Disclaimer: I do not own Gingetsu or Lan from Clover. CLAMP owns them.

Risk
For Rachel.

Gingetsu didn't know this, but Lan could hold his alcohol rather well, even though he didn't look like it. He looked at himself critically in the mirror, observing the red tint in his cheeks and the slightly glazed, 'drunk' expression he schooled himself to have.

Back then, in the cage, he used to spend the days with his brothers either talking, or playing with the electronic technology, or drinking. The mechanical animal servers don't know much aside from protecting them and making sure that their constant whims and fancies were fulfilled, and A discovered that a simple, direct command was enough to supply them with a steady amount of alcohol if they wished. He supposed the Wizards didn't really give a damn whether they're of age or not, or rather whether they looked the age. Regardless, they did while away the hours sometimes with alcohol, and for some reason never got inebriated.

Lan wasn't sure how old he actually is, because time was kept in a bottle in the cage, and it was only after he stepped out he realized what mortality felt like. Growing up was strange, but even stranger was how Gingetsu seemed to realize that he outgrew his clothes faster than he did, always thrusting a brown paper package full of clothes two, three times his size at him. It was then that he himself noticed that the jeans were getting tight and the shirts getting short at the hems and the sleeves, and it was both with wistfulness and happiness that he accepted the gifts.

They estimated, by the time of his first birthday outside (come to think of it, A had never celebrated birthdays…he couldn't remember any anyway), that he was aging at the rate of six times faster than a normal human. Lan remembered looking into the mirror, tracing pale fingers over his reflection. There was still a bit of cream at the corner of his mouth, from the birthday cake Gingetsu had bought. He wiped it away with a simple flick of his finger.

"We don't have photographs."

Gingetsu appeared behind him, expression stony. Still, the twelve months of being with him had taught Lan how to even the smallest changes in the older man's face. Gingetsu's eyebrows are just slightly knotted at the top with worry.

"...Would you like to have?"

He smiled, lowered his eyelashes. "It's okay. I don't want you to feel bad anyway."

Gingetsu's hand was so warm, so wonderfully familiar, so much like coming home, from where it landed, almost hesitantly, on Lan's left shoulder. In that moment, Lan had wanted so much to turn around and kiss him.

But he didn't.

Maybe he was too afraid, too scared to move, too scared to wonder what Gingetsu would think. Maybe it was too soon, then.

He wondered if it was still too soon now, with the half-empty wine bottle in his hands and his cheeks suitably red, the taste of alcohol in his mouth reminiscent of the times with A and B, and he was feeling pleasantly buzzed. Lan knew he wasn't drunk, not in the least, but he figured he needed to act the part.

Despite everything, he was still afraid to take such risks. What if Gingetsu didn't like it? What would happen? How would they live together after this? These thoughts fluttered in his mind like the mechanical birds, stuck forever in a pre-determined flight, but he remembered Oruha, remembered the lustrous One-Leaf who taught him never to be afraid, never to regret.

Besides, it was too late to hide the bottle, nor the red blush that covered his cheeks, now looking awkwardly stark and out of place against his pale flesh. There was the sound of a key sliding into the lock, and Lan was caught, just in that single eternal moment, the tiny sparrow in the throes of a fishnet.

Gingetsu stepped into their home, snapping close the black umbrella and hanging it in the small, alcove-like corridor. Lan didn't move, the bottle still held incriminatingly in his hands. He took a deep breath, voice shuddering as he whispered, "Welcome home."

The silver eyebrows were raised in question, and he was pretty sure that the eyes, which he had never seen, were focused on the bottle. They narrowed, but Gingetsu's voice was kept carefully toneless, as if he was afraid any inflection would send Lan scurrying away. It probably would.

"Lan. What's that?"

He bit his lip, looked away, moving the bottle behind him in a belated attempt to hide it. Gingetsu's voice was now gentle, but disapproving, and he moved closer to Lan, hand reaching out for the bottle.

"Were you drinking?"

Gingetsu never sounded more like a parent.

"...Yes."

"Why?"

He felt like crying again, feeling foolish that he had wanted to use this tool to...seduce Gingetsu, use this false facade to try to find out Gingetsu's feelings without risking his own, but it hurt to trick Gingetsu like this. Gingetsu's fingers closed gently around his wrist.

"Lan?"

He took another deep, shuddering breath, hands clenching around the cool, smooth neck. Now or never. "Because...because I wanted the courage to do...this."

And he reached upwards, standing on tiptoes, eyes half-closed (he didn't want to miss, after all, after gathering up every inch and centimeter of borrowed courage to boost his own flagging one), pressing trembling lips, still tasting of the bittersweet tang of grape wine, to Gingetsu's. There was an immediate flutter of disappointment when Gingetsu didn't respond, even though touching his lips with his own felt blissfully glorious, and his heart dropped even further when Gingetsu whispered, "No," against his mouth.

