Aku stared at the ancient healer as she moved back and forth across her tent. He'd been ordered to stay out of the way or he'd have to leave, so he'd retreated to this corner and stayed here the last few hours, silently gnawing on his knuckle in worry. It had long since ceased to hurt.
The tent flap opened briefly, just long enough for Suzu to slip in as well. She stepped over to Aku, resting a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Any change?"
He shook his head tiredly. "Nothing. Deborah-san won't tell me anything." He continued softly, "I'm just so worried. He saved my life again..."
"Don't worry about him too much, Aku-kun." She smiled sadly. "Our Enjeru-kun is too stubborn to die."
"It's going to be a close matter, Suzu," an old, creaky woman's voice responded behind the younger woman.
The white-haired fighter slowly turned around to face the old woman. "Deborah-san? One healer to another? How is he? Is he going to be okay?"
"He's lost a lot of blood, and there are a lot of... complications with where the attack hit." Weather-worn sky blue eyes stared into Suzu's golden ones, for now totally ignoring Aku. "Have you found out who did this yet?"
Sadly, Suzu shook her head. "No, there were two people at the place where the blast most likely came from, and both of them swear they had nothing to do with it."
"Who?" he asked very softly.
"Marie and Kuroi."
"But why would either of them want me dead?"
Suzu frowned sharply, the look contrasting a great deal with her normal personality. "Kuroi, she wasn't too happy of you and Enjeru, but she hardly seemed upset enough about to try murder. And Marie is practically a pacifist."
"However, she is also a Seraphim," Deborah put forth. "She's from the highest choir of angels. That means she has extremely high violence tendencies born into her. If she saw Aku as a threat to Enjeru..."
The words hung in the air, the knowledge of what would come after them thick on every breath they took.
"Let's just concentrate on saving his life now, Aku," Deborah stated, turning away from the frozen tableau. "Let Suzu and Miki worry about the investigation end of it."
Aku turned back to her, alarm darkening his already dark eyes. "Do you think there's a chance we can't save him, Deborah-san?" Suzu turned to stare back at the old woman, worry all over her face again.
"The attack hit him in the wings. That's why it bled so much. If it doesn't improve soon, I may have to amputate one or both of them."
Oh gods... this is all my fault! was the first thing that went through Aku's mind. He felt his knees begin to give out from under him, only this time Enjeru wasn't there to catch him. Suzu, the closest one to him, managed to slow his fall; that was about it.
A small hand, smaller than even Suzu's, touched his shoulder, and he looked up into blood-red eyes. "It's not that bad, Aku-san."
* ~ * ~ *
The world was dark and endless and... black. He couldn't see the scenery around him, but somehow he knew it was desolate and bleak. On some primal level, it was terrifying, and he was glad Aku wasn't here to see it.
But where is here? his mind pleaded.
I don't care. I'm just...hope Aku is okay. I hope it worked, and he's okay.
"It worked, Enjeru," a sweet feminine voice answered.
Who's there? I know that voice...
A faint light appeared, and a figure appeared in it. Definitely a woman, a woman who was familiar to him in some way he could not place. Auburn-blonde hair trailed to the tops of her thighs and hung in her face, blocking any view of her eyes. She was taller than both Suzu and Marie, though not as tall as him (more just a bit taller than Aku), and wingless.
"Ningen are supposed to be wingless, Enjeru," she answered his unspoken question.
Who are you?
She sighed. "I didn't think you'd remember me. It's been too long since you last saw me, I suppose. I didn't forget about you though, little one." She smiled. "But you're not so little anymore, are you? All grown up."
He felt only the vaguest hint of his usual impatience flare, but it was easy to push back. Why are you here?
"A lot of reasons. To congratulate you on being so close to reaching your destiny. To check on how you're doing. To watch over you. To be your guide."
So I'm dying after all?
"It's going to be a close thing, but ultimately it's your choice."
"Whether you live or die, little one. You can die now if you want and escape the pain of your life."
It's not all pain... Immediately an image of a young man with raven black hair and midnight blue eyes appeared before, and he couldn't hold back the smile it produced.
"Or you can go back to life, back to the one you love." She laughed softly and sweetly. "I think you've deserved it, and you've practically guaranteed yourself some time off with these injuries."
An invisible scale in his mind tipped back and forth as he weighed the options; it balanced perfectly either way. Only one answer to one question was going to tip it in either direction. Is Aku all right? Did I save him?
"I'm not so sure the attack was meant for him, Enjeru, but he's all right." She bit her lip nervously. "However, he's very, very worried about you, and he blames himself for this happening."
He would. I should be there, taking care of him, not wasting my time here...
"Then is that your answer?"
I want to be where he is, in life or in death.
A slender hand reached out to brush against his cheek before both moved to cup his face. "I'm so proud of you, Enjeru. You've grown into a splendid man, just like I always knew you would. Until we meet again here, I will keep watching over you." She leaned closer and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek; he didn't feel immediately nauseous or repulsed as he usually did when a female other than Suzu or Marie touched him that affectionately. Her hands slid down to his shoulders. "I love you, my little darling."
My little darling...? That sounds so familiar...
"Now I'll take you back to the one you love."
The darkness exploded into light, showing the woman's entire face for a split second before she faded completely from view. Hahaue... Mother...
Very slowly his eyes slid open.
28 October 2001
Yay!! Finally! Chapter Seventeen! Hey, don't complain! At least I didn't kill off Enjeru; I started to!! Then I realized that if I was nice to him now and let him live, I could torture him more later. We always hurt the ones we love. Besides, writing when I'm tired and a little upset is good catharsis.
Behind closed doors and under stars
It doesn't matter where you are
Collecting jewels that catch your eye
Don't let a soulmate pass you by
- "Androgyny" by Garbage, off beautifulgarbage