Garden Bunny

by Kisarazu Megumi (如月図恵美)

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/15931.html)

Once upon a time there was a beautiful and amazing queen. She lived in a huge castle with the king and their son. While the king controlled and guided the kingdom, the queen watched over the people’s hope and happiness. Everyone loved the queen, even the animals. Just outside her castle was a gorgeous garden where she spent all of her time. The garden was very popular with the animals because they were able to see the queen there and listen to her read. Every day she took her son to the garden to teach him how to be a good king and a kind ruler. Her son, though, didn’t pay too much attention; he was always too busy making friends with the garden’s inhabitants.

“Mommy,” he interrupted her reading, “I like this one the best!” He smiled as he stroked the white rabbit’s fur. “He is so soft and his eyes are the same color as the sky!” The queen nodded without lifting her eyes from the page. “Can I keep him?” the prince asked. “He is special. He is my favorite and he is so friendly. He can keep me company when you and father are gone.”

The queen gently wrapped her long fingers over the page so she could give the prince her full attention. “I have told you many times, dear. We must leave everything we find here just as it was when we arrived.”

“Why?” he asked as he tried to pull the reluctant rabbit onto his lap.

She sighed softly. “Because, my prince, it would be wrong to take a wild animal away from his home and keep him as a pet.”

“So?” the prince pouted. “He will be happier with us. I know he will! He likes me and I like him! He comes to see us daily that means he wants us to take him home. Besides, Mommy I have already decided on a name for him! I am going to name him Usagi.” Everyday he would ask his mother over and over, but she would always say no.

After some time their trips to the garden became fewer because the queen became ill. She soon became so weak that she was unable to leave her bed. The prince would sit and wait next to her bed, hoping that one day they would visit the bunny again. She passed away without ever going back to the garden.

The prince became lonely. When he stopped receiving the attention he needed, he lashed out with tantrums. The king was too busy to spend time with him, so he gave his son whatever he asked for. His servants and tutors tried desperately to make the prince happy, but nothing worked. He would still cry, scream, and argue no matter what they gave him. It was useless to ask him what he wanted because he would only say he wanted his mother back, and no one could bring back the dead.

Whenever the prince passed by the garden he would always take a moment to find the small blue-eyed rabbit that always seemed to wait for him. Many of his assistants offered to take him to the garden just as his mother had, but he always refused. “I am too old for that!” he would snap.

One day, he realized that there was indeed something he wanted. If he couldn’t have his mother, then he wanted something that his mother wouldn’t let him have. “I want that rabbit!” The prince ordered. “The blue-eyed one from the garden! Give him to me and I will be satisfied.”

It was not long before he received his wish. It was the first time he had smiled since the queen had died. He stroked the rabbit’s fur. “Finally!” he squealed happily. “You’re mine! You’re all mine!” He smiled at the creature. “Now that we are-” The rabbit interrupted by biting his thumb. The prince jerked his hand back. He then brought it forward again, striking the back of it against the white rabbit’s head. It tumbled over, falling off the bed onto the wooden flooring. The prince quickly crawled off the bed. “How dare you!” he yelled and stomped his foot. The rabbit, still dazed from the fall, tried to hide under the bed. The prince followed, throwing things at the shivering rabbit. Only after the prince left that night were the servants able to persuade the creature out and into its cage.

The prince used punishment to force the rabbit to obey him. Out of fear, the rabbit did whatever he asked. After a few months, though, the rabbit’s ageing body betrayed him. He became weak and sick.

“Come on Usa! It’s time to play!” The prince poked the rabbit with a stick through the bars of the cage. The rabbit didn’t seem to be in any shape to move at all. He would do nothing but lie at the bottom of the cage no matter how hard the prince jabbed him.

“He’s dying,” one of the maids finally told him. “Rabbits don’t live for very many years and he was already pretty old when he was given to you.”

“No!” the prince shouted. “He is not dying!” He reached his hand inside the cage and stroked its fur. “He is just…tired. He doesn’t want to play today. He will play with me tomorrow.”

The next day was the same, and the next, and the next. Every day the prince sat in front of the rabbit’s cage and watched him. He waited and hoped that his pet would get better, but he never did.

“You can’t let him die!” the prince told his father. “If you let him die I’ll… I’ll hate you! I’ll never forgive you and I’ll hate you forever!”

“It’s impossible to save him,” the king tried to explain. “He’s too old and it’s his time. Everything that is born dies some time.”

“No!” the prince cried. “You can save him! You just don’t want to save him! You’re going to let him die just like you let Mommy die!”

The king was determined to make his son happy, so he searched everywhere to find something that would stop his son’s pet from dying. His wizard approached him with an answer. “There may not be a cure for the rabbit’s illness, but I know of a powerful spell that will increase its life span to that of a human. With that, it may get over its affliction.” The king agreed immediately, so they planned to perform the spell the next day.

The rabbit, on the other hand, was ready for the end. In fact, he was happy to be dying. He had believed he had led as good a life as most rabbits did, filled with food and the occasional adventure. The miserable events near the end of his life only made dying more relaxing.

The rabbit woke to find he was out of his cage and lying on the floor of the prince’s bedroom. There were many people circling around him, but the rabbit was far too old and tired to care. He was about to return to sleep when he felt something weird.

