Chapter 4 - Slip Not
that this chapter title has been used before, but I'm afraid it can't be
helped. As for the song, I've never actually heard it, I just grabbed it
because I liked the lyrics. I was originally intending to use 'Here comes the
Flood,' but thought this more appropriate when I came across it online. I'll
have to look for this album someday.
The Incorruptible (4) Slip
We're character actors
from the Tower of Babel
Bewildered, burned out hardly able
To sit astride the high wire cable
It's hard to balance, a little unstable.
Takeru hugged his knees to
his chest and stared into the darkness. The familiar chill of the steel walls
was comforting somehow, after the terrible yawning vastness of the House of the
Lost. The silent walls offered protection, and blindness to the terror, and in
the darkness he could imagine that he was shielded from the radiation of a
bloated dying sun and from the reminder of his own guilt.
He was outside the Kaizer's
room. The boy had not awakened for several hours now, and it had taken Takeru
much of that time to locate the Kaizer's tiny, serviceable bedroom buried deep
within the recesses of the fortress. Carrying the boy down had not been as
difficult as it should have been, and when Takeru lifted him he had realized to
his shock that he could feel the Kaizer's ribs and hips even through the heavy
material of the cape, the bones jutting through skin stretched far too thin.
He was afraid the boy was
He hugged his legs tighter.
Not that it would be such a terrible thing, surely, if the Kaizer were to die.
He was a monster, wasn't he? He deserved to die...after the things Takeru had
seen he could not imagine that the boy was innocent. He squeezed his eyes
closed. No. He was a monster. And the world was dying because of him. Dying
because of the Kaizer It wasn't Takeru's fault. He swallowed hard. Wasn't his
He stood up, running his
hands through his hair distractedly. The doorway gaped out of the corner of his
eye. It was no brighter inside the room; the same faint light that illuminated
the rest of the fortress shone within, a light that could not be increased or
reduced, as far as Takeru could tell. He went to stand at the threshold and
peer within. The bed was draped in faded white sheets and blankets, and the
Kaizer's skin was as pale as someone already dead. The light barely illuminated
his features, made his eyes seem sunk into black sockets. His lips were parted
as his body struggled to breathe, and they were white and bloodless.
now?" Takeru asked the shadows.
He crept forward. The walls
were high and straight here, plunging upward to pierce the levels above, and at
the top a tiny window let the light of the outside world make a small square on
the opposite wall. The only furniture was the small bed, shoved against one
wall, and a table and chair against the other. Takeru came to stand beside the
bed and stare down at the cold boy.
"Are you dying?"
The boy was silent. Takeru
had stripped the Kaizer of most of his clothing, leaving him only the blue and
grey uniform, and now lying as he was he seemed far more human than Takeru had
imagined possible. He seemed ordinary, in a way that was unnatural, and even
his frailty had lost its beauty.
"Why don't you get
up?" he whispered harshly, angrily, ignoring the way his whispers bounced
off the walls and came back to him "Why don't you open your eyes? You
can't be sick. How can you be sick? It's not right--" he broke off, swallowing
hard. "I need--"
He reached out to touch the
other boy, and his hand hovered above his white forehead, barely touching it.
"You have to tell me
the truth. You're the only one who knows. You're the only one who can make it
all make sense. I--I can't leave unless I know, and I have to leave. I can't
stay here. I can't be...I'm not like you.
"I'm not like
He kept his hand where it
was, until he realized with amazement that it seemed to be shaking, slightly.
He swallowed, and his hand clenched, then opened again and came to rest on the
boy's forehead, and then something happened Takeru could not understand at all.
He fell to his knees, hand
still on the boy's head, then pushed it up to shove his hair out of his face,
to let him see his whole face, still and calm as it was.
"You're not going to
leave me, are you? You can't go away--" he clutched at the edge of the
bed. He could see the boy, standing still and quiet and distant against the
water of the House of the Lost. His perfect-ness, his strangeness. He wasn't
even a human being, really. He was better than that. He knew the truth, knew
things Takeru could not even imagine.
