Prequel to "Ever
After". Touga/Saionji, in a way.
Boys were meant to be Princes. He'd always known it, and he'd never
doubted the *rightness* of it. There had to be Princes, because the
world was full of dangers, of dragons and wizards and witches. There
had to be Princes, because there were Princesses to be saved.
It was something he'd never questioned, a belief gleaned from tales he
had nothing but the dimmest memory of; the murmured voice of a woman
who was and yet was not his mother, reading aloud; reading of darkness
and light, the struggle between right and wrong. Of Princes and
dragons, and of Princesses to be protected, cherished and revered,
noble and beautiful creatures, bright and glowing in the darkness.
A simple belief, perhaps. A childish dream, but one he'd adopted
whole-heartedly, making it his own until he could not tell where the
dream began and he left off.
The world had been simple then. He was young, and he knew who he was
and where he was going. He even knew who was going with him, for he'd
never been alone in those days. Where Touga went, Kyouichi followed.
Whereever Kyouichi was, Touga would not be far off. No one ever invited
just one of them to play; there were always two cups of tea when they
went anywhere, and their names were always said in one breath.
He had no early memories that did not include Kyouichi. Of course he
knew that there'd been a time when he hadn't known the other boy, but
he honestly couldn't remember it. Kyouichi had always been there, a
constant, secure and utterly certain. It was strange, all the more so
because he *could* remember the first time he'd turned and found
himself looking into cool, narrowed lavender eyes.
"And this is our son, Kyouichi." He and Kyouichi had stepped forward
and bowed to each other solemnly. "He's also a kendoka, Touga-kun.
Perhaps the two of you can spar together some time."
*Perhaps,* Touga had thought, and then the new boy had smiled,
transforming his previously reserved face. Touga had smiled back and
made up his mind that they would be friends. "Will you spar with me,
Of course, Kyouichi had always claimed he had been the one to ask, that
It didn't really matter, though. In those days, they'd been like one
soul in two bodies, complementary rather than identical. Kyouichi was
better with a shinai; Touga was better when they sparred without
weapons. Touga was better at Japanese, art and music; Kyouichi was
better at math, physics and chemistry. Kyouichi was shy, which made him
seem cool or even arrogant sometimes, but Touga was self-possessed and
outgoing and could always put his friend at ease. Touga was impatient
with himself and others, given to thoughtlessness or even sloppiness
sometimes, but Kyouichi was calm and careful and could always make him
backtrack and get it right.
Bright, and steady, and known, as necessary and natural as the air he
breathed, as much an indispensable part of himself as the blood
coursing through his veins. He hadn't needed to look to know Kyouichi
was beside him. He hadn't needed to ask what Kyouichi was thinking.
Neither of them had ever questioned the other's role in their life.
In those days, when he did not need to look beyond his certainties, he
had been happy.
He'd begun to notice different things about the world, but even so,
nothing changed; he knew who he was and where he was going, and he was
not afraid of anything he might encounter along the way.
That summer, he'd begun to notice, in an abstract and impersonal way,
that Oneko's cheeks dimpled when she smiled, that Kazumi's legs were
tanned and she almost always wore short frocks, that Yukari's dresses
stretched tight over her chest when she reached back to borrow her
friend Ikue's eraser, that Noriko, who sometimes came over to babysit
Nanami, had long, shining black curls she often piled up on top of her
head, letting one or two tendrils escape to trail around her face.
When summer leaned to autumn, he began to notice the striking color of
his friend's eyes, the way he tilted his head when he was thinking, the
way he stretched when he was tired, the way his movements broadcast a
warrior's grace and sudden clumsiness in turns, the way his dogi fell
around his slim form and bared pale arms when he raised the shinai
above his head.
And there was nothing either abstract or impersonal about it.
He pounced on his friend and tickled him until he was helpless, pinned
down in the grass, laughing and squirming. Soft skin, pleasant to the
touch, tasting subtly of Kyouichi when he leaned down to lick his
friend's throat, following an impulse he didn't fully understand.
