Flight on Torn Wings

Chapter 2: Bonds of Duty

© 2001 by Sofía 'Toffee' Francisco

This page was last modified: 2001/08/06


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"Do you understand what I am saying? I want you to understand,
because I lie awake and awake thinking it out, and I want you to
know that I deny it absolutely what he's doing now, staring at me,
attacking me for what he's done, for what he is!"

- "Equus" by Peter Shaffer-

Milo:

I moved silently, closing the drab white curtains of the small hospital room. The air was warm, and I wondered if the heating was not too high for him, if he took after Camus then he probably preferred much colder weather. I let go of the coarse white material and turned around to stare at the silent figure on the bed. Frozen blue eyes returned the look, a heavy resignation adding weight to the already dull glaze they possessed. He really didn't want me here; or perhaps it was just that I was not whom he really would have wished for.

"Should I turn the heating down?" I asked, trying to sound warmer than I felt. His unfeeling eyes were all the answer I got. I clenched my fists and took a deep breath to steady my temper. "Answer me, dammit!"

For how long had this been going on?

Two days had passed since Saori's request to me; two days of cold looks and -occasionally- silent tears. But no words, none at all. After that toneless declaration after he woke up two days ago he had said nothing more.

(I'm dead...)

Those words had struck odd cords in me, too close to what I had been, too far away all of a sudden. And yet, this child was nothing like me, he was more like Camus.... had he felt dead too? All those years of listening to my pains, covering for my mistakes and pulling me back from jumping head first into my death, had Camus felt dead inside too? I would never know... and the reason I would never be able to ask him that was lying in a bed right beside.

Or inside me.

I had let him pass. Perhaps it was I, after all, who had killed Camus. Years of loyalty to me as a friend, only to be slain by my incompetence. Unless, being loyal to him truly meant that I had to let the boy live, in which case Camus had killed himself. But if he had killed himself, then it was because he didn't value his life that much, and death was an easy price to pay to make his pupil stronger.

In either case, it had been my negligence that lead to this outcome. So why did I feel I had to blame this child?

(I'm dead....)

Perhaps... it was because I wanted to live.

I sighed and gave Hyoga a long defiant look, daring him to snap back at me, to show even a slightest sign of life; he didn't. I saw him close his eyes and, dimly, I felt his aura reach out and away, escaping mine. But then he ran into the barriers that kept him isolated, and with a shudder he let go and opened his eyes once more to glare at me coldly.

"They are not going to let you in, you know that, so reconcile to your loneliness and have the decency to answer back when I talk to you," I growled irritably. He blinked once and looked away, at the painfully clean wall on the other side of his bed. "Hyoga..."

A soft sigh escaped his lips and he pressed them together into thin displeasured line. But still, there were no words. I shook my head and went to sit on the chair a nurse had brought me, placed by his bed, as if he wanted me close to him.

"You can't be silent forever, you know?" I tried again, testing him for reactions. Any reaction. "You can't just give up now. Your precious dream came true didn't it? You all survived the battle, Athena is safe... you made it. So why the hell are you doing this?" Oh I knew, I knew perfectly well why he was doing it, but if this got me an answer of any kind from him, then what was I to loose?

He closed his eyes and curled away from me.

Was this really the same child that had almost bested me less than a week ago? The same child that had surpassed Camus and killed him on the way? The very same child that stood up to my attacks as bravely as any true warrior would?

"I just don't understand you," I went on, and saw him shiver. Whether it was from the pain of his wounds, or my words, I didn't know. "Giving it all up like this, just because you feel lonely?"

And yet... I would have done the same thing. I was ready to give everything up in one swift jump had Camus not stopped me. And back then, I survived because I wasn't alone.. because despite my anger, my hatred and my self-loathing Camus stood by my patiently. I had a friend.

What did Hyoga have?

Four companions in arms, and only in arms. Now that the war was over the bonds that had made them undefeatable as a group had faded back to their mortal friendships, the loyalty that had driven them to kill and to overcome anything had waned into selfish need... They didn't have anything to fear now, and they had those precious friendships to help them heal... but Hyoga had believed in those warrior-bonds, that -more than anything else- had been the dream he fought for.

Hyoga had lost. Just like me, for I survived his Diamond Dust due to my cloth, but the fight was his victory alone. Hyoga had fought for something that was taken from him as soon as the war was over.

I reached out to brush the hair from his face, and saw him open his eyes numbly and stare back at me stonily. Yes... he had lost.

And while I had Camus, Hyoga had only himself... and the blood of his teacher as his only trophy. Was Camus' pride in him enough to justify his death in the eyes of this boy? Was his seventh sense worth the guilt? Wasn't my company merely a reminder of what and how he had lost?

"Even if there was nothing else... don't you want to find a reason to go on?" No, of course he didn't, neither had I. I had been forced to live, forced to eat and drink and sleep until the motions became almost mechanic. But when the numbness faded and the pain hit again, there had always been someone there for me. That someone... was gone now. I had to learn to deal with this alone. But I had been given the weapons to do it, the memories.

Whereas Hyoga...

"Even if it's not what you wanted, or expected, you are important to many people... your life isn't something you can just throw away!" I felt anger burning inside of me, but not at him, at myself, because I didn't know what to do... because despite what knew I still resented him. "Didn't you say it yourself? You told me your life wasn't just yours, but of those who fought for and beside you! Is that a lie now? Were those words just a hoax to make yourself look better!?"

