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Yoshi had never been a traveler. Until he reached adulthood, he had lived always in his ancestral home, and the greatest trips he'd ever taken were a few hours into neighboring cities. The one time he truly traveled, he had been jailed, beaten, drugged, was nearly killed at least twice, killed more men than he cared to think about, and thoroughly violated the code of kindness to which he had until then adhered.

And yet, when his father died, only the road made sense. The road... and something else.

He found that something in the midst of a barroom brawl.

Well, to be specific, he found a barroom brawl that seemed to consist solely of uniformed local gang members, and found their single opponent after pulling two of the gangsters off by their patterned yellow neckerchiefs. The drifter spun on him, pulled short, smiled with a split lip, and pounded Yoshi's chest before going to punch someone else.

Between the two of them the fight was over in less than a minute. Uniformed men ran or were left groaning on the floor; mostly the latter. Yoshi stepped over to the bar while the drifter retrieved his fallen fedora and brushed dust off the crown.

"You want to know how I found you?"

"Not really." The drifter donned his hat, turned down the brim with a brush of his fingers, and produced a cigarette as he turned toward Yoshi.

"You aren't very curious, are you?" Yoshi said over the click of the lighter.

The drifter's gaze flicked up toward him, and after a moment he clicked the lighter shut and took the unlit cigarette from his lips. "I don't waste time with unimportant questions." He approached the bar, his gaze never leaving Yoshi's. Yoshi drew himself to his full height, still several inches shy of the drifter, but refusing to be stared down. "The important question," said the drifter, "isn't 'how'." His eyes glittered. Yoshi had never realized before what a warm shade of brown they were.

Yoshi caught the hand that reached toward his face. After a moment he let it reach its destination anyway. Someone during the fight had gotten a lucky shot to his cheek with a broken bottle, and the drifter's thumb brushed over the cut. Yoshi could feel the digit tremble.

"It's 'why'." The drifter finished after a brief eternity. He pulled his hand away and broke eye contact in the same motion, snatching a bottle from behind the bar; the bartender was long gone. "The police'll be here soon. I've got a place we can lie low."

Unbalanced, Yoshi could only follow. In the taxi the drifter stared straight ahead, his face a stony mask, while Yoshi regarded him from the corner of his eye.

'Why'. That was the question Yoshi had been avoiding. He knew why he'd gone after the medallion -- why he'd fought the Red Suits -- why he'd come to the drifter's aid against the circus punk gang. Honor had demanded it. Honor made things easy. When he'd placed the medallion around his father's neck, he had been proud to be the one to bring this honor to his clan.

The elation ebbed, though, and in its place had been emptiness, a sense that the place that he'd called 'home' his whole life was now cold and alien. A sense that in returning with the medallion, he had left something irreplaceable behind.

Yoshi knew what desire felt like, was stranger to neither the flutter in his breast nor the stirrings below his sash. He'd had his share of starry-eyed romances and known the subsequent joys of another's touch. This, though... it was familiar, yet infinitely different. It was an ache that would not subside, memories that intruded on the routines he once enjoyed, feet that found their way time and again to the train station -- and he didn't even know the man's name.


They disembarked at a rundown hotel. The floorboards creaked under Yoshi's feet, though the drifter passed over them silent as a ghost. The room he led them into was small, sparsely furnished, lit sporadically by an animated neon sign across the way. Yoshi hung by the door to toe off his boots while the drifter wandered toward the single small bed, tipping the bottle back for a swig and wiping his mouth after. The bottle made a dull 'thud' as he set it on the bedside table.

"You haven't answered me." The drifter shrugged off his black wool coat.

Yoshi's eyes went wide. A surprised "What?" was all he managed. The drifter turned, his eyes glittering with amusement before the sign changed and left his face in shadow. Yoshi tensed as the man closed the little distance between them.

"You never answered my question," the drifter said. The sign illuminated a key produced from his pocket, and he stooped still closer, his voice a low growl next to Yoshi's ear. "Why you went looking for me." Yoshi shivered. The lock clicked. The drifter's arm brushed Yoshi's shoulder, and behind him came the sharp sound of a key set deliberately atop a bureau.

Yoshi's heart pounded in his chest, so loud he was sure the drifter must hear it. He took a breath and found it shallow and unsteady. The air was heavy with the scents of sweat and blood and whiskey and smoke. Warm breath blew against the juncture of his neck and shoulder. There, again, was the hand, this time brushing the front of his kimono, clever fingers trailing down toward his sash. It occurred to him that no courtship was intended. They'd known each other for a sum total of a week, almost a year ago -- yet here they were, Yoshi practically pinned against the door, skipping every step between. He couldn't decide if he minded or not. He could barely think.

