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Jusenkai was supposed to be different.

That wasn't to criticize Jusenkai or anyone Lifang had met here. It was lovely, and in spite of the rebellion that had ravaged the land and even now drew their brothers and sisters into harm's way, everyone Lifang had met was friendly and kind, from the girls at Xianglin's to random passersby he saw in the streets. He felt welcomed here, accepted.

But the moment they'd arrived here, Taren had closed off. "You can stay with Xianglin," he'd said, and he'd turned and left Lifang behind, going alone to his house on the outskirts, his back painfully lonely.

Lifang knew he was being greedy. If everyone else's reactions were any indication, Taren had never opened up to someone the way he'd opened up to Lifang, had never let anyone in like he'd let Lifang in. Somehow, Lifang was special to him. But still, Lifang wanted more. He wanted to understand what made Taren tick. He wanted to be able to help him, support him. He wanted to be a true partner, one who deserved to stand by Taren's side. On Earth, Taren was aloof, more mysteries than answers; maybe here in Jusenkai, the world that had forged him, Lifang would begin to understand why Taren was the man he was.

But instead, there was something about Jusenkai that made Taren pull away. And it wasn't just Taren holding himself apart the way he so often did; Lifang could tell the difference by now. Even when they'd first met, even when he hadn't been sure Taren would allow him to stay, even when he hadn't been sure Taren even remembered his name, there had always been something for Lifang to grasp, something he could use to keep Taren close. Some part of Taren he could hold onto. But now....

Here in Jusenkai, Taren was right there, within hand's reach. But he had never felt so far away.