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 13 - The Part with the Hot Springs



Ry had fretted over things with Genrou for days, until he had come to an uneasy conclusion. In order for him to help Genrou deal with his relationship with Kouji, and hopefully find his way to being with Houjun, Ry would have to fulfill his end of their bargain.

He would have to tell Sai that he loved him.

He had decided this two days ago, but he still had to do it.

He tried to convince himself that it wasn't such a big deal. After all, what difference would it make if he said the actual words, would that change anything? Would he be any more involved if he said what he was most obviously feeling, would it hurt any less when it was over if he didn't say the words?

He had very nearly convinced himself of this by now, but it hadn't made it any easier to speak.

And now, each time Sai said the words, Ry felt a sharp pang of guilt, as Genrou's words haunted him.

Classes were going to begin on Monday, so Sai had suggested that they spend the day shopping together. Ry had agreed quickly, making sure that Sai didn't mind if he brought his camera, and his sister.

Sai had fun teasing Ry about his sister complex as they got dressed.

As Sai drove to Ry's parent's house to pick up Kourin, Ry took advantage of the opportunity to just look at Sai. It made Sai nervous at first, which only accentuated his beauty as a blush washed over his smooth cheek. Ry studied the contours of Sai's face quietly.

He would find it easier to say the words if he could only think them.

There had been a time when thinking the words were as easy as breathing. He remembered Nuriko watching Hotohori like this, sighing over every expression that graced the emperor's features. He wasn't Nuriko anymore, though. Nuriko was an undemanding suitor, patiently waiting for any bit of affection that Hotohori might have seen fit to throw Nuriko's way.

What would Nuriko have thought if he had been in Ry's position? How would Nuriko have reacted if Hotohori had declared his love for him as Sai had for Ry? Ry knew that Nuriko would not have let Hotohori's declaration go unreturned. Nuriko would have never allowed his love to be hurt if he could help it.

What was he so afraid of? Ry had been spinning his wheels over this question for weeks. What was he so afraid of? Were his fears more important than that glint of disappointment that flickered in Sai's amber eyes when he didn't hear a response to his 'I love you'?

Ry let his hand wander over to Sai's thigh, just letting it rest there. Sai's hand came down to rest on top of Ry's, their fingers brushing against each other in a gentle dance.

Ayuru would laugh at him. Ry could hear his friends mocking tone. Can't 'fess up to it, can you, Ry-chan? Aren't you the one who is always telling everyone that they need to live in the moment, and here you are, so afraid of the future that you can't enjoy the very thing you so fear losing! Pathetic. You need to take your own advice, Ry-chan, before it's too late.

Maybe he'll leave you because you won't say it. Maybe he'll believe that you don't love him back, and he'll leave you to find someone who will.

Maybe he deserves someone who will.

Ry clutched Sai's hand tightly, his forehead tipping to rest against Sai's shoulder.

Kourin was bouncing all afternoon. She had never had so much fun. Going shopping with her brother, the epitome of fashion, and his rich boyfriend, who had a very different, but very classic, fashion sense...

It was shopping Nirvana.

Best of all, Sai was used to shopping in the best stores, never looked at price tags, and didn't think twice about offering to buy anything and everything he thought his companions wanted.

Kourin was having the best day ever, and that was before Ry offered to buy her the cd's their dad had said that she couldn't get.

Ry had managed to turn off his overly active brain as soon as his sister bounced into the car, focusing on her instead. He'd had years of practice at that, so it was easy. As the afternoon wore on, he became aware of a strange sensation filling him. It took him a long time to identify it, as he stared after Sai and Kourin, trying to put a name or a category on this feeling that was surrounding him.

Sitting at a cafe, watching Sai and Kourin play with all their purchases, it hit him like a brick wall being swung by crane.

It was like family.

Being with Sai and Kourin was like being with family.

Sai had become like family to him.

Not in the Bu twins version of family, but in settling down and sharing your life with this person because they are a part of your blood now sense of family.

He was too stunned to even be scared.

Kourin and Sai were in the middle of a rather confusing discussion trying to decide how best to negotiate all the packages, the last stop that Kourin had to make, getting to the car, and who should carry what and where they should meet. Ry just sat back, his posture and attitude suggesting that he was only a spectator, and no matter what they decided, he was going to go along with it. He smiled, not enough so that anyone would think that he was amused or entertained.

He watched Sai as he held his coffee cup, realizing that it mattered if he said the words or not.

Kourin had finally decided that she would run to the store, Ry would pay their bill, and Sai would bring the car around, and take all their packages to the car, since he was the big strong man.

Sai agreed with a shrug, and Ry chuckled into his coffee cup.

After she had bounced off, Ry helped Sai load up, sighing to himself as he did.

"Let me carry some of this, Sai."

"Ah, but the princess ordered me to carry them!" Sai smiled.

"I'm the princess, and don't you forget it!" Ry smiled back, taking the largest bag for himself to carry.

Sai shrugged, and grinned. "Well, you can face her wrath then."

"Thank you, Sai."

Ry's quiet words had stopped Sai from leaving. "Thanks for what?"

"Today. This was a lot of fun. Kourin hasn't been this happy since Dad was on all those pain killers from his oral surgery and he gave her his credit card."

Sai bent his head down as he smiled, his chestnut hair spilling gracefully over his face. "Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the way to your heart is through your sister... besides, I had fun, too. You two are really fun to hang out with."

"Ha, so you think you can seduce me by paying off my sister... Sadly, that's actually probably true."

"I'm pleased to hear that my evil plan is going to work!" Sai winked. "But it could fall apart if I don't get the car in time, so..."

"Go, then. We can discuss terms later." Ry winked after him.

Sai wiggled two fingers as he started to walk off.

Ry's soft voice was almost not enough to stop him. "I love you."

Ry had already turned to gather up the check when suddenly he was surrounded with Sai.

"What was that?"

"What was what? Sai, we're in public. People might be offended." Ry teased lightly, even as he leaned into the embrace.

"Please, Ry." Sai's whisper in his ear was enough to make Ry serious.

It wasn't even hard the second time either. "I love you."

