All That We Are


Chapter Five


When Yata opened his eyes, there was a sluggish feel to it, as if he were doing it underwater. His vision was blurry at first, but he had the impression of laughter and warmth.

Ah… I’m at Homra.

“Back with us, Yata-chan?” Kusanagi’s voice had a note of fond amusement in it; when his vision cleared, he found his older friend smiling at him from behind the bar.

“Kusanagi-san…?” He blinked, and then looked around. Everyone was there, grinning and joking around, not really paying much attention to where he’d slumped over one of the tables. The air in the room was comfortably warm, a familiar sense of welcome present in the sight of his friends’ grins and the sound of their laughter and casual banter. The atmosphere was relaxed.

Despite all of that, there was a feeling of unease building within him. Yata swallowed, trying to remember why. “Did I fall asleep?”

“That’s right!” A familiar light-toned voice announced cheerfully behind him, and for whatever reason, Yata felt something clench painfully in his chest as Totsuka ducked forward to smile brightly at him. “Out like a light! Must’ve been tired, huh, Yata?”

“Eh?” The unease was gradually progressing to dread; puzzled by the feeling, Yata furrowed his brow and tried to pick up the conversational thread. “Well…”

Totsuka chucked, his gaze sliding past Yata. “Have you been working him too hard, King?”

At that, his heart gave a sharp and painful tug; Yata looked up quickly, catching the slow motion of Mikoto’s head as he looked up from his usual seat on the couch. There was sunlight beaming in through the window behind him, creating shadows across his face and making it difficult to see his expression. “No more than usual,” that deep, measured voice responded.

Mikoto-san… Once again, something within him throbbed; he had to swallow hard, unable to speak, and felt tears rising to his eyes inexplicably. Feeling dazed and more than a little overwhelmed, he reached up to touch them, not quite registering the damp on his fingertips. His vision wavered and blurred out.

“Eh? What’s wrong, Yata?” Totsuka suddenly sounded alarmed. “Did you have a bad dream?”

I don’t know… I don’t…

There was a familiar, irritable tongue click from the direction of the bar, and Yata’s breath caught painfully in his throat. “If you didn’t stay up playing video games all the time, maybe you wouldn’t be so tired,” Saruhiko mumbled.


The sense of something being terribly wrong was screaming at him now, but he couldn’t seem to pinpoint what the problem was. Yata reached up to brush at the stream of tears, trying to smile around the ache in his chest and throat as he turned to face his oldest friend. “Oi… you don’t have to say that – ”

“Don’t I?” When he turned, the room seemed to shift and fade out, the sounds of laughter and boisterous voices dropping off as he faced Saruhiko, who stood alone in a void of darkness. Despite the lack of light there was a glare on his glasses, hiding his eyes, and his lips were already spreading into a smirk as he lowered his head. He was dressed in blue, his hair styled messily; as he raised his gaze and the shadows dropped off, there was something manic in his eyes. One of his hands burst into flame as Yata watched, frozen. “Or maybe I haven’t said enough… right, Misaki?” he breathed out in a gleefully mocking tone, reaching up with his free hand to tug the collar of his white work shirt down to reveal the mangled wreck of his Homra mark.

Sick horror and alarm grasped him; Yata knocked his chair over in his haste to rise, reaching forward without thinking “Don’t – !”

There was no chance to finish; the flame around Saruhiko’s hand burst into an inferno, consuming him entirely and reducing him to ashes in seconds. The echo of his breathless laughter hung behind in the aftermath, the ghostly sound of it seeming to rise up with his remains as they were blown off into nothing by a breeze that Yata didn’t feel.

Sa-Saruhiko… A tremble started in Yata’s limbs; his knees nearly gave out with the shock.

“Don’t worry…” The words from behind him were hauntingly familiar, the tone struggling to produce comfort despite its owner’s lack of strength. Yata spun around and found himself faced with Totsuka’s hunched figure, head bowed forward so that only the weak attempt at a smile was visible. His chest was marred by a bloody hole; a trail of red formed at the corner of his mouth. “Everything will be all right,” he murmured, his voice a shadow of its formerly cheerful self.

“Totsuka-san!” Again, Yata jumped forward, reaching forward with all his might.

