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Over the edge of the world

Chapter Text

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The child named Grian was born small and grey. The lack of crying was enough to send the hospital room into a frenzy, doctors and nurses rushing about to try and resuscitate the newborn.

 

It was hopeless though; Xelqua knew. He watched from the corner of the room, unnoticed, calmly; he knew the doctors would fail. There had never been a soul in the baby to begin with. It didn’t happen all that often, not anymore - but that made it all the more saddening when it did.

 

Xelqua watched with a blank expression, arms folded as he considered the situation.

 

It… had been so long since he’d had a body. And here one was; ready for the taking - but then again, why should he bother? Starting over at such young an age would surely be nothing but trouble. Surely, the parents would only hurt all the more if he was to step into the body, only to leave it later, if it turned out to be too much work for him to bother. He could only stay in a body for so long, after all.

 

Xelqua looked away. He took a step back, pivoting soundlessly on his feet, preparing to leave, to drift through the off-white hospital walls, looking for another, more suitable body to possess—

 

A loud wail tore through the room, shrill and agonized and so terrified that it froze him to the spot. Something shifted in him at that cry; a feeling like something was tearing apart in his chest, getting ripped to little, bloody pieces, fighting a losing battle against the ache of a breaking heart.

 

He had to look.

 

A nurse was holding the mother back on the bed, and Xelqua soon saw why. She was fighting so hard to get to her child, hopeless yet as it was, and her struggles were causing her exhausted body to bleed. The desperation in her gaze made him swallow thickly.

 

Would it really be less cruel for him to leave things be?

 

Another blood-curdling scream, breaking down into a sob.

 

Oh, bother.

 

Xelqua walked over to the stillborn.

 

Such a small thing. Too pale, motionless but for the hands and machinery desperately trying to breathe life into the tiny body that had never meant to support it.

 

He really was doing this, huh? Well. Here went nothing.

 

Xelqua exhaled.

 

A rush of cold, prickling against his skin, seeping in so deep that it ached—

 

Grian blinked. He took a breath,

 

then he screamed.

 

 

He did his best to play his part - if for no other reason than his parents. They were good people, and Grian knew he was bound to break their hearts at some point or another. Why not give them a few good years with ‘their’ child before he inevitably ruined it?

 

The first year was easy. His body was so small, Grian couldn’t have done anything but eat, sleep, and seek out care and affection, anyway. Being so helpless and dependent on others was… strange, to say the least, but he endured.

 

It was a bit ridiculous how happy his mother became whenever he smiled at her, wide and gummy, waving a tiny fist around. She’d speak to him, and he’d try to answer, babbling happily, causing her to coo. If he did so more often than most, it was for no other reason than his preemptive guilt, surely.

 

 

He was one, and he was pretending to learn how to walk.

 

His father was waiting a few steps ahead, arms open wide, beckoning him in; his mother was a warm, steady presence behind him, ushering him forwards.

 

Grian shrieked happily, showing off eight tiny teeth as he pretended to clumsily stumble towards his father’s embrace.

 

His mother was crying out with excitement behind him, and his father’s face grew furrowed with laughter lines. Grian took another step on chubby feet, raising his arms out for balance. He grinned, preparing to take another step—

 

Grian’s bare foot caught on the carpet. Before he knew up from down, he’d fallen on his front, the room suddenly silent around him as they all took a moment to realise what had happened.

 

The pain erupted from his carpet-burned palms and knees - and it should have been nothing. Xelqua knew pain, and this was barely even a mild sting, compared to the aches and injuries he’d weathered before he died.

 

Grian, on the other hand, had no such experience. It took him by surprise when he started crying. Startled tears gave way to a hiccupping sob, and it hurt. His father’s arms were warm as they picked him up, gently cradling him to a broad chest as gentle murmurs and soothing words enveloped the small body - and Grian cried, clinging to his shirt, holding on as strongly as his tiny fists could manage.

 

 

It was like the body was as much in control as he was, and it was beginning to frighten him. Frustrated tears would spring forth unwillingly when his chubby fingers failed to do what he told them to. The uncomfortable feeling of his clammy rain boots made his tiny body shake with unreasonable rage, fists clenching and face growing red as he stomped his feet.

 

A nightmare would have him wake up crying for his mother. When his parents enveloped him, he’d cling to them as his body calmed down, soaking in the safety their bigger frames provided.

 

When his pet cat ran away at the age of four, Grian decided that enough was enough. He’d been right - he couldn’t do this. When his father told him that the cat was missing, Grian had cried and cried and cried. No matter how hard he tried to stop, the body refused to.

 

That night, as he slept between his parents’ bodies, curled up tight between them, consoling and safe as they always were... That night, Grian decided to leave. He couldn’t deal with the body being so… well. Alive. He’d be better off going back to the hospital, waiting around for someone older to pass, so he could take over their body instead, once he’d witnessed for himself that their souls had moved safely on, like his own had been unable to.

 

It had been four good years. His parents would be heartbroken, Grian knew. His chest ached for them, even as he knew that he’d given them four years with their child when they were supposed to have none. He also knew that that wouldn’t make it any easier for them. Tears were welling up in his eyes, and that made his mind settle.

 

Grian closed his eyes.

 

Xelqua exhaled.

 

 

Nothing was happening.

 

He frowned on the bed, flexing his fingers. Grian shook his head, careful not to wake his parents. He took a deep breath, then exhaled again, trying to relax. To stretch out beyond the scale of his body. To let it go.

 

The body wouldn’t let him.