Actions

Work Header

Two Under a Gloomy Sky

Work Text:

Inazuma was in a perpetual tempest, ever since Her Excellency had announced the Vision Hunt Decree and started confiscating the visions that meant the world to allogenes all over the country -- so much so that a vast majority had subsequently spiralled into darkness and taken their own lives. Inazuma was becoming gloomier and gloomier, until Kazuha couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t stand being in that horrible place, not while everyone was living in fear and cherry blossoms no longer bloomed and, most of all, not while Scaramouche was no longer by his side.

His chest tightened, and guilt burgeoned his heart, gripping it like a vice. It had been over a year since his master -- no, the only person who mattered to him, had left Inazuma, had left Kazuha. All he recalled from that fateful night was unspoken words, and broken promises. A quiet ‘i’ll be leaving, now, then’ and a stiff ‘take care of yourself’, all those words kept replaying over and over in his mind like a broken record. He hated that he didn’t speak up, that he didn’t stop him from leaving, that he didn’t bother demanding why his friend’s quest for power and strength had mattered more than their bond.

The wind launching from the ocean carried with it the smell of salt and rain. In his peripheral vision, he spotted Beidou attempting to slyly move over to him. Momentarily forgetting about his old home, a small smile appeared upon his lips.

“Oh, now you’re smiling?” Beidou taunted, leaning against the ship’s railings. “Just a few seconds ago you looked like you were about to cry.”

Kazuha averted his eyes. Beidou had the tendency to see right through him, and as far as he could remember, had always bluntly confronted him whenever he betrayed the slightest hint of a negative emotion.

When a few moments passed without a response from the male, Beidou sighed.

“I suppose it’s only right for you to be missing home,” she said, looking back out at sea. The stone spears thrown into the ocean by Rex Lapis in the Archon War to cast out evil gods now loomed ahead of them, coming clearer into view. Kazuha never stopped finding the scenery of Guyun Stone Forest utterly breathtaking. If only I could bring Scara here with me to see this -- His thoughts abruptly stopped and he stiffened. Yet again, his mind had strayed towards his past master. Yet again, he missed and longed for him.

It didn’t matter, anyway. All the memories they had shared evidently meant nothing to the other, given how easily he had gone. Bitterness swelled up in Kazuha’s chest, and he smiled humorlessly.

“No, I’m not missing home,” he said tersely. “Just thinking about an awful person.”

Beidou raised an eyebrow. “Care to elaborate?”

“Nope.”

Beidou rolled her eyes and reached over to slap his back. “Stop idling around and get to work, then. These floors won’t clean themselves.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Once Beidou left, his mood slightly lifted. He was thankful for an older sibling figure like her, having never had family to rely on ever since his parents had been killed in a conflict all those years ago, when he was sixteen. He remembered being punished by Her Excellency for his parents’ past transgressions, and was assigned to protect and serve her younger brother, even if it had meant laying down his life.

The first time he met Scaramouche, he was still in shock over the loss of his parents and barely reacted to him. He merely did as he was told by his haughty master, completely devoid of emotion as he dutifully completed the mundane tasks given to him -- ‘clean my boots, servant’, ‘iron my clothes, filthy one’, ‘pack my room for me, won’t you?’. Kazuha only started becoming more aware of the other when, one day, he didn’t order him around anymore as he sat on his bed, shoulders slack and eyes empty, bruises all around his arms and legs.

“Master,” he said, (speaking to him felt foreign, and it was then that he realised that he had never actually spoken a word to him other than the usual ‘Yes, Master’ when replying to his orders), “what’s wrong?”

What Scaramouche said next had caught him by surprise.

“What’s your name again?”

Unsure, he murmured softly, “Kazuha. Kazuha Kaedehara, Master.”

Scaramouche didn’t say anything for a few moments, which, admittedly, had disturbed Kazuha. He was used to being treated like vermin by him, so what had happened for him to stop acting like that now?

“Kazuha,” he slowly said, as if testing how it felt on his tongue, “could you bandage my wounds?”

He didn’t need to be told twice and instantly sprang into action, rushing to the living room to grab some ointment and gauze, and hastily returning to Scaramouche’s bed. The other boy had eyed him, as if seeing him for the first time since he had been assigned to serve him.

Hesitantly, Kazuha had climbed into bed beside him, first tending to the wounds on his leg, being as gentle as possible as he applied ointment onto the scabs littering the underside of his calf, then going further up to his forearms, where a particularly huge slash extended from the tip of his right finger and disappearing behind his robe’s sleeve. Seeing how injured he was upclose had shaken Kazuha. He had always been taught not to ask unnecessary questions or intrude into his master’s personal life, but the words spilled out from his mouth, anyway.

“Master, how did this happen to you?”

Scaramouche had replied easier than Kazuha had expected.

