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Warmth In Your Hands

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Midorijima had been his home; and eventually, their home.

Regardless of how much time were to pass, Midorijima would never change. The town recovered tremendously despite the landscape-changing dispute from Toue’s world domination incident; residents continuing their life like before, some of them attempting to lead a new life, some exploring the purpose of their current journey. The once contaminated air felt cleaner than before; it smelled of fresh revival, of hope.

It was when the town paced into the end of the year that the air greeted a gradual change. Aoba had come to notice the difference one morning when he woke up, chill breeze flounced into the room through opened windows, giving him an impulsive shudder the moment he opened his eyes. Hugging the blanket firmer around his own body, he let out a yawn, attempting to go back to sleep when he felt a hand on his head, accompanied by a voice that he was already more than familiar with.

“Don’t fall asleep again.”

He pouted. Rolling to his side, he casted an upward gaze at Koujaku, who had an unlit cigarette dangling in between his lips as he gave Aoba an upbeat grin.

“What time is it now?” Aoba grumbled, eyes half-opened, lethargy still streaming through every one of his nerves.

“It’s almost ten now.”

He closed his eyes. It’s the weekend anyway, there was no need for him to work. Weekend was… meant for sleep. And more sleep.

He felt his conscious dozing off before he was woken up again by the pungent smell of cigarette smoke. Drawing a deep frown in between his eyebrows, he opened his eyes again; this time, he sat up, finally releasing a loud yawn as he shot a peeved glare at Koujaku’s direction.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. Koujaku had been staring ahead, visibly distracted for a while now, and perhaps even since before Aoba had woken up. Cold gust blew into the room, drawing a brash sneeze out of Aoba before Koujaku pulled him over with a one-hand hug, giving him the warmth he very much needed.

“Careful,” was all Koujaku said before he returned to taking in a big inhale of his cigarette.

That wasn’t answering Aoba’s question at all. Cuddling in Koujaku’s embrace, his nose twitched at the smell of smoke. Koujaku smoking wasn’t something particularly new to him. In fact, he was the person who was the most accustomed with this habit of his, seeing how Koujaku had only ever smoked in his room, on his veranda.

It took him one whole minute to pull himself off his boyfriend’s hug, coming face-to-face with him as he grimaced.

“Spill it,” he said. Just that two meek words were enough for Koujaku to shift all his attention to him. He was used to this – the temperament Aoba gave out every time he got infuriated with him was both fearful and endearing at the same time it never failed to give Koujaku an uncanny sense of contradictions from within him.

Hastily discarding his cigarette, he looked at Aoba again, words stuck in his throat.

“Don’t tell me you’re thinking of anything ridiculous again?” Aoba frowned. Even if it was true, he couldn’t help it himself. He’d told Aoba about it before, and he was sure that that was partly the reason why Aoba was able to see through him just like that.

“It’s nothing—“ he halted when Aoba’s scowl deepened, letting out a garish cough before he continued. “—nothing too serious.”

Then, with another bitter smile, he scratched the back of his head, shifting his gaze to look out of the window instead. “Winter is coming soon.”

The abrupt turn of conversation had Aoba’s expression turn into a curious one in the next second. Joining Koujaku’s stare, he nodded with a dainty smile. “Yeah, I can feel it.”

Last year, this time, they weren’t here, in this room, to meet the beginning of winter together. Aoba was used to waking up in his room just to realize that the temperature had suddenly decreased greatly, which eventually led him to face great difficulties waking up from his bed for a long time despite Ren’s breakneck jumps on his body. It was always when Tae stormed her way up to his room that he made a frantic leap out of his bed, acting as if he was all wide awake with obvious bedheads on his head.

But now, he’d waken up in Koujaku’s bed, in his arms, and with Koujaku greeting him with a gentle smile the first thing in the morning.

He’d never thought that they would eventually end up like this. Winter had never given him any too-pleasant memories after all.

But this would change and it would change right now.

“Okay, I’m up,” he said, stretching. “Let’s go out, shall we?”

“Huh?” Koujaku was obviously caught off guard. Without having the chance to clarify what was going on with Aoba, Aoba had dragged him out of the bed, pushing him in the bathroom and murmuring about wanting to catch the first snow with Koujaku.

 

“It’s so cold.” Wrapped in abundant layers of scarf, Aoba stuck his hands into his pants pockets, shivering as he took his first step out of Koujaku’s house. The sky was clear and there was no sign of snow yet. But the chilly gush itself was more than enough for winter to announce its arrival. Koujaku had emerged from the front door in the next minute, one hand holding an umbrella, another attempting to wrap his own black-coloured scarf around his neck.

“Let me help you.” Noticing how he’d been struggling, Aoba chuckled as he walked towards him, pulling his hands out of his pockets and taking the thick material out of Koujaku’s hands.

“Thanks.” While they stood in close vicinity, Koujaku’s chest came into close view, the black swirls barely concealable beneath his red kimono. He tried not to be distracted, acting as if he’d seen nothing as he encircling the scarf over a few layers on Koujaku’s neck before he stepped backwards, a victorious smile gracing his features.

