Juxian Tang's Fiction
Main Page
Slash/Yaoi Fiction
Original Fiction
[+] Livejournal
[+] E-mail Juxian
Slash and Yaoi Fiction

Part 4

Snow covered the moors overnight, and now the flat surface everywhere Ayuru looked was shining white, brilliant under the sun. It was almost painful to look at the snow, so, Ayuru narrowed his eyes; but it also was beautiful. So beautiful that he involuntarily felt his anger against himself melting as he walked towards the village.

Of course, what he'd done was unforgivable - that he jumped on the boy like that. Continence or not, he should've had more self-control than an animal. It was just because of Tomo's lips, so soft and hot... and his body, so pliant in Ayuru's arms, his skin so warm and silky... and this hair. Tomo had the hair like a pre-Raphaelite goddess, Proserpine on Rossetti's painting... Ayuru's heart raced and he bit his lip feeling excitement stir in him again. Oh no, he really was incorrigible! Should've gone to the village faster and found whom he could pass the boy.

Ayuru speeded up his steps, as much as his ankle allowed him. His way lay past the pit that he still hadn't filled up, and he reminded himself about this unfinished task. Really, when could he do it - while he was so busy molesting Tomo?

He stopped for a moment, peering at the hole. He even left the spade there, didn't he? A small dot of pale rose caught his eyes in the snow. He didn't know why it should've attracted his attention - it was so small and there was really nothing about it. It looked like a petal of some blossom - but when Ayuru bowed to look at it closer, it was a clamshell.

He frowned in bewilderment; perhaps it was nothing strange to find a shell anywhere in England - but this one was completely whole and clean. And it lay *on* the snow; Ayuru was pretty sure it hadn't been there before.

He picked up the shell automatically, not asking himself why he needed to do it. The touch to snow burned his fingers icily - and he put the shell in his pocket. Then he turned and proceeded to the village.

The grocery shop was one of very few places where Ayuru was welcome if not with joy then at least without hostility. The shop was on his way, and he needed foodstuff - and, besides, he could find out from Mrs. Harley whether anyone searched for Tomo; the woman seemed to know everything. He entered, bowing habitually not to touch the little bell over the door with his head.

Lucy Harley, the daughter of the owner, looked up quickly at him from the book she read behind the cashier desk. Her eyes, small, dark and bright, lit up as she saw him.

"Mr. Thornton!"

Ayuru knew she liked him - probably even fancied him; he didn't know if it was for his looks or it really was Lucy's hunger for contact with someone from the bigger world, for their conversations they sometimes had - about books, history, politics. It never stopped amazing him how little Lucy was alike with her neighbors, those deliberately ignorant and xenophobic people. And it also made Ayuru feel sad to think that Lucy's peculiarity, her craving for knowledge was likely to be wasted here, without finding an outlet.

Being twenty, she already should've been married - and it probably was going to happen soon; and then, Ayuru thought, the husband, the family life would change her irrevocably.

He wished sometimes he could love her, at least a little. Maybe, his pointless life would have some meaning then - if he could make at least the destiny of one person better, give a chance at least to someone. There had to be some meaning why he, Ayuru, had survived the slaughter of the war where so many, better than him, perished.

But he was a madman, with his psychosis taking over his life all the worse with every month and year - and he wouldn't be able to make Lucy happy anyway.

"Good morning," he smiled.

"Can I help you?"

She got up to attend him; while her face could be plain, Lucy's figure was spectacular - statuesque, voluptuous. She couldn't lack suitors.

He started naming her the products he needed - cereals, butter, bread, ham, eggs. As she moved around the shop, he watched her, how her hips swayed gently under the long skirt, how the dress clung to her chest tightly when she bent down. He knew it wasn't fair, to use her to prove himself than his body was just so hungry for sex that he was ready to content himself with anyone. But the truth was nothing even stirred in him as he looked at Lucy.

"Would you like some apple muffins? I've just cooked them in the morning. Two varieties - with toffee and with chocolate."

Tomo would like them, Ayuru thought; only the boy should eat something lighter at first. He recalled at once that it was futile thoughts, Tomo was not going to eat anything in his house any more because soon someone would take Tomo away. But he apparently nodded because Lucy was already wrapping the muffins for him.

I should ask about Tomo, Ayuru thought.

"Mr. Thornton," Lucy's voice, soft, sounded indecisive - but when she looked at him and smiled, her face acquired some quiet beauty it normally lacked. "The book you gave me... I liked it so much."

"Good," he smiled. "I like it as well. It's almost my favorite book. But wasn't it too difficult?"

"Not at all. Maybe, in the beginning. But then..." Lucy face became thoughtful as she quoted:

"Hast thou done it, my comrade, wittingly?
Roland who loves thee so dear, am I,
Thou hast no quarrel with me to seek?"
Olivier answered, "I hear thee speak,
But I see thee not. God seeth thee.
Have I struck thee, brother? Forgive it me."
"I am not hurt, O Olivier;
And in sight of God, I forgive thee here."
Then each to other his head has laid,
And in love like this was their parting made."*

The door slammed open, as Mrs. Harley, a small plump woman, burst in, energetic as always.

"Mr. Thornton! Lucy, why haven't you called for me? Has she attended you well. Mr. Thornton?"

Ayuru noticed a sad look Lucy cast at him and smiled at her encouragingly.

"Absolutely perfect, rest assured."

"All right," the woman seemed to calm down a bit. "And muffins? Has she offered you muffins? She always forgets everything."

"She has. By the way, Mrs. Harley..." Hmm, Ayuru thought, it didn't come off quite 'by the way'. "Any news in the village?"

It was so rarely - well, rather like never - that he asked about news, that for a moment she stared at him uncomprehending. And then, glad with an opportunity to talk, she started.

Fifteen minutes later Ayuru felt like he knew everything about Mrs. Harley's neighbors, their family life, financial state and the health of their cattle. About a missing person there was nothing.

It was Lucy who finally saved him, turning to her mother and saying:

"Mr. Thornton probably needs some rest, his foot must be bothering him."

"Yes, what's with your foot?" Mrs. Harley asked immediately.

It surprised Ayuru that Lucy had noticed he was limping - especially taking into account that she was sitting submerged in reading when he came in and after that he didn't move. But it was one of those miracles of living in a village.

"Just a minor strain," he said taking his leave.

Loaded with parcels of food now, Ayuru winced at the thought of going to the police station. He'd hoped so much he would find out everything from Mrs. Harley and, maybe, leave it to her to inform the authorities. But it seemed he needed a more reliable source than the woman was.

He limped along the street when presence behind him made him turn around abruptly. Ayuru had developed this ability since the war - a sharp intuition about hostile presence near. Well, there were times when it deceived him and even embarrassed - but this time he apparently was not wrong.

Four men, all young and plainly dressed, looked at him with antipathy from the porch of the pub. Ayuru had never been in the pub and was not going to stop by there, suspecting that he wouldn't be welcome. But these men started at him with downright hatred.

He recognized one of them - Lucy's cousin, Bill Scott.

"Leave my sister alone, hear, you?" It was Bill who said it. He did look a bit alike with Lucy - but his features were much cruder, the skin of his face inflamed and unclean. "She has a man, understand?"

He pointed with his chin at one of his friends, a tall one, with huge hands clenched in fists.

Ayuru sighed with tried patience, struggling not to give away his irritation. He wasn't supposed to feel it - he wasn't a snob to look down at lower classes... Oh hell, maybe, he probably was a snob - and that's why he tried so much not to act as one.

"If you call Miss Harley your sister, then you don't need to worry. I have never allowed any disrespect towards her."

For a moment it seemed that his answer satisfied them; but then it turned out they just processed it.

"No disrespect!" Bill exclaimed. "I saw how you stared at her - like you were undressing her, you pervert!"

Despite himself, Ayuru flushed. He did look at her... not quite appropriately. But how the hell could they know? Had seen him through the window, maybe.

"If I ever see you next to her again, bastard..."

Ayuru cursed inwardly. He was stronger than any of them, was pretty sure he could wrestle them down. But it would look ugly if he got into a fight - and he had other things to do...

"Miss Harley's family owns the shop," he said deliberately calmly. "If I'm not supposed to see her, how can I shop there?"

"I don't care where you shop!" Bill was working himself up, obviously. His buddies clustered around him, elbowing each other, warming up. Shit, it looked like he wouldn't leave without a fight. Ayuru looked for a clean place where to put his parcels, and then...

"Hello Eugene. Hello Bill. Hello Harry."

Ayuru turned to look at the man who sat in a cart, already knowing who it was. The only man who had a habit of calling everyone including him by a given name was the local veterinary.

"Good morning, Mr. Clark," he muttered.

"Very good, indeed." The man turned his bird-like head from side to side. "What happens here? Any trouble? Bill?"

"Nothing." Scott looked away, waved his head calling his friends back to the pub.

"Perfect. Because I already thought you were trying to get in trouble. You know your situation is not all that stellar, right? One more misdemeanor and..."

"I know, I know," Bill mumbled.

"And you, Eugene? Do you need a lift?" For some reason, Mr. Clark always seemed to be quite amiable with Ayuru - the only other one in the village except Mrs. Harley and Lucy. "I can take you where you want to."

"Drop me to the police station."

For a moment the man stared at him and then nodded.

"Oh. All right. If you want to. Sit down."

It was bliss to finally give his ankle some rest. Ayuru stretched it quietly, wincing in pain.

"I see they really got on your nerves, didn't they? Probably pestered you not for the first time?"

"What?" he turned to the man. Clark looked at him quite kindly, even with compassion.

"Bill was let out on bail, after a fight last month, in the town. So, if Patterson accepts a complaint from you, Bill's happy days are finished. The question is whether Patterson accepts a complaint from you. We really don't like outsiders here."

Finally the meaning of Clark's words descended on him and Ayuru flinched. Oh God, it truly was inconvenient. They must've thought he went to the station to file a complaint about them. He recalled how it seemed to him they looked at him with impotent hatred when he asked to take him to the police.

What would they think about him? He would never involve police into such a thing - as if he couldn't protect himself! He shook his head indignantly.

"I'm not going to rat on them. It's another thing I want to talk about."

"It's your business," Clark shrugged, and Ayuru couldn't understand whether the man believed him. It all left a bad taste in his mouth.

"By the way," Clark passed to another topic smoothly, "what's with your ankle?"

"Sprained it."

"I just wondered if you'd like me to take a look at it." The man smiled meeting Ayuru's gaze. "Yes, yes, I'm a vet - but I know you, Eugene, you won't go to old Randall for anything."

"I have no problem with vets," Ayuru couldn't help but smile as well. "Thank you."

