Sousuke keeps his eyes fixed on Haru’s slender legs ahead of him, leading them on the narrow path. With the canoe on his shoulders, the bow tipping forward with every step they take, the legs are the only part of him he can see, really; so he distracts himself from the discomfort of the boat and the heavy pack, from the oppressive heat, by letting his eyes lazily trace him up and down.
Worn pair of track pants, navy blue, tucked into bright red socks (to avoid poison ivy and getting mauled by mosquitos, horseflies, blackflies, ticks…). Hiking boots Sousuke insisted he wear; he still can see Haru in the sporting goods store, putting water sandals and water sandals only in their overflowing cart and getting his look of genuine surprise then offense when Sousuke laughed for about a minute straight. Was still laughing, shaking his head, when he stalked into the inventory room and tracked down a pair of men’s boots, lightweight, good support, size 7. Haru was still sulky even as Sousuke watched his feet disappear perfectly in, like he was fucking Prince Charming offering a glass hiking boot to Cinderella.
Sousuke thinks he could watch Haru walk all day. It isn’t anything dramatic or flashy. It’s just this – utterly practical grace. Tree trunk approaching diagonally across the path, the feet never even pause, just lift up and over like the tree isn’t even there – though there’s a quiet “Tree,” sent back over his shoulder to him, to be sure Sousuke doesn’t miss it with the boat and fall on his fool face. Sousuke knows it’s basic portaging courtesy but he appreciates it all the same. Past the trunk, the slim legs move along, surprisingly fast given their height difference and the two packs Haru’s carrying, one front, one back. He’s so little after all – he’s only about shoulder-height to Sousuke, which of course only reinforces (exacerbates) his feelings about his omega.
His mind wanders when he knows it shouldn’t, knows that he needs to keep it on track to be sure he doesn’t drift off and fall into a hole, or something. But it’s Haru’s legs, again; he blinks in the close dimness under the aluminum arch of the canoe, echoing with his soft panting breaths, and then he’s back, watching those same legs hurry in front of him into an abandoned house, up a creaking stairway. Those legs led them down a short hall, turned them into what was a kid’s bedroom – clothes scattered across the floor, toys. Slim legs taking them both to the little twin bed where he blinked and his view blew wide, he saw all of the smaller man as he pulled them both down, and he was the alpha for fuck’s sake, wasn’t he supposed to be the one doing the taking?
But then something kicked in, something new since the blast, something that got him testing the air around the little man’s nape, where he breathed in excitement, fear, anger, sex; everything he read splayed across his small face, practically just a smear in the heavy darkness of the child’s room, but punctuated by these eyes, these fucking giant eyes that shone up at him like they were a couple of cats in the jungle. The man was a scent-signature he’d never come across – he was bitter, and salty, and bracing, and Sousuke felt his cock thickening at the first inhale.
His alpha ways finally coming to him, running his hands down the legs that brought them there and back up, getting rid of the guy’s skinny jeans. His legs had been shaking; hands, too, as they moved restlessly on Sousuke’s forearms, biceps.
“Scared?” Sousuke remembers himself asking as he bumped his way between his legs, without much sympathy or softness in his voice, maybe a big shit-eating grin on his face.
“Why?” Instant return like he was fucking saving it up for him. Totally belied the shakes. Fucker had the balls to peer up at him looking innocent. “You haven’t given me any reason.”
“…oh really. Let’s fucking see about that, shall we?” he served back, but was smiling, one pawlike hand scooping around the back of his neck to possess his head, fold over and sink into his petite mouth, and it felt so good. God. So right.
Other hand slipping down, fingers surprised at the softness (almost silkiness) of his taint, but not waiting, sliding in and finding such wet, such heat, he was momentarily relieved – oh yeah, this guy wants it – and weirdly disappointed. So that’s why he was all over Sousuke … and apparently in this new world everything was explainable by mutant biology. Made everything that much easier. And colder.
