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20. Tower

Tears fell and mixed with the pool that was their ground. The child with white wings trembled terribly, sobs echoing loudly through the near quiet. From the mirror at the edge of his mind, muffled voices filtered through the glass. He could see them: the princess and… the crow. Anger and pain welled up in him like fire and it seared his veins, making his tears burn his eyes. He also heard it, the sweet voice of someone, something powerful, calling him, urging him back.

"Akito-nii?" From where he was crouched, he couldn't glimpse his brother's apprehensive stare at his back. The normally cruel glare was more like his stare, soft and afraid. Agito worried. But, in truth, he always worried for Akito. And vice versa. They were brothers; they had to do that. But Agito worried more, Akito was so badly broken it wouldn't surprise him if the boy had created another personality after him. Hesitantly (wait was this real, Agito couldn't hesitate), he stepped forward and placed a hand on his brother's shoulder. It was cold: the way their "skin" always was when emotions gripped so fiercely they went numb.

"Akito-nii?" Agito repeated, using the young, sweet, broken voice that he only used with Akito. "What is it?" Agito glanced toward the mirror that revealed the outside world, where the princess spoke so casually to the crow, which was more on-edge than he looked. Agito saw him look in their direction, almost with concern, and immediately allowed a hostile look to pass through. The crow returned it with less force. He doubted the teen actually gave a shit; Akito did give the impression of being almost completely okay after all.

"Tower…" his brother whispered suddenly, wrapping his arms around himself. "Tower… why are we going?"

"What do you mean?"

"We're going to the Tower," he whispered. Agito noted the emphasis on the word, on the proper status it took in their head. "We're going back. I don't want to go back."

"The Tower? The Trophaeum?" He trembled more at the name and Agito rushed to wrap his arms around him, placing his hands on top of the hands that were covered in gooseflesh. "Why does it scare you? We've never been here before."

"I have," Akito rasped. "I have and I don't want to go back. I'm scared. I'm scared so much. Is he going to take us back? Is he going to drown us again? Please make it stop. Please don't make us go Ikki-kun. Please. It's so loud in there. It's so loud and… it's hungry."

Agito glared again at the crow. He was doing it again, curse him. This goddamn crow was making things worse on them. He glanced at his arms, where multiple punctures were faintly visible. The medicine could be leaving their system faster now. It would explain the extremity of Akito's emotions. Well it could explain the lack of control over them anyway. Of course, he could feel them too: anger, fear, sadness, pain, and…

Betrayal. Oh the sweet bitterness of betrayal! For a moment, he wished he could banish the empathic link he had with Akito. But that would be useless and cruel to both of them. Akito didsomehow keep them from becoming a mess after all. Until now that is. He simply remained there with him, huddled and shivering in the sudden cold that gripped their hearts.

They had reached their destination and Akito had been right. He could smell it, the scent of many tigers prowling around them with slobbering mouths and greedy snarls. Akito had curled up even further into a ball and trembled. Now Agito himself could hear it, a soft voice with no inclination to gender or race.

"Come here child… come into my arms… come back here where it's safe… come…"

Agito shuddered, feeling a primal fear welling up in his chest. Forcing his voice to remain even, he plunged his head into the mirror and started speaking to the crow, trying to get him to leave. He was no longer a predator, he was prey and the idea sickened him. It was like back then. (Back when? He asked himself.) But it came to no avail. And when the tuners swore to protect them, Akito let out a bitter laugh and cried,

"You can't protect the Wind Regalia, how are you supposed to protect us?" Agito agreed and said so, proceeding to tick everyone off. Ikki snapped anxiously at them and he rolled his visible eye and stepped out of the mirror. Agito felt the terror rise again like bile. He couldn't shove it away, couldn't do anything. All they could do now is watch and listen, like ice.

And they had. Learning of Sora's betrayal had not surprised them. Ambition could carry you far, after all. The voice of the Tower grew louder as they came deeper. Akito had simply fallen silent and still as they fell, only moving to try and help Agito breathe, help him speak. At the sight of the Sky Regalia, both of them felt a nostalgic tingle in their bones.

When Sora appeared on screen with a beaten Akira hanging on the ceiling, both of them heard a distinct crack. Akito had glanced at the crow and seen the broken expression on his face. He had scowled but refused to comment. Yet Agito felt a wave of acrid satisfaction come from Akito. He didn't like that, not at all. Agito spoke a little more before smirking despite himself at the official declaration of war. Sora vanished from the screen and at once Agito slumped. He couldn't hold it back anymore, the fear, the pain, the sensation of drowning, that damned voice…

He closed his eyes and rested against the wall, trying to control his breathing, his body. It didn't work and the small form trembled against the surface. Most of Sleeping Forest didn't notice but Ringo did. She frowned and glanced at her siblings. They had seen. Mikan was hiding it while watching Ikki, but her eyes flickered back every now and again. Ume wasn't even attempting to hide it; giving the boy such a motherly look it was almost disgusting.

