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One

Rei felt that he was doing pretty well at the whole 'having a partner again' thing, especially after several years of human interaction that was almost exclusively business. But sometimes he still couldn't help showing how long it had been, or, he suspected, the echoes of who used to be his anchor to human connection.

Shuuichi, who had just gathered Rei casually up against his side, was looking down at him, brows arched over sharp eyes. "This alarms you," he stated quietly, holding Rei closer for a breath.

Rei huffed, trying to relax from that telling moment of stiffness. "I'm not alarmed, just startled. It's been a while."

The eyebrows went up a little higher, and Shuuichi reached over and stroked a knuckle gently down the line of Rei’s jaw to let it rest, very lightly, under his chin. Rei closed his eyes and laughed, short and a little painful. Only from Shuuichi would he ever get an offer to force the issue, an offer to help him defuse whatever made him react so strongly and unthinkingly. “Not yet,” he whispered.

After a long moment, Shuuichi pressed a kiss to his temple and gathered him closer. “All right, then. Not yet.”

Rei turned to press against him, winding his arms tight around Shuuichi’s ribs, and tried to fight down the sharp jolt of memory that the solid warmth of Shuuichi’s body against his sent through him. It was getting sharper, the longer he and Shuuichi were together, and he knew he really would have to deal with this soon. He’d gotten by, so far, by clinging tight to the code of care and duty he and Hiro had built between them, but he'd also been trying his hardest to not look directly at Hiro's memory. It hurt like broken glass running through his hands, when he did. He'd made that awkward tension work, until now, but wasn’t going to work much longer. He knew that.

Just... not yet.

Not until he had the time to remember Hiro properly. And to finally say goodbye.

Two

Rei was just stowing his math notes, more than ready for lunch, when he noticed Fukuzawa and Seo swaggering over from their seats by the windows, clearly aiming for the new transfer student who'd been introduced today. Rei sighed. Some days, he really wished that Elena-sensei hadn't been so right about what would work most lastingly on the bullies and assorted jerks at school. Fukuzawa was exactly the sort that made his fists itch, and re-discovering him and his little minion-in-training had been the number one least pleasant thing about Rei's new middle-school homeroom class. For a moment, Rei was tempted to let the new kid fend for himself; since when was Rei the class peacekeeper? The class president was giving him a pleading look, though, and Tanikawa-san wasn't a bad sort. Rei gave in and flapped an acknowledging hand at her, pushing up out of his chair. He used the grateful relief of her smile to brighten his own as he strolled back a few desks.

He nearly lost it to massive eye-rolling when Fukuzawa opened with, "From Nagano, huh? Guess you'll miss skiing to school. In Tokyo we have to take the train." Fukuzawa was a failure, even at bullying. At least until things got physical.

Rei tacked his smile back on and prepared to deflect that momentum. "Well, it'll be like summer all the time, then, won't it?" he interjected, easily.

...at the exact same moment the new student said the same thing.

Their eyes snapped to each other and held. Rei felt recognition run through him like a shock, and after it came connections, drawing themselves in his mind the way they always did. Easygoing smile, but dull, bruised looking eyes, not as if he'd been fighting but like he'd been crying or not sleeping. A recent move, and no reason mentioned in his introduction—probably grief, then. Feet gathered under him but hands open and relaxed on the desk. He wasn't a pushover but he didn't resort first to his fists.

Also something he hadn't seen before—eyes that flickered over Rei with the same kind of attention to detail.

They smiled at each other, real smiles this time, at the same moment.

"You guys are weird." Fukuzawa shifted uneasily, glancing back and forth between them, and finally turned away. "Come on, Seo."

"Well, that was easier than usual," Rei murmured. "Hi. I'm Furuya Rei."

"Morofushi Hiromitsu." Morofushi relaxed from his subtle readiness, leaning his elbows on his desk, still smiling up at Rei. "So. What's good for lunch, around here?"

Rei leaned a hip against the desk, considering. Fresh grief, hm? He remembered that. "The meatballs are always good, but the most reliable thing is the soup." Which was true, but it was also usually the easiest thing to eat.

Morofushi's smile turned a little crooked. "Yeah," he agreed softly. "That sounds good. Thanks." The thanks were obviously as much for taking a moment to consider that Morofushi might not have much appetite, as for the recommendation itself.

