Dear Oniisan,

    Well, I promised I'd write, so here you go; you can stop worrying about me now. I'm fine. We arrived safely two months ago, and Jei thinks it's safe to get ahold of you now, as long as I'm careful and don't write anything too specific, or mention any names outright.
Still, I think everyone would feel better if you burned this letter after reading it, just to be on the safe side.

    I'll try to send you a postcard; this country is really beautiful. Even I can appreciate that much, even after everything that's happened. I can see why Jei decided to return here. We can't stay for long, of course. Eventually something will happen. Someone will say the wrong thing or do something stupid, and Jei will lose his temper, if you catch my drift. The Jerk suggested it'd be smart if we keep moving periodically, which will be interesting. Looks like I'll get to see the world after all. It was hard enough just convincing the others to leave Jei under my "supervision". (Me, a role model. What a scary thought.)
    Speaking of the Jerk, he taught me a few exercises during the flight. Things he was taught in school that will help me concentrate better and enrich my mind. You don't have to worry about seeing him again. He's home now, and surprisingly, the American went with him. I know you're less than fond of the Jerk, but he's... well, not quite a "friend", but... I'm not sure what we are. It's strange that I never really thought about it until we separated. Let's just say I never thought I'd actually miss his smartass comments. Still, it's for the best; if we had to see each other every day, I'm sure we'd eventually go for each other's throats.
    Their young friend is gone, too, and he brought his girlfriend with him. The American didn't want to let her come along at first, but the kid and I managed to talk him into it. The two lovebirds are off on their own in a place so overly populated that slipping by unnoticed should be easy. I got a postcard from his girlfriend the other day, which was a bit of a surprise considering what an airhead she is. The paper lanterns they put up for the holidays are very festive.

    I have some good news.
    My side has healed up nicely, but even better than that, it seems all this exercise has done me some good. I put up my cane for good earlier this month. I don't need it anymore. Sometimes it's strange not having it with me, because I got so accustomed to it. But it's still a great relief to be able to walk and run normally again after so long.

    I'm sorry for leaving so suddenly. I know it must have hurt you, but I hope you've come to realize that I did what I had to. I am not the sister you might remember from our youth, but I hope it makes you feel better if I tell you I really am more content than I've been in a long long time. And one day I'll show up on your doorstep as if I'd never left, and we can try to make things work again.
    But I feel as if I should warn you because I don't want to take you by surprise again as I did before.

    The next time you see me, I will be different. I'm still changing, and time is against me. Don't worry, this isn't a "disease" that can kill me, but it's something I chose. I have already asked the Jerk for a favor. When the day comes where I decide I'm ready to come home again, I will go see him, and he will do his own diagnosis. If the damage is too great, if he thinks it will be too dangerous for both of us for me to return, then I may have to break my promise to you. But I swear I will try to get home before things get that grim.
    I don't say this to scare you, or hurt you, or make you worry about me. I only want you to be prepared for the "worst".
    Just remember that I chose this.
    You might never understand why, just as I'm sure you cannot understand why I chose to travel with Jei.
    One day maybe I'll get the chance to explain all of this. I hope so. I want you to understand. I want you to be happy, even if it means you have to let go of me forever.
    Help is a lot closer than you think, 'niisan. Open your eyes a little and you might notice something that's been there the whole time. I hope you come to terms with your own feelings and let someone else step in and help you for once.
    As for me... Don't worry. You can at least rest assured that I am not in any immediate danger. I am quite capable of looking out for myself. Jei and the Jerk are good teachers, even if their subjects of "self defense" are wildly different.
    Besides, I don't think Jei would tolerate anyone stupid enough to mess with me.

    So, please let this letter comfort you at least in some small way, even if it also hurts you. Remember to burn it, and tell the others I said hello.
    I'm going to say this now in case the next time I write I am unable to find it in myself to do so.
    I miss you. No matter what happens, how much I change, you will always be my brother.
    I'll see you again someday, I hope.



