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Title: Apparitions
Author: opalmatrix
Warnings: brief mention of child abuse
Pairing(s): n/a
Spoilers: through vol. 3 of Saiyuki: Gojyo's history
Notes: saiyuki_time challenge #7: Ghosts. Time given: 25 minutes. Time taken: just about that. Yay!
Summary: He was only trading one sorrow for another ... but somehow it felt a lot better.

It had been the better part of ten years since Sha Jien had abandoned his baby brother. And yet sometimes it seemed that he had been unable to leave Gojyo behind at all.

It started that first night on the road, when he'd limped wearily into the next village. He'd heard someone's harsh voice cursing, the sound of a slap, and a child's whimper, hastily stilled, and found himself turning toward his brother's voice before he realized that it couldn't be the boy he'd left so many footsore miles behind. A few day's later, the basket of food he'd earned with several hours' labor had included candy, and the moment he'd seen it, he'd mentally divided it to share with Gojyo. And when the days had become weeks, and he woke one chilly morning snuggled into a haystack, the light of the wild red dawn on the fine stems heaped around him was just the shade of his brother's hair.

At Houtou Castle, then, it was no surprise that to him that his new lord's deep crimson hair only echoed his brother's brighter mop, or that Yaone's pert smile when she beat him at chess brought Gojyo's urchin grin to mind. And when Lirin flung her arms around him after he covered for her when she'd run off one day, he wasn't shocked to spend the entire evening feeling maudlin and damp around the eyes, because her sturdy embrace only made him think of his brother's awkward hug.

He was fully expecting to spend the rest of his life being ambushed unexpectedly by such reminders - when Yaone brought back the news that one of the members of the Sanzo ikkou was a half-breed youkai with a scarred face, whose companions had addressed him as Gojyo. And then a couple of weeks later, when they chased down Lirin in that town square, there stood the living, breathing reality of all those haunted years. Nearly as tall now as Jien himself, all wiry muscle and cocky, sure-footed grace, his face marked not only with the scars that Mom had given him on that horrible day but also with the clear beginnings of laugh lines, the abused ragamuffin he'd defended and loved so many years ago now stood confidently with his companions and called the Prince's servant an old man.

"I didn't want to believe it 'til I saw you," Jien said to his brother Gojyo, "But there you are ... ."

Dokugakuji could not have explained it, even to Yaone. Surely facing one's beloved younger brother in battle was a terrible thing. But his heart was warmed and filled and healed the minute he'd seen that rakish grin, and he knew that no matter what happened between them on the battlefield, he'd no longer be haunted by the ghost of the boy he'd let behind.

 

Comments

( 22 comments — leave a comment )
louiselux
May. 3rd, 2008 07:52 am (UTC)
There are so many things in this to pick out that I'd be quoting the whole thing. Doku's feelings when he sees Gojyo again, and the description of all the ways Gojyo's changed, seem perfect to me. The mention of laugh lines implies so so much.

the light of the wild red dawn on the fine stems heaped around him was just the shade of his brother's hair.

That is great imgery! I really admire what you've done with this challenge.
opalmatrix
May. 5th, 2008 11:26 am (UTC)

Ohhh, thank you! I'm glad it worked!

I always feel very warmly about Jien, perhaps because I'm an older sibling myself but also because he's such a good-hearted lunk. I've often thought that just about all of Gojyo's positive qualities probably come from his older brother's care during his growing-up years.

cheydancer
May. 3rd, 2008 11:57 am (UTC)
All of what louiselus said. The way Doku saw his brother in the little things and the big things around him, the beautiful way you've expressed this like some kind of haunting melody and the last line; it tugged at the heartstrings and yet made everything all right. Achingly beautiful.
opalmatrix
May. 5th, 2008 11:33 am (UTC)

I think that for both of the brothers, their relationship was so important that Jien would feel just as lost without Gojyo, even though he felt he had to leave ... but Jien was old enough to think clearly (once he got over his initial horror about killing his mother) about what might happen to Gojyo without him. So I think the final resolution of that must have been very, very important to him ... you can see it in the half-giddy way they're both acting during that scene.

