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Kazuha isn’t quite sure what to make of Tomo, at first.

The circumstances of their first meeting are nothing short of disastrous, for one, beginning with the both of them accidentally picking up the same commission at a small, seaside village, and ending in an explosion of Electro-Anemo energy that colors the skies for days afterwards. 

Kazuha blinks at the crater that their elements have left in the earth, the tip of his shoe overturning one of the scorched leftovers of the slave trader camp, then looks down at his own hands, not quite sure how they’d managed to cause this amount of destruction. The last thing he recalls contributing to the battle had been a single, practiced slash of the Kaedehara Clan’s esteemed bladework, a precise technique only slightly altered by Kazuha’s infusion of Anemo.

Somewhere between then and now, though, a very loud, very purple meteor had fairly crashed into the clearing from some unseen vantage point up above, sparking wildly with an electric tint.

Said meteor, for his part, seems to have little to no regrets about how wildly the scene has spiraled out of control. He surveys the devastation with something disturbingly close to pride as he strolls over to Kazuha, the flat of his blade hefted casually against his broad shoulders.

“We make a pretty good team, huh?” he declares with an impressed whistle, and, upon being bestowed such a dubious honor, Kazuha tries to reach for the values that his father had instilled in him as a child--harmony, tranquility, and discipline.

Inner peace.

“I’m Tomo, by the way. We can split the rewards back at town--I’ll even buy you a drink, to make up for that little surprise I gave you.”

Kazuha turns to look properly at him at that, and instead receives a direct eyeful of Tomo’s gleefully exposed chest, the singed fabric of his scarf and the sloppily worn style of his clothing doing little to cover him from view. In his mild alarm, Kazuha jerks his eyes upwards so fast that it’s almost dizzying, instead choosing to focus on Tomo’s face, where the other meets his gaze evenly.

He’s startled by what he sees there, if only because of the way that Tomo’s eyes don’t match the rest of him--serious and oddly piercing against the warmth of his features, reminiscent of clouds shadowing the sun.

Tomo is looking him over in an unexpectedly analytical way, inspecting him with such an open interest that Kazuha wonders if he should perhaps return his hand to the hilt of his sheathed katana as a precaution.

But then Tomo’s expression breaks into an easy grin, one of his hands coming up to reach for the cat that has popped its head out of the folds of his haori, and Kazuha blinks, wondering if he’d merely imagined the moment from before.

“I know, I know, give me a minute, Tama,” Tomo reassures his pet, then glances back up at Kazuha with a crooked tilt to his smile, raising a brow at him as he waits for an answer.

It isn’t a good idea, he’s almost certain--while Kazuha has long come to understand the benefits of companionship in the life of a wanderer, it’s immediately apparent to him that Tomo’s ambition in life is to be the human embodiment of reckless irresponsibility. 

Surely, a traveling companion of such turbulent nature is only an invitation for disaster, and Kazuha should, of course, employ reasonable judgement and tact to turn the other down.

“If you insist,” is what Kazuha hears himself saying instead, and then lapses into a quiet sort of inward horror as he follows Tomo back to the town.

They have drinks, as promised, and Tomo stays in the same inn as him for the night, making his temporary residence in the neighboring room. He takes it upon himself to sit with Kazuha at breakfast, and then somehow, they’ve once again accepted the same commission from the admittedly few options on the request board. 

Three days later, Kazuha finds himself on the road, traveling to the next village and in Tomo’s company for the rest of the indefinite future.

It’s not an arrangement he’s agreed to outright, but he doesn’t tell Tomo to leave, either. For all the other’s tendency to do and say whatever he pleases, he’s admittedly a reliable companion in combat, and the two jobs that they’ve taken on together--while messy--have wrapped themselves up in record time.

Besides, Kazuha’s always been a firm believer in fate, that his various encounters as a wanderer have all been by design. Since Tomo hasn’t been compelled to leave on his own by now, perhaps it’s in Kazuha’s best interests to simply follow along with this and see where this goes.

So he does just that. 

Or at least, he tries to, until he awakens at the beginning of his second week with Tomo to find himself in heat--his very first one, to be precise.

It’s alarming, but not entirely unexpected. A part of Kazuha has been on edge in the months since he’d first come of age, waiting for the day where the consequences of his biology might eventually present themselves. 

He’s never been particularly educated in this area, mostly due to his father’s stubborn denial of the fact that his only heir had been born an omega. Perhaps he’d thought that if he never told Kazuha about these things, they simply wouldn’t happen. 

The man’s attempts are for naught, though, because from the moment Kazuha opens his eyes to find the sun a touch too sensitive and his skin crawling with an unnatural itch, every fiber of his aching body instinctively knows what this is. 

Kazuha shuts his eyes again in an unusual unwillingness to get up, sinks back into the dark and lets the rest of his senses assess the situation. From the strength of the sun against his skin, he can tell that it’s already past noon, and a faint rustle to his right indicates that Tomo’s been awake and about for some time now.

In all eighteen years of his life, Kazuha has never once woken after sunrise, and this new development somehow unsettles him more than all the rest. 

It’s this twisting unease that finally encourages him to sit up, his thoughts sluggish and disjointed and his movements even slower. The fabric of his bedroll feels like it sticks to him when he peels himself away from it, and he’s forced to drop his aching head into his hands a moment later, because the weight of it feels too heavy to hold up.

“...good morning?” Tomo asks cautiously, and Kazuha, admittedly having forgotten about his presence, tilts his head in his hands to peek carefully at him.

Tomo is looking over him with something of a mild concern, his gaze flicking over Kazuha’s half-curled form. There’s a cup of water in his hands, which he offers to Kazuha now, and it suddenly occurs to Kazuha how dehydrated he is, how every swallow scratches its way down his throat.

He accepts the offering gratefully, then forces himself to drain its contents with a restraint that he doesn’t feel, his hands trembling when he sets the empty cup back against the ground.

“Most people do not consider this morning,” he observes dryly, feeling vaguely more human after the drink, and Tomo seems to relax at the remark, his easy smile returning to his face.

“Speak for yourself, but I can finally, proudly say that I woke up before you this time. I’m even dressed, see?”

“I do see. It’s very impressive.”

Tomo is indeed dressed, which makes Kazuha realize that he can’t quite assert the same claim himself, his frame outlined in little more than the thin yukata he’d fallen asleep in. He turns his head, blinking away the dizzying spots in his vision that accompany the motion, and stares at his neatly folded pile of clothing at his side.

Even with how thin the layer of silk currently clothing him is, the fabric is already suffocating against his feverish skin, and Kazuha can barely stand the thought of smothering himself in the usual layers he travels in. 

But it isn’t as if he can go strolling across the countryside in his sleepwear, as suddenly appealing as the thought is.

“I need to…” he reaches for his clothing, forces himself not to grimace at the touch of it against the heat of his palm. The fabric is finely woven, intended to shield him from the worst of the cold, which he’s always been easily susceptible to since childhood.

Now, though, he can’t even begin to imagine the sensation of cold, can barely remember what it feels like through the clouded haze in his mind. 

He hears Tomo shift behind him, the other male politely turning away to allow Kazuha privacy, and Kazuha knows he can’t put off this most basic of tasks any longer. 

For his own sake, he decides to abandon his scarf for the day, leaving his neck blissfully exposed to the air. It isn’t often, if ever, that he goes without it, and it’s probably this that gives Tomo pause when he turns back around, his eyes dropping to the space of Kazuha’s collarbone.

“...yes?” Kazuha finally decides to ask, when the silence between them has stretched on for long enough, and Tomo shifts in place, then rubs at the back of his neck with a light laugh.

“Nothing. Just a bit rare to see you like this. All…unwrapped.”

Kazuha flushes at the observation, but even the embarrassment that he feels isn’t enough to overcome his physical aversion to the scarf. He offers Tomo the flattest look he can muster, then steels himself before making an attempt to rise to his feet.

At the motion, Tomo jerks forwards for a split second, his hands reaching out as if to steady Kazuha, who, admittedly, is in dire need of steadying. The change in position has brought to his attention how weak he feels, his legs something of a boneless jelly beneath him, his muscles burning with an ache so deep that he immediately wants to lay down again.

He grits his teeth against it, refusing to allow any of this to show in his expression, and perhaps he succeeds, because Tomo doesn’t try to interfere. For a moment, Kazuha stays very still, tilting his head up to the sky and ignoring the burn of the light against his sensitive gaze. 

It’s quite obvious to him now that his heat isn’t something that he can just ignore--if it’s already this bad now, while he’s still in the early stages of it, he hesitates to consider the state that he’ll be in later.

But he has to consider it, has to solve this before the problem can unravel into something more dire. He doesn’t know what to expect, doesn’t even know what to do-- it involves having sex, that much is clear, but, predictably, Kazuha has never experienced that either.

“Kazuha,” he hears Tomo say, and the other sounds far away, somehow, but his steady voice cuts through the swelling pressure of worry in Kazuha’s chest. “Maybe you should sit back down. And we can, uh, talk.”

Kazuha collapses back down to his bedroll, more out of the inability of his body to hold him up than anything, which Tomo seems to take as Kazuha’s way of starting the conversation. In preparation, Tomo rearranges himself so that he’s tilted towards Kazuha, sitting some ways across from him with an expectant look on his face, and it occurs to Kazuha that he might have to explain the truth to his companion after all.

It isn’t as if Kazuha had tried to hide the nature of his birth--it just hadn’t ever come up in the few days they’d spent together. But it’s entirely possible that Tomo doesn’t know, that he’s always assumed Kazuha to be a beta. It’s impossible to differentiate them from omegas from a first glance, and Kazuha’s kind are rarely trained into any type of physical discipline, let alone samurai.

Even with his generations of noble heritage, Kazuha doubts that he himself would have become one, had his father not been so deep into his denial.

“...I am going into heat,” Kazuha admits at last, and then studies the ground beneath him with great interest for a long moment. 

When he looks up, Tomo, who wears his emotions on his perpetually torn sleeve, has failed to look appropriately surprised in time. This, what Kazuha is telling him now, isn’t new knowledge to him after all.

“Oh. Well...yeah.”

