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 11- The Part that comes next

As trendy restaurants went, this one was easily the trendiest in Tokyo. The entire seating area was encased in glass, and surrounded a small koi pond with low trees and shrubs at the fringes. The tables were high off the ground, a shocking departure from tradition, and wait staff wore tight black uniforms that somehow obscured their genders.

Saihitei pushed the tufts of stylish food around his plate as his mother rambled on about her latest series of adventures.

When he was a boy, he used to love to go out with his mother, to go shopping and out to eat, and then take in a show or a gallery opening or whatever was the trendy thing to do that day. He felt like she was making some sort of amazingly special effort just to include him in her day in this fashion, like he was a satellite to her world that was getting to back in her reflected glory.

It made him sad now to think of how happy he used to be to spend time with his own mother.

Now, she would call him up, announce a date, and drag him off, spending the whole time talking about herself and her many gloried adventures with this 'suitor' or that 'suitor', all the while trying her best not to look at him or engage him in the conversation at all.

Even if the food were in any way palatable, he would be too aggravated to eat it.

What burned him up the most was that he had given up an afternoon with Ry to be with her. Sitting in these uncomfortable high chairs, pretending to eat this designer food, listening to her go on and on about her various lovers when he knew that if he told her he was in a monogamous relationship with another man, she would flip out... No, Saihitei was not having a good time.

His mother was. Her son wasn't what she'd hoped he'd be, or what she needed him to be, but he certainly was lovely. She leaned over when she was talking to him, sure that everyone in the restaurant thought that she was taking her much younger lover out for lunch. It gave her a nice burst, thinking that everyone else was thinking that she had such an attractive younger lover. Never mind the fact that he was her son.

"So, Saihitei, how are classes going?" She didn't really care, but he hadn't said a word in ten minutes, and that wouldn't look good.


"Are you looking for a job?"

"No, mother, I'm applying to graduate schools. I've told you, I'm going into academia." He glared at her, even though she wouldn't meet his eye.

She winced, hoping that his voice had been too low to carry. "Ah. Well, forgive me for hoping that you would have grown out of that. And, you bought a house, correct? Is it in a good neighborhood?"

"No, mother, it's in the slums. It has no plumbing and we're surrounded by drug addicts and prostitutes."

"Oh, you wanted to live near where your father spends his time. How sweet." Not missing a beat, she launched into another story about one of her so-called charitable ventures, a society dinner that was so lavishly expensive that the only money they made for whatever charity it was supposed to be for, she had forgotten, was the donations gathered at the function.

Saihitei wondered if she would slap him if he yawned.

When his mother had finished her lunch, she dragged Saihitei off to an art gallery for an opening. She smiled indulgently at him as she escorted him in, explaining that the invitation to come were extremely exclusive, and wasn't he lucky that he had her to take him to wonderful events like this? Clinging to his arm, she made a circuit of the room, impressing everyone with the handsome young man she had attending her. Careful not to actually have to introduce him to anyone, she started to examine the pictures on the wall.

Saihitei was impressed, actually. It was a showing of photographs from three famous area photographers. Wishing more than ever that he had Ry with him, instead, he tried to critique the photos, and compare them to his boyfriend's work, but his mother was filing past them too quickly for him to really appreciate any of them. Belatedly, he realized that she was only looking at the price tags.

Finally, she had found the section with the most expensive pieces, and she selected the one that she would buy. It was important to make a purchase at events like these, so that the artists would know what discriminating taste she had, and everyone else would know that she was so culturally attuned.

Picking the one that she would purchase, she finally turned in her son's direction and asked his opinion. "What do you think of this one, Saihitei? Don't you love the colors?"

Saihitei wrinkled his nose. The picture was nice, but he thought that Ry's pictures were better. Not that he was impartial or anything, but still... The picture had been manipulated, so that all the colors blended together and the images were smeared. He thought it looked rather grating. "It seems rather..."

"The artist is extremely influential, and famous. This is one of his latest works, and I think the color scheme will work very well in my office, don't you? Plus, I know that your father was interested in this one, so that will make it even more fun to acquire it. Saihitei, go get us some drinks, why don't you?"

Sighing, Saihitei turned to follow his mother's instructions, when he bumped into someone walking behind him. "Oh! I'm sor-! Ry! What are you doing here?"

Ryuen smiled as he straightened himself out, smoothing out his surprise at running into his boyfriend. He knew that Saihitei was spending the day with his mother, so that woman with too much eye makeup and tight dress must be her. "Well, Sai-chan, this is a photo exhibit." Teasing, he winked at his boyfriend, enjoying a little too much the sparks of anger popping from Saihitei's mother's eyes.

