A/N: I'll be leaving Grimm/Anderson for this one. For you, George-san! I hope you like it. ^^ Also for Natchan, whom RPs both Herakles and Kiku so they'll never be separated, and for any other reviewer that requested this pairing. It's mainly for George-san, though. Lol.

Also, Enes is the Turkish name for "Human [Boy]." You'll understand when you meet him.

Hetalia Fairy Tales

Chapter Four

Bridging the Stars

Long, long ago a beautiful fairy lived in the Jade Pavilion. He was small and slender with fair skin, jet-black hair, and dark mahogany-colored eyes. His grandfather was the Jade Emperor himself, Emperor over the entire Heavens and Earth below. This fairy's name was Kiku. Kiku was a hard worker, diligent, earnest, and quiet. Not to mention shy. He spent every day in near-solitude, spinning the beautiful tapestries that created the constellations in the sky, the sunsets on the horizons, even the waves on the shores. A few fairies attended him, but none had his skill.

The only times he ever left his simply furnished room and mingled with the company of the Jade Pavilion were during the great festivals. One such annual festival was the celebration of the Jade Emperor's birthday. From all over the universe, all the different creatures would bring gifts to please the Emperor. Statues made of gold, fragrant woods, precious stones; mirrors bigger than doors with intricate frames; magic tokens that bring luck and prosperity; medicines that cure every sickness, heal every wound, and lengthen life into immortality; even beautiful music and dances written and performed for the Emperor's delight.

No gift, however, surpassed one of Kiku's tapestries. Kiku was the Jade Emperor's especial favorite. He doted on Kiku to the point that Kiku often had to come up with excuses to get away from him. This year's birthday was no exception to the others. The Emperor received amazing gifts, but Kiku's was the favored one by all. He had thought his weaving so simple; just a willow over a lake, its leaves barely dipping into the surface creating glistening ripples on the lake's surface. The way it was awed over, however, made it seem like he wove it out of thin air.

He sighed as the Emperor patted his back and stroked his hair and bragged to everyone about how amazing Kiku was. He picked at his dishes, the same delicious dishes as the year before, and the year before that, and the year- He broke off his thoughts before they got anymore repetitive.

"Kiku?" whispered a soft, feminine voice. He looked over and saw one of his attendants, young MeiMei. She smiled mischievously, making his own lips curve up on one side. "I will distract the Emperor for you. Make your escape early this year. I know how much you dislike these things."

"Thank you, MeiMei. I greatly appreciate this," Kiku murmured back, just as quietly. MeiMei winked.

"You owe me one, Kiki!"

"Kiku," he sighed, even as his shy smile curved his lips even more. MeiMei giggled.

She moved around him then, squeezing between him and the Jade Emperor. Her bright, shining grin lit up her pretty face. Even though she wasn't as beloved as Kiku, she was a pet of the Emperor's. Normally, she followed Kiku around and snubbed the Emperor, even playfully sticking out her tongue at him when he called for her. She did have a small soft spot for him, though. As she took advantage of the Emperor's surprise at her sudden playfulness, Kiku slipped away gratefully.

Kiku darted around the edges of the crowd, using the shadows and decorations to hide his flight. He made it outside, breathing in deep the sweet, uncrowded air of the night. A few drunken stragglers were stumbling around outside the Jade Pavilion, but he avoided them easily. For one who spent his days alone, he didn't relish such loud foolishness. Wasn't there someone who just liked being quiet, contemplative, and restful? Wasn't there someone who enjoyed the silence of the night, the shining of the stars and moon, the soft fur of a cat? Kiku's shoulders slumped as he tucked his hands into his wide-sleeves and glanced upwards at the dome of the heavens. He could pick out the few constellations he had woven and smiled again, a little proud of himself. Those constellations did come out well, didn't they?

He paused, eyes narrowing, as a low shuffling met his ears.

He turned, hands leaving his sleeves, as he peered around the low wall. He had walked into a large garden, one of thousands at the Pavilion. Low stone walls edged the pathways, separating the gravel walks from wild tangles of flowers and shrubs. There. A maze of tall hedges. Just barely, Kiku could see a dark figure stroll into the entrance. Curiosity satisfied, he tucked his hands in his sleeves again and decided to finish his walk and go home to bed. He stopped as a quiet "nya~" came from his ankles. A small black and white cat was twining around his feet, purring and meowing. His shy smile reemerged and he knelt down. The little cat hopped away, then, sniffed his outstretched fingertips. He chuckled quietly as the rough tongue licked his fingers.

"What a cute kitty you are," Kiku murmured. He blinked as the cat hopped away again. He remained crouched down, his hands on his knees, watching the cat saunter away. His eyes widened as the cat paused and looked over its shoulder back at him, dark eyes glimmering. The cat's tail twitched and then it continued towards the maze. "Do you want me to follow you, Mr. Kitty?"

A loud meow answered. That settled it. Kiku got to his feet, tidied his long, narrow skirt, and then followed after the cat, intrigued.

It led him through the maze easily. Kiku didn't often come into this maze, but he had a few times over the years and knew the route well. The cat was definitely leading him into the center. Finally, the twining paths ended and opened into the center of the maze. A large fountain was placed there. It was of a beautiful fairy maiden, her face perfectly round, her hair bundled on top of her head, and her tall, graceful figure arrayed with flowing garments. In her cupped hands were lotuses that spilled water into the pool at her feet. The pool was small, the water jade green and clear, with lily pads and lotus flowers floating on the surface. Around the edges of the pool were stone benches, placed for leisurely viewing and contemplation of the solemn and beautiful Chang'e, the moon goddess, statue.

Laid out without a care in the world was the dark figure from before, Kiku was sure of it. What other tall male fairy had that same strange, two-prong curl right at the top of his head? His earlier curiosity returning, he edged closer. When the black and white cat jumped onto the man's stomach and curled up there, purring loudly, Kiku was even more curious. Was this some cat god he had never met? A cat fairy? No… that was merely a gardener. A simple worker fairy that helped keep the gardens lush and fresh. Kiku could vaguely recall him now. A quiet, solitary fairy like himself, this gardener didn't speak much to others. In fact, Kiku had noticed him long ago because the fairy had been toiling in the warm sun with at least three cats draped comfortably over his broad shoulders. He remembered chuckling and bringing MeiMei and JiaLong's attentions to the gardener.

"Herakles," Kiku remembered suddenly. That's the name MeiMei had called him by. (MeiMei always seemed to know everyone.)

He stepped closer, taking a better look the fairy's face. He was very handsome, Kiku had to admit. Strong bone structure, a straight, high-bridged nose, sensual full lips, dark, wide brows, soft, long lashes fanning over his high cheekbones, and a wild mane of fawn brown hair framing his face. Dark lashes began to flutter and Kiku panicked. Sweat broke out across his brow, his face flushed, and his gaze darted around the enclosure, wondering if there was a place to hide. Green eyes, the same clear jade as the pool beside them, opened onto Kiku's face. They didn't seem to open quite all the way before the fairy, Herakles, began to rise. The cat jumped off his stomach, mewling in discontent on his knee. He absently stroked the annoyed cat's head and gazed at the floundering and stammering Kiku blankly.

"You didn't like the party either?" Herakles asked simply, his voice deep and slow. Kiku's flounderings abated at that lazy, soothing tone, but he was still flushed and embarrassed at being caught watching the fairy sleep.

"N-No, there was t-too much noise, r-really. I always get a headache. Do you not like parties?" Kiku managed to fumble past his lips. Herakles nodded slowly.

"I much prefer watching the moon and looking at the stars. Besides, my friends do not like the noises," Herakles drawled easily, looking down at the purring cat on his knee. Kiku's lips quivered slightly.

"You like cats. I've seen you with them while you work," Kiku noted, lamely, at a loss for words.

"Yes," Herakles agreed. He tilted his head to the side. "You are Kiku. The weaving fairy."

