"To Laugh Again"

Samurai Warriors 2- HideyoshixMagoichi

Rated: Teen, for mild language, sexual references, and violence.

Summary: Magoichi is holed up with Hideyoshi after being removed from the battle at Honnoji, and they discover just what the other sees… Takes place directly after the intro video sequence to "Battle at Yamazaki."

Warning: Do NOT read if you are opposed to shounen-ai (boy love). As in, a gay couple. While there is no hardcore sex in this story, there is some minor foreplay mentioned. If you don't like it, don't read it. Also, if you have not played all the way through Magoichi Saika's story mode, do NOT read this story if you don't want spoilers to the ending sequences.

Disclaimer: I do NOT own Samurai Warriors 2, or any of the associated characters or names. Koei does, and I make absolutely no profit from this.

And yes- I am taking MAJOR historical liberties at the end of this tale. I don't really care, it's 5AM and I haven't slept yet because I just want to see this finished…but I do know how history played out. So don't kill me.



"Now. Go get some real sleep, Magoichi, otherwise, you won't be any good for battle!" Hideyoshi admonished after the two friends' pact to aid each other had been made.

Magoichi's eyes widened in surprise- how soon did Hideyoshi expect this battle to take place? And, what was more important, how soon did he expect to launch his own attack? The marksman shook his head slowly, turning back to the small window and watching the rain pour out of the angry sky. He was vaguely aware of the blood welling under his fingertips from the splinters he was peeling up off the wooden frame, but he persisted in slowly clawing the small structure to pieces.

He stayed like that, fingers working at the wood until they were a bloody pulp, for what seemed like hours. Just staring into the rain. Thinking about what a mess he'd created by killing Nobunaga, and feeling all the worse for it. More innocent people were dying because of him. And to save his own life, he had slaughtered the enemy once in the servitude of the Oda…more peasants simply being told what to do.

The fire behind him crackled and spit, and he was suddenly aware of a presence at his back. Instinct overtook him for a fraction of a second and was gone; he merely jumped, instead of whirling around to face the offending attacker. He felt it before he saw it, as the steam hit his clammy face. The warmth of Hideyoshi's body behind the smaller man mirrored the heat of the bowl of miso soup the monkey offered him. Mutely, Magoichi took the bowl, ignoring the searing pain in his fingertips. He was hoping Hideyoshi wouldn't notice.

He did.

There was silence, save for the sound of the rain outside, and the fire inside. Hideyoshi saw and felt Magoichi's pain. He could hardly stay angry with him- seeing how distraught he was after avenging his own family- it melted the monkey's golden heart. The leader of the Hashiba army hesitated to act for once in his life as visions of Nene and his other concubines flashed through his mind, but he pushed them away, resolving himself not to overstep. Gently, as though dealing with a wild animal, he placed a large hand on Magoichi's back, his thumb gently working over the soft fabric of the other man's outer vest.

Magoichi tensed, his fear of affection from men kicking in. But this was Hideyoshi. Married, womanizing, happy-go-lucky Hideyoshi. They'd known each other for years- Magoichi knew Hideyoshi would never mean anything adverse by his actions. He was just trying to make him feel better. So instead of pulling away, he simply sighed, his forehead hitting one of the window's support beams with an audible thud.

Unbeknownst to Magoichi, Hideyoshi was studying the figure at the window as he massaged the kinks out of the marksman's back, now with both hands. His leathery, tanned skin, his chocolate locks, the way his shoulders glided down his back…The monkey felt a stirring inside himself, something he could no longer ignore. It was bigger than him, bigger than Nene, bigger than any of his concubines, or his sons. This was real, and true, and therefore forbidden.

Abruptly, Hideyoshi wrenched himself away from Magoichi, who responded with a slight grunt. As he sipped his soup, he heard the footfalls of a pacing man in the background. He managed a smile- the monkey always paced when something weighed heavily on his mind. Briefly he wondered if Nene ever scolded Hideyoshi the way he had when Hideyoshi had started that nonsense at his own home in Kii. Fond were the memories that flooded Magoichi- memories of a time where he possessed a home to return to. The golden helmet had sat patiently by the door, and Magoichi had warned Hideyoshi that if he paced a hole through the hardwood floor, he would be laying the replacements by himself.

