Disclaimer: I own very little.

A/N: In the alternate universe of Empire of Earth, with Akutsu ruling the entire world as the Emperor.

Imperial Crisis

"Absolutely no less than six."

"Oh, don't be like that, Jin," Dan sighed. "It's not like I need that many bodyguards."

"Yes, you do." Akutsu directed a sharp glare at the younger man. "Even if it weren't for your political position, the mere fact you're with me makes you a target for possible attackers."

Dan blinked. "What do you mean?"

Now, it was Akutsu's turn to sigh in exasperation. "Look, do you remember Kaidou Kaoru? He was playing for Seigaku, I think." As Dan nodded warily, he continued, "I heard from Sengoku he's just been hospitalized after a group of homophobic idiots attacked him. He only barely fucking survived, and they're still not sure if he'll pull through. Kaidou's just another bloody gay on the streets, but you and I are the world's best known gay couple. If you were attacked, they wouldn't let you go alive."

Dan paled. "Oh," he said quietly. Then, he added, with a rather determined tone, "Nevertheless, I certainly don't need so many people just watching my back! Surely a few less would do."

"I'm not going to take the risk of finding out the hard way." Akutsu narrowed his eyes. This hadn't been an easy day by any means, and he was already fairly irritated. If this was anybody but Dan, they would have never gotten even this far in their disagreements. At the moment Akutsu was about ready to have the tongue cut off anybody who annoyed him.

"But I'm just going to see Sengoku-senpai!" Dan exclaimed. "I can't take half the court with me!"

"Then invite the red-headed idiot here," Akutsu said sharply. "And I'm not talking about half a court, merely about enough bodyguards to have a good chance of keeping you alive."

"Well, six is just ridiculous!" the smaller man protested. "Even with the usual three or four I feel like I'm blocking the whole street! Jin, even you should be able to understand –"

Now, Akutsu finally snapped. "Oh, just shut up already!" he growled, interrupting the other man. "Your job is to look pretty and spread your legs, not bitch at me!"

For a moment, there was absolute silence as they stared at each other. Finally, Dan spoke, and although he looked like tears weren't far away the main emotion in his voice was rage. "Well, in that case, I guess about any whore will do for you," he said sharply, then turned away and stormed out of the room.

Akutsu glared at the now closed door, muttering, "Well, good riddance." With this, he dropped himself down in a chair.

Damn. Just damn it all.

Momo looked at the figure in front of him, surrounded by tubes and beeping machines, frighteningly pale. Never before in his life had he wished so badly for anything as he now yearned Kaidou's recovery.

"Hey, Mamushi," he said quietly. "You'd better heal soon, you'd really better heal! Otherwise, I'll never forgive you!"

There was no response, not that he had truly expected any from the unconscious man. Sighing, he leant back in his chair.

This was all his fault, wasn't it? If it hadn't been for him, for living openly with him, Kaidou would have never been targeted by those bastards.

"I'm sorry, Mamushi," Momo whispered. "I'm so sorry..."

Still, there was no response.

Momoshiro hid his face in his hands.

By the next morning, the entire imperial court was made aware that the Imperial Consort was sick. A doctor was summoned, who soon declared it was simply stress and he'd best relocate somewhere away from the worries of ruling the empire for a while. Unsurprisingly, Dan immediately prepared to do this.

The doctor was lying, Akutsu knew he was, but he couldn't prove it and as the announcement had been public he couldn't do anything about it without looking bad. Of course, he usually wouldn't have cared about such things, but for several reasons he didn't want anybody to know that Dan and he were arguing. To the outside, they had to keep up a mask – something Dan was certainly aware of, or he wouldn't have come up with such excuses.

Dan absolutely refused to talk to him, not that he was surprised. Thus, as he saw the Imperial Consort and his company off – as though to deliberately annoy him, Dan was taking an excessive amount of bodyguards with him – and Dan left for a manor in the countryside, they were yet to exchange a single word after their argument.

Well, he could wait. Eventually the brat would realise his mistake and call, and Akutsu would be all too glad to welcome him back.

Only, Dan didn't call.

Finally, Akutsu decided he should call. A simple, "Come back," should suffice. Perhaps he should add something like "Get over your fucking tantrum," just to make sure his pride stayed undamaged. After all, there was no way Dan would refuse to do what Akutsu asked. He never had.

Akutsu never had the chance to test this theory. Dan refused to answer any of his calls. He bought another phone, and a third one, only to always have the call ended before he even finished his first word. Eventually, Dan would simply accept no calls at all.

A letter, while otherwise sufficient, would no doubt be left unread. Akutsu couldn't rely on a messenger, not when the issue was so sensitive. If it leaked out there was a serious argument in the Imperial family, it would cause chaos. Of course, Akutsu refused to think of it as anything but a little tantrum on Dan's side, but anything for the public.

The last way of action would have been to go meet Dan personally. There would be nothing to wonder about if the Emperor wanted to meet the Imperial Consort. However, this was something Akutsu's pride simply wouldn't allow. Akutsu Jin didn't go crawling to anyone, and the Emperor of Earth even less. Even if the anyone just happened to be Dan Taichi.