"Yes. I am he," Kiku nodded. Herakles motioned with his hand to the empty space beside him and Kiku gratefully sat down. "You are Herakles, correct? It is a strange name."

"This is a strange place," Herakles returned with a half-smile. Kiku blushed and quickly looked away. He wasn't used to being alone with strangers and this handsome fairy made his insides feel odd. Herakles's lazy smirk made his already erratic heartbeat race.

"True. I am sorry if I've troubled you. I was following Mr. Kitty," Kiku explained, feeling as though he should excuse his behavior. Herakles shook his head.

"No trouble. Mr. Kitty, as you call him, knows what he is doing. I have always wanted to meet you," Herakles told Kiku, that half-smirk still on his face.

"Oh? Did you want a tapestry?" Kiku asked, his voice becoming toneless.

"No. I was wondering if you liked cats, too. I noticed you watching me and the cats," Herakles chuckled softly as Kiku turned wide startled eyes on him. "I guess I wouldn't mind a tapestry if you insist, Kiku." Kiku covered his mouth with his sleeve and chuckled. Herakles watched him, his half-smirk becoming something softer. "You're very beautiful, Kiku. I have always liked to watch you when you come outside," Kiku's face turned bright red and he looked away nervously. "I am glad I made you laugh, too. Will you stay with me a little longer tonight?"

Kiku fidgeted on the stone bench, confused and anxious. He didn't understand that strange smile or the gaze on Herakles's face. He didn't understand why his heart was beating so fast, or why his blood boiled at Herakles's invitation. There was something so sultry and warm about Herakles's slow voice and words. He flinched in surprise as a large, calloused hand touched his cheek. His brown eyes glanced over at Herakles, horrified and shivering.

"P-Please, d-don't t-touch me! I d-don't like it!"

"Why?"

"Excuse me?"

"Why don't you like it?" Herakles clarified, his hand hovering by Kiku's ear. His green eyes were frowning now, baffled.

"No one… no one touches me," Kiku mumbled, his eyes falling to his feet.

"So… you're not used to it, then?" Herakles said, his expression clearing. Kiku shook his head quickly. "I am sorry, but I just wanted to. You looked like you were made out of moonlight. I wanted to make sure you're real."

Kiku stuttered breathlessly. "Y-You shouldn't say such things! It's very upsetting!" He got to his feet, shaking all over.

Herakles merely looked up at him, smiling again. "If you let me touch you more, you'd get used to it."

"Ah-gah-fu-Good evening!" Kiku squeaked, red from his hairline to his neck. Herakles chuckled again.

"Kiku, don't go. I will keep my hands to myself if you want me to," Herakles acceded good-naturedly.

Kiku paused, indecisive. He hated being rude, but he wasn't used to social interaction at all. How was he supposed to act with Herakles and his casual flirting? Because that was flirting wasn't it? Kiku really had no idea. However… as awkward as he felt, he did like the gardener. He liked Herakles's easy laugh, lazy manner, crooked smile, and his beautiful green eyes. He stepped towards Herakles, still frowning slightly. "I should go. I have work to do."

"You always work, Kiku. Just enjoy the night with me." Herakles lifted an eyebrow and held out his hand encouragingly. He seemed to have forgotten already that Kiku did not like contact.

Kiku stared at that outstretched hand, flicked his eyes up to that patiently steady gaze, then back to the hand. Gradually, inch by inch, he raised his own pale, slender hand and placed it on Herakles's. His breath caught as Herakles's hand wrapped around his, warm and strong. His heart fluttered in his chest and his pupils dilated. He wasn't sure he liked this feeling. He flinched, but his hand remained in Herakles's firm grip as the taller man got to his feet. He leaned over Kiku, whose head tilted back, eyes wide, to meet the half-lidded gaze. Herakles raised his free hand and brushed his knuckles across Kiku's cheekbone.

"I don't think I can keep my hands off you," Herakles said softly. Kiku gulped audibly.

"I should have left," Kiku muttered. Herakles laughed.

"Maybe. I've been waiting too long for this moment for you to leave so soon, though. Kiku, I've wanted to meet you for centuries," Herakles cupped the back of Kiku's head, fingers sifting through fine, silken hair. A shiver trailed down Kiku's spine.

"W-Why?"

"The first time I ever saw you, you were at the Emperor's banquet, like tonight's. I thought you looked bored. Beautiful, but bored. I left early, like tonight. That's when I saw you in the garden, not far from here. You were kneeling in the grass petting a small cat and smiling. You looked so much happier petting that cat in the moonlight, all alone, than the entire time you were in the banquet with everyone praising you," Herakles told him. "I thought then, if only I could meet you, I would like to see you smile like that again. Your two attendants, though, showed up before I could approach you."

"Ah… MeiMei and JiaLong," Kiku murmured, rather stupidly. He couldn't seem to think straight with Herakles's fingers stroking the back of his head.

"Are you still frightened of me, Kiku?" Herakles asked smiling. "I won't hurt you."

"No… I don't think you would," Kiku agreed slowly. "I don't understand what you want from me, though. I don't see how my smile could mean so much."

Herakles chuckled. "You don't understand? I only want you. Not your talent, not your weavings, not even your favor. I knew when I saw you in the moonlight that night that no one in the world would be enough for me now."

Kiku's lips parted, breath whooshing out soundlessly. What could he possibly say to that? His mind was reeling, his heart was still beating too fast, and his face was flushing too hot. He wanted Herakles to let him go, but he also wanted him to stay. He wanted to run to his room and hide away behind his loom, but he also wanted to stay here, illuminated by the moon, with Herakles looking down at him like he was precious just for being himself, for petting a cat and smiling.

Herakles's green eyes fell to Kiku's mouth and Kiku felt his heartbeat halt. He was going to kiss him! For some reason, though, the realization wasn't half as scary as it would've been just a few moments ago. There was some fear, but it was more along the lines of "how? What do I do?" rather than distaste for being touched. Kiku's eyes closed, his face blistering with heat, as Herakles's breath fanned over his lips.

"Is it all right?" Herakles slow, warm voice asked. Kiku nodded quickly, without speaking, before he could think too hard. Right now, at this moment, there was nothing more right.

When Herakles did kiss him though, he had to physically lock his muscles in place to keep from fleeing. He just wasn't used to touch and this was so intimate. If Herakles's breath had been warm, it was nothing compared to his lips. Soft, smooth, and firm, they burned on Kiku's until he was felt wherever Herakles wasn't touching was ice cold. He was pressing his body against Herakles, fingers groping for purchase on loose cotton, before he even thought to do it. Kiku was so cold now, when had he ever been warm, and only Herakles could warm him. He had to touch more, press closer. He sighed quietly as a slick, wet tongue brushed over his lips, asking oh-so-sweetly for entrance that he gave without hesitation. An arm wrapped around his waist, raising him off the ground. His hands braced on Herakles's chest, but he didn't push away. The idea didn't even occur to him. Kiku was instead trying to keep up, to follow Herakles's lead in this strange new play of tongue on tongue, lips on lips. His head swam with heat and lack of air. Their lips parted, both gasping softly.

A warm, rough hand caressed Kiku's face, thumb brushing his cheekbone. A low moan escaped Kiku's throat as hazy brown eyes opened. He blinked, startled by the intense jade gaze above him.

"What is this?" a voice suddenly shouted in shocked anger. Not just any voice.

The Jade Emperor's.

Kiku turned his head, surprised and stricken with embarrassment to be caught in some stranger's embrace by his grandfather. A bright blush suffused his cheeks as Herakles slowly lowered him to the ground. His blush brightened further when Herakles left his arm around Kiku's waist. Doesn't he know that will just anger His Eminence more? he thought feverishly. He glanced from under the heavy fringe of his bangs towards his grandfather. The Jade Emperor stood there, mouth gaping open at the entrance to the clearing; on either side of him stood MeiMei and JiaLong.