He rested his head against
the bed and stared at nothing. The sound of the boy's breathing filled up the
Through broken eyes and
I watched you draw your future tenses
See kisses of flame blow out of your lips
You're back telling me your Apocalypse.
Somebody was saying his
Takeru's eyes opened,
slowly, stickily, and he raised his head with difficulty against the pain in
his neck. Where was he? Why was he sleeping sitting on the fl--
He looked up.
Kaizer said. He was struggling to sit up.
broke off, then scrambled to his feet. "You can't get out of bed--"
"Of course I
can," the Kaizer said calmly. To Takeru's amazement, he seemed to be
managing it, was sitting up and zipping the uniform back up. He looked around
with an expression of mild irritation.
"Where are my
Wordlessly Takeru pointed,
then stepped back hurriedly when the Kaizer swung his legs out of bed and
stood. He looked down at his bare feet and a frown flashed across his face.
"How long have I been
asleep?" The Kaizer asked, as he reached past Takeru to the pile of
clothes on the desk.
"You weren't asleep.
You...you fainted or something."
The Kaizer looked at him
sharply. For a moment Takeru thought that he was going to argue.
"I see," was all
"Are you, I mean--do
you feel all right?"
"Of course I do. And
you still haven't answered my question."
The Kaizer sighed. He
finished pulling his gloves on and reached for his gauntlets.
"How long has it
"Oh. Um, I don't know,
a few hours, I guess."
"Well, come on then,
we haven't got a lot of time." Fully dressed, the Kaizer stood again, and
Takeru inhaled sharply. Against the blue the boy's skin was nearly bone-white.
He reached out a gloved hand and picked up the glasses.
"Time for what?"
Takeru heard himself ask.
"I promised to get you
home. Unless you plan on being here when the World comes to an end."
"You can't--" he
was cut off by the Kaizer moving past him, out into the hall. Takeru spun and
hurried after him.
"Look at you," He
said hoarsely, reaching out to grab the boy's arm and turning him sharply
around. The Kaizer's face registered annoyance, and he jerked his arm out of
Takeru's grasp. He stood back from the blonde boy.
"Please don't touch
"You're not! I thought--"
he broke off and felt his hands clench. "I thought you were going to
die," he whispered.
The Kaizer laughed.
"I'm not dying."
He turned and started walking again, his stride brisk and purposeful. Takeru
stared after him in amazement. Gone was all the gentle fragility he had seen in
the boy prior to the collapse. Takeru's skin burned where he had grabbed hold
of the other boy, but if it had had any impact on the Kaizer, he did not show
it. And he was growing rapidly farther away.
Takeru ran after him.
said, "I was just trying to help."
"I know. Thank you for
that. But I think you overreacted a bit, and anyway--"
"How can you even be
up and around? You look like you're about to fall over any second!"
"The body is subject
to the mind. Failure to control your body is simply evidence of an
Takeru stopped walking.
Better than human.
"What about you?"
he asked quietly.
The Kaizer stopped too, and
What are you going to do? Are
you coming back with me?"
The other boy stared at him
for a long moment, eyes completely unreadable behind the dark lenses. Then the
calmness of his face splintered in a brief, terrible smile that vanished as
quickly as it appeared. The boy turned and walked away, and this time Takeru
did not pursue him.
Don't get me wrong, I'll
When the slowburn sunset comes along.
You've gotta stay the night
I gotta think that you might.
He stood in the Control
Room and leaned heavily on the chair.
His head was swimming, he
could barely stand for the dizziness. His fingers dug into the back of the
chair and he clung to it, eyes squeezed tightly shut. He struggled to inhale,
to drag air into his lungs, but with great difficulty. He couldn't seem to
It wasn't right. He was
stronger than this. Better. He'd gone on this long, in the silence, alone, and
he would continue to do so. He'd survived Kimeramon, survived the purging of
the land, survived the loss of the thing he could not name, and now he would
survive this. He had to.
