Fic: LFM Chapter 8

Thursday, May 12th, 2011 10:51 pm
uakari: (Tomoyo)
[personal profile] uakari

Title: Lovers, Fools, and Madmen, chapter 8
Rating: PG-13 for a bit of language
Warnings: Gratuitous hoof-shots and innuendo galore...
Summary:  AU; loosely based on A Midsummer Night's Dream.  When lord Touya seeks the Queen's counsel to forbid his sister to wed her childhood love, he isn't prepared for the interference wrought by two disgraced fairies to thwart his plans.  Which is probably just as well; it's not as if they have any idea in heaven or hell what to do with these foolish mortals.

The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man
hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his
tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what
my dream was.

-A Midsummer Night's Dream, IV;i

Syaoran rattled his teacup nervously against its saucer and tried very hard not to let the over-full contents splash over the sides. He sipped carefully, scolding himself for not being more mindful of the teapot while pouring, but it was difficult for him to be mindful of anything this afternoon, with this all-too-familiar, yet mostly foreign man sitting across the table from him. Four years. It had been four years since Syaoran had last seen his brother, and possibly longer than that since they had held an actual conversation. The years before his departure had been strained – Syaoran had still been a rambunctious early teen, hell-bent on disrupting his older and far more serious brother's studies and contemplations with hormonal rantings. Now he was faced with an even older incarnation, wizened by years spent traveling, it would seem, without word of his family or their support.

"What's wrong, Syaoran? You look like you've seen a ghost!"

Syaoran set his saucer back on the table and stared. Was this somehow better? Sitting here, face to face across an over-doilied table with a man who had caused an unimaginable upheaval (both within their family and their on his departure, yet seemed perfectly willing to waltz back into Syaoran's life as if none of that had passed? How could he sit there so calmly, with that infuriating smile plastered across his face – the same one he had always used when he felt one of his complicated jokes had gone flying right over his younger brother's head… "It's just-" Syaoran started shakily, then found his courage rooted in the base of a glare, "Where the hell have you been, Eriol?"

"Ah," Eriol closed his eyes and set his cup to rest, "I thought that might be troubling you."

Syaoran's face pulled back in disgust, "Troubling me? The entire Kingdom went into disarray when you disappeared! We thought you'd been kidnapped – we had no idea who we could trust! Mother and Father emptied out an incredible chunk of the treasury sending out search parties and investigators. And then…" He trailed off and glared angrily across the table, "How can you just come back here and pretend nothing has happened?"

Eriol frowned and bit at his lip, "I'm certainly not pretending that nothing has happened-"

"Were you kidnapped?"


"So you just left."

"Yes," Eriol held up a hand and smiled kindly to silence the imminent explosion from his brother, "Please, Syaoran. There are things at play in this world that you couldn't possibly fathom. If I had tried to explain why I needed to go-"

"It would have been better than just disappearing!" Syaoran nearly shouted.

"Syaoran," Eriol smiled again, a calmer, less infuriating smile that settled Syaoran's rage rather than stirring it into a greater pique, "You've grown, but you're still very much the same earnest, caring boy I missed so dearly."

Syaoran bristled at this, but relaxed into his seat. He had grown, and he was determined not to descend into the biting temper he'd been famous for in his younger years; but then Eriol flashed that damned irritating grin again and why, oh why did that bastard have to make everything so damned difficult? "Why did you come back? And more importantly, why here? Why not home?"

Eriol chuckled, "Well, despite being removed from the court of Clow, I have kept myself fairly well-informed of its goings-on. And when I heard that my youngest brother was coming to plead for the hand of that darling Kinomoto girl…well, I thought it as good a time as any to reconcile. I trust Lady Akizuki played her role well?"

"You had something to do with that?" Syaoran balked, forcing down the faint smile teasing his lips at the memory of Lord Touya being accosted and nearly smothered by the over-amorous Lady, "But how-"

"She's a loyal associate of mine," Eriol winked. "Think of it as an early wedding present," he paused, stroking his chin, "And a bit of free entertainment. Figured you could use something to lighten the mood around here – especially with all the strutting and chest-puffing that Lord Kinomoto is known for. She's sharp as a tack, and just as efficient for deflating egos."

