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The wind in the grass was warm and sultry, arising from the west with a clean clear scent, rippling the green training grounds of the Academy. A cheerful spring moon, soft white and accompanied by a stream of stars, hung overhead, bathing the earth below in a kindly glow.

An onlooker might have supposed that the two lone figures moving among the tall grass and shy flowers were dancing; the elegant and smooth movements rarely interrupted by youthful clumsiness. But the two long staffs clattering together now and again in rough cracks were enough to give them away: the two were training together, swordsmen to their cores, slashing and jabbing with their bamboo swords.

At length, one of those slim false blades was thrust sharply into the soft soil, it's master leaning heavily on it.

"You've done some work since last," he panted, dropping to a kneel in the supple grass. The other approached and sank down as well, reclining on his elbows to gaze up into the shimmering sky.

"Glad you noticed," he replied, broad chest rising and falling quickly. He tipped his head back to roll his shoulders, "it's been a fearsome task keeping up with you."

"Practice makes perfect," the other admitted, sitting finally in the grass and pulling his sword down with him to lay across his lap.

"You must practice nightly, Jyuushirou."

"I do if I can."

"Only what you can," warned the larger man, lacing his fingers behind his head to stargaze.

"Since when have I overdone things, Shunsui?" Jyuushirou pouted, glancing down at him with a lopsided grin.

"When haven't you!" the brunette groaned, shaking his head, "Always on a mission to spit up some blood, you are."

Jyuushirou thumped his friend lightly on the shoulder, frowning slightly, though there was enough levity in his bright, brown eyes to dispel any suspicion of malcontent.

Another warm breeze spread through the grounds, ruffling the smaller boy's white hair. He ran a pale hand through it, clearing the snowy strands from his eyes.

"It's really something, eh?" Shunsui sighed, regarding the expanse of the heavens with the adoring eyes of a lover.

"I've never seen anything that compares," his friend answered wistfully.

Shunsui watched that white hair illuminated in the moonlight, and decided quite suddenly that he had found a worthy competitor with the silver river of stars overhead.

After a few long moments that left the taller boy half-dreaming, another gust found the two, stronger than the previous breaths of wind. Jyuushirou squinted and lurched, then gave in to the urging of his throat and convulsed in a series of coughs. Shunsui rose up to spread a comforting palm over the shuddering back, remaining there until the smaller boy's coughing subsided to shallow gasping. Jyuushirou craned his slender neck and a few drops of blood fell to the grass, staining his lips. He then leaned back, drinking in the spring air with renewed appreciation.

"Rather late," Shunsui stood with a loud yawn and placed his hands at the small of his back, arching outward to stretch his sore muscles, "better be getting back."

Jyuushirou took the hand he was offered and rose up as well, resting his sword over his shoulder as he followed the taller boy inside, clearing his throat now and again.

Somehow walking renewed both of them, brought the expended energy back to their youthful bodies as they snuck through the doors and into the dorm corridors.

"Ah, I'm parched," Shunsui complained, not having noticed his thirst in his earlier relaxation; he figured he must have lost all his fluids in the sweat of the training.

"Same," Jyuushirou answered readily, "let's get a drink."

The two came to a divergence of corridors in the hall; one of which housed Shunsui, and the other Jyuushirou. They both glanced down both halls before the smaller boy spoke, gesturing toward his own quarters.

"My room's closer," he offered, waiting for Shunsui's nod before proceeding toward his door.

Jyuushirou addressed the lock and quietly opened the door, allowing the two of them inside.

"Pretty sweet deal you have going here," Shunsui commented facetiously, "wish my family had the scratch to put me up in a single."

"Oh, hush," Jyuushirou rolled his eyes and removed a couple of canteens of water from an elegantly carved chest stationed in one of the corners, "who wants to listen to me cough all night?"

"Only teasing," Shunsui assured him with a grin, gratefully accepting the canteen before sinking into a sit, crossing one leg over the other. Jyuushirou followed suit, though he drew his knees up to his chest instead, and slowly slipped at his water, sighing contentedly after the first gulp.

After savoring the last of his water and running the back of his hand over his wet lips, Shunsui indicated the chest Jyuushirou had retrieved the canteens from.

"That's a beautiful chest," he commented.

"Thank you, I've been exercising."

The grin that spread across Jyuushirou's face was enough to have Shunsui laughing out loud, tipping his head back and shaking with the strength of it; Jyuushirou himself was in no way above laughing at his own jokes and thus indulged as well.

"Ah, you fool..." Shunsui finally got his breath back, though his wide smile remained.

"It's ancestral," Jyuushirou explained, still grinning himself, "I was surprised they let me take it along, but my mother knows how fond I am of it."

"Well," the taller boy sat up slightly, "what else do you have in there?"

