Series Title: Greenlings
Book ONE: Ai no Hanashi (Story of Love)
Chapter Number: Two
“My Hearth in Winter”
Author: D. Sanders
Keiji walked down a multitude of corridors, and finally when he conceded defeat in knowing where the kitchen was, he turned on the charm and solicited a young maid for assistance. She smiled, blushed at his boyish charm then volunteered to take him there personally.
Sometimes Keiji found his looks an asset, this was one of those times. A dashing smile, a well placed wink, and an air of the dangerous added for good measure and soon he had a kitchen full of old and young alike flirting with him and trying to curry his favor with what he or she could aid him with.
Keiji however knew the person he needed to charm most, was the one in charge. So when she entered and bellowed for the rest of the staff to get back to work, Keiji schmoozed his way over and charmed her like she hadn’t been charmed in sixty summers.
“That might work on the young ones laddy. I’ve grandchildren older than ye.” She shook a finger at him, but smiled.
“Surely you’re not old enough for Grandchildren.”
“Now I know yer after something young one.” She cackled as Keiji propped himself up at the table beside her.
“You’ve caught me out. I’m here to fill my belly and…” Keiji patted his sack.
“Can’t love. I know what you want, it be orders from the master. As much as I want to, I can’t.” The old woman sighed as her hands fretted with her well-worn apron.
“Then maybe you can tell me a good time to steal some unattended extras?” He had to try and pull out all the stops. Yuki needed this more than anything, and Keiji had played a hunch that at least someone was on Yuki’s side, it appeared the old grandma was indeed warring with her orders and her compassion.
“It’ll be our necks in the noose.”
“It will only be mine, and I’ve no intention of stretching. Please Ba-san.” Keiji added the affectionate Greenling reference to grandmother, and he watched her eyes grow wide.
“Ssssh! How ye know I am?”
“Violet eyes Baba.” Keiji said shoving up his sleeve to show her his arm.
She quickly moved to have him replace his sleeve. “Careful laddy. Me grandfather was, me eyes is all that’s left of the fair blood in my family. It be a death sentence in this keep.”
“I know. So help me save him from this death sentence. I need to make him healthy enough to leave under his own strength. Please help us.”
“You’re insane lad. You’ll nary get out of this place alive. The Master has eyes and ears everywhere. And Viscount Yogore is still here.” Her evident look of disgust raised Keiji’s eyebrows.
“Who is he?” Keiji asked, not sure if he wanted the answer.
“Worse than a foul dog he be. Poor Little One. I know not who is worse. His lordship or the Viscount.”
“Ba-san. He is my Koibito. I must save him or die trying. Please tell me all you know.” Keiji said quietly, taking her weathered hand in his, pleading.
“No. He isn’t? Koibito?”
Keiji nodded in all seriousness.
“Mercy of the Maker be upon you. Follow me dearheart.” Murasaki Sumire led Keiji into the pantry and began stuffing his sack with all manner of breads and cheeses, fruits and vegetables.
“Come in here at night in future, I’ll leave a sack ready, just help yourself, I’ll account for what is missing. Heaven help us, but if you speak the truth, just know to keep the Viscount as far away from the little one as you can.”
“Ba-san, please. Is it what I fear?”
“Aye laddy. Yogore is pure filth, and what he has done to the little one makes me weep at night. We all weep, mayhap you are the answer to my prayers.” She said shoving the sack into Keiji’s hands.
“Yogore. Where is he now?” Keiji asked shouldering the rather heavy sack, anger and fear welling up in his stomach.
“He has ridden with the Master to the nearest town. He’ll return on the morrow to his own manner just five miles to the west. He will then make weekly visits to the Keep to attend to the master’s business affairs in his absence. Heard them say this not an hour ago.”
“Damn, that is not good news. Does he have other distractions? I need him to temporarily forget Yuki even exists.”
At the mention of the name, Sumire smiled. “Name him did you?”
“Snow suits him it does. Yes, keep the masters documents out, and Yogore will exhaust himself reading what he ought not to. With the master away, you will no doubt find him going through the master’s library and private office.”