“Just being punished by Her Excellency,” he drawled. “I’m not allowed to leave the home anymore for a while, because she says that my power is too dangerous. I should be, according to her, cooped up nice and safe, so I won’t be able to threaten anyone else.”

He smiled humorlessly at Kazuha’s bewildered expression. “Well, I don’t plan on obeying her, and since you’re serving me, you shouldn’t, either. So,” he grinned, the first one Kazuha had ever seen on his face, “bring me out to the garden later, Kazuha.”

He pulled Scaramouche’s sleeve up and finished bandaging the wound on his arm. His skin had felt soft under his fingertips, and he felt a light blush rising up in his face. The feeling of heat on his cheeks grew even more intense when he met the other’s indigo eyes, which twinkled with mischief.

“Um,” he said, his eyes widening when he realised that he wasn’t allowed to be so formal with someone like Scaramouche, “Master, I… I don’t know. We may get caught, and then we’ll both be punished.”

Scaramouche glowered at him. “Didn’t know you were such a boring servant,” he said passively, then lay down on his bed, turning away from Kazuha. “Fine, then. I know your life wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, either, so have it your way. Refuse to go outside, and be locked up in this hellhole of a house with a shithead of a master to serve like me.”

Kazuha blinked. He was guilt-tripping him. A smile crept up his lips as Scaramouche feigned sleep, but the twitch of his eyebrows gave him away.

“Master, I’ll bring you outside.”

Scaramouche’s eyes flew open, then narrowed in suspicion at the white-haired male.

Kazuha didn’t stop smiling, and held out a hand to help him out of bed. Scaramouche huffed and slapped his hand away.

“I don’t need your help to get out of bed, I’m not disabled,” he snapped.

Obediently, Kazuha retracted his hand. Then offered it again when the other boy winced as he tried to lift himself up.

Grumbling, Scaramouche held onto his arm and, with some effort, got onto his feet. He quickly let go and strided over to the door. Wasn’t he unable to get out of bed by himself just a few seconds ago? The house was absent of other guards, but Kazuha didn’t expect him to be so reckless.

“Master, not so fast, you may be spotted!”

Scaramouche, upon arriving at the door, turned and folded his arms, shooting him a glare.

“Then you’ll have to protect me, Kazuha. I told you I’m a rotten master.”

Kazuha sighed, but smiled all the same.

 

It wasn’t their last escapade to the garden. Many others quickly followed, and most nights were spent with the two boys wordlessly laying on the ground and gazing up at the stars. It was at these times that Scaramouche seemed the most vulnerable, and Kazuha knew to fill up the silence with his own stories of his parents and flowers and trees and festivals, anecdotes that Scaramouche had never experienced in his life.

“You know, you’re not a very boring servant, after all,” he said one night. “I’m glad it was you and not some old stiff man who was assigned to me.”

Kazuha laughed. “I’m glad to hear that, Master.”

Scaramouche grunted, then turned to face him with a slight frown. Kazuha, likewise, turned to look at him, their fingers dangerously close to one another, always close but never touching. The grass felt nice under the samurai’s cheek, and the air was filled with the scent of cherry blossoms and mist. In the dark night, Kazuha could just faintly pick out a light tinge of pink staining Scaramouche’s cheeks, and thought that his eyes were being deceived.

“Could you quit with the ‘Master’ thing, already?” he said, irritated. “You know my name, so just call me by that.”

Kazuha didn’t know what to respond with. It was completely out of the question for samurai to address the nobles they serve by their own names, and Scaramouche asking him to do just that seemed so strange and… inappropriate. Kazuha felt like he didn’t deserve to even think about it.

“But, why?” he said softly.

Scaramouche’s brows furrowed, and he averted his eyes, looking almost… timid.

“No one has ever actually called me by my name before, other than Baal. So, I kind of want to hear it from someone else who isn’t her,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper. “If you don’t want to then it’s fine, I suppose. It’s not that big of a deal --”

“Scaramouche.”

The boy froze and looked at him, awe and wonder in his eyes, then his lips quirked, which Kazuha would later come to realise meant that he was trying to hold back a smile.

Their fingers inched closer and closer, until Kazuha mustered his courage and lightly brushed against his pinkie.

Kazuha smiled, and blushed further when Scaramouche’s pinkie flicked back against his.

“Actually, I hate that name,” he mused, catching Kazuha off-guard. “Call me something shorter, I don’t know.”

“Yeah, I didn’t really like saying that whole mouthful, either,” Kazuha truthfully agreed, and Scaramouche laughed heartily.

“Okay, I'll call you Scara, then. It sounds nicer.”

The dark-haired boy seemed stunned at first, then quickly nodded and turned away to face the sky again, pulling his hand back.

It seemed like that was as intimate as their conversation was going to be, but Kazuha was more than satisfied with leaving it at that.

After that night, Kazuha found himself falling deeper and deeper for the wonder that was Scaramouche, and nothing was ever the same since then.

