Title: Tales of a Fallen Seraph (4/4)
Friendship/Angst/PG-13 (For some mild violence, foul language and comsumpstion of alcohol. Not much.)
A trip through the Arias Mountains goes horribly, horribly wrong! A rather nasty confrontation hits home for Sin, leaving a very confused Draca to painstakingly uncover the truth behind Sin's past. It's time to remove the shroud of mystery around our favorite assassin, no matter what the cost!
Time Line:
Early winter, 2465 A.S. Seven years after At the End of the Day.
Sin – 465 years; Draca – 110 years; Gwen – 26 years; Kyris – 50 years

EXTRA SPECIAL NOTE! The very beginnings of slash. X3

Tales of a Fallen Seraph - Final Part

The streets of the Haven were dark, quiet, and cold – it was going to be winter soon in the relatively temperate Isle. He pulled the folds of his overcoat closer in an attempt to fight off the chill, wishing that he was somewhere warm. He hated the cold even more than he hated the sun – which was saying something. It was well past midnight, but not yet morning by the time he set foot into the Haven. He was weary from the countless number of shadows jumps that took him from the Haven to his keep to the Tower and back again.

But despite his weariness, his mind was whirling and restless.

The silver moon cast a tranquil light upon the frosted streets of the Haven. Draca passed few if any people – a token of the late hour. Kyris' pub was dark and silent. He all but sped the familiar path to the flat, shivering uncontrollably in a way that was half a purely psychological reaction. Gaia, he hated the cold.

When he finally stood on the street below Sin's flat, he was surprised to feel exhausted relief overtake him. 'Home,' his mind breathed. And that shocked him even more. So much in fact, that for a moment he forgot all about the early winter chill.

When had this city, or more specifically this place, become home to him? Nearly two decades ago, when he first stepped foot into the Haven, he'd hated it. Hated its simplicity, its safety, its peace. He'd still hated it when he'd first come here as Sin's partner. But Draca had loathed staying in Sin's flat even more. So he'd explored the town even more – gotten to know the people here. And he found that...

That they accepted him here. Most of them immediately. Others only after he'd talked to them and gotten to know them. They didn't care what he was.

He'd never had a home before. He'd had his keep, but that was more of a hiding place, rather than a home.

"Is that why you came here, Sin?" he asked the silent house. "Because they don't care about curses or monstrosities?"

A brief flash of agitation swept through him as his memories turned to his first encounters with the assassin and the early years of their partnership. To a time when he was known as "bloodsucker" and "monster" rather than as "Draca." 'What right,' he seethed indignantly, 'did he have when he's no better? Tch. Hypocrite.' A light wind blew through the deserted street, making his body shudder. He snapped from his thoughts, dashing up to the door and entering the flat to escape the chill.

The house was quiet and dark when he entered – the only light being the moonbeams streaming through the windows and the faint light of the Aodhan crystal in the corner of the sitting room. (The six inch, red, branching crystal was a godsend during winter. Discovered by the Alchemist Aodhan, the crystal gave off fantastic waves of heat that could last for days and fill an entire house with warmth when the user infused it with just a bit of spiritual energy. Fireplaces were a thing of the past for the people in Viranus.)

Draca reveled in the onslaught of warmth, removing his duster and shoes. He straightened the folds of his shirt (he actually wore one beneath his coat during winter), his thoughts once again picking up where they'd left off. If Sin really was a Fallen Angel, it would certainly explain why Draca felt so at home with the man – strange as that sounded. He was not constantly asked probing questions about his past or his abilities with Sin. He was no longer treated as something alien or something invincible. He was just Draca – thief, spy, Vampyre. And Sin was, he decided, still Sin – assassin, bodyguard, Alchemist, and now Fallen Angel (should that prove to be true). Those questions were never asked.

They were never needed.

The Vampyre crossed the front room swiftly, locating the half-hidden staircase with a practiced ease. The slightly creaky stairs were navigated expertly in a few large bounds. The top floor of the flat was pitch black, as there were no windows in the narrow passage. But his eyes led him true, stalking silently over the hardwood floor. He found Sin's bedroom door open and peered around the doorjam. It was empty, unsurprisingly. The thick dark curtains were drawn over the window. Draca frowned and continued on. He had hoped that Sin had finally left his study and went to bed. He stopped short, nearly jumped out of his skin when the sound of shattering glass and the thump of something being thrown against a wall shot through the thick silence. A frustrated, angered, tortured outcry accompanied it. The voice it sprang from was strained and raw, sending a tremor down Draca's spine.