Kazuha tilts his head, narrowing his eyes at the way Tomo says this, like it should be obvious, and Tomo must mistake his confusion for something else, because he hastens to clarify himself.

“I mean, I wasn’t going to be weird about it. It’s just...your scent was different this morning, is all. So I left you alone.”

Yet another thing Kazuha hadn’t known about his own heat, although it’s no longer surprising that Tomo could tell these things before him. His own scent, even normally, is undetectable to himself, and Tomo is an alpha, so--

Oh.

Tomo is an alpha.

Somehow, while he’s always been aware of this fact, he suddenly knows it now, and the leftover pieces of his coherent thoughts seem to stir in the back of his mind, slowly piecing themselves together.

Perhaps there’s a way to make this work.

He shuts his eyes, steels himself for what comes next. 

“This heat is my first. And my experience in this area is rather...absent,” he forces himself to say, his fingers curling into his palms. “But if you help me through this, I would be willing to compensate you for your time.”

There’s a moment of silence, after that, that makes Kazuha want to reconsider, to perhaps snatch up his Vision and flee the scene in a hurricane of haste. But the rest of him, the part of him that knows that going without Tomo’s help means diving headfirst into blind suffering, has grasped onto this idea with a great desperation.

It’s this that roots him in place as he waits for Tomo’s response, that keeps him perfectly still, barely daring to look up until--

“Okay,” Tomo says simply, then digs around in the pockets of his haori, fishing out one of his prized green tea candies. He fiddles with the wrapper with notable concentration in order to free the treat, then pops it into his mouth, pushing it to the side of his cheek. “Sounds good.”

Kazuha blinks, having expected...well, he’s not sure what to expect anymore, when his conversation partner is Tomo.

But, even still--he’s more than a little astonished at Tomo’s complete failure to put up even a token amount of resistance, even a fraction of the protests that another, more normal human being might offer at being so suddenly propositioned.

“I like sex,” Tomo adds helpfully, by way of clarification. “And, trust me.” 

He brings his gaze from the top of Kazuha’s head down to his lap, lingering for an especially long second at Kazuha’s neck.

“I’m very compensated already.”

Kazuha flushes a dark red, one of his hands instinctively coming up to cover the side of his neck as he looks away. Despite this, though, a strange sort of relief has opened up in the pit of his stomach, loosens the gathering pressure in his chest, and his gratitude towards Tomo outweighs his reserved nature for long enough to allow him to think.

This is a solution to his problem, and Kazuha has to treat it as such--he has to set boundaries now, before he’s left at the mercy of his own heat. 

Even if it’s Tomo, Kazuha has to be careful.

“I am in your debt,” he says honestly, because he means it, intends to repay it however Tomo wishes, and then he forges ahead. “But I have two conditions.”

Tomo doesn’t look particularly fazed, leaning back against his hands to make himself more comfortable. “Lay it on me.”

“I won’t allow you to mark me. I am not seeking to be claimed or mated. This is just…”

“Casual sex,” Tomo finishes for him, in a rather crude, but entirely Tomo way of describing the situation. “No strings attached, got it. What’s your second rule?”

“This...arrangement. I don’t want it to affect our friendship. I don’t want us to change.” Kazuha hesitates here, because this is an admission in of itself--he’s never directly referred to them as friends before.

At this, Tomo smiles at him, warm and slightly crooked, familiar in a way that dissolves the last of the hesitation in Kazuha’s heart. “Wouldn’t dream of it, Princess.”

He pauses, presumably waiting for Kazuha to contest the nickname. When no such rebuke comes his way, Tomo swallows the candy in his mouth, then moves to stand up.

“Well, we’d better head off, then.”

Kazuha glances up at him, confusion in his gaze, and Tomo raises a brow at him.

“I’m taking you somewhere nice. Gotta do this good and proper, you know? I have a feeling the Kaedehara ancestors might roll in their graves if I took your virginity out here on a rock.”

“That’s...I am not so sure you should say that about our elders, Tomo,” Kazuha reprimands flatly, feeling the flush in his cheeks at Tomo’s easy irreverence., but still he gets to his feet.

He’s still unsteady, but then Tomo’s arm reaches out for him, his hand warm against Kazuha’s upper back. At Tomo’s touch, some of the weakness in his limbs seems to evaporate, and he leans further into it.

“Better?” Tomo asks, his voice unusually gentle, and Kazuha nods, too lost in the temporary reprieve to reply.

Tomo must feel the motion against his chest because he chuckles lightly, then slides his hand down until his fingers curl around Kazuha’s wrist. 

Kazuha blinks, feels his pulse flutter beneath the warmth of Tomo’s touch, some novel, new sensation settling firmly in his heart. But by the time Tomo starts off, gently leading him away, the feeling is gone before Kazuha can give it a name.

 


 

By the time they arrive at the inn, Kazuha is actively exercising all eighteen years of his noble restraint to stop himself from undressing where he stands. 

Over the course of their journey, the heat of the summer sun has gone from uncomfortable to unbearable, and even though he’s stripped himself down to his last layer, it still isn’t enough. His neck itches in a way that he can’t seem to soothe no matter how raw he rubs the skin, and his head is so foggy from the heat that when he leans it against the wooden exterior of the inn, the wall feels cold to the touch.

Distantly, he hears Tomo behind him, hears the soft chink of coins as Mora changes hands and Tama is handed over to a responsible-looking villager for the night. She goes surprisingly quietly, considering how displeased she usually is to be separated from Tomo, and it takes only a few pets to her head before Tomo is able to break away.

Tomo pauses when he returns to Kazuha’s side, examining his truly pitiful state. “Guess we’d better hurry it along, yeah?”

Kazuha nods feebly, allowing himself to be tugged along and into the inn, the interior of which is blessedly dark and not-so-blessedly crowded.

The instant he steps inside, Kazuha can feel the gazes of nearly every patron on the downstairs level drawn to him. It’s been a few hours since he’d first awoken, and somehow, in that meager space of time, his body has seen fit to kick his heat into overdrive, to the point where he’s being suffocated in his own scent, something he usually can’t sense at all. 

To his already overwhelmed senses, it’s a sickly sweet kind of smell, so cloying and dense that Kazuha can’t even tell what it resembles. It must be different to others, though, because there’s a clear want in some of the eyes on him, such open desire that Kazuha shifts away from it, ducking his head as his skin prickles with discomfort.

“Tomo,” he hisses softly, suddenly uncertain that this--any of this—is the right decision. “I shouldn’t...perhaps we should leave.”

But Tomo isn’t looking at him, when Kazuha glances upwards--in fact, he doesn’t seem to be paying attention to Kazuha at all, his focus somewhere above Kazuha’s head. There’s an oddly cold look on Tomo’s features, and his pupils are blown so wide that the black of them nearly swallows the color in his eyes, his irises a bare hint of arctic purple. 

Kazuha twists around, tries to catch what the other is looking at, and it’s then that he hears the scrape of wood against the floor, catches sight of a man--another alpha, Kazuha’s instincts warn him--pushing back his chair and rising to his feet.

The man takes a single step forwards, and, from his place beside Kazuha, Tomo tenses so fast that Kazuha barely has the time to register it, a steady hand pressing itself against the back of Kazuha’s neck. Tomo’s palm curls around his nape, the tips of his fingers resting dangerously close to Kazuha’s scent glands by his collarbone, and the pressure of it--however faint--makes Kazuha gasp, his entire body stilling against the touch.

It feels like relief, somehow, a coolness wrapping around the fire slowly snaking through his veins, and he very nearly has to bite back the noise that wants to rise out of him, digging his nails into his palms to hold onto his control. One of his hands instinctively comes up to Tomo’s wrist, whether to pull him away or hold him still, he isn’t sure. 

Tomo doesn’t move his hand, though, does nothing except pull Kazuha closer to him, staring hard at the other alpha from across the room. With the way they’re pressed together, Kazuha can feel the thinly concealed threat in Tomo’s frame, sees the way that Tomo shifts slightly so that the fabric of his haori falls away to reveal the hilt of the katana at his waist. 

A moment goes by, then two, and then the man takes a reluctant step backwards.

The air in the room feels like it shifts, then--people suddenly can’t look away from Kazuha fast enough, turning their interest pointedly away from his side of the room entirely.

Even still, Tomo doesn’t ease up, turning his attention to the innkeeper to their left. “We just need a room,” he says, and Kazuha has never heard him sound so quiet. “Shouldn’t be a problem, right?”

His words are a question, are as easy and casual as Tomo has always spoken, but his tone is undeniably a command. A set of keys is hastily placed in his waiting hand, and Tomo gives an uncharacteristically curt nod in thanks before he leads Kazuha up the stairs, never once breaking his palm’s contact with Kazuha’s neck.

It isn’t until they’re completely alone that Tomo finally slides his hand away, that some of the aggression melts from the tightness in the muscles of his back. Tomo shakes his head, like he’s clearing the same haze that clouds Kazuha’s own senses, and when he next speaks, his voice is considerably closer to normal.

“Sorry about that,” he pushes open the door and waits for Kazuha to drift inside, to settle himself uncertainly on the edge of the bed before Tomo collapses into the chair to the side. He makes a vague gesture to just about all of Kazuha, but his eyes linger for especially long on Kazuha’s neck. “Didn’t really think that one through--taking you here, I mean.”

Kazuha doesn’t respond at first, too preoccupied with how sharply he feels the loss of Tomo’s touch, automatically bringing his own fingers to the side of his throat in an attempt to replicate the sensation. It occurs to him, now, how different the outcome likely would have been in Tomo’s absence, how much trust Kazuha is being forced to give away in his current state.

Suddenly, he’s immensely grateful that he’d picked Tomo.

“It’s...fine. You handled it well.”

Tomo lets out a strained sort of chuckle, shrugging out of his haori as he makes himself more comfortable. His breathing is finally starting to even out, warmth flooding back into his features as he starts to relax.

“I handled you, more like. Hope it wasn’t too weird, grabbing you like that. I just thought it’d be better to make my intentions clear. And I figured you weren’t in the mood to watch me fight.”

