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Title: Call The Shots
Fandom: Onmyouji
Pairing: Seimei/Hiromasa
Rating: PG13
Wordcount: 3554
Summary: Hiromasa asks for Seimei’s help to win an archery contest.
Notes: Standalone fic for the [ profile] smallfandomfest prompt ‘prankster’.

Call The Shots


Insistence was never a good tone to take when requesting something, Hiromasa realised, and he modulated his voice to halfway between commanding and begging. “Seimei, please.”

Apparently absorbed in tidying away a collection of maps and charts, Seimei gathered the scrolls in his arms and swept past as if he hadn’t heard Hiromasa’s plea. Perhaps he really hadn’t heard, Hiromasa thought charitably. He tried again: “Seimei, do this for me. Just this once.”

A noise from Seimei—not agreement, but not disagreement, either.

Hopeful of persuading him, Hiromasa pressed on. “It’s just a tiny little thing. I never ask you for favours.”

“Ha!” Seimei turned to reveal an expression of polite disbelief. “Never ask me for favours, indeed. Yesterday you asked me for a charm to break the taboo on hair-washing. Two days before that, in the morning, you asked me to cause a thunderstorm so you could avoid going on an expedition to listen to cuckoos; that same afternoon, you asked if I could make the clouds vanish and the sun come out so you could go fishing. And the day before that—”

“But,” Hiromasa interrupted, wrinkling his nose, “none of those favours were my requests. I merely asked you on behalf of other people.”

Seimei narrowed his gaze. “Indeed.”

“Yes.” Adopting his most innocent look, Hiromasa continued cheerfully, “I thought it was obvious. Why would I want to go on an expedition to listen to cuckoos?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea. The point was that I thought you didn’t want to listen to cuckoos...”

Hiromasa frowned. “If I didn’t want to listen to cuckoos, I’d decline the invitation in the first place. Not that I was invited.” He paused to think about this. “I wonder why they didn’t invite me? Granted, I don’t like cuckoos, but—”

Seimei sighed. “We seem to be wandering away from the point, Hiromasa.”

“Ah. Yes.” Gathering his thoughts, Hiromasa recollected himself to the topic at hand. “The point is—every favour I’ve asked of you recently has been for someone else. Not for me. And since you are so very generous, Seimei, I would be delighted if you would grant me this small—tiny—miniscule favour. Just this once.”

Seimei’s eyebrows arched a fraction higher, then he exhaled and carried his papers over to the shelves at the back of the study. “Why don’t these people come to me directly and ask for help?”

“Because you’d say no.” Hiromasa was brought up short when Seimei swung about and fixed him with a sharp look. “Oh, Seimei, it’s true! If Lady Komoku were to write to you asking for a thunderstorm so she could avoid the cuckoo expedition, you wouldn’t even read her letter, let alone consider granting her request.”

“Because it’s frivolous.”

“So why did you grant it when I asked?” Hiromasa asked, folding his arms and trying not to appear smug.

The smallest of smiles curled Seimei’s lips. “I didn’t.”

“What?” Startled, Hiromasa followed him around the study. “You mean that thunderstorm was natural?”

“Certainly I didn’t cause it.” Seimei finished arranging his maps and charts on the appropriate shelves and opened a lacquered clothes chest.

Hiromasa considered, not at all certain he believed his friend.

“I am not the only yin yang master at court,” Seimei said, looking up with another faint smile. “I am, however, the only one capable of banishing a storm once one has been summoned.”

A laugh broke from Hiromasa. “Then Lord Takaie is grateful to you. He caught many fish.”

“Perhaps next time he will ask for a favour in person.”

Conscious that his friend was somehow affronted by the subject, Hiromasa attempted to smooth things over. “Seimei, you aren’t the easiest person to approach. Even when you do put in an appearance at court, you look so diffident and haughty that people can’t find a way to speak to you. And then there’s the fact that some people—many people, actually—find you intimidating. Not you, exactly, but the things you do. And then there are the rumours about your mother, and how you saw demons when you were a child, and... Well, it doesn’t bother me at all but some people are more timorous, and it’s usually the timorous people who are in need of a favour, and—to put it frankly, Seimei, you scare them.”

Seimei stood and looked at him, blank-faced. “You flatter me so shamelessly.”

Too late, Hiromasa realised he’d made things worse. He sighed, lifting his hands in a helpless gesture. “I didn’t come here to insult you.”

“No. You came here for a favour.”

Hiromasa rubbed his forehead. There was little he could do when Seimei’s mood was so spiky. “Never mind,” he said, keeping his tone neutral. “It doesn’t matter. I’m sorry I bothered you.” He bowed slightly and walked away, pace slow and measured, inwardly counting his footsteps as he went. He got as far as twelve—a new record—before Seimei said, “Wait.”

Arranging his features in an appropriate expression of humble anticipation, Hiromasa turned. “Yes?”

