This fic is based on a Xenosaga drama CD called Outer File. The TL:DR for this fic's purposes is that before the attack on the Kukai Foundation in Episode I, Richard has used a photo of Albedo's Corpse Room (TM, presumably) on the Song of Nephilim to lure Jr. and MOMO to him, in order to capture MOMO for the Y-Data. Jr. is captured after Hermann sneaks up on him, and Richard tortures him with some drowning device.
As Albedo had already appeared in the drama CD, I thought it would be funny if he got involved, and was disappointed that he didn't. If only I wrote a lot of fanfiction about him...
Rubedo was near.
Albedo felt it more strongly than any of his senses, like a bludgeoning to his head. It was the sweet sort of pain, the kind he relished, so different from the dull ache Rubedo had left in his heart.
The sensation sent Albedo's heart racing. Whatever concerns he had been troubling himself with were long gone, dust compared to the guiding star of obsession that was Rubedo. Where was he? How had their paths crossed again?
He hadn't been near in so long. Albedo could never ignore the dull ache in his chest, the pang of abandonment, but it had been years since he had felt Rubedo's presence like he did now, like a pleasant electric shock coursing through his body.
The familiarity was revolting. This was the same Rubedo that had betrayed him, after all.
Albedo's fingers twitched. If Rubedo was so near, surely he should investigate. It was vital to his plans.
He prodded at their link.
Rubedo had sealed it quite thoroughly, of course, but his defenses slipped while he was unconscious. It was like watching him as he slept, unaware, unable to register the weight of Albedo's eyes.
This time, however, Rubedo was not sleeping. Albedo could feel the restlessness, so different from the peace Rubedo usually slept with.
It was sweet, how soundly he could sleep after leaving his comrades to die.
Rubedo had been struck unconscious… but how? By whom? He had many enemies, yet none so near. Richard was the only agent nearby Albedo was aware of- Richard, he realized, who was searching for the very Realian Rubedo was travelling with.
Albedo's eyes widened with recognition. Rubedo had been captured.
What he wasn't expecting was the feeling that jolted through him then- repugnance, indignation. Albedo was suddenly certain of just one thing: he couldn't possibly let that little maniac have his way with Rubedo.
Rubedo was his prey. This was his revenge, and he couldn't permit some brat to defeat Rubedo before Albedo had the chance for his fun. Rubedo was his betrayer, his enemy, his other half. Albedo would stake his claim here and now.
He opened the communication channel he had only just closed.
"You have something of mine," Albedo declared.
Richard scrambled into the room less than amused, torn from his duties to answer the sudden call from his superior.
"Something of yours?" He repeated dully.
"Yes…" Albedo purred. "A toy, you might call it."
It was rich of him to prod at Richard's strange disposition when he was far stranger himself, but amusing nevertheless.
Richard's frown deepened. "My job isn't to amuse you. Your distractions are stopping me from finishing our work."
"Oh, I'm a distraction, am I?" Albedo couldn't help but laugh. What dedication! Ormus soldiers could be so serious, so committed to the nothings they preached. How common, how human.
"I thought you wanted me to succeed?" Richard spat. His hand clenched where it rested on his hip. He hid his anger so poorly.
"I do… there are things I want more, though- one of which being my treasure, captive on your ship."
Albedo was certain of it now. He could feel Rubedo strongly, like a beacon lit just for him. He was furious, yes, but couldn't well resist that sweet siren call. What better opportunity for a confrontation than now?
Richard's eyes closed. His patience was waning. "I just told you. I don't have the Realian yet."
Albedo giggled. The boy truly didn't understand, did he?
"Oh, I'll deal with ma pêche soon enough… but this is something far more precious. I could hardly let it go to waste."
"What could you possibly-" Richard snarled. "The kid?"
"Yes… now, be a good boy and return what's mine."
Albedo knew Richard would refuse. Mocking him did little to diffuse the tension, but it did lift Albedo's spirits.
"I caught him." Richard grit his teeth, predictably. "What claim do you have?"
"More than you know, more than anyone could possibly understand!" Albedo said through giggles, bubbling in his chest before erupting into full-blown laughter. "Now… hand him over."
"You can't just do whatever you'd like!" Richard leaned forwards. "He's my captive… I have plans for him."
A possessive anger began to creep up in Albedo's mind. Who was this blustering child, to get between him and Rubedo? It was just like that stupid girl, all those years ago. There were always interlopers, meaningless little distractions enchanted by Rubedo, hoping to bask in his glorious warmth.
Albedo knew that need well. He would make sure that Rubedo felt every bit of his rage. He would regret leaving Albedo behind, and face the terrible truth of his own hypocrisy. Rubedo wasn't who the others thought he was. He was a coward.
