A/N: For my 100 themes callenge... And yes, you may have seen this before.
This is my first official "filing off of the serial numbers". Meaning the Indisposition saga is going to be rewritten so that it is no longer fanfiction (since it was BARELY fanfiction to begin with.) The biggest change being, well... The name changing of the main character. Since his name has remained the same for nigh on THREE years now, even though he has been, for all intents and purposes, my character. *cannot adjust!*
He will remain a hyphenate Nightmare-Albtraum in my brain for a loooong time. XD
In these drabbles...A blend of humor, fluff, frenmity (oh yeah. I can make up words. WHACHA GONNA DO?) and dark stuff.
Rated for excessive use of strong language, craziness, drunkenness, and dark themes.
IN OVER YOUR HEAD AND DOWN UNDER THE GROUND
Albtraum discovers alcohol for the first time at a Yule celebration, and, oddly enough, it is Ismaire who offers it to him.
"Hey there buddy," she slurs, holding up a small, half-empty glass of some amber liquid. "Wan' some boozh?"
Albtraum does not know how to respond. Ismaire has just recently accepted him as a comrade and not a mortal enemy, certainly such an expression of... of... friendship?... has to be a joke.
But, curiosity piqued, he accepts a rather large glass of what he will later learn to be whiskey, nearly choking himself with a rather large gulp of the bitter drink. He swallows half of it and the other half ends up spat back into the glass.
"What... the hell is this?" he coughs, now convinced that she is trying to poison him. He certainly should have seen that one coming.
She rolls her eyes at him like he's stupid. "'S' whiskey, dumbass, take smaller sips."
Reluctantly, he does so, experiencing a less potent version of what he did the first time. But this time it doesn't hurt going down, it's like liquid fire but all it does is warm up his chest. He drinks half the glass before deciding that he likes it. The rest of it goes down quicker.
He's starting to feel a bit lightheaded, and the loud noises around are muffled.
"You got more?"
"Shit, that was a lot. You still want more? Goddamn, you can hold your booze." Ismaire grabs a bottle of the stuff from where it is sitting in front of her and attempts to pour him another glass. Half of it ends up on the table, and a little splashes onto the floor.
He drinks what did end up in his glass, then pours another, knocks that back too, and now he's beginning to feel... giggly. The candles on the table are funny somehow. He laughs at them.
Ismaire, with what little coherent thought she has left, thinks his laugh is funny, perhaps just because she's never heard it before. She snickers too. Then, looking up, an expression of complete seriousness on her face (though perhaps its effect is just slightly diminished by the drunken vacancy of her eyes), she looks over at Albtraum.
He realizes after a minute that she's talking to him. "...Whah?"
"I need to tell you something."
"...I love ya, ya big slurping hunk of beef."
And then they both laugh themselves right out of their chairs.
He likes the sound of the music box in their room and he likes the sound of bones breaking. He likes huddling away in places small and dark and warm and he likes flying out into the wide open air of the winter night. He likes bending things until they break and he likes scattering all the peices to put back together. He needs the silence and he needs the noise. He needs to be home and he needs to be elsewhere. He needs to be together and he needs to be alone. He hates the color white and he hates the color black. He hates the taste of wine and he hates the taste of blood. He hates being remembered and he hates being forgotten.
He is gentle and loving and violent and bitter, so brilliant and rational and impulsive and instinctive, ancient and wise and childish and naive, passionate and apathetic and debauched and innocent and completely out of his mind.
Mianna watches him pace, muttering things that change in language almost between each word, some she understands and some she does not. He is halfway between sobs and laughter. She's afraid to call out to him. He certainly seems to have forgotten she's there.
And she hears the word half-whispered, uderza, that word she knows, and she realizes its the ever-present pain that's sent him reeling off into the big dark mad abyss, nothing to hold onto and no light at the end of the tunnel, no one to hear him call for help to get out of it, not even he himself, now he's stopped talking and he's looking at her, just looking, like he expects her to finish his nonsensical multi-lingual sentence.
Like he expects her to know who he is and just what the bloody hell he's doing.
She doesn't say anything, but she takes his hand and he looks at it like it's someone else's, he looks at once despairing and elated, confused and understanding.
He says another word, another one she recognizes, "Geliebte"
What scares her is that she's beginning to understand him better and better all the time.
Albtraum has always been resistant to unconsciousness, and it's both a blessing and a curse in a fight. Blessing: he can keep going, past where anyone else would be done and out like a light. Curse: he ends up taking more, and there's no dark oblivion to slip into afterwards.
