Burn Out

By Jay

PAIRING: 1x2/1+2

WARNING: I dunno. Not too *anything*, I'd say.

NOTE: Duo has porphyria in this fic, which is really not very specific because there are quite a lot of different kinds of porphyria, but I'm too cheap to actually *pay* websites to access their medical information, so in the words of some very wise chibis, "POOT!" x_X;; Anyhow, the gist of everything is that he's super photosensitive, like, will die if he frolicks in the sun sensitive. Yes, yes, I stole the idea from the movie, "The Others," which I've never seen but am stealing from anyway. Bwahahahahahahaha! HaHA!

Hilde Maxwell had grown up peach and rosy, but the color was fading from her skin, her cheeks were beginning to sink in, and she was twenty years old, her lips thin lines of receding cheer. Her brother's skin was as white as white eggshells, the consequence of sixteen years spent cloaked in thick, black curtains. Duo was seventeen, which meant that for the first year of his life, he had burned. His skin was a trap for light, wringing it from the sun, taking its dying ire and fanning it until his veins popped with the heat.

His mother, Helen, had tucked his face from the world when the light was strong, hanging black curtains over all the windows so that their house always looked like grief, and she shielded the candles with her hand at night, bidding him to turn around, turn away until she blew out the offending flame and his blood cooled. When the sky slipped from dusk to night and the moon waned, she held his hand and took him and his sister for walks in the woods, and Duo thought that world was always nocturnal, a silent tableau of a frozen sky, which hung like the dark curtains, punctured by sharp points of scattered stars. When the moon was plump, his mother kept him inside at night, coaxing him to bed with soft begging and kisses. She could not bear to leave him alone, or bid his sister look after him, so she stayed by him, smiling hard, twisting her thin hands, thinking about the ruddiness of her dead husband's skin. She grew pale with him and fumbled her sewing in the dark.

It was only Hilde who could leave and enter the house at will, so it was she who ran into town for milk or wheat, who fetched their mail, who picked flowers for the table, who tended the small square of peas, who picked apples, who attended school, who sprawled on the lawn at noon in the summer, letting the warmth pass through her, and blinked her eyes in the hazy heat because the rings of the sun were too bright for her. And when she entered the house again, her mother and her brother had to turn away for a moment because it seemed that _she_ was too bright for them, too warm for _their_ eyes to bear, and they burned all the more because she was fleshy and smiling, presenting them with apples and pears, and they were like wraiths, eagerly reaching out for anything she brought.

When Hilde was seventeen, her mother had called her to her bed one evening and pressed a ring of keys into her hands, keys to every door in the house, and told her to change the curtains weekly. Hilde tucked the rings into her skirt, running a string of ribbon through them and around her waist. Helen stared at her for a long time, and then she lay down.

"Blow out the candles," she whispered. She had thin arms, and she clasped her hands. There were three candles lit on the trunk at the end of her bed, and Hilde walked over, her keys jingling, and blew all of them out at once, and knelt and began to pray.

When she lifted her head, her mother was dead. She walked over to the window that faced to the east and drew back the curtains because when morning came, it no longer mattered.

Now, she stayed with her brother, kept him company, played chess with him, read books to him, and took him on Sundays to visit their mother's grave. She tied her long hair up and braided his. She tired of tying her hair up and cut it, but Duo ran from her scissors and shut himself up in his room until she put them away. She paid one of the boys from town to bring them their food and their mail, set the table with dried flowers instead of fresh picked, and let the garden die. When she went outside to pick apples or sit on he lawn in the day, her brother's voice would drift from a window and call to her, and she would have to hurry inside and pull him from the glass and draw the curtains again. She stayed inside with him, and she began to grow pale.

The moon was full one night, and Hilde had just lay down, pulling up her blankets. It was late, later than she had intended to go to sleep. She left the curtains open, and she stared at the moon, how round it was, how white it was, yet how it burned. She had almost fallen asleep when she heard the first scream.

She fumbled for her slippers, and there was another scream, louder this time, edged with panic and hysteria and sobbing, so she ran out her door, her feet padding along the cold floors, until she was at her brother's room, and the third scream was beginning.

Hilde twisted the door open and plunged inside, looking wildly for her brother, who was curled on his bed, trembling, shaking, his skin exposed to the wide trail of the moon. He screamed again, short and pained, and ground his teeth in an effort to stop.

When she reached him and touched him, his violet eyes swerved to hers, and he managed to unfold himself, his voice spilling like iced water. "He came in here and I didn't know what to do and his lips-- his hands-- he had blue eyes, and he was smiling-- and it didn't hurt at first, but when he laughed, his hands, his hands, and his lips, they burn--"


"They burn--"


"And he laughed, and it was like brimstone." Duo's lips were red, swelling, like raised welts. "When he touched me and laughed, it burned."

Hilde steadied her brother, and began to speak. "Brother, calm down." But she caught sight of his back and could not continue. She lifted one hand to her mouth and began to shake herself. "Duo," she whispered, "brother, your back, it--"

"It burns," he said. "It burns. And my lips, they burn." His body twisted, and Hilde saw his naked back completely; pale as white eggshells, except for twin marks towards his shoulders. They were red and angry, but already fading into the color of old scars.

And they were prints of someone's palms, driven into his skin like a brand.

