I really like how this turned out. I was actually inspired by a review for another story of mine for the same dynamic duo (because in neither this nor Absent are Kureno and Akito overtly in love). Yes, Adi, that means you inspired me with your vague ramblings. I'm not even sure, now, what it was that was said... but I got to thinking, is all.

And I sort of like their relationship. In general. You know? (Hah.)

Life was normal. A familiar dance.

For all of the time I was with her, life was normal. It was set in stone.

Don't talk unless she asks a question. Don't answer 'no' unless it's a question about me ever leaving. Don't ever not be there when she calls. Don't ever mention another person's name, even one of the juunishi, unless she's talking about them already, and then it's just going to be Yuki and…

And then what do I know about the kid to pass judgment on anything he did to make Akito talk?

Life was normal. A set of rules, meetings all exactly like the others because she found a structure that worked.

No difficulty beyond the problem of what to do with my mind while she slept on my lap, head tucked beneath my chin.

And then, one day, she said, "Kureno, who are you?"

…A new question. A dangerous, loaded question.

"I am your Rooster, Akito."

Black eyes warning me not to be stupid about this whole process. "No, I know that part. I mean, who are you? What do you do?"

I stopped and thought about this long enough for her thin fingers to discover happy pressure points in the dips of my shoulders. "I don't."

"You don't do anything when you're not with me?" Suspicion lancing through my muscles as fingernails tumbled headlong into the war effort.


Bony knees trying to climb up my abdomen independently and failing with both alacrity and the conception of several deep bruises. "Then, what do you think about?"

"Usually you." A familiar dance, now.

She hesitated, wanting to pursue both paths before her. She settled on asking, "What about me?"

I smiled, because it was a reflex. She relaxed when I smiled. Even now, her weight arranged itself less bonily on my lap. "I think about how you've gotten bigger. At some point, you're not going to fit against me, all curled up like this."

This satisfied her as a topic for my consideration. She corrected me, "You'll just have to get better at being a cushion."

"Yes. I'll devote more time to that pursuit. With whom, may I ask?"

A miscalculation. Her fingers shrewdly making use of the tender areas left in the wake of her knees.

How to recover?

Maintain a steady voice. Don't let her know that she's hurting me. Make her think that this is the only logical evolution of my thoughts. "You only visit me sometimes, and nothing can compare to you."

Yes, don't even dare mention 'no one'.

She pushed against me with her entire body, shrinking in as though cold. She was like a cat, though she would not like the comparison. "What about the sometimes when you're not thinking of me?"

"I'm thinking about mundane things. Boring. The weather; how I should dress; what I hope will be served for dinner. Whether I have time to finish whatever I'm doing before I have to get back to waiting outside your door."

She flinched at the imitation that I was not always and forever outside her door. "What sorts of things? You said that you don't do anything."

"Only for bathing or eating. Or even, very rarely, to sleep. I want to be presentable." The minefield is almost navigated. Another correct answer and I may be home free.

Akito whispered, "Who have you talked to in the last week?"

Lie. "You."

"That's a lie," she hissed, employing her industrious fingers once again.

Lie more realistically. "You, Hatori when you collapsed, and one of the maids when I asked where you were. You turned out to be in the gardens, if you remember." Smile with good humor and change the subject. "The image of you, in the middle of all those different flowers, kimono slipped partly off one shoulder – that will stay with me for a very long time."

A sulky silence.

Reaffirmation. "You were beautiful."

"I'm always beautiful."

Turn it into a joke. "Are you always talking to that rather large tree, as well?"

A pause. Stubbornly, fingers and toes tangling in my shirt and pants respectively, she said, "You are mine."

"Yes, I am."

"All the way."




She shifted, forcing my arms to drop away from her back. Slowly, she stood up, arranged her now-wrinkled kimono, and performed a quick check of her hair by the grace of finger brushing. She looked at me, letting parts of her sag languidly until she was apparently held up by a string attached to her far shoulder. "How do I look?"

Time for honesty. "I have never seen anything more perfect. You have always managed to carry off a certain… immoral look very well."

She blinked at me. "A what?"

"I misspoke. Disregard it."

She inspected me more closely, leaning in and over until her eyes are in line with mine. She raised one eyebrow menacingly, and then bumped our foreheads together with a playful giggle and straightened.

"I feel much better now, knowing who you are, Kureno," she said as she wafted through the door.

I watched the last dregs of spring green kimono whip around my door jamb and then turned to the window, wishing that the sunlight wasn't interrupted by metal bars and lurking minefields.

A familiar dance.

Life was normal.

It both worried and relieved me to realize that this one conversation had been the most exciting thing in my life for several weeks.

Life was too normal, sometimes…