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 20 - Apology

Ryuen went through the corridors blindly. It was dark everywhere, no light to see where he was going or where he was. It was cold, and he was tired.

Maybe it was him that was dark, not the corridor. Maybe he was so dark, he snuffed out the light as he passed.

He felt that dark.

But there was a light ahead, as if there was a fire going somewhere ahead. He walked to the fire, just wanting to be warm.

He realized that he was dreaming when he saw Suzaku. The god was clothed this time, wearing a white shirt that was open down to the waist, and red leather pants that were aided in clinging to him by ropes of gold and red metallic thread. His hair turned to flames as it danced around his head, but his eyes were sad.

He opened his arms, and Ryuen fell to his feet before the god, clinging to his waist.

"Oh, my love, my sweet willow... It can never be easy, can it?"

Ryuen felt Suzaku's arms come around him. Suzaku was warm and solid, and his embrace bolstered Ryuen. He felt like, if he could just stay in these arms, everything would be ok. He would be warm and rested again.

"My love, my lovely willow... Your poor heart. I wanted to warn you, but you wouldn't have understood... But you mustn't give up hope, my dearest one, you mustn't give up. You are my willow. In the storm, you will bend and you will fold, but you will never ever break. You won't give up, my love, never..."

Ryuen began to weep, and once the gates had been breached, he couldn't hold it in anymore. Against the warmth of Suzaku's body, he let all his tears and grief out.

Here, where he was safe, he could cry.

For nearly a week, no one in the house had seen or spoken to Ryuen. Slowly, the truth of what had happened seeped through until everyone knew.

Miaka had spent most of the week in her room, too afraid to face anyone.

Saihitei had been unable to spend any amount of time in either his or Ryuen's rooms. He spent his nights on the couch, and he showered and dressed as quickly as possible. He and Genrou had shared words once during that time, and Houjun had to come between them. Houjun quietly reminded Genrou that Ryuen would deal with Saihitei himself, even if it was only by not being a part of his life anymore.

Genrou still grumbled every time he saw Saihitei, though, so he started to spend a lot of time at Houjun's temple.

Myojuan had patiently answered everyone's question about Ryuen's injury up to a point, and then he hotly reminded everyone that he hadn't seen it, so he really didn't know how fast Ryuen would recover, or if he would still be able to compete in the archery tourney.

The only person in the house who had any kind of personal contact with Ryuen was Do-kun, who still saw Kourin. He came back from an early dinner with her very upset. Kourin had been crying the whole time. Do-kun informed everyone that Ryuen was not speaking, and he hadn't been to a class since the 'incident'. Kourin had skipped much of the past week in school, too, since she was so upset about her brother. Do-kun had glared at Saihitei as he told the house about this, obviously blaming the man for Kourin's tears and trauma. As he had stopped sitting near Saihitei in their mutual classes, or working on their assignments together, Saihitei could only assume that Do-kun considered these offenses to Kourin as unforgivable.

The whole week, Saihitei felt sick, and cold. Taka wouldn't speak to him, and it was obvious that Taka was still very angry. Houjun told Genrou in hushed tones in the kitchen that he could hear Miaka crying and Taka talking loudly the night before, but that was the first night after Ryuen's injury, and no one was sure how things were between the two since.

Myojuan had Shouka come and stay with him that week, since he didn't want to leave Do-kun alone. The young woman had asked Saihitei how he was doing, and then proceeded to tell him that he was a jackass for hurting Ryuen like that.

Saihitei agreed with her.

When Sunday came along, no one seemed to be aware that it was the weekend. Saihitei sat on the couch like a zombie, his eyes glazed over from lack of sleep. Taka had, miraculously, come downstairs with a teary Miaka that morning, and so they were in the common area with Saihitei, although no one was talking to him. Genrou and Houjun were in the kitchen at the time, and their whispers made Saihitei feel like a criminal who was being incarcerated in their living room.

When the doorbell rang, everyone nearly fell out of their chairs with surprise.

Taka answered the door, but when Mr. and Mrs. Chou entered, Saihitei bolted up and threw Taka out of the way.

