Saber Marionette Fan Fiction ❯ So I Need You ❯ So I Need You ( One-Shot )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
So I Need You

a SMJ fan fic


Lady Aoi

Summary: While the Marionettes are away, Otaru and Hanagata spend some, er...quality time together...warning: odd piece of romantic (?) fluff
Rating: PG-13 for language, shonen-ai
Spoilers: up to the end of the series
Lady Aoi's Notes: This fic takes place between SMJ and SMJ Again, before Otaru began his restaurant. Also, in regards to the lemon, the Devil made me do it. Damn you, Devil >:D. Oh and once again, this is all Xel-chan's fault. Domo, dear. And thanks again, AnitaB, for betaing this story.

"If you could step into my head
Tell me would you still love me
And if you woke up in my bed
Tell me then would you hold me
Or would you simply let it lie
Leaving me to wonder why
I can't get you out of this head I call mine
And I will say

Oh no can't let you go my little girl
'Cause you're holding up my world
So I need you
Your imitation of my walk
And the perfect way you talk
It's just a couple of the million things
That I love about you...

And if I jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge
Tell me would you still follow me
And if I made you mad today
Tell me would you love me tomorrow? Please
Or would you say that you don't care
And then leave me standing there
Like a fool who is drowning in despair..."

~ 3 Doors Down "So I Need You"


Yawning, Otaru Mamiya sank to his knees and flopped face-first onto the unmade jumble of blankets that made up his bed. It had been a very long and exhausting day at work and for the first time since sunrise, he was grateful for the silence of his apartment; a silence made possible only by the absence of Cherry, Bloodberry and Lime.

Not that Otaru did not miss them. On the contrary, he'd been berating himself all day for not having accompanied the marionettes on their visit to Lorelei. But then again, he reminded himself, he'd had no choice in the matter in the end. The look his boss had given him upon requesting the day off that morning had been enough to inform Otaru that he would either shut up and flip burgers or find himself a new job. And with rent due that week, Otaru had been inclined to take the first option.

But now, at the end of the day, Otaru couldn't help but feel thankful to be home, with or without his marionettes. His limbs were aching with the pleasant fatigue brought on by the promise of sleep and already his senses were fading into a blanket-warmed haze. Sighing with pleasure, Otaru stretched his body out luxuriously and snuggled into the covers. And as he drifted off to sleep, he decided that a nice long rest was the best reward for a long day's work.



"Mhhhh..." Otaru murmured, sliding further into the warmth around him. So good.... like resting next to a heater... or floating in a sunny ocean... even now he could hear the seagulls cawing as the waves washed against the beach.


Somewhere in the distance an airplane whined in the electric blue sky as waves of warm water washed against his chest, rising and falling in time to his own breathing.

"So....mhh..." Otaru hummed, moving back into the waves. As he did so, the inner tube he wore around his waist tightened slightly and something hard pressed against his shoulder.

"Nhh... Otaru-kuuuun...aishiteruuuuu..."

"N--nani?" had the waves just talked to him? And spoken his name, no less?

"Ohh... Otaru-kuuun....mhhh...."

That voice... oh god, it wasn't --

"H--hanagata?" Otaru's hazel eyes sprang open only to find themselves mirrored in two shining blue pools.

To the groggy young man, Hanagata Mitsurugi seemed like the proverbial fish caught in the headlights: nervous, uncertain, and entirely out of place.

Perhaps that was why he began speaking.

"Ohhhh, Konbanwa, Otaru-kuuuuuuun!!" he grinned, bringing his hand up to wave at the stunned young man. "I -- I was just passing your apartment when I heard such a terrible noise!! So of course, as your very best friend in the whole world, I just had to investigate. But what should I find?!" His voice dropped a little and his eyes narrowed conspiratorially. "There was -- a -- nest -- of -- TERMITES underneath your mattress, Otaru-kun!!"

"Termites?" Otaru asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Dear Lord, this had to be a dream. While, given, Hanagata's excuses for making amorous advances were always a little on the surreal and badly thought out side, this one was going a little too far even for him.

"Uh... yes," Hanagata continued, looking a little surprised himself at his own lack of imagination. "And, being your best friend in the whole entire world, how could I possibly let you sleep in such conditions?"

"Nuh, how indeed?" Otaru asked, running a hand through his messy dark hair. Really, it was so nauseatingly ridiculous it was almost amusing.

