It was, thought Seishirou distantly, a slightly strange situation. Not more than an hour or so ago Subaru had been trying to throttle the life out of him, but now the young manís disposition seemed to have taken a sharp right angle turn. Instead of perhaps reacting to the assassinís presence with perhaps anger and annoyance, Subaru instead turned slightly on the bed to look at Seishirou from a better angle, his wonderfully expressive eyes open and unflinching.
It was most unexpected from the Sumeragi onmyouji and it knocked Seishirou ever so slightly off-center, as if he didnít have as tight a grip on the situation as he would like.
Of course, he wasnít going to let Subaru know that.
"Has Hokuto-chan gone?" Subaru asked quietly.
Seishirou nodded absently, gazing at the deep emerald eyes and trying to probe the mind and mysteries behind them. He had never seen Subaru like this before, calm and unafraid. By all rights, having the Sakurazukamori standing this close to him should have the Sumeragi moving instinctively to the other side of the bed. Intrigued, Seishirou turned and padded slowly around the bed, never taking his eyes off Subaru. Subaru didnít stop watching him either, twisting on the silken covers to follow the other man. When he stopped on the opposite side of the bed, they held the gaze again.
With a sigh, Seishirou removed the coat of his black suit and laid it on the bed. The black tie was also removed and casually placed on the jacket. Subaru followed every move, every ripple of the silk blue-black shirt as Seishirou stretched out on the empty space on the bed beside him. Seishirouís eyes narrowed. Subaru displayed no reaction apart from shifting slightly away from him, not as if repelled, but rather politely making room for the other man.
"You know, Subaru-kun," said Seishirou, his hands behind his head as he lay on the pillow. "I find your sisterís sudden appearance a bit of a nuisance. I donít mind Hokuto-chan, but when I kill people I donít expect them to come back. I should do a better job next time." He absently touched the cut beneath his eye from the fight. The blood had already dried and no longer bothered him. Merely another scratch among many others he had had, and like the rest it would soon heal. The cloudy white eye stared at the ceiling; the golden one kept a careful watch on the onmyouji, searching for any reaction or crack in the calm expression.
Subaru blinked guilelessly, a faint echo of the innocence he had lost. "How come you didnít bind her spirit in your cherry tree?" he asked.
Seishirou frowned. There was none of the anger and pain he had been expecting. Instead, Subaru simply curled around the pillow that he held close to his slim frame. His hair was falling into his eyes as he tilted his head to look at Seishirouís face, voice filled with nothing but curiosity. The Sakurazukamori found himself looking, really looking into those deep green eyes, for once without the barrier of glasses or Subaruís emotions between them.
"I didnít feel it was necessary," Seishirou replied without thinking. Too late, he caught his mistake. Annoyance filled him, not only at Subaru and his sister but also at himself. The Sakurazukamori was supposed to have absolute control over his actions. He shouldnít let a disturbing conversation with an eccentric ghost or Subaruís unexpected change in behaviour affect him.
Seishirou pulled his eyes out of those fathomless green pools before he drowned. To cover his slip he turned fully to face the younger man with narrowed eyes and gave the cold, predatory smile that somehow managed to parody a friendly greeting. It usually guaranteed an infuriated reaction from Subaru.
"After all, Subaru-kun," the Sakurazukamori continued maliciously. "Youíre the one I want."
Much to his annoyance, Subaru just nodded. Seishirou watched Subaru warily as the younger man brought one slim arm up to brush a lock of black hair away from his eyes. Subaru winced.
"Ouch. I think you gave me a few bruises," the young man said, squeezing his eyes shut as violently protesting muscles calmed down. "Iím going to take a bath."
Moving slowly, Subaru rolled over and swung his long legs over the side of the bed, turning his back on Seishirou. The assassin watched him with wary eyes as Subaru walked around the bed towards the bathroom door. He laid one hand on the gold handle, then turned slightly towards Seishirou, who was still stretched out on the bed. There was a small, wry smile on the onmyoujiís face.
"You shouldnít play so rough next time, Seishirou-san."
And with that, Subaru opened the door and went inside.
Seishirou blinked. Twice. He frowned and sat up, leaning forward to stare at the bathroom door. The sound of water running into the spa was faintly audible. Somewhere behind the door, Subaru was probably removing his clothes. Seishirou looked at the door as if he could see through it, running over the Sumeragiís last words.
