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These Chains
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: No own, no make money, no sue.

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- Chapter Five: Be With Me -
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"It's empty." Never before had a human being sounded so distraught.

Kenji shook his head. "You drank it all in one gulp."

Instant defense. "I was thirsty!"

"You're worse than my grandkids." The grandkids, at least, didn't stay up this late, and certainly didn't drink this much coffee.

"But I'm smart. And clever." Yuusuke whined worse than the grandkids, too.

Kenji snorted. "Sure, kid. Prove it sometime."

Yuusuke pouted, folded his arms, and flung his chair back, standing grandly. "Those kids were disgraced in some way, as the matriarch of the family or perhaps the tribe turned them away from her door. Their kicked-out status leaves them vulnerable, to someone or something which doesn't like them very much. This is probably linked to the battle site in some way or another. Also, a second, uh, elderly woman has been seen in the vicinty of the Nekohanten. She is probably another elder of the tribe, perhaps there to pass judgment on the children, along with the other."

"Oh."

"You didn't know all that, did you?"

Kenji stuffed his hands in his pockets and turned away.

"You didn't!" Yuusuke squealed gleefully.

Kenji walked out the door and down the hallway, ignoring Yuusuke as he bounced along behind him.

"You didn't know, you didn't know, you didn't-ACK!"

Yuusuke was abrubtly cut off by the door slamming on his nose.

* * *

Three simple words. Three simple, enraged, barely understandable words. "Ukyo...I kill."

Emerald eyes narrowed. "Oh. Do you now. Listen sister, I take death threats seriously."

Shampoo smirked. "Is well you should. Dangerous life here."

Ukyo laughed derisively. "Got problems, don't you sister? Do you want him or not?"

Shampoo snarled, as though she were in her feline form. "What you mean?"

Ukyo leaped over the counter, landing next to the object of their discussion. "What I mean is, you either want him or you don't." She snaked an arm around Mousse's shoulders, ignoring his startled look. "Seems to me there's plenty of us who'd like to get to know him a little better."

"Get away from him!" Shampoo launched herself forward, and Ukyo leaped back, landing lightly atop a table. She swung her battle spatula off her back, settling into a ready position.

Shampoo glared, stepped forward, and lunged for her throat.

* * *

"{If I can't see this-}"

The globe bathed their faces in an incandescent light that flickered like blue flame. "{Sooner or later one of the traitors will die. That's the important thing.}"

"{There are innocent bystanders.}"

"You've been watching! Can you honestly say that things happen independantly in this town?"

"{Is that your excuse?}" she snapped, but her elder sister didn't reply.

* * *

"{I feel like we should interfere.}" Comb said, regarding the sisters from the shadows that clung to the roof of a building across the street.

"{We shouldn't.}" Cologne replied, a frown on her face.

"{I know, they're free, but still-}" She was too protective, she knew, but for the love of all the gods they were nothing more than children!

"{They did it of their own free will. They have to face the consequences. If those two manage to harm them at all...}"

"{You don't think they will.}" The words were faintly amused in the chill of the night.

"{Paired together, they will be formidable.}"

Will be, not would be. Cologne was hoping Shampoo's life to be spared. "{Regretting you had her chasing that Saotome boy all this time?}"

"{She chose to chase him.}" Sharp, defensive, and sad all at once. Comb felt a moment's pity for her companion. Such a mess her great-grandchild had gotten into.

Comb shook her head. "{And now she chose to chase Mu Tsu. But I fear he'll either be too easy or too much trouble to catch.}"

"{And can she chase him when she is being chased?}" Cologne mused, half to herself.

Comb slid a sideways glance her way. "{You are worried.}"

Cologne's lips thinned, and she didn't reply.

* * *

There was no doubt about it, Shampoo was fast.

Ukyo leaped backward, pirouetted, missed her mark, and dodged the punch that came a little to close to her nose. She grinned at her opponant, twisting with a spinning sidekick that was just as quickly blocked and countered.

They crashed into the counter, and she vaguely noticed Mousse's flying leap across the room. In her peripheral vision, she saw him fingering the ball, a deep frown creasing his face.

