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Boundary Waters

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Sousuke keeps his eyes fixed on Haru’s slender legs ahead of him, leading them on the narrow path. With the canoe on his shoulders, the bow tipping forward with every step they take, the legs are the only part of him he can see, really; so he distracts himself from the discomfort of the boat and the heavy pack, from the oppressive heat, by letting his eyes lazily trace him up and down.

Worn pair of track pants, navy blue, tucked into bright red socks (to avoid poison ivy and getting mauled by mosquitos, horseflies, blackflies, ticks…). Hiking boots Sousuke insisted he wear; he still can see Haru in the sporting goods store, putting water sandals and water sandals only in their overflowing cart and getting his look of genuine surprise then offense when Sousuke laughed for about a minute straight. Was still laughing, shaking his head, when he stalked into the inventory room and tracked down a pair of men’s boots, lightweight, good support, size 7. Haru was still sulky even as Sousuke watched his feet disappear perfectly in, like he was fucking Prince Charming offering a glass hiking boot to Cinderella.

Sousuke thinks he could watch Haru walk all day. It isn’t anything dramatic or flashy. It’s just this – utterly practical grace. Tree trunk approaching diagonally across the path, the feet never even pause, just lift up and over like the tree isn’t even there – though there’s a quiet “Tree,” sent back over his shoulder to him, to be sure Sousuke doesn’t miss it with the boat and fall on his fool face. Sousuke knows it’s basic portaging courtesy but he appreciates it all the same. Past the trunk, the slim legs move along, surprisingly fast given their height difference and the two packs Haru’s carrying, one front, one back. He’s so little after all – he’s only about shoulder-height to Sousuke, which of course only reinforces (exacerbates) his feelings about his omega.

His mind wanders when he knows it shouldn’t, knows that he needs to keep it on track to be sure he doesn’t drift off and fall into a hole, or something. But it’s Haru’s legs, again; he blinks in the close dimness under the aluminum arch of the canoe, echoing with his soft panting breaths, and then he’s back, watching those same legs hurry in front of him into an abandoned house, up a creaking stairway. Those legs led them down a short hall, turned them into what was a kid’s bedroom – clothes scattered across the floor, toys. Slim legs taking them both to the little twin bed where he blinked and his view blew wide, he saw all of the smaller man as he pulled them both down, and he was the alpha for fuck’s sake, wasn’t he supposed to be the one doing the taking?

But then something kicked in, something new since the blast, something that got him testing the air around the little man’s nape, where he breathed in excitement, fear, anger, sex; everything he read splayed across his small face, practically just a smear in the heavy darkness of the child’s room, but punctuated by these eyes, these fucking giant eyes that shone up at him like they were a couple of cats in the jungle. The man was a scent-signature he’d never come across – he was bitter, and salty, and bracing, and Sousuke felt his cock thickening at the first inhale.

His alpha ways finally coming to him, running his hands down the legs that brought them there and back up, getting rid of the guy’s skinny jeans. His legs had been shaking; hands, too, as they moved restlessly on Sousuke’s forearms, biceps.

“Scared?” Sousuke remembers himself asking as he bumped his way between his legs, without much sympathy or softness in his voice, maybe a big shit-eating grin on his face.

“Why?” Instant return like he was fucking saving it up for him. Totally belied the shakes. Fucker had the balls to peer up at him looking innocent. “You haven’t given me any reason.”

“…oh really. Let’s fucking see about that, shall we?” he served back, but was smiling, one pawlike hand scooping around the back of his neck to possess his head, fold over and sink into his petite mouth, and it felt so good. God. So right.

Other hand slipping down, fingers surprised at the softness (almost silkiness) of his taint, but not waiting, sliding in and finding such wet, such heat, he was momentarily relieved – oh yeah, this guy wants it – and weirdly disappointed. So that’s why he was all over Sousuke … and apparently in this new world everything was explainable by mutant biology. Made everything that much easier. And colder.

But that didn’t stop him from pulling out his cock, pushing in ruthlessly, picking up a steady rhythm with the guy’s ankles on his broad shoulders … flexible, he gave him that. Flexible – and those shakes at the start? He was wrong, they weren’t shakes.

Haru’s whole body had been trembling, just the finest bit, but tucked up under him – folded around him – reaching up to him – the tiny trembles surrounded him and disoriented him, made him feel like he was fucking a damn powerline. He had no idea how long they had been when the knot finally released fully into the man under him, Sousuke groaning like someone had just pounded eight years of built-up tension out of his back, the little guy strangely quiet. Just … breathing quick, pretty-much drenched in the sweat they both shared (it was August, the room was a sauna), hair a filthy mess. And he gathered the guy up, sat up with him, kissed him – hard.

Sousuke remembers asking if he was with anyone, as they hunted side-by-side (in vain) through the cupboards in search of food. He’ll never forget the bitter look he got back, like Haru was convinced he was being made fun of in a way all-too familiar.

“Sousuke,” Haru’s saying, and Sousuke practically plows him off the path with the canoe, he’s so distracted, and mutters (“….fuck…”) to himself. He’s stopped in the middle of the path (those legs stock-still) so Sousuke gingerly tips the bow back to have a look, hands braced out against the gunnels in a deep stretch.

“What is it?” he asks, hushed on immediate instinct, eyes gone narrow as they hunt the pines up ahead for what might have tipped Haru off. “You want me to put the boat down and take a look?”

Tsk, no, you’re so cute when you’re chauvinistic,” his black-haired omega smirks up at him from under his dirty baseball hat. Sousuke has the immediate urge to knock the hat off him and kiss that smirk away, even in the midst of their unknown danger; and he frowns instead.

“I’m not fucking kidding around, Haru. What is it? Just because we haven’t run into anyone for weeks doesn’t mean we won’t now. These woods could be hiding anything.”

Haru comes up close, puts his hands up to take the bow so Sousuke can take a rest but he doesn’t budge, huffs in frustration. “What are you afraid of? What could possibly be out here? It’s like you said, we haven’t run into anyone for weeks! And even that was those two sweet guys – seriously, were you threatened by a bonded pair like that?” He pauses, like he’s weighing whether or not to add the last bit. “We could’ve joined up with them!”

Sousuke’s voice drops an octave without intending to. “That couple was NOT the norm out here. It’s anarchy now and honey, you’re gonna look mighty fine to anyone looking to score himself an omega.”

“Ohmygod.” One word, like a teenage girl; but his face is dead-calm, angry. “I’m gonna pretend you didn’t just have yourself a little alpha fantasy at my expense, and I’m gonna go head over here –” He points with his middle finger and Sousuke starts scoffing reflexively – but then he sees –

to this lake through the trees. See ya.” And he turns neatly and marches away, like a little Mutant Ninja Turtle with those packs, but it isn’t funny –

And there IS a lake through the trees.

Sousuke’s hurrying after him so fast he almost rams him again, and they’re spilling out onto a shore, and it’s a modest thing – more of a pond really than a true lake. Sousuke’s heart sinks at the sight; he knows what this means, that they won’t be able to stay, and he can tell by Haru’s look of bone-deep dismay that he’s right. But of course his omega has to be sure.

Haru doesn’t take long to strip, and Sousuke waits in the shallow water sitting in the stern, their stuff stacked neatly inside, watching him run then shallow-dive with his usual offhand grace under the murky water. Then it’s still, and he tells himself nothing bad can happen; if anyone knows their way in the water, it’s Haru, and everything will be fine. He clamps down on the little voice insisting things are different now – who knows what could be under the water, to pull him down, who knows if the water itself is even safe anymore after the blast, if the fish are suspect?

When Haru finally pops up, like some scrawny merman in jammers, Sousuke’s meeting him thigh-deep and grabbing him tight. “Jesus, Sousuke!” he gasps as he gets the air squeezed out of him. “What the hell!”

“This was a fucking terrible idea.” Sousuke lets him go and backs up, shivering suddenly in the breeze that hits his damp hiking gear.

“Well, yeah, sorta. Lake’s dead. We can’t stay.” The look on Haru’s face is almost like a doctor telling the family the patient didn’t make it; just this terrible mixture of misplaced responsibility and crushing disappointment, badly held together by a stoic mask. An “everything’s gonna be fine” look Sousuke knows perfectly ‘cause he has it down pat, too. But it’s NOT gonna be fine. The lake’s dead. Which means they can’t refill their water, either, which is running dangerously low. Two guys, working hard, bushwhacking through old hiking trails in June; they’re going to need all the water they can get, and they just learned they can’t get it here.

Part of him is tempted to question Haru’s judgment and just break out the tent anyway, out of exhaustion as much as anything else; but the part that knows better heads back to the boat, gets everything squared away for them to move on. Because he knows Haru, as well as he knows himself. And when it comes to the water, there’s no point second-guessing him.

*

Sousuke doesn’t know what wakes him up. Maybe it’s the sudden drop in the wind, that’s been inhaling and exhaling almost like breath around their tent since sundown. Maybe it’s some sixth sense that clues him into the lack of same from Haru. His eyes flutter open to see the side of the tent, no Haru tucked against him in his usual spot, curled in a loose ball.

His heart slams into his chest as he rocks up, doesn’t bother pulling on a shirt, fumbles with the zipper and shoves himself out.

Haru’s a few meters down the dry creekbed from the tent, hugging his knees and gazing up at the sky. Despite the comfortable temperature of the night he’s commandeered one of Sousuke’s flannels, and he looks like a little boy playing dress-up in his dad’s clothes, just his fingertips peeking out the cuffs. Sousuke feels he might faint with relief but ambles casually over, makes a little show of brushing the grass off before he parks his boxer-clad-ass down. He gets a little smile and is satisfied.

They both peer up, and Sousuke thinks it’s funny that all those stars seem almost … threatening. Especially for a guy like him, used to the light-pollution of Tokyo then the clouds and haze after the shock, he’s used to looking up and seeing nothing. Now, there’s almost too much up there, with unknown wants of him, and he just wants to laugh at the irony. ‘Cause aren’t stars supposed to be all romantic, or some shit?

Sousuke doesn’t know romance.

“You OK?” Haru’s asking him – asking – him – despite Haru being the one pulling the disappearing act out of the tent. For some reason Sousuke lets him, keeps looking up at those alien stars.

“Did you have anybody before? I mean – not since we all were changed. Before then? When things were more-or-less normal?”

Haru’s looking hard at him like they’ve lost all that time and he’s trying to figure out if he’s being made fun of again, then laughing. It’s a funnily-dry sound for a dude who loves water so much but it’s real, and big enough Haru has little tears in the corners of his eyes when he can finally talk again. “Oh, Sousuke. God, I thought you knew me by now.” He leans over, puts his messy head still damp from the lake on Sousuke’s bare shoulder, and he shivers lightly at the softness. “Hey, does my dog count?”

“Why not?” Sousuke barrels on. He isn’t sure why they haven’t talked about this before, and it’s strangely troubling to him. This is important information he really should know about his omega … about this man, who’s along for his ride, and why the hell doesn’t he know this? Why wouldn’t someone want Haru?

“I’m not a very nice person, Sousuke. Duh.” He turns his head, lightly bites just at the top of Sousuke’s biceps tendon where his boniness becomes tender, and he hisses.

“That never stopped anyone from banging me,” he retorts, and he’s unsure why he’s offering relationship advice years and worldwide-apocalypses out of date for someone who seems totally at peace with their lack of past hookups. He grabs Haru’s biting chin in one hand, cupping it, staring him down.

“I’m ‘appy for ‘ou,” Haru says through the squish of his cupping hand, and his big lake-blue eyes squint up at him, and Sousuke can’t take it anymore and kisses him.

Chapter Text

Sousuke sort of wants to kill Haru.

He knows that it’s five parts dehydration, five parts exhaustion, and probably another four parts just “their thing” together – their bitchy thing – but he’s glad neither of them are armed, because he could see this day going very badly (or worse anyway) if so.

Haru’s been singing the same damn song all day. Sousuke started off asking him to be quiet. Then he switched over to telling him to shut up. When that failed he resorted to threats of physical (or various other kinds of) violence, which are basically empty with this 36-kilo hunk of metal on his head – and Haru knows it. Knows it, and even kinda revels in it, he thinks – though he knows Haru doesn’t really mean to push his buttons, knows Haru’s just as dry and tired and scared as he is. Probably more. And this is just the delightful way he shows it.

“…When I wake up, well I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next to you,” Haru’s sing-songing loudly in this terrible phonetic-English Scottish-brogue, just awful, so his “you” ends up sounding like the female farm animal. Haru apparently doesn’t mind. Haru is in fact braying on. “When I go out, yeah I know I'm gonna be – I'm gonna be the man who goes along with YOU…” – and he spins on the track, pointing both fingers at Sousuke like a terrible nightclub singer, and Sousuke suddenly can’t help it, ragged laughter falling out of his mouth. It both sounds and feels a little unhinged but is definitely an improvement over the desire to stick Haru in a bag in the nearest body of water.

If only they could FIND a body of water.

“Your Scottish accent is crap, Haru,” he tells him, foot wavering on a loose rock as they head up a punishing incline. He pauses to get his racing heart under control. “You try that in Glasgow, Aberdeen, someplace, you’d get the shit kicked out of you.”

Haru’s moved onto the chorus like Sousuke hasn’t said a thing, and he’s even come up with a little dance to go with this bit – as he way-too-gaily sings “But I would walk five hundred miles – And I would walk five hundred more! Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door!” he’s sort of doing a half-march, half-salsa, backwards. With his two giant packs on. Up the incline. And then despite himself Sousuke gets it, sees the pathetic and strangely touching job Haru’s doing to try to cheer him up, try to keep him going on this trying, terrible, scary day. And he secretly appreciates it … very much.

“Okay, Haru,” he tries a new tactic, tipping the boat forward so he’s sure Haru can’t see him smiling. “You know what I’m gonna do to you next time we take a break?”

“Find your deodorant, learn some fucking manners and reconsider your life choices?” Haru fires back (a little nonsensically).

“Nope, you little rodent. I’m gonna get you down on the ground …” he pauses as he finds himself drifting into the pleasant haze of an actual fantasy. “Not even gonna bother getting any of those clothes off. Nice as that would be, waste of time.”

“Pig.” Haru’s a little out of breath – a rarity – as the slope really starts to increase. Sousuke’s so immersed in the visual he’s started to paint, he hardly noticed.

“I’m gonna get you on all fours, take you from behind. Go so slow to start you’ll be begging me for more. Wipe that song right outta your head.”

Haru’s laughing at him, wheezy, totally out of breath now, and he is too, as they struggle pathetically up the hill. By the time the path levels out again, there are giant purple-black flowers blooming and dying across his vision and Haru’s gasping too, and he doesn’t so much put the canoe down as it goes clattering into the rocks on its own. He follows, crumpling into the long grass on the side of the path and feeling miles away … and then Haru’s there, replacing the view of the distant trees with his dirty face, creased with concern. His omega’s searching Sousuke’s face so intently he feels transparent, ducking his head down to Sousuke’s chest in a way totally confusing until Sousuke puts together that Haru’s listening for his heartbeat. He just lies there, allowing himself to be okay with the feeling of weightlessness and helplessness, with the comfort of Haru’s head, Haru’s hands holding his shoulder and side.

He sits back up, giant eyes searching his. Looking at my pupils, he thinks. “Did you hit your head,” Haru’s asking him so seriously, and he’s relieved that Haru’s voice sounds whole, present, real, not ghostly or far-out like the forest-sounds were even a few minutes back.

He wishes he could sit up too but even the thought sort of makes him sick. “No, just – got a little faint on the hill,” he answers, and he’s alarmed at his voice – God, it’s as gravelly as the path. They’re dying. “I’m OK. Really.”

He watches Haru’s face, the transition from concern to anger to grim determination – and he knows Haru’s face better than anyone’s, has been using it as a barometer of the weather all these days almost. Knows that his look now – set brows, flat sheen on his lake-blue eyes, mouth a take-no-prisoners line – means he’s going to do something stupid, probably dangerous, and God help Sousuke if he tries to stop him, even as his alpha.