They reached the entrance and walked into the elevator. Ikki was stumbling along with Kururu at his side. Agito followed along almost meekly behind the former tuners. Ume watched him out of the corner of her eye as his fingers twitched silently. Gently she went up to him and tugged his arm. The boy jumped and his neck nearly cracked as he faced her. For a moment, the golden gaze was alive with terror and confusion. Then it dulled, replaced with calm and bitter despair. Now that was disturbing.

"What is it?" he inquired, warily glancing forward.

"Are you okay?" Well no he wasn't but that was really one of the only things she could say. That and… "Can I help?"

Surprisingly enough, he smiled wanly. Out of all the siblings, the split-personality teen had gotten along best with her. "No we're not and there's nothing you can do. Sorry." Agito glanced at Ikki. "Every traitor has to do with the wind. Haha... that figures." He fell silent after that, leaving Ume to ponder the ominous statement.

Ikki fled for his life when they were out of the Trophaeum. Unsure of where to go, Kururu followed Ine and Rune back to the factory. Agito stood there for a moment, gazing down toward the tower. Then he let out a strange, broken cry and walked away.

A week passed. Akira was standing outside of the Kogarasumaru hideout, watching the others file in. He glanced at each, searching for one in particular. He limped away when the last person was there. He had to find Agito. Kaito had ordered him to keep an eye out for him. The boy would not be in a stable state of mind. His medicine's probably run dry…. The former Fang King thought. God damn it. He finally made it up to the roof where the clock was.

"Figures you two are up here." The bluenette jumped and glanced at him. He barely relaxed, but did turn back to the sky he was staring at. He struggled over to his friend's side and sat down. "Aren't you going to knock some sense into that idiot leader of yours?" It was a neutral question to decide which was out. The boy drew his knees up to his chest and rested his head on them, arms wrapped around limbs. They both did that, especially now.

The reply was, "Why should we help him?" The voice was cold, but it sounded more angry than offended. Akito then.

"He's your leader isn't he? Isn't he the bird?" Akito shrugged.

"There are lots of birds in the sky. You hate them." Akira laughed sheepishly.

"That's true." There was a comforting pause. Akito randomly asked,

"How's Ren-chan?" Akira blinked.

"Ren's fine. She's back with her brother. Hopefully I'll get another letter soon." He received a nod. Sighing, he went right to the point. "Akito, have you taken your medicine recently?"

Akito shook his head. Figured. "It ran out. Ages ago."

"Why haven't you come and gotten more?" Akito started trembling. Damn, it had been a while then.

"B-Because… he w-would have broken the vials. That's w-why we're out. H-he broke the vials and threw them away."

Akira took his friend's arm gently. This was incredibly worrying. Agito hadn't attempted to take over so that meant he was feeling the same way. "Why would Ikki break the vials?"

"He didn't know what they were." The trembling had stopped and Akito's voice had returned to that cold tone. "We tried to tell him what they were but he thought they were drugs and threw them away." Suddenly Akito started coughing. "Udou-kun, we- we can't… br-breathe!" He coughed and writhed, gasping for air. Akira moved, grabbing at Akito's arms. He knew it was coming next.

Akito let out a terrified scream. "Let go of me! Let go! You're going to drown me! You're going to cut me open and beat me and then leave me to die in the ocean! Let go of me!" He writhed and bit down on Akira's arm. Akira hissed and twisted his friend's arms, refusing to let go. Akito kept screaming, the sound turning to an inhuman screech. He heard footsteps from the stairs.

"Akito stop! You're not in the tower anymore! You can't drown!" Akira knew words were pointless now. Months without the medicine in his system had turned everyday life into that terrible haunting fear of the dark lab underground. Of that other man and a terrible massacre. He couldn't see or hear anything anymore, just the song of the terror and the feel of metal against flesh, mixed with the sight and longing of the sky.

Hah, when I first met Agito he bit me too. Ikki and the others had made it up now and all they saw was Akito struggling to escape from Akira and howling like a tortured animal. They immediately rushed to help and Akito broke free, tearing toward the other side of the fence. He glared fearfully at them all, mouth dripping with Akira's blood. Subtly, Akira pulled a needle from his pocket. Then he moved an inch. Akito leapt over the fence, falling the three stories. The others rushed over to see Kaito holding his brother firmly around the waist with one arm. The boy's struggle suddenly ended. The sight of the brother, of the god who had stolen him to the well, a place so much closer to the sky, made his very being still with awe.

Kaito's expression was indifferent as he pulled another syringe from his pocket, containing the same blue liquid. Akito saw it and paled, twitching. Ignoring the obvious discomfort, he punctured the boy's arm and emptied the drug into his system. The effects were immediate, his brother slumping like a rag doll. Akira sighed with relief and slowly started limping back down the stairs. He could feel many horrified stares on his back. He didn't give a damn.

He had been very close to losing that blunette, both sides of him, to the blankness of the tower many times. Akira was determined not to let it happen.