Flee With Your Wounds.
You can flee with your wounds just in time
or lie there as he feeds watching yourself ripped to shreds
and laughing as you bleed.
So for those of you falling in love:
keep it kind, keep it good, keep it right
throw yourself in the mist of danger
but keep one eye open at night.
'Elephants', Rachael Yamagata

i.

Soubi loved Seimei. Loves, perhaps. It's hard to know, hard to understand what he feels or felt or will feel regarding Seimei. But Seimei was his everything, was wonder and fury and joy and pain, and thus, he thinks he loved him, perhaps. Soubi's entire life is made of perhaps.

Seimei ordered him and Seimei gave him a reason to live, a reason to exist and thus, he loved Seimei, because not loving him would have been a sin.

ii.

If he loved Seimei, then, Soubi doesn't know what he feels for Ritsuka. It's not the same, and yet it's alike. It's everything, but it's more than Soubi thinks he knows how to feel. It's pain, yes, but this time it's his own, coming from inside his chest, somewhere between his heart and stomach. And it's joy and it's shaded in the amethyst color of Ritsuka's eyes. It's made of a thousand ifs and maybes, a house of cards ready to crumble, and waiting for that has Soubi living upon the edge, waiting for a phone call, or the careful touch of a hesitant hand against his.

iii.

If it's love - another card upon the house - then, Soubi thinks he must be a terrible person, for craving so much for Ritsuka.

He will hurt him, he thinks. Unwillingly, never on purpose, and yet, Soubi thinks, he will hurt Ritsuka. By thought, by word, by touch.

By kiss.

iv.

Seimei is ingrained in his soul, every word and action he had said marking him as much or more than the Beloved name that remains on his neck.

Ritsuka is fitting himself along the creaks and spaces of scars other have left, not burning, but there, still.

Soubi never knew that there was such a thing as pain that wouldn't hurt.

v.

Late at night, Soubi smokes in the dark. Sometimes Ritsuka sends him a message and then Soubi keeps his cellphone close, smiles at the words he sent.

If not, he smiles still, thinking of the way Ritsuka glares at him, at his eyes, at the way he flushes, at the way his lips had tasted a little of ginger chewing gum.

Yes, he's truly a terrible person indeed.

vi.

It is terrible, he realizes, the fact that now he hates, and he can't remember ever hating someone like this, before. Despise, yes, and sometimes, just sometimes, that came to almost be hate.

But watching Ritsuka torn and bleeding, his eyes terribly vague and upset, Soubi knows. This is hate.

He feels possessive, though it doesn't make sense, for a Fighter to feel possessive. They are to be possessed, not the other way around. He wraps the bandages around Ritsuka's wrist, breaths slowly as Ritsuka winces when he cleans his wounds.

"Ritsuka," he says, and he's surprised that Ritsuka's name isn't a prayer like Seimie's was, and yet it feels more important, somehow. Strange, he thinks.

Ritsuka doesn't look up: his ears twitch but for all that matters he is ignored. Ritsuka focuses on the gauze and the spots of red appearing there.

"Ritsuka," Soubi repeats, a bit more urgently.

And there, acknowledgment. Ritsuka glares a bit at him, angry and upset and scared. Embarrassed, Soubi thinks, as if he was the one failing, somehow, as if he was the one supposed to protect instead of him.

Strange.

"What?"

Soubi can't remember what he wanted to say, if he even wanted to say anything at all. He holds Ritsuka's hand, the small fingers that will get longer soon enough and he kisses the scarred knuckles, tastes blood.

Ritsuka flushes, tugs his hand away; Soubi keeps his hand for a few more seconds before he lets Ritsuka have his hand again.

vii.

Ritsuka doesn't like birds.

"Not caged ones," Ritsuka says, as if that word makes all the difference. He glances at them from where they are in their cages. Ritsuka doesn't press his nose against the glass like the other kids, a sad disdain in his eyes as he looks at the little kids squeal in delight at the animals trapped there.

"Ah," Soubi answers as he takes out his smokes.

Ritsuka looks at him, glares, looks away, and then he glances at him again. His ears are twitching against his hair, and when Soubi doesn't say anything else, he snaps a: "What?"

"Would you rather the birds die?" Soubi asks, and there's genuine curiosity in his voice.

"What? No! I never said anything about them dying!"

"Mmm, but these birds, they wouldn't survive if they were free," Soubi says. "They were brought to be inside their cages. They need someone to own them so they can be singular. If they weren't in cages, most of them would die."

Ritsuka's ears, already low, press against his hair in his misery. Soubi doesn't stop himself: he reaches with his free hand and he puts his hand on Ritsuka's head, rubs his fingers against the base of a silky ear and Ritsuka actually stays there for a few minutes before he glares up at him, pushing his hand away.

"Stop making everything about that!" Ritsuka says, a faint blush on his face before he walks away.

Soubi stops himself from asking if it was an order, and instead he chuckles, following Ritsuka, three steps behind him.

viii.

