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[personal profile] stormymood posting in [community profile] arashi_exchange
A piece of rainbow for [personal profile] piggywhale 

Title: Rolling Days
Pairing/Focus: Ohno/Sho
Rating: PG
Warnings: None
Summary: Sho had never thought anyone could lose their magic and survive. But in the tumultuous aftermath of Satoshi doing exactly that, do they have the strength to hold onto their precarious relationship as well?
Notes: For [personal profile] piggywhale, in the hopes it will please. Many thanks to LMSH for being a wonderful and patient help as always.


"He might not want you there."

Kazu's arms were around Sho's waist, his cheek tucked against the back of Sho's shoulder. Although his words were as blunt as ever, his tone wasn't unkind.

"He can tell me that, then," Sho replied and kept his eyes on the trail ahead. They were sharing a horse for the last stage of their journey, all the way up the wooded road to the small village not far from the foot of the mountains.

Though neither mentioned it aloud, Sho knew he wasn't the only one who found it soothing to ride together, despite the unpleasant heat Kazu had to be feeling. Neither of them was particularly comfortable atop a horse. Sho had forced himself to acquire competency, as it wouldn't have looked good for a prince to be afraid of horses, and Kazu, from the habit of a lifetime of staying by Sho's side, had reluctantly managed to learn the basics.

"Maybe he hasn't woken up yet. Are you sure Masaki said he'd be all right?"

Kazu had asked a variation of that question five times now, but Sho didn't mind. He closed his eyes briefly into the morning sun and said the words that he'd been holding onto for the past day. "He said that the shock of losing his magic would have unpredictable effects, but that a strong constitution coupled with extended rest would mean there was no danger to his life."

Kazu muttered, "Being alive and being all right aren't the same thing." His arms tightened around Sho as he likely pictured what Sho was picturing.

Filling Sho's mind was the image of a small figure in a large bed, pale as death and radiating trauma. There was an edge on the memory that wasn't entirely rational, and not just because of how much they cared about the person in it. It was the instinctive horror Sho felt, that everyone surely felt, when they thought of there being someone without at least a tinge of magic: alone in all the world.

"He doesn't have to be all right," Sho said, stroking his fingers through the horse's mane as a way to distract himself from grief. "I sent him here so that he can take however long he needs. He won't be all right for a long time, I get that, but the fact that he's alive at all is a miracle. Masaki said so."

"For a healer, he's remarkably prone to exaggeration. Don't think, by the way, that I don't have plenty to say about your future and your choices, too, even if I've held back so far."

"He comes first," Sho said simply, and Kazu held his tongue.

It wasn't long before they reached the outskirts of the village, but Sho turned the horse's head to go around, through the forest to the solitary cottage farther up the mountain. While it was unlikely there would be any fanfare at the sight of him, even if the villagers recognized him for who he was, he wanted to get to their destination as soon as possible.

As the cottage came into view, its wood siding and tiled roof well-maintained despite the many years it had been in Sho's family's possession, Kazu said softly, "Are you sure?"

Sho had left everything behind to get here: his family, his belongings, his purpose in life. And yet, knowing who was in the building they approached, Sho didn't hesitate.

"Yes," he said, and dismounted from the horse. It didn't end up nearly as graceful as he always hoped it would, but Kazu didn't laugh. He was still staring at the cottage, expression abstracted, and Sho remembered that this enormous change in his own life also meant enormous changes for those close to him.

But when Kazu came back to himself and looked down at Sho, he smiled. "Then why wouldn't he want you? Go on."

Sho nodded resolutely and started toward the door, then turned back hastily as Kazu botched his landing even worse than Sho had. Kazu waved him away despite audible complaints about just how tall their borrowed horse was and what the inn where they'd spent the night before was feeding it to make it grow so unnaturally high.

Saori, a long-time member of the royal guard, was a reassuring presence at the cottage door, standing strong and imperturbable as ever. She saluted as Sho approached.

"Any trouble on the road?" Sho asked. Despite his impatience, it was better to know what he was getting into.

"Good morning, your majesty. We had an easy trip; he slept the whole time and no one bothered us. I sent the carriage back with Kaori last night."

She eyed him for a second, then took pity on him and answered the question he didn't want to ask. "He woke up about an hour ago."

Sho cursed internally, having wanted to be there when that happened, but maintained his calm by the expedient of knowing it was too early in this difficult day to lose it. "Did you say anything to him?"

She looked surprised, then apologetic. "I had to. He started to panic--like anyone would, waking up somewhere they'd never been, let alone... well. I told him where we are, and a bit about the accident, and that he needed to rest. I wasn't sure when you were coming, or if you even could, so I didn't say anything about it. I'm sure he'll be glad of a familiar face."

Sho wished he could be as sure. After a few seconds of the awkward silence that ensued, Saori cleared her throat. She shaped her words more carefully than usual in an obvious attempt not to overstep. "Is Jun with you?"

In what had been meant as spite on Sho's father's part, Jun had been assigned as Sho's personal guard a few years back. Sho had no doubt it bothered Saori to see Sho there without him. He smiled at her, grateful for the undertone of personal concern in her professionalism.

"Thank you, Saori, not this time. Could you help Kazu with the horse?"

She said something under her breath, something about Kazu needing all the help with horses that he could get, but Sho had already refocused his attention on what he was about to do.

He put his hand on the door, taking a deep breath, and went inside to find his husband.

---

Sho let muscle memory do most of the work as he removed his soft boots in the entryway and slid into the sandals his father used to wear at the cottage. His eyes were busy searching the area for one particular person.

The cottage was simple, with a large room as the main living area with a sunken hearth in the middle, a long closet for storage of bedding and clothes, and a door to the rooms with the bath and other essential facilities. It was nowhere near the level of comfort Sho was used to at the castle, but he found himself breathing in the air and finding some peace in the once-familiar surroundings.

A futon was laid out on the far side of the room. Sho's breath caught in his throat as his first view of his husband here was overlaid by his last view of him, in that awful room in the castle when Sho had been convinced he was dying.

He reminded himself of Masaki's words, and that despite how much Kazu enjoyed teasing, Masaki was one of the finest healers in the country. Rest and time, that was what was needed, and that was what Sho was going to give him.

"Satoshi?" he called, stepping up into the room. There was no response. "It's me... It's Sho. I'm sorry I couldn't get here before you woke up."

It was possible that Satoshi was sleeping again, but somehow the stillness of his figure under the quilt made Sho think otherwise. He came over and knelt beside the futon for long minutes, wishing for the courage to reach out and take Satoshi in his arms until their world made sense again.

It probably wouldn't work anyway, but there was a part of him that wasn't through with hope.

He came out of his reverie at the realization that it was overly warm, even stuffy in the small space. It didn't bother him, of course, but he got up to open the sliding doors to the back deck and the garden beyond.

"Don't."

Sho turned at Satoshi's voice, breath catching again. From this angle he could see his face, still pale and drawn but clearly alive. He moved away from the doors and came back to kneel beside the futon. He was on the other side this time, and they could look at each other, if only Satoshi would open his eyes.

"Do you remember anything, Satoshi?"

The dark eyelashes fluttered faintly. After a pause that seemed resentful, Satoshi said slowly, "The guard said there was an accident. And I lost my magic."

"You were using it for something, we don't know what," Sho said. "When the roof tile fell, you were still using magic even as it struck your head, and somehow even as you collapsed, and after, your magic kept coming. Masaki thinks it might even have come out stronger, because--"

"I used it all." Satoshi's voice was matter-of-fact, but there were tear stains on his cheeks.