Fingers tugged at the tie of his sash. Yoshi caught the wrist. This time he pulled it upward and performed a turn that carried him under the drifter's arm and into the center of the room. The air was lighter here. He breathed in deep and tried to calm his racing heart.

The drifter turned with him. At this angle, the brim of his hat cast a shadow that hid half his face, but Yoshi thought he saw a flash of something -- uncertainty? disappointment? -- then it was gone, given way to a chuckle. "Alright," he said. "Don't answer." He stepped past Yoshi, back to the bed, swiping the bottle from the table. He tipped his head back for a long drink. Yoshi watched his throat work. A script tattoo peeked over the edge of his open collar, and above that a scar showed pale and thin in the neon light.

Yoshi closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them, he found the bottle proffered at arm's length, the drifter very deliberately not looking his way. The cigarette had reappeared in his lips. Yoshi took the bottle. The whiskey burned in his throat and made him cough.

Except for that, silence stretched between them. Yoshi felt it begin to settle. Like a weed, he thought, that would overtake the garden if allowed to take root. He wouldn't give it the chance. Drawing courage from the whiskey, he said, "I was looking for a friend."

The drifter's eyes flickered Yoshi's way, brow clouded, then cleared as he, too, recalled his unfriendly introduction. His gaze averted again. "Is that all?" There was a cold edge to his careless tone. He twirled the still-unlit cigarette between his fingers.

The bottle clunked against the tabletop. Yoshi circled until he was standing tall in front of the drifter. Cautiously intrigued eyes followed his motion. Other than that and the spinning cigarette, the drifter didn't move. "What if it isn't?" Yoshi said carefully.

The drifter's tongue darted to moisten his lips. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse. "I already asked you. Twice. I'm not gonna ask again."

For a long breath, Yoshi did not move. His gaze trailed down the drifter's form, his broad shoulders, strong chest, deadly hands still twirling the cigarette. Yoshi's own hand darted out, plucked the cigarette from the restless fingers, and he stepped into the drifter's space to slide it back into his vest pocket. He could have sworn he heard the drifter's breath catch. The hat shadowed his eyes. Yoshi swept it off.

The drifter's brown hair was a fine texture, too short to have much weight to it, and was susceptible to static such that a wool hat was prone to produce. The result of these factors was that when the hat came off, a layer of hair poofed up to follow it.

Yoshi managed to keep from laughing for a good three seconds. It was the drifter's confused expression that broke him.

The drifter frowned and ducked his head and generally looked as close to flustered as Yoshi had ever seen him. He even seemed to flush a little, though it was hard to tell in the uncertain lighting. His hand rose to smooth down the offending poof.

With a supreme effort, Yoshi composed himself. "Let me." Still grinning, he reached up and finger-combed the drifter's hair back into place. It was as soft as it looked. He took his time.

The drifter managed a smile as Yoshi met his eyes. "Thank you."

Yoshi smoothed errant strands back against the drifter's temple. The comical sight had disrupted the mood, but Yoshi felt more at ease now -- the alcohol dissipating into his system didn't hurt, either. Worries about courtships suddenly seemed ridiculous. They'd nearly beaten each other to death on their first meeting, entrusted their lives to each other before the week was out. It was a little late to think about doing things the 'right' way.

The drifter was watching him, brow still furrowed slightly. At Yoshi's urging, he leaned down. Yoshi closed his eyes and pressed a soft kiss to the drifter's lips. They were chapped and dry but soft, yielding easily to his touch. Mustache hairs prickled against his upper lip.

He pulled away. The drifter's eyelids slid half-open, his eyes dark with desire. "Yoshi," he murmured. His voice shook. Something else hovered after the last syllable, and Yoshi waited to hear it.

Instead, strong fingers wove into Yoshi's hair and crushed their mouths together. Yoshi's lips parted in surprise and the drifter's tongue pressed in. He tasted of whiskey and smoke and blood; the force had reopened his split lip. The man didn't seem to mind. He kissed roughly, with hunger and fire and a remarkable lack of elegance. Yoshi met him with his own skillful passion.

An insistent hand untucked his kimono and tugged it over his shoulders. Yoshi released the drifter long enough to slip his arms out of his sleeves. Calloused hands explored his bare skin, catching on the scars both old and new.