"Thank you yes - or thank you no?"

"Thank you no."

"I knew you'd say it," Clark sighed with comic sorrow. "But promise me, if it gets worse..."

"Sure." The cart stopped at the door of the police station, and Ayuru jumped down.

The constable was having lunch. The man raised his small pale eyes, rather empty, as his heavy jaw kept moving, and made Ayuru some kind of welcoming sign. Ayuru excused himself and waited in the hall, vaguely displeased with himself for the timing. Well, not that it changed anything; clarifying things about Tomo had to be done.

He occupied himself with studying the board of wanted criminals and missing people. Some were reprinted photos and some just descriptions, all quite blurry. It didn't look like any of them told about a young man with waist-long hair and talking in a weird language; and in any way, none of them looked fresh. It didn't mean anything, Ayuru told himself.

Well, the truth was that just being here made him start having second thoughts. He didn't like this place. Well, a police station was not supposed to look cozy - but the low ceilings, blind windows and stained walls made it a pathetic sight. Somehow, the thought of Tomo here didn't fit.

Stop this nonsense, he finally told himself; he had to do things in a proper way - and the proper way was to inform the authorities about his guest. And as the door opened and Patterson's assistant called for him, Ayuru walked in decisively.

The constable sat leaning against the back of the chair, looking at Ayuru with expectation. It wasn't a good look but Ayuru decided he wouldn't pay attention to Patterson's moods.

"Any problems, Mr. Thornton?"

"Well..." He should've been prepared how to put it, with all the time he'd spent waiting - but Ayuru found himself stammering for some reason.

"If you have trouble with anyone in the village and you expect me to help you out..."

Damn. Ayuru could feel how his face flushed. He tried very, very hard for his voice to sound calm - and realized even with a kind of surprise that he succeeded.

"Actually, it's not that. I just wanted to ask you if you have some information about a missing person."

"Are you missing someone?"

He saw Patterson and his assistant snicker, exchanging glances; what was so funny about it, Ayuru didn't know. All right, he knew what they found funny; they probably thought that he was crazy, passed from quiet madness to a raving state.

"I met... a strange person. I thought you probably have him on your files."

"A strange person?" Patterson's eyes momentarily became sharp. "What kind of strange?"

There was something in his tone Ayuru didn't like - didn't like it even more than their barely veiled mockery.

"We don't like any strange people here."

The hint couldn't be missed, and Ayuru felt anger flare in him. They really tried hard to let him know they didn't welcome him.

When he'd rented the house - a tiny hunting house of his father's friend, Lord Quincy - he just wanted some place where he could be alone, where he could live out the periods of his psychosis whenever they came. The hostility of the villagers took Ayuru out of surprise but he thought he could put up with it, cutting their contacts to the minimum. Yet he never could stay far enough from them, couldn't he? And was it possible, anyway - to stay away from people?

"So, what about your stranger?" the constable repeated. "Is he a spy or something?"

A spy? The war was two years as over - and in any case, what could a spy need in their village? Yet somehow Ayuru had a bad feeling about it. For these people, a foreigner might automatically mean a German, and a German mean a spy. He didn't want them to treat Tomo in such a way.

"Where is he?" Patterson added.

Biting the inside of his lip, Ayuru looked at the man, hesitating. He was supposed to say - "at my place" - and they would pick Tomo up - and it would be all over. Why the hell couldn't he say it?

"Don't you worry," the constable added charitably. "We'll deal with him. We always take care of the village to be a quiet place. No disturbance is allowed."

Ayuru winced, looking at the man's crude face and wondering which way Patterson "dealt" with strangers when he could have his way. Well, Ayuru was a stranger, too - and Patterson had to tolerate him, because of Lord Quincy, because of Ayuru's own father... Tomo's father hardly was an assistant minister.

He didn't want Patterson to deal with Tomo, Ayuru understood suddenly. He didn't want anyone to deal with Tomo at all. If the boy were looked for, if there were people who were going to take care of him - it would be different. But all Patterson would do - would be to lock Tomo up... in the best case.

He couldn't stand the thought of the boy locked up or hurt. Reasoning aside, Ayuru shook his head.

"I just saw him... from afar. He looked weird but I... I must've been mistaken."

He saw an exchange of glances between Patterson and his assistant but it didn't bother him. He felt strangely elated, as if getting rid of a burden - which was just the opposite, taking into account that Tomo was supposed to stay.

Let him stay just for a little, Ayuru thought as if trying to convince himself - while he really was already convinced. Nothing would happen if Tomo stayed for a few more days, until his caretakers would be found. Small and simple as Ayuru's place was, it still was better than prison, wasn't it?

"All right," Patterson said with thinly hidden sarcasm at last. "If you see him again - just let us know, Mr. Thornton. We'll do our best to solve the problem."

Getting outside, Ayuru stopped for a moment, taking a deep inhale of frosty air. He'd never felt easier in his life than at this moment. He thought about the comments Patterson and his assistant must've been making about him right now - and chuckled. He didn't care; and Tomo - Tomo was going to stay with him.

* * *

It wasn't true to say his doubts were gone; in a way, Ayuru felt that he did what no sane person would do - neither his father nor stepmother nor any of his acquaintances. And yet the thought of Tomo waiting for him at home filled him with strange pleasure, made him speed up his steps, despite the pain.

It was illogic, wasn't it - that he had wanted to be alone so much, moved to this place seeking solitude, chose not to see his father and half-brothers whom he missed so much; and now the presence of another person, someone Ayuru didn't even know, gladdened him. He pushed the door open awkwardly, his hands full of parcels, and walked in.

The sight took him a few moments to comprehend: his papers scattered on the floor and Tomo sitting among them, with a heap of papers on his lap. He gasped, looking up, seeing Ayuru; his face went very defenseless, lost - like a small boy's caught on stealing cookies. Ayuru realized it, felt something twitch in him in response - and yet the anger that flooded him at the moment was stronger, silencing it all.

How dared he? How dared he rummage through his things? Ayuru was barely out of the house - and the brat was already leafing his papers! No decent person would do so - did he even have an idea of decency?

Tomo's face, very pale against the black hair, was tilted up to him, as if the boy expected to be stricken. Ayuru could see it didn't come easy for the boy - to keep looking at him: the strain made Tomo's lips tremble. But he didn't look away from Ayuru as well.

"What the fuck are you looking for here?"

Ayuru's voice was distorted with anger. Deep inside, he understood that it was probably not just the boy - it was all the restrained anger that accumulated in him from the visit to the village, from all the meetings when he'd had to stay calm, no matter what. And now Ayuru was tired after the long walk - and his ankle was hurting. But seeing Tomo digging through his things was just the last straw.

Ayuru wasn't a nostalgic man; he hadn't looked through his papers for years, just let them just - had taken them along only because his stepmother said they didn't have place to store them in the house in London. He'd shoved his possessions into the table without looking, so, there were no secrets he wanted to keep. But why did Tomo get there so shamelessly...

"What do you want? Money?"

He knew it wasn't that; even saying it, he knew that if Tomo needed money, he wouldn't have a problem to find it - it lay on the shelf above the fireplace. And anyway, he wasn't sure Tomo knew how English money looked like. But the truth was he wanted to be mean to the young man, wanted to suspect Tomo of something vile.

The upturned face under dark strands of hair was so pale, even the lips were white. Automatically, Ayuru put the packages on the floor and made a step forward. Tomo didn't move, just sat staring up at him - and for some reason it angered Ayuru even more. As if the boy didn't realize he'd done something wrong!

Too enraged to think straight, Ayuru reached, grabbed Tomo by the collar and shook him up to his feet. The violent motion, the feeling of Tomo's lighter body succumbing to him without resistance - it felt good. It also made Ayuru cringe with shame - but at the moment he just couldn't stop. Tomo's eyes still looked at him, wide and barely blinking - and there was a frozen, nearly panicked expression in the dark expanded pupils.

This gaze... Anger mixed with pain flooded Ayuru again. It was this gaze, naked in its vulnerability that he'd recalled when talking to the constable - this gaze that made him feel like a traitor if he'd given Tomo away. Of course, it must've been absurd - now Ayuru understood it very well. Tomo didn't deserve his protection, should've been dealt with just like the constable had told.

"What did you want to find there?"

Tomo's head dangled unresistingly as Ayuru shook him again - long strands of hair falling over his face. Ayuru felt how the young man started trembling, very finely - and it finally started clearing up his mind a little.

Ayuru had always been taller than most people - and stronger as well. His strength meant that he had advantage in many situations - at he learned to pull the punches. But at this moment, he didn't want to be careful.

"Answer me!"

How could Tomo answer, he didn't talk English... But, maybe, it was all pretension, Ayuru thought with resentment. Maybe, Tomo just mocked him, for some purposes of his.

"I should've let Patterson have you!" The memory of most unpleasant minutes at the police station re-visited Ayuru - and somehow it was Tomo who was to blame for it. "Should've let him deal with you - whoever you are, a thief or a spy or a madman!"

He raised his hand for a blow, for a backhand slap - and felt strangely rejoiced in anticipation of the contact, his hand against Tomo's cheek. Wanted to hit him... Ayuru shivered, recalling another time when he had let his anger rule him, when he'd stricken and couldn't stop. Tomo's eyes, widened, desperate, looked at him - and suddenly Ayuru knew Tomo expected him to hit. Or worse...

He pushed Tomo away. The shove was hard enough to make Tomo land on the floor. A small wordless cry of pain he made barely registered in Ayuru's mind. He crossed his arms, half trying to keep them occupied not to feel tempted to hit the boy.

"I was a fool to think of letting you stay here. I don't want to see you here any..."

His voice trailed away. The young man hunched on the floor, his hair half-shielding his face and body - but he still looked up at Ayuru. It wasn't defiance in his gaze, finally Ayuru admitted it - but strain that made his lips white and his yellow eyes almost black. He passed his gaze from Tomo's face to his crouching figure, saw the long-fingered hands covering the instep of his bare foot clumsily. And then, were slowly, red blood welled up between Tomo's fingers and trickled over his hands.

Ayuru's mouth fell opened. He... he hadn't done anything, had he? He hadn't hurt the boy like that! Tomo's face rippled slightly but he kept staring at Ayuru, as if expecting more - another shove, another way to inflict him pain?

As quickly as anger had flooded him, it abated now, and Ayuru was left startled and shocked.

"What's... what's wrong with you?"

He was a fool, indeed - he knew Tomo had no way to answer him. Tentatively, he reached, and saw a fine tremor going through Tomo's body - but Tomo didn't back away. Wincing in self-hatred, Ayuru slid down on the floor next to him. Shame felt bitter, and Ayuru carefully made his voice sound flat and quiet.

