The air down in the baths was warm and sweet and heavy with steam. Kamui lingered just outside the open doorway, listening to the faint splash and settle of movement in the water. He eased one bare foot forward and then the other before sliding around the door's edge, his wings rustling against the screen that blocked his view into the room. Once inside, he paused, gazing at the person in the bath with wide, nonchalantly guileless eyes.
"Oh," he said with a smile of pretended innocence. "Hello...."
An "X" fanfic
By Natalie Baan
Subaru stood up out of the water, running both hands through his hair to slick it away from his face. The ripples that his movement caused wavered outward from around his narrow waist. As he came up to the near side of the bath and leaned against it, he gave Kamui his scant, spare smile, more precious than any treasure for its rareness. That smile set off its own ripples, warm, circular surges in Kamui's body; he stepped forward, starting to shrug out of his robe, and then stopped short. The plush white cloth slipping down off one shoulder, he hugged his arm across his half-uncovered chest. "You...didn't want to be alone, did you?"
Subaru's smile deepened, his eyes sparkling richly as he shook his head.
Smothering his elation, Kamui turned aside, letting the robe slither the rest of the way off him and hanging it up by Subaru's. He walked toward the washing area, trailing his fingers along the wall, peripherally aware of Subaru sinking back into the water and watching him, arms folded on the lip of the pool and chin resting lightly on crossed wrists. Subaru's eyes upon him, tender and amused--it lit him from within as he cleaned himself with deliberate thoroughness: it kindled a quickening that was sweeter than a victory, a pang that out-ached any other need. To have Subaru looking at him with interest like that, as though Subaru's thoughts echoed his own...as though the sight of each other fed and fanned some burning hunger, swelling the flames with every stolen glimpse....
Swilling himself down, he washed away all traces of soap foam, trying not to show his impatience and sudden urgency. But his breath came short whenever he thought about Subaru--about how he couldn't get enough of the onmyouji. That peaceful, utterly steady, and attentive presence, the wandering hands and mouth that knew exactly how to make his body and soul sing with bliss, the embrace that was the one still point in his existence...it couldn't last, he kept thinking, that astonishing mix of friendship, love, and desire was too good to go on forever. He felt as though he had to grab as much of this wild, almost frantic joy as he could before it was gone. That was why he played what he called his "stalking game," pursuing Subaru stealthily, finding places where the onmyouji would be by himself...under the late summer roses in the mansion's garden, in the library among the silences of wood-paneled walls and the pages and leather spines of uncountable books, in a back upstairs hallway in the evening when everyone else was gathered together after dinner, /oh, I didn't know that you'd be here/...and his delight in it was that Subaru always responded with seeming gladness, welcoming each of his little exercises in seduction, no matter how outrageous.
Even when they were as shameless as this one was.
Clean enough at last, Kamui took a deep breath before turning once again toward the bath. He'd yet to find a small room in the Imonoyama mansion, and this was no exception. A wide floor, tiled in gold-washed white, stretched out between himself and the water, and the ceiling soared high above the arch of his wings. The bath itself was set into the floor like a swimming pool and was almost large enough to be mistaken for one. Walked slowly and exposed across all that distance, each step determinedly casual, he came up to the edge of the bath and then crouched down. Subaru straightened, still kneeling on the seat ledge, those green eyes dark and magical in the steam-hazed light...his mouth dry, Kamui faltered, struck abruptly by the fear that he'd been pushing this game too far and was becoming a nuisance. His pretense of smoothness crumbling, he bit his lip.
"You're...you're really sure that it's all right?"
Subaru regarded him gravely. Then the onmyouji reached to brush damp fingers across his cheek before taking his arm and tugging him forward with another faint smile.
His heart flipflopping like a fish from anxiety to tentative happiness, Kamui let himself be drawn into the water. He held his wings well up above the surface as he felt his way down carefully onto the ledge. They were sensitive to high temperatures, as he'd discovered quickly, since they were little more than thin membranes and blood vessels, and though Nokoru had had the men's bath reregulated so that it was luxuriant instead of searingly fierce, he still preferred to ease them in with caution. Even if the water wasn't hot enough to scald him immediately, immersing his wings for too long made him overheat.
Subaru shifted as he drew Kamui down, until Kamui was kneeling astride him on the ledge. The Sumeragi slid his hands, wet and warm for once, up Kamui's back. He folded Kamui against himself, tangling fingers in Kamui's hair, and as their bodies slid together Kamui found the deliciously different sensations that the water provided more than enough to distract him from everything else. Tensing his legs against Subaru's, he pushed his hips forward, pressing himself to the onmyouji. As he snaked his arms eagerly around Subaru's neck, going down for an enthusiastic, open-mouthed kiss, Sorata ambled around the door screen, humming tunelessly. The monk's eyes immediately bugged out.
After a fractional moment of staring, Sorata backpedaled behind the screen again, vanishing with a "Whoops! didn't know anyone was in here, ha ha!--hey, is that Miss calling me?"
Startled from Subaru's mouth, Kamui stared blankly after the receding high-pitched laughter, and then slumped, burying his face in Subaru's neck. "Oops."
