Hello all! So ... yes, I know I already have three stories and a one-shot collection already on-going, but this plot-bunny was adopted and deserved immediate attention. This is not going to be one of my priority stories (Amongst Untrodden Ways and A Melody of Second Chances get that distinction, as does A Strange Pikachu in a Strange Land if I can get it to work with me again) but I will try to work on this one as regularly as possible. Please note that I am very, very knew to the Katekyo Hitman Reborn world and know it mostly by fan fiction, what little of the anime I have currently watched, and whatever info I can glean from the Wiki. This is also a crossover in which the main character is a Fem!Skull, so expect things to be AU. Exactly what degree it will be AU is up for debate, but things will change from plot to character interaction to random world-building facts, so you have been warned.
While we are on the subject of Fem!Skull, this story is actually not originally mine. I was kindly allowed to adopt it by wolfsrainrules, who wrote a one-shot about Fem!Skull in an adoptables collection called Flicker. The chapter this is based off of/adopted from is called Femme (again, in the story named Flicker that belongs to wolfsrainrules) and I highly, highly recommend you read that if you want to know at least a little of what I'm going for here. Though, just another warning, that one-shot was not a crossover, so things will be different from that one-shot too.
Also, in this chapter, the scenes are in italics are written primarily in present tense rather than past tense, which is why they are in italics. Consider them more in-depth snapshots in the basic overview of Fem!Skull's early life.
Copyright Disclaimer: I do not own Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Transformers, or any of their terms. The only things I own are my OCs, my interpretation of Fem!Skull (which I adopted from wolfsrainrules), and the plot.
First Stanza: In Which It All Begins
Milena Cherep's first memory was of her papa, the infamous stuntman Nicholas Cherep, setting her atop his stunt bike and chuckling at her delight while he and the bike walked slow circles around the perimeter of the huge circus tent in which he performed.
Her second memory, as well as her third, or even fourth, was of waiting for her papa to return to the tent while being held close to a warm, thrumming chest as a low, feminine voice told stories in words that sounded like softly rasping metal parts, birdlike chirps, and the click of gears that came to make as much sense to her childish mind as her father's native Russian.
She had another memory, dim and rarely called upon, of the woman she had called mama. There wasn't much she remembered about Mama save for what her papa told her, like how her mother had been an acrobat and had died when she made a mistake in mid-air during practice, and that even though Milena's mama was gone she had loved her daughter very, very much. Her papa told her that she was too young to remember mama, but that that was okay too.
However, sometimes in her sleep, Milena would dream of a graceful figure, twisting and flying in the air high above and a high, tinkling laugh that made her think of home. Those rare occurrences would have made her lonely for her mama, but then her papa or his partner would tell her stories and hold her close and she wouldn't feel lonely anymore.
It didn't occur to her until she was five years old to ask why people who had just joined the circus looked at her strangely or laughed whenever she spoke of the tall metal person her papa's bike could turn into. Or when she repeated the stories his metallic stunt partner told to her of far off worlds, metal giants, and a sky in which the stars shone both day and night.
That was when she was told that she needed to keep those things secret, or else someone would come and take away her father's bike forever. Milena was only five, but she had lived in a traveling circus all her life and seen how sometimes things would get taken away from her family by the people who ran the various countries they visited. She had been taught from a young age when to hide and when to pretend. She had already known to not speak of her father's "magic bike" or her stories in front of Outsiders, Milena just hadn't been aware that the same rules applied to those who had just joined the circus.
After that, she never spoke of it in front of someone who her father had not spoken about it to first. She didn't want her big sister to get taken away after all.
Silhouette was a very tall big sister, fifteen feet in height when she wasn't a motorcycle, with dark black flames curling up her red frame to match Nicholas's uniform. Her eyes, or optics as Milena would later learn to call them, were a deep ruby that brightened or dimmed in an entrancing manner according to her mood.
Of course, she rarely transformed out of her motorcycle form, only doing so when it was just the three of them in the tent and she needed to drink her fuel. After she had done that, Silhouette would pick Milena up in her huge hand, hold her close to her chest, and murmur stories to Milena about where Silhouette had come from. A far-off world made of metal, filled with beings just like Silhouette, who could transform from metal giants into cars and trucks and motorcycles, or even things called jets that could fly faster than any bird.