 

Kazuha lived a few towns away from Scaramouche’s house disguised as a humble cottage, where only very few people knew of, him and Her Excellency included. However, that night, he wanted more than ever to live in his house, instead.

“Ma-- Scara, what happened?”

Scaramouche was in much worse shape compared to the last time he got injured. There was a darkened patch of purple on the corner of his lips, and there were bleeding slashes all around his arms. He couldn’t even sit up; he lay on his bed and groaned in pain when Kazuha slowly lifted him to a sitting position, resting his back against the wall. The usually pristine white bedsheets had patches of red blossoming on it, and Kazuha noticed with a jerk just how warm the injured boy was after placing a hand on his forehead.

“Kazuha,” he said weakly, “please, bandage them. Right now. Quickly.”

The samurai rushed to grab a bottle of ointment and disinfectant, as well as a roll of bandages and a glass of water. He placed them on the bedside table, and set to work on his wounds, meticulously patching them up.

When Kazuha looked back up, Scaramouche was staring straight at him, and quickly looked away when Kazuha saw him.

“Well, are you going to tell me how this happened, or not?” Kazuha pressed, irate at whoever had caused Scaramouche this much pain. He impatiently tipped the glass of water into his mouth, and quickly regretted it when Scaramouche coughed at the rate he was being forced to drink, beads of water trickling down from his lips and to his chin.

Ashamed, Kazuha quickly wiped the water away with his hands, forcing himself not to think about how pretty of a face the boy had and stare too long into his eyes.

Scaramouche looked flustered at his action and swatted his hands away, then let out a sharp hiss at the sudden movement of his arms.

“Scara, don’t move so much,” Kazuha chided gently. “And, answer my question.”

“Who else besides Her Excellency?” Scaramouche grumbled. “She found out that we’ve been sneaking into the garden.”

Kazuha said, horrified, “Is she going to banish me?”

“No, she knows it’s me who manipulated you into doing it,” he said, his eyes softening. “I admitted it, anyway. You didn’t have anything to do with it.”

Guilt and regret seeped into Kazuha. “But I agreed, didn’t I? It’s my fault, Scara, why didn’t you--”

“Then you would have gone through this instead of me, idiot,” he snapped, then quickly softened when Kazuha flinched at his tone. “I… I don’t want you to be injured, or you wouldn’t be able to be my servant anymore,” he added quietly, refusing to look at him.

His words made Kazuha feel warm and tingly, a sensation that he hadn’t felt in years. “Scara…”

Scaramouche leaned back against the headboard, sighing.

“You’re not allowed to leave me, you know.”

“Yeah.”

“So we’re both stuck in this house.”

“Yeah.”

“And I can’t move, so I’ll be stuck in this room.”

“Mmhmm.”

“And,” he said, starting to get frustrated, “you’re going to stay in this room, too.”

“Yeah.”

“To guard me in case anyone attacks.”

“Of course.”

“Kazuha,” he said slowly, through gritted teeth, “are you not going to ask about anything?”

The samurai tilted his head, confused.

“About what?”

“Since you’re stuck here with me, you won’t have anywhere to sleep. This house has one room.”

Kazuha snorted. “I’m aware of that.”

He wasn’t exactly sure when their dynamic had shifted from master and servant to friends, but when Scaramouche didn’t express any outrage at his informality, Kazuha came to the conclusion that it wasn’t something of concern to the boy, which made him relax.

“And you’re just not going to object to sleeping on the same bed as me?”

He raised an eyebrow.

“I just assumed I was going to sleep on the floor. Am I not?”

Scaramouche looked offended that he even brought up the notion. “Of course not. My bodyguard needs to be well-rested so that I can be properly protected. I can’t have you fighting an intruder when you’re sleep-deprived.”

“I sleep just fine on the floor, though, you don’t have to worry.”

“Sure you sleep fine, but you have to be more than just fine. You have to be in tip-top condition.”

“So… you want me to sleep beside you at night, on the same bed, is what you’re trying to say?”

Scaramouche frowned. “I didn’t say that I wanted you to. I’m saying that it’s a necessity.”

Kazuha grinned at Scaramouche’s almost abashed expression.

“Got it, Scara. I’ll sleep with you.”

The other stared at him in shock. “You’re not supposed to phrase it like that!” he hissed.

“Oh. Sorry.”

“Whatever, just quickly sleep. It’s getting late.”

He didn’t look at him as Kazuha slowly laid him back down on the bed and climbed in next to him, loosening his robes as he made himself comfortable. Scaramouche turned over and immediately froze when Kazuha’s robes were loose enough that they nearly slipped off of his shoulders, and revealed an expanse of pale skin on his neck and collarbones.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Kazuha blinked innocently. “Getting ready for bed,” he said simply. “It feels uncomfortable sleeping with my robes being as tight as they usually are, you know.”

Scaramouche glared at him.

“God, you’re insufferable.”

Kazuha smiled.

“Good night to you, too.”