It seemed only fair that the drifter be similarly unclothed, but there were entirely too many buttons on his vest, and fumbling blindly at them was difficult when the drifter seemed determined to crush as much of Yoshi's body to him as physically possible. Where the drifter's hips pressed against his, he could feel the erection straining through the layers of fabric, just brushing his own. Yoshi rubbed against him and the drifter groaned into his mouth.

There was one thing to be said for the drifter not being naked: his shirt made for a convenient handhold. Yoshi all but threw him onto the bed. The springs hadn't stopped squeaking before Yoshi was straddling him. His hair fell loose around his shoulders -- when the drifter had untied it, he wasn't sure. Rough hands pressed at the small of his back. Yoshi rolled his hips. The way the drifter's breath hitched and shuddered was electrifying. He thrust again and was rewarded with a sharp exhale. Yoshi tugged at the drifter's belt.

The drifter's eyes fluttered open. A glint in their depths was Yoshi's only warning before he suddenly was on his back, one strong hand pinning his wrists above his head, the drifter's body heavy between his spread legs. Opening the belt was, for that hand, the work of moments; the sash of Yoshi's hakama yielded little resistance. Yoshi trembled. He tried to focus on the rough hand caressing his erection, on the mouth sucking a bruise into his neck, on anything other than the vulnerability of his position.

The drifter's fingers slipped further down. "Yamete kudasai," Yoshi gasped, trying to pull away, but the drifter's body held him fast. A fingertip pressed against his entrance. Panic shot through him as he tried and failed to find the English words he needed, crowded out only with "Yamete!" His heels dug into the mattress as he jerked, twisting against the hand that held his wrists, knowing neither action would yield much result if the drifter didn't want it to.

Both hands were immediately removed. "Okay," the drifter said, propping himself up with one hand and brushing hair away from Yoshi's face with the other. "I'm sorry. It's okay."

Yoshi closed his eyes. He took a deep, steadying breath, then another, willing the panic out of his system. When he could breath without shaking, he focused outward again. The drifter hovered over him, still apologizing with his eyes though his voice had gone silent. Yoshi touched the hand that had settled against his cheek. "Just... slow down a little," he said, curling his other hand around the nape of the drifter's neck. "I'm not going anywhere."

The drifter visibly swallowed and his gaze flickered toward Yoshi's throat. "Yeah."

They started again, the drifter's motions gentle and slow and cautious, until Yoshi bit his lip hard. The drifter jerked back. "I said slower, not crawling," Yoshi growled. That predatory glint flared in the drifter's eyes, and when he attacked with teeth and tongue and fire he was met with equal ferocity.

No further attempt was made toward fucking. Instead, when they were both hard again and gasping, the drifter wrapped a hand around both their cocks and stroked. Yoshi gripped his arms hard and failed to control the small noises from the back of his throat. His body drew taut as a bowstring. Already he felt white-hot energy gathering at the base of his spine. He braced shaking legs and thrust his hips, but every time he thought the feeling had peaked, it found a way to mount still higher. Curses in his native tongue hissed from between clenched teeth.

The drifter's breath ghosted over his ear, gasping almost without voice, "Yoshi." A shiver of pleasure shot straight to his pelvis, and all at once the dam broke, the shockwave rippling out into his body and spilling over the drifter's hand. Yoshi threw his head back and clutched at the drifter like a lifeline.

The hand still stroked, sending aftershocks that burst behind Yoshi's eyelids and made his tired limbs quake. He squirmed and whimpered and fought to breathe against the overwhelming stimulation.

A minute or an eternity passed before the sweet torture mercifully ended. Individual sensations made themselves known -- heavy breathing above him -- warm wetness on his stomach -- the heavy scent of sweat -- the groan of the bedsprings as the drifter dropped down beside him. Yoshi shifted as far as he could to make room; even so, the bed was only just wide enough for them both to lie shoulder to shoulder.

Eventually, Yoshi rolled onto his side and let his fingers brush over the shoulder seam of the drifter's shirt. He never had managed to remove it. "I don't even know your name," he murmured.

Silence. Yoshi hadn't been expecting an answer. He gave in to sleep.

A whispering wind came to him in his dream. It swept loose strands of hair behind his ear and brushed a kiss of sakura petals to his forehead and murmured sounds that were almost words, almost I'm sorry.

When Yoshi awoke, he was alone.