A Losing Bet

Series: Loveless

Rating: M (but not explicit because I refuse to write that type of stuff for a 12 yrold)

Ritsuka's tail twitched irritably. The lacings of his shirt were digging into his freshly marked chest painfully and, due to situations beyond his control, he was unable to loosen them or remove the shirt or...well, pretty much anything but do exactly what he was told, or asked, he wasn't really sure how this whole 'seme/uke' thing was supposed to work. He wasn't even sure he understood it all.

Another swish of the tail. He flinched as his lip was bit forcefully, a small trickle of blood dripping down his chin, one more cut to his already bloody and bruised body. A sharp sting under his right eye, he sighed, I'll be wearing the patch again tomorrow if this keeps up.His head jerked higher, neck pulled painfully from the collar and chain. Straining he went to tiptoe, back arching as he struggled to keep his balance. Long fingers slipped through his hair, twining themselves in the dark strands, fluttering against the light downy fur of his ears.

He struggled to maintain his composure, between the pain and the feather light touches his whole body felt like a live wire, every time those nails scrapped across his skin he trembled. Whispers flitted through his mind, things he shouldn't be hearing, shouldn't even know what they meant, but after this long with Soubi, well, his education had advanced in certain subjects if nothing else.

The jangle of metal on metal drew his attention; fixating on his hands, even he had to admit they were pitifully small compared to the heavy iron restraints binding his wrists together. Shackles were nothing new to Ritsuka; all the battles had taught him how to deal with the weight, the feeling of choking, of losing control. These weren't the glowing restraints he was use to though, these were real, and he wasn't in control of them.

During their battles it always appeared that Soubi was the master, giving the orders, even going so far as to completely disregard Ritsuka's; though he hated to admit it, in all aspects of their relationship he knew Soubi considered him the sacrifice. They had a discussion once, really late at night in Soubi's room, paint tubes scattered around, canvases stacked in every corner, about his name: Loveless.

He knew there was no name written on his body, not like Soubi's. He was laying on the bed reading while Soubi sat beside him, absently combing his fingers through Ritsuka's hair and looking over their latest batch of pictures. He spoke without thinking, which was unusual enough to catch the older man off guard.

"Can I see your name?"

Soubi's hand stopped in mid stroke, "No."

"Why?" Ritsuka twisted his head back and looked over his shoulder, ebony hair flitting into his eyes.

"It's not necessary." Soubi stole a glance at the youth beside him; Ritsuka's face took a sudden drop as his eyes fell to the bed.

"But it's not mine." Ritsuka's whisper was eerily loud in the sudden quiet of the room.

Soubi put the photos on the ground and shifted his weight on the bed, leaning down he gently brushed a light kiss to Ritsuka's forehead and smiled sadly.

"That's enough, it doesn't matter."

Ritsuka raised a trembling hand, fingers ghosting over the bandage that was always wrapped tightly around his fighters' neck, even in sleep.

"Why? Why can't I heal it?" Arching his back he pushed forward and softly pressed his lips to the cotton wrappings.

Soubi's breath caught in his throat. He wasn't sure where this was going or what Ritsuka was thinking, he wasn't even sure why his mouth was moving, damn traitor that it was.

"It's not for you to heal, you didn't make It." he sighed and roughly pushed back the white gold threads from his face.

"Seimei...Seimei, did this to you? Why?! If he hurt you, why can't I heal you?! Why?" Ritsuka was on his knees, the force of his words pushing the man over and off of him.

The frustration of it all came crashing down on him, why wasn't he good enough? Why did everyone treat him like a child when he was obviously different from them?

"Why can't you trust me? Soubi...why am I not good enough?" he ground his teeth in frustration, hands in his eyes as he tried to force the tears back.

Cool fingers slid around his back, brushed hair out of his face as he was pulled in against Soubi's chest.

Clinging to the man, he sobbed against him, "When will I ever be good enough? I don't want to be Loveless, but this..." he gingerly touched the bandages, "this isn't you either."

