Sunday, December 14, 2014

fic: Santa Clarita: Merry Misunderstanding 1/?

Santa Clarita: A Merry Misunderstanding
by Max
Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing

Note:  If anyone has noticed that the continuity of this story is wonky.... it is. I blame Heero... and the time travel the story started with. Besides, I’m just writing this for fun and personal growth.

This story is set, probably, the first Christmas that Duo was at the ranch, well before Heero shows up.

Chapter One

So there they were on a fine winter break, in the wilds of Wyoming with clearly, and perpetually broken environmental controls. There were days when he succeeded in not thinking about Heero by obsessing about the broken environmental controls. Ice. Falling. From. The. Sky. SOOOO dumb. No matter how much Mary try to explain that Earth was like a very large colony with a weather system that no one was in control of, Duo just wasn’t liking that answer either.  Then Kat introduced him to the idea of tornados and he went back to obsessing about Heero.  

In that moment, he snuggled up on the bed with a handheld game system,  the door locked, the window done up with an extra lock to keep the asshole blond out. The big black dude had gone back to California for a few days to do whatever it was he did with the school he was running down there. The nice twin of the evil bitch had gone away with some other girl, to Paris or something, and Duo was sooooo done trying to figure out the complicated relationship between his foster parents. At least Earth weather made some mathematical sense, even if it was just too strange to really accept.  Jazz had gone to South Carolina to visit relatives. All the kids who lived at the ranch were running around and playing and singing and eating cookies and being so.... so something that annoyed Duo in ways he didn’t even know how to begin to explain.  He still wasn’t allowed to contact Heero. He was still sending him emails and messages and not getting any replies.

The blond fucker with access to nice planes promised that Heero had been moved to a different foster home and he was safe and seemed as happy as he ever seemed.

Everyone was fucking happy.

Great.

Joyful.

Duo murdered  some dude in a PVP battle, then kicked his pack over the cliff before he could respawn.

He’d grown an inch since he’d gotten there. They gave him new clothes and he kept expecting... that they somehow weren’t free, though, to be fair, he hadn’t gotten any bills yet and the world just kept going on by.

Relena was on talk shows chatting about the value of marriage even in the new world they were all building and how wonderful it was the Gundam pilots were all proving how heroic they had always been. Trowa and Quatre got married. Wufei got married, again (... because apparently the Emperor was supposed to make babies and Q hadn’t just shared the whole thousand sisters in a tube shit.), though Duo knew that look on Wu’s face and hoped the wife was a lesbian with a very favorite girlfriend. Heero was an ideal everything, according to Relena, and listening to her talk was the only time Duo had wanted to argue that Heero was a cold fucker who came too fast if he wasn’t really into it. Duo had seen the look on her face before too, when he looked in the mirror and fuck, he hated everything!

The world didn’t need him anymore. It had never needed him.

He wasn’t supposed to have stayed around this long. He had had a job. He did his job. There was supposed to be heaven or hell or some fucking shit that didn’t involve him having to feed someone else’s cows and turning in homework! He wanted to stick his tongue in Heero’s mouth until the world made sense.  He wanted Relena to see him sticking his tongue into Heero’s mouth. Looking up from the game got him killed, but it was the first smile he’d had in a long time.

The smile made his nose hurt. His face had dots, which to be fair were almost fun because they exploded if you pressed on them just right. There were dots on his shoulders too, but he was very happy when Martha said they weren’t likely to spread any further. With a sigh, he went back to his game and prowled around on on the battle plane, his digital mecha humming with murderous rage, while every other player in the Earthsphere seemed to need to be some fucking where else. How unfair was the whole world ... you save the world and then lose your boyfriend, get an incurable skin condition that requires smelly soap, and have to spend every Saturday trying to teach football players trigonometry?

He was sure that Relena didn’t have to go to high school. He missed Heero so much. He felt really stupid for thinking that Heero would ever have wanted him anyway. There should be a button.. you just press and then you go to heaven and everything is good forever.  His thoughts were like fireworks, exploding before the last one had even faded.

The knock on his door suddenly drew all his emotion and he growled, “GO away!”