“Excellent. Can we get a page to watch Yogore and warn me if he’s coming?” Keiji thought, forewarning was always useful, and servants knew everything and anything of importance.
“My great-grandson, Murasaki Tohru. He doesn’t work for the master, he’s a right smart lad, just turned ten yesterday. I’ll send him to ye, he’s quiet as a cat, and wily as a fox in the hen house he is. Full of piss and vinegar he be perfect.”
Keiji kissed Sumire’s cheek. “Thank you Ba-san. Come spring, if you feel you can make the journey, I’ll repay you for your kindness. Head north up the Highland Pass to Midori no Yama, or Green Mountain as it’s commonly known here, that’s the last town before you reach our village beyond. There is safe haven there for you should you need it, it is where I must take Yuki when he’s strong enough. If you make it to Midori no Yama, go to the Midori Inn, and ask for Yamataki Yusuke, then give him my name. He’ll see you have a guide to our village.”
“You mean there really are Hidden Greenling Cities?”
“Yes. My home however is just a small village before you reach the Northern City. You deserve a nice retirement, I’ll see you have it with my gratitude.”
“Just get that little one out of here, and maybe I’ll take you up on your offer.” Sumire said as Keiji shouldered the bag and headed back to Yuki. Sumire reminded him greatly of his foster mother, he always did have a soft spot for elderly women. And he meant what he’d said, if she came north, he’d see to it she never worked again.
Keiji was above all an honorable man, and any help he received he returned tenfold if at all humanly possible. Keiji, always and without fail, repaid his debts and this was a life debt in his opinion. Her help was saving the life of the one he held most precious, he would never fully be able to repay Murasaki Sumire, but he would certainly try.
Yuki was still sleeping peacefully as Keiji quietly entered the room and set the overly stuffed sack down on the table by the hearth and gently moved to rouse Yuki from his dreams. He had just perched himself on the edge of the bed to lean over Yuki when the sight of the iron collar around his next arrested Keiji’s attention. Even with the application of the iron burn ointment -- the wound beneath was only marginally better.
Keiji sat studying the foul device, it looked formed around Yuki’s neck, there were no obvious signs where it locked, and it was so encrusted with years worth of weeping blisters and dirt, even had there been a lock at one time, it would have been well fused together by now.
There was only one way that that collar was coming off, it would have to be cut off.
How that was going to happen however, Keiji had no idea. It had to come off one-way or another, and the sooner the better. Keiji couldn’t touch it for long himself with a bare hand before it left a welt on his fingers, and it burned cold. He wanted to weep thinking of the constant pain Yuki must be in and had learned to tolerate over the years.
“You either have an enormous pain threshold, or you have one well trained mind of matter skill. I believe it to be both actually. Stronger men than you would be crying like a suckling infant in your shoes. You have my respect Koi.” Keiji muttered before leaning over to place a kiss on Yuki’s cheek.
Yuki slowly blinked open tired eyes and smiled. “You’re back.” He breathed, his eyes showing genuine happiness that Keiji was sure had been bereft of that light for far too long.
“Aye snowdrop. And who was it that doubted me this morning? Care to break your fast?”
Yuki sat up in shock. “How did you…?”
“Charm, my doubtful one, charm.”
“Why don’t I doubt that in the slightest?” Yuki smirked and Keiji laughed at the rather comical expression, a smirk was out of place on Yuki’s stunning, and all too innocent looking face.
“Ah, I’m not as bad as I seem, honestly.” Keiji mustered a weak defense and stood and walked over to the table. Yuki followed and stood jaw agape as Keiji began bringing out the bounty from within burlap confines.
Yuki was utterly speechless as his knees failed him and he plopped unceremoniously into the chair beside the table.
“Careful snowdrop, there’s not enough padding on your backside yet to go about abusing it with a fall.” Keiji teased as he laid a small loaf of crusty bread and a large wedge of yellow cheese in front of his beloved.
