No Such Thing

 

Part Four

 

"Typical, Taichi…" Yamato sat alone at the same café that his best friend had confessed to taking his love interest on their first "date". He was half keeping an eye on Sora, who was chatting with one of her more enthusiastic henchmen at one of the tables, and half musing about the short list that had been left with the things that needed to be taken care of to explain Koushiro's 'absence'. "Very typical."

He could've taken care of this himself… it's not that hard to make up a lie explaining some mortal's absence to anyone who might miss him…

At the table, Sora's henchman - actually a henchwoman, with long hair and glasses - let out a burst of laughter. Yamato gave her a look of annoyance. Both his brother and Daisuke had assured him that she was a blast at parties, but anything associated with Sora was likely to annoy him at that point.

Besides, he was currently organizing some chaotic rule-breaking and he didn't need distractions.

Yamato smirked a little to himself. No matter how much Sora plotted - and she was clearly plotting - he was already several steps ahead of her. Not only had Taichi fallen for a mortal, but Daisuke was on the verge of open mutiny and Takeru was leaning toward the same.

If he were to take a guess, he'd wager that Taichi would try to drag Koushiro along with them when they left, Daisuke would stay behind with his mortal lover, and Takeru… well… who knew what Takeru would do?

And that concerns me… Yamato frowned. His brother seemed oddly distracted - but not as Daisuke was, bouncing off the walls with his happiness, or as Taichi was, constantly preoccupied with gaining Koushiro's attention. He seemed to be struggling with his choices. The alternatives he had to pick from apparently weren't making him too happy. Takeru wasn't as flighty as Daisuke; he didn't break unbreakable laws with such ease. The consequences were probably weighing on his mind.

If anyone - and that meant anyone - were to hurt Takeru, they would answer to Yamato for it. That included Sora, it included her henchmen, and it included Mimi - Queen or not.

I'll need to meet this guy who's caught his attention, too…

"Yamato!"

He looked up, startled out of his thoughts. Takeru stood beside the table, blue eyes staring mournfully down at him. "I've been looking everywhere for you," he said, dropping into the seat opposite him. "I really need your help."

"Sure, but don't say my name so loud." Yamato glanced sideways at Sora and her lackey. They didn't appear to have noticed anything, but with Sora, one could never be entirely sure. "We don't want to get caught, do we?"

Takeru only spared them the briefest of glances. "I'm sorry, but I really need advice. I don't know what to do any more."

Yamato set his list aside. "What's the problem?"

"Well… it's about this mortal I've been seeing," Takeru began. Of course. Yamato could've guessed that… "Things have been going pretty well - I mean, he's great and everything - but yesterday Daisuke got me to show Ken my wings and - "

"Daisuke what?" Yamato raised an eyebrow.

Takeru made a face. "He told Ken about himself the night before," he admitted, wryly. "I can't say I wasn't expecting it… But anyway, he wanted me to prove to Ken that I was immortal, too - and, well, Iori walked in on us."

Yamato had been told about Takeru's boyfriend, and what he had heard was enough to make him wince at that last statement. "How did he take it?"

"He was mad at first." Takeru grimaced. "I mean… yelling and screaming mad. He thought I'd been mocking him this whole time. It was really awful, listening to him… I got the feeling I'd hurt him more than anything, and that… I…" He hung his head, looking miserable.

"That's not your fault, Takeru." Yamato reached over and gave his shoulder a quick squeeze, hoping to reassure him. "You didn't know he'd react like that, did you?"

"But it is my fault…" The younger blond shook his head. "I should've told him the truth. I shouldn't have left it. When he woke up and I finally got him convinced of what I really was, he said he needed time to think, and didn't want to see me. He's really upset."

"Back up a minute." Yamato raised his eyebrow again. "'When he woke up'? Did he fall asleep while you were yelling and screaming at each other, or what?"

"Uhh… actually, he fainted." Takeru looked a bit sheepish. "I might've gone a little overboard trying to convince him."

"He fainted?" That brought a smirk. "What did you do, come floating in through the window with glowing sparks trailing around you? Because that's not a good way to break it gently to someone who's a confirmed disbeliever, you know."

Takeru smiled - it was a small, weak smile, but at least it was something. "I'll keep that in mind for next time."

