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rosemary and sapphire eyes

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*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Once upon a time, there was happiness. Pure, uncontrollable happiness, made of kisses and hugs and gentle touches under the pale light of the moon.

Once upon a time, deep in the forest, up on the last level of the Tower, there was a nest: the home of a witch and his lover, the home of love and fond whispers against each other’s ears.

Shiro was a witch, one of the most powerful creatures to ever be born. Son of the River and the tears of a virgin, he held incredible powers in his palms. His energy could be perceived from miles and miles, and kings and queens asked for his help, was it for destruction or for healing purposes.

When it came to destroying enemies, Shiro would use his hands: they were big, large and with long fingers, his scarred knuckles a miserable reminder of the power they held. Just a touch of the bare skin of his palms could turn an entire kingdom into ashes, destroying life in a matter of seconds. The Earth itself feared this power, the energy seeping through its ground as the most devastating of earthquakes, shaking the globe until its deepest bowels where old ruins laid untouched for centuries.

However, when it came to healing, Shiro used his eyes. Being born by the tears of a virgin mixed with the pure water of the River, gave his own tears a power as powerful as the one in his hands. Just a drop of his own tears could heal any wound, wipe away any disease. The joy of the others became a burden to the witch, because tears can’t come from anywhere else but sadness. However, he accomplished anything they asked him to do, gaining fame and gold.

He lived happily for centuries and centuries, living in the Wind that caressed the forest, content even if lonely. Until, one day, he found someone just like him.

A witch, born by the roots of the trees, that laid in the forest trapped by a layer of greedy ivy, sucking his life through the leaves and twines. He helped him with gentle hands, not using his powers this time, and held the drained witch in his arms until he found the Tower, located in the exact center of the forest.

He helped him recover, gave him food and a roof over his head, neglecting the requests of kings and queens in order to devote his whole life towards that poor creature.

Eventually, love bloomed between the two of them: it was tender, so tender that the entire Forest sighed every time their bodies touched, the Wind whispered their names every time their lips brushed together. It was the kind of love that is as deep as the roots of the trees, so engraved in one’s heart that the two of them were never seen apart.

The ivy, fond of Shiro’s lover, followed them every time, intertwining around the Tower to protect them as a shield would do. Even the grass was here for them, becoming soft and greener just for the two witches to step on. The River brought them the food they needed, providing also the purest and sweetest water in the whole World.

They were content and happy together, never getting enough of each other. Shiro’s lover told him that he was like the Wind, gentle and soothing if in the form of a breeze, but ruthless and strong in the form of a storm. Shiro believed him, he did every time his hands touched the ground to open the earth and swallow entire kingdoms, every time the bare movement of his fingers crumpled buildings and killed people.

Shiro didn’t mind holding such powers. He didn’t mind his ability to turn thing into ashes, to crumple the obsidian with a finger, to open the Earth’s mouth to make it eat everything. He didn’t mind until one night.

Shiro was tired, too tired. He had blood on his palms, bruises on his wrists and he smelled like death. His whole body was drenching that smell, following him like a trail of perfume. A perfume that tasted like grief and rotting flesh and iron.

His lover was there, as always, ready to wipe away the blood, to cover the scent of death with his own.

He smelled like flowers, like wisteria and roses. His skin was supple and velvety, like the thick and plump petals of a tulip.

He was ready to wipe away the blood. He was ready to wipe away the death from his loved one. Like he always did.

Shiro’s hands were shaking so, so much than night. They still oozed with the sparkles of magic he had used. Touching the abused skin of his palms, his lover could feel them.

The pair of hands he held just moments before coming home.

The image was clear in his head: the small hands of a child, short and chubby fingers brushing on Shiro’s palms as he desperately tried to keep the innocent creature from falling into the mouth of the Earth.

But the world is greedy and when Shiro opened its jaws to make it eat, the Earth never left leftovers. Never.

And this time, Shiro realized how strong his power was, how dreadful and menacing those hands could be. How much pain and sorrow they could bring, with the same exact gestures he used on his lover’s body when they were intimate.

He took a knife, one made of black and shiny onyx and tried to cut them off. He tried to get rid of the weapon that could bring such pain. But his lover was firm in his beliefs about Shiro’s kindness and overall goodness.

Shiro didn’t believe him anymore.

His hands could bring their bodies together. His fingers could intertwine with his lover’s, guiding him through paths of flowers and green grass. Through the wind and in sweet dances.

But that night, they were trembling, the magic oozing outside of his skin. Too much power, too little control of it.

And they pressed onto his lover’s chest to push him away. Shiro’s magic sank directly into his heart, trespassing layers of skin and flesh and muscles and bones. Stopping the organ that was meant to beat forever. Forever for both life and him .

But it stopped. It stopped forever and not even Shiro’s tears couldn’t bring him back that time. He shed so many that the room flooded with the hot liquid, spilling from every window, breaking the glass and landing like thousands of waterfalls on the grass under the Tower.

Even bathed in them, his lover remained still in the freezing embrace of death.

The ivy, so fond of him, climbed all the way up the tower, strangling the stones of the walls. It covered the lover’s body with a thick blanket of leaves, hissing at Shiro as he desperately tried to push it away.

The plant engulfed the love of his life just like the first time they met. It hid his beautiful face forever and something inside Shiro broke.

It was definitely his heart.

The ivy turned hostile towards the witch. He could hear every single leaf crying loudly, screaming at him mean words, calling him names. He felt small, small and hurt, his eyes dry and unable to shed any more tears.

He succumbed to the plant, let it take over his body just like his lover. The ivy pinned him to the wall, wrapping the witch into a cocoon that was designed to remain closed forever.

Then, it stopped, the Tower silent once again.

But to those who wanted to listen, Shiro’s muffled, dry sobs could be heard through the whole kingdom.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

A small thud , in the distance.

No, it’s not his heart. It sounded like something falling on the floor, something small like a pebble. But he’s so used to the slow beating of his heart against his ribcage, that the sound is difficult to distinguish.

A pebble.

Why a pebble? Last time he checked, and that was a long time ago even if he can’t exactly reckon how much , the ivy had covered all the windows.

Maybe a willow brought a small rock in there, finding its way through the vines. But why? There’s nothing here, nothing but darkness and dust and this damn ivy that strangles everything.

But something, something gold and warm touches his hand - where is it? By his side or on his chest? His limbs are numb, he can’t feel them - and he finally opens his eyes. The crusts that kept his eyelids closed crack, releasing his eyelashes.

A sunray.

A sunray?

How’s that possible?

Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time to go outside.

But he doesn’t remember how things look, what if the Tower has crumbled? What if the entire world has burned to its core?

The sunray slowly moves upwards from his hand - it was at his side, lying against his thigh - and blinds him, focusing in the middle of his eye.

Shiro groans, shifting a bit in his standing position. His feet aren’t touching the ground: the ivy had him pinned in the exact middle of the wall, about a metre from the floor. His limbs are stiff and cranky, and maybe he slept for a little bit too much, but he finds the strength to move his hand and push the ivy away.

The plant hisses, too weak to resist the witch’s touch, and pliantly moves to the side, unlocking Shiro’s body from the wall.

He falls forward, but he’s quick enough to catch his balance and stay on his feet. Damned ivy, he never liked it and the ivy never liked him either.

She was fond of someone else. Someone that’s not there anymore.

Shiro’s eyes sting and burn, leaking tears because of the sunray, but he scans anyway the room in front of him. Leaves, leaves everywhere. And vines, vines that come up from the windows and strangle every single piece of furniture. The floor is completely covered, as well as the ceiling: everything looks like a small jungle, spiders making their homes here and there for who knows how many generations.

Spiders are wise, maybe he can ask one of them for how long he slept.

The sunray is coming from a small, small opening between the leaves, on the window right in front of him, the one shaped like a diamond. It’s tiny, but enough for a thin sunray as sharp as a needle to poke through.

It’s pointing somewhere on the floor, between the dark plant that took over his house.

Their house.

Shiro is afraid of what’s under all those layers of ivy. Last time he checked, there was a carped there, one made with soft wool and threaded with gold and silver. A magical carpet, the vendor said, but Shiro is a wise witch, he knows that such a thing as magical carpets don’t exist.

He bought it anyway. Because he loved it.

Last time Shiro checked, he was on the floor as well. The ivy had covered him fast, strangling his body so much that Shiro still remembers the cracking of his bones, pulling him in a hug so tight and desperate.

He wonders if he’s still there, laying on the floor, covered by his beloved ivy.

The sunray starts to pulse with light, attracting his attention towards the spot between the leaves. Shiro had slept for a long time, but every witch knows how impatient the Sun gets, especially when someone doesn’t listen immediately.

“I got it, I got it. I just woke up, uhm? Give me some time.”

He walks toward the spot, crouching on the floor. The wood screeches, but that’s normal. The Tower is alive, after all, those noises are just a sign of the life that runs in the hardwood. He reminds himself to talk with her, later. She must have missed him.

His hand goes in the tousled vines and touches something warm, almost hot and pulsing. It’s smooth, like a crystal, and small, so small, like a tiny button made of mother-pearl.

Yes, a pebble indeed. A golden pebble with a opalescent crack on one side, like marble.

“A pebble?” Shiro says to the sunray, “I sleep for who knows how much, and you wake me up for this? ”

It’s not that he’s not grateful, but he just doesn’t know how to react. As a witch, he’s aware of the generosity of the Sun and of the numerous gifts he gives to those in need, but a pebble isn’t exactly what he had expected. Shiro is an ancient witch, he had heard about many gifts throughout his whole life: liquid gold that could heal everything, magical rings that could bring happiness and joy. But never a pebble.

“What am I supposed to do?”

The Sun doesn’t respond. Not with a human voice, at least: the sunray starts to flicker like a broken lightbulb, rhythmically and fast. All witches know every single language in the world, and the Sun’s is no different.

“In a pot? Wait, not to be disrespectful, but why? It’s your pebble, I don’t need to purify it.”

When you put stones in vases, is in order to purify them from negative energy. The Sun, however, is the purest thing in the Universe: it’s pointless to cleanse one of his gifts.

“ What?” the sunray is flicking faster, almost as the Sun’s getting more and more impatient, “What do you mean that something will grow from it? Someone? ”

But the sunray has had enough. The Sun doesn’t wait for anyone, after all. The thin stream of light flickers once more, bursting into a thousand of specks of gold, falling of the floor like drops of molten lava. The ivy moves away from them, screaming because the drops are hot and they burned her leaves.

Shiro sits here, startling, staring at the small pebble in his big hand. There’s a faint glow around it and he swears that the crack is pulsing.

