Category: Bleach


One Last Day in the Shadows

He had never really considered himself especially gifted. He had simply done his work the best he could and followed the dragon within his soul until the two had achieved the peak of what they could. He knew his powers weren’t done growing. It took almost one hundred years to fully master bankai and he’d only been performing it for a few years.

He’d served his captain faithfully and quietly from the time he’d graduated the Academy. He hadn’t tried to draw attention to himself. People had noticed him, naturally. He was the youngest shinigami to ever become a seated officer in his squad. That kind of thing was bound to draw attention.

Now, his captain had given him a new challenge. He’d put Toshiro forward as the new captain of the tenth squad. He knew the tenth squad would be different from the squad he’d served in since graduation. They were the special investigations squad, instead of focusing purely on defense they investigated strange occurrences in and around the Seireitei and even into the human world.

He knew he could handle it. He would be the youngest captain ever but being the youngest at something had never stopped him before. It was time to step out of the shadows and shine.

In the Midst of this World

In the Midst of this World we Stroll Along the Roof of Hell Gawking at Flowers

Toshiro stood on a high walkway, looking down at his new compound.  It was a vast area littered with intricate walkways and paths.  Unlike the Seventh Squad compound, hardly any gardens broke up the monotony.  He sighed and began to walk along the path.

 The compound was his now, to do with as he chose.  However, he had just moved into the area.  While a part of him wanted to tear up the dry boring walkways and paths and add some gardens, another part told him not to make waves.  He was the youngest captain ever.  He didn’t want to seem petulant or childish.

 A sudden flash of color caught his eye and he darted toward it.  There he found it.  It was just a lawn.  There weren’t any flowers except for the occasional wild weed that braved the sterile landscape.  He smiled, envisioning the field with a small garden at its center – like a miniature forest.  Perhaps he would add a water feature.  And all around the grove, in the lawn and perhaps even up to the walkways – daffodils.  They were the Tenth Squad’s flower after all.

 “Captain,” his second called.  “What are you doing up there?”

 “Looking at the flowers,” he called back before settling down on the roof.  “Just looking.”

A clumsy ersatz angel (9-1-09)

Ed sighed as he rubbed his aching side where Alphonse had fallen on him. It wasn’t Al’s fault really. It was difficult to move that great big armor body of his sometimes. Really, he was extremely graceful most of the time. It was just very easy, when he was in a hurry, to lose track of feet that disappeared under the breast plate or forget just how long his arms were. Then Al was the clumsiest person around.

Ed smiled as his younger brother paused at the side of the road to talk to a barn cat and her kittens. “Leave them, Al,” he said gently. Al was always the sweetest person around. Ed had been the one his mother looked to to watch Al more often than not. He’d been the one she asked to fetch firewood, though he usually made Al do it. He’d been his mother’s “little man.” Alphonse had been her “little dear.”

Ed had always been the troublemaker of the pair of them. Alphonse was always helpful and sweet. Granny had called him a “little brat;” Al was her “little lamb.” Ed smiled. In his travels, he’d learned about another being that was seen as sweet, gentle and kind. Al wasn’t an angel. Ed doubted that God would send a holy messenger to someone like him. He would do, though, as a stand in.

**
Icarus improved (9-2-09)

Ed frowned. He’d told Rose the story of Icarus. It was one he’d heard as a child. He barely remembered hearing it, which meant his father had told him about it. That wasn’t important though. In the story the boy, Icarus, had used the wings his father made from feathers and wax to fly higher and higher, against his father’s warnings. In the end, he’d fallen to his death instead of flying to escape the wicked king who had imprisoned himself and his father.

Ed had meant that Rose shouldn’t try to reach the sun. She would only end up hurt or killed in the attempt. Rose had turned the analogy back toward him and his brother. Had they, like Icarus, flown too high against all warnings and suffered for it? He supposed so. However, they were still alive and someday… someday they would have their bodies back to normal. They had also learned from their mistakes. Their mistakes had been out of the same ignorance and arrogance that the boy in the story had, but they were no longer so ignorant, nor so arrogant. Ed smiled over at his brother and rose to his feet, as he’d urged Rose to. “Let’s go, Al,” he said.

**
IT GETS UNDER YOUR SKIN, LIFE. (9-3-09)

Ed settled back on the pillows and sighed, sending a sharp pain across his chest. He was in the hospital, again. His chest hurt with each breath because, according to the doctors, he had a lung infection. There was a small part of him that wanted to let go; stop fighting. He’d been fighting for so long. Fighting to become a state alchemist. Fighting for acceptance. Fighting to get his brother’s body back. Fighting homunculi. He closed his eyes.

It would be so easy to just let the infection take him. It would almost be restful; an end to all the fighting. But then… he would die. Even now, in this strange world without his brother, alone since he’d left his father in Britain, he wanted to live. He wouldn’t let death take him. He wouldn’t give up without a fight. Even far from home and family, he had too much living to do to let himself die.

He still had to find his brother. He still had to get married and have a family of his own. He still had to make a life beyond just the existence that he’d been eking out since he came to this side of the gate. Ed sat up straighter and opened his eyes. He wouldn’t give up. Not yet, not ever.

**
The hidden secret button inside your head (9-4-09)

Orbsen moaned and tried to force himself to relax. His uncle was right. If he could relax his face, then the pain would ease. The problem was that the pain itself was causing his muscles to tighten up and causing more pain.

“According to research I’ve done everyone who has a mark has a mirror one opposite it,” his brother said softly. “That would be one he didn’t touch and irritate. If you could sleep, the irritation would fade.”

“There isn’t an opposite side of the middle of my forehead, Tarun,” Orbsen snapped. “That’s the nature of being in the center of things. There isn’t a second locus in a circle.”

“Your head’s not a sphere, Orey,” Tarun said softly. He reached up, before Orbsen could stop him and suddenly the pain that had been in his head for the previous week eased and Orbsen felt his eyelids drooping.

“How are…” Orbsen trailed off as his eyes closed. “Don’ le’ me fall,” he managed before sleep took him.

“Research, little brother,” Tarun murmured as he gently lifted Orbsen into his arms. He’d feel much better after a long nap.

**
Burn the length and breadth of sky (9-5-09)

Darius looked out of the cave he’d taken shelter in. He watched in horror and facination at the devastation around him. He’d been told of this “burning time” by the locals. It was the reason for the towns being built so close to the caverns, even when fresh water was harder to come by.

“Don’t go out too far, Master Chonicler,” the elder said from behind him.

“I won’t,” Darius said without even turning around. “It’s so… horrific… like the sky is on fire.”

“But necessary or the fell plants would overwhelm us in short order. We have no other defense against them except to wait until the dry season and let nature take its course. If it’s the plants you’re worried about, they’ll return with the rains.”

“I’m sure they will,” Darius murmured. He sat down to sketch the scene before him; assured once more that people in the provinces needed to know what life was like in the wilds.

**
One puff of breath is never enough (9-6-09)

Ed stared in wonder at his newborn daughter for about a second, then the nurse whisked her away. It took him a moment longer than his wife to realize that she wasn’t breathing. Winry sobbed once, then Ed took her hand and squeezed it. “Breathe. Please, God, let her,” he prayed.

