Translation of anything I use:
Suki da yo - one way to say 'I love you'
Nisemono - liar, imposter, fake, counterfeit
Hentai - pervert

Ritsuka winced as his mother broke something else downstairs. His eyes refocused on the computer screen and he read over what he had written most recently in a little unassuming word document, with his most favorite pictures interspersed here and there.

Soubi hasn't waited for me after school or on the weekends for a month now…

Ritsuka moved his fingers over the keyboard and continued, painfully finding each character before he could type it. He needed this time on the computer both for his journal and practice.

I'm glad of it. At least I know that he can follow an order if I yell it loud enough. But I'm starting to worry that my mind is playing tricks on me, just like when Seimei died - I'm not imagining seeing or hearing him or anything like I used to, but the spot right next to my bed smells like him. It's a little… comforting. I wouldn't be able to sleep if it didn't.

He clicked open a new window with a carefully snapped photo of that very spot and formatted it to be inserted. When he remembered everything else, he didn't want to forget the things that were happening now.

He kept going.

But whenever I smell it I think of him, which isn't good. His smell (it's very dark and I think there's blood in it somewhere, but I swear he wears lady's perfume) has been enough so far, but it's been a month, like I said. The longest I've ever lasted before was half this. A lingering scent won't help me much in a few weeks, or even days.

He hesitated for a moment, chewing on the nail of his right index finger as he listening to his mother's ranting. He had asked his psychiatrist what he should write here, and she always told him to write everything that he wasn't telling her. He did.

It insults me that he hasn't sent even one message. If he tries to say his fake 'suki da yo' ever again I won't forgive him. If he loves me so much, why isn't he suffering as much as I am? I don't even love him myself, and each day is agony. Why is he so nonchalant, as though we were just walking home together today? I'm sure I'm right. Soubi is always so calm and accepting and under control. The bastard.

"Ritsuka-nisemono!" his mother screeched. Ritsuka flinched; she was right outside the door. "Get in bed! My Ritsuka was always so respectful and went to sleep when he should and never had to be told, but you aren't, aren't, aren't him! You never will be! You killed my Ritsuka!"

Ritsuka had already put the monitor on sleep mode, turned off his light, and curled up in a tight ball, his face toward that spot that smelled so much like his Soubi.

Two hours later, Soubi was outside his window. He peered inside the room for five minutes, making sure his Sacrifice was asleep, and then gently slid the glass away as though its tracks were oiled. He stepped inside, smiling at the little lump under the covers. He began walking across the room, intent.

He passed the computer desk and knocked the mouse about with a careless hand. The screen flickered instantly out of sleep mode and lit up the room with its eerie, bluish glow. Soubi glanced over at Ritsuka, who hadn't so much as twitched his tail, and turned to the open document.

He smiled at the part about even his smell being soothing, but frowned at learning Ritsuka's attitude toward his staying away. His Sacrifice had told him to stay away, and hadn't he? Wasn't he following his master's order? He finished reading and turned away.

Well, not followed to the letter, per say; he was in his room, after all. But he was addicted, and couldn't bear to keep away for so long. Soubi typed four syllables and set the screen back in its sleep mode, moving then to lie down on the floor just next to Ritsuka's bed.

At four o'clock in the morning he opened his eyes, stood, watched Ritsuka sleep for a few minutes and left out the window, leaving only his feminine perfume scent (he was still a little puzzled about that) behind.

Suki da yo.

Ritsuka leaned back in his chair, mouth working in shock. This was neither possible nor good.

Suki da yo.

He knew who had written this at the end of his journal. Had this happened while he had been in school, though? At his psychiatrist's? He had only just gotten home and finished praying, coming straight up to his room to rant about one more day without Soubi around. And now this.

How dare he? How dare Soubi come into his room without permission and directly against an order?

He touched the delete button, and paused. He took his hand back, set it on the mouse, and saved the journal. He turned the computer all the way off and sat staring at the screen for a few minutes.

He waited until it was just barely dark, crawled beneath the covers on his bed, and waited.

