by Hth

by Hth

Kinomoto Touya has always seemed older than he really was -- as long as Yukito has known him, that is. That's not just Yukito's opinion; he's heard other people say it, students and grown-ups as well. At seventeen, Touya is taller than most of the teachers at their school, and it's not a weedy, adolescent height, either. He's wide-shouldered, lean but solid, and strangers treat him like a man. To Yukito, who is the same age but is still sure when he looks in the mirror that there's a wide-eyed, nervous child staring back at him, this is amazing.

But the matter of Touya's apparent age, Yukito knows, is only compounded by his early physical maturity, not composed of it. Yukito remembers the first time he saw Touya, remembers it so vividly that sometimes he thinks that if he tried he could simply step into that memory, like stepping onto a stage and taking his place in a well-rehearsed drama. Touya was a head shorter then and a great deal skinnier; no one would ever have mistaken him for anything but a schoolboy. But even then, Yukito had simply assumed that he was an older student, because of his eyes, which are -- again, and this is a word that occurs to Yukito over and over when he thinks of Touya -- amazing. Just amazing. They make Yukito forget everything.

From the very first day, Touya's eyes had that power. The first day at a new school hadn't gone easily for Yukito, and by afternoon he felt as though his smile were burnt into his face, painful and permanent. No one was unkind, but it was so...much. Faces, voices, directions, instructions, so many things to receive passively and try to remember, so few things to be sure of. Had he arrived in the middle of a term, perhaps the other students, or at least the teachers, would have recognized his confusion and taken pity on him, but on the first day of school, they were all too busy with their own process of orienting to notice Yukito at all. Hour by hour, he became more invisible, and happier to be that way. If he could have evaporated into nothing, that would have been nearly perfect.

It was neither chance nor fate that brought them together, just the prosaic fact that his grandparents' new house was west of the school, and his route walking home took Yukito past the mesh fence of the schoolyard. He was still smiling, smiling blindly and miserably, because it would be even worse for anyone to see him rushing home from school with his eyes on the ground and his heart on top of his chest. Yukito is gentle, but it isn't only bullies and braggarts who have pride, even at fifteen.

With his head high and his eyes unclouded, smile still in place, it would have been impossible not to see the soccer team practicing, and if his gaze hadn't landed directly on Touya that day, it would have happened the next, or a few days down the road. Nothing mystical about it, except that it felt that way. It felt like magic.

One boy -- older boy, Yukito thought, upperclassman -- switching out with a teammate, walking confidently off the field so that he happened to be facing away from the action, out toward the street where Yukito stood, riveted to the spot, his feet sticking where they last fell. One boy, the one person all day long, who looked at Yukito and didn't pass him over, but kept looking, his handsome face unreadable, his blue eyes intent and boldly curious. And for the first time all day long, Yukito felt his tortured smile slip away, until he was looking back without masks or costumes, returning interest for interest. One honest moment.

And then Yukito felt his face begin to grow hot, and knew that he was blushing. It was embarrassing, *mortifying,* really, to be caught like this, so nakedly observing not the soccer game, but one handsome soccer player. The blush, of course, could only make things worse, because now he couldn't even hope that his gaze would be misinterpreted as absent-minded or casual.

The fine thread of an expression disrupted that calm severity in the boy's eyes and on his face; he smiled at Yukito, just slightly, and then lifted up the hem of his shirt to wipe the sweat from his face and neck. Yukito felt a thin, burning pain in his hand and realized he was digging it into the wire fence, enthralled by the leisurely revelation of smooth skin, all but shattered by the sudden feeling that if he wrapped an arm around that narrow waist it would be feverishly warm to the touch, damp and agonizingly solid. Something real. Something to be sure of. Yukito pulled his hand back, and saw that the crisscrossed pattern was impressed in red on the pale skin of his palm.

He ran. It wasn't brave, but he had to get away from the riot of feelings, and he thought it might be possible to outrace them.