He tugged at the knot, expecting Soubi to stop him, but as the white cloth slipped around his fingers, leaving the carving starkly clear against his white skin, he realized the truth of the matter.

"This...he did this, didn't he?" When Soubi didn't answer he twisted in his hold, pulling the fighter's face down and staring him in the eyes.

"Why?! Why did you sit there and let him do this? Is this why you never tell me anything, why you don't listen to me at all? I will never hurt you like this! NEVER!"

He was so mad he was shaking, tears cascading down his cheeks as he ran his fingers over the marks, trying to think of some way to fix the damage, to make them go away.

Leaning in he pressed his trembling lips against the wounds, dusting them with soft kisses and gentle touches, hoping to heal them by sheer force of will and want alone.

Soubi clung to the boy, fingers twisting in fabric and hair, trying to keep his voice from shaking.

"That is why I can't listen to you, until your name is cut into this flesh, I can't disobey him, that's what this means." He rested his forehead against Ritsuka's and just tried to breath. Everything was coming out and he didn't want it to, he didn't want to give up the secret.

Ritsuka twisted, bringing his fingers to Soubi's ear and fondling the tiny butterflies that glinted back at him mockingly.

"Why? These are mine; I did this for you even though I didn't want to hurt you. I don't have a name, so why should you?! Why should I have to hurt you to keep you by my side?" He was so confused, why does love only come with pain?

"Why can't I care for you without hurting you? Why does everything have to be owned or taken from someone before they can give? Why can't I just give you my feelings without taking anything from you? Love, trust, they are earned and given, not taken, this is so messed up!"

He pounded his small fists against Soubi's chest, tired from the pointless argument and knowing there was still so much he didn't understand about the situation.

"If this..." his voice caught in his throat, "if I got rid of these, then would you be mine?" He felt the sudden tensing of Soubi's back, the quick intake of breath and even as Soubi breathed his name he refused to meet his eyes.

"Ritsuka..."

What now? What could he say, should say? This trembling kitten sitting curled in his embrace just asked the one question he was sure he'd never be able to say and he was probably terrified of the answer he would receive. Ritsuka was a pacifist, he knew that, that's why he disregarded his orders in battle, until Ritsuka would demand for something to be done; it was the only way he was sure he knew what he was doing. But this....

"Ritsuka, it's not enough to just get rid of them, your name would have to take its place."

Ritsuka pushed him away angrily, "I do not have a name! I am not Loveless! There are no words written on my body!"

He pulled the shirt over his head roughly, throwing it on the floor and ripped off his socks, twisting his foot up to peer at the sole before pushing it in front of the older man's face.

"SEE?! Nothing! No name, I'm just Ritsuka, nothing else! I'm not Loveless! I'm not..."

As his voice trailed off he curled in upon himself, shaking so hard his teeth chattered together. Soubi scooped up the trembling figure and pushed him back into bed, folding himself around him as he ran his fingers over his hair, trying to calm the boy, or himself, he wasn't terribly sure.

"I know you're Ritsuka, I know." He repeated the same thing over and over again, a mantra that drowned out the hiccups and sobbing and slowly the tension in the room drained away.

"Soubi?"

"Hmm?"

"Can it be 'Ritsuka,' does it have to be 'Loveless'?"

He glanced down at the boy searchingly, "I don't know, but if you want it to be, then that's fine with me."

"I don't want to do it at all, but if you need it to release you, then I'm ok with that."

He pulled Ritsuka in closer, crushing him against his chest. "Just sleep now, it's ok for tonight."

"Find out, please, this needs to stop and I bet someone there knows. Please?"

After a few moments of silence Ritsuka strained his neck to see the man's face, "Soubi? This is the one thing that cannot be an order. I will order you to sit there and take my name, but you have to make the first step, please, it's the only way I'll know it's what you want. I will not be like him; I will never hurt you against your will. Please?"

