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 8 - The Good Stuff part



Houjun swept the stairs, keeping his thoughts on his task. The shrine was busy today, with lots of visitors, thanks to the beautiful weather. People were constantly stopping him and asking him questions about the shrine and other things. Tourists kept asking him questions about the trains.

He was trying not to think about going home, and putting his feet up, maybe taking a relaxing soak in the tub...

"Excuse me, ma'am, do you mind if I take a picture of you and your little girl?"

"Oh! Um, I suppose not... You don't work for a magazine or anything, do you?"

"No! I'm just a college photography student. You and your daughter look so much alike..."

"Thank you, young man! Is this all right?"

"Perfect! Let me just... And then... Don't look at me, please, look at your mommy... Thanks!!"

Ryuen shook the young woman's hand, and ruffled her daughter's hair. Houjun waited a moment to admire his housemate. Ryuen was in torn jeans and a turtleneck, and he looked like he was going out rather than hanging around a shrine and taking pictures. Houjun also admired how easily Ryuen socialized, putting people at ease and making them smile.

He wished it were that easy for him, sometimes.

"Hey, Ryuen, you know! What are you doing here?"

Ryuen twirled, his small mouth in a round o. "Houjun! Wow! What a coincidence! I'm taking some candid photos. What... What are you doing here? Nice robes..."

Houjun smiled. "I work here, you know. I've been working and studying here since I was in high school." He motioned Ryuen to sit down near one of the fountains.

Ryuen's eyes were wide, as he smiled. "I didn't know that... Um, are you training to be a monk?"

"That's the idea, you know!" Houjun laughed.

"Really?" Ryuen looked and sounded skeptical. "You're going to be a monk?"

"It wouldn't be the first time, you know!" Houjun winked at him.

Ryuen grinned. "Yeah, but you weren't really a monk, monk. You were a wandering weirdo monk, monk."

Houjun laughed out loud. "Thanks, Ry-chan!"

Ryuen blushed, quieting Houjun's laughs. He was stunning when he blushed. "You know what I meant..."

"I know. I guess I'm surprised that you seem surprised that I'm going to be a monk, you know."

"I just..." Ryuen eyed him critically. "I just don't see it, I guess. You don't seem like the monk type to me."

Houjun smiled, while mentally reeling. Ryuen was perceptive. "Well... you know, I was going to make a commitment last year, but my superior suggested that I take another year to consider."

"Oh?" Ryuen watched him, waiting patiently for him to finish.

"He thought that maybe I was becoming a monk for the wrong reasons, you know, and that I would regret it."

"What were you running from this time? Not your friends, the ones that you loved and lost?"

"No. We were happy, you know, but that wasn't... it wasn't as traumatic as it was the last time."

Ryuen leaned back, closing his eyes. "I wonder... Do you ever think about how we all ended up here, in this world? Why would your old friends and lovers be reincarnated? I can sort of understand our families, maybe we brought them with us, but..."

"Oh, they weren't the same people as in the last life." Houjun stared off into space. "But they were my second chance. Things were so different this time around... I knew them my whole life, you know, so when we started to have feelings for one another... I remembered what it had been like, and I... changed things."

"You had a triad." Ryuen sounded so matter of fact.

"Yes. But then, I started to work here, and they started to develop a deeper bond with each other than either shared with me, you know... We went our separate ways. But it was different, you know, I could accept it."

"And you threw yourself into your work here, because you didn't have to feel lonely while meditating or praying or working." Ryuen nodded.

Houjun looked up in surprise at his friend. Damn, Ryuen was a little too insightful... "I suppose, you know."

Ryuen smiled, gently. "I think your superior was right. You need to think about your choice a little more."

Houjun was grinning now. He felt a kinship with Ryuen that he had never shared with Nuriko. Truth to be told, he had always been a little... put off by the outrageous cross-dresser. Now, he knew better than to let such minor details affect his reactions to people. "Perhaps, you know. So, how did things go with Saihitei?"

Ryuen looked away, his mouth thinning. "Badly."

"Why?" Houjun asked, simply.

Ryuen turned to look at the older boy, really looking. "What happened to your face?" He traced the scar with his index finger. "I'm assuming that you didn't try to kill your best friend in this life..."

Houjun blushed. "I... It was stupid, you know. I fell off a porch, and scraped my face on a rock when I was sixteen."

"Ouch." Ryuen grimaced in sympathy.

"What does that have to do with Saihitei, Ry-chan?"

Ryuen continued to watch Houjun closely. "We carry some scars with us from one life to the next, even if we no longer have the same reason to."

"Some scars need to be healed, you know." Houjun tried to keep the sadness out of his voice. "I know... that the former emperor can be a little... immature in such things, but you are never going to find peace if you keep your pain and don't let it go."

Ryuen nodded, seemingly agreeing. "I was thinking about that. Tell me, how are things going to end between Genrou and Kouji? Assuming things don't change from the last life."

Houjun started, and then looked away, blushing. "Um... Badly, you know."

Ryuen watched him even closer now. "And how will things end with you and Genrou? Or is that why you are here, sweeping? Don't you believe that things can be the same?"

Houjun felt deeply unsettled. He knew that Genrou didn't remember. He knew that the moment they first talked. It had been like a sword in his heart. "I... He doesn't remember."

Ryuen shrugged. "He doesn't have to. It's a new life, you know?"

Houjun narrowed his eye. "Weren't we talking about you and Saihitei?"

"We were." Ryuen smiled. "Then I artfully changed the subject. Talented, aren't I?"

Houjun shook his head. "Maybe we both need to take some time to consider our choices, you know?"

Ryuen heaved a heavy breath, and stood up, helping Houjun up. "Maybe, maybe. But I don't intend to use my time sweeping, if it's all the same to you. I had enough of girl's work in the last life." Winking, he turned away from Houjun, his bright ponytail trailing after him.

