Disclaimer: Persona 3 isn't mine. I just like playing in ATLUS' sandbox.

Warnings: Sex, and some mild hand fetishism.

Notes: Consent is sexy. :D

Gentle Strength

Sometimes, you wonder if it's normal to be so tired all the time - but given that these thoughts usually come right before you fall asleep, they never last long.

Tartarus always seems to give everyone else a buzz that doesn't wear off until long after the last fight is over, but you generally feel just the opposite; once you no longer need to stay awake to stay alive, you can barely manage to get up to your room before passing out cold until morning. Sometimes even that's asking a little too much.

On nights when the guardian Shadows take a special interest in making your life hell - when you don't so much fight as sit on the ground and wonder when the room will stop spinning so you can get back up again - two more flights of stairs seem about as easy to climb as a sheer cliff face, and the couches in the lounge are irresistible. You always mean to just sit down for a minute or two to catch your breath... but, somehow, your body never listens.

Tonight, it's been one of those nights.

You snap awake at two AM and for a second you don't know why, or where you are, and it's not until your fist connects with something that doesn't feel anything like a Shadow that your head clears a little. If you have to go around accidentally punching your teammates in the face you guess Akihiko is probably the best target, but you still feel pretty bad about it - and it doesn't help that you can hear Shinjiro laughing somewhere out of your line of sight.

"You've got good aim. Maybe you should take up boxing instead of kendo." Akihiko's laughing too, but good-naturedly, and he offers you a hand, pulls you to your feet, and holds you steady when you wobble. "Don't sweat it. Think you can make it upstairs on your own, sleepyhead? Or should I carry you?"

"He'll do it, too," Shinjiro calls from the other side of the lounge, and even though Akihiko sounded like he was joking you don't really want to find out for certain. Your aching muscles scream in protest as you head for the stairs, but you manage to stay on your feet. Akihiko grabs your stuff from beside the couch and follows.

Making it to your room seems to take about forever, and by the time you manage it you've gotten used to Akihiko's arm around your waist to keep you from falling. As you fumble with the door, you ask - almost without thinking - if he'll stay with you. Akihiko's never been in your room before; you've always gone to Akihiko's when you've felt like being with him. But right now you're pretty sure you'll just curl up and die if you have to walk another step.

Akihiko closes his hand over yours and helps you get the door open, and he doesn't leave once he's set your stuff down inside.

It's not that you mind being alone. Most nights it's nice to have a little time for you and only you, when you give so much of yourself to so many people every day. But sometimes... sometimes, you just want a reminder that there are people willing to give themselves to you, too, and there's no one whose mere presence makes you feel safer and more cared for than Akihiko's.

You murmur a few words of thanks just to hear Akihiko's "Don't mention it," and when you stumbles on the way to the bed Akihiko is there to hold you steady. It would be sort of embarrassing if anyone else were around, but when it's just the two of you... it's different. So you don't complain when he doesn't let go, and when he starts to help you out of your jacket you can't help but smile.

Akihiko's such a gentleman, and it seems to come out the most around you. Maybe it's because you aren't a girl, so he doesn't freeze up and get all awkward - or maybe it's just because.

He stops just short of tucking you into bed once you're undressed, but he does sit down on the edge of it. "Want me to stay until you fall asleep? Not that it'll take long," and he laughs, entirely good-naturedly, and you smile along with him because he's right. Sometimes you think that if you didn't have friends and lovers and teammates to take care of, you might just be tempted to sleep forever, and even then you don't think you'd feel rested.

Tonight, though... things are different tonight, now that Akihiko's here with you. Just rolling over and falling asleep would be a waste. A little too tired for eloquently confessing your desire, you settle for tugging at Akihiko's vest until he gets the hint and takes it off himself. It's more entertaining this way, anyway; you get to watch Akihiko start off confused, then shift through embarrassed and uncertain before deciding that yes, you really are saying that you want him to get naked already.

"Would it kill you to use words once in a while?" But to show he has no hard feelings he leans down for a kiss.

