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07 July 2006 @ 09:25 am
 
So what did I do yesterday? First I went horseback riding with my sister and got the pussy horse that refused to move faster than a trot. I wore my new riding boots for that.

Then I came home and spraypainted some of my mom's wicker furniture which essentially involved me crawling around in the grass and getting high off of paint fumes.

Over to my sisters for grilled shark and a viewing of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Oh, and I also finished the first part of my Fai backstory. Huzzah!

Title: Slipped Away (Part 1/?? - The Heart May Freeze)
Fandom: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles
Characters: Freya's mother, Freya, Fai, Ashura
Prompt: fanfic100 - Family
Word Count: 5,515
Rating: 16+
Summary: In Celes, Ashura's most powerful mage strives to end the lonliness he refuses to admit he's experiencing.
Author's Notes and Warnings: Rape, incest, Freya (she's her own warning label now), slash, Ashura/Fai, Freya/Fai

Fai backstory centering around his relationship with Chi.



“You’re back to see me again.” The entire land was cold, but Ashura-ou told him he could find warmth in amongst the harem girls, and gave his mage free reign to whatever physical warmth he wanted from them. But Fai craved a different sort of warmth, and the physical warmth Ashura had suggested he was not going to take from women who were only offering it because they were told to, so he had quickly befriended most of them. Well, all but one who remained so sullen he was afraid to walk past her lest she should kick him.

Still, he found himself drawn to her, often wondering if she was a replica of his soulmate that made him go to her chambers after chatting with some of the other girls, usually to be kicked out around midnight claiming she was expecting other callers. Quite forcibly too; she was a rather strong woman and could easily manhandle him out of her room, which was one of the reasons why he had chosen her out of all the girls in the harem. Still, he had tried to make the effort to get to know her a little bit first. If she truly was a replica of his soulmate, he had little faith in his finding his special person. She was too different, and he found out why one evening, an evening he would always remember in years to come. She had been the one to initiate his fate that evening.

“Maybe I’m a bit of a masochist,” he told her with a grin as she lounged in her windowsill.

“Obviously, if you are still hopelessly devoted to Ashura-ou.” His smile faltered. “And yet you still wonder why I continually refuse to give myself to you. Men can be so dense.” He watched as she rose from the window with a scowl and moved to sit on the edge of her bed. “I think there is another reason why you are here.”

“I think I would like a child,” he admitted, and she raised an eyebrow at him. “I need someone whose blood will be able to bear this mark,” touching the markings on his arm. “My sister’s blood was not strong enough to bear the markings, and she died.”

“Is it not Ashura-ou’s will that your family bear that mark?” He nodded. “I guess it shall end with you then, for you’re too much of a fruit to ever produce a child.”

“That’s not fair. I like women a lot.”

“Yes, and I suppose the next time you are here you can discuss dress patterns with my sisters downstairs,” indicating the common room where the harem girls spent their spare time together. One had to have special permission to visit Ashura-ou’s harem, and since Fai spent a good deal of time entertaining Ashura personally, many nights the girls did not have any work to do.

Fai wondered if he should just save face and leave on his own free will instead of having her toss him out again. It was true Ashura was pressuring for him to produce an heir, but he wanted a child as well. He honestly believed there was no other woman in the harem strong enough to bear his true heir.

“In my county,” he looked back at her to find her staring out the window. She gave a small shake of her head and closed her eyes. “No, in my world, we have a legend about four world travelers who went to see the dimensional witch to make their wishes come true. The first was a princess of a desert county who had lost all her memories. The second was the heart of a boy who had been adopted by the princess’ country and wanted nothing more than to save the girl he loved.”

The woman rose from her bed, walked over to him, and in a surprising gesture wrapped her arms around his neck. He started to pull away before he realized he was finally getting the chance for what Ashura and he wanted, so he remained still and wrapped his arms around her waist. “The third was a mage from a savage, frozen wasteland he never wanted to return to who had forgotten how to love.” She pressed her lips tenderly against his, the story soon forgotten as other, more entertaining pastimes were explored.

“Who was the fourth?” he asked a few nights later as she was falling asleep stretched out by his side. She glared over her shoulder at him. “The fourth world traveler in that story you were telling me the other night.”

