When the spring trees start to bud, they meet as friends for the first time.
The sun is warm where it dusts over Takumi's skin. It's a sensation partly-forgotten, swept away by the winter months, and his body welcomes it like an old friend. The courtyard laid in front of him is familiar in how the shadows of budding trees slant over well-tended rock gardens, the gold of early afternoon resting in patterns around them-- the slats of sunlight spell out rebirth, the slow inhale of the world coming back to life.
"Sorry to interrupt," A voice asks from just behind him, the only sound apart from distant rustling branches. "May I join you?"
Leo's footsteps are slow, respectful, borrowed sandals tapping over the polished wood of the deck. (He'd shed his armor long ago; it's no longer needed, he'd said, body newly vulnerable under fabric Hoshido had made for him. There are no battles here.) Takumi's head tilts towards him, gaze shifting from the expanse of land before him and over to Leo. He's relaxed, hair loose and shifting flaxen over his cheeks marked soft by the sun. A heartbeat passes-- in silence, Takumi thinks Leo looks better in Hoshidan sunlight than he ever could in Nohrian dusk.
"A coin for your thoughts?" Leo says, amused, and Takumi blinks. Embarrassment scatters a brief pink at the tip of his ears before he's clearing his throat, hand caught between a dismissive gesture and a beckon.
"Of course you can." Takumi finally answers, chin dipping at a cushion laid neatly against the railing to the side. "I'm just enjoying the warm weather."
He watches as Leo nods, making his way to the cushion, moving it beside Takumi's with great care. (This side of him is new. Leo made a better friend than he ever had an enemy.) There's another comfortable silence as he settles himself, eyes falling on the courtyard as he kneels gracefully on the smooth pillow. Wind trails gentle between them, rippling the fabric of robes in its wake, sending Takumi's hair loose and tickling over his skin.
"I don't think I'll ever get used to this much sunlight," Leo remarks, eyes on the budding blooms of the trees, something curious curling at the corner of his mouth. "I've already burned in it-- Corrin finds it unspeakably funny, for whatever reason. Look."
Takumi blinks, looking to where Leo's rolling his loose sleeve up, revealing a pink-edging-on-red burn spread from his wrist up to his shoulder. It is funny, almost-- Leo's pale enough for any color to stand outlandish on his skin, and the red marks a glaring and evident lapse in attention. He catches his bottom lip in his teeth, willing himself not to laugh-- it wouldn't do to mock him, he reminds himself, quashing the amusement bubbling high in his throat. "Sakura gave me ointment for it," Leo continues, and Takumi lifts his eyes to meet his gaze. There's a smile there, sardonic at the edges, an eyebrow lofted at Takumi's poorly-hidden mirth. "But she seemed amused as well. Is making fun of misfortune a Hoshidan tradition?"
Takumi snorts, reaching out without thinking, fingers finding the reddened skin. It's hot under his touch, hotter than his own sun-warmed skin, and he lingers. His stomach twists when Leo huffs out an amused noise, arm stilling under his touch, tense but permissive. The sunlight pours over where they're close, and the pink that spreads over his own skin isn't something he can blame on its warmth.
"That's generally not something we make a habit of." Takumi finally manages, voice sticking in his dry throat, "but getting a sunburn is something so typical of a foreigner." He flashes a half-smile, all feigned pleasantness, withdrawing his hand when Leo utters a derisive noise.
"I suppose that's fair." Leo says, wry, letting the sleeve roll back down his arm. Takumi watches his skin disappear under the fold of fabric once more. "I'm only thankful it wasn't worse." His gaze stays on Takumi for several moments-- Takumi feels himself heat under his gaze, insides squirming-- before it travels back out over the serene yards, lapsing into a thoughtful silence.
Had anyone asked Takumi of his relationship with Leo not months ago, he'd never have responded with the word friend in mind. Now, however, sitting with Leo in the sun, affection brews closer to his treacherous heart than he could ever have imagined. It's surreal, almost; he'd been used to verbal jabs, physical half-shoves only kept nonviolent by intervening siblings, watching Leo across a ravaged battlefield with his heart hammering furious in his throat-- but now, now, their wall between dawn and dusk had melted into afternoon, new with promise and peace.
