Shuusei stared at himself in the mirror contemplatively, his eyes tracing the burn scars that covered a large portion of his shoulders and crawled along his chest and collarbone. He couldn't see what Hotsuma saw when he looked at them. To him, the scars were simply a sign that they were both alive, a sign that neither of them was alone anymore. They had each other, and as far as Shuusei was concerned, that was all that he needed. Hotsuma was his partner, his reason for living, and he would have sacrificed a lot more than a few layers of flesh to protect the other boy from himself.

With a sigh, he slid his shirt over the old injuries and buttoned it up to his throat before leaving the room. Listening, he could hear Toko's excited chatter, and Tsukumo's softer, gentler tenor. He smiled softly to himself; those two were very close, both as siblings and as partners. And they were close to Yuki, too. Shuusei had been envious of that closeness at one time, longing to have the same sort of relationship with his own partner, but he had recognized that he and Hotsuma were unique in their own way.

Light laughter trailed up the stairway, and Shuusei stopped at the landing, staring down at the scene before him. Toko was hugging Yuki to him and chattering excitedly about plans for the upcoming holiday, and her words were flowing a mile a minute, without stop. Tsukumo would interject his own quiet commentary now and again. Hotsuma was standing with his arms crossed, grumbling at Toko, who ignored him. Zess – or Luka, as he was called now – was standing off to the side, a silent guardian, content to watch over Yuki, his eyes gentle and soft as he stared at the boy he'd be forever loyal to.

Theirs was a sad story, full of love and loss and heartache. But, it seemed that this reincarnation was different. This time, Yuki had saved them all, had brought them out of the never ending darkness and given them hope for the first time in several generations. Even Luka had been saved, in his own way. Yuki had thawed the ice that had surrounded Luka for so long, giving him back the life he had once had, when he had first vowed to follow the female Yuki anywhere, and to never betray her.

And while Yuki couldn't yet respond to the Opast's unwavering love, the foundation was already there. It was only a matter of time before Yuki realized that love transcended even gender. After all, if a human and a duras could find love, then it wasn't much of a stretch for that to extend to two men.

Luka, aware of his presence, lifted his eyes to gaze back at him neutrally. Shuusei nodded in acknowledgment, and walked down the stairs. Hotsuma noticed that Luka's attention had left, and he followed his gaze to the stairs, watching Shuusei as he walked down to join the group. Amber eyes lit up when they came to rest on him, and Hotsuma straightened, his arms dropping to his sides and his eyes softening.

Shuusei stared steadily back at him, searching for several long moments before he let his own eyes crinkle with affection. The guilt that had plagued Hotsuma for so long was still there, but it was less now. It no longer consumed him, for which Shuusei was grateful. Hotsuma had finally learned to live with what had happened and to move past it, to not let it affect his every move where Shuusei was concerned.

"Shuusei-kun!" Yuki smiled when he saw him, and Shuusei returned the gesture, reaching out a gentle hand to tousle Yuki's hair. He found himself regarding Yuki as something like a little brother, somebody that he wanted to cherish and protect and always be there for. Hotsuma was the same way, too; he always played so rough with God's Light, but even in his gruffness, he was kind and fiercely protective. Yuki had helped Hotsuma greatly, managing to do what even Shuusei hadn't been able to, to convince him that he wasn't a monster, that he wasn't somebody who was only capable of hurting those around him.

Bringing himself back to the present, Shuusei asked, "Planning your shopping trip?" Yuki nodded up at him, his eyes sparkling with laughter and happiness, a sight which Shuusei was glad to see. Ever since Yuki had discovered that his best friend, who was like a brother to him, was actually Reiga, the enemy of the Giou Clan and the Zweilt guardians, he had been depressed and confused. But the last battle had seemed to settle some things for him, and his emotions had balanced out. His friend Kanata was still inside Reiga, but that didn't make him any less dangerous to Yuki or his friends.

"Yeah, we're just deciding where to go. Yuki doesn't know the area, and Toko's taking advantage of that," Hotsuma grumbled. The girl in question just stuck her tongue out at him, to which he responded by rolling his eyes. Yuki raised his hands in plea, ready to mediate between them. "Personally, I think we should let Yuki decide where he wants to go."

Shuusei silently agreed, but seeing Yuki's stricken expression, he smiled gently. "How about if Tsukumo gives you a general overview of what the shops around here carry, and then you can decide from there?" The bearer of God's Ears nodded his assent, and Toko dragged Yuki off, no doubt intending to fill him in on the merchandise of every store in the nearby cities and towns. Luka just blinked, and then turned and strolled after the threesome, his familiar chirruping at him from his perch on Luka's shoulder.