“Okay, all good.” He was about to walk away but Koujaku had grasped him on the hand then, halting his pace.

“Let’s go then.”

It was beyond embarrassing to walk down the streets with them holding each other’s hands like this. But Koujaku was wearing this cheeky smile when they intertwined their fingers and all Aoba could do was curse silently about how unfair Koujaku was able to grip an upper hand without he noticing it himself.

The street was quiet; many of Midorijima’s folks were probably hibernating in their houses, trying as much as they could to stay away from the cold breeze. While they walked, Aoba could feel the slight shivers on Koujaku’s hand, causing him to infrequently look up just to see Koujaku gracing a deadpan expression on his face. Countless thoughts were probably running through his mind again. For some reason, the mood between them had been unusually stiff for the whole time now. It could probably be due to the sudden change of weather; the gloomy effect slowly but surely engulfing the lustre out of their usual interaction.

But there was no way they could let this continue the whole time, especially not when literally nothing had happened between them. With a strong clutch on Koujaku’s hand, Aoba let out a loud cough, pulling Koujaku’s attention to himself before he drew a wide beam at the other.

“Do you have anywhere you want to go?”

“Huh? Wasn’t you the one who wants to come out? I thought you have something in your mind.”

Oh, right. Perhaps he was the one who was overthinking. It still amazed him on how Koujaku could act so differently when they were in personal contact as compared to when he was facing with other people that weren’t Aoba. It relieved Aoba in a sense, knowing that Koujaku could be perfectly comfortable in his presence. But it worried Aoba at the same time, knowing that he’d been trying to be too-tough all this while. Every now and then, Aoba wondered if the compassion Koujaku had been showering others were all distractions he created for himself just so he wouldn’t be reminded of all the tangled complications he had to carry with him for the rest of his life. It was something Aoba had come to realize from constant close observations towards every one of Koujaku’s behaviour – but that mere realization also urged the growth of yet another determination of his to ensure that he’d be the one to look after Koujaku’s wellbeing – both emotionally and physically – if Koujaku was purposefully casting aside time for himself to look after others.

“This is our first winter, right?” Aoba asked, attempting to break the awkwardness between them.

“Really? I remember seeing winter with you for a few times when we were younger.”

“Oh.” Is that so? Aoba thought. His past memories were indistinct; and he was certain that a large chunk of his teens memories weren’t retrievable either. But he remembered Koujaku – Koujaku was probably the only person he’d come to hold close to his heart ever since the departure of his parents. He might not remember a lot of what they had been doing together when Koujaku was in his company but he remembered how he felt when Koujaku was by his side – it was always calm and warm; like spring.

“Yeah, you always dragged the blanket with you everywhere you go. Tae wasn’t very happy about that,” Koujaku ended with a chuckle.

Aoba couldn’t remember anything about that. It terrified him somehow, that he couldn’t remember a lot of things about himself. But then, he was reminded that the only persons who had remembered them for him were his grandmother and Koujaku, his childhood friend then boyfriend. The mere realization lifted the weight from beneath his chest. As simple as that.

The look on his face must have given him out because in the next moment, Koujaku had stopped his step, then turning around to look at him with a face that spelled strappingly of playfulness.

“Don’t worry, all your baby secrets are safe with me.”

He had this burning desire to know exactly what secrets did Koujaku know about him that he didn’t but he also knew that a simple ‘what are they?’ would not have Koujaku reveal them to him so instead, he pulled his hand out of Koujaku’s clutch, sent a pout in his direction and gave his body a light tug.

“The past is the past, leave it behind. Forget about it!” It wasn’t going to work, but what else could he do?

“But you’re the one who told me not to… oh.”

The abrupt stop of sentence created an instant shift of mood in between them again. As Koujaku looked away, Aoba inched towards him, taking his hand into his once more. He’d gone too far. He knew how well-versed Koujaku was towards everything that had happened between them, including every word Aoba had ever said to him.

“Get a grip of yourself,” Aoba reproached. Koujaku let out a bitter laugh then. Straightening himself up, he embraced Aoba in a one-hand hug instead, a sign good enough to urge them to continue walking.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, which resulted in an aggressive punch on the arm by Aoba.

“It’s not your fault. You need time and I know it. But it’s not going to work if you keep feeling guilty like this.”

Koujaku laughed; this time, it was one of those brassy, genuine laughs that he’d often give out whenever he was truly delighted.

“Can’t help it. But you’re right.”

“Seriously, this weather is making you all weird,” Aoba complained at the top of his voice. “I like the Koujaku who’s always confident and snarky in front of the others. But,” he paused with a smile. “if you ever need a pair of ears, I’ll always be here.”

It was something that Aoba had been continuously telling Koujaku ever since they started going out. But it was also something that Koujaku hadn’t been getting used to. Moreover, it was always the same problem anyway. He’d feel bad to even reiterate the same matter at Aoba over and over again.

