Sakura and Snow

Drift IV - Dissolve


By Natalie Baan



Music whispered in Subaru's ears, cupped against him by cushioned headphones. There was poignancy in its low discordance, an edgy aliveness that might be called beautiful, if what was raw and vital and tigerish could be beauty. His right hand drew the coiling headphone cord taut; the other traced that stretched-out spiral, one finger running slowly along its repeating curves. He lay on his back on the couch, staring up toward the ceiling, eyes half-lidded, his attention turned inward.

Seishirou leaned over the back of the couch and into view. Subaru's gaze snapped to instant focus.

"Ah, Subaru-kun." He could read that from the man's lips clearly enough, though the sound was muffled, obscured. Subaru shifted one side of the headphones away from his ear. Seishirou had on a belted white cotton robe, gaping a little open at the throat. Elbows on the couch back, forearms crossed carelessly, he hung over Subaru, his hair a black tumble across his forehead, as though gravity had stroked careless fingers through it. "I was just going to take a shower. Do you need the bathroom?"


Seishirou smiled, seemed about to say something else, then smiled more broadly and pushed himself up off the couch with the emphatic air of somebody going about his business. As he wandered out of sight, dull, heavy fingers scraped the inside of Subaru's chest, closing measure by measure into a basalt fist, a stone lodged between his ribs with no way for him to remove it, a suffocating, deadening weight. If it had only been that despair--but something fought the familiar bleak immobility, churning as though to scour it away, rising despite the burdens of sorrow, failure, and regret.

How dare he.

Subaru's fingers knotted in the loops of black cord. At least--at the very least, he told himself--Seishirou was refraining from trying to cheer him up, from jollying him toward what Seishirou regarded as "normalcy." Seishirou clearly knew that things were amiss, and just as clearly knew why--certainly, he'd better. But that Seishirou didn't really understand what Subaru was suffering, that he remained so densely oblivious to his own wrong, only concerned insofar as it jeopardized the peace between them--that Saiki Daisuke was dead, dead, and he, Subaru, had had to be the one to bring the young man's body to the Dragons of Heaven, to be a mute witness to their grief (especially Seiichirou's, when the man had already lost so much), and after that to slink back to the killer's side, agonized but compelled, knowing that to do otherwise would be to throw away all that he'd already given, to crush the last wish that sustained him. He found himself wondering, in the exhaustion of self-betrayal, in the bitterness of anger, if it was worth it after all. He was just so tired. He felt ready to close his eyes, to fall, to let go of the whole thing and just...just....

The singer's voice crooned in his ear of surrender, of dying.

Of killing.

Subaru clawed the headphones off and sat up quickly. Swinging his legs around, he put his feet down on the floor. He let the headphones fall onto his lap and bent forward over them, burying his face in his hands, scrubbing his fingers up into his hair before the restless motion stilled and he just sat there, hiding his eyes, breathing slow, constricted breaths. At last he sighed and slumped with the sense of a crisis passed, though its danger lingered, uncomfortably near. It was so fragile, this state of balance, his presence by Seishirou's side and the mental and emotional tightrope-walk that let it happen.

The flicker of hesitation. The words not spoken. Seishirou was aware of it too, Subaru thought with dim hope. Though Seishirou wouldn't speak of it and persisted in going on about his day, smiling and seemingly careless, there was uncertainty in the way he was behaving. Seishirou didn't know how to "fix" what he'd done; behind the easy surface, he was waiting. For what? For a better opportunity to charm Subaru out of this mood? For Subaru himself to take some action? Perhaps Seishirou didn't even know for sure; perhaps indecision was part of that tentativeness. In any case, it was unusual--Seishirou tended to be much more aggressive, always asserting his control over a situation whether he really knew what was best or not.

Distracted, Subaru pushed himself up from his huddled position. As he moved, his gaze fell on the chair to his right--he stopped and stared at it, his eyes narrowing. It was the chair where he'd waited that time, watching Seishirou while the man slept, weighing his own ability to forgive or to destroy; it was also the chair where he and Seishirou had done...some pretty incredible things. Memory put a flutter of excitement in his stomach, a flush of heat in his face. It also set anger burning in him again, low but distinct. The immediacy of his reaction was a reminder of the power Seishirou had over him, and of his susceptibility to it even when he should know better, when responsibility or simple self-preservation should take precedence. Sometimes he couldn't say if he was proud of or appalled at himself for yielding so completely, letting himself be taken to such extremities by Seishirou's games. It was terrifying to put himself into Seishirou's conscienceless hands, to let Seishirou's magic work upon his mind and soul, to let Seishirou drive his body to formerly unknown ecstasies, knowing all the while that he was a toy that could so easily be broken, and yet it felt so good, not just those physical, sexual pleasures but the freedom of letting go like that, beyond anything he'd ever dared, or imagined daring. He shouldn't want it so much, but he did. He craved it even through the dread and vague despair at the thought of being made a plaything yet again, subject to Seishirou's whims, just as for all those dark years he had loved Seishirou helplessly, even through the hate.