 

The next few days passed with Kazuha obediently tending to Scaramouche’s injuries, making sure that they would properly recover. Both of them were in the room almost all the time, and Kazuha found himself rather liking being in Scaramouche’s company. He liked it too much.

They would kill time by reading books together, or folding complicated origami shapes which Kazuha had taught Scaramouche to do, with the latter surprisingly taking a liking to it. Kazuha found him endearing, what with how his eyes would light up whenever he successfully folded a beautiful crane and showed his work proudly to him, what with how he would always listen intently to Kazuha’s stories, no matter how bland they were, what with how his face looked so unbelievably soft whenever he slept, the list really went on and on.

Kazuha knew falling in love with Scaramouche couldn’t mean anything good, not when they both knew of how Her Excellency was determined to keep Scaramouche under her thumb, and how violent she could be when it came to any of her orders being denied. Kazuha knew his livelihood as a samurai would be over the instant he admitted that he was in love with Scaramouche, because he would protect him from the world without question, which meant angering the Electro Archon beyond measure.

It was out of the question for Kazuha to love Scaramouche. And, yet, he couldn’t help but pray for the other boy’s happiness and safety every single day. He didn’t care if Scaramouche didn’t feel the same way; all he wanted was for him to be in one piece by his side.

“It’s creepy when you stare at me like that, you know.”

Kazuha snapped out of his reverie and looked at Scaramouche, who had awoken from his nap.

“Ah, sorry,” he mumbled.

“Something wrong?”

Kazuha opened his mouth, but no words came out.

Scaramouche raised an eyebrow. “If there’s nothing, then stop looking at me like that. Like I’m going to disappear any second.”

Kazuha smiled weakly.

“I keep thinking you might,” he said softly.

The other boy didn’t say anything, which made Kazuha extremely embarrassed. He’d intruded again, hadn’t he?

“Well, I’m not, and it’s embarrassing that you think of me like that,” he said gruffly. “I can protect myself, you know. I hate it when everyone thinks like I’m this weak, petite, frail little thing who should be controlled and protected.”

“Sorry.”

Scaramouche pursed his lips.

“Whatever, I know you don’t mean any harm.”

“Would you hate me if I told you that I wanted to protect you for the rest of my life?”

Scaramouche was utterly taken aback, then scoffed.

“You’re out of your mind. Just being with me is enough.”

Kazuha couldn’t believe that Scaramouche had just said that, and apparently the dark-haired male hadn’t, either, because he quickly spluttered, “Being with me as a servant, obviously. Don’t get any ideas.”

Kazuha laughed.

“I can do that, too.”

“You better.”

Neither of them looked away from the other, and tension quickly rose between them.

“Ah--”

“Uh--”

They both had flushed cheeks, and started to laugh.

“Well, Kazuha,” Scaramouche said happily, “I’ll reward you for following my, admittedly, extremely unreasonable order.”

Kazuha gave him a blank look. He had never been complimented by him for following orders, much less rewarded.

“Reward?”

It was as if time slowed down.

Before he could begin to process his words, Scaramouche leaned over and placed a tender hand on his cheek, then pressed a quick kiss to his forehead.

“That’s the reward,” he breathed, after pulling away.

Kazuha was frozen in place.

Did Scaramouche just… kiss him?

“Scara.”

Kazuha climbed over him on the bed, careful not to brush against his recovering wounds, and inched his face closer to his, until their mouths were mere centimeters apart. Scaramouche smelled distinctly of cherry blossoms and strawberries, and Kazuha decided never to let it leave his memory. He brushed the dark hair away from his face, and found, pleasantly surprised, that Scaramouche had a dark blush on his cheeks.

“Hurry up and get on with it,” he said lowly, sliding his hands over his arms and snaking around his neck. “Kiss me before I change my mind.”

Heat rushed to Kazuha’s face, and he tentatively brushed his lips across his, slowly slotting them in between his. Kazuha could feel the soft tickle of Scaramouche’s breath beneath his nose, and sighed as the other’s fingers carded through his hair.

Abruptly, Scaramouche jerked away and sat up. Confused and hurt, Kazuha looked questioningly at him.

“Don’t look at me like a kicked puppy,” he said, smirking, “I already gave you your reward, and even more, actually. Wait for next time.”

Kazuha whined, “Scara--”

He shot him a dark look.

“I promised, didn’t I? You’re just being demanding now.”

Kazuha quickly shut up, and sighed, then moved to sit beside him, and, testing the waters, leaned his shoulder against his. Scaramouche showed no outward reaction, so he decided it was safe for him to place his chin on his shoulder as he watched him work on more origami folding.

“You’re awfully clingy,” he commented, though it bore no hostility.

He hummed.

“Yeah.”

“You just want to kiss me again.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re an awful servant.”

“Yeah.”

 

The next time they kissed was after Scaramouche’s wounds had completely healed, and he demanded Kazuha to bring him to the beach at the southern coast, because he hadn’t been there before.