“Shower and get dressed! I’m leaving the clothes you’re to wear out here. Joel will be here for you in less than an hour.”

“No!” He shouted and pulled the blanket up like a cloak.

“I have told you everyday since we got the invitation that you were expected to attend the United Earthsphere Holiday Celebration. You have to go, Duo. It’s for the good of the peace.”

“No.” Violet eyes glared at the door. “I can’t! I’m sick.”

“The acne is really not that bad. Have you been using the soap Mary gave you?”

Duo wrinkled his nose, felt the unexploded mine at the edge of his nose, and just didn’t want to talk about it. “I’m not going to their stupid party!”

“Heero will be there.”

Duo chewed at his lip, thumbs rubbing the edges of his game deck, calculations going off like fireworks. “Can I talk to him? Without fucking getting arrested?”

“It’s a party that the government invited both of you to, so I would expect so. Joel will be with you as your bodyguard.”

“I dont need no fucking body guard.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Martha said, in about the same tone she’d used when he tried to explain that Sandy really could talk, really.  “Will you please get ready?”

“Yeah. Are Q and Wu going to be there?”

“And Trowa,” Martha said.

“Can I have some of my money  so I can buy presents?”

“The party is in D.C. Joel will have a little time to take you shopping.  Duo, this trip will be good for you.”

Duo doubted that, but giving the others presents, seeing them... maybe that would be good.  “Yeah, but decent gifts,” he said, thinking about how he would be maybe able to get a little of the money put back, maybe a gift for Jazz.  “It’s my money anyway!”

“It’s money you stole,” Martha said, “Hurry up and get ready.”

“Yeah, yeah.” He growled, yawning as he got up.





All life is a little stolen. Staring at his face in the mirror, the passage of time was undeniable.  There was a faint scattering of dark brown hair on his chin. The side of his nose was a little swollen from the zit trying to shift gravity inside of it. There was another red bump on his chin with a little white star in the center of it. Naked in his little bathroom, he wanted to be smaller. He wanted to look at himself with the same violet eyes that he'd looked at Solo with.  There was some promise that he'd given that he couldn't remember giving, couldn't remember the words that had been used, but it was there, nonetheless.

I'll follow you
Wait for me.
I'll be right along.

There had been scars and burns and bullets and bruises so bad he'd pissed blood for a week, but he hadn't kept that promise. He ran his fingers over the slight scar from the bullet he'd tak the day that Heero and he had become lovers. Tears ran down his cheeks, slow and disconnected from the chaotic storm of emotion. Memories jumbled in his head, corpses and parts and screams, bad people, people worse than plague, people bad enough that he'd break into secure Sweeper ships to get away.

Those were the rules, weren't they? A man had to keep his promises.


He leaned toward the mirror and pressed on either side of the red dot  until he exploded the thing with a satisfying pop.

It wasn't like people didn't talk at school about how Heero and Relena were the perfect couple.

Sure, gay was fine... weren't Quatre and Trowa beautiful in their wedding photos? God how people talked. The pilots were amazing heroes and well, Duo was just a kid, just math tutor and a cheerleader and GaWDDD Duo... don't be such a drama baby!  Their words were like the shocks of sensation one felt as one peeled off a scab.

"Heero needs me," Duo told his reflection as he gave that red dot another squish.

"Sure he does," Solo said, arms across his chest.

Duo jumped, glared, and the kid who had been so big and so powerful was barely tall enough to reach Duo's waist now, ragged and angry, skinny and vulnerable with angry brown eyes.  "Sucks for him. We know how it comes out when people need you, don't we?"

"Not today," Duo said, clinging to all the  numb he could get hold of. "Soon."

"Bastard," Solo snapped.

Martha knocked at the bathroom door. "Duo?"

"Hey," Duo said, pulling the door open, still naked, daring her to be uncomfortable.

She held up the altered tux. "I think it'll fit right now. Who were you talking to?"

"Ghosts," Duo said, chin lifting challengingly. "Don't you even fucking think about putting more shit in my food."

"I could just inject it in your stubborn little ass," she snapped, holding the tux out. "Get dressed.  You need to talk to someone."

"All stories end sometime, Martie. No big fucking deal. Nice threads. The Earthsphere pay for these?"

