Through the Night

 

Part Ten: Shigeru and Satoshi

 

All right, so maybe this is just a little cruel, but I'm so very glad that Hiroshi and Kasumi are gone, and that Satoshi and I get to spend more time together. I mean, sure they're nice and all, but I want to spend what time I can with him...

I'm so glad he didn't make me go off with them. I mean... I'm just glad that I didn't have to be taken back to the Kanto fortress with Hiroshi and Kasumi.

Actually, that would have made sense.

But Satoshi wants me to stay with him...

Maybe there's a chance that he actually feels something for me... more than that I just happen to be his prisoner. Actual feelings...

Hey, I can dream. I know I can. Because sometimes, it really, really hurts...

Like right now.

"So what are we going to do with the day?" I ask him, brushing hair away from my eyes. He looks back at me and smiles. "Itís another fun day of scouting."

I scowl at him and he shrugs. "You get used to it. I mean... look what Hiroshi got with his new assignment." Well... heís right about that. "Do you need any help up?" He asks me with a smile on his lips. Itís almost like itís reflected in his eyes...

Itís beautiful and I canít help but stare. *Heís* beautiful... and at least I can be alone with him again. Thank Mejiro...

"Um, Shigeru?"

I blink and find that heís kneeling right before me. I blush and crash backwards. Oh yes, that was just beautiful. He creeps closer and sits at my side. "Um, are you all right?"

I nod and try and sit up, and somehow I manage to, bound wrists and all. He smiles and wipes something off of my cheek. "So, do you need help?"

I nod again and this time he actually helps me into a standing position. "Thanks." I murmur and he smiles. Itís a sort of stunning bright smile that wants to take my breath away. I swear I have to remember how to even take another breath at all...

~~~~~

You know, sometimes I really think there's something about Shigeru that I'm just... missing. There's something in his eyes when he looks at me that just seems different from the way most people look at me. I really like it, too. There's a sort of warm feeling inside me that comes whenever I see Shigeru watching me, and I love the way it feels... like I'm being surrounded by his gaze and kept warm and safe forever in it. I have to smile; does it really matter what's different about him? As long as it makes me this happy, it's OK, right?

I just get the feeling I'd be even more happy if I understood it...

Shiika dips a little; usually she's a smooth flyer, but I think she noticed I wasn't paying attention. I pat her neck apologetically, and feel Shigeru shift behind me, recovering from that little surprise.

"OK back there?" I ask, turning slightly. He nods, and I smile. "But maybe you're ready to stop in another hour or so, hmm?"

I catch the grimace before he can hide it, and laugh. Shigeru is so funny sometimes. He absolutely despises my rations -- which he will eventually have to eat, no matter what he thinks -- and he doesn't like to fly for extended periods of time. I guess it's sort of like riding a horse, though -- if you're not used to it, the first few times can get uncomfortable.

There's movement over to one side, and I instantly forget Shigeru's little quirks. "Shiika, go higher," I whisper. I'm aware that from below, we'll come close to blending with the clouds -- particularly since they're more greyish than white today -- but I'll be able to see what's going on below.

I take in a sharp breath when I notice the black dragon coming into view directly beneath me. The rider can't see us, obviously, though he might if he took the time to study what was going on above him. For some reason, though, his eyes are fixed on the ground. Like he's searching.

*Stupid,* I think, puzzling over this strange behavior. *Doesn't he know that we'll be scouting the border? He should be anticipating an air attack.* But he gets off easy -- I don't plan to attack. I'm just a border guard; if I can avoid fighting, I will.

I let him go past, but don't come down from the clouds. He could still look back and spot Shiika; I'd best keep us out of sight until he's gone. Behind me, I think Shigeru is holding his breath. That's hardly necessary, though; he won't be able to hear us.

"He's gone," I say softly, after the black becomes a mere spot on the horizon. Shiika stays in the clouds, but moves forward again, tilting away from the path of the other dragon. "That was weird." I'm frowning, but I can't help it. This doesn't make sense!

"What was he doing?" Shigeru asks. I'm flattered that he believes I would know all about whatever just happened, but there's no way I can answer his question.

"I don't know." I sigh, still scowling. "He was being pretty careless. Don't they teach riders from Johto to be prepared for attacks this close to the border? That's the first thing they tell us before we get sent here. But he was just staring at the ground!"

Shigeru is silent for a while. "He must've been looking for something," he reasons, finally. Then he sighs. "It might have been me."

Oh. I hadn't thought of that, but there *would* be people out looking for Shigeru, wouldn't there? I mean, since he's the heir to the throne of their country and all... "I guess you're right," I admitt, even as Shiika dips below the clouds again. "But I don't understand why he wouldn't anticipate the fact that there would be a border guard around here. Don't they know that we place guards here?"

"Of course." Now Shigeru is frowning; I can feel it since his face is right next to my shoulder. "I don't understand this at all, Satoshi. I think there's something happening here, and I don't think it's going to bode well for your country. My father isn't noted for being a fair fighter."

That sounds ominous. I bite my lip. "I think we'd better land," I say, speaking to Shiika this time. She obediantly dips toward the ground, and I turn to Shigeru. "Is there anything at all you can tell me that might help us?" I ask, bracing myself as we land.

He looks at me helplessly. "I'm not sure... I don't remember anything about his plans. He wouldn't tell them to me, for certain."

"Maybe we'd better wait and see what happens," I decide, untying him and freeing us both from the fastenings. Once we're safe on the ground once more, I retie him. "That wasn't significant enough to allow me to abandon my post and fly off to report. If anything more threatening happens, I can always get us back to Kanto in a reasonably short period of time." I smile at him. "And you don't have to worry about being dragged back to the palace. I'll keep you safe."

He blushes; it's so appealing. My smile grows even wider and I sit down near him. Shigeru stares back into my eyes in the way that makes my stomach do flips for some reason. I love Shigeru's eyes; they always seem to be changing, like the sky during a storm. I guess it has to do with the light, but sometimes they seem so blue -- and sometimes they're grey. I like it best when they're like they are now, though: a blend of the two, sort of like they're swirling around together in there and I can't look away because it's so fascinating how they mix with each other...

I blink, and then my reverie ends. "Sorry," I smile, tilting my head apologetically. "I guess I spaced out for a while. I get distracted easily -- just ask Shiika."

He has to take in a couple of deep breaths, and I note that he looks even more flushed than before. "Oh... that's all right."

I'm about to ask if he's OK, but I realize that the last ten times I asked him that, he said he was fine. "Shigeru, am I the one who makes you flush like that? Because if I'm doing something that makes you uncomfortable, I'll stop."

"You're not." He closes his eyes and smiles very faintly. "And I don't think you can stop being yourself, 'Toshi."

I sigh. "You know, I don't understand a word you're saying." I move closer to him, and smile again. "But there's something about you that I really like, 'Geru. And I guess that means I don't have to understand you all the time."

He seems stuck for words, but the smile that can't help spreading across his faces tells me more than I think he could say out loud. I gaze back into his beautiful swirling eyes and just grin.