“Questions later. Eat.” Yuki obeyed with unabashed joy in his eyes. Keiji’s heart swelled, Yuki was truly a different creature from the night before, if Keiji had to walk a thousand miles over hot coals to see that look in those large, wide set, lavender blue eyes, he would with no questions asked. He was looking straight into all that was good in the world, all that was right, if he hadn’t been bonded to Yuki, he’d have fallen in love the old fashioned way, right at that moment.
Yuki was pure heaven; something so ethereal to look upon, so fulfilling to his soul couldn’t be anything but a gift from above.
“Are you not eating too?” Yuki asked seeing Keiji had only managed to stare a hole in him from across the table.
“After you. I ate a little in the kitchen, I want you to have your fill first.”
“I am already quite full. This all just tastes so good I dare say I am eating for the taste alone. I will burst soon.”
“I doubt that snowdrop.” Keiji chuckled as he leaned back in his chair and stretched with a stated groan as his spine gave an audible pop. A good stretch always felt good, and he was just about to toss himself back into bed when a soft knock came to the door.
Yuki made a mad dash to his room in terror making Keiji’s head spin. He moved fast as lightening, and was a white blur of motion. Keiji frowned and got up to answer the door.
There stood a young blond boy, with large sea foam green eyes, and a riot of freckles across his nose. “You must be master Tohru?” Keiji asked and the boy nodded shyly. “Come on in lad, we will have a chat.”
“Ba-san said I should come.” The boy said as Keiji led him inside and shut the door.
“Right she did, and pardon me a moment while I retrieve the cat you scared up a tree.”
The boy looked confused, but sat in the chair Yuki had just vacated, his feet dangling idly as he waited.
Keiji made his way into Yuki’s room and his heart stopped. Quivering on the floor in fear was a disheveled mess of a young man. In the few moments he’d been away, He’d ripped his braid out, smeared dirt all over his newly clean face, and had chained himself to the floor.
Keiji sank to his knees and pulled Yuki into his arms. “Oh Yuki, love. There is nothing to fear.” Keiji tried to reassure past the knot in his throat.
Yuki said nothing, only curled into a ball, quaking with fright. Keiji just held him tightly until the shaking stopped, softly stoking the silken strands of Yuki’s long, lush hair. Unbound it fell past his waist in wave upon wave of pristine white.
It took several minutes for Yuki’s fear to subside and the quivering to stop and in all that time he never uttered a word. Keiji felt his heart constrict in pain, how long would his healing take?
He had no answer to that question as he went about removing the chain from the collar and tossing it aside. Yuki still sat like a broken toy that had been discarded on the floor.
Grabbing a cloth and wetting it from the washbasin near the door that connected their rooms, Keiji knelt before Yuki and lovingly washed the hastily applied dirt from Yuki’s face. “Love, you are much too beautiful to me to see this on your face. And far to dear to me to allow any harm to come to you – please have faith in me.”
Keiji’s voice was soft, his normally cocky baritone, like a summer afternoon full of lazy affection. Yuki closed his eyes and leaned into Keiji’s touch as the cloth caressed his face.
“What is happening?” Yuki breathed, shuddering for new reasons he had no name for.
“You feel it don’t you?”
“What is this I feel? Why do I want nothing more than to be lost in you?”
Those words melted Keiji’s heart and he dropped the rag to cup Yuki’s face in his hands. “Why do I want the same? It is a good question and one we will have a lifetime to find the answer to, my love. My Koibito.” Keiji breathed, touching his forehead to Yuki’s.
“Koibito? Us? How?”
“I don’t know how Yuki, no one does. But we are, I feel you under my very skin.” Keiji murmured his face still a sparse few inches from Yuki’s his voice hardly more than a whisper.
“I thought I was imagining that, I feel… I feel… I don’t know what I feel. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know anything. But I do know I can feel your heart, it beats in time with mine, I don’t understand.” Yuki was at an emotional loss; everything was overwhelming him with new and wonderful sensations. He couldn’t have stopped his tears if he tried. Keiji just wrapped around him protectively and held him close.
“I don’t understand either. I really honestly don’t Yuki. But I understand that I love you, in one night you have become the most important thing in my life and I will never let you suffer. I promise.” Keiji said and meant every word.