“I think we should find something warm to eat, at the very least,” Aoba announced, eyes looking around at the same time. “We didn’t eat breakfast before we came out.”

“That’s because you were rushing us out. I thought you had a plan.”

“Oh, well, yeah. Now I havea plan.” The mischievous grin had returned to Aoba’s face, and the next thing he knew, they were sitting under the shelter of a ramen shop, the alluring smell of delicious food instantly triggered loud grumbles out of their stomach.

“Winter is all about keeping yourself warm!” Aoba pronounced loudly.

“You’d eat this even when it’s not winter,” Koujaku laughed at him, immediately taking his grin back when Aoba sent him a sideway glare.

“Well, yeah, because ramen is delicious. Food is essential in everyone’s life, okay? Especially good food.”

He could only nod at Aoba’s endearing proclamation. It took only a few minutes before two big bowls of noodles were served in front of them and with a quick greet later, they dove into their food, the warmth of good hot soup warming their insides up in no time.

There were more people on the street when they walked out of the shop an hour later, the buzz lifted little by little as gentle sunlight peered through the clouds, blanketing the whole of Midorijima with its soft warmth. Aoba took in a deep breath, releasing it with a relieved sigh before he turned around to look at Koujaku again, who was giving him an affectionate stare all the while when he did that.

“I wonder where Hajima and Kou are?” Aoba said, looking around as if he was expecting them to appear out of nowhere.

“Do you want to see them?” Koujaku asked instead, instantly drawing a chortle out of Aoba.

“Don’t be jealous, I’m just wondering.”

“It’s not that,” Koujaku scowl. Letting out a sigh, he continued. “They have their own things to do, I guess.”

“Oh? So not even the leader of a Rib team would know what his members are up to?” Aoba teased, prodding Koujaku with his elbow at the same time.

“Give me a break,” Koujaku smiled bitterly. “They have their freedom to do whatever they want to do. It’s not my stand to look over that on top of Rib matters.”

Aoba knew about that, of course. All he ever wanted to do was to wipe the dark clouds out of Koujaku’s face. Besides, it’d be really awkward if they happen to meet any of the Benishigure members now. Even though it was no longer a secret that both Koujaku and Aoba were extremely close now – even closer than before, for the record - they had still yet to proclaim their relationship to anyone else but Tae. Being caught red-handed was something Aoba would like to avoid, at least for now.

Feeling the heat raised to the tips of his ears, he sped up his pace, with Koujaku hurrying alongside him, and only stopped when he came to where a playground was – one that was where he first met Koujaku; where everything began.

“Aoba…” Koujaku seemed to have realized what was going to happen but right before he could say anything more, Aoba had elevated a bright smile at him, grasping his hand and hauling him right into the space, where he settled himself comfortably on one of the swings.

“Wow, I can still fit on this. Amazing,” he exclaimed while Koujaku stood and stared, visibly at a loss of what he was supposed to do.

“But I don’t think you can,” Aoba continued, giving Koujaku a bottom-to-top look then shifting his gaze to look at the empty swing beside him instead. “You might just destroy this thing.”

“I don’t plan to sit on it,” Koujaku grinned. Instead, he stood beside Aoba, pushing the swing Aoba was sitting on unhurriedly. “See that?” he asked, pointing at a distance. When Aoba followed his finger, he noticed that Koujaku was gesturing at a sand pit; another spot which he had come to keep close to his heart.

“I remember how you would always run there every time when it snowed, then you would sit in the pit, playing with the snow while we waited for Tae-san.” The sand pit was still occupied with sand now, but the steady shift of temperature told them that it wouldn’t take long until they were able to witness pile of snow replacing the sand in the pit.

“You were so happy then, as if you’d never seen snow before,” Koujaku’s beam broadened. Acting on pure impulse, he stretched a hand, ruffling Aoba on the hair as Aoba swept his hand off with a pout.

“Well, I was small,” he retorted. “A small kid gets excited with everyth—ah.”

His words hung in mid-air. Curious, Koujaku followed his gaze, looking up just in time to feel a cold and wet sensation dropping on his nose, where his scar was.

It had started to snow.

“It’s snow, Koujaku!” Aoba cried excitedly. As he stood up from his seat, he raised a hand, attempting to capture the droplets. “We caught the first snow!”

What happened to ‘only a small kid would get excited with everything’? Koujaku wondered. Seeing Aoba getting all riled up like this sent a pang of intense warmth right into his chest. He wanted so very much to bring Aoba into his arms, ruffle him on the hair and had him pushing him away, perhaps giving him a few whacks all at the same time. But Aoba was staring happily at the new scene now, his hands raised high into the air, his expression spelled of nothing but exhilaration.

He never wanted to stop seeing this scene.

“Koujaku!” Aoba called out, waving at him. “Come here!”

Obeying, Koujaku walked towards him, where Aoba pushed a palm towards him, showing him a handful of melting snow.