Blushing, Saihitei nodded, realizing that he needed to introduce his boyfriend to his mother. He certainly wasn't ashamed of Ryuen, but he didn't really care if his family got to know his love. They simply weren't that much a part of his life anymore. "Um, Ryuen, this is my mother, Seishuku Ryoko; mother, this is..." Damn! What was he supposed to say? Boyfriend, friend, housemate, lover? "Chou Ryuen, my, er, boyfriend and housemate." Tell the truth and be dutiful, wasn't that how a son was supposed to be?

Besides, the flash of pure pleasure that shone across Ryuen's face was worth it.

"A pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Seishuku." Ryuen bowed slightly, as was required.

Saihitei's mother sneered, and looked away. "I remember you, Chou. Do you work here?"

"Mother!" Saihitei glared slightly, not wishing to disrespect his mother, but at the same time, not willing to stand silent at an affront to his love's honor.

Ryuen smiled, and tossed his braid behind him. "Oh, no, Mrs. Seishuku. I'm a photography student at the university, and since my main source of entertainment was otherwise engaged this afternoon, I decided to take advantage of my student pass, and check out this exhibit. But, I don't wish to interfere with your time with your son, so I should just..."

Saihitei took Ryuen's elbow and pulled him closer, to stand next to each other. "Please, don't leave. We would probably benefit from your more expert eye, and anyway, this is as good a chance as any for you to get to know my mother." Saihitei spoke with cool assurance, willing his mother to understand that this declaration was not a suggestion, but an edict.

Ryuen grinned up at his boyfriend slightly, and squared off his shoulders. He wasn't intimidated by this woman, even if she was Saihitei's mother.

Who was glaring rather openly at her son at that moment.

Turning to her desired acquisition, she raised her chin and indicated the photo with an offhand gesture. "I was planning on purchasing this piece. I don't suppose you would have an 'expert' opinion on that, would you?" Her tone clearly indicated that she couldn't care less what this boy's opinions of her choice was.

Smiling gently, Ryuen turned a critical eye to the piece in question. "Well, it's a nice enough piece, but it seems to be highly overpriced."

Sneering a laugh, she rolled her eyes quite dramatically. "People of taste are willing to pay for items of worth, my dear."

"And people with more money than taste are willing to overpay for items of status," Ryuen replied calmly. "If you are interested in Mr. Hiiragizawa's art, may I suggest that piece over there?" Ryuen indicated a slightly larger photo in the corner. "This piece is from his latest series, in which he is experimenting with post-development manipulations using computer software. It's an interesting attempt, but there is little in the style or content of artistic merit. Much of this series is simply not reflective of his overall style, which is quite distinctive and noteworthy. However, that piece is from one of his first series, and is thus important as an indication of his evolution as an artist. Moreover, that particular piece is important in that it has elements of style that have become some of the hallmarks of his work. Notice the layering of focus as the light travels over the ripples in the pond, and the image of the decayed leaf in the foreground is abstracted. Also, this piece is particularly interesting as it is mainly monochrome, with ripples of color in sync with the ripples in the pond. This is one of the first times that he has used such an effect in his work. In the long run, this piece will grow in value as he establishes himself more firmly as a voice in the photography world, whereas this piece here is likely to become a forgotten attempt on his part to use technology in his work."

Saihitei almost laughed out loud. Ryuen calmly insulted his mother and deconstructed the work that she had so proudly selected with no scorn or disdain in his voice. If he were a bolder man, he would kiss his love's mouth right there, in front of his mother and everyone.

Her eyes narrowed, seeing only red, Saihitei's mother responded with ice. "I was looking for something with more vibrant hues; I need something for my office in the city."

"Ah." There was definitely a laugh in Ryuen's response. "Well, I can't speak for how a piece would match your decor, naturally. Only for the art. Really, though, I do love that piece down there. I would buy it myself if it were a bit more reasonable."

Intrigued, and amused, Saihitei strolled to the piece Ryuen had pointed out and examined the little card next to it. "It isn't that much, Ry-chan. If you really want it, I could buy it for you."

Ryuen completely missed the look of pure venom Saihitei's mother was sporting in the face of his own flushed embarrassment. "Oh, no, Sai! I couldn't accept a gift so... extravagant." Leaning up to kiss Saihitei's cheek, appeasing the look of protest that was building on his features, Ryuen continued. "It simply isn't necessary. I mean, it's not like I don't have enough photos around, right!"

Saihitei's smile was spoiled by his mother's muttered reaction.

"I suppose he prefers more negotiable recompense for his services."

Before Saihitei could spew an outraged response, however, a timid woman with a wild scarf hitched around her neck approached them, and tugged gently on Ryuen's sleeve.

"Excuse me, Chou-san, I apologize for the interruption." Smiling, her slightly pert face bent forward as she bowed formally before the fey young man.

"Ah, please, Madame Sekine, it's my honor." He reflected her bow.

"I do not wish to disturb you, but I wanted to introduce myself." Her bashful blush gave her face the slight glow it needed to be pretty.

