Title: the heart lives by breaking
Summary: He feels like they've done this a thousand times and maybe they have (or maybe they will).
Warnings/Notes: For Minus Wave's "Gaiden" challenge. Slight spoilers for volume two of Saiyuki Gaiden.
Kenren watches Tenpou smoke, elbows digging into yesterday's report on the military advancement in the east (I don't see the rush, Tenpou had murmured, adjusting his glasses. I thought we killed everything last week) and shoulders hunched over the pile of books and scrolls across the desk. Tenpou's lips curve around his unfamiliar cigarette and Kenren watches the press of his ink-stained fingers around a novel. War, war, war, Kenren thinks—until it's faded battle cry and his cigarette's burned to the filter. He exhales, bleeds out anger, annoyance and apathy and crushes his cigarette between his fingers and the ashtray.
This is the same as last week, and week before that, except Tenpou's smoking a different brand of cigarettes. The unusual smoke clings to his jacket and stains the cracked paper under his elbow. He reaches up, scratches the bandage across his forehead; it's a reminder of something new, something tangible, Goku. He can still taste this morning's coffee and the last three cigarettes, his elbow is starting to hurt, but there's a faint breeze coming in through the window. Tenpou turns the page (oh, by the way, I heard that Nataku's returning this afternoon, he says, offhand. Tenpou watches the clench of his fist and the agreement, unspoken and unwritten, hangs between them for a moment until Kenren's lips curl. It's simple; Tenpou schemes and suggests, and Kenren disrupts the ennui, sets things in motion.) and smiles.
Tenpou dreams. He is almost ten years old and slowly sinking into seven inches of snow. He doesn't really remember what he expected of the earth before this, (besides the pictures in dog-eared textbooks), but he shivers against the loss of an endless spring. The silence is deafening here, except for the hiss of waves near his feet and the steady heartbeat in his fingers. He remembers he thought he'd reached the wrong place; he had always hoped that he could break away from the monotony if he left heaven. He lets the loneliness sink in and his fingers itch for the familiar pages of his books (humans are not much of anything, he thinks, kicking snow into the waves). He waits, listens to the push, pull of waves that inch closer to his feet and stays until after the sun sets, leaving deep footprints in the snow.
Konzen's office does not have any windows, and before Tenpou, before Goku, before Kenren, he thought that clean stacks of paper, full ink bottles and a stiff chair would be enough. Now, he's afraid that the room will overfill with all of the words echoing off the walls. He moves the hundred yellow flowers scattered across his desk and thinks that someday he'll take Goku back to earth to watch the sunset. Don't look away, he'll say, and they'll sit, knees and elbows brushing, and watch the sky explode.
Kenren tries to cut Tenpou's hair only once.
Goku remembers the rough press of stone against his bare feet, the rustle of paper, the warmth of sunlight on his hands and the faint thump thump of Nataku's heartbeat just inches away from his fingertips. He grasps weakly at time, caught in the hours between sunrises and sunsets, the minutes between glimpses of Konzen's hair, and the seconds of empty silence between. He tries (desperately, he knows) to fill the emptiness, and he likes to think that even if he loses everything, he can wade in these memories separated from the constraints of time and maybe (maybe) it's true.
This has happened before, Kenren thinks as he catches Tenpou's elbow, stumbling and adjusting his weight on the wet sand. Tenpou coughs, raises his eyes through fogged glasses. (Perhaps, he says with a thin smile, I might have overdone it. He reaches up, breaking the streams of blood and water underneath his right eye, and clenches his teeth. The smile falters, falls as Kenren stiffens against him, does not meet his eyes.) Kenren tugs on his elbow, and after a sharp glance over his shoulder, walks towards the water. Rain slips underneath his collar, drips down his back and he tears fabric from the inside of his sleeves and wraps the strips around Tenpou's forehead. Tenpou presses his lips together, afraid of misunderstandings and mistakes but he waits, and waves hiss and break at their feet. Let's go home, Marshall, he whispers.
Tenpou does not think of Kenren, first. He supposes he should have, given the circumstances and the brush of shoulders as he turns, hands gripping his sword. But it's just that: as he turns, he catches a glimpse of blonde hair in the doorway. Tenpou sometimes thinks that it's in the way that Goku's body reaches for Konzen, even in unconsciousness. But he knows, it's in the way Konzen's fingers (clenched and shaking) reach back.
It's barely three o'clock in the morning, and there's still blood splattered across Goku's face. Konzen's face is turned towards the doors, Goujun's eyes are closed (but he's not asleep, not yet) and there's a faint murmur of voices outside. A few hours ago, Kenren cracked a few jokes (and Tenpou laughed, the sound echoing faintly) but there's a heavy silence, a heady feeling of freedom, even now.
Kenren offers him a cigarette (Tenpou accepts), and smiles, because this little rebellion was never really supposed to start and now it seems like it'll never really end, but. His fingers brush, linger against the edges of Kenren's jacket and he breathes in smoke, air and dried blood. He'd felt, once, that he could outwait death, could wander in a state of apathy and nonmovement until the world slowed, stuttered to an end. But that's not it, that's not it at all.
What's going to happen, Kenren murmurs around the filter, leaning towards him and shaking out a match. I don't know, he says and it's not really an answer (it's not even a very good lie), but Kenren accepts it. He feels like they've done this a thousand times and maybe they have (or maybe they will).
And when Kenren leans over to kiss him (tradition, he says), his hands are cold and sweaty, there's unfamiliar smoke on his lips and warm calloused fingers against the back of his neck. See you, Kenren murmurs, the tip of his tongue touching Tenpou's lips, and Tenpou grips the edges of Kenren's jacket.
The heart breaks (and breaks and breaks and breaks) and keeps beating, even losing this, this sense of something tangible. His hands linger on Goku's shoulders. See you, he whispers.
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