It was slow.
He thought it was going to be sudden. Loud. Explosive.
But he was wrong.
It was all in the little things.
"Klee! I've told you, you can't touch those!"
Shards of broken glass and spilled potion littered the floor.
Those pretty teal eyes she loved so much... they looked so, so angry.
They weren't supposed to look like that.
She was scared, so scared.
Big Brother Albedo didn't yell at her. He didn't wear that cold, cold look of disdain and annoyance. He always said it was okay if she made a mistake.
And then, in a blink, those cold, angry eyes were gone. Replaced with warm, worried ones.
"Oh Klee, I am so sorry. I'm so, so sorry."
She leaped into his arms and hugged tight, burying her face in his jacket.
He was here, he was okay. He was Albedo.
"......I was scared," her breath caught in her throat and tears streamed down her face, "You weren't acting like Big Brother."
She didn't see it, but in that moment, his face crumpled and fell. Fell in realization and fear.
"I'm sorry, Klee," he whispered. "I'm so sorry. It won't happen again. I promise."
She was concerned. Her ears were fluttering nervously as she watched him.
A new experiment sat in front of him, still unfinished and incomplete.
"Uhm. Uh.. Mister Albedo....?"
And just like that, his eyes sharpened in sudden clarity.
She never noticed how dull they looked until they weren't.
"Hm? Apologies Sucrose, I may have spent a little too much time sketching last night."
"Ah! No worries Mister Albedo! I just.. wanted to make sure you were okay..."
A soft smile, like smoke wafting out of a hot drink or the subtle brush of a hand.
She'd never admit it, but her heart melted and her guards went down.
"Thank you, Sucrose. I appreciate the worry, but I'm fine, really."
Another small smile and a panicked wave of hands, another flurry of apologies, and all was back to normal.
She didn't notice her teacher, her friend, as his smile dropped and the darkness indulged just a bit more.
They all brushed it off.
Took it as an off day.
Not a symptom of a slow, slow death.
Albedo's constant excuses, believable excuses, didn't help
He was lonely.
And he was dying.
He hid it. Oh, he hid it well.
But Kaeya knew. Kaeya could recognize the signs of corruption, of the Curse, anywhere.
And Albedo knew he knew.
They were sitting in Albedo's lab at an ungodly hour of existence. Sucrose and Timeaus were gone, left to rest for the days ahead of them.
Only the wind and the stars were there to accompany them in the night.
Albedo, at his desk, leaned over a sketchbook. Studiously avoiding eye contact.
Kaeya, leaning forward in his chair. His visible eye trained on the blond alchemist.
A heavy silence, interrupted by the click of wood against wood.
And then: "Would you like me to take care of Klee for a while?"
Only then did Albedo lift his head.
His bright teal eyes, shiny with unshed tears, the lights within them dancing almost mournfully. Those beautiful, gorgeous eyes that he could just drown in. They were pinned on him, staring deep into the deepest of his soul.
Glacial blue met whirling teal. Grief shone in both.
As the lights died, and his head dipped down once again, he quietly spoke. Softer than usual and laced with misery.
"I'm not ready to die."
A smile. Small and pained, but genuine.
"Neither am I."