Love on a Budget

Shirogane has a plan to buy them all time and reinforce the boundary between worlds, provided Ryuuko agrees, and provided Shirogane can bring himself to carry it out. Drama with Sex Magic and Mild Angst, I-4, MANGA CONTINUITY

Character(s): Kou, Ryuuko, Shirogane
Pairing(s): Ryuuko/Shirogane

"We’re losing."

Kou blew out a stream of smoke, leaning back on the girder he’d straddled. "Yeah, probably."

Shirogane stood poised on the platform behind him, hands folded on his cane. "I’m going to have to do something about it. If you try to interfere, I’ll kill you."

A corner of Kou’s mouth quirked. Times like this he really longed for a recorder, just so he could play it back for Akira later. It was reassuring in a way, though. Breath of home and all that. "Well, we’ll see if I think it’s necessary."

"What kind of lover was Ryuuko?"

Kou choked on a lungful of smoke. The question, out of the clear blue, dragged a chain of memories through his mind. Ryuuko’s smile. Ryuuko’s fingers ruffling his hair. Ryuuko’s hand on his chin. The gentleness of Ryuuko’s eyes as he leaned over Kou—

Kou spat out his now mangled cigarette and tried to pretend he was flushed because of the coughing. "What the hell business is that of yours?"

"I suppose we’ll see," Shirogane murmured, and walked off another girder into the night.

Kou stared after him. "Okay, that was weird, even for him." He shook his head and tapped out another cigarette, trying not to think too hard about all the ways he missed his master.

"Well finally." Shirogane regarded Ryuuko with a certain amount of exasperation. He knew where Akira got his stubbornness from, that was for sure.

"You bastard!" Kou rounded on Shirogane, eyes blazing. "You let Akira get that hurt on purpose!"

"It was the only way to bring Ryuuko out." Shirogane eyed Kou. "Other than almost killing you. I did consider that."

Kou took a swing at him, which Shirogane had completely expected.

"Kou." Ryuuko was between them, hand wrapped around Kou’s fist. "Shirogane knows quite well I’d rather let myself be hurt than let one of my Children be hurt for me."

Kou’s mouth tightened and he looked aside, tension washed out of his body in Ryuuko’s grip. "Yes, my king."

Shirogane brushed off his hat and put in, dryly, "I hate to break up the touching moment, Ryuuko, but we have a problem." He couldn’t help his answering quirk of lips at Ryuuko’s wry smile. "Yes, I know that was obvious." He stepped closer, ignoring Kou’s glare. "But we don’t have time to wait for you to recover all your strength. We have to do something now, before Homurabi tips the balance any further."

"If neither of us have all our strength, what more can we do?" The question was curious rather than despairing—Ryuuko all over.

Shirogane settled his hat back on, speaking from under the brim of it. "You and I are the direct kings. Weakened or not. If we take an action together that resonates through our realms, that may reaffirm the balance for long enough."

Ryuuko looked thoughtful. "I suppose that’s true, yes. But what could we do that would be enou— Shirogane!"

Shirogane waved away his appalled look. "No." His lips curled. "It would be the surest way, of course, but I know you wouldn’t do it. I won’t ask you to kill me." At Ryuuko’s side, Kou looked pretty appalled himself, which amused Shirogane a bit, considering.

"What else would be powerful enough?"

Shirogane tipped his hat down a bit further. "Anything that allows the Light to overwhelm the Shadows, really."

After a moment Ryuuko murmured, "Shirogane."

"We’ll need Kou’s assistance to make sure you can manifest for long enough," Shirogane said, briskly. "I don’t expect it to be easy." He started a bit as Ryuuko reached out and tipped up the edge of his hat, meeting his eyes.

"I won’t do it by force," Ryuuko said, soft and immovable.

"I know. That’s why I don’t expect it to be easy," Shirogane snapped.

"Um?" Kou put in, slowly, looking back and forth between them. "What are you talking about? Since I’m supposed to be involved and all."

"We’re talking about Ryuuko fucking me," Shirogane said flatly. And then he had to snort at Kou’s expression.

"You… that’s why… oh," Kou finished, a bit weakly.

Ryuuko touched Shirogane’s hand, drawing his attention back. "Call me when you’re ready," he said, simply, and raveled away into motes of light.

That, Shirogane though acidly as Kou grabbed the unconscious Akira before he could fall, would mean never. But that didn’t matter.

It had to be done.

Akira frowned at Kou and Shirogane impartially and Kou looked shifty. Shirogane rolled his eyes under his hat.

"So Kou needs to give me some fuel so I can be Ryuuko and you and he can do something."

"Yes." Shirogane leaned on his cane, the picture of genteel unconcern.

"And you’re not going to tell me what."


Akira ran his hands through his hair and growled. "Story of my damn life." He frowned at Kou. "Kou-nii, you’re sure this is all right?"

Kou ruffled Akira’s hair vigorously, probably so Akira wouldn’t notice the doubt in his eyes. "Sure it is, Aki. I wouldn’t let anything happen to you."