“You never bother me.” Seimei seemed to unbend a little. “I will grant your favour.”

“Even if it’s frivolous?”

A quicksilver smile. “Particularly if it’s frivolous.” Seimei leaned down and took a wine-jar from the box, then carried it over to their usual seats on the veranda. “Come and tell me what you want, and I will make sure you get it.”

* * *

Next morning, Hiromasa paced the flattened grass and beaten earth of the Riding Ground, attempting to banish his nerves. The rattle of the dozen arrows in his quiver betrayed his anxiety, and he wondered for the seventeenth time if he’d made the right selection. He’d spent most of the night studying the arrows for flaws on the shaft or fletching, and had concluded they were all perfect. But whether they were perfect enough to win the imperial archery contest—well, that was the question.

His formal robes as a commander of the palace guards whispered as he moved; a stiff brocade of black and orange, the silks of his under-robes so white they dazzled his eyes. His peripheral vision was blocked by the fan of soft black bristles attached to either side of his embroidered cap, and Hiromasa felt certain that he looked ridiculous as he turned his head this way and that, searching for Seimei.

Seimei was late. Very late.

Hiromasa bounced on his toes and blew out a breath to release his tension. It wasn’t as if the archery contest was that important. His grandfather the Emperor would award a prize, of course, but material gain wasn’t why Hiromasa was taking part. No, he’d been talked into competing—tricked, actually, although it was possibly his own fault for being rather tipsy and poetry-addled at the time—he’d been enchanted into taking part by a woman, Lady Komoku. This was the same Lady Komoku who’d asked him to ask Seimei to arrange the thunderstorm—and, being as gallant as he was, Hiromasa had been unable to deny either request when asked by a lady of such exceeding charm and grace.

He slid a glance sidelong towards the cluster of court women already inhabiting the makeshift viewing pavilions and realised he had to turn his head properly to see past his headgear. Taking his bow from his shoulder, Hiromasa pretended to examine it. Under cover of this investigation, he darted glances at the assembling crowd but saw no sign of Lady Komoku—or of Seimei.

Annoyance added to his anxiety, and he twanged the bowstring so hard it hurt his finger. One of his competitors gave him a startled look, and Hiromasa forced a smile. To take his mind off his nerves, he stared at the butts set up seventy paces away. Not a great distance, but a light breeze blew from the north and that could make all the difference between a good shot and an indifferent one. The winners of the first round would go on to shoot at targets one hundred, one hundred and fifty, and then three hundred paces away, and Hiromasa was determined to be the victor.

“Lord Hiromasa! Lord Hiromasa!”

A group of palace women called out from a newly arrived carriage, all fluttering fans and trailing robes, as colourful as the flowers in Seimei’s wilderness garden. Accompanied by their servants, the ladies descended from the cart in a chattering flock, their heads bent together as they no doubt passed judgement on the admiring men who gathered around them.

Several of the gentlemen bragged loudly about their chances in the contest. Hiromasa eyed them with disfavour, mentally ranking their abilities against his own skills. Just as he’d decided he could beat most of them without Seimei’s help, Middle Captain Yukiyoshi arrived to coos of delight from the women.

Despondency struck afresh, and Hiromasa resumed his lookout for Seimei with more desperate fervour than before.

“Lord Hiromasa!” Another cry of greeting went up, and when he turned to acknowledge the call, Hiromasa saw Lady Komoku amongst the crowd. Uplifted by the mere fact of her presence, he beamed and bowed several times, earning a chorus of giggles and more cries of good luck from the assembled women. Delighted to receive so much feminine attention, and pleased by the glower spoiling Middle Captain Yukiyoshi’s handsome face, Hiromasa swung the bow back onto his shoulder and adopted a suitably heroic pose, puffing out his chest and throwing back his head.

“Are you quite well, Hiromasa?” enquired a deep, silky voice behind him, and Hiromasa swung around so fast he almost fell over the curled toes of his boots.

His expression knowing, Seimei stood, not-quite-laughing in that quiet, infuriating way he had. He wore a slithery black silk court cloak over robes shaded plum and pine that carried the scent of cinnamon and peaches. The fragrance and the colours didn’t match, but Hiromasa knew better than to remark on it. Instead he said, “You’re late. You said you’d be here by the hour of the Snake.”

“I’m here now.” Seimei seemed exceedingly diverted by the bustle around them. He glanced past Hiromasa to the high-spirited group of women and nodded towards Lady Komoku. “Is she the reason why you intend to cheat in the contest?”

“Seimei!” Hiromasa flapped his hands. Speaking through gritted teeth, he muttered, “It’s not cheating. Not exactly.”

“Then what would you call it?” Seimei cocked his head, as bright-eyed as a sparrow. “You asked me to cast a spell on your arrows so they’ll fly true to the heart of the target, thus ensuring that you win the contest. How else would you describe that, if not cheating?”

