…Hat är som olycklig förälskelse, man är så djupt inne i sin misär att den inte ännu kan formuleras sammanfattat och övertygande.
Jag är säker på att du inte har mardömmar. Ska jag ge dig mardrömmar?
…Det förfärliga är att jag beundrar dig, hatfullt. Varför kan du inte lämna ut minsta lilla svaghet… tro mig, jag hade förstått och beskyddat din fatalitet, tro mig…
…Hatred is like unrequited love, one is so deep in one’s misery that it cannot yet be expressed coherently and convincingly.
I am certain that you don’t have nightmares. Shall I give you nightmares?
…The terrible thing is that I admire you, hatefully. Why can’t you reveal the merest weakness… believe me, I would have understood and protected your fatal flaw, believe me…
Tove Jansson, Stenåkern / The Stone Field
I’ve been chasing after a dream for all of my life. A capricious, cruel dream, that laughs mockingly out of my reach. It wears the form of a boy with hair like snow and mocking quicksilver eyes.
Yuki has everything I have ever wanted, and yet he spurns it all and tosses it carelessly aside. I devoted my life to martial arts, but when he took them up he was soon better than me. He is the perfect student, the son every parent wants, the cynosure of all eyes without even trying. I have everything at stake and he nothing, and yet things always go his way.
Growing up, I was never allowed to forget I was a monster, and so I thought of myself as one. No-one ever allowed me to decide for myself what I wanted to be, or gave me a chance, until Tohru came along. I’ve been more or less on the defensive all my life, and I push people away.
I learned to talk to Tohru because I felt the kindness of her nature, and she learned to listen for what I was really trying to say. The gentleness of her nature makes me want to meet her with the same gentleness, and become someone else, far removed from my past.
But Yuki? He misinterprets everything I say, and seizes on every weakness I let slip. I lose my head when I’m around him; he brings the vilest, basest parts of my nature to the surface. I can’t hide anything from him: my fears, my weaknesses, my anger, they all overwhelm me when he’s around. I don’t recognise myself around Tohru, but when I’m with Yuki I feel every inch the cat of the zodiac, who has a monster soul.
Yuki effortlessly tears my hard work and my confidence to the ground, and yet he doesn’t seem to notice my existence at all.
I am the cat of the zodiac and he is the rat. We come from the same cruel place and are bound by the same chain. How is it that he, alone, is so perfect? He shines so brightly he drowns out everyone around him. He is beautiful, and gentle, and he knows how to be charming and kind. He is kind, to everyone but me.
I want to bring him to his knees and force him to take notice of me. I want him to look me in the eye and admit that he’s the same as me. I want him to acknowledge that he isn’t perfect and has weaknesses too, and that princely kindness of his is just a facade.
I want him to look at me.
When I was very young, I met a boy with beautiful orange hair.
I lived in a world of shadows, a cold, cruel world. Everyone wanted something from me. I was the centre of attention, but no-one truly saw me. Sometimes I felt that I didn’t really exist, that I didn’t know what it was to live. But I wanted to live, so much.
That new year’s, it had been snowing for days, and the snow was heaped up on the ground.
It was warm inside, and everyone sat in little groups around the table, eating, talking and laughing. Everyone was at ease and had their own special friends.
Everyone but me. No-one in that room was my friend, not even the one they said was my brother. Their gazes on me ranged from veiled hostility to detached curiosity. Perhaps they sensed that I belonged to Akito and were afraid to get too close. Or perhaps they simply didn’t care.
The room was bright and warm, but there was no place in it for me.
And then I walked out into the snow, and saw him standing there with radiant hair in the light spilling out of the windows. The cat spirit, Kyo. He stood out there in the dark and cold, but everything about him was warm, vibrant, radiantly alive. He was light, and colour, and laughter, and anger too, everything that was strange to my frozen heart. I wanted to bask in that light and learn to feel. I wanted to leave my world of shadows and be real, like him.
