it's late and he has an early campaign the next morning, expanding the territory just a little further. he should have slept hours ago but he's up late, first finishing up tadakatsu's repairs and then going over the battlefield plans just one more time. he wants peace, unity, and as little bloodshed as possible, so why shouldn't he be prepared?

it's late, and while ichi is always with people, always under the watchful eye of some guard or some woman who helps her bathe, brushes her hair, dresses her in pretty, pretty clothing, she feels so lonely. so lonely. she sits in her room, staring at the shadows on the wall, the shapes and colors they make, so pretty and wonderful and one looks like the man who owns the castle she's in now. it makes her miss him. ichi stands.

he's dozed off. the paper is sticky under his cheek, the ink running with the drool from his mouth. embarrassed, he pulls it off and is wiping his face off when he remember what woke him up. a unnatural silence, a heavy darkness that hangs in the air behind him. he turns.

"oichi-dono!" she's awake, if you could ever call her awake, sitting down on the floor behind him. he doesn't ask how she made it past his guards; he knows she has an uncanny ability for going places she shouldn't otherwise. "what are you doing awake? you should sleep." he's only just allowed her to follow him onto the battlefields, and it's better if she's reasonably rested.

mr. happy is a warm ray of light. and like a ray of light, he shines through the darkness, illuminating one's path. ichi can't remember how she got to his room, the middle of the castle. so many people around, people she had to be gentle to and was gentle to for his sake, but nothing could get between her and the ray of light. his warmth...

it makes her cry, her entire body shaking with quiet sobs as she covers her face in one hand. he's close enough that his warmth draws her to him, and she clutches the sleeve of his yukata.

he never knows what to do when she cries like this, as though there's something deep inside of her that hurts and she can't remember enough to remove it. he's gotten a little better at handling her, one hand gently - hesitantly - holding her shoulder while he allows her to cry on him. she feels better after she cries a little.

she feels better after she cries a little, gets all her tears and pain out. the darkness grows stronger around her, thicker and heavier, and ichi can feel herself becoming confused. the cool darkness and the warm light of the man in front of her, both call to her and beckon to her and she's so confused.

so confused.

he's spent enough time with her to recognize the warning symbols. that pulsating darkness, the white noise that builds in his ears all the way to his eyes, the way she suddenly sways alarmingly. "oichi-dono! please, wake up!"

it's the sound of his voice that seems to do it, and he can feel the tension snap and vanish. the woman goes slack, like a puppet with cut strings, and her face presses into the fabric of his yukata and into his chest as she pitches forward. oh.

... oh.

it's warm, so warm, and ichi feels floaty like she's on a cloud or in the fog. she giggles quietly to herself... before she opens her eyes and looks into the pink-tinged face of mr. happy, floating above her face like the sun. "you look sick," she says, concerned. she doesn't like it when he's not smiling. "do you have a fever?" her hand reaches up, not to touch the sun but to touch his face, sliding along the edges of his jaw and his cheek. he feels warm and soft, just like she imagines the sun would be like, but less hurty.

there's nothing to do but hold her, strong arms supporting her body from both her knees and her back, letting the woman catch her bearings. he can't abandon her, not like this and not even when she touches him, though to his own embarrassment he jumps at the contact. it's been so long since he felt intimate human touch, gentleness against his face, that he can only give her a weak smile of reassurance, trying to quell the emotions within him. "i was worried for you. please... try to get some rest."

"if you are sick, then you should rest as well, mr. happy. you should rest with ichi." there's something inside of her that stirs, something that remembers this, a faint memory of touch and warmth and happiness. even the look on mr. happy's face, as her fingers glide over his lips, is familiar. "we will sleep together." in truth, even she has been worried about him. how could she not?

