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In the Land of Snow
Author: Safetygirl

He was gone by the time I woke up this morning. As usual. It was always a bit of a rude awakening, to find that nice warm body that I had snuggled up to all night gone when I open my eyes. Rising, I begin to put away the sleeping things - and locate my yukuta that went missing in the night. I need to see to the laundry, but it’s nice to still smell him in the bedding.

“Why don’t you ever wake me up?” I asked once, when we were first together. It honestly made me nervous - this new thing was so uncertain, and fragile, and I had no idea how to negotiate such a thing. “I’m rather unpleasant in the morning,” he answered. It was then that he moved to me, holding me close, and as I lay my head on his chest, and he said, “I prefer to leave you looking peaceful. that is the image of you that I like to have of you when I’m out for the day.” For Hajime to admit such things is rare - he has never been a man to shower me in sweet words, but I rarely have to doubt, anymore, how he feels about “his woman”.

His woman. That’s really all of the title that I can have from him now. I don’t mind it, most of the time. I resent like hell having to share him, in some sense, with that wife back in Tokyo, but I don’t care about it for myself. That, by the standards that I was raised, that I have certainly gone astray. A good samurai daughter does not run off and take up with a married man. But I’ve always been guided too much by my heart than common sense - it is that which led me to accept this shadow life with Hajime. Because what little this is, it is with him, and I am happy. And in Hokkaido, people don’t ask a lot of questions, I’ve found.

We’ve both known what it is to lose people who we care for, but I wonder if it’s those losses, and the time that has passed, is what brought us together? Would I have loved him at seventeen? Unlikely, and just as unlikely that he would have loved me back. He was focused on his duty, and I... I was lost to the sweetness that Souji provided. We do not speak of it much - I think that Hajime fears that Souji still holds a piece of my heart - but it’s the part of my heart that is forever a young girl, in the gardens of my father’s house, lost in that little leaping thrill of first love. That part that is lost to Souji is nothing that can threaten or diminish what I feel for Hajime - the sweetness now has a bitter tinge to it, and could never compare to this all-consuming emotion that I have now. Hajime and I came together, so many years later. It was only then that I remembered how I used to catch his eyes following me, or that when there were times that I should have been intimidated by that aura of intensity that he exuded in those days, I was still... drawn to him. But never brave enough to barely even speak to him - and then I thought only of another.... and I doubt that he would have spoken with me then, somehow. The differences between us were much more pronounced, when we were young. But if we had? What then? Would he still have married?

I try not to think of Tokio too much. There’s so many conflicting emotions there - guilt, of course, but did I take anything that was ever hers? That’s something that we never discuss - her. He will tease me about Souji, but I would never dare to do the same to him. I wonder if she knows about me? A few months ago he went back down there for two weeks - it was the longest two weeks of my life, and this house was never cleaner. It was strained when he came back - I was just waiting for him to tell me that he was going to move his family up here, or ... tell me that it would be best if I went back to Kyoto. But gradually, cautiously, we found each other again.

A wife who is very much alive, and the mother of his children, is a much greater threat than the ghost of Okita Souji.

At least with those other women that he knows in Tokyo - tanuki, kitsune, itachi - I can laugh at him about those, show mock jealousy. “Ah, you’re going back to Tokyo for that girl, Hajime.” Which would make him growl, “Neko-chan - how many times do I need to tell you that I do not chase after girls.”

“Neko-chan - why on earth that?” I had no idea where his little name for me came from; he simply started calling me that. He only smirked, and answered, “Because you like to curl up on my lap, and you look so damn contented, like a cat that got its way.” He tries to be stern when he says these things, but I could see how amused he was with himself. And then I only had to show him how his “Neko-chan” could pounce...

Until Hajime, I never thought that I could be so bold in what I wanted like that. To desire like that ... I revel in his touch, and I delight in our passion. Ah, I still blush over it sometime - but that is certainly something I never imagined that I would find, and I wouldn’t think that I would have this degree of aggressiveness, the ability to say clever, teasing things. I am still quiet and shy - but there’s a side to me that only he can bring out in me.

I busy myself through the day - though, to be honest, there’s not a lot to see to in this little house. A trip to the market. Laundry. Make plans for the garden in spring, and sweep the wet dead leaves from the walk. As evening approaches, I start dinner, and take care in my dress. I leave my hair down for him, tied back loosely with a ribbon. Not very proper for a woman my age, but he could care less about that, and when it is just us - I do not get too concerned over that impropriety. I try to do these little things that please him - in whatever time we have together in Hokkaido. I do not care how cold it is outside - I would follow that man to Mongolia, if he asked. Of course, he never so much asked me to come to Hokkaido with him as made a grumbling suggestion. “I am being transferred. To Hokkaido. If you want to come with me, I suggest you look into some warmer clothes.” I could only smile as my heart pounded wildly. “Yes, I think I will.”

Saitou Hajime. Fujita Goro. All those names, and the many more he’s gone by, but only one matters to me. Mine. The one I love. I cannot dwell on the sadness, on those, living and dead, that stand between us.

I hear the door slide open, “Neko-chan, I am home.”

Author's Note: Written -very- early in the H x H relationship, probably within the first month?  Thankfully Kizu preserved it!

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