It was the first time someone Rei's age had followed the leap of his thoughts, and he couldn't help smiling at that. He could maybe get used to this.


Hiromitsu glanced at their names, written out next to the cleaning chores on the blackboard, as he pushed the broom past. "Huh. Your name really is written like the number."

Rei's sigh was dragged up from his toes. "I swear I'm changing it, someday. The way it's written, at least." And who cared if the most common alternative was usually used by girls? At least it would be a different set of predictable comments, for a while. Maybe he could switch back and forth, when he got bored of one set. He stacked a desk with a little more force than necessary.

Hiromitsu laughed and threw an arm around his shoulders. "Nah, it suits you." His sidelong look said he hadn't missed Rei's reflex stiffening, and his next words were gentler. "Anything you don't want people to know about you," he snapped his fingers, "it vanishes, just like that. Zero." He nodded, firmly. "I like it."

"I'll start calling you Hiro," Rei threatened, though he also relaxed, slowly, as Hiromitsu's arm stayed draped over his shoulders.

Hiromitsu grinned, not looking opposed in the least. "You think anyone else in our class will get the joke?"

Rei let himself lean into Hiromitsu, jostling him a little. "Why don't we see?" He huffed a little at the pleased look Hiromitsu gave him, but didn't pull away.

As much as he was Hiromitsu's personal domestication project, keeping Hiromitsu distracted and content was his project. Their project scores were running about even, by Rei's calculations.

He loved that they both knew it without a word being said.


Rei was willing to admit that Hiro had been completely right about joining the middle-school tennis club. It had taken care of the concerned looks he'd been getting from both their homeroom and history teachers. Everyone in or related to the club had immediately assumed an easy camaraderie, which his careful manners had cemented with no further effort on his part. Just as Hiro had predicted, the weight of a popular club behind Rei had let him head off confrontations with little more than a sunny smile. The game itself was even fun; Rei liked the whole-body effort and calculation involved in placing the ball where you wanted it to go.

But right at this moment, as Rei tried to subtly edge back from the club's excited fans, Rei was definitely thinking twice about the whole idea.

"That last drive was so amazing!"

"Furuya-kun, you're so strong!"

"We'll definitely make it to Regionals this year, with you here, Furuya-kun." Kanou-san actually batted her eyelashes at him, and what on earth was Rei supposed to do with that?

"I'm glad we have such a strong team, this year," he tried, and nearly flinched at the wave of gleeful giggles that answered.

"Give the poor guy time to catch his breath, after that match!" Hiro's arm draping over his shoulders was a welcome anchor, all the moreso when at least three quarters of the little crowd of fans aimed their giggling in Hiro's direction. Rei breathed a covert sigh of relief, and leaned easily into Hiro's side.

"There's still two more rounds to go," Rei added smoothly, now he'd had a moment to brace himself. "Let's not jinx ourselves."

The fans seemed content with that, and started to break up and drift toward the other members of the competition team. Rei relaxed some more. Hiro laughed quietly, against his ear.

"You are so bad with girls."

"That's what you're for," Rei pointed out, smiling.


Hiro leaned over Rei's shoulder, brows raised at the (still) blank club selection form on his desk. "Not doing tennis again?"

"No. I was thinking." Rei glanced at him, sidelong, and back down at the paper. "I was thinking... I might do one of the martial arts clubs, now we're in high school." He turned his pencil between his fingers, quick and nervous. "I mean. It seems like that would be more useful, if I do decide to join the police."

Hiro brightened, a smile taking over his whole face. "Zero! For real?"

"I'm thinking about it. I mean, it's not like I haven't gotten practice at peacekeeping, the past three years, and it's just... I mean, someone has to do it. And we're good at it." He tried not to squirm at the knowing look Hiro gave him. He was good at it, and he did enjoy that part, but there was more to it. Rei kept thinking of what Elena-sensei said, that people were all the same once you peeled the top off. He'd seen that, by now, over and over again. He still didn't feel it, very often, didn't feel part of it himself, but he'd seen it. And if everybody was really part of one thing... that was something important. He wanted to keep that safe.

It was a lot easier to explain the part about enjoying being good at it, though, so he ignored Hiro's look and added, "Plus, the police get a lot of puzzles to solve, right?"

