Whispers on the Windowsill
Amane and Cyndia sat together in the alley behind a restaurant, waiting patiently for the chef to bring out the scraps, just as he always did. The warm breeze of an early autumn evening lifted the hair from their shoulders, creating something like the dance of the golden sunrise over a gently rippling blue ocean. The girls kept their eyes trained on the back entrance to the kitchen, wondering when their meal would come. Their fingers found each other and interlocked, tightening in turn, each reassuring her companion that they would not leave as hungry as they had come.
At long last there appeared a man in a white apron and a white cap carrying a platter heaped with what of his cooking had not been accepted by the affluent customers inside his restaurant. He paused mid-step upon seeing the two young girls gazing hungrily at the platter in his hands.
Amane stood, pulling Cyndia with her, and approached the chef at a measured pace. She looked up at him imploringly. Her empty stomach grumbled urgently; she blushed and looked down. "May…may we have some?" she asked, her voice low and meek.
The chef looked at the two for a moment longer with pity growing in his features before putting the platter in their hands and returning inside.
The girls sat back against their wall and fell into the platter without ceremony, devouring its contents with all the grace of ravenous wolves. When the food was gone, they sat the platter next to the door and disappeared down the alley, hand in hand.
"Sleep well, Cyndia," murmured Amane as she laid the thin blanket they shared over her already-sleeping companion. She left her there in the safety of their niche to go sit on the large rock directly outside the entrance. She looked up at the sky, catching only parts of it through the railroad tracks above her head. What she saw of the night was lovely in the pale silver light of the full moon. Amane tilted her head and smiled. "I wish you could see this, brother. Do you remember what Cyndia and I were just a year ago? Wandering the streets, digging through trash for our meals, sleeping in the dangerous alleyways…we've really made a better place for ourselves, don't you agree, Ryou?" Amane tensed when a pair of arms wrapped around her, but relaxed at the subsequent voice.
"Who are you talking to, Amane?" Cyndia asked.
Amane leaned back to look into her friend's eyes. "My brother."
"You know I wish you wouldn't do that. It's not healthy. Why do you always talk to him anyway?"
After considering her answer for a moment, Amane merely shrugged. "It feels perfectly natural to me."
"But it isn't…" Cyndia argued feebly. She shivered in the chill wind that wove around them. "Can we go inside now?"
Amane nodded and followed Cyndia back into their niche, where they curled up together under the warmth of the blanket and fell into a comfortable slumber.
Cyndia dipped a toe into the water and hurriedly jerked it back out. "Oh, Amane, it's cold!" She tentatively submerged her foot, then the other, and waded in up to her waist, suppressing shivers with every step. "I don't think I can feel my toes anymore…"
"I'm watching you Cyndia, don't worry!" Amane assured her from the bank. "Hurry so I can bathe too!" She clutched Cyndia's tattered blue dress in her arms as she watched the girl duck under the surface of the water—"One…two…"—and come back up, her thick golden hair plastered to her head.
After spending a few minutes rubbing the dirt from her skin, Cyndia returned to the shore, dripping wet. "Now it's your turn!" she said brightly.
"Not until you're dried and dressed."
Cyndia giggled. "Oh come on, Amane, we're the only ones out here, right? Who's going to see us? Exactly, nobody! Go ahead! The faster you bathe, the sooner we can play!"
Despite her own misgivings, Amane couldn't argue with Cyndia's enthusiasm, so she carefully laid out Cyndia's dress on the dry grass before removing her own and stepping into the water. It was very cold; Amane took in a sharp breath as she stepped in up to her knees.
"Would you look at that?"
Amane looked up at the old railroad that ran above the creek to see five boys—all of who looked older—crouching and gawking at her and Cyndia.
"Looks like we found ourselves a couple of Lolis taking a bath!" The boy speaking seemed to be the leader. He straightened up and walked on the tracks a little further before leaping down and landing close to Cyndia, who he gave a slow once-over. "You look promising, Blondie."
Amane gritted her teeth at the boy's crudeness. She splashed back to shore and came to a stop between him and her blushing companion. "You leave her alone or I'll have to fight you!"
