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Under the Wide Sky

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It's nearing midnight when Magma catches sight of him, stretched long and silent in the tall grasses that grow at the sandy edge of the sea.

 

There's not much light, the moon bedded back down by this hour, but Magma had peeled away from the bonfire and festivities a while back, giving his eyes time to adjust.  'A walk', he'd insisted to Mantle and a handful of others that asked after him, just a stroll, a chance to wander the welcoming night.  A bit of peace, to enjoy the pleasant softness of his thoughts and the liquor sloshing warm in his stomach.

 

He had, of course, noticed Kinrou slipping silently from the outskirts of the celebration earlier, off to who knows where.  Had studied the proud line of his neck, the grace of his stride, the sturdy breadth of his shoulders as he disappeared into shadow outside the firelight's reach.  He often finds himself watching Kinrou, truth be told, and while the admission normally sets his nerves buzzing in a humid, sticky sort of panic, tonight he finds curiosity spreading beneath his skin instead.

 

So he allows himself to observe; studies the rise and fall of Kinrou's chest, the unselfconscious way his biceps flex with his arms akimbo, hands tucked behind his head.  Kinrou has a knee propped up.  He looks ridiculously comfortable, and Magma distantly registers his own cheeks widening in a smile.  Kinrou does not often relax, and Magma can't help but think he is beautiful in repose.  Even in the quiet of his mind, the thought speeds Magma's breath.

 

He's not close enough and the angle is all wrong; he can't determine whether Kinrou sleeps, or is simply basking in the comforting weight of the sky above, the rhythm of the surf, the intermittent dance of fireflies.

 

"What are you doing."

 

Startling, Magma's fists clench.  The question answers Magma's own, though Kinrou does not move as he speaks, doesn't turn to him.  A flash of heat warms Magma's cheeks, embarrassed to be caught staring, but Kinrou's voice softens.  "Either be on your way, or join me."

 

"Join you?" Magma scoffs, but there's no malice in it.  He approaches Kinrou, and the man still does not turn, doesn't even shift, just remains still, draped out along the grasses like a painting, shades of grey in the unwitting shape of Magma's desire.  "Join you for what?"  He lowers himself cross-legged to the ground and stares into the black, where the sea whooshes over the beach.

 

"Watching the stars," Kinrou murmurs.

 

"How did you know it was me, and not some villain determined to attack you while your defenses were down?"

 

A reasonable enough question, Magma thinks, and it does a tidy job of distracting him from the soft downturn of Kinrou's mouth and Magma's growing interest in learning its taste.  In self-preservation, Magma swivels his head once more to the sea.

 

"You are hardly stealthy," Kinrou replies, clearly amused.  "You sounded like an approaching boar."

 

"YOU!" Magma snarls, whipping around, but Kinrou's eyes are still up, face betraying nothing but an almost meditative quiet.  It's lovely.  Magma thinks he might be dying.  "Get bent," he mutters, focusing his attention on yanking blades of grass from the ground.  They're cool and damp in his fist, and as the silence stretches out, the repetitive action serves to soothe his fraying nerves.

 

Eventually, his thoughts begin to wander.  He would have never pegged Kinrou as the sort to do something as whimsical as stargazing.  The man is so RIGID.  Always facing forward.  Always fussing about duty and rules.  Magma lets his gaze drift back to Kinrou; those long limbs, his sturdy frame, the grasses that fan like a caress over the tendoned curve of his neck...  It occurs to Magma, taking in the dark reflection of the sky on Kinrou's glasses, that perhaps the man could not see the stars, before.

 

"If there were a rule," Kinrou breathes, little more than a whisper, and Magma swallows thickly when those eyes lock on his own.  "Do not kill, let's say."

 

Magma waits, certain there's more, and Kinrou sighs.  "And perhaps there is also a rule…  Protect the innocent.  Reasonable, wouldn't you say?  These rules?"

 

Something about Kinrou's tone is unsettling, so Magma offers a nod, not trusting his voice.

 

"So here are these two perfectly righteous rules, worthy of being upheld," Kinrou murmurs, his gaze once more overhead.  "Yet it is not so difficult to imagine a situation where they would directly conflict with one another.  We have SEEN such a situation with our own eyes.  Where protecting the innocent potentially requires killing another human being."

