Rating: Ehh, PG-13 I guess....
Warnings: Implied suicide.
Summary: Implied Kadaj/Cloud; Kadaj hasn't been the same since the lifestream returned him.
Critique Wanted: Yes
Dedication: To lightbulby for inspiring it.
Anything Else: I wrote this up quickly in about an hour because the right mood struck and I had to run with it.
Three months. Three months since-
“Why am I here?”
“The Lifestream sent you ba-”
“No, no, I can’t be, why am I here? Where are my brothers?”
“They are gone, Kadaj.”
“What do you mean ‘gone?’ How can they be gone?”
“The lifestream didn’t send them back, just-”
“No! I have to find them, where are they? I have to find them again, I need them, I want them, where are they?”
“Kadaj, calm down, everything is fine-”
“How can anything be fine when they are gone?”
Sitting bolt upright in the bed, Kadaj leaned himself forward, drawing his knees up slightly and holding his head in his hands. His eyes squeezed shut as a grimace crossed his face, the echoing remnants of that conversation a quarter of a year ago drifting through his mind. Always, it came back to him in the early hours of the morning, just after dawn, just after the sun had risen, just like it had three months ago when his eyes had opened again and he found himself in unfamiliar territory, alone save for the one he had tried to kill.
Three months that he had found himself wandering, alone, on this planet that he had not even been born to. Not even the company of the one next to him, the one who had seen past him and seen the greater good, had been able to draw him from the mood that had struck upon the realisation that everyone he had cared for was gone. Why had the lifestream sent him back? It was a question he had asked himself a dozen times a day, every day, since his awakening, and yet he was no closer to an answer.
Why? Why him and not them? Why was he special, why was he awarded a second chance, a chance for redemption, and yet his brothers had been left behind? Why were there no answers, and no way for him to learn any more than what was told to him that day? Despite the time that had passed, and his attempt to seek comfort in his former enemy- the one who had been willing to look past his creation, to look past his purpose as a pawn in the game of a madman- his ache had not been eased. It only burrowed deeper, with each passing day, insinuating itself into every fibre of his being.
“Gaia must have had a reason, Kadaj, she wouldn’t have sent you-”
“No, you’re wrong! There is no reason, I have no reason without them.”
“There must be a purpose, surely you can see that? This can’t be random?”
“How long will I remain nothing but a puppet for the whim of someone or something I have never met? I cannot function, I can do nothing without them!”
They had not believed him. They are argued and tried to convince him of a purpose, of a need, and he had fought against them tooth and nail, denial writ clearly upon his face. He would have gone back, he should have gone back, but he had allowed them to lead him away, allowed them to speak words that meant nothing to him, allowed them to convince him there was some purpose to his new life. He realised, finally, that all of those hollow whisperings had been nothing but a lie.
Just a lie.
He was nothing. No one. Not without them.
Slowly, Kadaj pushed the covers off of his hips, the soft material of his blanket rustling as he shoved it aside, and then he turned and put his feet on the cold floor. A chill raced along his spine, goose bumps popping up on every inch of his flesh, but he did not move to pick up the grey fleece robe hanging off the back of a chair nearby. He sat, head turned down, green eyes silently contemplating the floor as a bright, almost cheerful ray of sunlight left a sharp strip near his feet.
Another day. Another cheerful, happy day. Another cloud-free day with a slight breeze, and warm sun, the sounds of birds chirping just outside the window. Such a juxtaposition to his inner darkness. Jumping slightly as warm fingertips suddenly touched his bare back, he turned and glanced to the bed behind him where the blond lay. He could not manage even the ghost of a smile, not even the barest hint of the twitch of his lips, and after a moment, he gently inclined his head before returning his gaze down to the floor.
