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WARNING: If you haven't read the warning on the index page, go back and read it. If you don't, and you don't like what you find here, don't come crying to me.
Title: Solace

Author: Eleanor K.

Fandom: Blade of the Immortal

Pairing: Anotsu/Magatsu

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Cry of the Worm

Posted: 16 Jan 2004

Email: emungere@gmail.com

Disclaimer: They belong to Hiroaki Samura and not to me.

Warnings: Lots of blood, but no more than in the series.

Notes: Most kindly beta'd by Chrissy. Possibly twice.

..___..

He thought it would hurt more than this.

It's not fun, or anything. A dull ache pulses in time with his heartbeat and spreads wider with every step he takes. There are sharper pains if he moves too suddenly or tries to turn and see behind himself.

But all in all, he thought dying would hurt more.

The worst part is the blood, really. He's used to blood. It shouldn't bother him. But there's so much of it. Some of it's still warm, and it's sticky where it's drying on his hand, and it's all *over* him. And it's his.

Drying stiffly in his robes, coating his hand, on his face and in his hair where he tried to clear the sweat from his eyes. He can smell it when he breathes through his nose, and when he tries breathing through his mouth, he can taste it in the air.

He's cold, and he knows it's because all that warmth should be inside him instead of leaking out of a hole in his side. Damn Manji anyway. He wishes he could put more anger into that thought, but he's just too tired.

The last few steps are hard. He collapses under the tree in the dojo's courtyard. The trunk is a blinding stab of pain where it hits his wound, but he can't move to relieve it. He's going to die here. Bleed out onto these smooth stones. His fingers rest on one, and it feels warm. Maybe that's from the long-gone sun, or maybe it's only warm in comparison to his skin.

"Magatsu?"

Anotsu's voice is questioning, but Magatsu can't reply. He's torn, as he always is with Anotsu, between come-closer and get-away-from-me. He doesn't want to die alone. But he doesn't particularly want to be yelled at for getting himself killed, either.

Anotsu crouches beside him. "You're hurt."

"What...gave me...away?" Pause for breath, pause to rest between the words.

Not long now, he thinks.

"Shut up." Anotsu peels his hand away from his wound with a wet sucking sound. "We need to get you inside."

"No...point."

"Shut up." He turns to yell over his shoulder. "I need some help here!"

Magatsu almost smiles. Those aren't words he's used to hearing from their leader.

Hand on his chin, tipping his face up. "Who did this to you?"

He tries to look away, but Anotsu won't let him. "Doesn't...matter."

Black eyes, fierce and angry. "It matters to me."

He would have told Anotsu anything in that moment. But he's so cold, and when his eyes close, he can't get them open again.

***

He isn't cold when he wakes up. That's almost as surprising as waking up is. He was cold for so long, every step of that walk home. His hand clenches involuntarily in memory. He expects the sticky-flaky feel of dried blood, but his hand is clean. So is the other.

"Do you want something to drink?"

Anotsu's voice, above him and to his left. He opens his eyes and sees him sitting cross-legged beside the futon.

"What are--" His voice comes out as a croak. He swallows and starts over. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm asking if you want something to drink." Anotsu's face reveals nothing.

"Yeah," Magatsu says, finally. "Thanks."

Anotsu nods and picks up a cup of water. His free arm comes around Magatsu's shoulders.

"I can sit up myself."

"No, you can't."

And maybe he can't. Even the slight effort he makes to pull away from Anotsu's support brings a searing pain to his side. Much worse than last night. Or whenever that was.

He drinks carefully. He has a feeling that coughing right now would be a bad idea.

"What happened?" he asks, once he's lying down again.

"I was hoping you could tell me."

"No, I mean... Why aren't I dead?"

"You almost were. Tell me who did this to you."

The urgency in Anotsu's voice seems a good indication that he's not out of the woods yet.

"You can't wait five minutes to find out who to kill once I buy the farm?"

"You're not going to die."

"But better safe than sorry, right?"

Anotsu's mouth is tight. There are shadows under his eyes, and in them.

"Tell me."

Memories are settling back into Magatsu's mind. He's not sure if he can trust them or not. He's tempted to say it doesn't matter again, just to see...just to hear.

*It matters to me.*

No. That had to be real. He never would have come up with that on his own. His imagination just isn't that good.

"Manji."

Anotsu laughs sharply. "Of course. I should have known. He's still alive?"

"I think it's going to take a lot more than a sword through his gut to kill him."

"What do you mean?"

Magatsu shakes his head. "I don't know. He's not normal. He's... I hit him in the leg, and it didn't even slow him down. I nearly gutted him, and he crawled after me and got me in the back. He said he's 'kind of used to things like this.' Whatever that means."

He finds himself out of breath from that little speech and closes his eyes for a second.

***

Warmth again. That's nice. Murmur of voices somewhere nearby.

"Make sure he rests. That'll do him the most good."

"I understand." That's Anotsu.

"I'm serious. I know how you kenshi are--"

"He will rest."

Yes, definitely Anotsu. No one else could make those three words into both a threat and a conversation stopper.

"Of course," the other man murmurs quickly. "I'll see myself out."

Retreating footsteps, the whoosh of a closing door. Anotsu's soft tread coming closer.

"The doctor's amazed you're alive."

Magatsu opens an eye. "Me too."

Anotsu sits beside his futon again. "I had no intention of letting you go so easily."

Magatsu opens the other eye. "You think that was easy?"

And Anotsu smiles at him. Really smiles. Sweet, gentle curve of his lips, warmth in his eyes.

"No, I don't think it was easy." He smooths the blanket up around Magatsu's shoulders. "Why don't you get some more sleep."

"Just woke up."

"You're still tired."

"I am not. What are you doing in my room anyway?"

"This isn't your room."

Magatsu looks up. Dark beams intersect a smooth, white ceiling. His own ceiling is cracked and water stained, more yellow than white.

"Okay. What am I doing in your room?"

"Yours is farther away and up too many stairs."

"I'm really not tired."

"Just close your eyes."

He does. Can't seem to keep them open any longer. "You don't have to stay."

"I know."

But he will. He doesn't have to say it. Magatsu knows.

He likes the knowledge. He was always half-sure that he meant...something to Anotsu. Something beyond another sword. Now he knows.

*It matters to me.*

Yeah. He likes that a lot. He could almost be grateful to Manji for skewering him. Not quite, but almost.

-------
..end..
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