Princess Alys (alys_wonder) wrote,
Princess Alys
alys_wonder

Walking the Maze - Chapter 4

Title: Walking the Maze (Chapter 4)
Author: alys_wonder
Disclaimer: Characters belong to CLAMP, not me.
Pairing/Characters: Kurogane/Yuui, Hahaue/Chichiue, Fay/Freya, Fei Wong/Hahaue, Souma/Kendappa, Ichiro/Chitose
Rating: R, for blood and violence and language and disturbingness. Same as the film.
Summary: (Film: El Laberinto del Faun, or Pan's Labyrinth) In a world enduring civil war, Kurogane is uprooted from his home and sent to a military outpost with his mother. In the labyrinth behind his new home, he meets a young boy who sets him three tasks, but it is difficult to live out your fairytale when people insist on you growing up.


Chapter 4 - The Mandrake


The Dragons of Heaven had a very good location in the forest. The cave entrance was difficult to find unless you knew it was there, and not far from it was a clear stream that the Dragons used to wash in. Fay and Tomoyo followed them down. The Dragons left in groups of no more than ten at a time in an attempt to ensure they didn't bring too much attention to them. Freya was leading the group, with Fay walking behind her. They were arguing. To say they were arguing like a married couple would just be too obvious.

"Let's say you do kill him," Fay ranted. "What then? They'll send another like him! They have hundreds of Captain Fei Wong Reeds in the city!"

Freya tossed her head. "We'll kill them, too."

"But what if they kill you?" Fay ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. "We should have escaped when we had the chance. To Rekord, maybe, or Piffle..."

"They're involved in another war," Freya said. "Don't you read the papers? There's fighting everywhere. We're caught up in this civil war, but the rest of the world's all fighting each other."

"It's true," said Subaru, joining them. "I read it in the papers. While Clow's caught up in its own battles, everywhere else is having a world war."

Fay sighed. "I'm losing this, aren't I?"

"Yes," Freya said. She looped her arm through his and leant her head against his arm. "But you win points for trying to persuade me."

"Please don't get hurt," Fay said timidly.

Freya squeezed his arm. "I can't promise I won't. But I shall try not to."

Hokuto bounced up to them and linked her arm through Subaru's. "We shall all try!" she said grandly. "Vive le révolutionne!"

They laughed and continued down to the stream, where Fay washed his medicinal supplies and Freya splashed her face. He kissed her cheek and she smiled.

Meanwhile, Tomoyo walked with Kendappa. There was quite an age gap between the sisters and they sometimes found conversation difficult.

"How was Souma this morning?" Tomoyo asked.

"In pain," Kendappa answered. "But she is strong. I am sure she will survive." Her expression softened and she smiled. That was what had attracted her to the other female soldier: her strength.

Tomoyo reached into her bag and gave her sister a large metal key. "This is the key for the store room," she explained. "Do not go there yet, he will be expecting you. Wait."

Fay turned his head and raised an eyebrow at her. "Didn't you tell him he had the only copy?"

Tomoyo smiled. "I tell the Captain a great many things, Fay dear, and not all of them are true."

Fay chuckled and returned to cleaning his equipment. Tomoyo watched for a few moments, then sighed and turned to Kendappa. "I'm afraid I am weak, sister."

Kendappa shook her head. "I've seen weak people, Tomoyo, and you're not one of them." With a smile that was only partly playful she added, "If you were I wouldn't be able to stand you."

Tomoyo looked down at the forest floor. "I am. I spend every day beside that man, yet I do not attack him. I bow politely, defer to him, and do any task he assigns me. I am weak because I do not show open rebellion."

"No," Kendappa cut across. "You're strong because you can stomach spending any time near him – I can't. You get information from him and bring it to us. Tomoyo, you are my sister. You are strong."

*


Atsuko was supposed to stay in bed, under sedation, so Fei Wong breakfasted alone. He was served by Yumi, who wasn't as polite as Tomoyo but still curtsied as she placed his plate in front of him. Fei Wong ate his bacon and black pudding slowly, barely paying attention to the food. He was concentrating on the cards in front of him: dealing them over and over again, arranging them differently every time, trying to understand.

He had twenty-six. That blasted Yuuko had the other half of the pack.

Still, he tried to find Clow's message in them, because if he had half of it he could guess the rest. He'd be damned if he'd ask that damn woman for her half of the pack.

Again and again, he dealt the cards; again and again, he failed to understand them.

