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And in the Darkness, Bind Them

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"I don't want to..."

Ritsuka, you see, Soubi is that kind of boy...always obeys my orders...my orders...my orders...

Glass shattering into a thousand shards of jagged ice, like frozen diamonds, facets glinting and glittering in the strange light, piercing his skin; warm blood, red like rubies, blooming like the petals of a poppy opening to the sun.

He obeys...Mine...Mine...Always...Alone...Traitor...Mine...

Shame, emptiness, swathed in a void deeper than the night sky and the starlight cannot touch him. He reaches out a hand, calls out across the abyss, but there is nothing, no touch, no light, no warmth, only a faint copper tang bitter on his tongue, and pain in his chest from the splinter of smooth glass lodged in his heart, pinned like a butterfly in an empty case, wings severed. The cord flies free, unrestrained, unconnected, and he is falling, fading like an echo, alone, discarded, unwanted, and untrustworthy...

Soubi...

"I'm sorry...I'm sorry..."

His voice is swallowed by the darkness, heartbeat growing fainter in his ears. It hurts to breathe.

"Soubi! Soubi, you idiot, wake up!"

Ritsuka is shaking him. He can feel his hands, so small, clutching at his shoulders, warm breath on his face. Soubi opens his eyes to fathomless darkness and flinches, but his hands seem to move of their own volition, reaching, grasping, clutching, uncharacteristically clumsy and graceless. His heart is drumming loudly, painfully in his chest, the scars at his throat are stinging, and he gasps for air.

"Soubi?" Ritsuka says, his voice tentative.

Soubi doesn't answer. He unclenches his hands from the folds of Ritsuka's pyjama top and smoothes the wrinkles left behind. His fingers are working again, though his hands are still trembling, and he gently runs them up Ritsuka's neck, brushes his jaw lightly with a thumb, and buries his fingers in Ritsuka's soft hair.

"Um, Soubi? It's okay," Ritsuka says gently in the darkness, and Soubi catches the faintest gleam from his eye before Ritsuka ducks his head. "Just a bad dream. I...I heard you. In my head. I–"

He pulls Ritsuka down to him, muffling Ritsuka's voice against his shoulder, and though he really wants to crush the small body against him, he resists the urge, and merely holds him tight, burying his face in Ritsuka's hair, the soft velvet of his ears warm and comforting against his cheek.

Muttering "Stupid idiot," Ritsuka wraps his arms around Soubi's neck, his body warm and solid, thawing Soubi's frozen flesh as his blood once again begins to flow beneath his skin, and his body begins to stir. Soubi tightens his own arms around Ritsuka's back, his right hand gently stroking down the ridge of Ritsuka's lower spine. He kisses Ritsuka's downy ears, strokes lower with his hand to the base of Ritsuka's tail, and gently slides it through his fingers.

Ritsuka arches his back and stiffens, and his tail swishes beneath Soubi's questing fingers.

"Soubi!" Ritsuka says, an air of alarm in his voice, but he doesn't pull away.

"I'm sorry," Soubi whispers, his voice hoarse. He rubs his face between Ritsuka's ears and kisses the top of his head.

"Stop that," Ritsuka says, leaning back, and pushes himself up, hands braced on the pillow behind Soubi's head, though once again, he doesn't pull away, and Soubi continues stroking his tail. He can feel Ritsuka's breath, soft and moist against his chin. "I told you, that tickles. And stop apologizing."

Despite the lingering echoes of apprehension, his lips turn up at the corners when he hears the exasperation in Ritsuka's voice. Few things in his life have ever brought him true joy, but oh how he loves to tease this boy; this boy with his quiet strength and an innocence both tainted and pure, something he can't help but find even more alluring for all its inherent contradictions.

He frowns then, realizing that he is one who has marked Ritsuka this way. He has been used all his life, raised with the knowledge that it is his path, his destiny, his purpose: a delicate instrument to be wielded. A chrysalis reborn once in the flames of a knife edge, yoked and chained and yearning to be needed, wanted, used...