"Uh.. well, I couldn't," Hanagata said decisively, as if he had made a grave sacrifice and deserved canonization, or at the very least attention. "And so I, the courageous and oh-so-handsome Hanagata Mitsurugi, decided to sacrifice my very body so you could get a good night's sleep. And all," his voice raised an octave as his eyes widened and began to shine, "all for love, Otaru-kun!" When he next smiled his teeth practically gleamed in the moonlight streaming in from the window.

Otaru sighed. Of course. Sooner or later didn't it always come down to that? "So, let me get this straight, Hanagata," he began. "You're saying that you were passing my front door, in your pajamas at --" he glanced quickly at the clock. "One in the morning, just minding your own business when a stampeding nest of termites posed such a threat to my well-being that you were moved to get into bed with me in order to..."

Hanagata looked defeated. "-- To save your life," he finished. "That's right."

Otaru simply stared at him. Had Hanagata finally lost what passed for his twisted little mind? As Hanagata continued to blush and sputter dumbly, Otaru made a note to tell the marionettes -- especially Lime and Bloodberry-- to stop beating the poor boy up. Given this latest and certainly lamest attempt at seduction, it seemed as if their routine Hanagata 'nukings' had caused his next-door neighbor some serious damage.

"Ne, Otaru-kuuuuuun...." Hanagata whimpered, stroking Otaru's arm gently with his index finger. "I admit it was a stupid story and I apologize. So how about we just kiss and make up and forget it ever happened?" As if on cue, Hanagata then puckered his lips and leaned forward.

Otaru groaned and rested his head in an open palm. "Listen, Hanagata," he said after a long pause. "I know this seems really strange to someone who's never worked a day in their life, but I've just had a really busy day at the Super Burger and I'm really, really tired. So why don't you just go on back to your apartment and let me get some sleep?"

"But Otaru-kun!" Otaru let out a squawk as Hanagata hugged him tightly and insistently. "As your soul mate I should share all your troubles! Yes," Otaru moaned slightly and buried his face into the pillow as Hanagata's voice began to tremble with affected passion. "All your sorrows, joys, and even your fatigue!"

"GAAAAKKK!!" Otaru struggled to push Hanagata away as the older boy's embrace began to cut off his air supply. "H--Hana--g--gata need...a--air..."

But it seemed Hanagata was too far lost in his fantasy world at the moment to notice Otaru's condition. At last, in spite of his constant declarations of love and persistent hugging, Otaru managed to free himself from Hanagata's grip.

"Hanagata, for God's sake!" he cried, pushing the older boy away roughly. As Hanagata tumbled off the futon, Otaru closed his eyes in frustration. "Look, I'm trying to be nice here but, dammit, my arms hurt, my legs hurt and I'm really really tired! So just get out of here and let me die quietly alone in my bed, would ya?"

For a moment, Hanagata sat on the floor where he'd landed, looking a bit stunned. Upon hearing Otaru mention that he was in pain, however, Hanagata immediately righted himself.

"You're in pain, Otaru-kun?"

"Duh," Otaru snapped, easing back down into the blankets. "I had to lift fifty pound boxes all day, Hanagata! So after that, yeah, I'd say I'm in pain!"

"Oh, Otaru-kun!" Hanagata interrupted, reaching out to put a hand on Otaru's shoulder. Otaru was about to brush it away rudely, when something about Hanagata's expression stopped him. For Once, Hanagata didn't seem to be flirting. On the contrary, he looked deeply and truly concerned.


"Shh," when Hanagata next spoke, his voice was calm, modulated, Sincere. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?" he asked.

"Why does it matter? It's not like you can do anything about it." Otaru snapped, reaching up to rub his aching biceps.

"That's where you're wrong, Otaru-kun," Hanagata gave him a small smile. "Your muscles are probably just sore from all the work you've done. It's nothing a good massage can't fix."

"Oh please," Otaru rolled his yes. "Like I'd ever let YOU give me a massage!"

At these words, Hanagata looked genuinely hurt. "But I give father one almost every weekend," he explained softly. "He has shoulder problems and --"

"...and a nest of termites living under his bed too? C'mon, Hanagata how stupid do you think I am? No, how stupid can YOU possibly be?"

At these words, the wounded look in Hanagata's eyes only deepened. "Alright, fine," the futon moved a little beneath him as Hanagata stood and brushed the wrinkles from his purple night dress. "It looks like you're just going to be in a bad mood no matter what I do, Otaru-kun. So, per your request, I'll just leave you alone now."