Yukito ran all the way home, and when he got there he discovered that while it was possible to be too tired to feel anything, the sensations seemed to come back just as soon as exhaustion receded. All evening, the image of that boy at the edge of the soccer field, with his striking eyes and his lithe, sweat-sheened body, hovered just outside the circumference of his conscious thoughts, making Yukito very glad that the homework given on the first day of school was never very difficult.

He had a dream that night, most of which he had forgotten by morning, but here and there, a few details stay with him, are as vivid and gripping when Yukito thinks of them now as they were as he woke gasping and twisting in his bed. He remembers the overpowering smell of fresh-cut grass, and the boy's face, stern but somehow compassionate as well, hovering close to his. He remembers a sense of weightlessness, and a rain of soft, white feathers falling all around them, making him shiver as they brushed over exposed skin along Yukito's shoulders and back. He woke with tears on his face, almost heartbroken by the sheer beauty of the dream. It is the first dream that Yukito can clearly remember having; he thinks there may have been others from his childhood that he once remembered, but they are lost now.

At school the next day, Yukito was both significantly calmer and somehow energized, filled with a welcome sense of purpose. He wove his questions artfully into a dozen innocent conversations, and while at the time all that Yukito realized was that he was gathering information, in retrospect he sees himself planting the seeds of many future friendships, and a lasting reputation for warmth, approachability, and curiosity. It was a good day.

Yukito's soccer player, of course, was Kinomoto Touya -- who else? Yukito smiles, now, to think of how the name struck his ear when it was new, how rare and unbelievable it seemed, where now the sound of it is as comfortable and familiar as his grandmother's cooking. He was younger than Yukito had imagined; several of his new acquaintances had fond memories of Touya's sixteenth birthday party, only two months ago. He seemed to Yukito to be well-liked, but at the same time oddly distant, everyone's friend and no one's. Different people were impressed by different details -- this one said that his grades were good, that one knew how many goals he'd scored against a rival school, a girl mentioned with mingled pity and hunger in her eyes that poor Touya had no mother anymore, wasn't it terrible? Another boy said that everyone said Touya had a girlfriend, an *older* girlfriend, not even a student, but the girl that Yukito spoke to after that laughed at the idea and opined that Touya's unseen sweetheart was a polite fiction to avoid offending the many starry-eyed girls who pursued him.

Thinking of that little smile, and the slow flash of his stomach as Touya lifted his shirt, Yukito thought he might have an idea as to why Touya would find such a cover story useful. Yukito just smiled, feeling both bold and clever, feeling as though he knew everything in the world now.

And he went back to the soccer field that afternoon, not to gawk, but to introduce himself to the teacher and ask if he might be of use to the team, maybe as an equipment manager. Only after he'd secured the position did Yukito dare to glance around at the players, and he was simultaneously startled and not surprised at all to see Touya watching him, a little smile of wry approval curving his mouth. Yukito smiled back, sweetly.

A series of firsts occurred that afternoon -- Touya's first words to him after practice ("Oi, you want some help with that?"), his first trip to the Kinomoto house for dinner with Touya, his father, and his adorable little sister, and somewhere in between those two, the most memorable: first kiss, pressed up against the wooden wall of the equipment shed, slipping his fingers under Touya's shirt to feel the smooth bulbs of bone that made up his spine.

After dinner, Touya walked him halfway back to his own house, both of them with hands in their pockets against an unseasonal late-spring chill in the air. Yukito confessed all the details of the day's fact-finding mission, and ended it by admitting, only somewhat apologetically, "I want to know everything about you."

Touya smiled a little at that. "Where do you get the idea that I'm so interesting?"

"I like the way you kiss." Yukito is amazed, looking back, that the boy he was at fifteen could find the courage to say something like that.

"Do you?" Touya asked blandly, and then put his hand on Yukito's arm to stop him in the middle of the dark street, swooping in for a short, jarringly pleasurable kiss. When his lips moved away from Yukito's, his tongue didn't quite, so that for a moment he was lingering with his tongue smoothing tantalizingly back and forth just at the inner edge of Yukito's bottom lip. Yukito whimpered a little when it ended, and opened his eyes to see Touya standing casually on the sidewalk, hands back in his pockets. "Let's do this again sometime," he offered, and Yukito made himself nod, not sure if Touya meant dinner or kissing, but knowing that the answer was the same either way.

