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Stains On Me

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When they first move in, Yuki gets leftover furniture from Ayame. Kyo gets leftover furniture from Kazuma. It’s already rough going when they both show up with a dining table.

It should be made clear that the place is… cozy. That’s what Ayame says when he sees it for the first time, a smile strained on his face.

The front door opens right into a living room connected to the kitchen. The countertops are much smaller than the ones in Shigure’s room, and the tiny drawers struggle to open and close. Their rooms are across from each other, on separate sides of the apartment, and it’s clear early on that they can hear the activity of almost all their neighbors.

So, it’s inevitable that when both Yuki and Kyo are too stubborn to throw out their own tables, that the first three weeks are filled with nothing but stubbed toes and bumped shins in the already small space. Getting water or food early in the morning or late at night turns into a hazard.

A few mild shouting matches happen because of this, and it takes about a week for their neighbors to hate them.

It’s finally settled when Haru comes by and flips a coin to see whose table stays. It’s Kyo’s, and Yuki has never seen him more smug in his entire life. It makes him want to punch him all the more. Some… loud arguments might have come from that, too.

Already, this is a disaster.

Nevertheless, their routine ends up being something like this:

During the week, the two keep to their university schedule. Their schedules keep them out of the house most days until the afternoon or early evening. They interact mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when Yuki has his only early classes of the week. Yuki tends to sleep through his alarm that makes an irritating chirping noise that can be heard through his door and throughout the apartment.

As a “courtesy” Kyo will wake Yuki up on those days, if only to get the beeping to fucking stop.

During the weekend, Kyo wakes up at 7 AM, Yuki wakes up at 2 PM. Kyo runs, showers, makes breakfast, does homework, calls Kazuma, makes lunch, and reads part of a book before Yuki even hobbles outside his room, disoriented.

Kyo complains that Yuki is too loud at night, and Yuki complains Kyo is too loud in the morning.

After that exchange they don’t talk for the rest of the day with rare exceptions.

Yuki walks to the convenience store, grabs something quick to eat and goes on a walk. Sometimes he’ll meet up with Haru, sometimes Tohru, sometimes Machi. He brings his schoolwork with him to study at local cafes once he’s said goodbye to whatever company he’s meeting. When it gets dark, he grabs something to eat from wherever he is, and then heads home.

Sometimes Yuki gets back so late, that Kyo is already in bed. Usually by 9 or 10. Sometimes, Kyo goes on another night time run, and sometimes he comes back from visiting or working at the dojo. Yuki sits in the living room and texts back and forth with Kakeru while watching TV.

Then, he’ll go to the small balcony (a thin piece of railing that is as wide as the sliding door way, and as long as Yuki’s feet if he were to place one in front of the other) and water the plants there. Sometimes he’ll stay there for a minute with the door open and listen to music.

He goes to bed at 2 AM, sometimes 3 AM. Rinse, repeat.

“I think this was a terrible idea,” Yuki says to Machi one day over tea. His morning (read: late afternoon) was spent fighting with Kyo about how he kept him up again with the TV the previous night. “We either don’t talk, or argue until the neighbor hits the ceiling with a broom.”

“Maybe you just need to give him a chance,” Machi says, as reasonable as ever. “You’ve changed a lot since I met you. He probably has, too.”

It’s a nice sentiment, Yuki mulls over on the way home, but where would he even start? It didn’t even seem worth it to try and… “befriend” Kyo. Whatever that means.

They both think, in their own annoyed kind of way, that this will stay fine if they keep up this minimal level of interaction with each other. Yuki in his world, and Kyo in his own.

And never the two shall meet.

—————

Things don’t really change until later in the summer.

Yuki never really celebrated his birthday before, so when Kakeru suggests—nay—demands that Yuki’s 18th birthday be heralded as the party of the century, Yuki rolls his eyes through the phone and hangs up on him. Obviously, Kakeru is joking.

Kakeru shows up to his apartment that night. Uninvited, Yuki should add.

It takes a lot of convincing, yelling, punching, kicking, and snatching Yuki’s phone away from Kakeru before they reach a reasonable compromise. Maybe not a party, but a dinner. But not something home cooked. Going out to a cool restaurant — that’s what people did for their 18th!

“But I don’t want it on my actual birthday,” Yuki says, firmly. “Maybe the day before.”

“What? You don’t want to show off your mark to everyone?” Kakeru says, giving a faux stretch to show off his own in front of Yuki.
Yuki rolls his eyes but can’t help but smile, “Yes, you and Maki are made for each other. We are all very aware.” Kakeru beams at that.

That was another thing about Yuki’s 18th that he was hesitant to share with the world. At 18, you got your soulmate mark. The writing on your wrist that reflects the first words ever spoken to you by your soulmate. For most of the world, it was a beautiful, public thing that brought about big celebrations. Mark-reveal parties were fairly common. As were showing it off to all your friends and family as soon as possible.

Kakeru is a prime example. Maki’s first words are written neatly on his wrist, something Yuki got to witness, himself, at Kakeru’s birthday party a couple months earlier. The look on Maki’s face when Kakeru revealed her words is still one of the most beautiful things Yuki’s ever seen.

But growing up with the Sohmas, and in the zodiac, it was a different story. And even with the curse broken, Yuki still can’t seem to adjust to the idea of advertising something like that.

“The day before, or not at all,” Yuki reiterates.

“Fine, fine,” Kakeru concedes. “But none of that ‘just your closest friends’ crap,” Kakeru adamantly adds as the final clause of the agreement. “Give me a guest list.”

“Why? Are you afraid you wouldn’t be invited otherwise?” Yuki says with a smile.

“Sticks and stones, Yun.” Kakeru sticks his tongue out. As Kyo comes out of his room to head to the kitchen. “Ah, speaking of not-close-friends! You comin’, carrot-man?”

Yuki immediately kicks Kakeru under the table and gives him a glare.

“Hey!” Kakeru pouts.

“To what?” Kyo asks with a raised eyebrow.

“My birthday party,” Yuki says. “Apparently.”

