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 19 - Stabbing

Ryuen leaned against the doorjamb, his face half-pressed against the wood as his knuckle started to ache from the repeated motion of bringing it down against the plane of the door. He wasn't paying attention to whether or not the door opened, as he was mainly interested in just lifting and dropping his knuckle against the grain of the door.

So, when the door did swing open, he nearly knocked on Ayuru's face.

The blonde took only a moment to take in his visitor, before speaking up. "Ryuen. You look awful. This isn't really the best time..."

"I saw Saihitei kissing Miaka." It sounded so stupid, so juvenile when he said it out loud. He closed the eye that wasn't pressed against the jamb, and sighed.

Ayuru paused for only a fraction of a second before speaking again. "Just give me a minute." The door swung shut again, only centimeters from Ryuen's face, but he didn't care.

Less than thirty seconds later, two teenagers in cheap underwear where thrown out of the apartment, a boy with thin hair and a thinner frame, and a girl with bright red hair cut shorter than the boy's.

"Hey!" The boy managed to catch the shoe that had hit him in the side.

"Sorry." Ayuru didn't sound sorry. "We'll have to do this some other time." Before either of them could protest, Ayuru dragged Ryuen into his apartment, and shut the door loudly.

Ryuen's tired eyes drifted up to met Ayuru's eagle-sharp blues. "I'm sorry. I didn't want to interrupt anything. I didn't think you would be home. I'm sorry."

Ayuru just shook his head. "Forget about it. What happened?"

Ryuen sighed, his shoulders slumping forward.

Ayuru pressed his lips together. "C'mon, let's get some tea."

Ryuen trudged after him, slumping against the kitchen counter as soon as it was under his arms. Fingering some tools laying on the counter absently, he spoke in an almost completely detached tone. "Were you doing some home repair today?"

"Hm?" Ayuru measure out the tea, his own blend of Chinese teas, quickly and perfectly, a skill he had long practiced. "Oh. I'm building some bookshelves for Kaen. You know, she has all those oversized art books, so... she says she can never find nice furniture than meets her needs."

Ryuen smiled, a tiny tremor in his lips. "You're so nice. You take such good care of people."

Thoughts were flying through Ayuru's head with a speed that made it impossible for him to think any of them. One thing was undeniably clear, however. Barring any disaster, he was going to have Ryuen tonight. He just had to be careful not to scare the other man away. Pouring the boiling water in to the teapot, he tried for a sympathetic tone. "What happened, Ry-chan?"

Ryuen's hair spilled over his shoulders as his face went down, his thin arms shaking slightly. It was amazing how frail and fragile he could appear when he was vulnerable. "I... came home, and I went to the kitchen. And they were there, kissing. It... lasted too long, and I left. Went out to the back, and watched the sun set. And then I came here."

"Did you talk to them?" Ryuen didn't even have to shake his head for Ayuru to know the answer. "Where were his hands?" He paused, pouring and straining the tea, even though he normally waited four and a half minutes exactly, and then made a small ceremony of presenting the tea to his friends. Tea was important, but getting something warm into Ryuen was more important. "When they were kissing, where were his hands?"

Ryuen's eyes were squeezed shut, the image burned onto the back of his eyelids painfully. "On... her hips, I think."

Ayuru nodded. Taking Ryuen's hands, he wrapped them around the teacup. "You're so cold..."

"It's cold out." Ryuen's voice was dull.

Ayuru watched the purple top of his best friend's head. He could say that it was probably a mistake, that Saihitei was gay, and so there must be some explanation. He could say that Ryuen should wait until he could talk to Saihitei to really make up his mind about what went on. He could say that Saihitei loved Ryuen, and he knew that Ryuen loved Saihitei, and so it was still possible for them to work things out.

None of those things would get Ryuen naked and sweating between his sheets, though, and anyway, Ryuen wouldn't believe any of those things.

"Drink." Ayuru gently led the cup to Ryuen's lips, watching that small, sweet mouth take in the hot liquid.

Moving around the kitchen counter without breaking contact with Ryuen's hands, he stepped behind the other man and pulled his back up against his own chest, brushed purple strands away from his face while prompting him to drink.

"Would you like me to draw you a bath? You could warm up and relax." And get naked and wet, and then it would be silly for you to get dressed when you could spend the night here, and after all, we've slept together so many times, why would either of us take the couch? "I have some rose-scented bath oil."

Ryuen shivered. "You're so nice, Ayuru-kun."

Ayuru smiled. It had been too long since he got between the legs of his best friend. Tonight was going to be fun. Tomorrow, he could kick the shit out of that pampered prick, Saihitei. He wouldn't tell Ryuen about that, though. It would just upset him, and that would be counterproductive.