He shook off the memory of
gentle hands, of being touched. He couldn't bear it. Loss was too great a
thing. His arms were trembling as they supported him and he took a deep,
desperate breath, seeking the strength that wasn't there. It had been there for
so long, though. He couldn't understand. Where had it gone?
hadn't even realized he'd said the name until he heard it, felt himself say it,
the barest vibration at the edge of his lips. He at least had to send the boy
home. Perhaps that would be enough. Perhaps even that little thing would be
sufficient to cleanse his soul, somehow, when there was so little else that he
It would have to be enough.
And he would have accept it. The boy would never stay, not with him. It would
be wrong if he did. It would certainly be wrong, and he would not carry the
weight of any more lives on his shoulders. Not now. Not after everything.
But he had no strength. He
could feel himself slipping, his body failing. The walk from the room below to
the Control Room had sapped his strength completely. He could not continue to
hold himself up by his arms, they were trembling and his hands were slipping,
he could feel his legs failing and feel himself sliding, slowly, inexorably,
"Oh, God," he
redoubled his efforts but could not raise himself up. His legs gave out beneath
him and he folded into a kneeling position, arms resting on the chair, and he
could not bring himself to try again. He rested his head against the cold black
metal. He was so tired.
His eyes closed. There was
darkness all around, and a warmth, the warmth of sleep. He would rest. Finally.
He could feel the darkness rising and the dizziness fading, the sense of
lightness dissolved as he slipped below the surface. It didn't even hurt. It
was sweet and peaceful.
He never heard any
footsteps nor had any other warning, but even as his hands were slipping he
felt himself lifted up. He opened his eyes. The lightness came rushing back,
the dizziness, but he could still make out a face, snow-white and framed by
soft blonde hair. Lips the color of coral.
"You lied to me,"
came the boy's voice, from far away. What was he talking about? He didn't know.
He was lost, he was empty, he could not be touched. He was dimly aware of the
coldness of the floor, on his legs, but also of being held by strong arms, of
being supported. His eyes couldn't stay open. He felt a smile sneak across his
you," he whispered, "Why weren't you here? Why did you let me
"You're not going to
die," said the voice, the soft angel-voice, but who had said anything
about dying anyway? He was drifting, floating far away. He was empty and light,
he was let go, the earth had released him. He drifted. It was warm here, and
quiet. There was no dryness, no blackness, no fire, no pain. There was no sun,
no water, no sky. No Takeru.
He felt himself lifted up.
It was familiar, somehow. The sense of being carried. His eyes opened, briefly,
but the world was spinning and he squeezed them shut again. He heard himself
"I won't let you die.
I won't leave you here like this."
Don't leave me.
We've tried a handful of
bills and a handful of pills
We've tried making movies from a volume of stills
But the words fell like hailstones,
bouncing at our feet,
Covering our feeling with a frozen sheet.
"Drink it. You have
to." He held the cup out, as close to the boy's lips as he could without
actually touching them. The Kaizer was eyeing the water with something less
"I'm really not
"You have to. You need
"I don't want
"Do it anyway."
The Kaizer stared at him
without blinking for what seemed an interminable amount of time, then, with
excruciating slowness raised a hand to accept the cup from Takeru. Eyes still
fixed on the blonde boy, he lifted the cup to his lips and swallowed a tiny amount
"More than that,"
Takeru said flatly.
The boy's eyes closed, as
though he was in pain, but he did as instructed. He sipped at the water,
swallowing the smallest amounts possible, and each time he shot a glance at
Takeru as though pleading silently for respite.
When the cup tumbled from
his hands and the water spilled onto the floor, Takeru was at his side in an
instant. The Kaizer was retching, clutching the arms of the chair. Takeru
grabbed him and kept him from tumbling to the floor.
"I can't--" the
Kaizer moaned as the fit passed, "It hurts...."
"I'm sorry. I know.
But you have to. Please."
The Kaizer was leaning
slightly to one side, in the manner of one exhausted, and he was breathing
"You need to
The dark boy's eyes flew
"No! No food! I
"I'll die from
Takeru frowned. He had
heard stories of people, famine victims, who had gone for weeks, months, years,
with the barest amounts of nourishment. When confronted suddenly with ample
food, they ate more than their bodies could possibly handle, and they died of
it. The Kaizer, though, was not that far gone, and Takeru guessed that the pain
was not so physical as the boy believed. He was terribly thin, certainly, but
there was still flesh beneath his skin.
