Title: Home is Where the…
Author: Wyntre de Romanov
Disclaimer: No money. This ficlet was written for fun-la-da-la-di-da, not profit. No infringement intended, etc.
Summary: Sometimes, before we move on, we have some unfinished business to attend to. Kai/Rei.
A/N: WARNING SLASH, shounen-ai, yaoi. If you don't like Boy/Boy action, get out of here; for your eyes shall be soiled. Go read some Het, you poor un-loving, un-slash people. For all slash-lovers - enjoy! :P
My thanks and absolute gratitude to me two betas (going by ff.net usernames) -
Yuuki:Tsubasa, whose thorough beta'ing was astounding and just… wow, and I mean WOW. And StarryNightObsession, whose enthusiastic and positive approach was very much appreciated :)
Thank you to the both of you.
Home is Where the…
The Owner walked into the library, wax candle in hand, and placed it on the central table, forgetting to keep the doors open. They swung shut, and locked with a click. 'Damnit', said The Owner; the doors could only be opened on the outside – an irritating faulty. He should have had it repaired months ago.
Fairly irritated, The Owner thought he'd not have long to wait; the nightshift servants would turn-up soon... hopefully. So The Owner switched on the light, opened a window and settled at the table with the candle.
The Owner took out stylish pen and paper from his pocket, and began a lengthy letter to an old friend. He'd not seen this friend in such a long time, and wished to profess feelings to this friend that he'd been unable to do so before.
The Owner had reached the middle of the page when a gust of wind violated the room. Ignoring this, The Owner continued with the letter, thus not seeing the candle tip and roll over to the shelving. It did not take long for The Owner to take notice, but by then it was too late. Fire had licked at the musty old books, and had only wasted a few moments in spreading its scorching touch.
A smoky black haze began to flood the room – a dark malevolent spectre - and The Owner stood up and ran over to the door, pounding, yelling. A look of exquisite sadness and grief passed over The Owner's face as he realised that these were his last few moments. But, even more prevailing in his thoughts, he realised that he would never finish his last goal in life.
By the time the fire alarm was raised, it was too late for The Owner, who perished with the one thought of what could have been – what should had been - but the rest of the house was saved from further damage.
* * *
It was old, falling apart, the paint splitting from the beating of the sun… but Rei Kon thought it magnificent. At twenty-four years of age, Rei had inherited a large sum of money from his grandmother. Rei had mourned for many a year over his grandmother's death – as did a number of those who lived in the village – and then, in an effort to escape the village that held far too many tender memories, he decided to move – out of the country. And far away.
He left the dealings to his real estate agent, trusting her fully and, in turn, she had found a quaint little suburb, Achetzch, on the border of Russia. It was quiet, with a peaceful tranquillity that seemed to hover about the place and settle into every blade of grass and grain of dirt. If you closed your eyes, you could hear the rustling of the leaves as they spoke to one another, and the fluttering of feathers as birds took to the air.
When Rei had arrived, he'd immediately fallen in love with it, mentally jotting down a 'thank you' to his real estate agent. The place was perfect for his disposition.
He stood outside his new house, brown leather suitcases either side of him, and studied the exterior for a moment. It was more along the lines of a small mansion than a house, really. The oak woodwork of the door and the frames were that of the antique, a sure indication of whence the house had been built. A sign printed 'TARI MANOR' on the letterbox, the calligraphy delicate and curling. The house itself was situated on a hillside, just on the outskirts of town. It seemed to tower over the whole of the town, domineering and officious. But Rei was never one to judge a book by it's cover.
Apparently the house was haunted and, as a result, none of those from town would dare come near it – aside from those who were paid (and paid well), like the cleaners and local help.
Personally, Rei didn't believe in such nonsense. And, in an effort to prove it to himself, he picked up his suitcases and walked into the house with haste.
The floorboards creaked with each step, and he could hear the wind whistle through the open windows and knock against those that were shut, as if asking for permission to enter. It was dark inside, bits of light pooling here and there, so he put down his suitcases and felt along the walls for a light switch. Flipping it on, he wiped the sticky cobwebs from his hands and took in his surroundings.
Rei's amber eyes grew wide, and he ran a hand back through his hair, tugging at it to make sure he wasn't dreaming.
In front of him, a little ways off, was a grand, winding staircase. It coiled up, he presumed, into the first floor. To his right was a classy ballroom, and on his left, through an open door way, was a splendid looking dining room. Further on was a cosy living room.
While Rei knew that the furniture had been left here from the last owner, and that the cleaners had especially tidied up the place for his arrival, he hadn't been prepared for the complete extravagancy of the place. For example, the dining room possessed of a long, rich-red oak table in the centre with a chandelier suspended from the ceiling, and the ballroom itself was panelled with gleaming mirrors. The sofa's and chairs arranged in the living room were of a dark tanned leather, easy to sink one's tired body into, and the carpet was thick and springy – you could practically leave footprints in it.