Immediately his face fell again. It wasn't like there was anywhere to go now, but to wander, and help restore order where he could. His thoughts turned to traveling abroad, away from Japan, just to see what else was out there. But it was too soon to care. With a final loud slurp, Magoichi finished off the contents of the bowl, and began to remove unnecessary articles of clothing. Stripping down to his pants, he crawled back under the thin blanket on the floor, and shut his eyes to the world.

That didn't stop his companion from being loud, however, and Magoichi found himself in a state of unrest. Hideyoshi continued to pace, unable to calm himself into stillness. It was like torture to Magoichi's ears, eventually inciting volumes of aggravation and rage.

"Hideyoshi." Momentarily, the monkey's movement came to a halt.

"Hm? I thought you were sleeping."

"I would, if you would stop wandering around." Magoichi spat.

Silence.

Which, Magoichi discovered, was not what he wanted, because silence meant that Hideyoshi was hurt- again. He heard the dual thuds of heavy boots being removed, the clatter of armor and weaponry being laid out, and then the rustle of cloth, and that was it. Not a word. Just rain, and breathing. Magoichi groaned. He was on a losing streak, that was sure.

"Hideyoshi?" he whispered after a great deal of time had passed, half hoping his companion had fallen asleep. But the sound of someone turning over reassured him otherwise.

"Yes, Magoichi?"

"M'sorry."

"I know, Magoichi." The sharpshooter had never heard such a tone of gentility from his friend. Perhaps it was just the fog of sleep weighing on the both of them. Neither one spoke for a few moments.

"So…what's on your mind?" Magoichi lay on his back, hands folded across his bare chest, but turned his head to look at Hideyoshi, who he perceived as just peeking out over the top of the blanket. The Hashiba leader sighed.

"It's nothing. Go to sleep."

"It's never nothing, Hideyoshi. Not with you."

"It's personal…" The monkey trailed off, a hint of hostility creeping into his voice. Magoichi returned to looking at the ceiling, nodding thoughtfully as he finally felt himself slipping into the soft embrace of unconsciousness.

"Well, 'm here if ya wanna talk about it." He murmured, readjusting himself so the small cylindrical pillow was comfortably at the nape of his neck. Time passed, and the lethargy had almost claimed its rifle-wielding victim when his mind registered a voice, speaking to no one but itself.

"Well, it's just that…this time, I desire that which I just can't have, Magoichi…"

Magoichi didn't know what woke him up. As he roused himself, his senses high on alert for any impending confrontation, he realized it was likely just thunder, the remaining rolls of which were fading away. As he settled back into the warmth of the straw mat on the floor, something caught his eye that filled him with a moment of terror and despair.

Hideyoshi was gone.

Magoichi's quick wit jolted into gear, and he relaxed a bit, surmising Hideyoshi had probably just gotten up to go to the bathroom. Still, though, being alone at the shrine was eerie, even with the friendly orange glow from the dying embers. With his mind drowning in unease, Magoichi clambered away from his resting place and darted into the night.

The marksman shivered- he was shirtless, and the rain was cold on his bare skin. Magoichi looked around quickly, getting a bearing on his surroundings. It wasn't as dark as he would've guessed it to be from inside; thick as the cloud coverage was, there must have been a full moon behind it. Realizing his weapon was nearly useless in a downpour this heavy (and also feeling sheepish that he'd neglected to bring it with him, anyway), he fisted his hands, ready for any attack that would prove hand-to-hand. Carefully he picked his way through and around the shrubbery, taking stock of the perimeter.

As he came around the left corner of the structure, he paused, dropping back quickly against the stones when he saw the shadowy figure. Magoichi was silent, carefully shifting to peek around the corner again and have a better look, and then sighed in relief.

It was Hideyoshi.

The monkey was leaning against the stone wall of the shrine, staring up at the sky and mindlessly tossing a coin into the air, and catching it without looking. He would have been the picture of serenity, had Magoichi not seen the look on his face- a look which he knew he'd put there, whether directly or indirectly.

Quietly, without a word, Magoichi approached his friend, assuming the same position against the wall, and stared out into the night. He glanced over at Hideyoshi- that same heart-wrenching look of pain and misery was plastered to his simian-esque face. What made it all the more depressing of a scene was the fact that at some point, the Hashiba leader had taken pains to pull out the tiny ribbon holding his hair up. The thin wisps hung down around his face, framing it, and bringing out the tiredness and the lines written into his skin.