Haru’s standing, opening one of the packs and getting out his sleeping bag, shaking it out of its tight roll, coming back to Sousuke. He’s so gentle as he carefully fits it under his head and shoulders and Sousuke finds himself helplessly relaxing into the softness.

“Wait here. You have to rest for a little bit or you’re going down again. I’m gonna see if we’re anywhere near water.” His eyes do this weird shimmer as he pulls back from Sousuke, walks away, scanning the area – and then seems to spot what he was looking for and strides off, lost to sight.

“Haru!” comes ripping from his dry throat, feeling like it’s tearing him up someplace inside. His head starts to pound. He struggles up onto his elbows, and his vision grays-out; when it’s back, he sweeps the scene, but all there is before him is a lonely stretch of path, finally level after all that climbing. Pines, so close on either side it’s a little eerie, though the day itself is sunny and bright. Quiet … so quiet. He can’t hear any sign of the omega.

He flips to one side, struggles awkwardly to his feet … waits with his hands on his knees until the world stops disappearing again. When he’s reasonably sure he won’t fall over, he stands back up, tries again. “Haru!!” Still no response. But – this time, he’s sure there’s a rustling, a distant breaking and falling, too big to be a squirrel or chipmunk.

He staggers off in the direction of the mystery sounds, mind pulsing Haru Haru Haru in time with the sick thud in his head,finding himself at the foot of a giant pine so big he wouldn’t be able to get his arms around it. He was right – little twigs come shaking down the trunk as he stands, and he shoots a look up to see –

Far, far above –

Haru, climbing the thing like a fucking monkey, so high he’s just the tiniest dots of red as his hiking socks climb higher.

Haruuu!!” he screams without a second thought, images of Haru’s foot slipping or a branch giving way thundering into his mind, Haru cartwheeling down (still oddly graceful) and pinballing through the branches until he crashes back to earth right in front of him. Haru, neck twisted off to the side, eyes glazed, pinecone fragments in his black hair, blood too-red around his lips –

“Get down here NOW!!” he screams up the trunk, grabbing and holding the bark like it will somehow help calm him down. The tiny-Haru has stopped moving, is waiting for something, doing something, and there’s no answer. Just silence, as the moments stretch out and the breeze picks up and the tree sways.

“I mean it, Haru, NOW!” He hates the reedy edge in his voice, the weakness. This is bad, really bad – and then he hears it, small, drifting down to him like a leaf: “I see it! We got it!” And after a long time, an eon, a fucking eternity, the tiny figure starts to move again, this time coming down.

Sousuke almost turns from the tree to throw up, in mingled relief and just-plain-being-done, but that would mean letting go of the bark, taking his eyes off the body that’s slowly getting bigger as it picks a careful but way-too-fast way down to him.

Haru doesn’t even get a chance to take a step when he touches back to ground. Sousuke grabs him, marches him away from right under the pine where the roots twist up from the soil. Spins him to face him and squeezes into his shoulders, is distantly alarmed at how bony they feel under his fingers.

“You fucking disobeyed me,” he says, low, his voice shaking so much from the relief and anger he can hardly recognize it as his own. Haru’s face is open – the excitement over whatever he found slapped away by surprise, fear, maybe guilt, and he’s instantly sorry, but he can’t help but keep on.

Haru doesn’t even try to open his mouth to defend his actions, to share his good news – and that’s the part that hurts most and Sousuke knows is necessary.

I know what’s best for you, for us. You could’ve fucking died. Don’t ever –” He gives Haru a vicious shake. “–fucking–” Another shake. “–do that again, Haru.” And he gets a thrill of triumph, of correctness, when Haru’s eyes flicker down, properly submitting; a thrill that transmits directly to his cock, even in the fear and the emotions and the heat and uncertainty of the day – or maybe because of them.

He pushes Haru roughly to his knees in the grass, and Haru flicks a look up not of confusion, but one of … seeking confirmation.

“Do it. Pull me out, suck me,” he says, not caring how ill they both are or how badly they need to move on, to find their next camp – just filled with the need to teach Haru his lesson.

Haru doesn’t waste time. His little hands are quick, undoing Sousuke’s fabric belt, pulling the zipper down on his nylon hiking pants. Touching him with such … finesse, God Haru knows just how to put his little hands on him, freeing his already-half-hardness and settling before him to get to work. Sousuke doesn’t even watch; he knows Haru by touch, knows where he’ll be when, knows if he threads his fingers into Haru’s hair and rests his thumbs along his temples, he’s in total control if he wants to be. He can hold him tight, keep him still as he fucks into Haru’s close wet heat, and Haru will of course allow him; but today he doesn’t want that. He wants to keep a feather-touch on his omega, let him be in charge as he twists his head and draws just the slightest edges of his sharp teeth along the underside of his shaft and teases his balls with one strong hand, pets his base with the other. He hears himself crooning just the littlest bit, his omega’s name, “…Haru…” as he fixes his eyes on the feathered edge of the distant treetops, as the swirling heat builds and takes over, as he comes, hard, into his mouth.

He’s back in reality, hugging Haru’s head to himself, panting harshly. He feels Haru’s arms wrapped around his thighs as his omega hugs him back, his mussed head turned awkwardly to the side against his hip. Sousuke lets him go and sinks down on his knees in front of him, takes him into his arms. Properly this time.

“…do you know why I did what I did?” he asks Haru, cradling his sweaty head under his chin. He thinks he feels a little nod but wants to actually talk about this. You know, like human beings.

“I get it,” he says finally, into Sousuke’s chest. “I get your … thing about me, I really do. No one wants to be alone out here. It makes perfect sense.” Haru pushes off and glares up, but it’s a tired look, and fond, too. “Now, do you get why I did what I did? What I found?”

“If you would fucking tell me these things instead of going all Yoda, maybe I would!” Sousuke barks back. He doesn’t touch that first part. That yes, being alone out here would be worse than death, that’s part of why he’s so protective of him. The other part, though … the other part, that it’s because he’s Haru …

“Okay. I’ll make it easy on you. You know what I saw from up there?” Haru’s eyes are absolutely fucking luminous, they make the crystalline June sky look cheap, and Sousuke’s completely and utterly drawn into his spell.

“Tell me.”

Haru reaches up, grabs both of his dusty cheeks. “A lake. A GOOD one this time. Big, deep, rocky cliffs. Close. We’re practically on top of it.”

Sousuke just blinks down at him. “Shut up. You’re a terrible fucking liar, Nanase.”

Haru instantly gets “his” pout, and Sousuke knows they’re OK, it’s true. “Fuck you, Yamazaki – who’s the one with the mystical magical water connection, here? You? I don’t think so.” Now he’s smiling, and to say it lights up his face is a terrible understatement. “I really think we’re gonna be OK.”

Sousuke sweeps down, gives him a deep and totally clumsy kiss, pushes him off hard enough to make them both reel a little. “Well, shit, what are we sitting here for?? Let’s go!”

*

They see it when the little plateau they’ve been hurrying along crests. Even through the trees, it looks as lovely as Haru promised. Haru pauses, turns to looks back over his shoulder at Sousuke. Says nothing, but doesn’t have to; the look they share is plenty.

Oh my God. We’re gonna be OK.

They double-time down a steep scrum, as the path twists down and breaks up, but Haru isn’t taking it easy, and neither does Sousuke. They’re hurling themselves to the glimmer through the trees like it’s a swimming pool on a … on a hot June day, and before they know it they’re on the shore.

It’s perfect. A perfect circle, shimmering lazily as it catches the low cross-light now that it’s already getting towards late-afternoon; they couldn’t have found it any sooner, really, and the thought stabs through Sousuke’s mind that Haru was right to take that risk in the tree. That if he hadn’t, they’d maybe still be back there, taking a wrong branch of the path, maybe he’d still be sacked-out in the sleeping bag as Haru sat at his side not able to do a damn thing for him. Haru did what Haru was sort of born to do back there, and he pulled alpha on him for it.

Then he pulls his chin up, knowing he needs to be in charge here. If he doesn’t act as alpha out here, they’ll fall into chaos and they’ll both die. He’s doing it for the both of them, even if it may feel unnatural or cruel or brutal. It’s the way things have to be.

Haru’s already got both packs down and his sweat-soaked t-shirt off, is undoing his track pants. He puts a hand on Haru’s to stop him.

“We gotta find a spot to camp first. You know that, Haru. You’ll have all the time to swim and we can get water and stuff once we’ve done that.”

Slowly, Haru’s hands wilt down, and the sight is so immensely relieving he feels like someone’s given him a shot of pure adrenaline, straight to the heart. Haru’s listening to him. He presses it. “Shelter first, right?”

Haru’s eyes are fixed low, at the water. But he says “Shelter first,” back, almost like they’ve practiced it. They may have … Sousuke can’t remember. They’ve been doing this so long.

Sousuke’s so moved by the look of loss on Haru’s face, even as well as his omega did to put it away, he takes care of the two packs for him, somehow reaching down to find the strength to get everything stowed yet again, position the boat for Haru to get in. He watches idly as Haru crawls to the bow, somehow still graceful without trying as thoroughly done as he is, and settle in, grab his paddle. Sousuke shoves off with his own paddle then they’re drifting silently into the lovely lake, their lake.

Perfectly circular, and ringed with a cup of granite cliffs facing them – high enough to give them a great advantage, a commanding view of anything that may be coming – yet low enough to let them go back and forth for water, pick a path up to carry all their gear. Just … perfect. Facing the sunset to let them keep the warmth of the late-day, so they won’t be too cold at night, but not incinerate in midday. Surrounded by those giant pines that’ll give them ample cover and shelter, places to hang their sad and dwindling food stores from whatever predators may still be out there – though the odds of that being human versus bear get bigger and bigger every day.

Haru flicks back to him as they drift closer to the far side, Sousuke taking them in with easy strokes. “Sousuke. This is it,” he says, and his voice is so low, and it has that tremble in it Sousuke remembers from the first night they met.

“Yeah,” he just says, but that’s all he needs to say.

Sousuke pulls them into a shallow spot against the rock wall where the granite dips out, a perfect little landing pool, with a hemlock tree even there for them to tie-off to. They haven’t even stopped and Haru’s leaping out, onto the tree, roping them securely. He’s got the biggest pack on before Sousuke can tell him to stop and he’s got that look again – the grim-determination – but he’s bouncing with energy.

“Stay in the boat,” he tells Sousuke. “I’ll make sure it’s clear and let you know if we’re OK to unload.” And he’s gone, finding and picking up an overgrown path to the top, and Sousuke’s so beside himself at their sudden good luck he forgets to be worried. Then he’s out of sight, and it’s quiet, so quiet; the only sounds the gentle sigh of the late afternoon breeze through the tops of the pines, ruffling the water, bumping the boat the tiniest-bit against the smooth granite bottom. He wants – so badly – to take his hiking boots off, to cool his aching fucking feet in the cold water, but he’s patient, and he waits…

…and finally, finally, drifts down: “We’re good! C’mon up!”

Sousuke doesn’t need to hear it twice. He somehow – fucking idiotically – grabs the other two packs at once, staggers up the path that Haru found. It turns out to be much sounder and more-level than it looks – sort of camouflaged against anyone out on the lake, and he appreciates the spot even more. Quickly, his head pops above the edge of the cliff –

And Haru’s standing there, beaming, arms open wide, like he’s saying “You SEE what a provider I can be?” Standing in the middle of a little grassy clear spot ringed by pines, like he’s fucking king of this brave new world, standing just in his filthy track pants and the hiking boots he didn’t even want, and Sousuke –

Sousuke – fucking – loves him.

He sets his feet in the grass, dumps the two packs, sort of saunters over to Haru and goddamn it feels good … almost normal again. Haru gets his arms around him when he pulls up close.

“Eh … not too bad, Nanase. Western exposure, though – I could’ve done a shit-ton better, you know. You gotta let me do this next – hey!!” And he’s falling into the grass as Haru shoves him mercilessly, looking like he just might kill and eat him in retribution, and his omega lands neatly on his chest. Haru’s so light he didn’t even knock the wind out of him, which worries him. They have to rest. Rest and replenish.

“You – you fucker,” he hisses, finding where Sousuke’s hands landed in their fall and pulling both up next to his head, holding them down with strength that never fails to surprise Sousuke. “Ungrateful shit.” He dips his head down, moves his lips faintly against Sousuke’s, their texture rough – they’re both so thirsty. He strains up, fast, but Haru’s faster and pulls away like a threatened animal. “Who’s the real provider here?” His chaotic bedhead-hair tucks under and Sousuke’s senses all focus-in on Haru’s lips, swiftly sucking and nibbling at his neck like some crazed vampire-boy. Sousuke’s moaning despite himself.

“Now, now, Haru … no time for arguments…” he finally says, reproachfully, when he’s able to get a hold of himself, and he braces against the ground behind him to suddenly rock forward – up – and over, and he’s down, pinning Haru into the sweet-smelling grass, and his hair splays around his face, and his eyes glint up, and Sousuke loves him.

They’re kissing, suddenly and quickly, Sousuke letting Haru’s wrists go and Haru’s fingers tickling their way under his dirty shirt, tickling his sides. He laughs breathlessly into Haru’s mouth and Haru pokes him, tells him to quit it, so he sits up and gets rid of his nasty shirt altogether.

Haru’s sitting up, running his slender palms over his chest and leaning in close to softly suck a nipple; he gazes down, at how Haru’s eyes are closed so peacefully as he sucks, like a child, and he practically feels stabbed by tenderness. When Haru pulls off to breathe, Sousuke pulls him up, holds the back of his head, tilts him back as he just pushes into his mouth, works it open with his tongue. Sucks at Haru’s tongue, here’s the water they were looking for all day, right here all along. He feels fed by the littlest whimpers sneaking out of Haru’s mouth, by the way Haru’s beautiful strong hands can never be still – they’re clutching at his bare, slick back; they’re sliding up his neck into his crazy-messy hair; they’re scrabbling down to find his hands, holding on.

They break apart, Haru’s breathing quick, Sousuke panting like a dog. Haru beats him to speaking, the cheeky fuck. “Running out of light, huh. We – we’ll have to be fast.”

“Damn right,” he rumbles, and he finds Haru’s waistband and has his track pants down – somehow working them around his boots – faster than he thinks he’s ever disrobed anyone, including himself. Haru’s ridiculously beautiful, even with his various tan lines and bug bites and cuts and bruises and general signs of hard living; kneeling there, dirty and sweaty, in his hiking boots and nothing else, cock flushed and hard against his lean stomach, his omega is perfect.

And Sousuke wants him.

“Get in my lap,” he husks, like he’s lost every last drop of moisture in his system, and Haru – as always – obliges him, crawling forward like some shy cat, for the second time today drawing his hard cock from his pants … but this time it feels so, so different. Crawls the rest to the way to him, peeking at him from lowered lashes, cheeks flushed pink. Fits a lean thigh on either side of him – leans up – and positions Sousuke’s hard tip against himself. They both sigh as he sits into Sousuke, hurried, the delicious rich heat feeling new like it does every damn time. He wraps his arms tightly around his omega when he’s fully inside, and just holds him there, feeling those trembles that are so Haru and tucking his face into Haru’s sweaty shoulder.

“…ahhh, Haru,” he can’t help saying, gusting out of him like a sigh, “God, I could stay like this forever…”

Haru’s Adam’s apple’s bobbing against his shoulder. “Um. You could, maybe…”

Sousuke laughs, but takes pity and starts to move, slowly thrusting up and loosening his hold on Haru, so he can move too. “I know, I’m really too big, aren’t I. It’s just not fair, but … what can I do?”