He closed his eyes again and let out a shaky breath. I fell silent, staring at him in desperate anger and impotence. Was there anything I could do? Really?

Perhaps this was why Camus never approached me until that one time... because he had known that I couldn't help him any more than I could help myself. And here I was, bound to repay all he had done for me, and unable to do it. Because I didn't know how.

Because Hyoga didn't want me to.

* * *

Hyoga:

I could hear him talking to me, his words striking my mind like a sharp chisel would, chipping off bits and pieces, truths that floated in front of my eyes like cruel mockeries of dreams I gave up on. He touched me gently and I felt a deep-set urge to cry, yet nothing came. The feelings I had so lived for seemed so far away now, so unimportant. Nothing mattered, not even Athena.

I was alone, trapped in the tight confines of infinity, where even the stars were reachable.. but what was that valuable for, if there was no one to share them with, no one to share the joy of their brilliance? And now that even that happiness had faded... what was there? Nothing to give, nothing to get.

Was this what Camus had wanted? Was this what he had felt every single day of his life? This aching void that left nothing to live for, not even the words to express it?

Milo had spent the last two days here, caring for me and watching over my sleep, and I felt nothing... perhaps I didn't want to feel anything. I didn't want to let go of this coldness, I didn't want to open myself up to the truth.

That I was alone.

That I had always been alone.

And I had made myself a dream, a fantasy of friendship and loyalties to make it sufferable. But my creation had gotten the best of me, to a point that I believed it myself. But when the truth broke in, so did I. I didn't want to let go of this numb freeze that had tinted my soul... not ever.

Perhaps this was indeed what Camus had felt.

What he had wanted me to become.

I looked up at Milo, saw his eyes widen in surprise as I opened my mouth to speak, but no sound come. What could I say? He wouldn't leave even if I told him to, he wouldn't kill me if I asked, he wouldn't understand it even if I tried to explain. There was only one thing I could say, and hope to God that he understood it.

"It's what Camus wanted."

He stiffened visibly and paled, his tanned skin becoming almost waxen in his utter surprise. "What?" he mouthed, eyebrows falling into a deep frown.

"What he wanted," I whispered hoarsely. "What I was never..."

Never able to become.

The reason why Isaac's death had marked him so. I was the soft one, the sweet and tender creature that had no place among his world. And I had killed his only hope of passing on his legacy... yet he had made me into the warrior Isaac would have been, hadn't he? He had given up on me, and then tried one last time, giving his life to shape me as I should have been from the beginning.

And a distant part of my mind wanted to scream and cry, because now that I felt this, now that I knew this, I understood that he had indeed never cared for me, not above his duty; that his death had not been for me, but a desperate gamit where he had everything to gain and nothing to loose. Had it failed to change me, there was no reason for him to live anyway; and while I had loved him with a force I now found unattainable, I realised now that I had loved a monster.

"Hyoga, that is not..." Milo started to speak, but I cut him off abruptly with a dark look.

"It's what he wanted. It's what I am."

I am dead.

* * *

Milo:

I stared at his sleeping form silently, watching the heavy and pained rise and fall of his chest, trying to puzzle through the maze of his mind. His words had chilled me, I could still feel the prickle of the hairs at the back of my neck. Did he know what he was saying?

More than ever, disquiet was filling me. Hyoga has sounded so hollow, but there had been something else hidden behind those words. Something that had been bothering me and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It was the tone he used to speak of Camus... a tone of... accepted rejection. He was Camus finest creation, to have fought so bravely and so strongly, and yet he sounded like.... like....

What had been his relationship with Camus? I knew he had always worried about his pupils, but he rarely mentioned them. And one of them had died... which was the reason that drove Camus to seek me out. I didn't have a chance to ask him about it. Did it somehow hold a relation to this?

(I never told him....)

Never told him what? Camus never finished that phrase and yet.... Hyoga's voice... it sounded so old, so conscious of what he was. What he wasn't. Did he know how much he had meant to Camus? The pain it had brought him to entomb his pupil in the Libra house? Had Camus ever told him the true value of his strength and his emotions? He had surpassed the strongest ice-warrior through that which those of his kind abhorred. His feelings were his truest weapon... why did he say that this -this cold and numb creature he had become- was what Camus had wanted of him?

Why?

Didn't he see that Camus had died for him, because of the ...yes... the love he had felt for his pupil? I had been twice defeated by this child, not only battle but also to the affection of the one creature that had made my life worth living. And now I had to stand here and listen to him moan about his pain? His loneliness?

He had Camus! He had died for him, for his cause, for his ideals.... for his feelings! And now that he was dead Hyoga had the temerity to throw it all away in a cloud of loathing and ignorance?

Ignorance?

And I wished, suddenly and fiercely, that there was a way in which I could know how things had been between Hyoga and Camus, so that I had at least a clue of why this was happening.

After a few more minutes of staring at him as he slept I got up and slipped out of the room. I was surprised to find Aiolia standing in the hall. The Leo saint look up as he felt me, eyes dull.

"Milo," he greeted me lowly. "I didn't know you were here."

"I was visiting someone... and you?" I inquired, and saw him sigh heavily.

"I came to see how Seiya was doing, Marin is still too weak to visit him and..." and he had no pupil to look after now. Lynx Katrina was gone for good.

"He didn't let you in though, did he?" he shook his head and put his hands into the pockets of his trousers.

