No idea what happens next, is why it's a ficbit and not a fic.
Hisui told him that afterwards it would all be as before, and Hisui was right. It was like sloughing off a fever and its phantom frets and terrors: once back in health, he wondered what he'd been so afraid of when ill. The world was fresh and green again; the morning sky blue, his ocean's waves steady and purposed as ever. Kaiei joined him at council meetings and sat, silent and attentive, learning the ways of governance from his father and his father's ministers. The old unspoken understanding between them had returned, and now Goukou sailed through his days with his son's steady presence like a freshening breeze at his back. The murky storm-cloud period between Goujun's death and Kaiei's Final Dance was like something he'd dreamed.
Goushou and Gouen too had come though the thunderheads the better for the upheaval. Shaken by the fury of the sky, each seemed to have taken from the other the one characteristic he'd lacked. Goushou, happy in his new fatherhood, supported Goukou without question: a welcome alteration, if occasionally disconcerting. Gouen in turn was more forthcoming with his brothers: less pliable, less the indulged youngest; older in spirit and more willing to show his heart plainly even when it diverged from Goukou's own. Goukou had no complaints. His son was now a man, and he could hardly expect his brother to be any less.
But there was still one cloud on his spirit, and that was Hisui himself. Or not Hisui, exactly: Hisui was irreproachable as ever. But those passages with Hisui when Goukou had been, well, other than himself, could not be forgotten. Everything else he could dismiss as the phantoms of the mind-- fears that had proved groundless, impulses he'd smothered which had died of that suffocation. But what he'd done with Hisui was still perfectly clear in his memory, and therefore must be clear in Hisui's. It could hardly affect their relationship as king and chancellor, the faces they wore before others, and indeed with each other in their private conferences. But it was impossible now for Goukou to relax into the old relationship, to be himself with his Third as before; to keep Hisui by him during siesta (it was years since they'd spent a night together), enjoying the easy consolation of the simple Forms and sleeping afterwards with the certainty of Hisui beside him.
That constraint was surely misplaced. He felt it would disappear if he might just speak to someone about it-- but who? The person who could best reassure him was the source of the problem. Goukou's mind twitched in constant frustration. Talk to Goushou? No, he was too unconventional. 'If a king chooses to lie below his servant, why should that trouble either of you?' Gouen? His mouth twisted wryly. He couldn't possibly mention it to his youngest brother. Gouen wasn't unconventional *enough*.
Goujun would understand, he thought. Goujun would both see the necessity of that time and balance it against the present need for propriety. That in turn would allow Goukou to accept what he'd done and put it behind him. But Goujun was… elsewhere.
Goukou sighed deeply. He got up from his chair and paced down the room, the only way to ease the small cramping of his heart. Kongyo and the secretaries rose from their desks automatically. Goukou waved them back down. He went to stand by the window that looked out upon his ocean and tried to reason with himself.
I haven't lost Hisui as I have Goujun. My good servant is spared to me. So what is this grief?
He turned and paced again.
I keep the servant, but I have lost my friend. Loss upon loss, and the smaller smarts the more because of the greater. I must bear it until it ends; and if it doesn't end, still I must bear it.
If only he had the consolation of the Forms: that would lighten his burden. But somehow the Forms were not the satisfaction they used to be. His favourites, the modest and well-behaved young men he took to his bed, were not what his body desired these days. He ran a mental eye over the faces of his servants and chamber gentlemen. Someone was missing from their company; baffled, he felt he was forgetting someone perfectly obvious, but he couldn't put a name to him. Who was it, that comforting reassuring presence he could recall so clearly? Goushou? He shook his head. Someone else-- steadier, solider, not as changeable. Not careful Hisui; not patient Goujun; not even Shantsu his Older, whose kindness he'd experienced so recently. Someone else, and no one he knew. Maybe only a wish of his heart given a phantom form in his mind; a figure composed of those he'd been closest to throughout his life, but not to be found in any one man.
He returned to his chair, sighed again, and motioned to Kongyo. "Continue."
"Yes, your Majesty. The Count of the Southern Reaches asks permission to wait upon your Majesty towards the end of this month, but at that time the Red Dragon will be here with his sons. Can your Majesty vouchsafe him leisure?"
"Certainly. The Count is a man of sense and will understand if I must scant my presence to attend to family." He paused and tapped the arm of his chair. "I'd forgotten Goushou was coming. I wonder if he's mentioned it to Gouron? I'll write him-- No, that would put him under constraint. Send my cousin a message to say that Goushou's family will visit, and when, and that I'd be happy to see him if affairs at the Western Ocean permit his coming." If he wishes to see Goujun's sons again, he may; and if the sight is too painful for him, he can stay away without reproach.
He finished the day's work; dined with his sons; took tea on the terrasse in company with Kaiei, and played a round of chess with him; and then went to his chambers. Kenson undressed him for the bath. Goukou gave him a signal with his eyes; hesitated a moment and then said, "And Jourin." Kenson bowed and Goukou went off to the bath place.
It's unkind to Jourin to use him thus; but unkinder still to exclude him from my company. Let him have what little of the king he can. Then he wondered at himself. It wasn't his custom to consider his servants' private feelings. Jourin's love for me is Jourin's own business; if it makes his service sweeter or more bitter, that is his concern, not mine. He will not thank me if I make allowances for it in our dealings together; tractable though he is, he will not care to be treated like a child.
And so he greeted Jourin casually as ever when he found the young man waiting in his bed chamber. He nodded Jourin into the bed first and lay down beside him. Kenson covered them, extinguished the bedroom lights, and by the moonlight through the curtains slipped into bed last of all. They knew now not to expect him to call for any of the threesome Forms; but tonight he had no desire for any Forms at all. "I will sleep, gentlemen. Lie closer." Jourin hemmed him on his left, Kenson on his right. Their weight and breath was a presence in the night: not enough, not the thing he wanted-- whatever that might be-- but almost. Goukou yawned, turned a little to his right side, and felt Jourin edge closer, almost the bulwark he sought against the obscure loneliness of his heart.