//One Year Later : France\\

    The boy was used to the crowds. He'd been playing in the streets his whole life, and at thirteen thought himself quite the expert at dealing with the streets and all its strange occupants. The wealthy, the poor, the businessmen, the Important, the musicians, the tourists. He could weave through them all, could tell at a glance which category a person fell into. He was a hard boy to surprise, and he prided himself on the fact. Some of his friends, the younger ones at least, looked up to him.
    But they wouldn't be happy with him if he was late, and he was already pushing it. He dodged, ducked, and squirmed through the packed street, jogging along and casting quick glances at his watch every now and then. He had only a few hours of free time, and then his mother would come looking for him. He had a busy schedule of intense playing ahead of him, and he didn't want to waste another minute.
    Skip out of the way of that fat gentleman there, race past the small band on the corner, squeeze between two indignant ladies, cover the face to hide from that irritating policeman, dodge the group of tourists...
    He looked down at his watch. I can still make it, he thought confidently.
    The moment of inattention cost him. He ran slap-bang into a hard unyielding back and bounced off with a startled cry. He landed on his ass on the sidewalk, reaching up quickly to cup his smarting nose. Scowling, he turned his annoyed gaze upwards to see who had so thoughtlessly gotten in his way. Really, who stopped at these damn crosswalks?? Had to be tourists...
    It was a man and a woman, foreigners both. They had turned slightly to look down at him, wondering what all the commotion was about.
    The man wasn't very tall, but he was certainly built. He looked as if he could snap a dithering thirteen year old in two with his bare hands. He was dressed in black loose-fitting pants and a black vest, and every inch of his pale skin was covered in old scars. Red hair, grim mouth, and... a black eyepatch. His single golden eye bore down on him in a steady unnerving gaze.
    The woman was wearing a simple white sundress, her long thick hair pulled back in a braid. She was beautiful, with large eyes, a nice mouth, and a great body.
    No one paid much attention to either one of them as they hurried by. They'd seen stranger people than the man, though his scars were a bit out of place. And the girl was pretty, but obviously not important.
    But the boy remained frozen where he was and stared up at them, unable to speak. An unexplainable fear had clenched his heart in an icy grip, and he could feel his entire body starting to break out in a sweat. All of his instincts screamed at him to get up and just run. Run away, don't look back, don't stop, just go.
    Because as unimportant as they seemed at first glance, the boy could see something in their eyes as they stared impassively down at him, and it made him more afraid than he'd ever been in his life. There was something there, in those cold eyes, something primal and dark and lethal. There was no hint of kindness or concern in the woman's gaze as she looked at him, only a cold black nothing that made his lungs refuse to work.
    There was no impatience or curiosity in the man's eyes. Only something that made the boy think of-- for the first time in years --monsters and creeping shadows and bumps in the night. The things nightmares were made of. He began to shake so hard his palms lost a bit of purchase on the ground and he scraped away some skin catching himself.
    Then abruptly they turned away, giving him no more thought than they would a stray dog. They stepped out into the street and walked away. Within moments they were gone, disappearing into the crowd.
    The boy stayed where he was for a little while longer, still shaking and fighting not to cry, not fully understanding why, only knowing that every animalistic instinct in him had told him-- Danger.
    Then he was scrambling to his feet, shoving people roughly aside as he ran. He no longer wanted to play. He ran all the way home, and didn't stop until he was safely inside with the door locked behind him, the memory of those merciless eyes burned into his brain.

Author's Notes: I can't believe this fic is actually over o__o I've been working on it practically nonstop for the last couple weeks; it's been infecting my brain so that I can't write anything else and I go to bed thinking about not much else.
But it is-- it's done.
This fic was difficult in a lot of ways-- it was my first het fic and my first attempt at a first-person present fic. I'm glad I didn't manage to mangle it too horribly XD;;
^_^ Thank you for everyone that reviewed and/or read it~ <3 <3

I do have a request, tho. I don't think this will be any real problem, since usually it's just my GW fics that are hosted elsewhere, but I need to ask that no one hosts this fic anywhere else on the web. You can leave a link to it, or rec it, or whatever, but please do not ask to actually host it on another web site. I'm going to keep it on Patterns of Blood only (for mediaminer readers, sorry, it will be taken down from mm.org eventually). This is partly because this story is just too personal to me, and partly because there is the possibility of this turning into an original work of fiction one day.
But thank you thank you for reading it, and for those whose reviews made me feel like I'd written something ppl could enjoy ^___^

And to Mami, perhaps the fic's most rabid fan.... happy now? >XD And domo~

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