He could feel the tears prickling at his eyes, vision becoming blurred and dizzying as he pulled away. The urge to suddenly break away and run upstairs, back into the safety of his bedroom (no, he couldn't even call it his own, why, why, why did he do it, this was all such a stupid mistake) overwhelmed him, but Gingetsu's hands reached out and grasped him and he couldn't even run. It hurt, that he took the risk and there was nothing in there, nothing he had wanted, and everything else was gone, shattered like the mechanical wings of the bluebird, and then the tears were falling and he was crying, hiccupping between his incoherent apologies. The bottle fell, not shattering but spilling over, the red wine like blood over the polished wood.

"Lan." Gingetsu's voice was still gentle, still endlessly patient, once he was done, gulping and catching his breath, trying not to collapse. He didn't want to raise his eyes, afraid even to look at the opaque glasses. Lan felt eleven all over again; even though he thought he had bypassed that age a long, long time ago.

"You're drunk, aren't you?" The matter-of-fact tone in Gingetsu's voice took him by surprise, and Lan looked up involuntarily, the last few tears slipping down.

"I'm...I'm not," he managed to shudder out, and Gingetsu's eyebrows raised themselves.

"You are."

He couldn't help but laugh a little crazily, torn between the shock and the amusement. "I'm not, Gingetsu. We used to imbibe alcohol by the barrel, A and B and I. I can hold my alcohol. I don't get drunk."

"I think you are."

...Well, maybe he was. A little. Lan certainly couldn't remember losing total control over his emotions so much before, and this loss felt totally new to him. But he still responded to the words anyway, almost petulantly. "I'm not. I..." he bit his lip again, calmer now, and then he said it anyway.

He had nothing more to lose. He couldn't have anything else to risk.

"I'm not drunk. And I...I...I really like you."

He had no more tears to cry, just the tattered remains of hiccups and tear-tracks. "I really like you." He closed his eyes, sagging into the hands that still held him, into the arms that circled awkwardly, carefully to catch him. "I really, really like you."

"Lan," Gingetsu breathed his name again, and he shuddered, reveling in the word.

"I'm sorry. When do I go?"

"You're not leaving, Lan," the patient tone was back in Gingetsu's voice again, and Lan left out a tired squeak when he was suddenly but slowly lifted up, settling against a broad, warm chest. He hooked his arms around Gingetsu's neck almost uncertainly; felt the world began to move. Gingetsu's scent was intoxicating, and Lan sought to breathe and remember as much as he could, even though his heart was beating again with Gingetsu's words.

The short journey ended all too soon when Gingetsu lowered him into a bed, and he detached his arms from that proud neck, but his arms still reached upwards as he lay down. Gingetsu's features were still expressionless, but the tiny worry line was back again on his forehead. Hesitantly, as always, Gingetsu's fingers touched his cheek, and he turned towards it.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be." The silence was filled with the light puffs of breath. "We'll talk about this tomorrow, if you like."

The words, oddly enough, didn't fill him with dread, and he sleepily nodded, too tired to care anymore. "Stay with me?" he murmured against the fingers.

"Aa."

"Do you mean it?"

He was back to shyness again, toying with his too-long sleeves. Gingetsu was sitting next to him, comfortably close but not too intimidating. Lan contemplated the cup of tea, placed just within hand's reach, but quashed the urge to delay any longer.

Now or never.

"I like Gingetsu," he said firmly, bravely, quietly to the floor. Fingers crept under his chin, lifting his face up to look at his guardian. Gingetsu's eyebrows were clearly knotted in confusion. Lan suddenly fought the urge to roll his eyes in exasperation.

"Alright." He blinked at Gingetsu's answer.

"It...it's okay with you?"

"Why shouldn't it?"

It...it was that simple? There really wasn't a need to concoct such an elaborate scheme, carefully thought out and worried over for weeks on end? Lan felt foolish all over again, and then the funny side of the entire situation struck him, and he helplessly began to laugh.

"Something amuses you?" Gingetsu's voice was now a mess of bewilderment and concern, as if he had expected Lan to burst out crying again.

"No," Lan spoke between the breathless wheezes, drunk on the happiness that swelled and thrummed and threatened to burst from his chest instead of through his lips. "I…I just didn't think it was so simple."

"Aa."

He laced his fingers with Gingetsu's, slowly, enjoying the won privilege. Or maybe he had never lost it at all.

"Can I kiss you again?" Lan asked, not as shyly as before. Gingetsu's face still retained the confused expression, and Lan smiled.

"Do as you like."

This time, there was no bittersweet tang, no headiness of well-aged wine to ruin the fine, perfect taste of lips on lips.

Sometimes, maybe risks weren't so dangerous after all.

owari-

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