"Your Eminence, if-if y-you'll… I m-must…I c-can explain…" Kiku stammered painfully.

"It is obvious what has occurred here, Kiku. There is no need to explain," the Emperor cut him off in a hiss. His brown eyes were on Herakles's face and unconcerned gaze. "You've obviously been taken advantage of by this… this cretin. How dare you soil Kiku with your filthy hands? Release him, now!"

Kiku's eyes widened even as Herakles tightened his hold.

"Wang Yao!" Kiku snapped in anger, his temper flaring for the first time in his existence. After his outburst, however, he faltered in confusion. He had never used the Emperor's given name before, not even when invited to do so. Yet now he said it in such a rebuking tone!

MeiMei's eyes were filled with admiration and horror at his exclamation, and even JiaLong's impassive face was marred by the uplifting his brows in stunned approval. On the Emperor's face, however, there was hurt and even betrayal. It was quickly masked with rage, but Kiku winced seeing what lay beneath the fury.

"I will not allow this atrocity to continue," the Emperor seethed.

"And how will you stop us? I love Kiku. You cannot stop that, Emperor. You could take away my sight, my voice, but I will always feel like that," Herakles interrupted, his slow voice heavy with matching wrath. He paused and looked down into Kiku's incredulous gaze. "And you, Kiku?"

"I… I don't… I don't know how… but I know tonight was fated. All my years of weaving stars and the fates of so many mortals below, I never knew that I could have a fate of my own other than weaving. However, now I know… my fate is with you," Kiku whispered with a wondering, amazed voice. A slow, lazy smile curved up Herakles's lips and Kiku's heart lifted with it.

"That's how fate is, Kiku," Herakles murmured softly and, even with the Emperor a few steps away, Kiku felt his blood run hot again. Being separate from this man would mean more cold, less warmth. It would mean only weaving, only working, always alone.

Kiku didn't want that anymore. If he ever wanted it before, that is.

MeiMei gasped softly, tears building in her eyes. "Kiki! Kiki is in love!" she cried out in joy.

"I won't allow this, aru!" the Jade Emperor all but shrieked. Visibly, he pulled himself together, breathing deeply through his nose, breath whistling. "Kiku has a duty to this realm. A duty much more important than a silly infatuation with a dirty fairy," Jade Emperor said in a cold, strained voice. Kiku's spine stiffened in affront. The Emperor ignored Kiku's uncharacteristically furious gaze and looked instead straight into Herakles's burning green eyes. "You are instigating insubordination. You are rising above yourself. It is time for you to remember just how low you are, Herakles. Your life, your immortality, are a gift from me, your Emperor. By this rebellion, you prove you no longer deserve it, if you ever had, aru."

The tiny brunette Emperor stepped forward, glaring up into Herakles's face. A slender hand touched Herakles's chest, just above the heart. Kiku's dark eyes widened, the rage becoming astonished horror.

"NO!" Kiku cried out, reaching for the Emperor's wrist to pull him away. With a loud shout of pain, he was flung backwards by the Emperor's free hand. He skidded over pebbles as MeiMei and JiaLong rushed towards him and fell to their knees at his side. They both gripped his shoulders, holding him down as he struggled painfully to get back to the now-glowing twosome. Tears rolled down MeiMei's face as JiaLong's mouth twisted to the side.

"Herakles!" Kiku gasped as the fairy's body begun to loose substance. His struggles ceased as green eyes looked towards him through the glow. A slow, lazy grin curved upwards.

"We'll be together again, Kiku. I'll always love you," Herakles's voice seemed to echo through the little clearing before his body completely vanished. Only the Emperor remained there, a triumphant smirk on his face, though his eyes were irritated.

"You will forget about that mortal," the Emperor ordered before turning on his heel and leaving. They didn't notice his smirk wavering as he walked away. He had noticed the wet shimmering on Kiku's face. Kiku had never cried before this.

On the gravel, Kiku still knelt, eyes wide and unseeing with disbelief and tears. Slowly, his face fell to his cupped hands, his shoulders quivering, as he sobbed silently. For such a short, sweet time, he had felt more alive than he ever had in all his long years of existence. And so easily, so quickly, that life had been taken away to be a mortal on that ill-starred world below. He would be subject to disease, old age, and suffering. His lazy, beautiful smile would be heavy with weariness. His green eyes would dim with death.

"Kiku, please don't cry," JiaLong begged softly, his arm around Kiku's shoulders.

MeiMei laid her head on his, stroking his pitch-black hair as she would a cat. "It'll turn out all right, Kiki. In a hundred years, he'll be reborn as a mortal and then, maybe, you can see him through the Watching Pool. At least you'll be able to watch over him, and even send him help whenever the Emperor isn't looking."

Kiku shook his head. "I don't… I don't think I would be able to bear it, MeiMei. Thank you both. Thank you for trying to understand," he whispered softly, his voice muffled further by his hands.

JiaLong sighed softly and then lifted Kiku up into his arms. For once, Kiku didn't protest. He curled against JiaLong's torso and MeiMei gracefully got to her feet and flitted around them nervously. They made it back to the little hut without encountering anyone, to the two attendants' relief. Kiku fell into a deep, exhausted slumber within moments and his attendants watched him all the night through with worried frowns on their faces.

It hadn't taken long for them to realize that Kiku was also going to be punished for his dalliance with Herakles. The next day, when he awoke groggy and red-eyed, he had sat numbly a few moments. Then, he looked over at his loom and got to his feet. He turned his back on the loom and strode to the door. When he attempted to leave, however, the door refused to the budge. He had tugged and pulled and kicked at the door until JiaLong hurried forward to open it. It slid open easily at his touch, but when Kiku approached the opening, the door sprang from JiaLong's hand and slammed shut.

Kiku had stared at it mutely, brown eyes inscrutable. He spun on his heel, knelt at the loom, and within moments, began to weave without a word. MeiMei and JiaLong had shared a terrified, anxious look, but then sat down next to him and began their own work.

And so it went for decades. Weaving, carding, spinning, weaving, dyeing. Weaving. He barely ate, barely slept, and barely spoke. MeiMei and JiaLong served him faithfully and devotedly; their care and worry only increased as the years passed. Finally, after more than a century, MeiMei was tired of it. Over a hundred years of confinement for a single kiss was ridiculous. Kiku hadn't even attended a Banquet in the entire time. One fine day in summer, she took her pride and anger in hand and let them carry her into an audience with the Emperor.

The Jade Emperor allowed her to enter the inner Pavilion. He was stretched over a long, brocade couch with at least ten servants dancing attendance on him: longyan, persimmons, rice wine, and rich sweets were held out for his particular fancy. At least three large palm branches were waving gently to keep him cool. A small band of musicians were playing sweet melodies more beautiful than birdsong. MeiMei kept her brown eyes to the cedar wood floor, her hands clasped neatly on her lap as she knelt reverently before the Emperor.

"Your Eminence, it is about Kiku-gongtou," MeiMei began hesitantly. The Emperor sat up, brown eyes excited.

"He sent me a message?" he asked.

"No, your Eminence." MeiMei genuflected quickly and then rose again, her eyes still on the floor. "It is I who wish to speak to you of him and his punishment. You are always just, your Eminence, how can it be otherwise?" she gritted her teeth but knew to swallow down the bitterness for Kiku's sake. "However, he has become barely a shadow of himself. He barely eats, barely sleeps, barely speaks! JiaLong and I have becoming increasingly worried for his health. Please, I beg of you, your Eminence, allow him his freedom for just a day. Tomorrow is Midsummer, one of the most magical days of the year and the veil between our world and the mortal realm will be thin. There is a pool, a Jade Lake, in the land below that is good for the health. Please allow us to venture below to bathe in its water while the sun lingers in the sky. We will return before the last rays leave the mountains."

