27 July 2011 @ 12:34 pm
[hakuouki] beyond the gates
AN: This, I uh ... meant it to be lighter but I've been re-reading Written on the Body and in it there is leukemia and heartbreak.  Parallels, I am drawing them, appropriate or not, because I am a sucker for both tragedy and the relationship Kondo and Okita have in the animu.  Second person.  For the drabble meme fill: Okita/Kondou, convalesce.


Summary: This hole in my heart is in the shape of you, and no one else can fit it.  Two scenes from Osaka castle; Okita, Kondou, approaching the unknown end.


beyond the gates
(their bodies are weathered but their souls are transparent.)


The snow is a whisper as it settles across the winter garden, spangling stone and pine and the very edges of the polished wooden walkway where you sit in seiza, your brush heavy with ink, poised above a pristine sheet of rice paper.  It's been a week since your loyal men brought you -- delirious and half-conscious with pain as you were -- to Osaka, under the professional care of Matsumoto-sensei.

Away from the Shinsengumi, that promising home that you and Toshi have raised ... you think there should be more loneliness, somehow.  (Perhaps you would feel it, were you alone in this convalescence.  Does this say something about you as a commander, as a comrade?  You wish you knew.)

It's easier to sit, today, though the cold makes the tender flesh of your shoulder ache.  You are samurai, now; real samurai, lifted beyond the once-life of a peasant pretender, and you refuse to give in to the pain.  The men you admire most did more with less.  Was it not said that Date Masamune, the legendary dokuganryuu, plucked out his own eye rather than let it become a burden?

You dip your brush, each stroke a ritual, and admire the starkness of black ink on white paper.  One word, to separate yourself from your enemies, foreign and native alike. 

One word, to encompass the life you've built with your own hands.

Makoto.

A violent cough shatters the stillness of this winter morning; you cannot help the surge of guilt that attacks you like a feral thing, burying itself in your unwounded heart.  You've left the shoji open, just a little, greedy in your desire (need) to look upon him at will.  To make certain he is still breathing and fighting and living.

Osaka castle is a fortress.  You should feel safe here.  How do you protect anyone from a danger burrowed deep inside a body?  Bullets may leave scars, but there is blood on his sleeve each morning, and in sleep his breath is heavy and thick. 

Souji's body is the traitor that ignores your strict code, mocking you with every brutal gasp, every splash and streak of crimson at the edge of bloodless lips.  And yet he still insists on being the loyal wolf at your side, screaming defiance with every snap of his fragile jaws, testing his blades when he has the strength to rise at all.

Some days, you think your heart might burst from pride and love.

You wonder, not for the first time, if your selfishness will ever stop being the thing that hurts him most.

You wonder if either of you have long enough to find out.

Snow finds a place on your desk, eating away at the edges of your clean dark strokes.



(myself in your skin, myself lodged in your bones,
myself floating in the cavities that decorate every surgeon's wall.)


Souji's green eyes are luminous in the diffused afternoon light, sunken as they are in the waxy grey of his pallid, sweat-damp skin.  As if the sickness that is killing him would offer an exchange, making some part of him more beautiful for each bit it steals away.  His hair is dull cinnamon, lank and stringy against the snowy white of the futon, but his smile is blinding, a blade of pure light thrust straight through the core of you.

(You remember a boy, yukata rucked up around his thighs -- laughing and splashing as he groped in the muddy waters of the Arakawa for river crabs, his hands yet uncallused, so easily hurt then.)

"Kondou-sa--n."

You blink, dragged back to the present; Souji's brows are furrowing beneath the weight of your hand, his gaze both confused and questioning, vaguely reproachful because he knows what's on your mind.

"I've been calling you, you know.  You're getting old, kyokuchou."

We were never meant to grow old, Souji.  It's been a joke between the two of you since before you answered the lord of Aizu's call, but it's taken a sinister cast now in the wake of ... this.   This thing, eating him from the inside.

If not the Ranmaru to your Nobunaga, he has ever been the Shiryuu to your Gentoku, faithful and true; it burns to know that you are somehow worthless now, the first time he has truly needed help.   Funny, you think -- perhaps even fitting -- that the only one capable of defeating Souji is Souji himself.
 