Jyuushirou glanced toward it and hummed in thought.

"I have...a food stash and...oh!" he turned suddenly toward his friend, "I've got shogi!"

"Do you?"

"Fancy a game?"

Shunsui agreed with a sly glance.

"I warn you, Jyuushirou, I'm terribly out of practice..."

Already setting up the board, the smaller boy shook his head.

"No excuses, Shunsui! I'd beat you on any given day."

"We'll see about that," the taller boy chuckled, leaning forward to glance over the board.

A few moves in and the case became clear: Jyuushirou was an exceptionally sly and experienced player indeed. Shunsui found himself rubbing his scruffy chin, contemplating his next move with a certain amount of frustration. No matter how he played out the game in his head, it seemed that it was not destined to turn out in his favor.

"Well done..." he murmured, locked in consideration.

"I knew you'd underestimate me," Jyuushirou gloated, wagging a finger, "just didn't expect me to be so clever!"

"Ah, Jyuushirou, I've never doubted your cleverness." He sat back and sighed, relinquishing his last hope. "And I do believe you've done me in."

"Ha! Another game?"

"I don't have another in me," Shunsui lamented, regarding Jyuushirou with a masked smile.

"Well, then," the smaller boy sighed, gathering the pieces and board back into their pouch, "I suppose I'll be turning you out, then."

Shunsui found his mind racing for a reason to stay. Perhaps the one he produced was flimsy, not up to his usual standards of craftiness, but he would always reflect on it as one of his favorite stretches of the truth.

"I certainly wouldn't want to wake my roommate," he said cautiously, "he might want to know where I'd been off to."

Jyuushirou smiled again, raising his eyebrows. Fearing he'd been caught out, Shunsui furrowed his brow and peered into his eyes.

"What're you grinning about?"

"Oh, nothing," he glanced furtively up at Shunsui, "I suppose you'll be staying the night, then."

The smaller man hoped that the slight quickening of his pulse at the idea would go undetected. His breath hitched as he tucked the game back into the chest and brought out his mat to roll upon the floor, his pillows to place atop it. If pressed, he would not then or ever be able to discern exactly when his friendship with Shunsui had grown into something far deeper and worlds more tender, an innocent, complex love.

"Suppose I will," he sighed, standing to shed his uniform shirt.

Jyuushirou observed with rapt attention until the taller man turned back to face him, with a certain smirk that implied knowledge of his audience. He grinned sheepishly and changed into his sleep clothes, a button-down shirt that rested loosely on his thin shoulders, and matching pants that cropped at his mid-calves.

"You can use the spare pillow," Jyuushirou offered, lifting it off the other.

But Shunsui was a perceptive man.

"Ah, Jyuushirou - but shouldn't you keep your head elevated?"

By then, the smaller man had already settled onto his mat and pulled his blanket up over his knees. He sighed with a smile and cocked his head, inspecting his friend's kindly face.

"Then what will you sleep on?"

"Same thing I sleep on in class, Jyuushirou! My arms are fine."

The other laughed lightly and opened the blankets for his friend, who slid in beside him, perhaps too close for comfort according to some sets of friends, but the two of them - aside from nursing nascent attraction - were long past posturing over close quarters.

Jyuushirou extinguished the lamp beside his bed and brought his canteen close, just in case. Shunsui watched him from the corners of his eyes, his movements so smooth, so neat, like a lark hopping from branch to branch. At last he nestled down beneath the covers, settling onto his back with a contented sigh. The contours of his pale skin reflected every strip of moonlight; he practically glowed.

Somewhere in his furtive observance of Jyuushirou's beauty and his fantasies about it, Shunsui fell into a a light sleep, the sort of light dreaming in which the mind wandered and made all the world seem peaceful, magical.

His immersion in happy illusions was abruptly disrupted when the slender body next to him at once tensed, shuddered, and then rocked with a fit of coughing, sputtering and Shunsui was sure he heard the man gag as he struggled to sit up, chest aching too fiercely to allow him. The taller man rose immediately, reaching over his friend to bring up his canteen, holding it gently to his lips - an action he would finesse into a fine art over the years - and urged him to drink.

The first sips trailed down his lips, but after a moment he was gulping, breathing hard. He gently held Shunsui's wrist, reclining again as his pain subsided to dull aching.

"Thank you," he breathed at length, allowing his fingers to slip weakly from the other man's wrist.

"My pleasure," the other assured him teasingly, his own brand of comforting.

Even as Jyuushirou settled back into a relative state of ease, Shunsui remained propped up on his elbow, gazing down at him as the last shivers shook his narrow shoulders. A few droplets of water - some pink with blood - still shone on those soft lips, like jewels in the pale light.