Silence reigned. Only the fans continued their soft waving, though even those servants had paused in surprise at the tiny fairy's plea. Finally, the Emperor shifted. He lay back on the couch and sighed audibly. "Whatever you wish, child. Remember, however, that if he does not come back unharmed and in a timely fashion, it will be your life at stake."

MeiMei shuddered, her little body quivering all over at the bored tone threatening her existence. She nodded, though, and quickly retreated. Her heart was light, her feet even lighter, as she danced and skipped towards the hut. Finally, Kiku would be allowed away from that damned loom.

.

On Earth, a young man set aside his plough and wiped away the sweat streaming down his tan face. Jade green eyes looked west, towards the setting sun and colorfully dyed clouds. A large black bull wandered to the man's side and stood there calmly as the man leaned on his muscled flanks wearily.

"Well, Tono, it's time to turn in, I guess," the man murmured, shaking his sweat-dampened fawn-brown hair. The bull nodded and lumbered towards the lean-to shack built against a wooden hut. The young man pushed aside the bamboo mat hanging in the doorway and went to the basin of water to wash his face.

Enes was Greek by birth, but Turkish by adoption. At least, that's what his adoptive father told him. His father, Sadiq, however, had never quite been sure. He had found Enes as a newborn in a tiny Greek village. He had been abandoned in a temple dedicated to Herakles, a Greek hero much-beloved by the people there, so he had assumed that the baby was Greek. He took him to the Ottoman Empire and raised him as a well-to-do merchant's son. Enes had learned the in- and outs of trading; how to haggle, barter, even deceive. How to weigh spices, gold, bolts of silk, and raw incense by eye. How to speak Turkish, Greek, Latin, and Spanish, even Huayu. Enes, though, wasn't satisfied by a merchant's life. He knew he wasn't meant to be a merchant. There was something else intended for him. His father was sorry to see him go, but nonetheless gave him his blessing. Sadiq kissed his son's brow and blessed him under Allah's name. Enes left Turkey, and then Europe, behind as he wandered. He discovered so many amazing things, met so many strange and exciting people, and sampled exotic foods and wines from all over Europe, the Middle East, and finally, Asia. As he travelled through China and onto a tiny island called Nippon, he felt his wanderlust begin to ebb. In a tiny village of maybe twenty wooden huts and barely four times that amount of inhabitants, he found his resting place. A man there was trying to sell his farm so he could go to the city and make more money and find a wife. Enes was more than happy to buy the tiny farm and the large, well-kept bull that came with it. He became good friends with the beast, named Tono by the first farmer. Those large green eyes, a brighter shade than Enes's, would look at him patiently as Enes spoke to him, as if he could understand Enes's speech. After a while, cats found their way to Enes's household as well, as cats had always been wont to do. So Enes lived fairly content, with his hutful of cats, his large wise bull, and tiny farm. He slept most the hours away in the warm sunlight and cooked simple Turkish and Nippon dishes that he often invited his neighbors over to share.

But still… something was missing. But Enes knew if he waited patiently, it would come to him.

He finished washing himself and changed into a pair of loose Turkish pants and vest. He put a straw Chinese hat on his head to shade his face from the summer sun, and then, with his cats prancing at his heels, went outside for his usual nap. Tono was grazing beneath the twisted lotus tree as Enes approached. The Greek man sat beneath the tree, leaning against the rough bark and sighing softly. He dropped the large straw hat to the ground and let the sunlight, dappled with the shadows of leaves and lotus blossoms, play on his face. Tono's warm damp nose pressed against his shoulder and Enes laughed softly.

"I'm fine, Tono, I promise. I'm just… I'm just wondering; what am I waiting for? I should be happy, content at least. Normally I am. Other times are like now. I sit and wait and wait and nothing happens. I just want to stop waiting, Tono," he stroked his tabby's back as a darker black cat curled up next to his hip. A small fluffy white kitty nestled herself on his shoulder and a tiny black cat with a white chest and brown eyes perched on his fluffy hair, chewing on the strange two-pronged cowlick there. More cats draped themselves over his knees and ankles or climbed up on Tono's back to sunbathe. Tono snorted, tossed his head, and seemed to be considering something carefully.

"I have something to tell you, mi amigo," Tono said slowly in a deep, strangely accented voice. Enes froze, eyes widening, his head slowly turning to meet Tono's gaze. "I can speak."

"R-Really…" Enes stuttered.

"I am not just any bull, Hera- Ah, I mean, Enes," Tono shook his head again, his tone rather amused. "I am the Golden Bull of the constellation. I offended the Jade Emperor many centuries ago and he sentenced me to an eternity of suffering and wandering until I help a pure heart find true love."

"You're not very golden. You're black…"

"It matters not. Listen to me, mi amigo. Long ago, I was in the night sky, shining as I was created to do, when I saw the most perfect mortal. I loved him at once. There was… is no one… no one more beautiful, more perfect- ay Dios mio, even now I love him," Tono trailed off, his voice heavy with sadness. He began again with a soft sigh. "I stop shining. I too busy watching him, loving him, wanting him. I ached for him and I died every moment I could not see him. The Jade Emperor was furious I forgot my duty to him and that is when he cursed me. I was glad, whatever my mortal form, to be on this Earth. I could find the boy I loved and hear his voice, feel his hand on me, protect him and love him as best I could! I rejoiced! Pero… pero… when I found him… he was old and sick. Only his eyes, his beautiful golden eyes, were eyes I remembered. I watched him breathe his last and mourned him every day for a century. When he was reborn, I spent years finding him again, but only found him when he was old and suffering. This happen so many times I finally gave up all hope. I stop looking for him and now only memory of him is what I carry. If I help you, though, mi amigo, I can return to the stars and watch him be happy and young and beautiful. Si, I also see him suffer, grow old, and die, but I see everything before that, too," Tono's broad head looked away, green eyes gazing over the tiny farm as Enes stared at him.

"Help me how?" Enes finally asked. Tono looked back and moo'ed happily.

"I help you find what you looking for, si? You must come tomorrow morning with me, as soon as the sun rises. You must not speak, must not ask any questions, must just do as I say. I will bring you to a magical healing lake. It called Jade Lake. There fairies come down from the Heavens to bathe every midsummer. You must steal one of the fairy's robes so it will not fly away. When it comes for its clothes, you must demand for it to be your wife. It will agree and come home with you. Now, here is the most important part. You must choose the right robes," Tono told him. Enes blinked, waiting, but Tono did not elaborate.

"What are the right robes?" Enes prompted.

"You know when you see them. If you do not know, then you are not who I think you are, mi amigo. If you do not know as soon as you look, then do not take any of the robes. There is one fairy for you, a special fairy. You must only take the robes that belong to that one fairy. If you not figure out which ones, then let the poor things go back home." Enes nodded slowly.

The next day, Enes rose with the sun per his norm, but instead of going out on the farm, he met with Tono under the lotus tree. He swung himself up on Tono's back and they were off. Though Tono seemed to be moving slowly, the land blurred past them. They were in the mountains far to the north within a few hours. Tono descended into a bowl-shaped valley and when they were surrounded by tall bulrushes, Enes slipped off Tono's back. Tono jerked his head towards a tall willow. There, in the waving branches, Enes could barely make out the flashing of bright silk. He strode forward as quietly as possible, moving through the bulrushes like a deer. To his left, he could hear quiet splashing and beautiful girlish laughter ring out like silver bells. Lower voices, that sounded vaguely masculine, replied, but Enes kept his eyes on the tree, blushing slightly.

He ducked under the willow's gray leaves and paused. Before him were three sets of robes. All were exquisitely woven of the most beautiful material he'd ever seen- and his father was a merchant of fine fabrics. One was bright red with tones of orange, pink, and bright yellow. Another was dark, smoky blue with subtle dark purple and grey lining. The last one, though, made his breath catch: soft lilac and lavender, glistening grey and silver, a sash of bright turquoise. Awed, breath stolen, Enes reached out and stroked the silk with a shaking finger. This is the one, he thought without hesitation. The other two might have had much more beautiful colors, but this one was it. He folded it neatly, tucked it into the waistband of his pants, and then wove through the bulrushes towards dryer ground to hide the robes.