Had Subaru really just said that? It was the kind of joke Seishirou would say. Coming from Subaru, it was such an incongruous comment. More proof of the fact that something had happened to Subaru, and Seishirou sensed Hokutoís hand in it. But the girl couldnít have done this so quickly in the time he and Subaru had been separated. Which implied that the spirit, with her skill at reading the hearts of people, had pushed and prodded Subaru into acknowledging some part of himself that had been there all along.
What had those twins been talking about? Whatever it was, from what he had seen of Subaru as a result, it didnít make Seishirou feel very comfortable.
His relationship with Subaru had always been predictable. Seishirou had always been the dominant one, the one with power over Subaruís life Ė and death. Subaru was easy to second guess; Seishirou always knew what kind of response he would get from the onmyouji when he pushed the right buttons.
But he wasnít quite sure what to do with this new Subaru. With a feeling of disquiet, Seishirou sat on the edge of the bed and stared with narrowed eyes at the bathroom door. The sound of water had stopped.
With sudden decision, Seishirou got up and placed his hand on the doorís golden handle.
It wasnít locked.
Seishirou smiled to himself as he quietly pushed the door open.
The bathroom was as luxurious as the rest of the suite. Upon a first glance, the eye would be caught be the dark red marble around the sink and bordering the warm beige tiles. The usual amenities would be ignored, common as they are in all their variances to every bathroom. Or perhaps the observer would be immediately attracted to the lush green plants that stood tastefully around the spa, not so dense as to block out the view of the lagoon inside but rather to add the illusion of intimacy.
In Seishirouís case, his eye was immediately drawn to the slim form of Subaru who half-lay in the water, back to the door. The wisps of steam rising from the liquidís surface veiled the onmyoujiís pale form, making him seem more ethereal than he actually was. Light glinted off the sheen of water covering the skin, highlighting the slim contours of his body, or turned the tiny droplets dripping off the tips of soft black hair into shining jewels that twinkled until they melted into the water at Subaruís chest.
Seishirou smiled appreciatively, running his gaze over the scene before him, slowing as visually he traveled the smooth curve of Subaruís neck. The onmyoujiís shoulders were tense; he could see their rigidity and stiffness as Subaru sighed and hunched over in the water, hair falling into his eyes.
A subtle perfume of flowers filled the humid air and the faint dripping and movement of water was just loud enough to cover Seishirouís stealthy journey from the door to the spa. Subaru didnít move, oblivious to everything except perhaps the workings and thoughts of his own mind, whatever they were at the moment. They were troubling thoughts, if the tautness of his body was any indication. He didnít even notice when Seishirou silently sat down on the red marble step, leaning his arm on the edge of the spa directly behind him. Tiny beads of water that had been on the lip of the spa soaked into Seishirouís silk shirt, turning it in places even darker.
Then Seishirou placed one cool hand on each of Subaruís shoulders.
Seishirou blinked as Subaru jumped and sat bolt upright, a small wave of water from the action washing over the edge and wetting the sleeve of his shirt. However he did not let the other go, instead rubbing his fingers firmly in small, slow circles over the wet skin.
"Donít tense up so, Subaru-kun," he said disapprovingly. His grip on the slim shoulders tightened and firmly brought Subaru back to where he could reach him easily. The younger man stiffened and held himself rigid just a few millimeters from the tiles, his muscles tight and coiled, ready to spring at the slightest movement. Seishirou patiently continued the massage until Subaru relaxed just enough to gingerly rest his weight against the smooth wall of the spa.
Seishirou continued his ministrations until he sensed Subaru close his eyes. The skin was soft beneath his fingers, unblemished and smooth as alabaster. He watched the young manís head droop over his chest as Seishirou worked his way down his slim shoulders.
"Feeling better?" asked Seishirou, long fingers wandering over the onmyoujiís warm flesh.
"Mm." It could have been an affirmative reply, or simply a wordless sound of pleasure. Either way, it pleased Seishirou to see the younger man give in to him so easily. He smiled the predatorís smile that went unseen as Subaru closed his eyes, completely submitting to him. Applying more pressure to Subaruís body, Seishirou ever so slowly worked his way to Subaruís vulnerable throat.
He felt the onmyouji shiver beneath him. No doubt Subaruís pulse was quickening from the intimacy, the sensual thrill of having Seishirou touching him like this mixed with the electrifying hint of danger. Indeed there was the slightest tension in the shoulders that refused to go away despite Seishirouís attentions. Yet to the Sakurazukamoriís surprise apart from that jerk at the initial contact, Subaru didnít pull away. If anything, he leaned into Seishirouís ever moving hands.