Fantasizing about the night and the morning, Ayuru ran the bath water hot, the oil making the water sweet and soft.

Taka stormed through the house, dropping his books on the kitchen counter. Finding Miaka and Saihitei on the common room couches, he narrowed his eyes.

"What the hell did you do to him, Saihitei?" Taka's voice was terse and angry.

Startled, Saihitei looked up at his friend. "What? Who?"

Miaka was unsettled, seeing her boyfriend so angry. She hadn't seen him like that since Yurien was missing for seven hours when she forgot to tell her parents she was spending the day with a friend.

"What the hell did you do to Ryuen?" Taka stood over the former emperor, his hands at his hips and his eyes blazing.

Saihitei was confused. "Ryuen? I haven't even seen Ryuen today!"

"Then you didn't break up with him?" Taka wasn't sure what happened, but he wasn't going to let that interfere with his interrogation.

"Break up?!" Saihitei sounded horrified. "Why would you think that? What happened?"

"I saw him outside. He looked like... Damn it, Saihitei, you must have done something! He looked broken!" Taka's voice took on the slightest tinge of desperation.

"But I haven't even seen Ryuen today, Taka!" Saihitei felt unsettled. He was starting to see that something was very, very wrong and he didn't like it.

Taka grimaced. "Well, maybe he saw you, then! What the hell did you do?"

Miaka eeped. Since this wasn't entirely unusual, neither man paid attention, until the color started to drain from Saihitei's face. Taka turned to his girlfriend, his eyes still blazing.

"But... no, it can't be..." Miaka tried to reign in her terror, but she had a cold, sick sensation in her gut and it wouldn't let up. "Maybe he saw..."

Saihitei made a noise from the back of his throat, and Taka's eyes flew to him,


Saihitei couldn't look up at Taka. He felt like someone had cut him off.

"We kissed." Miaka's voice was tiny and weak. "Sai and I... but no! He couldn't... He couldn't think..."

"You prick." Taka's eyes were on Saihitei, his voice like ice.

"It was a mistake, it didn't mean anything..." Saihitei still couldn't look Taka in the eye, but he couldn't keep his gaze at any one thing for more than a second.

"You fucking asshole." There was nothing but cold hatred in Taka's voice. "Wasn't the last life enough? Didn't you cry on his shoulder enough the last time over her, that you had to throw that in his face now? Don't you understand how fragile he is, how much he's suffered? Why would you do this to him? How can you claim to love him? You're despicable, you know that? You don't deserve him. Fucking idiot."

Miaka was in tears. "Taka, please, understand...!"

Taka didn't bother to look at her. He didn't think he could. "I do understand, Miaka. I understand one of our dearest and best friends in the universe is in pain right now."

Saihitei felt himself drain away. "No..." He barely spoke, his denial a soft echo of the screaming in his head.

"Yes!" Taka screamed, not able to hold back anymore. Grabbing the hair at the back of Saihitei's head, he pulled the young man's face up to meet his. "You have no idea how much he's hurting now, you selfish, self-absorbed prick! And it's your fault! Why?! Why would you do this?"

Miaka gave a startled yelp, and jumped back, but no one was paying attention to her.

Saihitei felt like he was crying, but he wasn't putting any effort into it. "Taka..."

Throwing Saihitei's head forward, he snarled, "Go! Get out of here! Find him, and make this right!"

Stumbling over himself, Saihitei looked over his shoulder at the furious Taka. "Where...?"

"I don't know, Saihitei! He left! Now, go out there and find him!" Taka was almost glowing with anger.

Stumbling still, Saihitei grabbed his wallet and keys from the sideboard and made his way out the door, terrified.

Miaka stood trembling in the corner. "Taka... I'm sorry... It didn't mean anything, I swear! We were just..."

"I don't care, Miaka." He looked at her, his heart breaking.

"Do... do you hate me, now?" Miaka's voice was wavering.

He let out a few breaths, trying to keep his anger checked. "No, Miaka, I don't. I'm not really worried about you, right now. I'm only thinking of Ryuen. How could you do that to him, Miaka?" He looked her in the eye, his naked outrage visible from across the room. "He's your friend. How could you forget that?"

"Taka..." She sounded utterly despondent, but Taka could only note that with a clinical detachment.

It wasn't relevant right now how his spoiled girlfriend felt.

"I promised him that nothing would ever come between us. That was really important to him, Miaka. But I still can't understand how you could do this to him." He watched her for a moment, making sure that she was watching him. "I thought you had matured more than that."