"Sorry, sorry.  I was just thinking a little."  He makes a face that expresses just what he thinks of that, and your hand slips down the clammy slope of his forehead, skirting the bridge of his nose, your own sword-callused fingers tracing the thin bow of cracked, dry lips.  His tongue darts out, teasing you, impudent even now.  But it's hard to be persuaded these days, when each new morning makes it easier to trace the secret geographies of his body, ribs and spine and other things rising to the surface of his flesh like hidden islands shrugging free of the waves.  You see the narrow wings of his shoulder blades and think they might be almost as sharp as the swords he keeps at his bedside, sharp enough to slice you to the bone.

This body has always been familiar territory to you, one way or another; this inexorable, tectonic shift has knocked something inside of you loose, to flap and flutter in the hot tide of your blood.  "You don't drink enough," you say, and your voice is a stranger to your own ears, hollow and rasping, quietly grief-touched.

"I'm getting better," he says abruptly, and touches his bandages.  You see only pale white knuckles, familiar fingers gone skeletal.  Souji has never been a good liar, not to you.

The pad of your own finger, still damp with his saliva, presses against his lips.  A plea for quiet.  You are navigating unfamiliar waters, here at the edge of the world.  

"I won't lose you."  That's better; conviction fills your words, demanding from him the belief that you can't seem to muster for yourself.  Souji has always listened to you before, holding all your inelegant truths as his law -- what should be so different this time?  "I won't."

And he laughs, reaching up, his hand small and thin over your own, leeching warmth almost immediately.  Curling those pale spider fingers around your palm, pulling your hand away from his face.  Those doll-green eyes are focused on your own and yes, Souji is your most prized blade, finding new ways to cut with every bubbling breath he takes.  "I'll be ready." 

You know what rides unspoken on his wet, warm breath: I am ready

You want to fold around him like origami, seep in through his pores and push this poison from his lungs and his marrow, deny this foreign power its port and reclaim sovereignty.  Souji is yours, body and blade, and you will not let go easily.

But Awa-no-Kami, Katsu-dono himself, has requested your presence this evening; the missive rests in the sleeve of your kimono, folded neatly, and Souji is not your only command.  You will return to Edo soon, you're certain of it -- as much as you trust Toshi, this forced absence has made you restless and uneasy.

Whether Souji will accompany you is yet to be seen.

"I'll fetch someone to bring tea," you say, not waiting for the inevitable protest before you rise (you'd do it yourself, but the last time you offered to serve him he was so incensed he wouldn't talk to you for hours).  "It's time for your medicine, as it is."  And perhaps it's a testament to his current state that he doesn't say anything at all, simply watches you with those great glittering eyes as you tuck your swords into your sash.

"I'll be back soon," you say, offering a smile -- the one he returns is so bright and so sincere you almost believe it.  "With good news, even."

You open the shoji and slip outside quickly, your eyes straying toward the iron grey skies.  It will snow again tonight, will blanket the castle and the city around it in blinding white, no matter what you want.  Nature has never cared much for appeasing your own quiet desires, after all.

Matsumoto-sensei approaches from around the corner, carrying a tray; apparently, you will not have to find someone after all.  He smiles and pauses to greet you, though there's a tightness around his eyes that shows his disapproval that you're up and about -- you won't comment on it.  "How is he?"  He asks quietly, glancing down the hallway.

You reach up, running a hand across your face, grimacing at the stubble gaining ground there.   (Perhaps you'll take a trip to the baths after this business with Awa-no-Kami is done.  Perhaps Souji will be strong enough to join you there.  It's something to look forward to, you think.)

"Still breathing," you say, and the bitterness seeps through. 


- fin 7/27/11

--

Notes: Okay so.  I am a giant history nerd and these things totally tend to crop up in fic, especially when it gets love in canon.  Um.

LIKELY NO ONE WILL CARE BUT history things!  You've probably heard of the Sengoku dudes, so whatever but.  Kondou?  Loves him some RotK.  Shiryuu and Gentoku are the Japanese versions of Zhao Yun and Liu Bei's stylized names.  Think Kotetsu Sangokushi though I think they mixed up stylized and common names all to hell, since iirc Liu Bei became Ryuubi or somesuch BUT SOMEHOW NOT HALF AS GAY? x3  (KS actually might really appeal to all you Hakuouki slashers out there, lol.)  He'd totally make the comparison, and be all up in Team Shu, haha.

Fuuuuuu now I kind of want to see Shinsengumi/3 Kingdoms crossovers.  Kondou/Hijikata/Yamanami are totally bros on par with Liu Bei/Guan Yu/Zhang Fei in this incarnation.  NO WONDER KONDOU LOVES IT SO MUCH.