Telling himself Satoshi was more important than giving in to his feelings, Sho kept his voice level. "No one knew where you were, or expected you, so no one found you for more than an hour. You'd used every reserve, and even then your body was finding a way to make more. You flooded that entire courtyard. If you hadn't landed against that hedge, you might've drowned."

"A water mage, drowning in a bush. Masaki kept me from dying?"

Sho nodded, though Satoshi's eyes remained closed. "He said a minute longer and you'd have been gone." He considered his next words, then skipped ahead to a safer point in the story. "I had the guards I trust most bring you here, so you can rest."

"It sounds like I slept a long time," Satoshi said tonelessly. "It should be enough rest that I'll be able to leave your house soon."

Sho squeezed his eyes shut, pained. Then he forced himself to say calmly, "Actually, I should be the one asking you if I stay. This cottage and the land it's on, I made them a gift to you. Upon our marriage."

Only silence, but then Satoshi's eyes opened.

Sho stared at him, trying to convey everything he couldn't say in words, then mumbled pathetically, "You do remember that part, right? In the morning... before your accident."

"We signed the marriage certificate," Satoshi said. He didn't sound anything but tired.

Sho straightened, holding Satoshi's eyes. He was on steadier ground now that he could see them. "We got married yesterday, Satoshi."

For a moment, he thought Satoshi would say something else, something emotional, but then he turned away. What came out of Sho's husband's mouth was, "I thought you'd have fixed that by now."

Sho was bending forward to do something to communicate better with Satoshi when a voice called from the door, freezing him where he was. He didn't know what he would have done, anyway, and he reminded himself that he wasn't there to rush anything. Rest and time were the most important things, not awkward declarations and forced conversation.

"I'm so glad he's awake," the voice said as it drew closer. Sho looked up and was filled with relief at the kind face of Masaki, not only the castle healer but his friend. Masaki smiled back, eyes crinkling, then turned his gaze on the sullen lump huddled beneath the quilt. "Do you mind if we have a moment?"

"Of course," Sho assured him instantly, and stood on knees that Kazu often reminded him were embarrassingly creaky for a prince not yet turned thirty. Satoshi's knees creaked too, he thought with a pang of fondness. Thinking of Satoshi as he had been, Sho had to leave the house quickly so as not to go back and beg him to talk properly. But how else could they could figure out how to put their lives back together?

---

The world didn't feel real outside after Sho had been in with Satoshi.

"Well then, Sho. We wondered if we'd ever see you again."

He was still blinking against the midday sun, still dazed from the events of the last two days, still reeling from the finality in his new husband's voice. Instead of searching out the source of the feminine voice speaking to him so casually, he turned back and rested his head against the door he'd just come through. He vaguely registered Saori's presence to one side, but she was far too well-trained to be obtrusive.

"Let's give him a minute." That was Kazu, his voice as familiar to Sho as his own. "We're pretty high up on a mountain, you know, and he's always been afraid of heights."

Sho needed that minute. He was on the edge of an abyss, and if he let himself think about the wreck he'd made of his life, he'd go over.

He concentrated on what was happening in the moment and who was there with Kazu. Almost everyone spoke formally to Sho, despite his shaky place in the king's regard, because they never knew when his father would have one of his moments where he saw Sho more as an heir than a threat. On top of that, Sho had worked himself to the bone for the last ten years to make himself worthwhile in his own right, knowing that someday he'd have to stand on his own two feet and lead.

He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead harder against the smooth wood, thinking of people who didn't call him your majesty. The list was painfully short.

He made himself number them out, tried to make each person on the list a step back from the edge.

His father, of course, when he could bring himself to speak to the son he was sure was trying to take over before it was time. His mother, who loved him largely from afar so as not to encourage further accusations of attempted conspiracy by Sho.

And then there was Kazu, whose family had served Sho's for generations, and the trio Kazu had fallen into befriending back when they were still mostly boys. As he'd done even then, he'd been trying to find information to benefit Sho, that time by spying on the budding mages at the Academy. Instead he'd brought Sho the ones who would become his next most trusted friends--Masaki, Jun, and Satoshi, all of whom had woken their depths before the age of ten.

Sho and Kazu were two of the vast majority who hadn't, though it was easy to forget that lopsided ratio when they were surrounded by mages the Academy had pulled from all over the country. The magical differences had never bothered any of them. Now Masaki was a healer, like all life mages, and Jun kept his head down and put his fire magic to work as a guard. Satoshi was... had been the somewhat reclusive ornament of Sho's father's court--simultaneously the strongest and most artistic water mage anyone alive could remember.

Wrenching himself away from thoughts of Satoshi, he concluded, six. That was the number of people who spoke to him informally when the situation allowed it.

That didn't explain--

"Minute's up," Kazu said in Sho's ear, making him jump. "I found Miho in the village, and you've made her wait long enough. Apparently she and her husband have been the caretakers here."

"Since you all haven't come back in so long, I can tell you we've felt pretty foolish sometimes, dusting every nook and cranny like there'd be an inspection later."

Sho took one more deep breath, then turned and opened his eyes.

Miho. Of course, he was back on the mountain.

His family used to come vacation here nearly a month out of every year back before Sho was old enough to be a rival for the public's respect. They hadn't come for more than a decade, but here was Miho, his playmate and friend, and she had the same eyes, the same smile, and she looked at him like he hadn't changed either.

He could feel he was smiling just seeing her. He clapped her on the shoulder, and her dimples deepened.

Seven. It seemed a much better total than six.

"Husband?" he asked, smirking at Miho, and she linked her arm in his to pull him toward the garden out back.

"We have a lot to catch up on," she said, twinkling up at him, but Sho, thinking of what he might say if he told her everything, felt his expression go stricken. She gave an awkward little twitch, then chirped desperately, "Let's start with me!"

Kazu's laugh pealed out, and Sho released a shaky breath, relieved. The world hadn't ended, he knew that--and when he forgot, his friends would remind him.

---

They sat on the bench in the garden, talking for a long time. It seemed Kazu had filled Miho in enough that she knew not to ask many questions, so Sho asked the questions instead, securing the help that would be needed to survive here in the short term. He also began the inquiries as to how someone might make it past that.

At first Miho didn't take the latter questions seriously. Sho couldn't blame her--he'd been a prince all his life, and while he hadn't exactly been coddled, he certainly had never undertaken anything like subsistence farming. Even when she believed he was sincere, he could tell that she wasn't sure he'd be capable.

He felt the sting to his pride and told himself to take it as a warning. No matter how hard he thought it would be to make it on the mountain, it would be harder. She pointed out that while the land was terraced, and the support walls frequently checked, it had been grown over for several years. Clearing it would be backbreaking work, and the land could only support so much even at best. If one truly intended to be self-sufficient, he'd have to supplement farming with fishing, as so many did at the lake down the far slope, and perhaps with hunting or trapping.

The short-term help was easier to secure: food, firewood, and advice, all of which Miho promised to bring them for the foreseeable future. For now, at least, Sho wasn't without means to pay her, and though she blushed at his mentioning it, no one in the village was affluent enough to turn down well-deserved earnings.

Kazu was largely silent, though Sho could tell he was listening carefully. Even if Sho asked him to stay, he wasn't suited to hard labor, neither physically nor mentally. Kazu had been Sho's eyes and ears at court since they'd been young, using his position as a servant to go unnoticed while noticing everything. Alongside that, his head for strategy frequently rescued Sho from precariously tangled situations. Sho knew Kazu deserved better than to be abandoned without notice, and his heart hurt with knowing he was going to do it anyway.

