The Incorruptible
Chapter 4 - Slip Not
by ainokitsune

I know 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 Not

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 dying.

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 fault.

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.

"What happens 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?" he asked.

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.

Takeru scowled.

"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 you."

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 room.

Through broken eyes and contact lenses
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 name.

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.

"Takeru," the Kaizer said. He was struggling to sit up.

"You--" Takeru 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 clothes?"

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. fainted or something."

The Kaizer looked at him sharply. For a moment Takeru thought that he was going to argue.

"I see," was all he said.

"Are you, I mean--do you feel all right?"

"Of course I do. And you still haven't answered my question."

"What question?"

The Kaizer sighed. He finished pulling his gloves on and reached for his gauntlets.

"How long has it been?"

"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 me."

"You're not well."

"I'm well enough."

"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.

"Listen," Takeru 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 undisciplined mind."

Takeru stopped walking.

Better than human.

"What about you?" he asked quietly.

The Kaizer stopped too, and turned.


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 be strong
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 breathe properly.

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?

"Takeru." He 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 could do.

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, down....

"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 face.

"I remember you," he whispered, "Why weren't you here? Why did you let me win?"

"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 moan.

"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 this."

"Takeru, I'm not--"

"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 than enthusiasm.

"I'm really not thirsty."

"You have to. You need it."

"I don't want it."

"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 of water.

"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 hard.

"You need to eat."

The dark boy's eyes flew wide.

"No! No food! I can't--"

"Why not?"

"The pain...."

"I know."

"I'll die from it."

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 little rice."

"I'll die!"

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, angry gesture.

"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 here alone."

The dark boy exhaled quietly.

"I'm not going back, Takeru."

"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?"

"You're--you're still 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 favor."

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.

"Aren't you afraid?" Takeru asked.

The boy shut his eyes and smiled faintly.

"Not really."

"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 back...."

"I can't go back."

"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 himself shaking.

"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 from me!"

The Kaizer's lips parted, barely, and words came out like faint breaths.

"Things 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 needed.

"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" 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 a shot
I get cold - you get hot
We look outside, lyin' awake
See birds breaking surface on a silent lake.


He turned.

"What are you doing up here?"

"I had to find--I--" The Kaizer looked at him, then away. "Why did you leave?"

"Did you want me to stay?"

"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.

"Wait." Takeru was surprised at the sound of his own voice. At the coldness.

"Come here."

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 them.

"When did I lie, Takeru?"

"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 looked down.

"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.

"You lied!" 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 them--"

He felt his hands go numb. He stepped back.

"You--" 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 his jaw.

"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 cautiously.

"I'm sorry...that 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' 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."

He turned.

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 know."

"Why don't you know?"

"I lost track of them after--after everything--"

"What was that thing I saw?"

The Kaizer sucked in a sharp breath.


"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.

"What thing?"

"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.

"Kimeramon," he 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 Takeru's shoulder.

"No I, I didn't mean that--"

"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 boy.

"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 didn't hurt anymore. I wasn't alone...when they left, Daisuke, the others, and I was 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....

"Hey," Takeru 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 whispered.

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.

"Ta..keru...." 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 frustration.

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 doing? Flashed 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 deck.

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 left!


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