“Keiji, I… I don’t know what love is, but if it is this great peace that fills my soul when I see you, this light, drunken feeling when you touch me. Then I can truly say I love you too.” Yuki whispered into the crook of Keiji’s neck, breathing deeply and shivering again.
“Those would be some of the symptoms, aye.” Keiji chuckled turning his head to place a tender kiss on Yuki’s brow. “And as much as I would love to sit here and hold you like this, we have a young visitor come to help us snowdrop. Come meet a friend and let us get to work on getting you home.”
“Home?” Yuki asked perplexed, he was home.
“Aye Love, home. Our home, a place where you belong.” Keiji said standing and bringing Yuki to his feet in the process and draping an arm over his shoulders, Keiji realized just how perfect Yuki seemed to fit alongside him.
“I belong with you.” Yuki sighed, his own arm finding a natural place around Keiji’s waist, it felt so right.
“Yes, you do.” Keiji winked as he led Yuki back into the adjoining room.
There a small boy sat up in amazement, he had not expected the one his Ba-san called “little one” to look as he did, and his confusion was all over his young features.
“Put your eyes back into their sockets squirt. This is who you think it is.” Keiji said and Yuki gave a shy smile to the little boy at the table.
“Yuki” Keiji said before the boy could form any word even remotely resembling “bastard”.
“Hello.” Yuki said, his soft tenor shy and light.
“YOU TALK TOO!?” The boy was flabbergasted. Yuki nodded.
“Listen Tohru, as much as this amuses me to no end to watch, we need you to help us. This is very, VERY important. Your grandmother has sent you to us because she thinks you’re man enough for the job. Do you think you can be a man about it?” Keiji asked and suddenly the boy grew serious and nodded.
“What is wrong?” Yuki asked sitting down across from Tohru at the table.
Keiji sighed and turned to face his beloved. He would have preferred washing his genitalia with sandpaper than talk about the matter at hand. He pulled up a third chair and joined the two at the table, and took Yuki’s hand to hold absently as he began.
“I need to ask some questions first I’d rather not ask. Yuki, Viscount Yogore…” Yuki’s hand clenched and Keiji held it tighter for reassurance. “… He has remained behind, and spare me the details in front of the boy, but do you know of anything he enjoys that will keep him occupied and away from you? The lad’s Ba-san gave me a few ideas, but I’d like more if I can get them.” Keiji asked and Yuki hung his head.
“He enjoys many things I’d not inflict on any living soul. If he drinks too much wine however he will pass out stone cold for hours on end.” The cold burning hatred in Yuki’s voice spoke volumes.
“I see him in the cellar all the time-a-stealing the wine.” The lad piped up and Keiji’s attention shifted.
“The cellar? He goes himself?” Keiji asked and the boy nodded.
“Yup, I play down there sometimes, and I fell over him a few times. Yuki’s right, an army couldn’t wake him up.”
“Yes! Okay kiddo, here’s your job. You watch Yogore, and the first time he gets good and drunk you come get me. I think I just found a nice easy way out of this.” Keiji almost laughed it would be simple.
“What?” Yuki asked and Keiji smirked evilly.
“I know a much better use for that chain than on you my love. Cellar’s are nice, dark, creepy, and full of closets.”
“Lock him up?! Are you mad?” Yuki asked and Keiji grinned.
“Does he not deserve it? Think of it as a small taste of revenge that will never be enough. Tohru can take him food and keep him plastered with drink. He won’t care if he’s chained or not.”
Yuki had to agree, Keiji had a point, and he also had to admit to himself, he’d like to see more happen to the man who gave him the worst nightmares he’d ever had, while still awake. Yuki nodded once in agreement.
“Tohru? You think you can handle this?”
“AYE! He hit my Ba-san once, and broke her tooth. Just ‘cause he wanted beef and not lamb stew. I done saw it. And he killed my friend’s cat by throwing it in a well too. He’s mean I can do this. I wanna help, cause we all see what he does to him and it makes my Ba-san cry.”