Eventually Miho gave up trying to fit in every bit of advice and took her leave, though not without Sho thanking her profusely and making her grin with delight. She'd be back in the evening with the first supply of food, but Sho intended to show his gratitude as often as possible, as well as his friendship.

"They've been in there quite a while," Kazu said eventually, and Sho nodded. Part of his mind, always, was on what was happening in the cottage with Satoshi. Masaki had said he'd make it while in the midst of a deeply strained situation. Now he had the time to make sure, and it worried Sho that he hadn't come out yet.

Still, Sho intended to use the moment.

"You could have your own life now," he stated, matter of fact, and watched without surprise as Kazu stiffened. "Find a job where you don't have to pretend to be something else. You can do whatever you want, Kazu."

"I was doing what I wanted." Kazu looked away, then sighed and met Sho's eyes. "I would never ask you to choose differently, but you can't make this into something good for me."

Sho hesitated. He needed to tread carefully, but he might not get a chance to push Kazu in the right direction again.

"You told me once, after Masaki got married. That you thought you wanted to have kids someday. But Kazu, being at court is living in a viper's nest."

"We were making it better together. Besides, I'm good at living in a viper's nest." For a moment, Kazu's warm brown eyes lit with humor. "Do you know, I think I might be one of the vipers?"

Sho smiled, but didn't budge from his point. "You could have that now. You could have a family."

Kazu started to respond, then stopped, biting his lip. He scrubbed a hand down his face, muttered, "To me, the four of you..." and pushed off the bench and away without finishing the sentence.

Sho stood to follow, but when he turned, Masaki was coming around the house to meet them. Sho hurried to him, but he made sure to loop an arm around Kazu's shoulders as the latter tried to escape.

"How is he?" Sho asked, feeling Kazu's tense shoulders dip suddenly as he expelled a frustrated breath.

"He seems to be on the mend," Masaki said. His curious eyes took in the situation with Kazu, but he let it pass without comment. He spent the next few minutes giving Sho some basic instructions for caring for Satoshi, whose body was still recovering from its loss. There was no precedent to go off, but Masaki's magic could ascertain the basics of what Satoshi needed.

He finished by saying, "Try to keep him in bed as much as possible." He stilled, then broke into a wide smile. "That sounds like a dirty suggestion, doesn't it! But really, you should probably put off the wedding night for a day or two, since he's still recuperating. Then you can--"

"Nobody asked you about that!" Sho said, feeling his face turn red. Kazu snickered beside him.

Masaki shrugged cheerfully. "Well, either way. Ah, Kazu, I'll wait out here with Saori for you, all right?"

Sho's arm tightened around Kazu's shoulders. "Are you going somewhere?"

"We're going to start back tonight, so we can stay at the inn and break up the trip."

Sho didn't like it, didn't want to see them go, but he said, "See, we won't be so far apart. It's not even a full day's ride from here to the capital."

"And we can write letters!" Masaki chimed in helpfully, and Kazu rolled his eyes in a motion that somehow used his entire body, shifting skeptically under Sho's touch in a way that made Sho feel perilously affectionate.

"First you'd have to learn how to spell, Masaki," Kazu said snidely, then leaped away deftly as Masaki made a growling noise and came for him.

Sho wanted to watch, wanted to laugh and spend time with his closest friends, but that would make it feel too much like things weren't changing, when in truth they were changing so catastrophically that there was no end in sight. For one, he still hadn't settled a single thing with Satoshi.

He made to slip away, smile lingering on his face as his friends scuffled loudly, but as he reached the front door, Kazu caught up with him.

He was breathing heavily, hair and clothes disheveled, but his hand on Sho's arm was firm. "I'll get you settled in before I go," he huffed out, and shook his head stubbornly when Sho opened his mouth to say he didn't need that. "I haven't been relieved of my position, Sho, so until I go, I'm yours."

---

Kazu bustled around the room, as capable in his publicly acknowledged role as he was as Sho's strategist and spy. Sho investigated the hearth and tried to remember what Miho had told him about tending it. They wouldn't need the fire tonight, at least not for cooking, but it would be essential as the seasons changed. His eyes kept moving to where Satoshi was slumped at the low table wrapped in a blanket.

Eventually, Kazu ran out of things to do, having stretched what little there was as long as he could. The sleeping area was tidy and inviting, the lanterns lit, the cushions plumped, and he'd been in the bath and toilet areas for a while, too, no doubt making them better somehow. Sho hadn't packed much, so he hoped there were some toiletries left over from their long-ago visits.

Sho could tell Kazu was anxious and unhappy. He let him stall as long as he wanted, because when it came down to it, Sho didn't want Kazu to leave either. His married life hadn't even started, but it felt like everything else in his life was ending, and Sho suspected that only Kazu's familiar presence was keeping the shock of it from bowling Sho over completely.

But at last Kazu stilled in the middle of the room, looking lost.

Sho dredged up all his emotional reserves to be a bigger person than he wanted to be. "We'll be all right, Kazu. You should get started back to the inn so you're not riding after dark."

For the first time, Satoshi perked up, looking curiously at Sho. Kazu, after locking eyes with Sho for a long moment, came over and rested a hand on Satoshi's shoulder.

"Take care of yourself, Satoshi. Congratulations on your wedding and all, really, and I'll see you soon."

Satoshi looked up at him. "You're leaving?"

"I'll be back when I can," Kazu said, sliding his eyes to Sho almost imperceptibly. It gave Sho the idea that he thought someone might be behind them on the road--Kazu might be back sooner rather than later after all.

"What about him?" Satoshi asked, the blanket sliding off one shoulder as he sat up further. He was wearing one of the padded winter kimono from the closet, Sho saw, and even then he'd been clutching the blanket for the past hour or more.

"I'm sitting right here," Sho said mildly. He fingered the light fabric of his own kimono, eyes on the way Satoshi was shivering.

Kazu knelt and wrapped Satoshi up in a hug from behind. "Take care of yourself," he repeated quietly. Satoshi closed his eyes for a moment, leaning into Kazu's touch. Kazu sneaked in and laid a smacking kiss on Satoshi's cheek, saying more loudly, "And don't let Sho fall in the well."

"There's a well?" Sho asked, sitting up in alarm, and Kazu grinned at him.

"I'll let you figure that out for yourself."

He made for the door. Sho started to panic at seeing him leave, then had to try to look composed as his friend turned to say one more thing.

"We've all been friends a long time. I always thought we could weather anything."

He met Sho's eyes. Sho stopped trying to look composed and quietly nodded. Just as Kazu would, he'd do whatever he had to so that they made it through. Whatever other ties they had, however complicated, Sho had to believe that the five of them all felt that way.

Then Kazu was gone, and Sho was alone with Satoshi.

"You're not leaving," Satoshi said abruptly.

"No."

For the first time, Satoshi turned and looked directly at Sho. He looked drained. "I have nothing to offer you."

Sho clenched his fists hard against the first impulse to deny it, then said calmly, "My father liked you because you don't bring any political connections that I could use."

Satoshi huddled further into the blanket. "And?"

He already knew the answer, so Sho said it directly. "He's always been ashamed that I didn't wake my depths as he and my mother did. With you being a water mage, just like him, powerful but clearly not over-ambitious... he thought you were the perfect choice."

"Now he's disappointed with both of us."

Sho moved from the hearth to the table, taking a seat on a cushion next to Satoshi. As he moved, he watched his husband watching him, and he wondered what Satoshi saw. He couldn't begin to guess what Satoshi felt.

Seated, he waited until their eyes met. "I'm not."

Satoshi hunched his shoulders, clearly disbelieving, and Sho sighed. If he hadn't been such a coward for so long...

