The house was silent when he returned. He paused, scanned the windows for tell tale lights; none. Quietly slid the door open; it stuck a bit if you didn't push it right.
The moonlight fell past him through the open door, throwing his shadow into the sleeping house, long and dark and strangely elongated. Even when he shut the doors again, with a slight whisper, the moonlight didn't leave; it had long found other ways in.
Climbing the stairs to his room, his shadow followed, furtive movements just caught by the corner of his eye, like some watching stranger, not part of him at all. It felt alien to him today... But no, everything felt different today.
Today. The last day. And tonight was the last night he would ever see this place, climb these stairs, followed by this shadow. Tomorrow would rise with the dawn, and a with it, an alien world.
His world. Or not. He had spent his life training for the day he would enter that world, that battle, that war... tomorrow would be first time he would see it for himself.
He'd said his goodbyes to this place. These people. Everything. ... Everything? Say goodbye to everything except the one thing even you can't let go of.
And he hesitated, let his eyes rest on her bedroom door, almost turned, then stopped. Yes, well, she'd kill him if he woke her now. And was he really so afraid of that?
Last words, final rites, as if they would never meet again
And what would he say to her, if he did not say goodbye?
He slid the door shut with a careless thud. Pulled the blankets over his head, tried to go to sleep.
She heard him come in. Sitting in the darkness of her room, back against the door, senses so strained she heard the whisper of his cautious footsteps... She heard him stop, in a sudden absence of sound. When he shut his door with an audible thud, she started.
She could not, quite, hear him breathe, though she could probably imagine that she did, if she wanted to fool herself like that. But what would be the point?
The bags sat on the mats beside her. She should have just left them in his room; instead, they sat beside her, quietly mocking. Mocking. What are you waiting for, why are you here, why do you want, desire?
And she wore the queen's mask so well, no one ever saw it fall. There was no one else to see her sitting here in the moonlit darkness. No one else to hear her whispered "Idiot." No one else to watch as she finally picked up the bags and left the room on silent feet.
The door swished open imperiously.
"You have some nerve." Anna - who else could it be? - said icily. "Coming back and going straight to sleep without saying anything to me."
A pause and an irritated hmph. "You're the same as ever. You never learn. And the Shaman Fight starts tomorrow."
Two large, bulky things - his bags - landed on him with a painful thump. "Take them. Your grandfather sent you money, and I made you a new outfit. Don't forget to bring them with you tomorrow. Good night." Words bitten off as if they would otherwise bite her.
We all build our walls. Walls of stone, of steel, of concrete.
She knew that he wasn't asleep. "Yoh... You really have grown stronger." Her words were almost a whisper. "I told Tamao that today... but it's true. You have learned; you will not be moved..."
"I am the one who can't let go... because tomorrow, you won't be here anymore..."
We all wear masks; for the world, for ourselves... See what you will.
"Can I sleep with you tonight?"
But in the darkness, in the blindness of night, even the strongest mask falls.
And that first day, that first moment, he had thought her of glass. Of hard, crystalline brilliance, and diamond sharp edges. He reached out to touch her and it drew blood, and he flinched, yet she drew him like moth to flame, to ashes and brittle beauty.
And if she should fall, she would break and shatter.
What had she seen in him?
Maybe she didn't know herself.
He heard the door slide shut, and sat up, slightly, so that he could shift and make room for her under the covers. Could feel her next to him, warm and slightly tense; hear her long, even breaths; smell her scent, faint yet undeniably hers.
She stirred. "What?"
Why had he called her? "Ah... nothing."
"Idiot." He felt her relax, slightly.
And five years had passed since that first, surreal meeting; caught so percariously between fate and coincidence that even now, he was not sure that Matamue had not somehow planned it. Maybe he hadn't even needed to.
Hesitantly, he reached out to touch her and she did not turn away. Her fingers curled into his under the covers.
"I don't want to let go either." She didn't answer him; maybe she was already asleep. Her hand was strong and smooth against his calluses.
We all build our walls. Wall of stone, of steel, of concrete. Of glass. And if you look hard enough, maybe the light will stop blinding you enough to let you see through those glass walls, catch glimpses of what lies within.
Tomorrow would dawn, the sun would rise, but for now, in the night, they would dream. Of the past, of the future, of ordinary days. Of eternity.