Rei allowed himself a smile, hardly believing his luck. The photos he'd received from his real estate agent had not done the place justice. He ran up the staircase, two steps at a time in his eagerness, holding onto the white rails. On the first floor was a studio and gallery to his right, and a games room and library to his left.
Up another level, he reached the bedroom floor. Down the hall to his right was the master bedroom – his room – and to his left was a bedroom entirely in blue, typically named the Blue Room on the plans of the house. Behind him ran three guest bedrooms, as well.
"Judas," he breathed to himself, "This place is outstanding…"
Darting down the stairs past the ground floor, he came to the cellars, where he found the laundry, kitchen and wine cellar. He opened up the kitchen pantries to take stock of the food already provided. It looked enough to last a lifetime.
Damn, whoever had lived here before must have needed a dozen servants. Well, Rei wouldn't need them. He was of the solitary type, and preferred to look after the place on his own.
Picking up his suitcases on the way, Rei went to take a better look at the master bedroom, intending to settle in as quickly as possible. The doors of his bedroom were engraved with elaborate leafy vines that looped and interconnected with each other. They spiralled along the frames of the doors and circled the white handles – the handles themselves had flora carved delicately into them.
Entering the room, the doors swung shut behind Rei, and he placed the suitcases on the four-poster king-sized bed that lorded over the whole of the room. The sheets were a dark, rich emerald – nearly black - and he pressed his hands against the silky material, wanting to bury himself in the soft texture. The walls of the room were white, but most of the furnishings were composed of different shades of deep green. Looking up, Rei found that the ceiling, too, had been painstakingly fashioned with vines. The walk-in closet was the size of a small bedroom itself, and the en suite was fit for a king - or two. Wandering around, Rei tampered with the taps and clambered into the large bathtub to check its depth. He found he could almost swim in it if he wanted to. Also, the sides of the porcelain tub had exotic lime-coloured leaves printed along it. Stepping out, he put one of the pearly-white sinks to use by washing his hands.
Looking up at his reflection, Rei gave a little smile.
He supposed he'd changed a fair bit since his teen years. He still BeyBladed, of course – 2nd highest-ranking player in the world. He'd cut his thick, black hair neck-length, but it looked shorter than it was because it curled under his ears, neck and against his temples. It was a metro update look. Some people mentioned that it made him look both charming and suave, but he missed the cattail of his hair, a reminder of his childhood. He wore a slick, black jacket with a high collar, which stopped at the knees and came in a bit at the waist, and dark, nondescript jeans underneath.
Rei had come a long way since his younger BeyBlading days. He already had enough money, thanks to his status in Beyblading, but the amount left to him by his grandmother was astonishing. If he wanted to, he could completely leave the Beyblading scene and live on his inheritance. But what kind of life would that be? He was still single, depressed, andangry at the world, but he didn't want to be like that for the rest of his life. Rei lived and breathed Beyblading, it was very well in his blood… yet he needed this trip away. He needed this private holiday home, to block out the rest of the world. To block out the people who reminded him of his village, and the people who wanted to get close to him because of his status and reputation.
Blinking away his thoughts, and exhaling noisily, he turned off the tap and patted a wet hand on his hair, pressing down the waves and curls. Exiting the bathroom, Rei took a quick look at the rather large dressing table, made of a black ash wood – it was another piece of the room that had been detailed with vines. He then strode over to the bed and got ready to unpack his suitcases, when he got the eerie feeling that he was being watched. It pricked annoyingly at his senses and it raised his hackles. His head shot up and his amber eyes darted around the room, searching. Minutes pass by, an eerie stillness settles, but he could still feel eyes on him.
"I know you're there."
No answer. He started to feel a little bit stupid.
"This is my house. Come out or get out."
There was no movement for two breath lengths, then, out of the shadows of a corner of the room, a young man presented himself, moving to stand in front of the dressing table. Rei's heart thuds. A familiar figure. Painfully familiar…
Same smoky hair. Same striking steely eyes. Same stubborn set of the jaw and mouth.
Basically a mature version of his memory.
Rei takes an uncertain step backwards, and bumps into the bed behind him.
"Looking for someone?"
"What are…? What…?" Rei couldn't make sense of his thoughts, shocked, and he felt his face go pale. He had to sit down before he fell down. He took a hold of one of the bedposts, leaning against it heavily.
"Good to see you too, Rei." the voice was deeper, but same wintry tone and empty lilt.
Rei couldn't stop staring. It had been six long years since he'd seen any of his old team. Although they'd responded through e-mails, it wasn't the same. Moving to Russia, Rei hadn't even given it any thought to contacting Kai Hiwatari.
