Title: Confession
Rating: M
Genre: Romance, PWP, fluff
Universe: AR (alternate reality)
Length: approx... 5,800 words
Pairing/moresome: Kouyuu x Shuurei x Shuei

Disclaimer: SaiMono is copyright its proper rightsholders.

AN: Happy (belated! Urk, sorry!) Birthday, imanewme! And happy birthday, saiun_challenge!

The shadows were lengthening, and Shuurei glanced up to see she was alone in the office. After working diligently for hours on her report, compiling and calculating statistics and evidence for the child-smuggling group she was assigned to investigate, she felt the tight, uncomfortable pangs of hunger deep in her stomach. With a sigh she collected her papers and tools together, and locked them securely in her cabinet. Next, she wrapped up the duplicates and carried them in her satchel, and with a quick puff to put out the light, closed and locked the door behind her. Seiga had been absent on some kind of undercover mission for the past few days, and she'd finally been able to work uninterrupted on her assignment. It had been heavenly. The insufferable bastard was due back in another day or so, though, and she fully expected a new round in his sneering commentary on her personal life to begin once he set foot back inside their department. She would have to do something about it, since ignoring him wasn't getting her point across to him, but she was at a loss as to what. At least soon her report would be ready and she'd be able to move on to a new assignment-that would mean more time out in the field again, which she had missed. Shuei had smirked when he'd figured out how much she enjoyed being "away from her desk job," as he'd called it.

"I happen to find it-."

"Absolutely. Enthralling," Shuei had leaned in to whisper against her ear. When he pulled back, their eyes met, held. He couldn't help the rush of pure, masculine pride that coursed through him at her darkening eyes. "Ahhh... You get a rush from hunting them down and bringing them to justice, don't you, hmmm? You feel alive when on an adventure."

She'd blushed, and folded her arms across her chest. "And if I do?"

He'd smirked smugly and, reaching behind him, pulled out and handed her a set of weighted practice daggers, followed by a wooden sword. "In that case, we need to make sure you can take care of yourself, don't we?"

Surprised, she'd stared up at him, unsure and confused.

Shuei shook his head and with a patient sigh, brought her petite hands up to clasp the weapons. "Please, humour me so I worry just a little bit less. Have some sympathy for your poor, beleaguered husbands who lie awake waiting for you late at night."

"You'll teach me?"

He nodded, serious for once. "Everything you need to know. And more," he promised.

Her smile had broadcast her gratitude-and excitement-at his protective, and in its own way, affectionate, gesture.

Of course, it had led to daily practice with the weapons, and physical exercise, and martial arts training in hand-to-hand combat, too, in an effort to bring her skills up to par. Thriving on the challenge, she had gone at him with everything she had, and... he'd responded with everything he had, too. And 'respond' had been the word; what had started as personal, private lessons had flared into heated exchanges, then into physical ones. Now when they sparred, it was passionate foreplay as much as skill and technique. And they couldn't practice outside their home anymore; that was for sure, after a certain incident...

"You'll teach me more?" she'd gasped, arching into him.

"More," he'd assured her, and stifled a groan as he'd moved within her.

"More," she repeated, demanded, her fingers tangling in his long, dark, silky hair. Their eyes met, his looking down at her as her own hair was splayed out in tussled tangles on the grass beneath them.

His eyes never left hers. "So much more," he's whispered meaningfully, almost painfully, leaning his forehead against hers. "Always."

Her mouth had gone dry at the way he'd said it.

What was he... ?

When had it changed from a marriage of convenience to...

Shuurei couldn't bring herself to say it, fear cloying in her throat.

"Shuei?" She'd managed, a heartbeat later.

He'd paused before finally smirking to himself in self-defeat, and heaving a sigh, shook his head as if he couldn't believe it himself. Then he smiled softly down at her, bathed in the bright afternoon sunlight, pure adoration in his eyes; he brushed his lips against hers, and said, "How do you not already know I love you, Shuurei?" before he sealed his vow with a kiss.