“Isn’t Her Excellency going to be mad if you do that?” Kazuha said. “I don’t want you to get hurt again--”

“Kazuha, I couldn’t care less about her, and you shouldn’t either,” Scaramouche cut him off pointedly. “Anyway…”

His voice trailed off as he gave Kazuha a strange look.

The latter frowned. “Yes?”

“I’ll give you another reward if you bring me there tonight,” he said, grinning wickedly.

Kazuha gaped. He was awful.

“I don’t care,” he said, albeit with a lot of pain, “I’m not going to let you be beat up because of me.”

Scaramouche rolled his eyes.

“I’m not going to be beat up because of you. I’m going to be beat up because of me. And, besides, this time I plan on fighting back,” he said pleasantly, satisfied with himself.

“But--”

Scaramouche crossed the distance between them and leaned in dangerously close to his face, dropping his gaze down to his lips and reaching a finger up to brush over them. Kazuha froze, his heart pounding wildly at the close proximity.

“Kazuha,” he breathed, his hot breath fanning over his lips, “I know you want to go there with me, and I know you want the reward that comes after, too. You have everything to gain.”

Kazuha glared at him, trying his absolute best not to be distracted by Scaramouche’s finger on his lips.

“Then promise me you won’t get hurt.”

“Sure.”

Kazuha didn’t like how nonchalantly he said it, but gave in nonetheless.

The beach that night was nearly deserted, save a few families wandering around or lying on the sand, which Kazuha was immensely grateful for. Their heads quickly turned when they caught sight of the two boys, which Kazuha couldn’t blame because of their strange, extravagant outfits.

Scaramouche gaped in wonder at the line where the water met the sand, reaching his hands out and gingerly touching it, then immediately putting a finger into his mouth and exclaiming in shock.

“It’s so salty,” he said.

Kazuha felt things he shouldn’t be feeling at the sight of Scaramouche sucking his fingers, and quickly averted his eyes when his tongue darted out to lick more of the salt. He didn’t seem to notice the samurai’s embarrassment, though, because he started running into the water until it reached his waist, his arms extending out to feel more of the water running through his fingertips, his lips stretching into a smile. The moonlight glistened off of him, and Kazuha thought he looked utterly beautiful.

“Kazuha, come!” he beckoned, cupping water in his hands.

He knew it was a trap, but had water splashed onto his face when he did join him, anyway. The two boys laughed as they tackled one another in the water, not caring less about the odd looks coming from the families.

After they finally retired from the beach, not a single soul was there any longer and dark things stirred within Kazuha when he saw water clinging onto Scaramouche’s clothes, tightly hugging his frame and giving away the ebb and curve of his muscles. After letting his eyes slide up every part of the boy, Kazuha stiffened and flushed when he realised Scaramouche was watching him, and intently at that.

“Well,” Scaramouche sighed, bringing up the hem of his shirt to wipe at his face, basically revealing his midriff and sending Kazuha into a fit of splutters -- goddamn it, he knew how attractive he was -- “I guess you’ve done well in following orders.”

Kazuha tore his gaze away from his body and shot him a look.

“Scara, you’re awful. And we can’t do it here, what if someone sees us?”

Scaramouche blinked. “Ah, you have a point.”

They headed back to the house in heavy silence, somehow intertwining their hands along the way, and somehow pressing their shoulders closer to each other than they should. By the time they arrived in his room, they were all over each other, Scaramouche being the first to initiate as he backed Kazuha up against a wall and smashed his lips against his. Saltiness spread on his tongue and their bodies pressed closer together as they breathed each other in heavily. This kiss was on many more levels more passionate than the last, and they were both much less hesitant now.

Kazuha lightly moaned when Scaramouche lazily slipped a tongue into his mouth, and they both greedily took each other in, smelling of the sea and cherry blossoms and everything in between. The dark-haired male dropped his hands down to his waist and drew circles into his hips, their groins pressing dangerously close to each other.

When they pulled apart for air, warmth blossomed in Kazuha’s chest when he saw Scaramouche’s red and swollen lips and how he breathed heavily, sinfully. Scaramouche leaned his head on Kazuha’s neck, nuzzling into it and sighing. The way his hot breath fanned over his skin nearly made Kazuha go insane with want, but he held back and settled for having his fingers run through his hair instead.

“Kazuha,” Scaramouche breathed.

“Hmm?”

He gazed up at him, a sultry look in his eyes that made Kazuha tense.

“I’m feeling generous today, so… ” He fiddled with the sleeves of Kazuha’s robe, his fingers then slowly trailing down his arm until it intertwined in his, sending an involuntary shudder through the samurai. He pressed his lips to Kazuha’s collarbone, and whispered against it, “Do you want more?”

Kazuha’s breath hitched in his throat when Scaramouche’s lips rose up to his jaw, pressed a chaste kiss to his cheek, and then glided to the side, where they met his earlobe. He gently nibbled on it, then sucked, and Kazuha shamefully whined.

