Falling from the Moon
A "Please Save My Earth" fanfic
By Natalie Baan
On white wings, the paper airplane glided past Issei. It swept high suddenly, flashing against the sultry blue of the sky, then looped slowly back, changing speed and direction gracefully on a day without the slightest breeze. The airplane coasted to a stop in midair and hung motionless. The page it was made from unfolded itself precisely, turned on one corner--then wadded up into a tight ball of paper. The ball fell out of the air, bounced, and rolled a little way across the school roof.
"I'm out," Rin said.
"So I'd heard," Issei glanced back over his shoulder. Rin was sitting on the roof of the stairwell, looking pale but cheerful. "I'm amazed you recovered so quickly. Home after only a week. But I thought you were still confined to bed. Does your mother know you're out here?"
"I think you should give me the keyword, Enju. I really think that would be a good idea."
He'd expected as much from the moment he'd seen that paper messenger. He probably shouldn't have followed it up from the schoolyard. But Rin--no, call him Shion--could find him at any time. Ignoring him would only make him angry, when Issei was depending on him to be rational. He forced himself to laugh, as casual and unconcerned as possible. "You've got a one-track mind, Shion-san. I already told you. When Tokyo Tower is--"
His feet swept off the ground. Shion spun him effortlessly in midair and slammed him down on the roof.
He'd struck flat on his back. The shock of it hurt everywhere, all at once, and while he was still realizing that an invisible fist hit him in the stomach, hard. His body spasmed, trying to fold around the new, fierce pain--and couldn't. He couldn't move, and somehow it made the hurt that much worse. He struggled against it, and as soon as he got breath around the ache, gasped, "You know I'll--I'll--"
"You'll erase the keyword? True. But," Shion continued, wrapping the flow of his power around Issei and punctuating his words with easy, repeated blows against the roof, "you can't erase it--can't do anything--if you can't--concentrate--"
"Ordinarily I wouldn't beat up on a woman this way." /Slam./ "But then, you're not a woman any more, are you, Enju?" he mused. And laughed. "Or, are you?"
"I can do this all day," Shion said. "You know I can." That impossible Sahches force seized Issei where he lay; this time it pressed him down, dragged him across the roof. The rough surface ripped new lines of fire across his back.
<Kami-sama, Sahjareem, make it /stop./>
"I promise, I won't kill you once you've told me. I'm really not a killer. I won't even be mad at you. I've got more urgent things to take care of, and you're just not that important."
There was no way--there was no way he was going to tell Shion. He knew there was a reason, but--
Shion lifted him again, whirled him around, flung him crashing against the stair house. "How much pain do you think you can take, Enju?" Issei's head had cracked against the wall. White light flashed across his vision, refracted by tears he just couldn't stop, and in the middle of the light Shion hovered midair before him--he couldn't remember how that had come about, only the hurting and the knowledge that very likely he was going to die and there was so much he hadn't said.
"I'm starting to get pissed off now. So this is your last chance. Tell me the keyword!"
There was thunder in his mind and a storm of pain across his back, but there was one place he could go where Shion couldn't hurt him. Issei flung himself inward and away then: away into the quiet of the dark.
* * * * *
Around the middle of the third flight of stairs, it occurred to Jinpachi that he had no idea why he was sprinting to the roof. He'd been talking to--and then he'd--there was just this urgency, that he go, now. He could stop to think about it, but he had the momentum and it carried him up the last few steps and out into daylight--and then when he staggered to a halt and looked around someone was lying sprawled in the shadow of the stair house.
"Issei!" It shocked him and it didn't, somehow. Issei didn't seem to be conscious. Jinpachi put a hand on his friend's shoulder, shook him gently--nothing. He tried to slip an arm behind Issei, to shift his position, and Issei moved then--twitched sharply away, arching his back and biting back a scream. He turned it into a moan and rolled onto his front. Jinpachi could see the number of tiny rips in the back of his shirt, the small, spreading blossoms of blood on white cloth.
" Issei, what happened?"
