Taste Your Salt Water Kisses

Ritsuka won’t move out so Soubi moves in. Everyone involved has to readjust their lives. Drama with Angst and Romance, I-5, implicit spoilers

Pairing(s): Ritsuka/Soubi

One: Soubi

"You can’t just move in!"

"Why not?"

"Well…" Ritsuka’s ears saddled. "I mean… It’s not the kind of thing…"

"Ritsuka." Soubi touched his cheek, eyes dark. "I can’t just leave you here unprotected. I can’t. Don’t ask me to, please." He was perfectly willing to beg for this, except that didn’t always work with Ritsuka. A tiny part of him didn’t think that was fair.

Ritsuka was frowning and chewing on his lip. "But… it might just upset Kaa-san more. And," he folded his arms tightly, "the only other bedroom used to be Seimei’s." He looked up, straight into Soubi’s eyes. "I don’t want to put you there."

The sweetness of his Sacrifice’s care for him stopped Soubi’s voice for a long moment.

"You’re both idiots," Kio put in from where he was rummaging in Soubi’s fridge. Ritsuka glowered and Kio grinned. "Who says a room has to be a bedroom? Go on a cleaning spree or something, move everything around. Make the old bedroom a closet or something."

"Oh." Ritsuka looked thoughtful. "Hm."

There were times Soubi was tempted to feed Kio his own paints, but he was useful every now and then.

Ritsuka was looking around Soubi’s apartment with a more measuring eye now. Finally he turned back to Soubi and wound his fingers in the bottom of Soubi’s shirt. "Okay, look. Let me pick the time, all right? I want to ask Kaa-san when she’s in," he paused and Soubi mentally inserted a sane phase, "a good mood."

"As you wish," Soubi said, voice low. He could only hope Ritsuka wouldn’t wait too long.

Two: Ritsuka

Ritsuka put his hands on his hips and looked around, pleased.

They hadn’t actually done anything with Seimei’s room; he’d known Kaa-san wouldn’t agree to that. But they had moved other things, and now the long upstairs room that had held some of Tou-san’s old stuff was cleaned out and turned into Soubi’s room and studio in one. Soubi was fingering the pale curtains Ritsuka had dug out of the bottom of Kaa-san’s old sewing basket and smiling.

"Perhaps you should think of a career as an interior decorator." He looked over his shoulder at Ritsuka, a faint teasing light in his eyes.

Ritsuka flicked his ears back but didn’t glare too hard. He was just happy that Soubi wasn’t as tense as he had been lately. He didn’t like the idea of a tense Soubi around his mother.

Soubi crossed the room in two long strides and caught Ritsuka’s face, delicately, in his hands. "Thank you, Ritsuka," he whispered.

Breathless, Ritsuka leaned into him. A little voice in the back of his head noted he was getting awfully used to doing that. "What for?"

Soubi smiled, dry and sweet. "For indulging your Fighter."

Ritsuka snorted a little. "Right. Come on, let’s go down to dinner." He tugged Soubi out of the room and down the stairs.

Dinner was… odd. He was pretty sure Soubi hadn’t had a chance to speak to Kaa-san when Ritsuka wasn’t there, and the only thing Soubi had said to her when Ritsuka was there was I am here to protect Ritsuka. He’d kind of expected Kaa-san to try to send him away, at that, the way she had Hawatari and Shinonome-sensei. But here she was, serving Soubi seconds and smiling. It was fragile, under bruised looking eyes, but she was smiling.

He wished he could believe it would last.

While it did last, though, he would enjoy it. "It’s really good fish, Kaa-san. Can I have some more?"

"Of course." She busied herself getting him another portion and some more pickled vegetables to go with it. "It’s good for you, Ritsuka. Eat as much as you like."

For this moment, with dishes clattering in the warm evening and three people around the table, he could believe everything would be all right, and, while his mother was turned away, he smiled softly up at Soubi.

Soubi’s rare open smile answered him.

Three: Ritsuka

Ritsuka flinched as a glass shattered against the wall over his head.

"You care more about some stray than your own mother?! Fine! Then get out, both of you get out!"

"Kaa-san…" Ritsuka reached out a hand only to jerk back as a plate followed the glass, and then Soubi was there, hand wrapped around Kaa-san’s wrist. His eyes were cold.

"That will be enough."

It scared Ritsuka a little to see Soubi look like that and he reached out again, pleading. "Soubi…"

Soubi’s eyes met Ritsuka’s, and his mouth tightened, but he finally bowed his head. When he spoke again his voice was quieter. "Come, Aoyagi-san. It’s time to sleep for a while."

Kaa-san was crying now, but she went along easily as Soubi led her away. Ritsuka just slid down the wall to the floor and rested his forehead on his knees. He was shaking a little. Not because of the sudden violence. Because of the sudden stop.

Because, deep down, he hadn’t really thought anyone but Seimei could stop Kaa-san when she got like this.

But there were no more screams or crashes. Just the faint murmur of voices and the click of a door being shut.

It really was just him that was the problem.

"Ritsuka." Soubi’s arms were around him and Ritsuka turned his face into Soubi’s chest, tired and hopeless. "Ritsuka, please." Soubi’s whisper was urgent. "Please, let me take you out of here."

Ritsuka laughed, one harsh breath. "Maybe I should. Maybe it really would make her better if I left."

Soubi’s arms tightened. "Ritsuka."

They were both silent for a while. Finally Soubi gathered Ritsuka up in his arms and stood. Ritsuka stirred. "I should clean up the pieces."

"I’ll do it tomorrow morning," Soubi stated, not pausing as he carried Ritsuka up the stairs.

Ritsuka let Soubi undress him and tuck him under the blankets and, when Soubi hesitated, sitting on the side of his bed, reached up silently to pull him down. Soubi promptly slipped under the covers and cradled Ritsuka close, stroking long fingers through his hair, hesitant and tender.

