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in the hours before dawn

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Sometimes Shu wonders when exactly this had come about, and what great deed he had accomplished in some past life to deserve this. To be blessed with the opportunity to move beyond his past, to be given the mere chance of making his life one of his choosing. To have a friend in Eichi that he could trust with his life, to have the bright force of Ichiru constantly striking something warm in his gut, compelling him to keep moving forward, to keep improving himself.

To have Issei, for all his sharp silence and surprising softness, tucked neatly into Shu’s side where he had dozed off keeping Shu company as the elder worked through the nuances of their next song.

The clock across the living room flashes an insistent 3:32 AM at Shu, and his eyes flicker down to where Issei’s hair fans across the soft line of his cheek, and Shu can’t help but lean down to press a feather-light kiss to the crown of dark hair below him. At times like this, he’s caught between being selfishly pleased that Issei would stay with him, insistent even in the face of exhaustion, and understanding Eichi’s tendency to constantly worry over Issei’s variable health.

A sigh passes Shu’s lips, a soft exhale that ruffles fine strands of black, and looks back to his work, reorganizing and glancing over it all briefly, setting the papers aside before he turns to Issei once again. He’s unable to help the tugging at the corners of his mouth, allowing himself the smile as he rearranges Issei’s limbs so he can pull the younger up against his chest, Issei’s hair tickling the side of his neck and jaw as he pads quietly down the hall of their unit’s living space, conscious of every little creak of the floorboards beneath him. He hesitates in front of the door to the twins’ room, waffling between his options.

Perhaps it’s the silence of the late night, early morning hours, the acute sense of loneliness that compels him to turn away, to indulge in his own whims and carry Issei to his room instead, to set him down in Shu’s own bed. He sits on the edge of the mattress, letting his hand trace down the side of Issei’s sleeping face, the gentle curve of his jaw, the line of his neck as moonlight flutters in through the gaps of the window blinds he had forgotten to shut the previous morning.

Overwhelmed briefly by a multitude of emotions Shu’s not quite sure he could name, he moves off the bed to change properly, but finds himself standing motionless, uncompelled to move further from where he is, giving into the sudden urge to turn back around, to simply admire in the peace that was settled lightly across Issei’s features.

When he turns he startles, Issei’s eyes reflecting in the light of the moon. It’s only when Shu kneels down to slip under the covers that he notices the flush dusting across Issei’s cheeks, and he can’t help laughing, a quiet sound that gets lost as thin fingers desperately cover his mouth, even as their owner turns his head away. Shu smiles against Issei’s hand, catching it with his own so he can pull it away by scant centimeters to press gentle kisses against his fingers, his palm, down the line of his wrist, biting at the delicate skin there to incite a shaky noise as he arranges himself carefully over Issei, their only point of contact where their hands connect.

“...mean,” Issei whispers at Shu, flushed as he peers up through the soft edge of his fringe, looking just ruffled enough that Shu can’t resist leaning down and tilting his head to catch Issei’s mouth in a kiss, comfortable now in pressing himself down into the sleep-warm of Issei’s arms.

When he pulls away, it’s only to press his face into the side of Issei’s neck, the younger’s arms obligingly wrapping around to his back, “Sorry I woke you,” he murmurs, his apology only partially sincere.

“I’ll forgive you, just this once,” Issei answers, coy in a way Shu has only noticed recently, caught in a disconnect between the overly cautious orphan Shu had picked off the streets and the blooming idol before him, one who brings out a different type of hesitance in Shu. Before it had been guarded, cautious in a way that mirrored Issei initially, until Shu’s very core had been bared without him noticing exactly when it had happened. And now, as Quell continues to grow, as their own private relationship continues to grow, Shu’s hesitance is more in himself, in how he still affects their group, but that he may now be holding them back.

As if noticing, no, of course noticing Shu’s way of suddenly tangling himself up in his own thoughts, Issei’s hands move to the back of Shu’s neck, pulling him back down to kiss him again, and again, and again until they’re both breathless, and Shu’s arms are shaking from the effort it takes to not simply pull Issei up against him until they’re pressed flush together, to keep kissing him in ways he know will make Issei’s breath hitch and nails press into his skin.

“What are you thinking about,” Issei asks, a little on the breathless side, but expression serious as tugs Shu to lie on top of him, seemingly uncaring that he’s being crushed under Shu’s weight.

And since there’s no point in lying, not to Issei, who reads Shu like an open book, he confesses easily, “I started thinking, lately. How Quell has grown. How it’s grown beyond just me, and while it’s something I’ve always dreamed, now that it has, I began wondering...if I may be a limiting factor.”

Issei’s eyes flicker to something a little darker, a little stormier, and Shu chooses to ignore it, to continue while he can, before he can find excuses elsewhere. “You and Ichiru, but particularly you...you’re too smart, you continue to improve, to grow, so much that I perhaps wonder if you’re in the wrong group, if we were to consider unit names.” He laughs, at his own play on words, but a little self-deprecatingly.