"And so you will melt. And so you will die. And so you will be reborn."

...only to be cast off like ash in the wind.

"Soubi is an imposter."

Blank, empty, needing to be filled; wanting to be taken. Please...

"Then I'll become your strength. You're my fighter unit. The only one."

Ritsuka had chosen him; he'd spoken the words and given them power and meaning; given him strength and purpose. And Soubi had betrayed him.

He can not be reborn a second time; Seimei still owns this body, still rules his will. He is naked without shelter from the buffeting winds that blow through his tarnished and tattered soul. I don't want to, he thinks. I'm sorry. He opens his mouth to speak, but the words taste like ash on his tongue.

He should push Ritsuka away, let him go free, away from the taint of his own traitorous hands, but he cannot.

"I heard you. In my head."

He clings to the lifeline, knowing that should he let go, he'll drown. I'm sorry, Ritsuka. He closes his eyes, and feels Ritsuka's tail swishing against his hip, his own hand long stilled, but still holding it gently within his grasp near the base. A soft, choked sob escapes from his throat, and he calls out silently, his need a haunting minor chord along that tenuous, taut string.

"Soubi?" Ritsuka says, concern apparent in his voice. "What–?"

He opens his eyes and exhales a shaky breath. "Kiss me," he pleads. "Please, Ritsuka."

He can feel Ritsuka hesitate—the rhythm of his breath falters ever so slightly—but then there are soft lips on his, feather-light and tentative. Soubi shifts Ritsuka's body slightly higher, and their noses bump. Ritsuka pulls back a fraction, but Soubi pulls him gently down, turning his head slightly to the right, and covers Ritsuka's mouth with his own. He parts his lips, his tongue questing, and licks ever so gently across Ritsuka's lips, a question. Ritsuka exhales quietly through his nose and answers, his lips parting to allow Soubi access.

They've kissed in this manner before, with the same quiet desperation, but tonight, Soubi's heightened sense of need prolongs the kiss. He's still gentle, restraining himself as best he can, not wishing to frighten or alarm Ritsuka, but as if sensing his need, rather than his usual hesitant passivity, Ritsuka is actively kissing him back, licking at Soubi's tongue, and chasing it back.

Soubi very nearly holds his breath as Ritsuka's tongue licks along his lips and ventures past the invisible barrier in a cautious exploration. Soubi's heart is pounding in his chest, the thrumming so loud in his ears that he'd be surprised if Ritsuka couldn't hear it as well. It's becoming difficult for him to hold back. So much want, so much need welling up inside him.

He feels Ritsuka's arms trembling beside his head with the strain of holding his body aloft, and breaks the kiss reluctantly with a heavy sigh, shifting and pulling Ritsuka down in an embrace. Ritsuka's lips are soft and wet against the juncture of neck and shoulder, and he strokes his hair, mindful of tickling his ears.

Ritsuka is squirming a bit, and Soubi knows why. He can feel Ritsuka's erection through the thin pyjama pants, hard and stiff against his belly where his shirt has ridden up, but he doesn't let go.

"It's all right," he says quietly. "Don't be embarrassed."

"But it's embarrassing," Ritsuka says, squirming and shifting his legs across Soubi's body. "Oh," he says suddenly, and freezes as his thigh comes in contact with Soubi's equally erect cock. The room is silent except for the soft swishing of his tail as it lashes to and fro, a cat—a kitten, Soubi thinks—waiting to pounce but unsure which direction to take.

"Yes," Soubi says, still stroking Ritsuka's hair, his other hand splayed against Ritsuka's back.

"But we're both—"

"It's all right," he says again, and smoothly seizes Ritsuka's tail, mid-swish, running his hand up and down the length of it. Ritsuka arches and emits a sound akin to a purr, then gasps and buries his face against the side of Soubi's neck.

