Angel Hunt and Streifen in AU
C H A P T E R O N E : P A R T 01
Nine rings shift in unison when I swing my blade around, the cry of metal melodically piercing the air as a hot knife would through butter. Gleaming, curved metal twists in an arch with only the slightest, well practiced flick of my wrist, immaculate silver splattered suddenly with specks of dark crimson when the razor sharp weapon finds purchase in skin, bone and sinew through protective layers as if they aren’t even there. My opponent crumples downward onto the blood stained surface beneath us even before I’ve fully straightened and what light, fire and anger he had in his golden eyes is gone moments before he’s hit the ground.
Flicking my sword free of new stains in a movement I lend hardly any thought to I spare a glance to my side, a smile passing over my lips when a blur of white blonde streams behind me, my companion striking another as easily as I did my own with a weapon that glitters like pure crystal before he moves onto the next. Our eyes meet momentarily and I see early dawn hues reflected in the same golden mirrored in nearly every other person on this battlefield. I see short layered strands of snow white hair tied high on my head and the fluttering tendrils of long pink bangs plastered by sweat and another’s blood to features not quite my own. I’m given a knowing grin that I return before we’re both in action once more, our bodies moving in opposite directions towards the others that flank us –a dance we’ve practiced together many times over the years and one we’ve all but perfected.
Two different beings from two different races, yet we move and we fight as if we were made to do so together since day one.
This battle and the countless that have come before are not mine but for him I have fought them, just as I will continue fighting them until he needs me to fight no more. I gave this man my heart many years ago and it’s because of this that I am where I am –striking, maiming, and killing any and all who are against him, doing my best to free him of the obstacles he faces in any way that I can. I fight for the one I love. I have lived all these years with him and where he goes, I have promised to follow. What he needs of me, I will always give. I’ve risked everything just to be with him and I’ll continue risking it until the very end.
I would die for him if he asked it. Hell, I would die for him even if he didn’t ask it. He owns me completely, thoroughly… mind, body and soul.
Fire explodes somewhere in the distance and I pay it no more mind than I have in the past as my sword finds purchase in another’s flesh, nor do I bother to pause for the screams and smells of burning flesh that soon permeates the very air. There was once a time that the one who wields that fire had turned it upon me, believing me to be the same as those who robbed him of a life, of a loved one and forced what he now uses so easily into him against his will. There was a time that he and the person I know stands at his side the way I stand at the side of the one I adore would not see me any differently than those on this field, but that time has since long gone and as it’s been for many years now, we both work towards common goals that aren’t ours simply because our hearts’ needs outweigh all else. Honestly though, I’ve never held it against him because of all those out there, I’ve always been able to understand his point of view. He isn’t the only one those he hates robbed of a life, nor is he the only one that’s been left stained by their hands.
My people are assholes, plain and simple, and they deserve the hate he once directed at me. The Maker knows that I give them more of their share for what they did to me alone.
I look up to find two before me and I nearly scoff in response. We aren’t of the same people and it’s a mistake this race seems to make time and time again when we confront one another –they, just like my own kind often assume themselves superior and can’t seem to fathom what I already know to be true. They fight just as we fight, synchronized, practiced and as liquid as a well oiled machine, but I have the advantage because my limits do not fall in the confines of their rules. I’ve fought in battles thousands of years before any of them were ever born. I was created to be a soldier, a perfect instrument of death and even though I’ve spent many years fighting against that purpose, when it comes down to it there are some things that are impossible to completely deny.
One dies at my hands as he fails to complete a strike meant to wound me and the other snaps the instant it happens, her movements suddenly erratic in a way that makes the fury in her hits merciless and dealt without constraint. This isn’t the first rage I’ve seen in all these years however – whether I be on the receiving end of one in the battlefield or the subject of it much closer to home. All structure and reasoning flies out the door when this happens to them, leaving only the raw, pure emotion of despair. It can be deadly for most, but unfortunately when facing someone like myself; it’s a weakness to be exploited all on its own. I’ve fought enough of these people to know what I’m up against and how to counter it, just as I’ve allowed myself to be torn apart by it at very hands of the one I love more than once in the past.
Yet despite my apt counters and even faster counterstrikes, she begins to gain ground as she lashes out at me over and over, magic thrown when she can muster it that I too must block. The person I killed must have been her partner from the way she comes at me, and part of me wants to feel sympathy for her loss while all of me understands the grief that consumes her now. To lose the person you love in an instant is something I couldn’t even bear to think of myself.
It’s why that for as much as I understand her, I allow myself no time for her sorrow and I think little when she too is stricken down. I’m here for that exact reason and she and her partner die so I can keep my own.