Yamato shook his head. "There's going to be a next time?"

"That depends on Iori." Takeru looked down at the table again. "Yamato… I think I might be in love with him. I know he's mortal, but… well… I guess it's just something that's going around lately." He gave another weak smile.

The older blond gave his shoulder another reassuring squeeze. "Whatever happens, you know you have my support."

"Sure, so you can win your bet with Sora." A hint of the usual good-natured humor was back in Takeru's eyes.

Yamato leaned back in his seat with another smirk, pleased that he'd at least managed to improve his brother's spirits. "Can I help it if everything just falls into place for me?"

~~~~~~

If it weren't for the scent of grass and flowers, Koushiro would've suspected he was floating.

A hazy sort of layer was slowly clearing from his mind; as he became gradually more aware, the realization that he was standing upright and not lying on the ground began to filter in through that residual sleepiness. But that doesn't make sense, Koushiro thought lazily. The last thing that happened was Taichi lowering me -

Taichi!

Abruptly, his eyes flew open, his mind brushing aside that post-sleep lethargic feeling. What just happened to me? As he blinked the sleep out of his eyes, he earned himself a new question. Where am I? He was standing in the middle of a field of flowers, which sloped softly into picture-pretty forest on three sides and rose up into a cliff face over a waterfall on the fourth.

It was definitely a beautiful place… but it could've been on the moon for all he knew. He certainly wasn't where he'd been before.

So where am I?

"It's about time you woke up!"

Koushiro turned at the familiar voice, but his questions died on his lips before he could begin to voice them. In front of his eyes was Taichi… but it was not the Taichi he knew, not exactly. This Taichi had a set of delicate blue-tinged wings on his back and a strange-looking outfit covering his body, and he was hovering over the ground.

Hovering!

"You're a very sound sleeper," Taichi said casually, as if nothing were at all out of place.

"Okay." Koushiro found his voice - shaky though it was. He buried a nervous hand in his hair, trying without much success to cling to what remained of his sanity. "Okay. I'm dreaming. That's all. Dreaming. Right. This is a dream. That's why…"

"Well, you're partly right," Taichi interrupted him, lowering himself so his feet were on the ground and offering a lopsided smile. "This is a dream, sort of - but I'm the one who created the place, and you're here physically instead of just in your mind. As for the wings…" He glanced over his shoulder and shrugged. "You get used to them after a few decades or so."

A few decades… "Oh." Koushiro found himself laughing - a high, weak-sounding laugh. "Only that, huh? Just a few decades…"

"Koushiro…" Taichi sighed, and stepped forward a few paces, causing the redhead to fall back one instinctively. "No offense - I mean, I know this is a shock - but can we get to the point here? I'm immortal, you're not - at least, not yet - and I'd really like to take you with me so I can spend the rest of my existence ravishing you. Anything I missed?"

This was really making his head spin. "So you're a crazy immortal stalker, is that it?"

"I'm not a stalker!" Taichi protested indignantly, moving another step closer as if to challenge him on that one.

Koushiro resisted the urge to back away. "Well, then what would you call someone who follows a person he barely knows around almost every waking moment?"

"A very persistent and lovestruck idiot who deserves to have hot, steamy dream-sex with the object of his affections?" Taichi suggested, his eyebrows coming together hopefully.

From the heat rising on his face, Koushiro was certain that his cheeks were turning a very interesting red color. "Wha… No!" He tried to stumble back again, distracted by a series of unwanted images brought on by that suggestion, and tripped over his own feet, falling backwards onto the ground. "Ow!"

"You okay?" Taichi was beside him less than a heartbeat later, a little hint of a smile building on his lips as he knelt down in the grass. "I didn't know you were so clumsy."

Koushiro sighed. "Well, I don't get a lot of immortals asking me to sleep with them in exactly the way you just did." He pushed himself into a sitting position with both hands, and was a bit startled when Taichi reached out without warning to brush his cheek with soft fingers.

"Koushiro…" The immortal frowned, looking as if he weren't sure how to word what he wanted to say. "Look. I'm in love with you - and don't tell me I'm a stalker or crazy or anything like that." The soft brown eyes staring up into Koushiro's were very serious; he was having a hard time breathing, and it was impossible to look away. "I. Love. You. I'd do anything to convince you to come with me."

"Come with…" Koushiro stared at him for a moment, still caught by that gaze - then he shook his head. "No… I…"

"I thought you'd say that." Abruptly, the casual tone and infectious grin were back. "That's why I got you here before I went and told you all this. I've got a deal to make with you." His stare had become just a bit wicked.

Koushiro eyed him warily, not comforting by the change of expression. "Do I have a choice?"

"No." Taichi shrugged. "But look at it this way. At least I'm not demanding that you sleep with me before I let you out."

Koushiro sighed. "All right," he said wearily, giving in. "What's this deal you want to make?"

"Okay. You're going to go running around out there" - Taichi waved a hand at the surrounding forest - "and I'm going to hunt you down."

Tell me he didn't just suggest that… "I'm sorry… what!?"

"Wait, hear me out!" Taichi held up both hands as if in his own defense. "If you can stay away from me until after dark, then I'll send you back home and stop bothering you. But if I catch you while it's still light out, then you have to at least sleep with me before you make a decision. Sound fair?"

Koushiro stared at him. "Let me get this straight. You're going to try and hunt me down?"

"Right."

"With the advantage of having created this place, and being able to fly?"

"Right again."

"And if you catch me, I have to have sex with you?"

"Mm-hm." Taichi nodded, his expression just a trifle smug. He looked up at the sky. "I'll give you a ten minute head start. As of now." There was a mischievous glint in his eyes when he glanced back down at Koushiro. "So you'd better get going if you want to use all of that advantage."

The redhead gaped at him. "But - "

"Koushiro." Taichi fixed him with a steady gaze, his lips curved up in an appealing little smirk. "Is this how you plan to spend your whole ten minutes?" There was a wealth of stubbornness in those brown eyes; he was not going to back down on this.

Koushiro turned and ran off into the woods, as fast as he could move.