Shu’s laugh catches in his throat as Issei suddenly shoves up against his chest, rolling them over so that he’s straddling Shu, eyes fierce, scowling in a way Shu has grown used to being targeted at others, but rarely, if not never, him. Issei’s hands hit against Shu’s chest again, once, twice, before they stop and his shirt is being fisted amongst the hands Shu has spent far too much time admiring, in ways beyond workplace appropriate.

“You can be really stupid, you know that, right?” Issei asks fiercely, “If you can’t see how much you do for Quell, for me, I should really reconsider my supposed intellect in choosing to be with you.”

There’s a double meaning underlying Issei’s words that Shu is somewhat surprised he catches, but it only serves to remind him that he and Issei have grown into each other, have learned to come to understand the little nuances that make them so very much themselves, and how they could care for each other, love each other like this.

After a moment of stifled silence, Shu reaches up to cup Issei’s face in his hand, thumbing gently across his cheek, watching raptly as his soft I’m sorry ripples through Issei’s body, in the way his eyes closed, how he leans into Shu’s touch, his hands releasing his shirt, his body relaxing until Shu can sit up, pulling Issei against him until they’re breaths are mixing together, until they’re kissing again, motions filled with apology, tinged with a desperation in needing the other to understand without using empty words.

Shu sighs into Issei’s mouth, one hand resting on his hip, the other splayed against his ribs, storing away in his memory the way Issei’s breath catches every time Shu’s hands wander a little too far, just under the hem of his shirt, playing at the belt loops of Issei’s pants. And even here, Shu finds himself caught in his hesitance. Because while this is nothing new, spindles of doubt continue to grip at Shu’s heart, winding their way up his throat, reminding him that Issei is young, that he could do so much better, should do so much better than a groupmate six years his senior.

But when Issei makes a small noise that breaks Shu from his thoughts, one of need and irritation all mixed up together, Shu pushes aside his doubt, letting his hand slide up the flat plane of Issei’s stomach, thumbing shirt buttons open as he goes, relishing in the subtle yet eager push of Issei’s body against his hand. He chases the way Issei’s head falls back to give him more access to the buttons at the top of his shirt, biting into soft skin at the base of Issei’s throat as he tosses his shirt aside, even though he’s fully aware that he’ll be reprimanded in the morning for leaving marks, uncaring of the consequence when it elicits a gasp and the tightening of fingers in the hair at the base of his neck.

Shu follows the pull if Issei’s hands, lowering the younger back down to the mattress, follows as Issei’s heels dig in the small of his back and can’t help catching Issei’s mouth in another kiss to swallow the sound that threatens to escape when he grinds down against him. Issei pulls away with another soft noise, fingers pulling shakily at Shu’s shirt, fumbling with the buttons every time Shu rolls his hips forward, laughing breathlessly when Issei shoots him a glare. When he finally gets the last of the buttons undone, Issei’s hands slip around to Shu’s back, pulling him back down against him in silent need, face flushed from their actions, from the implications of it all. Shu smiles and lowers his head again, catching Issei’s ear between his teeth, kisses following sharp bites and sucks down the slope of his neck and shoulder to the ridge of his collarbones until the pale skin beneath Shu is littered with marks rapidly darkening, visible even in the dim light of the moon.

When he finally looks back up to his partner’s face, Issei’s head is tilted back, an arm thrown across his face to hide his eyes, and Shu takes it as an invitation to continue, taking in the way muscles flex under the expanse of skin in front of him, until he reaches the hem of Issei’s jeans, fingers hooking into the waistband and staying there, hesitant, waiting for permission.

“What are you waiting for?” Issei questions from somewhere above him, and Shu smiles sheepishly.

“You,” he answers honestly, and he feels the tension leave Issei’s body, and Shu rests his cheek against the inside of Issei’s thigh, meeting Issei’s small smile with his own as fingers gently thread through his hair in silent reassurance. Even so, it’s only when those fingers in his hair tighten to tug him upwards that he starts again, flicking the button closure open with practiced ease. He tugs denim past slender hips that raise off the bed to accommodate him as he tugs each leg down and off, occasionally pausing to suck dark marks into the lines of Issei’s legs, ignoring every weak protest from above him.

Once he’s let the garment fall to the floor, Shu rises back up and has to pause for just a moment, burning the image before him into his memory, the sight of Issei sprawled out amongst twisted sheets, face flushed, chest rising in uneven breath and scatterings of marks covering his skin that Shu himself put there. And then Shu can’t wait another moment, falling forward so he can push Issei’s legs further open, kissing back up a thigh until his breath is ghosting over the line of Issei’s cock straining through thin fabric. He cuts of a forming protest by abruptly pulling down Issei’s underwear and taking him in his mouth, pressing forward once, twice, before he pulls off just far enough that he can tongue at the slit of Issei’s cock, one pointer finger trailing down the underside of his length, sticky with precome and Shu’s saliva. Little noises slip past Issei’s lips, and Shu can feel muscle flex where his other hand is pushing against Issei’s thigh.