Hideyoshi, seemingly bored with the simple action of tossing the coin, began to do tricks with it. He passed it from one hand to another, caught it between his fingers, and even was so flamboyant as to blindly bounce it off the edge of the slate roof and catch it, behind his back, with his eyes closed. When the "show" was over, however, he was quick to sink into the wall again.

Magoichi chuckled, clearing his throat. "What are you doing out here anyway, Hideyoshi?"

The monkey shrugged. "Oh, I'm just thinking, Magoichi." He voice was riddled with emotion, something unfamiliar and strange when it filtered through Magoichi's friend. Hideyoshi was almost always all business or all play, but never really expressive about either.

"Yeah? Well, don't strain yourself."

It was Hideyoshi's turn to manage a small, short-lived chuckle. Magoichi grinned- at least he'd gotten that much out of him.

"Seriously though- what's buggin' you so much tonight that you had to come out here to think? You're soaking wet." He shifted, turning to face the defeated-looking figure, and noting he wore only a thin yellow juban, which clung damply to his skin and made him look much smaller than he was. Fragile, almost.

He also saw the monkey tense, his shoulders rigid with aversion. "Nothing you need to know about, Magoichi. As I said earlier, it's nothing, and that mean's it's my business, not yours. Now, go back inside!"

"You're gonna catch a cold."

Dumbly, Hideyoshi turned to look at Magoichi, his expression changed from one of despondency to amazement. The marksman looked smug- at least he could still get a rise out of his old friend, simply by ignoring his rants. Hideyoshi's mouth opened, as though he had something to say, but he quickly snapped it shut again, like a fish looking for food. Instead, he merely sighed, resituating himself yet again to press his forehead into the wall, eyes closed. No one spoke for what seemed like forever.

Another sigh, and then, "Magoichi, look at me. Do you see this man?" He gestured to himself. Magoichi nodded.

"Yeah? What does that have to-"

"Nene loves this man. She loves this body, she loves this face, she loves this mind, soul, class, rank, even the politics that accompany it. All the scars, bruises- everything. As do all of the other women, whom she gracefully puts up with."

Magoichi smirked. "Hey, pal, it sounds like you've got it made!"

The glare directed at him from Hideyoshi's peripheral vision stopped him dead in his tracks, and his face dropped.

"Shut it. You wanted to know, Magoichi, so now I'm telling you! At least have the courtesy to listen and not make jokes!"

The marksman nodded. "Go on," he said gently.

"Thank you. As I was saying, Nene and the others love this man, as it should be. And this man loves Nene and the others." Hideyoshi suddenly trembled, sodden and cold as he was.

"So, what's the problem, then, Hideyoshi? I don't understand." Magoichi's hazel eyes took in the sight before him as though in a dream. It was like he had woken to an alternate world where everything he was accustomed to had been turned over on itself, and nothing made sense. Here was Hideyoshi- brave, strong, stubborn Hideyoshi- pouring his little monkey heart out to someone he should have been smacking around with his sansetsukon. Magoichi's limbs were numb from the cold, his skin past the point of goose bumps, but he refused to go inside until Hideyoshi would come, too.

"The problem is me. Me! The one inside the armor and the skin and the bones. I am very different from this man. Sure, I'm very fond of Nene, but I'm not sure that I can say that I love her. And she knows it. She puts up with me because of the kindness I do show her, when I'm in the mood, but she knows that she's there for posterity, protection, and to give me an heir. The same goes for the rest of the women. I'm just not feeling it, with any of them!"

Magoichi struggled to see what, exactly, was nearly killing Hideyoshi from the inside out in this situation.

"Hideyoshi, relax! There are plenty of other women out there! You can have any one you-"

Magoichi's jaw dropped in surprise as Hideyoshi's fist connected with the stone wall. He'd never known the monkey to be particularly temperamental outside the battlefield.

"You don't understand!" Hideyoshi yelled, and yet again he shocked his companion by losing what shreds of self control were holding him together, and breaking down into tears.

The emotional nightmare unfolding before him tugged at Magoichi's heartstrings, but he didn't trust himself as a comforter. Only as a confidant. He suppressed a strong urge to make physical contact with Hideyoshi, instead uselessly curling and uncurling his hands by his sides while he waited for his companion to compose himself.

The broken warrior dropped to his knees, resting his check against the cool stones of the wall and closing his eyes. The tears on his cheeks sparkled in the low light, seeming to stand out among the raindrops. Slowly, his sobbing stopped, and he sniffled a bit.