He was the first person to truly look at me, and he walked away. He screamed out that I’d ruined his life, and things would be better if I just disappeared. After that, for a long while, I hated myself as he hated me, for bringing such pain and anger into those beautiful amber eyes.
As the years passed, I came to realise that just like the rest of them, he didn’t really see me either. We were cursed to hate each other; I am the rat of the zodiac and he is the cat. Our destinies were decided for us before we were born, and what can mere humans do against fate? Not that I have ever felt human.
But why must he submit so meekly to fate’s decree? What does he really want? He has no real objective but to push me down and take my place; he has no ambitions of his own. He only wants to be accepted by other people, to succeed by their metrics - the very people I’ve spent all my life trying to escape from. And yet he could go anywhere, do anything, and find new people who would accept him. He has everything I want - a loving parent, the ability to make friends, and a heart capable of love - and yet all he does is run after me and challenge me to one fight after another, like a primary schooler with a grudge. It would be funny if it wasn’t such a nuisance.
He gets on my nerves. He’s free to want what he wants, but I wish he’d leave me out of his fight.
And yet, all those years ago, I only wanted him to be my friend.
Shigure had had grave doubts about the advisability of leaving Yuki and Kyo alone together, but it really couldn’t be helped. Tohru had gone to visit her grandfather, and he had an unavoidable errand in town. Yuki and Kyo would just have to get by on their own for a couple of days. Shigure hoped fervently that the house would still be standing when he got back.
Things had started off peacefully enough. There was some food in the fridge, and they had agreed on a division of chores. Yuki did his chores around the house while Kyo worked on his training in the yard. Then Yuki went up to his room to do his homework while Kyo cleaned the kitchen and did the dishes. Then he curled up on the sofa to read the novel Shishou had recommended until tea-time.
But then Yuki came downstairs in pursuit of something to eat. He walked into the kitchen, completely ignoring Kyo.
Yuki seemed tired, and he walked slowly, as if it was a struggle. Not that Kyo really registered this; he merely reflected that the Prince was taking his own sweet time about some simple kitchen tasks. Or maybe a little bit of curiosity - definitely not concern - made him call out.
‘Hey, you damn rat! Am I beneath your princely notice?’
Yuki sighed. ‘Do you need me to validate your existence?’
Kyo bristled. ‘No, I—you—you forgot to take out the trash!’ That was actually one of Kyo’s jobs, but he needed to say something to cover his confusion.
‘Wasn’t that your job, you lazy cat?’
Kyo didn’t really care about the trash - he’d intended to take it out before tea anyway - but he couldn’t bear it when Yuki acted aloof and superior.
’All right, fight me. If I beat you, you have to take the trash out.’
Yuki sighed. ’You say that like it’s an actual possibility. But I’ll indulge you this once, because it’s faster than arguing.’
It was the old, old routine. It should have been drearily familiar, but Yuki was different today. He was slower, clumsier, less quick to attack. His breath came fast, and he looked as if breathing hurt him. Kyo knew that he was supposed to be subject to ‘attacks,’ but he had never attached much credence to them; the family fussed over their precious boy so much, and the Prince seemed to get by just fine anyway. Besides, if he was this thrown off by a simple cold, he was just a weakling, wasn’t he?
The fact that he was feeling just a little guilty only made Kyo angrier. Yuki had ruined his life; he had no right to be making him, Kyo, feel guilty now. He gave Yuki a hard shove; Yuki stumbled, and before Kyo knew it, he was kneeling on top of Yuki on the kitchen floor, raining blows on him. The unfamiliarity of the situation only served him deepen Kyo’s unease, and this made him angrier. He had earned this victory! He had worked for it for years! It was his by right!
He pinned Yuki’s wrists to the ground, immobilising him. His knee dug into Yuki’s stomach, and Yuki gasped. His breath came in painful rasps, and his face suddenly contorted with pain.
Yuki stared up at Kyo, his eyes wide and startled and helpless. And then everything went black for a moment, and Kyo was five years old again, standing in the glare of bright lights spilling out into the snow, meeting his worst enemy for the first time.