Then he heard it – a gargled gasp. Then his daughter was wailing as all newborns do. He smiled over at Winry and received a watery smile in return.

“Thank you,” Ed murmured, closing his eyes. He looked again at his wife and said, “She’ll be fine now, Win. She’s breathing now. She’s fine.”

The nurse returned with the baby. Already golden blonde hair covered her head. Ed took the baby in his arms and smiled at the bright golden eyes that stared blankly back as only newborns do. “Hi, Chloe,” he greeted. “Welcome home.”

**
How to be dead (9-8-09)

Melinda couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the boy staring at her. She’d seen plenty of ghosts but this was different. He didn’t seem to think he was still alive but he seemed to think he should interact with the living on some level. She nearly fell off her chair when he took a cookie off the passing food tray and began to nibble it. Ghosts didn’t eat and if they tried, people stared at the floating cookies they grabbed.

“Do you see a cookie over there?” she whispered to Eli.

He looked over and tilted his head. After a moment he said, “No.”

The boy caught her looking and, instead of simply appearing in front of her as most ghosts did, he walked over to stand before her. “He can’t see me,” the boy said, a slight accent coloring his voice.

“I can hear you though,” Eli said.

The boy’s eyebrow shifted and he gave Eli a strange look. “Clairaudience then, huh?” he said.

“You are a strange ghost,” Melinda said softly.

“I’m not a ghost; I’m not dead,” the boy said. “I’m a shinigami – a Soul Reaper. I’m on assignment. Are you Melinda Gordon?” Melinda nodded and Eli looked concerned. “I’m supposed to watch you send someone off and warn you about the restless spirits under the village. You know about them, of course, but you don’t know what they could become and that would be very dangerous for you – the pair of you. Is there someplace we can talk that you won’t get stared at?”

Melinda nodded and led the way out of the crowded reception. This boy was by far the strangest ghost she’d ever encountered.

**
You gotta dance. As long as the music plays. (9-9-09)

Al looked around at his class. They were going to play a game today that he hoped would go well. “Alright, boys and girls. When I turn the music off, remember to freeze.” He turned on the music and watched the little boys and girls as the danced and bounced all around. Then he paused the CD and most of the kids stopped. Those that didn’t had to sit until someone else made the same mistake.

As the game continued, Al thought about how similar it was to life. Most of the time, life was good and happy and he was active and bright. Occassionally, something interrupted and everything seemed to freeze but then life was able to go on. It may not be exactly the same, but life continued. Joy was found again and he returned to dancing.

**
Grow up and blow away (9-10-09)

Darius looked up at his father and tilted his head to the side. “Father, I don’t understand,” he said.

“You are no longer my son,” he said slowly and carefully. “You can no longer be my son because of what you are. You are being sent to… my brother-in-law’s house to be a servant. The hours will be long but you will learn your place in society.” He turned and walked away.

Strong hands caught Darius’s slim shoulders. He was dragged out of the room and into a small bathing room. Darius realized that this room marked the beginning of the slaves’ quarters. Technically, they weren’t slaves. They had never been bought. They would never be sold. They worked for room and board. They were called servants but they had no freedom. They remained in whatever household took them in for the remainder of their days.

Darius felt his mind bank as the guards began removing his fine tunic. He hardly moved as they washed and dried his body. One murmured an arcane phrase and a swirling reddish mark made itself on Darius’s chest. He smiled as he traced the mark and Darius felt his knees get weak. Then the men dressed him in a slave’s tunic, open at one shoulder so the swirling mark was revealed.

“Why is this happening to me?” he asked softly as he followed the men out of the room.

“Because you’re growing up,” the guard replied.

**
Tireless hunger in your eyes (9-11-09)

Ed smiled down at his daughter, as she looked at all the books in the children’s section of the library. Her eyes were wide and bright as she took in the shelves full of books of different colors, shapes and sizes. “I can look at all of them?” she asked excitedly.

“You absolutely can,” he said softly. “But one at a time, alright?”

She bounded over to the first shelf and looked over several books before choosing one. “Daddy, read this one,” she said thrusting it into his hands.

“What do you say?” he asked softly.

“Please?” she asked. “Thank you!” she added as he nodded and drew her into his lap. He was going to enjoy feeding his daughter’s hungry mind as much as he was sure his mother had enjoyed feeding he and Alphonse in their everlasting hunger.

**
I’ll tap into your strength (9-12-09)

Darius peeked into the room. The mage sat at a low desk, scowling at a diagram of the human body. “You sent for me, my lord?” he said softly.

“Yes, Darius,” he replied, waving the young hal-deiva inside. “How old are you now?”

“I’m one hundred fifty-eight, my lord,” Darius replied. He came in and loosed the pin at one shoulder of his tunic.

“Near enough,” the mage said softly. He stood and waved Darius over to a complex diagram sketched onto the floor. “Undress and lay down there,” he said.

Darius sighed and undressed slowly. “What do you mean to do, my lord?” he asked as he took his spot in the circle.

“A summoning,” the mage replied. He began chanting softly. Occasionally he would touch a symbol at the edge of the diagram. With each touch, a new symbol would begin glowing faintly and Darius would feel just a little more tired.

Finally all the symbols were glowing and Darius crumpled to the floor. He remained, hardly conscious as something else appeared with him in the circle. The mage spoke for a moment, then suddenly he was screaming and something wet splashed over Darius’s prone form. Then the symbols stopped glowing and the room became eerily silent.

A long time passed before Darius had the strength to move. He sat up and looked around the darkened library. Not far away a pale form lay. It took Darius a moment to realize that it was the mage. He was naked and bloody. He was also quite obviously dead. Darius gasped and stood slowly. He was also covered in blood.

“What would you have me do?” a soft voice asked.

Darius spun and saw a small furry fey-like being. “Can you… return from whence you came?” he asked softly. This creature had killed the mage, he was sure of it. He wanted to get away from it as quickly as possible.

“Yes. Thank you for releasing me,” the creature said before he disappeared entirely. Darius stared in shock and then sighed. What had the mage even been trying to do and what had gone wrong?

**
A Short History of Nearly Nothing (9-13-09)

Darius frowned as he looked over the notes he’d taken from the interview. To say that they were brief would be an understatement. There was almost nothing to them. He rubbed his aching head and sighed. “How can I compine a history from this?” he asked aloud.

“Can you?” his master said. “You have another way, if you let it happen,” the older hal-deiva continued. “Stop fighting your gifts, Dar.”

Darius nodded and closed his eyes. His headache eased as he allowed the vision to come. Soon he had more than enough information.

**
Live by disillusion glow (9-14-09)

Ed smirked as he listened to Mustang and the others talk. He had no interest in what they were saying, other than that they wouldn’t let him leave until they were done. He remembered when he was growing up and had actually cared about what adults were saying. He’d taken all of his teacher’s words to heart. He hadn’t necessarily followed all of the advise she gave, or he wouldn’t have joined the military, but he remembered it still.

Somewhere along the way what adults had to say had lost importance. Rules were fine if they kept you safe or kept others safe from you; but since he’d joined the military rules had become something that were just there. There was no reason for them. No one would be harmed if he wasn’t standing up perfectly straight or his boots were a little scuffed. No one was hurt by his wearing a red coat instead of a black one.