*


Kurogane held the mandrake carefully in both hands as he crept into his mother's room. Her breakfast had been left on a tray on a little table at the end of her bed. He frowned when he saw it was all uneaten. He took a quick bite from the bread – he hadn't had breakfast – but his interest lay in the milk. He had stolen a bowl from the kitchens while no one was looking, and so poured the milk into it and placed the mandrake in the white liquid.

He stared as it stirred, uncurling, and wriggled – like a baby testing its limbs for the first time. He put his head on his side and watched it wave arm-like appendages. It was making noises, too: high, hungry gasps.

Kurogane picked the bowl up, got down on his knees, and wriggled under the bed. He picked at the scab on his leg until he felt warm blood and, when there was enough, used his fingers to let two drops drip onto the mandrake's head. Its little noises increased as it tasted blood, eager for more.

Kurogane froze when he heard footsteps. They were light, but there. He tried to guess who was there by the shoes, but that was rather difficult, as Kurogane didn't pay attention to shoes when speaking to people.

The shoes – black, slightly worn – moved across the floor, paused, and turned. "Captain?" called a voice which Kurogane recognised as Fay's. He relaxed slightly. Fay was a good guy.

There was the sound of heavier footfalls and Fei Wong Reed asked irritable, "What?"

"Her temperature has risen, sir," Fay answered. "Her body's fighting back against the fever. I don't know how, but she's suddenly getting better."

Under the bed, Kurogane grinned smugly and the mandrake and mouthed, 'Thank you.'

"Good," said Fei Wong. There was a pause as his big heavy boots neared the side of the bed, and then he said something that forever sealed him as a bad guy in Kurogane's eyes.

"If you have to save only one of them," Fei Wong said clearly, "save my son."

Kurogane's eyes widened and his entire frame tensed. No.

Before Fay could reply, there came a large boom, and Fei Wong rushed to the window. He swore and left the room, stomping all the while. Kurogane stared at the wriggling mandrake, his hands curled into little fists. It was Fei Wong's fault his mother was having the child! The least he could do was show some kind of care for her!

He jumped when someone touched his arm. Turning, Kurogane saw it was Fay, kneeling down to peer under the bed and smiling. "I thought it was you," he said. "What are you doing under there, Kurogane?"

Kurogane wriggled out from under the bed and ignored Fay's offer to help him to his feet. "Someone gave me a charm," he answered shortly. "It'll make Mother better."

Fay reached over to ruffle Kurogane's hair. Kurogane scowled and looked away. "What's wrong?" Fay asked, frowning.

"You really going to choose the baby over Mother?" Kurogane grumbled.

"No," Fay answered. "I am not."

Kurogane looked up, then, scowl disappearing and replaced with a much more hopeful expression. "Really? The Captain told you to..."

Fay shrugged. "There are people in this world he said who can follow orders without question," he explained, "and there are those – like myself – who cannot. I can't kill anyone just because I'm told to." He sighed. "It's absurd how it's a crime when an ordinary person kills, but soldiers are paid to."

Kurogane smiled and hugged Fay around the middle (as he couldn't reach much higher). "Thank you, Doctor," he said.

Fay was surprised at first, but then he smiled and put his arms around Kurogane too. "You're a really good kid, Kurogane. ... Why is there blood on your trousers?"

"Oh." Kurogane stepped back and looked down at his leg. "I cut myself."

Fay sighed. "Let me see, then."

So Kurogane lifted his trouser leg and showed Fay the thin cut going down his leg which was dripping blood thinly and Fay examined it. "It's not deep, luckily," Fay said, "but it's very long. Would you mind if I put a bandage on it?"

Kurogane shook his head.

Fay held a hand out to the boy. "Come on, then. Let's get that cleaned and bandaged properly. What were you doing, anyway?"

"I fell out of a tree," Kurogane answered innocently.

Later, after Kurogane's leg had been bandaged and his cut still stung from the alcohol Fay had used to clean it, he went back to his mother's room and touched her forehead to test her temperature himself. She was a lot warmer, but Fay had said that was a good sign with fevers, so Kurogane smiled. He looked down to her heaving belly and placed his ear to it, and fancied he could hear his sibling moving.