"Mr. Chou! Mrs. Chou! How's Ryuen?" His brown hair was tied back in a tight ponytail, and the pressure made his face seem even more tired than it was already.

Mrs. Chou's palm smacked against Saihitei's stunned cheek with enough force to cause the man to stumble, the loud crack of flesh meeting flesh bringing the house to focus.

"You!" Mrs. Chou's rage was visible in every line of her snarl. "You were supposed to be different! You were supposed to love him! You weren't supposed to be like the others, just using him for sex! We trusted you, and look! He's not talking again! You've sent him back to that horrible place! I never want to see you again, Seishuku Saihitei. You can stop calling, because you aren't going to get a second chance with my boy. We're getting some of Ryuen's things now, and you can expect never to see him in this house again!"

She stormed up, her husband close on her heels.

Kourin stood in the doorway, her arms folded over her chest as she watched Saihitei's slump with mild appraisal.

"Kourin..." Saihitei felt like the membranes of his throat were all burned. "I'm..."

"Sorry?" No one was used to hearing such sarcasm from Ryuen's little sister. "That's nice. What the hell were you thinking, Saihitei?"

Saihitei winced, feeling like he was being damned. "I... it was a mistake, Kourin, a mistake! Miaka and I were... reminiscing, about the past life, and we... we were just joking around, about how I used to chase after her, and how we were so much better off now... It was just..."

"Do you still love him?" Her voice was cutting right through him.

"Yes." To Saihitei's ears, it sounded impossibly weak.

"Do you?" She eyed him critically, her gaze piercing.

"Yes. It was a mistake, I swear!" Saihitei almost crumbled in her eyes.

She watched him for a moment more, shaking her head. "I just... can't believe that you would do this. You damn well better make this right, Sai-san, or by all that is holy and good, I will have your heart for dinner." She held out a set of keys, staring at him harshly. When it became obvious that he had no clue what she was trying to do, she sighed exasperatedly. "Take the house keys, Saihitei, go to him, and make this right. Mom's serious, you know, she won't let you anywhere near him. So, this could be your only chance. Go. Now. While mom and dad are busy, you don't have much time. Apologize to him. Make him understand that you still love him. I think..." Her eyes dropped. "I think you may be the only one to bring him out of... Just go!"

Saihitei needed no more encouragement. He left, only barely remembering to grab his car keys as he ran away desperately.

Kourin was moving past Taka and Miaka to get to Do-kun when Miaka grabbed her arm weakly. "Kourin-chan... I'm so sorry, too."

Kourin pulled her arm away from Miaka viciously, her furious eyes turning to Miaka for the first time. "Don't touch me! And I'm not your 'chan'!"

Miaka's eyes widened, watering. "K-Kourin..."

"Don't bother, Miaka. I can't believe you would do this to my brother! After everything he's done for you... What was the matter, Miaka? Were you not the center of attention for a whole five minutes, so you had to drag yourself back into the spotlight? Did it bother you so much to see someone else as the lead of the story?"

Miaka shrank away from Kourin's fiery eyes. "But... but... Kourin! You seem ready to forgive Saihitei..."

"I know that he loves Ryuen, Miaka." She sounded so cold and unforgiving. "I don't know why he would do what he did, but I know where his heart lies. But you... You were supposed to be Ryuen's friend, and you betrayed him."

"Kourin..." Miaka could barely make herself speak, Taka's unflinching presence behind her not really comforting. "I never meant to..."

"I don't care." Kourin's voice filled Miaka's ear like broken glass. "You hurt him."

Miaka made an abortive attempt to reach out to Kourin again, but she was striding away to her boyfriend's arms.

Miaka nearly fell to her knees after Kourin and Do-kun walked up the stairs together. Her wet eyes trailed from one of her housemates to the next, and not even Shouka's fairly neutral presence could soothe her. "You... you all hate me, don't you? You do, don't you?"

Genrou stared at his hands, his mouth twitching in a tight line. Houjun sighed, and was obviously searching for words that wouldn't come, as he involuntarily shifted to stand slightly closer to Genrou. Myojuan looked sad, his arm tightening around Shouka, who almost shrugged.