"Magoichi, you could never understand. I love women. I love everything about women. And that's coming from the real me. But…this mess I've got myself tangled up in…is not one that any amount of bouncing breasts or bubbling laughter can fix."

Hideyoshi looked up at Magoichi, but before Magoichi could react, the monkey was on his feet, and had the marksman pinned solidly to the wall. He felt a pang of terror shoot through him, but did not dare to fight Hideyoshi in earnest, without his weapon. As skilled as he was with bayonet and rifle, Hideyoshi most definitely had the upper hand when fighting it out with hands and feet.

Dark chocolate locked with hazel, and Hideyoshi felt Magoichi's pulse quicken. He shook his head sadly, looking doleful.

"I just hope…that this doesn't ruin our friendship." He whispered softly.

Magoichi was about to question what he meant when he was silently robbed of the ability to form words. In the early morning hours, it took him a moment to register the fact that the thief was a pair of warm lips. Male lips.

Hideyoshi's lips.

That was all it took for Magoichi to begin wildly struggling against his captor, barely managing to wrench a hand away from the monkey's vice-like grip and shove him backwards lightly. The markman's breathing was labored- whether from the encounter or the exertion, he dared not to even think about. He scooted along the wall until he was a safe distance from his friend, who wouldn't look at him.

"What…the hell." Was all the Saika leader could manage, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, just falling short of spitting on the ground when he remembered he was at a shrine. Hideyoshi cringed, his monkey-like face scrunching up childishly and the tips of his ears turning red with shame. Magoichi wanted to smack him across the face, like so many women had done to him over the years. Magoichi Saika was not about to be kissed by another man and just let it happen.

He was about to yell at Hideyoshi, when the man turned his back on Magoichi, throwing his hands to the sky in an exaggerated show of surrender.

"Dammit! You hate me now, don't you, Magoichi?! Come on, if you hate me, just say it. Say it, and then we can both go our separate ways forever!"

There was something about the idea of hating Hideyoshi that knocked the wind out of Magoichi like a foot to the throat. He had hated Nobunaga for slaughtering his clan, and nothing good came out of that. Would despising Hideyoshi for his- now evident- feelings end any differently? He exhaled sharply, shaking his head.

"I…I don't hate you, Hideyoshi. I just don't understand you, sometimes."

Hideyoshi ran his hand over the wet leaves of the surrounding foliage, half-ready to rip them out at the roots in frustration.

"What's not to understand, Magoichi Saika?! I kissed you, because I feel a strong attraction to you. I'm sure you know what temptation is like. Now, I admit, I was completely off base, but I will not take back anything I've said or done, and I will not apologize for it."

Magoichi had to say, Hideyoshi had him on one point. He was hard to resist, and temptation was always a strong foe. More times than he'd care to admit, he'd been kicked out of towns for peering over bathhouse walls and generally making a nuisance of himself to the female population. But this, all of this, floored him with confusion.

"Yeah, I get that, Hideyoshi. But…so, what? You're basically telling me…that you love me." Magoichi struggled to wrap his mind around the foreign concept, and he scratched the back of his head helplessly. Hideyoshi hunched his shoulders, visibly curling in on himself.

In a small voice, he replied. "Yes. That is what I'm telling you, Magoichi."

Nothing. And then, laughter.

It mounted slowly, becoming increasingly louder and wilder. Hideyoshi turned, scared, and cocked his head to one side like a dog as he watched Magoichi double over in a fit of hysteria. The musketeer slapped his knees and wiped tears from his eyes.

"Magoichi…have you gone mad?" Hideyoshi queried, concerned. It took a minute for Magoichi to calm himself enough to be able to respond.

"No- well, I don't think so. It's just that, if I didn't know how I was supposed to feel earlier, I'm way off the mark now, and…and I realized, that you're the first person to ever say that to me. It just struck me as funny, y'know? All the women, all these years, and you- you, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, leader of the Hashiba army, a rags to riches ruler, successor of Nobunaga Oda in the fight to rule the land, and a monkey- would be the only one to ever tell me you love me."

Magoichi began to chuckle again, which was followed by yet another attack of chortling. But, for once, Hideyoshi wasn't laughing. He crossed the gap between them in two strides, his hands lightly resting on either one of Magoichi's upper arms.

"Is it really so hard to believe?" The Toyotomi man asked, his soft gaze expediently hushing the last of Magoichi's laughter. "Is it really so hard to believe that someone could love you, even another man?"

