Aison (eternity_dreams) wrote in veiledallegory,
Aison
eternity_dreams
veiledallegory

Damned/Xenosaga: Picturesque Madness

Title: Picturesque Madness
Fandom: [post-]Damned/Xenosaga.
Word Count: 6091. >_>;
Warnings: R+ for passing mentions of family murder, child abuse, and rape. Also Albedo type insanity, obv.
Character(s): RL!Albedo, two OC's, cameo of RL!Nigredo. Flashback with Rubedo/Junior; mentions of Angel if you squint, Citrine if you read into it, and Sakura.
Notes: For Damned's '09 oktoberfest. I didn't even mean to do this. I wrote it really randomly. >_>; And know nothing about college. =D

Summary: You only hurt what you love, and if you love nothing? Maybe that means you'll end up tied to destruction. --Nearly nine years gone, a simple class assignment leads to a life search and life loss, and nothing is what is seems when there's nothing really there.

References: Cold Colors from Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman; the Epic of Gilgamesh; Borderland by Terri Windling; Unforgiven by Metallica played by Apocalyptica; Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; The Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats; Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman. Also this thread in particular.


"They'll get to you,
one way or another they'll get to you; someday
I'll find my tube train underground, I'll pay no fare,
just "This is Hell, and I want out of it,"
and then things will be simple once again.

"It will come for me like a dragon down a dark tunnel."

-Cold Colors; Neil Gaiman

-

It wasn't the first time this had happened--no, not by a long shot. It was as if he would wake suddenly, understanding without reason that in the moments before, another had inhabited his shell. He was an anthropology major, minoring in the classics. He was brilliant, his professors said. Like he was born for it, the way he soaked in the material.

And Alan would never tell them that the words were already there, in the back of his mind; forms and phrases and verse that danced behind his eyes.

-

Crista was a brunette girl, slipping from an english major to psychology almost fluidly, and for some reason, seemed entranced with the albino. She had already made her opinions on his eyes well-known, insisting they were a bright violet. Alan would tiredly respond that they could look that way in certain lightning, and try to shift the subject. Alan's dislikes were clear; people, in every sense of the word, regardless of his contradicting major (or perhaps because of it). But his normal methods of ignoring fell short with the tenacious girl, and his foster family had long since... bred... out his childhood tendency for violence. The young man would turn to the books his brain had already recognized as familiar and despondently hope that Erico would show up to distract her. Alan wasn't sure which Erico was fascinated with, Crista or himself, but the dark skinned sociology buff had made himself a semi-permanent fixture with his quick humor, seemingly not noticing his passive audience. Erico's classes fell into their's often, so in that, there was no escape.

After class, Alan had wrongly assumed he would be able to be free of them. But they had brushed off his distain and veiled hostility and called him friend.

Something, inside of him, responded to that.

-

They had all done this at a point, used each other for the basis of their thesis for their respective subjects. Alan's had been straightforward, demanding their culture backgrounds and family habitual behaviors. Culture clashed in Erico, the Trinidad and Tobago native being a strict Jew while holding to a few Buddhist learnings on the side. Crista was a more straight-forward case, coming in from Britain and being raised Catholic while admitting Wiccan practices in her youth. Alan wrote his paper on the inherent beauty of different cultures coming together to form new rituals and behaviors, and then threw it at his companions with a smirk when he got full points. The two laughed endlessly, knowing enough about their friend to understand that everything but the facts in the paper had been an utter fabrication, and that Alan probably felt the opposite, if he cared at all. The white-haired boy smiled, and they took this as a good sign.

Erico's usage had been more subtle, not telling them until they saw his paper themselves--his detailed notations of their interactions the past weeks earning him a high grade. His intelligent explanations on the why's of their actions noted the quick mind behind the brevity, and once the two had gotten over the second boy's betrayal, they were more willing to interact with the tagalong, something that had been found out to not be all just fun and games.

So when Crista announced her project was coming up, neither had really batted an eye. Erico, leaning against Alan's legs as the albino studied, pausing his drumming on his thighs and looked up. "So whatcha doing it on?"

The pixie-like girl took a practiced teacher pose. "Good of you to ask, Eric." Her eyes turned cunning. "Repressed memories." Behind his book, Alan's attention sharpened, but otherwise didn't move. The other groaned.