Somewhere along the way he realized that the rules had become less about protecting others and more about controlling them. If there was one thing that Edward Elric would not allow it was for someone else to control him. Was he a little disillusioned and cynical for a thirteen year old boy? Maybe he was; but he was living his life just fine.

**
Inevitable flooding of one’s soul (9-15-09)

Ed sighed and looked up at the bare cross that decorated the altar. Across the front of the altar three ornate letters were sprawled, HIS. He’d been told these stood for, “In his Service.” He’d asked the pastor what the people did in his service.

“It depends on what you feel called to do,” she replied. “As an organization we help to feed the poor through our work with the soup kitchen. We also work with the battered women’s shelter and the homeless shelter. We have individuals that teach english as a second language and adult literacy.”

“That’s a lot of stuff… good works, too,” Ed said softly. He looked down and frowned. “Can I be alone to think?” he asked after a moment.

The pastor nodded and left him. He sighed as his mind returned to the present. He knelt down and looked up at the cross again. “I’m not very good at this,” he said softly. “For a very long time I thought you hated me. Pastor says that you don’t. That you love me. I made a lot of mistakes growing up. I figured that you were punishing me for them but I guess… that it doesn’t work that way. Teacher said that equivalent exchange didn’t work for… life. That you don’t… get things for what you’ve given up. I guess that… it doesn’t work the other way either. You don’t get punished for doing bad things… things happen. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad.”

He sighed deeply. “So… what do you say? I… repent of… Oh, hell… I’m sorry. It was hubris. I shouldn’t have done it. I’m also sorry for assuming that everything that happened was your fault, especially when a lot of it was probably me. I made a lot of bad choices and then… well, things turned out badly. Thanks for keeping Al and I safe all those years when we were being stupid.” He stood quickly. A thought occurred to him and he added, “Amen.”

Then he spun on his heel and strode down the aisle. Al was waiting for him in the car. He’d waited long enough. “Thanks,” Ed called as he waved at the pastor on his way by.

**
Miss you quite terribly (9-16-09)

Ed settled back against the wall and stared out the window. His father was just downstairs, getting breakfast ready. It seemed strange to have the old man taking care of him after all these years. He’d hated his father for leaving them. He’d blamed the old man for his mother’s death.

He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, though it was far past time to get up. He had no motivation lately. He’d never been seperated from his brother since Al was born. They’d always been together. Now… he wasn’t even sure if his brother was alive. They were worlds apart if he was. He might never see Alphonse again. Though he rarely cried, Ed could feel hot tears working their way down his cheeks. Even after their mother died he didn’t feel so bereft. “Al,” he murmured softly. “I miss you so much.”

**
Splintering the Night (9-17-09)

The child looked down out of the branches and watched the beings walk on the path the trees had made for them. They were being led, he knew. He looked down the path toward where it would end. The trees would consume them at the trail’s end.

“Prithee,” he called down. Four sets of eyes looked up at him and he froze, almost afraid of the sudden attention. “An… thou goest by that way, thou wilt die.” The words came out in a rush and he swallowed anxiously.

“Do you know the way out of the forest?” one asked gently. The child looked at the one who’d spoken. It had long dark hair and wide grey eyes. “We shouldn’t follow the path. Should we backtrack.”

“In truth, ‘twould be nigh impossible for thee,” the child said softly. “I shall… lead thee hence, an Mother will allow it. Mother, may I?” He looked down at his mother’s nestling branches. She rustled a compliance. He scrambled down and led the four beings down a secret path.

In a surprisingly short time they reached the edge of the forest. The child turned back toward the forest but found his way blocked. He blinked in shock. His mother had allowed him to leave and then told the other trees to block his return. He felt her speaking to him as she always did. She was dying. Her leaves would not return in the spring. Another tree would take him; force him to pollonate it. The humans would take care of him. They would not harm him.

He turned to the being with the wide gray eyes. “Mother says that I may’nt return. She says that… that she will die in the winter and with the spring I will be forced to pollonate other trees. She does not wish that for me. She says that… I must go with thee.”

“Of course, child,” the being said. “My name is Mara. What is your name?”

“I have no name. I am child,” he said softly. Mara wrapped soft leaves around him and nestled him close in her branches.

“Kelsay it is, then,” she said in a voice that was just as soft. She turned to one of the others and said, “Ian?”

“Of course. Come Kelsay.” He lifted the child… Kelsay into his branches and they moved down the path. Mara and Ian rustled at him as he cried. Kelsay did not know where he was going but he knew that his life was going to change drastically. It frightened him.

**
Destiny is Funny Stuff (9-18-09)

“You say that a lot,” Almace murmured.

“What?” Orbsen said, as he wiped his eyes.

“Fates. What does fate have to do with anything? Keep moving and we’ll be fine.”

“A lot of deiva invoke the… not the beings “the Fates.” We know they’re just like us… deiva. We invoke the… belief in fate, I guess. Everyone has something – more than one something by most people’s idea of things – that they’re meant to do. When bad stuff is happening, we… remind ourselves that we have… Fates.”

“Good things too,” Janis murmured.

“That’s just a carry over,” Orbsen said, waving the thought away. “It started out for bad things.”

“You have a destiny, huh?” Almace said. He glanced over at the prince and shook his head. He was little more than a child. At the moment, a scared one. “What is it?” he asked.

“That’s the funny thing about destiny, Almace. You don’t know until afterwords,” Orbsen said as he continued to slog down the trail.

**
What if the Storm Ends (9-19-09)

To say they argued would have been an understatement. Their relationship was by no means quiet, but it was fun. He at least thought it was fun. His wife didn’t seem to think so. She felt that the arguments meant they weren’t right for each other.

He sat, quiet for once, as she spoke. “I just… I just think that… maybe we should take a break,” she said softly as she wound down.

“Maybe… couple’s counciling?” he murmured.

“Would you be willing?” she asked, almost eagerly. He nodded silently. She nodded also. He closed his eyes in relief. The storm might end in their relationship but their relationship might survive it’s end. At least he hoped it would.

**
Appealing to Emotions I Simply do not have (9-20-09)

Edward looked up and over at the general where he paced along the line of soldiers. He sighed softly. His leg ached with the cold. His shoulder was numb with it. He was exhausted from walking. He caught the older man’s eye but then the man turned away.

“Can’t we get this over with?” he whispered to Mustang.

“We’re officers. He’ll inspect us last,” the colonel said in a voice that hardly carried. “Have some patience.”

“My stumps are killing me,” Ed complained. He sighed again. As they waited, he adjusted his stance several times. When the general reached them, Ed gazed at him pleadingly.

“Stand up straight, Elric,” the man snapped. Ed stood as straight as he could and sighed again. The remaining inspections seemed to take even longer. Ed sighed several more times. The general shot Edward glares almost coninually.

**
Antebellum Innocence (9-21-09)

Toshiro settled back, ready to get to work on the paperwork he’d left while he was in the human world. He didn’t like the idea that the head captain had descided that Orehime was a traitor. However, they’d been ordered to return to the Seireitei. Two other captains had been sent to make sure they followed orders.

So, as unhappy as he was about leaving Orehime to Aizen’s mercies, Toshiro followed orders and disbanded his special unit. He sighed heavily and looked up as the door to his office opened. “Hello, Captain Ukitake.”

