Kinomoto Touya was being a very naughty boy. His father was still away on an archeological dig and his sister Sakura, flushed with the success of their school play, had asked permission to spend the night at her best friend Tomoyo's house. He had agreed (after clearing it with their father, of course,) and then asked his own best friend Tsukishiro Yukito to spend the night at his house, luring him with promises of cake and an all-night study session.
Ah, the perks of having a trustworthy face. He'd almost felt guilty when his friend had readily agreed, innocently delighted with the prospect.
It wasn't that he had anything nefarious planned. He fully intended to behave. He was going to feed Yuki's almost bottomless appetite and then do some advance studying for their next calculus exam. Yuki's grandparents were gone again -- this time Kyoto, wasn't it? -- and they could keep each other company. Besides, they were seniors now. College was around the corner and they had entrance exams to get ready for. (Which reminded him, he had to go see that man about that mascot job in the morning. It didn't pay much but every bit helped.)
So, this was a good thing all-around, he told himself. And having Yuki all to himself without having to worry about the next knock on the door -- whether it was Sakura's constant deliveries of snacks or his father's solicitous questions and offers of help -- was simply an added bonus.
He did not have any ulterior motives.
He was not going to jump Yuki the moment he walked in the door.
He'd wait till after dessert.
He grinned ruefully and sighed. He really had to stop having all these fantasies about his best friend, he scolded himself mentally.
But first Yukito had to stop being so gosh-darned adorable. Really, this is all his fault.
He gazed critically at the dinner table, wondering if he had forgotten anything. He had made an extra big dinner. He didn't have the same flair for cooking that his father did, but he could manage a fairly decent spread if he put his mind to it. Besides, as far as Yuki was concerned, quantity was just as important as quality. The strawberry cake, the main attraction, was cooling in the refrigerator.
He had also tidied up his room, and had already laid out the guest futon on the floor, proof positive of his complete and genuine determination to be a gentleman and not tackle the smaller boy, throw him on the bed and have his wicked way with him, touching and kissing and licking till Yuki panted and whimpered and begged and ---
The doorbell interrupted his little reverie.
He took a deep breath, sternly reminded himself to behave and steeled himself for the ordeal that was yet to come.
For the umpteenth time, Touya glanced worriedly at his friend. It had begun when he had opened the front door for Yukito. His friend had been his usual cheerful smiling self but Touya could not shake the notion that something was wrong.
Dinner had been fine, even uneventful. Yukito, as always, had been all apologetic for the intrusion while appreciative of the invitation. He'd expressed regret that Sakura-chan and Kinomoto-sensei were away, and hoped that Touya wouldn't be too lonely without them. (Touya thought it very strange that Yukito, with his perennially-absent grandparents, would feel sorry for him but he chalked it off to his friend's naturally sympathetic nature.) During dinner he'd been extravagant with his compliments, occasionally falling silent but only because it wasn't uncommon for Yukito to drop conversation in favor of consumption. He'd eaten four (or was it five?) bowls of rice and three pieces of cake. Afterwards, as always, he had good-naturedly volunteered to help with the dishes, then suggested Touya call Sakura at Tomoyo-chan's house to check up on her before they went up to his room to study.
In short, Yukito had acted perfectly normal. In fact, Touya realized, he seemed to be the one that was acting like a crazy person. He sighed to himself. Maybe he was simply imagining things.
Or maybe his raging hormones had finally fried his brain...
He started guiltily at Yukito's voice, hoping that none of his thoughts had reflected on his face.
"To-ya, is anything wrong?" his friend asked, his brow wrinkling in concern. "You've been distracted all night."
"I'm fine," he grumped, and then threw his friend an acerbic glare. "How about you -- you okay?" He really needed to learn how to do the concerned bit with a little more finesse, he thought.
Fortunately, Yukito knew him well enough to forgive his bad temper and simply grinned. "Never better. How's Sakura-chan?" Yukito asked next. "Is she having fun at Tomoyo-chan's?"
"She's fine. They were getting ready for bed but sounded a little wound up."
"Well," Yukito pointed out, "they had a very exciting day."
