"On the Edge of Night"

Written by Azusa Kuraino

author's notes: This story has a shounen-ai flavor to it. I will not be held responsible for any offense taken. If you don't want to see that, don't read it.

Email me at AzusaEris@aol.com or erica.drescher@gte.net.

When he was sure he was safely removed from view, he allowed himself to sink to his knees on the floor as hot ribbons of tears streamed down his cheeks.

He had never imagined it could hurt this much. He had never imagined anything could hurt this much.

He mouthed his friend's name as his body began to quiver; his chest felt as if if it had been impaled with something as sharp and burning cold as ice, and then the strength of his voice failed him.

Alone in the night, he wept.

I wish I were dead. I wish I were dead. I wish I were dead. The words seared a hot trail across his thoughts, endlessly repeated like a mantra. His body curled around a shapeless lump of despair, a palapable sickness that choked his lungs tight and filled his chest with nausea.

Don't be sad, he pleaded with himself internally. Don't cry. It's all right, Kahr. It's a dream, a bad dream, and like all dreams it will fade with the dawn. Just wait for the nightmare to end; wait and you can wake up and Sigurd will be there for you, and everything will be all right.

He drew in a breath and held it; his hand contracted to a twitching ball.

And now... you can wake up.

His long nails bit into the skin of his palm; his lungs burned with the strain of deprivation. He opened his eyes.

At that moment, he would have sacrificed anything for the sake of finding himself tucked listlessly into a slightly berumpled bed, trembling with the pain of a fading nightmare. But the world remained all too terribly real: he crouched, shivering, on the floor, face and uniform sprinkled with tears, alone in the room and Sigurd gone forever.

Too weak to manage even a curse of rage, he pressed his head against his knees.

The thought How could he... echoed in Ramsus's head.

Traitor. Deceiver. He does not deserve your loyalties.

And it sickened him, more than anything else, that he could not bring himself to hate Sigurd for doing it.

How very much more bearable it would have been if he could have hated the man who had professed his loyalty, his alliance-- even, for the love of God, his affection-- to be a calculated lie. Hate would have, at least, been a grain of power for him to feed off of-- but his emotions fell short; he could not muster the will to feel even that little bit of fury. Was it because of his own weakness, or because of the despair in his heart siphoning away his strength to feel anything besides misery? Or... something else?

Drawing himself out of his huddled posture on the ground, he rolled over languidly and lay with arms and legs outstretched, facing the ceiling and unable to move: bound and crucified by his own despair.

Oh, God, I can't stand it. He wanted to curl up against something, to have something, someone, to latch over until the nightmare was over. So cold, so cold...

The ghosts of sensation began to wash over him, and he gave a tiny indeterminate cry, nuzzling his face against those ethereal memories of touch. Warmth and softness; a light whisper of breath...

Sigurd's hands, gentle and supple as leather against his face, his neck, his shoulder. So cool on skin that burned with the exhaustion of exercise, of training...

Oh God... why am I thinking about this now? I mustn't... I mustn't torture myself by thinking of what will never be again...

Memories. He closed his eyes, and fire danced in his soul.

("...you look nice tonight, Kahr. That shirt suits your eyes.")

("...don't put yourself down that way. I like you quite a bit, and if that doesn't count for anything with you, I'll be very insulted.")

("...so tired... aren't you sore? Let me rub your shoulders...")


No one else had been so kind to him, ever. Not in the same way...

...that faintly magical sort of charm he possessed, that mysterious way of making Ramsus feel as if he were tasting sunlight and touching music. God, what a stupid, contemptible little boy he was! There was nothing extraordinary about Sigurd in particular; nothing he gave to Ramsus that could not be elicited from others. Nothing but common kindness...

And yet... and yet...

And if Sigurd was to be believed, it had all been a farce. A lie.

A choked noise fought and clawed its way up his throat; rolling over, he began to batter his fists furiously against the cold floor. Breathless with sobs now, he attacked the floor haplessly, fingers raking over it until they were rubbed red and aching; still he continued to fight against he knew not what, until he had exhausted himself. He curled at last into a quivering little ball, thinking only that if someone chanced to see him in this state right now, he would be too humiliated to live.

He could not heal it; he could not reconcile it. To think those sweet mysterious little kindnesses, the hands that held and petted him so gently were forever lost now-- oh, that was enough of a dreadful bitter thing, but to think it had all been a lie, all along...

How could it have happened-- how could he have permitted such a thing to go on, unbidden? How could a lie have become so terribly important to him, and how it have gone on so long-- so very long-- without his ever fathoming the truth? The heart of a fool deserved no pity...

It was as if he had been allowed to taste, just a few times, of a strange and lovely liquor like nothing else in the world, a deliciously intoxicating elixir, and then had it torn from his lips just when he'd had quite enough to be sure that nothing would ever again compare. Everything would be different, now, terribly different, and when he tried to comprehend the inescapable reality of this new life-- life without Sigurd-- the despair twisting at his insides began to transform into a cold whimpering emptiness.

Stop. Even as hot tears began to sear down his face, he filled himself with a shuddering breath, tried to ration out the situation. He was grieving over a lie, and mourning as if the man was dead and not merely absent. He was composing an elegy for deception. What reason was there for him to think the lies of that traitor should have had any bearing on his life? And yet, though it made perfect sense, his body refused to listen: the tears burned, burned against his skin, as if all the warmth inside him was pouring away, contained in these little drops of fire. There will be others. He wiped his tear-slick face clean with a halfhearted sweep of his arm.

It's hardly as if he was the only one in the world to show you affection. There was still Hyuga. Hyuga, whose first loyalty had always been to Sigurd, even when Ramsus had used his power of influence to win his friend a position as an Element... who had been strangely silent in the wake of Sigurd's betrayal, as if it was something he had known all along, some bit of hoarded knowledge denied to Ramsus.

No, Hyuga was not Sigurd, and his attentions were not the same... They were hardly unwelcome, to be sure, but they lacked that... that essence which defied all attempts at naming. That inexplicable thing that sparkled in Sigurd's eyes when he smiled, that aura of warmth which had kept Ramsus unerringly at his side... that magical liquor, whatever under heaven it had been, that had made him feel so deliriously giddy, so drunken