"You won't die. Just a
He was petulant,
child-like. Takeru pressed his lips together.
"I'm not leaving here
without you. You have to be strong enough to go."
The Kaizer slumped in the chair.
"I'm not going,"
he said dully.
"Of course you
are." Takeru tried to keep his voice light, matter-of-fact, though his
heart began to race suddenly and his mouth went dry. He tried to swallow.
The Kaizer made a brief,
"I am not. I will
not. I'm tired, Takeru. I'm finished. I've already set the course for the Gate.
We'll be there in a little over two days."
"I won't leave you
The dark boy exhaled
"I'm not going back,
"You have to!"
"No. You don't
understand. This is my home, this is my world. I don't remember who I used to
be, in that place. I don't remember my life before coming here. Can you make me
remember again? Then what purpose is there in my returning?"
alive. You're still--"
"All I am is in this
room, Takeru." He raised a hand and gestured weakly at the blank screens
and blank walls. "Leaving would be like dying. You won't be doing me a
Takeru stared at the boy,
at the quiet weariness on his face. He reached up and pulled the glasses off.
The Kaizer blinked rapidly, as though the light was too bright.
afraid?" Takeru asked.
The boy shut his eyes and
"I would be."
"I've been waiting for
this, for a long time," the Kaizer said. He was speaking quietly and
slowly, like someone slipping into a dream. "Something died inside of me,
something got lost. I realized I could never go back. I couldn't go
"I can't go
"I suppose it makes me
a bad person. It wasn't as though I made a choice, though. It was given to me.
And...I never wanted it to be like this. The others--what they endured because
of me, because of my failure...I would take it all back, if I could. If I
could. Lives that were lost....lost...." he trailed off. Takeru was frozen
in place. He had heard the words. Surely that was his answer.
"Did you kill
them?" he whispered, but the boy was silent.
He stood. He could feel
"Are they dead?
They're dead. Are they dead?" He reached out. "Wake up! Don't go! Are
they dead! Tell me!" He grasped hold of the boy's shoulders, moved his
hands up, along his throat, to his face, cupping his jaw in both hands. The
Kaizer's eyes fluttered open, slid half-closed. He didn't seem to be aware of
what Takeru was saying. "Please tell me! I need to know! Don't go away
The Kaizer's lips parted,
barely, and words came out like faint breaths.
die...people...die...Daisuke don't go...they left me...left me...."
Takeru's hands tightened,
he was forcing the Kaizer's head back, forcing it up. Hair fell away from his
face. Takeru could feel his own mouth working in desperation. He wanted...he
"Tell me, tell me please"
he could hear the tears in his own voice, the crackle of pain. "God don't leave
me alone, don't lie to me please I need to know...I
need...you...God...." He fell down beside the boy and his hand slipped
away from his face and he was sitting on the floor, chest rising and falling,
tears that he could not shed heavy in his throat. He couldn't breathe. Couldn't
breathe. It hurt. His chest hurt. He couldn't move. His hand remained where it
was, lightly touching the Kaizer's chin.
Takeru put his other hand
over his mouth and began to sob.
A chance to move, I take
I get cold - you get hot
We look outside, lyin' awake
See birds breaking surface on a silent lake.
"What are you doing up
"I had to
find--I--" The Kaizer looked at him, then away. "Why did you
"Did you want me to
"No, but..." he
trailed off. He was unsteady on his feet, Takeru could see that much from where
he stood. He fought a sudden, traitorous urge to run to the boy and steady him,
or take him in his arms altogether.
"Are you angry at
me?" the dark boy asked.
"No." Which was
the truth. Anger couldn't begin to describe what he felt.
"I'm sorry. I'll
go." He turned.
was surprised at the sound of his own voice. At the coldness.
The Kaizer came.
"You lied to me,"
Takeru said flatly, looking into the other boy's eyes. Their blue-ness was
naked and exposed; he had not replaced the glasses after Takeru had removed
"When did I lie,
"Every word you've
said to me has been a lie. You're lying to me right now. Just standing here,
just being here--that's a lie. You--" his fists clenched. The Kaizer
"Do you want to hurt
me?" he said.