I take only a moment to recover because I know that a moment is all I can spare, and breathing heavily in the aftermath I turn to find my companion while the scent of blood, sweat, fear, fire and death hangs heavily in the thickened air. I find him as I always do, his lithe body locked in a deadly dance with another and for the first time in years, I make a decision that I’ll forever regret. Perhaps it was the fury of the woman I just killed that caused it to happen, or the moment of empathy I couldn’t help but feel for her plight, but those few frantic seconds I spent watching him would end up costing me it all.
It happens in that instant, the screech of metal and the gleam of silver flying out off my blindside and in one, horrifying moment before the hit, I lose sight of the one I love. Like an explosion the world around me flairs impossibly bright and I’m blinded, the resulting ringing deafening in my ears. White spots my surroundings as I stare in disbelief and I realize a second later that I’ve stopped moving, the sword in my hand suddenly too heavy for me to hold. I can see his mouth open and twisted but I can’t hear anything he’s saying, let alone the guttural ground shaking scream that comes from him the second my weapon clatters onto the ground. I blink, suddenly finding myself unable to pull in a full breath and it’s as if there’s a restraint wrapped around my chest making it impossible for me to take in any air. I’m only vaguely aware that he’s running towards me, only vaguely aware that another of his kind drops at my side, only vaguely aware that the glimmer of crystal has taken off that person’s head. Blood rises up from within and soon, it’s all I can taste in my mouth –warm, metallic like copper and it’s choking me, but for some reason I’m unable to spit any of it out. The world spins ruthlessly back in and with it, the pain begins to burn me somewhere deep inside. It’s then that my eyes pull from my loved one and drop down to find a serrated piece of metal protruding from my ribs, the tip of it slowly ticking in tune to the heart it’s pierced and the warmth of the blood that seeps from my armor feels almost soothing in its quell.
My legs give way a moment later and that’s when everything begins to rush back into focus, the pain sharpening with every breath I labor to take. Hands familiar and comforting are there to catch me and I can’t help but smile in response. If there’s one thing I’ve always been able to count on it’s that this man, this amazing, beautiful creature will always be here to catch me when I fall.
I hear his voice calling me but the only response I can give comes not from my mouth but from my throat when the foreign object is wrenched from its place and like acid splashed on tender skin, the hole that’s left burns me straight down to my core. I feel the wind, his breath, and my own blood breaking against it as I would ocean waves crashing upon the shore. And then fire, so much fire, scorching every single minute nerve.
Heal yourself, I hear him tell me, his demands turning quickly into frantic cries.
I stare up into gold eyes blazing but the blood in my mouth prevents me from saying anything I want to say in return. Instead I pull inward for a moment and inside, I desperately attempt to do what he’s told me to do. He continues asking me, pleading, and then demanding that I do what I’ve always done in the past without fail. But with a sudden onset of dread I realize my body isn’t listening and I think my heart comes to terms with it a second or two before my brain has a chance to catch up. I know in that moment that there’s too much damage done and it simply cannot comply.
My body it seems has realized it before I have, that I’m already dead and there’s nothing at all I can do to stop what’s begun to pass.
I want to lift my hand up and touch those beautiful features currently twisted in rage and despair. I want to smile at him and tell him how sorry I am, and that I never meant for it to happen like this. I wish to kiss him one last time and say that while I know I promised to be with him always, for what I’m about to do, I hope he’ll eventually find a way to forgive me for failing in that promise now. I want to tell him something I know he already knows but I’d like to relay to him just the same – that I love him with every small fiber of my now broken body and I have cherished every second I’ve been gifted at his side.
But I can’t because my mouth isn’t working, my voice is gone, my limbs have become lead and the world that surrounds us has already begun to slip from my feeble grasp. He pleads for me to stay with him and I can do nothing but deny him in silence and watch as he slides farther and farther away from me, his cries dulling to a comforting hum and the halo of light that’s always surrounded him in my eyes suddenly so bright that it burns every last sensation away.
Oh god ~~~~, I think I really fucked this all up…
White eyes flecked with tiny streaks of pink snap wide open, heavily panted breaths spilling into the otherwise still darkened air. Sliding a single hand up, the Angel threads his fingers into wayward strands of sweat dampened snow, his mind racing and his heart aching even as the freshness of the dream begins to slide into obscurity.
Furrowing his brows, Jun stares at the intricate tiling of the ceiling far above for a few long moments while the disorientation he feels continues to fade, the acute pain he felt in the dream soon dulling and the screams so loud and piercing becoming little more than a quiet background hum. With a sigh, his eyes close briefly and he does what he always does by attempting to grasp onto what little of the images that still remain. His attempts are futile however and within seconds, the crispness is all but gone. A soft touch at his jaw line rouses him and he reopens his eyes, turning his head to the side to find a pure white gaze staring at him through the darkness in sleepy concern.