Ryuen smiled widely. "There is no need for introductions between us, apparently. Allow me to present Seishuku Saihitei, and his mother, Seishuku Ryoko." Saihitei bowed quickly in response, as his mother twitched her lips. "I've been quite impressed with your gallery here each time I've visited. From what I can tell by your showings, you have excellent taste."

"Ah, Chou-san, you are too kind. I saw your spread in the university magazine. Miss Hanari is a friend of mine, and she's been bragging about her new star pupil."

Saihitei didn't bother to repress his obvious enjoyment of both Ryuen's fame and his mother's scowl.

"Miss Hanari is a tireless advocate of her students." Ryuen was flushed to his collar. He never could get used to genuine praise, even when he believed it to be deserved.

"Well, she has every reason to advocate your work. Please, I would be honored if you would consent to allowing me to view your thesis project, when it is ready. I am quite sure that it will be spectacular. In the late spring, I will be organizing a showing for up and coming artists. You certainly qualify. Perhaps we can arrange to have your project as part of the display." She bowed again, her soft, feathered hair brushing against her shoulders as she leaned forward.

Flushed, Ryuen again mimicked her. "The honor would mine entirely, Madame Sekine. I would be delighted to be able to show here for you."

"Here is my card, Chou-san. Please, contact me when you are ready to have your work viewed." Her smile occupied her whole face.

"Thank you, I certainly will." Ryuen bowed again, to mask his nervousness.

Saihitei didn't bother to contain his excitement as the diminutive gallery owner moved to another group. He put his arm over his boyfriend's shoulder, smiling broadly. "Isn't this great, Ry? It looks like you will be able to have a gallery showing soon! Wouldn't that be the perfect way to kick off your career?"

"It will be, Sai, if it happens. But my thesis isn't even out of the planning stages yet, so there's no call for excitement yet."

"A very reasonable attitude, Chou-san. One mustn't get one's hopes up unnecessarily." Saihitei's mother snagged a champagne flute from a wandering waiter, appearing for all the world to be merely standing near these two young men, and not with them.

Ryuen smiled, as Saihitei nearly growled. "Precisely, Mrs. Seishuku. After all, there's no way to tell what other galleries might be interested in my work at that point, so it's simply too early for a commitment."

Saihitei was just so damn proud of his love.

Having lost interest in the gallery completely, she turned to her son. "I think we should leave now, Saihitei. I was planning on going to the Paradise for a martini." Her expression clearly stated that she expected him to escort her there.

Ryuen grinned, silently wondering how this she-bitch could possibly have spawned such a sweet and gentle person as his lover. "That's just as well. I agreed to meet some classmates for pizza, so I should be going anyway..." "I'll go with you." Saihitei smiled at the two surprised faces before him. "I would probably only hinder you, mother, if I went with you. So, we can part ways here." He leaned in and kissed her cheek in a manner that spoke plainly of duty rather than affection. "I suppose you will be in touch."

She regained her composure, her breeding asserting itself. "Very well. Take care, Saihitei, and prepare well for your finals." She didn't bother saying goodbye to Ryuen before making an exit.

"I'm sorry..."

"No, don't apologize for her, Sai-chan." Ry's smile eased Sai's spirit. "You can't choose your relatives. But are you sure you want to go to eat? Didn't you just have lunch?"

Sai wrinkled his nose in disgust. "I had some brightly colored smears of something posing as food at one of the most ostentatious places my mother has ever dragged me off to. I am so in the mood for pizza!"

Laughing, "Well, then, let's go!"

Sai found his attitude taking a quick 180. Being with Ry was balm for all that ailed him. Walking down the road with his love, he found that he had to control his grin to keep from appearing like a fool to all the passer-byers. "I am sorry about my mother, though. Although, you were pretty great at handling her. I don't think I've ever heard anyone so openly insult her before!"

Ry actually appeared contrite. "I'm sorry, Sai, I didn't really mean to insult your mother. I mean, I did, in the sense of insulting a philistine, but I didn't, in the sense of insulting your mother."

"Really, Ry, I don't care. She deserved it." Ry smiled in response to Sai's smile.

"Did you have fun today?"

"No." Sai sighed softly. "Ever since I came out, spending time with me is more of a chore than a pleasure for her."

"I'm sure she must be glad to have time with you." Ry wanted to reassure his boyfriend, but he wasn't sure how. He didn't know if what he said was true.

"No, she made her feelings about me pretty clear when she told me I should have stayed in the closet, married some 'appropriate' girl, had a discrete number of children, and handed her what she deemed to be a proper amount of stock in my father's corporations. I didn't follow her plan, and so now she considers me to be nothing more than an obligation."

"Oh, Sai..."

"No, it's all right. I'm fine with it."

"No you aren't." Ry cuddled his arm tightly. "But then, that's what you have us for, right? Your seishi family."