In the lake behind him, MeiMei was throwing the jade green water into the air and laughing as it fell, sparkling, down. JiaLong was floating on his back, humming softly and ignoring the pattering of water drops on his face and chest. Kiku sat on a sun-warmed rock, his face to the sun, as he slowly swung his legs back and forth in the water.

"MeiMei," Kiku called out softly. She turned, soaked brown hair fanning over her chest as she smiled at her gongtou.

"Yes, Kiki!" she called back in an excited, loud voice. Kiku only smiled, too pleased to be annoyed.

"Thank you so much for this," he said simply, his brown eyes on her face. She flushed bright pink with pleasure and clasped her hands together.

"Anything for you, Kiki! I only want you to be happy, just a little. It's so nice to see your smile!"

JiaLong shifted so he was wading in the water, legs kicking leisurely beneath the surface. "She's right, Kiku. It's nice to see you look so relaxed."

"I'm sorry I haven't been myself these past years. I will… I will attempt to be… better…" he trailed off, remembering those jade green eyes that haunted him. They all looked west, sighing softly as the sun began to dip low and the shadows grow. The clouds were stained the same color of MeiMei's robes when they made their way reluctantly towards the willow tree.

"Hopefully next year we can come again!" MeiMei sang happily as she wrung out her hair and reached for her robes. JiaLong, already dressed, dropped the bright robes over her head. She was blushing when her face emerged, a smile tugging the corners of her mouth as she tied the sash around her waist.

"MeiMei, JiaLong…. My robes…" At Kiku's voice, both fairies turned. Their expressions became those of horror as Kiku remained naked, staring where he had left his clothing.

"Where are they!" MeiMei exclaimed as JiaLong immediately began to search through the nearby bulrushes. MeiMei cried out in wordless protest as her feet began to lift from the ground. JiaLong grasped the tree, trying to remain on the Earth as the magic of their robes was pulling them upwards. "KIKI!"

Kiku rushed forward and reached for MeiMei's outstretched hand, but missed. JiaLong tried to grab Kiku, but also missed and his grip slipped from the tree.

"Kiku, you must find your robes as soon as possible and hide from the mortals. We will be back in a year to fetch you," JiaLong told him, fury and anxiety alike in his words.

"We will be back! You must find your robes, Kiki!"

"I know! Don't worry about me. You two give the Emperor just one weaving at a time each month. There are enough to last a few years at that rate. You must not let him know I'm still here!" The attendants nodded and vanished into the twilight, leaving Kiku shivering and alone on Earth.

He kept one thin arm around his torso, ineffectually trying to keep warm, as he searched through the tall grasses, wincing as mud sucked at his feet. The feeling of the damp, squishy earth squelching between his toes was unbelievably disgusting. As the sun sunk lower behind the ring of mountains, his shivering worsened. Where could my clothes have gone? he wondered in increasing agitation. He froze, backing quickly towards the willow as the sound of someone coming through bulrushes met his ears. He ducked behind the wide greyish trunk of the venerable tree, his thin fingers digging into the crevices of the bark. Could the person approaching possibly have stolen his magical robes? If so, how could Kiku get them back? He knew for a fact that he was small and weak. Without his robes, he didn't even have simple glamor spells to put the mortal to sleep or hypnotize it. His mind whirred in terror and confusion as a dark, tall figure pushed through the grasses.

His breath escaped him in a loud whoosh, as if someone had punched him in the diaphragm. This man had darker skin, his face looked more worn and rougher, his hair shaggier- overall, he obviously had less "shine" to him. Here was a mortal man, chest heaving for breath as jade green eyes glanced around the edge of the lake near the willow. Kiku knew, however, that this mortal man was his Herakles. Kiku edged closer, keeping most of his body behind the tree trunk. His pale face flamed red remembering he was completely bare, but after an entire century and more of a cold silence in his heart, he refused to let Herakles slip away again.

"Herakles?" Kiku called out softly. The mortal paused and looked around, perplexed. Jade eyes fell on Kiku's face peeking from behind the tree.

"You are… You are not a girl," the mortal Herakles said, baffled. Kiku frowned. His language was strange. It took Kiku a moment to remember that the Jade Lake was on a tiny island called Nippon and that the strange inhabitants here spoke some barbarian tongue, not Huayu. Kiku preferred the strange language and had chosen a name for himself from it long ago (mostly to annoy Wang Yao, but he did like Nippon-go). He breathed in softly and, suddenly, the strange words made sense.

Wait… they still didn't make sense. Kiku frowned harder as he opened his eyes. "Of course I am not a woman. I am Kiku," Kiku retorted softly.

"I am Enes Adnan, son of Sadiq Adnan," the mortal replied. Kiku's heart squeezed.

How could I be wrong? He must be Herakles! Kiku's eyes widened. I am an imbecile! Of course his name would be different. He has no recollection of his life as an immortal, as his life as Herakles… of me… Kiku's eyelids lowered, hiding the pain now shining there. He wanted to curl around his sad, heavy heart and weep for losing his love again. For surely, he had lost his Herakles. This Enes may have the same form, but memories, therefore his love, would have not been reborn. He flinched as Enes approached.

"Wait, don't be scared, Kiku," Herakles's lazy, beautiful, longed-for voice pleaded. Kiku flinched again, his fist pressed to his bare chest. "Please, Kiku, I want to apologize."

Kiku looked up, eyes wide. In Enes's outstretched hands were Kiku's robes. He glanced towards Enes's face, astonishment written on his fair features.

"I shouldn't have stolen them. I… I was just tired of waiting. Tono, my bull, I found out he could talk yesterday, he said if I took these robes then I could make the fairy who owned them my wife. He said that's what I've been waiting for all these years, what I've been looking for. When I saw these," Enes looked down, his fingers clenching the silken robes tightly, "I could only think that Tono must be right. There's something about these robes… something important. I feel like the one who wore these robes must be my fate to find. Then I thought what an awful trick to play on the one I'm fated to be with. It didn't seem fair. So… take them back, Kiku." Enes held out the robes again, green eyes contrite. Kiku slowly reached out one hand, his fingertips lying on the smooth silk.

"No."

"What?"

"No. I don't want them," Kiku repeated firmly, shaking his head.

He looked up into Enes's jade eyes and smiled shyly. There, in those half-lidded eyes slowly filling with joy, Kiku saw Herakles. How could Kiku forget that Herakles wasn't just made of memories and flesh? Inside him was his soul, his beautiful, simple soul. For all eternity, it was their souls that were tied. Between them, Kiku swore he could see a thin red string connecting their hearts. His hand fell from the robe and cupped the back of Enes's hand lightly. A slow, lazy smile, the same lazy smile that had once made Kiku's heart flutter, spread over Enes's full, sensual lips.

"Then you'll stay? And be my wife? …If that word is right here…" Enes's brows lowered in a frown, even while the smile curved his mouth. Kiku chuckled quietly.

"Let us use 'spouse,' perhaps?" Kiku offered diplomatically. "I will stay with you, Herakles, as long as I can. Next year, I must come back here and return home."

"A year… A year will work…" Enes trailed off doubtfully, but smiled again. "What should I do with your clothes?"

"I guess… I guess we can hide them here…"

"I had a good place for them earlier. Here, I brought some food and extra clothes with me," Enes remembered. He swung the small pack off his back and handed it to Kiku. "I will be back soon."

Kiku watched him go, his heartbeat pounding in his ears. I have him back again. Even for just a year, I have him again. I can kiss him again and again, every day. For an entire year, I'll be warm again and feel his hands on me again. I will live again for a year. He passed a hand over his smarting eyes and took a slow, deep breath to calm himself. An eternity could never be long enough, but at least I have a year to love him.