Maybe he should listen to the Sun.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Shiro finds a small pot made of white porcelain, after searching in one of the cupboards in the room. He places the pebble on the bottom and fills the vase with the soil in one of the older vases. The ivy isn’t happy to see him and his ears are buzzing with screams and insults: he takes some of the cotton used to make a humid bed for the pebble and puts it in his ears, to muffle the voices.

The ivy always hated him.

He places the poton the floor, kicking the vines that immediately run to take it away. “Back up, don’t even try to touch it. The Sun will curse you.”

Shiro proceeds to clean the entire room, using his magic. It’s still pretty faint and weak, so he uses some salt to enhance his own energy. The leaves run back outside, though the windows and the cracks on the stone walls, hissing at the witch.

Shiro finally breathes again after finding the floor completely empty and clean.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

A spider told him he had slept for two centuries.

“That’s a long time.” Shiro sighs, taking the arachnid in his hand and guiding him towards the window. He does the same with every other spider in the Tower, politely asking them to find a new home in the Forest. They’re gentle and accomplish easily, thanking him for his kindness and the hospitality.

Every surface of the Tower is clean, untouched by any type of hands or specks of dust, maybe because the ivy was so thick that nothing had touched anything for two centuries.

He’s relieved for that, at least he won’t have to mop the floor. The Tower hates it, hates when the hardwood becomes wet and humid.

He cleans the windows, using a spell to repair the broken glass: the ivy bursted in, that night, breaking the tinted glass mercilessly, eradicating the iron hinges. It’s a task that takes a lot of time, mainly because the Tower’s walls are filled with windows. Every single one of them has a different shape: there’s one looking like a cloud, one shaped like a heart. And a circle and a diamond and one cut like a flower. One like the sun, one like the moon.

Every one of them used to have sheer curtains made of silk and Shiro gathers them all in a big pile and gives them to some birds to wash them by the river. The birds are happy to help him, greeting him like an old friend. Once the windows are finally ready, the colored glass filters the pale sunrays of the evening, painting the entire Tower with all sorts of hues and shapes.

Shiro observes the floor as it seems to come to life after a long, long time.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

The curtains are ready, the bed is made, the plates have been repaired and washed. The ivy is clumsy and it broke everything that could be broken, like the tall mirror in the bathroom. A lot of the jars and vials that Shiro stored in his studio are completely shattered, the content spilled all over the room.

He picks up the powders and shards of glass and dried leaves, feeling the heavy weight on his chest as it slowly fades away. An on witch of the Mountains once told him that tidying up was therapeutic, somehow, and Shiro hadn’t really believed her until now.

But with tidying, memories come up from every corner and it’s overwhelming.

A comb made with ivory horns. A book about plants. A silk blouse that still smells like him .

He smelled like a lot of things, since he was a green witch. Of roses, of cinnamon, of jasmine and clover. Of spice, of musk.

Of home .

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

It’s deep in the night when Shiro finally collapses on the bed. The mattress engulfs him and welcomes his owner after a long time. Shiro’s back hurts at every movement, but the soft fabric elicits a content moan from the witch as he relaxes his body and allows it to sink in the quilted duvet.

The air outside is fresh and filled with the songs of the numerous crickets that live around the Tower: they’re singing for Shiro, they seem happy to see him again.

The wood on the ceiling screeches loud and slow and the witch immediately smiles. “You missed me? I didn’t know you were so emotional.” Another screech, this time more high-pitched, “Yes, I guess I’m happy to be there again. Everything is dead outside in the garden, but tomorrow I’ll try to fix things. You know that I’m not that good with plants. Yes, yes, I’ll fix the roof. What? A mouse? Have you asked them to leave politely? Don’t act like I don’t know how grumpy you are, I know you haven’t asked them politely. Yes, ok, I’ll talk to them tomorrow.”

The lightbulb near his bed flickers, a series of short glimpses followed by long ones and Shiro smiles as he reads ‘I love you’ spelled in morse code. The Tower must have missed him a lot.

Somehow, it makes him feel less lonely, knowing that she’s not mad at him. No one seems to be, actually, except for the ivy. He can hear it muttering outside, whispering bad things to him.

Shiro focuses on the sound of the crickets and on the ticking of the clock on the wall and on his own breathing. He doesn’t want to hear what it’s saying. He knows it too well.

But he’s sorry. He already told the plant that he’s incredibly, utterly sorry.

Some things, however, can’t be forgiven and Shiro knows that very well.

His eyelids start to feel heavy and he glances one more time at the small porcelain pot he placed on his nightstand. The Sun hadn’t told him to keep the pebble near him, but Shiro wanted to anyway.

It made him feel less alone, once again. He has the Tower, everyone seems happy to have him again. But the whole house is empty.

Two pillows, two chairs, two of every piece of cutlery and plates. Two wardrobes, two toothbrushes.

Two of everything, but Shiro is the only one here.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Shiro woke up early, the next morning: he went down in the garden and started to greet every plant. He trimmed the grass, pruned the bushes and apologized to the roses and the orchids for being so rude to them. The flowers scolded him at first, but they turned gentle again once Shiro started to sing to them.

Flowers and plants love music, he taught him that. They used to sing together, once.

Shiro isn’t very confident about his voice: sometimes he can’t go up with the notes and everything just sound untuned and ugly, but the amaryllis he’s watering applaud anyway. They missed him, every single living being in the garden doesn’t stop repeating that.

The frogs in the pond update him on the latest news about the kingdom, but Shiro doesn’t care anymore. The king have looked for him for many years and finally gave up after a while. He seemed angry towards Shiro, disappeared into thin air after his last mission.

“I don’t care. I’m done with the king and all the queens and the war. I don’t want to go outside of the Forest ever again. No, I don’t care about money, I talked with the crows and they’ll bring me some vegetable seeds to plant. All the tomatoes are dead.”

When preparing lunch, Shiro notices a small hole in the wall inside the cupboard and he sees round, sparkling eyes and a trembling nose adorned with long whiskers. The mice aren’t happy to leave, but the witch is patient enough to talk to them wisely about how the life in the Forest would be better for them. The cupboard is dark and dusty, it can’t be good for their lungs.

In the end, the small family gives up and Shiro takes them in the palm of his hand to escort them to the beginning of the Forest. He bows and wave at the critters, giving them a faint smile.

He’s tired, so tired when the evening approaches.

Shiro moves the vase from the window to his nightstand once again, when he notices that the sun doesn’t filter through the glass anymore. The pot is warm and the wet soil smells of musk.

He notices a small sprout poking through the dirt.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Shiro takes the next day off, just sitting in his studio and taking a long bath to restore his magic. It’s still pretty dormant within his body, but he starts to feel it again after the soothing bath. He grills some beef , eating it in his studio even if the Tower complains and scolds him for dropping a piece of meat on the floor.

“I’ll clean, I swear.” but he doesn’t do it. He’s too caught up in the old book he’s reading: it’s about stones, magical stones. The pebble is still in the vase, warming the porcelain from the inside. The tome doesn’t mention magical pebbles given by the Sun and it’s quite strange. Books like the ones Shiro has usually updates themselves every now and then, when the author discovers something new. But there’s nothing about golden pebbles given by the Sun.

Shiro sighs, closing the book and walking towards the window where he placed the pot. It’s under a rose-shaped window, the glass tinted with pale pink powder. The soil is still humid to the touch, which is good. The small sprout is there like the evening before, green and small and a little curved on itself, but healthy nonetheless.

Shiro takes the pot in his lap, sitting by the small couch he has under that particular window, “You’re growing strong, hm?” he caresses the bud with the point of a finger, gentle and careful not to hurt it, “I wonder what you are. What will you become.”

The sprout remains silent, but Shiro smiles, clutching the pot to his chest, “I’m not good at taking care of things. Sometimes I destroy everything, you know? But I’ll try my bet to make you grow healthy and happy. I bet you’ll be the prettiest plant in the whole Tower.”

The floor screeches and the Tower laughs, pointing out how impossible that could be. They already have so many beautiful plants in the garden and in the greenhouse, it’s unrealistic to think about a plant prettier that the silver roses around the pond. They have pastel pink lilies that all the kingdom used to envy, they have the brightest sunflowers, always happy and tall when facing the Sun.

“Hush, you ol’ grumpy Tower. I’m sure he’ll be beautiful.” there’s love in his eyes when he looks again at the sprout, “It’s a gift from the Sun, after all.”

Shiro starts to sing for the little green thing, an ancient melody every witch knows and sings for the fragile being to grow stronger and faster. It’s a sweet chant without actual words, the language too old and already forgotten, but to Shiro every single syllable makes sense. Witches know everything that comes from the past. Witches are deeply rooted with it, with the ancient and forgotten times where the River used to talk with a human voice, when the kingdoms didn’t even exist.

Being a witch sometimes hurts, Shiro thinks as he caresses the bud one more time. It hurts because you live for so long, entire generations passing by you, that you simply watch everything form and then die. Shiro has seen many things doing that. They come into the world, they grow, they live, they love. And then, they become old and tired and they forget about you because their memory starts to fade. In the end, they die, and you can’t do nothing but cling on the past.

Shiro clings to the past everyday. Clings to it and clutches the memories to his heart like he’s hugging the small pot between his large, big hands.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

The sprout grows under the moonlight: it has a stem, now, made of thin and light wood. A leaf springs on one side, then another one and another one, all pointed and green. Healthy and fierce.

Then, a flower. A single, tiny flower blooms on the wood: it’s purple, light purple, but its petals remain closed for now.

They wait for the right moment to open.

They wait for the Sun.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Shiro wakes up because something is brushing against his nose, something that tickles and smells strongly. Of rosemary.

And when he opens his eyes, in the small pot still clutched in his arms, there’s a tiny branch of rosemary, not taller than one of the quilts the witch uses to write.

It’s sticking straight in the middle of the vase, a small, single flower facing his face.

The petals are open and a tiny hand is hanging from one of them. Shiro squeezes his eyes about a dozen times: he’s a witch, he talks with the plants and the animals, with the Tower itself, but that little hand looks almost like a miracle.

He brings his pinky to it, gently pushing it up and down only to gasp when the minuscule fingers start to move. He heard a whispered groan, almost like there’s someone inside the flower that’s throwing a tantrum because it doesn’t want to wake up yet.

Shiro lifts his gaze, looking at the ceiling, “Can-can you see it?”.

The Tower emits a low and long screech of wood and swings a little, clearly amazed just as much as the witch, “I don’t know. It wasn’t like that yesterday.”

