you've come to think of them.

And you can see the both of them clearly. Him, trespassing where he should not be. Her, returning when there is no lingering cause. You, in shadow, out of their mutual sight.

You've lit one candle.

The flame of Vongola, once, was your candle, a light in darkness. A blue sky in a dream not your own. But you've given the girl so many blue skies since, haven't you?

Perhaps it was a mistake. Because you know of her condition; you know many things, and you know what you must soon do, and what you will do, and she will not like it.

Complacency, for one who lives as you do, fosters stagnation. Even death. It would be surprising, were she different in this.

And yet, look with whom she returns.

You've thought about that before.

The truth is.

The truth is, you told her, your female double in this world, what you wished for today.

Your prayer was not for the conquest of the world, for more wars, for love, or for the love of sweets.

As soothing as are Chrome's dreams, as amusing as are Sawada Tsunayoshi's dreams --

What they do not know is, it strengthens the power of illusions, not having dreams of your own. Your thoughts pour into reality, become reality; what REM and the nights do not provide you -- the absence of visions -- must surely overflow in what you bring out during the day, and your mind is what forces reality to alter upon itself.

You see things, sometimes, while sleeping. Hazy images of long before. Always before. There is never an after. The past and all that it means. Nightmare waters.

But you should not have told her, perhaps. Though she will be removed, soon, for a time, for a while, and what will it have mattered.

The truth is --

You prayed, didn't you, for real dreams of your own. You prayed for dreams like theirs.

A normal human being would die without REM, and all humans dream. But you are not a normal human being; maybe not even human at all, because you do not.

And it's tiresome, you know. What the brain does when its REM, its dreaming, is disturbed.

You could wonder if the noise in your head, the always-hiding anger, comes from the force of deprivation, but there's little point, is there. In questioning. The dreams will return to you, maybe. Someday.

But until then --

Until you have them restored to you -- those missing dreams -- it's enough, isn't it.

It's entertaining enough. Visiting her. Or making him flinch.

Until then.

You can smile, out the window, down at them, and continue to imagine, pleasantly, that before you succumb to the hidden dreams, the dreams you have never known (yours, somewhere, everywhere), you will first breathe into hers.

And crush his.

~*~


Walk across the wooden floor --

He catches a splinter in one bare foot. A sharp pain, a stinging, and Mukuro looks down; a misstep, and you bleed, (but he smiles -- then, at least you bleed). Isn't that something.

Opening the door and in she comes, bundle of clothing in her hands like an offered swaddling cloth apropos of nothing, and also in her hands -- ah, strange creature that you are, Chrome. The other, behind her; this isn't hallowed ground, Sawada Tsunayoshi. It's the gate to that place, don't you see. Abandon hope if you would enter here. Mukuro will not remove the wood from his skin before their eyes.

He will smile at neither, gaze focusing to the darkness beyond them, reach to her, take back what is his, and let go of what soon will be. His hand rests on Chrome's wrist; his eyes -- from her to the boy, who inhales, smiles lopsidedly, a wriggling uncertain of itself smile, and Mukuro says,

"But at least they aren't bloody. These."

"The-- oh, the flowers? No, I -- I guess not," Tsuna says, "but I'd better be going, really."

Mukuro does not watch him depart. Hears only vaguely the stumbling, the crunch of leaves and tall grasses in this overgrown piece of the world. Tsuna's presence becomes nothing greater than the heat of Chrome's hand.

Alone, with the other two, the haunt of familiarity, they grow into themselves again. Whole, undisturbed. A pond without ripples.

Mukuro lost weight in that other cold place; faded kilograms sloughed off. Ken pops popcorn. Chikusa pushes his glasses in the slim light and says, only, "It's good to have you returned, Mukuro-sama." And, after a halting, awkward moment: "Chrome."

As if her name, the syllable of it, is a nod. Customary courtesy or sincerity or habit, welcoming what you once despised. Mukuro himself could not entirely say what it means.

Mukuro lays his jacket on the couch. Chrome sits. Looks at him. Voiceless, open, wanting. Eager to be of use. Here you are, both of you, wholly inhabiting a shared space. But how did you come to be. Why are you still here, when your cells separated, broke apart on the most unseen levels.

"Well," Mukuro says, distant-smiling, a world away from human touch, always, "It will get colder tonight, you know. It's that time of year. No insulation, I fear, and little in the way of blankets."

And dark. The fear he's felt inside of her, buried far; ancient, primal, but best she learns. Best she learns to move past that.

"I'm warm," she says, as if it is guaranteed to remain so. "Are you cold, Mukuro-sama?"

