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"Kogitsunemaru-sama!" the little fox calls out, and Kogi's shoulders jump as if startled. His ears are flat against his head as he turns around, and for a moment Nakigitsune is worried that the look is focused on him—that he's upset him somehow, distracted him from his work—but when his expression comes into view, he doesn't look angry. Instead...if Naki didn't know any better about how graceful Kogitsunemaru was, if he wasn't sure of his strength and confidence, he might almost say that Kogitsunemaru was pouting.

"My master believes that something is troubling you," the little fox declares. "Are you all right, Kogitsunemaru? Is there any way in which we could offer our assistance?"

Kogitsunemaru's ear tufts prick forward a little, but he shakes his head. "I wouldn't want to trouble you," he says. "Really, it's all right—"

"What is it?" Nakigitsune says, and the unexpected sound of his voice startles both of them, it seems. Nakigitsune doesn't turn his eyes away, though, allowing Kogi to see his earnestness. At that, Kogitsunemaru's ears come up a little, and he smiles, a small fond thing.

"My fur," he says. "It's gotten all tangled from our last sortie. I was working on untangling it, but it's worse than usual...well, truth to be told, it hurts." He holds out the brush. "Do you think you could help me?"

Still holding his gaze, Nakigitsune nods and reaches for the brush.

--

Kogitsunemaru is larger than Nakigitsune, so to make things easier, he kneels on the floor while Nakigitsune sits on a low chair behind him. The bristle brush in Naki's hand trembles a little, belying his nerves. The wooden handle is polished and smooth, cutting into his hand where he grips it too tightly.

He runs his fingers through Kogitsunemaru's hair first. His hair isn't very soft, more like the thick coarse fur of a fox in wintertime. It reminds him of petting his little fox, and his nerves ease somewhat. Kogi's ear tufts twitch a little as he pets them smooth, and he hears a soft sigh come from his mouth.

"Thank you for helping me," Naki hears him say. "It can be hard to get all the tangles out myself."

His little fox is curled up in Kogi's lap, drowsing as Kogitsunemaru scratches him behind the ears, and Nakigitsune finds himself, as usual, wordless. He settles instead for starting the work of brushing Kogi's hair, long strokes that straighten the strands. When he finds knots he gathers up a handful of hair above it to hold it steady, then works it smooth with short, repetitive strokes. Kogi leans back as he brushes, pressing his weight against Naki's shins.

"It seems my fur is shinier than before," he says, a note of humor in his voice.

Nakigitsune pauses in his brushing to rest a hand on Kogitsunemaru's hair. Kogitsune bows his head at the touch, and Nakigitsune's hand slips down to rest on the back of his neck. Kogitsunemaru doesn't move, even when Nakigitsune brushes his hair forward over his shoulders, exposing his vulnerable nape and the ties of his collar.

Nakigitsune swallows hard. Kogitsune's tail, normally hidden beneath his clothes, sweeps lightly across the wooden floor.

"I don't like letting people touch my fur," Kogitsunemaru murmurs. "But it's different if it's you, Nakigitsune. I would like it if you touched my fur all the time. Isn't that strange?"

Nakigitsune's palm presses against Kogitsunemaru's shoulder. He hopes that his feelings can be expressed by the weight of his hand, by the quiet fierceness with which he bunches the strings of Kogitsunemaru's armor between his fingers.