Berserk Fan Fiction ❯ Short Hair ❯ Short Hair ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Author's Note: My very first Berserk fic. This little piece takes place few days after the gang leave Elfhelm and assumes that Casca is cured of her insanity. This is a conversation I feel would have to take place should that ever happen. Hey, the author can only torture us all (readers and characters) for so long.
Also, I'm looking for a beta-reader for my next Berserk project, a chapter fic. The concept is kind of weired so I won't explain it here, but I can say that it'll be complex and tie into the world of Berserk as much as possible, though it will be heavily Guts/Casca oriented. I'm looking for a beta who would look at both spelling and grammar and maybe be willing to let me bounce some ideas off him or her. If you're interested, drop me a note in the review, otherwise just enjoy this story ^_^
Short Hair
By: Silver Spider
Guts had always believed he had been been born a cynic and with all that had happened in his life, he had little reason to doubt that the outlook wasn't perfectly valid. As the old saying went, “If things seem good, you're probably overlooking something.” He figured he must have been overlooking Zodd in a corner wearing a neon tutu, because things never seemed better. Well, not since before the Eclipse anyway.
At the time it happened, he hadn't even bothered to think even a day into the future. Casca was back. His Casca. The woman who he had grown to respect and love all those years ago. The woman he feared was lot to him forever in the deepest crevices of her mind. Her black eyes shined with light and life again. She even managed to interact with the other members of the group, though with much more caution. The first few days were particularly strained, since she had no memory of ever knowing any of them before, but the unease faded the first time Puck made her laugh.
Guts had been so wrapped up in the joy of having her back that at first he failed to notice anything was wrong. In the back of his mind, he knew Casca would have to come to terms with what had happened to her and the Band of the Hawk, but he didn't want to delve back into the darkness so soon after she came back. However as days passed, Guts became aware of the fact that something was terribly wrong. Casca was lucid. She could carry on coherent conversations and responded to anyone who spoke to her, but whenever he mentioned anyone from their past, she simply refused to acknowledge it. Sometimes she would change the subject. Mostly she just got very quiet. He hoped that time was all she needed.
They broke camp a few hours into the evening by the side of a river, and Casca told the others she was going to find a private place to bathe. Ever dutiful, Farnese offered her help, but the other woman politely refused, saying that she was already in her debt and that she would from now on take care of herself. She was only gone an hour before the paranoia over her safety that he'd developed over the years forced Guts off his feat and after her.
He found her not far away at the base of the waterfall that was the source of the river. She had already had the chance to bath and her freshly washed clothes hung on a tree branch while she sat on a rock by the water's edge, a towel warped about her body. When he noticed steel glinting in her hand, he hastily stepped forward.
“What do you think you're gonna do with that?” Guts demanded a little more harshly than he meant to.
Startled, she looked over her shoulder, then released sigh of relief. Casca stood up and was about to go to him when she saw the look on his face. She frowned, not understanding where his anger was coming from. “I was looking for scissors,” she explained, “but there weren't any in the packs. This was all I could find. And why are you looking at me like that?”
“I thought...”
It took her a second to realize how the situation must have looked to him. Casca lowered her head and gave a short humorless laugh. “Look, I know I was more than a little out of it, but you can't seriously think I would be crazy enough to kill myself. I just wanted to cut my hair.” She unconsciously reached for the strands of black hair that felt unfamiliar and far too long to be her own.
Guts stared at her for a moment, then a slow smile spread across his scarred features. “Short hair did always suit you better,” he agreed. “No fancy hairdos for our sister warrior of the Hawks.”
She returned the smile, but he could see that it was forced. As soon as he said the name of the old mercenary band, a piece of her seemed to fade away or get shut off from him. You stupid bastard, he gave himself a mental kick. She's got enough to deal with here. No need to reopen old wounds. Guts cleared his throat.
“Need any help?”
This time her smile was real.
“Don't take my head off,” she warned, extending her hand to give him the blade.
Guts reached for it, but the weight of his prosthetic left arm suddenly reminded him that he no longer had two hands. Funny how it never bothered him when he was wielding a sword, but when it came to the seemingly simple task of helping Casca cut her hair, he found hound himself cursing Griffith and the rest of the Godhand for the umpteenth time.
“This,” he said apologetically, “might be problematic.”
Casca followed his gaze to what remained of his left arm. The expression on her face was unmoved, as if it was just one more out of many scars that covered his body. She pulled the razor back and nodded thoughtfully.
“Just tell me if I'm doing this right,” she said, turning her back to him once more and sitting back down on the rock. “It's been a long time since... it's just been a long time.”