Houjun set back to sweeping, his mind stubbornly refusing to remain blank.

It had twenty years worth of memories from a previous life it preferred to think about.





Saihitei closed the door behind him, mentally making a list of all the work he had to do... and all the work that he could think of that could be done. Since his dinner with Ryuen, he had resigned himself to the fact that this life was, for him, hell, and that he was going to have to live with that. As a result, he was throwing himself into his work with a resolve that would shame Do-kun with its intensity.

Putting the day's mail on the coffee table, he nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the phone ring, he was so wrapped up in his thoughts.

"Hello?"

"Saihitei-san? Is Ryuen there?"

Saihitei frowned when he heard Kourin's voice. There was something wrong. "Um, I don't think so, but let me check." He skipped up the stairs quickly, knocking and poking his head in Ryuen's room quickly. "Sorry, Kourin, but he's out. Have you tried his cell phone?"

A noise like a strangled sob crackled over the phone. "He's not answering it..."

"Are you all right, Kourin? What's wrong?"

"I... I need to talk to Ryuen.... Saihitei, I'm... I think I may be lost, and I don't.... I don't know..."

It sounded like she might be crying.

"Kourin, calm down. Listen to me. Give me your cell phone number, and I'll call you back on my cell. All right? And I'll get in my car, and I'll come get you. All right? You just need to tell me what intersection you are at, and I'll find you."

A soft sniffle. "Ok."

Saihitei jotted down the number she gave him, and then hung up and called her back quickly.

"Kourin? Ok, now, I'm on my way to my car, just tell me what intersection you are at."

"Um, ok, just a second, I'm coming to..." She rattled off a pair of street names.

Saihitei paled. That intersection was in a part of town that was congested with 'hostess' bars and the like. It was the sort of place that his father liked to take his half-brothers.

It was the sort of place he knew that Ryuen wouldn't want his sister anywhere near.

"Ok, I know where that is. I'm on my way. You should keep walking... Stay on the street you are on, and head east. You know which way that is?"

"Um, yeah, no problem."

"Great! I should be able to intercept you in a few minutes. So, how was school today?"

Kourin started. She hadn't expected to make small talk. "Oh, the usual, I guess. Uh, how... how was your day?"

"Well, I overslept, and I nearly fell asleep in one class... So, the usual, I guess."

"Really, Sai-chan? I wouldn't have thought you were the sleepy type..."

"Well, I prefer to be up at night."

Kourin giggled, despite herself. "So does Ryuen..."

"Kourin! That's not what I meant!"

"Yes, it is, admit it..."

"Kourin..."

"Oh, there's a McDonald's here! Should I wait here for you?"

"That sounds good."

"What kind of car do you have? Um, besides expensive..."

"Oh, it's not that much. Just a Jaguar. It's red."

"Just a Jaguar? Poor Sai-chan..."

"I know, I'm so deprived."

Kourin had a bad case of giggles now. "Deprived, underprivileged Sai-chan..."

"It's a sad story, let me tell you..."

"My heart bleeds for you..."

"Thank you, Kourin-chan. So few people really appreciate my tale of woe."

"I'm here for you, Sai-chan. You can always count on me."

"That means a lot to me, Kourin-chan. I can't tell you." Saihitei sniffed, as if he were moved to tears. "You're the best friend I've ever had!"

"Oh, Saihitei!" Kourin tried to rein in her giggles as she held up her end of the teasing. "That means so much to me, even though you are deprived and underprivileged..."

"I can see the McDonald's from here, Kourin. Can you see me?"

"Um... Yes! Oh, man, Sai-chan, all kidding aside, what a sweet ride!"

Saihitei shrugged. "It gets me places."

Kourin sighed as she went out to meet Saihitei. "I wish I had something to get me places..."

The two hung up as Saihitei blocked traffic letting Kourin in. Immediately, she burst over to Saihitei's side of the car to hug him tightly, her thin body shivering slightly.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Oh, I was so scared, Saihitei!!"

Saihitei did his best to return the hug, while keeping the car under control. "I know, Kourin, I know. But everything is all right now." Letting her get settled in her seat, and buckled up, Saihitei had a thought. "Would you like some ice cream?"

"Ice cream?" Kourin looked up at him, startled.

"Yeah..." Saihitei realized it was silly but... people liked to have ice cream when they were upset. Well, he did. It wasn't unusual, was it? "Does that sound good? I know a great place..."

"Great!" Kourin's eyes were beaming.

Saihitei noticed that her eyes were less rose than Ryuen's, looking less violet when they were wet with near-tears.

"So, how many traffic laws did you have to break to get to me so fast?" Kourin gave him a teasing look.

Saihitei smiled. "Kourin. This is a Jaguar. There are no traffic laws that apply to it."

She laughed hard, longer than the joke deserved. It was so good to let go of all the tension she was carrying.

Within the hour, they were sitting on the couch at the house, waiting for Ryuen, eating ice cream, and discussing Saihitei's and Ryuen's relationship.

Rather, Kourin was grilling Saihitei about their relationship.

"I know all about the dinner, Sai-chan. You don't need to pretend that nothing changed."

"He told you?" Saihitei eyed her nervously.

"Yup. We're pretty close. So, what are you going to do about it?"

"Do? About what?"

"Ryuen's childishness. You aren't giving up, are you?"

"Giving up? No, of course not."

"So..."

"I've got school work. Yup, lots and lots of school work... A future to prepare for, and lots of stuff to read and study..."

"Sai-chan..."

"Kourin. There's nothing I can do. He's right. I knew it before he said it, but... I deserve to be punished."

