Disclaimers: (sing it with me now) "No they're not mine, no they're not mine, though I've taken 'em out to play. So now you know, dear, though I love 'em, please don't take my money away." (to the tune of "You Are My Sunshine")

Timeline: Takes place after the Hokuto cup.

Warnings: None. No violence. No action. No romance. (Hey, where is everyone going!) .However,Hikaru does swear a bit. Bad Hikaru!

I get by with a little help from: everyone on my LJ friends list, both new and old. Their support has been both overwhelming and humbling. Big thanks in particular go to Issen4, T-chan, and svzinsanity, all of whom helped make this more readable (and all of whom are quite accomplished writers in their own right). Tarigwaemir came up with the summary suggestion. And as always, a big "I'm not worthy!" goes to Imbrium, who was the first to read it (and who hasn't been able to escape since.)

Still, the full blame for any "bawaaaah!" sort of mistakes should land squarely on me. I don't listen very well. So get your sporks ready!

Dedication: In memory of Rebekah. Sometimes, we all need our places to go, to think, and to remember.

This is my place.

Your Hand In Mine
Part One: Losing Place

Despite the nature of his dreams, it will be through fire, not water, that he will lose his last, tangible connection to Sai.

The headlines will read: Heroic Teen Saves Grandparents from Blaze.

But he will not feel like a hero.

The flames will erupt from the east wall of the guest room on the upper floor of his grandparents' two story house. Faulty wiring, installed more than fifty years ago, will finally give into the wear of time and fate.

And whether through time or fate, he will be there, playing a game with his grandfather downstairs, while his grandmother naps in the room above them.

He will not have time to finish the game. He will not have time to pick up the fan he drops in alarm, when he first smells the smoke. He will give no thought to the contents of the house. He will not think of the meals his grandmother had prepared for him in the kitchen, of the times his grandfather had held him close and told him stories in the tatami room, or of the long afternoons he had spent in the attic.

He will only think of two things -- how fast he must push his grandfather outside and the number of steps he will have to take to reach the room where his grandmother sleeps, unaware.

The flames will take all the rooms and the memories within them, will take all the half-forgotten minutes and hours of his childhood -- will take the entire structure down to the last timber. But even then, he will be thankful that it will not take that which is truly irreplaceable.

It will not be until the time of ashes, after the smoke and the flames have faded, that he will think of the life, irreplaceable, that has already left him behind.

And it will not be until a week after the headlines, after the ashes have the soft green of new grass on them, that Touya Akira will come over to his house. And in Touya's hands, there will be a gift.

Then, and only then, will Shindo Hikaru finally be able to stop dreaming of whispering rivers and cold currents carrying his loss to the seas.