The will had fled him. His insides had been carved out that day three months ago, and it had been nothing more than a silent denial up until this morning. It was time. Silently, Kadaj stood up and walked to the dresser, pulling open the top drawer and sifting around inside it for some clothing to wear. A pair of simple boxers, jeans, a t-shirt, socks. So routine, so ingrained, he didn’t even glance at what he picked up, merely mechanically setting it atop the dresser and then closing the drawer. Slipping into the clothing with little more than a slight glance at what he was doing, he finally found himself able to speak.
“I’ve come to a decision,” he said softly as he tugged his jeans up his legs.
He could hear a shuffling movement nearby as the blond sat up in the bed, just catching sight of him from the corner of his eye. Kadaj watched him a moment without fully turning his attention in that direction, then finally completely looked away, walking to the bedroom door and picking up his shoes from where he had sat them the night before.
“And what have you decided?” finally came the query, almost spoken with caution.
He looked down himself for a long moment, his jaw working slightly as he pondered over just what he should say. Nothing came to him, nothing that he could put into words, and he merely shrugged his shoulders before walking to the chair and sitting down, proceeding to pull on one shoe, and then the other, carefully tying his laces. The ritual seemed pointless to him, nothing more than an action to take up some of his time, and he stared down at the toes of his shoes for what seemed like ages before, gradually, his head tilted up again.
Such a simple statement, and he could feel a finality hanging over the room, sitting thickly like a fog. If he’d wielded Souba just then, he was certain that he could slice it in half and hear the two sides land heavily on either side of the room. Why he even felt the need to explain himself at all, he wasn’t sure, but there was some part of him, deep down, that was afraid to let go, to walk away, to appear ungrateful for his chance even if, now, he was giving it away. He sat silently for another very long moment before suddenly jumping to his feet and walking to the door. His hand rested on the knob for just a fraction before he turned it and stepped out of the room.
Faintly, he heard the blond begin to move inside the room, presumably to gather up some of his own clothing, perhaps with intent to follow him and persuade him to change his mind- but there was nothing that could be said that would put him onto a different path. Gaia had made a mistake, and that was that. A mistake that could not be taken back, but could be rectified. Walking purposefully through the house, passing down the hallway, through the large living room with its lush carpet and expensive furniture, then to the foyer with its hardwood floor, and finally, the front door. Unlatching the lock, he pulled it open and stepped out into the bright sunshine.
The warmth of the sun beat down on his exposed skin, the light breeze lifting up the ends of his silver hair and blowing it into his face. The day was mocking, laughing, and he resented it. A slight frown crossed his face as he began to walk again, and he heard footsteps behind him, bare feet slapping against the floor. Not looking back, his head tilted down, Kadaj simply paced forward. The blond had brought him to this cliffside house in an attempt to cheer him, thinking perhaps the crashing ocean, the calling of the birds, the fresh air might lift his spirits.
It had worked for a few weeks, at first, as he tried to find himself within this new life, but slowly, surely, that old conversation had come back to him, haunting his sleep, sometimes even invading his waking hours to reply itself over and over. Despite his best efforts, the blond had simply been unable to offer him what he most needed, and it had slowly worn away at him, chiselling him away piece by piece.
“You’re an individual, Kadaj, you can live without-”
“No! I can’t, I can’t go on, not without them, never without them!”
“Kadaj... you can be your own person, you’re not just a pawn, there’s more to you than that if you’d jus-”
“No, stop talking, stop it! I need them, where are they? I need them, I need them!”
“They aren’t coming back, Kadaj, they would have already if they were meant-”
“Why me? Why me and not them? Why are they not worthy, but I am?”
“I don’t know, Kadaj, I don’t have any answers for-”
“Then shut up and leave me alone if you can’t help me.”
But he’d allowed the blond to lead him away, even allowed him to try to present a way to live, but it had been for nothing. Nothing at all. All of this time, this effort, three months of trying to live, all of it was just a waste, and he realised that now. Wasting his own time, and that of those around him, when he knew in the end it was all for nothing. Nothing.
He felt a hand grab hold of his right bicep, and he flinched away from it, jerking his head to the side so his face could not be seen. He had expected a fight, that was no surprise, and even if he felt the stirrings of annoyance, he didn’t have the energy to pull away. Never had he felt so weak, never had he felt so incapable.
