For KojiRose (Sorry. He just wouldn't.)


He was sitting in the gloom, in the tiny space available to him, fighting to breathe around the pain in his body and the dinning panic that was trying to break into his mind. He was looking at his hand, struggling to make sense of what made no sense at all, through all the noise that filled his head. He'd been away somewhere for two months and he'd only just come back and everything was changed, changed in ways things didn't change and couldn't change. Like a man coming home after work to the house he'd left in the morning, and finding it not full of light and the smell of dinner cooking but empty and ransacked and the light gone and the neighbours standing in the front yard muttering and not looking you in the eye. He had an idea of what he'd been doing for those two months when he hadn't been him, but it was all impossible, because he hadn't been him then and now he was him but he wasn't him any more because...

Impossibility, huge and black, had sheared through his life like scissors cutting through cloth, leaving it in tatters. These things don't happen. They had happened. When the impossible happens it tears away the pretty covering over reality so you see the horror underneath, the one that was always there waiting to come out, only you didn't know it. You thought you were safe, you thought you were happy, you thought the two of you together had found the answer, and then you see---

---Kanan with his knife- *his* knife, when had he ever had a knife, where had he found that knife?- Kanan with his knife that he didn't own, Kanan with his knife in her hands smiling- Kanan-

He choked on horror and tears, and the hole in his stomach burned like acid. He covered his eyes with his clawed fingers. Claws on his hands, over an inch long, sharp and curved on every finger. Kanan with his knife, claws on his hands, a hole in his body, everything impossible, these things don't happen...

"Annhh?" An inquiring voice beside him. He started in terror and found someone squatting beside him, surrounded in white. White cloth all about, floating and distracting, and a face, a human face, peering out at him through a white veil. Light reflected off its glasses so the eyes were invisible. My glasses, he thought vaguely, where are my glasses, I can't see without them. But he could see perfectly clearly. He could see it wasn't a woman's face- bristly stubble, an old shaving cut. The man watched him from invisible eyes and he watched the light- what light, there's no light here- reflect off the man's glasses. A reek of stale tobacco and stale sweat and unwashed hair, choking him.

"Maa, quite the state you're in here," the man remarked, nodding at him. "How'd you do it?"

He could only stare. The pain in his body was like a pounding drum, confusing all outside sounds, making it hard to focus.

"Hmnh? Don't know?"

"I--" I knew once. Someone told me once. "Youkai--" he whispered around the pain. "I killed all the youkai." Breath. "They took Kanan." Breath. "I-- killed---" blood everywhere blood everywhere bodies bleed so much when you cut them. He saw himself doing it, all those bodies, saw himself taking out eyes and ripping out intestines, *I* did that, I couldn't do that I wouldn't I'm not--

"Oh indeed. I see you did." The head turned, casting a glance backwards. "What of it?"

"I killed all the youkai." Breath. "So I turned into a youkai."

"Hmph." The man pushed his glasses up his nose. "You're sure?"

"He said." Who said? "Someone said."

"Interesting," the man opined. "This has the makings of a fascinating study. Not my field, of course. Pity."

Field-- "What-- Who are you?"

The man shrugged. "A magician. Of sorts. I have a few tricks."

Magician? Tricks? "Can you turn me back?" He took a breath. "Can you make me human again?"

"But of course" as if it was child's play, why bother asking. Cocked his head. "If you're prepared to pay?"

"Yes-- Yes, I--

"Now what, I wonder?"

"Anything," he said. Breath. "I'll give you-" if he was himself again it would be different, he'd know what to do next, maybe even- Kanan with his knife that he didn't have, Kanan leaving him she wouldn't leave him Kanan wouldn't leave him maybe he'd find it hadn't happened at all, just a bad dream like this one was, he'd come home and home would be home, dinner cooking, Kanan reading a book-- "Anything" to have that back again.

"Mnnhh," dubiously.

