With a displeased grunt, Kyo rested his head on the hard pillows of the infirmary bed.
Life was unfair. Benimaru and Daimon had been released in the afternoon, making no effort to break him from his imprisonment. Benimaru had even suggested that he should be enjoying the dutiful care provided by the nurse in charge of his bandages. The girl seemed to be in a daze whenever she was around Kyo.
Kusanagi touched the bandages around his head and the dressing covering his right eye and cheek. He was convinced that his eye was undamaged, but the nurse didn’t want to hear about it and had covered half his face with gauze anyways.
Then the girl had taken her sweet time to bandage his arms, being extremely careful when dressing the wounds on his chest.
The doctors had said that he wouldn’t be released because his injury was deep. Kyo needed to stay overnight under observation, get some rest and take strong antibiotics to fight a potential infection.
“No way I’m staying here,” Kyo said in the dim, empty room.
He pushed the sheets aside and got up, but then he heard footsteps in the hallway, and decided that it’d be better to feign being asleep. He would escape when no one was around.
There was a calm, steady, almost uninterested rhythm to those footsteps. Kyo lay completely still. It was probably a doctor making the night rounds.
The footsteps came to a stop at the infirmary’s door. Kyo waited, alert, for them to pass by.
However, the person entered the room. His movements were heavy, his presence a familiar one.
“Shit,” said Kyo, realizing that person was no doctor. He got up hastily, and he flinched in pain due to his wounds. When he looked up, Iori was there, standing right next to the bed, staring at him with the shadow of a smirk on his lips. “The hell are you doing here?” Kyo asked, hiding the pain as well as he could, his injuries throbbing, because his heart was beating fast at the sight of Yagami.
The redhead still wore his torn wine-colored coat. He had a bandage covering his right hand, and he smelled like fire and ashes. The smile on his lips was disdainful.
Iori didn’t answer. With his unharmed hand, he reached for Kyo, who quickly turned his head away. However, there wasn’t much room for movement in the bed and he couldn’t prevent Iori’s fingers from lightly stroking the bandage on his cheek and the dressing over his eye.
Kyo gasped when Iori grabbed the bandages and violently tore them off.
“What the…?!”snarled Kyo, utterly irritated, but then he fell silent, because Iori touched his cheek and examined the purple bruise over his skin. Without a word, Iori pushed Kyo’s brown hair away, revealing his right, bloodshot eye. “Jerk,” Kyo muttered.
Iori kept silent, he didn’t move his hand away.
Kyo frowned. They were so close. He could push Yagami away or…
After a moment of hesitation, Kyo reached toward Iori, slowly, carefully, until he felt the soft strands of Iori’s hair against his fingers. Astonished that Yagami was allowing such contact, Kyo pushed the red hair aside, and saw that Iori’s cheek was battered too. The last blow during their fight had left an angry bruise, and a bloodied ring surrounded the iris of his right eye.
“Sneaky bastard. You hid the injuries under your hair? Is that why they released you already?” Kyo asked angrily, realizing that he was the only one trapped in that damn infirmary.
“Injuries?” Iori repeated, his voice deep, a glimmer of disdain in his mocking eyes. “You’re the only one who got hurt, Kyo, ” he said, stroking Kyo’s cheek, and continuing down his neck to his shoulder.
Iori tugged brusquely at Kyo’s hospital gown, exposing his shoulder and part of his torso. Thick bandages came into view, stained with a faint trace of blood.
In complete silence, Iori pulled some more. The gown’s ties came loose, and he was able to see the extent of Kyo’s injuries. Kusanagi was bandaged from the waist up. The bloodied stains run diagonally, from his waist up to his right shoulder.
Iori tried to touch the bandages but Kyo grabbed him by the wrist and stopped him.
The redhead kept his eyes fixed on the bandages. His expression turned into an enraged one.
Kyo tried to speak, but his words were interrupted by a gasp because Iori freed himself and summoned his purple flames, making part of the bandages burn. The fire was intense and short, controlled, and Kyo felt no pain, only its warmth against his skin. The bandages, however, fell undone to his lap. Kyo shivered when the infirmary’s cold air touched his torn skin. The slash on his chest was deep, and his flesh was wet with blood.
“What is this?” Iori asked, suppressing his anger.