"Hey," he said softly. "Things aren't going so well out here, but you can't stay in there forever. You're hurting Mother. She's got a weak body, you see, and she can't manage with you as well. But, please, when you come out, don't hurt her. She's got a weak body but a really strong mind, and she's really kind, and she does scold you if you're naughty but that's not very often cos you will want to make her happy, cos she looks so pretty when she smiles..." He trailed off and closed his eyes. "Y'know, when you're born, we can all go to Prince Yuui's kingdom – he's my prince and I'm his knight – and I'm sure he'll reward you. You can be my squire, if you want to. Doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl – you'll be my sibling, and family's what's important."

*


Fei Wong surveyed the wreckage and ground his teeth. A train – a good-sized freight steam train – lay on its side besides the track, dirt showered around it. Even with the driver's explanation, it didn't take a genius to work out what had happened here: explosives on the track.

"They came out of nowhere," the train driver said. "Driving along nicely, then I spotted them fiddling with the tracks, tried to slow down. They ran away, so we legged it."

Fei Wong walked slowly to the train's carriages to inspect them. "What did they take?"

The train driver scratched his head. "That's the weird thing, see," he said slowly. "They didn't. No idea what they wanted – other than to waste our time."

Fei Wong frowned. "They took nothing?" The Dragons of Heaven were stupid, yes, but they weren't this stupid. They must have had some other motive. His eyes widened as he realised. This was just a distract-

There was a distant boom from the direction of the mill. Fei Wong swore and mounted his horse, kicking it into a gallop before he had fully settled in the saddle. His horse took off, and the quickest soldiers followed immediately. He had been stupider than those deluded rebels. It was an obvious trick. They had known he would head to the train wreck with most of his soldiers, leaving the mill unguarded. They would swarm over it like ants on dead flesh, destroying... If they touched his son...

It started to rain as they rode to the mill, and by the time they arrived the air was thick with water, more like a fine grey curtain of wetness than weather. The mill was a mess: shouts and gunshots filled the air but remained unseen due to the rain. Fei Wong swung down form his horse and staggered slightly in the slippery grey mud. He looked down at his blemished boots in disgust.

His soldiers had created a weak barricade of flour bags and anything else to hand – wagons, tables, chairs – and stood behind, shooting over the top of it at invisible enemies. As Fei Wong watched, something was thrown from the unknown ahead and exploded. For a moment the only sounds were dying screams.

A soldier hurried to him, out of breath and bleeding from a cut over his eyebrow. "They came out of nowhere," he panted. "They've got grenades, and they went up the hill..."

Fei Wong pushed past him towards the door of the storehouse. It was open, and swinging slightly in the drafts caused by the explosions. He frowned. The storehouse door was wood, and old, rather thin wood at that. If the rebels had forced their way in, there shouldn't be any door left...

There certainly shouldn't be the large iron padlock in its place on the door, perfectly intact. Fei Wong picked it up and closed it, and tugged on it to open it again. It stayed firmly closed. The great iron padlock was completely undamaged.

Fei Wong drew his gun and cocked it. "Well, let's go," he snapped irritably at Kyle, who insisted on shadowing him everywhere. They ducked behind the barricade as they left the storeroom, shooting blindly into the greyness. Fei Wong took the lead and made his way up the hill, using a tree as a shield as he checked his bullets and waited for the opportune moment.

Kyle was behind the tree beside his, watching him.

Fei Wong grinned. "Do not fear, Rondart. This is the only way to die."

He stuck his arm around the tree and fired a few shots, looking very satisfied when one was met with a scream. When there had been quiet from the rebels for a few moments, Fei Wong gestured to his men to follow, and they advanced towards them. As they passed the bodies in dark green on the ground, they almost absent-mindedly shot them in the heads – a quite common military tactic to ensure the enemies lying down were, in fact, dead. If they weren't before, they definitely were afterwards.

"I want one alive," Fei Wong called.

It seemed, however, that every rebel they checked was dead. Fei Wong was beginning to get very annoyed: could the damn Dragons of Heaven do nothing right? Just as he was starting to really lose his temper, however, he heard Kyle shouting and for once was glad to hear the other man.

"I've got one, sir!" Kyle was saying. "Shot in the arm!"

Fei Wong walked briskly over to Kyle, and looked down at the rebel Kyle had cornered. He smirked and patted Kyle's shoulder. "Excellent."

*


They'd caught one of them. Tomoyo heard the soldiers triumphantly crowing their victory and she froze in the middle of chopping carrots – there had been an attack on the mill, true, but she had had nothing to fear and so had carried on as normal. Her eyes met Yumi's and Chitose's. Both the other women looked scared and full of dread. Yumi did not have anyone with whom she was directly involved with the rebels, but she despised Fei Wong Reed utterly. Chitose, on the other hand, had both her husband and one of her children fighting with the Dragons.