"To hear Nii-san talk about it, they sure do." Hiro rested his chin in his hands, positively beaming at Rei. "So, judo club?"

Rei made a thoughtful sound. "I was actually considering boxing."

"Boxing?!" Hiro clapped a hand to his forehead as half the class looked around to see what the noise was about. "Boxing? How is my best friend such a barbarian?"

Rei laughed out loud. "Well, someone has to watch out for you, don't they? I heard Tachikawa-san carrying on about how you don't like to follow through when you have the advantage, at your last tournament."

"Tachikawa-senpai has a big mouth," Hiro grumbled, slumping further down in his seat.

Rei turned, propping his elbow on the back of his chair, to give Hiro a tilted smile. "As long as I'm around, you don't need to worry about it."

Hiro looked up to meet his eyes, level and steady. "Then, as long as I'm around, you don't need to worry about forgetting your reason to do this. Deal?"

Even after years of knowing Hiro, it still came as a shock, sometimes, how far down Hiro saw—far past the smile that their classmates and teachers were satisfied with. Rei had to clear his throat before he could answer, and his voice still came out a little husky.

"Deal."


Rei pressed a careful G chord down against the fretboard of his rented guitar, and then had to shake his fingers out with a wince. "This is either going to hurt, or it's going to take a while."

"Hmm." Hiro slowly picked out a C, E, and G, on his bass, and flexed his own hand a few times. "Buzzes! So, is 'a while' longer or shorter than two months?"

"Probably longer," Rei admitted. "But the class is going to choose either a concert or a play. Do you really want Tanikawa-san sewing you into a costume for the cultural festival?"

Hiro made a face. "If it weren't you saying that, I'd take my chances, but you haven't been wrong on a pattern analysis yet." He straightened his shoulders. "All right, let's do this."

They played the first couple measures together, slow and stumbling, and Rei had no doubt it would have made a professional wince. But he could hear, this time, how Hiro's notes changed his. The two places they hit correctly together in the same time, the sound rang, so clean and right that it took his breath away. "Once more?" he said, quickly, when they finished. "I think we almost got it."

"Yeah, we're almost... hm. Hang on a sec." Hiro came around to sit behind Rei, back pressed against his. "Try this."

Rei leaned back against him, smiling. He liked that. "On one, two, three..."

They were still slow, but this time they were together all the way through. Rei felt Hiro's sound before he heard it, in the shift of Hiro's back against his, felt Hiro listening to him, and the two lines of music wrapped around each other like climbing vines. The harmony rang through his whole body, pure and true. Rei had to take a moment, when they ended to catch his breath.

"Wow." Hiro's voice was soft, and Rei could hear the smile in it. He leaned back a little harder against Hiro, feeling the matching smile pull at his mouth, despite the burn in his fingertips.

"Yeah."


Rei appreciated that the Academy gave students their own rooms, he really did, but he also perked up at the first knock on the door of his new sliver of personal housing. Two guitars and some clothes really didn't do much to give life to the place.

"Can I help..." Rei blinked a few times at the three people outside his door, which included Hiro (expected) and two other young men (not as expected). "Hiro?"

His friend readily interpreted Rei's request for introductions and explanations. "Zero! These are Matsuda Jinpei and Hagiwara Kenji. I thought I'd bring them by with me." His smile was innocent, but Rei spotted the gleam in his eye and braced himself. "I think they might be almost as crazy as you, so I thought we'd all get along."

Rei snorted. "Just because I know how to get the most out of a motorcycle," he started, at the same moment the better groomed guy (Matsuda?) pulled himself up indignantly and said, "What do you mean 'almost'?" The two of them stopped and each gave each other a longer look while Hiro smirked.

"So," said Matsuda, eventually, lounging against the door frame and giving Rei a winning smile, "what's this about a motorcycle?"

Rei gave in, laughing, and waved them all inside.


"All right, next run!" The Academy driving instructor flipped to the next page on his clipboard. "You'll be paired up for this run, so you can practice taking the wheel in case your partner is incapacitated." He started reading names off, gesturing each pair impatiently into line. Rei made a thoughtful sound, already considering how much the steering and hand-brake alone could control a car in motion.

Date elbowed Hiro, grinning, as the unassigned numbers shrank. "Bet you're matched with Furuya again this time. No escape, Morofushi!"