And without another word, he turned and began to make his way to the hole in the wall which lead to his lavish apartment.

"Shit," Otaru murmured, burying his face in the pillow again. What a perfect end to a perfect day! Now not only did his entire body hurt, but Hanagata's little "termite scare" had also given him a headache. Why couldn't that idiot ever learn to take no for an answer?

And yet... what if he were actually telling the truth, Otaru wondered. If Hanagata actually knew how to do a proper massage, then perhaps he could get a few hours of decent sleep before Lime and the others got back in the morning. And if Hanagata was simply making up another excuse to touch him, well, Otaru was certainly strong enough to defend himself, wasn't he?

Sighing, Otaru raised his head from the pillow. "Ne, Hanagata?"

"What?!" Hanagata turned sharply to glare at him, one foot already through the hole.

Otaru tried to give him a weak smile. "Gomen nasai, Hanagata. I'm just -- I'm just tired and achy and really not myself right now. I'm sorry I yelled at you." When Hanagata simply folded his arms over his chest and stuck his nose in the air, Otaru sighed again. "Listen, I'm -- I'm willing to let you give me a massage if you promise not to get fresh, ok?"

"...Really?" Although he was still looking away, Hanagata could do little, Otaru decided, to hide the anticipation in his voice.

"Yeah," Otaru said, turning over onto his stomach and propping his head up in his hands to look at his next door neighbor. "Really."

But Hanagata was already at his side, gently pulling the blankets back. "Alright, Otaru-kun... first we're going to have to take off your shirt."

Otaru rolled his eyes disgustedly. "Can't 'we' just leave it on?"

"Well.... technically yes, but it's going to make my job a lot harder and the results a lot less effective."

"Fine then," sitting up quickly, Otaru pulled his shirt over his head and deposited it disdainfully in a pile on the floor. "Oh, please don't start," he growled as a faint blush danced across Hanagata's high cheekbones.

"I -- I wasn't going to --" Hanagata sighed. "Just... where does it hurt, Otaru-kun?"

"The better question would be where doesn't it hurt?"

"I see. You better lie down, then, Otaru. On your stomach. This might take awhile."

"Fine, whatever," Otaru grumbled, obeying Hanagata.

The older boy smiled slightly and removed the rest of the blanket. As Otaru muttered a little in protest, Hanagata knelt at his side and gently placed his hands on Otaru's bare shoulders. "If anything hurts Otaru-kun, anything at all, just tell me and I'll ease up, ok?"

Taking the muffled sound he got in reply as a yes, Hanagata smiled again and began kneading the boy's sore back.

At first, Otaru's muscles were so knotted that he balked in pain at nearly every touch (much to Hanagata's annoyance). But gradually, as Hanagata discovered Otaru's threshold of pain, Otaru found himself complaining less and less as gradually the tension began to leave his aching arms and back.

And on top of that, Hanagata actually kept his word not to abuse his position. Otaru was vaguely surprised at the gentle and yet entirely professional way the young man's hands moved across his back and down his arms. He didn't even mind when Hanagata eventually had to shift his weight and straddle his legs in order to rub the tension from his lower back.

"...what are you thinking?" Hanagata asked after awhile, his hands gently massaging Otaru's hips.

"I'm thinking how...hmmm... how good this feels...why?"

"Sometimes people like to talk during these things, that's all," Hanagata said simply, sliding down a bit further to rub Otaru's thighs. "Don't worry," he said as the young man tensed at this motion. "I'm just doing this because you're whole body's pretty tense. That's the only reason."

Otaru nodded and tried to relax as well as he could as Hanagata's hands trailed down his legs. "So, anything you want to tell me about your day or... or just anything else that's bothering you?"

"Nothing much. It's just a really stupid job," Otaru replied. "That and the fact that I work for a complete moron who won't even give me one day off, that is."

"Why did you want a day off?"

"I was supposed to go to Castle Japoness with Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry today to visit Lorelei but..." Otaru shrugged helplessly. "It was either go with them or get the sack, so you can see which one I had to choose."

"With them...I see..." When Hanagata's hands hadn't moved for a few moments, Otaru raised his head to see what was the matter. He found Hanagata staring almost forlornly down at his hands.

"Hey, why'd you stop?"

"Huh? Oh!" Blushing, Hanagata went back to his work. "Gomen, Otaru-kun... I was just..."

Just thinking about how much you'd like me to take a day off just to spend with you, Otaru thought. Riiiight, Hanagata. Like that's gonna happen anytime soon!

