Title: Longing 3: The Sunset Road - Chapter 4

Author: Befanini
Website: http://www.fanfiction.net/~befanini

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no rights whatsoever. For melancholy daydreaming purposes only.

Rating: T for language. Shounen-ai.

Summary: "All I have are the ashes… one small spark from your glow."

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Chapter 4

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XxXxX

My life closed twice before its close,

It yet remains to see

If immortality unveil

A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive,

As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of Heaven,

And all we need of Hell.

-- Emily Dickinson

XxXxX

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When he had secretly switched the portraits back, so that they each had the original painting they had commissioned in the first place – when he had taken Sanzo's likeness and left the High Priest his own – that was when his wandering days ended.

Haunted by the merciless, relentless passage of time, he abandoned his traveling and limited himself to frequenting the nearest towns and villages surrounding Kinzan. Gradually he established "residences" in these places; whether a modest, "permanent" room at a village inn, or a semi-comfortable apartment of his own at the fairly big towns.

He still roamed, his restless spirit – now made more restless than ever – refusing to give him any peace. But now he made sure to keep within two or three days' travel from the Temple, ready to go at a moment's notice.

Yes, he was paranoid.

He'd tasted unbearable loss twice before – no, three times in all. The first when his stepmother's blood sprayed his shirt; and damn if he didn't still recall the irrational thought that had crossed his young mind as he stared numbly at the blood: And so it is red, too; and how lucky you cannot see it anymore, or you might have gone insane to think that this red stuff was pumping INSIDE your veins the whole time. You could crush the flowers under your white, delicate foot – you could tear at my hair and scratch my eyes out – but how could you have escaped from your own blood?

The second loss came immediately after: when, with his eyes still wide with horror, gazing down stupidly at the woman for whose love he had so yearned – his big brother, strong and silent Jien, had grabbed him by the hand and told him to go. He had raised pleading, puzzled eyes to the only anchor he had ever known, and Jien had hugged him fiercely and shoved him away, running in the opposite direction himself. We have no choice now… You have to be strong, brother. Perhaps we'll see each other again, someday…

And when they had met, they had stood on opposite sides.

The third loss was just as inevitable, just as abrupt, and just as cruel. No – it was more than that. The third loss was damn downright funny – to have held his dream in that instant; that their souls should have embraced all-too-briefly… and then the wrenching, unbelievable pain of having to let go. Had they never come together, he might have borne it better. He might have gone on living in hope. Hopeless hope perhaps, but he could have kept his dreams.

But having tasted the reality… having the reality shuddering in his arms, scorching his flesh, drowning his senses… dazed, captivated, entangled, inflamed… having shared that one moment of rapture – that made all the difference. That rendered everything else drab, colorless, meaningless.

To have bathed in Sanzo, and then to grit his teeth and close his eyes and set him free – Ah, now that loss was so excruciatingly exquisite, it was almost a pleasure. The kind of sick pleasure that sadists who mutilated themselves exulted in. Much like the first puff of that cigarette when you've been smoke-free for so long.

But this loss… this impending doom – there was nothing bittersweet about it. Nothing remotely funny in its promise of grim finality. The hours and the days and the months passed, the sun rose and it set, and each second ticked by, counting down… Unforgiving time marched forward relentlessly, and there was no turning back. He was going to lose Sanzo, and this time it was absolute.

No more could he look forward to the anticipation of making the trek up the mountains. No more could he enjoy the simple pleasure of buying his corrupt monk his cigarettes and his sake; of dreaming about that split-second before their eyes met on his arrival, when Sanzo's unguarded eyes let him see the terrible hunger in the purple depths… the yawning, utter yearning that he himself felt, the longing that had sustained him all these years.

No more would they sit together in seeming companionship, while between them burned the awful, unabating desire and heat that they struggled – and mostly succeeded – to keep banked. No more would their gazes do the talking, as, with one fleeting glance, they came together in a fierce onslaught of raw, blazing emotion, with their eyes caressing and stroking and kissing across the physical distance that circumstances had imposed between them.

No more would he be blissfully shocked and exquisitely rendered helpless, at those very rare moments when sanity and self-control failed, and they ended up in each other's arms, in the darkness and the moonlight and the shadows, murmuring, breathless, gasping, desperate, shuddering and intense and so greedy for each other that the brief encounter of mad frantic kisses and passionate caresses and possessive embraces inevitably left bruises and marks that Sanzo had always cursed him for.

No – in just a little while, there would be nothing left to wish for, nothing left to dream, nothing left to look forward to. In just a little while he could only look back at those precious moments, those precious few moments, and drive himself mad with the knowledge that it had never been enough in the first place… And in just a little while all he would have left was the certainty. It never was enough. And it never will be. Ever again.

He stopped walking, gasped, and clutched his gut. He doubled over and emptied his stomach again, sweating and shaking and cursing. And then he walked forward a few more paces, and sank down against a tree by the side of the road, uncaring of the heavy drift of snow all around. He drew out a crushed pack of smokes and his old, battered Zippo, and lit up, inhaling fiercely, welcoming the searing sensation of the smoke in his lungs. He closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the tree trunk. Just a few hours' rest. Just a few more goddamn hours to delude himself and pretend that everything was just fine. A tanned hand reached up and pressed against his chest, where the miniature oil portrait of Sanzo rested in an inside pocket against his heart.

He opened his eyes, and stared up at the dear, familiar, snow-covered trail up the mountains. His vision blurred.

I'm coming, bouzu. As I always have. Please wait for me. I'm coming.

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XxXxX

They say that 'time assuages' –

Time never did assuage

An actual suffering strengthens

As sinews do, with age –

Time is a test of trouble,

But not a remedy –

If such it prove, it prove too

There was no malady.

Emily Dickinson

XxXxX

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A/N: This is killing me. This is really killing me. A few more chapters to go… Have had to do a bit of research to get the last part accurate. As always, check my profiles page for replies to your great reviews, okay! Grazie!

'Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail.' - Theodore Dreiser

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