Keiji held up his hand. “Enough. Okay. SO be on the lookout for him Tohru, then come to me right away and I’ll get him down there someway or somehow as fast as I can. Now off with you to play lad until we need you.” Keiji dismissed the boy who scampered off as Yuki stood to stand in front of the empty hearth, his face turned away from Keiji.
“Before you ask Keiji. The answer is Yes, and much more. I do not wish to say anymore.”
Keiji stood and wrapped his arms around Yuki from behind and just held him close, Yuki’s back pressed against his chest. “I won’t ask. He’ll never touch you again, and he’s very lucky I do not kill him.”
“I’d rather you don’t kill Keiji. That just makes you like him. I want to and try to forget him every day. Please let us not talk about him unless we absolutely must. Help me forget.”
“I promise snowdrop.” Keiji vowed even though a part of him was devastated to learn that his worst fears had been true. There was much more healing to be done, both physically and spiritually, and only time and patience would see them through the pain together.
It was later that afternoon, when Tohru came back to their chambers, the second time, much to Keiji’s relief, Yuki moved to stand behind him rather than flee altogether. The boy was out of breath but smiling.
“Ba-san sent this.” The boy held up the small parcel. “She said it’s for Yuki.”
Perplexed Yuki took the bundle from the boy’s hands and set it on the table, Tohru followed Yuki to the table and plopped down on a Chair as Keiji shut the door and moved to see the mystery gift’s contents.
There was a small note attached and Yuki looked at it then sighed sadly and held it out to Keiji. “I’m afraid I have never learned to read. Can you tell me what this says please?”
Keiji smiled and took the note. “Come here and well start teaching you to read then.” Keiji said giving Yuki’s arm a tug so he would topple into his lap. Once Yuki settled, Keiji held up the note and pointed with his finger the words he was reading aloud.
“Master Yuki, please accept this with all my hopes for the future. This belonged to your mother, I have kept it safe for you in hopes one day I would be able to return it to you.”
“My… mother’s?” Yuki said in awe, his hands trembling as he went to unwrap the small bundle.
He carefully folded back the many layers of cloth to reveal a golden chain, with a shining lapis lazuli stone held in a golden pair of dragon wings. It was remarkable and delicate workmanship, and etched into the stone was a symbol. At Keiji’s gasp of shock Yuki held the necklace out to him for inspection.
“Do you know what that means?” Yuki asked and Keiji’s mouth went dry and nodded almost reverently.
“Was that her name?”
“Aye Love. And if that was your mother’s it is more imperative than ever I get you out of here.” Keiji said his knees week.
“Did you know her? Keiji why are you so distressed? I feel it.”
“Hikari. You’re Hikari!”
“Why is that so troublesome to you?” Yuki asked distressed himself now at Keiji’s reaction to the necklace he’d left abandoned on the table in favor of kneeling before Keiji’s feet.
“Get up! Get up. Never ever bow to me… please.”
“Keiji will you please tell me what is wrong?”
“Hikari. Even Tohru can tell you who the Hikari are - surely you’ve heard at least once Yuki. They only happen to me the most powerful clan, no son ever born to that family has ever been less than an adept mage. And that’s just the toddler age terrors still in nappies! Great mounds of dragon dung, what was your father thinking abducting a Hikari? How on earth did a Hikari manage to get abducted in the first place? Junsui… Junsui… wait that’s a pure name, she must have been of the temple, a healer. That’s the only way.”
“Wait slow down Keiji!” Yuki pleaded as he watched his agitated love get up and pace the room in thought.
“All the Hikari moved to the great city two decades ago, they don’t come to Ardfel anymore. I have to get you to them, Ryuuen will only be able to train you so far, I’ve no doubt you’ll surpass him in a mere month.”
“KEIJI!” Yuki’s raised voice shocked Keiji out of his vocalized thoughts, and the panic in Yuki’s eyes brought Keiji to him on the floor.
“Nothing has changed between us Koi, nothing can change our bond. But it is a change to who we are together. You have a rather long road to travel my love, and much learning to grasp, but I will be there beside you to help you. But I daresay in a few years, it will be you who will be stronger than I.”
“Does being stronger matter between us?” Yuki asked and Keiji smiled.
