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WARNING: If you haven't read the warning on the index page, go back and read it. If you don't, and you don't like what you find here, don't come crying to me.
Title: Honor Bound

Author: Eleanor K.

Fandom: Blade of the Immortal

Pairing: Anotsu/Magatsu

Rating: NC-17

Spoilers: Blood of a Thousand, Dreamsong.

Email: emungere@gmail.com

Disclaimer: The boys belong to Hiroaki Samura and not in any way to me.

Warnings: reference to canon rape.

Notes: Tremendous gratitude to Chrissy for the speed-beta.

..___..


Magatsu leaned against the tree in the dojo courtyard and looked up at the sky. He heard footsteps behind him, but didn't turn.

"Well, Magatsu? Coming tonight?"

"The Mutenichi-ryu? I'll be there with bells on. Count on it."

"Any particular reason you sound so...enthusiastic about this one?"

Magatsu turned, wondering if the question was a serious one. Anotsu's face told him it was.

"Wouldn't want to miss your big moment, would I? Everyone's going to be there for this one."

"I suppose they will." Anotsu looked up for a moment, through the tree branches where Magatsu's gaze had been fixed a moment ago. Bright blue sky and bare black branches. "I don't see why. It won't be anything out of the ordinary."

Magatsu watched him walk away, wondering if that was true. He could believe it. He wasn't sure what was driving Anotsu, but he didn't think it was the desire to avenge his grandfather. Anotsu was a weird guy, and he didn't talk any too much about himself, but Magatsu had heard venom in his voice the one time Sumina brought up old Saburo.

Well, he'd tag along. Even if tonight was nothing out the ordinary, it would be worth seeing. Another samurai school wiped off the face of the earth--that was never a bad thing.

***

He stumbled out of the Mutenichi-ryu dojo into darkness and light rain. Clean rain, with the dark scent of autumn riding the air. He breathed deep and tried not to hear the screams behind him.

He couldn't take out all of them, and that's what it would take to give her a clean death.

He heard a sound in the bushes and turned, sword at the ready.

"Magatsu Taito. Done so soon?"

Anotsu. Lurking in the bushes while his men... In a flash of anger he regretted even as he was moving, he stepped closer and swung his sword up until it rested against Anotsu's neck.

"Done with what?" he growled. "Done watching them have their fun? Bunch of freaks, all of them, and here I thought Kuroi was the worst."

"And now who do you think is the worst?"

Anotsu's voice was so calm. Peaceful. It always sounded like that, no matter what he was talking about. Magatsu felt his sword waver. He pulled it away and sheathed it in one motion. He wasn't going to kill Anotsu, and they both knew it.

"You could stop them any time you want to."

"You think I could fight all of them and win?"

"What's that got to do with it? Just a word from you, that's all it'd take." Just tell them to stop, for god's sake, he thought, feeling almost desperate. They'll listen to you.

Anotsu shook his head. "What did I tell you when you joined me, Magatsu Taito?"

Magatsu ran a hand back through his hair and pulled down the fold of cloth that covered his mouth. His anger deserted him abruptly. This was stupid. He had no business arguing with Anotsu. The man was the head of his school, after all. And it made him nervous when Anotsu started using both his names like that.

"Look, never mind, huh? Forget I brought it up. I got places to be." He didn't make it two paces before there was a light touch on the back of his neck. It stopped him dead.

"What did I tell you?" The voice was soft, but it demanded an answer.

Magatsu sighed. "You said your school takes anyone. Honor don't matter, morals aren't important. Just matters how well you can fight, how well you can kill."

"And you said, I believe, that you had no problem with that."

"Yeah, that's what I said." Because, he thought, I didn't know then that you'd taken on a bunch of rapists and serial killers--not to mention Kuroi, who even Araya's afraid of.

"And you must see that if I ordered them to leave that woman alone, I would be the worst kind of hypocrite."

"I see that if you ordered them to leave her alone, she wouldn't be bleeding and screaming in front of her daughter."

Anotsu let out a breath, something less than a sigh, but still somehow disappointed. "You see my point, Magatsu. I think you and Kuroi are the only ones who do. You are merely being stubborn."

"Maybe. If you don't want to order them to stop, why not take them on? Maybe you couldn't take all of them by yourself." He let his hand drop to the hilt of his sword. "But you wouldn't be by yourself."

