“You know,” in one arm, Muku held a book given to him a few hours prior. It’s evidently old, with worn yellowed pages and a dull drawing on the cover with dim, almost completely faded colors, but Muku believed it meant the book was well loved. “Prince Tenma isn’t as bad as you think he is.”
“Go on.” In the center of their shared bedroom, light from a window high above them shines down on a mannequin dressed in a fine yellow jacket. Muku followed along beside Yuki, who would pin and adjust the outfit as he circled around it.
“Oh? I thought you’d say otherwise.”
“It’s not because I believe you.” said Yuki, placing a pin in the cushion Muku holds in his other hand. “Nor will you be able to convince me. But go on then.”
“He’s really good at acting.” Muku says. “I found him reciting some lines in the castle garden.”
There was a strange barrier between the pair of them and his royal highness. Muku did want to become friends with him, as they would see each other on a fairly regular basis, he thought that it would be a waste not to. But there was always distance, for some reason.
“He seemed really in his element when he was acting out the scenes.”
Yuki hums. “And that’s when he gave you that book?”
“Supposedly, it’s some of the most famous stories from outside the country.” Yuki nods. “I’m very excited to read it later.”
“Tell me if you find anything interesting,” said Yuki. “It’s rare to find something forgien like that.”
“I’d be happy to!” and a smile lingers on his lips.
“I need to make the cape.” Yuki tsks. “The one request of the Prince.”
“Should I take the jacket off?” Muku asks.
“No, it’s fine.” Yuki takes the cushion from Muku’s hand, and places it on the bedside drawer on the back wall that sat between their two beds. “Oh, you know what- Go ahead. I want to show you something.”
“Be careful.” Muku nods. Even half finished, Muku could see in all the little details how Yuki was planning to finish it. Slowly removing the outfit, he places it on a hanger and puts it in a closet in a far corner. When Muku returns, he sees Yuki laying a completely different outfit over the mannequin.
A dress. With a white short sleeved bodice that hung off the shoulders, and the most beautiful pink skirt, made with layers of white and blue.
It’s much like the last, unfinished and in the works, but it amazed Muku all the same.
“You’re making a dress for yourself. Yuki?” asks Muku, looking at the outfit with awe.
“I am.” Yuki says proudly. He was good at what he did, and he knows it. “Aside from this particular outfit for the ball, all of the boy-princes’ clothes are easy enough to make.”
“You made this for the leftovers? Yuki, it looks so good!”
“You should wear it to the ball!”
“Hah? As if we were ever allowed to attend those things.” Yuki rolls his eyes. He fixes the outfit, further showing off the layers and skirt of the dress.
“But it’s so nice! You should really show it off.” Muku urges.
“Muku,” Yuki’s voice is stern. “The audience at those things are high, pompous noblemen and women. How do you think they’ll react to a boy wearing a dress?”
“O-Oh.” Muku manages. Caught up in the dress and the glamour, he forgot the most important part. Other people weren’t so accepting. It was hard to find another to trust then the other person. “I forgot. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.” Yuki says. “Don’t worry about it.”
“There are other chances.” Muku says hopefully.
Yuki agrees, somewhat. “Yeah. We’ll find a way, somehow.”
And he’s looking at Muku, smiling in a way only Muku gets to see. His heart is racing. Muku feels the heat rise to his cheeks.
“Yukki!” there’s a knock on the door, and a loud voice calling from behind it. “Can I come in?”
Yuki moves quickly, as if used to the action, lifting the mannequin at its base and storing it by the window behind a hanging curtain. Muku watches his nod, and opens the door on his word.
“Hey Muku~ I’m looking for your partner, is he there?”
Self-acclaimed close friend of the Prince, Kazunari Miyoshi, stands on the other side. Muku would speak, but instead feels a hand on his shoulder, slowly pulling his back.
“What is it?” Yuki calls. He doesn’t let go.
“Tenten’s looking for you! Dunno what for.”
“Should I come, too?”
“You could start the cape.” Yuki directs. “There's a pattern in the bottom drawer, I think.”