But that wanting didn't excuse anything Seishirou had done. It only put a sick, conflicted ache into him, a wearying tangle of love, desire, and precariously leashed fury.

Seishirou-san. It's not that I trusted you and was betrayed. I should have known better. I did know better. It's just--I thought that I'd be able to-- Subaru blew out a breath, closed his eyes as he leaned against the couch back. That blame was his, and the anguish of it struck him to the core again, making him shudder. He hadn't been quick enough, alert enough, to save the windmaster. But his was not the only failure. It's that you won't even make the effort for my sake. No, for our sake. You want me by your side, but you can't be troubled to think about what you do, what it means.

It's always about whatever you can get away with.

Still, it's just a game, isn't it.

Letting his eyes drift open, Subaru gazed at the far wall. In the distance, he could hear the faint shush of running water.

After a minute, he rose from the couch, setting the headphones aside. Bending, he touched a button on the remote, switching off the stereo. As he crossed the room, picking his way between the chair and end table, he felt as if he was walking on a trembling ocean, an endless distance to the horizon, an endless depth beneath his feet. If he drowned, he knew that he'd be drowning in himself, sucked down into the dark, crushing pressures below the surface, the contradictory needs that made his heart beat painfully, straining for release.

He came up to the side of the bedroom doorway. Leaning his shoulder against the wall, he could see part of the precisely made rectangle of the bed, bathed in a golden sunlight that seemed to deny the very existence of death, of ambivalent sex, of anything that had to do with consequences. Tilting his head to rest against the wall as well, he stared into that brightness. Through the shower's ceaseless murmur, louder now that he was nearer, he could hear brief snatches of humming interspersed with an occasional burst of song, the words blurred by the closed bathroom door.

Subaru lifted his hand and pressed it flat to the wall in front of his face. He glanced across his tensed, splayed fingers, then let his eyes unfocus, concentrated instead on the solidity under his palm, the tremoring of muscles as he pushed harder, harder, curling his fingers into claws, into a fist, the clench in his stomach, the ache in his locked jaw, the smothering tightness that wouldn't let him draw breath. He hit the wall, gently, because to do more would be to crumble the dikes and start the flood that maybe nothing would stop. It wasn't enough. That sunlit room floated before his eyes like another world, as though it denied his existence too, and he yearned with a fierce, ravaged misery to be exorcised, to be sent on to some other place, if he couldn't be the person who belonged to this one. He understood now why ghosts felt the need to throw things, trapped as they were in the equivocal space between realities. Unfair. It was so unfair. This rage, this violent longing, this vertigo as if he were on the verge of losing everything solid, becoming more and more a stranger to everything he'd been and known....

And Seishirou hadn't changed, would never change at all....


A tiny lift, a glimmer like a bubble of air flashing up out of the black deep, and Subaru found that he could breathe after all. Twisted up against the wall, motionless but for the slight rise and fall of his chest, he gazed into space, replaying the scene one more time. A moment's faltering, in which he could have been tested or coaxed and wasn't. And earlier, that quiet admission of limit, of difference, perhaps of incomprehension: No. You're not. There were other threads as well, gossamer, maybe imaginary in whole or in part, but if he could trust to their pattern, that Seishirou for once was unsure--

Subaru eased back a step, swaying from the wall. He left just his right hand in contact with it, fingers trailing as he drifted toward the doorway. On the threshold he paused and looked at the bathroom door for a long time, listened to the plash of water, Seishirou's voice silent, at least for now.


The thought of the man drew him on then as the new moon draws the sea, a tide creeping forward with inexorable, cat-quiet steps, lapping up and up onto the strand, prowling nearer to a high-water mark. Another crush of emotions was gathering: pain and anger, doubt and coalescing intention, night-dark ice and a strange, growing eagerness barely held in balance. Touching the bathroom door at last, he traced the white-painted wood with his fingertips, his other hand curving half-consciously into a loose fist at his side.

Seishirou-san. I wonder.

The doorknob was cool as his fingers settled around it, as it nestled against his palm.

What would you do now, if I was the one who....


* * * * *


Seishirou ran his fingers through his hair a couple of times, making sure all the excess conditioner was rinsed out of it, then slicked them over the top of his head. Hands clasped behind his neck, he stretched, arching slightly, enjoying the water's hot, pummeling massage against his back. A good soak in a bath was delightful too, of course, but there was something relaxing yet invigorating about a shower. Japanese or not, he almost thought he might prefer it. Letting his hands slide over his shoulders and down the planes of his chest, he turned to let the water play across his front once more, his head tilted back out of the spray, his eyes closed in contentment. Yes, just a little longer....