Soubi closed his eyes briefly and breathed. "I'll look into it. Now sleep."

And he had, curled in Soubi's arms, warmth seeping from every contact their flesh made; he left their future in Soubi's hands and slept.

After their 'talk' he left the matter alone, there was nothing else he could do but leave it up to Soubi to decide who he wanted to be with: him or Seimei.

Hence his current predicament. He spoke knowing that if Soubi ever did decide to go against Seimei it was going to be bloody, and his hands would be far from clean in the matter, but he didn't think it would happen like this.

Soubi had collected him from school like usual, but instead of going to the park they had gone straight home. Soubi had an air around him that kept Ritsuka from talking unnecessarily the entire way. When they got home Soubi tossed a small bag on the bed and sat down heavily beside it.

Ritsuka hovered a few feet away, not sure what was going on and weary enough to keep his distance.

"Ritsuka..." Soubi held out his hand and the boy obediently went to him. Taking him in his arms Ritsuka just stood there as Soubi clung to him. He patted the man's head awkwardly and mumbled his name.

"Soubi, its okay, its okay."

"I know." He breathed a short mirthless laugh and leaned back, pulling Ritsuka onto his lap and smiled sadly at the boy.

"I was so stupid. You know the worst thing is they were right, 'I never asked'." He laughed again.

Ritsuka looked down at him confused, "Never asked what? Who?"

Soubi leaned in and kissed him softly. "I never asked anything. I always just did, I never questioned, not until you."

"I went to Septimal Moon today."

Ritsuka involuntarily tensed.

"No, its okay, I guess. I just feel really stupid. They said because I'm a blank my power is determined by the person who carves their name into my body, so I can be anyone's, doesn't matter."

"But that's not true! It does matter!" Ritsuka burst out.

Soubi smiled, "Another words, it was always my decision." Heh "I could choose who my master was, but I didn't, I just did as I was told thinking I had to."

"But now..."

"Now I know."

"So..."

"Yeah, I can choose, I don't have to stay with him." he touched the bandages and smiled wistfully.

"But you want to. Even after all this." Ritsuka tried to pull himself out of Soubi's arms, tried to get as far away from him as possible, he didn't want to hear this. Not this. It was one thing if he couldn't, another if he chose not to leave.

"Ritsuka." Soubi pulled him down until they were laying on the bed together, the struggling kitten trapped in his arms.

"No, I don't want to hear you say it. I don't want him to win, not like this!"

"Ritsuka, he isn't."

"Huh?" he asked intelligently.

Soft lips brushed his while fingers pressed his to the bandaged neck. "I said, he isn't. I was told to come to you, but I chose to stay. That was my choice; once I learned he was alive I chose to stay."

Ritsuka looked at him incredulously, not sure if he should trust his words or not, until he heard the click.

Suddenly he was picked up and settled between Soubi and the wall. Soubi placed a pillow on his lap, a towel on top of that and opened the white plastic bag that had been sitting unobtrusively to the side during their exchange.

Ritsuka just sat there, confusion plainly written on his face.

"It's not going to be pretty, I'm sorry, I can't do it myself, you'll have to."

"What's not?" he balled his fists up under the pillow, sheets clenched in his sweaty hands.

Soubi glanced at him as he pulled out the medical kit from the bag. Watching as Ritsuka's eyes went wide as he extracted the scalpel and the bandages.

"No." Ritsuka shook his head imperceptibly.

"Ritsuka, you said if I wanted you would order me to sit there while you did this. Was that a lie?"

"I don't lie." His reply was immediate and sure, even if his nerves weren't.

"Then this will be simple."

He swallowed audibly, "What do I have to do?"

"Cut through the name, all the way. When that's done and bandaged, you have to write your name..."

"I'm not writing Loveless!"

Soubi sighed, "No, you don't have to."

"What?"

"You don't have to. I obey the name written, you write the name you want, as long as it's your name."