Touya grimaced. The Arts Festival at Sakura's school had been a huge success, despite --or perhaps because of -- the not-quite-classic rendition of Sleeping Beauty. The audience had thought it was great -- like one those anime endings that was loud and boisterous, even if it didn't exactly make any sense. Hey, the princess was saved, the prince triumphant, the evil sorceress thwarted -- what else did they need? They had fun and that was what was important. In fact, Touya had to admit that after class 5-2, the rest of the presentations seemed anti-climactic.
Come to think of it, he thought, that was when he had started getting this strange vibe from Yukito. For a moment there, when Sakura had grabbed that Hong Kong brat, Yukito had had the strangest look on his face. Touya couldn't describe it, really, and it been so fleeting. And he had been too worked up about hug himself to investigate. Upon reflection, however, Yukito had seemed awfully distracted during the walk home. It wasn't possible, was it, that Yuki had been jealous? That Yuki had, at that moment, realized that he did, after all, return Sakura's or -- Kami-sama forbid! -- the little Hong Kong brat's very obvious affections? He wouldn't have thought so, but now he wondered. Well, he hoped not. Otherwise things could get way too complicated.
Touya didn't really consider himself the martyr type.
"Sakura-chan was very good today," Yukito continued, cheerfully ignoring his black look. "I was very impressed with the fight scene." He grinned again. "And I thought the kissing scene was very sweet."
Predictably, Touya bristled. "There. Was. No. Kissing." he gritted, glaring as Yuki chuckled softly. Really, his friend had way too much fun at his expense.
Yuki returned his attention to his books and was quiet for a while. Then, he raised his head to give him a hesitant, almost apologetic, look. "To-ya?"
"What?" he asked, grumpily.
"At Sakura-chan's play today..."
Touya grew nervous at Yukito's quiet, contemplative tone. It _did_ have something to do with the play! he thought. He was right! "Yeah?" he prompted, as calmly as he could.
"Did you..." Yukito seemed to falter, as if not quite sure what he wanted to say. "Did you notice that..." He hesitated again.
"Notice what?" Touya pressed, trying to stay calm.
"That you made a much more charming Princess than Li-kun?"
His mouth fell open in shock as Yukito giggled, actually giggled.
"Though his acting was a lot better."
He roared in manly outrage. "Yukito!"
Touya couldn't sleep. For one thing, he had a perfect view of his friend from his bed and Yuki looked like an angel in repose. The moonlight made his skin seem luminous, and without his glasses, there was nothing to distract from the perfection of his profile. He had been plotting again, his latest scheme something along the lines of ambushing Yukito in his grandparent's garden while dressed like a giant Crepe Suzette.
(Touya was absolutely convinced that the success probability of any Yukito-seduction plan rose in direct proportion with the type and amount of food involved.)
Also, despite Yukito's unrelenting cheerfulness, Touya's strange sense of foreboding had only grown stronger as the night had progressed. He had tried, repeatedly, and as carefully as he could, to ask if anything was wrong, but Yukito seemed to be genuinely bewildered by his questions and utterly oblivious to any tension coloring the atmosphere. However, he had made such a pest of himself that Yukito had finally complained that Touya was being too much of a distraction (and not in a good way, Touya surmised) and proclaimed that it was time for a TV break. Touya had suspected out loud that the break was a thinly-veiled excuse to go downstairs and polish off the rest of the strawberry cake. (He was right.) However, knowing that he was at fault, he'd let himself be dragged downstairs and set down in front of the television set. For more than an hour he had endured, a reluctant witness to Yuki's heretofore unknown fascination with -- of all things -- geese. Yuki, it seemed, found them 'sweet.' (Yuki found almost everything 'sweet,' Touya knew. It was his ultimate compliment.)
Fortunately, the documentary had been more interesting than he would have thought, and he had to agree that there was something intrinsically beautiful about birds in flight. There was one shot, capturing a single wild goose against a backdrop of snow-touched trees and moonlight, which had transfixed him for a moment, taking his breath away.
