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He slept restlessly, tossing and turning much as he had for the past three nights, adrift in a space somewhere between slumber and awakening. It was a dark space, filled with vague flashes of dull pain that were ever-changing, shifting in shape and varicoloured like pieces of torn, ragged silk thrown about in a wind. He had been offered assistance to enable him to sleep better, but refused. Physical pain gave him something to focus on; drugs allowed the nightmares to come.

A shadow passed in front of the window, silent and dark. It reached out over the bed, over the young man trapped in uneasy slumber, and touched the bandage wrapped around his head.

Subaru froze.


* * *


Sorata, as usual, was the first one awake. Schedules at Koya-san's monastery had accustomed him to early mornings, often before dawn, and even though he was no longer expected to keep such a routine here at CLAMP campus it was a habit he couldn't get rid of. Since there was usually no one else awake at the time he was, Sorata used his few hours of solitude in the house exercising either physically or spiritually. This particular morning he had gone for a run, making the most of the last few weeks of summer. The run left him ravenous for breakfast, and upon getting back he set about preparing some for himself and the rest of the inhabitants of the house. That abruptly came to a stop when he found the little plastic bottle hidden behind the bowls.

Sorata's eyes narrowed as he read the bottle's label. Pain-killers, prescribed by a doctor at the Shinjuku hospital. This one was a new unopened bottle, brought in with Subaru when the Sumeragi had been pulled out of that hospital, just before the destruction of the Shinjuku kekkai, and were meant to assist Subaru recover from his recent blinding. Sorata distinctly remembered thoughtfully putting the bottle on Subaru's bedside table. Somehow it had ended up downstairs hidden away. Sorata didn't for one moment think it had walked. Sighing, Sorata left breakfast preparations for the moment and, pocketing the bottle, went upstairs to the Sumeragi's room. It was all very well for the Sumeragi to prefer suffering in silence, but it would make Kamui, who already felt guilty over the loss of his friend's eye, feel unhappy, and if Kamui was unhappy Sorata didn't feel too good either. At least if Subaru really didn't want to take his medicine he could hide it where Kamui wasn't going to find it.

He came to Subaru's bedroom door. It was closed, of course. Sorata didn't really want to knock – Yuzuriha's room was right across the hall and she was probably still asleep, and he definitely didn't want Kamui to find out what Subaru was up to. In the end Sorata gave the door a short tap to announce his presence, then turned the handle to open it. "Subaru-san?"

He went inside. The curtains were slightly open, letting a beam of early morning sun in to slide over the wooden floor and over the bed. Sorata walked a few steps further in, scanning the shadows of the room looking for its occupant. After himself Subaru was the next earliest riser, so Sorata headed for the window expecting to find the Sumeragi on the balcony outside having a smoke. "Hey, Subaru-san? I found something of yours in the kitchen that I'm hoping you just lost by accident otherwise—"

The shadows on the bed moved slightly. Sorata stopped and glanced over his shoulder. By the sunlight from the window he caught sight of a figure sitting up in the bed watching him – and froze in shock.

The Sakurazukamori lifted a finger to his lips. "Shh," he said softly. "He's still sleeping."

Sorata got his limbs moving again. Automatically he dropped into a defensive posture, mind racing frantically as he realised that Subaru, wrapped in blankets and apparently dead to the world, was lying with his head in the Sakurazukamori's lap. The Sakurazukamori himself was sitting against the bed's headboard, tie discarded and shirt unbuttoned at the neck. Even in that casual pose there was no hiding the quiet aura of menace around the man – Sorata called up his power, praying that Subaru would wake up or someone else would come in to help; this was a dangerous situation, very dangerous, the Sakurazukamori, probably the most powerful Dragon of Earth after the Dark Kamui, was here, in the Seals' residence, and he had a hostage—

"Please don't do that," said the Sakurazukamori, giving the halo of electricity beginning to crackle about Sorata's hand a disdainful look. "As I said, Subaru-kun is still sleeping, and given that he hasn't slept well for the past several nights it's in his best interests that he not be woken. Put that little display away and behave yourself."

"Like hell I will," hissed Sorata. Why didn't Subaru wake up? "How did you get in and what have you done to Subaru-san?!"

"To answer your first question, I came in via Subaru-kun's window." As the Sakurazukamori spoke, he stroked one hand almost absently over Subaru's hair. Sorata stared. "He doesn't ward it at night, a fact which I've made use of several times already. As for your second question, I haven't done anything to Subaru-kun that he hasn't done himself or wished to be done. Does that satisfy you?"

Sorata gritted his teeth. "Let Subaru-san go."

The Sakurazukamori raised an eyebrow at him. "And just what do you plan on doing if I refuse?"

"I'll fry your ass."

"With Subaru-kun right here in my arms? I highly doubt it. Now turn off that little light show of yours and be quiet."

"Walk away from Subaru-san and I'll think about it—"

"Seishirou-san?" The dark shock of hair in the Sakurazukamori's lap lifted up. Subaru, his right eye still bandaged, looked groggily around. "What's going on?"

Sorata opened his mouth to shout a warning – "It's nothing, Subaru-kun," said the Sakurazukamori, reaching up to put a firm hand on Subaru's shoulder. "You're tired; go back to sleep." Sorata stared, completely taken aback at the Sakurazukamori's behaviour to the Sumeragi. "I'll wake you when you need to eat breakfast."

Subaru struggled, trying to get up. "But I—"

"Sleep." The Sakurazukamori's voice was low, heavy with underlying command. He put a hand over Subaru's face; immediately, the Sumeragi went limp. Sorata's eyes widened in horror.

"What did you—"

"Don't jump to conclusions," said the Sakurazukamori. He inspected Subaru's face before carefully pushing him off to lie properly on the bed. "He's asleep, nothing else." As Sorata watched warily, the Sakurazukamori got off the bed and straightened his clothes. Then he walked over towards Sorata. Sorata tensed, expecting an attack of some sort, but the Sakurazukamori passed him with barely a glance in favour of the windows. As Sorata watched, the Sakurazukamori shut the curtains with a sharp pull, leaving the room lit only by the blue-white lightning still crackling about Sorata's hand. "For the last time, will you please get rid of that?" asked the Sakurazukamori.

For a brief moment Sorata hesitated, suspecting that the moment he did so the Sakurazukamori would attack. Then again, the Sakurazukamori hadn't done anything threatening at all yet, and he had moved away from Subaru therefore giving up his main advantage …

The Sakurazukamori watched him patiently. Sorata glanced at the bed.

Subaru-san did look to be nothing more than asleep …

Reluctantly Sorata dismissed the electricity. He did not, of course, abandon his guard; far from it, he raised it higher. Warily he glared at the Sakurazukamori. "What do you want here?"

The Sakurazukamori smirked. He seemed to be mightily amused by the whole situation. It irritated Sorata to no end. "I want to get breakfast. Now since you obviously have no intention of leaving me alone, could you at least guide me to the kitchen?"