inkpawprints: (OTP)
[personal profile] inkpawprints
TITLE: Nukume Dori
RATING: R
NOTES: FINALLY. Also, the apartment scene in my head has a soundtrack; 'Flames' by VAST (http://youtu.be/XAsjKKc2glw) which I thoroughly suggest putting on in the background.


NUKUME DORI 19
Subaru was being hunted.

"—look out—"

"—what th— careful!"

Broken breaths burned his lungs. He passed cars and knocked people from their path and still he kept going. He had no idea where he was, had no destination in mind, only a desperate need to get away. The marks on his gloved hands doomed it to fail but the instinct to flee overpowered all and reduced him to this: straining limbs, a pounding heart, the hot blood of an animal on the run.

Prey.

"—watch it—!"

The hawk soaring above him refused to be shaken. There was no need for it nor was it trying to hide, as if the Sakurazukamori wanted Subaru to know he was coming. What that meant Subaru didn't dare imagine but it couldn't be good and he forced himself to run faster, stupid though it was. He had run away from Seishirou because he was furious, furious and anguished over Matsumoto's second death, not because he was—

Magical senses flared, his only warning. Reflexively Subaru ducked into a somersault right there in the middle of the street and felt the wind of the hawk's passing over his head. People stared at him, others turned to point at the hawk – breathing hard, Subaru rose up onto one knee and watched it skim over the startled pedestrians and through the busy traffic in front of a small car which jerked into the other lane. The oncoming car had no time to brake and there was a sickening crunch as the two struck. Subaru's heart leapt to his throat – not again! – but the accident didn't look bad, at least for the drivers as they spilled out of their damaged vehicles. Still, it was a reminder of whatever was going to happen between him and Seishirou it had to be moved away from people, and fast. The hawk was gaining height and curving around towards him—

—apex predators we're talking about, if you're timid or fearful they will look down on you.

Subaru scrambled to his feet. Stood with hands clenched and head high as he faced the oncoming hawk. Its eyes were golden flame and its talons outstretched. Only at the last second did Subaru squeeze his eyes shut.

Powerful wings beat against his head then disappeared. Shaken, Subaru looked up to see the hawk glide to perch on a street lamp and balefully stare. His left temple stung with a thin line of fire that when touched dotted his gloves with blood. A shallow scratch, that was all. Subaru wondered if he was being toyed with.

On the road, the two drivers were heatedly arguing. The traffic around them had jammed in both directions and the chorus of frustrated car horns was a cacophony that seemed strangely subdued ... the street around Subaru was fading to black and he immediately recognised the weaving of a maboroshi. Once again he began to run, faster this time despite the exhaustion, hoping to break through the edge of the maboroshi before it closed entirely. He leaped onto the bonnet of a stuck car then the roof of a second without anyone noticing as shadows spread like water. Another jump and another, darkness folding around him – quickly Subaru pulled out an ofuda and pressed it against his wound before flicking it out towards the shrinking sky where it disappeared the maboroshi closing behind leaving Subaru running in an unreal night, caught but not without options. Grimly Subaru lifted his hand in a two finger focus to speak the spell. Within moments shards of darkness fell from above as like a ball through a window Subaru's blood-spotted shikigami pierced the maboroshi from outside. It created a jagged hole through which the real world could be discerned, and Subaru made for that even as the maboroshi splintered further. Throwing himself through, he tumbled out onto hard ground.

Panting, Subaru stood and looked about. He was in a commercial construction site, all ugly steel struts and concrete forming the wall-less skeleton of a mid-sized building currently empty for reasons unknown. Maybe there was a strike or the gathering storm clouds had called work off, the important thing right now was that there were no people around. At all. The hawk shikigami was nowhere to be seen but Subaru knew its master had to be closing in, if not already here – frantically he turned this way and that searching the shadows—

The attack came not from the front or behind, but from the side. A black sleeved arm flashed out from around a wide support pillar to wrap around his neck in a choke hold cutting off the blood flow to his brain. Immediately Subaru threw his hands up to yank the arm down freeing himself just enough to twist away and counter with an elbow jab to Seishirou's kidney. It connected and Seishirou gave a hiss of pain before sweeping a leg under Subaru's dropping Subaru onto his back. The fall sent the breath from his lungs and Subaru wheezed before rolling aside as Seishirou closed in again – hastily Subaru clawed the floor grasping a handful of sand and gravel that he flung into Seishirou's face buying him a precious split second to scramble to his feet and land a punch on the side of Seishirou's head sending the sunglasses flying. Another punch followed, then another and another, the blows strengthened by fury and a grief Subaru didn't even realise was overwhelming until he tasted tears on his lips.