When there was someone in the tent who did not already know about Silhouette's true form, Silhouette made a strange moving, talking, touchable picture of a young teen with dark brown eyes and long hair the same rich purple as Milena's and Nicholas's. When there were people in the tent and Silhouette had her moving picture out, Nicholas addressed the picture as "Yelena" and the picture in turn called Nicholas "father" or "papa".
It confused Milena, but since it kept Silhouette a secret, she didn't really bother her head about what the picture called her papa. Instead, she waited until they were alone and pestered Silhouette about what the picture was, how Silhouette made it, and if Milena could learn to make one too.
Silhouette called the picture a hologram, and said that no, Milena could not learn how to make one. She then launched into a long, detailed explanation of why Milena couldn't learn how to make the moving picture that went completely over the little girl's head after the "you can't because-".
Milena just decided to believe it was because she didn't have the same magic that let Silhouette turn into her father's stunt motorcycle and left it at that.
Milena turned six years old the same day she died for the first time.
For her birthday present, her papa and Silhouette, using her Yelena picture, had promised to take her sightseeing around the town in which the circus was performing the next day. She had been so excited to see everything, go everywhere, that she hadn't been watching her feet, hadn't been mindful of the wet snow coating the ground. She had run ahead of her papa and Silhouette, bouncing up the stairs of a huge, pretty building before her papa had sternly called for her to return to his side.
She had turned on her heel and made to run back down the huge stone steps, when the worn-down treads of her shoes had slipped on the snow and sent her toppling backwards at an odd angle.
She would still remember, decades after the fact, how the world had slowed down, how she had been too shocked to scream, yet had been clear-headed enough to see the expression on her papa's and Silhouette's picture's faces as she fell. She would still remember how, between one wild throb of her heart and the next, she had instinctively known, known on a primal level that transcended age or maturity-level, that she was going to die.
The thought, I don't want to die, had been the only thing left in her head, the only sentence or concept that remained in her panic-blanked mind. She didn't want to die. She was scared to die, she was scared to fall, scared of the knowledge, the knowing that she was never going to get back up again even when she was still too young to truly understand what death was and what it meant.
It would take years, decades, before she ever relayed so much as a single detail to anyone about what had happened next.
Skull ran her finger delicately along the rim of her shot glass as she waited for Levi to think of something to say. It was the monthly Varia drinking game night, where Xanxus and his guardians would all lounge around their private living room and make up drinking games to amuse themselves and unwind from missions.
This time around, Fran, in a display of just how well Viper had been teaching him methods to glean more information/blackmail material on everyone and everything, had suggested a game in which they would take turns stating an opinion and anyone who disagreed with that opinion had to take a drink and then explain, in one to five sentences, why they disagreed.
So far, it had been going splendidly. Though Belphegor had to be reminded repeatedly that "the Froggy/Shark is stupid and his peasant opinions don't matter" was not a valid explanation. Also, Squalo had to be repeatedly reminded that trying to skewer another participant was against the rules of the game.
It had also become something of an unspoken competition between the members to see if they could come up with a statement that Xanxus would not disagree with just to take a drink.
Levi snapped his fingers, "I got it. Snapping necks in the best way to kill someone when you need to be quiet."
Skull felt her heart skip a beat in memory and instantly took a drink from her shot glass. There was a long pause before she realized that she had been the only one to do so. Even Xanxus, grudgingly, hadn't drunk to that one. With a slow breath to calm her nerves, she said flatly, "It takes too long."
Squalo wrinkled his nose, "Seriously? That's your reason? Neck breaking is an instant kill!"
Skull poured herself another drink and swallowed it without really tasting it. She didn't need to do that according the rules of the game, but the extra shot of alcohol helped burn away the memories that were threatening to rise. When she lowered the glass again, she replied with a bitter, broken smile, "No it isn't. It takes too long to stop thinking."
Xanxus inhaled sharply, if silently, and the others went eerily still. A moment later, Belphegor pasted on a cheap version of his usual grin and rattled off an opinion so outrageous it nearly started a fight again and the moment of stunned horror was lost. No one ever brought up that line of conversation again, nor did they ever question her on her words.
