Author's Note: (stares) Damn it! I have over fifty stories on this website. This may be my first for Mirage of Blaze, but do I really need to…fine.

Obviously, I do not own Mirage of Blaze. If I did, Naoe and Takaya/Kagetora would have been making passionate love after every exorcism :D. If you say you've never wanted to see that, you're a liar ;)

By the way, each and every one of you should read the novels if you haven't already. They're fantastic. Anyway, on with the story!

Shadows

By: Angel Wings-008

Chapter 1: False Light

Oh, but this was rich. Takaya Ougi would be the first to admit that. The setting, the circumstances…his current predicament might as well have been taken straight from one of those asinine drama shows that were featured on television all the time.

The night was dark, bleak, stormy, and dreary. It was right in the middle of summer, so the heat was sweltering and the humidity was horrible. That, in turn, made his lungs feel as if they were being set ablaze with a blowtorch, and it didn't help that the electricity was out, so he couldn't just flip the air conditioning on. Also (because the picture just wouldn't be complete without it) he had lit a candle and placed it on top of his desk a few feet away so he could see, but he was starting to seriously consider blowing it out. Fire in a room that felt like a furnace already. Great. Awesome idea, Takaya.

But that wasn't all. Of course it wasn't! He was the 'oh so drenched in despair' main character. He had to lay it on real thick.

Takaya groaned as he crushed yet another beer can and let it fall to the floor with the others. He was more than a little drunk, he knew. That was…what? Number four? Five? Six? Or something. He wasn't usually a black-out drunk, but who knew? At this rate, maybe he would wake up in the morning with a wounded wrist and no idea of what had happened. That might be nice. Or, better yet; maybe he wouldn't wake up.

Lightning flashed as he gazed upon the chaos of the thunder storm outside, and he thought in a rather detached manner that perhaps he should get up to close the window; a notion that was quickly discarded in light of the current past boiling temperatures. He lay on his stomach with his right arm hanging off the bed, a steady, drip, drip, drip echoing as something red slid down to hit the floor. An ever-growing pool of the stuff was sinking into the wooden floorboards, and a serrated-edge switch blade knife was clutched in his other hand, coated with a crimson substance he dared not name.

Ah, who the hell was he kidding? It was blood. Blood, blood, blood. Naoe would be furious with him when he saw. Takaya smirked at the thought.

Oh look, another over used plot point from said drama shows. Desperate cry for attention? Check.

Whatever. He gave up. Takaya was gonna do whatever he wanted tonight. This called for a little boozing it up, if he did say so himself, which ironically enough, made this situation reek of bad clichés and teenaged angst more than ever. He was trashed, and he was cutting himself. The thought almost sent him into fits of giggles. Cliché or not, this self-harm thing gave him everything he'd been wishing for.

…and yet at the same time, it was nothing he could ever want. It was the most sensible thing he had done, and yet so senseless, the ghosts of his past would weep in light of such idiocy.

Or, perhaps they would laugh at him. Either one was safe enough to assume.

You're the one who ruins me…

A flash of tormented bitterness. The breath rushing out of him as he was shoved against a wall. Those eyes were watching him…watching him, and burning with desire. In those moments he hadn't been sure if the man were about to kiss him, or kill him with his passion.

Takaya wanted both. And, while one of them was something he had screwed up beyond repair…the other was easy enough to fix.

It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. Why did it still hurt? Damn it, it wasn't enough. Not yet. Why not? Why the hell not?

Who cares? He'd just have to fix that then, wouldn't he?

The knife caressed his skin once more as he dragged it vertically along the length of his forearm, beautiful streaks of red running in rivulets down his skin, and he sighed as sweet serenity washed over him. Dazedly, he flipped over onto his back and admired his handiwork in action. Perfect…he'd hit just the right vein that time.

Somewhere far off he sat near a river very different than the one he gazed upon now, the melodic sound of a flute ringing into the crisp night air. He was smiling down at his brother, lifting his face to the breeze, and the leaves rustled in the trees as Ujiteru played him his favorite song.

It was fading now. Fading…fading, along with the pounding in his eardrums and the dreadful ache in his heart.

You've done it now. You've really done it this time, you stupid son-of-a-bitch.

But still, he couldn't quite remember why, and it felt so good.

The blade shimmered back and forth in his hand as he twirled it this way and that, crimson-tinged silver catching the dim candle light. If he held it just so, it would cast brief reflections upon the shadowy walls, almost as if by will alone, and wasn't that strange? What were the odds that such a small sliver of metal would manage to cast any sort of light at all?