“Sorry…” As if the motion had been the tipping point, Totsuka’s body slipped away from Yata’s desperately grasping fingers, falling sharply backwards. As he hit the point where the ground should’ve been, he abruptly shattered, the pieces scattering to oblivion.

At that, Yata’s legs did fail him; he fell to his knees with an impact that didn’t even seem to hurt, shock and horror rushing through his body in waves.


“Yata.” The slow tone of his King had him snapping his head up without thinking, glancing around wildly. Mikoto wasn’t anywhere in sight; around him, there was nothing but darkness. But still, that deep voice continued. “That’s enough.”

“Mikoto-san?” There was no trace of movement or even a sense of presence in the void around him. Yata felt panic rising, and his body trembled even more violently as he searched frantically. “Where are you?”

“That’s enough,” the familiar voice rumbled back at him. It sounded fainter now, as if its owner were retreating. “That’s enough, Yata…”

“Wait – Mikoto-san!” Yata hastily attempted to stumble to his feet and follow blindly – and found that his legs seemed to have been weighed down, sinking slowly into the floor as if it were quicksand. He struggled violently against it and felt his body sink further, arms scrambling for purchase against what suddenly felt like a melting surface. “O-oi…” As his face neared the ground, the scent of blood mingled with burning flesh was suddenly so strong in his nose that he gagged, unable to speak further, and started to cough violently.

Can’t breathe…

Everything went still.




Even as his eyes shot open, Yata felt his stomach heave, bile rising fast at the back of his throat from the lingering memory of that horrible smell. He fumbled his way up from the couch in Homra’s basement, limbs still heavy with sleep and starting to stiffen with shock from the rude awakening. Clamping a hand tightly over his mouth, he caught a handful of spit-up with his fingers before he could stumble across to the toilet and all but collapse forward against the seat, emptying what little was in his stomach into the bowl.

The angry smack of his knees hitting the tiled floor actually registered as pain this time, connecting him solidly with reality as he heaved violently.

It was mostly just bitter, burning fluid that came out, but even after that was done, his midsection spasmed a few more times in furious protest of… whatever that was… before he fell still, panting as he braced himself awkwardly against the cool porcelain.

After that, it was several more long seconds before he gathered himself enough to take stock of his situation. He was still in his clothing from the day before, caked in sweat from the muggy mid-August temperature, and now with his knees smarting and a vile taste in his mouth. Yata shut his eyes, pushing himself away from the toilet harshly. “Fuck,” he muttered.

He’d fallen asleep at Homra… again. Most nights he made an effort to go back to his own apartment, if only because hanging around the bar when it was empty sometimes had the effect of making him feel empty too. The sense of loss could – and did – strike at any time. He’d get mad – or frustrated, or just irritable, or sad – but it would always end with emptiness.

He didn’t really know what to do with himself now that Homra didn’t fill up his time. The silence and the blandness of his life were stifling. Sometimes it helped to be at the bar, and other times it made things worse. It was hard to predict.

Whatever. Letting out a frustrated breath, Yata opened his eyes, reached up to flush the revolting contents of the toilet and then braced a hand on the bowl for leverage as he rose to his feet. He wiped his mouth off with the back of his hand, pausing to try and get hold of himself now that he’d been rudely jerked out of a sound sleep.

There wasn’t much else he could do but move forward, however pointless it seemed now.

His hand was shaking when he pulled it back, body still reacting to the impression of the dream that was still stark and clear in his mind. Looking at it from a distance, it probably shouldn’t have felt as real as it did, but actually experiencing it… watching those things…

Feeling totally helplessness…

“Shut up,” he muttered out loud, lips twisting down into a scowl as he deliberately turned to the basin to rinse off his hands. The cool water felt like a shock on his warm skin, but it wasn’t unpleasant. He focused on leaning forward, cupping his palm to catch a pool of it and bending so he could pour it into his mouth, swishing and spitting to clean out the gross aftertaste.

Would’ve been nice if he could do the same for his brain.

