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-||- Never -||-

Ritsuka sat on the floor across from his partner, Soubi, wrapping his right arm in white bandages. He'd cleaned the four-inch gash and covered the wound with gauze before winding the strips of cloth around the Sentouki's arm to keep it in place. Again, Soubi had stepped in the way of a spell, taking the damage on himself. As many times as he had insisted Soubi let him fulfill his role as the Sacrifice, Soubi never seemed to listen. As he refused to be the kind of Sacrifice who controled their Sentouki, Ritsuka felt the necessity to take on all of the damage to feel like he was anything more than a spectator. And nothing hurt worse than watching Soubi being injured in his stead.

"Done." He said dryly as he secured the end of the bandage.

"Thank you." Soubi smiled, reaching out to kiss his soul-mate. Before he could reach him, Ritsuka stood up and walked off to put the first aid kit away in the bathroom without a glance back.

Soubi rose to follow after him. The blond watched as Ritsuka tucked the small box back into the cabinet. As Soubi went to step towards him, Ritsuka just pushed past him, heading toward the kitchen. He hadn't made eye-contact with Soubi since they reached their flat.

"You're angry with me." Soubi said softly.

Ritsuka made no reaction as he poured himself a glass of water. Still refusing to look him in the eyes, Ritsuka took a drink from the glass and then turned to go to bed. When he stepped through the bedroom door, Soubi reached out, grabbing the young man by the wrist.

"Let go of me." Ritsuka growled.

"You're angry with me." Soubi repeated.

"Yes! Yes, I'm angry with you!"

"If that is the case," Soubi gently bowed his head in subservience to his Sacrifice, offering himself, "Then punish me."

"I am not Semei!" Ritsuka screamed, startling the tall blond. Ritsuka's body shook as he clenched his hands into fists, digging the nails into the flesh of his palms. "I am not Semei!" He repeated.

"R-Ristuka..." Soubi stammered.

Ritsuka clamped his jaw and shot his head up to, finally, look Soubi in the eyes. "Meirei! Taibatsu! Meirei! Taibatsu!" He shouted. "Is that ALL you want?"

Soubi stood frozen, staring into those amethyst eyes he loved, which were now filled with anger and pain.

"I am NOT your master!" Ritsuka screamed. "I am not Semei! I am not Ritsu-Sensei! I'm RITSUKA! RI-TSU-KA! I am NOT going to order you around! You are not a tool! I am not going to use you! I am NEVER going to beat you! I don't want to be protected! I don't want to control you! I JUST want to love you! Why isn't that enough?"

Soubi could hardly breathe. "Ri... Ritsuka, I-"

Ritsuka's voice got lower. "Can't you just love me, not as your Sacrifice, not as Semei's younger brother, not as some kind of 'master,' but as me?"

Was Soubi still breathing? He hadn't moved. He only stared. Had his heart stopped?

Ritsuka sighed. "My mother doesn't love me. She wants who I used to be, whoever that was. The me who died 9 years ago... Semei loves me because he thinks I'm just like him, so he really just loves himself. Are you, now, going to tell me that you only love me because I'm your Sacrifice? Am I just filling a role? If that bond disappeared, would you?" The scarred and shattered heart pumping beneath Ritsuka's ribs strained and ached. "I guess I am Loveless."

Suddenly, Soubi woke to life, pulling his young partner to him, wrapping his arms around his shoulders. Despite the minor shock at Soubi's abrupt action, Ritsuka did not move or react. He simply stood there, with his arms at his sides and his hands slack. There was nothing new about Soubi holding him. Soon, Ritsuka realized that Soubi was shaking. At the same moment, he felt a cold, wet pressure against his shoulder. Soubi's... crying?

"Ritsuka..." The Sentouki sobbed. "Ritsuka, forgive me." His grip on Ritsuka's shoulders felt more desperate, as if he was afraid that Ritsuka might vanish at any moment. "Please, forgive me."

Soubi... Seeing the man he loved crying like that, he wondered if he should have said so much of what he thought. He wrapped his slender arms around Soubi, holding him close.