“On my own? But, what if I cut it out wrong? It would be such a waste of fabric, then they’d get angry at me, and they’d fire us both? Oh god, we’ll lose everything.”
“Muku- Muku,” Yuki turns back at him, his voice soft. “I’ll be back quickly. Just trace out the pattern, if you really want to. But you’ve done enough to go on without me.”
“Come on, Yukki! You know Princey hates when we keep him waiting.”
Yuki nods, giving Muku one last look, then leaves the room.
“He can wait a few minutes longer.” he hears him say, and both their voices fade down the hallway. He steps back into their bedroom, shutting the door behind him.
He collects the fabric, and with the words of Yuki hanging in his mind, he lays it out on a table by the window. As he crossed to the other side, he could see the edges of the dress barely hanging out the sides.
Muku believed he was lucky. He didn’t know where he’d be if they were ever split apart.
If only he could repay him. For taking him with him, for his kindness.
Cape sewn and attached, along with the undershirt and pants, the whole outfit is complete just in time for the ball, just as Yuki predicted.
With the Prince, they stand at the wings of a stage. The ball is noisey, filled with nobles clinking glasses and live music by the band. It’s stressful, even if he was hidden from their sights. But Yuki is professional. He stands with his model, picking at the outfit thoughtfully.
“There. You better not mess it up.” he speaks to the Prince.
“I don’t get why you have so little faith in me.” he crosses his arms, nothing Yuki hasn’t seen from him.
“It’s not that I have little faith in you.” Yuki takes a step back, motioning him off the small platform the other stood on. “Just think of yourself before I came here. It’s been humbling, hasn’t it?”
“That’s no excuse!”
“It isn’t?” the tailor says innocently. And his voice goes flat. “Then I have none.”
Then across the way, they see a servant cross the stage, looking at the crowd. He’s announcing the Prince, winding title and all.
“Oh.” The Prince says suddenly. “You should go now.”
“I’m not going to leave without seeing my outfit in action.” Yuki says plainly.
“You’re seeing me now, aren’t you? Just leave already.”
“I’m not leaving.”
They hear his signal, along with an extended arm he beckons for the prince. The crowd watches with wide anticipating eyes.
“So stubborn.” Tenma shakes his head, yet he walks on stage keeping his usual charming appearance.
“Hack.” says Yuki, crossing his arms. But as the prince’s back is turned, savoring the moment, he smiles knowing no one can see. Though it feels somewhat incomplete. Muku should be here too, he knows. His help took just as much effort as Yuki making the outfit.
As Yuki turns his head, expecting a completely empty backstage, when the door at the end of the walkway bursts open.
“Hey, Yuki~ done yet?”
“Gods, Misumi. You can just walk in, you know.”
“Kazu likes it!” the boy says with a smile. What he did in the castle, Yuki never did know for sure. Like Kazunari, he supposed, he was one of the self-proclaimed ‘best-friends’ of the prince. “He says it ‘makes a statement.’”
“You do you then.” Yuki shakes his head. He’s turning his head back to the stage when Misumi grabs his hand.
“Muku’s waiting for you, you know? Hurry, hurry!”
“Eh? What do you mean-”
But Misumi is stronger than him, (no surprise, there are a lot of people who are stronger than him) and he’s already being dragged away.
He could hear the crowd cheering as the door shut behind them.
“The pink dress, he said.”
“Pink?” Yuki pauses. “Hey, you better tell me-”
“I’ll be outside. Come out when you’re done, ‘kay?”
He leaves, and Yuki is left in their bedroom, confused and disheveled.
Part of him wants to leave. He has no time for their games, or riddles or whatever they were up to. But, Muku…If Muku was with them, and by the sounds of it, was the one who controlled it all, it shouldn’t be so bad.
Yuki does as he’s told. The ‘pink dress’ he had been working on alongside the Prince’s outfit, too was finished. He lifts the skirt, swaying slowly as gems embroidered onto the bodice shine in the dim candlelight of the room.
Yuki knew his worth, and knew he was good at working with what little he was given. It’s partially why they hired him here at the palace, after all.
