"Some days you just really shouldn't have to get out of bed," Duo stated plainly.
The look Heero shot him was darker than usual. "This is not the time for your jokes."
"You're no fun, Hee-chan."
"Heero... Duo..." Usagi complained moanfully.
A familiar snort came from beside the young goddess. She looked up and smiled as Morrigan spoke. "It's no use, Usagi. They'll never learn."
"Can't you just beat some sense into them?"
"What's the point? The lesson wouldn't take."
"What's wrong, Oneesan?" The Elder Goddess glanced down at her, exhausion in her eyes. "You look like something's bothering you."
"I just have a bad feeling is all." She ruffled the blonde's hair affectionately, smiling slightly. "I'm going to go practice a bit. I'll be within hearing distance, so if you need me, just shout, okay?"
She frowned but muttered, "Okay..." It was harder now to turn her attention back to where Shinigami, Hachiman, and Ryujin were practicing now, harder not to watch the Elder Goddess walk away. The crash of swords against each other made it a bit easier though.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
She waited till she'd put the estate house between herself and the other gods to allow her body to slump against her sheathed sword. ~I'm losing it. So soon after Himura sacraficed himself for me, and I'm already losing my grip on the demon. Goddamn power-hungry madmen... What did they do to me?~ She struggled over to lean against an old oak tree. ~And Aed...~
~Did I summon him up just by thinking about him?~ She stiffened her back when she sensed his presence. As always, she was fully aware of him, and it didn't matter that they were in the middle of this stupid fight. Destiny had decreed that they would be tied to each other, their powers giving strength to one another. Fate had other intentions. She had these cursed feelings towards him, things she didn't wanted to feel. It would be easier to numb herself to all the pain and do the things she was meant to. But why did it feel so damned lonely?
She couldn't explain how she had remained with him by his side for so long, or he by hers. She should've gotten tired of him, but she hadn't. He'd become an integral part of her life with his strength. He'd always been there for her. But would they be able to bridge this distance that had sprung up without warning?
The words longed to be released, and she found herself speechless. For once, it was he who broke the silence.
She closed her eyes, the deep timber of his voice sending sensations shooting up her spine. She could feel him taking a cautious step closer, and she swore in all the years she knew him, she had never sensed such strange feelings from him. Could it be anxiety? ~Stop it, Morrigan. Quit deluding yourself. Aed's with you, though not in the sense you want it to be.~
When had she wanted more? Or had he somehow managed to creep past all her defenses? But hadn't she destroyed every relationship she had had? Look at what happened to Freyr. The weight of the Masamune suddenly seemed like a heavy burden, instead of bringing the comforting relief it usually provided. ~It wasn't your fault that time. He cares. He does.~
It would be so easy to delude herself and listen to Donguri's words. "Why what?" she replied, her voice far softer than Aya had ever heard it in all the years he had known her.
It was unlike her to pretend ignorance, but the situation had gone too far. He couldn't stand this tension that had developed between them. He had grown so accustomed to her presence in his life. Now that he had had a taste of what it was like to lose her, if only temporarily, he found he didn't like it one bit.
What were these strange feelings that floated in him whenever she was around? It was only now that he realised that they had always been there, and that she was the only one he allowed in his life. It had taken Hachiman entering their lives to make him realised that for the first time, he cared a lot. A deep growl nearly emerged from his throat at the thought of Oneesan being with another god. They were meant to be. It was destiny.
And yet he found himself thinking that it was more than just that. He didn't want to be with her because of some stupid decree. With a sudden start, he realised he was with her because he wanted to. But was he capable of treating her the way she deserved to be? All he had ever done in his life was destroy. He suddenly found the metallic tang of blood coating his tongue and felt a brief flash of deep regret.
Why was life so difficult? Why had he been so bound by revenge? His sister had wound up paying the price for something he never should've gotten involved in. Morrigan. She had always been by his side. Beyond their physical powers, she shielded and protected him. They were two halves to a whole. That was all he knew.
"This. What happened?" To us, he added silently.
She stared at him, the deep pain welling from deep within. What if he had chosen to stray from destiny's path and defend Usagi instead? What if she meant nothing to him? *Don't be foolish.* She could almost hear Donguri's voice snapping at her.
"Things changed." The minute the words left her mouth, she wished she could've taken them back. There was a startled look upon his face, combined with a flash of emotion that sparked in his eyes. "We changed."
What the hell had she meant by that? Did she mean that she no longer wanted this bond that existed between them?
Something in his expression made her think that he wanted it to go back to the way things used to be. But it could never be that ever again. It was all or nothing. She couldn't live with anything less. ~At the expense of the lives of billions?~ She shook her head to clear those damnable thoughts, sounding too much like Donguri harping in the back of her mind. ~Surely we could still work together.~ Even as she thought that, she realised the foolishness of such a statement.
"You know he's very committed to Usagi," he bit out tersely after what seemed like an eternity.
Her eyes flashed briefly in an absurd surge of hope. Was it just her or did Aed sound just a bit jealous?
