I was sick, bored, having writer's block for WtPH...so this spewed out. Tasuki and Kouji are the cutest little things, ain't they? ;_; If I get inspired to write a Part Two, it'll have lots of snugglage. C&C, as always!

Waiting For Gen-chan

Part One: Fireside

The night was appropriately dark and cold, fitting in with how dark and cold the nights had been for months, now. The blue-black sky was stretched like velvet over the tops of the trees, rolling over the horizon, meeting, somewhere miles and miles in the distance, the very end of the seemingly endless road.

The lone traveller was weary through and through, and the usual campfire by the side of the road held little comfort or warmth. There was a slump to his shoulders and a hang-dog line to his body that spoke of a weariness beyond his years; too many weeks on the road and he'd almost forgotten where it had begun, knew already that if he kept on this course, he'd never know where it ended. Roads like this one tended to roll on forever, for as long as a traveller chose to continue his wandering. The problem was, it was just long enough for him to forget enough to get lonely, and not long enough for him to forget everything.

Sure, he supposed, he was running away. He'd known that all along, so he couldn't even pretend to be lying to himself. And the road -- it led exactly where he wanted it to. Far away. Far away from his past and far, far into his future, which wasn't so much of a future anymore as just a dot on the horizon; travelling towards it was merely a way to pass his time.

A soft snort from the horse tethered beside him ruffled against the back of his neck, puffing flame-red hair against his cheek. He lifted a hand, scratching idly at his skin as he stared mournfully into the flames before him.

//It was over dinner the last night before Genrou left that he asked the question - or, rather, stated the obvious that had lingered uncomfortable between them.

"Yer leavin', ain't ya."

"Guess I am. Guess I...gotta."

"Y'jus' came back an' yer leavin' again. Hn. Shoulda known y'would."

"Kouji..." There was silence between them for a few moments, Genrou shifting miserably, rubbing nervously at the back of his neck. It had never been like this, before. But now, there was some part of himself, some part of Genrou that wasn't Genrou anymore, struggling to take power. If he could sense it happening, then it wasn't a surprise Kouji could, too.. That part of him had always been there, power concentrated in the mark of the seishi on his forearm, but was just now trying to break free.

"What? Y'got anythin' left t'say t'me?" Hurt in his friends voice, anger over that agonizing hurt. Genrou turned his face away, shoulders slumping, hands dropping to his sides. "Go on an' say it! Y'ain't gonna get another chance anyway, yer leavin' t'morrow--"

"I'm comin' back," Genrou murmured.

"Yeah. Sure."

"I am!"

"An' what if somethin' happens t'ya? What if y'can't come back? Don' make any promises y'can't keep--"

"I'm keepin' this one."

"Y'can't be so damn sure about that, idiot! 'S a damn big world out there, d'ya know that?!"

"I'm tellin' ya, I'm comin' back!" It was hard. It was hard for both of them. Genrou felt acutely aware that it was hard for Kouji, as well as it was hard for him, and felt all the more guilty over his own pain at leaving, his own fear of putting his life so far behind him without looking back.

"...yeah." Kouji stood away from the table, kicking his chair aside. His motions were controlled, his muscles and his body stiff. There was all the more anger behind his actions for that.

"I promise."


Genrou stood, a good deal more carefully than Kouji had, trotting across the distance between them to stand behind his friend. All he could see was the back of Kouji's neck, sloping down slightly in defeat.

"Don' spend 'nymore time here, then," Kouji muttered under his breath, scowling at the wall darkly. "Get th'hell out." With a wince, Genrou lifted a hesitant hand, resting it on Kouji's shoulder for a moment. Beneath the touch, the other bandit tensed, then relaxed, eyes flickering down to look at those fingers wonderingly.

"I'll be back," Genrou promised."//

Genrou warmed his freezing fingers over the fire, scowling darkly to himself. He would be back. He would -- he had promised.

He just didn't know when.

