AN: The chapter that will explain everything about the italics is in the works but until then here is another lovely chapter I'm sure you wont be too disappointed with. After all, they meet again for real this time.
Firefly In Ice
"Your Highness, please, you must calm yourself."
"How can I be calm, peon, when everything is falling apart?"
"Now, Sire, I'm sure that is not true. The Kingdom still stands intact."
"But I do not! And it's all thanks to your damnable lover!"
"Who else? The cousin I wish I never had, the one elf I would truly love to throw to the Ice Clan unarmed!"
"Sir, you wouldn't!"
"Of course I wouldn't! That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to."
"What has Seth done to deserve such anger?"
"He has ruined everything."
"… What if Yuugi did lie to me?"
It was not how he had heard it described by so many others. Far from what the texts on the subject told him. Different from what he had always expected.
It did not feel like he was floating. Unconsciousness did not feel weightless and worry free. It felt like he was tied to his pain by iron chains with spiked links. An anchor fixing a kite to the ground. Perhaps it was the poison. Perhaps it was his endurance. But all Yami knew was that this pain was keeping him from resting. He was dead to the world, there was nothing beyond the small sphere of darkness he was aware of, and even then only half aware. He felt, as if at a great distance, sensations within his physical body, but they were detached from his mind and felt unimportant. His grasp on such sensations slipping from between his fingers like sand. He thought he heard the sound of wings, but so muffled in his ears that it could just have easily been the sound of the sea. He felt twinges and prickles in his skin that made him unable to move, they built in his veins until it felt like the blood had thickened to the point where it could no longer flow, or there was too much of it to flow, and it hurt. It hurt like hell.
And then, suddenly, there was warmth.
It began in his mouth and flowed like life giving air down his throat. He could hear its soft hiss, as it seemed to loosen the thick blood in his body so it could flow again. Pooling in the stomach it thawed his frozen muscles until he began to feel them again, spreading slowly outwards until the sensations within his body no longer felt so far away. It was taking a long while for his shoulder and arm, the apparent source of the paralytic pain, to succumb to the same blissful effect, but that didn't matter so much now he could feel himself again.
Yami's mind began to wake itself from the enforced slumber. Vaguely he described the sensation as rising out of a sticky glue, the poison still running far too rampant in his body for him to remember much other than the arrow, the pain, and the strange eyes from the forest.
But then he started to become too aware of himself, and the very physical pain of his injuries caused a fierce agonising flare throughout his nerves, as if all of his body's receptors were all fighting at the same time to make their way through the nerve pathways and inform his brain of exactly how much they disliked being treated as such.
A vibration moved in his throat, which Yami managed to identify as a groan. A muscle was cramping in his arm and desperately Yami moved it to try and grip hold of something to steady himself as the hard floor pressing against his back seemed to tilt as if he were at sea. Surprisingly though, his searching fingers found and curled around something. Fabric warmed with body heat.
He thought he heard a voice. A gentle voice filled with something familiar and soothing. His memory was triggered by the sound and echoed back to him the same voice he had been hearing in his fitful dreams.
He felt his head turn as if it were not his own, his desire to discover who it was that was with him, because there was definitely someone there, driving him to fight against his desire to fall back into unconsciousness. His eyelids felt like the skin of a tough fruit that needed to be peeled back forcefully with a knife, they would not open fully and he only caught a single tiny glimpse of a vague and blurry image of something definitely alive. But like nothing he had seen before.
Before Yami could even try to comprehend what he had seen, he felt a compulsive loosening in his body, and everything relaxed. Whatever had cured the poison was also sending him to sleep. His fingers lost their grip and he lost awareness of himself.
This time, it really was like he was floating.
Waking up for the second time was not as hard as fighting to stay awake had been before. Yami was not sure what woke him, what forced his floating conscious to ground itself so suddenly to his body, but quite suddenly he was awake and aware. Groggy, very groggy, but awake.
Without opening his eyes Yami tried to remember what had happened. He had been fighting. He had been shot and fallen. He saw some strange forest creature watching him. And then nothing. Yami groaned in pain and annoyance, his brows furrowing as he tried to muster up enough will power to open his eyes.