She narrowed her eyes, dangerously. "You don't. And even if you did, he doesn't! Don't you think he deserves to be loved and cherished, the way you love and cherish him? Don't you think he's worth more than just being a notch on someone's bedpost, or a great story for someone to tell around a table in a bar? 'Oh, yeah, Chou Ryuen, he's hot, and a tiger in bed, I've had him, you know...' Don't you think he deserves to be loved for his art, for his passion, for his kindness and caring?" Kourin's eyes fell. "Ever since... ever since, that horrible day, Ryuen has been... It's been so hard, Saihitei, watching Ryuen throw away his gifts and waste his tenderness. I know he keeps a tight shell around himself, but he deserves to be loved for who he is. Don't you think? And isn't that why you love him?"

Saihitei was nearly choking, desperate to keep his tears in. "I... Kourin, I'm shamed by your trust in me. But, he doesn't want that kind of relationship with me. What am I to do?"

Kourin studied the older boy carefully. She was pretty sure he would be the one. She had liked Kei a lot, but had determined after a while that he wasn't good enough for her brother. Kei always wanted more from Ryuen. Saihitei was willing to take nothing at all from him. She was almost sure that he would be the one that she could accept for her brother. "Just don't give up, Sai-chan. He needs time, really, that's all. He'll realize how wonderful you are." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, as Ryuen had done so many times. "I know he will, Sai-chan, so just give him time, and don't give up."

He smiled brightly back at her. "I'll try, Kourin."

They were in their fourth round of racing on the Playstation when Ryuen came home with his usual cheer.

"Hello all! Hey... Kourin! What are you doing here? Was I supposed to meet you?" Ryuen turned all of his attention to Kourin, concern lining his face.

"Ok, but promise that you won't get mad at me, ok Ry-chan, because nothing bad happened!" She pleaded with him with her sad eyes and trembling voice.

He narrowed his eyes and dropped his bag, crossing his arms over his chest.

Kourin eyed him warily, taking a deep breath. "O-kay. Here goes. I cut school 'cause my friend Ami wanted to meet this boy she met on the internet, and so we went to this park, and we met the boy and a bunch of his friends, and they were all older, see, and then Ami had to leave because she had violin lessons, and the boy she met went with her, so I was in the park with all his friends, and they suggested that we go this bar that they knew, so I went with them, but when we got there I was really nervous 'cause it didn't seem like a very nice bar, and there weren't any other girls there, except the ones that worked there, and they were all dressed really slutty, and the boys were making me nervous, so I told them I had to go to the bathroom, and then I snuck out, and I tried to call you 'cause I didn't know where I was and I was scared, but I couldn't get a hold of you, even though you are always supposed to have your cell phone with you, so I called here, and Saihitei picked me up, and he was really sweet and bought me ice cream, and he made me laugh, and so everything is fine, you see, but I left my Prada jacket at the nasty bar."

Ryuen stared at his younger sister, his eye twitching.

Saihitei started to sweat. He hadn't asked Kourin what had gone on, since he had wanted to make her feel comfortable. Now, he started to inch away, not sure how Ryuen would react.

"You... cut school... to go to a park to meet boys you didn't know... boys your friend only met over the internet... and then you went to a BAR with older men you didn't even know... in a neighborhood you weren't familiar with... what the hell were you thinking!!?!?" Ryuen quickly slid onto the couch, holding Kourin tightly in a suffocating hug. "Gods, Kourin, do you have any idea what could have happened? How much danger you were in? Gods, how could you? Please, please, please, Kourin, promise me that you will never do anything even remotely like that again??"

Kourin struggled momentarily in the stranglehold Ryuen had her in, and then relaxed, hugging him back with the little strength she had left. "I'm... I'm so sorry, Ryuen. I didn't mean to... I promise, I'll never do this again."

Ryuen pulled back enough to look at her. His eyes were spilling tears, his cheeks glowing with moisture. "Please, Kourin. If... if something happened to you, I... I wouldn't know what to do. Please, promise me that you will never do anything like this again?"

"I promise, Ryuen." She leaned in to hug him. "I promise, big brother."

"What were you thinking, Kourin? Why did you want to hang out with the older boys anyway?"

Kourin blushed, her cheeks hot. "I... I don't know. I guess, I mean... Do-kun is great, and really sweet, but for some reason he seems afraid to touch me. Why would that be, do you think, big brother?" She mock glared at him, her lips trying to grin.

"Because he's a decent and sweet boy who knows that you are both too young." Ryuen answered soberly, hanging his head. "Don't rush into things, just because of your friends, or your brother. You'd be surprised at how much you might regret things later. So, please, promise me that you won't ever do anything like that again, all right?"

"I promise, Ryuen."

"That's three times you promised me, Kourin." He held her face in his hands, her lips trembling at his sincerity. "Don't forget that." He pulled her tight for another hug, which she gratefully accepted. She started to cry in his arms, causing him to cling to her tighter. Looking up, he saw Saihitei, who was starting to back away. Smiling sweetly, he mouthed 'Thank you.'

Saihitei smiled, ducked his head and left.

Ryuen straightened Kourin's hair and wiped away her tears. "Were you really scared?"

"Yeah," she admitted, easily, "until I started talking to Saihitei. He was really awesome. He even made me laugh."

Ryuen's lips twitched, a strange look flitting through his eyes. "He is great." Ryuen paused to think for a minute, before his face became dark. "Wait a minute... Did you say you left your Prada jacket behind? Kourin! Please tell me that wasn't the jacket you begged dad for months to buy for you!?"

She had the grace to blush and look away.

"Kourin!" Ryuen whined. Sighing, "All right. Here's what we will do. Call home, and tell mom that you decided to meet up with me, and we forgot to check in. Then say that I'm taking you out to dinner. We'll go grab something to eat, and replace the jacket. It didn't have any stains or identifiable marks or anything, did it?"