He had stood outside in the snow, alone and shivering from the cold, and watched the happy people inside in the warmth.
He sensed a movement and turned.
His worst enemy stood before him, the source of all his nightmares.
Kyo glared at him. ’You’re the rat, aren’t you?’
He didn’t look at all like Kyo had expected him to - he was small and so slender that he looked vulnerable, fragile. He had a wistful face, whatever it was he had to be wistful about. And yet there was a strange expression on it, something utterly foreign to Kyo. Could it be… hope?
He looked as though he was looking at something very beautiful with those eyes too big for his face. Standing there in the snow, he had all the remoteness and purity of an untouched snowdrift. Kyo felt suddenly that this boy lived in a realm of his own, a place that he could never reach.
His beauty made Kyo angry and he wanted to mar it, destroy the gentle tranquillity of Yuki’s face as he stood there in the snow, quietly watching someone whose life he had ruined.
‘You should just stop existing!’ he had screamed, and run away into the snow, trying to get away from the purity and gentleness of Yuki’s face and the sudden despair that had leapt into those enormous grey eyes at his words.
Faced with those stricken eyes, he had felt himself to be truly the monster people said he was. He had turned and run away from it, buried it under layers of snow. It was so long ago. It was just a quarrel among children, and he hadn’t known any better, when people said such things to him all the time. Yuki wouldn’t even remember it. It was alternately crushing and comforting, the realisation that he probably remembered every encounter with Yuki far more clearly than Yuki did - Yuki, who never seemed to see him at all. He had never seen that expression on Yuki’s face again - neither the hope, nor the hurt.
But deep in his memory lay the consciousness that he had wounded something precious and defenceless. Perhaps that was when he had begun to be a monster.
Maybe that was why he hated Yuki so much. But he realised suddenly that he hated himself more.
‘Stop looking at me like that!’ he cried, furiously, helplessly. ‘Don’t look at me with those eyes!’
And then he realised Yuki was trembling under him, struggling for breath, and his hands were freezing cold.
He looked at Yuki, miserable, angry, angry at Yuki and angrier at himself. Angrier still at the ill fortune that seemed to dog his footsteps and rub off on everyone around him. And of course he was still too cowardly to admit that it was not the fault of an obscure fate, but himself.
He released Yuki’s hands and got up, carefully.
‘You damn rat! Why won’t you ever say when you’re hurt?’
Yuki lay there, still gasping for breath, still staring at him with those helpless, despairing eyes. Kyo slid a hand under his shoulder and propped him up until he could breathe a little easier. Once he had got his breath, Yuki shook him off, and got uncertainly to his feet.
He swayed, and Kyo grabbed him hastily by the arm. ‘Are you actually going to faint, you weakling?’
‘No,’ said Yuki, gritting his teeth and pushing him away. He managed two steps before he fell face first on the floor again.
Kyo sighed, and walked over to him. ‘I know you’re mad at me, but you can ask for help sometimes.’ He yanked him up, and half-carried him up the stairs and to his room. He could feel Yuki’s trembling.
‘I have … better things to do … than be mad at you,’ said Yuki faintly.
Kyo helped him over to the bed, laid him on it, and covered him with a blanket. ‘You keep telling yourself that.’
Yuki drifted off into a heavy sleep. Kyo covered him up carefully and went to get him a hot water bottle. Then he went to his room to train for a bit, trying to allay the nameless fears that were descending on him. Surely this wasn’t his fault! Surely Yuki would be all right!
Kyo had won, but there was no pleasure in this victory.
He felt strangely close to tears. This was what he’d wanted all this time, but he hadn’t wanted it like this. He had meant to defeat Yuki man to man, fairly, in an exultant clash of wills, and have Yuki acknowledge him as his equal, and look at him with respect. Instead, Yuki had lain crushed under his weight, helpless and bewildered, too weak to fight back. Instead of making contact with him, he had pushed him further out of reach.