.

It was supposed to be only a year. However, love does something to time. Days pass by, then weeks, then years, and yet it seems only a drop of time in a pail full of water. Their happiness was a living thing that grew and strengthened each day. Enes continued working on his small farm, Tono at his side as usual. Kiku would remain in the little hut, weaving beautiful rugs and clothes for them, though much more practical than he was used to weaving. He sold, even gave away, many of the items he wove and their tiny hut became something more like a home. Kiku didn't mind the simple fare they ate. He was so used to rich, heavy foods that the simple food was refreshing to taste. He learned to cook it himself, and soon took over the duty from Enes since he enjoyed employing his hands in tasks not weaving. He helped Herakles… Enes with chores like watering the plants and keeping their modest garden tidy. He even took care of their ragamuffin cats, so they were gleaming, well-fed, and lazier than ever. When the year passed, Kiku hadn't even noticed until after the sun had set.

He told himself that surely MeiMei and JiaLong had seen him in the Watching Pool and knew he was safe. He also told himself that two years wasn't so long to an immortal. His grandfather wouldn't notice yet, especially since there was enough of his work left that MeiMei and JiaLong would still be able to present something to His Eminence each month. He lastly told himself, quite firmly, that it would be his last time to forget. If he remained too long, his dear friends would be found out and even punished. He could not, in good conscience, allow that to happen.

The next year, however, things did not go as planned. Early in the winter, a wandering couple entered the little village, starving and ill. They were from a small peninsula of the much larger ZhongGuo mainland that was currently in the middle of a clan war. The man, however, was seriously wounded in the leg, the flesh hard and putrefied. Any healer knew his death would be soon and painful. The woman was heavily pregnant, with barely enough energy to drag herself into the hut the elders of the village had provided. Both died within a fortnight, leaving only two babies, twins. The mother had been able to name them and hold them for a day before passing away quietly into the night. Herakles (in the past year, he'd quite given up calling Herakles by his mortal name and Herakles allowed it with equanimity) and Kiku decided then to take the children in and attempt to keep them alive without their mother.

Both children survived not only the winter, but the succeeding spring and well into the summer. Kiku had been so busy chasing after the rambunctious Yong-soo and the equally inquisitive Jae-soo that he hadn't realized he missed midsummer until a good two weeks after the fact. He solemnly promised himself not to forget again. His weavings could not create themselves and his friends would be more anxious than ever. Now that the twins were around, he wouldn't have to worry about Herakles feeling lonely when he returned to the Jade Pavilion.

Again and again, the year passed and something prevented Kiku from remembering to return to Jade Lake for his robes, let alone actually travel there on Tono's back. Yong-soo was overbearingly affection with abandonment issues. He was constantly underfoot, begging for attention and reaffirmations of affection (which Herakles easily supplied). Jae-soo was less affectionate and quieter, much like Kiku, but was rather mischievous in a different way. She was constantly following Herakles learning how to plow, ride Tono, fish, and even hunt. At the tender age of four, she had stolen Herakles's bow and arrows and spent the afternoon playing with them, ignoring the dozen cuts from the arrow tips and welts from snapping the bowstring on her hands that she gained. By six, Herakles made her a tiny bow that she could practice on. After that, she was forever chasing down the cats with her blunt, cotton-tipped arrows with Yong-soo running after her laughing hysterically and Kiku trailing in the rear trying to catch them.

So the seven years passed rapidly, each year bringing them some new happiness or gift. To immortal Kiku, the years were like shining golden weeks moving by in a blink of an eye compared to the hundreds of years, if not a thousand, he'd existed in the Heavens. He would feel guilty, even ashamed, during the quiet hours of sunset on midsummer, but those dark feelings were almost immediately forgotten when Yong-soo tipped over the milk jug again, or Jae-soo got scratched by an irritated cat, or Herakles embraced him and kissed him until they were breathless.

How he loved his little, mortal family. He loved the nights spent sleeping in Herakles arms, loving each other into the wee hours of the morning, just to be woken by the twins what felt like moments later. Chasing down the children, weaving simple rugs and kimono, cooking white rice and miso, stroking the numerous cats that would come to lie in his lap throughout the day; why couldn't life be like this? So many nights he would lay awake watching Herakles slumber, many times with their twins snuggled between them, and think he could live like this. He could grow old and die a mortal if only he could have this life. He would give up his robes, his immortality, his beautiful talent of weaving the stars and fates, even his dear, dear friends, if only he could spend one more day with his precious, loving family. Damn the consequences. These simple mortals cared more for him than his grandfather ever had, than any of those fairies and gods and goddesses above. He had never felt so treasured as the moments when his family turned to him and wanted nothing but his smile and approval. Wanted nothing but his love.

.

A few weeks after the seventh midsummer sunset, Kiku was weaving a new pair of trousers for Herakles. Though he preferred the simple kimono these Nippon-jin wore, that he himself donned, he knew that Herakles liked his native Turkish trousers. Kiku had learned to make the silly garments a few years ago, a simple task for a fairy whom had been creating stars since night existed. He chuckled softly. Truth be told, while he preferred to wear kimono, he did enjoy the sight of Herakles wearing his strange Turkish clothing. Kimono gave every person a very similar, slender silhouette, but Herakles's trousers emphasized his long legs and trim waist very well. It wasn't such a bother, really, to make them. They still seemed silly compared to kimono, though. Absently, he heard the distant rumbling of thunder. Without a thought as to why it would thunder when the outside was bright, sunny, and warm, he hummed softly and passed his shuttle back and forth.

"Little Papa?" came a quiet, boy's voice. The children had dubbed Kiku "Little Papa" and Herakles "Big Papa" when they first began to speak.

It was Yong-soo's subdued voice that finally broke through Kiku's reverie. He marked his last stitch and set aside the shuttle. With the practicalities down, he turned, brown eyes concerned. Yong-soo was standing in the doorway, his big brown eyes wide with fear and confusion. Kiku raised his arms and Yong-soo rushed towards them, throwing himself into his papa's embrace. Kiku stroked Yong-soo soft hair, smiling slightly as that obstinate curl both twins had remained standing free.

"What is it, xiaogou? What is it that my little one is scared of this time?" Kiku asked softly.

"It's the sky, Little Papa. It's getting so black and the whole village is standing outside. It's coming here so fast!" Yong-soo whined, tearing up and sniffling. "Even Big Papa is frowning at the sky. I want to hide somewhere so it can't hurt us."

"Wo de xiaogou, the sky cannot…" Kiku broke off, his brows contracting over his nose. Black clouds that moved swiftly enough to startle even Herakles? "I must go to Herakles."

"No! No, Big Papa says stay inside! Jae-soo won't, she's being naughty, but I was too scared to stay outside. Stay with me like Big Papa says!" Yong-soo begged pitifully.

"I must see these clouds, Yong-soo," Kiku said gently, though firmly. Yong-soo nodded.

Normally Kiku called him xiaogou, and very rarely used his name. Only when he was in serious trouble did Kiku not use his nickname. He refused to release Kiku's kimono, though. With a sigh, Kiku lifted the heavy youngster into his arms and rose. It was a matter of moments to make it to the threshold and look out unto the horizon. He could see Herakles standing under the lotus tree, Tono near him, Jae-soo clasping onto his thigh, her little toy bow in her free hand. It was the storm, however, that drew Kiku's gaze.

Black, boiling, furious clouds that could only mean one thing; his grandfather had sent for him; had noticed at last his absence.

"Yong-soo, you must go hide in the kitchen cabinet at once. You must leave the cabinet, no matter what you hear, understand?" Kiku asked in a strangely detached sort of voice. Yong-soo nodded slowly. "Don't worry, xiaogou, your sister will be with you soon." Yong-soo dropped to the ground, looked once more up into Kiku's reassuringly smiling face, and fled.