"I think we embarrassed Sorata-san," Subaru murmured. A hint of merriment danced in his voice as he hugged Kamui reassuringly. "I didn't know that it was possible...." Subaru didn't seem upset at being caught in such intimacy, and as Kamui lay against the onmyouji's chest, he decided that, strangely enough, he wasn't either. Surprising as it might be, he found he didn't feel awkward, not when Subaru was so readily accepting--and not when it had been a friend as close and loyal as Sorata, who after all was one person that he trusted absolutely. But thinking about the young Buddhist monk and how quickly he'd fled brought Kamui's thoughts around to something else....
"You know, Sorata's been funny lately. Not like he usually is, but...it's like he's sad. It's like he's been keeping himself apart from all the rest of us, too, so that he won't be in the way when he's unhappy...." A vague impulse to do something about that woke in Kamui; he sat up on Subaru's lap. Resting one hand on Subaru's shoulder, he met the onmyouji's puzzled, mildly questioning gaze.
"Subaru," he asked earnestly, "do you mind?"
* * * * *
Sorata thumped heavily against the wall of the corridor, letting out his breath with a whoosh. Damn, that'd been a shock...not the fact that Kamui and Subaru were interested in each other, because Kamui at least wasn't a person who could hide his feelings, and the two of them had been cute all over the place for the past couple weeks in the ways that they glanced at each other lingeringly and hovered close together while trying not to seem too obvious. It had been the immediacy of coming around the corner to see Kamui on top of Subaru and the two of them kissing with tongues.
It kind of put a stamp of finality on things.
Rocking his head against the wall's solidity, Sorata closed his eyes. He was glad for them, of course--those two above everyone else on the planet deserved whatever happiness they could snatch from the terrible future. But having their pairing rammed home to him like that roiled a sick, sad ache in his stomach. He'd always had a special sort of feeling for Kamui, having been with the Dragon of Heaven every step of the way, since the very beginning. Now, though, with the Sumeragi always at hand, Kamui wouldn't want or need him hanging around like that. Sure, he was still a Seal in the fight for humanity's destiny and all the other Seals were his friends, but no longer having that particular closeness left him feeling lonely and at loose ends.
Especially since, even after such a long time, he and Miss weren't getting anywhere at all....
His eyes popping open, Sorata stared at the dripping teenager who stood in the doorway to the baths, one hand clutching a towel around almost nonexistent hips. Black wings curved to fill the entrance behind Kamui, lending something extra to the force of his presence--which, despite being nearly naked and entirely too fragile, was still considerable. His heart feeling like it had turned a somersault inside his chest, Sorata gawked at the Dragon of Heaven until it occurred to him that--duh--Kamui was still waiting for a reply. Pushing himself from the wall, he gave the Seal his cheesiest grin and ran his fingers through his hair until it stood up wildly, his thoughts all the while drumming around his head like mating pheasants, trying to find someplace better to settle than on a really bad analogy.
Kamui peered at him closely, apparently not buying the smile. "Are you all right?"
The words finally snapped Sorata's mind out of its dance, and he laughed, flapping his hand at Kamui. "Fine, fine," he said dismissively, his mouth and brain clicking into gear with each other at last, "only a little bit startled, walking into a scene of blazing passion like that! And here I'd thought it was just the water temperature that was steaming up the air--ah, heh, heh, heh!" He threw a leering wink at Kamui, hoping to take advantage of the boy's ready embarrassment and flee under cover of confusion, but somehow luck wasn't with him. Solemnly single minded, Kamui continued to stare with a look that was much too serious for such a pretty face. It was starting to make Sorata just a wee bit uncomfortable, but he soldiered on.
"Well, don't mind me--just go back and do what you were doing. I'll come down and try again later, um...well...that is...unless you're about to pound me for interrupting you?" Sorata's words trailed off as his usual cheerful ramblings lost momentum under that unflinching gaze. Kamui had always had quite a temper. Nervously Sorata wondered just how much trouble he was about to be in. Uncompromising purple eyes bored into his, and then--
"Don't be stupid," the Dragon of Heaven said. Striding across the hall, he grabbed Sorata by one arm and towed the startled monk into the baths.
The full moist heat of the air enveloped Sorata as, hauled along by Kamui, he stumbled out from behind the screen. In the water, the Sumeragi had changed position only minutely; he'd turned to face the doorway, one arm lying along the pool's lip as his green eyes observed their entrance with scarcely a flicker. He didn't look surprised to see Sorata appear--but then, very little seemed to disturb his equilibrium. Not standing on ceremony, Kamui dropped Sorata's arm, and, shucking his towel, made a beeline for the Sumeragi. Gulping, Sorata swung around to fumble off his robe and hang it on a peg beside the others'. At least they'd be too polite to start necking again....
Anyway, he really, really hoped so.
Feeling about as awkward as a badger in a business suit (but unfortunately a heck of a lot more nude), he shuffled to the washing area, trying not to seem too obtrusive. The situation was giving him an unusual squirm of unease, but Kamui had had some firm idea in mind--and if he was going to have fled the scene, Sorata realized ruefully, he'd missed all the graceful opportunities. Settling onto a stool and grabbing the soap, he breathed the heavy air in deeply, focusing his mind on familiar mandala patterns, searching for clarity of perception. With the simple ease of a practice that he'd lived all his life, he gathered his thoughts into line. As he cleaned himself, he looked forthrightly at the things that disturbed him, identifying each form as it arose.
