Notes: I’ve realized that I really like songfics. They’re just nice and cool and…stuff.^^ Anyway, Charon’s the main character, the song is obviously "I Will Come to You" by Hanson. And yes, I am indeed a fan.
All the usual disclaimers apply. Charon is not mine, and boy, is he happy to hear that! The Sentinel isn't mine either...*darn!*
He huddled in the small crevice of his heart and shivered, but outwardly, Charon was fine. As cool and unconcerned as always, there was nothing in his armor that showed how he truly felt.
But then again, how did he truly feel?
Charon flew across the sky, a black shadow against the sable night, invisible to mortal eyes. The dormant, spherical forms of human souls floated serenely above one out-stretched, long, ghostly hand—the hand of a specter. He was a specter, the starlight shining through his transparent body; his mind (the part that mattered) wasn’t really there, doing his eternal duty, collecting spirits of the dead.
His mind was elsewhere; he performed his duty by rote because he had, after all, done it so many times before. It was actually the norm to work without thinking anything at all: easier that way, and less distracting. But sometimes, thoughts—unpleasant thoughts—just sneaked up on him, a pack of wolves slinking in the cover of the convoluted forest within his head, stalking prey. And he was always vulnerable to thoughts.
Rosy light of morning, sweltering heat of midday, cool serenity of twilight—they were all the same to Charon. He was the herald of death—not the cause of it, but closely connected enough that it made little difference to the mortals. Differentiation, he thought with scorn, was not a human strong point. The very few who have actually seen him have always described some sort of terrifying, raven-cloaked spirit, hungry for the souls of the deceased. It wasn’t true, obviously, but Charon didn’t really care about what the mortals thought of him. He had a duty. He would perform it to the best of his ability.
Strangely enough, he actually…liked the work. And there was so little in his life worth liking, too.
Charon looked up at the twinkling stars and thought how ancient they were supposed to be—the mortals’ symbol of constance and eternity. But he was older than some of those stars. He had been alive before the first mortal was even hinted at by the forces of creation. So this symbol of forever, of reassurance…it meant nothing to him. He would probably outlast the stars.
Polaris blinked and caught his eye—he remembered a time when that small, nondescript little star was not the North Star, which guided lost travelers throughout the ages. It was really very unimpressive, not bright at all, and outshone by dozens of other heavenly bodies dotting the velvet canvas of the night sky. But, dim as it was, Polaris was the "eternal" guide for wanderers and vagabonds. It performed its important duty alone—it needed no help.
Did the North Star then, ever feel empty?
Charon visited one place (one person) very often—and considering he was immortal, "often" was every other century. In truth, he didn’t know how habitual his calls seemed to the Sentinel of Lost Souls (if he had he would’ve severely limited those visits). His colleague’s workplace, after all, transcends time and is unaffected by its incessant, stubborn pull.
In his conscious mind Charon told himself that he rarely visited, and that when he did, it was only for some definite purpose. The matter of souls was usually a safe topic to deal with, so it was the one he resorted to.
But sometimes—only sometimes—after sorting out the problem with this soul or that, after scaring out evil spirits to the ravenous demons outside his colleague’s door, Charon found it difficult to leave.
It wasn’t that Charon wanted to talk—he didn’t. Conversation was often pointless, and it was especially so with his colleague, who was so clever with words, but so wary of loose tongues that nothing in his "small talk" was ever significant.
Neither of them liked speaking for the sake of hearing themselves—conversation was more of a formality, a ritual, that they always went through when Charon came. Though the Sentinel had the remarkable skill to invoke a delightful discourse with anyone…including Charon…the flaxen-haired immortal somehow never used that skill on him.
Whenever he dropped by the Sentinel’s workplace, there was always a sort of banter—light, frivolous, almost inane. The Sentinel teased him, Charon replied caustically in kind, and there was no substance, no depth.
He wasn’t here for the words. But…when he thought about it, there was nothing else the Sentinel could give him.
So why did he always regret leaving that candlelit room behind?
Nemesis and Thanatos, his other two colleagues, were "best friends." Charon often looked at their dynamic relationship in carefully disguised wonder—it was full of vitality, full of sound, but so unified and so whole that he found he couldn’t picture one without the other. Nemesis, with her hair of rippling gold, laughing at some mischief she’d caused…and behind her would be Thanatos in his robes of deep purple, his pitch-black eyes glinting in sardonic, somnolent amusement. Those two expected nothing from each other, and so, ironically, they got everything.
It was wholly unlike the lovers he had seen in his long, long life, whose relationships were filled with hundreds of promises, expectations, ideals. It baffled him how there could be so little trust between two beings who were supposed to mean the world to each other, and—being an asatyric* immortal—he mistrusted the unreliable emotion.
But Nemesis and Thanatos were not in love. They formed an efficient and adaptable partnership; Charon grudgingly had to admit that they worked wonderfully together. What troubled him was that he and the Sentinel had been likened to that sort of relationship.
