Flesh & Bone (Glitter & Gold)
Chapter 6


Ashura looks up at the building, ears twitching as he hears the thrum of music from within. The building itself is nice and tasteful, brick walls whitewashed to grayer tones. Ashura moves closer to the front of the apartment complex, listening to the revelry undoubtedly part of Sakura's party.

Hopefully, it means that she succeeded in passing her MCAT.

He glances through the glass front of the complex, taking in the large gathering of people crowded around the pool and grills. Ashura spreads his senses, assessing the group. All of them crackle with vibrant energy, most of them younger than a century. There are a few in the mix that are older, lifespans breaching a millennium. None of them come close to matching him in age of stature.

Something within Ashura's chest relaxes at that realization, knowing that no one here stands a chance in combating him. He refuses to think about the reasons that combat are at the forefront of his mind, instead stepping close to the door.

A fine sheen of magic emanates from the door and his eyes pulse gold as he analyzes it. He recognizes it as Sakura's magic, spelled to hex those unwelcome in her territory. Ashura reaches out and touches his palm to the center of the door, smiling as silvery magic streams away from his hand in response, opening the door. He steps inside, an anticipatory smile curling his lips. He allows his nose to guide him through the crowd, obscuring most of his presence.

It wouldn't do to upset Sakura's friends with his overwhelming aura, especially in such tight quarters.

Still he notices people shifting away from him, eyeing him with wariness. Predators recognize other predators, especially an apex predator like himself. It settles something in his chest, satisfaction unfurling there.

He finds Sakura easily, a beacon among the other glittering energies that swirl around her. She stands next to a keg, between a kitsune and a swan shifter, laughing with a lighthearted ease that lets him know that she has, indeed, succeeded. He grins, a shiver of desire shooting through him as he watches her raise a red solo cup and drink, eyes sparkling in the tea lights strung up around the pavilion.

"Congratulations are in order I see," Ashura says as he approaches her.

"Ashura!" she exclaims and-oh, her eyes are alight with an inner flame beyond the lights that surround her and something in Ashura aches for her-darts forward, grinning at him. "I wasn't sure if you were going to make it."

He smiles down at her, soaking in her presence. "I wouldn't miss it. I'm glad you succeeded."

"How do you know I succeeded?" Sakura asks, an impish look in her eyes. "Maybe I'm just a phenomenal actress."

"How could you not? I know enough of you to know that you would succeed at any task put before you," Ashura replies honestly. His breath catches as he sees a flush curl up her neck, across her cheeks, to her ears. It highlights the freckles that cluster beneath her eyes and across the bridge of her nose. It's quite fetching, reminding him of bloodstones or cinnabrite. He wants her, to hold and to please and to watch to capture all angles to her. He knows she's the sort who could continue to surprise him for decades-centuries even-to come. "You are quite skilled, Sakura; I know better than to underestimate you."

Sakura's eyes take on a shimmery sheen and she moves forward, throwing her arms around him.

Ashura stiffens for a moment, mind scrambling to remember the last time someone embraced him-touched him even-in such a way. It must be millennia; he has not sought out carnal or pleasurable acts in just as long, such companionship dull to him after so much time. Considering the way his nerves feel afire, Ashura supposes things have changed. He tentatively wraps his arms around her in turn, handling her as carefully as blown glass.

After several long moments, enough for the hug to grow slightly awkward, Sakura draws away, a flush still high in her cheeks.

Ashura's arms twitch with a desire to gather her close, hoard her and keep her safe against his underbelly so that no others can touch her. He tamps down on a growl that builds deep in his chest, knowing that he does not have a right to possessiveness, no matter how his instincts clamor after him.

"Thank you," Sakura says, smile soft and fragile as she regards him. "Your words are so kind."

"They are true," Ashura says. "You are a powerful force; one that I would hate to encounter as an enemy."

"I doubt that we'd ever be forced to meet in such a manner," Sakura replies. "And I think you're quite capable of holding your own."

"So I am," Ashura says, preening slightly beneath her praise. He reluctantly tears his gaze from hers, surveying her friends. They watch him with apprehension, though he notices that the swan shifter seems more relaxed than when he first arrived. "Will you introduce me?"

"Of course," Sakura says, tucking her hand against the inside of his elbow and leading him over to the keg. He revels in the warmth of her, the tingle that travels through him at the pressure against such sensitive skin. "Anything I can get you to drink? We have some lovely magical beverages prepared by the Uzumaki. Speaking of, Naruto!" The blond kitsune snaps to attention. "This is Ashura. Ashura, this is Naruto."

"Naruto," Ashura says, musingly. "He's the one who assisted in the creation of your token, yes?"

Sakura snorts. "If you mean, he's the one who had Mountain Dew with him, then yes."

"I know your Matriarch," Ashura says, meeting the boy's blue eyes. "She's quite the mischievous spitfire; the epitome of what it means to be kitsune. You're a direct scion of her line, yes?"

"If a scion means descendant, then yeah," Naruto says, nose twitching slightly. Ashura has no doubt that the boy is dealing with his instincts to fight or flee and most kitsune choose to flee. "She's my great-great-grandmother and she's definitely as kickass as you say."

"And this is Ino," Sakura says, releasing him to wrap an arm around the blonde swan shifter. "We've been friends since before school."

