Title: Just One More Tomorrow
Author: Ellie Biel
Fandom: Kyou Kara Maou
Warnings: none that I can think of unless you count that I wrote this in a panic realizing I had two hours left of the deadline
Nicola was in his embrace, her cheek against his chest, and he could feel her eyelashes flutter against his skin like butterfly wings. For such a delicate touch, it always had a profound effect on him, as if Nicola had her own form of maryoku.
He rubbed his hand up and down her arm. "I'm awake."
"Can I ask you something?"
Hube wanted to tell her that she could ask him anything, and if it was in his power to deliver, he'd do it without a thought. Although he meant it, saying the words aloud would sound more like bragging, so he kept the thought to himself.
Her fingernail made a long thin line along his skin. "It's silly."
"I'm sure it's not."
He could feel her lips move and he knew she was smiling. "You don't have to answer if you don't want to."
Now she was making him nervous, or maybe it was just the slight chill on his skin from where the warm condensation on his skin quickly evaporated.
"Nicola, if it's something I can answer, I will." It was close enough to what he'd wanted to say earlier and much safer.
"When did you know you loved me?"
Had there ever been a single, defining moment for him? He was inclined to say no. During his search for the demon flute he'd learned some humility, but none toward humans. He tolerated them at first, then found that some of them earned a grudging respect.
He'd never put Nicola in the same category as mazoku women like Julia, Celi, or von Khrennikov, but she possessed a strong mind, kind heart, and a stubborn loyalty that scared him at times.
He thought he'd lost her once, long before she'd thrown herself between him and Gwendal's blade. They'd been on the run and had stopped long enough to get some water and a much-needed meal. It was an economy of effort, he'd reasoned. If they skipped too many meals, they ran the risk of slowing their progress in the long run.
He'd also been glad for an excuse to let her rest for a while.
He'd nearly killed her.
Neither of them had suspected anything wrong with the stew they'd been served, and as he watched her eat, he noticed that her cheekbones were more prominent. Hube had insisted that she eat most of his portion, too, and they'd shared the bread equally between them.
She'd been violently ill that night.
He'd been convinced someone had recognized him and had attempted to poison them. She'd been doubled over in pain and he'd been helpless to do anything other than to wipe her mouth with a clean wet cloth and press a second one to the back of her neck. When she wasn't vomiting, he spent the time rubbing her back and wanting to find whoever was responsible so he could tear the culprit limb from limb.
It had turned out to be a viral strain present in the local pheasant. Nicola hadn't been the only one affected, but she was the only one Hube cared about. He'd stayed with her for twenty-four hours, doing his best to keep her mouth and her clothes clean as she continued to empty her stomach even after there was nothing left.
He'd been at war and had seen and smelled blood and death and exposed and decaying corpses. None of it had made him as close to throwing up as realizing that he might lose her.
Even now, the scent of cooked pheasant made him queasy.
"Hube?" she whispered. "Did you fall asleep?"
He hugged her tight. "No." Hube's lips brushed against the top of her head, and he finally had an answer for her. He'd known how he felt when he realized that she'd die long before he would, but that he wanted her to live through the night. To have even one more morning in which he'd get to see Nicola's eyes open, one more day when she'd look at him and smile, would make him far happier than he deserved to be.
"I knew the first time you smiled at me."
She didn't answer, and Hube realized she'd fallen asleep. He kissed the top of her head again.
In the morning, when she'd wake up, open her eyes, and smile at him, he'd tell her again.