"Repressed memories, Cris? Really? You do understand how overplayed that is, right?" The boy rolled his eyes and continued in a mock falsetto. "Oh, my father beat me and I never remembered. Now I will be scarred for life." The girl started to respond, but he quickly cut her off. "Or, yeah, already messed up. And now you know. And... There's still nothing to do about it. Move forward, work on your life instead of your past."

Alan's low voice slid over the top of his pages without a glance upward. "Or it's all made up because they want attention." Erico grinned at him.

Undaunted, Crista just smiled smugly. "Exactly. Which is why I'm doing a controlled experiment." The look flared in her eyes again. "Eric is the control. He'll either say nothing, or make up so much shit." The accent on shit made the aforementioned crack up, but denied nothing. Crista glared. "And Alan is the definite."

He finally looked up from his book, holding her eyes for a moment. Alcohol, consumed once, had never been touched again, but the woman had an infallible memory. "There's no need," he said evenly, dangerously. "There's no repression. Would you like me to tell you how my foster father raped me in details?"

Erico's weight became more prominent against Alan's legs as the other leaned back more. An obvious solution but one that worked. The tension that had slid into Alan lessened at the increased contact; some part of the human-hating anthologist needing interaction, contact, affection at an extended rate, and Erico was only too willing to provide it. To her credit, the Britain hadn't blinked and maintained the unnatural eye contact. "No," she said finally, only the slightest annoyance in her voice. "That's the point. If that can be recalled under heavy drink, what else is there?"

"Nothing," he responded dully, turning back to the textbook. "That's my dirty little secret, right?"

Both heard that actual question behind the rhetoric and glanced at each other. Crista continued. "Hypnosis." Erico rolled his eyes again, this time going through the motions. She rolled her eyes in return. "Trust me, I know. But." Her sharp eyes locked on Alan's unmoving ones, which had never crossed the page within the conversation. They still held the distracted glance--something, was moving in his mind. "It's something to try."

There was silence, and for once, Erico didn't break it. Alan let out a breath, sliding the book down to his knees to close. Erico reached up to take it as Alan looked up at Crista again. There was something unguarded there, something desperate and lonely and needing. The girl fell back on her upbringing and didn't move, something shuddering within. "Sure," came the words, soft and wondering. "Sure. I'll do it."

Erico's hand slid up to cup Alan's knee, and Crista finally sat down next to the two, leaning her head on the albino's shoulder.

All three were conniving in their own way, would take down hundreds to get the result they desired, and it was their ambition that had locked them together. Actual affection forming within had been unintended, but once there it changed nothing. They would still sacrifice crowds to get what they wanted. The only new thing was it was possible to have something to return to once the blood settled.

The silence stayed, and the leaves fell. Fall was coming. There was something dying in the air.

-

Erico had become the control, and in that, his part was first. Crista's rapid-fire questions cut through the air in the first part, her prompts urging faster answers. The boy had been raised by his grandmother, a saint in her own right, and the worst thing in Eric's childhood had been when he fell off his roof when he was spying on the neighbor girl taking a bath. His grandmother hadn't forgave him for that for awhile; though he attested that he never knew if she was more angry about him getting hurt or peeping.

During the questionnaire period, Crista studied hypnosis in her free time. Once she knew Erico's history better than he did, she put her studies into play. Alan asked to watch. Crista refused--Erico differed. The dark boy grinned at Alan, all invitations and comfort. "Watch," he had stated. "Let me know how much I twitched when I went under."

His meaning differed from the words. Watch, and understand what's going to happen. Don't be afraid. But of the three, only Erico knew that this was what had been really said. Crista studied the mind and its responses in an intense fashion, but Erico understood the patterns that people lived by, the emotional responses that others were unwilling to see. And so he smiled. And so Crista relented, and Alan found himself seated in the small room with strict instructions not to speak or move. He had nodded, feigning an analytical curiosity that neither had seen through. There was something in this. Something both wanted and feared, and Alan couldn't find himself walking away. He had always been one to pick at the scabs. He hated to allow healing to take place.

If prompted, Alan couldn't quite remember how the girl had put the other under. He hadn't remembered seeing a pendulum, or whatever was supposedly used. There was music, he knew. Something low and classical with a undercurrent of voices straining. It was supposed to be relaxing, he determined. But what was for other people was not for him, and he had learned this in the years that had passed. Uncomfortable, he shifted, the fabric underneath him rubbing against the denim he wore. Crista looked up, glaring, and Alan realized Erico's eyes were closed.

