Title: Time is Running Short, or: Back to Life
Rating: Adult - Thinky-Porn
Pairing: Ewan McGregor/Hayden Christensen - RPS
Disclaminer: This RPS is a dream, baby. A lovely, lovely, porny dream. But not real. That I *know* of.
Summary: Began in the fic, The Wrath at Cannes, Hayden and Ewan only have a short time together until they have to go back to who they were before...
Continued from here
Time Is Running Short, Or: Back to Life
It's a milestone in any relationship when long stretches of time can be spent in comfortable silence. The car Ewan had hired was speeding along the side streets of Tokyo, narrowly missing the fools who chose to ride their bikes in the rain. The rain, which had grown from a mizzle to a out-right downpour, was beating on the car's windows. The only sounds were the grunts from the driver when he was forced to slam on his brakes, and the steady THUMPthump from the wipers. Ewan had his elbow on the door handle and watched the scenery pass them by.
There were long stretches where you couldn't see the sky - until you crossed an intersection. Neon lights and blinking signs hung on every store front and building. A few shopkeepers had their wagons with fresh fish and fruit covered with complicated series of umbrellas, with the hope that the rain would stop and people would come back outside.
Hayden leaned towards Ewan's side of the car, tugged on his shirt sleeve and pointed ahead. There was a group of school children huddled with their teacher under an awning outside of a museum, possibly waiting for a bus to pick them up. Two little boys had dashed out from under the covering and were jumping in a particularly deep and muddy puddle. The little girls in the group squealed and covered their faces; the teacher shouted something in a gruff manner, and pointed to his side. The boys shoved each other and grudgingly walked back under the now useless protection. Ewan chuckled as the last boy kicked a fan of water at one girl who had stuck her tongue out.
Hayden leaned back and let his arm rest on the back of the seat, hand inches from Ewan's shoulder. Ewan pulled out his pack of smokes, tapped them absentmindedly on his palm, still engrossed in the day-to-day life outside his window. He lit two and handed one to Hayden.
They traveled in silence for several more minutes. As they neared the southern sector of the city, traffic lessened, which gave the driver the chance to lay off the brakes. Ewan lowered the window a crack and let some fresh, cool air in. The skyscrapers gave way to shorter, older buildings and green space. The driver spoke a few words in Japanese and Hayden replied with, "Domo Arigato." The two men climbed out; Ewan crossed the street and stood next to a map of the park. After Hayden finished giving the driver instructions for when to return, he walked to Ewan and smiled as he picked up the song Ewan was singing under his breath.
"Thank you very much, oh, Mr. Roboto, we... bah bah bee bah boo boo..."
"Yeah, I don't think anyone knows the words to that song. And for the record, smart ass, that's what you say."
Ewan ginned hugely and pounded out the drum beat with the flat of his hands on his thighs and belted, "I wanna thank you! Thank you! Domo! Domo!"
Hayden cracked up and elbowed Ewan, followed by a fake jab to the right. Ewan laughed, guarded his side, and slapped Hayden's fist away as Hayden tried to land a hit again.
"So. What's the plan, Stan? Where are we?"
Hayden turned to the map stand and pointed at the 'You Are Here' star. With a dry expression, Ewan stared at Hayden. Hayden laughed again.
"Okay. This is Rikugi-en Garden. It's one of the oldest gardens here that wasn't Westernized, or isn't Shinto. I always feel weird going to one of those gardens since I'm not, you know... Shinto. Come on."
Hayden started down a crushed stone path and shrugged his shoulders against the cool wind that blew the gentle rain into his face. Although it was no longer a downpour, there was still some moisture in the air, and coupled with the wind... He now regretted not having grabbed a jacket. Ewan brought up the rear and occasionally hummed snippets of Styx's tour de force, 'Mr. Roboto.' They rounded a corner surrounded by forest and hit a clearing. Ewan let out a low whistle.
The path sloped downward to a large pond. In the center of the pond was a man-made island; a lone cherry tree, its branches undulating in impossible horizontal directions, stood in the center. Many of the blossoms had fallen in the water. The breeze made tiny ripples in the water; the blossoms swirled and eddied back and forth. Three tall, narrow stones jutted out of the ground, each canted at an angle. From the right position on the path, they gave the impression of birds in flight.
"It's important among the people here - one tree, standing alone. Strong and unsupported throughout the ages." Hayden didn't look at Ewan as he spoke. He kept his eyes on the huge tree ahead, and hoped his point was clear.
After a few moments of quiet, they continued on the path that now ringed the pond. Every now and then, Hayden would steal a glance at Ewan, trying to read if the older man was enjoying the park, or if he was merely being polite. The third time Ewan stopped to take in the scenery, Hayden finally decided that Ewan was enjoying himself. When Ewan wasn't looking, he would check his watch.
"You have an appointment or something?"
Hayden should have remembered that Ewan noticed everything. He smiled, then looked back at the gardens - the only way Hayden knew to guard his expressions.