He was seized with an urgency that made everything else fade into the background. He grabbed the man's robe with his all-wrong hands. "Anything you want--" breath "from me, I'll-"

The magician put a hand to his chest, pushed him gently. "Anh- anh. My robe."

He let go. The man looked him over. He was smiling, but the smile was his lips only. The rest of his face was thinking something else.

"Never look a gift blowjob in the mouth, hmm? But your mouth- anh. Dangerous, I'd say. Mnh." He nodded, as if over a deep problem.

"Anything," he said, and it was a sob. His face twisted. It was hurting him again, it hurt so much, and it would never be over.

"Oh goodness gracious, no need for all this carry-on. I'm agreeable to other things." The man fished in his robe, took out a flat cigarette package, and put the last one in his mouth. Snap of a lighter, a flare of flame. Smoke. "Oh but look. You're covered in blood. What'll I do if that gets into the material? Silk stains- so stubborn, ne? A problem." The man shrugged, too bad, and turned away. His narrow fingers started to play with the silver foil from his cigarettes, pleating it into narrower and narrower folds, as if that was all that mattered to him now.

He blinked. Understood at last that the magician was toying with him. Anger washed over him, a weak wave, the last bit of emotion he was capable of.

"Change me back!" he yelled. He straightened up and raised a menacing arm, remembering, not quite remembering, doing this somewhere before, remembering he thought that it had worked before.

"Certainly, certainly," the magician said, looking up unperturbed. He smiled, showing oddly narrow teeth through his narrow lips. "Look at your hand." He looked down at it. "Kindly describe it to me."

"Black- black nails. Black-- markings, across the back. Leaves."

"But that's impossible, yes? You're human. It doesn't matter if you kill a thousand youkai. A human can't become a youkai." The man gave a small snorting laugh. "Ridiculous, yes? Look at your hand properly. It's pink. Soft. Short white nails-"

"Black. They're black."

"Oh dear dear. You're being stubborn." He twisted the foil around into a circle, smaller and smaller around his index finger. "Pink," the man said, looking down at the paper, "short. White fingernails-" he fluttered his for a moment. "Like these. See?"

That voice was so sure of itself... He looked at his hands, almost convinced, but they were-

"Black. They're still black. Sharp--"

The magician sighed. "Anh-henhh. Very well. We'll use magic then." His long fingers tore a piece off the thin strip of foil, reached over and squeezed it around the edge of his ear. "These are magic earrings. Three of them, because three is a magic number, yes?" as if to a child. A second one. "When you wear them your youkai body will vanish, and you'll be human." A third, in his earlobe, pinching. "There. Abracadabra." He waved a hand.

"Don't be stupid--" His voice was different. The hand he'd raised in anger was different. It was his hand. The way it should be. He stared at the magician, dizzy.

"It isn't true," he said. "These things don't happen." His soft normal fingers went to his ear. Cigarette papers- His fingers touched solid metal, heavy and cold. Fear crawled up his back, heavy and cold as the metal. These things don't happen.

"I have to-- I have to go home," he said numbly. He started to get to his feet, and the pain hit him like a tidal wave, making him gasp. He leaned against the wall, shaking uncontrollably. Not just the pain in his body. The new horrible clarity in his mind. It was true. It was all true. Everything he remembered had happened. Kanan was dead, because Kanan had killed herself. The youkai were dead, because he had killed them. There was no home. His neighbours were dead, because he had killed them. Old man Wu, and Senshu and Wang Chuhei and- he'd killed them.

"Something the matter?" the magician asked, standing beside him. "Oh, such a face. Well, I wish I could help you, my young friend, but I'm not a psychologist. It's-" he gave a little dry laugh- "forbidden, isn't it? Mixing science and magic like that." He gave him a long look. "A pity you didn't really turn into a youkai. That would have been worth my time. But you know that couldn't ever happen, yes? So." The magician settled his robes. "Door's that way, if you're going," and he disappeared down the hallway into the dark.



Dec 02