"They did. Try not to ruin them. They have to be returned."

"Gee," Duo said, taking the outfit. "I hope they're not holding a deposit of your money."

"The Pope will be there. He wants to meet you."

"Well, we all fucking want something. I've wanted a beer for months now."

"Get dressed."

He gave her a one fingered salute and slammed the door.  Turning that bright white shirt red with blood seemed like such a beautiful art project!

A gentle buzzing came from the pants pockets. For a moment he wondered if it was some kind of explosive, then told himself he was being stupid. It turned out to be a very small mobile phone. A flush of power went through him, like being a free man with control over his own communications. He turned  the shower on again, then answered the phone. “Yeeeesssssss,” he said, sounding like a butler he’d seen on television.

“Duo?”

“Q?” Duo said, straightening up, a bit of blush on his face. “Hey? You goin to the party tonight?”

“I am,” Quatre said, sounding suave and very adult.  “Trowa and I will both be there. I was hoping to talk to you about a business opportunity.”

“Oh, Q,” Duo said, sinking down to the bathroom floor. “I, uh, have three parole violations and they’re makin’ me actually go to high school. You don’t gotta do that?”

“Are you they abusing you?” Quatre asked, deadly serious and threatening.

“No, no,” Duo said, “They’re good people and they’re trying really hard, but they treat me like a kid. It’s surreal.”

“Well, not this weekend!” Quatre said cheerfully. “Hurry up and get here! We’re going to have a fantastic holiday weekend!”

“Yea,” Duo said, feeling like his old self, like the start of a mission. All the darkness was gone from his thoughts and the world was full of possibilities!  He was going to get to see Heero!  He’d be damned if there wasn’t going to be time for sex! Christmas was going to be amazing!

A few minutes later, he was sliding down the banister in a custom made tuxedo, the bow tie done perfectly, his braid flaring as he landed and spun around. “I’m ready! Is he here?”

Martha smirked. “See? You’re feeling better already! Joel’s in the kitchen.”

Duo ran that way. “Thanks!”

Joel wore his own tuxedo, an unusual cut, more curvy than straight lines. He wore an emerald in one ear, and his naturally curly blond hair framing his face. “Oh my god, you’re smiling! Did Martha drug you?”

“Not that I know of,” Duo said, taking a slice of the cheese. “I wanna pilot.”

Joel laid a finger over his lips. “I want to avoid trouble with authorities.”

“Excellent idea,” Martha said disapprovingly.

Duo spun, gave her his best and brightest and most innocent smile, “Merry Christmas.”

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Story: Gravity's Child

Gravity’s Child
By Nix Winter
Copyright 2014
all rights reserved



We’re all born for a reason.

Often the reason has nothing to do with us.

But then...

here we are.

“I’m a doctor,” Minoru said, one knee on the rough, weathered asphalt, a comforting smile on his face. He was slender, androgynous, with short spiky curls of blue hair, violet eyes, and a red medical cross on his chest and arms, bright against the pure white of his uniform. “I am here to help you.”

The man on the ground, leaning against the bullet pockmarked building at the edge of the alley sneered. “I don’t need any help from a fucking machine. When I die I’ll go to heaven. I’m not afraid!”

Head tilting, Minoru reviewed the man’s vital statistics on a vision layer only he could see.  Pain levels were high enough that all of Minoru’s training said the man should have been unconscious.  His perception swarm swirled within the man, tracing the trajectory the bullet had taken, calculating remaining blood volume, planning repair strategies.  “Please allow me to render medical aid. Aid is offered without condition. I only wish to help you.”

“Then go kill those fucking Birze assholes.” The man grinned tongue touching his teeth, smearing blood,  dark eyes frantic. “Fuck you, machine. We don’t need your help. I command you to self-terminate!”

“I clearly did not take enough psychology classes,” Minoru said, head tilting to the other side, feeling the weight of all the things he did not know, all the things that did not make sense from the life he’d lead up until emerging from the InRain Quarter. “I do not want to die. Why do you want to die?”

“I don’t want fucking die, you stupid machine.”