The click was soft enough that it could have been anything or nothing--perhaps just imagination, his ears playing tricks on him, a random sound born out of the rushing rhythms of the water. It caught his attention, though, and as he listened more closely he heard an answering thunk, scarcely louder. Together those two sounds confirmed each other, making definite what he'd thought he'd heard.

It had been the bathroom door opening, and then closing.

Seishirou frowned. There was only one person it could reasonably be, but--"Subaru-kun?" he wondered out loud. There was no reply, and his vague disquiet became a more distinct unease. Subaru's mood had been dark since the fiasco with Seishirou's last job, and although that brooding withdrawal was nothing especially new, Seishirou found himself unsettled. Having Subaru moping about the apartment, racked with sadness and guilt over the young windmaster's death, was unpleasant but not insurmountable, given enough time and careful affection; however in this case Subaru also had real reasons to be upset with Seishirou, and for all his apparent quiescence that core of anger surely had to remain. It made for an uncomfortable state of affairs, to say the least. Inwardly Seishirou cursed that boy for alerting the Seals to his plan to return to them--how else would they have known to call in Subaru?--and Kanoe too for coming around with that supposedly simple and troublefree job. Instead it had become a huge complication. Now he was stuck with the aftermath: a Subaru who probably hated him all over again, who blamed Seishirou even more than he blamed himself.

But was Subaru really angry enough, tormented enough to attack him in the shower?

Subaru's presence was unmistakable, lurking somewhere to one side of the shower stall. There was no intimation of magic. Leaning over, Seishirou slid the frosted glass door open just enough to look out. Subaru was propping up the wall next to the shower, hands tucked behind his back. He turned his head ever so slightly, inclining his body forward as he gave Seishirou a sidelong glance. His expression was unforthcoming, his gaze opaque. It took Seishirou a beat to process the sight, and then he smiled, a faint upward twitch of his lips. He wasn't quite sure how he should be responding. Normally Subaru was painfully shy about sharing the bathroom--Subaru's mood was strange. Should he be coming across as solicitous? Hopeful? Just a little suggestive? Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to convey all three.

"Ah. Did you need something--"

Pivoting toward Seishirou, Subaru slid away from the wall. He extended one arm, his hand coming to rest on Seishirou's shoulder, shifting Seishirou backward as he eased in through the door's narrow gap. The shower's spray, needling past Seishirou, began to spot Subaru's beige long-sleeved T-shirt, a rapidly thickening pointillism of dots creeping over his arms, his shoulders and sides; it stippled along the legs of his jeans as well, their hems catching splashback from the shower floor and turning dark against the tops of his pale, graceful bare feet.

Reaching behind himself, Subaru slid the glass door shut. Seishirou looked down onto Subaru's bowed head and felt a surge of contradictory impulses--incredulity, wariness, the fascination and keen interest of being faced with the truly unusual--but primary seemed to be lasciviousness. Subaru's incongruous presence in the shower made his groin tighten, his stomach tense, a darting flutter like a kite looping about in an unpredictable wind. Perhaps the strangeness and the lingering potential for danger added spice to that desire; certainly the urge was immediate and compelling. Briefly he wondered if it might be skewing his judgment--could he really be sure that this wasn't some ruse, the implication of seduction meant to catch him off-guard and vulnerable? Yet it seemed unlikely. Subaru had never cared for pretense, and he'd made that mistake before, attributing his own inclinations to Subaru. If Subaru hadn't tried to kill him outright by now, or at least declared them mortal enemies again, he probably was safe from retribution. In any case, as long as he remained cautious, aware of the risks...Seishirou drew in a relishing breath. "Well," he murmured, his voice husky with intimacy, "Subaru-kun--"

Subaru's head came up, and Seishirou was struck silent by the unexpected intensity of his gaze. The veiled flatness of moments before was gone; those green eyes were hot and concentrated, as if a fire had consumed their deadness until all that was left was this gemlike burning. There was strain in the tautness of Subaru's mouth, firmed into a severe line, in the arch of his throat, his head tipped back to look up at Seishirou, a steely tension in his body that belied the lightness of his touch. Stray water drops spangled his hair as he stared into Seishirou's eyes. That gaze was breathtaking--there was no other word for the shock of it, like some intangible yet stunning blow. Then Seishirou found his breath taken in a quite different manner as Subaru swayed forward, one hand curling behind Seishirou's head to drag him down for a kiss.