"I thought we'd have time. I thought after we got married, we'd have time to--" He swallowed hard, seeing the utter tiredness on Satoshi's face. "It was just so awkward, all the ceremony and attention during the formal courtship, that I didn't think--"

"I don't care about that anymore."

Sho flinched back at that finality in his husband's tone again. "Even if you don't feel that way about me, even if you don't want to be married to me, Kazu was right. We've been friends a long time."

"I didn't mean," Satoshi started and stopped, looking surprised. He reached out and took Sho's hand with a suppressed shiver at the contact. "The courtship, the alliance, the marriage, my place at court, none of those things matter anymore. Because I'm never going back. I can't go back like this. And I don't want to, anyway, even if I could."

Sho breathed and held tight to Satoshi's cold hand. He couldn't overwhelm Satoshi with everything at once, but he had to make sure Satoshi knew he wasn't alone.

"That's to be expected. But you married me yesterday. Of all the things on your list, that one matters to me more than ever."

Satoshi sighed, eyes dropping to their linked hands. "How often would I even see you, with me here..."

It was on the tip of Sho's tongue: all his plans for farming, for learning to survive on their own, how they didn't have to go back to be in this marriage together.

But he hesitated, because there were things that had to come before that, and he wasn't sure how much was too much: Satoshi's face was drawn and tired, his posture defeated.

After another suspended moment, it occurred to him that he could show Satoshi some of the fundamental things he had to say simply by holding him, but before he could muster the bravery there was a knock at the door.

"That must be Miho," Sho said, relieved and disappointed. "She's bringing food for us."

"Oh." Satoshi looked startled, and suddenly his stomach gave a loud grumbling. "The guard--"

"Saori," Sho interrupted. He squeezed Satoshi's hand, then released it reluctantly.

"--Saori gave me something earlier, but it wasn't very good."

"Guard food never is," Sho whispered conspiratorially. As he got up to answer the door, he heard the tiniest huff of air that might have been a laugh.

---

Somehow they made it through storing the supplies, arranging Miho's dinner on the table, and eating it just the two of them. Though Satoshi was quiet, nearly always huddled in the blanket, and prone to zoning out with a melancholy look, he let Sho distract him with conversation.

Because Sho wanted to give Satoshi a rest from thinking about difficult things, he talked about their friends instead.

He brought up Kazu's most persistent suitor, a fire mage blacksmith named Haru with whom he flirted constantly, and Satoshi agreed that he secretly hoped Kazu would give her a real chance. Sho confessed his hunch that Masaki and his wife, Mikako, might try for a baby soon, and Satoshi's smile came genuinely enough that Sho's heart skipped a beat.

It made him wonder whether Satoshi wanted that for himself, but he carefully squashed that line of thought before it got him into any more trouble. He couldn't bring up any romantic exploits of Jun, either, since Jun was watched by the king almost as closely as Sho was, and any match not approved in advance might lead to charges of treason. Some days it felt like if either of them so much as twitched at the wrong moment they might be arrested.

So instead Sho joked that Masaki and Mikako's hypothetical child would probably be the most powerful mage on the planet. As Sho had plenty of reason to know, it didn't work that way: both his parents were capable mages while he himself was merely fire-touched. It made for something to talk about, though, since Masaki was so strong magically and Mikako, not to be outdone, was an exceedingly skilled air mage. As her husband brought up at every conceivable opportunity, she was at the heart of a study into the possibility of human transport via flight.

In comparison, Sho’s magic was nothing: a resistance to cold, an affinity for heat, and, if he wanted to be uselessly exhausted the rest of the day, he could produce a single, barely visible flicker of flame. He hadn’t bothered doing the last one in years, but thinking about his own scanty magical gift gave him an idea for taking care of Satoshi that night, one he carefully put away for later.

Somehow it seemed like all of their topics came around to magic, which was surely a mistake, but it surprised Sho how easily Satoshi moved past the awkwardness each time. It occurred to him that he was judging how Satoshi must be feeling by how he thought he would feel himself if he'd not only woken his depths and lost them, but lost magic altogether.

So after a while of talking about what Miho's husband, Masato, had done with the garden out back during their time of caretaking, Sho made himself ask.

Satoshi was quiet for long moments afterward, but he didn't seem offended. He looked like he was still figuring out what he was feeling, which made sense. There were so many things to figure out that Sho didn't even know where to start, and he wasn't the one who'd had what seemed like an intrinsic part of himself ripped away.

Finally, Satoshi said slowly, "When I was growing up, my mama always told me that magic was left over from the gods. She said the gods made people to be like them, but over time the power got smaller and we became just ... just humans. But what magic we have left, it's special, depths or not."

"Do you believe that?" Sho asked. He'd heard something similar before, but he didn't know anyone who actually thought it was true. It was strange how he'd never really thought about where magic came from before now, when it was suddenly so important.

"I don't know." Satoshi was curled up in his blanket as Sho cleared away their dinner, but the sound of his voice just then made Sho stop and give his full attention.

"Satoshi?" Sho dropped back down to sit next to his husband, looking at him anxiously as his face started to crumple.

But Satoshi bit it back, visibly forcing himself not to give in. Sho wished he would let it out.

"I woke my depths when I was seven. I was taken from my home, and two years later influenza took most everyone in my village."

"Including your parents." Sho knew this already, though Satoshi didn't like to talk about it.

"I have so little left of them. My magic made me feel connected to them still, but now I don't have that. I've had friends, but no family, and a place to live... it wasn't ever home. I've been lucky, I know, lucky to find--"

He stopped suddenly, pressing his hands to his face, and Sho filled in softly. "Jun and Masaki, and Kazu, and me."

Satoshi nodded. "Now I have nothing. Still no family, and cut off from my friends..."

"You have a home now," Sho pointed out. "It's yours. And, not to be technical or anything, but don't spouses count as family?" He scooted closer awkwardly, trying to be comforting and not demanding. "I'm right here, Satoshi."

"Even if," Satoshi started, then paused. He licked his lips, which was more distracting to Sho during such a serious moment than it had any right to be, and carefully submerged himself back into the blanket. Only his face was peeking out, and all of a sudden Sho was hard-pressed not to do something rash, considering this overly cute person he'd married. He sat on his hands and forced himself to be a good listener instead of just silly.

"Even if that were true," Satoshi tried again, and now Sho was fighting another urge: to argue, to promise, to force Satoshi to believe what he said, an urge with just as little outlet since it would do just as little good.

"Nothing will change the fact that I belonged to something... whether it came from the gods or not, I had something that connected me to my parents, to everyone, and now I'm alone." He met Sho's eyes, his face blank. "You can't help with that."

Sho made himself nod, because it was true no matter how much he wanted it not to be. "May I at least stay here tonight?"

"Of course," Satoshi said, surprised. "It's your house."

"It's yours, I told you. All the paperwork already went through."

"But even so." The stubborn note in Satoshi's voice was good to hear--Sho knew he'd need that stubbornness to rebuild his life from this point, and most of what he'd heard so far was resignation.

They sat there for a moment, not talking, until Sho asked bluntly, "Have you been freezing all day?"

Satoshi looked up with a guilty expression that spoke volumes.

"We have to get you warm," Sho started, but Satoshi interrupted.

"Because my body's in shock, I know. It'll go away eventually..." Satoshi fidgeted with the edge of the blanket, looking tired. "Or Masaki thinks it probably will."

"I'm glad we're on the same page then," Sho said, putting a note of joviality into his voice. "So you'll have no problem if we sleep together--he said it's my job to keep you warm."

"There are blankets," Satoshi started. He looked alarmed, but Sho was glad to see he didn't seem repulsed.