Well. Perhaps he should see just how far he could push the Sumeragi. Seishirou stopped moving his hands up Subaruís neck and instead changed directions, sliding his hand down the shoulder blades, along the too-prominent spine. He stopped just above the surface of the water lapping at the skin in the middle of Subaruís back, concentrating his ministrations just under the arms. Heat radiated from the water and Subaruís skin, warming Seishirouís hands and face. Beneath the rippling surface, Subaruís body was a pale blurred shape, the shifting of the water hiding and revealing just enough to tease the eye and draw it closer.
Seishirou smiled. The he easily dipped his hands under the water, ignoring the way it made his silken sleeves billow and cling to his skin as he rhythmically massaged the lower part of Subaruís body. When he touched a particularly sensitive spot, Subaru let out an involuntary moan and arched his back away at the unexpected daring exploration. With a low laugh, Seishirou wrapped his arms under Subaruís, crossing them across the onmyoujiís damp chest and drawing him close. Water dripped off the silk shirt plastered to Seishirou and Subaruís skin, the only sound in the room.
"There," the Sakurazukamori breathed, lips bare millimeters from the hollow of the Sumeragiís ear. "Iím not playing rough now am I?"
He could feel Subaruís heart fluttering just beneath the skin, a little bird trapped and searching for a way to escape. Only then did he realise just how much effort it took for Subaru to keep himself under control as he lay tensely in Seishirouís embrace.
"You donít have to do this," he said quietly.
"Do what?" Seishirou purred, languidly lifting one dripping arm to lightly trail his fingers up Subaruís chest over the smooth skin from his neck to his face. The onmyouji shivered. His wet hair was soft and carried the faint scent of flowers.
"Pretend to be nice to me, or toy with me so that you can get a reaction from me," replied Subaru. Slowly, gingerly, he leaned back, tilting his head so that it rested on Seishirouís shoulder, baring his throat.
Seishirou couldnít see his face. Carefully he took the delicate chin in his fingers and turned him so that they faced each other. Subaru craned away slightly to preserve the dangerously small space between their lips, locking his emerald eyes with those of the hunter who never let him go.
"I think, Subaru-kun," whispered Seishirou, a hint of warning in his warm voice, "you think too highly of yourself."
Still enclosed in Seishirouís arms, Subaru leaned away, the water shifting over his naked skin. "But thatís what youíve been doing. You keep provoking me so that Iíll do something, as if . . ." He stared deep into the otherís face as if trying to probe the Sakurazukamoriís mind behind it. Seishirou let his eyes narrow and Subaru blinked, emerald orbs thoughtful and given greater depth by the water dripping into them from his hair. "As if you want me to acknowledge that you exist," Subaru said softly.
Seishirou let go of his chin, dropping his hand back into the water and giving Subaruís face a little splash. "Are you sure the heat of the bath hasnít gotten to you?" he asked with a mocking laugh.
Subaru didnít flinch but sighed, settling back in Seishirouís entrapping embrace. "I suppose it doesnít matter," he said, slipping further into the warm water and wetting Seishirou up past his elbows. "It doesnít change what I feel."
"What, that you love me?" sneered the Sakurazukamori.
Before Subaru could finish what would have been an unpleasant thing for the Sakurazukamori to hear, Seishirou suddenly grabbed the slim throat in his right hand. Subaru stiffened, instinctively elongating and half-raising himself out of the water in a feeble attempt at escape. Seishirou pulled him down and brought his head beside Subaruís, his other arm grasping the Sumeragiís delicate form to his own. Subaru whimpered slightly, but the sound as well as the water soaking into Seishirouís silk shirt was ignored.
"Do you really love me, Subaru?" hissed Seishirou into Subaruís ear. "Or do you love a vet who never really existed?" He didnít give Subaru a chance to answer that. "I could snap your neck right now if I want."
"If you want," Subaru managed to say. "But I donít think you will."
The Sakurazukamoriís response to this was to grip his throat even tighter. Subaru gasped, his arms bent behind him to clench the lip of the spa, knees half out of the water as his entire body stiffened against Seishirou. But he didnít fight back.
Seishirouís face darkened and he spun the younger man around keeping his left arm around Subaruís waist and right hand on his throat in a parody of a waltz. The pulse of life just under his fingers throbbed rapidly. He smiled unpleasantly, the smile the hunter wore just before the kill as he stared into Subaruís wide green eyes. He could feel the Sumeragiís warm breath on his face as he leaned closer. Subaru was trying to say something.
"You . . . canít . . ."
"Canít what, Subaru-kun?" He loosened his grip the tiniest of fractions.
Subaru, his eyes dilated and every muscle tense, gasped out.