It turned out that Touya meant both. He knew a startling number of concealed locations in and around the school, and he was utterly fearless about seizing even short intervals of free time. Yukito poured nervous energy into his schoolwork, but shot through all his industriousness was a constant colorful ribbon of anticipation. Just when Yukito thought he couldn't bear it any longer, he would arrive at his next class and discover a slip of paper jutting out of his textbook with "2:40, third floor chemistry lab" written in Touya's heavy hand, and he would work all the harder in that class, because the alternative was letting himself think an hour or two ahead to Touya's strong hands cupping his face and the ragged grunting noises Touya made when Yukito nibbled along the side of his neck, and if he thought too much about that, he'd go utterly insane as the clock counted off each tedious minute until 2:40.

On the whole, Touya was good for Yukito's education from the very beginning; aside from the workaholic fervor he inspired in Yukito during school hours, he was an excellent after-school tutor. Touya thought in clear, direct lines, and he explained things the same way, so that you couldn't help but understand. He also knew all of Yukito's teachers, and had unfailing insight as to what would impress this one most in an essay, or when that one was likely to be planning an unannounced exam. They always studied together for at least an hour after dinner, when Yukito came to visit, and consequently Yukito didn't experience the slump in his marks that he half-anticipated as a result of adjusting to a new school.

And then, of course, there was Yukito's other education. Touya seemed to know everything about that, too. Maybe a little more than Yukito really wanted him to know, in point of actual fact. They'd only been together for three weeks when deep, exploratory kisses turned into something that felt dangerous, rich with the potential to overturn everything Yukito thought he knew. He couldn't breathe, pinned beneath Touya's body, fully clothed but feeling horribly exposed as Touya gripped his hair, bit his shoulder, ground down so hard against Yukito that it felt as though Yukito's body would have to break apart to accommodate his insistence.

"Stop," Yukito gasped. "Please, Touya, stop."

He slowed first, and then went utterly still, lifting his head to glare balefully at Yukito. "What's wrong?"

"I -- I -- it's too fast. Please, I -- we can't."

Touya slid his hands beneath Yukito, pulling his hips flush against Touya's own. "You don't like it?" he asked, and his eyes were glittering, his voice daring Yukito to lie, with the evidence against him so obvious to the touch.

It was enthralling, that strange, predatory look on Touya's handsome features, attractive and disturbing at the same time. Yukito had to close his eyes against it. "I didn't say that I didn't like it. I said that I wanted to stop."

The stillness was oppressive, so quiet that Yukito could hear his own labored swallowing as though it were louder than thunder. Finally, a fingertip stroked Yukito's cheek delicately. "You've never done this before, have you?"

Both embarrassed and relieved to have the truth out, Yukito said, "You're the only person I've even kissed before."

Suddenly Touya's weight wasn't on top of him anymore. Yukito opened his eyes to see Touya sitting on the edge of the bed, facing away from him. "I don't really know anything about virgins."

Hesitantly, Yukito reached out and traced his fingers down Touya's stiff back. "If you'd known this from the beginning, would you have kissed me in the equipment shed?"

After a moment, Touya looked over his shoulder at Yukito, his scowl softening. "Yeah -- maybe. Probably. You're...." His hand stroked across the length of Yukito's body, six inches away from his skin. "You have this kind of...special look."

It seemed like a compliment, even though Yukito didn't quite understand it. Later on, he would tease Touya about that -- *a special look* -- and Touya, infinitely more comfortable with Yukito now than he was three weeks after they'd met, would just raise his eyebrows slightly and say, "Just one of those things I see sometimes. Have a little faith, Yuki."

"Do you want me to leave?" Yukito offered humbly.

"I'll walk you home."

