He was headed to meet him.
After all, it was his birthday.
They always met on their respective birthdays.
They had always met.
He remembered the day he thought he had lost him. He had nearly gone mad.
Dying in his arms after being severely injured trying to defend him while Nyanko-sen... No, Madara, he amended. While Madara too was immobilised, unable to help them.
It had been a difficult fight, maybe the most difficult one.
Surely the one that had cost him nearly everything.
They had miraculously defeated the demon and he had run to his lover but as soon as he knelt beside him he had understood.
Kaname did too. With blood streaming down his face he turned towards him with a brave, desperate smile on his lips. In spite of everything, all he wanted to tell him was to live on. For him, and for himself.
Takashi would have liked to return his smile, to show the same marvellous courage. But he couldn’t.
He desperately held his friend tight. Tears spilt from his eyes, and his vision clouded.
-Don’t leave me!- he had cried selfishly.
As if Kaname had a choice. As if he wanted to leave him.
Takashi saw in his dark eyes the deep sorrow he was feeling for him, for the boy that he was leaving, alone with that despair.
Kaname had cried too, smile dampened, courage broken.
Natsume had hated himself deeply.
In that heartbreaking moment, dark eyes became still, glassy.
For a moment Takashi hadn’t been aware a single thing. Not of the forest that surrounded them, not of the screams of the last youkai that Nyanko-sensei was eliminating, not of the smell of the blood... Nothing.
His world had shattered.
Then that strange spirit appeared.
And Kaname lived.
Takashi had always remained beside him, even though the other boy could no longer see him. Could no longer hear his words.
Madara had always warned him not to make rash promises to youkai. But what else could he have done?
It was the one time even Madara didn't have an answer.
It was a life spirit, and it would weave its existence together with the his, giving up its immortality. In return he, Natsume Takashi would take its place.
He had accepted without thinking.
It didn’t matter, it didn't matter one bit, as long as Kaname lived.
The dark haired boy had opened his eyes, weakly, and Natsume’s world had been whole again.
But his lover had stared right through him as though he did not exist, confused and surprised as to why he could still see. Kaname had though it would be the last time he would ever close his eyes.
Takashi's world was back, but he wasn’t part of it anymore.
He would have cried, but it seemed hypocritical after seeing his desire fulfilled.
He had called his name. They were facing each other...
-Takashi? Where are you? Takashi? - His voice grew more and more anguished.
It was selfish and hypocritical, but he couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
Even knowing that it would be useless, he embraced him. His arms behind his neck.
But the dark haired boy froze -Takashi...?- he breathed, a whisper.
For a second, Natsume’s heart stopped. Had he recognised him?
Kaname could feel youkai, but how could he know it was him?
-Takashi... What have you done...?-
They stayed together a long while, that time. Silently.
Then Takashi had begun to keep his distance, because his presence made Kaname ill.
Natsume was a powerful youkai, maybe one of the most powerful, and Kaname was affected by his proximity. Deeply.
He kept his distance, but he never stopped watching over him, protecting him, helping him any way he could.
Sometimes he dared to get close, when the boy felt well and was stronger, but only ever for a couple of minutes.
Kaname always felt his presence, and his eyes would brighten.
There were only two days a year upon which they would meet, silently, and stay together for hours: the first of July and the 17th of September.
Natsume knew this time cost his friend a great deal, and Kaname would spend the following three or four days bedridden.
But he also knew how much worse it would be if he missed their appointment.
And he had never missed one. Never. Not even now.
He brushed away the leaves that had fallen on the stone, now blunt and weatherworn.
As long as Kaname had lived, they had met.
And it didn’t matter how many centuries passed. Whether it was a warm and sunny first of July, or a chilly, windy, 17th of September, he would come back.