 

Grimacing, Magma shifts his weight, uncomfortable.  He has never been a man interested in circular reasoning.  "It's a useless thought," Magma grumbles at last, tossing his handful of grass toward the sea.  "You do what you must, rules or no."

 

The silence grows heavy, Magma refusing to turn, waiting for the admonishment he knows is coming.  A soft breath huffs from Kinrou's chest.  "You are right, of course," he whispers, and Magma's eyebrows jerk up.  "But can a priest be faulted for shaping himself around the strictures of his faith?"

 

Certain he's missing something, Magma looks back, hoping for a hint, Kinrou's fists now clenched tightly above his head.  "Should a tiger be blamed for hunting its prey?  You and I, we are men driven by our natures.  No lesser or greater than anyone else."  Their eyes meet, and Magma suddenly finds it hard to breathe.  "It is possible to think too much, I believe.  I believe I think too much."

 

Kinrou's gaze is heavy, laden with things Magma cannot grasp.  "You don't…"  Trailing off, Magma considers whether they are speaking of rules at all.  "There's nothing wrong with following rules," he eventually mutters.  An expression Magma has no hope of parsing floats across Kinrou's features, but the warmth of it lights an answering flicker in his gut.  He wants to tell Kinrou to lighten up, to not worry so much, but wouldn't that seem less like comfort, and more like a reprimand?

 

"How did you get your scar," he says instead, the words arriving and spilling from his subconscious without thought.  This time, there is no mistaking the way the corners of Kinrou's mouth curl up.  He is amused, and the realization lights crackles of sensation along Magma's skin.  It's shameful, in a way, to be so pleased to have brought such an expression to Kinrou's face, but Magma doubts Kinrou can see his goosebumps.  HIs secret is safe for now.

 

"It's stupid," Kinrou warns, but when Magma laughs and shrugs, he shakes his head and continues.  "When we were very young, my brother and I snuck out after dark to hunt turtles along the beach.  I should have known…  I could tell he was frightened.  Of the dark, of what creatures we might stumble across, of ghosts, I don't even know.  He was so young."

 

"He's still scared of everything," Magma chuckles, pulling a sigh from Kinrou's chest.  "Oh just say it, you know it's the truth."

 

Kinrou's gaze darts to his, his lips pressing together before he returns his attention to the stars.  "Anyhow," he gusts out, and Magma laughs harder.  "We'd barely made it past the grasses," Kinrou muses, gesturing to the greenery at his side, "and he had insisted on walking in front of me.  Probably some attempt to look brave, I still to this day do not know.  I stepped on a stick half-hidden in the sand, snapping it, and he screamed so loudly, I'm stunned the entire village didn't awaken.  He whirled around, this crazy look in his eye, and met me spear-first."

 

"WHAT?" Magma bellows, his guffaws shaking his chest.  "A stick?"

 

"A stick," Kinrou confirms, now openly smiling.  "Of course, I was not expecting my own little brother to come flying at me, wild and screeching and brandishing a weapon.  I knocked it to the side at the very last moment.  He almost took off my nose."

 

Bent over, laughter wracking his body, Magma does his best to speak.  "I cannot believe," he gasps, lifting a wide smile to Kinrou, "that your own BROTHER nearly scooped out your eyeball.  What an idiot!"

 

"He felt terrible," Kinrou insists, and when Magma shows no signs of letting up on the braying cackles, a huff of laughter leaves his throat, shoulders shrugging in the long grass.  "He trained without a single complaint for nearly two weeks, after that."

 

Nodding, wiping moisture from his eyes, Magma pulls in a deep breath, settling himself.  "How have I never heard this story before?"

 

Kinrou takes a moment to respond, the silence pulling Magma's attention back to him.  Kinrou is once again focused on the sky, reclining peacefully, their bodies so near Magma can feel the heat of Kinrou's thigh at his knee.  "I've never told anyone," Kinrou finally explains, and the words send an inexplicable cascade of sparks up Magma's spine.