Takeru grabbed him and
shoved him backwards, until his back came up against the glass of the window
and his face was framed by the sky.
Takeru shouted. "You hurt them--you killed them! Daisuke and--and
Hikari--how could you? How?"
The Kaizer stared at him,
blue eyes wide.
"Takeru, I didn't kill
He felt his hands go numb.
He stepped back.
his voice was pure venom.
"No, I--I promise
they're not--not dead--I--I would never, I swear--!"
Takeru's hand snapped out,
grasped the other boy's chin, forced his mouth closed.
"Shut. Up." He hissed.
The boy was shaking. Takeru
could feel it. His hand spasmed where it was, driving his fingers deeper into
"I hate you, I hate
everything about you. I can't believe I wanted to bring you back with me. You!
You're not even human, you're just a thing! You're a cold and heartless thing.
You killed them, Hikari, you killed her, God..." He stepped
forward, still squeezing the boy's jaw, and he was so close he could see the
fear in the other boy's eyes, the white face that had gone even whiter, the
lips that trembled at his touch.
"I wanted to help
you, I felt sorry for you--" Takeru could feel tears burning at the
corners of his eyes. He wanted to scream.
"God, get away from
me." He spun, pushed the other boy, so that he went tumbling to the floor.
The Kaizer looked up, then brought a hand to his chin and touched it
that's the way you see me," he whispered, "I never...I know I've done
t--terrible things, I know that...I don't expect to be forgiven, not even by
God, but...but even with everything that happened I wouldn't--I, I mean I
couldn't...to them, not to them, it, you have to understand--"
Takeru turned away, put his
hand on the glass and rested his forehead on the sun-warmed pane. The sky
beyond had gone from blue to red, a terrible red, and he squinted because the
sun burned too brightly to be endured. He squeezed his eyes shut.
"I wish you would
leave," he breathed.
"--have to understand
Takeru, I couldn't kill another person. Not even...not even if I tried, I, I
did try I'll admit that, but I never thought they'd really get hurt, not badly,
I just wanted to frighten them away and after all I thought they were
trespassers so of course I was trying to get rid of them but I never, I
never meant them any real harm, I never meant anybody any real harm not even
you Takeru not even you."
The Kaizer was sitting on
the floor, face upturned in the blood-colored light, eyes sparking purple, as
though behind their lenses once again. The cape spilled around him like water.
"Then what happened to
them?" Takeru demanded quietly.
"I told you I don't
"Why don't you
"I lost track of them
"What was that thing I
The Kaizer sucked in a
"That thing. Don't
play stupid. You know what I mean."
The Kaizer scrambled to his
feet, eyes still locked on Takeru's face. He clutched the cape around him and
started backing away.
"You tell me! You
know! You were riding on it's head!"
The Kaizer was fully
upright now, and his lips moved, but no sound came out. Takeru saw that he was
swaying and he was across the room in a second, grabbing the boy's arms and
forcing him still.
"Don't even think
about fainting now."
"I don't care."
The Kaizer shuddered. His
mouth opened, but he was leaning forward, into Takeru, and his breath was
coming light and fast. He was close, too close, his mouth was somewhere below
Takeru's ear and he could feel the boy's breath, feel him as he spoke.
"A voice in my
head," he was whispering in a breathy, sing-song tone. "A voice in my
head, a voice that never stopped it laughed it laughed at me it hurt I
could feel it...." he swayed, even though Takeru was supporting him, and
his knees buckled and he stumbled forward and Takeru stumbled back, "It
whispered all the time it wouldn't leave me in peace even when it was dead I
could hear it hear it even when I killed it killed the thing even after
everything it laughed it laughed it hurt me Oh God oh God...."
The boy drew a deep
shuddering breath that caused his whole body to jerk, and Takeru realized that
he was staring at the side of his white throat.
breathed against Takeru's skin.
"What is it?"
Takeru heard himself ask. He forced himself to stare ahead, locked his gaze on
the far wall.