"Because neither of us care enough about that woman to destroy what I have so carefully built up. Do we?"

Magatsu stepped forward, shaking off the hand on his neck. He was silent for a moment. He wondered what Anotsu would do if he said he did care enough. He wasn't sure he could take Araya on his own, but he knew for a fact Anotsu could. And Kuroi would take whatever side Anotsu took. His mind spun out the fight, pairing up combatants and cataloging fighting styles...

...and he found he wasn't considering it seriously, any more than he had seriously considered "being a hero," as Araya had put it. He didn't care enough, and it hurt to know that.

He cared, but not enough to destroy this life he'd found, not enough to *inconvenience* himself, for god's sake.

He hated Anotsu, just a little, for making him realize that. It made him keep pushing when he knew he should shut up.

"You're still responsible for what they do."

"I know." Anotsu's voice was as calm as ever.

"You just don't care."

"That the woman in there will die in pain?" He sounded thoughtful. "To an extent, I do care. I would prefer it if she did not have to suffer."

"But you don't care enough to do anything about it. You don't care enough to stay and watch what *your* people are doing to her."

"Ah, I see. It is my responsibility, and so I must bear witness to their...sport. And instead, I remain out here with the night chill and the wet earth." He paused, and when he spoke again, his voice was so soft Magatsu could barely make out his words. "And what does that make me? Hm?"

Soft and deadly. Magatsu very much did not want to answer that question, even though the word was hanging unspoken in the air already. He remained silent, unmoving, afraid that if he tried to leave again, Anotsu would stop him with that too-intimate touch on his neck.

"Say it." No louder, but there was a force in Anotsu's voice that hadn't been there before.

"You are the head of my school. You took me in and allowed me to follow my path as they follow theirs. I meant no disrespect."

Anotsu laughed, and the sound made Magatsu shiver. "Pretty words, but they come too late. Say it. I want to hear it."

"I don't know what you mean."

He felt almost desperate now to get out of this conversation. More desperate than he'd been to get outside a few minutes ago. He didn't understand Anotsu, could never predict his moods. He knew Anotsu wouldn't kill him, but a harsh word from this man cut him clean to the bone.

He heard leaves, not quite soaked from the rain, crunch underfoot. When Anotsu spoke again, it was almost in his ear.

"Liar." Anotsu's breath flowed over his cheek, warm in the autumn night. "Tell me what I am."

Sounds from the building behind them, the dull thump of flesh on wood, the woman's screams growing fainter, her daughter's rising shrill above them. Araya's laughter. He should be in there, should have tried to stop it. They should both be in there, should both care more than they did.

"Coward."

His voice was too loud. He waited, tense, in the silence that followed, sure everyone inside must have heard him. Another scream told him that no one inside was paying attention to anything out here.

"Yes. That's the word." Anotsu didn't sound angry at all. He sounded considering, as if it was an interesting idea, and he'd have to think it over. "Coward... And how many times do I have to watch, Magatsu? How many women must I see my people violate, how many children cut down, and how many of Araya's painted faces? A dozen? Fifty? A hundred?"

Magatsu just shook his head. He couldn't think what to say.

"I would like a specific number, if you don't mind. Or must I watch them all?" The touch was back, fingertips resting lightly on the back of his neck, pulling the fabric of his collar down, hint of nails drawing down his skin. "How many to regain my honor in your eyes?"

He shook his head again, feeling Anotsu's fingers move across his skin as he did. He should never have brought this up. Anotsu always managed to make him feel about a thousand leagues out of his depth.

"You think I don't know what they do? I know. And I have stayed to watch. You are perfectly right; it is my responsibility." The hand fell away abruptly. "Call me a coward, then, for while I would rather they did not do these things, I will not stop it, nor will I stay to watch any longer. If this woman's pain is the price for the existence of the Itto-ryu, then so be it."

Magatsu half expected Anotsu to walk off after that declaration, but he stayed where he was.

"It bothers you." Magatsu was almost startled by his own voice. It seemed an age of silence had passed since he'd last spoken. "It bothers you enough that you don't want to see it."

"It bothers me. But not enough to make me betray my ideals."

But something was dawning on Magatsu now, something that he found hard to credit. "You hate it as much as I do."

"Maybe." He heard a smile in Anotsu's voice. "I'm not you, and I cannot say how much you hate it."

"But you don't just not care."

"I thought we had established that."