The boy looked ready to topple over in his laughter. "Ha! You couldn't even do that, and I'm not the only one here!" With a wave of his hand, the other four boys joined him, forming a tight circle around Amane and Cyndia. He caught Amane's forearm as she raised it to strike him. "You guys can have this one; Blondie's mine." With that he tossed Amane to the ground.
Fury boiled inside of Amane as she watched the boy reach out to touch Cyndia. She lashed out, kicking him hard in the shins. "I told you to leave her alone or I'll fight you! Don't touch her! And her name isn't Blondie!"
He glanced down at her coldly. "Have fun with her," he told his followers before giving Amane a powerful kick in the side—knocking the wind out of her—and turning back to Cyndia. He was just running his hand through her wet hair when a voice interrupted the potentially lecherous proceedings.
"You boys go home and leave this girl alone or I'll have to tell your parents."
Amane looked up to see that the voice belonged to a woman, not young, but not old enough to be called "old".
"Oh. There are two of you. Well, if you girls get dressed and come with me those boys won't bother you anymore."
"You may call me Ms. Muto," the woman told Amane and Cyndia as she unlocked the door to a relatively large house not too far from where the girls had been sleeping. "I live here with the stray children I find. Right now there is only one." Ms. Muto led the girls into a carpeted room scattered with toys clearly meant for a small child. "This is Pegasus. He was left on my doorstep three years ago. I have raised him from a newborn."
A light shone in Cyndia's eyes at the sight of the white-haired toddler. "Oh he's so precious!" she exclaimed as she dropped to her knees before him. "Hi there!" She waved enthusiastically.
Amane smiled when Pegasus tipped forward into Cyndia's arms, making Cyndia giggle like as little of a child as the boy was.
"Can you talk?" Cyndia asked.
Pegasus replied with a simple, "Hi!" He used Cyndia's shoulders for support to stand before wrapping his little chubby arms around her neck.
"Oh you're so sweet!"
As she watched Cyndia and the toddler Pegasus play together on the floor, Amane felt the first faint pang of jealousy.
Amane gazed out of the third-story window at Cyndia, who was crouched behind the rosebush that lined the west side of Ms. Muto's home. She watched as Pegasus, now seven years old, rounded the corner of the house and looked around. His faint cry of Cyndia's name barely reached Amane's ears. "It's not fair, Ryou," she said to the air beside her. "Cyndia and I have been together since we were five. Why is she so enthralled by Pegasus?" She paused, as though expecting her brother to answer. A slight scowl crossed her face when she took another look downward to where Pegasus was now helping Cyndia to climb out of the bush unscathed. "She's twice his age, so she can't fall in love with him, right?" For a moment, Amane vaguely wondered why that mattered to her. "But of course it does," she mused. "I would never want my closest friend to fall for someone so clearly wrong. I always have been her protector, ever since we were little."
"Amane! Amane!" Cyndia waved her arms in greeting when she caught Amane's attention. She signaled that her friend join in the game.
With a shake of her head, Amane declined. She didn't want to play…not with Pegasus, at least. Something about him made her blood boil in her veins, and she didn't want to risk upsetting Cyndia by accidentally voicing this, primarily because she was quite certain that it was entirely due to jealousy. Before moving into Ms. Muto's home, Amane had constantly held Cyndia's full attention. Wasn't it understandable that she felt some hostility toward the person who had stolen half her closest friend's heart? Amane forced a smile for Cyndia's sake until the girl turned and disappeared around the house, searching for the presumably hiding Pegasus. "Ryou, what do I do? I shouldn't be angry at Pegasus, should I? He's just a little boy and he makes Cyndia really happy." Amane frowned as she rested her chin in her palm and stared blankly out over the trees that surrounded the house.
The moonlight seeped in through the picture window of the bedroom. Amane stared across the massive bed that she and Cyndia shared. While unnecessary and even perhaps a bit unorthodox, they had insisted with Ms. Muto that they continue to sleep together. It made them feel more comfortable, they had said, more at ease if they were to stay together. And so there they had slept soundly for the past four years, without another questioning word out of the woman.
Cyndia gave a soft moan as she shifted in her sleep, drawing her legs up and rolling over on her side, facing Amane. She looked so sweetly innocent in her sleep, so susceptible to anything.