"Let me see what it is, all right?"

He knew for some reason Tomo wouldn't resist - like he didn't resist anything Ayuru did - and it made Ayuru feel even less proud of himself as he took Tomo's hand and pulled it away. The thinness of the young man's wrist surprised him briefly - and at the next moment Ayuru's eyes widened. A deep gash on Tomo's instep was pulsing with blood.

He swallowed uneasily, feeling slightly sick. Normally, he could deal with seeing blood - wasn't that mad not to stand it. It's just... he couldn't understand how it happened, what he had done...


It seemed his name, said by Ayuru, had an electrifying effect on the boy, made him shiver and his eyes go even bigger. And at the next moment Ayuru saw it - the small metal file, its sharp end smeared in blood. Tomo must've stumbled on it - or held it in his hand, wounded himself when falling. This or that way, it was Ayuru's fault.

"Christ... I'm sorry."

He dug in his pocket, pulled out a clean handkerchief, pressed it to the gash. The stain of red soaked through the white immediately. At least it wasn't spreading too fast, Ayuru thought.

He couldn't have felt worse; oh well, he probably could - had he hit Tomo. But even as it was, it was bad enough. What had come over him that he got so angry? All these papers didn't mean shit for him, he should've burnt them a long time ago.

Tomo's foot in his hands was narrow and delicate, and Ayuru realized the boy didn't try to get free. This thought, mixed with memory of his recent violence, made him even more ashamed.

"Wait here," he said quietly. "I need to bring something."

Blood hammered in his ears as he rushed to the bathroom, wetted another handkerchief and grabbed a bottle of disinfectant. Back in the room, Tomo was still on the floor - and the submissive state of his pose struck Ayuru intensely, bitterly. Whom was he going to punish? The boy stuck alone in the unfamiliar country, the boy who seemed to barely realize where he was... and for some reason gave Ayuru in advance the right to do to him anything Ayuru wanted.

"Let me see, all right?" He knelt again, took Tomo's foot. The bleeding stopped, and when Ayuru raised the soaked handkerchief, it didn't start again. He ran the wet rag over Tomo's instep, washing the blood off, feeling the little shudders going through Tomo's body. The young man pulled his hair over his face, as if hiding behind it, and now his eyes glittered through thick tresses of black. Well, the truth was Ayuru wanted to hide behind something as well.

"Look, it'll hurt a bit now." He felt strangely distressed at the thought of pouring the disinfectant over Tomo's gash and, thus, hurting the boy again. But it had to be done. "Just a bit - you can deal with it, can't you?"

He didn't know if Tomo understood it; he hoped that, maybe, he did - if not the words than the tone. On the other hand, taking into account that five minutes ago Ayuru yelled on him, one would hardly trust the tone. He realized he clenched his teeth, in empathic reaction, as he splashed the disinfectant over the gash.

He heard Tomo gasp and felt the young man jerk - and unconsciously reached to hold him, felt Tomo thrash minutely until the pain passed. I didn't want to hurt you, Ayuru thought but what was the point of saying it - and anyway, he had already hurt Tomo.

Tomo's hair faintly smelled with Ayuru's pine-tree soap - and the strands were soft, not tangled any more - like silk against his hands as Ayuru held the boy's shoulders. Being aware of his position meant that Ayuru couldn't keep it, had to let go; so, he did - and caught himself on a strange regret of not having Tomo's slim body in his embrace any more.

But he couldn't risk, could he? Tomo's closeness had already triggered him once... and then that fit of violence...

"Hey," he suddenly realized what he missed. "Say something. Look, I'm really sorry... but you shouldn't have gone through my things... well, anyway. Don't keep silent."

As if he could understand what Tomo said anyway.

But the sound of his voice must've affected the young man - because Tomo looked up at him, both cautiously and hopefully. This mixture of fear and devotion in Tomo's eyes always made Ayuru feel kind of lost - but now he forced himself to smile and reach his hand.

He just thought of a friendly gesture, shaking hands or such - and when Tomo gave out a hitching breath and his face went blank again, Ayuru just didn't know what to think. He noticed Tomo bit the inside of his lip - and the tension on his face was back again. But when the boy moved, reaching for something on the floor, it was a fluid, graceful movement. Tomo picked up something and handed it to Ayuru.


The word was soft and at first Ayuru didn't understand - and then felt shame cover him. He had to apologize, not Tomo. He took the thing from Tomo's hands.

A photograph. And a badly mutilated one. For a few moments Ayuru frowned, trying to recall what had been on it - and then noticed a bouquet of flowers in a gloved hand. Ah that... He passed his eyes to Tomo, still frowning - and met the boy's gaze. Tomo looked all the way like he expected Ayuru to start shaking him and yelling at him again; and he looked like he resigned to it.

"All right," Ayuru said with a chuckle, "why did you tear it? What did Rosalind do to you? I don't suppose you know her - but even if you do, she's really not such a bad person to treat her like that..."

He saw something change in Tomo's eyes, in an amazing way. Ayuru's casual voice faltered - and he suddenly found himself rushing, in a hurry to speak out - half-terrified with a heart-breaking expression in Tomo's gaze.

"Rosalind... Well, she's a fine girl - a fine lady, I mean - that was her wedding photo, you see. I know her since she was a child - if not for the war, I'd surely marry her. But well, it didn't happen - I mean I was not up to marrying anyone. I think she sent me this photo to make me see how much I lost - and the picture does look pretty, doesn't it? All right, it looked pretty, before you ruined it."

He didn't know why he told all that, anyway - because Tomo couldn't understand all the same; and why would Tomo care? But the truth was Ayuru knew why Tomo cared; he knew why Tomo cut up the photo in the first place. As ridiculous as it might sound - Ayuru knew.

"I haven't seen her for ages," he said with a sigh. "Maybe, I won't see her for years as well. Not that it matters for me."

Tomo's face was full of such absorbed attention as he listened, as he seemed to soak every word Ayuru said, every note in his voice. The sorrow still wasn't gone from his eyes completely - but it lightened a little. Anxious to drive this guilt away, Ayuru smiled, letting the photo slip out of his hand.

"It's nothing," he said.


Tomo's normally high voice had hoarse, painful notes in it as he echoed Ayuru's word. Ayuru wondered if the boy knew what the word meant - and suddenly believed that Tomo did.

"Nothing," he repeated. Tomo's lips were pressed hard, as if he was struggling with something - and then he said in a very quiet voice, its husky sound in contrast with childishly constructed phrase.

"Tomo... nothing?"

For once he didn't look at Ayuru, his face hidden under the strands of dark hair completely as his head sagged; like he couldn't bear looking at Ayuru, waiting for an answer.

For a moment Ayuru felt unable to talk - and then he just realized he didn't know what to say. For all logic, what kind of answer could there be? He just knew the boy for a mere day - and "knew" wasn't even a right word - he didn't know anything about Tomo. But as he thought about it - still silent not only because he didn't know how to make it clear for Tomo - Ayuru realized that the obvious answer wouldn't also be the true one.

Today at the police station, when he suddenly felt he couldn't give Tomo away - and later, when he felt such a sharp disappointment in the boy, as if Tomo deceived his expectations somehow - and when he held Tomo's narrow foot in his hands - it wasn't "nothing" that he felt. He would be a madman if he called it "something" - it was too early, too groundlessly... But... Ayuru was a madman, after all.

"No," he said. "You're not nothing. Well, I don't know how to explain it..."

But he never had time to explain. Suddenly Tomo was over him, on his lap, his narrow palms cupping Ayuru's face, his warm lips on Ayuru's mouth. Ayuru fell back on his heels under the assault, gasped, feeling a tongue forced in his mouth. But for some reason he didn't seek support in something solid; instead of it Ayuru wrapped his arms around Tomo's slim waist and held on.

* The quotation is from The Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland), translated by John O'Hagan

The end of Part 4

& & &

Part 5

Yay! Finally! Lemon! Can't be more lemony than this! NC-17! Run while you can :-)

He didn't want it, Ayuru had time to think - but at the next moment this thought became an obvious lie as his body reacted, his flesh springing to life under the pressure of Tomo's ass. Ayuru felt himself kissed breathless as Tomo's hands held his face with unexpected strength - and then lips fluttered over his eyelids and forehead. Still holding him, Tomo raised on his knees, looking down, and Ayuru blinked helplessly as the flood of black hair fell on his face.

He should've stopped it; the boy was crazy and for some reason decided that he fancied Ayuru... It wasn't fair to use Tomo like that - no decent person would do it. Ayuru gasped, made a sound that was almost like a sob, trying to disentangle himself. He saw how Tomo's eyes went darker as he looked at Ayuru, and his face, usually so vulnerable, was full of almost desperate intensity.

He said something to Ayuru - something very insistent, and his hands just didn't let go. Of course, Ayuru could fight, could overpower him with no difficulty - if... if he didn't want so much to be held.

Tomo's eyes lit up with joy, became like warm honey, as a small triumphant smile appeared on his lips. His hands buried in Ayuru's hair - and as their mouths locked again, Tomo's hot and amazingly soft on Ayuru's burning one, Ayuru quitted resisting. His arms wrapped around Tomo again as he pressed the young man's body closer, letting himself enjoy the heat and solid presence in his arms.

Tomo's tongue was a little flame as he licked on Ayuru's lips - and the flood of his hair was like a curtain around both of them, covering them from everything else. Ayuru thought he liked this feeling, of being shielded, being just alone with Tomo. It made him feel as if everything was all right, as if he was doing a right thing. And how couldn't it be right when Tomo held onto him for dear life and looked at him with those laughing, happy eyes? And Ayuru wasn't able to stop, anyway.

The small movements Tomo made, up and down, on Ayuru's lap reverberated through Ayuru's body. He wanted more, he needed more - felt helpless against his own desire.

He kissed Tomo, crumpling the soft lips with his mouth greedily - just as his hands were greedy, travelling over Tomo's body, feeling straining muscles under the smooth skin. Ayuru felt a brief pang of fear - that he could be too rough with Tomo - like he'd almost been in the morning - misjudging his own strength. But Tomo's arms clenched around him so fiercely, driving him closer. The boy was thin but strong; he could seem frail, could be unresisting like a doll sometimes. But at this moment his embrace was as tight as Ayuru's own.

"I'll try to be careful," Ayuru promised. "I'll try..."