"Milo..." the sudden questioning lift in his voice warned me, as did the taste of hope in his tightly controlled aura. "About Kat...."

I sighed. "She left Aiolia, and you damn well know why. I don't know how things stood between you two, and I know that it wasn't your fault that you succumbed to...to Saga's power," Goddess, it hurt to even say his name! "But her choices are hers alone. I don't know where she went to, no one does. But she will probably be better far away from you."

"Why?" Aiolia demanded angrily, and I felt my jaw fall slack in surprise. He really couldn't be so dense, could he?

"Look, if you can't figure it out on your own, I won't be the one to tell you." I crossed my arms in front of my chest and saw him frown.

"I never would have worked out and she knew it..." Ah, he did know then. "But... she wasn't..."

"She wasn't Marin, was she?" Aiolia looked up sharply, verdant eyes flashing a warning.

"What would you know about that?" he ground out slowly.

"Not much. All I know is that she would never find her place unless she got you out of her mind, because you would never see her as more than a child."

"You are certainly very patronising for someone who has never had a pupil," he shot at me, face contorted with rage.

"No at all. It wasn't so hard to figure that out when I could hear her cry out your name whenever we...."

"Shut up!" Aiolia hissed, cutting me short.

"Indeed." I muttered, and walked past him.

We were all feeling irritable and vindictive, but I couldn't help wondering what had brought this on. Perhaps Aiolia's relationship with Marin wasn't as fully functional as he wanted it to be... as it was, no one in Sanctuary seemed to have much luck in leading a peaceful personal life. We were meant to fight and nothing more... just weapons.

No.. I shouldn't think like that, not now. There was no point in making up theories like that when I had other things to attend to. I slowly walked out of the hospital, shielding my eyes as I stepped into the harsh sunlight. People bustled about busily, intent on whatever task they had been set out to complete, or perhaps some menial piece of homework. Did it matter?

The worse part, I guessed, was that it did matter. It had all been for them... for these colourless beings that were so caught up in their own greed and selfish drives they rarely saw anybody else but them. For these money-driven creatures was that we had all bled. For these people who passed me by carelessly, or frowned when my hostile aura touched a few receptive ones. I wasn't asking for fame or recognition, just for something worth fighting for. These humans... did they know even a fraction of the passion Hyoga had felt in his short years? And yet, he lay in a bed dying because of the wounds he received fighting for them! Were they capable of laughing and crying with the same heartfelt intensity as we were? We, battle-bred, honed to be weapons, fighting for a world based upon layers and layers of egocentrics and corrupt sinners. I was an assassin, but weren't they all too? I killed their bodies, while their deadly lust for money and power killed their souls and that of those they touched. And we... defended them.

I came to stop, sitting down on a near bench.

"What's the point, anyway?" I murmured. An old lady blinked as she walked by, startled to find a young man talking to thin air. I glanced up, meeting her lively gaze, hidden behind a withered body. She smiled warmly and walked on.

So.

I hid a smile and leaned back on the bench, staring up at the brilliant blue sky. What now? Was there anything I could do, other than stand back and watch? How could I save someone from something he yearned so horribly? I had wanted death too, once... it had taken all of Camus' patience to convince me otherwise. But I wasn't Camus, and the only tie that bound me to that child was that of an unfulfilled duty, only that,

Only... that...

I ended up walking into a dark corner and teleporting to Sanctuary. Mu didn't seem very surprised to find me walking up the stairs to his temple. He waved, his accustomed unreadable smile greeting me. I nodded to him and to his pupil who leap to his feet a bit stiffly and ran out of the temple. It took me a few moments to realise that Mu must have sent him a telepathic message ordering him to leave.

"No changes, I take it?" he asked politely, going back to study the broken Bronze cloths. I sighed and sat down in front of him, on the chair his disciple had been occupying minutes earlier.

"Actually, yes. Today he spoke to me." I leaned forward on the table, crossing my arms and leaning my chin on them.

"Oh?"

"Not much... more of the same, I guess."

"It sounds like more than that," Mu's sharp red-violet gaze pierced me. Damn him for being able to read auras as accurately as he did.

"It was," I agreed, and let out a soft annoyed huff.

"Nonchalance doesn't suit you, Milo," he whispered carefully. I flinched and closed my eyes, avoiding his.

"I guess not," I agreed again.

"Milo... why did you come here? I'm pretty sure it wasn't just to nod away at everything I say," I could hear the smile in his voice. I could also hear the worry and strain he felt.

"Is there anything I can do? For Hyoga, I mean... is there?" I wondered aloud, and heard him shuffle uncomfortably. I opened my eyes and saw he had pushed away from the table, eyes fixed on the cold marble floor.

"I don't know... I can't think of anything, which is why I wasn't fit for it. Milo... talk to him, and don't snap at him all the time... you can expect him to get better if you are taking your anger at yourself out on his hide."

I looked down and let out a short breath. "Ah yes... that too." Gazing up into his eyes I found he was smiling, but more honestly than before. "I guess I needed someone to rub my own mistakes in my face."

"Even if you already knew them?" Ah... damn him again for reading me so well.

"Even so," I agreed, and had the pleasure of seeing him burst out laughing.

* * *

Hyoga:

They weren't answering... of course. I had expected that, they hadn't answered since I woke up. Why should they do so now? Even Milo was gone.

Milo...

