A blanket scenario fic. While trapped together in a snowstorm, Tomo gives Yui some advice.
Yui pulled up the collar of her cloak for the third time, burying her chin against her chest, trying to hide her numbed face from the biting, glacial wind. The snow whipped up in swirls and torrents and she could barely make out the shapes of her seishi riding ahead of her as they plunged through the blizzard. The storm had come upon them suddenly, unexpected and vicious and they were caught, six miles from Kutou's capital, and with no cover but a sparse forest of fir between them and the shrieking gale.
Snow-blinded, Yui's horse floundered, legs churning, fighting to plough its way through the deep snow. She could see herself falling further and further behind and she wanted to call out to Nakago, but she knew her seishi would never hear her over the howling of the wind. Yui urged the animal to go faster, but it was stumbling badly now. With a terrified whinny, the horse pitched forward, sending her flying over its neck and into the snow. Yui frantically tried to cover her head as she landed hard, smashing her shoulder into the ground and rolling.
Yui lay there in the snow, dazed and numb, listening to the pitiful rattling whicker of the horse struggling to stand on broken legs. She curled herself into a ball, too tired to get up. Would she freeze to death now in the snow? Would she die alone and without dignity like the wicked queen in every story book she had ever read? Maybe that would be easier. She closed her eyes. After all, she was so tired.
Yui felt rather than heard the other horse come up, its powerful hooves sending tremors through the ground to her body. The man made a startled exclamation when he saw her in the snow. He reigned in and quickly dismounted, kneeling at her side. She felt his delicate hands warm on her frozen body and she opened her eyes to peer at a stranger's face with unmistakable, familiar golden eyes.
"Yui-sama," Tomo said, "are you all right?" His gentle hands ran quickly over her, assuring them both that nothing was broken. Yui stared dimly at her seishi, concern touching his unpainted face. "The horse threw me," she told him, her frozen brain working to form a fuzzy picture of what had just happened. Tomo looked from her to where the horse thrashed in bloody snow, its forelegs twisted and useless, snapped like twigs. Yui moaned when Tomo's warmth left her side, but he drew a knife and sank to his knees next to the suffering animal. He stroked its muzzle soothingly with one hand as, with the other, he slit its throat. Yui turned away as bright blood spilled over the fresh white snow, and was buried immediately by more concealing flakes as the blizzard swept all around them. "Better me than the wolves," Tomo murmured, seeing her discomfort.
Yui's seishi tucked the knife away and turned back to her. Gently, he lifted her from the snow, wrapping her inside his coat with him and cradling her against his chest. "Yui-sama, I'll get you out of this storm," he promised her. He helped her into the saddle of his own horse and she slumped against the animal's back, grateful for its warmth and solidity. "We have to keep moving. We'll find a better place and we'll rest." Yui suspected that Tomo kept talking to her to keep her with him, fearing his miko might have a concussion. She had never heard her reserved seishi so talkative. "Close to here, very close, there's an old cottage. We'll be all right there. I'll build a fire. We'll get you warm."
Tomo kept a slim hand on the horse's shoulder as they trudged ahead so as not to fall behind and lose his way as he walked beside her. Yui looked down at the man through the twisting trails of snow. Why was he doing this? Were she not his miko, would he have bothered with her at all? Was he doing this for Kutou's safety or hers? Were it anyone else, Yui would have known. She felt she knew exactly where each of her seishi stood and where their loyalties lay, but Tomo was an enigma to her. She knew he was Nakago's most loyal general - he would die for that man - but she had only met him once before when her seishi had been introduced to her. She had no idea how he felt about her. Was she his beloved miko or just some spoiled child-queen whose whims he deigned to obey? Or was she simply Yui, the little girl Nakago saved from the streets?
True to his word, Tomo led her to the old cottage he had spoken of. "The wind is too strong," he said as he helped her inside, even leading the horse through the front door so that the animal would not freeze to death in the storm. "We would never make it to the capital tonight. We'll stay here tonight and go in the morning when the storm has lessened." Standing by the door, Yui shivered and rubbed her arms. The whole cottage was like an icebox, but at least it was warmer than outside. She looked around. The cottage was tiny with only one room. From the look of it, no one had lived in it for many years. There was nothing in the room but dust, cobwebs and a few sticks of broken furniture and drifts of snow against the walls where part of the roof had fallen in. From one of those piles of junk, Tomo drew a thick, moth-eaten woolen blanket. He tossed it to her, and Yui thankfully draped it around her shoulders, not even caring that it was choked with dust.
Tomo tied the horse to a supporting pillar, and then set about collecting bits of wood to build her the fire he'd promised her. Yui watched as he snapped the legs off a broken chair, thinking he was a lot stronger than he looked.
Tomo stared critically at the pile of wood he had amassed. He frowned and bit his bottom lip in an uncharacteristic display of uncertainty. "What is it?" Yui asked. It was cold and getting dark, and she was anxious for the warmth and light of the fire. "The wood is rotted," her seishi said. "It's soaking wet from the snow. I don't know if I can make it catch."
"Couldn't you just...?" Yui made a vague gesture meant to suggest his seishi powers, but Tomo shook his head. "The things I create are only illusions. I could make you the warmest fire you have ever felt, Yui-sama, but it would be a lie."
"Oh," Yui said, disappointed. "Well... would... would you do it anyway... just so I could pretend to be warm?"
Tomo smiled, another thing she had never seen him do - a true smile, not the sardonic twist of his lips that usually accompanied a malicious chuckle. "If you wish Yui-sama." Her seishi drew a tiny clam shell from his pocket and set it, open, on the floor near the wood pile. A faint blue glow emanated from the shell and almost immediately, bright orange flames danced up, insinuating themselves in between the bits of wet wood. It burned bright and clear and Yui smiled as she remembered an old saying, "Where there's no smoke, there's no fire." She stretched her hands towards the fire, imagining how nice it would be to feel the warmth of a true fire on her skin. On a whim, she dipped her hands into the flames themselves. They curled around her fingers and greedily licked at her skin, but there was no heat.