There were so many ways she could have filled in that sentence, but Guts let her have the comfort of silence. He sat down cross-legged on the ground to her left and watched as she pulled out several strands of hair until they were taught and started slicing through them with the razor. As the coal black locks fell to the earth bellow, the world seemed to right itself just a little.
The years had not aged her as much as they had him, Guts observed. Of course, the Berserk armor was partially to blame, but it appeared to him that she was much less worn out, even with the burden of the brand still on her breast. In the back of his mind, it occurred to him that perhaps her prolonged damaged mental state had also helped shield her. Like a cocoon from the horrors of the world. He pushed the thought aside.
“What I wouldn't give for a decent pair of scissors,” Guts was pulled out of his thoughts by the rather irritated sound of her voice. “It's not hard to just cut hair, but I might as well be doing it with a butter knife for all the good this dull thing is.”
“Ah that I can help with,” he reached into a pocket and pulled out a piece of stone he used to keep his own throwing knives sharp. “Give it to me.”
She handed him the blade, and closing the fingers of his prosthetic hand over the stone, Guts began to run the knife across it several times, first on one side, then the other. The stone shifted a little in his metal palm but didn't slip out as the blade became sharper.
“First time I met Judeau,” he commented casually, “this is exactly what he was doing. He showed me how to throw the knives, but never how to take care of them. I was never good with that. Remember how many knick and scratches the Dragon Slayer had?”
The rhythmic motion of his hand sliding the blade along the rock ceased immediately, and he looked up directly at her. Casca's head was bowed, the last long strands shielding her face from his gaze. She stood still for a moment before taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly.
“I know it was years ago,” she whispered. “I know you found ways to overcome it. But, Guts, you have to understand: for me, it might as well have been yesterday.”
Guts opened his mouth to say something, but any words of comfort seemed to fall flat at this moment.
“I don't understand this world,” she continued, her voice gaining strength. “I don't understand why when I close my eyes, I see things that shouldn't even exist. I don't understand all this talk of elves, gods, and demons. I know the sword. Everything else is just so... bizzar.”
That was a feeling he could relate to all too well. The world of ghosts and demons also took by complete surprise after the Eclipse. He'd almost forgotten how normal people perceived the world. Guts guessed that whatever dream Casca has been awoken from, it was a peaceful one, with none of the horrors she would now have to face. The Skull Knight had been right after all; she hadn't wanted to wake up.
“You're sorry we brought you back,” the statement was half a question that he prayed she'd deny. “You were happier... wherever you were.”
Casca looked like she was turning the thought over in her head. “It was a peaceful place,” she agreed, “but I think on some level I always knew it wasn't real. Reality seemed to fade in and out constantly, but I could never quite get a firm hold on it.
“I can deal with a lot of things. I can deal with my family selling me of to some child molester. I can deal with watching all my friends die. I can even deal with being raped by a man I trusted and practically worshiped for most of my life. But I can't deal with the way you look at me. You haven't even noticed, have you? Ever since Elfhelm, you won't look me in the eyes. You always walk one step behind, and you...” her voice suddenly became very quiet, and Guts had to strain to hear the last words. “You don't ever touch me anymore.”
“Casca...” he took a step forward, but she looked away.
“Does what he did make me that repulsive to you?” her words were a whisper. “I know I should have fought him harder. I don't know what was wrong with me. That seems to be a common excuse for me these days, huh?”
Gut's one good eye widened in realization. He wanted to grab her and shake her by the shoulders. It wasn't like it was unheard of; women who had been violated often blamed themselves. On top of that she must have also felt survivor's guilt for living through the Eclipse, something he could relate to all too well.
“Listen to me very carefully,” he strained to keep his voice firm and steady. “What he did was not your fault in any way shape or form. Believe me, I've done this all before. The 'what ifs' and the 'I should haves'. There are things I could blame myself for as well,” and he did, but she didn't need to know that, “but ultimately it was his choice. I don't care what kind of state he was in; he knew what he was doing was wrong, and he did it anyway. So don't you dare blame yourself.”
“Then explain to me why,” she demeaned whirling on her heel to face him. “Explain to me why you treat me like I might... break at any moment. Do you have any idea how much I hate it?”
“I'm not doing it to hurt you!” he shot back, then remembered himself and added in a softer tone. “I'm doing it to protect you.”
“From what?”
Guts took a short intake of breath. “From me.”
“Why on earth would I need protection from you?” she laughed. “As far as I understand, you were the one protecting me from everything else all these years.”
He didn't reply. Casca's black eyes searched his face expectantly, and finally he knew he had to say something.
“'Bout a year ago,” he chose his words carefully, “I... I lost my tempter, and I hurt you.”
He bit his lip, not able to look at her. Flashes from that time rushed through his mind. Casca naked on the freshly fallen snow and him on top of her. Gods help him, but he had wanted her then. He wanted her always.