The prince watched eagerly as the wizard performed his spell. Smoke rose up from the ground, engulfing the white creature. The prince squinted, trying to see what was beyond the fading smoke.

The creature in the small painted circle on the floor was no longer a rabbit, but a boy, a boy about the same age as the prince. His hair was so light it almost looked white, appearing gold only in contrast to his snow white skin.

The boy carefully opened his eyes. The prince was in awe. They shone like sapphires and were as deep as the ocean. The boy stared at his fingers for a moment before using them to push himself to his knees. He lifted his head to look into the prince’s eyes. The prince smiled brightly and ran towards the boy throwing his arms around him. “Usa! You’re alive! I’m so happy you’re alive!” He kissed the boy’s forehead.

“You…” The boy spoke. “You did this to me, didn’t you?”

“It’s okay, Usa. Everything will be better now!”

The boy struck shakily at the prince’s cheek. “How could you?” he yelled. “How could you do this to me? Were the months you spent torturing me not enough for you? How could you? How could you turn me into…this!?” Something was wrong with the boy who had once been a rabbit; he felt water leaking from his eyes. He tried covering them with his hands to make them stop. “I wanted to die! Why didn’t you just let me die? I was so…” His voice started to drop. “I wanted to die….”

The prince returned the words with his fist, sending the boy to the ground. He picked himself off the floor and stood over him. “Don’t you ever touch me again! No matter what you are, you are still mine! I can do whatever I want to do with you! You will listen and obey me just as you always have!” The prince pushed the transformed rabbit onto his back with his foot and stomped out of the room.

***

Keifer arrived at the kingdom of Dereril. After traveling alone for two weeks he was excited to have finally reached his destination. He never expected the job as a messenger to be so hard, but being able to show his loyalty to his princess and his country made it worth it. Keifer thought that taking the journey was the difficult part of his task, but he was beginning to see that delivering his memo wasn’t going to be as simple as he hoped.

“Hello,” Keifer gave the guards a friendly smile. “I’m a courier from Panya here with a message for the king of Dereril.” Without an official document Keifer knew he wouldn’t be able to get much farther. Grateful for his signed letter from the leaders of his country, he passed it along to all the officers, allowing him to enter the castle without any trouble.

The messenger instantly forgot his purpose after his eyes caught the elaborate motif along the walls and ceilings. This wasn’t the first time he had been inside a palace, (he practically lived in the castle of Panya) but seeing the inside of new one still amazed him.

“Excuse me,” a voice from behind him brought him back to consciousness. The voice came from a boy so pale it looked as if he had never been in the daylight in his life.

Keifer rushed over to him. “Hello, I’m a courier from Panya here with a message for the king of Dereril,” he repeated.

The boy nodded and took the paper Keifer handed to him. “I’ll show you the way to the thrown room.”

Instead of slipping back into his head Keifer became fascinate with the shy pallid boy. He reminded him of someone. He couldn’t think of whom or what it was, but for some reason he had a deep yearning to know more about the boy.

Keifer was careful not to run into the boy when he had suddenly stopped in place. “Please wait here while I inform him of your arrival,” he said before leaving behind the two large double doors in front of them.

The envoy took a moment to reach into his matted and scratched the back of his head. Now he had to find something else to stare at for a little while. Luckily the castle was so gorgeous this wasn’t hard. Keifer found himself a few pictures hanging along the wall to gaze at. They were pictures of the royal family most likely. “Such beautiful people,” Keifer thought. He wondered if kings purposely made their homes and servants beautiful so that guests would be forced to gawk.

“What’s your name?” the hand against his shoulder caused Keifer to jump. He was so deep in thought he didn’t even noticed that the servant boy had returned.

“Huh?” the messenger blinked as he slowly came back to the real world.

“I need to know your name so that I may introduce you,” the boy repeated.

“Oh! My name is Keifer,” he said feeling happy that the boy was interested in knowing who he was. He wanted to let the boy know he felt the same way. The tangle-haired man grabbed his wrist, stopping him in place. “What’s your name?” he asked.

The boy paused and blinked. “Um… my name is Usagi.”

Keifer smiled and followed Usagi towards the entrance of the throne room. “That’s a very cute name, but you’re a boy. Isn’t that a girl’s name?”

Usagi seemed to be ignoring him as he opened the door for him instead of answering his question. “His highness is ready for you,” he said.

Keifer drifted into the room. He tried his best to not space out again, but it was difficult. His eyes wanted to catch the bright and expensive items along the walls and ceiling.

“I present to you his highness, Prince Lowell,” came aloud voice from behind him. The envoy amazed to learn it came from the hushed boy.

“Prince?” Keifer thought. “But I needed to speak to the King.”

“Prince Lowell, I would like to introduce to you Keifer from Panya,” Usagi said after reaching the prince’s side.

Sitting in the large centered red chair was a boy. He looked to be about the same age as Usagi. Keifer estimated he was probably about seventeen or eighteen. His black hair was neatly comb and styled to the side. His clothing was luxurious; most likely something hand made from the best designer. Just looking at the prince made Keifer feel conscious about the way he looked and dressed.

Lowell adjusted himself in his seat folding his arms together. “You have come to give me a message, correct?”

Keifer paused wondering if he should give to the king’s son instead of to him directly like he was supposed to. “I have come from Panya at the request of the royal family. They wish you to consider accepting Princess Fulvia’s hand in marriage. Our two countries have enjoyed a wonderful peace with one another, and they believe it would be yet more wonderful the two countries became one. A marriage of the heirs would make that possible.”

