Title: Coming Home
Word Count: ~1900
Characters: Karasu, La'Cryma!Haruka, Fukurou
Genre: romance, angst, hurt/comfort
"I can't do this," said Yuu.
No -- just as Isami had been Fukurou for more than a year, Yuu was now to be called Karasu. Even though the day when he'd be granted his new name as a full-fledged warrior was sometimes the only thing that had carried him through months of surgery and training that took him apart and put him back together like a shattered window reassembled into a mosaic, now that it was his the name slipped off him as if greased. His forehead fell against the polished metal wall of the compound, the wide yoke of his uniform making the position even less comfortable, his reflection showing the red eyes and ash-grey hair and lines of pain that still startled him -- a stranger's face, almost, to go with the name.
Would Haruka even recognize him?
"Of course you can," Fukurou said, clapping him on the shoulder. "She's going be thrilled to see you. She's been worried, you know."
Yuu's eyes fell shut. Breathe in, breathe out, that's what she always told him, and it always helped, as long as it came from her lips. But she had ample reason to say nothing at all to him ever again. "You didn't see how angry she was when I signed up."
Fukurou sighed. "Have you ever known Haruka to hold a grudge?" He waited for a response as more newly-minted Dragon Soldiers trooped through the halls behind them, and Yuu said nothing.
"Come on," Fukurou said, taking Yuu by the arm. "We don't get enough time off that you can afford to waste it."
As they made their way through the crowded upper levels toward Haruka's hut, people shot them sidelong looks and scurried out of their path with a speed that left Yuu's stomach tense with apprehension. Eventually, an elderly gentleman Yuu knew only by his family name of Sasaki approached them from the shadow of his home.
"Fukurou," he acknowledged with a bow toward them both, his gaze falling on Yuu and skittering away. "What seems to be the trouble?"
"No trouble at all, Sasaki-san. We're just coming back for a visit." He laid a hand on Yuu's shoulder. With obvious relief, the old man nodded and dropped back to let them pass, but his gaze still lingered on them curiously.
"It's all right, Sasaki-san -- I'm Goto Yuu," he wanted to say, but... he wasn't, anymore. He was an arm -- well, maybe a finger or a toe -- of the council, his freedom the cost of making some kind of difference in the war against Shangri-La, of fighting at Isami's side, of making this shattered place safe for Haruka and whatever children that might come to them.
Children were a dream of hers, he knew, one that she whispered in his ear in the dark after their lovemaking, but it terrified him even as it created a soft, warm place inside him that his thoughts had returned to time and again during his days and nights in the bowels of the Dragon's Lair, surrounded by machinery and cold-eyed handmaidens of the Lady Amamiku. Bringing a child into a world so different from the one they'd grown up in would be cruel, surely? Still, it stayed with him, the thought of Haruka holding a little girl or boy with her shining eyes and easy smile. (Hopefully not with his temperament, he'd wryly told her, once. She'd laughed and hugged him.)
He grimaced and shook his head. There was no point in wanting what might not ever be.
Haruka's roof rose into view past the hut in front of them, and Yuu's insides twisted, the breath in his lungs lost, because he suddenly needed to see her, would tear down buildings to see her -- a dangerous thought, seeing as how tearing down buildings was now an act he could theoretically perform -- and if she turned him away...
He would protect her. Even if she wanted nothing to do with him, he would fight to keep her safe. A future for her is why he became a Dragon Soldier, and that wouldn't change even if it wasn't a future she wanted to share with him.
Standing in front of her home, Yuu was still steeling himself against the possibility, barely breathing, when Fukurou put his hands to his mouth and loudly called, "Kaminogi, I've got a surprise for you!"
"You asshole," Yuu hissed. Fukurou's good eye widened innocently.
The front door opened outward to reveal Haruka standing there, eyes wide and hair streaming down her shoulders, and Yuu's head and heart were empty of everything else.
At first she didn't move from the threshold, but as soon as her searching eyes found him, they locked with his. She smiled, the same smile she had always smiled for him, except that her eyes glimmered and spilled over, and then she was in his arms, face buried in his shoulder and hands knotted in his cloak, as close as she could get with his metal yoke pressed awkwardly between them.
"Haruka," he whispered into her hair, breathing in the scent of her, his voice so thick he didn't recognize it. "Haruka." When his throat cleared, he said, "I'm sorry. I should have told you sooner. I should have talked with you, not just..."
"Yes, you should have," she told him, a breath of anger still in her voice, and hugged him tight. "But I understand."
Yuu sagged against her, his fingers trying to stop their trembling by losing themselves in her hair.
In another world, someone coughed. "Right. Well, you two have fun," Fukurou said, snorting. "Remember, we have to be back to base by 4 a.m. See you then, Karasu."