"If you hate working there so much, why don't you just quit?"

Otaru blinked at the question. Had he just heard that correctly or was Hanagata too stupid to understand something even as simple as that? Apparently thinking Otaru hadn't heard him, Hanagata repeated the question moments later.

"Yeah, yeah, I heard you," Otaru said. "And what should I do instead, Hanagata? Sit here and let everyone starve just because I don't like the job?"

"You know I'd be happy to lend you some money," Hanagata said simply, his hands ghosting their way down Otaru's thighs.

"And you know that I'll never take your money," Otaru shot back. "I don't accept handouts. Work is a man's job and I'll do it as long as I'm a man."

"Even if you hate what you're doing?"

"It's called the real world, Hanagata. Maybe you should participate in it every now and then. It's good for the soul."
"But apparently not for the mouth," Hanagata murmured softly, his hands tensing a little on Otaru's calves.


"Nothing." Hanagata's grip relaxed and he continued slowly down Otaru's legs. "Just tell me this, Otaru-kun; why don't you ask your marionettes to work too?"

"They do work, Hanagata."

"And aside from eating Cherry's cooking and you out of house and home, that would be doing what...?"

Otaru sighed. "Look, they try and everything, but they just end up making a mess of things, you know that."

"But even so, what are they contributing? Couldn't you tell them to get some kind of jobs?"

"Hanagata," Otaru frowned. "If you keep talking like that then you're going back to your apartment. I already told you I don't want to fight today."

"I'm not trying to fight, Otaru-kun. You just said you hated your job and I was just offering advice."

"Well, maybe I don't want your stupid advice sometimes, Hanagata!"

"Then maybe you don't want my stupid massage, either!"

"Look, Hanagata, that's not what I'm saying!"

"Oh isn't it?" By now, Hanagata had risen to his feet and was staring down at Otaru, who had to shift his weight to stare back at him.

"No! Now just sit down and relax, ok?"

"No, I don't think so," Hanagata shook his head. "You've been perfectly beastly to me all evening, and if anyone has the right to stand up and not relax right now, it is I!"

"Well, if you hadn't walked in uninvited and jumped into bed with me then we wouldn't even be having this conversation right now!" Otaru retorted. "I'd be happily asleep and you'd be off having perverted little fantasies about me, or whatever the hell you do in your free time."

As soon as the words were out of his mouth he knew he'd gone too far.
Hanagata recoiled as if he'd been slapped, his hand moving slowly to his mouth as a tear beaded in the corner of his eye.

"Hey, Hanagata," Otaru tried, reaching a hand up to him, "I'm --"

"No you're not!" Hanagata brushed the offered hand away as he began walking to the hole in the wall.

"Look, I just meant --"

"You just meant exactly what you said!" Hanagata cried, pivoting to glare at Otaru. "I see you walking home, exhausted and offer to give you a lift? You ignore me."

Otaru rolled his eyes. "I didn't even see you."

"Right. Of course not. And so, since you wouldn't talk to me then, I decide to pay you a visit to make sure you're alright, but finding you asleep --"

"-- you decide the best thing to do is to climb in bed with me and start messing around while I'm too out of it to notice! Nice idea, Hanagata! Real altruistic!"

An angry blush scattered across Hanagata's cheeks as his hands clenched into fists. "At least I gave a damn! Where are your little marionettes today, Otaru-kun?! They knew you were working, but did they even bother to check in on you?"

"They're visiting Lorelei, I told you that!"

"Oh yes, and Castle Japoness is too far away for them to take all of ten minutes to come back and look in!"

"So, they're busy with Lorelei! And besides, they have lives too, Hanagata!"

"You mean you'd like to pretend they do," Hanagata sneered, his eyes darkening. "There's a profound difference between marionettes and men that you've failed to grasp, chum. Marionettes are machines, a bunch of cables and wires with circuits that make them appear to feel and think. But," He brought a shaking hand up to his chest. "But I'm ALIVE, Otaru-kun!"

"You take that back, Hanagata!!"

"What, that I'm alive? I don't think so! I have emotions, I have feelings and, yes I even have limits to my patience," Hanagata shouted, punctuating each "I" with a thump of his fist against his chest. "You treat me like filth whenever I try to do anything for you and it's all well and good because I'll just come crawling back to you for more abuse the next day. But one of those machines yells "Otaru Daiiiisukiiiii!" and immediately you have to treat them like royalty!"

"What did you just call them?!"

"Just what they are; machines!"