Soubi didn't bother watching through the window to see if his Ritsuka was asleep. He wasn't. Ritsuka would feign sleep to try to catch him off guard and demand answers to questions he himself didn't know. Soubi knew him too well by now.

He strode boldly across the room and sat upright in his now customary place, looking unto Ritsuka's open eyes as they shone light lavender with the moonlight they collected. He let a measured beat run its course and then smiled warmly.

"Suki da yo, Ritsuka-kun," he breathed, just loud enough to wake all the pent up anger within the boy.

Ritsuka hissed, "I told you to stay away."

"I failed. You may punish me."

"When did you start coming here?" The boy's volume was rising, and Soubi stroked his cheek with the back of a finger to distract him. "Stop."

Soubi let his hand return to the sheet.

"After the first week."

Now he blushed. Soubi wasn't acting as though he had been punished even the slightest bit! "Why didn't you at least send me a message?"

Soubi set a blue cell phone on the mattress, and it was immediately enveloped by a small hand with white knuckles. "You threw it at me at the same time you ordered me away."

The cell was drawn beneath the warm-looking blankets, along with most of a very red face. "You could have come after school like you always do." Another hand emerged and settled just a centimeter away from Soubi's long, pale, artist's hand as it rested on the edge.

Soubi's hand caught his Sacrifice's and their fingers intertwined. "I wanted you to understand. This is how I feel every day I don't get to speak with you."

The smaller hand tried to pull away as Ritsuka growled, "Never for an entire month!"

Soubi let it go regretfully. "I assumed that the time would have to exaggerated, since my feelings for you are more acute."

"You don't have any real feelings for me."

"Suki da yo, my Ritsuka-kun."

"Saying the words doesn't make it real."

"We've kissed before," Soubi pointed out. He watched the boy's ears flicker back and forth and asked with great curiosity, "Do you want to again? You always reacted so strongly that I've tried not to for now." He didn't receive a response to that. "What we've done before has been very chaste. Maybe you would like me to use my tongue the next time?"

"D-don't talk about such embarrassing things," Ritsuka squeaked, covering his entire head with the blanket. "Just the actions don't make it real, either!"

"What does?"

"W-well, we both have to feel it, for one thing."

Soubi smiled and spoke, every word dripping with the reminder of what he had read of the journal. "And you obviously don't love me."

Now that he had firm enough footing to argue, Ritsuka seemed to forget his mortification. "I'm not going to love you just because you're an adult, or just because you're always rational, or you always know what to do, or you were the first to say you loved me, or you were Seimei's friend."

"But why not for all of those reasons together?"

He snapped, "Because-"

Both of them pressed their hands to his mouth. But it was too late.

"Ritsuka-nisemono!" came his mother's voice through the house.

He had been too loud.

Her door slammed open, breaking at least one of the hinges, by the loud cracking sound. She stomped through the hall and burst into her son's room. "I told you to sleep!"

"Sorry," Ritsuka said in a rush. "I had a nightmare; I'll be quiet and go back to sleep now, right away."

She trudged away, muttering evil things to herself: No, this imposter isn't sweet Ritsuka…

Ritsuka sighed, watching her leave, and lifted the covers to reveal Soubi wrapped around him and cuddling rather affectionately. "You can stop now, she's gone."

"I can, but I would rather not." His mouth was just level with his Ritsuka's neck, and his breath wasn't helping. "We were talking about what I would have to do to show you I love you if you, theoretically, already loved me back and that wasn't an obstacle."

Ritsuka frowned, not remembering it quite like that. "You would have to spend time with me. Normally, though, not because of a fight or because you're protecting me or my friends invited me out and you came along. And we would have to be alone." He looked at Soubi's suggestive cocked head and stuttered in a whisper, "B-but no kissing or anything like that."

"You're talking about a date?"

"I-I guess I am."

"Married couples don't go out on dates very often, and they're still in love."

"We're not married." The Sacrifice was having more trouble staying quiet now. "And stop doing that."

Soubi stopped pressing his lips to Ritsuka's collarbone as ordered. Totally serious, he asked, "Will you marry me, then?"