He stepped up to the study door at the end of the hall, listening carefully. There was now silence on the other side. The Vampyre bit his lip, unsure of how to proceed. Should he just leave? Should he attempt to gain entrance? He'd never been in Sin's study before. It had been an unspoken rule that he should never go in. It was Sin's sanctuary – the one place left where he could be alone. And Draca respected that. It was a line that Draca, for once, was loathe to cross.

But, he supposed, the time for isolation was over now.

The blond spread his palm gently on the cool wood of the door, reaching out with his shadows. He probed tentatively at the perimeter of the room and was shocked to find that there was no longer a mythril barrier surrounding it. 'What?'

Had Sin taken down the barrier because Draca had left? Why wasn't it back up then, not that Draca was back?

Had Sin not noticed?

Draca lifted his hand from the door, curled it shut, and tapped a knuckle quietly against it. It was now or never. "Sin?" he called softly.

The silence on the other side of the door changed, becoming tense. But the barrier did not return, as he had suspected it would. "Sin?" he called again, slightly louder, "May I... may I come in?" When there was only continued silence he wrapped a hand around the worn doorknob. There was a brief moment of surprise when the lock did not catch, but he pushed open the door nonetheless.

His crimson eyes skimmed the room as it was revealed to him. He could make out the chamber clearly, thanks to the moonlight pouring through a window somewhere in the room. For never setting foot in the study, it was not much different than he had imagined it. It was easily the largest room in the flat. Three of the walls were lined with bookshelves that spanned from floor to ceiling. The wall facing the street was unadorned but for a large window. Before the window sat a wide polished oak desk, once organized meticulously in the way that was purely Sin. There was a small sitting area in the center of the room with overstuffed armchairs. The study was always kept clean and organized, he knew, as Sin's very nature allowed for nothing less.

But it was no longer clean and organized. Near one bookshelf, across the room from the desk, were the twinkling pieces of shattered glass – a bottle of some sort. The papers that had been stacked and organized on the desk were strewn across the polished wood.

Sin sat in the high-backed desk chair, slumped over the surface of the desk. His form was tense, one honey-toned hand gripped tightly into his hair. His shoulders were hunched, almost as if he were curling in on himself. Draca knew the unconscious stance well. It was the stance of one bracing themselves for a blow – an attack.

The thought made him cringe and his chest tightened with an emotion he'd rather not examine. He licked his lips, pondering. Perhaps it was best not to beat around the bush, in this case. "...Fallen Angel, huh?" he said finally, his voice quiet and without inflection. Sin flinched anyway. The tightness in his chest became a hollow pain. After a moment's hesitation, Draca moved to prop a hip against the desk, fighting to push that unknown emotion back. There was no need for it here. Sin stared at him warily from the space between his arms.

The smell of alcohol reached his nose, the sheer density of it burning.

"Are you drunk?" he blurted, a chuckle suddenly building in his throat.

"Not anymore," came the surprisingly honest answer. Sin always did become more truthful (sometimes brutally so) the more he drank. It was always an amusement to the Vampyre. "It's hard to stay drunk when a Glyph is filtering your system every few hours."

There was a brief moment of awkward silence.

"So you uh..." Sin shifted, lifting his head a little. "You deciphered the book, huh?"

"Yeah, you could say that. How in the hell did you read it in the first place? There's not a Glyph that translates stuff is there?"

"No. There's not."

"Then how?"

Sin cast his eyes about the room pointedly, an almost impetuous grin caressing the very corners of his full lips. "What can I say, I like to read. All the good books are written in the Old Dialects, anyway. I'm just lucky it was a Dialect I actually knew."

There was a short chuckle shared between them, the mood lightening comfortably.

"And you, Draca? How did you do it?"

"A good thief never reveals his techniques." He waited a beat for maximum affect. "Master Ambrose and Lady Rona send their regards, by the way."

That got a reaction. Sin shot up straight in his chair, his Angelic (that, Draca realized, did explain the man's inherent good looks) features contorted in stunned confusion. He looked exhausted, Draca belatedly noticed. Haggard and weary – as if he hadn't eaten or slept since they'd returned from the Arias. While the Glyph eliminated the physical effects of such things, Draca had learned that his partner was very much susceptible to the mental effects of exhaustion and starvation.