No ethereal play of mouth on mouth, this--it was forceful, insistent, demanding. Subaru's lips parted on Seishirou's, impelling his to open as well, Subaru's tongue taking advantage to delve deeply, stroking and possessing. Surprised, Seishirou nevertheless responded with passion, matching thrust with riposte--and was doubly surprised when Subaru disengaged and then bit him, quick and sharp, not a savaging but not a teasing lip-nibble either. Instinctively Seishirou jerked against Subaru's hand; it remained cupped behind his head, holding him firmly, though not so much so that he couldn't break free if he made a real effort. Just as quickly, Subaru was kissing him again, that brief violence past but the warning in it plain. Subaru's mouth drew on his more calmly though still with an unwonted authority, an air of focused resolve. Subaru went up onto his toes, his body arching against Seishirou as his lips moved on Seishirou's mouth, a tingling crush of pleasure, a twinge of discomfort where he'd bitten down before.

At last he released Seishirou. Sinking down and back a half-step, he regarded Seishirou with an unwavering, assessing look. Seishirou returned it guardedly. Arriving at some point of satisfaction or decision, Subaru raised one hand, placed it on Seishirou's sternum, the motion deliberate and smooth, and gave a carefully measured push. Seishirou stepped backward and felt the shower's main force striking him at shoulder-level, the water flowing around his neck to trail in broad rivulets over his front and along his arms, spattering like intermittent rain against his scalp. Subaru studied him another moment, those eyes lowering to survey his body almost gravely. The merest hint of color touched Subaru's face. Then Subaru once more closed the gap between them. He set his fingertips on Seishirou's shoulder, each contact delicate and distinct, as if searching out notes on a flute. Stretching upward, he leaned into Seishirou, and Seishirou felt Subaru's tongue lap along the base of his throat before Subaru's mouth closed there, suckling as if to drink him like the water that coursed between and over them both, that riffled about Subaru's lips and across the skin they played over, its flow becoming part of that kiss.

Seishirou stared at the white-tiled wall beyond Subaru's head. It was a dance, he realized, every move of Subaru's choreographed precisely to communicate what he should do or not do to fulfill his part. That little push, for instance--he hadn't needed to rock back with it, its force had been negligible and even if it hadn't been he could have resisted, but to yield was what had been called for in the moment. It was that or break the pattern, refuse to follow or else turn it back onto Subaru--which last he frankly was finding rather tempting. The situation disturbed him, made him restless, but at the same time he was immensely curious about Subaru's intentions. As well, he had the sense that Subaru was close to some dangerous inner edge; perhaps this was Subaru's way of working out an arcane emotional equation, a calculus of anger, desire, and love that, resolved, would keep him from falling. Perhaps Seishirou's own responses would tell heavily in the result. How could he know? And it was already his doing, the stupid choice that had brought them to this pass in the first place....

Seishirou's stomach contracted, and not just with the desire being stirred by Subaru's prolonged, methodically devouring kiss. Teeth pinching his skin, then a relentless suction--that was going to leave a mark. Subaru rocked up into him, rubbing full-length against Seishirou as he continued that ardent yet controlled assault. Turning his head, Seishirou arched his neck, spray dampening the side of his face--then flinched, hissed through his teeth, Subaru's increasingly wet jeans in less than enjoyable contact with a certain portion of his anatomy. "Subaru-kun--"

Subaru shifted back, an immediate relief, followed by new, more pleasing sensation as he began alternating slow kisses and languid, curving licks across Seishirou's chest. Subaru's hand glided the length of Seishirou's arm, obscurely ticklish as it skimmed the inside of elbow and forearm. Catching Seishirou's wrist, Subaru lifted his hand and with gentle firmness placed it on the shower door's rail. Almost absently Seishirou closed his fingers around it. Bending, Subaru kissed down that now-exposed side, more of those thorough, lingering kisses, his other hand tracing a parallel descent, caressing Seishirou's opposite side. Subaru's fingers and thumb played over the curve of his pectorals, stroked along his waist to his hip. They cupped there as Subaru nipped lightly on the other side--a shock of teeth close to the bone, followed by the absolute, melting tenderness of yet another kiss--then traveled upward once more, never losing contact with his skin.

Those fingertips trailed upstream through the shallow-running water that poured over Seishirou. They followed his throat, leaving those rivulets behind momentarily as they explored the lines of his jaw and chin, then slipped back under his ear, brushing its lobe in passing, to settle behind his neck, in the heart of the shower's spray. Subaru had straightened partway--his mouth closed onto one of Seishirou's nipples, a startling tug and scrape of teeth followed by a warm, all-enfolding suckling, and a thin bolt of white-cold pleasure flickered through Seishirou, mildly surprising him. It wasn't usually one of his more erogenous areas. Perhaps the oddness of all this had something to do with it: his uncertainty paired with the experience of Subaru's mouth and hands journeying at will over his body, erotic and at the same time disquieting, raising every sense to a keener pitch. A corner of his mind still groped after answers, but it had faded into the background, no more than a distant note of warning and alertness. Somehow it was better to wait and see, to let Subaru's lovemaking play on that unknowing as upon his body, awakening this discomfiting mix of pleasure and doubt, making him want without understanding what exactly he wanted.

