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The Still Point of the Turning World

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Toshiki has grown. Juubei can hear it in the timbre of his voice, feel it in the strength of his arms, his hands, his strikes. Can sense it in the amount of space Toshiki takes up beside him, and the smell of the man that followed the boy.

He can't see it, though, and he doesn't think anyone could blame him for regretting that, when Kazuki's sighs and pleased exclamations tell him Toshiki's dance has also grown, more effective and more beautiful. He can feel the way Toshiki displaces the air as he moves, can feel the precision of each step, each jump, the force of each blow. He can feel the beauty of Toshiki's dance, but even in Mugenjou he can't see it, can't see Kazuki's reaction to it, and it seems his punishment was better chosen than he'd anticipated.

He's found ways to compensate. The kinetic awareness he developed to heal and to harm serves him well in the absence of sight, well enough to guard Kazuki, to coordinate his attacks with Toshiki's. Well enough to keep track of them both on the futon that serves as their mutual bed in Mugenjou. Toshiki's body temperature is always slightly elevated; Kazuki's bells serve one more purpose. Juubei follows their light chiming to brush his hand down Kazuki's silken hair, and he's rewarded with warm laughter.

"Is this your way of saying you're not tired after all that practice, Juubei?"

"That was just a warm-up." Toshiki shifts closer, his heat warming Juubei's right side. "Wasn't it, Kakei?"

"It's good to keep our muscles stretched," Juubei says blandly. "Who knows what situation might arise?"

Kazuki's laughter huffs soft and moist across his palm just before Kazuki presses a kiss there and murmurs against his skin. "That was awful. Emishi would be proud."

Juubei stretches on the futon, brushes his right hand lightly over Toshiki's arm. Toshiki's still getting used to being touched this way; Juubei doesn't mind the chance to gentle him, to learn him this way. Juubei's own preferred pace is slower, but that can be difficult with Kazuki pressed against him.

Toshiki's presence slows Kazuki too.

Toshiki moves into the touch, turns onto his side so his naked chest is pressed against Juubei's arm, places his own hand on Juubei's stomach. Juubei traces his way up to Toshiki's throat, slides his fingers under the tail of Toshiki's hair and tugs, just a little. Toshiki follows the suggestion, coming down to press his lips to Juubei's. Very warm, and unexpectedly soft, every time. Juubei's not sure why that continually surprises him, but when it means he always wonders what Toshiki's mouth will feel like the next time, he doesn't think it's a bad thing.

Beside them, Juubei hears Kazuki sigh, the way he does when watching them practice, when speaking of Toshiki's beauty. Juubei's wondered if Kazuki speaks of him that way, but he's never asked. He's not sure what he'd do with the knowledge, so he doesn't need it.

All he needs is the beauty he can feel under his palms, against his mouth, inside or around him. If he wants more, that's just part of being human, and it's a sweet ache, given what he has.

Toshiki pulls away, enough so that they both can breathe, and Kazuki's there, tracing Juubei's mouth with long, callused fingers. Likely doing the same to Toshiki. "So beautiful," Kazuki whispers, and Juubei kisses his fingertips.

"You see the world as beautiful because you are." It's been true as long as Juubei's known Kazuki, and it's one reason he thinks Kazuki followed Raitei. Amano Ginji has the same gift. It's ironic that Juubei can see that better now. He shifts his hand in Kazuki's hair, smiling at the resulting chime.

"You're like a cat with those bells of his," Toshiki says, his breath warm on the side of Juubei's face. There's no challenge in it, though, and Juubei feels Toshiki stretch his own arm up so their fingers intertwine in Kazuki's hair, setting the bells off again. "They do make it hard to lose him."

"Considering that you've both sworn to protect me, it's best you don't lose me," Kazuki says, and he tries to make the words light, but Juubei can hear the way his breath's quickened, can feel the way his skin has flushed up into the hairline. Juubei twists his hand and Toshiki's just right, and Kazuki gasps, dropping gracefully down toward them. In mutual accord, they release that lock of hair, only to gather him closer and stroke down the long, soft fall at his back.

"That's a useful trick," Toshiki murmurs, and Juubei turns his head to catch Toshiki's temple with his mouth.

"I'll teach it to you."

He strokes his fingers up to find the tie holding Toshiki's queue and works it free. Once the hair's spilling loose across the backs of his knuckles, he slides his hand up into it, catching at a few locks. He winds them lightly around his fingers and tugs. He's rewarded with Toshiki's sharp intake of breath, the satisfying flex of Toshiki's hips against his thigh.

