Fandom: Damned/Xenosaga. (Five Months After storyline.)
Warnings: Oh, the angst.
Word Count: 2297.
Characters: Albedo POV, Nigredo, Rubedo.
Notes: Prelude to this. It changed a bit as I was writing it--I am not sure how it turned out.
A Stepping Stone.
There were moments leading up to that that clarified the meaning. Abstract snapshots; still-life trapped behind glass--emotions withheld and pulsating. It wasn't a whim, or a random instance. There were steps to get to that point, and Albedo took them all.
Sedated in silence, the night came, and Albedo wandered from his room to slump in the halls; untouched and uncared for. The cocktail had been heavy today, and only the most basic things were allowed through. Hard floor. Movement. Soft bed. Storm noises. Dark. Scared. Alone. Alone?
Not alone. Hands touching. Hands comforting. Hands smoothing down his sweat-streaked hair.
Rubedo, called Junior, watched his twin's eyes close, and carefully leaned over the form curled in his lap. Lightning lit the sky, and the man in boy's clothing froze, then closed the remaining distance to sweep his lips against the hair of the mini-version of his other half.
As the thunder shook the walls, canceling out the screams from the halls, Albedo felt something close to peace, close to comfort, close to love, and allowed himself to willingly sleep for the first time since those gentle hands forged from war had pulled away.
Mornings seem to strain the balance forged in the white-haired Variant's mind, and the sun's shining usually signified the closeness of U-DO more often than not. Even so, the tray was taken with a polite and smiling face that continued as Albedo looked around the room to find his twin. Eyes meeting and dispersing, souls touching for a moment as eyes met eyes, and then he saw red hair, red as the evening sun and blood on the water.
It seemed like a film, steps even and sure as he confidently made it to his other's side. Other heart, beating heart, one step ahead and out of reach. Yet lately, out of reach didn't seem to far away, and soft looks and gentle behavior seemed Albedo's reward more often than not. It was almost... calming. Soothing. The taming of the wild beast; U-DO restrained by the calmness of his own heart.
The table was reached and Albedo sat, a customary smart greeting to accompany the movement. Rubedo sighed, winced, as if he knew the reaction this would prompt in advance, and tried anyway. "Albedo, would you mind leaving us for a bit? We have some business we're going over."
The man, unnoticed until now, was one he had seen before, familiar in a horrible way with his dark hair and mismatched eyes, arrogant look and smug smile, and in the moment of discontent and hurt, rejection and pain quickly sliding to anger, the power fueled by fear bubbled to the surface. Fear of loss, of losing, of being left behind. It was all too potent, and in that moment all too useful. It ricocheted behind his eyes, the orbs widening in their incandescent glow.
He found out about solitary that afternoon, tied down in the small room. It was the first time the sedatives didn't cancel out the taint, and he mumbled to himself, promising violence. Promising peace. It seemed the people here didn't look kindly on attempted murder and the popping out of a nurse's eyes. It was okay. He didn't look kindly on the man defending himself.
There was no peace offered while there were others around. Not like he wanted. Like he needed. He understood this. Now, he knew.
It had become something corrupt in the stillness. What had started as soft deteriorated into sharp, and Albedo's watching eyes became moreso obsessed, moreso watching, and he stared outright into his twin's blue eyes. The gaze caught and locked, something unreadable passing through Rubedo's expression. After a moment, Rubedo looked away.
Albedo kept watching, holding on to the broken glass shards of himself, shattering more in the remaining light. Hands dripped blood, but hands healed. Hearts stopped beating, and stayed stagnant in their pain. Albedo kept watching. He kept watching.
Nigredo was found in the hall one evening, almost unnoticed as the black-haired child crept along the walls. Hyper-sensitive from U-DO's grasp, Albedo started, head tilting towards the other Variant. On guard, wary, Nigredo watched Albedo as the elder of the two sauntered towards him, stopping a few feet away. Silence met silence in the deafening halls, and Albedo smirked, something entirely wretched underneath the expression. His stare bore down on Nigredo, and Nigredo didn't dare look away. Giving Albedo your back was like allowing your Father to hold your gun.
