Character(s): Shuu, a bit of Rei and Airi (as kids)
Genre: Gen
Wordcount: 1055
Notes: Inspired a bit by a couple fanart/fanfic sites (ask me for links if you want them, since they don't work here), in particular a work on Hier. I have to agree Shuu is the sort of guy who would miss smaller things like reading the most, and my SO kept poking me to write him, so. Here you are. (Thanks also to for errant_evermore for kid-writing help!)

Of the many routines Shuu rebuilds, it's waking he can't get right.

A warrior should know his body, keep his sense of time even isolated from the world. Morning brings warmth, he should feel the sun through the windows. The students he used to help through early training before the other instructors arrived still exercise outside, he should hear the sounds of sparring and people moving through the halls.

Neither reach him through sleep. For his mind, there is no morning without light. Even while raising his hands to his face, he'd known there would be small things, unexpected things that hit the hardest...such it is with both joy and with loss. He hadn't expected to lose time.

But the bed is painful, and he's not going to mope around, dozing stiff with neck and face propped on pillows so he won't roll onto his hands and scratch. Too many people came at first, when he was raw and bloody and interesting and their crowding at his bedside overwhelmed his senses; now they seem not to know what to do with the brilliant man who'd so willingly ruin his life's work, and they leave him alone. The mind's eye is a time-honored tradition, but it feels life, not walls, not blades, not furniture...he'd question who left him the sharp-cornered everything, but it's already down to two suspects.

When he stands up and heads to the window, he avoids clipping the nightstand. A victory, even if it means the room is familiar. He lets the breeze dry the sweat on his shoulders and tickle under the looser bandage edges. Air flow, he thinks, and tests it with his fingers. The world outside is moving, wide, and so is the world inside as he stretches beyond familiar and lets that movement build shape.

Ah, not everyone ignores him. Shuu forgets exercise and pulls his field of feeling back to the hallway, because he knows these visitors before they knock. It's a familiar, welcome sound anyway—a couple firm raps, lower down than the adults but determined to sound as official as them, and a gentle but excitable tapping a few seconds after.

Rei's visited him every day including the first, where he had to squirm past doctors and Kenshiro's brother and even Souther...who'd stood stock-still against the doorframe, obvious even to a muddled ki-reader and refusing to speak even when Rei had elbowed him too.

Usually, Rei means it's about five minutes past breakfast. Marking days by food...well, Shuu won't hold it against him. He's yet to meet a boy Rei's age who'd miss a chance to eat everything in sight. Today, he's not still carrying food, but he has brought his sister.

Airi bounces past both of them, and hops onto Shuu's bed rather than the also-pointy chair. There's two impacts, one her, and one the bag she's carrying hitting the wall. She's brought him books, he guesses, and remembers reading to her when Rei's parents had stranded him with babysitting duty—surely you can get them to behave, they'd said, Rei won't stop talking about those Nanto arts and she follows him everywhere.

"My brother's being a sulkypants," Airi informs him with authority. It sounds like she's got colored pencils too, by the clatter as she dumps out the bag, and Shuu both misses drawing with her and hopes she hasn't just poured shavings in the sheets. "So I said I could watch you."

"He doesn't need watching, stupid, he's not going to explode." Rei stomps on over to the window in a series of petulant thunks (one of which is definitely the nightstand being kicked), turning into the breeze and away from them. "I only brought you 'cause you kept bothering me, and now I'm gonna be late."

The kids in his group have matches today, if Shuu counts right, tests on top of lessons Rei's not been studying enough. He's been a handful lately anyway, snapping and starting fights...and he's digging his fingernails into the windowsill hard enough Shuu hears the crunch of wood and feels the energy behind it. He can't see Airi's face—the sense that replaces his vision isn't fine enough yet for the little motions people make, might never be—but he doesn't need any of it to know she's making rude ones at her brother's back.

Shuu hopes his own expression looks like a stern teacher's glare; he trusts to furrowed brow and narrow mouth and really hopes he doesn't look too much like Souther instead.

"There's not justice to be had in everything, Rei. Sometimes it's fate, sometimes choices. This was mine. And justice isn't about picking fights...with the others, or my windowsill."

"I know that!" The slicing stops, though Rei slams a fist down on the part he's torn up. "It's only...they were saying what a waste you were, and so I had to—"

Shuu puts a hand on his shoulder, and he and Airi wait for Rei to finish ranting a bit. It ends in a sniff. He fidgets at Shuu's side like he has something to say, picking at splinters, and his ki betrays what the shuffling of his feet already would.

"You don't have to be angry for me."

Rei sighs, and Shuu can feel him cross and uncross his arms, playing with his uniform. Thinking. It's a hard lesson, this young, and Shuu hopes there is more understanding than buried feelings in the way Rei finally shrugs his hand away.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he says, voice cracking but holding steady. Rei's out the window even as he speaks, foot over sill and then a quick leap. The curtains flap behind him, and Shuu senses the balcony-hop that has him tearing off across the grounds to bouts he's already overdue for.

Easier, at that age, to keep moving...ah, at least he's doing something productive. He'll have to have a talk with the boy about the fates of stars and about treating his sister better, but for now, let him run it off. Shuu shakes his head, and feels a tug on the sleeve of his nightshirt.

"Hey, mister Shuu? The one about the fish school or the one with the dragonfly noodle shop?"

He sits back down on the bed, pencil shavings under his fingers and all: "You choose, Airi. Just let me hear stories again."