"s-sleep together?" it's been many years since he went through puberty, but he can hear his voice crack in this moment "surely, oichi-dono, you don't mean..." but he trails off as her hand, those deceptively gentle fingers, slide from his jaw to his throat. it's like she's squeezed his voice out of him, and he swallows hard when he feels her fingers close firmly against his pulse for just a fraction of a second, a heartbeat.

she doesn't know what she's doing, touching mr. happy like this. it's the memories of what once were, memories that ichi has forgotten she ever had, that tell her what to do. that he was lonely just as she was, obvious in the way he held her and in the growing heat between them. it makes her press further against him, eyes slipping shut as her fingers seek out the heat of the man's skin, hidden underneath annoying, hateful layers of clothing.

his voice had left him for only a moment... but in that moment he found himself completely disarmed. what would his men say, if they knew of the opening he had left? he can't push her back now, not when she's making a keening, needy noise against his skin, lips burning red hot as though branding him with her mark. he finds himself on his back, looking up at the woman in the near darkness, her hair draping around them as though a curtain, all the privacy they would ever need. he knows faintly that she's not as innocent as she appears and yet...

he brings his hands up to touch her hesitantly, reaching past the half-open yukata. his fingers are rough, knuckles scarred and bruised and for once not bloody, and they feel wrong, so wrong against her delicate skin.

ichi knows - she doesn't know how but she just knows - that she's no stranger to this. to intimacy between one man and one whatever-she-is, in the darkness. her fingers are too experienced, sliding over the man's sun-kissed skin with quiet, unsure expertise. mr. happy should be happy, after all. he shouldn't be lonely, and ichi doesn't like being lonely either.

its his touch that makes her gasp, a moment of lucidity, light piercing the darkness straight to its core. it's almost painful in a way, the callouses on his fingertips catching at the sensitive skin of her curves, the touch reminding her that she's alive and that maybe, just maybe, she's human.

he's all too aware of his youth now, painfully aware and a little embarrassed despite all his rank, and all the discipline in the world can't prevent him from pressing desperately into her touch. his impatience is all too clear, pulling the woman's silky kimono from her skin as he explores, eager to learn that which no one has taught him before. he knows enough to be gentle, not to treat her like he'd treat even the most ill of his men, and when she makes the softest little cry that goes straight through his heart...

he touches her again.

mr. happy is happy now, isn't he? ichi smiles down at him, eyes heavy-lidded and dark, usual for her though there's some light - his light - shining in them. she's happy when he's happy, and if this makes him happy then she can be happy too. she giggles then as her fingers continue to seek the warm of his skin, and though she's trying to be a good girl, her nails are too sharp and too long from disuse, scoring red marks across his skin. that's bad, isn't it? bleeding is bad, and yet he doesn't seem to mind because he's mr. happy.

he doesn't mind because he knows she doesn't mean to, and after all... he's felt plenty worse. he hardly even registers the pain, though he thinks ruefully to himself that his retainers will be perplexed to see the bloodstains in the morning. the bloodstains... as his fingers seek her out, rough digits finally pressing into what he's only heard of, he can't help but be concerned. her comfort is always first and foremost on his mind when he's with her and even like this - he only continues when she tells him to, a hushed whisper against his ear as she all but collapses on top of him, breasts pressed against his bloody chest.

it doesn't hurt but it hurts, and the pain is nothing new to her. she's felt pain from the day she was born, building inside her chest and bursting outside of her in needles and in pins until she sometimes feels she can't breath through it all. this time it's just in a different place, that's all, a place ichi sometimes forgets she even has. the pain is almost good-feeling now, and as her hands continue to touch him - fingers much more gentle now because even she knows, even like this she knows to be good - she whispers into his ear. wordless things, memories long forgotten.

his youth again rears its head and though ieyasu can be patient when it comes to politics and to war, this is not a battlefield. his impatience, he knows, will one day be his undoing, but for now his calloused hands slide into the back of her dark robe to pull her against him.

it's here that he hesitates now, fingers flexing instinctively into the woman's soft skin. this wasn't what he took her in for. he knew he'd always - in the future - need a wife, but oichi-dono was still the wife of another, was she not? regretfully, he began to let her go. he wasn't this desperate, this disrespectful.

if she could cry anymore, she would. no. no no no. this wasn't what she wanted. there was an emptiness inside of that she'd never noticed until now, and his hesitance, the sudden distance between them even with their skin so close strikes right through her heart. with a small whimper, she takes what she wants - what she needs. disarming the man with a bite to his ear, a sharp bite that draws blood and leaves the taste of iron on her lips, she presses herself against and then onto him, and it hurts from the suddenness, but feels good. she smiles, blood red.

the bite does disarm him, leave him gasping out the woman's name in confusion and hurt, because oichi-dono has never attacked him so. but before he can do more than touch his ear, mouth opening to ask what's wrong, he feels her around him and again, feels regret. of course, he should have known. he should have known that she was lonely, and that maybe she needed the intimacy as much as he wanted it.