"Yui-sama..." Tomo said and, seeing that her action seemed to have disturbed her seishi, she withdrew her hands from the flames. Instead, suddenly exhausted, she sank down on the floor across from him, wrapped in her blanket, the only thing that provided her any real warmth. She watched her seishi watch her. Without all his makeup and his fine costume, Tomo was a very different man. Gone were all the garish patterns and colours. He seemed almost plain in comparison. He had taken off his familiar red coat and it lay in a sodden heap on the floor. Underneath, he wore simple clothes, a dark shirt and pants that accentuated the whiteness of his skin and his long, charcoal black hair was caught up in a ponytail, his bangs falling into his golden eyes - the only feature that remained the same - making him look younger somehow, softer. In the flickering illusory firelight, his face was all planes and angles. His slanted golden eyes and narrow nose lent his heart-shaped face a graceful beauty and his pale skin, no longer covered in paint, glowed. He seemed, for once, not a fierce and confident warrior, but a shy and gentle and entirely likable young man.
Like her, Tomo leaned towards the fire, his arms wrapped around his narrow chest. He was shivering and trying to hide it from her. In the chill of the cottage, she could see the plumes of his shallow breaths exploding from his lips, still smiling their strained smile. Everything is fine. Don't worry the miko. It was that kind of thinking that could get a man killed. Yui sighed. "Tomo, come over here," she ordered.
"Is something the matter, Yui-sama," her seishi asked, looking up from his hunched position. "Oh, yes," she answered. "I'll tell you what's the matter. You're going to freeze to death because you're too polite to tell me you're cold."
"I'm fine, really..." Tomo started to protest, but Yui cut him off. "Oh, you are not fine. I can hear your teeth chattering from here. What am I supposed to do if you die? Answer me that. Hang around and keep company with a human ice cube until someone decides to start looking for me?"
"I'm sorry," Tomo murmured. Yui felt a little bad sounding so selfish, but she knew it was the best line to take with her seishi. She might not move him to help himself, but if she asked him to help his god's chosen priestess... "So come over here and share this blanket with me. If you won't keep yourself warm, then at least give me the use of your body heat."
"As you wish, Yui-sama." Tomo got up off the floor and stepped over the fake fire to sit down beside her. The blanket was awfully small, but Tomo managed to cover them both by dragging Yui into his lap and wrapping his arms around her. If she hadn't known that Tomo had no interest in women, Yui would have been extremely uncomfortable. She had never been that close to a man before and after what happened in the inner city, she wasn't sure she ever wanted to be. Of course, faced with the choice of death or this enfolding closeness, all of that became very quickly irrelevant. Tomo didn't speak or move and after a moment, suddenly drowsy, Yui relaxed into his warm embrace, leaning back against his chest, her head tucked under his chin. His breath warmed her ear and Yui thought, it really wasn't so bad.
For the next few hours, the two of them drifted in and out of sleep as the flames of the illusiory fire chased away the shadows, and the blanket wrapped them in warmth and security. Half awake, Yui rested her cheek against Tomo's as his head had fallen forward on her shoulder. "Tomo," she whispered, not really expecting a response, but her seishi answered. "Nnh?" Yui smiled at the sleepy tone. "I just wanted to know... I mean... why are you doing this?"
"I don't understand."
"I guess I mean why are you helping me? We barely met before today, and if you hadn't stopped for me you could be home right now instead of stuck in the middle of nowhere in a snowstorm."
"That's true," Tomo said and Yui's heart fell. "But..." he continued, "you're my miko. I am your seishi and it is my duty to protect you until you summon Seiryuu and return to your own world."
"Is... is that the only reason?"
"You and I are very alike," Tomo said at length. "We neither of us believe that we could have any worth to anyone."
"Wha - what?" Yui stammered. Whatever she had been expecting Tomo to answer, that wasn't it.
"I know. You feel dirty because of what happened to you. You think that no one could love you, and you're afraid to let anyone try. Believe me, I know."
"That's ridiculous!" Yui exclaimed. "You don't know anything about me." She didn't want to hear the old pain in her seishi's voice. She didn't want to hear his sympathetic sigh and she didn't want to feel his arms tighten comfortingly around her.
"Maybe not," Tomo murmured. "I'm not good with people. I've hidden behind my mask for so long, maybe I don't know how to take it off anymore. We all wear our masks, Yui-sama, because it hurts. It hurts to be betrayed by the ones we love. But, you're not me. You can't give up now because, whether you realize it or not, there are people who care for you, who will take your hands and pull you free of your doubt and pain... if you'll let them."
"Tomo," Yui whispered, surprised by the tears that slid slowly down her cheeks.
"Please, don't cry, Yui-sama," her seishi whispered. "In this cold, your tears will freeze." Gently, he brushed away her tears, kissing the salty tracks on her cheeks, warming them with his breath. "Try to sleep now," Tomo suggested, settling her more comfortably in his lap. "It will be morning soon and we have a long walk back tot he capital."
Yui leaned back against Tomo's chest and snuggled deeply into the blanket. She closed her eyes and tried to think of sleep, but Tomo's words kept coming back to her. "... people who care for you..." Miaka, Tamahome, Suboshi... even Nakago. She could see every one of their faces clearly, smiling for her. And Tomo... Tomo's arms wrapped around her, keeping her warm and safe as she hadn't felt since this whole adventure began. For once, she felt... loved. "Good night, Tomo," Yui whispered and drifted off to a peaceful sleep.