“Perhaps next time,” Kazuha offers dryly, a faint smile tugging at his lips, but Tomo is correct.

Now that they’re finally alone, Kazuha feels the last of his already limited energy reserves rapidly draining away from him, the tremble in his muscles more from exhaustion than anything. Still, he tries to hold onto some sense of awareness, wrapping his arms around himself to steady his frame.

“So...now we...?” he bites at his lip, increasingly at a loss of what to do the further along in his ill-formed plan that they get.

“Not yet. Trust me, you’ll know. Just take a nap for now or something.”

Kazuha is tired enough that he doesn’t object, allowing himself to fall bonelessly on top of the sheets. The air against his skin is stifling enough that he can’t bring himself to slide beneath the covers, but he doesn’t fully undress, either, some final part of him clinging to this last shred of dignity while he still can.

He comes to regret the decision some few hours later, when he wakes in the dark, nearly choking on the sweetness of his own scent, the sheets beneath him damp with his sweat. From where he’s curled on the side, he can feel his own slick leaking from his hole, evidence of his want trailing down the insides of his thighs and soaking into his robes. 

His earlier reservations are the furthest thing from his mind as he tugs desperately at the part of his kimono, grinding up against the sheets almost frantically. The motion brushes up against his cock, and even this first hint of friction sends a white-hot heat up his spine, makes him jerk away and buck into it all at once.

He curls in on himself more tightly, his fingers trembling from where they’re still trying to peel his last layer of clothing away, but he’s too weak to fully complete the motion, instead turning his face into the pillow in a distant frustration. He’s so empty that it aches , feels like a physical hurt when his body clenches around nothing, and he can’t stop the desperate whine that builds in his throat, a noise so needy that he barely recognizes it as his own.

Immediately, he feels a hand press against his upper back, and he shudders against the touch, going suddenly still.

“I--” he gasps out, then stops, unsure of what he means to say, unable to bring himself to ask for it--

“I’m here,” Tomo answers, strangely calm, and then runs his hand down Kazuha’s back in a firm touch, stopping to wrap his hand around Kazuha’s hip, his thumb drawing a gentle circle in the dip above his thigh. “I got you.”

At this reassurance, Kazuha feels like something gives way in him. He twists onto his stomach, lets Tomo’s hand slide beneath him as the other strips Kazuha’s ruined clothing away. When Tomo bends over him, his larger frame easily shadowing Kazuha’s own, Kazuha instinctively parts his legs for him, his eyes fluttering shut as Tomo’s scent envelops him.

Kazuha has no idea how he’s never known it before, how good Tomo smells, clean and steady and a little bit like grass and sun. It cuts neatly through the strangling sweetness of Kazuha’s scent, and Kazuha finds that he wants more of it, wants to have Tomo so deep inside him that the other boy’s presence completely overtakes his own.

Tomo doesn’t bother to start slow, presses one hand against the small of Kazuha’s back and slides three fingers into him without pause, and Kazuha’s hole is so wet with slick that his body just takes it, his back arching from how right it feels, his hips grinding down into Tomo’s hand in search of more.  The tilt of his hips makes the side of Tomo’s fingers bump up against something inside of him, and his entire body seizes at it, his next breath choking off into a near wail as he hits his edge, spills his release beneath him.

It’s an unsatisfying orgasm, a fleeting relief that lasts for barely a minute before his mind fogs over again, before he’s grinding his already hard cock against the sheets, something that might be a repeated plea of Tomo’s name trying to escape him in a breathless gasp. 

“Gods,” Tomo murmurs from above him, his voice lower and rougher than Kazuha’s ever heard it, and he stretches Kazuha’s walls for a moment longer before he pulls his fingers out entirely.

Kazuha barely has the time to feel the loss before the head of Tomo’s cock presses itself against his entrance, and even the suggestion of it makes Kazuha mewl, makes a fresh round of slick drip down his thighs as his body prepares a space for Tomo inside of it. Tomo’s hand nearly covers Kazuha’s stomach when he slides it beneath Kazuha’s hips, tilting his ass up to properly thrust in.

Tomo buries himself to the hilt in one motion, and Kazuha can feel every inch of Tomo’s cock as it sinks into him, so good and complete that his nails tear holes into the sheets beneath him, the empty soreness in his stomach coming undone. He almost doesn’t want Tomo to move, doesn’t ever want him to pull out--he wants to stay like this, deliciously full and forced open beneath this alpha.

“Tomo,” he hears himself say, and he’s surprised he still has a voice, is surprised he even remembers how to speak around how much Tomo is inside of him. “I need--I want--”

Something rumbles in Tomo’s chest then, a barely suppressed growl, and Kazuha feels himself go limp at the sound, obediently pliant as Tomo grabs his hips hard enough to bruise, drawing himself out to the tip and fucking back in with noise so wet that Kazuha flinches at it. Tomo’s cock is thick enough that every drag of it against his walls feels like it bruises his prostate, makes his toes curl and his vision blur every time Tomo shoves back in.

Kazuha comes again, or at least he thinks he does, but the relief of being filled at last is such a constant, incredible high that everything blurs together, and the sheets beneath him are so soaked from his slick and his cum that he can barely tell the difference. 

At some point, Tomo pulls out, flips him onto his back and bends Kazuha nearly in half when he enters him again, dropping his head dangerously close to Kazuha’s neck. In the daze of his heat, Tomo’s presence there feels so right, so natural that Kazuha submissively tilts his head before he can stop himself, exposing the curve of his neck, the vulnerable dip of his shoulder.

He wants this--he doesn’t know what he wants--he wants Tomo to bite him--he doesn’t--he wants to be owned and claimed--he doesn’t --

“Wait--” he gasps out, and Tomo hips stutter as he slams inside of him and stays like that for a moment, and then stops to lift his head blinking down at Kazuha with darkened eyes. Like this, Kazuha can see the hint of his alpha teeth starting to show, the points of his canines peeking out from beneath his lip, his body’s reaction to Kazuha’s heat.

The sight of them makes a frantic need twist in Kazuha’s stomach, makes the last trace of himself slip away, his rational panic falling beneath a heavy blanket of instinct.

“You can--you can bite... please,” he hears himself begging, the words drawing themselves out of him against his will, his actions guided entirely by the needs of his body.

There’s an instant where Tomo hesitates, where his scent shifts to something sharper and darker and alpha, and his eyes flick down to Kazuha’s throat.

Then he swallows hard, slides his hand firmly over the spot where he’s meant to bite, covering it completely from view.

“No,” he says simply, leaving no room for argument, and the sting of instinctual disappointment wars against the absolute relief that Kazuha feels in every part of him before Tomo hooks Kazuha’s leg over one of his broad shoulders and fucks him back into senselessness. 

It’s only when Tomo reaches the end of his already impressive stamina that they stop, when he presses his face against Kazuha’s shoulder and comes inside of him with a low groan. Tomo’s release quiets the need inside of Kazuha in a way that his own orgasms hadn’t, the spill of Tomo’s cum against his walls making his hole spasm in a futile effort to keep it within him. Kazuha can feel the pressure at the base of Tomo’s cock threatening to swell, the knot that wants to fill him, but it’s impossible when they aren’t mated. 

Kazuha is slowly starting to regain control of himself, but he can’t help the whimper that escapes him when Tomo pulls out, the sudden, ridiculous desire to push Tomo’s slowly leaking seed back into him.

“Well, damn.”

Tomo rolls to the side, fairly collapsing onto his back as he stares up at the ceiling to catch his breath, and through the sleepy satisfaction of his heat, it occurs to Kazuha that he should feel embarrassed. He’s tired though, possibly more than he’d been before, and staying awake is suddenly such a struggle that he can barely bring himself to think, let alone move.

“It’s not over,” Tomo warns him, and Kazuha looks up uncertainly through heavy lids, faintly processing the other’s meaning. “But you should get some rest.”

He’s not sure how long he sleeps for--whether it’s minutes or hours, but the next time he awakens, it’s to the same emptiness as before, the same terrible ache burning against his skin. In the moments before his senses start to leave him, he feels a weight against the side of the bed as Tomo shifts towards him, opening an arm towards him to expose his still very naked chest.

“Tomo, I think…” Kazuha shuts his eyes, turns his face into the space that Tomo’s offering to hide his expression, seeking his comfort in the other boy’s scent.

Tomo’s hand finds his lower back, then cups his ass as he slips his fingers back into Kazuha’s entrance, and Kazuha shudders in relief. Still, it isn’t enough--Kazuha can’t quite disguise the way he tips his head to peek down at Tomo’s cock, which is slowly hardening against his leg.

The gesture doesn’t go unnoticed by Tomo, who lets out something of a breathless chuckle, crooking his fingers until the angle makes Kazuha keen. 

“No worries, sunshine. I’ll take care of you.”

 


 

For some reason, Tomo is on the floor when Kazuha wakes up.

He doesn’t notice it at first, largely because he’s still relishing in the sensation of feeling normal, of no longer wanting to climb out of his own skin. His head still feels unusually light, but it’s more a product of his heat’s satisfying resolution, of the gentle touch of the pillows behind his head and the brush of the sun against his skin.

Miraculously, the sheets that he’s laying on are clean, even if the rest of him isn’t, and his frame is draped in a soft, red cloth that he distantly realizes as Tomo’s own haori. Tomo, who is--

Kazuha cracks open his eyes at the notable absence of his companion on the bed, and tries to push himself upright and out of bed in an attempt to seek him out. It’s enormously unsuccessful, ending what can only be described as his highly disgraceful, bitten-off squeak of pain as the muscles in his lower back seize up. 

He struggles with his new inability to walk--or move, really--for a few seconds before he topples ungracefully from the tangle of blankets with a muted thump.

There’s a soft groan, then--

“Not now, Tama,” Tomo mumbles from beneath Kazuha, where Kazuha has had the ill fortune of landing directly on top of him, one of his hands planted somewhere in the middle of Tomo’s bare chest.

Tomo, still clearly half-asleep, throws one of his arms over his eyes and makes a light petting motion at Kazuha’s head with his other hand, and Kazuha freezes under the touch, uncertain of exactly what is meant to be happening here.