“Nay, it doesn’t. Well it does if I want to keep my backside in one piece.” Keiji teased and Yuki laughed softly, moving to take the necklace from the table and then pressed it into Keiji’s hand.
“Take this, I know a little of Koishii Koibito bonding stories to know it is a sign of affection to gift your partner something of meaning. This is all I have and it belongs to you now.” Yuki stated and Keiji nodded once and bowed his head an allowed Yuki to place it around his neck.
From around his wrists, Keiji removed two bracelets, made of various, well worn and highly polished river stones, each one engraved with a symbol. “My mama made these years ago. They are protective wards, and healing charms, meant to keep you safe and healthy. They have served me well for many years, I cannot think of anyone I’d rather them protect now, than you.” Keiji said slipping them over Yuki’s hands. “The right hand is for protection, the left for healing.” Keiji added pointing out which symbols reflected which bracelet.
“Keiji.” Yuki sighed his name; it was full of wonder and love.
“Excuse me… Um. Ba-san wanted to know if it was okay to come see Master Yuki.” They had completely forgotten Tohru was even in the room.
“Aye lad. Tell a servant to bring us wash water on the way out, then I will bring Yuki to her.”
“Oh, yes you can love. Let us try an experiment shall we to prove to you that you have more power than you think.” Keiji began as Tohru ran off to send in a servant.
“What sort of experiment?” Yuki asked skeptical.
“Will that horrid thing off your neck.”
“I have willed it off.”
“No, I mean close your eyes, focus on it, think of only that with no distractions, and then will it to break in half. That would be a simple thing for a Hikari. It’s probably why that iron hasn’t killed you. You have more power in one strand of hair than most will ever see, let alone have. I have a blister and I only touched it directly once. You’ve been wearing it for years. Do as I tell you, and see for yourself.” Keiji urged, as Yuki sat cross-legged on the floor and shut his eyes.
Keiji sat down to watch, he could feel the power and magic in the room buckle and shift, it wanted to go to Yuki, he was their master and they begged to be absorbed by his light. The Hikari were all natural born mages, it was instinct for them to wield the power, and it was as much a part of a Hikari as water was to the ocean or trees to a forest. They were symbiotic entities, and the only thing stopping the flow of power into Yuki was his lack of knowledge and that iron collar. Iron was only an annoyance to Hikari, it burned them like it did every other Greenling, they did feel the same pain but they could endure, it would not kill them.
Yuki’s father must have known that, and why Keiji didn’t think of it himself when it was so obvious an answer he’d chastise himself for later. Right now, he was watching, and waiting for Yuki to discover his nature, his calling, his true self was right there, hovering just under the surface and all he had to do was take hold, and then his freedom would be his, and by his own hand.
Keiji watched the stray strands of Yuki’s braid begin to move as if stirred by and invisible breeze, and his very skin begin to shine like alabaster, the magic in the room seemed to rejoice in the fact it was being called after waiting so long, it almost hummed in euphoria as it responded to it’s master’s summons, it grew louder, it buzzed like the bees in a hive, it sang like the nightingale at the moon, it crowed like the rooster at down and then there was a loud crack and clang as the severed halves of the collar fell to the floor.
Yuki cried out in pain and relief and the magic remained and comforted as Keiji rushed to Yuki’s side as he collapsed, exhausted.
“I… I did it.” Yuki gasped, astounded, fatigued, joyful, and utterly spent.
“Aye love, you did. A True Hikari you are.” Keiji said stroking Yuki’s hair as he cradled him on the floor. “Now don’t sleep yet. Eat first, you must restore what you used.” Keiji said reaching up onto the table blindly from the floor and bringing down a pear.
Yuki was too tired to even hold it, so Keiji fed it to him, biting off the pieces himself then passing them between sleepy lips.
“One day that feat won’t even make you yawn. But for now, I’ll take care of you.” Keiji reassured, passing the last of the fruit to his beloved. It was then the water arrived and Keiji laid Yuki on the bed as he went to retrieve it, without letting the servant inside to see just what had transpired.
The tub was still in the room, so Keiji filled it then moved to the bed where Yuki had already fallen asleep.