"No, I just have something planned, is all. We're almost there, anyway. Come on."
The path forked. One fork continued around the pond and towards an open, common area, presently deserted due to the weather. The second fork led to a second wooded area. They chose the second path. Once safely in the cover of the trees, Hayden shook his head like a dog, then ran his hands through his wet hair to get the last of the drops out. Ewan pulled out his slightly damp pack of smokes from his jeans' front pocket and lit up.
"We'll have to finish that here. You can't take that further."
Ewan cocked an eyebrow, shrugged, and took several deep drags. Hayden sat on a stone off the path and enjoyed the silence given by the dense trees' cover. There were no trash receptacles on this path, so Ewan pocketed his crushed stub.
Hayden continued up the path, Ewan a few steps behind. The walkway ended abruptly and became large blue flagstones that hugged a granite hillside. A thick bamboo rail was bolted into the stone wall for support. The flat walkway became stairs, the stairs led to a chest-high gate of bamboo. Hayden sat down on the stone bench next to the gate, scooted to one side and patted the space next to him. Ewan cocked an eyebrow and sat next to him.
"Got a plan, have you?"
Hayden smiled, checked his watch, then said quietly, "We're a little early, but then, they like that. Are you hungry?"
Ewan chuckled, "Of course. What is this place?"
"A tea house. There's more than tea, though. This place is very traditional. Once the host comes, we don't speak until we are told to," Hayden held back a laugh, "This may be the most difficult two hours of your life."
A woman appeared at the gate. She was small and neat, her kimono simple and in muted green tones. She had a large jewel that dangled from an ebony stick in her hair.
"Good lord, it's Queen Amidala," Ewan whispered from the side of his mouth.
Hayden kicked Ewan's shin discreetly and bowed deeply. Ewan looked around, then followed suit. The woman opened the gate, turned her back to them, and walked towards a low, squat building. Hayden walked through the gate to a massive stone basin. The basin looked as if it was slowly turning back into earth - moss crept up the sides, almost to the top. Hayden took a bamboo dipper that rested on the top, poured water over his hands, then poured a small stream into his mouth. He handed the dipper to Ewan and indicated he should do likewise.
Ewan regarded him, a small smirk appeared briefly, then he dropped his features back into a stony expression and copied Hayden's earlier actions. After removing their shoes and placing them side by side on a bound-bamboo mat, they were asked to walk into a very low door, so low that Hayden was practically bent over in half. They found themselves in a small, cozy room. The walls were simple rice paper with no decorations of any kind to adorn them. A small brazier burned charcoal in the corner. The woman indicated she wished them to sit on low cushions on the floor.
While they stifled their groans as they got into the lotus position on the cushions, an older man appeared at the woman's side with a tray of sake. They nodded their thanks, and as soon as the cups left their lips, food had appeared and was waiting in front of them. The four ate in silence. The woman put more charcoal on the fire as the older man led Ewan and Hayden out a side door opposite the low door they had entered. The man did not follow them into the small, private garden they found themselves in. The rain had stopped completely, but the day was growing late and grey from the lingering cloud cover.
"Okay, you have got to tell me what the buggering hell is going on? How do you know about this? And why the bloody fuck are they serving you first? I thought age before beauty?"
Hayden laughed softly and replied, "Yeah, something like pearls before swine or something. I dunno. I like... the ritual? The culture? You know I have that thing for architecture, and one thing led to another, and it seems anyone interested in architecture ends up in Japan. Or, I don't know... Spain?"
Hayden traced a figure-eight in the sand with the toe of his shoe.
Ewan leaned against the trunk of a cedar tree, hands deep in his pockets. He had obviously not known that Hayden was more than just a young kid who was attracted to him. He felt the panicky feeling he had tried to drink away in the hotel's bar, the night Hayden appeared out of nowhere. He was afraid of having Hayden get too close, of not understanding that it couldn't be any more than... Ewan didn't know. He did, but he couldn't articulate it without admitting some things he wasn't capable of, at any rate. Underneath that was something new - a feeling of comfort, as if he had been here before, with Hayden, in this place. His fingers stroked the deeply cut leaves of the cedar, plump and prickly.
"I like the quiet. I like the formality of the quiet. " Hayden smoothed the lines his toe had drawn in the sand with the side of his shoe. "And so you know, they serve the most honored guest first."
"Oh, I see. You numbah one, G.I.?"
Ewan smiled, his eyes crinkled with it. Hayden dropped his gaze for a moment, felt a familiar blush creep up his cheeks, then decided to throw caution to the wind. He looked up with his head still down, and saw a new look on Ewan's face. Not the horny need from their first encounter, or the anger and challenge from their second. It was like he was finally seeing Hayden for the first time. But more importantly, that he liked what he saw.
A gong clanged deeply in the background from an old iron bell that hung on a tree. Ewan jumped a bit; his hand grabbed his shirt front.
"Christ! Guess it's time to go in, eh? Either that or they're going to execute me."
