To Choose to Hope

© 2001 by Sofía 'Toffee' Francisco

This page was last modified: 2001/02/27


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Author's Note:

Um... yes... Unbroken universe again! This technically has no plot, it's just a day in training, focusing on the more 'human' side of the task. Basically... it's just many feelings and thoughts squashed together, but Stayka said: 'a scene of Camus training Hyoga' -- so that is what she gets! (à la Toffee style)


"A man only understands that of which he has already the beginnings in himself."

Camus:

There were days when I wondered over the sanity of my choices, and if I really knew what I was doing and why. I would see the stars shine outside every night, and I never knew if they understood how they ruled our lives... or if they really did. The fine line between fate and choice, and choices made by fate; these never seemed to make sense to me. I cared not for such musings, yet they came to my mind at the oddest of moments. I believed in the power of my own destiny and my own choices, and still...

Perhaps I would have gone on like this forever, convinced of my own power, of my own control over my fate. But it was in destiny's plans that I should find my greatest enemy in my greatest love, that I would come to hurt those whom I cared for, and please those who were nothing to me. I believed that everything was under my control, and it was only when this was proven wrong that I learnt to humble my view of myself. Was it my mistake, or fate's? For I could indeed love... but I never knew how to say it, and how to not fear it. I was a prisoner in my own heart, and even though I wished I had the power and knowledge to let my feelings be known, I chose to shelter them.

To shatter them.

Fear was taught to me early on, at the hands of a ruthless mother, and under the cool moon gaze of a heartless teacher. But he was not really heartless, just heartbroken. And his failure gave me the most important lesson I was to learn: I could not love. If I wanted to live, to survive unscathed the passage of time and slow roll of consciousness, I could not let myself fall for anything.

Or anyone.

But I did, I tripped not once but twice, the second time worse than the first. One would have thought that I would learn, knowing that I was a child never meant to be born, that I was no more than a duty to be fulfilled, one would have thought that I would learn. But my teacher, though wise in his lessons, did not tell me what a sweet temptation it was to see a friend smile. To hear him laugh.

So I fumbled my steps early on and allowed myself to love a creature made of blood and emotions, one that was so passionate that this very fire would burn him through one day, leaving him cold and ashen. I still do not know why or how he slipped through my defences, but he did. That was a terrible mistake, but one that I did not regret, for he made my life bearable within the limits of happiness open to us, and he gave me reasons to pull through when others would have had none.

But my second mistake... this one would probably lead me to my grave, and even though I knew this, I could not help myself anymore than my teacher did when he fell in love with the wrong person. It was ridiculous, and yet it happened. And the worst part was that somehow... I had known it too, yet I still allowed it take place, to root into my heart. Knowing my fate I was still unable to stop it... so perhaps the stars did know why things happened, and why they didn't.

"Teacher?" the soft voice of my eldest pupil gave me a slight start. I did not let him see he had taken me off guard, nodding to him vaguely. "Why is he coming?"

"He is old enough, and not bent on running away," I had expected this question and the hint of angered jealousy in Isaac's voice. He valued his place as eldest and did not take it kindly when another of his privileges was offered to his junior.

"He's just a kid, and besides, what will he do over there?" I did not like the petulant note in his voice, but I could understand it. Isaac was, like any good pupil, obsessed with pleasing me to the point his noble little heart could not withstand the thought of failing. But Hyoga, as much as he loved the younger boy, posed a threat to him in more ways than one.

To the point that the older boy could do the most magnificent feat and I would still prefer the child. But neither of them knew this, and neither would.

"The same thing as you: play," Isaac huffed slightly at that. "I don't take you there on holidays, mind my words. I have things to buy and it is of no use to me to make you perfect warriors if you cannot blend in among your kind."

"He's still a kid."

"He's ten years old, the exact same age you were when I first took you to the town," I remarked casually, running a comb through my hair. "Now run off and tell him to get ready."

