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White Waters

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Muse’s fingers ghosted over the piano keys, so light they almost didn’t produce sound. She would play this song once in a while, even after all this time. Although she couldn’t remember who taught  it to her, or even what the song was called. It was actually a violin tune, that much she did remember. She vividly remembered the sound of a fiddle playing it in the distance, delicate and quick-footed, but strong and determined, like a bird in flight.

Mikleo had asked her, once. “What’s the song’s name, mommy?”

She didn’t know.

“Can I play it, too?”

Of course. It might be a little bit too difficult for him still (he was barely five years old), but she would be patient in teaching him.

Muse sat down at the piano again with Mikleo on her lap, guiding his tiny chubby fingers over the keys.

“It never sounds right when I play it,” she admitted.

“Why not?”

“You’re supposed to play it on violin.”

Mikleo beamed at her, “Sorey wants to learn violin. I’ll tell him to play your song when he’s ready. I’ll kick him if he’s not making progress.”

Muse smiled back, “Have some mercy on him.”

Sorey ended up loving the violin, and in the years after that, Mikleo picked up playing flute in addition to the piano just so he could play with him when they were on the road. They never shared Muse’s song with anyone else, but they ended up making up a flute voice to go with it, and it had never sounded so complete.


Sun rays fell through the skylight under the roof into Mikleo’s room, lighting up the tiny particles of dust dancing up and down, and settling in his tousled hair. More tousled than usual because Sorey’s hand had been tangled in it the whole night, and Mikleo had fallen asleep with his cheek and bangs squished into his shoulder.

Mikleo was still only half conscious when Sorey carefully carded his free hand through Mikleo’s hair and along his back and shifted as much as Mikleo’s weight on top him would allow – it wasn’t beyond him to wake Mikleo up, but he usually made an effort to do it gently.

They had been officially “dating” for about two months (although Sorey hated the term and insisted nothing between them had changed; well, nothing unless you counted the additions of kissing and… things) and were used to sharing a bed ever since they could remember, even when there was a second bed readily available. One might have thought that by now they would have found a sleeping position that wouldn’t cut off at least one of the boy’s blood in his limbs, but the truth was it had only led them to being perfectly used to waking up with numb limbs once in a while. Mikleo blinked his eyes open, with effort. Sorey drew him closer to kiss his half closed eye lids.

“Good morning.”

Mikleo growled in response and cuddled more insistently into his chest. Sorey indulged him and draped both arms around him in a cuddle lock until Mikleo got too warm for comfort. He groggily dragged himself up and muttered a “Good Morning” in response.

Sorey pecked his nose.

“Happy eighteenth Birthday.”

Mikleo smiled down at him and mumbled, “Thanks.”


Most of their closest friends congratulated Mikleo the same day, since they saw each other at school, anyway; the only one who was neither a teacher nor a student there was Edna, so she held off her birthday wishes until the next orchestra rehearsal was due.

Sorey and Mikleo loved the orchestra. They had basically been born into it, but wouldn’t complain. Mikleo would most likely complain about the commotion caused by all their friends in the orchestra congratulating him for his birthday, however. And specifically, any commotion caused by Edna.

Edna idly chimed her triangle. The movement was so delicate that the sound came out as bright as a bell and as quiet as a mouse. Mikleo heard it anyway and waved Mint and Cress off from congratulating him to turn around and face her. He was conditioned to dread the sound of her triangle. It was usually a warning that Edna was ready to play the triangle considerably louder the next minute, and at any deliberately inappropriate moment. Either that, or poke him with the beater. Which, in turn, was usually a warning that she would strike with her umbrella next should anything upset her delicate temper. (Considering it was Mikleo, pretty much every word he said – or didn’t say – upset her delicate temper.)

“Rudeleo. I’ve been playing you the birthday version of the Normincarena for a full three minutes now. And still you choose to ignore me.”

“I happen to be talking to people. I have other friends, too, you know, and they voice their birthday wishes like a normal person.”

“Oh, it’s fine!” Cress assured him. “We won’t be in your friends’ way to send their regards as well.”

“Yes, Meebo. Listen to him.”

Mikleo almost bit down on his tongue. “Tell me why exactly out of all the percussion instruments you play you thought the triangle would be appropriate.”

“I can hear the italics when you speak, Meebo, and I am saddened that you do not honour this noble instrument. I obviously chose the triangle because it is elegant like me, and its pitch matches your squeaks when I poke you. It is therefore the best instrument to congratulate you on finally coming of age in some countries.”

Mikleo groaned.

Sorey noticed his despair and gently but insistently fished for Mikleo’s hand. He idly squeezed back, which only caused Sorey’s sappy smile to grow wider.

Next in line was Milla, so Mikleo would probably be alright this time around. Milla was positively the weirdest person Mikleo had ever met, and that included his boyfriend and his closest friends.

Years after she had joined the orchestra, they still didn’t know what she did for a living, or where to find that tiny village she came from, which apparently must be even tinier and closer to the middle of nowhere than even Camlann. Pretty often she appeared to rehearsals in a miniskirt and without a coat even in the coldest depths of winter; only ever made an attempt to tame her hair if Jude not so subtly addressed its state; could eat an entire pig for a meal but still sported a waist so slender that it put honey bees to shame; made it a habit to challenge her bulkiest friends to arm wrestle matches and win; and she talked to spirits that nobody else had ever seen or heard. To name only a few things that put Milla on the odd side of friends.

However, she also played the flute and wasn’t half-bad at it either, so Mikleo had always been closer to her than to most other members of the orchestra (both in the literal sense and in the sense of actually talking to people). He respected her as a musician and in general. (You didn’t disrespect a woman who could and probably would break your wrist when arm wrestling. You just didn’t.) Milla would help him calm down a bit. …Probably.

She was smiling as usual and squeezed Mikleo’s hand a little too hard when shaking it, also as usual. However, she looked at him quizzically and scrutinized him for longer than usual. Mikleo felt like diving into a hole to disappear.

“Have you felt differently yet?” Milla asked eventually.

If she ended up asking him whether Mikleo was finished going through all the phases of puberty that textbooks told her teenagers were supposed to go through, he swore he’d run.  “…No?” he replied, genuinely confused.

“Yes, Meebo, in some countries you may legally consume alcohol now. Luckily, I’ve already procured the best choices for you. Or do you want to wait for the twenty-one mark, like you do with everything?”, Edna quipped.

Mikleo tried to shoo her away with his free hand, the other one still being firmly in Sorey’s grip.

Milla wasn’t perturbed by the interruption at all. “I mean, have you felt any differently around water as of late? Can you hear their voices yet?”