Syaoran's eyes narrowed. "You're changing the subject," he said flatly, "Please – where have you been all these years?"

"I've been journeying around the countryside, stealing chickens and deflowering pastor's daughters."

Syaoran rolled his eyes.

"Establishing a nudist colony in the southern territories, then."

"Right," Syaoran stood to leave the table.

"Oh, sit," Eriol laughed, "We both know that no one wants to see the amply-bosomed Lords of the South naked." He grinned as Syaoran hesitantly reclaimed his seat, "Still, that would probably be more entertaining than the truth of these last four years."

"Which is?"

"I've been on a pilgrimage, I suppose you could say. Seeking out the places described by our ancestors in the library, searching for answers about my own life…" Eriol trailed off, a wistful look glazing his eyes.

Syaoran frowned – it was still enigmatic nonsense, but probably the best he was going to wrangle from his notoriously tight-lipped brother, "So you've found what you were looking for, then?"

"No," Eriol paused, studying his brother's face and marveling at how much the boy had grown into a man, "And I doubt I ever will. I have learned a great many things, however, and foremost among them is that appreciating those dear to you while you can is one of the most important parts of life. Who knows what may happen in the future, after all."

Syaoran sighed. Why did he still insist on being so cryptic after all these years? "So you're back for good, then?"

Eriol nodded, "I promise to be in contact from here on, even if I am not physically close by."

"So you won't be coming back to Clow?"

"No," Eriol shook his head, "I can say without hesitation that my place is no longer meant to be amongst the courts there. However," he added quickly, noting the growing grimace on Syaoran's face, "I would be most honored if we were to visit, from time to time. Besides which, I daresay there are enough Li brothers to feud over the family vault without me. Where is His Spasticness, anyway? At home lamenting his inability to find a date for the wedding?"

Syaoran swallowed thickly and stared down at the table. "No," he said after a long moment, "He…disappeared shortly after you did."

"Oh," Eriol's face fell grim, "I see. And no word, I suppose?"

"No," Syaoran answered, unease creeping into his voice. Part of him had always assumed his brothers would be found together; now that Eriol had turned up alone… He sighed and pushed the thought away. He had dealt with their loss so many years ago – why was this suddenly striking him like a load of bricks now, of all times? He ought to be celebrating his impending marriage (the one that he'd prostrated himself to beg permission for and spent god knows how many days wandering around, lost in a forest and enduring strange dreams of Yukito's curiously luscious lobes to ensure), and instead he found himself spurned by his fiancée and left to the mercy of this absent fool who – willingly or not – was doing nothing but stirring unpleasant emotions-

"So where is she, then?"

Syaoran snapped back to the present and gaped at his brother. "Who?"

"The darling Lady Kinomoto, of course!"

"She's," Syaoran blinked, confused, but not entirely ungrateful for the abrupt shift in the conversation. Eriol smiled calmly back, clearly intent on soothing his brother (in an admittedly round-about way, but then, Syaoran wasn't generally well-disposed to blatant comfort). "She's with Princess Tomoyo at the moment. I'm sure we'll see her later, especially now that you've arrived."

Eriol's grin turned mischievous, "Excellent. That gives us plenty of time to discuss your bachelor party. I heard you were thinking of reviving the old Pifflite ice-gathering tradition?"

"W-what?" Syaoran sputtered, "I'm not having a-"

"Nonsense!" Eriol insisted, "The bachelor party is a time-honored tradition! Though really, I have to say the Pifflites had it all wrong – the proper way to celebrate your last night as a bachelor is to get stinking drunk and pick up a few women-of-loose-morals down by the docks. All while your best mates and relatives cheer you on and sing songs praising your virility."

Syaoran could feel his face expanding as it grew hot with blood. "What are you- There are no docks here, and even if there were-"

"Oh don't be silly, Syaoran!" Eriol continued, completely ignoring the blustering slobber flying from Syaoran's lips, "How else are you supposed to practice your wedding night maneuver?"

"Wedding night maneuver?"

