Shadow Conversations


Water and Fire


by nekojita


Trowa gave in to the impulse to frown when he sensed Shen sidle up next to him. "I thought you would be at Lady Kanno’s dinner," he murmured to the ambassador over the rim of his wine glass.

Shen made a show of sipping from his own glass while he surveyed the crowded ballroom. "Bah, her chef doesn’t know the true meaning of spice," he complained. "He thinks that pepper is enough for every dish just because it’s expensive." The face he made to show his displeasure was an affront to the rather good wine that Lord Isobe had chosen for the evening.

"So you decide to come here and interfere with my duties instead of suffering through a poorly seasoned meal. I understand." Trowa inclined his head slightly before enjoying a sip of wine.

That statement earned him a hiss of annoyance from the Xanian ambassador, but he could tell that it was all for show since Shen’s dark brown eyes were bright with amusement. Someone must be looking for Birman, who was busy with the king at the moment. "She’s not here tonight," he told Shen, all of a sudden tired of the games and the press of humanity around him. While the man could usually be decent company, it wasn’t Shen who Trowa wanted to be talking to just then. He had spent too much time away from his own mate these last few weeks, too much time eavesdropping at Court and spying for Birman in an effort to recover from the damage that Anthony and the others had done, and the work was taking its toll. The sense of exhaustion increased, causing Trowa to rub at his face with his free hand.

"Who’s not here?" For some reason Shen sounded confused, which was odd because he normally was very quick to pick up on things – especially if they touched upon Birman or Xan in some way.

"Birman." Trowa let his hand drop back to his side and stared out at the crowded ballroom. The room was full of highborn almost desperate to enjoy one of the summer’s last festivities, the gaiety of the evening’s party overshadowed by the possibility that come this time next year, the country might be at war. Natsumi, Shigeko and he were to keep an eye on the attendants to track any forming alliances, one of the less arduous duties that had been assigned to him lately.

As he looked out upon the humans, the bright colors of their formal outfits and the flames of the burning candles and oil lamps all seemed to blur together. The sense of exhaustion seeped through his body and when he inhaled, he thought he picked up the sharp tang of desire.

Shen shifted closer to him, causing Trowa to glance away from the crowd and do his best not to lash out with either his talent or his fist. It was unusual for the ambassador to invade his personal space like that, as he normally took care to avoid coming too close or risk touching him. However, right now he was only a hand’s breath away, his dark eyes glazed over as he stared up at Trowa’s face. "Ambassador?" Trowa asked, confused as to what was happening and anxious to step away.

Shen didn’t respond to the question, instead he seemed about to lean in closer. Fortunately, Natsumi appeared at their sides from wherever she had been stationed and prevented that from happening with a tight grip on Shen’s right arm. "Ambassador, I think you should take a step back," she said, her voice pitched quiet yet containing a hint of a growl. Either that warning or her touch helped to snap Shen out of his odd mood.

"What – oh!" His befuddled expression turned into one of dislike. "You!" Shen appeared to remember where he was after the outburst. "No… tricks!" he managed in a quieter voice as he pulled his arm free. "I am fine the way I am!"

A slight smile tugged at the corners of Natsumi’s mouth for a moment, and then she was the perfect image of seriousness once more as she smoothed her hands down the sides of her dark grey gown as if to wipe something away. "That’s debatable." When Shen looked ready to argue, she shook her head to cut him off. "Trowa, you need to go home now."

That wasn’t what either of them had expected to hear, and Trowa nearly dropped his empty wine glass in surprise. "Me? But-"

Natsumi shook her head again, with enough force to unsettle her glasses. "You must be too tired or something, as your control is slipping." A slight flush spread across her face. "Shigeko is doing her best to counter-balance it right now, but clearly it’s affecting the people close to you and others will notice it the longer you’re here."