Kyouichi pulled Touga's hair gently and kicked and tickled back until
Touga sat on his legs, caught his arms and held them above his head.
"You're beautiful," he said softly, and to both their surprise,
Kyouichi blushed as red as blood and was too embarrassed to call Touga
Kyouichi's hair had smelled of grass and sun and himself that day, and
felt silky against Touga's cheek as he rubbed his face against it
gently. Kyouichi's mouth had been softer, open slightly beneath
Touga's, willing, unhesitant, unsurprised.
They'd both been distracted when they sparred later, and they stopped
earlier than usual when Touga made a stupid mistake and Kyouichi,
equally inept, let Touga's shinai strike him a glancing but painful
blow across the back of one hand. Touga hadn't needed to apologize; all
was right with their world and they both knew it.
But then, they'd found the Princess, huddled alone in the dark,
miserable, afraid, full of despair.
Boys were meant to be Princes, and Princes were meant to save
Princesses from the dangers that threatened them, to bring them forth
from the darkness, to protect and admire them. Here was a lonely
Princess, besieged and beleaguered, in need of rescue... And Touga
realized in a flash of nauseating clarity that he had been wrong, after
His entire life, he had been *wrong*.
She needed to be shown something lasting, something true that would
give her hope, restore her faith, grant her peace. She needed to be
shown something eternal. There had to be Princes, because there were
Princesses to be saved. But Touga, kneeling by the coffin of a
beautiful Princess, her light all but extinguished by her pain and the
encroaching darkness, had been able to do nothing.
And the same pain, the same encroaching darkness had been in Kyouichi's
voice when he repeated the strange Princess's heartbroken whisper.
They'd gone home eventually, both of them silent and withdrawn as they
rode the bike through the park and down quiet residential streets.
"Good night, Kyouichi," Touga said quietly, heart and mind numb and
cold. He would not look into his friend's eyes because he knew that the
steady surety he had always found there before would not be there
tonight, and he could not bear to see what would have taken it's place.
Not tonight – maybe tomorrow, it would be different. Maybe by then, the
world would have solidified once again, assumed the shape of something
familiar... re-formed from scattered shards, risen from the ashes...
It was an illusory hope born solely of his cowardice in the face of the
end of his world, and he knew it. When Touga saw Kyouichi again, the
first words out of his friend's mouth had been the one thing he could
not bear to hear, striking again at the crumbling – crumbled –
foundations of his existance. Boys should be Princes. They were meant
"Touga, did you go back and show that girl something eternal yesterday?
Because she left the coffin today..."
Had she? It didn't matter to Touga anymore. Everything that had been
was gone, cruelly revealed as a mirage, a deceitful illusion of light
and certainty. Boys were meant to be Princes and save Princesses. What
was left for them if they didn't?
Two roads lay sketched out plainly, mirrored in his best friend's
expression. To become nothing at all, melting away into the void,
vanishing into a wisp of utter inconsequence... Or to become something
No, not two. One road only. No choice at all.
Touga smiled carelessly at his friend – closer than a brother, closer
than anyone had ever been before, closer than anyone would ever be
again – feeling the tearing pain of distance slamming down between them
with a wrench he could feel in every cell of his body. It surged into
the back of his throat, bitter as bile, corrosive as poison. The end of
everything. The beginning of something he would never have chosen.
"Perhaps I did," he murmured, watching as emotions bloomed forth in his
– no. In Saionji's wide eyes.
Shock, pain, betrayal, anger... The wrenching realization of distance.
The loss of every security. The agony of irreversible and unbearable
But more importantly, belief. Certainty. The unchanged knowledge of who
Touga was and where he was going.
The world was full of dangers – of dragons, and wizards, and witches.
There had to be Princes, because there were Princesses to be saved. And
for the same reason, there had to be dragons, and wizards, and witches.
Boys who couldn't be Princes had no choice but to become Dragons.
of all kinds - positive and negative - is very welcome.