By Masumi's Sword

Synopsis: This fic takes place eight years after the last of the manga that has been subbed so far (Volume 9). Ritsuka is now twenty years-old, a university student, and he has not seen Soubi for eight years. Since the entire story of Seimei, Ritsu and Septimal Moon has not yet been told, I've had to use my imagination a bit to fill in events that happen in the past. The story will be told in flashbacks and in the current timeline moving forward.

Pairings: SoubiXRitsuka. Yaoi. Yes, this fic revolves around a relationship, physical and otherwise, between two men!

Rating: "T" for language and sexual situations. I will publish uncut versions of lemons on my Rukilex account on Deviant Art that exceed the "T" rating.

Author's Note: This is my first story for "Loveless." I had not intended to write a new story while I was still working on my Bleach stories, but Soubi and Ritsuka kept whispering in my brain, and, rather than ignore their voices, I indulged them. For those of my readers who don't know the "Loveless" fandom, I highly recommend watching the "Loveless" anime series – I think you'll fall in love with these characters and this universe as well. And, once you have fallen in love with Ritsuka and Soubi, be sure to read the manga as well!

If you like Bleach, or are interested in my other stories, I also write under the name Rukilex on Fanfiction! Check out my profile for links. And thanks for reading! -Lex

Prologue: On the Brink

He stood on the landing of the small apartment building on the outskirts of Kyoto, a tall, confident young man with a lean athletic build, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt, a small duffel bag over one shoulder. There was no name on the apartment door, just the number "12" painted on a small wooden plaque affixed to it. Aoyagi Ritsuka ran a hand through his shoulder-length black hair and took a deep breath.

Eight years. Had it really been that long? On the train ride from Tokyo, Ritsuka had marveled at how quickly the time had passed.

"I never want to see you again. That's an order."

Even now, those words, spoken eight years ago, reverberated through his mind like a silent mantra. There had been many commands which Soubi had conveniently ignored; he had not, in the end, ignored this particular one.

Ritsuka took another deep breath and knocked on the door.

The sound of soft footfalls, bare feet on a wooden floor, the sound of a handle turning, and then they stood, eye to eye.

"Ritsuka." Warm brown eyes met cool blue. There was surprise on the older man's face – surprise, and pleasure.

"May I come in?" Ritsuka asked, simply.

"Of course, Ritsuka," Soubi answered, smiling and gesturing inside.

Ritsuka walked soundlessly into the small apartment – it was, unsurprisingly, sparsely furnished. Several canvases were laid out on the floor in what appeared to be the living room. Small dishes of paint surrounded the unfinished artwork; here and there, splatters of color interrupted the dull brown floors. The walls were bare, the blinds drawn.

Soubi walked over to the dining area and turned on a light. There was a single photograph on the cluttered table: a boy, dark-haired, his eyes reflecting sadness despite the smile on his face.

"You've changed," Soubi said, glancing from the photograph to the young man who now stood before him. "You are no longer a child."

Ritsuka smiled knowingly. He had lost his ears two years before, in his first year at university. She had been quite beautiful. Red-haired, outgoing, full of life. Everything Soubi was not.

"No," Ritsuka said simply.

Soubi pulled several piles of papers off the small couch near the paintings. "Please have a seat, Ritsuka," he said, his polite formality a reflection of the awkwardness that Ritsuka himself felt.

"Thank you," Ritsuka replied, sitting down.

Soubi walked over to the small refrigerator in the kitchen and retrieved two cans of beer. "Would you like a drink?" Soubi asked.

"Yes, thanks," replied Ritsuka, as Soubi handed one of the cans to him and sat down on the other side of the paintings on a wooden chair.

"Butterflies?" Ritsuka mused, studying the two canvasses on the floor. Cool shades of blue and green created a background like the sea; several large butterflies adorned the corners of one of the paintings, their wings vibrant orange and red.

"Of course," replied Soubi, not looking down. His eyes were fixed on Ritsuka.

"For years, I wondered why you painted them if you hated them so much," said Ritsuka softly.

"And you understand now?"

"Perhaps," replied Ritsuka, opening the beer and taking a sip.

"I hope you will enlighten me sometime," Soubi said, leaning back in the chair.

Ritsuka said nothing.

"It is good to see you, Ritsuka," Soubi continued, unfazed by the silence. "I thought that I would never see you again after Seimei left. I missed you, Ritsuka."

