title: All That You Can't Leave Behind
fandom: Fushigi Yuugi
characters/pairings: reincarnation: Nuriko/Hotohori, Nuriko/Nakago, Miaka/Tamahome, one-sided Tasuki/Kouji, Tasuki/Chichiri, Chiriko/Kourin, Mitsukake, one-sided Tomo/Nakago, Yui, Amiboshi/Suboshi, Nakago/Soi, Yui/Tetsuya, Keisuke
rating: Teen/Mature
warnings: mentioned underaged sex, mentioned rape of an underaged boy, drinking, swearing, sex, angst, incestual implication, some bloodshed, crossdressing, and a happy ending
summary: The seishi have been reincarnated, and are coming together... and living in the same house.
notes: see notes

Part 1 - The Beginning

Ryuen leaned against the wall of the school, impatient. He could see Taka in the middle of the playground, doing some martial arts tricks. Most kids would be doing that to impress the girls, but Taka was probably hoping people would throw him some coins... Anyway, he was such a show off.

He kept an eye out for Saihitei, but he was probably busy with his 'girlfriend.' Ryuen made a little face just thinking of the squeaky-voiced twit. Of course, he knew he wasn't objective, but still...

It was a little aggravating that even though they had been friends since pre-school, Saihitei still looked at him as if he were a servant or something, like when he looked at Ryuen funny if he dropped the honorific. The little prick.

"Looking for someone in particular, Ry-kun?" As always, Ryuen's next-door neighbor managed to sneak out of the shadows, surprising him.

"Ayuru-kun. No..."

"I think Sai-san is busy with his girl." Ayuru's knowing look made Ryuen quiver.

"So? I wasn't looking for him."

"Yes, you were. You always are. If you don't know where he is at all times..."

"Shut up, Ayuru." Ryuen sighed. The tall blonde could be so annoying. He would be the only one of Ryuen's friends that was dependable... "So, what are you doing, now?"

"Following you." Ayuru grinned.

Ryuen shook his head, smiling. "Fine, then. Let's go." Ryuen picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. Taka and Saihitei would probably have stuff to do, anyway. They usually did. And more and more, their plans never included him. Ryuen was getting sick to death of it.

Ayuru and Ryuen had only taken a few steps when they heard Taka's pleading screech. "Hey! Guys, wait up! Hey!!!"

Turning to each other and sharing a little grin, they waited for the other boy, who had to get away from the throng of pre-teen girls fawning over him. Apparently, he had impressed more girls than he had garnered coins.

"Hey! What'cha up to?"

Ryuen shrugged. "We don't have anything to do, so I guess we'll go home. Er, and I have to pick up Kourin from school..."

Taka coughed something that sounded like 'sister complex,' then grinned at them. "Can I come with? The sibs are driving me nuts! And mom and dad are so busy lately..."

"No problem, Taka. You know you are always welcome." Ryuen beamed at his friend. He wasn't sure why, but there was very little Taka could do to make Ryuen really mad. Probably because they had known each other for so long, and since Ryuen was a little older, he always felt like he was Taka's older brother, or something.

Ayuru glared down at a clueless Taka as the boy wedged in between Ryuen and himself. He hated Ryuen's friends, for a host of reasons he assumed that Ryuen would know about some day. But Taka was easily the most annoying, always so clueless...

Taka grinned up at Ryuen. "So, where's Sai-san?"

Ryuen's house was always the most comfortable place to hang out. It wasn't big, but the family business was prosperous enough that each of their children had their own bedroom, and their own collection of video games. Plus, Ryuen's parents were completely laid back, never caring about spills or anything. Taka's house was too crowded, and Ayuru's parents were just scary, so hanging out at either of their houses was never as much fun. And Saihitei's parents were always suggesting that he bring people over, but they didn't really approve of Ryuen, and their house was more like a museum...

So, the boys were playing video games in Ryuen's tight family room, while Kourin, who looked more like Ryuen's twin than his younger sister, tried to climb on him so he would listen to her stories about her day.

Taka was totally engrossed in the game, determined to kill as many bad guys as he could, in as bloody a fashion as he could. Ayuru would idly play for a bit, totally kicking Taka's ass with almost no effort, while spending the bulk of his time watching Ryuen and his sister. They both had the same beautiful, wavy purple hair, the same smooth, heart-shaped face, and the same endearing beauty mark below the left eye. Because Ayuru was more advanced than any other 11 year old, he was already devoting much of his days to fantasizing about his friend and his friend's sister. He wished they still had sleep-overs, only without Taka and Saihitei, and with more raspberries and whipped cream, all of them in one bed...

The phone ringing made Ryuen jump up, hefting his sister up with him.


The giggles on the other end of the phone were easily identifiable as Saihitei's. "Heya, Ry-san. You have the most enthusiastic hello!"

Ryuen giggled, despite himself. He didn't know why Saihitei was able to reduce him to a pile of blushes and giggles, but he hated the other boy for it. Well, it was hard to hate someone so beautiful, but... "Heya, Sai-san. What's up?"

"Is Taka with you? What are you guys doing?"

Ryuen bit off the bitter sigh that was burning in his chest. Why was Saihitei only interested in hanging out with him anymore if Taka was there? Why could he never be interested in him anymore? Was it because of what those jerks at school said about him, because it wasn't his fault he was small and feminine looking, that was no reason for people to assume that he was gay... "Yeah, he's here. Me, Ayuru and him are just playing video games and stuff."

"Oh, cool. Can I come too? Why didn't you guys wait for me?"

Ryuen rolled his eyes. "Of course you can. And we didn't see you after school."

"Oh. Well, you should wait for me in the future. Put Taka on the phone."

Yes, your Majesty. Anything else I can do, your Majesty? "Taka, Sai-san wants to talk to you..."

"Ok!" The video game completely forgotten, Taka bounded up immediately. Within minutes, he and Saihitei were making each other laugh, and Taka actually excused himself to Ryuen's bedroom so he could talk to Saihitei privately.

Picking up the controls, Ryuen ignored them, and Ayuru's completely transparent attempts at comforting him.

Screw them, anyway, Ryuen thought as Kourin plopped herself in his lap, her face determined. Who needed them anyway?

Taka was scrambling. He was supposed to meet Miaka for lunch in ten minutes, and if he wasn't there before her, she would order at least three appetizers. And expect him to pay.