Mikleo gave her a long look. She wasn’t joking. She never was.

“I don’t think so,” he offered eventually.

“Well, take care, but don’t be afraid when you do.”

“Thanks,” Mikleo mumbled, holding himself back from questioning her sanity. (Been there, done that. Milla always remained unfazed.)

That seemed to satisfy her, and she gave a happy smile.

Sorey followed her steps curiously when she went off to fetch her instrument, and then gave Mikleo a nudge with his elbow. “If you ever hear her spirits’ voices, you’ll tell me, though, right?”

Mikleo nudged back. “If.

He didn’t expect that there would be an if.


“Mikleo, where are we going?”

Mikleo didn’t know. He was just a little boy who couldn’t even reach the top shelf in the kitchen cupboard, and had currently set his mind on following the most beautiful sound of a violin he had ever heard.

“Where the music goes!”

There was only fog ahead, thick, damp fog, but he didn’t feel anything of it, only felt Sorey’s chubby fingers grabbing his, and saw haggard branches flying past them as they ran, faster as the music got louder and clearer. Just when Mikleo thought he could almost physically feel the notes digging under his skin and expected the mysterious fiddler to come into view the next second, Sorey yanked his arm and brought them to a halt.

Mikleo turned around to see him awkwardly shifting his feet on the ground. A crack, and the music faded. Mikleo looked down to where Sorey was staring at his feet, all colour faded from his cheeks. Under his shoes were the sides of a human child’s skull, neatly parted in half, and the sound of tiny bones breaking like twigs was in the air.

Mikleo’s vision turned black and he found himself in his bed again.

He had never been so grateful for waking up.

His heart was racing as if he’d run miles and the darkness didn’t add to his comfort, but he was grateful for the warmth on his skin.

He took a quick glance to the side where Sorey slept peacefully, his chest rising and falling steadily. Mikleo gently stroked a finger over his cheek. Sorey didn’t even stir, which was probably for the better.

Mikleo tried to go back to sleep but barely managed to close his eyes. Their song was practically hammering in his ears the entire time, matching his heartbeat.

This is not how we learned this song, he reminded himself. We learned it from mum. He frantically tried to ignore the thought that he didn’t know where she learned it in return, and that he wanted to find out.

The first time it happened he shrugged it off. Nightmares happen.

The second time, he found himself back in the same wood, with fog so thick that the treetops vanished in white mist. It was dead silent and wherever he looked, the woods looked all the same to him.

He found himself at a lake, so calm no wind stirred the waters, and the same white, milky sprays of mist hung in the air. He could barely see what was in front of him: the water’s edge, shallow and overgrown with reeds.

Mikleo crouched down, curiosity getting the better of him, and stared intently at the water, trying to make out what was under the surface.

He woke up when he made out bones and the faces of drowned children his own age.

He tried to get used to these dreams of the people dying in the forest while a fiddle happily played the melody he had grown up with. It had to be a phase. Surely it wasn’t really spirits invading his dreams. You’re just thinking of it because Milla mentioned it, he told himself. In the end, they were only dreams. Those could usually be fought off with thinking rationally about the whole setup.

Which soon made him get even less sleep out of fear of more nightmares, and no sleep at all after that one time when one of the faces on the dead bodies on the ground was Sorey’s.

He woke up with a shout and very nearly jumped out of bed. He might have fallen out had Sorey not stopped him.

“Whoa, careful, Mik!”

Mikleo just stared at him with wide eyes, but didn’t dare to move. Sorey brushed his tousled bangs out of his face. “Mikleo? You were sleep talking.”

Mikleo didn’t answer but buried his face in his shoulder. Sorey quietly wrapped his arms around him and carded a hand through his hair.

“I can’t do this anymore,” Mikleo mumbled against his skin.

“The nightmares?”

A nod.

“What happened?”

“You died.”

“Oh.” Eloquent. Mikleo almost smiled. “I’m here, though. Perfectly alive,” Sorey assured him.

“I know. Thank you.” Mikleo sighed deeply before he added, “Mind if we stay like this for a minute?”

“Not at all.” He meant it, and didn’t even complain when Mikleo’s nails dug into the skin on his back, unable to let go.


This wasn’t what Mikleo had thought Milla meant when she mentioned hearing spirits as he grew up.

So he asked her about it on one quiet, warm evening after orchestra rehearsal, when everyone else had left the room. He was grabbing his flute with both hands, trying to find something to ground him, and not daring to get up from his chair. “Milla, would spirits send people nightmares?”

“It can happen,” she replied cheerfully.

“How do I know it’s spirits?”

“You can’t until you ask them.”

Mikleo looked up from his flute. “How do I tell them to stop?”

Milla sat down next to him. “Same thing. Ask them.”

“How do I ask them?”

“I do not know. It’s different for everyone. All I can tell you is that someone’s calling for you.”

“Awfully rude way of calling for me.”

“Personally, I can’t say I find all human customs particularly polite, either.”

Same, and I’m human, but at times like this, I’m not sure about you, Mikleo thought.

He looked up to see Sorey standing across from them in the doorway, looking far more worried than  what suited him. Mikleo immediately felt guilty.

Luckily, if Sorey had overheard anything at all, he made no comment on it.

Milla excused herself and left them together in silence that was far less comfortable than it used to be.

It got a little better when Sorey picked up his hands and rubbed soft circles into them. Mikleo couldn’t quite meet his eyes yet, so he stared at the invisible traces Sorey’s fingers left on his skin.

“Sorey? Would you mind playing me our song?” he eventually asked.

Sorey’s heart fluttered. “Now?”

Mikleo nodded.

“Want to join in?”

“No. Just play. Please.”

Sorey didn’t question him further and picked up his violin. As nimble and precise as always. Something invisible and oddly cold on this summer day gripped Mikleo’s heart and pulled at the strings to yank something from the inside that he didn’t know had ever been there in the first place. He felt empty when Sorey finished playing. The song was short unless you looped it, so the whole experience felt as quick as a needle pricking his skin, but drew the air from his lungs nonetheless. Followed by the odd feeling that for once, something was wrong with the song, and it wasn’t his flute voice missing.

“Mikleo? Are you okay?”

He hadn’t even realised that Sorey had stopped playing and was now brushing the hair out of Mikleo’s face, his brow furrowed in concern.

“Yes. Thank you.” Just to finally make Sorey stop frowning, which was bound to fail, but still.

“Hey, Mikleo? Why do you play music?”

“Why do you ask?“

“Because you’re completely zoned out these days.”