She rolled over to face him and ran a hand along his chest. “He was a ninja. A tall, dark, brooding ninja who had been a loyal servant of a beautiful princess. He was strong and defined, a Hercules statue made of living flesh.” A shiver ran down his spine which had nothing to do with the cold and everything to do with her words, but he still pulled the fur blankets tighter around himself. To imagine a man like the one she had described. She leaned closer, her breath tickling his ear as she whispered, “I have heard that even the mage was highly attracted to this man.” She pulled away from him and curled into a ball inside her fur cloak, mumbling something along the lines of “Damn fruit.” Granted, he had been having a fairly obvious physical reaction, but that could have been caused as much by her hand as by her words. She did not share in that opinion.

He reached out and gently laid his hand on her shoulder. “Why are you so interested anyway? It’s just a story. The relationships those four form… those things never happen to real people.”



“They have confirmed my pregnancy,” she told him one afternoon when he had gone for a daytime visit for nothing more than her not so sweet company. Maybe he had really gone to learn the ending of the legend which she refused to tell him, yet he liked to think he was mostly going to see how she was doing. “The child is most likely yours.”

They had had suspicions of her pregnancy for months, but now it was really starting to show. She was gaining a lot of weight and becoming increasingly sharp around him. But now that the harem mother had officially confirmed it… “That means no more nighttime male visitors,” she informed him tartly. At the chance of it possibly be Ashura-ou’s long overdue heir, they took no chances whenever any of the harem girls was pregnant.

“I much prefer your company in the day, and quite another’s company at night.” He attempted to whistle as a pillow came flying past his head. Her growing stomach was seriously cramping her temper.

“It’s a girl, if that means anything at all to you,” she told him, arms folded across the top of her stomach as she looked sullenly to the side.

“Ah, how do you know? Are you one of those women who can predict the future?” If she could, imagine the things she could tell him about Ashura-ou’s fate, about his fate. Then might that legend she was telling him be a prediction of the future. Those four who went to the dimensional witch, if she really existed, might not even be born yet.

“Do not be ridiculous,” she snapped. “I am a woman. We simply know these things about our own bodies.”



“One fateful evening, after the boy was done working for the day, the princess was mysteriously drawn into the ruins he had been studying. They almost swallowed her, but the boy saved her; however, he scattered her memories in the process. So they went to the dimensional witch in an effort to save her. At the same time, the mage was running away from his world to life a live without his king.”

“Does that story comfort you, Fai?” He turned from the window where he had been watching the large snowflakes drift strenuously to the ground and watched his king walk into the room with a small bundle cradled in his arms.

“She taught it to me,” he replied, indicating the woman who had reduced him to sitting by the window consumed with worry. The woman whose name he just now realized he had never learned. The last he heard she had been in agonizing labor a month too soon, and he had been absolutely forbidden to see her. He was placed into this agony over the fate of his lover and yet unborn daughter.

“She is dead,” Ashura calmly informed him. He had very low hopes for the survival of his daughter and he lowered his head, holding his fist to his chest. “Yet your daughter is alive, and well by all accounts of the midwives.”

He placed the bundle in the mage’s arms, and Fai found himself confronted with a miniature version of himself. She had none of her mother in her looks. “Her mother was unable to survive the birthing.” Ashura stayed by his side, cradling the baby’s head. “Do you have a name for her?”

“She wanted her name to be Freya,” he said, fighting back a sniffle. He refused to cry; that woman had insulted him every time he had gone to her room. But still, there had to have been some connection between the two of them. There was always the legend from her homeland that he would now have to teach to their daughter, since her mother could no longer do it.

“Freya is a good name,” the king murmured before leaning over to kiss the traitorous tears that refused to be withheld.



“The ninja had simultaneously been banished from his kingdom for refusing to obey the princess’s order to avoid unnecessary deaths, and was cursed as a result that should he kill needlessly again, he would lose that strength he was so proud of.

“They learned they had to pay a price to the dimensional witch in order to gain their wish. The ninja said ‘I wish to return to my homeworld,’ for which he had to give up his family sword. The mage said ‘I wish to never return to my homeworld,’ and he surrendered the marking on his back.

“The boy’s wish was ‘I want to save the princess!’ The price was the relationship he had once had with the girl. She would never regain her memories of him.”