Soubi has no trouble imagining Ritsuka's mortified expression and he laughs softly. While it slightly eases the ache in his heart, it does nothing for the ache between his legs.

"You're still embarrassed," he says.

Ritsuka snorts against his neck. "Shut up!" he says, but the heat in his words is muffled, and his right hand is absently stroking the bandages at Soubi's throat. "Um, Soubi," he says softly, his fingers stilling, "I think you're bleeding again."

Soubi's fingers pause in Ritsuka's hair and he raises them in a brief gesture. "It's not important," he says, and continues petting Ritsuka's head, ignoring it. The pain was minimal and had eased substantially since he'd awoken.

Ritsuka snorts again, and raises himself up, dislodging Soubi's hand from his head, and resting his elbows on Soubi's chest as he fumbles with the bandages at Soubi's neck. "Idiot," he says.

"Hmm," he says, smiling at Ritsuka's resolve. Ritsuka's pointy elbows are pressing against his ribcage, but he ignores that, too. He could lie like this forever if need be; the weight of his small body is almost inconsequential.

"Lift your head," Ritsuka commands, and Soubi obeys instinctively. "This bit's stuck just...There. Got it," he says, and tosses the gauze aside, lying back down with his head on Soubi's shoulder. "Does it hurt?"

"It's fine," he says.

Ritsuka snorts yet again. He really is adorable when he's exasperated, Soubi thinks.

"It hurts you. I know it does."

Soubi doesn't answer, and Ritsuka inches closer, placing a soft kiss atop the crudely carved barbs on the side of his neck. "He did this to you," Ritsuka says softly. It's not a question, and again, Soubi doesn't reply.

"Why?" he asks.

Soubi shrugs. "I wanted him to," he says.

"But–but that's... Soubi!"

He can feel Ritsuka's small fingers exploring at his neck, his touch light as a whisper. Ritsuka leans closer, the soft fur of his ear tickling along Soubi's jaw, and suddenly Ritsuka's tongue is lapping gently at his throat like a kitten.

His balls tighten in their sac and he tries to lie still, but a sob wells up in his throat at this show of tenderness. "Ritsuka," he croaks, and turns them both on their sides, lifting Ritsuka so that their faces are even, wraps his arms about his thin body, pressing him close, and plunges his tongue into Ritsuka's mouth.

Ritsuka squeaks at first, and wriggles a bit in his grasp, his hands cupped against Soubi's chest, and Soubi can feel the pinprick press of several fingernails through the thin cotton of his shirt. But then Ritsuka responds, pressing his small pointed tongue against Soubi's and licking, a soft, gentle exploration, awkward and, he thinks, all the more sweeter for it.

Just like a kitten, he thinks again, only Ritsuka's tongue is smooth, not the soft rasp of fine grained sandpaper. Ritsuka is hesitant, almost questioning with each soft lick, and Soubi very nearly holds his breath as he lets him explore. His body trembles with a bone-deep need, the urge to devour tightly coiled in his belly, but he holds it back as he always does, as he was trained to do, a dog on a leash awaiting his master's command.

Ritsuka pulls back, pressing his palms against Soubi's chest, a note of alarm in his voice as he says, "You're shaking. Am I hurting you? Soubi, what's wrong?"

He swallows over the lump in his throat. Everything, he wants to say. Nothing, as long as you're here, he amends silently, even though it's not the truth.

Compassion is, has always been, a strange and unfamiliar concept, even more so when it's directed at him. Kio was the first; seeds of their peculiar friendship somehow taking root in inhospitable soil. But there is a fence around that particular garden, a comfortable enough distance between them. Ritsuka, however, might just be his undoing if he doesn't fight against it.

Nobody has ordered him to fight. His will is not his own.

"Order me," he says with such naked pleading in his voice that it actually frightens him.

"Stop that. I already told you. I'm not giving you orders."

"Please," he says, his voice like the rasp of a file in the darkness.

"I hate when you do this. Fine. I order you to tell me what's wrong with you."