It was like the other was sleeping; it was like he was awake. He responded almost the same he would upon waking, slow, languid answers that held undercurrents of alternate meanings as he answered Crista's basic starting questions. His name, address, height, eye color, was answered correctly, and neither boy would know that she had weighed asking which Erico liked. Instead her professionalism persevered, and she straightened, moving into the next section of the exercise. The questions became more pointed, less loose, and she shifted backwards through his mind like she was reading it; picking vague answers and demanding details, clutching the subjects Erico stuttered on.

When the boy described details of his parents being murdered, and when they researched the details of their deaths afterward to find the truth behind the words, neither would complain when their third clung to them and cried.

-

Crista didn't push it, didn't ask him to start the questionnaire portion after that. Alan, instead, always pushing the limits of himself because (if he broke all the better) he had nothing to lose, prompted her. Arrogantly asking if she gave up on her thesis, mocking her hesitation. Quick to temper, but only with him, she countered his words, demanding his time as they worked through the details. Erico watched silently, tan gaze unblinking on his companions. He hadn't changed much, but he was more prone to silences.

Their session was like a battle, words spit at each other in rapid fire succession, question after answer after question. Nothing mattered to Alan, nothing was hidden, and he proved this in his willing contribution on subject after subject, family after family, revealing shaking details with a grin, enjoying the brief hesitation flitting across Crista's face. It wasn't his life--it had never his life, and wasn't anymore. There was nothing he need fear. The month passed quickly, in a heartbeat, and the girl challenged Alan's uncare by demanding the session sooner rather than later. The grin, unsettling to most, pushed forward, and he moved a hand in agreement. At his side, Erico made a joke about the relationships in marriage, and Crista and Alan glared at each other in triumph, Alan's hand tightening on Erico's.

The dark-skinned boy was unsure of whether Alan was excited or scared, and determined there wasn't much of a difference at this point. Erico watched, his sharp eyes on Alan. He thought he agreed with Crista, then. The albino's eyes were violet, bright and maddening.

-

If asked, Alan couldn't remember how he was put under. There was music, thick and haunting, meant to be comforting, no doubt, but lacking. And there was Crista watching in her detached, focused fashion, and Erico in the corner of his eyes, smiling lightly (worried), and there was that wretched music, and he remembered nothing of being put under. It was that simple, that fluid. Alan was in the room, and then he was in a darkened hallway, desolate and deserted. He could have thought he heard moans, cries, screams, but that filtered away. Across from him, the wall flickered. He swallowed, something thick in his throat. Quietly, in the dark, Alan shivered once. Murmurs were close, far, and he couldn't quite make them out.

"...you didn't call him out?"

"...better go get him... hold down the fort?"

And then there were footsteps, and a third voice, harsh and hurting. Alan heard that first, the pain, before he recognized the sound of madness and anger. He wondered, now that those were so clear, why he had felt... heard the pain first. Words fired back and forth, and he found himself moving closer to these strange sounds. His movements were sluggish, the air unyielding. There was a yell, clear. "What did he have that I didn't?" Placating words, false affirmations slipping away to reveal truth, sharper thorns ripping their victim asunder. Alan felt it more than watched it happen; that tear, that delicate break. Something had shattered in the space in front of him, right now, and it seemed so vulgar to be watching. So familiar.

Words speaking truth, speaking lies, speaking death. Where were you off hiding. Got all paranoid. But you didn't. Alan knew this scene, this pain, and he could mouth the words that came next, etched in his mind just as sure as the verses composing Gilgamesh. The king sought immortality and failed because he had slept. "You brought it on yourself!" Alan echoed with no feeling, the scene blurred and blackened. Wasn't he sleeping? Another had inhabited his form, lock and key within, and he understood swiftly, with no recognition.

--That his voice would speak next. No, not his, but.... Madness was declared, shading the shards cutting within the speaker, hiding the pain. Another moving forward, restraining, holding, "Forgive him," and the pain remained, the anger dissipating. And what if it had remained? Moments passed still, and the one that carried his younger voice slid backwards. And then--

"Albedo." An echo. Words said? "I need you to say."

Albedo.

