Dinner that Ďeveningí was a quiet affair, the only sounds being the occasional tap of cutlery on porcelain or the ring of crystal wine glasses. Hokuto had decided to leave her brother alone and instead quietly attended to the two men, leaving the conversation, she hoped, to them. But Subaru hardly looked up from his plate, playing absently with some morsel before deciding to eat it and now and then taking a small sip of wine from his glass. On the opposite side of the candelabra Seishirou was likewise subdued.
Hokuto waited patiently for one of them to start talking.
Seishirou looked up.
"Could you pass the wine?" he asked.
Without speaking, Subaru reached out, firmly took the bottle by the neck and handed it to the other side of the table. The assassin murmured a soft thank you, poured, then set the bottle down. And that was the end of the conversation.
Hokuto ground her teeth together inaudibly. She was going to die of old age before these two talked. Figuratively speaking of course.
"So, Sei-chan," the spirit said brightly, trying to start a conversation. "What have you been up to these last eight or nine years?"
The Sakurazukamori glanced up and swallowed his mouthful before replying. "Oh, this and that," he said vaguely. "There were a few . . . jobs I had to take care of."
Hokuto nodded. "I think Iíve seen a few of those, um . . . Ďjobsí," she said, voice trailing off.
"Iím sure theyíre all well, judging from the look of you, Hokuto-chan," replied Seishirou, taking another bite. On the other side of the table, Subaru grimaced and took a sip of his wine. The uncomfortable silence returned.
Okay, so that line of conversation didnít go anywhere, thought Hokuto. She glared at her brother as she willed the wine bottle to empty more of its contents into Subaruís glass. Twenty-five years old and he was still hesitant in taking the initiative.
Well. Hokuto could liven him up a little.
"So no romantic liaisons or anything, Sei-chan?" she pressed teasingly.
The Sakurazukamori smiled and gave her his best imitation of a mournful look. "Ah, my dear future sister-in-law, how can you think such a thing?" he asked dramatically. "You know that no one can take Subaru-kunís place in my heart." Seishirou gave the man opposite an amused smile as the red wine Subaru had been about to consume, sent him into a mild bout of coughing.
Every time Hokuto and Seishirou exchanged one of their usual banters Subaru felt like he was sixteen again, the way he automatically blushed and spluttered. He never knew when they would suddenly poke him with another one of their jests and waiting for it but never being prepared made him jumpy and nervous. Subaru found himself aching for a cigarette, but since Hokuto wasnít giving him any and Seishirou didnít look like he was going to offer another anytime soon, he would have to grit his teeth and bear it out or find some other way to sooth his nerves.
So far only the wine was working, relaxing tense muscles and mind after that unsettling karaoke session. Subaru only meant to have one glass, but he hadnít reached the bottom yet. He took another drink.
"Ah well, what does time matter?" said Hokuto waving one dismissing black-gloved hand as she absently topped up Subaruís glass again. "In the end, here we all are, the three of us. Though itís supposed to be a romantic dinner date!" She pouted.
The spirit ignored him, crossing her arms across her dark green and black tunic, slim legs clad in skin-tight black pants similar to Subaruís as she hovered above the ground. "But of course this has to be better than some of those dates you took Subaru on, Sei-chan," Hokuto said. "I mean, what were you thinking of, meeting Subaru at the penguin enclosure at Sunshine Aquarium? I thought you were more romantic than that!"
Subaru gulped, took another mouthful of his meal and reached for his glass of wine again.
"And then you said you were going to go on some grand eating tour," Hokuto lamented. "I suppose it didnít help that Subaru was always getting called away to work."
"No, it didnít," sighed Seishirou. "I was quite hurt."
Subaru put the long-stemmed glass down, the level of dark red liquid considerably lessened. "You being an emotionless assassin didnít improve things much either," he said, tracing swirls in the air with his finger.
Seishirou leaned back in his chair, holding the glass of wine in one hand. "Ah, Subaru-kun," he said lazily. "Think of what might have happened if the impossible had happened, if I had lost our bet. Oh well, weíll never know." He shrugged and took a sip.
"Yíknow, that one year was actually pretty fun," mused Subaru, propping his elbow on the table and leaning his head on it thoughtfully. "It fell apart at the end, but before that, it was good."
Hokuto gave her twin a quizzical look as she willed the spilled wax to clean itself up, the wine bottle to fill the glasses again and the nearly empty plates to disappear.
"I liked the parties Hokuto-chan gave," continued Subaru, his green eyes wistful and distant. They were also a bit fuzzy. "Lotís of decorations, presents, Nee-san in her outrageous outfits . . ."
"Outrageous?!" screeched the ruffled designer.
" . . . the cakes she ordered, even the animals when we had your birthday party at the clinic, Seishirou-san," Subaru added, ignoring the angry ghost flitting about him demanding to know what he meant by outrageous. He reached for the wine again Ė too much talking made his throat a bit dry.
The Sakurazukamori chuckled. "That was fun, even though it was the wrong day."
"Yeah, April first," said Subaru, with a laugh. "Thatís funny."
"Oh!" exclaimed Hokuto, suddenly remembering. "Happy birthday, Sei-chan."
The Sakurazukamori looked up, startled. Opposite, Subaru blinked and sat up straighter, his arm clumsily knocking his silver fork onto the floor.
"You know my birthday," Seishirou stated. It wasnít a question.