"Oh dear," Eriol's eyebrows lifted in polite surprise, "Little brother, I'm afraid we have some serious subject matter to discuss…"

Syaoran twitched noticeably and prayed that the words "When a man and woman love each other very much," would not be the next from his brother's mouth.

Tomoyo clamored excitedly into the room and collapsed against the back side of the door as it closed behind her. In her hands she clutched a rumpled wad of silk satin, which she happily grinned into – today's dress fitting must have gone well from the look of her. She sighed happily and set herself to rattling off what sounded to be potential accessories in a quiet voice, so occupied that she barely noticed the muted ruffle of the curtains across the room.

"You don't have to hide there," she called lightly, hiding a smile, "It's not as if I hadn't noticed you've come back."

There was a loud huff as the drapes were brushed unceremoniously aside to reveal the dark figure reclining against the wall behind them. Kurogane cocked an eyebrow at the princess and refused to move his unoccupied arm from its crossed position over his chest. "You've had guests," he replied simply, "And it's improper-"

"Ohohoho," Tomoyo's raucous laughted cut him off in midsentence. "When," she gasped for air, "Have you ever cared about what's proper?"

Kurogane scowled and tucked the curtain back behind his shoulder, recrossing his other arm with its brethren. "I've only just been reinstated," he growled, "And already you're back to playing games."

Tomoyo rose to her feet and strode across the room, a purposeful expression shifting into position over her face. "I think you will find, Kurogane," she said haughtily, "That there is nothing playful about this." She snapped her fingers and pointed at the ground in front of her, eyebrows lifting meaningfully.

Kurogane scoffed and quirked his face in disbelief. Was she really…? He rolled his eyes; of course she was. With a surly grunt and an exasperated shake of his head, he dropped to one knee. "Your Highness," he rumbled, almost inaudibly.

This was followed by a long pause, during which Kurogane found himself questioning his decision to return. It had been six years – surely he shouldn't have expected to waltz back in as if no time had passed. She had grown from a kind-hearted and occasionally (well, more often than not, really) ridiculous teenager, who had plaited his hair and goaded him into tea-parties, into a powerful young woman in his absence; he should have expected the shift in demeanor that inevitably accompanied such a coming of age. Especially if she had taken to emulating her sister or, worse yet, her mother… He shuddered and chanced a quick glance upward.

He wasn't sure whether to be relieved or enraged to find her hiding a smirk behind her hand and shaking with barely contained laughter. Not that she afforded him much of an opportunity to contemplate it any further, as she had launched herself at him in the next second and enveloped him in a bruising embrace. "I've missed you," she declared in the same imperious tone she had cowed him with only minutes earlier.

"I-" he coughed with some difficulty, "Yeah."

She released him, seemingly satisfied with this response, and stepped back to appraise him. "I was just sick when Kazuhiko told me you'd been exiled," she admitted quietly, "I couldn't imagine what you'd done. He told me it had something to do with the forest fire, but that was all he would say, before he took to ignoring me like a well-trained soldier."

Kurogane bit back a scathing retort to the words "well trained," and sighed heavily. "I was trying to run damage control for an idiot who couldn't control the magic he was using," he muttered.

"Oh?" Tomoyo was surprised; Kurogane had never before mentioned his dealings with other fairies, and she had – lost in the naivety of youth and later the self-involved haze of adolescence – never thought to ask. In her confined world of servants and few playmates, she had considered him to be just like herself – a lone entity whose life revolved around this palace and the people in it. And in some ways, she now realized from the look on his face, she must have been correct – her surly fairy guard was not one to form friendships lightly. "Why don't you tell me about it," she suggested, her face suddenly brightening, "Over tea?"

Kurogane's eyes widened in fear (no matter how he tried to convince himself that is was most certainly not), but he accepted, resignedly hoping that this afternoon was not about to devolve into another ground battle in the Endless War of Appropriate Teatime Dress, which usually ended with him being stuffed into something sparkly and choking under the weight of its own ruffles. He had lost their last match – miserably – falling at only the third strike against a particularly gaudy lavender bonnet, complete with wispy, flopping feathers and a lacy bow, and had been done completely in by the matching opera gloves (though he had to admit that the satin had felt deliciously luxurious wrapped about his fingers).