"How did you get here?" Rei finally asked, blinking rapidly, his cloudy thoughts finally clearing.
"I've been living here."
"Living here…?" Rei repeated incredulously, "But my real estate agent said this place was empty, up for Sale!"
"Then how – "
"Nobody knows I'm here; I'd like to keep it that way."
During the silence that followed, Rei couldn't help but notice that Kai looked tired… old. Not physically worn out – he still looked damn good – but he appeared emotionally drained; lifeless.
The Russian wore a simple black dress shirt and straight black trousers. Simple. But they looked like a designer's outfit on Kai. Rei also noted with irritated amusement that Kai was now an inch or so taller than him.
"Look, if you want me to leave – "
"No. No!" Rei interrupted, "Stay as long as you like. You just surprised me, is all. I suppose I'll need the company, and we need to do some catching up, don't we. The team didn't exactly separate on friendly terms… plus, this house is definitely big enough for two. Or two hundred. And - " He stopped, realising that he was rambling.
Kai nodded acceptance, training an impenetrable look on Rei, "Thank you."
Rei leant back on one arm, running a hand through his hair, and asked, "So, how have you been?"
* * *
After an hour or so of talking, and finally packing away his clothes and toiletries as he did so, Rei's curiosity of the house got the better of him.
"Hey, I'm going down to check out the library. Care to join me?"
Kai shook his head, flicking a dark grey forelock out of his eyes, and then added as an afterthought, "The kitchen's already been stocked up aplenty by the help. So you won't need to worry about going into town for a few months."
Rei nodded, he already knew that, and left Kai to his own devices, humming to himself as he made his way downstairs. For the first time in many months, he felt content. He lacked any worries, and he had an old friend to keep him company - not to mention a gorgeous house.
Unsettling the black-haired boy from his thoughts, Rei caught a whiff of a murky, burnt scent before he reached the library doors. It flooded his nostrils, itching and causing him to sneeze, but the odour was quickly forgotten once he caught sight of the designs.
The two library doors were a rich cherry timber, in colour and texture. A phoenix had been carved into the oak, the wings were spread out and upward, each fiery feather unique, talons sharp and intricate tail downward, and an intelligent reptilian gaze crowning the whole. The detail put into the design was exquisite - a breathtaking effect. At a certain angle it put him in mind of Dranzer.
Rei traced the design with his fingers, entranced, before pushing open the doors. Smoky air rushed out at Rei, and he had to bite down on his lip from crying out in shock.
Scorched walls and floorboards. Black tattooed the ceiling with specks, and the backs of the doors were seared. The windows were darkened, the beautiful frames beautiful no more. The only things pure and clean were the books, shelving, tables and curtains.
Rei paced the room, eyes wide as he took in the scene, and running a hand along the wall as he did so. His palm came away black.
"Judas. What in the nine levels of hell happened here?" he whispered, stunned.
Although obvious that a fire had broken out, the question of how it came about was the mystery. Surely his real estate agent should have informed him of this? A chill ran up Rei's spine, frozen drops of acid working their way down his back, belying his belief that the house was not haunted. He simply got bad vive though, he felt as if he were intruding on something.
Attempting to ignore these thoughts and his own instincts, Rei tried to look out the window – he should have been able to see the main town – but it was too badly marked.
He finally sat himself down with a Stephen King novel, Rose Madder, not really reading it, quite distracted, when the jitters got the better of him. He could feel something, but he couldn't quite put his finger on what it was, and nor could he shake off the feeling of intrusion and dread. Slamming the hardcover close, he briskly made his way to the oak doors, shoes scuffing the carpet, and opened them.
Well, he tried to.
But they only clicked, groaned, and jammed against one another. After a few more rough attempts, Rei grudgingly accepted that he was locked in.
"Damnit," he cried in frustration, raising a fist and banging on the door, calling for the only other present person in the house, "Kai!"
Without warning, the doors clicked and burst open with a whoosh, knocking Rei off his feet and onto his backside. He lay still in an attempt to get some oxygen back into his lungs, and then sat up to rub his now-sore hip, knowing that a bruise would appear there soon enough, while Kai extended a hand to help the other.
"Okay?" Kai asked flatly.
"Yeah, I'm fine… but the doors… "
"You'll have to take more care to keep the doors open when in the library. They lock up, and can only be opened from the outside." A pause, then- "I learnt that the hard way."
With that, Kai quickly strode off, setting a fast pace, and Rei picking up his steps to catch up.
"Do you know what happened in there?"
Kai shrugged, scarlet eyes focused ahead, seemingly trying to ignore Rei.