“Hello, Toshiro,” the older captain greeted. “So… you came back.”

“The head captain’s – ,” he began hotly.

“… the head captain,” Ukitake finished for him. “I know you aren’t happy, Toshiro. We know that Orehime isn’t a traitor. That’s why I told Byakuya to send them after Ichigo.”

Toshiro’s head shot up and he felt his cheeks redden. “You had Captain Kuchiki send them after Ichigo? But we… we were ordered to return.”

“He didn’t say what you had to do after you returned,” Ukitake pointed out. Toshiro moaned and set his head on his desk. “What’s wrong?”

“Rangiku’s here and I sent Ikakku and Yumichika back with Zaraki. The only ones that went back to help were Rukia and Renji,” he finished softly. He couldn’t believe that he’d missed such an obvious loop-hole.

“They’ll just have to be enough,” Ukitake said softly. Toshiro sighed and nodded ruefully.

**
Private Star Systems (9-22-09)

“You are my sun and moon,” he’d often heard of people telling their lovers. “My world revolves around you,” was another line. He sighed and sipped his soda. Did Liam’s world revolve around Sam? Did hers revolve around him? Was he foolish to even think that he should be included, even as a distant constellation?

He’d been living with Liam for over a year and they’d never been more than friends. Liam had absolutely no thoughts of any man, let alone his young room-mate. Even knowing these facts, Gino felt just a little saddened as he watched people pairing off around him. Uncle Edmund’s on-again-off-again relationship with Vanessa was on again. Liam and Sam were in a budding relationship; one unlike any the player had ever encountered.

Gino sighed and looked past the blonde towards where his classmates were sitting and chatting. Henri and Dermot were in an animated conversation about something. Matthew was teasing one of the girls good-naturedly. Lazare, Henri’s older brother, stood a little apart from the others. Gino blushed as he realized the older man was watching him. He had even less chance with Lazare than he’d had with Sasha.

“Hello, Gino,” a husky voice said from over his shoulder.

Gino looked up and saw the very person he’d been thinking of. “You move fast,” he murmured. Blushing he said, “Um… sorry, hi.”

“What’re you thinking about so solemnly?” Lazare asked.

“Nothing… Sam and Liam make a nice couple, don’t you think?” Gino replied. He wanted to look away but some kind of energy kept his eyes on the fair-haired man. Was this what all those poetical words meant? Was love like gravity that drew you into orbit around each other?

**
The Ultimate Reality (9-23-09)

“See now, they should have the silly contestants on those reality shows do this,” Ed said as he leaned back to watch his brother working.

“What? Rangle three-year-olds?” Al said as he scooped up a little boy. “Who would want to do this on a game show?”

“Three-year-old rangling would be quite something to see,” Ed quipped. “Especially a bunch of people who didn’t know what they were doing.”

“I’d like to see them put ten three-year-olds down for naptime,” Al said. “They’d be the ones crying.”

“Total Drama Daycare,” Ed said, waving his hands like he was showing a banner. “Totally unscripted because three year olds can’t read scripts. Totally candid because there’s no way you can pretend to like kids and not come off as fake. The ultimate reality.”

**
Monster Hospital (9-24-09)

Chloe sat up and looked around the darkened hospital room. She’d woken early, she knew. It was too dark for it to be morning. “Mommy? Daddy?” she said softly. She continued to look around the unfamiliar room.

Her daddy said he’d be here when she woke. But he’d expected her to wake in the morning, not the middle of the night. He’d also said that she wouldn’t be alone. There were always nurses around. She looked around the room and watched the shadows move. Whimpering she hid under the blankets.

Under the blankets was too hot so she came back out. The shadows had moved closer now. “Mommy. Daddy,” she whispered. Tears slipped down her cheeks. Suddenly the shadows flew away and a man with long white hair entered through the window.

“Hello, little girl,” he greeted. “Were those shadows scaring you?” Chloe nodded. “Well, how about I sit here and watch to make sure they don’t come back again, ne?”

Chloe sat up and nodded. “I’m Chloe. What’s your name? What were those shadows?”

“My name is Jyuushiro. Those shadows… well, they’re hard to explain. They were hungry and looking for something to eat. That’s why I’m here to watch out for them. Alright?” He smiled reassuringly at Chloe and she laid back down.

“Are you going to be here until Daddy comes?” she asked.

“I will be here even afterwards, Chloe. You have nothing to be afraid of. Sleep well, child.” Chloe smiled and closed her eyes as he settled in the chair.

**
Falling in Love is Searching for Missing Pieces of Ourselves. (9-25-09)

He knew it when she cried for him. Not because of him or out of worry for him, but in his place. He could not cry so she cried for him. Her release of emotions helped restore him as much as it did her.

He knew it when he saw her again and she immediately knew he needed her help. She’d known he was coming and what he would need. She’d planned for it. She took care of him.

He knew it when she found him again. After losing Noa. After finding his son. After losing his home for good. She found him. She knew what he needed, even though he didn’t know it himself. She brought him healing.

He knew it when they made a baby together. Each day as she grew larger… as their child grew within her. He knew it. She was hardly showing when he asked her to be his wife. They both knew it was right. They both knew it was time. They both cried and smiled together as she said yes.

He knew it as she walked down the aisle of the church. The wedding was hastily planned but it didn’t matter to either of them. Their friends and family were there to see them wed. Granny Pinako gave her to him. The Hughes Family gave him to her. They were a family now.

He knew it as he watched her sleeping; pregnant with his child again. “I love you,” he whispered. She smiled in her sleep. She knew it too.

**
She Smiles Like the Knife (9-26-09)

Vanni frowned and looked up at his aunt. It was clear to him she hated him and his father. There was no doubt in his mind as he looked at her false smile. It was brittle and cold; forced. She wanted them out of this house. She especially wanted Pat out. If she could have killed him, she would have. Even as she smiled, she contemplated his death.

“Welcome to Greyssen Manor,” she said, biting off the words.

“Thank you,” Father said, not even acknowledging the hatred in the woman’s eyes. “So sorry to hear about your father.”

“Thank you,” Vanni’s other aunt replied. She was as different as night and day from her twin. Her smiled was genuine and warm. “Hello, Vanni. Hello, Patrice.”

“Good to see you again,” Pat said, giving her a brief hug. “Sorry about the circumstanses.”

“Hello,” Vanni said softly. “We… I was told that… Grandfather had special… orders about me.”

“Yes,” the elder twin said. She turned the cold smile toward him. “You’re his heir, apparently. You’re the next Count von Greyssen.”

Vanni blinked a couple times in shock then turned toward his other aunt. She looked, if anything, anxious. His father and brother looked as confused as he felt. “Me?” he asked softly.

**
Ode to Divorce (9-27-09)

Al sighed. In Amestris when two people were married the bond was meant to be forever. The bride’s family didn’t give her into the groom’s. Both families gave the young people to each other. Al’s brother had stood to give him to Amy, even as her parents gave her away.

They had been in love. So Al had thought. The first months had been wonderful and sweet. Then Amy had started worrying and complaining.

