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It was a feeling that had grown to be so familiar to him in such a short amount of time, a feeling unfamiliar and yet so safe all at once. A feeling so strong it knocked the breath out of his lungs, made him stumble on his once-solid footing, but also so gentle, so soft in the early morning light. It was a feeling that allowed his walls, built up so high after two decades of being beaten and bruised, to fall within seconds, a feeling that opened his arms wide and welcomed in another.

Home.

It's the moment when he turns the key in the lock and swings the door open, sliding his shoes off next to the doormat and padding in his socks through the hallway into the main room of the apartment. It's the humming he hears, a little off-key but so sickly sweet, from the kitchen, accompanied by the occasional sound of a wooden spoon stirring a pot. It's the faded music coming from the living room, ambiance in a quiet room, so calm and serene and so, so welcoming after a long day of work.

It's the way the boy in front of him's hair falls in his face as he works, the way his hips sway a bit as he reaches for the spices, the way his brow furrows in concentration as he tries to remember the recipe he knows from heart. He's wearing shorts, despite the cold weather, and an apron with a gaudy pattern printed on the front, but he's glowing, and he's beautiful, and Akutagawa can't stop staring.

It's the way Atsushi turns around, eyes sparkling, minitature sunsets in the late evening glow, smiles with bright teeth and a crinkled nose, and murmurs,

"Welcome home."

Because that's what it is, as the two sit at the table, Atsushi shamelessly feeding one of their cats, whose name is Rashoumon but who he playfully calls "Owen" chicken under his chair, gesturing animatedly as he tells Akutagawa about his day at the Detective Agency, of the chaotic joy he surrounds himself with every day. Akutagawa's life was silence before he met Atsushi, dreary and dull and excruciatingly monotone. More days than not he would wake up questioning whether he wanted to continue at all.

Once he met Atsushi, everything changed.

The world was brighter, even when his feelings were ones that were concealed deep in the cavern between his ribs, pulling on his heartstrings but bitterly ignored. Akutagawa had hated him for it, hated him for what he was doing to that neglected heart he called his own, and desperately threw himself into his work to distract himself.

Atsushi had pulled him out, and, somewhere in the yelling and chaos that had ensued, there had been a confession. A reciprocated one, to both of their shock, and then, suddenly, a strange calmness that settled in between their shoulderblades in the form of a hug.

Since then, the dreariness of everyday life had been punctuated with pops of color - pinks, blues, oranges and purples, every time a text message would pop up on his screen, or a picture would land in his e-mail inbox.

This. This was home.

Akutagawa paused for a moment, looking his boyfriend up and down; Atsushi paused, a smile still on his face, but waited for an explanation.

The kitchen was dark, save for the light of some of the countless candles Atsushi had been fond of collecting (Akutagawa would shamelessly admit that he had assisted in buying most of that collection), but Atsushi's eyes burned bright as Akutagawa placed his spoon down and brought his partner into a kiss.

It was the feeling of their lips, sparks dancing along their spines as they moved together, a perfect fit like the last two pieces in a puzzle. The feeling of knowing what each other liked and disliked, knowing just where to put hands and mouths so they lined up perfectly, concealing sounds of pleasure deep within their throats, coaxing each other into blissful joy. It was the feeling of safety, of knowing that, no matter how far they went, both would be taken care of, heard, understood.

And as steely gray met royal purple, the two finally understood what it meant to be home.