Series: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle
Pairing (if applicable): Touya/Yukito
Comments/Warnings: Set post-series; spoilers through the end of the manga.
Summary: Touya contemplates the snatches of another life he’s seen in dreams. Inspired by a burning desire to write Touya/Yukito fluff and modified by a horrific CLAMP-induced migraine; this is what happens when you start to think too hard on what might have happened to everyone else on the alternate-Clow timeline…
The dark-haired man smiles; too calm, too subdued for Touya’s liking.
“Let us believe in the future.”
He follows the man’s gaze. Outside the palace, the wind whips the sand about the half-buried ruins. It screams like a dying thing; its mournful wails tear at his ear drums, at once both demanding his attention and refusing to reveal anything useful.
“Believe in the future.”
He can see his sister, shrouded in black and dripping with blood. A sword – no, two swords – pierce her chest and she fades away into nothingness, leaving behind only a smile and a cryptic message.
“Never forget – now we can change the future.”
“Let us believe in-”
She’s nearly gone now, lost in a barrage of petals that drift away as the breeze takes them. “I lo-”
Touya finds himself sitting upright in his bed, the throb of blood rushing to his ears and pounding at his temples the only evidence that he’s been jolted into this position. The room is quiet, desolate and cool in the desert night. Despite the chill in the air, he’s covered by a fine sheen of sweat that hangs cold against his skin, dripping from his hairline and tracing frigid lines down his neck and back. His breath is ragged; the air feels thick – almost as if he’s breathing some viscous mess; maybe he’s aspirated his own saliva which seems to be filling his mouth at an alarming pace – and before he’s conscious of his own movements, he’s cast the blankets off and thrown aside three sets of curtains to make his way onto the balcony overseeing the city.
It’s colder here and his hair stands on edge as he stares into the darkness, every pore stiffening into a peak as the sweat tries and fails to lift, settling instead into an oppressive lacquer over his skin and soaking into his too-thin night clothes. He grips the marble railing and leans forward, the dim lights of the city coming into focus far below. The torches flicker in the wind – the only animated reminder that Clow is, in fact, alive at this hour and not the barren ghost town its silent, empty streets insist it could be.
Clow is alive.
This is not the first time he has dreamt of his sister disappearing. This is not the first time he’s dreamt of the dark-haired man whom he addresses as “Father,” but answers also to “Clow;” the dark-haired man who looks and sounds like his father, who could be his father if he weren’t certain that his father was fast asleep in the west wing of the palace – the palace he rules over as Fujitaka.
Clow was dead.
The Clow in his dreams had passed on years before, leaving him alone in his adolescence and ill prepared to rule over this kingdom. He can feel now the panic he so often feels in his dreams – the twisting sensation that begins in his lower abdomen and rises through his torso until his heart thumps against the walls of his throat – and still more is demanded of him; the parade of nobles with petty squabbles and unanswerable questions is endless and policy questions and enforcement are never as simple as his father – not his father; Clow – has made them seem. There is a drought in the west and a flood in the east. Taxes have become oppressive for those whose harvests have been halved by the drought, but more funds are needed to connect the underground water veins to the newly constructed irrigation system. His subjects love him; his subjects hate him.
The people of Clow melt away like so much wax before his very eyes.
He’s heard his sister’s story. He’s listened with an almost macabre fascination as she’s recounted tales –that is all they can ever be; there can be no truth in them, not for him, not when he watched her enter the purification grounds early on the morning of her fourteenth birthday and emerge later that same afternoon, bloodied and beaten in the arms of two men he’d had a decent mind to put to death for interfering with his sister – of other worlds and other selves and witches and broken taboos. He doesn’t doubt they are true; Sakura may be ruled by emotion and prone to hyperbole, but she is not and likely could never be a liar. Still, he’s maintained a careful detachment from this reality.
Or rather, he had maintained a careful detachment. This separation has become questionable of late as the dreams have recurred, stretched, and intertwined, and he is left piecing together a nearly complete alternate timeline spanning the seven years between that brat’s first arrival in this country and the moment they were carried from the ruins. He has not lived this timeline; the pieces are just that – fragments, scenes, fragments of scenes – isolated from any greater stream of consciousness and certainly nothing like the dual life his sister describes, but are hauntingly real nonetheless. The snippets arrange themselves into a disturbing mosaic of a world where up is down, black is white, his mother is dead, and his father – his real father – is an archaeologist, digging through what remains of the sacred ruins. The ruins at the heart of their civilization are nothing more than an unexplored mystery in this dream world, his family divided and recombined, his life thrust into uncertainty by his sudden ascension to the throne and the disappearance of his sister.
