[fic] Digital Devil Saga, "Return to Origins" Back to Origins Digital Devil Saga (future fic) ...Okay, I've said it's DDS. What I'm NOT saying is what characters it involves or pairings or anything like that. This is for two reasons. 1) For those who know the canon, I'm curious to see what people think without going in with expectations and 2) I'm curious if it's readable without that sort of expected knowledge, period. Which is a little pretentious of me, but hey. Fairly safe for work.
When Dawn was two, her family moved away from Portland and took her with them. Too many memories, they said. Too many years stuck there, they said -- something like that, anyway. And the outside world was being rebuilt properly; there were plants again. Dawn didn't care much one way or the other; she'd been too young to really have any friends, and the school in Dallas was good enough for her.
Her parents died when she was fifteen -- car accident, no help for it. She'd cried a little, put her head down, but she was able to sell the house for an okay amount, and her band was doing fairly well -- not enough to live off of, but enough for a little extra. Between that and the house money, she was set for her apartment for a couple years, anyway, and could always get part time jobs here and there.
More than anything, it was a kind of acceptance of it. No help for it. It hurt, but life went on. That's what you do when you live -- keep going.
"Cut it out, Brad," she says. She has papers spread out in front of her, locations and dates, phone numbers to call to try to wheedle with the event managers to get her band booked in, and she's not into that kind of thing.
Despite her warning, Brad nips her neck. Her shoulders knot and she pushes him away with a foot. She took her shoes off earlier, so there's no real threat in it, just her foot and stockings up to her knee. It encourages him, she knows that; he ducks and tries to get a peek under her skirt. Still, if it's just looking, her fans have seen more. "Black today, Dawn?"
"It matches my heart," she says.
"Hah! You, evil?"
"No," she says. "Just dark and cold."
He rolls away from her, grabs his cigarette where he'd left it smoldering in the ash tray. "You're always like that," he says. "You're always such a downer, but do you fucking listen when anyone tries to cheer you up?'
"Bitch," he says.
A corner of her lips twitches in a smile. "I don't want to play either of these places," she says, her black-painted fingernails trailing over the list. "But we need someplace between Seattle and San Francisco."
Alice comes in. She's done her hair up, never mind that they never go out, so it's piled thick and red on top of her head. "Mail came, Dawn."
"Great, drop it here. Where's Janice?"
Alice's girlfriend, and the last member of their band. Alice swings herself into a seat, starts drumming out a rhythm on the table with her fingertips. Typical drummer fare. "Last I heard, getting coffee."
"We have our own coffee-maker. We could just make it here."
"Bullshit," Brad says. "Your coffee tastes like crap."
Dawn likes it; she makes coffee thick and bitter so the taste burns itself onto her tongue. But Brad always says she has bad taste in food and drink. No taste buds, he says. You always overcompensate. Still, she just nods, reaches for the mail.
"Huh," she says softly, a few moments later. "What about Portland? We could play Portland."
"Portland?" That's Janice, entering with a full tray of coffee. Her ice-blond hair falls around her shoulders. "What's in Portland, other than crime and poverty?"
"The twenty-year survivor's reunion," Dawn says. She tucks her long black bangs behind one ear. "I don't really remember it, but it wouldn't be bad to go."
"Whatever," Brad says. "Still crying over mommy and daddy's memories?"
"Quit it, Brad," Alice says; they haven't been dating for years now but she's still too defensive of Dawn. Still, Janice doesn't mind. "Does a bassist really need his fingers?"
"Want to try me, slut?"
Janice sighs. "You two...! -- But I think we should go, Dawn. It's important to you, right?"
"I wouldn't say that it's important," Dawn says. "But it's not a bad thing, perhaps, to remember one's origins."
"Besides," Alice says, tearing her glare away from Brad, "I'm guessing it's a long time since Portland's seen a girl band quite like us."
"--Hey," Brad protests.
Dawn says, "I'll call them."
Dawn tilts her head back, trying to nap in the passenger's seat. Janice is driving; she and Brad are the only ones with licenses, and Brad drove the last stretch. She can't sleep; not that this is new. She rarely sleeps; two or three hour nights are nothing new to her. She just wears heavier eye makeup that day when her eye makeup's already heavy.
"Stop that," Janice says, eying her in the rear view.
"You're worrying at your lip ring again. Remember how badly you bit your cheek that one time?"
She does. Still, it's hard to stop once something's a habit. She tries anyway, huddles down further in her seat. Her nipples are sore; they need to stop and do laundry and none of her bras are clean, she's sweated through all of them, so she's going without under her white shirt. It's annoying, more so when Brad wakes up long enough to make some dirty joke and tweak one through her shirt.