Albedo would delight in making him repent. But this was Albedo's task, not anyone else's. He couldn't have the fun spoiled by a little brat, a meddling trespasser who drank up Rubedo's pain and tore him apart although he didn't deserve to. It was comical, how little the boy understood. He could never hope to comprehend the depth of Albedo's fury, his need, his desire.
Albedo's voice only became calmer, more condescending.
"Mmm… that's not how I remember our deal." Albedo said in mock thoughtfulness. "I provide the bait, you deliver me the catch. Isn't that right?"
"I don't work for you! These are Pellegri's orders. Ormus wants the Realian." Richard took a deep breath, recovering from his own outburst. "I won't let you disrupt our mission. I will capture the Realian."
Albedo wasn't surprised that Pellegri had gone behind his back. Ormus held him at arm's length, clearly disgusted with him. It hardly mattered to him- he was glad they both understood how transactional their partnership was. He hardly cared for their god.
It was amusing, really. Their revulsion was so potent, so energizing, so negative.
"You've wasted enough of my time anyways. I won't miss my chance because of you." Richard pursed his lips. His hand drifted to the console to end the call.
Albedo couldn't let him get away. His smile widened. He did so love to remind these Ormus fools what real power was.
"What a rude brat, to end the call before we've had the chance to say goodbye… don't you want to know how much time you have before I fire?"
Richard's hand froze.
"I'm thinking… ten minutes? Or is that too few… I'd want you to make peace with your god, after all. I'm not a monster." Albedo giggled at the scandalized expression on Richard's face.
Richard's face was red. "You wouldn't-!"
"Wouldn't I?" Albedo asked. His reputation was quite well-known. They thought him insane- and with very good reason.
He would do anything for Rubedo, anything for revenge.
He could hear the monitors on Richard's end beeping. He was well aware of Albedo targeting him now. All Albedo had to do was press a button, and Richard would become space dust.
Ormus would be unhappy, of course, but weren't they always?
"Come now…" Albedo breathed. "Find out for yourself!"
Before his hand could clamp down on the trigger, Richard called out.
"Take him." He growled, arms crossed over his chest, head tilted down. "It doesn't matter… my plan will proceed either way."
"Of course, I'll want ma pêche, too… but that can wait." Albedo mused. He was greatly enjoying the twitch of Richard's eye. Margulis was too old to prod like this. He was glad Ormus had some younger members, more foolish and quick to anger. They reminded him of something nostalgic. "Now… deliver me my prize."
They had deposited Rubedo on a cot, crumpled there like meaningless debris. Richard had mentioned testing out some new form of torture- drowning, or some other such cliché nonsense.
"He's rather cute when he struggles." Richard finished with a smug grin, before turning back the way he came. It was only respectful, to afford his superior some privacy.
It took all of Albedo's strength to quell the strange sensation rising in his chest. He was amused at this amateurish attempt, it was true, but deep down, he was furious. How could Richard do this to Rubedo? How could he do this before Albedo? Rubedo was charming, in his own way, but Albedo could hardly leave him in the hands of one like Richard. No one deserved him but Albedo. He was Albedo's in right, whether to harm or protect.
He was soaked, just as Albedo expected. His clothes- colorful, childish- clung to him, and his breathing was shallow and choked. If he had passed out from oxygen deprivation, he would surely need assistance. Albedo didn't want him to die from something as passé as this.
No, Rubedo would only die on Albedo's terms. Albedo had to force down an age-old anxiety at the very thought of Rubedo's death, but he stubbornly clung to his plans even when faced with his precious prey. No one else could be permitted the privilege of ending his life. That was a power too great to afford on the common masses.
A small amount of healing ether permitted Rubedo to breathe again, and with that, Albedo was free to truly study him as he longed to.
It really was him, Rubedo, frozen in time… Albedo reached out a hand, slowly, entranced. He could easily lose himself in this moment, in the thrill of being so near Rubedo once more.
He was furious, of course. Rubedo had abandoned him. He'd been thrown aside like trash, callously, thoughtlessly, by the very man who had sworn to protect him.
Rubedo would pay. Yet, seeing him like this struck Albedo with an overwhelming jolt of nostalgia. It was like being touched by the sun for the first time after a long winter.
Albedo's hand grazed Rubedo's cheek. He was warm to the touch, deliciously real. How many years had he longed for this moment? How many bitter nights did he picture this, the sight of Rubedo's face, the phantom touch of his skin?
Seeing him like this was its own special privilege, something to relish. He had seen Rubedo sleeping before, of course, but in such a different lens. Rubedo was his protector then, his chest seeming broad and his breaths seeming steady.