She did notice however, that they stopped breaking necks unless it was absolutely necessary.
She had fallen on the stone steps at an angle where the blunt but narrow edge of one hit her directly on the back of her neck and broke her spinal cord in an instant. There was no feeling of pain, no agony to match the terror inside her. Just sudden blackness as the motion knocked her eyelids shut and a terrifying disconnection as she became suddenly unable to feel her own body, became unable to breathe.
I don't want to die, I don't want to die, I don't want to die, Papa-Sissy-save-me-I-don't-want-to-die! The thoughts had pounded through her head in time to the ever slower thud of her heartbeat. An eternity crept by in the paralyzed blackness with only her thoughts to keep her company. Her knowing that she was going to die, that she was already dead in all the ways that mattered because how did you fix a body that wasn't there anymore?
I-don't-want-to-die-I-don't-want-to-die-I-want-to-live! In that last thought, that last flicker of terror, of desire, of the will to keep living, something had happened. A warmth spread through the blackness and it went from the color of pitch to a rich purple that shocked her into attempting to open her eyes.
Her eyes had snapped open and sunlight had stabbed with such ferocity that she gasped with the pain and relief. A moment later and she was being patted all over by her crying papa while Silhouette's moving picture gaped at her from next to her father. Milena started to cry too and reached desperately for Silhouette and her papa, to be hugged and comforted about what had just happened-
Only to see purple fire dancing all along her hands and arms.
Milena had screamed in terror, screamed herself hoarse and struggled to escape her papa's frantic and confused grip because she was on fire and she needed to put it out somehow and she-was-on-fire-put-it-out! Then the fire was gone, without a whisper, or a puff of smoke as warning. It was just … gone.
But the warmth that had preceded it, that had pulled her back from death, stayed.
Milena blinked away wet tears of fear as she huddled in her papa's lap and stared up at the towering true form of her big sister Silhouette. They were back in her father's tent, with Silhouette pacing frantically and her papa refusing to let Milena go for even an instant. Nicholas's naturally velvet rumble finally broke the silence, "What happened to her?"
Silhouette growled briefly, like the rev of a motorcycle engine, "She broke her neck."
"But she's still alive-"
Silhouette rubbed her servos over her helm, a habit picked up from Nicholas over the years, and snarled, "I know what I saw, Nicholas! I scanned her the moment she hit the stones. She broke her neck and severed her spinal cord."
Silence fell again for a very long moment and Nicholas hugged Milena tightly to his chest, as if to fend off the terror of Silhouette's words. The silence stayed for two minutes before Nicholas murmured, "Then how did she wake up? On the way back you said … you said something about a … fire?"
Silhouette shook her helm, "Yes- no. Not a fire. A spark. Spark-fire. Soul-fire. The kind of which I've only seen the greatest of the Cyber-Ninja Masters back on Cybertron use. Even then, the color was different from hers. You couldn't see it?"
Nicholas shook his head, "No."
A bit of Silhouette's back plating relaxed, "That's … good. Then that means there's a good chance no one else in the crowd saw it."
Milena spoke up for the first time since Silhouette had calmed her screams over the mysterious fire, "What's soul-fire?"
Silhouette stared at Milena for a long time, then knelt down before her and her papa, "It's a manifestation of your spark, Bright Spark." Silhouette saw Milena's confused look and simplified, "Do you remember the glowing blue star in my chest that I showed you once, Milena? My spark?" Milena nodded, "It would seem … that you have one too."
Milena stared at Silhouette with wide eyes, "Me?"
Silhouette nodded, "Yes. I … I don't know how, but you do, and it saved you." She glanced up at Nicholas and said to him, "It completely repaired her spinal cord and neck, there's only the faintest scarring. And it's still there, I can sense her with my energy scanners now. She feels … like a youngling spark. A strong youngling spark, much stronger than I would ever have imagined for her age."
Milena interrupted whatever Nicholas had been about to say in return, "Does that mean I can do magic like you, Sissy? Does that mean I can turn into stuff too and lift really big things and make moving pictures too?"