It had taken her a moment to overcome her sheer surprise; but when she finally did and reciprocated, he moaned appreciatively into her mouth, deepening the kiss until Shuurei felt her toes curling, desire coursing through her in hot, rolling waves. Her hips had risen instinctively to welcome him more deeply home. He hadn't missed her reaction, and as he gradually picked up his pace again she felt him smirk into the crook of her neck with a mixture of satisfaction and relief when she gasped at the feeling of him touching her inside, all over again. The man was the living incarnation of love and sin.

Remembering the moment they'd shared, when she'd truly understood Shuei cared for her and her wellbeing as his wife and not simply as his friend made her smile as she strode down the hallway. It had been a few days since their last round of lessons... and she wondered briefly if Kouyuu was interested in learning swordplay with them. Maybe she could talk him into it? she considered as a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she came back to herself. Then again, sometimes it was nice to have something just between two of them, that wasn't necessarily shared with the other. Something special which was simply theirs.

Another long, satisfying day of progress under her belt, and Shuurei rounded the corner before Kouyuu's office in the Civil Affairs department. At Shuei's suggestion, they'd worked out that the best arrangement was for her to collect Kouyuu after their day was done, since it was on her way out of the palace towards their home.

Shuurei had readily agreed (despite Kouyuu protesting loudly he didn't need an escort) and admitted privately to herself that it was adorable the way Kouyuu's expression softened into a smile when she would arrive each night, regardless of his original opposition. Just seeing the expectant, faintly eager tilt to his eyebrows (when he heard her coming), or his lips parted slightly in pleased surprise (when she'd be able to sneak up on him - or deliberately tear him away from his piles of work when he was far too engrossed in it for his own good, not that she was any better), made her heart swell with warmth and affection for him.

But when she met him that night, he was in a terrible mood.

"Why did they think it was acceptable to do this? WHY?" He raged, ripping at his own (now completely dishevelled) hair. Kouyuu stared down at the document in his hand, completely flabbergasted. "And how are we going to fix it now, now that we no longer have the other..." His words trailed off in mixed mutterings.

He'd sent the last of the aids home at least an hour ago, and had been pouring over the latest disaster ever since, determined to come up with at least some form of plausible explanation before the next assembly.

But every solution he'd considered had failed him when he'd pursued it beyond its initial stages. After missing his lunch and supper because of the issue, he was tired and frustrated, and overall just cranky.

So distracted was he that he didn't realise the time, or recognise the approaching footsteps and knock at his office door.

"Are you ready to go?"

"Of course not! Can't you see I'm working!" he'd snapped, not even properly hearing the feminine voice from the doorway.

The soft, light footsteps had paused where they were.

"Go away, or I'll have you suspended," he barked, his hand running through and tugging painfully on his loose hair. His tie had fallen out long ago; he hadn't bothered to pick it up again.


He whirled around then, his eyes murderous-"Did you not-," then stopped dead. "Oh Shuurei, I'm... I didn't realise it was you," he stumbled, embarrassed and awkward, his shoulders slumping.

She nodded, and as he stepped back, she made her way into his paper-strewn office. It was like someone had waged war on the archives, there were books and scrolls and loose sheets everywhere. His usually neat piles had scattered to all corners of the room... and she hoped it was just her eyes playing tricks on her, but she was almost sure that the paper-carpet in the far corner had just moved on its own.

Hearing her husband's deep sigh, she let him be and set about picking up the detritus, starting from one side of the room and making her way over, sorting as she went. He wasn't ready to leave; they had learned to choose their battles with each other. A paper wasn't worth an argument.

Back at his desk, his back to her, Kouyuu went back to staring at his work with unfocused eyes.

Why couldn't he figure it out?

Over and over the scenarios played out in his head, each time reaching a dead end.

Sometime later-he must have drifted off, as he couldn't remember what his last thought was-Kouyuu felt the cool touch of fingertips against his forehead, smoothing away some of his shaggy bangs, and gently running down to cup his cheek.

"Are you ready to come home for supper now?" she asked, her voice tired and quiet, before swallowing a yawn. In her small hand she held out his hair-tie, and he took it from her wordlessly to tidy himself.

It was then that Kouyuu realised it was fully dark in his office.