Shuusei and Hotsuma were left in the parlor, the room falling silent at last as Toko's voice faded. Hotsuma was the first to break the silence. "Where're you headed?" he asked softly as he moved forward, his arms reaching for Shuusei, who allowed the contact, leaning his head against his partner's shoulder and allowing the strong arms to band around him, holding him securely. "You going on another case?" he asked, referring to Shuusei's work with the police using God's Eyes to find that which was lost.

Shaking his head, the quieter man murmured, "Just planning on doing some shopping of my own. Christmas is almost here, and I still haven't found anything suitable for him," he murmured. Neither of them had to clarify, because Yuki was always on their minds, the person that had saved them, that bound them together and filled them with hope for the future, and faith that maybe, just maybe, the entire cycle of their constant battles with the duras could be broken in this incarnation.

Hotsuma chuckled, his chest lifting with the motion as he asked, "Want some company? I haven't found anything either." Shuusei pulled back from the embrace, and Hotsuma let him go, his hands trailing lightly over his partner's shoulder, gently caressing the old burn marks. Nodding his acceptance, Shuusei waited while Hotsuma grabbed his jacket and notified Takashiro of their whereabouts, and off they went.

Hotsuma had splurged on a brand new motorcycle after the final battle, when he had finally allowed himself to believe that they'd all survive this war, that maybe, just maybe, Yuki was what they had needed all along. Someone who wouldn't sacrifice their life, but would give everything he had to protect the ones he loved. And he did love them, as they loved him, that much was for certain.

They headed for that bike now, and as always, the brilliant chrome ride took his breath away. Hotsuma had gone all out, and the motorcycle he had chosen was sleek and powerful, and purred under its owner's hands. Tossing a helmet to Shuusei before strapping his own on, it wasn't long before both men had straddled the bike, and like a shot they were off, Shuusei holding tightly to his partner's waist, his chest pressed against a strong back.

They headed west, tearing down the road, Hotsuma pushing the bike as fast as it would go. Shuusei wasn't worried that they'd be caught. After all, he'd sense a cop coming a mile away. And very few people dared to challenge Hotsuma, regardless of whether or not they knew who he was. The wielder of God's Voice was a temperamental hothead, and unless they wanted to be surrounded by wall of flames appearing out of nowhere, they'd do best just to leave him alone.

They slowed down when they hit the town's limits, and Shuusei looked around, trying to determine if any of the stores were likely to hold something that would be to Yuki's liking. Whatever they chose, he was sure that Yuki would appreciate the thought and care that had gone into it, but he wanted it to be something more meaningful than a careless little trinket.

The scent of burning incense and cedar wood reached him, and Shuusei pointed to his right, to a little shop tucked back between two much larger, more modern buildings. Not hesitating, Hotsuma swung the bike off the road and turned it off. Both men slipped easily off the bike, and Hotsuma pushed it off to the side before putting the kickstand in place, pocketing the keys. If people were smart, they wouldn't even think about trying to hotwire the motorcycle, unless they wanted an angry Zweilt Guardian after their hide.

Hotsuma followed Shuusei into the store, content to look around and take his time, his eyes taking in all the little handmade gifts and knickknacks. He considered the jewelry, but dismissed it after several long moments. The necklaces that Yuki had made to protect them all were far more meaningful than a pretty charm that had no deeper meaning. Shuusei frowned; he wanted to give Yuki something that would show how much they cared for him, and how much Yuki meant to all of them. They would do anything they needed to in order to protect the younger boy, and they all wanted to convey their emotions to him.

Indecisive, Shuusei found his eyes wandering the store until they came to rest on Hotsuma's profile. The other man was frowning at a display of incense and colored stones, no doubt reading their properties. As Shuusei watched, he reached down and picked up a layered agate gemstone, its brilliant colors glittering lazily in the flickering light from the candles that lit the shop. Shuusei found himself entranced by the rich colors, and moved slowly to stand next to Hotsuma, who barely glanced up at him.

"Agate for physical protection, and protection from danger." Hotsuma's words were a soft rumble as he turned the stone over gently in his large hands. He reached out and picked up another stone, a simple rounded clear quartz crystal this time. "Protection from evil," he explained simply. There was no need for further explanation, not with the duras and Reiga on everybody's minds.