Sai gathered Ry close, hugging him tightly. "Oh, Ry-chan... I can't tell you how happy I am to hear you say that. I love you, now and forever." Sai kissed Ry's face, wherever he could, totally oblivious to the onlookers increasing embarrassment.

Ry let himself be happy, and ignored the forever part that was tearing at his heart. "I love you, Sai, and I'm sorry if I let you think otherwise."

"You don't have to apologize, love. You are patient with me about some things, and I'm patient with you about others. There's no pressure." More kisses, and now Sai caught Ry's lips, getting a quick kiss.

Ry patted Sai's bum gently. "Go get the car, so we can continue this at home where it can get interesting."

Sai nearly ran out of the cafe.

Ry watched him go, having to sit down to keep from falling.

He was in love with Sai.

Kourin knew something was up the moment she saw her brother, and so she just sat in the back of the car, beaming proudly at the two of them. When she left, she gave Sai a kiss on the cheek, causing both Sai and Ry to blush.

Sai drove home so fast, Ry thought they were going to go through a wall, but he just laughed as the wind whipped their hair back.

If Sai was feeling a bit reckless, Ry wasn't going to complain. He knew the feeling.

Once inside, Sai nearly dragged Ry to the stairs, but Ry had to dig his heels in when he caught sight of Genrou in the kitchen, eating peanut butter out the jar with a knife.

"Give me one second, darling, I need to talk to Gen-chan super fast, 'kay?" Ry smiled up at the anxious young man trying to lead him up the stairs.

Sai only hesitated for a half a heartbeat. "Sure thing, take your time. I'll be in my room, ok?"

Ry kissed his lips as he turned to the kitchen.

Genrou didn't know what hit him as Ryuen suddenly gathered him into a strong embrace. Trying to say what the fuck while his mouth was full of peanut butter and knife, Ry dipped lower to whisper in his ear.

"Ok, I did my half. Now it's your turn."

Genrou looked up, confused, as Ryuen gave him a pointed look before turning to walk away.

He could hear Genrou curse under his breath just as he got to the stairs.

Sai was putting on some soft music they both loved when Ry slipped into the bedroom. With amber eyes shining with joy, he turned and opened his arms for his love.

Ry felt suddenly giddy, like he was high, only without any artificiality. He had made Sai very happy.

That made him feel inexpressibly joyous.

They sat on the bed together, limbs intertwining as they held each other and kissed each other gently. Sai ran his fingers through the soft purple tresses that fell all around Ry's face. "Do... would you mind if we just held each other?" His voice was soft, as if he were in a temple.

Ry beamed. He still loved kissing Sai more than anything else in the world, and right now he just wanted to be with his lover and friend. "I would love that, Sai-love."

They settled in against one another, their bodies touching but not pushing. They kissed and touched and smiled and laughed, and when the need to touch caused them to push aside their clothing and let their flesh meet, it wasn't carnal desire that drove their fingers to undo buttons and slip aside fabric. When their hormones overtook them, it wasn't a need to satisfy a hunger that caused them to reach for the lube and condoms.

As Sai pushed himself into Ry's body, he dipped down so he could take Ry's mouth at the same time. They pushed against each other slowly, much slower than they had ever gone before, neither caring as much about their climax as they did about maintaining contact.

It was like a deep, lasting kiss using their whole bodies.

And when they did come, Sai crashing into Ry with a soothing force, they didn't separate for long moments afterwards, still touching and holding each other close, until Ry began to cramp up, causing him to slide Sai out.

They showered together, Ry teasing Sai about the size of the bathroom and how they still needed to take advantage of it. They washed each other's hair and backs with little eroticism, taking more pleasure in the closeness than they would if they tried to push themselves for a second go.

They ate take out while watching movies in Sai's bed, Ry wearing only the soft powder blue shirt he'd stolen from Sai.

It was comfortable.

When they did fall asleep, Ry forced himself to just sleep, and not stay up to watch and memorize Sai as he usually did.

His heart felt uncommonly light, and he decided that he would rather enjoy it while he could than ruin it by weighing himself down with thoughts of the future.





Saihitei had been glowing for days now, making Miaka grin with pride and triumph every time she saw her favorite gay couple. She was especially proud and triumphant whenever Houjun was around, but he took it in stride.

Ryuen was so happy to see Saihitei glowing, and he worked hard at focusing on the moment he was living in, taking the reflected joy from Saihitei's smiles and cherishing it. If he spent more time at Houjun's temple, well, it was mainly because he wanted to get in touch with his spiritual side. Mainly.

When Ryuen came down to breakfast, he saw that Saihitei was just getting off the phone. He quickly scooped up a bowl of cereal before Miaka made off with every last flake, and sat down next to his boyfriend.

Saihitei kissed his cheek quickly, and gave him a yogurt. "Hey, Ry-chan, are you busy this weekend?"

Ryuen shrugged, still pouring his milk. "Not any more than usual. Why?"

Saihitei smiled as he defended his apple from Miaka. "Well, I was thinking we might get away this weekend. My father has a private suite in a hot springs resort in the mountains. It was opened up because he was supposed to be going there, but he had to change his plans, so his secretary offered the place to me. I thought it might be a great... stress reliever. We could leave Friday morning, if you wouldn't mind skipping one class, and come back Monday morning before either of us have class. What do you think?"

In response, Ryuen straddled Saihitei's lap and began to make a serious exploration of the other man's mouth with his tongue.

Saihitei took that as a positive response.

It was only two short days later that they were speeding down the road. Ry put in a cd of silly music, and was acting out the parts of the voices with wild gestures. Sai laughed loudly, letting the wind and the music drown out everything. When they got to the resort, Ry maintained a bored demeanor only until they had gotten into Sai's family suite, at which point he whooped as he threw his bag over his head, dancing madly on the granite coffee table while singing about living in the lap of luxury.

Shaking his head, Sai dragged Ry down by his waist and plopped him down on the couch, landing on top of him. "You like?"

"It'll do." Ry grinned, perfectly content to wait for Sai to bend his face down and kiss him. "There's room service?"

"Yes."

"And our own private hot spring?"

"Basically."