Sorey moved to brush his thumbs over Mikleo’s shoulders now. Mikleo managed a smile. “To kick you when you’re off tempo. You?”

Sorey looked up as if lost in thought, but answered immediately. “Because music is the best way to let your feelings out. To celebrate them. To reflect on them. I wouldn’t want to miss that. So, you?”

“You asked me that already, and I told you.”

“So what you’re saying is you wouldn’t make music without me?”

“Cut that stupid grin. That’s not what I said.”

“Would you make music without me, though?”

“Yes, but I still prefer having you there.”


That made Sorey’s grin even stupider.The bus back to Camlann was slow and felt like a second home by now because they spent so much time there. However, it was the probably most quiet bus ride they ever had, both of them staring out of the window and occasionally rubbing circles into each other hands.
Their families usually ate dinner late, if Sorey’s parents came home at all, with all of them working outside town, and Sorey and Mikleo going to school and their orchestra rehearsals in Marlind. Dinner was almost finished when Mikleo broke the silence; just between him, Sorey, and his mother.

“Mum, do you really not remember when and where you learned our song?”

Muse stared at him long and quietly. “I do remember when and where,” she said eventually, calmly holding his gaze. “But not how.”

Mikleo was very quiet and almost didn’t feel it when Sorey squeezed his hand under the table.

“I see,” he said under his breath. 

The next morning, he slid out of bed, as silent as a mouse, grabbed his flute, phone, and keys, and left the house before anyone even had a chance to notice he was gone.

Chapter Text

Violin tunes danced between the bleak bushes in the forest and rose up into the chilly air. The birch trees were frosted with white ornaments made of ice crystals, thin as spiderwebs, and they glistened in the sun.

Muse buried her bare feet in the snow around the lake and was only dimly aware that the droplets of mist on her arms and the ice crystals between her toes should make her feel cold, that a young human girl didn’t belong in this world. She smiled at herself, anyway, and tiptoed closer to the ever unmoving lake that only ever knew one season. The wind moved her hair, but not the water.

A gentle kick inside her womb reminded her that not everything was unmoving like the lake in the forest. She hadn’t known human girls could get pregnant from a spirit, anyway. What she did know was that the baby was getting bigger by day until she couldn’t just ignore its presence. Time didn’t stand still for each and everyone.

Muse turned around on her feet, took the spirit’s hands in hers and looked up to meet his gaze. “I can’t stay no longer,” she said simply. “The baby can’t. It’s human.”

The spirit returned her gaze and squeezed back on her fingers, but didn’t reply right away. There was no questioning in his eyes, no surprise, just sadness.

“Do you regret coming here?”

“No, but I will never do it again.”

Muse slowly slipped her hands out of his and finally broke eye contact. “I have a favour to ask of you, however. Can you wipe my memory of while I was here? I don’t want to be tempted.”

The spirit stared at her, contemplating. “I can,” he finally said. “But I want you to do me a favour in return. I will play you my song again before you leave. It will still lead you back to me. The song will decide for you what happens to the child.”

Muse agreed to those terms. She never found out how terribly the spirit missed her the second she was gone, and time suddenly did exist on the lake in the forest when the spirit mourned.

When Muse left Aroundight forest, she was dressed only in a thin silk dress, her feet and arms bare and white as frost, her steps wonky, and she couldn’t remember for her life how she had gotten there in the first place. She had returned home on uneven feet, and her brother almost dropped his coffee cup when he saw her in the doorway. She knew she was home when Michael dragged her into an awkward hug, anyway, and mumbled something about he thought she was dead. Still not knowing what had happened, she was glad to be back.

And then she had given birth to a baby boy at Midsummer Night’s eve.

She didn’t remember how she had gotten pregnant at all, and decided she might not want to know. However, she would make sure to give the child double the love, to make up for never being able to tell him who his own father was.

That had been eighteen years ago.


The faint echo of a violin fiddling away the delicate, but powerful notes of the song he was so familiar with rang through Mikleo’s ears as he followed it to the heart of Aroundight forest.

The forest was dead silent except for those tunes that gained in intensity with every step forward. As the road vanished and he felt like going nowhere, he took out his flute to answer the song. For a moment, everything was perfectly still, and fog gathered at his feet, growing thicker by the second.

The next time he took a step forward, he found himself in a part of the forest he didn’t recognize.

It looked conspicuously not like part of Aroundight forest at all. The trees in Aroundight forest were broad, sturdy, and always covered in moss of all shades of earthy green, the fog was less thick, the air less chilly, and you could see the sun. In this part of whatever woods it was, all you could see in the distance was the fog, threatening to suffocate you with every step, and rising high to the sky you couldn’t see. There were birch trees, thin and ragged and straight like candles, but you could hardly see their low crowns, and few leaves were on the branches although it was summer. The ground was rocky and covered in rime frost.

It looked and felt like a different forest, at a different time of the year, and like time was standing still, except for the mist steaming around his feet.

Mikleo turned around but couldn’t see the path he came from anymore. Instead, he found himself at a lake as white as snow. The colour molded with the mist, making it impossible to see where the lake even ended and the ground was dry again, or even where water and sky separated. Reed grew lowly at the water’s edge before Mikleo’s feet, the only spot of pale colour. 

When he turned around, he stood face to face with a man he didn’t know.

However, he recognized the song that the stranger had played until now. He lowered his violin and bowed slightly, the strands flowing into his face like thin rivulets of water. His hair colour was icy white with blue tips that would have looked ridiculous to Mikleo, would he not see the same colour every day in the mirror. He jerked a step backwards.

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” the stranger said calmly.

Mikleo tensed up anyway, then curiosity won him over. “You’re a spirit.” It wasn’t a question. There was no doubt about it.

The answer, however, almost knocked the air out of his lungs.

“I’m your father.”

The silence that followed was thicker than the fog.

“Did you send me these nightmares?” Mikleo asked, quietly. It wasn’t a sincere question, it was an accusation.

“Not directly. I taught your mother the song I played so she could find me again. Or you. But the music chose the time to call you. I’ve been playing for years at this lake.”

Mikleo didn’t know what to say to this. He took a good look at the lake in question, then at the spirit. It was weird enough to meet one in person, weirder still to be told that one of them was his father. On second thought, he felt like some of his own quirks suddenly made a lot more sense. He wondered what the bullies at school would have to tell about this. He wondered what Sorey would have to tell about this.