He hadn't made a dent in his work.

His wife, who'd already had her own full day of work-and been on the receiving end of his earlier tantrum-had spent the last who-only-knew-how-long cleaning his office (and re-organizing his work), was now gently rubbing his aching head and begging to go home so she could rest.

But she wouldn't leave him.

He felt like a heel.

Swallowing tightly at the shame that burned his chest, Kouyuu leaned forward in his seat and wrapped his arms around Shuurei's waist, tugging her close to him until she stood between his knees and he could bury his face in her soft silken robes.

"I'm sorry," he murmured.

Threading her hands in his hair, and finger-picking out some of the tangles he'd inflicted upon himself when he'd hastily re-tied it, she sighed and leaned forward into him, too. "Bad day?"

He growled in response, and Shuurei couldn't help the grin that spread faintly across her lips.

"I know you didn't mean it, earlier. Stop feeling guilty," she admonished, and let one of her hands drift down to stroke his back. "All right?"


Shaking her head as his voice trailed off, Shuurei almost rolled her eyes. "Have I mentioned my bastard colleague is due back any day now?" she teased, and felt Kouyuu's shoulders tense up beneath her fingers.

"I'll talk to Shuei," her husband promised darkly.

She shook her head and laughed. "No, no, but... I know I'll be a bear in a few days, too. If I can help you for even a little bit, it makes me feel better. And helps relieve some of the guilt I'll feel after the way I'll be acting soon," she admitted wryly.

They shared a small chuckle, and tightened their arms around each other. And Kouyuu raised his head up, straightening slightly to gaze into Shuurei's lovely, loving face. Their faces were inches apart, and he thought that was far too great a distance, so he leaned in, pleased when she instinctively closed the gap between them, too. Their warm breath mingled as he reached up to cup her cheek, smiling against her mouth. The hand at her cheek slid to her throat where he felt her pulse fluttering rapidly, and her breathing increased, further pleasing him.

He loved her so much.

He wanted to tell her.

He finally-overwhelmingly-needed to confess.

So he did.

"It wasn't an accident."

"Hmm?" She tilted her head at him, not understanding what he meant. Her shifting robes had muffled his words; had she misunderstood?

"The meeting that you, Shuei and I had, where we ended up locked away. The very first night. The one that led to us all getting married. It wasn't an accident."

It was slow, but he felt Shuurei stiffening in his arms.

"... What?"

He refused to let her pull away. It was selfish, wanting to have her so close to him, but he craved her attention, comfort, recognition. So he held fast, even as she tried to turn away from him and distance herself.

It hurt.

"I hadn't meant for things to go the way they did, but I had wanted us to be alone, there."

She stopped moving at his words, simply staring down at him; and he felt his courage wavering, and forced himself to carry on.

"I wanted to talk to you, just the two of us, with no one else there. I wanted you to know, to hear from me, not your father or my father, that I wanted... that I thought..." Struggling to find the words, he sighed harshly, his grasp tightening on her waist, "I wanted to ask you if you would consider me a suitor, with the intention of marriage."

Still held in his grip, Shuurei said nothing, too shocked to form words. The air caught in her throat and she forgot to breathe. Kouyuu noticed her lack of exhale, but said nothing.

Unconsciously Kouyuu fingers kneaded the skin of her sides, the silk under his fingers wrinkling with the force of his grip, his anxiety and guilt manifesting themselves painfully for them both.

"When I tutored you, Shuurei, before you joined the palace, you made me realise not all women were useless; when I bandaged your hands, when you were assigned to work in the men's room, you made me recognise your determination and integrity; and when you gave yourself to Shuei and I, that night, when you gave us, gave me, that trust, you made me fall in love." He swallowed, steadying himself. "More in love," he amended, his voice slightly thick.

"...I didn't make you do anything," she said uncertainly, after a few minutes of reflection. Which she truly believed; she hadn't thought she'd done anything to... deliberately gain his attention. Had she?

Had she?

"You... before any of this even started, you... cared about me?"

Kouyuu grimaced. "You make it sound like an impossibility."

"No! No, it's just..." Her voice trailed off.