Yata straightened at that thought, briefly shutting his eyes and letting out a shaky, frustrated breath. Homra had been a place he could usually count on for a nightmare-free sleep, but not only had that failed him tonight, this one had been way more vivid than the rest. He’d had his senses tricked before – things like sticky blood against his skin or the sense of Totsuka’s body in his arms as it went slack – but that had been… Hell. It still felt like traces of that sickening-sweet smell lingered around his nose, and his stomach rolled threateningly in response. Way more intense than usual.

First time he’d woke up and puked, anyway.

It occurred to him that this shit was probably getting worse rather than better, but he couldn’t summon up much more than a dull irritation at the thought. Yata turned off the water and shook out his hands reflexively before curling his still-trembling fingers into loose fists, shoulders slumping naturally as he stepped out of the washroom.

The basement was warm, almost unpleasantly so with the thin layer of moisture clinging to his skin and clothing from the nightmare. It was dark too, still well before dawn, but the room was illuminated by the light coming from the active projector. The tape had finished on a frozen image of Kamamoto with one large arm clamped in a friendly manner around Bandou’s shoulders and his free hand curled into a fist that was pressed against Yata’s. All three of them were grinning widely, caught in a moment of careless happiness.

Yata felt his eyes sting, a lump rising at the back of his throat as he took in the captured memory. If he’d known those moments had an expiry date, he probably would’ve treasured them more.

Not that anyone else did…

The bitterness in that thought was an old friend by now. Yata made a soft ‘ch’, turning from the projected image to remove the tape and turn off the projector, with the half-formed notion of either camping out on the couch for the rest of the night or heading back to his apartment.

The whir of the active machine cut out with an abruptness that was somehow jarring, the room falling into silence and the light and color seeming to leech from his surroundings all at once. There was moonlight seeping in through the windows, but it took a moment for his eyes to adjust, and when they did, it felt like he was standing in the middle of a room full of shadows – sad, ghostlike echoes of a place that had been warm and comfortable once.

The sting returned full-force, eyes and nose both this time, and tears blurred his vision. Yata didn’t bother to reach up and swipe at them this time, passively letting the moment of formless grief overtake him. In his mind, he could see the images from his dream – that carefree happiness and contentment in the peaceful scene vanishing as important people left him, one by one.

Totsuka-san… Mikoto-san… Kusanagi-san… everyone…


Not a single important person could be bothered to stick around. Yata felt the edge of bitterness and helpless frustration creep in around the grief, his fingers clenching again into fists at his sides. What was Homra to them, anyway? The red clan was his pride, the thing that he had built his entire self around, and they could all leave it behind them like it was nothing at all.

Even if he tried to tell himself in his heart that he was still Homra’s Yatagarasu, it felt hollow now. Nothing but lip service with no substance to it.

But if he wasn’t Yatagarasu, then who was he?

There was an answer to that question lurking in the darkest part of him – that small, self-conscious corner that he’d closed off years ago. It hadn’t surfaced since he’d met Saruhiko and gained a certainty in his soul – an unshakeable feeling that he was Saruhiko’s soulmate and destined for great things by extension.

Nobody special.

With even the earlier grief and indignation running their course, the familiar emptiness was starting to wedge its way back into his thoughts. Yata let out a rough sigh and clicked his tongue again, shutting his drying eyes for a brief second of resignation. He wasn’t going to be able to sleep now anyway, so there was no point in trying.

Swiping a careless hand to clear away the lingering dampness on his face, he reached out to turn the projector back on.




His stomach was still a little queasy even hours later, so Yata didn’t bother stopping to grab breakfast after locking up the bar and heading out. Hell, it wasn’t like he ate all that regularly these days. Most of the time he wasn’t really hungry, and that combined with being dirt fucking poor made it easier to just skip meals.

There wasn’t much to do that day, either. Yata let his skateboard drop, stepping onto it and kicking off aimlessly. He didn’t work, and had no plans.

What the hell would he even plan? He had no goddamn friends around.

Still, he didn’t feel like going back to his apartment. Didn’t feel like going back into the bar either. Didn’t feel like watching more tapes, didn’t feel like playing video games, didn’t feel like going to the game center or watching TV or… anything.

Who cares, anyway? It didn’t matter what he did.