"I won't call the head of my school a coward."

"You already have."

"I take it back."

There was a pause. The rain grew lighter and then stopped all together. The trees above them dripped cold water down Magatsu's neck.

"You take it back? But what if I take offense and challenge you? Words once spoken cannot be unsaid."

"Are you challenging me?"

Anotsu laughed quietly. "No. I'm not. But you shouldn't take it back. Not if you meant it. You owe me no allegiance beyond our common goals."

Magatsu turned to face him. "Fine. I won't take it back. But since I'm out here hiding in the bushes with you, maybe I'd better apply it to myself, too."

"They are not your people."

"I didn't really try to stop them."

And if he didn't care enough to stop them, he still saw the look in that woman's eyes just before he turned away. Maybe the word applied better to him than to Anotsu.

"It's not cowardice to choose you battles. It is only common sense."

Magatsu threw up his hands, frustrated in the way that only Anotsu could frustrate him. It was like arguing with one of those Zen monks. Every time you thought you'd made your point they said something that turned the world around until up was down and right was wrong.

"Fine," he said. "Have it your way. You're the coward, and I'm the man of honor, defender of the weak and all that crap. Are we done with this? I'd like to get in out of the rain."

"It's stopped raining." There was an amused expression on Anotsu's face. "And certainly we're done if you wish it." He bowed, much too deeply for a man of his station to bow to the son of peasants. "Who am I to argue with a man of honor and defender of the weak?"

He could almost get angry. If it was anyone but Anotsu, he would be angry, but Anotsu wasn't making fun of him. He couldn't say how he knew that, but he was sure of it.

"You better believe it, buddy. Now quit arguing and point the way to the nearest inn."

When Anotsu raised his face again from the bow, Magatsu knew he'd said the right thing. He didn't get to see Anotsu smile like that very often, without any hint of bitterness. It made him look almost disturbingly young and innocent.

"I fear the nearest inn is some hours walk from here, my lord, but if you would care to accompany me to the river, I have a campsite there." Anotsu was actually grinning at him.

Magatsu waved a hand airily and put on an accent that was a very bad imitation of Anotsu's own. "Very well. I suppose it will have to do."

"You can catch something for dinner while I make a fire. If I may presume to tell my lord what to do."

It was almost too much. The way Anotsu said "my lord"... He was joking, of course. But there was an undertone of seriousness that Magatsu found troubling. He needed a way to stop this game before it became more than he could handle. Which, knowing Anotsu, could happen very quickly indeed.

"The river's what, half a mile from here?" He made his tone casual.

"About that, I think."

"So, shall we say...whoever gets there last, cooks and cleans up?"

Anotsu's smile was the one Magatsu was used to. The knowing, almost sinister one. Even so, it was more comfortable than that age-defying grin that made him into a child again.

"Oh, I think we can manage higher stakes than that, don't you?"

Magatsu shrugged, glad things were a little more normal. "Sure. Anything you want."

"Anything?"

"That's what I said."

"I'll take you at your word then." Anotsu smiled with a flash of teeth, and wheeled toward the woods that separated them from the river, running so fast he vanished into them as he called back, "Anything it is!"

Magatsu swore and took off after him.

The trees were thick and everything was wet. Branches whipped his face and neck until he almost had to close his eyes or risk losing them. He ran on the nearly soundless beat of Anotsu's footsteps ahead of him for a short time and then swung off to the left. There was a shortcut he had in mind.

It took nearly half the distance off his run, but when he reached the river, panting and gasping, there was Anotsu sitting comfortably on a rock, dangling his feet in the water.

"How the hell did you do that?"

Anotsu smiled, trying and failing to look innocent. "Do what?"

"You cheated, you must have."

"So did you. I just cheated better."

"Damn."

Magatsu sank down onto a nearby rock. In a minute he'd get up and catch dinner, but for now he was wondering--if he'd been set up, if Anotsu had been serious about the bet...what Anotsu Kagehisa might want if he was offered 'anything.'

He might have been safer if he'd stayed at the Mutenichi-ryu dojo and tried to be a hero.

***

Anotsu cooked. Magatsu watched him gut the fish and stuff them with herbs, pack them in clay from the banks of the river, and throw them onto the coals. He watched the knife move so quickly that he seldom saw it at all; only the reflected firelight showed up clearly, where the knife had been a second before.