Taka's arms came around her, holding her upright. "No one hates you, you little twit. But... it's just going to take some time, love. It was an awfully big mistake."

She crumpled against him, tears pouring down her face. Houjun sighed, and moved forward to take her hand. "He will forgive you, you know, Miaka. Ryuen won't blame you at all."

She made a small noise, like a mouse caught unawares.

"He won't be at all mad at you. Maybe, you know, the rest of us feel we have to be mad at you, you know, in his place." Houjun squeezed her hand gently. "It doesn't mean we don't still love you, Miaka-chan."

"Yeah." Genrou spoke gruffly. "It was just a fucking awful thing ta do." His red head was still bent down in examination of his hands.

Taka held her tighter. "It just takes time to forgive, Miaka-baby."

She nodded, holding her sobs in her throat where they built up and burned, but didn't come out.

Kourin had apparently tried to delay her parents, because they were complaining to her as they came down the stairs that they didn't need to get everything right then. She looked at each of Ryuen's housemates in the eye when she got halfway down the stairs.

"We should pick up some pizza. Don't you think? It's Ryuen's favorite. Maybe he'll eat."

Do-kun nodded. "He loves that one place by the university. It's only a minute away, and he always says their pizza is so good, you can get fat off the smell."

Kourin smiled at him in a private way.

Mr. and Mrs. Chou looked from one to the other carefully. "Well..." Mr. Chou started. "It can't hurt to try?" He shrugged, looking to his wife.

She considered, obviously reluctant to leave Ryuen alone for so long. "Well, all right. But we have to hurry!"

Kourin gave Do-kun a quick peck on the cheek and a squeeze of the hand, and then dashed after her parents.

Do-kun sighed as he watched them go. Leaning against his cousin, he looked up to Myojuan with fear. "Do you think Saihitei will have enough time to make things right with Ryuen?"

Shouka sighed. "He's gotten enough time to try, at least. That's more than he should have had."

The evening seemed to linger and waste, as everyone secretly waited together for Saihitei to come back. No one spoke much, but they ordered food and ate together, everyone's eyes anxiously watching the door without trying to let anyone else see.

Miaka and Taka went up to bed first, Taka pausing to squeeze Houjun's shoulder and ask him quietly to get him if anything happened. Myojuan, Shouka, and Do-kun went down not much longer, no one saying anything but some meaningful glances being bounced around like a five-way tennis match.

It was much later that Houjun sighed and said good night to Genrou. He trudged upstairs, hating the quiet that surrounded his little nook of the house ever since Ryuen left it. He was dressed for bed and doing some simple breathing exercises when a faint knock on the door jarred him, his heart pounding unnecessarily.

"Come in?" He wasn't even sure that he had heard anything, once he got his heart back in order.

Genrou's fuzzy red head peeked in. "Hey, man... Um, would you mind if I spent the night with you?"

Houjun was glad he was sitting, as a wave of delirious vertigo slapped him across the face at those words. "You know, of course not... Come on in."

Genrou grinned, and then slipped in, wearing boxers and a thin tank top.

Houjun smiled to cover up his pounding heart. "Ok?"

Genrou shrugged. "I just... didn't wanna be alone, if that's ok. Do you think that Ry will be ok, man?"

Sighing, Houjun set his hands on the ground. "You know, I think he will be. He's strong. A lot stronger than any of the rest of us, I think."

Genrou plopped down next to him. "I guess. I kinda wanna smash Saihitei's head inta the sidewalk."

"Me too." Houjun almost laughed at Genrou's expression of shock. "He can be... so selfish sometimes, it's hard to remember that he has a good heart."

Genrou grunted. "Good heart, my ass. The prick's gotta thick head."

Houjun only sighed. "I only have a mattress, I'm afraid, but I also have a bedroll, if it is uncomfortable. Or, if you would prefer, you know, you can take the sleeping bag."

"Oh, no..." Genrou looked vaguely uncomfortable. "I thought, I mean... when I asked, I meant, we could sleep together. If you don't mind."

The world suddenly seemed quite small to Houjun. His eyes were riveted to Genrou's, his lungs barely taking in any air. "Oh."