“Where would the castle go if our kingdoms joined together?” Lowell mocked. “In the middle? And then we can rule both of them back to back?”

“Umm…no….” Keifer was confused by the sudden defensive tone in Lowell’s voice.

“And who said I was even interested in a fiancée?” The prince’s voice began to rise.

“Your father did.” Keifer stepped forward. “Your father came to us and said that he wished for you to have a bride from one of the neighboring countries.”

“My father never informed me of such a thing!” Lowell sat up in his chair. “I have no interest in marring a girl I know nothing of just to bring two nations together.” He paused and leaned back. “And how do I know if he even said such a thing? It’s not a choice I can make.”

“I can not leave without an answer,” the envoy challenged.

The prince chuckled. “Then you’ll just have to wait until my father returns home. He is the one who chooses who I will marry, not I. If you want an answer you’ll have to get it from him. You are welcome to stay here and wait for him, but I can not guarantee he will be arriving anytime soon.”

Keifer smirked. “Fine, I will.”

Lowell glared at him. “Usa! Show our new guest to his room!”

Keifer shot the prince a last sly smirk before following Usagi out of the room. Closing the doors behind him, he informed Usagi “Your prince isn’t very nice.”

Usagi said nothing. He continued to lead the man down the hall. It was silent until Usagi felt something against the back of his hair. A shiver ran down his spine and he froze. It continued down and up his neck, tickling his skin. Usagi pulled away and turned so that his back was against the wall. “Wha-”

“I’m sorry. Did that bother you?” Keifer smiled innocently. “I was just sniffing you.” Usagi blinked curiously. “I still haven’t been able to break myself of the habit.” He moved closer, making Usagi press deeply into the wall. He continued sniffing. “You’re a rabbit, right?” Usagi’s eyes widened. Keifer gave him another smile, this time from only centimeters away from his face. “Don’t worry, I’m one too.” He shook his head. “I mean…I’m not a rabbit, but I’m like you. I’m a dog.”

“Someone turned you into a human too?” the rabbit asked softly.

Keifer nodded as his nose brushed against Usagi’s ear and began to breathe in his hair. “I didn’t know what a rabbit was until a few days ago. On my way over here I passed a family of them: they smelled just like you.” He took a step back to give Usagi some air. “They were really shy. They didn’t seem to want to talk to me. You’re pretty shy too. Are all rabbits like you?”

“I don’t know,” Usagi mumbled.

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

“It’s been ten years since I was changed from a rabbit to a human. I have forced myself to forget what my life was like when I was a rabbit.” The pale boy began walking down the passage again.

“That’s sad. Why would you do that?”

Usagi didn’t answer, but continued to watch the tiles pass his feet.

“I don’t think anyone should try to forget their memories. No matter how horrible the experience was, it’s important. You can’t just run away from them and pretend they didn’t exist. That only makes things worse. Besides, I’m sure you had some good memories as a rabbit.” The dog ran up to Usagi’s side and grinned. “I’m sure you were a very soft and fluffy rabbit. I can tell. I could feel it when my nose brushed against your hair. I would have loved to have met you when you were a rabbit.”

Usagi blushed. “I probably would have been scared of you. A big dog like you, I would have thought you were a predator.”

Keifer shook his head. “But I would have told you that I’m friendly.” He leaned in closer to Usagi.

The rabbit giggled. “I can see that.” He felt Keifer’s cold nose touch his cheek and then return to sniffing at his hair.

“And I would have said: ‘I’m a dog, not a wolf. I only eat food that humans give to me. Occasionally I eat rats, but not rabbits. I would never eat a rabbit that smelled as nice as you.”

“Do you always sniff people this much?”

“Only when they let me.” Keifer’s tickling breaths trailed down Usagi’s jaw line. He took a few sniffs of his cheek before slipping his tongue out and running it across Usagi’s jaw. Usagi jerked back and covered his cheek with his hand. The dog just blinked harmlessly. “Oh, I’m sorry. Was that bad? I still haven’t gotten quite use to being a human yet.”

Usagi shook his head and began walking again. “How long have you been a human?”

“Just a couple of years. I’ve adapted and learned the basic human actions, but I still have some habits from when I was a dog. I mean, I’ve gotten a lot better. I used be worse.” He smiled. “But you…you’re practically human. If I didn’t smell the sent of rabbit I would never have known.”

Usagi nodded slowly. “Like you said, it was hard. It took me many years before I became like this. I remember when I was first changed they tried to make me eat meat, but I couldn’t. The thought of eating another animal made me sick. I spent days and days refusing to eat it until they forced me. I vomited. Then they explained to me that humans have to eat meat that human bodies need it to live. Eventually, I got over it. I keep telling myself that I’m no longer a rabbit: I’m a human now.”

Keifer paused. “That’s so sad. It must have been a dreadful experience.”

He shook his head. “It was, but like I said, I’m over it. I guess you can say I’ve fully accepted my life as a human.”

“I don’t mind it,” the dog said and smiled. “I mean, I don’t mind being in the middle, part human part animal. It’s better than forgetting both lives. I like thinking of them as one life, not two separate lives. That’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Usagi nodded. “This way.”

The dog was soon distracted by the several doors and decorative walls. “So does the prince live here all alone when his father is gone?”