“Just a scratch. Literally.” Kyo chuckled to himself at the bad attempt of a joke.
Iori not only didn’t find it funny, but became increasingly angrier. He couldn’t stop staring at the wounds on Kyo’s chest. He touched them with his fingertips, as if he needed to confirm that they were real.
Kyo tried to show no reaction, but had to close his eyes when the pain became unbearable.
Iori cursed to himself.
“Don’t worry, Yagami. It’s just a scratch. It doesn’t even need stitches,” said Kyo, attempting to sound convincing. He refrained from mentioning that the doctors weren’t able to suture the wound because he kept repeating that it wasn’t serious (and probably threatened to burn the whole place down, but the blow to his head prevented him from remembering that part very clearly.)
“Why did you allow such a thing?” Iori demanded, glaring at him. “What the hell were you thinking?”
Kyo narrowed his eyes, feeling annoyed all of a sudden.
“Oh, let’s see. I had to deal with you and your Blood Riot, and also with an evil presence that’s likely connected to Orochi,” Kyo recited, “while also trying to prevent you from burning and killing the audience. That’d have make you look really bad, by the wa--”
“You just had to attack!”, Iori interrupted, harshly. “An attack would have stopped that nonsense! Instead, you wasted time trying to protect those--”
“But it worked,” said Kyo calmly, cutting Iori short. “I brought you back, didn’t I?”
Iori cursed between gritted teeth.
Kyo smiled smugly at him.
“I have my own way of doing things. I don’t have to listen to you.”
“Your way is not efficient,” rebuked Iori, and his reproving tone made Kyo suppress a laugh.
“You came back and no one was hurt. Of course I could have ended it all with one blow, but you weren’t yourself. Where’s the fun in tha--”
Kyo left the phrase unfinished because Iori’s fingers scratched his wounds with deliberate cruelty. The sharp wave of pain left him breathless for a while. Furious, Kyo considered making Iori feel his flames right then and there, but he forgot about it when he looked at Yagami.
Iori was staring at his own fingers, as if mesmerized by the sight of the blood.
Kyo couldn’t react or look away from the strange glint in Iori’s eyes. The redhead’s expression was a mix of anger and disdain, but there was something else too.
“What’re you doing?” hissed Kyo when Iori brought his fingers to his lips and licked the blood.
Iori didn’t answer. His eyes turned to Kyo’s chest and the glistening blood on the slashed flesh.
“Yagami…” Kyo muttered when Iori leaned toward him, toward his chest and the wounds. Iori’s lips were parted, his breath ragged. Kyo knew what Iori intended to do, and thus clenched his fists, getting ready to hit him with a punch that never came. As Yagami inched closer, Kyo just let it happen, finding himself incapable of taking his eyes off Iori.
The brush of Iori’s lips against his wound caused another surge of agonizing pain, but also a wave of undeniable pleasure.
“Yagami…” Kyo repeated, grinding his teeth, unable to understand his own reasons. Why was he drawn to this man? How could seeing Iori so obsessed with his wounds give him so much delight?
“You are mine. Your blood, your life, are mine,” Iori muttered, without looking at him, speaking so close to his chest that Kyo could feel his breath against his flesh. “You allowed these marks to be carved on something that belongs to me.”
“It’s just a flesh wound,” Kyo retorted in a whisper.
“Unacceptable,” Iori replied, in a low voice too.
Kyo couldn’t answer, because Iori touched his lips to the wound again, and began to lick the blood along the frayed skin.
Kyo stifled a groan. Why did he enjoy this? The way Iori talked to him, the fact that this kind of contact could exist between them, that painful, addictive caress.
Cautiously, Kyo stroke Iori’s red hair softly. Iori was still kissing, savoring his wound.
“You’re a very sick person, Yagami,” Kyo whispered.
Iori stopped, as if he was suddenly aware of what he was doing. When he moved away, his lips were parted and wet. Kyo regarded him for a long time. How long had it been since their last encounter? Too long, probably, because both of them had been itching for a fight. The world had ceased to exist during their match, overshadowed by the raging conflagration of their orange and purple flames, the blows they exchanged, the pain they inflicted on each other.
It felt good while it lasted, but their fight had been cut short. The evil presence that took over Iori’s mind had made them waste energy, and the precious seconds they devoted to their fights had tickled by.