Annoyed at this, Rei grabbed a hold of Kai's sleeve, demanding attention. "Look. I'd really like to know. It's obvious that there was a fire, but all the books and – "
"I don't know anything. The tables, curtains and bookstands were replaced. I restocked the novels. Happy now?"
Rei, aggravated ever more by Kai's snappy answer, glared wordlessly at him; hoping his displeasure and indignation would be effective through silence. Apparently that weren't.
The Russian's steely eyes bore into Rei, almost burning, and Rei flushed as his heart inexplicably beat faster. Kai then glanced pointedly at Rei's hand still resting on his arm, and Rei snatched it away.
Cheeks reddened considerably, Rei spat out a heated retort:
"Bite me, Kai. Bite me." then walked back up to his room, missing Kai's reply:
* * *
Rei, unable to sleep, turned about under the covers, which twisted around his legs uncomfortably. There had been far too many pillows on the bed, so he'd thrown off five and kept three. Squirming around again, Rei finally had enough, and threw the covers off. He rolled off the bed, landing with an 'oomph' on the cushioned carpet, fixed up his boxer shorts, and then ambled over to the window to take a look outside.
A few clouds smudged the night sky with brushes of grey, but the moon remained strong and scintillating. A few lights – most likely lampposts – speckled the cluster of houses that made up the town and smoke trailed up from chimneys.
Shrugging on a silvery night robe and tying it at the waist, Rei traipsed down to the kitchen to have a nice cup of hot chocolate. Maybe swirled with some fresh cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon…
Caught in his daydream of hot chocolate, Rei was slightly surprised to find that Kai had been thinking a little bit along the same lines as he. He was sitting on a stool by the bench; reading a magazine with a cup-of-something within his hands, the steam wafting up.
Rei stood by the open doorway, making sure that Kai couldn't see him, and watched him for a moment or so. The other young man wore a navy blue night robe, and his hair was immaculately groomed. So, Kai either had not gone to bed yet or he'd just performed some preening before going to the kitchen.
It was still rather unusual for Rei to have Kai's companionship once again after all those years and he still didn't know what to make of the Russian.
Kai's eyes were downcast, reading; almost feminine dark lashes acting as a shield to all unwanted gazes. He seemed unaware of Rei, but then –
"Are you coming in or not?"
Rei jumped in surprise. "How did you know I was here?"
Kai didn't look up from his reading, and just grunted in answer. Rei mentally shrugged and walked into the kitchen. The colourless tiles were hard and cold under his feet as he prepared a mug of hot chocolate, and he stood on the tips of his toes to escape the biting chill. He leant on his elbows upon the kitchen table, a little bit off Kai's left, and focused on his first sip of hot chocolate that was deliriously warm and rich against his tongue, milky white swirls blending in with creamy brown chocolate. Rei closed his eyes in sacrilegious pleasure.
Chocolate was a godsend.
He opened his eyes to find Kai peering at him, the faintest trace of a puzzled smile playing about his lips. Well, Atleast it wasn't in disgust.
"Enjoying that, are you?" Kai asked with a hint of sarcasm.
"Definitely," taking another sip, Rei "mmm'd" into the mug, a little froth moustache accumulating on his upper lip. "Why, would you like some?"
Kai gazed at him for a moment, dark red eyes unfathomable, and then jerked his head once in a hesitant nod. Rei took a seat next to him, invading the Russian's personal space, and slid over the mug.
"You can have some of mine, then. This damn mug is oversized, just like the house."
Kai's eyes flickered from Rei to the mug, not showing any outward sign at being uncomfortable at the other young man's closeness; then he took a long sip, taking his own sweet time in relishing the taste. Rei gave a lop-sided smile in shared affection for chocolate. He looked down, feeling suddenly bashful, and traced circles onto the surface of the counter with his forefinger.
"A bit of a change, sharing hot chocolate. My ex-boyfriend hated the stuff."
"Ex-boyfriend…?" queried Kai as he put down the mug, his tone curiously light, eyebrow raised and deep russet eyes probing.
"Yes," A pause. "You have a problem with that?"
Kai studied Rei's profile shortly – black hair crazed with an endearing cowlick (surely obscuring Rei's vision), tawny eyes wide awake and top lip frothed sweetly – and shrugged, turning away.
"No," he replied, thumbing nonchalantly through the magazine again, letting his curtain of cobalt fringe hide his expression.
"Good," Rei said, taking back possession of his drink.
Mmm… chocolate was definitely a gift from the gods.
* * *
Following the next couple of weeks, Rei noticed a small change in Kai's demeanour; sure, he was still icy, but a little less withdrawn than he was as a teen. And Rei often enough caught Kai watching him.