Haruka eased back just enough to wave to him as he turned to leave, then smiled up at Yuu. "Karasu -- is that the name they gave you?" At his nod, her smile broadened, and her hands fluttered out like wings. "You'll be like the karasutengu, swooping in and defeating all your enemies. Mere humans will beg you to teach them your tricks." It startled a laugh out of him, and her eyes sparkled, this time with good humor rather than tears. He couldn't take his eyes off her. He wished he never had to.
Squeezing his hand, she pulled him up her front steps. "Come on. If I only have you until morning, I want to make every minute count."
Inside, Haruka stood on tiptoe and kissed him. The contact was quick and gentle, but when she dropped back down she was as pink-cheeked as he was breathless. "Let's get you out of this thing you're wearing, it keeps bouncing me off. Have you eaten? I have some soup cooking," she asked as she sat him down on her bed, but food was the farthest thing from his mind. Her fingers traced the yoke of his uniform to where it joined with the reizu plug in his upper back. "How...?"
Yuu reached back over his shoulder. "It has to be done quickly." Technically, it shouldn't be done outside the Dragon's Lair at all, but when he'd said as much Fukurou had shrugged and shown him how. With a twist of his hand, Yuu pulled out the plug, a little warm fluid trickling down his back from the free end, and for a heartbeat his vision wavered. Now that the plug no longer held down his collar and cape, his other hand pushed the garment awkwardly over his head, and Haruka took hold of it and helped disentangle him. As she laid it on the bed, he jammed the plug back in, a sigh of relief escaping him until he realized how awful it must have looked from her vantage point. Haruka's hands were very still on his shoulders.
"I've seen Isami's at a distance, but I didn't know. Oh, Yuu, what have you let them do to you?" She rested her forehead against his hair, arms twining around his neck.
"It's necessary, to fight Shangri-La," he said stiffly. He looked down at the tattoos that spiraled his forearms, hiding strength that hadn't been there three months ago.
"And technicians aren't?"
Just before he'd left for the Dragon's Lair they'd had this conversation at a much higher volume, and tension wound his stomach tight. So brave, letting himself be rebuilt on the quantum level so he could do battle against ships able to rip apart the very fabric of the universe, when he couldn't even face the love of his life to tell her so until after he'd already signed up. "I couldn't. Not anymore. Isami went to war. You do shifts in the infirmary, up to your elbows in God knows what. I couldn't just sit around buried in wires, listening to technocrats talk about how fast this dimension is crumbling into..." His voice dissolved at the thought of Haruka shredded into nothingness by some celestial wind.
"Yeah, well, I guess now the wires are buried in you," she said, with a bitterness that took the air out of him. By now he no longer noticed the reizu plugs any more than he noticed his own hair or fingernails, but he had to clench his hands to keep himself from rubbing at the places where the ones that she hadn't seen joined with his flesh.
"Does it disgust you?" he finally asked. He had to know, even as he couldn't bear to hear it.
"What? No!" Haruka circled around in front of him and took his face between her hands, her fingers calloused and tender. "But don't you understand? I want you to protect you, too. I don't want you to die on some battlefield alone because the council orders it. I don't want that, Yuu." She pressed her forehead to his.
Panic mounted in him for reasons he couldn't name -- shouldn't it be him doing the protecting? -- and he took her hands and squeezed. "I won't let that happen," he said, knowing and not caring that it wasn't something he could promise, and also that he would keep it if they broke him down into discrete particles. "I will come back to you, always. I swear it."
"Yuu," she whispered, lips brushing his forehead, his cheeks, his mouth, which opened under hers as uncertainty was overrun by galloping joy, only to rear its head again as her fingers tugged at his bodysuit. "So how do we get you out of this, now?" she asked with a teasing smile that he crookedly returned.
"It's not exactly cloth." Yuu's eyes flickered shut at Haruka's hand resting against his stomach, a hairsbreadth from his skin. "I can form and reform it" -- he broke off with a hiss -- "however I want."
"Let's give you some practice, then." Her fingertips drew a line down his chest like a ray of the sunshine he'd all but forgotten, and the not-cloth parted in its wake.
Afterward, they lay entwined under rumpled blankets, Haruka's slight, sweet frame his fortress against the chill of the room. Her hand drifted down to the plug in his left hip and up to where the wires feeding into it joined with his spine. "Did it hurt?" she asked softly.
The chill found him under the blankets, recalling the razor edge of surgical steel, and he hugged her close, burying his nose in her hair. Even as the world fell and then transformed itself around them, she always smelled like home to him. "It doesn't now."
A troubled silence fell. "I wish you hadn't done it," she said, and held him tight. "But I'm proud of you. My brave Karasu."
For the first time, from her lips, the name settled over him and stayed, and he wondered at it as he laid a kiss on her hair and heard her whisper, "But you'll still always be my Yuu."