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They've spent parts of nights alone together before. And parts of days, and all the other pieces of time that pass by when traveling the wastelands between villages. Rei doesn't object. Mamiya is good company when he can't sleep. Or when she can't sleep. When they talk, it's openly enough. But the way she watches the stars and levels her voice all too-unemotional when their conversations stray to the past reminds him of his parents, his sister...the past is never something they discuss very long. The present has sufficed.

Ken took first watch and lurks somewhere outside the abandoned house they've borrowed. Perhaps he watches the same stars Mamiya can't right now, walks under them while Rei can't move.

The floor is cold under him, uncomfortable after a long time sitting. His spine tingles uneasily, but it's directed internally and not a warning of danger. Years of training and martial arts poise allow him to suppress the urge to squirm in place, the one thing tonight he's thankful for.

After Ken left, they had joked about his one oblivious point, Mamiya again lamenting his ignoring her, and Rei admitting to the same ill luck—but then, how long had it been since either of them had any? Her eyes had gone wide, then narrowed as she seemed to size him up—and she'd made a point thereafter of looking at everything not him.

He hadn't meant it that way.

She's taken it that way, and now he's left to read a thousand things into her curious stare while she stays beside him, near but not quite touching. He can feel her body heat, or at least imagine he does, and every hair on his arms stands on end.

There is nothing strange in getting frustrated or flustered. Or in wanting to be touched, wanting her, yet wanting anything but touch because he knows it will feel wrong—like the mismatched aura on top of Amiba's impersonations has layered itself in his own skin. Rei can ignore it usually, forget it sometimes. Next to Mamiya with his mind racing through inappropriate what-ifs, he can't, and the bitter side to his sense of humor taunts that at least he doesn't have to worry about hiding the evidence he's turned on.

It does not matter. He will wait for her to sort out her thoughts, and things will return to how they always are. He is fine with this, quite fine.

Mamiya finally moves, untucking one knee from where she's held them against her chest and stretching out further. Closer to him—

"Rei?"

He loses focus with a start, an almost-invisible shiver that runs down his body and ends in his tailbone, but keeps the surprise out of his voice. "Hm?"

"I know what you think about women. And men, apparently." That gets a low chuckle, the sound punctuating her sentences like a nervous pause. "But what about the warrior I am now?"

"What about—?" he says, and chokes on his words when she puts a hand on his shoulder. Her fingers are almost on his neck, moving along the edge of his collar. Rei keeps still, but he's sure it looks as forced as it feels.

"Well, then. Ken's not interested in either of us, is he?"

Is that why she's doing this? Oh, even if it is...lust and comfort are easier words than love, right now, and Rei finds he does not care about later. He quiets his body's objections: I want this and she wants this, you are going to have to deal. Frustration slips out, a bit, as she leans in to kiss him and he meets her aggressively, bumping noses and clipping teeth.

Hell, how long has it's been since he's kissed someone?

Mamiya pushes back and pushes him down, onto the floor and under her. He stiffens as she brings a knee up and his hips twitch, and stops her fingers sliding into the pockets of his coat with a muffled growl. She moves away to lean on her elbows and not his chest, straddles him more loosely, and that is enough. All is well, for now. More than well.

His own hands find soft skin under rough shirt, her stomach muscles hardened from fighting like his own...Mamiya squeaks and wriggles like she's ticklish, then raises an eyebrow as he moves upwards. Rei shrugs—a full-body motion, with her still half-pinning the rest of him—and looks briefly down at his own chest, then back to her (back to her eyes, thank you). They're not mine, he doesn't actually say, but she nods, a slight bob of her head before she presses closer, one arm's worth of elbow bracing behind his head. He traces curves, the outline of a nipple, and the low way she purrs in his ear is entirely unlike his distressed sounds earlier.

Rei cannot remember the last time he's had anyone breathless in the metaphorical sense rather than the literal. It's...nice, he manages, failing to find articulate thought. Grace is better applied to his hands.

The moment doesn't last. They grow less pleasantly tangled; Mamiya's other elbow threatens his gut and the ties in her coat somehow catch his fingers. He can feel her face tucked along his neck, his hands hot against her, and worst of all where her leg's moved. Again, he fights panic, and keeps polite. Calm down now, Rei, let the lady get her arm out first. It's just a bit of repositioning. He grips her left shoulder, aiming to steady them both, and as he hits skin she shakes him off so sharply the ties scrape his knuckles.

Rei recognizes himself in the way Mamiya draws herself inward and away, and suspects their expressions mirror each other as much as their silence. And as she hasn't demanded explanation from him, so he will not ask it of her. He leaves his arm loose along her back while she relaxes, lets her breathing slow to match his own calming techniques until they're nearly in time. Mamiya takes it as a chance to refocus, shifting her weight downwards and over and freeing a hand to—

—freeing a hand to fumble with the belts on his pants. Fear reasserts itself, and Rei grabs her wrist and pulls it to the floor. She hisses in surprise and he lets go just as quickly, ashamed of what must show in his eyes when she meets them.

Mamiya cuts off anything he might have said with a ruffle of his hair, fingers trailing through the soft bits down the back of his neck. They're still, otherwise, and all he can focus on is every point their bodies still touch and his heart pounding in his too-tight chest. Then she takes his hand, fingers along the back of hers rather than the palm. It's so he can stop her again if he wants, he realizes, and accepts the offer by edging up to meet her as she again moves lower. His wrist ends up pressed between them, and while she stays outside his clothes he can feel her as though there is nothing between them.