 

Magma wants Kinrou's eyes on him again, wants more of that smile, that laugh…   He leans over, unthinking, until Kinrou's gaze is forced to his, until not much more than a handspan separates them.  "Why?" he murmurs, surprised at the softness of his own voice.  Surprised at the hand he's placed below Kinrou's arm, just a few blades of grass standing between their skin.  What is he doing?   He nearly laughs at himself.  He knows exactly what he's doing.  He simply cannot believe he's doing it.

 

"We were breaking the rules," Kinrou whispers, eyes wide.  When Magma says nothing, suddenly unable to recall even a scrap of their conversation, a breath shudders from Kinrou's nose.  "Magma.  I… can't see the stars with you in the way."

 

"Is that a no," Magma responds, his voice just as quiet.  Kinrou's lips part, and for an agonizing handful of seconds, neither of them breathe.

 

"It is not," Kinrou says at last.  Magma barely hears him, it comes out so softly.  Still, it's enough.

 

Kinrou's eyes are wide open, seemingly stunned, when Magma's slide shut, easing himself down to close the distance between them.  It's warm, and soft, but past that, it is nothing like Magma expected.  Though to be truthful, he has no idea what he was expecting.  He hasn't even allowed himself to think such things, relegating any desires of this nature to dreams, his subconscious filling in where his waking mind refuses to tread.

 

Kinrou's lips, smooth and dry beneath his own, move encouragingly against him, and Magma ignores the sudden tightness in his chest, lifting his other hand to cradle Kinrou's cheek.  A sigh eases from Kinrou's nose, fluttering over Magma's face.  "Is this okay?" Magma breathes into the corner of Kinrou's mouth.

 

A huff, perhaps a laugh, puffs into his ear.  When fingers push into his hair, Kinrou's hand gripping firmly at the back of his neck, Magma shivers.  It feels incredible, but Kinrou doesn't give him long to ruminate on it, tugging insistently until Magma slides their lips together once again.

 

They aren't so cautious, this time.  Magma has wanted this for god knows how long…  Hungry, demanding, he rocks himself into Kinrou's mouth.  Kinrou meets him with matching enthusiasm, a soft sound of pleasure vibrating in his throat when Magma's tongue finds his.

 

Kinrou feels like an open flame beneath him, forcing heat into all the small spaces between them.  Even where they do not touch, Kinrou is all Magma can feel, every nerve ending and hair and eager expanse of skin shuttling want— bright and sparking—to Magma's brain.  It takes him a moment to register the low, ravenous groan he's hearing is his own.

 

"Magma," Kinrou gasps, tearing himself from Magma's greedy, urgent mouth and tucking his face to Magma's neck.  "We can't do this here."

 

As if to bolster Kinrou's opinion, a sudden, happy burst of laughter drifts to them from the village.  Sighing, Magma eases his nose along the shell of Kinrou's ear, then drags himself upward.  "Fine," he forces out, hating how petulant he sounds, and lumbers from the ground, stretching his body.

 

"Hey."  Magma looks down to see a smile curling one corner of Kinrou's lips, his hand held out for Magma's help.  Snorting, Magma grabs on, hauling him up.  "I didn't say we had to stop," Kinrou tosses out, conversational, and brushes grass from his clothing.  He's trying to look casual, and he's terrible at it.  "I just said we couldn't continue here."

 

"No shit?" erupts from Magma's throat before he can stop it, and Kinrou giggles.   Blessed gods above, Magma is going to melt where he stands.

 

Or perhaps he might, but Kinrou is already taking off, and Magma will be damned if he'll get left behind.  "Thank you," Kinrou murmurs once Magma hustles to his side, and Magma watches him for a moment, hoping to discern what the gratitude is all about.  "For just doing it," Kinrou eventually clarifies, realizing Magma is staring.

 

"What?"

 

"I think too much," Kinrou whispers, much as he had earlier, and Magma's breath catches when Kinrou reaches out and squeezes his hand.  "I knew I could count on you to… not overthink."

 

Magma's brows furrow.  "Why does that actually sound like an insult."

 

Kinrou's response is the most lovely, musical laugh Magma has ever heard.  Speeding his pace, Kinrou doesn't even look back, leading them toward Kinrou's cottage.  It's staggering—damn near unbelievable—and Magma isn't certain he's ever been this happy in his life, almost skipping like a child to catch up.  They slip through the door, finding each other in the dark, and Magma vows to do everything in his power to hear that laugh again.