He gave me a cold look, unable to express his anger and zeal without humiliating himself he knew all he could do was comply. It was well past time I took Hyoga to town, he needed some new clothes anyway, and it would give him a chance to relate to someone other than Isaac and me. As I had said, there was no utility for a warrior that lost his footing as soon as he was out in the open.

* * *

Hyoga:

Isaac strode into our room with a vague frown on his face. He was already twelve, but years of training and hardships made him look older, less like a child and more like a man. His walk was purposeful and lacking any hesitation, he moved with the certainty that he could do as he would, a warrior's inbred superiority. I sighed, feeling a strange affection for this boy, whose attempts to become a man rendered him all the more a boy. He looked at me and let out a heavy sigh.

"Get dressed fast and go and have breakfast with us," I blinked at this. Usually when Camus went to town with Isaac I was allowed to get up a bit later, and then I would spend the rest of the day training alone near the ice ridges. I enjoyed these few days where I would have my thoughts to myself, and the whole white plain for me to run in, alone. Why did they want me up and around with them?

"Weren't you going to town today?" I asked, grabbing my clothes so as to not annoy him. Isaac looked upset enough already.

"We are... with you in tag," his gruffness did not surprise me, apparently Camus had decided it was time to include me into this monthly ordeal. I felt a small spark of warmth in my chest as I thought of this. He had wanted me to come along. "So get ready, fast."

"Hai hai," I murmured, Japanese slipping off my tongue unbidden. It really became hard to concentrate in one language sometimes, with so many bubbling around in my head.

"...whatever," he growled, and strode out of the room.

I smiled and slipped on the heavy fur-lined boots we used when we would be trekking long distances through the snow. How odd... but then maybe not so much. I had just assumed that Camus would never take me to town because it was not in him to do so. He acted so coldly and indifferently, but...more than once I had caught him staring at me when he thought I was not looking, and there was such a soft look on his face.

He never looked at Isaac that way. Isaac was his successor, but I... he would look at me like I was something fond, not a duty. Yet I never knew for sure, more often that not he left for training with Isaac as soon he was ready, not waiting for me even if Isaac was just early and I was on time. I took care of most of the chores in the house, he never praised me and still... he gave me the feeling that I was important to him.

And he certainly was to me.

Camus was not an open person, even more closed than Nishi and that was a lot to say. But he was not unfeeling, just hidden from himself even. But there was gentleness in him, and nobility, though I was rarely witness to these. To me he was cold and harsh, and that was perhaps the greatest measure of how much I mattered to him. The more he pushed me away the more his eyes seemed to beg for something, something I could not quite place. It was just a feeling in the end, but I was sure he cared. And even if he didn't... I did.

I grabbed my heavy jacket and went into the kitchen to meet my teacher.

* * *

Camus:

"When we get there I want you both to stick close to me, I'll tell you what you'll do then." Both children nodded resolutely and followed me. The sky was half lit, frozen into that unnatural dusk that lasted for days without end, the first shadows of true night crawling over the rim of light, slowly gaining force and thickness. The stars would come out soon, after that, and they would be visible for months.

Silence followed us, neither of them able to think of anything to say as we pressed on through the dense layers of snow until the first chimneys began to appear over the horizon. The ground sloped down a little as we reached the town, curling lines of smoke rose from some houses where families were surely resting by the grate. A film of ice rested over the uneven cobblestones of the few paved streets the minuscule town had, a dog slipped over them as we passed. Curious faces peeked out the windows, the townspeople stopping on their way and blinking in surprise. I could see what they were thinking "there's another one today", for none had seen Hyoga directly, only the few merchants that drove sleighs up to our house to bring food in exchange for protection.

It was, in more ways than one, an abuse to these humble people's trust, but it served a purpose where both sides benefited. I got food and essentials, they had their peace of mind, knowing that under the event of any danger they had me to rescue them. Humble, superstitious people who refused to understand my role as defender to a Goddess and mistook me for some protecting angel. And my two acolytes in training, who were their future hope it seemed.