"So... we could spend the next three days completely naked all the time, and that would be fine, because we would be totally isolated together, with all our needs and desires catered to?"

Sai grinned down at his love. "Yup."

"God, I love living the good life." He started to undress Sai, not wanting to waste a single minute on being unnecessarily clothed.

Sai was completely on board with the plan.

They acquainted themselves with the sitting room, the kitchenette, the guest bedroom, and the master bedroom and the master bath. After they had sufficiently gotten to know the main portion of the suite, and exhausted one tube of lube, among other things, they ordered up some lunch, which Ry cryptically demanded be left outside the door, so that neither would have to wash up and throw on a robe to get their repast.

Sai suggested that they eat out outside, and see the hot spring.

Ry felt like he had been transported to a magically paradise. The path to the spring was densely wooded, but the ground itself was a soft moss, so they didn't even need to slip on sandals. The water's steam rose up enticingly, and though there was the usual odor, it was utterly relaxing. It was a relatively small opening, and a shelf had been carved into the side of the rock so that people could comfortably sit and relax in the water. They set down their tray of food, and slipped into the water, letting the heat soothe aching muscles as they feed each other.

They spoke to each other in soft tones, their heads bent together as if they were in the middle of crowd and they needed the proximity to hear one another. They spoke of just about anything and everything, from the accommodations, to what they had in mind for the rest of the weekend, to childhood aspirations, to political issues, to personal feelings about the latest video games.

Afterwards, they had showered together, ordered some dinner with the same cryptic conditions (Sai got a kick out of acting mysterious to the resort staff), and cuddled up on the couch to eat and listen to music.

When they went to bed together, late that night, they made love for a torturously perfect hour and a half, before falling asleep in each other's arms.

Ry dreamed that he was a fish, and Sai was a dolphin, and they had fallen in love, but the other fish tried to keep Ry away from Sai, pleading with him that dolphins ate fish. Ry swam as hard as he could to get away from them, claiming that he wanted to be eaten by Sai.

He woke up craving sushi.





The next day, Ry decided to get playful in the hot spring. By balancing himself just so, he could float above Sai and drive him crazy.

It was a good position to be in.

He kissed Sai's face, mouth, and neck as one hand rubbed circles around the former emperor's nipples and the other hand was wrapped around both of their cocks. Sai held on tight to Ry's waist, not concerned in the least with the possibility of bruises. He was so enraptured, he barely noticed when the hand that was on his chest slid around to his back. He was so captivated by the taste of Ry that he barely detected the hand that was squeezing and teasing his bum. He was so focused on the sensation of Ry's hand and Ry's cock rubbing and grinding his own that he didn't notice the fingers that were massaging the ring of muscle of his anus as anything more than another pleasant sensation.

He did notice when Ry slid a finger inside of him, but only after it was done.

"Ry!" Sai had to grip the sides of the bench, not wanting to dump his love into the water.

Ry smiled innocently as he licked at Sai's neck. "Yes?"

"What... what are you...?"

"Exploring." He swirled his finger around, widening the arch with each pass.

"Ah! Ah, ah, ah... oh, baby, that's... sorry, Ry, but..." Sai was torn between pulling Ry off of him and spreading his legs wide throwing his head back. If his brain were capable of higher cognitive functions, he might have stood a chance at making a decision.

"Shhh... darling, I know this makes you nervous. That's why now is the best possible time to... explore. I won't hurt you, Sai, not any more than I can help. If you want to stop," he kissed Sai gently, "just say so and I will. If you decide you never want to do this again, that's totally fine. But we have all this lovely hot water to loosen you up, and all this lovely time together..." He began to nibble on Sai's ear and neck, running his teeth over all of Sai's weak points.

When the second finger entered him, Sai only whimpered.

When the fingers tilted and pushed at just that right angle, Sai virtually leaped out of the water.

"Wha...! What was that?" Sai's eye had gone unbelievably wide and black.

Ry barely managed to restrain his giggle. Watching Sai discover this was making him tremble with desire. "Seishuku Saihitei, meet your prostate. It's the gods' way of saying they're cool with the queers."

Sai continued to stare at Ry with wild, wide eyes, until the words began to sink in and he started to laugh with deep, pure joy. "Oh, please, I'd like to get to know it a lot better, please, sir..."

Ry chuckled, raising an eyebrow. "Sir? So, we've already gotten to those kinds of games. Excellent, excellent..."

Sai just wrapped his arms around his slight lover and pulled him into a bruising kiss, motivating Ry to continue with his inner massage. When he added a third finger, Sai started to nearly thrash in the water, desperate for more even if he wasn't sure he would survive it.

"Please, Ry..." Sai hadn't dreamed being on the receiving 'end' would feel like this. If he had, he wouldn't have been so reluctant.

"Yes, Sai?" Ry seriously didn't want to torture Sai by making him wait, but there was no way he was going to continue unless he was certain that Sai was as prepared as he could possibly be. He pushed his fingers in as far as they would go, spreading them slowly and carefully.

Sai was beside himself with need. "You, Ry, please, I need you, please..."

Ry leaned down close and kissed Sai so hard that Sai thought he might pass out before they got any further. Shifting up a bit, Ry riffled through the few items they had brought with them to the spring.

"Fuck."

"Yes, that's an excellent idea, fuck me, please..."

As turned on as Ry was to hear Sai being crude, he just sighed. "No, I mean, fuck! We have to go to the bedroom."

"Nonononono. We can stay here. You can do it here. See? We're most of the way there, all you have to do is position yourself and slide in..." Sai futilely tried to grasp Ry's hips and lead him, but his hands and Ry's skin were too wet to get a decent grip.

"Sai, we left the condoms in the suite."

Sai floundered, but only for a moment. "We can forget them this once, right?"

Ry's eyes got hard. "No. We can't."

"But Ry..." Sai sighed. Ry was already getting out of the water. "What would be harm, really? I'm not sleeping with anyone else. Neither are you. You're always careful. What's the big deal?"

Ry narrowed his eyes, trying to remember that Sai wasn't being intentionally stupid or naive, just horny. Pulling Sai up, he turned and started back to the suite.