This felt like the destruction of a dream. What had it all been for? All triumph seemed empty faced with the look on Yuki’s face.
Yuki had finally looked at him, but there was no pleasure in it. He had wanted Yuki to look at him as a rival, as an equal, a friend. This was none of those. Was it actually… fear?
Kyo raged silently as he went through his training. This victory was his by right, the only thing that could secure him a future, and save him from the nightmare that was in store for him otherwise. A nightmare he had done nothing to deserve; he was to be confined in that room for life for being the cat spirit, a mere accident of birth that was no fault of his. He had made a bet with Akito, and now he had won. He had only earned what should have been his to begin with.
And yet the rat still had his hold over him. Even in defeat, he was the master. What right had he to make Kyo feel so guilty? What good would it do to have regrets now, when he had devoted his life to chasing this dream? Surely, with what Kyo had at stake, anything was fair!
He went back to check on Yuki in half an hour. Yuki awoke and tried to sit up.
‘Oh no, you don’t,’ said Kyo, pushing him back down. Yuki was too weak to resist, so he simply lay back on his pillows and looked reproachful. Kyo groaned. This was a new weapon he had no defence against.
‘What is it now?’
‘I need to water my plants.’
‘They’ll be fine for one day.’
‘No, they won’t. There are some seedlings there and it’s been really hot.’ Yuki directed his reproachful gaze at Kyo and waited.
Kyo glowered for a moment and then gave in.
‘Fine, I’ll water your plants.’
‘I’m not telling you where my secret base is.’
‘I know where it is, you idiot. It’s not exactly hard to find.’
An hour later, Kyo banged Yuki’s door open and strode in, bearing a plate. ‘Here’s rice porridge for you.’
‘Wait, did you make me rice porridge?’ said Yuki, wonderingly.
‘That’s none of your business!’
Yuki looked away. ’Thanks, but I’m not really hungry.’
Kyo strode over to the bed and bent over him threateningly. ‘Eat it, or I’ll make you. I can’t have you fainting again and saying it’s my fault.’
Yuki obediently took the plate. ‘I never said anything.’
Kyo paced around the room while Yuki ate his porridge. Then he wheeled around and strode over to the bed.
‘I want a re-match! So that no-one can say I beat you when you weren’t in full form.’
Yuki sighed. ‘But wasn’t all this just so you could become a member of the zodiac? I really don’t care. I’d be happy to have you stop bothering me.’
‘You idiot! You don’t understand anything, do you? I don’t care about the zodiac! I just wanted to beat you!’
Yuki sighed again. ‘Should I be flattered?’
‘No, damn it! It’s not about the zodiac, you’re the source of all my problems!’
Then he stopped. There it was again. The flicker of pain on Yuki’s face. It was gone in an instant, but Kyo recognised it. Yuki had to be really weak today to let even that flicker show through his usual mask.
Kyo cleared his throat. ‘What I’m trying to say is, I can’t take advantage of your illness to beat you like this.’
Yuki blinked. ’This is the first instance of you ever caring about anyone else. I don’t suppose it matters that I don’t actually want to fight you?’
Kyo punched the wall. ‘You won’t face me, you coward?’
Yuki did not deign to respond to this, merely looked aggravatingly superior. How did he manage to be this infuriating even when he was ill and weak?
Kyo returned to check on Yuki before he went to bed, and covered his sleeping form with a second blanket.
It was a little before dawn when he heard Yuki cry out. And again, in a small, strangled voice. He pushed off his blanket and hastened to Yuki’s room to see what was the matter. He pushed open the door and knelt by his bed.
It had never occurred to him that Yuki could have nightmares.
In the wan light of the old moon, he could make out Yuki lying curled into a ball on his side, flushed and tousled. He cried out in his sleep again and reached out a hand to someone in his dream. ‘Let me out! Don’t go, please! Don’t leave me here alone!’