As he pondered this, he raised his arm straight up into the air, smiling when his vision blurred ever-so-slightly more by the second, almost crying with relief as his mind became foggier still. Just a little bit more and he wouldn't be able to think at all. Just a little bit more, and he could forget; then, how perpetually dark and depressed he was being lately would no longer matter.

Still the blood trickled steadily downward from his wrist, reaching as far as the crevice where his forearm ended before it dripped off his elbow. Some wayward droplets did manage to make it as far as his bicep, drifting along until they were absorbed by the cotton of his shirt and faded away. He'd really made tracks this time, he thought with a tear-filled chuckle. His bed sheets were soaked along with the floor; his sleeve, stained red.

I can't stand the pain, but it feels so good…I'm just chalk-full of contradictions, aren't I?

Even the blade sought to mock him. It too was laughing at him, was it not? What had he seen before that gave him pause, he wondered? What was it again? Reflections. Lights. Reflections and lights. Yes, that was it.

Hmph. Those tiny flashes of luminescence would offer him no reprieve, and that fucking blade knew it. They were not a reprieve, oh no. They were just plain cruel.

Darkness that never ended, wounds that never healed, eyes that would never see, and countless souls damned until eternity. There was nothing to be found in this world but that. Hard to believe perhaps, but it was the truth…their horrifying truth. It was stupid to imagine otherwise, and futile to be fooled by anything that might happen to convince him thus. Hope itself was hopeless; the mere illusion of reflected light. It was there for but an instant before being stolen away from all of whom it might touch, hidden in the shadows that encompassed everything.

A tiny, sardonic smirk graced his lips. Who was this talking? Was it Takaya Ougi, or Kagetora Uesugi? Not that it truly mattered that much. Takaya's life had been as plagued by strife as the warlord's had, despite the comparably huge difference in time, so if you thought about it, it was all relative.

That was right. What the hell did it matter, anyway? He always managed to screw things up, no matter what the fuck his name happened to be at the time. It was all his fault. Everything. He should never have lost sight of the true ways of the world as he'd always known them to be. He was the one who had erred in his judgment and forgotten, if only for a little while.

Just because someone was being nice to you for a time, doesn't mean they can't revoke that kindness whenever they want. How could you have lost sight of that? Were those incidents Naoe's fault, or were they yours?

It didn't matter anyway. Wouldn't happen again. He would see to that.

With a strangled cry, he turned over on the bed and hugged his knees to his chest. Or was it Kagetora's chest? Perhaps it could even belong to Saburou, for all of his current confusion. All he knew was that he didn't want to be any of them. None of the three had offered him much luck as of yet, had they?

Takaya squeezed his eyes shut as the memories overtook him, and he moaned as he prepared himself for the onslaught that waited in the distance. Shit. He wished he'd never remembered this…he wished these memories had been cast into damnation and beyond.

They were sneering at him in the pale-red glow of the moon, forcing him onto his back, onto the floor of the sandy beach. He'd loved that beach…that was why they had caught him unawares as he sat upon its shores…his legs were open now, and they were laughing. Laughing. Laughing. He screamed, and he screamed…he cried out for his brothers, he struggled, and he kicked, and he spit in their faces. But still, they got what they wanted, and no one came for him. No one heard him.

"…If you want someone to blame, blame your older brother…"

"…Be sure it doesn't get too tight…"

"….It looks like you're bad luck for the Houjou clan…"

No. Stop…No! That never happened to him. He'd never had seven brothers, or a father who'd traded him away. He'd never been a Houjou, an Uesugi….or anything! His name was Takaya Ougi! Nothing else! No one else!

Wasn't that so? Wasn't it?!

A tiger's piercing emerald gaze narrowed as it came upon him. Not anymore. Stop running. Are you a coward now, too? Wretch.

In a frenzy, light-headed and dizzy though he was, Takaya stumbled off the bed and slammed his fist into the wall. Still he clutched that crimson-tinged blade; clutched it like a lifeline to his chest. Miya was staying with a friend, so he didn't have to worry about being discovered for awhile. What would Naoe think though, if he were to find him lying here instead, dead in a pool of his own blood? Would it make him scream in anguish? Would it force him to cry out his name?

Call my name, Naoe. Tell me what it is. Help me find it! Help me, please…

Kagetora scoffed at these desperate, broken cries.

Takaya clung to them for all that he was worth.

Sobs wracked his frame as he sank down to the floor, half out of weakness, half of despair. Again he raised the knife in a furious rage, and mercilessly, he made another slash. Another, and another, and another. Vertical, horizontal, zigzag…he didn't give a fuck; he just wanted it to end. All of it. Everything! White-hot agony enveloped him as he worked, and he gave a tearful grin when he finally dropped the blade onto the floor, gasping from the exertion and all of that delicious pain.