As she distracted herself, he coaxed her into relaxing, sitting down across his lap. With a sigh, she gave in to his earnest efforts to redeem himself, and leaned into his chest, tucking her head beneath his chin.

Kouyuu let himself relax, too, and let out a low breath of relief. He closed his tired eyes. And he admitted it was almost amusing, looking back on how things had been between them. "Certain individuals close to you had made it very clear that you were not meant for mere mortals. They considered you a fine painting, to be admired. Preferably from afar, behind a glass case, with heavy security to surround you at all times."

"Really? I know Seiran looked out for me sometimes, but-."

"Please take my word for it," he insisted, deep feeling imbued in every word. "Every time when even I came to tutor you, Seiran had conveniently dug a deep, fresh hole in the yard outside your window and left the shovel stuck handle-up in warning, within plain view."

Shuurei pulled back to look at him askance.

Kouyuu nodded his head vigorously.

"I don't believe you."

"Speak to Shuei—he has plenty of stories about Seiran and his reputation as a soldier," Kouyuu assured her. "What happens in the Uringun normally stays in the Uringun, but Seiran's built himself a demonic reputation there."

Shuurei shook her head and felt a grin pull at her lips even as her eyebrow quirked upwards in disbelief. "No, Seiran's a big pushover."

Deciding to subtly shift the focus of the conversation away from Shuurei's overprotective retainer, Kouyuu nodded noncommittally and gave Shuurei's petite hands a quick squeeze. "Aah. It's late. I'm ready to head home now. Thank you for waiting for me."

Rising to stand, Shuurei turned to pull him up, too.

"Home," she agreed.

"Bed," he added wistfully as he closed his ledger, and wrapped an arm around her waist again. He couldn't stop touching her, or let go of her tonight. And what had started innocently enough was causing the warmth to build within him now.

When he leaned down to kiss his wife chastely on the cheek, he couldn't stop himself from taking it just a step further, continuing the kiss down the outside of her pale, soft-skinned throat. Shuurei's tiny, panting breath thrilled him more than it should have.

As they exited the palace, Kouyuu uncharacteristically called a carriage to ensure their safe—and expedited—return home. He didn't let go of her hand the entire journey.

They skipped supper when they arrived at the Kou residence.

Not that they didn't try—but both seemed to have become clumsy in their exhaustion, and fumbled down the hallway to their bedroom instead of trying to force themselves into conjuring a form of meal neither was interested in consuming.

Shuei was still absent, and for the first time neither questioned or wondered about his disappearance, too preoccupied with their own thoughts.

Kouyuu kept his hand on Shuurei's lower back, guiding her with nervous anticipation to their room. His heart was ready to burst in his chest, and he couldn't figure out where the anxiety stemmed from—whether it was from his earlier confession, the eagerness their couplings always aroused, or the fringes of guilt that still hung around his heart, he wasn't sure. Perhaps it was that he wanted more acknowledgement from her; whether he sought to have her forgiveness for how he'd originally manipulated her into his arms, their very first night together, with Shuei, in the forgotten Saiunpornium, or whether he wished she could just express her own frustration, now that he'd said what he had to say. Yes, the confession, while at work, after both had had a long day, was terribly timed. But something in him had insisted it was the time to tell her, and he couldn't ignore it anymore. He had hoped it would bring them closer together. Instead, now she was near-ignoring him.

How he wanted... Something. Anything. Just... some reaction from her, now that they were in the privacy of their own home. Unsettled, uncertain, unused to his wife leaving things unresolved when it came to their relationship, Kouyuu nearly fidgeted with his urge to clear the air between them. He...

He loved her so much. Had wanted nothing more than to simply be with her. Had tried to communicate that to her, and was left...

He wasn't sure how or what was left.

He wasn't entirely sure there was a problem. But he wasn't sure that things were all set to rights, either.

And now the urge to connect with her, to ensure that there were no outstanding issues, that she still cared for him (that above all) in light of his emotional failure, was starting to overwhelm him again.

"Shuurei," he whispered, gently taking her hand again.

She turned to look up at him, confused.

