A/N: This occurs in the manga volume xvii, after the whole ordeal with Tasuki's mind being taken over by the poison. Tenkou has taken Taka's jewels of memory away, and he is left a fading man. Taka and Tasuki find themselves sharing a bed (in the book, not me).

Disclaimer: I love Tasuki and Tamahome, but sadly I don't own either of them. Also, I had What's Left of Me as an intertwined song in the fic, but supposedly we're not allowed to do that? (It's in Terms of Service - which I didn't memorize). I was like, "WHAT?" But them's the rules, so I had to edit it out, however indignant I was about it. BUT, if you want to read the song lyrics, you can google it and I'm sure it'll come up somewhere. That's the best I can do about it, plus a little snippet at the end which I hope doesn't defy the rules. (I'm still a little pissed, sshhh.)


It had been a hard day to get through, and, pressed against the thin mattress, Taka still felt the leftover pain shivering through his body. He wanted to move his torso to massage his ribs, but Tasuki was lying on top of him on what was a rather embarrassing position, and since Tasuki was such a light sleeper, Taka didn't really want to disturb him. Normally, for reasons now unknown to him, he would kick Tasuki away in the blink of an eye, but today, he didn't know why he lay there complacently.

Tasuki had been to hell and back today, and Taka knew that the only place for him to ease the burden weighing in his mind was in his dreams. Taka himself slept more often to relieve the own load in his life. Sleep was a thing to be welcomed.

The lower half of his body was going numb, and Taka finally decided he had to lift Tasuki's body a little so he could stop biting back the aching pain. Hesitating for a moment, he contemplated the best way to shift his friend's heavy body without straining his muscles again. His body had been stretched to the limit today, and Taka just wanted to rest.

Of course, if you were Tamahome, you wouldn't be in this state right now, the nagging voice in the back of his mind told him. It had been there ever since… ever since he could feel the empty chunk in his soul.

Taka bit back a cry of frustration, forcefully pushing the voice and the guilt down into a corner of his mind to be bothered with later. Part of him wanted to go back to Japan and just live his life as Taka. Why did he have to have this other guy's memories to live, anyway? Who the fuck did this Tamahome asshole think he was?

Shaking his head, Tamahome slid his hands under Tasuki's chest and lifted him an inch; sliding his body over as well as he pushed Tasuki over to the left. After his strength had been sucked away, it proved a hard task, and fortunately, Tasuki unconsciously took a hint and rolled over himself on his side to face Taka on the mattress.

Tasuki's bare arm brushed against Taka's, and a funny tingling sensation crawled the length of Taka's arm to his spine, racing all the way up his back to his head, where stars burst in his eyes. Taka had experienced this eerie feeling ever since Tasuki touched him the first time him and Miaka came back to the book. Taka had no idea what it was, and just attributed it Tamahome and his past life.

There he was again. Every time Taka turned around, the ghost of his other self was constantly taunting him, reminding him that he, Taka, wasn't good enough by himself. Everyone knew it but was afraid to say it. The celestial warriors acted like family towards him, but when it came to Tamahome, they revered him like a god and looked at Taka like he would hopefully become him again one day. Miaka avoided the subject altogether, and while Taka knew that she loved him, he also knew that she desperately wanted him to 'be whole' again. All that Taka had succeeded in doing by himself was hurting Miaka again and again, making her cry until he wanted to rip himself apart. I bet Tamahome never made her cry this way, the voice said again, and Taka felt something burning behind his eyes. With more effort this time, he suppressed it all.

Instead, he concentrated on Tasuki's sleeping form. It was amazing how sleep could transform a person. Tasuki's face had been etched with worry lines all day, and he had looked fatigued, more fatigued than Taka ever remembered seeing him, ever since Mitsukake had healed him. It was almost as though Tasuki was afraid to look Taka or Miaka in the eyes, and the jokes he made didn't have the usual carefree tinge in them. Now, in sleep, the traces of anxiety and fatigue had been smoothed away, and even with his fangs, Tasuki resembled… an angel. No, Taka corrected himself, not an angel. Tasuki could never look like an angel even if he tried. He just looked more innocent, more youthful, more… at peace.

Some of Tasuki's red hair was in his eyes, and Taka reached out to brush them away. This time, the jolting reaction was stronger than before, but Taka continued to trace lines down his best friend's face… his eyebrows, his eyelids graced with long lashes, his nose, his lips, the fangs peeking out of his upper lip, his jawline…

Taka was so intent on concentrating on something other than his failures as a man that he didn't even notice when his vision blurred and a tear fell from his eye and streaked down his face. He wondered if Tamahome ever paused in his life, ever felt regrets, ever knew the feeling of fear of rejection, of failure.

It was then that Tasuki's amber eyes fluttered open, and Taka quickly drew his hand away, startled.

In the brief period that they stared at each other, Taka felt the golden eyes boring holes into his mind, and it was as though Tasuki was reading his very soul.

Then Tasuki reached out, and Taka felt Tasuki's coarse fingertips on his skin as his friend gently brushed the tear away from Taka's face. "Don't cry, Tamahome," Tasuki said as his eyelids began to droop again, and suddenly, Tasuki leaned forward until his forehead was pressed against Taka's, promptly falling asleep again.

Taka felt his jaw clench at the name that Tasuki called him, his lips growing cold and his arms and legs going numb. There was that damn name again… even his best friend had just called him Tamahome, the man he so desperately wanted to be—no, wanted to prove himself better than—goddammit, forget Tamahome. Taka just wanted to be accepted for who he was, even if he was only half a man.

Maybe that was foolish. Taka felt the warmth of Tasuki's body so close to his, and knew that, of course, he couldn't ever replace Tamahome in Tasuki's mind. Maybe he didn't want to.

Stuck with a desire to be somebody other than Tamahome, Taka closed his own eyes and hesitantly drew forward until he felt his lips against Tasuki's. Taka didn't know what the hell he was doing, but he knew that this was what he, Taka, was doing himself, not just the shadow of what Tamahome would do.

Tomorrow was another day, another day where Taka would have to take a deep breath and plunge into the world of acting okay again. Taka prayed he wouldn't drown, and that this prickly-good feeling would keep, and wouldn't fade away like all his other memories had. Just to be sure, he held his lips there against his friend's, the sensation filling his whole head and body. Before drifting off to a welcomed, peacefully numb sleep, Taka felt Tasuki's hand close on his own. Taka smiled for the first time in days. He knew he was ignoring his own pleas of desperation and anguish, and choosing temporary bliss even though Tasuki thought he was someone else. But right now, that was all he had, and that was what he was offering to himself… and to Tasuki. He hoped that was enough.

(Give me something to believe in, tell me it's not all in my head…
Will you take what's left of this man?)

-Finis.-