"Ritsuka, I'm so sorry. I never meant to make you feel this way." Soubi clenched his teeth, hating himself.

Ritsuka pulled his head back and raised his hands to either side of the blond's face, pulling it from his shoulder and wiping away tears with his thumbs. "Soubi, please, look at me." he requested softly.

Reluctantly, Soubi pulled back the lids of his eyes.

"I'm sorry, too." Ritsuka whispered. "I know why you want me to be that way. I know you don't know anything else. But, I love you. Not as anything but who you are. I've seen the scars on your back. I've seen the terror in your eyes when you think about Semei or Ritsu-Sensei. All I want in this life is to show you that THAT is not love. I just want to be with you. I just want to live with you, and hold you and be your equal. I just want to love you." He emphasized this final statement by pressing his lips firmly, but gently, to Soubi's. He didn't try to deepen the kiss. He didn't use his tongue. Of all the kisses he and Soubi had shared in seven years, he wanted this to be pure. He wanted this kiss to convey the love he held for him.

Soubi, who's grip had never left Ritsuka's slim shoulders, sobbed against Ritsuka's soft lips. No one had ever spoken to him like that. No one had ever loved him. He was an object to be utilized. He had never been seen by anyone as anything but a device. Yet, here, in Ritsuka's arms, he could feel that the young brunette didn't want anything but him. Just Soubi.

After the eternity of time which they spent in each-others embrace, Ritsuka pulled back, sweeping a swath of Soubi's hair behind his ear. As he retraced his finger's movement across Soubi's cheek, Ritsuka's thumb lingered for a moment on Soubi's right ear-lobe where a thin, pink scar recalled how Soubi's small butterfly earring had been ripped out by Kouya and Yamato. So much pain he'd endured in his life and never once has he complained about it.

"Soubi," Ritsuka hummed, cupping the blond's cheek with his hand. "I haven't said it enough but, I love you. I have loved you for years. I'm sorry for taking so long to say it. I love you." He peppered Soubi's face with feather-soft kisses, punctuating each with an, "I love you." With tears continuing to flow from Soubi's eyes, Ritsuka pulled his face back to his, this time kissing him passionately. This kiss did not last as long as the previous kiss, because Ritsuka had one last thing to say. "Soubi, If it takes the rest of my life, even if it TAKES my life, I will never see you in pain again. I swear it on my soul."

Over the course of ten minutes, the whole world around them had stopped. Scared no more, Soubi pulled Ritsuka to him, resting his cheek on his lover's shoulder. His voice still shaking, he whispered, "Ritsuka... please, don't leave me."

Ritsuka pulled Soubi closer, crushing their bodies against one another. "Never." He vowed.

Heaven only knows how long they stood there, clinging to each other. At some point, which neither of them could define, they had made their way to their bed. Clutching each other, they laid on their bed, more than content to spend eternity like this. So long as they could hold each other, the rest of their lives meant nothing.

Ritsuka woke, feeling the burn from a sliver of light piercing his eyes. Looking over his shoulder, he found the sleeping form of his lover, spooned behind him. I guess at some point in the night, we changed positions. He thought to himself. As gently as he could, trying not to stir his partner, he twisted his body around so that he could, once again, face him. When he was younger, all he could think about was being able to be so close to him. All he ever wanted was to be with him. Though, at the time, he did not know how to define how he felt, and even if he could, he probably wouldn't have really understood why.

It took every ounce of will-power in him to not reach out and stroke Soubi's pale cheek with his fingertips. He wanted to caress the 28-year-old body which he lay pressed against. He wanted to feel Soubi inside him. He wanted to bind himself to Soubi in any and every way possible. For the time being, Ritsuka contented himself by simply feeling Soubi's secure arms around his waist.