"Incredible, isn't it?" Yukito had commented softly, when the documentary was over. "They always know. No matter where they go, how far they travel, no matter the season, the time, they always know."
"Know what?" he'd asked.
Yukito had smiled at him. "Where to fly to," he'd answered simply. "Where home is."
After that there had been another documentary, this time on the tourist attractions of Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA. Touya had known better than to even suggest they get back to work.
When that had ended, Yukito had caught him in mid-yawn and suggested that they get some rest, reminding him of his early-morning appointment.
Yukito had, of course, fallen asleep almost immediately. It was just like him, grumped Touya, as he continued to lie awake on his bed. But then again, considering that Yuki didn't covertly ogle his best friend and harbor secret fantasies involving whipped cream and chocolate sauce, he probably deserved to sleep soundly at night.
Touya wished he could figure out why he was so restless, why he was feeling so troubled. He stole another glance at Yukito, sighing almost wistfully, then got out of bed, careful not to disturb his resting friend.
Maybe some tea would help.
He hadn't been gone for very long. He'd just finished making the tea and was pouring it out when Yukito called his name.
For a moment he thought he'd imagined the small voice, it had been so soft. He looked up, and saw that Yuki was standing at the entryway to the kitchen, looking lost and bereft. "Yuki?" he answered, quickly putting the teapot down and going to his friend. "What is it?" Is something wrong?"
Yuki looked at him, and Touya almost drew back at the bleakness and desolation in his friend's eyes. It was like Yukito had just woken from a nightmare. No, he amended to himself. It was like Yuki was still lost, still trapped in the nightmare.
Yuki hung his head. "I woke up," he whispered. "And you weren't there."
Touya's chest constricted painfully, reacting to the heart-breaking tone of Yukito's voice. "I couldn't sleep," he answered, softly. He reached out to touch Yuki. "I'm right here."
Yuki jerked back, as if he'd only just wakened and realized where he was, fear and panic coming sharply to life in eyes that had previously been so empty and dead. He took a step backward, shaking his head. "I..." he floundered, confused. "Ah... I'm sorry."
He followed, closing the distance between them almost instinctively. "Yuki, what's wrong?"
Something flared in Yuki's eyes, something so terrible and terrifying that Touya almost looked away. But they were still Yuki's eyes, so he could not.
"Nothing," Yuki answered, too quickly. He looked back at the stairway, and then began to edge back, poised for flight. "I... I'll go back to bed now. I... I'm sorry."
Touya caught his hands just as he turned away, and Yuki averted his face, like a frightened bird trying to hide his head beneath his wing. He was shaking so hard that if he had tried to climb those steps he would surely have fallen.
"Yuki," Touya begged hoarsely, holding on as Yuki tried to pull away. "Please. Please tell me what's wrong."
Yuki shook his head, his eyes shut, still trying to pull away. He seemed to be pulling inside himself, making himself as small as possible. "Nothing," he stammered, the same panic in his eyes now filling his voice. "I don't know. Nothing."
Touya couldn't take it anymore. He took the shaking struggling boy in his arms, cradling Yuki's head against his chest, murmuring comfort into his hair. "Shhhhh. It's okay. I'm here. Don't worry.
"Everything's going to be alright."
Yukito continued to struggle a while longer, and Touya had to use all his strength to keep him there, and to keep him from hurting himself. Then Yuki seemed to lose strength, collapsing against Touya so suddenly that if he had not been holding on so tightly they would have both fallen to the floor. As it was, they ended up on their knees, with Yukito clutching Touya's shirt as if it was a lifeline, his face burrowed against his friend's chest as if he wanted to hide there. He held on as Yuki's shaking punctuated with harsh sobs and shudders.
Touya continued to hold him, rocking them back and forth, all the while crooning into Yuki's hair like a mother comforting a heartbroken, or terrified, child, more afraid than he had ever been in his life. He felt tears start in his own eyes, a lump forming in his throat as he continued to comfort his friend. It seemed like hours before Yukito relaxed, fractionally, leaning tiredly against Touya.
"I was so afraid," he finally whispered, his words almost disappearing into the now-damp cloth of Touya's shirt.
