Continuity: *snerk* What is continuity? Okay, okay, as far as my stories go, this one is set 6-8 months after the events in "Taming" and "Tangled". Besides that, I'm running amuck with "normal" continuity. Amuck, amuck, amuck.
Rating: G. Completely. Really. I promise! Maybe I'll do a PWP to counteract the sweet G-ness...
Notes: "Glory of Love" is by Peter Cetera. It's from the Karate Kid soundtrack. Isn't it wonderful? And, isn't it stuck in your head now? mwahaha Also, grammatical note: non-direct diologue is marked with ''s instead of ""s for no other reason than I like the spare, oriental feel.
Thanks: To Ella and Chyld for their wonderful beta-ing (and to Kael, too!). Ella's been supporting me from the beginning and she's advised me to toss a Kleenex warning on this one. Chyld's my grammer hound and a wonderful grammer hound she is. Kael's just Kael :)
I am the man who will fight for your honor.
I'll be the hero you've been dreaming of.
We'll live forever, knowing together
That we did it all for the glory of love.
For Your Honor
I pull the wrapped sword from the closet, feel the familiar weight settle into my hands. The kimono comes out afterwards, fabric settling against my skin like cool, forgotten fingers. Pulling them out, I feel like I'm slipping into a previous life.
It's night still, too early to be up, but I know the ceremony drill. What I have to do, I have to do before dawn. I look at the bed, watch the shadows pass over Kurt's face. He looks so peaceful. I think again about waking him, making him a part of the ritual, but I can't. It's still something I can't give over to anyone, not even him.
The shrine waits in a clearing near the boathouse, resting exactly where I left it last night. It kills me to see it there, in some empty, shadowed field, but I already made my choice to stay home this year. If I close my eyes, I tell myself, I can pretend that I'm there. Then, the wind shifts, bringing with it the scent of earth, and I can smell that I'm not there, I can feel it all the way to my bones that I'm not there. Still, I think she'd understand.
The wind blows cool, the biting chill of winter melting into early spring. The grass damp beneath my bare feet, I feel the moisture seep into my knees as I kneel in front of the shrine. I idly hope that the grass won't stain as I unwrap the katana. Pulling the blade free from the scabbard, I lay it across my knees. I light the incense, then, relieved that it at least is real. Sandalwood wafts to my nose as I bow my head.
The prayers come harder every year, the language stilted and straining on my tongue. They bring back so many memories, these prayers. But I say the words, each of them, letting them fall from my tongue like cherry blossoms.
Oh, God, like cherry blossoms...like the trees around the school that are going to bloom so soon...
"Look at the trees, beloved! They're so beautiful, like pink-tufted clouds!"
She lays there, stretched on the bed like some delicate porcelain doll, her mouth curved deliciously, her eyes drifting with the petals that are blowing through the open window, settling to the floor in little pools of pink and white.
I'm lying next to her, my hand caressing the ivory white of her hip, the fragile naked curve of it. The cherry blossoms are not what I'm looking at.
She turns her head to look at me, the burst of red that some fool was base enough to call lips lifting in a smile. No, they're not lips. They're trickles of flame. Oh, God, she has me thinking poetry.
And then those lips on mine and I can't help but see how beautiful she is, so beautiful in comparison to me. I am so ugly next to her. But she knows my thoughts and she pulls back to look at me with eyes that are nothing less than ebon pools. She speaks, her voice like the sound of temple chimes. And I know that I will never forget her words.
"My love, you taste like plum wine. And you have eyes like the ice from the highest mountains. And your body is so beautiful, it makes me cry."
And she is mine and I am hers, our bodies tangled like blossom and branch. And I know that I will never love anyone quite like this.
The sun is coming now. I can smell the dew rising off of the grass, hear the slip of the wind over the moist blades. I can smell the moisture pooling in my eyes, as well. The incense has burned itself out. I have said every prayer that I know, inventing new ones when the old ones failed me, resorting to tears when even words left me. God, yes, I still cry over her.
Her. Mariko. My love. The woman who would have been my wife. Today is the anniversary of her death. I have done my duty to her memory. I have upheld this honor. Yet, the grief is thick in me. This is the first year in which I haven't returned to Japan for a ritual mourning ceremony.
I look down at my hands splayed across the sword, the blade cold and flat beneath warm flesh. I move one finger across the razored edge, smell the briefest flash of blood before my body stitches the cut together again. Looking at those hands, noting how hard they are, how thick and rough, I suddenly feel old. The wind cuts into me, suddenly, reminding me that it is not quite spring. I am a fool of an old man who should be inside where it's warm.