Subaru's fingers were strumming through the fine hairs on his neck, a light rake of short nails, over and over. As Subaru's mouth kept up its seemingly insatiable nursing, Subaru's other hand found its way between their bodies until it cupped Seishirou's groin at last, and his half-awakened interest finally coalesced into full arousal. Distantly Seishirou noticed that his murky, vaguely agitated state of mind didn't seem to be inconveniencing that part of himself. Correct or not, it apparently had its priorities in order.

Drawing in a heavy breath of sweltery, steamy air, he glanced at the top of Subaru's head, the black hair stuck down in spikes, mostly wet now. As he watched, almost entranced, Subaru sank lower, relinquishing his nipple, Subaru's fingers slipping from behind his neck. Reaching the level of Seishirou's navel, Subaru ran his tongue around its circumference, spiraling inward until he was licking into its shallow depths, his hand meanwhile continuing to work steadily on Seishirou's shaft. The second hand joined the first, one fist wrapping around the head and sliding down toward the base, the other following right after, a ceaseless succession of strokes as though he was being drawn deeper and deeper, an endless penetration, with occasionally a gently corkscrewing twist for variety. Sensation pulsed and throbbed through him: the beat of his blood, a straining peak each time his head was driven through the ring of Subaru's fingers, a delicious glide as they moved along his shaft, barely clearing the way for the next sweet height. Seishirou's hips rocked ever so slightly, riding that rhythm, the same as the rhythm of Subaru's tongue flicking in and out of his navel; he was just conscious of his own motion and kept it restrained, enough to admit appreciation without disturbing Subaru or inspiring further corrections. He certainly didn't want Subaru to stop.

Subaru's hands slowed eventually and did halt, one remaining closed about the base of Seishirou's shaft, drawing the skin tight. Before Seishirou really had time to register his disappointment, let alone decide what to do about it, Subaru had settled all the way to his knees on the shower floor, was bringing his mouth close to Seishirou's penis--a flutter of lips about the head, stirring and tugging the foreskin delicately, then Subaru's tongue playing around its rim, and Seishirou exhaled sharply, his mind and body fireworking with those new, subtly varied sensations. Subaru's free hand toyed with his balls, drawing on them lightly, rolling them up against the underside of his shaft. Despite that pleasurable distraction, Seishirou was immediately and intensely aware of the parting, the yielding, as Subaru's mouth opened wider against him, began to take in his erection, letting it slide over Subaru's tongue, wet on wet. The warmth of Subaru's breath, the squirm of his tongue along the underside of Seishirou's shaft, the cadence of Subaru's mouth sliding down on him, then up once more, slow at first and then more insistent, compelling--no teeth now, at least, though there was still something unrelenting in Subaru's attentions, something focused and uncompromising. The inexplicableness of what Subaru was doing struck Seishirou again, a remote glimmer of bewilderment, but that Subaru's actions didn't follow, made no earthly sense at all, didn't diminish the physical ecstasies they roused in him. That hot, living engulfment, moving on him, sucking on him--a low sound escaped him, a murmuring groan of encouragement. He canted his hips, shifted his hand from the door rail to the top of the shower stall, bracing himself more firmly, the shower pounding away at his back like a summer downpour, the air increasingly humid and breathless.

Subaru's free hand had shifted back, behind his scrotum, was stroking there as Subaru's mouth continued to work on him. Light fingers grazed his anus, circled over its pucker, a gentle, stirring massage. One fingertip probed the opening--Seishirou tensed, then made a snap decision through the haze of lust and doubt that was threatening to cloud his brain and deliberately relaxed. That finger eased into him carefully, little by little: in, and out, and then in again, just a fraction deeper each time. Even without lubricant, that one finger, slender as Subaru's were, was all right. More than all right. Seishirou tried to concentrate both on its searching, stroking penetration and on Subaru's attentions to his penis, which were back to licking and tongue-teasing now, and even so the jolt when Subaru found and focused on the prostate took him by surprise. Not the first time for him, of course, but--oh. He felt it all down his legs, in the back of his knees, a wave of tenseness and trembling, and all up his spine and over his scalp, this thin sheet lightning of pleasure. Quickly lifting his other hand, he pressed it flat against the tiles, held on hard to the shower stall's top, his balance momentarily uncertain.

