Sophia Prester (sophiap) wrote in presterpress,
Sophia Prester

Assorted fics for 31_days

Title: BFF
Day/Theme: 3. I don't know why I can't resist it
Series: Bleach, Sandman
Character/Pairing: Ikkaku, Yumichika
Rating: PG-13

To be honest, there were times when Yumichika kind of freaked him out. For a long time, it wasn't something Ikkaku could easily explain, not even to himself. Yeah, he knew Yumichika was keeping some sort of secret about his shikai--which kinda frosted him, since he'd told Yumichika all about his bankai--but that wasn't it. The guy had been his best friend for years, but there had always been something there that wasn't quite...

...well, something about Yumi didn't always sit right with him, and damned if he knew why.

For a while, he wondered if it may have been that there were times when, if Ikkaku hadn't known him, he wouldn't have been able to guess if Yumi was a guy or a girl. In fact, there were times when Ikkaku had to remind himself that yeah, he'd seen Yumi naked, and yeah, he was definitely a guy. But then again, sometimes he'd look at Yumi his mind would pick up all the cues and would start cooking up vivid memories of tits that weren't really there. Five minutes later, though, Yumi would move in a certain way, or his eyes would narrow, and Ikkaku would wonder why the hell anyone could ever mistake him for a girl. Yeah, it was really fucking strange, but it didn't bug him. It was just something he'd noticed over the years.

Later, he thought it probably had something to do with the fact that Yumichika was so damned beautiful that even men Ikkaku knew were straight would take a second or even a third look as Yumichika walked by. Hell, he'd even caught Zaraki giving the guy a considering look once or twice before covering the slip with bluster and an order to do another twenty sets of drills.

Ikkaku thought maybe he should be worried about the kind of rumors that would go around about him for hanging out with such a gorgeous guy. But he just wasn't worried, not even when he tried to make himself be. Not only did the idea simply seem completely fucking ridiculous, he never heard a single hint of even the tiniest rumor about him and Yumi, even when Ikkaku had passed out drunk with his head on Yumi's lap. On the other hand, all it took was for Renji to say hello to Yumi just a little too friendly-like, and the next day half the Gotei 13 was saying they heard the two of them were banging like bunnies. Strange.

But then one day, Ikkaku watched--really, truly watched--how Yumichika turned his attention on an attractive new recruit(funny, how those gray eyes could look almost amber when Yumi was in the right light and the right mood) and the young shinigami had instantly become enraptured. Gray eyes glinted gold, and while the mark was utterly entranced, Ikkaku shivered because he saw something like the glint of a knife in Yumi's smile.

Now that he'd noticed it would see that smile again, over and over throughout the years. He would see more people fall to that sharp, perfect smile. Iba. Kotetsu. Hisagi. Dozens of others. Men and women. Anyone Yumi decided he wanted. All his little 'favorites.' And Ikkaku had no doubt that he, too, would fall if Yumichika wanted him to.

But he never did. Ikkaku could sling an arm across Yumi's shoulders, and there was nothing more to it than companionship. He'd seen Yumichika naked before (and vice versa) more times than he could count, especially when they were living rough and on the run, and there was never any hint of interest, no blood rushing to the head, no twitch in his cock, no embarrassing dreams, nothing. They'd even slept tangled up together against the cold or because there was only one futon for them to share, but nothing ever happened besides sleep and stolen blankets. He just wasn't tempted, and he didn't know why. (But once, when Yumichika had done nothing more but smile and nod at Hisagi in passing, Ikkaku would have bet a week's wages that Hisagi was about to take Yumi then and there in the middle of the bar, right in front of everyone.)

"Why is it you can get all these people? Hell, when you're really working it, you got more people panting after you than you know what to do with" Ikkaku finally asked, bitter and frustrated after a long dry spell in the sex department. "And why the hell ain't I ever been interested? Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's just, well..." he shrugged. "It's something I've wondered about, is all."

"Let's just say it runs in the family," Yumi said, turning that devastating smile on Ikkaku for just a second. And even though it was the middle of winter, there was the barely perceptable scent of summer and peaches. "Blood will out, they say, even after death," he said a little sadly as both smile and scent faded, "but you're the best friend I've ever had, and I don't want that to change, so let's leave things as they are."

Ikkaku nodded. "Sure. I can live with that."

And so he did.

