Happy Birthday to Sei Honou if you're reading ^^.

Disclaimer: 66 fics! Come on, we've been through this before D:


A girl is the only one who visits him at night. Slender, fair-haired, and sky-eyed.

He thinks he's been dreaming again, as his mind often wanders on a moonlit stroll of its own when he lies in bed, tired and restless all the same. When the first chime of twelve begins, he hears the pattering of footsteps and the rustling of silken robes. It's a calm night, a lonely night, so it must be the music in his head at play, weaving lullabies that were never sung over his cradle. He hums along, in no hurry to waive the vision away. It has been quite a while since he's had any such joy, simple as it is.

Tick, tock, tick, tock, and time breathes its last breath before all is silent and pure.

He sometimes hears laughter. A sweet musical chime, better than the Emperor's nightingale or a princess' music-box. It has been a while since he's heard anything like it, untainted by cheap beer and impermanent company. He even tries to answer to it, listening for the returning echo from beneath the crack of light at his door. Inhale, one, two, three, perfumed breath and sweetened sugarplum-spiced magic. The footsteps quiet down, smoothen out, as if they were gliding on a polished ballroom floor. A palace in Vienna, that's where you'll find me, she'd whispered carefully on their last night alone. Reach for the stars and at least arrive at the moon.

Tonight, the light outside his room burns brighter than ever. He watches the sliver of gold on the floor turn into a crescent, then a half, then a full circle. Tonight, the door had opened. He lay still for a few minutes, blinking against the brightness, but soon picked himself up and edged closer to surrender. Breathing out deeply, the knob cold and moist from his sweat, he pushes it further and ventures towards the midnight jamboree.

The light is pure as can be, frightening the shadows into their holes, summoning the beauty from dead wood and steel. Chrome glows an enchanting shade of silver, glittering from the metal clasps of his abandoned jacket and gloves on the sofa. The light burns, stinging his eyes, making him rub them until the skin around is sore. But he stands and stares, voice catching in his throat so he cannot speak.

And there she is, alone and unafraid. Slender, fair-haired and sky-eyed.

"Do you believe in magic?"

No, he didn't because this couldn't possibly be made up. Beauty far outstretches his meager imagination, the only glow he'd ever seen dubbed a neon dream. But this was real, and he was real, and the girl standing before him with a smile is real. He watches, a pair of ocher eyes in her shadow as she dances on tip-toes and pixie dust. There are stars in her eyes, there are stars in his sight as she spins round and round in the daintiest of white satin slippers. Hair made of spun golden thread flies around her head like a perfect halo of thunder and lightning.

"Come dance with me?"

"I can't dance." His answer is weak. "I don't dance." His will is weaker.

"Come along." she implores with an outstretched hand. "I know you want to."

He takes it.

Stumbles on the first try.

"Dear me! I know you can do better."

Steady as she goes and he follows her lead. He breathes in her perfume and soap without knowing, remembering roses and lilac in the garden they met. What a day it had been. And now all they had was the night.

He twirls her around and feels her laugh trailing around his neck like a silk scarf. There are violins tonight, there is a piano playing on its own accord tonight. There are bells in the air and bells in every step that she takes, to and fro, stop and go. He freezes in her wake, afraid of the games that little girls play. Hide and seek, catch me if you can. He was just a boy after all and so very tired. Too tired to keep up.

"Yes, you can."

"No, I can't."

"Well, if you can't, then you will." There was the Lili he knew again. Always a question of will against words. He'd been the same too, not long ago, until gravity caught up with him. What a way to fall. Like the man from the moon descending down to earth in a blaze of fire and torn pieces of stars. Hell, that had hurt.

"What has happened to you?" she questions sadly. "Why don't you tell me?"

"It's nothing."

"It's complicated."

"You wouldn't understand."

"What do you know? You're just a little girl."

The echoes ring too loudly in his ears now. The lights begin to dim, one… by… one.

Lili has stopped dancing.

"Come. I'll tuck you in."

Gold fell to silver fell to darkness. Lights out, she walks slowly on the soles of her bare feet. Frills, ruffles, lace and golden hair hang limp. A lingering and loving gaze stays with him long after her face vanishes from its place above his. He cannot bear to whisper goodbye to the dark once again.

There have been too many nights like this, each the same unfulfilled dream set on replay. Yes, he did believe in magic. Magic is illusion. Illusions are nothing more than wings torn from butterfly-shaped memories. He tosses and turns, twisting the sheets beneath his hands and cries out her name like a chant, a hollow rhyme, a joy that disappears like water through an hour-glass.

In the morning, the fever breaks.

Hwoarang looks into the mirror, eyes clear and heart heavy, knowing that there will be no more dreams. And no more Lili.

When he walks into his sitting-room, the light of the moon is replaced by the sun. Averting his face from the unwelcome warmth, his eyes fall upon a pair of his old dusty boots on the floor.

Realization dawns.

Lying next to them are a pair of danced-out white ballet slippers.