Tomoyo was in no mood to torture her wayward servant this afternoon, however, and made none of her usual comments about the shocking drabness of his uniform as she motioned for him to take a seat at her table. She dashed off to the hallway to call for tea before settling down opposite Kurogane and smiling widely. "Tell me everything."

And so Kurogane did, and by the time the tea had arrived, he had taken her through the finer points of the forest fire and their resulting exile, beginning with Fay's earliest dabbling into gray magic and pausing briefly to explain some of the finer points of fairy law regarding appropriate usage of spells and charms before continuing right into the not-quite-forbidden creation spells at the heart of the story. He felt he was being exceptionally kind to the idiot by leaving room for a fair amount of speculation on Tomoyo's part as to Fay's motivations (partly because he didn't know himself precisely what they had been, and partly because he didn't honestly believe there had been any sort of ill intentions driving him) as well as blatantly leaving out a full description of just how woefully ill-prepared they had been for the possibility of Fay losing control of the spell. The more he talked, the more ridiculous the entire affair sounded, and Tomoyo's laughter only goaded him into glossing over the really idiotic bits in favor of regaling her with the blatant torture he had endured throughout his exile. He was just getting to the really good bit where that idiot had decided that keeping a wild chimaera as a pet would be a fantastic idea and how it had nearly knocked in their walls and destroyed their hovel when a knock at the door announced the arrival of their tea. Kurogane sat motionless, as he had so many times before, as a stuffy-looking servant bustled in with a tray and set the table, looking directly through the fairy the entire while.

"Will You Highness be wanting extra settings?" the stodgy servant asked once the majority of the tableware had been set, "Or is it just Herself this afternoon?"

"No," Tomoyo replied with her usual grace, "Set three more, if you would. I'm expecting my company to return shortly."

"Very well." With the china set to his liking, the servant turned and exited just as quickly as he had arrived, leaving Tomoyo to stare in his wake.

She chuckled quietly, "Even after all these years, it still amazes me that they don't see you. Any of you. You're all so…big, too!"

"You're only able to see us because you're half-fairy yourself," Kurogane reminded her. He was far too used to being ignored by humans to share her fascination – it was just another fact of life for forest spirits. "Or so I've been told."

"Mmm," Tomoyo nodded, sipping her tea, "Though surely my mother must have been able to see your kind. Otherwise my sister and I would likely not exist."

Kurogane did not care to think about too terribly hard on the matter and simply shrugged. It wasn't unheard of for the occasional human to take notice of fairies, and Queen Sonomi had been a force of nature unto herself – beautiful, terrifying, and in all ways incomprehensible.

"So, your friend," Tomoyo prompted, eager to know more about the fairy that had driven Kurogane so fantastically insane in such a short while (and she had yet to hear the rest of his stories of exhile – if his red-soaked cheeks and ever-inflating neck were anything to judge by, these were tales she wanted to hear very much indeed), "Where is he now? Does he work here at the palace as well?" her eyes widened with excitement, "Could we-"

"Not my friend," Kurogane ground out, "And I haven't the slightest clue where the moron is now. He disappeared before we were transformed back."

Tomoyo frowned, "Well that's truly a shame."

Kurogane stiffened under her gaze, which seemed to be raking across him with a thoroughly inappropriate air of…oh dear god, was that pity? "What is?" he barked, draining the tea from his cup and slamming it back on the saucer. He didn't appreciate that all-too-knowing quirk of her eyebrow, nor did he think he'd done anything especially funny to warrant the soft chuckle that followed.

"Oh Kurogane," Tomoyo sang as he glared, "You always seemed so much older when I was a young girl."

His eyes narrowed. He was older – by a good couple of centuries, in fact – and she, of all people, ought to have been more than averagely aware of this. Judging by the twitching corners of her lips, she was playing with him again, though, but he was finding it difficult to reacclimatize to her girlish games this afternoon and only sighed. "How do you mean?" he managed in an even tone.

"Well, you know," she said carefully and stirred a generous helping of milk into her tea, "When you're a child, everyone seems to know so much more about life than you do. You think that surely they must know how to handle every possible situation – as if there was some magical book of knowledge that you're passed once you reach a certain age."