“Pass,” Kyo says, immediately.

“C’mon, it’ll be fun! Be there as the prince transforms into a king,” Kakeru says, wistfully.

Kyo snorts.

“No thanks. Wouldn’t want to ruin King Yuki’s big night,” Kyo says passively.

Yuki feels the smallest bit of guilt course through him. It’s then, very inconveniently, that Yuki is reminded of his conversation with Machi. Sure, he doesn’t want Kyo at his birthday party. Especially not his 18th birthday party.

But… it would be strange and oddly immature to invite most of their family and Tohru to something Kyo isn’t allowed to come to.

Ugh, this is starting to sound too zodiac, Yuki thinks.

And, so, he makes the first of many mistakes to come.

“You’re… welcome to, if you want. Tohru will be there.” Kyo turns to look at Yuki, “She might cry if you don’t come.”

“Hell, I’ll cry,” Kakeru tacks on.

“I’ll give you five dollars right now if you can tell me my name,” Kyo says back.

Kakeru gives an offended gasp, “How can you think so little of me?”

“Don’t worry, he’s just covering up for the fact that he doesn’t know your name,” Yuki says passively, looking at a text on his phone from a friend.

“Isn’t it Man-baby or something?” Kyo says in an equally flat tone of voice. Yuki can’t help but swallow a laugh at that.

“The amount of abuse I endure under this roof is too extreme, Kyon,” Kakeru wails. “And here I thought we were becoming best friends.”

Kyo doesn’t even respond, but Kakeru is already busying himself texting a friend to ask about a restaurant they had all gone out to earlier that year. When Yuki finds Kakeru distracted enough, he lifts himself up to join Kyo in the connected kitchen.

“That guy is way too loud,” Kyo says, before Yuki prompts anything out of him. Kakeru is on the phone, talking at full volume to a friend about a venue. Yuki snorts, eyeing Kyo chopping up vegetables for whatever food he’s making.

“Now you know what high school with you was like,” Yuki says. Kyo looks up, offended, but before Kyo can respond, Yuki says, “I do mean it. You can come if you want.”

“To your birthday party?” Kyo has disbelief written all over him.

Yuki shrugs, “Why not. It’s not like we’re kids anymore.”

“We’re not kids, but we ain’t friends,” Kyo says, easily.

“Definitely not,” Yuki responds. “But… Still. I’ll be… happy to have you there.”

Kyo stops what he’s doing and looks at Yuki, still visibly perplexed, but shrugs after a moment. “Whatever.”

Yuki smiles, satisfied with that. It feels good being mature, Yuki thinks. Maybe he’ll think about doing it more often.

—————

All things considered, the party isn’t that bad.

The group terrorizes a half-decent restaurant in Shinjuku to start. A good portion of the former zodiacs are there, including Ayame, who picks up the entire tab at the end of the meal, despite Yuki’s protests. The former student council, along with some high school classmates stop by, as well. And some of Yuki’s new friends from university.

It’s a flurry of attention that Yuki isn’t used to. His university friends treat him normally, and find his family amusing. They elbow him in his side and joke with him when they comment on how this must be why Yuki’s such an oddball.

From there, a smaller group head to a bowling alley. Uo and Kakeru screech at the top of their lungs a plucky “WHAT?” when Yuki reveals he’s never bowled in his life.

Kyo’s ears perk up, and immediately challenges Yuki to a face-off, seeing as he’s bowled a whole three times before.

Hana and Tohru give Yuki a short tutorial on how to throw the ball, and when Yuki summons all his beginner’s luck to roll in a strike on the first try, Kyo’s mouth goes agape.

“This is bullshit,” Kyo says, poking the side of Yuki’s head. “That rat must still be in there.”

“I promise, it’s just because I’m better than you,” Yuki teases right back. Kyo, surprisingly, doesn’t raise his voice, doesn’t scream, doesn’t throw things, and doesn’t storm away. He, instead, gives a devious smirk back.

“I’m not phased just ‘cause you got lucky, pretty boy.”

In the end, that’s exactly what it was. And Yuki loses to Kyo by twelve points. Yuki smiles as he walks back to his friends overflowing from the circular couches. Even as they laugh and make fun of him.

“Not too bad for beginner’s luck,” Machi says.

“But not good enough!” Kyo cries out.

“I think the loser should be the one to get more chicken wings,” Kakeru chirps out.

“I think that’s the most useful thing this guy’s ever said,” Kyo says, crossing his arms.

“No, no, I can get it! It’s Yuki’s birthday!”

“A loss is a loss, Tohru,” Yuki smiles. “Unlike some people, I take my defeats gracefully.”

“How about you talk when you come back with some food!” Kyo spits back as Yuki walks away. Yuki looks over his shoulder to laugh, but keeps going.

It’s the best time he’s had in awhile. It hasn’t ever really occurred to him to celebrate his birthday before, especially not while he was cursed — not while there was something inside him that made it seem silly to celebrate a birthday when he wasn’t the only one born on that day. It was sort of like having a nagging, attention-seeking twin. So Yuki celebrated spiteful victories and never indulged.

Yuki is a bit lost in thought, small smile permanently etched on his face, standing in line at the food counter when someone taps him on the shoulder.

When he turns around, it’s a girl he doesn’t know. Long hair, well-styled waves framing her face, immaculate make-up, and a pretty chiffon romper. Her eyes are blown wide by colored contacts, and Yuki thinks she looks like a lot of the girls on campus.

“You’re pretty cute when you smile,” she says, off the bat.

Yuki blinks, “Excuse me?”

The girl giggles, “Sorry, I see you around campus a lot, but you always seem so serious.”

“Oh,” Yuki says, so he did recognize her. “Sorry, I’m not sure…”

“Yuki,” she says, extending her hand.

“How did you know my name?” Yuki asks.

She gives him a confused look, before she starts to laugh, “No, my name is Yuki.”

“Oh sorry,” Yuki gives an embarrassed smile and shakes her hand. “I guess that takes care of my introduction.”