Ritsuka watched Soubi's chest rise and fall as he slept, and his eyes drifted across his sleeping form. The white bandages wound around the fresh injury from the previous night's battle had the faintest tinge of pink in the center. We'll need to change those. He thought to himself. Peeking out from the edge of his shirt, a faint pink line jaggedly twisted down the opposite arm; a reminder of the violent first meeting of Natsuo and Youji. The Zeros were now their close friends, but Ritsuka couldn't help but feel irritated at both them and Soubi. That was the first time Soubi had fought alone, trying to protect his young Sacrifice.

Scanning across Soubi's exposed flesh, his eyes rested on the scars that hurt Ritsuka the most. Beneath the loosening bandages wound around his lover's neck, he could see the deep scars left by his brother carving his 'true name' into Soubi's skin. As much as the old scars on his back from repeated beatings angered him, seeing the name etched cruelly across his collar bone almost seemed, to Ritsuka, like it was another form of rape. How could people be so horrible? Knowing Soubi, even if he didn't want it, he probably thought it was just what he deserved or that he had no right to refuse. How many times had they fought and the ghastly wounds bled?

Unable to resist, he stretched his delicate fingers to stroke along the raised skin. When Soubi didn't stir, Ritsuka pushed himself forward, pressing his lips gently to the bandaged skin. The blond twitched momentarily.

"Ritsuka?" Soubi groaned sleepily, with a slight twinge of confusion.

He pulled back to look into Soubi's crystalline eyes. "Soubi," He murmured. "I love you."

Soubi pulled his young lover close. "I love you too, Ritsuka."

Pressed against Soubi's chest, the desires of moments ago rose up again. Ritsuka pressed his lips back to the scared flesh below Soubi's throat.

"R-Ritsuka." Soubi moaned softly, shocked by Ritsuka's early morning attention.

Encouraged, the brunette kissed and licked and sucked at the exposed flesh between the bandages and his shirt collar, leaving small, red marks in his wake. The older man's breathing picked up, the air hitching in his throat as Ritsuka's teeth dragged across his collar-bone.

"Soubi," the 19-year-old whispered, "I'll never let anyone hurt you again."

The blond looked down at Ritsuka, who began, pulling the white ribbon of cloth from his opalescent neck. As many times as Ritsuka had seen the scars across his throat, Soubi suddenly felt ashamed and embarrassed of them.

Ritsuka pushed himself up, looking into his eyes. "I'm never leaving you, Soubi. Never." he stroked his fingers along the taut skin of Soubi's neck. Beneath his fingertips, Ritsuka could feel Soubi's pulse pounding through his veins. "What do you want, Soubi?" He hummed, moving his fingers to stroke the soft skin wrapped around Soubi's cheekbone.

Soubi looked at him with confusion.

"I want to know. You're always asking me what I want. Now it's your turn. Please, tell me." Ritsuka gently begged.

Soubi's mind raced. What DID he want? All he knew was that he wanted Ritsuka. Other than that, he didn't care what happened to him. Nothing else mattered.

"I have what I want." He spoke quietly, pulling Ritsuka close. "I don't need anything else."

Ritsuka continued stroking Soubi's cheek with one hand, and the other wound through the long strands of blond hair. "Do you want me, Soubi?"

The question came as a bit of a surprise. "Of course I do." Soubi replied.

With a nod, Ritsuka pulled out of Soubi grasp and sat up straight. For one horrible second, Soubi feared he had done something wrong. Then, as he watched, Ritsuka peeled his shirt off, casting it onto the floor. Bare-chested, Ritsuka returned to his previous position beside Soubi.

"Take me, then. I'm yours." He said softly, rolling onto his back, never breaking eye-contact.

Soubi stared into Ritsuka's confident eyes. There was no sign of hesitation. Seven years together, and Soubi had been in love with the young man for all of them. When Ritsuka was young, Soubi was almost disgusted with himself for it. He would never have thought of doing anything with him other than kissing. He knew what it was like to lose that innocence so early, and he would NEVER have pushed Ritsuka into that. Now, seeing Ritsuka, at 19, lying beside him, offering himself, the need was almost over-powering. He had spent so many years keeping himself under control, fighting his passion for his Sacrifice. But, Ritsuka was right. He was not his Sacrifice. He was just Ritsuka. And he loved Ritsuka. And Ritsuka loved him, not as his Sentouki but, as Soubi.