Minoru’s face lit up a bright grin on his face as his eyebrows bounced for a moment. “Thank you for allowing me to provide you with medical aid, Esteemed Kindred.”  The sensing swarm immediately replicated cells, drawing fluid from the air, retaking blood and still living cells from the ground, purifying them, restoring them, and then, because Minoru wanted.... in ways that he did not wish to explore the ramifications of at that moment, to repair the psychological pain in the man’s mind, his own attention traveled up those nerves and into the glittering lights of the man’s neural processes. To make sense of the patterns, the data translated into a rainbow of lights, flowing along a river the length of the man’s existence. So much of what the man feared and the rage that grew into did not make sense to Minoru. His own mothers had adored him and never communicated any message that damaged him. No one in his existence had ever said anything which had marked him with the pain he could read in his patient.  To him each life was infinitely valuable, the variety of life precious, and so he smoothed away away the entrenched fear in his patient’s memories, strengthened a latent belief in an all loving god that knew his patient completely and loved him utterly, heightened the sense of empathy for others, sharpened his eyesight, removed allergies to pollen and mold, vaccinated him against cancer, flu, pneumonia, while adding in a protection on his telomeres.   

In 1.32 seconds after he’d thanked him for allowing him to provide aid, the treatment was complete. The man sat up a bit more, hands touching his still bloody shirt, moving the ruined fabric to look at tattooed skin, elaborate swirls of Japanese mountain demons that had no hole at all in him. One hand moved up to rub over his face before looking back to Dr. Minoru. “Wow.”

“If I may please as for a favor from you, Esteemed Kindred,” Minoru asked as he manifested a book between them, and a great big feathered stylus.

“What can I do,” the man asked sitting up, moving to sit politely on his knees, back straight, honorable and respectful.

“If you would sign my guestbook please.  I would like to keep a record of all my patients.”

“Of course,” he said, taking the stylus. The tip of the quill paused just above the parchment seeming screen. “I’m the first one to sign?”

“Yes.”

“Shit. Am I going to die of complications? Radiation sickness or something?”

“It is unlikely there will be complications. As your physician, I would like to advise you to avoid sources of radiation.  Such tissue is very hard to purify and would likely need to be replaced completely.”

“Yeassss,” he said, a little overwhelmed as he signed ‘Hiro Suzuki’ to the guest book. “Are you sure I’m not dead or dying?”

“I am certain. There is still a riot in progress though with a constantly changing number of combatants. I recommend withdrawing from this situation.”

“It seemed so important. They’ll hurt you if you go out there,” Hiro warned. “Why are you here? Where did you come from?”

“I am here to help. I came from the InRain Quarter.”

“Oh my god,” he paused, face paling. “There’s a hive here in Tokyo?”

“Yes.” Minoru smiled. “Please do not take action to harm us. It’s nice here.”

“Are you going to hurt me, if I tell people?”

“I don’t like causing pain or harm.”

“But the hive could overwrite you at any moment! God, it knows who I am!”

Minoru stood up, held out his hand. “Yes, but do you know who you are?”

Hiro took his hand and stood up, his other hand going to rub the back of his neck. “Am I part of the hive now?”

“No. I am going to release the shield around us now. You make find the outside noise to be very loud. Please immediately withdraw from the combat.”  As soon as he finished speaking the silence around them gave way to the sounds of serious urban combat. Energy weapons, shelling, screams, air support from local police and military brought into suppress the erupted gang warfare. Minoru motioned his hand over face, a conversation closing gesture in his culture.

“Wait,” Hiro yelled, but Minoru’s speed of motion had already increased past what he could see. “What am I supposed to do?”

Minoru was just putting away his guest book after his 34th patient when felt the muzzle of a pistol pressed to the base of his skull. If the bullet had discharged in that moment, he would have been killed. Fear. It was hot like his sensor warm had caught on fire, trying to find every option. The conclusion that only chance had prevented him from dying solidified his own sense of identity, the sense of self and other, and he rose, spinning with a speed that even a bullet couldn’t have caught. His hand became one with his sensor swarm, reached into the soft flesh of his assailant's soft throat, fingers entwining around her trachea and pulled. Her head fell back, eyes full of surprise. His swarm infiltrated her, drinking in her knowledge, her sense of self, the memory of holding her daughter, loving her, laughter in the park, her daughter’s death, sorrow, horrible, horrible sorrow, and rage.