Well...shouldn't they be obvious?
For one thing, he above all didn't want to get between Kamui and Subaru. The future was so dangerous and uncertain these days that every moment was charged with significance, even more than usual. If the two of them could fill their moments up with happiness and intimacy, strengthening the obvious bond that lay between them, then who was he to interfere? But here he was despite that, rather forcibly included when all he'd wanted was to get out of the way. The only experience more disturbing than being a loose end, Sorata was finding, was being plopped so very conspicuously in the middle.
In addition to which...well, Kamui looked too damn good in a towel.
Or out of one.
Pivoting on his seat, Sorata faced away from the bathing pool. He drew in another deep breath and let it out in a long, slow exhale, trying his best to remain mindful and unmoved. But the very first thing he'd ever noticed in Kamui was how gorgeous the Dragon was: the unforgettable violet eyes, as fervent and exotic as orchids, the careless, just shy of delicate grace, the taut arms and legs and everything in between them, all so flawlessly well put together...Kamui was a knock-out, an absolutely mouth-watering beauty, and he knew it, and yet forgot about it all the time. He could swing from adolescent self-consciousness to thoughtlessly animal innocence in less than a blink, something that only added to his charm. Furtively Sorata shot a glance back over his shoulder at where Kamui knelt in profile to him, wings canted toward the ceiling as the boy and Subaru whispered together. Between the faint, musical falling of the rinse water and the heavily muffled air, he couldn't make out what they were saying, but he didn't need monkish intuition to guess that it probably had to do with him. Humming beneath his breath, he addressed the soap and water again, attacking his toes with renewed energy as he retreated to the relative safety of his own thoughts. All things considered, he was probably better off remaining oblivious.
Anyway, he'd certainly cracked plenty of comments about Kamui's prettiness, Sorata mused; he figured he'd made his appreciation of it more than plain. But Kamui had never responded with any glimmer of interest, and Sorata hadn't been inclined to push things further than that. At the time, he hadn't been sure where Kamui's preferences lay (he suspected now that Kamui hadn't really known either), and once Kamui and Subaru were an item, there was no way he was even going to /think/ about horning in on them. Besides, considering that he was destined to die for the sake of a woman, it didn't seem fair to get involved with a guy.
Especially one who'd suffered as much as Kamui had....
With a pang of heartfelt sympathy, Sorata looked at the Seal again. Kamui was bent near to Subaru, listening as the other spoke, expressions of surprise and thoughtfulness trading places on his face. The boy was leaning forward, his weight propped on his forearms; his dark head was close to Subaru's and his butt--
Swiveling around on the wash stool, Sorata pinched the bridge of his nose and shut his eyes, trying to chase away the image of that heedless pose.
What a time for Kamui to decide to stick his ass up in the air, when they were in a situation as...interesting...as this one was.
Getting the brief spasm of his pulse under control, Sorata blew out his breath. Bad idea, bad idea, a very bad idea...an /exceedingly/ bad idea to be in this room right now. He wondered if he could fake a seizure. Or a nosebleed, maybe. Anything to get him out of this mess. Inspired, he sniffled hopefully and then snorted a couple of times, but no spurt of blood was forthcoming. Damn it, where was a cliche when you needed one?
Kamui had rocked upright and was staring at him oddly. "Coming!" Sorata sang out, quickly splashing the lather away. As he got up and headed for the pool, he saw Kamui and Subaru slide away from each other, saw Kamui sit down on the rim of the bath, stretching one slim leg into the water to grope for the seating ledge...and looking at the picture that the two of them made was the final mortification. Not that Sorata was body-modest or considered himself unattractive--in fact, he generally greeted his reflection in the mornings with a smirk for the handsome devil that was facing him there. But Kamui and the Sumeragi were in another class entirely: almost too bishounen to be real. Aside from the niggling dread that he might embarrass himself somehow, to be naked around them...well, there was no way he was going to measure up. On top of which, he'd started some kind of growth spurt recently, and the height and weight he was adding had left him feeling awkward and ungainly. It made his presence seem like even more of a clumsy intrusion.
"Plop," he muttered sarcastically as he settled himself in the water, earning another strange look from Kamui, which he did his best to ignore. Leaning back, Sorata heaved a sigh. The comfortable intensity of the bath's heat enfolded him, a slow burn easing all his tensed-up muscles and going straight into the bones. The three of them sat together, each on his own side of the pool, as the silence stretched out longer and longer....
"Ah! That feels great!" Sorata declared, breaking the stillness that hovered like an storm. "This is the life for me! Being pampered in the Imonoyama mansion is about as good as it gets...when there's not any Dragons of Earth around to spoil things, that is."
"Do you think they'll be attacking again sometime soon?" Sorata glanced at Kamui, who was leaning away from the pool's wall as he folded his wings forward and down, lowering them into the water gingerly. He looked like a small, black tent being struck.
"Well, there hasn't been any sign of them since we ran off that Sakurazuka guy," the monk replied, managing with difficulty to keep a fairly straight face. Kamui's eyes were studying him with almost comical gravity from above those encircling wings. "They're out there, of course, and there's no telling when they might strike next, but somehow I have the feeling that we've got a breather."