I wasn't sure whether I wanted him here or not, but his absence left me oddly... unhappy. I was loath to say I actually wanted him here, but my instincts -or my feelings- screamed otherwise. If only I knew why he was here, why he was bothering himself with me. But I didn't, all I knew was that he had come here to look after me, and he didn't seem to want to go away. I tried to puzzle out the motives behind his sudden arrival, but none came. Yet he had sat beside my bed for two days, talking to me, rather angrily most of the time, but there was concern in his eyes.

As well as a veiled sort of hatred.

I had killed Camus, hadn't I? Milo's best friend, Milo's companion... Goddess, how could I be so stupid as to think I could have something like that too? To have a friend beside me in the good and the bad times? It was a bit ironic that my friends were most available when things were worst. But now... here and now... when I needed a smile, a word, a small confirmation... there was nothing.

Shun cared for me, that much I knew, to the point of sacrificing himself for me. So why did I feel so empty? Of course... he would have sacrificed himself for any of us, it was in his nature to give indiscriminately until he was consumed by his generosity. I was more to him than Shiryu perhaps, but not more than Ikki. Never would be. Ikki was his brother, and no matter how much I cared for both of them... Ikki would always come first. It worked both ways, of course; to Ikki I was a dear friend, one of the few who could understand him. But... I was no more than that. Ikki would die for me, yes, but he would die for Seiya too -regardless of how he pestered the Pegasus saint- and maybe for Shiryu too. Above all, Ikki loved and needed Shun, his little brother was the only source of mercy he knew, and he needed the child to maintain himself human. I could never be Shun's big brother, or Ikki's younger sibling. I could, however, be a friend... knowing that I would always come in second place.

(Always....)

And there was Shiryu, with whom I got along well. But his and my nature were too cool for us to be particularly close, and he preferred Seiya's company to mine. Just like Seiya preferred Shiryu because the Dragon saint's calm poise and wisdom drew him to Shiryu more than my coldness and ironic humour ever would. I was their friend, but not the most important.

What kind of nonsense had gone through my head that had made me believe that in a group such as ours, of five individuals, we would all be equally important?

Because... they were all equally important to me. Yet they, just like I, ached to be the first in someone's eyes, and that always left and odd one out. I had trusted our vows of eternal friendship and clung to them yet they meant more to me than they did to them, and I didn't see it! Yes, they would die for me, as I would die for them... but while I sacrificed myself for love, they would do it for duty, or honour.

The strength of their friendships towards me were based on the upkeeping of that oath we made. It was for honour... not for me. The loved me, I knew that as certainly as I knew the bond we shared was real, but I also knew that the value I gave it was not what they had deemed it deserved.

It had been my lifeline, and it had been a lie. So while they would certainly mourn and hurt if I died, and they would feel pain indeed if I died... their lives could go on. Something that would not happen to Ikki if Shun died, or to Seiya if Shiryu died. They needed each other for balance and humanity. We had been bred to exacerbate certain aspects of the human soul that would lend power to our cosmo, but this selective training had left out much. What we needed to be truly human we couldn't find it inside of us, but in the aura of someone else who lacked exactly what we had plenty of.

So I was alone, had always been alone.

And now there was Milo.

Why was he here? What had driven him to try and help me recover? What made him want to make me live?

I wanted to hate him, to be able to brush him away completely, but despite the numbness in my heart I suddenly felt the need to have him here. To have someone to cling on to for dear life, and while he snapped at me all the time, it was someone. It was something! I wanted to trust him, to believe that he had come here for me. It was suicidal... but I wanted to trust him!

If he would be there, if he cared enough to be here, then perhaps he knew a way to make the numbness go away, and still tolerate the pain.

Perhaps....

And while I thought of that, no voices came, no whispers to tempt me. No seas of ghosts to weave me into death.

* * *

Milo:

Choose carefully, my mind cried. I walked up to my temple and slumped down on my bed, lying on my stomach for the next few minutes as I contemplated what to do. Trying to goad Hyoga into talking wasn't working much and... Goddess, I was desperate!

I wanted to help him, and now that I looked back on today's events there was something in those icy eyes that cried out helplessness, that screamed for me to soothed some hidden wound. Could I?

What had he meant with his words? Was this what Camus had trained him to be? Was this what Camus as inside? No... impossible. I knew Camus and there was no way he could be like that... he tried to, however. Had this visage of stone been what Camus intended for his pupils? Or, for the one that died?

There were so many secrets, and how could I hope to help the boy if I had the answer to none of them? How could I help anybody, when I was in need for so much help myself?

Camus had died for him, for what he was. Camus must have believed the boy was worth it. I knew it, for I knew Camus well enough to discern it, that he had not died to turn the boy into something else, he had died to strengthen what Hyoga already was. Or had been, until now. But that was not how Hyoga had perceived the facts, and there was a reason behind that that I didn't know.

And I?

I could have refused Athena's petition, yet Mu's harsh words had driven me to say yes. But it wasn't only Mu... seeing him so alone in that room, it had made something inside of me break. And I wasn't so sure that I was doing this out of duty, respect... or true concern.

The Hyoga I had seen at the battle was a spectacular being, how could I let that disappear? I had... admired his courage and determination, his ferocious affection to his dreams. Now that they were gone, could I learn to accept that the warrior Camus had died for - the warrior I would have willingly fought side by side with- was truly dead? Like I had been at one time? Let all of Camus' dreams, and what his death had represented die between the starched sheets of a hospital room?

No, there had to be something I could do... and whatever it was, I wanted to do it.