“I thought you knew.”

“Oh no, I’m just a messenger.”

“He does. His mother died when he was a child. When his father is gone he lives here and takes care of the kingdom.”

Keifer laughed. “Does he take good care of it?”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“Sorry, it’s just that he doesn’t seem like he would do a good job. He seems too young to be in charge of a country.”

“He is old enough.”

“Then I guess he doesn’t act like he’s old enough.” The dog snickered.

“This is will be your room.” Usagi said as he pulled open the door for the guest. “You will be staying here from now on. Breakfast is at eight o’clock in the morning, lunch is at twelve o’clock in the afternoon, and dinner is at eight o’clock at night unless the prince says otherwise. Usually it depends on when the prince wakes up.” Usagi assumed the dog had everything he needed and started to slip out the door.

“Wait.” Keifer grabbed the rabbit’s hand. “You’re not going to leave me are you? I was hoping you would give me a tour of the castle. I really love talking to you.”

Usagi blushed a bit. “I…I have chores I must do. I’m sorry. I would, but I can’t.” His eyes dropped to the floor. “I’ll ask someone else to come down instead.” He tried to walk away but realized that Keifer was still holding on to him.

“I’ll see you soon, right? At dinner?”

Usagi nodded. “Sure.”

After the rabbit left Keifer settled into his new room. The trip home would take another two weeks and Keifer didn’t want to do that so soon after arriving. He had also just gotten a better reason to stay in the form of an intriguing rabbit.

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door. He perked up. Could it be the cute bunny back to see him again? Keifer ran to the door. Disappointingly, it was a girl with long green hair.

“Hello.” She chirped. Keifer leaned forward and began to take in her sent. The girl blinked and a step backwards. “Usa said you wanted a tour of the castle?” Keifer nodded. “My name is Tori.” She offered her hand.

He put it into his own. “I’m Keifer.” He lifted it up to his nose and took a whiff of it.

“Well let’s get going then.” She smiled nervously and started down the corridor. “We’re currently in the living hall. You’re staying in the guest area and the servants’ quarters are over there.”

“Is that where you and Usagi stay?”

“I stay there. Usa is his highness’s pet, so he stays with the prince.”

“Pet? Are all the animals here Prince Lowell’s pets? Doesn’t that make you his pet as well?” The girl looked at Keifer with surprise. “You’re a bird, right?”

“How could you tell?”

“You smell like one!” He smiled. “I’m a dog, so I’m good at this stuff.”

“I see.” She smiled as she started down the hall again. “I suppose I’m his highness’s pet. I mean I started out as one, but I’ve become a servant. Ever since the prince turned Usa into a human he has been doing the same to all the other pets he received. It’s always been a new pet, a new human, and finally just another servant. After a certain age he grew out of it; I suppose he’s satisfied with the company he has.” Tori paused. “I think Usa will always be his pet. No matter what he makes him do or how he treats him, the prince has never forgotten him like he has the rest of us.”

After dinner Keifer tried to meet up with the rabbit later on that night, but soon became lost in the unfamiliar castle. A sound caught his attention. Sniffing warily, he walked in the direction of the voices. He followed them to a room with a door slightly ajar. Peering inside he saw the prince and Usagi.

Usagi looked miserable. He recoiled from Lowell’s lips on his neck. With his back against Lowell’s chest and a hand under his shirt, though, the rabbit was trapped. He squeaked as he felt the prince’s fingers run up and down the middle of his chest. He gasped at the prince’s tongue on his earlobe. When the bunny turned his head toward Lowell his eyes came in contact with Keifer’s. Even when the prince pulled him into a kiss Usagi’s gaze didn’t move until he was forced to close them in response to the prince’s tongue. The rabbit whimpered softly, his face a deep red.

Lowell set him gently on the bed. He never broke the kiss, not even when he straddled Usagi or unbuttoned his shirt. When the prince lifted his head to remove his own shirt, Usagi turned his head back to the open door. Keifer’s eyes were fixed on the vulnerable eyes of the rabbit. When the prince’s lips dropped back to Usagi’s neck and his hands fumbled at his belt, the rabbit mouthed one word.

Keifer instantly spun away from the door. He covered his face, trying to decipher what he has seen. Realizing he was just sitting there, he scrabbled to his feet and ran. Why did he just sit there and watch? Why didn’t he leave sooner? What was it that Usagi had said? It almost looked like…please… Please what? Please stop? Please go away? Please…help me. Keifer stopped running. Maybe he should have stopped him. Maybe he should have run in, saved Usagi, and stopped the prince…but what if that’s not what he wanted? Usagi didn’t look like he was enjoying it at all, but he wasn’t fighting it. Keifer didn’t understand it at all. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want Usagi to look so sad, there must be something…. It only made him sad too. Keifer found himself wandering back into his room. He collapsed onto the bed. There was something wrong with this place. Keifer decided he wasn’t going to leave until everything was fixed. He wasn’t going to leave until Usagi was happy.

The dog was not quite used to sleeping on beds, so it was natural that would roll off, but hitting the floor was still a shocking way to wake up. Keifer yawned and rubbed his eyes.

“Are you alright?” asked a voice above him.

Keifer perked up. “Hey, it’s you!” He smiled.

Usagi blushed slightly. “I’ve brought you some tea,” he said softly as he pulled the tray in between them.