Hideyoshi took the liberty of tugging Magoichi forward, towards a large puddle under the window, where light from the embers and that of the many burning, oil-dipped wicks cast a friendly glow. The puddle was relatively still, avoiding most of the rain when Hideyoshi positioned them both as a barricade to the precipitation. The monkey stood behind Magoichi, just peering around him.

"Now, look, Magoichi. What do you see?"

Magoichi did as he was told, looking down into the puddle by his feet, thinking this exercise of reassurance stupid. He knew his own face- well, of course, because it was a very important asset to him.

"I see myself, of course. Hideyoshi, what are you trying to-"

"Look closer. What else do you see?" The warrior coaxed.

Magoichi sighed, focusing once again on his reflection in the water. He knew what he saw. It was what he was supposed to see that perplexed him. He hated it when people went cryptic on him. Puzzles had never been his thing.

Yet, when he stared at his reflection, long enough, he could almost grasp what Hideyoshi meant. Almost. There was something in the sight of his own face that seemed different, but he couldn't place it.

"I see my face, my hair, my skin. There's something else, but I really don't know what it is." He tried to pull away, but Hideyoshi kept him firmly in front of the water.

"Look." He commanded sternly.

Magoichi looked at his reflection a third time. Really looked. And then looked deeper.

"I see… a man, who doesn't know what he wants. I see a man who would do just about anything to atone for the things he's done and the lives he's sacrificed. And I see loneliness." He sighed heavily, also noting how much more the lines in his face stood out when he was tired- which was all the time, now.

To his surprise, Hideyoshi chuckled.

"You wanna know what I see?"

"I'm sure you're going to tell me anyway." He braced himself mentally.

Hideyoshi smiled, his own face now appearing in the puddle as he gazed over Magoichi's shoulder.

"I see a man who knows what he wants, just not how to get there. I see a man who did the things he did because he wanted to restore honor to his family's name in the face of a slaughter…that never should have happened. I see a man who's strong, sure of himself… a little arrogant, but it's made up for in the compassion he has in his heart. However, I, too, see the loneliness. It's plain as the nose on his face."

Magoichi tensed, feeling a pair of arms wrap around his sturdy frame in a friendly hug. Hideyoshi laid his cheek against the musketeer's left shoulder, closing his eyes and hoping Magoichi would not push him away again. His body was rigid with the effort of restraint, and the processing of all that had happened and was happening.

The marksman felt extremely awkward, but didn't pull away this time. He knew how the heart worked, and he would rather die before he stepped on the pieces of Hideyoshi's. A drop of water slid down his face, and welled on the end of his nose before falling off of gravity's accord.

"But, you don't have to play the loner, anymore, Magoichi. That is, if you don't want to, you can be happy, instead of lonely. You deserve it. More than anyone else that I know, you deserve a chance to smile and laugh all day."

Magoichi felt himself slipping into Hideyoshi's kind words, and fought to keep his head clear, wondering if he would regret it later either way. He knew Hideyoshi was a master manipulator and negotiator- that had been part of how he had risen from a lowly peasant to a rich ruler of the land. And he wasn't sure that Hideyoshi wouldn't try those same tactics on him, given the chance to get what he wanted. Still, though, something about the way he had said it all, especially about being happy, had struck his intuition as sincere. There were many inhibitions that kept him from being completely at ease with the situation, however, and he wasn't sure which way to run.

"Hideyoshi…thank you. That means a lot to me. And you deserve it, too. So much. But…why me?"

Hideyoshi pulled back, coming to stand before Magoichi and looking down at the small flowers on the ground beside them. He shrugged.

"Why not? Magoichi…" and here he looked Magoichi dead in the eye, "you are my best friend, no matter what you do or what happens now. You don't judge me by the weight of my gold or the numbers of my followers, but by the truth that I give to you. So who else would I naturally set my sights on, when I know someone as honest, and caring as you?"

"You forgot good looking." Magoichi quipped with a smirk.

"And good loo- hey! Well…yeah, you got me there." Hideyoshi chuckled.

Magoichi could hardly believe the words leaving his mouth in the next minute, partially because he was still uncomfortable with the whole thing for many reasons, on many levels, and partially because he just never thought he'd be that pathetic and mushy.

"…Hideyoshi?"

"Hm?"

"I want…to be alive, again. I want to smile and laugh in earnest again."