“Done. Now what?”
“Yuki! You look so good!” he compliments. “He’s on the nearest balcony. Your prince-”
Misumi clears his throat. Suddenly standing straight, he bows in a way resembling the many, many butlers of the castle.
“Your Prince awaits, your highness.”
“...thank you?” Yuki nods, and accepting his answer, Misumi hops away. Following whatever strange scavenger hunt they have him on, he sighs as he finds the door, and finally steps inside.
“Hello?” The balcony is a small, circular platform overlooking the gardens and the forest by the castle. He never had any reason to go here usually, but he immediately notices the differences tonight. It’s decorated, with flowers hanging from the railing and lanterns hanging by the door.
And, at the center of it all, was a shy-presenting Prince, who looks up as soon as the door shuts behind him.
“Muku,” he raises his hand to his lips, concealing a smile as he laughs. “What’s all this?”
“It’s for you.” he smiles sheepishly. “You said we would find a way to show off your dress, and, well-” he turns his head. “Oh, well, I guess this isn’t really presenting.”
“It’s fine.” Yuki assures. “It’s great. I love it.”
From inside the place, they hear the band start to play. The song is slow and gentle. Perfect for a first dance.
“Will you dance with me, too?” Yuki asks. He lifts the skirt of his gown, stepping closer. “Oh? That’s the Prince’s dress, isn’t it?”
“He leant it to me.”
“With a little work, it could fit you perfectly.” the tailor in him picks at his loose sleeves.
“He wouldn’t be able to wear it then!”
“Pink has never been his color.”
And they laugh. Muku extends his arm, offering Yuki a dance.
“I don’t know how to.” he warns. “You’ll have to lead me.”
“I’ll do my best.”
With one arm, their hands joined. And the other, Muku places it around his waist as Yuki’s lands on his shoulder. Under the light of the moon, they dance together. Turning and stepping like any noble at that party they abandoned on the inside.
Yuki has never been a dancer, nor has he ever had any interest in it. But slowly he’s realizing, maybe it isn’t as horrible and tacky as he thought.
Their dance eventually slows to a soft swaying. Yuki could see his partner's face in the soft light. They’ve been together so long, he could have him memorized. But through everything, it's something he would never grow tired of looking at.
“I wanted to thank you. For taking me with you that day.” He speaks in a soft voice only Yuki can hear. “Anyone could do what I do.”
Yuki was about to speak up and protest. That his words made him sound so regular, so replaceable, when he so clearly wasn’t. But the look in Muku's eyes, so earnest and kind, he's stunned, if only for a moment.
“You brought me along, either way. I will always be grateful for that.”
“Dummy,” says Yuki, his hand squeezing his. “You’re speaking like you’re dying...you’re not dying, are you?”
“No.” Muku laughs. “It’s unusual for me to confess things like this, isn’t it? Sorry.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry for.” he says. “...of course it’s you I bring. There’s no one else I’d rather have.” Yuki stares at his feet. He feels his cheeks grow hotter, how embarrassing it is.
“You’re very dear to me, you know. ‘Assistant’ is your title, sure. But you are so much more than that.”
Muku is the one to pause, unexpecting of the line that comes out of his closest friend's mouth. This night was for Yuki, yet with his words and his actions he was the one making this night truly magical.
Yuki was always there to play along with whatever game or book or interest Muku had next, and always there to teach him things he didn’t understand.
He admires him, and there was nothing he wanted more than to stay at his side for as long as they could.
“Yuki,” he says. “Thank you. I think- I know, I-”
“Mukkun!” “Hey, Muku! Yuki!”
“Hey, let me-! I can walk on my own!”
Three, chaotic, voices burst through the balcony door. Misumi, Prince Tenma, and Kazunari step in in that order, their arms linked with the young Prince in the center.
Muku's eyes draw to Yuki, and slowly he sees him relax, rolling his eyes in the usual fashion as they fall out of the dancing position.
There are some things better left unspoken, he thinks. They’ve had their moment in the moonlight. Muku will always have his dreams and together they will continue on, just as he would hope.