“Thank you!” the dog said as he bounced happily.

“You’re welcome.” Usagi paused. He glanced at Keifer quickly before standing up once again.

“Wait!” Keifer pulled him back down. “You aren’t leaving me right? Because…” He smiled. “I want to talk to you more. Please stay and drink some tea with me.”

The rabbit nodded. “Alright. I’ve finished all my chores this morning, so I’m not busy.”

Keifer watched in peace as the rabbit poured them tea. At first he was just happy to have having Usagi with him, but he started thinking about the previous night. He didn’t think he could mention it, but he had so many questions he wanted to ask. “Usagi,” he said, “everyone calls you Usa. I was wondering if I could call you Usa from now on too.” Usagi nodded and lifted the china to his face.

It became silent again. Keifer pouted. He didn’t like the awkward feeling between them. He wanted to talk to Usagi, but his mind was blank of everything but the image of Usagi in Prince Lowell’s arms. “Do you know what I learned yesterday?”

“What?” Usagi squeaked nervously.

“I learned that I really love bunnies!” Usagi’s face turned a bright red. He tried to hide it behind his cup, but he wasn’t very successful. “If all bunnies are like you then I love them.” Keifer started. “They are cute, small, warm, and soft, and they are sweet, shy, and kind. I love that,” he added brightly.

Usagi wanted to demur, but found he was speechless.

“Oh yeah, and they smell good!” The dog leaned over and began sniffing Usagi’s hair.

“Stop that!” Usagi giggled, cheeks flushed.

“But you’re so warm and soft!” Keifer nuzzled his neck. “Hey! You’re smiling!” Keifer said cheerfully. “Don’t do that,” he said as he pulled Usagi’s hands away from his face. “I want to see you smile! I love it! I’m so lucky to see it. It makes me happy.”

“Thank you.” Usagi gave him another smile before taking a sip from his tea. The rest of their time together was quiet but good. They felt warm and comfortable.

After a few days, Keifer realized how boring living in the castle was. All the friends he made were busy working. The only person who wasn’t working was the prince, and Keifer didn’t like the idea of spending time with him. Keifer tried to entertain himself exploring the castle. He ran around the halls sneaking peaks into empty rooms and at the occasional shocked inhabitant of a full one. Keifer got lost a few times, but like any good dog he could follow his own trail back.

One room at the end of a long hallway looked particularly intriguing. Before he could reach it, though, his nose picked up a familiar smell he couldn’t help but follow. The smell made him calm and very happy. Then he heard a sound something that sounded like glass shattering. Keifer rushed down the hallway. He turned the corner just as Lowell whipped his hand across Usagi’s cheek. The dog tried, but wasn’t fast enough to save Usagi from falling onto the shatter pieces of vase on the floor. Usagi used the palms of his hands to push himself up, causing some of the shards to go through them. Keifer jumped at the prince, grabbing the his leg before he could to kick the rabbit back down.

“Don’t touch him!” the dog growled.

Lowell inched back. “Get out of the way! This has nothing to do with you.”

“He apologized. He said he would clean it! Leave him alone!”

“He’s my pet! I can do whatever I want with him.”

“He’s not a pet!” Keifer yelled. “He’s human just like you and me!”

“He’s nothing like me! None of you are.” Lowell glared. He turned and left down the corridor.

Keifer turned to the boy behind him. “Are you okay?” he asked as he kneeled down to look at Usagi’s wounds. “You’re bleeding!” he said pulling bits of the jar from the boy’s hand.

Usagi shook his head. “I’m fine.”

“No, you aren’t!” The dog took his shirt into his teeth and ripped a part of it just as his princess had done for him when he had hurt his hand. Usagi watched curiously as Keifer wrapped it with his cloth.

“Thank you,” he said softly as the dog helped him to his feet. Usagi paused. “You shouldn’t have interfered.”

“Why not?”

“It will be worse when he comes back.”

Keifer took a step towards him. “Does he treat you like this all the time.”

Usagi nodded slowly.

Keifer rushed forward and took his hands. “You shouldn’t let him do this to you.”

Usagi let his hands slip from Keifer’s, but Keifer squeezed his left hand more tightly as he felt the other go.

“I can’t.” Usagi finally said as he started down the lobby.

“You could fight back!”

“I’m tired of fighting back,” the rabbit said with a sigh.

“Then I’ll fight for you!” Keifer smiled. “I’ll stay close to you and protect you forever!”

“You’re sweet.”

“Thank you!” He glanced over to see that Usagi was not smiling. “I really will protect you. I promise.”

“Why? Why would you want to protect me?”

Keifer blinked a few times. “Because I…I…I really want you to be happy! Whenever I see you like this it makes me sad and angry.” He stopped moving, forcing the rabbit to do the same. Keifer placed his hand on Usagi’s cheek to stop him from watching his feet. “You’re not his slave, Usa. You should be his friend, and people don’t treat their friends like he treats you. If anything, he’s the one who isn’t human.”

Usagi whimpered and shut his eyes. He took a step closer and pressed his forehead against Keifer’s shoulder. The dog pulled him closer, wrapping his arms around Usagi. “Do you know what humans do when their friends treat this way? They leave.” He put his lips against the rabbit’s ear. “You should leave him,” he whispered.

“I can’t,” Usagi sniveled. “I have nowhere to go.”

