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It's Always the Quiet Ones

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It's Always the Quiet Ones

Long eyelashes.

Pink-tinted cheeks.

Thin but perfect lips.

He's mere centimeters away, fast asleep. Rarely does Chizuru wake up earlier than Saitou; usually by the time she opens her eyes and rolls over, he is out of bed. The fire is going by the time she gets up, and he's already prepared half of breakfast.

Today, however, she opened her eyes before he did. Maybe the remnants of a dream shook her awake; she had blinked and noted it was still dark. The weak glow from the windows told her it was before sunrise. It's bright enough to turn her head to watch the figure that lay next to her. She can probably count how many times she's seen him sleep. Usually she goes to bed first, or…if they're in bed together, she drifts off first. Or the few times she forced him to bed early because of health reasons. He never seemed keen on people finding him asleep.

Which is fine. She doesn't mind his hands running through her hair or rubbing her shoulder as her eyes drift shut. But it's peaceful, seeing him sleep. Maybe he doesn't know, but sometimes he has a very concentrated look on his face that makes him narrow his eyes and stiffen his jawline. Seeing none of that now, she's reminded they're not far apart in age, as well as the fact he is not yet even over thirty. Most people would be overjoyed; being in a relationship at a mostly early age, with years behind. But they don't have that privilege. Twenty, thirty, or forty—his life could run out at any time. They've spoken about it before, about some of their future. For the most part they're content to enjoy what they can.

So she commits this view to memory as she lies on her side and counts his inhales and exhales. She flicks his hair away from his face, tucking it behind his ear. As the light finally pushes more darkness away, she pulls a little closer to him to wait.

Saitou waking up is like watching a flower open. Slow at first, until his mind catches up and he sucks in a deep breath, and then his eyes open.

"Chizu…ru?" Her name sounds heavy as he rubs a hand over his face.

She keeps her voice only just above a whisper. "Good morning, Hajime-san."

"Good morning," he replies out of habit, blinking slowly. "It's early."

"I woke up and didn't go back to sleep."

"Is something wrong?"

"No, nothing. I was watching you sleep because you looked so peaceful."

"Ah." He blinks some more, as if he's not sure what to say to that. "Was I?"

"Has no one ever told you that?"

"Most people hardly ever see me sleeping…" Saitou stretches his shoulders, their blankets shifting with the movement. "Although the one time I napped outside, Souji put a cat in my lap and later I discovered from Shinpachi that he and Heisuke put leaves in my hair. But none of them bothered to wake me up."

He looks puzzled, like it was a mystery from years ago that he still tries to solve. "Hijikata-san merely told me later I picked a bad spot to sleep because of all the leaves he was picking out of my hair before chasing the cat away. And Sano-san joked that he nearly wanted to pick me up and put me in a room, but he didn't want to wake me. But I wouldn't have minded it. Everyone acted strangely that afternoon…"

That's probably because you looked too cute to wake up. Also, what is it with the Shinsengumi and cats? Chizuru smothers her smile with a yawn. "They just all cared about you. If you napped, you probably really needed the sleep."

"Perhaps." He still seems to disagree with that. "But…you said I looked peaceful?"

"Like nothing worried you at all."

"Then…are you implying I usually look worried?"

"Oh, no." She entwines a few strands of his hair on her finger, twirling it. "You always look calm. But calm and peaceful aren't exactly the same thing."

Saitou rubs the bridge of his nose as he thinks about this. "I suppose you're right." He catches her hand absently, flattening their palms before curling his fingers, holding her hand to his cheek.

Most of the time, Saitou is efficient, deft, and rarely fumbles. From how he swings his sword to the measure of his footsteps, down to how he eats, nearly everything he does is quick. However, right now, none of that agility is being represented. His thumb rubs against hers as he squirms his other hand out from somewhere under the blankets to cover his yawn.

Chizuru can't decides what's more endearing—when he blushes, or when he takes his time with his movements.

"You're smiling…"

"Because you make me smile," she responds, poking his temple gently, despite her fingers trapped in his. "I like seeing you peaceful."