~~~~~

He's trying to kill me. I don't think he means it, but that isn't going to stop it from happening. I take a deep breath and smile. "All right, you don't have to understand me all the time, 'Toshi, as long as you never stop being yourself. Do we have a deal?"

He smiles and nods. "I think that's something that I an promise you I'll never stop being... so I've never heard a sweeter bargain."

I grin rather sheepishly. I'd shake hands to seal the deal, but..." I gesture with my wrists.

He nods. "I know..." And then silence falls. "I wish I could... but you know that I can't."

"I know... that's why I'm, not making a fuss... I just like being with you..."

Satoshi smiles, "Is that true?" I nod.

"Nothing could be further from the truth, Satoshi. I know we met in a strange circumstance, but I'm glad that you took me prisoner..."

He grins and laughs. "You're a strange noble, 'Geru."

I grin right back at him. "I know I am. And you're a strange soldier. But it's nice."

He smiles. "Thank you."

"Well, you're welcome, 'Toshi."

It's getting late but I don't really care. I was telling him the truth. I do like being with him. He doesn't make me feel like I was on exam at all times like I've felt under my fathers disapproving gaze, or with one of his officials. I feel like... a person, when Satoshi's around.

I know it's silly, I know that I must be insane, but it's so hard for me to explain these feelings. I've never trusted someone the way that I trust him. And I like it... I like being able to know that I can trust him with anything, and no that nothing will happen... nothing bad, that is.

Part of my mind returns to the rider we saw earlier... why he could be there, and why he wasn't caring about the defenses of the Kanto region at all. I don't like it. There's something that I should know about it all... but I'm drawing a blank.