Al was going after his master’s degree at the time. Amy fretted about money. Debt was mounting. Money was tight. They could get by. Food and necessities were well within their means. However, she couldn’t get the things and clothes she liked.

Al was involved in the church, in school, in work and in his brother’s family. Amy began to feel like he wasn’t paying enough attention to her. He listened to her and skipped church meetings or declined invitations to lunch or dinner. Then he spent many days and evenings alone when Amy went out with her friends or family.

Al wasn’t organized in the traditional sense. He wasn’t good about putting things away. Amy felt he didn’t keep their house clean enough, or help her enough with the chores. Al didn’t bathe daily. Amy was disgusted by that idea. He tried to follow her habits.

It had not been enough. About a year and a half into their marriage, Amy had asked for a divorce. She couldn’t “do it” any more, she said. Now, three months later, Al stood looking at the finalized papers. The divorce was official, two days before what would have been their second aniversary. Al sighed, and slipped the ring off his finger.

As his brother often said, move forward. He would do that now. He would be alright. It was time to let go.

Beginning from August 6

Three thousand five hundred Miles Away (8-6-09)

Orbsen sighed and stared out the window. His son – his baby boy – was going away to school. Chances were good that Arashi would never return to court.

The young emperor stood and began filing papers. It was for the best, he told himself. Arashi would never be more than a servant at court. As many times as Orbsen had commanded otherwise, he was still marginalized. In the country where he was going to school, things would be different. Orbsen’s fledgling would soar there.

“Be well, my son,” Orbsen murmured as he left the office to address the court.

**
Seven For a Secret Never to be Told (8-7-09)

“I’m going to swear you to secrecy and I expect you to tell no one any of this,” Toshiro said softly.

“Just how many people know that which is meant to be an absolute secret?” Yumichika asked.

Toshiro closed his eyes and replied, “Matsumoto, Ukitake, Kyouraku, the pair of you and… I think, Aizin and Ichimaru.”

“Seven people?” Ikkaku said in disbelief.

Toshiro glared and shook his head. “I don’t see why that matters. I still don’t want it spread around.”

“Think what would happen to the youngest captain’s credibility if it became known that he was afraid of thunder,” Yumichika said. “We won’t tell a soul, sir. Your secret is safe with us.”

**
Love is a Ghost Train Rumbling Through the Darkness (8-8-09)

“Love is a Ghost Train Rumbling Through the Darkness,” Astor said, looking up from his sheet music.

“Sounds like a personal problem to me,” Michael said. He grinned at his partner and shrugged, “You opened that door.”

“And as ever, you felt the need to walk right through,” Astor said, rolling his eyes. “It’s the title of the song I’m writing. If you haven’t got anything constructive to say, don’t say anything at all.”

“Is that tone?” Michael asked. He grinned as Mara shot him a glare.

“All voices have tone,” Astor said, shrugging again and returning to his music. “If they don’t… well, they sound just plain weird.”

“Who are you calling weird?” Michael asked.

“I figured it was Mara. She’s the one who expects people to have toneless voices,” Astor said. He and Michael grinned at the older woman and Michael merely shrugged under her withering glare.

“You can have your fun,” she said.

“Thanks,” Michael said.

“We planned to, even without your permission,” Astor added. Both men chuckled as she growled and stalked away.

**
But what would you change, if you could? (8-9-09)

There were times when always being the youngest at something aggravated him. Being the smallest aggravated him more, though. His size made his enemies belittle and underestimate him. It made certain people feel the need to shelter him. It made his friends less inclined to look to him for help.

There were physical reasons he didn’t like his small stature. He couldn’t reach high shelves without help or using his gifts. Without his special gifts he couldn’t jump as far or move as fast. But then all shinigami had the same gifts, so his size still limited him. Most of all he hated limits.

Now he stood, as Captain Ukitake had always done, at the very end of the two rows of captains. The robe of the older captain swam on him and he looked up at all the newcomers in the room. No other time had he felt so small and he hated it.

**
Out of the Lightning Dream (8-10-09)

Orbsen frowned and patted Rose as she tugged at the reins. “Easy, girl. Easy Rose,” he murmured. He looked up as bot Gin and Hiyori gasped softly. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Hollow,” the two former shinigami murmured. Both came to stand a bit closer. Neither was riding since both could move faster on foot.

Gin motioned Orbsen off his horse and the young emperor swung down, though he kept a hand on the reins. Rose seemed to sense their apprehension and tugged at her reins. “Where is it? Is there more than one?”

“Dunno,” Hiyori said. “Hiding its – or their – reiatsu. Higher level hollows are smart enough for tactics.” Suddenly the hollow sprang at them from the path ahead. Both Hiyori and Gin moved to defend Orbsen.

He gasped softly. The hollow was huge with a mask that looked like something out of one of his worst nightmares. A sound behind him made him turn and he screamed as a second hollow emerged from the forest. Suddenly, Rose tugged hard on her reins and ran down the path toward the second hollow.

Orbsen moved but Gin caught him. “Rose,” Orbsen screamed as the hollow devoured the creature that had been his mount for three centuries. Seconds later, Hiyori sliced through the hollow’s mask but by then it was too late.

“Sorry,” Gin whispered as Orbsen sank to the ground.

“She was protecting you as much as we were. She gave us time to get to you before the hollow did,” Hiyori murmured.

“She was always a very smart horse. She could tell when I was in trouble even when I didn’t know yet,” Orbsen said. “We should… get going?”

“I’ll call and tell them what happened. We aren’t too far off from the Seireitei. They’ll want to know about the hollows. There may be more,” Gin said softly. “They’ll probably send someone out to escort us in. Since you aren’t too keen on walking.”

“Is… is it safe to wait here?” Orbsen asked softly.

“Regardless, we won’t wait here,” Hiyori said. She darted a glance between Gin and the remains of Rose, then tugged Orbsen hand. “C’mon Orey. Like Gin said Seireitei isn’t far off and we might can make good time and get there before nightfall.”

They walked some distance down the path and Orbsen sighed. “Gin’s… taking care of the remains?” he aasked softly.

“Expected you didn’t want it left for the carrion birds,” Hiyori murmured. “She was a good horse, Orey. You’ll not find her like but… she’s got foals, right?”

“She’s only foaled once and… it’s a stallion. Hiyori, I’ve never ridden a stallion before – only mares. Wind stallions are fierce and independent, not just anyone can ride them,” Orbsen said. “Lightning of Rose, he’s called. He’s beautiful and very smart but… I don’t know.”

“If anyone can ride him, it’s you,” Hiyori said. “When we get back, give him a try.” Orbsen nodded and they walked on in silence.

**
The Contrast of White on White (8-11-09)

Toshiro looked wonderingly at the fine haori Shunsui had given him. It was so similar to his usual haori that from a distance people wouldn’t be able to distinguish that he wore a different one, aside from the long sleeves.

However, the fabric was what truly set the garment apart. It was a fine white silk lined in the deepest red. As Toshiro looked closely, a pattern of white embroidery stood out against the white silk. Tiny white dragons chased each other through white clouds. Along the hem tiny white flowers danced – these were the flowers of the thirteenth division, summer snowflake.