“More,” is the breathless plea, and Shu is all too willing to indulge, letting his tongue circle around the head before swallowing the length down in his mouth until his nose is pressed to tense muscle, smug at the broken cry that it draws from Issei. This, he thinks, is one of his favorite things. More than just the pleasure, more than the physical actions, he takes possibly far too much enjoyment in teasing, in learning what makes Issei come undone at his hands.

He works almost methodically, knowing what Issei likes, what makes him squirm, bringing him close then backing off, and repeating it until Issei is pleading with him, hands weakly tugging at Shu’s hair as he tries to push his hips forward.

“Shu,” he murmurs softly, pulling a little more insistently.

“Mmm?” Shu hums in response, with his mouth still wrapped around Issei’s cock and he internally smirks at the way Issei shudders beneath him.

“Close,” is all he manages to gasp out, and Shu increases both pressure and speed, heedless of the little warnings he’s given. When Issei comes, he holds his hips down even as he presses forward to swallow down everything he’s given, sliding off with a satisfied smile when he feels Issei relax beneath him.

He pulls himself up, drawing Issei closer by a bare hip, ignoring the dazedly confused look Issei gives him, perfectly content to let his own urges pass, pleased for the night with having drawn such cute sounds out of Issei.

He leans forward to kiss Issei goodnight but tenses, exhaling out against Issei’s lips when he feels questing fingers trail down the side of his abdomen to the front of his slacks, tracing the shape of his hard cock straining against Issei’s hand. Shu’s breath hitches when the hand suddenly squeezes, and he closes his eyes for a brief moment before he can look down at Issei who peers up at him through a half-lidded gaze.

“If you keep doing that I won’t be able to stop,” Shu warns, quiet and low.

Issei leans forward to kiss Shu, pulling back breathlessly even as his nimble fingers undo Shu’s belt and the closure to his slacks with ease. “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” he murmurs in response even as he pulls Shu’s dick out, stroking lightly, thumb smearing precome across the head, “Let me take care of you too.”

Shu feels his resolve crumbling with every movement of Issei’s hand, and murmuring about dance rehearsals and meetings the next morning he slips his hand between Issei’s thighs, tracing patterns there with his fingers.

Issei flushes, understanding the implications behind Shu’s movements and words, but willing turns over, pressing his back to Shu’s chest. Shu bites gently into Issei’s shoulder to suppress any noise that threatens to escape when he slips his cock between the soft skin of Issei’s thighs. Like this, it’s easy to fuck the tight space surrounded by pale skin over lean muscle, and the movement only gets easier as precome leaks from his dick.

He presses his hand to the flat of Issei’s stomach as he thrusts, closing his eyes and is just almost able to imagine that it’s not some ungodly hour of the morning, that they don’t have responsibilities to tend to in the morning, that he’s able to fuck Issei the way he wants.

Issei shifts then, startling Shu from his thoughts as he twists his shoulders around until they’re messily kissing, Issei’s tongue pushing against Shu’s at the same pace that Shu moves between his legs. His cock drips messily across the skin of Issei’s thighs, and he groans into Issei’s mouth as Issei’s hand slides down between his legs so that Shu’s hitting the palm of his hand with every thrust, “Unfair, so unfair,” he mutters between kisses and he’s rewarded with soft laughter.

“Unfair would be more like this,” Issei retorts even as he squeezes his thighs closer, making the space between them all the tighter and Shu chokes on his breath, head falling forward against Issei’s shoulder, biting and sucking a mark there even as his movements get sloppier.

“Agreed, that’s absolutely unfair,” Shu manages as Issei pushes back against him. He’s already close, so close, but he doesn’t lose the last bit of his control until he feels Issei tighten his thighs again, looking back at Shu with such a coy look coupled with a light flush across his cheeks. He moans against Issei’s shoulder as he comes, hips stuttering as he draws out every last bit of his orgasm. He would be a little embarrassed at how little it took for him to fall over the edge, but the smug little smile on Issei’s face dissolves any of that and he just pulls Issei back around to kiss him properly, dragging his hand through the cooling mess of his own release between Issei’s thighs.

They stay like this, trading kisses until Issei finally pushes him away and slips out of bed, convincing Shu to get up long enough for him to strip the sheets before disappearing into the bathroom. Shu’s gaze lingers on Issei’s retreating figure before he shakes it off to replace the bedding and follows Issei into the connecting bathroom.

He stands lazily, pressing his face into Issei’s hair as he lets the younger clean them up, only shuffling back out to slip back under the covers when Issei nudges him along. It’s only when Issei reappears, wearing nothing but one of Shu’s shirts that Shu starts, just a bit, and groans, “Who’s being the mean one now?”

Issei laughs, shushing him as he ducks under the comforter Shu holds up, and cuddles into Shu’s side. Shu sighs, draping an arm over Issei’s waist, drawing him closer so that he can tangle their legs together and Issei tucks his head into the crook of Shu’s shoulder, where he almost instantly falls asleep. Even as sleep weighs on him, Shu tugs the covers up around them before he closes his eyes, letting the soft, even sound of Issei’s breaths lull him into a comfortable warmth where he succumbs to sleep.