Warnings:  Uh…bad writing? ^_^;; Pre-sap? Ehe.  And it's very.  Very.  Cheesy.

Notes:  If I were any more sheepish, I would be, in fact, a sheep.  Bleat.

Anyway, I promised I wouldn't leave my stories incomplete! Even if it takes me a long time between chapters, I fully intend to finish all my major ones.  All your pressing questions will be answered at the end of the chapter, which, I hope, isn't as bad as I think it is. ^_^;;

Gotta say hi to all my author buddies! Buddy roll call!!

RYUEN!! (who is working on a very cool original story, which I'm sure everyone who enjoys FY would apprissiate… ^_~ )

ROKU!! (who just recently posted another chapter to Hidden Paths, the WS sequel!!)

KRYSSA!! (still woefully underrated! Go read "Between Seishi and Gods!" But at least I finally remembered to send her a letter! ^_~  Only took me eight million years…)

KEI-CHAN!! (who might not like all those evil characters so much if she actually met them in real life.  ^_~ )

KAZE-CHAN!! (who is coming to that anime convention in the spring…right???)

SNOWTIGERFIRE!!! (watashi no LONGTIME buddy—going on 13 years! She's apparently caved to peer pressure and is writing her very first fanfic in the Pitch Black genre!)

And of course, everyone else, too.  Thanks to everyone who's emailed and bugged me, and I hope you're not disappointed. ^_^;;  I might be a little out of practice.

BLACKBIRD

~~*~~

Chapter Fourteen:

The Preparation

The next few minutes seemed as long as years, and might have gone on forever if Myojuan had not felt a pair of arms wrap around his neck.  Then came the face pressed against his shoulder, and sounds of silent tears as his priestess held him and wept; clumsily, wordlessly, he tore his eyes from his picture and reached up to pat her shoulder.

"Daijobu," he said, his voice soft.  "I…I see it.  I remember."

"How much?" Taka asked.

"Enough," was his contrived reply, but it was true, and brief enough to manage.  What did he remember? Feelings, emotions; air, wind, and his shirt. 

And Shouka.  I remember Shouka.

All in all, it wasn't much.  But as he had said, summing up so many things, it was enough.  It went far beyond the boundaries of coincidence.  And he had to start listening to his own heart.

It's easier to accept it than to continue to fight it.  The bonds I feel with Ryuuen, and with Houjun; the times I can see the faces of the people they describe; the tingling in my hand, the desire to use my power…

It was a healing power.  And all too often, it had failed; indeed, the feeling of failure, ancient failure, had begun to creep into his conscious memory.  He couldn't begin to piece it together, not on such short notice.  But it was a rotten emotion, and made him swallow in disgust.

"I say, Myojuan," came Freddie's voice, uncertain.  "Are you all right? You're looking a bit green."

I feel a bit green, as well.

He swallowed.  "I'm…all right.  I'm all right, I just need a little time."

"How much time?" Saihitei inquired gently, but Myojuan could detect the slight sense of urgency that lurked beneath his words.  The young man was aching to see Ryuuen—all of them, they were all aching to see their lost brothers—and had been patient for far too long.  Even then, the big doctor could not reconcile his own selfish desires for breathing space with the need for them all to be together once more.  It was like a pulling he felt in his chest, an almost urgent need to have them all together, all eight of them, although six would have to do at the moment.  It was like an addiction: a little would suffice to assuage his heart, but sooner or later, he knew he would need all of them.  Everyone.

"Freddie," he said, still not completely himself.  "Please…go get Houjun and bring him to Ryuuen's room.  Give him as much time as he needs to get ready." Turning to the others, he attempted not to appear as nauseous as he felt.  "Gomen nasai.  I shouldn't have kept you waiting this long, not when you've all come so far."

Miaka had pulled away by then, standing at Taka's side in the shelter of his arms.  Tears still streaked her face.  "You mean…you'll let us see Nuriko and Chichiri? Now?"