-

The word had rolled around within his mind, something breaking (reveling) in the touch of it; a sacrilegious thing breaking the boundaries of his pre-established fortitude. The scene he had witnessed hadn't been shared--other things, however, had became clear, spoken as he slept, as he woke; the only similarity being the profane word, the word a name, a meaning, something entrusted within his heart. (Something his.) But that wasn't right, was it? That wasn't--

They researched, like they had with Erico. Alan didn't follow in his friend's footsteps, didn't break and cry when it was determined that was the truth, and he had spent the better part of a year in the country's best institution when he had went crazy at twelve. He had accepted it, blinked once as his companions looked on, and wondered. Not only was that year not available to his memory, but any time before it as well. He had assumed, shuffled so much, that his younger years had been the same. But references mentioned family, siblings he couldn't consider, and Alan recessed into silence, wondering at the voices heard in the dark.

--One red, one black, and they traversed the wide and wandering sea.--

He couldn't recall the faces, couldn't bring forth their names no matter the urging, no matter the hours spent, his being drained into the effort. He denied that it mattered, but maintained the thoughts, the memories as it were, of that time. That darkened hallway, and the soft break within--oh, so loud. He found himself thinking, comparing--Crista's quick temper to the louder voice, Erico's quiet understanding to the second voice. Without knowing how, why, Alan continued to compare the sets in front of him, never voicing anything other than what was known.

"Albedo," Erico mused one day. "What do you think it means? 'Whiteness', but unless it's talking about Alan's hair, I got nothing."

"Washing away impurities," Crista said without looking up from her notebook. The two boys looked at her. Feeling their gaze, she continued. "I was into the occult for a period, remember? It's an alchemic term. Albedo. The purity stage to wash away the impurities in the soul."

"Stage..." Alan repeated, something shifting upwards at this. "What do you mean?"

The girl sighed and looked up, crossing her wrists. "It was in the path to achieve enlightened consciousness, and the fusion of soul and matter." Silence greeted these words, and when there was no mocking, Crista continued. "There's four stages. Nigredo--"

Alan jumped as if struck. Crista, true to her nature, continued without a breath as Erico's hand found Alan's wrist.

"Blackness. Spiritual death. Putrefaction. Then Albedo, the whiteness and purification. Citrinitas. Yellowness. The awakening. Rubedo. Redness. The wholeness of the self." Silence receded as these words slid into their respective places. Erico's grip tightened, and Alan wondered why. He glanced down at his arm and a tear dripped downward. He hadn't known.

Rubedo. Nigredo.

He hadn't cried since childhood, since being ripped away from parts of himself, not even when his dear adoptive father proved to be anything but, and he didn't know.

He hadn't known.

-

Rubedo. Nigredo. Albedo. The words had swirled within him endlessly as his grades fell. His friends almost followed him, but for Crista's unyielding perseverance in her studies and Erico's gift of charming any one that came into contact with him. Alan stayed within his room, and found himself detached from this, falling back onto the comparison between the two sets--one known and one so familiar. They were similar, he granted, but not quite. The loud half of the two wouldn't have Crista's deep control of self, no matter the cost, or perhaps even, her insatiable curiosity. And the quieter would not have Erico's jokes and clever remarks. That one's humor, when it came at all, entered as dry humor, scotch on the rocks, and the easy touching, the constant affection was-- Something he had never received.

It seemed simple then. After. To kiss Erico and ignore the salty taste of his own tears.

-

Crista's paper, names withheld, was a success with the references to the true events given. The teacher withheld posting for once, listening to her top student's fears of the identities being guessed. Something had already found out somehow that Erico's parents had been murdered years before. Cris asked if he spoke when drunk at a party, and the boy responded defensively, making obvious the truth. The words, "I'm not Alan," came without thought, and when the albino walked off without a word, Erico realized his mistake. Crista watched Erico chase after him, and wondered when the question she hadn't asked had became obvious.

She found herself considering the question more when Erico appeared at her dorm room later in tears, mumbling about love and Alan, and kisses and other people's names. She deduced that the albino had refused to speak to him, and that Erico's response was to get shit-faced, made entirely clear when he tried to kiss her. She fended him off, gave him a blanket and her bed, and watched him pass out, before leaving the room. She considered locking the door, but wondered if someone wandering in could comfort him better than she had.