* * *

Hyoga:

"Hyoga?" I opened my eyes, but there was no one around me. And it was dark.

"Who is this?"

"Do you really think he's serious about caring for you?" a dark chuckle followed those words, making me shiver.

"Camus?" I whispered, trying to see something, but the darkness was not only deep, it was thick and cloying. It clung to me like mud and took my breath away with it's sheer coldness.

"Do you? Are you that foolish?"

"Oh God....you're not real..." I muttered.

:fly... it's not so far away... oblivion...:

I stiffened as I recognised the unmistakable feel and timbre of a ghost. The ones that had been talking to me in my delirium?

: and there will be no more pain....:

I shivered and tried to curl up. But Camus' unreal laughter filled my ears as it faded away.

Why would Milo help me if it wasn't for some sort of interest?

Yet I could not deny the truth when I saw it... Milo had no reason to feel any affection towards me, I had only succeeded in hurting him. Even now. So... there had to be some other reason for him to be so concerned about me. Something else, that wasn't me.

Was I the priority? Or had Milo come here for some other reason, perhaps payback in Camus's name?

: it hurts... it hurt so much... but flying....:

God, if there was some other reason... which of course would be the case, then....

:you can always fly...no one can take away your wings...:

Then I had nothing indeed.. but I didn't want to believe that. I wanted to trust in Milo. If he had been so important to one such as Camus, then he had to be something amazing. And if Camus had felt a breath of love for him, then Milo had to be better than my teacher and I both. Had to be good enough to love one like Camus so openly.

If so, he wouldn't be here for anything else than for me.

Right?

:.. and even if they are broken... you can always fly...:

God....

* * *

Milo:

The soft and hesitant touch of an aura pulled me out of sleep with a start. I blinked awake, angry at myself for falling asleep in mid-afternoon for no reason. I really was tired, if I hadn't felt the drowsiness overcome me. With a soft exhalation I concentrated on the questioning touch that was a breath away from invading my privacy.

-milo?-

The aura was familiar, the tone was not. I scrambled to my feet and run up the stairs that connected my room to my temple. Smoothing my hair reflexively I snapped the trapdoor shut and walked into the temple's main entrance, the sun still beating heavily upon it. The figure that stood there waiting for me was neither arrogant nor impatient, which surprised me greatly. How much had we all changed?

"Shaka," I greeted him, staring at him up and down, assessing his casual attire and trying to guess at his reasons for being here.

"Ehm... yes. Hello." Stiffly said, I noted. And he had become rather tense himself.

"Yes?" I prompted, widening my eyes exaggeratedly to emphasise the question. Shaka blinked twice and then chuckled softly.

"I was feeling," and this last word he seemed to work around his tongue, like a new taste."... a bit... bored."

Now it was my turn to gape. "Bored? You!?" He flinched defensively as I asked this, myself feeling slightly dizzy at the implications of what he was saying.

"Don't I have the right to feel like that every now and then too?" he demanded, blue eyes narrowing dangerously. I knew he wouldn't start a fight, but my surprise at his declaration had clearly upset him.

"It's just that you, you know, no one... I mean, we all thought that you didn't...." what did you say to someone like Shaka when he came to you and declared he was bored? I knew he wasn't as cold as he seemed, but to say it...

"Negating an emotion isn't the same as not feeling it, you know? I've felt bored very often, but if I ingore the fact... I can deal with it." He thumped his foot impatiently.

"I'm just surprised, I didn't really expect you to...."

"No one did. But I think it's time to change my system. I'm not getting anywhere Milo, and a mere child is stronger than me... perhaps it is indeed time to change the arrangements." He shook his head and smiled sadly. "I have been wrong for so long now... I thought a little truth couldn't hurt."

"You... are leaving, aren't you?" I didn't know why I knew this, but it suddenly seemed obvious. Shaka paled visibly and then nodded.

"I have some...things... to visit back at India. I'll be back in two weeks at most. I need... time to myself, and to figure things out. Mu said the best way to find one's path, is to go back to where you took the wrong turn." He chuckled again, softly.

"I'm not so sure I know where I took that turn in particular.... and it seems Mu has become everyone's sentimental advisor of the late," I noted with an ironic smile. Shaka laughed, a soft tinkling sound that radiated joy and honesty. What a rare thing to witness...

"All in all, he is the one that suffered the less. Shion's death was no surprise to him, he finished his training alone, you know? All his grievances are for us and our respective pains; I rather think he enjoys fixing us up."

"A healer to the very core of his being..." I mused, and smiled at the thought. Indeed, Mu seemed as intent on healing our emotional wounds as he was fixed on repairing the broken cloths. I looked up at Shaka, seeing his clear blue eyes untainted by that inhuman glaze that we had grown to associate to him. "But... are you really bored then, or did you just come here so I could puzzle out the fact that you are leaving?"

"I haven't told anyone else...I don't want questions or odd looks." He looked up at me, straight into my eyes, and the tiredness and pain I saw there stunned me. "I'm afraid Milo... I don't know what to make of myself anymore, and if I want to be worthy of my title then I have to redefine myself again, and find out where exactly I was wrong."

"You weren't bored, were you?" His huffed in annoyance as I pressed on, and gave me a long dark look that spoke volumes.

"You aren't making this any easier..."

"What? Your leaving? Aww...honey!" I drawled, earning myself a swat on the shoulder. Shaka shook his head and sighed, but when he looked up again there was a sparkled of mirth in his eyes.