Silhouette hesitated, "Maybe. But you need to be careful Milena. Very, very careful." Silhouette sighed and spoke to Nicholas again, "I don't know much about using spark-fire, that was a secret only the most advanced of apprentices could be taught and I never finished my training. But I'll teach her what I know and how to control it as best I can. First lesson being," Silhouette shot Milena a very serious look, eyes brightening with the silent command to obey her next words, "you must never use your spark-fire without supervision again. If you do it wrong, or use too much, you can and will die again, Milena, and this time nothing will save you."
The fear of dying, the terror of the blackness she had been trapped in, made Milena nod emphatically and promise to never use her spark-fire unless Sissy was there and said it was okay. Never.
She never wanted to go back into that blackness again.
A pity it would become as familiar to her as her own heartbeat over the next few decades.
It was sometime two years later that the same fire that had saved Milena's life, destroyed it as well.
Though, to be more realistic, it had been the men who could see her purple fire and wanted it for themselves that destroyed her life.
She had gotten careless. Two years of constantly training her spark-fire had made her both confident in it and had changed her body in ways that were either absolutely impossible to hide just impossible to hide for an energetic wander-lust stricken just-turned-eight-year-old.
As she had been instructed by Silhouette, she kept her spark-fire tightly leashed inside, never allowing it out of her body unless she was being supervised by Silhouette, and even then, it was a rare occurrence. The side-effects of internalizing it so much even as she trained it, however, were the causes of the changes that were so hard to hide. Because she could not let the fire outside, it leaked into every part of her body. Coated her bones and burned under her skin until it became part of her body as much as it was part of her soul.
Her eyes, once a deep chocolate brown like her father's, now glowed a rich purple that went from vaguely passable as a natural color to eerie orbs of glowing light depending on how riled her temper was.
Her body was changed too. Her balance, unless she was overly tired, which was beyond rare because of her spark, was the level of a professional acrobat. She could lift anything she set her mind too, from tent pegs to crates of equipment that normally took two of the circus men to carry. She was fast, not just in body, but in mind.
Before, when she had asked Silhouette to tell her what a word meant in the language of the country they were visiting, she often forgot it within minutes. Now, she do anything from say basic sentences to hold simple conversations in almost any European language, and even had a smattering of Mandarin Chinese in her word bank.
Her sense of smell was no longer her friend, either. It was so sharp and precise and overwhelming that she often stole her father's helmet in an effort to filter the smells of the circus unless he was busy performing.
Her eyesight was both a blessing and a migraine. Literally. She had spent most of the circus's time in France hiding in the tents and under various scraps of cloth in an effort to stave-off light-induced migraines until she had adjusted to the new depth of her vision.
Yet as much as she tried to keep it internal, sometimes … it just didn't want to. It wanted out, she wanted it out, so look at and admire. She loved to watch the purple flames curl gently along her fingers and run up her arms, warm yet never burning her. It had saved her from death, so whenever she actively pulled on it, either to make it external or to enhance some part of her body, she was washed with a feeling of safe and strong and alive.
But that feeling also made her wander. She couldn't stop herself. There were days when she needed to move, leave behind the crowd of the circus workers and performers who were her family and just … explore. She needed to feel her legs move to forget the feel of their absence, feel her lungs burn and her heart throb to override memories of when her lungs could not move and her heart had come so close to stopping forever.
The crowds and noise she once used to love now repulsed her. Made her feel like she was trapped in a living, writhing box of other living beings that pressed so close to her she felt she would suffocate.
It was one of those wanderlust days when she grew too careless. She had been helping out wherever she could in the circus, but then the strangers pouring in suddenly became too much for her, their laughter too loud, their presences too stifling. Milena had fled to the outskirts of the circus area to catch her breath and had, in her panicked effort to stave off memories of darkness and nothing and cold, instinctively pulled her fire to her hands in order to see it and relish in its warmth.
The sight of the two small flames pulsing in time to her heartbeat from where they rested on her palms was soothing and eased her breathing. She admired them, savored them for a minute or two before one of fortune-telling girls found her and herded her back to her father's tent, scolding her the entire time for wandering off again.
Neither Milena nor her escort had noticed the man watching them from the shadows of the trees, were unaware as he had hurried off to inform someone else of what he had just seen.
