"Soubi?" Ritsuka asked softly, pulling away from him slightly. They had been lying quite comfortably on Soubi's bed, wrapped up in one another's arms and letting lips and hands explore one another to their heart's content. Now that Ritsuka was older and almost out of his teens, he'd become more interested in furthering the physical side of their relationship. His time after school was often spent at his Fighter's apartment, either trying to convince Soubi to take his ears or spending long hours doing the type of activities that Ritsuka hoped would lead to the loss of his ears. Needless to say, Soubi enjoyed the boy's (deliciously improving) attention, and he only hoped Ritsuka didn't know that he knew at what point he could gently withdraw his affections without causing a fuss.

"Yes?" he replied, nipping at Ritsuka's earlobe. He was rather taken aback to realize that someone had removed Ritsuka's top, and he thought he had a good idea as to which one of them had done it when he felt fingers that weren't his own messing about with the buttons on his collar.

"Can I ask you a…personal question?"

This surprised Soubi a little, since Ritsuka had rarely asked him anything like that. "Of course."

"Promise you'll answer?" he asked very seriously. His hands had stopped tugging at Soubi's buttons.

He lifted Ritsuka's chin and looked into his eyes. "I promise."

"How did you loose your ears?"

He stared at the boy for a long moment before crinkling his nose in mock confusion. "Why would you want to know something like that?" He did something with his hands that he knew his Sacrifice enjoyed and added coyly, "Is Ritsuka-kun having doubts that I know what I'm doing?"

Ritsuka rolled his eyes, glancing down past his waist. "You can see as well as I can that I'm not." He chuckled softly, and Soubi thought it was the most beautiful sound in the world. "I guess I'm just…curious. You never talk about your past. I mean," he added quietly, "before Seimei."

He was silent for a long time, wondering how he should phrase his answer. He didn't want Ritsuka to feel sorry for him (unguided pity was more than useless to its recipient), nor did he want to burden the boy with painful memories that couldn't be changed.

Ritsuka mistook his silence for a refusal to answer. His eyebrows drew downward sharply. "You promised," he reminded with a nudge.

"I know," Soubi replied, looking away.

"Then tell me."

He looked down at their joined hands resting on the bed between them and, with a glance up at the fuzzy triangles atop the young man's head, he quipped, "You never made me promise I had to divulge the information right away."

"Soubi! You knew what I meant!" the boy exclaimed, picking up his shirt off the bed and yanking it back over his head.

He ran his hand across Ritsuka's face and smoothed the wrinkle between his eyes out with his thumb. "I promise I will tell you, but not today. And probably not tomorrow."

"Someday, huh?" Ritsuka drawled, rolling his eyes again. "It's always 'someday' with you, isn't it?"

"It's the only word that is simultaneously vague and explicitly specific," he confirmed with a smile.

Ritsuka huffed and rolled his eyes one last time. "Shut up and kiss me, you idiot. I have to go home soon."

It was, in fact, three months later that Ritsuka brought it up again. "Have you forgotten your promise?" he said one afternoon as they laid together. Ritsuka was supposed to be at school, as was Soubi, but today was their first anniversary. Ritsuka had declared it a national holiday for which they deserved the day off.

"I haven't," Soubi responded lazily. He kissed Ritsuka lightly. "Someday soon, I promise I will tell you."

"Someday," Ritsuka repeated. "Someday, someday, someday. I hate that word."

When Soubi did tell Ritsuka how he'd lost his ears, it was on an evening when Ritsuka hadn't been interested in trying to seduce Soubi. They sat down on the bed in Ritsuka's room, and Soubi told him about everything. About his training at Septimal Moons, about meeting Seimei for the first time, and about Ritsu-sensei's instruction. He left nothing out. He made sure to avoid using the word Ritsuka would most likely use to describe the way he lost his ears (the word he refused to use to describe it), and when the time came to actually spell out what had happened to him, he used the silliest euphemism he could think of.

Near the end of the conversation, when Ritsuka was near tears, his Sacrifice asked, "When? I mean, how old were you?"

Soubi pulled the boy close to him, kissing his forehead. "I was…younger than you."

"Younger than sixteen?" he asked with wide eyes.

"Yes," he whispered, stroking the boy's hair. It comforted Soubi almost as much as it did Ritsuka.

After a few moment's hesitation, he asked, "Younger than, like…twelve?"

"Yes," he replied, nodding against his Sacrifice's head. And as soon as Ritsuka felt it, the floodgates burst open. Ritsuka cried for a long time, and if it had been anyone else in the world, the Fighter would have walked away from their useless pity. But this was Ritsuka. His tears came, not from pity, but instead from a genuine sorrow for Soubi's pain. Ritsuka had gained a glimpse into his Fighter's soul, and it had frightened him at how much pain Soubi could keep inside.

"Soubi?" Ritsuka said once his weeping had turned into sniffles again. And it was then that Ritsuka did the most amazing thing. Soubi felt at once comforted and forgiven, cleansed and free of worry. "I'm so sorry."