Sai grinned, feeling warm. "That's true. Miaka, Taka, Houjun, all of you... my real family. And you, most of all... I can be fine with anything,, as long as I have you." Sai's eyes were filled with love as he put his thumb against his love's cheek. For a moment, it was like a spell had been cast over them, and time became irrelevant. For a moment, Sai almost leaned down and kissed his love, right there in the middle of the street.

Then he remembered that they were in the middle of a public street, and he pulled back, startled.

Ry frowned. "What?"

Sai blushed. "I almost kissed you." He spoke in a stage whisper.

"I noticed that. Why didn't you?"

"Ry! We're in public! Someone... might be offended." Sai's eyes darted to and fro, checking.

Ry rolled his eyes. "Sai, anyone who would be offended by us kissing right here and now offends me, so they can just go fuck themselves." With that, he took Sai's face in his hands and kissed him.

Sai felt lightheaded and joyously queasy when they broke apart.

With a cheeky grin, Ry walked ahead, turning to speak over his shoulder to his boyfriend. "Besides, most people will be too confused trying to figure out which one of us is the girl, thinking we both are! So just go with the flow and enjoy it!"

Sai watched his love move ahead of him, and let the giddy feeling spread over his whole body.

He had no problem trading his biological family in for the one he had in his house now.

Finals were approaching fast, not holding off for anything. It seemed unfair, since they were all so busy, but tests had to be taken. Miaka was running around the house like a chicken with its head cut off, whining more than normal for her, and blabbering about how much studying sucked.

Taka slinked around the house, trying to avoid his girlfriend.

Houjun was calm, as always, although Ryuen noticed that he was praying a lot more.

Genrou was actually studying, which amazed his housemates, much to his annoyance. Most people didn't need to swear as much as he did when they studied, but no one bothered Genrou about it. It was actually amusing to hear him cursing as he went through his chemistry notes.

Myojuan was never around, but that wasn't too surprising, since as a medical student his schedule was different anyway. But, for his own sake, he stayed at Shouka's for a while, to avoid the insanity of finals week.

Do-kun was in his element. He barely noticed anyone else.

Sai and Ry were studying together, in one or the other's room. Most of what Ry needed to do was in the darkroom, but he had two papers to write as well, and one oral presentation. They were in Ry's room early Saturday morning, Ry on his bed, on his stomach, doing some reading for his paper, Sai on the floor typing away at his laptop.

Ry couldn't help but notice that Sai was sending him looks every minute. There was a rhythm to it, a minute of furious clicking of keys, a pause, another minute of clicking, a pause... If it was a bit more upbeat, he was sure he could dance to it. Still, no point torturing his boyfriend more than necessary.

"Is something wrong?" He waited for a pause to ask.

"Hm? Why would you say that?" Sai blinked rapidly.

"Well... you keep looking at me. Do I have something on my face or something?" Ry smiled, brushing at imagined dirt on his face.

Sai blushed. He was becoming utterly transparent to his love. That sucked, because he still had trouble reading Ry from time to time. "No, no, nothing, sorry..."

"I don't mind if you want to look at me, you know. I like looking at you." Ry wiggled his eyebrows, capturing his tongue in the corner of his mouth.

Sai smiled. "I do like looking at you. You get this really sweet expression on your face when you are concentrating."

Ry rolled his eyes. "That's soooo nice. But seriously, what gives?"

"What makes you so sure that anything's up? Why can't I just like to look at you?"

Ry giggled. "Well, I am extraordinarily beautiful, so I guess I can understand that..."

Sai smiled and forced his eyes back to the screen. A minute of clicking, pause, a minute of clicking, pause...

"Tell me what's up, or I swear I will get down there and tickle you silly!" Ry wiggled a finger at Sai to emphasize the threat.

Sai blushed to his roots. "No, no, it's nothing, really, you'll laugh at me if I tell you..."

"I'll laugh at you now if you think it would be more convenient." Ry suggested helpfully.

Sighing, Sai kept his eyes down as he spoke. "It's just, and remember that I said that it was silly. It's just, that... that shirt."

Ry looked down at his shirt, confused. He wore this shirt all the time.

Sai was bright red as he continued to speak. "I... I thought, well, that since we were dating, you know, that you would stop wearing his shirt, and maybe... maybe..."

Ry pulled his lips in between his teeth to keep from laughing. He was wearing his comfort shirt, the white oxford he had stolen from Kei. "So, are you saying you want me to steal one of your shirts, Sai?"

Sai decided that he couldn't be more embarrassed. "No, I didn't mean, I mean, I don't want you..."

Ry raised an eyebrow artfully. "You don't want me to wear your shirts?"

"No! I mean, yes! I mean, I don't care, I mean..." Sai floundered helplessly.

Ry grinned, got up, and pulled the shirt over his head. Dropping it on Sai's head, he went out into the hallway half-naked, leaving a confused Sai behind to pull the shirt out of his eyes.

Moments later, Ry came back in, wearing a brushed cotton, powder blue shirt, rolling the sleeves up carefully as he walked.