Soubi's arms tighten around Ritsuka and his fingers twitch, aching to inch beneath the hem of his pyjamas.

Ritsuka can make it stop, take the darkness away.

No. He's just a boy.

Ritsuka wiggles in his grasp, and Soubi's fingertips touch the soft skin of Ritsuka's back as his pyjama shirt rides up. "I can't," he says and bows his head, even as his fingertips slide beneath the soft cotton, finding softer skin.

Ritsuka wiggles again, struggles to push himself away, not against the touch of Soubi's fingertips, but against his words. Soubi can hear the exasperation in his voice

"You're such an idiot! You tell me to order you, then you don't listen! You always do this and I hate it. Go away, Soubi." Ritsuka wriggles and rolls over onto his side, facing away, but still enclosed within the protective circle of Soubi's arms. His tail swishes almost angrily against Soubi's thigh.

"I'm sorry," he says, and bows his head until his forehead is resting against the top of Ritsuka's head. His fingers are twisted up in Ritsuka's pyjama shirt, stiff and numb except for the few random points of contact with the sleep-warm skin of Ritsuka's belly. He wants to untangle them, slide them beneath the hem and leech the warmth and strength from Ritsuka's small body, but his need is like poison, and it disgusts him that his thoughts—his need—could infect Ritsuka's innocence.

"I told you to quit apologizing. You're pissing me off," Ritsuka says, and Soubi can feel his diaphragm contract as he huffs in annoyance. Ritsuka squirms again and tugs on his pyjama top, the movement bringing Soubi's fingers into full contact with Ritsuka's stomach.

"Your hands are cold," Ritsuka says, covering Soubi's hands with his own. "Why are you so cold?"

He shakes his head and spreads his fingers wider. Poison or not, he can't let go, and his fingertips tingle with pin-like prickles as the numbness eases; a good kind of pain, but then, he's been conditioned to withstand and accept physical pain. It's the emotional pain against which he has no defenses.

"Hey!" Ritsuka says and squirms a bit, but rather than pry Soubi's fingers away, he rubs his own small hands over Soubi's. The prickling intensifies, hundreds of needles piercing his skin.

"Soubi?"

So innocent, so much compassion, it makes him want to weep. I'm sorry. Don't throw me away.

"Who said anything about throwing you away, you dummy?"

He stills, his heart beating loudly in his chest. Had he said that aloud?

"Soubi?"

He rubs his forehead against Ritsuka's soft hair and doesn't reply.

"Idiot," Ritsuka says, and his hands press harder against Soubi's.

He inhales sharply, and the sound that emerges is a ragged half-gasp, half-sob. The warmth of Ritsuka's small body is a light in the darkness, and he clings to it. His hands move almost of their own volition beneath Ritsuka's shirt, and his fingertip brushes against the softer swell of a nipple which hardens instantly beneath his touch.

"Soubi!" Ritsuka cries out, and shifts his lower body, his back stiffening in a defensive posture as he digs his fingers into the back of Soubi's hand. "Don't touch there! It's—it feels weird."

He shouldn't, but he can't help himself. The effect was so startling, and so…so… He skims a finger over the other nipple and feels it rise like a warm, pliant pebble.

Ritsuka gasps and tenses. "Soubi!"

"You're embarrassed again."

"Of course I'm embarrassed, you jerk! I told you to stop it!"

"It's all right," he says, and presses Ritsuka against his chest, keeping his groin and his swelling erection well away from contact with Ritsuka's body. He'd told him once—what feels like ages ago, but in reality is only a few months—that he'd take him one day, but not today. Ritsuka isn't like him, and besides, he's not that kind of pervert. He would take this from Ritsuka—warmth and strength in the form of stolen kisses and physical contact, intimacy forging a link between them, perhaps even forcing or even guilting Ritsuka into accepting him to assuage and accommodate his twisted needs and deepest desires—but not the other.