"Blankets clearly aren't enough. Being fire-touched might not be good for much, but I can't say I've ever been cold--and Kazu has told me more than once that sharing a bed with me is heat torture."

"Oh, I've shared with Kazu, too," Satoshi said, sounding relieved at this reminder that sleeping in the same space wasn't inherently romantic. "He used to sneak into the Academy when he was sick of, um."

"My family, court in general... I don't blame him. Then we shouldn't have any problem, right?"

Satoshi looked at him for a second, considering the logic, then nodded hesitantly.

"I can't do a lot for you," Sho said, trying to sound lighter than he felt, "but I can do this. Thank you for letting me help."

Satoshi's face gave a funny twitch, that tic he got sometimes when he was focused on something and forgot to look normal, and then he smiled at Sho like he was deciding it wouldn't be that weird after all.

---

It turned out to be weird, of course.

They lay side by side, staring up at the shadowed ceiling, and carefully didn't look at each other. They were alone, with no one around for miles, and on paper, at least, they were married.

Sho thought it shouldn't be that hard to touch Satoshi, since it was for warmth and comfort and nothing else, but he found himself paralyzed by thoughts of Satoshi in a sunlit courtyard at the castle, laughing and kissable; Satoshi's serious face as he put his seal to their marriage certificate, and the shy way he'd looked at Sho when it was over; the way Satoshi moved when he was using his magic, graceful and thoughtlessly sensual.

But when Satoshi shuddered next to him, Sho realized anew that Satoshi was simply cold, and the image that came to Sho then was Satoshi in that bed at the castle on the edge of death, nearly lost forever.

He forgot his desire, his loss, his fear, and reached out to lay a hand on Satoshi's shoulder, as gently as he could manage.

Satoshi shuddered again, a small sound escaping his clenched jaw at the heat of Sho's touch.

Sho took a chance and turned on his side and opened his arms. There was the barest hesitation before Satoshi rolled close, burrowing into Sho's warmth.

Sho held him and tried to will what tiny amount of magic he had into Satoshi's chilled bones. But when Satoshi finally sighed with relief and stopped shivering, his breath gave a little hiccup, and then he was crying.

Now that he was warm, now that it was dark and quiet and Sho was holding him, all the guards Satoshi had up crumbled together. His tears wracked his body, the shock to his emotions not less than the physical loss, and all Sho could do was hold on. He felt each anguished noise Satoshi made like a blow to the stomach.

Sho held Satoshi until he was cried out, his own cheeks wet, and they fell asleep wrapped together under the quilt, both of their bodies desperate for true rest.

---

Sho woke in confusion. It was getting light, and he could tell he was at the mountain cottage, but he didn't feel like a kid anymore--the idea of his parents sleeping nearby was no longer one that comforted.

Just as he started to remember who he was now and what he'd done, he registered the soft sound of crying, and he looked over and saw Satoshi.

Unlike the tears of last night, these didn't sound cathartic. Rather than letting pent-up emotions out, it sounded more like Satoshi was trapped, caught by a nightmare or a memory that wouldn't let him go. He was almost silent, his eyes closed, and he was curled into himself like he was trying to survive a beating.

"Satoshi," Sho said loudly, unsure of what else to do. But when Satoshi's teary eyes opened, he had no matching hesitation. He covered the gap between them in an instant and was into Sho's arms again.

Sho took in the feeling of Satoshi against him, the sound of his relieved sigh, and realized that it wasn't just someone being there, but him specifically that brought comfort. Maybe Satoshi didn't feel the same way as Sho did, but right then he felt better because Sho was there, and that was the best present Sho had ever received.

He leaned away a touch so he could see Satoshi's face. He looked relaxed, matching the pliant feel of his figure against Sho's, and Sho found himself reaching up and brushing the hair off his forehead. If anything, Satoshi only cuddled closer, so Sho moved in, too, so he could press his lips gently to Satoshi's brow.

Satoshi didn't flinch, just made a small, sleepy noise of satisfaction. Sho knew he was probably only half awake. He knew it, but it didn't dampen his surge of joy.

He was basking in the current moment while thinking helplessly of further foolishness when there was a banging on the cottage door.

After flinching instinctively, Sho made himself lie still. It wasn't like he didn't know who it was.

"Open this door!" The voice was loud, angry, and unsurprisingly familiar.

Still pressed against Sho, Satoshi belatedly opened his eyes. He wondered aloud, "Jun?" Sho wondered fondly if he'd been going to try to sleep through the disturbance if it hadn't been someone he knew.

"I tried to stop him," came Kazu's voice next, and then Masaki said hurriedly, "He ordered Saori to stay at the inn, but she said I should come in case of bloodshed. Um, there's not going to be bloodshed, right? Right?"

"If you don't open this door, I will burn it right off the hinges," Jun said ominously.

Kazu sighed so loudly Sho could hear it from inside. "Honestly, Jun, it's probably not even locked."

The silence that followed was bitter, and Sho could imagine the unwillingly sheepish look on Jun's face.

Then he didn't have to imagine anything, because Jun banged the door open and strode in like he owned the place, the angry arrogance of it only partially spoiled by the fact that he carefully kicked off his boots before coming properly into the room.

Masaki and Kazu followed, with the latter gently closing the door with an impudence that was more a rebuke of Jun's violence than a spoken insult could ever be.

Even in the turmoil of the moment, Sho found a moment to be pleased at the sight of Satoshi bolting acrobatically up and over Sho like he'd been interrupted doing something scandalous. He couldn't have moved like that the day before, which meant his body was healing even if his mind resisted.

Sho sat up unhurriedly. "I'd say you're always welcome, Jun, but this isn't actually my house."

Jun, mouth open because he'd been about to yell, blinked, then looked tentatively at Satoshi, who was settling himself onto one of the cushions with a grouchy face that did a lot to ease Sho's worry. He hadn't even taken a blanket, which surely counted as a miracle.

Something in Jun's face must have conveyed his confusion and despair, because Satoshi took one look at him and his own face softened. Beyond being a naturally kind person, he'd been weak to Jun since they'd been kids.

"Jun is always welcome," he said sturdily, and despite everything, one corner of Jun's mouth tilted up with pleasure.

When he turned back to Sho, however, his scowl returned full-force.

"You left. You left. I've spent my whole life trying not to get forced into a plot, and what do you do? You take what they'd been trying to steal for me and drop it into my lap like a present." He took a step forward, his face as fierce as Sho had ever seen it. "You know I don't want it."

"I know," Sho said, keeping himself steady so that Jun could have this space to let his feelings out. He'd known what this would do to Jun.

Jun stabbed a finger in Sho's direction. "I told you I would be on your side, always. I told you I wanted to help you be the best king we've ever had, and we could have done it. And this is how much it meant to you, all the things we could've done to help people? It didn't even take you a day to consider before you gave it all up."

"Gave it up?" Satoshi echoed, and Sho said quietly, "I abdicated my position as heir to the throne. The day before yesterday."

Their wedding day, though they'd never made it to the ceremony. The day of Satoshi's accident. The day his father had given him an ultimatum, and all Sho had felt was relief that the ugliness of the moment meant he didn't have to feel regret for disappointing him.

At least, he didn't regret disappointing his father. He regretted hurting his mother, and Kazu, and Jun. And though he couldn't bring himself to look back, he regretted what he could have done with his friends at his side, as king.

"I'm going for a walk." Satoshi's voice was unreadable.

"I'll go with you," Masaki said hastily, clearly wanting to escape, but Satoshi held up a hand in silent refusal.

Sho wanted to stop him, but he had to get this out with Jun first. Jun deserved that--deserved much more, and always had.

