Summary: Sakura and Aya's first night free from Schwarz.
Fandom: Weiß Kreuz
Warnings: Sexual threat
Title, Author and URL of original story: Transitions, by therck, http://www.therck.org/transitions.html
Notes: Thank you so much to puddingcat for beta-ing!
The girl sat on a golden chair in a palace of glass. Sunlight played around her in shattered refractions, touching her face with rainbow colours. Sakura blinked, dazzled as she stepped nearer.
"Who are you?" the girl said, her face calmly curious.
"I'm Sakura . . . are you - are you Fujimiya Aya?"
"Yes," the girl said, standing up eagerly. Her long velvet dress gleamed ruby-red in the bright light. "He said you'd come to see me!"
Sakura nodded stiffly. She looked around at the brightly lit room. Through the glass she could see fractured glimpses of mountains and green meadows. Every pane showed a different view. "This place isn't real," she said. She couldn't blame Aya for being unaware of events, she thought. She hadn't even believed the girl was more than comatose until they had been so abruptly brought together. Forced together. "In the real world –"
"I know," Aya said. "I'm like a doll lying in bed, he told me. He said I've been sick for a long time, that a bad man hurt me. This place is just for me - it's like a fairytale, he said, like he thought girls liked." She smiled, sweetly and shyly, as if she had said too much about a boy she liked. "I suppose it must be a European one, don't you think? It's so much better than waiting in the dark." She took a few quick steps forward and seized Sakura's hands. "Is it true? Am I going to wake up? Will we be set loose in the world and free?"
"So they say," Sakura said. Anything she or Aya said here was in no way private, would be picked over, analyzed and mocked.
"Then it's true," Aya beamed as snakes whisked themselves out of sight beneath her chair. "And Schuldig said you're one of us now. I'm so pleased, Sakura-chan!"
Sakura stood there, shocked.
Sitting in the car, Sakura kept her face absolutely still. The red-haired woman kept looking at them in the rear-view mirror. Crawford had said she would be neither an enemy nor an ally, but that she could not be counted on as a friend. He had not lied when he said it, and Sakura hoped his vision was accurate. She found herself disposed to like the woman, remembering the sound of the woman's shot and herself looking back at Crawford's incredulous face as he dropped his gun, his white sleeve stained with blood. Sakura smiled at Aya, squeezing her hand. "I'll feign a shot at you," Crawford had said - as always, telling her more than she wanted to know, in love with the sound of his own voice. "It will help to establish you as a victim." She was a victim, she thought fiercely, savouring once more the memory of red spreading through his expensive suit.
The apartment was just as Crawford had promised, quiet and peaceful. Standing in the entrance, the woman gestured at doorways.
"Kitchen and dining room, bathroom, bedroom through there. There's food enough for tonight and tomorrow. I don't expect the clothes will fit, but you can probably find something. Take care of Aya."
Sakura held on tight to Aya, who hadn't spoken since they had got in the car to be taken to Tokyo, who had moved only when prompted. "May I call my parents?"
"There's no phone."
That was more than half a lie. Not that Sakura could have rung them anyway. Crawford had said they'd die if she did, and he had told the truth when he said it. The woman visibly came to some decision.
"There isn't any surveillance here. You aren't being watched here tonight." She closed her eyes briefly. "I have things to take care of. I'll send Momoe-san – the lady from the flower shop – to fetch you tomorrow. Stay here till she comes, understand?"
There were no lies there. Sakura bowed as the woman left, then she locked the door. Beside her, Aya dropped the silent doll act and strode into the apartment proper, her steps straight and unwavering.
"I'm amazed you're even on your feet," Sakura said, a little uneasy. "You don't seem to have any muscular atrophy or deconditioning."
"I feel fine," Aya shrugged. "I guess it's part of being the perfect host for their demon." She looked around at the sitting room. "What now? I'm not hungry, are you?"
Sakura found herself suddenly ravenous. How could Aya not be hungry? She thought back, and couldn't remember ever seeing a drip feed by Aya's bed. That couldn't continue, she thought. They had to appear normal or Kritiker would rip them apart for answers. "Maybe some miso," she said, and went to find bowls, Aya trailing behind her.