“Pig,” Haru whispers again, rocking with him now in weirdly effortless agreement – up, down, slip-out, plunge-in, and Haru’s in the driver’s seat, though Sousuke’s setting the pace, casually speeding them up. He hesitantly reaches a hand down, pauses before he can even touch himself, like he’s asking permission of Sousuke.

“Let me,” he says, sliding a gentle hand around Haru’s length, and God, Haru’s hot, and wet, it’s almost like he’s been waiting for this all day, and maybe that’s true – he didn’t get to get off under that pine tree, after all.

By some mutual agreement they’ve picked up their tempo together, Haru’s hips undulating up to make a little snap at the top of the cycle before falling to start all over again, Sousuke driving up into him almost frantically, Haru fucking himself into Sousuke’s hand. As they get close – no words spoken, just competing breaths – they hang their heads over each other’s shoulders, chests glued together with sweat, Haru’s arms tight around Sousuke’s waist.

“Ahhh!” spills from Haru, finally, and Sousuke’s hand, abdomen are bathed in wet heat; and Sousuke shifts to grab Haru’s hips firmly, fuck into him fiercely, panting. Haru feels totally boneless against him, soft, almost featherlight, though he still keeps his tight hold around Sousuke –

And Sousuke abandons Haru’s hips to crush his chest to him –

“–Haru!” he gasps, and he’s shooting into his omega, again and again.

They sit in the crushed grass, pretzled-all-up with each other, arms tight, breathing hard. Haru’s moved his head down to his chest at some point, turned to one side and tucked-in close. Sousuke’s just staring across the lake … where, look at that, he’s being treated to the start of a truly lovely sunset, as the molten-orange sun flickers through the very top of the pines on the other side of their lake.

“We’re never leaving here,” he says, stupidly, gazing at the stupefyingly gorgeous sight.

“…mmm,” Haru tickles against his chest.

“What are the odds you could catch some fish for dinner tonight?” he asks suddenly, an image of lake trout peeling on a fire popping into his mind. He’s famished. Just, ready to eat anything. But fish would put the damn gold star on this unexpectedly awesome day.

“Is that all I am to you? A fucking fishing machine?” comes from his chest, but he can practically hear the smile in it, and knows Haru’s in as good a mood as he is, is as relieved as he is.

“Hmmm, pretty much. A fucking and a fishing machine. 2-in-1.”

Haru’s done with him then, shoving him away and pulling off, and he’s secretly sorry but knows they have plenty to do before they can sleep – and the sun’s already hauling ass out of here. He stalks off for his jammers and fishing gear, and Sousuke smirks and gets himself decent before turning to take care of the shelter.

*

They sprawl lazily, bellies stretched almost too-full of – yes! – the trout Haru’s somehow always able to coax onto a hook, along with some freeze-dried edamame, corn. Haru even pushed him away from the kitchen and told him to go do something useful, so he took care of setting up a tarp angled against the west, where storms would likely approach from … until he smelled something amazing and staggered back like a zombie.

“Is that – ?” he asked, disbelieving, getting a knowing smile from Haru as he somehow produced a little pan of brownies off their camp stove.

Fucking wizard.

So they lie near the edge of their cliff, propped luxuriously on their half-unrolled sleeping bags, almost-empty pan of brownies between them, half-empty water bottles nestled next to them in the grass. Just staring up at the infinite stars.

“…last brownie? Cook’s choice,” Sousuke says honestly. Haru deserves it. Haru earned it.

“Oh, no. All yours. I’m stuffed anyway,” he says sleepily, curling comfortably on his side into Sousuke.

Sousuke reluctantly pries it out, chews slowly … and it’s fucking delicious. Chases it with a swallow of water so sweet, it makes Pocket Sweat taste like nothing. It’s this lake … no, this lake is most-definitely NOT dead.

“How does this lake water taste so damn good?” he asks without thinking, not expecting Haru will have the first clue. It’s just another of their countless new mysteries, that’s all.

“Rock-lake,” Haru fires back instantly, even as his voice is slowing, getting the trademark cloudiness that says sleep is close for him, ten minutes at most.

“Rock-lake,” Sousuke repeats stupidly.

“Yeah. Minerals leach into the water. Good minerals. Plus then it isn’t contaminated by the fallout that mud-lakes got, or sand-lakes.”

“Huh,” Sousuke says, thoughtfully. “That actually makes a lot of sense.”

Duh,” Haru replies, and now he’s just slurring. Sousuke ducks a look down, and in the darkness sees his little face slack with fatigue, eyes softly closed, mouth falling open to breathe slowly. He’s out.

Sousuke smiles, a little private smile reserved for himself, brushes hair away from Haru’s forehead so he can lay a little kiss there, so he won’t wake him up. Haru’s heavy breathing continues uninterrupted.

He gets up, gathers their remaining “heavily-scented” things including the decadent brownie pan and puts them in the “bear-bag,” swiftly raises it back into the trees with the ropes they set up earlier. He returns to the cliff-edge, gently lays his sleeping bag on top of his sleeping omega, then crouches down and gathers him up to his chest, sandwiched between two layers of sleeping bag. He peeks down, sees a messy black head up top, a couple of pigeon-toed hiking boots trailing out the other side. Snores drifting out.

Smiling, he heads for the tent.

Chapter Text

Sousuke wakes up on his own … slowly, lazily, naturally, no sudden sense of disorientation or falling or displacement. He just finds himself suddenly stretching his long, sore limbs out to the front and back of the tent, eyes still closed, loving the way his arms and legs slide frictionless against his down sleeping bag. Holds his stretch for one beat, two, three – groaning low at the way it makes him feel pretty much every inch of his abused spine … but enjoying the relief.

“Aaaach, you must be sore too, Haru,” he murmurs, not thinking, turning to his side and finally opening his eyes. He isn’t surprised to find Haru’s side of their little tent empty, sleeping bag pulled up neatly like he always does, almost compulsively, Haru’s slender little journal lying on top. Not surprised, and not alarmed.

It’s been a week since their arrival at the lake. A week of good weather, warm days, calm nights, clear skies as the moon has slowly started growing in the sky and bathing their new home in cool white light. Cool white light, pouring over Haru’s pale skin laid out on the sweet grass, catching in his unreal eyes as they stare up at him, unblinking, as he moves in him, deep, deep as the lake below them … or so it seems. It should feel uncomfortable to be as exposed as they are, naked and moving together on their little plateau, Haru crying out sharply when he comes, like he’s being hurt, throwing his head back and hanging limply from his arms around Sousuke’s straining neck. Sousuke following fast after him – so fast he’s caught by surprise, falling down into Haru with the sound of Haru’s end still in his ears.

That was last night. Sousuke curls on his side, quiet and comfortable in the down, steals a hand out to Haru’s journal and just lays a hand on it, briefly. He knows where Haru is, where Haru’s been every morning since they’ve arrived here.

He pushes up, yawning hugely, runs a hand through his messy hair that’s starting to get truly shaggy. Snags the zipper and pulls it open, and pokes out his head.

The aluminum travel Thermos is where he expects it, snugged up against the side of the tent right at the entrance. He smiles, puts his waiting flip-flops side by side and slides his giant feet in, awkwardly hauls himself out of the tent and leans with his hands against his low-back, groaning deliciously. Bending down, he grabs the Thermos and slowly walks to the cliff’s edge.

Haru’s down there, cutting a long clean line as he freestyles past their camp, about a third of the way out in the lake. Sousuke watches, following his form as he absently tests the mug and is pleased to find the instant coffee – black, like he’s always liked it – is still hot, somehow. He takes a long swallow, hand on one bare hip, naked except for the flip-flops.

Sousuke’s taken to being naked a lot this week … when the sun and bugs allow, usually early morning and long after dusk, or when he’s down in the lake. He’s following Haru’s lead in this; their first morning he woke up alone, wandered questioning to look at the lake, was met with the same sight below – and Haru was nude as he swam, nude as he coasted in to meet Sousuke at the little put-in, nude as he smiled, standing glistening with water like the fucking Birth of Venus, reached up with wet hands and worked his boxers down. But not to do anything to him; he just got Sousuke to step out of them, bemused, tossed the boxers up the path, and grabbed his hands. Walked backwards as he followed stupidly, like a zombie, finally rolling his eyes and ditching him, turning and diving back under, disappearing.

Sousuke did finally get his ass in that morning. It just took him a while to acclimate.

He gazes until Haru reaches the end of the little lane he’s seemingly blocked out in his mind (just at the edge of view from their campsite), disappears under for a moment, pops back up going the opposite way with the same ease like he was never going the first way. Like some sort of crazy magic trick. Sousuke smiles, again: it’s tempting to describe Haru in the water as some aquatic creature, a shark maybe, he’s fast enough; or probably more likely a manta ray for his uncanny fluidness. But really, there’s nothing to compare Haru to when he swims. There’s just Haru, communicating with the water in a way he’s never seen in a past-lifetime of coaching swimmers, and there are sort of no words for it.

He takes another deep draw off the coffee, then in another new routine they’ve quietly fallen into, carefully picks his way down the path – he knows it well by now but nothing is smart to do fast in flip-flops. At the put-in point the boat is nowhere to be seen, tucked away carefully behind a stand of juniper bushes a few-meters’ walk to the right. He nestles the Thermos securely against the hemlock tree – wouldn’t want to spill any of the morning brew Haru made for him – and adds his flip-flops. Then he stands on the edge, where the water suddenly drops deeply off.

It’s freezing in the morning. He knows it’s the only way to get in. He still has to talk himself into it.

Finally, Sousuke nods once, snaps his arms up and dives down –

And it’s COLD, so fucking cold his eyeballs are being invaded by a stabby army as he keeps his eyes glued open, sweeping through the shocking clarity of the midnight-blue. It feels good, so damn good, powering ahead with huge strokes of his giant arms, breaststroke kicks shooting him forward. Fingers of morning sunlight lick down from behind him, almost like they’re pointing the way to Haru, showing him which direction to go. A few meters down is total black, nothingness, and he gets a stab of superstitious fear adding extra motivation to his muscles though he’s so damn cold it may just be that. When the pounding in his chest is too much to take he shoots up and busts into the air, gasping.

“GodDAMN that’s COLD!” he hisses – it’s stupid, it’s obvious, he’s Captain Obvious, but he can’t help it. Another ritual. So is the little figure – pretty close to where he popped up, he’s proud to note – lazily breaststroking over to him, head up, morning sun catching his face so he has a front-row seat to the one-raised-brow and the angular little smirk and the sharpness overall. His total smart-ass face, basically.

“Hmm. Well, sir, ya know it might be your choice of bathing costume,” Haru says in another truly terrible accent – English, this time, which doesn’t go at all with the Japanese they’re speaking and leaves Sousuke still-shaking in the cold and treading as hard as he can to stave off hypothermia and helplessly giggling at him. He’s drawing in, close to Sousuke now, sliding up to drape his arms around his neck with his legs whirling silently under the water while somehow avoiding Sousuke’s (another magic trick). His arms are so warm, they’re fucking hot, from his swim; his face relaxing into a picture of calm, no obvious expression, no smile, but Sousuke knows that’s his content-face. His post-swim face. His happy face.

Sousuke’s feeling confident enough in his ability to avoid drowning that he drops his arms, lets them drift around Haru’s narrow waist. Marvels for a second in sheer dumb wonder at the feel of his obliques, his glutes tensing and relaxing under his hands, and Haru does it so smoothly – so innately – there’s no pause between the two states. It’s just this gentle and so-subtle dance beneath his fingers.

And he notices that as he’s been on his little mental safari Haru’s watching him, so closely, tracing his big eyes over his face. The morning sun catches in his right iris and picks out a whole crayon-box in the blue row, cornflower and sky and navy. Funny, Haru looks just as captivated with his face as Sousuke is with his; and he wonders, suddenly, what Haru’s thinking.

“Good swim?” he asks, striving to keep his voice conversational, not to pant. Haru leans forward, turns his head to the side and rests his cheek on his shoulder, and Sousuke swiftly kisses the top of his head.

“This lake is so alive,” Haru says, and his voice is soft, wondering. “It’s like when you swim you can push yourself just a few more laps more, then a few more after that, and you aren’t even tired. Like the water helps you. Haven’t you felt that too?” All that talking and he isn’t the least bit out of breath; Sousuke doesn’t know whether to be in awe or jealous.

“Sorry, baby. You’re the one with the magic here,” he says, smiling, and he slides one hand up Haru’s back, lifts his chin, ducks down and kisses him gently. Haru’s eyes close and he sighs against Sousuke … and in the cold between them, his cock twitches … and he suddenly forgets to kick.

He’s down instantly and doesn’t have time to pop up or even be surprised at the trip back to the freezer – because Haru’s yanking him up by his armpits and laughing in his face.

“Forget how to swim? Got a little third-leg handicap?” And Haru’s just flat-out grinning, his eyes are dancing, and oh yeah, someone’s gonna pay.

“Oh, I’LL make you forget how to swim, Crazy-ass Waterboy,” he snarls back through what he hopes is a dangerous smile, and he strikes like a snake and dunks Haru. And as he goes down he’s totally fucking filled with childish glee – he got him, he got Mr. Nymph himself, who’s so special now?

He might have Haru down just the wrong side of too-long, caught up in the uncomplicated thrill of roughhousing - nothing they do gets to be uncomplicated anymore - but sharp nails dig into his wrists and he relents. Haru’s up instantly, spluttering and absolutely fucking furious at him, and spits out “You mangy bastard –” before launching himself at him.

It’s really, really lucky they both don’t drown.

*

Haru’s got him down on his back in the grass. They made it over to their tent – Sousuke intending to get some clothes on, actually, you know, start doing stuff – when Haru basically tackled him from behind, pulled him to the ground with an embarrassing lack of effort. He was surprised, mostly – he knew Haru was pissed, he didn’t guess he was this pissed. He somehow wrestled Sousuke over to his back with his small hands, and his eyes were crackling, practically electrocuting him with the look he was stabbing him with. Sousuke was shocked by that point, doing the unforgivable and letting Haru pin his wrists out of curiosity as much as anything else.

“You're a dick to me in the water, I … I fucking make you pay. The only way I can,” he growled, and maybe it was his fury, or maybe his desperation, or maybe just something as uncomplicated as their total fucking nudity putting Haru on full and ridiculously-erotic display as he crouched on Sousuke’s stomach, leaned over him like some kind of insane sexual vampire.

So Sousuke threw some more wood on Haru’s fire, scoffed up “Wonder what that might be; you gonna arm-wrestle me? Good luck with that, dear.

Then followed THE most epic and angry and over-the-top blowjob Sousuke’d ever had the pleasure or the pain (unclear which) to experience, Haru dancing cagily everywhere but his dick for some untold length of time, caressing and nipping and sucking and leaving him shaking and swollen and toweringly frustrated.

“Get ON with it!” he finally roared, struggling up on his elbows and making eye-contact with two glimmering blue slits.

“Patience is a virtue,” Haru shot back, but that’s when he took Sousuke in, and he almost passed out or yelled Halleluiah … until he realized Haru’s subtle and delicious torture was just getting started. He had no idea how long his fucking omega worked him as teasingly as he could, no slow pull or little kitten-lick too much, and Sousuke eventually lost count of the number of times Haru brought him to the brink just to slam a hand around him and stop him.

When Sousuke couldn’t take any more of that, he’d shoved Haru’s head off. “Ride me. NOW,” he commanded, and this time Haru couldn’t deny him. Not when he used his alpha voice.

So Haru’s on him, around him, he’s fucking pulling out all his very considerable stops, and Sousuke’s losing his mind, basically. The fucker’s so demonically sly, he’s found himself a workaround even here; Sousuke gets close again and again, he tries his damnedest to keep it under wraps, even keeps a decent poker face, but somehow Haru knows, clamps ruthlessly around him until he subsides. He’s growling up at Haru and Haru’s smiling angelically down at him, pinning his wrists firmly again, circling his perfect little hips so finely, so gently, it’s like he’s giving a hula-dance lesson in a convent.