Touya did, and at the halfway point where their paths diverged, he gave Yukito a quick, chaste goodnight kiss. "Sorry," he said gruffly. "I'm just...um.... Sorry."

"I really like you, Touya."

He looked faintly surprised, but he said, "Well, I like you, too. Obviously."

"It's not so obvious," Yukito said gently, "when you act like this."

Touya hung his head. "I'm sorry, Yukito."

He was, and Yukito knew it. He forgave Touya in that moment, although instead of telling him so, Yukito said, "Why are you with me? Are you even with me?"

"Of course I'm with you." Touya sounded genuinely puzzled by the question. "Don't you -- aren't you -- with me?"

Yukito reached for his hand, and squeezed it lightly. Touya watched the gesture in apparent fascination. "I am. I am, as long as you don't mind--"

"I'll wait," Touya said quickly. "I can wait." Yukito nodded and smiled, and it wasn't until he was home in his own bedroom that he thought back on that flash of fire in Touya's eyes, that determination, and it almost frightened him, because he believed in it completely. Touya would wait as long as he had to wait, because he...liked...Yukito. He'd gotten a small scare tonight, seen that Yukito could walk away any time he wanted to (well, anytime he *needed* to, anyway; Yukito understood even then that he was too deeply entwined to surrender Touya on a whim), and Touya didn't like it one bit.

Yukito fell into bed, feeling tense and giddy and much too shot through with adrenaline to sleep. Touya liked him. Touya liked him. For the first time since that endless moment by the fence, Yukito believed that there was something magical about all of this.

The next day, Touya was on the steps of the school when Yukito arrived, listening to his Walkman and waving at his friends as they passed one by one. Yukito waved, too, but instead of waving back, Touya stood up and fell into step with him -- effectively in step anyway, Touya's long-legged gait matched in speed to Yukito's quick trotting. "Walk you to class?" he said.

"Sure," Yukito responded automatically, and then, "But why?"

"Because...." Touya thought for a moment and then said, "Because my mother gave me hell for not being a gentleman last night."


"Yes, she is." Touya grinned at him, making Yukito feel lost and dizzy, but in a nice way. "Forget it, Yukito, I'm kidding. I just thought we could walk together. You know, like friends?"

Friends. He didn't want to say that Touya was his first real friend, maybe the only friend he's ever had. Yukito doesn't think he's ever gotten around to saying that, but by now he's sure that Touya knows it, just as Yukito knows that he's the only person outside of Touya's family who has ever had a place inside Touya's heart -- his only friend, too, in a way.

Being Touya's friend is as simple as eating off his plate at lunch, and it's as complicated as the winding route Touya takes to school now, passing by Yukito's house on the way, even though it's not on the way. Being Touya's friend is about babysitting duty and debating the merits of various bicycles they almost have enough money saved to buy, about going to baseball games and missing their stop on the subway and borrowing Touya's manga and Touya borrowing his good tie for a job interview. It's as public as the way that when the soccer team stays out of town overnight for a tournament, the coach assigns Yukito and Touya to the same hotel room without bothering to ask, and as private as the way Touya knocks him off the bed that night by tickling him, or the way Touya picks him up off the floor and tucks him back in with a kiss.

It's those kisses that make all the difference, that velvet-and-volcano way that Touya kisses, slow and primal. With each of those kisses -- now, just like back then -- Yukito is reminded that there is only one Touya. That the same Kinomoto Touya who is his best friend, witty and pragmatic and kind-hearted but short-tempered, that familiar Touya is the same dark stranger who smashed Yukito's world apart with a glance, who can seduce him into making out in the equipment shed with a line like "You want some help with that?" All the things Yukito feels for Touya seem to come together when Touya kisses him, the adoration that feels like a rain of feathers on his skin and the desire that feels like a rain of lit matches.

But none of it had a name until the end of the summer, when Touya pulled him under the bleachers after morning practice and before their first class, reeling Yukito almost roughly into his arm and burying his face in Yukito's neck so that his "I love you" came out muffled.