"Why did you do that he could have been saved why, why—!"

His next punch struck air. Over-extended Subaru careened forward into sickening pain as Seishirou slammed a knee up into his gut. As he crumpled over a heavy hit between his shoulder blades sent him back onto the concrete this time face down where it was all he could do just to curl around his stomach in agony and try to breathe. Any respite, however, was denied as Seishirou grabbed the back of his grey jacket yanking him onto his feet to throw him against the pillar. He managed to catch himself on his palms – barely.

"At least you've stopped running."

Gulping down air Subaru spun around. It put his back to the pillar as he watched Seishirou stride up, black coat flaring out in the moaning wind. The man spoke lightly but his amber-gold eyes were hard. "Do you know how cute you are when you're angry?"

Furiously Subaru raised his gloved fist for another punch. This one Seishirou caught and pinned beside his head, quickly doing the same to the other to prevent any more attacks. Breathing hard they pressed together, and this close Subaru could see the bruises he'd left on Seishirou's face as well as a cut on the man's lip that stretched red with his smile. "How long are you going to keep fighting me?" Seishirou whispered.

Subaru strained and glared spitting out, "You murdering bastard."

"Now isn't that rather unfair? I didn't kill that old man, that was a careless driver—"

"You let it happen!" shouted Subaru. "You stopped me from saving him, you went out of your way to do so and for what?! Matsumoto-san meant nothing to you, it wouldn't have mattered to you to let him live—"

"And what does it matter to you that he died? You went on with your life last time, you'll do the same again—"

"That's not the point! Matsumoto-san had a family, he had stories and experiences--" He swallowed tears as he remembered being listened to in the sunshine. "A murderer like you wouldn't understand," he finished viciously.

"And there's that word again. You should really try to be accurate with your insults - to begin with I'm an assassin, not a murderer."

"I fail to see the difference—"

He hissed as Seishirou painfully tightened his grip. Still smiling Seishirou leaned even closer until their faces nearly touched. "Murder is the unlawful taking of someone's life," the Sakurazukamori said smilingly over a roll of thunder, "while those who rule this country take the lives of people by law, whether it be the emperor and shoguns through their executioners, or the elected government hanging criminals behind prison walls. If I told you that the deaths I cause are sanctioned by those who sit above, would you still call me a murderer?"

"And was Matsumoto-san's death also 'sanctioned'?" Subaru challenged angrily.

"Again, I didn't kill that old man and I couldn't care less about him. You, on the other hand, I have unfinished business with." Seishirou's smile disappeared. "Why did you choose him?"

Subaru tried to glare. "Because it was urgent and there was no need for him to die. Because he was kind to me. Because I cared for him."

"Is that all?"

"Yes—ah!"

"Wrong answer," said Seishirou clinically, fingers grinding between the bones of Subaru's wrist. "Again: why choose him over me?"

His limbs were beginning to tremble from the strain of resisting. Against him Seishirou was solid and warm in stark contrast to the cold amber eyes that never left his face. He tried to meet their gaze, to hold fast and not look away only to find himself quailing. Of the two promises he'd made, he had deliberately chosen to break the one to the person he loved ... "I wanted proof," he heard himself say, "I wanted proof that this repeated life can be changed and I can make things better. I want to know that I can win and be with you, that Hokuto-chan won't ..."

With that Subaru faltered, his fury bleeding away leaving a hollow despair. Like a rag doll he sagged in Seishirou's grip, horrible sobs racking his body and head falling onto Seishirou's shoulder where tears disappeared into black cloth. He was cold, heartbroken by both failure and futility; there were drops of rain on the wind blowing through the unfinished building. Outside, the sky had darkened.

Eventually Subaru exhausted himself and stilled. Gently a hand curled around the side of his neck. "Change your own life," Seishirou murmured.

Subaru's reddened eyes flew open. He was leaning on Seishirou completely and his freed hand was tangled in Seishirou's coat. Pressed together like this they were both warm – too warm. "You keep worrying about the end and other people," continued Seishirou, and his thumb began to rub against the pulse on Subaru's throat, "to the point of neglecting your own life. If you want to change things so badly then stop interfering where you have no right and take care of yourself here and now. After all, without complete commitment, how can you even hope to win?"

