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Guilt

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It had been less than a day since the face off with Nohr, and Ryoma couldn't help but be worried about his sister, Yuki, who had locked herself in her room after returning home. She had not come to dinner nor had she taken any of her other siblings' offers to go out and get her mind off it. Dressed down from his stiff armor into a comfortable kimono, Ryoma carried with him Yuki’s uneaten dinner, hoping that she might eat something if he brought it to her. He at least wanted to see if she was okay.

“Yuki, it’s Ryoma. You weren’t at dinner so I thought I’d bring you some of the leftover chicken and rice. Can I come in?” He said, knocking on the door to her room.

There was no response; not even light footsteps to open the door for him. He couldn’t help but wonder if she was even in there, which was troubling since according to everyone he talked to, she hadn’t left since they returned to the palace. As much he wanted to respect her privacy, the protective brotherly instincts inside of him told him to come in any way. He moved to open the door, only to find it locked with something clearly barricading it. Clearly, she didn’t want anyone coming in. He felt his insides turn cold as he knocked louder on the door. A horrific idea of what she might’ve been doing entered his mind.

“Yuki, please open the door! I don’t want to have to break it down.” He shouted, scared of what his sister might've been doing behind the locked door.

Ryoma wasn’t clueless, despite barely knowing Yuki, he could tell what was going through his siblings’ heads at any given moment in time. He knew that Yuki was extremely emotional and suffered from severe mood swings with depressive lows and manic highs. When she a small child and did something wrong, she would hurt herself in frustration until someone made her stop. He also knew that she deeply loved her adoptive family and had a deep respect for Xander whom only a few hours ago, had pronounced her a traitor and vowed to kill her for betraying her family. He noticed the look in her eyes when they were riding home; it was the same look Takumi had before Ryoma found him on the floor of his room, vomiting up blood after swallowing one of Saizo’s poisons. It was the look of a person so desperate to escape their current hell that the finality of death was better than suffering alive and without reprieve. The most disturbing thing was he knew how she was going to do it; the only way she should restore honor to herself in the eyes of her adoptive family.

Seppuku.

He prayed that he wasn’t too late. He could stop her before she made irreversible damage that not even the most skilled healer could fix. After his knuckles became sore from rapid knocking, he rammed his shoulder into the door, breaking it clean off and smashing the nightstand that was being used as a barricade into pieces. Ryoma’s eyes frantically darted around the room to find a trembling Yuki who had dropped Yato in surprise when he came crashed through the door. Much like trying to approach a wounded deer, Ryoma approached her as slowly and calmly as he could as not to scare and force her into doing something rash. She held Yato with shaking hands as she aimed it at her stomach, gingerly he reached for the sword.

“Yuki, please drop the sword. It’s okay, I’m here.” He said softly as she violently shook her head, slapping his hands away from the hilt, as she went to plunge the sword into her stomach.

His heart skipped a beat as in one swift motion, he knocked the sword out of her hand and pulled her into a tight embrace. She struggled and thrashed in his arms, screaming and pounding on his chest as he tried to keep his grip on her. The hot angry tears rolling down her cheeks in frustration made him hold onto her the more tighter.

“LET ME GO!!! LET ME GO NOW, RYOMA!!! JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!” Yuki screamed at the top of her lungs, an anguished sob ripped through her trembling body.

“If I let you go and leave you alone, I know you will pick up that sword and cut yourself open. I’m not going to stand by and watch you kill yourself. There is no way in hell that I'm going to leave you alone right now, and if we have to sit here all night, so be it. No matter how much you fight me, I will still be here whether you like it or not.” Ryoma said levelly, not wanting to reduce the whole conflict into a screaming match.

“I thought you of all people would understand! Just let me die! The only way I can make this right is through my death. Please, Ryoma, just let me die. Please.” She was practically begging him as she continued to futilely fight his embrace, though she was starting to put up less resistance as fatigue started to gain on her as her adrenaline ran out.

“You aren’t doing this for honor nor are you doing this out of shame. You are committing suicide not seppuku, Yuki. You want to end the pain because living in a world where the ones you love with every fiber of your being want you dead is worse than anything death could hold. But, you know deep down that even that is not true.” Ryoma could feel her hold her breath, and stop fight him instead just lying limply in his arms.