“It’s a nice name, if I do say so myself,” she says, smoothly. She even leans in a bit at the tail end of her sentence, and all of the sudden they’re standing even closer. “I see you’re here with a party.”

“My friends dragged me out for my birthday,” Yuki says. “I’ve never actually been bowling before.”

“You’re kidding!” She laughs, “you should play against my friends. We’re terrible! It’ll make your first time feel a lot better.”

“It might be nice after all the abuse my friends have been giving me,” Yuki smiles.

“That’s no way to treat someone on their birthday,” she tosses a lock of her hair behind her shoulder, and tilts her head just slightly. Yuki can feel something of an alarm going off inside his gut. “How old are you?”

“I’m turning 18,” Yuki says, immediately becoming aware that he’s wearing short sleeves. Her hands trail down to his wrist. He quickly tacks on, “Tomorrow.”

“So you don’t have your mark yet,” she flutters her eyelids. “Me neither, I get mine in another month. You must be excited.”

“I… am,” Yuki says carefully.

“I can’t wait to get mine. With my birthday coming up, I’m trying to remember every first word someone says to me,” she laughs again, soft, sweet, and controlled. He smiles back, eyeing his table and willing for his food to finally be ready.

No one’s paying attention to him. They’re all laughing and yelling and Momiji is sending the ball backwards through his legs.

“I guess it’s hard not to think about that,” Yuki says.

“So… do you remember the first words I said to you?” She asks, voice going a little lower.

“Um.”

Girl Yuki is smiling as she digs through her purse and pulls out a pen. Without a moment of hesitation, she gently grabs Yuki’s left wrist and brings it to her.

In pen, right above her phone number, she writes “You’re pretty cute when you smile.”

Yuki looks at it when she snaps the lid on the pen and puts it back in her purse.
“Just in case, you know?” She kisses her index finger and playfully uses it to peck Yuki on the cheek. And then she walks away, but not before tossing a look over her shoulder and giving a little wave.

Yuki’s a bit flustered, and all his brain can think to do is wave back. He hears a gaggle of giggles from a group of girls that she walks back to, and all of them eye him unsubtly. Yuki feels himself flush hot with embarrassment.

His food couldn’t come any sooner, and when it does he rushes back to his own party.

“You must have gotten your mark early,” comments Hana as he sets down the tray of fried chicken on the table. Yuki flushes again.

“What?!” Kakeru and Uo spew out.

“Wait, really? Did you get it?” Momiji asks, bouncing up next to him to peer at his wrist.

“It’s not… no, a girl wrote on my arm,” Yuki says, toeing the line between being embarrassed and annoyed. “It’s nothing.”

“Ooooo, now that’s a line!” Kimi chirps, yanking Yuki’s arm to read the words. “I should’ve tried that on you ages ago.”

“Isn’t that embarrassing if it’s not the same words, though?” One of Yuki’s university friends calls out, and suddenly everyone is laughing again.

Kyo’s voice cuts through, “Yuki! Rematch!”

And just like that, the party continues on as normal.

 

—————————

 

Yuki waves goodbye to everyone as they all go their separate ways. He has two bags filled with presents from everyone, and feels a bit awkward having to carry them all the way home. Kyo says bye to Tohru and Haru, but starts walking without Yuki as a signal that he’s taking too long.

Kyo is quiet most of the way home—nothing too unusual. Tonight they’ve spoken more than they have in their two months of living together. But on the subway, Yuki does catch Kyo looking at the pen ink on his wrist.

“What?” He says, and Kyo’s eyes snap up to his.

“What?” Kyo aggressively replies.

“Don’t ‘what’ at me, you’re the one staring,” Yuki says, voice low and controlled on the subway. Kyo crosses his arm and doesn’t answer. And Yuki thinks that’s that.

That’s why it surprises Yuki when Kyo gives an annoyed puff as they climb up the stairs to their apartment.

“You could just spit it out,” Yuki sighs as he puts his key in the lock and presses the door open.

“It’s just so trashy,” Kyo bemoans, pushing past Yuki to enter the apartment first.

Yuki cocks an eyebrow, setting the bags of presents down at the entryway, “What is?”

“That dumb scribble on your arm,” Kyo motions. He didn’t even realize Kyo was paying attention to him when it happened. But, then again, it doesn’t surprise Yuki that Kyo has an opinion on everything.

“Who writes on a guy’s hand as a line? Hell, who lets someone write on their hand for a line.”

“She didn’t give me much of a choice,” Yuki sighs. He makes a beeline for their kitchen sink, tasking Kyo with turning on the lights of their dim apartment.

“You’re too damn soft,” Kyo huffs. “You could learn to say no once in awhile.”

“Who knows, maybe she was my soulmate,” Yuki deadpans, immediately washing off the pen ink with soap and water. Kyo gives a snort.

“Ain’t that just a testament of faith.” Kyo leans up against the counter by Yuki, who flicks his hands dry in the sink and once at Kyo for good measure.

“I think you could stand to be a little more romantic, god knows all other aspects of your personality are shot to hell. You should have something to fall back on.”

“Hey, don’t worry about me,” Kyo jams his thumb into his chest. “I’m romantic plenty,”—Yuki’s turn to snort—“I just know that my soulmate isn’t gonna be some giggling girl who treats me like a human doodle.”

“Oh yeah? Then who is your soulmate going to be? I think anyone who could even marginally tolerate you would be a viable candidate.”

Kyo clenches his fist, but represses the urge to charge—something that still lingers after the curse broke and after their hesitant and reluctant truce with each other. A true testament to how infuriating Yuki is.

“Obviously they’d have to tolerate me, fuckface. Unless the universe is just out to bone me completely,” Kyo says through gritted teeth.

“Nice to see you’re such an optimist, especially since the universe has such a kind track record.”

“You have a real shitty attitude for someone who’s getting their mark in a couple hours.”

“Do I?” Yuki asks lightly, crossing his arms. Kyo rolls his eyes, stretching to Indicate his weary bones.

“Don’t worry about it, you always have a shitty attitude.” Yuki smiles at that, especially with how little venom Kyo’s tone held. “I’m going to bed.”