Thanks for reading, and commenting!

samm204
May. 3rd, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC)
gorgeous, you brought tears to my eyes. Wonderfull work
opalmatrix
May. 5th, 2008 11:33 am (UTC)

I'm so glad you liked it!

theskywasblue
May. 3rd, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)
Wonderful - heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the same time. All of your descriptions are just beautiful. I am in awe, really.
Loved it!
opalmatrix
May. 5th, 2008 11:44 am (UTC)

Aww, thanks! I can appreciate Jien's anxiety and uncertainty over what he'd done, leaving Gojyo, and the story just sort of came pouring out when I was thinking "OK, beyond our four principals, who else in this story might feel haunted?"

cicer
May. 3rd, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC)
Aaah! Oh, this is so sweet, so endearing. I absolutely love Jien in this. It's really touching how attached his is to Gojyo and how much he loved him. Lovely! This made me really happy, somehow.
opalmatrix
May. 5th, 2008 11:46 am (UTC)

I'm so glad it worked for you! This is actually the second Jien POV story I've done - maybe you'd enjoy the other one too ... .

Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

despina_moon
May. 4th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
Anything I said at this point would only be repetitive, but I wanted to let you know I really loved this.

Thank you!
opalmatrix
May. 5th, 2008 11:47 am (UTC)

Thank you!

eyesofshinigami
May. 4th, 2008 04:14 am (UTC)
What a heartfelt, evocative, and bittersweet piece.

I really liked the look into Dokugakuji here, and how the thoughts and memories of his brother haunted him. I could totally see that, since he did say that he saw Gojyo in Kou when they first met. Very, very nicely done.

The language was gorgeous and it had such a nice flow to it. ♥ Loved it.
opalmatrix
May. 5th, 2008 11:49 am (UTC)

Thanks! I do like to tie the things into canon as much as I can, even when I'm off in my happy little fanon-verse. Jien is a practical kind of guy, but Minekura makes it pretty clear that Gojyo was still very much on his mind after he came to work for Kougaiji.

lady_ganesh
May. 4th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's great. I love this take, and your characterization of Jien/Doku.
opalmatrix
May. 5th, 2008 11:52 am (UTC)

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! The whole grotty nastiness of the Sha brother's young lives really sets off the more fantastical elements of Saiyuki, and Jien's influence was so vital in making Gojyo into the giving person who was capable fo scraping Cho Gonou off the road and taking care of him.

purpleicicles
May. 5th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
Nearly as tall now as Jien himself, all wiry muscle and cocky, sure-footed grace, his face marked not only with the scars that Mom had given him on that horrible day but also with the clear beginnings of laugh lines, the abused ragamuffin he'd defended and loved so many years ago now stood confidently with his companions and called the Prince's servant an old man. <-- best line!

I really liked how you showed how all the little things kind of ambush Jien when he's not expecting it and reminds him of the younger brother he had to leave behind. The parts of Gojyo he sees in the Kou-tachi show just how deep his emotional attachment to him is, and his reaction upon seeing him again was perfect. Amazing job, and thank you! *^___^*
opalmatrix
May. 10th, 2008 03:24 am (UTC)

Thank you! I'm glad it worked for you. I love the Sha brothers (as you know) and was glad to have a chance to visit with Jien again.



Edited at 2008-05-10 03:24 am (UTC)
lillypuff
May. 6th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, this was so beautiful, a really lovely read!
opalmatrix
May. 10th, 2008 03:25 am (UTC)

Awww, thank you! I'm happy!

redbrunja
Jun. 2nd, 2008 01:37 am (UTC)
Oh, Jein.
opalmatrix
Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:24 am (UTC)

Yeah, he's such a sweetheart, and he took so much crud.

Thanks for reading!

( 22 comments — leave a comment )

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