"What does that have to do with me?" Kurogane blurted, now completely confused.

Tomoyo smiled kindly and reached across the table to refill his cup, "You're still very young for a fairy, aren't you?"

Kurogane shrugged. He honestly wasn't certain – it wasn't as if fairies bothered to keep close track of things like age. What was the point when you were, barring accidents and cataclysm, immortal? You came of age around your 300th birthday and anniversaries were rarely spoken of after that; the only real reason he'd been keeping track of the passing years of late was to track their exile (and in so doing, determine exactly how brutal a thrashing he owed Fay once they had been returned…for all the use that had proved to be).

"Well, you've certainly grown, if not aged, in the short time I've known you," Tomoyo continued, "When you first started working here, you were as gruff and callous as the rest of the guard – you picked fights with everyone-" she paused at his raised eyebrow, "-okay, so you still pick fights with everyone. My point is that you've grown from a bitter, angry man who refused to get close to anyone to a," she paused again to choke back a laugh at the look of horror spreading across his face, "Much calmer individual." She set down her cup and looked at him pointedly. "Who is capable of interactions with people beyond introducing them to the nearest bit of concrete with your fists. Who, in fact, is capable of forming bonds with others and, dare I say, caring deeply about them?"

Kurogane continued to stare in confusion. What, exactly, was she trying to get at? He had mellowed – that was a fact, pure and simple. But that had happened gradually over his years of guarding her; it was the end result of being recruited into a job that was traditionally saved for the dregs of fairy society, who typically possessed the brawn, but not the brains to serve in her Majesty's own guard. (It was generally considered the final refuge of scoundrels, one step away from banishment – and that description had suited him frighteningly well not so long ago.) He could still vividly remember the day Bols had offered him the choice of enlisting or having his face smashed neatly through the bars of the local jail cell after a particularly nasty brawl outside (and inside as well, but it hadn't really mattered once he had smashed through the outer wall, anyway) the local tavern. It hadn't been a difficult choice – he hadn't really considered Bols to be much of an opponent, but, after such a long while of barely scraping by on the meager wages of "first lieutenant royal beekeeper" after the sudden and tragic destruction of his family's apiary (all these years later they were still chipping away at the flood of wax that had swallowed the yard whole) and the equally tragic death of his parents, he had been only too eager to jump at the higher pay and better benefits employment at the human's palace guaranteed. It couldn't be helped that spending his days around a sparkle-nosed brat was far more calming than fighting losing battles against angry swarms of bees, and there certainly had been less cause for bar brawls once he was no longer required to don the dignity-draining flowered bonnet and skintight mesh jumpsuit of the royal beekeepers.

It was the natural progression of things, not something that warranted surprise now, and certainly not something that meant he was "forming bonds" and "caring deeply" and all of this other nonsense she was spewing. And smiling about. Why did she insist on smiling like that? She looked like a damned cat that had stumbled on an oblivious canary.

He sure as hell wasn't an oblivious canary. "What do you-"

"Did I ever tell you about my father?" she asked suddenly.

Kurogane balked. While it was common knowledge throughout the fairy kingdom that both princesses had been been conceived of a fairy sire, it was still unclear exactly whom that had been. Tomoyo's mother, the late Queen Sonomi, had declared both of her daughters to be the product of a union with a human foreign minister, whom she had flatly refused to marry as tradition dictated. It had been a calculated political move to ease tensions between countries, which the humans had devoured without much question, for all the relief it brought them. But the fairy kingdom – despite the remaining uncertainty of the princesses' patronage – had felt obligated to provide its own protection to the half-fairy Tomoyo and Kendappa against the darker magics of the forest that humans were ill-equipped to ward off. This, too, was serving some larger political purpose that Kurogane had been forced to memorize and recite years earlier as part of his military training, but that messy world of treaties and betrayals held barely enough intrigue to dust his wings with, and he had promptly deposited the explanation (along with his sobriety) onto the counter of the nearest pub in exchange for a few hours of blissful ignorance and forgotten to pick it up on his way out again. He hadn't been aware than Tomoyo knew any more about her father than anyone else in the two kingdoms, save her mother. "No," he said levelly and raised an eyebrow.