But careful was not quite what he was capable to do. He made himself still for a moment, pressing his lips to Tomo's temple. His hands slid over the boy's back, went lower, and Tomo moved his legs wider as Ayuru's palms lay on his buttocks. Ayuru breathed hard; his body felt so starved for the contact, for the feeling of the resilient flesh in his palms - and Tomo kept wiggling on his lap, quite masterfully, one had to admit... In fact, Ayuru felt close to coming just like that, just of this rubbing contact. He gasped helplessly, knowing that there was no way he could control himself.

Suddenly Tomo's arms unclasped - and the maddening contact was lost. Instead of reasonable relief, Ayuru felt anguish - but it lasted only a few moments, because Tomo really didn't let him go. He said something, taking Ayuru's hand, getting up, guiding Ayuru up as well. He leaned against Ayuru's chest, looking up - and his eyes had a strange expression of almost disbelief - as if he checked it once more that it was Ayuru in his arms and not someone else, not an illusion.

How beautiful he was, with his eyes glowing like this... Ayuru looked at Tomo's tilted up face and felt almost pained with this beauty. He raised his hand and touched Tomo's face carefully, the hard cheekbone, the soft mouth. Tomo smiled and kissed his fingers.

Struggling with his wish to crush Tomo's lips with kisses, Ayuru forced himself to be calm, to go slowly. He felt Tomo rise on his toes to meet the kiss. They stumbled against each other and met the wooden edge of the bed. Ayuru broke the kiss, unwillingly, pulled Tomo's sweater off. The strands of Tomo's hair tangled in the collar, and Tomo laughed freeing them.

Ayuru stopped still for a moment, looking at him. The thought struck him, that now he really made the decision - having the boy half-naked in front of him. But of course the decision was made. To good or to bad, but Ayuru wasn't going to stop - and he knew somehow Tomo wouldn't let him stop anyway.

He pulled Tomo's pants down, realized with a mild shock that the boy didn't have any underwear. Well, Ayuru hadn't given him underwear... and it wasn't like he hadn't seen Tomo naked before. Only it seemed to be ages ago: the moment when he'd found Tomo naked and freezing on the ground - just yesterday...

The boy's long fingernails scraped over his ribs as Tomo struggled with Ayuru's clothes. Ayuru hissed and smiled and decided he was safer to get undressed himself. He saw Tomo's mouth go into a small "oh" as the boy looked at him - as if seeing Ayuru naked amazed him. Ayuru smiled nervously.

The contact of bare skin against bare skin was startling. Ayuru felt Tomo's smooth warm chest pressed against his, felt slightly rougher traces of the scars. His hands trembled slightly as he touched Tomo's hips. The boy still looked at him as if he wanted to make sure Ayuru was real.

"I'm real," he whispered. "But are you?"

Catching Tomo's hand, he pulled it to his mouth, kissed the palm and the inside of the wrist, felt the beating of pulse against his lips. Tomo's eyes turned wild, widened with arousal. Then he reached to Ayuru and pulled him onto the bed.

Ayuru resisted slightly, not wanting to lean with all his weight on Tomo - but Tomo didn't let him go, his arms around Ayuru's neck. And at the next moment he spread his legs, his palm closed on Ayuru's cock and guided it.

The gesture was unmistakable, making it clear what Tomo wanted. Excitement made Ayuru dizzy. Tomo's hand on his cock was burning, was driving him beyond control. He kissed the young man's lips quickly.

"Yes, all right, if you want me to do it..."

He needed some lubricant; Ayuru raised up on his elbow, looked around helplessly, unwilling to let Tomo go, even for these moments. He saw the boy's eyes glimmer darkly as he must've understood what Ayuru thought about. Tomo reached under the bed and presented him a bottle of shaving foam.

For a moment Ayuru just stared - at the bottle and at Tomo's proud face - and then slumped down on the bed, laughing helplessly.

"You... you prepared it!"

He should've been angry, shouldn't he? But he couldn't; he saw Tomo's questioning look at him; the boy's delicate face acquired an expression of relief when he saw Ayuru laughing. He said something urgently.

Ayuru shook the bottle, splashed some foam on his hand - and stopped for a moment. It was so different from everything he'd done before - as different from his only other contact with a man as it was from his trysts with women. But at the moment Ayuru was glad he'd slept with a man - at least he knew what to do. He reached between Tomo's legs and touched the boy's anus with his finger.

He felt Tomo strive towards him, making up for Ayuru's own indecisive movement, and his finger slipped into Tomo's body almost effortlessly. He saw the boy smile; Tomo made a wild sight as he was, his thighs spread for Ayuru, his hair spilled around his head on the pillow and strands over his face. But even at the moment there was a strange grace in his pose, in the lines of his body. Ayuru sucked in a sharp breath, looking at him.

He rocked his hand slightly, widening the passage, then added a second finger. Tomo accepted the intrusion eagerly, opening even more, letting Ayuru slip his fingers in to the last knuckle. He probed carefully; his one-time lover taught him things - and yet it surprised him when Tomo suddenly gasped and arched.

Ayuru's own sensation at that was probably even more mesmerizing than Tomo's, as the boy's slim body struggled towards him, onto his fingers. Ayuru could just get off like that, just looking at Tomo this way, just working his fingers. Tomo looked at him; his eyes were nearly black, their gaze exultant. A phrase Tomo said was low and husky and demanding - but his hips squeezing Ayuru's hand to stop it from moving explained it better. He wanted more than fingers.

"All right, all right, I'm sorry." Ayuru half-laughed; his own voice was hoarse as well. Despite his own request, Tomo's hips moved convulsively as Ayuru pulled his fingers out. He slicked his cock generously and braced himself to a position.

The feeling of Tomo's slightly opened anus, soft and warm, was painfully good. Ayuru shivered in anticipation, bit his lip to make himself move smoothly, not to slam in. Despite Tomo's eagerness, it still would hurt, Ayuru knew it. He thrust, feeling Tomo's body open for him.

He couldn't breathe; he couldn't think - he just had to push and push, until all of his shaft was buried in the velvety entrance, gripped tightly inside Tomo. Only then Ayuru breathed out and opened his eyes.

Tomo's face was strained, his breath hitching, and a small frown trembled between his eyebrows. Ayuru leaned and kissed this frown, and saw Tomo smile, even as the boy's eyes were still too dark with widened pupils. Ayuru waited, holding Tomo's head in a cradle of his arms. Then, a little while later, Tomo's body relaxed and his face smoothened - and his legs locked around Ayuru's hips. Ayuru moved, feeling clinging heat against his shaft, pulled out - then pushed back, and now Tomo's face just rippled slightly. He kissed the boy's lips. The answering kiss was eager, fervent, as Tomo sucked on his tongue.

He wanted to hold Tomo closer, to have him pressed against his body, melded with him fully. But he was too heavy - and it didn't make a convenient position, so, Ayuru raised on his arms, thrusting. He changed the angle, sought carefully, until one of his thrusts was met with a familiar arching of Tomo's body. He smiled in relief, repeating the motion, finding the rhythm for both of them. Tomo's breath turned gasps and the sound amplified in Ayuru's chest, heightening his own pleasure.

Ayuru didn't remember if he'd ever found the other's pleasure so exciting to watch before. He was considered a good lover, a reciprocating one. But feeling Tomo's body shudder in pleasure, catching Tomo's gasps from half-parted lips gave him such an acute pleasure that even his own sensations seemed to be inferior to it. Keeping himself on one arm, Ayuru reached between their bodies, wrapped his hand on Tomo's slender cock - and a few moments later, in a few movements, he felt Tomo spill over his hand. Then he let himself go as well, thrusting frenziedly, until the release swept over him.

Hugging Tomo, Ayuru slumped down, panting. His wet hair fell on his face and mixed with Tomo's moist bangs. Ayuru felt thin arms lock around him - and thought how good it was, that they seemed to want the same thing, to hold each other as close as possible.

* * *

He must've fallen asleep; Ayuru tried not to but he did. He had a strange feeling - he was afraid to lose even a moment of being with Tomo, wanted to cherish every minute, every sight and touch. But eventually his body gave in to tiredness.

He came round an hour or two later. The sun had moved, casting slanting beams of light in the room. Tomo was at his side - much like the boy had been in the morning, resting on his elbow, in the veil of his hair. He looked at Ayuru, and Ayuru felt unexpected relief. His unsaid fears - of Tomo being gone, of Tomo hating what had been between them - dispelled now, under the adoring stare of the dark-golden eyes.

"Don't look like that at me," he asked softly, although Tomo didn't understand. "As if you really care for me. It's not me you care for - but your Nakago or what is his name."

He saw Tomo's face change as he mentioned Nakago's name - the boy's head tilted awry as he struggled to understand. Then he smiled and chirped something, with both Nakago and Ayuru names there. Ayuru shook his head. Tomo looked slightly frustrated, touched Ayuru's forehead insistently.

The touch sent pangs of pleasure through Ayuru's body, reminding him of their recent closeness. In dissonance with his own words that Tomo apparently just projected his attachment to Nakago on him, Ayuru couldn't resist, took Tomo's hand and kissed it. The young man's eyes lit up with joy as he said something in a husky, soft tone. The sound of Tomo's voice when he talked like this made shiver run through Ayuru's body. He thought he'd never heard anything more erotic.

Tomo kept looking at him, with the same expression of devotion, and Ayuru gave up. How could he resist something that was so pleasant? Then the young man's thin fingers reached to Ayuru's face and traced it with soft tips.

The touch was feather-light - and yet Ayuru trembled minutely, finding it almost impossible to stay still. Tomo's fingers studied his face, carefully, then moved down to Ayuru's throat, feeling like they left fire burn under Ayuru's skin in their wake. The touch on his nipples was electrifying and he shuddered; Tomo smiled.

And it was when the boy's fingers traced a scar under Ayuru's left collarbone. The scar was long and jagged, going over his shoulder and to his armpit, a mark that Ayuru considered ugly and couldn't stand to look at. Tomo asked something softly - and Ayuru didn't need to understand the language to know what the question meant.

"It was in the war," he said.


Of course, the word didn't mean anything for Tomo, he just repeated it after Ayuru. Nothing Ayuru could say would mean anything for Tomo. But, maybe, it was to the better.

"I was a combat engineer, you know. Well, you don't know what it is, I guess, but anyway... We made those underground passages, for the wires - all the ground there was pitted with caves and channels. There was trouble with the explosives we set - so, I was sent to check. I took three men and we went there."

He'd been telling the story so many times, to the officials at the hospital and to the psychiatrist later - but the words never became just words, always had the images behind them. How many times he thought whether he should've chosen different men, if he knew what would happen - as if for someone else dying would be lesser tragedy, their families would be less bereaved. Or if he'd chosen stronger men, luckier ones - they could've survived.