"So you don't think there's any real danger at the moment?" Kamui unfurled his wings beneath the surface of the water and pushed off lightly from the ledge. He glided toward Sorata, halting just in front of the monk to put his feet down and stand, his movements rolling a low wave swell against Sorata's chest.
Sorata stared perplexedly, wondering if Kamui was concerned about something in particular. "Um, did you have some special peril in mind?" he asked.
Almost diffidently, Kamui shifted from one foot to the other. "Well," he said, "maybe something like.../this!/"
He pounced, disappearing with a splash beneath the water, and as Sorata was still gaping, two hands locked around his ankle. The Dragon of Heaven kicked backward off the pool's wall, at the same time giving one hard sweep of his wings.
The power of that wing stroke was completely irresistible--Sorata was snatched off his ledge before he could blink.
His fingers brushed the very edge of the seat in passing, and then he was dangling on his back underwater, unable to find anything else to grab onto. Twitching helplessly, he windmilled his arms and jerked his leg against Kamui's grip. That hold let go unexpectedly, and he scrabbled around to right himself, finally exploding up into the air, coughing and choking. Wild-eyed, Sorata glared at Kamui, who had surfaced as well and stood stomach-deep in the water, his hair plastered down over a gleaming stare and a shit-eating grin on his face.
Ferociously Sorata bounded--or rather, plowed--across the pool, fighting the water resistance, Kamui tried to get his wings up so he could turn around to flee, but he wasn't quite fast enough. Catching him in a necklock, Sorata started to noogie the crown of his head. "Get ready! 'Cause my vengeance is gonna be supreme!" Kamui squawked and wriggled, slapping his wings against the water and hurling a huge quantity of it into the air--and over Subaru. "Oh, sorry," Sorata mumbled sheepishly as the onmyouji reemerged, sneezing and pushing his dark hair out of his eyes, and the sight of the Sumeragi abruptly reminded Sorata that--
--he was in the middle of a hot, steamy bathing pool, wrapped around the slickery-wet body of the Kamui of the Dragons of Heaven.
With a yip, he turned loose of Kamui and stumbled back a step.
His knees had gone weak and they quivered like cooked noodles; more than anything, he wanted to sink down beneath the water again and vanish. Freaking out like that had been less than smooth, too--even Kamui had to guess that something was wrong. Sure enough, the Dragon of Heaven was looking at him with concern from not too close, but oh buddhas and gods, not nearly far enough away. Sorata laughed nervously and rubbed at his head, trying come up with some joke that wasn't completely feeble. After all, he reminded himself, past was past where he and Kamui were concerned, and whether things worked out better for himself and a certain Miss or not belonged to the ambiguous future. Like the old man might say: no sense in adding to this world's suffering by clinging to what might have been or might never be....
And Kamui was putting one slight hand on his shoulder, having crossed the gap in between them while Sorata was churning around in his thoughts. Bewildered, he stared down on the teenager's wistful smile, the sad understanding that was flowering toward something impetuous, like a firework sparkler flaring to life. With a quick glance at Subaru, Kamui took a deep breath before moving even closer. His foot fumbled awkwardly across the bridge of Sorata's, gripping it as though for balance as he raised himself on his toes...as he clamped his hands gently but firmly on either side of Sorata's head, bringing the monk's face down to his until they met, mouth pressing against parted mouth and their bodies swaying together almost magnetically.
Fire leaped hot and cold through Sorata, paralyzing him in a single flash of shock.
And not just any kiss either, as Kamui's at-first tentative mouth started drawing on his with unexpected passion. Kamui lifted one leg and hooked it behind Sorata's, pulling him even nearer and then enveloping him with both enormous wings. Hot and wet from the water and as supple as the most butter-soft leather, those wings slid all around him, clinging like a second skin. For a stunned second, he was lost in their slithery, weirdly wonderful embrace, until some realizations began to filter in on him.
Like that kissing someone else's boyfriend in front of the person in question was definitely against the Ten Precepts, not to mention being really embarrassing.
And that a part of his anatomy was about to take that embarrassment to a whole new extreme....
"Mmfff!" he protested urgently. "/Mmngfflmmf!/" He tried to squiggle free but it was almost impossible with Kamui's multiple limbs wrapped around him and Kamui's tongue beginning to take an interest in the depths of his mouth. "/Mmmp!!/" Kamui let go at last, hopping back a step as Sorata stumbled backward in the opposite direction. He crashed down on a seating ledge, one elbow over the lip of the bath, and gaped at Kamui, his brain blinking on and off like an unset VCR clock.
"What?" Arms crossed defensively over his narrow chest, Kamui scowled and fidgeted his wings. Whether he was put out by his reception or just starting to regret the impulse altogether, Sorata had no idea. Trembling, Sorata jabbed one finger at Subaru, and then at himself. He did that a few more times with steadily growing hysteria, finally getting the other arm into it as well for a series of frantic gesticulations while his mouth worked in the effort to get something out. The only noticeable effect was to make a corner of Kamui's lips twitch upward. In despair, Sorata snuck a glance at the Sumeragi, fearing the worst, and what brain cells he had left short-circuited. Seeing the generally grave onmyouji covering his mouth with one hand, trying unsuccessfully to hide a smile, Sorata collapsed against the side of the bath.