"Did you catch that?" he asks, and he sounds smug to himself. Toshiki will make him pay for that. He tries not to be too eager.

"I think," Toshiki says, shifting over him, "I caught the important part."

Toshiki presses down on Juubei, and Juubei feels Toshiki's left hand brush through his hair -- too short for the trick to work, but then Toshiki crooks his fingers and the air between them shifts and Juubei's reminded that Toshiki's training was also centered on his hands just before a wave of pure bliss washes across Juubei's scalp and down his spine.

He groans, arching up, and feels Kazuki shift to help hold him down, hears soft laughter and those bells chiming.

"That's what you get for teasing," Kazuki chides, and Juubei answers the laughter breathlessly.

"Why...do you think I do it so often?"

Kazuki's silence sounds startled, and it's Toshiki who laughs now. "I don't think he thought about it. Kakei...."

"Yes, Uryuu?"

Toshiki's hand shifts again, and Juubei has to open his mouth to get any air.

"Is teasing all you planned to do tonight?"

"I was giving you two a chance to contribute."

"Oh, is that so?" Now Kazuki sounds arch, and he pulls away enough to sit up. Toshiki doesn't move.

"Now you've done it, Kakei."

"That was my point."

"Well, I think you've made it. I just hope you're prepared for the consequences."

Before Juubei can ask what that means, Toshiki rolls off of him, and Juubei hears the unmistakable sound of Kazuki unwinding a koto string. He has only a breath to decide whether to move. He holds still, and feels the string curl around his wrist like Kazuki's fingers, strong and graceful. He doesn't fight the pull upward, then back, nor does he fight when the next string wraps around his other wrist. Kazuki and Toshiki would not dream of truly depriving him, so this binding means they'll only be closer still.

He has no complaints.

Kazuki tugs his wrists up and together, securing them against the irregularities in the room's architecture, in ways that make more sense now that Juubei can't see them. Toshiki's back, pressing the warmth of his palm once more to Juubei's stomach. The silk of Kazuki's hair falls across Juubei's chest, and he hears the sound of Toshiki and Kazuki kissing. Ah, that he'd like to see, but he settles for listening, the soft wet brush of skin on skin, slight suction of tongues curling, Kazuki's shuddering breath and Toshiki's deeper, wordless groan. Kissing, he's noticed, undoes Toshiki, that strength growing malleable, that warmth melting. Juubei loves the feel of it.

Loves the feel of both of them coming down to him, Toshiki on his right, Kazuki on his left, Toshiki's warm hands drawing in strands of Kazuki's soft hair and tracing them down Juubei's skin. It becomes a game, then, a test of which of them is closest; will Juubei break and plead, will Kazuki grow impatient, or will Toshiki decide that waiting is foolishness? Juubei started things tonight, so Kazuki and Toshiki may expect they know how the game will run.

Juubei draws on the detached mentality of the physician, just enough to hold back. He likes to surprise them when he can.

Even in this state, it's difficult. They're pressed up to either side of him, each with a leg hooked over one of his thighs, each rocking in time to the sweeps of Toshiki's hand, which never moves quite low enough. Toshiki's hair brushes against the underside of Juubei's right arm, and Kazuki's bells chime softly in his left ear as Kazuki leans in for a sidelong kiss. Juubei turns his head just enough to catch at that mouth, and Kazuki allows it. Kazuki tastes like spiced tea and wasabi, the commingling of his own favored blend and Toshiki's fondness for heat.

Maybe that's why Toshiki's so warm.

Kazuki pulls back, but Juubei can feel Toshiki leaning in, so he turns his head for that kiss as well. Same blend, slightly different ratio of ingredients, and he'd be happy to spend the whole night comparing subtle variations in each taste. He doesn't think they're going to let him draw things out that long, though. They don't seem inclined to let him set the pace tonight.

"Juubei," Kazuki says, and Toshiki draws away so Juubei can answer.

"Yes?"

"What do you think of our contributions?"

Juubei smiles, shifting his legs as much as he can under their weight. "Pleasant, but somehow...lacking."