He half turns his face to his pillow and mumbles something about her liking too many things about him. It's odd how it works. If you pointed a blade in his face, he won't flinch. He can cut down enemies without blinking. If he starts something, he finishes it. But catch him off guard with compliments or observances about him, and he blushes from face to neck.

She has a mind to do it again. It's easy to fill the space between them; she twists one shoulder forward until their noses nearly touch. At the question in his eyes, she parts her mouth, seeking for his. It's a faint kiss, but he clears his throat and looks somewhere in between her throat and her chin until he makes up his mind, nose scrunching a little as he returns the gesture.

Or tries. Just as their lips brush, he pulls back and turns his face as he sharply sneezes. She can't help giggling and then stroking his hair. "I think I made you do that." She pushes her hair back. "Sorry."

"It's fine." Saitou rubs the side of his nose. "I'm sorry that got interrupted." He curls a finger under her chin. "I'll…make that up to you."

He kisses her cheek, her nose, and finally her lips. The very last, he lingers over. "I should get up," he says, reaching for the blanket and starting to rise.

"It's your day off, isn't it?"

A pause.

"And it's cold…"

Now he looks torn at his choices.

She's not one to coax, but it's warm and comfortable and him leaving the bed would mean an empty space and loss of his hands on her. "Please?"

He puts his hand back down, still looking slightly conflicted. Which is understandable—people have their schedules, and this one isn't exactly their usual morning routine. However, he acquiesced and she's pleased.

Her hands press to his shoulders, tracing easily what she already knows. Sometimes it's a marvel if she counts the months. They're together. They're here. And one of the greatest privileges is waking up next to someone she loved.

When it came to Saitou, touches were more telling than words. Yes, it meant that all his words carried a weight, but his gestures were something she learned, one encounter after another. Like how long it actually took for this to be "official." She already thought of them as together long before that, and she knows that he did as well.

Sometimes, you get this inexplicable rush of fondness and love for the person you wanted to spend your life with. It wraps around your head, like a planted thought. She feels it now as she kisses him again. Previous thoughts of simply lying here are slipping away.

After all, she does want to show him why it's better that he chose to stay in. One hand dipping into the crevice made by his clothing and his skin, his warmth fills her palm as she tries to get closer to him for better kisses than the sideways ones they've been sharing. He senses what she wants and drags her closer with his hands on her back until she's half on top of him, their chins touching and she feels more than sees his chest take a breath as her weight settles on top of him.

She loses her train of thought when his fingers press to her neck and slide upwards, heady sensations skittering down her back and getting trap in her chest. He's really good at this. Better than her. Especially when he can comb out her hair without painfully tangling or tugging. Just careful pulling until it comes apart…like how he can do with the rest of her…

"Mm." Her voice comes out muffled by his lips. "Wait."

He stops. "Are you all right?" Always thinking of her first. But she'd say the same thing if the roles were switched.

"Yes. But you're doing too much."

"Too…much?" His brows furrow. It's gotten a little brighter now; the sun is finally ascending little by little and there's an odd bluish glow cast around them. Like it's both light and dark, the haze of two worlds.

"Since I wanted you to stay, it's only fair if I do more this time."

Saitou's gaze stretches upwards as he clears his throat, visibly swallowing. "Very well."

Chizuru wonders what it'd be like to wake him up with a kiss, but that'll have to be for another time. For now, she nudges at his yukata until she can run her fingers over the bones that stick out. They're not exactly prominent, but she noticed when he lies down they're more visible. Collarbone to sternum, she plays with a pattern that his eyes follow until they look as fuzzy as the rest of him is in this poor lighting. Thankfully his blush darkens his cheeks, or else she couldn't see the effect. However, she can feel; steady breathes turn erratic and he swallows more than once.

She studies him when she rests her ear over his heart, which does not speed up when their eyes meet. How many times have they kissed? How many times have they touched? There's something about intimacy with someone you planned to share the rest of your life with—it never really ends. It simply pauses and then continues, and it will continue until its course is fully run.

It's a good thought. But enough with thoughts; she's untying their belts and kicking aside the heavy blankets. The air isn't frigid, but it feels like ice the instant her shoulders are bare and she shivers, curling tighter against him. He spreads his hands over her back, rubbing a little.