Hayden walked past him and let his fingertips trail over Ewan's forearm. "Come on. And watch me."
Ewan caught the passing hand and laced his fingers with Hayden's. The woman appeared in the doorway and bowed, a small smile on her face. Ewan grinned and dropped their hands. Again Hayden made a deep bow to their host, then washed his hands with fresh water from a stone basin at the entrance, and then poured some in his mouth. Ewan followed. The water was icy cold, and had a green, earthy taste to it. In this basin, the moss had crept up and over the edge. Soon the basin would crumble and return to the earth.
The room had been modified during their sojourn to the garden. A spray of chrysanthemums and ferns hung in a glass vase mounted on the wall. The ceiling had been opened to allow the smoke from the fire to escape, which made the room cooler. They now stood around a small, low table as the woman placed a cloth down, then a bowl of green tea on top. She nodded to Hayden.
He picked the bowl up with his left hand, the cloth with his right. He bowed to his hostess. He turned the bowl twice in his hand, took a sip, then used the cloth to wipe the edge where his mouth had touched. He handed the cloth-swaddled bowl to Ewan. Ewan repeated the steps, held back a cough as the strong tea hit the back of his throat, and passed the bowl on to the older man, who completed the steps and handed the bowl to the woman. After her sips of the tea, she set the bowl on the table, then spoke to Hayden in a low, yet clear, voice.
"You have brought joy to us with your gracious presence. May you go in peace, and may your burdens be lessened. A someone to help you with your sorrow, perhaps?"
She held her gaze with Hayden for a moment and smiled, then looked to Ewan. "You have carried yourself with dignity while inside. We will not speak of your words in my garden, perhaps? G.I.?"
Ewan blushed and smiled nervously, and as he made to speak an apology, she shook her head and closed her eyes.
"You will not be the first, nor the last. But I will say this to you: the shield on your arm... It does not always protect your heart. It may hurt it, in the end."
She bowed deeply at the two men and if she heard the sharp intake of breath from Ewan, she chose to ignore it. Hayden turned and crouched down low through the small entry, and put his shoes back on his feet. The two men were silent as they left, the only sound was that of their shoes on the flagstones, making their way back to the gravel path.
Hayden walked a few steps further away, towards the clearing.
"Hayden. Stop for a second."
Hayden stopped, turned, and looked at a spot fixed just above and to the right of Ewan's shoulder. "I... I don't know those people. I don't know why she said th- "
Ewan crushed his mouth to Hayden's; his hands held Hayden about the waist in a tight grip, almost to the point of being painful. Hayden broke away for a moment, caught his breath, then took Ewan's face firmly in his hands and brought their mouths together again. At once Hayden felt completely exposed - holding this man he cared for, kissing him, standing in the open, but at the same time, they were completely alone, isolated in this section of the garden. The only noise was the wind blowing in the tree tops, the gentle babbling of a nearby spring. Hayden heard nothing but the roaring in his ears - Ewan was holding him. Hayden dropped his head and slid his cheek against the side of Ewan's neck, placed kisses along the hair line behind Ewan's ear.
Hands held tightly one moment, moved soft as feathers the next. The night air was cool and drove them to instinctively bring their bodies close. Hayden tangled his hands in Ewan's hair, thumbs smoothing across temples, their lips now moving gently, savoring the moment. Hayden broke the kiss and rested his forehead against Ewan's.
Ewan whispered, "It was supposed to just be release, you know? Things... " Ewan slid his fingers up and under Hayden's shirt, caressed his back, "should have been so simple."
Hayden pulled back, hooked his fingers under the waistband of Ewan's pants. "It is simple. For me. But... I mean - I understand. That it isn't for you."
Ewan leaned forward and rested his head in the crook of Hayden's neck, warm breath raising goosebumps on the Hayden's arms. Hayden slid his hands around Ewan's waist and held him. After a few moments, they broke apart. Ewan scrubbed his hands in his hair and sat on a wood marker that had Japanese writing on the top. He lit a smoke. Hayden stood a few steps away, watched him, stared at his shoes, reached out and stroked Ewan's shoulder. Ewan smiled, pocketed the crushed stub, and directed Hayden forward along the path with a warm hand on his back. Hayden turned and looked at the spot where they had stood in and committed to memory the number 19 marked on the post Ewan had vacated.
Rikugi-en Park was built by a member of the Imperial family in 1695 as a gesture of love to his new bride. Every garden, every pocket, is a reproduction of famous poems in the Waka style, which is to say, the precursor to the more familiar Haiku form. Months later, when Hayden would sit and smoke in silence, a glass of the finest single malt he could find pooling condensation on the window's ledge, he would laugh bitterly at the irony of that moment in the garden. It had marked the beginning of the end.
Mijikaki ashi no
Fushi no ma mo
Awade kono yo o
Sugushite yo to ya*
A/N: The poem translated:
Even for a time
Short as a piece of the reeds
In Naniwa's marsh
We must never meet again:
Is this what you are asking me?