Reality had just declared itself out to lunch....
He recovered quickly enough, though, when Kamui started to wade toward him; bolting upright, he scooted backward along the ledge. He froze when, for one thing, Kamui pinned him with an annoyed look, and for another, he realized he was about to get trapped in the corner between Kamui and the Sumeragi. His heart pounding and his body still fired with something more than the water's heat, Sorata drew in a breath. "Hey, now--"
"You've been pulling away from all of us." Kamui's challenge was peculiarly gentle, his voice as soft and taut as those improbable wings. "Like you've been closing yourself off from us...I've never seen you like this before." Dark violet eyes burned into Sorata's. "Is it because you think you're going to die?"
Sorata gawked at Kamui, thrown off stride by that directness; then, seeing the teenager's super-serious concern, he couldn't quite forestall a smile. "Well, everybody dies someday, right?" Kamui's eyes widened and deepened, some shadow moving far away inside them, and Sorata hastily changed his tack. "Anyway, if you're worried on my account, Kamui, you can take it easy. Right now I don't see anything in particular about the future, other than that I'm going to ask Miss out on a date for next week!" There--subtle like sledgehammer, but maybe it would remind everyone present that Sorata's interests were set firmly elsewhere. Even if they weren't, exactly...at least, not as firmly as he'd like. The Dragon of Heaven ducked his head slightly, dark hair spilling forward to hide his eyes. In a gesture that was meant in part to be reassuring and in part to prove that everything was normal between them, Sorata pushed fingers beneath those dripping bangs and lifted, checking to see if there really was a Kamui under there. Their gazes met, Kamui's clouded and thoughtful-seeming, and Sorata grinned with all the old familiar assurance he could muster.
"Not that I don't appreciate the offer," he quipped, "but you don't have to put yourself out for me."
Raising his hand to Sorata's, Kamui twined their fingers together.
"What if I want to?"
As Sorata was trying to fit those words together into something that made at least a little sense, Kamui tightened his grip on Sorata's hand, pulling it down and pressing it against his shoulder. "So maybe what you said is true," he said, "and nothing bad's going to happen--still, there's something really wrong, isn't there?" He gave Sorata a tiny half-smile. "I know...sometimes I get so stuck in all the things that've happened to me that I don't even notice when other people were unhappy. But I've been noticing it in you. Even when you're laughing--but you always step away before anyone else can get close to it. You pretend that it's all right, and you just keep moving further and further from the rest of us."
His glance flickered briefly to where Subaru was sitting, somewhere behind Sorata, and he seemed to draw improbable encouragement. He straightened up suddenly and smiled, this time for real.
"I'm not going to let you go," he said. "/I won't lose you./ Not to any kind of sadness or despair...not to thinking that you have to be alone." He leaned closer once again, those violet eyes determined and intensely pleading. "Even if it isn't the person that you really want...just for now?
"Just for today?"
And Sorata could only stare in absolute astonishment as Kamui set one knee on the ledge next to his...as Kamui slid toward him, their legs brushing together, everything moving so slowly except for the flurry of his speeding pulse. His mind spun through its mantras, /On bouji shitta boda hadayami, on sanmaya satoubon,/ trying to stay on balance and attentive in the moment like he'd been taught to do in the monastery all the years of his life, but in the moment he was finding out how much a part of himself ached for the Dragon of Heaven, though he still didn't yearn any less for the woman he loved. Confused, he couldn't begin to form the words /no, stop, don't/ as Kamui's wings came down around the two of them like curtains, as Kamui's mouth came near to and rediscovered his and...and...where /had/ Kamui learned to be such a good kisser anyhow?
The pleasure and the pain of it were almost overwhelming, the sweet fire of that kiss getting tangled up with his own guilt and ambivalence. Unable to think of anything better to do, he squeezed his eyes shut tight. He still was aware of Subaru's presence in the room, though, and it made him almost shamefully glad for the false privacy of Kamui's wings...and when slim, ghostlike fingers touched the back of his neck, trailing up along it and into his hair, he almost leaped out of his skin. His eyes springing open, he stared desperately past Kamui's head. He counted the number of hands on his body and had definitely gotten past two when another one slid under his arm and around his chest. That embrace drew him back against a slight but strong shoulder, while the other mysterious hand wreathed itself in his hair, cupping his head....
"Regret nothing," the Sumeragi murmured, the words a tremor of a breath against Sorata's ear. "What you regret will kill you."
Sorata swallowed--his throat was tight, and that tightness felt strange beneath the flicker of Kamui's tongue as Kamui shifted from his lips at last at last to wander down onto his neck. Hands traveled gently on his front and sides, silken underneath the water...this was it, he realized with an almost psychic certainty, this was absolutely the last moment in which he could leap up, make a joke, run screaming from the room, before some inexplicable boundary was crossed and everything might be changed for all of them forever. In the face of that panic reaction, he finally got control, looking at the situation and at himself with unflinching sight. It was then, deep down at the root of his mind, that he saw the cold, constrictive emotion, the real impulse behind all his doubts.
Fear that by giving himself up to this he was betraying both love and destiny.
Fear that he would put some fatal crack between these two Dragons of Heaven, splintering something that was whole and true.