It took Trowa a moment to realize what she was referring to, and then he stumbled to set aside the glass before he wrapped his arms around his chest. He knew he was tired and missing Duo, he just hadn’t thought that both things could affect control of his talent to such a degree. While it was impossible to suppress it completely, he could somewhat manage a damper effect on the nature that attracted people to his kind – at least under most circumstances. The thought of losing that control while surrounded by so many humans and away from his mate sent a stab of fear through him.

Something must have slipped past his shields or shown on his face, because Natsumi once more shook her head. <I informed Birman about your condition and she immediately sought out some help. Lord Shinra’s here for Lady Kanno’s party and he said he’ll see you home. I think he’s pleased about an excuse to leave early.>

The thought of a mated bound being his escort helped to lessen the panic building inside of Trowa; it would be better if Duo were the one taking him home, but Birman most likely was trying to get Trowa out of the palace as quickly as possible and without having to put up with a rampaging fire elemental. <Not to mention Birman being in his debt,> Trowa sent back as he struggled to control his emotions.

"Yes, well, considering who he’s tied to, it won’t last long, will it?" Natsumi shared one of her small, pleased smiles with him before shooing Shen aside. "Please, Ambassador, step aside before you suffer an unfortunate memory lapse." Considering how the smile lingered, she must have enjoyed that last little jab.

From the way he glared at her, Shen realized that, too. "Oh, you are so *her* creature," he all but hissed. "Just as evil as your mistress! Not as polite as my Trowa, no." He seemed ready to follow after them as Natsumi ushered Trowa away, only to stop after a couple of steps.

"Get some fresh air," Trowa called out to the man, hoping that Shen recovered from the effects of a water elemental quickly once he was gone; Shen didn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction to men or him in particular, so things should go back to normal once he was out of the room.

<He’ll head straight for his chambers once I get you out of the way,> Natsumi informed him. <No doubt he’ll be up bright and early to complain to Birman about me and ask a million questions about water elementals, but that’s her problem, not ours.> She hovered near his left side, the full skirts of her grey dress brushing against his legs yet she was careful to never come in physical contact with him; they had worked together often during the last few months, enough that he trusted her being this close.

Several humans turned to stare at them as they walked past, which made Trowa duck his head and do his best to focus on his talent while Natsumi muttered some curse about Jouyoku under her breath. The panic was building again, causing Trowa to slide his right hand into the loose left sleeve of his green tunic to finger the hilt of the throwing knife hidden there. He had to take a few slow, deep breaths and remind himself that Natsumi was at his side, that there were dozens of Shadow Guards and spies scattered through the palace who would come to his aid if any human dared to lay a hand on him. There was also the fact that he had a mate waiting for him at home, a very powerful, protective fire elemental and a decent fighter in his own right – and if he didn’t get his emotions under control, something would slip past the weak block he had put on their link before starting work tonight.

Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to feel a rush of relief when they reached the sitting room where Lord Shinra and his two gokenin were waiting, as Natsumi let out a slow hiss and nearly sagged against wall. "Lord Shinra, thank you for your assistance."

The soul gaki bound nodded at her greeting and took a moment to look over Trowa before responding. "You’re welcome. I’ve orders for my carriage to be ready, so let’s be on our way." The taller of his gokenin, the earth elemental Rude, fell in step beside him while Shinra’s mate, Reno, approached Trowa.

Aware that the dubhach wouldn’t feel any attraction to him if his control slipped, Trowa managed to let out a shaky breath and forced his right hand to fall back at his side. "Thank you," he murmured, both to Lord Shinra and Natsumi. He received a smile from his friend as she stepped aside to let him walk past, and a curt nod from the highborn soul gaki bound.

This time, it wasn’t quite as nerve-wracking to walk through the palace’s busy hallways on their way to Shinra’s carriage; Lord Shinra led the way, causing people to move aside out of respect, and Reno was a comforting presence next to Trowa. He suspected that the powerful soul gaki bound was using his talent to divert people’s attention as well, since no one seemed to notice him. Some of the tension that had thrummed through him since Natsumi had told him to go home began to ease, but he was still worn down by the sense of exhaustion and the need to reach Duo. If anything, the ache to be with his mate had only increased now that he was in the presence of another pair of mated bounds; he could observe how their motions often mirrored each other’s, how so much of Reno’s attention was focused on Shinra and how the soul gaki bound knew where the dubhach was even though Reno was several feet behind him.