Inside with him. Kurt. My love. The man who has become my life. I want to go in and fall against him and tell him everything. Tell him about Mariko and how much I loved her, for we've never talked about her. Tell him that he is just as beautiful, but in such a different way. Tell him I love him. I've said it roughly in the dark of night, when there's nothing else to say, when I can't give him anything less. It's a heavy weight between us, though, those rarely spoken words.
How does one say these things? Mariko called poetry from my lips, but all the poetry died with her.
The memories are thick today and I do not think I'm ready to tell him about cherry blossoms. But if not now when?
The tea settles things. He is nervous and pacing in the kitchen when I come in to heat the water. And, I do not have to listen to hear the words, the 'where were you', the 'what's wrong', the softer, searching 'liebschen.'
God, I think, I am so obvious. It's not like I make a habit of getting up early anymore. I'd rather stay in bed, now, and he knows it. I like the warmth. I'm getting so damn old. But, I don't say that. I don't even look at him and I know he's getting pissed off because of that. Instead I just say 'I couldn't sleep' and 'I'm making tea' and 'would you like some?'
But I can't wait for the answers and I pick up the kettle and leave, not caring that I'm scalding my hands. Not caring that he's following me back to our room. Not caring about much of anything anymore except for the memories. The memories that folding over me so quickly, like tsunami waves.
She's crying. What am I supposed to do about tears? She's crying and I have no words. The tea seeps into the ground, cracked shards of a pot the only testimony to her brief rage.
Those perfect little hands ball into fists. I do not to have to listen to hear the words, the 'where were you', the 'I needed you', the unspoken 'how dare you leave me alone for so long.' Then, her face schools itself into proper order; she places the mantle of honor back onto her shoulders. She picks up a shard of pottery, studying it curiously as though it's a fallen leaf.
And, wordlessly, she leaves me, pressing the broken piece into my hand as she goes.
He's crying. I still don't know what to do with tears. He's crying and all I can do is set the tea. 'What is wrong' again and again, a rain of questions on my head.
I look up at him, snapping tiredly for him to sit, to drink with me, to do just this one thing and not ask any more damn questions. Amazingly, he does.
The cups are delicate wisps of porcelain, perfect little lacquered shells, curved eagerly to accept the steaming jasmine tea which I offer them.
We sit across from each other at the little table, legs folded underneath us. Perhaps, I think, I should still be wearing the kimono. It would be proper. Kurt just doesn't fit into that old picture, though. I can sit and drink tea with him, just not in traditional style. That part of my life is gone.
I am taking my second sip when the familiar brush of furred fingers ghosts over my other hand. He speaks softly and I know I will never forget these words.
"Your grief is mine. I love her through your eyes."
Now it's my turn to be surprised, but he stills me with a shake of the head. 'I saw you rise this morning' I hear. 'I'm not quite so dense to not guess the occasion' comes next, and he smiles lightly, trying to lighten the somberness of the situation. He's always been so good at that.
He raises the cup then, his eyes such an impossible shade of yellow, golden yellow like the rising sun that sears away the chill of night.
"To your grief and to our love."
And I can't help but be amazed at his love, love which drives him to tears over my pain, love which makes him stay, washed, for this moment at least, in the shadow of a past lover.
I put my cup down. The porcelain chimes against the metal of the pot, a high, bright sound. I lean across the table and kiss him. When I pull back, the words come unbidden. I cannot scour the roughness from my voice, the small, pained wavers.
"My love, you taste like plum wine. And you have eyes like the gold of the sun setting over distant mountains. And your body is so beautiful, it makes me cry."
And I realize, suddenly, that I am crying. I can smell the salt of my own tears. I feel so impossibly young and old at the same time as he reaches for me.
And he is mine and I am his, our bodies mixing like river and ocean.
In the quiet of late morning, he awakens. The words drift to me in sleep and I feel him, beautiful, against me.
"Look at the trees, Liebschen! They're so beautiful, waiting so patiently to be born!"
I open one eye, catch the flick of a new-budded branch against the window. Over the fragile blue curve of a shoulder, I watch it brush longingly against the sky. Yes, I think, waiting to be born. Waiting to grow again.
Surrounded by warmth, I drift asleep, dreaming of cherry blossoms on the wind. And Mariko is here, standing over me and smiling and saying that it is good for me to be happy. And I tell her that I will never love anyone quite like this.
And I know she understands.
[[Taming the Shy Horses]]
[[Tangled Up in Blue]]
[[For Your Honor]]
[[Don't Use the Telephone]]
[[Getting It All Out]]