Chapter Seventeen: Forgiven

Once Akihiko and Misaki made it to a small clearing at the top of the rocky hill, the boy sat down on the ground up against a small boulder, a shiver coursing through his frame.

"You cold?" Alpha asked, sitting down next to him.

"A little."

Akihiko looked at him sympathetically.

"Well, I'd tell you to sleep next to Hiroki, but Beta says he kicks." He replied, trying to lighten the mood. Misaki smiled briefly, but it fell as he pulled his knees to his chest. Akihiko sighed inwardly. The boy looked so lifeless, like he had given up on himself. What was worse, Akihiko didn't know how to fix him. He had been caught up in the battle against his father and Korovin for so long he barely knew how to process his own emotional baggage. So how could he possibly help a struggling teen like Misaki?

But he knew he had to do something, so he turned to the boy and quietly spoke.

"Misaki, are you doing all right?"

Green eyes lifted briefly but lowered back down as Misaki shrugged.

"I guess. I could ask you the same thing, Alpha."

Akihiko hummed thoughtfully at that one. It was true, he did look like hell lately, with shaky hands and beads of sweat dotting his forehead.

"I'm fine Misaki, believe me." He replied. "The person I'm concerned about is you. All of us are worried."

Misaki briefly looked at him, but didn't respond. Truthfully, the teen was processing so much pain and loneliness he himself didn't know whether to cry for help or curl into himself and drown in the darkness.

"You know," Akihiko suddenly said. "Your brother used to talk to me about you, so when we met I felt like I already knew you. He once told me that you tend to bottle up your pain, and he wished you would share it with him."

At the mention of his brother, Misaki noticeably brightened, and there was such a sad spark in his eyes that Akihiko stiffened.

"Nii-chan said that?" Misaki murmured.

"Yeah, we talked a lot…or at least, we did." Akihiko said.

"W—What else did he tell you?"

"Well," The silver-haired man said. "He told me a lot about the two of you, and how you lived. I was sort of always jealous that you two were so happy."

"You were jealous of us?" Misaki said, unfolding his knees and angling himself closer towards Alpha.

"Yeah," Akihiko smiled. "No one could make me laugh like your brother, especially since half the time he didn't realize he was being funny."

"I know," Misaki snorted. "He could be a little dense, but I liked him that way."

"And his stories, oh the things you two did. I remember one time he told me about how you spilled milk on the floor, and then the two of you somehow got it into your heads to clean the entire house with milk."

"I remember that!" Misaki exclaimed, a few giggles spilling out of his mouth. "It was such a stupid idea. We both smelled like rotten milk for weeks."

"I know. That's why I made it a point to avoid him." Akihiko grinned. Misaki laughed quietly, and a brief smile flickered on Alpha's face. He had never heard the boy laugh, and it was such a beautiful sound.

Wanting to hear it again, Akihiko told Misaki several more stories about Takahiro and him, and he was stunned by how happy the teen became. There was still an empty space in his chest, but Misaki found the goofy stories about his brother to be a soothing balm over that hole. But the way Alpha talked about Takahiro made him a little sad as well. It was obvious Alpha had cared for his brother very much, and to have him gone must be terribly painful.

"Alpha," Misaki suddenly said. "Do you miss my brother?"

Akihiko nodded gravely.

"I do Misaki, but…I'm also grateful. Takahiro once told me that you were his most precious possession in life, and I'm happy that I was able to save you from that lab."

Misaki sighed and clasped his hands together, looking up at the sky where his brother's spirit now dwelt among the stars.

"Nii-chan," He murmured. "At least you're not in pain anymore."

Alpha looked at the boy's somber face and was surprised to feel moisture welling up in his eyes. The way Misaki had just spoken to Takahiro indicated that he didn't blame Alpha for his brother's death, and that indirect forgiveness evoked both sorrow and joy from him.

Akihiko turned towards the boy and carefully placed a hand on his shoulder.