Touya thought those words would break his heart. "Shhhh. It's okay. There's nothing to be afraid of."
"It was so dark," Yuki continued, almost inaudibly. "You weren't there."
"I made tea," he answered, inanely. "But I'm here now."
"I couldn't breathe," he said, and Touya felt a fresh wave of tears bathe his skin.
"Shhh," he murmured again, tightening his arms around the slighter boy. "Everything's going to be okay. I promise."
"I couldn't breathe," Yukito whispered again, face still hidden by Touya's shirt. Suddenly, Yuki gasped, his hands tightening on the shirt almost convulsively. "Don't forget me," he pleaded huskily.
"Yuki..." he began, starting to be frightened as well, but Yuki interrupted him.
"Whatever happens," he said, urgently, frantically. "Don't forget me."
It was almost dawn. Yukito had finally fallen asleep again but Touya was having absolutely no luck in that department. This, he thought, was not exactly how he'd planned to get Yuki into bed with him.
He would have smiled at inappropriateness of his thoughts if he hadn't been so troubled.
It had taken hours, or so it seemed, but he had finally managed to coax an exhausted Yukito back upstairs, carrying him most of the way and depositing him on the bed so he could get some rest. Yukito had refused to let go of either Touya or Touya's shirt so he'd had no choice but to get in the bed with him and continue to give what comfort he could. As Yuki had calmed down he had again tried to ask what was wrong, but the answers were no clearer than they were earlier. If anything, they became even more confused.
"It was so dark," he'd kept saying. "I couldn't breathe. I was so afraid."
"It was just a dream," Touya had assured him. "There's nothing to be scared of."
Yukito had fallen silent for a while and Touya thought that he'd fallen asleep. "You weren't there," Yuki murmured, almost inaudibly. "I couldn't breathe. I can't breathe when I'm not with you."
Touya had looked down at him in surprise, but Yukito had already, blessedly, fallen back to sleep.
And now Touya lay awake on the bed, still holding his sleeping friend, turning Yukito's words over and over in his brain.
/I was so afraid./
Afraid? Of what? Yuki might seem outwardly frail and fragile but Touya knew that his friend was neither weak nor easily frightened. He faced every day, every challenge, with smiling self-confidence.
Touya remembered once, in the early days of their friendship, when they'd had to go home pretty late and stumbled right into the middle of a gang war. He'd been taking martial arts for while by then so he'd managed to hold his own against the two thugs that had had jumped him indiscriminately, but he had been really impressed with both Yukito's strength and agility. Why, fifteen minutes later, when they'd finally managed to extricate themselves from the rioting crowd Yuki wasn't even breathing hard, and he'd never once lost that smile. Touya had been in the fight of his life and Yuki had treated the entire thing like an adventure.
Whatever it was that had so frightened Yuki, it must've been terrible indeed.
/It was so dark./
He was becoming more certain that it had something to do with Sakura's play. He'd thought he was the only one who'd noticed it, that sudden plunge into darkness, a split-second before the light had recovered and triumphed.
Was it possible that Yukito had felt it, too? The darkness that was on the horizon, the reckoning that was at hand?
But he'd never seemed to be affected by the strange happenings of Touya's life before.
Touya had known for some time about Sakura and her activities and worried constantly about her. And aside from that, his own sensitivity to such matters had warned him of the need for readiness and vigilance -- his very bones and blood sang with it. And he was ready. Sakura was his sister and he was prepared to go to any lengths to protect her, to keep her safe.
It had truly never occurred to him that Yukito could also be in peril.
Was it him? Touya wondered. Had he placed his friend in danger?
/I couldn't breathe./
He had also been aware, for a very long time, that his feelings for Yukito bordered on the ridiculously sappy. He didn't care. He had known, long before tonight's strange crisis, just how much he counted on that sweet, radiant presence, how the mere sight of Yuki's smiling face gave him peace, calmed his restless heart and gave him strength.
It was his hope that someday Yuki would let him know he felt the same.