Ritsuka's eyes darkened slightly at the sound of his brother's name. "I didn't believe you would follow my orders when I told you to stay away from me," he said, glancing back down at one of the paintings.

"Have I disappointed you, then?" asked Soubi, a hint of a smile on his lips.

"No," replied Ritsuka. "For once, you kept your word."

"I live for you, Ritsuka," Soubi said simply.

"So you have told me," replied Ritsuka, a hint of weariness in his voice.

"This has always been true," Soubi explained, "no matter what has happened. It is still true."

"You betrayed me, Soubi. In the end, you lived for him, not me." There was no anger on Ritsuka's face, although the brown eyes now reflected the same sadness as the photo of the young boy on the table. Pools of pain that ran deep.

"I have no right to ask for your forgiveness, Ritsuka."

"I forgave you the moment you betrayed me," said Ritsuka, smiling. "Just like I forgave Seimei."

"I love you, Ritsuka," said Soubi, his eyes meeting Ritsuka's with steely determination.

Ritsuka did not immediately reply, but lifted the beer to his lips once more and drank. Then, putting the can on a small table near the couch, he leaned forward, closing some of the distance between them.

"I want you to fight for me, Soubi," he said.

"I am Loveless' fighter," Soubi replied.

"Not for Loveless," Ritsuka retorted, a hint of anger in his voice. "I want you to fight for me, Soubi. For Ritsuka. That is my name."

Soubi smiled, the same coy smile Ritsuka had seen hundreds of times before - a smile that said it all, and still said nothing.

This is why I cannot trust you, Soubi, thought Ritsuka, the familiar pain of betrayal forcing its way to the surface once more, despite his best efforts. He stood up, walked over to the window and peered out at the darkening sky through the wooden slats. At the edge of the horizon were the same colors Ritsuka had admired in the painting minutes before – reds, fuchsias, oranges.

Soubi stood up and walked over to the window, stopping several feet behind Ritsuka. Ritsuka turned to face Soubi, narrowed his eyes and frowned. Then, looking into those cool blue eyes, he asked, "Do you really love me, Soubi?"

"Always," Soubi replied, reaching out and running graceful fingers through Ritsuka's hair.

In spite of himself, Ritsuka's eyes closed at the touch.

"I want to see him. I don't want to see him." How many times had he experienced that same thought? Eight years ago, the dichotomy of his feelings for Soubi had been a constant source of distraction in Ritsuka's life. But now…

I am no longer a child, he thought with some sadness, as his eyes met Soubi's. He felt a strong urge to feel the warmth of Soubi's arms around him, to put his head against Soubi's chest, to feel safe within those arms once again.

You learned years ago that you cannot go back; the only way is forward. You finally accepted that you could not be the Ritsuka your mother remembered; you must accept that you cannot now become the child Soubi once knew.

"When I was young, I didn't understand when the others showed me their names," Ritsuka said, his hand reaching for Soubi's neck, gently touching the place where he knew Seimei had carved the word 'Beloved' into that pale flesh. "I didn't understand why they would care if the name appeared on their skin. What good was trying to understand something like that - something over which I had no control?"

Soubi was silent.

"I never wondered why 'Loveless' did not appear on my body," Ritsuka continued, resting his hand now on Soubi's neck, "because I didn't care if it was there, Soubi. I am not 'Loveless'. If I am to fight as your sacrifice, then it will be my decision, my choice. If you are to be my fighter, it is because you choose to fight for me."

"And what have you chosen?" Soubi asked, clearly intrigued.

"I have chosen to fight with you, Soubi," Ritsuka replied, feeling his eyes well up with tears.

Soubi reached up and brushed a single tear from Ritsuka's cheek.

"So what is your answer, Soubi? Will you fight for me?" Ritsuka asked a for a second time. "Will you fight for me? For Ritsuka?"

Before Soubi could respond, Ritsuka reached over to his right arm and, with some trepidation, pulled gently at the bottom of his sleeve.

"I have chosen you," Ritsuka repeated, his voice strong, insistent.

Slowly, Ritsuka pulled his sleeve upwards to reveal the bare skin of his forearm. Soubi's eyes widened in astonishment. There, tattooed on the soft flesh of Ritsuka's forearm was a single name: 'Soubi'.

"I have chosen you, Soubi."

Author's Note: Hope you enjoyed the prologue. I hope to update this story at least every 2-3 weeks and hopefully sooner. Please let me know if you liked it! Reviews always make me smile. Until the next update, thanks! -Lex