There were too many things keeping him on the road, too many memories, too many demons. Maybe Kouji would understand and maybe he wouldn't. Kouji hadn't known Tasuki and hadn't known the people Tasuki had known. He couldn't heal the wounds Tasuki had; even Genrou couldn't heal the wounds Tasuki had. Tasuki had lost too much. Tasuki had felt too much.

And now that the Miko was gone -- gone for good, this time, taking Tamahome along with her -- Tasuki was shoved, deep down in Genrou's skin, the lingering sadness from him flowing through Genrou's own blood.

There was no way to let that part of himself go. Yet. No way -- yet.

Someday, maybe, but for tonight, for tomorrow, for the next week, the next month: he would remain on the road, where he could pretend to forget and pretend that the sky open to him signified freedom.

//"He's dead."

"I know, they jus' told th'rest of th'men--"

"He had a kid! Did y'know that? A god-damn kid, a fuckin' kid who ain' gonna know what a great guy his dad was!"

"Genrou--" Tasuki whirled on his friend, eyes bright, flashing angrily. He paused, something coiling in his muscles, writhing agonizingly in his blood. Two beings, fighting for dominance.

"That ain't me! I ain'...that...!" Kouji pulled back, sea-blue eyes widening in pain and surprise.

"...yer right. Y'ain't Genrou." His lips curved up into a bitter smile, bangs falling over his forehead and hiding those shocked, miserable eyes. Tasuki winced, arms wrapping around himself, his own golden eyes bright with grief and tears. He had always cried easily. Genrou had always cried easily, and Tasuki had always been the same; there were some things, some fundamental things, that were the same between the two of them, but Tasuki and Genrou were two completely different people.

"No," Tasuki murmured.

"No," Kouji echoed. "An' if y'die here, Tasuki, then Genrou dies here, too -- y'ain' gonna cause him t'break his promise t'me! I won' let ya. Yer comin' back. Yer comin' back because Genrou promised me y'would..." Their eyes met and Kouji's crinkled a little in the corners, like a man trying not to cry or trying not to smile, or maybe a little bit of both. "Y'got that? I'm goin' back out there an' mebbe we won' see each other again b'fore y'go off an' take him with ya, but before...before I do...I want him t'know somethin' from me. Will ya make sure he gets this message...Tasuki?" Tasuki pulled back, recoiling from the tone in Kouji's voice. It was scarring, cutting like a knife. "Tell 'im I love 'im. An' I'll be waitin' f'r 'im, when he finally comes back."//

He curled himself up by the glowing embers of his dying fire, golden eyes trapping the last blush from the ashes, seeming almost to burn, themselves. It made sense. He controlled such fire, inside him, and his eyes were only the merest glimpse of those flames.

Both he and Kouji were right, that night.

He wasn't Genrou.

It was better to dwell on these thoughts, easier that way to ignore those last words from his best friend, before he'd left. That was something he'd leave for later. They weren't words meant for Tasuki.

And Tasuki himself wasn't sure how he could be Genrou again. He was something in between, a mix of the seishi and the man he had been. Miaka was gone, so shouldn't Tasuki be gone with her, too?

Only Tasuki had been a man, as well, not just a servant, not just a shell taken to protect the miko. He'd loved, and he'd lost; he'd been loved, too, by the seven others he'd met. He'd made memories with those new friends, those who had grown close to him, and then, he'd lost some of the most amazing people he'd ever met, so soon after meeting them. The point was, you couldn't just shove a person you'd been aside. You couldn't just forget, couldn't just go back to being who you were before because it was easier.

No one asked your name, on the road. Tasuki wouldn't have to pause, wondering what he said, whether he should say Tasuki as he'd grown so accustomed to, or Genrou, as he should be going back to. On the road, you had endless days and endless nights to think, and you could put off wondering about the people you'd left behind for as long as you could put one foot in front of the other.

On the road, you had endless days and endless nights to think, alone.

Curling up tight, the redhead squeezed his eyes shut, and prayed for sleep to come and banish the cold he felt up into his fingertips.