Sai sighed, and resigned himself to following.

Ry was walking fast, and so by the time Sai got to the bedroom, he already had the condom out and the lube ready. He fixed Sai with a steady gaze.

"Look, Sai, let's get this straight, all right? We've been together for roughly three months now. Before that, I was with other people, including Ayuru, who is a very active guy. Of course we are both monogamous, but that doesn't mean much. If I were infected with HIV, I wouldn't necessarily test positive right away. I could be positive right now, and if we had unprotected sex, the odds of you being infected would be really good. It just isn't a good idea to go unprotected. That's something that you will need to remember for the future, darling, because it is so important."

"But Ry..." Sai sat down next to him and took his hands. "There's never going to be anyone else. I won't need to know that for the future. It'll always be the two of us."

Panic tried to take a hold on Ry, but he closed his eyes and pushed it away. "Theoretically, I meant. At any rate, if we decide to go without condoms, and I don't mean in the heat of the moment, but when we are both cool-headed, than that will be another thing entirely. But right now, that isn't even an option."

"But Ry..." Sai brought Ry's hands up to his lips and kissed them. "Even if, worst case, you were positive, that wouldn't change anything. I'd still want to be with you in every possible way. I'd want to be with you in everything. What difference would it make? As long as we were together, everything would be fine anyway."

Ry pulled his hands away in horror. "Sai, remind be to take you to an AIDS hospice when we get back. If I were positive, we would never do anything to endanger you."

"But..."

"No!" Ry smoothed back his hair and pulled himself back into order. "No. That's not an option."

"Are you saying that if you were positive, things would change between us? That we couldn't be intimate? If you were positive, I would still want to be a part of your life. I'd still want to share everything with you and be with you to face everything." Sai looked like he was afraid.

Ry sighed. "Oh, Sai... I would damn well expect that if I were to test positive, you would still be with me. And we would still be intimate, we'd just have to be really careful. But I would not want you to get sick just because I was."

Sai looked puzzled, his eyes turned to the floor. "But, Ry, I wouldn't want there to be any reason for you to feel like you had to protect me. I chose to be with you, I love you. Warts, blemishes, and viri."

Ry gave him a mock-indignant look. "I don't have any warts or blemishes, mister!" Sighing, he thought of a different tactic. "Look, Sai. What if you were, by some unholy miracle, to test positive? How would you feel about me wanting to have unprotected sex with you? Would you want me to get infected just because you were? Would you be able to live with yourself, knowing that you had infected me?"

Sai's eyes went blank, as he gave the scenario some real thought.

He remained quiet for another moment or two, not wanting to admit what he had come up with.

Ry smiled, kissing his lover's temple. "You see, darling? How could you ask me to do something that you yourself could not do?"

Sai's shoulders sagged a little, but he raised his face and smiled ruefully. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be." Ry shrugged. "We needed to have this little talk, apparently."

"But..." Sai sighed. "I've ruined the mood."

Ry grinned, wickedly. "Oh, no problem, darling. We can easily get that back!"

Sai sighed, and leaned back on the bed. "No, I think it's gone forever. We'll never get in the mood again."

Ry laughed softly, angling his body over Sai's with catlike grace. "Mm. If you say so, darling. I guess that means that if I do this..." he licked and then blew on Sai's nipple, "nothing would happen."

Sai stretched out, trying not to be too obvious. His head was still swimming from their conversation, but he needed to be in this moment. "No, sorry love. It's gone."

"Mm. Too bad. I like to do this too," he bent his head lower and nipped gently with his teeth over Sai's wet nipple, "but I guess it's not ever going to be the same again."

"Ah-ah-ah... no, no, sorry, love, no..." Sai was finding it harder and harder to stay still. Literally.

Ry sighed, settling down and rubbing his chin over Sai's belly. "I'm sorry, too, babe. I'm going to miss a lot. Like, for instance..." Rapidly, he lowered his head and nuzzled Sai's stirring cock. "I'm going to miss my playmate here..."

Sai wriggled like mad, giving in to the urge to giggle. "Your playmate is registering a complaint. He wants to get back to playing with you."

"Mm. Goooood." Ry kissed and licked the hardening flesh under his face as he hands wandered over Sai's waist. "Oh, but I was making new friends down here, earlier..."

"Oh?" Sai giggled again. "Mm, I guess I remember that... Well, since you've already introduced yourself..."

"Are you sure?" Ry's voice was uncommonly serious. Sai paid attention. "I'm not trying to push you."

Sai considered. He was still a little afraid, but the fear was a vague thing, hardly tangible at all. What was tangible was his love's hands and lips and body so close to him. "You aren't pushing. And I think... I'm ready."

"Ready?" Ry's brown-rose eyes met Sai's amber, no trace of humor sparkling them. "Are you sure?"

"Yes." He was. "Please."

Ry smiled, and kissed Sai, letting their bodies touch and settle against each other, letting a rhythm and a heat build as their blood pushed violently through their vessels, madly trying to reach all destinations within. Ry kissed a trail down Sai's chest, hitting the main spots as he went. Pausing to breathe over Sai's now hard cock, he met Sai's eyes again, only now his brown-rose irises were dancing with mirth.

"You say you are ready, but... I don't think you know what you are getting yourself into. You ain't seen nothing yet, babe."

Before Sai could form a response, Ry swooped down on his cock, deep-throating him in one quick motion. He sucked hard, making Sai moan and twitch.

He knew he was good at this. Using one hand to grip the base of Sai's erection tightly, he used the other to grab the lube off the nightstand and flip the cap, squeezing some into his hand. Watching Sai from the strange position, he sighed with the erection in his mouth, and pulled up as suddenly as he swooped down, to suck on just the tip of Sai's cock.

As Sai was desperately trying to keep his brain in his skull, Ry slipped two fingers inside of Sai, letting them rest there until Sai calmed a bit.

Sai felt like he was being ripped to shreds. It was the best sex ever, he was sure.

It took him several heaving breaths to realize that Ry had fingers in him. Instead of the fear that usually was associated with the notion of being penetrated, Sai found himself excited.

Hopelessly excited.

