Disclaimer: Don't own, never will own, sue and get nothing.

Note: Spoilers alert – for everything: series, OVA, Eikoden, manga, Suzaku Hi Den, blah.

Timeless
written by: da-mouse ®

-
She remembered the first glimpse, and how she was awed.

As she responded to Kourin's whispers and frantic gestures with an inaudible sigh of disinterest, she tilted her head to the direction of the Emperor. And the minute she looked at him, she was momentarily stunned. He took her breath away. Features so perfect that it almost seemed like it was sculpted, eyes such a rich, yet mysterious hazel-gold color, and the chestnut waves that framed his face so naturally beautiful…his beauty was indeed, indescribable; it shadowed everyone and everything around him. It made her aware of her own plainness, her own imperfections…almost ashamed of herself…

-

She remembered the first promise, one she intended to keep, forever.

She watched silently, hidden, as he walked away silently from a scene that must be tearing him apart. Pressing herself against a pillar as she watched him, she made a promise to herself. A promise, a vow, that she will try her absolute best to be there for him, and stop his feelings of loneliness and pain. If she ever could, she, a mere harem girl, a farmer's daughter, will protect His Majesty, Emperor of Konan.

-

She remembered the first words, the natural mistake he made.

"You…are Nuriko? When did you return from your journey?"

She had shook her head emphatically, no, no, no, she was not Kourin, but Kourin was in danger, in terrible, terrible danger, and they must get to him, they must rescue him, they must…but it was too late. Kourin was dead, her best friend had left her.

-

She remembered the first touch, one of grief, sorrow and pain.

As she wept at his feet, where she had fallen from devastation, she felt hesitant arms going around her body, and her cheek pressed against rich, velvety material of an Imperial robe. She felt a tender hand stroking her hair with tentative fingers, and for that moment, she forgot about herself, and about him. She wasn't Houki, a harem girl, and he wasn't Hotohori, the Emperor. They were two beings sharing mutual grief of a well-loved fallen friend. Her fingers grasped the front of his robes as she leaned into his unfamiliar but comforting embrace, as the tears kept falling with no signs of stopping.

-

She remembered the first feelings of love, an emotion that she had never felt.

As his aristocratic fingers grazed hers, she jolted at his touch, only to look up into his warm gaze, such kindness and gentleness…

Kind, gentle, and so beautiful…

-

She remembered the first admission of love, one she made to herself.

"You should marry Aniue, you should go with him."

She had shook her head, but unable to say more as His Majesty walked away from her, an expression of curious sadness on his beautiful face. I love you, Heika-sama…she wanted to say it, but couldn't let the words escape her.

I love you…

-

She remembered the first time she defended him, risking her life for his, against all odds.

"I will die before I let you harm Heika-sama!"

She stood defiantly in front of her childhood friend, her surrogate brother, gripping the sword between her hands, blocking the attack on His Majesty. She watched as shock appeared on Tendoh's face, and felt the Emperor's hand on her elbow, radiating the strength he had, prepared to lead her aside. But she refused to budge, she had to make Tendoh understand that none of this – Tendoh's suffering, or her choice - was His Majesty's will. She would die for the Emperor, and willingly so.

-

She remembered the first proposal, undoubtedly the first and the last.

He came formally to her to extend an offer of marriage, dressed in his royal robes, his long hair twisted into his crown, and flanked by his happy advisors. He had bowed to her, and asked for her hand. And she had stood there, dumb-struck, unable to utter a single word, her mind racing with a million incoherent thoughts. He took her hand then, and pressed her fingers gently, his hazel intent, and intense as he waited for her response.

She looked at their intertwined fingers, and thought about all that had happened – Kourin, Tendoh, His Majesty, herself… - and she knew that she would follow her heart. She sank into a graceful curtsy, and voiced her honor at being chosen.

-

She remembered the first kiss, and how sweet it was.