He waited until Satoshi had left before standing up and looking Jun right in the eye. "No matter how often my father swore that no Matsumoto would ever inherit the throne, officially, at least, you've been next in line after me your whole life. No matter how much you don't want it, if you've never considered what you'd do if something happened to me, you aren't the person I think you are."

"Nothing has happened to you that you can't undo," Jun said urgently. "Give Satoshi some time, then come back and take your place again."

"No."

"Why not? I can't do this," Jun said, reaching out and shoving at Sho with palpable helplessness. "I can't! I have no one on my side, no one. Your father loathes me, my family--"

"--are a bunch of useless weasels," Kazu put in.

Jun only nodded wildly and reached a hand out to shove Sho's shoulder again.

Sho caught it and held it, yanking Jun in close. "Change my father's mind. Create your own place. Everything I might have been capable of doing for this country, you are more capable, Jun."

"Besides," Masaki said hesitantly, as he often was when it came to political matters. "Everyone in the line of succession after you is..."

"Unacceptable," Sho said, and got his hands on Jun's shoulders. "I know you don't want this, but you've got it. Please, Jun. I can't stay here with Satoshi the way I need to if you're not there, being the heir everyone needs."

"I can't," Jun repeated, sounding lost. He'd lost his anger, and with it every shred of belligerence, but Sho knew he'd been trying not to be a political leader for as long as he'd been old enough to understand what his family were trying to use him to do. His mother, an heir in her own right, had died in childbirth, and his ambitious father saw him as a tool to gain power he could never inherit for himself. If Jun had shown any sign of indulging his father’s faction, they’d likely all have been executed long since

Jun had only ever disappointed his family with his refusal to scheme for Sho's father's throne, but in all the time Sho had known him, he'd never disappointed Sho. The appointment that had made Jun his personal guard had been meant to shame Jun and make Sho feel threatened, but someone as selfish and paranoid as Sho’s father could never understand the bond they had.

Kazu spoke up into the tense silence. "I'll help."

Sho's throat constricted. "No, Kazu, you should get out while you can--"

"No. I won't leave Jun to deal with this mess alone." Kazu walked over and leaned into Sho, making him stumble. Jun caught at Sho's elbows, helping him stay upright, then didn't let go.

Kazu leaned in harder, but Sho was braced for him this time. "I would've served you all my life, Sho. But here, what you need isn't a viper."

Masaki came around to Sho's other side to shore him up. "Maybe a plow horse? I could help you find a good one."

"You think all animals are good ones," Jun snorted.

"Kazu," Sho said, trying not to be distracted by how much he loved his ridiculous friends. "You don't have to--"

"I know I don't have to. But I care about our country as much as any of you, all right? I won't let it fall to the wolves, not even for the sake of your true love."

Jun snorted again, his eyes locked on Kazu. Sho could see the wheels turning in his head: Kazu was a formidable weapon, with more knowledge of Sho's father's court than anyone else. He was sneaky, subtle, and mean when he needed to be, and Sho knew Jun needed Kazu in order to have a fighting chance.

But he thought of Kazu with a family, getting to live a simpler life, and wanted to try again to convince him.

"I'm not yours anymore," Kazu said softly. "I can do as I please." But he shifted in to wrap an arm around Sho's waist as Sho's eyes started to sting. "Sho. I've always done as I pleased, you know."

Masaki sniffled loudly, then declared, "Well, I can help too, Jun!"

Jun rolled his eyes. "You're aware that the backstabbing isn't literal, right, Masaki? I'm hoping not to need a lot of healing in this fight."

"It's literal sometimes," Sho said, thinking of a particular great-uncle who'd come to an untimely end.

"Besides, that's not what I meant," Masaki said, tugging Jun in even closer to the rest of them with a hand on the back of his neck. "I meant, I'm the healer for more than half the court. Just because I've been neutral up until now doesn't mean I don't know things. A lot of things."

"That doesn't seem very professional," Sho said, eyes widening, but Kazu took a different view of things, complaining, "You've been holding out on me! All this time... all those secrets..."

Masaki shrugged, unrepentant. "Well, it didn't seem like you guys really needed my help."

"I will," Jun said, and smiled suddenly, looking younger. "Thank you, Masaki. Kazu."

Sho was struck with wanting to help somehow, wanting to go back with them and work with them to untangle the melodramatic political mess he'd put them in.

But he'd done it for a reason, and it was time he focused on that instead. He looked at Jun, seeing the growing resolve on his face, then at Masaki, who might not show his strength often, but was as stalwart as people came. Finally, he turned and looked at Kazu, his dearest friend.

"Are you sure you couldn't be a plow horse?" he wondered innocently, and did his best to let his regrets go at the immediate indignant retort amid the laughter of the others. They'd be his friends until he died, but they all had their own roles to play.

Sho's was here, for as long as Satoshi would have him.

---

Once Jun stopped trying to convince Sho to come home, it wasn't long before he was pushing Sho out the door to bring Satoshi back so he could fuss over him properly. Masaki, looking worried as both a friend and a healer, seconded the motion, and Kazu took the opportunity to dig devious fingers into Sho's sides under the pretext of helping.

"He's by the lake," Masaki called as Sho stumbled out the door to escape Jun's pushing and Kazu's pokes.

"You life mages are creepy," Kazu said at once, then tried to be unobtrusive as he sniffed the air.

Jun laughed. "You don't have room to talk, being air-touched and worse than most. Honestly, Kazunari, with how you catch scents, are you sure you've labeled yourself the right animal?"

Behind them, Masaki gave an energetic woof in agreement.

Sho escaped before they turned the teasing on him. He picked his way through the overgrown fields, trying not to think about having to remove the seemingly inexhaustible brush, and finally down the far slope to find Satoshi.

As promised, he was at the lake, bare feet in the shallows as he stared into the distance. Sho was out of breath by the time he got there, and Satoshi clearly heard him coming, but he didn't turn. The scenery was breathtaking, all serene lake and majestic mountains, but Sho couldn't tell that Satoshi was registering it at all.

Deciding not to follow Satoshi's lead when it came to the water, Sho sat with some relief on a convenient rock, thinking again that he was really going to need some work before he made any sort of manual laborer.

Satoshi said abruptly, "You abdicated the throne."

Sho steeled himself to lay it all out, knowing that they wouldn't get to the end of this confrontation without settling something.

"I didn't actually have it yet, but yes."

"Because we're married?" Now Satoshi turned, feet squelching in a way that normally would have made him laugh, and looked intently at Sho. It wasn't often that he had that particular focused look in his eye, and to have it fixed on Sho made him feel oddly off-balance.

"Yes," Sho said, then reconsidered hastily. "Wait, no--"

"So if the accident had happened a day earlier..."

"No!" Sho got up to go to him and show every bit of his sincerity, but cursed as he had to wait and take off his boots and socks. Then he waded in, muttered, "Cold, so cold..." as he pulled his kimono up so it wouldn't get wet.

Satoshi wasn't far in at all, but Sho begrudged every moment that passed between Satoshi's accusation and reaching him. But then there he was, and they were face to face, and it was time for Sho to tell the truth.

He should have said it months ago.

"Because I love you, Satoshi. When I heard we were to be engaged, it should have felt weird, but then I went and found you… you were teaching that class at the Academy, remember? As a favor to Eiko during her parental leave. And I saw you with those magelets and--well.”

He mentally removed several paragraphs dedicated to the grace of Satoshi’s wrists beneath his tied-up sleeves, the way he’d promptly laughed when the kids knocked him into the water accidentally, the way he’d lit up when he looked over and saw Sho, so open Sho had wanted to fall into him and see where they ended up together. He’d seen Satoshi that day and wondered how it was possible he hadn’t loved him before.