Ganymede had once laughed at that, as a young girl had reached out to touch his leg and, tugging on it shyly, asked him if he was a messenger of the Lord. Awkwardly enough, he did not scoff and toss her off, he simply smiled and raised a brow.

"Better not to answer in cases like that," he had whispered when I gave him an unreadable look. I could see the sense in that now. What use was there in telling them that I was no less human than them? That I could bleed and could make mistakes; when they so badly needed to believe in something else? That little girl was a lovely woman now, married to the town's only veterinarian. I sometimes wondered if she remembered my teacher, or if she knew how rare his smiles had been, to the point that it might as well been a blessing when he gave her one.

Hyoga walked on my left side, eyeing the crowd of children that moved forward a bit uneasily. I felt him tense and move closer to me, no quite seeking comfort, simply drawing back.

"Isaac! Isaac!" the younger boys cried and rushed up to him, bowing to me with wide eyes before they groped for my eldest charge in a fashion both yearning and envious. He simply looked up at me, a silent question in his composed face and regal posture. He already inspired the awed terror in the women and older inhabitants, the terror that led them to think us something godly.

I simply nodded to him, seeing his blush of pride at being treated so formally in the presence of these children. There was, after all, a touch of vanity in him. No one is perfect. Hyoga looked up at me then too, but the question in his eyes was a different one.

"You will come with me," I spoke softly but coldly. "I have to get you some clothes, you already grew out of yours."

He let out a breath and nodded. The people gave him strange inquisitive looks, hoping he would lift his face and let them see what he looked like, but he walked like a white shadow behind me, unobtrusive and silent. A toddler took a few steps towards him, laughing a bubbly laugh as it slipped on the icy stones and landed on hands and knees, eyes looking into Hyoga's. Then the little thing's smile faded, and he sat back at bit startled. I frowned, and took Hyoga's shoulder, spinning him harshly to face me.

"What did you do?"

"Nothing," he whispered, head bowed. His voice was soft, but I detected a hint of regret.

"Don't lie to me," I warned him, my hand squeezing his shoulder.

"I did nothing, just... just looked at him." There was definitively pain in his voice as he said this. He looked up, meeting my eyes with his own lighter ones. He looked older than ever, so wise, and so awfully alone, that I wanted to hold him to my chest. But I couldn't. Yet now even more than before I could see that alien quality that had so startled me the day I first saw him, that mixture of innocence and knowledge that made him seem both ancient and young.

"Be careful." I sighed at last, grabbing his arm as I moved forward into the centre of the little town, where all the stores were. I entered a small shop and closed the door behind me, hearing the tinkle of the pull-bells that announced the arrival of a customer. A short stocky woman came to meet me, a smile tugging at her lips as she recognised me.

"Ah, the Lord Angel comes to see me?"

"Good morning Katya, I need some clothes for him." I pointed down at Hyoga, and saw him smile warmly at the woman as she crossed her arms.

"New one, you hadn't brought him before."

"His clothes fit before," I replied calmly, watching how she walked around the boy in circles, measuring him up silently.

"Let me guess, two trousers, four shirts and one sweater... the jacket fits fine." Yes well, it was what I had bought for Isaac last year. I sometimes forgot how good Katya's memory was. Good enough to remember a time when it was me whom she measured up, and Ganymede who stared silently. She was one of the few people who did not believe I was some sort of deity, but she kept up the farce simply because for years I had been buying clothes from her, and as she said "it brings customers, so why not?".

"That's more or less it. How much will it cost?"

The snorted and smoothed out the wrinkles on her long skirt. "The same as last year, do I look like a thief?"

"I heard the price of firewood went up." I followed her as she rummaged through her racks and drawers, taking out the garments.

"Hm, but I can afford it. It's a special prize for you, not for the rest. They pay more." She laughed cheerfully and shrugged. "And you, Little Angel? What colour do you want these in?"

Hyoga gave me a look, as if to know if he could answer. I nodded dismissively and looked out the window.