His wounds were giving him hell. The sharp stabbing pain steaming from his shoulder was like slow torture. His entire body felt stiff and was stubbornly refusing to move, Yami was scared to even try moving it in fear of the pain that might be caused by his attempt. He felt paralysed, and yet he knew he should not be. It was the pain and shock, probably, that was making him so scared to try moving.
His attention was caught be the sound of a gentle crackling, an undertones of hisses could be caught between the louder crackles and occasional snaps. Warmth was spreading from the direction of the noise, and although he had no qualms against the cold, Yami felt himself grateful and drawn to it.
With effort Yami forced his eyes to open. He had to blink many times before his vision cleared enough for his sight to become clear but when it did, he felt a small stab of shameful fear through his chest. He was not where he had been when he passed out. That much Yami remembered with clarity, he had been lying in snow by the fringe of the forest. What he was looking at was the roof of a cave, lying flat on his back in a cave with no idea how he had gotten there. The rock was thankfully dry underneath, yet his clothes felt damp, both where he had been in the snow and from something that smelled strongly of iron.
Someone had removed most of his armour.
Confused, Yami turned his gaze towards the source of heat. A small fire was burning a few feet away, golden flames tinged with red and orange licking at the air and making the whole cave warm and light.
Someone had brought him here.
He remembered that arrow now, shot by a goblin before he could reach it, a foolish amateur mistake on his part, one that could have cost him his life. But the arrow had been poisoned; there was no other explanation as to his paralysis and strangely unconscious but almost conscious state of before, where he could almost touch reality but not actually hold any sway over it in his thoughts.
He recognised the scent of iron then, the memory of it flooding back with images of the infirmary, people crying and Jounouchi looking as if he was death warmed up. Seto's body. His own anger and strange indifference. He suddenly knew how close he had come to death, of how close he had come to dying just the way his cousin had. If the arrow had pierced his heart…
Someone had cured him.
But who? The cave was empty. Wearily Yami closed his eyes again to evoke his magic to see if there were any trails he could recognise, at the very least he would be able to figure out if his rescuer was goblin or elfin. But as soon as he touched the part of his mind that held the natural magic behind a thin barrier, a sharp spike of agony shot through him and a headache like he'd never felt before caused him to clench his teeth and grunt in pain. He had felt, in that moment, that the barrier between him and his magic had become inexplicably thicker, to the point where it felt like it had when he first started learning how to use it. How was that possible? How was it possible for him to loose contact with such a huge part of himself just like that? His headache made it hard to think too deeply so Yami cut off the steadily forming panic at the feel of his helplessness before it could really form, worrying about it would do no good. There had to be an explanation, and he would find it and eliminate the problem as soon as he got home.
Giving up on the magic Yami opened his eyes to gaze at the ceiling. If he got home.
His depressive musings were cut off by a sound near the cave entrance; panic and necessity caused him to react despite his fear of paralysis. He moved quickly to sit up and get himself into a more ready and less vulnerable position, his muscles were uncomfortably stiff and his bones seemed chilled and highly brittle but he managed it nonetheless. Yami instinctually reached for his sword, his eyes widening when his hand closed around air instead of the familiar hilt.
Glancing around he saw his sword on top of a small pile with the rest of his armour, but it was on the other side of the cave, he had neither the strength nor the time to reach it before whoever it was saw him going for it. Which would probably only cause injury to Yami when the person reacted for his own safety.
He froze when the sunlight filtering through the narrow cave entrance became half obscured by a figure. It was only a silhouette, the light from behind prevented any features from being identified. But whatever it was, it was a small creature. Which increased the chance of it being a goblin. Yami wished he had his sword.
It was when the figure stepped into the cave and the light from the fire illuminated him, that Yami finally realised that he must be going mad with all the residue from the poison left behind.
His mouth opened in a way that if he could have seen himself he would have had some very harsh scolding to do for the complete lack of dignity it involved. His eyes grew wide and seemed to forget they had the ability to blink. Everything seemed to freeze as his eyes met with a pair of by now ridiculously familiar amethysts.
