The Path

Written by gokusgirl

A/N: This is just a small drabble on a manga I simply love right now... and I'm so sucked into the Musashi/Otsu paring too...

Big thanks to Bio-Electric Anemone for the beta read!

Disclaimer: I do not own Vagabond.

I cannot remember when my feelings began to shift from Matahachi to Takezo. I can't even recall when I harbored feelings for Matahachi at all. What I do remember, and what I do recall is how I admired Matahachi for being Takezo's friend… that poor feral child who seemed to scare even the grownups in our village.

Takezo didn't care. I assumed their fear kept them from bothering him, and that was all he really wanted.

When I was younger I remembered, how at the break of day, I would wake, stretching my arms towards the sky as I welcomed the world once again, and then getting dressed to play with Matahachi and Takezo for the entire day. I didn't have any girl play friends; I was quickly shunned by those who thought hanging around the 'demon child' was odd and inappropriate.

The day would start with our trio meeting at the open field behind Matahachi's cottage. We would then go to the waterfall and lounge around, sometimes taking a swim in the icy cold water. The boys would strip down to their loincloths, and I would remain in my kimono; as a lady should around men. Afterward, we would lie on the sun-warmed grass, staring at the clouds that drifted by while we talked about our dreams, our futures, what we thought of the villagers, and the world. It was one particular day when Takezo, who was, the majority of time, silent said something that would move me, and make realize how my heart yearned for him.

"I want to become stronger." Takezo proclaimed as he stood atop a large rock near the waterfall. He had his bokken and was mimicking his father's fighting stances, swinging the pretend katana wildly as he sliced the air with his fearsome strokes. I was picking some daisies when I heard him say it and I stood with my arms akimbo, with a puzzled look on my face.

"Why?" I asked teasingly, fully aware of what the answer would be.

"Why?" Takezo repeated back at me, his eyebrows furrowed with the mere complexity of my response. His reply was just as sincere as the hardened stare he gave. "Well, I don't know… 'Cause I'm a man."

His answer made me giggle; seeing how I put him on the spot as he gave the most rational answer. He was only fourteen at the time, and his admission of being a man was rather amusing. He bristled; I'm thinking it was out of frustration with the answer he gave. He lowered his head slightly as he held his bokken behind his back with both hands. "Don't laugh, Otsu." He mumbled with much irritation in his voice.

The wind began to blow, warm and rich of the spicy fragrances that foretold of the balmy spring that lay ahead. It blew softly through Takezo's wild mass of hair; and as he slowly raised his head, he gave me a small but devious smirk.

"I want to become so strong that the whole world knows my name." Takezo said with much confidence. The wind picks up, whipping his unruly mane across his head and covering most of his face, and as I stared at him, my childhood friend, my strange and wild companion… my heart ached for him.

I respected his path.

I knew that this was something that he had to for him. To live by the sword, to make his mark upon the world so that everyone knew of Takezo, or Miyamoto Musashi as he is now called now. This need to be acknowledged was very important for him – not having the ability to get that from his Father or Mother. And the villagers too – he wanted them to see that he was more than some wild child from the woods, more than his father's son. He was Takezo; a man that sought respect and honor like any man.

I felt like Takezo and I were kindred souls, having our parents abandon us like they did. At least he knew of his mother and father – I knew nothing of mine. The loneliness… the dull empty feeling in the pit of your stomach that yearns for that connection with your parental others, we both could understand that. Even if Takezo never spoke of it, I could tell he yearned for it. Matahachi was spoiled by Grandma Hon'iden, so he couldn't understand what it meant to crave for such attention. He was expected to be head of his family in a few more years and I remembered how Grandma Hon'iden would express how wonderful it would be if I took Matahachi's hand in marriage; an utterly disgusting concept at the time. But as time progressed, I thought of how much of benefit it would be to be married into the Hon'iden family. But looking at it now… having Matahachi leave me for another woman, I realize that my marriage to Matahachi would have been nothing more than a farce, a sham… a scam of my very affections and most importantly, my heart.

Then I realized what made what made me so drawn to Matahachi from the start. Takezo.

He befriended him when no one would. He would play with Takezo even when his Grandma forbade it. It was strange, but I guess I loved Matahachi for being kind to Takezo. As I further explored my emotions, I see now that it wasn't Matahachi I was in love with at all.

So now I watch him, but from afar. I know my place; I know that I would only get in the way if I went with him. Yet I yearn to be with Takezo; to talk to him once more… just like when we were children. But I feel I would want more than that… I sit up all night sometimes wondering how his hands would feel on my body, and how his kisses would taste. It's so ridiculous! It's shameful the way my mind wonders about things that I have yet to comprehend. Is it possible to love someone and not know if the other loves you back? Oh… but I know he has to love me back. It's hard to explain, but Takezo has never been one to express himself with words. His eyes, they way that he looked at me when he came to Lord Sekishusai's cottage… and what he said to me…

"You've become so beautiful."

He said it with no hesitation, as if he was breathing it the entire time.

Yet I still respect his path.

But I wonder when his sword has sent him as far as he can possibly go and has acquired what he set out to accomplish… will the path one day lead back to me? Do you feel anything for me, Takezo? Do you think of me as much I think of you? I understand that you must live by the sword, but when it is finished, will it end with me… in your arms?

As I travelled the countryside with Jotaro, we heard word of how strong you had become, it made my heart happy. You did it. You set out and did exactly as you said… Then I saw you fight the huge Yoshioka samurai in the square that morning in Kyoto – well, I covered my eyes through most of it. As I finally gained enough courage to look at you, I was amazed at how focused you were as you fought fearlessly against your opponent. And yet it was like you were another person, so unfamiliar and foreign… until you looked at me. For a second, that boyish, inhibited expression flashed across your face… just like that day when you said you wanted to become strong. That's when I knew. I would follow you to the ends of this earth, and love you forever. I love the boy you were, the man you have become, and the man you strive to be.

So continue your path, Takezo. Take it where ever it will lead you. And know that I will wait for you always…now and forever.