He left her sobbing in the common room, unable to stand it anymore.

Slipping into a robe that was most certainly Kaen's, Ryuen absently twisted his hair back and out of his way. Why had he ever grown his hair out like this? Probably memory of the past life had something to do with it, he pondered as he combed it out with his fingers. And then there was Kourin. When he was... recovering from the assault, he had let it grow simply because he was too tired to bother with it, ever. When he was finally talking again, Kourin had gleefully pointed out that with his hair long like that, they were like twins.

It made her so happy to see him like that, he didn't have the heart to deny her.

He kept musing about his hair as he entered the living room, which he absentmindedly noted was now lit by candles that dotted the tables and shelves.

It smelled like jasmine, a scent he so closely associated with Kaen, he almost expected her to show up.

But, naturally, it wasn't Kaen that greeted him as he sat down on the couch, but Ayuru, who was wearing sweats and a tank top.

Ryuen knew what was going on in Ayuru's head. He would have to have been deaf, dumb, and blind for the past twenty years that he had known the blonde not to know what Ayuru was thinking. He felt isolated from the experience. Coldly, he acknowledged the fact that it was very likely that he and Ayuru would have sex tonight, but he felt a million miles away from it.

His brain was still pondering the length of his hair.

"Feel a little better?" Ayuru smiled at him, which was funny because he never did that in a patronizing or sympathetic way. When Ayuru was being patronizing, he always smirked, so that you wanted to slap him across the face. And he was never sympathetic. He could be, on occasion, nice, but never was he sympathetic.

It was one of the reasons that Ryuen loved him.

"Lie down. Let me put on some music."

This was why Ryuen had come here, instead of his parents' or someplace else, expectations of sex notwithstanding. Ayuru wasn't trying to cheer him up, and he knew better than to try to talk about it.

When he was in therapy with Karen this week, he could talk about it. Maybe. Now, there was something about the silence that soothed Ryuen.

Stretching out on the couch, he pressed his cheek against the soft plush of the couch cushion. Kaen hated this couch. She thought it was impractical, to have a couch in such a small apartment. A futon would have made much more sense, she argued.

But Ryuen had liked the couch. He had wanted the couch for himself, but he was living with Kei at the time, and Kei was far too practical about furniture to allow a plushy couch with wide seats in his apartment. Even when Ryuen had tried to show him how there was enough room on the couch for two people to lie down facing each other, Kei had remained adamant.

So, Ayuru had bought the couch, infuriating both Kei and Kaen.

Ryuen smiled. He was convinced that Kaen now saw the beauty of the couch, even if she would die ten thousand horrible deaths before admitting it.

Ayuru sat down on the table in front of the couch, and put his hands in Ryuen's hair. He let his fingers wander over Ryuen's skin, now pinkish from the heat of the bath, and impossibly smooth because of the oil. His hand wandered until it covered Ryuen's neck, covering the pulse with his palm.

Ryuen's eyes drifted to Ayuru's, and they just watched each other as Ayuru's hand slid further down, and caressed the silk of the robe over Ryuen's heart.

Ryuen shook his head, a futile gesture, really, since he knew before he starting knocking on Ayuru's door that Ayuru knew better than anyone else ever would, probably, how to seduce him.

Ayuru smirked, and his thumb pulled back the fabric of the robe.

Ryuen's hand was now on Ayuru's, stilling it. "I think I'll sleep on the couch tonight." It was a silly thing to say, because he knew he wasn't going to be, but he needed to say it anyway.

"If you like." And Ayuru put his other hand on Ryuen's cheek, his knuckles moving up and down Ryuen's jaw.

Ryuen closed his eyes; his breathing was heavy. He thought about waking up this morning with Saihitei's arm around him, Saihitei's chest against his back, and Saihitei's breath on his neck. It hit him like a physical blow to his gut; he would never wake up with Saihitei again. He would never feel Saihitei's broad chest supporting him, and he would never touch Saihitei's soft hair again. He would never taste Saihitei's kiss, or feel that exquisite embrace of Saihitei's thighs between his own. He would never watch amber eyes as they heated up, or blinked into awareness, or as they gazed lovingly, or apparently lovingly.

By now, Ryuen was nearly hyperventilating. He felt like crying, but he didn't want to. He wasn't a crier. He said it again and again to himself, holding onto Ayuru's hand for dear life.

"Shh, baby, shh." Ayuru smoothed back wet purple locks, nearly crooning. "Relax, baby. Everything is going to be fine. Don't I always take care of you? We'll get through this, I promise. You aren't alone. You just need to relax..." Ayuru was calmly spreading open the robe, his own pulse throbbing with every inch of exposed pinkish flesh. The sight of Ryuen's pierced nipple made his cock jump. Unable to resist, he swept down and took it into his mouth, sucking hard.