This image of Cyndia at once troubled and pleased Amane. She enjoyed the feeling that she was Cyndia's protector, but at the same time she feared for the girl's safety. They couldn't always be together, after all, and the day was steadily approaching when one of them would be married away, leaving the other to fend for herself. Perhaps this was the reason Amane felt threatened by Pegasus's presence.
Before him, Cyndia had shown no interest in marrying because of the practical mistrust both she and Amane had developed for men. But after meeting the harmless toddler and watching him grow, Cyndia's fear had slowly diminished, until one afternoon she had actually brought up the topic of marriage with Amane as they sat at the table, waiting for Ms. Muto to serve them dinner.
"I think it would be nice to be married," she had said, looking Amane directly in the eyes. "Someday I would like to meet a man and fall in love and have a family."
Amane had squirmed under Cyndia's gaze before finally having to look away. "I don't see why you would need a man to have a family. Ms. Muto doesn't have a man, and she has a family, doesn't she?"
"Yes, but, none of her children are hers. I want children of my own, and for that I have to have a man. Besides, not all men are scary. Just look at Pegasus! He's the sweetest person I've ever known."
The words had stung Amane much more than Cyndia could ever have realized.
"I don't ever plan to marry," Amane had declared hotly. "I don't need a man."
"Oh well that's fine too, I guess, if that's what you really want. We can't be exactly the same, right?" Cyndia had smiled innocently before picking up her spoon and dipping it into the soup that Ms. Muto sat before them both.
With another moan, Cyndia shook her head, causing a lock of her hair to fall into her eyes.
Instinctively, Amane reached out and swept it away. Looking into the girl's face, she felt something stirring deep beneath her breast. It was almost alien, this feeling, and yet Amane recognized it at once. It was just like in all those novels she read while perched on the windowsill, watching over Cyndia. The feeling was warm and bubbly, like taking a warm bath in a creek. "I couldn't…" she murmured to herself as she snatched back her hand. Amane rolled out of bed and crept out of her and Cyndia's room, taking a backward glance at the sleeping form of the golden-haired beauty lying on the bed, hoping she would not wake to find herself alone. She tiptoed to the empty playroom and climbed onto the windowsill where she sat silently, bathed in the moonlight, and thought aloud. "Ryou, I think I understand now," she said. "You know all those books you watch me read while I'm here? They always talk about love, about how it's warm and gentle. But they also talk about how it can be cold and brutal. What do you think, Ryou?" She sighed and laid her head on her knees. "Am I in love with Cyndia?"
Cyndia pulled at the black ribbon, loosening it and letting her hair fall to her shoulders. Her eyes betrayed her sadness even as she smiled to Amane.
"You really miss her, don't you?" Amane sat beside Cyndia on the bed and took her hand.
"Well…yes, of course. Don't you?"
Amane nodded. Ms. Muto's death had come swiftly, taking all three of the children by surprise and leaving them in fear of their futures.
It seemed that Ms. Muto had planned well, for they had been called to a will-reading, where they found that the house and custody of Pegasus had been left in Amane and Cyndia's hands. Had she died not a month earlier, neither girl would have been old enough to receive the inheritance, having just celebrated their eighteenth birthdays, hand-chosen when their adoption had shown that no record of their births existed.
"But that's not all," said Cyndia. "I'm also worried about how we're going to get by now that Ms. Muto is dead. After all, we don't even know where she came up with the money to take care of us."
"I'm sure that she's left us with enough to get by for a while. You shouldn't worry too much, Cyndia."
"What happens when what she left us runs out, Amane? I…I need to start looking for a husband."
Amane's next words caught in her throat. "What?"
"Well, you don't want to marry, and I wouldn't ask you to do something that you didn't want. So, I need to marry so that I can provide for Pegasus."
"Don't you dare start thinking that way, Cyndia. There is no reason that you need a man to help you care for Pegasus. We'll figure out something. Just give things time, and a way will be certain to present itself to us."
A sad smile crossed Cyndia's lips. "Amane…I'm not clever like you. I'm not strong. I don't have talents, really. I'm sure that you will be able to find something to do that will help take care of Pegasus. But…I refuse to be a burden. The best thing I can do for all of us is marry a man who will provide for us."
Tears stung at Amane's eyes, and she hurriedly blinked them back. "Stop being so stupid, Cyndia. You are talented and capable!"
"Tell me one thing I can do to help, then."
