Percival said his final goodbyes to friend and family for the day, waving off the rest with a gentle, single-handed wave. The late afternoon sun burned into their backs as they left, or in Riley's face as she descended out the window. There was a certain air to the departure that left the boy appearing peaceful, as if his business had been sorted aside. He hadn't seemed very restful at all since the others had seen him, and, in fact, seemed very tired at this point of the day. With a sigh, he adjusted himself against the back of his bed, which was already inclined to support him.
In the room, there was still one face whos the orange sun's rays still touched through the enchanted windows. She was the young lich, living, yet dead, and waiting on the boy at his request. The only issue was, Percy seemed somewhat content lay back with his eye's closed, a weak stare now being sheltered under those heavy eye-lids.
A little shy and figity, Coco stood by his bedside as he sat resting. The whole entire adventure in Percy's mind had been a terrifying, messy ordeal, but he was safe and sound. A missing limb or not, that didn't mattter to her. What did matter though, was the strange mood which seemed to have settled here in this room. She couldn't put a finger on it, but that too didn't matter. After all, she was only a girl, a few years shy of Percy himself. Nevermind that she was stuck as her little, six year old self from the past.
If she had a living heart, it'd beat, and fast - the little lich had a hard time not blushing in front of him.
Despite relaying a certain seriousness in the desire to see her alone, Percival did not seem all too quick to say anything. The look in his eyes, the tone of his voice all signified that he needed to say something important. In fact, he seemed to possess a shaking gift of power in words, a power that came and went. What she had felt was almost mystic in nature in the meaning of his tongue. Yet, he did nothing.
In fact, he appeared to be sleeping. After all of that talk!
Inside, Coco was bouncing off the walls with excitement and wonderment - what could he possibly want to talk about? Was he going to scold her for not being there? Or, was he going to maybe, maybe...talk about the two of them? Or, or! What if he figured it out?! That Coco was that mysterious, more-than-half-naked girl that he briefly saw inside the magical realm? Like Percy, Coco was still. Except, unlike him, her cheeks were somehow blushing red with embarrassment and anticipation. And trauma - being seen by him in that state was just plain harmful.
So both were still, and unmoving. For Coco, she literally had an eternity, but what of Percy?
"You know," started Percival, breaking the steel-ridden silence of the room, his lips coming to life like one would expect a statue's, "I find a bit of comfort knowing I can confide in you." The boy rolled over to his side, but just barely, his cheek resting on his shoulder. "You and I have a lot in common, seeing how we were brought up in these Mage Bureaucracies. I have to keep all sorts of secrets from everyone, but you? I can talk to you."
Likely realizing the suddeness of that statement, his gaze went towards the ceiling, "I mean... You know. It's something I'm glad for. I thought..." He took a deep, and self-comforting breath, "I thought I'd mention it."
Coco hung onto his every word as he spoke, nodding with each and every sentence. At every single period that punctuated the handsome boy's speech, she thought, 'Uh-huh, uh-huh!' with an utterly indescribable amount of eagerness. This was it! Maybe it was the moment that she was hoping for this whole time? Could it really be? Coco was also completely and utterly terrified, but she stood firm - he was worth not letting her knees turn into jelly! Thinking of the things she liked the best about him, how he was smart, brave, strong and funny - and even their little moment of icecream together before - she did just that. The thought of him liking her would possibly make Percy a deviant had crossed her mind, but that was ok!
"Yes?" she asked him, struggling with every undead fiber of her being to remain outwardly calm. This was it!
"You're a great friend," smiled Percy.
"R-really?" Coco asked, her voice full of shaky embarrassment!
"Er..." The boy seemed a bit confused, before carrying on, "Well. Yes! You're a great friend, Coco. It's great to have a friend like you, who will help her friends in need. That's what makes you a good friend."
Eyes watery, she sniffed, "T-that m-means so m-much to me Percy!" Coco began to cry, the tears slowly run down and over her cheeks. Despite defeat dropping her down, down into the bowels of despair, she raised a hand up to try and wipe them away. The Little Lich went on, "Even, even though I w-wasn't there? W-we're s-still friends? Thank you so much Percy!" the little girl began to cry in earnest, choking back sobs.