Once, with his Discman on full roar, Rei had let go of all self-restraint, and had cavorted about the living room. Jumping from furniture to furniture, he'd felt as reckless as the west wind, and he had followed all impulses. When the song was flowing through its last few notes, Rei had slid across the floor on his knees in a grand finale. That had been fantastic. The only embarrassing thing was that he'd landed in front of Kai, who'd been watching for God-knows how long, with that smirk on his face and a soft kind of amusement in his expression.
But what Rei didn't know was how utterly appealing Kai had found the other at that moment, trying valiantly to stave off his embarrassment and maintain his pride.
Whenever Rei re-called that particular incident, he coloured in mortification.
Another time Rei had needed help with cleaning the higher windows of the dining room, and he had asked Kai to hold onto the ladder for him as he did so. However, he had leant out too far and lost his footing.
Impulse made him grab out at the ledge and Kai, beneath him, had been telling him calmly to just 'let go'. Squeezing his eyes shut, he'd released the ledge, landing in Kai's arms but the impact still knocking them both down.
Apologizing to Kai, breath knocked out of the both of them, he'd become conscious to the fact that Kai's arms were encircled safely around his waist. He'd looked at Kai questioningly, tips of their noses almost touching, breathing hard. Kai had trained a look on Rei, and the dark-haired boy couldn't help staring back at the way Kai's eyes gleamed in the light, their intensity rendering them brighter and more vivid than ever. After a few moments of a total lack of movement from both parties, Rei becoming acutely aware at how nice Kai's body felt against his, he broke the almost-silence:
"I think… I think you can 'let go' now, this time around."
Kai had merely smirked again, a sardonic (and disappointed?) expression flickering across his face, and released him. That incident, out of all, confused Rei the most, for something indefinable has passed between the two of them - and left him with dreams he'd rather not put words to. And the fact that Rei spent so much time thinking about the other young man made him all the more uneasy.
Yet, putting that aside, Kai was a decent housemate. He didn't kick up a fuss or – actually, he did kick up a fuss approximately three days ago. Rei had planned to pop into town to snoop about, get a better feel of the area, but Kai had seemed to dislike that idea, rejecting it completely. They'd argued about that for an hour or so – "We don't need more supplies." – when finally Kai had finished it off with:
"The markets aren't open on Sundays anyway. You're out of luck."
But, besides that, everything was fine and dandy.
* * *
Rei was reading in front of the fireplace on a fairly cold night, belly down on the mink rug, and enjoying the warmth that the flames emitted by his side. He'd been gardening earlier that day, and that small workout had left his shoulders and back sore and stiff. And it didn't help that he was intensely aware of Kai sitting on the couch not so far away from him. Kai was looking quite comfortable in a dark, marine blue turtleneck and black pants, whereas Rei felt quite understated in his black trousers and smoky grey button-up top.
He couldn't help but steal a few glances every now and then of the Russian, causing him to become frustrated and confused at why he did so. It was only a few moments later when Kai looked up from his reading and caught Rei's sly, fleeting look. Rei had held his gaze for only a second when he'd ripped his eyes away from the other and looked back at his book, even though he knew Kai was still staring.
He shifted a bit on the rug, turning a page, and bit back a groan as a shot of aching pain made itself known in his shoulder blade.
"Still sore?" asked Kai with a noticeable lack of sympathy.
"How can you tell, oh Master Mind?" the other young man retorted.
"Telepathic, oh Sir Plebeian."
"Well, read my mind now," Rei dared him.
Silence, and then, "You're not getting a massage."
"Come on, Kai! We both know you want to get your hands on me." Rei stifled the laughter that threatened to escape him, knowing what kind of reaction he would get.
"…Excuse me?!?" Came Kai's incredulous reply, matched with an incredulous look.
"Kidding. We plebeians call that 'having a dig'," Rei joked, a tiny smile creeping across the edges of his mouth, "Please, as a favour Kai?"
"Will it shut you up?" he asked flatly, eyes glimmering.
"Depends on how good you are."
"Fine then," putting his book down, Kai glided over, straddled Rei and kneaded his back, pressuring his own palms against his shoulder and lower back.
Rei put down his book, sliding it out of the way, and "Mmm'd," into the rug. Kai's hands were very talented, he noticed; gentle, soothing, and working out all the aches… and rousing dormant emotions he did not wish to acknowledge.
Should have known this would happen, Rei berated himself as he pushed away the confusing attraction he felt towards the Russian.
Rei tried to relax, and succeeded quite well, nearly falling asleep when, unexpectedly; a question worked its way into his head. It nipped and clawed at him, as a cat does, and would not leave him be. He pondered over this question, examining all possible answers, and all possible reactions of his feelings to those answers.
Rei stretched out his hand into the mink fur, it's dark coat like stains of ink between his pale fingers, nervously tugging at it, before asking:
"Kai, why are you here?"