Of course, if one believed in fate, he would say that it would change nothing, that Johnson and others would die all the same that day, shot down in the trenches. But at least they wouldn't die such a death...

"Something happened. It was never known what exactly, whether it was Germans or... or our shell. It just blew up. I woke up... it was dark... and my arm hurt and my head... there..."

He knew he was going into the state, as his speech went ragged, disjointed. It happened inevitably - as Ayuru's fingers started moving, touching the scar on his temple. A sudden interference startled him: Tomo's hand, his fingers brushing over the scar. This gentle touch could be pacifying - if Ayuru wasn't so worked up with what he was going to say and even more - with what he couldn't say. But if Tomo didn't understand all the same - maybe, he could...

"Others... they were hurt worse. The cavity where we were sealed, underground - it was very small. Hammer's legs were broken, with the earth that fell and stones. At first he didn't feel it - but then he started screaming. He just screamed and screamed, in this small place...

"I had a lighter, lit it up, looked at them all... They all were wounded. The ground was soaked with blood. And I couldn't keep the light, because it was burning out the oxygen, there was too little air..."

If he started digging immediately... In his endless litany of "what ifs" Ayuru thought about it too often. Most possibly it wouldn't change anything - but what if...

"I tried to bandage Hammer's legs but he didn't let me, he was in so much pain... There was another guy, Kirkpatrick, his wound was less serious, so, he could dig. He and I, we dug, taking turns - there was place just for one person there. And then... the air was getting bad... and Kirkpatrick said Hammer and Johnson were dying all the same, there was no oxygen for everyone..."

He recalled the hot whisper in the darkness, in the stifling heat of the underground cavity.

"I know what to do, Captain, sir... It'll be for their own good..."

This part Ayuru hadn't told anyone - and sometimes he thought it was what prevented him from convalescence, what sent him back under the ground in his dreams with annoying regularity. But he couldn't tell them. Talking to Tomo was different - exactly because the boy didn't understand anything.

"He said we should've killed them, to spare the air for us. That they would die all the same - Hammer was in agony and Johnson, he had a gut wound, there was fuckin' earth in his insides. Johnson was a mere boy, so young - first month in Europe... I said no way and kept digging, it was my turn - and then I heard it behind me... It was dark, I couldn't even see anything - and by the time I got there, Hammer was already dead... Kirkpatrick killed him.

"Johnson cried. Like a baby, he was so scared - he didn't know what happened, just felt something was wrong. And I... hit Kirkpatrick. Just hit and hit him - and then his neck snapped and he went limp... I didn't want to kill him... but, maybe, I did. Maybe, I did - and not only because I was angry with him. But because... there was so little air..."

Ayuru didn't know how much truth there was in what he said. He was pretty sure he hadn't reasoned this way at that moment underground. He'd just lost control... But later he was afraid that there was another reason, too - that he wanted to save his life, to spare the air for himself. He could never get this thought out of his head.

He remembered how he looked for Kirkpatrick's pulse in the darkness - and knew he would find nothing. And Johnson sobbed and asked, over and over:

"Sir, what's there, sir?"

He stopped crying only when Ayuru touched his face, stroked it. And Ayuru - Eugene - thought that he would dig and would save them two, no matter what.

"He asked me to stay with him... I think he knew he was dying, he just wanted someone to hold his hand or something - but I thought I'd better dig...

"They found me, finally. They heard me digging and dug as well. There was almost nothing to breathe by then, so, I couldn't move - just lay and scratched the ground. But they found me."

The rest were dead.

"When they dug me out..." Ayuru felt a sardonic smile curve his lips. "The earth collapsed. They could never find others. That's how they never knew what happened. And I never told."

If he told... then from a miraculous survivor - he would shift to being a murderer. He didn't want it to happen. So, he gave them an edited version - and anyway, he could always allege memory loss. But he *was* a murderer - Ayuru never forgot it.

A murderer and a coward - that was him, the man whom Tomo held in his embrace right now. And there was no way the boy could know the truth - no way to explain it. Most possibly, if Tomo knew about what he'd done, he would reject Ayuru immediately...

Well, since Tomo couldn't do it, Ayuru had to do it himself.

He moved sharply, freeing himself, putting a distance between himself and Tomo. It wasn't the first time Ayuru did it - put the distance between himself and people. This way he parted with his father and brothers, with Rosalind. But now his body ached for the lost contact and his mind clenched painfully... he didn't want to let Tomo go.

He turned away from Tomo, not being able to bear the boy's confused look. Maybe, Tomo thought he rejected him for some reason. But it would be to the better. At least Tomo wouldn't be tainted with their closeness. Of course, Ayuru should've thought about tainting him before they fell in bed - but he just couldn't think then... It wasn't too late, anyway.

And then Tomo wrapped his arms around him, amazingly strong, and pulled Ayuru back into the wonderful proximity of Tomo's body. Overwhelmed with the pleasure, Ayuru made a small protesting sound, almost a sob, and thrashed trying to get free. Tomo's narrow palms slid over his face, stroking and patting, and his lilting voice said gently:

"Shh, Ayuru, shh..."

He's shushing me, Ayuru thought with bitter irony - but this thought was brief and was gone almost immediately - as he gave up under Tomo's gentle, possessive gestures. The boy's lips, soft and hot, touched Ayuru's, and Tomo's hair fell on him, silky and cool. And when Tomo put his head on Ayuru's chest, Ayuru stopped struggling all in all and let himself feel safe and quiet.

The short day of the late autumn was turning to dusk, the sky behind the window lilac and dark blue, and the shadows inside the room grew thicker. They didn't talk any more but somehow there was peace in this silence. Well, they hardly understood each other when talking, Ayuru thought - but when being silent, there was no misunderstanding.

He ran his hand through Tomo's hair that was tangled again after their love-making, followed the pliant line of Tomo's body. He felt the tips of Tomo's fingers traced his chest and abdomen lightly. Tilting up his head, Ayuru looked at the young man, noting Tomo's thoughtful, absorbed expression. It pained him strangely to see Tomo sad - but the truth was, he had to admit there was usually something gently melancholic in Tomo's face, at least when the boy didn't beam at Ayuru. And Tomo's huge yellow eyes, so eloquent in the intensity of emotions, sometimes seemed too old for such a sweet, delicate face. As if he'd seen and known more than a person of his age should've.

So far Ayuru had known only one experience that changed even very young people - and it was the war. He didn't know anything about Tomo's past, could only guess, recognized that his guesses most possibly missed the aim. Perhaps it was some personal battle Tomo had fought... and who could say whether he'd won or lost.

Unconsciously, Ayuru tightened his arm around Tomo, feeling very anxious, almost desperate. He knew he wasn't supposed to be the right person for the boy, with his past crime and his present madness. But the truth was that at the moment Ayuru wanted nothing more but to be with Tomo, to stay together.

"Will you be with me," he asked softly, "forever?"

Even saying it, he knew that "forever" was a stupid word - no one could promise it. There were just too many things - Tomo's past, Ayuru's own psychosis, inappropriate character of their affair - that made any "forever" impossible. But Ayuru also knew he couldn't say it in any other way; he couldn't resign to anything less than forever.

He felt Tomo shift and turn, look up at him, his chin on Ayuru's chest. He must've understood - not the meaning of the question but the tone. His eyes on the pale face seemed to gather the meagre light in the room, turning bright gold. He nodded seriously to Ayuru.

Ayuru chuckled and tousled Tomo's hair and hugged him again - and the words came to him, from the book he loved so much, the one Lucy quoted today.

So many days and years gone by
We lived together, thou and I:
And thou hast never done me wrong,
Nor I to thee, our lifetime long.

The last line he didn't want to recall, it just flitted briefly in his mind - because it didn't have meaning anyway.

Since thou art dead, to live is pain.

* * *

Listening to the sound of running water in the "bas-rum", Tomo turned on his back in bed, threw his arms wide apart and smiled contentedly. Ayuru's smell surrounded him - on the sheets under him, on his own body; he basked in this smell, reveled in it. He had everything... finally he had everything he'd dreamed about. And the reality was better than any fantasy Tomo ever had.

He ran a hand over his ribcage, feeling how every movement, every touch resurrected in him a surge of memories - of Ayuru's hands holding and caressing him, Ayuru's lips on his body - hungry, fervent kisses, just short of bruising - and yet never rude, never deliberately hurting. Tomo recalled how even in the most intense moments Ayuru seemed to soften his movements carefully, to cradle Tomo's body as if Tomo was a precious doll that could be broken.

Tomo's life hadn't got him used to considerate lovers - and when thinking of Nakago, he had been ready for the man to be rough; it wouldn't put Tomo off since he had wanted Nakago for so long that just one thought of being with him finally would bring him off. But Ayuru... Ayuru really cared, didn't he?

Suddenly feeling shy, not knowing why, Tomo pulled his hair over his face, hiding behind the tangle of dark strands. He felt so good - so good that he probably didn't deserve it. Really; he, Tomo, was an unrepented sinner - no amount of suffering was enough for him. But here he was with the person whom he desired most of all... whom he loved more than his life.

It didn't make sense, did it - that Tomo, incorrigible as he was, was in complete happiness now; and Ayuru - Nakago, who apparently repented in everything he had done, was in such anguish. Closing his eyes, Tomo flinched thinking about the torment that sounded in Ayuru's voice as he was talking about something. It felt as if it wasn't just bad memories of someone wronging him - but as if he thought he'd done something hideously wrong. Was Nakago still redeeming his sins, even in this reincarnation?

And why was Tomo let be here, with him? He feared asking this question because it seemed to him if he pried, the miracle could stop - and he could lose Ayuru again.

He thought suddenly that he didn't know how Nakago died - how far he had gone in pursuing his aims, how close to contentment he was before dying. Well, he didn't know many things - whether Soi was with Nakago till the very end, whether they were happy together. He didn't know what Nakago felt when learning about his, Tomo's, death - if he felt anything at all.

"Not likely," Tomo whispered with self-mockery. Well, he was a realist, no matter how much he liked indulging in fantasies. Nakago had never cared for him.

But Ayuru - Ayuru did. The meaning of this thought finally reached him - and Tomo shivered slightly, covering his face with his hands, as if he couldn't stand even the faint light of the fire in the fireplace. Ayuru cared for him; Tomo could feel it, it was all there, in the man's voice, in his touches, in how anxious he grew when seeing Tomo hurt or frightened. It wasn't just sex between them.

He recalled how lightly Ayuru's fingers touched his chest, as he, in his turned, asked Tomo about the origin of the scars. It wasn't like he could understand anyway, so, Tomo told briefly what happened, about Suboshi and Amiboshi - and met Ayuru's confused gaze.

