Characters From: Saiyuki Gaiden
Pairing: Kenren Taishou x Tenpou Gensui
Theme: 30Kisses - #20, the road home
Completed: 10 of 30
Warning(s): nothing really, some bitterness and a tiny bit of angst, and in the end, a bit of fluff
Summary: Kenren Taishou is no fool; he knows that life, even for a heavenly kami, can never be that simple…
Disclaimer: Sadly, Saiyuki does not belong to me.
Random Notes: It wasn't till I was reading this one last time that I realized it reminds of when Gojyo finds Hakkai. Must have been a subconscious thing.
All he had to do was put one foot in front of the other; a simple enough task, he had been doing it all his life, why should he have trouble doing it now?
Just one foot in front of the other - never mind the searing pain in his leg or the blood that drips from his side with every beat of his heart - put one foot down, pick the other one up; just like all those parades he'd marched in when he was younger and not yet jaded by the hypocrisy of the heavenly army and just like all those nights he spent strolling amongst the sakura trees wondering what it would be like lie in that pink rain forever, truly without a care in the world.
But Kenren Taishou is no fool; he knows that life, even for a heavenly kami, can never be that simple. If it were, he was fairly certain that he wouldn't be stumbling and limping towards the place he knew as home, too proud to ask for help, too stubborn to let anyone see him suffer. At least he'd be alone for a bit if he went to the army infirmary now. In a little while it will be full of convalescent soldiers returning from down below and he wants to be out of there before they arrive; he doesn't want them to see.
The general curses as he stumbles over his own two feet, annoyed, angry and perhaps even a little ashamed of himself for allowing such injuries to be inflicted upon his person. He closes his eyes and tries to concentrate…
Put one foot down, pick the other one up.
For a few steps it works, the steady beat of his words help him put his aching feet in the right places. He still stumbles, but he's moving forward and that's all that matters, all that ever mattered, all that ever will matter, because that is what he's been trained to do -- to keep going no matter the circumstance, to keep surviving, no matter the cost -- because even in Tenkai, soldiers didn't come cheap.
Even in Tenkai, death happened.
He continues to stumble on; left, right, left, right, just like he's been trained, just like he's always done, determined not to be added to a list of soldiers too incompetent to survive, a list that the esteemed Dragon King of the West would likely frown at while he skimmed the names written in a messy scrawl they both knew far too well.
Put one foot down, pick the other one up, Kenren repeats, this time actually mouthing the words as they make their way through his head. He'd speak them aloud but his ragged breathing is enough to let him know what kind of sorry state he's in; he doesn't need his voice to confirm it.
He tries to repeat his new mantra once more: put one foot down, pick the other…but this time he can't complete it before his leg lets him know just how tired it is; just how tired he is. The pain moves in all directions, jumping from one tender spot to the next until Kenren is gripping at his side and falling to his knees, aggravating his injured leg even more.
His anger and frustration are ten fold now; he's so close he can see the palaces of Tenkai looming in the distance. He takes a depth breath, wanting to scream out but the pain in his side won't let him and it stops him mid breath, causing him to double over, his forehead coming to rest against the loose soil of the path he has been following, the path that should have carried him home.
Furious, Kenren repeatedly pounds his fist into the ground as he curses himself for being so stubborn, then again for being such an idiot as the loose dirt billows up around him in a dusty plume. He closes his eyes against the rising cloud, coughing as he inhales dirty, tainted air, falling to his uninjured side feeling defeated and deflated.
When the dust settles around him once more, he slowly opens his eyes. When he sees a tiny spot of pink a few feet away he blinks hard once, twice and then he can't help but laugh, no matter how much it hurts, as he reaches his hand out to grab the little petal that just like him, seemed so far away from home.
Kenren inspects the petal as it sits in his hand, so similar to every one of the millions he had seen fall, as if from nowhere, since he first laid eyes upon the splendors of Tenkai. When he closes his eyes he can imagine that beautiful rain of pink, the one he always loved and always hated just the same.
When the pain in both his leg and his side make themselves known once more, Kenren clutches the petal in a tight fist the way he might clutch a blanket during a particularly bad dream, only this time he knows it's anything but a dream. This time he wont wake up twisted in a pile of blankets, or better yet twisted and tangled with the warm body beside him, one that smelled like cigarette smoke and incense and those damned Sakura trees.
