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Initially, the scars didn’t bother him.

Yes they were ugly but they were, in a way, proof of his loyalty to the princess so he wore them with pride.

Initially, he hadn’t cared about what anyone thought of him.

But then came Inaho.

And though the scars are still proof of his loyalty, he resents them.  Resents how he now lives with the fear that Inaho will see them and no longer want to touch him. They’re ugly. Inaho would never find any appeal in seeing or even touching them.

Initially he told himself it didn’t matter; Inaho would never want to be with him anyway.

Except one thing led to another and suddenly Inaho had been confessing and if Slaine had been smart –but it seemed Cruhteo had been right; he wasn’t at all- he’d have lied and said he wasn’t interested.

Instead he saw the obvious anxiety in Inaho’s usually impassive face as he braced himself for rejection and kissed away his doubts.

Things had gone downhill from there.

For all his usual expressionless disposition, Inaho turned out to be very into making out with Slaine whenever possible. Sometimes even when not possible (it was a miracle how they’d never been caught). Soon things got heated enough that Slaine unthinkingly put his hands under Inaho’s shirt to lightly rake his lower back. The other shuddered, took the hands holding onto the blond’s hips and moved them upwards, unbuttoning Slaine’s shirt enough to make it so his hand could reach under it…

Slaine shoved him much harder than necessary. He noticed Inaho was too surprised to be upset and he wanted to say something, anything, to excuse it but between the fear and lingering desire coursing in him he couldn’t think of anything to say.

He couldn’t say the truth after all.

"I’m sorry it’s just that…I don’t like that, it makes me uncomfortable." he flinched as soon as he said it; this excuse was so bad, there was no way Ina-

"Fine."

Slaine blinked “W-what?”

His boyfriend shrugged “If you don’t like that I won’t do it, simple.”

"Oh, t-thank you for understanding." That was almost too easy

And with Inaho proceeding to show him just how much they could still enjoy themselves without needing to touch his bare skin, that seemed the end of that.

Except he was very mistaken.

Just after that, a string of incidents began happening, all threatening to force Slaine to take his shirt off.

At first he merely assumed that his own heightened fear had made it seem like there were more accidents than usual. But it quickly dawned on him that no; it was Inaho silently orchestrating the whole thing.

It started when the air-conditioning mysteriously broke down in all the places Slaine happened to frequent.

Not yet aware of what was going on, Slaine had foolishly changed into shorts and a tank top. Inaho’s first response (just like most of the crew’s later on, but Slaine wouldn’t notice) was to silently appraise him, eyes sweeping all over his figure. Then, for a second so small Slaine would have missed it if he hadn’t been paying attention, Inaho’s gaze turned into one of calculation. However, it was quickly gone when Slaine shyly asked if he looked weird wearing so little, as Inaho decided to reply by pushing him against the nearest wall and telling him how hot he looked in-between kisses. As promised, he didn’t try to put his hands beneath the blond’s shirt.

Inaho caressed his bare arms and thighs and Slaine only protested when he stopped. Later he’d realize that probably only confirmed Inaho’s suspicions regarding his excuse.

After that, his boyfriend began accidently spilling all sorts of things on Slaine’s shirts or just as accidently tripping other people so they did it too. But no matter how hastily Slaine changed into something clean, he managed to avoid Inaho catching him (though at one point he needed to block out cameras to foil his plans)

Things escalated ridiculously, to the point where Slaine found that somehow only the water in his shower had stopped working, forcing him to use the communal baths.

Still, Inaho might be a genius tactician but Slaine had five years of constantly needing to avoid people that utterly despised him under his belt; he could escape whatever the other tried to do.

Soon both were showing signs of wearing down: Inaho now had visible signs of frustration and Slaine was beyond terrified and jumpy. Though neither had stated it, they were obviously aware of what the other was doing and it was clear this couldn’t go on much longer.

Slaine began to silently scold himself for the whole thing; he should have known things were going too well, he should have realized he would never have the right to too much happiness. He’d have to break up his relationship with Inaho soon.

Things came to a head when, during their afternoon training, Slaine was too busy mulling over his disconsolate thoughts to notice the warning yells behind him.

He felt a dull object hit him on the back of the head. There was brief pain and then…nothing.

***

Awareness slowly came back to Slaine.

As he realized it, Slaine made sure to not give any signs of doing so. It was another thing he had needed to learn to survive the last few years: figuring out his bearings quickly when he recovered from being knocked out and before anyone realized he was conscious again.

