title: a taste of honey
fandom: Mushishi
characters/pairings: pseudo-Ginko/Suzu, Miharu
rating: G
warnings: cruel ending
summary: Ginko leaves Suzu and Miharu, but not entirely behind
notes: Mushishi episode 15 really struck me, and it required ficcage.

He set up camp at the base of the mountain, feeling fatigued despite the sunlight still streaking the sky. Hibernation wasn't so easy to shake off. He made a small fire, and ate the rice balls that Suzu had packed for him. He decided to forgo a tent for the night, because the air was unseasonably thick, the stars were clear, and he was feeling sluggish and lazy.

As he was setting his head down on his pillow, he saw something skittering closer to him, but it was too late.

He woke up. He laid still, his body feeling weak. He was staring up at the rafters. Something... something was moving up there, but he couldn't see it...

"Ginko!" Suzu cried out.

Ginko had sick sense of déjà vu. He sat up. "Miharu?"

Suzu dashed to her brother's bedside, shaking him. He opened his eyes slowly...

There was something wrong with his vision. He turned his gaze away from the touching scene, and tried to focus on things. Everything appeared more dimensional, but darker, colorless, lifeless.

He didn't figure it out on his own. Miharu said something. Then, Suzu came to his side, and pushed back his hair. "Ginko! Your eye!"

He blinked. Both of them. He and Miharu went out, to be sure. Even though Miharu caught mushi, and held them up to Ginko, putting them right under Ginko's nose, he could not see them. He became desperate. He went to the place where the Harumagai gathered, but he couldn't see anything except trees and shrubs, just barely coming back to life.

He became depressed. In a forced cheerful voice, Suzu suggested that he stay with them. He had no place else to go, right? And there was no more concern over mushi gathering around him. Miharu confirmed that they weren't gathering.

That only depressed him more, and he couldn't bring himself to lift his apothecary chest from where it rested, near the wall in the main room.

He indeed stayed with Suzu and Miharu, teaching Miharu things from time to time when Miharu pestered him enough, and being helpful to Suzu, as best he could while sleeping until at least noon everyday.

His first winter with them, Miharu could not resist the Harumagai, but he let Ginko follow him, waiting a safe distance back. He carried Miharu in, and took over for Suzu, caring for him while they waited out the winter. It was pleasant, now that he was used to the lack of second light, and second set of colors. They watched the dawn together on New Year's Day. When Miharu woke, they were both there, Suzu to embrace him, and Ginko to knock him on the head.

The second winter, Miharu didn't even think of sleeping through it. Ginko had given up, and was teaching him full time the art of the Mushishi. He had many notes, and many drawers of his chest, which was now frequently pulled away from the wall. They spent the nights hunkered together near the fire, Suzu smiling at them softly as they pored over notes. Once and a while, Ginko would look up, and smile softly back.

Before the third winter could come, Miharu picked up Ginko's apothecary chest, and walked down the mountain. Ginko had given him a list of clients he often sold treasures to, and a letter for the doctor, which turned out to be surprisingly short. Passed on my work to this boy. Treat him well. He didn't have time to be nostalgic. Suzu was already having trouble getting around, she was so heavy with their first child, and he had much to do to get ready for winter.

After their daughter was born, they had a son, the summer after the next winter. Miharu came back that winter, delighted by his niece and nephew.

He had only one eye. He was apologetic to Ginko, but Ginko thought that maybe Mushishi just couldn't hold on to both eyes. Suzu was upset, though, so Ginko arranged for him to get a glass eye.

From time to time, Ginko worried that his children would be the types to see mushi, so he warned them, repeatedly, that if they saw butterflies or blooms in the winter, to come straight home and tell him. He told them all about mushi, and asked them to tell him if they ever saw one, but they never did.

Ginko worked as an apothecary. It wasn't a long stretch from Mushishi. Even though they were a bit outside the town, people were willing to travel for his wisdom and aide, as far away as the other side of the mountain. His experience was varied, after all, and he was used to listening to people's problems, and hearing the truth of them.

Miharu came to visit less and less as he grew older. When their daughter was getting close to being a young lady, they had another child, an unexpected child. A change of life baby, it was called, not uncommon at all. Another girl, the very image of her mother. She became her daddy's princess, following him around everywhere. As she got older, he let her help him, measuring out medicines, trekking through the woods to find herbs and other materials, taking notes during patient sessions.

Their eldest was being courted by a young man, the son of a magistrate. Suzu was worried that she would be traveling far away, but it was a good match, and she loved the boy. Ginko was preparing to negotiate with the magistrate when a sparkling butterfly flew past his eyes. His heart felt cold. His princess grabbed his leg, but when he looked down...

He opened his eyes.

The sun was already halfway through the sky. Something tried to slither away, falling out of his nose, but he was quick. He picked it up, and its long body immediately coiled up into a corkscrew shape. "Oy. Was that your idea of a good dream? Stupid mushi." It squirmed around wildly, trying to escape him. "I should have you stuffed for this." Its movements got wilder, and he grunted. He let it go, watching it squirm off.

He went to the river, to wash his face in cold water. He could still feel the way that Suzu felt in his arms, still feel his Princess on his leg, clinging to him.

When he went to pick up his apothecary chest, he realized, it was heavy, extraordinarily heavy.

He followed the river for most of the day, taking the road when he came to it. He got a ride from a farmer carting a load of rice to town. The farmer was glad of the company, and chatted amicably about various things, like how warm it was, and how nice it would be if it lasted. Ginko muttered appropriately, watching the sky, and the dazzling mushi above him, its pencil-thin body sinuously fluttering its thousands of wings as it flew.

He couldn't think of its name, and he couldn't bring himself to care just then.