Genrou stilled, his whole body seeming very serious. "We were together in the past life, weren't we."

It was a question, and it wasn't. Houjun's heart was pounding so hard, he felt like it was going to explode out of his chest, and flop onto the floor between them, pumping still as it floundered like a fish just pulled out from the water. That visual gave him the courage to speak. "You remember?"

Genrou shook his head sadly. "I wish that I did, man, but... I can feel it. The more time I spend with you, the more time I wanna spend with you." He reached out, and touched the skin over Houjun's knuckles slowly. "I feel... kinda selfish. Like, I'm supposed to wait for Kouji, for him to be ready. We've been best friends since we were babies, and I feel disloyal ta wanna be with someone else, but... But... I don't want him anymore. He doesn't... give me balance, like you do."

Houjun slowly turned his hand, so that Genrou's fingertips were tracing his palm. Smiling foolishly at their contact, he looked up at Genrou slowly. "Are you sure?"

Genrou leaned over, and they were kissing. It wasn't like Houjun remembered. He remembered their former first kiss with excruciating detail, each fumble and push etched into his memory.

This was slower, and quieter, and much more passionate, deep into his soul like he was home.

When they broke apart, Genrou grinned. "See, man? This is the only place I wanna be."

Houjun felt silly, like he was clumsy and childish. His hands went to touch Genrou's stubble without his thinking about it, and when Genrou nuzzled his palm like he was a kitten, Houjun felt a tiny bubble of laughter erupt from inside his belly.

Taking Houjun's hands in own, Genrou quietly licked the palms, smiling up at Houjun. "But you know, we shouldn't make a big deal about this, 'cause, ya know, there's too much damn drama goin' on in this fuckin' place as it is."

Houjun laughed again, his good eye shining. "You know, I think you are right."

They slipped into bed together. Much earlier in the morning than Genrou would normally be conscious, Houjun led him to his own bed.

He dressed for the temple, his face beaming, and his smile irrepressible.

He could only think that his superior was going to laugh at him when he told him the good news that he wouldn't be taking vows any time soon.

Saihitei slipped into Ryuen's room, feeling like a thief. He had driven so fast over here, that he didn't even remember most of the drive. Plus, he was pretty sure that he had parked in a tow-away zone.

The only thing he was afraid of was that he wouldn't say the right thing.

Ryuen didn't look up at the sound of the door. He was huddled under the covers, looking frail and thin and too young.

Saihitei wasn't sure he would be able to make his throat work when he needed to speak.

"Ryuen?" His voice was soft and grainy.

Ryuen's back stiffened, and he turned over, his face lifting off the pillow as his arm pushed down on the bed, his soft purple hair falling over his face in thick strands. He stared at Saihitei as if he didn't believe that the other man was standing there.

Saihitei moved a few feet closer, closing the door behind him, needing the enclosed space. "Ryuen?"

Brown-rose eyes narrowed, and Ryuen frowned slightly. "Saihitei?" He sounded scared, and small.

Saihitei rushed forward, sitting on the edge of the bed, pushing Ryuen's hair out of his eyes. "I'm... I'm so sorry, Ryuen, I can't... Gods, I can't even begin to tell you how sorry I am. Are you... Is your hand all right?"

Ryuen shifted, sitting up. His eyes stayed on the blanket, his thin fingers playing with the trim. He was wearing only a t-shirt and some shorts, and he looked small and weak, in bed in his t-shirt and shorts. He held up his hand, wrapped up in bandages.

Saihitei nearly started to cry, but he held himself together. Coughing slightly, he started. "Please, Ryuen, please, my love, I'm so sorry... It was a mistake. Miaka and I... we were just, just talking about the past, and then I, I kissed her, almost like a joke, for old times' sake, and I don't know why it continued, it just, just did. Gods, if I had known you had seen...! Please, my love, I'm so sorry, please..."

Ryuen was watching Saihitei with an odd expression of confusion on his face. "What are you doing here?" He spoke so softly, Saihitei wouldn't have heard if he hadn't been sitting so close to Ryuen.

