Gankutsuou Fan Fiction ❯ Thunderstorm ❯ Thunderstorm ( Chapter 1 )

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<CENTER><I>"Think not disdainfully of death, but look on it with favor;<BR>
for even death is one of the things that Nature wills."</I><BR>
<SMALL>- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus</SMALL></CENTER><P>

The sky was harsh that day; dark and heavy, the clouds pregnant with rain which seemed reluctant to fall. Beneath the gloomy heavens, a funeral took place - the atmosphere and clothes as sombre and black as the lacquered coffin that was being slowly lowered into the ground. <P>

The priest's voice droned on dully; he seemed to care not one bit about the meaning of the long-rehearsed words coming out of his mouth, almost as though he were an actor in a play he was sick of performing. Or at least, this was how it seemed to Franz. A small blond-haired boy stood at the graveside, his face sad and his eyes dull. His mother stood next to him in her long black dress; lace handkerchief pressed to her mouth, eyes glazed over and frozen. Franz had been holding on to one of her motionless hands loosely. He let go. <P>

There was a deep, foreboding rumble of thunder overhead; the air felt thick with the promise of rain, but still none fell. As he stood and stared miserably at the open grave, Franz felt his lip tremble, and blinked away the tears that were threatening to form. He clenched his small fists and looked up, away from what used to be his father. There was a young boy with vivid blue eyes looking at him curiously from the other side. Franz didn't like being stared at, and it felt even worse having attention focused on him on today of all days. He looked away. <P>

It felt like he was looking at the world through a monochrome filter. Grey, black, charcoal; dirty white. A pair of bright blue eyes. <P>

The priest was still talking, his slack mouth forming words that Franz didn't want to hear any more. He turned away from the orator who presided over that neat hole in the ground, and began to push his way through the motionless crowd. Shadowed faces, downturned mouths; dull oppressiveness everywhere. <P>

<I>"I'm sorry, Franz, I have to go."</I><P>

He reached the edge of the crowd and started to run, shoes squelching in the mud, the cold sloppy dirt splattering up the backs of his legs. <P>

<I>"No, no, no!"</I><P>

The trees in the graveyard served to provide little sense of life; the jagged formation of the bare branches reached into the lifeless sky like bony hands. <P>

<I>"Your father has an important matter to attend to."</I><P>

Franz turned a corner and found himself on the far side of the little church. He could barely hear the funeral service; it was a faint mumble on the humid breeze. The grass grew thicker in this area, and the ground was firmer - it seemed people did not often come this way. Sitting alone on the small stone steps, Franz hunched over and buried his face in his arms. He felt as though his heart might burst from all of the mixed up, painful feelings he didn't quite understand. The last time he had seen his father, Franz had been so angry with him; had shouted and cried. <P>

<I>"Fine, then! Don't ever come back!"</I><P>

And his childish, angry cry had come true. There was a heavy, sick feeling settled in the bottom of his stomach, and the tears stung his eyes. His mother hadn't looked at him much recently; was it his fault that this had happened? <P>

He was distracted from these thoughts when a small, round pebble hit him on the head. He looked up in surprise, only to see another fly through the air towards him, this time hitting his side. <P>

"Don't cry," the culprit said simply, walking towards him with a little smile. Franz frowned; it was the blue-eyed boy he had noticed watching him earlier. <P>

He sniffed and rubbed at his face with his sleeve, "I'm not!" he replied somewhat petulantly, and he couldn't help wondering why the boy was still smiling. <P>

"I'll play with you." The voice sounded so matter-of-fact, Franz instantly became irritated at this boy who had seen him crying. <P>

"Shut up!" He lashed out unthinkingly, eyes burning, "go away!" There was silence for a moment, and Franz hid his face once more. A moment later, though, he realised that the boy was sobbing; one tanned hand held up to his face, lower lip trembling. "H-hey..." <P>

This made him feel a little guilty, and so he stood up, placing a small hand on the other boy's shoulder in concern. They stayed like this for a moment; two petite figures half-hidden by the shadows of the tall church wall. <P>

"I - I'm Albert," came the choked response; he wiped his reddened eyes and sniffed loudly, "my Papa's a soldier. He said that he could die any time. He said it's up to God." Albert nodded resolutely blue eyes solemn. Franz crossed his arms and stared down at their shoes; polished black leather with tidy laces that neither of them had done up themselves. <P>

"I'm Franz," he responded quietly, still looking at the ground, "my Papa's dead. It... it was my fault." Albert blinked, looking rather confused. <P>

"Why?" <P>

Franz shrugged, and buried his hands in his pockets. "I..." he trailed off, voice wavering, "I told him to go away. I told him to never come back. An' then... an' then... he didn't. He was gone..." He sniffed again, blinking away fresh tears. <P>

"No!" Albert said firmly, and Franz looked up in surprise to see those blue eyes gazing at him seriously. Albert looked a little uncomfortable for a moment, but then seemed to decide on something, and took Franz's hands in his own. "My Papa said only God can decide those kinds of things. An' my Papa knows a lot." Albert looked proud, "so... it wasn't you. You didn't do anything bad." <P>

Franz looked at him in wonder, and for the first time since his father's death, there was a small spark of hope mixed with the sadness. "R-really?" Albert nodded, and looking a slightly embarrassed, quickly tugged away his hands and put them in his pockets. <P>

"Really." His mouth curved in a small half-smile, and with that Franz felt his heart lift, just a little. "Do you want to play? I found some <I>worms</I> over by that doorway!" <P>

As Franz nodded, a huge thunderclap sounded overhead, and the air thrummed as though alive. "Quickly, over here!" He grabbed Albert's hand and started dashing over to the alcove, just as the sky lit up with lightening, and the heavens finally opened. They made it to the small stone recess just as the rain started to pour; torrents of thick, fat droplets which burst on contact with the ground, splashing their feet and legs. They sat huddled together on the small patch of dry grass within the doorway, watching the water start to pool in front of them. A few minutes passed, and they watched the deafening rain in wonder. <P>

"...Look!" Franz waved a finger excitedly, pointing at the wet mud by Albert's feet, "the worms are coming up! Lots of them! Do they like the rain?" He watched in fascination as Albert grinned, and cautiously held out his hand as the other boy picked one up and deposited it in his palm. <P>

"Aren't they weird?" Albert prodded at his own for a while, before gently placing it back down into the mud. "I think the rain's finally stopping." <P>

Franz glanced up and saw that the rain had indeed weakened into a light drizzle. "Yeah. D'you think we should go back?" Albert stood up, and Franz noticed that he was covered in streaks of mud. <P>

"Nah, not yet." he smiled, and offered Franz a hand, pulling him up to his feet. They took a step outside into the dying rain, and, at last, there was a break in the thick grey clouds. <P>

Albert grinned at him, and Franz couldn't help but notice that his eyes were precisely the colour of the fresh, new sky peeking out from between the clouds.