~~~~~~

I really wish mortals came with an instruction book. Takeru stared at the door to Iori's apartment, with one hand still raised as if he were going to knock. It was late afternoon, and he'd been lurking around since just after breakfast. Every so often he came up to stand by the door and contemplate knocking.

But every time he did, he ended up standing there for about fifteen minutes and then losing his nerve and taking off again.

Takeru had never felt so nervous in his life. And it was over a mortal - a mortal! Part of him was flatly reminding him that this was one of the dumber things he'd done during the course of his life… but it was being squashed quite firmly by the side that held images and conversation clips of Iori. He kept picturing those vivid green eyes… seeing his calm smile… listening to that quiet voice… Practical, serious, cute Iori - he was the most important thing in Takeru's life at that moment. And the idea of screwing everything up almost threw him into a panic.

When did this happen to me, anyway? When did I become so…

Stupid? In love? Didn't those hold the same meaning?

Takeru leaned his head against the door and sighed.

"Uh… Takeru? What are you doing?"

Caught off guard, the blond immortal spun around, abandoning his up-close contemplation of Iori's apartment door. The object of his affections was, in fact, standing at the top of the stairs - giving him a confused look.

"What are you doing there? I thought you were…" Takeru pointed at the door.

"I had to go shopping." Iori moved past him to open the door to his apartment. "You know, if someone doesn't come to the door after you knock, it usually means they're not home."

"I know that." Takeru wanted very much to follow the shorter boy inside and continue their conversation. But he didn't dare make a move just yet without Iori's approval. "I was trying to figure out if I should knock. I mean… I wasn't sure…" He let that trail off.

A set of huge, miserable green eyes met his gaze. Takeru was a little startled by the unhappiness in those eyes - why was Iori so upset? Because he's worried about 'us'? The possibility made his heart start to pound hard. If that were the case… he could hold and reassure him. Everything would work out - after all, he loved Iori…

"You can come in," the mortal said quietly, turning to head back into the small kitchen area and leaving Takeru to close the door behind himself.

Is that good? He didn't sound all that happy… Takeru stepped inside, staring after Iori with an odd mix of anticipation and apprehension. "Have you finished… thinking things through?"

"I guess so." Iori was storing away the things he'd bought and didn't look at Takeru as he smiled slightly. "I'm not anxious to talk to Ken… Guess he was right all along, and I was the stupid one."