Ryuen cried out, whimpering. Weakly, he tried to push Ayuru's head away, even as his fingers latched onto blonde locks. His heart and his soul were being torn to pieces. He wanted Saihitei. "No... Sai..."

Ayuru pulled back, annoyed. He would never, ever force Ryuen. That was a sure way to lose his best and closest friend. But at the same time... That pampered twit had been kissing a girl! A plain girl, who was much younger than him! Who he used to be in love with!

Ayuru's charms should be enough to break the spell that spoiled child had cast over Ryuen.

"I'm not going to do anything against your will, baby." Meanwhile, Ayuru pulled the robe open further, leaving Ryuen's chest and belly fully exposed. "I only want to make you feel better. Please, let me help you feel better."

Ryuen was in torment. Ayuru knew how to touch him, oh so well. Even after all these months with Saihitei, there was just something about the touch of his oldest lover that made Ryuen's flesh curl with anticipation. But he wanted Saihitei. He needed Saihitei. Anyone else's touch was... wrong. "Not yet..."

Ayuru calmly let Ryuen push his hands away, but he caught the edge of the robe, so when he hands moved back he pulled the robe almost completely open. The sight of a breathless, needy Ryuen naked and warm from a bath was just...


Ayuru kissed Ryuen's forehead, letting his hair fall forward and keeping his hands off of Ryuen's skin.

That was it. Ryuen knew it, in his flesh, Ayuru was unwinding his resolve with a chaste kiss.

Their foreheads touching, their lips were only millimeters apart. Their noses touched, and they shuddered together.

Ryuen kept his eyes closed. He didn't want to be here. He wanted to be with Saihitei. But he would never be with Saihitei again, and he was cold.

His heart was cold.

Their lips just touched, and Ryuen felt like crying. He didn't want to be here, but he was. He wanted to be in Saihitei's arms, he wanted Saihitei's kiss, and Saihitei's touch.

He was with Ayuru instead.

He had just opened his mouth when the banging on the door started. Ayuru cursed, and tried to ignore it, but Ryuen sat up, jolted out of the moment entirely.

"It's Saihitei." He wasn't sure if he was excited or afraid or upset. He only knew that his heart's desire was on the other side of the door.

Ayuru scowled and cursed again. He was about to suggest that they ignore it, but Ryuen was already putting his feet on the ground, and he could hear the coddled twit on the other side, calling out to him to open the door.

He got to his feet, ready to spit bullets, and went to the door before Ryuen could get there.

Saihitei paused before the door. He should have come here first, since this was the most likely place for Ryuen to run off to, but he didn't want to believe that his love was here.

He had to call 'Toku for the address, having never cared before where Ayuru lived.

Sighing, Saihitei shut his eyes tightly. He would just have to explain things to Ryuen. He would just have to tell him that it was a mistake, that it never should have happened, and that he would never let it happen again.

Yes, he would just have to apologize, and then they could go home together. Saihitei smiled as he imagined taking his fey love in his arms tonight, and making slow, passionate love to him. Taka overreacted, probably due to his own jealousy. Taka had always been jealous of Saihitei. Still, Saihitei was sure that Taka and Miaka would have settled their differences by now, and soon he could take Ryuen home and everything would be just fine again.

Pounding on the door, Saihitei tried to remind himself that everything was going to be just fine.

When no one answered the door for a few minutes, or possibly moments, he started to call out. "Ryuen! Please, come to the door. Damn it, Ayuru, I know he's in there! Please! Answer the door!"

For the second time that night, Ayuru nearly got knocked on as he opened the door swiftly. Narrowing his eyes at the sight of the other man, Ayuru sneered. "Is there something I can help you with, Saihitei? It's a bit late for a social call..."

Saihitei pushed the door open all the way and tried to muscle in, but Ayuru was adamant in his position. "Damn it, Ayuru! I need to talk to Ryuen!"

"Do you?" Ayuru hissed. "Why? So you can explain to him how it was just a kiss, and it didn't mean anything? You fucking asshole. You broke his heart tonight! You think I'm just going to let you have a second chance!"

Saihitei snarled. "I don't think you get a choice in the matter, Ayuru!"

"Saihitei?" Ryuen's timid voice didn't quite manage to get their attention, but Saihitei was able to maneuver his way into the apartment.