He rubbed his hands over his face and thought of how long it had been since both he and Duo had been able to enjoy a day off together – not only had his schedule been busy because of the Esset spies and the Court finally realizing that there was a prospect of war between the countries, but Duo had spent the last several weeks breaking in his new partner, Annan. The Guard was doing its best to recover from the losses inflicted by Isaac and Hans-Achim’s attack here at the palace, which meant some double-shifts to cover for wounded Guards and to help train those replacing the dead. Birman and Yuushi were already busy looking for new recruits in light of the deaths and the added responsibilities now that the Court wanted more protection.

All that meant that he rarely got to see Duo anymore, and unless it was late at night or early in the morning, it seemed that Annan was always at his mate’s side. As much as he felt guilty for leaving early from a shift and embarrassed that it was due to a lack of control on his part, Trowa had to admit that it would do his demon nature a lot of good to be able to spend some time with Duo. Neither of them might be soul gaki or succubae bounds, but it was clear that they needed more time together than they were currently able to manage.

They finally reached the part of the palace that was near the stables, and stepped out into the evening’s cool air. The summer hadn’t been a very hot one, most likely because of the affected weather patterns, and the way that the temperatures were already cooling down as the days led into autumn predicted another nasty winter ahead. Trowa took a deep breath and enjoyed the cool breeze, the scent of flowers from the nearby garden and the hint of horses and hay from the stables. At least out here, there weren’t too many humans milling about.

Lord Shinra’s carriage was waiting for them, a fine construct of gleaming wood, glass and metal. The driver, probably a bound, tipped his head to them while Rude opened the door, and Shinra and Reno settled on one side of the carriage while Trowa chose the padded seats on the other. He was a little surprised and greatly relieved to see Rude close the door from the outside and not join them.

"Rude will ride out front," Shinra explained, as if picking up on his thoughts. "I believe that arrangement will be more comfortable for everyone."

"Thank you," Trowa replied as he folded his hands in his lap. He kept his head bowed, yet could still glance up through his bangs at the couple sitting across from him. Shinra and Reno almost appeared as if they were dressed for a masquerade ball with their contrasting outfits: Reno with his long, disheveled hair and lithe build clothed primarily in black, next to Shinra who was so immaculate in fine white fabric accentuated with black, his bright blond hair neatly combed back. He had a possessive arm draped over Reno’s shoulders, with the dubhach curled against him in a sleepy manner.

"You live in the western Market district, yes? That’s what Natsumi told me."

Wanting to curl up and sleep himself, Trowa pushed aside the hair falling onto his face and managed a brief nod. "Yes, on the corner of Baker and Mason Streets. It’s near the western Garden district."

Shinra seemed to concentrate on something, which was probably passing on the directions to the driver. "We should be there soon enough."

"It’s not far from the Koneko," Reno murmured, his head nearly tucked into Shinra’s neck. "Not too late for a bite an’ something to eat."

For a moment, Trowa thought that Shinra would argue with his mate due to the stern expression on his face. Then he smiled, the sight unexpectedly gentle from such a usually reserved man, and he began to twist a long lock of his mate’s hair around one of his gloved fingers. "I suppose I can be talked into it." There was a hint of a purr to his deep voice just then, which Trowa took as a sign for him to look away.

He had just started contemplating the weave of his tunic when he heard the rustle of fabric and the creak of the bench from across the carriage – quickly followed by an amused chuckle that was cut off by what could only be a kiss. Normally he would consider it a bit of bad manners to be put in such a situation, yet to have Shinra and Reno so focused on each other meant that they were *not* concerned in the slightest about him. All he cared about was being safe, being ignored, and so he could put up with counting threads and comparing the weaving techniques of various countries for the next twenty minutes while ignoring the couple making out just a few feet away. He’d had more than enough practice doing so back in Berin, thanks to Masato and Schuldig.