“Need five more...hours. Go play with Kazuha.”

“I am Kazuha,” is all Kazuha can think to say, rather numbly, but this declaration is an effective one.

Tomo lowers his arm, fully opening his eyes as he registers the situation, his other hand still resting in Kazuha’s hair from where he’d apparently assumed he’d been petting his cat. In true Tomo fashion, he takes this easily in stride, an easy grin gracing his lips as he completes the motion, using his thumb to brush a few stray strands away from Kazuha’s suddenly flushed cheeks.

“Huh. I guess you are. Good…” Tomo squints, peering at the light coming through the windows, trying to gauge the position of the sun. “...morning?”

“That is correct,” Kazuha answers, and makes a feeble sort of attempt to lift himself off of Tomo. With some effort and a notable amount of soreness, he manages to get himself into a half-curled, not quite sitting position against the bed, one of his hands holding the folds of his borrowed clothing closed. “If I may ask, why are you on the floor?”

Tomo pushes himself up as well, with considerably less difficulty than Kazuha had experienced, although he does grimace as he tilts his neck to the side, rubbing at the stiff side of it as if he’d slept on it wrong. Given where Tomo had apparently chosen to take his rest, it isn’t too hard to imagine why.

“Well, I wasn’t too sure if you’d ever woken up in the same bed as someone before. Didn’t think I should just creep in, you know?”

Kazuha covers his mouth to hide his smile, oddly touched by the gesture. “You may creep to your heart's content, next month.”

“Oh, I’m sure I will,” Tomo chuckles lightly, then glances between Kazuha and the bed, clearly piecing together how Kazuha had ended up joining him on the floor. “Now, does the young master require my aid?”

Kazuha looks up at him, then back at the bed above his head. He steels himself, then lifts a hand to curl around the edge of the bed, bracing himself against it as he intends to pull himself upright. But Tomo, who has shifted onto his knees, suddenly slides one hand beneath Kazuha’s back, and another beneath his legs, easily standing up with Kazuha in his arms, supremely unbothered by the additional weight.

At the sudden change in altitude, Kazuha digs his alarmed fingers into Tomo’s back, his other hand still preoccupied with ensuring that the fabric of his clothing isn’t about to fall open. 

“Tomo--” he starts, but he can’t exactly argue that Tomo’s way of doing things is the most efficient one, in this exceptionally rare circumstance.

Tomo deposits him gently back on the bed a second later, and then makes to sit on it himself, running a hand through his bed-ridden hair, sandy locks falling unevenly around his bare shoulders. The motion draws Kazuha’s attention to the long, red lines that his nails have left on Tomo’s shoulders and upper back, somewhere during the events of his heat.

If Kazuha’s honest, he barely even remembers much, after their first round--it’s mostly a blur of color and sound and sometimes pain, interspersed with the occasional pressure of Tomo’s hand on his back and a cup in his hands, encouraging him to replace some of the fluids he’d lost.

But sitting here like this, the aftermath is finally beginning to catch up to him, the distant realization of the kind of debasing state Tomo had witnessed him in, the things he’d said and done in Tomo’s presence. 

A flash of memory stands out to him the rest, of tilting his own head and baring his throat and asking to be marked while his mind had so desperately tried to pull himself away. Kazuha’s hand instinctively goes to touch at his neck, his fingers finding the skin smooth and unblemished.

“You...didn’t bite me,” he observes carefully, unable to meet Tomo’s eyes.

Even still, he sees Tomo shrug easily, employing the same, open ease with which he handles everything else in life. 

“You said not to. So I didn’t. I wouldn’t.”

Gratitude twists in Kazuha’s chest, feels like a gentle warmth that rises in his throat, makes him dip his head to Tomo as low as he can without disturbing the aching tension of his lower muscles.

“Thank you,” he says softly, and Tomo shifts almost nervously at the formality in his tone, holding up his hands with a laugh.

“Hey, no need to thank me. Casual sex, remember? It’s not a big deal.”

And, against most, if not all, of Kazuha’s expectations, it really isn’t.

Kazuha spends the better part of the next week slightly on edge, not quite able to look at Tomo without recalling the more mortifying details of that night. But Tomo behaves and speaks in such a normal way, as if it’d never happened at all, and soon, Kazuha finds himself being pulled along with his easy demeanor.

He starts to relax around Tomo, and they pick up directly where they’d left off, wandering from town to town.

They start sharing little facts with each other--Tomo learns about the traditions that Kazuha’s father has engraved in him since birth, about training for hours past what his bruised body could handle, restrictive sleep schedules and even stricter diets, how it’s this last part that’s led him to develop a special fondness for strawberries--anything strawberry flavored, really.

Later, Tomo nearly sprains his ankle one night trying to sneak under a farmer’s fence to pick a fresh patch of the red fruit for him, limping back to their camp at half past midnight, his prize cradled victoriously to his chest.

Kazuha, while in the process of pressing a cold compress against Tomo’s ankle and wrapping it in tight dressings, learns that this isn’t Tomo’s first attempt at thievery, that he’d grown up on it to survive until one particularly disastrous attempt at stealing a horse. He learns that Tomo hadn’t been trained as a samurai until he was thirteen, and even that had been cut short, barely three years later, by his master’s premature death.

Those few years he’d spent in his foster clan’s care had barely been enough to hone Tomo’s admittedly prodigious skills with the blade, much less pick up on the other arts normally prohibited to the lower class. Kazuha thinks on this in silence while he finishes wrapping Tomo’s injury, and then, when he’s knotted off the final tie of the bandages, Kazuha writes the characters of both their names in the dirt for Tomo to see.

“Huh,” is all Tomo says as he studies the words on the ground, but there’s a genuine interest in his eyes, the same spark that lights up his face whenever he’s working to perfect a new sword technique.

So Kazuha stacks daily reading lessons onto his life with his Tomo, along with everything else--the odd jobs, the going on trinket-hunting expeditions for Tama, the sleeping out beneath the stars. 

And, once a month, Tomo tracks down an isolated inn room for them and fucks Kazuha through his heat until he blacks out.

Afterwards, Tomo collapses in bed beside him--always over the covers while Kazuha snuggles beneath the blankets. In the morning, he cleans Kazuha up, helps him move around, and when Kazuha can properly walk without feeling the sting of how much Tomo has stretched him out, they move on to their next destination. 

It’s a routine they’ve settled into, one that fits quite nicely with the rest of Kazuha’s life, and adheres cleanly to the rules he’s set out--Tomo doesn’t bite him, and nothing changes between them.

Except, of course, when something does.

It happens on the first leaf-fall of autumn, which, in hindsight, Kazuha should perhaps have interpreted as an omen of great and disastrous change.

Tomo’s laying on his side, the usual stalk of grass absent from his mouth as he uses it to play with Tama instead, letting her bat at it with his paws. Kazuha watches him from the corner of his eye, but most of his attention is focused on the stew that he’s making--a celebration of both the change of seasons and the fine goods they’d acquired from their most recent job.

He lifts the lid of the pot on their campfire to check on its progress, and that’s when he hears a muted thump behind him, followed by an extended groan of pain. When he dares to look behind him, Tomo is laying on his back, Tama curled on his chest and meowing lightly in concern.

Kazuha tilts his head at Tomo, and when Tomo sees that he’s caught Kazuha’s attention, he inhales deeply and lets out another groan, this time much longer.

“...yes?” Kazuha asks, knowing full well what the issue is, Tomo turns his head to gaze longingly at the pot above the fire.

“I’m dying,” Tomo announces, flinging his arms out dramatically. “My stomach is eating itself, Kazuha. Soon, there won’t be anything left.”

“Ah, how terrible.”

“I’m going to meet with the ancestors now. Wait for me, Gramps, I’m on my way up.”

“Inform them I said hello.”

“...Kazuha is so cruel to me. I need backup, Tama,” Tomo tells his cat, giving her an idle stroke, and, at the encouragement, she slides off of his chest to sit before Kazuha as well, tilting her head in a pleading sort of gesture.

It’s admittedly effective, the combination of sorrowful eyes on him. And Kazuha would be happy to serve them--the problem is, the stew simply isn’t ready, and while Kazuha is willing to sacrifice some of his compunctions for the greater good, this is something he absolutely refuses to compromise on.

Still, the both of them do look rather pitiful.

“You can have a taste,” Kazuha decides, because perhaps it’s time to test the stew again anyways. 

He takes up a careful spoonful of it, blowing softly on the liquid to cool it--he knows Tomo well enough that he foresees an immediate future of burn injuries, without this step--and then cups his other hand beneath the spoon to catch any stray drops. Tomo perks up enthusiastically, all symptoms of death having miraculously vanished from his person, and he rolls halfway onto his side, reaching out to wrap his hand around Kazuha’s wrist.

“Did I ever tell you how much I love you?” Tomo asks him lightly, and Kazuha is somehow so startled by this proclamation that he lapses into a blank silence as Tomo leans forward to inhale his mouthful of stew.

It’s an exaggeration, he tells himself as Tomo rolls away from him--”It’s good, Kazuha, it’s really good! Do you think stew is good for cats? Maybe Tama can try some.”--this is simply the way that Tomo talks, the way he throws out friendly affection with casual ease. 

It means nothing. It changes nothing.

But even as he tells himself this, he knows he’d have to have been blind not to see it. 

In all the time they’ve known each other for, Tomo has never once mastered the art of disguising his emotions, of wiping his expression clean of his thoughts. The split-second image of vulnerability on his face, the moment of realization when Tomo had heard what he himself had spoken aloud--Kazuha can’t forget it.

He looks down, busies himself with swapping out the spoon for a clean one, but now his ears are pricked towards where Tomo is picking Tama up again, using one of her paws to wave cheerfully at Kazuha when he notices Kazuha’s unsubtle glances. When Kazuha tries--and not even very hard, at that--he can hear the beat of Tomo’s heart, unusually frantic against his chest, framed by the uneven shift of his nervous breaths.

It can’t be--surely not.

“...perhaps she can,” Kazuha says at last, answering only the most recent of Tomo’s remarks, and he instantly sees the tension leave Tomo’s frame, hears his stuttering heart even out.