"Hmm…?" came the lazy reply.
"Why are you here? Why here, and not Voltaire?"
Kai's hands halted their work for a moment as he considered his answer, before continuing with Rei's back.
"I'd had enough of my grandfather trying to control my life."
Rei thought over this, and what he knew of Kai's childhood, then asked:
"But why are you here, of all places?"
Silence. A stretching silence. A sneaking suspicion.
"Kai… Did you know I was going to be here?"
The hands stopped their kneading again, and Rei twisted around onto his back to study Kai's reaction. He shouldn't have bothered though; a reaction from Kai was like trying to squeeze water from a rock.
Kai looked away into the flames, grey-blue hair a purple in the flickering light, and the brightness of the flames outlining his high cheekbones and the length of his eyelashes.
"Yes." a begrudged admission.
"Let's just say… an angel told me."
"But why all this?" Rei responded.
"I wanted to see you again."
"Why?" Rei breathed, hands clammy and nervous.
Kai looked back at him, but this time with a certain fiery heat, eyes burning and scarlet, as if he were looking at a rather delectable candy he just wanted to lick all over. At this look, Rei felt his heart stumble, fall, and topple somewhere out of reach.
Kai placed his hands on either side of Rei's head, and leant down:
"I think you've already figured that out for yourself, Sir Plebeian."
Rei's lips parted and his breath quickened. He kept his striking amber eyes fixed on Kai's, steadying his nerves, and he could feel the Russian's breath melting on his own lips.
He swallowed hard, "Have I?"
"Yes…" the reply a hiss, and Kai met his wanting lips with the trembling ones of Rei.
It was not what Rei had expected. It was better. Kai knew expertly what to do with his tongue and lips until it made Rei dizzy with lack of breath and desires. Kissers like Kai should be made illegal, he incoherently thought. Lost in the sensation of running his tongue gingerly over the Russian's soft, nervous lips, he gripped him closer and felt him shudder in response.
Kai began working his way down Rei's chest, unbuttoning the top of Rei's shirt. The raven-haired boy gripped the others' shoulders and arched his back, giving Kai better access.
Lifting up and off Kai's top, Rei threw it to the side and ran his hands over Kai's back and arms, pressing his lips to the Russian's collarbone. Kai moaned, but drew himself up, holding out a hand to help Rei up.
* * *
The following week passed by in a hazy bliss of happiness. Ever since his grandmother's death, Rei hadn't been in such high spirits as he was now.
And yet, passing by in the hallways, Kai would get wistful looks in his maroon eyes, turning grave suddenly, and then he'd ravish Rei against the wall – as if to banish all his demons away. Occasionally, they'd snuggle up in front of the fire with a good book or to watch a good movie. But those times were tender and rare; Kai was still distant for the majority – cold and inscrutable. Rei had queried once as to why Kai had neither contacted him or the old team for such a long time – and what had happened to his blue shaded markings? However, Kai's only answer was a shrug and a change of subject, but Rei accepted the chill factor as a part of Kai, and knew it would never change. He was content with the small smiles that Kai graced him with, and most content with the moans he drew from the cynical Russian late into the night.
Shrugging on his black coat, Rei picked up his car keys and walked downstairs – a little spring in his step – to find Kai walking up. He was an absolute dream. When Kai wasn't on guard, he had a serene vulnerable look, as if he were waiting for someone to rip out his soul for exposure. At certain times when with Rei, the Russian was totally at ease, totally natural, so unguarded and real. Rei knew he was unlike this with other people, and therefore cherished these times even more.
Kai wore clothing like a second skin, and he didn't walk. Walk was the wrong word; more suitable was stalk. Like a hunter after his prey. All in all, he was the sexiest creature Rei had ever laid eyes on.
"Where are you going?" Kai asked irritably, catching sight of Rei.
"Market. We're running low on milk and hot chocolate, the most important of the many things we're missing."
"It's your birthday tomorrow; why not go after?"
"Because we need to restock."
"What we need to restock on isn't urgent. Can't you wait until after tomorrow?"
"Why are you arguing about this?" Rei asked, exasperated. "It's no big deal, I can go today."
"If it's no big deal, you can go the day after tomorrow," came the rebuttal.
"Why don't you want me to go? It's only the damn market."
"Forget it," Kai snapped coldly, then pushed past Rei, who blanched in surprise, to make his way upstairs.
"Look, if you really don't want me to go…"
Kai turned around, gaze stern, and shook his head. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't."
Rei sighed and gave in. "Then I'd appreciate it if you gave me a kiss."
* * *
"I didn't wrap it, because… you don't wrap up something like this," Kai said mysteriously and somewhat broodingly, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.
Both young men were sitting on the couch, a cake and a bottle of wine on the coffee table in front of them. It was not a decorated affair, as Rei preferred things modest, not an all-out birthday 'do.