"No, we haven't even gone on a date yet."

"Then will you go on a date with me?"

The lesser of two quasi-evils. "Fine, but no kissing."

"I promise not to kiss you if you don't want me to."

"You don't get to be judge of whether I do or do not want you to kiss me." Ritsuka put his hands on Soubi's shoulders because the man had started running cold fingers across his stomach.

"I think you want me to right now," Soubi said as though pointing out the obvious.

"I don't," Ritsuka tried to say with certainty, but his giggling in the middle of it ruined the attitude. "That tickles."

"Hm." Soubi acknowledged the information, but didn't stop.

Ritsuka hesitated a moment. "You have to leave right afterward. Promise."

"Yes, master." Soubi brought his face up close to Ritsuka's innocent one. The boy had already closed his eyes and was blushing scarlet. Soubi said very respectfully, "Tongue or no?"

"No, just get on with it," Ritsuka whined, partially opening one eye and gasping at how very near Soubi really was.

Soubi carefully kissed Ritsuka, enjoying the warmth and the soft pressure as the boy kissed back and regretting every day spent away. Finally, he stood and murmured, "Suki da yo."

Ritsuka watched him stepping silently across the room and said, "Soubi." The man turned obediently. "After school tomorrow, we can go wherever you want."

"As you wish," Soubi said with a bow. He turned, slid the window open, and disappeared into the night.

Ritsuka watched a little fly as it traveled around the room. It landed on Yayoi's ear, but the boy didn't notice, such was his vigor for learning (and staring pointedly at Yuiko). It landed on Yuiko's desk and she tried to catch it, both hands coming down in a dome, but it flew away.

He was bored. He had his cell phone in his pocket, and his hand touching it, but it hadn't rung once. This was silly to be thinking about, because he had no reason to believe that Soubi would try to call him. Especially not during school. Soubi would know better than that.

Ritsuka really, really wanted it to ring. But just because he was bored; he didn't particularly want to see Soubi or anything. Of course not.

The bell rang, and he all but sprinted out of the room, Yuiko watching him go with confusion obvious in her eyes.

"Soubi!" he yelled, beginning to assume that the man hadn't come. There was the wall, but no sign of his Fighter behind it -

Hands dropped over his eyes and Soubi's deep voice laughed, "Looking for me, my love?"

Ritsuka immediately growled, "I wasn't."

"You called my name." The hands slid from the boy's eyes to around his shoulders in a loose hug, and Soubi stepped away and in front of him.

Ritsuka's ears were flat to his head in anger, and he said, "Are we going on a date or aren't we?" louder than was necessary. As everyone giggled, he blushed and mumbled, "I mean, you said…"

Soubi nodded, ignoring the dying laughter for his part. "You said, Ritsuka-kun. And we will." He took one step down the road, paused, and looked back, one hand out. "Come with me."

Ritsuka flushed and took the hand, looking down as he was led toward downtown. Finally, he managed to find his tongue and asked, "Where are we going, anyway?"

"We are going to a movie, a romance. Do you still wish to go?"

Ritsuka didn't want to seem like he was enjoying himself, since he wasn't. Especially not with Soubi's deliciously long (and so very warm) fingers pressing into his palm. "I don't see why not."

"I'm glad," Soubi smiled, leading him to a large cinema and buying the tickets - to Sunset in Paradise, whatever that was - with a suspicious lack of mystique and general air of secret-keeping. Ritsuka eyed him dubiously as he was handed popcorn and sweet lemon-lime soda and was veritably showered in candies. Finally, as Soubi was leading the way down the hall to their theater, Ritsuka tugged on his hand and would not move. Soubi knelt down and asked, "Ritsuka-kun? What's wrong?"

"Why are you being so," Ritsuka paused, trying not to whine, "so nice?"

"Because you said that I have to spend time with you to show you how much I love you."

"But you're not acting like you." In a way that Ritsuka didn't have words for, this was like an unspeakable crime.

Soubi put a hand under his chin and looked him in the eye. "Suki da yo."