"I... What I said earlier..." He swallowed. "What do you..."

Kouyuu's words caught in his throat. What was he trying to say?

"Please tell me what you're thinking."

She looked down at her hand, clasped in his, her expression thoughtful, and Kouyuu held his breath, waiting for her to speak.

"I think... you have one of the worst guilt complexes of any man I've ever met, Li Kouyuu," she answered softly, her lips thinning. "And also one of the worst recognition- and acceptance-seeking ones, too."

She heaved a sigh, her shoulders slumping, and pulled her hand from his.

And Kouyuu felt his heart bottom out.


-Until she looked up at him, her eyes dark and shining, her face full of exasperation as she took in his tortured expression.

"You silly man," she groaned, and reached up on her tip-toes so she could wrap her arms around his neck and embrace him. "What am I going to do with you?" She tugged lightly on the loose hair that had slipped from his ponytail, chastising him for his insecurity.

Kouyuu's hands stayed stiff at his sides a moment; it was his turn to be shocked. He'd wanted to hold her all night, and now that he could, now that she was holding him, he felt frozen. Confusion flooded him.

Had anything changed?

Was this forgiveness?

Utterly unsure of where they and their relationship stood, Kouyuu looked down at his wife, his focus entirely on her. "What happened? I thought you were… I wasn't sure if you were angry with me." Hesitantly he drew his arms lightly around her, preparing to have her fend him off again. As anxiety pumped outward from his heart, he rested his hands on her hips.

Beneath his gaze Shuurei sighed, then groaned, before pulling him closer and banging her head lightly against his chest in frustration.

"I am, in a way. Angry with you. Because you manipulated me," she agreed, her voice low. "But I know you did it with the best of, if selfish, intentions, Kouyuu. And you honestly do care about me. And Shuei. The two of you have a bond that's unbreakable, and it's actually flattering to be invited into such a close relationship; to become an equal partner, if you will. I understood that. I know it wasn't an easy decision to make, for either of you, or for me. But that's just it. It was a decision. We made the choice ourselves. And, most importantly, it was my own decision – you always let me make my own decisions. I appreciate that, Kouyuu."

She took a deep breath and Kouyuu held his own as she continued. "So while I'm a bit upset and confused about how I should feel right now, it doesn't change how I feel about you or Shuei, because I honestly am very happy being your wife. In fact, I can't imagine us being anything different. I didn't realise it at first, but you two really… together, we are a family now, aren't we? The three of us?"

Feeling himself nodding mentally, Kouyuu repeated the gesture physically. "Of course."

She nodded into the soft fabric of his under-robe, and he realised finally that she was reassuring herself, too. She had been worried her family life, its stability, was threatened. He almost winced at how little he'd understood her initial reaction. Perhaps he did deserve a good tongue-lashing, for making her worry so much? Not that he thought either would ever give it to him—well, actually, Shuurei might have if she'd been more upset about it. But so far, she seemed to have accepted it. She had continued to cuddle him, which was a very good sign in his opinion, and he let his shoulders relax.

Further reinforcing this relief, then, Kouyuu felt Shuurei's lips move against the skin of his throat inside his collar, a kiss of pure adoration and understanding. And as her arms tightened around the back of his neck, she relaxed and sighed. Peaceful again.

It was all the confirmation he needed, and he brought his arms more fully around her, and held her close, letting his eyes shut as his chin rested atop her silken hair.

Home. Finally.

"I love you," he said quietly into her hair, just for her to hear.

There was a heartbeat's pause, and then…

"L… love y-you, too," she stumbled out, obviously uncomfortable with such confessions.

Her cheek burned against his lower throat, and he realised she was blushing.

… and she wasn't the only one.

It made him smile.

He sat down on their bed, pulling her forward until she stood between his knees as she had when they were in his office earlier that evening. He gazed at her, their heights nearly matching now that he was sitting, and lifted a hand up to cup her cheek. Shuurei felt her heart beat more strongly in her chest at the gentle touch; not that Kouyuu wasn't normally a gentle man with her, but there was something else behind the warmth that sank from his fingertips into her skin in that moment. He finally felt free, relieved of a great secret he'd been guarding from her for so long. And that relief was as tangible to her as it was to him.