Magatsu had grown up in a family that had enough food to keep them alive and seldom much more. Food was not a luxury to be enjoyed. It was like sleep; you got as much as you could whenever you had the opportunity, because you never knew when the next opportunity would come.

He had never understood people who said they were too nervous to eat. The fish was good, but as he picked at it between glances at Anotsu's calm face, he started to understand those people a little better.

When the last of the fish was gone and Anotsu showed every sign of being ready to go to sleep without mentioning it, he couldn't take it any more.

"So what do you want?"

Anotsu gave him a puzzled half smile. "What do you mean?"

"The bet. My forfeit. What do you want?"

Anotsu turned his hands palm up and shrugged. "It was trickery. I don't expect you to honor it."

Let off the hook, just like that. He should be happy. Relieved. Any number of things. He should thank Anotsu and get up in the morning to make breakfast or something. Saying something would be good too, he thought as the silence stretched.

"It was fair. I shouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it."

Not what he was planning to say. Shit. Damn pride... Or maybe it was more than pride. Maybe he just wanted to find out what Anotsu would ask for.

"Hm. Well, perhaps you're right. You are the man of honor here, after all."

"So I'd better keep my word, eh?"

Anotsu raised a hand to his face, finger rubbing against his bottom lip in consideration. "And what would I ask of Magatsu Taito if I could have...anything?"

Magatsu kept quiet. He hadn't been able to answer the question to himself, and he'd keep his guesses in his own head for the moment.

Anotsu rose and walked to the river. He bent, letting the water flow over his hands. Magatsu followed him. He sat beside Anotsu on a large, flat rock. After a moment of silence, he felt Anotsu's fingers, cold and wet from the river, settle on the back of his neck.

"It requires some thought." Almost as he was speaking to himself, Anotsu continued. "What should I ask of my man of honor, my kengo? Forgiveness, perhaps. For what I have done and what I will do. But absolution is the job of a priest, not a warrior."

The hand moved, stroking Magatsu's neck in a touch both absent and possessive, as if Magatsu was his to touch whenever he wished. It made him want both to get away from it and to move closer.

*His* man of honor, Anotsu had said. *His* kengo. Magatsu felt a shiver work its way down his spine, but he did not move away. Finally the hand stilled. After a moment, it slid up to touch his face and turn it toward Anotsu.

Anotsu watched him for a long moment, his gaze searching. His face moved closer, and Magatsu closed his eyes. He let his lips part, waiting for what he thought must be coming. It wasn't as much of a shock as it should have been, and he wondered if he'd known somehow that it would come to this.

The barely-there press of lips to his cheek was a surprise. He'd been expecting something far more forceful. Almost hoping for it. He opened his eyes to find Anotsu looking at him cautiously.

He had to swallow before he could speak, and his mouth was dry. "Is this anything?"

Anotsu tilted his head, questioning. "And if it was?"

"I gave my word."

"You would do this?"

"I gave my word."

Anotsu was silent, but the air around them seemed to grow thicker. The sky was clear enough now that Magatsu could see the stars, but the smell was of a gathering storm. Finally he spoke.

"I think you hold your word in too high an esteem if you would whore yourself for it."

Magatsu took a deep breath and let it out. If he'd been wearing his sword, he knew he would have gone for Anotsu's neck again. He was glad he'd left it by the fire.

"Is there some reason you're trying to piss me off?" He tried and failed to keep the anger out of his voice.

The hand dropped from his cheek, and Anotsu looked out across the water. "Wise as well as honorable. A deadly combination."

"I'm no good with games, Anotsu. Tell me what you want, or fuck off and let me get some sleep."

"Trying to make me angry now? Is that really something you want to do at the moment, when we've established that 'anything' for you really does mean anything? There are far worse things I could ask of you than to share my bed for a night."

At the last words, Magatsu felt his heart pound and his stomach twist, just to hear it said out loud.

"If you want something from me," he said quietly, "just ask. I'm getting tired of all this messing around."

Anotsu didn't turn to face him, but the hand came up to touch his cheek, stroke along the curve of his jaw. "Are you so sure you want to hurry this along?"

"Yeah. I am."

"Surely no one will ever call you a coward." Anotsu looked at him then and smiled. "Go to sleep. You can make breakfast in the morning."

Magatsu blinked. "What?"

"Breakfast. Fish again, or rice. Whatever you prefer. I'm not picky."