"You met with-! How in the hell did you manage that?" His Omegan accent was strained and ragged, now that it was not muffled into his arms.

"Buddy, don't ask. I don't know how it happened and my head is still spinning from it."

The silence reigned once more, no longer comfortable, as both knew that the time for joking and banter was over. Draca shifted from his perch, slid down to sit beside Sin's chair – his back resting against the drawers of the desk. "So... how... what-" he bit off a sound of frustration. "Damn, I've got so many questions, I don't know where to start!"

Sin said nothing, but glanced down at him with guarded eyes. It was obvious that he was going to get no answers this way. So he tried another tactic – one that had worked for him so far. It had gotten him into Sin's study, at any rate. An eye for an eye, an eden for an eden – a story for a story.

He fought to form the words he was about to say, clearing his throat searchingly. This was going to be something he'd never told anyone. "Y'know that green eyes are pretty common with Dragons, right?" he began awkwardly. "Almost everyone has eyes of some shade of green. Every once in a while you get someone with blue or gray or something similar, but it's mostly green. My... my mother's family – everyone in it as far back as history goes, it seems – has these really bright green eyes. Like fuckin' emeralds! So, when I was born... it was immediately obvious that something was wrong, even before they knew what I was. They wanted to kill me, not surprising, huh?" He sent an ironic sort of smirk up at his partner. "But they didn't plan on one thing – my mother."

This seemed to confuse Sin. "Your...?"

"Yeah. Let me tell you, she was no pushover. She was the only one capable of keeping Deimos in line. Verbally and physically. She was one wicked woman. Adelina, was her name. So when Deimos and my father, Phobos, wanted to kill me, she wouldn't let them. Even kicked my father out of their keep just in case. For my entire childhood I was forced to stay inside the keep, in case my father and uncle – or someone loyal to them – tried to kill me. She taught me how to control my bloodlust, how to survive."

"She sounds like a good mother," Sin murmured into the dark.

"She was," he responded, and his voice caught for a horrifying moment. "But at the time, her lessons were so harsh. I hated her, back then.

"And then I turned fifteen. Ha, that seems like an eternity ago. My abilities had been developing for only two years, but there were already rumors that Mom was training me to overthrow Deimos. You can imagine how well that went over with the old tyrant.

"They attacked one night. It was winter." His eyes glazed, and he became lost in the memories. His heart felt hollow. "My father was supposed to be the one to kill me. Rectifying mistakes, or some such bullshit. Deimos kept my mother busy while he went after me. I didn't see much of the fight, but I've seen what happens when Dragons get angry. It's not pretty. Fire everywhere – can't see for the smoke. S'terrible.

"Everything was chaos. I don't... remember much. I remember being cornered in the keep. I remember screams. Blood. Pain. The next clear memory I have is of me standing in the middle of the keep, covered in blood. My parents were dead at my feet. And Deimos was shouting that I'd murdered them. I ran. And so began the long and tedious routine of being hunted by the entire Dragon population." Draca shifted uncomfortably. "And that's it. The end."

For several minutes nothing was said, and Draca couldn't even look at Sin. Instead he stared up and out of the nearby window at the night sky. The steel gray clouds drifted over the stars and moon lazily. It was calming to him.

There was a sharp inhalation beside him, but Draca refused to look at his partner. To look would somehow discourage the man, he thought.

"I..." Sin began finally, and seemed to be searching for the right words. After a moment, he tried again. "There is nothing in Alchemy that can be obtained without giving something of equal value in return. That's the basis of the entire art – of an Alchemist's life. Key elements, spiritual energy, blood – they're all used. Even the intangible or unexpected, like memories or senses." The last few words were spoken in bitter regret – something Draca had grown accustomed to hearing at the oddest of moments. Sin's right hand came up, brushing over his face and through his hair, before lowering to caress the pristine white linen bound about his left bicep.

