DISCLAIMER: All respective characters are © to Takahashi Rumiko, Shogakukan Publishing, Viz Media and whoever else happens to be making any actual money out of this (i.e. not me). I do not lay claim to these characters in any way, shape or form.

Just a quick author's note before I get started:

This fanfic is set approximately ten years before the present series time line, shortly before the first deaths of the Shichinintai (aka the Band of Seven in the US dub). So if you're wondering where Inuyasha and co. have got to then now you know.

Pairings: Bankotsu/Jakotsu.

If this pairing isn't your "cup of tea" – for whatever reason – then that's fine with me but please remember that the back button is always there if you need it.

Rating: PG, for the occasional word you might not want the kids to hear.


Neyuki
(Lingering snow)

You're trying to make me feel better, aren't you?

Bankotsu barely registered the thin scarf settling around his shoulders. It wasn't as thought the cold mattered to him, after all. In fact, he was pretty sure that the cold was the least of his worries right now. And as for the main cause of his worries…

…that was a different matter altogether.

"Jakotsu, you don't have to stay out here with me, you know."

"Well, it's not like you need to be out here either."

"That's not an excuse. Your arm isn't going to get any better if you don't get any rest." Bankotsu glanced at the makeshift sling that supported Jakotsu's left arm before noting the large stain streaked across his shoulder. He'd been lucky, but not lucky enough. If that arrow had been aimed just a little higher…He shook the unwelcome thoughts from his head. There was no point in thinking about possibilities. Reality was already bad enough.

"I'm not using it right now," Jakotsu pointed out, gently easing the sling into a more comfortable position. "So it's already getting plenty of rest. Besides, you look like you could do with some company."

Maybe he could, but… Recalling the events of the past few days, Bankotsu turned away in a vain attempt to silence his conflicting thoughts. Jakotsu was both the first and the last person he wanted to see right now. And – fortunately or unfortunately – he was also the last person to take no as an answer to anything.

Maybe it would be better if he just got to the point.

"Jakotsu."

"Hmm?"

"You're trying to make me feel better, aren't you? You know you don't have to do that."

"And you expected me not to?"

Bankotsu's gaze shifted momentarily upwards, eyes narrowing at the hint of amusement in Jakotsu's voice.

"Look, I've already told you…"

"And I didn't listen that time either." Jakotsu retorted, a faint smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth, "Or the time before, come to think of it. And…"

Bankotsu shook his head. Why was it that Jakotsu never seemed to take these situations seriously? "Jakotsu, why do you have to be so…"

"Annoying?" Bankotsu couldn't help but notice his lips twitch slightly.

"Well, not exactly but…"

"But what?" There was no hiding that smirk now.

Bankotsu let out a brief sigh." I mean…" What did he mean? The sound of laughter forced his gaze upwards once more.

"Trust you to laugh at a time like this. Mind telling me what's so funny?"

"I can't help it; you're so stubborn." If Jakotsu was trying to stop giggling then he certainly wasn't doing a very good job of it.

Bankotsu frowned. "Funny, I always thought you were the stubborn one. And I thought I told you to get back inside before you freeze to death."

Jakotsu shook his head emphatically. "I'm not moving until you do. Which means that we're both going to be sat here until…" A sudden sneeze brought his tirade to a halt.

Bankotsu started a little, his irritation rapidly shifting to concern. "Jakotsu, are you sure you're OK?"

"I'm not going to die from a cold, Bankotsu," Jakotsu sighed. "Perhaps you should try worrying about yourself for a change; you've been out here for hours."

Bankotsu blinked; had it really been that long? "I don't have time to worry about myself. Besides, you're already doing more than enough worrying for me."

"Time isn't what you're short of, Bankotsu," Jakotsu muttered, casting his eyes skywards, "You could at least tell me what's wrong; I'll stop bugging you afterwards, promise?"

"I'm fine. Got it?" Turning sharply away, Bankotsu rose to leave.

"It's about what happened earlier, isn't it?"

The hollow sound of Bankotsu's fist impacting into the nearest wall more than answered his question. Jakotsu hesitated for a moment, unsure how to respond.

"Shit..." Bankotsu sank to his knees, finally submitting to exhaustion.

"Bankotsu?" Receiving no reply, Jakotsu tentatively placed a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Are you OK?"

"Jakotsu…" Bankotsu paused to steady himself, his body and voice both threatening to give out at any second. "…I'm sorry."

Jakotsu blinked, taken aback by his sudden change in demeanour. "What for?"

"What for?" What wasn't there to be sorry for? "Face it Jakotsu; it's my fault. If I hadn't been so damn stupid back then, then none of this would have happened in the first place."

"Bankotsu, it's not…"

"Not my fault? Look Jakotsu, I know you're only trying to help but you can't change the facts."

"That doesn't mean that you should be the one taking the blame for all this."

"And is there anyone else who should? Jakotsu, I nearly got you killed back there!Hell, I nearly got us all killed! If it's not my fault then..."

Jakotsu's hand darted to his lips, silencing him in a single gesture.

"It's not."

Bankotsu pushed his hand aside in protest. "But Ja…"

"I mean it, Bankotsu. You don't have to be sorry for anything."

Anything? He took a deep breath before forcing himself to make eye contact with Jakotsu again. "Why?"

"Well, I can hardly go blaming you for something you never told me to do in the first place." Jakotsu replied, unable to keep the bemusement out of his voice.

"But that doesn't mean it's not..."

"Look Bankotsu, you don't have to put yourself through this, OK? If it's your fault, then it's my fault too. I've already made my decision; we're in this together, no matter what."

"You...really mean that?"

"Did you really think I'd leave you?"

"No! What makes you think I..." Bankotsu stopped as he realised that Jakotsu was smiling at him.

"Neither did I. So you don't need to say sorry, OK?"

"But…why?"

Why? Jakotsu couldn't even begin to answer that question. Even if he found a way to begin, he would never be able to end.

So there was only one answer he could give.

Pulling the younger man as close to him as his injury would allow, Jakotsu pressed his lips against Bankotsu's. Meeting with no resistance, he deepened the kiss, smiling a little as he felt Bankotsu's arms encircling his waist.

Why else would I still be here with you?

Drawing back, he let his free arm drape around Bankotsu's shoulder. "You know why."

Bankotsu, still catching his breath, allowed himself a small, albeit sheepish, smile. "Yeah, I guess I do."

"What do you mean 'I guess I do'?" Jakotsu retorted, playfully ruffling his hair.

"I mean…I've been an idiot, haven't I?"

"Well, that makes two of us then, doesn't it?"

"It will do if you insist on staying out here any longer."

"Hey, it was your idea in the first place!" Steadying himself with his free hand, Jakotsu gradually eased his body into a sitting position, taking care not to strain his injured side.

"Do you mind if I...?" Bankotsu offered him a hand.

"Bankotsu, you don't need to…"

"I owe you one, right?"

Jakotsu relented, unable to resist his pleading expression. "OK, you win…this time."

"You keep telling yourself that, Jakotsu." Gathering Jakotsu into his arms as best as he could manage Bankotsu paused, realising that the snowfall had begun once more.

"Looks like you're going to have to warm me up again." Bankotsu resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he felt Jakotsu nuzzling into his shoulder.

"You really don't take anything seriously, do you?"

Jakotsu merely laughed. "Well, somebody needs to be the optimist around here."

In spite of himself, Bankotsu couldn't help but echo his laughter. Perhaps Jakotsu had a point. After all, there was no telling what tomorrow would bring.

For now they'd take each moment as it came.


So, what did you think? Constructive criticism is very welcome. :)