Kai placed a white, tie-up string-baggie into Rei's hand, keeping eye contact with Rei as he did so, and then glancing away. Kai's obvious distress at this present made Rei nervous. He didn't want to open the gift, nor did he want to offend Kai, so he opened it. As he pulled on the strings, the baggie fell open to reveal a scarlet BeyBlade. It appeared sleek, beautiful and graceful - utterly harmless - but Rei knew it had the ability to cause much destruction.
"Kai… Is this – ?" Rei couldn't stop staring at it.
An intense silence settled over the two, Kai watching Rei and Rei studying the BeyBlade in his hands.
"If you don't want it, tell me – "
"I just wasn't expecting it," Rei stammered, finally looking up to meet Kai's gaze. "But… Kai, this is Dranzer. Your BeyBlade and BitBeast, why are you giving her to me? You still blade, don't you?"
Evading Rei's look, Kai shook his head, emitting a grave composure.
"Why? We loved it - you loved it," Rei continued.
"It's not a matter of choice. It's just that I… I can't."
"I don't understand," Rei admitted, confused with Kai's decision.
Kai leaned back on the couch and studied him, vermilion coloured eyes unrevealing.
"You don't need to understand. Only…will you look after her for me?"
"You needn't ask, Kai. Besides, you'll be here to look after her with me."
"Of course, here with you…" Words articulated softly, almost sadly.
Rei seemed to drink in the Russian's gaze, as if he might figure out what to make of Kai just by looking at him long enough; but the urge to feel the warmth of Kai's skin, the rumble of his voice, and to lick the dip of the other's throat got the better of him.
He crawled over to kiss Kai's grave expression away, tasting cake on his lips and wine on his tongue. Slow and unhurried, the kiss soon grew inflamed and hot. Rei welcomed a shiver of pleasure at being right where he was, and, slightly alarmed at how right it felt… then felt an answering shiver run through Kai's body. He jumped a kilometre high when he felt Kai's cold hands finger their way under his long-sleeved top, then relaxed, back down against Kai, BeyBlade soon forgotten.
* * *
Rei awoke to find Kai watching him, Kai who was leaning up on one arm, two-toned hair brushed back and deep scarlet eyes pensive. Rei peered at him through lowered lashes, admiring the refined beauty that was Kai Hiwatari.
"Morning," Rei murmured, stretching out, and then letting out a small moan as Kai raked his knuckles down his chest and stomach.
"Definitely. You tired me out, Hiwatari."
Kai kissed him lazily; it was sensual and luxurious, and his smirk gave a charming light heartedness to his features that Rei fell in love with all over again.
"Mmm… and I definitely need to go into town today. There is nothing in the kitchen, unless you're interested in eating air."
Kai ignored this, nibbling on Kai's earlobe then moving down to kiss the side of his neck and jaw.
"I know you heard me."
Kai gave a grunt of annoyance, "Fine," and released Rei from his grip. Rei gave a little grin and slid out of bed, when he felt Kai's hand clasp onto his wrist. He turned around to look at Kai questioningly, but was instantly drawn down by the other. Kai kissed him so deeply it gave Rei chills in parts he never knew he had till that moment.
Pulling away, eyes glazed over in exhilaration, Rei's mouth turned up at the edges in a soft smile.
"What was that for?"
When no answer came, Rei cupped Kai's cheek in his palm and stroked the Russian's freshly kissed lips with his thumb. "Hmm…?"
"I love you," Kai said softly, melancholy, eyes casting him a funny, haunted sort of look. Rei impulsively rested a hand on Kai's arm, wandering what was going through the other's head.
Then, still rather stunned at Kai's confession, he leaned over to kiss him.
'Love you too,' he mouthed against Kai's lips, and aloud he said, "No need to get out of bed, I'll be back in two hours."
Kai nodded and closed his eyes.
* * *
Rei drove down to town, feeling his lips tingling from Kai's bruising kiss and submitting into the urge to trace the echo with his tongue. He was content to stroll around the market aimlessly, not looking for anything in particular just yet. He had breakfast at a petite coffee shop – hot chocolate (what else?), bacon, and eggs – then wondered curiously from stall to stall. It was a charismatic little town, children playing hopscotch on the sides of the streets, and neighbours happy to visit one another. Many a kind person came up to greet him, querying on how he was settling in.
One woman, who looked to be in her mid-forties, caught his eye and waved him over to her stall. She had brown eyes, shoulder-length blonde hair and a kind smile; she appeared to be selling jewellery.
"Hi there, stranger. Haven't seen you around before; am I correct in assuming that you're the new owner of the manor?"
Rei nodded and shook her hand in greeting, "Rei Kon."