She didn't get much of an answer there, through her bleary eyes was a still unsure boy who couldn't tell very well why she was crying. Though, he seemed to bring a small smile on his face, which confirmed he at least recognized her feelings. In fact, the smile became wider, to the point where his eyes closed.
"Wasn't where?" he asked.
Rubbing her eyes dry with a sleeve, she paused her tears for the moment. "I-in the Elementalia Magicus," Coco explained nervously.
"W-wait, you don't remember?" Coco asked him in shock. Surely he was there, and that he saw? He was talking at the end, wasn't he? He even made sure the witch could live even! Despite the bitter despair that struck at her, this curiosity stayed it for the time being. What was going on here?!
Up until one point, Percival seemed rather cautious and confused considering Coco's responses. Then, when she mentioned what he remembered, he reddened in the face considerably. The boy turned over onto his back a bit, as she stared down at this covers, murmuring.
"The Guardians told me you were there in a more... er... aged form. I... er..." Percy began to twiddle his thumbs, "If I had known it was you, I would have been more polite. I wouldn't have stared."
"T-they told you it was m-me?!" Coco stuttered in utter shock. Percy. He knew. He knew now, how Coco had looked. Without most of her clothing. "T--t-they told you the g-girl that was there half-half n-naked was m-me?!" the little girl asked in an utter panic, her face turning an even brighter shade of fiery pink and red embarrassment and shame!
"W-w-well," Percy began to fidget uncomfortably. "It was m-more wholly naked... I d-don't... remember a half-naked girl."
The seemingly six year old girl could only stand there, fidgeting. "Gya, fgw-ur ack!" her adorably miserable attempts at speech came out sputtering! He had saw her. Even more scantily clad than she was when she entered this world! More scantily clad than Scanty herself! Right then, right there. He remembered. He really, really remembered. Oh, yes, she almost got away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling Gods! The thought of this made her eyes slowly go dull as she saw infinity before her. "Heh-heheh..." Coco hiccuped.
"Er... Coco?" The answer to her oddness came quickly, as his face showed he wasn't too sure what the girl could be capable of. He turned again, hanging his legs off the side of the bed, as he balanced on one arm. "I just... I wanted to say that... Er... Say that I--... Are you okay?"
A hundred, no, a thousand yard stare into empty space and stars was all that greeted Percy as he tried to see if she was still working. But, she did speak, the empty look in her eyes settling onto the young boy like a massive naval cannon leveling its bore at a small little ship. "Yes Percy?" Coco sweetly asked him, a magical aura of chaos slowly wafting off of her little form like flames of death. "What was it you wanted to say?" she asked again, a pair of purple glowing orbs shown from the dark veil.
The boy's face darkened into a nervous stare as he began to sweat bullets. Perhaps he was now completely aware that he had broken the girl, but further realized she was in a state very unfamiliar to him. He opened his mouth a few times to speak, but every time, he'd look in her eyes and find himself unable to say the words. Instead, he paused to sit down in front of her, and let his lone hand rest unceremoniously in his lap. As he stared into the floor to avoid her deafening stare, he gave a sigh to finally press the words through onto his tongue.
"I wanted to say I'm sorry for what you went through," said Percival suddenly, a bit off-rhythm considering the atmosphere, "About you being... The... The real age, in the Elementalia, and the... ah... other one, here. You came to me in my need, and you got something bad in return."
"Hehe-hehehe!~<3" Coco giggled in reply, a lonely step taking her closer. "You saw meeeee naked!" she manically laughed.
"I-... Er... I did," stirred the boy, trying to rope Coco in to what he was trying to say. He placed his hand on his forehead, rubbing his temple. "Which is why... I er... I wanted to talk to you... about... Er..."