He had to meet with his professor after class, though, so he was running late. He was glad the high school Miaka went to allowed their seniors to leave the school for lunch. Since Miaka's mom hated him so much, it was getting really hard to spend as much time as he wanted with her. Of course, he wanted to spend all his time with her, so...

Since Taka wasn't watching where he was going, he ended up banging into someone, spreading his books and papers everywhere.

"Wah!!! Oh, sorry, sorry, damn, I'm going to be so late...!"

A familiar chuckle made Taka snap his head up to look at who he ran into. "Honestly, Taka. You need to be more careful. Let me help you."

He knew this boy. But... that couldn't be Ryuen! Taka had lost track of him after he and Saihitei had transferred to a different school when they were 12. Back then, Ryuen had been a skinny, small boy with the usual sloppy appearance of any other 12 year old. Of course, in their last life together, Taka would never have called Ryuen sloppy, but he had never been... so...

Ryuen casually flipped his long, thick, purple ponytail over his should as he elegantly leaned over to grab Taka's planner and notebook. He was dressed in a tight, black, ribbed v-neck sweater, black chinos, perfectly pressed, and boots. He had a charm on a chain around his neck, which fell in the groove at the base of his throat. His face was as smooth and flawless as it had been when he was a baby, his skin a pale, glowing wonder.

But it was the way he carried himself that made Taka freeze, sucking in a deep breath. It was like Ryuen had spent the last few years on a catwalk, being paid to be beautiful, he was so... confident.

So confident, in fact, that he managed to wink flirtatiously with two girls and one guy in the process of picking up Taka's books.

Handing Taka his dropped things, he caught the deer in the headlights expression on his former friend's face. "What's the matter, Taka? You look like you've seen a ghost!" Ryuen's light, airy laugh garnered him some blushing giggles from the girls he had winked at. And the guy, too, Taka noted.

"Er... Well, I feel like I have!" Taka tried not to wince. He hadn't remembered their last life before when they were friends. Suddenly, he couldn't get the memory of holding Nuriko as he died, their last night together getting drunk while Nuriko reassured Tamahome and basically made him feel good about Miaka again...

Ryuen found himself in the middle of a bear hug just as he was getting ready to leave. Taka just couldn't let go of the other boy. He actually had to bite his lip to keep from crying. It was so good to have Nuriko back!

"Ah... Taka?" Ryuen was confused. He hadn't seen Taka in something like 8 years, and now he was hugging him like they were long lost best friends, or brothers.

Deciding that Taka was allowed to be emotional for precisely 26 more seconds, Ryuen actually hugged him back a little. When Taka was finally able to pry himself away, he met Ryuen's bright brown-rose eyes. Feeling overwhelmed with joy, Taka stammered. "It's just... so good to see you again. I thought... I thought I never would..."

Ryuen smiled, and cautiously extricated himself from the other boy's gaze and grip, making sure not to appear too understanding. "It's good to see you again, too. We should get together some time, catch up..."

"Are you doing anything for lunch? Are you free now?" Hastily adding at Ry-kun's confused look, "I'm supposed to meet my girlfriend for lunch, and I know she would love to meet you, too!"

Ryuen was ready to say no, but something stopped him. Instead of making a snarky comment about why Taka's girlfriend would want to meet someone Taka had abandoned years ago, he smiled and accepted.

When they got to the little sidewalk cafe, Miaka had, indeed, already ordered appetizers. Four of them. Although only three were still left. "Tamahome! You're late! I only have..." Miaka stopped mid-sentence and mid-scarf, her eyes suddenly going as wide as plates, before misting over.

"Miaka-love, I want you to meet an old friend of mine, Ryuen. And Ryuen, this is my girlfriend, Miaka."

While Miaka was speechless, Ryuen dazzled her and the surrounding area with his 10,000 watt smile. "A pleasure to meet you, Miaka-san. Gosh, you like them young, don't you Taka?"

Taka turned bright red, and Miaka giggled. "It's so nice to meet you, Ryuen-kun!!! Wow, you are so pretty! Are you a model? And I'm not that young, I'm almost ready to graduate from high school."

"Well," Ryuen sat down and helped himself to some appetizers while Miaka was momentarily distracted from the food to talk, "that makes you only a year older than my sister. For shame, Taka..."

"It's good to see you still have your sister complex, Ry-kun." And your sister...

"And, no, I'm not a model," Ryuen continued, ignoring Taka, "but you wouldn't be the first person to make that mistake. I am strikingly beautiful."

Miaka giggled, scooting closer to Ryuen, resisting the urge to take his hand. Nuriko! Then the waiter came back, nearly tripping over himself to wait on Ryuen, who was being extra-flirty. The other two watched with wide eyes as Ryuen expertly played the befuddled waiter.

When he left, Miaka burst out with her usual grace, "So, you're gay! That's great, so's our other friend, Saihitei, maybe you guys should meet..."

Ryuen raised a perfectly skeptical brow. "Seishuku-san and I have met. We went to school together with Taka. And, I'm not gay."

Taka and Miaka nearly fell out of their chairs with shock. Not gay?? Taka quickly put his arm around Miaka's chair, just in case Nuriko had been serious about being in love with Miaka last time around.

Ryuen grinned devilishly. "Actually, I'm bisexual. Seishuku-san is gay, hm? I always thought he has something stuffed up his ass..."

After Miaka and Taka had put themselves back together from laughing themselves to pieces, they fell back into conversation with Ryuen as if they had known and seen each other every day for years.

It made Miaka so happy, she thought that she would cry.

Ryuen had to admit, the house was beautiful. The rent was almost half what he was paying now. The place was spacious, so even if he would be sharing with 7 other people, it would be better than sharing his tiny tiny apartment with his slovenly roommate. And...

"I don't know, Taka. I mean, it would be strange, wouldn't it? I haven't seen Saihitei in 8 years! Are you sure he was ok with you offering me a room here?"

Taka repressed the urge to throw Ryuen against the wall and force him to move in. He had known that Ryuen would be the hardest to convince, despite the fact that he had known him for longer than anyone in this life, even Miaka or Saihitei. But it was so important to Miaka that they all live together, and they were so close. All the other former seishi had already agreed to move into the house that Saihitei had bought, now they just needed to convince Ryuen to move in...