"You have to change clothes," Yukito reminded him, defaulting to the banal because the truth of where they were at that moment seemed too large to take into account. "Touya, you -- you need a shower...."

Touya's body jerked in a short, silent laugh. "Your poor, delicate nose," he said, tongue flashing into Yukito's ear, then disappearing.

"It's not that." And it wasn't; Yukito liked the way Touya smelled after practice, wet and salty and meaty. He didn't know exactly what it was, so he kissed Touya to end the conversation.

It wasn't until sometime around lunch that Yukito really heard the words that had been replaying on an endless loop in his memory and accepted them. Touya loved him. Touya loved him.

*Kinomoto Touya.* *I love you.* These are words and concepts that Yukito touches almost daily now, but he still remembers when they were uncharted territory.

That night, after dinner and studying, Touya rode all the way back to Yukito's house with him. Yukito can remember, so perfectly, how clear the sky was, and how he thought he could see starlight sparkling in Touya's hair, even though it was probably the ordinary, unromantic lights of Tokyo in the distance. Touya leaned casually forward across the handlebars of his bike, his feet brushing the ground, and Yukito remembers the thrill it sent through him just to reach out and cover Touya's hand with his, almost like it was the first time. "I love you, too," he said.

Touya gave him one of his rare wide grins. "Took you long enough."

"You surprised me."

"Didn't you know already?" Yukito shook his head. "Well...now you know."

"I want to give you something," Yukito said, and they walked their bikes up the path, then left them there while Yukito drew Touya over to the rosebushes and snapped one off for him, laying it in Touya's hands. He held it gingerly, as though afraid it would burst apart in a cloud of dew, and Yukito leaned down to smell the pink flower, and then tilted his head to kiss Touya's hand.

Touya dropped the rose and cupped his hands around the back of Yukito's head instead. "I want you to give me more than flowers," he said roughly, his eyes closed down to bare slits. "I want...." He slid his hand down Yukito's chest, either to complete his sentence or to avoid completing it.

Yukito shivered, folding both his hands over Touya's one broad one, holding them near Yukito's heart. "There's nothing I wouldn't give you," he whispered fiercely, and then, more gently, "As long as the time is right."

He made one of those sweetly Touya sounds, half grunt and half laugh. "And it's not yet, is that what you're saying?"

It wasn't, quite, but Yukito still remembers that night, partially because of the way the smell of the grass reminded him of his dream when Touya kissed him with such unexpected force that it bore both of them down to the ground. He remembers getting dizzy as they rolled together, Touya's luminous eyes and star-dappled hair closing down on him from above one moment, pushing his tongue downward into Touya's open mouth the next, with Touya's fingers tugging hard enough on the tail of his shirt to pull the collar backward, hard against Yukito's throat. He remembers how Touya's familiar voice seemed to melt and run in liquid form all over Yukito's shivering skin as he said, "Hai, hai, Yuki, please.... Want you, ah, I love you, want your body...."

"Shhh," Yukito said, pressing his finger to Touya's lips. He stripped off Touya's shirt, and Touya didn't complain at all about lying half-dressed in the cold grass and moist dirt. Yukito reached for the fallen rose. "Do you think we'll always be together, To-ya?" He didn't know quite why he pronounced the name that way, except that Touya had called him *Yuki,* and it felt as though they should be equal in this, in everything.

"You know, I would probably say pretty much anything you wanted to hear, if I thought it would get those clothes off of you," Touya growled.

"You would never lie to me," Yukito said blithely, leaning over Touya to kiss his forehead.

Touya's fingers tightened on the small of his back. "I hope we will," he said simply, the perfect truth. Yukito had learned to expect nothing more and nothing less from Touya.

Satisfied, Yukito sat back, finding a position astride Touya's hips that was comfortable for him, probably something other than *comfortable* for Touya, and began to brush the petals of the rose back and forth across Touya's chest. The taut lines of Touya's body went immediately slack, and his arms sprawled out above his head, the back of his left hand resting on the inside of his right forearm. Yukito drew the rose down that artfully dropped arm, and all the way down his side until it stopped at the waistband of Touya's jeans. "Hold still...."

