The Space Between

by 'rith



I hadn't meant to gain a new obsession, but as things go... I've been watching the anime series "Fushigi Yuugi" (hey, Buffy is on hiatus, gotta watch SOMEthing...). Like a lot of anime, it's tremendously slashy. All those beautiful boys!

Fandom: Fushigi Yuugi
Pairing: Nuriko/Tasuki
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Nuriko is tired.
Archive: yes to list archives
Email: kerithwyn@yahoo.com
Series/Sequel: I sincerely hope not.
Meta: at end.
Web Page: http://www.offpanel.net/kerithwyn/
Disclaimer: So very not mine.
Thanks: to Becky, who encourages me.
Timing: Takes place during Episode 25, "Love and Sorrow." The morning after the failed attempt to summon Suzaku, Nuriko and Tasuki seemed very close and playful with each other--moreso than previously. What happened the night before?


***

Extraneous notage:

I'm watching this in English, so it doesn't have any of the Japanese honorifics (-sama, -san) and I didn't put them in. The name-spellings also come from the pamphlet in the DVD. Also, since I've only SEEN through Ep 26 (Star Festival), I have no context on anything that happens later. Can't decide if that's good or bad. ;)

Finally, I use "she" for Nuriko for most of the fic, because it's his POV and he's gender-self-identified as a woman. I know that's not the usual style; that's just how Nuriko spoke to me.

***


The ceremony intended to summon Suzaku had been a total disaster, and Nuriko frankly wasn't up to dealing with the inevitable emotional fallout. Let the others bear the brunt of Miaka's immaturity for once. Though the girl (no, the *priestess*) had been unexpectedly calm when Taiitskun appeared, accepting responsibility for everything that had happened and swearing to do whatever was necessary to fulfill her duty.

Then Taiitskun ordered the rest of them out so she could talk to Miaka alone. Nuriko had escaped gladly. Things were supposed to have ended today, sewn up neatly by the wishes made to Suzaku. Instead the priestess and the warriors were set on another quest and warned that it would be far more dangerous than anything that had come before. Nuriko was tired already.

The constant strain of protecting Miaka from her own foolishness had become wearying. And then there was the added tension of being near Hotohori. But that, Nuriko thought, you did to yourself. Stupid...girl. That's what she was, really, and no accident of biology could make her believe otherwise.

She wandered the palace grounds, stopping finally in an ornamental rock garden near a small lake. It was quiet here, the rest of the palace distracted by the ceremony and its outcome.

Or so she thought. The crunch on the gravel behind her alerted her to another's presence.

"What'cha doing out here by yourself?"

"Oh...nothing." She turned and eyed the redheaded warrior curiously. "You don't look too broken up about what happened this afternoon...."

Tasuki shrugged eloquently. "I was born a bandit, I'll probably die a bandit. All this Empire-saving is just a side-trip."

"So the fact that we failed to summon Suzaku and will probably have to go to war with the Kutou Empire doesn't mean much to you?"

"Hey, I joined up with this little group, didn't I? I know what's important."

"I suppose you do." She turned away from him and stared out over the water again. Baiting Tasuki wasn't as much fun when he was being sincere.

His voice came again, startling her. "Hey, Nuriko. Really. What's wrong? You're usually more cheerful than this."

"Nothing," she muttered, and stooped to catch up one of the ornamental stones. She tossed it once or twice in her hand, then threw it across the water with all her considerable strength. It wasn't nice to deface the Emperor's garden, but as one of the Suzaku Seven she was entitled to a little leeway, wasn't she? "It's just. Nevermind."

"Talk to me."

For some reason, she did. "I just...I wanted the spell to work. I wanted Suzaku to make it so there wouldn't be a war. I wanted...." she paused, and Tasuki apparently knew better than to push. "I wanted Miaka to ask Suzaku to turn me into a woman. A real woman."

"Oh." He didn't say anything else, and after a moment she glanced at him sidelong. He was staring at the water, an unwarrantedly thoughtful look on his face. After a moment he picked up his own stone and threw it. It fell well short of her own mark.

She could bear anything but silence. "I suppose you think I'm a fool."

"Huh? No. Not if you really love him. Hotohori, I mean. Do you?"

"*Yes,*" she gritted through her teeth, "isn't it obvious to everyone?"

"Well, yeah. And there's no chance otherwise, huh?"

She turned to stare at him. "Of *course* not. He's the Emperor of Konan. It wouldn't be possible."

He snorted. "Oh, I'd bet there's more secrets in the Imperial closet than anyone's guessed at. You know how nobles are. But--" he said hurriedly at the gathering anger on her face-- "I'm not saying that about HIM. Just in general. If he's not interested, that's how it is."

"He's not," she said flatly. And she'd known it, even before her desperate attempt to infiltrate the harem and gain his attention. But she'd been foolish enough to try nonetheless.

"He's an idiot, then. I don't know why you'd want to be a girl anyway. You're pretty enough as you are."

She glared. "If you're mocking me, I'll break you in half."

