For Rachel: LeoPika in an AU of my choice. Threatened to seriously outgrow itself until I stopped it.
by Mina Lightstar
News traveled fast, and so Leorio knew of the coastline village Mirain and how it was plundered. The pirates had come, sailed right into the harbor on their ship. No one had been prepared, and the pirates had easily overtaken the precious few who had tried to stop them. Leorio had cringed when he'd heard how women had been carried off, how what little riches the town owned had been taken from them, and how those few who had opposed had been struck down effortlessly. The Watch in Mirain was, quite simply, pathetic.
He felt guilty about it, but for a brief moment, Leorio felt relieved and grateful for being where he was today. After all, Leorio had been born in Mirain and, if not for his exceptional talents, he might still be struggling to make a living there. As it was, Leorio had a post many might envy.
Leorio started and turned away from the window. "Ah, Karin," he greeted the serving girl. She was one of the servants who waited on him: A pretty young thing who still wore her brown hair in pigtails. "Did you get everything?"
"I had to hunt for the -- ah," she faltered, forgetting the name of the herb, "um, one of the herbs, but I found everything on your list, sir." She finished with a proud smile, and bowed her head to him. Karin could not read, of course, but Leorio had taught her to recognize the characters for the herbs or ingredients. After all, what use was she to the court healer if she couldn't get what he needed?
"Thank you, Karin." Leorio looked out the window again. It was getting late; maybe Kurapika's unit had decided to make camp and continue tomorrow? "Just set them on the table there."
"Yes, sir." The sack's contents rustled as Karin did as she was told. "Sir, if I may...?"
"You may," Leorio chuckled. After all this time, it still surprised him when people asked his permission to speak or act.
"You seem worried about... ah, you seem worried."
It also surprised him when people displayed knowledge of him and Kurapika. Apparently, they would have to work on their discretion. "I'm not worried. I'm just thinking how much of the next salve I should make."
"Ah, I see," Karin replied, in a tone that said she didn't believe him. With her hands now free, she curtsied. "I'll take my leave, then?"
Leorio nodded and waved her away. When the door to his study shut behind her, Leorio went to examine what she'd bought.
He wasn't worried, actually. Pirates were like bandits, except that they came from the sea. Besides, there had been much more dangerous battles in the past, and Kurapika always came back. Not always unscathed, but he always returned.
After the disaster in Mirain, rumors quickly spread about how the pirates would return to go after another coastline town. Leorio knew that the king had taken the pirates' attack as a personal offense, and had immediately dispatched several units of soldiers to the other coastal villages. When the pirates struck again, they would find a most unpleasant surprise awaiting them.
It had taken several weeks, but they had struck again. News traveled fast, and so Leorio knew that the attack had come on the village at which Kurapika had been stationed. That was how their luck ran, of course.
But Leorio wasn't worried. Even so, he felt something heavy lift from his chest when some time after sunset, someone knocked on his door.
"Come," Leorio beckoned, already knowing who it was. "Let's see what you've done to yourself this time."
"What kind of greeting is that?" Kurapika demanded when he'd opened the door. He looked as though he'd come right up as soon as he'd managed to get away from his superiors: He was still filthy, with a tattered cloak and a slumped posture. Kurapika's uniform was mostly white to show his rank; he privately grumbled that white uniforms on soldiers were ridiculous. After all, he said, being a soldier meant battle, and battle meant blood and dirt and bad weather and mud.
Kurapika went through more uniforms than anyone else in the army.
Leorio was around the table as soon as the door shut, though he stopped short. He looked Kurapika up and down, noting his tired posture and searching for any visible injuries.
They hadn't seen each other in over a month. It was difficult for Leorio not to ignore duty and just get both of them undressed and into bed as soon as possible.
"I didn't think you'd be back today."
Kurapika shrugged. He was looking at the floor, as though he could fall asleep standing up. "We were almost in town, so we rode harder to avoid having to make camp. We arrived a little before sunset."
"And the pirates?" Business first.
"Four." Kurapika sounded sad. "Three in battle, one from infection on the way back."
"Damn," Leorio breathed. "Does anyone need my attention?"
Kurapika shook his head. "No one else was badly hurt. A few might visit you tomorrow, though, just to make sure of things."
"Make sure of things," Leorio mocked. "They should come to see me right away to make sure there aren't any infections."
"They don't want to bother you."
"They're not bothering me; it's my duty to make sure they're all--" Leorio gasped when Kurapika looked up.
"What?" Kurapika asked, though a hand was already half-raised to his face.
"Just surprised." Leorio closed the gap between them, leaning closer to examine. "Your left eye is the most unflattering mix of yellow and purple."
"Yes, I'm aware of that. I used that ointment you gave me, though, and it seems to have kept the swelling down."
"Good thing, too." Leorio took the blonde's hand and led him further into the room. "I'm surprised it hasn't swelled up more; the ointment wasn't freshly made. Here." He sat Kurapika into a chair. "I'll make a salve to get rid of that." As he gathered his ingredients, he shot Kurapika a piercing stare. "You aren't hurt anywhere else?"
Kurapika poked tentatively at the bruise and winced. "No, just dirty. I should have bathed before coming here, sorry."
"I'll bathe you later," Leorio promised. "You've ruined another cloak," he added teasingly. "So careless. You're too young to be a general."
"I am," Kurapika agreed, "which is why I'm not a general. I'm a captain." He shook his head. "You know nothing of battle."
"I know it makes more work for me," Leorio retorted, and pressed a cloth against Kurapika's eye. "Hold that. It stings, but it works."
"Everything you make stings," Kurapika muttered, and Leorio heard him hiss as he cleaned. "I think you make it sting on purpose."
"For you? Sometimes." Leorio stood behind Kurapika's chair, absently massaging his lover's head while they waited for the salve to take effect. After, they would retire to Leorio's chambers and Leorio would call for a servant to prepare a hot bath, and then he and Kurapika would take turns bathing one another. Then they would spend the rest of the night in Leorio's bed -- which, now that Kurapika was back, wouldn't seem too large.