"I... Kourin gave me her keys, she said your mother wouldn't want me to see you..." Saihitei held up Kourin's keys, and set them on Ryuen's bedside table.

Ryuen still looked confused. "Why are you here?"

Saihitei almost broke down, but he anchored himself in Ryuen's eyes. "I need to... apologize, and to tell you... Gods. I don't know what to say. I need to beg you to forgive me, but I don't know if you should, so I guess I'll just beg you not to hate me."

Ryuen considered his words carefully, his fingers still in the fabric of the blanket. "But... why?"

Saihitei sighed, his chest heaving slightly. "I love you, Ryuen. I always have, and I always will, and I don't think that I'll ever be able to forgive myself for the pain I've caused you..."

"You don't need to blame yourself." Ryuen's voice sounded detached. "It's all right. I understand."

"What do you understand, Ryuen?" Saihitei asked, suspicious.

Ryuen looked at him for the longest time, his beautiful eyes drenched in pain. "I knew... it wouldn't last. I knew you didn't love me, not really. It was only a matter of time..."

"No!" Saihitei sounded like someone had whacked him in the back with an axe. "That's not...! No!! I do love you, Ry, why won't you believe me?"

Ryuen's hand floated up, airily touching a strand of chestnut hair that was falling over Saihitei's shoulder. "How can I believe that you love me? I'm sorry for the drama I caused. I didn't mean... I just wasn't ready for it to end."

Saihitei clutched Ryuen suddenly, feeling lost without the other man in his arms. "Why does it have to be over? Why? Please, my love, don't tell me that it has to end. I don't know... how I can live without you."

Ryuen smiled crookedly. "You'll figure it out, Saihitei."

"No!" Saihitei shouted, causing Ryuen to flinch, but he was beyond worrying about that. "I do love you! And I'll prove it! Damn it, Ryuen, you have to give me chance!"

Ryuen looked confused again. "I... But, Saihitei... I tried, my best, I did everything I could. I didn't think I could ever be enough, but..."

"No, damn it, no..." Saihitei's hands slipped down Ryuen's shoulders to rest at his elbows. "You were perfect, the most wonderful lover and partner a man could ever hope for. I... I failed you, Ryuen, I made a mistake, and I hurt you. But I do love you. I do, but..." Saihitei's shoulders sagged, and he felt himself unraveling. "I don't know how to make you believe me. I know what I feel, but how can I make you know?"

Ryuen continued to look perplexed, as Saihitei rambled on. He wanted to say something, to make Saihitei feel better, but he didn't know what. What could be said when a relationship dies?

Saihitei saw Ryuen's helpless confusion, and he suddenly felt like he'd already lost. That old feeling, that this life was his punishment, came back full force. Saihitei could feel the tears gathering in his eyes, but he couldn't care. "I know that the first day I met you, when we were just starting school, and you were wearing that charm bracelet, and when those older kids pushed me in the mud, you helped me up and then gave me the bracelet, to make me feel better, that was the day that I made you promise that we would be friends forever, and I put the bracelet in a box by my bed so that I could look at it right before I went to sleep, and right when I woke up, and it made me feel special because I had a friend for the first time in my life.

"I know that when we were kids, I would always pick you for my team, even when the other kids thought I was being dumb because you weren't as good at soccer and stuff, but I always wanted you on my team because you could smile and get the team going no matter how far behind we were.

"I know that when my mom made me transfer schools, I started to wear that silly charm bracelet again, sometimes, just because I missed you so god damn much, it hurt...

"I know that I imagined that the first guy I kissed was you, and he got so mad at me when I called him 'Ryuen' that he jumped out of the car, even though we had driven ten miles out of town, and it took me a half an hour to talk him back in long enough for me to give him a ride back.

"I know that the first time I saw you in the house, I wanted to hug you so badly but I was afraid to.

"I know that the first time you kissed me, I almost had a heart attack.

"I know that I can't fall asleep without listening to that cute little sound your nose makes when you breathe, and I can only hear it when it's really quiet, and at night when you move in to cuddle, and rub your face against me, and the way your hair smells after you've been in the dark room all day, or after you've just showered, or after you've been outdoors...