"I'll go," Tomoyo said quietly as she hid her knife in her sleeve.

Yumi nodded. Chitose's hands were clasped so tightly her knuckled were going white. "Please," she whispered, and didn't know what it was she was imploring Tomoyo to do.

Tomoyo walked out into the rain without an umbrella and pulled her shawl closer around her as she walked the short distance from the kitchen to the storehouse. The soldiers were hustling someone with a bag on their head inside. The person was small – not Ichiro, then, or Kendappa or Souma. But Freya...

"What do you want?" Fei Wong asked as he stepped in front of her, stopping Tomoyo just outside the door.

"Captain," she said formally. "If I may, I would like to retrieve some items from the storeroom for tonight's dinner."

Fei Wong shook his head. "Not now. Make do without them."

Tomoyo bobbed a short curtsy. "Yes, sir."

She stood for a few moments in the doorway, however, trying to get a look at the prisoner. They were being tied to one of the posts in the storeroom, hands behind their back. The bag was pulled from their head as Fei Wong entered, revealing sharp features, short black hair, and grey-green eyes. The prisoner's eyes met Tomoyo's for a moment, and then the door was closed, leaving only Fei Wong and Kyle inside.

"So," Fei Wong said conversationally as he grasped the prisoner's chin and tilted their face. "Which one are you?"

"You don't deserve to know," the prisoner said defiantly.

Fei Wong slapped them. "We'll find out," he said. "It's not a difficult test."

The prisoner looked down at the floor, trembling faintly. "Subaru," they said.

Fei Wong smirked, pleased. "Ah, the male. Excellent."

The prisoner did not answer, but remained staring at the floor.

"Now, little Subaru," Fei Wong said, "I am going to ask you some questions, and you are going to answer."

"No," the prisoner said.

Fei Wong nodded to Kyle, who aimed a sharp kick at the prisoner's knee. They gasped and shifted their weight to the uninjured leg.

"As I was saying," Fei Wong continued, "you are going to answer some questions we have. However, we are enemies. We cannot trust you. So I am going to need some help." He slowly picked up a hammer and angled it in the prisoner's line of sight. "I'll start with this, and I'll begin to believe you. Then we'll move on to this." He picked up a wrench and showed it the prisoner, who stared at the tool in horror but did not shy away. "By the time we get to this," Fei Wong said, holding up a thin screwdriver, "We will believe anything you have to say. Do you think there's anything else I need to say, Rondart?"

Kyle made a show of thinking. "Seishirou, sir?"

Fei Wong nodded. "Ah, yes. If you tell us everything we need to know, we'll even keep Seishirou away from you, and he is so eager to get his hands on that girlish neck of yours."

The prisoner glanced from each of them to the door. Subaru really was a tiny thing.

"We can do that," Fei Wong said. "Seishirou has to do what I say."

The prisoner returned to looking at the floor. "Seishirou rarely does what anyone says," they murmured.

Fei Wong placed his gloved finger under the prisoner's chin and made them look him in the eye. "Now, tell me which one you are."

The prisoner frowned. "Subaru. I said."

Fei Wong turned. "Check, Kyle."

The prisoner shrieked and protested of the indignity of having their gender checked in such a vulgar manner. Kyle left the prisoner partially undressed, her face red and glaring fiercely. "It's the girl, sir," Kyle said.

Fei Wong sighed. "A pity."

*


"'And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?'," Kurogane read aloud.
"'Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.


’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
"

Fay smiled and poured out Atsuko's sleeping medicine. "You read very well, little doctor," he said.

Atsuko smiled fondly and smoothed Kurogane's hair. She was conscious, though still a little dazed. "He's a good boy," she murmured.

Kurogane beamed, practically glowing with pride.

Fay handed Atsuko her the glass in which he had placed the two drops of sleeping medicine, but she held a hand up to refuse it. "I don't think I need it, doctor," she said softly. "I've been feeling a lot better today."

Fay glanced at Kurogane, and they shared a momentary conspiratorial joy. "Well, then I shall leave it here in case you need it," Fay said as he placed the glass on Atsuko's nightstand, "and thank whatever it is that has made you recover so quickly."

Kurogane could have lit a small city.