Subaru began to knead that spot with a tender mercilessness and at the same time took Seishirou fully into his mouth once more, began a steadily cascading rhythm, a gathering rush toward climactic intensity. Seishirou could feel it growing inside him, fed by ever-rising waves of sensation as Subaru stimulated his prostate, drew him deeper into the enclosure of Subaru's mouth, these storm swells surging, battering toward release, as ceaseless as the water rushing over their bodies. He already was feeling a certain almost lightheaded relief--it seemed, after all, that his pleasure was the end, and not some disturbing reversal--but still those questions persisted. Wasn't Subaru...angry with him? Shouldn't Subaru be? He was almost to the brink, so fast--he could feel his scrotum tighten, his orgasm gathering like a shout--and as yet another pulse of ecstasy burst through his entire being, stirred by the motions of Subaru's finger, a tide that took him even more utterly than before, as though it might pitch him right out of himself, he felt his body convulse, an inward flash of brilliance like sunlight on endless rippling water.

Subaru-kun...what is this game?

And then that sun itself, a white-hot star, exploded into life, its flares racing outward, fanning upward, erupting full-force into his brain. All thought vanished behind a roaring static of pleasure, pleasure, pleasure. He jerked with it, stiffening as that release spasmed through him, dimly aware of his seed pumping out into Subaru's mouth and being swallowed down, a final exquisite completion.

As that thunderous crack of bliss began to ease, fading into diminishing reverberations, Seishirou let out a thin, gusty breath. He found that he was staring at the joining of wall and ceiling, half-veiled by the thickening cloud of steam that filled the air. The skin all over his body felt hypersensitized, as though the shower's constant caresses had awakened nerve endings he hadn't known he had. Subaru's mouth still moved slowly on his shaft, a continuing afterplay almost too intense to bear in this state of overstimulation, but it felt so good, too good to stop, a perfect decrescendo.

Yet somewhere inside of him, in a place untouched by satisfaction, a tiny hollowness remained.

A void of not understanding.

Of knowing that he didn't.

The dim intuition of what, for another person, might or ought to be....

Closing his eyes, Seishirou leaned back, tilting his head into the shower's stream. The water coursed across his eyelids, poured down his cheeks, a hot, incessant flood over his face.


* * * * *



He wasn't sure when or how he had released his lover's sex. The heat and the weight of the sodden air dazed him, the ceaseless drumming pulse of the shower, the throb of his own pulse in his throat, in his groin, the breathless ache of pressures compounded rather than released. He felt scoured, stripped down to raw translucency, as if he'd just finished a waterfall purification, but not cleansed.


His one hand still curved around the back of Seishirou's leg; he stared at the other, splayed against the tile floor as he leaned on it, tiny droplets springing up about its fingers like sparks, water hitting water. He could feel his hair dripping as it hung about his face, could feel large patches of his T-shirt and jeans clinging with wetness, even though he'd been blocked from most of the shower's direct stream by Seishirou's body.

Seishirou. The fog that filled the shower seemed to fill his head as well, but through it there were glimpses, confused memories of daring, of transgression--to touch like this, to kiss like that, his heart pounding so that it was a wonder he could even breathe, let alone keep his hands steady and seemingly assured. There were flickers of more, images laden with hungers that made the tightness between his legs twinge even more piercingly: the thought of Seishirou turned to face the wall, hands on the tile, while his own slid slowly down the man's back to the hips, water slicking them both as he pressed near, skin to skin--

Even in imagination, he faltered there. The door closed, the mist condensed further, and he could not get past whatever it was in him that shrank from that crossing. He could not fathom what such a world would be like, or how the Subaru who lived there would be. His throat tightening, he bowed beneath the water, beneath Seishirou's presence, still towering above him as he knelt there on the shower floor, a promise of consequences yet to be faced, and more than that beneath his own absolute futility, a too-fragile flower crumpled by a summer storm.

After all, what had he even been trying to achieve?

He sensed the shift of weight as Seishirou began to move, to kneel down also, and he closed his eyes. Whatever he'd hoped to do or become, he'd failed; now the response was coming, and he could already guess what it would be like. The consummate player of games, Seishirou would turn all his efforts back upon him, like a Go master who let his opponent take a broad swathe of territory only to reclaim it with a single skillfully placed stone, deployed with cruel, implacable grace. Whether Seishirou was amused or displeased, there was a statement to be made--the return would be taken out of Subaru's body, heart, and soul, and at the thought his pulse beat faster again, partly in dread, and partly with a strange, sinking thrill of expectation. Seishirou's strong hands--that terrible, gentle strength--closed about his shoulders, and he was pulled in, gathered to the man's chest, Seishirou's arms sliding about him. Subaru ducked his head. He trembled once, uncontrollably, then let himself go limp, unresisting, wholly enfolded within the compass of Seishirou's embrace. Seishirou's lips settled onto his hair, a light, unmoving contact, like a sleeper's kiss.