“Goodnight,” Yuki calls after his already retreating form. Kyo doesn’t respond except with the clicking of the door as it closed.

————

In all honesty Yuki is excited about his mark, despite how he’s coming across to Kyo, apparently. Maybe he’s just nervous. He hasn’t been this nervous in awhile. And not in such a genuine way. The last time he could remember flutters in his heart was seeing Tohru emerge in that pastel, yellow dress that made her look so feminine, so beautiful.

Then again, those nerves were born from expectations rather than true romance.

The idea of being in love is baffling to Yuki. He’s barely had a crush before, and now his ultimate perfect person is being delivered to him on his wrist.

How would he know who they are? How would he find them? Despite not taking an interest in the girl at the bowling alley, he now couldn’t help thinking about all the first words that had been said to him. She was right, it was hard not to think about it.

It feels exciting and special, and Yuki is grateful that he could actually feel that way, now that the curse was broken. When the rat spirit was still in him, Yuki remembers trying not to think about it at all. It just felt like something that could be taken away. Akito also made it clear that no soulmate bond would ever be allowed to penetrate that of the zodiac’s.

Hence, the incident with Hatori and Kana…

His mind is getting pulled down into places he didn’t want to be anymore. So he shakes his head, and continues getting ready for bed. He focuses on the warm, bubbling feeling, instead. Of what his mark would promise. A soulmate who he loves, and who loves him.

It’s 10:34, and the words wouldn’t start to form until midnight. Apparently it being a long process, taking nearly 3 to 4 hours until the mark is fully legible. Yuki takes a deep breath as he fastens up the buttons of his pajamas. They’re long sleeved, deliberately, though it’s sweltering hot in his room.

He isn’t going to look. He’s emotionally exhausted and just wants to sleep. He would let the excitement surge through him, creating a relaxing pulse of energy in his body for him to sleep to. Like watching the clouds form overhead on a winter night, knowing when you woke up snow would coat the ground.

He lays his head on his pillow and rests his left wrist by his head, tenderly. Whatever words appeared on his wrist tomorrow, he would treat them gently. Beautifully. Something he feels he’s capable of now, even if it’s shaky.

Tomorrow, Yuki would wake up and the first words of his soulmate would be looking back at him. All he knew, is that he would cherish it with all his growing heart.

————————

Just fucking kidding.

Yuki stares down at his mark the next day, the joints in his elbows, underarms, and knees sweating from sleeping overnight in his winter pajamas. His body feels clammy and his stomach was dropping 90 miles a minute only to click click click back up his spinal chord and drop again.

His blunt nails dig into the skin that dons a fresh new mark, and all Yuki could think is he needs a knife.

He’s going to cut off his damn arm.

A sharp bang on the door causes Yuki to jump three feet in the air, “Can you wake the hell up already?!” Kyo’s voice rings through his room as if there isn’t even a door there at all, and Yuki feels every vein in his body, until he realizes that his panic has an accompanying soundtrack of his beeping alarm. He tries too quickly to turn it off, accidentally flicking it off his bedside table.

“I’m up! I’m up!” Yuki reigns in the shaky catch of his voice, grabbing the clock from the floor and hitting the snooze button.

After a second, Yuki hears a mumbled, “jeez whatever” before Kyo is stomping away from his room and towards the entrance. Thank god. Yuki feels some of the tension in his shoulders release.

This is just a bad dream, really. He closes his eyes tight before looking back down at his wrist as if that might erase the words altogether. No such luck. And in a neat cursive, as flowing and gentle as the waves of the sea, the words stare right back:

You’re the rat spirit, right?

Kyo Sohma’s first words to him. A memory so engrained in his skull that he can still feel each touch of snowflakes on his skin. He can remember the color of Kyo’s scarf, that it was red and brown, and even that it had a tattered string at the end — though he doesn’t know why he can remember that.

Kyo was wearing shorts in the snow, looking angry and orange and as if he had already spent his entire lifetime fighting the entire world.

And now the punchline of young Kyo’s manifesto is permanently inked onto Yuki’s wrist.

He can’t deal with this right now. Right now he needs something to cover up this hellish blight on his skin. Holding his wrist close to his body, he cracks open his door and peers out into the hall. When he confirms Kyo is truly gone, he runs to the shared bathroom and rips open the cabinets to retrieve the bandages there.

He’s never been one for patching up injuries, but this is the tightest job he’d ever done.

 

—————————

 

He can unwrap the bandage if he wants to, he realizes. Even if they go to the same university, no one in his department even knows Kyo. But, no, Kyo can’t even allow him that.

The words you’re the rat spirit require some kind of explanation that Yuki cannot give. He can already hear the words rolling off his classmates tongue if they prod his wrist and hold it up to their eyes.

What’s THAT supposed to mean? They’d say, and Yuki flinches at even the thought of it. After seventeen years of being cursed, he’s only allowed a few months before it’s right back to being etched onto his body again. A constant reminder of what he might always be.

How again is Kyo supposed to be his soulmate? If anything, the mark serves as a reminder for why they hate each other. Why Kyo hates him. Why they can never be together. The curse could break, their spirits could dissipate, and their hair colors could fade from their vibrant colors to murky browns and blacks. But Kyo will always be his fated enemy.

The worst part is that Yuki is actually getting along fairly well with his peers. They treat him normally. Say good morning, tease him when he spaces out, ask him to karaoke nights and lunches in the university cafeteria. That air of mystery that kept him secluded in high school is popped, and instead he’s regarded as a quiet, normal—if slightly odd—university student. It feels nice.

And all it takes is a bandage around his wrist on his 18th birthday to send that flying out the window.

As soon as he walks into his classes, he’s dodging questions about the bandage around his wrist. People’s curiosities are piqued and now. There’s a need to know the mystery behind Yuki’s covered wrist. Every question about his mark just reminds him of how he’d keep himself tense and alert in the halls of his high school to avoid bumping or running into girls.