“No more games,” he finally grates out, and he means it.

He drags his feet in, plants them in the ground, and SPRINGS forward, snapping his wrists free and diving them over, stapling Haru’s hands down with his own. Haru lands hard and squints in pain for a moment as his teeth click shut, but just as fast he has his poker face back and has the nerve to look bored.

“You gonna teach me a lesson now?” he asks, trying to fake a yawn (and Sousuke spots a flash of red, where he must’ve bit his tongue in the flip-over and is bleeding). The sight does that wordless brainless thing to Sousuke, shoots his need to hunt and take-down right into his veins, sends the overwhelming brininess of Haru’s scent rocketing through him, turning his cock deep in Haru into something that could be used as a weapon.

If he isn’t careful.

“You ready to learn…?” he coos, and he pulls out, far out, shoves back. Haru jolts up in the grass; his eyes click open wide, he can’t tell for sure what’s inside – if there’s fear there. He doesn’t want Haru afraid of him. This is a silly tussle that’s gotten out of control and he doesn’t want to hurt him and he’d rather die than make his omega scared … but having Haru down, where he belongs, submitted though NOT submitting … well, some half-mad part of Sousuke knows this is where he feels at his absolute most alive.

And he’s pretty fucking sure he sees the same in Haru’s wide eyes, too.

“Mmmm, looks like you may be ready, so let’s do it,” he whispers, and he’s off, pulling out, slamming back – out, into him – again, again, again, they’re just two things now: action, reaction. Haru jerks forward with his violent thrusts and though Sousuke senses he’s dying to stay silent – that fucking pride again – he can’t hold back this little choked sound every time, and it only makes Sousuke harder, thicker, move faster and with more grim purpose. His hands stay pinned by Sousuke’s, knuckles whitening under Sousuke’s fierce grip.

Yet – Haru’s legs are up, cradled feverishly around him, and he dimly feels pointed toes crossed tightly around his ass, like Haru’s urging him in. Like Haru’s somehow not only accepting, he’s been trying to get Sousuke to do this all along … and it just took Sousuke this damn long to catch on, dense as he is.

“You minx, you little fucking tease,” he’s growling, unthinking, thoughts hazy and totally unimportant, Haru’s scent overwhelming, it’s fucking everywhere, and Haru’s tipping his working throat back for him –

And he doesn’t need another damn hint, diving in and sucking on, feeling his choked hurried gasps, tasting the vibrations of each one as he tongues Haru. As he pierces his soft skin, thrilling at the iron filling his mouth, at Haru’s “– ahh!!”

And he moves his lips to Haru’s, sloppy, kissing his blood over and into him –

“Hey there – nice morning for it!” comes a cheerful voice, and he snaps his head up –

To see a big, gangly guy at the head of their cliff trail, face wreathed in a big grin, midmorning sun shining on his cotton-candy-pink hair.

Chapter Text

Sousuke freezes inside Haru, the sight of the sudden interloper so surreal – so normal – and so totally unexpected right in their “house,” doing what they’re so blatantly and messily doing. An odd and disconnected thought shoots through his head – how long has this guy been watching us?

Haru’s staring intently up at him, blood smearing his lips, silent, wearing a face that is perfectly neutral but to Sousuke screams CAUTION and maybe even DANGER … it’s the unusual wideness of his eyes, almost all-pupil. The sight does something basic to him, activates his urge to protect, but he clamps it down stubbornly. He has to keep control of this situation and jumping up, grabbing this guy, wrestling him down would most-definitely NOT be in control. He sends his “all-is-well” face down to Haru to reassure him, defuse any possible trouble that could get started from his end.

“I am so sorry to intrude and catch you guys, well, occupied like this!” the guy is going on, still grinning his big grin, now heading comfortably over to where they’re still tangled in each other in the grass. He sounds about as sorry as Sousuke is graceful … but maybe that’s just the kind of guy he is. One of those “cheerful all the time” types who could juggle at his parents’ funeral. Sousuke ignores Haru’s now-narrowed eyes and pushes himself up to kneeling, with some effort. Haru springs up as soon as he’s off and stalks to the tent, shooting his narrowed-eye look back, and slips inside. “Oh, don’t let me scare you off!” the guy calls at the tent. He turns a mock sad-face at Sousuke. “Please tell your … little friend to come back! Especially when we were just about to get to know each other.”

Sousuke scoffs, tactically drawing his knees up to hide his rapidly-deflating cock, swiftly wiping his mouth with the back of his hand in case he still has Haru’s blood there. Yet he finds himself answering the stranger almost without thinking – maybe it’s his enthusiasm, that’s pouring off him in waves. “Yeah, well, I don’t tell him to do anything. Sorry.”

“Really! That’s not what it looked like to me,” the guy says like he and Sousuke are sharing a secret, raising his eyebrows. He has the most unusual eyes; they’re violet, and they sort of glimmer at him as he opens them wide, in a little “do-tell” gesture. Sousuke just stares back. After a few silent seconds the guy sighs theatrically … but always smiling, smiling.

“Well! I bet you’re wondering what the hell I’m doing here in your camp. So sorry again to bust in.” He glances behind Sousuke at the sound of nylon rustling and his face lights up, as Haru rejoins them, in a Metallica t-shirt and pair of track pants, mouth wiped clean. He comes to Sousuke’s side and gently drops a folded set of clothes in his lap.

“Go on in and change,” Haru tells him, quietly, looking down at him like he’s putting-off acknowledging the presence of the other guy as long as possible. His face is grim.

“Yeah! We’ll get acquainted. Go ahead, I won’t look at your assets,” the guy says cheerfully, winking cheekily at Sousuke as he slouches with his hands in the pockets of a battered pair of jeans.

The urge to protect grabs Sousuke again, and he stays put, shakes out the t-shirt, slides it on. Watches Haru and the guy locked in some kind of bizarre mini-standoff as he gets up to put his sweatpants on, Haru standing in front of him with arms crossed stonily on his chest; the guy openly looking Haru over and seeming delighted in what he sees.

“Well I – we – are so happy to see you guys here. Almost like we were all meant to meet!” He holds a hand out to Haru, Western-style. “Shigino Kisumi, a joy to meet you. Please call me Kisumi!” Haru looks down at the outstretched hand like it’s an alien creature for a long beat, looks coldly back up at him. Sousuke is suddenly, irrationally embarrassed at Haru’s rudeness; they’re a long way from the need for drawing-room etiquette, but his stomping all over the bare-basics of human hospitality is jarring up against the other guy’s friendliness. Against the chance for them to have a nice, normal interaction with someone else for once. The guy shrugs, his smile not wavering, and turns his hand to Sousuke. “And you are…?”

Sousuke shakes it. “Yamazaki Sousuke. This is my … traveling partner, Nanase Haruka.”

“’We’. Who’s ‘we’?” Haru’s interrupting, stare so frigid he could use it to freeze-dry. The guy winks at Sousuke again.

“Sounds like somebody’s observant, Nanase Haruka. Or – just Haruka? What a pretty name,” and he reaches out with his other hand to clap Haru on the shoulder, in a total-bro way – but his hand never makes it when Haru’s flickers up, so fast it’s disorienting, grabs the other guy’s (Kisumi’s) wrist. “Whoa! And looks like somebody’s a little ninja. I’d better watch my back,” he laughs down as Haru shoves his hand back at him.

“Who the fuck are you with??” Haru snarls at him, and Sousuke steps forward unthinkingly, lays a warning hand on Haru’s shoulder.

“Hi there! How’s it going?” comes suddenly from the head of the cliff path, and he and Haru look up, startled.

A little parade of guys – four in all – is climbing up into their camp, to a man smiling wide and looking like they’ve never been so happy to see a place or other human beings. “The ‘we,’” Kisumi’s saying grandly, backing up and sweeping a long arm out to the new arrivals. Haru flicks a look back to Sousuke – and he is afraid, it’s in his too-high brows, too-straight mouth. Sousuke subtly shifts forward in front of him, looking down as he passes and shaking his head minutely. Nothing to fear, I got this.

“Hey, guys! We’re not too bad,” Sousuke answers through a smile, rapidly reviewing and assessing the four guys as they walk up to join Kisumi.

They’re strong guys, good-looking guys (as is Kisumi); they almost give off a vibe like they’re all on a sports team of some kind together, they just project this sort of athleticism. There’s a red-headed pair so similar in appearance he’s sure they’re brothers, and another red-headed guy who’s particularly eye-catching, with this almost feminine attractiveness … a little like Haru in that way, though this guy seems to be brash and open as he jovially claps the bigger brother on a muscular shoulder, while Haru is mysterious and quiet.

Usually.

The fourth guy is coming up to them, beaming. “Tachibana Makoto,” he says in a sweet, musical voice, ducking forward in a respectful bow; and Sousuke smiles almost despite himself, finds himself bowing back. “May I introduce the Mikoshiba brothers, Seijuurou and Momotarou,” and he nods to the redheads.

“Call me Momo and him Sei!” the younger guy pipes-up excitedly, getting an eyeroll from the pretty redhead, and a laugh from Kisumi and the fourth guy (Makoto), a brunette whose green eyes are bright as they take him (…and Haru)in.

“…what Momo said. And please call me Makoto. This is Matsuoka Rin and feel free to call him by his given name too,” Makoto continues.

“Better than ‘asshole,’” Rin cracks, getting another laugh out of the group, including Sousuke. He doesn’t hear anything from Haru behind him.

“…and you already know Kisumi, of course. It’s such a pleasure to meet you!” The green eyes shine at them. Sousuke takes their turn, carefully backing up to put an arm around Haru’s shoulders.

“I’m Yamazaki Sousuke and this is my friend, Nanase Haruka. Please use given names with us, too,” he tells them. “What’s your guys’ story?”

Haru’s shooting arrows up at him so he tightens his hold, comfortingly. The brothers do a little eyeroll at each other (believe me, you don’t wanna know OUR story, Sousuke reads … or some other good-natured thing along those lines); Makoto nods at Rin, smiling. Kisume just sort of hangs to the side, wearing a little Mona Lisa smile as he watches him and Haru.

“Ugh, we need your help,” Rin sighs tiredly, without preamble, running fine hands through his long hair like it’s something he does a lot. “So we’re all just a bunch of random guys who ran into each other on the trail, were all alone out here – except Sei and Momo, of course. We were all so sorta vulnerable and just barely getting by, not affiliated with anyone, really at the mercy of any power players who could come along and … and hurt us, take what we have. So I think it was Sei and Momo actually who thought up the idea of banding together, you know, to give us more of a shot.”

“Then why do you need our help?” Haru breaks in, the first thing he’s said in the larger group, and things come to a standstill. Sousuke rapidly picks up Sei’s thoughtfulness, Momo’s confusion; Rin’s hot anger and Kisume’s unchanged little smile. Makoto’s gazing at Haru intently, head tipped to the side, handsome face serious.

“Haru’s like this. You’ll get used to it,” Sousuke says apologetically; and Haru glares at him. Turns back to the five guys and knocks Sousuke’s arm off his shoulder, takes a step forward.

“Seriously. It makes no sense. You’re five tough dudes, you look totally healthy and clearly no one’s starving. What do you want?”

Sei’s talking this time, gently, like he’s breaking bad news. “We have nowhere to go, Haru, Sousuke. We’ve been wandering lost for days trying to find someplace with water; we were on our last bottle when we stumbled across this place.”

“Sheer dumb luck,” Kisume puts in brightly.

Sei goes on. “We won’t use any of your food stores or anything. But … we’re on our last legs.”

“Is there any way you guys would be okay with us sharing your camp for a while until we’re rested up?” Makoto implores. “We’ll pitch our tents way back, give you all the privacy you need. And we’ll take over all camp chores as payment. Rin’s an excellent cook.”

“Hey, no one can hold a candle to my Haru,” Sousuke says without thinking, swept up in the funny civility of the conversation and feeling a little need to keep up with the Joneses – they may have Rin, but he has Haru, whose cooking really is crazy-awesome even with the pouches and bags and freeze-dried-everything he’s forced to work with. He gets a wide-eyed look back from Haru … and a sort of considering silence from the guys.

“…well, we’ll see about that. Iron Chef, you and me, Haru. Later,” Rin smirks at him, as the other guys laugh.

“We’ll move on just as fast as we can. We really feel awful infringing on your privacy. And you’d be welcome to join us, if you want!” Makoto continues, laying a hand on Rin’s shoulder.

Sousuke pauses, considering; looking at them as they wait hopefully. Haru glances back to him, face grave, gives the tiniest little shake of his head too subtle for the others to spot. But Sousuke just returns the tiny shake back. Same gesture, different decision.

“…we know what it’s like to be dehydrated and losing it,” he says slowly, drawn to Rin’s eerie scarlet eyes, to a memory of pain flickering deep in them. “We were in the same spot. And we know it’s next to impossible to find decent shelter when you’re in that position. Sure, you’re welcome to stay here for a bit.”

Haru looks back to him again, eyes wide … and walks stiffly to their tent, disappears inside.

“Awww, c’mon, Haru! Don’t be like that!” Kisumi’s calling after him, seemingly exasperated. He walks over, cuffs Makoto’s shoulder. “Makoto. He’s been like this the whole time. I guess he really doesn’t want us here.”

Makoto flicks a look at him, glances back to Sousuke, concerned. “Sousuke-san, I don’t want to cause trouble for you and your friend. If we’re not wanted we sure don’t want to intrude.”

Sousuke frowns, irritated. “No, go ahead and get your things up here. I’ll talk to him.”

“Good luck,” Sei grins at him, you’re gonna need it written in his face, and they break to head back to the cliff path. Makoto pauses to grip his hand.

“Thank you so much. This means the world to us,” he tells Sousuke sincerely before he joins them, and Sousuke believes him.

He hears their voices and laughter drifting up as they disappear, presumably to unload their boats. He listens for a second, stalling, not wanting to turn and face what’s waiting for him in their little blue tent. He doesn’t want Haru’s hurt, anger, maybe his viciously-effective silent treatment, that he has down to a cold science. He doesn’t want Haru telling him he’s wrong – which, even if he doesn’t say a word, will be practically oozing out of his pores and filling the little space.

He grits his teeth and marches over, bends down, pokes his head in.

Haru’s in his sleeping bag, just a little lump, curled tightly to face the tent wall with a fall of messy black hair poking out the top. “Hey,” Sousuke says quietly, but the little form doesn’t stir. He kneels outside the tent, watching for any signs of life, waiting Haru out. Time stretches; he vaguely hears someone coming up with the first load behind him, dumping it off in the grass, going down for more. Haru’s so still, so silent, he could be dead. He sighs and tries again. “They seem like good guys,” he reasons in a low voice. “If we came across them when we were so bad-off, we would’ve needed their help just as much.”

Nothing.

Sousuke pushes in, zips the door closed. He crawls over his omega and pulls the zipper on his puffy sleeping bag, bit by bit revealing his small, lean body, turned hard away from him with his limbs tucked into himself, his face hidden in the down. His stillness is almost disconcerting.

“Haru,” Sousuke whispers, moving down to fit himself against him, spooning so close he’s practically on top of his omega. He scoops Haru’s face from its hiding place, turns it to him. He bends and kisses Haru’s flushed cheek and tastes salty, silent tears. “I love you. I’ll protect you. Always. You know this. I’m disappointed you would think otherwise.”

Haru twists, suddenly, seeking out his eyes, and Sousuke’s alarmed by the raw emotion on his face, this from the little guy who makes an art out of expressionlessness; just, bottomless frustration, that fear that’s hasn’t left him since those guys’ arrival, and … anguish. Sousuke recoils.

“You’re too confident!” Haru breathes up at him almost frantically, like everything he’s feeling is spilling out in his voice too. He grabs Sousuke’s cheeks above him in both hands, tight enough it hurts a little, but Sousuke lets him. “Confidence is good but this is bad. This confidence makes you blind. You don’t see how anybody can get anything past you.” Haru stops suddenly like he’s smacked-up against a memory so horrible it has the power to rob him of speech; he swallows quickly, twice, and his voice is thick when he goes on. “When you’re an omega you know better. You know everyone in the fucking world is just out to fuck you, and it’s just a matter of how fast you can get away.”