“It’s beautiful,” he breathed. “It’s too… too fine for… I’m…” suddenly he felt overwhelmed. He’d been raised in the Rukon District, then joined the military ranks of the shinigami. This was the clothing of a nobleman, not a soldier – whatever his rank.

“Don’t fret, Toshiro,” Shunsui murmured. “We all have them.”

Toshiro ducked his head to hide his smile as he tugged the garment on. “It really is beautiful,” he murmured as he held out one arm to look at the white dragons flying over the white fabric. “But I suppose it’s not too much… since you can’t see it unless you’re close.”

**
Step out the front door like a ghost (8-12-09)

Toshiro woke slowly and rolled over. He’d gone to sleep the night previous holding Hiyori in his arms. As they had decided, there had been no sexual intercourse. They had merely held one another through the night and given comfort as both had fought through nightmares. Now he was alone.

He sat up and pulled his samui jacket on as he climbed out of bed. He padded across the room to the screened door and looked out. Hiyori sat on the edge of the porch staring out at the water. Quietly, he joined her and sat down.

“I didn’t hear you get up,” he said softly.

“I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t wanna wake you,” she murmured back.

He tilted his head to look at her. “How long have you been up?” he asked, taking her hand. “You didn’t have another nightmare, did you?”

“No, just thinkin’. Toshiro, I don’t want anything to happen to you,” she said. “What if… she – the hollow – she tries to take me over. If I weaken – if I waver at all – she’ll come out. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I can take care of myself,” Toshiro murmured. “I… Hiyori, I love you. Whatever the risks, I want to be with you. Can… is that alright?”

Hiyori smiled, though tears were standing in her eyes. “Yeah,” she said softly. “I love you too,” she added as she leaned against him.

**
In Between the Moon and You (8-13-09)

Astor frowned up at the moon. It was full and especially bright tonight. He wondered how his ex-wife was doing. Was she happy? Had she found someone else? Was she taking good care of their pet cat?

Somewhere in the wide world his wife was also sitting under this very moon. Did she wonder how he was doing? Did she wish him well or did she not give him a second thought. When they’d first been wed, had she been as happy as he was or did her illness and child-like qualities always stand between them?

The last months of their marriage had been littered by anxiety on his part and silence on his wife’s. She’d been truly fighting her depression since the holidays. Astor couldn’t imagine the holidays depressing anyone but Joanne had always been worried about their finances and even with special money saved aside for gifts, she’d worried about the expense.

Astor had always enjoyed the holidays. The music, the socialization, the visiting. It had struck him as strange that anyone would hate the very things he enjoyed. Especially the very person that he loved enough to marry and vow to spend the rest of his days with.

Now they were divorced. Did God see that as breaking sacred vows made at their wedding? Was he supposed to spend his remaining years alone now? He didn’t really have a strong interest in women, especially at the moment. He was dedicated to his work and his friends. He sighed and looked up as a shadow passed over the moon. It was an eclipse.

Joanne’s illness had been like that for their marriage. The bright gentle light of it’s glow had been eclipsed by her mental issues and it had proven too much. Just as the moon would soon move out of the Earth’s shadow, Astor knew that he would move out of the shadow of the failed relationship and be able to begin anew. He settled back to watch the moon hide itself as the night progressed.

**
Will You Catch Me if I’m Falling (8-14-09)

Michael frowned and peered around the bushes at the strange sounds he heard from the campsite. He gasped and darted back at the sight that greeted him. Mara and Astor were backed against a tree, armed with stout branches as a number of dirty, unsavory-looking men advanced on them.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the men were bandits and what they would do with his partners. Swallowing thickly, Michael did the only thing he could. He began humming, summoning his magic. The magic always affected him the same way but now was not the time for reluctance. His friends needed his help.

The song was a lullaby and a swirling of faery lights accompanied by two soft thuds told him that the magic had worked. Immediately afterwards his reaction to working magic struck. Michael moaned at the first wave of dizziness. The second one coursed through him and he staggered.

Somehow he managed to land gently. He opened bleary eyes to find that Astor was leaning over him, looking concerned. “You caught me?” Michael said softly.

“Always,” Astor replied in a voice that was just as quiet. “You don’t even need to ask. Thanks for the help.”

“Always,” Michael returned. “You don’t… either.” His eyes closed then and he knew no more.

**
Under the gun (8-15-09)

Edward frowned and began writing his report. This was the part about being a state alchemist he hated. For every action there were mountains of paperwork. He had three reports to write by the end of the day. Mustang had said if he failed to complete them, his funding would be cut. If he wanted to continue his search for a way to get Al’s body back, he must have that funding.

So, though he hated paperwork; even though he typed with excruciating slowness, he toiled over the reports. They must be finished. He’d done hordes of worse things for his brother. Paperwork was nothing compared to that. His brother was everything.

**
The Crumbling Distance Between Wrong and Right (8-16-09)

Michael frowned and looked up and down the corridor. When he saw that it was deserted, he walked quietly down the hall and entered a room. On the bed, naked and waiting for him, was Jacob. The boy was handsome and exciting. Even more exciting was that his wife was just down the corridor in the dining room.

Theoretically she could come in on them at any minute. Michael was certain she wouldn’t. Her parents ran the inn and she enjoyed visiting with the men who ate and drank in the common room. Jacob had caught her more than once in compromising situations. Still, the idea that she could walk in on them was enticing.

The bard walked quietly to where his lover slept. He slipped under the blankets and caressed the boy’s bare flesh. Jacob opened his eyes and smiled as their eyes met. Michael hugged him close and fondled him gently. Jacob reached around his hip and caressed, first his cheeks then the slit between them. Then his fingers slipped into Michael’s anus.

They kissed and their tongues danced against each other. Jacob looked up at him and licked his lips before he said, “We shouldn’t do this. I’m married.”

“You weren’t happy with her and she isn’t happy either,” Michael said. He arched into Jacob’s hands as one fondled his anus and the other stroked his growing erection. “Are you happy with me?”

“Oh, yes,” Jacob whispered. He kissed Michael as the bard slipped into him. “Michael, it isn’t right,” he murmured, though he arched into Michael until the bard was balls deep inside him.

“How can it not be,” Michael argued. “Jacob, I love you.”

“I love you,” Jacob murmured. “How am I going to tell Melanie? We can’t keep doing this. It’s dishonest and it isn’t fair to you to keep sneaking around like this.”

For several minutes there was no talk as the two men took pleasure in each other’s bodies. Then they lay silently, basking in the afterglow. “I’ll talk to her after you go back on your journeys,” Jacob said softly. “I… don’t think I can tell her about us. I’ll tell her that… we need to get separated. That we’ll both be happier that way.”

Michael nodded but frowned. “Why wait?” he asked softly.

“She’ll blame you otherwise. She’ll think that I was drawn away from her by you and want to… keep me. She’ll fight for me if she thinks there’s an opponent. If it’s a natural progression of our failing marriage then she’ll let me go,” Jacob said softly. “Actually, this way I can turn it around and blame her. She’s been cheating on me for years.”

“I know. I’ll come back as soon as I can,” Michael said softly.

Jacob nodded and rolled over so he was seated between Michael’s knees. He leaned into the bard and Michael could feel his erection. Smiling, Michael lifted his legs. He moaned as Jacob slipped inside him.