"Blue," he said at last. Katya only smiled wider.

* * *

Hyoga:

So, children still noticed it. It made sense... adults are so closed up, so protected behind their barriers of reasoning and impositions that it was impossible for them to see it, now that I could keep it hidden. But not from children. They were still too close to their past and the mystery of becoming, to have been corrupted by the world, their wings cut off. Children believed in ghosts and demons even more than the parents who wove tales about them, and they could feel more acutely than they let on. So it was not strange for them to be able to sense the strangeness in me, while to an adult I was simply a quiet and mature boy.

The store-lady was nice, the kind of old round woman who does not make you think of a grandmother but of a partner in crime, a drawer full of old stories with no real lesson at the end, just a conclusion. I was glad Camus took me to buy there, I had been so afraid when I saw the children come up to Isaac, I did not think I could play with them. It had been so long now, and even when I was young and mamma lived I still did not play with them.

Weird eyes, they said. Weird boy.

I was not one of them, and the prospect of trying to be so nauseated me. They were children, simple minded and straightforward. Even if I was more a victim to my power than they suspected, I made them afraid, and there was no forgiving that. The would never understand, and their inner minds perhaps saw this, and the necessity to not understand, so they drove me away.

"You are awfully silent," Camus remarked as we walked back to where we had left Isaac.

"What do you mean, teacher?" I inquired, surprised by this statement. Why should he comment on this, when he so readily favoured silence over conversation... at least with me.

"I would have expected you to be more cheerful about coming here, yet you act like you would have much preferred to stay home." He did not pause in his purposeful stride, but I could feel him staring down at me.

"I have nothing to say... teacher."

What could I say? How could I explain to him how uncomfortable other children made me, how their looks of pure innocence and curiosity only added to my discomfort. Did he know easily such gleeful playfulness could be turned into morbid cruelty in the face of something odd? Their enthusiasm made them prone to notice even the slightest hint of strangeness in me, as they exalted all of Isaac's good sides in their sheer need to find some trace of holiness in him. But I could say nothing of this to Camus, not without betraying the truth of my unearthly power; that I could see ghosts. His coldness to me -- I hoped -- was based more on a need for detachment than true coldness. But... if he were to know this about me, how would he react?

Would he even believe me?

I was too jaded by the constant reminder of my powers, I did not want to alienate him even more from me, to the point his cool demeanour might become true to his heart. I loved Camus too much, and I could not stand the idea of disappointing him, or making him draw further away from me.

It was at moments like this that I missed Nishi the most. How I yearned for his dark scrutinising gaze, and the jerky cock of his head each time I spoke to him! But most of all I missed talking to him, hearing another adult confirm that I was not crazy, to feel that someone understood me, that someone knew what lay at the core of my soul, and why it pained me. I missed being treated as a adult, for as much as Camus chose to ignore my youth there was always the betraying hint of contempt in his eyes, the kind that grown-ups reserve for children only. Intelligent as I was, he still saw me as a child. Nishi had not treated me as one because he knew that what I was... and what I was not.

But with Camus my fears played against me; my reticence to be outside when those silent forms glided through the night, that I would sometimes be unable to step into a dark place when I felt the presence of another lost soul within, and of course, my attachment to my dead mother; these little details affirmed his vision of me, making me a little boy in his eyes. What was worse was that, as much as I wished I could be frank with him, I did not want him to stop seeing me as a boy. It made me pale with fear to think of the day he might not longer regard me as 'his', when I should go and find my own place and time in life.

* * *

Camus:

His eyes drifted to and fro, brows drawn together in silent consternation as I tried to see what was amiss, what had so disquieted him. Hyoga had never been particularly extroverted, but his reaction to the children in the town worried me. It was not so much his attitude, but the look in his eyes. There was pain there, and what was clearly a strange sort of... contempt? Pity? Envy? The conflicting emotions in his eyes were too many and too dissimilar, yet they coalesced into someting entirely new in him, making his eyes shine like those of a lost child, yet glare like those of an old man. It was at times like this that he captired me the most, that I wished I could just kneel down and take him into my arms.