Keifer perked up. “You can stay with me!” he said and grinned. “Usa! Come back home with me and stay! If this place makes you miserable, run away.”

Usagi pulled back and rubbed his eyes. “…I don’t know….”

“You can do it! It’ll be okay. You can live with me! And the princess won’t mind either. In fact I’m sure she’ll love you just as much as I do!”

Usagi blushed. He wandered over to an empty place on the wall and leaned against it. Keifer pursued him, sliding down to sit on the floor next to Usagi. He watched the exhausted rabbit for a little while before taking his arm and pulling him down with him.

Usagi sighed softly.

“Does this mean you are going to leave with me?” The dog nuzzled his neck in the hope that it was enough to cheer him up.

“I don’t know,” Usagi breathed. Keifer wondered what he had to think about. “Is your princess the one who turned you?” Usagi asked as he rested his head against Keifer.

“Yes.” He said with a nod. “I wanted her to do it.”

Usagi gave him a confused blink. “Why?”

“I wanted to be human to watch over her and protect, to be there for her better than I ever could as a dog. I wanted to repay her for all the wonderful things that she had done for me.”

“I wasn’t turned by choice.” Usagi glanced down at his lap to see that Keifer had taken up his hand once again. “I was turned because he wanted me turned.”

“I’m sorry,” Keifer said and paused, searching for what to say next. He thought that this might be the best time to ask. “A few nights ago, I saw you both….” Keifer had secretly hoped it wasn’t real, that it was just some weird dream. He hoped that maybe Usagi didn’t actually see him hiding behind the door. “Does he make you do that all the time?”

The rabbit slowly nodded.

Keifer leaned closer. “But you hated it right?”

“It means nothing to me.” Usagi said, and Keifer felt relieved. “I remember when we first met. I bit him and he was angry, but by the time it was night he had cooled off,” Usagi continued. “He told me: ‘You’re a special rabbit. My teacher tells me that you need a lot of warmth when you sleep.’ He lifted me up and put me on his chest. ‘You better be a good rabbit and stay in bed.’ I was too scared not to. I obeyed. He kept me close to keep me warm all night long. Ever since it’s been the same I’ve always slept with the prince. Occasionally there would be a few times where I would sleep in my cage or on the floor, but only if I had made him mad or denied him something.”

“You should leave with me,” Keifer insisted.

“I’ll think about it.”

Keifer took Usagi’s binded hand and pressed it up against his cheek. He rubbed and sniffed it gently. “I love you,” he said peacefully.

At first Usagi thought that Keifer might have been talking to someone else, or maybe that he meant something else by it. He took his hand back. “But…how….” He stared at the dog. “And…I…I…” Keifer swayed forward and nosed the rabbit’s neck. Usagi found himself folding his arms around Keifer and closing his eyes. He pressed his cheek against Keifer’s head. The rabbit started drifting off, his mind full of Keifer and the tides of feeling. “I think I love you,” he whispered into Keifer’s ear. As Keifer pulled back, Usagi cupped his palm around the other man’s chin. He moved forward to place a kiss on Keifer’s lips, and then tried to draw back, but when the dog pulled him back for more kisses he couldn’t help but return them. The rabbit’s head was guided safely to the floor as the dog found more places on his body to kiss.

“We shouldn’t…” Usagi squeaked feeling Keifer’s tongue drag a long his cheek. “We shouldn’t do this….”

“Kiss?” He asked innocently continuing down to his neck.

“Yes…” Usagi breathed. Keifer started to pull his shirt wide open to kiss his shoulders. “He might see us,” the rabbit objected, tugging his shirt back together. He slid back into the wall and used it to help him sit up. “If he finds us here he’ll punish me and hurt you.”

“I’ll never let him do that.” The dog crawled closer. “Let’s find a place were we can kiss without worrying if anyone will find us,” he said as he pressed his lips against Usagi’s cheek.

Usagi smiled and nodded. He led the dog to the guestrooms. “Since no one occupies these rooms, nobody will come in.” Keifer pulled him into one of the bedrooms and closed the door. The rabbit walked around the room nervously for a bit before settling down on the bed next to the dog. He grasped Keifer’s hands as he slowly leaned beside him.

“Does this mean you’re going to come home with me?” Keifer asked with a hopeful grin.

“Yes.” He agreed. “I will go with you. We can leave tomorrow.”

Keifer pounced on him, sending Usagi crashing back onto the bed. “That’s great! It will be wonderful! You’ll love it. We can be together forever and you’ll be much happier there than here.”

“I’m sure I will,” Usagi said before being drawn into Keifer’s kiss.

Keifer started where they had left off, opening Usagi’s shirt and carefully slipping it down his shoulders. Keifer found colorful marks scattered across Usagi’s pale skin and didn’t have to ask where they came from. He kissed the bruise on rabbit’s shoulder. “We will leave tomorrow,” he repeated. The dog pressed his lips to every scar, bruise or mark he found.

Usagi closed his eyes. His face suddenly turned red when he felt the dog’s body on his own. It was strange. He didn’t feel scared like he normally did. Was it because he wasn’t with the prince? Was it because he wanted it? Keifer felt so nice and warm to him. He reached up to pull him into another kiss. He gasped, feeling Keifer’s tongue flick across him as the dog licked his lips. Usagi kept his eyes closed when he tentatively licked Keifer back. He heard the sound of Keifer removing his own clothing and tried to decide if he was supposed to help or not. He opened his eyes for a moment, looking down in between them, and began helping Keifer undo his belt.