It would be then or never, Shunsui knew, and in the case of never, an eternal regret that would haunt him - possibly both of them. Still it was a gamble, there had been nothing physical between them previous to that save the sexual horseplay common to schoolboys, a slap here, a teasing grab there, and all the ribbing that went along with it.

A second of hesitation, he knew, and it wouldn't ever -

Without a word, he gently ran his fingertips along Jyuushirou's cheek, and leaned down, pressing his lips against his friend's, deepening at once the kiss and their relationship as his tongue explored the warmth of his mouth, coppery and wet. Somewhere in the kiss he found that Jyuushirou was responding quite favorably, meeting his tongue with his own, teasing beneath, sucking lightly.

Shunsui's heart was pounding and his blood rushed in his ears. It wasn't his first kiss but it was the only one to bring him to full arousal with a mere lip lock. He felt on the edge of trembling, there was an electric energy racing through his veins, through the core of his being. And then Jyuushirou was craning his neck up, meeting his lips urgently, bruisingly.

In his passion, Shunsui did not notice the sudden tensing of Jyuushirou's shoulders or abdomen, and thus he was not prepared for the abrupt fit of coughing - nor the knuckles that struck him hard across the temple as Jyuushirou brought his hand up to catch the blood. Both of them rolled to the side, Shunsui's vision blurred with pain and Jyuushirou's with coughing.

When the fit abated, Jyuushirou leaned over, peering down at Shunsui apologetically, still panting from the exertion of the kiss and the coughing.

"I'm so sorry, Shunsui. Are you alright?"

He ran his fingers through that dense chestnut hair, skirting the bruise forming at the temple.

"Just a minor concussion, Jyuushirou. I'll be fine."

His wolfish grin was apparently not damaged by the knock to his head. The smaller man smirked himself, impishly, and laid back down, tugging the covers up to his chest.

"Well...we don't have to stop."

Shunsui sat up.

"Do you want to - go on?"

Both of them knew the implications.

"If you do," Jyuushirou offered shyly.

"Only if I can hold your hand down," Shunsui replied, already closing in for another kiss.

"Be my guest..."

And he did take Jyuushirou's hand, but not to pin him by the wrist; their fingers entangled as Shunsui leaned again over his lover, resuming the kiss that had left the both of them breathless. He brought his knee over his lover, straddling him, shifting as they both worked the blankets down, eliminating the first barrier between them.

Jyuushirou's fingers spread over the back of Shunsui's neck, entwining with strands of thick, dark hair as the other leaned down, carefully slipping open the first button of his night shirt. At times there was an ache in his chest so pervasive that it limited him to bed, but at the moment even the brush of his night shirt against his nipples had him arching, moaning for Shunsui as the rest of those buttons were plucked open.

Shunsui pulled away when his hands came to the last button, fingers resting briefly against Jyuushirou's hip. He sat back slightly to marvel at his lover's body - Shunsui felt slightly ashamed at how erotic he found the utter slenderness, the paleness of the flesh under the moonlight. Jyuushirou gazed dazedly up at him, lips swollen, gulping to keep his sensitive throat from drying.

Their fingers disentangled and Shunsui kept searing eye contact as he gently lifted Jyuushirou's narrow hips, slipping his pants down, low, lower, over his hardened sex, creamy thighs, slim calves. Naked, Jyuushirou shivered, reached out for the larger man and brought him down for another kiss, this time allowing his hands to explore his broad, firm back, solidly muscular arms, tendons, veins - memorizing every ridge and plane.

This time it was Jyuushirou who broke the kiss, turning his face slightly to offer his lover the sensitive flesh of his neck and jaw, which Shunsui gladly worshipped with his lips and tongue.

"Aah, Shunsui - isn't it - your turn, now?" he half-moaned, writhing already.

"Suppose it is," Shunsui breathed against his ear, nipping lightly at the soft lobe before leaning back again, removing his hakama pants. Jyuushirou gazed at the man, rising on his elbows for a better look at his tan, hard body, his - the smaller nearly gasped - impressive, stiff sex.

Shunsui followed his line of sight down, smirking when he understood the focus of his lover's attention. When he looked up and met the other's eyes, he found them rather wide, his lips parted.

It was then that the sort of soft haze that had been settled over Jyuushirou lifted, leaving him strangely giddy, jumpy, trembling with a fusion of excitement and tense anxiousness.

"Jyuushirou...it isn't in my nature to be forward, but...do you have anything - slick?"

"Slick?" the smaller nearly squeaked.

Shunsui nodded and the realization dawned on him.

"Oh. Slick. Ah, um. I have, ah, lotion?" he half-rolled onto his side and rifled through the chest again, producing a small, half-empty bottle. He looked up inquisitively at Shunsui, searching his gentle face for approval.

"That'll do," he assured, taking the bottle.