Scaramouche pressed his forehead against his and murmured, “Is that a yes?”

“Yes… yes, it’s a yes,” he said, the words spilling over each other, making Scaramouche laugh, though it was a soft one and full of affection.

“You’re needy.”

“Yeah.”

“You want all my attention on you.”

“Yeah.”

He brushed his knuckles against Kazuha’s cheek, and smiled tenderly.

“Okay, I’ll give it to you, then.”

The two drenched boys tumbled onto the bed and kissed and touched and kissed again, their hands roaming all over each other, clumsily leaving marks in places unprivy to other pairs of eyes, knowing it was just the two of them and it would always be the two of them.

 

Days and weeks and months had passed since then, and something had shifted in their relationship as Scaramouche got busier, since he was a noble, after all, and Her Excellency couldn’t lock him in his house forever. He had returned back to his old home after Her Excellency lifted the restrictions, but still made sure to dutifully guard Scaramouche whenever he had work. Yes, they had found time to sneak kisses in alleyways between the noble’s meetings and touches when others weren’t looking and gazes that lingered far too long when they were both on other sides of the room with different people, but Kazuha strangely found the other growing more and more distant as time passed, until one day, when Scaramouche stopped kissing and touching him altogether, Kazuha knew something grave had happened.

They were in the garden like old times, except instead of lying on their backs and gazing up at the stars in comfortable silence, they were both standing stiffly, Scaramouche looking at anywhere but Kazuha.

“Scara.”

“What?” Scaramouche snapped, reluctantly looking at him.

“Something happened,” he said matter-of-factedly, “but you’re hiding it from me.”

“No, you’re really -- it’s nothing important, all right?” he growled, carding his fingers through his hair in frustration. “I’d tell you if it was something actually worth talking about, but this isn’t--”

“The fact that you aren’t telling me means that it is something worth talking about,” Kazuha cut him off, “and if you think I’m just going to let it go that easily, you’re awfully wrong there.”

“Well, maybe you should.”

He couldn’t recall the last time Scaramouche had used such an unfeeling and icy tone with him, and that he was using it now hurt Kazuha badly.

“Scara, is it so hard to tell me?” he begged. “I thought we trusted each other, I thought… I thought we had something--”

“Kazuha, who’s the master here?”

Kazuha stiffened, and it felt like a huge wave of icy water had crashed upon him.

“What?” he said softly, his voice trembling in anger.

“You’re serving me, remember that,” Scaramouche continued coldly, “so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t overstep your boundaries.”

Anger rose up to his chest in a wave, and Kazuha shook with fury.

“You’re horrible,” he choked out.

Scaramouche cocked his head.

“Is that all you wanted to speak to me about? Because I’m tired and I want to rest right now.”

Kazuha wasn’t one to cry. He didn’t cry whenever he scraped his knee when he was younger, didn’t cry when his classmates bullied him at school, didn’t cry when his parents had died, not even a single tear.

Scaramouche was the one thing he had been tethered to all these years, the only person who actually meant something to him. Now that even Scaramouche was treating him like a pebble in his shoe, Kazuha got the overwhelming urge to cry.

Tears welled up in his eyes, and he said emptily, “Go sleep, then, Master.”

Scaramouche visibly stiffened at his way of addressing him, but Kazuha didn’t care. He hated that things always ended like this, hated that everyone was destined to leave him someday.

Did Kazuha mean so little to Scaramouche?

As he turned to leave, he thought ruefully to himself, perhaps he never meant anything to him at all.

The next few days with Scaramouche were tense and uncomfortable. Kazuha didn’t utter a word, not when he followed Scaramouche for training with other nobles, not when he followed Scaramouche to his business meals, not even when he followed him on the trip back to his house. Scaramouche didn’t seem to acknowledge his presence, either way, always looking straight ahead when he left the various venues he visited as Kazuha slid into step beside him, so Kazuha thought it was only reasonable for him to save any unnecessary energy spent on attempting to converse with him. It hurt for Kazuha to act like he was a stranger after all the things they had been through, but what other choice did he have?

Scaramouche certainly wasn’t going to initiate any conversation with him, not with how he was now. He always looked like there was a mountain-load of pent-up stress inside him, and if he was intimidating before, he absolutely frightened children now. Kazuha didn’t know how to help him, and, frankly, he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to.

That night, however, Scaramouche lingered at the front door, shifting his gaze from the ground to Kazuha.

“Kazuha.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Kiss me.”

“No.”

Scaramouche didn’t seem fazed.

“Then follow me in.”

“No.”

His eye twitched in frustration.

“I’m not going to manipulate you into sexually pleasing me, or whatever, so just come. I’ll tell you what’s been going on.”

Kazuha didn’t budge and held his stare. “How do I know that Master will keep their word?”

“God, stop calling me that.”