"That's it? All this screwing with my head, and now you're saying all you want out of this is breakfast in bed?"

Anotsu's smiled grew even more amused. "You sound almost disappointed."

Magatsu got up without another word and went back to the fire. He stared into the flames trying to calm down. Not succeeding. He realized how much he wasn't succeeding when he found his hand clenched on the hilt of his sword without knowing how it had gotten there.

He got up, leaving his sword where it was by an effort of will, and moved to stand behind Anotsu. Closed a hand on the back of his neck.

"It's not nice to fuck with people's heads, you know. Still, I guess maybe nobody taught you that growing up. I hear old Saburo worked you over pretty good when you were a kid. How many times did *he* call you a coward, eh? Is that why you're so touchy about it?"

Just a slight tensing of the muscles under his hand, but it was enough. It was all he wanted, and more than he'd expected to get. He stood and turned away, but found his path blocked almost immediately. Anotsu could move fast when he wanted to.

Anotsu stepped closer, and Magatsu had to stop himself from stepping back.

He had wanted a reaction, but now he wondered how much of a reaction he would be getting. Against his will, his eyes slid back to where he'd left his sword.

"You're the one who started this," he said.

"True," Anotsu replied. "So I should be the one to finish it, yes?"

Another step, and again Magatsu refused to back off. Their bodies pressed together. The touch was light, but not so light that Magatsu couldn't feel the strength in Anotsu's thin frame.

Anotsu's hand slipped around the back of his head, not pulling forward, but keeping him from moving away. Magatsu held his breath as Anotsu leaned toward him, as he felt warm breath on his face, on his mouth. No true kiss, but a wet sucking on his bottom lip as he held himself still and shivered.

Anotsu moved only an inch back, only enough to speak. "There's nothing holding you here. Not even your word." A brush of tongue against his closed mouth. "Tell me to stop."

He opened his mouth to say--something--and was invaded. Taken over. Lips crushed against his own as if Anotsu meant to join their mouths permanently. Tongue pressed against his own, flat, seeking, and slippery, licking at his mouth.

A warm hand slipped under his shirt, unmoving, flat against his skin. He'd expected the hands to be smooth and soft, but of course they weren't. Anotsu used a sword every day of his life, and his calluses were as old as Magatsu's own. Roughened patches caught against his skin, and his breath caught in his throat and escaped in a near-whimper.

"That doesn't sound like a 'no' to me."

His mouth released, he could only pant for a moment, searching for words.

No.

Stop.

This isn't what I want from you.

Good words, reasonable words. None of them made it past his lips.

His hands found Anotsu's waist and pulled him even closer. From there, not thinking, it was so easy to slide his hands around and down, moving over the curve of his back to his ass.

Anotsu's body flush against his, the other man almost melting against him, hands unraveling his hair until it hung down around his shoulders. Anotsu's tongue, wet and warm behind his ear.

A pause, both of them steaming the night air with their breath, though they hardly felt the chill.

Then, Anotsu's voice, the barest breath of a whisper. "I would never force you. Never use your honor against you."

Magatsu's reply, equally intimate. "I know."

"You believe better of me than I do of myself."

"You have my forgiveness. If you want it."

"I want it. And more."

"You've got that, too."

Another pause. A breeze stirred the leaves to a wet rustle in the trees above them. Anotsu's hair flew in thin strands and stuck damply to Magatsu's skin.

"You will leave me someday," Anotsu said.

Magatsu held him still tighter. "Not tonight."

It was a simple thing to release the binding of Anotsu's kimono. The cloth unwound on its own and snaked toward the ground. He slid the kimono off Anotsu's shoulders, revealing skin that the ghost moon turned almost silver. He ran his hands downwards, parting the edges lower and lower until Anotsu stopped him. He saw the other man's smile in the shadows.

"Too slow." Anotsu rolled his shoulders back, and the kimono fell in a pool at his feet. He let his hip-wrap and undershirt join it on the ground and stepped away from the pile, into Magatsu's arms.

Magatsu felt his breath coming almost too fast as the naked body was pressed against his own. There was something revelatory in the feel of the bare skin under his hands, the heat radiating from it despite the chill of the air.

He allowed Anotsu to pull him closer to the fire, which provided a little heat if not much light. The coals glowed dull red, and the ash glowed with a peculiar phosphorescence. The trees above now blocked the moonlight, and the world became all shadows, one almost impossible to distinguish from another.