Back to Portland. It's hard to remember what it looks like; when she thinks of it she thinks of rusted metal and dark rock. They've opened it up since, though, now that the sun's gone back to normal. But that sort of construction takes years, and she was only born when the sun went back to normal. 'Dawn' -- it's where her parents got her name. New beginnings. A new day you can actually see. One after another, dawns always coming to mark out the passing of your days. Abruptly, she feels tired. Maybe she can sleep after all.
The night after they arrive -- two days before the reunion event -- they perform. It's a pretty place, she thinks, as they set up the open-air stage. Plants everywhere. Different than she remembers. Still, there's a lot of history here, and Janice's comment about crime and poverty wasn't too far off. The initial response to the sun's returning to normal, to the world being saved, was great. But there were still problems -- still the Karma Society losing power and not wanting to, still rebels with a bone to pick, still people who suffered for years under an oppressive regime. It's less divided now, twenty years later, but the old tensions resurface. There are parts of town the people who live in the old Karma City districts don't dare go into, and there sure as hell are places the old Undergrounders can't go.
The city presents itself as a "we're all survivors" place, but the administrative buildings still get bombed now and then, and there's been a string of arsons in Old Portland recently. They've gotten worse as it approaches the twenty-year mark; she isn't sure of all of the reasons behind it, and doesn't really want to be. Thinking about it mostly just makes her sad.
These things are on her mind as she walks up the steps to the stage. Her boots are clicking hard, her garters strain against her thighs as she has to bend her legs that far for it. She walks up to the mic and draws a deep breath. It fills her chest out, strains her breasts against the leather of her bra, not that it's why she does it. To her right she can feel Brad shifting back and forth in place; he always gets really high energy before a show, really wound up, sometimes even gets hard. Alice gets fired up too, checking and rechecking her drums. Janice just gets cool, her guitar resting against her like a soldier with a gun before the big battle.
Dawn says, "Hello, Portland! We're Dawn's Breaking." Her cool, husky voice echoes through the area. The crowd is silent. "I'd ask if you're ready to rock, but weren't you born ready? Let's go."
After the show, she is sweating and hoarse and tired; she's always exhausted after a show, like she's poured her soul into her music. She barely ever remembers what she sings when she's up there; it's not like practice. Shows vanish from her memory like sand from a broken hourglass, like people fading into dust. Still, she thinks they hit all the important notes -- loud and fast, loud and fast, slow and aching, loud and fast.
"Dawn! Dawn," a voice calls, an unfamiliar girl. Dawn turns; usually she makes it out the back with no troubles. Lax security? A girl's running up, about her age. Maybe a year or two older. Pretty blond hair, blue eyes, a slate gray dress. Not the usual sort of thing for one of these. Dawn smiles at her. "Sorry, I know I shouldn't be here."
"Damn right you shouldn't," Brad says. He's wired, starts stalking around the girl in a little circle. "How'd you get in?"
The girl looks at him frankly. "My father's one of the building owners," she says, and then looks back at Dawn. "I'm a big fan," she says.
"Thanks," Dawn says, throatily. "What's your name?"
Dawn tilts her head. "...What a strange name," she says.
"I know, I get that a lot," Argilla says. "I was named after a friend of my father's--"
"It's fine," Dawn says. She smiles. "It's a beautiful name," she says, and leans in, presses a kiss to the corner of Argilla's lips. It's not unusual for a band like theirs, though she wouldn't take it further than that; still, as they head back to the van, ready to head to the hotel, Argilla stands behind her shell-shocked.
She runs into Argilla again after, at the reunion event. "Oh," Argilla says. She goes pink. "I -- Dawn, you're here too? Are you a survivor?"
Dawn smiles at her; it's hard to work up a stage presence here, so it's a small smile, a sad thing. "My parents."
"Are they here too?'
"Oh. Oh, I'm sorry."
Dawn nods. The smile slips from her mouth. "It's all right. God takes away when he needs to, I suppose."
Argilla frowns slightly, then half nods, half shakes her head, more like she's dismissing it than anything else. "Is that why you got that tattoo?"
"Yes," Dawn says. She touches her cheek. "It was in memory of the dead."
"I understand," Argilla says.
Dawn says, "Are you going to be around all day?"
"I want to be," Argilla says. "My father was really involved in the whole thing, so I hope to stick it out. It's going to be a hot day, though."
"It will be," Dawn agrees. "I promised to show my band around the city, but I'll be back for the speech and the bonfire tonight."
"Maybe I'll see you there?" Argilla asks.
"I'll look for you," Dawn promises.
As she goes back towards a group of people all in gray, Janice stares after Argilla. "She was pretty," she comments.
"Yes," Dawn says.
She does go to the event, and the crowds are too thick to see Argilla there. She'll have a better chance at the bonfire, she thinks, and if she doesn't, that's just not how it's meant to be.