“No, Master.”

Scaramouche groaned.

“Pinky promise. I’ll actually tell you,” he said, incredibly embarrassed as he stretched his pinky out.

Kazuha, amused but still wary and upset, linked pinkies with his.

“Pinky promise.”

“This promise also involves you calling me by my name again from now on.”

“And what do you want me to call you by, specifically?” Kazuha taunted, feeling a sick sense of pleasure at the way Scaramouche’s face flushed.

“Scara,” he said softly.

“Okay, Scara, lead the way.”

Kazuha thought that he saw a faint smile on Scaramouche’s face as he opened the door for him to enter first.

The moment the door closed and they set themselves on his bed, Scaramouche, in an unwarranted display of affection that was bad for Kazuha’s heart, hesitantly took his hands into his and bowed his head down.

“I’m sorry, I’m an awful person,” he blurted out, holding tightly onto Kazuha’s hands and leaning his forehead on the samurai’s shoulder. “I spent so many nights thinking if I should tell you this, but I’ve come to a decision to tell you everything now.”

Kazuha nodded mutely, a cue for him to go on.

“I never told you this, and this isn’t the main point of what I’m about to tell you, but… Baal made a clone of herself many, many years ago, in her desire for eternity, and that clone was me.”

Kazuha was rendered utterly speechless, and didn’t know what he would say, anyway, so he listened dumbly as Scaramouche continued.

“I wasn’t perfect, and she hated it. She wanted to last forever, as you already know. She tossed me out and pretended like I was an abandoned child, so I was left wandering the streets of Inazuma for a very long time, unsure of what may become of me.

I was -- I am -- not human, so I can live for generations and generations, and I have lived for generations and generations. When people finally found me some twenty something years ago, when I still had the appearance of a child, Baal was shocked that I wasn’t properly disposed of, so to keep me in check, she lied to the other nobles saying that I was her younger brother and that they should all stay away from me until I properly grew up.

She was afraid of me, afraid that I’d become more powerful and more ambitious than her, so she's been closely watching me all these years to make sure that I don’t turn out to have any sort of desires that conflict with her own. I tolerated all her punishments, tolerated all her beatings for not obeying -- most of the time -- trivial orders, until you came along, and you gave me a purpose to stand up for myself and defend against her.

Some weeks ago, this man called Pulcinella set up a private meeting with me -- even Baal didn’t hear of it, because he said that he disguised himself upon his arrival in Inazuma -- and said that he could help me fight against her, and protect Inazuma when the day came when she would finally lose control and become even more ruthless than she already is. He said that I couldn’t do anything while I’m still in Inazuma, though, which makes sense.”

Scaramouche tentatively looked up at Kazuha to see if he was still listening, and Kazuha nodded reassuringly for him to continue.

“Well… he offered a position for me in the Fatui.”

“Fatui? You mean the Snezhnayan military?”

“Yes.”

“How will that help you fight against Baal? Wouldn’t that mean that you’re…” Kazuha tightened his grasp on Scaramouche’s hands, “...betraying Inazuma?”

“It’s precisely my betrayal of Inazuma that'll help me fight against her,” Scaramouche explained coolly. “He says that my power within this country is not at its full potential, because Baal makes sure that it’s as weak as possible under her watchful eye. But when it comes to the other regions in Teyvat, Pulcinella said that I’ll be safe from her and even more powerful than before.”

“Oh.”

Kazuha swallowed, his hands slipping from Scaramouche’s, afraid.

“Doesn’t that mean that you’re leaving?” he said, his voice quivering. “You’re going to join the Fatui, aren’t you?”

“I… haven’t come to a decision.”

Kazuha looked at him incredulously.

“You haven’t? Why?”

An emotion clouded in Scaramouche’s eyes that Kazuha had never encountered before.

“Because it means I’ll have to--”

Suddenly, the door flew open and the Bakufu barged in, raising their weapons aggressively.

“Capture the samurai and His Excellency!” someone barked.

Kazuha shoved Scaramouche from harm’s way and wielded his sword immediately, glaring at the intruders. “Scara, run!” he yelled.

“No, you idiot!”

He was lifted up into the air by a purple spark of energy, the electro tendrils roping around his skin as Scaramouche caught him in his arms and jumped from the open window onto the backyard.

Kazuha got back onto his feet and broke into a sprint, following right behind Scaramouche. The Bakufu were definitely right on their heels, their footsteps getting closer and closer. Scaramouche sent a purple ball of energy hurling behind them, and multiple yells of pain rang out, reverberating throughout the night. They continued running through the open plain, until they reached the cover of the forest and darted between trees, nimbly whipping back a branch or two to land a hit on their attackers behind them. The smell of the coast grew stronger and stronger, until Kazuha was certain that they’d arrived at the harbour, where the sound of boats drowned out the escaping boys’ footsteps and, at last, they had outran the Bakufu.