In fact, put at ease by a familiar situation and the first chance he had to sit down in hours, Trowa found himself drifting off to sleep at some point during the ride home. He came awake to a slight mental nudge from Shinra, his hands once more sliding into his sleeves for his knives while he struggled to control his talent, only to realize that the carriage was stopped and that he could feel his own wards nearby.

<You’re home now,> Shinra informed him, somehow managing a nonchalant manner with Reno still straddling his lap.

"I… yes, thank you." Why did it seem that was all he could manage to say tonight? He must be more tired than he suspected.

<I’m going to advise Birman to let you stay home tomorrow, since it’s not a good idea to have you anywhere near the palace until you’re fully recovered. As it is, I don’t think your mate is going to be pleased once he sees you.> Shinra ran the fingers of his right hand through Reno’s hair as he sent that along, causing the dubhach to shiver and arch his neck.

Stunned at the thought that he must appear in really bad shape for Shinra to be so concerned, Trowa bowed his head in silent appreciation before leaving the carriage. Rude was waiting for him outside, a quiet, intimidating presence who watched over him until he managed to enter his apartment building. Once inside, he felt strengthened by his own wards, by the knowledge that it would take so little to rebuff any attacks against as well as the fact that Duo was so close.

He raced up the steps to their apartment, eager to reach Duo as quickly as possible.


Duo paused in the middle of uncorking a bottle of wine to ‘feel’ over the link with his mate in hopes of picking up something from Trowa; he thought that he had felt a hint of panic from Trowa earlier, but the emotion had been so faint that he might have imagined it. Trowa was supposed to be working surveillance tonight with Natsumi, Shigeko and half a dozen Guards for back-up tonight, so he *should* be fine. Hell, *Nicole* had even sworn to look out for Trowa tonight, so he should be safe. It was probably just paranoia on Duo’s part, considering how little he’d seen his lover in the last week or so. All they’d done in the past week was give each other a brief kiss in passing, their shifts were so fucked up. Duo needed Trowa so badly, needed to mark him, to make him his, yet when he came home to find his mate passed out in bed, he couldn’t do anything more than pull Trowa into his arms and nuzzle his neck once or twice.

"Uhm, is something burning in there?"

"Shit!" Duo looked away from the wine bottle to realize that he had set the nearest dishtowel on fire, and quickly snuffed out the flames with his talent. He had been slipping a lot in the past day or two, causing sparks or the air to warm around him, and had to be thankful that he was now paired with a soul gaki bound. "Ah, yeah, I always hated that towel," he tried to joke as he finished uncorking the wine bottle.

Annan entered the kitchen with a worried expression on his face, most likely ready to make a comment on how much these ‘accidents’ had been happening, but thank the gods for Gin – something that Duo hadn’t thought he’d ever say – because just then the sneaky bit of fur decided to attack the man’s left foot.

"Ow! Dammit, why *does* he do that?" Annan hopped about while trying to shoo away the cat, which only seemed to spur Gin on to attack the foot remaining on the ground. "Go away, damn you!"

Duo left the wine to go save his partner, unable to resist chuckling while he scooped up his pet. "Ah yeah, I think he misses Trowa or something." Not that Gin attacked Trowa’s feet, other than to wind in-between them while purring madly, but the poor cat did seem to be lacking for attention lately. "He’s the one who makes the furball behave, to be honest." Duo held up the cat to face level and tried for a fierce glare, only to smile when Gin let out a plaintive ‘meow’. "Go on before I singe your tail," he warned before giving Gin a quick scratch behind the ear and setting him on the floor.

Annan glared at the cat and even managed a slight growl while Gin trotted past, tail held high as if without a concern in the world. "Isn’t Trowa the one who insists on everyone removing their boots as well?" he asked, his expression a bit suspicious.

