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Rubber and Mochi

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It took until nearly a quarter of all the blood in the boy’s body was spilled on the ground for him to smell it.

Katakuri breathes it in, the scent faint but undeniable. Could he be..?

Luffy must have seen the change in his expression even from far below on the cracked stones, must have seen the widening of his eyes and the baring of his teeth, because he manages to gather up enough strength to push himself even farther away. His thighs clamp shut, and his knees are drawn in up against his body in clear rejection.

“No,” Luffy says, loud and firm, his brows slanted harshly downwards. He seems furious but the fear is there in the tightness of his mouth, his gaze fixed on Katakuri as if daring him to say something.

Katakuri considers it. If nothing else, he’d comment on it just to congratulate him. It’s unheard of for one of his kind to make it this far. The stronger they were, the more coveted they were, and with their special brand of weakness they’d normally be snatched up the second they were found out. It was easy to take them down; they couldn’t fight their bodies any more than their counterparts could.

Especially now, with that sweet scent slowly teasing his long-dormant senses into wakefulness, Katakuri can’t help but imagine the possibilities.

Having one this strong in the bloodline…now that was something Mama would certainly find agreeable. For a prize like that, arrangements would be made, and crimes would be forgiven. Mama would spend ages deciding who to pair him with amongst her children, of course, calling them up one by one and measuring their loyalty and strength before gifting him to who she pleased. It was unlikely that Katakuri would be chosen. He’d known for decades that she preferred him as a lone pawn.

But if things occurred in the heat of battle…then it wouldn’t be her decision to make.

Excuses were plentiful. I secured him to keep him from escaping. He was close to death, and I did it to keep him alive. Anyone could have taken him when he was weakened, and I needed to ensure he belonged to us.

Katakuri inhales sharply, relishing the taste of the air on his tongue. The hormones were flowing freely now from Luffy’s shaking, tired body, and it was obvious that he’d given up on holding them back. He’s still defiant, his legs squeezed shut with one hand clamped tight over the gland on his neck, but those hardly count as obstacles to Katakuri.

It would be so easy to claim him, to slide a hand between his thighs and guide them open, to push away the fingers against his neck, to lean in and-

A pulse of need throbs in his veins, sparks flashing in his vision. I want him.

But even through the haze of age-old instincts, it’s easy to see that Luffy isn’t feeling the same draw. His body had to be urging him forwards just as much as Katakuri’s was, but it was impossible to tell by the way the captain was glaring at him. Katakuri couldn’t imagine how painful it must feel to have come all this way only to be exposed by the smell of his blood. How it must feel to be discovered here, with no friends around to save him and nowhere to run, left at the mercy of an enemy.

Something twinges in his gut, and Katakuri frowns. Some kind of lingering emotion, some last restraint keeping him from simply stepping forward and taking Luffy for his own. It isn’t pity, no, more like

Regret.

He’d never had a fight like this before in all his years, even when he’d clashed with other Yonko commanders, and it was likely he’d never get one like it again. He’d been on the verge of genuinely enjoying the challenge when Luffy had slipped and taken that damning blow. Without the half-second lapse in concentration, Katakuri would have happily continued fighting until one of them either won or passed out from sheer exhaustion, content to enjoy the reckless abandon without ever knowing Luffy’s secret.

Luffy had given him a taste of the freedom he’d never known. Just the two of them, alone in the mirror-world, going all-out against each other until a victor was determined one way or another…he’d never get that chance again. After a gift like that, he couldn’t just deny Luffy a proper end to their battle.

Katakuri decides that he owes him that much, at least. The captain had managed to earn his respect, something few ever did, and that fact was enough to make him shake away all thoughts of claiming him while he lay helpless. After all Luffy had struggled to get this far in their fight, he wouldn’t insult him in such a way, either.

“Get up. We aren’t done.”

Luffy hesitates, but only for a second. His features harden back into the determination Katakuri has become so familiar with, the fear melting away, and he hops back up onto his feet. His fists are out again a moment later; he’s ready to face him once more.

Katakuri raises his own to match him, settling into a fighting stance. He won’t go any easier on Luffy now that he knows what he is, especially considering that the stakes of their battle just got a little higher. The need to possess the treasure in front of him was still there in the back of his mind, demanding that he trap and pin and bite and take. The lives of Luffy’s crew were still on the line, as well as Katakuri’s reputation in front of his family, but now…

“If you lose,” Katakuri hisses, heavy with promise, “you’re mine.”