Genre: Gen, Drama
Word Count: 2, 521 words
Characters: Kou Reishin, Ran Shuuei/Li Kouyuu
Warning: None. Hint of shounen ai.
Summary: Reishin and Shuuei fight over who stresses Kouyuu out more.
Kouyuu looked surprised when he answered the knock at his door. Shuuei cocked his head, a delicate eyebrow raised. "Did you forget I was coming?"
Kouyuu hesitated slightly before taking a step to the side to let Shuuei inside. "No…I thought you weren't coming. I waited…"
Shuuei smiled almost guiltily. "I stopped by Reishin-dono's home office at his quarters first, I'm sorry-"
"You usually avoid my father like the plague," Kouyuu said suspiciously.
"It was my father's wish to extend his greetings to the House of Kou, and by a stroke of luck, the last harvest season saw a very prosperous crop, so-" Shuuei gave an almost imperceptible shrug. "Despite all that however...I have to say he wasn't too happy to see me."
Kouyuu snorted delicately. "When is he ever?"
Shuuei's lips curved. "Well…believe it or not, he usually doesn't scowl as much. The Ran Province does produce the best lychees in the country after all."
"Tonight he was glowering."
Kouyuu raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Shuuei flopped unceremoniously onto Kouyuu's bed and shook his heavy boots off, before urging Kouyuu to come over by flexing his ankle joint upward in a beckoning gesture. Kouyuu heaved a sigh and did as he was wanted, and before long, Shuuei was running his bare foot up and down Kouyuu's shin.
"I missed you this afternoon."
"Hmm?" Kouyuu played absently with the hem of Shuuei's inside shirt, stroking the underside of his companion's sharply defined jaw.
"I always look forward to Thursdays." Shuuei decided not to mention how he was kept waiting at the promised spot for their weekly lunch for almost two hours. Kouyuu looked tired. "I was under the impression you did too. Until today."
"I was at the infirmary," Kouyuu mumbled.
Shuuei's forehead instantly wrinkled into a frown.
"Oh dear, whatever were you doing there?"
A careless brush of Kouyuu's hand belied the sudden flash of annoyance in his eyes. "Reishin-sama made me go."
Shuuei lifted a questioning eyebrow, which remained raised for a good few seconds before Kouyuu realized it was likely to stay that way, unless he offered further elaboration.
"There were some mistakes in my reports. He got suspicious."
Shuuei blinked a few times, not following. "You don't make mistakes."
After a beat-
"Apparently I do," Kouyuu said somewhat impatiently, averting his eyes. "Reishin-sama was convinced I was ill; he stood right there in the middle of the doorway-."
"-pointed his fan down my nose, shoving it right in my face-"
A vicious rip of the leather band-
"-and forbade access to my own office."
-let loose a mass of messy green hair tumbling down his stiff back. Kouyuu dropped onto his bed with a huff.
Shuuei had to laugh at the imagery. "Now that's a sight I would have loved to see."
He expected Kouyuu to fly off his handle like he always did whenever he felt as if he was being ridiculed, but instead, the fair-haired young man merely dropped his head sideways dejectedly. Shuuei froze when Kouyuu's searching forehead found the bony protuberance of his hip-
-on reflex, he shifted slightly, but froze again when Kouyuu promptly buried his face deeper into his side, the sharp tip of his nose a tickling presence digging into the lower border of Shuuei's ribcage.
"Did you stay for long at the infirmary today?" His voice sounded strange, neutral, yet measured.
Kouyuu's eyes opened and fixed on the blueness of Shuuei's robe. "Just until it was time to go home," he answered vaguely.
Shuuei stared down at the shock of green hair splayed across his lap. "So you were really feeling unwell?"
"It was only a slight headache." Kouyuu closed his eyes again, sniffing in deeply. Shuuei smelt of rain. Shuuei smelt nice. "I was just a little tired."
"You're working too hard."
"No, I'm not."
"Yeah? Then tell me half your workload everyday isn't something Reishin-dono passes on to you that he should be doing himself."
"It's nothing I can't handle."
"It's something you shouldn't have to handle." Shuuei was wearing a disapproving look on his face. "I have lost track of the number of times I caught sight of your father strolling around the Ministry of Finance-"
"Reishin-sama enjoys Senior Secretary Kou's company."
"But it's obviously-"
"There's nothing 'obviously' about it. Reishin-sama can do whatever he wants."
Abruptly, Kouyuu raised his head off Shuuei's lap and pushed himself up, before crawling over to his side of the bed about a good arm's length away from Shuuei, clearly irritated. Without saying another word, Kouyuu rolled over onto his side, his face and back turned away.