“Bad dream again?” the taller Angel asks him, to which he gives a small nod in reply before pulling his hand from his hair and turning over onto his side.
Strong arms encircle him as his face sinks against a bare chest, and he inhales the other man’s scent before closing his eyes once more, while soft, careful fingers begin stroking through his long, damp hair. He always feels that there’s something not quite right about the older Angel’s scent after waking, but the comfort his superior gives him never wavers despite these shows of constant, continuous weaknesses on his part and he finds himself grateful to Haniel for it just the same.
The dreams have been the same since they began. Every night he finds himself in that battlefield, killing people he’s never seen before and fighting next to someone he doesn’t know. Every night he sees himself through someone else’s eyes and every night he’s haunted by them… those gold eyes –only, he knows they aren’t truly gold but blue, bright and piercing, deep and dark, as dark as the midnight sky. He doesn’t know how he knows that since they are always golden in his dream, but somewhere in his heart he knows it just the same.
Every night he’s haunted by that man’s screams, haunted when he calls his name. And every night he calls a name in return, a name he can never remember the moment he’s jolted from the dream. The moment he dies is the moment he wakes and it’s in that moment that the name is completely taken from his mind.
Haniel has told him that the dreams mean nothing, that along with the specks of color in his eyes, they are simply a side effect of his failed portal travel. That sometimes when one isn’t disciplined enough as he obviously hadn’t been when he attempted it, memories can be distorted and their minds will play tricks by way of jumbled, nonsensical dreams but they, along with the taint of color he now carries, will fade in time.
But as he begins to slip back under the curtain of blackness that awaits him, and just as it’s been almost every night since the dreams began, he finds little comfort in that knowledge. Nor does he find much comfort in his superior’s embrace because even though the sharpness of it is dulled, his embrace feels nothing like the one he knew in his dream. He knows that when he wakes again, this haunted feeling will have left him as it always does, but it too gives him little comfort and he’s left as usual, at the mercy of it until it’s gone.
Taking another breath in, Jun buries his face closer, his last memories before sleep takes hold again are that of the fingers combing softly through his tussled hair…
Orange and magenta stain the sky as dawn breaks over the floating island of Creperum Nova, the tinted sunlight softly filling the large room to chase out the lingering indigo shadows. Etched in the shades of morning, the Incendia Seeker stands before the floor to ceiling window, his pitch-dark eyes trained on the mountains in the distance. One hand is wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee mixed with cream, a match to a second cup which sits on an ornate wood and glass case just to his left. The lid to the case is opened to expose the beautifully crafted broadsword within, nine rings set into a polished and gleaming blade.
Later this afternoon he’ll make his way into those peaks, to the place where the forest drops into a narrow, secluded valley. A waterfall leaps off the cliff to feed a perfectly blue lake below, where deer and other animals often come to drink. It’s peaceful and undisturbed and when he can leave his responsibilities in the twin fortresses, he goes there to sit among the tall trees that rise along the edge of the bluff and visit the carved stone that houses all that remains of the one he loves most in the world.
As he considers the impending visit, the focus begins to slide from dark eyes along with the color, black streaks suffusing the skin around his eyes and cheeks as the magic takes hold. The landscape bleeds into spots of muted color, and slowly Zephyr’s head begins to sink down until his forehead rests against the window, the memory imposing itself without warning…
Sparks flare to life as steel meets shimmering crystal, cascading to the trampled grass underfoot without notice, the screeching howl lost in the general noise of battle. With a grin, I bear down on the shorter Dark, forcing him to commit his entire frame into keeping me in place, watching the strain of it awaken on his sweat streaked face. There’s no doubt about which of us is the better fighter, I’m stronger and faster, and while he’s putting up a good front, that’s all it really is. Shoving him back, I step in close, one hand closing on his shoulder even as he’s stumbling. Sunlight catches the sparkling flecks in the blade of my sword as it slams home, passing through leather and cloth to shred flesh and tissue, crimson splattering his armor and mine alike. The golden, glaring eyes widen, the light already beginning to dim even as I tug the weapon free and step away.