Let’s see…

Primarily, the most noticeable thing was the cold sensation on the back of his head. Possibly an ice pack, judging by the feel of it. Furthermore, he was lying down on a bed. The mattress felt too comfortable to be the medic bay so he must have been taken to his room.

But most intriguing of all was the strange weight he felt on his hips, he couldn’t figure out what it could be…

“Your breathing pattern has changed, I know you’re awake now.”

Inaho’s voice, strangely coming from very near and in front of him.

Slaine opened his eyes to find that the weight he had felt was Inaho, sitting just below his stomach, straddling him.

“…Orange, what are-”

“Are you feeling ok? Any pain? What is the last thing you remember?”

Slaine sighed; truly only Inaho would manage to voice his worry in the tone of someone reading a shopping list.

“The last thing I remember is doing our routine training and then feeling some pain in the back of my head.” He pushed away the ice pack and gingerly touched where the pain had been. “It doesn’t hurt right now but…yes if I press it, it hurts, but that’s normal. Since I’m in no pain that means I’ll probably be fine.” I’ve survive much worse after all. “So, what exactly hit me?”

“Calm was fooling around and hit you with a wrench. You fainted, so I brought you to my room since it was closer.”

Uncomfortable silence followed as Slaine looked around and confirmed that it was really Inaho’s room and not his. The other just stared at him, not moving from the position on his lap. Slaine politely coughed.

“Alright, but, hum, why are you…err…sitting on me?”

Inaho crossed his arms and didn’t budge, “I was waiting for you to wake up.”

It’s always a bad sign when he doesn’t give straight answers “…for what?” he asked warily, his brain only supplying one thing they could do in this position.

“Strip.”

Slaine could feel the blood leaving his face but thankfully he currently had a good excuse on hand. “…I just woke up from a concussion, do you really think this is the time for sex?”

“I’m not saying we should fuck. I’m telling you to strip so I can see what you’ve been hiding.”

“…!”

“I would have ended this already but I felt you would despise me if I did it with you unconscious. Don’t look at me like that: you know I figured out it’s not that you dislike your bare skin being touched. And you also know I’ve been trying to find out what’s really wrong, or you wouldn’t have been able to dodge my attempts so flawlessly. So let’s end this already and just show me whatever it is.”

No! Panicked, Slaine crossed his arms over his shirt to stop Inaho from trying anything, even though the other hadn’t made any movements.

His desperation must have been clear, because Inaho leaned forward enough to put a hand over Slaine’s own, soothingly caressing it as he spoke, voice gentle “Why are you so scared of showing me a few scars?”

Slaine blinked, and looked at the other in surprise. “How did you know?”

Inaho huffed, as if the answer were obvious, “I didn’t. It was an educated guess. Considering what you’ve told me about your life with the Martian, it’s only natural that you’d have some training scars. I’m sure they put you through some strict regime and didn’t bother to give you the proper guidance so you must have hurt yourself along the way. But from the reaction you just had when I said it, now I’m certain.”

Slaine felt his pride welling up, and he almost replied that while the Martians had put him in such a situation, he had been too good to make any lasting damage to himself. But he remembered how he got them was never the issue and his hands tightened over his shirt.

“Fine. They are scars. So you see…you see why I can’t show you…?” he turned his face to avoid meeting the other’s gaze.

“Not really, no.”

“How can you not figure this out? I don’t want you to see them because they’re ugly and they’ll disgust you and you won’t want to be with me anymore! There!”

Shit, I’m going to cry, he thought and covered his face with his hands.

Silence. Then…

“…I see.” Inaho’s voice sounded more hollow than usual, and Slaine peeked between his fingers to see him actually looking hurt. “I never considered that as a reason because it never crossed my mind that you would think so little of me.”

“Wha-”

With sudden speed, Inaho leaned forward, grabbed Slaine’s wrists and prized them apart, holding his hands down on each side of Slaine’s face. He was now so near any closer and they’d kiss.

“First of all there’s the illogical suggestion that there’s anything in existence so ugly it would overshadow how beautiful you are. Then there is the fact you just admitted your opinion of me is so bad you assume I would only be with you for your looks and nothing else.”

“I…”

But Inaho continued, voice breaking, “If I’m such a lowly creature in your eyes, why did you even agree to go out with me in the first place?”

“I…because that’s not it at all! I didn’t mean to question the sincerity of your feelings!”