Soubi draws a bird then, perched upon a branch. It's probably autumn or early spring: there's barely any leaves there, and the light is barely there. It's quietly simply, hues of blues and browns and a little red to the bird's chest.

Kio acclaims the miracle that he didn't draw a butterfly, and Ritsuka stares at the bird upon it's branch for long enough that he even reaches towards the painting before remembering it's not real. He blushes then, curls his fingers, and he looks away, but Sobui keeps the memory of his eyes upon the bird with its folded wings, as if the little bird couldn't decide if it should try flying or not.

ix.

"Words aren't memories," Ritsuka says. They go away, there's no proof that they were ever there, they run away with the wind, like blood. There's something terribly small in his voice, a sort of fragility that, Soubi thinks, few people, if any, get to listen. "They can't be. Because words are lies."

"Not every word is a lie," Soubi offers, the last smoke of his cigarette fading away.

"Most of them are," Ritsuka says, his profile against the light of the window.

'Seimei' and 'Beloved' wait in the space between them, and suddenly even that seems like too much.
Soubi moves and kneels by his Ritsuka's side, takes his hand and presses his lips to the back of his fingers, feels the way how they twitch at Ritsuka's surprise.

"W-what--" Ritsuka starts. Soubi doesn't have to look up to know he's blushing. "Soubi!"

'LOVELESS' is a lie, for all that it's Ritsuka's name, for all that might get to be his, if Ritsuka eventually has him. But 'Ritsuka' isn't a lie. Not for him.

x.

There is this moment, just before Ritsuka wakes up, that Soubi craves for everyday, even though he has only seen it once: Ritsuka curled on his side, mouth barely open, a hand to his face, fingers barely twitching a little, as if they were holding on to something (to someone, perhaps? Perhaps, yes, perhaps), and Ritsuka's expression is unguarded, and free. His ears twitch as well, acknowledging the noises of a brand new day.

Soubi had hurt from resisting the urge to kiss Ritsuka's mouth, his trembling eyelids, his nose; from wondering if there was any chance at all that Ritsuka might be dreaming about him at all. It hurt, somewhere between his heart and lungs, like a needle, and sometimes it still does, a little pinch that chases his breath away, every now and then.

xi.

Soubi loves Ritsuka. He's sure of this. He loved him even before Ritsuka claimed him, before he was Called, and his heart never felt as it did after Ritsuka claimed him, bonding them together not in pain, not in regret, but in something else, something much frailer, much softer.

Soubi adored Seimei. He knows this. Seimei was the sun, was the air, was the water. Soubi existed because Seimei existed, and Seimei's words were law. And if he feared Seimei, too, that was okay: Seimei was a god, and the adoration of any god should be mixed with equal parts of fervor and fear.

He shouldn't feel one of these emotions, but he doesn't know which one. He can't make these two paradoxes work, and so he hurts Ritsuka. Seimei's orders are to be obeyed even against Ritsuka's hurt eyes, and so Seimei's orders cut him deep, proving just how weak he is.

xii.

"Sleep," Ritsuka says. Orders, even, and Soubi knows enough of orders to know that edge to the phrase. Soubi would wonder if Ritsuka noticed at all that he gave the order, would ask for more orders, for a punishment for having failed before.

But he's tired, strung too tight, and he knows him well enough to know that he's not himself, right then. Or perhaps he is himself, weak and unwanted, and the only thing that keeps him together is Ritsuka's voice, Ritsuka's almost careless order. So he takes off his shoes and glasses, doesn't even move to take the clothes the Zero gave him and he just lifts the covers and lays down besides Ritsuka, who is a warm line besides himself.

"Soubi?" Ritsuka asks. He sounds exhausted, only exhausted. Soubi tries to remember what he knows about shock.

"Yes?"

The mattress creaks when Ritsuka pushes himself up, and Soubi forgets how to breath when Ritsuka's lips touch his. It's not the first time he has kissed him, but it's the first time Ritsuka does so outside of a battle. His eyes are closed but Soubi can't bring himself to close his, so he takes notice of the secret, almost fragile look Ritsuka's face has then.

Ritsuka breaks apart and he looks at him for a moment, and Soubi almost questions him, what do you see. But then Ritsuka huffs and he doesn't smile, not really, but it's as if something in his eyes went down, for a moment.

"Sleep already, idiot," Ritsuka tells him, and this time it's not an order, but when Ritsuka rolls to his side, Soubi does the same, moving his arm around Ritsuka, wrapped around him, his hand loosely closed against Ritsuka's chest.

Ritsuka sighs, but before Soubi can move away, one of Ritsuka's small hands move to hold his hand, and Soubi falls asleep just like that.

xiii.

Soubi loves Ritsuka. He can't deny this, can't negotiate around this fact. It's not his only truth, and he knows this is a fault.

But perhaps - only perhaps - the fact that he loves him, might be enough.