He could withstand it himself. He was used to it; Seimei had forbidden him to touch himself, disgusted by any evidence of Soubi's arousal and what he called 'filthy perversions'; always angered, even years later, by the knowledge that Ritsu-sensei had taken Soubi's ears—powerful, yes, but still damaged goods, Seimei would say—until it had become yet another pain to endure.

People…can be reborn, you know. They can be reborn over and over.

The pain of rebirth… He'd asked for it, after all. Wanted it. It was the only thing he knew. Tangible, real, carved deep into his flesh and written on his soul; all love is pain.

Ritsuka… Ritsuka refuses to punish him, and his gentle heart hurts more than the lash of a whip, the harsh bite of steel on tender skin.

"I want to be reborn," he whispers into Ritsuka's hair.

"What?"

He grazes his finger across Ritsuka's nipple once more and then gently takes his wrist, moving it slowly down Ritsuka's body. He pulls back the waistband of Ritsuka's pyjama bottoms and slides Ritsuka's hand inside, holding him by his forearm now.

"Soubi, what the hell are you doing?"

"I'm not doing anything. You are. Go ahead, it's all right."

Ritsuka tries to pull his hand out, but Soubi holds his arm in place. "What are you doing? Let me go!"

"It's all right if it's you. Have you never touched yourself before?"

"No!" Ritsuka says, his voice high and alarmed.

Soubi chuckles. He can't help himself. "Sorry," he says, and kisses the tip of one of Ritsuka's ears. "It's actually very normal."

"How is this normal?"

"It takes away the pain."

Ritsuka's arm is stiff and still beneath his fingers. He waits, silently; the only sound in the room is Ritsuka's uneven breathing and the reverberation of his own heartbeat inside his head.

After a long pause, he feels Ritsuka's hand move, tentatively at first, and his breathing quickens. He releases Ritsuka's forearm, slides his arm beneath Ritsuka's bent elbow, and strokes his fingers gently across Ritsuka's belly.

"S-Soubi," Ritsuka says, "am I…am I gonna lose my ears?"

"No. You will, one day, but not from this. Besides," he adds, "I like them far too much to let them go just yet." He kisses Ritsuka's head and nips at one of his velvety ears. Ritsuka twitches, and the softest moan escapes from his lips.

"Feels weird."

Soubi smiles, and nips at the other ear. "Good weird or bad weird?"

"Um…"

He strokes his fingers higher, sliding along Ritsuka's ribs. He's so thin. I can feel every one of them. Higher still, and swipes his thumb across the hard nub of his small nipple. Ritsuka gasps, and Soubi can feel his hand moving faster. His own prick is painfully hard, pressing against his pants. He clenches his thighs and buries his face in Ritsuka's hair, inhaling deeply. He can smell Ritsuka's arousal, thick in the air, and sweet, mingling with the scent of his hair, his body.

"S-Soubi…" He sounds frightened.

"Shhh," he says, still stroking Ritsuka's soft skin, holding Ritsuka close against his chest. "Just relax, Ritsuka. Don't be afraid."

"B-but it's…it's wet—"

"It's supposed to be. Just let it come, let yourself come."

The words are barely out of his mouth before he feels Ritsuka stiffen in his arms, a muffled, gasping cry escapes from his lips, his small body shaking and spasming. Soubi holds him tightly, whispering, "Yes, yes, that's it," over and over into Ritsuka's ear, while squeezing his thighs even more tightly together and ignoring the fact that one touch would bring him off right now.

Ritsuka's voice is shaky when he speaks. "What…it's all sticky. I—"

Wishing he'd thought about this a bit more carefully, he sighs and releases his hold on Ritsuka. "Wait here," he says, and rolls over, sliding out of the bed. The moment he loses contact with Ritsuka, the darkness threatens to swallow him, and he sits on the edge of the bed breathing deeply until the wave of disorientation passes.

"Where are you going?"