"Oh, Ry, please, baby, my love, my life, more!" Sai threw his head back, his eyes closed tight, his hands clenched in the sheets.

Ry shuddered, Sai's words cutting through him like a chainsaw. "Never let it be said, darling, that I don't deliver..." Ry worked at prepping quickly, not rushing through it, since he didn't want to hurt Sai. Still, he used his mouth and his hands to relax his lover, slipping in another finger and stretching gently. "Remember, if you feel any pain, or if you change your mind, just tell me... Say the word and we stop."

Sai nodded, his motions jerky and uncontrolled. He couldn't imagine speaking at that point.

"Ok, baby. I'm going to start now. We'll go slowly. I'm not going to hurt you, I swear." Ry kissed Sai, putting his mouth everywhere.

Sai sighed. He wasn't afraid.

Ry pushed in, having to summon up every drop of his self-control and strength to rein himself in. Sai's body was tight, and hot, and Ry had been waiting for this for so long and it was even better than he had allowed himself to hope it would be...

Sai thought he would go mad, it took so long for Ry to get all the way in him. But he was glad that Ry had taken his time; he felt just enough discomfort to make him cautious. Even as the slow burn of pleasure started to permeate his consciousness, he still let Ry set the pace.

He trusted Ry.

After Ry had taken a moment to gather himself, he started to pump, rolling his hips and sliding in and out, nearly going insane with the ridiculously slow pace. When he was certain that Sai was doing all right, something he was able to ascertain based on Sai's wild cries of undiluted pleasure, he started moving faster and faster, faster still until all the world was motion and heat and friction, and he could feel the back of his eyeballs, and it was him and Sai, and it was like they were one, one in passion and in need, and desire and love joined them into this tunnel of motion, sweet, wonderful motion, and he wished it could last forever, but it couldn't, it couldn't, because he wanted to control it but he couldn't, not anymore, not after Sai clenched hard and came with a shout and soul-deep moan, and so he let go, and it was like it was being ripped out of him, leaving him empty, leaving him entirely hollow.

Ry fell down onto Sai, breathing hard.

Sai was grinning like a fool.

He had really liked it.

"Hey. Ry." He poked his love, causing him to shift and wiggle in the cutest way. "Ry? I liked that. A lot."

Ry murmured and wiggled his noise, sighing. "Ok, babe, let's do it again. After I take a little nap."

Sai cuddled close, running his hands up and down Ry's spine. "Are you hungry? I'm ravenous. Want to order up some food? Sushi? You mentioned sushi before. That was really great. Really really great. I loved it. I can't believe I was so nervous!"

Ry snuggled in, scooting his ass closer to Sai and making that little nose-wheeze that he always made when he was first falling asleep.

Sai couldn't have believed that he could have loved Ry more than he already did, but he did. Kissing Ry's head, he snuggled in and held Ry close, letting the scent of each other settle into him. Then he squirmed until he could get the house phone to his ear.

He had never been so hungry before in his life.

Ry woke up a little later to some strange feeling on his back. Something squishy.

Prying his eyes open, he peered over his shoulder to find Sai eating sushi off his back. Arching his eyebrows, he couldn't resist a smile.

"Tasty?"

"Very."

"I'm gonna be hungry in a bit..."

"There's plenty left."

"And I get to eat them off of you?"

"Naturally."

"Any part I want?"

Sai paused to consider. "Sure."

"Great."





When Ryuen and Saihitei got back, everyone noticed the change between them.

They were completely unable to keep their hands off each other, and they were almost glued together.

When Houjun asked Ryuen if they had a good vacation, Ryuen just grinned like crazy.

"It was... yeah. Good, really really good."

Houjun decided not to ask for any more details.





"I can't believe you don't want to make a big deal out of your birthday." Sai frowned at the display case.

Ry grinned as he picked up one of the cameras out on display. "I never make a big deal out of my birthday, Sai, not even when I was a kid." He brought it up to his eye and centered the sights on his boyfriend. He set it down again, vaguely dissatisfied.

Sai got that lost, faraway look in his eyes. "I remember that! Your parents used to throw those half-birthday parties for you in the summer. That was weird."

Ry giggled, softly. "Yeah. Well, anyway... it's just another day, really. No biggie. Are you sure you want to spend this kind of money?"

Sai rolled his eyes. "Ry, I would spend a lot more if you would let me. Really, let me buy more. I mean... I know you want the camera, but it's just a camera!"

"It's a digital camera. And believe me, when I'm done picking, you won't think it's not enough..." Ry winked at him.

Sai looked over the case. "Um, unless you want all of these, which I would get for you if you did, it won't be too much. Do you need any software, or a new computer?"

"A... a new computer?" Ry turned wide, shocked eyes to Sai. "Sai! I couldn't accept that! That would be too much!"

"What? It's not that much. I could get you your own laptop. With a DVD drive! Would you like that?" Sai examined the little tags attached to the cameras, wondering why some were so much more expensive than the others, and hoping the Ry would let him buy one of the really expensive ones.

"Would I... Sai." Ry gently pulled on Sai's shoulder until they were standing and looking at each other. "Sai... you don't have to buy me expensive things. I don't want expensive things. Um, unless my parents are buying, in which case I deserve them. But I don't expect it from you."

"But Ry... I have money. I don't care. If you want something, it would give me pleasure to give it to you. Why would that be wrong?"

"Because it would make me feel weird accepting it. Let's not get into the details here. Just... Please, don't shower me with gifts... Just..." Ry took a deep breath. "Just be with me. That's all that I need from you." Leaning up on his toes, he kissed Sai's nose.

Sai grinned down on him. "But, I am with you. Can't I be with you and buy you nice things?"

Ry shook his head. Pointing, "You can buy me that. And only that. I don't need a new computer or multiple cameras or any software... I don't even need that, but since you insist on buying me something... This is more than enough."

Sai sighed. It didn't matter; he had the rest of their lives to give Ry all the things a princess deserved.

"Are you sure you want to go to dinner at my parents? I told you, this isn't a big deal." Ry wasn't looking at Sai.

"Ry, is there some reason that you don't want me to meet your parents?" Sai watched Ry from the corner of his eye as he indicated to the sales clerk the camera that he wanted to buy.