"You canít . . . live . . . without me."
The effect of this was immediate. In the heartbeat that followed, Seishirou barely noticed the defiantly emotional expression reflected in Subaruís eyes, barely registered the unfamiliar tightness and heat of anger in his chest as he viciously shoved Subaruís head under the water.
Seishirou had had enough of Subaru and his stupid talk. He was Sakurazukamori. He was going to kill Subaru and finally end this stupid bet that had taken up too many years of his life already. He was the one in charge after all and he was going to kill his prey if he felt like it. And he felt like it now.
The bath water rolled and churned as Subaru tried to fight him off. The assassin ignored the frantic pulling at his arm, ignored the splashing of water as small tidal waves overflowed and saturated his clothes. He smiled tightly, eyes burning as he watched the white torrent of bubbles as Subaru lost precious air.
"Youíre too dangerous to me, Subaru-kun." A hand desperately grabbed onto his wrist. "I shouldnít have let you live this long," he spat savagely. Angrily.
Subaru had managed to make him very angry. Subaru had managed to get Seishirou to lose control and act without thinking.
Had Subaru really affected him that deeply?
Disquieted, Seishirou released the drowning onmyouji and sat back on the step. He watched expressionlessly as Subaru heaved himself out of the water, gripping the edge of the spa. He pulled himself to lean over the step, water streaming from his face and hair onto the tiles and he gulped in deep, welcome breaths of air. Seishirou frowned, staring at the pale skin, the spare body, the soft black hair and emerald eyes, trying to see past the physical shell so vulnerably revealed in all its beauty to the spirit within, the spirit that he had laid his mark on and possessed for so long.
He sensed it, a brightly burning fire that he had seen sometimes in the depths of Subaruís eyes. But it had changed subtly; shining with a more intense light as it twisted and flared, slipping through Seishirouís fingers of understanding.
That fire had been so completely his before. Now although he could still feel the dominating aura of ĎSeishirou-saní over it, every so often a tongue of fiery flame would flick out and he would have to hold it more tightly and the more tightly he held it, the more it would escape him.
It was disturbing, and he wasnít sure how to deal with it.
Still in the spa, Subaru coughed violently then lifted his head to stare at Seishirou with wide eyes.
"You . . . you canít do it," he gasped out. "You wonít kill me, you donít want to be alone because Iím the only one who appreciates your existence, Seishirou-"
The honorific was lost as Seishirou leapt up and shoved Subaru under the water again.
Outside in the bedroom, a table with two large sundaes on it suddenly appeared with a shower of golden sparkles. Beside it, a white mist began to collect, twisting as it formed into Hokuto. She was dressed like a peacock, from the headdress to the shimmering blue-green bodice and skirt to the train with peacock feathers printed on it trailing behind her. Her back to the bathroom, she searched the bedroom for any sign of life.
"Subaruuuuuuu! Sei-chaaaaaaaan!" she called gaily. "Iíve got ice-cream! With strawberries and chocolate sauce!"
No one responded to her call. Hokuto frowned. She turned and flitted to the half-open bathroom door that opened completely of its own accord at her approach. Her green eyes went wide with shock.
Seishirou, his black clothes soaked, kneeled on the red marble step to the spa, an intense fire in his good eye as he held a weakly struggling form under the water. Unmercifully, the Sakurazukamori pushed even harder as Subaruís flailing arms sank beneath the surface, the thin stream of bubbles stopping completely.
Hokuto didnít even bother with shouting. At her will, the pink fluffy towels on their rack against the wall suddenly flew off and wrapped themselves around Seishirouís head and neck, violently jerking him backwards. The Sakurazukamori slipped on the wet tiles and fell, releasing Subaru. Hokuto ignored him as he pulled at the towels, zooming over to the spa. Her brother floated lifelessly in the water face down.
Desperately, Hokuto scanned the bathroom for something strong enough to pull her brother out, wishing that she hadnít used up so much energy creating her clothes and the ice-cream. Behind her on the, Seishirou had finally managed to free himself and pull himself to his feet. There was no time for senseless berating.
"Get him out!" screeched Hokuto, jabbing a finger at the unmoving form.
Seishirou stood up straight and glared past her at Subaru, not moving. Hokuto let her voice drop to the level that would chill water.
"If you donít, I swear that Iíll keep you here for the rest of your life and make it a living hell," she hissed. "Now get my brother out!"
