by Fushigi Kismet

He had to scrub hard at his eyes before turning to look at Mytho who lay motionless in the bed, covered with bandages.

"Have a little care for yourself!" he snapped, wringing out a washcloth. "Why do you think you got into such a state! All for the sake of a little bird!"

"It was such a tiny, helpless life," Mytho protested without protesting.

"You're the same! Just look at you. Burnt to a crisp! You can't even protect yourself!"

"Will you protect me then, Fakir?"

"Someone has to. I swear that I'll protect you . . . forever. Because you need me."

"Yes," Mytho says simply, closing his eyes.

And now, Fakir thinks, dragging his thoughts from that long-ago time, now it is I who needs you . . . but it's too late for that. You've made your choice . . . and there's nothing I can do anymore.

He runs the back of his hand over his eyes. I really am helpless.