Fear that they would come to regret him when this was over.
Fear that nothing they shared would ever be the same....
Sorata let the air go out of his lungs in one shallow, shuddering exhale. He allowed his head to sink back against Subaru's shoulder, moving carefully so as not to bash the Sumeragi in the face. To respond out of fear was wrong, no matter what the reasons. Fear was the dark shadow of desire and craving that led to every human suffering. To give in to it now would diminish them all, maybe beyond hope of repair....
<Let me do no harm,> he prayed as he surrendered. <Only please, let me do no harm....>
Kamui lifted his head to glance at Sorata's face, as if curious about that relaxation. Then he bent forward once more, kissing across Sorata's shoulders and chest. Those kisses woke deep roilings of sensation everywhere they traveled, like bubbling lava that surfaced first here, then there, but that always seemed to connect to the same pulsing, pounding source, somewhere at the root of Sorata's groin. As Sorata's breathing stuttered, Subaru pushed his head to one side and began to nibble tentatively up along his neck: small, almost dainty nips with pauses in between them. Each shot a shiver through him, distracting him from Kamui's kisses so that for fractured instants he lost his place among them--and then as he found it again those feelings would rush back in on him, newly unexpected and overpowering. Kamui's hands kneaded at the tops of his thighs, and he was just starting to wonder whether he shouldn't be doing something also when without warning Kamui ducked chin-deep in the water, got a shoulder under the crook of his knee, and lifted. Sorata yelped in alarm as his rear end left the seating ledge; he flailed one arm for balance, his other elbow hooked for dear life over the lip of the bath. Subaru's arms steadied him, and then he was floating helplessly, weightless in the water, with most of his front exposed to the steamy air. Kamui licked the puddle in the well of his navel, nuzzled into his stomach as Sorata bucked and gasped, and then Kamui's hand was groping to his vajra shaft, fingers sliding around it with care, before Kamui bowed still further, replacing that hand with his mouth...
...and Sorata groaned out loud as a new heat engulfed him: a heat that enclosed him, surrounding him in slick, surging sensations, even better and more intense than those first inflaming strokes. His leg muscles tightened; it was all he could do to keep from digging his heels into Kamui's back. Kamui cupped both hands underneath him and squeezed his ass hard, lifting him into that fervent, wet suction that was like a whole world in itself...and out of the shadow of the wings that were arched high above them, out of someplace inside Sorata's own mind, a light was growing. It leaped through every part of himself from the flashpoint of his throbbing shaft. A lightshow mandala of ecstasy, circles expanding without end until they all burst wide and open in a flare of electricity that discharged through mind and body, release, incredible release--
--and he was taken from himself by that naked pleasure, annihilated and then let fall, until gradually out of the darkness things began to come back to him and he found himself not light at all but spent flesh and blood trembling in the arms of his friends, staring up toward the bath's ceiling, slack-jawed and stupid.
Just like life....
Kamui twisted, getting out from under his legs, and Sorata's lower half, no longer supported, began to settle toward the ledge. The sinking sensation brought him partway out of his haze--the universe wasn't holding still for him, no matter how much he'd like it to. Bliss rose up and passed away just like everything else did, and then you had to deal with what came after. Kamui's eyes met his, and they were wise with the understanding of someone who'd been in that same place before, yet also sharp with some unsatisfied hunger. Gazing into them, Sorata couldn't help a delayed jitter of astonishment.
That the Kamui of the Dragons of Heaven...
...would've done /that/....
Then Kamui lunged toward him. Sorata's heart almost stopped, but the Seal only planted one arm on the pool's edge and stretched beyond his shoulder to reach for Subaru. Those two leaned together, forehead to forehead, as if sharing some secret communication or reassurance. Trapped in between them, though, with Kamui's breath striking his skin in little puffs and the teenager's arousal pressing unmistakably against his side, Sorata wasn't even close to reassured. He was starting to get really anxious, in fact, when Kamui straightened, gazed into Subaru's face, and then smiled fiercely. The boy squirmed out from between his thighs, and as he was wondering what all this energy was leading up to, Kamui yanked Subaru abruptly forward and Sorata found his arms full of wet Sumeragi.
"Um--whoa!" They'd long ago left the realm of experience of an ordinary Kansai guy behind, and Sorata could only sit in shock, struggling to form a more coherent protest as to why whatever was about to happen was probably not a good idea. He was astounded when Subaru's arm curled around his neck and Subaru's face burrowed into his shoulder. Kamui wrapped himself about the Sumeragi and began to kiss and stroke the other's back, murmuring in a constantly running, breathless undertone, "it's all right, it's all right." He could've been speaking to any of the three of them or to the world itself, praying for this to remain a safe place in the midst of the storm. Sorata stared down onto the top of Subaru's head and was amazed, thinking of the onmyouji's awesome magical powers and yet sensing through this contact an incredible softness that yielded to Kamui's obviously growing urgency. Sliding against Subaru, the boy panted a question into his ear; Subaru made a quiet, affirmative sound and braced himself, spreading his feet a little further apart. Kamui shifted behind him, and as the teenager pressed against him--damn, pressed /into/ him--Sorata found himself shaking. Not that he was afraid, really, but the strangeness of this--the fact that he was this close, this involved, and he couldn't imagine being willing to have that done to him at all, let alone in front of--make that on top of--somebody else--
Gods, the trust they must have in him....