Thus, Akutsu was left with no options. All he could do was wait for Dan to contact him.

If he ever did.

"Look, just come back, okay, Kaoru?" Momo said softly, knowing he was talking to deaf ears. "Come back to me, please. You can't let something like this get you down. You can't let those bastards win."

Kaidou stayed silent as ever, the only sign of life the steady beeping of the machines.

"I'll do anything if you just come back," the spiky-haired man vowed, knowing very well this deal would bring no results. "I'll do the dishes for the rest of our lives and stop trying to get out of my turn at cleaning and mind my manners at table and... I'll do anything, Kaoru..."

No questions, no demands were made. There was simply silence.

Dan was absolutely miserable.

Of course, any observer would have thought he was lacking nothing. In a luxurious manor, surrounded by servants, his life was so easy it was almost painful. Whenever he tried to actually do something everybody would do their best to stop him, telling him to rest and take it easy. He could only blame himself for it, he supposed, for having come up with such an excuse. And he couldn't really blame the servants from trying to keep him from straining himself – who knew what Akutsu would have done to them if they had allowed any harm to come to him.

Too bad they didn't know Akutsu probably wouldn't care.

The thought hurt Dan more than anything. There was one thing he did indeed lack, and that was Akutsu. This, however, was enough to make everything else seem worthless.

The emotions inside him were rather conflicting. On one hand, he desired to simply go back to Akutsu; on the other hand, he never wanted to see the Emperor again. Akutsu had managed to put all his fears, all his insecurities into one sentence – and then hurled it right at him as an insult. The mere thought still brought tears into his eyes as he thought about it.

That was exactly what he feared, had feared ever since he had first set an eye on Akutsu. The older boy – now man – never seemed to pay much attention to him, yet Dan had remained hopeful. Over the time he had gained enough evidence from Akutsu's various words and actions that the other cared for him not only as a toy but also an actual lover. Akutsu's reign had brought along the idea that he could actually do something for Akutsu instead of just hanging around and annoying him, that he could actually earn the little attention he did get. It had worked, too, for Akutsu had started paying more attention to him, talking more gently to him, going even as far as declaring him as his in front of the whole world.

And then Dan was told he was nothing but a pretty little fucktoy.

Did he truly mean that little to Akutsu? Had he indeed misinterpreted everything over the years? Could he really have been so wrong about everything?

It certainly seemed so now, didn't it.

Akutsu had stopped trying to contact him, too. Probably whatever wound his pride had suffered for having been left had already healed. Soon enough he would find himself another pretty little fanboy, Dan was sure.

If only it hadn't hurt so much...

Suddenly, his cell phone rang.

Despite no more answering calls from strange numbers – it couldn't have been anybody but Akutsu, as he knew every person who had his number and they wouldn't use other phones – he still kept his cell phone on. He regularly had to reassure worried friends and family members that yes, he was perfectly all right, just a little over-stressed, and it would be all right once he had rested a little. Now, this cell phone was sitting in his palm, ringing as though daring him to answer.

Dan looked at the caller ID. It named the caller as Sengoku. Carefully, he accepted the call and brought the phone up to his ear.

"...Hello," he said quietly.

"Dan-kun?" a familiar voice asked from the other end. "Is this really you?"

"Sengoku-senpai?" Dan asked. "What is it?"

"Now, first, please promise to listen to all of what I have to say before you close the phone, okay?" After Dan had given his rather wary agreement – why would Sengoku need a promise like that? – his former senpai sighed with relief. "Great. Now, the truth is, the Emperor is here and he wants to talk with you."

Dan froze. He almost ended the call immediately, but he had promised Sengoku-senpai not to. After all, even if he did talk with Sengoku, he didn't necessarily have to listen to Akutsu.

"Anyway, please listen to what he wants to tell you," Sengoku said as convincingly as he only could. "I've heard him out and he sounds as sincere as he can be." Now, Dan could hear Akutsu growling in the background. Sengoku lowered his voice to add, "If you don't, I really don't know what he may do. He'd probably regret it later, sure, but that won't help if he's already had me executed, now will it?"

Dan had no choice but to agree. He really didn't want Sengoku-senpai to get hurt because of him. The redhead had always been kind to him, and ever since the... changes... he was one of the very few who still talked to Dan like he was a normal person instead of some nigh-divine force.

"Good. I'll just give the phone to him and leave the room, then." Before doing so, though, Sengoku whispered, "Good luck, Dan-chan."

"Thanks," muttered Dan, then prepared himself to hear Akutsu's voice.

"Taichi." It was the same as ever, sharp and cool, only now there was an unfamiliar tone to the voice Dan wasn't sure he could identify. "Are you all right?"

"I'm just perfect," Dan replied, his tone somewhat sharper than was typical of him. "Though I fail to see how that would interest you."

"Don't be like that, Taichi." Sharp, detached, disinterested. Exactly what Akutsu always sounded like – always outside the bedroom, anyway. He must have been quite a great actor inside it. "Of course it interests me."