He took a few steps around the lake, the reed near the edge the only indication where to expect soil, and where to expect water at his feet. He was about ready to accept the absurdity of the whole situation and see where it would lead him until he got close enough to the water to have a look below the surface. He wasn’t sure what he expected to see there when the water was too chilly for tadpoles, too clear for fish, too calm for a lot of animal life, actually.
Still, he didn’t expect bones rotting away under the surface. Human bones, he realized as he had a better look around. Human skulls happened to look quite distinct. He should be used to the sight from his nightmares, but wasn’t.

Mikleo’s breath hitched. He almost didn’t hear his own words. “…who were these people?”

The spirit seemed surprised he wanted to know that. “I do not know. They came here, following the music, like they had always done. There is no song to guide them out of the forest, just in, so I did not see or care where they went from here.”

Mikleo turned around in terror. “Apparently they didn’t go anywhere! There’s only bones remaining!”

The outburst confused the spirit even more. “It has been some time.”

“You killed innocent people just because they got lost in this forest!?“

“I did not kill them, nor did any of the other spirits. We had some good times with some of the humans.”

“You let them out of their homes and didn’t even think of guiding them back out of the forest!? What did you expect them to do? Turn into trees?”

The spirit seemed genuinely concerned, more at Mikleo losing his temper than at the issue he got angry at, and the air suddenly got a bit chillier. “Does that pain you?”

“Of course that pains me! I’ve been living a perfectly normal life, until you sent me these stupid nightmares, just for to discover that you and whatever spirits live in this forest have been luring in people to die here for decades, and then you’re claiming to be my father! I am human! How do I know you won’t kill me, too?”

“I won’t. I never meant harm. You don’t need to be afraid.”

“Well, you did! And you expect me to not be afraid of you!?” Mikleo turned on his heels but felt the spirit’s eyes burn into his skull.

“Where are you going?”

“To the police, and then home,” Mikleo declared without looking back. Still, his steps got slower. Looking at the frozen leaves on the ground, he noticed that he didn’t even know what direction he had come from.

“I regret having let your mother go all those years ago. I regret never having gotten to know you.”

“Try not killing people if you want to get to know them,” Mikleo said, but there was less bite in his voice than in his words. 

“I see. Let me try this again,” the spirit said, reaching out to brush Mikleo’s bangs out of his face. The motion was gentle but comically unsure. “You look a lot like her.”

I hear that a lot, Mikleo thought. But only because they’ve never seen you.

“Hold still for a second,” the spirit said in a voice as gentle as a breeze in spring, and his fingertips barely brushed Mikleo’s forehead.

The last thing Mikleo could see or hear was the faint realization that his legs gave out under him and his head was spinning, and the spirit’s voice whispering he would explain from the beginning. Then everything turned black and quiet.


Generally speaking, Sorey was pretty happy how things between him and Mikleo had developed. However, it was hard to enjoy this development when Mikleo got more tired by the day, alarmingly distant, and wasn’t there when he woke up the next day. Summer or not, the pillow was cold.

Sorey got up with a frown and did his best to sneak through the house. Sneaking wasn’t exactly his forte, but Rose had tried to teach him a few things. It was a useful skill to have in family Shepherd’s household because at anytime between Sorey’s and Mikleo’s waking hours, Uncle Michael could spontaneously having scheduled his own sleeping hours for this week. Waking up Uncle Michael was difficult, but also generally not advisable.

When Sorey found the entire house empty and quiet, and Uncle Michael’s closed room was indeed the only one left where he hadn’t looked for Mikleo yet, he decided it was time for more drastic measures.

Pointedly ignoring that he still hadn’t eaten and wouldn’t have much time to do so anymore if he wanted to catch the school bus, Sorey sat down at the kitchen table and decided to take those more drastic measures. The potential danger of waking up Michael forgotten, the drastic measures meant a phone call.

The number you called is not available. Please try again later.

Sorey gave his phone an incredulous look and tried a text message instead.

He could have sworn the kitchen had never been that quiet, and the “sending message” animation had never taken that long to load. Sorey stared at his phone and felt his heart beating more painfully against his throat with every passing second.

Message couldn’t be delivered.

Resend.

Message couldn’t be delivered.

Resend.

Message couldn’t be delivered.

He tried to call again, with the same result as the previous ten or twenty attempts. Beep, beep, beep. The number you called is not available. Please try again later.

He frantically tapped Muse’s name to call her.

“Sorey? I’m at work.”

“Mikleo’s phone is dead and I don’t know where he is–”

He could almost hear Muse grinning at the other end of the line. “Skipping school again to spend the entire day and fooled around in the woods instead?”

“Muse, I’m being serious. He never wakes up before me, and if he does, he’d wake me up. And he never skipped school, except that one day when we were eight and I had the flu and he insisted on caring for me.”

A pause. “I’ll call you on the way home. You could ask Michael in the meantime.”

“Pretty sure he’s asleep, but I’ll try.”

“Pretty sure he doesn’t sleep. Heads up, Sorey.”

She hung up. Sorey stared at his phone in utter misery.

In the end, he decided to wake up Michael after all, only to find out that Michael hadn’t heard or seen anything of his nephew, but he wasn’t mad at being woken up for nothing. He just went to emailing in his pitch dark room. Somehow that wasn’t reassuring at all.

Sorey ended up skipping school to frantically search the woods around Camlann and the trail to the old temple that was always cool and misty in the morning. When school should have started, he sent messages to Rose and Alisha asking whether Mikleo had maybe hitched a hike to school, not believing it for a second, but trying anyway.

At the end of the day, Rose and Alisha both came over to Camlann after school, and there still was no sign of Mikleo anywhere.


Camlann was so tiny and unimportant they only had a tiny, crumbly church, and no police station. Should there be need for police forces, they came over all the way from Lastonbell. With their red and white uniforms and bright golden badges, the policemen stood out like a sore thumb among the farmers and brewers and craftsmen.

Having these policemen talk to you and your boyfriend’s family to gather clues how to look for that missing boyfriend was an otherworldly experience of the worst kind.

Muse looked admirably composed, considering the circumstances, but Sorey could still tell she was worried to the bones.

The officer, who had introduced himself as Sergei Strelka, only saw that pristine outside composure when he questioned Muse. Granted, everyone would probably have looked composed next to Sorey at that moment.

Sergei gave Muse a handshake and a broad smile that she returned, but Sorey knew was fake. The Shepherds weren’t particularly good liars, none of them, but excellent at hiding feelings from strangers. It was a family thing. Sorey had spent enough time with Mikleo’s family to know that look. Muse was calm, her voice steady, but her heart was trembling. Mikleo was the same. It wasn’t obvious to outsiders, but if you knew how to look for it, it was painfully obvious if he was nervous or scared. And Sorey had a lot of hands on experience with Mikleo’s heartbeat.