But I could not.

I brought him here for mixed reasons, not only did I want him to learn to mingle, I had also wanted to have a companion. To have him... to myself. Without Isaac. So perhaps I did not truly regret that he felt so distanced from those children.. and still, to be absolutely fair he would have to play with them anyway. Whether he wanted it or not. But as he struggled to keep up my pace, his cheeks flushed a bright shade, I wished I did not have to bring him here. Or hurt him.

Or train him.

This child would indeed be the death of me. I so wanted to see him become something amazing, to see him surpass anyone in power. But I could not do this, I would never do this. To give him the key to such power I would have to obliterate his feelings, his heart, his very self. And I.. I loved him too much to be able to withstand the thought of destroying him so.

No, I couldn't.

"You should go and play with the other kids now," I told him, and felt his shoulders stiffen.

"It's an order?"

"More of a necessity. As I told Isaac, this too, is a phase of training. I can make you as powerful as you can be, but it will be of little use if one or two minutes in society reduce you to a puddle," I spoke calmly, perfectly aware of his discomfort. But I did not give him any word in it.

"Yes teacher."

I left him there, unceremoniously pointing the way to where the children played, not really needing to for we could both hear the squeals of laughter coming from that direction. He sighed softly, so lowly that I barely heard it, and made his way acrros the bustling people towards Isaac.

I stood there for a few minutes, feeling my heart bash painfully in my chest, as if I had just sent my best friend do his death. As if I had given up on the most important thing in my life. But surely... surely a few hours of playing would not hurt a child!?

Surely....

Briefly I thought of Milo, wishing he were here... for no reason. Just to se his cynical face, hear his snide remarks and feel that he was the only one that mattered. That if I had heart, it was his. Oh, I would have given the world to have Milo there, smiling cruelly with that lustful glint in his eyes, daring the world to defy him, defying death every single day of his life; and damning love into eternity, for showing him heaven but granting him only earthly hell. It was pure wistful thinking, but having him here might have drawn me away from....

From that child.

He was mesmerising, utterly frustrating and thoroughly heartbreaking. I wanted to hold him to me, and then crush him to pieces. I hated him, and loved him. For he made me weak, he made me feel and regret and brought me with too evident clarity the faults of my existence. But he was also innocent, and doomed to an early death. My faults where what kept me alive, but I would not pass these unto him. Thus he would die... sooner... or later. It was my fault, my doing; and even though I had no choice I still grieved over it. Even now that he was only ten and would not be ready to leave for another four years.

I shook my head, bewildered at my own thoughts, and went to buy the rest of what I had come to get.

* * *

Hyoga:

Isaac kicked the heavy cloth ball and raised an arm to call me to him. He stood erect, like a small god surrounded by his minions, as the children gathered around him and glared at me curiously. Isaac smiled and clapped me on the shoulder, inviting me to join in. I looked at the children, at all these weather-tried creatures who stared at me distrustfully, as if I stood in their way to winning Isaacs regard. It was all I seemed to do, wasn't it? Stand in someone's way.

Even Camus seemed to hate me on days like this, for I knew he had seen my reticence and still he sent me here, still he bade me play with the other children. I shifted uncomfortably, and offered a small wan smile to their expectant faces. Isaac laughed and kicked the ball again as it was brought back to him. I tried to keep up with the game, but they did not let me play, or pass me the ball.

I had had a brief - and much lighter! - experience at ball play when I was at the orphanage, and perhaps it was our mutual state of loneliness that drove my brothers to cross the barriers of distrust and welcome me despite my wild eyes. These were happy children, fattened up for winter and with not a care in the world. These children had no reason to like me, or let me in. After a few rough pushes and painful trippings I got up, dusted my pants and went to sit somewhere else.

And rarely felt so alone as I did then.