They were watching the stars, both of them, and she had pointed out to him Kourin's constellation of stars, or at least, what Kourin had claimed to be his. He laughed, then, and told her that he had his own stars as well, and she wanted him to show her…he had taken her hand, and guided it to a point in the skies, his constellation.

He had not let go of her hand after that, gripping her fingers tightly within his, looking at her with such emotion in his eyes. He had then reached out and brushed a lavender tendril off her forehead, resting that hand on the nape of her neck. And he bent down to her, bringing his face to hers, and she remembered how her heart had pounded…seventeen and inexperienced, she didn't know how to react or what to do…He was so close to her that she could feel his warm breath upon her, and inexplicably, she closed her eyes, and felt his arm going around her waist, and felt the fluttery touch of his lips upon hers. It was just that, a touch, a brief contact, and yet, it meant so much to her.

It was her first kiss, and theirs.

She had opened her eyes to see him smiling at her, in an almost playful air, before he pulled her closer to him, claiming her lips with his, with no hesitations this time, and she had responded with all the love she held for him.

-

She remembered the first night, the night she sealed her love for him.

She had felt so scared, so nervous as she sat on the bed in her bridal fare, twisting the edge of her robe, not daring to look at her new husband. She knew nothing, and perhaps he expected something of her, and she feared that she would disappoint him. He had approached her gently, lifting the veil that covered her face, and she flinched almost reflexively. His face shadowed then, and the colors in his eyes shifted.

"Are you scared of me?"

She had nodded her head quickly, her heart beating, fearing his displeasure, but she wanted to be honest, needed to be. "I am not what you may expect, Heika."

He chuckled amusedly. "And may I ask, what do you supposed I might expect of you?"

She blushed, not knowing what to say without being seemingly and embarrassingly obvious. He sat down beside her, his eyes glinting with faint amusement. "I might not be what you expect, either."

She had looked up then, in surprise, and that was the moment he pressed his lips upon hers, his hands on her shoulders, pulling her closer to him, and her own arms automatically entwining themselves around him. He then opened her mouth with his, deepening their kisses, as her hair fell down her shoulders, the pins holding them in place clattering onto the floor, his hands entangling themselves in the lavender tresses…

She had never felt a love so intense as she did on that night.

-

And she certainly remembered the last night they had, the one last night.

She watched with sadness as he pondered over another scroll, obviously plotting strategy for the impending war that would erupt soon enough. As she stroked her stomach, smiling slightly at the life growing within…she could not help the feelings of doom, of loneliness...she wanted him to stay. She did not want him to go to war, she feared that she might lose him, and she did not want to lose him, not when they had barely begun their life together.

A tear had dropped, followed by another, and another, until the shadow of her husband approached her and slender fingers brushed away her tears. She raised her head to meet his eyes, clutching at his hand, holding it tightly. She need not say anything, her tears said it all.

He had kissed her then, kissed her with a fervent passion, almost with desperation, as he eased her down on their bed and undid the sash of her robes, unpinning her hair. His own hair came loose, tumbling down his back in chestnut waves as his clothes joined hers on the floor.

They made love, so gently, and yet so passionately, fighting to put thoughts of war behind them, just wanting to be with each other, to be in each other's arms for as long as time permits.

-

She remembered the first feelings of absolute devastation, so different yet so similar from what she felt when Kourin died.

It wasn't true, she wasn't staring down at her husband's body. Not when he was still alive, still warm, still breathing, the night before…he could not have left her, not so soon…

She wanted to scream, to cry, to rage until all her grief was spent, but she could not. With the little dignity and composure she could muster, the Empress of Konan knelt before her dead husband and bowed, tears running unchecked down her cheeks. She pressed a hand to her abdomen, feeling the life within, and grieved for her child, grieved on his behalf, for the father he would never know.

-

She remembered the first feelings of combined grief and joy, the birth of their son.