"It's all right, it's all right--/Hey!/ Someone get up here!" he yelled down the stairwell, on the off chance that somebody might be close enough to hear. "What the hell happened to you?"
"Ssh-" Issei hissed in pain, before choking it off. He took a few moments to get his breath before he answered, "I- I fell."
"You fell? Fell where? Here?" Issei looked like he'd fallen down a gravel slide, not tripped on a rooftop. He was shaking his head wildly, and suddenly Jinpachi recognized the signs of tears. "Don't worry, it's going to be all right. Can you walk? We have to get you to the nurse." Good luck: someone had heard him, there were footsteps hurrying up the stairs. Now all they had to do was get Issei down....
They ended up half-carrying him, and when they'd finally got all the way downstairs the nurse took one look and went for the phone to call Issei's mother. Issei didn't take it well.
"No! I- she's out. Please, can I just stay here for a while? I want to lie down. I'll be okay." His voice was small and strained, and it cracked. Scared. It was pretty sure that his father was going to kill him for screwing up, injuring himself, and probably missing more school. He'd already caught hell about the earring. Now /that/ had been a stupid and weird thing to do. Someone as smart as Issei shouldn't get into so much trouble.
The nurse tried to argue him around--she wanted his mother to take him to the hospital, not just home--but gave up when he got wild-eyed and a little hysterical. "Shock," she muttered, grabbing the antiseptic spray. "As soon as I get this on you and give you a painkiller, you're going to lie down. It doesn't look like anything more than contusions and scrapes, but you could have a mild concussion and I'm worried about other possible injuries; I want you to see a doctor as soon as your mother gets home. When do you expect her? Ogura-kun, would you--?"
It was an adventure getting Issei's shirt off, especially since his shoulders didn't seem to want to move too freely. His back was raw. Then the nurse hit him with the cold spray, and he jumped, bit his lip. Jinpachi could see the blood there. He put out his hands because it seemed like Issei was going to fall, and Issei grabbed them, clung on desperately tight. Jinpachi squeezed back, hoping to reassure him, and Issei looked up, a terrible pained expression in his eyes. He moaned and leaned forward, pressing his forehead against their clasped hands.
The bell was ringing out in the hall, but class was damn well going to have to wait.
* * * * *
"Oh--Nishikiori-kun," Alice said. "Are you all right now?"
Issei looked up from the floor tiles with a start: he hadn't seen or heard her approach in the constant tide of Saturday shoppers. Too much noise, too much movement, and he was tired. So tired. It had been a mistake to let his mother talk him into going out. But she'd been worried about him. He was so withdrawn, she'd said, he never went out of the house, if he was a little stiff then some exercise was just what he needed. By the time they'd gotten to the mall, he had been glad to find a bench and wait while she and his sister went about their shopping. Lunchboxes, or something. He was meeting them in half an hour.
"Fine," he said. Parts of him didn't hurt at all now, which was such a tremendous improvement over the way he'd felt last week that he really couldn't complain. He focused on her at last, standing there concerned, with her dark hair pinned up off her neck for relief from the summer heat outside, and it was only then that he noticed her small, sullen shadow.
Surprise must have shown on his face. Shion scowled, and Alice hurried to explain his presence as if she were in some way at fault: "I know the doctors said he shouldn't be out of bed, but really! he's just an impossible patient. Aren't you, Rin-kun? Are you tired? You could sit here with Nishikiori-kun while I get the ice cream." She turned a hopeful look back to Issei. "Would you mind?"
"No...." Shion treated him to a long, burning scrutiny, before climbing onto the bench next to him--not the usual quick grace, and there was a definite pallor to Shion's skin that spoke of pushing too hard, too fast. No wonder Alice radiated worry, though she tried to hide it from Shion under cover of a bright smile.
"Chocolate and strawberry--right, Rin-kun?"