He pushes again the hand up and down, but it’s so small that he can’t even feel it. Whatever or whoever it’s laying in there won’t wake up any sooner, so Shiro puts the pot again in the sunlights by the rose-shaped window and goes straight to the kitchen for breakfast.

He eats anyway, even if his stomach feels tangled and upset.

A hand. There’s someone in that flower, something small like a firefly.

Shiro drops the piece of buttered bread he’s eating and the table hisses because of course it fell with the buttered layer facing down, but the witch just stares in silence to the wall. Fireflies. He saw a couple of them, a long, long time ago.

They’re small and delicate, maybe the most fragile fairies in the Universe. The ancient folklore narrates about them being the Sun’s children that walk in the night to reassure the plants that the Sun is going to rise again, the morning after. This happened a long time ago, when everything had just come to life and nature still wasn’t aware of such a thing as the passing of day and night.

They became more rare as the years went over the Earth and they eventually disappeared. But some of them are still being seen, lost in this world while on their way to their father’s kingdom.

Shiro looks out of the window, the Sun bright and high in the morning sky, “Is that what you gave me? A firefly? You-you sent me one of your offspring?”

The witch clutches his head, almost scared of what’s to come: he can’t take care of plants, he doesn’t see how he could care for such a fragile and pure creature.

But the Sun doesn’t respond and the Tower screeches again, explaining to Shiro that maybe the Sun wants him to learn.

Learn to take care of things. Learn to be less clumsy and more attentive.

Shiro looks at his big hands, his fingers glazed with the remnants of the butter: his palms had killed people in the past. His clumsiness killed the only one that mattered in his life.

“I’ll try.”, he says to the sun, “But forgive me if I’ll be unable to learn.”

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

That night, Shiro looks at the rosemary until his eyes close on their own, sleep weighing down on the witch’s eyelids.

The fingers of the small, tiny hand wiggle and suddenly a head covered in golden-brown locks peaks from the petals.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Shiro wakes up to the bed shaking violently under him: the walls of the room are moving and the ceiling is screeching loudly and he gets up with wide-eyes. It’s not an earthquake, though: as soon as his body sits on the mattress, everything goes still again.

“Couldn’t you just call? Why are you- uh? The rosemary-”

He jumps off of the bed, rushing towards the window where the pot sits. A ray of sunshine is already showering the small plant with light, the flower open wide and strong on its stem.

But that’s not what catches the witch’s attention.

On the edge of the vase, dangling his small, tiny legs, there’s a boy . His skin is lightly tanned and smooth, chestnut locks curling around his pointed ears as he looks around. He has a pair of translucent wings attached to his back, like the one of a bug. The firefly is finally awake and, as expected, it’s not taller than a couple of centimetres.

Shiro approaches slowly in order to not scare the creature: he doesn’t know how much his newborn heart can handle. His lips curl into a smile once the small boy notices the presence behind him and turns in Shiro’s direction: he has a pair of wide eyes, the iris looking like a pond of liquid blue and gold, plump lips colored as the healthiest roses of the witch’s garden.

Shiro chuckles, amazed, his heart thumping against his chest fast and steady, “Hi.”

The firefly looks at him with parted lips and his wings flutter a bit when he tries to shuffle into a less neck-twisting position, “Who are you?”

“Straight to the point, hm?” is Shiro hadn’t been so amazed by the beauty of such a small creature, he would have scolded him for being impolite, “I’m Takashi Shirogane, the witch of the Tower.”

The ceiling screeches a couple of times and the tiny boy giggles, “She says you’re a witch.”

“She’s right. And you? What’s your name?”

“I don’t-I don’t know. Do I need one?”

Shiro smiles and his chest swells when the firefly does the same, “Yes, you need one. I think that something sweet and bright might suit you. How about Lance?”

The boy nods eagerly, the curls on his forehead bouncing up and down, up and down, “Yes! It’s cute, I like it. But, sir-”

“Call me Shiro, not sir.”

“ Shiro.” the witch nods, encouraging the firefly to go on, “What does sweet mean?”

The Tower laughs so much that every book fall from their shelf.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

“Here, take this.” Shiro coos as he hands Lance a short ribbon made of silk, “Drape in on your body, so you won’t catch a cold.”

The firefly looks at the fabric with stars in his eyes and he caresses the ribbon a couple of times before starting to wrap it around his body. Shiro laughs when he opens his arms, presenting his new, dressed self with a little ‘ ta-daaa’ . It’s a temporary solution, at least. While putting back every book on the shelves, Shiro’s eyes were captured by an old tome, the cover made of worn-out leather, about fairies.

While bees and wasps didn’t grow that much, moths and fireflies - if well cared for - could actually become the size of a full grown human, without losing their wings. Lance started to roam around, small feet tapping on the hardwood of the floor and the Tower chuckled for the ticklish feeling.

“Sir- I mean, Shiro ,” he says, sliding on the page the witch is currently reading, “Am I one of those? They look pretty.”

“You are. Look, if you eat good and do as I say, you’ll become taller.”

“Like you? I want to be tall like you!”

Shiro laughs, snorting a little because he may have big hands and long legs, but his nose is short and looks like a button, “Maybe you will.”

Lance runs off the book and goes straight to his pot, lying in the sunlight with his toned tummy exposed. Shiro had already told him that the Sun was his real father and Lance had spent a good three hours just laying there, whispering things to the patch of light that hovered over his house.

The wall behind Shiro echoes with a few thuds , almost as someone is knocking on it. “You’re right, I think I have to teach him everything. He looks like a baby, doesn’t he? I’m not good at taking care of plants and yet the Sun gave me his son. I really hope to do a good job, my dear.”

Another series of thuds has the witch chuckling, a hand covering his large smile, “I don’t know how to fly, you know it. Maybe he’ll learn by instinct, I’m not sure.” Shiro pauses, his eyes shifting from the page to his lap, “ He knew how to fly.”

Shiro could do that too, probably. But flying requires both a light body and a light soul and the witch lacks the latter.

“Shiro!” Lance calls, sitting in the soil of the pot, “What are those?”. The witch walks closer, putting back the book on its shelf. Lance is pointing a tiny finger at the sky and by squinting his eyes a bit, Shiro understands that he’s actually pointing at a cloud.

“Clouds. They are agglomerations of condensed particles of water.”

Lance looks stunned for a while, lips parted as they try to repeat silently the long, difficult words of the witch. He turns again towards him, a smile plastered on his face, “They float.”

“They do, little one. Because they’re very light.”

“What do they do all day?”

“They fly. They go around the world, they travel over the ocean. Sometimes they hit another cloud and the pain makes them cry: that’s why it rains.”

The firefly’s eyes are sparkling , open wide. His eyelashes are fluttering in complete awe from the quantity of information, of new things to add at his still unripe knowledge.

He turns again towards the window. Shiro is amazed by his beauty, rather than by the new notions: Lance has pointy ears, downturned and slightly reddened on the tips. His brown, soft locks are tousled and hold the beauty of the wild tamarix that grow near the sea.

“Shiro,”

“Yes, Lance?”

“What’s the Ocean?”

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Shiro pushes the breadcrumb near the firefly, who’s sitting on the cap of his marmalade jar. Lance takes it and the piece of bread looks so, so big between his small hands that the witch can’t suppress a small, amused snort. Lance starts to much on his meal, struggling to fit everything in his mouth.

But a disgusted expression twists his soft features and he spits the food on the table. He coughs a couple of times and Shiro is fast to gently, very gently pat his back with the tip of his finger.

Lance inhales sharply, tears dripping from his eyes and Shiro’s heart aches because that’s his fault. “It’s ok, little one? Need water? Anything?”

Lance shakes his head, hands sitting in his lap while his thin wings tremble, “N-no. It tasted disgusting; how can you eat this breadcomb?”

The witch looks at him, stunned: disgusting. This is strange. Usually, the bread from Baba Yaga’s bakery is infused with a special spell that makes everyone love and crave for it.

He should read the book about fireflies more carefully.

“It’s breadcrumb , Lance.” he sighs, sinking back in his chair, “You have to eat something.”

He scans the room, searching for anything to give to the small fairy: sugar? Grapes? Honey? He even asks the Tower, but the old building just shakes her frame. Asking the Sun is a bad idea, since he’s always too distant to hear what earthlings have to say.

Lance seems to notice the concern in the witch’s face, “Maybe I don’t need to eat.”

“You do, everyone needs to. What does your instinct say? I’m sure that you hold a lot more answers than you think.”

Lance hums, looking around himself just like the witch did before. Once his eyes catch his small pot, propped on the windowsill of one of the windows, his whole face lights up and he points a finger right to that. Shiro takes him in his hand, ignoring the faint tickle on his palm, and brings him there.

“My here ,” he puts a hand on his stomach and Shiro explains that here is called ‘tummy’, “My tummy says that this is good. I like the smell.”

Lance grabs a leaf from the rosemary and sinks his teeth in the hard cellulose, taking a big bite. He munches for a while, before swallowing: Lance smiles, bright and excited and satisfied. Shiro finally relaxes, a sigh escaping from his mouth.

“My tummy was right!” Lance confirms, taking another bite and talking with his mouth full of the leaf, “It’s good!”

The witch leans forward, poking the firefly with the tender tip of his nose, “Then, trust your tummy more, little one.”

“But I also trust you, Shiro. You’re kind.”

Shiro smiles and chuckles, sitting next to the pot to look at Lance as he eats the leaf. If only the small creature knew .

If only Lance knew about the blood he had on his hands. The same hands that carried him there to the vase. If only Lance knew about him .

What would he think?

“I want you to tell me about the things of this world.” Lance says, patting his now full and slightly swollen stomach, “Tell me more about the clouds!”

And Shiro does. He teaches Lance about the rain, about the storms and the thunders and lightnings. About the Wind and how you can walk on him, if you’re gentle and ask for his permission.

He teaches Lance about the water cycle, and Lance asks him about the Ocean and the Sea and about the difference between the two because, after all, they’re always made of salty water. What does salty even mean, by the way?

When Shiro’s done, the moon is shining bright in the night sky peppered with stars.

Lance also asks about her, before falling asleep.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Sometimes, Lance won’t stop asking about things. Literally anything that comes on sight or that gets mentioned catches his attention. Shiro, however, is always there to explain.

He’s showing the small firefly pictures of different flowers from a book, telling their meanings as well as their magical properties and Lance can’t help but run all over the pages, touching the pictures and smiling.

He’s small, but Shiro can clearly see the way his mouth curls upwards, the way his eyes almost close when he laughs, the tiny wrinkles that form around his nose. Maybe it’s the most endearing thing he has ever seen.

