Warning: SLASH! So if this isn't your cup of tea, please do not read any further! Some suggestive themes in this chapter; later chapters are expected to be more explicit. Follows a Closed Fist romance between Furious Ming and Sky.
Written for LiveJournal's 30_kisses challenge. This features prompt #26 "if only I could make you mine."
A Restless Night
Bodies entwined, lips crushed together and bare chests glistened as the sheets twisted beneath them. Strong arms wrapped around him, and warm lips trailed down his neck, down his torso...
Ming threw off the blanket, sat up, and held his head in his hands. He wasn't going to get any sleep tonight, again, and it wasn't worth trying. It was a very good thing that Hapless Han was no formidable opponent, and while Zu would have cautioned him not to underestimate his opponent, Ming had seen Han win and lose many times already. Two Rivers had bred stronger after a season.
He glanced down at the floor where Sky had gotten comfortable. Silk Fox made it very clear that she was no charity, but Ming's ventures in Tien's Landing had been profitable enough. Still, they could not afford separate rooms for everybody for multiple nights. Sky had suggested that they fight for the one bed in the room they shared. Ming's victory had been easy, but he knew exactly where to place the blame for this bout of insomnia.
Scowling, Ming left the room, not bothering to make sure he shut the door quietly behind him. If he woke the rogue up, so be it. This was his fault, after all; if Ming couldn't sleep, then why should Sky be allowed to?
The bustle of the Imperial City had slowed to drunkards stumbling home with a fellow or two to make sure they did not veer towards the ponds and creeks that littered the streets. One nearly bumped into Ming, but he was just distracted enough that he could only manage to glare. The man shrugged and mumbled something and zigzagged clumsily off. Ming sighed. Outside was hardly any better.
On the bridge that connected the inn to the Imperial City, Ming saw Dawn Star leaning on the stone and overlooking the trickling river running beneath her. She had not been able to sleep lately either because of nightmares of the past. Ming hesitated in going to her. He knew well what the topic of conversation would wind up being, and he was hardly interested in dwelling. Some things were better to be remembered only when driving a blade through the guilty parties.
She noticed him, and she offered a meek smile that compelled Ming to go to her. He did not need this, not again.
"You can't sleep either, can you?" she asked as he settled next to her. Here he could see the hangar and the entrance to the Golden Way, and a grander scale of just how many people were finding their way home at this hour.
He said nothing. Dawn Star would be displeased by the reason why, so it was better to let her assume the wrong dreams that were keeping him up.
She continued, "It's so strange to think that ever since Wen came to the school, this was the final destination for many of the students. Everyone knew your destiny would wind up here, but some wanted to become scholars here, and Jing Woo mentioned the Imperial Arena at one point. He'd have been ecstatic that you joined."
Ming frowned. "Must we discuss this?" He wasn't sure if he meant to sound as irritated as he did, but no matter; letting those emotions show had helped him a lot so far. Maybe it would help banish the same memories Dawn Star was trying to dig back up.
"We can't just forget about them," said Dawn Star.
"I didn't say forget about them. I said let's not talk about it. It's not the same thing," he replied, and he knew her reply before she even said it.
"To me, it is," she said quietly. Ming rolled his eyes. Of course. And then, after another moment, Dawn Star said, "Is that what you meant by 'vengeance is more effective than sorrow'?"
He turned to look at her, and she was already staring at him with fierce eyes--the same ones she gave the princess during their many bickers.
"Yes, I overheard what you said to Sky that first night he joined us," she said, "and you're treating me the same way you treated him then. I was able to rationalize your behavior then, Ming. I cannot rationalize it now. Not when you've become kinder to him and colder to me."
Ming sighed. "It's--"
"I know," Dawn Star snapped, and she turned away from him. "'It's none of my business.' You've been saying that to me a lot, lately. That the princess's presence here is not up for debate, that your decisions do not concern me, that your actions are for you to consider, alone. I thought, perhaps hoped, that you were under a lot of stress. That maybe I wasn't giving you the support you needed. That I wasn't the one to turn to when making the decisions to get us closer to Master Li, or for battle or combat or strategy. You trust Zu's word, and you trust Sky's word, but you do not trust my word. I thought that I could be okay with it, but..."
Dawn Star closed her eyes as she trailed off. Ming crossed his arms. "What do you want from me?" he demanded quietly. "Taking the long way to get to Master Li faster? Giving away our precious silver so someone can eat for a night while we get kicked out of our lodging?" A beat. "Coddling?"
Her eyes flew open and she snarled, "I am not a poor little girl wanting her scratches and scrapes kissed. I want nothing from you. But as your friend, I do expect my opinions to be respected by you. Sometimes I feel like Silk Fox regards me higher than you do."
"So you do want coddling."
"That's not--" Dawn Star stopped and pursed her lips. "What happened to you? You were never like this in Two Rivers. You didn't doom entire towns or kill fox spirits all for a philosophy you barely understand."
Ming should have expected that this was coming. "And this is why I do not take counsel with you over the decisions I'm about to make or have made."
"... you also used to smile more. Laugh. With me, around me. Sometimes with Jing Woo, too. Mostly at his expense, but with the other students, too."
He sighed. "Things have changed, Dawn Star. And so must we to accommodate. There's no time for smiles and laughter when we're chasing down our master and trying to infiltrate the ranks of the Assassins."
For a moment, there was silence. The wooden doors of taverns and tea houses were slamming shut with the final shove of the last customers, and many of the lanterns lining the streets were extinguished. Ming turned his attention to the Imperial Arena looming behind Dawn Star, the windows to the tavern within still burning a bright yellow light. Silhouettes gathered for a toast to the Iron Soldier's latest solid victory, giving those in celebration extra silver for the wine.
He opened his mouth to say something about it, but Dawn Star surprised him with a quiet accusation first.
"You don't smile and laugh around me anymore. That is a gift you only give to Sky."
Ming froze, and with his mouth agape he regarded Dawn Star once more. She smiled softly. "That's the first time in a long time you've looked at me with anything but contempt. Is this why you can't sleep, Ming?"
The dream that woke him up, the image of him having pinned down Sky to claim his victory for the bed, and the sight of the rogue sprawled on the floor with the spare blanket slung over his legs exposing his bare chest while he slept... Ming felt his face go red, but he held his tongue. The river looked a great deal more enticing than Dawn Star's piercing eyes.
She sighed. "I suppose I never really did have a chance, did I?" she murmured. With a quiet laugh, she retreated back to the inn. "I guess I did want coddling, after all," Ming thought he heard her say, but she was already gone, and he was alone with his thoughts.
Sky confronted him the next morning.
"This could be a delicate subject, so if... well, stop me if I say anything out of line. It's just that the... well, Silk Fox is obviously attracted to you, but you don't seem all that interested. And then there's Dawn Star, who's clearly... she idolizes you, and yet there's nothing between you. Is there some... I don't know, some reason?"
Ming considered Sky for a long moment, wondering if he had talked with Dawn Star at all before cornering him. And then Ming remembered how he had stayed on that bridge for the rest of the night, and the never-ending fantasies that had crossed his mind, and the very hard conclusion he had reached.
Finally, "There's a very good reason. You."