With some hesitation, Kyo brushed Iori’s slightly swollen cheek in a gentle caress.
He enjoyed knowing that Iori would carry that ugly bruise for some days; and that it would serve as a reminder of him every time Iori looked at himself in the mirror, or every time he felt the pain. Kyo suddenly understood why Iori seemed so angry at his injuries. Even though Iori had slashed his flesh with his own hands, his consciousness had not been there. The pain and future scars would not make Kyo think of him, but of the unknown being that had possessed Iori and left a permanent mark.
“You’ll get another chance,” said Kyo, without interrupting the tender caress. “I’ll get rid of the presence that wants to control you, whoever he is, and then we’ll continue where we left off. There’ll be no more interruptions.”
“I’ll deal with the presence myself. I don’t need your help,” Iori growled coldly. However, he leaned against Kyo’s hand and the soft touch of his fingers.
Kyo shrugged. “Whatever. I’ll help you whether you like it or not,” he said with a brief arrogant smirk.
Iori didn’t care to reply, but he didn’t move away. He stood next to the bed, his head low, Kyo’s fingers still traveling along his jawline.
Kyo looked at Iori’s torn coat, the sleeve that had been blown away by their fire. His bandaged hand.
His thoughts went back to their match. The moment when their hands were together, fingers entwined as if by accident, holding tight. Iori’s skin had been surprisingly soft and warm against his.
They had wanted to enjoy their fight as much as they could. What had Iori thought when he woke up and discovered that an evil being had robbed him of such opportunity?
Iori’s countenance was one of frustration. Their moment had been interrupted. They were alone now, but they were in no condition to resume the fight. Iori knew that it’d be impossible for Kyo to give his all, not with those injuries on his body. It was for that reason that Iori had not challenged him. That was why Iori remained silent, instead of threatening to kill him.
Kyo sighed heavily. Sometimes, Iori’s obsession with killing him was exasperating. But there were other times that Iori’s presence in his life felt natural and just right.
That night, the one who was with him in that empty infirmary weren’t his teammates or his girlfriend. It was Iori, with his harsh words and strange behavior.
“You’re annoying, you know that?” Kyo mumbled, looking up at Iori.
He wasn’t planning on doing anything. He didn’t stop to think about it. But suddenly he was pulling Iori towards him, because his fingers were still near Iori’s neck, and Iori was standing there, looking bitter and unsatisfied.
So Kyo pulled, and Iori allowed it.
Iori allowed their faces being only inches away from each other.
Allowed Kyo’s lips brushing against his.
Kyo didn’t question what he was doing. He just wanted to give Iori something of his own. Something to be remembered by, while they waited for their next fight. He wanted Iori to not be able to stop thinking about him.
Initially, Kyo feared his boldness would cause a violent reaction in Yagami. He pictured the infirmary engulfed in purple flames. However, nothing happened. Iori’s lips gave way, and suddenly the redhead was kissing back, placing a hand on Kyo’s nape to hold him even closer.
Although Kyo was the one who started it, Iori followed through, prying his mouth open in a demanding, slightly painful kiss.
Kyo suppressed a groan. He tasted the salty tang of his own blood in Iori’s mouth. He returned the kiss just as demandingly, and smiled to himself when he heard a satisfied growl coming from Iori.
Iori pushed him away not long after that, wiping his lips with a gesture of apparent disgust. However, there was a glint in his crimson eyes. His sour expression had softened.
“Take that as advanced compensation for the wait until I recover,” said Kyo, a sarcastic smile on his lips, achieving a convincing disdainful tone, even though his heart was beating painfully fast after the brief exchange.
“If you do that again, I’ll kill you,” Iori declared.
“Just admit that you liked it,” Kyo smirked.
Iori let out a low laugh.
The infirmary seemed colder and larger after Iori left.
Kyo spent some minutes lying in the bed, his body tingling where Iori had kissed him, on his chest and his lips. It was crazy, but he had enjoyed every second of it. He was even a little disappointed that Iori had just up and left.
However, Kyo knew Yagami was that kind of person, as he knew that they would see each other soon enough. The KOF tournament was just starting, and a new evil force was threatening the participants and, maybe, the entire world. Kyo would stay to face it and defeat it. And Iori would be close by, as he had been for so many years.