Lance is slightly bigger than the day before. He had grown overnight by a couple of inches. Although he was happy to finally be taller, he suffered through the whole process, whining about how his joint kept hurting and how the feeling of his legs getting longer wouldn’t let him sleep.

Shiro kept caressing his head, though, whispering comforting words to his tiny ears.

Somehow, he looked even more beautiful.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Lance is no bigger than an eight year-old and only a week had passed.

The pot became too small for him to live in and Shiro had spent almost three days making him a new bed. He’d cut the wood from one of the old trees in the Forest and carved a beautiful headboard, with a moon in the center and the sun below it. A group of kind sheeps brought him the wool he needed for a new mattress and the spiders helped him sew a set of warm blankets.

Lance loved that bed in the exact same moment Shiro brought it in.

He sits on the edge of the mattress, a book perched on his bare thighs as his nose scrunches while reading all those long and complex words Shiro told him to read.

“Shiro,” he whines, kicking his legs, “What does ‘ sentient’ mean?”

The witch stops stirring the potion on the stove and turns towards the firefly, a smile curving on his mouth as he sees Lance’s rosy pout, “That something can decide for itself.”

Lance hums and looks at the ceiling, perplexed, “Like the Tower?”

The ceiling screeches and a small speck of dust falls on Lance’s nose, making him giggle, “She says that I’m smart.”

Shiro smiles again, this time ever wider, “She’s right. You’re becoming really smart. And big too.”

“When will I be tall like you? I want to be like you!”

Shiro takes the pot off the stove, setting the potion to rest by the sink. It’s a simple painkiller he makes weekly for Lance, since his growing pains won’t stop making him scream at night.

Shiro does his best to keep him quiet, does his very best to pet his hair until the potion kicks in, making the pain fade away. Seeing Lance suffering breaks his heart every time.

He pours the potion in seven tiny bottles, putting them in a cabinet above the sink and goes back into the main room, where Lance has his new bed.

He finds the firefly leaning against one of the windows, the one shaped like a star: the tinted glass is open and Lance is looking down at the green and healthy grass that grows in every season. Lance lifts his finger and traces the outline of the flowerbed with the tamarix, cheek squished against the arm on which is resting on.

“What are you doing, Lance?” Shiro asks, sitting beside him on the bed, a hand coming to tangle his fingers in Lance’s golden locks. They’re always tousled and wild, no matter how much time Shiro spends in combing them.

“What’s outside?” he asks, eyes fluttering when Shiro starts petting his head.

“The World.”

“What’s the world?”

The witch sighs, but he smiles at the innocence of the young firefly, “It’s where we are living. The Tower is in it, the Forest too and the mountains you see in the distance are a part of it as well. Even the things after those belong to the world.”

Lance turns suddenly, eyes glistening with those stars that seem trapped in the liquid gold-blue of his irises, “There are a lot of things outside.” the stars die briefly and Shiro’s heart clenches painfully, “I never saw ‘em.”

Shiro tips Lance’s head up, tilting it with two fingers, “Don’t slur, little one. You’re smart, you have to talk like a smart person.”

Lance gives a tiny nod to the witch, hands clutching the hem of the oversized silk blouse Shiro gave him. The firefly declared himself pretty hostile towards pants and the length of the upperwear seemed like a good compromise.

“Sorry.” Lance whispers, turning again towards the window, his eyes getting lost in the vastity of the forest. The treetops are shaken by a faint breeze and a few birds fly fast out of the leaves, swarming away quickly and loudly.

Shiro doesn’t miss the way Lance’s eyes look. They are exploring every inch of the garden, tracing every single flower Shiro that grows here.

They look at the world outside with a mixture of curiosity and sadness, Lance’s pupils flickering back and forth from every corner of the garden, amazed by everything that moved under the breeze.

But Lance is a firefly, and he’s fragile. The books say so, Shiro’s experience says so.

He can’t let him go outside. He can’t lose him like he lost him .

Even if Shiro’s heart aches in seeing Lance so sad, watching the world from up in the old Tower, he doesn’t want to bring him into the dangerous, cruel world. He had a taste of it, and that’s why he had put a strong barrier around the Tower, where no one could enter and no one too precious to his heart could leave.

He had already lost too much.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

“I’ll let you go outside when you’ll be older.”

“How old I am, Shiro?”

“Today is exactly two weeks and a half.”

“I’m still shorter than you.”

“You’ll grow up, little one. You’ll become the most beautiful and smart firefly in the whole world.”

“I don’t like that name. Little one. I want to be taller than you, it would be incorrect.”

“How should I call you, then?”

“I was born from the Sun, right? I’m one of the Sun’s sons.”

“You are. You were born from the golden pebble the Sun gifted to me.”

“Then call me like that word I learnt the other day. Like the light that comes from the Sun.”

“How?”

“Call me Sunshine .”

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Lance kept growing. Each passing day, each night Shiro stayed by his side to ease the pain in his legs and arms as they stretched a little bit further, Lance became better.

He grew smarter, his body developed to the one of a strong young man, lean muscles under smooth skin made of pure gold and as clear as the River’s water.

He grew taller, but still not enough to reach Shiro’s head. He grew stronger, his voice got more and more melodic every time he sang with the birds that rested on the windowsill.

He grew more beautiful each passing day.

His hair were still wild and tousled, colored with the hazel of a raven’s soft feathers, his lips becoming fuller and red like the skin of the apples on one of Shiro’s trees.

As the witch always said to him while combing his locks, Lance held the beauty of the wild tamarix, the wild and strong flower that could grow near the sea, soaking in the brim and in the sunlight.

But still, despite his arms getting strong enough to lift Shiro from the ground, Lance wasn’t allowed outside.

And so, even if he grew more beautiful and stronger and smarter every day that passed, Lance also grew sadder, the light that flickered in his eyes fading every time he looked outside of one of the windows.

Shiro can’t hold it anymore. His heart aches so, so much , looking at the precious firefly longing for something he wouldn’t give to him out of his own selfishness.

He had already lost too much. Lance had become too important to him, a bright light in his dark and lonely life.

The Tower kept scolding him, kept getting mad at Shiro because Lance told her about everything he was feeling, whispering to the walls when he was alone to take a bath or in the studio to study one of Shiro’s heavy tomes.

She burned a potion he was making, she kept getting layers of dust out of the ceiling to fall on his bed, but Shiro ignored everything, cleaning the mess every single time like it didn’t matter to him at all.

But it did.

Because Shiro could hear it. He could hear Lance crying in his room, curled on his bed and shivering because he still refused to wear pants.

It was hard , hard to let him go. He was ready, he had learnt everything about the world. Plus, Shiro’s garden was safe, nothing could hurt Lance there.

But Shiro doesn’t listen to anyone, too proud, too stubborn and selfish.

Lance is suffering, just like him.

His Sunshine is everything that matters to him, and he can’t let him go. The world is too cruel, too soaked in blood and tears to receive the blessing of Lance’s presence.

One night, Shiro walks to Lance’s room after hearing some strange noises, like the muffled sound that the breeze usually makes when singing to his little firefly.

Like he had suspected, the breeze is actually singing through the open window by Lance’s bed, the boy sprawled on his mattress with his pretty lips agape, showered by the moonlight.

Shiro freezes when he sees Lance’s hair.

They aren’t curled in beautiful brown locks anymore. They are straight, pitch-black strands that messily fall on Lance’s forehead.

The Tower screeches when Shiro gasps, backing silently into his room, a hand pressing on his mouth to refrain the scream that threatens to come out.

Black. Black and not gold and blue, black and nothing else.

He opens the book about fireflies, flipping page after page with trembling hands until he finds the answer to his question.

His heart skips a beat, catching in his throat as it painfully closes his airways.

Fireflies, if sad and desperate, can lose their light. No light means death.

Lance is dying from sadness. Lance is dying because of him.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

“I can’t let him go.” Shiro sighs, clutching the pillow to his chest even tighter, “He’s not ready, he’s still too fragile.”

The Tower trembles for a second, the witch’s bed swinging gently.

“I know he’s smart, my dear! But smart doesn’t mean strong . What if he gets sick? What if he hurts himself while running?”

The floor replies with three screeches at three different tonalities, two low and one highly-pitched. Shiro sighs again.

“I don’t want to treat him like that. I only want him to be as happy as he’s making me right now. But it’s hard, my dear, it’s hard. And-” another scheech, long and deep inside the wood of the floor, “I know the garden is safe! But look at what the world looks like behind the fairy ring and tell me if it’s not scary. You can only look at things from above, you can’t move like us, you don’t know.”

The Tower remains still, silence weighing on Shiro like a thick fog. A small rain of debris made of dust and chipped wood falls on the witch’s face and he suddenly sits up, face pale and eyes wide, “No, no, no, my dear, don’t cry.” he sighs, looking at the ceiling, “I’m sorry, I-I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

The dust ceases to fall and the room falls silent once more. The only thing Shiro can hear is Lance’s small and delicate voice coming from the bathroom, the melody of a happy lullaby reaching his ears.

Lance’s voice is sweet, sweeter than any other voice he’d heard in his life. Even sweeter than his voice.

Shiro never thought about finding another one just as beautiful. It’s actually a miracle.

But since the golden pebble fell from the sky, revealing Lance to his eyes, Shiro started to believe in miracles again.

The song stops and Shiro finds himself craving it. He looks at the wall, but knows they are too thick for him to eavesdrop or look through using magic.

He looks at the ceiling again, “Please?”

The candles on his nightstand light up one by one and the flame starts to flicker on and off rhythmically. Shiro looks at it and his lips move unconsciously, trying to read the ancient code of the fire, “He’s sorry.” he whispers.

Lance is talking to the Tower, on the other side of the wall, probably dipped in the bath of milk and honey Shiro set up for him. He’s saying that he’s sorry to make Shiro worry about him, he’s sorry to be useless and still learning.

Shiro’s heart is aching and a single tear rolls down his cheeks.

He gets up and strides to the bathroom, the silk robes he usually wears at home brushing against the floor and flicking off the fire of the candles. He opens the door and hears Lance squeak in surprise from the bathtub, dipped down to his chin.

Still black, straight hair.

Shiro wants to see the beautiful, hazel curls again and he’s going to do everything he need in order to get them back, to make his firefly happy again.

“Shiro-” Lance whispers, tiny feet propping on the edge of the tub as his toes curl on the porcelain.

The witch walks here and gets on his knees, throwing his arms in the water and snaking them around Lance’s torso, pulling him close.