Because he didn’t have a destination or a goal, he ended up just skating randomly. The dull sense of loss kinda faded into the background with the familiar comfort of motion and speed. He could control this – navigating the sidewalks of Shizume City, weaving around the increasing foot traffic with comfortable ease, casually kicking his board off the ground and flipping here and there just for the sake of switching it up. With the pavement reduced to his playing field and a breeze whipped up against his skin, he felt a sense of normalcy in a world that had lost most of its meaning.

It didn’t give him that sense of freedom and power it had before, but he’d take what he could get at this point.

The previous night started to take its toll sooner than he expected. Yata hadn’t done more than doze off a couple of times while going through more of Totsuka’s tapes and it wasn’t like this was the first time he’d had a rough night recently, so it shouldn’t have surprised him, but the sudden drop in his stamina was jarring just the same. His movements started to get sluggish after the sun passed the midway mark in the sky, legs feeling unsteady as he pushed off and tried to balance. It felt like there was a weight growing in his chest. The mixture of an empty stomach – when was the last time he’d had a proper meal, anyway? – and a lack of uninterrupted sleep were making themselves known throughout his body.

Guess I’ll go home. It was early, but he’d probably sleep now. Yata veered off his course, slowly doing the mental calibration as he took in his surroundings to get a sense of where he was. If he was lucky, he’d pass out on his futon and sleep without dreaming until early morning. He had a shift in the afternoon the next day, so he could eat or something first. Maybe try for a real meal instead of just snacks.

It would give him something to do, at least.

With the haze of weariness and hunger draped over him, Yata's observational and reaction skills were heavily hampered. That was how he ended up skating blindly across a street before the light had changed, and caught the screeching of tires barely an instant before blunt force struck him from the side.

It was a strong hit – the car must've been speeding – but there was enough red aura remaining in him that his body didn't take the damage an ordinary person's would've. Still, being unprepared, he went flying off his skateboard, hit the ground hard, and rolled a few times before coming to a heavy stop, face down. Dazed, he didn't get up immediately.

There was the sound of a car door opening. "Shit! Kid, are you all right?" A frantic-sounding man's voice rang out.

Hell. Yata was more annoyed than anything – the various bruises and abrasions were nothing more than a nuisance. He pushed himself to a sitting position with some effort, feeling vaguely nauseated and a little dizzy now in addition to everything else. "Yeah."

He heard the relieved exhale as footsteps came towards him. "What the hell were you thinking, skating out in the middle of – ?"

"I'll be taking charge of this from here," a familiar bored drawl cut in. Yata felt like all the veins in his body turned to ice at once. When he looked up, it was in time to see Saruhiko pick up his skateboard from the street and straighten, fixing the man with a sharp look from between the car and Yata. "You can go."

What the hell is he doing here? Somehow, Yata couldn't manage to do more than stare dumbly.

"Am I under arrest?" The man sounded uncertain. Saruhiko's uniform seemed to have convinced him that this was someone with authority, even if he didn't know what kind.

"No. You're not the one who thinks he's above traffic laws." Saruhiko shot Yata a look that was a mix of scathing and resigned. "Get up, Misaki. You're sitting in the middle of a busy street."

That tone was enough to raise his hackles, irritation and frustration rising through the fog settled around his head. "You fucking..." Yata struggled to his feet as Saruhiko turned on his heel and walked sharply toward the curb. He had to press a hand over his side, which throbbed warningly as he stumbled forward. "Oi! Saruhiko! What the hell are you doing?"

There was a brief but potent pause. Behind them, the car door closed; the car itself sped off.

Saruhiko had halted on the sidewalk with his back to Yata and the skateboard still in his hand. After the pause he let it drop, the clatter of it hitting the ground nearly overpowering his words when he finally spoke. "Removing a traffic obstruction. Be more careful next time, idiot." There was another, much shorter moment of silence and then he added, "It's not like you have a full red aura, after all."

"You..." Yata's free hand clenched into a fist. There were dark spots swimming in his vision, and he couldn't seem to summon the full force of his anger. He glared helplessly at the back of Saruhiko's head. "Bastard..."