"You think I'm just going to step aside and let you have your way, again! This time, Saihitei, you can't just bat your eyes and look sincere and expect everyone to just bend over and take your crap!" Ayuru was seething, his blue eyes flashing dangerously.

"What is your problem, anyway, Ayuru? Are you jealous of me?" Saihitei crossed his arms over his chest, but his hands were in fists. "You're always going on about how spoiled I am, but we hardly know each other. Why should you even care? I think you are jealous. You're jealous of my money, and my looks, and my popularity. But I think you're jealous of my love most of all. Because Ryuen would never love you the way he loves me, would he? And that just burns you up inside."

Ayuru lifted his hand to strike Saihitei across the face, his composure gone. "Shut the fuck up, you stinking bastard! I'm glad you sucked on that whore's face! Maybe now Ryuen will leave you. You never deserved him, and you never will. You would never be able to sacrifice yourself the way he does, or care about anyone the way he does. Why should you get to live happily ever after with Ryuen? What have you ever done to deserve his love? And you know I'm right." Ayuru smiled, triumphant. "I can see it in your eyes. You know I'm right, and you would take him anyway. Not because you love him so much, because a selfish prick like you doesn't know what love is, but because you need him so much. And doesn't that just make you a pathetic little leech."

Saihitei dropped his arms to his sides, his eyes furious. "Oh, and you know what love is? You know how to care for someone, and not just take what you want from them? Because you want what's best for Ryuen, right? You want him to leave me because that would make him happy. And being able to fuck him whenever you wanted would just be a fringe benefit, right? You make me sick. You're just as bad as the pervert who raped him..."

"Don't you dare compare me to him!" Ayuru jumped forward, pushing his nose into Saihitei's face, seething with anger so that his words hissed out between his teeth. "You self-righteous son of a bitch!"

Saihitei pushed Ayuru back, disgusted. "Get out my face, you repulse me!"

The world went red to Ayuru, and he backhanded Saihitei as hard as he could. A tiny spot of red formed at the corner of Saihitei's lips, but neither was paying attention to it.

Saihitei was ready to hit Ayuru back, and smash that blonde head in, when a scream tore his soul apart.

Ryuen didn't know what to do.

Saihitei had come in, but Ayuru had started arguing with him before Ryuen could even get up off the couch. He wasn't ready to see Saihitei so soon. It still hurt too much. He didn't necessarily want to sleep with Ayuru either, but that was at least comfortable and secure.

Seeing Saihitei right now was neither comfortable nor secure.

When they had started to argue, Ryuen had tried to intervene, but neither man was interested. That seemed off to him, but Ryuen knew these two men better than they knew themselves. They were both frustrated and upset, and they needed to vent. Ryuen generally preferred not to be the outlet for anyone's venting, unless their chosen method of venting was sex. So, he let them argue while he composed himself.

But there was something off about the two of them. There was too much hate in their words, too much venom... He tried a few times to pull at one or the other's arm, or say something, but they were totally ignoring him.

Panic started to seep into him, like humidity. It soon pervaded every aspect of him. A flash of something like déjà vu hit him, except he knew that he had not lived to see this the first time.

But he could smell the horses, and the battlefield, and he could taste the rage in the air, and only one thought repeated in his head, its bitter tattoo shocking him.

They were going to kill each other.

It wasn't an idle fear. Ryuen could taste it. There was murder in the air, the electricity between the two men was fatal. Suddenly, he got this image of Saihitei laying in the mud, dead, his face serene and beautiful as his eyes were eternally fixed on the sky.

Perhaps if he had eaten anything since breakfast, he might have been able to cope with this thought better. Perhaps if he hadn't just gotten out of the hot bath, or if he hadn't just been the recipient of Ayuru's skilled seduction, or if perhaps he hadn't been in such pain and shock, he might have been able to think of some other way to stop them.

But he was fatigued, and he hadn't eaten anything in hours, and he was still hurting from the sight of his lover and Miaka kissing, and he was hot under his skin, and he was upset, and they were yelling, and gesturing like they were going to resort to hitting each other, and they clearly wanted to bash each other's brains in, and they were both trained for that sort of thing, killing, so it was just so clear...

They were going to kill each other.

The thought of Ayuru dead made Ryuen nauseous, but the thought of Saihitei, bloody and broken, dead on the floor of Ayuru's apartment...

That made all the air noxious.

He had to get their attention. That was all there was to it, he had to get their attention... They had to stop, they had to look at him, see him...

There should have been another way, but Ryuen was not in the right frame of mind. His eyes latched onto the faint gleam from the countertop, and it became utterly clear to him what he had to do.