He blinks mutely down at him, stupid in the face of what Haru’s throwing at him, aching for him, for everything this says about the … things that happened before Sousuke found him. Haru has never said a word about how he survived after the blast – has gone all shuttered and dead whenever it’s come up. He thinks Haru probably can’t talk about it. And that makes him so furious and so, endlessly, sad.

Sousuke shifts, carefully moves his top leg possessively over Haru’s lower half, wraps an arm tightly around his back and tucks him into himself. A shuddery breath drifts out.

“I mean it, Haru. You’re the most important thing in the world. Way more than me. I’ve got you, okay? I’ve got you. Got you…” he whispers into Haru’s satiny-strong hair, smelling sweetly of the lake water from their morning swim. Morning swim that turned into a grade-school water-fight that somehow morphed into that molten-hot sex … and here they were.

Where were they…?

He hushes Haru, mindlessly, stroking his hot back; as if from a long distance he hears quiet talking outside, low laughter, the chup-chup-chup of someone pumping up a gas stove. The hollow shaking of nylon coming out of bags, people putting tents up. And he’s listening, vaguely, whispering nonsense into Haru’s ear, his hand slowing to a stop on Haru’s low-back; and it’s warm and dim in the tent, and strangely comforting; and he closes his eyes.

*

“Knock knock,” someone’s saying; and it sort-of sounds like Sousuke’s dad, but that makes zero sense, because his dad disappeared that night, he can’t be here, what

Sousuke jolts, hits someone he’s all curled-around and he hears a tiny groan of protest tucked into his chest. He manages to sit and he’s in a tent, glowing with mellow light, Haru breathing deeply next to him.

“Man, you both must’ve been tired,” the same person says again, a smile clear in his voice, and Sousuke looks up. Sei crouches in the door, open enough for him to peek in, low sun behind him making his hair practically look like it’s on fire. His light eyes crinkle with his friendly smile to Sousuke; his face softens into an almost enchanted look as he turns to Haru. “Poor little guy. I get the sense he kind of wants to kill us. Am I right?”

Sousuke clears his throat, trying to pick up the threads of consciousness again, little pricks of uncertainty in his way-forward popping up and putting pause in his words. “Eh, it’s okay. It’s good practice to be careful with strangers. We’ve … we’ve worked on that together.”

Sei squints at him silently for a second. “Good idea, friend. Can’t be too careful. Lot of fucking sickos out there, pardon my French. You have to keep a close eye on your … on each other.”

Sousuke nods. He likes Sei almost inherently, gets a sense he’s a peer somehow, just – older, mature, experienced, thoughtful, someone who doesn’t go leaping into anything. Makoto seems like that too, he thinks – solid, strategic. Reasonable. And nice. Always a bonus.

Momo, he seems more or less harmless, if a little spastic. Kisumi’s a little more of a mystery; his interest in Haru is somewhat concerning, something to keep an eye on. And Rin flat-out intrigues him.

Sei’s letting him think without interruption, just waiting patiently. “Sorry,” Sousuke says finally. “Nap-brain.”

“No worries,” Sei smiles. “We have dinner ready – nothing like your Haru would cook, I’m sure, but it’ll fill you up, if you want.”

Sousuke smiles back. “God, that sounds fantastic. Somehow Haru and I missed eating at all today, so now that you mention it I’m fucking starving.”

Sei breaks out in a raucous laugh, pitched-down for the sleeping Haru but still a crazy-happy sound, and Haru moans, pulls himself up with none of Sousuke’s awkwardness. Sei watches him intently. “Sorry to wake you, Haru,” he says apologetically, eyes doing something … intense. “I’m such a bull in a china shop.”

Haru sits still, and Sousuke would laugh at the ridiculously cute sight he presents – bleary-eyed, hair sticking in all directions, worn concert shirt sliding a little bit down one shoulder – if they were alone. “I sleep light,” he finally answers Sei, coolly, his presence somehow filling the space even though he’s the smallest thing here.

“I would too, next to this guy,” Sei cracks, and his eyes still haven’t moved from Haru’s. Sousuke feels prickles along his spine, turns casually to Haru.

“Eh, he’s stuck with me,” he says a little nonsensically, looking down at him, and leans in deliberately, kisses him suddenly and deeply. He releases Haru’s lips with a smack to see him looking both flushed and pissed off. Sei raucously-laughs again.

“Oh, brother, it looks like it alright. Well, I’ll give you both some privacy, but remember – gourmet rehydrated beef stroganoff is waiting!” He winks, then withdraws and pulls their door closed.

Haru’s on him instantly, eyes electric. “You can’t do that!” he whispers, giving Sousuke’s shoulders a hard little shove. “You can’t be getting all possessive with me in front of these guys!”

Sousuke feels like the dumbest kid in the most-remedial summer school ever. “Why the fuck not. You’re mine.”

Haru’s eyeroll is hard enough it looks painful. “No shit. But there’s no point rubbing that in their faces.” He reaches up and grabs Sousuke’s cheeks in both hands again, and his eyes are the dictionary-definition of pleading. “…okay? For me?”

Sousuke wants to brush him off and can’t. He’s melting instead. But he just gently pulls Haru’s hands from his face, holds them between them. “Okay. And stop worrying.

Haru doesn’t answer. His haunted eyes do all the talking for him.

Chapter Text

Sousuke pushes out of the tent first. He lays eyes on a domestic scene – almost cozy.

The sun is setting in a big show through the trees on the far side of the lake, the sky a riot of purple and pink and blue. The five guys are grouped in a loose circle on “their plateau,” sitting on little camp stools and chairs, in Makoto’s case sprawling comfortably out on a sleeping pad and leaning on one elbow as he laughs at something Sei just said. They’re grouped around a fire. A fire!

Sousuke can’t even remember the last time he and Haru had a fire. He thinks it was probably the night … that terrible night, the sight before him bringing that OTHER night up into his mind instantly. Haru, blood trickling oh so delicately from one nostril, eyes vacant and dim, hands weak as he tried to hold onto Sousuke’s arm … but kept failing, hands that were usually so wiry-strong sliding down his bicep again and again. Sousuke, stuttering, just saying “…you’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay” over and over like his words alone could reverse what just happened, could stop Haru from taking the risk of climbing to the top of that warehouse shelving unit without a ladder like the crazy-gifted monkey he was. But this time his skills had been useless, as the unit made that sick groan and as he tried to turn and leap-clear – but as it toppled, knocking him down down down, all his unnatural grace gone, the archery kits he was trying to reach at the very top raining around him as Sousuke tried to get to him, tried to catch him before he landed, before the sick thump his beautiful head made as it knocked into the concrete of the warehouse floor, tried and FAILED.

And he said fuck it all, fuck anyone who’s following them, who might be there, fuck EVERYTHING, he made a fire right there in the middle of the warehouse floor as Haru slipped into shock, he cradled him in a sleeping bag he couldn’t even remember finding as close to the flames as he could get him without burning him, he stared into his eyes and pinched him viciously whenever they slipped closed or his head tipped bonelessly back against his arm … until late.

Until the flames were low in the little backyard brazier he somehow (???) found.

Until Haru’s eyes searched up to him from his lap with something more than pure confusion and blankness.

That had been their last fire, he thinks.

But here, in front of him, it was … almost like the blast had never happened …? Like these five guys had no worries, no cares, no fears of anyone seeing the glow of the flames and coming to do them harm. Like they were full of confidence, humor, good-cheer-almost together … and it stabs Sousuke with want. With the sudden NEED for he and Haru to be a part of this – this collective, or whatever this odd little group is calling itself – to get to be normal like this.

He turns back, to where Haru is just a little head sticking out of the tent, hair smoothed carefully down again from its former post-nap haystack. “Haru!” he says quietly, through a smile he can’t keep off his lips. “Oh my God, Haru – they have a fire. C’mon, let’s go!”

Haru’s face is a perfect blank-slate – he’s giving nothing away, checking out the camping-catalog-worthy scene before them as thoroughly and rapidly as Sousuke did. He doesn’t look away as he answers. “…why would they have a fire? Are they fucking morons?”

Sousuke can’t help a hard almost-violent scoff as his lovely dream-scene is – again – tossed away by his (fucking paranoid) omega. “Haru. Seriously. I get you, I do. But you have to relax, you have to trust me. They can do this because they’re together! That’s the whole point of grouping-up! Show of force. No one’s gonna wanna try anything here when they see that, thinking ‘well, if there’s a group up there and they’re comfortable enough to do fire, I’m not gonna mess with that.’” He stands proudly with his hands on his hips, waiting for Haru to see the logic, to see his side. To come out and just try it. See if maybe this normal new existence could possibly work for them.

Giving Haru the gesture of respect, letting him feel he can choose.

Haru flicks his gaze up to Sousuke and the firelight catches in his eyes, makes him look like some crazy creature of legend. A genie maybe, who could incinerate Sousuke with a single glance if he isn’t careful … but at the same time owned by Sousuke, and forced to do his bidding. Bitterly.

Haru silently pushes out, zips the door closed. He slides up to Sousuke, close – and leans up on tiptoes to his ear, whispering “You just better be right, Yamazaki, or I’m gone.”

And quietly walks to the ring around the fire as Sousuke just gapes for a second, unable to answer or even turn to follow him.

“Haruuuu!” shoots up from the group as Sousuke finally gets himself back on track, turning to see Kisume jumping up from his spot and hurrying over to solicitously escort Haru to the fire. He parks Haru on a free sleeping-bag roll next to him, then happily falls back into the camp chair beside it. Sousuke’s stalking over thoughtlessly, getting a similarly-happy “Sousuke!” from the big pink-haired guy as he gingerly lowers himself to a sleeping mat rolled-out next to Haru. Haru flicks a look over to him as he willfully refrains from putting an arm around his shoulders, settles for just sitting close.

It may be a trick of the firelight, some kind of camping magic, but their five new companions look to them with faces that seem sort of … delighted to see them. Just happy, relaxed, content; seemingly so glad they came out of their little tent-domain and joined the program here on the cliff. Rin’s grinning on his immediate right and handing a green plastic plate to him steaming with something fragrant and hot, passes him a spork right after. He smiles and nods back as he accepts – distracted by the glint of Rin’s strangely sharp, oddly-dangerous teeth – and immediately checks to see that yes, Haru has a plate too that he’s cradling but not eating. He raises a brow minutely down to him but Haru just responds with a tiny frown, a little nod at Sousuke’s own plate.

“…Coffee? Or you maybe want something a little stronger?” Sei asks through his big grin from where he sits comfortably on matching camp stools side-by-side with his brother.

“Stronger?” Sousuke asks, burning his mouth a little as he tries a first bite. Maybe Haru needs a reassurance that it’s OK before he’ll eat, that they aren’t trying to poison them or something. It’s so damn hot Sousuke wouldn’t know if anything’s off, actually, but it seems harmless enough, the stroganoff sauce thick and rich, the noodles satisfyingly chewy as he shovels some in. He pauses and nods slightly back down to Haru, but still his omega just sits, looking miserable in the tiniest ways he knows intimately.

“Oh, yeah! We have whiskey too. It’s SO GOOD in the coffee if ya wanna do both! Coffee with a kick!” Momo is enthusing at him, bouncing on his camp-stool so he looks all-of six years old even though he’s gotta be in his twenties (?). Sousuke chuckles at the kid’s harmless cuteness.

“Sure, kid. Make me a whiskey-coffee, okay?”

Sei smiles at his brother’s excited, “I’m a big boy now” grin as he busies himself. Makoto’s nodding over at them from where he lounges beside Rin on his sleeping pad, concern unmistakable in his eyes. “Haru, are you feeling alright? Sounds like you guys didn’t get a chance to eat today so I know you must be hungry. It’s not gourmet but please, feel free to eat!”

Haru gazes over at Makoto, Sousuke unable to read the look in his eyes. He pauses in his now-enthusiastic eating (the stroganoff just getting better as it gets cooler) and lays a discreet hand alongside Haru’s knee. “You okay?” he asks quietly.

Haru puts his plate to the side, eyes still unwavering from Makoto’s across the fire. “…not hungry,” he finally says, face utterly still, crossing his hands in his lap like a tiny serious Buddha.

Kisume’s having none of it. He leans down to scoop up Haru’s plate, gets off the camp-chair completely to kneel so close to Haru, he’s basically in his lap. Sousuke stiffens instantly.

“Oh come on, Haru! You gotta eat dinner! It’s really good, too. Come on, I’ll help you out. Here.” His tone is smooth, eyes dancing, smile sweet; in the total and sudden lack of any personal space between them, Sousuke reads the desire, the want, on him as clear as the ugly healing gash on the back of his own right hand from when he fainted on the trail. But he knows, knows he can’t make a move to stop him, if he wants to respect Haru’s desperate wish in the tent. So he just watches, mute and sort of paralyzed, as Kisume lifts Haru’s plate and a full spork to Haru’s lips. As Haru keeps his mouth impassively shut. As the group is transfixed by the suddenly compelling and weirdly erotic little standoff, Kisume pushing the spoonful in relentlessly as he smiles, Haru just sitting passively as it goes in.

“Mmm, Haru! C’mon now, swallow, don’t be such a pain in the ass. Don’t want you choking, do we?” he twinkles, and Haru just sits, and Kisume leans in with eyes narrowed and suddenly he’s kissing him, free hand sneaking up to test the texture of the hair at Haru’s nape. Sousuke starts but Kisume’s pulling off quickly, looking exactly like someone who just got away with something and still smiling. Haru’s swallowing with some difficulty, shooting this look back at Kisume that Sousuke knows means murder.

Makoto’s leaning then into their weird, charged pas-de-trois, a steaming plastic cup in one hand extended out to Sousuke. “Whiskey-coffee, Sousuke. Momo was a little heavy on the booze, I think. I hope that’s okay,” he says apologetically, face calm but eyes jumping to each of them in turn.

“Sorry!” Momo says across the fire, waving a sloshing three-quarters-full plastic bottle.

“Thank you,” Sousuke says, hurriedly accepting the cup before it spills and nodding at Makoto. “Maybe more booze is just fine tonight.” Rin laughs as Makoto slides back into his spot, this endearingly-doofy huh-huh-huh. Sousuke settles back, shoots a fast look next to him, where Haru’s got his arms crossed over his chest now, frowning stonily into the fire, plate discarded again in the grass in front of him. Kisume’s abandoned the camp chair, it appears; he’s stretched comfortably on his side to watch the fire, smirking, head pillowed on Haru’s thigh. Sousuke memorizes the sight, the exact placement of the fluffy pink head, how close he is to Haru’s crotch, how comfortable he looks, ready to lean over and strangle him if the parameters shift any further. Haru’s wishes be damned.

Rin’s going on. “Huh, I know what you mean Sou! I can’t help it. On a nice night I gotta just get a little bit buzzed, it’s like having mashed potatoes with steak. Remember that??” He gestures with a flask, a little salute to Sousuke, and he sees the flush in his cheeks. Rin clearly is buzzing now, his voice a little too loud and pretty scarlet eyes too bright even in the firelight, and he glances grinning at Makoto before leaning to ask for a fistbump from Sousuke. Smiling, Sousuke obliges him.

“…God, didn’t steak used to be like the best thing ever?” Sei asks almost dreamily, cradling his cup to his broad chest as he gazes out at the lake. “Hot damn, I used to love me some steak. So what have you guys been eating here? Any fish jumping in this lake?”

Sousuke lowers his cup, the first big sip sure as hell strong. He thinks the kid put three shots in. “Oh, shit yeah. We’ve been feasting! Lake-trout, mostly. But a few different kinds of pike, too; carp. Haru’s the best damn fisherman I’ve ever met. Fish practically beg him to let ‘em get on the hook.”