Atsuko smiled down at her son and continued petting him lightly. Kurogane snuggled up to his mother, beaming. "If I continue at this rate," Atsuko said, "do you suppose, doctor, my son could move down here again?"

Kurogane looked up at Fay. The doctor got the impression of an eager puppy: ears pricked and tail wagging hopefully.

"I don't see why not," Fay answered.

"Thank you!" Kurogane cheered.

The door opened and all heads turned to Tomoyo, whose expression was rather solemn. Kurogane's bright, sunny smile began to fade.

Fay turned to her, and Tomoyo curtsied to Kurogane and his mother. "May I speak with Doctor Fay?"

Atsuko nodded. "Yes, of course."

Kurogane watched them leave the room, frowning. Atsuko kissed his forehead. "How have you been?" she asked softly. "I am sorry, my son."

Kurogane looked up at his mother and hugged her. "Why are you being sorry?" he asked. "The Captain's the one who should be sorry. None of this is your fault!"

Atsuko stroked his back soothingly. "I'm your mother, Kurogane," she murmured. "A mother's duty is to worry for her child and apologise to them when she has been unable to care for them."

"I know you were still caring for me," Kurogane replied, "even when you were sleeping. You're my mother."

Atsuko chuckled and placed a kiss on his nose. "That I am."

Kurogane curled up on the bed beside his mother and reached out to pat her belly. "I was really worried for you," he said softly. "I don't want you to die. I don't want to be an orphan."

Atsuko wrapped both arms around her son and rested her cheek on top of his head. "I don't want you to be an orphan, either," she whispered. "Your father didn't, either. We both care very, very much for you, Kurogane. You're our dear son."

"You still love Father, don't you?"

Atsuko smiled, though Kurogane could not see it, and looked into the past: there was a pretty white house, and a young woman with long black hair holding a parasol and laughing while her husband threw their giggling child into the air and caught him every time. "I shall always love him," Atsuko answered.

Fay re-entered the room, looking a lot more troubled than he had when he left. "If you'll excuse me," he said, "I must go."

Atsuko nodded and understood precisely what Fay meant. "Thank you for everything, doctor."

Fay looked at her, then at Kurogane, and Kurogane knew that something was going to happen and that it wouldn't be good. He got down off his mother's bed and walked over to Fay, reaching for his hand to hold, looking up at him questioningly. Fay smiled sadly and ruffled his hair. "You'll be okay, little doctor," Fay said.

"Why do you have to go?" Kurogane asked.

Fay knelt down and placed his hands on Kurogane's shoulders. "There are some people in this world who can take orders without question, Kurogane," he explained. "And there are those who must question if what they're doing is right and disobey if they believe their orders to be wrong ones."

Kurogane frowned. "Are you disobeying the Captain?"

Fay smiled. "Yes."

Kurogane nodded. "That's okay, then."

Fay chuckled and hugged the boy. "You're a good kid, Kurogane, you really are," he said fondly.

"Good luck," Kurogane said.

Fay kissed Kurogane's forehead lightly before standing. He bowed to Atsuko, patted Kurogane on the head, and that was the last they saw of him.

*


Kurogane was sleeping lightly, curled up in the centre of his bed with the Mokona on his pillow (they had kept him awake for quite a while with their complaints over spending the whole day cooped up in his room), dreaming of warm and content things. His mother was getting better. Fay was disobeying Fei Wong Reed. Kurogane had quite forgotten about his troubles the night before.

There were soft, barely-there footsteps on the wood of the room's floor, and Yuui walked out of the shadows and into a patch of moonlight. He blinked at the brightness and kept the thought, I am Prince Yuui, I am Prince Yuui, firmly in his mind as he adjusted to the light. He had forgotten once already.

Yuui caught sight of Kurogane sleeping and smiled. His knight looked so adorable asleep. Quietly, Yuui walked to his side and sat down on the bed beside Kurogane. After a few moments of watching him sleep, Yuui reached out slowly to brush Kurogane's hair out of his face. When Kurogane did not awaken, Yuui did it again.

Mokona White stirred on the pillow and hopped to its feet at the sight of Yuui. "Puu," it said softly and flew over to the prince.

Yuui smiled and rubbed Mokona's forehead with a knuckle in greeting. "Hello," he whispered. "Was it fun staying with him?"

Mokona flew onto Yuui's shoulder and joined the prince in watching over the knight. "I'm jealous," Yuui admitted. "I'd've liked to stay and sleep on his pillow."

