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"O-onee-chan... please..."

Regardless of everything else that had happened, Laphicet had really done a number on Kanonushi. All in reason, of course. But Kanonushi was powerful. Surely, even if Laphicet had used his full strength, he shouldn't still be reduced to his knees, clutching his sides?

Maybe it's more than a physical thing.

He looks up at her with his big, amber eyes. "Onee-chan..."

"Go on ahead," Velvet mutters to her comrades, her feet starting to sprint to him.

Eleanor stops in her tracks, turning around instantly. "Let her go," Eizen grumbles, shifting the still unconscious Laphicet in his arms to place a hand on Eleanor's shoulder. "Trust her. She knows what has to happen. She'll come to us before long."

Eleanor bites her lip, but nods, and resumes their sprint to the ship.

"What's wrong?" Velvet says quietly, kneeling in front of Kanonushi.

"Ah... you came," he says, a smile so grateful and pure gracing his face. "I... knew you would, onee-chan..."

"What's wrong?" she repeats, looking him over. "You don't seem hurt."

Kanonushi shakes his head, bringing a hand to the side of his face. "Of course I'm not. That boy couldn't hope to even leave so much as a scratch on me."

"Then I'm leaving." She stands. She can't be around him. She just can't. Not unless --

"But onee-chan," he says, throwing his arms around her leg, "please --"

She bites her tongue.

Rational reason screaming against her, she kneels back down, and Kanonushi reluctantly lets go of her leg, looking something like a kicked puppy. "What is it?" She asks.

"I..." his arms return to coil around himself, and his gaze shifts downward. "I... I'm like you, you know, onee-chan. Just like you need goumas for sustenance, I..."

He looks up at her imploringly; that same pleading look that he gave her whenever he was sick and wanted to leave his bed, when he wanted her to take him to the oceanside.

"Make it quick."

His eyes almost sparkle.

"Don't worry," he says, scooting closer to her, "you're being so kind to me. It won't hurt. And I'll let you... go back to -- them."

He straddles her lap, and for the first time since Titania they're close enough that she can see every shade of amber in his eyes. They're exactly as she remembers them, as is every other aspect of his face. His long eyelashes, his soft, porcelain-esque skin, too like her own. Her brother had always been angelic-looking. One would think that his new appearance -- laden with white, his hair longer and neatly flowing -- would add to the effect, but it only made Velvet's insides churn. How much of this is her brother? And how much of this is Kanonushi?

It's enough of her brother, she supposes, that she feels no trepidation when his teeth sink into her neck. And he's right; it doesn't hurt at all, but maybe that's more to do with the fact that he stops so quickly.

"Onee-chan," he sighs, pulling away just enough to run his fingers over the fresh wound, "you taste --" he pauses to slide his bloodied fingertips into his mouth -- "so good..."

"I told you to make it quick."

His eyes meet hers momentarily with a flash of guilt that pulls at her heartstrings. He nods once, though, and instantly his lips are back on her neck, mouth sucking her blood and malevolence into his own. She feels his whole body relax, any ounce of tension leaving it as his full weight leans against her. Though his hair obscures most of his face from this angle, she can still see his eyes fluttering shut. Images of stroking his fever-warm head until he fell asleep fill her mind. She closes her eyes too, and for a moment she can hear the birds of the forest chirping outside, she can smell the remains of the mabo curry she had made him that night --

His tongue slides over the wound and she jumps.

"Are... you done yet?" She asks, weakness washing over her like a tidal wave.

"Mm..." He sucks at her once more, before pulling back, his tongue licking his lips. "I could be... but... you taste so good, onee-chan, I've never had it feel like this before..."

She opens her mouth to reply, but finds that even taking a breath at the moment strains her chest.

"You must be weak," he says quietly, before trailing a hand down from her shoulder down her bandaged arm, skimming with a feather-light touch until he reaches her wrist. "Here," he says, guiding her hand to his back. When she does nothing but stare at him, he continues, "I could turn into a gouma too, you know. You can help me, and -- it'll make you feel better..."

The thought of using her arm -- her very same arm that had taken the life from so many others -- on her brother sends a feeling like ice water through her body.

"Don't worry," he says, as if reading her mind. "It'll be okay. You need to. And... I need you to do it for me, onee-chan." His arms wrap around her. "I need you to take care of me."

Her claw emerges from her bandages and she sinks it as lightly as she can into his back.

"Ah --" his body jerks and she retracts it immediately. "No, it's okay, really -- please --"

It sinks back into him. The malevolence lifts from his body and into her arm, and she feels strength flowing into her.

Again his body relaxes against hers, head resting on her shoulder. "Thank you, onee-chan..." He holds her a bit tighter, and his lips slide against her still-fresh wound as he murmurs, "I love you."

She brings her free hand up to head and strokes his hair. "I love you too."

"Say it."

She's silent.

"Say my name."

Her hand stops in his hair.

He licks at her wound. "Please? Onee-chan?"

He looks up and his big amber eyes are shimmering.

Feeling her stomach twist into knots and her heart break a bit, she gently pushes his head back to her shoulder. "I love you, Laphi."

"I love you too, onee-chan."

His voice is bright as the sun that filtered through their old cottage as he sinks his teeth back into her neck and starts to suck out of her again.