As he stepped forward and bent to retrieve his skateboard, his stomach gave a sharp lurch and his head spun alarmingly. "Don't you even...?" He tried to straighten, and nearly puked as his side throbbed again, causing his vision to split. His words seemed to stick to each other when he spoke again, slurring on his tongue. "Don't you even fucking ca... re...?"

"Misaki?" The undertone of tense alarm in Saruhiko's voice was the last thing he heard before he pitched forward, the world rapidly giving way to darkness.




When he came to, it was to the familiar twilight glow spilling through the windows of Bar Homra just above the couch where he was lying flat. Yata blinked, having trouble opening his eyes wider than a fraction as he struggled with dizzying disorientation.

I was going home... right?

"You're finally awake?" The sound of boot heels clicking on the floor accompanied that bored-sounding question.

Yata didn't have to open his eyes to identify the other person in the room - he could've recognized that voice no matter what shape he was in – but he did anyway, struggling to sit up as he eyed the still-not-quite-focused image of Saruhiko standing next to him. The blue jacket was absent, leaving him in only his white work shirt and vest.

"What're you doing here?" Yata muttered, wariness tinged with faint hostility stirring in his belly.

Saruhiko, in the bar again… How many times had he wished for it over the past couple of years? The irony of it finally happening now, in a situation like this, made him feel like crying again.

Why? Why couldn’t you have come back before this? Why now?

Saruhiko clicked his tongue. "We're all under instruction from above to keep an eye on former red clansmen," he responded, sounding irritated. "I would've heard about it from the lieutenant later if I'd left you on the street. And now there's a chance you have a concussion too, so it's not like I can just leave you here, either." He held out his hand; as the world shifted into focus in front of Yata's tired eyes, the glass he was holding did as well. "Here. Take it."

He was too groggy and exhausted to argue. Yata pulled his knees up, turning to sit properly as he took the glass. "What is it?"

"Water. What were you expecting?"

"Dunno. Poison?" Yata managed a small, humorless chuckle at that, taking a half-hearted sip. The water was cool, cutting into the warm fog that had settled over his head sharply. He was starting to feel almost normal as he drank again, letting it course through him and clear up his mind a bit.

Saruhiko sighed. "Don't tempt me." His voice was dry. "Do you have any idea how much work is piling up while I'm stuck babysitting you here?"

Somehow, both the attitude and the tone were having a calming effect. Yata almost found himself smiling, a little wave of nostalgia rushing over him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been able to talk normally with Saruhiko. It was weird. And, well... maybe he was hated now, but this behavior was so familiar. It was almost like...

Yeah, don't go there. A small twinge from an old hurt that had never managed to heal struck him with that thought. He couldn't get used to it; after all, Saruhiko was just gonna leave again. Like he always did.

Like everyone else had already done.

The lack of a response seemed to unsettle his conversation partner. Saruhiko clicked his tongue again, a hint of wariness in his gaze when Yata looked up to meet it. "Hurry up and drink," he mumbled. "The sooner you're back to normal, the sooner I can get back to work."

Yeah, there it was. Yata felt the tiny thread of hope he hadn't quite managed to tug loose go up in flames at that. The empty feeling was back, spreading out from the center of his body as he turned his eyes to scowl down at the glass in his hand. "I’m fucking fine."

Another impatient sigh. "You were hit by a car, in case you've forgotten." There was some rustling, and Yata felt the displacement of the cushion next to him as Saruhiko sat down. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Even if you didn't hit your head, you weren't always the best at remembering things, were you, Misaki?"

Somewhat surprised, Yata shot him a sideways glare. "Don't call me that!" It felt like a mockery now when Saruhiko used that name. The moment of carefree happiness when they'd agreed to call each other by their given names was still clear in his mind – he wasn't that bad at remembering things – and the ache in his soul got worse now when he was drawn back into it. "Didn't you just say you're busy? Fuck off and leave me alone already."

Saruhiko returned his gaze with even dispassion, arms crossed and a frown on his lips. “As soon as I’m satisfied you’re not going to pass out and die on this couch, I will.” He cocked his head condescendingly. “Obviously you can’t be trusted to assess your own condition, so I’ll rely on my judgement. Nothing new there.”