In a way that seemed like giving up, he planted his heels into the flat floor, and pushed himself away from the girl. He appeared down-trodden, as if the guilt of Coco's own whimsical mishaps were his fault. "Do you hate me?"
And in an instant, Coco snapped back to her normal, non-demonic self.
"What? Hate you? Wha - no! But you saw me naked!" the little girl shouted at him accusingly, her cheeks glowing an angry red. "You weren't supposed to see any of that at all without my say-so, so you, you - uh - you owe me! Either take your lumps or something!" she angrily added, trying her best to remain threatening!
Inspired, Percy became vehemently energized. With a single movement, he cleared the space between the two of them, with him sitting right in front of her, his toes almost touching hers. His hand clapped firmly on her shoulder, gripping it tightly, and he had a strange twinkle in his eye that wasn't there before.
"You're exactly right, Coco!" exclaimed Percival, now looming over the girl in an advantageous way, which was all the heavier when he added, "Exactly right."
"I-I am?" the little lich stuttered. "Of course I'm right!" Coco boasted, regaining her composure as quickly as she could. Despite that though, it was hard with the object of her eye coming so close - so close, yet so far! "So, what is it you're going to do huh?" she asked him. "It'd better be good!"
"I'm," started Percy, with a gaze that almost slavered over the girl in front of him, almost dangerously so, "not going to rest..."
There came a trembling silence, where he worked out the purpose of his words.
"...until I have given you a body. Just like we discussed in the cafe." Excited, he leaned in closer, "I've been spending a lot of time researching ever since I found out you were involved. I've turned over every legal avenue and I think I've grasped the fundamentals! I've taken it to alchemical formula, and it's possible! With the help of the Gods I can make you the beautiful body you deserve!" He was becoming winded, and hollow in the face, as he was apparently using up his precious little energy, still he pressed on,"A body that can feel! Age! Grow! Hunger! Desire! I'm not going to rest until you have that, until you're free to have those things."
"R-really?" The thought of having what was so irrevocably lost returned to her crossed her many times, but to hear that it was possible? To breathe again, to properly feel her feet in her own shoes - to even sneeze. Coco was allergic to cats, but, she'd gladly be allergic again if it meant having it all back - it was too good to be true! Far too good to be true. The look on Coco's face soured as she crossed her arms. "You're just trying to wiggle yourself out of a tight spot with honey-sweet words. And you know I like honey!" she adorably pointed an accusing finger at him. "You can't do it - Duncan's been trying to ever since I died, even though I told him he didn't have to!" her voice rose.
"Th-that's because... Th-that's because Duncan isn't me," said Percival, his eyes remaining firmly on Coco as he slowly slivered away from her. He limped towards his bed on three limbs, "I'll show you!"
With a pitiful whimper he tried to reach to the edge of his bed with his for-gone arm. Then, he groaned for a moment, likely to mourn the limb, before reaching with the other. He slipped, slapping his face onto the flat tile, before pulling himself up again. He reached under his pillow, where the file on Eryl was, and pulled out an entirely different stack of papers. He set them aside, before throwing his covers up. Under them was a small library of books.
He awkwardly slipped off the bed, and cast the books before her, all in different languages of French, German, and even one tethered article in Japanese. Then, next to that he placed the rumpled stack of papers next to it, a pen flying out from between the stack. With that done, he gestured to all of it, a maddened smile on his face as he showed her.
"See? See? Check my work if you want. Take it home, compare it with Duncan's work!" roared the ever knowledge-hungry Caxton, "The only disappointment you'll feel is just how wrong you are." He slapped his fingers flat on the sheets of papers, bending their hardening and ruined edges. His fingers played over little folds of paper sticking out of the books, "Bookmarked, footnoted, and cited! You can check it all!"
A small little hand slapped Percy's lone, outstretched wrist as it was spread atop the pile. "No! Bad Percy! Bad!" the little girl scolded him, a single finger waving in front of the young boy like she would with a dog that made a mess. "Only Duncan gets to talk like Duncan!" she exclaimed to him! "Bad Percy!" Swinging her hand again, she made to slap his wrist a second time!