…Idiot. He hadn't done this in years. He'd thought he was past it. He'd prided himself in that; he remembered well. The day his scars had faded to faint white lines had been a proud one for him, indeed. Takaya Ougi was no longer a prisoner of his blade, and he never would be again.

Or so he'd thought.

Just look at you now. Stupid. Stupid jackass.

Red…there was so much of it now. It flowed from his wounds and leaked from his hand down onto the legs of his jeans, ran in a steady trickle upon the floor yet again, and still he had the ability to be shocked that after all the blood he'd lost, there was enough in his body to keep him alive.

He did collapse then. Where he was crouching before, he was lying in a heap on the cold, wooden floor. He wasn't sure exactly when that happened; everything was all blurry, and spinning. His legs were weak, his stomach was sick, and he couldn't see anything through the haze of delirium, and the tears. His hair was matted and caked to the back of his head. It was freezing down here. That didn't make any sense. It was a hot summer day, but…the sheen of sweat coating his skin no longer seemed so suffocating and hot. Instead it felt cold, clammy…lifeless. Why?

Turning onto his side, he curled up in a ball, face screwed into a grimace as he trembled where he lay. There was no way he could move anymore. His strength was gone from him. Just be over. Please be over already. Just let him die, netherworld army be damned. They could find another sucker to lead them. He felt sorry for the poor bastard already.

Takaya was gasping for air now, lungs burning with the strain, and he knew that if this kept up for too long, he just might have his wish at last. …was that his wish? Did he truly want to die? He hadn't thought so before, but now he knew that it would be a welcome refuge. He was tired of being everyone's favorite pawn. He was tired of the confusion, and the fear. Most of all, he was tired of waging an endless war against a stranger named Kagetora.

"Kagetora-sama!"

The irony of hearing it at that moment almost sent Takaya into hysterics.

Hmm…what to do? Sometimes he was Kagetora. Should he respond to a name that was only half his?

The pounding of footsteps as the sound of a door breaking open reached his ears, and suddenly, there was someone running through the apartment, down the hallway that led straight to his room.

"Kagetora!"

Takaya giggled…or was that what it was, at all? It was something caught between a laugh and a whimper. He didn't really wanna think too closely about which it was, but in his heart, he knew anyway.

The door to his bedroom burst open, and though his back was to it and he couldn't see, he knew well who was standing in the doorway. For a split second there was dead silence, as if the world had frozen in awestruck horror at the scenes playing out before it. It wasn't to last.

It was over before either one of them knew what was happening, and those footsteps echoed off the walls once again. Without further adieu, his intruder skidded around the bed…and gasped as he came to a stop before Takaya. The boy could see his black slacks, dress-shoes shined to perfection; smell that familiar scent that was so uniquely his, and his lips twitched with an amused sort of dread. Maybe this hadn't been such a bad idea. It brought Naoe to him.

"Takaya-san…Takaya, what have you done?" The voice that spoke was so stricken with grief, it snapped him out of his haze for a moment, and he trained his eyes on Naoe's face as the older man took him into his arms. Naoe's eyes were wide with shock, a reddish-brown shade in this life, he noted absently. This man's eyes had been all manner of colors throughout their time together. Takaya remembered each and every one. He may not have had all of his memories, but he knew that for certain. He'd known it from the moment he'd crossed paths with him, even when he'd thought he was a total stranger. How could he forget?

Neither of them could ever forget.

Frantically, Naoe kept a one armed grip on him as he stripped off his jacket and held it tightly to the wounds, desperately attempting to stem the flow of blood that streamed from his wrist. "What did you do? Why did you…" his voice broke and abruptly trailed off as tears trickled steadily down his cheeks, and suddenly, Takaya was stricken with fear. What was he doing? What was he thinking?

But then that little flash of sanity was banished once more, and he turned a tremulous grin up to his loyal retainer. The man that he…loved. There was no point denying it to himself now. He also didn't know if this was Kagetora or Takaya talking, as per usual, but he didn't give a damn. All he knew for sure was that he loved him more than anything, and even if the one that Naoe loved in return was Kagetora and Kagetora alone, he could live with that. He could live with it, as long as Naoe would hold him like this. As long as he could stay wrapped up in those wings a moment longer.

It was pathetic, and weak, and everything he'd told himself he couldn't have, but Takaya didn't care. Trying to be strong didn't seem to matter now.