The hand on his neck moved into the open collar of his shirt and with a stab Subaru realised what Seishirou was getting at. "Don't touch me!" he snapped, pushing against Seishirou in disgust and standing straight. Standing straight with back against the pillar's wall and one gloved hand still pinned beside his head. Subaru's pulse raced as it sank in just how badly he was caught. "L-let go, a man is dead because of you—"

"So? You think I have blood on my hands?" Suddenly Seishirou grabbed his free arm and yanked it above his head along with his right where they could be both restrained with one hand. The other hand snaked around his waist and Subaru's breath hitched as Seishirou shoved a leg between his— "You know I'm the Sakurazukamori and said you love me regardless. Even if my hands were dripping red what difference would it make? Or did you think you could ignore who I am like you've been ignoring me until now?"

The way Seishirou fit against him, full length and so close they shared breath made Subaru burn. Disgust turned to panic; in this deserted place they were completely alone, there was no chance of rescue or interruption and Seishirou could do anything ... "Stop!" shouted Subaru, struggling as the hand on his waist slid under his shirt low on his back, "stop, I don't want this—"

"Please." Seishirou's tone was derisive over the sound of rain. "You let me Within your mind, I've seen what you want me to do."

The significance of what Seishirou said was sickening. Once more Subaru felt his face burn this time with shame and humiliation, but there was anger as well that Seishirou was using his knowledge of Subaru's most private thoughts to seduce. He tried to hold onto it, anchor himself with it even as Seishirou crushed their mouths together but the assault of touch and wet heat was a storm outpacing the one breaking with a crash outside. Rough and aggressive the kiss seemed to suck the breath from him in whimpers, his body taut to the point of breaking. Dimly he felt the hand on his back slide beneath underwear to grip the curve of flesh there and Subaru found himself grinding blindly down onto Seishirou's leg between his thighs, hard and urgent. He kissed back, dizzy, tongue tangling with Seishirou's but still the anger was there in his chest and spiralling into desperate fury. When he felt Seishirou release his wrists perhaps believing Subaru overwhelmed Subaru forced himself to move. As Seishirou reached to unbutton his jeans, Subaru wrenched off the kiss and punched.

Seishirou fell back. Touched his cheek and looked at Subaru, startled. Wild-eyed and tear-stained Subaru glared as best he could, panting and every muscle coiled as he hunched watching for Seishirou's slightest move. His skin was aflame; his body ached.

Seishirou made no attempt to approach him.

Lightning and a thunder crack burst almost simultaneously through the downpour outside. Disheveled, Seishirou's face was flushed beneath the bruises and his expression defiantly unapologetic. He too was breathing hard echoing Subaru, the sounds hanging like spun filaments stretching from self to self across the space between them and inexorably drawing tight. A magnetic force, perhaps, or a gravitational pull. Something stronger than any magic.

There was a flight of stairs to one side. Subaru glanced at it, torn, but then Seishirou raised a hand to reach out and that was enough. Quickly Subaru side-stepped towards the stairs not daring to turn his back, only breaking into a stumbling run at the last possible second to flee four flights down and out into the pouring rain across the muddy construction site. He kept running through emptied streets flowing with water heedless of direction until he could run no more, and finally slowed to shelter in the alcove of an anonymous door in an equally anonymous alleyway. There he huddled, hair dripping into his eyes and clothes soaked, all senses stretched for any pursuit. Seconds passed, then minutes and more, during which the rain grew heavier and Subaru's shallow breathing tried to find some semblance of calm. Still, it wasn't until what felt like a lifetime that Subaru dared to think no, he had not been followed, and Seishirou had decided to let him go. For inexplicable reasons.

Subaru squeezed his eyes shut; his pulse was still pounding. He tried to hold onto an image, the birds, Matsumoto's bloodied death-grey face, anything to suffocate the wanting that stalked beneath his skin. It didn't work, and with a sob Subaru turned to brace one arm flat against the alcove's door leaning his head there and with his other hand undid the closure of his jeans to reach inside and desperately grasp himself. Half-hardness became full arousal in strokes, its heat amplified with shame to burn through his glove, but with his raw nerves didn't last long. Choking, he thrust once more into his gloved hand then stilled.