He smooths out his panicking edges with a seamless charm when he talks around questions about his mark. He gives those elusive smiles that he did when girls would greet him in the hallways in groups of three. He creates a mystery around himself that he never wanted to, and it catches around his class like wildfire.

Yuki with the soulmate mark that no one knew about. There has to be a story there. There has to be a cinderella waiting on the other side of the bandage that he can’t open his heart up to yet. It’s as if people can predict and gauge his vulnerability when they look at his wrist, and Yuki feels more on display than ever before.

He hasn’t felt it in so long, hasn’t let himself hate Kyo in ages, but right now — he does. He hates Kyo and he hates the stain he left behind on his skin.

Indignantly, and somewhat childishly, Yuki grumbles to himself how that’s all Kyo will ever be to him, anyway. A stain he can’t get rid of.

 

————————

 

The bottom line is that Yuki has to tell Kyo. He knows this. Logically, he knows this. There’s no way Yuki can hide this forever. After two weeks he’s already gone through 3 boxes of bandages, and the skin around his mark is starting to itch because of it.

However, unsurprisingly, Yuki is having a tough time approaching the topic. Remind him again how he’s supposed to go up to his fated enemy turned tentative acquaintance turned roommate and say, “hey, according to the universe we’re the perfect couple.”

It would be funny if it didn’t make Yuki so damn nauseas.

There’s a good few days of denial leading up to this point. When Yuki is alone in the apartment, sometimes he’ll unwrap the bandage just to make absolutely sure that it says what he thinks it does. And sometimes he hopes it’ll just be gone altogether.

Yuki stares at his wrist as he walks home from school one day, glaring at it just a little.

This is supposed to be an exciting thing. This is supposed to be something beautiful and life-changing. Yuki is supposed to find a person outside of this Sohma-dented world and build a new life with someone who wants the same things. It is supposed to be a final farewell to everything the curse has weighed down on him, and a look to a new future.

Now, all Yuki can think is that if they reject each other, at least the mark will disappear.

In the back of his head, Yuki can hear his mother taunting him.

He remembers his mother talking about the soulmate mark as if it was some sort of defect, as if it was a mark of stupidity.

People who pursue their soulmates are foolish, and nothing would beat the logical connection of someone you could benefit from.

The problem is that Yuki had hopes of being that fool in love. It sounded nice. In theory, at least. Maybe he’ll still get that somehow. Down the line. There are plenty of stories of people ending up with non-soulmates. Or rejected people who find each other after their marks fade.

He bitterly comforts himself with this.

It is promptly interrupted by Yuki tripping over the raised metal of the open gate outside his apartment complex. He barely catches himself and hears the sound of a laugh barking behind him.

“You were walking with your stupid head at your knees for like a block, I was waitin’ to see if you tripped on something,” Kyo announces from behind him.

Yuki glares at him. A fresh wave of anger billows through him. Soulmate ruiner, he thinks.

“Jealous that a piece of metal could beat me when you never could?” Yuki snarls back.

“I’m just happy to see anything beat you,” Kyo says, a considerable amount of the humor taken from his voice as he brushes past Yuki. When they’re at the top of the stairs, close to their apartment, Yuki finally builds the courage.

“Kyo, I,” he clears his throat. Kyo looks at him, unimpressed, as he unlocks the door. “I need to talk to you about something.”

“Then talk,” Kyo says. Yuki follows him inside and closes the door behind him. When Yuki opens his mouth, however, the phone by the entry table starts to ring.

Yuki answers it with a sigh, “Hello?”

“This is Kunimitsu Tomoda,” the voice says. “Is Kyo Sohma there?”

“Kunimitsu? This is Yuki Sohma, hello,” Yuki says.

“Oh, hello, Yuki,” Kunimitsu says, confused. “Do I have the wrong number?”

“No, Kyo’s right here. Just a second.”

Yuki hands the phone over to Kyo, who has been hovering since Kunimitsu announced himself on the other line.

“Yeah, what?” Kyo says, pinching the phone between ear and shoulder.

Yuki tries to catch his breath, thinking of what to say. Should he just show Kyo his mark? Would Kyo even remember that conversation? Should he tell him first? Maybe lead with the rejection before Kyo could—

“Shishou’s what?!”

Yuki’s thoughts stop sharp. Yuki locks eyes with Kyo, and it’s the first time he’s ever seen him look terrified.

————————

Kyo bursts into the hospital room with Yuki following close behind. Kazuma is sitting on a hospital bed, smiling and chatting with a nurse as if there are no bandages on his head at all. Kyo has been a shade of sheet white since they left the apartment, and Yuki feels something tug at him. He keeps looking at Kyo out of the corner of his eye every other minute or so.

“SHISHOU!” Kyo says, startling the nurse.

“Kyo! Yuki!” Kazuma says, eyes wide, surprised.

“What the hell happened?” He says to Kazuma, then immediately to the nurse, “What happened to him?”

“Is everything okay?” Yuki asks, Kyo’s panic rubbing off on him.

“I’m fine, you didn’t have to come down here,” Kazuma says.

“He’s alright,” confirms the nurse. “He has a concussion, and a pretty nasty bump on his head, but he should be fine in a week or two.”

“It was my fault for not watching where I was going on the mountain path,” Kazuma sighs.

Kyo is oddly silent in response, and the nurse looks between the three of them. “If you need anything…”

Yuki smiles politely, “I think we’re okay for now. Thank you very much.”

She nods, taking her cue to leave. Yuki suddenly feels very awkward in the hospital room, as if he’s intruding on a private moment. Never has he seen Kyo look this frail and vulnerable.

“How did you know to come here?” Kazuma asks after a moment, mostly to Yuki.

“Kunimitsu called us. He said you slipped during a hike and hit your head pretty hard,” Yuki offers.

“Mm, he shouldn’t have worried you two,” Kazuma says.

“You should’ve called me,” Kyo finally says. “I don’t wanna hear shit like that from Kunimitsu.”

“Now, Kyo—”

“He’s right, Shi-han,” Yuki adds, gently.