Deliberately, he walked over to the counter, picked up the awl, laid his other hand flat on the surface, and slammed the awl down as hard as he could, right into the center of his hand.


Flashing, blinding pain, radiating from the vortex in the center of his hand, and he might have screamed, but he didn't know for sure because it hurt.

And once the initial shock of pain washed through him, it didn't seem so bad, but that was only because everything is, in fact, relative. Instead, the pain just was there, in his hand and throbbing up his arm, and it touched his toes, but he was almost detached from the pain, like he could watch it happen.

Like that small pool of red that was forming there.

And now it was quiet. So quiet, it was like someone had pushed the mute button, but that was silly because Ayuru and Saihitei were too busy arguing to hit the mute button, and he wasn't near the remote.

He did feel a little dizzy, though.

Saihitei and Ayuru stood, completely stunned, as if they thought that if they stared at Ryuen for a bit longer, he wouldn't have a woodworking tool sticking out of his hand anymore.

Saihitei blinked, and then he moved. Standing near Ryuen, and putting his hand on Ryuen's back, he watched the blood slowly eek out of Ryuen's hand. "Ry? Baby? Are you all right?"

Ryuen turned to look at Saihitei. His eyes were worried. Ryuen didn't like that, so he tried to smile, but it still hurt a lot, from everywhere, it felt like.

"Ok, this is what we're going to do, all right? Ayuru, call for an ambulance. Now. I'm going to hold your hand, and get the awl up out of the counter. Ok? Just look at me, baby, don't look down. All right? Ayuru... call for an ambulance. Ok, Ryuen, here we go..."

"Maybe you should leave it like that..." Ayuru looked as white as snow, his eyes riveted to the metal jutting up from his best friend's hand. "Or take it out. You should take it out."

Saihitei grimaced, and spoke slowly and reassuringly. "No, it will slow the bleeding if we leave it in. We just need to get him mobile, so he can get to the hospital as soon as possible. Call the ambulance. Ok, Ry-love, look at me... I'm going to start on the count of three. I'll try not to aggravate your wound, but it may hurt a little. More. Ok, one... two... three..."

Saihitei used two hands to pull and maneuver the awl up. One hand kept Ryuen's hand steady, and the other hand lifted and pulled the awl up as steadily as he could.

Ryuen watched the tense line of Saihitei's mouth. When Saihitei started to pull, Ryuen just said, "Ow," completely dispassionately.

Saihitei supported both Ryuen and his hand as Ayuru finally made the call. "Let's get some sweatpants and shoes on you, ok, and then we'll go downstairs and wait for the ambulance." Everything Saihitei said sounded so reasonable and simple that Ryuen didn't even feel the need to nod.

Soon, they had Ryuen dressed enough to travel. Ayuru stood in the background, eyes wide, as he watched splotches of blood fall onto his floor and carpet. He didn't mention it.

"Shouldn't we wait here? In case... in case they call?" Ayuru's eyes where on the place where Saihitei's arm was supporting Ryuen.

Saihitei repressed the sigh. If you needed someone beat up or intimidated, Ayuru was your man, but apparently if you were ill or injured, he should be a little lower on your list. "No, we should be ready downstairs. There's only one entrance to the building, so we know where they will be coming to, and that way he can be ready to get on the ambulance right away." Saihitei led Ryuen to the elevator, not really caring if Ayuru was following or not.

The blonde was feeling indecisive, which he had little to no experience with. He finally went to join them as the elevator doors opened, not wishing to leave Ryuen alone, but he left his apartment door open so he could get back in.

They got to the front of the building just as the ambulance was pulling up. The emergency workers moved quickly and efficiently to assess Ryuen's wound and state of mind. They kept looking at Ayuru and Saihitei as if they were blaming them for it, which made Ayuru edgy and angry, and Saihitei quiet.

Finally, they walked Ryuen into the back of the ambulance, Saihitei right behind him. Ayuru tried to follow, but the EMT stopped him.

"I'm sorry, sir," the girl smiled to soften the blow. "But we can only carry one other person."

"But..." Ayuru still had his foot on the back of the ambulance.

"Which hospital are we going to?" Saihitei held Ryuen's good hand, something that Ayuru could not accept just then. He barely heard the girl's response. "Ok, Ayuru, you know where that is? Meet us there, and call Ryuen's parents too."

The doors closed, and Ayuru was left behind.

His blue eyes crackled with heat. He was left behind! Ryuen was... Ryuen... to himself! And then he got left behind!

Ayuru bounded up the stairs to his apartment, grabbing shoes, his wallet, keys, and his cell phone as quickly as he could.

Saihitei should have been left behind, he thought, he should have been left behind a long time ago...