The children played on, but I could see them eyeing me strangely, asking Isaac about who I was and why my eyes were so strange. Weird eyes, they said. Weird boy. I was not their vision of protector and warrior, and I could see that they expected me to die off soon.

All the more reasons to not get close to me.

I curled up against a hard bench and watched them silently, feeling a cold tightness settle upon my throat as I struggled to appear uncaring. The wind whipped my face and I sighed, watching Isaac run around like the proud creature he was, and feeling a sudden and irrational envy, for he could be happy where I would never find peace. He would always be loved, whereas I...

A soft sniffling sound made me whirl to face a newcomer, and finding no one I dropped my gaze lower, to find a small boy staring up at me. It was the child from before, who had tried to flee when he looked at me directly. His eyes were wide but fearless, shining with that soft childish light that I had never had, whose lack had made me what I was, and probably lead my mother to her watery grave.

I could not speak to him, afraid he would run away at any moment. But he just stood there, staring up at me like a lost kitten seeking warmth. All of a sudden he moved closer, placing his gloved hands on mine as he leaned forward, his balance failing, and looked deep into my eyes. I was about to ask him if he felt all right when he drew back and sat down beside me.

"Is it pretty?" he asked.

"What is pretty?" I replied, intrigued by his opening up to me.

"Heaven," he whispered, and leant his head on my arm. The child could not be older than two, why was he asking me this? "My Papa is there.. Mamma says she'll go to see him soon too."

He spoke with a slight lisp, but clearly enough. Quite intelligent for a child his age.. but then, so was I.

"Why do you ask me?"

"Because..." he paused to looked up into my eyes. "...because you are an Angel, aren't you?"

Life is so complex! When we think we have it all written down and figured out some new variety of pain or joy will show up and topple us down. We live trying to find a balance and yet there is none to be found. And so, isolated as I was from my own kind, I never expected to be mistaken for something else, and I could not say no to the boy. His hopeful eyes shone with devout light, placing all of his childish heart in my hands he smiled warmly and waited for my answer.

No! I am not an angel! I wanted to scream at him, but I could not.

"It is...very pretty," I whispered, half choking on my own tears. The boy saw me cry, and a look of dismay crossed his face.

"Oh! Oh! I'm sorry! Why do you cry?" He curled up on my lap and hugged me, afraid of my tears lest they be from anger.

"I just miss it.. I miss heaven," I confessed to him quietly.

Yes, I missed this place I never knew. I missed my mother, and Nishi, and I ached everytime I saw Camus stare down at me coldly. And yet... yet...

I would never trade it back if I could... because I loved life too much.

Because I had promised Nishi to do so.

"I miss heaven... that's all."

* * *

Camus:

I let out a half hearted huff and closed my backpack, grabbing the few bags I had beside my feet and nodding to the salesman. The wind was picking up strength, it would snow later at night, I could feel it in the air and the soft crisp quality of the winding clouds. It was way past time to head back home.

I walked swiftly up to the street where the children were playing, hoping that they had not moved farther off for I was truly getting jittery, needing the flawless quiet of the house, far from this small town's busy noises.

"Isaac! Here!" the agitated cry of a boy confirmed where the children where, I swerved on a corner and sighed when I saw the diminutive shapes of kids playing, chasing a heavy ball. Isaac felt me approach and stopped playing instantly, falling back into that patient and superior pose that made all the children stare at him in awe. I was a bit taken aback when I failed to see Hyoga among the players, and felt a swift shiver of anger run over me at the thought that he had deliberately disobeyed me. I nodded to Isaac, signaling that he could play for a few more minutes. The game resumed, not withouth my presence distracting the children from their game every now and then. I walked into the street and looked around, searching for my youngest ward.

"Teacher?" Hyoga's soft voice startled me slightly. He was sitting on a bench near a corner, a small boy sat with him. I took a deep breath, pacing up to him angrily. He frowned and seemed to shrink upon himself, lips parting as if to ask why I was upset.