"The hell you say," Hiro muttered, rubbing his ribs. "I'm too young to die. Matsuda, you'll switch with me, right?"

"Matsuda and Hagiwara!" the instructor snapped.

"Sorry, Morofushi." Matsuda propped an elbow on a grinning Hagiwara's shoulder.

"Morofushi..."

Hiro clapped his hand over his eyes and made a small, pathetic sound. Rei rolled his eyes; he wasn't that alarming behind the wheel.

"...and Date!"

Hiro sagged with relief. "Oh, thank you."

"Hey." Rei tried to sound indignant, and not like he was on the verge of laughing out loud at Hiro's histrionics. Hiro winked as he let Date drag him toward the cars, and Rei shook his head, affectionate. Hiro was still better than he was at managing people, and had smoothed over any resentment Date might have felt toward Rei with an expert's touch. "So, am I with you, for this run?" he asked the instructor, politely.

The man snorted. "I've watched you drive all day, Furuya. I know you can drive from the passenger seat, and I doubt you'd lose control, even if you were shot." The distinctly teacher-ly gleam in his eye kept Rei from relaxing, which turned out to be wise of him. "So! We're going to immobilize your arm, and you'll get to prove it to me."

Rei considered that, and smiled slowly. Sounded like a fun challenge.

All right, maybe Hiro had a little bit of a point about Rei and motor vehicles.


As time went on, they'd started getting more guest speakers, in the investigation classes, each bringing in details of a case they'd worked on for the students to try their hands at unraveling. It was usually interesting. Today's guest, Kureha-san, had a different look to him, though, and Rei watched him narrowly as he pinned up evidence photos and explained the situation he'd found his team in.

"...arrived to find Sagami standing over Kakinoki with a gun. Kakinoki was shot high in the chest." Kureha-san stepped back and leaned against the lectern, spreading a hand toward the class. "So. What should the officers have done?"

A rustle passed through the class as almost everyone looked at each other in confusion, obviously wondering if this was supposed to be a trick question. Rei tapped a quick search into his tablet.

"Well... grab Sagami first thing, right?" Kawashima ventured. "I mean, you secure anyone with a weapon first."

"Render first aid to anyone who's injured, until the ambulance arrives," Ishige chipped in.

"Secure the scene and make sure no one leaves," Miura added, nodding.

The last connection locked into place, in Rei's mind, at those words, and his voice rang over the small sounds of agreement, hard and level. "No. Sagami has to get away with his escape."

The entire class turned toward him, some startled, some outraged, some just curious. Kureha-san's eyes narrowed as they met Rei's. "Why's that?"

"Kakinoki was the other half of their shell game. They used shipping containers from the same supplier." Rei jerked his chin at the first row of photos. "Two of the photos you put up there have the labels swapped, between the two transport lines. Scheduled right, between the two of them, any given container could pass through all the freight check-points that were active that month without ever actually having been checked."

Date straightened up, dubious expression turning sharp. "A smuggling operation. Guns?"

Rei shook his head and held up his tablet. "Wherever Sagami got his, it wasn't directly from their shipments. The news photos of those new check-points show one of the inspectors holding some kind of sniffer. So probably drugs or chemical weapons." He cocked a brow at Kureha-san, who smiled thinly.

"It was chemical weapons, yes." He twirled his fingers in a little 'keep going' motion.

Date was frowning again. "Okay, I follow so far, but why not grab both of them while we had the chance, and roll up the whole operation?"

"Money." Rei flicked his fingers at the timeline drawn on the whiteboard. "This investigation went on for months, which suggests this wasn't a one-off thing. This was an ongoing operation, and neither Sagami nor Kakinoki had deep enough pockets to be the ones buying or selling that volume of weapons."

Hiro leaned back in his chair beside Rei, whistling. "I see it. Whatever caused them to fall out so badly, one of the first things Sagami will want to do is contact their boss and make sure whoever that is hears his version first. So the priority, if we want whoever is really behind the smuggling, has to be letting Sagami think he got away clean while actually getting a tracker on him."