"Yeah, but he made up that rule *before* he got the cat," Duo explained while he went back to fetch the wine. "Just accept the fact that I have a neat freak of a mate who also has a soft spot for animals, and know that if you so much as harm a single hair on Gin’s body, I’ll be forced to fry off all of yours in order to keep Trowa happy." He grinned as he held up the wine bottle. "I’ll do it, too. Not a second’s hesitation. Happy mate trumps partner any day of the week." There was no way he’d allow Trowa to be upset with him, *ever*, if there was a way he could prevent it, and the sooner Annan accepted it, the better.

Said partner stared at him for a few seconds as if reading his surface thoughts and then sighed. "I sincerely hope I don’t have a mate out there somewhere, since it makes a person *weird*." He shook his head as he headed back into the living room, where they’d left their wine glasses.

"To be honest, I’m sure a lot of women will be upset if you do." Duo had heard enough from the female part of the Guard about Annan’s looks that if the man did have a mate out there, he would feel genuinely sorry for the unlucky person; between Yohji having a mate, Yuushi getting serious with Eri and Reiichi playing…well, who knows what the hell *that* man was playing, but it sure as hell wasn’t ‘let’s test beds’, a lot of the female Guard were a wee bit miffed that their favorite picks were now ‘off-limits’. Duo would be offended that he wasn’t considered in that pool if not for the fact that he had basically arrived ‘taken’, and that the Shadow Guard knew that he was mates with Trowa. However, Annan had arrived as single and had a bound’s attractive nature, and so was now being considered fair game.

Annan flushed a little at that statement, which made Duo want to tease the hell out of him. However, he had invited his partner here tonight for work related purposes, not personal, and he wasn’t sure they were to the point yet when he could harangue the other bound about his dating habits. That might lead Annan to asking him personal stuff about Trowa, and he didn’t think he could handle that right now, not when he was so on edge about his mate.

Instead, he poured them both some more wine and then tapped the map that was spread out on the coffee table. "All right, so have you been memorizing the western Temple district? Yuushi will probably have us alternate between the third quadrant there and the palace for now."

Flushing a little, Annan nodded and sat down on the couch so he could better read the map. "I’ve studied the maps and I’ve even spent a little time in the district."

"That’s good. I think Blair mentioned us starting there next week, so you should be ready by then." For a moment Duo felt a pang of sorrow for Toshi as he thought about their old district, closer to the central Shopping district; he missed the cheerful man and the friendship that had developed between them. Whenever he wasn’t busy with work, trying to find a spare moment with Trowa or training Annan, he checked up on Lilla and Mari whenever he could. "Just be aware that it’s a bit confusing in the Temple districts, since they’re usually the oldest parts of the city and you can’t always trust the road patterns to let you know what street you’re on." He grimaced as he tapped a portion of the map again. "Guess some of the priests like to mess things up depending on what god they’re worshipping and claim historical status." It hadn’t really made that much sense during training, until Reiichi had summed it up as ‘gods are involved, deal with it’. *That* he could understand.

His new partner whined a little as he leaned closer to better study the map. "I had wondered why there were so many details on the Guard maps. It also explains why I got lost here the other night, when I was trying to follow the sandstone bricks to Shuukaku’s temple."

Duo leaned forward as well to try to figure out what path Annan had been trying to take, when he felt a familiar tingle cross his wards. He nearly knocked over his wine glass in surprise over sensing Trowa home so early, and he searched over their link in an effort to figure out if something was wrong. Frustrated to find that he was still blocked from feeling his mate’s emotions, he growled while he jumped to his feet.

<Is something wrong?> Annan was quick to stand as well and followed Duo over to the front door of the apartment. He was standing behind Duo when the door opened to admit Trowa, who must have run up the stairs to their floor. His skin was flushed and there was a faint bruising beneath his visible eye as if he was exhausted, and he held himself with a wariness that made Duo want to lash out and hurt whoever it was that had his mate so on edge. "Trowa?"

Trowa stood still for a second before rushing to stand next to Duo. "Leave," he ordered, his normally smooth voice sounding harsh.