The Nohrians had visited Hoshido only sparingly at first. The resentment of war still lingered, after all, land and families still scarred from countless battles-- it was easy to look at the rulers of a country once bent on conquest with nothing but suspicion. But the sunlight, it seemed, lured them in as easy as a moth to flame. Though Xander was rarely seen, dutifully ruling as king in the heart of Nohr, the other royals soon became a common sight within Hoshido's walls.
Hate had once been a word too weak to describe Takumi's sentiments towards Leo. The first time he'd stumbled upon him in the halls of his own home, walking with Corrin like he belonged there, it'd been instinct to hurl a punch at the face of an enemy suddenly too close for comfort-- but Corrin, he recalls, is strong and angry and bigger than he is, and also a dragon, and she'd made short work of him with a well-aimed elbow.
The two princes were too similar to not be drawn together, however. Fall bled into winter, extinguishing the sun and Takumi's resentment along with it-- the long nights did not allow for more coldness than the ice already provided. Soups and books were shared, grudgingly at first, over beds of embers and glowing stoves, stirring an unfamiliar hearth nestled deep and secret in Takumi's ribs. When the snow melted, he did as well, and Leo was no longer an enemy.
"All burns aside, I'm glad to be here." Leo slides a look over at Takumi, voice softer than it'd been, drawing his attention. His eyes strike rich and gleaming in the Hoshidan sunlight, and Takumi blinks, momentarily at a loss for words. Without his armor, without the voice so full of scorn he'd been used to, Leo is unknowable and thrilling and dangerous in an entirely new way. "I suppose I made some good choices somewhere."
Takumi falls silent for a moment, untangling his eyes from Leo's gaze, the weight of those words bearing sudden and heavy on his shoulders. One wrong step along the way could've ended with any tragedy-- with one of them dead, with both of them dead, with family and country razed and burned to the ground. The peaceful scenery around them seems fragile, somehow, and his mouth pulls into a frown. Beside him, Leo is solid, breathing, and more real than the green life just beginning to blossom from the earth all around them.
He wants to reach out and touch him. He doesn't.
"Yes, well." Takumi begins, keeping heaviness out of his voice with some effort, "It would've been exhausting to be enemies forever, wouldn't it? You wouldn't have been able to keep up." The layers of snark are familiar, and he sinks back into the habit with lightheartedness. Beside him, he sees Leo relax, shoulders loosening and body unwinding muscle by muscle. Even so, he laughs in response, disbelieving.
"I hardly think that would've been the case." He answers, tone laced with a well-known scorn, "You never stood a chance against me, reedy little bookworm or not."
Takumi utters a ha! in response before they're both laughing, air open and clean, sound clear and unbarred between them. Leo's smile curves genuine, unfamiliar and nearly shocking in all its strength, and Takumi's breath catches in his throat. Leo's eyes are flecked with amber, sun taking root and spreading warmth through his skin, through his voice, through his words. He sits in clothing made of tradition, of home-- armorless, vulnerable and open where dark fabric parts to reveal glimpses of smooth pale skin the color of sunlight. Between the two of them, Takumi feels laid bare, raw and new and unfurling in the face of some great light.
No armor could ever protect me from this, Takumi thinks, and the world around them blooms and blooms and blooms.
"Staring at me isn't going to help you win," Leo says, voice unusually serious, and Takumi scowls. The board under their hands is checkered black against pale wood, unfamiliar pieces standing in stubborn battle formation. Leo had brought the game from Nohr-- chess, like shogi, he remembers. Each piece is carved meticulously, smooth and shiny to the touch, uniquely shaped in the role they had to play.
"The queen is the strongest piece," Takumi begins, pointedly ignoring Leo's comment. "But the king is the most important?" He pauses, watching Leo's hovering hands with a frustrated anticipation. "I think the queen should be regarded as the most important, instead."