Ry sighed. "No. It's just... my family is crazy." He winked at Sai. "I mean, yeah, they're my family, so naturally... I don't know. It's just, they tend to get a little..." Ry struggled with the words. "My parents will be all over you, pumping you for information and making sure you are 'up to snuff', and my brother will act like a jackass..." He sighed. "It's just... a big production, and I don't want to expose you to that."

Sai handed the sales clerk his credit card. "Ry, your family cares about you. I'd like to go, I think it will be fun."

Ry smiled at Sai. "Oh, you will regret those words..."

Ry played with his camera all the way to his parents' house. Sai pretended to be shy when Ry pointed the camera at him, hiding his face behind his hand.

When they got there, Sai was teasing Ry by blowing on his ear when the door swung open and a familiar voice shocked them apart.

"My, my, isn't this cute? Ry-chan, lend me that fancy new camera your boytoy bought and I can capture this moment for posterity."

Ryuen stuck his tongue out at Ayuru. "Are you mooching off of my parents again?"

Ayuru smirked. "Hey, a free meal is a free meal."

Ryuen rolled his eyes, and pushed past his oldest friend, dragging Saihitei by the hand.

Ayuru smirked at Saihitei as he passed, causing Saihitei to glare at him.

"Ryuen!" Kourin jumped up and leaped onto her brother. "Happy Whole Birthday!!"

Ryuen laughed, and swung his sister around in a wide arc.

"Happy Whole Birthday, Son." Ryuen's father patted him on the shoulder, shaking his head at his children. "Saihitei-san. Good to see you again. I hear you and my son are dating."

Ryuen rolled his eyes, dropping Kourin. "Dad, don't start with him until dessert." He skipped over to his mother, kissing her on her cheek. "Hey, mom!"

"Happy Whole Birthday, baby." She kissed him again, hugging him briefly. "Saihitei-san. Did you boys have fun shopping?"

Saihitei made a mental note to ask about this 'whole birthday' thing.

"Yes!" Ryuen bounced, cutting off anything Saihitei might have said. "Look! He bought me a digital camera! Isn't it great?"

Ryuen's father snorted, smiling. "One less camera for me to buy you. Yes, it is great."

Ryuen laughed, putting his arm around Saihitei's waist. "Dad, don't be silly. You still need to buy me lots of stuff. This is just an addition, not a replacement for whatever you were going to buy me!"

"Princess, you are such a brat." Rokou grabbed Ryuen and pulled him into a rough embrace.

Ryuen was giggling, even though he was trying to pretend that he wasn't. "But Rokou, that's why you love me, right?"

Rokou grunted. "Yeah, right. C'mon, let's eat, I haven't eaten in forever."

"Really? No one can tell..."

Rokou swatted the back of Ryuen's head as they walked to the dinner table. Saihitei decided that he needed to defend his love by walking next to him.

"Now, Ayuru-kun, why didn't you bring Kaen with you? She's such a nice girl." Ryuen's mother fussed about the table, making sure that everyone had enough to eat.

Ayuru smiled in what he assumed was an angelic expression. "Oh, she's busy. Besides, she hates not being the prettiest girl in the room. And with Kourin, and Ryuen, and you, Mrs. Chou, she'd be the fourth prettiest girl."

"Ayuru-kun! You are such a brown-noser!" Ryuen's mother slapped him playfully on the shoulder, but she was obviously pleased.

Saihitei had to repress the urge to scowl.

"And how are your grades, Ayuru-kun?" Ryuen's father asked, looking at Ayuru with a very fatherly demeanor. "I hope that you've recovered from that little slip last year."

Ayuru would have blushed if it wouldn't have made him seem weak in front of Saihitei. He couldn't believe that Mr. Chou said that in front of his quasi-arch-nemesis! "My grades were quite good last semester, Mr. Chou. Thank you for asking."

Rokou shook his head. "What about your grades last semester, Princess? You never mentioned them..."

Ryuen shook his head. "I got straight A's, Rokou. What did you expect?"

Rokou just rolled his eyes.

Kourin hugged her brother's arm, grinning maniacally. "Ryuen always gets good grades, Rokou!"

Rokou rolled his eyes. "Ryuen does everything perfectly, doesn't he, Kourin?"

She just giggled. "I don't know, you'd have to ask Saihitei-kun about that!"

Saihitei nearly choked on his rice.

Ryuen scowled. "Kourin! Since you obviously don't know what you are implying, because if you did, I would have to drive you out to the nunnery, you should be more careful about what you say!"

Ryuen's mother smiled at her children, shaking her head slightly. "So, tell us Saihitei-san, what do you plan to do after graduation?"

Saihitei smiled, hiding his tension. "I'm going to go on in school, Mrs. Chou. Actually, I intend to work in academia, so I will probably continue on until I get my doctorate, and then work on teaching."

Ryuen's parents shard a significant look, and then beamed back at him. "How wonderful!" Mrs. Chou seemed genuinely happy. Saihitei felt a stab of jealousy pierce him. His own parents thought his aspirations were trivial. "I'm sure you will do very well with that. I can tell that you would have a great deal of presence in front of a large group."

"Saihitei is very talented, mom." Ryuen smiled at his boyfriend as he ate. "He's already applied to just about every school in Japan, and several in Europe and so forth. He has a keen perspective into historical politics."

Ayuru politely pretended to choke, nearly hiding his laughter from Saihitei.

"In Europe?" Mrs. Chou's voice clearly expressed her hesitation as her eyes met her husband's. "Really? Well. Did Ryuen tell you that when he was picking a college, he almost chose to go to one in America?"

Before Saihitei could say no, Rokou snorted. "Yeah, but then Kourin-baby threw a snit fit and Ryuen decided to stay close to home."

Kourin turned bright red and let go of Ryuen's arm for the first time that night. "I did not!"

"Rokou!" Ryuen's voice was cold and authoritative. "You'll mislead Saihitei. That isn't what happened at all. There were a lot of reasons why I chose to stay close to my family and friends. I think mom was more worried about me moving out of the country than anyone. Oh, no, I take that back, Ayuru was the most worried."

