|chibirisuchan (chibirisuchan) wrote,|
@ 2007-10-13 17:06:00
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Pairing/Character: Kadaj and Loz
Warnings: Not worksafe, and not brainsafe either. I can't get more specific without giving it away. But if you squick easily, you might want to pass this one over?
Disclaimer: I'm really serious about that not-brainsafe part, people. Watch out for that other shoe when it drops. ^_____^;;
Previous sections (for this chapter in particular, it's important to have read the previous ones in order):
(弥生 - yayoi)
Even without words, Mother made Her needs clear. When they'd first opened the door of the old church, the reek of Midgar's tainted filth had Kadaj retching helplessly until he'd staggered back inside for a moment's respite. The entire city was sick, Mako-fouled, wrong.
"I thought you said you'd be fine!" Loz protested, as though it were a personal betrayal.
"It's not me," Kadaj gasped, leaning against the cool stone wall for support, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "It's the city, the reactors -- it's disgusting..." Shuddering, he slid down the wall and buried his face in his knees, overwhelmed by the reek of Midgar.
Loz and Yazoo traded worried looks.
"We can't live in the church," Yazoo said. "We'd be a stationary target."
"Then get me out of here," Kadaj said, not sure himself whether it was an order or a plea. "I don't care how."
His brothers traded another, longer look, and then Yazoo put a hand to the back of his wrist, the materia within his arm glowing green with power even through flesh and bone and armor.
And then the world faded away.
By the time the Sleep spell wore off, they were out past Edge on the way to Kalm; Midgar was still there in the back of his senses, still threatening disorientation and revulsion strong enough to turn his stomach, but the further they got from it, the more it ebbed away.
Really, Kadaj thought to himself, I'd have preferred a few minutes of Her just screaming at me.
Aside from driving them away from the reactors and the Lifestream-springs where the power rode too close to the surface, though, Mother was almost unnervingly undemanding. There was no imperative now, no goal to seek, no direction to face.
It had made him nervous for a while -- the fear that he might wake one day in agony because he hadn't anticipated Her desires clearly enough and She felt it necessary to punish his laxness in accomplishing Her goals. His inability to understand Her goals had never stopped Her from punishing him before.
But, as the dead Cetran witch had promised -- or threatened -- it did seem to be ...different, this time. As long as they avoided the reactor towns and the upsurges in the Lifestream, and as long as Kadaj didn't carry any materia inside his flesh, Mother was ...quiet.
Kadaj didn't quite dare to say 'content,' because he wasn't sure if Mother could be content. But She was certainly quiet.
Very carefully, in the most private part of his mind in case this was disloyal, Kadaj thought to himself that it was wonderful.
They didn't dare settle in any one place for too long; the humans had memories, after all, and the initial reactions of fear and screaming would eventually be replaced by the realization of how many of them there were. And even ants could swarm and kill much stronger creatures. But Kadaj's path was more proscribed than it had been; there were too many places the Shinra reactors had tainted, and too many places with clusters of humans, and sometimes even the sound of an unfamiliar, human voice sent him into panicked rages. Mother was fiercely jealous of Her lifespark, and the humans had nearly destroyed Her, and so the humans were to be either slaughtered or fled.
Yazoo was the one who decided how to handle Kadaj's fits; he ordered Loz to keep him quiet and get him farther away, while Yazoo calmly packed their things and found the other two later. When he could think again, Kadaj understood the sense in it, but in the grip of blind unreasoning terror, he always lost his grasp on anything but rage and fear. Loz didn't understand at all, but he was fiercely devoted to soothing him afterwards. And the sex was quite a distraction, especially when Loz was feeling fierce and protective.
After a while, they found themselves traveling in a wide, erratic circle around the chocobo farm; it was nearly as far as they could get from the Mako-taints of either Midgar or Fort Condor or the Materia cave, and Loz liked watching the birds play with each other.
He'd learned how to play with them gently enough not to break them, usually, except for the occasions when he got too enthusiastic and forgot his strength. Once in a while Loz brought one back that he'd broken, and he would make the most pathetic sounds until he got Yazoo to sigh and cast a healing spell for him.
It was always Yazoo casting the spells now; Kadaj couldn't bear the touch of materia any more than he could bear Mako. It frustrated him bitterly to be limited to only his own purely physical abilities. But then, his short temper did add a certain something to the vehemence with which he dismembered any unwary monster who thought that the small one that didn't smell of magic would be the easiest prey.
