Well post-manga. Not work-safe.
It had been a year since Juubei regained his sight, and there was no sign of it vanishing again. From time to time Kazuki would touch his glasses and wonder what had happened, that they had escaped so lightly. If he had been given the chance to trade his own sight for the return of his friend's, he would have taken it at once. Instead, there had been no price at all, when the accounting was done.
The afternoon sunlight slanted through the windows of Juubei's apartment - Kazuki's now as well, in truth - and lit up the table where Kazuki sat, paging carefully through a paperback mystery novel, and the door Juubei came through, rubbing his knuckles absently. He sat down across from Kazuki, a fond smile flitting across his face. "I thought you'd finished all those."
"I got more." He set the book down and leaned across the table, taking Juubei's hands in his. "It's not like we don't have free time now. And it's too cold to go outside without a good reason."
"You never used to care about the cold."
"Oh, I cared. But we had plenty of good reasons." Kazuki allowed himself a fond smile. "These days, there's more reason to stay inside."
Juubei nodded slowly. "You don't find it tiresome? Staying indoors, spending all your time with me?"
"Juubei - " Kazuki got up and moved to the other side of the table, wrapping his arms around the other man. "I would never mind spending time with you. Never."
They didn't exactly have an argument about it over dinner. They never argued, not exactly; Juubei was too quick to agree to whatever Kazuki suggested, and would offer only the odd reproachful look against it. Therefore Kazuki had learned not to suggest things too strongly. He did not mind that Juubei would always, in the end, yield to his desires. That was as it should be. But the thought that he might cause Juubei pain inadvertantly haunted him, and kept him from speaking.
Kazuki left early the next morning, and spent the day renewing old contacts and quietly listening to people talk; he did not come back until after well dark. Juubei was already getting ready for bed. If Kazuki had asked he would have stayed up for dinner, so Kazuki went to bed hungry, without mentioning it. There had been a time when he was used to hunger, and he owed Juubei more than a few minor pains.
Even after so long as they had lived together, submission did not come easily to Kazuki. It chafed that he was required too, and that he was required to keep it secret.
"We should ask Toshiki to come over sometime," he suggested, over the remnants of a late lunch the next day. It was raining steadily and drearily outside. "He's hiding, I think. I havn't seen him in days."
Juubei, of course, bowed his head. "Of course. If that's what you want."
"Aaah, don't you ever worry about what you want, Juubei? Maybe it's for the best." He was teasing, and he knew it, but his temper was too hot to care. "Maybe he's happiest sitting and sulking somewhere, and you're happiest without him."
He hoped for a reproachful look, or a snort of annoyance, or some other indication, however faint, that Juubei wanted Toshiki there, and didn't want him brooding alone. He got nothing but a bowed head. "Perhaps it is. He's always preferred to keep his own council."
Kazuki but his teacup down with more force than strictly necessary. "Juubei. Don't you ever had opinions of your own?" If they were going to have an argument over this, dammit, it was going to be a real argument, not one of those strange structures of half-truths and perhapses and the sudden absence of touch that passed for arguments between them. Juubei looked a little startled. Kazuki looked down at his empty plate. It was blue ceramic, with a painted pattern of little white flowers, and chipped in three places - an article of surprising luxury for Mugenjou, but Juubei had always done his best with what he could. His apartment was sparse but utterly clean. Kazuki had added a brick-and-board bookshelf recently, and it was slowly filling, but other than that it could almost have been uninhabited; there were no pictures on the walls, no furniture beyond the necessary table and bed and kitchen things, a floor of dull, dented wood that still had no dust to speak of.
"Of course I do, but I wouldn't presume to contradict you." Juubei sighed and leaned forward, touching Kazuki's cheek. "Is something the matter?"
Kazuki buried his face in his hands. "It's hard to lean on you when I know you'll just bend," he muttered, some remnant of kindness keeping the accusing tone out of his voice. "I want you to be happy, and I can never tell if you are, or if you're just agreeing with me. Don't say I shouldn't care about the difference. I owe you too much not to care."
"Owe me? You don't owe me anything, Kazuki." Juubei was staring fixedly at the table, as though it were something interesting. It wasn't; it was the finest piece of furniture he had, but utterly plain. "If anything, I owe you for -"
Kazuki shivered; there was no heating here, and even indoors it was really too cold to sit around. They should get a space heater, he thought distantly. The electricity worked. That was almost a constant in Mugenjou, even places where you wouldn't expect it to.