Smiling at the memory, Kenren takes a deep breath, fingers clenching tighter around the stray petal, as if to protect it from the pain he feels all around him, crushing him like his fist was likely crushing the fragile bloom in his hand.
Darkness begins to close around him as he takes another labored breath, slowly beginning to lose his grip on the world around him, and just before it swallows him completely, Kenren has a moment to wonder what exactly happens to a kami when they die in heaven…
"What am I ever going to do with you?"
The words are like a shot of adrenaline. Instantly Kenren's eyes are open and he is sitting up, something he regrets shortly thereafter as he allows himself to fall back to the dusty ground below him, pain shooting throughout his body. His left hand is still clutching the Sakura petal tightly and his eyes are refusing to focus, but he doesn't really need them to know who the voice belongs to, and he certainly doesn't need them to know that the speaker's face is twisted in an odd grin. He's heard that smile enough to know when it's making an appearance.
"Huh?" is all Kenren can manage to say in response.
"I said: what am I ever going to do with you?"
Blinking his eyes into focus, finally able to really see Tenpou standing nearby, looking down at him, Kenren tries to tack on one of his own tried and true grins to match the marshal's, "I told you…should have gotten rid of me when you had the chance."
At that Tenpou snorts, "I do believe Goujun was just blowing off steam. I doubt he'd ever actually transfer you."
"Whatever," Kenren manages to grind out. Talking is not high on his list of things he wants to do at the moment and he's starting to think that dying may not be so bad after all, not if it meant escaping Tenpou's scrutiny.
When a few moments of silence pass with no further comment nor movement from Tenpou, Kenren sighs, "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be supervising the clean-up crew?"
Still grinning, the marshal shrugs, "I thought you might need some help."
"Are you sure you didn't come here just to tease me?" Kenren asks defensively as he begins to wonder if perhaps he is dead already and that his punishment is to face the man he couldn't bear to face when he was alive and in agony.
"I assure you, my intentions are true," Tenpou responds, and no matter how sincere his words sound Kenren knows that the marshal is probably enjoying this a little more then he should.
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions, you know," Kenren replies, a little bitter, a little tired and in a hell of a lot of pain.
At that Tenpou laughs, "Yes, and it would appear that the road to Tenkai is splattered in my favorite general's blood." A pause, "You are lucky nothing undesirable decided to follow you back," he adds almost conversationally.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Kenren mumbles under his breath.
"What was that, General?" Tenpou asks, sounding quite amused.
"I said, 'How did you find me?'" Kenren replies, knowing a piss poor cover up when he hears one, but not really caring.
"Well, one of your lieutenants came and found me; said you had been injured. I went to the field doctor but he said you never came in." There is silence and then a there is a hand reaching out for him and Kenren can see his own hand reaching to grab it. He's on his shaky feet before he knows it, the pain is excruciating, but he bares it, he has to. "I should have known you'd try to make it home by yourself."
Kenren laughs, mostly because he knows he's been caught, like a kid with his hand in a cookie jar, but also because he realizes he doesn't really care, "I should have known you would come after me," he replies.
In response to his words, Kenren feels a warm breath at his cheeks as lips gently brush against his skin, the ghost of a kiss gracing him for the briefest of moments, then Tenpou whispers into his ear, "I always will."
Kenren smiles as they start walking slowly in the direction of the great wall that surrounds the place they know as Tenkai; the place they call home, his mantra having found its voice once again:
Put one foot down, pick the other one up.
They walk in silence, Kenren limping, Tenpou walking slowly and surely, supporting the general's weight. Slowly, Kenren opens his left hand, the once fragile pink Sakura petal now crushed to small pieces and fine powder under the weight of his grip. Kenren watches as the wind picks up each piece, scattering them here and there on the trail behind him like a pink cloud.
Put one foot down, pick the other one up.
Turning his head forward once more, Kenren peers into the distance and then quickly steals a glance in Tenpou's direction, not surprised in the least that the marshal looks as if he's out enjoying an afternoon stroll.
Smiling broader, Kenren puts one foot down and picks the other one up. Suddenly getting home seems a hell of a lot easier.