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A very different backstory, one that is part of the Ripples arc, was supposed to go up today. Tried and true of Cetera tradition, I ran into problems. So here's the ficlet that was supposed to be in the installment after that.

Part the first of backstory subarc, Rising Sea. 1,945 words. Please pay attention to the subtitle, that really is the subject matter. This one takes place few years after Yukimura and Sanada first met, and over a century before the main story starts.



Et Cetera: Rising Sea by Shiraume


01. Yukimura & Sanada, “Birds and Bees”


[Written November 2004 :: Posted January 31, 2014]

“Do you desire me?”

Sanada jumped rather high, Yukimura noted with interest.

“Wha-what?”

And Sanada was also sputtering. He did that around Yukimura, although never with others. Intriguing.

“I saw you looking at me, like that.”

“Like what?” Sanada was looking distinctly panicked now, though most would not have seen it. Yukimura was pleased to find he could; Yanagi had told him before that Sanada was particularly hard to read for most. He had studied Sanada carefully and could categorize each and every reaction. Yet there was always something new from Sanada. That was what persuaded him to stay in the first place.

“Like how Humans or Cetera look at another when they desire someone sexually.”

Yukimura was puzzled when Sanada abruptly turned around, averting his eyes. “Excuse me,” Sanada said in a tightly controlled voice, and left the room. Looking at Sanada’s retreating back, Yukimura thought perhaps he had offended Sanada. Humans seemed rather embarrassed about sexuality in general, and even Cetera, though much less clandestine about sexual desires, were not terribly forthcoming on the subject. He had taken Sanada at his word that he could ask anything, but perhaps his question had been offensive by Cetera standards.

Yukimura extended his consciousness, seeking out Sanada. Sanada was still moving, headed towards the garden. Yukimura reconsidered. Sanada only retreated to the garden when he felt the need to calm down. If he wanted Sanada to respond to him and be an active part of his learning, he would have to redress the situation. With Humans or Cetera, Yukimura had learned apologies were the first step to restoring balance. So he teleported to the secluded enclave surrounded by thick trees, where Sanada often came to meditate. As he expected, Sanada was not here yet, so Yukimura sat down on a shaded bench and waited.

The evening air was cool, light breeze stirring the leaves. Heda’s evenings were particularly beautiful, Yukimura thought. Sanada’s family estate was extensive, and most of it had been turned into a vast garden that reminded Yukimura of the Gilean Forest, where they met. It was very well tended, and lent the manor both privacy and beauty.

Sanada strolled into the clearing, walking more quickly than usual. To Yukimura’s amusement, Sanada did not seem to notice him. Still, Sanada now looked more unsettled than angry, and Yukimura took this as a good sign. As he waited for an opportunity to alert Sanada of his presence, he watched closely out of habit. It was always different when Sanada was unaware of being watched.

Sanada ran a hand through his hair and sighed, a gesture Yukimura had rarely seen from him. Then, Sanada’s expression turned pained, before he shook his head and proceeded with his usual exercise. For his workout, Sanada used a mixture of physical training and meditation, including combat practice with and without weapon. It was strenuous, but Sanada’s graceful movements were beautiful to see. Yukimura knew Sanada was a superb swordsman: he had one of the best forms Yukimura had seen in his long existence.

When Sanada finished practicing with the wooden sword, he simply sprawled back on the grass rather than proceeding to meditation. Yukimura tilted his head to the side, considering. Sanada’s exercise had been much more vigorous, less controlled and longer than usual, but not so much that it would leave him completely exhausted. When Sanada did not get up after ten minutes, Yukimura rose to fetch the towel on the table nearby, and moved to join Sanada. Sanada’s eyes were closed, the wooden sword carelessly flung away. Yukimura knelt, and gently wiped away the sweat on Sanada’s brow with the towel. Sanada’s eyes flew open, and he sat up instantly, catching Yukimura’s wrist.

“Yu-Yukimura! What are you doing here?”

“Are you alright?” Yukimura asked instead, ignoring the question for the moment. “You did not get up for a while.”

Sanada seemed even less at ease at his observation. “You were watching?”

Yukimura nodded. “Do you mind? You didn’t seem to notice me.”

Sanada was silent. He hadn’t go of Yukimura’s wrist, but the grip was not painful or constricting, so Yukimura let it slide. “I came to apologize,” Yukimura tried again when Sanada did not say anything for a long time. Sanada looked at him questioningly, and Yukimura clarified. “You seemed upset when you left. I apologize if my question made you angry.”

“I wasn’t angry,” Sanada replied automatically. Yukimura just looked at him. After spending millennia watching Humans and Cetera, Yukimura recognized anger when he saw it. And Sanada was angry at something when he left the room. Finally, Sanada bowed his head, sweat-soaked bangs falling in his eyes.

“I wasn’t angry with you,” Sanada clarified.

“With yourself?” Yukimura prompted.

Sanada looked back at him, and gave a low, rueful chuckle. “You know, for all you profess you don’t understand feelings, you are surprisingly good at reading them.”

“I’ve studied them for a long time,” Yukimura replied. “But I don’t always understand them. And I need your help to understand more.”

“Do you really need to?” Sanada sounded genuinely curious.

“I would like to,” Yukimura replied matter-of-factly. “I know you desire me,” Yukimura said, steering them back to the subject. “Why were you angry with yourself when I asked you about that?”