Annan frowned at the command, probably surprised at Trowa’s rude behavior. He stepped closer to Duo and reached out his right hand. "Are you-"

There was a snarl as Trowa lashed out with his power. "Don’t!" Whatever he did, it made Annan fall to his knees the same time that Duo jumped forward to wrap his arms around his mate. He didn’t know what was going on, other than he wanted Trowa somewhere safe and alone so he could figure things out.

"It’s okay, just let him go," he crooned while he held Trowa’s trembling body tightly against his own.

For a moment he thought that Trowa didn’t understand him, and then his lover began to relax against him. After that, Annan groaned as he pushed himself up from the floor, his face pale and his limbs unsteady; Duo guessed that Trowa had done something to affect his muscles and probably hadn’t done too much damage to his partner, thank the gods. "Ah, it’s a good time for you to head home tonight."

Annan favored him with a look that declared him ten types of an idiot and didn’t bother with any answer, he just shuffled over to the door, pulled on his boots and left. Figuring that the soul gaki bound just found another reason to want to remain unmated, Duo mentally promised to pick up the drinks the next time they were at the Koneko and then devoted his attention to his lover.

"Okay, so what’s going on?" he asked as he nuzzled his mate’s neck. He could smell fear and stress, which worried him, along with whiffs of Shen, Natsumi and, of all things, Reno and Shinra. The latter two were a bit confusing as he hadn’t thought that Trowa was supposed to work with the highborn tonight. "What has you so upset?" If someone had tried to harass his lover, he was going to track down and burn the asshole to ash, and then fry whoever’s bright idea it had been to keep him in the dark about it.

Trowa merely rested against him for a few seconds, and then let out a slow breath and hugged him back at the same time he let go of the blocks on the link between them. "It’s just… too much, I guess." A sense of exhaustion, need and desire poured into Duo. "My control slipped tonight," he continued in little more than a whisper.

It took a moment for Duo to figure out what that meant; for most bounds, ‘control’ meant hiding their demon nature, which usually revealed itself in their hunger or something flashy like sparks or objects shaking around them. He supposed in Aya and Reno’s case, it was probably those two coming off even more creepy than usual, but for water elementals… well, maybe the air could become humid, but ‘control’ usually meant that they had no way to tamp down on the allure that pulled people to them; they had no way to seem human and normal and not attract anything with a pulse to them, much like a hungry succubae bound.

Most couldn’t control that attraction to the extent that Trowa could – but then again, most weren’t as powerful as he was, either. The ability to somewhat lessen the attraction that people had to his kind was the only thing that kept a rein on Duo’s possessiveness and need to keep his mate from harm; he hated the thought of Trowa working in the palace day in and day out, even if the other Shadow Guards were there to keep an eye on him, but he knew that Trowa did whatever he had to in order to protect himself. Losing ‘control’ took a lot of that protection away.

His hands trembled as he cupped his lover’s face and made Trowa look up at him. "Are you all right?" He truly would kill anyone who had dared to touch his mate.

Trowa tilted his cheek into Duo’s right hand and closed his eyes. "Natsumi noticed right away, contacted Birman and helped arranged to get me out of there." He was quiet for a moment as a hint of fear mixed in with his emotions, probably from him remembering being surrounded by so many humans while in a vulnerable condition. "I didn’t think I was that tired." Now there was as sense of self-reproach that shaded his emotions as well as his voice.

"Well, it’s not like you’ve had any sort of break lately to think of anything other than work," Duo pointed out with a bit of a snarl. He knew that Birman was just as busy herself, and he knew why the Spymaster was pushing so hard; the blame could be laid squarely at the Elders’ feet. However, Trowa couldn’t ‘feed’ from being around humans like soul gaki or succubae bounds did, and he was her only mated employee – well, other than Yohji, and he didn’t work full time. "You need a little time off."

The smile Trowa gave him made his chest ache with happiness. "That’s what Shinra said he’d tell Birman. What do you think the odds are that she’ll pass that on to Yuushi?"