**
Beside the Green Apple Sea (8-17-09)

“Shouldn’t it be apple green? Like… your sister’s eyes,” Mara said softly.

“I’m avoiding a rhyme,” Astor explained. “I like the sound of green apple better anyway.”

“It sounds like a sea beside an apple orchard,” Michael said. He took a bite of the apple he’d purchased from a merchant’s cart. “That’s not a criticism,” he added quickly when Astor glared at him. “I’m just saying it. I like it better too. Apple green would make it too… sing-songy and it’s supposed to be a serious piece.”

“Thank you,” Astor said coolly. “We’re supposed to meet a group of bards from the Snowjewel Troupe here. Keep your eyes open. They have a pair of apprentices, one being the daughter of one of the members.”

“Any better description than that?” Mara asked.

“No,” Astor replied. He scanned the crowded marketplace and frowned thoughtfully. “I know Farad though so he should stick out to me. The man never changes.”

“I can’t imagine taking on an apprentice at our age,” Mara said softly. “Watching a journeyman is bad enough.”

“I don’t give you that much trouble,” Michael protested. He pointed and said, “What about them. A pair of kids and a man with instruments.”

“Yep, that’s them,” Astor agreed. “Well, one of the kids is a foxy. How… different.”

“I’m always happy to have new experiences,” Michael said softly. As he trotted up to the newcomers he sang the song that Astor had been working on. “So I left her there watching for things unseen, over the green apple sea.”

“How can you watch for things unseen?” Mara asked.

“That’s sort of the point,” Astor grumbled.

**
Feathered By the Moonlight (8-18-09)

Shiro flicked an ear under his hood and sighed. He hated being in purely human villages for this reason. One would think they had never even heard of other races with the way they reacted when they saw his ears and tail. Therefore his master had told him it might be a good idea to hide them, at least until the townsfolk realized that he wasn’t going to eat them.

He glanced out into the town square and gasped at what he saw. There one of the village girls stood, bathed in the moonlight. At first it seemed like an illusion but when they moved he realized that they were real. Snowy white wings had sprouted from her back as the moonlight had struck her. In a second she was aloft. “Master,” he whispered.

“I saw it too,” Master Farad said softly. “I think you can put your hood down. The people of this village only seem human. I wondered why they were giving us curious looks. I may be the only human here.”

Shiro smiled and looked around the common room. Sure enough, as moonlight streamed in the windows and struck them, the occupants shifted. Some grew wings from their backs, others sprouted feathers from their arms, others shifted completely into bird fey.

“Hello, little fox,” their waitress greeted. “Would you like some stew? The voles were caught fresh this afternoon. We also have fresh grapes from the vineyard.”

“Vole stew, really,” Shiro said. He nodded happily and the woman bounded off to get his meal. He glanced up at his master curiously and asked, “Master, why didn’t she ask what you wanted?”

“Well, I think I can understand how strange it is for you to be in a completely human village,” Master Farad said softly. “You see, she may not like me because I’m human or she may think that I don’t like you because you’re a fey.”

When the waitress returned with a bowl of stew, some bread and a bunch of grapes, Shiro looked up and said, “Please, since my master may not like voles, do you have a meal for humans also?”

She looked startled and nodded. “We have roast beef,” she replied.

“That sounds wonderful,” Farad said softly. “Thank you very much. Also, if I may ask, we are bards and make our living with music. Would it be acceptable for us to play here in your lovely establishment tonight?”

The woman nodded, smiling, “I don’t think it’ll be a problem but I’ll ask my father to be sure.” As she scampered off across the room, Shiro smiled at his master.

“What are you grinning about?” Farad asked softly.

“I’m a bard,” Shiro said, bouncing in his chair a little. He began to eat cheerfully and Farad grinned. The anxious, soft-spoken little kit that had been apprenticed to an overbearing uncle was gone. The boy was coming out of his shell, given wings by the magic of his music.

**
There is a bird that nests inside you (8-19-09)

Edward watched his daughter as she chatted with her dolls. She was equal parts himself and Winry. She had his hair and eye color but she had Winry’s chin and cheekbones. She was just as interested in science as she was in how machines worked. He wondered what she would be when she grew to adulthood.

Chloe giggled as she caught him watching. “What’re you doing, Daddy?” she asked. She bounded over and jumped into his arms.

“Just watching you play, sweet pea,” Ed replied. “Thinking about how fast you’re growing up. Wondering what you’re going to be when do you grow up.”

“I don’t know,” Chloe said, her brow knitting.

“You don’t have to yet, silly goose,” Ed teased. “You’re three. But someday… you, my little chickadee, are going to soar.” Chloe giggled as he set her back down and she returned to her dolls. “Someday,” Ed murmured.

**
Sleeping underneath your skin (8-20-09)

Suoh sighed as he fell deeper asleep. Suddenly, he was floating in that bright featureless place again. He sat up and looked around. “Little one,” a soft penetrating voice said. “Little one,” you need to awaken me.”

“How,” Suoh said. He looked around and saw a large white dragon with hair the same powdery blue as his own looming over him. For some reason, he wasn’t afraid of this monstrous beast. “How do I awaken you. Who are you?”

“I am you, Litle One. I am what you should be,” the dragon said. “You must awaken me.”

Then Suoh was awake in his own bed. “What a strange dream,” he murmured. The day was brightening into morning so he got up and began preparing for his classes. Throughout the day, the strange dream would return to his mind.

**
When you open up your wings to speak (8-21-09)

Astarte watched her son from behind the curtain. The boy didn’t know she was watching, praying that all would go well. This was his chance. It was likely the only one he would get. If he didn’t take this leap, he would stay a little fledgling bird forever.

“F-father,” he managed. His voice was soft. The man on the throne paid him no mind. “Emperor Anu,” he said, more formally and stronger at the same time. “Emperor Anu, you are under arrest for crimes against the people of Mag Mell, for trafficking in slavery and for willful violation of numerous treaties. I’m going to ask you to come with me. If you do not and choose to resist, I will use force.”

The bustle of court ceased and all heads turned to look at the young prince. “What did you say?” the emperor asked, rising to his feet. He walked menacingly toward his son and heir. “By whose authority do you come here?” he asked, his voice thundering through the hall.

“I come by the authority of my position as chief investigator for Mag Mell. I come at the behest of the Council of Elders,” Orbsen said firmly. His golden-brown eyes were huge but he met his father’s eyes without quailing. “You are hereby removed from your position as emperor of Mag Mell and king of Tirna Nog, by order of the elders.”

“Guards seize this whelp,” the former emperor thundered.

Orbsen spun toward the assembled guardsmen. “If you so much as move, you will stand accused of high treason as well,” he warned them. Not one moved. All heads turned back to the former emperor. “You are finished,” Orbsen said firmly. “Now come along peacefully or I will subdue you.”

“You will,” Anu snorted.

He moved surprisingly fast for such a large man. Orbsen seemed to disappear for a moment and Astarte’s heart leapt into her throat. Then her husband was on the ground, unconscious, and Orbsen sat on top of him, panting.

He stood slowly and looked over the stunned courtiers. “The morning court is dismissed. We will reconvene under the council of Elders for the former emperor’s trial on the morrow. Oni, take him to the tower cell until his trial.” The people in the room moved to do as the young prince had ordered but the guards stayed put.