“It’s—it’s... It’s not cheating,” Hiromasa snapped, red-faced and blustering. “I’m merely asking you to guarantee my victory. A victory I’m sure I would attain even without your help, but since I lack confidence—”

Seimei snorted.

“Since I lack confidence,” Hiromasa continued, fixing Seimei with a stern look, “I am asking you, my very dear friend, to help me—”

“Cheat,” Seimei supplied with a smile. “I know what you’re asking, and I am happy to be of service. Let’s get on with it, shall we?”

Casting a guilty glance around, Hiromasa guided Seimei away from open sight and into the shadow of the imperial viewing pavilion. He eased the quiver from his back and offered out a handful of arrows.

“One at a time,” Seimei said, and took the first. Still smiling, he lifted it to his lips, his mouth almost touching the shaft as he whispered words over it. He tilted his head, drawing the arrow between his lips, his eyes half-lidded with the intensity of his concentration. Up and down he caressed the arrow with his mouth, the tip of his tongue touching the point of the arrowhead before it slid up to the pheasant feathers of the flights, his breath stirring the delicate fletching.

Hiromasa stared. He swallowed, desire rolling over and mixing with impatience and anxiety. Seimei repeated his actions with the second arrow, then the third. Hiromasa began to sweat. He fidgeted, boots scuffing at the ground, hands clenching, a shiver of lust tugging at him. By the time the seventh arrow had been enchanted, Hiromasa had forgotten why they were standing on the Riding Ground. By the eleventh arrow, he’d practically forgotten his own name.

Seimei completed his spell-casting, hands still clasped around the twelfth arrow. Raising innocent eyes, he enquired, “Is there anything else you need?”

“Hmm?” Dazed and overheated, Hiromasa blinked at him.

“For the contest,” Seimei said patiently.

“Oh!” Snapping back to his wits, Hiromasa blushed. “No—that is to say, let me think... Can you arrange it so my victory doesn’t look too easy? Middle Captain Yukiyoshi is well known as an excellent archer. Perhaps you could let him draw level with me on points before the last shot in the final round, or something like that. Something that would make the contest a worthy spectacle that people will talk about for the rest of the season.”

Eyebrows arching, Seimei said, “So you wish to encourage competitiveness amongst the other contenders.”

Hiromasa nodded. “Precisely. But don’t allow anyone to win but me.”

Seimei smiled and handed over the twelfth arrow. “Good luck.”

Ducking his head, Hiromasa mumbled his gratitude. He returned the enchanted arrows to the quiver, settled it upon his back, and ushered Seimei towards the crowd. The Emperor and Empress had arrived by now, and the archers were assembling, lining up at their marks.

Lady Komoku appeared to be in some agitation, peering around her friends, lifting her fan to shield her eyes as she searched the area. Hiromasa waved to her, and she waved back until one of her friends tugged at her colourful sleeve and whispered something in her ear. Lady Komoku subsided and became the very model of decorum, but Hiromasa caught the flirtatious look she threw at him.

Seimei observed the exchange with quiet amusement. “I think I’ll watch the contest in the company of that charming young woman.”

Hiromasa panicked. “Don’t say anything to her about—about the—”

“Cheating?” Seimei looked innocent again, though his voice trembled with repressed laughter. “Of course not. Rest assured, Hiromasa, I shall only sing your praises.”

“So you should. I’m going to win the contest, after all.”

“Of course you are.” Seimei patted him on the shoulder and wandered off. Hiromasa watched him go, aware of an uneasy discomfort in his belly when he saw the rapturous reception Seimei received from the women. The other attendant men were abandoned, their conversations left hanging as the ladies hurried to jostle closer to Seimei. If he didn’t know better, Hiromasa would say he felt jealous; but he knew Seimei was just amusing himself at the expense of the courtiers’ pride.

Or at least Hiromasa hoped that was the case.

He took his place in the line-up as the contest began. A dozen archers with a dozen arrows, they shot three arrows first at the targets seventy paces away, then continued through the rounds with the butts moved further back each time, men dropping out of the competition at each round. Hiromasa forgot about the watching crowd when it came to his turn, oblivious even to his nearest rivals as he notched the arrow and drew the bow and let fly. Time after time, his arrows flew true, hitting the centre of the target.

He should have been pleased that everything was going to plan, but once his turn was over, Hiromasa felt deflated. His closest competitor, as expected and as he’d requested, was Middle Captain Yukiyoshi. Applause and acclamation rang out from the audience, but Hiromasa took no joy in it. When he looked into the crowd, he saw Seimei with his head bent attentively towards Lady Komoku. Irritated, Hiromasa paraded up and down in front of them, but though Seimei glanced over and gave him a smile, Lady Komoku didn’t seem to notice him, so busy was she in giggling something behind her fan into Seimei’s ear.

