The doctor eyed the dressing critically. Arc fought the urge to roll his eyes. He hadn’t seen what the big deal was, but the moment he had removed his cloak and Frederik had seen the slipping bandage on his arm he had immediately sent for the Royal Physician. He had insisted that it was fine – it was, after all, just a scratch – but Frederik was nothing if not a worry-wart, and so the doctor had been called.
To be fair, he had agreed that the dressing would need to be changed. By the time he had escorted Yucie back to her home (in spite of Cube’s protests – really, his presence wasn’t required, but he had set out that day with the intention of spending some time with her) and travelled back to the palace, the bandage had slipped down his arm significantly. And while the wound wasn’t awful, it had still been bleeding in that annoying way surface wounds tended to bleed forever, so he had agreed it would at the least need redressed.
But the doctor didn’t have to be so rude about it.
“I am…perplexed, highness,” the older man said after a long moment. “I thought we had taught you better. This…this looks like a child did it.”
Arc could feel his jaw clenching, his lips pulling into a tight frown. The more sarcastic side of him wanted to laugh. Well, he wasn’t technically wrong…
He couldn ’ t stop the smile curling his lips as he watched her. It hadn ’ t taken the girls long to begin the cleanup process. Once Beth had returned from meeting with her father, who was once again slumbering to restore his lands, she had joined the others in overseeing the beginnings of the reconstruction of the Fairy World. He had been eager to help, insistent that that was what he was there for, but Yucie had taken one guilty look at his arm and had shoved him under a bare tree, out of the way of everyone else. He had been amused at the time, intrigued by this sudden boldness around him that had seemed to overtake her, but her focus had been on the scratch on his arm.
“ Wait here, ” she had said. “ I ’ ll go see what needs sorting, and then I ’ ll be back to help you with that. ”
Really, he could have taken care of it himself: his time spent away from the palace had required a certain level of first aid knowledge, and wrapping a wound was no problem for him (even if it was his own wound – he had wrapped worse and in more awkward locations). But the thought of spending more time with her – of having her focused on him, fretting over his (albeit minor) injury – was too tempting to pass up, and he had heaved an exaggerated sigh before nodding. He had folded his arms over his chest, leaned back against the tree, and bowed his head.
“ Fine, fine, ” he had groused. “ I ’ ll just … wait here. ”
Her smile had been worth it.
The knowing look Cube had shot him had been less so.
“ Not a word, ” he had warned, but the demon only laughed as he handed him a small basket full of bandages. Thankfully, the casualties had been limited to minor scrapes and bruises. His scratch was probably the worst of it, he had been grateful to notice.
“ Looks like you ’ ll get to spend some time with her after all, ” the steward had chuckled.
“ Cube, ” he had hissed, and his face had definitely not grown warmer under the steward ’ s eye.
“ Coming, Gaga! ” Cube had called, still chuckling as he walked off.
“ Ok! ” Yucie ’ s voice cut into his thoughts, and he jumped in surprise to find her standing before him again. Her smile wasn ’ t as radiant as it normally was, but she also wasn ’ t normally shooting guilty looks at his arm every five seconds. “ Your turn! ”
“ My … what? ” he asked, still slightly dazed by her sudden appearance. She frowned as she reached up, the tips of her fingers just brushing the torn edges of his cloak. He was concerned to see how dark it had turned – he hadn ’ t thought it was that bad.
“ You really need to get that wrapped up, ” she said. “ I ’ m sorry I took so long. The others … but I ’ m all yours now! ”
His grin started to return as he processed her words, and she suddenly looked mortified. She snatched her hand back from his arm to slap over her mouth. Her face was scarlet, her entire body stiff – with that one unintended slip, any boldness she had gained vanished.
“ I-I mean … that is …” she stuttered out, but he just chuckled and removed his hat. As much as he loved teasing her, perhaps it was best to let it slide this time. After all, she had been through a lot that day. They all had. He hung his hat up on a branch before removing his cloak, and he paused when he heard her sudden gasp. He frowned as he followed her gaze to his arm.
The sleeve was torn, frayed bits of fabric sticking out from where they had crusted with blood. He still thought it wasn ’ t that bad, but he couldn ’ t deny it had certainly bled like it was. Nearly his entire sleeve was darkened with the stuff. The sight was enough for Yucie to get over her shyness as she grabbed his hand, tugging him down.
“ Come on, sit, ” she said. He winced as she pulled on his injured arm, and she grimaced. “ Sorry. I just … I can ’ t reach you like that. ”
“ Hey, it ’ s ok, ” he said easily, hoping if he played it off like it was no big deal she might actually believe him. The last thing he wanted was her worrying over him. While he loved the extra attention, he had to admit he hated seeing the way her eyes darkened in concern. He hated knowing that his carelessness had put that look there. He sat down before her, grinning as he offered his arm up for inspection. “ There. Better? ”
“ Much, ” she sighed, dropping to her knees beside him. She grabbed the basket of bandages and looked back to his arm. Her bottom lip caught between her teeth as she looked up at him. “ I … I ’ m gonna need to cut the sleeve. ”
“ That ’ s fine, ” he said. He grabbed a pair of scissors from the basket and handed them to her. She gulped, and he chuckled at her. “ Yucie, honestly. It ’ s fine. ”
“ I just … I feel bad for ruining your shirt, ” she mumbled as she began to snip at the ripped fabric. He rolled his eyes.