Last, Sergei turned to Sorey and gave him a pat on the back that almost knocked the air out of his lungs. Sorey vaguely heard something along the lines of “thank you for your cooperation” from him, but the words went right through the other ear and vanished into the air.

“We’ll find him,” he said to Muse, anyway, when the policemen had left and they were alone in the sun’s dying light.

Muse forced out a smile. “Thank you. Promise me to sleep, though, alright?”

Sorey flinched visibly. Easier said than done. Then again… sooner or later he would most certainly pass out from exhaustion. The question was whether that would be before or after finding Mikleo. He tried not to think about it.

“Promise.”


Mikleo didn’t return home that day, and not the day after either. Sergei had vowed to call his family the second the police found even a clue, but they never did.

Sorey hated breaking promises, and he tried not to. He actually tried to sleep when he was lying in bed, dozing in and out of nightmares. He still played violin. Nothing seemed particularly off about his fingering, nor speed, nor rhythm, nor technique. Anybody who didn’t know him would have judged him a good player. However, anybody who did know him noticed that he lacked spirit, that he played like an automated doll, getting all the notes right but not thinking about any of them.

Every day Sorey would dutifully pick up an extra copy of any material he’d get at school. Just in case it’d be the day Mikleo would finally return home, and would surely want to catch up with homework. He would also pick up extra copies of any new sheet music Gramps handed out during the orchestra rehearsals. Even while Gramps gave him a sad but knowing smile. Summer break was over and they would start an entirely new program now, so Sorey’s backpack was stuffed with the new material on top of his books and notebooks still in there from school.

Rose half-heartedly tried to lift the handle while the backpack was still strapped to Sorey’s back. She did manage to lift the handle, the bag itself didn’t move much.

“Wow. What did you put in there? Bricks? Have you started weightlifting now?” she wheezed.

Sorey turned just as half-heartedly, and rose an eyebrow. No smile, no laughter, not even uneasy. Which, in return, made Rose visibly uncomfortable.

Rose’s protective instincts kicked in immediately. So she punched the backpack, which made Sorey huff a little with the increased weight on his shoulders. To be fair, some of these books might as well have been bricks. Then she moved in front of him to grab his shoulders and shake him as gently as she was generally able to do.

“Sorey, if you’re gonna be useless every day that your boyfriend isn’t here now, I will request old Zenrus to kick you out of the orchestra. None of us are here to hear the world’s tiniest sad violin in infinite loops.”

“He’s not just not here, I do not know where he is. I… I’ve just never been in a situation when he neither told me what he was up to nor could I guess it.”

“So you’re gonna be in that useless state until we find him so he can explain himself?”

“No! I mean – Rose, I don’t know.”

Sorey let his head fall on her shoulder. It was terribly uncomfortable given their height difference, but he didn’t care. Rose moved on hand to gently tap his head.

“Have you cried?”

“What?”

“You heard me. Have you cried at all since he vanished or have you put on your stupid “brave face” all the time?”

Sorey’s face fell. “I try not to. If I did, that’d be like admitting there was a reason to be sad. Like he’s gone.”

“Not how this works, buddy,” Rose said softly and pulled him into a hug. “I’m not letting you go until you’ve cried. Try it. Works wonders.”

Sorey tried to protest, but the sound got muffled into Rose’s jacket. She gently stroked his hair until he went quiet and finally let some tears fall. Rose didn’t seem to mind that soon enough they soaked the fabric, and he returned the hug firmly enough to crush her.

“Let’s get you home, shall we?”

–––––––
Summer turned into autumn, painting the leaves yellow and red, then ripping them from the branches, tinting the sky grey, and laying a film of fog over the ground like spilled milk. The sun was setting and set the clouds ablaze in pale pink light, making them look warmer than the air actually was. Sorey sat on a bench in front of the orchestra rehearsal rooms, although it wasn’t the kind of weather in which just sitting in the open air was pleasant.

He almost didn’t notice that Milla approached him before she was standing in front of him.

“Wanna talk?” she asked. She looked reasonably approachable that day. She wore an actual coat, proper boots, both hands were gloved, and each held a cup of coffee. Almost like a normal person. Almost. Except for that lonely dry leaf that tangled in her hair, maybe. Most of the time she looked more like a parrot than a person.

“I don’t know what’s there to talk about,” Sorey said, but accepted one of the cups. It still steamed.

“You having your head in the clouds because Mikleo is still missing,” Milla countered. “Well, first of all I can tell you that he’s not dead.”

Sorey’s hands clenched around the cup so hard that the coffee almost sprouted out. “I know! …No, actually I don’t.”

“I don’t know many things for sure, but this is one of them. May I sit down?”

He nodded. Milla gave him a pleased smile that he didn’t see and gently blew into her coffee. “I wouldn’t tell you this if I didn’t know for sure. Undine says she still senses him, and I trust her.”

Maybe a few years ago Sorey would have given her an odd look. (An odd but curious look, for he would really have loved to talk to Undine, too. Or any spirits, actually.) But today he just wanted to believe her so much that it hurt.

“It’s just… He’s been gone for weeks without a trace. It doesn’t feel like he’s dead, but what if that’s only because I fear it so much that I can’t accept the truth?”

“Every fibre of your being tells me otherwise. It’s okay. Keep looking for him. That’s all I can say.” 

She tasted the coffee. The smile on her face told him that it tasted delicious, so he followed her example. The coffee was still too hot for Sorey’s taste, but nibbling at it was a welcome excuse for not having to respond. He eventually settled for a “Thanks, Milla.”

“Anytime. Speaking of which, we should go inside soon. Unless you want to be late for rehearsal.”

Sorey nodded. “I know he’s alive. I just don’t know where he is.”

“That is probably correct. So have you ever thought about not looking for him but listening for him?”

Sorey gave her an incredulous look. “How would I do that?”

“I don’t know. It’s different for everyone. But if you can’t see someone, it’s a good idea to listen for them instead. I’d say look for tunes that are distinctively Mikleo. He’s water affine, so it might sound like ripples on the water when you pour more water into a pond, or the crinkle of ice when spring arrives to melt it. But you know best what to listen for.”

Sorey listened carefully. To Milla first of all, then to the damp air around them. He had very faint hopes, but a very good idea.

Chapter Text

The wind ripped a lonely dry leaf from its branch and dropped it on the mossy bench Sorey was sitting on. The bench was located just at the edge of Aroundight forest, shielding the cold late autumn sun out of one’s eyes a bit, but not letting the chilly forest air damp one’s clothes yet.