"About time you woke up." Said the human, resting a hand on his hip and looking at him with a strangely neutral expression.
"Impossible." He found himself muttering, sheer disbelief in his voice.
The human looked just as he had when Yami had last seen him chained to the walls of his cell, there were no injuries or signs of fatigue, nothing whatsoever to suggest he had been living in the wild for the past week or so now. He was barefoot and a little wild looking, but perfectly fine and apparently sentient. The tunic he wore was cleaner though, as if it had just been washed thoroughly.
"Typical though," the human said with a smile, "I leave for ten minutes to wash and I miss your grand awakening. Although looking at you I'd say you need a few more hours."
"How…" Yami was having trouble getting his mind to catch up with his mouth and the sentence fizzled out on his tongue before he had a chance to think about what to say. It was impossible that this human would still be alive, not just because he shouldn't have been able to escape the goblins, but also because he should have frozen to death by now.
"How what?" The human tilted his head to the side with an all too cocky smile, an eyebrow raised and a look of teasing mirth in his eyes. He took a couple of steps forward, towards him, and Yami tensed before realising the human was just dropping the bag that hung from his shoulder to the floor by the fire. It gave a heavy 'thump' sound as it hit the stone, Yami was torn between eyeing it suspiciously and keeping up his glaring at the human.
"How are you still alive?" Yami managed to get out and was mildly proud of how commanding he managed to make his voice sound.
The boy crouched by the fire to warm his hands, but watched Yami out of the corner of his eye as he spoke, "Through luck, skill, and no help from your lot."
Yami flared up indignantly, "My lot? Without us you'd still be chained to that wall!"
The boy shrugged, "I would have escaped eventually by myself. I never needed help, per say, although your initial assistance was useful, your follow up of this assistance was lacking at best and a complete fuck up at worst."
Yami was, for once in his life, rendered speechless for lack of comebacks. Only capable of guessing what the boy was hinting at. Was he talking about their near defeat? But the boy hadn't been there when they had been surrounded, or when the supernatural fire came. Then again, Yami reminded himself, they hadn't known where the boy was, he could have been absolutely anywhere.
He was interrupted from his thoughts when the boy spoke again, "We should probably get a closer look at those wounds of yours."
He had straightened from crouching by the fire and was approaching rapidly towards Yami, and the prince, still a little disorientated and in pain, reacted without thinking.
He pushed himself away from the boy with force and concentrated all of his effort into standing, his joints protested and his muscles cramped, the sudden change and movement caused the world to tilt dangerously. And the next second Yami found himself being heavily supported by the human boy, those thin arms encircling him to keep him steady. Yami groaned into the other's shoulder; where he found his head had fallen, his headache had returned full force and was only aiding the pain he already felt throughout his stiff body.
For a long moment they just stood there, Yami trying to remember what had just happened and the boy only tightening his grip to keep them steady.
The boy sighed, "Still a bit drugged I think, perhaps you should lie down."
Yami frowned into the boy's shoulder, the whistling in his ears was back and it took a moment for what had been said to filter through the pain of his pounding head. When it did he suddenly realised the situation, and it went along the rather limited thought lines of this: 'I'm being touched by a commoner.' And the humiliation that came with that revelation caused him to react suddenly and violently.
He both pulled away from the boy and pushed him back at the same time, cancelling their close proximity, when the world tilted again and he fell back against the wall. Clutching the cold stone Yami peered out between strands of hair, breathing heavy as his body shook with the effort to keep standing. He had seen the boy stumble backwards just as Yami had, taken by surprise and unprepared for the sudden assault. What really caused the drug-fogged cogs of his brain to start turning, however, was what the boy was doing. He had stumbled backwards into the fire.
And was now stood with one foot in the flames as if he didn't even notice the fact that he should be burning now.
And then a flood of thoughts came to him through his pain, all connecting themselves one by one in his mind. The fire was the same colour as that unnatural blaze that had saved his small party of rescued elves. The boy had somehow managed to survive where no human dared to tread with apparent ease, in the thinnest clothes imaginable before they became see-through. And not only that, he had managed to survive looking no worse for wear (therefore he had to be finding food) and managed to haul an unconscious elf and his armour from where he had passed out to wherever he was now. None of these things added up to what the boy took the form of.