"Not far," he replies, taking a few steps forward, groping at the shadows in the dark. His heart is beating wildly, but he ignores it. Ah, there it is. Relieved, he grabs a towel from the chair, and makes his way back to the bed.

"Here," he says, his hands finding Ritsuka's body with more ease, like a moth to a flame. Ritsuka stiffens when Soubi's fingers find the elastic waist of his pants, but then relaxes as Soubi gently cleans him off.

"Why does it have to be so messy?" Ritsuka asks, and Soubi laughs. It's so spontaneous and heartfelt that it actually surprises him. He can't recall the last time he had such an unreserved reaction. The darkness around him seems to recede, and he lays his head on Ritsuka's hip, a genuine smile on his lips.

Ritsuka pushes halfheartedly at his head. "Quit laughing, you idiot. It wasn't that funny."

"I love you, Ritsuka," he says, and again, he's surprised by how effortlessly the words come. Before, when he'd spoken those words to Ritsuka, it was for a purpose. Even though he'd been ordered to love Ritsuka, he'd meant it in his own way, from his limited understanding and experiences of love.

"What about you?" Ritsuka says, his hand absently stroking Soubi's hair.

"What about me?" Soubi replies, not wanting to move lest Ritsuka stop.

"You…your…you know."

"My what?" Soubi says, smiling, and biting his lip to keep from laughing.

"I'm not gonna say it!"

"You're really adorable, you know that?"

Ritsuka tugs on his hair. "Shut up!"

"I'm fine, Ritsuka. You don't have to worry about me."

Ritsuka twists and sits up abruptly and Soubi's head falls awkwardly into his lap. "Ow. Sorry. But, did you, I mean, er…"

"No. But it's all right. I'm used to it."

"But…doesn't it hurt?"

"Mmmm," he says as Ritsuka begins stroking his hair again. "I told you, I'm used to it. I don't need to. I'm happy right now."

He hears Ritsuka huff, and reaches up to squeeze his knee. Ritsuka grabs his hand and pushes it away, but instead of letting go, he moves it down Soubi's body, a bit hesitantly, but with purpose.

"Ritsuka, what are you doing?"

"I'm not gonna do it. But you are. And don't be stupid. Just do it, all right?"

"I…I can't," he says, stopping the progress of their hands. He sits up, ignoring the throbbing in his groin, kisses Ritsuka's knuckles, and climbs under the covers, tossing the soiled towel on the floor beside him. "Good night, Ritsuka. Thank you."

"Wait—what? What do you mean, 'you can't'? Why not?"

He closes his eyes. Please don't. He feels the bed dip as Ritsuka moves closer.

"Soubi, answer me."

"Is that an order?" he asks lightly, though he can feel a cold sweat on his forehead. He'd been so happy only a few minutes ago.

Seimei lied to him, abandoned him, severed their bond in the cruelest way imaginable, tossed him aside like a piece of trash, and yet, still, somewhere deep inside, this compulsion still existed. Seimei's orders were absolute.

"I really hate—Yes!"

He sighs. "It is forbidden," he says softly into the darkness.

"Huh? Why? I don't—"

He senses movement again, and Ritsuka kneels beside him, places a hand on his chest, feather light, though he can feel it through the blanket.

"Did Seimei order you?" Ritsuka says, his voice sharp.

He nods, realizes Ritsuka can't see him in the dark, and grunts in response. His cock is still painfully hard, and he doesn't want to have this conversation. When he speaks, his voice sounds broken, defeated, to his own ears. "I'm sorry, Ritsuka. I'm nothing but a traitor. You should just leave me."

Ritsuka pulls down the covers, and before Soubi can get more than the first syllable of Ritsuka's name out, Ritsuka is tugging on his pants with one hand, and reaching across his body to grab Soubi's right arm, a vise-like grip around his wrist.

"Ritsuka…what are you doing?" The shock is evident in his voice.