Shuuei immediately felt like kicking himself. He knew he could have done a better job at holding his tongue, especially when it came to matters concerning a particular person, but he also knew there was probably nothing much he could do about it now that he was starting to worry...
His long legs swung up the side of the bed and he walked his knees across the mattress toward the still form lying curled in angry silence. Shuuei tentatively placed a hand on the slim curve of Kouyuu's waist; his companion stiffened instantly at the touch of Shuuei's lips against the delicate skin of his ear.
"I'm sorry. I did not mean to upset you."
Kouyuu said nothing. Shuuei waited patiently.
…and his heart soared when Kouyuu reached for his hand and positioned Shuuei's arm to wrap securely around his midsection. All was forgiven, and Shuuei gladly tightened his hold around his lover and before long, he too, lost himself to the balmy darkness of the night, the last thing he remembered before falling into deep sleep being the sweet fragrance of Kouyuu's freshly washed hair.
Kouyuu awoke with a start in the middle of the night to a pitch-dark room, the deafening silence greeting him ominous and watchful, as if something had woken him up and was now lurking in the shadows. When he took a look outside the window, so besotted was he with the pale silhouette of the moon that he almost cried out loud when the first shard of hot, searing pain stabbed through his temples.
He gripped the sides of his head tightly in the vain attempt to will the awful headache away, and he involuntarily let loose a low moan-
"Kouyuu? What's the matter?"
He gasped. Oh no! How could he forget? Shuuei-!
"N-nothing. I'm alright."
Soft, rustling sounds. The bed jarred. Gentle hands brushed sweat-dampened hair off his forehead.
"Kouyuu, don't lie. You are obviously not alright."
"It really is nothing," Kouyuu said in protest, but his feeble attempt at hiding was easily overcome; Shuuei needed only pry his hands away his face to know what was wrong, as Kouyuu's bloodshot eyes did nothing to conceal the pain pulsating behind his puffy eyelids.
"Is it your head again?" Shuuei asked in concern.
After a while, Kouyuu reluctantly nodded. He followed Shuuei with his bleary eyes warily as the other man proceeded to prop one elbow on the mattress, and before Kouyuu could protest, cool, practiced fingers touched the hollow of his temples and started kneading in small, circular motions.
The massage felt so good Kouyuu almost groaned in sheer pleasure. But the relief did not last very long; the poundings in his head showed no signs of receding, and Shuuei's concern escalated into full-blown worry. Kouyuu did not seem to have a temperature, which was good, but if it was hurting enough to disturb his much-needed sleep…
Shuuei's fingers stilled at the sudden arrival of an idea. Kouyuu's eyes cracked open slightly into tiny slits. "Shuuei? Where are you going?"
"To get someone to brew some herbal remedy for you."
Kouyuu flung an arm over his eyes, the sheer weight of the limb a comforting pressure against his throbbing eyeballs. "Don't. It's very late. I'd hate to be a bother."
"Then I'll get it myself!" Shuuei swung his legs off the mattress and jumped to his feet- "Where do the servants keep the medicine? The kitchen?"
"Shuuei, I'll be fine really-" But Shuuei merely tightened his robe and wordlessly strode out the door.
Luckily he found the herbs he needed in almost an instant; Shuuei had been all prepared to tear the kitchen down if he hadn't found them so quickly. Before long, a pot of medicinal broth was brewing over a small, steady fire, filling the kitchen with the heady, pungent smell of herbs.
Shuuei's whole body stiffened. Damn it. He knew that voice. It was just his luck, wasn't it?
"At so late an hour of the night, I am sure you will do me the justice to explain to me why you have not already taken to bed, and what exactly it is you are doing in here?"
Shuuei turned around slowly to meet Reishin's steely gaze with one of his own. "I am merely preparing some broth. Forgive me if I had wakened Kou-dono with the noise."
Reishin eyed the mess on the table where Shuuei was previously preparing the ingredients for his soup. His eyes immediately narrowed when he recognized what they were, and what they were for. "Are you brewing medicine for yourself, Ran Shogun?" he asked, sounding almost hopeful.
Shuuei's voice was curt, biting. "No. Unfortunately."
The look in Reishin's eyes sharpened as understanding dawned on him. "Ran Shogun."
Shuuei clasped his hands behind his back and stood up straighter.
"Perhaps it would be in your best interest to not engage my son in…activities that may deprive him of adequate…rest."
"I'm afraid I do not follow," Shuuei lied.