She grinds against his knuckles, forcing her curled fingers down with them, and he yelps at their destination—really, it's more an aroused whimper—before squirming his hand free. Mamiya freezes, looks at him in concern. She's broken him again.

"Nngh, no," he tries to explain, and it comes out a husky warble, useless and ambiguous when what he really wants to say is "yes, keep doing that". He screws his eyes shut in frustration, and when she kisses his cheek like she's trying to comfort him what remains of his pride rebels. He settles the now-uncrushed hand on her spine, well below the shoulders, and guides her back down and against him as he whispers into her hair:

"—no, go ahead." She understands, and they continue. Her hesitant touch grows stronger when he responds by digging in his nails, and when his hips hitch closer too she sighs slow and growly again into the fabric of his jacket. Rei stays with that thought, lets himself focus on her and not the details of what she's doing. If the details don't matter to her, they can cease to matter to him.

For now. For tonight.



Mamiya wakes early, and when she moves to rub the sleep from her eyes she has to swat aside hair—dark blueblack hair, not hers, her thoughts supply, and she instinctively takes stock of her clothes. Other than the jacket tucked under her head and the boots she remembers kicking off, they're there, and she relaxes. Momentarily.

She'd never pegged Rei as the sort to cuddle, but last night had been damned cold once they'd cooled off, the memory of heat making the night air seem that much worse. He'd stayed beside her, uncharacteristically-snuggled against her shoulder as he mumbled the starts of explanations he never finished and apologies she didn't let him. She'd also never imagined giving post-sex reassurances ending in "you wouldn't have been sticking it anywhere anyway" without laughing, but he'd found it amusing, and the last thing he'd said was a cheerfully petulant "I don't have a pillow".

It seemed one of his quiet jokes, but now? She finds Rei is heavier than he looks, and warmer, and under the impression she makes a suitable substitute. He's coiled against and around her, hands tucked beneath the edge of her undershirt and along her ribs, face nuzzled between her breasts.

She resolves to find this annoying rather than charming. It helps that her leg is asleep, and that Rei is both snoring quietly and drooling on her chest. She disentangles his arms, carefully, slowly, so he doesn't stir...and unceremoniously shoves him onto the floor.

Rei snorts as his chin hits wood and jolts awake, blinking in confusion before glaring up at her. She smiles back, mimicking the half-smirk he likes to use before reassuring bandits Ken is due to pronounce them already dead. He tries (and fails) to pout in between wiping his face with the back of a hand. The rest will remain between them, but "mister waterbird drools when he's really sleepy" could have been observed under neutral circumstances. It's fair game to bring up later, sometime opportune when he deserves it.

Fair game like the floorboards must have been. There's distinctly sliced fingernail-width lines in the ones Rei's lounging on, like somebody gripping them last night wasn't particularly worried about control.

Deep breath in, let it out again. Whoever's house this is won't be back to care, and his touch on her was anything but unpleasant.

Impulsive, irresponsible...Mamiya shakes her head. Her parents were never so blunt, but she understood just fine good girls were not meant to take sex on their own terms (even if she lost control on someone else's, even if she's abandoned words like woman) with how they spoke of family, and her future—and the grandchildren they would be seeing grow up in the village they built together. Like she can afford to settle for safe now, or as though she could bring someone like Rei home (even if she wanted). The idea of her parents teasing him with a thousand overprotective questions is first funny and then depressing—for how he'd have to answer, and because he can't.

Her parents are dead, and the world she grew up in gone with them. In this world, people like Rei (and people like her, he'd add) die far too quickly. Friends, she lets herself keep, but lovers...no, she won't entertain the thought. They have reasons for fighting worth more. The Rei who first came to her village, she'd have doubted, but the Rei she's traveled with and who jokes about their status as sidekicks? This Rei, she trusts to understand that much.

He rolls over and sits up, tucking his bruised chin gingerly between his knees, and seems fascinated by the floorboards too. Perhaps he's thinking the same of their condition, and how Hokuto Shinken's advantages include hypersensitive hearing.

"Mff," he comments, and yawns before restarting his sentence. "Ken's still gone."

"Aw, shit." Mamiya pulls herself up, stumbling, and mumbles further profanity at both her leg's still-tingling nerves and at Ken's typical disappearing act simply because it feels better. Rei's eyes follow her hands as she rubs her calf and wiggles her toes.

"You didn't have to fall asleep on me," she says, and sticks out her tongue. He frowns, another try at pouting that doesn't quite work. He'd better not say something about women and language, not after she's been so charitable in thought—or worse, offer to help.

"I'll look for him," Rei says instead. He stays where he is, though, and adjusts his coat without a single mention of where the marks along his neck came from. "He'll be scouting ahead, waiting for us to...wake up."

She takes pity after several seconds of watching Rei strain his neck trying to see himself, and scoots over to tuck his hair in the way. Has he never done this before, not spent clumsy teenaged evenings with a sweetheart? He watches her hand again, and she can feel his pulse quicken in the moments of contact it takes to get both collar and hair to behave. It brings to mind the wild and vulnerable look in his eyes last night, and what it costs for either of them to show weakness.

No, he probably hasn't.

He reaches for her, and stops just short of resting a hand on her shoulder in a mirror of where she touched his neck. And then he switches hands, switches shoulders, fingers settling on the right one and squeezing gently once she doesn't flinch. Rei lets go soon after, the corners of his mouth lifting into the not-quite-smile she's come to read as content.

Mamiya stays behind, gives them both their bit of distance and time—and gets up to make breakfast.