"My treat for both of you, Sakaguchi-san," Issei said, "if you'll bring me one too." Awkwardly he got a hand into his back pocket and fished out his money. "They have raspberry, don't they? I'm sorry to impose on you, but since you're going-- "
"Oh, it's no trouble!" She smiled and turned to leave.
"I'll watch Rin-kun, so take your time," Issei called after her, and Rin yelled, "Real ice cream! Not that soy stuff!" Settling back into the seat, he tossed his hair out of his eyes and glanced sidelong at Issei, adding in an undertone, "Watch /yourself./" There was an unpleasant moment of silence as Issei tried to figure out how to go on from that. Finally he sighed.
"I hope you're not planning to batter me against the wall again. It wasn't much fun," he said.
"It wasn't supposed to be. This isn't a game, Enju."
"I know. That's what I tell myself." Yellow sun slanted through the open level above them from skylights in the roof; the light lay in bars across the tiled floor and the glass of shop windows. "Shion-san, does it have to be this way? I'm not fighting you. I'm only asking you to wait, to be patient until the Tower is finished."
"I don't believe in waiting, as a general principle." Shion's voice was cool, but there was still that shadow in his pale eyes. "I never have." Issei studied him curiously, and Shion glanced up, sharp and sudden. "What do you see?" he demanded.
"You're a telepath. What do you see when you look at me?"
"Nothing," Issei confessed. "I can't read you at all." To Shion's look of startlement, he went on, "Your will is stronger than mine. I can feel your presence, and I can tell when you're angry. When you were unconscious, I got lucky and picked up a very clear feeling of your personality. But otherwise your mind is closed to me."
"You'd admit that? Why?" There was suspicion in Shion's voice, that Issei would give up any advantage.
"Because you asked, and it's true."
"And you wouldn't lie to me. Would you, Enju-chan?" He smiled then, a smile no less dark than his earlier scowl, and not an expression that belonged on the face of an eight-year-old. "So tell me this: what good does it do you if I wait? You'll have to give me the keyword eventually, as you promised. If you still have it?"
"I've still got it. I'm willing to let last week go, Shion-san." Issei shrugged, then held up a warning hand. "I /am/ serious, though; I'll erase it if anyone else gets hurt."
"So." Issei thought that was relief. Shion had been afraid that he might have already erased it. "I hope you realize you've got a tiger by the tail. Either you'll erase the keyword, or you'll give it to me in the end--either way, you're left with nothing to bargain with for your own safety. Not a very tenable position. What do you hope to gain, that's worth so much risk?"
Issei had to pause, think over his response. How much truth did he dare to give? Shion mustn't be reminded that there was someone particular Enju might want to protect; he was intelligent enough to find some way to take advantage of that. Issei had second motivation, though, just as true, and ultimately both had the same answer. "Time," Issei murmured.
"Time!" Shion spat back, and there was a burst of emotion in the space between them, a moment of fury that flared up from Shion's mind. It was sudden and Issei startled at it, wondering what association he'd triggered.
"What did Shukaido say to you?" Shion demanded. "Did he tell you what he did?"
"He told me." So that was it. "I'm sorry, Shion-san."
"/Shut up!/ Don't talk to me about /time!/ I had nine years, Enju! I had plenty of time to wait, and think, and can you imagine what I thought about?" His voice was shaking, he was shaking; he was up on his knees on the bench, blazing into Issei's face. "Do you think I can /ever/ forgive him?"
"So then what?" Issei's own voice rose. "Kill him, or anyone else who gets in your way, and what does it get you? It won't bring back those lost years, Shion-san, it won't bring anything back, only destroy you, your own soul--"
"You actually think there's anything left there to destroy!"
Sanity was possible. Belief in that was the only thing Issei had. He and Shion stared at each other across the short length of the bench.
Shion's glance flicked sideways then, looking past Issei's shoulder. From the corner of his eye, Issei saw Alice walking toward them, precariously balancing three ice cream cones in her hands. She was still far enough away that there was time to say one more thing.
"Can you stop, Shion-san? That's all I want to know. /Can you?/"
"Here's the ice cream, Rin-kun!"
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