"Trust me, Ryuen-kun. In fact, I think it's safe to say that he is most anxious for you to live here..." The sudden memory of Sai-san's worried face, as he bit his lip, thinking about the possibility of Ryuen living in the same house nearly made Taka laugh out loud. Saihitei was usually so composed and detached, to see him get all worked up over someone was a welcome change in the former emperor.

Miaka suddenly popped around the corner, glomping on Ryuen's arm. "So! Ry-kun, have you decided on which room you want, yet? I think you should take the lavender one. I know it's a bit obvious, but it's one of the nicer ones..."

"Miaka! He hasn't said yes yet!" Taka's waved his hands in front of her face trying to get her attention. She always seemed to have more trouble paying attention to him when Ryuen was around...

"What?!?!?! Noooooo! You have to! Have to, have to, have to!!! Who will protect my honor, now that I'll be living with Taka!!" She clutched Ryuen's arm to her, as if she could make him stay in the house by just keeping him with her.

He giggled. He loved Miaka, he really did. Everything was so much less confusing this time around, he could fall so easily into the role of big brother now. It helped that Miaka and Kourin had become fast friends over the past few months. "Miaka... I can't believe your mom is letting you move into a house with Taka! And you guys are going to be sharing a bedroom??"

Both Taka and Miaka turned bright red and developed a rapt fascination with something in the opposite direction of the other person.

"Honestly! How are you two going to share a bed if you can't even look at each other when the word 'bedroom' is mentioned???" Ryuen couldn't stop giggling if he tried. "And you are both still virgins??"

"Ryyyyy-kun!! Of course!"

"Hee, well, good, because you are far too young, Miaka."

"I'm eighteen!"

"Far too young."

"How old were you, Ry-kun?"

"Far too young." His voice lost its teasing lilt, as he looked over the room that Miaka had herded them to. It was really nice... "I... man, this is such a great deal. And living with you guys would be great. I don't know the other people you mentioned, but they sound fine, as long as you are sure none of them have a problem with me being bi. But... Saihitei..."

Miaka and Taka shared a look.

Taking a deep breath, Taka started. "Ry-kun, I know that you haven't been all that anxious to see Saihitei again, but really... he's wanted to see you. And he really wants you to live here."

Ryuen snorted elegantly. "You make it sound like he has a crush on me!" Taka and Miaka both developed a sudden fascination for their fingernails, which Ryuen totally missed. "It's just... when you guys transferred, and even before that, it was like you were abandoning me because I wasn't cool enough for you. And I know his parents didn't like me. I bet I was the reason they decided he needed to go to that fancy private school." Ryuen was almost talking to himself as he sized up the built-in shelves and closet space. "And I knew that you were busy with soccer and martial arts and stuff, I mean, I was never upset at you 'cause it was like we just drifted apart. And I thought it was great that you got that scholarship and everything... But Saihitei... he didn't want to have anything to do with me long before then."

Miaka was near tears. Suddenly, she latched onto Ryuen with a vice-like grip. "That was sooooooooo long ago, Ryuen! Even if he did still feel that way, so what? Screw him, you're young and beautiful! So what if Saihitei notices or cares! Just because you live in the same house as him, doesn't mean you have to be best friends! Think how much closer this is to campus, how much cheaper the rent is! Besides, I think you will be pleasantly surprised when you meet Saihitei again. It's been a long time, people change, Ryuen. Pleeeeeaase!!!"

Ryuen attempted to resist Miaka for 47 whole seconds. He was quite proud of himself. He had only ever been able to resist Kourin for 36 seconds. "All right, Miaka. I'll move in with you guys."

And there was much rejoicing.

Do-kun decided to take a break from organizing his books. His roommate, Myojuan, was helping Taka set up the tv and playstation. Genrou and his friend Kouji were wrestling in the kitchen over the last chicken wing. Miaka just sat on the overstuffed couch with Houjun, nearly bursting with happiness.

Saihitei was pacing.

"Are you sure he agreed to live here?" The usually calm and composed former emperor was actually chewing on his thumbnail as he paced nervously from one side of the room to the other.

Taka just rolled his eyes. "Of course I'm sure. You know Ryuen, he's probably fixing his hair, or something."

Genrou stopped pinning Kouji to the floor long enough to look up. "Eh? What the fuck? Are you worried about the last guy? Who is it anyway, your ex-boyfriend?" He and Kouji collapsed onto each other.

Saihitei actively ignored them.

"Chou Ryuen, Genrou. He's an old friend of Sai-san's and I."

Genrou and Kouji each automatically sat straight up.

"Chou Ryuen! The archer!" The flame-haired boy actually looked impressed.

"Archer? Ryuen? I don't think so." Saihitei questioned the logic of having all of them together again. Couldn't they have gotten Genrou and his friend a place nearby?

"No way, Gen-chan! You get to live with your crush!" Kouji looked like he was going to burst with laughter. Genrou just growled and tackled Kouji.

"Crush?" Houjun winked with his good eye at Miaka. "You have a crush on Ry-kun, you know?"

"Aaargh!!!! No, I DON'T! I'm not a freakin' queer!" Genrou's face was as red as his hair.

Saihitei cleared his throat in the most dignified fashion imaginable, and spared Genrou a withering look.

"Grrrr!!!! I didn't mean it like that!" Kouji was on his back, rolling in laughter. "Fuck! Ok, look, I saw Chou Ryuen, the archer, when I was on the track team a coupla years ago. But I saw him from the BACK, while he was practicing, and I thought he was a girl! He looks a lot like a girl! And I just said that that chick was hot, when everyone," hard glare at the wheezing with laughter Kouji, "started making fun of me for liking a guy. BUT I DON'T! Anyway, he's a fuckin' great archer, are you sure it's not the same guy?"

Taka and Saihitei exchanged a blank look. "Er, I don't think so. Well, maybe it is. Anyway, when he gets here you can ask him."

Do-kun looked up from the book he was reading to relax. "I think Chou-san is a photographer. He had a big spread in the last issue of the university magazine. He's quite good."

"Really? Ry-kun's a photographer?" Miaka sounded awe-struck. "He's so talented!"

Saihitei gave Taka a disapproving look, as if he was upset that the other boy hadn't kept better tabs on Ryuen over the years.

Taka rolled his eyes. "He'll be here soon, so we can find out then..."