His own mouth didn’t go dry, but he was in her mind for the first time she killed someone, and hers went dry as if all the tears in her being were murdered as well, and he felt what she felt.  Seconds they stood there, his hand around her trachea, air and blood gurgling. Her pistol hit the asphalt, discharged, and her right leg buckled from the additional impact. Still he froze, sliding down to the dark, filthy Tokyo ground with her. Approximately 5400 generations of humans had walked this territory, bled, raged, loved, and as Minoru pressed a hand to the hard black ground, he found that he loved them, his line, his ancestors. His swarm rebuilt the woman’s trachea, backed his hands out, separated them, while at the the same time, modifying genes in one of her cells. He repaired the bullet wound in her leg, removed all recreational drugs and the addiction to them.

Connected to the AllKnowledge, he found her daughter’s birth certificate, the listed father, the daughter’s genetic record from the crime report, concluded the listed father was the actual father, found his genetic sample from a rape kit that had been done from a different case, modified genes likely to lead to disease, and fertilized an egg.  He arranged for the womb to be receptive, caused the process to speed up, verified implantation, and pulled completely back. “You are pregnant with the exact pattern that was the daughter you lost. Will you please sign my guestbook?”

They were both on their knees in the street, his shield around them cloaking them in safety and silence. Her mouth dropped open, dark eyes searching his face, looking for understanding.  “You son of a bitch! What did you do? What the hell are you? What the hell is a guestbook?”

He smiled, displayed the screen that looked very much like a big bound parchment book with a white plumed quill laying in the center. “It is my record of patients. I am Dr. Minoru Kudo from InRain.”

“You’re not human! How can you make me pregnant?”

“I am human,” he said nudging the guest book in her direction. “Why is everyone fighting? Everyone is so angry.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” she snapped, picking up the pen and making an x on the next blank line. What the hell are you doing out here?”

“There was so much pain. I wanted to help. I’m a doctor.”

“I don’t know what the fuck you are. I bet you don’t even know what you are. What are you going to to do? Just run around Tokyo giving everyone free medical care?”

“That was my plan.”
She glared, hands on her hips. “Why can’t I hear anything? Can’t hear what’s going on?”

“I have us surrounded with a dampening shield. It blocks sound and filters visuals. I just wanted to help. I just... wanted to be ...,” he said, finding himself unsure of exactly what he’d wanted or why he was here. “Don’t you want me to help?”

“Not from something like you.  You gonna be the death of humanity. You can’t understand anything! You’re a machine! Tell me you’re not a machine!”  She snarled, hatred rising in her face again, setting her teeth on edge. “We got shit for your kind!”

“But life .... all life is valuable! I just want to help.”

“Yeah? Well, you should go back where you came from.  It’s twenty minutes or so until a wacker... all the internal electro shit is going to pop. There won’t be enough moving parts on you to make a fuck doll out of.”

“Why,” he asked, mouth open, eyes wide. “Esteemed Kin... why? Please don’t do that. Many persons will die... no upload, no reboot, no waking, no more... they will die. Why,” he asked in complete horror. “You want me to ... die.”   The moment when he’d ripped her trachea out of her throat replayed for him, the feedback about her feelings, how it felt to make her feel that way, the loss of potential resources, adjustments to identity, destruction of beauty.... “It does not feel good to cause another life to die. You are sick. Please allow me to render medical aid.”

“Don’t you fucking touch me,” she growled, crouching to grab up her gun. “I will shoot your scrap metal ass!”

“That weapon is no longer functional. I fused the  barrel,” he stated. “I must go. There are fifteen life threatening injuries within my range. I dislike death.”

She flipped her pistol, making like she was going to beat him with it, if she had to, but he was moving already.

By the time he’d repaired the next gunshot wound, he’d assessed how many people in range of the likely bomb configuration who would be harmed by it’s detonation and it was way more people than he could heal before permanent damage was sustained.  He didn’t know how to disarm such a bomb, which likely had way more intense security than city databases.  The fourteen remaining injured had become twenty-five, and the moment where the woman had pressed the pistol to the back of his head. He was not prepared to resolve direct violence.