He thinks, not anymore.

He thinks, yes.

They lie awake afterwards, after everything, with Ken’s snores a rolling, thunderous undercurrent in the shadowed, pressing room, and Chikusa’s breath, tic-toc steady; you could set a watch to his heartbeat or the movements of his eyelids. Lightning flashes jagged beyond the cracked windows. Chrome curls, pillbug-like, in the sleeping bag she has been given. When Mukuro gets up to make himself hot chocolate, he feels it – an instant, a prickle.

Tiny fingers, acting on instinct, taking hold of his ankle. Plucking the splinter out. Hurts less than a bee sting, and Mukuro stares down at her, half-amused, half-surprised, half-entirely unsurprised: Chrome, cradling the minute bloody fleck in open palms, gazing as if with undue wonder. An aberration, cut from Mukuro’s flesh; but no nails to the wrist, no gaping wound. Nothing sacred. Still, she holds it.

“I had been planning to do that, myself,” he says (adding a touch of gruffness, pretend exasperation at her caretaking). He fixes hot chocolate and milk.

Offers – shoves – a glass in her direction. “Repayment, you might say.”

She sits up, tiredly.

“Do you miss him?”

It’s dry, almost, his voice. The sawdust, years of it, clings within Mukuro’s throat. The air is empty of precipitation, rain or dew or mist.

Better, he thinks, to suffer a parched throat. Better than the Tantalus-thirst of a body’s immersion in water it cannot drink, sucking air through a contraption, a single suffocating thread.

“Do you – “ Sitting on the floor with her, backs to the curtains, Mukuro drapes a hand over one knee. Leans to the side, an almost human pose. An almost baring of the throat. “—wish that he could be here, in every respect?”

Eye glimmering, at the last. Wan, impish grin. A sliver of teeth lit by the stars.

Chrome bundles sheets about herself. But she can never seem to cover her shoulder, which always peeks out, round and white.

Her hair is brushed in such a messy way, messier when her fingers rush through it, that it masks half her face; shadows the rest.

Mukuro can only see the light of that big, big eye of hers. So guileless.

She presses a hand to her chest. Then, the same hand, to Mukuro’s forehead – small, warm, as if examining him for a fever; her little cat-paw hands.

“Here,” she says, “and here.”

“But that’s a myth, you know,” Mukuro says, all teacher, now: “That feelings originate in the heart, if that is what you’re suggesting.”

“It hurts sometimes.”

“Your chest aches,” he corrects.

“People come into lives, I think,” she continues, as if she hasn’t heard a word he’s said. “Into each other’s. Even if they didn’t mean to. And then they’re there. With you.”

"I sought the both of you out," Mukuro reminds her. It's intentional; it always was. You shouldn't think otherwise.

"I know," she says; a breathless, ringing little voice, like a chime, and Mukuro pulls her hand from his forehead, from his skin, as she drinks in silence, then tucks herself back inside, back down.

He realizes, of course.

She never answered his question.

~*~


Perhaps we shall think of this as a means of putting your theory to the test.

I've had more than enough of being one girl's dream and one boy's nightmare.

It's sufficient cause to perplex you, you know. Being an ideal and a monster. Simultaneously. (Although it's less and neither, these days, but once, once -- )

People come into one another's lives. That's true. But can they leave them, as easily?

Now, that's the part you did not say.

He watches Chrome, in their makeshift home, with her long white arms outstretched in sleep, hands open, curled a little, as if waiting for someone to clutch, someone to make her complete.

Between them, on the floor beside her head, unfurl sprays of flowers.

Hyacinth, the oil to ease nightmares. Lilac, the oil to recall past lives.

Bought with the last of her earnings. As if any earthly thing is of any use for repairing Mukuro's consciousness; as if it's anything more than idle superstition. Always such a literal girl. But they say it's the thought that counts. Her minor, absurd gestures of help.

Down through her body, where she breathes with a piece of him.

Mukuro rubs his eyes in the dark.

We've come full circle, haven't we.

We've come full circle.

Out of the other side of the cycle. Freedom. Freedom. Yours. Mine.

"But you remember, of course -- " Leaning over her, collecting in his hands the petals; crushing, bleeding the oils. "-- what the conclusion of one cycle entails."

It need not be said.

Not when the world turns in circles, twists on its gears.

Arrivederci, to us all, our dream.

And when the writing is finished, he drops the petals over the candle's fading light, where they burn out, burn to ash, one, then another, until the pile becomes too much, and the glow suffocates, completes itself in the gloom.
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