"So, I can write Ritsuka?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"Wherever you want."

"Where do you want me to write it?"

"Wherever you want." At Ritsuka's look he sighed again, pulling the bandages off he smiled a bit and remarked, "Well, maybe not the neck this time, ok?"

"Yeah. You'll have another scar though."

Ritsuka fingered the 'Beloved' scar gingerly, his dark fingers stark against Soubi's pale skin.

"Soubi caught the fingers in his own and captured the boy's lips hungrily, "If it's you; it's okay."

Taking a shaky breath Ritsuka nodded and took up the scalpel, "Fine, but you tell me when it gets too much, the throat...I don't want to go to deep."

Soubi smiled and rested his head on the pillow, tying his hair up to keep it out of the way.

Ritsuka's hand trembled as he swabbed the area in bright red antiseptic; the color stained his skin, oddly helping to steady his nerves as he made the first, tentative incision.

As he drew through the name first the blood spilled out across the towel, staining it crimson. The cut wasn't deep, just enough that a new scar would obscure the word, but it still shook him deeply. He had vowed to never hurt anyone, and here he was, doing just that.

Soubi's hand reached out, fingers twining in his painfully as he started on the barbwire like cuts, and again as he moved through the others. By the end he was crying so badly he couldn't see clearly. Soubi pulled the edge of the towel over his neck and hissed softly, the rough fabric catching on the edges of the torn flesh.

Ritsuka hiccupped and dragged a hand across his eyes, sniffling as he collected the proper bandages and dressings, smoothing on the cream and then after wrapping each new cut he pressed a kiss to each one before tying them off.

"I can't, please, I can't do anymore right now. Soubi, I can't." he scrubbed at his hands manically, trying to get the blood off before it stained him permanently.

Soubi fingered the wounds tentatively and then pulled Ritsuka in close against him, chin resting on his head.

"I'm sorry, we have to; it'll only work if it's done immediately. I promise to get you washed up as soon as we're done."

Taking a shaky breath he tried to steady his nerves as his fighter lay back down across his legs. As he raised the bloody knife again he stopped, "Where?"

Soubi sat up, flinching a bit as he tilted his head and pressed their lips together, trying to force all of his emotions through that one simple bond of connected flesh and breath.

As they pulled apart Ritsuka's fingers trailed down his chest, stopping right above the level of his heart. He blinked, and blinked again and then looked at Soubi for confirmation.

Soubi didn't hesitate. Pulling off the bloody shirt he pressed Ritsuka's fingers into the cool flesh and nodded, smiling. So like his Ritsuka really.

Ritsuka took a moment to figure out the least painful way of writing his name. Finally, he decided on using the kanji, thinking a straight line would be easier on the skin than curves after all. Pressing in, he carefully cut the thin lines of his name into Soubi's flesh: 立夏.

He sighed as the last line was carved over Soubi's heart, swearing that this was the last time, praying that he'd never have to hurt his fighter ever again. Before Soubi could move for the bandages he pressed a hand to his shoulder and shook his head. He reached for the towel and wiped the blood away before handing the scalpel over and taking off his own shirt.

A look of concern crossed Soubi's features as he took the blade, "Are you sure, you don't have to."

Ritsuka nodded and braced himself against the wall, "Do it."

As Soubi closed the distance between them Ritsuka took the towel in his hands and clenched his teeth. The first mark sent his skin crawling. Everything felt sharp and in focus and for a breath out of time he sat there as Soubi carved his own name into his chest, mouth open in a wordless cry that sent tears down his face, stinging as their saltiness mingled with the blood, until the very last line was carved and Soubi leaned down and licked the wound clean, leaving the angry kanji glaring up at him: 草灯.

That's how they got to this moment. After all the bandages and clothing were replaced, after the tears were dried and a new feeling flowed into them from shared kisses and wandering touches, he had asked for this.