"Truly?" Kazuki places his hand over Juubei's heart. It's cooler than Toshiki's, though still pleasantly warm, and the callouses catch arousingly at Juubei's nipple as Kazuki draws his hand down. Toshiki's hand at last brushes over the root of Juubei's cock, bringing with it the tantalizing touch of Kazuki's hair. Apparently they've decided his statement was close enough to pleading for a reward. Or a punishment, as Toshiki's touch vanishes. "You seem to be confused on this topic, Juubei."

Juubei strives for nonchalance once again. "Perhaps more data will allow me to make a more informed--"

He breaks off as Toshiki touches him again, brushing Kazuki's hair down his length. "This part isn't confused at all."

"Then perhaps that's the part we should listen to," Kazuki says thoughtfully, and Juubei closes his mouth.

Tries to close his mouth. He soon finds he needs it for breathing, as Toshiki wraps Kazuki's hair around his cock. Toshiki's not as skilled as Kazuki with his koto strings, and really, Juubei should be appalled at the idea of the Fuchuoin heir's hair used thus. Except Kazuki is making pleased sounds against his throat, stroking his chest, and Juubei can't deny the feel of that hair, the idea of it, is feeding his excitement. He's lost his detachment completely, but he can't say he's sorry. He's only sorry he can't return the favor of the touch.

Kazuki always could read him so well; Kazuki reaches down across his abdomen to insinuate a hand between his hip and Toshiki's cock. Toshiki gasps and presses in, and his hand on Juubei's cock squeezes. Juubei groans at that, arching up into the touch, up into Kazuki's arm across his torso, and he wants desperately to kiss them both again, to hold them both, feel the beauty of their skin, their lean muscles. Their lives, intensely hot as bonfires in the cold of a Mugenjou winter.

Toshiki squeezes again, then again, and Juubei knows this rhythm from practice, moves with it as instinctively as they've practiced, though it's hips and not hands creating the pattern. Toshiki's own hips are moving, rocking Kazuki's hand into Juubei's side, and he feels Kazuki's cock, hot and hard, pressing into him where Kazuki's hips echo the movement. He wishes fiercely he could see it, but at the same time he's glad for no distraction from the feeling building. Burning.

Overflowing.

He shudders and comes into the nest of Kazuki's hair that Toshiki's created. In a cascade, he feels Toshiki do the same into Kazuki's fingers, and then Kazuki follows, so there are three spots of distinctly sticky warmth on Juubei's skin, and the smell of sex heavy in the air.

Juubei inhales, then releases the breath on a long sigh, relaxing down into the futon. Except for his arms, still bound above him by Kazuki's strings.

"Oh," Kazuki says softly, shifting beside him, "let me...."

With what feels like a caress, the strings unwind from Juubei's wrists, pulled back into Kazuki's bells with a final chime. As soon as Juubei's arms are free, he pulls them down to touch a hand to each beloved face. Kazuki takes that hand in both his own, pillowing it against his cheek, but Toshiki only turns to kiss the palm before pulling away and leaving the bed.

"Toshiki," Juubei says, and perhaps he's violating their unspoken agreement by using the name at this moment, but he wants them both near enough to touch.

"If Kazuki's hair dries there," Toshiki calls from their shared washroom, "you're both going to be very uncomfortable."

It's true enough. Juubei's already starting to itch in very inconvenient places, and it's possible Kazuki's staying as close as he is precisely so as not to pull on that hair.

Or not. Kazuki turns Juubei's head to taste his mouth again, and he's not behaving as though he feels under obligation. Not that Kazuki would, the embodiment of his former gang's name, but Juubei can read Kazuki as well as Kazuki can read him; Kazuki's quite happy where he is, though he shares Juubei's wish for Toshiki to return.

Toshiki does, this time kneeling beside Juubei and applying a warm, damp cloth first to Kazuki's hair on Juubei's cock, then to Juubei's hips. Juubei knows when Toshiki attempts to clean Kazuki off, and Kazuki takes the cloth away while Juubei reaches up to coax Toshiki back down. Toshiki acquiesces more readily than he once did. He's coming to trust his place with them, and Juubei's learning how to read him, as Kazuki already does.

Toshiki's learning to read them too, Juubei thinks. He's no longer so hesitant to touch Juubei off the battlefield without the conduit of Kazuki, and he can tell when Juubei's teasing, has started to tease back. Has started to let Juubei learn the dance through which he lives his life, and what's filled the emptiness beneath the strength.

Toshiki's grown. They all have, he knows, and if he can't see it anymore, he thinks the knowledge they're growing together makes up for it.