Sai had to blink twice to be sure he was seeing what he was seeing.

"Um, Ry?"

Ry smiled as he arranged himself on the bed again. "Yes?"

"Um... Are you sure that you want that shirt?" Sai smiled nervously.

"Yup." Ry buried his nose in his notes again. "This is the only shirt of yours that I want."

Sai started to shift. "Um... But, well, Ry, that shirt's one of my favorites."

"Mine too."

"It was a gift from my mother, actually."

"That's nice."

"It matches my navy Versace suit."

"Yeah, that would look really nice."

"Are you sure there isn't another shirt that would be more... comfortable? For sitting around and stuff?"

Ry looked up, his brown-rose eyes meeting Sai's amber. "This was the shirt you were wearing when you came to my room that night, and I took those pictures."

Sai stared back, dumbfounded. Ry remembered what he was wearing that night? "Oh." It felt like an inadequate response, but it was all he could muster.

Ry pulled the collar up and held it against his nose, taking a deep breath. Sai thought he might melt.

On the bright side, he decided, Ry certainly looked good swimming in the elegant shirt.

Saihitei sat at the kitchen table, working on his paper with Do-kun. The class that they had together was difficult, but working with Do-kun was making Saihitei feel stupid. The boy was jumping from book to book, and topic to topic, expecting that Saihitei would be able to make the logical connections necessary to see how everything interrelated.

Saihitei found that nodding mutely was an effective way to keep that slightly disappointed look out of Do-kun's eyes.

He was so absorbed in his studies, he didn't even realize that his boyfriend had come in until he found his lap full of his fey love.

Ry kissed Sai quickly, a devious smile playing with his lips. "How's the paper coming?"

"Almost done, actually!" Sai put his arms around Ry's waist, and hugged him closer. "We just need to go through a few more things, and then we'll be ready to wrap this up." Do-kun excused himself quickly to get himself a drink, blushing madly.

Ry grinned. Leaning in to nibble at his boyfriend's ear, he whispered, "So, you still wanna take a night off, then?"

Sai grinned back, kissing Ry's mole. "Definitely. Once we finish up here, I'll just need to write a few things. This is my last paper or final, so I'll have all day tomorrow and until 5 the next day to finish. Plenty of time!"

"I love that you are a procrastinator, your majesty..." Ry tickled Sai's neck with kisses.

"Hey! I don't like that nickname..." Sai arched his neck back to give Ry more access.

"Sorry, babe. Well, the only thing I have left is my eval, and that doesn't really require any prep. So, you wanna have sex tonight?" Ry spoke softly into Sai's ear, pausing to lick the rim and lobe as it pleased him.

"Ry!" Sai turned nine shades of red, and quickly checked to see if anyone heard. "Don't we have sex every night?" He grinned, and kissed his lover's mouth.

Grinning in return, Ry's eyes blazed with what could only be described as pure evil. "True, true, we do, technically, have sex every night. But, I was thinking in the more traditional sense of the term. Do you want to be in me tonight?" Ry paused, waiting for the full effect of his words to settle in. He let Sai get hot and uncomfortable before he continued. "I'm not trying to pressure you, Sai, but I thought that if you were ready, we don't have to be awake early tomorrow, and since we both wanted to take a night off... I got a few things to prepare, to help you relax and really get in the mood, so if you want to, I can set up. Otherwise, we can just wait until you're ready and do other fun stuff tonight to unwind."

"You... don't mind waiting?" Sai was nervous, excited, and ridiculously pleased with himself. "Really?"

"Of course not! I'd wait for however long you wanted to, you know that! But, if you wanted to take this step, I'll lead you through it..."

"Can we do it now? I can take a break with Do-kun..." Sai looked entirely too eager.

Ry smiled. "No, study first, then sex. I'll prepare... and then we'll have all... night... long... to get inside each other..." Ry slowly drove Sai mad with teasing touches to the back of his neck and lingering licks down his jugular.

Sai purred.

Do-kun cleared his throat.

Standing up with a sultry laugh, Ry winked at Sai. "See you upstairs later..."

Sai slipped into Ry's room just an hour and a half later, having rushed Do-kun through the rest of their preparations. He would have been shaking if he weren't so excited.

Ry's whisper echoed in his ear like ringing of a bell. Being inside Ry... The thought both terrified and thrilled him. If it were anyone but Ry, he would have hidden in his room and locked the door.

Scared as he was, he knew he was safe with his friend and love.

The lights were off, and the room was softly illuminated with a half-dozen lightly scented candles. The bed had his silk sheets on it, the white ones. The music in the background was some sultry jazzy instrumental disc, and even thought he couldn't identify the source, he could tell there was some incense in the air as well.

He didn't find Ry until he felt arms circling his waist.

"All done?" Ry's voice was low and musical. He loved Ry's voice.

"Yup. No more studying tonight."

"Mm. Well, we may need to brush up on your biology..."