The death glare Reishin was shooting his way was the fiercest he had ever received, ever. The one he got the one time Kouyuu got terribly lost in the woods when Shuuei took his eyes off him for one second because his horse had spooked and only managed to find Kouyuu cold, hungry and ill the next day, did not even compare.
"I would prefer to have Kouyuu less…exhausted in the morning. If you must know he has not been up to shape as of late and just between you and I, Ran Shogun, I am sure we both know the reason why."
Kou Reishin, despite his eternal air of arrogance, was someone Shuuei seldom let get under his skin, but for some reason, tonight was different. In a kitchen larger than an armory, with the pot bubbling behind him on the stove…just looking at the haughty man tonight was enough to make his blood boil.
Oh believe me, I do know the reason why. And it's standing right in front of me.
To think that Kouyuu was working himself to death for such a clueless, self-absorbed man…
But he fought to keep his anger in check. The prospect of getting into an argument with Reishin-dono (never mind that he was the Master of the House, and his lover's father) in the wee hours of the morning was very tempting, but returning to Kouyuu's side was his priority. He would have to handle this with tact.
"Ah," Shuuei feigned understanding, and almost mockingly, he forged a small, respectful bow. "I believe I am starting to understand, Kou-dono."
Reishin blinked lazily. He flicked his fan open and promptly hid the lower half of his face, leaving only his hawk-like eyes to study the young man with an intensity that would normally drive a stab of fear into any average man's heart.
Kou Reishin turned to leave, but was stopped in his tracks when Shuuei called his name. "Reishin-dono."
A stiff turn of the head, a fleeting glance, daring Shuuei to speak-
"Forgive me yet again, Reishin-dono, but I suddenly remembered another important message from my father which I forgot to mention earlier."
Reishin remained still, waiting expectantly.
"With the monsoon expected to hit the Ran Province very soon, Chichiue-sama was wondering if he could impose on Reishin-dono to mobilise emergency personnel and equipment to be dispatched as soon as possible, as works to dredge our dam have long since begun. It would be better if we had more hands with engineering expertise, to relieve those who have been working so hard ever since the start of the arduous project."
When Shuuei lied, he lied beautifully.
And when Reishin was lied to, he found out almost instantaneously.
For one, the Ran Province did not even have a bloody dam.
His fist curled around his fan. But strangely enough, now that his curiosity was aroused, he figured he should let Ran Shogun continue.
"It is imperative that we monitor working hours as well as the workload to ensure that the staff are not overworking."
Kou Reishin turned his head fully to face him once again.
"Organisational hazards can create substantial ill-health after all, especially if the workload is not distributed evenly, as I'm sure Reishin-dono knows very well." If one had listened closely, one would not miss the almost unnoticeable tremble in Shuuei's voice.
Reishin's lips thinned into a line.
The deep silence that ensued was so thick Shuuei could not bear not to break it.
Shuuei bowed his head. "With all due respect, Reishin-dono, I sincerely hope you will entertain this proposal. My one humble personal request."
Long moments passed before Reishin's fan finally flapped open with a crack.
"I will take it into serious consideration."
Shuuei's heart skipped a beat, and he did not bother to hide his sigh of relief.
Kou Reishin's gaze traveled to rest on the pot of medicinal broth stewing over the fire, where it lingered for longer than was necessary before he snapped out of his reverie. Without another word, he turned around and walked away-
-but he stopped short at the kitchen door.
"Thank you for informing me, Ran Shogun."
Again, Shuuei paid his respects, although he doubted Reishin could see for he had his back turned toward him, but when he did it this time, he did it sincerely. "I deem it my responsibility to, Kou-dono."
Shuuei did not see Reishin's eyes flutter closed very, very slowly in quiet resignation.
But even if he did…it would not change the way he felt. He spoke of the truth.
Ran Shuuei was a strong man, but Reishin knew Ran Shogun was even stronger if he was fighting for the sake of someone else. And for that, Reishin had never been more grateful. But of course, he was not going to let him know.
And as Kou Reishin walked away, he was already contemplating in his head the number of people he would have to recruit to take over Kouyuu's work at the office for a while, only for a little while, for what Kouyuu was capable of doing in a day, he would need at least three men with above-average intelligence working full time for two days. But in the meantime, Kouyuu'd better appreciate the time off and spend it doing something completely unproductive like-like-
He came up blank.
What a troublesome boy.
And oh! He would have to do something about those headaches too…medicine brewed by a Ran can't be all that good...
Chichiue-sama : Father
AN: Thank you for reading, hope you enjoyed it.