Genrou crawled over to the couch to whisper to Miaka and Houjun. "Psst! Hey, what fuckin' gives? Does Saihitei love this guy, or something? He looks like he's waiting for his spouse to come out of surgery!"

Miaka giggled. "Sai-san... hasn't seen Ryuen in a long time. He misses him, I think."

"We all do, you know?" Houjun sounded unusually serious.

"I didn't know you knew him too, Houjun-san." Genrou rested his chin on the arm of the couch, affecting the look of innocence better than he should have been able to.

"Er, well, I don't, really, you know, it's just that I know of him so much, you know?"

Genrou didn't know, and the way this older boy was talking made him feel nervous, like he was in class, so he scooted back to Kouji to beat him up for making kissy faces at him.

Myojuan was showing Do-kun how to use the playstation controllers when the phone rang.

Taka grabbed it, before Miaka could. She had already answered by saying 'Miaka's House of Boy Love, can I help service you?' twice today. Taka knew his next lunch with his mother was going to be another 'that girl is too immature!' ones. "Hello?"

"Oh! Good, you do have the phones set up, I wasn't sure! God, Taka, I'm running so late today! Blah, hey, is there some guy there waiting for me, er, Natsu or Natsuo...?"

"Heya, Ryuen. Um, I don't think so, but let me check..." Going to the window and trying to ignore Saihitei's pointed stares, Taka continued. "We were just talking about how late you were..."

"Sorry, man, it's been crazy. You know me."

"Yeah, that's what I told everyone, hey! There is some guy waiting by the curb. Is he yours? Tallish, light brown hair, jock-type?"

Ryuen's light, airy laugh tickled his ear. "Yeah, he's mine for the afternoon. Ok, well, we should be there soon! Thanks, could you let him know we'll be there soon?"

"No problem, man."

"Thanks, Taka!"

Saihitei just stared at Taka, willing him to tell him what was going on with his icy glare.

Taka sighed. He wished he had been able to get Ryuen and Saihitei to get together before now. "He's on his way, he was just running late, as always. I have to tell that guy out there, though."

Saihitei's eyes narrowed. "Why?"

Taka felt a cold sweat coming on. "Er, I guess he is a friend of Ryuen's, he's here to help, I guess..."

Saihitei glared at him, crossing his arms over his chest.

Taka made a quick exit.

"Eh, Sai-san, you really have it bad for this guy, huh?" Genrou plopped down on the couch between Miaka and Houjun. "So, if you like him so much, how come you haven't seen him in so long? This is the bisexual, right?"

"Genrou! Saihitei and Ryuen are friends, who just lost touch. Saihitei is just hoping that they can still be friends, now." Houjun and Saihitei both just stared at Miaka. They both looked at each other for a second, and shrugged. Miaka really did grow up during her time in the book.

Do-kun looked up again, wondering if he had done the right thing to move in here. It would be so much better than living with his parents, and with Myojuan to look after him, he should be fine, but these people were so weird!

It wasn't much longer when the front door burst open, and in came Ryuen, carrying several suitcases, his long purple hair trailing after him in a tight braid.

"Hey! Sorry I'm so late! Man, you never realize how much stuff you have until you start to pack it up..."

"Ry-kun!!" Miaka jumped up to hug the older boy. "C'mon and meet everyone!"

"Yeah," the man coming in the door grunted, "you socialize. We'll get your stuff, princess."

Ryuen shrugged. "If you say so, Rokou. My room is at the top of the stairs, on the left. It's the lavender room." He promptly dropped the suitcases he was carrying and walked over to the living area that had been set up.

Miaka giggled as Ryuen's older brother grumbled his way up the stairs. "Do you need help, Ry-kun?"

"Nah, I'm just gonna take a breather to annoy him." Ryuen ruffled Miaka's hair as he smiled after his big brother. "So, who is everyone?"

'Everyone' was staring at Ryuen. Genrou and Kouji had their heads together, as they realized that this was the Chou Ryuen. Do-kun and Myojuan looked up at their newest housemate with a gaze bordering on shock. Houjun had heard Miaka and Taka describe Nuriko, as he was reborn in this world, but the effect of seeing him in person was still a jolt.

Saihitei had to remind himself that drooling on his shoes was not the first impression he wanted to make after all these years.

Ryuen was wearing leather pants, which hugged his lithe frame while still managing to not hinder his movements, and a sleeveless, tight, v-neck shirt with a large sparkling strawberry on it. His hair was back, except for the few short strands which strayed to fall over his face. And of course, he was wearing his award-winning smile.

Miaka made quick work of the introductions. Taka and the guy from the curb came in, carrying more of Ryuen's things, and Rokou came down and started out for a second load. When Ryuen was introduced to Genrou and Kouji, they immediately asked him about his archery.

Ryuen was attempting to be modest about it, when Kourin came up from behind him and jumped on his back. "Don't let this boy fool you! He's a killer with a bow and arrow! He's gonna go to the Olympics!"

"Kourin! I have to make the National team first!" Ryuen was blushing as he put his arms behind him to make sure that Kourin didn't fall.

Miaka was nearly ogling him. "Wow, Ry-kun, doesn't archery take a lot of upper body strength?"

Taka and Houjun shared a meaningful look. But Ryuen was quick to respond, looking slightly nervous, "Ah, well, yeah, but mostly it's about concentration and focus."

Do-kun looked up at the siblings with something akin to awe. They were both so beautiful, and so alike! "Um, excuse me, Chou-san, but are you also the photographer highlighted in last month's magazine?"

Now Ryuen was bright red. "It seems my fame has preceded me..."

"Well, that's the price of talent, son!" Ryuen's mom decided to adopt her son's and daughter's method for unloading Ryuen's things. She ruffled her son's hair, while straightening his shirt at the same time. "Our Ry-chan is so talented and clever."

"O-kay, well, I think I'll start getting stuff out of the car..." Ryuen was so embarrassed, he thought his face would catch fire. Which amused all the females in the room immensely.

"It's good to see you again, Ryuen-san." Saihitei's low voice barely made it over the din of the room, as everyone met Kourin and Mrs. Chou.

Ryuen turned to see Saihitei for the first time since... He braced himself, and forced a sunny smile. "Seishuku-san. You look well."

Stung by Ryuen's cold tone, Saihitei lowered his eyes. "And you... look wonderful. As always."