“So you say, and yet…”

“Look, it’s not…it’s not you it’s…five years, ok? Five years I spent being told I’m nothing more than a dog, that I’m stupid. And I realize I should hardly take the words of Martians trying to put down a Terran as truth but it’s hard. And more than that: I don’t know if it’s karma or what, but in my life nothing was ever happy for long. I’ve lost my parents. I lived with those people, I thought I had lost the one good person in my life back then and when I found her it just meant more hardships. It’s just…so hard to believe I could finally find happiness. This is too good; the princess safe and you and I in a relationship. It seemed only natural that somehow we’d break up. I’m sor-”

“Ssh, its ok,” Inaho embraced him “I should be the one apologizing. I should have considered the way you’ve been living for so long might be the reason. So it’s ok,” he kissed away the first signs of tears in Slaine’s eyes “just…understand I’m not leaving over such a thing ok?”

Slaine nodded “Of course, I should have realized you aren’t like that. Here, just…sit back again” he lightly shoved Inaho so he was back to sitting on him “I might as well end this….”

Unbuttoning his shirt turned to be slow work, as his shaking fingers made it hard to do.

Still, he finally managed it, and opened it with trepidation, eyes trained on the other’s face…

The way Inaho’s expression contorted was like a stab to the heart.

I was right after all, he didn’t need to see anything else and sat up to escape…

Inaho grabbed him arms to hold him in place and tightened his legs around him. Slaine growled; Inaho wasn’t stronger than he was, and he knew much more in terms of close combat than he did, his actions would be futile-

“Hold on, I think you’re misunderstanding.” Inaho’s words halted him before he could break away from the hold.

“There is nothing to misunderstand. I know a look of horror when I see one! And I do not want to stick around to watch you force yourself into-”

“Of course I’m horrified! They are my fault!”

Slaine stopped struggling entirely. He tried but failed to make sense of what Inaho had said. “Just….how did you even get to that conclusion?”

Seeing that Slaine would no longer try to run, Inaho slackened the hold on him, but didn’t break the contact.

“I’ve seen a lot of scars before,” he explained bitterly, for once being the one that couldn’t meet Slaine’s eyes, “and it’s clear those aren’t very old.  In addition, they are obviously not training scars either. And…you once told us you were…questioned” he practically spat the word “after…after I shot down your aircraft when we thought we were enemies. So…these are my fault; because I didn’t take you with me, even if just as a captive.”

Oh. Slaine blinked. He considered just lying and saying Inaho was mistaken since his evidence was shaky at best. Then again that would just delay the inevitable.

So instead he hugged Inaho. “That,” he said, chuckling into his shoulder “is the most illogical thing I have ever heard you say, Inaho. How dare you chide me for my irrational assumptions only to beat yourself up for such a reason. Of course it’s not your fault. And there’s also the fact you could have shot me dead, rather than just make sure I couldn’t fly anymore.”

“…”

Slaine sighed, and bumped their foreheads, “It seems we both have a penchant for assuming silly things. So let’s make a deal: I’ll….try to remember what you really are like before I do something harmful to us based on what the martians made me believe and you…you go back to being eerily logical, how about it?”

Inaho sighed. “Right now I don’t think I can stop feeling guilty so easily, and I guess you won’t easily begin to trust me wholeheartedly either. But yes, I will try to feel less remorseful if it’s for the sake of remaining with you.”

They just sat there, avoiding each other’s gaze for a while as they enjoyed the relief of having worked things out between them.

It was Inaho who finally broke the silence “Can I…observe them a bit more?” Slaine hesitated; about to ask why he didn’t just look, and then realized what he was asking for.

“…fine, but if I so much as see a sliver of self-blame I’m leaving.” he went back to once again lying down on the bed; giving Inaho a better view of his stomach.

As Inaho took a closer look, his hands hovered but did not touch. “The lines are very thin and long, what made this?”

“A whip.” He didn’t go into detail and Inaho had at least enough tact to not ask further. Or maybe it was that he didn’t need to, as the scars were an open book telling him how much and how strongly it had been done.

An emotion briefly escaped the mask of impassivity Inaho was clearly trying to hold. But it seemed like anger and so Slaine didn’t worry.

Much.

“So…how ugly are they, really?”

“…I thought we had just agreed to not do that?”

“I’m not saying you’ll leave me, so I’m holding my end. But just because you’ll stay doesn’t mean you’ve become blind. Tell me, I want to know how bad it looks to other people.”