“ It ’ s just a shirt, Forehead, ” he chided. “ It ’ s not like I don ’ t have another one. Besides, it was kinda already ruined, don ’ t you think? ”
“… sorry about that, too, ” she mumbled, and he sighed as he reached up and caught her hand. She froze, her eyes darting up to his own.
“ Yucie, really, ” he said, squeezing her hand. “ It wasn ’ t your fault. ”
“ But – ! ” she started, and he shook his head.
“ Fine. Diabolos was going after you at the time, ” he conceded, “ but you ’ re insane if you think for one minute that I would have ever let him – or anyone – hurt you. ”
There was more to be said – so much more to be said – but he could see now was not the time. He watched her eyes, admired the way they shimmered with a thousand emotions, and prayed his words would be enough. For now.
“I don’t like the thought of you…of anyone…getting hurt because of me,” she said. She pulled her hand away, and he sighed as he leaned back on his good arm. She returned her attention to his injury, and he couldn’t help but notice how her hands lingered maybe a moment too long on the skin below the cut. He glanced down and winced. Ok, maybe it was a bit worse than he was admitting…but then her hands jerked back, and he cursed himself.
“ Yucie, ” he said, glancing up at her, but she was refusing to look at him. Or maybe she was just focused on her task … he winced again when she poured the antiseptic over the cut. “ Yucie. ”
“ You know, we ’ re supposed to graduate tomorrow, ” she said, and he sighed again at how easily she side-stepped the conversation. There was just too much to be said, and now, he had to remind himself, was not the time. He was really hoping the time would come soon.
“ Mother may have mentioned something about that, ” he said, looking back to where she was using a cloth to clean the wound. Ok, it still looked bad – but it certainly wasn ’ t the worst he ’ d ever had. He recalled one of his more harrowing ordeals, where he had ended up with a tree branch sticking clean through his leg. This was definitely nothing compared to that. It should certainly heal faster, at any rate. “ And the Platina Princess will be selected soon after … ? ”
“ Mhm, ” she hummed. He watched as she worked, pressing another folded cloth against the scratch. “ Here, ah … can you hold this in place? ”
He sat up straighter and held the cloth to the wound with his good arm. She pulled out a roll of bandages and began to wrap it over the dressing, nudging his hand when she needed him to move it. He leaned back again and watched her work, his eyes constantly darting to her face. She was adorable when she was focusing on a task. All the time, really, but he loved the way her tongue poked out at the side as she concentrated on keeping the bandage secure.
“ So … it really won ’ t be long now, then, ” he said, hoping to keep her talking. She nodded, still not answering, and he sighed as he sat up again and placed his hand over hers. “ Yucie, come on. Talk to me. Tell me what you ’ re thinking. ”
“ I can ’ t, Arc, ” she choked out, her voice almost inaudible. “ I … it ’ s too much right now. I ’ m graduating tomorrow, I know, but … I fought a … what even was Diabolos? A demon? A dragon? I did that today. I … your mom is going to kill us when she finds out. We all almost died today – you really almost died. And I …”
She closed her eyes and sat back, her hands resting in her lap. The roll of bandage was still in her hands, the cloth connecting them.
“ I can ’ t think about it all right now, Arc, ” she finally said. When she opened her eyes again, tears were swimming in them. He hated seeing that. “ It ’ s too much. So I need to focus on getting you fixed up, and then getting home, and then sleeping, and tomorrow … tomorrow I ’ ll worry about graduation and all that comes after. Ok? ”
He smiled, and he caught her hand in his own before bringing it to his lips. He brushed a kiss across her knuckles and said, “ Ok. Fix me up, then, Princess. ”
Her face flushed with color, but at least she smiled, moving closer as she continued to wrap his arm. Glancing down at the bandages, he had to note that she really was doing a horrible job. He ’ d have to show her how to dress a wound properly someday, but all in all he didn ’ t mind. She wanted to take care of him, and that was all that really mattered to him.
… even if it was probably going to fall off in a few hours.
“Still,” the physician said, pulling him back to the present, “at least it looks like you cleaned it properly. Honestly, highness, we’ll have to have a refresher course on proper wound care. You’re lucky this hasn’t gotten infected yet.”
“Lay off,” he grumbled, wincing as the Royal Physician dabbed at his scratch with some antiseptic. “I wasn’t the one who did it, and if Frederik hadn’t freaked out I would have changed it on my own and you never would have known.”
“Yes, because that’s a wise course of action,” Frederik deadpanned, and he shot the guard a look. Frederik lifted a brow at him. “I’m assuming Lady Yucie did the dressing?”
“Shut up, Frederik,” he mumbled. Frederik smiled, and he rolled his eyes again as he looked back to his arm. He was definitely not blushing. It was just…a fever. From the wound.
“Of course, highness,” Frederik said, and he groaned as his head fell back against the wall.
“Just drop it,” he snapped, purposefully ignoring how the man was practically smirking at him.
“Of course, highness.”