"What are you?" Yami hissed, gripping the stone tighter when his knees gave a particularly strong threat that they were about to give way. "You aren't human, what are you!?"
"That's a very large accusation to make, elf." Was the only thing the boy said, a colder tint to his voice now and a frown on his features. He looked down at the foot still surrounded by flames, and calmly lifted it from the fire to step away. "Especially considering the likelihood of you seeing things that may not entirely be there. You haven't exactly just woken from a peaceful good night's rest now have you?"
The boy's words almost worked for a moment, succeeding in forcing Yami to doubt what he had seen when he thought about how many foreign substances had been running rampant in his body for the past hours, possibly days. But then Yami remembered that the boy had supposedly been human, and how impossible it should be for him to have survived. He was a tricky little creature, whatever he was. But Yami was falling for none of it.
"I may be a little… less sharp than usual," Yami spoke with as steady a voice as he could muster with the effort he had to pour into standing up, "But that doesn't make me stupid. You should have died by now. You should, at the very least, have been injured or look less composed then you do now. And that fire is the same fire I saw at the top of the Grey Mountain. I saw a figure amongst the flames; it was you, wasn't it? What are you?"
"I save your life and all I get in gratitude is interrogation?"
"Answer me!" With this final command, shouted loud enough in his frustration so that Yami felt his throat ache, forced the last of the strength out of him. Breathing heavily he lost his grip on the wall and slid down to sit on the floor, leaning against the rock to stay upright and never taking his eyes off the boy. This time, when he had lost his balance, the boy had made no effort to help him.
The boy had grown cold in his manner now, as if angered and insulted by the prince's ungrateful distain. When he spoke it was low and borderline mocking, "You're a smart boy, little prince, can't you figure it out yourself?"
If Yami had had the strength he certainly would have had a more persuasive reaction to this statement, but as it was he couldn't even touch his magic let alone use it in a fight. He watched in silence as the boy looked away to sit down next to the fire again, crossing his legs and staring gloomily into the flames. There was definitely something with the fire that would help define his identity. Sometimes, perhaps once or twice in a few millennia, the spirits that made up the elements would react strangely for unexplained reasons, what the elves believed was to blame was an alignment of the heavens, but this could not be proved. However, sometimes one of these spirits would become more individual from the rest, who all operated as a single minded mass, and eventually that spirit would become conscious of itself as a being. It was then that, sometimes, they could take on physical forms. This boy was not human, but he was displaying all the hallmarks of an estranged spirit.
"You're a fire spirit!" Yami was so shocked and pleased by this revelation of his that he forgot to guard his voice into something more becoming of a prince. The boy's face was mostly obscured by his hair, and so Yami could not see his face, but he remained silent in a strangely tense way. Yami wanted to grin at this personal victory, but was almost angry at the boy for keeping the secret. It would have been a great deal more helpful if they had known from the start what the boy was, "Why didn't you just tell us what you were?"
There was a long pause, in which Yami noted how tense the boy's shoulders were, before he said in a small voice, "I did not know what you would think of me if you knew what I was. You labelled me human, at the time it was easier to just roll with that assumption."
Yami shook his head in exasperation, such a large fuss for such a small secret, spirits were strange things indeed. Now he had what he wanted from the boy he was much more content to just sit quietly. It seemed as if the boy did not wish to harm him so he put himself a little more at ease. His headache throbbed inside his skull; the pressure was enough to make him close his eyes in an attempt to somehow relieve the strain. When he opened his eyes again the boy hadn't moved, but he had lifted his head enough for his face to be seen from the side now. He was exactly as the prince remembered him, exactly as his mind had kept wantonly picturing for him. Small and slim in a way that made him look as if he could be very athletic if he wanted to be, his skin was white and unmarked providing an elegance to the fluid way in which his body was formed and seemed to move. It had been obvious from the beginning, Yami thought to himself with a reprimand, that the boy hadn't been human. No human could be that attractive, surely. And none of them had eyes that made him feel like he was falling into a star strewn night sky. His chest constricted when the boy's head moved slightly and the firelight caught the edge of his jaw and lips just right, a dream he had forced himself to forget flooding back to him. His pain all but forgotten in the trance that seemed to have fallen over him, Yami wished he could remember why exactly he had wanted to push the boy away from him when all he could think about right now was how soft that skin must feel.
