Warnings: Xenosaga level stuff. Angst and despair.
Word Count: 2496.
Notes: POV shifts. First person sucks. It may lack substance.
Summary: You can look back and play the movie forward; see the past for what it is, see why things became what they did. You can look back and find the moment that you were lost.
There has always been something about crying that has shackled me to the human realm. It could be an excuse, perhaps; I've been known to twist words until they are hardly recognizable, shift through their meanings until you can not understand what I'm truly saying. This, could be that, something so seemingly obvious, masked by what you cannot understand. But the only truth here, is this:
It's human to cry.
The boy was lost before he was even born.
There's something sacrilegious about creating life through science, something moreso about creating life to only serve a purpose. It was said once, long ago, that hope is only through children--that only children can achieve the path to hope. Perhaps that was true and heard. The lives used as weapons were children, the strongest among them no older than twelve. Children believed, and children hoped.
They hadn't begun to lose that yet. They hadn't realized what the world was lacking.
Maybe that was why.
The noise was odd, screeching and out of tune. He covered his ears, glaring at the obnoxious noise. "Rubedo!"
His twin took the instrument from his lips, sighed in annoyance. "What, Albedo? Geez." Near to them, Nigredo watched carefully.
"That's an ugly sound!" the middle Variant's tone was bordering cross. His anger was rising, and didn't touch on why. "Don't play it!"
"No!" Rubedo argued back; arms at his sides now, facing his counterpart. "Why should I? I need to practice."
Near to them, Nigredo tensed. He had seen this coming, saw both sides of the unsaid conflict accumulating in this argument that had never really been about the instrument. Albedo jumped down from the low wall he had been perched on, feet away from his other. "No, you don't! You don't need to play that at all!"
There was a pause. It seemed far too heavy for their ages, for ones who hadn't experienced loss or sorrow, or even truly fought blood for blood yet. It stretched between them, too long and no time at all. Rubedo broke the silence, slicing through the air. "I want to!"
The three simple words cut Albedo's strings. The boy stood staring, glaring through his tears, hands clenched at his sides. The moment passed, and he stormed off, sobs muffled and harsh. His twin shook his head, looking almost contrite for a moment. As if he would follow him. Like he always used to. Before.
This moment passed as well. Apologetics froze in Rubedo's throat and hardened to anger. His hand tightened on the harmonica, and he left in the opposite direction. Left behind, Nigredo closed his eyes. He had seen this coming, but it had not been warning enough.
Hadn't experienced loss or sorrow? Perhaps they had. Perhaps at least one of them had.
In creating the perfect weapon, they had created the perfect flaw. It was accidental, inconsequential. It could have been terminated once separated, but they had been ordered to let it live. Another weapon, after all, was another weapon. This was truth, but they wondered. It was slightly smaller. Its readings, weaker. And it had the potential to gain the genetic abnormalities carefully bred out of the other stock. It had been an accident, and had not been carefully monitored.
But it was allowed to grow. Carefully and timidly it grew, clinging to the perfect weapon they had created. They watched carefully and noted.
Something tightened in the older weapon when the other was around. A defense of sorts, perhaps, a guard. Something that was once too close and now threatened to be close again. Its reactions were quick, and severe, and often completely closed.
They noted this, saw the possibility, and watched.
It wasn't like he hadn't seen them. Close, too close, close enough... close enough. As if he would leave then, leave when they were called back, and Rubedo said he'd catch up. He was always late, Rubedo was, when he said that. He was always late. "I lost track of time," he'd laugh, and the girl's readouts would have improved, and so it was tolerated. But Albedo had already grown past the limits of his own tolerance. He was quickly becoming a jumble of nerves threatening to break out of his body; everything bothered him, affected him. He needed to know where Rubedo was. He needed to know who he was with. He needed to know if Rubedo spoke about him, made fun of him, laughed at him when he wasn't around. And lately, despite his skin cracking from the pikes being shoved through from the inside, he was around less and less.