Title: Agony Aunt (sequel to "Not your average Kelly Girl")
Day/Theme: 4. spitting in a wishing well
Series: Buffy, X/Tokyo Babylon (some xxxHolic)
Character/Pairing: Anya, Subaru
Rating: PG

Anya sat across the table from the cute young magician (green eyes to die for, but unfortunately everything about him screamed gay, gay, gay) and listened to his story, nodding encouragingly every few seconds. Wata-whozits brought some cocoa as ordered but had scurried off again before she could ask him to make some popcorn, the little shit.

"Wow," she said, slamming her fist into the palm of her other hand, "that is something else, Subaru--that's Subaru as in the car, right?--I mean, that is really something. Metaphorically ripping out your heart and then literally punching your sister's heart right out of her chest? That takes a lot of sty... I mean, that's terrible. Simply terrible!"

Subaru had told his story in an utterly bleak, affectless style that Anya thought should be accompanied by a little cartoon raincloud hovering over his head.

"And so, I was hoping you could help me, Anya-san," he said, staring down into his cocoa and mini marshmallows as if he wanted to sink beneath them and drown in chocolatey, gooey goodness.

"Absolutely!" Her smile was bright and cheerful in a way that would have sent many Sunnydale residents (and these days, Wata-something) running for the hills, but it didn't make a dent in Subaru's Gloomy Gus attitude. "It's good to have a good old-fashioned case of vengeance while I'm here playing subsitute in Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe," she said, pronouncing each of the silent E's. "Of course, I generally only offer my special services to wronged women, but hell, you're feminine enough that it sort of counts, right? So, how would you like me to take care of this Seishirou bastard for you? Flaying? Transformation into something small and squishable? Or do you want it to be a surprise? Oh! I know! He was a vet, right? I'll turn him into a puppy and then you can have him neutered!"

Subaru actually looked at her. The expression on his face seemed to be surprise, or at least, surprise-flavored depression. "No... nothing like that," he said, his voice hinting at something like desperation. "I want him to kill me."

Anya blinked. "Excuse me?! You want him to...?" she gestured at him to complete the sentence.

"Kill me."

There was a moment's pause as Anya processed this. Then her face grew stern and serious.

"Why that's the stupidest thing I ever heard!" she snapped. "That's not how it works, Subaru. You're supposed to want him to suffer, not have him puncture one of your essential life-sustaining organs and waltz off all 'mwa-ha-ha, my work here is done.'"

Then her expression gradually softened, and she leaned forward and laid a comforting hand on Subaru's shoulder. "I'm sorry... I... You..." she looked him in the eye, took a good look at what was really there. "You were dropped on your head as a child, weren't you?"

Now it was Subaru's turn to say "Excuse me?!" Even the punctuation was the same.

As he sat there, boggling, Anya took a quick read of the situation. Her eyes widened, but at least she was able to keep her jaw from dropping too far open.

"Never mind! It'll all be taken care of." She spoke quickly and flicked her fingers towards the door. "Go on. Shoo. Go out there. Find that Seishirou person. It'll all work out. Trust me!"

Subaru looked at her warily as he got back to his feet. "Do I, um, owe...?"

"Nope! Not a cent--I mean, not a yen. Scoot!" She had to get him out of there before he officially used the "w" word in conjuction with Seishirou and put her in a real pickle. "Go on, go deal with your apocalypse. It's not quite a Sunnydale-level apocalypse, but you've got work to do, so get to it!"

Subaru left the shop with surprising eagerness. Maybe he did give a damn about saving the world after all.

Anya sipped at her cocoa and pondered the nasty little spell that Emo-boy's sister had cast on their old friend. "Too bad D'Hoffryn never thought to recruit her," she muttered. "That was a classy piece of work, there."

Who was she to mess with the work of an artist? In fact, she should probably make sure that Subaru's and Seishirou's paths did cross, and that Hokuto's spell got triggered. It would be a shame to see that kind of quality work go to waste. True, it didn't quite grant Subaru's wish, but still...

"Oh, he'll thank me for it," she said confidently. "Some people just don't know what's best for them."

Title: True Stories
Day/Theme: 5. that dream is your enemy
Series: Sandman, various
Character/Pairing: Dream, Destiny, Tsukino Usagi, Faramir, Kakyou, Buffy Summers, Dorothy Gale

Everyone knows that Dream and Desire have long been at odds. Some trace it back to an incident in San Francisco, and a fool's bet. Others, to a cruel joke that took place not long after the dawn of time. Whatever the truth (or truths) of the matter may be, however, the story of their enmity is well-known.

Less well known is a deeper rivalry, one whose rancor is so well hidden in veils of propriety and custom and respect that it is likely that the two participants do not even realize there is a rivalry.