"I thought I had told you to play with Isaac," I was perfectly aware of how frosty my voice sounded, and saw the little boy glance at Hyoga questioningly.

"They didn't want me to. But I am playing... or talking." He pointed at the kid beside him, his clear blue eyes begging me not to go into a rage over this.

"That was not what I told you to do," I hissed stonily, and saw him flinch. Such a puzzle! He was warm and sweet, yet abhorred the company of these children, and here he sat with the same child that had almost fainted when looking at him. He gazed up at me sadly, and the deeply ingrained pain I saw there cut through me. I hated him now more than ever, for the urge to comfort him was almost too strong. But I could not give in, I would not!

"I am sorry."

"Sorry is not enough." He nodded, a ragged sigh escaping him. It was only then that I realised that he had been crying. The other children were staring at us, murmuring about Hyoga, calling him 'strange' and 'unhuman'... was it because of his eyes? Because of that strange look in him? Hyoga swallowed convulsively and got up from the bench. How lonely he looked then, utterly lost and isolated even though there were children - humans! - all around him. Yes, I could see it now. He had tried to play, but there was no boundaries for the cruelty children could commit, especially to those they did not consider as equals.

"Yes...teacher."

But even though he had been completely pushed away, he had still managed to befriend another, talking to a little boy he had gone beyond Isaac; mixing with normal people withouth the need of a game to serve as bridge, without his false holiness. The toddler looked up at me, and smiled questioningly.

"You are his teacher?"

I nodded, and saw the boy frown and tug on Hyoga's sleeve urgently.

"Angels have teachers? What kind of things does he teach you?"

Hyoga looked up at me sorrowfully, his eyes glazed and tormented, begging me not to crush this boy's hopes in my anger at him. Even now, he lived for others. Even now... his feelings ruled him in a way I would never be able to understand.

"I teach them to fly." I replied when the boy was about to ask again, and Hyoga breathed in sharply and blinked in surprise.

"So... you are an Archangel of some kind?"

The questions were so innocent, asked with such open devotion I just couldn't deny him this little fantasy. He would learn the truth in a few years, or choose to believe it forever like all these superstitious people, but for now... "Yes. I am an Archangel... of sorts."

Hyoga smiled painfully as the boy laughed and tugged at his sleeve again in his excitement. I simply stood there, aware that Isaac was glaring at us furiously. Then all of a sudden the boy seemed to pale, looking up at me with huge eyes.

"A-are you... the Archangel Gabriel?"

I jerked as he asked this, for a moment forgetting where I stood as the name sunk in. I had not heard it for so long! My name....

"Perhaps," I replied at last, and smiled.

I could see where he had picked up that notion, but to confuse me with a biblical character.... I smiled wider and ruffled his head.

"And you are?"

"Jacob," he chirped happily. Ah... well, the name and his questions obviously lead to extremely Catholic parents.

"Well Jacob... we have to go now."

Hyoga helped the boy down from the bench and watched in silence as he run off laughing and disappeared round a corner. He then looked up at me again, waiting for whatever I had to say, but I could say nothing. How could I scold him, when he had far surpassed Isaac?

"Let's go," I muttered codly, unwilling to let him know how this had touched me, and called to Isaac.

* * *

Hyoga:

As we made our way back to the house Camus delved a hand into his pocket and took out a sweet, throwing it to Isaac. I did not look at him directly, knowing that he had not bought one for me, and that if he found me staring he might misinterpret my look for resent. Such little details did not bother me... I told myself.

Perhaps they did.

I so believed that Camus cared for me, but then... I never knew for sure. He was so kind to Isaac, so cold to me. Should I put my heart on the line for a simple fond look? But then... I had already done it so long ago that there was no sense in asking. It did bother me in the end, when he overlooked me so noticeably, I could feel a heavy ache settle in my chest.

"Watermelon candy?" Isaac asked, staring at the wrapping in surprise.

"Why not?" Camus answered, pushing up the straps of the backpack as they slipped a bit off his shoulders. Isaac popped the sweet into his mouth and frowned curiously.