Juubei looked at him. There was the reproachful look, of course. He'd wanted Juubei to stand up for himself, and then contradicted him without a thought. Kazuki forced a smile. "You don't owe me anything, Juubei. I was the one who left you. You saved me from the dark. Because of me, you lost your sight - if there is a debt between us, it's mine, for all that time . . . I can't imagine anything more terrifying."
"All eight months? There are worse fates. Would you want Madoka to hear you say that?" Juubei sighed heavily and took Kazuki's hand in his, just holding on gently.
"No. But I can't keep myself from thinking it." Kazuki stared fixedly downward, unwilling to meet Juubei's eyes. Juubei huffed and let go, standing up. He padded off, and Kazuki looked out the window, but there was nothing interesting to see; just dull grey and the shadowy shapes of buildings. He would have gotten up and gone after Juubei, if he had thought it would do any good. Either he would come back, or he wouldn't, and Kazuki would go apologize, and hate himself for stooping to it.
It wasn't too long before Juubei padded back into the room, though, and sat down - behind Kazuki; there were suddenly warm, strong hands on his shoulders. He relaxed a little. Then the hands rose and plucked off his glasses. Kazuki blinked into the sudden disorientation. "Juubei? What are you doing?"
"Proving a point. Be still."
Kazuki knew better than the protest the command. Whatever Juubei had in mind, he would go along. He took an even breath and waited, and after a few seconds, there was something covering his eyes. Instinctively he raised a hand. The texture was silky; he vaguely remembered a sash Sakura had given him, which he had never found occasion to wear. Then he had to close his eyes, as Juubei tugged it tight and tied a firm knot. He could feel the small motions, and how Juubei was kneeling almost, but not quite, close enough to touch. There were a lot of things he could have said, but most of them would have been taken as protests; this was something he had to accept without protests, with grace and dignity. He wondered vaguely how long it would be, but he wasn't going to ask that, either.
Juubei kissed his cheek before he got up, and then there were small noises of crockery as he gathered up the lunch dishes and took them to the sink. Kazuki leaned back, waiting patiently. He was sure Juubei would come back, soon enough.
It took a little longer than he had expected, but Juubei did come back, and sat down beside him, leaning into his side. Kazuki could tell exactly where he was; he hadn't realized how unnerving it had been not to know, until he did. They held each other in silence for a while, and then Kazuki shifted and laid his head against Juubei's shoulder. "I do love you," he whispered. "Even if I'm being thoughtless."
They talked quietly for the rest of the afternoon; Kazuki imagined, from the slight chill he felt even through his kimono, that night had fallen, but he could not be sure and he did not want to ask. He did his best to be honest, although honesty
had never come easily to him.
He could not watch Juubei's eyes for signs of disapproval. He had to trust. It was harder than it should have been, and he haltingly admitted to his own shame at that. Juubei sighed, and ran a hand down his hair. "We're both being idiots," he said, and that was something he wouldn't have said if there were the least chance he would be overheard. Kazuki blushed. "You're afraid to command me, for fear that I'll obey. I don't dare disagree with you, for fear you'll give it too much weight."
"We'll work things out. We have time."
Slowly Juubei slid his hands under the fabric of Kazuki's jacket, rubbing small circles against his back. "I trusted you this long," he said, and there was almost a hint of amusement in his tone. "If you can return the favour, we'll manage."
Kazuki was a little better at cooking than Juubei, but he didn't dare try it with his eyes covered. His first thought was a pick up a book, and in the space of an afternoon the darkness had become familiar enough that he managed to stub his toes on the bookshelf before he recalled why that was impossible. Familiar enough, but not so familiar the limitations were second nature. He lambasted himself silently to the sound of water coming to a boil, and stalked resolutely back toward the kitchen, where he leaned against the wall and took deep breaths full of steam. Juubei acknowledged his presence with a squeeze on the shoulder, but didn't speak as he worked.
He managed to spill his tea all over the table when he clumsily put the cup down on the edge of his plate. The kind of thing a little thought would have prevented, and he halfway rose, apologizing, before he felt Juubei's strong hands on his shoulders. "Leave it," Juubei said, and Kazuki sat back down, blushing miserably as Juubei cleaned up.
When the table was clean and the dishes put away, Juubei took Kazuki's hand to lead him into the bedroom. Kazuki let himself be led. He was fairly certain he could have navigated the few feet himself, but, he reminded himself fiercely, he was going to let Juubei do exactly as he pleased. For once.
Juubei rarely made the first move; when he did it was something subtle, a kiss or a gentle hand slipping into Kazuki's robe. Kazuki was so much on edge already that when Juubei did kiss him, it made him tremble, his hands clutching at the sheets and at the other man's hip. He could feel the warmth of both their bodies.