Hands held his shoulders, keeping him still, and soon he felt his kimono tugged at, disarranged until it fell away. Again, there was the rough scrape of calluses on his skin as Anotsu peeled his shirt off one inch at a time. It, too, fell to the ground.

They hesitated, parting for a moment and then coming together, hard, the clash of swords echoed in the contact of their bodies. A gentle sucking behind his ear drove Magatsu mad as he reached between them, hand closing over rigid flesh and hearing Anotsu's sharp breath.

The shadows concealed Anotsu's face from him. He would have loved to see the expression that went with that gasp. As it was, there was only the picture in his mind of sharp, delicate features drawn into a mask of pleasure.

In the dark, he could forget about the changes his mind prophesied, and he did fall to his knees, seeking with his mouth as his hands held slender hips-- as much for his own balance as for control. For a moment scent defined his world, coarse hair tickling his nose; dark, sharp tang of smell that was almost taste.

He licked up the shaft and took the head in his mouth. The reaction was immediate; hands clenched in his hair, pulling sharply for a second or two before relaxing. There was a whispered apology from above him, the voice breathless and choked.

He pulled back, ignoring the protest the action caused, and hooked his hands around the back of Anotsu's knees, effectively collapsing him. He caught the other man, or at least softened his impact, and bent to continue what he'd been doing as Anotsu sprawled on the ground.

"Wait." Anotsu's fingers buried themselves in his hair again. "Stop."

"What?"

But Anotsu was already moving away, gone to the other side of the fire before Magatsu could move. The cold, unnoticed before, suddenly surrounded him and made him shiver.

"Anotsu?" His voice sounded too quiet to him.

"A moment, if you will."

Then Anotsu was back, in his arms, on his lap, kissing him as if they had been parted for a month.

"My thanks for your patience," murmured a voice in his ear. "You will not regret it."

"But what--"

"Hush."

He didn't get the chance to ask again, for Anotsu's hand, slick with oil, closed over his cock, and left him without words. He moaned out loud and could scarcely believe the sound had come from his own throat.

Anotsu chuckled and pushed him to lie on the ground, moving over him, guiding his cock until it met resistance in the oiled opening of Anotsu's body.

"All right?" Anotsu asked him softly.

"Please," was the only answer he could make. "Oh, please."

Slow straining of their bodies coming together, friction eased but still enough to bring them from warm to hot. Magatsu felt sweat gather at the back of his neck, heard the low, harsh noises Anotsu was making. Inch by inch they came together until Anotsu was seated on him, bending to kiss him with what felt like desperation.

Magatsu touched his face and found it damp not only with sweat.

"Are you--?"

"I do not cry for pain, my kengo. You know me better than that."

The future, uncertain as it was, stretched out in Magatsu's mind; the battles Anotsu still had to fight, the ones he felt he had already lost, their inevitable parting.

He brushed Anotsu's tears away and kissed him. "Don't cry for anything. Not tonight."

A shiver passed through the body under his hands.

"As you wish," Anotsu whispered. "Yes. Let it be as you wish. For tonight."

Anotsu pulled himself up on his knees, almost off Magatsu's cock, and then came back down. So hard, so fast, and Magatsu was swallowed up by heat and pleasure.

It continued, and soon Magatsu was meeting the thrusts halfway, searching for the angle that made Anotsu gasp and writhe, breathless and out of control on top of him, pushing down, frantic, their hands joined at the last as they fell over the edge together.

Anotsu shook in his arms afterward, but cried no more. Magatsu's questing hand eventually found a kimono lying within reach on the ground and pulled it over them both.

Anotsu's breathing calmed until Magatsu thought him asleep. He allowed himself to comb through fine black hair, let his hands wander slowly over Anotsu's skin.

Anotsu's voice was a surprise, his question almost a shock.

"If I had asked you, as your forfeit, never to leave me...?"

Magatsu hesitated, but Anotsu would know if he lied. "I would never have left you."

There was silence for a long time.

"Perhaps my honor is not as dead as I had thought. But honor does not keep one warm at night."

Magatsu could only hold him close. A tightness in the back of his throat suddenly threatened tears on his own part as well.

"I'm here now."

Strong arms came around his waist, and Anotsu's head rested on his chest. Lips brushed his collar bone.

"Yes. For now."

-------
..end..
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