He expected nothing from the Sentinel. But was that the same thing?
He was a cynic. A long time ago he had not been so. Cynicism came with bad experience, and he remembered—with longing that he hid as scorn—a time when he really didn’t have enough experience to be a cynic. But that was all before he met the person who changed his life…for the worse. And it was only one person! Charon never would have thought one immortal (such an insignificant number) could cause so much pain. It seemed so ridiculous, and all the more ridiculous that he hadn’t even seen the betrayal coming. Like a blindfolded child he was led around in circles…and he had believed she would be the one to cure him of his bitter loneliness.
There was one thing he learned from that encounter. It was better…safer…to be alone.
He was visiting again—appearing in the eternal darkness that marked the boundary between life and death. The arbitrator of souls and guard of this realm was his colleague—a slight, insignificant wisp of an immortal who looked like he could be knocked down with one blow from Charon’s hand. But he knew that the vulnerability was false; the Sentinel was one of the strongest immortals he knew…
But how well did he know the Sentinel? If Charon had a mask for the world, couldn’t the Sentinel have one as well? Maybe that was why he kept visiting, to see another person who hid behind some kind of mask. Maybe he kept coming because the Sentinel’s strength seemed artificial and he wanted, in a way, to find a crack in it.
At any rate, he was here. He was inside the simple, elegantly furnished room; his colleague, as per usual, did not get up from his seat to welcome him in the way he did with lost souls. Instead he greeted Charon from the well-upholstered armchair in his cool, slightly teasing, unruffled voice, "You’re here again? Is this another soul regretting her decision to die?"
A reference to an earlier visit. He knew the Sentinel would say something like that. Charon looked down reflexively and remembered that he had no soul in his hand. "No. I came on a whim." That was an old excuse too.
"Another whim?" The Sentinel sounded as if he were grinning, but Charon couldn’t tell because his colleague didn’t turn around. "You’ll have to stop feeling whimsical, Charon, or your duty will get neglected."
"Hardly," Charon snorted, moving closer to stand behind the other’s armchair, looking down at the silken, soft golden locks of his colleague. "I’m more efficient than you’ll ever be. I notice the demons outside are still ravenous. You haven’t been feeding them."
There was definitely a smirk in the Sentinel’s voice as he replied. "It’s better to keep them hungry, Charon. Then when a particularly delectable soul comes along, they enjoy it all the more."
"They’ll riot one day if you keep depriving them," Charon rolled his eyes. "And then you’ll have a mess to deal with."
"It’s good to see that you care," the Sentinel eased back in the chair and looked up. Charon saw immediately that his eyes were twinkling with mischief and knew the comment was a flippant one. He wasn’t supposed to take the Sentinel seriously when there was that look accompanying his words.
The whole riot idea was a joke, of course, and an old one, at that. The Sentinel was more than capable of handling the demons if they broke down his door, and that was assuming they could in the first place. His colleague had the strength to deal with demons. All types of demons.
Maybe he came because the Sentinel, too, had gone through pain. Maybe he wanted to learn how his colleague could deal with that pain.
"How is your work coming along?" The Sentinel asked suddenly, still gazing upward at Charon, who was considerably taller, even when the former stood up. A detached curiosity was in his tone, nothing more. Yet Charon had a sudden insight that the question was somehow significant, that the Sentinel wanted a real answer.
But his reply was only superficial. "The same." He was cool, careless, almost disdainful. "Nothing new."
"No stubborn souls troubling your conscience?" The Sentinel’s mood changed from curiosity into teasing; it was a change Charon recognized. But…there was a nuance, a hint of…of tension, like a violin tuned too tightly—only someone who played it would notice. And Charon paused. He wondered.
Then, finally, he answered. "I’ll deal with it myself when they come up."
The Sentinel smiled in reply—it was an unusual expression Charon couldn’t quite understand. But it was oddly reassuring. "Well, if it’s too much for you to handle, you can always bring them to me."
His only acknowledgment to that was a half-word, half-grunt, which made the Sentinel laugh and comment on how he suspected Charon was more animal than immortal. And the conversation went on as before, the same as always.
He left the House of Lost Souls very soon after, to resume working. There was no longer an incomprehensible regret at his own departure—there was no need for that. Somehow or other, the pointless little conversation he’d just held with the Sentinel left him curiously uplifted.
Reaching the mortal realm (it was still night), he looked up and felt a smile tugging at his reluctant lips. There was Polaris twinkling steadily away, performing the duty assigned to it without complaint. Why was that? Looking closer, Charon noticed another brightness there…he’d forgotten that Polaris was a double-star.
"If it’s too much for you to handle, you can always bring them to me."
He did not feel quite so empty anymore.
* "Asatyric" (a SAY ter ick)—coined word, from "a-," prefix meaning "without," and "satyr," (SAY ter) a creature in Greek mythology known for its fondness for "unrestrained revelry," in this case implying lust or sexual desire.