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The atmosphere of the room is still tepid from the heat of their bodies, almost to the point that it feels stifling when they're still so close to one another. Aoba is lying on his back, eyes shut and body desperate for air when Mink pulls away from him; despite the heat, Aoba feels like they've parted too soon and opens his eyes with a silent, questioning look at the other man. The arm he'd using to cling to Mink's shoulders and neck slid away and back to his side as Mink sat up, the sweat on their bodies easing friction between their skin.

"Mink...?" Aoba asks, unsure of what he could have done wrong. Mink regards him silently and then reaches down to brush his fingertips along the small of Aoba's back, the rise of his hip, the soft curve of his thigh. Aoba jumps a little, still feeling sensitive and self-conscious from before, but he doesn't move away. Mink lets out a soft sigh, and shuts his eyes.

"Did it hurt?"

It takes Aoba a few seconds to figure out what Mink is referring to, considering the state that he's in. For a moment there are phantom hands around his neck and an oppressive burn of pain through his body pressing down on him and stealing the air from his lungs, but one ragged breath is all that it takes to banish them and bring him back to Mink's gentle touch, his scent, the warmth of his body.


His reply sounds a little too harsh, a little too rushed even for his own ears, and so he uses Mink's arm to brace himself as he forces his aching, tired muscles to move. Aoba shifts slowly but surely, until he's able to sit directly in front of Mink and meet his eyes.

"It's fine," Aoba murmurs. His palm begins to brush along Mink's arm mindlessly, skin running smooth against skin. He fixes his gaze on Mink's a little more strongly to convey his feelings as directly as he can.

"I want this exactly as it is now. I let you touch me of my own free will. Nothing will ever change that. And even if it hurts sometimes, physically..." Aoba says, a light blush rising to his cheeks as he continued, "it's okay, because I know you don't do it on purpose. I know."

He can't help the reflexive tension that builds in his body when Mink presses inside of him, nor the sudden burn and fullness so strong it tiptoes the fine line between pain and pleasure. But it's all worth it in the end, because it leads to the moments when he feels most connected to Mink in every sense of the word.

What they have now isn't like what happened before at Platinum Jail; Aoba knows it without a doubt. He's no longer Mink's tool. That's in the past, a fading shadow compared to all Mink had made him feel since they had reunited and started to understand one another. His hand slows and stops on Mink's arm, and he presses his palm flat just to feel the heat of Mink's skin beneath his fingertips.

He hopes Mink takes the gesture how he intends it to be interpreted: a show of trust, of forgiveness, and of affection above all else.

Mink sighs again, grasps Aoba's hand in his own and gently guides it away from him and back into Aoba's lap. Aoba notices that he seems more relaxed; Mink's expressions and words may have been difficult for Aoba to interpret at times, but their time together had made him fluent in Mink's body language. It was easy now, so easy to see and feel how all of the remaining tension in the other man's body eased away into nothingness.

"... I see."

Mink smiles and shifts away then, hands clasped and head bowed as he begins to recite a prayer under his breath. Aoba curls up closer to him but does not disturb him; the soft whispers of the other man speaking in his mother tongue put him at ease as much as it seems to do the same for Mink.

Aoba's last thought before he drifts off to sleep, calmed by Mink's voice, is a hope that someday Mink will understand that he has already forgiven him, and that he understands that he loves him more every time he shows him that level of love and care.