Satoshi tilted his head, looking puzzled, and Sho pushed on.

"My father said he'd annul the marriage, that you were no longer the person he wanted married to his heir, so I did what I had to do to stop him. Because the moment Masaki told me you'd survive, I promised myself I'd spend the rest of my life making our marriage real."

There was barely a shift of expression in response, and despite how much he meant his words, Sho started to backtrack. "That is, of course, if you'll have me."

Satoshi said blankly, "I never looked at you that way."

Sho's heart sank. He was suddenly very aware of the cold water, the mud between his toes, the morning sun beating down on his back--all the things in this instant when the person he'd devoted his life to told him he wasn't wanted.

"You didn't," he said numbly, and Satoshi shook his head.

"You were so far above me, being the heir and all. Then the king... your father. Because of him we got engaged, and I couldn't help wondering if it meant anything to you." Satoshi frowned suddenly, looking down at his hem of his kimono dragging in the water. "But if anything, you were less friendly than before."

"So many people were watching," Sho said. "I was only just figuring out for myself--" He bit his lip. He needed to be better at listening to what Satoshi had to say, because Satoshi too easily let it pass without saying it at all if Sho didn't shut up.

"I was disappointed."

Sho couldn't believe his ears, but his hopes dropped again when Satoshi continued like his admission meant nothing. "But I figured we'd be fine anyway." His lips twisted, and he quoted Kazu wryly. "We've always been good friends, after all."

Sho opened his mouth, and closed it. Maybe there was something more Satoshi wanted to say. It was hard to wait to hear more about things like Satoshi never thinking of him that way, but it was more important to get at the truth than it was to reassure himself with false hopes.

Satoshi looked up from his bedraggled clothes, face serious. "I'd never let myself look at you that way. If I had... I think I'd have been in love with you since we were kids."

He seemed to think that was enough, but Sho didn't understand. "So you're saying you could've loved me, but you don't."

"I could love you," Satoshi said. "If I have you here to look at for long enough."

Sho's heart thudded painfully in his chest. "I told you what I wanted. I'm going to be here forever, if you'll let me."

"Then stay," Satoshi said, and smiled suddenly, like the sun coming out from behind the clouds. "Let's stay here together."

Sho's hands opened reflexively and the bunched fabric he’d been holding hit the water unnoticed. His eyes were fixed on the hope on Satoshi's face, hope mirrored in his own chest, making him reach out.

Satoshi came into Sho's arms like that was where he was meant to be. After a second, though, he mumbled into Sho's neck, "I don't love you yet."

Sho smiled. "Yet," he repeated, incandescent with unexpected happiness. They were going to stay, together. "Now we're really going to have to learn how to farm."

"Hmm?" Satoshi asked, sounding distracted. He snuggled in a bit more.

"And fish," Sho continued inanely. He couldn't stop beaming. "Without magic, which sounds stultifying. And probably we'll need to know how to cook."

"Oh! I know how to cook." Satoshi sounded smug.

"Well, that's one thing off the list," Sho said, squeezing him tight. Then his heart stopped as Satoshi pulled away just far enough to tilt his head up expectantly.

It didn't seem impossible that he was asking for a kiss, their first kiss, but it was Satoshi. He might just be zoning out again.

Cautiously, Sho said, "I'm sorry we missed our wedding ceremony." It kind of felt like they were getting married right then, feet in the mud and mountains surrounding them.

"I'm not," Satoshi said. "I hated all the fuss." He waited a moment more, then hinted, "But we did miss out on that one thing, you know. At the end, when it's over and we almost get to escape...?"

Sho pressed his lips together, trying not to smile at the impatient expression on Satoshi's face. "At the end?" he said, as if he didn't know exactly what Satoshi meant.

A cranky furrow appeared briefly between Satoshi's eyebrows, but then he seemed to come to a resolution that pleased him. His eyes went soft and intent on Sho's, and his fingers curled into the lapels of Sho's kimono possessively. Sho couldn't breathe, could only hope, but Satoshi seemed to have lost all his doubts.

He tugged Sho even closer, went up on his toes in the water, and pressed his mouth to Sho's.

It only lasted a moment, but it felt like Sho's world upended yet again.

"Like that," Satoshi said, gaze fixed on Sho's lips.

Sho said hoarsely, "Like this?" and leaned down to kiss Satoshi again.

His husband's arms wrapping around his waist were answer enough.

---

Sho and Satoshi made their way back up to the cottage hand in hand, Sho's filthy feet shoved reluctantly into his boots, Satoshi's comfortably bare, though every once in a while he yelped adorably as the delicate soles of his feet encountered something pointy.

"How are you feeling?" Sho asked as they bisected one of the wild and neglected fields. He meant it sincerely, but as soon as it was out he remembered Masaki saying that after a couple of days of recuperation, a wedding night might be possible.

His cheeks flushed and his heart stuttered, but Satoshi didn't seem to notice. He made a thoughtful sound, then yowled as his tread found something unpleasant.

Sho couldn't help laughing. Satoshi, however, came back to the question like he meant to answer it seriously no matter what attacked his feet next. After being in the water so long, he was shivering again, but his voice was steady.

"Yesterday, everything seemed over. But I like how the water feels against my skin, still. And I can find new ways to make art."

Sho squeezed Satoshi's hand, daunted by his strength. He'd had a secret image of himself giving up everything to come care nobly for his ailing husband, but he realized with someone as resilient as this, the caring would more than reciprocated.

"I've survived a day since waking up without magic," Satoshi said. He smiled suddenly, like he'd thought of something funny, but after a moment, what he said was, "I don't feel broken."

Just when Sho was about to reply, Satoshi added hesitantly, "Do you?"

About to reassure him, Sho caught himself and really thought about it. Finally he admitted, "I left behind... an incomprehensible amount. But no. I'm not broken. And unlike you, I got to choose."

Satoshi made an understanding noise, and Sho wished he'd say something, anything to keep Sho from admitting what he was about to admit. But his husband stayed inquisitively quiet, so Sho stared out into the trees and listened to himself say, "If I made that choice a hundred times over, I'd always choose you."

Satoshi laughed, not a trace of mockery in it, and Sho decided not to be embarrassed. At least in this moment, Satoshi sounded happy.

Sho bet he could make him even happier.

"Jun said he’d make lunch for all of us," he said, and was rewarded with a glowing smile. "Kazu suggested Masaki go down to invite Miho and her husband." He hesitated, not wanting to prod at any wounds, then said, "Even here, we won't be alone."

Satoshi swung their hands together as he stepped from one patch of grass to the next. "It sounds kind of nice, being alone, as long as it's with you."

Sho stumbled, nearly landing in a vicious-looking gorse bush, but Satoshi didn't let him fall. He was still smiling, and he tacked on just as candidly, "Of course, it's nice to be with friends, too."

"Of course," Sho agreed, and pulled Satoshi in to kiss him soundly. His husband made a surprised noise, but he sounded pleased, too. Sho kissed him again, then again for good measure. He explained, "I'll have to hold off on doing that while we have guests."

Looking struck by this argument, Satoshi tugged him down for another, and it was a while before he murmured, "We could've been doing this for ages."

Sho swallowed hard, imagining what might have been. They'd been engaged for a year, and with every day of it Sho had been more in love, unforeseen and irrevocable. If he'd been braver... if he hadn't waited...

But here Satoshi was, standing with him on the land that was sure to test them both to the limit, and he was looking at Sho like they were in this impossible situation together.

"We've got time," Sho said. He kissed Satoshi's smile once more, then pulled him home before their friends started eating without them.

