The Language Of Drought

Toshiki doesn't have the words for what he needs to say, and it's killing him inside. He watched Kazuki and he listened to Kazuki and he followed Kazuki and each day, each hour, each minute was another moment when Kazuki wasn't giving him what he wanted.

If only he could say what he wanted.

Kazuki is more than Toshiki is. Toshiki knows this. He doesn't dispute it. He wouldn't admire and respect Kazuki otherwise. Kazuki is like incense in church, like music in silence, like water in the desert to a thirsty man. Kazuki is richness to Toshiki's soul, food for Toshiki's need to be able to respect something outside himself, a pleasure for Toshiki to watch.

Kazuki is. And Toshiki doesn't know what he wants to ask him for, except that he wants something that Kazuki isn't giving him, and he can feel himself dying inside without it.

Tears need water, so these aren't tears. This hungry gasping, this shaking of the body, this heat in the cheeks and bones and lips, this burning of the eyes -- no, not tears. Quite the reverse. A hungry drought, a desperate drought, a drought that is eating him and taking bits of himself away and leaving only the skeleton of what he used to be, nothing but will and desire.

Juubei says something and Kazuki smiles and the dry wind which whispers in Toshiki's ears blocks out all sound and all meaning and only shows him that smile.

There are moments when he is guarding Kazuki's back, those moments of absolute trust that Kazuki places in him, and in those moments he is happy. He is conscious of everything around him, as a good bodyguard should be, but most of all he is conscious of Kazuki. Of rich chestnut brown hair which he has watched grow as the years went by, from brushing Kazuki's shoulders to hanging to Kazuki's waist, hair that is thick enough to make a long tail as wide as his wrist. Hair that he could bury his hands in, that he could take in his hands and pull Kazuki against him by it, feel that slender body against his own, slide one arm around Kazuki's waist and press the other man's flowing clothes against his body and feel the heat of flesh against flesh.

This is an old dream, and Kazuki is long gone from Mugenjou. There was a brief span when Juubei had the same stunned pain in his eyes that Toshiki knew was written in his own face, when he could have felt sympathy for a friend rather than bitterness for a rival. But the words which were left to him didn't include friend or kindness or sympathy or anything like that. They were about desert places and loneliness, and you can't share your water there, you have to go alone and leave the other people behind.

Sakura said come with us and I have a plan and Makubex has a dream. He looked at her, and he saw that she was the rain that would fall in Makubex' dreams, the river that would whisper in his sleep, the ocean that would cradle him, and he had enough of what he had once been left that he could be glad for both of them. Just a little. Enough to smile at her as he said, No.

Juubei stood there and did not speak to him. He stood there and did not speak to Juubei. Kazuki's absence lay between them like an unsheathed sword.

Toshiki remembered sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest in the darkness, his back against the wall, in the room that had belonged to Fuuga. Once. Never again. He's gone. With Kazuki nearby, there had at least been hope. Sometimes there had been hope. Always there had been desire. But now Kazuki was gone and even Sakura and Juubei were gone and Toshiki was left with the taste of hopes gone sour in his mouth, bitter and dry.

Kazuki has such pale skin, such white shoulders, such fine hands, such dark eyes.

Drought has its own language. Its words are written in dark ink the colour of dried blood on parchment the colour of skin, and they whisper in the ears like desert winds. Drought leaves Toshiki parched and despairing, resenting and desiring with every breath.

He dreams of Kazuki. He dreams of Kazuki returning to him and raising him up from the ground and saying you alone were faithful and taking him away. He dreams of Kazuki returning to him and striking him down and asking why did you not follow me? and then letting him crawl to his feet and kiss his hands.

The shadows on the dirty walls of Mugenjou sometimes move when he's not watching them. He finds himself listening for a familiar soft step, watching for the swing of loose clothing and long hair.

It's summer. He doesn't remember the days having passed. The sun is burning in the sky, and Kazuki is still gone.

The stranger was not expected. He wears the sort of suit that should have made him a magnet for every mugger and thug in Mugenjou, but nobody has touched him. His dark hair and beard are smooth and perfectly cared for. His eyes . . .

. . . "I offer you something better than ease," the man says. "I have work for you."

"You don't know my name," Toshiki says, but he rises to his feet and stretches muscles that have been idle for too long. There is something in the man's tone which he recognises, something which is kin to his own thirst.

"You are my Hell Knight," the man answers. "And I am Lucifer."

The words echo in Toshiki's ears. The thudding of his heart is like distant hoofbeats. "You don't know me," he says again, but he can feel the hollowness in his words. Lucifer does not need to know him. He recognises Toshiki, and Toshiki returns that recognition.

Lucifer lays a hand on his shoulder, and Toshiki permits the touch. "I know what you want," he replies.

Toshiki's breath comes hard between his teeth. He doesn't say, but can you give me that? but the words are in his eyes.

Lucifer nods in assent. "Your word. Your oath. Your heart. And you will be my Hell Knight, and I will assuage your thirst, Toshiki Uryuu."

His hopes rise in him, wild and desperate, suddenly alive and struggling again, for he knows, he knows that this man speaks the truth. The storm of emotion strikes the drought of his despair, and he goes down on one knee, taking Lucifer's hand between his own as he does so. My heart to win what my heart desires.

Lucifer bends down to raise him, and Lucifer's eyes are burning, burning. "Come," he says, and Toshiki follows him out of Mugenjou.