He was confused a bit about the Shinra part, but Trowa had said something about ‘getting him out of there’, and it probably had been safest to have Trowa be around a mated pair of bounds. Then it sunk in that Trowa had basically been given some time off, as Birman was more than smart enough to listen to the advice from someone like Shinra. "Well, surely you need someone to keep an eye on you," he said while he waggled his eyebrows in a suggestive manner.

There was still a tired edge to his mate’s smile, but all that mattered was the love, happiness and desire that Duo felt over their link. "That does make sense." Trowa closed his eyes again and leaned in for a kiss that Duo was only too happy to return.

He tried to be mindful of the exhaustion that he picked up from his mate over their link, even through the desire and need, but it was difficult with the way that Trowa was kissing him, his mouth almost forceful against his own, his hands quick to slide beneath the white Guard’s uniform shirt he wore. When he pressed against Duo to grind their hips together and let out a low growl, Duo found himself catching Trowa’s waist with a bit of regret. "You’re exhausted," he reminded his mate. "You need to rest." Oh hell, surely the gods would reward him for this sacrifice?

"I also need you," Trowa murmured against his lips as he continued to rock up against him. "I can rest later." His hands started to creep downward, beneath the back of Duo’s pants.

"Ah!" Duo wasn’t sure if he should try to stop those hands, pull away from the body pressing against his or see if talking any sense would work. His body and demon nature were in favor of none of those choices, and the little bit of resolve that he was trying to muster vanished when Trowa’s teeth brushed along his neck. He let out another growl as he began walking backwards toward their bedroom, his hands now rising to tangle in his mate’s long hair. "Dammit, you better not fall asleep halfway through…."

His complaint earned him a throaty chuckle while Trowa worked on removing his uniform. "You’ll have to keep me awake," Trowa shot back, all traces of fear and concern now gone from his demeanor as he gave Duo a lascivious grin while ridding him of his pants. The expression had Duo fumbling for the clip that restrained his mate’s long hair, which he soon sent dropping to the floor, and once the auburn strands were free he tucked back the long bangs that hid half of Trowa’s lovely face.

Focused as he was on his mate’s face, he was caught unaware by the shove to the chest that sent him flailing backwards onto the bed. However, before he could complain, Trowa was straddling his thighs, his long hair falling onto Duo’s chest and around his face as he was once more kissed with ardent need.

It had been so long since they had done more than sleep in the same bed and barely touch each other in passing – Duo’s demon nature rushed to the fore, both furious with being denied what it wanted for too long and eager to respond to a passionate Trowa. For himself, Duo was turned on by a demanding mate, by Trowa taking the lead in such a forceful manner for once. A growl built up in his throat as he scrambled to remove the fancy clothes from his mate’s body, uncaring if he ripped them in his haste. Trowa didn’t seem to care, either, pulling away just enough to help in getting them tugged off or down his lean, gorgeous body until they both were naked.

Now that he could feel his mate’s warm skin against his own, could soak in that warmth and touch all of Trowa, Duo stroked his hands along his mate’s sides and kissed beneath his chin. He could feel the way Trowa trembled against him, the urgency that was building in the way hands clenched through his hair and hips rocked into his own. Then Trowa shifted forward as if to reach for something, kneeling back a moment later to set a cold jar on the bed next to them.

"Hurry." His voice was hoarse and cracked on the word, his eyes dark and heavy-lidded as he sat back to rest on Duo’s thighs. While Duo watched, he opened the jar to scoop out some of the lubricant and reached for Duo’s erect cock, his grip firm as it began to pump up and down.

"Gods!" About to chide his lover for a bit of warning next time, Duo groaned instead, his eyes fluttering shut at the pleasure building inside of him. He could also sense the still growing need from Trowa and flapped his right hand about until it smacked against the jar. A bit dazed from the sudden hand-job, he managed to scoop some of the slick gel onto his fingers and reached for his mate, smiling a little as his light touch earned a hiss from Trowa.