Normally, something like that would’ve pissed him off. Yata felt the seed of bitter frustration sprouting up within him and scowled in return, but he couldn’t manage to summon up a proper anger. It was just echoes of previous emotions now, skirting around the edges of that dull blankness at the core. “You really piss me off, you know that?” he muttered in response, lifting the glass again so he had something to focus on other than the painfully familiar face and expression. “Fuck your judgement, anyway.”

Even now, being this close to Saruhiko sent shivers along his skin. He didn’t know where to start with the complicated mix of feelings he harbored, but the physical reactions were impossible to mistake. He remembered exactly what those thin lips felt like against his, and the thought of it sparked a familiar warmth in his lower belly.

It was an attraction he’d never been able to kill, even after all this time. Even after everything that had happened.

Saruhiko clicked his tongue again, mumbling under his breath, “Eloquent as ever. You haven’t changed.”

“Hah! Like you can talk about change!” Yata plunked the empty glass down onto the coffee table, ignoring the wobble as it recovered from the swift force with which it had been placed and turning to glare again. “You’re always like this, doing whatever the hell you feel like! You piss me off so much!” With the flow of bitter words started, he couldn’t stop the rest of it from surging onward. “Are you fucking happy? Everyone else left, just like you! I’m here all by myself like an idiot! Is that why you’re hanging around? To gloat? You hate me, right?” A bitterly amused snort escaped him at that, and he felt his lips curl derisively as he watched that impassive face for some reaction. “You gotta be happy now that I’m this pathetic, huh?”

Something seemed to shift in Saruhiko’s expression. It was a small thing – Yata couldn’t even place what it was, only that he noticed it immediately and his breath instinctively slowed as he did. “No.”

The unexpected sharpness of that response was like a blow; Yata stared back dumbly, taken completely off-guard. “Huh?”

Saruhiko tipped his head forward, arms uncurling slowly, and it was only in that moment that Yata realized how he’d leaned in during his own impassioned speech.

Their faces were… close…

“I’m not,” Saruhiko mumbled, halfway closing his eyes but not able to disguise how his pupils had widened as he returned Yata’s gaze steadily, “happy.”

The shudder that ran through Yata’s body at that was almost uncomfortably warm. He swallowed, more than a little confused, unable to find the thread of the conversation again in his scrambled brain. This close, he could see the individual lines of Saruhiko’s lashes behind his glasses. “O-oh.”

Those eyes never failed to devastate him. A tight coil was forming already in his lower body, the ache of longing rising up fast and nearly choking him with its force. The sharp but pleasant sensations of his skin tingling and his chest throbbing from within were already clouding his thoughts, overpowering practicality with an intoxicating want.

He’d missed Saruhiko. And he never knew what to do with those feelings that he couldn’t seem to get rid of. They sat cold and stagnate inside of him most of the time, but when something called out to them they could still stab through him with a force that shook him to his core. He missed the way Saruhiko’s face transformed with just the faintest hint of a smile – the way he could pierce through a person with a single, pointed look. He missed the soft lilt of Saruhiko’s voice and the way he reached up to brush his hair aside with those deft fingers. He remembered watching Saruhiko’s hands at work, the graceful ease with which he did the things that came naturally to him, like typing or flipping his knives, or even the way he so carefully picked out the undesirable parts of his meals.

He missed those little quirks, the ones that annoyed him sometimes in the past, the frustration and the irritation and the headaches, because the sum total of everything that made Saruhiko who he was – who Yata had thought he was – had always drawn him in. He couldn’t help it.

The amount of space between them had already begun to decrease, the mingling of their breath seeming to warm the air around their faces. Yata felt the ghost of that shared breath against his lips and his heart beat harder against his chest, eyes lowering to slits. He couldn’t bring himself to close them entirely, still unwilling to completely block out the view of Saruhiko’s lidded gaze.

He’s so…

So. A lot of things.

He could’ve pulled back. Should’ve, really – this was obviously a bad idea if he stopped to think about it. Nothing was fixed between them. Nothing was going to change. It never did. But something in him ached furiously, wanting this with a passion, and for once there was no sign of encroaching emptiness.

I want him. The thought passed through his mind with an unexpected fervency, even as Saruhiko sucked in a breath and deliberately closed the remaining gap between them, their lips connecting with sudden, desperate force.