"What are you doing?" Touya said muzzily, beginning to lift his head. It fell back as his body arched upward when Yukito moved back so that his hands could glide together and meet over the front of Touya's jeans. "What are you *doing?*" he said again, and it sounded like a plea.

"Trust me?" Yukito asked, and Touya nodded, a little reluctantly. Yukito crushed the rose between his hands and let the severed petals fall like a rain of feathers, trembling on Touya's skin. Yukito rubbed one in slow circles over one of Touya's nipples, and watched him bite down hard on his own lip, his eyes pressed tightly together. Yukito touched his cheek soothingly, and Touya turned his face into the touch, kissing Yukito's hand.

Touya makes Yukito fearless; it's the only explanation Yukito can think of, when he remembers all the mad things he's done in the heat of the moment, all the places he's gone to because logic is one thing, but he longs for Kinomoto Touya and has ever since the moment Yukito laid eyes on him. It's been two years, and Yukito blushes when he thinks of himself as he was at fifteen-and-a-half, inexplicably brave and impossibly knowledgeable. He can still hear the apparently endless snore of the zipper on Touya's jeans as he lowered it with slow care, but what happened after that is blurred together in his memory with all the other times he's done the same thing since. He's grown blase, but sometimes he still thinks about it, realizes that he went down on Touya for the very first time in his grandparents' front yard, hidden in the shadow of the rose bushes, and he shakes his head in amazement. The things Touya does to him are *amazing.* The person Touya has made him...is maybe a little bit amazing, too.

"You didn't have to," Touya murmured uncertainly as they lay spooned up against each other in the muddy grass, the backs of his knuckles brushing softly back and forth over Yukito's parted lips. "I didn't mean to make you."

"How could you make me?" Yukito asked, honestly curious. He felt Touya shrug. "You wanted me to."

That time, he felt the jerk of Touya's short laugh. "Of course I.... But...."

"I love you," Yukito whispered, and then, as if to make up for that morning -- only that morning, though it felt like weeks ago -- he said it over and over again, bending the grass with his breath. "I love you, I love you, I love you, To-ya, I love you...."

Up in his room, Yukito noticed that he had a rose petal caught in his hair. He pulled it carefully free, and in fact he still has that petal, dried but still fragrant, nestled between pages 372 and 373 of his tenth-grade algebra book.

For his birthday, Touya gave him a three-layer cake, a new watchband, and a key to the Kinomotos' front door. "Don't mention it to my dad," he said into Yukito's ear, then kissed his cheek. Yukito tried to argue -- Mr. Kinomoto had been so kind to him, and it seemed a shame to pay him back by keeping secrets -- but Touya's put a possessive hand on his waist, and somehow that seemed like a convincing counter-argument. So Yukito leaned back against him, thinking that Touya seemed to have gotten taller in the past six months, and thanked him.

He did mention it again, later that night as he fingered the key on its chain. "Doesn't it seem a little wrong? It is your father's house."

Touya's finger wound itself up in the chain, then crept up along Yukito's palm, insinuating itself between two of his fingers, a casual touch that was oddly erotic at the same time. "Think of it this way, then: It's not a key to the house. It's a key to get into my room, which is *mine,* and what's mine is yours. I'd have to be crazy to give you a key to the kitchen, wouldn't I?" he teased, jerking Yukito down over him by the shoulders until their noses brushed together.

Yukito laughed and kissed him, one hand on the bed to steady himself, the other hand running through Touya's hair. "You won't get angry with me if I show up without an invitation?"

Touya rolled his eyes. "You," he said firmly, taking a grip on Yukito's waist and pulling him more snugly against his own body, "own this whole place anyway." Yukito put his head down on Touya's chest, listening to the slightly accelerated beat of his heart, knowing that Touya was referring to a territory of somewhat less square footage than the house, but infinitely more valuable.