The stalemate has them both on a visible edge, Leo's shoulders squared tight and Takumi's voice laced with a distracting irritation. Pawns litter the wood on the floor to either side, fallen soldiers of a locked battle of wits. Takumi knows strategy best of his family, he thinks-- wielding a bow called for precise calculation, all angles and technique and distance. Close combat was not an option, and precautions were a necessity. It's a similar situation for mages, Takumi thinks idly, before his brows crash into a frown when Leo moves a rook forward in a smooth motion.
"Check." Leo's voice is self-assured, smile smug and spreading over his face. Takumi curses.
There's another silence as Takumi pores over the board, possibilities flicking through his mind like fish through a stream-- Leo's queen stands proud across the board from Takumi's, gleaming a stolid, threatening white. The sun is just beginning to set outside, yellow-fading-orange peeking in through the wooden sliding door they'd left open. The air that wafts in is still warm, carrying the heady scent of bloomed flowers with it.
"There's more to victory than brute strength." Leo continues, chin resting in the palm of his hand as he regards Takumi, who ignores him once more. "In the end, even the most musclebound of brutes can be taken down with one hit."
Takumi slides his bishop two spaces and moves himself out of check. Leo frowns at the board.
"You're saying that like I don't already know it." Takumi scoffs, seemingly only finding his voice once the danger of losing had passed. "Archers employ individual strategy moreso than most on a battlefield..." he trails off after a moment, watching Leo's face with a sudden absent fascination. The red-pink of the sky outside paints his skin ethereal, robes dyed with the color of the light. He's biting his lip, teeth worrying at the pink of the skin, jaw firm and casting a sharp shadow-- his hands are deft, purposeful, intelligent where they hover over the remaining soldiers. The dying light changes Leo's eyes to amber once more, and Takumi falls in, in, mouth dry and heart hammering.
Leo moves his queen forward, knocking Takumi's last knight off the board.
"Check." he says softly, eyes flickering to him, and Takumi is unable to defend himself once more.
He finds Leo roaming through the cherry blossom trees at night, a silent shadow moving slow and thoughtful under the blooms. Takumi often finds himself restless during the late nights, and the moon is a companion he knows well-- he falls into step beside Leo without a word, grass washed white and silent under their feet.
"Are you an owl now?" Takumi asks him, dry, hands shifting to the pockets of his robe. "Nocturnal?" Leo offers nothing but a hum at first, eyes trained above them, where the stars peek brilliantly through the pink-petaled branches.
"The sun can be too much." he answers simply, finally turning his gaze on Takumi. His eyes are dark, night smoothing the brown to black, a calm and practiced serenity. "Sometimes it is the light that blinds you, rather than the dark." Neither him nor Takumi pause their journey, words sinking quiet in the cool spring night around them. There's no movement save for the fluttering petals in the occasional breeze. Like this, Takumi can pretend that they are the only two people in the world, surrounded by soft silence and new flowers.
"That's very deep." Takumi says, winding exaggerated solemnity into his voice. "I didn't know you were a poet, Prince Leo." The facade breaks when Leo elbows him, and he snickers, jostling his elbow back in retaliation.
"There's no need for that attitude." Leo chastises, reaching to push at his shoulder with a palm. Takumi staggers half a pace to the side, affronted gaze whipping back to Leo's face just in time to catch the flicker of a smile. "I was just making an observation, Prince Takumi. A scientific truth, if you wi--" he's cut off by his own voice twisting into a gasp, stumbling as Takumi pushes him back, harder.
Leo's skin is warm even through the fabric of the robe draping graceful over the slope of his shoulders, hanging loose and free and somehow looking completely natural on him-- Takumi smirks, watching him gather himself, before his own breath leaves him in a rush as Leo fists a hand into his front and pushes him back, back against one of the sakura trees. The branches shake with the gentle force of it, showering them both with delicate pink petals, and Takumi swallows hard.
Leo's close. Even under the pale moonlight, Takumi can see the blonde curl of his eyelashes, hair cornsilk and smile fading to something open-mouthed. The darkness wraps around them like a blanket, suddenly, thick and choking and warm-- Takumi feels himself tense, hyperaware of Leo's hand palm-flat against his chest, warm and surely able to feel how his heartbeat ratchets up a few notches. It's hammering in his throat, Leo's breath dusting warm over his skin, shoulders tense against the trunk of the tree behind him. The smile fades from his face as well, and he remains frozen, searching Leo's eyes for something.