"You're not stupid." Takeru took an impulsive step forward, wishing he had the nerve to run over and put his arms around the shorter boy. "You're practical and serious. And stubborn," he added, with a half-smile. "And you stick to your views - no matter who's against you."

Iori was quiet, his hands resting on the counter. He still wasn't meeting the immortal's gaze. "You really do want to be with me, don't you? I thought for a while that maybe this was all some obscure joke… but…"

"It's not." Takeru gave in to the urge that time and stepped forward to cover one of Iori's hands with his. "I'm dead serious. It might have started as something Daisuke and I decided on a whim, but that's not what it turned into. This is - you are - important to me."

Iori was already shaking his head even as he listened. "But it's not just that simple! I mean, you and Daisuke are leaving - at the end of October, right? Which means I'll be left here - alone - and we'll never see each other again."

Takeru flinched. He could feel the shorter boy shaking, and it felt terrible to know that he was the one who'd caused it. "You could come with us," he offered tentatively.

"Be serious, Takeru." Iori's eyes were misting over; he brought his free arm up and swiped at them almost angrily. "I have a life here to take care of. My family lives here. My grandfather's paying for my education, and it's something I want. I'm not just going to pack up and abandon everything!"

The immortal shut his eyes and sighed. This was what it came down to - go and try to forget, or stay and take his chances. And it was funny… in the end, it wasn't really even a choice, after all. "Well, in that case, I guess I'll just have to stay, won't I?" he said, trying to sound casual.

Iori's head whipped up, eyes widening. "What?"

"I kind of like this place." Takeru grinned, more sure by the second that this was what he wanted. "I think I'll stick around. After all, if you've seen one fairy-tale paradise, you've seen them all, right? I could use a change of scenery."

"But…" The green-eyed boy was staring at him in disbelief - and scarcely concealed hope. "Aren't you immortal anyway? You'll stay young forever, won't you?"

"It doesn't work like that." Takeru shook his head, giving the mortal a lopsided grin. "As long as our plane is my home - by permission of the Queen - it fuels my existence. By refusing her command to move out with the rest, I break one of our strictest laws. And she takes back her permission."

Iori's eyes had gone beautifully soft. "But then you'll be - "

"Mortal. Yeah." It was kind of frightening to contemplate - after expecting to live for centuries, to be reduced to decades. But he'd learn to live with it. "Worth every second of lost time."

The shorter boy looked down. "You can't… I can't let you…"

"One of us has to make a sacrifice." Takeru moved a little closer and brushed his fingers over Iori's soft cheek. "You've got a life you love, and a promising future. I didn't have much besides boredom before I met you. I'll miss my home, and I'll miss my brother and my friends, but I'll be a lot happier with you than without you." His other hand gave Iori's fingers a reassuring squeeze. "Trust me."

"Of course," Iori agreed, still staring up at him with that irresistibly soft stare. "I really should say something that would make you go. That would be the right thing to do, wouldn't it? The best thing for you."

Takeru moved closer, keeping Iori's face tilted up slightly to meet his. "If you think that's what's best for me, then maybe you really are stupid," he said - light words in a serious tone. "I love you."

Iori's arms slid around his waist hesitantly; he smiled slightly but didn't tear his eyes away. "This is the point where I should make the ultimate sacrifice and say that I don't love you - so you'll go home. But…" He choked a little. "I can't. I want you to stay. I love you too."

That was all Takeru needed to hear; he leaned forward and closed the last few inches between them, bringing their mouths together in a more serious kiss than any they'd shared so far.