He was a little surprised, then, when after only moments Seishirou rose once more, drawing him to his feet as well. Vertigo made his head whirl and his legs seem far away, disconnected from the rest of him; he had to open his eyes, but he kept his gaze lowered, focused on the sinuous lines where Seishirou's arm and chest brushed against each other, unwilling to look up into the man's face. Such stabbing shame--why, he wondered dully, when surely, however Seishirou chose to take it, what he'd done hadn't been that shocking, at least not more so than any other part of sex, once one got used to the idea. He didn't even think he'd done it badly--certainly Seishirou had seemed to respond. Then why this self-revulsion, beyond the sense of failure, of insufficiency?

Without releasing him, Seishirou reached back and switched off the shower. The quiet was like being snatched into the nothingness of a maboroshi, like the numbness that followed an earthquake, all shaking stopped but nothing safe, nothing ever really the same.

Not the sex, but the uses of sex.

Catching the hem of Subaru's T-shirt, Seishirou drew it upward. Subaru raised his arms with the motion, swaying a little as the fabric peeled from his body. He closed his eyes once more. He shivered again at the first breath of air on that exposed skin, a shivering that didn't stop this time.

Not what he had actually done with Seishirou, but the why of it--the anger, the furious need to break down every defense, to compel where he couldn't have freely what he most wanted, and in the end what he had wanted, what he had yearned for so achingly, had eluded him. After all that, what was he left with?

Only this hollow nothingness.

This emptiness....

Seishirou's hands were at the fastening of his jeans, spreading them open with slow intimacy, though not actually touching him yet. He rocked and twisted minutely as pants and underwear were worked over his hips, down his legs, a coarse, unpleasant scraping along his thighs before they puddled at last in a damp heap about his ankles. He concentrated on those sensations, then on keeping his balance with eyes still closed as he lifted each foot in turn at Seishirou's silent prompting, freeing them from the clothing. His desire, released and revealed, throbbed with unchecked intensity, a steady, burning beat striking across the faint tremors that racked him. Seishirou's arms came about him, pulling him close once more--though the air's warmth was stifling, it couldn't seem to touch the chill that had possessed him, but Seishirou was a solid heat pressed full-length to his body, an unwavering sun blazing out of a fog, a stone radiating the comfort of that sun through a long, bitter night. Subaru bit his lip, suppressing a moan along with the urge to rub up against Seishirou, to seek his own relief.

To make use of Seishirou, for his own satisfaction....

The present blurred--somehow Seishirou had walked them both out of the shower. He was being enfolded in softness, one of the enormous white towels that Seishirou favored. Then he was lifted, he was being carried out through the bathroom door into a shock of cooler air, and he buried his face in Seishirou's neck, in the thin trickles of water seeping from the ends of Seishirou's hair. Somehow, though, his shivering had eased.

Carefully, so very carefully, Seishirou laid him down on the bed. He sank back as if falling in slow motion. As if it were a dream, or the spiritual otherworld where different laws applied than those of earthly nature--and when would it unravel, when would the piercing light of day break through, an inescapable, unforgiving reality? He felt his body settle into full contact with the mattress, the deep pile of the towel plush against his skin as his arm shifted to a place that was less damp, his head rolling to one side, the coverlet smooth against his cheek, sun-warmed.

Soon. Soon. He didn't think his heart could beat any faster, any more wildly, fear, anticipation, and need winding about it like wires, constraining it in the increasing tension of its own urgency, a small animal kicking against a tightening snare. This tenderness, this care--it couldn't last, was only a prelude, and he knew what was going to happen next. The gentleness, that smile, and then the breaking, not necessarily of flesh and bone anymore but of the ties that bound his self together, that made of him the person that he was. This person--

Yes. Seishirou-san. Do it now--hurry, hurry.

Before I...


Seishirou lay down half-covering him, a familiar weight and presence arranging itself without any haste, the water still on Seishirou's skin making slick their moving together. He remembered the taste of that water and that skin, the taste of drowning in the shower's flood, in Seishirou's overpowering nearness. Seishirou's fingers brushed the side of his jaw, began stroking his hair, slow, even caresses, and he waited for them to grow still, for the sound of his name in that low, laughing, sensual voice, the annihilating murmur that would make him nothing yet again, nothing in Seishirou's eyes but a blank canvas to take whatever might be painted there.

Seishirou's lips touched his throat, a nuzzling kiss, and then another, silent, without demand or danger.


This is....