"Actually, I just got it back from the cleaners yesterday, looking just like new. Small blessing, huh?"

"Very small blessing." Ryuen sighed.

"Will you be able to afford it, Ry-chan?" Kourin looked up at him with her adoring sister eyes.

He hated those eyes.

"I think my credit limit can cover it. In a couple of weeks, I'll ask dad for money for 'camera supplies.' It helps to have an expensive hobby."

Kourin giggled. "It also helps to be the princess!"

He pulled her into a noogie. "Yup! That too!"

"Thank, Ry-chan." She stared up at him like he was a savior and a hero.

He smiled down at his beloved sister. "Just remember, Kourin-chan. You promised me three times." Kissing the top of her head, he handed her the phone.





Saihitei was furiously typing on his laptop when he heard the soft knock at his door. The paper wasn't due until tomorrow afternoon, so he wasn't too worried, but he was trying not to think of anything but work at the moment.

It was hard, because he kept seeing the unabashed gratitude and respect in Ryuen's brown-rose eyes.

"C'mon in." He took that moment to rearrange the scattered noted surrounding him.

"Heya, Sai-chan. Do you have a minute? I didn't want to interrupt you..." Ryuen poked his head and his ponytail in.

Saihitei smiled up, automatically. "No, you aren't interrupting. Come in."

Ryuen stepped in, and had to repress the urge to giggle. "Uh, Sai-chan, you do know you have a perfectly good desk, or at least the bed if you didn't want to be confined... Why are you sitting on the floor to work?"

Saihitei smiled up at the shyly teasing Ryuen. "I like to be a little bit uncomfortable when I'm working. It helps me focus."

"Ah." Ryuen smiled and let his eyes float up as he sat himself down next to Saihitei. "Well, that makes perfect sense. Um, I... wanted to talk to you. To, well, to thank you. For what you did for Kourin."

Saihitei started to get nervous. He didn't want Ryuen thinking that he owed him anything. "Oh, Ryuen, it was nothing, really, anyone who was home would have..."

"But no one else was home, Sai-chan." Ryuen's voice and eyes were low. "Not even me. And besides, that's not what I meant. I didn't just mean, thanks for rescuing her. I meant, well, thanks for being such a wonderful man. She was more scared than she had ever been before in her life, and you made her smile." Ryuen looked up to meet Saihitei's eyes.

Saihitei quivered. "Oh, I..."

Ryuen reached out, and took Saihitei's hand. "You really are a wonderful man, and a true friend. And I have been childish and cruel with you. I hope... I hope that you can forgive me..."

"Ryuen... There's nothing for me to forgive. You were honest with me about your feelings. What is there to forgive about that?"

"I don't know. I suppose..." Ryuen's fingers tightened, holding Saihitei's hand as if he wanted to be sure that he wouldn't lose it. "I was honest, Saihitei, but I was also unfair. It's... It's time that I put the past behind me, and lived in the moment. I always said that that was how I wanted to live, but I forgot. It doesn't... it isn't important, I mean... You have saved both me and, far more importantly, Kourin. You have been a true friend, even in the face of my childishness. I want... I want to move forward, Sai-chan. I don't have enough people in my life as sincere and good as you that I can hold grudges."

Saihitei bent his head down, staring at his hand in Ryuen's. It was all too amazing to believe, and Saihitei didn't want to think about it right now. But he had to ask one question, despite the risk.

"So... what... what does this mean? Um, where do we go from here?" Saihitei didn't look up to see Ryuen's face as he spoke.

Ryuen tightened his grip. "Where do we go? Ah, where do we... Well... I have to be up in the morning, early darkroom time, so, uh, I guess I will be going to bed... to go to sleep... sleep and dream... dream about Kourin being raped... Hey! Wanna have an anime marathon? I have all of Cardcaptor Sakura on dvd...?"

Saihitei nearly laughed out loud, feeling lightheaded. He had to think responsibly, he couldn't let Ryuen's deflection deter him... "Well... I have a lot of work to do... Can we start with the Final Trial?"

"Of course!" Ryuen was delighted. "The show exists solely for showcasing Yue!"

Saihitei smiled, a genuine and bright smile. "Let me just gather my stuff up..."

"Ok! I'll just change and set up the dvd!"

Ryuen skipped, literally skipped, out of the room.

Saihitei felt sweet warmth fill him again.

He and Ryuen were friends again!

When he got to Ryuen's room, loaded down with his laptop and notes, Ryuen was already stretched out his bed, not surprisingly dressed in his oversized white oxford shirt and loose jeans. Saihitei plopped himself down on the floor next to the bed.

"You could sit on the bed, Sai-chan, there's plenty of room..." Ryuen teased.

Saihitei smiled up at Ryuen. "I have to be a little uncomfortable, remember?" Ryuen rolled his eyes, and started the show. The bright theme song played, and Ryuen bounced his head along with the music, softly singing along.

It was really cute.

Saihitei eyed the white shirt speculatively. Setting up his computer and his notes, he decided to plunge in and ask.

"So, um, is this your comfort shirt? Did you... did you get it from a boyfriend, or, or something?" Saihitei had no idea he could sound so stupid.

Ryuen barely lost eye contact with the flashing colors of the tv. "This? Yeah, I guess comfort shirt is the right term. It was Kei's, but I stole it. I convinced him that it looked better on me."

"I'm sure," Saihitei demurred. Gathering up his courage, "Kei seemed... nice. Did you keep it... to remind you of him?"

Ryuen frowned slightly. "Oh, yeah, Kourin probably pointed him out at the archery tourney, right? I kept it because I like big shirts, they make me feel comfortable, like I'm being hugged."