Finally Ritsuka managed to say, softly, "I am glad you’re here."

He could feel Soubi relax as he cuddled Ritsuka closer.

Four: Soubi

Soubi stood in the kitchen doorway, arms folded, watching Ritsuka’s mother. She started when he finally spoke.

"Do you understand what you’re doing to your son?"

She turned wide, dark eyes on him. "I.. I love Ritsuka. He’s all I have left."

"You’re hurting him," Soubi said flatly.

She folded her hands in front of her mouth, staring at him, silent and trembling. Soubi’s thin patience snapped.

"You are going to stop, Aoyagi-san, because you are going to go see that psychologist of his if I have to drag you, and you are going to talk to the woman if I have to force you." He stalked forward as he spoke to stand over her, perfectly willing to intimidate the woman into cooperating or drag her down the street, screaming, if that was what it took.

He stopped short in surprise when she smiled.


Soubi blinked.

"Take me." She held out one wrist as if offering to be dragged and strangeness wrapped around him for a moment, like deja vu turned inside out.

Maybe her smile just reminded him of Seimei’s. It was probably only that.

Taking no chances, he took her arm and led her to the door. She went easily, put on her coat when he handed it to her, didn’t rage or even protest.

But when he wasn’t directing her she didn’t move at all.

She gave the clinic receptionist all her information and agreed that she wanted to see the psychologist. She smiled. She cooperated. But when the doctor held open the office door for her she didn’t walk through it until Soubi grabbed her arm again and took her in.

He ignored the doctor’s raised brows and leaned in a corner, out of the way, with his arms crossed and tried to stifle that queasy feeling of recognition.

Whenever the woman hesitated in answering one of the doctor’s questions she looked at him. And then she answered, as if he had… Soubi stifled that thought and kept on trying not to really listen.

"Seimei isn’t here to make me stop anymore, you see."

Not succeeding very well, but trying.

He wasn’t surprised, when the doctor finally asked what Aoyagi was doing to Ritsuka and Aoyagi slowly turned to look at him, silent, eyes wide and waiting. Soubi swallowed behind clenched teeth and managed to grate out, "Tell her."

The woman obeyed immediately, and the doctor only had a moment to look at him with sharp eyes before she had to pull her professional mask back on. Soubi ignored them both. He didn’t want to do this. He didn’t ever want to do this. He didn’t want to be the one who gave orders. For him to be the one in Seimei’s place…

He wondered, distantly, whether Seimei really was god, after all. The universe certainly seemed to have his vicious sense of humor.

By the time the first session was over he was shaking a little and the doctor stopped him on the way out to ask softly whether he was all right.

"I’ll be fine once I get back to Ritsuka," he answered, unstrung enough to give her the truth. He’d be fine once he had his Sacrifice to obey and the world was right side up again. He started a bit as the doctor’s eyes flashed.

"You can’t put all of this on a thirteen-year-old boy," she told him sharply. "If both you and his mother are doing that, then you’ll just both have to stop."

Soubi stood as if turned to stone for a long moment before his head bent and his fists clenched under the weight of those words. "I… understand what you say," he managed at last.

The doctor sighed and patted his shoulder more kindly. "Well. I imagine I’ll see you next time, too, then."

Soubi took Ritsuka’s mother home and went up to his studio and sat, staring at a blank canvas, for a very long time.

Five: Ritsuka

What used to scare Ritsuka was the anger on Soubi’s face when he stopped Kaa-san in one of her rages. Now there was something else there, and he didn’t know what and that scared him even more. Soubi still looked grim, those times, but his eyes creased like he was hurt, too.

And it wasn’t always rages Kaa-san had, now. Ritsuka was happy, glad that he could finally help Kaa-san, at least those times when she just put her head down on the table and cried. But that didn’t stop him getting worried.

Finally he cornered Soubi in his bedroom one evening, while he was drying off some brushes. "Soubi. Will you tell me what’s wrong?"

Soubi’s long hands hesitated. "I… don’t want to burden you," he said quietly, without turning around.

Ritsuka scowled. "Don’t be dumb." He came and wound his arms around Soubi’s waist firmly. "We’re a pair, right? Closer than anything else." He rested his cheek on Soubi’s chest. "Just tell me."

Soubi’s fingers settled softly on his hair. "Your mother," he said, after a long, silent moment. "I see Ritsu-sensei in her. Even Seimei in her. Yet, I see myself in her as well. And so I see them in myself, and I…" A shudder ran through Soubi. "I don’t know… what to do now."

Ritsuka wasn’t sure he understood, but… Seimei had protected him, and now Soubi protected him. Every now and then, Kaa-san’s eyes reminded him of Seimei’s. He could see that much. Maybe there were just too many reminders of other people, for Soubi. Slowly he asked, "Can you just be Soubi?"

Soubi stilled. Finally he leaned down to press his lips against Ritsuka’s hair. "Who do you want Soubi to be?" he asked, very softly.

"No, I mean…" Ritsuka looked up at Soubi, confused. "I mean, can you just be you?" He laid his hand on Soubi’s chest, over his heart. "Be whoever Soubi really is?" He glanced aside, tail curling shyly. "I’d… I’d like that."

He worried some more when Soubi sank down to his knees, but relaxed again when Soubi caught his hand and kissed the palm. Soubi was all right when he did that. Soubi’s eyes were dark when he raised his head, but his mouth twitched like he was about to laugh.

"I’ll try."

Hesitantly, because he really didn’t get Soubi sometimes, Ritsuka leaned into him and put his arms around Soubi’s neck. "I’d just like it if you were happy."

The laugh that escaped against his ear was soft and shaky and true.

"I’ll try that, too, then."