There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons-
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes-

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us-
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings are-

None may teach it-Any-
'Tis the Seal Despair-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air-

When it comes, the Landscape listens-
Shadows-hold their breath-
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death
~Emily Dickinson~

Hearts in Armor
Part III - A Certain Slant of Light

Seiji tossed listlessly in his sheets, his mind instinctively groping in the darkness for a light he would never find. The pitch had him in its eternal grasp, it seemed; it occurred to him that he had had a beacon once, a bright shining talisman to guide him through to the salvation of day.

Where was it? Had he dropped it? Lost it?

No, he had foolishly let it slip from his fingers, had, through some action of his own, given it away.

And now he was trapped in the overwhelming consumption of ebony eternity. There was no up or down, no right or left. No way to tell which way he was going, no way to tell that anything existed, not even himself. He needed the light to show him the way back...and it was gone.

Seiji woke amidst the sour-stale smell and cling of sweat-soaked sheets, feeling as empty as the dream-dark. Dreams, for him at least, ranged to one extreme or another, and were never in between. Either they were harmless mind-fluff, or they were extremely important, perhaps even prophetic. He was sure Korin had something to do with that, but had never wanted to pursue it.

That dream had certainly not been one to ignore. As the sweat dried and turned his skin clammy, he reflected that the meaning of this one, was fairly obvious.

He needed Touma. Needed him for everything: the physical, yes, but also the mental and emotional. Needed him for his very sanity and preservation of soul, it seemed now. No one else could give that to him.

He shakingly started along the rich blue bond in his mind, wanted so desperately to "knock" to let Touma know of his mental presence. But something held him back this time, as it had every other time he had thought to do this.

This time it wasn't pride. It was fear. He had hoped he had forgotten the biting taste of it in his blood, yet he still knew it as he would know an old friend...or enemy.

He was afraid, to the depths of his soul, that his blue-eyed love would reject him now. That Touma no longer needed him. The wise archer had never hidden himself, had never needed to. Seiji envied him that so intensely. And now that he had broken through his stubborn pride, now that he had brought himself to the point of begging for Touma if he had to...if Touma rejected him NOW...

Seiji was very afraid he would shatter. The acidic fear had been eating him away and making him as fragile as a thin sliver of glass. Touma would either be his salvation or his death.

He was a man dying of thirst in the desert who finds an oasis and isn't sure if the water is safe or not...but needs to drink so terribly. Certainly his throat was dry enough for the analogy to work.

I die one way or the only chance...

He stretched a tremulous mental thread towards his lost lover and waited for acknowledgement.


Slowly the oxygen was dying, being converted to carbon dioxide. It was as if Touma could see a life meter, like in the video games, and it was dropping slowly. And it was his own.

He gasped and floundered, but the asphyxiation had tight hold of his throat. He clawed futilely at invisible, intangible hands that deprived him of life.

As slow as things had been before, that was how frenzied they were now. He whimpered helplessly and strained for air, any breath he could get, no matter how little.

His eyes flew open and the pervading sense of Panic still reigned until they adjusted to his tiny bedroom in his...cozy...flat. He sat shakily up in his bed and looked around.

God, I feel so...alone.

He wanted someone else there. Someone he could talk to about the dream, someone who would understand.

No. No, he didn't want just SOMEONE.

But Seiji was now an impossibility. The strong, blonde swordsman was far, far beyond his reach.

He hated admitting how much he wanted and needed not just what Seiji had done for him, but Seiji himself. He hated the fact that he was still so dependent on someone who had been either cold or burning hot, all on his OWN say-so.

But he did. Touma's eyes drifted. Rumpled work clothes thrown on a chair. Seiji would've scolded him and told him to hang them up.

Books piled everywhere. Seiji would've told him to put them away before he tripped on them - which he had done several times already.

Most of all, the emptiness in himself. Seiji would've held him and kissed him, stroked and touched him, smoothed his hair and made him feel better in every sense of the phrase.

And then Seiji was suddenly asking to be in Touma's mind. His mental equivalent of a knock was...timid. afraid?

So many feelings crashed and exploded through him. In the end, he opened the bond up out of curiosity. He's afraid. I wonder why?

Seiji was fighting his fear, but with the undercurrent of nervousness running through him, Touma understood why this was difficult.

//Yes, Seiji?\\ He did the best he could at adopting an aloof attitude. After all, it was just what the icy warrior of courtesy had afforded him. Still, no one pulled that whole attitude off like Seiji. //What is it?\\ his mind asked, affecting a disinterested tone. He was worried something horrific had happened. He thought to himself, If someone was in a cab crash, I'm suing the taxi company...

There was a hesitation the archer could feel, then //I thought I should look in on you.\\ That usual coolness was creeping back, or was Seiji just doing what Touma himself was doing.

There was a brief surge of hope in his heart that he prayed his ex-lover couldn't feel. Does he miss me as much as I miss him?

//The guys miss you. And Nasuti and Jun. Even Byakuen misses you I think.\\

//...\\ He bit his tongue as soon as he thought it, although what effect that was supposed to have, he had no idea. So much for acting aloof.

//Honestly...Touma, I spend so much time trying not to think about you that you're all that I think about.\\ He wasn't sure how to take that bit of news from Seiji. //I...miss you too, Touma.\\ His mental voice was calm but there was a faint surge of emotions, one of which rang a very distinct chord in Touma. Need.