The other man collapses and I turn, catching a glimpse of a familiar presence at my back, our gazes meeting as I wipe the blood from my face. I can’t help but to grin at Jun, flirtatious despite the fact we’re standing amidst the carnage of a battlefield, just like I can’t help finding him to be insanely sexy with his stained armor, sweat dampened hair, and crimson-streaked sword. If it were possible I’d stop time and take him here and now right in the middle of everything. I’d lay my claim right alongside the marks I’d left last night, marks that show the world to whom he belongs. He returns the grin, likely knowing exactly what I’m thinking after thirty-five years together and completely accepting it. Then he’s in motion once again, the melodic chime of nine rings resonating softly, a striking counterpoint to the screams and clashing weapons that otherwise permeate the air.
For a second I watch him, sliding through stances with the fluidity of water, graceful and beautiful and deadly. We were born to do this, he and I, different cultures and for different reasons, but we are both warriors, and nowhere is it more apparent than on the field of battle. What we do, we do well, and those in our path will find their ends.
A pair of Dark face off against the one I love, and as I move to engage one of them, a tall, slender woman intercepts, planting herself in my path. I recognize her vaguely, someone I’ve glimpsed at various holidays, but never actually met. From the way her brilliant golden eyes attempt to burn through me, however, you’d think I had broken her heart. Her flaxen hair is streaked with as much blood as her twin short swords, her face serious as she sinks into a defensive stance, beckoning with one of the blades.
I accept her invitation, and our swords begin a dance of silver and crystal, opening maneuvers meant to test one another. She’s fast, but the quickness comes at a price, sapping her endurance, and I settle into the fight, remaining on the defensive while she wears herself out with strike after strike. Throughout it all I continue to grin–there’s something about battle that makes me feel so alive in ways that almost nothing else does. The harmony of blood, magic, and sweat work against my senses like the finest club drug, stringing them out to a level just short of painful and leaving me with an unparalleled clarity. This is the reason I was created, this is where I excel, honing my skills since I could walk, and I was always an excellent student.
Somewhere in our exchanges, I realize that Jun is no longer behind me, but before I can reach for him telepathically, the other Dark’s sword grazes my thigh, a scorching line of fire that forces me to hold my focus on the one before me. Sliding my free hand to the hilt of the longsword, I whip the blade in a high arc that she easily dodges, but when I shift for what she believes will be a reverse swing, I pivot instead, keeping our bodies close and presenting my back to her while leaving my weapon in place. My true intention hidden from her view by my body, I drop my right hand and bring the sword around in my off hand, catching her completely unaware. I didn’t grow up with the best tactician our people have seen in generations and not learn a thing or two. The glimmering blade sinks half its length into her unprotected stomach before I wrench it free, crimson trailing behind to splatter against the grass underfoot.
She stumbles away, already forgotten as silver flashes off to my side, the glint of sunlight on the edge of a long knife, and then I hear the unmistakable sound of metal punching through hardened leather, a soft gasp, and the tinkling of nine rings that is abruptly silenced as the weapon hits the ground. Even before I turn there’s a part of me that knows these sounds will haunt my dreams for as long as I live. Jun stands beside two dead bodies, the broken blade of the knife standing out from his chest just beneath his heart. Blood pumps steadily from the wound, a river of scarlet that shows no sign of slowing.
I’m in motion almost before I even realize, moving on autopilot to close the distance between us, my sword cutting through the air to neatly sever the neck of the Selestarri at Jun’s side, his hands still wrapped around the hilt of the broken knife. Golden eyes meet mine in that very last second, and the stranger smiles, gleeful despite the heavy toll I extract. My attention is skewed, however, as Jun’s legs give way and I dive to catch the other man. Knees skid in the muddy grass, my arms easily taking his weight, cradling his slender frame as though he were made of the most fragile glass. I call his name once and then again when he doesn’t respond, a heartbeat ticking by before slightly unfocused pink eyes lift to meet mine.
“You’re okay, Jun, you’re okay,” I reassure him, and although I don’t want to admit it yet, I’m reassuring myself as well. I wrap my hand around the broken blade, apologizing before yanking it free, heedless of the deep gash it scores across my palm. The sound that wrenches from Jun’s throat tears at my heart, his beautiful features twisted with pain. “You can heal yourself,” I tell him, my voice strained with worry. “Do you hear me? Heal yourself.” The wound continues to flow freely, and I press my injured hand against it, a band aid against a crimson flood. “Now,” I demand. “Fucking heal yourself.”
But nothing happens. No surge of energy, no seamless knitting of tissue, no change at all except the slowing of his heart beneath my hand. I beg him then, desperate, pleading with him to heal, to fight, to stay with me, but it’s becoming horribly clear that Jun is no longer able to do any of those things. “I love you,” I whisper raggedly, switching to accented Angelic. Tears blur the edges of my sight and I’m scared, more scared than I’ve ever been. “You can’t leave me.” The slight tint of scarlet stains his lips, but pain tinged, dawn-drenched eyes remain locked on mine. “Please, Beautiful, I need you.” I need him like I need air to breathe. He is the one who holds my heart, my reason for waking each morning, the very best part of my life. He is my everything, and without him I’m nothing. Without him I’m empty.