"Thank you." Yami heard himself say suddenly.
The boy looked at him with slightly wide eyes as if he was shocked to hear such a sentiment, "For what?"
"For…" Yami was not very good at expressing gratitude, and this was beginning to feel extremely uncomfortable to him, "For… you know why."
The boy looked at him for a long moment before giving a small little smile, he shook his head and turned back to the flames, "Your welcome."
Yami simmered silently to himself, suddenly irritated and not quite understanding why. The headache had lessened thankfully, and he could see now without his eyes aching. There was something that was bothering him and he didn't know what, something that he wanted to do but didn't want to do at the same time. He watched the boy reach a hand forward and couldn't suppress a small flinch as that small hand reached fearlessly into the flames, even though he knew that the boy wouldn't be harmed it was still so strange to watch.
The boy took a small handful of brightly glowing embers from the crackling wood and studied them in his palm as if fascinated by them, "So what is your name?"
The prince gave the boy a sharp look, his anger suddenly flaring up in an unreasonable desire to lash out at something, "My name? You have no right to speak my name, I am a Prince to you, and you will address me with the correct titles!"
The boy raised an eyebrow, letting a few embers roll over his fingers and palm with feigned interest, "I did save your life you know. Twice. I think I may have earned the right to at least learn your name."
Yami glared at him as he was reluctantly forced to realise that he did, in fact, owe his life twice over to this fire spirit he had thought was nothing more than a boy, but the spirit opened his mouth to continue before he could decide what to do, "And besides, you aren't my prince. Elfin authority holds no power over me. So you can either tell me your name or I can continue to call you 'elf'."
There was a pause, Yami desperately searching for a way to reserve what modesty he had left (having a commoner call him by his birth name would definitely shred that to pieces) but at the same time refusing to lie. The spirit continued to smile pleasantly at him while rolling the now cooled embers between his fingers.
Then he spoke again, his dark eyes taking on a hypnotic shade, "In return I would give you my name."
Yami's gaze shot up to him in shock, how had the spirit known that to be such an effective bargaining tool? How could he have known what Yami had been thinking and wondering about for the past week? Were spirits capable of infiltrating a persons mind? But how could he have done that without Yami noticing, he had been trained since practically birth to keep a fierce defence around his mind at all times. The prince would have felt any attempt to breech that defence!
Yami forced himself to calm down; his thoughts had nearly completely run away with themselves there, it was highly unlikely that the boy actually knew everything that Yami had gone through the past days and nights since meeting him and it was even less likely that the boy had read his mind. Coincidence. Just coincidence.
The boy was still looking at him expectantly, that coaxing look still shadowing his eyes, Yami looked away with a scowl. "Fine," he snapped, "Motou. Motou Yami."
The spirit nodded, his smile more noticeable now, "See, now that wasn't so hard was it? Motou…" he paused with a pensive look, "Mind if I just call you Yami?"
Yami shot him a well-aimed glare to try and communicate without words that first name basis was going too far, but the spirit pointedly ignored it (though Yami knew he had seen) with a laugh that made the prince's chest constrict strangely again. What was with him today? It had to be the drugs. He could not desire a creature so un-elfish in their manners and disrespecting of his culture and status, it was foolish to even suggest he would be so… weak as to fall for the flirtatious whims of a fire spirit.
"Alright then Yami," the boy said cheerfully with an emphasis on the name, "My name is Yuugi. Just Yuugi."
The name was a pretty little thing with an impishly tricky undertone, Yami found himself thinking, and it suited the spirit perfectly. He wondered where the spirit had found the name, as it was highly likely that he had named himself, it sounded very strange, like it belonged to a time long past.
"How old are you, exactly?" Yami asked of him.