"You didn't give me a chance to restart the fire," he says a little reproachfully.

"I don't need a fire, I have you."

…that's short of ridiculous and they both smile at that while she noses against his throat in mock consternation. Contrary to popular belief, Saitou has a sense of humour. A very good one, in fact. Laughter slips out until she returns to what she is doing before—pulling away the layers. It's gotten a little bright and there's no longer that strange blue glow over everything and she can see the colour of his skin. She's so glad that work isn't such a heavy load on him—she'd gotten to used to see him too pale and drawn that it's always relief he has more colour to his face these days.

He manages to work one arm out of his sleeve before she kisses him, long and hard this time until it leaves them both winded. Her fingers, which had grasped at his arms, fall away to hold his face. She doesn't know why, but touching his face always sent emotions scattering through his face—a little uncertainty that would fade into realisation, and finally break into open trust that always causes her to blink because he allows her to see him unguarded. This, she knows, is something only between the two of them. Whatever past, whatever things that happened before, they're here right now.

And then Chizuru badly wants to see more of him opening to her. So she pulls away to sit up, regretting the distance, but she makes amends via kneading muscles and skin until he's arching into her touch. She knows he's not really one for lying this still. He's good at taking control, good at them doing this together. But every time she does a little more, he…doesn't know what to do with himself, so it seems. She's asked him before if he's really all right, to which he always says yes. It took her some time to understand the levels of vulnerability that surround him, that with each time, he lets another wall down.

Whenever he tenses too much, she waits until he finds himself again, and continues. At some point he reaches out for her hand; she gives it. He squeezes it to let to know when to stop, loosening when she can go on. Its' not even really about control anymore, it's about trust. Every time she looks at him, he lets her see, lets her know he's all right (and she believe him that he's not trying to be self-deprecating).

She remembers when she first confided in him her fears; he had not judged. Not the least bit. Not when she cried on his shoulder and he wasn't sure what do to but keep her there until she could look up again. And now he confides in her.

But it's strange to talk of confiding when he's trying hard not to writhe (as this is a rather delicate matter of not wanting to choke her), his breaths shaky and his hands gripping her shoulders. Has he fallen apart like this before? Definitely. Theirs was a relationship that went in roundabout days, from the time they worried about certain matter like children and resorted to other ways. This one, he actually taught her because she insisted, and she still recalls him trying to give directions in his usual way of speaking and utterly failing by the end. The early days had been interesting, to say the least.

Saitou gasps her name under his breath; his hand finds her cheek and strokes in a sort of pleading way. She follows his hand willingly, sliding upwards as he closes his arms around her, tightly.

"What?"

He shuts his eyes. Chizuru notices that there's actually some sunlight poking into the room; shadow lines mark the floor and walls, but it doesn't reach them yet.

When he opens his eyes, the prior fuzziness is gone, replaced by a more fervent look that send something rushing through until even her toes tingle.

"You are…too good to me. Always."

"So are you." As she licks her way up from the hollow of his throat to his lip, he has a startled look in his eyes, like he's remembering when he did that. Then he seems disgruntled, fingers smoothing her at back and spine. She nearly giggles. Yes, Saitou did teach her a lot. And now he's learning just how well she liked it. Even so, amusement fades back into desire when he seizes her hips and grinds them both together and she gasps before she bites down on the sound. One of his hands slide down, into the little cleft at the base of her spine…

He's not play fair, really. He knows. She fidgets on top of him until their skin burns and she feels more at the mercy of his fingers than he is at the mercy of her body pressed to all his parts. Until she finally finds a pause to properly do this, to join herself to him with a jerk of her shoulders and hips that stops most of his movements.

Sunlight finally spills over them, like the world is a barrier that gives way. It catches the purple tones of his hair that she's always admired, turning his eyes into a sort of iridescent that reflects his hair. She tells him this, but he's a little too distracted to say anything except that she's always beautiful, but best in the sunlight.

