[Author's note: This fic was a drabble written for Miyabi, who asked for Subaru, Kamui, and a small child. I'm not sure this is quite what she had in mind, but hey. The story is set post-series; it makes oblique references to what may possibly be spoilers up through the current resting place of X (post-18). There's an underlying darkness as well as strongly implied m/m sex, so I think it's verging on a R rating. Please see my disclaimer page for copyright information.]
Still WatersAn X fanfic
By Natalie Baan
"Do people come back?" Kamui asked suddenly, his voice low. "Ever?"
He looked over his shoulder toward that familiar silent presence. Subaru stood by the knurled bole of the willow, black on black clothes almost blending with the ridged charcoal bark. On all sides the willow's branches came down like rain. A moss carpet, broken only by the tree's thick, writhing roots and an occasional stone, rolled dark emerald all around them, a faintly prickly velvet under Kamui's hand as he sat on the ground, one leg curled beneath him, the other knee drawn up--everywhere in this garden the lushness, the verdancy, green of cedar and laurel, of glossy camellia and pine, visible now as one mass through the willow curtain, and behind that green wall, concealed within its folds as if it were another curtain, the subtle breath of falling.
The ghost color of sakura petals, never ceasing.
Subaru's near eye echoed the moss in shadow. The other was dark brown, without light. His gaze half-lidded, he stared straight ahead as though looking through visible reality to study the implacable bones of this world, and Kamui clenched with the realization--that no one, no one had come back for /him./ In the maze of his own pain, Kamui had forgotten. Turning away once more, he leaned forward over his bent leg and hugged it to his chest, mute with the dull, persistent grief that they shared, with the limping sympathy that maybe was his alone.
Subaru's steps made no sound on the moss. Nevertheless, they could not surprise each other. Kamui sensed the other draw near, then sink down to kneel behind him. He felt Subaru's leanness incline itself against him, the light pressure of one hand curving about his shoulder, slowly, slowly pulling him back to fit to the hollow of Subaru's body; felt the brush of the long wisps of hair by Subaru's face, the movement of air at his ear as Subaru murmured:
"Dream with me tonight."
Skin to skin they lay, in the rumpled swells of bed clothes, in half-parted wrappings of yukata, open at throat and at thigh. Subaru's weight pressed Kamui to the mattress like weariness.
Surrendering himself, Kamui closed his eyes.
Tiny lights nested in the willow's limbs like drowsing birds, shedding a hazy gold glow beneath its branches. All around, outside, was night, impenetrable black. At the foot of the tree, a stream cut through what during the day had been unbroken moss, its course dark, seemingly currentless, silent. Kamui knelt on the raised bank and leaned out over the water.
At first, there was nothing but a liquid mirror, tenebrous reflection of himself. Then light woke, a pale gleam below the surface. It grew with the patient steadiness of dawn, a window of brightness looking into elsewhere, and in it Kamui saw at last a child, scarcely more than an infant. The vision became more distinct as he watched: unruly dark hair above a round face slackly pouting with sleep, the body lying half-twisted, one fist knotted above the head, as though some restlessness had given way to an uneasy peace. Puzzling at the image, Kamui felt an unexpected twinge of resonance, a shivery chill, as though he were a glass chime ringing.
/I know him./
Bending lower, he stretched one hand down toward the stream.
"Are you sure?"
Startled Kamui looked up at Subaru, standing by the willow's trunk, a slim figure in the straight lines of his yukata. His robe and Kamui's echoed each other: white on black, black on white. Kamui's mouth parted in protest, but the words were halted, unspoken, by the level directness with which Subaru's gaze held his, the knowing regard that hinted that the question went deeper, touched on something he hadn't yet thought.
Even more softly, Subaru said, "Is that what you want?"
Kamui glanced back at the stream, at his own hand reaching out, fingers spread, only a little way above the water.
/His hand breaks the surface, silver glint and silence. He reaches down and down, toward the child. The instant before his fingers make contact, the child stirs, turns its head and opens its eyes. They stare up at him, focused and oddly expressionless, unshadowed by any cloud of sleep. They seem almost to recognize him./
/Behind those eyes, there is darkness./
Kamui started, looking down at the little boy. The child hugged his ball to his chest and stared back, wide-eyed, curious, wary but not quite alarmed. Almost, there was something else, a quality that tugged at the heart, the gut, a wrenching ache awakened again, /this, this could be--/
Kamui barely registered the sounds of the other children playing in the park, the boy's mother apologizing.