Something too powerful to simply be frustration grew across Albedo's face. Minutes passed and the emotion grew, and suddenly, Albedo backhanded the other across the face. In the moments it took for Nigredo to recover, steady his feet to counter, Albedo was already gone. Confused, Nigredo stood silently, eyes staring into the blackness of the hall.
It was something simple at first, like everything always is. Nigredo was a stepping stone. Without Nigredo, Rubedo would have to pay attention to him. So Nigredo was first, first victim, first attack, because at that point, Albedo couldn't touch Rubedo, couldn't break his mind further by scarring that sacred thing. Nigredo was in the way, was what he told himself. Nigredo needed to die.
There were others. Others constantly around his twin, near his twin, talking to him. There was no way to destroy them all, bare his teeth threateningly enough that they wouldn't return. He needed Rubedo to look at him, only at him, and that meant getting his attention. Here, Nigredo served a new purpose. Break the smaller brother, and the older one would look. Narrow his eyes and yell. Scream obscenities, lash out, be entirely destructive, and in that time, all of Rubedo's attention was focused on him. It was glorious, like heaven, like a drug, and Albedo could sit back satisfied and content, while one sibling screamed to the wind and the other lay bleeding.
He hadn't ever really been fond of weapons, but he found they worked so nicely.
This did not last, as nothing really did, when time passed on and shifted, and made everything move. Time passed on for everyone but himself, and things that were permanent, locked within to never be broken, were things that others could set aside. He learned this, then. In the silence echoing his twin's words.
Rubedo had spoke and then left, not even caring to stay for the reaction. Contrary to previous behavior, Albedo had sat, silent and blank as the syllables filtered into his mind. One sentence, simple, able to be ignored but for the pure apathetic distain within Rubedo's eyes. "Just leave me alone," he had said, and walked away. Like Albedo had a choice in the matter. Like Albedo had anything else.
He fought with Nigredo out of habit, something half-hearted and meaningless. Nigredo returned the blows, an eye for an eye--he heard it had been said, just as he inflicted, it shall be inflicted on him. And the pattern continued, the youngest stoic and silent, their gasping breaths and the skin against skin sound of strikes the only music to be heard.
Albedo's movements became more chaotic; his expression seeking something that he couldn't name. The fights were a reflection of something else, and Nigredo was learning that.
During the day, the siblings seemed to ignore each other. Albedo seemed to be always with someone, the strange people here that found in his presence something that had been lacking; the ones that now watched over him, knowing, distracted him with games and crafts so the delicate shifting beneath the skin would not crack the fragile outside. Even the ones that found his other side intriguing and amusing watched now, kept him calm under the light of day. Needle-marks scored his skin, even with his healing abilities, and he rubbed at his wrists sometimes, unconsciously, where the cuffs from solitude had locked him down.
One perhaps sighed a breath of relief, perhaps thinking that in this, Albedo was learning to truly interact with others and not rely on him as much. Perhaps, with this, it was thought that the future could be changed. The other sibling did not share these thoughts, merely watched warily. He understood the actual truth. Albedo was restrained, held down in this way. There was something breaking, something reforming underneath Albedo's skin, and this sibling wasn't sure what it would be. From across the room, their eyes met, something glistening and glowing, throbbing with sickness and despair and something worse within the white-haired Variant, and unaware Nigredo shuddered. Yet he still didn't look away.
Perhaps it was just that. Eyes able to hold and not look away in guilt and anger. Albedo hated Nigredo for staring neutrally at him, hated him as he depended on that, that he could leer and insult and attack and still Nigredo would see him, see into him, and always, after, Albedo ran. There was something rolling within him, and he couldn't hold onto the hate hard enough to cancel it out. Always he ran. Albedo needed connections, and couldn't stand them. Nigredo saw him, and it was a gift and a curse. He wondered, then, if the words were true. To leave something to find your way.
