It couldn’t have been long since they had first rushed an unconscious Takumi into camp, the ragged wound deep in his lower back bleeding uncontrollably, but Sakura still felt numb to the core hours later.
Ryoma had carried Takumi himself, face flushed with exertion and roaring for a healer to help them. Before that day, Sakura hadn’t thought she would ever see her older brother come close to crying, but he looked so devastated when he laid Takumi down on the bed that she’d crumbled a little inside. As soon as she caught sight of the wound she understood why, and she thought she would break down in tears herself. The blood just kept coming. More than once she had to restrain herself from vomiting, but she had put on the bravest face she could and forced herself to focus on healing her brother.
Now, night had fallen and crickets hummed in the grass outside, and most had retired to their tents after the initial shock of the incident died down. Sakura didn’t think she had ever felt more exhausted in her life. Ryoma and Hinoka, as well as Oboro and Hinata, had stopped by to check on him, but there was nothing that could be done besides let Takumi rest.
All they could do now was wait.
Hating the feeling of helplessness, Sakura had insisted on staying by her brother’s side even after the other healers had left for the night. She'd placed a candle across from the bed, where she sat staring at the wall of the tent and waiting in vain for him to wake up. Even so, she was glad for the cool air that diffused into the stuffy medic tent. She’d spent all afternoon cooped up inside and the smell of blood was beginning to make her head spin.
In the silence of the tent she was left to herself to reflect and attempt to straighten out the anxious thoughts that had been running through her mind all afternoon.
Out of nowhere, she recalled something Ryoma had told her earlier when he had stopped by: I’m proud of you, Sakura. You’ve grown into a responsible young woman. The words had made her thrum with pride, and she remembered them with a faint smile on her lips. But the exhilarated feeling she got from Ryoma’s praise was quickly forgotten when her gaze fell on her brother’s unconscious form in the bed.
Takumi had to get better. He had to.
After a brief period of quiet, Sakura heard a shuffling noise, then someone pushed open the flap to the tent. She caught a glimpse of blond hair.
The Nohrian prince hesitated for a moment when he saw her, lingering by the entrance uncertainly. Normally Sakura would have been too shy to speak to a prince from another kingdom, but the circumstances were dire and after spending hours staring a nearly fatal wound in the face, she didn’t think anything could faze her anymore.
“Come in,” she said. For a moment he looked as if he were about to decline, but evidently made up his mind and took a seat in the chair beside Takumi’s bed.
For all his air of careful indifference, Sakura could tell Prince Leo was upset. He had demanded to see Takumi the moment they returned from the battle, and he'd been pacing around camp restlessly while the archer was being treated in the medic tent. She knew he was anxious in the way his brow was furrowed and he worried at his lip, his hands clenched tightly at his sides.
Sakura could tell by his hesitant expression that he wanted a moment of privacy, so she turned away and pretended to busy herself for a moment. But he made no movement, only gazed down at Takumi’s face and bit his lip, deep in thought.
“P-prince Leo,” she said finally.
He lifted his eyes. For a moment she could see a world of pain in their depths, but then it was gone, hidden behind a mask of cool composure. But even then, she could see how his fingers trembled in his lap.
“Yes?” he said.
“The wound shouldn’t be fatal. He’ll live.” As she spoke, she found herself trying to reassure her own troubled thoughts as well as the prince’s.
Prince Leo merely nodded once before turning back to Takumi, but she noticed how he visibly relaxed.
Sakura watched him for a moment, thoughtful. Even though she had hardly ever talked to him and found him rather intimidating, anyone could tell he and Takumi were close. At first they had bickered constantly, but as Hoshido and Nohr strengthened their bonds the two of them began spending more and more time together. Sakura often caught glimpses of them reading books and discussing strategy, or taking walks through the forest.
She didn’t have to be particularly observant to tell that they shared the most intimate of relationships, although neither of them would be the first to admit it. But Takumi often spoke to her about him with such affection in his voice that she couldn’t help but think that there was another side to Prince Leo’s cool and calculated demeanor, one he showed to no one but Takumi.
The prince shifted in his seat. The sound brought Sakura out of her thoughts, jolting her back to the present.
There was a silence, then Prince Leo said quietly, “He took the blow for me.”
Sakura looked up in shock at this sudden revelation, but the prince’s gaze was on his hands. “I was careless,” he said, bitterness raw in his voice. “I didn’t see the swordsman behind me until it was too late, but Takumi did.”
A pause, then softer, almost to himself, “We promised to protect each other. I don't know how I could have let it happen.”
Not sure how to respond, Sakura settled for a quiet hum of sympathy. What was she supposed to say to that? She didn’t know the other prince at all, let alone how to comfort him. An awkward silence settled over them, and Sakura tried to busy herself by arranging the medicine bottles on the shelf from smallest to largest.
After a few minutes, she turned around to see Prince Leo leaning over Takumi, caressing his face gently. When he looked up and saw her watching him, his face turned a delicate shade of red and he quickly pulled away, beginning to apologize but stumbling over his words.
Despite the bleak mood, Sakura began to giggle. The prince was looking perplexed, his cheeks rapidly reddening. She tried to hide her giggles behind her hand. “Sorry,” she said quickly. “Just… you can stop hiding it, you know.”
“P-pardon?” For once, Prince Leo seemed flustered.
Sakura smiled. “I mean, hiding how much you care about him.”
She half expected him to deny it. He and her brother were one and the same, after all, stubbornly refusing to admit their attraction toward each other while everyone else around them could see it as plain as day. But he only sighed in resignation and mumbled to himself, “Is it really that obvious?” After a moment’s hesitation, he took Takumi’s hand in his own and cradled it, his fingers running over the faded scars on the archer’s sun-tanned palm.
“He loves you, you know,” Sakura said, when she had mustered up the courage. “You’re all he ever talks about.”
Prince Leo smiled politely, but Sakura could see the effect her words had on him. His hands were shaking as he turned Takumi’s hand over, still rubbing the archer’s palm absentmindedly. She could only guess at what distressed thoughts must have been running through his mind, but the confession eased the weight off her shoulders a little. He had to know.
“I’ll tell him when he wakes up,” Prince Leo murmured, probably to himself, but Sakura heard him anyway.
Silly boys, she thought with a smile. It took them so long to realize they were in love.
“I’ll leave you with him, then,” she said at last. She trusted the Nohrian prince with her brother, and she wanted to let them have a moment of privacy. And Sakura was eagerly looking forward to taking a walk outside to clear her mind, perhaps get some sleep as well. She resisted the urge to yawn and stretch her arms behind her head.
Prince Leo nodded without looking at her. As she was stepping through the tent she caught a glimpse of the prince leaning forward, his face hovering above Takumi’s. Her view was partially obscured by the flap of the tent, but she knew what it meant when he leaned down to press his lips against Takumi’s. The sight brought a smile to her face.
Finally, she thought.
She hoped Prince Leo would say something to her brother when he woke up, but that was none of her business. He loved Takumi, and that was all that mattered. Nothing made her happier than seeing the light in Takumi’s eyes whenever he was with the other prince.
They brought out the best in each other, she thought fondly. Takumi without Leo was a completely different person, plagued by crippling insecurities and self-loathing. But Sakura saw how much he changed when he was with Prince Leo, teasing and carefree and tender. Most of all, happy.
Her brother had suffered for so long. He deserved all the love in the world.