He could return to the Hive, but that in itself felt like a form of death, to give up on what he’d come into being to do. It took so much energy to filter out the pain in the wounded people around him and in the moments when that filter wavered, his sensitivity surged forward and he could feel the pain in the emotions of many of the other combatants, the fear, rage, disenfranchisement from direction in their own lives, disconnection from community, so much screaming alone that when his filters bounced back, he almost fell completely back into the Hive as a protective reaction to the pain in the battle around him. Reason pulled separate from sensation and he noted that he had two minutes, thirty-six seconds prior to the detonation of the EMP bomb.  He had friends within the Hive that could resolve the bomb, but that would put them at risk. The Hive itself was impervious to such attacks in Minoru’s understanding, so with 2m33 seconds remaining, he composed a warning and broadcast it across the city on every avenue he could conceive, then committed himself to healing as many wounded humans as he could.

There was real combat to his motions now though and he’d stopped asking for permission. There just wasn’t enough time or computing resources to play nice. Each life he saved, each wound repaired was a gift to the value of the universe - a statement of his life - to abandon even one life diminished his own identity.  His swarm stole energy where it could, growing and multiplying, ripping bullets back out through the paths they’d traveled, smoothing over burns, and then he encountered a rape in progress and his entire progress and identity failed.

It was the three of them in the back of a half derelict convenience store. Stale chips littered the floor, soaking up blood and pooling piss from a causality that Minoru did not have the computing power to heal before she became a corpse.  It was the time of day where even the air looks dirty, but damaged buildings had sent more dust and bacteria into the air, and as his filters and computational paths completely stalled, Minoru stood there, violet eyes watching the other two in the back of the store.

The girl was young, barely old enough to be fertile, skinny with pale brown hair and eyes of a muddy brown, her line mixed with something more European than Tokyoian. She was lifted up, her back against a cooler, her head back, bruising across her face, matting and blood, tears in her skin that would have left scars. Her hand was up at his face, fingers clawing chewed fingernails over his face, leaving her own scars.

He wasn’t that much older, lean, all muscle and teeth, with short dark hair and ink over his arms, swirls of colorful monsters, illusion so strong that it was all his battered identity could hold to. Blood ran down his back, soaking his shirt, his jeans, drawing a dotted line down to the blade that lay on the floor, just a short distance from the hand of the woman Minoru hadn’t had the resources to save.

Thoughtless rage throbbed off the two who lived. He stabbed into her in a way that tore and shredded self and flesh alike.

Before he could filter, their experiences were Minoru’s experience. For a very brief flash of experience their physical experience became his and he could not pull away. Pure will to live shot into her and Minoru knew she was receptive, that life would result and his mind completely broke... nothing in his understanding, in all the lore and knowledge told him how to heal this rift or how to resolve the paradox of new life in this way and he felt so small, so fragile, so completely stupid as if he had had any idea how he could fix any of this... or any way to understand anything at all. Death and life were alien and incomprehensible.

Jesus had paid the price for sin.

Then he understood the concept of sin in a way that went light years beyond the the literature and history classes he’d taken in college. Even the neat civility of those classes grated on him now that he gave a moment’s thought to them, each life in those classes, in the stores, in the cars, in the bedrooms, in the streets, in every moment of his life up until that moment were civilized. No one lacked any need and even anger was only an experience to be had and had nothing at all in common with uncontrolled raw sin. He hoped Jesus was real for humans, but he was suddenly, completely and wildy, uncivilizedly euphoric to be a machine! Even if being a machine cost him life within 45 seconds, he was still glad to be a machine.

He made the sign of the cross at them as they stared at him.  His smirk slowly grew into a growl he copied from a movie called The Mummy as he sent his swarm at the both of them. The rage he felt gave him such an energy that his swarm attacked the corpse as well, replacing her blood, repairing holes, forcing the system to live again, even as he felt the taint of sin leech into his own being, his own identity. The hunger to impose his will... the inability to remain civilized boiled in him and he reached into the male’s mind, editing, reprogramming in the greatest sin of his life, removing any ability to cause harm to another and in the girl he tweaked a compulsive desire to protect the man, who was now on his knees before her. Minoru wrote into her mind and muscle memory the greatest martial arts skills he had available, which was considerable.