Jyuushirou watched with baited breath as Shunsui carefully coated his fingers, and then spoke softly to him.

"Spread your legs, 'Shirou," - and thus the nickname was first born - "around me, like this." A broad hand settled over his thigh and positioned it, spreading him almost too wide for comfort. "And relax," he added kindly, smiling down at his trembling lover.

Somehow that warm smile calmed Jyuushirou, bringing to mind every laugh, every wandering conversation, every whispered secret the two had shared; he realized then that this was only one more intimacy, the last bridge to be crossed, the completion of the inevitable between them.

The first finger pressed inside carefully, and Jyuushirou tensed, his breath picking up slightly. Shunsui seemed to be holding his breath himself, perhaps just as wary of hurting Jyuushirou as the smaller man was of being hurt. The second finger slid in with a bit more resistance - Jyuushirou gasped and squeezed his eyes shut - but moments later he was accustomed to the sensation, rocking his hips experimentally as Shunsui stroked his most intimate passage. A last finger pushed in and the larger man compensated for the discomfort by teasing that sensitive nub buried inside his lover, leaving him breathless in the wake of a startled moan.

"Ready?" Shunsui whispered hoarsely, his own hips nearly bucking with the intensity of his arousal, so close to Jyuushirou's tight entrance.

Jyuushirou nodded and reached up for the other, gesturing for him to come closer, and Shunsui obeyed, bringing his body parallel with his lover's tangling their calves together and aligning their hips.

"We'll take this slow," he promised, fitting his lips against his lover's as he positioned his sex against him.

And they did. The first press elicited a strained cry from Jyuushirou, who brought his arms up around his lover's neck to keep them close. He could feel Shunsui panting in his ear, felt his muscles tense as he fought against instinct to keep himself still as his lover adjusted. When Jyuushirou's trembling abated, he pushed in a bit more, inch by inch, the pleasure of that tight fit coursing through him like nothing he had ever felt before.

"Oh Jyuushirou, oh - almost, almost -" he moaned, voice husky and ground through clenched teeth.

A shudder passed through Shunsui as he finally came to rest against Jyuushirou, sex fully sheathed inside him. Those pale legs had spread even wider during that first penetration; the smaller man braced his body with his feet flat on the floor, preparing for what was to come.

As Shunsui began to move in Jyuushirou - experimentally, carefully, unsure of his own rhythm - a pair of gentle hands slid down his shoulders, brushing his skin softly and coming to rest on either side of his face.

"K-kiss me," Jyuushirou pleaded breathlessly, parting his lips for Shunsui. The larger man was more than happy to oblige; the contact of their tongues again spiked his arousal and then he was thrusting smoothly, learning their rhythm, moaning deeply into his lover's mouth.

Moments later, the two discovered their angle, Jyuushirou bringing up his thighs and Shunsui inclining his lips, pressing every deep thrust against that sensitive pleasure center hidden inside.

"Sh-shunsui!" Jyuushirou cried, arching onto his sex, kissing him desperately as though gasping for breath. When one of those broad hands encircled his sex and began to stroke firmly, he shuddered, cried out with an arch of his slender neck, and felt the world go silent and vision go white as his seed spilled out over his smooth stomach.

With a final, firm thrust and a harsh moan originating deep in his throat, Shunsui followed his lover into blissful climax, coming inside him, reveling in the resultant shiver that passed up Jyuushirou's spine.

Neither would ever remember how long they stayed that way, tangled, panting, newly lovers. Shunsui finally collapsed onto his back next to Jyuushirou, turning his head to watch him regain his composure with a half-hooded, tender gaze.

"Ah, Jyuushirou..."

"Shunsui..."

For long moments, the sound of their labored breathing slowly returning to normal was the only noise in the room. When the crickets and night breeze became audible again, Shunsui turned onto his stomach, propping himself up on his elbows to smile down at Jyuushirou.

"'Shirou...that was...amazing," he murmured, reaching over to brush a strand of silver hair away from those deep chocolate eyes.

"Really?" he paused, "For you, I mean?"

"Really. Any reason you'd suspect otherwise? I thought I was...well, a little quicker than I usually am."

"How should I know that?" Jyuushirou laughed, shaking his head. "It's just that I'm not so experienced as some."

"First time?"

He nodded.

"Not last."

Jyuushirou grinned and they kissed again, playfully, smiling against each other's lips.

They both knew, then, that what they had was changing, was just at the very start of something much deeper and more complex that would blossom over time into the sort of love that was nameless and surpassed explanation. What they did not know was how Shunsui would come to sense the onset of coughing fits, and how many bruises that sixth sense would fail to save him from; how Jyuushirou would learn to leave his hanging lantern lit for late night visits; how the two would spend afternoons only laying, only talking, laughing.

But they would come to find it all, in time.


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