"You take that back right now!"

"You see, you think those machines are more important than your best friend!"

"Hanagata, you call them machines one more time and I swear to God I'll hit you!"

"Oh go right ahead, MACHINES!! I don't MACHINES want any special MACHINES treatment or anything! MACHINES!! Don't MACHINES go out of your way to be nice or grateful MACHINES for the things I do for you MACHINES!"




For a moment Hanagata simply stood there, stunned into complete and pale silence. And then slowly, he raised a hand to the red mark on his face.

"Otaru-kun..." he whispered, blue eyes filling with tears.

"Oh, Hanagata --" Otaru was almost too stunned to speak as he reached out to take Hanagata by his shoulder. "Look, I'm --"


The force of the blow sent Otaru stumbling back, a hand rising immediately to his cheek.

Hanagata's eyes narrowed into angry slits as he jabbed a finger at the stunned Otaru. When he next spoke, his voice was deathly quiet. "You.ungreatful.cur. If you
ever hit me again, so help me, I'll -- I'll --"

"You'll what, Hanagata?" Otaru whispered, all traces of impatience and sarcasm immediately absent from his voice.

"I'll -- I'll..." the tears spilled over Hanagata's eyes and ran slowly down his cheeks like two regretful waterfalls. "I'll hate you, Otaru-kun..."

"H--hanagata..." but the young man simply turned and stormed over to the hole in the wall. "Hey, Hanagata --"

"Don't talk to me."

"Hanagata, wait." Quickly, Otaru closed the distance between them and caught his next door neighbor by the shoulders.

"Let me go!" Hanagata growled, pulling away from Otaru's grip.

"No, listen!"

"I said let go!"

But Otaru kept his arms around Hanagata's shoulders even as the older boy struggled against him. But the more Hanagata resisted, the harder Otaru held onto him until he gave up and stumbled backwards, crying miserably.

"Hey..." gently Otaru turned the boy around and wrapped his unprotesting form in a tight hug. "Hanagata... I'm -- I'm ... look, I'm really sorry about that."

"Just forget it," Hanagata whimpered softly. "You've never given a damn about what I felt before, so why break your perfect record now?"

"How can you say that I --" Otaru sighed. But in a way, wasn't Hanagata right? As the young man clung to him, sobbing bitterly, Otaru looked him over. For some reason, things felt different now then they had earlier tonight -- or even a few minutes ago. For the first time in his memory, the Hanagata shivering in his arms did not seem to be an overgrown and self-indulgent child. He seemed drained, dejected and very, very old.

"Hanagata..." Otaru soothed, bringing a hand up to caress his neighbor's hair.

"Please...don't..." the young man whispered, closing his eyes and turning his head further into Otaru's chest.


"Because you don't realize how much I love you... and even if you did, you'd be too annoyed to care."

Otaru closed his eyes and pulled Hanagata closer, resting his head on top of the older boy's. "Hanagata...I've --" he sighed deeply. "I've really been horrible to you, haven't I? Not just tonight but... but for a really long time. I've been really stupid, huh?"

Hanagata was silent for a moment. "Can't argue with that," he said at last.

Otaru smiled slightly. "I'm sorry about your face... I shouldn't have done that."

"No you shouldn't have." Hanagata sighed, leaning his head against Otaru's shoulder. "I'm sorry about yours, too."

"It's ok. Sometimes I guess you literally have to slap some sense into me." Gently, Otaru ran his fingers through Hanagata's hair, smoothing it away from his sweat-soaked neck.

"Otaru-kun...tell me," Hanagata said after a moment. "Am I really so worthless that you only need me, and then only when it's convenient?"

"Hanagata --"

"Because... because if that's the truth...I'll just leave you alone... if that's how you really feel I'll --"

"You'll what, Hanagata?" Otaru asked gently. "Sell your apartment? Go back to Joshyua and your family? Never see me again?"

When Hanagata only stared at him helplessly, the younger man sighed. "You couldn't do that, could you?"

"Otaru-kun, the only thing I've wanted from you ever is to see you happy. And --and if going away would make you happy then I'll..." Hanagata choked on a sob. "I'll... I'll try to accept that and..."

"But it's not what I want," Otaru soothed, bringing an arm around Hanagata's back and hugging him slowly. "I don't want you to go, and I certainly don't want us to never see one another again."

"You'd only miss the massages," Hanagata said flatly.

"And...other things."

"Yeah, like waking up next to me."