She sank back into her pillows with exhaustion as the wailing of her baby pierced the air. The beaming ministers and doctors announced the birth of a son – future Emperor of Konan, and she cuddled her baby into her arms, kissing his forehead…and wishing with all her heart that he was there with her. Wishing that he was beside her, smiling at her, holding his son.

She grieved again, for her loss, and at the same time, felt indescribable joy rushing through her as she held her son.

-

She remembered the first feelings of hope she had after his death.

She hugged her son tightly, feeling the spirit of her husband, feeling his presence. The familiarity that she had ached for and missed so much, as she clung onto her son with an almost desperate air, wanting to hold on for as long as she could.

She missed him so much, and how she had loved him, and love him still. And she wanted him to know that, to understand, and most of all, she didn't want to hear him apologizing to her.

-

She remembered love. All that she ever held for him, was pure, unfettered love.

-

She remembered it, all of it, even though it happened so many years ago, more than half a century. Time had aged her considerably, turning her lavender hair white and gathered wrinkles on her face, but the memories she held remained as fresh as ever, as so her yearning for her husband.

Time did not age her memories, they were ageless. Her memories – and her son - were what kept her alive after she lost her Saihitei.

But her time was spent, and it was time for her to go. Do not grieve for me, she told her son, the fifth Emperor of Konan, and she smiled at her grandson, future Emperor of Konan. Both of them were images of His Majesty, his beauty evident in his descendants.

I have lived a fulfilling life, I have lived to see you grow up, to be an Emperor your father would have been so proud of, and I lived to see my beautiful grandson. I have no regrets, Boushin, I will leave this world with nothing but contentment.

Emperor Reizeitei nodded, holding his mother's hand tightly, brushing her cheek with a kiss, telling her that he loves her.

The Dowager Empress Youtaikou, You Houki, wife of the fourth Emperor of Konan, Saihitei Seishuku and Suzaku Seishi Hotohori, smiled faintly, her breathing gradually shallowing and she slipped into eternal slumber, a peaceful smile on her lips.

-

She approached the shining gates, a look of curiosity on her face as she wondered about this beautiful place. The gates opened into a garden that was so familiar to her, and the memory brought a smile to her face.

The smile, however, faltered as her eyes rested upon a graceful figure standing not far from her, his back to her. The tumble of rich, chestnut hair held loosely by a tie whispered a time of a past love to her…and she took a several steps forward, not daring to allow herself to hope.

Then he turned around, and smiled at her, and she raised a hand to cover her mouth, tears spilling over as her eyes took in the familiarly perfect features of the man, a finely chiseled nose and structured cheekbones with intense hazel eyes that flaked with gold – eyes now dancing with a mixture of mischief and love.

He held out his hand to her. "What took you so long?"

Smiling through her tears, she ran to him, almost stumbling, throwing herself into his arms as he embraced her. A strangled sob escaped her as she relished in the warmth that she had yearned for, for so long.

Too long.

As he cupped her face tenderly in his hands, she lifted her face to his, and their lips met as he kissed her lovingly.

This time, it may be forever.

-

-Finis-

da-mouse ®
posted 31st July 2004

What posses me to write this, I don't know. On crack, probably. Still working on Chapter 2 of my Hotohori/Houki/Tendou fic, currently still writing from Houki's point of view. Maybe it was because I got so stuck on that one I came out with this one. I intended it to be Houki-centered, but come on. As if Houki fics can ever get by without a mention of Hotohori. The reason why she is a character in FY IS because of Hotohori. And If anyone can believe me, I originally planned for it to be under 500 words.

Experience should tell me my plans are all lousy.

Read and review/comment/criticize/whatever, even if to tell me I suck and should never ever write again. Don't flame because of the pairing though – I love Hotohori, Houki AND Hotohori/Houki, so if you can't live with it, too bad.

Ta

NOTE: I want to thank Tetris no Miko who offered me information I needed to write this fic, through her translations of Suzaku Hi Den, which unfortunately because this site intends to screw me up, I cannot post the link to her site.