Keifer gave up undoing his own pants and began on Usagi’s. He carefully slid them off of his hips and down past his ankles. He wiggled out of his own, tossing both pairs off the bed. The dog rolled to his side and Usagi curled up against him, draping his leg around Keifer’s hip. He lifted his neck to steal more kisses. Keifer turned over, pushing Usagi onto his back. He held their lips together even as he reached in between their bodies to spread the rabbit’s legs.

Usagi licked him with a weak whimper. His hands fell to the side, grasping the sheets. His eyes were screwed shut. It was strange. His body wasn’t reacting like it usually did. He wasn’t shaking. He wasn’t cold or scared. He was warm and blissful. He brushed his cheek against Keifer’s and let himself realize that wanted this. “I think I really do love you,” he whispered softly, not sure if his love heard him.

It was then he felt Keifer’s hand stroking his arousal. The rabbit let out a quiet whine and pushed himself into the hand. He couldn’t seem to close his mouth, apparently prompting Keifer to close it with a kiss. Usagi returned the deep kiss, sliding his tongue into Keifer’s mouth. It was amazing. He could only feel the moment, the new sensations that he wanted to keep forever.

His thoughts were interrupted by the dog’s moist fingers push into him. Usagi jerked his head back crumpling the sheets into his palms. He let out another weak whimper, but relaxed suddenly. He didn’t expect the rhythm to be soothing. Despite his heart beating fast and his breathing being hard he could almost fall asleep. He didn’t even notice when Keifer had added another finger. The rabbit opened his eyes when he felt the dog leave him. He watched as Keifer lapped at his hand and caressed his own erection with it.

Usagi shut his eyes once more. He shifted his body anxiously wondering how to prepare for what was to come next. Keifer gave him one last kiss before pressing against his entrance. A cry escaped from his lips. The dog hushed him lovingly. He sent kisses across his cheek and down his neck in hope to distract him while he began his drives.

The rabbit bit his bottom lip to try to keep himself from panting loudly. He threw his head to the side as Keifer’s pace increased. He spread his legs wider. His hips started moving to the beat of the dog’s thrusts. Usagi could barely hear his own moans over Keifer’s. “Usa…” He heard mutter in his hear. The rabbit could only reply with a whimper as the tempo had improved and he was reaching his peak. Usagi called out his back arched as he released himself over his own stomach. He could feel the dog come directly after.

Keifer kissed Usagi’s forehead, relaxing in the afterglow. “Does this mean you’re going to stay with me tonight instead of the prince?” Keifer asked as he happily petted Usagi’s hair.

Usagi nodded. “This seems…all very strange to me. I’ve never been loved before. I like it. It makes me happy,” he said as Keifer nuzzled him again.

“Starting tomorrow you’ll never be sad again.”

Keifer made sure to stay by Usagi’s side just in case they ran into the prince. They planned to leave in the afternoon. He left for a moment so Usagi could say good-bye to his friends. The dog meant to wait patiently for him to return, but like any dog he was distracted by the sounds and smells of the castle. He found a room at the end of a long hallway with a door painted in a blue and gold pattern. Keifer couldn’t leave now, could he? Not before looking inside that room. What with the hallway, the decoration, and all, there had to be something special. As he got closer he noticed that the door even had jewels imbedded into it. He pawed the door open.

The room was even more extravagant that any he’d seen in the castle so far. It appeared to be someone’s bedroom. Flowers were heaped on the furniture, along the floor and nearly covered the bed in the center of the room. As he wandered closer he realized that the bed wasn’t empty. Keifer jumped back, almost tipping over one of the vases.

“I’m sor-” He paused. The dog stepped toward the bed and looked at the woman lying there. She was the most beautiful woman Keifer had ever seen. Her hair was so long that black strands touched the floor. Her skin was almost as pale as Usagi’s but had an icy blue with tinge. She wore a long white dress. Over her face was misted by a white veil. Maybe it was a wedding dress? Then again who would wear a wedding dress to bed?

Keifer leaned a little closer over the woman. She was sleeping wasn’t she? Or maybe…was she dead? What kind of weird castle was this? No one kept dead people in rooms back in Panya. You were supposed to bury the dead, weren’t you? Then again, Keifer had never really understood humans all that well.

“What are you doing here?”

The dog turned his head toward the door. “Usa!” Keifer smiled and practically tackled the white rabbit in an enthusiastic kiss.

Usagi nodded as he kissed him back. “What are you doing here?” he repeated.

“I don’t know,” Keifer said, shrugging. “I just found it. What is this place?”

“Keifer, you really shouldn’t be here. The prince will be very upset if he sees you.”

The dog grabbed onto Usagi’s shoulders. “Has he caught you? Did you talk to him?”

“No.” He shook his head “I haven’t seen him all day.”

Keifer glanced back at the bed. “Who is she?”

“That’s the queen.”

“You mean the prince’s mother?”

Usagi smiled. “Yes.”

He began to stroll back over to the bed. “So she’s dead?”

“Yes, don’t you remember? I’ve told you.”

“Why do they keep her here?” Keifer asked as he looked over the bed.