Instinctively, Kyo caught the outstretched hand and gripped it tightly. Gradually, he felt Yuki’s hand relax in his grip, and his breathing grew calmer. Once Yuki had calmed down, he tried to withdraw his hand, but Yuki held it fast in his sleep and he realised he couldn’t dislodge it without waking him. Which would be a shame, now that he was sleeping so peacefully (not to mention that he’d know then that Kyo had been comforting him). With a sigh, he decided to wait until Yuki relaxed his grip.
He must have fallen asleep on his knees there, because the next thing he knew was that he awoke sprawled uncomfortably on the hard floor to find Yuki regarding him with a startled expression. His hand lay relinquished on the floor beside him.
Yuki reached out and switched on his bedside lamp. He opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it again.
‘What is it?’ Kyo demanded, feeling foolish. ‘So you don’t need me around any more, do you? Well, your screaming kept me awake and then I couldn’t get you to sleep without—’
Yuki looked as if he were trying to hide a smile. He composed himself hastily. ’I’m sorry.’
Kyo stopped short. ‘What?’
‘For keeping you up. And that you ended up sleeping on that hard floor.’
Kyo shrugged. ‘It’s fine. I’m the cat spirit, I can fall asleep anywhere.’
Yuki hesitated. ‘Did I— talk in my sleep?’
‘You said “let me out” a few times, and then you were asking someone not to go,’ said Kyo expressionlessly, looking away from him.
Yuki let out a small sigh.
‘Um, Yuki.’ Kyo was still looking at the floor. ‘I didn’t know you had nightmares too.’
A trace of colour flamed in Yuki’s face. ‘Did you think you were the only one who could have nightmares?’
‘You always acted so cool and unperturbed! How was I supposed to know if you didn’t tell me!?’
‘Well, you didn’t exactly encourage me to confide in you! When I show you weaknesses, you normally use them against me.’
Kyo stopped short. Could it be… Yuki, too…?
‘Did I… did fighting with me give you nightmares?’
‘Nah, I wasn’t afraid of you.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Sometimes I get flashbacks though, to when Akito confined me. Like today, when I couldn’t breathe and felt powerless.’
Kyo stared at him, assailed by a wave of remorse. It was so easy to forget that this perfect, poised, beautiful boy had such a hideous nightmare of a past. But how had he been so blind? How did Yuki conceal it?
Finally, he said, in a small voice: ‘I enjoyed fighting with you. All this time, I wasn’t doing it to hurt you.’
Yuki turned to look at him. ’Even today?’
Kyo looked hard at the ground. ‘Today was different. I— I realised you were in pain. And I was angry. With myself. So I lashed out at you.’ He swallowed. ‘No wonder they say I’m a monster.’
He shook his head. ‘I just… I wanted to face you. I wanted you to look at me. I liked fighting with you. I should have realised. I won’t fight you any more. I know what flashbacks are like.’
Yuki nodded in acknowledgement of his attempt at an apology. Then he said: ‘Actually, I wouldn’t mind sparring once in a while. It’s fun to have a rival.’ He cleared his throat. ’Anyway, if you’re a monster, so are we all.’
Warmth blossomed in Kyo’s heart. After all these years, Yuki had acknowledged him as his rival! And he didn’t think he was a monster!
‘I don’t know what you’re blushing for,’ said Yuki. ‘That wasn’t a confession of love or anything.’
Kyo’s face grew even hotter. ‘Shut up!’
Yuki looked at him. ‘You’re still on that hard floor.’
‘Well, yes. You’re keeping me here. Did you only just notice?’ Then he realised Yuki was making room for him on his bed.
‘All right, you’re sick, so I’ll warm you up if you insist.’
‘Thank you,’ said Yuki obligingly. ‘I’m really cold.’
Kyo got in sheepishly, avoiding Yuki’s gaze. Yuki switched off the light and they lay in the faint glow of the sky before dawn. There was something alien about this world: a world of shadows, where you could be honest because your face was hidden from the cruel light of day. The world that Yuki, creature of the night, belonged to. It felt strangely kind.