Loz was impressed; of course, Loz thought everything he did was wonderful. But a couple of times, cleaning the blood from his blade afterward, he caught Yazoo watching him with eyes just a bit wider than usual. Kadaj grinned at him fiercely; Yazoo looked away, and Kadaj counted that as an obscure form of victory.
One of the wild chocobos that wandered around the farm, a rangy-boned yellow with a ragged crest and a chipped beak, seemed to have decided that Loz was its pet. Not that it was Loz's pet, because it never came when Loz called; no, Loz was definitely the bird's pet, because it always showed up in their camp and scuffed things and chewed things and pecked things until Loz started playing with it. It liked nuzzling the upswept crest at the back of Loz's hair, and occasionally tried to make Yazoo's stand up as well, much to his brother's bewilderment.
And sometimes the bird brought them greens, too. Perhaps it thought they weren't fluffy and round enough to have been properly fed. It wouldn't let any of them ride it -- it was quite convinced that it wasn't their pet, after all -- but it adored racing Loz through the fields and playing some chocobo-variety variant of touch-tag combined with hide-and-seek.
Faced with a situation that bore no connection to logic or reason, Yazoo did his best to ignore the situation entirely. Faced with the same situation, Kadaj found it oddly fascinating.
The two of them certainly hadn't arranged any formal method of communication, and the bird was purely of this world, without Mother's blessing, without any hint of her genetic bond to unite them. And yet despite it all, Loz and that scruffy bird managed to understand each other remarkably well with nothing in common but pure physical interaction: the lure of speed that nearly but never quite blurred into flight, the panting exhaustion after, the enthusiasm to get up and do it again, for no better reason than that they lived and could run.
Kadaj sat on a fallen log at the edge of a small grove, watching his brother run from the overgrown chicken until the bird caught up and pecked him in the small of the back; Loz yelped, spun on his heel in a skidding spray of dirt, lunged, missed, and took off at a blur after the speeding yellow streak that flapped its flightless wings in what had to be some birdy form of laughter.
The sun was warm against the crown of Kadaj's hair, warmer against the black dragonhide armor. He was sitting in the middle of nowhere, doing nothing.
Closing his eyes, he found the dark hollow inside himself and knelt beside the ember of Mother's presence.
Don't you mind? he asked, afraid of the answer, but even more afraid not to ask.
There was no response -- not even disapproval.
He wondered if that would ever stop surprising him.
Sometimes, Kadaj hated being the youngest. His body wasn't finished the way the others' were. He knew that Loz had cried at nights while he was growing, because his bones hurt from stretching so quickly; Loz told him that story, one time when Kadaj was frustrated at the way his changing body shifted his balance and his accuracy in ways that he couldn't keep up with.
Kadaj didn't remember seeing it himself. They hadn't been together then. And he appreciated what it took for Loz to admit that he cried, in front of Yazoo. But it didn't change that having an unfinished body was just frustrating.
His armor had been designed to adapt to his immaturity, to a certain extent; his leggings had both zips and buckles, to allow for adjustments to his changing height and girth, and when the duster was too tight across the shoulders, he could unzip it a bit further and loosen the straps until there was time for Yazoo to pick out the stitching on another of the feathers folded into the back to adjust the fit more precisely. And when the sleeves got too short, there was extra fabric folded into the hem beneath the flare for the materia bracers; the bracers slid down a bit, the sleeves were restitched, and it was fine.
But there wasn't a single damned thing he could do about it when his feet had outgrown his boots. And too-tight, toe-mashing boots were miserable when they spent at least half of every day walking, searching out a safe place to sleep the next night.
The day he had to literally peel his boots off in the evening, because the chafing leather had worn through the blisters until they bled and everything had half-clotted solid, Kadaj decided he'd had enough. He wouldn't have abused Souba like this, but the nameless blade he'd stolen had no deep value to him. Kadaj threw his boots against the far side of the cave, drew his blade--
--and Loz tackled him at a run, knocked him to the ground, and demanded, "What are you doing?"
"Get out of my way, Loz," Kadaj said, with what he thought was a completely reasonable tone of voice under the circumstances.
Loz didn't move, though. "Kadaj," he said, "Yazoo says we need to talk about things more instead of--"
"There's nothing to discuss," Kadaj snapped. "Get off me."
"No," Loz said, even though his voice shook. "Yazoo -- you, uh, might want to run."
Still trying to keep Kadaj pinned to the ground with all his weight and a deathgrip on Kadaj's forearms, Loz blinked at him from two inches away and said, "Huh?"
