Disclaimer: The song "Wind Beneath My Wings" is sung by Bette Midler and is from the movie Beaches. Hotohori, Nuriko, and all other characters and whatnot mentioned from Fushigi Yuugi belong to Watase Yuu-sama and a bunch of other really lucky people. I do not make any money doing this (I wish...) so please don't sue me. ^_^ Hope you enjoy the fic - it's my first attempt at a songfic, so please be kind.

Wind Beneath My Wings
by Renée-chan

Hotohori stared after the boat, a sad little smile on his face as he watched it sail away. Things just wouldn't be the same at the palace without his fellow seishi around - one in particular. He turned around, facing the palace, Miaka's stuffed bear clutched in his hands like a lifeline. It's been so long since I faced this place without him... He squared his shoulders, determined to show the world - and himself - that he could do this alone. He began to walk.

It must have been cold there in my shadow,
To never have sunlight on your face.

As he walked, his thoughts turned to his fellow seishi. Nuriko had been a dear friend - like family, really. He'd always seemed content to be his support - never asking for anything more than the chance to love him. Hotohori paused in his walking, turning to look at the setting sun. Would it have been so bad? I could certainly have done far worse.

You were content to let me shine, that's your way.
You always walked a step behind.

Even now, he had to wonder how he would have faired this past year without the indigo-haired seishi by his side. Nuriko had always been there, quietly offering support when he needed strength, and comfort when he needed a shoulder. The trials of an Emperor were never small or trivial - and Nuriko had been with him 100% of the way, with never a complaint. Indeed... I could have done far worse than Nuriko for a wife... He turned his head away from the sun and walked the rest of the way to the palace.

So I was the one with all the glory,
While you were the one with all the strain.

He headed straight to his chambers, only pausing long enough to tell the guards that he wasn't to be disturbed. He lay the stuffed bear down on his dressing table and pulled the crown off of his head, letting his long brown hair tumble loose. He stared at his reflection in the mirror for a moment, noting the imperial mask still firmly set over his features. So few had ever seen the facade crack. Nuriko had been the first...

He almost wished he could forget that night. The night they'd returned to the palace after sending Miaka home to her world. He'd broken down that night, unable to bear the idea of living without Suzaku no Miko at his side. The mask of the Emperor had cracked, revealing the pain of a young man lying underneath. And Nuriko had been there, quietly offering the comfort he so desperately needed without a word of judgment. He'd felt so safe, sheltered in the other seishi's arms as he wept - and Nuriko hadn't taken advantage of the opportunity. He'd been grateful - even though a small part of him had almost been disappointed. Strange, the things the mind does to one in times of grief...

A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.

It wasn't until much later that he'd learned what had happened to Nuriko upon arriving back at the palace. Word of his masquerade had gotten out to the servants and thus to the nobles as well. To say that he'd been shunned would have been putting it kindly. And yet he'd born it all without comment, without complaint. And in spite of his own troubles, he hadn't hesitated to take on Hotohori's own.

So maybe... just maybe... he didn't really want to forget that night. It had given him his best friend.

Did you ever know that you're my hero,
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.

And what a gift it had been. After a week, Hotohori couldn't imagine his life without Nuriko in it. It was as if he'd found a soul-mate in the feminine seishi from Eiyo. His days took on a whole new hue - no longer did he dread court sessions, for he had Nuriko to keep him company and make him laugh. No longer did he dread his paperwork, for he had Nuriko to provide him with new insights to the dreary problems of the state. No longer did he fear his lonely rank, for he had Nuriko to light his path. His admiration for the purple-haired seishi grew with each passing day, and it was harder and harder for him to imagine life without Nuriko at his side.

It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
But I've got it all here in my heart.

He had seen the other seishi watching him at times - when he thought that Hotohori wasn't looking - and his eyes had been so sad. It had been all he could do not to answer the call of those plaintive eyes. It would have been wrong for him to acknowledge the unrequited love between the two of them, for Hotohori could not have answered it. Not as an Emperor - and not when everyone at court knew of Nuriko's true gender. Maybe... maybe if they had both just been seishi - with no responsibilities to anyone but themselves and their Miko - then maybe... Oh, who am I kidding? It hurt to admit that he might not have been able to return Nuriko's feelings, even then - but it was true. Gods, it was true...

I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.
I would be nothing without you.

Hotohori sank down into the chair at his dressing table, slowly dropping his head onto his arms. It hurt to think that even were he free to do so, he might not be able to return such honest emotion. Nuriko loved him with such a purity of heart that it scared him at times, for he knew that he was in no way worthy of it. No... It was far kinder to them both to let that love pass by unacknowledged. At least that was what he told himself...

Did you ever know that you're my hero?
You're everything I wish I could be.
I could fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.

He raised his head once more to stare at the mirror. Was it truly kinder to keep his feelings from Nuriko? He shook his head in confusion - how could he tell Nuriko how he felt, if he didn't even know, himself? Was what he felt for the other seishi love? Surely. That much he knew. But was it a romantic love - that was the real question. Love could exist in many forms, many shapes and sizes. He knew now that his love for Suzaku no Miko was not that of a husband for a wife - it was the love of a very dear friend for another dear friend. Miaka had been the first person to creep into the lonely prison of his rank to befriend him. She had ended his isolation. He could never forget that - and he loved her dearly for it.

But what he felt for Nuriko... It went far beyond mere feelings of gratitude and friendship. He was very well aware that Nuriko's quiet strength and empathy were the foundation upon which his stability was based. He didn't know what he'd do without Nuriko being there to support him, to calm him when things got too frustrating, to tease him when they got too tough. Yes, his love for his fellow seishi went deeper than friendship - but did it run deep enough to break every tradition and cultural taboo he'd ever known? He shivered and dropped his head back into his hands - he just didn't know.

A quiet voice whispered into his mind, ~But isn't Nuriko worth it? He's handing you the love of a lifetime on a silver platter - and you're all set to turn it away. You don't get a chance like this every day, you know! You should take what he's offering and be happy...~

He listened to the voice, feeling more lost than he'd felt in a long time - since Nuriko had insinuated himself into his life. He jerked his eyes back to the mirror, meeting the stare of his reflection head on. He'd tell Nuriko. Even though he didn't know exactly what he felt, or what it meant, Nuriko had to know that his love hadn't gone unnoticed and his support hadn't gone unrecognized. Where that admission would lead them, only Suzaku could tell. But Nuriko deserved no less than the total truth from him - and maybe... just maybe... things could work out. No. They had to work out. Kitto.

He turned his head to stare out the window at the setting sun, Hurry home, Nuriko... I'll be waiting.

Fly, fly, fly high against the sky,
So high I almost touch the sky.
Thank you, thank you,
Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.

C&C always welcome, just please make it constructive.