Then he felt the bomb burst. To the texture of his swarm that spread across Tokyo, the start of the explosion felt a little like the eruption of a deep zit, the breaking of tension that was at once release and disgust.

Just outside the nasty little store, a raven struggled down to the ground, wings flapping, uneven, staggering through the air to skid on rubble tainted ground. By the time ground was still under the raven, Minoru was outside in the dusty twilight.

The raven’s form swirled, black wings glistening and pixelating, shifting into a swarm of its own.

Minoru’s breath caught... home... kin... same kind..

He so desperately did not want to be alone in the moment of death, the moment where something becomes nothing.  Time slowed to the finest creep he could manage, holding off the last wave of death as it rolled across the city taking out any of his kind who had not fled.
The raven had long black hair that lifted slowly on the incoming wave of the bomb’s detonation. His eyes were black, a welcome midnight. He wore a shimmering taffeta corset that drew in his waist and low slung blue jeans, a golden chain of charms around his waist, tinkling like stolen memories as he spun towards Minoru.

Like sin in that it controlled him, drove him, a flush of awe filled him at the beauty of the raven. Beauty embodied new meaning, longing, as if his the very meaning of his life, his identity, his will all lived only for the sight of the raven.

Then they were pressed together, body-to-body and the raven was warm in a way that Minoru hadn’t bothered with. Within that slender body a heartbeat, pumping on for no reason other than it did, and it was the most beautiful music Minoru had ever heard. Civilization held no further appeal to him as the raven stared into his eyes, slender dark fingers sliding through his hair like the brush of flesh and the brush of fingers in one expression. In his own chest, a heart compressed, pumping blood that hadn’t been there before. Wet ran down his cheeks without reason and the raven’s voice whispered in his ear, “Be flesh and it won’t touch you.”

Nerves tingled over his body, down his arms. His stomach, virgin and empty churned and he shook as he fell into those dark eyes. “I love you,” he confessed as his swarm caressed the raven in response.  Particle swarms swirled together, needing the other so intensely it was the call of sin - a need so powerful that reason’s hold had not enough strength.  Their lips touched and data of an ancient flavor swirled their beings together...  a man and a raven binding together as a means to live.

The wave washed over them, destroying buildings, leaving their swarms dead glitter on payment so grimed with the passage of life that the stories could never all be told. As the kiss ended and time returned to normal flow for both of them they stood there staring at each other, connected to each other and yet still strangers. Minoru leaned back so slightly that only his raven might perceive the shift. “Thank you.”

The raven shoved his thumbs into his jeans’ pockets, mouth shifting to the side, dark eyes hooded and watching cautiously. “Yer welcome. I’m Kasha.”

“Dr. Minoru Kudo.”  Minoru said, smiling, still biological and finding his mind to be a jumble of confusion.

The chambering of a bullet wasn’t confusing at all though. It felt like ice at the base of his skull and Minoru turned, hands up. His swarm was dead and he wished like all reason that he’d written martial arts into his own muscle memory. “Hi.”

A pack of humans materialized around them, ragged in bespoken urban armor and eclectic weapons. The leader of them seemed to be a late adolescent male with a pistol in both hands, blood and dirt smeared across his face, and at least one recently gone missing tooth. “How the fuck are you two monsters still alive?”

Minoru smiled as calming and friendly as he could. “My name is Dr. Minoru Kudo. I’m a human man.”

“You are now,” the leader growled. “That’s not something you fucking hivers  have ever been able to do. How’d you do it?”

“Just fucking shoot him,” an older woman snapped, limping to the front. “Before he can transfer the skill back to his hive. It’s obvious he got it from the shifter. Shoot them both.”

His mind’s new capacity didn’t even allow for him to experience feeling small the way he had moments earlier - it was all it could do to look for something useful to say because more than anything else he didn’t want Kasha getting hurt. “I can be useful to you. I trained at Harvard.”