"My first memories are of pain, blood, and torture at the hands of the Dragons. And while I don't remember them clearly, I know I had my sense of sight back then. I still remember the faces of Deimos and Phobos." The assassin paused meaningfully, eyes flickering towards the Master Thief as if to gauge his shock. "But even those memories are hazy, more of a nightmare than a memory. The first clear memory I have is of waking in complete darkness at what I can only assume was the base of the Arias. My wings were gone, I was blind, and any memory preceding my torture was lost forever. But I was alive, where any other would be dead." A bronze hand clenched over the linen on his bicep. "My sight and memories were the price I paid for my life... and I'm still not sure it was worth it."

Whether it was because seeing Sin so bitter and distraught disturbed him or because it was the truth, he wasn't sure, but he scoffed loudly. "What do you mean not worth it? You're alive aren't you? And-" Draca scratched self-consciously at the back of his neck. "Well, you've made a good life for yourself here. You've got family here. Friends too. Not bad for a Fallen Angel, eh?"

"Family?" was the incredulous reply.

"You can't possibly tell me that you don't consider a certain barmaid and a certain Kitsune as family."

"Touché," he murmured softly.

"Ah. Speaking of which -" A bruising punch slammed into the assassin's leg, half-hearted at best. "You made Gwen cry, you bastard."

Sin hissed, but not from physical pain, Draca knew. He could practically see the train of thought forming in his partner's head. "She kept saying you wouldn't even speak to her," he explained, "So you'd better apologize to her or else I'll really kick your ass."

A mute nod was the only answer he received.

The weight of his guilt settled over him, just as heavy as the fatigue that threatened to choke him. He'd hurt her. He'd actually hurt her.

'Damn,' he thought, 'You've really fucked up this time, Sin.' He wracked his brain, attempting to find some suitable way to apologize to his precious Kitsune – to make it up to her. She hadn't, nor will she ever, deserved the kind of treatment he'd put her through. She was too precious.

The sudden flow of Color at his side signaled the Vampyre was standing. The tall man paused to stretch lazily, but he could not hide the discomfort he was feeling from Sin's eyes. The rapidly shifting Colors that surrounded the man's Core only confirmed that fact. Yellows, greens, blues, purples – all weaving about chaotically. Happiness, relief, concerns – affection? Sin blinked owlishly in confusion, and the Color was gone as fast as it had come. So fast, in fact, that Sin was sure he had misinterpreted it.

He had to have. It didn't make and logical sense.

"You should, er, get some sleep, man. You need it. Hate to tell you this, but you look like hell."

His lips twitched sardonically, and he nodded. He was sure his partner was right. His eyes followed the thief's trek back across the study, only thinking to stop him when he was at the door. "Draca?"

The man turned. "Hm?"

"What about friends?" Family, the Vampyre had explained, but not friends.

There was a brief flash of confusion in his spirit, which quickly became resignation and embarrassment. "Well," Draca cleared his throat awkwardly, "I don't exactly stick around for my health, y'know." After a moment there was a bright flash of scalding orange, shock, followed by that elusive Color of affection (and this time he was sure there was no mistake in that) and Sin realized that he had been smiling – genuine and happy at the man's words.

"Thank you, Draca." And he meant it.

"Er... yeah." There was an odd moment of silence before Draca even attempted to gather himself. "Well, er, g-goodnight, Sin." His partner left quickly, addled and embarrassed.

Sin even shocked himself, for genuine laughter bubbled up and burst free (something he hadn't done in years). It no doubt followed Draca throughout the flat. He found he did not care. Relief had flooded his veins, eliminating all cares of dignity or pride.

He'd been worried.

His feelings over the past week had gone absolutely out of control. First it had been fear – fear of what Draca had discovered. Then it had been guilt – Draca had been injured because of his rash actions. Those suffocating moments in the world of shadows had only confused him further. He'd spent the first day by Draca's bedside simply trying to puzzle out everything that had happened.

He still didn't have an answer. It had scared him, quite frankly, how much the Vampyre's opinion of him and the man's state of health actually mattered to him. He'd never even realized it. And at the moment, he found that it didn't bother him as much.

Sin glanced around his study, at the magic-infused documents scattered about his desk, and sighed. He'd made such a mess over the past week. But it would have to wait until morning. All he wanted was sleep. And so he hauled himself from the chair, and allowed himself to stumble exhaustedly from the room and down the hall. He admitted easily (another amazing feat for him) that he was truly happy about how things had turned out.

Tomorrow he would be back to his old self again. And he would spend it comfortably with his family and his... friend. After, of course, he explained a few things.