Ryuen had to close his eyes. He hated the power that Saihitei had over him. "I'm... glad that we'll be getting the chance to get to know one another again."

Saihitei's eyes rose with hope, and smile gracing his perfect features.

Ryuen covered his shudder by walking towards to door, getting there in time to open it for Rokou, taking up his third load.

"Oh, don't strain yourself, princess, wouldn't want you to break a nail!" Rokou glared at Ryuen, who just shrugged.

"Don't worry about it, I just put a clear coat on last night."

Miaka giggled. "Does Rokou always call Ryuen 'princess'?"

Kourin giggled back. "Only when Ryuen is being particularly prissy, or spoiled. So, who is everyone?" Kourin proceeded to plop down next to Do-kun. "Are you all in school together?"

Do-kun blushed as the pretty girl with the wild purple hair started to look over his book. "Er, yeah. My name is Oh Do-kun, and I'm going to be a senior this year."

"Really?! Wow, you look my age, and I'm only in my last year in high school!"

"You are his age, Kourin." Ryuen was bringing in his first load, which appeared to be an assortment of camera bags. "Unless I'm very much mistaken, Oh Do-kun there is the child prodigy from the north. Am I right? I actually read a paper of yours last year when I was working on my history project. I was very impressed."

Do-kun turned a bright red color. "Er... ah, well thank you! And I thought your pictures in the magazine were amazing!"

Ryuen shrugged. "Thanks. I wasn't totally pleased with all of them, but it was great exposure anyway." Picking up one of his discarded suitcases, he started up the stairs.

Saihitei was about to volunteer to carry the rest when that jock friend of Ryuen's came down, swooped up the bags, and trailed after Ryuen, keeping his eyes firmly on Ryuen's leather-clad ass.

Saihitei was not pleased.

"It's good to see you, again, Saihitei-san." Kourin's shy eyes were watching him, her arms behind her back. "It's been... too long."

Saihitei smiled at Ryuen's feminine mirror. "I can't tell you how good it is to see you, Kourin-chan."

She puffed up, and then affected a pout. "Why didn't you keep in touch with my big brother? You didn't leave the country or anything, you were just in another school."

Saihitei blushed, feeling guilty. "I... I guess I just lost track, because... well, you know how things can be sometimes?"

Kourin's eyes fell to her feet. "I think my big brother would have liked it if you had kept in touch."

Saihitei was spared the shame of having to answer that by Ryuen's and Rokou's rather loud re-entrance into the room.

"How many damn boxes of photos do you need to bring here anyway? Mom and Dad live in town, you know."

"Rokou, I have to finish my thesis project this year. I can't be running home every night to work on it!"

"Well, for god's sake, princess! How much stuff can one person own?! What's in this box, for instance? It's damn heavy, do you really need this crap?"

Ryuen grinned devilishly. "I wouldn't open that box if I were you, Rokou. You won't want to see what's in there. And yes, I do need it."

Kourin giggled as Rokou turned bright red. Winking at Saihitei, she singsonged, "Ryuen's sex toy box!"

Saihitei paled. He really didn't need to think about Ryuen owning a sex toy box.

Ryuen gave Kourin a disapproving look. "Such things that come out of your mouth!"

She stuck her tongue out at him. "Just trying to live up to the example of my loving big brother!"

He snorted. "If you follow my example, sis, I'm going to have to tie you up and take you to the nunnery myself!"

Just then, the jock came up to Ryuen's shoulder, looking more than eager. "Is there anything else I can do for you, Ry-chan?"

Saihitei's eyes narrowed at the intimate association the stranger feigned with Ryuen.

"Er, the only thing left is the sofa, and the bed."

"Oh, do the bed first, sweetie, so I can set it up for you while you boys bring in the sofa." Ryuen's mom was already rummaging through the box closest to her for Ryuen's linens.

The jock put his arm around Ryuen's shoulder and lead him to the door. "We can handle the bed together."

Saihitei wished he had his sword with him as he watched his Ry-kun and that boy walk out the door.

It wasn't long before all of Ryuen's things were in his room, and the sofa he was contributing to the common space was set up. The jock slipped back upstairs to Ryuen's room to help set up the shelves, he said. Rokou made a few more snide comments about 'princess' before he left to get back to the family's store. Kourin edged close to Ryuen whispering so that their mom wouldn't hear, but most of the group settled in the couches could still hear.

"So, do you know that boy upstairs' name?"

"It's Natsuo."

"And will you know his name tomorrow morning?" She had a positively wicked expression.

"Tomorrow morning," Ryuen explained in sotto voice, and he grabbed her nose between his fingers, "I won't need to know his name."

She laughed exaggeratedly, singing in a low voice, "You are such a slu-ut!"

He winked at her over his shoulder as he went to go to his mom.

"So, sweetie, are you sure that you have everything? Maybe we should go back to the house to check..."

"Mom, we've got everything. And if I'm missing something it's not like I won't be home again soon."

"I know dear." She fussed at straightening his shirt and hair, which he patiently endured. "I worry about you, Ryuen. You know that."

"I can take care of myself, mom."

She sighed, looking unconvinced. Casting a wary eye to the stairs, she said, "I don't suppose there's any chance that that nice boy upstairs is your boyfriend?"

Ryuen appeared to be thinking for a second before he responded, "No, I don't suppose there's any hope for that..."

"You will be careful, won't you? You've got everything you need to take care of yourself?"

He smiled, kissing her cheek. "I'm always careful, mom, and I never leave the house without that. Relax! I'll be seeing you guys soon!"

"I know, dear." She hugged him, as if he were a much younger boy. "Well, take care, love. All of you, take care. Taka, Saihitei, it was good to see the two of you again."

"You too, Mrs. Chou!" Taka really did miss Ryuen's family. He'd forgotten that Ryuen was probably the only person he knew whose family was as tight as Taka's own family.

"Thank you, Mrs. Chou." Saihitei bowed formally. "And it was good to see you, too, Kourin-chan. You certainly have grown up beautifully."

Ryuen's eyes narrowed dangerously, and he came to put a protective arm around her. "She's not grown up, yet, Seishuku-san. She's only seventeen."

Mrs. Chou just laughed, and Kourin elbowed Ryuen, growling. "Ry-uen! He wasn't coming on to me! Idiot!"