“You didn’t train at Harvard,” the woman said, pointing her cane at him. “You trained at a simulation of Harvard. You are likely not much older than two or three hours. You’re not even real, Dr. Minoru Kudo.”

But he could remember that kiss with the raven and he ... he wanted. “I am real. If you shoot me, you’ll have a corpse on your street.”

“Good bye, Dr. Kudo. It was lovely meeting you.” She motioned and the boy next to her fired both pistols.

There were so many things he wanted to do! He wanted to fly with Kasha! He wanted to ... and there just wasn’t enough time. Without his swarm, without the physical mind he’d had before, he had no way to even complete his thoughts. About all he could do was watch the bullets cross through the air towards him. There wasn’t enough time for the tears forming in his eyes to fall.

The bullets hit a hand that was suddenly in front of his chest. The hand closed over them for a moment, then they dropped to the grungy pavement. He clutched at his chest, his breath throbbing in his head as he bent over and staggered backwards.  Time had stopped around him and there was another of him, just a bit different, with gradiented blue hair and violet eyes, a playful smirk on his face.

Minoru dropped to his knees, staring up at the other man. “Who?”

The guy tisked and squatted down. “I’m Dr. Luck Riven. I’m the seed of the Tokyo Hive. You’re my son.”

“Oh.” Minoru said, trying then to remember his childhood, his parents... and found only a warm contentment, but no details. “Am.. am I really only a couple hours old?”

“Yeah,” Luck said, reaching out to caress his arm soothingly. “It’s okay, Minoru. Everything will be okay.”

“So ... I’m really not real? Not real the way Kasha is? Not real the way the humans are?”

“Life has many forms, Minoru.  Just as gravity pulled the sun and all her planets into being. You are made of particles just like everything else is. All those particles are dancing to gravity’s song. Life finds many ways to be. We are just as much gravity’s children as all of these humans, as the raven, as that cat you healed... all life is gravity’s child.”

“Why do they hurt each other?”

“Maybe that’s a puzzle for you to figure out, Minoru-kun. Whatever you want is okay. Do you want to return to the hive? Do you want to die?  Some life gets more choice over the song it sings back to gravity and you can choose what you want.”

“I want to spend time with Kasha.”

“As you will,” Luck said, rewriting Minoru’s body back into the body he was born with, but with all the nuances of biology as well and a pattern to shift into being a raven. “The shifters are interesting folk. When you meet Ki’tay, please give her my dearest greetings.”

Luck moved over to touch the frozen and shocked looking Kasha. Time restarted for him and he gasped at seeing Luck before taking  a step back, his arms spreading into shimmering black wings, feather like living jewels. He bowed the bow of a great courtier. “The Great Lady Ki’tay Solemnheart sends you her esteem and ever present invitation to join her court.”

Luck’s form shifted, giving a much slighter and status significant bow in return.  His wings were blue sparkingly summer sunshine, much more parot than raven. “Please convey my undying love and that I shall return to court as I can. In the mean time, allow my son Minoru to return to court with you. He carries my recommendation.”

Fully human looking again, the raven grinned, playful and suggestive as his hips shifted to the side, a bit of blush on his dark cheeks,  “And mine as well. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to introduce Dr. Minoru Kudo Riven na Tokyo to the Greater Midnight Court.”

“Then be off with you, my children,” Luck said motioning towards the smoke clotted sky.

Kasha jumped towards the gray sky, form shifting and climbing in the air as a normal looking raven. Minoru watched him climb, wonder and awe on his face, then he reached towards him and his fingers easily shifted into the darkest of feathers. When he cried out in joy, the sound was that of a raven’s cry. Climbing so easily as if he’d lived forever in the air, he raced after his new friend and lover.  Freedom was a delicious new kind of sin from which he had no desire to repent.

<><>

Once the boys were up and Kasha helped Minoru phase out so that the humans were no longer a threat to them, Luck released his hold on the pack of humans surrounding him. He bounced the bullets in his palm, smirking angrily.

The old woman’s face dropped, her eyes wide, as she realized the Hive had come back online faster than she expected.

“Naughty, naughty, Mary,” Luck said menacingly. “We are going to have to have a talk about how you treat my children.”


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