"A thing. Like me. A
thing." The boy giggled. He slumped further, so that his head rested on
"No I, I didn't mean
"A horrible thing. A
monstrous thing that I made, I did, because I'm terrible. I'm
terrible...." He was whispering into Takeru's shirt now, his hands came up
to bunch his shirt in his fists. Takeru felt his own grip tighten around the
"But you made it go
away." The last was so soft Takeru barely heard him at all.
The Kaizer nearly collapsed
again, and Takeru clutched at him, then half-dragged the boy to the nearest
wall, sinking to the ground and holding him tightly. His forehead was still
pressed against Takeru's shoulder and his breathing had become deeper. Takeru
realized to his horror that the boy was crying.
"You came...it didn't
hurt anymore. I wasn't alone...when they left, Daisuke, the others, and I was
alone...it screamed. The walls screamed and then you were there and you made it
go away you made it better and now I'm so afraid."
Takeru licked his lips. He
watched as his hand came up to gently touch the back of the boy's head, to
cradle it to himself. He felt far away, felt distant and removed.
And he realized something.
"You're going to leave
me," the dark boy was saying. The dark boy, who was the Kaizer, who had
the answers. Who knew the truth, yet refused to speak it. He was not perfect,
perhaps. But he was...he was....
said softly, He reached down, gently pushed the boy away from himself. Sitting
like this, the Kaizer leaning in close to him, the boy had to look up to him.
Blue meeting blue. The dark-haired boy raised a gloved hand and wiped his face.
He was beautiful.
"I can do this," Takeru realized.
"I won't leave,"
He leaned down.
He brought his lips to
touch the other boy's, barely, the slightest pressure. He heard him moan, felt
his lips part, the pale lips almost bereft of blood that warmed at Takeru's
touch. He opened his own mouth, forced the lips apart, and they yielded at the
touch, soft as wax. The moan became a desperate sound of pain at the back of
the dark boy's throat. A wordless plea. Takeru pressed deeper, until he could
tasted the boy's mouth, until his tongue connected with the other boy's lips
and then his tongue and he tasted the salt of tears and the sweetness of death
and the fear that the boy had for Takeru.
He pulled away. The
Kaizer's eyes were closed, his hand floated in the air in front of Takeru's
face, them came to clumsily touch him, his cheek and then his lip, trailed down
and fell onto his chest and at the touch the boy opened his eyes again, barely,
and they seemed unfocused. His lips had not closed.
"You have to tell me
the truth," Takeru said quietly. The Kaizer's eyes closed again and he
made a small animal noise. Takeru touched his white face, touched his cheek
with his thumb and traced the line of his jaw and a pale blush blossomed, like
petals spilled on snow. The boy breathed his name.
and it was a sound of agony and desperation.
He kissed him on the chin,
so that the Kaizer's lips were wanting, and heard the boy moaning, "Please
don't, please, stop..." even as he turned his head and exposed the perfect
flesh of his throat, which blossomed at Takeru's touch from white to rose.
"Stop please, God, stop," and then he was silenced by Takeru's mouth
closing again over his, and this time there was heat from both of them, and the
Kaizer's pleas became a long soft sound that trailed off into a gasp when
Takeru pulled away and began to lip at his throat again, then down to where the
uniform denied him access to the naked flesh.
He bit the boy in
The Kaizer's eyes flew wide
and he cried aloud and Takeru pulled away, suddenly, and stared at the pink
mark his teeth had left.
What the hell am I
across Takeru's brain, followed almost immediately by, This is the only way.
It's not because I want to.
But the Kaizer was pulling
away from him, eyes fully opened now and a mixed expression of shock and pain
on his face. Before Takeru could think to stop him, he extracted himself with
surprising force, gathered the cape around himself, and fled the observation
Takeru stared after him but
could not bring himself to follow.
But don't get me wrong,
I'll be strong
When I'm back on the Isle of Avalon
Don't get me wrong, I'll be strong
When the slow burn sunset comes along
You've got to stay the night
I've got to think that you might.
A/N: Do not be fooled.
Appearance are deceptive.
Hi-ho! Two more chapters