Kiku hurried over to Herakles, Tono, and Jae-soo. Without further ado, he took Jae-soo's hand and knelt in front of her. "You must go protect your brother- No protests, xiaomao. No matter what you hear, you stay in there unless your papas call for you. You must stay hidden and protect Yong-soo. Do you understand?" Jae-soo slowly nodded. Unlike Yong-soo, who cried at the least provocation, Jae-soo was much more introverted for such a young child. She also obeyed orders more readily than Yong-soo. Kiku knew that Jae-soo would keep Yong-soo from leaving the cabinet. His eyes widened, startled, as she reached up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek before racing towards the hut, cheeks as red as Kiku's.

Kiku got to his feet, ignoring Herakles's soft chuckles. "Why so serious, Kiku?"

"Those are emissaries of my grandfather, the Jade Emperor," Kiku explained shortly. Herakles's eyes widened.

"You never said so," Herakles replied without any accusation, just stating a fact, as astonishing as it was. Kiku nodded.

"I was supposed to return before he noticed my absence. I always meant to leave before any trouble occurred," Kiku smiled wryly as he looked up into Herakles's equally amused gaze. "Circumstances changed. Things did not happen according to plan." His small, fair hand slipped into Herakles's rough, brown one. Their fingers entwined, gripped tightly. "I love you, Herakles. I always will."

"Don't go."

"I cannot help it," Kiku answered softly, regretfully.

The clouds burst over the village, but rain did not fall. Instead, two golden beings fell to the earth. One held a huge axe, the other a tall, graceful glaive. The axe-wielder whistled as he landed on his feet, one fist propped on his hip as he smirked at the pair standing under the lotus. The other fairy was smaller, more slender, and his face was devoid of any of his inner thoughts. A gold hairpin held back his hair on one side.

"Well, looks like you were easy enough to find, little Kiku," the whistler joked.

"Shut up, Mathias," the smaller fairy snapped at the taller before turning his inscrutable gaze onto Kiku. "Kiku-laoshi, you know why we've come."

"Yes, Lukas-san" Kiku sighed. His year using Nippon-go made it hard to drop those honorifics and use the old Huayu terms.

"He doesn't have to. He can stay! There are tales all over the world of angels and fairies that gave up being immortal to stay on Earth!" Herakles interrupted, his normally lazy voice rather savage. Mathias grinned as Lukas sighed.

"He really doesn't remember, does he?" Lukas directed this towards Kiku, who remained silent.

"Remember what?" Herakles demanded, looking from the Heavenly Guards to Kiku. Brown eyes rose to baffled jade.

"I weave the stars, Herakles. I weave mortal fates. Wo de airen, it was a fool's dream to believe I could stay here with you, with the twins," he ignored the tears filming his lashes as he reaching up to touched Herakles's stunned face. "Do not forget that I love you, airen, and I will for all eternity."

"No. NO!" Herakles grasped for Kiku's hand, but Lukas had already thrown Kiku's long-hidden, easily-found robes over his shoulders. Kiku's slender hand slipped from Herakles's grasp as he floated upwards, the Guards on either side. From the hut, the twins rushed outside, crying.

"PAPA!" they screamed. Even Jae-soo, his little cat, was in tears, her bow still in hand. Yong-soo raced below Kiku and reached up with both hands, sobbing. "Don't go, Papa! Stay with us!"

"This is why I wanted you stay inside, you disobedient miscreants," Kiku scolded as his lips trembled.

"Huh. How'd they get brat-OOF! It was a reasonable question, Lukas! Don't hit me over the head with your glaive so hard," Mathias whined.

The clouds swallowed the glowing forms, leaving the mortals speechless and mourning. Yong-soo immediately fell to the dirt, sobbing hysterically, breathing in huge gasping gulps of air just to sob again. Jae-soo stood, quivering, tears streaming down her face silently as her chubby hands clutched her bow tightly. Herakles stood on his farm in stunned silence. Seven years of happiness. Seven years of love. And yet it meant nothing to the Jade Emperor who only wanted his grandson back to weave stars and fates, to give joy to everyone but himself. Herakles had given up wandering, given up even returning to his father, had given up much of his freedom to care for Kiku and the twins, and all he asked was to keep what others would call chains. He'd even given up his birth name, because to Kiku, Enes was truly Herakles, which Herakles had never thought to question if it made Kiku happy. Kiku had told Herakles about his previous life as a fairy and while Herakles had found it hard to believe, he had believed it anyway for Kiku's sake. There was something too right about them being together for him to really question Kiku's story. Was it truly a coincidence his father found him in a temple to Herakles after all?

But it was all for nothing in the end. Kiku was ripped from him once more. That emptiness that had haunted him for so many years had returned, gnawing at his heart like a ravenous beast. Without Kiku, would he ever be full? Would he ever be able to be happy, to be content? How would their children suffer with a half-broken father and a stolen one that could only love them through a tiny magical pool in the Heavens? Herakles jumped slightly as a hot, dry nose touched his elbow. He looked over to see Tono looking up at him mournfully.

"This is good bye, mi amigo," Tono whispered.

"What?"

"I help you one last time to follow your heart, si? I breathe my last, soon, and when I do, my body will vanish, all but my hide. You must take it and wrap it over your shoulders. You follow the one you love as long as my hide covers you. Your niños you must carry on my old yoke in buckets so they not fall. Adios, mi familia guapa," Tono sighed as his whole body glowed as golden as the fairies had.

In his place lay a golden hide, still shining with light. Yong-soo and Jae-soo stared at the hide, eyes wide until Yong-soo burst into fresh howls and Jae-soo looked into Herakles's gaze imploringly. He ruffled her hair with a tight smile.

"It's all right. Tono left us this gift so we can follow your papa. Hurry, both of you go run and get buckets!" The twins scampered off as he knelt down and touched the hide with trembling fingers. "Thank you, my friend," he whispered softly. He then got to his feet and hurried to get the yoke left in the taro field.

.

High the sky, Lukas and Mathias were arguing about "tact" and Kiku floated between them. Often, he would look over his shoulder, hoping to see his family one more time, knowing it was fruitless. He would only ever see them through the Watching Pool now. It was time to move on and ready himself for the waiting confrontation with his grandfather. Wang Yao would be beyond furious this time. For the first time, Kiku remembered his attendants with a fierce blaze of guilt. Could they be right now suffering for their silence, for his betrayal? Could they have already been banished from the Heavens? Maybe even have had their existence wiped away? He trembled at the thought. He would have prayed that they be spared until he could beg for leniency, but he realized that there was no one to whom to pray. The Jade Emperor was the highest being in the Heavens and it was he that Kiku had angered. In desperation, he prayed to the moon goddess, Chang'e. She too had been separated from the mortal man she loved, so if anyone could understand it would be she.

His eyes widened.

"Papa! Little Papa! Kiku!" Three familiar seemed to call to him from far away, but slowly gaining in volume. He turned over his shoulder just as the two Guards did. In the far distance, Kiku could see the golden glow and barely make out the strange figure of his husband bent over with the yoke on his shoulders and his two children hanging in buckets. In shock, the trio had paused and Kiku called out, reaching with both hands as his family drew near enough he could see their faces.

"Herakles! Xiaogou! Xiaomao!" He answered, his face breaking into the widest smile he'd ever made. He gasped aloud as an arm wrapped around his torso roughly.

"That damn bull. I told you it was him," Mathias growled as Lukas made a strange motion with his hand. The clouds around them flashed green and a terrifying face formed in the dark clouds. It puffed its cheeks and blew, sending the trio flying through the air and into the starlit Heavens.

"No! Let me go to them!" Kiku screeched, forgetting decorum, forgetting duty, forgetting responsibility. The sight of his family chasing him even through the sky, wearing the pelt of their good friend Tono, who must have given his life so they could be reunited, spurred Kiku's anger.