"Puu~," said Mokona.

Yuui flicked it on its gem. "No!" he said. "Get your own knight!"

Mokona whined, "Puuuuuuu," and only shut up when Yuui clamped his hand over its mouth and threatened to throw it against the wall.

This, of course, woke Kurogane, who sat up and stared blearily at the arguing prince and winged meat bun. He rubbed his eyes and blinked several times to focus. He absently took Mokona White from Yuui's hands and stuffed it under his pillow.

Yuui pushed his hair away from his face and tried to look regal and yet very friendly and pretty. "Hello, Sir Knight," he said.

"Hey," Kurogane said. He frowned at the prince and touched his arm lightly. "You said you couldn't leave your tower-thing."

Yuui shook his head, making the moonlight catch in his hair. "Not true. I said it was dangerous if I left."

"Then you shouldn't have!"

"Why?" Yuui reached for Kurogane's hand and squeezed his fingers. "I'm with my knight. I don't have to be scared of any danger."

Kurogane felt himself turning red and averted his eyes from the prince's sweet, eager face. "You still shouldn't have! What about getting here? I wasn't with you then!"

Yuui sighed. "Must you nitpick, Sir Knight? Can't you just enjoy my company?"

"But I don't want you to get hurt," Kurogane protested.

"I took the short way," Yuui answered. "I went through the shadows and avoided the light, so it's okay. Please, Sir Knight," he said and reached up to touch Kurogane's cheek, "don't worry so much."

Kurogane turned even redder at having Yuui's soft hand on his cheek, yet he couldn't tear his eyes away from the prince's. "I-isn't it my job to worry about you?"

"Yes," Yuui huffed, "but that doesn't mean you have to do it all the time!" The blonde child flopped onto Kurogane, head in the other boy's lap, looking up at him with a petulant frown. "All work and no play makes my knight no fun."

Kurogane stared at Yuui for several moments, then slowly reached out to touch the boy's hair. It looked almost silver in the moonlight. Kurogane remembered seeing his parents like this: Father's head in Mother's lap, and she had played with his hair while she read. Kurogane hesitantly ran a hand through Yuui's hair, and did so again with more surety when the other boy made a pleased noise and smiled.

"Is your mother better?" Yuui asked quietly.

"Much," Kurogane answered, transfixed by Yuui's hair. It felt so soft. It was like a cat's fur, and like silk, and how Kurogane had imagined a butterfly's wing would feel, and it was utterly addictive.

"Good. Did you get your sword?"

"Yeah."

Yuui smiled and closed his eyes. "Good. One more task, and then we can go back home. Your room'll be much nicer than this one."

"What's it like?"

"You share it with me," Yuui said. "Separate beds until we're married, which we will be when we're old enough. It's a really nice room. It's all white and gold and blue – the royal family's colours – but there's also a big silver dragon with red eyes curling on the ceiling. Its eyes are over my bed. The dragon's your knightly symbol, you see, and it's supposed to mean you watch over me. My brother asked me once if I found it scary, and I said no, because the dragon's only fierce to people who want to hurt me. I like red eyes." He opened his magnificent blue ones to look into Kurogane's own red ones. "They're warm."

"Your eyes are pretty," Kurogane said before he had a chance to stop himself. He blushed and looked stubbornly at a point above Yuui's head.

Yuui sat up and placed his hands on Kurogane's shoulder. "Isn't all of me pretty?" he asked sweetly.

Kurogane glanced back at him, then away again, and mumbled.

Yuui put his head on one side. "I didn't hear."

"... Yes."

Yuui grinned triumphantly and rewarded Kurogane with a kiss to his cheek. "Good puppy~," he crooned.

Kurogane started. "I'm not a dog!"

Yuui clapped and giggled. "That's what you used to say before, too! I'd call you a puppy and you'd make a frowny face and go, 'I'm not a dog!' and then you used to chase me. You'd never answer clearly the first time if I asked if I was pretty, either."

Kurogane grumbled and crossed his arms. "It's not fair that you know so much about me."

Yuui's expression darkened and his shoulders slumped. "No. It isn’t. You'll relearn it all, but I still know so much about you and you barely know anything about it. I know how you having too much milk makes you poorly. I know how you hate anything made sugary, but like fruits fine. I know how you loyal and stubborn and strong you are, and how people always think you're scary and grouchy at the start but then you're so kind. I know how you'd wake up every day a few minutes before me just to watch over me for a little bit when you thought I was asleep."