Now, however… he had never looked smaller. Albedo's rage wavered. He was so delicate, so unlike himself. The usual foul-mouthed energy, the roguish, confident charm, was nothing but a dream now. His eyelashes pressed firm against his cheeks. His breaths were small and fluttering. Rubedo was completely unconscious, completely vulnerable.
He was ripe for the taking.
Albedo leant in to lift him, gently, cautious not to wake him. He relished the feel of Rubedo limp in his arms, so weak, so defenseless. This was his true self, after all. He was a pathetic coward.
Yet, Albedo's gaze was fixed on his face. He couldn't look away. Rubedo was so beautiful now. His expression was blank, and his lips slightly parted. He looked just as Albedo had left him all those years ago.
Albedo bent his neck down, grazing close to Rubedo's chest. He didn't even need to touch him to smell it- the unmistakable scent of Rubedo, warm, fresh, like the earth near a running river, like the summer haze just after rainfall.
The words came from Albedo's lips unthinkingly, drawn out of him as though Rubedo was a magnet. "How I've missed you, mon cher trompeur."
Albedo pulled away, trembling slightly. There would be time for more later, of course. First, Albedo had to spirit his precious captive back to his ship.
Before that, however, was the high pitched laugher ringing behind Albedo.
"How shocking, to see a man like you so delicate… I suppose it explains your foolish behavior. You've fallen right into my trap!"
Albedo smiled to himself. How naïve, how amusing! Most Ormus soldiers knew better than to trouble with arguing with him- much less denying him, or betraying him outright. It'd been a long time since he'd last had the opportunity to show off.
Rubedo was placed gently onto the floor. Albedo turned to face Richard, stepping closer to him.
If that alarmed Richard, he didn't show it. "Did you really think I would let you interrupt my plans like that? I'll deliver the Realian to Ormus… along with your head!"
"Scary, scary…" Albedo muttered. Richard didn't much enjoy the mocking.
"I'll hear you scream, just like him. Don't think you pose a threat to me. You've only given me more entertainment… more toys to play with."
His metaphors did get a bit tiresome. They could be so crude.
Albedo shook his head. "Well, don't delay just for my sake. There's no time like the present, is there?"
His knife swung deftly from his fingers, but rather than level it at Richard, Albedo traced it along his neck. Satisfied at the confusion on Richard's face, Albedo plunged it into his neck, sawing through bone and sinew crudely. He hacked until his head came loose, falling into his awaiting hand.
Richard's eyes were wide. This was the shock and revulsion Albedo relished, the slow, frightened blinks of disbelief. He couldn't help but laugh.
Richard didn't. He stepped backwards- what would've been a graceful dodge in any other circumstance. Albedo's head instead crashed to the floor, a cacophony of sights and sound rent into black, and after the skull-splitting pain of his head becoming irreparably damaged Albedo could feel it regenerate, securely on his shoulders once more.
"Ah…" he smacked his lips. "What fun… don't you agree?"
"Don't think you can trifle with me." Richard growled. He was really angry now. "I will crush you like the meaningless trinket you are!"
Albedo could only laugh as Richard's sword pierced through him. It sank deep into his flesh so cleanly, so smoothly. If Albedo could have a release, that would've been it.
Instead, he savored the pain, the fray of his nerve ends burning and stinging. This was the only respite from the dull monotony of life, the only time when his heart raced and his breath caught.
How fortuitous, that today should be so enthralling. First Rubedo, now this…! Though perhaps it was no coincidence. Rubedo and pain were so interlinked, so desperately intertwined… one could not come without the other. They were the very essence of life itself!
When Albedo opened his eyes at last, Richard seemed lost. He didn't move, so shocked by Albedo's nonchalance.
"I won't let you make a fool of me," he whispered, eyes fixed on the hilt of his sword.
Albedo's laugh was sharp this time. "A fool? Even a fool is a principal player… you, Richard, are only an extra."
His fist crackled with electric ether as he swung it at Richard. Strong as Richard was, he was still young- and weak. He crumpled quickly, and Albedo tore the sword from his chest. It clattered on the ground, splattered with blood.
It was a rich color, vibrant crimson. The color of Rubedo.
Albedo gathered his shivering brother into his arms again. This time, perhaps from the commotion, or perhaps from the influx of air, Rubedo stirred.
"Wh…ere…?" he mumbled. His tongue was heavy in his mouth, and his eyelids clamped shut. "Feel… Al…bedo…"
Albedo couldn't hide his glee. He hadn't heard Rubedo in so long, and to hear his own name on those lips-! He could thank Richard for this boon, this priceless gift.
He didn't. There were far more important matters to attend to. He would, however, leave Richard with some parting words.
"Just remember this. Tell all of Ormus, if you must…" Albedo flicked his cape behind him. "He belongs to me."
"Mon cher trompeur" translates to "my dear deceiver".