That night, when the late-night crowd was at its height and her father had already finished his stunt act with Silhouette, who was back in their tent resting, Milena's world had erupted in fire. Orange flames, the kind that burned and maimed, the kind normal people thought of when the word flame was spoken. It sprung up in the animal act tent, then another in the big-top tent, then yet another in the back where the extra supplies were kept.
It had spread hungrily, jumping across the grass and from tent to tent while people screamed and fled. The circus troupe had rushed back and forth, trying frantically to put out the fire. Nicholas had pulled Milena close, moving to run back to the tent where Silhouette was, to turn Milena over to her for safe keeping while Nicholas helped with the fire, when a figure stepped out of the smoke in front of them.
In all the chaos, smoke, and screaming, no one else noticed the man. No one else saw the moment he used a knife to slash through the throat of the inattentive Nicholas as the father had run past.
No one but Milena.
She had screamed, in terror and grief and rage as her father fell to the ground with a gurgle and stopped moving. The man had grabbed her roughly, moving to sling her over his shoulder and drag her off. Milena, her mind hazed with grief and horror, the sight of her unmoving father and memories of darkness and death in her eyes, clawed the man's back with another scream.
Purple fire had flared and danced over her fingers as they went straight through. Through the man's clothing, through his skin, deep into his shoulder with the crunch of bone and the smell of burning blood. The man had dropped her with an agonized scream, his other hand coming around to hit her roughly on the side of her head with the hilt of his dagger.
The blow would have knocked out, or possibly even killed, a normal child. But for Milena, it only dazed her, rendering her limp and dizzy as another man stepped out of the smoke, picked her up, and ran away alongside the first.
The smoke had burned her lungs, her head had throbbed, and tears had rolled from her eyes even as she struggled to regain control of her limbs. Just as the two men had cleared the smoke, her limbs became her own again and she moved.
What happened next was a mystery to her. She could dimly recall smoke and screaming, tears and multi-colored fire, but nothing concrete.
The last thing she recalled of that time before waking up in Silhouette's large metal hand, far away from the burning remains of the circus that had once been her home, was the dim outline of a figure with blazing red eyes and an intense, powerful feeling of warmth-home-safe-mine, the like of which she had never felt before.
She would spend years searching for a way to feel that last sensation again only to rediscover it in the most unlikely of places.
But that was later. Right then, all Milena had been able to do was curl up in Silhouette's hand and cry while her adoptive big sister and protector rubbed her back with a finger and murmured, "It's alright, Bright Spark. It will be alright someday. I'll keep you safe. No one will ever do this to us again. Never."
Milena dimly recalled begging to know how Silhouette would stop it from happening again, what her big sister could possibly do to keep it, keep them, away. She wasn't sure why she had asked amid her sobbing, surely she would have had larger concerns at the time, grief for instance, but she had.
Milena would always remember Silhouette's reply, the look in her ruby eyes as she said, "I will teach you, Bright Spark. I will teach you to keep people away by letting them think they are close. I will teach you to show no truth save what your audience wishes to see." Ruby eyes had glowed brighter with intensity, with something dark and viscously protective, "I will make you a mirror, behind which none can see."
She hadn't understood it at the time, but she had later. Much later, when she lived in a world of Flames of Sky, futures that never came to pass, and people who made it their business to see through even the heaviest of fog to learn the secrets that lay within.
When she had come to stand at the top of that world, unknown save to a chosen few who she had allowed past her shields. Shields made not of fog or stone or steel, but of reflections, expectations, and hidden glass.
Shields made from mirrors.
So ... (hides in box fort) how'd I do?
And about Milena's enhancement problem, that was my way of explaining how "Skull" is the only known Cloud who's flames make her 'immortal'. Dying Will Flames are willpower and belief right? So, if she believes that her flames are a "Spark" like Silhouette's, it would react differently to her. A cybertronian's spark effects every part of their frame, even though it is contained in the spark chamber. Without a spark, the energon pump wouldn't work and no energon would flow through the frame. With that kind of expectation coloring Silhouette's teachings about Milena's "spark-fire", Milena has grown to assume it would flow and spread through her just like energon does through Silhouette. It responds to that belief and leads to her basically enhancing herself 24-7 until it becomes a natural, unconscious thing to her. Thus, why she survives hits nobody else can.