The room was silent – stunned. Draca shifted almost self-consciously, though strangely enough it was not him who had caused the silence. Kyris, Gwen, Sin, and himself were sitting in Kyris' sitting room, in her apartment above the bar. The place was, as always, filled with an organized sort of chaos. But Kyris' home was comfortable for gatherings such as these.

Or at least, they normally were.

Just the night before, Draca had finally resolved the bewildering chain of events that had caused such turmoil. And now Sin had decided to come clean. He had requested that they all meet at Kyris' home. The first thing the man had done, predictably so, was apologize to Gwen – which everyone was thankful for. And then Sin had sat everyone down, retelling the same tale he'd told the Vampyre the night before. The cozy sitting room had gone completely silent.

Sin appeared lost – nervous – though he was hiding it admirably. He wouldn't look at the two women sitting on the sofa across from him, almost as if he was afraid of what he would See. Every few moments, he would fidget with the arm of the chair. Still it was silent. Draca was shocked to find that he felt nervous for Sin, though he couldn't begin to explain why.

'Yes you can,' whispered a traitorous little voice in the back of his mind. An image of a small, stunningly beautiful smile flashed across his mind's eye. His heart seemed to trip over itself the instant the image came to him. Ruby eyes flicked in his direction for a moment, confused, and Draca forced down an oncoming blush. This was not the time to reflect on those questions.

Gwen and Kyris were still eerily quiet. The Kitsune had brought a hand up to her mouth in shock. Both of them were staring wide eyed at Sin, as if he was suddenly something they had never seen before. It worried the thief. Vampyres were one kind of curse in the generally prejudiced Viranus. Fallen Angels – thanks to Adrian's Great War – were a completely different kind of curse. Draca swallowed thickly, his throat oddly tight. Sin had taken a gigantic risk, and the blond prayed it would pay off.

"Well," Kyris said abruptly, still looking at a loss for words even as she broke the painful silence. "Now I finally know why you're so fucking alluring, with that Angel blood and all." All others in the room blinked owlishly at the Fire Fayth, the silence taking on a new air of amused confusion. A faint sound of muffled laughter came from behind the hand covering Gwen's mouth. Draca bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing himself.

'Bless you, you absolutely wonderful woman,' he silently praised the barmaid and her fascinating lack of tact.

Sin, poor Sin, still appeared resigned and conflicted. But the Vampyre could see the dim glimmer of hope behind those eyes, hidden as if the man was afraid to hope. The minuscule spark of emotion grew brighter at Kyris' playful smirk and Gwen's revealed smile. The Kitsune was the first to move, standing and moving across the room to sit next to Sin. "Thank you," she said with a soft smile, arms coming up to embrace the assassin – the Fallen Angel.

Ruby eyes widened for an instant, before that usually stoic face underwent a miraculous transformation. The ice in those eyes melted, and softened with a look of affection and joy. A smile – a real smile – stretched those full lips into an expression of such fondness that it made the answering embrace all the more precious. The scene left only one fact apparent to anyone who witnessed it:

The man was beautiful.

His heart leapt into his throat (a sensation that he had before only associated with fear) and his stomach seemed to do a queasy flip within his body. To Draca's horror, he felt his face begin to heat, and he forced his eyes away. 'Sweet Gaia, what's happening to me?' His heart thudded in his chest and a rush of adrenaline made him jittery – though he couldn't begin to explain why.

He felt eyes on him, and he glanced up. It was Kyris, staring at him with a critical eye. A moment later a spark of realization went through her pale gray eyes, and a wide smirk turned her expression devious. His flush intensified, much to his mortification and embarrassment. Draca looked away again. He couldn't bring himself to look on the scene anymore.

He'd admitted – realized, rather – that Kyris, Gwen, and especially Sin could be called his friends. He found that each of them were precious to him in their own way. It was a discovery that should have filled him with happiness. But – Draca reached up to massage the skin over his heart in an attempt to calm it -

But how had admitting that caused this – whatever this was?

"Only truth and tears may clear the way to a deep and lasting friendship."

Walk on, Traveler of Worlds.

Celebrate ladies and gentlemen, we now have SLASH. X3 Unless of course you don't like slash, then I'm sorry, but I did warn you.

Special thanks to Terryll Preston, who awarded me with a very encouraging, very flattering review!

Thanks for reading! Feedback?... please? ^ ^