With this relief came confidence, and with his confidence returned his earlier stirrings for her. Kouyuu reached his thumb out to stroke slowly along Shuurei's bottom lip, feeling it give ever so slightly beneath his subtle press, revelling in the hint of moisture that gathered just inside.

"I want to be your only husband for tonight."

Her breath exhaled hotly over the pad of his thumb at his low-spoken words; the long, tapered male fingers at her throat felt her heartbeat jump.

"I want all your attention to myself, this time."

Their breath mingled as he leaned forward, running his cheek along hers, breathing her in, and as their bodies got closer, he felt her give a shiver of anticipation. But he was determined in this pursuit.

"I want to show you how much I love you, Shuurei. I want you to feel only me inside you, surrounding you, taking you to your release for once."

They could hear their breathing coming harsher now, both moved by the soft intensity in Kouyuu's words. It was so hard for him to hold back; holding her so close and trying to wait so patiently for her permission to continue. Everything in him surged, demanding he close the gaps between them, but he forced himself to wait. This night, their night, was about taking their time together, and making every moment unforgettable. His goal to sear himself into her memory that night resurfaced, and straining for control, he brought his lips to her ear and whispered,"I want to make love to you tonight, Shuurei."

And when he stopped, he felt her fingers gripping the collar of his robe, her head ducking a moment as she absorbed his husky voice. A moment later, she leaned back to look him in the eye and smile.

"Don't hold back," she replied, her eyes darkening the longer she looked at him.

Kouyuu's hands found Shuurei's waist and lifted, bringing her into his lap before he pulled her legs around his hips so thatshe straddled him on the edge of the bed.

"Come closer," he murmured against her lips.

"Close enough?" She felt his warm hands smoothing up her legs, shifting her layers of silks away.

"No, closer," his lips kissed down her jaw to her throat, hot and wet and possessive; his nimble fingers had snuck beneath the folds of her clothing, loosening them enough so he created a breech just wide enough to continue his mouth's path.

Shuurei tried to swallow a gasp as the fabric parted and the air currents ghosted across her newly exposed skin. Another shiver sent sparks igniting within her when he slid her outer robes off to pool behind her on the floor.

"Touch me," he requested quietly. "Touch only me, tonight."

Smiling softly at his selfish request, an attemptto mask the lingering insecurity he felt, she obliged. Shuurei happily indulged him by bringing her hands to his hair to remove his tie completely, sending his long, shaggy hair tumbling down. She ran her fingers over his scalp, massaging him and combing out the knots, and Kouyuu couldn't help the groan thatescaped his lips.

"Thank you."

"Happy to help," she replied, still smiling, and as his mouth was still occupied at her throat—nearly her chest—she angled herself to kiss his temple in adoration.

Her eager hands didn't stop there, but rather continued on disrobing him as he had done her. Both were eager to feel nothing but their own skin between them, to share a private moment of intimacy.

When Kouyuu took her hips to bring her even closer, Shuurei felt her heartbeat shuddering in her chest; he guided himself in so carefully, mindful of every breath and move she made. As he brought her down upon him and rolled his hips into hers in welcome, Shuurei couldn't help the fluttering in her stomach at the intensity in his eyes as he gazed at her.

"Are you ready?"

Their gaze met and held, dark and shining and wanting. Shuurei nodded.

And soon they were well on their way

As they guided each other, they communicated with gentle touches and hard thrusts, whispered words and wanton cries, so wrapped up in each other that neither noticed how late into the night they moved.

When Kouyuu felt Shuurei's inner walls tightening and spasming around him again in warning of her next release, he realised she was holding her breath, trying to hold it in.

"Let it out," he ordered softly, kissing her hard on the mouth, his tongue meeting hers and drawing her out.

"I'm...," her breathing shuddered, and her eyes clenched shut almost painfully. "I'm..."

Another smooth roll of his hips into her, another kiss. "I want to hear you."

Wrapped up in his embrace, Shuurei looked like she was fighting back tears as the coil tightened within her, straining as her back arched. "It's..." Her words broke off.