“I’m sorry, Lance. I’m sorry, I’ve been so mean to you.” he sighs, face buried in Lance’s neck, “Please forgive me, Sunshine. Please.”

Lance stills, lookin at the ceiling where a couple of wooden beams start screeching. He smiles and listens to the Tower, carding a small, wet hand in Shiro’s hair, “I forgive you, Shiro.” he whispers, “But trust me.”

“I do, I do now. Just wait a little more, ok?” Shiro mutters, cupping Lance’s face. He lets a thumb smother on his cheekbone, then the tip of his nose, then his plump cupid bow, “My Sunshine. My precious, lovely Sunshine.”

Lance curls his lips into a smile and Shiro sees one strand of black hair becoming chestnut again, curling like a ribbon.

*.·:·.☽✧    ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

If Lance looked pretty and beautiful in the dulled sunlight that filtered through Shiro’s windows, the firefly looks even better while standing under the sunlight. The Sun reflects all the different strands of gold in his hair and brings out Lance’s eye color with every single hue of ocean blue in them.

Shiro can’t stop looking at him as the boy puts a bare foot on the grass, spreading his toes to feel the strands between them and the humid terrain underneath. His wings flutter, the sun getting through the translucent skin and projecting a faint rainbow on the threshold of the Tower.

Lance turns his head towards Shiro, eyes wide and lips quivering, “M-may I?”

The witch smiles, nods slowly and looks at the firefly directly in his eyes, trying to give him the courage to step outside, “Go, Sunshine. Isn’t this what you wanted?”

Lance bites his lip, foot still planted in the soft terrain of the garden. The wall under his palm trembles, the Tower reassuring him that everything would have been alright.

But Lance’s wings twitch once more and he extends one of his small, chubby hands to Shiro. His fingers are trembling slightly, “Come with me.”

Shiro had already planned to do that. He had never wanted to leave Lance alone. But the sudden request made him flinch: was Lance so scared? Was it his fault if his firefly was scared of the world?

He takes purchase of Lance’s hand, his large palm engulfing the firefly’s, “Go, my dear. I’m here.” he smiles reassuringly, heart swelling when Lance replies with another small, shy smile, “I’m always here.”

The smile on Lance face stretches even more, exposing his white, perfect teeth that look like the polished and round pearls from the River that runs through the forest.

Lance drags him forward, walking outside of the Tower and into the lush garden of the witch. Shiro holds his breath, eyes fixated on the firefly’s nape as the skin on his bare legs and exposed shoulder glows with a caramel tone.

They are a few meters away from the main door, but Lance is panting as they just ran a marathon.

Shiro gets closer, squeezes his tiny hand and gently presses his lips against Lance’s warm ear, “What’s wrong, Sunshine?”

The firefly jumps straight in his arms, embracing Shiro even if he’s still quite smaller and thinner than Shiro. Lance nuzzles his chest, tightens the embrace until Shiro can feel his own heart beating, “Thank you.” he murmurs, “Thank you for showing me this.”

“You deserved it, Sunshine.” Shiro strokes the golden curls of Lance’s head, lets his locks wrap and slide over his long and callous fingers. It’s endearing, everything about Lance is, “Shall we?”

Lance nods and Shiro takes his hand again, guiding him across the garden. Firstly, he brings Lance to the roses and they almost cry with joy when the firefly compliments them. Then, the apple trees at the edge of the fairy ring. One of them makes one red and ripe apple fall right in Lance’s hand, but he politely refuses and gives it to Shiro.

Needless to say that the apple tree can’t even get mad at someone like him.

The frogs of the pond stop their croaking and jump all around Lance, making him turn around and dance with them. This is the first time he leaves Shiro’s hand and the witch feels a little empty now.

But watching Lance turning around in a series of graceful pirouettes is enough.

When Shiro introduces the firefly to the amaryllis, the flowers immediately start singing for him. It’s an old song, one of those that heuses to sing when they were in the garden, a forgotten lullaby that not even the trees reckoned anymore.

“I know that song!” Lance squeaks, “I remember it! My Father sang it to me the first night I came here.”

Lance closed his eyes, fingers intertwining with each other behind his back. He parted his lips and started to sing.

Shiro had already heard him sing. But never like that, never a song so beautiful and sweet like it was just made for Lance to sing.

It’s melancholic, slow, but the words are fond ones that can be addressed to lovers or children, words of pure love with that thin layer sadness that belongs to old melodies like that.

And Shiro shivers, holding his breath just like the rest of the garden around us. The frogs are silent, looking at them perched on the lilypads, the birds are unmoving on the branches, whispering among them. Every single flower doesn’t dare to say a single word, not even the usually chatty and loud daisies.

When Lance stops singing, Shiro breathes again and everything starts moving again.

The amaryllis praises Lance and applauds him, the wind helping the flowers bow in appreciation. The firefly giggles and bows as well, lifting the hem of the large sweater Shiro gave him like a dress.

Lance turns towards Shiro when he starts clapping his hands and the witch takes his time admiring the way the Sun reflects its rays on Lance’s face. Peachy lips made glossy, cheeks flushed with bright pink, eyes shining like sapphires, the speks of gold and brown hit by Lance’s closed eyelids as his smile stretches his face.

Shiro bows and Lance does the same.

But then, when the firefly’s gaze falls behind the witch, his smile disappears.

Shiro hears something, something different than the usual sounds of his garden. Something even sadder than Lance’s song. A sob, a broken cry just behind him, where the Tower stands tall above the garden.

Lance looks there and walks towards the source of the sound, almost hypnotized by the miserable sighing and whimpering.

Shiro turns and he trembles .

The ivy is crying, shaking their leaves against the stones that make the walls of the Tower.

Lance walks there slowly, almost like he’s approaching a scared animal. He places a hand on the wall and the ivy retracts its leaves, yelping and squirming away.

“Sorry.” Lance whispers, grazing one single leaf with his index finger, “I won’t hurt you.”

Shiro knows why the ivy is crying. Lance sang his song.

The ivy remembers everything.

Lance is talking to the plant, leaning against the wall gently and without making sudden movements. The leaves are wrapping slowly against his fingers, making him giggle as he continues to stroke them with his free hand. Shiro doesn’t grasp much of the conversation, but he’s shaking.

The ivy hates him, what if it tells everything to Lance? What if she parts from the wall, revealing what’s underneath, safely tucked between the bricks of the wall?

But the plant remains still, moving around Lance and tickling his exposed legs. And Lance laughs, breathlessly and with his sweet, sweet voice.

He waves his hand at it and walks back to Shiro, a small smile plastered on his flushed cheeks.

Shiro sighs, taking his hand again when Lance extends his.

“What did she tell you?” he asks without preambles, walking with the firefly back to the main door of the Tower.

“She misses someone, that’s why she was crying.” Lance replies, “But the didn’t tell me their name. Perhaps you know it?”

Shiro closes his eyes and walks even slower, squeezing Lance’s hand.

He didn’t have a name. He didn’t have a name because he was everything and then he was nothing just with one single touch of his hand. The everything doesn’t have a proper name, neither does the complete void. He remembers calling him with just one simple word, but it’s too painful to say it out loud.

To Shiro, his name was Love.

*.·:·.☽✧ ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

 

Chapter Text

Shiro is brought back to the world of dreams by a gentle touch on the tip of his nose. He scrunches it, groaning as he fights against his own eyes to separate his eyelids and finally look who touched him.

Once he does, Lance is standing at the edge of his mattress, a small globe of light sitting on his palm. His other hand is clutching the sheer nightgown the spiders made to him and he looks smaller than usual.

But what completely wakes Shiro up and makes him hug Lance and bring him on his bed, is one single strand of the firefly’s hair.

A black strand, sitting straight and miserable into an ocean of mocha waves.

Shiro hugs Lance against his chest, the ball of light dissolving in thousands of bright specks like a small firework. The boy clings to his body, hands running over his torso and grasping his nightgown for purchase. Lance is shaking as he nuzzles Shiro’s neck, his legs intertwining with the witch’s.

“What’s wrong, my Sunshine?” Shiro whispers, rubbing soothing circles on Lance’s back.

The boy sniffles, voice muffled against the witch’s skin, “I h-had one of those bad dreams you told me about once.”

“A nightmare , my darling.” Shiro corrects him, lips grazing over his scalp, “Don’t worry, it wasn’t real. I’m here now.”

“It was so sad, Shiro. The ivy was crying and there was blood. And someone was crying too, behind the ivy, but I couldn’t see them.”

Shiro freezes, his hand stopping for a moment before it robotically starts stroking Lance’s back again.

Lance nuzzles his neck harder, smudging tears on his skin, “It suh- sounded like you.”

This is the ivy’s fault. Her magic is like that, strong but subtle, able to reach the mind of those that she befriends. He could control her, but Lance doesn’t know how insidious she can be.

But Shiro can’t blame her actions, he can’t blame her grudge against him.

He killed him , the only person that seemed to love the subtle and greedy ivy, the malicious and dark ivy that strangles everything she touches.

“Shiro?” Lance whispers, tilting his head up under the witch’s chin to look at him in the eyes.

He places a kiss on Lance’s forehead, warm and velvety against his lips, “Don’t worry, my darling, I’m fine. I’m happy because I have you, alright? My precious, beautiful Lance. My one and only Sunshine.”

Lance sighs against his chest, his breathing becoming even and calm.

“Shiro?” he asks.

“Yes, Lance?”

“I never want you to cry.”

*.·:·.☽✧ ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Lance has learnt the name of every creature that lives in their garden, and it’s only his third time outside. The sky cried a lot yesterday - well, it rained , if he has to stick with what Shiro told him - but that made the ground soft and smelling of fresh grass and Lance loves that.

He knows the name of every frog in the pond, the name of every flower or tree or plant. He met a family of moles earlier, and the smaller one gifted him a tiny coin he found while digging around the castle.

Lance showed it to Shiro, holding it in his hands with a proud smile on his face.

He had even met the two spirits of the River, Hunk and Pidge, who guarded the crystal clear waters and explained to him what was outside of the fairy ring that ran around the garden.

Castles, kingdoms, mountains so high that they reached the clouds. Cities so big and full of people that looked like ant nests when seen from above.

Lance wants to see everything, wants to go everywhere with Shiro by his side to explains things to him. Not everything is written onto books and Lance is tired of reading without experiencing.

But today, as he caresses the petals of the daisies, Lance spots creatures that he has never seen before.

They’re tall, beautiful boys with round noses and deep, amber and purple eyes. One of them has hair the color of carmel, the other one looks like a raven.

