Disclaimer: If Ninja Assassin was mine, it would have had a very different ending.


Essential

I cannot stop touching him.

It has almost become an obsession, this constant, burning need to feel Raizo's glorious, golden skin against mine, but it is one that I refuse to relinquish. I kneel beside him on our bed as he takes a rare nap on a quiet, rainy Sunday afternoon, his mind and body weary after a prolonged mission in some far-off land. He is lying on his stomach, his handsome face vulnerable in repose, the thick, silky hair that I love to twirl around my fingers spilling across the light-blue pillowcase like the blackest, richest ink.

He has been back in Berlin for less than a day, and I revel in his presence, feeling almost lightheaded with joy that he is here with me again, warm, solid, safe. The angry, steel-gray sky outside the open window mutes the natural light in the bedroom, but in no way hinders the sight of the long, muscular form stretched out before me. Running my eyes down the length of his body, I admire him as a connoisseur would a priceless work of art; his beauty is so all-encompassing that there is no word in any language in the world to describe it.

I watch him for as long as I am able to resist his pull, before the longing to physically connect with him overwhelms me. Unashamed by my weakness, I lean over him and reach out an eager hand to map the splendor that is my lover, the man whom I have come to love more than I have ever thought possible.

When my fingers finally make contact with his warm, firm skin I release a deep sigh of contentment, the tactile sensation of simply touching him a soothing balm to my wounded spirit. In our six months together, I have learned that I need to perform this ritual like I need to take my next breath. When he returns home to me, his body often bearing healing cuts and fresh bruises, I need to touch him, to feel him, to reassure myself beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is really here, that he is truly unharmed.

It is silly of me, I know, but it is the one vice that I allow myself without shame.

As always, my first few caresses are tentative before I remember that my hesitance is unnecessary. Raizo is deeply asleep, and it will take much more than my light touches to rouse him. Though he is a notoriously light sleeper, he has told me in no uncertain terms that his trust in me is so absolute that he fully abandons himself to slumber when I am near. The memory of this warms me and I smile softly; it is one of the most romantic things that he has ever said.

I begin my journey at the nape of his neck, twining impatient fingers through the sleek, dark strands of hair that cling there, brushing my palms over the wide lines of his shoulders, tracing sweeping loops over the large, hard muscles in his biceps with soft, loving strokes.

My hands finally alight in the center of his back, my fingers spreading wide as I stare in wonder and appreciation at its sheer breadth. I can't avoid seeing the numerous scars that snake across his skin like broken paths, but I force myself to ignore them for now. As is their due, I always save them for last.

As if I have all the time in the world, I languidly seek out all of my favorite places on his body: his full, perfect lips, the kissable indent at the small of his back, the adorable twin dimples in his buttocks that are hiding just below the waistband of his black, boxer-briefs, the rock-hard muscles in his long legs, the sexy notches on his sides where hips meet thighs. I am insatiable, greedily taking my fill before I sit back and gaze at him again, my heart swelling with a heady combination of exhilaration and lust as I try to rein in the temptation to do naughty things to him in his sleep. I allow myself a moment to wallow shamelessly in the superficial, for I know that the most important part of my journey has finally arrived.

Solemnly, I turn my attention to the multitude of scar tissue that scores his back. I am more than aware that most people find the puckered, raised flesh repulsive, but in my eyes they are among the most beautiful and distinctive things about him. They are meant to signify his failure, but instead bear witness to his inherent strength and unshakable will, to an indomitable spirit that even a tyrant's cruelty has not been able to extinguish.

There are more marks—many more—streaking across his chest, his stomach, his arm, zig-zagging in harsh lines across the soles of his feet. Each one represents its own heartbreaking tale of torture and brutality, and I try not to drown in the wave of hatred that I can feel wash over me.

"Mika." Raizo's deep, quiet voice pulls me out of my dark thoughts, his light, prodding tone informing me that he has had to call my name more than once.

"I didn't mean to wake you," I tell him, trying to keep my own voice light.

"You're always free to wake me, Mika," he reminds me gently. A playful smile tugs at one corner of his mouth, and there is a definite teasing glint in his dark eyes as he rolls gracefully onto his side to face me.

"I know, but you need to sleep." I lay a hand on the trim line of his hip. "I can almost guarantee that you didn't get enough while you were gone."

He props himself up on a forearm and studies my face carefully. As always, he is able to discern even the smallest changes in my demeanor and immediately knows that I'm upset. After a long silent moment, he pats the empty space beside him. "I always sleep better when you're next to me."

Without hesitation, I slide up beside him and he wraps a large hand around the nape of my neck, pulling me in for a deep, toe-curling kiss. I want more, can sense that he does too, but I reluctantly defer to the fatigue in eyes that are still tired from too-little sleep.

"Later," I murmur against his lips, and my body tingles pleasantly as his weary gaze glitters with promise.

"Don't worry," he says with a mischievous grin as he curves his body around me, "I'll give you a personal wake-up call."

I laugh softly as he pulls me firmly back against his hard chest; the hem of the sizable, black Henley that still bears his scent rides up my bare legs as he rests a possessive hand on my hip and lays one heavy, naked thigh across both of mine.

"Are you alright?" he asks, his warm breath tickling the shell of my ear.

"Yes," I answer truthfully, "I am now."

I can tell that my answer does not fully satisfy him, that he wants to press me for more, but he lets it go. At least for now. As is his way, he will bring up the subject again later, but for now, I'm glad that he has decided not to question me further. The last thing that I want is Lord Ozunu's memory here in the room with us, spoiling our time together. The evil clan leader has done enough damage in life...I refuse to give him that same power in death.

We lay quietly, listening to the soothing sound of the rain pattering against the window, pretending that we are the only two people left in the entire world. Eventually, Raizo's breathing evens out and his body relaxes against mine as he drifts off to sleep once more.

My last thought before I follow him is of our incredible, unlikely journey and how much he has come to mean to me in so short a time. He has become essential, and like the air that I breathe, his love is a lifeline.

He is my ninja warrior, my friend, my lover.

He is my life; he is my love.

He is magnificent.

And he is mine.

~The End~