And Iori didn't even hesitate before allowing the blond to move them both through the door into his bedroom.

~~~~~~

"Finished!" As Daisuke watched from his lounging position on the couch, Ken leaned back, stretching. "This is going to be one hell of a paper. Parts of it are extremely controversial." He smiled, clearly pleased with that result.

Daisuke rolled over onto his stomach. "Does that mean we can get out of this apartment and go do something? It's hot and boring in here."

"It's dark out." Ken stood up and glanced out the window, still smiling. "In this town… most other people are probably already heading to bed. It'd be the perfect time to go out."

"I knew there was a reason you're my one and only!" Daisuke pushed himself up, beaming at his lover. "I like the way you think!"

"The only question now is… What are we going to go out and do?"

Daisuke thought about it. "Well… it's a nice night for flying. All clear and everything… I'll bet we could see a lot from up - "

"Daisuke," Ken interrupted, giving him a wry look. "I don't have wings, so it'd be hard for me to fly. And what if someone saw you?"

"So what if someone saw me?" Daisuke shrugged. "If you get high enough, they can't make out much at night anyway - and besides, everyone around here already believes in us anyway." He got up off the couch, excited about the idea. "Ken, you're going to love flying. Just wait!"

Ken sighed. "I guess you're going to explain to me how I’m supposed to fly with no wings?"

Daisuke grinned. "Well then, you're going to have to hang onto me pretty tightly, aren't you?"

The taller boy blinked. "Can you actually do that?"

"Of course. Can't you?" He added a little smirk to go with that, and received a raised eyebrow in return. "There's something you need to learn right now, Ken. I can do anything."

The corners of Ken's mouth curved up into an amused little smile, but he didn't comment.

"Hey, what's that look supposed to mean, huh?"

The amused look didn't change. "I didn't say anything."

"Thanks a lot for the vote of confidence." Daisuke made a face at his lover. "I'll just have to prove it to you." He grinned again. "We are going flying tonight!"

"I thought we'd already decided that."

The immortal chose to ignore that. "Come on, let's find a spot to get started."

It was, as he'd noticed earlier, a really nice night. The sky was clear, and the air had a bit of a crisp feel to it - not as hot and stuffy as it had been a few nights before. Ken wore a navy shirt and jeans, and his pale skin seemed to glow. He looked sleek - flawless.

Beautiful.

"Is this a good enough spot?" the dark-haired boy asked, looking down from the hill they'd just climbed up. It was, in fact, the same hill that Daisuke remembered lounging on with Taichi, Yamato and Takeru on their first day in that area. He was hit by the memory of their conversation, and smiled to himself.

If only we knew back then…

"Does that smile mean you don't plan to answer me, or are you contemplating something I really should hear about for my own well-being?"

"Huh?" Daisuke smiled sheepishly. "Oh, sorry. I was just thinking about when we first got here. I never would've predicted this - you know? Things have this way of happening without asking you if it's okay first."

Ken nodded, his eyes serious. "Someone once commented to me that it was like fate went through mood swings while planning out a person's life."

"Well, fate likes me right now." He grinned in response. "After all, look at what happened to me. I got a really hot mortal guy, and now I'm going to spend the rest of my existence with him. Pretty sweet, huh?"

The taller boy smiled. "And where are we planning to live, anyway?"

Daisuke shrugged. "I don't care. We can stay here if you want." Giving up his home would be painful… but so what? He and Ken were going to be happy.

"Well… there are things here I don't want to just leave behind…" Ken frowned slightly. "But I'd be more than thrilled to live at your home. If only there were some way to take care of everything here, and still be able to go with you."

"Doesn't matter." The immortal grinned. "I'll stay here with you. So it's all good."

Ken's fingers brushed over his cheek lightly. "Yeah," he agreed, in that serious tone that sent shivers up and down Daisuke's spine.

"Well…" Daisuke was the first to break the gaze they'd locked themselves into, turning to look up at the sky. "Are you ready to try flying?"

"If you're ready to show me how it's done."

Daisuke closed his eyes and let his wings out again. It was easier to bring them out than to conceal them, since this was his natural appearance. "I'm not going to end up in the circus or something if someone sees me, am I?"

Ken laughed. "Not if I can help it." He smirked. "You're mine, and mine alone. No one else is getting the chance to ogle you."

"I like that idea." Daisuke stepped forward and wrapped his arms around his lover's waist. "Shall we?"

"I'd be more than happy to," the taller boy agreed, sliding his arms around Daisuke's neck and bringing their faces close together.

"Okay, if I crash into a tree, it's not my fault."

Ken laughed again, and Daisuke spread his wings and lifted them off the ground, sending the both of them soaring into the sky together.

~~~~~~

"Ouch!" Koushiro swatted aside a stray branch, trying to fight his way through what seemed to be a path blocked off with small, springy, extremely painful tree limbs. He couldn't tell how far behind him Taichi might be; there had been no sign of his pursuer since their 'contest' had begun.