His spats with Ismaire, violent enough to begin with, have become catastrophic with their newfound strength, that of gods, and when they now fight, as they often do, it is as a fight between gods.
They're unarmed this time. It started over a disagreement of priorities and escalated to one of the most brutal fistfights Albtraum has ever experienced in his short life. Already he knows there's a net of fractures across his skull where he took a foot to the temple with a force that could dent a stone wall. Ismaire is only yet afflicted with a cracked rib, twisted knee, and broken knuckles she gave herself.
His wings are mangled, but that doesn't count. His wings are always mangled and nine times out of ten he did it to himself.
Ismaire's in the place where all she wants to do is destroy, and he's looking like a sorry mess begging for destruction right now.
He thinks about backing down but it won't help anything. He'll leave himself helpless if he backs down, because she won't stop her assail.
Not for a while, at least.
He takes a twisting upward punch to the center of the chest, where his scar is, the one point that actually hurts so bad lights explode behind his eyes and he's expecting to be shaking hands with Death again.
Ismaire stops, now. That hurt him and she knows it. She looks like she can't decide whether to mock him or apologize as all the breath catches in his lungs and he stumbles back. It's as if all the air's gone and there's just nothing to breathe anymore.
It hurts like a bitch. It resonates throughout the rest of his body until he can't hold himself up anymore. He vaguely hears Ismaire give a nervous laugh and ask, "What, that all?"
He thinks he waves her off before he collapses.
A cycle, a spiral, a round-and-round-and-round again flight off into the wild blue yonder, falling and screaming and laughing and crying all the way down.
Sick sick sick sick sick.
Going in a spiral just takes so much longer, when there's too many chances-that-are-not to grasp at something that looks like it could be, oh, oh, but it's not, it just takes too damn long. It's easier to plummett straight down, all the way, and be done and over with it.
"It's a long way down. Bet I'd splatter pretty far if I went."
"Let's see it then."
"I'll just go in circles."
"Bet you get dizzy."
"You haven't a fucking clue."
There's really no end to it. It can go down and down and down down down down down until there's no more down to go, in over your head and down into the ground.
Spinning makes it all so much clearer. You can see it all at once that way, but ah, you get so sick afterwards.
You can't stop gracefuly, either, you stop sick and then you fall down, if you do end up stopping, that is.
"Ever wonder why I can't fly a straight line?"
"You can't walk a straight line, you stupid fuck."
"They say one-track, but they don't say it can't go in a spiral."
"I think yours is more a scribble."
Zig-zag. Loop-de-loop. This way, that way, stop. You're sick. Go back. You're dead.
Spiral off the page. You're fucked up sky high and out of sight. You're insane. In over your head and down under the ground. Zig-zag. Loop-de-loop. This way, that way, stop. Spiral. Repeat.
This is the dance of the truly insane. Don't expect it to lead you out of the dark. You're damned to stay in that spiral.
Albtraum's favorite color is blue.
That used to be Mianna's favorite color, too, but she has since realized that her favorite color is most assuredly, and without a doubt, red.
She realized this the first time she'd caught a glimpse of Albtraum's hair, just an exposed tuft that had grown past where his helmet could hide it. It was such a beautiful, vibrant shade of red, and later, when she'd coaxed him to take off his helmet so she could see his face, she'd spent rather more of her focus on his hair than his face, even though his face had been well worth seeing, too.
It's grown so much longer now, halfway down his back, and it's thick and glossy and the little jagged pieces that stick out look like wisps of flame when they catch the light in just the right way.
"Your hair's so pretty," she murmurs as she brushes the knots out for him, something he wouldn't be caught dead doing himself. "You'll make me jealous at this rate."
He scoffs. He always complains when she does this, it's undignified, but she really didn't want him to crop it short again like he'd wanted to do. Though he won't admit it, he really doesn't mind that much, because the mats that accumulate when his hair is not washed and brushed are uncomfortable, that, and he really does just enjoy his lover's company.
Mianna pulls at a particularly stubborn knot, making him yelp.
"Will you be finished soon?"
"Not likely. I'm not even half finished yet."
At this rate, Mianna knows she'll be seeing red for a while.
But that is all well and fine, because red really is her favorite color.
Albtraum weighs all of about a hundred-and-twenty pounds when they return home, and stretched out over six feet, this is hardly ideal.
"You haven't been eating again..."