“That’s horrible!” A six-year-old Freya declared from where she was sitting in her bed, her blonde hair cascading on the pillow behind her. She pulled the blanket closer to her chin. “They had to give up something so precious to them to go on such a perilous journey they might not survive.”

Fai tapped her nose with his index finger. Ah, but they had the possibility of gaining something more valuable on the journey.”

“That’s not my mother tells me,” she said sullenly. “She never mentioned them getting anything precious in return. She speaks only of heartache and loss.”

Sure, the story did not seem to be moving towards a happy ending, but he had somehow managed to maintain faith in a hopeful ending. Yet there was something much more troubling about what she had said. He held Freya gently by the shoulders. “Freya, are you telling me you have seen and talked to your mother?”

“I haven’t seen her, but I hear her. She tells me that story a lot.”

“Does she ever tell you anything else?” he asked.

Freya nodded, her eyes half-closed in drowsiness. She laid down in her bed and curled up into a ball. “She tells me she cannot rest peacefully until you leave Ashura for good and you find the person who is just for you.” Fai made sure the blankets were wrapped tightly around her and kissed his daughter gently on the forehead. “Daddy, the person just for me is…” but she fell softly asleep before she could finish her thought.

“I’m concerned about Freya,” he tried to voice his worries to Ashura later that evening. The king, however, was in no mood for discussion and had other ways to pass the time that usually involved temporarily disabling Fai’s ability to speak, either reducing him to whimpers or filling his mouth with something other than words. Coherent thought generally went flying through the window and into the four feet of snow outside. Yet he persisted and managed to explain, “She claims she has spoken to her mother.”

That caught Ashura’s attention, Fai had gotten the impression Ashura hadn’t been too fond of her and often wondered why he had allowed a girl like that in his harem, and the king pulled away with a frown. “We will give her something else to occupy her time with rather than imagining she is talking to ghosts.” He pulled Fai closer to him. “And for your loyal service to me, if she can bear the mark, I’ll make her my bride when she is old enough. What greater love or honor could I ever show you than making your bastard daughter the Queen of Celes.”



Against Ashura’s knowledge, Freya was already queen of a frozen wasteland. Perhaps he may have had his suspicions, but Fai would not figure it out until lifetimes later, when he would be forced to confront his past.

He watched her constantly in those early years, mothering her more than he ever felt like her father. She had no living mother, and as for having a father figure in her life…

Ashura did not go straight to his mage when he entered the room; instead, he went directly to the young girl reading on the floor. Fai watched with amusement as the King knelt down next to his daughter. She ignored him and continued devoting her full attention to her picture book. “Freya, I have brought you a present.”

She slowly laid her book on the ground. “Yes, my king?”

Ashura smiled gently at her and brought his hands from behind his back to reveal a small tan kitten with large ears and a double tail. “Her name is Chi,” Ashura informed her, depositing the small bundle in the girl’s lap. “She is your kitten now.”

Fai thought it was a rather nice gesture of Ashura to give his daughter a kitten for she seemed to have bonded with it instantly as if they had been meant for each other, and he told him as much when he was lounging in the king’s bed later that evening.

From that moment, whenever Fai saw his daughter, Chi was always with her, either riding on her shoulders or trotting along happily at her master’s heels, occasionally giving a gleeful pounce on the hem of her robe. At night, she curled up at Freya’s side. On colder nights, Fai would slip into bed with his daughter, making sure she and her beloved cat stayed warm through the night. Then Freya would cuddle up against him, and Chi would sleep on the pillow above her head, long whiskers tickling Fai’s nose. Those times it really felt like they were a family, and he was protecting his two daughters in honor of their mother who probably would have done a much better job of protecting and nurturing them.

Yet those blissful nights were becoming increasingly rare, and time spent with her in the daytime was greatly diminished as Ashura kept find more and more tasks that required the personal attention of his most powerful mage.



“They are going to try to put that stupid mark on me soon, aren’t they, Fai?” Freya asked him in one of those precious moments he got to see his daughter. She was walking around the circumference of a deep pool, absentmindedly stroking Chi who was riding on her shoulder, purring quite loudly.

“Please don’t call me that, Freya; I’m your father.” She stopped to stare sadly at him for a moment before resuming her pattern around the pool. “What’s wrong with that mark? Don’t you want to serve Ashura like your father does?”