Ayuru raised an eyebrow, smirking. "Well, I would have missed you if you had gone away, Ry-chan."

Mrs. Chou shook her head at her son and his friend as they made faces at each other. She worked hard at not noticing all that went on between them. "It's a mother's job to worry about her children, Ryuen sweetie. I'm sure Saihitei knows that."

Saihitei tried to imagine his mother worrying about him, gave up before he gave himself a headache, and smiled at Mrs. Chou. "Actually, though, my main focus is in Chinese history and politics, so I probably will be staying in Japan, or close to home."

Mrs. Chou smiled, settling back in her chair as if something had been settled. "That sounds very nice, dear. Ancient Chinese politics, hm? That must be quite challenging!"

Ayuru winked under his bangs. "Depends on your perspective, I suppose..."

Saihitei wasn't sure if he was making fun of him or not, but assumed that he was. He usually was. "I find it... fascinating. I'm sure I must bore Ryuen to death sometimes when I get excited about some obscure text."

Ayuru chuckled. Speaking under his breath, "I'm quite sure that you bore Ryuen to death when you are excited."

Ryuen glared at Ayuru, who was failing miserably at looking innocent.

Mr. Chou made a dismissive gesture with his hand. "I doubt Ryuen is ever bored. He's probably just visualizing what lighting would be best to photograph you anyway."

Ryuen rolled his eyes. "Please, dad, be serious. Saihitei looks good in every lighting, it's just a question of what speed film to use." He reached out and took his lover's hand, squeezing gently.

As dinner was wrapping up, Mrs. Chou handed out small bowls of green tea ice cream (Kourin's favorite, not Ryuen's, but he let his mother believe it was his favorite as well ever since they were kids as Kourin liked it so much) and they went out to the living room so that Ryuen could open presents.

Rokou had gotten him a pair of scissors. Kourin bought him a bag of ribbons for his hair. Ayuru gave him a pack of gum and a plastic water gun, the kind you got in arcade machines. His parents gave him a leather wallet.

Saihitei stared at the stack of gifts, not knowing whether he should feel silly for having spent so much on the digital camera, or mad that he didn't insist on buying Ryuen more.

After Ryuen had spun Kourin around the living room in a mad 'birthday' dance, and he had evaded Ayuru's attempts at giving him his birthday spanking, he pulled up Saihitei's arm and insisted that it was time for them to go, begging off further festivities by explaining that Saihitei had an 8 am class.

Ayuru started to make a snickering comment, but Rokou swacked the back of his head, quieting him.

As they were leaving, Mr. Chou shook Saihitei's hand with an admirable firmness. "Don't be a stranger around here, Saihitei-san. After all, we're trusting you with our son, so we want you to consider this your home as well."

"Da~ad!" Ryuen complained. "Don't say stuff like that!" His cheeks had the most agreeable pink to them.

Rokou smiled at his brother's discomfort as he put a hand on Saihitei's shoulder. "Seriously, Saihitei-san, take good care of my little brother. The gods know he can't take care of himself!"

Ryuen just rolled his eyes, kissed his mother and Kourin, and left. He didn't even bother to say goodbye to Ayuru, who was laughing in the background.

Saihitei felt the most unexpected desire to be a part of this family, as he realized for the first time the implications of being committed to Ryuen for the rest of his life. Unlike Ryuen's position, where he was getting saddled with Saihitei's parents' neuroses, Saihitei was getting a chance to have a normal family life by joining his love's family.

Smiling as he waved goodbye, Saihitei felt like he was flying.

Back in the car, Ry managed to convince Sai that he should get to drive home, since it was his birthday.

Sai was a little afraid for his life, but knowing that he wasn't the best driver, he decided that he really couldn't complain.

"Hey, Ry-chan?" Sai distracted himself from the fact that he wasn't driving by playing with his love's hair.

"Hm?"

"What does it mean, Whole Birthday?"

Ry laughed. "Oh, well, like we were talking about before, my folks usually celebrate my half birthday. That's why they don't make a big deal about my whole birthday."

"Oh. But why..."

Ry sighed, but he was smiling. "Well... Apparently, my parents forgot my first birthday, not even realizing it until nearly a month and a half later. So, they decided to throw a party on my half birthday, so I wouldn't miss out. And then, people got in the habit of remembering my half birthday, instead of my real one, which worked out better anyway since my half birthday was in the summer holidays, so I could have a big party. In fact, I was seven before I even knew when my real birthday was, I always just assumed it was on my half birthday. It became something of a joke in our house, that I have a half birthday that is celebrated, and a whole birthday that isn't a big deal." Stealing a sideways look, he smirked. "That's why my presents were all really small stuff."

"I had wondered about that." Sai peered into the bag of gifts, noticing the gum especially.

Ry shook his head. "Look in the wallet."

Sai gave his love a puzzled look, but Ry kept his eyes on the road. Opening the wallet, he found inside there was a rather large gift certificate made out to Ry's favorite photography supply house. "Wow. How did you know...?"

Ry grinned. "My parents always do that. They give us some leather good, which they obviously got at wholesale, and they put in it some extravagant gift. Another family gag."

Sai pondered. "Hm. It's a nice wallet, though. Your family is really nice. I can't believe that you didn't want me to join tonight. Ayuru was there."

Ry took his bottom lip in between his teeth, worrying it. "I... It's not that I didn't want you there, Sai. Ayuru always goes, he's been going to my whole birthday dinners since we were toddlers. It... doesn't mean that he's closer to me or anything. I just..." Ry again struggled with words. He didn't want to say that he wasn't confident enough in their relationship to take Sai home for family occasions. "I just didn't want to make a big deal about it. My birthday, I mean. But... I was really glad that you were there. This was the best whole birthday ever."

Sai caught Ry's glance, again feeling that adrenaline-laced contentment. "I'm glad. I'm glad that I was there to share it with you."

Ry put his hand in Sai's, holding it tightly. "You are the reason it was the best birthday, Sai."

"I love you, Ry."

Clutching the steering wheel imperceptibly, Ry squeezed the hand in his a little harder. "I love you, too, Sai."