The guys grin back at them, in that uniquely bro-language like he just started talking about “how big” the catches were. Sei and Makoto trade a pleased look, and he thinks he understands; really, this lake is heaven, there may not be a herd of Kobe cows for them but there’s endless fresh fish – and more, he hasn’t even told them about the rest of it, the wild lettuce bursting with flavor Haru somehow finds, the blueberries and raspberries and even strawberries he almost magically produces for their oatmeal in the morning, the spearmint and peppermint he steeps for tea.

“You’re a regular mountain-man, Haru-chan,” Kisume coos softly, and he’s got a hand on Haru’s tucked-over bare foot now, and he’s firmly caressing the sole. Giving it an honest-to-God fucking foot massage, down where Haru has it against his shoulder, and Sousuke slowly puts his half-full cup down. “I mean, honey, you’re a provider! That is so, so amazing. Sou-chan is so very lucky to have you!”

“I don’t have him,” Sousuke hears himself saying stiffly, eyes pinned to that big bold hand as it keeps making its loving and possessive sweeps over Haru’s little foot. And he thinks, that FUCKER. And he also thinks, why the fuck did I never do that for him? His feet are probably killing him!

“Sure! Of course not!” Kisume wriggles forward to see Sousuke better, laying his head fully in Haru’s lap now, over his crotch, sighing happily, draping a long arm up and over his knees. And WINKS at Sousuke.

“Excuse me,” Haru grates, jumping up without warning and dropping Kisume into the ground with a thump as he laughs and rubs his head. He slips out of the circle and marches towards their tent, but then keeps on into the woods and is lost to sight.

Sousuke wrestles-down his instant urge to leap up, follow him. Instead he casually picks up his plate again and shovels-in the rest of his dinner, despite his absolute loss of appetite. “Haru doesn’t like advances,” he says off-handedly after swallowing. “He’s really not into that, but when he wants it he calls the shots.”

Kisume leisurely stands to get back in his abandoned camp chair, crossing his ankles lazily before him. “Hmmm! Wow, Sousuke. That’s not what it looked like when I first met you guys.”

“What’s that, Kisume?” Makoto asks lightly, sipping from his cup. He’s dipping into an empty peanut-butter jar too, pulling out what looks like an Oreo cookie and biting in with obvious enjoyment. He blinks over at them, pausing with the jar half-held out to offer it to them, half-kept back.

“Oh! Well, Makoto, it’s really a shame I’m the one who got to be the scout when we got here. So I come up here, and, well – I see Haru … uh … riding Sousuke.” He stops, big slow smile wreathing his pretty/dangerous face.

Sousuke wants to kill him.

“’Riding,’ Kisume? Like how?” Momo asks carelessly, eyes big. Sousuke wants to kill him, too.

“Well, Momo, I’ll paint the picture for you. Sousuke’s naked, right?” His smile’s a grin now as he puts both hands behind his head, looking like he’s recalling a happy memory. “He’s on his back in the grass and don’t get me wrong, that’s a nice enough sight in itself. But then, picture Haru, not a stitch on, sitting on top of Sousuke like he’s the most comfortable couch, the pertest little apricot-ass settled all-the-way-down on Sousuke’s giant fucking cock. Just being as gentle and soft on him like you would NEVER think given Haru’s, uh, mouth. Probably felt like a summer breeze, eh, Sousuke?” And he pops down, whacks Sousuke’s shoulder, knocks him out of this stupid fucking daze he was in, God, he was actually getting hot from this pervert’s little tale-telling!

He shoots a hand up to grab Kisume’s nape and pull it close, puts his lips next to his ear. His voice sounds strangled (though he’s shooting for deadly) as he hisses “Shut the fuck up about this. Right now.”

Kisume just worms an arm out and throws it over his shoulder so they’re sort of wrapped-upin each other, uncomfortably close as he goes on. “Oh, but that didn’t last. Apparently our macho-man here likes it, uh, rough. Rough and, um, dominant. ‘Cause he flips them over and proceeds to pound poor Haru within an inch of his life. Real vicious stuff.” The fucker pauses for effect as Sousuke gapes, and he grins around at his mates, all definitely taken by his story, Rin’s flush looking medically-concerning, Momo’s starting to join him. Sei and Makoto both look – committed.

Kisume turns just enough to look at him, at his dumb wordless face. “Just rapes him, basically. And bites him, hard enough to draw blood. But that’s the funniest part!” He turns back to the rest of them.

“Haru’s liking it.”

Sousuke breaks his weird paralysis then, shoving the guy’s arm off and recoiling from him, as his alpha-brain screams ATTACK – KILL, as he ruthlessly clamps it down. “Jesus, Kisume! Didn’t your mother ever teach you about how rude it is to be a Peeping Tom?

“Didn’t yours ever teach you about being gentle with a guy, especially when he’s almost half your size?” he shoots back, still smiling, though now Sousuke sees a flush on his high cheekbones. A break in his veneer, then.

“Kisume.” It’s Makoto, again, and his sweet voice is neutral; but Kisume backs up instantly, still with that faint blush, gets into his chair and leans back with his hands crossed comfortably over his chest. Sousuke sits slowly back on his sleeping pad, feeling suddenly ill at this roller-coaster from out of nowhere; as he stares at the fire in the silence, Rin taps his knee with the jar of Oreos, face desperately apologetic.

“Cookie?” he offers, giving the jar a little shake, and Sousuke sighs.

“Sure,” he says, reaching over and pawing out a couple, more as a gesture of good-faith than out of actually wanting them. Rin’s eyes sparkle at him in gratitude and intoxication.

“So what were you guys doing before … this?” Sei says, and his voice is oddly kind, sympathetic, like he’s apologizing for the volatile thing that just happened and telling Sousuke he understands how hard it’s been, for everyone, for them. Sousuke appreciates it.

“It … it was harder, than this,” Sousuke says slowly. He’s popped one of the cookies in his mouth and eaten it without even noticing, as he looks down to find just one balanced on his knee where there were two. He hunches over his knobby knees, takes another long drink from his whiskey-coffee. The bite of the alcohol feels right. “Neither of us are outdoor-types, really. So it’s pretty fucking ironic we’re out here, camping. I mean, of all the things I didn’t expect to do with my life.” He tips the plastic cup back until he sees his reflection in the bottom, wavery and dark; sets the empty cup back in the grass and eats the second Oreo. The flames of the fire look weirdly liquid. “I’m a pro-swimming coach, actually. Working for the Olympic team. Or did.” The guys perk up around the fire, seem to look at him differently. Maybe with a new respect, pause.

“Was in the training facility when it hit. Whole building shook. Thought it was an earthquake; I was down in the basement gym so things were a lot less dramatic than they were in a lot of places. But it was bad enough. People were scared, I ended up staying down there making sure my whole team didn’t run up and kill themselves right off the bat. Eh, they’d just take care of that later when we all split to try to find our families, of course.” He stops. Hears his mom’s voice, suddenly; the thing that he thought he was sort of over, past. Since being out here with Haru in the silence, in the calm, with him, he hadn’t heard it once.

But here it is.

You STAY here with us, Yamazaki Sousuke, you STAY here and don’t LEAVE US! Burbling, high, skating gaily right on the wrong edge of madness. For months, he’d try to sleep, bunch his pack up under his head, close his eyes, and –

You STAY HERE WITH US, YAMAZAKI SOUSUKE –

– and blink awake, breathing rapid though silent, heart trying to leave his chest. Falling asleep was no better. Because in his dreams, he got the visual to go with his insane mother’s last words to him, the sight of the bodies of his two sisters propped up in their beds, of his mother pinballing around their apartment’s kitchen, beyond reason. Of his dear little sister, shoving him adamantly out the front door and pushing a full backpack at him, telling him GO even as he refused, refused. First his dad abandoned them all that night he went to “the conbini”…

…then he abandoned what was left of his family, he the last man of the family, walking off into the lawless chaos of Tokyo’s streets with tears sheeting his cheeks. No clue what he was doing, where he would go. So he was no better than his good-for-nothing dad after all.

He shivers, hard, from something having nothing to do with cold. Rin leans over to him again, eyebrows cricked in worry. “Hey, man. Don’t worry – everyone’s stories are just fucking terrible. Traumatic as hell. You don’t hafta tell us, okay?” He squeezes Sousuke’s knee.

Sousuke glances at him, fast, pats his hand. “Thanks, Rin; that’s okay. Not much more to say actually. Just some useless fucking pointless wandering the streets of Tokyo. Turns out I’m really goddamn bad at ‘making friends,’” and he pauses to laugh at himself genuinely, the idea so unexpectedly funny and true that he has to bend all the way over his knees until he can shut up and get his breath back. He rocks back up and they’re all watching him with varying levels of concern (though he’s sure the cotton-candy motherfucker next to him is still smiling happily).

“There’s … there’s this crazy thing people were doing in Yoyogi Park. If you were in Tokyo, you maybe saw it. Just – this giant meetup. People figuring out their new … situations, trying out what the blast had … done to us all, basically.” Definite recognition on Sei and Momo’s faces, Momo instantly getting that “I just heard a dirty joke” look perfected by young guys. Honest interest apparent from Makoto and Rin… and again, Sousuke fucking refuses to turn and acknowledge what Kisume may or may not be up to.

“I was there one night, drinking – the liquor was a big part of the scene, though nobody needed liquor to do anything they did there.” Sousuke blinks, bodies against trees down on the grass undulating together flashing through his mind. “I … I’m not sure how the hell Haru and I ran into each other, dunno what the odds of that are. He – he was sorta dancing, actually … they would play music on these jacked up speakers, and he was just in the zone, and he can really dance, he’s just so graceful. He – he had all these guys on him, sort of in a ring, other guys hooting and hollering on the sidelines. All of ‘em just wanting a piece of him.” He needs to stop again, this time the pure, clean alpha rage wiping his brain out as neatly as the whiskey is, and he has to just breathe again, watching the fire, until he can go on. No one interrupts him this time.

“It got bad. I’m thinking, like, oh, God. Why? Why are you doing this, why do you let these guys do this? These – nothing guys? Random, scary, whatever? And he was just so little. I couldn’t stand to watch that happen to him. So I … stepped in, and we just – left. Found someplace private.” Stairs, a twin bed; Haru was so ready, he led them away – but he doesn’t mention that.

“That was it. We were together from that night on, knocking around Tokyo ‘til we realized things were … just gonna stay ugly there forever. It was Haru’s idea to get away.” He smiles. “…even if he wasn’t the most practical guy starting out.”

A big, Converse-clad foot hits Sousuke’s shoulder and he jumps, shoots a nasty look to his left. Kisume’s sitting forward now, eyes glittering. “So what’s Haru’s survival story before you met him? How’d that little thing make it without getting torn to pieces? Especially if he apparently has negative self-preservation instincts without you, putting himself in the middle of a giant bait-ball like that?”

He pats Kisume’s wrist clumsily, getting his look to turn from glittering to dirty, then stiffly stands up. “Kisume, you little prick, that’s not my story to tell. Sorry, you’ll just have to ask Haru.” Kisume’s mouth pops open for a rebuttal; Sousuke plows on. “And on that note I gotta go, sorry. Thanks for the food and the drink, guys; compliments to the cook. And bartender.” Rin and Momo are grinning and telling him not to worry about it; Sei asks him to stay. He just waves them off, walks a little unsteadily in the general direction Haru went into the woods.

He’s almost positive where Haru was headed. He stalks down their “latrine path,” splitting off quickly on a deertrack to the right and skirting the cliffline, still back in the woods. The voices around the fire fade and are soon gone.

Five minutes and two choices of the branch in the trail that take him closer to the lake, and he’s coming out of the woods. There’s an overlook ahead, at the end of a rocky trail, hidden from the cliffline by overhung hemlocks; and Haru’s there, almost lost in the dusk, so small as he sits on the rocky edge.

He’s sure to shuffle loudly as he approaches so that he doesn’t startle Haru – though he’s equally sure he really only does it for himself, that Haru heard him coming probably all the way back at the camp. But he can’t help himself. Near the edge he slows to a creep, not trusting his drunk-ass not to spill over and take Haru while he’s at it; he drops down, scoots his long legs to dangle over next to his omega.

His silent omega, his omega that for all he knows has been strategizing how to leave while he’s been sitting here.

Sousuke doesn’t make a move to touch him, or even look at him, just folds his hands between his knees and contemplates the deep purple of the sky across the lake before them. To his surprise Haru breaks their not-uncomfortable silence.

“Shigino Kisume is a donkey-fucking bastard.” For such hot words, his voice is disarmingly calm, even sort of pleasant … though Sousuke knows he’s biased, that he always will think Haru’s voice is pleasant, soothing in a way others probably won’t.

He snorts involuntarily. “So, what gave you that impression?”

“You really let him force-feed me and give me that weird choking-hazard kiss then give me a fucking foot massage? Really, Sousuke? What kind of cut-rate alpha are you?” Haru’s smirking up at him now, giant blues shining in the mostly-darkness, and he grabs Sousuke around the waist (carefully, mindful of their precarious situation).

“Hey! Look, pal, I was just trying to take care of my damn mouthy little woman here by giving her what she wants. And apparently that wasn’t what she wanted at all. Make up your fucking mind, dude.” He slips an arm softly around Haru’s narrow shoulders instinctively, the waves of acceptance pushing out from his omega almost beckoning him; Haru snugs his head into Sousuke’s shoulder. “…though, that foot massage actually looked pretty alright. I could use one of those.”

Haru scoffs and pinches his side. “Sure. Go on back and get one. I’ll be here enjoying NOT getting molested.”

Sousuke tightens his arm at Haru’s innocent phrasing, lays his head sideways onto the top of Haru’s head. He’s suddenly very, very tired.

“Haru. I have to know.” His voice is low and quiet; Haru senses the change of mood instantly and goes rock-still against him. “…what – what happened before we met? What happened to your family? What’d people do to you? Please tell me.

It’s so quiet, and almost tomb-still, and he’s positive this time will be like all the others; the silence will curdle and Haru will turn his face away, and the moment will be ruined. But it’s different this time, he can tell immediately – Haru releasing his front arm, grabbing a handful of his t-shirt over his stomach instead and holding on tight. There’s a long pause that Sousuke holds his breath through.

“…I never really HAD a family,” he starts, slowly, voice low and soft. “I was a weird kid and my folks SO didn’t want a weird kid. So were hoping for a nice normal Japanese son who could take on the family business. So when they moved to Tokyo for my dad’s job they left me in our small town with my grandma, who died in six months.”

“How old were you?” Sousuke asks, alarm threading through his voice; he told himself he wasn’t going to interrupt, was going to let this be Haru’s thing, but he’s betting that isn’t going to happen.

“Fourteen,” Haru says. “They quasi-offered me to move to Tokyo with them but it was a formality. I didn’t wanna be with them, they sure didn’t wanna be with me. So I lived alone. Didn’t really have any friends in high school, spent any time I wasn’t in class in the pool. You should’ve heard the names I got. I think my favorite was ‘FishDick.’ Just had a ring to it somehow.” Surreptitiously glancing down, Sousuke sees a dark little smirk on his face, where it’s still nestled in his shoulder. He’s suddenly moved to turn and kiss whatever his lips can reach, which turns out to be Haru’s temple.

“I didn’t fucking care. I went to the community college, I kept swimming, the swim team coaches would beg me to join, tell me I was wasting my potential, that I could go Olympic if I really buckled down, blah blah blah. But none of that mattered to me. I just wanted to swim.” Sousuke feels a little shrug against him. His heart rockets-away at the totally improbable irony – Haru, an Olympic candidate in-another-life, if things had been different – and he an honest-to-God Olympic coach. He could’ve had Haru on his team - ! If things had been different, if his fucking parents had had a shred of supportiveness; if he’d had people at his schools who saw his jaw-dropping talent as an asset and not a freakish liability; if any of those coaches had had the right touch with Haru, to bust through his cool and impenetrable shell, say the right things, show him what he could DO with that talent.