Subaru exhaled, and the hand knotted at the back of Sorata's neck unclenched to press flat against his shoulder blade. The onmyouji's other hand closed hesitantly around his wrist as Subaru leaned against him, finding a support in his arms. As Kamui began to rock back and forth, his rhythm transferred through Subaru's body to Sorata's, a small, steady motion that seemed to time itself to his heartbeat and that set the water to lapping all around them. Sorata stared at the far-off, steam-slicked wall of the bath, and a strange certainty began to seep into him, a feeling that this was right after all...that he wasn't simply present but was included in this intimacy, enfolded in the expression of a love that was more than large enough to embrace him too...a love so deep and wide that his being there couldn't even begin to threaten it, but instead gave it a new way to manifest itself, a way to prove itself, to change and grow....
Sorata swallowed awkwardly, and his hands, which had been hovering near the water's surface, sank down to curve around the Sumeragi's hips. Subaru arched, butting his head under Sorata's chin, his hair sleek and damp against Sorata's throat. Impelled by Kamui's movements, his knees bumped Sorata's, and Sorata slid one hand lower, cupped it beneath the onmyouji's thigh, and lifted. His breath caught as Subaru settled willingly into his lap, and the slipperiness of wet skin moving over skin, the thrust of the others' bodies started to rekindle in him those feelings of desire. Subaru's fingers wandered along his arm to the shoulder and then onto his chest, finding their way by feel...they traveled as though with curiosity over each line of muscle, stroking his stomach's hollow as he sucked in a sharper breath. Trembling, he tried to return those light caresses; he ran his hand down Subaru's leg--or was it Kamui's? Vaguely he was aware of the hardness that nudged at him as Subaru was pushed forward once more. He groped for that, trying not to think too much about what he was doing, he closed his fingers around its length, both familiar and strange, and Subaru gasped, then groaned, sinking against him. Subaru's hand dipped lower, almost shyly enclosing him in turn--and there it was again, that swift and senseless excitement, drawing him into the present until there was no more thought, no space for any doubt or fear. There was just their irregular pantings, a broken moaning, the rhythms of three bodies growing faster and faster and moving together into one--
--and Sorata came quickly under Subaru's hand, a blissful shuddering, his release spilling into the water as delight shattered the world around him into that blinding light of pleasure that lifted him out of himself once more, until the light turned into a star that fell toward him, or that he was flying into, too fast to stop without the bonds of flesh--
--and when the light had flared and dimmed, he found himself in whirling motion, following a pattern that circled around a central point. Across from him, another figure moved through almost-darkness, matching steps with him as though they were dancing. Their pace quickened in unison and he felt the shifting of clothes around himself: the trailing skirts and sleeves of the monk's robes that he'd worn for most of his life. The other person was veiled with shadows or flying draperies, hidden from him as if by clouds, but then one voluminous sleeve lowered and he glimpsed her face--
Long hair swept across it like reeds before a wind, concealing it once more, but above the blowing strands there were still two eyes, deeper than a thousand dark and dreamless nights. Those eyes looked into his and he felt recognition strike him like destiny.
Her gaze reflected no hint of acknowledgement back to him; the rhythm of their dance never faltered. For a second, he didn't know what he was supposed to feel. But then, as they continued to circle, their eyes steady on each other's, the confusion inside him passed and he began to see....
They were two, separate and disjoined, but the dance itself was the third, the element through which they met and knew each other. They were united like that in the real world too, connected by conflict and companionship. No matter what might happen in the weeks to come, that bond could not be broken. And that, Sorata realized...
It was enough.
They were sealed to each other by every word they'd exchanged, by every advance he'd made and every punishment she'd given. He'd chosen and she'd responded and that connection would be between them even if he died or she finally told him to get lost.
The tensions that kept them divided were also part of what drew them closer, a force that kept them moving in a single orbit....
And almost, as the dance spun them past each other, he thought he saw her smile.
Then, without warning, he crashed into a world of light and air and a body that was quivering in the aftermath of sweet, swiftly fleeting pleasure. Subaru had collapsed in a limp heap on top of him and they were both in immediate danger of sinking underneath the water's surface. With a supreme effort Sorata got one elbow over the edge of the bath and tried to haul them both upright, a feat made more difficult by the fact that Kamui hadn't gotten where he was going to yet and in his passion seemed determined to drown them all. Those dark wings flared hugely before slamming into the water, striking it again and again until the air was choked with spray and well-nigh unbreathable. Finally Kamui's rhythm broke into one last thrust, a stillness, and then a long sobbing breath as he slumped onto Subaru's back. The pool heaved and churned in waves all around them, and more water dripped from the high, arched ceiling, falling like a quickly cooling rain.