"I know your laugh makes me want to laugh, even when I'm sad, and that all you have to do is smile at me, and whatever I'm feeling just melts and I feel happy...

"I know that you think your little toes are weird looking, because they turn in a little, and you always try to hide it, so that no one will notice, but I think they look cute, like they're cuddling with the toe next to them...

"And I know that you think you need to spend a lot of time on your skin, because you have this crazy obsession with blemishes, which is silly because you never get blemishes, but I guess that's why you feel like you need to be vigilant...

"And I know that you can make me hard by just whispering in my ear, and it makes me jealous that Ayuru knows your body better than I do, but I used to think that I knew your heart better, and that was much more important...

"And I know that you are the strongest person I've ever known, and it shames me to think of all the things that you've endured, that I know for a fact would have killed me, and ever since you walked into the door of my house in that strawberry t-shirt and leather pants, I've just wanted to be more like you, so confident and sexy...

"And I remember in the past life, how kind Nuriko always was to Hotohori, and how he always made sure that Hotohori knew that he wasn't alone, which was the first time that anyone ever really cared, and I remember how in those three months when Miaka was gone, how Nuriko would bring Hotohori flowers, and tell him that she would be back soon, so he had to stay cheerful...

"And I remember how Hotohori would watch Nuriko in the baths sometimes, and he would just stare at how beautiful Nuriko was, and he would wonder why it would be such a bad thing for an emperor to love another man...

"And I remember how jealous Hotohori would get of Tasuki, because he and Nuriko became friends so easily and so fast, and when they were traveling together, how Tasuki would tease and joke with Nuriko, and Hotohori would wish that he could have that kind of camaraderie with Nuriko, but he had to be the damned emperor, and so he would call Nuriko to his side and ask for things, berries or something equally stupid, just to separate Nuriko and Tasuki...

"And I remember how Hotohori would sit up nights after Nuriko was dead, and he would talk to the stars, finding Nuriko's constellation, hoping that Nuriko could hear him..."

Ryuen watched Saihitei speak with fascinated horror. Saihitei's tears spilled down his cheeks messily, and Ryuen's heart twisted at the sight. The words just spun around his head, making him dizzy and weak. Ryuen's fingers drifted up to touch Saihitei's cheeks, getting wet, as if to prove to himself that they were actual tears.

Saihitei didn't even notice, he was so lost in his speech, but eventually, the words and the tears and just having Saihitei so close again all became too much for Ryuen, and he put his fingers over Saihitei's mouth.

"Sh, sh, sh." Ryuen quieted Saihitei, bringing his amber eyes up. "Don't speak. Don't say another word."

Saihitei was confused, about to speak, when Ryuen's lips touched his.

"Shhh." Ry brushed at the tears on Sai's face, shaking his head. He leaned closer, and kissed Sai more definitively.

"Wha-" Sai tried to make sense of what was happening, but his brain was stuck in neutral.

"Shhh. No more words." Ry shook his head, his lips pouting slightly at the concept of words. "I can't believe words. Show me." Leaning in, Ry took Sai's mouth, and drew him deeper.

The part of Sai's mind that was ready to protest was outvoted by all the parts of Sai's heart and soul and body that wanted to continue. Ry's hands were on Sai's neck, his fingertips gripping, and Sai's hands went to rest on Ry's sides. Ry sighed as he took a breath, his eyes closed, his delicate purple eyelashes pressed against his cheek. "I need you to touch me, Sai."

Sai may or may not have moaned, he didn't know or care. He just knew that it became the only thing that mattered in the universe that his hands were now on Ry's skin, as he pushed the t-shirt aside so that he could have access. Ry sighed, and held Sai close as he slid back onto the bed, letting Sai cover him.

They didn't speak at all as they started to remove each other's clothes, no haste or hurry driving their actions. They moved almost leisurely to find more and more contact, pausing often to just kiss.

They became aroused slowly, much more slowly than normal, but they were too busy reacquainting themselves with the other's mouth to notice.