“Because...” Sanada paused, swallowed, and averted his eyes again. “Because if you saw that, it shows how much I was not in control of myself. I...” Sanada was looking at his hand, still clasping Yukimura’s wrist. “I ask you to forgive me,” he said at last, and Yukimura blinked. That was unexpected.

“Why? You’ve done nothing wrong.” Sanada still refused to look at him, although he did release Yukimura’s wrist. Yukimura pursed his lips. “Do you think it’s wrong? Cetera customs say nothing against desire.”

“Doesn’t it bother you?” Sanada asked softly.

“Why would it? It is not the first time someone has looked at me like that.”

For some reason, his answer seemed to darken Sanada’s mood even more. “Of course. Excuse me.” Sanada started to get up, and Yukimura grabbed his arm. Although Sanada seemed to have much higher standards regarding propriety than most, if he kept at it, Yukimura would never learn anything. After all, Sanada had promised to help him learn.

“You said you would help me understand, Sanada,” Yukimura reminded him, mild disapproval in his tone, which Yukimura had found was most effective with Sanada. As he expected, Sanada subsided, defeated.

“What’s there for me to help you with? You obviously know about it.” Sanada’s voice was controlled, but with frustration and something else lodged within.

“It is no crime to want another, your customs tell me,” Yukimura said patiently. “But you feel it’s wrong to want me. Why?”

“You are my guest,” Sanada answered after a moment of pause. “It is wrong of me to impose my desire on you, especially when you do not reciprocate it.”

“Are you assuming I am incapable of feeling desire, or that I do not feel any for you?” Yukimura asked, and was amused to see Sanada flush beet-red.

“Can you? I mean...” Ah, but it obviously did not stop Sanada from feeling curious. Before he could answer, Sanada ducked and muttered an apology, trying to break out of his grasp, and Yukimura firmed his grip on Sanada’s arm.

“You don’t need to fear offending me when you ask me questions, Sanada. I ask you questions that could offend you all the time. It’s only fair.” Yukimura smiled, which always seemed to help Sanada feel more at ease. “As for your question, I do not know. In my experience, there were some who seemed to have no qualms about ‘imposing their desires,’ as you put it, though I felt nothing for them in return.”

Sanada tensed at this, and met his eyes for the first time since the exchange began. Yukimura was taken aback by the intensity in his eyes as Sanada suddenly grasped his shoulders with both hands, looking at him seriously.

“Did they try to force their desires on you?”

“Some tried,” Yukimura answered honestly. “I made it clear it was unwelcome in whatever way necessary.” Actually, Yukimura had killed the first Human that tried. He had been surprised, and reacted without thinking. Later, after he became more used to others looking at him with longing or lust in their gaze, he contented himself by verbally indicating it was unwelcome, and only using his power to repel them when they were not sufficiently discouraged. “Besides, both Cetera and Humans consider it wrong to impose one’s desire on another by force, do they not?”

“Yes,” Sanada replied firmly without hesitation, and it occurred to Yukimura what might have brought out Sanada’s sudden seriousness.

“Sanada, no one has forced me. Do you think anyone could?”

“No, I suppose not.”

Yukimura read some embarrassment in Sanada’s expression, and smiled to reassure him. “I suppose sex would feel pleasant for me as well, since my body is made very like that of Cetera and Humans. But for me it would not lead to procreation, so there is no purpose in it. And I have never been sufficiently curious to try for experience’s sake. As for whether I am capable of feeling desire, I do not know. I have never felt it before.”

Yukimura was surprised when Sanada’s eyes suddenly darkened, enough to let Sanada go when he stood abruptly. Without looking at him, Sanada offered a hand, a gesture that was both formal and courtly, and Yukimura let Sanada pull him to his feet.

“Excuse me,” Sanada murmured, and turned to walk away. Yukimura did not stop him. He had spoken the truth, but his honest answer had somehow hurt Sanada.

No, he knew why it hurt Sanada. Knew but could do nothing about it. Desire or longing was not the only thing he saw in Sanada’s eyes when he looked at him. There was something else, something deeper and stronger, and Yukimura knew it was the emotion that Humans and Cetera might call love. It was not the first time others had looked at him with that emotion shining in their eyes, but it was the first time Yukimura wished that he, too, could feel that strange and profound emotion that seemed to transcend all barriers.

Lust was something he understood. He did not feel it, but understood it. Love was not something he understood, or thought he ever could, let alone feel. If what Sanada felt for him was simply lust, Yukimura liked him well enough to try, to see if his body could also experience the same kind of pleasure Cetera and Humans did. But love...

Sanada provided him with a link to the complex and mostly irrational realm of emotions, but wanted nothing in return, at least nothing that Yukimura could grant with his powers. Yukimura recognized the sensation gnawing at him as frustration. His drive to understand the World was the first sense of purpose he’d ever had since he could remember. But something -- some vital link -- was always missing. With Sanada, Yukimura felt certain, he could find that missing piece. But while he remained with Sanada, he could not answer or grant Sanada’s true wish, however he wished he could.

“Through me, many have sought and achieved what most Humans and Cetera deemed impossible. But you, Sanada, you had to pick the one thing that is completely and truly impossible,” Yukimura murmured to himself, looking after Sanada until he disappeared from the view. As he spoke, the strange, unnamed thing he felt inside was close enough to call longing -- though for what, Yukimura did not know.



A/N: This was one of the earliest part ever written for Cetera -- right after the prologue, actually. Originally I’d planned to include this section in the main story, but as the story progressed, there was just no room. I wasn’t going to include this at all, but it does provide some background for the Sanada-Yukimura dynamics in the main storyline.
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