That wrist was snatched out of the air, by Percival himself. He still possessed an adept strength, and reflex, despite how much he was tiring his body. With a heaving sigh, seemingly to calm himself, he placed her small hand onto the papers. She could feel the indentions of words, furious scribbles, and even more furious corrections. With a glimmer in his eyes, he looked squarely into Coco's.
"This is it."
She tried to stay angry at him. She really did. The pouty, puffy cheeked look she had could only be held so long before it began to deflate. Here, it started to flatten as she glanced at the papers and the defiant fire in Percy's eyes. She could tell he wasn't bluffing, and this really was likely it, Coco realized. Averting her eyes, she spoke to him in gentle tones, "Thank you Percy. But, I'm not sure I can take those from you," the little lich replied, now moving to sit on his now unoccupied bed, staring at her tiny feet as they slowly dangled, kicking the air.
"What? Why not!?" exclaimed Percival, looking between Coco and the notes, helping himself back up to the bed, "Respected authors, with titles reviewed and confirmed more times that could ever be, combined with the untapped power and knowledge of the Elementalia Magicus!" He was losing air at this point, but seemed to be a fiery soul in a weathered body none-the-less. "This stack of papers is your skeleton! You have every right to it!"
"I know Percy," she replied with a sad smile, "But I'm not sure I can do that to Duncan," Coco explained to him. "Everything he's done from that point on has been about this, and for him to find out he's failed again? I mean, it wasn't even him that really brought me back - he just covered the gaps my big sister couldn't." The little girl continued to stare at her feet as though they were the most interesting things in the world, refusing to look at Percy as they idly kicked thin-air. "I really don't know Percy," she went on, struggling to keep the smile on her lips as they twitched and contorted, threatening to turn into a miserable frown.
"I really don't know if I can take those," Coco sniffed, wet spots spreading on the cloth of her little shoes.
The Font, Percival Caxton, was absolutely speechless. His jaw hung agape, as what was likely several sleepless nights went straight down the drain. Coco could see that the love she had for her brother had touched Percival's heart. Once again she had tugged, pulled, and mercilessly torn his heartstrings. She knew him well enough, that he would likely concede like the good boy he was. That was the Percy she had come to adore. Yet, there was one thing that Coco did not know.
Percival Caxton loathed Duncan Leetenbaum. Coco would never know it, because they would always smile and be arm-in-arm for her sake, but that was a fact.
Percival despised Duncan's way of doing things, his personality, and his disregard for procedure. The American was the one friend in his crazy little group he could never come to terms, with, and now he was being forced to, with the most painful strings attached.
"I'm going to go find him," said the boy suddenly, taking leave of his bed, and snatching up all of his wrinkled notes.
A small, cool hand shot out and grasped Percy by the cuff of his sleeve - it was another bitter reminder of Coco's condition, or worse, perhaps her fate. "Please, don't," the little girl began to ask of him. "If what you've found really is mine, then doesn't it make sense that it's also my choice to use it or not?" she asked of him. Looking at Percy, he could see the tears had stopped and begun to dry, her cheeks red not from her prior embarrassment, but from all the crying she had done. Somehow, there was still life yet in her old, battered body.
"You're...you're still weak and need your rest," Coco began to plead. "Won't you stay? Please?"
Perhaps Coco was right, Percival was looking haggard at this point, tired to the point of dissolving. He wouldn't get out of the hospital without sneaking by the doctor's who'd likely take him inside. Yet, the boy was defiant, his teeth grit against one another, and the noted crumpled in the one wrist she held.
"I'm not going to let you lose your whole life to defend his ego," answered Percival coldly, his wrist tried to tug away from her grasp, but it was likely that she'd just overpower that. "I'm not going to sit here and watch you cry and do nothing." Then, came something different, as he tried to pull away. He'd tug and pull, but he would just wobble back to her, his other shoulder wobbling like it still had an arm. His head turned, a darkened visage.
The truth of it began to slip out.