“No,” she declared loudly, the sound reverberating off the walls and rippling the still water. Fai looked around to make sure no one else was around. “I will never serve that man.” A wind which should not have been in the room swayed her hair and her eyes flashed angrily. “He killed my mother, Fai. And he’s destroying your soul.”

“Freya, please,” he begged, extending his hand to her. Chi jumped off her shoulders and went running to hide behind Fai’s legs.

“You used to love me once, but you don’t anymore. You don’t have time for me anymore. You’re not my father and lately you’ve been doing a poor job at pretending to be my mother.” The wind stopped and she seemed to be very tired. Fai took a step closer to her, wanting to hold her, but stopped himself for fear that she would simply push him away. “There is only one person who is just for me.” Chi peered around Fai’s legs and leapt happily into Freya’s arms.

Later that evening, still stung by Freya’s words, Fai avoided the king’s bed. Somehow he did not feel like Freya would accept him into hers. So he visited some of his old friends in the harem. The girls were delighted to see him and energetically asked about his daughter. When he discovered that the mother had given Freya’s mother’s room to a new girl who was the complete opposite of its previous inhabitant, he bid his goodnights to the other girls and retreated to the coldness of his own room. He sat up in his bed with his blanket wrapped around him for a long time, thinking about Freya, her mother, and Ashura-ou. The memories of the last seemed to be tied into the memories of the other two. After all, it was Ashura’s insistence for an heir that had inevitably driven him to her room. Yet why was Freya so insistent that Ashura killed her mother when he had been told by all others that she had died in childbirth? He curled tighter into his blanket. A small part of him wanted her to still be alive, because for the first time he was starting to believe someone more than Ashura. He had chosen her to bear his child for her strength; a small part of him had always denied she could have been killed by labor.

Starting that day, Freya would call him nothing but Fai. His daughter became more estranged from him every day, sometimes giving the appearance of looking straight through him. Ashura assured him it was natural, her powerful magic was just taking a firmer hold in her body. Fai allowed himself to be comforted for a short amount of time, but the worry always returned. Usually all it took was one sad look from his daughter; as a result, Ashura gave him more tasks to keep his mind occupied, for his own good of course. Fai need to keep his mind in control for the safety of the country.

Once in a while, those tasks would require him to leave the castle, sometimes for days at a time to handle insurgents or investigate new weather patterns. On one occasion, the weather had been surprisingly well for his return journey so he made it back a day before schedule. Really, he counted it as a blessing, all he wanted to do was sleep. But on the way up to his room, the sound of Ashura’s low voice and a woman’s gasp made him stop in his tracks. He supposed Ashura had picked up a harem girl for company while he had been away.

Naturally curious, especially in all matters concerning his king, Fai wanted to see what the woman Ashura would pick looked like, since he had been so disdainful of Freya’s mother. He never imagined he would find a very disgruntled Freya struggling to get out of Ashura’s lap. One of his hands was cupping one of her small breasts, the other was headed for a place Fai definitely knew it shouldn’t be, but who was he to stop the king from giving pleasure to whoever he deemed worthy. Freya’s eyes flashed angrily as his fingers reached their intended destination. “Get out of there,” she warned, “I don’t want you.” Fai mused for a bit that if she really did not want the king’s attentions she was crazy enough to blast him with her magic. Then he saw the magic restrictor around her neck, and things began to click into place. Until they all came unraveling again just as he was about to brush the edge of them.

He knew he should not just allow the man to rape his daughter, even if he was the king, but still he could not bring himself to go against Ashura’s wishes. With the sounds of Freya’s protests ringing in his ears, he slowly retreated back to his own room, though sleep was cruel and decided to abandon him for most of the night.

The next day he was permitted to have a reunion meeting with his daughter though it was difficult for him to look at her. He should have known she would be able to pick up on his discomfort, and she looked at him questioningly. Since in his mind it was a related topic, he told her, “Ashura has told me he has decided to make you his bride.” Granted, he had said nothing on the subject in the intervening years, but Fai still thought it was relevant and believed Ashura would keep his promise.

“I don’t want to marry him,” she responded flatly.

That could be a problem, though he was hardly surprised given the reaction she had been giving to him the day before. “Why not, Freya? Ashura-ou is a good man.”