Kazuma gives a gentle smile, looking towards Kyo, “I promise I’m alright. I’m sorry I didn’t call you.”

He reaches out for Kyo’s clenched fist. Yuki watches the scene with his back pressed against the wall. Kyo looks held together by bursting seams. He recognizes that look. It reminds him of keeping that tight lid on everything through his childhood, through middle school, through most of high school.

Yuki deliberately looks away. He hated being watched like that when he was younger, the least he could do was afford Kyo the same courtesy.

——————

The doctor tells Kazuma to avoid any physical or mental activity that could agitate his concussion. He stresses that he needs plenty of rest, and to take it easy.

Kyo scoffs a, “like he’s gonna listen to that.”

And so, at Kyo’s insistence, Kazuma stays in their apartment for the next week. Kyo sleeps out in the living room on a spare futon, while Kazuma stays in Kyo’s room. Kazuma is an early riser, just like Kyo, and Yuki is woken up more than once from Kyo screaming at Kazuma in his booming voice.

On the first day, Yuki’s head is groggy and irritated, but he doesn’t say anything when he shuffles out of his room, disoriented and fuzzy.

“I told you not to touch anything! Go back to sleep!” Kyo calls after Kazuma, chasing him out of the kitchen with a spatula. “If you want breakfast, I’ll get it for you! Right now the last thing you need is your shitty cooking! And with your concussion, you’ll burn the building down!”

“I can’t tell if I’m being taken care of, or abused,” Kazuma says in a light, humorous tone. He sits at the table, patiently, nonetheless. “Good morning, Yuki.”

“Mmm, ‘morning,” Yuki slurs.

“Don’t bother talkin’ to him, Shishou. He’ll be useless for the next few hours.”

“‘m not useless,” Yuki yawns.

“Oh yeah? Then get in here and help me make breakfast. Just do as you’re told and maybe we’ll end up with something edible,” Kyo steams and he storms back into the kitchen.

Yuki groans, “he’s like an alarm clock with no snooze button.”

“He’s always been energetic,” Kazuma smiles. “He was just like this as a kid.”

“Abuse and all?” Yuki asks.

“YUKI!” Kyo calls from the kitchen. Kazuma laughs and Yuki rolls his eyes and reports to where he’s been summoned.

“All that yelling can’t be good for Shi-han’s head,” Yuki says, stretching as he walks up to Kyo.

“Just make some tea or something,” Kyo mumbles. Yuki does as he’s told. The two work in silence for a little. Yuki fills the kettle with water, and grabs the cheaper tea bags they buy from the store to fill three different mugs with water.

His mind is spaced out and still waking up when Kyo gives a quiet, “Hey.”

“Hm?” Yuki asks, staring at nothing as the water heats up.

“Sorry to wake you, or whatever,” Kyo says finally. Yuki turns to look at him.

“It’s fine,” Yuki says, truthfully. It wakes Yuki up more than he wants to admit.

After that, Yuki, Kyo, and Kazuma fall into a strange little routine. Yuki doesn’t advertise it, but he does try and stay home as much as possible to help give Kyo peace of mind while he’s at his own classes. Kyo practically runs home every day, and immediately coddles Kazuma into laying down, or resting.

Yuki is also quick to realize that Kyo is more like Kazuma than he first thought. When Yuki used to attend karate practices, Kazuma always appeared to be this peaceful, quiet, friendly giant with an infinite well of wisdom. Sure, he’s still a lot of those things, but with the same twitchy hyper active energy as Kyo.

Kazuma wakes up early, and complains when Kyo stops him from doing his morning exercises. He doesn’t seem the type to be able to sit still for long, unless he’s purposely meditating. He clogs up the phone line trying to talk to Kunimitsu about affairs at the dojo (which Kyo also cuts off). And he asks to go on walks around the neighborhood nearly every two hours (Kyo always says no).

Yuki watches the two interact with a growing fondness. Laughing when Kyo and Kazuma banter back and forth. He enjoys watching Kyo grow frustrated at how complimentary Kazuma is to his son, even when Kyo is trying to pick a fight.

And it’s a strange, and not unwelcome side of Kyo that cares for his guardian with such intensity. Kyo cooks every meal for Kazuma. He buys him special pillows, despite his frugality. He calls the dojo and makes sure that things are running smoothly so Kazuma doesn’t have to. He calls the hospital at every question he isn’t sure of (“Of course he can take a couple of pain killers!” “I just want to be sure!”).

They talk everyday that Kazuma is in the house, and get along more or less easily. Though, it is simple when they have the common goal of looking after Shi-han, Yuki thinks. Their arguments are relatively put on hold, as well.

That is, until the end of the week comes around.

Yuki is home from his classes early, and sitting with Kazuma in the living room. Yuki is working on homework, and Kazuma is reading a book he’s already read before, when he looks up at Yuki.

“One stroll around the neighborhood won’t kill me,” he says.

“I think Kyo would disagree.”

“I’m being held captive by my own son,” Kazuma chuckles. “Our little secret, Yuki. Just a quick walk, if you don’t mind. I think I might start going stir-crazy.”

Yuki sighs, and closes his textbook, “Fine. But I’m coming with you.”

Kazuma smiles.

——

The neighborhood where they live is a nice part of town, but not nearly as residential as the area Shigure’s house was in.

A few blocks away is a fairly busy shopping center, and in the other direction an elementary school that’s filled with screaming kids running around mornings and afternoons.

Yuki walks side by side with Kazuma on the sidewalk as cars and people bustle past. The sun is only just starting to set in the later summer hour, and Yuki feels refreshed after staring at his text books all afternoon.

“I’m happy to see you and Kyo getting along,” Kazuma says nearly three blocks into their walk.

“We don’t really have a choice,” Yuki brushes off.

“You have a choice in everything you do,” Kazuma says, simply. “It’s important you remember that.”

Yuki doesn’t respond, instead he lets his eyes wander to Kazuma’s wrist. His mark peeks out now and again as his arms jostle with the walk.

Yuki clears his throat, gaining Kazuma’s attention, “Can I ask what your mark says, Shi-han?”

