The Most Important Word

Written for: aetherbunny in the Yuletide 2005 Challenge
by Veszelyite


DISCLAIMER: The characters of Clover belong to CLAMP and their associates. This is a piece of fanfiction, written for enjoyment and posted freely without any intention (or possibility) of turning a profit at the expense of the original creators.


Oruha had been six when she had written her first song.

For as long as she could remember, Oruha had wanted to be a singer. Music came naturally to her. Words were a message wrapped in the emotion of song. She had always known that she wanted to share that message with other people. But it was not until the day she wrote her first song that she realized her true desire--to compose lyrics as well as to sing them. She wanted to communicate with others in her own words, using her own voice to pour out meaning into sound.

Tonight was a good night to introduce a new song. Watching carefully from behind the screen of heavy drapes that shrouded the wings of the stage, she could see that the livehouse was packed with people. It was a lively crowd, a happy crowd...the most receptive for new lyrics and a new tune. Oruha put her heart and soul into her writing--an offering to the patrons who came to the livehouse each night to hear her sing. She had been fortunate so far. The crowds, even on a slow night, always seemed to be receptive to new works.

Past success never seemed dull the sharp edge of nerves, however. She had said as much to Kazuhiko. He had responded by opening his arms to hold her, steadying her until she was calm. Wrapped in the comforting closeness of his embrace, he reassured her that no hint of nervousness ever showed.

Kazuhiko hadn't arrived yet. His usual seat was standing empty, a little forlorn amidst the crowd. Oruha glanced back over her shoulder, toward the area backstage that served as her dressing room. Through the gap in the partially opened curtain, she could see her small dressing table, and the rich bouquet of lilies perched upon it, their petals washed pale and glowing by the lights. The flowers were a beautiful gift, a present from an admirer who had money--and the good sense to let a florist take care of the details.

Oruha could not help but smile. Being in the army took almost all of Kazuhiko's time. But somehow he always managed to make it whenever she introduced a new song. Oruha suspected that his commanding officer had something to do with that. Lieutenant Colonel Gingetsu had a surprising soft side, for all his remote exterior. He was especially lenient regarding his boisterous aide. Kazuhiko would be here tonight. He had already promised he would. Reassured, Oruha let the curtain slip back into place.

Oruha had been six years old when she had written her first song.

It was in that same year that the vision started.

A crowd of people, a standing-room-only night. The brilliant expanse of lights. The expectant hush of the crowd. Alone on a stage stood an elegant beauty, a woman dressed in white silk, with metallic angel wings, and strands of pearls twined through her dark hair. Her heavily-lashed eyes were downcast, demure, as she lifted her microphone and sang.

She sang. She sang as Oruha had never heard anyone sing before. It was a sad song, a poignant song. A song of longing and desire. Entranced by the passion of the song, enraptured by the sound, young Oruha wished that the dream could last forever.

...But it was not meant to last forever. There came the sharp flash of a laser, a bolt which sped unerringly to pierce the heart. The music died in mid-note. The suspended moment that followed was empty of noise, save for the soft patter of unstrung pearls that fell to the ground like gentle rain...

Oruha didn't understand, not at first. It was only later that she would come to realize the vision foretold her death. As she got older, and her face and form matured into the person she saw in the dream, the vision got clearer. The details started to fall into place. ...She took singing lessons to train her voice; she disguised her Clover barcode with a 4-leaf clover tattoo; she performed for the first time in the livehouse, on the stage where she knew she would eventually fall.

Deep inside of her, kept secret from the world, there was always the temptation, to test that grim vision of the future. If she gave up her plans for her career, gave up the music and the lights...if she did those things, there would be no performance scheduled to end in tragedy, no stage to hold her as a target for the harsh beam of light destined to take her life. If she turned her back on everything she had ever wanted, Oruha could save herself.

It was a choice she found that she could not make. She could not turn aside from the brilliant lure of the lights, the seductive call of the music. She could not give up what she had worked so hard to become. Even though her heart froze each time she thought of that prescient vision, even though there were times she felt that she couldn't walk onto the stage out of fear--still, she couldn't give up what was most important to her. Each night, she came back to the livehouse to perform. Each night was one more night she could sing.