Ritsuka should have known sharing a name brought more than the fighting unit's powers together; it brought a shared sense of oneness between the two people involved. And they had chosen to do this. They weren't forced, or created, or born this way, they chose to stay together, so this should only come naturally.

But he was still weary, still nervous and still more than a little afraid he wouldn't be able to handle it all. One question, one simple question had put him in these shackles, bound him in body as he was now bound in soul and blood.

"Am I yours?"

He answered without thinking, "Yes."

"Are you mine?"

"Obviously." He snorted softly, "Like I'd let anyone else play doctor." He fingered the fresh bandages crisscrossing his thin chest, oblivious to where these questions were leading.

"Do you trust me?"

"Do you?" he retorted. Staring at the man he shook his head, "I just let you carve me up like a turkey, I trust you now more than ever, can you say the same?"

Soubi reached over and clasped his chin, strong fingers slipping across his lips and drawing him close for another deep kiss.

"I do, Ritsuka, I do."

"Then stop asking me stupid questions and take the initiative for once, I'm too tired to think anymore." He sagged boneless against Soubi's chest, clinging to him for support.

"Is that an order?"

"Yeah, it's an order; just do what you want for once, tonight I'll go along with anything you say, but only for tonight."

Soubi's breathing stopped. Was he really just told to do whatever he wanted? Seriously?! Okay, calm down, I have to do this right, can't screw it up now that he's said yes.

He shifted a foot off the bed striving to get better balance when his ankle hit something hard and cold. Ritsuka could almost see the light bulb over his head as he was pushed back onto the bed and the man slipped off the edge and started rummaging around under the frame.

His eyes went wide as Soubi pulled out the chains and cuffs, but he had told him anything, and he didn't lie.

Closing his eyes he took a deep breath and steeled himself.

"What do I do?"

Soubi about dropped the chains, he really didn't think he'd go through with it.

"This one goes around your neck, the others around your wrists. Are you sure?"

"I told you to stop asking me, just show me how." He fingered the length of steel wearily, trying to figure out the mechanics behind their various loops and buckles.

Soubi laid the collar on the bed and started unbuckling the wrist restraints, seeing what he was doing Ritsuka figured out the mechanics and raised his hands up, palms together like he was praying. After the leather and metal was wrapped securely around his thin wrists Soubi sat him down and carefully placed the collar and chain around his neck, leaving it a bit loose to help Ritsuka breathe easier.

After all was said and done, buckles and snaps and chains and what not, Soubi leaned in and kissed Ritsuka so hard he thought he'd faint. He did the only thing he could think of, which wasn't much, and reached up and wound his fingers into Soubi's hair, dragging the man down to his level, giving as much as he was receiving. Everything leading up to this very moment.

His tail twitched again, he could feel Soubi's hands sliding farther down his back, resting on his hips and suddenly he was straddling the man, legs wrapped around his waist, back pressed against the wall, with Soubi leaning against him heavily and then there was a shift and his bound hands were over his fighter's neck, dragging, what must be painfully, against the fresh incision marks under the slowly changing color of the bandages.

"Ritsuka..."Soubi breathed his name against his ear, small trembles shook him and he leaned into the sound, feeling the soft brush of warm lips against his temple, his ear, neck, collarbone, the touch of a hot tongue sliding along his throat and chest, leaving the skin moist and sticky.

Ritsuka's breathing was ragged and hurried, he felt like he was suffocating under the heady feel of it all, clutching at Soubi's hair he arched his back, pushing in as close as he could, letting go of all his restraints and fears, falling completely into Soubi's arms; trusting him absolutely.

"Sou...bi...please...." He wasn't sure what he wanted, what he was desperately begging for, until there was a sudden pressure and cool fingers slipping down his stomach, lower, and then there was whiteness and heat and light, and he knew there were things that had just changed forever, but right then he didn't care, and in the morning, stiff and sore, still bloody even, there was warmth by his side and kisses that made it alright and for the first time in a long time, he truly smiled.

They both did.

Fin.,