Hiromasa gripped the bow so tight his hand ached. His spirits dipped, and not even the announcement that two of the contestants were retiring from the competition in the final round could revive him. He and Middle Captain Yukiyoshi were level on points, but Hiromasa could take no pleasure from his pending victory. Not when he knew it wasn’t real; not when he knew his triumph was reliant on Seimei’s magic—but he could hardly walk off the field now. The humiliation would be unbearable.

A hush fell over the crowd as the two men prepared their weapons. Hiromasa shot first, hitting the target dead centre every time. It was almost too easy; he hadn’t even had to factor in the resistance of the breeze. Scattered applause drifted from the crowd, then dropped away as Middle Captain Yukiyoshi stepped forward. Silence settled over the Riding Ground; it seemed that everyone watching held their breath.

Hiromasa stood motionless, his heart fluttering in fresh panic as he realised that if Middle Captain Yukiyoshi hit all the targets too, they’d finish on a draw—and they’d need new arrows to decide the match. Hiromasa didn’t know for certain which of the arrows already retrieved from the butts were his. What if he picked up one of Middle Captain Yukiyoshi’s arrows? The spell wouldn’t work. He would surely lose. Twisted up with anxiety, Hiromasa bit his lip and tried to blank all the flailing thoughts from his mind.

Middle Captain Yukiyoshi shot two bull’s-eyes then, on the third shot, his aim faltered. He relaxed his arm, rolling his shoulder to ease the tension, then drew the bow again. His hand shook just before he let the arrow fly, and it fell short of the target, burying itself into the earth.

A great sigh went up from the crowd. Hiromasa sagged with relief, his knees buckling, then he forced himself to brighten and smile and act astonished and grateful as the other archers and Middle Captain Yukiyoshi came to congratulate him. He tried to catch Seimei’s attention, but was surrounded by a press of people all wishing to praise his skills. Invitations to banquets and drinking parties and poetry recitals rained down upon him, and with each word of commendation, Hiromasa felt more and more miserable.

With an effort he remembered to keep smiling through the imperial bestowal of a prize of four bolts of brocade. Feeling like a fraud, Hiromasa’s heart lay heavy as he accepted. Middle Captain Yukiyoshi looked dejected, gazing at his bow as if it had let him down, and guilt stabbed at Hiromasa, the wound cold as ice.

Finally the ordeal was over, and feet dragging, he made his way over to the excited cluster of ladies. He didn’t think he had the strength to engage in the necessary flirtation, but he’d done all this to impress Lady Komoku and he needed to capitalise on his victory.

Making his way through the giggling, fluttering women, he found Seimei standing alone. The sight gave him pause, although he was also conscious of a pulse of relief. Hiromasa tried to find something to say, could think of nothing, and was grateful when Seimei took him by the sleeve and led him to one side.

“Lady Komoku has gone back to the palace.”

The news made Hiromasa even more depressed. “All that effort gone to waste! It seems I troubled you for nothing, Seimei.”

“I’m sorry.” Seimei didn’t seem at all sympathetic. Indeed, he looked up at Hiromasa with eyes bright with amusement. “I, however, leave here today with an invitation to accompany Lady Komoku on an expedition to listen to cuckoos.”

“But she asked me to ask you to cause a storm so she couldn’t go on the cuckoo expedition,” Hiromasa said, puzzled. “Why has she changed her mind?”

Seimei’s lashes swept down and a smile trembled at the corners of his mouth. “I believe the second expedition is set for a more auspicious day for romance.”

It took Hiromasa a moment to realise what he meant. “Seimei! You—I—I don’t believe it! Lady Komoku was aiming for you, not me! I was just a convenient go-between! That’s outrageous!”

Seimei preened. “Isn’t it just.”

“Well,” said Hiromasa, flustered and tangling his words, “I don’t think—I mean, absolutely not. You can’t go. You don’t even like cuckoos.”

That infuriating smile returned. “I never said that.” Seimei tossed his head and walked off, still smiling.

Hiromasa gaped after him, too stunned to do more than feel very, very sorry for himself. Recalling his pride, he gave chase. “Seimei, that’s not fair! You can’t leave me with nothing.”

Seimei turned and nodded to the expensive bolts of cloth clutched in Hiromasa’s arms. “You have your prize.”

Hiromasa scowled. “A prize that by rights belongs to Middle Captain Yukiyoshi!”

“No.” Seimei’s expression softened. “It belongs to you, Hiromasa. You won it fair and square.”


Seimei pressed his fingers to Hiromasa’s lips and smiled, sweetly this time. “I didn’t cast any spells on your arrows. It was all pretend.”

Shaken by the gentle touch of those fingers, Hiromasa mumbled, “But, Seimei...”

“But nothing.” Seimei’s smile warmed into tenderness. “You won.”

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