Flame in the Sea

By Dan'yu

That summer, their time at the lake retreat in the few days they had before Akito's chaotic arrival, it was a slow, languid, welcomed retreat from the world they knew every day. He remembered…still being an emotional wreck in the weeks that followed he and Rin's breakup…the news of Hiro's young sibling to be, a glimmer of hope in their darkness, a child born just for the sake of being…Momiji's excitement to share a new activity with them, the watermelon smashing.

He stood outside with Yuki, cleaning up the messy aftermath, and their light, easy banter, his sharing of an odd childhood fear and his delight in the sound of Yuki's laughter. He caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye, Honda-san in the living room, and Yuki's expression changed to something of wistful longing as they watched Tohru spread a blanket over the sleeping forms of Hiro, Kisa, and Momiji.

He stood silent, watched his companion's eyes darken with the shadows of the past, thoughts he had never given voice to, and his heart ached to help the boy he still called his "first love", though he knew he couldn't. Haru saw the internal battle, Yuki's uncertainty of how to proceed, his yearning to go to her.

He opened his mouth to speak, but then stopped, registering faint surprise as he saw another figure approach Honda-san's, a flash of orange hair and a sullen expression catching his eye.

"Kyou…" he murmured thoughtfully.

Yuki's expression fell, and then erased all signs of discomposure as he drew himself inward, adopting that distant mask that earning him the regal title of "prince" among their classmates. The older boy quieted Haru's unspoken questions with a simple look, muttering nonchalantly that he was going for a walk.

He turned away, and Haru watched his back, and he said simply.

"Yuki…it's a test." The other boy paused for a moment, and he raised a hand in acknowledgment, starting off again without a word.

A test of his very being, a test of character, if he and Kyou could ever change, if he could ever open up, if he could ever bare himself to someone. Haru knew he was close to his cousin's heart, but he could never move him the way Honda-san seemed to. And Yuki was scared, so uncertain, so hesitant, and until he won the battle within himself, he would never grow stronger as a person.

His eyes flicked back to the window, watching Kyou and Tohru interact so easily with each other. Like everyone new, the best thing Kyou and Yuki had in common was that they were both polar opposites. Kyou may have been much more socially inept, but he was animated and charismatic in his own rough way, and it endeared him to Honda-san how he showed his affection in strange, uncouth, but perpetually thoughtful ways.

Haru knew Yuki felt something for Honda-san, but he was yet to find out what kind of love, romantic or not, it truly was. And while the nezumi was always more beloved to him than Kyou, he still had a soft spot for the neko, and he couldn't help but wish that maybe, maybe things could work for him and Tohru in the end. The girl loved them equally in different ways, in just like the diversity of her feelings for them, so were the ways they interacted with her.

He turned his gaze away once more, felt the exhaustion of a day in the surf and sun setting in on him, and he took in the sight of sun setting over the horizon. The fiery star shot the sky through with the warm glow of vermillion, and over the serene blue of the water, it seemed as if in that moment, the two elements met and kissed, lingering together in the short time left before twilight.

He ignored the pang in his heart at the thought of any kind of lover, and his lips curled into a slight smile as he hummed softly in thought. At sunset over the ocean, fire took water to wife, and he kissed his new bride with lingering affection before the opaque night obscured them from sight.

He thought of the fiery vermillion of Kyou's eyes, the serene, ocean blue of Honda-san's, and he decided that for a time he would be best to keep his thoughts to himself.