Author's Note: Kizuna is the work of Kazuma Kodaka, and published in English at least by BeBeautifulManga, which you can find at http/ I hold no rights and make no money from using these characters.

Kei slipped into the apartment, toeing his shoes off at the door and sighing with exhaustion. Working these late hours and maintaining his course load was overwhelming, some weeks, and this had been one of them. Letting his suit jacket slip off his shoulders and fall on the nearest chair, he continued to strip on his way to the bedroom, dropping clothes carelessly as he went. Of course he knew he'd be scolded for it later. Normally he'd be more careful, but knowing he'd have to drop things at the cleaners anyway the following day kept him from worrying.

Instead, he focused on his goal, opening the bedroom door as quietly as possible. It was five in the morning and he didn't want to wake Ran if he could avoid it, assuming he'd finally managed to get some sleep. Kei had been quietly overjoyed when Ranmaru had decided to start returning to the dojo and begun working with his grandfather again, trying to regain some of his lost movement and strength. The unfortunate side effect had been an increase in the residual pain his lover dealt with on a regular basis, which had been keeping him up at night of late.

Closing the door behind him to darken the room again, Kei sighed happily. Ran was asleep, and taking up far more than his share of the bed as well. He couldn't help but grin at the sight of his pillow held tightly in those lean, strong arms. Apparently he'd been missed during the night hours, and the fact started a warm glow deep inside his chest.

Dropping the last of his clothing by the bedside, he lifted the covers and slid in as carefully as he could, forced to nudge Ranmaru here and there to gain his rightful share of the bed and not fall face first onto the floor. Tugging the pillow away gently, he did something he would rarely do when they were both awake. Moving closer, he rested his head on Ran's chest, sliding an arm around that narrow, strong waist, seeking comfort and security for himself.

Most often, he was the rock in the relationship, at least as far as anyone else could see. Kei, however, knew the truth. He was nothing without Ranmaru, nothing at all. Ever since that first day, that first glance, Ran had taken over Kei's life, his soul, really. It was at times like these that he allowed his need to truly show, terrified that if Ran really saw how much he needed him, it would scare him or cause problems between them. Kei knew it was hard enough for him, dealing with the emotional turmoil of their unconventional relationship.

Letting his eyes drift closed as exhaustion washed over him, he breathed in deeply, inhaling the scent of his lover, that warm, soft, musky smell that was Ranmaru alone, and let himself slip off to sleep. He fell asleep so quickly and deeply that he never noticed the blue eyes opening and looking down at the top of his head, full of love and affection, or the long, slender fingers that moved from his shoulder to run gently through his hair, pushing it back from his face.

Ranmaru always woke up when Kei came home, no matter how deeply he'd been sleeping when the door opened. Sometimes he would open his eyes and share that fact with the world, and other times he wouldn't. He knew somehow, instinctively, what Kei needed some mornings, and did everything he could to provide it. Mornings like this were rare, but Ran cherished them for what they told him about the man he loved, and their relationship. Knowing how uncomfortable it would make Kei to have his need exposed, he feigned sleep for his lover until he drifted off, but now he couldn't resist touching him, pulling him closer, moving their bodies more perfectly into alignment.

"I love you," he whispered softly, dropping a sweet kiss on the crown of that dark head and tightening his arms around that familiar, beloved body. "I will always be here to protect you, just like I promised."