"Nice to meet you."
"Same to you. How do you like the place so far?"
"What I've seen of it? Brilliant. All the stores I've been to, the people have been very helpful. And the manor is beautiful," he informed her.
"It is that, indeed. I used to work for the old owner. He was a nice young man. Popular with the young ladies – and the gentlemen, if you get my meaning – although… he didn't get around to marrying, despite his status. With the money he had, he could have bought a wife. Or a concubine."
Rei smiled indulgently, inwardly amused at Miranda's open gossipy nature.
"I never got to meet the original owner. My real estate agent arranged everything possible without my having to worry about it."
Miranda looked at him, quite perplexed. "Oh no, you wouldn't have met the owner. That'd be impossible, unless you could raise the dead. Such a shame… I'm surprised that your real estate agent has not spoken of it to you!"
"Why, what happened?"
"Mr Hiwatari was trapped in a fire; he died – so unfortunate."
Miranda mistook Rei's incredulous question as morbid curiosity, "The old owner, Kai Hiwatari, perished in the library where the fire broke out. You've seen the marks in the library, surely." She paused, a downcast expression shadowing her face, and then continued, "My cousin was working nightshift at the manor. She said it was too late to save him, but they were able to put out the fire before it reached the rest of the house."
Rei felt cold ice web its way up his spine, dark clouds fogging his thoughts, and he had to wet his lips before asking:
"Are you certain this man was called Kai Hiwatari?"
Miranda nodded, "Absolutely positive. I worked for Mr Hiwatari for four years; I think I'd know my boss's name. He was a great-looking young man. Such a waste, having beautiful burgundy eyes like that on a man."
Rei felt the world spin around him, and he had to grab hold of the stall table to stabilise himself. Surely she was mistaken – surely.
"Are you alright, Sir? Would you like to sit down? I know this would come as a shock to you, especially if you were superstitious about ghosts and everything…"
Rei took a breath; he could feel the blood draining out of his face; queasy.* "Why don't you want me to go? It's only the market."
"Thank you, Miranda, but I'll be on my way now."
Rei made his way back to his car, fumbling with the keys. Funny that, they weren't even his keys - the car belonged to Kai. The vehicle was real, all paint and steel; and Kai was real, all flesh and blood. Therefore, Miranda was wrong. It was all a mistake, unquestionably. She'd gotten the name mixed up, that's all. It was just… she… she was wrong. How could you love, be loved, and make love to a person who didn't exist? Rei snorted in disbelief, holding back hysterical laughter that bubbled up inside him.
"Why? We loved it. You loved it."
"It's not a matter of choice. It's just that I… I can't."
Driving back on auto-pilot, feeling as if he were in a dream, Rei ran through different scenes in his mind, trying to reassure himself that the woman had just gotten her wires crossed. When he got back, he'd tell Kai, and they'd both laugh it off together - or so he told himself, but different clues niggled into his mind. In his nervous haste, Rei knocked down the letterbox as a result of absentmindedness – and rising panic. He swore violently, slammed the car door shut, and went over to pick up the wooden box.
One of the letters from 'MANOR' had fallen off from the impact. He peered closer to better inspect the damage. There was mud all over the letters so he used his sleeve to wipe it clean. Rei expected to see a clean heading of 'TORI MANOR', but when he'd wiped the mud off, it had revealed other letters as well.
Rei's eyes widened, and he dropped the box as if it had scorched his hands. It read:
"I love you."
No, it wasn't true. Simple. This just wasn't possible. He threw the box fiercely on the ground, dust and dirt flying up. He lashed out at it with a kick, frustration and hysteria overwhelming him.
Then, leaving behind the mutilated sign, Rei sprinted into the house, repeating the mantra in his mind: 'Can't be true, can't be true…" Flinging the doors open, he yelled out:
He flicked black fringe out of his eyes – surprised to find his cheeks wet - tears? Surely not – and ran up the stairs. Rei searched the bedrooms, library, graphics room, and any room that Kai was usually found to occupy; to no avail. His eyes were unseeing, unbelieving. There was no sign of Kai actually living there; no sign at all. The Blue Room empty and full of dust and webs, old dreams and new kisses and lustful sighs…
Rei made his way back down the stairs to the ground floor.
"Kai…?" he whispered, begging, hoping, wishing, pleading…
But on the wind, Rei fancied he heard the words 'I'm sorry…' – or perhaps it was the wind gasping in its mocking voice, teasing him in his hour of loss.
Rei, dropping to his knees, let out a low, painful, raw sound. A moan of anguish and hurt.
Dranzer fell out of his pocket. Scarlet glittering; like oh so familiar eyes. Clattering to the ground.
"You needn't ask, Kai. Besides, you'll be here to look after it with me."
"Of course, here with you…"