"Boshi-boshi?" Ayuru said doubtfully, and his face acquired a boyish, even sweet expression. It felt so strange, to see the face Tomo thought he'd known so well, the face of Nakago, being so unguarded. Then Ayuru reached and kissed him, slowly and tenderly.

Tomo felt scared, all of a sudden. Yes, it was what Tomo always wanted - to mean something for Nakago. And here he was probably getting his wish. But the responsibility of it... What would he do? Tomo thought that he didn't really know how to deal with it. He knew how to please with his body - and he thought he was a good warrior and a tactician, quite apt at planning - and these things could make him useful. Yet knowing that Ayuru really wanted him - wanted Tomo to be with him - it was almost confusing.

Well, maybe, it was why Tomo was here - the thought came to him - because Ayuru needed him. And that meant... that just meant that Tomo was going to be with Ayuru, as long as Ayuru wanted it.

Thinking that suddenly made Tomo feel better - made him feel light and confident. He stretched and slid out of the bed, walked quietly to the bathroom. The door was not latched, opened when Tomo pushed it. He walked in.

Ayuru stood under running water, his face tilted up to the jets. His body was like marble, light turning the trickles of water in fluid sparkles on his skin. Tomo felt ache in his chest as he looked at the beautiful man - at his lover. Ayuru, apparently feeling his gaze, turned back, spilling a rainbow of drops from his wet hair. There was a brief embarrassment in his eyes as he kind of tried to cover himself. Tomo climbed inside the tub quickly.

He wasn't afraid Ayuru would be angry with him for this intervention. It was pleasant to realize it - that he was sure Ayuru wouldn't drive him away. And truly, after a moment of shyness, the man's eyes turned deep-blue with warmth. He looked genuinely pleased with Tomo's visit.

It was all Tomo needed for encouragement, so, he threw his arms around Ayuru's neck and pressed himself to the man's body, rubbing his groin against Ayuru's. Well, it was a bit of a blunt hint - but Tomo decided Ayuru wouldn't mind. He looked like he could use some more sex; he really seemed starved for touch, when with Tomo, and what was just one time for a healthy man?

Now, it was a pleasant thought that it was Tomo's responsibility now to satisfy Ayuru's needs - and there was no herd of girls who would lay claim of doing the same. Soi... she apparently was not so important for Ayuru since he hadn't been upset over her spoiled photo at all.

Tomo realized he was smiling as he felt Ayuru's mouth on his, kissing softly. Tomo's lips felt very tender, swollen with kisses, so, even a light touch hurt - but this pain felt good, Tomo wouldn't give it up for anything.

Warm water trickled over his face now, and Ayuru's burning lips devoured his mouth, Ayuru's callused palms cupped his face. There were so many things, so many sensations that Tomo couldn't ever imagine in the most vivid fantasies he had about Nakago: how soft the man's wet hair was under Tomo's fingers, how the heat of Ayuru's body seemed to go right through Tomo, reaching him deep inside and melting the remnants of cold there. Tomo groaned, feeling suddenly too weak, feeling like he was going to collapse on the bottom of the tub.

Very good, he thought distantly, that's how you're going to please Ayuru-sama... But Ayuru's arms didn't let him slip down, wrapped around Tomo's waist - and at the next moment Ayuru was on his knees in front of Tomo, and his warm mouth enveloped Tomo's shaft. Tomo jerked and shifted uneasily, his eyes going wide open. He hadn't expected that... Even in his wildest dreams - he could swear he'd never hoped such a thing would happen: that he would see Nakago kneeling in front of him, would feel his cock in Nakago's mouth.

But no, of course, Nakago wouldn't do it. Ayuru did it; Ayuru did all the things Nakago would never condescend to do. Tomo bit his lip, as tormenting pleasure coursed through his body.

It had been difficult to love Nakago, with the man's coldness, his habit of looking through Tomo, his deliberate alienation - but Tomo still loved him. He was a little afraid of what would be with him now, when it was so easy to love Ayuru, when Ayuru looked like he needed to be loved so much. He recalled sadly the anxiety in Ayuru's eyes as he tried to tell Tomo that Tomo really wanted Nakago, not him. Then Tomo felt very frustrated, unable to explain that it was the same, that he was Nakago, just didn't remember it.

But maybe, it wasn't the same. Stripped of Nakago's coldness, of his protective armor, Ayuru was so painfully vulnerable that Tomo felt desperate with the wish to shield him. No matter how big and strong Ayuru seemed, Tomo suddenly felt as if he was the stronger of them two, more knowledgeable and experienced. Perhaps it was the truth - he had all his memories intact, after all.

He touched Ayuru's wet head with the tips of his fingers; when moist, Ayuru's hair was darker blond, almost ashy. Ayuru's mouth, soft and tight, slid up and down along Tomo's shaft. Tomo closed his eyes, feeling how pleasure built up inside him, and leaned against Ayuru's strong arms holding his waist. Completion approached finally, the waves of pleasure flooding his body. Tomo sobbed and came and felt Ayuru's tongue lap on his cock gently.

Ayuru never let him go; his arms stayed on Tomo's body, as the man straightened. Leaning against him, Tomo could feel Ayuru's hard shaft against his own oversensitive genitals - and felt immediate shame. Hey, hadn't he come here to please Ayuru?

"Now, my little one..." he whispered smiling. Well, it was not like Ayuru would ever know that Tomo called him "little one". Gestures were more reliable than words, and Tomo turned with his back to Ayuru, resting his palms on the wall.

A moment later Ayuru's warm hands lay on his hips. Tomo did want it to happen - rejoiced in every second of their closeness, especially this particular kind of closeness. Yet he winced slightly in apprehension all the same. Ayuru was really big; as pleasurable as the first time had been, Tomo still hurt a bit. But well, it wouldn't be the first time for him to get through some pain to achieve what he wanted.

Ayuru's palms ran over his body, and the sensation was of such tenderness that Tomo stopped thinking of pain and just melted into contact. Then Ayuru embraced him, turned him face to face, said something, looking in Tomo's eyes. Tomo didn't understand the words but the realization struck him - Ayuru had noticed his fear, didn't want to hurt him. He laughed happily and slipped on his knees, taking Ayuru's cock in his mouth. He was good with giving blowjobs as well, wasn't he?

Soaked throughout, they finally got out of the shower. Back in the room, as Ayuru picked up his clothes, Tomo noticed a hesitant look in the man's eyes as he glanced at the papers and other stuff still littering the floor - as if he felt bound to clean it all up right now. Then he looked at Tomo thoughtfully and his eyes brightened, and he picked up the paper parcels from the floor.

The food Ayuru had brought smelled delightfully. Tomo heard his stomach growl and chuckled apologetically - but Ayuru just smiled and beckoned him to the kitchen.

This time Ayuru seemed to be cautious about what to give Tomo, apparently remembering what happened yesterday. Tomo himself was pretty sure that his body adapted to being alive again and no sad occurrences would come up. But he enjoyed it totally - to sit in the kitchen, wrapped in Ayuru's big white robe and make his choice of food that Ayuru suggested. Tomo chose rice and some vegetables, which Ayuru put on the stove - but his real interest was to rather crumpled buns smelling with cinnamon, apples, sweet milk and something equally tasty.

As Ayuru looked away, Tomo reached his hand to them. Ayuru turned back almost immediately, said something, of which Tomo discerned just one word - "lei-ter" - and he didn't know anyway what it meant, or, rather, pretended that he didn't understand.

Finally Ayuru laughed as well and broke a piece of a bun for himself. The thing tasted deliciously, Tomo decided - and was choke full of sugar and butter. He could live on the things like this exclusively.

Having dealt with two sweet buns made him feel even more contented, if it was possible. Smoothing the long strands of his hair absently, Tomo almost didn't leave Ayuru with his eyes as the man moved around the kitchen, stirring something in a pot, putting plates and strange metal things with sharp peaks on the table. If anyone had told Tomo in his previous life that he would see Nakago doing such mundane things, he would laugh his head off. But now... Ayuru just couldn't look better, with this little smile on his lips and somewhat shy look in his eyes.

It turned out there were so many things Tomo had never noticed about his beloved. For example, how soft Nakago-Ayuru's mouth could be - or how his face looked so young, almost boyish, when he was thinking about something. Or how his eyelashes seemed to be coated in golden powder on their ends.

Entirely submerged with his feeling of well-being, Tomo started singing. Ayuru burned his fingers on the pot lid, turned back, waving his hand and his eyes were wide and very surprised. Then he smiled.

Well, Tomo knew the day would come when his singing would finally be appreciated. Knowing that Ayuru enjoyed it was worth enduring all the mockery of envious people, their rude remarks and requests to shut up. Tomo never felt more encouraged.

He finished singing finally and looked at Ayuru, smiling triumphantly, waiting for approval. Well, when Ayuru bent down to kiss him on the lips and said something gently - it was really enough.

Rice and vegetables steamed on the plates, and when Ayuru sat across the table and took the metal instrument, Tomo realized it was the thing they used for eating, instead of chopsticks. He sighed, tried it awkwardly, mimicking Ayuru's motions - not successfully enough, in his opinion. Ayuru's hands touched his, rearranging the instrument in the way that was rather more convenient, and then pushed strands of Tomo's hair out of his face. Tomo flushed, feeling very warm inside, almost painfully warm. He wished he could say something Ayuru would understand - but he even didn't know what he wanted to say.

And then there was a knock on the door.

Tomo saw how Ayuru's brows raised in surprise, how he shrugged, getting up - and Tomo suddenly wanted desperately no one to come. They didn't need anyone - anyone who could break their solitude, their closeness. Tomo wished he could tell Ayuru not to open. And by Ayuru's look he knew as well that the man didn't want to do it.

Ayuru said something, the tone of his voice slightly lost and hopeful as he looked at Tomo - and then he walked to the door. Tomo sat, twisting in his hands that strange instrument for eating - "fo-ok", Ayuru called it. He heard Ayuru ask something at the door - and a barely audible answer. The door went open, and there was some noise there.

Tomo got up, stepped to the doorway leading to the room - and saw unfamiliar people rushing in - four of them, all talking in strained, hushed voices. And between two of them, there was Ayuru - they dragged him, really dragged, because he couldn't stand. His face with closed eyes was very pale, and a trickle of blood ran over his temple. One of the men had a spade in his hand, and there was a streak on the blade. The man grinned, showing bad teeth, his chafed, bad-skinned face looking smug and excited.