“Snow,” he grinned blazingly at him. At that instance, Koujaku felt an enormous impact on his heart, causing him to hitch a breath. He felt as if he was looking at Aoba when he was young and five, when he was giving him this exact expression he was showing Koujaku now. But in the next second, Aoba looked away, staring at the small puddle of water in his hand instead.

“Your past is the same,” he mumbled. “it’ll melt away in time, just like this. It may makes you feel cold and lonely but if you endure it for a bit longer, spring will always come, everything will be back to its usual liveliness. However,” he lifted a grin at Koujaku’s direction again, just to see Koujaku staring unblinkingly at him. “what’s more important is not if it has actually happened or not. Winter will come whether you like it or not, it’s not something you can control, but what matters the most is how you’re confronting it when it happens.”

He allowed them a fleeting pause. Then, pulling in a deep breath again, he started, this time, with obvious tremors in his tone. Without warning, he raised a hand, pressing his wet and cold palm against Koujaku’s cheek.

“For me, it’s the warmth that I feel from you that is helping me to recover from my lost memories. I have no idea what happened during the time when I have no memories of, and frankly, it does scare me sometimes. But I remember what you told me. You told me that no matter what is to happen, you’ll always be by my side, that you’ll accept everything of me, regardless of who I am and who I was. So… I thought…” He looked away, faint flush pooling his cheeks. “…maybe I can return the favour too. I’m not warm and not big enough like you, but I hope my presence is enough to tell you that you’re not alone, that you’ll never be alone.”

The swarm of emotions in his heart was unbearably suffocating. Aoba had always reminded him not to shoulder everything by himself and he really wanted to be stronger, strong enough to stop Aoba from worrying too much about him. He thought he could tolerate whatever that was to come his way but at the end of the day, he was still human, as how Aoba had endlessly reminded him. And as long as he stayed alive, there would be days when he needed a shoulder to lean on after lending his shoulders for people he cared.

Without another word, he took Aoba’s cold palm away from his cheek, bringing it to his mouth and started blowing hot air into it, sending an instant chill down Aoba’s spine.

“You have always, always been like a personification of hope for me. You have no idea how many times you have pulled me away from death. I’m alive because of you, Aoba. And by that, my life belongs to you. This pair of hands,” he paused, just to lift another one of Aoba’s hand up and pressed them together in his own hands. “is what that had been giving me the warmth I always yearn for. So, thank you.”

It was an awkward five seconds eye-to-eye before Aoba looked away, the tips of his ears glowing red.

“This is exactly why you keep getting into troubles,” he mumbled.

“Hmm? What did you say?”

Instead of a reply, Aoba sent him a sideway glare, accompanied by a pout. Then, all of a sudden, he pulled his hands out of Koujaku’s clutch, dashing his way towards the sand pit and started poking on the pile of sand.

“Aoba?” Koujaku called out.

“It’s nothing!” Aoba responded with a tone that was higher than usual, drawing a bright chuckle out of the older man straightaway.

“There’s not enough snow yet,” he said as he joined Aoba in the sand pit. “You can’t build a snowman with this.”

“W-who says I’m building snowman? I… I wanted to build a sandcastle.”

There wasn’t enough sand to build a sandcastle either. Finding him loveable, Koujaku ruffled Aoba on the hair again, until Aoba got so annoyed he had to dodge his way out of a few sand attacks that he realized that he had gone over his limit with his teasing.

It was late evening by the time they finally decided to head home. Holding an umbrella high above them, they walked hand-in-hand, feeling the chilliness enveloping them stronger with every passing second.

“Are you cold?” Koujaku asked, catching sight of Aoba’s flushed nose before the other buried it beneath the thick scarf again.

“A bit,” Aoba muffled, most of his voice obscured beneath the thick material.

“We’re reaching soon.”

It had stopped snowing by the time they reached home. Aoba took his outfits off the moment he walked into the room, starting with his scarf, then his jacket.

“I take back what I said, winter is horrible. It’s too cold.” He was shivering so much that his voice trembled when he spoke as he rubbed his hands, blowing hot air into his palms at the same time.

“I’m taking a hot shower,” he said, the frostiness finally getting to him.

“Ah, Aoba,” Koujaku called out. He’d left the umbrella in his doorway, coming in just in time to see Aoba moving towards the shower. “Mind if I join later?”

Aoba released a hitch of breath. This felt familiar. Well, similar, at the very least. Averting his gaze, he made rapid steps towards the bathroom, only stopping when he reached the door.

“Don’t take too long, the water will turn cold.” That was the last thing he said before he disappeared speedily into the room, leaving a stoned Koujaku alone in the bedroom, a worn-out sigh escaping his lips while he stripped himself off his clothing.

A contrast to the previous occasion, a clicking sound was heard the moment Aoba turned the tap water open as he attempted to alter it to the temperature he wanted. He could feel Koujaku standing behind him, obviously staring at him. Suddenly aware that the entire of his back was naked with his ass exposed at Koujaku’s direction like a gift, he quickly straightened himself up, his heartbeats from within his chest threatening to jump out of his mouth.

He wanted Koujaku to say something already.