Then, one day, she looked out into the audience, beyond the bright glare of the lights, and saw him.

She had known, the moment she saw him, what he would become. He was one more piece of her destiny, clicking immovably into place. The vision left no room for doubt.

There, in the room full of motion and noise, of panic and confusion, was one man who stood still and alone. While the rest of the throng was blurred by shadows and darkness, he stood exposed as if illuminated under a spotlight. His face was a mask of loss so profound he could give it no voice, as the ground before him became littered with the shards of broken wings.

From the moment that she first saw him, out of fear, she had spurned his attention. For a period of nearly three months, she had sent back his flowers, returned his gifts, rejected his offers to meet after her show.

Then, one night, after the livehouse had emptied, and most everyone had gone home, she had heard a hesitant noise outside of the curtain to her dressing area. "Come in," she had called absently, surprised that any of the stage hands should have lingered so long after the show.

She should have known it would be him.

Confronted face-to-face for the first time, caught off guard, she had said the first thing that came into her mind. "You don't look like you work here."

"I bribed the help," he had admitted, coming to a halt just inside the drapery that marked the boundary to her domain. As one of Oruha's dark eyebrows arched upward, he had lifted his chin in defiance. "Well, you don't leave a guy with many options."

His nearness left her flushed and breathless, and not just because of her dream. Oruha turned her back on his dark good looks and cast her eyes downward towards her makeup kit. She carefully ordered the powders and brushes, buying time to still trembling hands. "I see. Is this the type of manners that they teach in the army these days? ...To sneak around backstage after hours and pester harmless livehouse singers?"

"Nah. I'm just a troublemaker." His voice, though rueful, hadn't sounded the least apologetic. "...Stubborn, too."

Against her will, that had caused a smile. "Really? I hadn't noticed."

To that, he had offered no reply. Sly man--to wait her out until she was forced to respond for politeness' sake. Still refusing to give him the benefit of turning around or lifting her eyes, she chose the most direct of questions. "Why are you here?"

Her words didn't phase him for a moment. "To see you," he answered, with disarming simplicity. Humor crept into his rich voice. "Also, this way you have to refuse me to my face."

Oruha looked up, startled, to meet his gaze. He was smiling at her warmly. He has such kind eyes, she had thought, and was dismayed to find that she had not prepared herself for that.

With a flood of feeling, she knew then that she would not be able to give up this man, any more than she could give up her songs or her voice. She could not give up what she saw in him or what she could share with him--even at the cost of her life.

"Five minutes!" the voice of one of the backstage crew roused Oruha from her memories. It was almost time for her performance to begin. Standing up from the chair where she had been sitting, she examined her appearance one last time in the mirror before shedding the shawl she wore backstage to protect her clothing. It was then that she heard a slight noise outside her changing area.

"Come in," she called, knowing before the curtains parted that who would be waiting there. She was correct. Kazuhiko stepped through, allowing the drapes to swish closed behind him. He seemed disheveled and perhaps a trifle out of breath. ...But none of that mattered, because he was here with her at last.

"You know, it's a bad habit to sneak around backstage," she teased.

His only response was a careless shrug, as he crossed the short distance that separated them. "What can I say? I'm just a troublemaker." His arms came up around her, and he lifted her chin for a kiss. "I just wanted to wish you luck before the show."

Kazuhiko. Silently, Oruha melted into his embrace.

Oruha knew that she would die soon. And yet, she had no regrets. How many other people could be so lucky? ...To find someone to share a piece of their life with. To be able to say "I'm not lonely anymore.". She had chosen Kazuhiko. For the support of his presence...the warmth of his touch...the sound of his voice as he told her that he loved her.

Love. The most important word.

More important than Music, more important than Time.

More important than Death.

Someday, she would write a song about it. A legacy--in the hopes that he might come to understand. For now, it was enough to hold and be held, banishing the cold fear of the not-so-distant future with the quiet bliss of the here and now. She loved Kazuhiko. With him, she had found happiness, and she was content.