“This is where she died. I suppose they want to preserve her like this.” Usagi tilted against the doorway. “She became ill and unable to leave her bed, so she died here. I heard that Lowell would come here every day to visit his mother. He would wait and hope for her to get better. He still comes here even now.

“On the day that she died the prince refused to leave her. He couldn’t believe that his mother could be talking to him one minute and dead the next. I think he convinced himself that she was only sleeping. They say that the queen was the only thing he really loved.” Usagi suddenly felt gloomy. He was reminded of his own near-death and wondered why the prince had said the same thing to him.

“I’m ready,” Usagi said, trying to pull his mind away from the past. Keifer squeezed his hand and left the room. Usagi paused. “I have to tell him,” he said finally. “I want you to be there, because I don’t know if I can do it alone.”

“Wouldn’t you prefer to speak to him alone?” The dog placed a kiss on Usagi’s cheek. “I can still be with you, even if I’m outside.”

The rabbit nodded. Despite his intentions, he began to slow down as they neared the throne room. “I’m scared,” he whimpered.

“Don’t be. You have no reason to be scared. I’m with you, remember?” Keifer gave him another kiss before letting him enter alone.

Usagi could feel his heart in his throat. He didn’t even know what he was going to say. He just knew he had to say something. Lowell stood up from his seat. “You!” he shouted as Usagi began trudging toward him. “Where the hell have you been?” There was something not right. Usagi looked different. The last time Lowell had seen Usagi look at him like this was the day he had turned him human.

“I’m leaving. I’m leaving this place. I’m leaving you. I can’t stand it. I can’t stand living here everyday wishing I had died. I can’t stand being scared. I can’t stand being scared of you. You’ve ruined everything for me, Lowell! I just…” Usagi covered his hands over his face. “I wish I’d listened to my friends and never strayed from home. I wish I never found that garden. I wish you had understood how to appreciate what we had there together, the thing you ruined when you took me away. It was wonderful being with you in that garden. Why couldn’t you have listened to your mother?”

Lowell choked. His head hung forward. “I’m just lonely….”

Usagi shook his head.

“Please…” he heard the prince choke out.” Please don’t leave me, Usa.” The rabbit turned to the door.

Lowell snatched his arm. “I love you, Usa. Please don’t leave me…”

He could hear the boy began weeping behind him.

“Please…I’m sorry…don’t go….”

Usagi yanked his hand back and walked out, closing the door behind him.

“I’m afraid we will have to walk all the way to Panya. It will only take about two weeks,” Keifer said and smiled brightly. “But there are lots of things to see along the way. You’ll love it! Wouldn’t it be great if we came across the family of bunnies I saw? You could talk to them.”

Usagi nodded, keeping his hand linked with Keifer’s. The dog pouted a little when he noticed that Usagi wasn’t as cheerful as he was supposed to be. He sniffed behind Usagi’s ear before kissing it.

The rabbit’s mind was somewhere else. The look on Lowell’s face as he turned his back wouldn’t leave him. He remembered the day that the prince first learned he was going to die and Usagi began to understand why his tormenter had been crying so much.

“Usa…” he remembered the prince saying. “You can’t die. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” The prince had rubbed his face in Usagi’s fur. “I need you Usa! You’re my only friend. You can’t leave me. I’ll be lonely without you.”

Usagi’s hand slipped from Keifer’s. The dog turned around to find that the rabbit had stopped moving. “Usa?” he said as he rotated. “Usa, what’s wrong?”

“I can’t…” Usagi breathed, and then steadied. “I can’t leave with you. He needs me.”

Keifer opened his mouth.

“He needs me more than you do. Ever since Lowell’s mother died, no one has been able to teach him right from wrong. Though many have tried, he never trusted anyone enough to listen. He desperately needs someone to teach him how to treat others, so that he grows up to be as good a monarch as his parents were.” Usagi paused. “He loves me. He has a strange way of showing it, but he does love me. I understand it now.”

“But, I-!”

“I know you do, and I love you too, but…he needs me. He needs me to act in the place of his mother.”

“Why? He’ll just hurt you again!”

“No, he won’t. Not this time. I won’t let him.” Usagi reached up to kiss Keifer’s lips. “I have you, remember?”

Keifer whimpered. “I’ll come and visit you!”

Usagi nodded. “I know you will.”

“And, and…I’ll ask the princess to teach me how to write! And I’ll write letters to you everyday!”

The rabbit nodded.

“Usa, I love you.”

“I love you too.” Usagi gave him one last kiss before heading back to the castle. Keifer watched him until he couldn’t see his rabbit’s pale hair anymore.

Lowell hadn’t moved from the throne room. He was crouched on the floor with his hands over his face, left for once without anyone to blame but himself. It was his own fault Usagi left him, he knew. He was cruel and hurtful.

Lowell heard the door creak open. He quickly rubbed his eyes, not wanting any of his other pets to see him like this.

Usagi slipped into the room. The prince rushed to his feet and threw his arms around the rabbit.

“You came back to me!” His tears dripped down his cheeks. He squeezed Usagi tighter and covered his face with kisses. “Please, Usa, don’t leave me again!”

“I won’t.” Usagi patted Lowell’s head. “But you must promise to mind me. You must never abuse me, or anyone for that matter. From now on you must listen to me and do as I say. If you truly want someone to be your mother, I will do that.”

Lowell continued to sob. “I love you Usa.”

“I know you do.”

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