The hand pumping his cock stilled as he pushed up onto his left arm and then pressed a finger inside his lover, his eyes intent on the expressions that flashed over Trowa’s face. Trowa still appeared a bit flushed and tired, but he showed more emotion just then, pleasure, impatience, desire, than he had in days. There was even a flare of anger when Duo took his time adding a second finger, a bare hint of teeth and a heat to those almost luminous green eyes until he relented and hastened things along.

"Don’t… have time… for this," Trowa gritted out as he leaned forward to nip at Duo’s chest.

"Hey, I offered to let you rest." Duo grinned as he took advantage of the new position to curl his fingers just right and moaned along with his mate at the wash of bliss that coursed through the both of them. He lay there blinking at the bright sparks that danced in his vision while Trowa moved forward, pulling free from his fingers and grabbed the base of his cock. That was all of the warning he had before Trowa sank downward, before clenching, velvet heat wrapped around his cock and rendered him unable to think for several heartbeats. When he did finally come to his senses, he sat up enough to slide his left hand around the back of Trowa’s head and licked up his neck, tasting salt and feeling blood racing just below the skin, before he bit down.

Trowa’s cry made the demon inside of him purr in delight, and the feel of his mate’s body clenching even tighter around him had his hips jerking upward fast and hard. Nails scraped along his shoulders while Trowa rode him with a frenzied pace, so he left one more mark before falling back onto the bed, his hand sliding down his mate’s chest to settle on his hip to help hold him steady while his right one stroked Trowa’s cock in time to their thrusts. The need and ecstasy sparking on both sides of the link made it impossible to think, to do anything other than react, so Duo gave in to what they both craved, gave everything that Trowa wanted from him until he felt his mate’s body shudder against and tighten around his own. The implosion of pleasure that coursed through him set off his own orgasm, his arms reaching for Trowa to hold him close.

He felt a weak bite at his neck as he shivered through his release, and a chuckle escaped him once he could manage the breath. "Now I know you must be really tired." Trowa didn’t believe in doing things half-assed like that, and Duo doubted that there would be much of a bruise from such a tender bite like that. He looked down as he brushed aside the hair that was covering his mate’s face and chuckled again; Trowa was already asleep. Well, that explained the exhaustion and contentment that he felt, and at least his mate had stayed awake for the important part.

Scooting out from under the unconscious man, Duo went to the bathroom to fetch a couple of towels so he could clean up his lover and the bed. The latter would have to wait for a thorough job once Trowa woke up, but he’d manage enough to allow Trowa a chance to get some rest while he ran out to fetch them some dinner. Their demon souls were sated, so it was time to take care of their human halves.

Once he had the towels on hand, he sat on the end of the bed and looked down at his mate. Trowa appeared so peaceful when he was asleep, and gorgeous enough to give Duo an inferiority complex; he knew that he was attractive as hell in his own right, and one of the most powerful fire elementals out there, but it was difficult to see the way that various highborn fawned over his lover even when Trowa mostly controlled his water elemental nature. Despite them being together for a year now, he had an irrational fear that one morning he would wake up and find this to have been all a dream.

Pushing that fear aside, he wiped his lover clean and then settled him more comfortably on the bed. He was just doing his best to braid Trowa’s long hair so it didn’t get tangled during his mate’s nap when Trowa’s eyes fluttered open. There was a sense of confusion for a couple of seconds, followed by love and trust when then Trowa mumbled his name before falling back to sleep.

"Hope you’re in the mood for fish stew," Duo whispered as he bent over to give his mate a kiss on the lips before pulling on whatever clean clothes he could find in a hurry. He was smiling as he left the room, and scooped up Gin who was lying in front of the bedroom door. "Keep an eye on the place while I run out to the Koneko, okay?"

Gin meowed as if he understood, but it might have been in pleasure of the chin scratching. Either way, Duo figured that things were safe enough for him to go beg a hearty take-out from Jo – who had a soft spot for Trowa – and clear a day off from Yuushi. Once he was through the front door, he strengthened his wards to reduce to ash anyone foolish enough to try to breach the apartment who wasn’t him or Trowa and ran down the steps.






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