A shocked expression came over Hideyoshi's face, but it was mixed with a glow of calm and pride. His gaze softened, and he smiled at Magoichi's fleeting look that screamed, "gods, what have I just done?" Grinning from ear to ear, he nuzzled into the concave between Magoichi's neck and collarbone, laying his head on his shoulder and embracing him once again, which was finally returned, albeit guardedly. Magoichi felt the new sensation of a mustache tickling his bare skin, and shivered. This was going to take some getting used to, that was for sure. But no matter what the outcome, he just couldn't bear to break Hideyoshi's heart. Again. So the big softie in him was just going to have to learn to deal with all of this.

Suddenly Hideyoshi began to kiss his neck, looking for, and eventually finding the sensitive spot that elicited a small sigh from his soon-to-be lover. He trailed kisses from that spot heavenward, laying them along Magoichi's jawline, and eventually finding his lips again. Magoichi let Hideyoshi do the majority of the work, still trying to come to terms with the situation he'd just been suckered into, but not finding it exactly unpleasant. On the contrary, it was a different kind of nice. Women always made Magoichi take the lead, put all the effort in, and then just absorb his ministrations, like a sponge, usually rather than giving any back. For once, it was nice to have someone take care of him. And Hideyoshi's kisses were growing in his favor, due to their playfulness and warmth.

Finally Magoichi began to return the kiss, gaining him a purr of approval from his partner. It felt strange, yes, but he was beginning to like it. One of Hideyoshi's hands worked at the ribbon holding his hair up, and he felt it suddenly fall around his shoulders, its restraint cast aside. Hideyoshi immediately set to work entangling his fingers in Magoichi's wet chestnut locks, the other hand on a mission to explore.

Magoichi broke away, coming up for air, and finding his back now pressed against the wall of the shrine. If this went where he assumed it was going, he wondered if either of them would end up being allowed into Heaven. It seemed to him that sex at a shrine was probably not something on the application for cloud-bound entrance.

"Hide…yoshi" he started to speak, but found himself nearly tongue-tied as electric tingles shot though his whole body when the monkey's hand ventured below the waistline of his pants. Hideyoshi smirked as his fingers danced patterns into the front of the fabric, teasing Magoichi. The Saika rifleman thrust his hips forward into the hand in a basic bodily response to touch, but it surprised both of them.

"Hmm…feisty tonight, are we?" Hideyoshi squeezed lightly as he spoke, causing Magoichi to arch into the wall. He laughed.

"Not so bad as you thought, huh?"

"No…not so bad at all." Magoichi murmured, drawing Hideyoshi close again of his body's own desire. Slyly his nimble fingers worked at the cloth tie holding his jubanclosed, until he was able to part the robe and let it slip from Hideyoshi's shoulders. He immediately trembled, pulling Magoichi into another, far more passionate kiss. This time Magoichi played to his dominant side, slowly sliding his tongue across Hideyoshi's bottom lip, asking for entrance. He got it with no resistance, exploring every inch of the warm mouth attached to his.

Hideyoshi pulled back this time, breathing heavily.

"I think we'd better get out of the rain…"


They made love well into the early dawn hours, loving the forbidden nature of their actions, and half fearing they'd be caught. As the dawn light began to filter through the window in the absence of the storm, Hideyoshi curled into his lover's side, falling fast asleep. Magoichi, sore and worn out, but content, deigned to do the same.

And there they stayed for a few days. Not doing much but talking, reminiscing, sleeping, and sating each other's desires. What confused the couple the most was that no one came to look for them- or, rather, no one came looking and succeeded in finding them.

But as the days turned into nights, both began to realize that their time together was coming to a swift close. They would each need to return to their posts, once again working together, and act like nothing had ever happened. If anyone ever found out, death would be sure to follow discovery.

However, at the same time as Hideyoshi was becoming more and more relaxed, Magoichi was becoming more and more agitated. He was still fighting a war inside his head, a war that included everything he'd ever stood for, versus every action he was taking. On the one hand, he was happy with Hideyoshi. Happy that Hideyoshi could make him happy again. But on the other, he wanted to be that lone lady-killer again, to go back to doing what he always did and felt like he deserved.

Before he had a chance to reach a final decision, though, their time was up together, and the date they had set to each return to reality was fast upon them. There were no real final words of parting, no last kiss goodbye. It was back to the way it had always been. The friendly verbal jabs, the playful wrestling, the wit and sarcasm…even talking about women. It felt natural to let it end that way- at least, for a time.