Something in his own stomach twists, but he keeps his face carefully blank until he turns back to the stew, hiding his growing unease behind slow stirs of steaming liquid. He feels oddly like he’s falling, like he’s stepped the wrong way in a fight and now isn’t sure where to turn, the situation rapidly unraveling from his carefully held grasp.

Perhaps this is a singular occurrence, Kazuha tries to tell himself, merely a culmination of several factors that all happened to lead to this single incident of a carelessly placed phrase.

Perhaps they can simply move on from this.

But after this, Kazuha starts watching Tomo--really watching him--and comes to wonder if he truly has been blind all this time.

He sees the way that Tomo looks at him now, the purple of his eyes lighting up in a certain affection that he reserves only for Kazuha. Tomo’s hands are scarred and strong, the palms of his hands hardened by a lifetime of fending for himself, but his touch is always gentle when he ruffles at Kazuha’s hair or nudges at him for attention. 

There’s the way that Tomo so easily relaxes the second that they’re alone, how he always picks up little things from traders that he claims reminds him of Kazuha, the fact that he goes so above and beyond in the aftermath of Kazuha’s heats, cleaning him up and carrying him around when Kazuha is too sore to walk.

And then there’s the matter of Tomo’s smile. 

Tomo’s always smiling, but Kazuha now realizes that the grin he presents to the world is a touch too protected, a little too loud, contains a hint of the distance that Tomo keeps his not-yet friends at. With Kazuha, his smiles are softer and smaller, quiet in a way that Kazuha hadn’t thought Tomo knew how to be.

It’s this same smile that Kazuha sees when he’s still trembling from the aftermath of the village storyteller’s particularly vivid ghost tale, returning to camp later that night only for Tomo to suddenly spring from his hiding place in the leaves, eliciting an alarmed screech from Kazuha’s normally composed person.

Later when, the surprise attack has left Tomo on the ground, unceremoniously tossed there by Kazuha’s unfortunate reflexes, he smiles again--slightly dazedly--up at where Kazuha is cradling his head in his lap, worriedly examining him for signs of a concussion.

And then he does it again, when Kazuha spends three hours sewing the tattered pieces of Tomo’s scarf together, the ends still smoking slightly from where they’d made the grievous error of allowing Tomo to try cooking.

And somehow yet another again , when he presses his Vision into Kazuha’s hand for safekeeping and willfully throws himself into battle with the bandits attacking the town, all so that they’ll take him along with the rest of the innocent hostages, putting him in a good position to protect them.

Kazuha tracks them from a distance all the way back to their hideout, in accordance with Tomo’s ridiculous, half-formed plan, trying to ignore the aching clench of fear in his chest as he practically blows through the bandit camp singlehandedly. The precise art form of his family’s bladework becomes something of an uncontrolled tempest as Kazuha nearly tears the place apart, stopping only when he chances upon the imprisoned villagers, who are spectacularly unharmed.

He actually has to force himself to stop and take his time in freeing them, and then a hesitant hand from one of them points him in the direction of the nearby hill, where the leaders have taken a special interest in Tomo alone.

The men don’t see it, the way that Kazuha drops in from above in a quiet whisper of wind, and by the time they feel the breeze on their necks, Kazuha’s already stolen the breath from their lungs.

Tomo blinks up at him from where he’s bound and bruised on the floor, a particularly deep gash on his temple seeping blood into his sandy hair, his gaze unfocused when he offers Kazuha that painfully familiar smile.

“Hey,” he says, so very Tomo and woefully inadequate for just about every aspect of the situation.

Kazuha slices easily through his bonds and helps Tomo to his feet, his own breath hitching when Tomo staggers on the way up, when the strength of his body deserts him and leaves him clinging to Kazuha for support. He lets Tomo drop his tired head against his shoulder, lets his own fingers run soothingly down Tomo’s spine, and he says nothing for a long moment, privately, guiltily relieved that he can no longer see Tomo’s expression.

“Another something you failed to think through?” Kazuha asks as they return painstakingly to the village, unsure if he’s angry with Tomo for his recklessness or proud of his absolute readiness to do right or something else entirely.

“Nah. It was a good plan,” Tomo mumbles, his features tensing with a grimace when he puts a bit too much pressure on his bad leg, and Kazuha has to stop to steady him, taking on more of Tomo’s weight against him. 

He flattens his hand against Tomo’s chest to help keep him upright, and for some reason, Tomo reaches up to press his larger hand over Kazuha’s own, his heartbeat beneath their linked fingers settling at the motion, like the touch alone gives him comfort.

“I knew you’d come for me.”

Kazuha can’t bear to look at him then, the pressure in his chest growing into a gasping force, a hollow bruise, because he knows it, maybe has always known it—

Tomo is in love with him. 

 


 

Kazuha has to end things.

It’s the right answer, the only answer, because continuing on like this achieves little more than deception, which Kazuha has always plainly disliked.

He is lying to himself, pretending that Tomo still sees no more meaning to these heats than what there is, and he is lying to Tomo--Tomo, who has only ever been honest with him--by pretending that he doesn’t know this.

Although, in truth, Kazuha is still processing the enormity of it all.

When this entire arrangement had started, when Kazuha had first laid out his two conditions, they’d been more for his own comfort than anything. For all his careful consideration, he hadn’t ever honestly thought that Tomo would break either of those rules, simply because everything had happened by coincidence, because Tomo had happened to be an alpha, to be there, to be a good friend who enjoys sex.

And in his own blindness, in only seeing Tomo’s easy, carefree approach to life and not knowing the everything that had lain beneath, he hadn’t thought Tomo would care.

But Tomo does care, and he cares so deeply that even just his ability to do so scares something in Kazuha, makes him uncertain of what to do or say to the situation and still preserve Tomo’s overly good heart.

He tries to put his talents to use, to shape the flowery language of his learned words into a proper goodbye, but no matter how many times he rehearses the scene in his mind, it never seems to come out quite right. 

We have to stop here, is too short, is nowhere near enough to express how deeply Kazuha owed and still owes Tomo. It was pleasant, but… is too unlike him, contains none of the certainty he carries in almost all of his actions, and might even allow him to change his mind halfway, if he’s not careful enough.

And every version of his speech evokes a specific image in his head, the memory of Tomo’s smile melting into something sad, the light of his eyes dulling with a tired, resigned hurt.

Resigned, because he knows that Tomo would simply accept it. He would pull himself away and leave if Kazuha simply asked him to, because Tomo is so used to having good things come to an end. 

Even if this is necessary, and it is, Kazuha can barely stand it, the idea of taking even a fraction of his happiness away from him.

So he doesn’t.

Instead--disastrously, terribly--he ends up cuddling with Tomo.

It’s entirely an accident, the first time it happens. His heat is particularly bad that month, the stress of his Tomo-related problem likely taking its backlash out onto Kazuha’s body, his instincts whipping themselves up into a frenzy. 

Tomo can tell that it’s bad, too, partially because he’s always been perceptive to Kazuha’s needs, but also because Kazuha is so pitifully affected that he’s practically crawled on top of Tomo the second the other wakes up.

Wisely, Tomo takes him to the inn room early, and the moment he locks the door behind him, Kazuha finds himself tugging insistently at the other’s clothing, pulling off Tomo’s scarf and, bizarrely, tucking it into the bed. After that comes Tomo’s haori, which the other hands over with no complaint, and then the fabric of his kimono, all of it going into the neatly arranged pile that Kazuha can’t stop himself from making.

The logical, Kazuha part of his brain judges him in silence and utter horror, but his heat moves his hands forwards, makes him add his own clothes to the little nest, too, before he collapses feebly inside of it, burrowing his face into the part where Tomo’s haori takes up the most space.

“Do you, uh...need this too?” Tomo asks, and when Kazuha peeks upwards, Tomo is holding out his undershirt and his pants too, looking slightly confused but openly supportive of Kazuha’s demented behavior.

Kazuha feels strangely light when he accepts the offering from Tomo, and he isn’t sure if it’s from the force of his heat or the amount of feeling that’s welling up inside of him.

He’d prefer it to be the former.

Tomo sits with him on the bed as Kazuha falls asleep inside the clothing pile, and is there for him as soon as he wakes up, panting and desperate and clenching around nothing.

“I’m here,” Tomo tells him again, and then reaches up to tuck a stray lock of Kazuha’s hair behind his ear as Kazuha gasps against him, his nails drawing sharp lines down Tomo’s back.

Kazuha feels some kind of noise threatening to build in his throat, something dangerously close to words, a Tomo, I--

Even as far gone as he is, Kazuha knows to squeeze his eyes shut, to drop his head against Tomo’s shoulder and grind his hips downwards until the pleasure steals away his ability to speak.

Afterwards, when the last spasms of need wrack their way through Kazuha’s body and finally disappear, Tomo pulls out of him, his breath escaping him in a quiet hiss at the exertion of keeping up with Kazuha’s heat. Tomo drops down somewhat bonelessly beside him, taking a moment to catch his breath, and then he makes to inch away, reaching for the pillows that they usually stack between them after sex.

A little wall meant to keep things casual, as they’d promised.

Kazuha sees the motion out of the corner of his eye, and suddenly, he feels a violent, lurching upset, somewhere deep inside of him, like he can’t bear to be separated from Tomo for an instant. He nearly tears the blankets in half from how fast he moves to grab onto Tomo’s arm, pulling himself towards the other and gripping at him with enough force that Tomo’s questioning laugh comes out slightly breathless.

“Easy there, Kazuha,” but Tomo adapts to this new development with his usual grace, dropping a careful hand against the back of Kazuha’s head, sliding it down to his neck.

Kazuha shudders at the touch, tries to stop the words that want to rise out of him, the desperation that his muddled, post-heat brain is forcing him into, but even still--

“Stay,” he hears himself saying, his head tilting on reflex in a pleading sort of gesture, his body going submissively limp against Tomo’s own. “Please, I want…”

He wants what?

He never has to find out for himself, though, never has to finish his sentence, because Tomo automatically completes it for him, moving his hand from Kazuha’s neck to wrap his arm around his waist and burrowing them into the sheets, properly cuddling him for the first time. 