“I can only love one person.” Fai suddenly felt very uncomfortable with the way his daughter was looking at him. She grabbed his wrist with both hands and started pulling it slowly towards herself. He felt the first stirrings of panic when the back of his hand brushed her inner thigh. “I only want one person inside.” Ashura must have been with her more than he originally imagined, because she knew exactly where to place his hand and how to move it. No one had ever prepared him for a situations like this, and he didn’t know how to respond without hurting her. “Freya only wants Fai,” she whispered, leaning closer to him.

He was unsure how to respond to her comments, but he was fairly sure allowing her to force him to do that to her was the wrong one. He tried to pull his hand away, but she remained her vice like grip, continuing to move his hand. “Freya loves only Fai.”

With no other solution in mind, he placed his free hand on her shoulder and tried to push her gently away. She was more stubborn than he initially thought; every second she did things with his hand down there, his discomfort grew exponentially. “Freya, I think you may be confused.”

“Doesn’t Fai love me?” She removed one hand from his and before he could blink, she had slipped her free hand into his pants. He jolted away and managed to reclaim his hand in the process. His daughter stared up at him with sad, unblinking eyes.

“Of course I love you, Freya, but that’s not the way a father is supposed to show his love for his daughter,” he tried to explain. He reached out to put his hands on her shoulders, but decided against it. Touching her on any part of her body was awkward to say the least.

“But that’s what Ashura-ou does whenever he tells me he loves me,” she argued.

Fai suddenly wished that he had not spent so much time fulfilling stupid assignments and had spent more time paying attention to what was going on with his daughter. “Freya, there’s different kinds of love. The kind of love you want from me is the kind of love you usually only receive from your one special person.”

“But Fai is the one just for me.” He couldn’t think of a proper response to that, so he simply patted her on the head and walked away.



Now more than ever he got the feeling he was watching his daughter slip through his fingers from a very far distance. On one of the days he actually got to see her, he ran to her and wrapped his arms tightly around her, wanting to reassure himself that she really was still there. He might have been hugging a doll for all the response he received from her. He rested his chin on the top of her head, and for the second time in his life he cried for a woman. He held onto her as tightly as he could while Chi purred and rubbed against their legs.

He had forgotten it was the day they were going to try to put the mark on her. Ashura had to pull him off her and drag him to his room as a few of the guards led Freya away. All the while he tried to reach out to her, frantically calling her name, willing the girl to give some sort of sign that she was indeed his daughter.

He spend the rest of the day alone in his room with a fever; Ashura had left him to perform the ceremony on his daughter. A small bird had landed in the snow on his windowsill and watched him with interest as he mumbled incoherently. The bird left when it saw the silly human had a feline protector with it. Chi, currently banned from her master’s side during the duration of the ceremony, had gone to her next favorite human, only to find him unconscious and mumbling something about memories and princesses, mages and ninjas. With a worried mewl, she laid down next to him, nuzzling his side.

It was late afternoon before Fai was coherent enough to realize his daughter’s cat was lying by his side. He chuckled and scratched her behind the ears. “Were you worried about me, Chi?” She purred happily and arched into his hand. “Do you think a ninja like that will ever come my way, Chi? A man like that might just force the fire to burn in my heart again.”

“Nyah!”

Fai let his hand fall back to the bed. “But ninjas and dimensional witches only exist in fairy tales.” Chi tried to get his attention and hand back by giving him a gentle headbutt, but he was already asleep again.

“If the dimensional witch did not exist, how do you think I got here?” He knew the fever was getting to him. He could have sworn he heard the voice of Freya’s mother. He didn’t believe her soul was trapped within Ashura-ou’s castle, no matter how many times Freya had tried to convince him she spoke regularly with her distressed mother.

After hearing her voice, he began to dream of a land where everyone wore skirts and robes, people ate with two little wooden sticks, rice was the staple diet, and the locals were diligent and thorough in everything they did. For unexplained reasons, he had a brief vision of himself wanting to live in that strange land someday. At least, he though it was him, it was rather difficult for him to tell. He thought it might just be a bad hallucination brought about by the fever.

The next time he woke up, Chi was gone from his side and Ashura was standing in the doorway. “Freya?” He managed to sit up and swing his legs over the edge of the bed. His head swayed and it was all he could do to remain upright. Damn, how did he ever allow himself to get sick?