"Haven't a clue. Why?" Yuugi threw the cold embers onto the floor and turned to look at him fully. The smile had not faded from his lips.
"You have no idea as to when you were created?" Yami asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Long before you were born, little prince, and that's all I know." Yuugi placed an emphasis on 'little' in an almost taunting way, but with enough subtlety that Yami could not accuse him of being insulting.
Yami looked away from his eyes, unwilling to make eye contact and risk getting lost in the colour again. There was an almost pleasant silence until he asked, "When are we, well, when am I going to be able to get home?"
Yuugi turned his gaze to look at the sky outside the cave, it was growing steadily darker and the deadly chill was setting in again, "We'll set off tomorrow if you think you're well enough. Tonight I don't think you should move anywhere other than lying down to sleep."
Yami reluctantly admitted that he was right; he could barely stand right now let alone walk miles. But he wasn't sure he wanted to sleep in an uncomfortable cave with a relative stranger, lifesaver or not.
And suddenly the spirit was right in front of him, their faces only a few inches away from each other. Yami held his breath in shock and to control the sudden inexplicable urge to do something very un-princely. Yuugi grinned cheekily and dropped something onto his lap then backed away.
"Relax, I don't bite. Well… I do but only on… special occasions." The spirit said, with an unmistakeably coy expression on his face that made Yami clench his hands around the fabric the boy had dropped on him.
Yami tore his gaze away from the spirit, looking down at the bundle of his own clothes stuffed into the bag.
"I know the cold doesn't bother you, so you can use it as a pillow or something." The boy said, settling himself down in front of the fire again and laying down on the stone, "We should sleep now so we can get up early tomorrow to get the best of the daylight. And there's nothing quite as good for an ailment as sleep."
Yami would have complained that he didn't need sleep, he'd been sleeping for what must have been a whole day and night by now and he wanted more information out of the boy, but a sudden wave of weariness caused a large yawn to escape him. Lifting a hand to cover his mouth Yami conceded defeat for the time being and decided that at least trying to sleep on this awfully uncomfortable floor would be a good idea.
It took a long while of tossing and turning with his head propped up on the improvised pillow until Yami managed to find a spot just about comfortable enough to begin drifting off in. When he had settled with his back against the wall Yami noticed that the boy was facing away from him, which gave him ample room to stare all he wanted at the figure. After a long moment he realised that the boy had given him the pillow but had left nothing for himself, he had to be incredibly uncomfortable like that. Was the boy alright like that? The pillow was big enough for two heads to rest on.
"Yuugi?" Yami asked after a moment.
The spirit shifted and grumbled a sleepy, "Hmm? What?"
Yami opened his mouth to extend the invitation to share the pillow, but at the last moment he realised exactly what he was doing. His nerves faltered in the face of his reason and all he could say was, "…Nothing. Goodnight."
"Yuugi? The fire demon you love?"
"What if Seth was right? What if he doesn't care?"
"As much as I love Seth, Your Highness, he is not always right. Though he would like to be."
"What would you say then? What would you say about a fire demon who claims to love me?"
"… I would have to think, Sire. Fire demons are not known for their compassion, or their commitment. They are fire. Fire is them. They are wild, wilful, and passionate. But fire does not stay in one place for long."
"What are you trying to say?"
"Forgive me if what I say is out of place, you may disregard my words whenever you wish, Sir. But I believe that fire demons can love, and do love. I just do not believe that their love can last. They move on quickly, as the flame would. My point is not that Yuugi deceived you, but that he might not be waiting for you when you get out."
AN: There, not too bad was it? I actually like this chapter. Things are going to move VERY fast now in the romanitc department... or at least in the errr sexual department. In other news I am a little nervous about my beta, also one of my bestest friends, proclaiming that we have to (as in I have no choice now lol) actually polish up and put online some of the role-plays we've done for puzzleshipping and turn them into real crack fics... the problem is they're so cracky it goes beyond the words meaning in fanfic and I have no idea if it'll be funny to anyone but us... they won't be put here on any rate, probably her profile, but still.
And I'll see what I can do for the next update and that bonus chapter soon.