He never woke as Keiji removed his borrowed shirt and breeches, and laid him in the bath still slumbering.
“You will kill me for this later I’m sure, and I will deserve it, but humor your Koibito.” Keiji whispered into unhearing ears as he washed Yuki almost reverently from head to toe, taking special care around his neck. It was a festering field of bruises, blisters, and red angry flesh. Even a Hikari could scar, and having been subjected to that collar for as many years as Yuki had been wearing it, when the abused flesh healed, he’d have a lifelong reminder of the cruelty he had endured, and survived. It would be a reminder that he would wear that would remind him he had the power to escape hell in his hands, it was not a scar, it was a badge of courage. At least it was in Keiji’s eyes. He hoped Yuki would see it the same way.
Having tended to his neck and hair, Keiji couldn’t resist taking advantage of the moment and inspecting his bonded thoroughly as he washed him, this was what he would deserve a beating for later, he took liberties of his sleeping partner, he probably shouldn’t have, but he did keep it to innocent caressing and the light fondling of a few places that particularly piqued his interest.
He didn’t linger too long, it was having an effect on him too that he’d have no time to take care of, so he cut his play short, and removed the still blissfully unaware Yuki back to bed to dry him off and applied more ointment and protective bandages to the wound which was already beginning to look better after a decent washing and having medicinal herbs applied before dressing him again in more borrowed clothing.
It was nearing the dinner hour when Yuki roused from his slumber to see Keiji seated by the window, smoking a sweet smelling tobacco from a long slender pipe. Attuned, Keiji looked over and met Yuki’s eyes with a grin. “Sleep well?”
“Aye.” Yuki said sitting up, reaching up to touch his neck and winced as his fingers brushed the bandages Keiji must have wrapped around his neck. He was clean, in new clothes, and he had slept through it all.
“Don’t touch it yet, let the ointment work Koi.” Keiji said tapping out his pipe and crossing the room to sit beside Yuki on the bed.
“It feels good even though it hurts. Does that make sense?” Yuki asked and Keiji nodded.
“Freedom gained by winning it yourself is indeed a good feeling. You should be proud, you did this on your own.”
“I just feel tired, and happy, and scared all at once.”
“Any other emotions in there?” Keiji asked leaning over Yuki, nose to nose.
“Love.” Yuki whispered, his eyes closing.
“Good answer.” Keiji replied, leaning in and kissing Yuki for the first time. Languid, searching, needy, passionate, awkward, and hopeful, it was the sort of kiss that expressed all those things and more. It was their first, it was magic all by itself, and they’d have more, but none would ever be the same as the first. As their lips parted, smiles remained as eyes opened to look into the others.
“You are wonderful.” Keiji breathed sitting up and pulling Yuki up with him.
“I was thinking the same.” Yuki replied as they stood hand in hand.
“Let’s go get dinner, never walk in fear ever again Lord Hikari Yuki. No one here can harm you, the magic won’t let them, nor will I.” Keiji said strapping on his sword, made of steel and silver, and taking Yuki’s arm in his own.
“I may have learned my heritage, but I think I would like it best if you gave me your name, you did after all name me the first time around. Is it not also common for Koibito to share a name?”
“Aye love, it is, but it is usually the higher clan’s name that is taken. That would be yours, not mine.”
“I have never known that clan, my Father was Kanashimi, a name technically mine and that I will never use, I have never used Hikari either. I love a Kojiro - I would like my Koibito’s name as my own. Is that all right?”
“You honor me Koi. It is all right. Kojiro Yuki you will be if it is your wish. There may come a time however when Hikari will hold more weight.”
“Then they can learn of my heritage then, I love you, and wish to bear your name, please.”
Keiji grasped Yuki by the shoulders and kissed him, firmly. “Then Kojiro Yuki you will be, and I am one lucky bastard.”
“I do believe I am the lucky “bastard” here.” Yuki grinned and Keiji howled with laughter.
“Love, we’re both Bastards. Let’s live up to those titles and have some fun.” Keiji winked as he and Yuki headed down the corridor toward the dining hall arm in arm.
C&C always adored.