Kadaj didn't have the patience for another round of misunderstandings with his brothers. He wanted to maim his damned miserable boots and go to sleep.
With a heave and a twist, he managed to get Loz off him long enough to stagger to his feet and toward his discarded boots; Loz hit him with another tackle, and this time his feet went skidding over the cave floor. Kadaj choked back a scream somehow, twisted around, and drove a fist straight into Loz's jaw.
Stunned both by the assault and by the impact, Loz loosened his grip long enough for Kadaj to kick free; he scooped up his fallen sword, limped over to the wall, and drove the blade straight down through the boot toes. They didn't cut cleanly; it took several tries and some sawing to get the toes cut off, but finally he managed.
Kicking the discarded toes toward the fire, Kadaj sat down to try to work his battered feet into what remained of the boots, because it wasn't safe to sleep without being ready to run.
"Kadaj," Loz said, bewildered, "what was that about?"
"You tell me," Kadaj snapped. "You're the one who knocked me flat and--"
Both hands held up and empty, Yazoo stepped between them, facing Kadaj -- as though Kadaj were still more of a threat somehow. "Loz," he murmured, "look at his feet."
Loz made a strangled sound, and tried to dodge around Yazoo; Yazoo put himself in the way again, but kept watching Kadaj carefully.
"Kadaj," he said, "why didn't you tell us you were in pain?"
"What good would it have done?" Kadaj demanded, sliding down the wall to sit slumped on the ground; at least it took some of the pressure off his feet. He could hear his voice rising into hysteria, but couldn't seem to stop himself. "You can't heal me because Mother hates the Planet's magic. You can't reshape these damned boots. We can't stop running. I can't go back to Midgar to find a different pair because Midgar is a smoking pile of rubble reeking of Mako and crawling with humans and--"
"--Kadaj. Kadaj." Yazoo caught his chin, pushed upwards until Kadaj met his gaze despite himself. "It's Mother's presence," he said, slowly and calmly, as though he were waking Kadaj from some sort of day-nightmare. "You've never been able to be rational about Her demands-- no, don't argue, just listen. You hear Her demands, and you need to answer them. But Her demands can't take precedence over the need to keep yourself whole--"
That part Kadaj certainly would have protested, except that Yazoo felt him take a breath and clamped a palm over his mouth hard.
"You are the Vessel," Yazoo said, soft but deadly earnest. "You must be intact enough to carry your burden. Understood?"
Kadaj pulled away sharply, and said, "Don't you ever accuse me of failing my duty to Mother--"
"Not to Mother," Yazoo corrected. "To yourself."
"What am I supposed to do?" he snapped, caught on the verge of tears of frustration. "I have to walk; we can't stop moving--"
"You're supposed to trust us," Yazoo said, and bent over the boot Kadaj had managed to force his foot back into. "Let us do our duty to you, while you do your duty to Mother. Tell us when there's something wrong."
"None of us can make boots," Kadaj said, through gritted teeth, because Yazoo was unlacing the boot and every motion shifted the leather and if he stopped to take a breath he was going to scream.
"We don't have to," Yazoo said. "Listen. Kadaj. I am your Wisdom. You don't have to try to be rational when Mother's agitated; that's my task. That's my purpose. Just tell me, and I'll solve the problem. And you won't have to walk with bloody feet. Is that clear?" He'd finally finished with the unlacing, and peeled the boot-tongue up from the clotted mess of Kadaj's foot; then he lifted Kadaj's foot free.
When he trusted himself to breathe without screaming, Kadaj said, "Solve my problem, then, 'Wisdom.' What am I going to do?"
"You're not going to do a thing," Yazoo said, carefully dabbing the blood away so he could see where the skin was intact and where the blisters had torn. "Loz will go out to the stream with the fire materia and boil some water to clean some bandages, and I will bandage your feet, and there won't be magic here to make you ill. And we'll go back to that abandoned farmhouse, and you'll stay off your feet while they heal. Loz will carry you, and he and I will share the night watch..."
"I'm not helpless," Kadaj said, tense.
"No, but you're not thinking clearly enough to prevent yourself from being injured, either," Yazoo said.
"If you'd told us about this when it started," Yazoo said, calm and yet utterly merciless, "I might have trusted your judgement enough to trust you with a watch. As it is, you're still reacting too emotionally and too blindly to Mother's whims."