"Whoa! Calm down!" Mathias exclaimed. He hissed in pain, loosening his hold just long enough for Kiku to slip free. "HE BIT ME!"

"I bite you all the time and you don't let go. That was inexcusable," Lukas retorted calmly as Mathias flapped his wounded hand.

"Well, your bites are for fun. His wasn't."

"You only think they're for fun, you imbecile."

Kiku was racing over through the stars, arms reaching for his family as they neared. He didn't even hear the Guards dissolve into their argument. Just a hair breadth's away, Herakles let go of the yoke with one hand, reaching towards Kiku's hands. Yong-soo cried out as suddenly a bright blade swept between them, sending Kiku flying back. When he opened his dazzled eyes, a wide river of stars flowed between him and his family. It was impossible to cross without being consumed by the starlight, as if burnt by fire. He turned to see Wang Yao descending next to him, his eyes bright with wrath. His relief at seeing both MeiMei and JiaLong, though pale and shaking, was eclipsed by his mounting fury.

"LET ME PASS!" Kiku bellowed, face bright red, tears falling to his cheeks. Wang Yao, the Jade Emperor, started back. There was a break in his composure but he quickly pulled back on his stone mask.

"No. You have a duty to the Heavens. What you've done is-"

"Insubordination, I remember, Grandfather. I do not care! I would rather die! I would rather give up these immortal robes and plummet to Earth than remain where I cannot be with them!" Kiku flung his arm towards the awkwardly floating mortals. "I love them! And I have always loved Herakles. Even a full century could not break that love! I could not forget him even though you ordered me to do so! Let me go!" Kiku's voice broke on the last word, his voice lowering. "Let me go."

"Papa?" Yong-soo's pitiful voice called out. Wang Yao winced even as JiaLong and MeiMei hurried to support Kiku on both sides. There was a soft twang and a tiny, cotton-tipped arrow flew over the river of stars and tapped Wang Yao on the side of his face. He caught the little arrow and stared over at the mortals who only glared back. Jae-soo already had another arrow notched.

"I… I cannot allow it, Kiku. Surely you understand why," Wang Yao finally murmured sadly, his anger completely forgotten. "You are the Weaver Fairy. You must stay in the Pavilion and weave the stars and fates. Without you, the Heavens will crumble and mortals will lose their purpose. You must stay here."

Kiku's shoulders slumped.

"Surely you can do something, Your Eminence! Kiku is only suffering being apart from him! From them. Won't the stars and fates suffer, too?" MeiMei pleaded.

"Why can't they be together even for a short time every year?" JiaLong entreated with her.

"Even if I could allow that, I already created this river. There is no way the mortals can cross it. Not even you fairies can cross it. I'm sorry, Kiku, I truly am," Wang Yao replied.

A soft, muffled noise reached very ear and they all looked up, baffled. The sound grew louder and louder, until it was deafening. Kiku's eyes widened as Herakles spun around, the children crying out more in delight than fear. Thousands upon thousands of magpies flew towards the river of stars. Slowly, they pressed together, wingtip to wingtip, beak to tail feathers. Finally, they hovered over the river of stars, a fluttering black bridge of magpies. For a long, pregnant moment, everyone stared at the fluttering bridge and the implications that came with it.

Kiku moved away from his attendants and stepped onto the bridge. Herakles followed suit. Soon, they were running towards each other. Kiku threw himself into Herakles embrace and they clasped each other tightly, kissing again and again until they were dizzy and breathless. Yong-soo and Jae-soo were reaching out eagerly, clutching Kiku's robes as their buckets swayed precariously. Herakles and Kiku were quick to hold the twins between them, all laughing, sobbing, and raining kisses on each other's face.

Behind Kiku, Wang Yao looked down at the little arrow in his hand and smiled softly. "Thanks to the magpies, I can give one night a year. That is it. On the seventh night of the seventh lunar month the magpies may return and create this bridge for them. On that night they may be together again, but when the sun rises, the bridge will scatter."

"Only night?" JiaLong asked, frowning as MeiMei sobbed into her hands.

"It is only at night that the River of Stars will shine. If they are late, or forget, then they must wait another full year. There is only so much I can do, aru! This is a bridge between our worlds we're talking about here, aru! He is a Heavenly Fairy! Mortals cannot cross into the Heavens without perishing! I cannot break my own rules! That would invite anarchy, aru!" Wang Yao snapped. JiaLong shrugged just to aggravate the Emperor further.

"At least they can be together then! At least they have that!" MeiMei wailed. JiaLong sighed and tucked her under his arm so she could cry against his chest.

.

Over the years the Adnan family never missed the Bridge. Faithfully they returned and crossed it each year to spend those few happy hours together. When Yong-soo and Jae-soo grew old enough to marry, or go off to seek adventures with their grandfather, Sadiq, Herakles would make the trip alone and the two lovers spent the nights loving each other among the stars. Still, the twins would return now and again to see their Heavenly "little Papa". Many years later, they would help their aged, weary Big Papa over the bridge, because not even old age could stop Herakles from seeing Kiku. Old age never hid the soul that shined through bright jade eyes and Kiku never stopped loving his mortal Herakles.

When he finally passed away, Yong-soo and Jae-soo stood by his grave, crying. Then, as the moon rose, Jae-soo looked to the star Kiku always let shine to guide them over the bridge. Just on the other side of the River of Stars, a new star shined. The twins clasped hands, smiling through tears, as a familiar shadow fluttered over the River of Stars one last time. They knew that their parents were truly reunited at last. They lived on their mortal lives, always remembering to look up on the seven night of the seventh moon and whisper "I love you, Papa."

Herakles's immortality was restored to him; the Jade Emperor's wrath finally expired. Kiku wove the stars and fates of mortals and Herakles planted flowers while cats lay over his shoulders. They watched their mortal children and wove blessed fates for their descendants.

And they never forgot their love for one another. To this day, they walk on the bridge of magpies every year, hand-in-hand, and lived

Happily Ever After.

.

A/N: So there was a lot of Chinese in here. ^^; Couldn't help myself.

Huayu: one way of saying "Chinese," or "flower language."

Xiaogou/xiaomao: puppy/kitten

Gongtou: commander, boss, lieutenant (kinda)

Laoshi: teacher. Used like sensei in that any skilled artisan can have this title.

ZhongGuo: China

Also, the clan wars on the Peninsula of China are the beginning of the Silla empire. I used Wiki, but I knew the sketchy basic facts of Korean History already. Silla was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea a long time ago. I just couldn't remember its beginnings. Apparently there were clan wars until one popped up outta nowhere and took it over and was like "Okay, ours now. It's called Silla. Get over it." Or something to that effect. *shrug* I have no history texts of my own double check this, but it seemed pretty close to what could've happened and what I remember.

Nippon was Japan's old name, before it evolved to Nihon. I'm very linguistic-y, but not so good at history, hence all the reference to languages. I'm sure the Japanese honorifics were different at this time period, but they did exist, so we'll use what we got, ne? Same with the Huayu.

Also, the kimono mentioned are not, like, geiko kimono, obviously. Just simple, mostly one- or two-layered kimono worn by peasants. They probably wore straw sandals or went barefoot.

Yes, Yong-soo and Jae-soo are South and North Korea. Jae-soo is an OC of my own creation.

As to the slight Spamano hidden in there, I don't know if I mentioned it before, but, well, Spamano won't get out of my stories. So I've decided that there will be SOME mention of Spamano in EVERY chapter. Since it IS listed under the characters and Spain, it only makes sense. Right? RIGHT?

I hope there was enough Giripan in there… Children always seem to get in the way. But in the children's book I own (I bought it in China, so it's authentic) they had children, so I had to include them somehow. Xp

Also, the next chapter WILL be SuFin. I promise. I hope. No, I PROMISE.