Sorey had made it a habit to play Mikleo’s song once or twice a week, not really knowing what to expect, but it calmed him. Muse might have taught it to them on the piano when they were little children, and he liked Mikleo’s flute voice they had added to it, but to be fair, the melody was made for a violin. It sounded lonely without the flute, but not incomplete.

On this day only, he heard a flute answering him when he played. His heart leaped up in his chest, but he was too confused to do anything about it. He still held the violin and bow in his hands as if someone had stopped time for him, but turned his head to see around.

He looked right into Mikleo’s eyes, sparkling with curiosity, the flute still raised in his hands, although his lips slowly disengaged from the mouthpiece. Sorey looked at him as if he’d seen a ghost. There were a thousand thoughts racing through his head, but none of them allowed his body to move.

Until Mikleo lowered the flute and raised an eyebrow. “You’re not supposed to know that song,” he said. “And yet you came here so many times now, and–”

Mikleo couldn’t finish that sentence because Sorey finally laid his violin down and rushed up to wrap his arms around him. “Mikleo! You’re okay! We’ve been looking for you for so long, I–”

It felt like a bucket of ice being emptied on his head when Mikleo pushed him away. “Who are you, and how do you know that song?”

His voice cut like a knife, and Sorey was very bad at catching up with the new tone. Somewhere in the back of his head, he was dimly aware that if for whatever reason Mikleo didn’t recognize him,  then out of all bad things he could possibly say now, I’m your boyfriend, I proposed to you at age six, I’ve been looking for you for months because one morning you had suddenly vanished without a trace, and I didn’t have a clue where you are or what happened to you would probably take the cake as creepiest option of them all.

“Your mum taught it to us, Mikleo! Don’t you remember? We played it all the time when we were kids!”

“No. And I don’t know how you know my name, either.”

Sorey’s heart refused to beat for a hot second.

“Leave,” Mikleo said when he didn’t reply. “And forget that song.”

Sorey recovered from his stupor just in time before Mikleo could turn around and leave him at the edge of the forest. He grabbed his violin and tucked it away into its case at what was probably a new speed record, to follow after Mikleo when he looked about ready to vanish again. “Wait! I just found you!”

Mikleo hesitated the slightest bit. A stranger might not even have noticed. However, he did look into Sorey’s eyes again. “Well, you shouldn’t have found me. I told you it’s dangerous for humans.”

Sorey blinked. “As if you’re not?”

“My mother is human, if you’re wondering. But I haven’t seen her in years. Now, leave.”

“We both know that’s wrong. You’re still wearing the shirt she bought you last year for your birthday.”

Mikleo shot him an annoyed glare. “She can’t have. I lived with my father all the time. You’re making up things.”

“I’m not, I’m calling you out on sprouting nonsense. Hey, wait, your father?”

The glare got sharper, but Mikleo didn’t deny the accusation. He didn’t try to push Sorey away anymore as he walked next to him, either. He supposed that counted as progress, and allowed himself to smile. Mikleo’s cheeks flushed bright red at that. If he didn’t remember, then the blushing was probably just Mikleo’s standard reaction to getting too close to strangers for comfort. Sorey wasn’t sure whether he should be concerned or just enjoy that adorable sight.

Sorey followed him mostly in silence. He absently noticed the birch trees in the distance getting lost in rising fog and the air getting chillier, but paid no mind to either.

The first few metres, Mikleo only observed him with what was probably supposed to look suspicious, but was really just barely contained curiosity. Occasionally, he would ask questions, but refused to answer any that Sorey came up with.

Again, “How do you know that song?”

“Who else knows it?”

“Do you play it a lot?”

“What else do you play?”

It was mostly about Sorey’s violin and what he chose to do with it, really.

Eventually, Mikleo caught himself. “Listen, I’m sorry I got caught up now. It really is dangerous here for humans,” he stressed, glaring daggers at Sorey.
It earned him a smile. “So, can you protect me then?”

Mikleo’s ears went red. “I don’t know. Maybe.” An exasperated sigh. He looked away. “I honestly don’t know. I can’t promise anything.”

“Tell me what’s so dangerous then?”

“The spirits.”

So far, Mikleo had flat out refused to answer any questions that Sorey had dared to ask, so he figured this was as much as he’s ever get out of him. He tried a different approach to his questions, then.

“You don’t even want to know how I know you?”

Mikleo bit his lip. He does.

Still, Mikleo stopped in his tracks. A thin layer of frost was visible on the ground and the trees gave way to a lake too shrouded in mist for Sorey to see how big it was. It was milky white as if the golden autumn sun had suddenly vanished from the world. The water was as still as a grave, and Sorey had to look closely for a minute to even see it moving around the reed at the edge, and notice that it was indeed water.

“This is as far as I can allow you to go. Please turn around now, for your own safety,” Mikleo declared calmly but in a tone that brooked no argument. Sorey still tried to protest, but didn’t get farther than opening his mouth without a sound before he heard a violin playing.

It sounded delicate but strong, like played on a spider’s web, and like there were distorted notes faintly echoing in the distance. He had stopped to listen before he knew it. The song was the melody he used to play with Mikleo, the nameless song Muse had taught them. It had never occurred to Sorey that his violin rendition could have been “wrong”, but the second he heard another instrument than his own fiddle it away, he felt like this was how it was meant to be played, and he had grown up childishly replaying something he didn’t understand. The realization felt like a black, gaping hole in the pit of his stomach, and he suddenly felt cold in his warm parka.

A voice interrupted his thoughts. “You heard my son. Leave. I’ll count to three. Then you’ll be gone.”

Sorey stopped in his tracks. Before he heard the song, he could have sworn they were alone at the edge of the lake, but that spirit had turned up out of nowhere. He knew it was a spirit the second he saw him, fiddle in his hand.

He also knew immediately that this was neither a lie nor a joke. The spirit had the same frosty white hair colour that Mikleo had, although paired up with blood red eyes that made looking into them uncomfortable.

The resemblance was uncanny. Not because the spirit looked so very much like Mikleo in face or appearance – he was taller and broader, which didn’t say much because Mikleo took after Muse and Michael, who both were anything but. However, the spirit’s hair had the same crispy pale colour, and the same fluidity to his motions and postures that Mikleo had. Sorey had never thought much about it, although he had noticed – and adored, of course – how elegant, how otherworldly Mikleo looked and moved. Their friends had used to tease him it was just Sorey’s crush filter talking, and while he had pouted at that, he wouldn’t have assumed that Mikleo truly wasn’t fully human. Now it suddenly made all too much sense.