They doubled over, gasping for air, and then looked at each other and laughed.

“I never want to do that again,” Kazuha said. “I’m supposed to be protecting you, but here you are, using electro to stun the Bakufu.”

“Not my fault you’re so incompetent,” Scaramouche challenged jokingly, but he still bent down and inspected Kazuha, who had sat himself down against a tree. He cupped Kazuha’s cheek gently, his eyes softening. “You okay?”

“Of course I am.”

Kazuha nuzzled against his hand, sighing and holding it against his cheek. He didn’t want this to end, and wanted the two of them to stay in this position forever, but he knew he had to address it.

“She’s found your Fatui guy out, hasn’t she?”

Scaramouche tensed and removed his hand, leaving Kazuha aching for his touch again.

“It seems so.”

“That means you’ll be leaving, no matter what.”

“Yeah.”

Kazuha stared blankly at him.

“Not even bothering to soften your words, are you?”

Scaramouche averted his eyes.

“I wish there were other options. I really do.”

“Have you tried looking for other options?”

Scaramouche recoiled at his accusatory tone.

“You think I haven’t?”

It’s not that Kazuha didn’t want to believe him, he just didn’t want to accept the fact that he was leaving, when their time spent together barely felt like anything at all.

He sighed dejectedly.

“When are you leaving?”

“Pulcinella said to prepare at this harbour and wait for the six o’clock ship tomorrow morning.”

Those words stabbed Kazuha in the gut, and his heart sank deeply.

“That soon?”

Scaramouche shifted, uncomfortable.

“Yeah.”

“What am I going to do, then? You’re the only master I’ve served and probably will ever serve; I’ll become a ronin.”

An unidentifiable emotion swirled in his eye. He sighed.

“I’m sorry, Kazuha.”

“Is it possible for me to follow you?”

Scaramouche stared at him like he grew a second head.

“Of course not. It’s the Fatui, there’s no way you’d be safe--”

Tension snapped inside of Kazuha like a cord. “If I don’t follow you, how am I going to see you again?” he said, his vision clouding as tears pricked at the corners of his eyes. “I know you’re not going to come back, not when you’re going to have to do something as dangerous as oppose Her Excellency.”

Scaramouche shook his head. “You can’t,” he said, “you can’t come with me. That’s out of the question.”

“Then, answer me, Scara -- what the hell will I do without you?”

The dark-haired male took a shaky breath.

“Baal will assign you to another master--”

“Scara, you don’t get it. I don’t want to serve anyone else,” he snapped angrily.

“But that’s the only way you’ll be able to survive,” he protested. “The only way you can protect yourself is by aligning yourself with another master who’s more well-liked and powerful.”

“I don’t care about protecting myself,” he said, his voice breaking with misery, “I just want to be by your side. Isn’t that what you ordered me to do before?”

Silence settled onto the both of them. Scaramouche’s eyes gave away nothing but his exhaustion, and Kazuha realised with a sudden jolt that none of this really mattered to him. He’d announced that he was leaving so indifferently, so unemotionally -- he wasn’t hesitant to leave this place at all, and here Kazuha was, pathetically begging for him not to leave, or to take him along instead…

Kazuha sucked in a sharp breath.

“Why would you bother telling me if you knew leaving wouldn’t affect you that much, anyway?” he said softly.

“What?”

Kazuha got to his feet, and Scaramouche scrambled to his, as well.

“Kazuha?”

“Fine, Scaramouche,” he said coldly, fixing him with a hard stare, “leave Inazuma. Don’t bother remembering me.”

“Kazu--”

“It’s probably three in the morning now, so you can stay in hiding here for another three hours before your ship comes.” Kazuha wasn’t even looking at him anymore, staring pointedly at the sea ahead. “Have a safe trip.”

Scaramouche stood stiffly, staring at him, probably trying to decipher his reactions, but Kazuha felt sick with every second that he remained in front of him. He wanted to hug Scaramouche badly, and tell him to stay and that he’ll train to grow stronger, to become powerful enough to overthrow the Electro Archon for him, to become strong enough so that he could depend on him anytime, to become desirable enough so that he would want Kazuha so much that he wouldn’t even consider the idea of leaving ever again…

But none of those things could ever happen. Scaramouche was going to leave, and Kazuha was going to be left alone all over again.

“I’ll be leaving now, then,” Scaramouche said quietly, his face turned and obscured from view.

Kazuha stood there for a moment, contemplating if he should hug him, but decided to hold his own. Scaramouche could leave; it was for his own good, after all. Kazuha was being selfish for wanting him to stay.

“Take care of yourself,” he stiffly replied. The other boy still refused to look at him.

Kazuha left first, so he wouldn’t feel the pain when the time came for Scaramouche to do so. It took all his willpower and effort not to turn back and jump into his arms and kiss him hard enough for the dark-haired male to never forget about him, and it took even more not to immediately burst into tears.

Kazuha was alone again.