Close to the Sun

The architect Daedalus built his son Icarus a pair of wings, created from nothing more than wax and twigs, to escape from the Labyrinth. He warned Icarus that if he flew too close to the sun, the wings would melt. Yet when Icarus took to the sky, the thrill of flying was so great that he forgot all the warnings. He flew as high as he could, and the sun seared and melted his wings, and he fell into the ocean.

Sometimes, the allure of the forbidden is too strong. Sometimes its joy is so great that it cannot be contained. Sometimes you cannot do anything but take to sky and fly--even knowing that you will, inevitably, fall.

Prologue

Yusuke was finally beginning to understand many things--things that he had not understood before. But the process of learning was painful.

He was watching Kurama. He didn't really have anything else to do. Kurama was too busy to pay much attention to him. He kept shooting Yusuke glances when he had a spare moment, but those glances were really the only moments Kurama was present. The rest of the time, it was pure Shuichi.

Shuichi, on display, performing for his mother and the gathered relatives and family friends. Family friends--Yusuke supposed that was where he was supposed to fit in. He didn't.

About half the people at the party were gathered around the piano, listening to Kurama play what was supposed to be background music, but he was too good at it. Yusuke hadn't even known Kurama could play--it shouldn't have surprised him, but in the mood he was in it hurt deeply that he hadn't known. Kurama wasn't picking the music he played--Shiori was hovering near the piano, beaming, sometimes drifting off to do some other hostess-type duty but always returning in time to suggest the next piece. The only time Kurama strayed from her suggestions was to play a quick round of "Frosty the Snowman" and "Suzy Snowflake" for the kids. There were always kids at this kind of family party, and they were always underfoot. The adults smiled at Shuichi's consideration.

Yusuke knew Kurama well enough to see the strain beginning to build behind Shuichi's polite, friendly expression. But there was nothing he could do about it--also, currently, nothing he wanted to do about it.

One of the things he was beginning to understand was how little he belonged here.

Nobody paid too much attention to him. A few people who weren't sure if he was some cousin whose name they should remember asked how he'd been doing. And Shiori's new husband, whose name he couldn't remember, made an effort to speak to him whenever he went past--with a sort of sympathetic we're in this together, so let's just smile and get through it sort of air. Yusuke wondered what he knew.

The only words he exchanged with Kurama all night were when Kurama managed to make his way over as Yusuke was putting his coat on. "You're leaving?"

Yusuke shrugged. There was a lot he would have liked to say, but not with kids running past them and people everywhere you looked, not with Shiori serving tea in the next room. So he contented himself with a quiet, but cold, "There's no reason for me to be here."

He couldn't read Kurama's expression. After all these years, after everything, he ought to be able to read him like a book, and instead Kurama just became more and more enigmatic. Kurama didn't say anything, and that sealed it. Yusuke had halfway hoped for some sort of bland contradiction, a you're always welcome here or similar lie. But Kurama only looked at him, with a silent sorrow that Yusuke couldn't take for very long. He shoved his balled-up fists into his pockets and brushed past Kurama on his way out.

It was cold outside; Yusuke could see his breath as he stalked down the street. He couldn't keep himself from glancing back once, and he saw Kurama's outline in the window; but even as he watched, the outline moved away, attention drawn by someone else. Yusuke broke into a run.

How the hell did it wind up like this? How did it go so wrong? I know we did things that were stupid; maybe things that were cruel. Is this punishment? Is this how it ends?

Don't let that be it. Whatever this is, don't let it be the end...