The pines melt and blur across the lake as Sousuke rapidly blinks away a sudden shock of tears.

Haru’s reading his mind. “…and I know that’s what you did in your last life, which is so ironic I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. You could’ve been my coach.” He draws his legs up from the edge, turns them into Sousuke’s space, nestles in. “Oh, well. Fucking spilled milk and all of that. No point crying over it. So I’m a big fat loser in my little town working at the community college after I graduate as a glorified secretary … but I’m in the art department, ‘cause that’s where they had an opening, and I get to use their facilities off-hours as a little perk, and I’m in heaven. And this sculpture instructor runs into me one night.”

“You’re an artist?” Sousuke interrupts, stupidly, quickly reaching up and getting rid of his tears with the back of the hand not around Haru. “How did I miss this? Do you draw in your journal too?”

When he glances down this time Haru has a real smile, little and sweet, shining up at him. “You’re observant about some stuff but fucking shit at others, Yamazaki.”

Hey, I respect people’s privacy and believe you me, I’ve been plenty-tempted to go looking through that thing but have I? No. Fuck you,” he grouses defensively.

Haru sighs. “No, just giving you shit. I’m very impressed you never read it. Good thing, I have some pretty embarrassing erotic poetry about you I’d just as soon keep to myself.”

“Dick.”

“You know it.”

They sit in a weirdly-content lull, a burst of laughter drifting up from their right down the cliff from the camp and receding, the soft evening silence replacing it. “You know, I’d love to see your stuff sometime, Haru,” Sousuke tells him sincerely. All those things Haru can do with his hands, his deft fingers; he can only imagine what might come out when you pair that with his totally bizarre bordering-on-mystical way of viewing the world…

“I’ll have to do something special for you sometime,” he smiles. He shifts, lifts his head so they’re able to look at each other more comfortably. “So this sculpture instructor. She … she was wonderful. One of those people you’re honestly sorry to think about probably being dead in all this, you know? Demanded to see my portfolio and when I finished laughing my ass off and then when I asked her to define ‘portfolio,’ told me to stop being such a smartass and apply for art-school in Tokyo.”

“An art student, huh? One of those goth types who smokes all the time and talks shit about the patriarchy and doesn’t eat for weeks and has some crazy punk hair with tons of guyliner and gets all serious about your ‘pieces’?” Sousuke’s grinning. He’s having way too much fun with this brand-new Haru being revealed to him, just sorry he never got a chance to meet him sooner. And bingo, Haru’s scowling hard back at him.

“Fucker. No, Mr. I-Never-Met-a-Stereotype-I-Didn’t-Like. Wrong.” Sousuke’s laughing at him now and Haru just abandons his shirt-clutching to whack him hard on his flat abs. “We art students have suffered plenty of oppression and misunderstanding at the hands of … well, meat-head jocks like you –”

Now look who’s stereotyping,” Sousuke smiles, and he can’t help it anymore, and leans down, takes Haru’s chin, tilts it up and kisses him. It’s a kiss way-sweeter than their little immature bickering would suggest, Haru tilting up into him immediately, sliding his abs-hand up and up his chest to hold tight around his neck. They take their time, move slow, explore what is very, very well-known and -loved territory in each other’s mouths … and finally part, Haru looking down shyly and Sousuke bringing their foreheads together.

“Thank you,” he finally says, voice packed too thick with emotion and not giving a shit. “Thank you for staying, for sticking around with me.”

“I’m stuck with you, aren’t I?” Haru says back immediately, like he didn’t give it a thought.

“Hmmm,” Sousuke just rumbles, pulling Haru back into his side. He likes resting his head on Haru’s, he’s decided. “Okay, you’re in art school and you aren’t some trashy gutterkid. Go.”

“…I never said I wasn’t trashy,” Haru says, slowly, and the shift in the tone of his voice, the subtle notes of fear, shame, something in this shake very different from his tremble their first night together, stills Sousuke, tightens his arms around him.

Here we go. Into Haru’s nightmare stuff.

“I – I was a fucking moron in school, okay? First time I was somewhere people were actually telling me I was good at something and worth something. It … it felt really, really good. So I – was a slut, basically. Anyone who gave me the tiniest bit of positive feedback, anything at all … I was theirs, if they wanted me.” He stops, gives a hard, disgusted laugh that dies as fast as it starts. “Dunno how I got away without getting sick.”

“It’s okay to be easy, Haru,” Sousuke’s saying mindlessly, partly because he really believes it – who fucking cares? He’s not one to talk! – and partly for something to say. “And hey! You said you never had anyone before all this…?”

“I never did have anyone.” Said with the utmost conviction, his blue eyes gazing up to Sousuke so seriously, he wants to cry again, but just returns the look instead. He gets it.

“Okay, so you were insecure, finding yourself, your self-esteem was in the toilet; I get you, honey, I do. That’s okay. Sorta your classic college-slash-grad-school story, actually. It’s nothing to be ashamed about."

“Oh, it is when the blast hits and all those guys turn alpha. And decide to make you the ‘school mascot,’” Haru fires back, and his face is so drawn with anger – no, hate – Sousuke freezes.

“…no, that – it doesn’t work like that – does it?” he says uncertainly, this new world too new with too much hearsay and urban legend to be at all useful. “You – you can’t be hooked up to more than one alpha at once. Everyone’s hormones, or whatever, won’t let that happen. Or – right??” The new mental image his brain is serving up for him begs to differ – Haru, naked, on the dirty carpeted floor of some post-apocalyptic dorm room, dazed, a guy on each limb, a guy at his mouth, a guy between his legs, the sounds…

“Oh, Sousuke, you are so innocent.” A smile, hard as the granite they’re sitting on. “There ARE no rules. It’s ‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ baby, and I was the best toy they could ever have. Even better, ‘cause they all knew me before so they didn’t have to, you know, feel bad about anything they were doing, or whatever,” he spits. “They kept me in the closet of one of the rooms. They had different kinks, ‘cause hey, art students! Japanese art students. So I got to be whatever they needed. One guy only liked objects. Not dildos.” He stops his almost-confident delivery here and Sousuke feels a shudder rip through him, almost a spasm, involuntary, like a hiccup only savage with none of the innocence. He can’t help it then, and he knows he should leave Haru be, but he’s tucking his free hand under his knees and gathering him up like a baby, just folding him into his chest protectively. Rocking him, slightly, side to side; whispering “I’ve got you … I’ve got you…” like a fucking moron… but he can’t. Help it.

Haru allows it, tucking his arms into Sousuke’s chest. He’s still talking, voice missing all its smoothness and juddering as Haru shakes, but he keeps on. “…I – I got out one night. The fucking idiot who kept me as his dogboy – oh yes, there was one of those – I convinced him I needed a walk. I – I really played it up, told him how much I was going to like it when he had me heel. All that bullshit. Once we were out I stomped the shit out of his foot and ran.

“Well how the hell did you end up in Yoyogi Park then?” he asks without thinking, swept up in Haru’s escape, how could Haru squander it?? “Why didn’t you go to ground, get the fuck out of town?”

“You know us omegas, Sousuke. Always looking for someone to love us,” Haru sing-songs up at him from the cradle of his arms, then his furious face crumples – just, falls apart – and he’s weeping. Silently, weeping, face working, tears squeezing down his face, head rolling away to the lake like he can’t do this anymore.

And Sousuke’s resolve settles, firmer than it’s ever been, he’s sure of it. He gently rocks his shoulder up, softly guides Haru’s head back into his chest so he doesn’t have to feel so untethered … because Sousuke guesses that would be an awful feeling, after all Haru has told him. Keeps his big hand on Haru’s jaw, his cheek, fingertips in his hair, as he weeps and Sousuke feels his chest wet from Haru’s tears. He doesn’t say anything this time, though; just sits, still and comforting, looking out at the lake, holding his most precious thing to him as Haru does what he needs to do.

Chapter Text

They head right for the tent when they get back into camp. It’s full-dark by this point, and the fire beckons, a beacon of warmth in a night that’s turned surprisingly cool, the wind picking up from the west. The guys all beckon too as soon as they notice Sousuke emerging from the woods, followed by Haru. Unsurprisingly, Kisume’s the first one to spot them. “Ahhh! So you decided to come back to us after all! You know, we really don’t bite … unlike some people,” he calls out, then laughs at his own blinding witticism as Sousuke glances back at Haru. In the dark, it’s impossible to tell he was just weeping like his soul was practically coming out of him … but Sousuke has his face memorized, and Haru looks like he’s allergic to the whole damn lake, eyes puffed and cheeks flushed.

“Donkey-fucker,” Haru tells Sousuke conversationally, and he involuntarily brays-out a (very donkey-like) laugh, is still shaking his head helplessly as he unzips the door for Haru. He bypasses the tent and heads for the kitchen, rooting in the food bag for the trail mix, the fish jerky he knows Haru has a soft-spot for. Tonight he’ll make up for the dinner that was pretty much robbed him in the privacy of the tent, with the chance of a bear attack way outweighed by the certainty of Haru needing comfort … and food a sure-fire way to get it.

As he heads back with Haru’s goodies, the food bag re-stowed, a chorus of good-natured protest rises from the fire. “Bed already? Hey, Sou-man, this whiskey ain’t drinking itself!” Sei roars, as Momo giggles uncontrollably and Rin’s wheezing something that sounds like “fuckin’-A.” Makoto’s quiet but smiling enticingly.

“Nah, thanks guys. It’s been a pretty intense day and we’re beat. You have a good time for us,” he says before heading in, the cozy and familiar Haru-getting-ready-for-bed sounds drifting out through the open door. “Good night.”

Kisume, of course, isn’t done.

Will apparently NEVER be done.

“…If the tent’s a-rockin’, we just might come knockin’, Sousuke. Just a head’s-up,” he sends over, big smile unaffected, but the edge of threat dancing sharply around his voice.

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you, you little sexual deviant,” he somehow manages to coo right back, fluttering his eyelashes – and as the other guys bust out laughing, as Sei claps the scowling little fuckface sympathetically on the shoulder, Sousuke marvels at himself. He’s found a loophole to Haru’s wish, it seems. He can be as shitty to Kisume (read: as much like Haru would like to be) as he wants, couch it as taking the piss out of the guy, and they’ll be just fine. And that will apply to curtailing his less-savory attempts at Haru, too.

Feeling better than he has all evening, more useful, he ducks inside their little tent and yanks the zipper closed, crawls to his side and nestles in. Haru’s got their little tent-lantern lit, the one that holds a single long-burning candle in its tempered-glass house and that he privately loves, that he thinks makes the tent an almost womblike sanctuary for them both, desperately romantic. And he always laughs at himself whenever he indulges in that totally mawkish thought. Apparently he’s a big sap after all … or maybe Haru turned him into one, somewhere along the way.

“Told the resident sexual deviant off?” Haru says quietly, pulling his oversized sleeping shirt with its silly cartoon fish over his head, popping back into view.

“…and GOD it felt good,” Sousuke gusts, tossing the trail mix and jerky bags to Haru, who catches them neatly. “Hey, you got totally screwed out of a decent dinner and it was all my fault. I could’ve cooked you up something, even. Shows you where my fool head was at. So I hope this will be OK to tide you over until tomorrow when we can get back to eating properly.”

Haru’s just smiling at him again, his real, tiny smile that should clash violently with his sad-puffed eyes and discolored cheeks, but somehow looks just right, may be the most-beautiful look Haru’s ever given him. Because Haru’s just relived hell. Fucking true-blue hell, that curdled Sousuke’s blood to just hear … and Haru, somehow this little man you would think has no inner strength, no perseverance, given the shaky foundation he had to work with even before the blast … somehow he made it through something that should’ve robbed the light from his eyes, turned his jet hair white, stolen his ability to ever be touched intimately by another person again. Should’ve annihilated his very soul.

But he not only survived it – he fucking trounced what circumstance and evil luck had done to him, what trap his own questionable choices and need for some kind of acceptance and love had caught him in. He’s deeply, terribly flawed in ways Sousuke is now beginning to understand; and somehow, in minutes, his love for Haru has changed, has been transmuted. It’s definitely still the from-the-gut all-consuming possession of an alpha towards his omega. But it’s almost like just a simple look at Haru, as he curls up with the giant trail mix bag in his lap hunting through for the wasabi peas, is opening up the tenderness inside him, is broadening him in a way he doesn’t understand because it isn’t at all logical … and it’s so sweet, this feeling, he can practically taste it in his mouth. He gazes almost idly at his picky-ass trail-mix-eating omega – but he’s being assaulted by the queerest double vision, he sees the little figure he keeps tabs on as a reflexive part of his day, and there’s this overlay of a powerful figure. A sort of unfamiliar figure, who’s all bait-and-switch, who seems so frail but who’s made of titanium, who you could probably bury alive or hold underwater or do any number of Houdini-style stunts to … and who would pop up, coolly asking “…that all ya got?”

And Sousuke falls for him all over again – this time, for this new Haru. Haru-his-own-man. Haru the Survivor … of anything.

Haru who is pausing in his fervent “ethnic-cleansing” of the bag of all its wasabi peas, glancing up at him questioningly. “What? You want some?”

Sousuke smiles over at him from his exceedingly-comfortable spot, lying with his head propped up on one elbow, snugged deep in his fluffy down. The sides of the tent billow slightly in that west-wind (not much; Sousuke’s merciless at making sure to get the stakes firm whenever he puts it up). “Nah, thanks. I’m all full of that noodle-y mush you missed out on.” He rolls to his back, enjoys the familiar feeling of stretch down his spine, folds his hands behind his head. “It’s so damn cute how you just pick out the stuff you like, by the way. You’re like a five-year-old.”

“Would a five-year-old do this?” Haru asks, crawling over, and very deliberately straddles Sousuke. He instantly freezes – given the horrors of Haru’s story – but he just leans forward, taking Sousuke’s big face between his hands so softly, and Haru’s face has never beamed with such quiet emotion as he kisses Sousuke. It may be their most innocent kiss, almost chaste; it’s more like Haru is talking without words, telling him how relieved he is, how happy they’ve passed through this together.

As Haru finishes the kiss he settles in on top of Sousuke, comfortably, like he could stay there all night (though Sousuke isn’t positive his bladder’s on board with that). He crosses his arms on Sousuke’s wide chest and rests his head on top.

“…sorry, got distracted,” Sousuke says shakily. “No, a five-year-old would NOT do that, thank Christ.” He frees his own arms, tentatively encircles Haru, low on his back at the swell of his ass. He false-starts then finally can get it out, quietly. “Please, Haru; tell me if it’s not okay to touch you. Now, or anytime. OK?”

Haru’s look … well, it’s like he just ate a gourmet fish-dinner at the best restaurant in Tokyo. Prepared by someone ELSE. His eyes are near-sparkling in the tent-lantern, though now Sousuke knows he can’t trust a goddamn thing his eyes give him.

“Oh, Mr. Yamazaki. I do believe you might create a whole new kinder, gentler alpha model. Oh, my God, this is an historic day!” And his pleasure is absolutely genuine, no matter what his smart-ass words might say.

Sousuke scoffs easily up through a growing grin. “You pretentious little twit. You actually said ‘an historic.’ Ha.”

“Yeah? I’ll show you what else we ‘pretentious college kids’ like to do with our tongues,” Haru promises, shoving his shirt up, teasing a nipple mercilessly with said talented tongue with his blues homed-in on Sousuke’s teals, crinkled at the corners in amusement. Fingertips dancing, dancing around his other nipple, those fingers he was musing over earlier, all their subtle abilities to bait a hook or detail a sketch – or torture Sousuke within an inch of his sorry-ass life.

