The title comes from a Bible quote, John 11:10- "if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him".
The Song of Nephilim was dark, cold, and completely deserted. It was a nightmarish tangle of confusing hallways and glancing shadows, and it gave out the occasional groan of a large structure settling in on itself. Albedo had never slept somewhere so alien and frightening. He didn't think he could ever sleep here.
Albedo shuddered. This was just as terrifying as his nightmares, but it was his new reality. This was where he lived, now, the ship granted to him through the generosity of Ormus. He should probably have been grateful not to be executed or thrown out, but he knew better.
He recognized these Ormus people- people who had spoken with his father before, odd sorts with cruel plans just like his. Albedo hadn't been rescued for any reason other than his usefulness. He was powerful even at his age and size, and he would only grow to be a more useful investment with time.
Albedo hadn't been given the Song as a reward, or even as a place to live. It was a prison. He'd been deposited here to rot alone, out of sight and out of mind, because he was strange and frightening as much as he was useful.
These were things he already knew, of course. He frightened his own kind. Yet, Albedo couldn't help but be struck by the loneliness.
Rubedo had severed their link on that cursed day when he abandoned Albedo. He wrenched his hand from Albedo's and fled, because Albedo had been possessed by U-DO- because Albedo was worse than dead, tainted, used. Rubedo had cast him aside, disgusted.
U-DO had also been torn from Albedo's mind, sealed on Miltia while Albedo had escaped on this very ship. He felt immensely empty, like the space within his own head was vacant and echoey. Just like in the Song itself, there was too much space- too much nothing- and Albedo was left deserted, alone.
His eyes pricked with tears, pathetic and burning hot. He'd never been lonely before. He always had the voices of his brothers in his head, always had Rubedo near enough to touch. When Albedo trembled, mind falling prey to fear, he could take Rubedo's hand and squeeze, see those shining blue eyes and an easy smile.
Now, however, there was no Rubedo. There was only space, open and threatening, too large for Albedo to fill. It was just Albedo, just like he'd feared for so long, only him remaining as the universe went on. Existence would be like this forever, listless and achingly empty.
What could there possibly be without Rubedo? What meaning could anything else hold? Tears ran down Albedo's face, wet and tacky, as he thought about what he longed for. He wanted to feel Rubedo's palm in his, warm and strong. He wanted to know Rubedo was near to keep him safe. He wanted to know that Rubedo loved him still, just as deeply as Albedo couldn't help but love him.
Of course, Albedo had none of that. His worst fears had come true. Rubedo had deserted him. Rubedo hated him. Rubedo didn't want him.
It was just Albedo, now, all alone.
Albedo didn't sleep often these days. He laid in one spot, shivering, for hours, but still couldn't find any respite from the horrors of his new reality. He was surrounded by everything he had ever feared, and it could still become worse. Rubedo could die.
Albedo wouldn't be able to bear it. He couldn't imagine it. He couldn't bear even being separated like this.
Albedo was exhausted, completely and utterly. His head ached, his eyes burned, his body was weak and quivering, but it didn't matter. It couldn't possibly matter. Albedo felt nothing but anguish, clawing at his very soul, more painful than anything he had ever experienced.
This was where his anger brewed. Rubedo had always promised to protect him- had held him close, whispered that he would keep Albedo safe. What lies he told. They sparked unthinking fury in Albedo. How could he lie like that? How could Rubedo be so cruel? Why pretend, only to toss Albedo aside?
He still loved Rubedo. Nothing in the world could make him feel otherwise. Yet the feelings clashed and burned, like a combustion in his chest, hurling debris that embedded painfully into every part of his body. Albedo could feel them like physical wounds- the ones he had never known- stabbing deep within him, poisoning him.
Albedo loved Rubedo with all of their hearts, missed him, felt his absence like a gaping wound. Yet, Albedo also hated him for what he had done. The two Rubedos mixed and twisted within his mind, unable to be calmed or soothed, as Albedo's heart raced too fast and he broke into a cold sweat.
He felt so unbearably on edge, so anxious that he might just burst.
Albedo threw his head back, teeth gnashing. He was in so much pain, all the time. In the day it softened to a dull ache, but at night, Albedo remembered. He thought of how Rubedo comforted him only a short while ago, soft words and soothing breaths from his body beside Albedo's. He was warm, his hands were gentle as they rubbed Albedo's back, and when Albedo opened his eyes he could see the tantalizing sight of peace on Rubedo's beautiful face.
Albedo needed him, yearned for him. He felt hollow. Albedo was nothing without him, in the most infuriating, desperate way. Albedo hated every bit of this existence.
Albedo sat up, furious. He scrubbed the tears from his eyes, panting. How could Rubedo have done this to him? It was his fault.
Anger surged through him. Rubedo was terrible and cruel. All Albedo had ever given him was unconditional love, constant affection- and what had he gotten in return? He was thrown aside like trash! Rubedo had left him to the slaughter- abandoned them all!
Albedo hurled his pillow across the room, overcome by his own stifling hot rage. It hit the wall opposite with a soft thud, hardly satisfying, and Albedo threw himself back on the bed, frustrated. His fist slammed down beside him and he muffled his scream into the sheets.