"I guess there's no changing you," he muttered.

"We all deal with things in our own way."

He took a deep breath and seemed to steel himself for something. "Look, Milo... I came here to thank you, I should have done it long ago but -" I cut him off suddenly, confused by his words.

"What are you talking about? You have nothing to thank me for..." And then it dawned on me. That night, the rain... Shaka and I... had it really been more than two years ago? "Shaka... there's nothing to thank me for..."

"No, you are wrong. You taught me something, and I was too immersed in my views to see it for what it was. You taught me the value of feelings, and now that I understand my mistake, I can see your lesson clearly and the extent of the damage I caused us both because of my confusion." He smiled weakly, a forgiving gesture. "Because of that, I now know the truth: that feelings are what makes us what we are, and that nothing has meaning if there isn't an emotion to back it up."

"That night meant nothing to you," I pointed out.

"Indeed... it meant nothing to you too, for that matter. You don't love me... neither do I feel anything like that for you. The best lessons are hard won I guess."

"Oh... does that mean I'm not as talented as I thought?" I asked, testing the limits of his patience. I had the rare opportunity to see him blush, a soft spread of colour that dabbed his cheeks with a freshness and innocence that were incompatible with his years.

"You really are insufferable!" he declared, throwing his arms up into the air in frustration. I laughed at his reaction, noting as I did that the colour had no yet faded from his cheeks. "You are!"

"I know... that's what everyone tells me." I sighed and grew more serious. "Will you be alright? On your trip, I mean..."

"I will have to be. There's someone I have to see.. two people, actually. And I need some time alone to think. And you? Will you be alright?" I was startled by his question, doubly so by the concern in his eyes.

"I guess so. I have things to do too," I felt a sliver of cold touch me. Was it the wind? Or the memory of those cool lifeless eyes staring up at me?

"So I have heard," Shaka bit his lip then and looked up at me. "Listen Milo... what I said a while ago is all the truth you need to know. Negating an emotion doesn't mean you don't feel it... you just need a reason good enough to feel it."

I smiled at his piece of advice, and gave him a long assessing look. How he had changed in the past few days! But he looked more alive than in all the time I had known him. More like the Shaka I held in my arms all those years ago... almost human.

Almost.

"You be good," I warned, and patted him on the shoulder. He took no offence at the gesture and, nodding softly, he turned his back on me and walked back down to his temple. "You'll be fine," I whispered at last, when he was out of earshot.

He'd be fine.

* * *

Hyoga:

Milo hadn't come back.

It was almost nightfall and he still hadn't come back. A nurse came in to change the sheets and placed a tray with food on the bedside table. I didn't even turn to look at her. She hummed a nonsense tune as she padded silently through my room, fixing a few displaced items. I closed my eyes and tried to ignore her, but the heady scent of her perfume had pervaded the room itself. I wanted her gone!

Where was Milo? Was he even coming back at all?

I was back in a hospital... how long had it been since I had spent a long time in one? God... years and years and years. I wasn't even in Japan now, but the memory stayed, branded in fire into the back of my mind.

Nishi... was he even alive? I hadn't had the time to look for him between the galaxian wars and the discovery of Athena... was he still back in Japan, trying to puzzle out the mysteries of cosmo through science and genetics? It had taken me a long time to get accustomed to him, and when he was out of my life I found myself yearning to hear his smooth voice, or find myself pierced like a butterfly by his analytic gaze. Like a bird, so jerky at some points, so fluid and natural in others... did he still work for the Graude foundation?

The memory of his half-crazed black eyes and his feral smiles brought an ache to my chest. One could learn to love even the worst of monsters if given the chance, it seemed. And how I had missed him! Until I made myself stop thinking about him so the pain would fade.

And here I was now, back in a hospital. But Nishi wasn't here now.

There was no one here now.

Would it make things any easier if I wasn't here either? Would anyone suffer overly for my absence? Or, more importantly, did anyone benefit from my presence?

I could still remember my days with Camus and Isaac as if they had been merely yesterday. Isaac's pride in his own abilities, Camus' calm looks of approval as he stared at him. My own dissonance in their little ecosystem. The nights in Siberia had been terrifying sometimes. Ghostly wraiths of long dead souls drifted through the chilled winds like clouds of dull mist, their glassy voices eerily bouncing off the jagged ice cliffs. Yet I was the only one who heard them, the only one who saw them. Fear froze me as they stroked my cheeks and whispered of their deaths in my ears, as they danced like a sheet in a wild gale, keening.

I was cursed from the moment I was born.

The dead haunted my days and nights, and everyone who drew close to me died, and those who did not ended up passing me by as unnecessary. Isaac had been my friend, hadn't he? And now....

Like Mother.

Like Camus.

And Camus... he would turn around, staring at me with an icy question in his eyes each time a ghost stopped me from keeping up with them. I would stare back, impotently. What could I say to him? He wouldn't believe me, he couldn't make them go away. He would only confound me for my added weakness, and hate me more. And I had so wanted him to love me! I just couldn't tell him...

Just like I couldn't tell him why I had to rescue my mother. Even when I could reach her in the sunken ship, I needed money to give her a decent Christian burial. A ritual that might put her soul to rest. As it was... I would kneel by her body, still holding my breath, but I could feel her laughing as she floated through the ship. A watery afterimage of my mother, a laughing and sobbing soul that clung to it's earthly state because....