Shuusei reached out tentatively and stroked along the stone, catching his breath as he felt the stone absorb some of his own magic. It appeared that this place wasn't just for show; these stones were real, designed to pull strength from those who wanted to protect, and to give strength to those who were being protected.

Shuusei considered the blue stone and ribbed stones for a moment. They could, perhaps, be made into a piece of jewelry. But not a necklace, and a ring wouldn't work either. Perhaps a bracelet would be better? The ribbed agate could be fashioned into a solid cuff bracelet, and the quartz could be imbedded within it. That would probably be best, Shuusei decided. He was certain that Takashiro would know somebody who could do what they wanted, and the agate was large enough to fashion a bracelet out of that would fit Yuki's slim wrist.

Satisfied with their choices, Hotsuma and Shuusei paid the waiting clerk, ignoring her bewildered expression, and left the shop, the gemstones tucked safely in Shuusei's jacket. Slipping easily back onto the bike, Hotsuma turned them back towards the Twilight Mansion, and Shuusei snuggled up against his partner's back, enjoying the warmth and strength that vibrated off the man in front of him. Hotsuma had always been the stronger, more fierce of the two, and Shuusei had come to rely on that power, perhaps a little too much. He had tried, once, to break away from his dependency, but as that had nearly gotten him killed – and Hotsuma killed with him – he had decided that it just wasn't worth it. After all, as long at Hotsuma needed him, too, he was content.

They arrived back at the Twilight Mansion to find Yuki and the siblings gone. There was no sign of Luka or Sodom, either. A quick inquiry informed Shuusei that Luka was stationed in the surrounding forest, no doubt keeping watch for nearby duras. The Opast had an uncanny ability for knowing when Yuki needed his help, but until that moment, he would not smother the boy. Perhaps it was their bond, or contract, that allowed him to both protect Yuki and give him the space he needed. Or maybe, thought Shuusei whimsically, it was just love.

Regardless, there was nobody within the mansion when they arrived, except for the staff members, and they were busy preparing for dinner. Pleasant scents drifted across the lower level of their home, but Hotsuma and Shuusei bypassed the hallways and headed straight up the stairs. They'd need to put the agate and quartz away before Yuki returned. Since they didn't know when he had left, there was no way to determine when they'd return, except perhaps by asking Luka, which seemed excessive. If their help was needed, Luka would certainly send Sodom to fetch them.

Hotsuma followed Shuusei to his room, both men aware that the moment presented a rare opportunity for them. They had, perhaps, been the first Zweilt Guardians to arrive at the Twilight Mansion, but they had been much younger then, their relationship a far more innocent one. Toko and Tsukumo had followed shortly thereafter, and Luka had just sort of appeared one day, his only interest in maintaining an alliance with the Giou clan so that he could continue to protect his beloved Yuki.

Shuusei tucked the stones into the drawer of his bedside table, not bothering to hide them further. After all, Yuki wasn't the type to go snooping around in other people's rooms. The brilliant swirls of color glittered brightly for a moment before the shadows of the drawer dimmed them, darkening the colors to a dull shine.

No sooner were the gemstones hidden than strong arms had wrapped themselves around him, a firm chest pressed against his slender back and lips pressing against his neck, tickling the hairs there as Hotsuma breathed. Reaching his hands up to clasp them over Hotsuma's, Shuusei tilted his head to the side, giving his partner access to the side of his throat.

Hotsuma didn't waste any time, using lips and teeth and tongue on the tender flesh on Shuusei's throat. A small moan of appreciation escaped Shuusei's throat, and Hotsuma moved them both forward, until Shuusei hit the edge of the bed and toppled onto it, bringing his fiery partner with him. Hotsuma allowed him to flip over onto his back, before taking his lips in a fierce, heated kiss. Shuusei groaned, his arms reaching up to wrap around Hotsuma's back, their hips already thrusting against each other, their clothes still on.

Warm hands petted Shuusei's sides before untucking his shirt and slipping upwards, feeling along ribs and stomach muscles. Sighing, Shuusei dropped his arms and started to undo the buttons on his shirt. If he didn't unbutton it himself, Hotsuma was likely to just tear it off of him once he got frustrated with it. Hotsuma's t-shirt was off and on the floor before Shuusei had finished, and Hotsuma pushed the shirt to the side impatiently, his mouth moving to press against the scars on Shuusei's left shoulder.