“Your orders, sir,” the captain said sternly.

“It is not within my authority as prince to order you, captain. You are dismissed to your regular duties until a new emperor is declared,” Orbsen replied. “Pardon me,” he added before bowing and following the oni out of the room.

**

I belong in the service of the queen (8-23-09)

Shadow sighed and settled back despondently. He’d gone from royal protector to forced service in a bathhouse to a slave of bandits. From both of these last he’d tried several times to escape with no success. He’d been punished multiple times. Now he was seated in a cage at the edge of an ocean, waiting for water to rise enough to drown him. The bandits were fed up with his fighting and escape attempts. They wanted him dead.

Shadow closed his eyes as the water splashed his face. It wouldn’t be long now. He was going to die here, never knowing if the princess he served was even alive. Had she escaped the people who’d captured and sold him? Was she a slave somewhere and waiting for rescue that would never come from him?

Water closed over his head for a moment. He coughed as it retreated and gagged when it covered him again. Then, he was suddenly on dry land. Hands were pulling him free of the cage. He opened his eyes to the familiar faces of Zared and Gashin. “Master Shadow!” the zebra greeted. “Her highness will be glad to hear that we found you. We’ll be home soon and a healer will tend to your injuries.

**
I’m almost drowning in her sea (8-24-09)

I’m almost drowning in her sea. She spreads her waves around her, hoping to catch her prey. She doesn’t do it maliciously. It is only her nature to catch them. She has me as surely as she has anyone. She does enjoy the conquest. Then she leaves us to drown.

*
Cuig sighed as he looked up from his notes. The margins were full of this scrawl. He had never been affected this strongly by a woman before and it pained him that it was his own apprentice that did it to him. Una was a strong-willed vixen and a beautiful one. Her gifts surprised him, and not just the ones he was training her in. She didn’t seem to see him as any more than a teacher though.

He stood and shook out his long mane, trying to distract himself from the girl. She was his student and thus, inaccessible. He swore when he’d become a master mage that he would not dominate his students as Master Fortain had him. He would not give in to the urgings of his heart no matter how much pain it brought him. He could not put anyone, especially Una, through what he went through.

**
Memories are films about ghosts (8-25-09)

“I realized just recently that none of my former squad members are in my squad now. I walk the same halls I did one hundred years ago, expecting to see familiar faces and all I see are strangers. My memories of that place are totally unlike how it is now.

“I’m not complaining, Shinji. I’ll get used to it. I’m getting used to it. Kira’s a good lieutenant and now that he’s getting used to me, we get along just fine. I’m just saying… all my memories of that place… the compound, the gardens, the offices… it’s like they happened to someone else now. It’s weird.”
**
Folded and unfolded and unfolding (8-26-09)

“Things don’t end, they move in cycles. We see beginnings and endings but there aren’t any, not really. There is always movement. Events don’t stop at a single moment in time. They continue to evolve and change. Life is always moving.

I’m present at the close of so many lives here but we all know that they move on to the human world. I’ve gotten to be there at the beginning but we know that those new lives are here from the human world. Life is… like one of these plants. I put it in an arrangement but it doesn’t stop changing, just because I plucked it off the main stem. The flowers will still open. Seeds might even form. Right here in this flower arrangement. Do you see what I’m trying to say, lieutenant? Yes, of course we can have a snack now.”

**
Give me your black sky (8-27-09)

“She’s such a sweet thing, you don’t expect her to be so morbid. I guess maybe I can help her there. I haven’t had a morbid second in my life. Even when things are at their bleakest, I seem to be able to smile. That isn’t a very nice way to discribe a person’s smile, Hiyori. I’m serious here.

I want to tell her. Let it go. Aizen isn’t worth your tears. He isn’t worth your pain. He didn’t even care that he you hurt; that you were in pain; that you were crying. I want to tell her to… I don’t know let me help her with her burdens, you know?

Give me some of those burdens. Share that pain and it’ll start to go away. Is it alright for a captain to tell his lieutenant that? Can I say that without her taking it the wrong way? Hiyori, she’s more than half my age. I don’t see her like that at all. I just want… her to… I want to tell her to… I want to say… Give me… your black sky so I can paint a sunrise.”

**
“It’s the breathing. It’s the breathing in and out and in and…” (8-28-09)

“We take so much for granted. Everyone does. We expect that when we wake up in the morning, we’ll sit up, climb out of bed, get washed up, dress, eat and begin our day. We expect to be able to eat. We expect to be able to get up. We expect to be able to… to breathe. Such a simple thing, breathing.

It takes people by complete surprise when they suddenly can’t accomplish such a simple task. Even now, after centuries, I expect to wake up every morning with the capacity to draw breath. I’ve been sick for centuries and am still shocked when the simple act of taking a breath is not possible. That’s what life is. That’s what it comes down to. It’s the breathing in and out and in and out.”

**
All my innocence is wasted on the dead and dreaming (8-29-09)

“Do you know how many times I’ve been compared to an angel? Do you realize how many souls have said something like that before I send them on to their next life? No one around the office says I’m angelic in the slightest. None of the other captains think I’m angelic, except maybe Jyuushiro. The only people who see that side of me are people who only see me for the briefest of times.

Why do they think I’m angelic, anyway? I’m only doing my job. We’re supposed to send people on to their next life. They’ll go a little easier if they don’t have any unfinished business. What about Jyuushiro? Well, he was asleep. Yeah, just like Momo. I suppose so but it wasn’t like I could leave them. They’re like family. Family stays together, especially when one is sick.”

**
I wanted to see you walking away from me (8-30-09)

“I am sorry. I truly never meant to hurt you with the words I said. There were unkind, admittedly. Perhaps they were cruel. However, you would never turn from me. You were always facing me. You have a beautiful figure. You might notice that I never said anything bad about that. I could reach around your waist with ease. Your breasts are large and full. A man could lose himself in them. Your hips have just enough flair.

Then there is your face. A more perfectly symmetrical face I have never seen. Lips like roses. Eyes like sparkling river stones. You thought that I’d compare them to gemstones perhaps? Such banalities would not begin to describe the many hues and expressions I see in them. But you would always be facing me. You never turned away.

When I said all those things, my kitten, I wanted to see you walking away from me. Now I have and I see that I hadn’t yet seen your best feature.”

**
Someday I’m going to stay, but not today. (8-31-09)

He watched the pair of boys as they ran through the yard. They were racing each other. The smaller one lagged behind the taller by only a few paces. They reached the tree, which was obviously the finish line at nearly the same time. “I win,” both shouted.

“Miles was just a little faster, Emery,” their mother said before the dispute could become a fight.

“He has longer legs,” Emery stated. “It isn’t fair. He’s younger than I am.”

“Only by a year,” their mother soothed. “You’ll catch up quickly, I’m sure.. Let’s go get lunch.” She turned to lead the way into the house.

“Is Papa coming home for lunch,” Miles asked, all innocence. His brother glared and shushed him quickly.

His mother turned and said, “Not today dearest.”

“Is Papa ever coming home?” Emery asked softly.

“Someday,” the man watching them said, before he melted back into the forest.

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

Heather's Fancies

tales from the enchanted gardens and shadow hollow

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