Sai grinned at his boyfriend's tease. "Should we do a little chemistry?"

"I think we have the chemistry down pat."

Sai turned to pull Ry into his arms. "Really? You think so?"

Ry smiled, winking. "You disagree?"

Sai contemplated responding when he decided it would be more fun to kiss Ry. Running his hands up and down Ry's back, he realized that Ry was wearing some kind of silk kimono.

"What are you wearing?" He let his fingers wander over the richly dyed silk. "This is new, isn't it? I like it..."

Ry grinned, and pulled away to go sit on the bed, his hair swishing around him like the dripping branches of a willow in the breeze, his hips sashaying his bum delightfully. Sai mutely stood watching, feeling slightly out of place.

Ry swung around to place himself on the bed, his legs stretched out in front of him, the silk of his kimono fluttering open delicately to reveal smooth, pale, sweet legs.

Sai felt dehydrated.

Ry smiled, knowingly. "I got it new today. I bought a few things, just for you. Would you like to see the rest?" Ry's hand slipped down the opening of the kimono, his fingers teasing the fabric as he let Sai know exactly where the rest of his purchases could be found.

Sai nodded, stepping to the bed, ready to rip open the robe and discover what he could.

"Ah-ah-ah!" Ry wiggled his finger back and forth. "First things first, lover. I think you are overdressed, don't you?" Ry's eyebrow raised, his gaze slipping down the lines of Sai's body as he licked his lips.

Sai shuddered.

Unable to speak lest he betray his nervousness, he began to fumble with the buttons on his shirt, trying to divest himself of the cumbersome fabric as quickly as possible.

Ry let one leg slide up so that his foot rested on the bed, and his arms stretched out around him. "Sai, please, take your time. We have all night. No point rushing, if we did, we wouldn't enjoy the good stuff."

Sai whimpered. He wanted to rush, to get in there, to be there as quickly as he could. Forcing himself to slow down, he did each button in turn, slowly, until they were all done, and then he let the shirt slip off. Then the belt, taking each step in its turn, not wanting to focus on anything but what his fingers were doing, to keep himself focused. He pulled off his socks, and then got to his pants. His fingers were shaking and he knew he was sweating, but the soft sound of Ry's heavy breathing motivated him.

He let his pants fall, but he was too shy to lose his boxer briefs just then. He moved to the bed, but was a little hesitant.

Grinning widely, Ry pulled the thin ribbon of silk that held his kimono closed up, separating the fabric, then he flung the sides of the robe open, revealing everything.

Sai fell to his knees, his eyes wide and his heart pounding.

"What... what... what are you wearing?!" He found his voice, but it was weak and trembling.

Ry smirked, his fingers touching the edges of the lacy half-camisole that barely covered his pecs, his other hand teasing the waist of the lace boy-short panties that didn't conceal anything beneath them. In his best bedroom voice, "I bought these today. To drive you wild. They working?"

Sai stared mutely for a moment, then dove in to kiss and suck at Ry's bellybutton. He licked his way around the lacy undergarment that wasn't exactly covering Ry's groin, the growing erection pulling at the fabric. His hands strayed upwards to slip under the tantalizing half-camisole, teasing the nipples and pulling on the slim ring of metal. He felt like his blood was on fire, and he realized through a haze of undeniable need that he had never in his life been so aroused.

Ry pulled Sai up to meet him face to face, and they kissed passionately, long enough to mellow Sai out and let their bodies settle against each other, grinding fiercely. Ry slowed Sai down by burrowing his fingers into Sai's shoulder, gasping for air as they groped one another. Feeling frustration start to well up against him, Sai blindly tore at the half-camisole, needing more contact, more sensation.

Ry's hands slipped down to slide Sai's boxer briefs down, his feet coming up to wrap the waistband around a toe so that he could fling the garment away. That left only the lace panties between them.

Sai, heaving, pulled up to look down Ry's perfect body. He was slim, elegant, smooth, desirable, and covered with droplets of sweat. Sai's mouth came down to taste the neck, the nipple, the bellybutton beneath him. He found himself overcome with love and lust mingling together to produce a desire that left Sai lightheaded.

He licked and teased the skin around the panties slowly, suddenly finding time to be gone. Slipping the garment off, he had to pull it up so that he wouldn't catch Ry's hot erection in the lace. When they were both finally naked, Sai settled himself on top of Ry, feeling at a loss.

Ry gently kissed his lover, easing the tension, as pulled a few things off the bedside table. Sai was too involved with nibbling Ry's neck to notice, so the cool feeling of something slippery on his fingers as Ry intertwined their hands was a shock. Ry lead Sai's hand down gently, taking his hand to his entrance. Sai gasped, suddenly scared, but there wasn't time to react as his forefinger and one of Ry's fingers were suddenly encased in a silky heat. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to give into the anxiety that was clutching at him.