Ryuen looked down at his little sister. "I'm serious about that nunnery, you know, Kourin."

Kourin rolled her eye, hitting her brother again. "Idiot. It was good to see you again, too, Sai-san. You too, Taka, Miaka. Nice to meet all of you." Her eyes fell on Do-kun, warming the young genius' cheeks.

Ryuen's eyes lit up at the prospect.

Having said goodbye to his family, Ryuen grabbed the last of his boxes. "This is kitchen stuff. I'll just put it over here in the corner for a bit."

"So, Ryuen-san, are you going to be going for the National Archery team soon?" Kouji looked up from his video game long enough to give the fey pseudo-celebrity a questioning glance.

"Ech. There are a few competitions to go through to qualify for the competition for Nationals. Then, only the top ten archers on the National team get to go to the Olympics. It's a big year, actually."

"You'll make it fer sure, you're fuckin' great." Genrou didn't even look up from the game to comment.

Kouji giggled. "Genrou is just crushing on ya, man..."


Ryuen raised an eyebrow. "You have a crush on me?"


Ryuen laughed, a light tinkling noise. "Don't worry about it, Gen-kun. You wouldn't be the first to think so!" He winked suggestively to Taka, Houjun, and Miaka, who became instantly tense. "I am exceptionally pretty."

Genrou was just grumbling and trying to blend into the carpeting.

"Should we get dinner..." Saihitei began, but was quickly interrupted.

"Dinner! I'm so hungry! Let's order something! Taka, what was that great take out place again? The one with the amazing pork balls?" Miaka's whole face had lit up, the prospect of food making her quivery.

Ryuen smiled. "Ah, I should probably go upstairs and check on Natsuo..." He pulled his braid from behind him and undid the end, separating the strands and combing the long, wavy hair with his fingers. Saihitei gulped. Ryuen proceeded up the stairs with a confident swagger in his hips, amid Kouji's and Genrou's crass jokes about what 'checking on Natsuo' might entail.

The discussion about what to order for dinner held no interest for Saihitei now, and after only a few minutes, he excused himself to go upstairs, saying that his wallet was in his room.

He only made it halfway up the stairs when he stopped, not wanting to intrude on the scene playing out before him even as every fiber in his being begged him to interfere and maybe stop it.

Natsuo was leaning against the doorframe to Ryuen's room with his back to Saihitei, and Ryuen was facing him. With an elegant yawn, Ryuen stretched out to grip the doorframe above him, his lean body nicely displayed as his shirt rode up to reveal smooth, perfect skin and an enticing little belly button.

"Thanks so much for all your help. It went so fast, thanks to you."

Natsuo gingerly reached out to touch Ryuen's waist, tracing the top of the leather pants. "It was my pleasure, Ry-chan."

"Mm. I didn't realize we had gotten to the pleasure part yet..." Ryuen lazily arched his neck before the obviously aroused other boy. Two of them, actually, Saihitei thought to himself.

Natsuo leaned in, and kissed the smaller man, their lips making loud noises as they roughly initiated contact.

Ryuen released himself to Natsuo's arms, turning his head, letting his long hair slide gracefully over his back. "Wanna christen the new bed?" Ryuen's voice was soft and teasing.

"Oh, yeah..." Natsuo sounded like he was under a spell.

Watching the door close with a heavy heart, Saihitei tried to shuffle to his room, a painful beginning to an erection burning between his thighs and a lead weight on his heart burning tears in his eyes.

It was several hours later when am exhausted-looking Ryuen was escorting Natsuo to the door. Natsuo was wearing the same clothes as before, but looked disheveled and unkempt. Ryuen's hair was now held back in a loose tie at his shoulders, and he was wearing jeans and a white oxford shirt that appeared to be two sizes too big for him. Ryuen looked like he was completely bored, and couldn't wait to get rid of Natsuo, who was energetically telling Ryuen about his schedule for the week.

"So, Friday I'm probably going to the movies with my roommates. If you want to come with, that would be great, and then afterwards..."

"Yeah, whatever." Ryuen opened the front door. "I'll call you."

"Really?" Natsuo actively ignored how obviously Ryuen wanted him to leave.

"Um, sure. I have to get up early in the morning..."

"Right... Have a good night, Ryuen!" Natsuo tried to kiss Ryuen goodbye, but Ryuen ducked away, heading towards the couches were everyone was waiting and pretending not to watch. So, Natsuo left, trying to act as if he wasn't hurt.

Ryuen acted as if nothing at all was unusual as he sat down next to Myojuan. "So, is anyone still hungry? I'm famished! Anyone up for pizza?"

"Yes! Yes! Yes! Pizza!" Miaka quickly dropped her somnolence, and was ready for food again. It had been nearly three hours since her last meal.

Saihitei tried to keep his eyes off Ryuen, but he couldn't. No matter how much he had changed, he was still Nuriko. Saihitei couldn't forgive himself for the way he had, when he was Hotohori, treated Nuriko. Somehow, he even managed to feel guilty about his death. He sat there, miserable, thinking that perhaps he deserved Ryuen's contempt.

Ryuen giggled, and tugged on Miaka's foot. "I knew you would be up for it! How do maintain your girlish figure with the way you eat??"

Miaka blushed hotly, embarrassed. "Ryyyy-kun!"

Ryuen just giggled. "Anyone else?"

"I'll order the pizza." Taka stood up. Miaka had the slightly irksome habit of acting like Taka's wallet was her wallet, and he knew that if she ordered, he wouldn't have any spending money for the rest of the week. His efforts in teaching her how to budget were thus far proving fruitless.

"So, what are the arrangements here? Where's everyone else's room?" Ryuen did a quick headcount of the people there. Apparently, Kouji had left for the night, and while Do-kun looked like he was going to go to sleep at any minute, everyone was still up and present.

Saihitei spoke up, his voice quiet and low, his eyes averted from Ryuen as he responded. "Do-kun and Myojuan are sharing the basement, which is fully furnished with two bedrooms and a common area, since they both need more... quiet. Genrou is in the downstairs bedroom, so that, as he put it, when he stumbles home at night he won't upset anyone. My bedroom is across the hall from yours, and Houjun has the other bedroom at the top of the stairs. And Miaka and Taka are sharing the attic apartment, which is also fully finished, but with only one bedroom." At that, both Miaka and Taka started to whistle, turn red, and look away from each other.