"Sakura visited our family curio shop, wanting a shrunken head. My dad was flabbergasted; a five-year-old asking for such a thing!" Ino says, reminiscing

Everyone laughs at that and Ashura returns his attention to Sakura. "Why on earth?"

"I just wanted a break from the garden variety dolls that my extended family kept giving me," Sakura says with an embarrassed giggle. "I just wanted to shake things up a bit at our family reunion, attach it to the body of one of my Barbies and see how my aunts would react. That's all."

"And what happened?" Ashura asks.

"Well, he refused to sell it to Sakura because shrunken heads tend to be cursed, but dad did give her a book on the history of warlocks instead." Ino shrugs. "And sure enough, Sakura turned up a few weeks later, looking for another. You can never go wrong with giving Sakura a good book."

"Good to know," Ashura says with a smirk, tucking that tidbit of knowledge away. He has a full library, three actually, of esoteric books, which speaks nothing of the libraries he has of more common books. He knows she could spend a lifetime or two getting lost in those writings and still not be through them all.

He freezes as an all too familiar presence brushes up against his.

Indra.

Ashura's eyes flare gold and a low growl thrums through his chest at the sudden encroachment of his brother. Indra is the only one who could possibly challenge Ashura's suit and Ashura does not know what possible reason he has to be here. The growl peters off as he notices the way Sakura comes to attention, her gaze set on the door.

Ashura's stomach swoops and tightens as he realizes that Sakura and his brother are acquainted.

"The cat is out of the bag, huh," Sakura mutters, voice low but enough for him to pick up.

Sakura makes her excuses to her friends, disengaging them to approach the door. Ashura is not nearly so polite, dogging her every footstep. His energy is roiling and he releases his constraints on it, taking a vindictive pleasure in seeing the way those around them are cowed.

"None of that," Sakura says, catching his hand firmly. "We're all going to have a polite conversation and I won't have you terrorizing my friends because you're put out."

Ashura swallows, staring down at her hand. It grounds him, his anger abating somewhat and his energy extinguishing for the moment. He has questions, a myriad of them, but he won't ask them yet. There are far too many prying and eager ears around, people who would be quite happy to attempt to gain the advantage on him.

Indra, however, doesn't have nearly the emotional discipline of Ashura (or the anchoring effect of Sakura's hand held in his own) and his energy spills forth, volatile and hostile. But Ashura knows his brother and he can feel the muffled undercurrent of pain. The rest of Ashura's anger disappears entirely; whenever Indra feels hurt he lashes out.

Indra considers the best defense to be an aggressive offense after all.

Ashura sighs to himself, just as his brother comes into view. They are outside of the apartment complex (a true blessing that) and Indra lingers in the parking lot, looking sorely out of place. Ashura notes that Indra looks well rested and dressed, but he can see the suffering in Indra's disposition, the balling of his hands into fists and the tightness around the corners of his eyes.

"Ashura," Indra hisses, the tones far more sibilant than usual. His control over his form and his voice is slipping in his anger. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm here for the same reason as you I expect," Ashura replies easily.

Indra's eyes hone in on the intertwined hands of Ashura and Sakura and flare gold as his jaw clicks with tension.

"Well," Sakura says with a forced breeziness, "that answers that question."

Both of their heads whip toward her, watching her intently.

Sakura disengages from Ashura, raising her hand in a gesture for them to stop and also in supplication. "Please, let's not discuss this here. Is there somewhere else we can speak? Privately?"

"Of course," Ashura says.

"I expect we all have questions that need to be answered," Sakura says. "It may be a bit...awkward, but let's just talk it out." Her eyes are trained on Indra. "Please."

Indra stares at her for several long moments and Ashura cannot keep from tensing at the sheer tenderness in Indra's still gold eyes. He's never seen the like in his brother and, happy as he is to see his brother like this, his instincts clamor against it being directed at this woman, his treasure, NOT HIS.

Ashura's teeth tingle slightly, aching to extend and sharpen into actual fangs but he resists the urge, but only just.

"Alright," Indra says roughly, eyes shifting back to their usual deep grey. "Alright. I know a place."

Sakura nods gratefully, stepping forward to him when Indra raises a hand her way. He pulls her in close, tucking her beneath his arm. He relaxes fully as he comes into contact with her, nearly melting at the trust she shows to willingly step into his embrace like this. Indra tucks her beneath her chin, turning wary eyes to his brother.

Ashura watches him in turn, smile slightly tight.

"Your den?" Ashura asks.

"No," Indra says with a shake of his head. It has a dual purpose of rubbing his scent over Sakura's head and taking her own onto the tender flesh of his neck. "I think the conversation would go poorly there." He and Ashura both know the way their instincts go haywire in their own homes when surrounded by their treasures. "Neutral territory. The Ōtsutsuki hunting grounds."

Ashura nods sharply and disappears on the spot.

Indra looks down at Sakura, pain still thrumming through his veins. But she wants to talk, perhaps explain, and that has to be enough for now. "You ready?"

Sakura nods, her shiny hair so like rhodochrosite rubbing pleasantly against his sensitive skin. "Whenever you are."

They disappear from the spot, ignorant of the clamor of the still ensuing party.


Notes: An update on Flesh & Bone? It's more likely than you think.

Sorry for the long wait; it was really difficult for me to figure out this first meeting of all three. Sorry to leave it on a cliffhanger like this, but the next chapter should be forthcoming soon!