(How many times had he imagined this situation before, only with a spell instead of a palm, a sword instead of a tree, Leo's dark eyes swimming with triumphant hate rather than cautious realization? That could've happened just as easily as this, he thinks woozily, head clouding with something thick and choking in his throat.)
"Normally," Takumi says, voice cracking, "this would be the part where I call for the guards to come seize you." he swallows again, watching Leo's eyes, the brief hesitation that flickers over his face-- but he doesn't pull away, hand remaining warm and solid where it is, stance steady and slowly becoming more sure. Leo's mouth opens, then closes, then opens once more, and Takumi holds his breath.
"But you trust me." Leo says quietly, and it's somewhere between a statement and a question. He smells like jasmine and soap, and the world spins around Takumi. This is more dangerous than any face-off they could've ever had. "I made some right choices, somewhere." he puffs out an amused noise, and Takumi utters a dizzy laugh in response.
"I didn't always." Takumi finally responds, and is ashamed of how his voice quivers. "But I do now." A heartbeat before he's reaching out with a cautious hand, hesitant, and his fingers find where the robe opens on Leo's chest-- his palm slides along the bare skin, up over the side of his throat, fingers curling at the back of his neck. His heart is going fast enough for Leo to hear, he's sure, almost delirious with the ache that rises sudden and fierce through his entire body. "You did find the right path, I guess."
Leo blinks, and the smile he offers then is tender enough to make Takumi shiver down to his core.
"I did." he repeats, dreamy, and leans in to kiss him.
Above them, the moon slides into place, and the Earth begins to turn once more. Leo's lips are soft and warm and Takumi is frozen, shock rooting him in place, hand still where it rests at the nape of Leo's neck. Something inside of him trembles. Melts. Some fierce ache, something that'd once screamed unloved at him quiets, recedes in the face of Leo kissing him, firm, hand sliding to his waist.
He responds like a stopped clock whirring back into motion-- fists his hand into Leo's hair, pale and soft, head tilting and eyes closing and he has no idea what he's doing but when Leo's mouth opens hot and slick against his he responds in kind, heat thrilling through every part of him. There's lingering strawberry on his lips, sticky where they kiss between little huffs of breath-- Leo's kisses trail to the corner of his lips, over his cheek, down to his jaw, and Takumi's hand clenches tight.
"To me, it matters not what path led me here," Leo murmurs, and Takumi can feel the shape of his mouth against his skin. "Only that I found my way to you."
Takumi swallows hard against something thick in his throat, and warmth blooms in his chest as sure as the world around them-- he pulls Leo back, back to his mouth, kissing him again half-desperate and dizzying and deep. Leo pushes closer, back up against the tree, nearly flush up against his front as he licks into his mouth-- Takumi's breath feels short in his chest, like he's not pulling in enough air, like Leo is all he can taste and feel.
He nearly chokes on what little breath he does have when Leo shifts a leg between his thighs, teeth nipping sharp and brief into his bottom lip. The heat on his skin sinks deeper, blinding through his muscles, coming to gather molten and thick in his abdomen-- his entire body feels sluggish, suddenly, sparks pricking along his skin when Leo rolls his hips up against him, exploratory.
"Prince Takumi," Leo says against his mouth, breathy, lips pink and soft from kissing, "can I touch you?"
Automatically, Takumi's hips jerk forward in response, and humiliation burns hot over his skin, fingers twitching in Leo's hair. The touches are unfamiliar, unknown until now, only ever imagined in his most secret fantasies-- but Leo is warm and his thigh is pushing delicious pressure sweet up against him, rocking in steady movements, kisses deep and slow enough to make his toes curl. He's already hard, evident in his virginity, and he silently thanks the gods that Leo hasn't said anything about it.
