set post-chapter 20(? whatever chapter The Haunted Mansion is), pre-chapter 21(?).
“Hey, Zael. The little one’s not lookin’ so good.” Lowell points over his shoulder with his thumb, and I turn to look. Yurick is lagging a few metres behind the rest of us, single visible eye cast down at his feet, fingers absently curling and uncurling in the fabric of his jacket over and over. “Why don’t you see if you can cheer him up? You seem to have a way with him.”
I tilt my head at his choice of words – a “way with him?” What’s that supposed to mean? – but before I can say anything Lowell’s out of earshot, catching up to Dagran who’s several feet ahead as always.
I slow my pace until I’m walking beside Yurick, but he’s so out of it he doesn’t even notice me until I speak. “Are you okay?”
He starts at my voice, and then somewhat reluctantly meets my eyes, embarrassed heat rising in his cheeks. “M’fine,” he mumbles, looking away again.
“You know, you didn’t have to come—”
“I said I’m fine!” he reaffirms, but there’s an unmistakable shake in his voice and a slight rise in pitch that says I’m not fine, I’m not fine at all.
“We’ll be back at the tavern soon.”
“…I know.” It’s the middle of the night, and the city’s a mere shadow of its daytime hustle and bustle, but the streetlamps cast a comforting glow all around, and Yurick seems to relax a bit.
We walk in silence for a few more minutes, and then out of nowhere a dog starts barking from the alleyway we’re passing. It’s just another regular night time city noise, but for Yurick, still half-terrified from the ordeal in the mansion, it’s a bit too much to handle, and he jumps, a startled noise that’s more than a gasp but less than a scream escaping his lips.
Apparently forgetting his stubborn pride for a moment, his hand shoots out and catches hold of my sleeve, holding tight. Realising what he’s done, he lets go again immediately, turning his face away from me. I can’t help but laugh at his childlike actions, although I try my best to stifle it. I let my hand fall onto the top of his head, and ruffle his hair in the way that I’ve seen Lowell and Syrenne do countless times. He shoves me away with a whine of “s-stop it!” and a red face, and I laugh again.
Back at the tavern, he disappears upstairs immediately without a word.
After helping to retell the story to Syrenne, Mirania, and somehow the rest of the bar too, I go to check up on him. Opening the door to our shared room as quietly as possible, I see he’s fallen fast asleep (without even bothering to take off his boots, he must have been exhausted)…on my bed. Once again, I find myself smiling at his antics.
He doesn’t even stir when I gently lift him up and deposit him on his own bed, or when I slide his boots off his feet and place them on the floor. I pull the blanket over him and mutter a quiet “goodnight” before backtracking out of the room again. As I open the door onto the landing, I hear what is unmistakably Syrenne’s voice loudly challenging the entire tavern to a drinking contest…again, and I sigh. I had better go and mediate this. I glance back into the room, at Yurick’s still-sound sleeping form despite the ruckus from downstairs, and close the door softly behind me.
Yurick was just so adorably scared during the whole haunted mansion part, I couldn’t not write some awful ZaeYu fluff!