“I have been there and so has Hinoka and Takumi. You aren’t and will never be alone. As much as it hurts me, I know I can’t replace Xander but if you let me, I will try to be the best older brother I can to you. I love you, Yuki, and nothing could ever change that.” His voice broke at the last part, as he said he loved her, she completely broke down.

She balled his kimono in her fists as she cried into his chest, her entire body wracked with sobs. He held her close to him and tucked her head under his chin as he rocked her back and forth, encouraging her to let it all out. Tears of his own ran down his cheeks and soaked into her short earthen hair, Ryoma felt what was eleven years worth of guilt, self-loathing, and anger rise off of him like a heavy suit of armor he couldn’t remove until now. Yuki struggled to catch her breath, as shaking sob hit her one after another, leaving her gasping for air.

“Take a deep breath, Yuki. Breath in with me, and then exhale.” Ryoma coaxed her into doing some deep breathing with him in an attempt calm her down.

With every breath she took, the more and more she relaxed. Soon, she laid in his arms, half asleep and exhausted beyond words. Ryoma found his eyelids heavy as well but he didn’t want to fall asleep until the still suicidal girl curled up in his lap was completely asleep. Yuki shifted herself so she had her cheek on his shoulder near the crook of his neck. Her eyelids fluttered and looked at him with guilt-ridden eyes that were still red and puffy from tears.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered as that was the loudest she could talk, her throat raw from screaming and sobbing.

“There is nothing to be sorry for. In such pain and guilt, death can seem like the only option. When I lost you and Father, I blamed myself and much like you, tried to impale myself on my sword. It was our mother that stopped me and told me that killing myself was not going to alleviate the pain but instead destroy those who remained and loved me. You don’t have to be sorry, and I don’t want you to be. I just want you to know you can rely and lean on us when the pain becomes too much to bear.We will always be here for you and will never abandon you.” His voice was soft as he brushed her wet bangs out of her face and rubbed her flushed warm cheek with the pad of his thumb.

“Does the guilt ever go away?” She rasped, taking a few shuddering breaths and closing her eyes again.

“It fades with time until it is bearable and you can manage it without it swallowing you whole. You realize you don’t have to carry it alone and that you shouldn’t have to have it in the first place. Then you can finally let it go.”

The answer seemed to bring her some peace of mind because soon after she fell into a calm peaceful slumber much like the stillness after a hurricane. Ryoma contemplated what to do next as he very much needed sleep himself. He didn’t want to leave her alone since that was the last thing she needed right now but he didn’t want to disturb the sleep she so desperately needed. With a resigned sigh, he gently lifted her from off the floor and laid her on her bed. He laid down beside her and pulled the heavy quilts over them, Yuki instinctively cuddled into his chest and he wrapped his arms around as he too needed the closeness. As he found himself drifting towards sleep, a certain memory from his past came to the forefront of his mind.

The loving comforting arms of Mikoto as he laid curled into her chest as he grieved for the loss of his sister and father. She had told him the same things he told Yuki and held him through the entire night because he couldn’t sleep. He wished he could have her here with him, that she could comfort and take care of their broken guilt-ridden hearts, that she could hold them both like she did all those years ago. But here he was filling in the massive space she left that he knew he couldn’t fill. He was as broken as the rest of them and yet he had to fix their shattered minds as well as his own. Ryoma wondered how she did it when she not only had a kingdom to run, broken grieving children she needed to tend to, and her own grief to contend with. He supposed he never saw her grief through his own, nor the guilt that lived inside her. Perhaps she was as broken as he was but he was too blind and young to see it.

As much as the past haunted and taunted him with what-ifs and questions he knew he couldn’t answer, he must let them lie and rest with those who were departed. He must focus on the living which was the sleeping girl in his arms and the twisting inky darkness that lived inside of her which was threatening to eat her whole. He let ghosts be ghosts and put them to rest in their graves to haunt him another time. Surrendering to the siren’s call of sleep, Ryoma shut his eyes and only let the memory of her overwhelming warmth and love fill his mind which he hoped he was passing onto Yuki as they slept and found solace for a brief moment in a world filled misery and chaos.