But that didn’t stop him from pulling out his cock, pushing in ruthlessly, picking up a steady rhythm with the guy’s ankles on his broad shoulders … flexible, he gave him that. Flexible – and those shakes at the start? He was wrong, they weren’t shakes.
Haru’s whole body had been trembling, just the finest bit, but tucked up under him – folded around him – reaching up to him – the tiny trembles surrounded him and disoriented him, made him feel like he was fucking a damn powerline. He had no idea how long they had been when the knot finally released fully into the man under him, Sousuke groaning like someone had just pounded eight years of built-up tension out of his back, the little guy strangely quiet. Just … breathing quick, pretty-much drenched in the sweat they both shared (it was August, the room was a sauna), hair a filthy mess. And he gathered the guy up, sat up with him, kissed him – hard.
Sousuke remembers asking if he was with anyone, as they hunted side-by-side (in vain) through the cupboards in search of food. He’ll never forget the bitter look he got back, like Haru was convinced he was being made fun of in a way all-too familiar.
“Sousuke,” Haru’s saying, and Sousuke practically plows him off the path with the canoe, he’s so distracted, and mutters (“….fuck…”) to himself. He’s stopped in the middle of the path (those legs stock-still) so Sousuke gingerly tips the bow back to have a look, hands braced out against the gunnels in a deep stretch.
“What is it?” he asks, hushed on immediate instinct, eyes gone narrow as they hunt the pines up ahead for what might have tipped Haru off. “You want me to put the boat down and take a look?”
“Tsk, no, you’re so cute when you’re chauvinistic,” his black-haired omega smirks up at him from under his dirty baseball hat. Sousuke has the immediate urge to knock the hat off him and kiss that smirk away, even in the midst of their unknown danger; and he frowns instead.
“I’m not fucking kidding around, Haru. What is it? Just because we haven’t run into anyone for weeks doesn’t mean we won’t now. These woods could be hiding anything.”
Haru comes up close, puts his hands up to take the bow so Sousuke can take a rest but he doesn’t budge, huffs in frustration. “What are you afraid of? What could possibly be out here? It’s like you said, we haven’t run into anyone for weeks! And even that was those two sweet guys – seriously, were you threatened by a bonded pair like that?” He pauses, like he’s weighing whether or not to add the last bit. “We could’ve joined up with them!”
Sousuke’s voice drops an octave without intending to. “That couple was NOT the norm out here. It’s anarchy now and honey, you’re gonna look mighty fine to anyone looking to score himself an omega.”
“Ohmygod.” One word, like a teenage girl; but his face is dead-calm, angry. “I’m gonna pretend you didn’t just have yourself a little alpha fantasy at my expense, and I’m gonna go head over here –” He points with his middle finger and Sousuke starts scoffing reflexively – but then he sees –
“– to this lake through the trees. See ya.” And he turns neatly and marches away, like a little Mutant Ninja Turtle with those packs, but it isn’t funny –
And there IS a lake through the trees.
Sousuke’s hurrying after him so fast he almost rams him again, and they’re spilling out onto a shore, and it’s a modest thing – more of a pond really than a true lake. Sousuke’s heart sinks at the sight; he knows what this means, that they won’t be able to stay, and he can tell by Haru’s look of bone-deep dismay that he’s right. But of course his omega has to be sure.
Haru doesn’t take long to strip, and Sousuke waits in the shallow water sitting in the stern, their stuff stacked neatly inside, watching him run then shallow-dive with his usual offhand grace under the murky water. Then it’s still, and he tells himself nothing bad can happen; if anyone knows their way in the water, it’s Haru, and everything will be fine. He clamps down on the little voice insisting things are different now – who knows what could be under the water, to pull him down, who knows if the water itself is even safe anymore after the blast, if the fish are suspect?
When Haru finally pops up, like some scrawny merman in jammers, Sousuke’s meeting him thigh-deep and grabbing him tight. “Jesus, Sousuke!” he gasps as he gets the air squeezed out of him. “What the hell!”