Why do I have a sinking suspicion he's sitting somewhere comfortable and laughing at my efforts?

This was seriously unfair. Koushiro shoved aside more branches with both hands, trying to keep them from springing back and swatting at him. It was a world of Taichi's creation, or so he'd said, and now he expected Koushiro to be able to run away from him and hide in it until dark?

No, Koushiro thought, feeling decidedly sullen about the whole business. He doesn't expect me to be able to hide. He expects to win, because he's planned everything around that all along.

And that meant as soon as Taichi got around to trying, he would find Koushiro, and then they'd end up somewhere comfortable - most likely in a compromising position, and eagerly trying to find ways to get under each other's clothing as quickly as possible…

Stop. He let a branch hit him on purpose that time, pulling himself back from those thoughts with some effort. If there was one thing he'd learned during his short time spent in that place, it was to keep his mind away from certain… areas. Being distracted wasn't a good idea.

Not if I actually plan to have a chance at getting away…

And he did want to get away, Koushiro reminded himself firmly. He did not want to sleep with Taichi - well… he did, but he wasn't going to. He was going to avoid it at any cost. Right?

Right.

The redhead broke free of the stinging branches, and back to the stream he'd been following. He wasn't sure if Taichi could see his footprints anywhere, but he made a point to walk through the water every so often just in case.

At least that might improve my chances.

The problem was that the odds weren't in his favor. Koushiro's mind worked at that problem, trying to find a way to even things out. It was Taichi's world, and he would know every inch of it. Naturally he'd be aware of all the hiding places Koushiro might choose for himself, so the redhead hadn't wasted his time in trying to find any.

He had to outsmart Taichi somehow.

But how do you outsmart an immortal when you're in a world they created all on their own?

Well… He would be expecting Koushiro to get as far away from him as possible… Perhaps there was a way to double back without being noticed. If he could find a spot closer to the clearing where he'd first woken up, Taichi may have already searched it, and so would be less likely to search it again. And if it were possible to escape one way if he saw his opponent coming from another, then he might even have a chance.

Even if he wasn't entirely certain he wanted one…

Koushiro pushed that thought aside, determined not to waver on this. All right… That's what I'll do, then.

He crossed to the other side of the stream, and started back along that side. Heading upstream, he'd reach the waterfall eventually. This was a risky move - Taichi was heading in this direction, and he could be running right back into the man's arms… But if he didn't try something, he didn't have a chance of getting out of this mess.

And I do want to get out of this mess… I do…

He'd already been moving for at least an hour in the other direction, so the journey back took approximately the same amount of time. There was also no sign of Taichi, which Koushiro took to be a bad omen. He glanced up at the sky hopefully, but the sun didn't seem to be anywhere near setting.

Taichi still had plenty of time, then.

Koushiro decided it was best to pretend that didn't make him feel excited rather than afraid. I still have no idea of what his plan of attack might be…

The redhead reached the waterfall a short while later, feeling hot, tired, sweaty, and out-of-sorts. This was not a game he would have gotten involved in given a choice.

But I wasn't given a choice, was I?

Thoughts like that weren't going to help. What he needed now was a hiding place.

Koushiro glanced around quickly, then - on some obscure instinct - squinted more closely at the waterfall itself. It was difficult to see behind the cascade, but if he could get a look at the rock behind it…

Aha! He let out a relieved breath - that wasn't really entirely relieved - and started the climb up the side. There was, in fact, a cave - made practically invisible by the steady flow of the waterfall that fell in front of it. Koushiro pulled himself up into the small space, using rock ledges as hand- and foot-holds.

Luckily for him, it was not a long climb.

I think I'd better take a look and see if there's another way out. Being cornered in a cave by Taichi… Not good, he reminded his hormones firmly. We're trying not to sleep with him, remember?

Why was it so difficult to keep that thought firmly in mind?

Koushiro crawled through the small, damp space. Oddly, it wasn't terribly unpleasant - the cave didn't smell too bad, and the rocks on its floor didn't cut into his hands and knees. It curved to the right quite obviously, though, and after a moment, he found himself coming out in the woods - just a short distance from the clearing.