"I never met him," she continued, "But mother used to say he was a good man – a good fairy, I should say."

Kurogane nodded, still not entirely certain where this topic was heading.

"She never loved him, you know."

"She- What?" Kurogane blustered. Why on earth was she telling him this?

"No – they were close friends," Tomoyo said with a small smile, "And she needed heirs for the kingdom. But her love," she looked directly in his eyes, "Her true love, never even knew how my mother felt."

"I don't see how this-"

"Kurogane, will you listen to my story?" she pleaded, eyes wide and sparkling.

"I- Yeah, fine."

"Thank you," she smiled again, "My mother loved a very beautiful woman from the royal court. They grew up together in the palace here, were the best of friends. My mother doted on her, cared for her, but never once did she breathe a word of her true feelings," she paused, studying Kurogane's face, "Don't you think that's sad?"

Kurogane didn't find this to be so much "sad" as he did "completely idiotic" as was about to open his mouth to say so when Tomoyo started speaking again.

"The woman married very young to the heir of the Tomoeda province, and that was that. She moved away from the court, away from my mother, and started a family of her own. My mother was heartbroken, and spent a good deal of time plotting against Tomoeda and the man who had stolen her beloved away. It was quite the scandal, at the time, though I doubt you were far enough involved in our politics at the time to know much about it. In the end, though, she had only herself to blame; she had never told her dear friend of her feelings."

Kurogane rolled his eyes. Too damned right she'd only had herself to blame. Not even the great and terrible Queen Sonomi could have expected her subjects to read her mind…

"The woman died ten years ago," Tomoyo continued solemnly, "And my mother followed shortly after. It's still said that she died of a broken heart."

Kurogane scoffed, "Your mother died of influenza. I was there-"

"That's the official story," Tomoyo frowned, "But my sister has always said-"

"That's nonsense," Kurogane huffed, "I had to keep you forcibly away from her room. Broken hearts aren't catching."

Tomoyo smiled sadly, "Perhaps you're right. But the lesson still stands."

"What lesson?" Kurogane demanded, "Is there a point to all of this? You're just making yourself upset, talking about your mother."

"Of course there is," Tomoyo insisted, "As much as I do enjoy telling a good love story, I much prefer the ones with happy endings, don't you? That is why I'm telling you this."

Kurogane stared.

"So you can find a happier ending," Tomoyo smiled again, much brighter this time.

"What the…?" Kurogane recoiled. What the hell was she talking about? Happier ending? This was his happy ending – having his old life back, being free of those damnable hooves, and – most importantly – not being consistently assaulted by flailing idiots who thought keeping chimaeras as pets was a great idea and that miniature pink umbrellas made for suitable mantelpiece decoration. Idiots who talked and talked without ever making a damned point. Idiots who drank themselves into such oblivion that singing and tap dancing atop the bar seemed like a reasonable way to earn money. Idiots who forced themselves out of bed every morning to make breakfast that Kurogane neither wanted nor very much cared for. Idiots who fussed over the nits in his leg hair and picked through his pelage like and over concerned mother with a fine-toothed comb once a week – kicking and cursing completely ignored – to be sure he was rid of them. Idiots who couldn't be bothered to pronounce his name correctly despite six years of lessons and thinly veiled threats. Idiots who still couldn't be bothered to turn up just to say hello and confirm that they weren't dead and gone forever-

God damn it.

"What's wrong?" Tomoyo gaped at him and quickly got to her feet.

Kurogane blinked several times. "I'm an oblivious canary," he murmured after a long moment.

Tomoyo chuckled and returned to her seat, visibly relaxing. "Is that a fairy colloquialism for 'bloody idiot?'"

"What?" Kurogane snapped his attention back to the princess, "Of course it's not. Or maybe it is. I don't know."

Tomoyo poured another cup of tea for each of them and grinned over the rim of her glass. "So you will tell him, after all? And not relegate yourself to the long line of broken hearted cowards that roam this palace?" she tapped her chin lightly as Kurogane's jaw dropped, "Do you know where you might start looking for him, then?"