They finally were naked, and the flesh contact was so electrifying, they just slid against one another, letting each nerve ending fire and smolder on it's own, savoring each sensation.

Mrs. Chou opened the door, and she was halfway through the greeting that neither heard when she dropped the suitcase she had packed, causing the thud that brought their eyes to her.

Saihitei instantly blushed all the way to his toes, desperate to find someplace to hide, and to not move and possibly expose himself more, at the same time.

Ryuen giggled. "Oops. Sorry, mom."

The fury that was building up in her dissipated at the sound of his voice. She was left shell-shocked, unable to do anything.

"We forgot to lock the door. Sorry about that. Thanks for getting my stuff, by the way." As an afterthought, almost, he sheepishly added, "Sorry about worrying you so much this past week."

An odd sense of déjà vu spread through her. She could remember back when Ryuen was still recovering from his assault, one afternoon that Ayuru stayed over quite late, and all the noise that he and Ryuen made. By the time he left, Ryuen was talking for the first time in months.

She fought a small battle with herself, again, trying to choose between the lesser of two evils. What was worse, having her son in bed with the man that had hurt him, or having her son miserable and silent?

"I... We brought pizza. If you boys want any, it'll be in the kitchen." She turned around and deliberately closed the door behind her.

Ry laughed so loudly, Sai thought he would crack a rib. Sai was not nearly so jovial, as he was still trying to find a way to burrow into the mattress where no one would ever find him again.

"Your mother saw me naked!" He muttered into Ry's shoulder.

"My mother saw you naked and hard. Hope she enjoyed the show!" Ry was still giggling madly.

Sai blushed even darker, making Ry giggle harder. Trying to shift himself closer to the edge of the bed, "I guess we'd better get dressed..."

Ry gripped the sides of Sai's face, his fingers making white impressions in Sai's skin. "You're not going anywhere, are you?"

"Ry..." Sai was at a loss. "Your family..."

"Sai. When I was in high school, I used to bring home groups of people, and disappear into my room for sex. They'll understand."

"But Ry..." Sai felt helpless and lost.

Ry leaned up and kissed Sai hard enough to make his lips swell. "I need you to touch me." His voice was raw and graveled.

Sai had no power to resist the need in his love's voice. Even as he tried to remember that Ry's whole family was out there, and knew he was in here, he couldn't stop, not even when he had to scream out Ry's name and nearly weep with the sheer joy of being buried in his love again, and not again an hour later when he had Ry's slim body moving smoothly between his legs, could he even think to bite his tongue and not scream out in passion.

He didn't even care that they were sleeping on the small twin bed, tangled up in each other so badly their body parts were already starting to fall asleep and Ry's family knew that he was spending the night.

At that point, the issue seemed moot.

In the morning, Ry woke to find concerned amber eyes over him, as Sai's hands massaged down his flanks.

He tried to smile but ended up sighing instead.

"My love..."

"Sh." Ry closed his eyes before Sai could finish his thought.

Sai almost wanted to grin. Whispering, "So, just out of curiosity, are we going to spend the rest of our lives in silence?"

Ry opened his eyes and smiled. He smacked Sai on the side playfully. He thought about saying something, but then he just sighed, lowering his head. "Sai, why did it have to be Miaka? You could have made out with Houjun on the couch for an hour, and it wouldn't have hurt as much."

Sai blinked, his heart aching. "I... I made a huge mistake."

Ry watched him calmly for the longest time. "You know what this means, don't you?"

Fear clutching at his throat, Sai could only shake his head.

Ry moved his lips close to Sai's ear, and whispered as if he were imparting national secrets. "You aren't perfect."

Sai considered the information carefully before grinning. "Don't worry, it'll be ok. I never was."

"I thought you were." Ry spoke almost sadly.

"I... I'm sorry..." Sai wasn't sure what to say.

"It's ok." He smiled a little. "I guess my neck was getting a little stiff staring up that pedestal anyway."

Sai wanted to laugh a little, but the fear wasn't gone yet. "Baby, what are we going to do now?"

Sighing, "It doesn't matter, does it?"