As easily as breathing, Kazuma lifts his wrist and pulls the sleeve back, smiling as he says, “Are you finished already?” He lets his arm drop.

“I wonder what it means,” Yuki says, quietly.

“I’ve wondered that, too,” Kazuma replies. “When I was a university student, I used to think it would be about one of the exams. In fact, there was a young woman in my literature class that I liked very much, and so I always tried to fly through my tests. Needless to say, I didn’t do very well that semester.”

Kazuma chuckles, and Yuki rubs the back of his neck, “It’s hard to picture you like that.”

“No one gets to skip young foolishness in life,” Kazuma laughs.

“Maybe not” Yuki mumbles.

Kazuma smiles and gestures to Yuki’s covered wrist, “and you, Yuki?”

Yuki hides his arm behind his back again, feeling his stomach plummet as he looks away, “Um—”

“I’m just kidding,” Kazuma says. “You don’t need to show anyone if you’re not ready.”

“Thank you,” Yuki nods, letting his bandaged wrist come back to his side. A comfortable silence passes before Yuki asks, “Have you found them yet?”

Kazuma shakes his head, “When the time is right, I’m sure they’ll come into my life.”

Yuki feels his heart sink at that. Of all the wonderful people in the world, who deserved to find their loved one, it was Kazuma. A man with the biggest heart, and the kindest disposition he’s ever known. It really is no wonder Kyo dotes on him as much as he does, Yuki thinks.

“I think I would go crazy, waiting so long,” Yuki says, offhandedly.

“Are you calling me old?” Kazuma teases. Yuki laughs apologetically as they round the block, the apartment complex in sight after the short walk when—

“HEY!”

Yuki and Kazuma turn to see Kyo behind them, eyes angry and stance stiff and tense.

“Oh, great,” Yuki says as Kyo storms up to them.

“What the hell do you think you two are doing?” Kyo snaps. “I told you not to leave the apartment!”

“We just went for a short walk,” Yuki reasons back.

“That’s not fucking staying in the apartment, is it?!”

“Why don’t we continue this conversation upstairs,” Kazuma calmly suggests, noting the looks they’re all getting on the street.

The three walk to the apartment in a tense silence, Kyo opening the door a bit too aggressively when they get there. Kazuma and Yuki shuffle in behind after him when Kyo slams the door.

“Don’t get so angry, Kyo,” Kazuma warns.

“I don’t wanna hear it! I told you to stay in the apartment! You can’t damn take care of yourself, clearly, so the least you could do is listen!”

“Kyo, it was just a walk,” Yuki says again, irritated. “It won’t hurt him.”

“Oh, sorry. Are you a fucking doctor, Yuki?! I must have missed that!”

“I don’t think the doctor ordered for you to keep him imprisoned in here, either! It’s not like we live in a palace, you might as well put him in a box!”

“Don’t spout some bullshit at me just ‘cause you don’t know how fucking consequences work! You’re used to shit just working out for you! That’s not how it is for everybody else!”

“Kyo, calm down,” Kazuma says.

“Don’t take this out on me when you’re the one being absurdly controlling! You could let the man breathe!”

“He can breathe when he’s better!”

“Don’t be so stubborn! You’re acting like a child!”

“Boys—”

“You know what?! FINE,” Kyo yells, grabbing his keys again off the counter. “You think I’m controlling? You think I need to calm down? Sorry for being an asshole and taking fucking care of my—!” Kyo cuts himself off, with a huff. “Next time, I’ll just be a shitty kid and let you sit in the goddamn hospital!”

Kyo leaves the apartment, slamming the door behind him. Kazuma sighs, shaking his head.

“I didn’t know it would upset him this much,” Kazuma says. Yuki thinks back to Kyo standing in the hospital room in front of Kazuma. His fist clenched, his face white, his eyes brimming with every violent emotion inside him. Yuki goes for his keys, next to where Kyo’s would be.

“I think I’ll go after him, Shi-han,” Yuki says.

“I think that’s a good idea.” Kazuma says. “Would you tell him I’m sorry if you get the chance?”

Yuki nods, and closes the door behind him with a click.

——

It doesn’t take long for Yuki to find Kyo. A few blocks away from their apartment is a park where a lot of the elementary school kids play. It’s dark now, the sky mostly night apart from the orange outlined horizon.

Yuki doesn’t know much about Kyo, but he will admit that he’s had more than his fair share of experience with Kyo’s rage. And if there’s one thing Yuki knows, it’s that when Kyo is mad, he needs to move.

Yuki ventures into the park, nearing a small patch of trees. The only break in the city life that anyone could encounter in this part of Tokyo. Sure enough, Kyo is there. He’s diligently punching the air with perfect form punctuated by a too aggressive follow through. His kicks are just the same, and Yuki thinks that Kyo looks as if his arm and leg might fly off his body just from the force of it.

Yuki watches him for a second more before deciding to approach him. Kyo throws a look his way, but goes back to his false punches without missing a beat.

“Are you alright?” Yuki asks, a bit too gently.

“I’m fine. Fuck off.” Kyo kicks the air with one leg and then the other in quick succession.

“I’m sorry,” Yuki says after a beat, swallowing more than a little of his pride. “Shi-han is too.”

“Whatever,” Kyo says. Yuki’s mind stutters with what to say next, lingering by Kyo. The sun is fully set and the summer cicadas chirp at a deafening decibel. “Is that it? ‘Cause you can fucking leave now.”

“I don’t…” Yuki rolls his eyes, struggling with each word, “Want you to be upset.”

“I’m not upset.”

“I think you are.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“I’M FUCKING NOT UPSET!” Kyo yells, finally stopping to look at Yuki. Yuki gives him a knowing smile, and Kyo lets out a frustrated noise. “Alright fine! I’m upset! Happy? Can you leave me alone?”

“Kyo—”

“No! I’m not doing this with you right now! I’m not in the mood to get all fucking riled up by you! If you want to piss someone off, go call Akito or something! I’m not here to get shit on by you!”