"I've been a bit busy! Besides, I can-" Albtraum stops himself and inaudibly hisses the word shit. Insanity means he gets confused sometimes about what point in his life this is, exactly, and he thought for a moment there that he was still back in the days when he could just go out and slaughter a horde of enemies and physically be filled up on energy.
He doesn't want to look stupid right now, though.
"-cook for myself..."
Mianna actually looks stunned. "What?"
"I said I'm a grown man and I can cook my own damn meals."
"Really, now? Can you? You never told me that."
Well, it is plausible, after all. He has the memories of almost every sentient being that has ever lived and even though they are not readily accessible as his own, maybe he accquired cooking in there at some point.
Even if he hasn't the foggiest beginning of an idea how to cook, though, he is going to do it. He loves Mianna with every fiber of his being but she never lets him do anything and he is starting to feel... emasculated.
"Yes. I can. And I don't need you here to watch. So let me work in peace."
She leaves, looking a little too smug for his liking, and he walks into the kitchen like it's his throne room and tries to cook himself something. He drops whatever looks good at the time into the pan, slathers it all in butter, then burns it.
He gives up on actually cooking. He eats half a loaf of bread and three dried fish. It isn't a bad meal.
Before he leaves, he finds something else on the shelves, some spongy, light peices of something white and covered in light powdered sugar. He takes one and stuffs the entire thing into his mouth. It's sweet and it melts away on his tongue. He eats another one.
Mianna finds him later, the so-called 'grown man' who can 'cook his own damn meals' in the kitchen, standing next to a pan with some charred remnants of what might at some point have been food, eating marshmallows like the world is ending tomorrow, licking the sugar off his fingers.
She can't help but laugh.
So much for overcoming emasculation.
"Stop acting like you give a fuck."
Albtraum moves away like a broken peice of clockwork, head cocked off to the side, stiffened, precise movements like he's afraid he might come apart.
It's not unreasonable. He very well might.
"I'm not. Because I don't."
Aren't we just the best of friends, Ismaire thinks.
"I do give a fuck about Mia, though, the reason I put up with your bullshit. Anyway, I wouldn't be a very good friend to her if I let you, dumbass, wander around unsupervised, being the batshit insane freak you are you're probably going to go off breaking your wings and writing inane shit all over the walls with your blood. Not only is that horribly unsanitary, it clashes with her decor."
Why can't she, for the life of her, be more sensitive? Well, she had tried at one point, and Albtraum had thrown it back in her face and probably spouted some nonsense about memories. The truth is, he really is almost like family now, and it doesn't sit well with Ismaire having family this completely raving mad.
Maybe she can train him out of it, like children can be trained out of sucking their thumbs.
"Leave me alone." It's almost a whine. Under any other circumstances she would laugh.
"No. I'm going to keep following you around and bothering you. I like bothering you. It's fun."
"I have enough of that already."
"Oh, from who? Tebryn?" Ismaire snorts.
"No." He grips at himself like he really is starting to fall apart now. "The... ache."
"Oh." The word 'ache' probably isn't enough to describe it, but it's the best fit word Albtraum has. The constant pain that keeps him up for months on end and sends him spiraling off to where he is now. Ilithyia thinks it might get better. Septimus says it will be there forever. "Well, I do sort of give a fuck, so maybe you could do me a favor and try ignoring it. Mianna worries about you enough as it is."
"You don't really give a fuck."
"I really don't."
Albtraum throws back his head and laughs into the night air.
It's a horrible sound.
THROUGH THE FIRE
"They've put me on the pyre of the damned, and now I'll burn for what they perceive an unforgivable affliction!"
They're the sort of words one expects to hear in a tone of desperation, perhaps even resolute acceptance, not with elation, with giddiness, and certainly not through laughter.
What a sick joke it all is to him.
"You know, it still manages to surprise me that you think this is funny."
"Oh, but it is. It's hilarious. They think they can get rid of me by fire."
"Maybe you shouldn't have gone around announcing that you were the devil."
"Well, you could just tell them you're God and that there is no issue."
"If I said that, they'd burn me too. I'm not getting you out of this."
"Dosen't matter. I don't need your help."
Ismaire smirks. "'Course not."