They’re playing around the bush of hydrangeas, chasing each other while dressed in silk robes with scalloped hems encrusted with pearls.

They look so beautiful and kind and Lance can’t help but walk right up to them, his tiny hands clutched to his chest in a shy manner.

The two creatures look at him and their eyes widen at the sight of Lance’s wings.

“A fairy!” the carmel yelps.

The raven corrects him immediately, “You’re so dumb Matt! He’s too tall to be a fairy.”

“But he has wings ! They look so pretty, don’t they, Keith?”

Lance blushes up to the tip of his ears, foot swinging back and forth in embarrassment, “Thank you! I’m actually a firefly, that’s why I’m big. Shiro said I reached my maximum height, but I still don’t believe him. I’ll be tall just like him, one day.”

The one named Keith snorts, “Shiro? The witch? I doubt it, he has bear blood in him.”

“You don’t know that!” Matt says, “Don’t be rude.”

“But Allura said that!”

Every trace of shyness leaves Lance’s body as he relaxes and starts giggling at the two boys bickering. They look beautiful, lean bodies and fair skin, ears slightly pointed.

They must be some kind of magical creature. Nymphs, maybe? Judging by their beauty and by the flowers that spurt right were their feet lay on the ground, they definitely are.

“My name is Lance.” he says, extending a small hand. The two nymphs stop fighting and they smile at him. The one named Matt shakes his hand a little too hard, but Lance likes the way Keith’s bigger one wraps around his palm gently.

“Do you want to play with us?” Matt asks, eyes bright and wide.

“Of course! What game?”

Keith and Matt smirk, looking down at him.

“Run.”

 

 

 

 

 

By the time they finish their games, the sun is slowly going down, the sky tinted with orange. They are laying on the grass, panting and muscles twitching with fatigue, but there are giggles bubbling from their lips. Lance’s stomach is pleasantly curling on itself with happiness and he can’t wait to tell everything to Shiro, who has been studying in his studio all day long.

“I’m so tired!” Matt whines, sitting next to Lance.

The firefly nods, “Me too. I can’t wait to tell everything to Shiro, he’s going to be so happy!”

He feels a elbow poking at his ribs, Keith grinning from his other side, “Who is he to you, uhm? Your dad?”

“He’s a firefly, his dad is the sun, you stupid cherry.” Matt snarls.

Keith rolls his eyes and then grins again, “Oh, you’re his prisoner! He kidnapped you!”

Lance laughs, thinking about his kind, gentle Shiro kidnapping someone only to treat them like royalty and returning them back out of pure guilt.

“Got it!” Matt exclaims, “He’s your lover!”

Lance’s smile ceases to exist and his eyebrows knit together, “Lover? What’s a lover?”

“A lover is someone you love .” Matt says, “Someone you care for and that always looks up to you.”

“Someone that gives you kisses.” Keith follows with a smirk.

“And that makes you feel good.” the other finishes, pressing a finger on Lance’s toned stomach.

The firefly knits his eyebrows, “Good?”

The nymphs smirk at each other and Keith leans against Lance’s ear to whisper him the secret of that word. Lance’s eyes widen and he blushes again, caramel skin flushing with bright pink and becoming way warmer than before.

There’s no trace of the things Keith is telling him in Shiro’s books. They feel wrong , somehow, but the nymph is explaining him how beautiful and rewarding it can be. It has a weird name, something that Keith whispers even more, but the word doesn’t have a meaning for him.

“Keith!” Matt yelps, face paler than before, “She’s coming!”

The nymph with hair colored like a raven detaches from Lance’s ear and turns his head to the direction in which Matt is pointing, “Allura!”

Lance sits up and looks at the edge of the fairy ring, where the trees of the Forest meet the garden. A beautiful woman is walking towards them, not daring to trespass the circle of mushrooms. She’s dressed in pastel and holds a beauty similar to both Matt and Keith’s.

“Paladins !” she yells, “What are you doing? I told you to never hang out in this garden, the witch is going to curse you!”

“Who’s she?” Lance asks, a little scared by the woman and amused by the nymphs’ faces.

“Our princess, Lance.” Matt stutters.

“We have to go. Bye, fairy!” Keith adds. He takes Matt’s hand and they both run towards Allura, trying to run away as he raises his arm with an intimidatory fist.

Lance observes them as they run into the forest. He bursts in a breathy laugh, thinking about the two of them being scolded. But then, he thinks about what Allura said about Shiro cursing them and he laughs even more.

His Shiro is too kind for that. He wouldn't ever hurt anybody.

*.·:·.☽✧ ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

“What’s love, Shiro?”

“Speaking like a dictionary, ‘love’ is a deep feeling of affection, Sunshine. Speaking like myself, I’d say that ‘love’ is something that makes you have feelings for someone else, like you wouldn’t ever part from them, like you would do anything for them.”

“Have you ever experienced it?”

“I did, my Sunshine,” Shiro sighs, leaning back on is leather armchair, “But that was a long, long time ago.”

Lance hums, pretty and plush lips curling in a small confused pout.

“And you?” the witch asks, cupping the firefly’s cheeks.

“I don't know. How do you feel when you love?”

“Warm, dizzy. You feel like there’s a storm of butterflies in your stomach and there’s only one thought in your mind.”

“Only one?”

“Well, almost , my Sunshine.”

Lance furrows his eyebrows, coming to sit on Shiro’s leg. He places his hands on his lap, fingers fidgeting with a small, dainty ring made of magical glass that Shiro made him.

The firefly thinks, thinks a lot to discover if what he feels can be described as ‘love’.

“I think a lot about you, Shiro.” he says in the end. He smiles and his toes curl on the wooden floor, “Sometimes I feel butterflies in my tummy, just like you said. Is that it? Love ?”

Shiro parts his lips, eyes wide and breath itching, for he doesn’t know how love feels anymore. Too many days and years have passed, he’s not even sure if his old and tired heart could ever experience it again.

But sometimes he feels it. He thinks about Lance everyday, every time he goes to sleep. He thinks about the hazel curls on his head, about his eyes made of seashells and sapphire and his lips made of roses.

Maybe this is it, maybe this is love for real.

“What do lovers do?” Lance ask, becoming shy again when he notices that Shiro isn’t responding to his previous question.

The witch takes his chin with two fingers and tilts his head up. Lance’s amber eyes meet the deep onyx of Shiro’s and he goes completely lax into his touch, tiny hands coming to spread on his chest for purchase.

“They kiss, my Sunshine. And hug, and embrace themselves under the moonlight. And they whisper promises to each other.”

Lance’s eyes are twinkling with thousands of stars, his body shifting so he can sit more comfortably on Shiro’s lap. The firefly is small, so small against the old witch with the blood of a bear. But Lance isn’t afraid of him, he isn’t afraid of the calluses on Shiro’s hands, of the scars on his knuckles. He loves them.

“Matt and Keith told me that it’s something that makes you feel good. Do you feel good, Shiro?”

Shiro chuckles, “The nymphs.” he whispers. Then, he nods, “I do, Sunshine. And you?”

“I don’t know. How does it feel? Can I try it?”

Shiro hesitates. Is it right to love the Sun’s son?

Is it right for him to love again?

But maybe, that was the Sun’s plan, after all. Sending someone like Lance to him, to him that hadn’t see any light in two centuries, buried in his tomb of ivy and misery.

Broken promises on his lips and dead butterflies in his stomach.

“Only if you trust me, Lance.”

Lance’s eyes widen, but the stars are still dancing in them, “I do.”

Shiro gets closer, so close to Lance he can smell his scent. Lance smells like fresh grass, like amber and roses mixed together. He smells like spring, like hay and lavender.

Like life. Like home .

Shiro presses his lips on Lance’s. It’s tender, attentive like usual because he know he’s clumsy and big and he’s still afraid of his hands.

But Lance leans into the touch, kissing him back tenderly.

Oh , so tenderly .

A tear slips past Shiro’s closed eyelids when he feels the butterflies storming in his stomach once more, after all those years.

And he knows that, for Lance, they’ll fly forever.

*.·:·.☽✧ ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Hands hold power. A lot of it, sometimes.

Lance’s hands are small, his fingers are stubby and have pinkish tips. But Shiro loves them, loves to kiss his fingertips and his soft palms.

The witch’s hands are not like his. They’re big, large and with rough skin.

But Lance loves the way they brush on his body, loves the way they caress him like he’s the most fragile and precious treasure in the Universe.

It tickles and Lance’s lips part to laugh, but Shiro is quick in closing them again with another kiss, he’s quick to make Lance’s stomach twist with love .

Shiro’s arm is big and is covered with scars, but Lance loves his hands nonetheless.

*.·:·.☽✧ ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

There was a time where the ivy used to love someone. Someone that was then destroyed and killed by a witch too powerful for this world.

Since then, she doesn’t remember about loving someone else. Nobody sang for her for a really, really long time.

She just felt lonely, so, so lonely.

But there’s something in the small boy with hazel curls that lives at the Tower now. He has a pretty voice, pretty eyes and gentle hands, and she likes those things.

They remind her of him .

Lance is sleeping on his bed, the window open like usual because he loves to hear the wind singing him to sleep. It’s easy for her to slide in with her vines, poking at Lance’s bare feet.

The boy shuffles on the mattress and groans in his sleep and the ivy gently wraps her leaves around his wrist. One small vine brushes against the firefly’s ear, tickling the cartilage.

Lance wakes up giggling and smiling, his wings twitching.

The ivy gets right in front of his eyes, “Oh!” the boy chuckles, “It’s you! I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.”

She curls tighter around Lance’s wrist, squeezing gently and moving her leaves with a rustled sound.

Lance’s eyes widen with surprise, “Outside? I don’t know if Shiro would want that. Are you sure it’s that important?”

The ivy gets behind Lance’s back and pushes him up gently, guiding him towards the windowsill.

“Ok then, I see.” he says, coming to stand on the window, “I trust you. Don’t drop me, please.”

The ivy curls around his wrists again, as well as his ankles and waist and slowly pulls him down. Lance stays still, he doesn’t dare to move a single muscle. He’s not scared, the ivy can see it. He trusts her, and that makes her love him even more.

He’s just like him, pure and beautiful and kind.

When Lance’s feet touch the damp grass, the ivy releases his limbs and places one of her leaves in his palm. Lance, being the empathetic and smart firefly he is, takes it and follows the plant around the Tower, one hand brushing against the wall. The ivy guides him around, slowly and without talking, but her leaves are shaking and Lance squeezes the one in his hand to calm her, “It’s ok.” he whispers, “You don’t have to worry.”