"Do you miss him?"

"Well... sometimes, I miss having a boyfriend." Saihitei hid his shock well. "I miss things about him. And I miss the friendship that we used to have. Things have never been the same between us since we broke up."

"Does it... smell like him?" Saihitei's voice was small.

"It used to, but I've had it for a long time now."

"Oh. Um... Did you... love him?"

"Kei?" Ryuen sounded surprised. "I... loved things about him. I loved the way he made pancakes every Sunday morning. I loved the way he smiled at me when I came home. I loved the little whiney noises he made when he was sleeping. I loved his hands. But... I don't think that I was ever in love with him." He shrugged. "At least, I don't think I was."

Saihitei noticed that Ryuen didn't seem upset. "Why did you guys break up?"

Ryuen smiled wryly. "Welll... The short answer would be that Kei came home one day to find me in bed with Ayuru. The longer answer would be... We hadn't been together long before he started to act like we were getting married. He would drop hints about commitment ceremonies, and gay adoptions, and always wanted me to be super political about gay rights and junk. It was... oppressive. I liked him, I loved living with him, but he was... pushing me. And, I didn't want to hurt him. I was happy with him, so I tried to be what he wanted me to be... But, one day, Ayuru was over, and I was bitching about how unreasonable Kei was being about planning for the future, and... The next thing I know, I was packing my things and moving out." Ryuen shrugged, not seeming to care that much.

"Oh. Do you... regret it? Breaking up, I mean?"

"I regret how it happened. I should have just told him he was crowding me. But no, not really. I've been enjoying my freedom." Ryuen wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, with a laughing smile. "Plus, I really like living here, with all of you guys. It's a great house, and... well, we feel like family, don't we?"

Saihitei snorted, in a regal fashion. "A really strange, dysfunctional family, maybe..."

"Best kind!" Ryuen replied, brightly.

Saihitei grinned, shaking his head.

"Um, any reason for the third degree, Sai-chan?" Ryuen kept his eyes on the tv.

Saihitei blushed all over. "Oh! Well, no, not really, just... I was curious, that's all... Kourin told us about Kei, and about Satomi..."

Ryuen scowled. "That ugly bitch."

"I guess I find the idea of you in a relationship... intriguing." Saihitei squirmed, focusing on the tv, watching Yue confront Sakura with rapt attention.

Ryuen giggled. "Aw, Sai-chan! Don't get the wrong idea about me! I've had lots of relationships. I'm not always so... carefree. And I'm a big proponent of monogamy."

Saihitei started. "Really?!?!" He actually tried not to sound too shocked, although Ryuen couldn't know that.

"Really! I just think... that when we are young, we should experience life." He shrugged. "Not everyone wants or needs the same things, but we should enjoy our youth and beauty. And when and if we meet someone that deserves that commitment... we should have no fear in giving it to him."

Saihitei stared at the tv screen. "That... makes sense. Damn, you are wise in the ways of the heart and the flesh."

Ryuen chuckled. "Pay attention, grasshopper. You'd be amazed at what you could learn."





Everyone in the house knew that Ryuen and Saihitei were friends again. It would have been hard to keep it a secret. The tension in the house had dropped about a million notches, for starters.

Ryuen and Saihitei were often found in the common room late at night, giggling together or just watching tv or working together. They were kissing a lot. Kisses on the cheeks, all the time, kisses to say goodbye, kisses to say hello... Ryuen told Miaka that the kisses were a gay thing, and didn't mean that they were a couple. This was after Miaka burst into tears and offered to throw them a party to celebrate the fact that they had gotten together, finally! Saihitei had nearly died of embarrassment.

Ryuen spent an evening teaching Saihitei to dance. When Saihitei responded to some teasing remark by saying that he didn't know how to dance, Ryuen had gotten exasperated. 'Gay men are supposed to know certain things, Sai-chan!' Ryuen had declared. Then he pulled him up to dance. Everyone else in the room watched, bemused, as Saihitei and Ryuen made excuses to bump into each other and touch each other.

Ryuen hadn't been going out. He spent two full sessions in therapy trying to explain why he didn't feel like going out since the party, and his professor's attempt to rape him. He tried to shrug it off, saying that he was busy and not feeling social, but he had to admit it. He was feeling a little violated. He spent an evening or two over at Ayuru's, but as before, he refused to spend the night.

He'd rather spend his nights on the couch with Saihitei, laughing over some infomercial, or cartoons, or whatever else they could find that was tolerable to have on in the background at 2 in the morning while they were talking about one of any number of topics under the sun and above it.

Ryuen was also spending a lot of time not thinking about any of this.

Which is how he ended up spending his Saturday night in the common room with Saihitei and Miaka, Taka, Genrou, and Do-kun instead of going out with the twins to a new club.

Ryuen had been horrified to discover that Saihitei had never seen even a single episode of Gundam Wing. This was a situation that had to be rectified immediately, according to Ryuen and Genrou, who happened to be in the kitchen at the time. So that night, they had gathered in the common room to watch Gundam Wing. This was so important that Ryuen told 'Toku and Shun that he couldn't go out that night to the clubs with them, even if they did intend to celebrate 'Toku's 'liberation' from his girlfriend.

No one choose to comment on that.

Kourin came over after two dvd's, bouncing with energy and life. She jumped right into Ryuen's lap and kissed his cheek hello.

Do-kun proceeded to scoot closer to Ryuen and Kourin.

Genrou grumbled about stupid girls keeping quiet, and then Ryuen thwacked him on the back of the head for defaming his sister.

Kourin giggled as she snuggled closer to her big brother.

Whispering loudly enough for everyone to hear, Kourin leaned closer to Ryuen. "I actually didn't expect to find you at home, Ry-chan. I thought you would be out to some club or something."