“Aoba.” Finally.

“The water should be done soon,” Aoba interrupted, turning around to face Koujaku upfront. While Koujaku’s gaze swam from his gaze to his lower half, he swiftly covered his crotch with his hand, growling.

“Oi, what are you looking at?”

“It’s not like I’ve never seen it before anyway,” Koujaku teased. “So now all we could do is wait, right?”

“Y-yeah.” Koujaku was right. It wasn’t like Koujaku wasn’t familiar with his body anyway. Even when they were young, Aoba remembered vaguely that he’d shared the same bath tub with Koujaku, with both of them naked. Nothing was wrong then, so why he should feel awkward now?

He was the one who wasn’t familiar with Koujaku’s body, in any case. As that mere thought flashed past his head, he shifted his gaze instinctively to look at the other’s body, the striking black curls encircling Koujaku’s body gave him an impression of cursed scars more than anything else. The initial feverishness in his heart took a prompt turn; it clenched his insides instead, reminded of how these scars came from.

Swallowing down his throat, Aoba took unhurried steps towards Koujaku, ultimately standing right in front of him as he took a closer look at the patterns. The first time he’d seen this, it’d caught him completely off guard. It was a part of Koujaku that he’d never come to know; the fact that Koujaku had kept this agonising encounter from him being one of the most painful reason of the throbbing from beneath his chest. It was a past, and like he’d said, now all they needed to do was to move forward and live in the present.

These scars – they would never disappear. Despite if Koujaku liked it or not, he’d have to carry them for life, like a curse, like a constant reminder of all the sins he’d committed in the past. Those were all unforgivable faults, but they were also mistakes that he couldn’t help, and sins that he could no longer repent for.

Even though he’d told Koujaku that he should move on, it was only when Aoba saw the solid evidence right in front of him, with his very own eyes that he realized that it was easier said than done. He wasn’t the one bearing all these reminders, it was Koujaku who had to deal with it and he hated himself for not being able to do anything but constantly giving him words of comfort.

Acting completely out of reflex, Aoba leaned forward, his lips touching the black swirls in a featherlike way, his heart beating stridently in his ears before he finally pushed himself towards Koujaku, pressing a firm kiss against Koujaku’s rough skin at the same time.

“Oi, Aoba…”

Koujaku’s voice echoed feebly around the space. He didn’t sound surprise this time, unlike the first time when Aoba had done it. Instead, his voice was shrouded with a hint of hesitance and Aoba could feel so clearly that he had every intention to push Aoba away, to tell him that it would dirty him, that he was fine.

But he didn’t.

“It doesn’t hurt anymore,” he said instead. When Aoba pulled himself apart and looked at him, he was wearing a tender smile, one that told Aoba that he’d read his mind accurately.

“Really?” he asked. Was Koujaku trying to act tough again? He did tell Koujaku that it was fine for him to tell him anything at all – including his past distresses. He’d even lend him a shoulder if he felt like crying. But instead, the man standing right in front of him was wearing his usual confident yet kind-hearted smile Aoba had come to love so much. It reminded him of the smile Koujaku often gave him when they were younger.

At that instance, Aoba felt as if his hero had returned; that perhaps everything was just a nightmare and they’d never been separated after all.

Koujaku nodded in response. Then, he patted Aoba on the hair, pulling him over by the neck and pressing his face against his chest. His heart was beating feverishly beneath his torso, his body quivered ever so slightly when Aoba lifted a finger to trace the black patterns.

“I used to hate these very much. But I’m better now,” Koujaku reaffirmed.

How long had it been since that incident? Aoba wondered. Years? How many years then? It didn’t matter after all. Letting out a small smile, he nodded against Koujaku’s chest, then pressing trails of kisses along the black swirls again, starting from the one on his waist, all the way up to his shoulder blade. What was important was that Koujaku was showing obvious sign of recovery and that should be all that mattered.

When he looked at Koujaku’s profile, he gave him a naughty beam, then tiptoed to kiss the tattoo on Koujaku’s face.

“No matter what you say, I’ll do this every time I see them.”

“I’m not as weak as you think I am, Aoba,” Koujaku countered.

“That’s not it. I just want to remind you of how proud I am of you for bearing these heavy and painful scars all these years. You never give up.”

Never give up.

The phrase had created a permanent mark on Koujaku’s body, in his mind. It was the phrase that had him pulling himself back to his senses. It was what Aoba had told him, returning him the very same encouragement like how he’d given Aoba when they were young.

Aoba’s tongue felt hot on his cold skin. Steam had started to form in the space thanks to the heat of the water. Unlike the previous time, Aoba now took his time with Koujaku’s body, licking all the way down from his face to his neck then to his chest again where he seized onto Koujaku’s waist for support as he tasted every inch of the man’s scent. He wasn’t even sure if he was tasting water or sweat now and all he could feel was how his action had made its own retaliation at him. Not only did he lick Koujaku’s tattoos, he made an effort to reach his tongue out to his old wounds as well, feeling the aftereffect right on his own crotch with every passing second.