Ryuen rolled his eyes. "Nifty. Man, this house is awesome, Sai-san! How can you afford this? Or did your parents pay for it?"

Saihitei looked momentarily uncomfortable. "Er, no. Actually... my father set up a trust fund for me, when I turned 18. Basically, when my parents divorced, my mother made my father set up his affairs so that I would have some stake in his corporation. I was actually supposed to be the heir, since my mother wanted her child to inherit everything. But, when I came out... My father made it clear that his heir would not be gay, so he removed me from the will, and I was given a... sizable trust fund to compensate. Mother was not pleased."

Ryuen stared at him. "Your father cut you out of his will because you're gay! The fucking prick!"

Saihitei blushed, impossibly pleased that Ryuen would be offended for him. "Er, well, it was a relief, actually. I didn't want to rule the corporate empire. Now, I can pursue my academic interests and be myself, really. It's like a burden has been lifted from me."

"Oh." Ryuen nodded, knowingly. Saihitei wondered how well Ryuen understood, after all... He had his memories of the past life, and so did Taka and Houjun. As far as Miaka knew, those were the only ones that remembered, but that wasn't necessarily the case... Saihitei wasn't sure which would be worse, if Ryuen didn't remember, and just had their past relationship when they were kids to base his opinion of Saihitei on, or if he did remember, and would view Saihitei from Nuriko's perspective as well. At least Nuriko loved Hotohori... "So, what is your major?"

"Political Science, and philosophy." Ryuen nodded at Saihitei's response, as if he were expecting it. Then, he turned his face to Myojuan, directing the question to him.

"I'm in medical school, my first year." The tall, quiet man responded.

Ryuen grinned. "Cool! So, you'd be the guy to turn to for first aid!"

"Sure," he replied, grinning, "but don't expect me to hold your hair if you drink too much!"

Do-kun sat up, glad that they were finally talking about school. And besides, Ryuen's sister was so pretty, maybe if he and Ryuen were friends... "I'm a history, political science, and math major!"

Ryuen nearly fell off the couch. "Really??? When do you have time for fun!?"

"Well..." the younger boy blushed, "I've never really... had that many friends, so... mostly, I just study for fun."

"It's a good thing you are here, then." Ryuen declared. "You need to learn about fun while you are at college! Maybe Kourin could take you out some time..."

Saihitei blinked. "I don't get it! I say that she's beautiful, and you're ready to cut my throat open, but now you are setting her up with Do-kun!"

Ryuen smiled patiently. "Sai-san, Kourin is much too young for you! She's only seventeen! Which makes her Do-kun's age. Besides, he's very smart, and mature, and will one day have a very prestigious and successful career. So, I know she's ok with him. And besides, he's so sweet and innocent, I know he isn't going to do anything with my sister that I would be forced to make him regret..."

Do-kun turned a brilliant red, and put his head down.

Genrou snorted. "Taka's right, you have a sister complex."

Ryuen rolled his eyes. "So, what's your major, Gen-chan?"

Genrou blushed at the nickname. "Er, I'm a chemistry major." Everyone stared at him blankly. He elaborated, "I want to go into pyrotechnics."

"Ah." Everyone subtly shifted away from Genrou.

Ryuen looked expectantly at Houjun.

"Oh! You know, I'm a philosophy/theology grad student, you know." The bright-voiced reply made Ryuen furrow his brow as he stared at the older boy.

Crawling over to Houjun on his hands and knees, Ryuen studied him intently. So much so that Houjun broke out into a cold sweat. Stuttering, he tried to control himself. Ryuen was a highly sexual being, the way he swayed his ass in the air, and his shirt fell loose over his body, enticing one to look inside it... Saihitei was practically falling out of his chair, trying to get a better view, and Houjun had to remind himself that he wasn't attracted to Ryuen.

"Why do you wear your hair like this?" Ryuen picked the long locks that covered half of Houjun's face up with one long, graceful finger. "Are you trying to cover up your eye?"

Houjun blinked. Nuriko had never questioned his use of masks. He assumed that none of the seishi ever wondered, or cared. Of course, he had told Miaka his story, and Genrou came to know about it... "I... well, you know, people get uncomfortable when they see it..."

Ryuen tucked the locks behind Houjun's ear. "Fuck people. You have such a beautiful face. You shouldn't hide it." He traced the line of the scar reverently. "Scars are beautiful. Lessons that our bodies won't let us forget. Why should you hide your scar for other people? Why should you pretend to be happy if you aren't? No one will think less of you if you show your true face. How can you expect people to appreciate your wonderful qualities if you are hiding them?"

Houjun stared into the brown-rose eyes. There was a lump in his throat that threatened to choke him.

Suddenly, Ryuen was pulled back. Taka stood behind him, his finger in Ryuen's belt loop. "Stop tormenting the straight boy, Ry-kun."

Ryuen smiled. "You're no fun, Taka."

Miaka giggled, glomping onto Ryuen's back. "He's lots of fun! Just not for you! Only for me! Me!"

Ryuen raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I thought you guys hadn't had sex yet?"

"Ryyyyy-kun!!" Miaka and Taka both looked like they were going to burst with embarrassment.

"Seriously! How do you two intend to live in the same house, sharing a bedroom! You can't even say the word sex!"

"Well, Ry-kun, sex isn't the answer for everything, you know! Some people don't have to jump in the sack whenever they meet a pretty face!" Miaka made a face at him as she defended herself and Taka.

Ryuen sighed. "I know that!" He suddenly needed to clear his throat in such a way that it sounded like he was hacking the word prudes. "But have you guys really thought this all through? You'll be in the same bed tonight. And the night after that! How long do you intend to stay virgins?"

Taka was the most interesting shade of crimson. "Ry-kun, I don't think our sex life is the most appropriate topic of conversation for the room!"

Ryuen rolled his eyes. "If you can't talk about sex with your closest friends, then with who? Anyway, you guys don't have a sex life! That's the point!"

Houjun coughed lightly. "Ry-kun, I'm sure Taka and Miaka have discussed this already, you know."

Ryuen snorted. "I hope they have. Cuz it's final exam time, if ya know what I mean." He grinned his wicked grin. "You know, Miaka, if you feel uncomfortable with Taka, that's ok. There's plenty of room in my bed for you to sleep..."