Ritsuka reached out one pale hand to run his fingers through Soubi's long blond hair.

"You have always been careful with me. You don't have to hold back anymore, Soubi." He whispered. "I love you and I trust you."

With that, Soubi slowly rolled himself to hover over Ritsuka's bare body. "Ritsuka," Soubi spoke hesitantly, "Are you sure?"

Unsure of how he could convince him more, Ritsuka wrapped his arms around Soubi, pulling his head down and meeting their lips. Slowly, Soubi lowered himself to press against Ritsuka.

Feeling Soubi's body against his own, Ritsuka opened his mouth, extending his tongue to stroke his lover's lips, begging for entrance; entrance Soubi was more than happy to permit. Twisting and curling, their tongues tangled, not fighting for dominance, but aching for contact.

Seven years of caged passion overflowed as they caressed the other's body. Breaking the kiss, Soubi began kissing down Ritsuka's jawline, nipping and licking the charged flesh as he went.

"Gyahh!" Ritsuka cried, his nails digging momentarily into Soubi's shoulders as the older man bit lightly just below his ear. His small body quaked with desire and his back arched itself off of the bed.

Soubi's fear of, in any way, hurting Ritsuka made him instantly panic. "Ritsuka, did I hurt you?"

The dark-haired boy shook his head, pulling his body against Soubi's.

Almost startled by Ritsuka's reaction, Soubi tried that again. As he pinched the salty-sweet skin between his teeth, he felt Ritsuka's hips buck ever so slightly.

"G-God, Soubi." Ritsuka growled, curling the tips of his fingers into his love's back.

Soubi let out a low moan, feeling the feathery stings pop along his skin and Ritsuka's growing erection pressing against his own. Letting the wave of desire ripple its way down his spine, Soubi began kissing down Ritsuka's throat, sucking against the pale flesh as he went. On his southward trek, Soubi took a break, wrapping his lips around one raised nipple.

"Nya-!" Ritsuka's body lurched upward. Every time Ritsuka's body reacted this way, all Soubi wanted was to do whatever it took to make it happen again, stronger if possible. Because of the success he'd had before, Soubi nipped lightly at the pink nub.

"G-Gods!" Ritsuka shook, his legs wrapping themselves around Soubi's hips.

The friction of their pelvis' pressed together caused Soubi's body to shiver. Swept up, Soubi used one free hand to rub the free nipple. Ritsuka's body pulsed and quivered from his ministrations.

Leaving Ritsuka's red, raw nipples, he made his way down, producing small, red marks in his wake.

After an agonizingly long time, Soubi reached the waistband of his pajama pants. Slipping two fingers between the garment and flesh, Soubi looked up, once more, for confirmation. Feeling the lack of contact, Ritsuka looked down and nodded breathlessly.

Slowly, Soubi pulled the cotton sleepwear from his young lover's hips, freeing Ritsuka's now hard member.

The cool breeze swirling in from the open window above them made Ritsuka's exposed body twitch. This moment of shock gave the young man a chance to think clearly.

"S-Soubi," he stammered. "W-wait a s-second." The moment was beginning to fade, feeling Soubi's hot breath against his erection. The blond looked up, slightly confused and almost fearful that he'd gone to far.

Taking a deep, steadying breath, Ritsuka reached out to cup Soubi's face, pulling him back to his lips. With a few more seconds to let his brain catch up, Ritsuka pulled back. "Soubi, you're setting my body on fire and I'M happy, but it's your turn to be treated." And with that, he flipped them over and, in a swift move, kicked his pants off to the side.