He finds himself pondering, for the millionth time, whether these dreams are the fragments of another him’s memories. Years ago the mere idea would have seemed ridiculous – a frivolous fancy entertained by silly women of the court over secretly spiked afternoon tea – but after all he has heard, all he has seen…it now seems the rather obvious question. He won’t ask it aloud; the implications terrify him. What has become of this other him? Has he melted away like the others he’s seen in his dreams? What of his missing sister? If his Sakura is two, then…?
His eyes burn as he massages his temples, warding away the inevitable barrage of unanswerable questions that flood his mind during these late-night ponderings. It’s a useless gesture; the thoughts flood in and invade even the darkest recesses he’s tried to cordon off, tried to spare as a refuge. He wonders, also for the millionth time, how Sakura is able to resist slipping into the utter madness that comes from entertaining these questions. Perhaps it’s easier with a complete account of events; perhaps this affords a sense of closure that these choppy dream filaments do not. Certainly knowing the fate of your other self must offer some solace.
Or perhaps it’s her single-minded devotion to that damned brat. The one thing, the one person – even if Touya is often loath to grant him that much consideration – that connects her two lives across the chasms separating them…
He can see his breath on the air as he sighs and steadies himself against the railing. He’s lost in the slow flicker of torchlight below and doesn’t register the soft sweep of curtains behind him, nor the quiet padding of footsteps approaching. There is a weight draped from his shoulders – warm and soft – and arms encircle his waist from behind as a face presses into his shoulder.
“What are you doing out here?” Touya murmurs, still staring straight ahead into the desolate city streets below.
“Making sure you don’t freeze to death,” comes the slightly muffled reply. Yukito’s breath is warm against Touya’s back and his lips tickle through the light fabric of Touya’s nightshirt. “You saw it again.”
“Mmm.” Touya straightens and grips Yukito’s forearm lightly, though he refuses to turn around just yet. The blanket shifts against his shoulders and he briefly entertains shrugging it off entirely – there is something soothing about the stinging cold and the way it numbs him from head to toe, slowing the hapless parade of questions, unknowables – but pulls it more tightly around himself instead; there is little to be gained from the temporary relief the cold brings and more to be lost if he catches a chill.
“There’s nothing to be done, Your Majesty.”
Touya cringes at the title and fights the urge to round on the other man, lecture on the tip of his tongue about how vastly inappropriate it is to addressing him as such when they’re half dressed and standing in their bedroom in the middle of the night, wrapped up in the blankets from their bed which are still warm with their trapped body heat-
He feels more than he hears the laughter rolling from Yukito and huffs, knowing the priest has gotten exactly the reaction he had hoped for. The distraction is complete; the vicious cycle of thoughts has been broken. He turns, peeling Yukito’s arms away from his torso, and attempts to glare.
Yukito smiles – nearly smirks, though his face never quite manages to find the right formation – in the moonlight and any measure of playful hostility Touya has been mustering is lost. He leans forward, pressing a kiss to the silver hairline, and wraps the blanket more snugly around them.
“Come back to bed, To-ya,” Yukito insists after a long moment has passed. Touya grudgingly releases him and trails his footsteps back through the curtains, collapsing in a heap onto the bed. Yukito fusses around him, drawing the bed curtains and rearranging the blankets – fighting valiantly to free the captive edges Touya has trapped beneath his shoulders and between his knees – before settling down at Touya’s back, one arm propping his head while the other toys with sleep-rumpled black spikes.
Touya tilts his head back into the touch, humming low in his throat and marveling at how the slightest gesture has the ability to make these shredded bits and snatches of dreams and reality twist and weave together into something whole. He is always there, the connecting thread that binds these two worlds –separated by deaths, disappearances, misfortunes – the one constant spanning the endless gulfs between is and might have been. This scene never changes, no matter how the backdrops fade and bit-players wind their way into and out of the tapestry; there are always two, inextricably tied together and anchored to their foreground.
Sleep closes in around him, awareness of the fingers trailing through his hair and down across his shoulders fading into a prevailing calm. He dreams again; alternate realities spring to life once again behind his eyelids, though these are not the tortured visions of a life forgotten that he’s dwelt in previously. Bicycles, okonomiyaki, an assortment of odd jobs and uniforms he’d never allow to see the light of day, or at least the outside of a storage closet. There is food (copious amounts thereof) and laughter (also copious amounts thereof) and, above all else, a sense of completeness – that not all iterations of his being are distortions, that not all incarnations are doomed to be lost amongst the wreckage of a twisted world.
That everything will surely be alright.