“Aoba, it’s enou—hng!” Aoba had selected that precise moment to flick a playful tip of tongue on Koujaku’s nipple, causing Koujaku to grip on Aoba’s shoulders instead, almost toppling from the sudden stimulation.

“Hm?” Aoba hummed defiantly. Even though Aoba was already well aware of how flustered Koujaku could be - especially when it came to facing Aoba - it still astounded him on how such a tough man - a Rib team leader nevertheless - would fall apart in his hands if he was to push on the right button.

“E-enough,” Koujaku breathed. But at the same time, Aoba had also come to realize that if he was to push the same treacherous button for too long, too furious, he’d eventually land himself with a ferocious beast – one that was a personification of intense lust himself.

“The water is getting cold,” Koujaku said. He was obviously trying to hold his composure but his body had given him out; his erection was now half-hard, as Aoba had come to notice.

“Wouldn’t it be inconvenient for you to go in with this?” Aoba asked instead, pointing at Koujaku’s dick.

“Like you’re one to say,” Koujaku let out a bitter smile. Aoba was, as Koujaku had pointed out, half-hard too, but he wasn’t sure if he was referring to his teasing actions or his arousal itself.

So, believing it to be the latter, he lowered his body, coming face-to-face with Koujaku’s arousal before he gripped the length, not too hard, just enough to feel the stiffness of it.

“Oi, Aoba,” Koujaku muttered.

“It’ll be inconvenient,” he answered his own question. And before Koujaku should say anything else, he was already pushing his dick into his mouth, bringing it in as deep as he could until he felt the head of it touching the back of his throat.

Koujaku’s dick did an interested twitch in his mouth then. While his attention remained focused on all that Aoba was doing for – or rather, to – him, Aoba concentrated on sucking on his erection, occasionally trailing his teeth along the length just to give his boyfriend the additional push of stimulation.

He wanted so very much to ask Aoba if he was okay but he was reminded dreadfully of what happened the last time when he did what his brain had asked him to and ended up presenting Aoba a menacing tool which Aoba had used smartly to further arouse him. He could feel his dick hardened with every slurp Aoba took. And with every suck on the head, he felt his orgasm pooling on the tip, all ready to explode if Aoba could give him just one final push.

“Aoba.” He surrendered. But it was for Aoba’s own good. All he want to do was to tell him that he was going to cum if he kept sucking on him so hard like this. “It’s enough, I’m going to—“

It was just one word he’d left to say but as if Aoba had predicted what he was about to say, his motion became greater, his hand rubbing on his balls in a more aggressive way, and his free hand started to pump on the part of Koujaku’s length where he wasn’t able to put into his mouth, completely ignoring Koujaku’s warning.

He wanted to say something else, or he could simply push Aoba away but Aoba was taking everything in in such a rapid manner that the next thing he knew, a penetrating tremor ran through every one of his bloodstreams, drowning him in intensity so vehement that he thought he saw stars for a moment.

Aoba had pulled his dick out of his mouth when Koujaku finally came back to himself then – the sight in front of him almost made him pass out again. Faint trail of semen dripped from the corner of Aoba’s lip while Aoba helped himself to lick the remaining of Koujaku’s cum clean on his head that he didn’t manage to swallow when Koujaku achieved climax.

“Seriously, you…”

“Hmm?” Aoba said purposefully, the vibration from his voice hitting right on the head of Koujaku’s dick as he shuddered in reflex, a weird moan almost fell from his lips if he hadn’t been suppressing his voice quick enough.

“Wow, you’re growing hard again. All my effort is wasted,” Aoba threw a pout at Koujaku’s direction after a fleeting look at his dick, which Koujaku knew was done on purpose.

“That’s because you’re so erotic,” Koujaku retorted. Lowering his body just to support Aoba up, he led them to the bathtub instead, giving Aoba a nod before both of them stepped into the warm water.

It was heavenly great to feel warmth coursing through every inch of one’s skin right after an orgasm, Koujaku was quick to realize. And it was even better with Aoba sitting in between his legs, body rested against his chest as he encircled the whole of Aoba’s body in his arms.

“Hey, Koujaku…” Aoba mumbled. Even though his voice was small, it was loud enough to reverberate around the space. “Aren’t we going to shower?”

“Aren’t we showering now?” Koujaku replied, nuzzling his cheek against Aoba’s at the same time.

“Erm, but we aren’t doing anything at all.”

“Oh? You want to do something?” As a response, Koujaku pressed his lips against the nape of Aoba’s exposed neck then, immediately sending chills down Aoba’s spine as he gripped on Koujaku’s arm, a loud moan elicited from his mouth by the sudden action.

“Th-that’s not what I meant!”

Revenge. If Aoba could do the same to him, catching him off guard like it was the most natural thing to do, then Koujaku could do the same to him as well. Especially with the position they were in now, Aoba was practically trapped in Koujaku’s bigger build, his actions restrained – the upper hand was graciously handed back to Koujaku.