Date: 2017-09-03 10:11 pm (UTC)
piggywhale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] piggywhale
Claiming my spot!

Hooray, a Yama story! I am soooo excited 🌈🎉 I will be back for a proper comment soon, Anon-san.

Date: 2017-09-11 09:44 am (UTC)
piggywhale: (Default)
From: [personal profile] piggywhale
Anon-san, I am back!

I am soooo sorry for my lateness in writing you a proper comment. RL obligations have occupied me for most of last week, hence my inability to do this properly. I am very sorry about that. m(-_-)m

OMG, I love this!! Seriously, totally, wholeheartedly love this. But first thing first, you wrote me a Yama story. No, let me say it again - YOU WROTE ME A YAMA STORY!!! Oh, god, I wish you knew how just this fact have delighted me. I have such a fondness for Ohno/Sho and I always feel a little sad that they don't get a proper attention like other, more famous pairings. That's why I really hope for a Yama in this exchange. But it's not just that. You didn't just write me any Yama story, you wrote me a PERFECT heart-wrenching, melancholy yama story. And I LOVEEEE it. Seriously, this is exactly how I LOVE about them. Personally, Yama = something not very happy (I know it's my own weirdness, but seriously). And somehow, for some miracle, that is exactly how you wrote this story. I am completely speechless. Totally in awe and speechless.

That doesn't mean I don't have anymore to say about this. On the contrary, I am so happy and so impressed about this perfect gift fic you wrote me that I am quite sure I can write an essay to express my appreciation and my sincere gratitude I have for your awesome work. But I don't want to bore you with my babbling - so I promise to contain my emotions and be brief (as much as I can, because let me tell you, I am a bubbling mess of emotions and feelings right now >_<).

You must have cashed in all of my good karma - or I've got VERY lucky - to have you assigned to write me. Because, oh man, you are like THE perfect writer for my gift fic. I LOVE fantasy, especially the royalty and a bit political stuff, and I LOVE magic. It's like you know my inner preference and be soooo kind enough to write me what I truly love. Moreover, you write so well, so beautifully. The details and descriptions of what's going on, the emotions, the scenes that you put so much work in portraying them are absolutely master class. I feel so lucky and so blessed. And I am not kidding when I tell you I almost cry just a few paragraphs into reading this because it's so beautiful - in literacy sense. I deeply appreciate this. Thank you!

It's surprising to see that the story spans the event of approximately one day, despite all the EPIC stuffs that have been going on. What a great way to tell the story! Come to think of it, it has such a great benefit because we can focus on the emotions and the yama relationship without being distracted by all the other major events/issues that may have been going on. So, most the serious stuffs happened before this story. And all the tensions, all the ongoing problems are kept underneath the peaceful and rather quiet setting. This is just perfect and I think it works very well with the melancholy tone of this story. We can never be truly happy reading this. But it's never really truly sad either. I love the feeling of purgatory about this. Just perfect. Truly perfect.

I love how you have magic in this but it is not overpower the true emotion of the story. Magic is also very natural here and it works very well into the core of the story. I particular LOVE how magic is installed in each of the characters. Of course, Ohno would be the most powerful, but very indifferent about his power. Masaki being like - the best, is certainly a PLUS (because you know how much I love Aiba, lol). Jun as a fire mage is soo fitting to him. And of course, you have to make Sho and Nino being someone who don't really have that great magical power but work their asses off to be what great persons they are. <3 <3 <3 Absolutely Love it.

Yama here is just <3<3<3 Like, seriously, there would be no words I can use to describe how perfect Sho and Ohno's relationship is in this story. Exactly how I like it. I am sooo happy. They are not lovely-doovey, but there's definitely great love there between them (especially from Sho, specifically). The way they interact is not too dramatic, and there are a lot of subtle interactions/unspoken feels between them. Gosh, this is wonderful. Definitely my kind of Yama. Thank you. T_T <- that's my tear of joy, btw.

Sho is so selfish tho. And you will never imagine how that delight and please me to no end. I LOVE it that Sho is practically being an ass (oh well, probably not for Ohno, but for everyone else.) Sho just runs away from his responsibility and the great things that can do other people good, to be with Satoshi. Oh god, I wanna cry. This is EPIC love story - yet, Sho is definitely at fault from outsider POV. Kind of make me think of British monarch (not sure you meant it.) Definitely a big plus here.

That being said, Poor Nino! Gosh, he is absolutely my favorite in this. I love him, I adore him, and I pity him - all at the same time here. Thank you for portraying Nino this way. <3

Poor Jun has to accept the responsibility that his friend (and cousin?) left behind. I am sure, from what you describe, that Jun would be a great (and probably scary) king. I can imagine a wonderful and epic story of Jun, Nino, and Aiba later. I really hope for the best for them.

By the way, this story screams a sequel. There's so much possibility given the wonderful AU and so much back story you have built here. However, this is also already perfect on its own. It seems so perfect, so complete, and there is no need to add anything. Really, i am so torn between urging you to write more and asking you not to. In any case, if you decide to write more on this, please please please let me know. I would LOVE to read it.

Lastly, let me express my deepest thanks and appreciation to your wonderful and truly epic work you wrote for me. I am very very happy and feel highly honored to have got this fic for this Exchange. You are truly too kind. Thank you!!

Date: 2017-09-04 08:27 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This fic was soo sad but then also soo cute awww I really love it!

Date: 2017-09-04 09:34 am (UTC)
agustin1982: (Default)
From: [personal profile] agustin1982
Yamapair~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ♥
finally yama fics~~~~
Yayyy~~~~~ They're married too~~ Double Yayyyy ♥
I love the story ♥
Thank you so much for write this, Anon-san~~ :D :D

Date: 2017-09-04 05:42 pm (UTC)
shofa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shofa
I cant believe there is a yama fic on the 1st day of arashi ex lol..
Thank you anon..this fic is so bittersweet ♡♡
Ohno and sho will have fluffy marriage life after this
I hope sho's dad can still accept yama marriage and sho still be his heir. .

Date: 2017-09-04 06:57 pm (UTC)
astrangestorm: (Default)
From: [personal profile] astrangestorm
I really liked this! The way magic works in this universe, how people have differing amounts of it/abilities they can use - it's really interesting. The Yama was so lovely - seeing Sho give up everything for him made my heart hurt (in a good way). And I think you captured Satoshi's trauma very well - if magic is just a given in this universe, losing it seems unthinkable. And having his magic as the last connection to his parents was heartbreaking. Great work!

Date: 2017-09-09 04:20 am (UTC)
missxshy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] missxshy
This fich show well how love can make you go through anything and even if Ohno "doesn't" love Sho yet he will I'm sure ! The end is really touching ♥
Thank you for this ^^

Date: 2017-09-11 12:41 pm (UTC)
lapetit_chou2: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lapetit_chou2
Aaahhh! I loved this so much!

The way you unfolded the story is like watching a movie! Slowly putting the pieces together, answering the questions in the reader's mind as they read along.

It's scenic. I don't know how to put it but that's how I felt while reading it. It's like watching the sun rise slowly, watching the dark morning become brighter... something like that. Everything making sense as the story unfolds.

Thank you anon-san! I really enjoyed reading this.

Date: 2017-09-17 04:56 am (UTC)
akhikaru: (Default)
From: [personal profile] akhikaru
This is a very interesting universe :D :D :D
The story felt rather sad in the beginning, but by the end, it was clear that there's hope for a good future for all of them, and I really liked that :D
"If I made that choice a hundred times over, I'd always choose you." I really liked this line :3
Thanks for this, anon! ^^
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