"Do you like this Momoe-san any better than you like Schuldig?" Aya asked, and Sakura's fingers lost their grip on the bowl. She fumbled, catching it before it fell. What had Schuldig told Aya about her? What did Aya really know about him?
"Why did you try to run away? Such a silly little girl! I'll have to show you how much fun you can have if you stay -"
Sakura tried to force herself further backwards away from him, but she was trapped against the wall. Schuldig's smile promised pain and humiliation. He ran a hand down her, over her breasts, and took her t-shirt in both hands.
"Why don't you slip out of this? Or should I tear it off?" he mused, and winked. "I bet you like it rough, hey?"
"Please – don't – " she whispered.
"What's the matter, baby?" he said, full of mock solicitousness. "It's just sex – we've all had to do something that turned our stomach at some point or other."
He wasn't lying. Sakura remembered later that she had almost felt it rather than heard, the clear bright taste of truth like the long-repressed terror of a child. It was so strong that without even thinking she found herself overwhelmed with pity.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm so sorry that you were hurt like that."
For a split-second Schuldig looked only stupidly bewildered, then he shoved her from him both physically and with his mind. Sakura's head hit the wall and through the tears of pain she saw Schuldig summon up anger to cover the horror in his face. He turned away from her, wiping his hands on his trouser legs, as if trying to remove some stain.
"Crawford!" he yelled. "Crawford, the bitch can do something interesting!"
Sakura put the bowl down carefully and started heating water. "Momoe-san's a nice lady, but she answers to people who . . . might not be so nice." She measured rice out for the rice cooker and chopped vegetables. After a few minutes, Sakura said, "Schuldig enjoys being cruel. He wasn't allowed that with you." As she said the words she tasted the truth of them, knew Aya had never once feared him. She placed her hands flat on the counter top, breathing as evenly as she could. All her life, she thought. Crawford had said she must have been able to do this all her life. It was only that she hadn't known she was doing it; she had just thought herself a good judge of character, as she'd known Schuldig was a liar when she'd first met him. "How lucky you are, Ms Tomoe, that Schuldig has shaken your gift free."
"Schuldig spoke to me. He talked with me and showed me things and gave me fairy-tale rooms to explore. He was - really funny and charming."
True, all of it, as if Aya had gained a different big brother to play with. Sakura chopped the cucumber with more force than was called for. "That must have been nice."
She could feel Aya watching her. "Fairy-tales sometimes have monsters," Aya said. Her voice warmed with a smile. "Even when he showed me things I didn't want to see, it was better than the darkness."
There was more truth there than Sakura wanted. She poured the hot water over the miso paste and stirred. "Eat some soup," she said, putting both bowls on the low dining table.
Aya obediently knelt like a good child, called to dinner. "You can use my name," she said.
Sakura busied herself getting them glasses of water and searching the fridge for more food. You're the wrong 'Aya' seemed needlessly cruel.
"It's his name. It feels like giving up on him." Crawford had said she would never see her Aya again. It had had the feel of truth, and she desperately wanted him to be wrong. But he couldn't be wrong, because that meant he might be wrong about both Weiss and Schwarz surviving. Damn him, she thought wearily. Damn him and all his freaks. Except she and Aya were included in that number; Schwarz's mysterious investment that Crawford had refused to explain. She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. It's been a long day, and it'll be longer still tomorrow."
"How long were we with Schwarz?"
"Not long." It was disconcerting to hear her own words as half-truth. They'd had Aya a few weeks, and her for under ten days. In time that mattered, however, it had been an eternity. Once they had known what she could do, Crawford had ordered training. Schuldig had stormed into her mind, wiping out his own brief moment of human pain with the physical and psychic damage he inflicted. Subjective hours of hurt and fear took scant half-hours in reality, and Sakura had lost track of time quickly. "You'll thank me for this later," he'd said and to her horror she'd known it for truth. Whatever he'd done, whatever fragile walls of perception he had bulldozed, she had found it easier and easier consciously to tell truth and lies in what she heard. She thought of all the little half-truths, the white lies that helped people through each day. She would never have the comfort of those social graces again, would be left in cold and perfect knowledge if how little people really noticed each other. How much would she change, she wondered, before she was grateful to Schuldig? What horrors would she need to see as truth or lies?