He forced himself to relax his grip, and chuckled. Juubei made a surprised noise, but came closer, stroking his back slowly. Waiting for Kazuki to react. Most of the time, even if it was Juubei who initiated matters, it took hardly any time for Kazuki to be as eager and demanding as if it had been his idea. Kazuki didn't react, though. He took a deep breath and let go, keeping his hands carefully still.
Juubei made a surprised noise in the back of his throat, and pressed their foreheads together, warm and steady in the darkness. "Do you want me to stop?"
"Of course not." Kazuki smiled into the darkness, knowing that Juubei couldn't see it - he had heard the click of the lightswitch going out - but not really caring. He could feel it, if he moved a little closer. "But," he continued, letting his voice drop to a husky purr, "if you're going to lead, you're going to lead."
There was a moment of silence, and then Juubei, with almost a hint of amusement, whispered, "As you wish." His hands were firm and reassuring on Kazuki's shoulders as he pressed him back into the futon, and Kazuki purred as he felt those same hands undoing the knot of his kimono.
He was accustomed to making love in darkness, but still it felt strange to lie still and not pull Juubei closer, not trace the counters of his body until he was begging for release, but rest and let his mind slip away as Juubei's hands left trails of gentle touches over his skin. Strange, but unbearably intense; he licked his lips when Juubei's hand slipped between his legs, and the touch of a warm tongue, a little higher, was almost enough to make him scream. He gave himself over with as little noise as he could manage, but the satisfied noises that echoed his own desperate ones were warm and reassuring. There was a dark silence in the back of his head and he took refuge there while his body shivered and tensed and eventually collapsed, panting, while Juubei stroked his hair.
Kazuki half-expected Juubei to take the blindfold away afterwards, once they had cleaned up a little, but instead Juubei just pressed a kiss to his forehead and smoothed his hair down. "Sleep," he whispered, and Kazuki could think of nothing to do but obey.
When he woke up he woke to darkness; he still couldn't open his eyes. He took a few deep breaths, trying to orient himself. Juubei was still there beside him - still asleep; Kazuki's hand rested on his chest and it rose and fell slowly. He extended a foot, and there was the edge of the futon. That was good. He wondered if it were properly morning yet. He had dreamed, but nothing vivid nor memorable.
Nonetheless, he could hardly get up yet. So he curled up to wait. He didn't know how long it took until Juubei's breathing shifted to a faster tempo; he had no reference point.
Juubei came out of the bathroom still damp from his shower, and found Kazuki still sitting up in bed, hands folded and no sign of leaving. "Aren't you going to wash up?"
"I can't without getting the sash wet," Kazuki said mildly.
He did his best not to make it into an accusation, or a plea to remove it. It was just a comment. But Juubei came over, knelt and ran his hands over Kazuki's cheeks. "Keep your eyes closed, then." He undid the knot with nimble fingers, and Kazuki rubbed his eyes and almost opened them before he remembered. He blushed as he fled to the shower, and scrubbed out his hair as fast as he could.
Juubei combed his wet hair out, working carefully and starting at the bottom. Kazuki would have done it himself, and would have gone faster, yanking though the knots rather than teasing them apart, but Juubei insisted, so he knelt and submitted to his lover's ministrations.
He was learning. He was. Yesterday he was tempted to invent some excuse to leave the apartment. After he had spilled tea at dinner the impulse had been stronger to rip off the blindfold of his own accord and leave. But the unspoken agreement had lasted; he trusted Juubei, and that impulse was stronger than any he might have had to end things prematurely. Now, he felt no eagerness at all. His eyes were still closed; they would stay closed until Juubei told him to open them.
Eventually Juubei set the comb down and wrapped his arms around Kazuki's shoulders. "Kazuki," he whispered. "My beautiful Kazuki ..." This was not something he would have said aloud anywhere else, either. They rested like that for a bit, and then he continued, "Don't you mind?"
Juubei huffed, and lifted his hands to rest them over Kazuki's closed eyes. "This. I didn't ask. I acted on impulse, and did things I had no right to - "
"Juubei," Kazuki broke in, and there was steel beneath his words. "I trust you. Isn't that what the argument was about, to begin with?"
For a long moment neither of them moved.
Then Juubei dropped his hands, and the warmth in his voice was clear. "Look at me when you say that?"
He opened his eyes, and turned to look at Juubei. He thought he had never seen anyone so beautiful.