He hesitated though. Need as in lust, or need as in love? //I miss you, Seiji. But I couldn't go on like that.\\

//?? Like what?\\

Of course. He'd never even noticed. Touma's mental voice firmed, became cold. // never seemed to really CARE about me. You said you did, and for a long time I believed you did. But...well, actions speak louder than words.\\

Seiji blinked. //Touma, what are you talking about? I Love You. I've been absolutely tormented without you...\\

Seiji's ragged mental condition affirmed that, but, ever the scientist, he also thought that maybe it was simply due to the fact that nearly two months had gone by and Seiji hadn't gotten laid.

//And I've been tormented too. But I was tormented when we were still together. Sex is wonderful, Seiji, and with you it's...incredible, but it's still just sex. Before, during and after sex was the only real time you EVER showed me any real AFFECTION or emotion. Would it have KILLED you to hold my hand in public, or let me give you a kiss on the cheek without glaring cold death at me?!\\ It all exploded. That hadn't been how he'd wanted that to come out. Of course, he'd never really thought it would come out at all.

Another long pause. Then, //You know I am not the sort of man to show emotions easily. You knew that before we were lovers.\\

//But...but this is LOVE. This is DIFFERENT...\\ ...isn't it? he wondered, not sending that along. He couldn't deny that. He HAD known. And yet he had let himself believe that if Seiji was in love, he would be a completely different person.

//It is different. Love changes a lot about you, but there are some things it doesn't change. You fell in love with ME, Touma, and I am simply not one to display so much of myself.\\

A mental sigh was heaved and then he had to admit, //Yes, I know. is also about compromise, Seiji, right? I...I know it's stupid but...I need those sort of silly romantic gestures that you hate making. Perhaps I even need them more for the exact reason that you hate making them.\\ Childishly he asked, //Isn't..isn't my love worth embarassing yourself just a little once in a while? It doesn't have to be every day and it doesn't always have to be in public. But...I'm proud of being in love with you, Seiji, and I'm happy to show it to the world. You...seem to act'd rather the world didn't know you had anything to do with me.\\

//That isn't true, Touma.\\

//Well then PROVE it to me, DAMNIT!!\\

//My word isn't good enough?\\

//Your WORD is just that, it's a WORD. It's too easy for someone to just SAY something...\\

//... ... ... And...I am no more than "someone", is that it?\\

//I didn't mean THAT!!\\

//Then why isn't my word sufficient? Have I ever lied to you?\\

//No. And I honestly don't think you would. But I DO think that you might...try to spare me the truth in some cases. And is more than just words. I think we both know that.

//I need a touch or a soft look every now and then, and one that has nothing to do with foreplay. I need the occasional little nothing token just to reassure myself...I guess it's my own insecurities, but I need it all the same.\\ Touma hesitated and then finally admitted, //ALMOST as much as I need You.\\

When Seiji said nothing to this, he followed up, //Please Seiji? Just let me know without words, mental or spoken, that you love me? Let me know with little careless gestures, not just by making love to me?\\

//I...I will do my best. You're right. I would die to make you happy; what you ask is not quite so large a sacrifice.\\

Touma snorted. //If you think your dying would make me happy, you're W-R-O-N-G, WRONG. I want you alive as long as possible.\\ He was beaming idiotically into the adjusted darkness of his bedroom and didn't care one iota.

//That, I assure you, is a mutual feeling. But Touma, why didn't you just TELL me all of this? Why did you have to pack up and move out so suddenly?\\

//I...I felt like I was being used, and I got a little hot under the collar about it. I guess I...acted kind of...hastily.\\

//You "guess"? "Kind of"?\\

//Okay, okay, so I should've talked to you about it instead of just dashing off, but I was angry and I wasn't exactly thinking with my head on straight.\\

//How's the apartment?\\ Seiji asked suddenly.

//Lonely\\ Touma replied immediately. //Terribly, horribly lonely, and it shows.\\

//I'm sure it would help if you picked up your clothes and put your books away.\\

//How did...?\\

There was a definite sensation of *grinning* coming through the bond. //I know you, Touma.\\

He couldn't help laughing, and oddly, he couldn't remember ever laughing in his apartment before. Already the place was a little less lonely.

//When are you coming home?\\ that softly rich voice inquired in his mind.

//When's the next train again?\\

//Take the 4:15. That'll give you time to sleep in AND pack. And don't worry, I'll be there to pick you up.\\

His own smile, he was sure, was sent along with his own words as he replied, //Good.\\



Ageless and all but indestructible, they had been the backbone of Japan's defense against the Youjakai for eons. They were everything good that represented the Samurai era: traditional, dutiful, hard-working, and honorable.

The two ancient armors gave each other the mental equivalent of a high-five.

//THAT...was perfect\\ Korin echoed along to his companion.

//We finally got the hang of that "Dreams Inspiring Action" thing, hmm?\\ beamed the proud response.

The equivalent of a nod, and then, //Yes, it actually worked. I am quite pleased with the results. I'm sure your wielder will return to mine shortly.\\

//He's taking the 4:15 train!\\

//You shouldn't have eavesdropped.\\

//Sorry...I just...wanted to make sure it worked this time.\\

//O, ye of little faith...\\ Korin muttered as they let their bond fade back into eternity.


Author's Notes:.
.:Wisdom's Sacrifice Fiction:.