The rain roared around him. Drained, Subaru turned and stared dully out at it, how it turned the world blurry and grey. He held his hand out letting the downpour wash the leather glove clean, but the shame, that remained, crawling over him spider-like leaving him dirty and cold. Aching. On top of everything else with Seishirou. Trembling and overwhelmed, Subaru slid down against the door to the unforgiving ground, put his head on his knees and cried.


* * *


High up in the shadows Seishirou watched the storm rage around the construction site. His eyes were narrowed and he held a cigarette between his fingers burning orange in the dim light. Several more cigarette ends were scattered at his feet. They had long gone cold.

The rain roared. Grimly Seishirou lifted the cigarette and took a drag ignoring the way his cut lip stung. Pursuit was still possible, he noted, feeling the pull of the star-marks, but not now. Not yet. Not until his blood and breath had calmed.

He was still waiting for that to happen.


* * *


It was a small house. It was an even smaller memorial.

Subaru stood on the path looking into Matsumoto's home, face pale after a sleepless night of despair and want. He held a bouquet of lilies in his black-gloved hands. Up the path the door was open, flanked by a mismatched pair of flower stands washed out beneath the grey afternoon sky, as were the curtains allowing a glimpse of the black-clad mourners inside. Already Subaru had spotted Matsumoto's grandchildren, a little girl and boy both wide-eyed and too young to comprehend what was taking place, as well as the tired bespectacled man Subaru presumed to be their father trying to receive the condolences of visitors on his own. Matsumoto's daughter Sachiyo was not seen. From the little Subaru had overheard apparently the shock of her father's death on top of her recent illness had sent the woman into hysterics and she was in no condition to leave her room let alone face her father's body. Subaru didn't have to imagine Sachiyo's grief: he remembered it.

"Father forgive me! Forgive me!"

Sachiyo would carry the guilt of her unfilial behaviour for the rest of her life. Subaru wondered what person had broken the news to her yesterday and whether they had brought the bananas he knew Matsumoto had been rushing to give her. In another lifetime that person had been Subaru, which was why he was here now outside this house with a bouquet of white flowers to pay his respects and mourn.

He watched the shadows inside the house where Matsumoto had existed belittled and taken for granted. He imagined the faces of a family barely beginning to understand the enormity of regret too late to make amends, an enormity Subaru knew all too well. Then he turned his back and very deliberately walked over to the park.

The park bench was wet and patterned with dead leaves. There were a handful of birds perched about it chirping regardless of the threatening clouds above. Subaru hadn't brought an umbrella or any food he could give them. Silently he placed his flowers on the bench and thought of Matsumoto as he had known him, both in that past life and this one, with sparrows on his hands and smiles on his face. Who had listened to Subaru without judgment and offered the wisdom of his years in life and love. Who had died fulfilling his vow to his beloved wife with whom he was now reunited. As he had wanted.

It was better to remember Matsumoto like this.

The birds took flight. Subaru realised there were beads of water gathering in his hair. Placing his hands together Subaru murmured a prayer for Matsumoto's kindly soul then left.

The rain was light, almost mist-like. Subaru felt no urge to hurry through it, lost as he was trying to make sense of what he held. Grief was with him as was despair and anger, but with tears and a night's passing could now be viewed with some detachment. He was still upset with Seishirou, yes, however there were many people dead by Seishirou's hand and Matsumoto wasn't one of them. Even if he were, Seishirou's heritage and identity as the Sakurazukamori was something Subaru had long known and accepted. It didn't mean Subaru wasn't going to be angry when faced with Seishirou's work but he could and would move on ...

...or not. Or at least, not entirely. More than simply wanting to do what he thought was right, Subaru had sought to save Matsumoto to prove the Bet's end was not set. He had been so determined on that he had neglected the immediate, the here and now and what he had in it. Who he had in it.

Raindrops caught on Subaru's eyelashes as he walked through the trees. He blinked, trying to clear his vision only for more to slip down his face because yes, he had deliberately chosen Matsumoto over Seishirou, and Seishirou didn't care that Subaru had done it to save a man's life or even to prove the future was mutable, all that mattered was Subaru's choice to put Seishirou second. Not only that, Subaru had done so presuming he could later just apologise as he had done when he'd arrived late to the restaurant expecting Seishirou would accept—

Someone was standing at the edge of the park.