"Nope!" Taka quickly grabbed Miaka and placed her in his lap. "That won't be necessary."

"Silly! I wouldn't take advantage of her! I never sleep with people who are in relationships. Unless you guys wanted to do some kind of threesome thing..." Ryuen turned an appreciative eye to Taka, glancing up and down his form.

Genrou barked out a harsh laugh. "Man! You really are a perv! So, do you really screw men and women?"

Ryuen couldn't help laughing when he responded. "I'm not sure I know what you mean, but I have been with both men and women, sure."

"At the same time?" Genrou leaned closer, paying rapt attention.

"From time to time, sure." Ryuen's eyes were sparkling. "Why? Was your friend right, are you interested in me?"

Genrou fell off his chair.

Saihitei had had enough of this conversation. "So, I suppose your major is photography, then, Ry-kun?"

"Yeah. So, how did everyone here meet? What's the connections? Because this seems like a fairly odd mix of people."

Taka, still recovering, replied, "Well, Sai-san and I have been friends since school, as you know. Miaka's brother introduced us. Genrou and I were on the same track team for a while. Sai-san and Do-kun were in a philosophy class together last year. Myojuan is Do-kun's cousin. Houjun was my teacher for Buddist philosophy a couple of years ago. And you know how we remet last year..."

"It's interesting how the most random occurrences can lead to the most significant changes in a life. It's really fascinating to think about, isn't it?" Do-kun's bright, glittering eyes caught Ryuen.

Ruffling the young genius' hair, he replied, "Sure is!"

"So, are you really a pervert?" Do-kun's gaze wasn't altered in the slightest with his new question.

Taka grinned. "Out of the mouths of babes..."

Ryuen glared at Taka. "I don't think so. But other people definitely do. I guess it depends on how you define perversion."

"Well," Do-kun became thoughtful, "if you would disapprove of your sister behaving in the same way that you do, then why do you approve of your own actions?"

Sweating, Ryuen patted Do-kun gently. "You'll understand when you get older... or something. Anyway, when's the food gonna get here? I'm starved!"

Saihitei stayed up to wait for the food with Miaka, Taka, and Ryuen. He had intended to go to bed early so that he would be fresh for the first day of school, but so much of the day hadn't gone as he had intended... He found himself watching Ryuen the whole time, staying in his own corner and being quiet. The other former seishi was so changed from the last time they had met... It made Saihitei wonder what had happened in the interim time to effect the changes. Kourin's voice was haunting him, reminding him of his guilt. "I think my big brother would have liked it if you had kept in touch." There had been such sadness in her voice when she had said that...

He thought about Nuriko, the bright and always cheerful companion. Hotohori had never known how to react to Nuriko. There had been times when he had been embarrassed by the attention he offered him, and times when he had been almost put out with the knowledge that another male openly desired him.

When he realized that Nuriko was dead, so many things became so much clearer... Hotohori would have done anything to have been able to talk to the other seishi, even one more time, to make amends...

When he had begun to remember everything, he had been so ashamed of himself for repeating his error again in this life. For so long, he dreamed of the day when he and Ryuen would be reunited and he could finally make amends. He had reoccurring nightmares in which Ryuen had died and he discovered it by accident, at a school reunion or by running into Kourin or Rokou on the street...

When Taka had told him that he had met Ryuen on campus that afternoon several months ago, Saihitei had thought that fate had finally acted in his favor. He and Ryuen would see each other again, and everything would be fine, they would be together and he would finally be able to live the life that he wanted.

Things had a funny way of working out.

After finally working up his courage to meet Ryuen again, Taka said that he would arrange something. One encounter after another fell through for one reason or another, and Taka sat Saihitei down and told him the truth. Ryuen didn't want to see him again, he was still bitter about their childhood, and he was sure that there was no reason to reinitiate contact.

Saihitei had never known such sorrow, in either of his lives, as believing that his blindness and self-absorption had caused such pain and resentment.

Then, Miaka had come up with the idea of them all living in the house together, one day when Saihitei had mentioned that he was probably going to buy a house to live in the next year. All of them together meant that Ryuen would be there too. And as much as Saihitei wasn't deluding himself into thinking that Ryuen had forgiven him when he agreed to live there, he hoped that this might be the first step.

When he thought what it might be a first step towards, his toes began to itch with anticipation.

He watched the exotic young man with rapt attention, each sway of hair enticing, each smile precious, and each laugh a tiny sunrise for Saihitei.

Was there really no hope for the two of them?

Saihitei had been so wrapped up in his thoughts that he hadn't noticed that Miaka and Taka had left for bed until Ryuen propped his head on the armrest of Saihitei's chair. His startled little jump encouraged another laugh from Ryuen.

"I didn't mean to scare you, Sai-san. But you looked like you might be falling asleep down here, and I figured that you might be more comfortable in your bed."

Saihitei shuddered with the thought of bed and Ryuen. "I... thank you, Ryuen-kun. Ryuen...?"

"Yes, Saihitei-san?" Ryuen's beautiful face was looking up at him, patiently waiting.

Saihitei didn't bother to resist the urge to touch that smooth cheek, letting his thumb caress the tiny mole beneath the eye. "I... I'm glad that you decided to move in here. I'm... hoping that we can have a chance to... to... to be friends again."

Ryuen was surprised when Saihitei touch him, but didn't flinch or move away from the touch. He was accustomed to people being infatuated with him, and recognized the signals well. It was with a sense of victory, almost, that he had noted Saihitei's attention and jealousy throughout the day. But he didn't expect Saihitei to be so... vulnerable. Looking down, he responded after some thought, "There's no reason why we shouldn't be, Sai-san. I... I never wanted to lose touch with you." There was only the slightest hint of reproach in his voice.

Saihitei swallowed. "I know, that, Ry-kun. I don't know what to say..."

Ryuen shook his head, shrugging. "There's nothing to say, Saihitei-san. The past is the past." Standing he brushed himself off. "It's going to be an interesting year, though, isn't it Saihitei-san?"

Saihitei looked up at his former, and perhaps future, friend. "Yes, I think that it will be, Ryuen."

notes • Part One • Part TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart SixPart SevenPart EightPart NinePart TenPart ElevenPart TwelvePart ThirteenPart FourteenPart FifteenPart SixteenPart SeventeenPart EighteenPart NineteenPart TwentyPart Twenty-OneEpilogue