To win the battle, Kou needs a king’s power to back his. There’s really only one king available… Picks up post-35. Drama, I-3, MANGA CONTINUITY, mild spoilers

Character(s): Kou, Shirogane

Kou hauled himself up from the bed, wincing a little. "You’re a real bastard, you know that?"

"A fine way to talk to someone who just finished healing the wounds your own idiocy bought you," Shirogane observed, pulling his gloves back on.

Kou’s mouth tightened at the reminder. "You’re serious about taking the fight into the shadow world, aren’t you?"

"Of course I am. Shisui can’t hold on much longer." After a moment, not looking at him, Shirogane added, "Neither can I. I’ve stayed here almost as long as I can."

"You’ll be fine on the other side, though, won’t you?" The thought that had been in the back of his mind all evening was nagging again.

"Another advantage of fighting there," Shirogane agreed, coolly. He gave Kou a sharp look. "A handicap for you, though. Do you have enough strength, even now, to do it?"

"Yeah, that’s the question of the hour." Kou scrubbed a hand over his face. "I met Sawaki, when I went to get Kengo back."

Shirogane’s eyes glinted under the edge of his hat.

"Yeah, I wanted to take the damn traitor apart too, but that isn’t the point now." Kou paced once around his room, unable to hold still. "Look. If he could… could change. It means it’s possible, right?" Kou stopped and laid a hand against the wall, staring at it. "Could I?"

"Are you honestly suggesting that you become my shin?" Shirogane asked, slowly, and his tone suggested that maybe there was an injury to Kou’s head he hadn’t taken care of.

"Only for this! Only until Ryuuko’s back!" Kou spun around and glared at him. "I wouldn’t even be thinking it if I was…" He deflated, reminded by his own words and finished quietly, "if I was strong enough." He leaned back against the wall with a sigh. "Thing is, I’m not. And Ryuuko isn’t recovered enough for me to touch his power, yet. And Shisui-san is practically killing himself as it is. That leaves you."

"How thrilling for us both," Shirogane said dryly. He folded his arms, eyes sharp on Kou for a long moment. "I could change you, yes. But only one of the rei kings could reclaim you. Are you really willing to be my Child for however long it takes Ryuuko’s spirit to recover?"

"I would kind of rather gnaw off my leg, actually," Kou said brightly, "but if I don’t have more power for this fight than I have right now, Ryuuko might just be killed when we lose. And," he finished, tone turning steely, "I’m not letting that happen again."

Shirogane’s mouth twisted. "You have a point." After another few minutes of brooding, while Kou tapped his foot and fidgeted and nearly started pulling his own hair with frustration, he finally sighed. "All right."

Kou swallowed, abruptly faced with the execution of his brilliant idea. "Okay," he said, low, and stepped away from the wall.

Shirogane looked at him for a long moment, eyes hooded, and nodded. He opened one hand and shadow swept around them both.

"I am the shadow of all things…"

Shirogane’s words echoed in his skull, and Shirogane’s power wrapped around him like deep water, leaving Kou gasping for breath, unsure which way was up. Change burned through him, though he couldn’t have said what was changing. When it released him he was dizzy and panting.

The arm he put out to catch himself was in black.

Kou shivered, wrapping both arms around himself. He should feel more different than he did.

"All right?" Shirogane asked quietly.

Kou nodded and took a slow breath and straightened. New strength sang through him like running wire; he knew Shirogane had been weakened by spending so long in the light, but you couldn’t tell it by him. It felt… really good to have this again. "I’ll be ready when we go."

"Good." Shirogane collected his cane and turned for the door; he rested a hand on Kou’s shoulder as he passed. Kou had to bite back a shiver at the light tug of his power. The power of the one he was bound to.

He collapsed onto the couch as the door clicked shut and leaned back, staring up at the ceiling. "Ryuuko," he whispered. "Come back soon."