Because he was breaking. More and more. And if he didn't want to scream, scream and not stop, cry and not stop, hurt until it didn't stop because Rubedo would not come to him... He had to do it. Like a curse, like an addiction, he kept going back to that spot. Digging the graves and mourning. Digging up the emptiness to do it again. For a moment, for a time, something would calm inside.
That wasn't now. Now Rubedo was talking to that girl, talking like she cared, like she would understand. And she... She spoke as if she knew him, spoke as if she cared about him--like she could know. A wonderful boy--Did she still not know? They weren't boys, they were weapons. They were weapons that were currently serving her.
And how did she repay their efforts?
With a kiss. And a smile. And a wave.
From the bushes, waveform muted, Albedo saw it all.
Rubedo stayed there for a while longer, hand to his cheek, staring after her. Albedo stayed there longer, eyes staring at the swing, body full of tension. Every muscle and tendon shrieked its dismay as they tightened, and when Nigredo returned to call for them, the sharp movement of his head following the sound cracked his neck. He had regenerated by the time they followed the noise, feigned sickness and brushed them off. He didn't stick around for their reactions.
That night, he went back to that spot and stood there, staring at it. He didn't dig, didn't press his flesh and tears into the dirt. He wouldn't dig graves anymore.
The instabilities of the twin weapons had been noted previously. The third male Variant had been in creation since this had been noted and was ready soon after they were activated. It was necessary. A failsafe. What use was a weapon, that couldn't be controlled?
He hadn't stopped visiting her. Either way. Playing near her while she practiced (Juli assured him he was getting quite good--his brothers begged to differ), or staying after to talk with her once their mission for the day was completed. She was different. Different from everybody else, and Rubedo felt... that for once, he could be himself. Whatever that was. It didn't matter. He knew, that she would accept him no matter what he became.
Was it because of that, that lax in guard, that comfortablity in self, that his nature made itself known? Was it because some of his tension eased, that some of the constant pressure on him evaporated at her presence? Was that why his shadow changed?
She had stopped playing, he heard. Refused to play after that. He thought the worst, assumed the worst, felt it like an empty hand in his stomach reaching for his heart. He was ordered to go back in despite his wishes. And a weapon obeyed. A tool followed orders. Heavy, he went, and was instantly thrown off by the force of her embrace. She hadn't played because she had been worried. She had refused to play until she knew he was alright.
And something lifted then. Something lightened, and became bearable, and he was sure that no matter the cost of the future, it would be bearable. Because she was there.
Something had shifted in their studies, moved beyond their analytical ken. They were assured nothing was wrong, the subjects were growing. Weapons had become subjects some time ago, and silently they wondered why. All three were traced, of course, and they noted the distance between them without true care. One was in the gardens, motionless, waveform erratic but muted. Another resided in the corner of the courtyard, feeding something that the subject thought carefully hidden, waveform completely tightened down. The third was at the subject's residence, playing music, waveform ecstatic.
One could wonder if weapons, things that they were, could create. Music was an aspect of creation, after all.
This was dismissed quickly, and they moved on. High emotions were delicate ground for this Variant, too shifting and strong. But the subject had gathered strength recently, her readouts had been better each time.
So this, was allowed. What harm could come from it.
There was blood, and how was there blood, this was a simulation, how could there be blood, but the Standards had been affected, but they were okay afterwards, and so much blood, was there this much blood in him, he couldn't know, he had never, and because, and she was speaking, answering the words he had asked without knowing. For Rubedo?
"...No. For you."
The entire project had become a failure, the subject's death unanticipated and unexplained. There was no reason for it--all studies had shown the opposite. The sheer closeness of it actually succeeding had been so frustratingly close. The mother had pulled funding, and Mizrahi himself had declined to speak on the matter. (There were rumors of him going mad, he had closed himself off, and almost none had seen him.)