"Well, ok not that necessarily but... hanging out with you, having you over for dinner and even --"

"Even?" Hanagata was trying hard not to betray the interest in his voice.

"Even...well... just standing here hugging you, like we're doing now."

Hanagata laughed coldly. "Don't try to flatter me, Otaru-kun. You think I'm disgusting. If you want a massage whenever your back hurts, then just say so. I'll still do them for you whether or not you humor me."

"Hanagata..." Otaru felt as if he'd just slapped the young man again. Sighing he slid his arm into the small of Hanagata's back to pull him closer, a motion which Hanagata did not protest. "Just... just trust me ok?" slowly, Otaru ran his hand across the small of that frail back, and slowly up Hanagata's side to rest on his left shoulder, noting Hanagata's unmistakable shiver of pleasure as he did. It was... it was very strange, Otaru decided. As much as the thought of touching Hanagata this way had repulsed him even a few hours ago, as crazy as it sounded now... holding Hanagata like this actually felt... well, good and frankly, more than just a little titillating.

And apparently Hanagata thought so too. As Otaru continued to stroke his shoulder, Hanagata slid his hand up Otaru's arm and onto the back of his hand. After waiting a moment to make certain the other boy wasn't about to jerk his hand away, Hanagata slowly turned Otaru's palm into his own cheek and rested his head there.

At the sight of this, Otaru struggled to suppress an astonished gasp. As crazy as it seemed, the way Hanagata looked just then, dark blonde hair cascading over his pale flesh, blue eyes lowered to near-seductive slits...

It was almost unbearably attractive.

"Ne, Hanagata," Otaru whispered after a moment, bringing his free hand up to caress a few strands of hair from the older boy's face. "I -- I haven't thanked you yet for that massage you know..."

Hanagata didn't answer.

"So... if you want..." Otaru gulped nervously. Why was he about to offer this? It wasn't as if the prospect of doing anything further greatly thrilled him (which could very well become a reality given Hanagata's persistence) and yet... hadn't Hanagata embarrassed himself enough for one evening?

And Haven't I embarrassed myself enough too?

"...Yes?" Hanagata's blue eyes widened slightly with anticipation as Otaru closed his eyes and looked away.

...but how can I say no? I've been absolutely horrible to him, when all he ever cared about was...

"Hanagata... if you want..." the next words came out rushed and almost unintelligible. "...youcanstaythenight."

"Otaru-kun?" Puzzled, Hanagata cocked his head and blinked in confusion.

... my happiness.

"Yeah, yeah, don't push it," Otaru muttered. "You can stay the night Hanagata."

"In -- with -- I mean... where will I be sl--"

Otaru rolled his eyes. "Oh for -- in my bed, obviously! Just don't try any--"


"ACK!!" Otaru let out a strangled gasp as Hanagata tackled him around the waist, sending both men crashing to the futon.

"Otaru-kun!! Otaru-kun!!"

"Hey-- Hey! Hanagata Hey!! HANAGATA!!!"

"Nani?" The older boy unpuckered his lips and released Otaru from his pinned position on quilts.

"Look," Otaru rubbed at his neck (which by some miracle had not been snapped beneath Hanagata's excited hands) "I just said you can sleep next to me tonight, ok? So that means no kissing, no touching and no weird stuff, got it?"

"But, Otaru-kuuun!! How are we to express our immortal passion if we cannot --"


The boy blushed slightly. "Ah... right. Alright. As Otaru rolled his eyes and climbed beneath the blankets, Hanagata straightened the bow on the front of his nightshirt and slowly slipped in next to him, turning off the light on his way down.

The pair lay in darkness for a moment before Hanagata spoke. "Ne, Otaru-kun... did... did my massage make you feel better?"

"Yeah, but I'm more worried about my neck now," Otaru replied, wincing as he rubbed a sore vertebra. "I think I broke something on our way down, Hanagata."

"Oh, Otaru-kun... I'll -- I'll have to look at it tomorrow, then,"


Otaru buried himself into the quilts and listened to the crickets chirping in the still air outside.

"Ne, Hanagata? How do you manage to put up with me?" he asked after a long silence.

"Oh I don't know," and this time when Hanagata's arms coiled around him Otaru didn't protest. "I think, sometimes, that I need you too much not to."

"Yeah," Otaru mused, a small smile playing across his face. "I need you too, Hanagata."

And as both men drifted off to sleep, Otaru pulled Hanagata close and nestled the young man's head against his shoulder.

~ Owari