The ivy sighs and stops Lance in front of the part of wall where her leaves are thicker, tangled together to completely strangle the bricks of the Tower.

“Here?” Lance asks, his hand tentatively brushing against the leaves.

The ivy trembles and parts from the spot. Every single vine untagles and moves away from the wall, uncovering the bricks and revealing a rounded stone. It’s old, cracked and covered with greenish moss.

Lance gets closer, brushing his fingers on the carved letters in the center of it.

“ To My Love ” he reads out loud. He repeats it a few more times, golden eyebrows knitting together in confusion.

“Who is this, gentle ivy?”

She starts shaking and when she’s finally about to give him the answer, the plant brokes into a pained and loud cry, her leaves shaking violently and falling on the ground.

Lance becomes pale, takes a few of the ones that are now brown and dry on the grass, “Oh my dear, what happened? What made you so miserable?”

But the ivy is crying too much and she doesn’t have the strength to respond.

“Tower!” Lance yelps, “Tell me their name. I want to help her, she doesn’t deserve to be that sad!”

But neither the Tower replies. She knows very well about Shiro’s will, about that name he doesn’t want to hear ever again.

She loves Shiro as much as she loves Lance, so she remains silent.

The ivy hisses and her leaves shake violently again, the rustles sound of them sounding like a loud rumble of thunder.

“Stop it!” Lance whines, jumping up on his two feet, “He’s not evil! Shiro did nothing, why are you insulting him?”

But the ivy doesn’t stop, the noise becoming even louder, shaking the ground under Lance’s feet. The firefly shakes his head and backs up, scared, “I said stop ! He’s good, my Shiro is not a monster!”

The ivy yells and screams, spitting insults and ripping her own leves, the rage making her look like a stormy, black ocean.

Lance can’t take it anymore, he can’t hear all those disgusting things about Shiro. They’re not true, he knows it. Shiro is gentle, he’s kind and wise, not a monster like the ivy said.

His Shiro is better than that.

Lance starts to run back, around the Tower and to the door that she magically opens for him.

When he’s finally inside, panting and shaking, Lance can still hear the ivy crying outside.

*.·:·.☽✧ ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Sometimes, the memories flooded Shiro’s mind and he couldn’t keep himself from crying.

He had sent Lance in the garden, that morning. As soon as the firefly left, the witch started crying and crying, clutched to the second pillow he stubbornly kept on the bed.

Lance had used it many times now, refusing to sleep ever again on the mattress Shiro made him.

He missed him . He missed his voice, his scent, his hands.

But Lance was there now, Lance was so much like him that sometimes it was painful for Shiro to look at his golden boy.

He was so similar to him it was actually scary.

But when Shiro buried his nose in the pillow and sniffled, nothing else but Lance’s scent came from it.

And he suddenly stopped shaking and crying.

Maybe that was what the Sun wanted. He gave Lance to him so that the witch could learn to let him go, to love again.

Lance was everywhere, in the Tower. Shiro saw him in the unmade bed under the window, in the silken robes the spiders sewn him and that he carelessly dropped on the floor.

In the voice he heard everytime Lance took a bath, singing along with the magical bubbles Shiro made for him. In the voice that was now coming from the garden, his firefly singing again to the flowers.

He had Lance now.

He was gone and he couldn’t do anything to bring him back. Not praying, not crying, not even remembering him until his name sounded weird and distant.

But Lance was there, living and breathing. His large hands had touched his body many, many times since the first night, the kisses they exchanged were now countless.

Lance was there, and he was his firefly .

His sunshine.

*.·:·.☽✧ ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Lance feels something poking at the sole of his feet and then sliding around his big toe to curl around it gently. He wiggles his toes, chuckling because it tickles, but he remembers that he’s sleeping next to Shiro and the last thing he wants to do is waking him up.

He cracks one eye open and finds a thin vine wrapped around his ankle, the leaves slowly caressing his skin.

There’s ivy everywhere, on the floor. It’s covering the old hardwood like a carpet, a living carpet that pulses and murmurs with life.

The ivy is asking him to come with her.

He glances at Shiro, sleeping with his mouth gaping and snoring slightly. Lance smiles, looking at the trail of drool on his cheeks: however, he knows he can’t close his mouth, because Shiro’s nose is small and sometimes he can’t breathe well.

The ivy brushes against his hand and tugs at the nightgown he’s wearing and Lance nods to reassure her that he’s indeed coming.

She seems calm, tonight, not miserable like the first time that happened. The Tower is quiet too and Lance decides to follow the plant down the stairs. He tiptoes on the wooden floor, one small hand clutching a strand of ivy to let her guide him through the darkness.

The night outside is calm, crickets and moths flying around in the garden. The air is fresh, not chilly: the perfect temperature for a summer night.

He spots the moonflowers right under the cherry trees, dancing around cradled by the slight breeze.

He ivy pulls his arm, wrapping around it up to Lance’s elbow and he follows her with sleepy eyes, but a smile on his face.

“I’m coming, my dear. Don’t worry.”

He places a hand on the wall of the Tower and follows the plant around it. He knows where she’s taking him to, he knows the path very well.

He came to the gravestone several times after that first time. When Shiro wasn’t in the garden with him, Lance liked to bring flowers to it, tying them up in a small bundle after asking for permission to them. Sometimes, they didn’t want to be picked up, but some species were very glad to comply and Lance rewarded the entire flower-bed with one of his songs.

The ivy in front of the gravestone has already moved away from it, exposing the ancient stone encrusted in the bricks of the Tower, moss covered with tiny drops of dew.

But this time, the slab is open like a small door and Lance’s stomach twists.

He tugs at the ivy, stopping for a moment. He looks inside the small room, but he sees nothing more than darkness and a few spider webs hanging from the rounded threshold.

Some wafts of stale air come out of the entrance.

“Are you sure?” asks Lance, looking at the leaves wrapping around his arm.

The ivy squeezes his flesh and Lance sighs. She’s quiet and seems calm, there must be nothing to fear.

He snaps his fingers and a small ball of light comes resting on his palm, projecting his shadow on the wall of the Tower.

He puts inside his arm first: the room is small, so small that two witches the size of Shiro wouldn’t fit. There’s also a small hole on the wall and something glistens inside of it, something that is probably made of pure gold.

Lance crouches on the humid grass and crawls inside. He places the ball of light near the hole and he sees a small, golden band encrusted with a green stone.

“What’s that?” he asks to the ivy, still wrapped around his hand, “It’s for me?”

The ivy shrieks for a moment and Lance holds up his hands to calm her, “It’s alright, my dear! I won’t take it, if this isn’t mine.”

He looks at the bracelet and sighs, “What do I have to do?” the leaves rustle together a couple of times, “Wear it?”

Lance is confused, but the Tower is still quiet and the ivy isn’t crying or screaming like the last time. The entire situation is weird to him, but he decides to trust the plant.

He takes the bracelet in his hand, running his thumb over the smooth metal and appreciating the thinness of it. The edge has a rope-like decoration, but the stone in the center of it truly shines, even in the dim light of Lance’s ball.

There’s a faded incision, under the crystal: “ To my Love ”.

The ivy gets away from his arm and Lance puts the bracelet around his wrist.

Everything goes black, around him. There’s no globe of light, no sound of crickets, no grass under his legs.

But Lance isn’t scared, because there’s a warm feeling around his heart, something that quickly spreads through his whole body. It feels like a hug, like one of the embraces Shiro gives him when they go to sleep.

Joy floods Lance’s head, powerful and tingling. His mouth automatically stretches in a smile, even if he doesn’t know why. He’s happy, so happy .

He starts to giggle by himself, feeling his stomach filling with butterflies.

The warmth spreads to the rest of his limbs and Lance feels something on his hand, like another palm engulfing it and squeezing. He curls his fingers, but there’s nothing to wrap them around.

He feels full. Full of life, of love, of hope.

His cheeks become slightly warmer when he feels kisses being planted all over his body.

He gasps, his breath itching when the familiar sensation of those embraces Shiro gives him during the night washes over him. It feels like a tide of energy and euphoria, like pure love.

But then, everything gets cold.

Lance is freezing, shivers running down his spine as all the butterflies in his stomach die one by one. He feels empty, heart thumping fast and steady against his ribcage.

He squirms, but he still can’t see anything, no matter how hard he squeezes his eyes.

Sadness, so much sadness runs over him. It cages his heart and crushes it between strong claws.

Sadness, misery. Fear.

Lance screams, but he suddenly can’t hear his voice, he can’t even hear his heart at this point.

There are screams in his head, screams so loud his ears ache and pulse painfully.

Pain. There’s a lot of it.

Lance’s chest feels like it’s being ripped open, ribcage slashed by a cold blade.

He screams again, but he can’t hear himself. He only feels his throat burning like fire.

Then, he touches the ground and everything goes silent. Everything feels still.

Like death.

And Lance can’t feel anymore.

*.·:·.☽✧ ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

Shiro rushes to the bed, tears dripping down his eyes like open dwells. Lance hangs from his arms, body limp and cold.

His skin isn’t soft anymore, grey and with blue streaks shaped like thin thunders spreading from his wrist and reaching one of his cheeks. His hair are a black mass of straight strands, slipping away from his sweat-beaded forehead.

He’s cold, so cold .

Shiro’s hands are trembling, his whole body fighting against the sobs to keep itself up.

The witch slowly puts Lance on the bed, rushing in the kitchen to grab every single potion that comes on sight.

Giving them to the dormant firefly is hard, because Shiro has to part his mouth and help him swallow everytime and his hands are shaking too much to do that.

But he tries, choking on his own tears and spit, eyes swollen and heart reduced at a hollow cavity.

He empties in Lance’s mouth a series of different vials: a painkiller, a tonic that is supposed to make even the most heavy sleeper crack their eyes open in a few seconds. Even a potion that is supposed to calm the spirit, but Lance is still sleeping.

The last vial gets emptied and Shiro stops for a few seconds.

Some of the liquid is slipping out of Lance’s mouth from the corners of his lips, falling on the mattress as Shiro looks at the thick drop rolling down the grey-ish cheek.

The skin there used to be tinted in a light caramel shade, the faintest flush coloring it pink like a ripe peach.

But that was when Lance was alive .

“No-” he murmurs, leaning against Lance’s chest, pressing a ear there. His heart is still beating, but it’s fast and unsteady, like the heart of a small rabbit after a long run.

Shiro gasps when a faint breath fans against his nose, coming directly out of Lance’s lips.

Shiro gets on his knees, sobbing into his bent arms on the mattress. The same mattress that still has crumpled sheets and Lance’s scent on, the same mattress they hugged tightly on just hours before.