His grip tightened around her waist and he brought a hand between them to touch her swollen bud, circling it once, twice, enthralled by the way she suddenly stiffened with the surge in her arousal.

"Don't hold back," he said huskily, repeating her words from earlier.

At that she nearly laughed—until he rub-pressed her most sensitive spot deliberately—and it happened; suddenly, violently, completely overwhelmingly. She lost her breath as she cried out, her small scream of triumph and vulnerability the most erotic music he'd ever heard.

It undid him, and he joined her a moment later, pumping up into her clenching channel with abandon. He felt his lower back tightening and cried out too, muffling himself against her mouth as he kissed her senseless, soaring into oblivion.

Outside their residence, residents stirred and started their day; within the walls of Kou Manor, however, Shuei snuggled into Kouyuu's back the following morning, letting the other man know he'd arrived home safely during the night. A moment of simple domestic bliss they enjoyed more than they'd ever openly admit to each other.

As early morning gave way to later morning, Kouyuu felt his husband stretch beside him and kiss his shoulder in greeting, before seeing the dark-haired man scoot quietly out of bed, tucking the two remaining occupants in again and heading towards the kitchen. Noting that Shuurei still slept quite soundly, Kouyuu decided to go check on Shuei to make sure everything was ok. And possibly make some breakfast; he was starving.

It was akin to a walk of shame as Kouyuu joined Shuei in the kitchen a minute later; Shuei giving him knowing look, but not saying outright anything. (Yet.)

"You arrived in late. Did something happen?"

Shuei shook his head, his hair still loose from sleep. "I'm hoping not anymore. We may need to accompany a few delegates on goodwill missions soon, though, to some of the further borders."

Kouyuu's expression darkened. "And by 'goodwill', you're obviously implying 'subduing rogue warlords with deadly force', aren't you?"

Shuei shrugged. "I was thinking of inviting Shuurei to give her some field experience."

Kouyuu knew he was being teased, but couldn't help his feathers getting ruffled. "You leave her here - it's bad enough she's in back-alleys half the time. Thank the gods you and that Kouchou have most of those areas covered, otherwise out there she'd be too vulnerable. There's a difference between self-defence while on an assignment, and frontal assault while a front-lines soldier. Hmph. And don't you dare wake her up," he said, when Shuei looked towards the hallway that led to their room. "She's been working too hard again."

Shuei hid his smirk at Kouyuu's overprotective instincts. "Well, we can at least talk to her about it when she does wake up. Seiga's due back soon, isn't he? I bet she'd love to take out some of that frustration physically." Then his eyes gleamed and he casually picked up his tea cup. "Speaking of, I don't even remember the last time she slept in past dawn; it has to be close to noon." His indigo eyes laughed at Kouyuu's resulting blush, and the shaggy-haired civil servant turned his back on his husband deliberately, muttering darkly about minding one's own business, and didn't he have a sword to sharpen or an Emperor to body-guard?

"I thought it would be nice to have a morning at home," was all Shuei answered at Kouyuu's grumblings, before he walked over to stand beside him. He recognised that a good deal of the tension that normally hung over his spouse had been released, then, and his eyebrows rose in speculation.

"You told her?"


There was silence as Shuei looked meaningfully at Kouyuu, until Kouyuu sighed and nodded, if a little reluctantly. "She knows about the night in the Saiunpornium not being an accident," he admitted.

Shuei nodded and grinned. "Good man. No wonder you feel better."

Kouyuu just scowled. "Go jump in the pond. Oy! You stay away from that room, she needs her rest, Shuei! Now make yourself useful," he ordered grumpily, and handed him a knife. "Start with the fruit and vegetables, she'll need to eat to regain her strength," he mumbled, slightly flustered.

Shuei chuckled at that, which only made Kouyuu's embarrassment worse. "You don't do anything by halves, do you?"

"Shut up before I cut you!"

AN: Thank you very much, Nikolita, for beta'ing this for me so many times! (Please note that all errors are still my own, though – I did some re-vamping last minute, as usual.) Hope you enjoyed!