his arms tighten around her, fingers tangling in the woman's long hair and he lets her do what she wants. he's always let her do what she wants.

the darkness is in the back of her mind for once, replaced with a white warm haze that seems to spread throughout her entire body. oh, oh she's missed this, even though her mind doesn't remember it, and though the man beneath - inside - her is of a different sort than the man her body remembers, theres a familiarity that aches. she closes her eyes and does what her body tells her, a steady soothing motion, breath filling the air and mixing with the noise both she and the man are making into the quietness.

she's no longer in control of her body, as usual, as is always these days, but it's instinct and not death that moves her now.

he's thankful that she's quiet - that they're both quiet - and he keeps her close in his arms as he moves with her, an instinctual dance that he's yet to learn the steps to. he only hopes that he doesn't stumble, doesn't trip and end the dance too soon. experience is always the best teacher, and oichi-dono's quiet sighs against his ear tell him far more than words she might voice could.

despite himself, he's proud, and he lets himself go just this once, letting all pain and sadness and loneliness drift off into the air. there's no room for it between them.

over and over. over and over. the motions of the two people are ages old, in time with their frantic breathing and the noises they can't help but make. it's not as quick as a heartbeat, not as quick as the heartbeat she feels her in veins, a feeling that surprises her. she'd forgotten, forgotten about that as well, and were it not for the man holding her closely she would want to see it for herself.

she's forgetting now again, losing herself in the light instead of the darkness this time, knowing nothing but the pulse between them and the warmth. her voice is gone now, too breathless to do more than mouth a name she doesn't even know.

it seems to last a lifetime, the heat between them and the breaths they share, and yet all too soon it's finished. he's swallowed by the sun, as though set aflame though fire was never his forte, and he has to bite his own knuckle to keep from making any noise that might make any of his retainers rush in.

his cheeks burn with embarrassment as he comes back to himself, aware of the sweat cooling on his skin and the woman who's gone still above him. he's made so many mistakes lately, messed so much up. had this been yet another mistake? had he... had he done it wrong?

she fights to regain her sense of self - what little there is - head bowed against the man's neck. the sensation inside her is... unpleasant and yet warm, and she's hesitant to draw away from him, instead tucking herself as close to the man as possible. the sense of need and longing and emptiness is gone, replaced with a more foreign, pleasant one. ichi thinks that she might like it.

"mr. happy," she says, licking the last of the blood off her lips. he tastes delicious, like she thought he would. "stay with ichi." forever?

he laughs quietly, despite himself, letting the woman stay at his side, though propriety screams at him (sounding oddly like tadakatsu). it's warm enough in the summer night, and their cooling skin is still hot enough that he doesn't want for blanket. he's happier, more satisfied, than he can remember being in a long time and even as he looks guiltily toward his reports, he shifts the two of them onto their sides. "only until sunrise," he tells her, smoothing away damp and slightly-tangled hair from her oddly clear eyes. "but then you must go back to your room."

the darkness is threatening to overtake her again, but this time it's off a different sort. it's warm and fuzzy, comforting and satisfying. for mr. happy, she would do anything, and she smiles at him, a movement that hurts almost as much as when he'd entered her. "ichi will be a good girl." as long as he lets her stay. as long as he banishes the loneliness from her heart. she fits well against him, head tucked under his chin, arms pressing against his chest, drying blood sticky against her skin.

he watches her for long moments, wondering if the woman will even sleep. she seems peaceful enough, more peaceful than he's ever seen her, even before all the war. and as he watches her, she goes still and quiet, a heart-achingly beautiful smile on her lips, long lashes still against her cheeks. he knows it won't be long until she begins to cry, as she always cries, and though he leaves the barest hint of a kiss against her cheek as he settles down for his own nap, he pledges to never take advantage of her shattered heart again.

a butterfly brushes its wings against her cheek, and ichi smiles.

her eyes will hurt when she awakes, her body will ache with neglected muscles sore from sudden use, and she'll be forcibly separated from her ray of light again, gently escorted from his room by surprised and embarrassed retainers. the emptiness will begin anew, an ache in her heart and in her belly.

but in her dreams she smiles, for now everyone is happy.