With a nod, he barely noticed the door flutter closed as Freddie left the office.  His hands seemed bent on shaking, but he kept himself firmly under control; there would be ample time later to better accept his newfound identity and consider its implications.  "Please.  Follow me, and I'll take you to them."

Letting out a relieved breath, her face contorting with happy longing, Miaka rushed forward as he rose and opened the door, with Taka close at her heels.  Shortly, the two had made it to the hall, but Saihitei was making decidedly slower progress.  He had risen from his chair, but his face had gone pale as he stood there, regally straight but with trembling fists clenched to the sides of his khaki trousers.

Myojuan gave the young man a moment before addressing him.

"Heika?"

He fought back a wince at the automatic title that had slipped through his lips without warning.

There was a slight pause as Saihitei let out a long sigh, tilting his head to the ground.  "Strange," he breathed in response, his tone musing, his fine brows drawing together on his forehead.  "Strange, that I should have spent all this time searching, hoping, praying to see him again…and yet, when that day finally arrives, I find myself so frightened that I can barely move."

Myojuan smiled kindly, feeling his own anxiety dissipate somewhat.  "I wouldn't worry.  He loves you, Heika-sama, whichever way you would have it." He did not stop to explain exactly what he meant by that.  "He has been dying to meet you, as well, and for longer than you might think."  He remembered what Emma had said about the pictures Ryuuen had drawn when he was in her care, and he gave a small sigh.  The princely young man certainly seemed to care a great deal for his patient, but it was still not evident exactly where that care stemmed from.  He only hoped that Ryuuen would be able to accept it if Saihitei desired friendship and brotherhood, and nothing more than that, as he had in the past.

Saihitei seemed dubious at Myojuan's reassurance, but took a breath and collected himself.  Only seconds later, he had followed his companions out into the long, white hall, and Myojuan closed the door behind them.

It occurred to Myojuan about half way to Ryuuen's room that his patient would probably not appreciate being shoved into the reunion with bad breath and bed head, so he asked the three visitors to wait outside in order to give the boy a chance to preen.  Despite having waited so long to finally see him again, they seemed to take this in stride, as if expecting such an allowance to be made.

"He's so funny about that," Miaka giggled nervously.  "Like he needs to work to make himself pretty! Baka desu ne…"

It then occurred to him that Ryuuen might need more than mere preening time to prepare himself for such a reunion.  He hadn't considered it before, but there was a chance that his patient might not even want to meet them, at least not so suddenly.  It could excite him too much; the realization of all his dreams could be potentially hazardous, as could the distinct possibility that his emperor might not love him back.

"Come to think of it," he said, slightly sheepish, "perhaps I'm jumping in too quickly.  He might need a little longer to take everything in."

Miaka looked slightly disappointed, but Saihitei and Taka both nodded wisely.  So he directed them to the lobby—which wouldn't be crowded at this time of day—and said he'd send someone for them when all was clear; this said, he turned the knob of the door before him and slipped quietly into Ryuuen's room.  With his back against the door, he exhaled deeply, running over the boy's small shape on the bed with his eyes; the lights in the room were still on, though Ryuuen, it appeared, was out.  He was dressed and lying on top of his sheets rather than under them, and his hair seemed slightly damp; it looked as though he had gone through all the trouble of getting up and getting clean, only to decide he was still tired and go back to bed.

Then again, he supposed it made at least a little sense.  Since Ryuuen now had the cast on his hand, someone had probably come to help him shower for the first time without getting it wet.  Most likely, it had been Emma or Ruth. 

Whatever the story was, however, it all worked out to his advantage.  He couldn't help the fond smile that grew on his face as he carefully approached.  Ryuuen was lying on his back with both hands resting in the middle of his chest; he didn't normally sleep in that position, preferring instead to curl on one side, but the cast would make that more difficult. 

Reaching out his hand, Myojuan was about to shake the boy's shoulder gently to rouse him, when something stopped him, and he frowned.  Something about the way Ryuuen was lying, something about the positioning of the pale arms, seemed wrong.  No, not just wrong; it disturbed him, somehow.  It made something inside him lurch, and prickles crept across his skin like half a million ants, or something equally pleasant. 