Magoichi was the first off that morning, riding without so much as a glance backward in any direction his horse- which had been stabled behind the shrine- took him in. Behind him, Hideyoshi, standing in full battle armor, waved a stoic farewell, knowing they would soon meet again on the battlefield, and also knowing where Magoichi was headed, even if he did not know himself. Towards loneliness, sadness, sad memories and vices- likely Kii, to mourn, or the nearest sleazy red light district he could find, to return to chasing skirts all day.

Hideyoshi was about to do the same thing, but he knew in his heart that if Fate allowed them to continue living, then there would be a next time.


Magoichi's bloodied body lay limp in his arms, his final breath already drifting heavenward. Hideyoshi heard someone screaming, far off in the distance. Screaming Magoichi's name. Begging him to come back, even though he was already far away. It didn't register that the voice was his. A part of him was aware of the searing pain in this throat, but it barely made a dent in his conscious state. The body he held tightly, like a lifeline, was still so warm, but Hideyoshi could absorb no heat from it, freezing as he was. It was also so light, like a feather, but felt like lead in his grasp. He pressed his hand to the gunshot wound- blood now barely tricked out, instead of the spurting that had covered him in the bodily fluids that only such a battlefield should ever see.

Hideyoshi's tears flowed freely, regardless of class or rank or who might see and what talk may follow. He cradled Magoichi's empty shell, kissing the forehead already drained of color gently, working down to his still pink lips. There were people surrounding him, but none seemed to be looking in his direction, despite his screaming. They already knew Magoichi Saika was heaven-bound, so why worry? He had betrayed them in the first place, anyway. A few officers even wondered if one of their own hadn't pulled the trigger, but stayed quiet.

Hideyoshi kissed Magoichi firmly on the lips, hoping that by some miracle there was still some shred of life he could force to resurface with a show of compassion. But there was nothing. No sudden breath of life, no fluttering of the long brown lashes that lay flush to his cheek, as though he were only sleeping. When he pulled back, he was dimly aware of the blood that had transferred to his own mouth, and quickly rubbed it away with the back of his hand. A drop of blood slipped out of Magoichi's parted lips and slid down the side of his face- Hideyoshi's finger wiped at it gently, as though not to disturb his lover's rest. He saw his hands shaking violently, but could only stare, rather than control himself. He felt displaced- empty. Even his final promise to Magoichi felt hollow, due to the temptation to surrender to his dark thoughts and follow his friend into the afterlife.

But he couldn't do that. His fingers itched for the dagger he had hidden in his right boot as a last-resort weapon (because he was really terrible with bladed weaponry), but he forced himself to hang on. For Magoichi's sake. A promise was a promise, and he knew he had to see it through now, no matter what. He had to have Japan. To unify Japan, and make sure everyone was as happy as they had been.

Hideyoshi was unaware of how much time he spent kneeling there, just holding the body that had been his best friend and lover to his chest. Minutes, hours, days…it didn't matter. He always kept a hand over the hole in Magoichi's torso, however, because looking at it would have destroyed him. If he couldn't see it, then it wasn't there, and he was just too tired to open his eyes.

At some point, officers began to talk to Hideyoshi, to try and get him to release the body. He was vaguely aware of threatening even Mitsunari's life if they dared to even touch a hair on Magoichi's head, and heard himself growling and snarling at them all like some sort of wild animal. He saw himself lashing out at Nene with a blood-soaked hand, watched her run away crying. Thought he remembered everyone shaking their heads and whispering that he'd gone mad, thought he recalled the metallic sound of a blade being removed from its sheath, probably to behead him before he caused trouble.

And that was all he remembered.

Hideyoshi was later filled in on the details, how he was eventually persuaded to remove Magoichi from the battlefield, even though he was determined not to move. How he's scooped up his secret lover's body, flashing back to a moment just the night before, in private, in his personal officer's tent.

They'd had to be completely silent, or else someone might have heard. He was also careful to tell the guards outside not to let anyone in, not even Nene, due to a secret infiltration plan that he and Magoichi had been "discussing." It had been a passion-filled night, a beautiful night, and yet, he remembered it had felt rushed, felt like their time was short and all of the desire had to be worked out once and for all. As if they wouldn't get another chance.