They seemed to be startled to see Tomo, stopped and looked at him uncomprehending. But he wasn't stunned - his reaction was always very fast. All he knew was that those were Ayuru's enemies - and he, Tomo, had to help Ayuru. He made a short motion with his hand; the "fo-ok" flashed in the air and stuck in the neck of one of the men. And as he wheezed and clawed the wound, Tomo reached for a knife - Ayuru had one, with a long wide blade. This knife would be a real weapon.

Tomo saw with peripheral sight how one of the men yanked from his shoulder a strange metal pipe and pointed it at him. And then something very heavy hit him in the shoulder, throwing him back. He heard a huge rumble, like thunder in the room, a split moment later. Something burned smelled.

Surprised, Tomo looked at himself; they hadn't thrown a knife at him or something, he was pretty sure. But the white sleeve of his robe was quickly turning bright red with blood. He tried to raise his hand, but his arm went very heavy and the knife slipped out of his grip. Then the pain came, tearing through his body, spreading like spikes of fire. And with pain, weakness overcame him, made the room swirl in front of his eyes as Tomo sank down on the floor.

The end of Part 5

& & &

Part 6

Ayuru blinked feebly, regaining consciousness. His vision was so blurry that he seemed to be in the mist; part of it was colored red, and his eyelashes seemed to be glued with something. Blood, he thought; blood leaked in his eye.

His head ached. Briefly, he recalled a flash of a spade blade in the air, breaking down on him - and then nothing. He tried to reach to his temple, check if the damage was bad - and realized he couldn't do it; his hands were tied, with something coarse - a belt?

What the fuck... His thoughts were desperately fuzzy - and all he could see were just shadows flitting in front of him. Then voices came, distant but getting clearer with every second.

"Bastard... What a bastard, he'll pay for it, he'll pay for everything..."

Bill... It was Bill Scott's voice, wasn't it? What could he do here, in Ayuru's house? It didn't make sense. Or, rather, it didn't make sense because it was too difficult to think about anything. Ayuru groaned.

"Coming round, isn't he?"

Boots walked up to Ayuru, and he realized he was lying on the floor on his side, with his arms twisted behind his back.

"Fucker." A kick under his ribs was heavy but this time Ayuru managed not to moan. He remembered now.

"I hope it's not for you," he said, looking at Tomo's upturned face. The boy's huge yellow eyes were wide open and gloomy. He looked like he wanted to ask Ayuru to stay.

It couldn't be someone coming for Tomo, could it, Ayuru thought walking to the door - kept repeating it as if his own conviction could change it; the words turned into almost a prayer, even though Ayuru didn't know to whom he prayed, considered himself an atheist.

He asked:

"Who's there?"

"A telegram."

The voice was low and hoarse - but all Ayuru could think about was if something happened to his father or brothers. He opened the door and then...

"Son of bitch." Bill kicked him again. "Ratted on me to Patterson. Gotta make him pay for it."

Bullshit... didn't rat... Ayuru wanted to protest and felt a wave of sickness cover him. He must've been concussed. Besides... justifying himself in front of Bill - it would be ridiculous.

"Fuckin' Londoner," Bill said with distaste. "Came here, to our village. Fucks around with my sister. Books, stories - soon no one would want to marry her."

"Bill." It was another voice, a somewhat hushed one. "Look at Harry. He's really hurt. I dunno, hear how he hacks. And that blood..."

Didn't hurt Harry... or anyone... On some distance away from him, Ayuru noticed a dark figure on the floor, heard agonizing gasps of a man. His hazy mind refused to make a connection. And then - the thought slammed in his brain, dispelling the mist. Tomo... Where was the boy? Did he have presence of mind to hide or to run?

He didn't realize he must've been struggling to look around - and Bill noticed it.

"Looking for your bitch? She's here."

She? Oh yes, the hair. Did they take Tomo for a girl, like Ayuru himself had done when first seeing him? Two of Bill's friends appeared, one of them Lucy's alleged fiance, dragging a limp form. White robe, black strands... Ayuru clenched his teeth not to moan. Tomo didn't escape; they got him. Then he saw a huge stain of red spreading on the white cloth, and his heart sank.

"What have you..."

They threw the boy on the bed; Tomo must've been half-conscious, groaned weakly when the rough handling hurt him. His head fell back, letting Ayuru see waxen face, closed eyes and white compressed lips.

"What have you done to him?!"

He thought he screamed but his voice was just a half-choked whisper.

"You wanted to fuck with my sister," Bill muttered, his small eyes glimmering with obvious satisfaction. "And I'll fuck your bitch." Then suddenly Ayuru's words must've reached him. "Him?! What d'you mean - him?"

Ayuru shivered with unease. He didn't know what could be better - if they kept considering Tomo a girl or otherwise. Neither was better... The situation sucked...

"Let him go." He struggled so hard for his voice to sound calm. "He's nothing, just a poor madman - he doesn't even speaks English. You have your business with me - then deal with me."

"He injured Harry," Bill said dumbly.

"Is he a foreigner?" It was Lucy's fiance who said it. "A German? A German spy? I fought them Germans in France."

Oh God. It could be funny, if it wasn't that hideous. The guy was a veteran. Fuckin' patriot.

"No, he's not German. I..."

"A foreigner and a faggot." Bill never let him finish, moved away from Ayuru, walked up to the bed. "Let's see what we have here..."

Ayuru jerked, yanking on the belt tying his hands. It felt like the rough leather cut into his skin, making little trickles of blood run over his hands - but Ayuru didn't notice it. He had to stop them, he had to...

There was nothing he could do to prevent Bill from reaching and yanking Tomo's robe open. Others held Tomo, even when he was unconscious like this. Lucy's fiance's huge hands were locked on Tomo's thin wrists.

This position and the cloth of the robe touching his wound must've hurt. Ayuru heard Tomo moan again, still not coming round. A part of Ayuru's mind was terrified with his staying unconscious; but partly he felt vaguely glad that Tomo didn't feel what they did.

"Exactly," Bill chuckled. "A guy."

"Leave him alone!"

He struggled with the belt crazily. There was utter despair Ayuru felt - the feeling so excruciating that it was like physical pain, like a knife twisted in his guts. He'd never felt like this before... not even during the war. During the war, he still could find some sense in what happened, in deaths and injuries. But this... this was senseless...

If only he didn't let them in! If only he didn't get in quarrel with them in the village! If they didn't think he went to the police station to complain...

"A faggot," Bill said. "Well, doesn't matter for me. A hole is a hole."

He couldn't mean to do it... In anguish, in ultimate realization of his helplessness Ayuru bit his tongue, felt blood leaking into his mouth. It was impossible, unthinkable.

"If you touch him, you asshole..."

"Whom are you calling an asshole?"

Ayuru saw Bill walk up to him and rejoiced. If he managed to distract them from Tomo - it could work in some way. He didn't know how it could work - but he had to do something, anything - just not to let them touch the young man.

"You haven't understand me, have you?"

He noticed a poker in Bill's hand - and then it broke on his side. His ribs cracked and his arm went numb.

"You know what? I'll run this poker through your bitch when I'm over with her. And then I'll bury both of you. You made the pit for it yourself, didn't you?" For a moment Bill enjoyed the impact of his words. "And guess what, Thornton? No one will even look for you. Everyone knows you're a psycho, who can figure what comes to your mind."

"My father will look for me."

"Then he'll find nothing."

Bill turned away, showing that the conversation was over. Oh God, the man was just a dumb bastard - but somehow he sensed unmistakably what Ayuru was most afraid of. Ayuru felt like screaming as the man touched Tomo again, threw the boy's legs apart.

Tomo... Ayuru wanted to say he was sorry - but the truth was "sorry" didn't cover it, in no way. The hideous turn the events took - and so quickly - it was entirely his fault. And Tomo got caught in it just because he happened to be next to Ayuru.

He was ruining everyone who was near. He saw how Tomo's eyes opened, almost black on a very pale face, and their stare moved around the room, finding Ayuru. There was no accusation in these eyes - and because of it, Ayuru felt even worse, if it was possible.

"Ah so," Bill said. "The slut's come round. So, you'll feel it all, faggot boy."

Tomo's face stayed blank, even as Bill's hands roamed his body - but his eyes wandered, as if he couldn't stand looking at Ayuru. And then Ayuru noticed how his gaze went wide, as if he noticed something very important. Something on the floor... Focusing his blurry gaze with an effort, Ayuru peered - and saw a small dot of faint-pink on the floor. He didn't realize at once what it was, then recalled. The shell; the little shell he'd found today in the morning on the snow. Must've fallen out of his pocket when he was dragged to the room.

Tomo looked at this shell with such intensity that his face rippled slightly in effort.

"Hmm... He's quite loose. His lover prepared him for us."

Tomo's face didn't change when Bill forced his fingers inside him, then yanked them out roughly. Ayuru thought he couldn't look at it. But no, the real truth was that he couldn't let it happen. He just wouldn't bear it, to let them violate Tomo, he just couldn't live through it.

He yanked on his wrists again, so hard that veins stood out on his temples. Blood ran over his face in thicker trickles. And then - there was a little snapping sound - and his hands were free. He'd torn the belt.

Bill and others didn't have time to understand what happened. Ayuru was on his feet, grabbed the gun Bill left at the bed, pointed it at them. He saw their eyes suddenly go very big and dark on their whitened faces.

His finger struggled to pull the trigger. Ayuru wanted to see them dead, to see Bill's face turned into a bloody wound, see others convulse on the floor and die. It would make him feel good, would make him feel satisfied - to make them pay for what they did and tried to do to Tomo. And only a tiny sane part of Ayuru's mind didn't let him shoot.

If he killed them, he would go to prison. He wouldn't ever be able to prove it was self-defense. Patterson would be the first to catch him. Bill and others were the insiders in the village - and he, Ayuru, was a stranger. He couldn't let himself be arrested... he had to stay with Tomo, Tomo needed him.

A brief memory of another time when he hadn't managed to cope with his anger visited Ayuru, of a tiny underground space and a man he killed there.

"Get out," he said in a tight voice.

They seemed to cheer up when understanding he wasn't going to shoot. Bill's small eyes acquired their obstinate, dumb expression again.

"We'll get to you."

"Take your friend and get out."

They picked up Harry from the floor and backed away, glaring at Ayuru. He followed them, and his finger still seemed to have life of his own, struggling to shoot. When they were outside the door, in the darkness, he did shoot - in the air, and heard how they ran. He latched the door and walked back to the room.

The floor felt shaky under his feet. Ayuru didn't know if it was with concussion or something else. He just felt so weak he was about to slip down. But he couldn't.

Seeing Tomo refilled his strength. He rushed to the bed, dropped on his knees. For a moment Ayuru felt so overwhelmed he didn't know what to do; then his mind worked clearly. He had been dealing with wounded, in some way, during the war. He pulled Tomo's robe off carefully, looking at the injury.