Do-kun leaned back to whisper up, "Ryuen-kun hasn't gone out much since the costume party."

Alarmed, Kourin looked up, "Since the costume party? Did something happen at the costume party? What happened?"

Ryuen glared at Do-kun, causing the young man to shrink into himself. "Nothing. I've been busy, you know, I'm in school and all..."

Kourin glared at Ryuen. "Since when did that stop you from going out?"

"I haven't felt like it."

"Oy! Some of us are trying to watch fuckin' Gundam here!" Genrou turned an irate expression at the siblings, who ignored them.

"Ryuen, if something happened at the party, you should tell me." She paused. "Did it have something to do with Saihitei? I heard that you two went upstairs together..."

"Ryuen got sick at the party, Kourin-chan." Saihitei spoke softly, authoritatively. "I took him upstairs to bed and looked after him. That's all that happened at the party."

"Oh." She didn't look 100% convinced, but she also didn't look like she would argue with the former emperor.

Ryuen gave Saihitei a look that made Saihitei tremble and quiver with self-satisfaction.

Do-kun fidgeted nervously. He felt like Ryuen was watching him. Even worse, he felt like Kourin was watching him. "This show is actually quite enjoyable. There are some interesting themes and views on the nature of war..."

"It's fuckin' Gundam, Do-kun! Of course it's fuckin' good! Now be quiet!"

Ryuen giggled. "Do-kun, you have to remember, this is fuckin' Gundam! Show the proper respect!"

Do-kun softened when he heard Kourin's light, musical giggles.

"You people suck." Genrou pouted. "I thought we were supposed to be watching Gundam, and all ya wanna do is talk..."

Ryuen leaped up and plunked himself down on top of Genrou. Throwing his arms around the flame-haired boy's neck, he kissed him, nuzzling his face to the top of Genrou's hair. "We are so sorry, Gen-chan! Can you ever, ever, forgive us!?"

Genrou shoved Ryuen off of him, muttering about stupid perverts, blushing so hot his face matched his hair.

Saihitei immediately scooted down to see that Ryuen was all right, momentarily forgetting that he was trying not to be so obvious about his feelings.

"Genrou!" Kourin glared at him. "Don't manhandle my brother like that!"

"Fuckin' 'ey, it's too bad you weren't around long in the last life, Kourin. You coulda just yelled at the bad guys and made 'em treat us right." Genrou's teasing only made Kourin madder, her sparkling eyes narrowing dangerously.

The only person who knew Kourin was becoming dangerous was oblivious, though. "Wha... Hey! Genrou remembers! You have to take him out to dinner and grill him, too!" Ryuen pointed and gesticulated wildly, looking to Miaka and Taka.

Miaka sighed. She liked this episode of Gundam. At least if they couldn't hear it, they could still watch all the cute boys. "Ry-chan, we already knew that Genrou remembered."

Ryuen gaped. "You... you did?!? No one told me..."

"I don't remember much. Just a few things, really. Like you dyin'. Can we watch fuckin' Gundam now?"

"What about Do-kun?? He doesn't seem surprised!" Ryuen was still gesticulating like a maniac.

Do-kun smiled, slightly. "Actually, I don't really remember much at all. But Myojuan does. When he tells me stuff about it, it seems... familiar."

"Yeah, I told you about that, didn't I, Ry-chan? How Do-kun and I remember, or rather, don't remember things similarly? We decided it was because we died so young." Kourin looked at her big brother cheerfully.

"Well... well... Damn, that's everyone, isn't it, then?" Ryuen looked crestfallen.

"Yup." Miaka replied.

"You were the only stubborn one." Taka supplied, presumably to be helpful.

Saihitei patted Ryuen's shoulder. "It's ok, Ryuen, just because you were the last to know doesn't mean you were out of the loop..."

Ryuen narrowed his eyes at Saihitei as Kourin snickered. Grinning sinisterly, he surged up quickly from the floor, and planted one right on Saihitei. "Oh, ok, then, Sai-chan, if you say so!" Flipping his ponytail over his shoulder, he sat down again next to Kourin, satisfied that he had his revenge.

Saihitei didn't absorb much of Gundam Wing, but he certainly enjoyed the evening.





Ryuen looked up at the gentle knocking at his door, beckoning whomever it was in. Saihitei poked his head in with an apologetic smile.

"Hey, Ry-chan, I don't want to bother you, but can I borrow some music? I'm trying to read some stuff for history, and it's so boring, I need something... peppier than what I have."

Ryuen grinned, waving him into the room. He was on the floor, surrounded by his cameras and books of photos. "Help yourself. The cd's are behind the bed, there. I'm just arranging things for the morning."

Saihitei carefully stepped around all of Ryuen's carefully designed chaos. "Thanks. Do you ever get bored doing photography work?" Saihitei was insanely jealous of Ryuen's major right now.

"Oh, no, every time I put together the chemicals for processing negatives and printing photos, I'm deeply engrossed and fascinated. Especially when I do twenty rolls at once." Ryuen's brown-rose eyes were twinkling, his wicked smile and cute face begging to be kissed.

Saihitei tripped on some clothes and fell onto the bed. Ryuen giggled, pretending not to.

"Well, right now, history seems like the most boring subject in the universe. And my professor likes to call on people in class, so if you haven't done the reading, you can be pretty well screwed. Well, actually, pretty badly screwed..." Ryuen hadn't known that he would ever live long enough to hear Saihitei making off-color jokes. "So I have to at least try to trudge through it."

Ryuen wrinkled his cute little nose. "Isn't that the class that you have with Do-kun?"