"I like a challenge." He grinned back insolently, showing off those ridiculously sharp incisors. "No, really."

"You-- stop it. That's not funny."

"Wow, if that's how you take a compliment, no wonder His Majesty isn't interested."

She really was going to hurt him. "Tasuki--"

"C'mon, Nuriko, I'm not messing with you. I thought you'd realized--I've said it often enough. I *don't like girls.*"

She blinked, honestly startled, and said the first thing that came to mind. "I thought you were just--mouthing off. Like you do."

He rolled his eyes at her. "Gee. Thanks."

She was busy thinking back to when they'd first met. "So you and your friend Koji...."

He smirked. "Good friends. Real *close* friends. But it's not like we're married or anything."

"Why didn't you say anything before?!"

"I didn't have any reason to. You were obviously stuck on His Highness, he and Tamahome are hooked on Miaka, Mitsukake is still in mourning for Shoka, the guy we thought was Chiriko just liked playing his flute, and Chichiri...Chichiri's *weird.* I mean, maybe if he didn't wear that smiley mask all the time...." He paused, seeming to consider. "He'd still be weird."

He said it all in that light, almost mocking tone. But if there was mockery, it wasn't directed at her. "And you tell me this now because...."

"Because we're about to head off into Suzaku-knows-what, looking for some magic whatzis. I don't know about you, but *I* could use some fun." His clever, foxlike face was full of mischief and invitation. "No strings, babe."

It was outrageous. It was wholly improper. It was...tempting. He was damned attractive. And it'd been a long time. The women of the Emperor's neglected harem found entertainment where they could among the palace denizens, and some of the harem guards had been chosen specifically *because* they weren't interested in women. One or two had found Nuriko interesting enough. But they'd only been diversions.

She didn't know Tasuki very well yet, but he'd proven as protective of Miaka as any Warrior of Suzaku could be. He'd left his bandit kingdom to fulfill a perilous duty, and done so cheerfully. He'd just now proven himself both kind and discreet. And he was *here,* as Hotohori would never be.

"No strings," she repeated softly. And then, "My name is Cho Ryuen." She-- He smiled. "Is Genro your real name?"

"Kou Shunu." He bowed. Nuriko smacked him lightly for the insolence. "Ow. And 'ooh.' Do that again."

Nuriko sighed deeply. "Idiot."

"Yeah, but I'm irresistible. All the boys say so."

"Hm. You'll have to prove that." Nuriko pulled the ribbon from his hair, letting it fall around him like a cloak.

"You're beautiful," Tasuki said, and there was nothing but admiration in his tone.

"Not as beautiful as Hotohori," Nuriko replied lightly enough, but Tasuki frowned. He stepped forward, catching Nuriko around the waist, and without another word bent him backward and covered Nuriko's mouth with his own.

Tasuki might be uncultured, foul-mouthed, and rude...but he knew how to *kiss.* Nuriko was panting when the bandit lord finally let him come up for air. He was grinning ferally again. "*I* think you are."

Flattery, of course. But Nuriko was in no mood to argue. Nor did he protest when Tasuki swept him up, heading purposely toward the warriors' private quarters. If this were no more than diversion for both of them, Nuriko welcomed it gladly.

And if once he cried out for Hotohori in passion, Tasuki would forgive.



{end}

The space between
What's wrong and right
Is where you'll find me hiding, waiting for you
-- Dave Matthews Band

*****

Series primer:

The gist -- Miaka Yuuki is a 15-year-old Japanese schoolgirl who falls through a magical portal into a fantasy world, the Universe of the Four Gods. There, in the Empire of Konan, she becomes the Priestess of Suzaku. She is tasked to gather the seven Warriors of Suzaku to perform the ceremony to summon Suzaku, the mystical phoenix protector of the Konan Empire, who will grant the Priestess three wishes. Wacky adventures ensue.

Relevant characters:

Nuriko -- a gay cross-dresser who looks like a gorgeous woman, he joined Hotohori's harem in hope of getting close to the Emperor. He was never discovered because Hotohori never visited the harem. He's in love with Hotohori, but knows it's hopeless. Has superhuman strength. One of the Suzaku Seven.

Tasuki -- a fiery-haired (and tempered) bandit leader from the mountains. Also called Genro. His best friend, Koji, was his second in command. Has a magical fan that shoots flames on his command. States, loudly and often, that he "doesn't like girls." One of the Suzaku Seven.

Hotohori -- Emperor of Konan. Loves Miaka, but knows she only has eyes for Tamahome. An incredibly beautiful man. One of the Suzaku Seven.

Tamahome -- Loves Miaka. A great martial artist. One of the Suzaku Seven.

Miaka -- a 15-year-old schoolgirl and Priestess of Suzaku. Loves Tamahome. Clueless and annoying, but she doesn't appear in this story.

Mitsukake (a healer), Chichiri (a wizard), and Chiriko (a bard) -- the other three of the Suzaku Seven. Chiriko was impersonated by an enemy for much of the story so far.

Taiitskun -- Creator of the Universe of the Four Gods.

*****




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