The dreams of Tsukino Usagi are filled with crystal palaces, fancy dresses, and handsome princes. Her dreams sparkle. They are full of gold, and silver, and pink. She has the wings of an angel and she can fly among the stars. Everyone is happy in her dreams. Everyone is content. But nobody, least of all Tsukino Usagi herself, is free. The truth of her dreams is as much a prison as it is a promise.

There are times when the work of the Endless overlaps. In the days when Destruction was still among their number, his work often went hand-in-hand with that of his eldest sister. Despite Desire's loathing for its sibling, its seeds were often planted through Dream's workings. But there is one pairing that runs even deeper than those casual, almost coincidental overlaps.

Sometimes, when Dream stands at the Gate of Horn, the gate through which all true dreams pass, his eyes narrow so that the stars in their depths are veiled in darkness. There are many different levels of true, he thinks. A story does not need to have happened in order to be true. Some things are true even before they happen.

Faramir wakes from his dream, and knows that it is no mere nightmare. The Horn of Gondor is sundered. His brother is dead. As much as he might wish it were not so, he knows it is true and he is not surprised when the two halflings tell him of Boromir's fate.

The nature of Dream's kingdom is that it is infinitely mutable, with every story spinning out into a million possible directions. The impossible and improbable are commonplace. But in Destiny's book, everything is not just described but prescribed; everything from the beginning of time to its end is laid out exactly how it happened.

Kakyou stares out into the ocean of Hokuto's dreamscape. In another part of his mind, he is watching the earth shatter over and over and over again. There is no changing it, just as there is no changing the fact of Hokuto's death, or of Kotori's death-to-come. There is no point in trying. And so, he watches the ocean and waits to die.

And so, as he sends another dream spinning out through the gate, Dream remembers what his youngest sister said: there are things that are not in Destiny's book.

In a dream, Buffy Summers foresees her own death at the hand of a master vampire. Later, she foresees the death of her lover. The dreams both come true. And yet, they do not.

Despite their contrary natures, the two siblings often work together, the mutability of dream harnessed to the inevitability of destiny.

It is a situation that is not to Dream's liking. And so night after night, he sends out dreams of things that will never happen but are nonetheless true.

A young girl awakens after a storm, and though the dreams eventually fade, her gray Kansas home is now rainbow-colored, and the dusty road that leads into town is paved with gold. She can still see the courage, the bravery and the kind-heartedness of the farm workers, and it makes them as great and glorious as kings. It doesn't matter that her destiny is to lead a quiet, sensible life. She walks with firm purpose down the dusty road that destiny has set out for her, but to those who know how to look, her plain leather shoes seem as dainty silver slippers, and she's dancing down a road of yellow gold.

It is more true than anything written in Destiny's book.

Title: Hanami
Day/Theme: 6. under the dreaming tree
Series: Firefly, Tokyo Babylon
Character/Pairing: Mal, Simon, River
Rating: PG

Mal had a bad feeling about this job from the get-go. Amaterasu wasn't a wealthy moon, but you wouldn't know that to look at it. Everyone was so damned polite and proper, with manners so polished you could damn near see your face in them.

In Mal's experience, people like that generally had something to hide--quite a few somethings, most times. It was enough to make him have second thoughts about the job, but they needed the money. Even so, he told Zoe about those second thoughts. As he suspected, she in turn told him to hush about it, but once their contact was found dead with a nice big hole through his chest and the law far more eager to hush things up than blame it on the likes of Mal and his crew? Well, Zoe was quick enough to admit that Mal might be on to something.

"It ain't right," he told Simon. "There's something to it something that makes the skin on the back of my neck go all--you know, goosebumpy." He wiggled his fingers as if tickling the air. "Like that."

Simon rolled his eyes, and Mal could practically see the smart remark forming, but the doctor went all stiff-lipped and pale. "River?" he called out. "River, what are you doing?"

He started running, and Mal started running after him. After Miranda, the girl had settled down a fair bit, but she could still go all moony upon occasion, and that led to trouble more often than not.

Fortunately, she wasn't doing much but standing there, but given that she was supposed to have stayed on board Serenity, just standing there was plenty.

"What the hell's got into her this time, Doc?" Mal asked.

Simon shook his head. "It's that tree. It's something about that tree."

He was right; River was completely focused on a big damn tree. In fact, the damn thing was so big it must have been planted the second the colonists made planetfall.

"From Earth-That-Was," River said. Mal didn't think to chide her for picking up on his thoughts, because something in her voice made the goose-pimples start up so bad that he'd swear he was about to start sprouting feathers on the back of his neck.