Saihitei sighed. "Yes. He's not helping the curve. And, the last time I asked him for help, I ended up feeling worse than if I had been grilled by the prof!" Saihitei shuffled through Ryuen's cd's, looking for something that would perk him up. Ryuen certainly had an... eclectic collection. He was surprised to see so many bands from different countries.

Ryuen smiled. "I guess I can see how that would work. He's a sweet kid, but he spends way too much time with the books. I'd suggest that he needs a girlfriend, but..."

"That would be Kourin, right?" Saihitei's amber eyes were twinkling with amusement as Ryuen made faces. "I won't even joke about Kourin helping Do-kun to relax. I intend to live longer than the next forty seconds."

"You think I would let you live for forty seconds? Interesting..." Ryuen was smiling up at Saihitei, even though he was deadly serious.

Saihitei pulled out his last selections, but sat back on the bed, not really wanting to leave yet. It had taken so long for him to have this kind of easy repartee with Ryuen, he intended to enjoy it now. "Did you hear Genrou and Kouji coming in last night? What do those boys do to be so loud?"

Ryuen ducked his head down, trying not to give anything away. "Well, I heard them come at any rate... Boys will be boys, Sai-chan. Someday, you'll understand."

Saihitei folded his arms over his chest. "I think I'm old enough now!"

"Think so, huh?" Ryuen gave him a teasing look. "Well, we'll see. Oh, damn! Damn it, damn it, damn it!"

"What's wrong, Ry-chan?"

Ryuen held up one of his cameras. "I took some pictures at Ueno Park on this, but there's only twelve pictures taken! I meant to take some more with this, but I forgot! And I need to process the negatives so I can print the pictures when I have the darkroom Friday! I hate wasting film..." He looked dejected, until an idea seemed to take over him. Looking up at Saihitei, he smiled.

Saihitei gathered up the cd's and started to scoot off the bed. "Well! I better get reading if I intend to be done before class..."

"Oh, please! Let me just take some pictures! It won't take ten minutes, please, please, pretty pretty please!" Ryuen scooted until he was kneeling at Saihitei's knee, his hands clasped together and his eyelashes batting like crazy.

Saihitei knew he was going to give in, but he didn't think that Ryuen knew that yet.

He didn't think so at any rate...

"Ry-chan... I would, but I hate posing for pictures." It seemed like a reasonable argument.

Ryuen waved his hand like it was nothing. "Oh, I never take pictures of people posing. No emotion. And you are so beautiful and warm, Sai-chan... You are an excellent subject. Please? Let me just arrange a background, and adjust the lights, here, lean back on the bed, and let's put these cd's away..." Before Saihitei could mount another objection, Ryuen was draping fabric over the wall behind the bed, hooking it onto the pictures and drapes so that it would stay up, and moving the lights around so that the bed would be good for taking pictures. He set the cd's Saihitei had selected aside, and pulled the comforter and sheet off the bed, leaving only the white flannel bottom sheet and pillow.

Saihitei let himself be placed sitting on the bed, only offering a few weak meeps as Ryuen arranged him.

"Ok! Now, just relax, I'm just going to get some semi-candid shots so that I don't have to waste this film, all right?"

Saihitei did not look relaxed.

Smiling, Ryuen set himself on Saihitei's legs, sighing lightly. Running his hands through the soft chestnut hair that framed Saihitei's face, Ryuen let his fingers just barely graze the cheek below. "You really are amazingly beautiful, Saihitei. The most beautiful man in the world, remember?"

Saihitei blushed, turning his face away from Ryuen slightly.

click

He turned to look at Ryuen, suddenly feeling very exposed and vulnerable.

click

Ryuen leaned in, and smiled softly at Saihitei. "This isn't so bad, is it? Just relax, Sai-chan. Nothing bad is going to happen here."

Saihitei smiled back at his friend, trying to relax. It was just so intimate, he realized, being here on the bed with Ryuen and his camera. It was personal.

click

Ryuen paused, thinking. Tilting his head to the side, he watched Saihitei with a critical eye. Slowly, one hand reached out to tug at the buttons on Saihitei's shirt.

"Ryuen?!?"

"Don't worry, I'm not going to take those kind of pictures. And if I did, I would be the only one to see the negatives or prints!" Ryuen winked at him, making him subtly back away. "But that's not what I'm going for here, anyway. I just... want to capture your beauty. Please, trust me."

Saihitei couldn't refuse Ryuen, no matter how embarrassed he was getting. Or whatever else he was getting.

Ryuen undid the two buttons at the top of his shirt, exposing a wide triangle of his chest. He played Saihitei's hair, combing it with his fingers.

Saihitei shivered, his chest caving in a little as he tried to withdraw.

click

Ryuen was getting more and more serious. He knew this was affecting him, but he ignored it.

He was getting amazing pictures, he knew.

He kissed Saihitei's cheek, Saihitei's eyes widening and turning to him, full of questions.

click

He directed Saihitei to lie down on the bed, putting his right arm behind his head, and placing his left hand on his chest, at the top of his abdomen. Slowly, his fingers slipping between the other man's, he drew the hand lower, until a soft noise made him stop at the top of Saihitei's pants.

click

He slid down the bed to sit on the floor, so that his eyes were level with his subject's. Lining himself up with Saihitei's leg, he gently reached up and took off Saihitei's socks. "You are so beautiful, Saihitei, you are art. Even your feet are beautiful."

click

"You took a picture of my feet?" Saihitei sounded breathless and quiet.

Ryuen looked up to meet his gaze.

Saihitei felt like he was outside of time, of place. He was in some magical book-world, where he was a model and Ryuen's pictures were his creating, making art out of his flesh.

His nose flared slightly as he kept his eyes on Ryuen's.

Ryuen slowly and gracefully lifted himself up, and kissed the top of Saihitei's foot.

"You are so beautiful, Saihitei."

