13An X fanfic
By Natalie Baan
Subaru stood in the yellow light of the empty train station, his arms wrapping his coat around his chest. He stared down at the painted safety strip along the edge of the platform, at the featureless concrete in front of his feet. A train entered and then left the station--not the first that had come and gone while he'd been there--and he remained motionless, as though indifferent. One green eye gazed levelly at the starkly lit ground. The other eye was clouded white and empty.
The racket of the train's departure receded into the distance, and Subaru raised his eyes at last. Shadow detached itself from shadow, down at the opposite end of the platform. Shadow walked toward him, accompanied improbably by the ticking of hard-soled shoes, until what had moved to face him was not a shadow after all but a man.
"Good evening, Subaru-kun."
The Sakurazukamori stood before him, as inevitable as the end of all things.
Subaru studied the man. His glance took in the black coat, the tall, broad-shouldered form standing there with easy grace, the still-handsome face beneath the fall of thick, dark hair, the odd eyes that his own now matched. The man smiled back at him, negligent and amused, and then laughed softly.
"Ah, Subaru-kun...you never change, do you? Still so silent and serious. Still such a good-looking young man--even now." His gaze lingered over Subaru's eyes, as though with a certain ironic entitlement. "And are you still waiting, too, for your 'one wish' to be realized?"
"No," Subaru said. "My 'one wish' has already come true."
"Oh, is that so?" The air above the man's shoulder wavered, rising as though with heat. It rippled into an arched shape: a great bird spreading its wings before settling again, closing one clawed foot and then the other gently onto the shoulder beneath it. A small, sourceless wind arose, stirring the hems of their coats and rustling the papers heaped on a bench down at the end of the platform. "Then is it true, as 'Kamui' says, that your wish isn't to kill me?"
Subaru looked for a long while at the man who stood before him, the Sakurazukamori holding the leashed, lethal power of the eagle shikigami as if it were nothing at all. He looked with only one eye, but it was an eye that was fully opened--one that saw the truth clearly, no longer blinded by illusions. The Kamui of the Dragons of Heaven had given him that much, at least.
He understood now that all along he had seen only what he wanted to see.
The man shifted his weight, and the eagle spread its wings once more, lowering its head to peer at Subaru. "If you don't kill me, Subaru-kun, then you'll die."
"You are already dead," Subaru murmured. "You have no power over me."
The man's expression never changed--perhaps a touch of surprise lightened the eyes, and that was all. But the wind rose further, and as it did his skin seemed to shimmer, becoming less substantial as Subaru watched. Tiny pieces began to flake away, none larger than the mark of a fingertip--a few at first, then more and more, rose and red and white rising in a storm on the rushing wind. The eagle launched itself as the black coat lost its shape, billowing outward and then settling into a surprisingly small heap on the ground. The spirit flew straight upward, climbing out of the flurrying flower petals, but Subaru didn't watch where it went. Instead, he gazed at where the sakura wind was fading at last, the air growing still again, the blinding swirl of petals diminishing to a trickle and then to nothing. He walked forward a few steps and looked down at the pile of dark clothing, at pale bones spilling out of it, dull white against the duller gray concrete. This time the Sakurazukamori's dissolution had been real: the force that had animated the long-dead magician's image was gone, vanished like the person that Subaru had thought he'd known...the person he'd thought he'd loved. Staring at the empty eye holes of the skull that lay tumbled on one side, he set his jaw against the unexpected wrench of pain as he remembered--
--his palms stinging from contact with the hard train platform, even through his light leather gloves, the raw ache of scrapes on his wrists and along one cheek as he lay half-stunned and breathless, trying to remember how he'd fallen.
"Are you hurt? Here, let me help you up."
A strong hand slipped beneath his elbow, assisting him as he scrambled to his feet.
"Did you hit your head when you fell? You might have a concussion...please, let me see."
That hand was joined by another, both of them gentle and warm on either side of his face, and they tilted it up and back as concerned brown eyes gazed into his for a long, long, endlessly long moment--
--and Subaru crumpled forward, crossing his arms more tightly over his chest as something inside of it began to break--
With a thin, whistling cry, the eagle shiki swept down along that wind from the night sky to land on the shoulder of the young man standing silent and motionless on the train platform. It fanned its wings, a brief tumult of feathers, then folded them to rest. Turning slightly, the man glanced past the bird's pale breast--expressionless, he cocked his head as though listening to some far-off echo: memory or ghost, the voice of a childlike woman laughing and whispering.
/"People would die without their hearts."/
[Author's note: I actually started writing this story a little over a year before its final release--I got about 96% done, knew exactly how I wanted to finish it, but couldn't quite manage to do it. Recent developments in X, however, have inspired me to complete it. Special thanks to Kristin O. for C&Cs.The quote at the very end is from Seishirou's CD character file, translation by Fuu; the flashback to Tokyo Bablyon-era is my own. Please see my disclaimer page for all other copyright information. As for the title, it relates to many things: the supposedly unlucky number (at least here in the West ), Subaru's place as 13th head of the Sumeragi clan, the fact (as Shanti pointed out) that without Seishirou there are 13 Dragons of Heaven and Earth--and for amusement factor, check out page 48 of X9 for the mysterious floating "13" (thanks, K-chan!) But my main reference was to the 13th card of the Tarot: Seishirou's card, the Death card.]
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