"It tastes nice...but then I wouldn't know what watermelon tastes like really." He chewed down on the tiny morsel and smiled up at Camus. I felt so alone as Camus messed up his hair, still walking ceremoniously, but completely ignored me.

Yet it was so obvious that he would do that. Isaac would succeed him, I was just a side-package, a lowly Bronze saint-to-be that would never compare to his haughty disciple. Yet as Isaac smiled and read the ingredients on the wrapper, clearly trying to figure out how far off from the real taste the candy was, I felt an irrational warmth fill me, as I was unable to ignore them... my teacher and my friend, even though they ignored me.

"It's mainly just sweet and fresh," I said at last, remembering a time Nishi brought a slice for me to try, in his quest to open me to what he called 'necessary culture'.

"You have tried it?" Camus inquired coldly, his eyes slightly interested.

"Yes, once. Long ago."

"What is it like then?" Isaac stood in my way, hands on his hips as he attempted to look menacingly at me. I laughed gently and shrugged.

"Well... It's like... pink snow."

Camus cocked his head to one side, his eyes widening a bit in surprise as a ghost of a smile played upon his lips.

"Pink... Snow?" Isaac muttered, staring at me blankly.

"Yes. The texture is like a clump of frost, but it's pink and tastes sweet. So..."

Isaac shook his head and gave me a long look, as if to say I was crazy. I just shrugged and run up to Camus, hearing Isaacs's voice behind me, calling for me to wait and explain it again.

It hurt, that I could love them so strongly, and to never know if I meant something to them. Camus most of all; I never knew if he truly cared for me, or if I was really just a nuisance. But it was all right for now, as long as I could make him smile as he had just done... I was happy.

For now... it was enough.

* * *

Camus:

Isaac ran ahead of us as the house came into view, but Hyoga remained my silent shadow. The clouds had covered the sky by now, a chill wind slamming into us cruelly. I stared down at him, as he smiled at Isaac and nodded at something he mouthed to him.

"Pink snow?" I murmured, and saw him smile into the fur of his jacket.

"Haven't you tried it, teacher?" Oh yes I had, being Milo's friend meant that by your 20th year there was very little left to try.

"Yes, now and then...."

"HYOGA!" Isaac cried over the howl of the wind, making beckoning gestures. My youngest pupil gave me a patient look and bowed, before running up to meet Isaac as they tried to open the ice-jammed door.

I let him go, smiling at his words, but most of all at his laughter.

That laughter that seemed to ring over the ice like chiming crystal bells, filling me with emotions I did not understand. His happy laughter would draw fine daggers of pain into my heart and still... still I would love to hear it forever. At some point, it was no longer just the icy plains that drew me here... it was him, too.

So what could I do?

The stars might or might not rule our fate, but they certainly did not rule our feelings. If I gave in to this temptation, and unknowingly allowed the child to smother my heart, it was my choice alone. The stars might have brought him here, but I chose to love him... because there was nothing else I could do.

Just like I would choose to kill him, because I loved him too much. And there was nothing holy in this, no trace of destiny or Godly law, for we were not Angels, or messengers of the Lord. We were human, simple humans with a greater task to accomplish. So if the stars made mistakes, as did the Gods...as did we.. perhaps not all was foretold.

Hyoga laughed, looking so alive and perfect, that I could not help wondering if I had been mistaken, too, if he would not die as I thought originally. Maybe I could even help him live someday. Yes, I believed in the power of my own destiny and my own choices, and still... still I was a fool.

Still I let myself hope.

The End


Toffchat:

Staykaaaaaaa! I finally wrote it! Camus was being uncooperative, and then Hyoga, too... *sigh* This is my present to you! For being my friend, for being who you are, for kindly hosting me *grins* and for writing such great stuff. So.... happy : Birthday-Christmas-Saint's day-New Year-Unbirthday and anything I accidentally missed! Lotsa luv! *toffeehugsqueeze*


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