“I’m sorry, Fai,” Ashura moved to his side to place a large hand gently on his shoulder. “She is dying… too weak to accept the mark… take you to her…” Fai thought it was a bad sign that he could only understand part of what Ashura was saying to him, but he woozily stood anyway.

Ashura guided him by the hand to were he had placed Freya, and with each step Fai felt as if his head was getting clearer. Yet all he could think was his daughter was dying, and he could find no reason for it. Ashura left him outside the room, saying he would be in his chambers should Fai feel the need to be with someone.

Fai braced himself mentally before entering the room. They had laid her out on a bed; she was so pale and still. Chi had been resting against her side and lifted her head to look at him as he approached the resting pair. Freya’s eyes fluttered open. “Fai?”

“I’m here, Freya.” He took one of her hands in between both of his.

“Promise me you’ll find a world without Ashura-ou. So you can learn how to love again. You used to love me once.” She gave a sad smile. “But you won’t leave Ashura for your own safety, let alone because he killed me and my mother.”

“Freya…”

“I know you won’t believe me, but he performed the ceremony wrong so it would kill me.”

“Ashura-ou does not make mistakes like that.”

“Not unintentionally, no. But he has killed me.” He pulled her hand closer to his chest.

“Why would he want to kill you?”

“Because despite his influence, you were starting to love me more. Like my mother, my soul will never rest easy while yours is still controlled by him. Nor can I be reunited with her.” She appeared to be no longer speaking to him or anyone in particular, and she turned her face away.

“Freya,” he began, desperate to keep her with him for just a few more seconds if that was all the more fate was going to grant him. “Did your mother every tell you how that legend ends?”

She drew a deep breath, “The boy and the princess returned to her home country,0 and they lived happily ever after.”

Once he thought he might be losing her again, he asked, “What about the ninja and the mage?”

She shook her head. “You would not like it if I told it to you.” He supposed that meant one or both died, or they were forced to separate from the children, or worse they were forced to live apart from each other. He felt as if that would have be a fate worse than death for the two of them, though he could not tell for which of them it would be more painful. “Fai, take Chi with you. I don’t want her to be here.” She pulled her hand away from him and laid it across her stomach. “Please take good care of her.”

He nodded and picked the kitten up, cradling her close to his chest. He turned to leave the room, unable himself to watch his daughter die. “And Fai, please take care of yourself as well. Find that world without Ashura-ou, so you can truly experience life.”

It had been her mother’s last wish as well, if Freya’s accounts were to be believed. Fai carried Chi carefully through the halls of the palace, making sure she did not try to jump out of his arms and run back to Freya. He really did not want to see Ashura at the moment. He took the kitten to the deep pool that Freya had been so fond of, where she had first accused Ashura of killing her mother. He sat at the edge of the water, stroking Chi who had climbed onto his shoulder, wondering how many times Freya had sat in the exact same position staring down at her reflection and cursing it for being so much like her father’s.

He knew his daughter was dead long before the guard came to inform him of her passing. He could feel it in the tightness of his chest, a pain he felt for sure would never ease. He knew Ashura would be expecting him to come up to his room once she was gone, but he didn’t want to see the king. He collapsed on the side of the pool, not crying this time for he had already cried once for her loss. Chi jumped off his shoulder and nuzzled his downcast head.

He did not want the company of Ashura, and he certainly did not want the company of his daughter’s pet. Chi insisted, nuzzling against his head and mewling pitifully. He didn’t want any of them; all he wanted was his daughter back.

Wearily, he lifted his head, and for the first time, through tear-streaked eyes, he really looked at Chi.

~End of Part 1

 
 
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Rook the Librarian: white spacegisho on July 8th, 2006 01:19 am (UTC)
I'm suprised noone has commented on this yet. It's a very interesting premise.
Stephanie Travellyrtravellyr on January 9th, 2007 07:19 am (UTC)
Whoa. This is deep- I really like the Chobits parallel you drew in- especially since it took me until Freya sank into depression to get it.
...but I might just be slow tonight. Anyway, this was very good.

...I'm having pipe dreams thinking of who Freya's mother could be.
The One Without a Name, Forevermore: briarwood is the pretty poisonfireflypenance on April 4th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
I admit I clicked this link because of the "oh how i regret writing this" beside it, but I don't see why you should regret it. It's a good piece, and sets up what could be an extremely interesting series.