The new position makes Kazuha bonelessly, impossibly, happy, somehow, makes him so pleased and content that he’s making some strange series of satisfied little sighs, noises that he would absolutely have put a stop to, were he in his right mind.

Tomo goes still above him, and Kazuha can distantly feel the other studying the top of his head, and immediately, Kazuha knows that Tomo is smiling at him, that special, Kazuha-specific expression. 

The part of Kazuha that will remember this in the days to come hates himself for this, for how much worse he’s just made everything with what he’s doing now.

But his lids are already closing, one of his hands curling into a loose fist against the steady beat of Tomo’s heart. The clean warmth of Tomo’s scent envelops him fully, cloaks him in a sleepy shroud of nothingness, and relaxes him in a way that only his alpha can. 

It’s startling, the thought that comes after this, of when Tomo had gone from being an alpha to his alpha--

Then Tomo’s hand strokes a gentle circle into the bare skin of his hip, and Kazuha knows little more.

In the morning, Tomo makes no mention of the occurrence, and Kazuha doesn’t bring it up. But he can see it, the newfound layer of fondness in Tomo’s face, can feel the affection in his gentle touches to Kazuha’s shoulder or waist when he brings him breakfast, and Kazuha knows that he’s done a terrible thing.

Kazuha curls his fingers in the blankets, takes in a breath, and he means to put an end to things then, he really does--but then Tama jumps into his lap, scattering pieces of fruit so that a grape hits Tomo in the face, and despite everything, the false outrage on Tomo’s face as he whines at Tama forces out an uncontrolled giggle from Kazuha’s lips. 

Tomo glances up at him, at the sound of it, the smile on his face widening into a grin, and then Kazuha aches too much to speak, because he wants so badly for Tomo’s heart to stay frozen in this moment.

He tries again, later, in the late hours of the night, offering to make tea while Tomo tries to wrestle the children they’d been paid to look after into bed. But by the time he returns, prepared to pull Tomo aside and have a low-voiced conversation in the dark, Tomo is sprawled out in a dead faint above the blankets, the two toddlers nestled peacefully asleep on top of him, one of them chewing lightly on his haori. There’s a stuffed rabbit occupying the space by Tomo’s head, and Kazuha moves it out of the way to sit at Tomo’s side.

He finds himself staring down at him, at how much younger Tomo looks in his sleep, unguarded in a way he can’t afford to be in the day, and it occurs to him that this is familiar, because Tomo is always unguarded around Kazuha. 

Even still, Kazuha finds himself memorizing the details, his fingers very nearly reaching out to brush the hair from Tomo’s face before he pulls himself back. Then, when he’s seen enough--too much--he pulls the quilt over the bundle of three and puts out the light.

“You’re good with them,” Kazuha says neutrally, the next morning, rehearsing the inevitable words in his mind as they watch the children devour the porridge that he’s made. One of the kids takes a bite, enthusiastically offers her thanks to ‘Kazuwa,’ and Kazuha covers his mouth to hide his smile. “They like you. And I hadn’t expected you to like them so much, I admit.”

Tomo shrugs good-naturedly, chuckling when the boy attempts to steal a pickled plum from his sister’s bowl. “Good--it’d ruin my whole image, y’know? I’m too young and handsome to be a father. I just think kids should grow up happy, is all.”

Kazuha looks down then, somehow finds it impossible not to imagine a sun-scented future, children with sandy hair and purple eyes, and he never gets around to his well-prepared speech, in the end.

He makes another attempt when they get closer to the mountains, approaching more rural, less populated areas. There are fewer people here, the villages more accurately described as patchwork homes and farmland, and Tomo shifts uncomfortably the first time Kazuha suggests staying in one of the villager’s homes.

The first residence they stay in, the owner is an alpha who watches Tomo the entire time, shadows his movements so unsubtly it’s nearly offensive, and keeps his knife close to his belt when they sleep.

It must be a general mistrust of strangers, Kazuha assumes at first, because anyone would be wary of two samurai passing through such empty areas without purpose.

But then in another village, a child trips and falls in their path while playing, and the father nearly strains a muscle with how fast he pulls his son away from Tomo’s attempt to help the boy up.

Later, the farmer that they offer Mora to in exchange for shelter looks a second away from refusing, but her face goes slightly soft when she notes the tremble in Kazuha’s shivering frame.

“You can stay,” she says, then pauses, seeing the need to make her meaning clear. “Just you.”

“It’s cold tonight. You should take it,” Tomo tells him, quietly, but Kazuha is already brushing past him without a word, wrapping his arms around himself as he walks back out into the frost.

Kazuha isn’t certain what he’s more unsettled by--the obvious prejudice or the fact that he’s never noticed it, the way the world looks at Tomo like he’s a threat.

But Tomo doesn’t seem particularly surprised by any of this, or even upset. Instead, there’s a tired sort of quiet in his eyes, an unusual resignation like he’s simply used to things being this way, and it suddenly occurs to Kazuha that there’s a reason why Tomo had spent the first thirteen years of his life with no one willing to take him in.

“It’s just how it is,” Tomo says casually, prodding at their campfire in hopes of producing more heat. “Can’t blame them. Alphas don’t like it when we get in each other’s territory. And the others, well…I guess they have their reasons for being scared. Not like I was born with the Princess’s pretty face, right?”

He pats the katana at his waist with a rueful sort of laugh that wakes Tama from her slumber, her white head poking out from the gap of Tomo’s kimono.

“It shouldn’t have to be this way.”

Tomo blinks, looks surprised at the unusual heat in Kazuha’s tone, and tries for an easy shrug. 

“Hey, it’s not so bad. I’ve got Tama, I mean,” and then something drapes around Kazuha’s shoulders, warm and soft and smelling faintly of the sun--Tomo’s haori. “And I’ve got you.”

He adds on this last part like it’s little more than an afterthought, his lips quirked into that easy smile, and Kazuha falls silent, shuts his eyes so he doesn’t have to see it.

The next time Kazuha manages to scrape together the courage to bring up the topic, he falls asleep to the sound of young branches cracking in the frost and wakes to Tomo bent over in the dark, coughing up the contents of his stomach into the snow. He rubs at Tomo’s back through it, lets Tomo lay his fever-soaked head into the cool curve of his neck, and listens to the wet crackle of Tomo’s lungs with each of his shallow gasps for breath.

“I’m good,” Tomo tries to reassure him, tries to wave away Kazuha’s obvious concern, but he lays back down without much protest, falls asleep so quickly and deeply that even Tama’s concerned prodding at his chest can’t stir him.

Kazuha’s hands tremble when he boils Tomo tea that the boy can’t keep down, and his heart twists when Tomo’s fever spikes up so high he can no longer recall his own name. But he knows Kazuha’s, is the thing--he murmurs it against his ear like a prayer while Kazuha drags him to a healer that they both know they can’t afford.

“You’re not paying me? Don’t waste my time,” the man snaps, already moving to shut the door, but Kazuha’s reflexes are faster, his hand reaching out and blocking the movement with the same strength he carries on the battlefield.

The man stares down at him, his frame tensing in a readiness to fight, and Kazuha feels the touch of his katana at his waist, knows how easily he could win--but instead he swallows his pride, drops to his knees and touches his head to the herb-scented wooden floors and offers anything in exchange for Tomo’s life.

The man looks down at him, folds his arms in consideration, a hint of his alpha teeth starting to show as he finally pulls Tomo inside, handing him off to his apprentice, and then jerks his head towards his darkened bedroom for Kazuha.

Kazuha tries to keep his mind carefully blank while it happens, for the most part, but the thoughts creep in anyway, light beneath the crack of a door firmly shut. He sees Tomo’s face in his thoughts when his fingers curl into his palms, and Tomo’s laugh muffles the quiet of his pained gasp, takes him so far away that he barely feels it when they dirty the sheets.

Later, after Kazuha has cleaned himself off, he lowers himself gingerly at Tomo’s side, puts his hand on Tomo’s thankfully cooler forehead and watches Tomo lean into his touch. The other’s eyes flutter open, the purple of his irises hazy with confusion, something in them stirring when Tomo catches the foreign scent that still clings to Kazuha’s skin.

“Kazuha,” he starts, and his fingers reach weakly upwards for him, but never quite make it, falling limply at his side. “What did you--”

Kazuha reaches out, covers Tomo’s larger hand with both of his own, shifts so that the bruises on his wrists disappear into the dark. 

“Something necessary,” he decides on, because he means it. “Go back to sleep.”

Tomo looks as if he wants to protest, his eyes sparking in a stubborn willingness to fight, but then another cough wracks his frame, turns his next breath to a shallow shudder, and his eyes close against his will. But even still, Kazuha feels Tomo twist his hand in his grasp, curling his fingers around the back of Kazuha’s hand.

He holds on until it’s impossible to continue, and then his grip slackens as he slips away into the deep. Kazuha stays where he is, his own heart fluttering, a warmth so low and gentle that it erases the cold touch lingering at his hips and back, and he’s almost surprised by how deeply he feels.

And it’s maybe here, here in this quiet moment, that Kazuha comes to realize--

Perhaps there isn’t a time for goodbyes, after all.

 


 

Tomo is different, somehow, after that.

He’s unusually quiet in the days that follow, but his skin is still pale and his cheeks are still hollow from the strength of his sickness, and it’s easy enough for Kazuha to assume that Tomo is merely in the process of recovery. 

So he curls up close to Tomo’s bedroll every night, telling himself that the increased proximity is out of a dire need to monitor the state of Tomo’s breathing, to listen to the rhythm of his chest and ensure that it’s clear. He closes eyes against the steady sound of it, falls asleep and doesn’t see the way that Tomo watches him for hours afterwards, his eyes hardening when they pass over the ghost of fingerprints peeking out from beneath the part of Kazuha’s clothes.

They don’t talk about what happened at the healer’s house, the losses willingly paid for Tomo’s recovery. To Kazuha, this is just another thing left unsaid between them, another conversation forever on the horizon of later, and he’s somehow grown so used to the presence of it that it no longer weighs on his mind.