Not too bad a hiding spot… Koushiro relaxed a little. At least he'd have a fighting chance. If all went well, he would manage not to get caught and forced to sleep with someone he didn't want -

Well… I do want to sleep with Taichi. That fact he couldn't deny. He bit his lip, trying not to picture his adversary's playful brown eyes and smooth, tanned skin. Taichi was wonderful - he was sweet and funny, and his company was nothing but pleasant. Koushiro wanted nothing as much as to be in his arms, kissing and holding him… but… he couldn't…

I can't… because…

Because…

Wait just a minute…

Hadn't his reasoning been that Taichi was a stranger and he hadn't been sure of the man's intentions?

But… he knew who Taichi was now

Koushiro stared at the cave wall, feeling like he'd been smacked across the back of the head with something hard. If this wasn't some crazy dream, then his suitor was actually an immortal being who intended to take him off to a paradise where they would spend eternity being showered with comforts and pleasures!

And if it was a dream, then none of this mattered at all anyway!

"Koushiro," the redhead muttered to himself, smacking his hand to his forehead, "you idiot."

He took in a long, deep breath and let it out slowly. All right. He still had time - this situation was very easily remedied. All he'd managed to waste were a few hours. It would be simple enough to make up for the lost time…

A slow smile was starting to form on Koushiro's face. This can certainly be turned to my advantage, as well…

When Taichi came back to the clearing above the waterfall, the sky was painted in a brilliant early-sunset mix of colors. There were soft shadows highlighting the area, somehow seeming to make individual features clearer and more distinct. Koushiro stood close to the center - seemingly unaware that he had company - and the early evening coloring complimented his hair perfectly.

He could feel Taichi sneaking up behind him, too… The redhead smiled to himself, waited until the immortal was about to pounce, and turned to meet him abruptly.

"Surprise," he said simply, then took advantage of Taichi's shock, grabbed his shirt with both hands, and pulled himself in close enough to steal a kiss for the third time since he'd met the man.

It wasn't a good kiss - Taichi hadn't been expecting it, and his mouth was somewhat slack with surprise even as the rest of him tensed up. But it sent soft shivers down Koushiro's spine all the same. I believe I've finally made the right decision here…

Why hadn't he realized sooner? He'd never even tried to relax when he was with Taichi - he was so convinced that the man couldn't be trusted… And the whole time, the things he'd thought were so harmless - talking to him, watching him as he spoke or acted, spending time walking casually together and getting used to each other's presence - had been what trapped him in the end.

This wasn't just desire any more…

"Koushiro…" Taichi gasped a little, but apparently decided not to waste time in case this was only temporary and Koushiro would be coming to his senses and pulling away soon. Wrapping his arms around the redhead's waist, he returned the kiss enthusiastically.

Definitely the right decision. His head spun, and his knees were getting weak… For the second time since wandering into the woods to meet him, Koushiro let his admirer lower him to the ground - this time exchanging increasingly passionate kisses with him as he did.

After a few more moments of that, they had to pull apart - reluctantly - for air. Clouded brown eyes stared down into the redhead's own with a sort of bemused look in them, and Koushiro found he couldn't look away. Taichi's face always mirrored his emotions… and what he could see there now was enough to take his breath away.

How had he missed this? How was it even possible?

"Not that I'm complaining," Taichi said, somewhat breathlessly. "But what - exactly - brought this on?"

Koushiro couldn't help but laugh. The past two months suddenly seemed so ridiculous… And with this happy, heady feeling he was experiencing… well… "I think I love you."

"You…" Taichi's eyes went wide with surprise - then softened wonderingly. "Oh Koushiro…" He kissed him - on the lips; the cheeks; the neck; and back up to his face again, ecstatically.

"Taichi…" Koushiro held onto his soon-to-be lover rather tightly, feeling his world spin. Why exactly was I so against this?

Taichi leaned back a little and smiled brilliantly down at him. "Would you be willing to spend eternity with me? Or - well - not quite eternity… but a very long time?"

Koushiro brought one hand up to press it against Taichi's face, confirming his reality and the reality of his situation. "How soon can we start?" he murmured back, and leaned up to bring their faces together in a very serious kiss.

 

Next