His eyes widened, and he felt pinned, trapped in the position that Ryuen had left him in. He could feel himself becoming more and more aroused, his pants getting tighter, but he felt weak and helpless.

Helpless to control himself. Helpless to shield himself.

Helpless to care.

Ryuen moved so that his head was next to Saihitei's foot, and he was looking up the line of Saihitei's long, lean body.

click

Ryuen elegantly moved to sit on the edge of the foot of the bed, taking one of Saihitei's feet in his hand and rubbing it gently. Seductively. "Unbutton your shirt, Saihitei."

Saihitei shuddered, hardening.

click

His fingered were shaking as he moved them to open his shirt. He wasn't even thinking about the situation any more.

He was giving himself to Ryuen's control. To his art.

click

Ryuen put his hand on Saihitei's face, tracing the jaw, and the lips. His hand slowly moved down to cover the throat, then slipped down further. He let his fingers dance over the smooth, hard flesh beneath him. He ran his hand down the line between the pectorals, over his abs, tracing the fold of his bellybutton.

Saihitei closed his eyes with a flutter.

click

Ryuen leaned down and kissed the bellybutton below him, breathing deeply. Saihitei's stomach was flaring up and down as his lungs sucked air in and pushed it out again.

click

Ryuen's hands drifted further down, just softly touching the cloth over Saihitei's erection.

"Ryuen!" Saihitei nearly bolted up.

"Shh. It's all right. Don't worry." Ryuen's voice was soft and commanding.

Saihitei fell back down.

Ryuen gently popped open the button at the top of the pants, and lowered the zipper.

click

Saihitei was now squeezing his eyes shut, his hands clenched at his sides, and his breathing rapid.

click

Ryuen ran his fingers across the top of the open pants, smiling.

click

It wasn't art anymore.

click

"Take your shirt off, Saihitei."

He sat up, shuddering.

click

Leaning his head forward so that his hair veiled his eyes, he slowly pulled his shirt off, so that his shoulders were uncovered.

click

He let the fabric spill down his arms, pooling at his wrists.

click

Bringing his arms up, he flicked the shirt away from the bed.

click

He looked up at Ryuen, his eyes wide with unbridled passion, pain, desire, lust, need, fear, trust, love.

click

Ryuen set the camera down long enough to pull his own shirt over his head. Saihitei let his eyes cover Ryuen's pale, toned body, settling on the bright flash of metal beckoning in his nipple.

click

Ryuen tugged the tie that was binding his hair out, and let his hair settle on his shoulder.

Saihitei's eyes widened, and he licked his lips, unconsciously.

click

Ryuen let one finger trace the line from Saihitei's bellybutton down, finding the bulge and running his fingernail over it.

Saihitei bucked up, his shoulders raised off the bed as if tugged by wires from a puppet master.

click

Ryuen leaned over Saihitei, letting the tips of his hair tease Saihitei's chest.

click

Saihitei looked up at him, with wonder and adoration pouring out of his eyes.

click

Ryuen carefully tossed the camera aside to a pile of clothes, and fell on top of Saihitei, their mouths attacking one another as their bodies came in full contact, their legs and arms twining to maximize contact and sensation.

Ryuen buried his fingers in Saihitei's hair, kissing and sucking Saihitei's lips. He felt let go, like he'd been uncaged.

Like he'd been put out in the sun for the first time after having been left in the dark for his whole life.

They tasted and felt one another, until Saihitei gathered enough of his wits to pay attention to the warning bells that had been blaring in his brain since they had begun.

"Ry-Ryuen. What... What are we...?"

"Shh! Saihitei, don't." Ryuen put his fingers to Saihitei's lips, letting Saihitei kiss them. "Say no. If you want, say only no, and I'll stop. I won't do anything if you say no..."

Say no? No to Ryuen pressing their mouths together? No to Ryuen's fingertips running down the line of his spine? No to Ryuen's hips grinding into his? To his hands circling Ryuen and pulling them tightly together?

No to Ryuen slipping off Saihitei's pants and underpants, no to Ryuen wriggling out of his own pants?

No to them lying naked together, tightly wound together, kissing and sucking on each other, pushing and pulling into each other, knowing one another?

There certainly wasn't any thought to saying no when Ryuen's expert hand slipped between their sweaty bodies, taking in one hand two. Winding long, elegant fingers, Ryuen lead them both to climax, nearing a pinnacle, and then retreating, enough times to make Saihitei whimper and moan, until they were both too heated to retreat any more.

They sailed over the top together.

There were no words after that.

Only the gentle touches and slow caresses that would calm and sustain. Only soft, dry kisses intended to bring intimacy.

Only one hand on one back, another hand on the other back, pressing two chests together, two foreheads leaning on one another, two stomachs slowly grinding into one another.

It occurred to Saihitei at some point that he was no longer a virgin, but he let that thought go to play with the rest of his thoughts, somewhere in his subconscious, where they wouldn't bother him.

Ryuen held Saihitei, feeling overwhelmed.

Eventually, Ryuen lead Saihitei to lean his head on Ryuen's shoulder, after he had wiped them down with some tissues, and he had retrieved the blankets. Saihitei slipped into sleep easily, his innocent face washed with joy as his dreams replayed the evening endlessly, like a player set on repeat.

Ryuen found sleep to be more elusive, as he cataloged the tactile sensations of having Saihitei in bed with him. He fell asleep playing with their commingled hair, thinking that brown and purple complimented each other better than he could have thought.






notesPart OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart SixPart Seven • Part Eight • Part NinePart TenPart ElevenPart TwelvePart ThirteenPart FourteenPart FifteenPart SixteenPart SeventeenPart EighteenPart NineteenPart TwentyPart Twenty-OneEpilogue


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