Alan's door was locked, but she noticed details more accurately than any other, and the extra key was where it had been when she noticed him using it months ago. Alan was on his bed, knees to his chest, humming something almost lovely. His penchant for rattling lyrics off aside, Crista had never heard him create song. She listened for a moment in the doorway, then settled beside him. Some part of her still wanting, wondering, played out a scene in her mind, reaching over and kissing him, wondering if his lips were softer than hers in his innocence. He was broken, that was sure to any, but there was something... kept within him. Restrained. Withheld. Untouched. And from the first time she had seen him with his violet eyes and snow hair, she had seen it, underneath the quiet threats. And she wouldn't willingly leave it.

And so Crista said nothing, and he didn't acknowledge her. That was fine, she decided, placing her head on his unmoving shoulder. Because he had not rejected her. So she would keep her silence. She would keep her place beside him.

-

The door had opened and closed, and he never had looked up. The other boy thought Alan was upset about him. Alan's mind wasn't on the other, comfort that he had been taking from him beside the fact. And the girl--Girl? What girl? Short brown hair and green eyes empty but no; no, that wasn't her. This one's eyes were sharp, searching, and now they had closed. There was weight on his shoulder, on his arm, and--

Albedo.

Rubedo. Nigredo.

The way to an enlightened consciousness, and they were his brothers. They were his soul.

-

She denied his demand at first, fighting it. He fought tooth and nail as well, and she finally agreed, finally relented. Erico, who hadn't seen Alan alone since then, wondered if he was invited to the party. The scornful, "Of course you are," from Alan lightened something within the other boy. And so the three found themselves in that small room again, full and dreams and nightmares and memories yet unlocked.

He couldn't tell you how he went under.

-

Alan had asked to go further, before the institution, and Crista had said she couldn't control it. She could steer, question in motions parallel to what he wanted, but the guidance was up to him. Up to his mind. And he wanted to go before. Before the terror and nightmare, before the sharp break he had felt within his younger self. He wanted to see his siblings and himself as they were, as they had been. Something... to hold on to. Something to keep. (Something to let fester.)

He wanted to go further.

He was no willing observer this time, silent and unnoticed. He was playing the part of his past self, yet unremembered, and in the place so familiar yet unnamed, Alan looked at the wave extending over him, and with two kinds of fear inside of him, screamed to whatever heavens would still admit him. The sound was cut off, sharp and severe, and to the sounds of pounding feet and gunshots, Alan (Albedo) recognized the pain. The only physical pain his body remembered feeling. Tearing apart, ripping asunder, reforming as something more, something less, and then--

Lucid for a solitary moment as he laid upon the scaffolding, Alan remembered the music box sound on repeat, the classical uncomfort that he had heard playing every time this game was played, low and melodic, voices rising in succession, and for a moment, what was still Alan wondered if that song, the Song, had really played in those moments. Or if it had all been in his mind. But then coherency dispersed.

All in his mind?! All in his mind... Not a bad place to be regardless; the worst, in fact, when you came down to it. His hands pushed at metal, pushing himself upwards--a hand sliding upwards through his hair. Mind? He didn't mind! Everything... Everything and nothing, and all of it! None of it! All of it was his! His and no one else's. His flawless existence, his infinite waveform; these were only his. He was the alpha and omega of a perfect consciousness! And with this, he--

He would encompass everything! He had transcended in instants, moments, (forever) and with this, now he could... break free. No, no, that wasn't right. Now he could... be alone. Alone?! He shook, shuddered; mind slid and grated against itself. Not alone. No, not like this, not with the Song singing and filling him, not with his essence expanding, waveform growing to proportions befitting him, an entity, an ascended being, and Albedo smiled.

The king hadn't slept on the banks, had saw the Deep, and instead moved to his rightful throne, and immortality, actuality, ascension was his, and in this, in that... His face cracked wider, and for the first time in both lives, Albedo giggled, dissonant and distorted, something horrible in the sound. It was loud and obscene, and outside of his mind, Alan opened his eyes, something unearthly lighting the violet orbs, and continued the noise, continued the easy fall from grace.

-

When he stopped, the creature that had once been Alan tilted his head, taking in the surroundings with a predator's gaze. The fact remained, in this world or the next, that this wasn't for him; oh no, not like this, not with the sheep mumbling words with concerned looks--oh, no. Those would not reach him now. He grinned again, sharp and frightening, and someone sobbed a gasp. Someone shuddered backwards.

