I love my love

If Toshiki closes his eyes and concentrates on the feel of the hair in his hands, the long smooth silken fall of it, he can forget himself and be happy.

Everything here is soft and gracious. He wonders if this is what Kazuki's own home would have been like once, old and elegant, with tatami and polished wood and fine stone, and the garden outside breathing with the seasons. That's one thing they didn't have in Mugenjou. Gardens. All they had was straggling plants forcing their way up between paving-stones, dry trees gasping for air and water on alley corners, sparse moss and nettles in deserted courtyards.

The man reclining in front of him is a professional, and Toshiki has paid him well for this meeting. He had so many things that he was going to do -- so many long-denied dreams, famished aspirations and bittersweet hopes. They had been gnawing at him for months, all the more now that Kazuki had gone from Mugenjou and he was alone.

"Are you sure there's nothing more that you want?" the man asks again.

He doesn't even know the man's real name. "You are very kind," he says, slipping into the modes of respect as though he were talking to Kazuki, "but all that I want to do is comb out your hair and feel it in my hands."

"Very well," the man says graciously, and he seems to sense what Toshiki needs, for he continues, "you have my permission to comb my hair."

"Thank you, Kazuki-sama," Toshiki murmurs.

The man tilts his head back so that Toshiki can comb out the long strands more easily. "I turned him away this afternoon," he murmurs, "just for you."

"You did?" Toshiki whispers.

"Oh yes. He wanted to see me, but I had already agreed to see you, hadn't I? I wasn't going to leave you lonely."

"Thank you, Kazuki-sama."

"He cut me." The man reaches back over his shoulder with one delicate hand. He shakes his sleeve back to show a line of red against his pale skin, a barely healed wound, neatly sutured shut in a progression of dark stitches. "Because I wouldn't turn you away."

"I'll kill him," Toshiki vows. "That he dared hurt you --"

"No. No. It's all right. It's only that he wanted me undivided, all his. I can't bring myself to hate him for that. Do you understand?"

Toshiki is silent. He strokes the comb through the long dark hair, again and again.

The man sighs. "Nor did he."