Disclaimer: Fushigi Yuugi doesn't belong to me, neither do the characters.
Summary: On New Year's Eve Hotohori and Nuriko have a conversation. Hotohori's POV. Not intended to be Shounen Ai.

AN: I had the image of Nuriko taking Hotohori's hand into his in my mind and then I just had to write this. I don't know exactly if they celebrated New Year's Eve in ancient china (I guess so), but in this story, they do. Please tell me what you think.

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It was the end of the year and the servants were preparing the fireworks. I gave them some last orders when Nuriko silently slipped through the door, his white trousers and the simple rosé-colored tunic emphasizing his beauty even more. One hand was absently playing with his usual braid.

"Aah, New Year's Eve always makes me feel a little sad."

"Why?" I asked.

He smiled at me, a soft blush on his cheeks. "Because I still didn't get Hotohori-sama to love me."

He had said that with a smile, but I knew there was more behind it. Nuriko often made jokes about his love for me because this was the only way he could deal with his feelings.

"Nuriko, I'm sorry, but..."

"Maa, you don't have to pity me, ne?" He turned around and went to the balcony, resting his hands on the wooden border and looking up to the sky. I followed him and stopped right beside the smaller man. I, too, looked up at the sky and a few minutes passed in silence in which we were just enjoying each other's company.

Suddenly I felt his hand touching mine, holding it. When I looked down I saw Nuriko's head cuddling against my arm, his small hand, which often made me wonder that such a fragile-looking hand could hold such strength, still holding mine. A sorrowful smile was visible on is face and his eyes were closed.

"Nuriko..."

"Please don't say anything, Hotohori-sama. I just want to pretend."

I felt a fist closing around my heart. I knew more than any other the pain of unrequited love and I wished I would be able to stop his suffering. Of course I knew that he loved me, I must've been blind not to see how his behavior changed when he was alone with me. He always became shy and restrained while being around me and he always had that odd blush on his cheeks when he looked into my eyes.

So why not let him pretend, for just one night? He surely knew he wouldn't ever get much more from me. A lump was forming in my throat. At that moment, I wanted to give him more.

With one swift move I put my arms around Nuriko's slim shoulders and pushed him onto my broad chest. His eyes went wide, I saw, and a sound like 'ah' escaped his mouth. I guess he never expected me to actually embrace him. Nuriko even struggled a short moment, it must have been out of shock or because it was a natural reaction due to his disguise as a woman all those years. Certainly, he would not have allowed anyone to come too near.

"Hotohori-sama!?" I heard Nuriko's surprised voice. He was stiff in my arms, which bothered me somehow. But what did I expect? That he melted against me, throwing his arms around my neck? I nearly laughed out loud at the thought, but I forced myself to stay serious. I didn't want Nuriko to think that I suddenly became insane. And then I said what I wanted to tell Nuriko for so long.

"I'm sorry I can't give you what you want, but I always thought of you as a very close friend. You were always there for me, always smiling and comforting me when I didn't know how to deal with my feelings for Miaka. I don't know what I would have done without you. You made me laugh and you didn't see just the emperor in me. Thank you. For being my friend and for loving me."

"Hotohori-sama..."

"Shh. Don't say anything. Just pretend."

When the fireworks started, my arms were still around Nuriko's waist and on both our faces a small, content smile could be seen.