darkened sky

By llamajoy

you shine like the moon over water
and you darken the sky when you leave
now i want to learn how to keep you
return to me
i am here calling the wind
i am here calling your name
i am here calling you back
return to me
--"return to me," october project

The world was turning upside down.

Raijin rested a hand on Fuujin's shoulder; his very presence quieting. He understood.

President Loire and the others did not understand, but they were polite enough. No, they wouldnít press charges, they guessed. Extenuating circumstances. Almasy posed no more threat to anyone. Yes, yes, you could hitch a ride on the Ragnarok. Yes, there were some unused bunks, even big enough to hold the tallest one of you.

Yes, you can go back to Balamb, but not until Leonhart and his friends return.

Return from the future. Her mind threatened to swallow itself.

The one named Ellone held pity in her eyes.

Fuujin tasted bile, bowing her head over Seiferís chest as if to shield him from unwanted compassion. What he has done, he has suffered for enough.

It was all so much talk, anyway, and none of it changed the fact that the head of their Disciplinary Committee hadnít woken yet. Seifer was not sleeping, and Raijin knew it. But Fuujin clung to him like a starling in a storm, afraid of how-- impermanent-- he seemed. Temporary, as if, when she took her eyes off him, he would disappear.

She was lost, and she had forgotten how to count days. They were waiting on some dismal peninsula for the arrival of Leonhart, hoping for the best. Somewhere in time there was a battle raging, and Fuujin was alarmed that all she was aware of was her own fear. Or was it her own fear?

Maybe Seifer was dreaming the war in time, falling through ages and ages and trying to come back home--

She was being ridiculous, and some small part of herself knew it. Raijin worried; she hadnít even the energy to pick on him. He had to remind her to eat. It was Raijinís idea to carry him outside, as if fresh air would make any difference at all. But Fuujin was suffocating on that foreign ship and agreed without criticism.

There was a dim small house that reeked of age and things forgotten.

Fuujin wondered if she were losing her mind. Seifer sat empty before her, eyes closed, not breathing.

She wanted to pound his chest, to fling him to the ground and beat him back to life. None of their spells worked; he was suspended somewhere, untouchable. She wanted to-- blindly she buried the thought, but oh she wanted to kiss him, to breathe her own life into his stilled lungs.

But she couldnít. And there was nothing else to do.

So she stopped trying. Raijin backed up three steps, awed by the look that came over her face. Fuujin spread her hands and bowed her head-- and called the wind.

That magic had always been with her, long as she could remember. But never before had it felt like this. Her fingertips tingled with it, she felt as if feathers were borne on her thoughts. Like flying, her hair caught up in the movement of it, her head tilting back towards the sky. She didnít ask where the power was coming from, she didnít care to know. But there it was, edged along her blood, as she reached up and took his face between her hands.

Seifer. Return. Not knowing if she was speaking aloud, or how many times she spoke the words, till they were a mantra, a line of focus to keep her mind from unraveling. Anything to wake him from that unliving dream. She had said it, she had said it to his face. We want the old you back. The old you. Seifer, damn you, come back to me!

It startled her, how much of magic could be born of selfishness. Or maybe not so selfish. She wanted to break-- and Raijin lost his balance in surprise, gasping on his knees. "Seifer?"

Seifer was not alone.

That was the first thing he realized; there was someone with him, here, at the end. Justice at last, he supposed. Being called to task for-- well, for everything. He held his breath, then let it out disgustedly. Heíd already been to hell. And back. His mouth tasted foul. Well, whoever it was, they could rant, and then he would--

Wait. He wasnít dead. Cautiously he opened his eyes, feeling like a child misbehaving, caught with his hand in the cookie tin, secret and guilty and elated. And holding his breath for punishment. But there was no one to punish, no Matron to scold, or Leonhart to stare a challenge, or--

His memories felt odd, as if he didnít know where they belonged, all jumbled in a forgotten toybox in his mind. But now he was back in the world of the ordinary, things like road dust under his fingernails and a seabreeze stinging his eyes--

That scent in the air, that pattern of light across the clouds. A lighthouse. And two presences beside him more familiar than his own shadow. No wonder it felt like he was still dreaming.

For a long moment, it was very quiet. Even now, he thought, Iíve got to be the one to break the silence. He cleared his throat, not looking at her. "Fuujin? Raijin? Fuu, where the fuck am I?"

Though she didnít know how true it was, she whispered, "Home."

Reflexively he grabbed the nearest solid object and clutched it, eyes closing tight. His shoulders were shaking. "Are you sure?"

Fuujin, not daring to mention that he was squeezing her fingers till they ached, lied. "Yes." Raijin smiled. Seifer still had that time-stain about him, mortality bright and sweet like a sheen of sweat. It made her bold enough to touch him, lifting her other hand to sweep the stubborn fringe of bangs from his eyes. To reassure herself that he was real, more than anything else, she told herself. "Safe."

He didnít push her hand away, as she expected, but laughed unsteadily, bitter. "Safe?" He imitated her voice. "Donít know what that means. You should know better, Fuujin." And he swiveled his head to face her. He started, looking as if heíd never seen her before. Belatedly she realized why--

With his gunblade hand he touched her cheek, a wondering fingertip tracing a salt-wet line. "Nee. Tears from you? I thought youíd forgotten how."

She set her mouth, tried to look away, but his gaze still held command, and his fingers kept her still. They both knew the last time she had cried. "Likewise," she muttered.

After a moment, Seifer lay his head back and sighed mightily. "Ah, hells. Itís really over." There was too much uncertainty in his voice for victory, or even relief. But it was the voice she remembered, arrogant and presumptuous and rich. "NOW what?" He made a face at the lighthouse-painted clouds, considering. "Disciplinary Committee could do odd jobs? Used gunblade salesman? Hire myself out as a mercenary again?"

Raijin looked expectantly at her, as if he knew the answer that built behind her eyes like wind-pressure. She almost choked on it, but it needed to be said. "Find another sorceress."

"Where would I--" Silence. The slightest unmagical breeze played around them. She watched his face change, as if he noticed for the first time that his heart was pumping inside him, that there was air in his lungs. Drawing his knees up, he felt the edge of his trenchcoat-- smooth-seamed and sturdy.

The whole fabric of himself felt unfrayed, as if time had never been.

He felt her eye on him, and knew that if he were to look, he might lose himself all over, nightmare beginning eternally again. Too well he remembered the depth of Sorceress eyes. But he was more than curious, and wondered if he really had anything to lose. He looked at her.

His second-in-command held the sky in her gaze, raven-wings beating promises in the unspoken words there. But there was no image to bow before, nothing bending his will-- no image at all, save his own face.

Seifer Almasy bit his lip, golden eyebrows twitching a little. "I-- wonít ask, Fuujin. But, I thank you." Her heart soared in her chest, relearning the sky. "Iím afraid," he looked up, as if expecting answers in the clouds overhead, "I donít deserve it."

"Shut up," she said, not unkindly. She tapped his chest, right in the center of his cross-patterned vest. "Deserving," she insisted. "Most deserving."

He shook his head, a hundred unasked questions burning his tongue. "More than anything else, I donít know why you stay, Fuu."

She blinked away, obscurely frightened, wondering if sheíd been caught. But before she could speak, he was sitting up. "But like I said, I wonít ask." He smirked at her. "Not yet, anyway. I still have a sense of-- timing. Címon, Raijin. You guysíve been fucking patient. Letís get out of here."

Maybe then she realized that he still hadnít let go her hand.


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