"I've never," Takumi bites out, a gasp between the sticky slide of lips and tongue, "done this before, but," A groan, bitten-off and deep in his throat, "yes. Yes, just-- don't call me Prince." His breath stutters when Leo's hand slides down, over the dip of his back to grab Takumi by the back of the thigh and pull him closer, locking together like puzzle pieces, rocking their hips together and oh, he's hard too.
The night air feels too warm, muggy and humid between them, sticky as they gasp quietly against each other. "Just like this, then," Leo pants, hips dragging filthy friction where he grinds up against Takumi. The fabric pulls tight over him, rubbing damp and raw and tortuous over his cock-- Takumi's breath hiccups in his throat, feeling himself blurt sticky precome up inside his own pants. The world narrows down to just the two of them, then, how the kisses turn to nothing but hot breaths, moon bearing silent witness.
It's too fast, Takumi's brain says to him, urgent and foggy with pleasure, thoughts interrupted by how Leo slots against him, hard where they rub together, focused on Leo's fingers digging indents into his thigh-- it's wet and rough and sloppy, Leo pressing up hot against him, Leo gasping quiet against his mouth, Leo's hair brushing against his cheek, Leo, Leo.
Leo, his heart says, somewhere with the moon. Leo, armorless, weaponless, one hand still pressed flat up over his chest. Leo, his body says, pleasure winding high and tight and scalp prickling as his thighs start to shake. His head tilts back with a gasp when Leo grinds up against him again and he feels the blunt head of his cock rub up against his own, thick and unbearably hot and fabric damp-becoming-soaked and he groans, long and loud when Leo kisses down his jaw, sucking a bruise into skin sticky with sweat.
"Leo," Takumi says, voice trembling and hot and he can feel all of Leo, defenseless, separated only by thin layers of fabric, hands holding close and possessive. Leo's name is unfamiliar on his tongue this way, laden with heat and sex. "I'm going to--" he swallows hard, shaking, fingers clenching in his hair, "I'm-- can I--?" He doesn't know why he's asking, but the heat coiling tighter and sharper in him is desperate, desperate, "-- can I--?"
Leo utters a broken noise against his throat, grip shifting to grab his ass, to haul him close and hard, thigh wedged hot and solid between his legs. "Takumi," he breathes, and Takumi's entire body jerks, "Takumi." like a prayer, like Takumi's the only thing tethering him to earth. There's no armor between them. There are no weapons. There's the night, and the moon, and spring sparking a new light nesting in Takumi's heart.
The heat peaks and Takumi comes with a cracked, airy cry, heat flooding through him as his hips jerk, erratic and sparking stars behind his eyes as he rides it out against Leo's thigh. Leo doesn't stop, still rocking up against him, faster and rubbing oversensitive lightning over Takumi's nerves but he grits his teeth, cum slick and hot against the inside of his pants. Takumi fists his hand tighter into his hair, cornsilk and starshine, and pulls him back up to kiss sloppy and wet.
Leo's breath hiccups as he moans breathless against his mouth, hips moving, desperate, again and again and when he comes he mufflesTakumi moaned against the corner of Takumi's mouth, shaking it out, warmth spurting damp and sticky enough for Takumi to feel it between them.
Takumi's breath comes harsh, body still tense, still on edge of the afterglow, slowing as he listens to Leo pant quieter and quieter until his breath evens out. Leo's forehead drops against Takumi's shoulder, shoulders sagging, a silence falling over them both. It's uneasy at first, spring night breeze cooling sweat and leaving goosebumps in its wake, until Leo exhales a soft sigh and speaks.
"My path led me here," he says, almost too quiet for Takumi to hear, "and-- I would like to stay here." His hand fists into the fabric of Takumi's shirt, falling silent for a heartbeat. "If you would have me."
Takumi swallows hard, fingers loosening, palm opening flat and smoothing back down over his neck to rest at his chest. He can feel the same heartbeat as his own, there, pounding fast and exhilarated with what spring brought to life between them.
"Okay," Takumi whispers, watching the silent starwashed world around them. Leo, his heart says again, stripped of armor. "Yeah. You can stay."
Leo's mouth twitches into a smile against his skin, and the spring moon illuminates them both in the blanket of night.