The moon looks upon many night flowers; the night flowers see but one moon.
- Jean Ingelow, Songs of the Night Watches--The First Watch (pt. II)


Yuuri tried to delicately spit out the mouthful of hair he'd gotten during Günter's latest embrace, being completely unable to reach it with his hand. He wasn't even sure where to put his hands at times like these and so he waved them up and down until he was able to breathe again.

He was probably getting better at this thanks to all the unexpected trips he'd made between the two worlds because he realized he wasn't gasping for air quite as hard when Günter finally released him.

He'd gone back to signing his papers and had just established a rhythm - pick up topmost paper, sign, move to the stack on the other side, repeat - when he realized Gwendal had gotten up and walked out the door and into the hall. He felt a small stab of envy that Gwendal got to leave, even though he knew it was uncalled for and that Gwendal had done more than the lion's share of this arduous task.

His brow furrowed. Arduous? Yeah, it was that, all right. And boring. Signing papers that he hadn't even read was flat out boring.

He lifted the hand holding the quill to cover a yawn. Gwendal was coming back in and Yuuri snatched the next paper off the stack. He pretended he was concentrating on the writing in front of him but he could feel Gwendal's eyes on him. When he dared peek up with a grin and the faint hope of time off for good behavior, Gwendal was on his way back out.

"He's meeting with the night watch," Günter supplied. When Yuuri yawned again, he was lost in another embrace and a flurry of apologies before being whisked off to bed.

He wasn't in the mood to go to bed. He'd been back less than a day and homework was looking good in comparison. He was glad things were peaceful in the kingdom but when it was quiet like this, there was little to keep him from the more tedious of his duties.

He brightened. It was peaceful, and he'd been given a reprieve, brief as it was, from the mind-numbing bureaucracy of his job, and it seemed everyone else had somewhere to be and something to do.

It was a perfect chance to do a little exploring.

He was quiet as he crept into his room and changed. With night approaching he decided a simple hooded cloak would be enough of a disguise and his footsteps were buoyant, if quiet, as he headed back down the hall and out the castle gates.

Yuuri looked up at the sky and smiled. It was beautiful. He could hear the wind rustle through the leaves on the trees and now and then a small chirp sounded. There was another sound, one of brush breaking, and he sighed. "I know you're there, Wolfram, you might as well come out now."

When no one appeared he looked around for the source of the sound, and he laughed when he realized it was nothing more than a ladybird. In Shin Makoku they were the size of chipmunks, something he'd learned the first time one had flown past his head, and he watched this one for a while as it nibbled on a flower.

He should have known it wasn't Wolfram. It wasn't his fiancé's style to skulk about in the shadows. That was more suited to Yozak. Wolfram would have been right on top of Yuuri the moment he found him, blistering his ears with accusations.

Another sigh escaped. Come to think of it, he hadn't seen Wolfram since he'd been back. He hadn't seen him since that day in the library, and he'd left Shin Makoku so suddenly afterwards they'd never had time to talk about it.

Although as far as Yuuri was concerned, he'd just as soon pretend it never happened.

The kiss had taken him by surprise and all he'd been able to do was stare wide-eyed at Wolfram's ear and the golden hair curling around it as Wolfram's lips slammed against his own, and he'd been unable to breathe until Wolfram removed his tongue and taken a step back. Yuuri had been grateful that he'd been left alone almost immediately, and never had he been so happy to have Ulrike send him back home as he'd been that afternoon.

It was nice to be out and about without an escort. There was no one lecturing him, no one fussing over him, and no sound of another person's breathing next to him. He heard the clacking of bones and he looked up again, waving to the kohi as it flew overhead, silhouetted against the moon.

Yuuri's hood had fallen down to his shoulders and he pulled it back up over his head before continuing his exploration of the area. He hesitated only briefly when he reached a grassy incline, cast a glance back at the castle, and decided he'd just get to the top, see what the view was like from up there, and head back before anyone noticed he was gone.

The trail wasn't very steep and he was barely winded from the brief hike. He looked up at the moon again. It was just as far away, but it wasn't where it had been when he'd left the castle. Of course that was simply because Yuuri had moved from where he'd started.

The moon hadn't changed at all. It still occupied the same sky and kept company with the same stars.

He heard the horse before he saw it, and he dropped so he was sprawled on the ground, hoping that no one had seen a shadow against the moonlight. The last thing he needed was for one of the castle guards to mention he'd seen someone suspicious lurking about outside, creating hue and cry for nothing. No, Yuuri didn't want to make more work for anyone who was just trying to do his job.

He lay as still as he could, his fingers digging into the dirt, and he held his breath, fearful that the sound could travel all the way down to where the shadows ended. The horse grew nearer, and Yuuri unconsciously ripped up tiny blades of grass the moment it was visible. There was only one white horse he knew of, and it was obvious even before the moonlight glinted off those unruly locks that his chances of returning to the castle undetected were becoming quite slim.