"No," he replied slowly, "it's fine," feeling the crawling, helpless aloneness, the fever of an old delirium, a giddily soaring, reckless wrong. He smiled down at the child with deliberate tenderness.
"He's not bothering me."
/The willow's bark digs into his back, through the thin cotton of his yukata. Scrape, scrape, with each arrested movement of their bodies: staccato discomfort, firework pleasure, empty pain. Tilting his head back, he stares at the lights glimmering in the willow's branches and the endless black of night beyond. He feels soft hair brush his throat, the touch of lips there, nearly as soft. He experiences the moment of stillness at last, like floating in this small, hushed world--and then the shock of the blow, the thrust up, up, under his ribs, ripping through skin and muscle and viscera. His whole body seizes up with it. He can feel the foreign pressure of the hand lodged within his chest; each breath lurches, struggling past that obstacle. He can't.... His head rolls to one side, his eyes half-closing, his body slackening so that only the other's nearness holds him upright against the tree. Subaru's head is lowered, face pressed to his shoulder. Neither of them moves but for breathing./
/Through the fading flare of pain, the growing numbness, he stares down at the cool green moss. A root winds through it, reaching for the water. He watches as unhurried rivulets of blood push their way along the wood, gathering in dips and whorls, some escaping to either side to drip onto the ground, to darken and be drunk down by the moss. The rest seeps onward. Everything is slow. As his sight begins to fade, that trickle of red arrives at the end of the root. It touches the stream, gently as a sigh--it spreads, darkness diffusing into the water. The pale light from below the surface shines through that unfurling veil; he can see the child still sleeping there. No, the child's eyes have opened, they look up at him through the crimson stain, through the gathering night closing around him, and his dying heart convulses in dismay--/
He smiles at the older boy, feeling a funny swoop of excitement, like riding on a swing. /Higher, Mama, push me higher!/ The boy looks back at him, wide-eyed and careful, not smiling back yet, arms hugged tightly around the bright-striped ball. It's okay, though. After all, they're going to be friends. Good friends. They're going to play. That's what he wants, he knows now, more than anything.
This boy is going to smile for him, to fill the empty place that he feels inside.
/A red stain spreading, fire and night, the shadow of wings..../
"Hi!" he says, stepping closer. "What's your name?"
/My name is--/
Kamui drew his hand back from the water, leaving it undisturbed. The vision of the sleeping child faded gradually. The light within the stream dwindled until there was only an obsidian depth, fathomless and still.
"Thank you," he said. "I understand."
There was silence from Subaru. He looked back over his shoulder at the onmyouji. Subaru stood by the willow's trunk, the golden glow of the spell-lights scarcely seeming to touch him. His face was shuttered and expressionless.
"I mean," Kamui explained, "if he can come back like that, to a new life--it's all right. I'm glad that he can. So I won't risk--I won't try to find him." He looked down at his hands, turned them, pale, slim fingers spread above the moss, then glanced back at Subaru and smiled faintly. "It's enough for me, that I know." Subaru's eyes widened, almost imperceptibly, a tightening at their corners, at Subaru's mouth, and Kamui caught his breath, wondering. "But...you...?
Subaru looked away. "The Sakura," he murmured. Even in the silence of the dream, his voice was almost lost. That minute tension had quieted once more, leaving his face blank as the night, as the still, black mirror of the stream. "They...don't come back."
Kamui studied the onmyouji, then rose and walked toward him. The mossy carpet yielded under each barefoot step. He came up next to Subaru, who was watching him sidelong, arms folded. Slowly he lifted one hand and cupped it to Subaru's cheek, near the dark amber eye, turned Subaru's face toward his, and saw the glimmer of surprise, felt the catch of breath.
"So they live on in you," Kamui said.
Subaru's eyes closed; he bowed his head. He made no resistance as Kamui stepped closer still, slid one arm around his waist. Kamui drew them together and they stood like that, motionless, at rest.
In his sleep, Kamui sighed and turned his head, his cheek settling against Subaru's hair.
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