"If you go with him, you'll only upset the balance of fate."
Her heart sank back to the black depths. Foolish. It was all foolishness, but in that moment of hoping, she had found an image of her and Aed together that was entirely too breathtaking and too blissful for words. And apparently, also too hopeless.
"It has nothing to do with Hachiman."
He couldn't mistake the note of softening that accompanied her voice as she mentioned the younger god's name. Intense feelings began swarming him, and he found himself suffocating. He was torn somewhere between ripping his own heart out with pain and kicking the living shit out of Heero. Wasn't it enough that he had the heart of Selene? Now Heero had to take Morrigan's heart as well?
"We've changed, Aed. We can't go back," she continued in that quiet tone of hers. It unnerved him. Was the other god responsible for this change?
~Nothing had changed.~ Even as he thought this, he knew it was an absolute lie. Why had it taken something like this to realise that she had become so important to him? The tender protective feelings that he had always felt around her weren't new. It was as if for the first time, he could recognize them for what they were.
But he couldn't say the truth in his heart. To say them would mean taking an unimaginable risk of losing her. Instead, he only nodded.
"We can't, but now's not the time to deal with such things. Thanatos is more powerful than I've ever seen him in a long time. Somehow he's gained additional strength. I need to get back to Usa... them."
She rather wished at the moment he could just run her through with his sword or the Masamune. Surely it would hurt less than the pain that was ripping through her at the moment.
Just like always, nothing was settled and the loneliness only increased. As she stared at his disappearing back, though, she allowed a small smile to touch her face, even has a new and incredible pain ripped through her body. ~But... maybe now he's safe... from me... because I think my control has gone...~
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
"Do you think they're okay over here?"
Quatre sounded worried, and it was probably with good reason. The two Elder Gods had vanished around to the other side of the building several minutes ago, and nothing had been heard been heard from them since.
"I'm sure they'll be okay, Quatre-kun," Usagi answered very softly.
"Oh, I doubt it." The voice that spoke was familiar, but wildly out of place - and without an exact location.
"Thanatos!" Wufei yelled, twisting around sharply, trying to place the location of the voice. "Kisama! Where are you?!" Setsuna lay a hand on his shoulder, which he quickly threw off.
"Back down, Ryujin," Aed's voice cut through icily. "Where are you, Thanatos?"
"Here. There. Everywhere." Each word came from a different location.
Silver light flashed, and Aya's sword appeared in his hand. "Come out, and let's finish this."
"Not until I have what I came for."
"What you came for?" Quatre repeated, taking a step closer to the direction he thought the voice seemed to be coming from.
Lightning snaked across the ground, sending him flying backwards, a bit singed, back into Trowa, then an invisible wall slammed into the pair of them, in turn sending them into Setsuna and Wufei. Without a thought, Usagi and Hotaru both started to move forward to help them.
The voice was cold and angry but familiar. Dread filling her every cell, Usagi turned slowly - then wished she had never looked. The woman leaning against the house was the one she had called oneesan, but at the same time she wasn't. Black wings hung proudly on either side of her body, feathers blowing in the electric wind surrounding her. Her maroon hair blew freely around her, never quite covering the dark smirk on her face. "Oneesan?" slipped past her lips, a soft whisper that the wind none the less carried to all the others.
"You wish" came the reply.
"Like I said, Aed, we can't go back." She slowly turned to stare at him. "And why would I want to anyway? You're just a cheap replacement for Freyr anyway." She snorted rather inelegantly. "A rather high maintenance one at that."
"What's wrong with you, Anechan?" Heero sounded almost... hurt, Duo noted.
"Nothing's wrong with me. In fact, I've never been better!" She grinned suddenly. "Look out behind you, little warrior."
Heero whirled around, in time for a hand to go through his stomach. He felt it wrap around something within him and pull it out; it turned out to be the sword, Kuzanagi. As the blade slid out of his flesh, his attacker slowly made himself visible.
"Well, that's one of the things I came here for," Thanatos commented, twisting the bloody weapon before his eyes, examining it closely, as he let Heero's body fall back to the ground. "And as for the other..."
A pale hand grabbed the necklace around Usagi's throat and snapped the chain. The Ginzuishou slid free from her shirt and dangled between her face and Tomoe Sakura's. "And as for the other," the demon repeated, "I have it." She glanced over her shoulder to Thanatos. "And that makes all three, doesn't it?"
The dark god didn't say a word. Instead, he saluted them sardonically with the blood-covered sword, and the pair vanished as mysteriously as they'd appeared.
Silence, dark and thick, covered the clearing for a long moment then was broken by the metallic hiss of a sword being drawn from its sheath behind them. "Now that that's over with," Morrigan stated plainly, shifting into a ready stance with the glowing red Masamune held before her, "it's my turn."
6 November 2001
Author's (closing) notes:
Another chapter out of the way, and I'm back trying to prove my title as the Queen of Cliffhangers again! How am I doing? And how do you like evil Morrigan?