“I’ll clean your body for you,” Koujaku said after a provocative lick at Aoba’s fair skin. Aoba tasted sweet, the water Koujaku that came into contact with the tip of Koujaku’s tongue a mixture of sweat and water. “The more I look at it, the more grateful I am to have cut your hair.”

“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” Aoba pouted.

“No, I didn—well, probably just a bit,” Koujaku confessed, combing Aoba’s now-short hair with his fingers at the same time.

“You have a beautiful neck, it’s a waste to keep it hidden all the time,” Koujaku said, now twirling the tips of Aoba’s hair. “Ah, it’s becoming longer as well. Another haircut soon, it seems.”

“Oi, don’t think of anything inappropriate again, you old man,” Aoba scowled. He couldn’t quite see Aoba’s expression now. Turning around seemed to be a task too hard for him in this position. But he didn’t need to see his face to know what kind of expression he’s wearing anyway.

“I’m not. Do you like it, by the way? If not, then you could let it grow.”

Aoba fell silent, which Koujaku assumed that he was considering what Koujaku had just proposed. A few seconds later, he started, his voice lower than usual.

“I… I’m fine with this length.”

Koujaku let out a small smile. “I see.”

That was the last thing Aoba heard before Koujaku leaned forward to kiss the side of Aoba’s neck again, his hand wandered from his neck to his torso, where he gave his nipple a playful pinch before he led his arm downwards, effectively causing Aoba to hitch a breath when he found what he was looking for.

“Since you did it for me just now, I think it’s just courtesy to return the favour.”

If he’d never believed in karma before, this was the time he’d started to actually believe in it. Koujaku giving him handjobs wasn’t something new. In fact, he’d almost gotten used to Koujaku giving him head. But with the heated atmosphere they were submerged in, alongside the mounting heat from within him, he was sure that he’d gotten a heatstroke if this was to continue any longer.

But yet, his body succumbed; every stroke Koujaku gave him pushed his head further into a cloudy state of want, and every pinch Koujaku did on his sensitive bud made him feel as if he was going to pass out any time soon. He’d already been stirred up when he took in Koujaku’s dick earlier. Now that his arousal was practically being stimulated, he wanted nothing but to push himself towards the end once and for all.

“K-Koujaku…” he whimpered. He could see the head of his dick submerging from the surface of the water, its tip a deep pink with obvious trail of wet precum oozing out of it.

“Hm?” Koujaku hummed against his neck, waiting for the next thing Aoba was about to say.

“I…” Aoba started. It was so embarrassing he thought his head would combust any second now, especially not helping when he had been feeling Koujaku’s completely hardened erection poking on his back the entire time he’d been playing with his sensitive spots.

If he wanted it so badly, Koujaku must be waiting for it as badly as him as well. He just… needed to break this too-languid flow and bring them into the next level of intensity.

“I…” he said again. Koujaku’s stroke had become slower then, which was a torture of its own. He could already feel his orgasm at the tip of his dick and if Koujaku was to continue with the pace he did earlier, he could definitely bring Aoba to completion with ease.

But he didn’t, and it resulted in a powerful urge for Aoba to cast his self-conscious aside and finally submitting to what he desprately needed.

“Please, I need you.”

He was getting a migraine. He could feel it. But the next thing happened so fast that he couldn’t quite register what had happened. Before he knew it, both of Koujaku’s hands were on his ass cheeks, squeezing on them before he crept his fingers towards where Aoba’s hole was.

“W-wait!” Aoba shrieked frantically. But all Koujaku did was pushing in one finger, just to check on how prepared Aoba was before he pulled it out again.

“Seems like you’re still loose from last night,” he said. Aoba was about to say something but his words were immediately cut off when Koujaku pushed his finger into him again, causing him to grip on the edge of the bathtub to prevent himself from falling headfirst into the water.

“Ah…” His soft moans echoed around the room; he had no intention to suppress them either. When Koujaku had two fingers in him, he found his boyfriend’s hand back on his length again, this time, with his thumb pressing against the slit.

“Wha—Koujaku?”

“You seem like you’re about to come soon but,” Koujaku paused, just to position his own dick against Aoba’s hole. “wait for me?”

He didn’t even have the chance to answer before Koujaku was already pushing his hard erection into him, his motion so easy-going that Aoba could feel every inch of it stretching his insides open, burying deeper and deeper into him with every passing second. He could feel Koujaku stopping halfway, checking on how Aoba was doing before he proceeded again, his action so vigilant it made Aoba impatient.

In the end, it was Aoba who’d made a backward jerk that finally had the whole of Koujaku’s length buried deep inside him, the heat within him sending him into a state of lust in no time.

“You’re so hot inside,” Koujaku commented.

“That’s because there’s hot water inside,” Aoba replied thoughtlessly, instantly regretting his choice of words the moment he felt Koujaku’s dick throbbed in him when he said that.

“Are you okay?” Koujaku asked. Lifting a free hand, he turned Aoba’s head around, staring right into Aoba’s dazed, teary eyes before he let out a smile. “You’re more than alright.”