She stared up at the tree. It was covered with blossoms, and petals fell like snow as the branches swayed in a wind that wasn't there. Mal had thought the blossoms were white at first, but now that he saw them up close, he could see that they were tinged pink. The color reminded him of something, but he couldn't think what. All he knew was that he didn't like it one bit.

"Things survived that shouldn't have," she said. "After the last war, the end of days, when the dragons rose up from the earth and came down from the heavens. Things were brought along that should have been left behind."

"That's really strange..." Simon said. He was staring at the tree as well, head cocked to one side.

"This is your sister we're talking about, Doc. Strange's business as usual."

Simon shook his head. "Not River. The tree. It's autumn here, Mal. That's a sakura. We had them back on the estate--they only bloom in the spring."

"Hands of red, eyes are dead, words left unsaid," she keened, hugging herself as if trying to keep herself from flying to pieces as she swayed back and forth. Mal tried not to notice how she was swaying in perfect time with the tree.

"Hands of red? Please tell me that's not anything like 'hands of blue,'" Mal said.

"Let's go, mei mei," Simon said, leading River off in a hold that only looked gentle. Apparently one of the things they taught you in med school was how to hold on to a crazy person so she couldn't hurt neither herself nor you. "Let's go back to the ship."

"Sounds good to me. It's never a good thing when your sister gets all oracular and rhymey on us. Tends to end in gunfire."

"Oracular?" Simon's disbelieving tone caused a different kind of itch than that damned tree.

"Yeah, I know big words. Use 'em from time to time, too. Get over it." He turned and headed back towards the ship, knowing that Simon and River would follow him. "Our contact's dead, and as far as I'm concerned it's past time to put this world behind us."

Mal had finally figured out what that pale, pretty pink reminded him of. Back at Serenity Valley, they'd had to make do, reuse, and recycle, no matter how grim the hand-me-downs might be, and there was something about that luminous, red-tinged white, the color of bandages soaking in blood-fouled water, that he could never forget, no matter how much he might try.

He cast one look back at the tree, and for a moment, thought he could hear the voices of the dying. Later, Mal would consider asking River what she meant about things that should have been left behind, but in the end, figured he was better off not knowing.

Title: Things to do in Tokyo when you're bored
Day/Theme:7. the loveless fascination
Series: Tokyo Babylon, Death Note
Character/Pairing: Seishirou, Light
Rating: PG

While Subaru was the only person who would ever matter to him enough to qualify as the next Sakurazukamori, Seishirou had expressed interest in a number of other people since the culmination of the Bet. Of course, this interest was about the same level he would express in a new species of insect, but even so, these people at least functioned to help pass the time until he met up with Subaru again.

One of the more interesting of these people was a fellow by the name of Yagami Light.

When criminals and other blights on society started dropping dead for no apparent reason, Seishirou had felt a nervous tremor from the sakura along with a clear and urgent set of instructions: find out what this is. A few tracing spells, and a mildly harrowing trip onto the astral plane, and Seishirou had his answer.

He laughed.

"A Death Note? My, my, my... it has been a while since one of those made its way into the mortal world." This could turn out to be a very amusing distraction.

It only added to Seishirou's amusement when he learned that this Light character was investigating him. Well, why shouldn't he? If 'Kira' (amusing name, if a bit hokey) was establishing himself as a killer of killers, then the Sakurazukamori was the prime target of them all.

But of course, the poor dear was running into all sorts of trouble. After all, Seishirou had lived in close proximity to two members of the Sumeragi family for a year, and they hadn't sussed out who he was until it was too late. A normal high-school student, even a frighteningly bright one, wouldn't stand a chance. (Seishirou didn't worry about the Note's shinigami helping out--those creatures were notoriously perverse, and he had no doubt that the one attending Light was getting its own amusement out of the situation.)

After a while, Seishirou decided to throw the poor boy a bone and make him think he'd discovered something important. A clue to the Sakurazukamori's location (but not his name, no, it wouldn't do to have Yagami-kun get hold of that too early). A few more hints about what the Sakurazukamori did. The only tricky part was making the information hard enough to come by to seem legitimate.

It didn't take long before Seishirou had a neatly-staged chance encounter with the young man. Yagami-kun literally ran into him on the subway platform (Seishirou took a moment to savor the echoes of his second meeting with Subaru-kun--his life seemed to like to mirror itself in odd ways). Seishirou gallantly helped the young man to his feet, and if he held on to Yagami-kun's hand a little longer than necessary when he did so, well, he was merely making sure the boy was not about to fall again. Apologies were extended, and so, of course, were introductions. Seishirou even handed over one of his business cards.