Hilde wrapped herself for bed again, shivering against the emptiness of the house. Her brother was seized by moods the entire day and had retired early. They had both had little sleep after what had happened the previous night, and while the pain had faded by morning, Duo did not look better for it. His eyes were haggard, but lit with a strange intensity that she could not place, an intensity that was askew with the regular pallor of his skin. His lips were still swollen, and the scorched skin on his back remained, and he would not sleep alone, so she climbed into bed with him, feeling frightened and uncomfortable as he told her that he had suddenly awoke and that the curtains had been pulled open.

"He had blue eyes," Duo had murmured. "Blue eyes and dark, messy hair, and he was smiling, and I thought I was dreaming. But he walked over and touched my hand, and I thought I would scream, but he was smiling, and he leaned me back and kissed me and I couldn't. But when he laughed, his hands and his mouth burned."

She shivered again, even under the blankets, and closed her eyes against the memory of that writhing pain.

When she woke up, it was still night. She stared at the ceiling for moment, and then rose, putting on her slippers. Hilde blinked; the house was still silent, but she felt...

...she felt that the silence was oppressive, and she decided that she would check on Duo, perhaps, just to see how he was sleeping. As she walked down the hall, she rubbed her eyes, for it seemed to her that a thin line of light was apparent beneath her brother's door. She stared at it for a few moments, and it disappeared suddenly, and she heard a light laugh that made her want to run back to her bed.

Instead, her feet marched her onwards, and Hilde opened the door. The curtains were open again, and her brother was standing before the window. He turned slowly, his eyes dreamy, "He came again," and turned around to face the window. Her eyes sharpened to the moonlight and the shadow, and saw that the burns on his back had deepened in color, as if he had been burned anew. His arms were slack by his side. "Sister, he came for me again."

Trembling, Hilde reached for his hand, and gently drew him to his bed, and lay him down, tucking in the sheets.

"Do you burn, brother?" she finally asked.

He nodded, a beatific smile gracing his features. "I burn, sister. My skin, my blood, I burn for him."

"Did he smile again, brother?"

"He smiled."

Hilde touched her brother's forehead, which felt normal, perhaps slightly warm. "Did he kiss you?"

"He kissed me. He was warm. He touched me. He laughed, and I burned for him."

"Are you in pain, brother?"

"Not so much, sister," Duo replied gently, still smiling. "But I burn for him."

She drew a shuddering breath. "Close your eyes and sleep, brother," she said. "Please, brother."

The serenity of his answer bothered her. "Of course, sister. I will sleep. I burn, but it does not pain me so much."

He stayed in bed the following day, eager for night to fall. When Hilde went to sleep, she awoke again, and she walked to her brother's room, waiting outside the door for the laugh to sound and the light to disappear. She did not go in, but crossed herself and tried not to run back to her room, walking in slow, deliberate steps.

She asked her questions again in the morning, when Duo refused to rise, but only smiled and clutched his sheets, his lips still swollen and red. She brought him breakfast and persuaded him to eat, and he ate absentmindedly, his eyes fixed on the window, which lay cloaked by the curtains.

When she awoke in the night, she stayed in her room until she could fall asleep again.

The days passed into weeks, and her brother never rose from his bed, only shaking his head, smiling, and answering the same questions with the same answers.

//Does it burn, brother?//

//It burns, it burns, sister.//

//I hope it does not pain you so much, brother.//

//Not so much, sister.//

//Will you rise today, brother.//

//No, sister, no. He comes for me tonight.//

His eyes burned the same.

Hilde visited their mother alone, during the day, and picked flowers and apples, ran into town for bread and honey, and sat in the sun. Her skin continued to pale.

A month had passed since the burning had began, and Duo only lay in bed, smiling. He would not eat or answer her questions now, just smile and stare at the window. When she turned away, he sometimes would murmur, "He comes for me tonight. It burns, oh, how it burns!"

She awoke again, and lay awake for a minute before she rose. The moon was full, plump and silver, hanging in the sky like a great coin. The corridor was dark, except for the sliver of light under her brother's door. Instead of waiting, she walked forwards, turned the doorknob, and entered.

The light was almost blinding, and she could barely make out her brother's form in the center of the room, his arms wrapped around a tall figure, lips captured in a bruising kiss. She leaned against the door, heavily, and saw the push and pull of flesh, and Duo's soundless begging. The sudden heat made her clothes stick to her skin, and she thought how it *must* have burned. The bodies twisted, and she saw his face, the smiling face that Duo burned for, and her throat dried.

He had brown hair, dark and messy, that swept over a face that sloped towards a mouth that must have flamed with its desire. He had high cheekbones, a slightly-upturned nose, and the lines of composition led upwards, up to two, stunningly blue eyes, dark and half-lidded. He was ethereal, and his face burned into her eyes, and for a moment, she *knew* why Duo had gone mad with the burning, why he had burned and smiled and waited for each night, why such pain would have paled in comparison to such exquisite ecstasy...

The boy-- the creature-- caught her eye, and his mouth left Duo's neck for a moment, and it whispered, "Burn out," and laughed.

The light blazed, and it was a few moments before Hilde's eyes adjusted again. The curtains were still thrown open, and the moon shone over the track of the room. Her eyes slid across the floor and stopped, and she stared and stared and stared and never realized that she had been screaming until she closed her eyes against the small heap of ashes, and she knew it was Duo, that her brother had burned and burned and burned. The air smelled like charred meat, and so she closed her eyes against it all.

His face was burned into her eyelids, his smiling face, and his blue eyes, and his cruel mouth, and she did not have to think why her brother had burned, to know fleetingly the pounding heat and madness of that burning. His face, his face...

It burned. Oh, how it burned.