Still frowning, his breath coming a little bit faster, he made himself complete his task and wake Ryuuen up.  One thing was certain: he had to get Ryuuen to wake up, make him open his eyes, just move, anything that would make him lose the deathly pallor, the coffin-like crossing of his arms…

Beautiful even in death…

"Ryuuen," he called quickly, before the memories could become too overwhelming.  "Ryuuen, wake up.  Wake up."

For a long, terrible moment, he was afraid the boy would not wake up, that he'd remain there in that awful dead sleep forever, that he, Myojuan, had done something wrong somehow, and his patient's death was the consequence.  But just as he heard his heart begin to pound in his ears, he saw Ryuuen's eyelids flutter and then tighten, his face scrunching up as he moaned out his consciousness. 

"Mmmmrr," he seemed to say.

Myojuan closed his eyes briefly in relief, and shook his head at his own existence.  He could no longer deny the fact that these memories were real, and that they were his.  It had been right there in front of him on photographic paper, and it had been in his head all along; he did not know why he had not remembered anything, when everyone else seemed to remember just fine.  He had no clear timeline of his previous life, but merely flashes of events and faces that might as well have been photographs, themselves.

I wonder why I'm not more affected by this, he wondered.  But then, I guess only the acceptance part is new.  The other stuff has been there all along, hasn't it?

"Ryuuen," he said again.  "Come on, time to wake up.  You've got visitors."

Letting out a sigh, Ryuuen lifted his unwounded hand up to rub at his eyes.  "Mm," he said, and when the hand was removed, the eyes beneath it were frowning in confusion.  "Hm? Visitors?"

"That's right." Myojuan smiled.  "Three of them, in fact."

The boy's violet eyes grew uncertain.  "My…my family?" he whispered.

"Sort of," his doctor replied, and winked, helping Ryuuen sit up.  His large hand brushed at the young man's damp hair, tucking a few strands of it behind his ears.  "It's not your parents, or your brother or sister…"

Star brothersSeishi.  Marked by the gods…

"Dr. Yamada?" Ryuuen said, sounding a little more awake. "Why are you touching my chest?"

Myojuan stared at him before noticing that his hand had, completely of its own accord, trailed down to brush at the space just below the boy's left collar bone.  Quickly, he snatched it back, as if the white fabric had burned him; horrified at his unconscious action, he was about to apologize profusely to Ryuuen—a boy who, for God's sake, had been molested by his doctor as a child!!—when he caught his patient's eye, and paused.  Instead of looking angry or frightened, Ryuuen was actually smirking at him.  It wasn't a nasty smirk by any means, but a playful and knowing one, hiding the beginnings of laughter that threatened to break through it.

As his doctor looked on, dumbfounded, Ryuuen smiled and sighed, reaching down for Myojuan's left hand.  Holding it up so the hand was spread wide, palm facing out, the boy examined it closely.

"I know," he said quietly.  "Yours was here…"  Gently, he brushed against the large palm with the emerging, imprisoned fingers of his injured hand, tracing out a letter or symbol with a ghost-like touch.  He raised more somber eyes to meet his doctor's.  "We don't have them anymore.  Chichiri doesn't, either.  I don't know what that means."

Falteringly, beginning to relax, he smiled.  "Maybe it means that we've been blessed with peaceful lives, lives where we won't need any magical powers to see us through."

Ryuuen's smile faded, replacing itself with surprise.  "We?" he whispered.  "You said…"

"I said…" Myojuan stood up, pulling his hand away.  "I believe I said you've got some visitors.  Might I add that these particular visitors are very anxious to see you?"

The child's eyes trailed off to one side as he tried to figure out just who cared enough about him to want to come see him in a place like this.  He seemed to be having trouble thinking of anyone, which pulled at the doctor's heart.