There was a bit of small talk and Seishirou gave the boy's supposedly casual questions just the right answers to confirm his identity as the Sakurazukamori. Seishirou briefly considered telling young Light to work on his poker face, but instead settled for a cheerfully cryptic 'best of luck on your endeavors' before heading back to his apartment.

Less than an hour later, a spell was triggered and Seishirou knew that Yagami-kun had called his name to mind with the intent to write--and kill. Seishirou lit a cigarette and wished he knew what sort of demise Yagami-kun had in mind for him. Something dramatic? Something designed to show the world who and what he was? Or would it merely be another heart attack?

It wouldn't matter. It was all just speculation, because well on the other side of the city, Seishirou's shikigami watched through the window of a respectable suburban home as a high-school student began to write something in what looked like a diary. (Ah, the grim concentration on the boy's face--so precious!) Seishirou watched through the shikigami's eyes and smiled because he knew what would happen next. Light's face contorted in agony as he toppled from his chair, clutching his hand and fighting back screams that would have brought his mother running if he had let them loose. If he had been able to concentrate through the pain, Light would have noticed that the skin on his hand was glowing white-hot exactly where Seishirou's hand had pressed against it for a few too many seconds.

When the pain finally subsided, Light pushed himself onto hands and knees and shakily raised his head just enough to look at the diary resting on his desk. Where he had just tried to write Seishirou's name, the word AMATEUR appeared in nice, neat script before fading away into nothingness. Through the shikigami's senses, Seishirou thought he could hear the distinctive, raucous laughter of a shinigami.

He took a last drag on his cigarette and wondered if he should feed Yagami-kun to the sakura (a nice way to make up for all the prey the boy had stolen from it), or simply watch the fun as the inevitable fate of those who picked up a Death Note played itself out.

Title: Girls' night out
Day/Theme: 8. I was your sorry-ever-after
Series: Fruits Basket, Doctor Who
Character/Pairing: Kanna, other
Rating: PG

Kanna was on a break. A break from her job, a break from her usual life, and definitely on a break from her husband. Eventually, she'd probably go back to all of that, but not until she got a few things--and a few memories--straight in her own mind. She didn't know what drew her to talk to the young Englishwoman who was sitting next to her at the pub. Maybe there was an expression in her eyes that reminded Kanna of what she saw in her mirror every morning.

"It wasn't until recently that I started to remember what really happened," she said. She peered down into her glass, and wondered if she really liked drinking Guinness or if she simply liked the idea of drinking Guinness. "It's an odd feeling, being left behind for your own good."

"I know exactly what you're talking about," said her companion.

"I kind of agreed to it, but at the same time, I was never given a chance to prove that I was good enough, that I could survive. And that..." She looked up, an uncharacteristically fierce expression on her face. "Well, that just stinks!"

In response, Sarah Jane Smith gave her a wry smile and raised her glass in a silent toast.

Title: The other side of homesickness
Day/Theme: 9. the further I get from the things that I care about, the less I care about how much further away I get
Series: Tsubasa, Angel
Character/Pairing: Fai, Wesley
Rating: PG

There are plenty of places for the homeless in LA. Not all of these are cardboard boxes or rattle-trap shelters. Some of them are very well-appointed indeed, and stock wines whose grapes are descended from the few vines that were salvaged from Atlantis. The men and women in these places may have places to go to in the evening that are warm and furnished beyond the dreams of most robber barons, but they are still homeless.

See, here, the two men who are sitting across from each other in a darkened corner. One is fair-haired and blue eyed, with an almost childlike face. The other is dark, and while he is young, his features are weathered and weary.

"When do you plan to rejoin your comrades? It shouldn't be too hard to find a rift and direct it properly, not in this town." This is the dark-haired man. His name is Wesley Wyndam-Price. His voice is every bit as haggard and weary as his face. The freshly-healed scar at his throat explains the raspiness.

The other man shrugs, and the soft smile never leaves that innocent-looking face. Something in those kind blue eyes, however, suggests a deep chill underlying that kindness. He is wearing clothes that are light even for the warm night air of LA, but that is not the only or even the primary clue that Fai D. Fluorite comes from a very cold place indeed.

"They're probably worried about me," he says, half-laughing. "I imagine they're scouring every dimension between here and there hoping to find me. And yet..."

Wesley waits for the other man to finish.