"Why so?" Dan asked flatly.

"Because you were declared sick," Akutsu said, and Dan could just hear the 'idiot' on his tongue before it was stopped from slipping out. "If you're all right, you'll have to come back. The Earth needs you."

"No, it doesn't," Dan protested. "You're doing just fine without me, aren't you? It's not like I'm the only diplomat you have at your disposal. You can keep the world from exploding in your hands even without me around."

"Well, maybe the Earth doesn't need you," sighed Akutsu. His voice sounded now almost defeated, if Dan hadn't known such a tone was impossible from somebody like Akutsu. "But..." Even in the phone, Dan could tell Akutsu was going through an enormous struggle to get the next words out. "...I need you," he finally heard, very quietly.

Dan's heart leapt. Of course he had always read it in Akutsu's actions, the way the older man kissed him, held him, what Akutsu looked like while just watching him, but he doubted he'd ever actually heard it said out loud.

Then he remembered another thing he had heard said aloud, and the joy was gone.

"No, you don't," he thus replied flatly, fighting against tears once again. "You only need a pretty little figurehead who can keep the people at peace and your bed warm desu. I happen to value myself more than that, believe it or not desu." He was slipping to desu now, a sure sign he was upset – usually he managed to keep his speech quite clear of the old habit, nowadays.

"Taichi, I'm... I'm sorry." Again, the words sounded like they had been rather painfully dragged out of Akutsu's mouth. "I'd had a bad day and was already annoyed, and when you just kept insisting... I shouldn't have said such things, and I most definitely didn't mean them. I could never say and mean such things."

"How do I know that?" asked Dan quietly. "Obviously those things have crossed your mind or you wouldn't have thought of saying them desu!"

"I'm not idiotic enough not to know the rumours circulating at my court," Akutsu shot back. "Look, Taichi, you know me probably better than anyone. Do you really think I would make anybody the fucking Imperial Consort – the only person to stand by my side – just for their pretty face and nice arse? That I'd ever give the time of the day to somebody trying to sleep their way up?"

Of course, it really didn't sound like anything Akutsu would do. Still, Dan wasn't sure. He bit his lip, trying to think of something to say.

"Well?" Akutsu prompted from the other end of the line. "Will you come back?"

A tear fell down Dan's cheek. "I don't know," he whispered, for he really didn't know. He had no idea what he should do, what he would do.

"I'll do anything, Taichi," sighed Akutsu, and for once, he actually sounded like he would. "Just name your price. Anything at all."

Dan considered this. All things considered, there was nothing he really wanted. Of course, he knew that Akutsu could have literally given him the world, but that was not what he desired. There was only one thing he wanted and didn't have yet – if only he dared to ask for it.

Finally, he gathered his courage. "Marry me," he whispered in the phone.

For a moment, he heard nothing. Then Akutsu asked, "What was that?"

Closing his eyes tightly, Dan managed to say with a somewhat normal voice, "Marry me."

Imperial Consort though he may have been, they had never been legally married in any kind of ceremony. One day he had just woken up to discover he had a new title. Of course, he was treated in every aspect as though he actually was Akutsu's legal spouse, but there were certain people who hadn't forgotten the fact he wasn't and never let him forget it, either. Dan himself had signed the documents to legalize gay marriage everywhere in the world, yet he was still unmarried, himself.

"Fine with me." The firm tone of Akutsu's voice surprised Dan. Apparently there was no hesitation at all on the other's part. "But first, you'll have to come back."

For the first time in what seemed like ages, Dan found himself smiling. "Right away, Jin."

For the longest time, Momo had been holding one motionless hand, desperately hoping to find some signs of life. However, it was a futile attempt. Kaidou was just as unresponsive as ever.

One hand over his eyes, he had stopped talking. Instead, he kept praying to every single deity he had ever heard of, hoping at least one of them would hear his plea.

"So," asked a very quiet and weary but still audible, still real, voice, "anything I want?"

Of course, unlike Akutsu, Momo couldn't have really given Kaidou the world, nor anything even remotely close to that. He had little to offer but anything he had or could, he would have gladly given or done for Kaidou at that moment. After he got up from where he had fallen to the floor in shock, of course.

"Well?" Sengoku raised an eyebrow as Akutsu returned his phone. "Are we still in for a worldwide love crisis, Akutsu-sama?"

The Emperor's expression didn't waver. "Taichi and I are getting married," he announced calmly.

Now, Sengoku blinked. "Like... for real?" he asked rather slowly. "You're not kidding or anything?"

Akutsu snorted. "Do you really think I'd fuck around with something like that?" he asked reasonably.

"Well... no, probably not." Sengoku shook his head. "Dan-kun would kill you if you did." Then, grinning, he added, "I bet I know who's the world's happiest man right now, though."

"I wouldn't, if I were you," Akutsu said, doing a very good job of keeping a smile off his face. "It just might be your first time losing."

As it turned out, though, the only thing Kaidou wanted from Momo was his family name.