"Yes!" Sai's voice was thicker than he intended. His arms tightened around Ry, and their bodies pressed together in the narrow bed a bit frantically. "I... I don't want to accept that we are over. And what was last night about, anyway? That wasn't a goodbye fuck, I can you tell that much."

"You ever hear the phrase 'let the body heal the soul'?" Ry's nose rubbed gently against Sai's collarbone.

"You mean, like, sexual healing?"

Ry snorted cutely. "No, that's a different song. I mean... I don't believe you when you tell me you love me. I'm sorry, darling, but... I don't see why you would. But I do believe you when you hold me, when you kiss me... I believe that."

Sai leaned down, still a little uncertain. "But Ry..."

"I'll make a deal with you." Ry kissed Sai's shoulder. "If you're still here in five years, I'll concede that you must care about me a little."

Sai gave Ry a considering look. "Are you... teasing me?"

Ry hugged Sai close to him, feeling laughter in his chest. "Oh, darling, I would never do that... much. Let's just... go day by day, ok?"

"...Ok." Sai held Ry, and vowed to himself that he would never do anything again that would hurt his love. "Just... promise me that you won't give up on me without at least trying to kick me in the head again."

Laughing quietly, Ry nodded. "As you wish, darling. And you need to promise not to kiss girls you were obsessed with in a former life. It's just bad form."

Holding Ry so tight, Sai thought he might complain, Sai agreed.

"So, now we have a plan of attack. That's good." Ry nuzzled quietly into Sai's shoulder.

"Yeah. It's good to have a plan." Sai kissed the top of Ry's head, hesitantly. "Ry... I really am sorry."

"I know." Ry sighed. "It's weird, you not being perfect anymore."

Sai snorted.

Ry looked up to met his eyes. "I guess... if you aren't perfect... then we might be a good match after all."

"I've always thought so." Sai smiled seriously.

Ry was about to say something but stopped when he heard the knock on the door. "Ry, honey... breakfast is ready." Mrs. Chou's soft voice made it through the closed door.

Sai instantly became nervous. "I thought I might be able to slip out before your family woke up, but I guess I'll have to go quietly..."

"Go?" Ry wrinkled his brow in confusion. "Why would you go? Breakfast is ready."

"Ry... you probably don't know this, but your family, your mother especially, isn't very pleased with me right now."

Ry grinned. "Oh, I know. You'd didn't think you were getting off with just a roll in the small bed, did you?"

Sai groaned.

Breakfast was just as icy as he could have imagined. Kourin was bouncing all over the kitchen, so excited that Ryuen was up and about that she practically needed to be sedated. Everyone was very worried about Ryuen's hand, but he just grinned and said that it didn't really hurt anymore, and anyway, the doctors gave him some good drugs.

Everyone pretty well managed to ignore Saihitei, although Ryuen's mother managed to spill some eggs on his lap. And towards the end of the meal, she pulled Ryuen to the side, asking him in a voice that wasn't quite quiet enough to not be overheard whether he was sure that he wanted to be with Saihitei still.

When they were leaving, taking the suitcase his parents had packed for him the day before, Ryuen scolded his parents for being rude to their guest, and they both blushed.

In the elevator, Sai slumped against the wall and sighed. "Well, I guess I deserve that punishment anyway..."

Ry smiled in what could only be described as a completely evil fashion, his eyes flashing like the devil's. "Punishment? Oh, lover, that wasn't punishment... But if you are interested, I do have a box of... advanced sexual technique accessories that we haven't gotten to yet."

Sai gulped, as Ry's brown-rose eyes became unbelievably bright.

Ry advanced on Sai, making him feel small and helpless. "We wouldn't want to disturb Houjun, but that shouldn't be a problem." His little mouth was quirked into the sexiest little evil smile. His words right next to Sai's throat, his timber deep and vibrating in Sai's spine, "There's nothing quite like bondage in sunlight."

Sai's eyes were impossibly wide, his breathing ragged and shallow, and the door to the elevator opened, and Ry turned and walked away, his narrow hips swinging enticingly.

"Ry?" Sai managed to start to move before the doors shut. "You are kidding, right baby? Ry? Sweetie? Kidding, right? Please?"

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