"Do you think that maybe, it would perhaps be simpler not to return?" The brightness in Fai's voice is heartbreaking.

Wesley thinks of a hotel not two blocks from this place, and a heartsick father.

"Yes. Yes, I do think so."

Title: What's the meta for?
Day/Theme: 10. Write it, cut it, paste it, save it, load it, check it, quick-- rewrite it
Series: Fruits Basket, Ranma (sort of)
Character/Pairing: Shigure, other

"Shonen Sunday wants another series from you? That's fantastic! I'm horribly jealous, of course--I'm not sure we can be friends anymore," Shigure said. The broad smile made it clear that the last part of what he said was only teasing. He had gone into town for a book signing, and afterwards had met up with an old friend. She'd been quick to share her good news.

She nodded. "I'm thrilled to death, of course. The only problem is, I've got the start of an idea--a fabulous idea--but I'm not sure I can use it. And it's all your fault, you know."

Shigure raised an eyebrow. "Too racy? Too spicy for the Shonen Sunday demographic? Are you implying that I've corrupted you, my dear?"

"No..." She looked at him sheepishly over the rim of her teacup. "It's, well, it's using the whole idea of the curse. Your family's curse, that is." She had the good grace to blush. She kept on turning her teacup round and round in her hand as she waited for his reaction.

Shigure immediately shifted into one of his rare, serious moods. "There aren't many people outside the family who know about the curse, you know. You're lucky that the old head of the family was a fan of your early work, but now..." He shook his head. "These days, any hint that you know about us--"

"Right, right... memory erasure. You know, I could probably do something with that--a throwaway gag, maybe," she muttered, making a note. "Listen--you know I wouldn't give you away, Sohma-kun. I'd have the change take place for some other reason. Perhaps the afflicted person becomes angry... or gets hit in the nose--no, that's too close to a hug... And what on earth do they turn into...?"

He could tell from the abstracted look on her face that she was already half-lost in the fictional world she was creating. "Just as long as it has nothing to do with the Zodiac. Or," he added, "with having contact with the opposite sex."

She had started taking notes again, but then the pen paused and a truly wicked smile crossed her face. "Hmm... The opposite sex--yes, but not as a cause." The chortle coming from across the table sent a distinct chill down Shigure's spine. "Oh, yes. That has potential. I could just hug you, you know," she said impishly, half-standing as if she was about to stand up and do just that.

"Please don't, Rumiko-chan." Shigure held up his hands in fake distress, and managed to knock over his water glass, soaking himself thoroughly.

"Aha!" she crowed, making another note even as Shigure laughingly demanded to know what she was thinking about and how much of a cut of the royalties he could expect.

Title: The dead, too, are haunted
Day/Theme: 11. broken by what she had seen
Series: Clover, Sandman
Character/Pairing: Oruha, Death
Rating: PG

She had seen this moment so many times that she wasn't even startled. All that happened was that when she reached that one particular note in the song, she paused as if to draw breath for the next phrase, but she wasn't breathing--she was bracing for impact.

The bullet ripped through Oruha's chest before she even heard the sound of the shot.

It was exactly what she had been expecting.

What she was not expecting was to find herself still standing on the middle of the stage as the nightclub erupted into chaos, and for a light, almost merry voice to say:

"That was a lovely song. I'm sorry it was interrupted like that, but what can you do?"

Oruha could practically hear the shrug in the woman's voice, and she would have turned to look, but her gaze was fixed on what seemed to be her body, sprawled out beside her on the stage.

"I'm dead, but I didn't see this part. I didn't see this far." And then, she finally looked up to see the woman who was standing there, waiting patiently. "I didn't realize there was going to be a next."

The woman inclined her head in a sort of sideways nod, as if once more saying, 'what can you do?' Oruha had never seen her before, but she looked oddly familiar in a way that had nothing to do with whether or not she recognized the fair skin, the wild black hair, or the silver pendant around the woman's neck. She couldn't quite explain it, but the woman somehow seemed more real than the crowd that was now milling about in slow-motion panic.

"No one gets to see this part until it really happens," the woman said. She held out a hand to Oruha, and Oruha instinctively raised her hand to meet it. "C'mon, Oruha. It's time to go."


Oruha turned, even as the woman gently warned her not to. Everything outside of the two of them had slowed down and grayed out, and it was becoming more and more like looking at an old photograph.

And so, no matter what happened next, she would always remember Kazuhiko standing there, frozen, that beloved face contorted with shock and grief even as he was caught in the middle of rushing for the stage.