Little wet droplets came down, joining the stains on her shoes as his tears ran down his face. "Why," came a pitched, hoarse question from the boy. The crying only ascended into sobbing as he wobbled his shoulders, showing off what wasn't there. "I'm a cripple. I'm a useless, cripple mage, who can't cast spells. I can't protect anyone, I can't save anyone, not without help. I can't even safely do alchemy anymore! I can't even pull on my gloves! I can barely put together whatever it takes to write something down!" His tirade burned harshly from his hard as it crackled on his tongue. He clenched his eyes shut trying not to look at her, which only caused the wet beads to run down faster, "Why won't you let me help you...?"
She never did let go - even though it was just his sleeve, caught between a finger and a thumb, Coco never did let go, or budge. Perhaps, like the arms of death, her pull, her grasp, was implacable. Just like a zombie.
Slowly, slowly, slowly, she began to tug. To bring him closer - before the injured young boy could resist, he fell to her and found himself wrapped in a warm embrace. Just, it wasn't really warm at all. She was cool to the touch, just like she always was, and yet, this hug she gave somehow felt warm with the sheer force of feelings behind it. Her head tucked against his chest, she gently spoke to him. "Because you're Percy. Not some amazing hero who will save the day while being impossibly good looking," she began to explain. "Not that you're not good looking," Coco whispered. "If you were, I wouldn't like you."
"Besides, you're no cripple Percy," she smiled, the expression hidden from his eyes, but ever so faintly felt on his chest. The only other sound was the fluttering of pages as the notes went scattering over the sheets. A hand planted firmly against Coco's back, making the embrace all the tighter. The brave, strong, handsome Percival cried tears of despair, and yet, some of happiness as well. His tears were that of burdens too heavy for normal shoulders.
"I've only one arm," he spoke, his voice crackling, "What am I going to do with one arm?"
"Could you do it? The same thing Duncan did?" she asked him softly.
"Do what?" asked Percy, confused.
Looking up at the young boy, the little girl could see the grief he felt. The very same fear that her brother did - it was as though history was repeating itself. The ordeal ended with him losing his own arms as he thrust part of his soul onto her. But this time, unlike Duncan, Percy wouldn't be so alone. "If he could grow a pair, I'll bet just one will be a cinch for you Percy", she finally smiled at him again.
"Bwegh," Percival let out a sound that sounded roughly like a sob and a chuckle, before bringing up a hand to wipe his eyes. He started laughing, bouncing against the small girl's tireless frame weakly. After a small bout of laughter, he wiped his eyes, "Two, eh? I've got another reason to spite him. B-oug... But..." He sniffed, trying to work off his recent explosion of emotion, "I wish it were that simple."
"We'll find a way," the little girl smiled. "Just like you did something so impossible for me, I'm sure I can do the same for you," she explained. "Now," the little lich moved, gently pushing him into his hospital bed, careful to lay him down gently. Even something as simple as that was a tall order however - despite her strength, the boy loomed over Coco, forcing her to move with him at every step, or else risk giving Percy a hard landing. She wound up kneeling by his side on the bed, having climbed up onto it herself.
"You really need to rest Percy."
In truth, the boy had been easy to move, having lost most of his energy throughout the day. The little lich had no trouble in settling him down onto his pillow. His legs found his way under his covers, carefully sitting between the other hidden books he had not pulled out.
"You know," said Percival, speaking plainly to Coco's face from his restful position. Whether it was the weariness or genuine honest he finished, "Were you my age, I'd be really captivated by you."
He got a little giggle out of her as she cuddled up beside him. "If I looked your age, they'd make a big fuss," Coco replied, a hint of mischeviousness in her voice. Like a kitten, she was already curled up by his side, eyes softly closed as though she were already asleep. Any night shift nurses walking by would only see a boy who lost an arm and what was perhaps his little sister snuggled up by his side, worried sick and glad that he was ok. They'd never suspect that a pair of teenagers were together that night.
And, perhaps, Percy would never know he tore her heartstrings the same way she tore his.
Perhaps neither of them ever would.