"They taught me to shoot. Did they teach you anything?"
"A few things," Aya said, fiddling with her hair. "He didn't tell me why, and I was just glad of the company." Her hair came loose from its braid, and she started work on the other one, not meeting Sakura's eyes. "He said I'd have more to do in the real world, building up my strength."
"I'll help you there." No one would find it odd that a girl who had dealt with her kidney being stolen by going back to athletics should deal with a second trauma in the same way. She's fit, she seems healthy, her mind whispered, recalling how casually accepting Aya had seemed when talking of herself as part of Schwarz's plans. He didn't mean her physical strength. "You can use my name, too." She would not ask what Schuldig had taught Aya, she decided. She didn't want to hear the way her voice lightened when she spoke of him as a friend.
"I'm sorry," Aya whispered. "I'm sorry, Sakura-chan. We got you into this."
"No. You didn't." She wanted to cry at hearing Aya say that "we".
"Fujimiya's right, they would look identical, if this one's hair was darker. Aren't you lucky? We'd never have found you otherwise."
"Schuldig. Nothing that leaves visible bruises. And dye her hair – we can use that similarity."
"Will you tell me everything, like you promised when I woke up? I don't know what Schuldig didn't tell me."
"Yes," Sakura said. "I'll tell you what I can tonight. Tomorrow and after, though, we have to be careful, we can't talk about anything that matters. We have to be ordinary girls." She looked at Aya beseechingly. "Can you do that, just be so ordinary they'll eventually forget about us?"
"Yes," Aya said. "It's a pity we don't have a telepath."
Sakura's laughter surprised them both, and then it shaded into tears. She never wanted anyone to touch her mind again, and yet she longed for telepathy, knowing it was the only way she would have an honest conversation thereafter. She flinched as Aya put her arms around her and hugged with surprising strength.
"I'll look after you," Aya whispered. "I'm older, so it's my responsibility." She stroked Sakura's hair and back, whispering soothing nonsense. "Don't be afraid," she murmured, "I'll take care of you."
Sakura felt herself relax. Aya was telling the truth, and she meant no harm. It was good to be held so simply with no threat of violence or degradation, not to feel a man's larger hands gripping her. She rested her head on Aya's shoulder, letting the tension drain from her.
"Let's have a bath," Aya said gently. "We'll get nice and clean."
Sakura nodded. She desperately wanted to feel clean and whole again. "Yes. I want to wash. And let's find new clothes after - I want things to be clean and new. I'll tell you everything and we can take care of each other." She smiled as best she could as Aya looked happier, and managed not to flinch as Aya kissed her forehead. Aya stood up and held out a hand that Sakura obediently took. She let herself be led to the bathroom, clinging on to Aya's fingers. She had lost her parents and all her friends. Perhaps, she thought, in time she could lead Aya out of the darkness, and find a sister. She knew better than to say that aloud. She wanted the milder comfort of hope that it might be true, not the cold clarity of her gift's absolutism.
Two girls stood in a palace of glass, bathed in harsh white light. Sakura wondered what would happen if she tore her hand from Aya's, and stood there uncertain and afraid. Everything in this place was false, she thought, the imagination of a sick girl and of Schuldig, weaving dreams for the girl who might have been his queen. As she thought that she knew it for only half the truth. Aya was still smiling, still telling her how glad she was they were finally together. There was no use fighting, at least not now.
Sakura looked into Aya's golden, slit-pupilled eyes and smiled with as much warmth as she could. "I'm so glad to be here too," she said, and that too was only half a lie.
"We're going to be such friends!" Aya said, her voice happy and girlish over the depths beneath, hollow and awful.
Sakura stood there frozen in place like a baby bird, unable to look away from Aya in her dress the colour of fresh-spilled blood.