Lance was still alive, then.

The Tower screeches, but is unusually low and loud, like the floor is ripping apart under his feet,

“Can’t you see him, Tower?” Shiro sobs, voice ragged, “He’s gone. He’s gone just like him . He wore his bracelet, his memories killed him.”

The Tower trembles, floor shaking and pulsing like the whole building was actually sobbing, “He’s gone. I killed the son of the Sun, I killed my Lance.”

Shiro wishes that his eyes hadn’t stopped crying, because it would hurt way less. But his tears aren’t coming out now, his eyelids swollen and burning and the wet dried-up streams on his cheeks feeling like trails of acid.

His hand cards in Lance’s black hair, fingers missing the familiar feeling of being wrapped by the ocean of chocolate curls.

“I’m sorry, my dear.” the witch sighs, breath catching in his throat and choking on it, “Those hands killed many people. And now I killed you.”

Shiro puts them on his lap, looking at his long, knobby fingers. He looks at his palms, the same palms where his magic pulses, the same palms that could open the Mouth of the Earth to make her swallow everything.

He hates them. They killed him , they made the bracelet that killed Lance.

He hates them so much it hurts .

A window flies open, but it’s not the wind, nor a storm.

It’s the ivy, coming from outside, flooding the room like black water. She’s screaming, rustling leaves numbing Shiro’s ears. She gets in from the window moving like a giant, dark tongue, crawling on the floor like a snake.

“ No! ” the witch yells, throwing his body over Lance’s, “You won’t have him too! You can’t take away everything I love!”

But she doesn’t listen: her voice is too loud, her screams are too desperate. She hisses and growls, ripping sounds of leaves mingling with shrieks. Every single leaf is crying, the noise unbearable and thrumming in Shiro’s chest.

He clutches Lance’s body tighter, he strangles his torso with his strong arms before the ivy can do it with her thin vines. He won’t let him go, she won’t take his sunshine away.

He won’t let his Love go, this time.

Shiro’s body stiffens as a purple circle bursts around him. The energy envelops him and the firefly in a bubble, securing them away from the ivy.

The plant wraps herself around it, hitting the surface with her vines like they were fists, trying to get under the edge to reach them.

But Shiro holds on, focusing on their shelter and trying to ignore the pain that clutches his heart.

As the time passes, the ivy never showing signs of giving up, Shiro puts his ear back on Lance’s chest, letting his fast heartbeat keep him awake.

A glance towards the still open window makes him shiver, panic flushing over him along with another wave of pure, burning pain .

It should be morning, but the Sun isn’t shining on the Tower anymore.

*.·:·.☽✧ ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

The second day, Shiro’s eyes felt heavy as bags full of stones.

Lance’s heartbeat hadn’t slowed down, nor was Shiro’s energy to keep the bubble intact. However, the screams of the ivy had calmed a bit, turning into a muffled and miserable sobbing.

But she was still clawing at the surface, scratching the purple dome every now and then.

They are both tired and too miserable to fight, but both her and Shiro refuse to let Lance to the other.

It’s a silent battle between them, to see who will fall first.

The Tower is silent, but Shiro can hear the floor screeching every now and then. They are whispered prayers, small words of reassurance for his hollow heart. They aren’t working, but Shiro is grateful to have her by his side.

Even if she’s telling him to let Lance go.

But he remains clutched to his body, his limbs feeling numb and buzzing painfully. He feels his fingers throbbing and pulsing with blood, but he doesn’t care.

If necessary, he’ll die on Lance’s body.

*.·:·.☽✧ ✦ ✧☾.·:·.*

The third day, the dome of energy starts to flicker, as weak as Shiro.

The witch doesn’t even know if he can be considered alive anymore: he can’t feel his own heart. He’s not hungry, he’s not tired, he’s not sad.

He’s just empty .

The shelter flickers one more time, before Shiro’s eyes close and it bursts into a myriad of small specks of light.

Shiro groans, face brushing against Lance’s chest. He feels something poking at his ankle.

The ivy is there, crawling on his body just like that night of two centuries ago, where she took him away.

But he’s tired, too tired to fight.

“Go away .” he cries, eyes still dry and sore, “You’ll have to bury us together. He’s not dead, his heart is still beating.”

The ivy doesn’t listen, wrapping further up his leg until she reaches the mattress.

Shiro sees a vine snaking towards Lance, slow and light, like it weighted nothing. She wraps her leaves around Lance’s stubby fingers, running up around his wrists.

Shiro cries and cries, but his limbs are too sore and he can’t move them. His eyes are too heavy and his chest feels too hollow to react.

She’s taking Lance, but it’s hard for his arms to clutch tighter than this.

“Don’t take him, I beg you.”

The ivy doesn’t listen to him. The ivy doesn’t listen to anybody she doesn’t trust.

She only listened to him and Lance.

“Tower, please . If you loved me, please , help me.”

But the Tower doesn’t reply, the Tower doesn’t move.

A sharp pain flashes through Shiro’s hollow heart.

He understands, now. He has to let him go.

But he can’t. He can’t do that, not after all the love they exchanged, not after all the promises he made to him.

His Lance, his firefly, his Sunshine .

Shiro straightens his back, looking at the ivy crawling on Lance’s body, arms completely covered in leaves. Her vines look like thousands of thin snakes wrapping around Lance’s small frame, strangling his wings and his body, curling around his chest where Shiro was resting his head.

A thicker vine comes to run up Shiro’s leg, reaching his stomach. He looks at it and lets it do that like he did many years before. The ivy is going to be his grave once again.

But this time, he doesn’t want to wake up. Not without Lance.

The Tower speaks, finally. But it’s only a whispered thank you .

“Can I kiss him one last time, dear ivy?” Shiro asks, fists clenching on the still crumpled bed sheets that used to smell like Lance, “One last time, and I’ll give him to you.”

The ivy stills for a moment, her leaves almost reaching up to cup Lance’s cheeks. They rustle and brush together, muttering to herself whether or not allowing him.

But in the end, she stops completely, the vine around his leg squeezing to give him permission.

“Thank you.” he murmurs.

Shiro leans on the bed, like the countless times he gave Lance a small kiss before going to bed. He hovers over his pretty face, beautiful and ethereal even in death, like he did every time he wanted to look at him in the eyes.

Then, his ruthless hands cup Lance’s cheeks, thumbs stroking the supple skin that used to be made of caramel and not of ashes.

Shiro leans closer to Lance’s lips, like he did countless time when kissing him. He presses his mouth on Lance’s, savouring the feeling of his plump and plushy lips one painful, last time.

He wants more, he wants to cage Lance with his arms one more time and never let him go. But if he does, he won’t be able to leave him to the ivy.

He gives him another kiss, one on each eye, remembering how they used to shine and how stars loved to dance in them.

One on the nose, the same nose that nuzzled against Shiro’s skin every night.

One on the forehead, where all the memories they shared together are going to be kept forever.

One last, painful kiss again on the lips, tasting like nothing but salt.

Then, Shiro parts from him, hands still pressed on each side of his face.

And he looks at him, he looks at the beautiful son of the Sun that brought life in the Tower again, that brought happiness and love in Shiro’s old heart.

He looks at the last thing he had destroyed and he can’t stop to hate himself.

Lance loved him so much, loved his dreadful hands that still tasted like blood.

And Shiro loved Lance.

His breath catches in his throat again, forcing a sob out of his mouth that makes his body jerk forward, over Lance again.

His eyes squeeze together, trying to shed tears that he doesn’t have anymore.

But one manages to slip out anyway, running on Shiro’s cheek and leaving a burning trail behind.

Shiro notices something bright, something that glimmers like the same golden pebble that gave life to his Lance.

A golden tear that lands on Lance’s chest, sinking in the skin and disappearing.

The room goes silent, before the ivy screeches and hisses, quickly untangling from Lance’s body and rushing down the bed.

Because Lance’s figure is glowing and Shiro feels warmth wafting towards him, oozing away from the pale firefly.

Except, he’s not pale anymore.

The grey skin fades to a pink hue, gaining again the tan that made it look like caramel. The streaks spreading from his wrist gain a paler color, like old scars. Lance’s cheeks flush again with bright pink and his lips become once more tinted like supple and fleshy tulip petals.

Shiro’s heart starts to beat again once Lance’s hair come back to life, curling suddenly and glowing with the brightest copper color he had ever seen. No king or queen in the entire kingdom had crowns made with such a bright sheen.

Lance’s body twitches and his eyelashes flutter, but Shiro’s hands are quick to cup his cheeks once more. They’re trembling, but that doesn’t matter.

The Tower shakes suddenly and the floor creaks multiple times, fast and alive.

The ivy yells from the floor, trying to get up on the bed again but crawling back with a scream, because Lance’s body is impossibly hot.

But Shiro doesn’t care. Lance can burn him and he would still love him.

“Sunshine,” he sobs, a tired smile stretching his cheeks, “Sunshine, I’m here. Open your eyes, I beg you.”

Shiro wants to see them again, those eyes that looked like sapphires in the sunlight and that were filled with specks of gold, “Come to me, Lance.”

The boy cracks his eyelids open, slowly and struggling to keep them parted. Once they are completely open, his eyes immediately find Shiro’s face.

“Shiro-” he murmurs, voice hoarse and lower than usual, “I’m here.”

“My dear. I’m sorry, I’m incredibly sorry. I wasn’t ready to let you go.”

“I won’t go away, I promise.”

Shiro looks at him again and again, like he wants to impress his face in his memory.

“The sun gave me another gift, Lance. A tear, a tear that brought you back to me.”

Lance chuckles weakly, his cheek pressing against Shiro’s palm, “My father loves you. That’s why he gave me to you.” he smiles, faintly but fondly nonetheless.

“He also loves you, Shiro. He told me that.”

Shiro’s eyes widen and he stops breathing for a while, feeling relief flushing over his body.

“ He loves you as much as I do.”

The old witch wheezes through his small nose, before pressing his lips again on Lance’s mouth. This time, it tastes like him, like all the times they did that. Sweet and warm, soft and velvety.

“I won’t let you go, my dear. Never again.” Shiro breathes on his lips, swallowing Lance’s soft giggles, “I love you, Lance.”

“Call me with my name.”

“My Sunshine.”

“Call me with my true name. The one you gave to him , the one you’ve been wanting to give me since you discovered what that name was. Call me with that.”

Shiro smiles, impossibly warm and happy and full .

“I love you, my Love .”

 

 

*.·:·.☽✧ The End ✧☾.·:·.*