He had never been the friendly type. Oh, people liked him well enough. Adults thought he was hard-working, trustworthy and responsible, and his classmates thought he was 'cool' and interesting, but the general consensus was that he was aloof and grumpy, easier to take in small doses or from a distance. That was fine with Touya. It was only with his family, and now with Yukito, that he allowed his softer side to surface.
And Yukito accepted that side, accepted everything that Touya cared to share with him. His beloved and well-guarded family, his deepest thoughts and feelings, even his strange ability to see things that other people could not, his continuing relationship with a mother long dead -- they were accepted by Yukito as part and parcel of his being. Qualities that were precious and special, not to be ashamed of or hidden away
There was nothing he couldn't share with Yukito, nothing that he was afraid of revealing.
Except, perhaps, his feelings where Yukito was concerned.
/Don't forget me./
And now, as he felt the weight of Yuki's head on his shoulder, the gentle rise and fall of his chest against his as he breathed, touched the hand that was still clutching the edges of his shirt, Touya realized what he faced was not simply the fight of his life, but the fight for his life.
Without thinking, he covered Yuki's hand with his own and held it tight.
He didn't give damn what he would have to face, what tests he had to pass, what he had to do, what he would have to give up.
He would keep all the people he loved safe.
They were all that mattered.
He realized belatedly that Yuki had let go of the shirt and that the long elegant fingers were now twined with his.
"To-ya?" The voice was a mere breath, warming his skin, as reassuring to Touya as he tried to make his voice be.
"Go back to sleep, Yuki," he ordered softly. "It's okay."
"I'm on your bed."
Touya thought that was a strange statement for Yuki to make, but decided he needed to be reassuring. "Yeah," he answered, "you are. Everything's okay."
Yuki raised his eyes look at him, and eyen in the dim light Touya could see that his eyes were again that clear, luminous amber. He no longer seemed frightened, or even worried, simply a little confused. "What am I doing on your bed?"
Driving me insane with lust.
He didn't remember, Touya realized. Whatever it had been, it had passed, a simple nightmare, gone with the first light.
"You had a nightmare," he explained gently. "You were a little frightened."
To his surprise, Yukito grinned softly. "So I attacked you in your bed?" He gave a small laugh and placed his head back on Touya's shoulder, seeming to be utterly comfortable with where he was. "Have I compromised your honor?" he asked, the smile back in his voice. "Will your father be coming after me with a naked katana?"
Touya winced at Yukito's choice of adjectives and the visions it invoked "No," he answered, evenly. Soon, Touya knew, the grump would be back in his voice as well. Yuki would not mind, it was simply how they were. "You were a perfect gentleman."
Yukito chuckled softly, sleepily. "I'll have to do better next time."
He smiled, too. "You better," he teased back and sent a quick prayer of thanks heavenward. He wanted Yuki to forget. He wanted Yuki to never be worried or frightened again, to always be safe, to always be happy.
He would make sure of it, he vowed.
If it took every drop of his blood, every breath in his body, every beat of his heart...
If had to fight all the hosts of Heaven and all the hordes of Hell…
He sighed and rested his chin on top of Yukito's head, closing his eyes. He surrounded himself with that presence, filling himself with the peace and contentment that Yukito always brought. Holding him in his arms like his, breathing in the scent of Yukito's hair, listening to his heart beat.
Just give me this, he thought. Just be here.
Even if all I can have is this. Just let me breathe.
I can't breathe when you're not with me.
"To-ya?" Yukito whispered, interrupting his thoughts, his prayers.
"Yeah?" he asked, not opening his eyes.
"I'm okay now."
Touya's heart stopped, wondering if Yukito was hinting that it was time to let him go, that balance was restored and he wanted to go back to his futon and reestablish the lines that they had, so far, been respecting.
No, Touya decided. They had crossed that line tonight, and there was no going back, not even if Yuki hadn't been aware of it. And if Yuki wanted to move away, then he could do so. But he wasn't going to let go first.
He would never let go.
"Good," he answered, simply.
Yukito's hand tightened around his. "Can I stay here anyway? With you?"
Touya smiled against Yukito's hair and held him even closer. "Always," he promised.
24 September 2001