This level of the retrovirus program had become obsolete. They had gathered enough data, after all, and their perfect waveform was no longer entirely useful.
He felt it when they told him. They all must have. The link burst between them like a scream, tearing at their insides. He writhed, accepting it silently, letting it fill the countless moments. He knew. Somewhere he knew the moment she made her choice (the moment he made his), that it could turn to this. He knew, through his many denials. He knew exactly how this would end.
The agony ceased in sudden absence, leaving him scrambling after the fading echoes. He felt another mimicking his desperation, and was not surprised that it was Nigredo. They acknowledged each other in the briefest of ways before continuing their quest. Rubedo had shut down too quickly to be entirely natural.
But he was there at the end, silent and composed, giving only the smallest equivalent of a nod along the link before continuing to shut them off. For a moment, shock made their waveforms cling together, and both of their separate despairs mingling in a rush of sensations. In separate places, they gasped and let go.
They wouldn't speak again, like brothers, like friends. All three had shifted too far from where they had used to be.
Out of date and obsolete, they had a final purpose to claim. The construction of the new units was already being finalized. In days, the remaining URTVs would depart, and a new study would be started.
In days, the man heading the project would be dead, the Standards extinct, and the two recorded remaining Variants would be on their way elsewhere, while the third dragged himself down a separate path. In days. But not now.
He had stopped doing this awhile ago, though he had still been teased for it long after. Entering another's room, crawling into another's bed, silently crying until they woke up and comforted you for your irrational fears was ridiculous. And now he agreed. If only he had those fears still. Those petty fears caused by childish ways. Now there was so much more to wrap around him, hold him tight to smother again and again. And he would keep these. Safe and wound inside of him. And they would never go away, because, he couldn't. He had tried, to that end. And see what it had wrought.
Albedo stood there, at the foot of Rubedo's bed, as the minutes passed into hours. His twin had always moved in his sleep, thrashed and moaned and kicked. Now, Rubedo lay silent, still, and Albedo felt a kind of death in this. He knew, beyond all doubt, that he had caused something in Rubedo to die.
But there was silence, there. Because things had changed. Already Albedo could not go to him arms out and cling like there was nothing else. There was nothing else. But he wasn't sure if there was Rubedo either.
He felt stripped on the inside, his skin covering nothing but emptiness, his insides scrapped clean by those choked words, by that solitary scream. By the silence itself that surrounded them. But he had nowhere else to go. He watched over Rubedo until right before the sun began to rise. He moved to leave before the guards made their morning rounds.
There was a murmur behind him, a peephole open on the link to show that one who had been watched was awake. Albedo didn't turn around, froze there for a second, as he reached silently for something that had already shut. In the hallway, he tried to rehear the words said but they wouldn't come to him. Words and his name.
The part of him that hated himself furiously told him an option. "Thank you, Albedo."
Outside his own room, he swallowed harshly; closed his eyes and rested his head on the door. Sensation washed over him, destroying him completely, and he held still, breathing against the pain. Remembering to breathe. Remembering to move through it. After a while, he stumbled through his door. They had a mission today.
At the other end of the hall watching carefully, a blood-soaked Nigredo quietly made his way to his own room--a hand briefly touching two doors the only sign of emotion.
Inside one of them, one's eyes stared upward at the ceiling.
Inside the other, one began the process of forgetting how to cry.
But I have moved past all of that. Because you see, ma peche, I have become something more. Something altogether great and less. One such as I does not cry.
But you. Shed your tears. Soothe my demons with your pain. Hate me as she never did. As he never has despite all things. You'll draw him to you, to me, and perhaps I'll see him alive, born out of a tomb, awakened from his sleep. Others have the option of moving. I am only caught in the moment. Share this time with me, asleep as you are. Let me breathe, now, cut from my new strings, still binding as the others were, for these seconds, and let me remember tears.
Like mortality, like wheat, there's much too many and never enough. And I, no longer remember the cause for such simple tears.