That at least was true, and Akira seemed to know it. "Okay, then," he sighed and crossed his arms, waiting.

He looked a little less sanguine when Kou knelt at his feet and light built between his cupped hands. When Kou lifted the handful of light he took half a step back.

"It’s all right, Aki," Kou reassured him, a little husky. Shirogane could see he’d drained himself heavily to produce that seed of power. "Take it."

Akira bit his lip and slowly closed his hands over Kou’s. The light flared.

Kou smiled and whispered. "My king."

Ryuuko bent down to press a kiss to his forehead. "Thank you, Kou. Rest now."

Kou barely managed to make an agreeing sound and Ryuuko leaned him gently against the couch before standing to look across at Shirogane. Shirogane lifted his chin.


Ryuuko smiled and held out his hands.

Shirogane’s grip tightened on his cane for a breath. He’d known this wasn’t going to be easy. He took a breath and then another and set his cane down, precisely, on Kou’s table. He hesitated for a moment and finally left his hat with it; he couldn’t hold back in this or they’d fail. Trying to swallow down his tension he walked steadily to where Ryuuko stood and laid his hands in his counterpart’s.

Ryuuko laced their fingers together, holding Shirogane palm to palm. "Welcome, my friend," he murmured.

Shirogane closed his eyes and whispered. "Zero."

Light and shadow slid together and a sphere of stillness expanded around them. For the first time in a long while, Shirogane breathed easy, leaving his eyes closed for a moment just to savor the touch of shadow moving through his hands and blood again, as it should.

Ryuuko chuckled. "Well. At least we know Homurabi won’t be interrupting."

Shirogane gave him a dirty look. "I did not need that mental image." The joke, however dark, relaxed him, though. It was true; here at perfect zero, in a place that was neither and both light and shadow, no one but the two of them could even exist.

He still shivered as Ryuuko gathered him close. "Don’t worry. I’ll be gentle," Ryuuko teased, and he growled.

"Ryuuko…" An odd brush against his back distracted him and he glanced back.

Ryuuko was undoing his braid.

"Whatever else has happened, you are the embodiment and lord of shadow," his counterpart murmured. "Your hair should not be bound."

Shirogane drew a breath to protest, and then let it go. Whether or not he had failed his charge, he had to be the king of shadow now, for this. And when his hair spilled through Ryuuko’s hands to run free down his back, his breath eased still more. Long, warm fingers stroking through the strands made him shiver again, for a slightly different reason, and he bent his head down against Ryuuko’s shoulder, fingers tight in the white cloth over his chest.

Ryuuko’s hand closed over the nape of his neck, firm, and Shirogane’s hands clenched into fists.

"Shirogane…" Ryuuko’s voice was soft and concerned, and Shirogane laughed harshly.

"Stop worrying so much." He took a breath and loosened his grip. "It’s not like I’m scared or anything idiotic like that. I just… I don’t let go." He lifted his head and smiled crookedly at Ryuuko. "I’m not the nice one."

Ryuuko’s mouth quirked at the reminder of their old banter. "Yes, I know, that’s me." He stroked Shirogane’s cheek lightly. "You’re not used to this at all, then. To just feeling."

Shirogane glanced aside. "I suppose not." He was pretty sure he was blushing. Damn it.

Fortunately, Ryuuko really was the nice one and didn’t mention it. "I suppose that will probably make this work better," he said, instead.

He also didn’t mention the sound Shirogane made when Ryuuko finally kissed him.

Ryuuko took his hands and drew him over to the shadow-and-reality of Kou’s bed, touch gentle as he undressed him. Tiny shivers tugged at Shirogane as he held himself back, moment by moment, from pulling away, reclaiming his control and distance. His knees were actually shaky enough that he downright collapsed onto the bed, when Ryuuko tugged him down.

He tried to just breathe as Ryuuko gathered him in and eased him back against the bright-dense sheets.

Ryuuko was his counterpart, the other half of the oneness, the world, they made together, and if he had ever loved anyone besides his own Children, Ryuuko was that person. He clung to that and let Ryuuko’s mouth coax his open.

The curl of heat low in his stomach as Ryuuko’s tongue stroked his made him gasp.


Shirogane growled a little at the pleased tone of that sound but it caught on a deeper breath as Ryuuko’s hands slid down his body, open and slow.

They had been together since awareness came to their realms, but always also apart. They had touched, but never like this.

He hadn’t thought it would feel so good, for shadow to feel light’s touch.

"Ryuuko," he murmured, and it wasn’t as much strain to just accept when Ryuuko pulled him closer, kissed him deeper, gentle and fierce. It called to him, and he shuddered as he let himself answer, hands spread against Ryuuko’s back. The careful strength of Ryuuko’s hands sliding down his thighs, spreading them apart, drew his body taut, tension and desire twisted around each other.

When Ryuuko’s mouth moved over his throat, open and hot, he moaned out loud, letting his eyes close.