That little… Kurogane sighed. The brat was far too perceptive for her own good. But then, she always had been. "I have an idea," he grunted and stared at her through narrowed, appraising eyes, "You've grown quite a lot, too."

"Why, thank you, Kurogane," Tomoyo giggled, "Though I have to say, any idiot could have seen it written all over your face. You're not exactly good at hiding things, especially when you're not aware of them yourself."

"Tche. And you," Kurogane savored this serving, rather than downing it like his previous cups, "Are still a meddlesome little twerp." He nodded sagely, "Completely unsuited to rule."

"Ahh," Tomoyo smiled broadly, "There you are. I've missed you so, Kurogane."

Yuuko pinched her throbbing temples between thumb and forefinger and poured herself another glass of wine. Really, Watanuki ought to be refilling her glass for her – this was what servants were for, after all, and his contract explicitly stipulated that he would labor to ensure her afternoon wine buzz was fizzing through her fingers by three pm and no later. Now here it was, going on four and all she had to show for her empty bottle was a faint warmth in her cheeks.

It was completely unacceptable.

She set the emptied bottle back onto the table and dragged an index finger across the rim of her glass thoughtfully as a loud crash shook the wall of the dining room. She supposed she could shout into the kitchen for him, but that just seemed so uncouth – this was supposed to be relaxing, after all. If she wanted to scream at someone, she had plenty of royal advisors lazing about the place to fill that role, all of whom probably deserved a good thrashing (not that Watanuki, in his current state, didn't, but reducing the boy to tears was never as rewarding as watching his facial gymnastics as she tacked on more duties to his schedule). Another crash.

Not that he would be able to hear her over the shouts and shattering of china against the walls.

She sighed and shifted restlessly in her seat; the best laid plans of fauns and fairies, it would seem, had veered further off course than she had thought possible at the outset of all this. The Mokonas had played their roles well, even if it did appear that, once again, their snuggle-mongering had gotten the better of them. (Not that she was complaining, mind you – such a minor and ultimately easily resolved glitch in her plans was a small price to pay for the endless hours of amusement the Mokonas had provided. She was just going to have to instill a bit more…selectiveness about who's mouths they went around shoveling their tongues into…) She was resting somewhat more easily knowing that Lord Kinomoto had relented (or been too otherwise occupied to continue his protest), but she was still left with the question of what to do about the horse-priest in the kitchen and his unwitting (and unwilling) prince charming…

She sucked in a breath as another piece of china shattered against the opposite side of the wall. With the royal wedding approaching in just under a week, it was time to put an end to this and return Doumeki to his obligations, lest she disrupt the wedding and stress the delicate relations between the human and fairy world even further. She had wagered that the young priest, with his knowledge of the supernatural and impressively spiritual family lineage, would have been able to bond with Watanuki, somehow; the boy needed to form relationships with other humans if he was to return to their world. She sighed, lamenting her complete inability to turn him out on his own, with or without his memories. It had to have been one of Clow's line that landed on her doorstep, frightened and alone, without any of his memories to guide him home. He looked far too much like him as well, but that was probably expected, considering his ancestry. Had the same terrible temper as well, she mused, though the personality was much better. But that was all beside the point – Doumeki had to leave this place, and it was unlikely that another human would stumble upon her palace her in the woods to attempt this little gamble a second time. She would have to send Watanuki back with him – likely kicking and screaming and flailing all the way, but that was easily countered with a bit of ether soaked into a rag – and hope that he was able to make his way back to his family. But before she did that…

She stood quickly and headed to the hallway. Yes, that was the best of all solutions. It ensured continued peaceful relations with the humans (and their half-fairy queen) and fulfilled her obligation to Watanuki, even if it meant she would be wishing him a hastily and somewhat duplicitous farewell. Honestly, the lengths she went to ensure a fruitful future for her people.

And to keep ancient promises to a long-dead man, but that was another issue altogether.