Neither of them makes much sense at this point. Does it matter? No; she's rocking against him until he has to draw his knees up, to press into her sides while he holds her, hurrying them along. She silently apologies when her hands dig into his scalp, thumbs probably making imprints into his jaw. However it keeps his head turn towards her, all the expressions on his face for her, and her only, to see.

Right before he finishes, she kisses him, tasting the salt on his lips and he strains out his breath as he tenses and slips into bliss and his fingers are painfully gripping her. Yet it's all right, because as she hits her own apex, he's saying her name and stroking her all over and she finds extra pleasure in that, even after she's through shaking and trying to release her fingers from his damp hair until he helps her. Their palms stick together, as do other areas of their bodies, but it's all right.

She kisses one more time, for good measure. It's not really cold anymore; however, he still drags the blanket over them.

"…Chizuru." His voice is rough, but the tone is all affection.

"Yes?"

"I've decided I do not mind it if you watch me sleep." He swipes her face free of her hair, fingers amazingly steady after what they just did. "But not every day."

She smiles at him. "Not every day." They'd never get out of bed, at this rate. Everything is warm and the sunlight is on them; his scent has seeped in to her skin and she breathes it deeply. "But I could watch you, right now."

"Then who would watch you?"

"Well…" this is a problem, isn't it. At least she puts her chin down. "I don't know." There's not really a solution to that, though they're not looking for one.

Saitou always thinks in a well-mannered way, until she went in and knocked things topsy-turvy and then he has to put his thoughts back together. He's currently trying to do it, judging from the wrinkled between his eyes and side of his mouth.

She pushes at the furrow with a finger. "Do that later."

"Later?"

"I want to sleep with my husband for a while longer."

His blush always splashes across his cheeks, rapidly. As he mutters excuses, she settles herself more comfortably against his frame until he sighs and trails his fingers through her hair.

"For a few hours," he warns, "The…neighbours might wonder."

You mean they've probably wondered why we haven't already tried to stay in. But she keeps that thought to herself. They did have rather particular nosy neighbours.

Why did the world have to care what sort of relationship that had, anyway? When she had been with the Shinsengumi, her status went from guest to…something more. Something never really defined. She wasn't a soldier, wasn't a medic, wasn't a maid…she had just been there, helping in what ways she could. Saitou couldn't even be considered a "friend" those early days. But she kept following him, intrigued by the layers he wore and wanting to see more moments like that times he would gaze at the moon or at cherry blossoms. And then there had been the guilt, of him trading his life for a rasetsu one while he'd been protecting her. They hadn't defined a single thing when he did that for her, but she does think of it as a sort of turning point in their relationship. People had first dates; they had first blood-drinking experience.

His fingers on her chin bring her back. "You're frowning."

"I was thinking about the past." But that's not a good explanation; she wets her lips and tries again. "And I'm trying to remember exactly when I think loved you. But I can't remember."

"Does it matter?"

"…no, it doesn't." Dates, anniversaries—those were too long to wait for. She just counts her blessing every day. When she looks at him, she knows she doesn't have to explain that.

But it comes as a surprised when he rolls them over so that their positions are reversed, and his head rests on her chest. "Hajime-san?"

His arm drapes over hers and he feels down the length of it until their hands meet and curl, like how they did when he just woke up and she was touching his face.

"I don't remember, either," he says, his cheek presses to her sternum. "But it is enough for me that we love each other."

Chizuru recalls the night he'd tried to make her drink the sake—it was actually more for the neighbours' sakes than it was the both of them. She didn't even think about a wedding or even a ceremony. Saitou has a way of being, of occupying a place in her heart. He slipped in, quietly, and he didn't leave, and now she doesn't think she can let him leave.

She would say something about it, but the change of his breathing stops her short.

…he really did fall asleep, just like that. Hand still clasped in hers, his hair tickling her chin.

They definitely could afford to stay in. It's not every day she gets to hold him like this (because he usually is first and she's too comfortable to speak up). But then again, they don't always get to stay in.

Her fingers move through his hair as she drifts off as well. While he's not the most unguarded of people, she cherishes what he's revealed, and still revealing to her.

It's always the quiet ones you have to watch out for.

.end.