Ah, Albtraum, stupid, insane, naive Albtraum. Whether it is a boyish sort of recklessness that has gotten him here or a genuine desire to mock the church, no one but he himself is responsible for his predicament, and he bloody well knows it. He's almost proud that he's driven them to burn him at the stake. He kept testing the boundaries, and the people in this place had reacted with polite tolerance of what they first thought was simply odd behavior. But Albtraum had to keep going. He had to say things that made no rational sense. He had to drive people to fear him. And then, head held high, eyes gleaming mad, in front of a congregation in the church, he had to stand there and shout to anyone who would hear him that he was, in fact, the devil.
"You people who call yourselves Children of God! How can you call this hallowed ground when the devil himself can open up the doors and walk right in? Yes, that's right, yours truly... the devil."
Ismaire, standing in the doorway, had just shook her head and sighed.
She does roughly the same thing now. "You just wait until I tell Mia about this."
"I'm serious. We've been here all of four days. So much for living away from home for a while. She was really starting to like it here. I really wasn't, but if there was a chance of it growing on me, it won't get the chance to happen now."
Albtraum just shrugs, met with some difficulty against the rope.
"I'm not really even the God they worship, and you're not really the Devil they fear."
"Who's to say they really exist?"
Ismaire has no answer. "I don't know."
"I've never seen them."
They stop talking when his would-be executioners arrive.
"You've got one last chance to convince us you aren't the delirious sinner you've represented yourself as."
They expect him to beg. They expect him to apologize. They expect him to pray. Ismaire can see it in their eyes.
But this is Albtraum.
He grins. "Light this son of a bitch."
And so, they do.
He's still smirking as the flames rise into a rage and get to the point where they're starting to lick at him. Just as it reaches the point where he's getting uncomfortable, his wings tear from his back, rending through the ropes as easily as if they were made of paper, and he rises up with the smoke, tendrils of it curling around his body, and he's laughing like the madman that he most assuredly is.
The small observing crowd erupts into a panic.
Ismaire just sighs.
This will probably turn into one of those things that "wasn't funny at the time, but sure as hell is now".
Tebryn Malheur's loyalty to his king borders on obsession.
Well, no. It does not border. It has taken a flying leap over that edge.
Tebryn is a skilled artist, a brilliant combatant, a well-learned individual, and talented conversationalist.
"It's just too damned bad he only paints me, won't fight unless it's my life on the line, won't learn anything unless it's about me, and rarely talks to anyone but me."
Albtraum knows that Tebryn heard his comment. Albtraum also knows it will change nothing.
Adramellach stifles a snicker.
Mianna lets out a slight sigh. "I don't understand why you let it bother you so much, love."
"I never did anything so goddamned spectacular that deserves this amount of adulation!" Albtraum explains as he attacks what is left of his dinner.
"You're a spectacularly moronic bastard," Ismaire comments from down the table. "Oh, wait, that isn't deserving of worship. Sorry." She smirks like a big sister teasing her little brother and stands to leave.
"If I have to be bothered with his perpetual adoration I should at least know why." He ignores Ismaire's comment.
Tebryn, hiding in the shadows, makes a sketch of him finishing off his food.
IN THE STORM
Battles are beautiful, in a way.
It's watching the armies, moving almost as two complete beings, tearing into eachother like clashing waves of a storm. That's what battles are like, he thinks. Storms. They're beautiful to watch.
They are exhilarating to be caught up in.
He dances through the hordes of opposition with an odd sort of grace he can't really muster in one-against-one duels. Yes, he still moves erratically and spasmodically, but there is something different about the sheer power, the ability to fell a whole line of enemies at once. It's more an exhibition of strength than an actual fight.
More a massacre than a battle.
Flight makes things more interesting. Since he began regularly using his wings, he has found ways to twist and bend them to catch the air and execute the most elegant turns and dives, picking winged enemies out of the sky in droves until the shadows drowning the sun have receded and the skies are empty but for him.
He hates his wings but there's something liberating about flight.
How humans used to fear him, Hand of Death, but how now they cry out in triumph as he rips their enemies to peices, no longer the puppet, reborn, the Khthon.
He's flying into the storm undaunted, riding the winds of it like they belong to him (one could argue that they do).
More than a king, he stands a god, a dark god bent on the utter obliteration of any who stand against him.
He is the storm. He is the reaper, they've shuddered and said he was so like the Angel of Death before.
If only they knew.
The Final Nothing himself can't keep a smile from gracing his face when he hears them say that, when he sees the son of his brother summoning him to ferry the masses he's felled.
The storm will subside, but it is merely a lull before the next.
Closing A/N: And if you listen real closely, you can hear the little voices in my head going "WHAAAAT?" at the confusion of this name change. But it's for the best.