"You tend flowers better than anyone I've ever seen! You could start a flower shop, and I will manage it!"
"Amane, there isn't much money in that…"
"There doesn't have to be! If we spend wisely, then we'll never want for anything! A flower shop would just be for fun!"
"But I know you would want something more. I don't want to be a burden to you, Amane."
"What ever gave you the idea that you are a burden? There is nothing I want more than…" Amane stopped herself and stood abruptly. "I'm sorry. If I don't go now I'll lose my temper." She left and went into the playroom and sat on the windowsill. The tears slid silently down her cheeks, dripping onto the hardwood floors. "This isn't fair, Ryou," she whispered. "I shouldn't feel this way. Not at all. How wrong, how wrong…I shouldn't feel this way about Cyndia, should I? She's right about everything, and yet I want to stop her from doing what she needs to do for Pegasus's good. I shouldn't be jealous of her desire for a husband. Women are supposed to want to be married. To men. Not other women…"
"It's not wrong, sister."
Amane looked up, startled by the unexpected reply. "Ry…Ryou?"
The closet door opened, revealing a white-haired specter. He stepped into the fading light of the sunset and watched Amane with concern.
"Pegasus…" she breathed. "What are you doing in here?"
"I didn't want to get in the way of you and sister Cyndia, so I hid." He sat beneath the windowsill with his back to the wall and looked up at Amane. "Then I heard you talking so I listened. Who is Ryou?"
Amane closed her eyes and leaned her head on the wall. "He is my brother. I've never met him, but I know he exists out there somewhere, and that he thinks of me as often as I think of him. Maybe someday we'll exist together again."
"He doesn't exist?"
"He does!" Amane argued. Her tone softened when she caught the surprise in Pegasus's face. "Just…not here, not now."
After a moment, Pegasus uttered a low, "Oh." They sat in silence for a little while before he spoke again. "Sister Amane, what were you saying about sister Cyndia wanting a husband?"
"She…" Amane hesitated, unsure as to whether it was her place to tell this to him. But he must have already heard what she had said to Ryou, so it was really no longer a secret. "She wants to marry a man because she doesn't know how else to provide for you. Ms. Muto left us a significant sum of money and more in assets, but we would rather not have to rely on that, because it will eventually run out."
Pegasus frowned. "I don't want a strange man to live with us," he declared. "I would rather just live with you and sister Cyndia!"
A small smile graced Amane's lips. "It makes me happy that you feel the same way that I do, Pegasus. You should tell her that at dinner tonight."
"But I don't, do I?" he asked, his gaze knowing. "You…want to marry sister Cyndia, don't you?"
Light shone in Pegasus's eyes. "Tell her! Then we'll be a family together and we won't have to invite a strange man to come live with us!"
The sentiment was deeply touching. Amane felt her hostility toward little Pegasus melt away at his support. "I wish it were that simple. We could never be married, though."
"Why not?" he demanded.
"The law says we can't."
"But…people get married really young all the time!"
Amane laughed. "That's not why. We're perfectly able to be married. Just…not to each other. And I don't think that Cyndia would ever agree to marry me even if she could." She got down from the windowsill and knelt beside Pegasus. "Now I want you to tell Cyndia at dinner that you don't want her to get married to anyone. She might listen to you."
"I don't want to live with a strange man! I just want to live here with me and sister Amane and sister Cyndia!"
Cyndia's spoon hovered halfway between her bowl and her mouth as she gave Pegasus a puzzled look. "What makes you think that we would be living with a strange man?"
There was a short hesitation. "I…I heard you and sister Amane talking earlier today, and I decided that I don't want you to get married just to take care of me!"
"Ha…" Incredulous laughter erupted from between Cyndia's lips. "Pegasus, dear, it's all that I can do to take care of you. If I don't marry, then I will just be a useless trinket living here while Amane does all the work. Or worse, we will run out of money and be back to where we were all those years ago when Ms. Muto first found us bathing in the creek like little heathen."
Amane clenched her fists on the table. "Well maybe we would all be happier that way. Didn't you hear what he just said? It would make Pegasus unhappy if you were to marry! You don't want to make him unhappy, do you?"