Subaru leaned over, searching for the wayward implement. Miscalculating he slipped half-off his chair, catching his weight on the palms of his hands. "Is it Seishirou-sanís birthday today? Do we get any birthday cake?" he slurred as blood rushed to his head and made his eyes swim. "íCause sugar would be really nice right now. Cake with lots of cream and icing and cherries and . . ."
The other two didnít hear him, muffled as his voice was crawling underneath the table. "I made a few inquires," said Hokuto, shrugging. She gave Seishirou a sly look. "Scorpio."
The assassinís white and gold eyes narrowed.
"Donít worry, Sei-chan," the spirit soothed. "I wonít tell. I havenít done anything Ė except redo that affinity test."
Subaru had chased down his fork and was slowly climbing back into his seat. His head was spinning slightly and he shook himself, trying to clear away the fuzziness. "What you mean?" he asked, reaching for the wine again.
His dead sister looked at Subaru surprised at his bad grammar. He was usually very precise. Brushing it off she grinned cheekily. "I mean that I got that affinity test done properly. With real birthday dates and places, seeing as last time you two werenít quite honest with what you put."
"Oh?" said Seishirou with one raised eyebrow. "And the result?"
"Yeah, Hokuto-chan," Subaru chipped in. "How would Seishirou-san and me do?"
The spiritís wide smile literally glowed. "Itís wonderful! Positive for sure! Soul mates forever!" At this point she lost her restraint on her jubilation and performed a little happy dance in mid-air, cheering and congratulating herself, Seishirou and Subaru. Her brother gave her a pained look and took a big gulp of his wine. That made him feel slightly better Ė or it would if the room wasnít swaying so.
"Thatís kinda funny," Subaru said. "I mean, the one we had done with all those fake dates and places said weíre going to have a terrible relationship, but the proper one says weíre going to be together forever. I think itís backwards. Thereís that little problem of us wanting to kill each other."
"Oh, Iím sure we can get over that," said Hokuto, waving one gloved hand in the air.
Seishirou shook his head and chuckled. "Iím glad to hear that you took so much trouble on our behalf, Hokuto-chan."
"You really confuse me, you know, Seishirou-san?" Subaru plowed on, oblivious to the looks the others were giving him. He seemed to have lost control of his tongue. "Yíknow why? Even when youíre trying to kill me, even though I know youíre a cold-blooded killer, I still think youíre wonderful. Even if you did break my heart and kill Nee-san."
Hokuto and Seishirou didnít quite know what to answer. Subaru groaned and held his head. For some reason it felt light. He closed his eyes and counted to ten under his breath slowly. Twice. The fuzziness in his head seemed to recede, but the room still seemed rather queer. Hokuto looked solid, and Subaru reached out to touch her. He leaned further. Hmmmm, he hadnít made contact yet. A little more . . .
Hokuto and Seishirouís eyes went wide as Subaru fell off his chair and greeted the carpet with his face.
If she were alive, Hokuto would have sweatdropped. "Ano . . ." she said slowly. Her wide emerald eyes fixed on Subaruís crystal wine-glass that she had so thoughtfully been keeping full the entire night. "I didnít realise."
"What?" asked Seishirou as the Sumeragi onmyouji clumsily pull himself to his feet with the help of the table edge.
"Subaru hardly ever drinks. Heís not very tolerant with alcohol," Hokuto explained.
The Sakurazukamori watched warily as the onmyouji stood up, swaying slightly as he held a hand to his head. "I see."
Subaru rubbed his eyes, blinked several times and stared. Seishirou looked damned good in that black and red suit. He took a shaky step forward, stumbling through the ghost of his startled sister, and looked straight into those mismatched eyes.
The mismatched eyes looked at him cautiously. Subaru gave a dreamy smile.
Seishirou only had time to blink once before Subaruís green eyes glazed over, then the young man slumped forward into his startled arms.
The room went into a stunned silence so overwhelming you could have heard a pin drop, if there wasnít carpet on the floor.
"Okay," said the ghost. "That was unexpected."
Seishirou didnít respond. For the first time since the Sakurazukamori had dropped the kind veterinarian act, he looked totally surprised. He was staring down at the limp form of Subaru sleeping quietly in his embrace. Hokutoís face spread into a wide smile.
"Well then!" she said brightly. "Iíll leave now!" She pirouetted and with a shower of golden sparkles, disappeared, leaving only her maniacal laughter to die away.
The tables and chairs also disappeared. Seishirou suddenly found himself without any support and was sent crashing to the floor with Subaru sprawled on top of him. The assassin sat up, curling his legs underneath himself and arranged the slumbering onmyouji so that his head was resting on his lap.
He smiled. This brought back memories. Subaruís chest rose and fell with each soft breath, a smile of complete contentment on his delicate face. Seishirou stroked his black hair absently, watching Subaru with a thoughtful expression.
The Sakurazukamori shook his head, then gently placed his arms under Subaruís legs and neck, lifting him and carrying him over to the heart-shaped bed.
"Subaru-kun," he said quietly, laying the young man on the bed and drawing the covers about him. "Youíre really going to regret this in the morning."
Subaru didnít hear him, a dreamy smile on his face. Seishirou reached over him to take one of the pillows then fetched his trench-coat from the cupboard. Preparing himself for sleep, he stretched out on the couch and closed his eyes.
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