Hideyoshi had no memory of removing Magoichi's body, with a trail of subdued troops walking forlornly behind him, to the castle just south of the battlefield, had no recollection of stumbling numbly up those many stairs and inside, of being led to the royal chambers, of laying Magoichi on the bed and covering him up with a white sheet. The color of death. He was told that he laid down beside the body, draped and arm over it, and then passed out cold.

Eventually Hideyoshi was able to block out nearly every memory up to that morning he had of Magoichi, up to the final wink they'd sent in each other's directions as the Akechi advanced, right before Magoichi had run off to begin the capture of Mount Tenno. The last memory he kept of them was of their very last handshake, just before the two of them had charged in to the main Akechi camp, side by side, weapons brandished, fighting back to back. He wouldn't even allow himself to remember the final blow dealt to Mitsuhide by Magoichi, because directly following that had been the ricocheting sound of that damnable lone shot, whose vendor he'd never been able to track down.

He wouldn't remember, because it wouldn't be the same if he did. Then he'd have to admit to himself that the man sitting to his right at every war council since, the man who accompanied him to breakfast, the man who rode with him into every fight, who lay beside him every night and walked with him through the courtyard on warm spring days was not really there. Every two-sided conversation was to be executed in secret, lest he be swiftly removed from power. Magoichi didn't agree, but he couldn't ignore the fact that they still had to play it safe. Magoichi was also much more verbal in war chambers those days then Hideyoshi recalled, but that might have just been from becoming such a decorated hero. Hideyoshi even let Magoichi have his chance at stealing Nene's heart away, but she never even seemed to notice his presence. There was still work to be done, though, and Hideyoshi found himself devoting all of his soul into unifying Japan, with far less "monkeying around."

However, there was a single side endeavor he claimed for himself, and worked towards the goal of such a mission for a long time coming.


Two years after the Battle of Yamazaki

Hideyoshi circled the table, pouring over exotic strategies in his mind as Nene bounced in the door. So concentrated was he that he barely noticed her or heard a word she said as she picked through her many different weapons, looking for something to play with. He filtered out her words, in fact, until a single sentenced caught his attention.

"Excuse me, but what did you say, Nene?" He looked up, his brow furrowed.

"I said that the nice young lady you took last year as one of your mistresses gave birth this morning, darling." The fact that she was speaking so cordially about one of Hideyoshi's concubines having his child was one of the things Hideyoshi could honestly say he loved about Nene. She was naïve and kind-hearted to a fault.

Before she could turn around, he had darted out of the room. She shook her head and clicked her tongue, her attention returning to the arms assortment before her.

"Wow. I wonder what's gotten into him?"

Hideyoshi had been waiting for this day patiently for nine months. This wasn't just any mistress- she was special. Though this child would not be recognized politically as his heir, being the unbound creation of a lowly servant and not Nene's flesh and blood, he could truly say that it would be his child nonetheless.

Hideyoshi worked his way though the castle to the room which he'd had prepared for this very occasion. The ladies-in-waiting outside the door looked shocked to see their lord actually coming for a visit to the mother of his child. It was unheard of, really, but let him pass without a word, knowing their place. It was Lord Toyotomi who had installed such a strict class system, after all. They couldn't fathom the reason for such a personal visitation, other than to slaughter the likely unwanted baby.

The woman in the bed looked smaller than ever, and the evidence of a hard life was written into her eyes, but she smiled through the sheen of sweat that still covered her face and made bits of her loose hair stick to her forehead in the same wild manner as someone else's he knew. The baby lay in her arms, looking about with big, wondrous eyes.

"Lord Hideyoshi…meet your new son." The woman said meekly, offering the child up to him. Gently he took the babe into his arms, more gentle with his new offspring then he had been with anything else in his entire life. He cradled the small infant to his chest, smiling warmly.

"Have you named him yet?"

"No, my lord. I thought you would want to, considering your arrangement for this."

Hideyoshi look over to his right, saw the lone figure beside him looking on with interest, and half-aware that no one else knew he was there. The figure grinned, reaching out to touch the tiny hand of the baby, and then offered Hideyoshi a thumbs up.

"His name is… Magoichi."

Beside him, Magoichi Saika laughed heartily.


End.

So, if all goes well, be on the lookout for a multi-chapter sequel! I don't know if any of you will like it, or even it, but it will have the new baby as an OC…and a few other new guests. Thanks for reading, you guys, and I hope you liked it!