Still, it doesn't get to the bonfire: the world explodes before that.
The wood from the benches flies everywhere; a hand-length splinter embeds itself an inch into her exposed thigh and she stares at it a moment in disbelief, curled on her side, still coughing from the dust. Slowly she reaches down and pulls it out. Blood starts to flow. She feels sick.
But when she tests her leg, it looks like it wasn't that bad; it hurts like hell, but she can stand, and walk. She's bruised all over and more explosions are going off; it's dark with smoke and she can't see a thing. Just hear the screaming.
She looks around.
Janice is huddled over Alice, shielding her. She doesn't look too good, face gone so white it's almost green, and her leg's at a bad angle. Dawn limps over, trying to keep her head down, arms up to protect her face from debris. "Alice, is she-"
"She's okay, I think," Janice manages. "She hit her head so I don't want to move her."
"Can you move?"
"Well, that's another problem, yeah." She sounds shaky.
"I'll get help," Dawn says. She looks around. "--Where's Brad?"
"That's the damnedest thing," Janice says. "He took off like a madman. Grabbed a big stick of wood and just charged off."
"I'll find him," Dawn says. "And help. Stay here. Keep your heads down -- don't move."
Alice lifts her head a little. There's blood bubbling on her mouth when she speaks, but Dawn thinks -- hopes -- that it's just from a split lip. "'e careful. You can't... n'bdy c'n replace you..."
Dawn nods. "I will," she promises.
She runs into the smoke, stumbles over broken granite. In retrospect, she should have seen it, should have imagined it; the biggest event in Portland was bound to have somebody tied up in knots. Everywhere, people are running. Some are collapsed. She wants to stop and help but doesn't dare; her own people have to come first.
She sees Brad; he's beating some guy in a white coat around the head and chest with his stick -- Janice hadn't been lying when she'd said it was large. It was like a spear; maybe had come off one of the supports. "Brad!"
He wheels towards her. "What the hell are you doing here, you stupid bitch?" he says. "Get the hell away! These people'll kill you."
"You never fucking listen!" he yells, and stabs the guy through the chest with his spear. He doesn't even watch the guy die, is just staring at Dawn. "Why do you never fucking listen?! Get the hell out!"
He grabs the spear, yanks it out again. A moment later he curls his lip, points. "Behind you," he says. He sounds almost calm now.
She turns in time to see the man in the white coat raise his baseball bat.
For a moment her heart seems to stop. Suddenly, everything seems calm, quiet. She waits.
The first blow hits her in the shoulder; she crumples under it, cries out at the strangely-unexpected pain. The second blow hits her stomach and she nearly vomits. She twists to look for Brad; he's gone, vanished into the smoke somewhere.
The third blow doesn't come; she waits for it and instead there's a hot gush of liquid against her. She twists back, looks up again.
The guy collapses half-across her. Standing behind him, hands shaking, is Argilla. She got a knife from somewhere, is holding it in both hands. Her dress is torn, and there's a gash across her left eye that's left it swollen shut, blood running down her face.
When she speaks, she doesn't sound panicked, just grieving. "Why didn't you fight?" she asks.
Dawn stares up at her. Her heart seems to start beating again. She sucks in a breath. "I don't know," she says.
"They're fine," Dawn tells Argilla as she limps back from the makeshift medical tent. "They're okay. Janice and Alice, anyway."
"And your bassist -- what's his name again, Brad?"
Somehow, Dawn doesn't think Argilla was a fan of the band as a whole. She nods. "I don't know. He wasn't there."
"I've lived here my whole life," Argilla says. "Things like this happen sometimes."
Dawn nods again.
"Still, it's a good place," she says. "It's... not perfect, and its past still haunts it. It takes a step back now and then, but it's moving forward. I think... if I just stay to see it through... it'll be something incredible by the end. Something so beautiful that it'll be hard to believe."
Dawn runs a hand over her eyes. She wants to cry. Everything's changing, and she's not even sure if she's sad, just grieving.
"You can't continue your tour, can you?" Argilla asks.
"No," Dawn says.
"What are you going to do? Go home once they're well enough to travel?"
Dawn says, "I'm not sure what they'll do. I don't... my lease has expired, anyway. I thought it was a good time for the tour because of it."
"You don't have a home?" Argilla asks.
"I think it's fallen apart," Dawn says.
Argilla nods. The bandage over her eye is seeping through. She says, "You should meet my family. You'd really like them, I think. I mean -- you and I get along, don't we? And we're a big group. There's always room for one more."
Dawn says, "...Yes."
"Yes?" Argilla's good eye has lit up. It's almost painful to see, that sort of hope on a night like today. Maybe she's right. Maybe it will work its way forward and be beautiful someday.
"Yes," Dawn says, slowly. "I think, in some ways, that's why I came here."