It was the first time in too long a while that Albedo had went up to his other half, as always Rubedo being near another. Albedo had regressed back into his child-like self for this purpose, to not be irritating and offensive to his twin, and had clasped his hands together uncertainly against his chest. A few feet behind, he stopped, feet shifting. "Rubedo...?"
For a minute there was no reaction, Rubedo just kept laughing at the other person's remark, and Albedo froze, the thought crossing his mind that he wasn't standing here, didn't exist, and therefore, would go unnoticed, forever. Walking the sands of time invisible, unable to affect anything, and his eyes found a new kind of desperation to show when Rubedo finally turned like nothing was wrong. "Hey Albedo. What's up?"
His blue eyes were light, untroubled, and for the first time, Albedo realized that he couldn't understand. Rubedo didn't see him. Albedo didn't know if he ever did. Hands still clasped, he took a shuffling step backwards, head tilting downwards. "I...." Something shifted within his chest, throbbed once and crumbled, and Albedo shook his head fiercely. Mouth drawn into a thin smile, Albedo shook his head sadly, and then turned on his heel, escaping into the night. Behind him, Rubedo shrugged helplessly to his friend, eyes glancing after the path his twin had took.
The things shifting within him settled and finally reformed, the sickness slipping outside of him in a rush, bile and blood blending together on the tile. Albedo leaned over, gasping for breath, his hands propped on his knees. He panted, and sweat dripped down off of his nose. He watched a drop form, cross-eyed, a perfect tear before dropping to oblivion.
He remained in that position until his breathing regulated, and then the boy straightened, and with no path in sight, returned to his room. That was the first night in a long while that Albedo ate, food cold and already stale, kept company by the returned music playing out of his radio. A nineteen-fifties phonograph crackling a cheery tune to the sound of screams. A man half-known called out the lines; "You've got me in your clutches and I can't break free."
Silence guarded the morning, a headache like a hangover accompanying a strange gurgle identified as hunger within his stomach. Early to bed, late to rise, and the cafeteria was full by the time Albedo graced it with his presence. He sat, mind intent on consuming fuel at a increased rate, uncaring of his breakfast partner. It was the silence first, that alerted him that the one next to him wasn't a complete stranger. Fork in hand, Albedo's eyes shifted to the side to regard Nigredo watching him. Nothing happened this morning, the two maintained eye contact until Albedo turned his attentions back to his food, and it was like nothing happened. Nothing but a line said, remembered from the night previous, before Albedo turned his gaze away.
"You're getting to be a habit with me."
That night it couldn't be said why Nigredo was in the courtyard, or why the emotions rose fierce and fast within Albedo until a need for placation overrode all else. An acknowledgment had been made, firmly and permanent; things had changed within, all at once. Slowly over time. It ricocheted, threatening to destroy him from within, and Albedo needed, in that moment. Something familiar. Something dependable. Something unchanging. Albedo needed fury and passion, and he needed destruction like the fire's kiss; a lover's gracing presence to sooth and burn.
He needed some kind of reassurance. That everything would turn out okay, even as things were now. That time would hold still, for certain moments. That he wouldn't always be alone. That this would not be forever. He needed this strange kind of love, and Albedo wouldn't know any of this, until a long time after.
Jolting and shattering, he shuddered in the grasp of hope and reformed unknowingly into something else. Something new and cracked in the half-light of the moon. Loneliness destroys. It seldom regenerates. Unless you see yourself reflected in another's eyes, another longing and wanting silently, begging to be cherished and loved without saying a word. There were more steps after this, stumbling steps angry and tearful, as two tried to line up unconsciously. This was something perhaps unwanted. This was something that fit. This was something else now, reborn out of a grave.