Oruha gasped and looked away, and though her eyes quickly shut against the tears that she refused to cry before her death, she still caught a glimpse of the infinite sympathy on her guide's face.

"Everyone always talks about how Orpheus should never have looked back," the woman said as they passed out of stillness and shadow into somewhere else (a somewhere that would always be haunted by Kazuhiko), "but no one ever realizes that Eurydice received the same warning, at the end."

Title: Psychopomps
Day/Theme: 13. latex and steel
Series: American Gods, CSI
Character/Pairing: Jacquel, Grissom

"An autopsy should be a very intimate procedure, but in many ways, it is rather the opposite, have you noticed? Bare flesh never touches bare flesh, not any more. But that's to be expected, when you must regard your subject as a potential poison. Your predecessors once wore linen robes, perhaps only a loincloth if the weather was sweltering. Now it's latex gloves, safety masks, even hazmat suits. You use steel probes, not your bare hands, to feel the shape of an injury, or of a man's heart." Jacquel paused to take a long sip of his iced tea. He then leaned back in his chair, face turned directly into the setting sun. He didn't blink, even though the sun was full in his eyes.

"You're an expert in Egyptian burial customs," Grissom pointed out, almost gently. He almost hated to speak--there was something mesmerizing about Jacquel's manner of speaking, a hint of something foreign and feral beneath the respectable midwestern cadences. "You do realize that this puts you high up on the list of possible suspects."

Three people had died in the past two days, all of them attendees at a mortician's convention. Each had been eviscerated, and the body cavity filled with resins and aromatics. The organs had been found nearby, each tucked neatly into its own lidded earthenware jar.

"I only saw the one body, but the manner in which it was prepared was as authentically Egyptian as that building over there," Jacquel said, lifting his drink and lazily gesturing over towards the Luxor. "It's a shadow of the real thing, but that doesn't change the reality of the deaths themselves. Tell me, Mister Grissom, do you still weigh the hearts of the dead?"

"It's standard procedure." Grissom let a wry smile slip past his guard. "We don't weigh them against a feather, though."

Jacquel laughed, a sharp, merry yelp that reminded Grissom of the sound of coyotes on the hunt. "No, no, you would be checking the weight of the muscle, not the weight of the spirit. And you don't worry about helping the soul to find its way to a peaceful afterlife."

"No, we're hoping to find the truth and to help those who were left behind find peace in this life."

The remark was a more than a little brusque, and Grissom half expected Jacquel to take offense. Instead, the other man inclined his head in gracious acknowledgement and lifted his glass in a toast. "Well said."

It felt like a benediction. Later, as the case drew to its close, Grissom would dream of this moment, and in his dream (a dream he deliberately forgot upon waking) a mask with a long, pointed muzzle overlay Jacquel's weathered face. A mask, yes, but the mouth curved in a smile. And instead of lifting a half empty glass of tea in a mock salute, the jackal-headed god held up a clay cup full of warm blood in a gesture of kinship.

Title: Mirror, mirror
Day/Theme: 14. one of these days you're gonna break your glass
Series: Sailor Moon, Snow White
Character/Pairing: Neherenia
Rating: PG

She waited for millennia, on the other side of the glass. She waited, but she was not idle.

She gathered servants to her side. Fish, and tiger, and hawk, given human form and tortured with human dreams. Four little girls, plucked from the jungle and tangled in a dream of eternal youth.

She took prisoners. Elios was but one of these. There were others whose dreams fed her and kept her strong throughout the long waiting.

One of these was a queen as dark as she was, in both appearance and in heart. This queen was a vain woman, and spent much of her time peering into mirrors, constantly checking to see her face was still unlined, if her lips were still full, her jaw still firm, her bosom still high, her hair still black. It was little wonder then that one day, when the queen gazed into the mirror, another, darker queen gazed back.

She assured the queen that yes, she was still fair, yes, the fairest of them all. She fed the queen flattery, and in turn she fed upon the queen's dreams.

In time, though, she became tired of the dreams of old women, and wanted something fresher and fairer still.

The queen had a stepdaughter. A beautiful girl with beautiful dreams.

It was almost too easy. Yes, the queen came close to killing the child, but in the end, things were arranged to the mirror-queen's satisfaction.

The girl was sealed in a glass coffin and locked in a long, dreamful sleep. From the outside, one could easily see into the coffin and see the the girl who was frozen in eternal youth and eternal dream.

On the inside, however, the coffin was the opening to an endless hall of mirrors, and each hallway led back to the dark queen, the lady of mirrors, the devourer of dreams.