And then Yazoo quite deliberately scrubbed the cloth into one of the wounds, which kept Kadaj from being able to concentrate on anything but keeping his teeth ground on silence for the sake of stubborn pride -- that and not ripping his brother's ribcage open to see whether or not his heart existed after all.
They crept back to the farmhouse, under cover of night; Loz carried him, despite Kadaj's embarrassment, because Loz's soulfully reproachful look at his bandaged feet was somehow even worse than Yazoo's lectures. They'd always healed quickly, all three of them, and he knew his feet would be whole again in a day or two; but Loz still looked at him, asking without words why Kadaj hadn't trusted his strength, and Yazoo had hidden what remained of his boots in case Loz's looks failed to keep him in line. And Kadaj wasn't feeling restless enough yet to head into the wilderness without any semblance of footwear.
Loz's not-a-pet chocobo put something of a cramp into their plans for stealth, though. It was accustomed to being able to catch Loz for playing whenever it wished; when faced with a door, it butted its head against the wood and warked loudly until Loz ran outside to hush it. Apparently, some things never changed.
...If only his body were one of them, Kadaj thought for the dozenth time, staring down at his bare feet.
He'd healed enough to walk a week ago, but whenever Kadaj asked about his boots, Yazoo looked down at him -- he wasn't that much taller, Kadaj thought resentfully, but he used his height every chance he could get -- and he told Kadaj to have faith in his Wisdom.
Faith was one thing. Patience was something else entirely.
His feet itched -- not physically, but in his mind. His feet were restless. He wanted to be moving. It wasn't safe to be still, not when the humans hated Mother so.
And his leathers weren't fitting properly, again. But... there was something different this time.
Something ...possibly wrong.
He wasn't quite sure if 'different' meant 'wrong' in this case. It ...just wasn't the same sort of not-fitting that he was used to. It wasn't the same sort of not-fitting he'd ever had, really. He stood in front of the tall mirror the humans had left behind, and looked at himself, and tried not to let the squeezing in his chest turn into outright panic.
"Kadaj?" Loz called sleepily from the bed.
Not going to panic. Kadaj took a careful breath, and let it out, and took another, still staring fixedly at the pale reflection in the mirror. Not going to panic. I'm just... concerned.
...I need his strength. I don't know if I can handle this by myself.
Kadaj took another careful breath, trying not to let his voice shake. "We...might have a problem."
He hadn't done a good enough job at maintaining his control; Loz lunged for his weapon even before he asked, "Someone coming?"
"No..." Not in the sense you mean, anyway. Kadaj bit his lip to keep from laughing, because he suspected it might come out more as hysteria.
The sound of Loz's approaching footsteps was an odd comfort in itself; a moment later, he was warm and solid against Kadaj's back, and he folded his arms about Kadaj in a protective embrace. "What's wrong? Are you OK? Is it Mother?"
"...I don't know. She's...being very quiet for some reason."
...'Some reason.' I don't think I want to know whether I know why... but...
It would explain where Her words have gone. Why there's nothing left but a spark, and emotion. Why She's so terrified, and small, and weak...
I need strength. Please, Loz, let me borrow your strength, because I don't have enough of my own for this.
He leaned back against his brother's solid, unshakable presence, and then moved Loz's hand downward, to his stomach. Loz's hands were big and warm and so strong; it was comforting to have his hand there, where Kadaj was most afraid of--
--no. not afraid. I can't be afraid of my path, I can't be--
--anyway, Loz was stroking him there, in a way that said I don't understand but I don't mind and maybe this is going to lead into sex? and I like sex all at once. But then his caresses slowed; he bent his head forward over Kadaj's shoulder, looking down at what his hand felt, then prodding a little with curious fingertips.
"Kadaj... You're getting round."
I should have known better than to hope he wouldn't notice, Kadaj told himself, making a sour face. "Very perceptive, Loz."
"Are you supposed to do that?" Loz asked, and then the alarm in his voice abruptly raised another notch: "Am I going to do that?"
Kadaj couldn't quite keep from laughing, though he tried to choke it back for the sake of his brother's pride. "I...I hope not, Loz."
"Are you...." Loz crinkled his brow, thinking hard. "Are you going to have a baby?"
Kadaj ran a hand over the curve in front. If even Loz is coming to the same conclusion... well. "I think I might," he murmured.