Gasping, Shuusei jerked and tossed his head back against the pillow, his eyes wide and dilated. The burn scars had always been highly sensitive, to both pain and pleasure. He could feel every dip of his partner's tongue in the valleys of his shoulder, every nip of teeth against the slick flesh. For the longest time, Hotsuma wouldn't even look at the scars, and Shuusei had kept on his shirt during their lovemaking. Then again, his partner's guilt had kept him from touching Shuusei with such passion for a long, long time. Something else he had Yuki to thank for, he thought wryly. But later. Much, much later.

Hands fumbled at pants clasps, writhing bodies making the chore that much more difficult. Hotsuma growled in frustration, his eyes glittering oddly, like fire dancing in a darkened room. Those eyes, as always, entranced Shuusei, made him catch his breath on a gasp as he lost himself in their intensity. Hotsuma was always like that, intense and fierce and strong and loyal and wild and free. His eyes and tongue and fingers devoured Shuusei, fed his body to the flames, and Shuusei didn't care. He basked in the heat, craved it, arched his body up towards it.

Hotsuma bit down on a nipple, and Shuusei cried out. The cry was echoed by one of surprise, and the two men on the bed froze, their heads whipping to stare at the slamming door. Which they had forgotten to close.

"Please tell me I didn't just see that!" Toko's plaintive voice came through the door, and Hotsuma and Shuusei flushed in absolute mortification. "I mean, really, I just wanted to let them know that dinner was ready! They could at least shut the door, right?!" Her voice was nearly hysterical, but not condemning. None of them would ever criticize another. After all, they had all craved, or had, that closeness at one time or another. Hotsuma and Shuusei. Toko and Tsukumo. Yuki and Luka. They were the lucky ones this time around; they hadn't lost each other yet. The Wielder of the Black Sword had lost his first partner, and learned to love his second, and Takashiro had lost his beloved centuries before.

"Yeah, but it's okay, isn't it?" a much softer voice replied. Shuusei and Hotsuma stared at each other in surprise, their ears straining to hear what Yuki was saying. "I mean, they love each other, right? And they're partners. They're very close, and this is just another way of showing it." His voice was wistful as he said that, and Shuusei wondered if the other boy was thinking of Kanata-san…or Luka.

A small amused chuckle sounded outside their door. "Besides," Yuki continued, his voice impish now, "I was waiting for those two to stop dancing around each other. It's about time! And really, what better present could anybody ask for, than that two of us found such a love?" Shuusei smiled; that was Yuki for you. Not only had he not judged them, but he had been watching over them all this time, keeping an eye on their progress as guardians, friends, and lovers.

With a wicked glint in his eye, Hotsuma called up a trickle of power. Suddenly, three yells could be heard as the torches in the hallway flared up in a spectacular, but mostly harmless, display. All chaos broke out in the corridor then. Toko was yelling something about swords and useless body parts, and Tsukumo was obviously trying to hold her back, if the scuffling sounds they heard were any indication. Yuki was just dodging out of the way of Toko's flailing arms.

In the midst of the chaos, there was a firm knock on the door, and Yuki called through it, "We'll have them hold dinner for you two, okay? Come downstairs when you're ready." With that, he herded the siblings down the hallway and towards the kitchen, his cheerful voice joining Tsukumo's as they tried to calm down the most outspoken and emotional of the Zweilt Guardians.

The Voice and Eyes of God stared at each other in complete bewilderment for several long moments, before a snort broke the silence. They weren't entirely sure who had started it, but they both broke down into helpless laughter, their faces flushed with embarrassment.

When they had gotten themselves a little more under control, Hotsuma and Shuusei slipped out of the bed and redressed themselves. The mood was gone, but they really couldn't complain about it, considering how happy they felt right now.

Leaving the room, Hotsuma looked at Shuusei. "I guess that, after all, jewelry isn't any good, huh?" he asked, his eyes still dancing. Shuusei just smiled up at his partner and shrugged. The jewelry wouldn't hurt, but they had already been given the best present ever – the love and acceptance of Yuki Giou, the Light of God. They'd have to find a way to return the favor. Perhaps…

"Hey, Hotsuma," Shuusei murmured. "What do you figure our chances are of getting Luka to confess his love to Yuki?" He wasn't talking about the loyalty and affection that the Opast showed now, but the more primitive, sexual sort of love.

Hotsuma tilted his head back and laughed, the sound rumbling down the hallway, and Shuusei smiled. Well, it was worth a shot, at least. After all, what better gift was there, than the love of one who adored you? Shuusei glanced at his hot-headed partner, and reached out his hand. Hotsuma wrapped his fingers around Shuusei's, linking their hands, and the two partners strolled downstairs to join the others for dinner, content.