Hospital waiting rooms were the worst. Perhaps because no one who was there wanted to be there. Everyone was wishing they could be somewhere else, and that whoever they were waiting for would be someplace else, and better.

Saihitei stood against the wall, miserably watching the tiles in front of his shoes. The ambulance ride had been so fast... He had held Ryuen's hand, until Ryuen looked up. They watched each other's eyes, and then Ryuen had pulled his hand out of Saihitei's.

Saihitei's hand was still burned from the slight, and he was having trouble convincing himself that it was not deliberate.

His thoughts were not comforted when Ayuru showed up.

The blonde was obviously on the warpath, something that Saihitei recognized too easily, but he didn't care just then. He was too occupied with frantic worry for Ryuen.

"Where is he?" Ayuru was direct, holding his venom in check for the moment.

"He's in there." Saihitei indicated towards a set of private doors. "They said... they said that no one could go back with him. But... they said that he should be ok. They need to... put in some stitches, and some other stuff..."

"I brought his clothes."

"Let me... take it to the nurse, she can get it to him." By the time that Saihitei had gotten back, Ayuru had settled into a chair next to where he had been standing.

"This is your fault you know." Ayuru had his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes burning into Saihitei. "If he has some permanent damage or something, it will be your fault. What were you doing, kissing that girl, anyway? You have the best kisser in Japan in your bed every night, and you go off kissing some plain little girl." Ayuru sneered, his disgust evident. "You don't deserve to be given a second chance."

Saihitei narrowed his eyes, and kept his hands at his sides. "Perhaps not. But I'm not the only reason we're here, am I? He was obviously afraid of what we might do."

"He wouldn't have been at my place if you hadn't...!" Ayuru was gritting his teeth, trying to keep his voice level.

"I can't take back the past!" Saihitei's voice was nearly hysterical. "I wish like hell that I could, but I can't!"

"Well. Too bad, huh Saihitei? It's a shame to lose him to something so simple, but there it is." Ayuru smirked. "Well, maybe in the next life things will work out for you. Oh, by the way, I called his parents and they are on the way. And I called your house. I talked to Taka, who didn't sound that pleased. I made sure that he knew what happened."

"Do you honestly think I care at all what anyone but Ryuen thinks?" Saihitei was tired, and he wanted to see Ryuen.

Ayuru laughed, an unpleasant sound. "I don't know how much you think of Ryuen's opinion today, Sai-san. I imagine if you had kept his opinion at heart, you wouldn't have been sucking face with that little bitch."

Saihitei pulled himself away from Ayuru, unable to stand his gaze or his words anymore.

It was less than a half an hour when the Chou clan burst into the waiting room. Mrs. Chou was well ahead of her spouse and children, but they were all close behind. Kourin looked like she had been crying already.

"Ayuru! Saihitei! Where's Ryuen?! What's happened!?!" Her pale face was drawn tight.

Saihitei leaned forward, bobbling slightly. "Mrs. Chou... Mr. Chou... Ryuen is being taken care of, they said it didn't look too serious, but they had to run some tests, and so..."

Mrs. Chou only listened to half of what Saihitei had said before barreling over to the nurse's station to demand that she be allowed back to see her son.

What she discovered only made her more panicked.

"They said the doctors were done with him, but he's talking to a psychologist! Why would he be talking to a psychologist?! Saihitei, what happened?" Her eyes were bright with tears and recriminations.

Saihitei gulped, not missing Ayuru's smirk from the corner of his eye.

Ryuen savored silence. There were times in life when there were no words, and no way to communicate to anyone else what you were feeling. He hated those times, but he valued the silence. In silence, he could hide, and lick his wounds. In silence, he could protect his heart. In silence, he could be free.

If he didn't talk to the bitch psychologist who obviously didn't appreciate silence, he wouldn't be able to go home.

Even though it physically hurt, he forced himself to speak, remembering that it wouldn't be that much longer before he could be silent again.

"I thought they were going to kill each other. I was just trying to get their attention. I know it seems stupid, now, but I... was upset, and I wasn't thinking straight."

The woman with the large glasses and the thick ankles nodded, not really understanding. "I'm just concerned, Mr. Chou, that you felt the need to injure yourself to get the attention of these boys. They are your boyfriends?"

Ryuen wanted to bash the bitch's face in. He could hear her sneer as she said it. He wasn't sure if she was implying that he was a slut, or that being gay was wrong, or that he was a gay slut, but he hated her intensely right then. "No. Only one of them is my lover. The other is a friend."

"And they were arguing over you?"