“What do you mean you’re leaving? Where are you going?”
Kadaj tugged his arm out of the grip and continued walking, the cliff’s edge looming up ahead. How often had he looked out at the waters below, the roiling waves, the white foam, the circling gulls? Hours had he spent overlooking the edge, just watching, trying to decipher and understand, but there had been no answers within the waters that he could see. No answers. Nothing.
“I’m leaving. I’m going... from here.” Kadaj shrugged his shoulders again and continued his slow pace, his hands moving to slip into the front pockets of his jeans. He kicked idly at a stone on the ground, watched it skip away, tumbling end over end, before smacking into a larger rock and skittering in another direction.
His companion followed alongside him in silence, though he expected the other to speak up again at any moment. Passing the small bench he had sat on and stargazed from, Kadaj finally found himself coming to that same cliff’s edge as before, and he stepped within inches of it, leaning slightly forward. A cool gust of wind whipped up from down below, blowing back his hair and cooling his face. The waves were crashing up against the rocks, the roar of the water drifting to his ears. Even as he stood there, he felt no fear, no concern. He felt nothing. Nothing.
“From here? Kadaj, what are you doing? Be careful....”
He could just hear the concern in those words, and he thought for a moment that he felt a stirring within his belly- anxiety? shame? something else?- but it quickly passed. The smell of salt wafted across his nose, and far in the distance, he could see the fractured rays of sunlight rippling across the ocean. It was soothing standing here. Soothing, comforting. He almost felt at peace, almost felt the darkness within him subside. Almost. “There is no happiness for me here. I have tried to find it, but it has slipped through my fingers and escaped me.”
A silence drew out between them as he waited for some answer, and he could sense the other move a little closer to him. He expected a touch, an embrace, maybe even a rough grab to haul him back away from the edge... but no contact was made. He wasn’t sure if he was grateful for that or not. The fabric of his shirt rippled across his chest as the wind blew past him, and the silence began to feel almost uncomfortable when, finally, he heard that voice again. “Do I not count?”
A knot of ice slithered its way into his belly at the words spoken, and he couldn’t sat that he was surprised at the question. Did he count? After all of this effort, all of this time, the attempt to show him how to live in this world, did it count for anything? Did it mean anything? Or was it another of those selfish delusions he had allowed himself to indulge in? “Have you ever felt like the greater chunk of your soul had been excised and destroyed? I can't live without them. Come with me?” He glanced for just a moment over his shoulder before looking down to the water again.
Listening, he waited for more of a reply, something, anything. What he was asking for was not fair, he knew. It was greedy of him to want, bold to even request, and maybe even stupid as any sort of answer could be twisted badly. Did he truly want the blond with him? He had been the only one willing to look past the outer shell of the once puppet. But did that make the blond worthy of bringing along as he returned to his brothers? Would the other two accept this stranger, the one who had killed him? He wouldn’t know until it happened.
“...Kadaj.... I can’t. I’m not ready.”
Blinking rapidly, Kadaj inclined his head just slightly in acknowledgement, a small lump forming itself into his throat and stopping him from speaking. Denial was what he had expected, what he was not surprised to hear, and he accepted that. Was there disappointment felt inside him? He couldn’t identify it, but that didn't matter to him now. He had made his choice, and he would follow through, and that would be that. Slowly, he nodded again and closed his eyes, ignoring the wet feel at their corners.
Then, his lids slid open again, and he looked down at the rocky crags below, at the waves crashing into the shore. For the longest moment, he just let the sound of the ocean overwhelm him, let it fill his head and push out everything else, let it drive away his sorrows. For just a moment, he let himself be, let himself exist with a clear mind. Then, with a soft sigh, he let his eyes close one last time. “I have to go. Thank you for what you’ve done, and I’m sorry it wasn’t enough. I’ll see you on the other side, all right?”
And then he lifted one foot and took the last step forward.