He had not a faint idea how to deal with any of this.

Mikleo stood between them before Sorey could think of anything. “I told him to leave. Don’t harm him. It’s my fault he’s here.”

Sorey had trouble deciding whether he should be concerned or offended. “I will leave as soon as either of you has explained to me what–”

He cut himself off when he heard a crack under his shoes. More distinct than the rime frost crinkling delicately, the feeling under his shoes heavier. He hesitated before looking down and stepping back a bit, immediately regretting the action.

There were bones under his shoes. Despite being cracked in half, obviously human bones. More precisely, a skull. A child’s skull. He took a deep breath that died in his throat. He almost didn’t notice he had dropped his violin case, and only very distantly did he register that the spirit had resumed talking. It sounded like a taught string ripping in two.

“One.”

Sorey backed away from the spirit, and backwards towards the lake.

“Two.”

Mikleo turned around in panic, but a firm hand on his arm held him back. “Don’t step so close to the edge of the lake, you–”

Sorey didn’t hear the rest of that warning. He didn’t hear the spirit counting to three, either, but felt the echo of unspoken words in his skull, nonetheless.

He heard Mikleo yelling his name, but it sounded muffled like through thick walls, and when he turned around to see what was happening, he was drawn into the lake. Instinctively, he shut his eyes as his face hit the water with a splash, and only opened them underwater.

He found himself staring down at a pitch dark hole, bubbles circling his head, and something that he couldn’t see dragging him down towards the pit. However, he also found Mikleo clutched tight to his chest and digging his hands into the back of his parka.

Before he knew what was happening, he wrapped his arms around Mikleo, just as determined not to let go. The matter was made more difficult by his lungs rapidly using up the oxygen in them, the low vision, and the painful grip on his leg.

Right when he felt his head ringing and his chest constricting, the water around them suddenly vanished like it had never been there, and cool but stale air prickled his skin in their stead. The world turned upside down, and the shadows turned back into white fog around them. He shot a confused look down at Mikleo.

Mikleo looked right back at him, apparently just as confused. Water trailed down his face and dripped in thick drops from his hair and onto Sorey’s skin.

Sorey’s blood rushed painfully into his skull, which apparently meant they had gone from sinking into the lake to falling. He had no time to adjust to that realization, and his back quite painfully hit the ground.

His ears were ringing and his vision blurry, but he sluggishly dragged himself into a sitting position to inspect the damage. Mikleo had fallen on top of him and was now crouching down on the frosty ground just as unceremoniously as Sorey, but his hands had not let go of Sorey’s body even for a second. He looked up at him with panic still written in his eyes, his chest heaving and his breaths deep and heavy.

Brackish water dripped down Sorey’s hair and face and he was shivering, but he kept his arms firmly locked around Mikleo. “Are you alright?”

“That should be my line!”

Sorey smiled brightly at that, and tucked a dripping wet strand of hair out of Mikleo’s face and behind his ear. “At least you remember my name now.”

Mikleo searched for words, but only stared at him wider. “I… I guess I did just remember your name…?”

Sorey gave him a hopeful little smile. “Aaand… anything else?”

Mikleo shook his head. There were pictures in his head, a lot of them, and feelings he couldn’t place, and tunes, tunes and melodies he knew a flute and a fiddle in a lonely wood inhabited only by spirits and ghosts wouldn’t play. “Nothing coherent. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, we can build up on that.”

The spirit’s voice interrupted them. “Mikleo, that was uncalled for. Get away from him.”

Only now Sorey realized that they were back in the forest by the lake. Their clothes were drenched, mud and crumpled half-rotten leaves stuck to them, and cold seeped through their veins, but there was little time to adjust to that.

Mikleo ignored the spirit’s order and clung more tightly to Sorey instead, who felt almost bad for enjoying the situation, considering the circumstances. “Will you let us speak at least?” Mikleo asked.

The spirit’s odd white shadow loomed over them, and he stepped closer without a sound, but it felt like thunder rolling near. “I will not! What were you thinking!? Had I not dragged you back out of there, you would be dead on the ground of the lake, like that human!” he scolded.

I am human!! And you will not touch him!!” Mikleo shot back. His voice was seeping with venom, and the spirit flinched. 

Mikleo turned back to Sorey, so soft that it was hard to believe he had ever lost his temper. “Please, just leave. You saw what just happened.”

Sorey took a deep breath and pushed Mikleo the slightest bit away. “Mik, if you really want to live here in the woods, if you will be happy here… then that’s okay. Then I have to accept that. But you don’t even remember who I am, or who you are. I won’t leave until I know you truly chose this life and didn’t just forget the old one. Your mother misses you terribly. Your uncle misses you. All our friends miss you.”

I miss you, his brain unhelpfully supplied.

He turned to the spirit instead, looking determined although his voice cracked notably. “Allow me to help him remember. If Mikleo decides – decides to stay with you, I won’t bother the two of you any further. But he deserves to have an actual say in the matter, don’t you agree?”

“Why would you care?”

Sorey counted it as a big win to not blurt out because I love him like a maniac. Would Mikleo ban him from watching cheap hallmark movies for it? “I should ask you! If you care, then you should let him choose what’s best for him himself!”

The spirit stared him down for several heartbeats. His face didn’t betray his thoughts at all. “Fine,” he finally said. “Make him remember if you can.”

Sorey gave Mikleo a questioning look. He beamed when Mikleo nodded. “Thanks. I’ll keep it fair. Promise.” He turned around, looking a bit lost.

“What are you looking for?” Mikleo asked.

“My violin.” He eventually found the case still resting among the frosty leaves where he apparently dropped it, and carefully took it out. “Care to play with me?”

Mikleo picked at the hem of his sleeve and Sorey had to smile at that. Old habits die hard, even if you’re amnesiac. “I’m not sure I know human songs.”

“I’ll start and you join in if you remember the flute voice for one the songs I play, okay?”

Mikleo gave him a look from under his eyelashes. “Okay.”

The spirit watched him all the time when Mikleo moved to fetch his flute and put it into place against his lips. He kept quiet, but his presence was heavy like the fog soaking their clothes. It wasn’t helping with the cold creeping through Sorey’s bones, but he took that as in incentive to move and play the first notes of Vivaldi’s Spring.

Mikleo chimed in after just a few bars, almost as if in trance. So he definitely remembered the classics. Or maybe spirits listened to Vivaldi, too.

In hindsight, it was probably not a good song to play. First of all, the dead leaves under their feet, the cold light, and the mist in their lungs mocked the concept of spring in general. Second, the dainty, light notes that sounded like a unicorn jumping on rainbows weren’t really fitting to the mood.