Subaru stopped short. Seishirou held an umbrella and was dressed in the familiar suit and coat black against the grey rain, but without the usual sunglasses or tie. The veterinarian's van was parked beside him. He wasn't smiling and his amber eyes were guarded. Waiting.

There was something tight in Subaru's chest. He stared, at first unable to accept that Seishirou was there, until he realised while this was not expected, he was not surprised. For once Subaru questioned it. In his mind, he saw Matsumoto hand-feeding an eagle in a zoo's cage.

The rain grew heavier. Breath caught, Subaru stepped forward.

Life's too short to be spent angry, Matsumoto's voice whispered as Subaru walked seeing only Seishirou – and how true was that for them who had so little time to begin with? One year was what had been granted under the Bet, one year in which Seishirou would be with him no matter how much Subaru frustrated or offended. Seishirou himself may help, hold, even hurt, but he was there for Subaru; he did not leave. Could not leave, not without breaking his word which Subaru knew Seishirou was far too proud to do. Just as the Bet bound Subaru to Seishirou so it bound Seishirou to him strong enough to take for granted. And Subaru had done that.

Without the Bet to hold him, would Seishirou be standing before Subaru like this?

The dampness in his eyes was warm as he drew close. Seishirou did not move, but rather simply watched as Subaru stopped hesitantly just beyond the umbrella. The tightness in Subaru's chest was releasing, falling away leaving Subaru holding only what was most important, like a clear stone washed clean. Its gravity pulled between them.

Deliberately, Seishirou stepped forward bringing the umbrella over them both. Subaru closed his eyes and sighed.

I understand now, why you asked me not to talk about the Bet. A hand reached around him draping something heavy about his shoulders and wet clothes, and he turned his face to meet it pressing lips into the palm. He heard Seishirou's breath catch and the rain drumming on the umbrella above them. I understand why you want it to be a silent subject until it ends.

I understand you better now. And I'm sorry I took so long.


The hand he was kissing was warm and strong. Subaru's own gloved hands were tangled in the coat he'd been given. "Take me—" The whisper caught in his throat. He swallowed and tried again. "Take me home."

Breath against his neck. "All right."


* * *


Rain enclosed the van as Seishirou drove, just as it enclosed the veterinary clinic and apartment above when they arrived. With a steady susurration it filled the quiet between them, muffling out the rest of Tokyo and the world beyond. Damp and chilled as he ascended the stairs ahead of Seishirou Subaru glanced at the shuttered clinic windows. He wondered what Seishirou had told the staff.

An arm reached around him to unlock the door. Seishirou opened it and stood to one side looking at Subaru to go first. The apartment beyond was shadowed in blues and greys. Fingers still tangled in the black coat Subaru stepped inside. His heart was beginning to flutter.

Shoes, those were easy to begin with. They left wet prints in the genkan and the water had made the laces swollen. As Subaru struggled with them he heard the door close and felt Seishirou take his coat back to hang up leaving Subaru colder and more exposed. He tried not to think about that, focusing instead on trying to unpick the laces of his second shoe with gloved hands. He did it finally and stood to free himself of it only to slip a little on the damp wooden floor. He would have caught himself easily, but Seishirou caught him first.

Warmth and a heartbeat against his cheek. Subaru felt a small thrill go through him and nervously closed his eyes as he was lifted to stand properly. When he opened them Seishirou was standing in front of him looking questioningly down into his face. Subaru met Seishirou's gaze squarely, though it unnerved him to do so. He noticed absently that the black suit Seishirou wore was the one picked up from the laundromat, and the barely healed cut on the man's lip. Then, closing eyes again, Subaru took a deep breath, grasped a handful of black jacket, and stretched up to kiss Seishirou.

Be proud of your love and own it. The kiss was soft, gentle and without end. Subaru felt arms being wrapped around his waist drawing them together. The whole thing felt slightly unreal, thought Subaru distantly as he reached up to touch Seishirou's face; intellectually he knew what he was doing but the fullness of it—

Abruptly Seishirou stilled. Pulled back slightly from the kiss to look at Subaru's gloved hands.

Comprehension filled Subaru and with it the weight of reality. Instinctively he stiffened, defensive even as he forced himself to remain as he was in Seishirou's loose embrace. One thing at a time, Subaru told himself, throat dry as he touched each glove with an unsteady finger keenly aware of how Seishirou watched him. The protection spells disabled it was the simplest thing in the world for Subaru to pull the gloves off and let them fall. Too simple.