He could hear Yuki’s breathing, still a little heavier than usual. It was oddly comforting to have another human being so close. A boy of his own age, bound by the same curse, with a past to match Kyo’s future. It was disconcerting that this felt so natural, almost as if he’d been waiting for it all along.
‘You know,’ said Yuki, turning his head to look at Kyo in the half-darkness, ‘I wanted to be friends with you back then. The first time we met.’ His tone was light and neutral.
Kyo felt his heart skip a beat. He forced himself to speak casually. ‘Well, why didn’t you say so?’
‘Well, you told me that I should stop existing and ran away as if I was a monster.’
‘I didn’t know any better! I was five! That was what everyone said to me.’
‘I know, but I didn’t know any better than to believe you.’
They were silent for a few heartbeats.
Kyo felt miserably remorseful, and didn’t know what to say. Apologising seemed so empty in the face of what had happened. But he was also strangely grateful that Yuki had talked about the encounter - it had diminished from a dread phantasm lurking in the shadows to a tangible thing they could talk about and move ahead from. Suddenly Kyo felt the overwhelming need to be honest with Yuki, as Yuki had been with him.
‘Yuki. The truth is, I made a bet with Akito.’
Yuki sat up. ‘What?’
‘Akito said that if I could beat you, he’d let me take your place in the zodiac. And otherwise, I’d be confined.’
Yuki stared at him, the faint light throwing strange shadows across his face. ‘Confined?’
‘Yes.’ Kyo swallowed. ‘For life.’
‘But… surely they wouldn’t let him? Shi-han, Hatori, Shigure? Wouldn’t they resist?’
‘They never have before, have they?’
‘The others haven’t, but I’m sure Shi-han would never let him do that. He’s your father, Kyo! He loves you!’
‘What could he do against Akito, though?’
‘I don’t think Akito has that much power over him. You forget that he isn’t cursed like we are. And we’re in the twenty-first century, there are laws and authorities to protect you.’
They were both silent. Yuki swallowed. He lay back down and turned his face away from Kyo.
‘Nobody protected me, but that was because my parents went along with it. And my brother, and everyone who knew about it. Nobody cared enough to fight for me, that’s all. If you have a parent who’s willing to fight for you, everything’s different.’
Kyo stared helplessly at Yuki’s profile. There was nothing he could say that would do any good. The world had condemned Yuki to hell, callously, lightly, and gone about its business all the same. As happened a thousand times a day, in different parts of the world. How did people live with their consciences? The same way he had done all this time, he supposed.
Yuki went on, hesitantly. ’And… if you think Akito would keep the terms of the bet, as far as I’m concerned, you can say you’ve won. I don’t think you need to be honourable against Akito, he’s never played fair in his life. And I really don’t care if I get kicked out of the zodiac, I’ve wanted to escape from them all my life.’
‘Yes, but… I can’t do it like this. I know you don’t care, but it feels like I’m trampling on you to get there. I want to earn this for myself.’
‘People don’t have to earn the right to freedom, idiot cat. It belongs to you by right!’
‘But it was a dirty deal anyway. I don’t want to play by Akito’s rules and win at your expense when you’re his victim too. I’ll fight for it myself, in my own way.’
‘All right, then.’ Yuki stared up at the ceiling. ‘I’ll fight beside you.’
Kyo stared at him. Had he heard that correctly?
‘What are you looking so surprised about? You know I was confined before, I couldn’t watch it happen again. And I want to be your rival on my own terms, not Akito’s.’
Kyo stared at him. He felt tears spring to his eyes, but it didn’t matter. In fact, nothing mattered any more. Not the curse, not Akito, not what might happen in the future, compared to the fact that Yuki would defy Akito for him and fight by his side. He knew that Yuki meant it, and he realised all of a sudden that if they fought together, nothing and no-one could stand against them.
Yuki smiled and turned over on his side to face Kyo.
‘Idiot cat, what are you crying for?’
Kyo found himself sobbing on Yuki’s shoulder without really knowing how he got there. Could that really be Yuki’s hand rubbing his back? It was surprising how comforting it was.