Shampoo socked her in the stomach then, and she had to get back to her fight.

* * *

How dare she? How dare she? That BITCH!

She couldn't see beyond the red haze in her vision, and really didn't care.

That stupid spatula-twirling girl was going to stay away from him. No matter what.

Mousse belonged to her.

* * *

It glowed between his fingertips. He poked it with a blade no larger than a hair, and it sparked. Swinging around, he pushed open the door and cast a wary glance to the empty streets and rooftops. Nothing.

Mousse dropped it on the ground. It bounced, rolling to a gentle halt against the wall.

He fished around for a moment, then found what he was looking for.

He felt an slow grin crease his lips. It was a good feeling, a familiar feeling, one he knew as well as his own heartbeat.

Mousse swung.

* * *

"DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN!"

The sphere had flared brilliantly, blinding them both, and then it had caught alight. Her elder sister had dropped it in her lap, then screeched and flung it to the edge of the rooftop.

This was probably a good thing, Liz Glas reflected, because Lo'tion was many things, but she was not immune to explosions.

Just like our sister wasn't immune to weapons, she thought to herself, unaware that she was crying silently, unaware that her teeth were gritted so hard it was painful, unaware that her fists had clenched and her nails were drawing blood.

* * *

Her fingers dug into lavender hair, swinging the Amazon's head around, fingers blurring as she reached for a mini-spatula.

Ukyo saw stars when Shampoo headbutted her.

This was followed by another kick to the stomach and a toss towards the ceiling.

* * *

They froze with their hands wrapped around each other's throats.

Blue-green and shadowy purple eyes blinked several times, before turning to face a wickedly grinning boy spinning a huge mace in his hand.

The girls exchanged another glance.

"He's mine," Shampoo hissed in warning.

"Right. Whatever you want," Ukyo growled.

And just like that, it ended.

* * *

Or it should have ended, but she was lying on her back and staring at the ceiling, trying not to listen to his breathing from three feet away.

Shampoo sprang up and readjusted the blanket around him.

He's finally asleep, I'm not angry, Ukyo is fine, that sphere did it all, and I want to scream. I need to scream.

She wrapped her arms around her legs and squeezed. I am fine. We will be banished. We will be married and have two little girls. We will run a restaurant, we will train our daughters, and they will grow up proud and strong. The tears started, burning behind her eyes and making her throat ache. We will grow old together, and we will die in battle with a hundred enemies at our feet. We will have grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and we will be happy. She sobbed once. I will wear a lock of his hair in a brooch, and one of our daughters will look just like him. The other will look like me and wear big glasses. She will be proud and happy, and will fight with her sister and grow strong. They will marry well and be happy. She leaned over and nuzzled against him in the darkness.

"{We will be happy,}" she whispered, touching his face with a pale fingertip. "{We will be happy and strong and we won't need anybody but us.}"

He shifted in his sleep and slid an arm around her.

"{We will be happy and free and nobody will be able to keep us apart.}"

"{Nobody.}"

Shampoo held him tighter, lest the night come again and snatch him away.

* * *

He dreamt of a small girl, with huge dark eyes and ghost-white hair, a dagger in her hands, a sobbing cry, and a group of bloodstained women with empty, hungry eyes.

The girl shrieked and shielded her face, and he couldn't see through the inferno that blazed up out of nowhere.

Mousse bolted into wakefulness with a scream on the tip of his tongue.

* * *

Kenji collapsed into bed at long last, instantly asleep.

* * *

Yuusuke cuddled up on his couch underneath a ratty blanket and thought about waitresses and interviews with ebony-eyed women whose beauty had been legendary.

* * *

Two sisters who had vowed vengeance in blood were cuddled together beneath a comfortable blanket out in the freezing cold.

Ice was frozen on the lashes of the younger.

* * *

And a young boy, barely seventeen, wondered if he loved the woman he lay next to, or if he was just fooling himself.

The thought made him shudder and cuddle closer to her warmth.

* * *

Ukyo stared out of her window and thought about the price of forgiveness and love. And so I lose a fragile thing to another girl. So it gets lost, just like everything else.

The night was clear and cold and empty.

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Written in 2002 by Edmondia Dantes