"It's just a little sacrifice for the sake of his well-being. Me marrying will be better for him in the long run. Don't you two understand that? And besides, have you ever thought about what I want? I want to be married someday, so it might as well be sooner than later! It isn't as though I plan on marrying the first rich man I see! And he wouldn't be a stranger to either of you by the time I married him! I would make sure you liked him and he liked you! I want you two to be happy with him as well!"
Against her will, Amane growled. "Have you ever thought that maybe I wouldn't be happy if you were with anyone else? Have you ever thought that maybe I would only be happy if you were with me?"
Silence reverberated off the walls as Cyndia stared back at Amane in amazement. "You…you can't, Amane…"
"I can and I do." She felt her chest heave with emotion. "I love you Cyndia. Why else would I object so strongly to you getting married even before you have met a man? I love you and I never want you to ever marry anyone else!"
Cyndia looked away. "I don't…I can't Amane. I'm…I'm sorry." After spending several minutes eating without a word, she spoke again, without meeting Amane's eyes. "I think that I should move into Ms. Muto's room."
Those last words had struck through Amane's heart like a dagger with a wickedly serrated edge, tearing through her and leaving immeasurable pain behind. She was perched now on the windowsill, everything dark under the new moon. "I've ruined everything, Ryou. I told her and now she has moved into Ms. Muto's room. I'll never be able to watch her sleeping ever again. I'll never be able to tuck her in at night. I'll never be able to sleep. Never." The inky blackness of the night enveloped her, more welcoming than the reality that would come with morning. Amane got down from her place and opened the French windows outward, taking in a deep breath of the cool breeze that blew in. She wondered vaguely how far she was from the ground. Whatever the distance, she was certain it was nowhere near enough to kill her. "Then again, any distance is deadly at the right angle…"
"Please don't, sister Amane!" The light of an oil lamp flared to life, illuminating Pegasus's face and the room around him. He sat the lamp down and threw his arms around Amane's waist. "I want to live with sister Cyndia and sister Amane, not just sister Cyndia!"
Amane's body shook with sobs. "It's not fair," she insisted. "It's just not fair."
Breakfast was an unusually quiet affair. Pegasus finished quickly and disappeared from the table, leaving Cyndia and Amane together.
"Amane…I'm sorry." Cyndia did not continue until she held Amane's eyes with her own. "I didn't know how to react. I…I never imagined that your feelings would be something that I had to consider. But," she continued as Amane's mouth opened, "I realize now that I should have. We had spent half our lives together before meeting Ms. Muto that day by the creek. Now…I don't even remember life without you. I can't imagine a life without you."
Hope fluttered in Amane's breast, fighting her common sense to break free.
"I'm sorry that I can't love you the way you love me. But…you're my sister and I do love you. It's just…not the same. I wish that it could be, but I would be lying to myself." She had effectively wrapped her hand around the fluttering hope and crushed its wings before dropping it to the ground to be trampled by passersby. "I do still hope to marry someday, but I want your approval before that day comes. Until then…Pegasus?"
The boy emerged from the hall with a rolled up canvas.
"He showed me yesterday evening after dinner," said Cyndia. "I don't think that I'll have to rush into marriage. I hope that makes you happy."
Amane watched in awe as Pegasus spread the canvas on the floor, revealing a beautiful portrait of a blue-haired girl perched on a windowsill, looking outside. Herself, she realized. "Did…did you paint this, Pegasus?"
He nodded. "I…I've been working on it a lot. I wouldn't want to sell this one, but I can always paint something else."
The irony struck Amane hard. The person Cyndia had been worried about providing for, perfectly capable of providing for himself. "It's lovely."
"So does this mean that you won't have to bring a strange man to live with us, sister Cyndia?"
She smiled. "Not until I think I've found the strange man that I want to live with forever. And of who both you and Amane approve."
"He'll have to work hard for it. I'm not going to hand over my charge easily," said Amane with a grin. Deep down, she wondered if she could ever give Cyndia up.
I believe that I hold the distinction of very first Pervadeshipping fic to ever grace FFNet? :D
Well, that was significantly easier than I expected it to be. For the record, their age differences are directly related to when they died in the canonverse - although as you may have gathered, I took liberties in when I think that Amane died... :P
For another record, Ms. Muto is Sugoroku's - I assume late - wife.
Thanks for taking the time to read! It takes significantly less time to review, I assure you of this! :D?