It was bad. Bill's gun was a sawn-off rifle, and the sight of the damage made Ayuru clench his teeth not to cry out. The bullet entered under Tomo's right collarbone and went through, leaving a gaping exit wound above his shoulder blade. Blood was running in a thick flow from there. So much blood... the robe was half-soaked with it. Ayuru tore a sheet into stripes, made a pressing bandage - but he didn't know if it worked.

The boy needed a doctor. In despair, Ayuru looked at Tomo's deathly pale face, at trickles of sweat running over his temples. Tomo's hand was limp, unresisting as Ayuru squeezed it.



He almost flinched when the white lips moved and his name sounded from them. But it also gave Ayuru strength to move.

"I'll take you to the doctor now. You'll be all right, do you hear me?"

He saw how, at the sound of his words, Tomo's eyes opened, very tired and very dark. He must've been in pain, his face distorted slightly. Ayuru thought of giving him painkillers but wasn't sure the boy could swallow the pills, he was so weak.

"Ayuru." Tomo's hand raised, fingers touched a trickle of blood on Ayuru's face. He caught this hand and pressed it to his lips, repeating:

"Shh, shh, everything will be all right, I'll help you."

He tried to get up - and was held feebly - and Tomo's eyes looked past him now, at the floor. Ayuru turned and saw the shell.

"Do you want it? Is it yours?"

He took it and put it in Tomo's hand - and saw how the boy's face light up faintly, a trembling smile on his lips. It seemed to Ayuru he heard a word Tomo said:

"Shin..." or something - and then Tomo went limp again.

Ayuru hurried best he could. He thought it wasn't a good idea to move Tomo now - but there was no way he would leave the boy alone in the house - what if Bill and others came back? So, he dressed Tomo, as carefully as he could, then wrapped the boy in the fur coat and raised in his arms.

Framed with dark heavy strands of black hair, Tomo's face was waxen, and the only thing that let Ayuru know he was still alive was a small frown of discomfort that made Tomo's eyebrows tremble while Ayuru dressed him. He could barely hear the breath. And blood... blood didn't stop. By the time Ayuru had him dressed, the bandages went bright red.

"Please," Ayuru whispered, not quite knowing if he talked to Tomo or to some higher being that could help him. "Please wait a little."

He put the gun on the sling on his shoulder, in case if Bill and his friends were back, and walked out, carrying Tomo.

The moon was a slightly waning disc, pouring yellow light on the empty fields. The clouds of steam rushed out of Ayuru's mouth at every breath; and Tomo's breath he practically couldn't see. He walked as fast as he could, putting all his strength into it; it still wasn't fast enough - but he couldn't walk any faster.

"The doctor will heal you, you'll get well." Ayuru didn't know if Tomo heard him, let alone understand - but he couldn't keep silent, felt he wasn't able to bear the quietness surrounding him any more. "It's not a mortal wound you got. Boy, I've seen such wounds - and people still survived after them. Half of face gone, all guts spilled out, legs torn off... You aren't going to die. Do you hear, Tomo - you aren't going to die. You can't do it to me."

There was something hot on the fingers of his hand that supported Tomo. Blood. It soaked through the clothes - it just didn't stop. Trembling with despair, Ayuru looked up, at the pale moon and yellowish sky above him. Please... if there was someone out there, God or some supreme being, please do something. Don't let him die.


The voice was just a faint whisper, and Tomo's eyes were still closed. His white face started acquiring sharpened, stern look - almost icon-like. Ayuru saw his lips move again.

"Ayuru..." He said something, Ayuru just couldn't understand - and then Tomo made a small gesture, as if wanted to get free.

"What? To put you down? I can't," Ayuru said pleadingly. "We have to get to the doctor sooner."

Very heavily, Tomo's eyelids rose - and he repeated the gesture, with more insistence. Ayuru couldn't do it, couldn't... but how could he deny Tomo what he wanted?

He lowered the boy on the ground, supported Tomo against his lap. He thought suddenly that he knew why Tomo wanted him to put him down. Because Tomo thought it didn't make sense to go anywhere, and probably moving hurt, and Tomo just wanted to stay in rest for the last minutes.

No! No, it wasn't that! Ayuru bit his lips desperately, trying to stop them from trembling, to fight the stinging in his eyes. It was not the time to cry, he had to do something, to keep trying...

What could he do? It probably was too late - and he was nowhere near the village. Tomo sagged heavily against his arms, the boy's face so pale and tired - and Ayuru realized suddenly that if Tomo died, he wouldn't be able to live, too. He had lost so much in his life, nearly had lost himself - he wouldn't be able to bear one more loss.

Since thou art dead, to live is pain... The line came to him, agonizingly sad.

"Ayuru." Tomo's hands found his. So cold... His hands were cold just because of the frost, not because he was dying, Ayuru thought stubbornly. The shell was in their palms now. Ayuru saw how Tomo's face strained, his eyebrows drawn together. He looked at the shell with such intensity that Ayuru felt bound to look at it, too.

He must've imagined it, the leaves of the shell unfolding slightly, a wisp of smoke coming from it.

And then - he was somewhere. Not on the frozen dark field, for sure. The place was dim, except some details that started coming through. He was sitting at the table, his arms crossed in front of him. There were strange clothes on him, like armor or something, and a long cloak. And there was someone else in the room, standing in front of him. A tall figure in silky brilliant clothes, long black hair made in a tail on the top of the head, under a decorated crown. The face was painted carefully in white, black and blue - but he still recognized it.

So, it was how Tomo used to look.

"Here we met again."

The voice was the same as Ayuru used to hear, high and reedy - but for once he understood the words perfectly.



Now hearing this name didn't surprise him. He knew it was his name. He remembered now - like in a dream, with evident clarity that would be gone within five minutes after waking.

"Don't call me that," he said. "For you and me - there is my other name."

The boy laughed. The sound was strange, almost frightening - but when he looked at Ayuru, his yellow eyes were serious again.

"If only you knew how I always dreamed about hearing that from you."

There was something different in Tomo - and not just the make-up. He seemed somewhat distant - aloof? Ayuru couldn't bear to think of why it could be like that.

"I don't want to leave you," the boy said, and his eyes went dark and serious.

"Then don't leave me! Don't leave me!" Suddenly Ayuru felt that the mask he wore, of Nakago, of coldness and control, became too small for him. He had to break it. He didn't care for his self-composure, he just wanted Tomo to stay with him. "Don't - because I won't bear it! I've just found you - you have to stay with me!"

"I wish I could."

Aloofness was gone from Tomo - and now there was tenderness in his eyes. He loves me, Ayuru thought; I don't know what for - but he loves me so, that once his love was stronger than death. He felt Tomo's arms around him, hugging him, pulling him closer - and felt the warm face pressed to his. He didn't feel the paint, just the smooth skin.

"Will we be together after death?" he asked with hope.

"I don't think so, Ayuru-sama."

"Then you can't die! You can't die, do you hear me?!"

He grabbed Tomo, squeezed thin shoulders, shook the boy - but the illusion already faded, sensations and colors going away, until he was back in the empty field, holding Tomo against his lap. The young man's hands went slack and the shell slid on the ground.

"You can't die! I don't care who you were, who I was - just don't die on me!"

He kissed the face, kissed unresponsive lips, cradled Tomo's limp body in his arms. He couldn't let go, couldn't open his arms - as if holding Tomo close, he still could make him stay somehow, forbid him to go.

An approaching sound of horse hooves on the frozen ground reached Ayuru - and an unmelodic sound of someone's voice singing. He recognized the voice. Galvanized, Ayuru looked up, staring with desperate hope.

A few moments later, Clark's tired but not unhappy face appeared in front of him from the darkness.

"Eugene? What's wrong? You look like shit." The man's voice acquired a concerned note and then his eyes darted at the body in Ayuru's arms. "And who's that with you?"

A few hours later, Ayuru looked at Tomo's very pale face lying in the circle of spilled hair on a pillow in Clark's bed. A thick bandage covered the right side of the boy's chest - but there was no more soaking stain of blood on it.

"I gave him morphine," Clark said quietly. The man's face looked exhausted, his bird-like black eyes blinking tiredly. "It'll do good to him just to sleep for a while. He lost a damn lot of blood - should rest as much as possible."

The movement of Tomo's chest was very faint, and Ayuru felt he couldn't look away from it - as if, once he did, the breath would stop.

He did look at the man finally.

"Thank you..."

"Here, don't look like you're going to cry, Eugene. You're a big boy, aren't you?"

Ayuru nodded, and for some reason because of these words, it became even more difficult to control himself. He pulled the strands of hair over his face, hiding it, but his lips jumped all the same.

"Now let me look at your head," Clark said with a sigh. "And at your ankle as well."

* * *

His head felt very light. The body didn't - it was difficult to breathe, something seemed to constrict his chest. But he was warm, not cold - so, it couldn't be hell again. Very slowly, Tomo opened his eyes. There was a white ceiling above him; he looked at it, blinking tiredly, as if even such a small action as rising his eyelids had worn him out.

Then, sounds came - of the wood cracking in the fireplace. Good, the fire meant that he wouldn't be cold... There had been no fire while Tomo was dead.

He wasn't dead. His body ached - but it was a good pain, nothing like tearing agony that he remembered from his previous death. This pain seemed to be hushed, as if with opium or some other medicine - and it was good, too. If someone wasted medicines on him, surely, they expected him to live.

Tomo turned carefully, not even his head - he didn't feel up to that yet - but his eyes. On the chair at his bed, a blond man sat, sleeping. His hair was rather dirty, he was unshaven and looked thin and tired - but he still was the most beautiful man Tomo had ever seen.

"Ayu..." Tomo didn't finish, decided to let him sleep - he really looked exhausted. But it turned out that even this whisper was enough. Red-rimmed blue eyes opened and blinked defenselessly.

"Tomo." How hoarse Ayuru's voice was... And at the next moment Ayuru was on his knees at the bed, his hand clenching Tomo's. He talked, again in this incomprehensible language of his. Well, Shin was gone now, and the remnants of Tomo's power with it - and he'd had just very little of his power in this world anyway. So, there was no hope to understand what Ayuru said. But, maybe, Tomo understood. This hand on his hand - and Ayuru's lips kissing his palm - he knew what it meant, Tomo didn't need words for it. He'd learn words later.

Ayuru kept talking, hastily, his voice sounding almost desperate as he begged for something, promised something. But Tomo didn't need his promises, didn't need to be convinced. He would stay with Ayuru as long as he could - and this time nothing would separate them.

The End

[+] Back