He pressed his nose against the ground and pulled the hood over his face. I'm not here, he chanted in his head. If I can't see him, he won't be able to see me. It was childish, he knew, but he simply wasn't ready. He repeated his mantra, so focused on wanting to believe it might actually work that it took him a moment, especially with the hood blocking most of the light anyway, to realize that a shadow had fallen over him.

"You shouldn't be out here."

Wolfram's voice was strong and firm, and Yuuri had the brief hope that he might get away with getting to his feet, bowing his head contritely, and shuffling off with Wolfram none the wiser. He knew that wasn't likely, that the night watch were to keep an eye out for strangers and suspicious activity, but a guy could dream, right?

"Yuuri..."

It hurt to breathe. Yuuri sat up and rubbed his fingernails against the cloak to loosen the dirt. He tried to look at Wolfram but got as far as the thin chain across his collar before he had to stop and flick his eyes toward the moon. The hood slipped off his head as he got to his feet and he began walking back down the hill.

"I know," he sighed. "But I just wanted to be alone, to see things through my own eyes, you know?" He ran his fingers through his hair.

Wolfram said nothing, but Yuuri could hear his footsteps as the blond followed him down the hill. When they reached the tree Yuuri splayed his fingers across the bark. It was rough in texture, just like the trees back home. It felt slightly damp and he knew when he lifted his hand there would be tiny flecks stuck to it. He knew that when he turned around Wolfram would be standing there stiffly.

The only things he didn't know was what shape he'd see Wolfram's lips forming and what he might find lingering in those expressive eyes.

"I always knew you were a wimp," Wolfram scoffed at him.

Yuuri turned around. "Don't call me that!"

"I knew you were a wimp," Wolfram repeated, "and a scaredy cat. But..." His voice became a bit gruffer. "I never thought you were a coward."

What the hell was the difference?

"I'm not a coward," Yuuri said, and he could feel his fingers curling into fists, could feel the bits of broken bark pressing into his skin.

Wolfram walked past him, to the other side of the tree, and tipped his head back. With the moonlight reflecting off his eyes, they appeared colorless instead of a brilliant green. Yuuri could see his shoulders lift slightly as Wolfram inhaled.

Wolfram turned around. "Then what," he said, lifting a hand and brushing a lock of hair out of Yuuri's eyes, "are you afraid of?"

"I'm not." Yuuri could feel the lie stick in his throat and he ran his tongue over lips gone dry.

Wolfram's lips curved into something that might have been a sneer, or perhaps a condescending smile, and it made Yuuri feel slightly nauseous.

What are you afraid of?

Yuuri swallowed, and Wolfram looked away again, back up at the moon, which was now directly overhead.

"You."

He'd said it so quietly he didn't think Wolfram had heard. He swallowed again and looked down at his feet until he felt Wolfram's hands on his shoulders.

"Yuuri..."

It wasn't helping. Yuuri wiped at his lips. "I'm not afraid," he said, and his voice wavered. He was lying and he was sure Wolfram knew it. He squared his shoulders and Wolfram's hands fell back to his sides. "I'm not." It wasn't really a lie, he told himself, if he confronted the fear head on. You had to get back on the horse, right? You'd never get over being afraid of heights if you never got off the ground floor. Or something.

Strands of Wolfram's hair had blown into his face and were stuck in his eyelashes, and Yuuri lifted a shaking hand to move them away. His hand cupped Wolfram's cheek.

"Yuuri."

He made a shushing sound, one that ended with the touch of his lips against Wolfram's. His legs were weak and he thought he might do a fair imitation of Wolfram on a ship at any moment, and then Wolfram's lips moved, and Yuuri let his eyes slide shut as he tipped his head to the side. His fingers slid behind Wolfram's neck and his fingertips grazed the damp hair at his nape.

It seemed as if the kiss had barely begun when it ended, and when Yuuri licked his lips afterwards, he caught a piece of bark on his tongue, making him spit several times to get it out of his mouth. He stopped and looked up at Wolfram, half-panicked, only to see Wolfram standing with his arms crossed and his head turned to the side. In the moonlight it was impossible to miss the nose tipped up just slightly.

"The horse is ready whenever you are, wimp."

"Don't call me that!"

Yuuri grumbled the entire time he mounted the horse, and he was glad the trip back to the castle was shorter on horseback because he ended up listening to the very lecture he'd hoped to avoid, about going out unarmed and unguarded. If he was lucky Wolfram wouldn't tell anyone else because he didn't think he was up for a second round of speeches.

And if during the short ride one of Yuuri's hands came to rest on Wolfram's hip, it was only because it had been a long day and Günter was sure to overreact if His Majesty were to take a nasty spill from the horse.