None of my words make any difference, the chest beneath my shaking hand falling still, the light in the eyes that hold mine fading out, his body heavy and unresponsive. A moment later snow white wings unseal, the feathers stark and pure against the bloodied ground. Numb, I stare for a long minute before gathering him close, hugging tight as I will the life back into him, begging the gods or fate or whatever divine powers exist to give him back to me, offering myself in exchange, but as always there’s only silence.
Raw and broken, my heart shatters with an almost audible snap, driving despair down deep into my core even as senses shift into hyper clarity, the sounds and smells of the battlefield crisp and pure in a way that borders on unnatural. Spots of white and gold cloud my vision, thickening rapidly into a haze, and with shaking hands, I gently kiss Jun one last time before carefully lowering his body to the ground. Climbing to my feet, grief hits the blood and magic that saturates the very air and rage wells up, frigid as the coldest winter storm. I offer it no resistance, more than willing to let it free if it will blunt the pain.
Frost snakes across the trampled grass at my first shaking step, glittering ice that sends those around me, enemies and allies alike, backing away. The magic trapped behind my barriers strains for release and I comply, a smile spreading across my lips, cold and detached, as it lashes out, dropping the closest Selestarri in a welter of blood. I’ll kill them all, every last one of these motherfuckers, destroy their lives as mine has been destroyed. This land will drown in blood so deep it never surfaces.
With barely a thought lent, I teleport to the closest Dark, the shimmering longsword appearing in my hand a fraction of a moment before I drive it into his chest. Blood splatters against my face and neck, thick and steaming in the suddenly cold air, but I pay it no attention, instead dropping into another teleport to repeat the process with the next person, and then the next, and the next…
The gasp that seizes his throat echoes throughout the large room, coffee splashing over his wrist to scorch pale skin. The white and gold haze that had overtaken his sight in his memory resolves into smeared color before slowly focusing on the lake and forest that spread into the east far beneath the window. Panted breath fogs the glass and Zephyr straightens to his full height, surprised to find his fingers pressed against his rapidly beating heart. The old hurt wells up strong and thick, a cloying, suffocating sensation. Pulling his hand away, he stares down at the thick white mark across his palm before dropping his arm to his side. They say time heals all wounds, but some will never mend, instead striking again and again with pain as hot and fresh as the first day.
Tucked into the wide bed set in a niche at the side of the room, the shift in the Seeker’s stance and the startled sound draw the attention of the dark-haired man. Abandoning the light blankets and the heavy, leather bound book in his lap, Innic rises from the bed he shares with his partner, long strides quickly closing the distance across the tiled floor. Sunset-tinted eyes sweep over the other Selestarri, taking in the long, gradated white-gold and black hair, the second coffee that is always prepared but never drunk, and the opened case holding the nine-ring sword. Without a word he steps up behind his best friend, arms wrapping around the slightly taller frame, his face sinking against the soft material of Zeph’s shirt.
Outside the window, the dawn sky is beginning to fade to blue as morning takes hold. A flock of birds soars past, dark wings speckled with splatters of white, a few carrying fish from the lake in their talons. “Ten years…” the blonde finally whispers. Ten years after the day that shattered his heart. Ten years after the foundation his everything was built on crumbled to dust. Ten years of pain and loss and heartache that never eases, it just grows colder and deeper, ingrained fully in every inch of his body. The arms wrapped around him squeeze gently, imparting a comfort he can’t feel, that he hasn’t been able to feel for a long time.
“Where’s your head at today, Zeph? Do you need me to stay close by?” The questions are gentle, the concern genuine and justified, but it irritates him all the same, grating on nerves already unsettled by the memory of Jun’s death.
He shrugs out of Innic’s arms, stepping to the side and taking a moment to carefully close the lid of the sword case before setting the half empty cup of coffee beside its untouched twin. Turning away, fingers latch onto his wrist to halt his movement, the tips pressing against the scars that span from wrist to elbow. Narrowed dark eyes, their color only beginning to return, meet their orange counterparts, cold as the midwinter sky. “Not there, not right now at least.”
Wrenching his arm from the other Selestarri’s hold, Zephyr spins around and stalks toward the doorway of their room, his frigid demeanor settling into place with an almost audible click. “I wasn’t successful the first three times,” he snaps, his tone bitter. “Seems like I’m destined to live, whether I want to or not …”