It was part of the game. It had to be. To make him think that somehow everything was all right, before the reversal struck him, its shock all the more devastating for that deception--but did Seishirou really believe that he was still that naive? That he would be surprised by anything Seishirou did or didn't do? Or maybe the entire game was this--to refuse to meet him, to give back to his intensity only that mask of bland affection, the lie from long ago, to prove that no matter what he did he could not get through. Quite possibly Seishirou knew exactly what he ached for and was exulting even now in the power to deny it.


Seishirou's leg had settled in between his own; as Seishirou shifted, it nudged up against that heat, waking its low, burning throb into a flare of fiercest urgency. Subaru bit down on a cry of pure sensation, wrestled his frantic leap of reaction down to silence, to stillness. But Seishirou was moving, moving upon him, patient and inexorable as the sun creeping minute by minute across the room, a broad river of golden honey, currents of wordless breath and touch and warmth flowing across his skin, soft as the wings of birds, as a summer-bedazzled sea, and he found himself rocking up to meet that brightness, the flashing rhythms of pleasure, of flesh against flesh. He pushed himself into that welcoming solidity, that blissful friction, faster, faster--his breath caught, stuttering, and he realized that he had lost control just as the last shreds of it flickered from his grasp, butterfly wings catching light, a light that took him too quickly, before he could think or stop. Spilling free, release without relief--his body jerked with the recoil of startling, too-swift ecstasy, with tearing loss, with a sudden blaze of fury. Not like this--not like this! Subaru's arms snapped up, his forearm striking Seishirou's shoulder, his fists clenching behind Seishirou's head, nails digging into his own palms. He twisted, straining in a helpless spasm against Seishirou's embrace. Seishirou remained an unshiftable weight, not answering Subaru's struggle but not yielding either, his only reaction a low exhalation and then a whisper close to Subaru's ear: "Subaru-kun. Shh. Shh."

No! Subaru twitched again, his breathing ragged, sharp-edged. His eyes stung with tears trying to escape from behind still-closed lids. Why, why--it's unfair, it's so unfair!

That I'll lose everything to you, give up everything for you, and you won't give me what I want!

What I--

Slowly, then, he opened his eyes. As he blinked back the dampness that had gathered along his lashes, the world swam in and out of focus, or what he could see of the world: part of Seishirou's arm and side, the edge of the bed, the lines of a narrow stretch of hardwood floor, the sun shining on the bedroom wall. His heart hurt as if it had been ripped wide open, his body still trembled as if possessed, but his mind had broken free into an instant of tenuous clarity.

What I want is....

What do I want?

To hurt? Or to be hurt? He found that didn't know. His head spun, dizzy with the effort to trace the labyrinth of his own feelings, and he let go, let his thoughts drift back again--back to Seishirou, ever at the center. To that uncertainty, that tentativeness, the consciousness of forces barely contained, like a water drop held together by a thin skin of surface tension.

Not only himself, for once.

So if it might be true that Seishirou felt such things, could this, for what it was, be real?

Then why couldn't he accept it? Why was he still waiting for violence--waiting with a desperate eagerness, when comfort, as true and honest as Seishirou was capable of providing, was being given to him?

Had he wanted to be punished so very badly?

Not a game, he understood at last, the realization a chill dawn breaking. Not for him, and not for Seishirou either. He could feel a crack far down in the deepest places of himself, shuddering wider and wider. Himself and his one true wish, both on the verge of being lost--forgotten--and yet Seishirou, Seishirou was--and even amidst the wreckage of desire and self-destruction, this firefly glow, this need, this ever-swelling pain--



* * * * *


What else, Seishirou wondered with a thin pang of unease--what now, when he'd thought that Subaru might be starting to relax at last? That rigidity had seemed to be draining from Subaru, all his muscles unclenching, his hands sinking down to cradle weakly behind Seishirou's head. Trembling just a little, Subaru lay limp, seemingly exhausted, as if he'd used up the dregs of both strength and anger in that final, startling burst of vehemence.

Well, maybe not. At the prospect of having to deal with something else unknown and probably mysterious, Seishirou realized that he genuinely didn't feel up to it. He was indefinably tired, not just with the languor that came after sex but with something less physical, an unfamiliar mental or psychic fatigue. It was a poverty of personal resources that he found very foreign; perhaps he was still suffering from the effects of the sakanagi.

But to feel so very keenly that he might fail, that he could do nothing other than fail....


And what else did Subaru expect from him? What more should he do to redress the upset balance between them? What more could he do? He had no idea. Nevertheless, he waited, listening, head bowed against Subaru's shoulder, for once strangely glad that he couldn't see Subaru's eyes.

This feeling...

Why am I...


Subaru's fingers touched his hair, still sleek and wet from the shower. For some reason he found himself holding his breath.

"I love you so much," Subaru whispered. His voice broke on the words. "So much."




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