He wanted to leave. He wanted to go home. He didn't want to have to explain himself anymore. "I had a... falling out with my boyfriend. I was upset. I went to my friend's. My boyfriend came looking for me. They had an argument. I thought they were going to kill each other, so I did something stupid."

"And are they usually violent?"

Ryuen suppressed a shout. "Look, I'm already under the care of a psychiatrist. She's known me since I was thirteen. I see her once a week. I'll make an appointment to see her tomorrow. I just want to go home. I'm cognizant. I'm expressing regret over my actions. I'm obviously in charge of my faculties. I want to go."

She looked up at him, as if she were surprised that he knew the purpose of her questions. "Oh! Well... I suppose... But I'm going to contact you in three days. I want to hear that you've seen your therapist."

Ryuen stood up, picking up his bag of things. "Thank you."

"Mr. Chou." He stopped at the curtain, looking at her over his shoulder. "Please... take care of yourself. No one is worth injuring yourself over. You're young, and bright, and quite attractive... Just, don't tear yourself apart over him. He can't be that special."

Ryuen smiled sadly. She had obviously never met Saihitei, nor did she know him that well.

He was relieved, though not surprised, to find his parents in the waiting room. As soon as he got through the doors, Kourin leaped to her feet, tackling him in a hug. "Big brother! Are you all right? How's your hand? Don't ever do anything like this again, do you hear?! We were so worried! What a stupid thing to do!"

"Kourin." Her father gently pulled her off of Ryuen, who smiled weakly up at him. "How are you, son?"

Ryuen shrugged, his face falling forward so that his eyes were shaded with his hair. He stepped over to his mother, and buried his face in her shoulder.

She put her arms around him, holding him close and rocking gently back and forth. "Oh, baby, my sweet boy... Are you ok?"

He looked up at her. Their eyes, perfect matches, met. He gripped her hands in his one good hand, and turned away.

The small cry she made as he turned away in silence was barely registered by him. He saw Saihitei, standing close and looking pale.

He turned back to his mother, and put his arm around her waist, guiding her to the door.

Mr. Chou came up behind them, putting one hand on each of their shoulder. "Things will look better in the morning, I'm sure. Let's go home."

Kourin barely paused long enough to glare at Saihitei before she trotted after them.

Rokou paused longer, watching Saihitei coolly, before his eyes drifted to Ayuru. "I don't know the whole story here, but... I'm going to assume that whatever part you played in this, Ayuru will take care of. If he doesn't, well... then I guess we'll be seeing each other then." Walking away, he didn't even bother to give Saihitei a disgusted look.

Saihitei felt himself near tears. Everything had crumbled. He was ten million steps back from where he had begun. For the first time in what felt like forever, he wished that he hadn't met Ryuen again this year. He obviously had needed more time to figure out how to make things work. His back fell against the wall, and his hands trembled at his side.

Ayuru considered just leaving him there, but decided that Rokou had left him with a responsibility. "Nice mess you've made here, you prick."

"Just go away, Ayuru. I don't want to be bothered with you anymore."

"Oh, is that so?" Ayuru had never wanted to badly to be his former self again. He would love to blast Saihitei into nothing. "Well, too bad. This is your fault, and I..."

"And yours," Saihitei hissed through clenched teeth. "He was afraid you were going to kill me. Again. Maybe if you could step off your high horse for a moment, you could see that! What is your problem, anyway? You shouldn't have any reason to hate me as much as you do. I never killed you in a past life!"

Ayuru growled. "I enjoyed killing you. I have to say, it was one of the highlights of my life. Oh, yes, the great emperor Saihitei! The most beautiful man in the world, renowned for his untested prowess with the blade! You grew up in the lap of luxury, never knowing war, or pain, or suffering. Your people adored you, and you had the love of everyone around you. Killing you was like a gift. The great and wonderful Emperor Saihitei, at my feet, where he belonged, in a pool of his own blood... oh, yes, that was one of my fondest memories. And if I could, I would do it again. I grew up in poverty and bloodshed, no one handed me anything, or gave a damn about me, and I was ten times more powerful than any of you!"

"Didn't do much for you in the end, though, did it?" Saihitei's voice was tinted with bitterness.

Ayuru smirked. "Oh, I don't know. I ended up in the same place as you, didn't I?"

"Good." Saihitei raised his chin. "Then we're both in hell."

notesPart OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart SixPart SevenPart EightPart NinePart TenPart ElevenPart TwelvePart ThirteenPart FourteenPart FifteenPart SixteenPart SeventeenPart Eighteen • Part Nineteen • Part TwentyPart Twenty-OneEpilogue