Because I was alive, and she couldn't watch over me.

What would have Camus thought of that? Another weakness... only that. That was all I was.

From the beginning I had tricked myself into believing that he cared... that he needed me. His damp blue eyes had seemed to beg at me to help him, to love him! And then....

Then came that time, after Isaac died.

I should have seen it then, for it was clear and true... how much he hated me, how he despised me. So I tried to be the best I could, and I stopped trying to reach his heart. I stopped being loving to him, I stopped acting like he mattered to me. But he did!

I had taken everything away from him, and now... even his life! He had died because I killed Isaac! And all he had left was me, a child so weak I didn't even deserve his scorn. And God knows I tried to hate him... but I couldn't. So I drew away, built a wall where I had tried to build a bond and made it look like I had hardened myself to him. He never reacted to that, only grew colder.

And now... I had killed him.

And in that last moment, he had asked me - me!- to forgive him. Why!? Why had he died and not me? Why did he sacrifice a legacy I couldn't hope to uphold for my sake! Did he really hate me that much!

I curled up the bed feeling light and feverish, tears fell down my cheeks but I didn't dare make a sound. Was there any point in my being here? Was there anyone who would care whether I lived or died?

Anyone... at all?

* * *

Milo:

He was crying when I arrived, faced pressed into his pillow. His cheeks burned with fever, and I could tell by the soft shivers that shook his frame that he was far from being alright. I walked up to his bed, placing a cool hand over his brow. I felt more than saw him frown, liquid eyes opening up to stare at me, pools of hardened diamonds that glittered between thick black lashes.

"Hyoga..." I didn't know what to say. I wanted to soothe him, but I didn't know what the problem was to start with.

Slowly he focused on me and his eyes gradually grew even more unreadable. "Why are you here?"

At least he was talking to me now. I glared at him, saying nothing. He looked back up, clearly expecting an answer. His eyes... they wavered between infinite coldness and a black hatred that was only softened by... what? Desperation? Hope? Some powerful and secret emotion lay beyond the frosty countenance he had erected, something he didn't want to feel, or admit. Something that had been eating at him for years now, probably; that Camus' death and the realisation of the truth of his friendship had only augmented. Pain increased a thousandfold when there was nothing to hold on to but that, when your only anchor to sanity was the pain that drove you far beyond the boundaries of a stable mind. What kind of horrors had he seen? What kind of twisted agony lay beyond those eyes, crouching in a soul born to passion and denied the reciprocation of it's very essence?

He simply lay there, waiting for me to answer his question. I reached out and ran a hand through his hair. The gesture unsettled him clearly, he tried to draw back. I felt my lips pull up into a vague smile, running my fingers through the rich gold of his hair again. Panic flickered behind his glazed expression, he didn't understand what I was doing. I went on petting his hair, smiling oddly as I did.

Hyoga's eyes widened and he began to struggle against me. I pulled away finally, saw him lay back gasping into the bed. So. He really was afraid of letting his feelings out?

"What game are you playing at?" he demanded, his face contorted into a mask of fury and fear. I didn't reply, just reached out and pulled the sheets up to his neck. "Milo!"

"What an obnoxious brat..." I muttered, but gently. The endearment seemed to rattle him more than any insult I could have dealt him.

"What are you doing...?" he whispered, shrinking into the bed.

"What... are you afraid of something now?" I smiled ferally, expecting him to cower again. He only paled, but there was something new stirring in his eyes. A confrontation between emotions I knew nothing of, a laying bare of truths and lies that were tearing him apart. "Stop fighting yourself..."

"What...?" there was anguish in his voice now.

"Stop fighting yourself... you know you can't win," I whispered. He drew in a deep breath, eyes widening to an almost impossible size.

"Get out!" he ground out, a hiss of fury and pain and days worth of stress combined.

"No," I calmly replied. He shook violently as raised himself up into a sitting position. His eyes were wild... but I wasn't going to back down now. If cold logic didn't rouse him, then I would have to pull any strings I could find in him until he reacted. Anything, as long as it drew him out of that frozen state.

"Get out!" it was hissed between clenched teeth. I smiled widely in reply and crossed my arms behind my head.

"Make me."

He snapped then, pulling himself up on his knees on the bed, a growl on his throat as he tried to hit me with one arm. But... he was so weak! I caught his wrist without any problem, forcing back down onto the bed. I didn't really calculate the force of my push until I heard him breath in sharply in pain, and shiver in my arms.

"Damn you," he whispered. "Why are you even here...?"

And there at last, was the heart of the question. I looked at him, seeing his trembling gaze and weighing up any possible chances. "Because I have to be."

"Why?"

"Does it matter?" I inquired calmly.

"Yes."

"I'm here because I have to be." I repeated myself.

"That's not an answer!" he struggled against my iron grip, but I only tightened my hold on him to keep him down on the bed. "What is this... pity?"

I hissed in anger as he writhed in my arms like a coiled snake. "Isn't it enough that I'm here to help you?"

"Help yourself you mean!" he spat at me.

Now that was certainly uncalled for....

"You have no right to say that!" I growled, tightening my grip on him until I saw him pale and gasp in pain.

"Don't I? What kind of misguided pity leads to be here then? Or do you feel guilty about something?" His words were slowly getting to me. I had wanted to pierce the coldness, but could I wait out the storm in him? Goddess, I knew what he was doing! I had done it countless times... he was lashing out to keep me away, because he was afraid of that fact that he might need me. But still... his words....