I haven't written fic in forever, sob.  I MISSED THIS, GUYS.
Current Music: AFI - 37mm
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[identity profile] rii-no-ame.livejournal.com on July 28th, 2011 12:20 am (UTC)
*incoherent flailing joy*

THANK YOU FOR FILLING MY PROMPT OH GOD. You have given me so much joy. SO MUCH JOY. (And damn, you're fast! I haven't started mine yet).

...your descriptions of Souji pierce me. Seriously. And make me want to cry in the good way.

This:

"Souji's body is the traitor that ignores your strict code, mocking you with every brutal gasp, every splash and streak of crimson at the edge of bloodless lips. And yet he still insists on being the loyal wolf at your side, screaming defiance with every snap of his fragile jaws, testing his blades when he has the strength to rise at all."

And this:

"Funny, you think -- perhaps even fitting -- that the only one capable of defeating Souji is Souji himself."

And the description of Souji as Kondou's prized blade is just...*happy sigh* You're magnificent. I so enjoyed this and your careful, nuanced allusions. Thank you!
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on July 28th, 2011 01:40 am (UTC)
Eeee, so glad you liked it. ♥♥♥ And dude! Work gave me 4 days off, and I was all set to go on an RP spree. AND THEN LJ SHAT ITSELF TO DEATH REPEATEDLY. :| I have been trying for over an hour to even reply. (I did mention I was full of writing energy but needing a focus? I HAS THIS NOW. A-already halfway through glorious oni/human tree sex, you don't even know)

I've seen a lot of different variations on these two throughout different fandoms, and I love them every time, but I have such a kink for that desperate loyalty Okita displays for Kondou in Hakuouki. Just ... oh, I want to hold him forever and make everything okay, and man, you know what's coming and that miraculously Kondou will not outlive the kid and fuck, the whole history of the thing is spectacular.

Ha! I wouldn't go as far as magnificent, but I definitely appreciate the praise. x3 Glad the fact that it is depressing as all get-out wasn't a disappointment. You're welcome! ♥
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[identity profile] ae-werin.livejournal.com on August 4th, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
If only I was capable of expressing the feelings I got after reading your fiction. Unfortunately it is hard for me in my first language and almost impossible in English. I am going to burst by emotional overload.
I felt it all. These things you feel when loosing a long time friend, when you are standing alone in cold winters plains under the heavy sky, when you are facing cruel destiny without a chance for a better future. Sadness, despair.
OMG what have you done to me? I wasn't so emotional since Hakuouki 2nd season XD.
Your fiction was cruel and beautiful. I adore your writing style and I am not afraid to say that you are a master of words.
<3
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on August 4th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC)
A-aw, thank you. But don't worry; I understand that feeling, too. ♥ (And that's surprising! Your English is fantastic. :>)

Hekketsu-roku was a ten-episode study in despair, wasn't it? I loved that Kondo got love in this series; that he was imperfect, prone to optimism and emotionalism, and just yes. No scenes that demanded tears, but that occasional, quiet surge of futility and despair that's so much more powerful for being understated. That was the sort of feeling I was going for; as sad as I am for having put you through it, I'm glad it came through. :3

History is cruel and beautiful, stranger and more poignant than fiction. Thanks for both the comment and the compliment; I really do appreciate it, and hope to give you much more.

...also manry tears!Saitou up there is making my heart clench a little. Ow.
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[identity profile] ae-werin.livejournal.com on August 4th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
I am glad that you understand <3

And hell yes, I agree with you in both, about Hekketsu-roku and also about Kondo. I loved that he was pictured as a human, with both strengths and weaknesses, and that he was still loved and respected by his men.

Also you are welcome. I can't wait to read more from you :)

P.S. I made manry tears! Saito icon entirely for commenting on this XD So you probably won't see it anymore and your heart is safe - unless you are going to write something as emotional as this again, in which case I would need to use this icon for one more time ^_^
(Your choice XD)
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on August 5th, 2011 03:55 am (UTC)
YES. A lot of the different series kind of make him a bit of a shell and shuffle him out of the way. >.> HE WAS IMPORTANT, GUYS! ;A;

Fuuuu I will try to bring something else to the table soon. Three fics in one week, though, that's gotta be a new record for me. Also nice photoshop-fu! I feel kind of special for that, not gonna lie. ♥ And that sounds like a challenge to me, miss. I'm already working on a fic trade with a friend that I guarantee is going to involve some emotional curb-stomping from both sides, so don't get rid of him just yet. >3
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