Aoba nodded and, on impulse, their lips met, the same time when Koujaku started thrusting into him, pulling the whole of his dick out just to push it in again, and again, and again.

The heat as so overwhelming that Aoba was sure that he was sitting on the edge between passing out and staying awake. His head was throbbing, his erection in Koujaku’s hand was at the verge of exploding. But Koujaku was gripping on it so hard that he was practically denied of his orgasm.

He was about to pass out. He needed Koujaku to come now.

“Koujaku…!” he wailed. One hard clench on Koujaku’s dick later, he heard Koujaku’s choked moan right by his ear. Then, at long last, Koujaku released his grip, his entire body shivered out of reflex, gaudy moans leaked from his mouth before he felt himself falling apart in his boyfriend’s arms.

While he leaned against Koujaku’s body, he opened a dazed eyes, just to see his own cum right in front of him, floating on the water where he’d just released it.

“We’ll clean it together, okay?” Koujaku said in a heated whisper. “And of course, the ones inside of you too.”

If he had enough strength, he was sure that he’d already thrown a soap at Koujaku’s direction.

 

How was it possible to feel so hot when the temperature outside the window was below the usual temperature he was used to? Aoba sprawled on the bed, face pressed against the pillow as he closed his eyes, attempting to soothe the migraine down. Even when he was wearing nothing but a loose kimono hanging around his torso, all he could feel was warmth that had been coursing through his body ever since he’d come out of the shower. The clean-up session had taken a longer time than usual; the various occurrences when he’d almost passed out in the bathroom ultimately had Koujaku making him to sit in a corner while he finished up the remaining chores.

His head felt heavy. His world was spinning. He turned around, opening his eyes just in time to see Koujaku walking out of the bathroom, torso naked with a towel hanging from his waist.

“Aoba, are you okay?” he asked as he walked towards him, joining him on the bed.

“…fine,” Aoba mumbled. He wasn’t perfectly well but he was still conscious at the very least. He simply needed time to calm this heat down.

“You’ll catch a cold,” Koujaku said, pulling the blanket up to cover the most of Aoba’s body.

“Let’s make a rule to not do it in the bathroom again,” Aoba grumbled. “If this continues, I’ll die for real.”

“Don’t say that,” Koujaku let out a bitter laugh. “But yeah, you’ve got a point. It’s way too exhausting doing it in there.”

He could’ve fallen asleep right there and then if he hadn’t heard movements from his side.

“You’re smoking again,” he said the moment Koujaku reached out to the bedside drawer, pulling a cigarette out from it.

“Ah, yeah,” he said as he lit the cigarette up. “Just a bit.”

It was a habit that Koujaku had yet to get rid of. But across the years, Aoba came to realize that it was a habit of Koujaku whenever he needed to calm the thoughts in his head, when his mind was too overloaded with burdens and when he didn’t want to bother Aoba with his hitches.

At this time, all Aoba could do was to inch closer towards him, lean against him, and remind him that he was by his side to comfort him again.

There was no use forcing words out of Koujaku. He wasn’t a child; he was an adult, and Aoba was sure that he knew what would work best for him anyway.

“Ah.”

While he worried, Koujaku’s small voice distracted him from his thoughts, urging him to look up, just to see Koujaku looking out of the window.

“What is it?” he asked.

A smile spread on Koujaku’s face. Pointing his chin towards the window, he said,

“It’s snowing again.”

Aoba sat up almost immediately. Despite being almost naked, he pressed his hands against the cold window, gazing enthusiastically out of it. Koujaku was right. Snow had started falling again, even the streets had started to be coated by thick layers of snow.

Thrilled, he pushed the windows open, totally ignoring Koujaku’s ‘Oi, you’ll really catch a cold’ as he stretched an arm out of it, trying as hard as he could to catch the small white balls.

“Koujaku, it’s snowing!” he said, a bright grin graced his features.

“I know, I just told you about it,” Koujaku chuckled. Seeing Aoba being so excited like this reminded Koujaku of when he did this exact same thing when they were younger. He’d stretched his hand like this, trying to grip the small balls from his veranda where Koujaku stopped by for a visit and in the end of the day, he even had Koujaku carrying him up just so he could reach further with his short hand then.

Aoba’s presence alone was enough, he thought. Regardless of how many years were to pass, or what was to happen, or even what season they were in, Aoba would never change. He’d still be the tiny child Koujaku once came to know when he first arrived in Midorijima; and Koujaku would still be his hero, despite all the embarrassing and pathetic fronts he’d intentionally and unintentionally portrayed to Aoba.

And while he wrapped a layer of thick clothing around an enthusiastic Aoba, he finally realized what Aoba had been trying to tell him all this while now.

He was never good with winter. It put him in a low-spirited mood, reminding him of all the hardships he had gone through, all the sins he’d have to carry with him for life. But it was different now.

Because he had Aoba by his side – and Aoba was the spring who’d bring his miserable winter to an end.