"Indeed," the big man continued softly.  "They are so very anxious to see you that they've come all the way from Japan."

With widening eyes, Ryuuen looked up at him slowly, disbelief blooming on his face.  He took a few shallow breaths, his lower lip trembling.  "They came?" he whispered, as if, after everything he remembered, he had to fight to believe it was all real, that maybe he would get his happy ending, after all.  "M….Miaka? She's here? She's here!" he squeaked when Myojuan nodded, scrambling to his knees and trying to get to the floor in spite of his shaking limbs.

"Easy," Myojuan soothed, helping him.  "Calm down…"

There was a knock at the door, then, and when permission was granted for the outside party to enter, Houjun and Freddie hurried into the room.

"Sorry, Myojuan," Freddie said, "I had a bit of trouble locating him…"

Before anyone could say anything else, Ryuuen rushed to Houjun's side and threw his arms around him, raising up on his tiptoes to press their cheeks together.  "They're here," he mumbled, squeezing his eyes shut.  "They're here, they're here, they came for us, they came…"

Houjun couldn't contain his smile, though his voice wavered as he replied.  "I know, I know.  We knew they would, didn't we?" Gently, he took his friend by the shoulders and pushed him slightly away so they could look each other in the face.  "Nuriko…you know it's Hotohori.  You know Hotohori's here, don't you?"

The boy's eyes grew even wider, his jaw dropping slightly; he shot a frantic glance over at Myojuan and Freddie for confirmation before turning back to Houjun.  "H…Hotohori-sama?" he whispered, his eyes sparkling too much to be free of tears.  "Hotohori-sama…came for me?"

Something in Houjun's face betrayed his contrition at spilling the beans.  Slowly, he nodded.  "That's right.  Dr. Barrington says you don't have to see him until you're ready."

Myojuan caught Freddie's eye, impressed that they had arrived at the same conclusion, and the Englishman shrugged.  "Common sense, Myojuan," he muttered.  "I didn't get my certificate by prancing about in fields full of lilies, after all."

"Houjun!" Ryuuen said hoarsely, a look akin to panic on his face, and both doctors stopped their bantering to frown at him in worry.  Perhaps he was frightened of what Saihitei might say, Myojuan thought with a sinking heart.  Perhaps his dreams were all he had to live on, and now that reality was on his doorstep, he would rather continue to pretend; if Saihitei wasn't truly his knight in shining armor, perhaps keeping them apart would be best…

But Ryuuen had made no such decision.  As soon as Houjun's attention had been captured, the young man's hand went to his hair, clutching at it.

"Do I look okay?" he worried, smoothing it down.  "Am I too pale? Do I have bags under my eyes? Is my hair too messy? Is my breath okay? Do I look too stupid with these hospital clothes on?"

"No, no," Houjun was quick to reassure him.  "No, Ryuuen; you look fine."

"But, Houjun…" Chewing nervously on his lower lip, Ryuuen leaned his head forward to ask a private question which remained faintly audible to the others.  "Am I…pretty?" His cheeks colored, and he could barely keep his eyes raised.

The blue-haired patient's face broke into a smile, and he put his right hand on top of Ryuuen's head.  "You're beautiful," he murmured, with the kind of familiar fondness a much-older brother might display upon seeing his younger sister dressed for the senior prom. 

As Ryuuen smiled, shyly and shakily, and moved to hug Houjun once again, the older patient's brown eyes darted dubiously to Myojuan's.  Although no words passed between them, Myojuan could read them easily:  like himself, Houjun was very worried about the Saihitei situation.  What if Ryuuen was rejected again—not unkindly, never unkindly, but peremptorily, all the same? What would it do to him, to have his greatest dream torn from him once more?

"Last night," Ryuuen said quietly, "I dreamed this.  I dreamed that we were all together, and Hotohori-sama and I…  I dreamed we were so happy.  And now it's coming true.  It's all coming true."

As Freddie, accepting a tentative nod from Myojuan, left to find the visitors and bring them to the little room, the big doctor could only hope that this was, indeed, the case.