Before Soubi could put to words the confusion he was feeling, his young lover crushed their lips together. Despite being slightly flustered, Soubi found himself lost in Ritsuka's kiss, as he often was. Not too long after, Ritsuka disconnected their lips, moving to his windpipe where he licked and sucked at the alabaster pillar. Soubi had never been touched like this and so he could not understand the way the slightest touch from Ritsuka seemed to leave his flesh burning and electrified. Every kiss along his neck sent waves radiating out to his fingertips and toes. Every suck at-

"Oh, GOD!" Soubi cried as Ritsuka took one of Soubi's pert nipples into his mouth, licking and sucking. When did he get my shirt off? "Ri-Ritsuka..." Soubi stammered, "I-I don't understand. W-what's hap-happening?"

With a parting flick of the tongue, Ritsuka raised his head up to be level with Soubi's, who's face was turning red and damp.

"If I'm doing this right, I'm pleasuring you."

Soubi could only lie there, panting heavily.

"Do you want me to stop?" Ritsuka asked, coyly grazing the pink nub, which had only moments ago been in his mouth, with his thumb.

"Gyahh!" Soubi moaned loudly, throwing his head back into the pillow. Taking in a few breaths, Soubi shook his head. "No."

As good as it had felt being pleasured by Soubi, Ritsuka was just as happy seeing Soubi panting and sweating from his touch. Soubi, has anyone ever done this for you? Has anyone just thought about making YOU happy? Have YOU ever thought about that? He thought to himself. Silently, Ritsuka made another vow; that Soubi would never again wonder what it was like to be the first priority.

Kissing Soubi's lips one more time, Ritsuka moved down the Sentouki's body, peppering his skin with kisses. Finally, the brunette reached the top of Soubi's pajama pants. Slipping his fingers under the elastic band, slowly pulling them down, pressing his lips against the skin around Soubi's hips. Once Soubi's erect penis had been released, Ritsuka wrapped the thick appendage with his delicate fingers, which caused the blond's hips to buck.

"Ri-Ritsuka..." Soubi choked out.

With a smile creeping across his face, the younger male began to pump his hand along Soubi's length while his lips continued south to his inner thighs.

Sensation ripped through Soubi's body like an earthquake. Every nerve was aflame and Soubi just wanted to be touched everywhere. How long could he withstand this kind of pleasure before his heart gave out? Could one body contain so much ecstasy?

"G-god, Ritsuka, faster!" Soubi moaned.

More than happy to oblige, Ritsuka's thrusts picked up speed and his thumb rubbed at the slit. Incrementally, Ritsuka's hand sped up.

"Ri-Ritsuka." Soubi mewled. "I-I'm..."

Ritsuka shot up, taking his love's mouth as he pumped furiously.

Soubi's head shot back into the pillows as he came hard in Ritsuka's hand, calling out his name.

Panting heavily, Soubi looked up at Ritsuka and found himself instantly aroused by what he saw. Ritsuka was looking into his eyes, while licking Soubi's cum from his fingers, savoring each white drop. Soubi rocketed up, crushing his lips against Ritsuka's. Sitting on the bed with his back straight, Soubi pulled Ritsuka onto his lap.

"S-Soubi..." Ritsuka sighed as Soubi left his lips and claimed one of his nipples.

After a few minutes of worshiping Ritsuka's chest, Soubi pulled back, looking his lover in the eyes. "Ritsuka," he moaned, "I want to make you mine. I want to take your ears."

Ritsuka smiled, leaning down, kissing Soubi's flush lips. "That's just what I want too." He whispered.

Soubi stretched up, kissing Ritsuka as he reached one hand around his small back and pressed a single digit to Ritsuka's tight hole. Against Soubi's lips, Ritsuka moaned at the contact. Encouraged, the Sentouki slowly inserted the finger into his lover's tight channel.

"Nyah!" Ritsuka cried, the ring of muscles clamping down on the foreign object. There was a slight amount of pain, though not as much as he'd expected.

"I'm sorry." Soubi cooed. "Am I hurting you?"

After a moment, Ritsuka shook his head. "No, keep going."

Soubi wiggled his index finger, waiting for the muscles to relax. When they did, he inserted a second. And then a third. When the rings of muscle had released a little of their grip on his three fingers, Soubi began to pump them in and out of Ritsuka's tight canal.