Kurogane reached out slowly to hold Yuui's hand. "I do get poorly if I have too much milk. I do hate sugary stuff. And... I'll do that waking early thing again. Will you tell me some things you do?"

Yuui looked up and squeezed Kurogane's hand. "I like sugary stuff. I like drawing and reading. I always skip my lessons on politics because the teacher is creepy and I'm not going to be king anyway so I don't see why I have to learn politics. When I have nightmares the best to get me to stop crying is to give me cuddles and sing me a lullaby. I know you think I'm pretty, but it's nice to hear you say it because you're really cute when you blush and my brother looks exactly like me so it's nice to have someone say nice things about me and only me. And," he smiled, "I really love you and want to stay with you forever."

Kurogane smiled back. "I will."

They would have sat in contented silence for much longer had Mokona White not decided to tug on Kurogane's hair. The boy yelped and Yuui wagged a finger at the spirit. "Bad Mokona! Bad! No pulling my knight's hair!"

Mokona ignored them both and flew down under the bed, coming back up attempting to carry the sword. Kurogane realised what the meat bun wanted and helped it lift the sword onto the bed. "Could you look after it?" Kurogane asked Yuui. "People'll ask questions if they see a sword in my room."

Yuui nodded. "Okay." He glanced out of the window at the moon, and frowned. "I should probably go now, actually. I have to be back before the sun comes up. I can manage the moon, but the sun's too bright, and I don't want to forget."

Kurogane nodded reluctantly. "All right. I'll come to you tomorrow, okay?"

Yuui smiled. "Okay. I'll send Mokona White. See you, my knight." Yuui leant forward to kiss Kurogane's cheek in goodbye, and Kurogane was very tempted to kiss the blonde boy too. He did not, however, and Yuui pulled back with a soft smile and picked up the sword. "Let's go, then! Mokona, Mokona, come on~." The prince turned to Mokona Black who was still asleep on Kurogane's pillow. "Wake up~."

Kurogane felt the room's temperature drop.

Yuui picked up Mokona Black gently in both hands and turned slowly to Kurogane, holding the black spirit out. Mokona stirred and sat up, looking up at Yuui, and Kurogane could see its injured wing clearly.

"What," Yuui asked, "happened?" He was holding his head at an angle at which his fringe covered his eyes, making his expression difficult to read.

Kurogane did his best to keep his voice steady. "I found my father's wallet in that place. I tried to take it."

"You disobeyed."

Kurogane swallowed. He was now pretty sure compliments to his bravery and sleeping on Yuui's shoulder again were out of the question. "It was my father's!"

"You disobeyed!" Yuui raised his head and glared at Kurogane, angrier than Kurogane had ever thought he'd see him. Yuui's face was flushed and his eyes looked faintly crazy. "You disobeyed an order! I told you not to touch anything other than your sword! The Book did too!"

"I made a mistake, okay?!" Kurogane could shout, too. "I didn't know I'd wake up that thing! I just miss my father!"

"I said it was dangerous if you didn't follow the rules!" Yuui shrieked. "Don't you listen?!"

"Why are you so worked up about this?"

"You're supposed to be my knight!" Yuui paused, and something about him seemed to crumple. He lifted Mokona Black to his cheek and rubbed his face lightly against the spirit's fur. "You’re supposed to follow my orders. You're supposed to listen to me. I'm supposed to be the most important person in the world to you."

Kurogane stared. He wanted to hug the prince and apologise and make him stop looking so upset, but another part of him was pointing out the flaws in the blonde boy's words. "You can be the most important, yeah," Kurogane said slowly, "but you can't be the only important one to me."

Yuui turned away. "Come on, Mokona. Bring the Book. We made a mistake."

"Puu?" Mokona Black asked timidly.

Mokona White stayed where it was, sitting on Kurogane's bed.

"Come on."

Mokona Black waved sadly to Kurogane as Yuui vanished into the shadows of the room. Mokona White flew to the Book of Clow but lingered for a moment.

"Go on," Kurogane said hoarsely.

Mokona White flew to Kurogane's cheek, nuzzled him, and then followed its companion and master with the Book of Clow in its paws. Kurogane watched it leave and it seemed to him the white spirit took all the light of the room with it. Kurogane got under the covers, pulled them up to his chin, and closed his eyes.

His books never made endings sound so anticlimactic.
Tags: fic, kuro/fay, trc, walking the maze, winter challenge
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