“This was a fucking terrible idea.” Sousuke lets him go and backs up, shivering suddenly in the breeze that hits his damp hiking gear.
“Well, yeah, sorta. Lake’s dead. We can’t stay.” The look on Haru’s face is almost like a doctor telling the family the patient didn’t make it; just this terrible mixture of misplaced responsibility and crushing disappointment, badly held together by a stoic mask. An “everything’s gonna be fine” look Sousuke knows perfectly ‘cause he has it down pat, too. But it’s NOT gonna be fine. The lake’s dead. Which means they can’t refill their water, either, which is running dangerously low. Two guys, working hard, bushwhacking through old hiking trails in June; they’re going to need all the water they can get, and they just learned they can’t get it here.
Part of him is tempted to question Haru’s judgment and just break out the tent anyway, out of exhaustion as much as anything else; but the part that knows better heads back to the boat, gets everything squared away for them to move on. Because he knows Haru, as well as he knows himself. And when it comes to the water, there’s no point second-guessing him.
Sousuke doesn’t know what wakes him up. Maybe it’s the sudden drop in the wind, that’s been inhaling and exhaling almost like breath around their tent since sundown. Maybe it’s some sixth sense that clues him into the lack of same from Haru. His eyes flutter open to see the side of the tent, no Haru tucked against him in his usual spot, curled in a loose ball.
His heart slams into his chest as he rocks up, doesn’t bother pulling on a shirt, fumbles with the zipper and shoves himself out.
Haru’s a few meters down the dry creekbed from the tent, hugging his knees and gazing up at the sky. Despite the comfortable temperature of the night he’s commandeered one of Sousuke’s flannels, and he looks like a little boy playing dress-up in his dad’s clothes, just his fingertips peeking out the cuffs. Sousuke feels he might faint with relief but ambles casually over, makes a little show of brushing the grass off before he parks his boxer-clad-ass down. He gets a little smile and is satisfied.
They both peer up, and Sousuke thinks it’s funny that all those stars seem almost … threatening. Especially for a guy like him, used to the light-pollution of Tokyo then the clouds and haze after the shock, he’s used to looking up and seeing nothing. Now, there’s almost too much up there, with unknown wants of him, and he just wants to laugh at the irony. ‘Cause aren’t stars supposed to be all romantic, or some shit?
Sousuke doesn’t know romance.
“You OK?” Haru’s asking him – asking – him – despite Haru being the one pulling the disappearing act out of the tent. For some reason Sousuke lets him, keeps looking up at those alien stars.
“Did you have anybody before? I mean – not since we all were changed. Before then? When things were more-or-less normal?”
Haru’s looking hard at him like they’ve lost all that time and he’s trying to figure out if he’s being made fun of again, then laughing. It’s a funnily-dry sound for a dude who loves water so much but it’s real, and big enough Haru has little tears in the corners of his eyes when he can finally talk again. “Oh, Sousuke. God, I thought you knew me by now.” He leans over, puts his messy head still damp from the lake on Sousuke’s bare shoulder, and he shivers lightly at the softness. “Hey, does my dog count?”
“Why not?” Sousuke barrels on. He isn’t sure why they haven’t talked about this before, and it’s strangely troubling to him. This is important information he really should know about his omega … about this man, who’s along for his ride, and why the hell doesn’t he know this? Why wouldn’t someone want Haru?
“I’m not a very nice person, Sousuke. Duh.” He turns his head, lightly bites just at the top of Sousuke’s biceps tendon where his boniness becomes tender, and he hisses.
“That never stopped anyone from banging me,” he retorts, and he’s unsure why he’s offering relationship advice years and worldwide-apocalypses out of date for someone who seems totally at peace with their lack of past hookups. He grabs Haru’s biting chin in one hand, cupping it, staring him down.
“I’m ‘appy for ‘ou,” Haru says through the squish of his cupping hand, and his big lake-blue eyes squint up at him, and Sousuke can’t take it anymore and kisses him.