"No." Ry's voice was hushed and firm. "Don't close your eyes. Look at me, look into my eyes. See what you do to me, Seishuku Saihitei."

Sai had to let his eyes open, not able to resist that voice. His gaze fell into a sea of brown-rose, barely distinct in the light of the candles. Ry's eyes were wide, and expressive.

Sai was drawn in.

He barely realized that he had nearly three fingers in his love's ass, even after they were removed. He was remotely aware that Ry had fitted a condom on him. The spell of those eyes was only broken when Ry flipped him onto his back, and straddled him.

"I thought... I thought... I was going to be on top..." Sai stuttered, stunned.

Ry grinned. "Don't be so literal."

Suddenly, and a lot faster then he expected, he felt himself engulfed in heat. It was fire, hot searing fire, burning though his veins and turning his heart to molten lava. He gasped, blind to the world, excepting this heat that he never expected, and the fey young sprite that was the impetus for all things. It took time for him to start to move, time before there was a rhythm, and still Sai felt awkward, like he was dancing to a song he'd never heard before. But there was that heat, and when it exploded, he felt nothing at all but happy.

When his senses returned to him, he felt Ry's soft tongue lapping at his chest and belly. He was too content to wonder about it, though, waiting for his love to come up and kiss him again so that he could wrap his arms around his love.

"Ry..." Sai's voice was scratchy and low. "That was amazing. That was perfect. That was the best thing ever."

Ry smiled, kissing Sai's nose. "I know, babe, I know."

"Is it always like that?"

"Like what, lover?"

"Like... fire melting into your brain and burning you completely."

Ry chuckled softly. "Ah, you're a poet, how wonderful! I don't know, Sai. It's not always good, even. But... I think, between us... yeah, it's always gonna be like that. Hell, it'll only get better!"

Sai held his love close, feeling lighthearted. "You're amazing, do you know that?"

"Of course I do..." Ry nuzzled Sai like a kitten.

Sai smiled, loving life so much right then. Clearing his throat, "I... that was wonderful. I wouldn't have thought... I couldn't have imagined..."

"I know, babe. I remember. It was a long time ago, but I was a virgin once too."

"I think I'm still a little scared to... to me, you know." His voice was small, child-like.

"I know, babe. It's ok." Ry tenderly caressed Sai's cheek.

Sai smiled. He felt like his world had been rebuilt, and even though he felt a little silly to feel that way after sex, he couldn't stop himself from feeling it any more than he could stop the tide from coming in. "If I told you that I loved you, what would you say?" whispered into the slight, delicate ear.

Ry shivered. "I... I... Sai..."

Sai kissed him. "I know, babe. It's ok." He pulled Ry tighter against him. It really was ok. Right now, everything was ok.

Ry felt like he was drowning. He wanted to escape, he wanted to dive in.

He let Sai fall asleep in his arms, watching his lover as he dreamed pleasant dreams.

Ry sifted soft chestnut hair through his fingers, going over every detail of the evening, every touch and every sensation, burning it into his brain again and again until he could feel Sai pushing inside of him at will. He could feel the exact pressure and the exact weight and the exact heat and the exact fullness.

He didn't know how many chances he would have.

In the morning, they washed each other in Sai's huge bathroom, kissing each other as they massaged shampoo into each other's long hair.



"How did you know that... that... that 'outfit' would...excite me?"

Ry grinned, winking. "I know you better than you think, lover."

Sai blushed. At least there were advantages to being the transparent one in a relationship.

Crowding around Ryuen's desk in his office, despite the fact that there was only the two of them, he and his advisor were pouring over his photo collections. It was the end of the semester, so he needed to be graded for his independent work, which he had already done his presentation for, and they also needed to start planning his thesis project. He had only one more semester to work on his Sakura Project.

Stretching in what he hoped was an unobtrusive manner, Ryuen stifled a yawn. He hated these evaluations. He longed for the day when he wouldn't need to be in school and 'work' for an advisor. He could handle dealing with gallery owners and magazine editors; he hated deconstructing his own work.

"Well, there is certainly a lot of great raw material here, Ryuen-san, but I agree with you that none of these is quite right for the Sakura Project. What we should do is go through what we have here, and identify the elements that are particularly appropriate for the project so that we know what we will need to work on next semester." Fingering the pages in Ryuen's album, Miss Hanari absorbed herself in the photos before her.

Ryuen really like his new advisor, really he did, and he knew that she was going to be a huge help to him in bridging the gap between being a great college photographer and being a career photographer. But he hated it when she talked about his project as if they were going to be doing it... "All right, sensei, sounds good. Since the composite overlay is going to be from nature, it would probably be best to have the foreground represent society, or man."

Taking pity on her student and his obvious exhaustion, Miss Hanari put down the book. "I was thinking the same thing, Ryuen-san. Tell you what, how about you take a breather, and get something to drink. We've been at this for hours. We can consider the perusal of your albums to be this semester's evaluation, and by the end of our conference here, we should have a pretty good idea what you will be shooting for to complete the project. Ok?"