“I’m not here to shit on you,” Yuki says, exasperated. “I’m here to apologize.”

“Here’s an idea! Don’t do things that you need to apologize for! What part of Shishou has a concussion do you not understand? If ANYTHING—” Kyo’s voice cracks, and he immediately makes an angered noise, as if frustrated by his own bursting emotion.

Yuki blinks at him, something inside him cracking with Kyo’s voice.

“If anything happens to him,” Kyo tries again, this time quieter and brutally controlled.

“Nothing’s going to happen to him,” Yuki reassures after a moment. “It was a little accident. He’s okay.”

“I know that,” Kyo says through his teeth, his fists clenching again. Yuki eyes them again, and without thinking, sets his feet in a fight stance, bringing his fists up. Kyo quirks an eyebrow at him.

“What are you doing?”

“It’ll help,” Yuki says. “I’m at least a better opponent than air.”

“I wouldn’t give you that much credit,” Kyo mumbles, but soon after he gets into his own stance. “I’m not gonna go easy.”

“I never expect you to.”

Kyo lunges at Yuki, fist following fist following dodge following kick. It’s different from their other fights. Kyo doesn’t punch to hurt Yuki, he doesn’t kick to try and make him fall. Kyo loses himself in technique, stretches his arms and legs to consume the space around him and lets out kiai after kiai in an effort to release his voice.

Yuki does him a courtesy by yelling his own, as well. Setting a stage that allows wild movement and loud exclamations. When he punches at Kyo, he does so with a force and passion that matches Kyo’s, as if trying to keep up with him in a tango.

In the fight, Yuki starts to realize how fascinating it is to watch Kyo in his element. He swings with a precision that Yuki never acknowledged before, and with an intensity that’s dangerous. It sparks through Yuki’s spine, being able to match him like this. And Yuki, for the first time, can feel sweat break onto his forehead in a fight with Kyo.

Kyo swings and punches and kicks and yells and Yuki dodges and blocks and twists and shouts right back at him. It’s towards the end that Yuki can see Kyo start to unravel. He’s frustrated by Yuki’s defensive tactics, and starts trying to hack at his blocks. He swings and swings and swings and swings, and his shouts become more unstable each time. Yuki steps back with each hit, becoming overwhelmed by Kyo’s frustration, but never losing his head or presence.

When Kyo swings again, Yuki takes the opportunity to land a blow to his stomach. Kyo gives an audible oof at the impact, and trips forward, fist still extended. Yuki dodges by taking a step back, not noticing the wiry, child’s jungle gym behind him. Yuki grabs the first thing he can—Kyo—and the two fall down hard.

Both suck in breath after breath, overexerted from the fight, and sweaty from the exercise and still warm summer air. Kyo is sprawled out over Yuki, his head just below Yuki’s arm as he lays face down in the grass half-on, half-off Yuki.

It’s weird having another person’s weight on him, Yuki thinks. It feels like a heavy blanket, and for the barest of seconds, Yuki feels an odd kind of comfort take over him.

Kyo, however is quick to roll off him and onto his back, so the two are laying side by side, still breathing heavily.

“That was cheap,” Kyo says, but his voice doesn’t sound as angered or as overwhelmed as it did when Yuki first found him.

“All’s fair,” Yuki says, brushing it off.

“You don’t get to call this a win just ‘cause you’re clumsy,” Kyo huffs. Yuki turns his head to the side to look at Kyo, surprised to see he’s already staring back.

“Draw?”

“Draw,” Kyo breathes, hoisting himself up so that he’s sitting, but doesn’t make another move past that. Yuki lifts himself up, too. Letting his arms support his upper body. The two sit in the summer air for a second, letting their breaths calm down. A few people still walk by, but the park remains fairly empty still. It’s a nice getaway from the bustle of trains and buses and crowded sidewalks and packed campuses.

“Hey,” Kyo says, bringing Yuki’s attention to him. “I didn’t mean to get so pissed at you.”

Yuki blinks, “Are you apologizing?”

“Don’t be a douche about it.”

“I’m not,” Yuki says immediately. “I mean, it’s okay. You don’t have to.”

Kyo turns back to look at Yuki over his shoulder, before looking back ahead. “I just thought that when the fucking curse broke—“ Kyo cuts himself off with a frustrated noise. Yuki suddenly understands exactly what he means.

“…That things might be different?” Yuki offers.

“I don’t get why I’m still so mad,” Kyo says through his teeth. “I should be over it.”

Yuki tilts his neck back and stares up. There’s too much light pollution to be able to see more than a couple stars, but Yuki finds them in the inky black nonetheless. “If it helps, I’m not quite ‘over it’, either… I think we just need time. No one is expecting you to change overnight. So you shouldn’t, either.”

For the second time that evening, when Yuki goes to look at Kyo, he’s already staring back. But this time, they lock eyes for longer than either intended. Of all things, Yuki’s left wrist feels warm under his bandage.

“We’ll go back when you’re ready,” Yuki says. “Unless you still want me to leave.”

Yuki says it as a genuine offer, but Kyo flops back down on his back, a tired look being allowed to fill his face. It takes a long few moments of Kyo breathing in and out, chest rising and falling.

Finally, he says, “Nah. You can stay.”

——

Kazuma leaves a few days later, and Yuki and Kyo both see him off at the train station. He thanks them both for looking after him, and invites them to come to the dojo sometime soon.

“I’m always at the damn dojo,” Kyo says.

“With Yuki, I mean,” Kazuma says.

The two share an apprehensive side glance, and Kazuma gives a hearty laugh at that. And, with another wave, he leaves.

Yuki and Kyo walk side to side back to the apartment. Halfway home, Kyo turns to look at Yuki.

“Oh yeah, what was that thing you wanted to tell me when Kunimitsu called?”

Yuki almost trips on nothing, and does everything not to instinctively look at his wrist. Now would be a good time. Kyo outright asked, after-all. Finally, this issue can be dealt with and he can stop sweating under the itchy bandages.

So Yuki turns to Kyo and says, “Oh, it was nothing.”

Like the idiot he is.