Another rustle of agreement went around the room, this one subdued. Rei stifled a sigh, wondering if there was going to be another around of being frostily ignored during meals for being right too often. Hiro wasn't tense or frowning, though; he was watching Date, who had his arms folded on the table in front of him and his head down. "The thing is, though," Date finally said, stilling the rustle, "I don't know if I could do it. If I saw someone shot right in front of me, I don't know if I could think through all that right then and let the shooter go."

Rei felt the words settle into his chest like a connection settling into his mind, solid and certain. If even Date couldn't do it, then this—this exact thing—was why Rei was here. It wasn't a feeling he'd ever had before, not back when Tanikawa had been maneuvering him into being the class peacekeeper, not when classmates had started coming to Rei and Hiro to solve problems, not even when he'd stood beside Hiro during the entrance ceremonies. The certainty of where he belonged and why was like solid ground under his feet, though, and he spoke out of that solidity, quiet and sure. "Don't worry about it, then." When Date looked up, startled. Rei met his eyes, steady with that certainty, and repeated. "Don't worry about it." Rei would take care of it.

After a long moment, slowly, Date nodded, accepting Rei's unspoken promise.

"If that's your instinct, it's not a bad thing." Tomoyuki-sensei stepped forward from where he'd been leaning against the wall for most of class, drawing everyone's eyes. "That instinct is what will make you a good detective or patroller. We need that at least as much as we need analysts, to make a solid police force." He smiled around, inviting them into the joke. "We need people who can be in the bomb squad, too, but just imagine what a whole force full of them would be like!"

The class laughed along, even Matsuda and Hagiwara, everyone settling back. When the class was dismissed, though, Hiro's shoulder against Rei's steered them out of the stream and toward their guest speaker. Kureha-san made an interested sound as he glanced back and forth between them. "Now, that could be useful. Have the two of you decided on a specialization, yet?"

Hiro gave the man an easy smile. "Didn't we just do that?"

Rei glanced at Hiro, sidelong and rather rueful. Of course Hiro had seen Rei's realization coming. "Sorry I made you wait."

Hiro's answering smile was far warmer than the one he'd aimed at their guest. "It's okay. I figured it'd take a while."

"If you're sure now, then start looking at more public security courses," Kureha-san directed, briskly. "You have the mindset, and there are a lot of ways we could use a team like you, if you can handle the work."

They both murmured polite acceptance and excused themselves.

"So." Rei tucked his hands into his pockets, as they made for their next class. "Do they want a field team or cross-division liaisons, do you think?"

Hiro's grin showed his teeth, and he draped an arm over Rei's shoulders. "They're probably thinking the second, but I think we should make it both."

Rei leaned into him with a smile, satisfied they were on the same page. "Deal."


Rei waited for the soft clack of Hiro locking his apartment door behind them before finally giving in to the laugh that had been in the back of his throat ever since he'd walked out of the home base of a Red Siamese Cats copycat gang with evidence to convict in his pocket. He leaned back against the door, feeling a little dizzy with it, glee fizzing through him.

"It's a good thing I do come with you, when you go out in the field," Hiro chuckled. "You get more and more like this, the higher the stakes get."

Rei stretched luxuriously, reaching his arms over his head, reveling in the lingering intensity of every sensation. "What can I say? I like knowing I've got them." He let Hiro steer him away from the door and over to the couch and bounced down onto it, grinning up at Hiro's snort of amusement. He took one of the two beers Hiro fished out of his fridge and settled comfortably against Hiro's side when he joined Rei on the couch.

"I'll never need to get a cat while you're around." Hiro's fingers ruffled through his hair, and Rei leaned into them, laughing. He tool a long swallow of his beer and let a slow breath out, starting to relax from the sharp edge of a successful job, here in the security of Hiro's presence.

Every job he came back from reminded him of how much sanity he owed to their friendship. He didn't know quite what he'd have been, without it.


See you later, Zero.

The breath stopped in Rei's throat, and the sounds of the night fell away, and the world fractured around him, broken apart like the drops of blood blown out from Hiro's chest. The only thoughts that connected together any more were Rye and Kill him.

They were the only ones that made sense, bone deep, for a long time after.