Suddenly, he caught sight of a scratch on Naoe's face just below his brow…he knew not where it came from, only that it looked fresh. Without delay, Takaya raised a bloodied hand to touch the man's pale cheek, where crimson drops continued to emerge and oozed like tears. In delirium, he smiled. "Naoe, look. It's red like mine."

This seemed to startle his vassal to the core. A strangled whimper escaped from his lips, and his face crumpled as he clutched him in despair.

"We're a pair…we match now, don't we? Naoe?"

Sobs seemed to shake him to the core as he placed his hand over Takaya's, holding it gently where it still rested upon his bare flesh. "We've always been a pair…there is only you for me. Only you, Kagetora. Stay with me! Don't close your eyes! I'm not losing you. Not now, not ever. You're mine, do you hear me?! Forever mine! I told you that! There is no escape for us."

If he wanted Kagetora, all he had to do was run out into the street and find someone for him to possess, right? What did he care? This was just a body. A vessel. Let me die. Perhaps his memories as Takaya would fade along with the vessel, and he would just be that self-righteous bastard again. Would that make Naoe happy? Would it?

As if he had read his mind, Naoe locked gazes with him, and even in his current state, Takaya was shocked by the sincerity reflected in those eyes of reddish-brown. "I'm not losing either of you, Takaya. Don't you dare leave me. I may be a dog, but I have the power to pull on my leash whenever I see fit."

Out of nowhere he had the strange sensation that he was floating through the air…Naoe was standing, clutching him to his chest, and Takaya squeezed his eyes shut, resting his head on his shoulder. Everything felt heavy now. He couldn't so much as blink, he felt so completely drained of energy. "Where…?" he heard himself murmur, although he felt as if the words came from a distance.

"I'm taking you to the hospital. Stay with me. Stay with me, damn you! Don't you dare do that. You're giving up, taking the easy way out. I won't let you!" Naoe was running now. They seemed to be going down a flight of stairs. The rain crashed down around them from the midnight-black sky. For a moment, he wondered at the fact that they weren't getting wet, but the thought quickly slipped through his fingers like a leaking sieve.

"There's no point. Let me go…please, just let me go." A weak murmur that Takaya barely recognized as his own voice, uttered from lips that were probably sickly white and paper-thin.

They were getting into a car now. Nee-san was there behind the wheel. Takaya could hear her gasp in shock, before Naoe screamed at her to get a move on. He was drifting…drifting. Pleasantly numb. Could hardly remember his own name, and that was a beautiful thing.

Finally. Peace. Takaya sighed as a pair of hands cupped his face; his head lulled back and his eyes flickered open. The older man was looking down at him, looking only at him with such reverence, he would have started crying again if he'd had the strength.

Naoe leaned forward to capture Takaya's mouth within his own, and he thought that he surely must have perished already, to have such a nice dream. A dream. That was the only logical explanation, because right now, Naoe's lips were soft and sweet against his, and nothing else in the world existed anymore. No lust, no pain, no fear, no shame, and the best part? None of the borderline hatred they so often held for each other. There was only warmth and tenderness, kindness and serenity. In those moments he felt loved, cherished...worshiped, even. Maybe hope wasn't so hopeless. Maybe those tiny reflections of light hadn't been such an illusion after all. But then, it was over all too soon, and the older man was gazing into his face once again.

"I love you," Naoe choked, voice so desperate and forlorn, he seemed to be drowning in helplessness.

Takaya chuckled in response; lips twitching up into something that could have resembled a smile. "I know. You'll always love…Kage…tora..."

Naoe was screaming his name, but it didn't matter anymore. He didn't even care about which one the man chose to use. Takaya couldn't hear him. The darkness was carrying him away.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

There we have it! I had mixed feelings initially about doing this, because I myself have never indulged in self-harm. I did however, get detailed accounts from friends who have, and I believe I've portrayed this accurately. Of course, I've been stuck in deep depressions before as well, so that helps. Once in my life I was at a point where I seriously considered doing something like this, so I know where Takaya is coming from. As much as I can, anyway. I certainly didn't just find out that I'm actually an ancient samurai warlord, obviously. Poor thing…

Is it bad that I seriously thought about cutting my wrist when I started writing this, so I would know what it felt like for myself? *sweatdrop* What can I say? I'm dedicated to my writing almost to the point of foolishness xD. Anyway, please don't hesitate to point out any mistakes, and I hope you enjoyed this! Or something. Though if I met my goal, you're actually pretty depressed right now.

I do plan to write a second chapter and make this a two-shot: the next one will be Naoe's account of what happened, and the aftermath, whatever that might be. Not that I'm telling you what it is ;)

Thanks for reading, and reviews are lovely if you've got the time :)