Ritsuka searched his eyes desperately. "But how can I believe you?"

"How could I lie?" Soubi took a breath, let it out in a sigh, and pressed his lips to the boy's forehead. "I need you with me."

"Obviously not, or you couldn't have thrown me aside for so long." But it wasn't a challenge, it wasn't a fight - he just barely whispered it, and Soubi might have missed it if he wasn't so close.

"Let's go into the theater. We only have a few minutes before the movie starts."

Sitting in the row farthest from the screen, though (it was very crowded, and these were the only consecutive seats for them), Ritsuka couldn't bring himself to be interested in the movie. What did he care about a businesswoman going to Fiji and being seduced by the local lifeguard? In all honesty, Ritsuka didn't see the draw in either of them; the woman was edging near that big three-oh mark and not holding up well, while the man had all the brain power of a confused, distracted duck. He preferred someone with less muscle and more intelligence, a light in their eyes and an almost omniscient knowledge of the world. And he didn't like the 'rugged, chiseled' features (as the woman gushed to her friend) of the man, but a more aesthetic sort of beauty.

And now he allowed himself to think what he had been avoiding. Soubi. He preferred someone like Soubi.

His Fighter had been watching Ritsuka's little inner debate with interest and mild trepidation - what if he was found wanting, after all? - and was pleasantly surprised when the small hand in his tightened just a very little bit. He squeezed back and left it at that. Ritsuka had clearly said that nothing was to be even remotely attempted without expressed permission, and he wanted this to go as well as possible, considering the little bump in the corridor.

The movie ended, the house lights came up, and they followed the line of people outside, without parting hands once. From there they headed to a small Italian gelato shop and got a large cone to share. So they walked home, taking turns licking the thing until it was more mess than treat and they threw it away. It was, Ritsuka grudgingly admitted in his own mind, fun.

Until they started toward his house and he tugged on Soubi's hand again.

It was almost dark and he hadn't even tried to tell his mother that he would be coming home late, since she had been busy scrubbing Seimei's shrine obsessively for the twelfth time. She would be angry; angry meant violent, and violent meant a new dressing or scar to explain away.

"Ritsuka-kun?" Soubi asked, seeing the dread on his face.

"Can I," he swallowed, hand tightening on the solid weight of the other's, "stay at your place? Just for tonight?"

"Yes, of course you can," Soubi said, instinctively worried. "But why?"

"My house isn't the best place to be right now, is all."

Thinking of the night before, Soubi guessed, "Is it your mother?"

Ritsuka turned away from his street and started toward Soubi's shared apartment. "I just don't want to go to my house."

His Fighter obligingly followed him, taking the lead when it became obvious that Ritsuka wasn't sure where they were going. Eventually, because it had been preying on his mind, he said, "You say 'to my house' where most would say 'home'. That's odd."

Without looking up from his deep investigation of the pavement, Ritsuka murmured, "Home is where the people you love are."

And Soubi didn't say a word.

Outside the door, Ritsuka stopped once more. "Thank you for letting me stay, and for the date. It was… pleasant."

Soubi stood staring down at him, wanting so very much to hold him, if not more. He didn't have anything to say, so he spent a few moments simply studying his Sacrifice's mannerisms. He loved this fragile, strong child with all of his being, but how could he show it?

Ritsuka looked up, blushing deeply. "If…if you want, you can kiss me. Like we have before. Because the date was pleasant, and you're letting me stay over."

Soubi smiled and pressed his hand to the boy's burning cheek. "Suki da yo, Ritsuka-kun." He bent and just barely brushed the boy's lips, stealing his breath and eliciting the tiniest of moans. He straightened and watched the look of pure innocent bliss play across his Ritsuka's face.

Kio opened the door, singing, "Soubi, darling, I've been waiting for you all da- What are you doing to him?" The last part was a strangled sort of yelp, as he pulled Soubi away from the tremulous embrace. "Soubi, you hentai!"

Soubi flinched and said with quiet anger, "Kio, I have already told you that I'm not a hentai."