Three

Rei stood on edge of the building overlooking the roof where Hiro had died, hands closed tight around the safety rail, and let the memories come. Let himself remember the weight of Hiro's arm over his shoulders; the endless warmth of his real smile, so much brighter than the one he put in front of his thoughts to keep them to himself; the bedrock steadiness of Hiro standing beside him, and the easy comfort of leaning against him. Rei swiped a hand across his face to wipe away the tears, and muttered into his palm, "I loved you, you idiot." He could almost feel Hiro's fingers ruffling his hair. I know, Zero. A laugh tangled together with the tears, and Rei put his head down on his folded arms and let both things shake him apart.

It took a while before he could get words out again, but finally he stood upright and looked up at the underlit night sky. "Goodbye, Hiro," he said softly. It was the first time he'd actually spoken the words, and they hurt. But he wasn't as afraid as he had been of falling down somewhere dangerous if he admitted the reality of them.

He also wasn't particularly surprised to feel body-heat at his back and arms folding lightly around him. He'd known Shuuichi was following him, tonight. He leaned back into Shuuichi's solid warmth with a sigh, and his breath only hitched a little bit when Shuuichi's arms tightened, gathering him close. "It isn't that I don't want this." Rei lifted a hand to wrap around Shuuichi's forearm. "It's just, for so long, it was him."

"And so you look for him," Shuuichi said, quietly, against his ear, "but it isn't him you see, and for just a second it's a shock."

Rei stirred against him, glancing back, and caught Shuuichi's tilted smile.

"The look in your eyes, right after you've made a decision you don't like. It's very much like hers." He tucked Rei a little closer against him and asked, softly, "Was it only ever him?"

"Pretty much," Rei admitted, looking up at the sky again so he wouldn't look at the roof across the street by accident. "Hiro was the only one who could keep up with me, right from the start." The corner of his mouth twitched up. "And he was always better at people. I saw more, but he was the one who could use what he saw to move people the way he wanted. Usually without them even noticing."

"I remember some of that," Shuuichi murmured, and then added in a curious tone, "Even you?"

Rei laughed, remembering their first year of knowing each other. "I noticed, but I could also see he was doing it to look after me. I usually went along with it."

"Ah." Shuuichi's voice turned serious and soft, against his ear. "Then I promise both of you. I'll look after my partner."

Rei's breath caught and stopped for a long moment, because that was why he'd finally been willing to try to say goodbye, yes, but he still hadn't thought to hear Shuuichi actually say it out loud. When he finally managed to inhale again, it was unsteady, and his grip on Shuuichi's arm was probably leaving bruises. "Shuuichi..."

"Shhh. I've got you, Rei."

Rei leaned back against him, laughing low and on the edge of tears again. After more than three years of feeling like he was hanging on to his balance with his fingernails, there was a shoulder against his again, human warmth beside him again, a connection to what he protected again. "Yeah," he agreed, husky. "Okay."

They stood quietly together, and Rei slowly relaxed against the warmth of Shuuichi's body, letting it sink in to his senses. This was his. When he finally calmed enough to snuggle back against Shuuichi, Shuuichi made an entirely approving sound, folding him in a little closer. Rei found himself smiling again, because as much as Shuuichi had decided to take care of Rei, Rei seemed to have found another person that he enjoyed keeping content.

Of course, there was one significant difference in what Shuuichi was willing to do to take care of Rei, which he was reminded of when Shuuichi turned his head and closed his mouth softly on the shell of Rei's ear, shockingly hot in the cool night air. "Shuuichi!"

"Mmm?" Shuuichi sounded quite innocently inquiring while his mouth slid down, tongue stroking delicately along Rei's ear. Rei gasped, his whole body pulling taut with the rush of soft, wet sensation as Shuuichi sucked on his earlobe. He couldn't help a breathless laugh, though. Maybe Hiro had never been his lover, but Rei knew perfectly well Hiro would have approved of Shuuichi's teasing.

"All right, yes," he agreed, husky. "But in a bedroom, not on a roof!"


As soon as Rei tossed the last of his clothes over a chair, Shuuichi pulled Rei back against his chest and wrapped around him again. Rei’s smile tilted, rueful. He supposed he could have predicted that being so wrung out would set off Shuuichi’s protective streak. With the memory of his last partner fresh in his mind, he lifted his arms and reached back to run his hands over Shuuichi’s shoulders. Shuuichi’s hands spread wider, over his chest and stomach, and Rei rested his head back on Shuuichi’s shoulder, relaxing into his hold. Shuuichi’s quick, hard inhale made him smile. Hiro had liked knowing he had Rei’s trust, too.