But Tomo is different--Kazuha can see what he wants to say written across the dark of his expression, the conflict evident in the tightness of his features. He looks over at Kazuha, sometimes, in the quiet moments of their journey, opens his mouth and moves as if to speak, but nothing real ever comes out.

“Is it about to snow again? Tama’s getting kind of antsy about the cold,” Tomo says once, rather obviously swallowing down a different phrase.

Kazuha tilts his head, pretends that he’s listening to the rustle of wind and the brush of the clouds instead of the unsteady beat of Tomo’s heart. “Her intuition would be correct. We should seek shelter elsewhere.”

Tomo nods in agreement, then points out a new direction for them to follow, stalks off while Kazuha trails faithfully behind, and this is what all of their conversations become--shallow waters in what was once a sea.

Kazuha is used to this type of talk, too--this is how he was trained to speak, growing up in the halls of his family home, never once knowing his father on anything more than the barest level. He’s carried this habit, this way of holding himself, all through his life now, always introducing himself to perfect strangers in this cursory manner.

Tomo isn’t a noble, though, and he definitely isn’t a stranger, and Kazuha can’t even put into words how wrong each day feels, waking up and feeling the guard around Tomo’s normally open heart.

It’s never been Kazuha’s way to act first, to speak first, to push forwards where others might lead. But it occurs to him, quietly, watching the unhappiness that settles over Tomo’s frame, that he is the one who started this, the one who first stepped over the neat divide between friends and whatever it is they might become.

Perhaps it is his responsibility to finish it--properly, this time.

The prime opportunity presents itself some few days later, when winter is finally melting into the first of spring.

Kazuha spends half a day watching Tomo’s back in battle, the both of them up against a few hordes of monsters that have been terrorizing the nearby village. Normally, Tomo is talkative to a fault, and even more so in combat, always throwing out some kind of taunt or easy laugh--but the only sound from him now is the sharp crackle of his Electro, more wildly uncontrolled than Kazuha’s ever seen it.

Afterwards, Tomo flicks the blood off of his blade, gives it only a cursory wipe before he shunts it back into his sheath. 

“Guess that’s done. We should go,” is all he says, and he doesn’t quite meet Kazuha’s eyes before he turns his head in the direction of the nearby village they’d taken the commission from.

Kazuha says nothing about this at first, simply taking over the social interaction aspect of their work together, for once.

“Nice job,” the villager who’d requested their help tells Kazuha cheerfully, handing over the Mora. 

“Think nothing of it,” Kazuha answers, bowing respectfully to their client as he accepts the payment.

The man tilts his head, watches as Kazuha tucks the coins into the part of his robes, and Kazuha’s neck prickles with awareness when their client gives him an appreciative, friendly sort of glance--not unlike the way Tomo had looked at him, on their first meeting. 

“Hey, you know--as long as you’re here, I could maybe treat you to a drink? As a little extra thanks.”

His eyes are kind enough that Kazuha senses no ill intent behind the words--merely an outgoing offer to an unclaimed omega.

But Tomo, who had already been walking away, instantly whips around so fast that the air nearly parts for him. The purple of his eyes seems to light with his Vision, rage sparking in his irises, an electric charge bringing even the wind to a dead halt, and almost everyone within thirty feet of them immediately turns to look.

The sting of Tomo’s scent fills the air so fast that the unfortunate villager takes an instinctive step back, clearly unsettled by the obvious threat in it. It’s different from how Kazuha’s ever known it, smells bitter and burnt and so intense that it’s nearly too much.

“Tomo,” Kazuha says, quietly, but Tomo doesn’t seem to hear him, the tight string of control he’s been holding onto for all these weeks finally coming to snap, the reason of his mind swallowed by his own alpha instincts.

In all the time they’ve been together, it’s always been Kazuha in this position, all sense of self lost to his heat, while Tomo cared for him with a human warmth. Somehow, seeing the roles so reversed like this, an odd sort of calm settles over the nervous flutter in Kazuha’s heart, cements his resolve.

Tomo’s hand nearly trembles when it comes to rest on the hilt of his katana, his fingers curling around it so tightly that his knuckles turn white. Kazuha sees a bare sliver of metal, only a hint of the blade before he moves to interfere, steps directly into Tomo’s space and catches his wrist.

When Tomo’s gaze snaps to him, Kazuha doesn’t shy away from what he sees there--Tomo is almost unrecognizable in the feral set of his features, the sheer aggression in his posture and the unchecked anger in his eyes. Tomo’s lip curls, a low growl threatening to rise out of his chest, and the points of his canines are so sharp that they crowd the rest of his mouth.

“We are leaving,” Kazuha decides, keeping his voice firm and leaving no room for argument as he starts to tug Tomo away, and he feels resistance there, feels the muscles in Tomo’s wrist flex as the other prepares to throw his hand off.

In response, Kazuha lets his wrist go slack so that he moves with the motion of Tomo’s hand without breaking his grasp, then digs his nails into the other’s skin, hard enough to draw blood. Tomo stares at him, the sharp sting of pain bringing something of a fresh clarity to his eyes, and Kazuha tips his head at him then, in a gesture that isn’t an order as much as it is a challenge.

An open invitation.

Then he drops Tomo’s wrist, wind gathering at his back as he turns and walks away. A moment goes by, then two, and then he hears the heavy crunch of gravel beneath Tomo’s steps, the other following Kazuha into the forest clearing at a distance.

Neither of them say anything, as they’ve become so accustomed to doing--but both of them begin the fight, blades drawn so fast that it’s impossible to tell which leaves its sheath first. Tomo lunges at him, goes straight for Kazuha’s neck in a way he ordinarily never would have done, and Kazuha blows him back with a slash so aggressive that it cuts into the wood of the trees.

It leaves a deep gash in the curve of Tomo’s forearm, blood seeping into his torn sleeve and the surrounding skin left raw, but Tomo barely seems to feel it, is already bearing down on Kazuha with a strike to his right. When Kazuha twists out of the way, Tomo easily switches the weight of his katana all to one hand, uses the other to shove a lightning-infused palm into the sensitive skin of Kazuha’s stomach.

The pain of it makes the muscles of Kazuha’s abdomen seize, sends him staggering away in a motion that he forces himself to go along with, and then he lets Tomo grab his arm, using the connection between them to infuse the lingering Electro in Tomo’s fingers with his own element.

Energy swirls against his arm where Tomo’s palm is, and then it erupts in something of a miniature vortex, wind burning at Tomo’s hand and up his arm from the force of the friction. Kazuha follows along with the recoil of it, puts enough distance between himself and Tomo to catch his breath, and then leaps into a current of wind to evade just before the tip of Tomo’s sword cracks into the ground, electricity sparking across the clearing.

It is, by far, the most violent spar they’ve ever had, an entirely physical fight absent of rules or caution, and they go on like that until the sun starts to set, evenly matched until Kazuha finally lands a particularly lucky strike at Tomo’s feet. Tomo’s still unbalanced from the bruise that Kazuha left on his thigh earlier, and this second hit slams him back up against a tree, stuns him for long enough for Kazuha to close the distance between them.

He tangles his hand in the front of Tomo’s kimono, uses it to hold him firm while his blade comes up to Tomo’s neck, cold metal resting against Tomo’s collarbone.

For a moment, they simply stare at each other, so close that Kazuha can feel the rapid beat of Tomo’s heart, an electric heat hanging in the air between them. Then Tomo jerks his head in a curt sort of nod, and Kazuha releases his grip, sheathes his sword and takes a seat on the grass.

Tomo wordlessly drops beside him, then takes the extra step of falling properly onto his back, staring up at the emerging stars in silence.

There’s nothing at first, only a sleepy stretch of silence that feels oddly familiar, like the aftermath of one of Kazuha’s heats. Kazuha tilts his head, and he notices that Tomo’s scent has changed, too, the uncontrolled strength from before now absent, relaxing into its usual quiet, clean warmth.

Then--

“I know you didn’t want things between us to change,” Tomo says, and he doesn’t look at Kazuha when he says it, doesn’t look at anything--he closes his eyes so that he won’t have to see. “I didn’t, either--I didn’t mean to...to...I just…”

Tomo swallows hard, then lifts his hands to press the heels of them over his eyes, lets out something of a bitter laugh.

“Sorry. I’m not good at this.”

“You’re fine,” Kazuha answers evenly, and he already knows that Tomo has more to say, so he keeps his silence, waits as Tomo takes another one, two shaky breaths.

“It was okay, at first, I think. Because I guess I could still pass you off as a friend. That it didn’t matter as much as it did. But I keep thinking about it, now. The way that--how his scent smelled on you. And I...you shouldn’t have done that for me.”

“And yet I did.”

Tomo lowers his hands then, opens his eyes so that his gaze meets Kazuha’s own. There’s something helplessly lost in his expression, like he’s stepped the wrong way in a fight and now isn’t sure where to turn.

Like he’s been falling for a long time now.

“Why?” Tomo asks, and his voice is barely a whisper, even against Kazuha’s keen ears, disbelieving and barely daring to hope.

He could explain his heart to Tomo now. He could tell him about his father’s teachings, his proper upbringing, how each and every one of his noble mannerisms has been stripped away, lost in the winds to Tomo’s sun-soaked scent. He could tell him about being raised to fight for his clan’s honor, to fight for his own pride, how Kazuha had never met anyone willing to fight for him until Tomo and his strong, scarred hands.

Kazuha could tell Tomo about Tomo himself, because really, this is the answer to why, the only answer--because Tomo is Tomo.

But, somehow, after so long spent deliberating on what to say, Kazuha finds that none of it matters in this moment. His fingers slide up automatically, his instincts finally joined with his thoughts as he tugs the fabric of his scarf from his neck, exposing the skin to the air.

“Tomo,” he says, and his heart feels like it’s just learning to beat, nervous and uncertain and so full in his chest. “You should mark me.”

 


 

It’s a new experience for Kazuha, doing this outside of his heat.

They’re both equally frantic, though, staggering back to camp and pulling off clothes as soon as Kazuha’s back hits the bedroll. Tomo presses his face into Kazuha’s neck like he can’t get enough of it, runs the points of his alpha teeth against the tender side of Kazuha’s neck until Kazuha shivers from it, turning into the sensation.