"You were molesting a poor, defenseless child! Are you alright, Aoyagi-kun?"

"Y-yes," Ritsuka stammered. "In fact, I'm feeling pretty good. I mean, Soubi's being Soubi again."

"Hm?" Kio looked at Soubi, who in his turn raised an eyebrow. The man brightened considerably. "You're right, Aoyagi-kun. I was afraid that Soubi's little melancholic silences and disappearing acts were going to be permanent."

Ritsuka cocked his head to the side and sent an accusing glare at his Fighter. "His what?"

"You know - his depressive-ness. He keeps staring sadly into space, even in school, which is really weird for him. But not since last night, I don't think." He launched toward his roommate, set on a hug, "You were pretty enthusiastic today, weren't you, my love?"

"Soubi," Ritsuka started, in a you-were-lying-after-all tone, "why didn't-"

Soubi pushed open the door, saying, "Kio, Ritsuka-kun is staying the night."

"Don't just ignore me." Ritsuka ran in front of him, hands in fists. "If you were just trying to show me that I would miss you, you didn't have to make yourself miserable at the same time."

Soubi smiled, subservient. "You ordered me to stay away."

"That's never stopped you before, has it?"

Kio stepped between them, because the boy was ready for violence. "Aoyagi-kun," he asked seriously, "were you the one making him so wretched for a month?"

Ritsuka stopped breathing. "I…"

"He's only a child, Kio," Soubi said, coming to his defense.

Kio turned on him. "Then why do you put yourself through hell for him? You either need to help him grow up and take responsibility for his own mistakes, or stop following him blindly. A child can't handle a - a slave that's ready to die for him!"

"If that's the case, it's my fault. Don't take it out on him."

Ritsuka was staring at the ground, fighting the pricking in his eyes.

They were both completely ignoring him now. Kio said, "You can't just take the blame and hope that I'll stop worrying about you!"

Soubi's eyes flashed dangerously. "You're not the one I want worrying."

"Stop," Ritsuka gasped.

"Even if I'm only your friend, I'm allowed to be concerned!"

"Stop it!" the boy screamed, tears freely falling to the floor below him. "I'm the one you should be angry with. I don't understand anything, so I'm sorry if I hurt you without meaning to or if I make mistakes. So just blame me and stop fighting. I hate it when people yell." He sank to his knees, head low. Ritsuka-nisemono, a fake, you're not my son! "Just stop."

Soubi was on the floor next to him, arms out, murmuring quiet consolations and letting his Sacrifice cry. "You've done nothing wrong, my love. No one is angry with you; no one's going to yell anymore. Suki da yo."

"Soubi," Ritsuka sighed, "You never mean it." Still, he sank lower against him and his breathing slowly evened out. He slept.

Soubi laid the prone, supple body out on his own futon, and hesitated over what to do. He shrugged and slid under the covers as well, wrapping Ritsuka in a hug.

Ritsuka opened his eyes when the sun touched them. Soubi's window was much closer to the bed than his own. He had to turn inside his Fighter's arms to face away from the offending morning, and he buried his head in his shirt.

He opened his eyes again. Soubi's bed? arms? shirt?

"Good morning, my Ritsuka-kun," Soubi's voice, better suited for 'come back to bed's than for 'time to get up's, greeted him with quiet mirth.

Ritsuka looked up at the face that was looking back down at him. "Why are we…?"

"You fell asleep."

Now the boy flushed and broke the visual contact. "That doesn't explain anything."

"It was worth seeing you so peaceful." There was a momentary silence. "May I ask something of you?"

"It depends on what it is."

"May I kiss you?"

Ritsuka looked up at him, half buried in the covers and more than slightly rumpled from sleep. He emerged quickly, pressed a peck to Soubi's lips, and disappeared again. "There, is that enough?" Soubi only held him tighter. The Sacrifice mumbled, "Me too."

"You what?"

Ritsuka only said, "You'll say it soon. You always do."

Soubi thought for a moment, and smiled. "Suki da yo."

"I knew you'd figure it out."