“You’re also pretty good at getting people to do what you want, you know,” Shuuichi murmured against the arch of Rei’s throat.

Rei laughed, husky. “Yeah? Take me to bed, then.”

"Certainly." Shuuichi pressed a kiss to his throat, hands stroking down his body to settle on his hips. "Shower first?"

Rei's smile softened, memories of horseplay or just quiet talks with Hiro coming easier now. "All right."

They stayed close, under the hot spray, trading the soap back and forth. Rei made small, pleased sounds as Shuuichi's hands slid over his back, down his arms, enjoying the simple touch. He flushed a little, though, when Shuuichi knelt to run soapy hands slowly down Rei's legs. "Shuuichi?"

Shuuichi looked up at him, eyes dark and steady, one hand resting on Rei's knee. "Is it all right?"

A new connection suddenly drew itself, clear and solid, in Rei's mind, one that Hiro would have seen weeks ago and probably been laughing at Rei's obliviousness to. Akai Shuuichi had a strong tendency to protect, yes, but he held what he protected at arm's length. Unless the one he protected could hold their own, could be a partner. Then, it seemed, he wanted that one very close indeed. "Yes," Rei answered, a little husky. "It's all right." When Shuuichi stood and gathered him close, Rei let him, sliding his hands up Shuuichi's arms to his shoulders.

That turned out to be a very good move, because Shuuichi promptly stroked a soap-slick hand down his back and slid his fingers between Rei's cheeks, working them slowly against him. Rei's knees unstrung a little at how good it felt, so intimate and deliberate. "Shuuichi..."

Shuuichi's arm tightened around him, and he murmured against Rei's ear, slick fingers still fondling Rei's entrance. "I've got you."

Rei moaned against his shoulder, unable to dispute that right at this moment. He let Shuuichi take more of his weight as Shuuichi's fingers drew firm circles against his entrance, fingertips just pushing in before easing back. The slow surge of sensation left him panting for breath, knees shaky. Just when he thought the hot, heavy pleasure of it was going to undo him completely, Shuuichi's hand stroked slowly back up his spine, and Shuuichi held him close until the tautness eased back out of his body.

"You feel like teasing tonight, hm?" Rei finally managed, breathless.

"Not teasing." Rei scoffed at that, and felt Shuuichi's silent chuckle. "Just taking it slowly."

"I think that's what most people call teasing," Rei said, dryly. A smile curved his lips, though, and he leaned against Shuuichi, content to stay there, until the water started running cool.

Back in the bedroom, Rei only stepped away long enough to strip back the blankets before he turned to reach for Shuuichi. "Bed," he demanded, husky, pulling Shuuichi down after him as he stretched out against the sheets. Shuuichi followed him obligingly, and Rei made a satisfied sound, winding his arms around Shuuichi and hooking a leg around his for good measure. Shuuichi laughed, quietly. "I'm right here."

"Good." Rei kissed him, slow and hot, and purred when Shuuichi kissed back with just as much concentration. The tingle of want running through him didn't fade, but the solid weight of Shuuichi's body against his, the feel of hard muscle under his palms, the care in Shuuichi's hands as they curved around Rei's ribs relaxed him again. When Shuuichi kissed down his throat, Rei tipped his head back with a soft sound of pleasure.

"Mmm, there we go." The open satisfaction in Shuuichi's voice made Rei laugh. Shuuichi leaned up on an elbow to smile down at him. "Turn over for me?"

The heat that had settled low in Rei's stomach curled abruptly tighter, because now he thought he knew where this was going. His voice was husky when he answered, "Yeah, all right."

Of course, once he'd turned and stretched out on his stomach, the first thing Shuuichi did was knead gentle hands over his shoulders and back until Rei unwound against the sheets, heat soothed back down to a whisper along his nerves. When Shuuichi pressed an open-mouthed kiss to his nape, the shiver that ran through Rei was soft. Feeling the heat of Shuuichi's mouth moving down his spine, though, Rei knew he'd been right about what Shuuichi planned, this evening. When Shuuichi's thumbs spread Rei open, it was anticipation that made his breath catch.