The first word Subaru thought of upon seeing his naked hands was fragile. Pale almost to the point of translucency his skin seemed to be layered rice paper through which the faded ink of his veins could be seen. He could even make out the faint remains of the burns from that near disastrous journey Within forming the lines of Seishirou's inverted pentagrams. After so long enclosed his hands were also highly sensitive and Subaru watched his fingers curl in the apartment's cool air as if trying to hide. Before he could lower his hands, but, Seishirou caught them by the wrists and Subaru inhaled sharply suddenly all too aware of his heartbeat which was terribly fast and loud. Critically Seishirou looked over Subaru's bare hands before lifting them to press against his cheeks which to Subaru seemed painfully warm. As Subaru watched Seishirou turned his face slightly to press a lingering kiss into Subaru's left palm while the right was pulled to cradle the side of Seishirou's neck—

Subaru shuddered. Bowed his head trying to keep hold of himself as he deeply breathed -- for all his imaginings this was all so new, so new and so much and so wanted, it frightened him with its intensity. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to make the fear pass.

"Subaru-kun?"

It wasn't passing. Then again, neither was it carrying him away. "I-I'm fine. Just--" He broke off. Knew his face was turning red. "Just, whatever I say, whatever I do ... don't stop. Please."

There was no reply. It only made him more embarrassed. Then, very deliberately, his wrists were released and Seishirou cupped his face turning him up so they could look properly at each other. Seishirou was smiling, the amber of his eyes light and also slightly sharp in a way that made Subaru swallow hard wondering what the man was seeing. Finally Seishirou leaned in to kiss him, gently but with definite insistence. With a shiver Subaru closed his eyes and yielded to the incursion of tongue and breath. He could hear his heartbeat drumming in his head.

The world tilted. Subaru felt the resistance of the hallway wall against his shoulder blades and Seishirou's arms wrapping around his hips. Those arms tightened as Subaru's mouth was deeply plundered, one strong hand spreading flat against his lower back pushing their bodies together right at that place where heat was pooling. Dizzily Subaru heard himself moan around Seishirou's tongue and he reached up tangling fingers in the man's hair and other hand slipping under the shirt collar to rub skin. Subaru's own skin felt tight, chilled beneath his damp clothes but rapidly warming in a way that made it seem like his body was losing all definition except for those burning places where they touched. It physically hurt when Seishirou broke the kiss, and when Seishirou pulled him towards the bedroom it was all Subaru could do not to stumble as he made himself follow ...



"Your heart's racing."

"Are ... are you going to stop it?"

Lips on his chest and heat within. "Not yet."


* * *


He was by himself when he woke.

For a while Subaru simply lay quietly breathing and listening to the sound of rain outside. The air on his skin was cold while under the quilt he was comfortably warm, limbs loose and heavy. He didn't want to move let alone get up but eventually with some effort he opened his eyes, just a little. There was a shadow leaning against the nearby open window.

Hazily Subaru kept still and looked. Seishirou was smoking and gazing out at the grey winter sky. In the low light his expression was focused and contemplative like he was trying to read something in the clouds, and he wore a navy blue dressing gown loosely tied around the waist. Subaru wondered what Seishirou was thinking about. He wondered whether Seishirou was thinking about him.

Seishirou probably was. What they had done didn't settle anything but it could never be undone, and what that meant Subaru couldn't say other than it was what he had wanted. Wanted very much, in fact, and he would never be able to look at Seishirou the same way. Already now he found himself admiring the lines of Seishirou's body, the long V of skin visible down his chest, and slowly warmed remembering how Seishirou had taken him gently yet firmly, and how his fear was eventually replaced by aching need. The intimacy of skin against skin, of touching and being touched and the electric thrill of grasping Seishirou's hard sex in his bare hand. The smell of Seishirou's skin damp with sweat and Subaru's kisses. The sensation of Seishirou moving inside him so good and so right pressing him against the bed every time he cried out feeling he would come apart with pleasure and desperate for more. The look on his beloved's face in the moment of release still echoing in his flesh.

So lost was Subaru in gazing at Seishirou that he didn't realise Seishirou was looking back until their eyes met. Instantly Subaru froze. Seishirou smirked. "Like the view?"

Subaru knew his face was red but there was also something else appearing: a shy smile. "How long did I sleep?" he asked instead.