Sorey subconsciously expected Mikleo to scold him for it. Really, Sorey? Vivaldi’s Spring in this weather? I’m freezing, thank you very much. Instead, Mikleo lowered his flute and asked: “Was that correct?”

“You can’t tell?”

“No.”

“So either you just made up a flute voice to go with what I was playing on the spot, or you remembered it because everybody and their dogs know this song, and we played it quite a few times together. Take your pick what’s more likely.”

Mikleo growled. “Fine, wiseass. Anything else?”

“Of course. Care to play a few more?”

Mikleo nodded. It was a fairly indifferent nod, but Sorey would take what he could get.

There was a very brief flute and violin duet, only a few bars, in the infamous opera Gramps had written for them. (Obviously not an incident; Gramps had written the passage already planning to let Sorey and Mikleo play it. Sorey made a mental note to thank him later.) Sorey decided it was a good pick to turn up the difficulty level.

It was weird to start in the middle of the piece, as it didn’t start with the strings, and the lack of a whole orchestra was pretty weird to begin with, but that was just how it was when they practiced their respective parts at home, anyway. Sorey just quietly hoped Mikleo would recognize what he was playing without context.

Mikleo was mostly lost in concentration, listening and watching Sorey’s fingers on the bow and the strings, but his flute’s mouthpiece was on his lips. Sorey got nervous and almost messed up a few notes when they were only seconds away from the part of the song when their duet started.

Only almost, however. Mikleo took a deep breath and started playing his part just in time for the duet, gently, but without hesitation. The song got quieter and a bit slower at that part, and Sorey had to concentrate hard not to rush it, but held himself in check. It helped to finally hear the soft, cool tunes from Mikleo’s flute dance in the air. He had always been so much better at saying in tempo than Sorey. Even when the song sped up again, Mikleo confidently increased at an even pace, making sure Sorey wouldn’t speed up even faster than he was supposed to. The notes dripped from the flute like icicles melting into dew drops in the sun, steadily falling faster because they were getting heavier and warmer.

Sorey wasn’t really sure whether he got all his own parts right because he was entranced listening to Mikleo play, but most of the time, that led to better results than listening to himself. They ended the song smiling at each other.

As the first attempts had worked so well, Sorey decided to take a bolder approach. They had a full song duet in that opera, that they had practiced for weeks; thing was, it was written for piano and violin, not flute and violin.

Good thing was, this song at least started with the violin. A few bars of soft pizzicato. It didn’t feel that absurd to start playing the introduction bars out of the blue.

Mikleo listened attentively, his brow furrowing with every note, and he didn’t immediately join in when it would have been his part to hit the first chord on the piano. Sorey felt his breath hitching just a bit, but his hands remained steady.

Eventually, Mikleo raised his flute and began playing. A note here or there came out wrong, but he more or less transferred the right hand’s notes to a flute voice, as passably as it was possible. It wasn’t the same, for obvious reasons, but recognizable, once you got used to the bass line being missing, and chords reduced to just one note. The melody was mostly the violin’s part, so as long as Sorey didn’t stop playing or screw up his part, the core of the song was intact. It just sounded less rich.

They ended perfectly in sync, the mist swallowing the last note’s faint echo.

Mikleo opened his mouth to speak, but Sorey shushed him with a finger on his lips. He had to smile at the irony. That was usually Mikleo’s move.

“Not bad. One more, okay? And then we talk?”

Mikleo nodded, his eyes wide. He bit his lips as Sorey’s finger left them, flinching at the sudden cold.

The last song was a feint, technically. Sorey played “their” song. Mikleo’s father’s song, strictly speaking. But neither of them had known that, or could have guessed.

It felt much more soothing than listening to the spirit play it, however. The spirit played it like the feral piece of darkness and cold that it was. Between the two of them it felt like snowflakes melting before a hearth fire.

Mikleo quietly lowered his flute, not once breaking eye contact. “That song you played before is for violin and piano. Not violin and flute. How am I supposed to play that on a flute? Double wield like Dezel? Triple-wield?”

He looked unfazed, but his voice was full of that very obvious fake annoyance Mikleo used so often on him when he wanted to inform Sorey that he had done something really childish, and while Mikleo didn’t truly mind, he felt the need to make it clear that it was childish, anyway. 

Sorey felt the rush of relief spreading through his body like warm honey. “That’d be a funny sight. So you did notice. I take it then that it helped your memory?”

At first, Mikleo only gave him a teary smile, and for a second that made his eyes watery, Sorey wanted to rush at him and hug him senseless. Mikleo replied before he could follow through with that action. “…Yes. Yes, it did.” His voice was small, frail almost, but Sorey had never been happier to hear it. The effect lasted until Mikleo turned to face the spirit.

“I will stay willingly if you let Sorey go unharmed.”

Sorey felt the world around him shatter like glass. He almost didn’t hear the spirit speak up when he rose a hand as if to stop Mikleo.

“I will not ask that from you. You’re free to go.”

Mikleo looked up at him in disbelief. “Are you sure?”

The spirit nodded, finally breaking eye contact.

Mikleo grabbed his silken collar to make him meet his eyes again. “Why did you mess with my memory?”

“Because I was afraid of losing you after just having found you.”

A sigh. Mikleo felt like arguing with a child rather than some spirit who was probably a few hundred years old, twice as intimidating, and so happened to be his own father.

“You never told me your name. I’ll have you know that this won’t do in human society.”

The spirit looked suitably abashed. It was an oddly endearing sight. However, he bent down to whisper it into Mikleo’s ear, and Mikleo smiled.

“Alright. Dad.”

Then Mikleo turned around, catching Sorey watching him, and his heart constricted seeing the longing in his eyes.

Sorey wasn’t sure who moved first, but it didn’t really matter when Mikleo’s body fit so perfectly against his; a hand buried in Mikleo’s cloudy hair, pressing the top of his head against Sorey’s lips, the other hand firmly clenched around Mikleo’s waist. Not that he seemed to mind, with how tightly his own arms wrapped around Sorey’s shoulders, standing on his tiptoes so he could reach.

“I’m sorry I scared you,” Mikleo whispered against his neck.

Sorey gave him a quick kiss to the side of his forehead and buried his nose in his hair as a reply. “You’d better be,” he said, voice small.

Mikleo gripped his clothes tighter, nuzzling against his neck as if in apology. “Take me home.”

While he voiced his request, Sorey distantly noticed the sky turning back to deep yellow and orange, the fog catching the sunrays like a hearth fire. 

“…Okay.”