She made her way into the lion's den and reclined casually against the entranceway frame. The kitchen was less wrecked than she had anticipated, thanks in large part to Chii scrambling across the floor, dodging both the ceramic rain and centaur's hooves, and mopping up the scattered mess Watanuki was busily flinging about the room. Yuuko frowned – the poor child's furry ears were twitching in time with the shattering glass and she looked positively terrified (whether of the flying glass or the human flinging it, Yuuko wasn't sure, but her heart went out to the poor girl). Doumeki, for his part, was doing a spectacular job of evading the flying china – especially for someone with so little experience walking in hooves. She was doubly impressed that the mock-alligator scales covering his lower half weren't doing more to impede his movements… She really had to hand it Kakei – today's handiwork had truly surpassed any of her wildest notions of potion capabilities. She wasn't entirely sure if she was most impressed by the slick sheen of the scales, their impeccably mimicry of such a dangerous wild beast, or the downy white fuzz that had sprouted over most of his hair bed and splayed out in the most adorable little tufts at the ends of his now long, floppy ears (surely Kakei must have gotten must have gotten assistance from one of the conjurers to make those – she was fairly certain that potions couldn't pull off such localized effects, but she was happy to award extra point for style just the same). He was a stunning portrait in nonsense, and looked appropriately dumbfounded by the role.

But now was not the time to admire her potion master's skill. "Watanuki," she said sternly and sidestepped a flying tea cup which exploded into shards against the doorframe, "Every single last one of these dishes are going to be added onto your debt if you don't stop abusing poor Doumeki this instant."

Watanuki's eyes narrowed briefly before his arm swung out once again to let fly a dinner plate. "Doumeki?" he scoffed, eyes darting wildly around the room, "No, I'm trying to hit that little black piece of shi-"

"Yuuko!" The black Mokona suddenly burst out from beneath the cover of the baker's rack, a metal colander upturned over its head like an ill-fitting crown. In the blink of an eye, he had landed comfortably atop Yuuko's shoulder and yanked open one of his normally lidded eyes to complete the rude gesture its flopping tongue had begun. "Watanuki is trying to kill Mokona!" he wailed.

Yuuko glanced between the small ball of fluff cowering on her shoulder and the angry, twitching mess of a man across the kitchen. "And why," she wondered, addressing the question to neither of them in particular, "Would he do that?"

Mokona grinned and coughed up a lush red velvet robe and cigar. "Because he didn't like my present!"

Yuuko glanced back at Watanuki, who had gripped a sizable gravy boat and was hefting it in a manner that implied homicidal intent. She raised an eyebrow back at Mokona, "Those make for an…interesting gift combination."

"It's so the playboy can take his bunny for a canter!" Mokona shrieked and tipped back against Yuuko's neck, howling with laughter.

Yuuko continued to stare at the small creature with a quirked eyebrow. "You're losing your touch, you know," she said after Mokona had calmed down somewhat, "You're far more clever when you're not snogging random strangers in the forest like a desperate little trollop." She snatched the cigar out of Mokona's hands and ran it beneath her nose, "This is quite good, Watanuki. I have to say you're worse off for not accepting it." She snapped her fingers to conjure a small flame and lit the end, sucking deeply as the smoke blossomed around the glowing embers. "Much worse off," she mumbled happily, blowing the smoke into large rings, "But more importantly, I have an errand I need you to run for me."

Watanuki gaped and set the gravy boat back on the counter before it slipped from his grip. "What, right now?"

"No," Yuuko answered languidly, thoroughly enjoying the cigar, "You'll leave tomorrow morning. It's quite a distance from here, so Doumeki will be going with you." She glanced around the kitchen meaningfully, "For now, I'll expect you to help Chii with tidying this mess up."

"It would be faster if I went myself, if it's so far away," Watanuki grumbled.

"No," Yuuko chuckled lightly, sending smoke spiraling up around her, "It's best if the two of you go together. That way you can get your little canter in." She grinned wickedly and quickly held up a hand to cut off the screams of protest that were working their way up through Watanuki's abdomen. "Clean the kitchen quickly," she continued, "And I'll consider sending one of the Mokonas with you. And a map."

And with that, she turned on her heel and wandered back toward the dining room. She could really do with a glass of wine after all this shouting.

o.o I don't know why this turned out so angsty. Stupid teaser-exposition.

January 2013

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