He only kisses your cheek, at first, a feather-light brush of his lips against your skin as he lies down beside you. Your cheek, your forehead, even the tip of your nose, which makes you laugh a little, but you don't mind it. Not at all.

Only a few hours ago those gentle lips were shouting vulgarities at Shadows. The gloved hand that lovingly cups your cheek was a weapon, as deadly as any sword. But unlike your weapon of choice, his can serve any purpose at a moment's notice - from killing Shadows to caressing you.

It's hard to decide which you prefer.

Akihiko takes a break from showering you with kisses to pull away and pull off his shirt. Before he can start on his pants, you reach out and grab his hand, trying with sleepy, clumsy fingers to pull off his glove.

"Hey -" He frowns, puzzled, and tries to pull his hand away, but you can be persistent when you want to. "Minato, why...?" You just shake your head and, finally, succeed at your little task, tossing the glove aside and taking Akihiko's hand in both your own. It's not something you can explain, at least not without sounding just a little crazy.

You just... like the way it feels to really touch him, skin to skin, without that leather barrier between. You like the coarseness of his skin; his rough, scarred knuckles; the way you can look at his hands and know that they are weapons, just as surely as you can look at your sword and know the same. They're something to be treated with the utmost care and respect, like any weapon, but not something to be feared.

None of that is the kind of thing that you could possibly express in words, especially not now. So you lower your head and kiss his knuckles instead, each one in turn, and smile against his skin when he laughs and pulls you closer. As you continue to lavish attention upon him his other hand gets up to mischief, sneaking down into your boxers, and even there, against your stomach and thighs, you can feel the calluses.

"You okay with this?" he asks, his fingers curling gently around your cock.

In battle, he fights at your command, and here in bed he refuses to act without your explicit consent; he really is a gentleman through and through, des[ite the rough edges. Yes, you whisper against his palm, yes, you're okay with this. What you can't say, because you can't find the words, is how nice it is that he asks, every time, never taking your willingness for granted.

There's something very sad about that if you look too deeply. It's a bittersweet feeling, knowing both that he cares so much and that he must be frightened, somewhere deep inside, that you'll say no.

He jerks you off slowly but not too gently, his grip just firm enough to distract you from planting a trail of kisses up his arm. You bury your face in his shoulder and bite your lip, because the walls are thin and sound carries in the dorm, and melt into his touch. He knows exactly how to touch you, remembers that you like it slow and lazy and unrushed, pleasure creeping up your spine and pooling hot and heavy in your stomach.

Suddenly, he stops.

You lift your head to ask why, but before your fuzzy, sleepy head can wrap itself around words Akihiko puts his fingers to your lips to shush you. "Open up," he coaxes, and you finally get the picture, parting your lips to suck his fingers into your mouth and coat them in saliva. It's not just for your own comfort's sake that you're thorough, swirling your tongue in careful little spirals down each finger to the base; it makes him laugh, and that just about makes your night. Sex is better when you can laugh about it.

Once you let his fingers go he's quick to reach down again, trailing them lightly down your cock and making you shiver with want. "Ready?" - and when you nod, he kisses your forehead and pushes two fingers inside all at once.

The rhythm he falls into now is different, quicker, but no less careful than before. His fingers rock in and out of you in small, shallow movements, just enough to rub against sensitive nerves and send you arching up into his other hand, curled around your cock. Up and back. Over and over, for the few minutes you can hold out before it overwhelms you and -

You come hard, clutching Akihiko's shoulders and moaning against his throat.

When you can sort think again he's already getting you cleaned up, and before you can quite remember how to work your limbs he's pulling the blankets over you and putting you to bed. "You owe me one," he jokes, and you could force yourself to stay awake long enough to return the favor, but you know he won't resent you if you don't, and you're just so tired...

"Get some sleep, leader. You've earned it."

Tomorrow night you'll go to Tartarus again, and you'll watch him fight, and be awed, as you always are, by the strength and fury in those hands; then you'll stay awake long enough for him to take you to his room (you will!) and remind him that he isn't the only one who can be astonishingly gentle when the occasion calls for it.

But for right now, all you have the energy left to do is sleep.