"Dear God, Soubi!" Ritsuka cried as Soubi pressed the pyramid of fingers against his prostate. Mimicking his last angle, Soubi pushed hard against that point and Ritsuka tossed his head back, screaming in pleasure. "Soubi!" He groaned, "Please! I need you!"

Happy to comply, Soubi removed his digits, lined his newly erect member at Ritsuka's entrance and pressed himself in. The brunette clenched his jaw, choking out a cry of pain.

"I'm sorry, Love." Soubi said remorsefully. "Do you want me stop?"

Ritsuka wrapped his legs around his partner's hips and shook his head. "No, Soubi. God, it feels SO good!" He growled. "Please, move."

Soubi pulled out slowly and, with great care, pushed back even deeper. Ritsuka's heels dug into his hips as he moaned loudly. Again, Soubi removed himself and then pushed back in, pulling a moan of pleasure from his soul-mate.

"F-faster, Soubi. Please!" Ritsuka shouted, using his legs to push more of Soubi inside him.

Mentally unbridled, Soubi sped up his thrusts. "Ritsuka, you're so tight!" He groaned.

"GYAH!" Ritsuka cried as his lover struck his prostate again.

Quickly lining up his angle, Soubi pushed hard against that same point.

"So-Soubi!" Ritsuka flung his head back, holding tight onto the back of Soubi's neck. "Harder! Please, HARDER!"

A small smirk crept onto his face as he slammed into Ritsuka's bundle of nerves, ripping a scream of pleasure from him. With every thrust, Ritsuka would whimper and scream as wave after wave of euphoria echoed its way through his body.

As Soubi felt Ritsuka's muscles squeezing tighter, he knew they were both close to climaxing. He picked up speed and wrapped his long fingers around Ritsuka's throbbing sex.

"Nyahh!" The young one cried, digging his nails into Soubi's back. Oh, Gods! I'm not going to last much longer! "S-Soubi! I'm close!"

Claiming his lips, Soubi pumped and pounded furiously wanting to make sure they both experienced as much joy from this first time as possible. Together, they threw their heads back, calling their lover's name as the exploded. The two held onto each other for strength as they rode out the waves of rapture and sexual gratification. Slowly, Soubi laid back onto the mattress, pulling Ritsuka with him.

As they lay panting, Ritsuka whispered, "I love you, Soubi." As much as he'd hated the word 'love' when they first met, he now knew that Soubi had not been throwing it around recklessly, and so he had some ground to make up. Seven years of adoration.

"I love you, Ritsuka." Soubi moaned. He ran his fingers through Ritsuka's jet-black hair and remembered something. "Ritsuka, they're gone."

The younger chuckled softly. It's about fucking time. He opened his eyes to look at his lover when something far more startling caught his attention.

"Soubi!" he gasped.

What? Soubi thought. Was he regretting his decision?

"The scars..." the brunette choked out, "They're gone."

The Sentouki's eyes went wide. "What?"

Ritsuka gently dragged his fingers across the now smooth, unmarked skin of Soubi's neck. Soubi reached his hand out to feel along his collar-bone. Shocked, he felt no raised lines. The two sat up and looked wildly around, almost as if looking to see if it had fallen off with Ritsuka's ears and tail. Suddenly, Soubi's eyes fell on a black line of elegant lettering on the underside of Ritsuka's right forearm, just below the elbow joint.

It can't be... He thought to himself, looking down at the same spot on his own arm and, sure enough, in gentle twists, the word "LOVELESS" was drawn across his skin. "Ritsuka."

Looking back at Soubi, he followed his lover's dumbstruck gaze and found the mark.

They sat like that, staring at their shared mark for an innumerable amount of time.

Suddenly, Ritsuka let out a nervous and exhilarated chuckle. "I wish we'd known that would happen sooner." Soubi looked inquisitively up at his lover. "I've finally been tied to you." He brought his head down to brush his lips across Soubi's. "Now nothing can ever separate us."

Soubi crushed his lips against Ritsuka's, weaving his fingers through soft, black hair.