‘Yuki. I really didn’t care about being part of the zodiac. I wanted to catch up to you so I could be your friend.’
Yuki laughed. It was the first time he had heard Yuki laugh so genuinely. ‘Maybe you need to work on your seduction skills a bit, Kyo. I thought you were after my life. I would have been your friend from the first, if you’d only asked me to.’
Kyo decided to let the word ‘seduction’ pass without comment because he was so happy. He felt Yuki’s hand squeeze his shoulder.
As they lay there, the sky outside the window grew pale and bright and warm. A ray of light crept through the window like a stain of honey.
Something shifted. A tremor ran through the fabric of space-time, and the universe turned upside down for an instant.
Kyo gasped. A chain binding him had snapped, and he felt himself falling freely through a world that had been made anew. The walls that pressed in on him had crumbled, and a vast landscape stretched before him, empty of everything but possibilities. A dawn sky empty of clouds.
Vertigo gripped him. He felt Yuki’s fingers brush his hand, and instinctively he gripped Yuki’s hand tightly. It felt like the only anchor in a world turned upside down, a world where, for the first time in his life, he was free.
Free. What did that mean? Free to do what? What would he do? Where would he go?
Freed from his chains, who was he?
It was like living in a dark tunnel all your life, and one day coming out into the sunlight. What did your eyes do with so much light? It was like waking up one morning in a world without gravity. A world where directions had no meaning any more, where almost every evolution of human civilisation was rendered meaningless in an instant. You could ascend to the highest heavens or dive to the depths of the earth, but still at first you’d be lost and afraid without the ground beneath your feet.
He stared at Yuki, and saw the same bewilderment reflected on his face. Sudden tears shone in Yuki’s eyes. His hand returned Kyo’s grasp with a reassuring weight.
‘Kyo,’ he said, in a whisper. ‘I think… we’re free.’
If you’d never known happiness before, how did one dare to be happy?
At that moment, the only thing that Kyo knew for certain was that he was glad to have Yuki by his side. Whatever the new world had in store for him, he wouldn’t be facing it alone.
They smiled at each other, half-shy like new acquaintances. Come to think of it, they’d never truly smiled at each other before. They lay there in silence awhile, still holding hands; the moment felt too sacred for either of them to break it. They were drifting in time as though they were at the bottom of the sea.
The sun peeked through the window, and slowly earth and sky returned to their accustomed positions. Yet still not quite the same.
Then Kyo felt Yuki fidgeting beside him.
‘What is it?’ he said sharply. ‘Are you all right?’
‘Yes, I’m fine.’
‘You don’t feel ill, or anxious?’
‘No, not any more.’
‘Well, what is it, then?’
Kyo glared at him. ‘You bastard, for once in your life, can’t you say what you want?’
Yuki hesitated, took a deep breath, and stared deep into his eyes. ‘I want you to kiss me, Kyo.’
Time seemed to stop in its tracks for a moment.
Yuki turned his head away. ‘Do I have to say it again? It doesn’t matter.’
‘Did you ask me to— to kiss you?’
‘All right, yes! You made me say it. Are you happy now?’ And then his eyes widened in surprise as Kyo leaned over and kissed him.
The universe spiralled around Kyo again, but this time he was at the centre of it. This universe and its infinite potentialities belonged to him for an instant, and it wore the form of a boy with snowy hair and soft winter eyes. A kiss like a fallen snowflake melting on the lips. A kiss that exulted over the entire world.
Kyo drew back. ‘Well then, rat bastard,’ he whispered, ‘I guess I got you to look at me at last.’
‘Idiot cat,’ said Yuki, smiling at him. He had the warmest smile. ‘I’ve been looking at you all this time.’ He kissed Kyo again, a warm kiss that left Kyo alive and glowing to his fingertips. He touched Kyo’s face with slender fingers, and kissed his warm flame-coloured hair.
‘Now this is a confession of love.’