I push that away, though. I don't think that I could handle it now. But if that rider was looking for *me*... I don't want to put Satoshi in danger. I know that's what he's used to. He's a soldier, and a good one, but that doesn't mean I want him to suffer because of me.

If I could do anything, I'd want to keep him from having to feel that pain... I sigh. I'd want to give him a life, one that I don't think he wants.

"'Geru, what's on your mind?"

"You."

"W-what?"

Oh... dammit, did I just say that out loud? I look up at him, he's blushing and his eyes are wide. A soldier, yes, but he's a real person on the inside. He's not just an empty shell.

"I said I was thinking about you."

"How so?" He asks softly in reply.

I smile and reach up and touch his cheek; he's sitting that close. "A lot of things. Those things that I've seen that make you... you."

He smiles and touches my hand. His touch is warm. "Really, 'Geru? What makes me so special..."

I shrug slightly, and draw my hand away. "A lot of things. The way you feel... you have such strong emotions. I know very few with your conviction, and your optimism... no one else, actually. You don't make me feel like a spoiled noble son who didn't want to live up to his father's expectations. You make me feel like a person."

I could go on... but I don't think he needs to hear about him through my eyes. The way he looks, the way his smile has imprinted itself upon my mind, the little things like that, that I can't let go of...

"I love you," I whisper under my breath, but he's turned away from me and he's saying something to Shiika. I sigh and look away. I knew I had to say it. I just had to admit it to myself. And now that I have...

It's helpless. I don't know what I'm going to do. There's nothing that I can think of... He laughs and Shiika snorts. "She's going off to get herself dinner," He explains as we turn back to face each other.

I scoot closer and beckon for his hands. He holds them out and I take them in my own, as much as I can. "What are you...?"

"Could I tell you something? It might change everything, but I can't hold it in. I know I've known you such a little time... but I don't want to risk something happening. Not if I can let you know now..."

Satoshi blinks. "You're not making any sense, 'Geru... but you can tell me. I want to hear whatever you want to say..."

He really does have warm hands, I muse as I lean closer and rest them against my cheek. "I've never had a real friend, and you're the closest that I have. I know that's strange... it sounds insane to me. But... if I don't tell you that I love you... then it's going to eat me up from the inside out..."