"You know Misaki, I…I wouldn't mind if you called me by my name."

"Eh?" Misaki said in confusion. "But you're so much older than me. It wouldn't be proper. Wait, what was that nickname my brother had for you? Usa-something?"

"Usagi-san," Akihiko smiled. "Because my family name was 'Usami.'"

"It's such a weird nickname," Misaki smiled. "Just like Nii-chan to call someone 'rabbit.' Do—Do you think I could call you that instead?"

Akihiko's heart leapt and he smiled with genuine happiness.

"I'd love it."

"Usagi-san," Misaki said, trying the name out. It rolled off his tongue so pleasantly that he felt compelled to say it again. "Usagi-san—omph!"

But he was cut off as a pair of arms folded tightly around him. Akihiko held the boy to his chest, burying his face in Misaki's neck. The teen was initially jolted by the contact, but as he felt the warmth of the older man, he sank into the embrace and rested his head on Usagi's shoulder. Misaki felt safer than he ever had in this man's arms, and he didn't even understand why. But in this peaceful place, he felt entirely comfortable voicing his darkest thoughts, and slowly spoke.

"Usagi-san," He whispered in fright. "Do you think…we'll ever defeat the FMA?"

Akihiko sighed, gently tousling the boy's hair.

"I…don't know Misaki. If we all work together, maybe."

"I'm afraid…"

"What?" Usagi said, looking down at the teen. Misaki hung his head, his eyes beginning to water.

"I'm afraid Usagi-san…but not of them. I—I feel so strange and so empty I don't know what to do. I'm scared of what I've become."

Akihiko gently reached over and caressed the teen's cheek, lifting Misaki's head to meet his amethyst eyes.

"Misaki, your body is not something you should be afraid of. It's a miraculous thing, despite what has been done to it."

With those words, Akihiko tentatively leaned forward and planted a short kiss on the teen's lips. After he let go, he saw the most beautiful blush creep over the teen's cheeks, contrasting with the emerald depths of his eyes.

"U—Usagi-san? What—" But Akihiko cut Misaki off as he locked mouths with him, running his fingers through the boy's chocolate locks. Misaki groaned in surprise as he felt Usagi's tongue lick his lips and seek entrance, and without thinking he let him in. The kiss was long and deep, and it was unlike anything Misaki had ever felt, soothing and intimate.

Akihiko gently broke away after a few minutes, gathering Misaki tightly in his arms and pressing his lips against the teen's temple.

"Misaki," He breathed. They stayed in their embrace for several minutes before Misaki gave a light yawn, his head laying against Usagi's chest.

"You should get some sleep," Akihiko murmured, stroking the boy's head. However, Misaki seemed reluctant to be alone.

"It's too cold," He said, wrapping his arms around Usagi's torso. "Will you…stay with me?"

Akihiko's eyes softened and nodded.

Soon, the two were back down near the others, Misaki snuggling down into his blankets. However, this time as he drifted into slumber, there was a comforting heat at his back. Akihiko spooned with the teen, wrapping his arms around him to keep the night's chill away, and soon Misaki was fast asleep.

But rest did not come so easily to Akihiko, and long after Misaki was asleep, he lay awake with the boy close to his chest.

"Akihiko?"

Alpha looked over to the other side of the clearing, where he saw Hiroki casting a sleepy, inquisitive eye at the two of them. Delta was tightly wrapped in his lover's giant embrace, but he craned his head in order to have a better view as his friend spoke.

"Hiroki, it's time to end this," Akihiko murmured as he looked upon the innocent teen sleeping next to him. "It's time."


JoanIncarnate, Alana-kittychan, Artemis Fortune, Keira Kinover-Mar, seshomaru94, Kiyame Hikari-chan, Shiya, Ayame-san, and my darling Cerberus- Thank you for helping me reach 200 reviews! :D you all rock!

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We are reaching the final battle in this story. Stay tuned and enjoy!

Love,

TBF101