* * * * *
It was a long time before anyone moved. Lying in the sheltered place between the other two, feeling the strength of Sorata's arms still supporting him and Kamui's fragile but substantial weight draped on top of him, a covering that was warm and breathing and infinitely reassuring, Subaru followed each throb of his gradually slowing pulse, watching its cadence but not bothering to count the beats. The bath's disturbance eased too, little by little, a parallel calming; but even after blood, breath, and water had come to stillness, the three of them remained as they were. Then Kamui stirred at last, withdrawing carefully from Subaru, leaving behind the familiar aches of relief, pain, and loss: shadow companions to this inestimable and miraculous closeness that they shared and not ever too great a price. The teenager straightened slowly, but even so he wobbled, catching himself on Subaru's shoulder. "/Whew./"
Subaru sat up, twisting around on Sorata's lap to press the back of his hand against the teenager's forehead. His own skin was warm from the bath, but he could feel a slight heat as if of fever, and Kamui's face was flushed with something more than embarrassment as the boy tried to squirm from his touch. "Too hot," he judged quietly. "Sorata-san, would you--?"
"Uh, sure!" The monk blinked, roused from his thoughts, and between them they managed to help Kamui from the bath despite his feeble protests that he could get out by himself. It was an effort: not that he was heavy--he was light even for his size--but the vast wings were awkward, especially when limp with release, and the tiled floor was slippery with the bath's overflow. They were out and standing finally, with Kamui swaying between them, all three leaning close as though reluctant to step apart and let this rare moment shift into some new form and slip away. Eyes closed, Subaru nuzzled into Kamui's hair, sighing at that familiar feeling of suspension. Then he glanced up, his gaze finding Sorata's in a wordless question.
The monk looked back at him with an inward expression, one that he wasn't accustomed to seeing on the other's lively face but that somehow fit: a missing element that he'd only guessed at before, like the unseen structures of bone that lent shape to a familiar countenance. It was almost as if Sorata was looking into another world and seeing, not Subaru himself, but what lay behind and through him. Then Sorata seemed to come back to the surface of his mind; he blinked again and his attention shifted and lightened. He smiled slightly, and with an unusual gentleness, he loosened Kamui's arm from around his waist and shifted it to Subaru's.
Subaru hugged the teenager against himself firmly as Sorata eased a step away from them, and he let out a long and silent breath. They'd met as lovers, touching and changing each other, and had drawn strength from that meeting. Strange and awkward as it had been to open himself to someone other than Kamui, he found that he had no qualms about what they'd done. And now, when it was over, it was possible for them to move forward from that moment.
No grief or loss to cling to, a shadow on the memory of their happiness....
Kamui squirmed about to glance at the monk. "Sorata? Are you...is it okay?"
"Okay?" the monk echoed quizzically. "/Okay?/" With a sudden, manic grin, he clenched his fist. "Why, I've never been better!--/BWAHAHAHA!/" Naked and thoroughly ridiculous, he struck a heroic pose, his forefinger stabbing outward in the general direction of the mansion's living quarters. "Look out, Miss--you don't know what's in store for you!" he cackled. "'Cuz the Sorata Love Machine is on the roll! /Woohoo!/"
Kamui slumped back against Subaru, clearly regretting his concern.
Abruptly the monk paused and turned toward them, earnest and seemingly perplexed. "There's just one thing I've been wondering about." He scratched his cheek reflectively, then met Subaru's gaze with a wide-eyed and curious stare. "Does he do that flappy thing /every/ time?" Sorata asked, making the appropriate gestures.
The question took a moment or two to register on Subaru: he stared blankly at Sorata while Kamui squalled like an outraged cat in his arms. "SoRAta!" The teenager twisted, swiping at the monk with one wing. With a triumphant whoop of laughter, Sorata leaped backward and out of the way, evading the swat with ease.
He'd forgotten about the edge of the bath, though.
"Serves him right," Kamui muttered as the monk disappeared with a splash, then resurfaced, coughing and choking. He nestled into Subaru's arms again, burying his face into Subaru's shoulder.
That was when Subaru began to laugh.
* * * * *
The title of the story is two kanji: "kan," "space between, relationship"; and "riki," "power." I found it in a book on Inari worship, where it was the name of a particular sect. It's meant to express the idea that the relationship between opposites is what is important, not the opposites themselves, because the relationship between god and human, light and dark, yin and yang is where we exist and find meaning. It's within the space of interaction that all life comes about.
And this was originally meant to be a "Plot? What plot?" story...yeah, right. Lest anyone be wondering, I'm thinking of doing two more side stories in the "Wings" continuity, but neither is likely to be lemon and the Kamui/Subaru/Sorata threesome has definitely run its course. ^^
If you want to read my dissertation on Buddhism and the Buddhist symbols used in this story, you can go to that page. If all you want are definitions of the terms, here they are. (Click on the links below for sample pictures.)
"mandala" - an intensely symbolic image used in meditation and visualization
"vajra" - the diamond or thunderbolt of enlightenment, as well as a symbol of masculine energy. Frequently used in certain Buddhist texts as a euphemism for the obvious body part.
"On bouji shitta boda hadayami, on sanmaya satoubon" - a mantra or meditative chant that translates as "Om I aspire to evolve the Awakened Mind, Om I am united in the vow."
The only other thing that I think needs comment on here is the mention of Sorata's growth spurt. I'm basing this on certain pictures of him in book 11 where he looks positively gigantic next to Kamui. CLAMP has since started drawing him more normally again, but I thought the idea was cute and so I left it in.
Special thanks to K-chan and Kristin O. for prereading and to Shanti for not throwing me out the window for this one. ^^
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