He gasps and tenses. Oh... I guess I told him. I close my eyes, not knowing what he's going to say at all. And I'm afraid that he's not going to feel the same, because then I won't have anything else... I gave up everything to follow destiny and I found him. And if he doesn't feel the same...

~~~~~

I sit back, feeling utterly stunned. My hands are still held up against Shigeru's cheek, but if he wasn't holding them there, I know they would've fallen to the ground. A second ago, I felt warm and the moment was even kind of magical... Shigeru holding my hands and telling me I'm special... No one's ever said things like that about me before. And now I know why...

Because he loves me. And I've never known anyone else who did. Well, not the way Shigeru obviously means; I know Hiroshi loves me like I'm family, and I still have a mother back in Masara... Oh, gods help me, my thoughts are even babbling!

I know my breathing is getting erratic; I feel like I'm going to either start babbling a bunch of nonsense or just pass out right there. And I can't help looking back over the past few days... why he blushed when I tied his hands like that on Shiika's back... why he looked so disappointed about when she interrupted us that one time... gods, he was going to kiss me, wasn't he? How could I have possibly been so dense? It seems so obvious, now that I look back on it...

"Satoshi?" Shigeru's voice is soft and there's a note of worry in it. I realize that I've been sitting in the exact same position and not saying a word, so of course he has a right to be worried. He just told me he loved me... I mean, he's got to be wondering what kind of reaction I'm going to throw back in his face...

"I'm OK." My voice sounds too high and uncertain, even to me. "Really, I'm all right." I pull back my hands. "I just... spaced out for a while there. Sorry." I laugh, but it sounds weak and fake. "I-I'm sorry, Shigeru. I don't know..."

"It doesn't matter," he murmurs, looking away. But I can see the hurt on his face, and I know that it *does* matter, despite what he says. And I feel hurt in return. It's like some weird circle; what hurts him just makes me hurt, and I'm the one who hurt him in the first place, even if it was unintentional.

"Yes it does," I insist. My voice sounds stronger now. Good. I grasp his wrists where the bonds are tied around them, and stare at him, hard, until he looks back up at me. "I care about you a lot, 'Geru, and it bothers me when you're hurting like this. It bothers me even more because I know *I'm* the one making you hurt..." I stare earnestly into his eyes, hoping he can see how sincere I am about the whole thing.

He shakes his head. "You could never hurt me, 'Toshi. I'm the stupid one who fell for you in the first place. It's just..." He frees his bound hands from my grip and brushes them across my cheek. "You're so... *you*, I guess. You're sweet, and you're kind; you're *beautiful*... And every time I look at you, it makes my heart pound. I just can't... can't even imagine being apart from you." His hands drop and he pulls them back into his lap. "I suppose that's idiotic of me; I've only known you for a few days... But you've really brightened up my life, and I just... I wanted you to know that." He gazes into my eyes as if under a spell.

It takes me several tries before I can draw a breath. "Oh Shigeru..." I can hardly speak; it comes out as this strange whisper. I'm having trouble thinking; he's stolen my ability to do just about anything besides breath and stare into his eyes. I struggle for words that just won't come; I don't think I could describe how he's affected me. It's like he reached straight into my soul and touched just the right places to allow himself direct access to my heart... I feel tears slipping down my cheeks, I'm crying like a five-year-old with a broken toy, and I don't even care.

"Don't," he whispers, and reaches up to brush the tears off my cheeks. That won't work, of course; they keep coming. "You shouldn't cry," he tells me softly. "You should smile all the time. You're so beautiful when you smile..."

I smile for him. It's a real smile, too. "I can't help crying," I admitt. "But I'll smile for you... And mean it, too. Does that sound OK?"

He doesn't get the chance to answer because I can't wait any more; I take hold of his shoulders and lean forward to kiss his lips. It's soft at first, a little awkward, and then we grow more confident and it blossoms into perfection against my own lips; I can hardly think of anything else, except that I love him, and I want to be with him always, and it took his confession to make me realize...

I break away slightly as a small laugh escapes my lips. Shigeru's eyes are questioning. "I'm so dense," I tell him, shaking my head and smiling like anything. "I'm the most oblivious person in the world. And I love you, Shigeru."

And I take his lips again in another soul-shattering kiss.

"I'd put my arms around you," he breathes, when we part again for air. "But they seem to be tied up. I hope you don't mind..."

I smile innocently. "Well, it won't be a problem, 'Geru. I have the perfect solution..." I duck down and pull his arms over my head, squirming until they're positioned around my waist. "There we go. Your arms are around me, my arms are around you..." I slide my arms around his neck and grin up at him. "Now what do you plan to do?"

"I think I'll just kiss you until you can't think anymore," he tells me breathlessly, eyes shining so bright I'm half-afraid they'll blind me. "Or until I can't. But I can hardly think right now... I can't believe you'd love me, 'Toshi. I can't believe I could be so lucky..."

"Well, I do." I kiss him to prove it. "And you are. And even though we're on border duty right now, even if your Johto dragonriders *are* looking for you, I don't care right now, because I'm happy just like this."

I know I took his breath away with that, so I kiss him and share mine. This is making me feel light-headed and giddy. I like it, though. A lot... Being this close to Shigeru makes me warm, inside and out. How could I have missed *this*? A feeling this strong...

"What about Shiika?" he asks, when I let him breathe again.

I shrug -- or try to, anyway. "What about her?"

"Well... what will she think of this?" He looks a bit worried. "Won't she be worried? I mean, I'm the son of the man who wants to take over your country..."

"She won't care." I smile, because I know this is true, since Shiika knew *way* before I did that Shigeru loves me, and that I love him. "She already knows, and I don't think she minds; Shiika likes you anyway."

A look of relief spreads across his face. "Good. Because I could never give you up. They'd have to kill me to take me from you."

"I'd kill them first!" I lean against his forehead and laugh softly. "And I guess I'll have to tell Hiroshi, though I have the strangest feeling he already knows... You know, this is just the slightest bit odd; I figure out I'm in love only to find out that everyone but me has already had it figured out for *days*."

He shakes his head. "I don't care. If you love me, that's all that matters. It's all that *could* matter. And I..." He seems at a loss for words again; he starts to laugh a bit himself. There are tears in his eyes... Gods, we're both getting so emotional... "There are so many things I want to do with you; I can't even decide where to start."

"Well," I tell him, pretending to think about that. "I think you should kiss me again. And then let's snuggle and kiss some more, and we can figure the rest out later." I smile sweetly. "What do you think of that?"

His lips on mine are the only answer I need.

 

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