"Giving you an order," Ritsuka replies with an angry edge in his voice, dragging Soubi's arm onto his stomach, and then releasing Soubi's wrist to use both hands to pull down Soubi's pants. "You're my Fighter, and I know you don't believe me, but I understand why you let him go tonight. I already have too many things to think about, and I'm too tired for this, so just do it already!" Soubi lies there, stunned and unable to move, although there's an undercurrent of something vibrating deep inside him. Amusement? Joy?

His hand feels like a lead weight on his chest; he doesn't have the strength to move it. Suddenly Ritsuka's hand is on his, moving it, guiding it. Ritsuka's fingers brush against Soubi's cock, and he squeaks in surprise as Soubi moans, letting go Soubi's hand as though it were on fire.

"S-Sorry," Ritsuka says, and Soubi smiles.

"Don't be embarrassed," he says softly. His cock is hard and very warm, and it feels strange beneath his palm. He tries to close his hand around it, but his fingers are stiff and unresponsive.

"Well? Are you doing it yet?" Ritsuka asks. "Your hand isn't moving."

"Ritsuka…"

"Don't tell me you can't. Oh, for—" He breaks off and lies down beside Soubi, curling in close, laying his head on Soubi's shoulder, and drawing his arm across Soubi's chest.

On instinct, Soubi's curls his left arm around Ritsuka and pulls him close. Ritsuka leans in and kisses his neck, and his fingers twitch against his prick. He bucks his hips reflexively, and groans, a deep, ragged sound.

"Do it, Soubi," Ritsuka says softly, and kisses Soubi at the juncture of neck and shoulder, just at the edge of his jagged scar, while his other hand rubs small circles on Soubi's chest. "For me."

Soubi turns his head to the side, and Ritsuka kisses him on the lips, parts his own lips and deepens the kiss. Soubi's hand closes around his prick, and he strokes himself, once, twice, and that's all it takes. Ritsuka holds him tightly, his arms around Soubi's neck, as he comes.

"Finally!" Ritsuka says, and relaxes against Soubi's shoulder. "You're too much work sometimes."

Soubi laughs softly, his body still thrumming, unable to move, and not wanting to, despite the sticky mess on his stomach and hand. "Sorry," he says.

"Shut up. Did it feel good?" Ritsuka asks shyly, and yawns.

Soubi squeezes Ritsuka's arm. "Yes. Thank you, Ritsuka. You should sleep now."

"Do you need help, er, cleaning up?"

Soubi smiles and forces his body to obey, groping over the side of the bed for the towel. "I can manage," he says, wiping up the mess. They'd both need to shower in the morning.

Ritsuka yawns again, and rolls over. "G'night, Soubi."

He tosses the towel on the floor, and fixes his pants, pulling the covers back up over the both of them. "Good night, Ritsuka."

He closes his eyes, exhausted, but his mind is still whirling, and he's not quite sure what to make of everything. So many things had happened today; horrible, dreadful things, wonderful things, and the dichotomy is enough to keep him awake, despite his exhaustion. He's still troubled and frightened, but he takes comfort in the knowledge that whatever tomorrow holds, he'll face it with Ritsuka at his side. Perhaps that is enough.

People…can be reborn…over and over.

I want to be reborn.

"Ritsuka," he whispers.

"Hmmmm?"

"Will you write your name on me?"

"Go to sleep, Soubi."

"I'm sorry."

Ritsuka huffs. "Don't apologize. Just go to sleep already!"

"Yes, Ritsuka. Good night."

He turns onto his side, facing away from Ritsuka, not wanting to disturb his sleep. The room is still dark, but he can make out the faint shadows of the chair, a dresser, the faintest glint from the glass frame of a picture on the wall. It's been a long time since he's slept here at this school, but he pushes the memories away. He doesn't want to think about anything except Ritsuka.

He hears a sigh and a faint rustle behind him, and there's a light touch on his back. Ritsuka's finger…

L…O…V…E…L…

He smiles and closes his eyes, and drifts off to sleep with Ritsuka's name written in his heart.

~*~