She must have read something revealing in his face because her own expression of anger and confusion was replaced by something unreadable. He dreaded the words that would come out of her mouth next, and finally she spoke.
“The way he hurt me?” it was only half a question.
“No,” Guts finally raised his gaze to her, “but... almost. I almost became that monster, and I can't guarantee I never will. There's a darkness in me, Casca, and I don't know how much longer I'll be able to control it.”
The silence hung thick in the air for what felt like an eternity. Casca bit her lower lip and sat very still. Guts, on the other hand, had never felt a stronger urge to run. He almost wished she would put him out of his misery and scream and throw something at him already. One thing that Casca had never lost, regardless of her mental state, had been her ferocity. But running would make him a coward, so he could do nothing but sit and wait for her anger, knowing that he was about to loose her forever just when she'd come back to him.
“I said I didn't understand this new world,” she finally spoke. “I don't understand the ways of gods and demons, but after years of being second in command and a year of primary leadership of the Hawks, I'd like to think I understand something about the ways of men.
“We are made of flesh and bone, Guts, not some untouchable celestial light. One man's blood is just as red as as the next one's. Anyone who believes he is above that... well, we have both seen what happens.”
He wasn't sure how to react to her passivity so he just listened.
“If he...,” she tried again, finding it a little easier to speak this time, “if Griffith thinks he's so perfect, as I used to hold him to be, then he should have been able to live up to those standards. God or demon, whatever he thinks he is, he should know right from wrong if he is as omniscient as he claims to be. What he did, to the Hawks and to us, is unforgivable by any standard, especially those of a god. But men... all men are capable of evil. The question is, which can show restraint and which can disregard all others for their desires.”
She was looking at him now, Guts realized with a mixture of fear and anticipation. He chanced a glance, but so no hatred or anger in her deep black eyes. Nothing but pure honestly. With one trembling hand, she cupped the side of his face, and he reveled in the warmth of that simple touch. Oh how he'd missed her touch.
“You,” she said softly, her lips curving in a smile he couldn't quite read the meaning of, “have always been a man, in every scenes of the word. I know you, Guts. You try to do the right thing. Occasionally you slip up - sometimes in bigger ways than others - but no matter how savage you might feel, you always regain control of your own actions in the end. That's the only thing that really matters.”
Guts briefly wondered if she'd truly understood what he'd almost done to her, but the compassionate yet absolutely serious look on her face told him that she didn't just understand. She forgave him. The heaviness in his chest dissipated as the breath of relief left his body that he didn't even know he was holding.
“I don't know how much of that control you put so much faith in I still have,” he said again, wondering if it was a warning to her or masochism on his part. Guts suspected it was both. “I might hurt you.”
“I'll take my chances,” she smiled and rolled her eyes a little, as if she didn't think he was capable of the evil that he knew full well was within him.
He opened his mouth to argue but realized that he was finally out of excuses for pushing her away. Yes, the earth was still full of horrors. The Hawks were still dead. Griffith and the Godhand were still casting their long shadows across the world. But now the moment he'd almost given up hope on ever arriving was here. He wanted to pull her close, to feel her warmth against him again, to smother her with kisses, but years of keeping his distance had made him cautious, thinking twice of his every move around her.
Casca seemed to get the idea though. Still holding her towel tightly around her body, she moved closer until she was right beside him. When he felt the gentles of her fingertips dance across his rough, stubble cheek, he closed his one good eye and let himself sink into the feeling. Her lips touched the corner of his mouth, then growing slightly bolder, descended for a proper kiss. It was then that he realized that while there was passion in her actions, the kiss had been mostly chaste, almost innocent. There was more hesitation and uncertainty than anything else about her.
“Casca,” words were warm against his lips. “You're not ready.”
It was a sobering statement for both of them, and she reluctantly pulled a few inches back, looking down at nothing in particular.
“I thought I was,” she whispered, sounding half relieved and half disappointed, then looked at him and smiled. “You knew better.”
Guts returned the smile and reached out to stroke her cheek in comfort as she had done for him. His fingers moved to to play with one of the few long strands she had left.
“Lets get rid of the rest of this,” he said and almost as an afterthought, added. “It will be okay.”
Though he had no idea what lay before them, Guts knew that statement to be true in some capacity.

Author's End Note: Okay so I had some trouble with Casca here, because I really don't know what her reaction to Griffith would be. On the one hand, I feel like a woman who had been raped and betrayed by someone she trusted and cared about should feel nothing but hatred for that person. On the other, I know it's not realistic to expect Casca to really truly ever hate Griffith, certainly not the way Guts does. Sooo she's a little out of character in this fic for my taste, but anything else would have required a much longer fic and much more brooding on my part.