No power to be held, but that hadn't stopped him before, and movements--remembered, training--recalled, and what was Albedo had his hands around a throat, soft and giving, and what sweet sounds! Breathless and gasping, choked and harsh; dissonant and so beautiful, like everything coming together in an instant, in a flash, and there was pressure at his side, ineffectual fists pressing against him, and he pressed harder and felt something give--He grinned, eyes empty now, because he had achieved his purpose--point--and was at ease, was completed, because--

No. Wrong. Because Enkidu still remained dead where he fell. And nothing could bring him back.

Albedo or Alan shuddered backwards and fell, hand loosing its grip on Crista's throat. The table broke his fall, shattering in glass shards beneath him, and Alan laid there, unmoving, as he listened to Crista gasp and attempt to drag in breaths of air. There was hurried feet, a dialing number, and the feet returning, soft murmurings in the direction of the girl. They ceased as he realized he was being picked up, a fist slamming into his face as he tried to find his feet. The glass against his skin again was almost sweet, like a memory, and the pain in his cheek seemed reminiscent of another time. Head in his arms, Alan smiled softly.

Head in his arms, Alan started to sob, broken and empty. To mirror the sound, a duplicate set in, punctuated by a third set, interrupted by wheezing gasps.

-

She was fine, would be fine, would be alright, and some kind of misguided loyalty had them covering without thinking--someone broke in, high, on drugs. Strangled Crista, slammed Alan into the table, threw Erico against the wall (Alan hadn't even noticed; the bruises didn't lie), and left, and they didn't know why. They couldn't know why. They were all treated, and once Alan checked through the glass at Crista, he left. Back to his room, because where could he go?

There was nothing like home anymore. And there never had been. Never had been.

There was nothing he had learned from that, other than impressions of eternity stretched out in a graveyard spiral and a song entertained within his mind, that even now continued to play. Quietly, smugly, as if knowing he'd come back; as if knowing Albedo--

Alan. His name was Alan.

He paused on his way to his room and looked up at the tall buildings rising before him. He had a name that wasn't his, siblings he couldn't recall, a life unlived, and insanity for a reason he couldn't name. Circles had turned into a downward spiral, and things were just getting worse. And now, he couldn't-- let it go. Now, he couldn't let it rest. A song was singing, and Alan wondered if you knew when you were going crazy. Was it sudden, like the memory, or slow, sleek and slinking in his mind before he realized, until he had dropped from his courses without realizing and hurting the first person he had trusted and the boy he might have perhaps loved? No, he couldn't know, and he couldn't continue not knowing. Erico was wrong. You couldn't just move forward. Not like this.

He had always been one to pick at scabs, and if he bled, he would bleed. But he would know what happened; he would understand. Or he would not continue. And to that effect, he would return. Alan would go back to the place called Landel's Institute.

-

His letter said little. He was bad at goodbyes. Mostly because he didn't ever want to say them, want to break away in despair. So it stated goodbye in crisp, clean words that said nothing and everything, and both would stare confused, bandages on an arm and dark bruises on a throat, and eventually they would turn to each other in comfort, as they never would before. As they never would have thought before. Life would move, shift, and eventually, it would be as if Alan had never been there.

Like he hadn't existed. Like he hadn't belonged.

-

There was a train that ran to the closest large town by Landel's; from there it was a two hour bus ride to the small town by the institute, and then either a hike on foot or a bribed car ride. He was adamant, and saw no problem in this. The train ride was sixteen hours, and he'd have to switch only once. With one bag slung over his shoulder the white-haired boy found a matching pair of empty seats and settled in, ignoring the glances cast his way. There was too much time given to him, too much to hash over, and he tried to sleep before remembering that he couldn't. Again, something familiar in this, something too close to something once known to be left forgotten. There was an itching, an uncertainty, an irritation; anxiety in something, in nothing, and this, too! This was known as well; something restless beneath his skin.

Even so, Alan slept. Even so, Albedo dreamed.

No words or faces came to him, no abrupt bursts of memory or flashes of understanding--just the same was there no overwhelming nightmares of magenta and violet merging, blood on his arms and laughter in his ears. No, when he dreamed, Alan and Albedo both--the same--he dreamed of touch. Contact. In its myriad and many ways. And in this, he gained a measure of understanding.

The first couldn't be a memory, because fetuses couldn't remember. And yet, he dreamed of a second heart in his back, flesh connecting, two to one to two, and then a tearing, tore apart, and then, there, that itching started. A nervousness shifting. Don't leave. Don't leave.

This slid away, slowly, sinking, and then everything sped up.