"I'm not feeling guilty over anything!" I snapped back irritably. "But maybe you should be!"

He went limp in my arms, eyes wide as the colour drained from his cheeks. Gods... that was the wrong thing to say!

"Or else you wouldn't be here?" I failed to answer, stunned by the intensity of what I had accused him off. And Athena's words... this was not what he needed to hear! I had to set it right, tell him that I...."Or are you trying out your luck on me, since you never managed to seduce Camus? Is that it?"

I should have tried to keep focus on my motives, on what I knew. But those words cleaved through my defences and burned my patience down to a cinder in a second. A part of my mind cried out, and I knew... I knew that he didn't mean any of what he said. But the other, the fury that his insult had driven forward, it screamed in rage and swallowed me whole. I let go of him violently, ignoring the sudden fear in his eyes.

He was afraid... terrified that he had gone beyond the boundaries of my tolerance. He had. Terrified that I would leave him now... and I would. I was never known for my patience or my calmness, and this would have been a great moment to practice on them. As it was, I let myself be true to nature and allowed instinct to drive me into the madness of a pain I had tried to deny for days.

"Not a chance. You will never be even a slim shadow of what he was," I stated, taking a defensive tone even if I didn't know why. He shivered and rose on his elbows.

"What...?" and then, as if regaining balance. "Why are you here then?"

And I made the mistake of letting fury take over where understanding should have lead me. I failed to see the need and desperation that glowed in his eyes, and focused on the sting of his insult. Perhaps because I felt too guilty myself, I let him have my anger. I let him have my hate.

"Because your beloved Athena made me come!" I cried in anger. "Why else would I be here!" And in that moment, I saw him break.

Was this the look Saga had faced in my eyes, six years ago, when he told me he didn't love me? Was this the look in my eyes when death became my only hope for life? I wanted to take back my words, but I couldn't. I was too angry at him for leading me to this, too angry at myself for being unable to do more than hurt and destroy those who needed me.

Goddess... I had killed Camus in the end, hadn't I?

Hadn't I?

"Why obey her, I'm sure someone else could have come..." he whispered, pale and shaken.

"Like your friends?" He trembled as my words struck him. "A monument to mutual concern, aren't they?"

He stiffened, and looked up. There was anger there, blazing like pale blue flames, and hope too, like a shard of ice amongst the hardened black of dried lava. And I hated him suddenly... for being like this. For making the pain so real, for making me see how much I needed Camus, and that I would never be there for him as he had needed me to be. That I had betrayed the one true thing in my life. I hated him for making me weak, and for needing me when I wasn't sure I could help myself. But most of all I hated him for moving me, for reaching me. I hated him because he made me afraid... and because despite the jagged edges to his soul he was all to easy to love.

"That's it?" He shook has he spoke, anger lent him the strength he lacked. The force of his feelings, kept down for too long, was tearing him apart. " She orders you to jump of a building and you'll go too?"

What was he driving at? Through the haze of anger, I saw it. He was trying to see why I was here, because he knew enough of me to guess that mere orders wouldn't budge me. He wanted to find out why I was here... because he needed me to say it was for him. Well, dammit, it wasn't!

He wasn't!

"No, you useless fool! I made a promise to Camus, and in not keeping it up to him, you come next. For reasons unbeknownst to me, he died for you," he looked away and said nothing. "...so if you die it will all go to waste. I'm here because - as Camus' best friend - you are my duty now."

He looked up suddenly, even paler than before if that was even possible. His eyes... were utterly expressionless.

"A... duty," he whispered, eyes fixed on me.

"What else?" he didn't even flinch. I watched in silence as he lay back down on the bed, staring up at the roof numbly.

"Is there anything else you want to say... Milo?" there was nothing in his voice again, not even pain. And this... this angered me more than anything. I turned my back on him and stormed out of the room. I thought I heard a cry of pain and anger, but it could have been anyone. It could have been anything. This was all wrong.

By the time I had got back to my temple I had cooled off somewhat, but that didn't ease my in any way. I looked back on the conversation and shuddered. What had I done? How could Mu have thought I was right for this? I was too hurt and tired, and so was the child. And now, my own anger had gotten the best of me, and I had lashed out at the one person that needed me the most. Was this why Camus tried only once to confide in me? It was certainly the reason why he failed!

I curled up on my bed and shivered. The things I said... I didn't mean them, I had just wanted to hurt him. Because I hurt, and the reason I felt pain was...

Camus had died for him.

For him.

Camus had died and left me alone.

For him.

And though Hyoga needed me, I could not let go of this one hatred, this terrible grudge. I didn't dare to go and see him the next day, afraid of having forced him into a greater coldness. Afraid of hurting him again, of the pain that had I sliced through his eyes, of the one hope I had taken away from him in my anger and self-loathing.

However, as night fell that day Mu's pupil dashed up to my temple delivering a urgent summoning from Athena. I responded as duty demanded and met her at her temple.

Hyoga had disappeared.

The End of Chapter 2 -- Continued in Chapter 3


Toffz:

Hey everyone! I'm sooo glad I finished this part, now I can move onto the more depressive ones! (Ho Ho Ho = evil laugher) And this chapter goes to... Torquemada! For taking my inspiration away for two whole days with her extremely convincing reasons for not liking Hyoga at all! j/k! (I still don't like Hagen though... I guess were even for now)


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