It was hard not to laugh again. Harder not to scream. Kadaj had been used to the idea that he'd be subsumed completely when he was taken over, that he wouldn't be a conscious prisoner in a body some other force was actively reshaping for its own purposes; he'd never in his life been as deeply, gut-wrenchingly terrified as he was of this, and all Loz thought to say was 'wow?' He wasn't ready for this -- he didn't know how to share his body with someone else. He hadn't really wanted to die, but the thought of being trapped, conscious, while Mother warped his body to suit Her needs and then left his hollow husk behind again--
--Loz's hand was there again, warm and solid and real. As if there were nothing wrong. As if this was no stranger than the chocobo playing -- nothing to be frightened of, just wondered about.
Easy enough for him to be calm, Kadaj thought; he's not the one who's being devoured from within--
--but he never had been, had he? Loz wasn't the Vessel.
This is my duty, Kadaj reminded himself. This is why I exist.
I will do this, and I will succeed, or I will die trying.
And... maybe it wouldn't be so bad to die trying, anyway.
It made a certain amount of sense, he thought. Nothing could come from nothing. And if Mother needed him to sacrifice his life for Hers, he'd always been prepared for that.
And if he was lucky, he wouldn't have to live after Mother abandoned him again. He didn't want to live through that a second time.
"Will it be like us?" Loz asked, curious, his fingertips rubbing an idle little pattern over the curve.
"I don't see how it couldn't be," he replied, but he didn't really want to talk anymore. He wanted to not have to think. He wanted to give his body over to Loz's strength, and to give his thoughts over to Yazoo's wisdom, and to not have to think at all about what it would be like afterwards, if he didn't die.
It was easy enough to distract Loz by pulling him down into a kiss, easy enough to go through the motions of sex without really thinking about it. Easy enough to exhaust himself, trusting that Loz was strong enough to take care of them both afterwards. But he still couldn't stop himself from thinking.
Nothing had changed. The witch had promised him, and he'd thought it was different, but it wasn't different at all. He should never have even considered trusting a Cetra.
Kadaj was still the Vessel -- and still only temporary. Still just an intermediary. Mother still hadn't chosen him. She would accept him as a shelter of last resort, for a time, and then She would abandon him. Again. She always, always did. Nothing had changed.
But it would have to be all right. He'd make it be all right. Loz hadn't minded this new discovery at all, and that was ...important.
Kadaj didn't want to think of how it might have been if Loz had minded.
Loz hadn't thought it all through, of course, but Loz wasn't for thinking things through. Loz was for strength, when Kadaj had none of his own, and -- he'd have to make it all right, for Loz. He'd have to.
At least this time he'd have enough time to say goodbye.
They knew the timeframe now, roughly, assuming that their imitation of human forms held other imitations as well. They'd never had this much warning before, and that was one difference he could thank the witch for. He'd have time to play with Loz as much as Loz liked before he went, and Yazoo--
It shouldn't be too hard to tell Yazoo, Kadaj thought drowsily, sagging into the sweat-damp arch of Loz's arms. Yazoo was the least emotional of the three of them. If Loz wasn't upset by this, surely Yazoo wouldn't mind at all.
His brothers had always been the only constant in his life, and they would never abandon him. They wanted him to trust them. They wanted to help him. And this time he'd have to swallow his pride and let them, because this was something much, much more difficult to endure than being footsore and foul-tempered about it.
So nothing had changed, really. Loz would always be his strength, whenever Kadaj needed it. And Yazoo would always think about the things Kadaj didn't want to have to think about.
And once Mother didn't need him anymore ...well. He'd probably die of Her birth anyway, after Mother had taken whatever She needed from him. He wouldn't have to live empty again, if there was nothing left of him for the Cetran witch to throw out this time. He hoped Mother would be selfish enough to consume him thoroughly.
...and if that was all he was uncertain of, he had nothing to fear. Mother's selfishness was always a sure bet.
So everything would be fine.
Yeah, so don't kill me for that other shoe? ^_^;; This whole thing started when I ran across the 25_streetsigns community shortly after reading white_aster 's Expectant, which was a giftfic for Meg and broke my brain for a good long while with the idea that the phrase "pregnant with his mother" could legitimately be used and be 100% accurate. And then the other bits started throwing themselves at me (who can tell the difference between pregnant mood swings and Kadaj's usual behavior? What would it be like for them, having been tossed out of the Lifestream just as abruptly as Cloud was but without Cloud's support system in place? etc etc etc.) So I went and made puppy eyes at Aster and she said yes, go ahead and write it, so here it is. don't kill me too hard?
I SWEAR I'm going to get my IJ and my LJ in sync and correctly tagged and correctly cross-referenced one of these months, but it's likely to be next year when this insane class is over with...