"Half an hour, more or less. I'll take it as a compliment. Are you all right?"

His blush was spreading down his body. It stirred places where pleasure still echoed and unexpectedly Subaru realised that self-consciousness aside he was quietly content. Whatever was to happen from here on, right now in this moment Subaru had no regrets. "... Yeah."

"Hm." Crushing his cigarette on the window-sill Seishirou tossed the stub outside before coming over to the bed letting his robe fall along the way. Subaru heated at the sight. "Move over," chided Seishirou as he slipped back under the quilt.

Subaru did as he was told and Seishirou sat back against the headboard. Subaru thought Seishirou's lap looked far better than the pillow but wasn't certain if he should, instead opting to curl beside the man and reach out to lay a palm on Seishirou's hip - even now it was still a thrill to touch with his bare hands. "You left the window open," he said, daring to be accusing.

"Is it cold? Here then." Subaru's eyes widened as Seishirou gathered him into the crook of his arm. "Better?"

The heartbeat beneath Subaru's ear was strong and steady. Subaru forced himself to breath around the sudden ache in his chest; he hadn't known that so much happiness could feel painful. "Yeah," he replied.

A silence fell between them then, filled only with the steady patter of rain and once or twice a distant rumble of thunder. Soon Subaru felt fingers comb through his hair and Subaru squeezed his eyes shut trying to impress upon his mind every second of this moment, the warmth, the intimacy, the physical closeness with the only person he had ever wanted. Who also, Subaru was now certain, truly wanted him in return for whatever reason, at least here and now. It was a certainty that Subaru would never voice, but for the first time he could dare and hope.

Sometimes you need a little fiction for a relationship to work. Kind words and a twinkle in knowing old eyes. The memory of Matsumoto still came with a pang but because of him ... "Thank you," Subaru murmured aloud.

"What for?"

His fingers traced blind circles on Seishirou's skin. "For giving me a memory that doesn't hurt."

There was a creak of mattress as Subaru was suddenly pushed onto his back— "Who says it has to be a memory?" Seishirou countered, eyes glinting. Startled Subaru forgot how to move as the Sakurazukamori prowled over him but then with a little laugh he pulled Seishirou close, met his kiss and shyly delighted as they began once again.


* * *


"Ohh~h, let me see you let me feel you let me touch you – we don't have much time, man—"

Pushing the front door open Subaru blinked at the sound of singing coming from his kitchen. It was a familiar sound, but his mind had been miles away and it took him a moment to realise that as well as singing there was also the smell of cooking and today was the day his twin returned from her school ski trip. "Oo~oh, Motor Drive la la la di la— Subaru!" He closed the door and took off his still damp jacket as footsteps hurried towards him. "You're back! I thought you were going to meet me at the station at four but I guess you were working and in any case Aya-chan's parents gave me a lift—" He put away his shoes as Hokuto appeared around the corner; she wore a long sleeved orange top with black shorts and long black socks with a line of dark grey diamonds that marched from her toes up to mid-thigh. "—message left from Obaa-chama asking us to call later, are you hungry 'cause I made stir-f—"

Hokuto stopped dead in the hall a few feet away. Subaru smiled at her just as he always did when he came home. "Tadaima."

She didn't move or speak. Under her scrutiny Subaru gradually felt himself grow hot and he wondered if despite his shower she could tell what had happened, what he had done, and if so how she was going to react – blunt teasing? an interrogation? Whatever it was Subaru realised he was oddly fearful in a way he couldn't explain, and also defensive wanting to keep things to himself for a little while. Special. And yet the way Hokuto was looking at him—

Emerald eyes blinked as Hokuto drew herself up. Smiled a little forcedly with pink-glossed lips. "I made stir-fry," she said again lightly. "There's soup as well, so we should eat while everything is still hot. Why don't you set the table while I get the rice?"

If only Seishirou had asked him to stay instead of agreeing that Subaru had to welcome Hokuto home. "... Sure," Subaru replied, absently readjusting his gloves. "I'll make some tea as well. Um, how was your ski trip?"

"Oh I had so much fun, the view from the mountains was amazing and the instructors were great by the end of the trip I was practically flying over the snow ..."

She led him to the kitchen chatting all the while. Subaru didn't tell her how grateful he was. In the night outside the rain had stopped.


Next: Seishirou introspection, clinic shenanigans, and Hokuto
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