The tiny pile of rational objections he was trying to gather scattered in an instant.

It took less than a second for Yata’s brain to piece together the new development, and then he was pressing back urgently, thoughts going up in flames as Saruhiko followed up on that advantage, turning his body to lean heavily against Yata.

His side hit the arm of the couch, the hard edge of it digging in as he opened his mouth to the demand of Saruhiko’s tongue, a small unconscious noise escaping him when they connected. Acting on instinct, Yata reached up to loop his arms around Saruhiko’s shoulders, aggressively pulling him closer and ignoring the pressure against his back as he turned to allow their bodies to align. Every point of contact between them felt hot – burning – and he couldn’t get enough of it.

It had been a long time… a really long time…

Still, all of it was coming back to him in a rush, feelings surging up in response to the stimulation. Saruhiko’s unique scent, the press of his cool slender fingers against Yata’s hips, the hungry motions of his lips and tongue as the kiss grew sloppy... It had never been this urgent – this desperate – between them in their few failed attempts, but Yata wasn’t complaining. He could’ve drowned in it and he wouldn’t have minded.

They broke apart after several long heated moments, mouths parting with reluctance as they caught their breath. When Yata slid his eyes open a fraction, he was greeted with a sight that caused the air to catch in his throat, nearly choking him. Saruhiko’s flushed face was in front of him, his lidded eyes clouded with desire behind his the slightly fogged lens of his glasses as he returned the gaze with a matching intensity to the feelings flooding Yata’s body. His lips were noticeably pinker and slightly parted as he breathed heavily.

It was… kind of lewd. Maybe more than kind of, even. Yata’s heart, already pounding hard, seemed to kick it up another notch. Between his legs, the half-formed erection that had been the inevitable result of their actions stiffened pleasurably and a little shiver went through him.

Even just looking at each other… All of this… It felt so good.

Somewhere in the midst of scrambling to decrease what little space was left between their bodies, Saruhiko had ended up partly sprawled over him, one of Yata’s legs bent up and squashed awkwardly against the couch beside him. The position was intimate enough to bring a prickling rush of heat up his neck to his cheeks, halfway embarrassed desire causing him to squirm.

He wasn’t about to stop, though. Fuck no. It had been months since he’d felt this alive.

“Misaki,” Saruhiko mumbled, voice low and affected, and Yata barely had time to gasp out a responding “Saru – ” before his mouth was captured again, with no less urgency than before. The soft vibration of a moan against his lips caused another pleasant shudder, followed by the slick tip of Saruhiko’s tongue prodding for entry – which he was more than happy to grant.

Are we doing it? Through the haze that had settled over his mind, that thought kind of snuck in – just as Saruhiko shifted against him, adjusting, and Yata felt the hard lump of an erection brush against his trapped thigh. He felt a little shock run through his body, skin prickling, even as Saruhiko stiffened briefly against him, sucking in a sharp breath through his nose before pressing harder into the kiss, fingers tightening on Yata’s hips nearly to the point of pain.

So he wasn’t the only one. We’re doing it. Hell. The realization came with a kind of wonder. Right here, right now. Sex.

It was kinda sudden, but damn, it felt like it had been a long time coming. Yata met the onslaught of Saruhiko’s lips and tongue with all the passion he’d been lacking over those past months, turned on and nearly drunk on the feeling.

He had nothing to lose – nothing. In fact… actually…

Actually, he had fucking everything to gain.

If they did this, they’d get the matching marks. Yata was sure of that; he still felt it with all of his heart and soul, even after years of trying to deny it. They were definitely soulmates, and if – when – they had sex, he’d finally prove it. Saruhiko would be back with him, they’d be a team, they’d have matching marks again, and nothing could tear them apart.

He’d be Saruhiko’s soulmate, and he wouldn’t have to feel that dull emptiness again.

Yata closed his fingers around the fabric of Saruhiko’s work shirt, tightening his hold as a small, desperate groan escaped his throat. His head was spinning, the anticipation of both physical and emotional gratification building up fast. He thought he’d burst with it, tense excitement ready to explode within him.

Saruhiko’s fingers slid almost cautiously inward, along the join between hip and thigh, and Yata stiffened, a little tug of pleasure spiking up from between his legs at the intimate touch.