TBC…

BLACKBIRD AKUGI!!!

Myojuan:  I wonder why I'm not more affected by this…

Mouse-chan:  Ehem…yeah, me too!

TAKE TWO!

Freddie:  Are you all right? You're looking a bit green.

Myojuan:  **strumming a banjo** It's not easy being green…

^_^;; ehehe

Notes:  Wahhh, I know it's bad! Okay, so that whole "You look like the prom queen!" thing was kinda dumb.  And Ryuuen in this chapter sorta reminds me of Robin as Tiny Tim in the Muppet Christmas Carol.  You know, the part where he has an apoplexy (**nods to Roku**) about the Christmas goose? 

Robin:  The goose! The goose!! **wheeeeze**

Myojuan:  Easy.  Calm down.

I hereby insert a Conversation between You (the honored reader-chan) and Me (the sheepish author-chan) in order to clear a few things up with regard to…stuff.  **nod** ^_^

You: What the heck took you so long, Mouse-chan, you inexcusable freak??! ^_~

Me: Well.  ^_^;; There are at least two reasons behind the delay.  One: schoolwork is bogging me down.

You:  That never stopped you before.

Me:  Erm…inconsequential. ^_^;;

Two: I've been writing something else in a different style basically all semester, and every time I'd try to write something in the FY fandom, it would end up sounding strange.  And I figured that I'd rather take longer between chapters than try to write something when I'm not in the right style/frame of mind and have it really really suck. ^_^; Hopefully, this particular chapter doesn't suck so badly as to make people flee for the hills.  It hasn't been beta read, so feel free to leave me comments about stuff to change, and I'll try to go back and change it sometime soon. ^_^ 

You:  What could POSSIBLY be more important than writing fanfics???!!!

Me:  Ehehe…dunno.  Let's just say I'm a nerd. ^_^;

You: That's not good enough.  We don't care if you feel stuck-up and pretentious by telling us! We wanna know!

Me:  But I feel stuck-up and pretentious by telling you.

You:  So??!

Me:  Okay, fine.  Let's just say that Freddie has his own story.  Although Freddie in Blackbird is more like a cross between Real Freddie and another fellow named Gil.  And he has no balls. ^_~

You:  ….ExCUSE me?!?!

Me:  Eeep! I mean, he does! I mean, sure, physically, he does! ^_^;;;; I mean…he's just…timid!

You:  Uh…okayyyyy.  You really like talking about your original story, don't you?

Me:  Yes, though it shames me to say it.  I can't help it! I wish someone else had written it so I could talk about it and not feel like I'm trying to show off.

You:  Show off? Come on, it can't be that good.

Me:  I know, but still.

You:  Has anyone ever told you you've got major issues?

Me:  Are you kidding?

You:  Okay, forget your pretentious original story.  When the heck are you gonna get your act together and work on YAS?!?!?

Me:  Well, I was actually looking over it the other day, and I really do wanna work on it some more.  So hopefully, I'll be able to do so soon.  However…

You:  Uh-oh.  That doesn't sound good.

Me:  Yeah.  See, in order to work on YAS, I have to figure out exactly what's gonna happen. ^_^;;

You:  Don't you have an outline?!?!

Me:  Sure.

You:  And??!

Me:  All it says is, "They Defeat Miboshi." Not a clue how it's gonna happen.  Need to work on the small details.  Have I mentioned I stink at writing action sequences?

(Exhibit A:  **five chapters of people sitting around in the middle of the Great War…TALKING.** )

Ryuen:  Come on! Show me some gore!

Me:  Hey! It's hard enough writing action sequences, but you had to make it worse by getting me hooked on Highlander where people regenerate after three seconds! :P

Ryuen:P

Me:  So, anyway.  Before this gets out of hand, I'll stop. ^_~  Hopefully, people don't wish I'd never written this chapter at all. ^_~  Anyhoo, I'll get back to you all as soon as I can! **hugs**