Ry found that now that he was saying the words too, it was harder and harder to remind himself that Sai didn't mean them. It was just so much easier to delude himself into thinking they were true.

It was all right, he told himself, because a little delusion was good for the soul.





Sai had decided that the very best thing in the world to be doing at one am was lying on the couch with his love, their shirts open, kissing with just their lips as their chests touched and rubbed against one another. Ry's nipple ring was thrilling him, as his love's long purple hair fell in waves over the two of them, swaying gently over his skin as they touched.

Even if he did have a class in seven hours, life was pretty damn perfect.

If he had been concentrating on anything other than the sensation of the gaudy plastic bracelets Miaka had given Ry brushing over his spine as Ry's hand rubbed his back, he might have guessed that Genrou was going to stumble in and interrupt them.

He knew that things weren't the same as always when Ry gasped and jumped up, leaping over him and going to their friend.

"Gen-chan! What happened?" Ryuen supported Genrou, barely tracing his black eye, checking for blood and other injuries.

Genrou just shook his head. "Well, we're even, Ry-chan."

Ryuen sucked in a lungful of air. "Kouji did this to you?" Ryuen's tone clearly stated that Kouji would be dead by dawn if it were true.

Genrou rubbed at his nose with the back of his wrist like a kitten. "Naw, man, I can fuckin' take Kouji. But I... we talked, and, shit. I went out and started a fight in some bar after."

Saihitei had gotten some ice in the meantime. Gently pressing it to Genrou's black eye, he subtly led them to Genrou's room. "Are you all right? Are you injured anywhere else?"

Genrou shook his head, resembling a little boy trying to hold in his tears. "Naw. Someone called the fuckin' cops, and while I was distracted, this mother fuckin' piece o' shit clocked me. Hit the wall. But it's ok, cuz the cops just wanted to break things up, they didn't wanna deal with a buncha belligerent drunks."

Ryuen massaged Genrou's shoulders. "Are you ok, Genrou?"

Genrou started to shrug and shake his head at the same time, his head dipping lower and lower until he turned and buried his face in Ryuen's lap. His shoulders quaked, as Ryuen massaged his neck, making sympathetic noises.

Saihitei and Ryuen shared a look, Ryuen's fingers never failing in their task, his murmurs never faltering. Saihitei nodded, and stood up quietly.

Ryuen eventually got them both leaning back against the headboard, their arms wrapped around each other as Genrou silently shivered with pain. Saihitei slipped back in noiselessly, setting down a tray with tea and shortbread cookies. When he was a child, and he got hurt, his nanny would always bring him tea and shortbread. He thought it was comforting and easy to eat when you weren't concentrating on what you were eating. Ryuen smiled sadly at him, making a kissing gesture with his mouth. Saihitei returned the gesture, and slipped out again, heading upstairs to sleep alone.

He hated the idea of sleeping alone, though, so he decided instead to put together a cd for Ryuen and then, later, one for Genrou.

Downstairs, Ryuen held Genrou until he fell asleep, once or twice offering him tea and cookies, which Genrou accepted without questioning where they might have come from, as if trays of cookies and tea regularly appeared in his room without warning. Ryuen stayed up while Genrou slept, rubbing his friends temples and back, and softly crooning songs he used to sing to Kourin when she was a toddler, hoping that it might encourage his friend to sleep peacefully.

In the predawn, when Genrou stumbled into wakefulness, his bruise aching enough to shake away his unconsciousness, they talked quietly.

Genrou told Ryuen about his talk with Kouji, and how Kouji had gotten mad, and then scared. How Kouji had begged him not to try to change anything, and how tempted he was to take him up on the offer. How he tried to pretend for a few minutes that they could go back to where they were and ignore the fact that he had declared his love.

Then, he realized that they couldn't do that. Words said could not be unsaid, and even if they did pretend that they didn't happen, they would still be out there, affecting things.

He realized that what he wanted from Kouji was for them to be like Ryuen and Saihitei, and he realized that after nearly six years of sleeping together, it wasn't that much to ask.

He realized that it was more than Kouji was prepared to give.

He realized that Kouji loved him, at least as much as he loved Kouji. He didn't know why it was so hard for Kouji to accept it, but he couldn't keep pretending they weren't in love.

He realized that Kouji would rather lose their friendship than take the next step in their relationship.

He realized that it was going to take some time before he and Kouji would even be able to just hang out again without it being weird.

That's when he left and went to the bar to start a fight.

He didn't tell Ryuen that he hoped to get seriously injured in the fight. He didn't say that he picked a fight with a guy twice his size and as mean as a sack full of razorbacks. He didn't tell Ryuen that he nearly broke the guy's nose, and he would have except he slipped on some spilled sake, because he was hurting too much to even know what he was doing, and all he could do was wallow in the pain and feeling of knuckles against flesh, because he felt like he'd lost.

Ryuen didn't say much, just let Genrou talk, listening to everything he said and didn't say.

When they got up, Saihitei was in the kitchen, attempting to make pancakes.

Once they cleaned the flour from behind the stove and eggs burned onto the stove, they started over again.

Houjun came down, and Do-kun came up, both arriving just as the three were peeling the first pancakes that Saihitei had tried to flip from the cabinets. Eventually, the five of them were sitting together, eating, teasing Saihitei, and trading lazy early morning jokes.

Before Ryuen went up to take a quick shower and get changed, Genrou hugged him impulsively, causing Taka, who was just coming down the stairs, to poke Saihitei in the ribs and tease him about his competition.

Houjun washed the dishes, watching them from the corner of his good eye, his whole body aching for his friend. When he got to the temple that morning, he sent up several prayers of thanksgiving for Ryuen and his strength, a prayer for Kouji to find peace, and a few prayers for Genrou and his aching heart.

He tried not to consider it a weakness that he added a prayer for himself, for fortune in love, before he left.






notesPart OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart SixPart SevenPart EightPart NinePart TenPart ElevenPart Twelve • Part Thirteen • Part FourteenPart FifteenPart SixteenPart SeventeenPart EighteenPart NineteenPart TwentyPart Twenty-OneEpilogue


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