Ryuen grinned, beatifically. "Perfect. Can I get you anything?"

"Tea would be nice, actually, but grab a tea bag from my office. That shit they make in the department office is worse than coffee."

Ryuen smiled as his advisor wrinkled her squat little nose. Giving her the high sign to indicate he was on the job, he fled his little office quickly.

It had been a grueling morning, giving a presentation about all the projects he'd worked on this semester, and all the things that he had learned. He was grateful for the chance to take a break.

As he stretched in the break room, waiting for the water to boil in the tiny electric kettle, he pondered the changes in his advisor. Last year at this time, he was still with Karamorita-sensei. The older man had always made Ryuen do his evaluations in his home, starting off the evening with dinner with his wife, and son. Then, he would send away his family and take Ryuen into the living room to do the evaluation. He remembered the first year, and how awkward and foolish he had felt. He had spent an entire therapy session in tears, trying to figure out if it was his imagination that his professor was flirting with him, and whether or not he was so obsessed with sex that even that sacred relationship between teacher and student was tainted for him.

Over time, he adjusted to his professor's slightly perverse way of treating his student. It wasn't until he had actually observed a portion of another student's evaluation that he realized how differently Karamorita-sensei had treated him than all his other students.

Still, he had found ways to convince himself that it was all right, mostly, he supposed, because he expected people to treat him like a whore.

Now, he was with Hanari-sensei, and she was as much different from Karamorita-sensei as a person could be. She treated Ryuen like the talented student that he was, giving him freedom, support, and gentle guidance. Her comments were always helpful, and her connections were going to come in handy. The first meeting that he had with her, she told him that she didn't know why 'that pervert' was still allowed to have students, and would he like some oolong tea? That had completely set the tone for their relationship, which was thoroughly grounded in mutual respect.

Kind of like his relationship with Sai... Ryuen allowed himself to drift off into daydreams about his timid lover. Growing less and less timid by the day, of course, and now that Sai had been inside of him... Gods, if they could only be like that forever...

Feeling the pang that came with imagining being with Sai forever, Ryuen decided that he had taken advantage of Hanari-sensei's kindness long enough.

Coming back to his office, he found his advisor utterly engrossed in a set of his pictures.

Noticing his return, barely, Miss Hanari started to gush. "Ryuen-san! You've been holding out on me, you sly demon! These pictures... Gods, Ryuen-san, they are astounding! There's just so much... raw passion, and tenderness... Most photographers would give their eyeteeth to take even one picture with half this feeling and power, and here you have dozens! These are perfect for the Sakura Project! Frailty and beauty, captured with a tender blush of passion..." She trailed off, becoming absorbed.

Ryuen peered over her shoulder, not knowing which photos she was referring to. When he saw, he nearly combusted with embarrassment. "Hanari-sensei! Those pictures... no!" He started to take them from her grasp. "These aren't for public consumption, sensei, these are private photos!!"

She was bewildered. "But... Ryuen-san! They're magnificent! Is it the subject, is he nervous about being displayed? If it would help, I can help you talk to him, or maybe talk to him myself...?"

"No! It's, well, I mean, yes, sort of, see, this isn't a model! This is my boyfriend, sensei. These were taken on our first night together. They aren't... they aren't appropriate. Please, sensei, don't be mad at me, I can't use these, I can't!" Ryuen's face was red as he actually stammered.

Miss Hanari was flabbergasted. Ryuen did not seem the type to ever get flustered. "Well, Ryuen-san, have you discussed this with him? Maybe he wouldn't mind..."

"I would mind." He spoke firmly, clutching the box of photos to his chest.

She blushed. He was such a passionate man! "Hm. Well, Ryuen-san, I can't argue with you if you are going to be adamant. But please, consider. These photos are such pure beauty... They need an audience. Can't you feel it, Ryuen-kun? These are art, and art needs to be seen, to be appreciated. I can tell that these mean a great deal to you, but they are more than just what they mean to you. There is a larger context of relevance here. These photos... these are what you and I went into photography, and art, to create. Please, at least talk to your boyfriend about it, just talk to him. See what he has to say. In the meantime, I guess we should continue going through what you have here..."

Ryuen listened with half and ear as she deconstructed the pros and cons of each series of photos. It made him feel bad, thinking that he wouldn't be using such good photos for his project. He wanted his project to be as good as it could be. He knew these photos were rare and perfect in their beauty. It was Sai. He was so vulnerable and open that night...

But there was something about him that made him want to guard these photos, and not let anyone else see them. They were just... too precious to him.

notesPart OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart SixPart SevenPart EightPart NinePart Ten • Part Eleven • Part TwelvePart ThirteenPart FourteenPart FifteenPart SixteenPart SeventeenPart EighteenPart NineteenPart TwentyPart Twenty-OneEpilogue