He doesn’t bite him just yet, though, instead busies himself with digging through his pack for something, fishing out a bottle of medicinal salve.

“Usually we have a little help with this, huh?” Tomo’s lips curve up into a smirk, and Kazuha flushes at his meaning, at the notable absence of his heat-produced slick, and resists the urge to cover his eyes with his forearm. 

“Don’t bring that up,” he starts, then trails off, averting his gaze.

Suddenly, although this is far from their first time, Kazuha feels somehow shy--it’s a strange thing, almost, to want this instead of needing it, and to be wanted in so much of the same way.

“Mm--but it’s cute. To see you react, I mean.”

His breath hitches when Tomo presses two slicked up fingers against his entrance, and his walls part easily around them, drawing a breathless gasp from his lips at the slide of them against his prostate. Tomo chuckles, and the sound of it is thick with affection, his hand sliding tenderly down Kazuha’s side to wrap around his hip, grasping tightly at it while he spreads Kazuha open.

The bruises from their spar are still evident on Kazuha’s person, an especially dark one the size of Tomo’s hand on his abdomen, and Tomo presses light kisses to them as he moves down Kazuha’s body. The pressure he puts on them is light enough that it doesn’t hurt outright, but the sting of it makes something in Kazuha tighten, makes his toes curl and his fingers dig into his palms.

“So the young master likes it rough?” Tomo inquires slyly, and Kazuha looks down at him, his cheeks burning, about to protest when Tomo lowers his head and takes Kazuha’s cock into his mouth. He crooks his fingers at the same time so that the angle scrapes deliciously at Kazuha’s prostate, makes him buck up into Tomo’s mouth with a choked-off moan of his name.

With the way that Tomo looks up at him, the purple of his eyes narrowed against the dark, it doesn’t take long before Kazuha feels himself release inside of Tomo’s mouth, his fingers tangled in Tomo’s undone hair as he fights to catch his breath.

The orgasm leaves him boneless, pliable and loose so that when Tomo slides his hips upwards and presses the head of his cock against Kazuha’s entrance, Kazuha doesn’t protest. He’s still sensitive, but even outside of heat, his recovery period is short enough that he can take it.

At least, he thinks so.

Then Tomo pushes in, and Kazuha immediately grabs at him, forcing himself to relax his muscles as he feels every part of Tomo’s cock sink inside of him. Without his slick to ease the way, the stretch is considerably more, makes Kazuha’s eyelids flutter before Tomo is even halfway in. Tomo has to stop before he buries himself completely inside him, bending over him with a forearm pressed against the bedroll to steady himself, his breath escaping him in a low groan.

“Ah...Kazuha, just…” Tomo starts, then doesn’t finish, instead reaching his free hand towards the back of Kazuha’s neck, curling his fingers around his nape. He presses his fingers against Kazuha’s scent glands, and then Kazuha chokes back a yelp, feels a white-hot heat darting up his spine, every part of him going limp and pliant beneath his alpha.

Tomo lets out a breath, slides himself all the way inside until his hips are flush with Kazuha’s body, and then drops his head into Kazuha’s neck.

Like this, Kazuha can feel the base of Tomo’s cock, the slight bump of his still hidden knot, and even the thought of it makes him unconsciously spasm around Tomo, fills him with a want so deep that he bucks his hips into Tomo’s body, suddenly desperate to have him closer inside.

A low growl builds in Tomo’s chest, and then the hand against the back of Kazuha’s neck slides up into his hair, Tomo’s fingers tangling in the white strands. There’s a tug against his head as Tomo reveals more of Kazuha’s throat, and Kazuha shuts his eyes, tilts his head into the motion as invitingly as he can.

He can feel Tomo’s stare on him for a long moment, and then Tomo lowers his head, scrapes his teeth against the delicate flesh of Kazuha’s collarbone. His teeth pause there, then move to find the flutter of Kazuha’s pulse, and Tomo bites him, hard enough for the points of his alpha teeth to break the skin.

Kazuha feels the sting of the bite first, feels his blood welling to the surface as the air brushes against the wound--and then everything else comes all at once, his mind going suddenly, blissfully blank as he feels complete, feels a rush of affection and the twist of arousal and a pleasure so deep that it burns at his veins.

His body jerks as Tomo starts fucking into him properly, his cock shoving up against the deepest places of Kazuha’s walls. Tomo’s tongue laps idly at the bite as he thrusts into Kazuha’s hole, and the combination of it nearly makes Kazuha choke on how oversensitive he is, his moans pitching up higher as the sensation sparks up his spine.

“A--aah, I...w-wait--” Kazuha gasps, because it’s so much, it’s too much--but he tightens up around Tomo in a way that makes Tomo smirk against his skin, makes him instead twine his fingers with Kazuha’s reaching hand and pin it back against the ground.

“Sorry, Princess,” Tomo chuckles, not sounding very apologetic at all, and then a particularly hard thrust has Kazuha wailing his name, writhing underneath him as Tomo fucks him through his orgasm.

Tomo keeps going even after Kazuha is limp beneath him, even as the overstimulation pricks fresh tears at his eyes, makes him whine helplessly beneath Tomo’s grasp. He ruts up against Kazuha’s ass, and then slams in with a final thrust, and Kazuha feels it, then, the knot at the base of Tomo’s cock starting to swell, stretching the rim of his entrance wider than Kazuha was prepared for.

He mewls at the feeling, his hips jerking in an instinctive attempt to shift away from the growing pressure, but Tomo lets out another growl--deeper, this time, rougher than Kazuha remembers--and bites down hard at the curve of his shoulder. Kazuha goes obediently still beneath him, tilts his head to the side and parts his legs wider, tries to take more of Tomo in him while the other comes inside of him, his release trapped inside of Kazuha’s body by the knot.

The feel of Tomo’s knot inside of him is indescribably right , fits inside of Kazuha like he was made to take it, and in a moment of hazy delirium, Kazuha thinks that Tomo should stay here like this, that Tomo needs to fuck him until he’s full and then more.

Tomo stays tensed on top of him for a long moment, his hips occasionally bucking up into the tightness of Kazuha’s heat as he rides out his orgasm, and every movement sends a fresh wave of hypersensitivity curling in Kazuha’s stomach, makes him whimper out helplessly as Tomo licks gently at the bite on his shoulder. 

When he finally relaxes, Kazuha can still feel the knot trapped inside of his body, feels Tomo drops his head against his shoulder and lap idly at his bites as they wait for the knot to go down.

Kazuha’s trembling fingers tangle themselves in Tomo’s hair, pet lightly at his neck and his broad back, and Tomo groans at him on occasion when Kazuha touches a particularly tender bruise--but neither of them say anything.

Then, when Tomo finally manages to pull out, his release dripping down Kazuha’s thighs, and pushes himself upwards, he pauses, squinting through the darkness and then reaching out a tentative hand. He pats lightly at the space of ground outside the bedroll, some sort of realization crossing his face.

“Ah, shit,” he says, and Kazuha opens his sleepy eyes for long enough to tilt his head at him, still savoring the feeling of Tomo’s marks on his neck.

“We’re on a rock. I mated you on a rock. The Kaedehara ancestors are coming for my soul, Kazuha.”

Kazuha blinks at him, sees the warmth of Tomo’s grin through the dim moonlight, and every reply wants to rise out of him then, every word of affection, every sunlit thought he’s ever had, every part of Tomo he’d thought there wasn’t room for in his heart--all of it.

Instead, he turns his eyes upwards, his lips quirking in a smile of his own.

“Fuck the ancestors,” Kazuha says, eloquently, serenely.

There’s a pause, and then Tomo bursts into a laughter so free and light that he shakes from the force of it, and Kazuha feels his smile--his softer, smaller smile--when Tomo drops his head back down to his neck.

“I think I love you,” Tomo confesses plainly, and the feeling of falling is so suddenly back, the world shifting out from beneath him and leaving him with nowhere to stand.

So he clings to Tomo instead, breathes in his scent and feels his steady presence, finds the words he wants to say at last.

He’s surprised at how easy it all is.

“I love you, too.”

 


 

“Tomo, it’s about to start,” Kazuha says, digging his fingers into Tomo’s haori and dragging him, with no small amount of effort, away from the snack stand.

Tomo lets out an aborted squawk, one hand reaching out to secure Tama against his chest and the other securing several dango sticks between his fingers. Kazuha pays his efforts no mind, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on their destination, but his Vision warms at his back, prepared to save either the cat or the food from a hasty collision with the ground, should something perhaps go wrong.

“Kazuha, this is important--I was grabbing a couple snacks for the both of us.”

“Perhaps next time, you should just bring the entire stand with you.”

At this suggestion, Tomo’s eyes actually light up, and Kazuha--with an inward horror--can see that the other is actually considering it. “Not a bad idea, actually. We’ll buy one of our own! Or steal it. Next year, right?”

“I am not helping you steal a dango stand,” Kazuha tells him flatly, making a space for the both of them on the grass as they reach the top of the hill.

Tomo laughs, pats a bare space of his chest with easy confidence,  “Can’t be any harder than stealing a horse.”

“I thought you failed to do that.”

“...life’s too short to worry about the past, Princess.”

Kazuha covers his mouth, not quite able to break his old habit of hiding his laugh, but Tomo hears the sound anyway, his features turning soft as he wraps an arm around Kazuha’s shoulders, pulling him close.

There’s a quiet moment, then, something almost shy passes over Tomo’s face as his gaze flickers down to Kazuha’s lips.

“Uh, so...can I...you know?” Tomo asks, and this is so Tomo of him, to be nervous about this when they’re already mated.

Instead of wasting his words, Kazuha curls his fingers into the soft fabric of Tomo’s haori and Tama wisely chooses to eject herself from the situation, leaping away into the grass just as Kazuha catches Tomo’s mouth in a kiss.

Their very first one, to be precise.

Behind them, the fireworks that Kazuha had been so insistent on seeing explode to life, lighting up the night sky--but Kazuha almost doesn’t hear them.

He has more important things to worry about.