Yes, one day, the glass coffin would be broken, but until then, Neherenia would feed on beautiful dreams and wait for the day when her own cage of glass and mirror would break and set her free.

Title: On the job training
Day/Theme: 15. I'm only happy when it's complicated
Series: Sailor Moon, Bleach
Character/Pairing: Artemis, Yoruichi
Rating: PG

The two cats sat on the fence, one black, one white, like perfect negative images facing each other.

If you didn't count the mark on the white cat's forehead, that is.

"You're sure about this?" The white cat's ears flicked sideways and his head tilted in a way that indicated skepticism.

The black cat flicked its tail in the feline equivalent of a shrug. "I could use a change of scenery for a while. You know how it is when things get to be a bit too routine."

"Routine? I don't think I even know what that is anymore. But if you want to swap for a while..." The thought of being a shop cat, lounging about on counters and being petted and fed by the customers did have a certain appeal. "But you do know that being Mina's companion means you have to deal--"

"Yes, yes. Youma and all that. Right." The black cat yawned wide, showing off its teeth and a very pink tongue. It then looked at the white cat with an alarmingly human smirk on its face. "I think I can manage, Artemis."

"It's a deal, then! See you in a couple of weeks!" Artemis then trotted off, tail up in the air, whiskers pitched forward in a smile, clearly looking forward to a life of being a pampered shop mascot while someone else got to deal with crises and all the ups and downs of Mina's flaky enthusiasm.

The black cat watched, still smirking, as Artemis headed off to what should be a very interesting two weeks. Things had not been nearly complicated enough of late to keep her entertained.

"Oh, Kisuke and Tessai are going to have so much fun with you. And Ururu is just going to love you and squeeze you and call you George," Yoruichi chortled as she trotted off to show this Mina girl how monster-fighting was really done.

Title: Stories I never told you
Day/Theme: 16. If I were you I wouldn't even touch the floor
Series: X-files, Hellblazer
Character/Pairing: Mulder, Scully, Constantine
Rating: PG

"Mulder, you always take me to the nicest places."

The place in question was the kind of place you'd call a 'dive' if you wanted to talk it up to your friends. Calling the bar a hole in the wall was a misnomer since the bar was more like a sheetmetal shack built up against a dockside warehouse.

"Only the best for you, Scully. Just don't stand in one place too long." He smirked over his shoulder then opened the door. After a second or two, he figured out he had to lift it slightly, as it didn't sit quite true in the frame.

Scully followed him in, hand on the grip of her gun. Mulder had been cagey enough about this meet that she figured he didn't know exactly who this informant was. When they entered the bar (and yes, the soles of her shoes ripped away from the floor with a sticky, sucking sound with each step), it was obvious that hardly anyone was there.

At least, not until a man in a trenchcoat stepped from the shadows, lit cigarette tucked in the corner of his mouth. Scully blanched, but as the figure stepped forward, she could see it was a younger man with spiky blond hair.

"Hullo, Fox," he said, and it was threat and innuendo all at once.

Scully wasn't entirely sure what happened next. Perhaps there was a hissed you son of a bitch from Mulder, but there was definitely the crack of Mulder's fist connecting with the man's jaw, and a soft, drawn-out thump as the other man crumpled to the floor.

"Come on, Scully." Mulder actually grabbed her wrist and hauled her out of there despite her yelp of protest. "We're off this case as of right now."

"But..." The ritualistic aspects of the murders, the improbably nature of the injuries (hearts sliced open from the inside out, intestines chopped into pieces with no external wounds--she'd done the autopsies herself), the strange phenomena (ghostly ghastly apparitions, three people in mental hospitals under serious sedation after seeing them), they were all things that should have had Mulder clinging to the case like a leech.

"Scully, we're off the case." She'd never heard that tight, almost affectless tone in his voice before. She wasn't certain, but she thought that maybe there was a note of screaming panic lying just beneath that control. "If he's involved, then I--and you--are staying the hell away until it all blows over. Trust me on this one."

Later, he would tell her tales of his years studying at Oxford, and of a small village by the sea, and about the first time he realized that there was more to the paranormal than science and flying saucers. Much more.

* * *

Back in the bar, John Constantine awoke with a mild concussion and a mutter of 'sodding Fed,' and then set about trying to get his trenchcoat detached from the floor.
Tags: american gods, angel, bleach, buffy, clover, crossover, csi, death note, doctor who, firefly, fruits basket, hellblazer, miscellaneous, ranma, sailor moon, sandman, tokyo babylon, tsubasa, x files, x1999, xxxholic
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