The soft, wet heat of Shuuichi's tongue against his entrance was still a shock through his senses, and Rei moaned with it. The touch was so intimate that it unstrung Rei even as he pushed back into the softness of it. Shuuichi moved with him, hands curving around Rei's hips to support him, until Rei had pushed all the way back onto his knees, and those soft, lapping strokes just kept going. "Shuuichi," Rei moaned into the sheets.

"Shh. I have you, my own."

A shudder rolled through Rei at the feel of Shuuichi's breath over wet, exposed skin, but it was what Shuuichi said that pulled a breathless sound out of him. He'd heard echos of it before in the tiny silence before Shuuichi said his name, but Shuuichi had been careful, until now, not to lay any claim on Rei. Until now. Until he was sure of Rei's acceptance, and that care shook him deeper than the rush of sensation as the tip of Shuuichi's tongue circled slowly against his entrance. It was Shuuichi's words he was answering when he gasped, "Yes."

When Shuuichi's hands tightened hard on his hips, he knew Shuuichi understood.

Rei moaned, low and open, as Shuuichi's tongue stroked his entrance, slowly, steadily. The heat and softness stroked down his nerves until he was panting for breath, fingers wound tight in the sheets. It was good, so good, but he was going a little crazy with how slowly the pleasure was building. When Shuuichi's tongue pressed, just a little, into him, and Shuuichi's hands held him still through his reflex push back to meet it, it was finally too much. "Shuuichi, please..."

"Of course." Shuuichi pressed a soft kiss to the base of his spine, easing Rei back down to the bed and curling around him. It felt so good, the solidity of him after all that slow, soft sensation; Rei snuggled back against him. Shuuichi chuckled against his shoulder, reaching over him for the pump bottle tucked into the headboard of the bed. "Do you want me to open you up?"

"No," Rei said firmly, "I want you to fuck me right now."

"Thought you might." Shuuichi slid a hand up Rei's thigh, sliding his knee up until Rei was spread out, half on his stomach. Rei made a pleased sound as Shuuichi's leg slid up behind his; that was what he wanted, to have Shuuichi as close as possible, pressed up against every inch of him. He relaxed more as Shuuichi's arms wrapped around him and moaned, soft and open, at the blunt thickness of Shuuichi's cock pushing into him, stretching his muscles hard. "Mmm, yes, like that."

Shuuichi's mouth curved, against his shoulder, and his voice was low and rough. "I couldn't agree more." He rocked back and pushed in deeper. Pressed this close together, Rei could hear the breathless sound Shuuichi made, the assurance that Shuuichi was with him in the rush of pleasure. When Shuuichi's hand wrapped around Rei's cock, long fingers still slick, Rei groaned out loud. "Yes."

"You're so beautiful like this," Shuuichi said against his ear, soft and intimate enough to make Rei shudder. "So brilliant when you let yourself go. I love knowing you'll let go for me."

Rei laughed, breathless with the heavy heat running through him, the slow, hard rock of their bodies together, the knowledge that his lover wanted all of him. "All yours," he promised, and gasped as Shuuichi's hand tightened on him, urgent.

"Yes, my own." He stroked Rei hard, and the slow heat finally broke into a burst of pleasure that raked through Rei, sweet and wild. The way Shuuichi groaned against his shoulder, grinding deep into him, wrung another burst through him, and he moaned out loud, shuddering.

They came down together, unwinding against each other in the late-night quiet. After a few minutes, Shuuichi stirred against Rei's back and murmured, "I thought you were lovers. You and Morofushi."

The connection snapped into place immediately, and Rei huffed softly against the sheets. "So when I was fine with sex but tense about being held..."

Shuuichi laughed, soft and rueful. "Having your own emotions involved always does degrade accuracy."

Rei turned onto his back and smiled up at him, wry and crooked, lifting a hand to ruffle his fingers through the sleekness of Shuuichi's hair. "I trust you with all of me," he said, very softly, and felt the catch of Shuuichi's breath against his chest.

Shuuichi leaned down to press their foreheads together, hand sliding up to cup Rei's cheek. "That you match me, on every level, is why I don't think I could ever leave you."

The assurance settled into Rei's chest, warm and solid and exactly what he needed to know; his breath shook a little with it. "There, you see," he said, husky. "We do know each other."

Shuuichi smiled for him, small and soft. "Yes."

They lay twined together, quietly, for a long time.

End