Long fingers stroked between his legs and back, pressed slowly, slickly into him, and this time Ryuuko didn’t stop as Shirogane’s breath turned short and uneven. Ryuuko’s touch was gentle and ruthless, and he didn’t know which one made this more intense. It was getting easier to let himself go into Ryuuko’s hands, and he gasped into Ryuuko’s mouth as those fingers pressed deeper.

Ryuuko shifted over him again, and Shirogane almost broke down laughing as he finally realized that Kou’s collection of sex aids had, of course, appeared in this space along with all the other nonliving things and that Ryuuko was pillaging it for their own use. The edge of amusement trembled in his sigh as Ryuuko’s fingers slid into him again, slicker than before. Ryuuko kissed him quiet, and Shirogane let him, moaning softly under the kisses as Ryuuko’s fingers twisted sharply.

If the point of the exercise was for shadow to let itself be overwhelmed by the light, he reflected, a bit dizzy with sensation, they were well on their way.

He hesitated again, though, when Ryuuko’s hands urged him to turn over. Ryuuko smiled down at him and kissed him softly. "Let go, Shirogane." His touch was unyielding and that brought comfort and uncertainty and heat all at once.

Shirogane let Ryuuko turn him, a little glad that the fall of his hair hid the quick rush of color in his cheeks. The stroke of Ryuuko’s hands down his back, over his rear, made him swallow. The wet slide of Ryuuko’s mouth moving up his spine made him gasp, heat tightening through him again.

He shivered, gasping for breath as Ryuuko pressed against him, pressed into him, hard and slow. The stretch of it, the heat of it, the gentle, inexorable demand of Ryuuko’s body against his threatened to drown him and his attention locked on the silky slide of Ryuuko’s wild black hair falling over his shoulder, a reminder of who was here with him. Inside him. Shirogane shuddered, grateful when Ryuuko’s arms closed around him, drawing him in tight to the curve of Ryuuko’s body.

Shadow covered by the light, indeed.

"Ryuuko…" he breathed.

"Yes," Ryuuko murmured against his nape, moving against him.

Shirogane moaned openly now, losing himself in the sheer sensation, the steady warmth of Ryuuko’s hands on him, the feeling of being opened. "Ryuuko…" He could hear the hunger in his own voice.

His counterpart’s arms tightened around him in answer and Ryuuko drove into him harder, fierce and fast and hot. Shirogane groaned, low and wanting, moving under Ryuuko as pleasure twined down his nerves. He didn’t care why they were doing this any more, only for the brilliance and power and comfort of his counterpart’s presence, with him and around him and in him.

He’d missed it so much.

He moaned wantonly as Ryuuko’s hands lifted his hips higher and cried out as a deeper thrust sent fire curling up his spine. Another, and another, and he was lost in pleasure, in the wild heat surging through him, in the tightening of Ryuuko’s arms around him.

When he caught his breath again Ryuuko’s weight was lean and warm against his back and Ryuuko’s breath was quick against his shoulder. "Mmm," he observed, lazily.

Ryuuko’s body against his shook with a laugh. "I suppose I might have known you’d be a hedonist if you ever gave yourself the chance." He pressed a kiss against Shirogane’s shoulder. "Do you think it worked?"

"We’ll know when we release the Zero state." Shirogane wished he were human and could believe in things like crossing his fingers.

He let Ryuuko clean them up and dress him, pliant under his kisses just in case. "I’d never be able to do this with anyone but you," he murmured as Ryuuko’s hands cupped his face.

"I’m very glad we could," Ryuuko said softly.

For one breath, Shirogane let himself go completely, leaning against Ryuuko’s body entirely relaxed, arms twined around him, laughing. "Yes. So am I." He kissed Ryuuko, open and sweet, resting against him as Ryuuko held him close in answer. The perfection of the moment stilled the very air around them.

And then he pushed away.

"Ready?" he asked, shaking back his loose hair. He’d concluded, after a minute or two of searching, that Ryuuko had most probably pocketed his hair clasp and he would have to shake Akira down for it later.

"As ready as possible." Ryuuko reached out, clasping hands with him again, and they murmured together.

"Light return to light. Darkness return to darkness."

Even with their fingers twined, Shirogane could feel the separation, the letting go, and it wrenched at him. "Ryuuko…"

And then it was Akira’s hands he held.

He sighed, catching Akira in one arm and carrying him out to lay him on the couch beside the lightly snoring Kou. He stroked Akira’s hair back and murmured to him, "I’ll be back later." It was only polite to say, after all, even if Akira wasn’t in much condition to hear.

He walked down to the river and stood beside it, watching the light slide over the surface. Eventually he sat by the edge and set his hand flat against the water, watching ripples eddy around it, feeling the cool against his palm and the heat against the back, feeling the palpable difference between realms.

He could feel the same difference spreading out through the world.

"We did it," he informed his absent counterpart, and sighed, leaning his head against his knees.

He missed Ryuuko so much.

Soon he would go back to Akira, tell him that the unspecified "ritual" had been a success, threaten Kou with slow and grisly death if he ever told Akira what that ritual had been, take up his duties again, keep going.