Random touches, hand to skin, clinging, holding, hugging, cuddling, less frequent and more anxiety. This is what he remembered. This is what he dreamt. The fist into his face. The arms holding. The hand slipping away. And then everything stopped. And then everything began. Bodies slamming, needles finding their way to veins. Those arms holding; tears falling down. Fights, break-downs, strangers, friend, brother, twin, and there was the word he was missing. Missing. Left. Leaving. Alan had been a twin. Was a twin. Wondered. No time. The dream continued on.

Grass stains, blood stains, rock and tree branch, needles and brother's body, hatred and needing, emptiness, pressed against, comfort and loss, surrendering and forgetting. Was it that easy? Hand in hand in hand, three into one, and that was the lack, the losing. That was missing. Hand in hand in hand, and morning too bright, needles too sharp, the dark too bright--the words too much like wounds. Brother pressed against, and twin fuming, forgetting. Padded steps, blood dripping, screams and screams and tears and holding. Hand to hand to death. And dying. And not dying. Not dying. Never dying. But they would die. They would die and he wouldn't, he wouldn't, and Alan woke up on a gasp, wondering about memories and the meaning of dreams. His back hurt, and he imagined a quiet throbbing. He ached, feeling wounds he couldn't remember; his chest felt hollow, resounding with a pain he was only now remembering--this feeling of loss. Of losing. Of hands pulling from his, and someone beloved walking away. From--

Abandonment. Betrayal. Pure, undiluted loneliness. He swallowed, and couldn't remember how to breathe.

He stumbled off the train when it stopped, forgetting about time changes and realizing he missed his bus. He shouldered his bag, and with wide eyes walked forward, to nowhere and somewhere, aching for a kind of Bordertown in an instant; for forgetting and remembering, and steps took him far and few, feet dancing in their steps to a forbidden beat. It took him a while to notice some of the music he heard was actual, a dipping melody on deep strings, dissonant in its own right, calling judgment and incrimination--declaring to never forget what had passed. It saw him and passed finality, declaring him guilty of wrongs unknown (to die regretfully), and he veered towards it, streets disappearing in his motions. Down the rabbit hole, and never to find his way back again. There was something funny in this, and he giggled; choked on it, sobbed.

There was a voice rising, and for a moment, Alan thought it was singing, something to filter the music, add the lines missing--the whipping boy done wrong. His feet ached and he wondered how long he had been walking--these houses had grown around him, huge and enchanted, set to consume souls and steal passerbyers, and he had been going somewhere, hadn't he? He had been heading to a destination, one that wasn't there anymore. Was it? No, no it had--gone away. Left? And-- Something trailed in, nonsense, words he didn't understand floating lyrical, and then silence, absence. Words.

A calm voice, deep, almost flat in the tones--the vaguest hint of emotion defining the speaker as someone who thought they were alone. The sounds, music, came from the house. The words came from closer still. "Come away, oh human child. To the waters and the wild; with a faery, hand in hand--" Alan knew it, Albedo knew it without thought, the words leaping but he didn't speak them--stared instead at the speaker. "For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand."

He had approached, bag forgotten and hanging off of his shoulder loosely. His mirror image, dark to his light (light to his dark?), stood on the porch of the house, contemplating the sunset like days gone by. The other had fell silent, eyes widened briefly at Alan's mussed appearance and haunted expression. Green eyes met violet (like they always were and always had been--it couldn't be denied any more), and for a moment time froze. Again, Alan, Albedo, forgot to breathe. Dark. Blackness. Nigredo. He had been in his dreams. His heart beat a fearful pounding against the bars of its cage--any last bit of contentment ceased. The mirror spoke, words a breath, still quoting lines both knew. "'I do not know exactly what this means, but it troubles me.'"

Ineloquent, Alan forced out what he had been thinking, voice cracking. "You've been in my dreams." Little brother. Little lamb. Darling dear. His head twitched, a shake; something breaking down.

The other held his gaze, unfathomable. "And you have been in mine." Here, black hesitated, a word pausing on his lips and then swallowed down. Silence held between them, thick and familiar, comfort and distrust swirling. They stayed like that, framed by the dying sun and the unforgiving song, and in the sunset, one could say they could mistake the two's radiant eyes to be glowing.

Minutes froze. Time skirted by.

Somewhere, the last leaf fell down. Something ending in its descent. Something gone by the time it hit the ground.
Tags: landel's damned, series: real-life, xenosaga
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