Silently, Seishirou carefully made his way over the slippery tiles to the spa. Stepping into the water the man effortlessly grasped Subaruís arms and lifted his face out of the water. Ignoring the younger manís nakedness that he had been running his hands over mere minutes ago, Seishirou lifted Subaru in his arms and climbed out. Hokuto hovered worriedly over Seishirou as he gently placed the unconscious form on the towels the spirit had laid out.
Subaru wasnít breathing. His dead sister was in no hurry for her brother to join her, as she mentally ran over ways to revive him. Unfortunately, CPR required breath and she didnít breathe any more.
She glared at Seishirou who knelt beside Subaru, an unreadable expression on his face as he stared at the Sumeragi.
"Help him," she ordered.
The Sakurazukamori looked at her. Hokuto gnashed her teeth soundlessly, silently swearing that she was going to make him pay for hurting her brother.
Then Seishirou leaned over and placed his mouth on Subaruís.
Hokuto watched closely as Seishirou breathed air into Subaruís lungs, then placed his hands on the slim chest to pump the oxygen through. Again he gave the onmyouji air, and again he breathed for him. At any other time Hokuto would have found the picture of Seishirou kissing her brother romantic, but her matchmaking goals were all forgotten as Subaruís life hung by a thread.
Kiss, breathe, pump.
No matter what happened, Hokuto was going to have to punish Seishirou.
Kiss, breathe, pump.
She was really going to hurt the Sakurazukamori.
Kiss, breathe, pump.
Kiss . . .
With a sudden gasp of air, Subaru opened his eyes and started choking, probably from the water but waking up to find Seishirouís lips on his might have had something to do with it too. His body began to spasm as he coughed violently, one hand to his throat, eyes squeezed shut. Hokuto flitted worriedly around him, wishing for the millionth time that she were able to hold her brother as his body jerked with each wracking cough. His right hand blindly fumbled for some support and found the front of Seishirouís wet blue-black silk shirt, which he grabbed onto in a death-grip. Seishirou didnít respond to him, watching Subaru with an inscrutable expression.
Finally Subaru seemed to settle down. He blinked, dazed, looking around the room. His eyes swept through Hokuto Ė she wasnít sure if he was in a condition to recognise a ghost after so nearly becoming one himself, and focused on Seishirouís face.
Subaru stared at him for one second. Then his green eyes rolled back in his head and he fainted.
"Subaru!" yelled Hokuto.
"Heís unconscious. Heíll wake up soon," said Seishirou flatly.
At the sound of his voice, Hokuto spun around, fire burning in her emerald eyes. "Wrap him up, pervert, before he catches a chill," she ordered coldly.
Seishirouís eyes narrowed, but he obeyed, swathing Subaru in the towels he lay on before lifting the entire precious bundle into his arms again. Standing up, he raised one eyebrow at the ghost of the girl he had killed.
"Put him on the bed," she said crisply. Wordlessly Seishirou exited the bathroom, carefully holding Subaruís head so that he didnít bump into the doorframe. Hokuto willed the silken covers to fold back and Seishirou laid the exhausted onmyouji on the bed. As if lifted by invisible hands, the crimson sheets drew themselves around Subaru.
Seishirou stepped back, his arms hanging limply by his sides. Behind him, Hokuto gave Subaru one last check before focusing her attention on the one who had tried to kill him.
Feeling the glare on the back of his neck, Seishirou turned around to face her. He didnít say anything, and his expressionless face only served to anger Hokuto further.
"Well?" asked Seishirou, not batting an eyelid at the absolutely furious ghost.
Hokuto clenched her hands into fists. "You Ė you Ė" For the first time in her existence, Hokuto could not find the words to express herself. There were no words to describe how insanely infuriated she was. The only other time she had ever been this angry was that day Subaru had come to her with his heart broken, on the last day of the bet. At that time she had wanted to rip the Sakurazukamori apart with her bare hands. She would do so now, but out of respect for Subaru, she decided not to.
But she really wanted to vent her anger before she did something too rash.
Seishirou watched her warily, perhaps already expecting some kind of verbal abuse. Hokuto smiled thinly.
"Subaru canít defend himself at the moment," she bit out. "Obviously I canít trust you not to do anything to him while heís out of it." Her arms folded across her chest, she glared at the Sakurazukamori, eyes ablaze.
Before Seishirou could move, he was engulfed in a whirlwind of golden sparkles. They whipped around him; he tried to speak a spell to no avail. The golden shell coalesced tightly around him, then suddenly expanded outwards, filling the room with a blinding light.
Hokuto smiled at her handiwork. But that last piece of effort had exhausted her.
"Sleep tight, Sei-chan," she said mockingly.
Then her eyes fluttered closed and she faded away.
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