Why? Why did any of this have to happen? Albedo loved Rubedo, needed him like he was choking and dying, and here he was, a desolate void, a mere façade of a man. It was an ironic thing that he couldn't die, because Albedo felt like he was already dead!
The sobs slowed and abated with time, however, and soon enough Albedo lifted his tearstained face to take greater, shuddering gasps of air. His heartbeat slowed, and his mind didn't quiet, but it did soften. He never felt peace these days- never would feel peace again- but the gust of anger had passed, and now his head ached, his eyes stung, and he had no pillow.
Albedo stood shakily. He was embarrassed by his pitiful show of anger, even though no one had been around to see it. He was more powerful than this, his problems more great and terrible than a childish tantrum.
He shuffled over to his pillow, picking it up and wrapping it in his arms. The feeling, however, was familiar to his sleep-deprived, tear-addled mind. It was a weight in his arms that he had sorely missed, a softness he hungered for.
Perhaps it was a pathetic thing to think. Albedo didn't care. When he flopped down on the bed again, he didn't place the pillow behind his head, instead laying it beside him. He wrapped his arms all the way around it, squeezing too tightly for if it had been a real person.
The tension in his chest lightened, if only slightly. Albedo exhaled, heavy, and hitched up his legs to wrap around too. He only held Rubedo like this on the worst of nights, when he feared Rubedo might slip out of his grasp and fade into nothingness.
Just as he had now.
Albedo forced his eyes shut, face twisting and scrunching. He wouldn't cry again. He had Rubedo, now. If he pretended, he could nearly hear Rubedo's breaths, feel the rise and sink of his chest under Albedo's palms.
Albedo tugged the pillow closer, burying his face in it. It was too soft, too plush compared to the strength and solidity of Rubedo's chest, but it was all he had. He clung to it and his memories of Rubedo, of his stalwart protector. Albedo could imagine Rubedo's arms, skinny but strong, wrapping around him as Rubedo sighed. Albedo was so sensitive, but what could they do? He was the way he was.
Albedo's arms tightened. He wouldn't let go. He wouldn't let Rubedo let go. He pressed his face into the pillow, inhaling deeply. It didn't smell like Rubedo- like earth, and rain, grounding and familiar- but like nothing.
Albedo took a shuddering breath, fighting the encroaching reality. He wasn't alone. He was never alone. Rubedo had blocked their link, but he was still there- still forever linked to Albedo.
He could feel it, pressed against the pillow- Rubedo's heartbeat, echoing in his chest. It was slow, languid. He was asleep. This was what he always felt like when he slept, composed yet relaxed, like a king reclining on his throne.
Albedo leaned into it, blocking out his other senses until all he could feel was the steady thump of the hearts within his chest. He brought his hand there, clutching so hard he might tear through and touch it for himself.
He could feel his own heart begin to beat slower. The images of Rubedo came back, just as pristine as though they had been yesterday. Albedo remembered him well- the warmth in his hands, pressed on Albedo's back as Rubedo tucked Albedo's forehead under his chin, or draped lazily over Albedo when Rubedo pulled his back to his chest. Albedo could feel the nightmare fading away- the terrible reality where he now lived, a meaningless, empty husk of life.
Rubedo's heart beat in his chest, pumping red through his veins- red like Rubedo, life like Rubedo held, not like Albedo, his shadow, a mere echo. Albedo savored it, the feel of Rubedo's heart deep within him.
He wasn't alone, after all. He may have felt like it- frightened by the emptiness inside of his head, the expanse of a bed too large for just him, so used to pressing close to Rubedo in a bed meant for only one URTV- but it was a mere illusion.
Albedo pressed his palm against his heart, feeling it beat there, resisting the push of his hand. He would meet Rubedo again someday, this he was certain of. He would find his other half, make him pay for what he had done, but savor him as he always did- a tight hug, whispered words of love, the calm of knowing Rubedo was near. Rubedo wouldn't run from him. Albedo would find him.
He was already here, in some ways, in the heart they both shared. Albedo could feel him. And, he thought, suddenly giddy, Rubedo could feel him too. Was Rubedo ever awoken at night by the race of Albedo's heartbeat? Did he think of Albedo when his right chest skipped a beat, or when the two hearts beat so beautifully in sync?
Just as a piece of Rubedo lingered in Albedo, so too did Albedo's heart remain in Rubedo's chest. They were one, as they always were, and there was no way to separate them. Rubedo couldn't run, and Albedo couldn't be abandoned.
Albedo exhaled, the revelation still sparking in his chest. His heart beat with rejuvenated strength. Despair lingered still, mixed with anger and emptiness, but it was easier than ever to pretend. With Rubedo's heart, Albedo could imagine his slow breaths tousling the top of his head, the flutter of brief emotion on his features before they relaxed once more.
Satisfied, Albedo's heart began to slow. When his eyes closed, they weren't forced shut, but closed gently, tranquil at last. The danger had passed. Rubedo was here, within Albedo's very heart.
Perhaps Rubedo was no protector, no knight in shining armor, but it didn't matter. Albedo had him, and his presence was enough. Feeling him was enough.
After so many nights of turmoil, at last Albedo fell asleep.