“Alright. If you must know: don’t worry, you are too beautiful, and that far outshines these. I don’t desire you any less seeing them. In fact, finally seeing your bare chest is making my blood rush down.”

Damn.

Slaine covered his face, feeling his whole body flush in embarrassment “H-How can you say such things so easily? A-and don’t exaggerate on the compliments!”

Inaho frowned “It’s just the truth, why would it be so hard to state? And you are beautiful.” He turned back to looking at Slaine’s chest while the other sputtered. His hands once again made as if to touch, but again paused and hovered. “Is it…ok if I touch them?”

His tone suggested it wasn’t just a question of permission. “Hum? Sure, why not?”

“Is there a chance that I might hurt you?”

Slaine snorted “Seriously? You know enough to be able to tell when a scar is old or new, but you’re worried just lightly touching them will hurt? Don’t be ridiculous; the tissue is still a little more sensitive, yes, but as long as you don’t intend to dig your fingers into them I will be fine.”

“Even so, I…” Inaho trailed off. He hesitated for one moment longer, then he looked like he had come to a conclusion and rather than lower his hands, he lowered his whole body…

Inaho softly kissed a scar near Slaine’s chest

Ah! J-just what do you think you’re doing?!” Slaine wailed.

Inaho spared him a glance. “I decided it would be best to use my lips after all.” he said simply, and began to trace a scar with quick pecks.

Slaine shivered and had one hand grip his boyfriend by the hair, trying to pull him away. “Enough! I believe you! You don’t need to go this far!”

“I know-”

A kiss.

“But I-”

Another .

Want to do this.” a longer one this time.

He really shouldn’t be this sensitive to simple kisses, even with the scar tissue, yet somehow he now needed to bite his hand to stifle some moans.

And then his boyfriend decided to lick his navel and he bucked. Inaho took it as an invitation to start grinding against him and Slaine knew he wasn’t going to try and stop this anymore.

Realizing that soon he’d be in too deep to think logically, the blond took the hand that had been holding onto Inaho’s head and moved it to open his belt; after his partner’s hijinks the last few days he really didn’t want anything else stained. Which reminded him…

 “Oran-Inaho…now that you got…hnng…what you wanted…you’ll stop ruining my shirts right?” he managed breathlessly.

Inaho made a sound suspiciously like a snort, latching onto Slaine’s neck. “And they say I have bad timing.” he mumbled as he began nibbling. “Is now really the time to be thinking about some stupid shirts?”

Saying that was a mistake. Slaine’s eyes narrowed dangerously and with practiced ease he moved arms and legs like so

In an instance, Inaho found himself face first into the bed, pinned down by a well-placed knee and hands bound behind his back by Slaine’s. 

After some seconds of letting Inaho catch his bearings, the blond leaned down and hissed in his ear. “Stupid shirts?! Let me remind you, Orange, that some of us only came here recently with only the clothes on their body. The few clothes I’ve managed to amass are quite precious and it’s not like I can easily acquire more as we are. So no, I will not take the damage you did that lightly.”

“Are you going to punish me?” Inaho asked in a voice too hopeful.

“Oh, yes I am.” Slaine said, biting the shell of his ear. “But certainly in no way you’ll enjoy: from now on I will abstain from any activities that might…stain any part of my clothing, shirt or no, until you replace all the ones I couldn’t fix.”

“…we could just take your clothes off completely before doing anything?”

Slaine chuckled “Hum, I suppose…but you know, that is quite a hassle and I feel like between the concussion I had today and our current schedules I don’t think I’ll have enough time for much of that or at all in the next few days.”

“…does that include-”

“Kissing? Well, given just how good” and he made sure to caress Inaho’s cheek, “you are at it, I’m afraid I can’t risk doing even that with you. And now, I think I’ll go report to our superior officers that I’m fine.” He kissed the top of Inaho’s head and got off from on top of him. He jumped off the bed, pat his partner’s head –who was still lying down, sulking- and turned to leave…

Inaho’s arm shot out with impressive speed and held his wrist. “Wait.” he said.

Wondering with amusement what other bright idea Inaho would suggest, Slaine did.

Inaho however looked solemn now, and he sat up on the bed and pulled the blond closer until his arms could circle around him.

One more time, he kissed his scars.

“Just so you know,” he said, head resting on Slaine’s stomach “There is no chance I’m ever leaving you behind again. Even if you don’t want to, I won’t let you disappear from my sight ever again.”

“…promise?

***

The next day, Slaine woke up to find a pile of double the shirts he lost waiting outside his door.