Yeah… right there… Saruhiko…

With his body and mind both worked up to a fever pitch, he almost didn’t hear the sharp buzz of a PDA going off – at the very least, it didn’t register as important until Saruhiko was abruptly disengaging, pulling away sharply even as Yata tried to chase his lips instinctively.

“Misaki.” Despite being as breathy as earlier, that tone was markedly different. Yata opened his eyes, confusion seeping into his muddled thoughts, and found that Saruhiko had turned his head, allowing his bangs to fall forward and partially shield his face. “Let go,” he mumbled, disengaging his hands to tap one of the arms locked around his neck.

The air was still muggy, but that seriously felt like a rush of cold air had burst in between them. Yata unclenched his fingers, loosening his hold immediately, and Saruhiko took advantage of the slackened grip to tug free, pulling back and rising from the couch in what seemed like a single motion. He turned before Yata could do more than blink at him, striding to the bar to retrieve his still-vibrating PDA from his abandoned work jacket.

The abrupt turn of events had Yata’s lust-fogged brain reeling as he struggled to catch up. What… just… His eyebrows furrowed and he pushed himself back up on the seat slowly as he stared at Saruhiko’s back, heart rate still refusing to slow and breathing just starting to stabilize. His body was still vaguely buzzed, ready to go. The hell just happened?

Things had been going well, hadn’t they? It had seemed like it…

“Fushimi.” Saruhiko’s voice was cool and business-like, with an undertone of irritation in it that matched the obvious tension in his shoulders while he held the PDA to his ear. There was a pause, during which he picked up the jacket and began to slide it on, switching ears when needed and responding with an unhesitant, “No. I’m not busy.”

Not busy. That might as well have been the death flag on whatever had been about to happen. Yata stared for another moment, not quite believing it at first but with a sinking feeling gradually expanding out from the pit of his stomach. As reality imposed itself over the haze of lust and hope that had spread out to cover his common sense, a grim certainty accompanied it.

To Saruhiko, all of this had obviously been nothing but a mistake.

It was mortifying. More than that. Devastating. Hurt surged up at the back of Yata’s throat, nearly choking him. He had to lower his head, blocking out the sight of Saruhiko in his full blue as his chest throbbed and his eyes stung. Along with those feelings came fury. So much that he trembled with it, hands clenching automatically into fists so tight that his knuckles ached. In front of him the glass still sitting on the coffee table warbled and blurred.

Fuck you, Saruhiko! He couldn’t even get the words out around the emotion clogging his throat. Yata made a sharp ‘ch’, twisting his lips into a scowl and aiming a furious glare at the table.

More than anything, he was angry with himself. For getting his hopes up when they were just going to be crushed anyway. For believing in something that had been proved impossible already, over and over. For thinking that there was any chance at all of Saruhiko coming back to him.

Yeah, hah-fucking-hah…

The click of Saruhiko’s boots moving across the floor drew his attention, but he didn’t look up. At least not until he heard the door jingle open, and that low voice answer, “Nothing.”

As Yata glanced up sharply, hoping for some reaction – anything – Saruhiko’s cool eyes met his. There was a moment when he thought there was some hesitation there, a moment of regret even, but the expression on that familiar face was an impassive one, and Yata’s vision was still lined with furious red and the threat of tears.

“Nothing important,” Saruhiko clarified in a low mutter, and turned his gaze sharply to step through the door, leaving it to slam shut behind him.

In the silence that fell, Yata could only hear the harsh, uneven rhythm of his own breath and the thunderous pounding of his heartbeat echoing in his ears. And those last parting words.

Nothing important, huh? Already the empty feeling was returning, spreading out from that gaping crater left in his soul. Yata bent forward over his knees, resting one elbow on them so he could prop up his head on the heel of his hand, right between his eyes. He let out a rough, humorless snort of a laugh, feeling more alone now than he had before he’d even seen Saruhiko.

Yeah, maybe.

His eyes were still stinging, but he refused to let the tears fall, scowling furiously at the floor as he struggled to recover from the very clear rejection.

Might as well get used to it, because that was the trend these days as far as his life was concerned.