He allows himself to luxuriate in Haru’s sweet torture for a bit but then rolls like a “kinder, gentler” crocodile with his prey, getting Haru on his back, eyes-wide at the surprise change-up. His fine hands rest on Sousuke’s pecs and Sousuke smiles down at him.

“Tonight, Haru, I declare should be nice, and easy, and all about you,” he whispers, but still with great authority, relishing the skepticism on Haru’s face, and leans over to crack the tent-lantern’s door and blow the candle out. When the tent’s a-rockin’, indeed; it’ll have to be group-camp sex protocols if they don’t want the donkey-fucker getting wind and inviting himself in, but Sousuke’s perfectly fine with that. He’s beginning to enjoy the freedoms of this “New Alpha” – if he wants to suck his omega off until he’s begging for mercy (or would be, if they had some privacy), he’s gonna, goddamn it.

He pulls off his t-shirt, tosses it to Haru. “Use this to muffle yourself. ‘Cause what I’m doing to you, you’re gonna need it.”

“Ohmygod.” One word like a teen girl again, and Sousuke pfffts at him in delight, crawling back and settling in between Haru’s slim thighs. Haru, who’s up on both elbows now, so shamelessly gawking Sousuke almost tells him to quit staring before realizing Haru can stare all he wants, gently sliding Haru’s track pants down. Nothing underneath, which gives him a weird little stab of desire, despite the absolutely familiar sight it presents. Haru’s slim, pretty cock coming free with some difficulty; he’s half-hard already, half-hard after the emotional violence he’s sustained tonight and all from simply sharing a single, chaste kiss and making-out with Sousuke’s chest, for God’s sake … and Sousuke thrills to see it. It’s so normal. It’s so natural, so pre-blast, and his own cock throbs at the sight and more importantly all it tells him.

But tonight is for Haru.

He’s as attentive and devoted to his task as he can possibly be, given that he never was very good at blowjobs even before he turned alpha and basically got a “Get out of Doing Blowjobs Free” card. Guys just always seemed to instantly go down on him, in those weird gray-zone moments of a hookup or post-dinner-date makeout when no one is sure who’s doing what. Like there was never the thought that he would do them.

So he’s always been insecure about it. But he thinks fuck it and makes it a game – what can get Haru’s beautiful cock hard, cause, effect, repeat? What gets him writhing in Sousuke’s sleeping bag, the little nylon whispers unmistakable to anyone listening hard enough, like a man possessed by the Devil? What can he do to tease out the sounds … the tiny whimpers, the high-pitched keens, the incoherent profanity, the (his favorite) guttural groans, pushing just slightly through his bunched shirt? All of it, it’s like Sousuke’s a lab rat punching the lever for his tasty treat, and it’s no time before he realizes he is fucking hooked. He is ADDICTED to working Haru, to playing him, to getting his reactions in a way that seems selfless but is actually totally selfish, totally satisfying even though he doesn’t have a hand (or even a meaningful amount of friction) on himself.

When Haru finally comes, sitting up suddenly and grabbing onto Sousuke’s head, curling around it so that he hears Haru’s gasps clear-as-day through his shirt, Sousuke’s so busy being in a floaty haze, swallowing Haru’s cum with an eagerness he thinks he should be embarrassed by, clutching his thighs with hands like vices, eyes rolled back, he doesn’t even realize he’s come too. Sometime in the fog of Haru’s pleasure, he isn’t even sure when; he just sits back when Haru finally lets him go, looks down at himself like a middle-schooler after his first wet dream, and says “…huh.”

Haru struggles to his elbows from where he’d flopped back, chest fluttering as he gets his breath back, gazes pointedly at Sousuke as he gazes down at his own unmistakable wet spot. His smile glints in the dimness of the tent.

“Oh, Sousuke. I think you may have a hidden gift for this omega thing after all.”

*

Sousuke’s awakened some time later, partly by the wind – which has really picked-up now, rattling the rain-fly almost spitefully against the tent – but mostly by his damn bladder. He’s remembering the downside of drinking while camping; and he curses his stupid need for that whiskey as he blinks full-awake, turns slightly to find Haru comfortably sprawled beside him, arms akimbo, one hand resting open on his chest. He pauses at the sight – has Haru ever slept on his back, wide-open like that? He can’t remember, and he traces his eyes up and down his easy form, telling his bladder to shove it for another minute.

When he can’t stand it anymore he slides out from under Haru’s hand, fumbles in the dark for the zipper, wishing someone would invent a quiet one for situations like these as he eases it open. He slips into his flip-flops and comes out.

The fire-ring is vacant, the silence on the plateau in contrast to the happy bullshitting from the guys as he and Haru fell asleep. It’s like they’re alone again – but Sousuke knows they aren’t, that the guys finally gave up too and turned in for the night. A few embers glow red in the ashes.

He turns and heads into the woods, passing the soft domes of their two tents, dark inside. Someone is snoring in Sei and Momo’s, the sound wheezy and sounding way-older than either of the tent’s occupants.

Smiling, he walks on down the latrine path – which was a first-day establishment, to keep their waste away from the water. He shivers in a fierce gust –

– and suddenly hears voices, low, off to the left, with perfect clarity when the gust drops back into stillness.

Without a conscious thought, he slips smoothly behind a large pine, off the path and out of sight. The voices continue and he knows he hasn’t been heard. They’re close – just a few meters – and Sousuke freezes, listening.

“You’re bad, Kisume.” Makoto. Unmistakable. His tone is odd; Sousuke doesn’t think it’s ever been this smooth, deep, dark. Trace of disappointment, but that may be his newly-rampant romanticism again. “You’re just … so, bad. And sometimes that’s good. Sometimes, we need that. But other times, it gets in the way of what we want to do. And you and I know that’s not okay.”

A rustling sound, easy to miss even in the new stillness. All mixed-up suddenly with someone else’s quick breathing, almost panting, like they just ran a race. Panicky. Then, Kisume –

“I do it for you, Makoto. Everything, it’s been for you, don’t you see that?”

Makoto, interrupting so smoothly, sadly now. “Ah, Kisume, spare me your fucking bullshit. We all know everything you do is for Kisume only. And that makes you dangerous.” A pause, the sound of Kisume gasping in pain. “Especially when we’re almost ready to take him. Is he yours, Kisume?” Voice so soft, patient, like Makoto could teach whatever sick lesson he’s in the middle of to Kisume all night. Sousuke is ice, an instant statue at his words; and Kisume’s unwilling or unable to answer, then –

“He should be.” Grumbling like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum. There’s a hard huh-huh-huh – so Rin’s here, too – and it’s confirmed, Makoto very reasonably saying “Rin, help me turn him over.”

And there’s a little chaotic symphony, bodies shifting in the pine needles and Kisume swearing viciously and Rin at some point sighing “Kisume, just fucking take it like a man!” Then it’s more-or-less quiet for a moment, Sousuke lifting his hands and silently gripping the bark like it’s their necks. Makoto’s, preferably; but any of them will do, Kisume would be fantastic, even Rin would feel great.

“You always need someone to remind you of your place. That’s gonna be especially important with the changes coming up, with your … fascination with him. That –” A sharp gasp from Kisume; Makoto pauses too to grunt, low, and if Sousuke didn’t know what was happening before, he definitely does now. “–that all stops … now.”

Ahhh!” Kisume again, paired with another grunt from Makoto, satisfied-sounding, deep. Another pause as Kisume pants rapidly and then Makoto, again: “I don’t like to have to discipline you, Kisume. I want us all to stay together … and I prefer that we get along. You always push me to the edge...”

Then begins an unmistakable soundtrack: rhythmic, fierce exhales like Makoto’s lifting weights, like he’s putting in effort; knife-sharp gasps of pure-pain from Kisume – no lube here, clearly – broken intermittently by little cries like he can’t help himself; little outburst of rustling in the pine needles ending with Rin’s “Cut it out, Jesus!”

Sousuke’s head is strangely far away and alpha-rage hums madly just at his fingertips. He silently – with subtlety he has no idea he possesses – turns and creeps back to the path, ghosts swiftly back to camp. Passes the two tents, the wheezing snores continuing like nothing has happened, and shoots a prayer of thanks up to a God he has absolutely no belief in for his luck, sends up another that they can somehow get away with the rest of what he suddenly knows they have to do.

Haru was right.

Haru was right all along.

He dives back into their tent, manages to not land on the happily-sleeping shape of Haru in the darkness. Even with the noise and shaking, Haru doesn’t stir … and he wishes there was time to celebrate this new development, this new confidence and comfort – but if they do this right, they’ll have all the time in the world for Haru to sleep like that forever.

He gently shakes Haru’s shoulder with one hand, clamps softly on his mouth with the other in case he startles Haru awake. It’s needless, it’s turns out – he blinks up at Sousuke with eerie recognition.

“What?” he whispers in a tiny voice.

“Gotta pack up and leave. Now,” Sousuke breathes, everything he sees – Haru’s instant-alert face below his hovering hand, the soft poofs of the sleeping bag around him, his elegant collarbones peeking from the oversized collar of the shirt – standing out with hyperclarity, like he’s wearing night-vision goggles. A strange calm has settled over him, like each next-step is waiting patiently in a queue for him whenever he needs it. They just have to follow it.

Haru doesn’t even ask why, raise a word of protest. He’s instantly up, rolling his sleeping bag with speed and silence that’s almost unnerving, shoving it into its carrying bag. Sousuke dives after him and they have the inside of the tent done in maybe a minute. Haru’s shooting out the door muttering “…Kitchen…” and Sousuke follows, mustering every bit of his self-control to move carefully and quietly, instantly confirming that the snores are continuing from the direction of the tents … and no NEW sounds have joined them. Then he attacks their tent, not giving a damn about their usual careful ways of packing it up, balling it in a fabric tornado and hoping all the stakes have made it, that they aren’t ripping the nylon and net to shreds as he shoves it into its bag with no finesse.

Haru being Haru, he’s already hurrying the food and kitchen-gear bag over on his back, making it look easy even though it’s about half his size. He flicks his head at the cliff-path, his face a question – we ready to load the boat? Sousuke nods at him and he’s already gone, and Sousuke leaves their two finished packs to go pull down the tarp over what was the kitchen, their last remaining piece of gear.

The wind renews its attack as he furiously uncoils the rope from the first tree, and the madly dancing branches spark to black-and-white life as lightning flashes, as light raindrops begin spitting down. He holds the rope bunched in the tarp’s corner as he runs to the second tree –

– and he’s slamming through the air, his teeth ram viciously through his tongue and he tastes blood as he flies, has the sudden disconnected thought Ugh, poor Haru, it must’ve hurt like a BITCH when he bit his tongue during sex –

And then he’s crashing to the ground, somebody heavily landing on top of him, he’s totally tangled in the tarp rope –

And Rin’s yelling – close – “SEI! MOMO! WE GOT AN ESCAPE!”

And before he can hardly get a breath back there’s a forearm almost-professionally keeping his head turned into the pine needles, there’s a heavy weight settled on his back, pinning his arms. A warm breath gusts into his ear and Makoto murmurs, almost intimately, “Where is he, Sousuke? I like you, I don’t want to hurt you. But if I have to, I will. I’m terribly sorry.”

Somehow, Sousuke manages to grin, even as he has no clue what’s up with Haru, even as he hears the Mikoshibas loudly joining this new nightmare though his vision is limited to a narrow bar of sideways trunks along the forest floor, darkening as the light rain continues. He just – still hasn’t lost that new clarity, that purpose – even if this just means they’re taking a little detour from their original route.

He laughs at Makoto, rudely, into the dirt. “God, Makoto – you sound so much … like a Bond villain, I’d fucking laugh harder … if I could breathe.”

The pressure doesn’t let up. “I really am sorry,” into his ear again, a tight edge to Makoto’s smoothness, “but you’re strong and if I get off you’ll run. Again. Where is Haru?”

“I’ll track him down, tell him we’ve got his alpha,” he hears Sei telling Makoto with the irritated gruffness of a dad having to find a hiding kid for the babysitter before going out for the evening; and the “we” Makoto used as he disciplined Kisume becomes blatantly, suddenly obvious.

Makoto and Sei.

Two alphas, who – under the twisted new norms of this twisted new reality they’re living in – intend to take Haru. To share him. Probably have been looking for an omega out here for who-knows how long, have struck-up this arrangement out of sheer necessity.

Limited natural resources and all that.

…what that means for Sousuke, he has no idea. He won’t be allowed to stay, that he knows. A displaced alpha can’t go play at being beta with Rin, Momo, Kisume, even if he wants to. It’s just like wolf-packs. When a new alpha moves in, the old has to leave. Or die.

“Let him up,” rings out, clearly, and his heart sinks to hear Haru, here, not paddling silently away like he SHOULD be doing, if he had a goddamn brain in his beautiful head. But he also knows Haru, and knows Haru would do nothing less.

And he hates him for it. And he still loves him.

Makoto apparently is feeling obliging – Sousuke’s up, so fast his head is swimming, Makoto’s strong arms wrapped so firmly around his chest his arms are useless. “Here you are, Haru,” he calls out from over Sousuke’s shoulder, and Sousuke can almost feel the other alpha’s happiness, can almost taste it, at the prospect of having an omega almost in his possession. And not just some random omega; HARU, with all his contradictions and mysteries and talents and allure and beauty. Never mind all the rest of Haru that doesn’t fit neatly alongside this romanticized profile; for what Makoto wants him for, what Sei wants him for, that shorthand profile will be all they need.

It’s a pretty generous cage for an omega to live in, Sousuke knows. But it’s still a cage.

Haru’s head’s bobbing over the edge of the cliff now, and he’s coming on, up at the top of the cliff-path already as another pop of lightning freezes him in place, and it’s such a moment of melodrama Sousuke wishes he could laugh. The rain intensifies, and Sei swaggers into his field of vision, marching purposefully over to meet Haru as he enters the camp, small and slim in his giant sleeping shirt and seeming even smaller than usual against the muscular alpha coming up to him.

“Haru! We’re very … disappointed you’d want to leave us. But glad you came back,” he booms, grabbing Haru by his shoulders and gazing down at him. “There’s going to be some big changes in camp.”

“It’s – it’s cold! Do I have to stay out here getting fucking soaked?” a familiar voice whines, pitifully, from behind them, and Sousuke is vaguely intrigued at just how far Shigino Kisume has apparently fallen … though the question of Kisume seems almost hysterically irrelevant, now that the real wolves have dropped their sheep’s disguises.

Makoto sighs against him, a dad with a hopelessly delinquent son. “If you can’t be of any use to the group, Kisume, go in. You’ll just get in the way,” he turns behind them to call, voice grim and the disappointment and irritation unmistakable in it now.

Sousuke’s eyes are fixed on Haru, as he stands calmly under Sei, who’s turned to check up on the Kisume situation too. “Yeah, Kisume! Why don’t you go on in and think about what you did,” Sei laughs across at them, and somewhere behind them Sousuke hears Momo guffaw. There’s an angry rustle of nylon and a tent zipper.

“Screw – screw you guys,” he hears Kisume choke out, under his breath like he’s afraid to say it out loud, and the tent-zipper screams shut behind him.

“Well, glad that’s over with,” Makoto says matter-of-factly. “Momo, Rin, please take over for me; he’s very strong but I think you can handle him if you each take a side. Sei, why don’t you and Haru come over here.”

And feeling like he’s in the climax of a bad action movie, or maybe just a bad dream, Sousuke’s handed-off to Rin and Momo, who each firmly seize an arm and pin it behind him, forcing him to his knees. He’s able to attack – briefly – catching Momo in the nose with a good hit, feeling a satisfying thud as he connects and hearingthe kid’s furious “Heyyy!!” But that just gets him shoved harder down when they secure him. Rin may be holding him with the tiniest bit of sympathy or care … but it’s probably just a hysterical last-hope.

Freed, Makoto comes into his field of vision, striding to meet Sei and Haru as the giant alpha almost-formally presents Haru, walking him forward in front of him with pawlike hands on his shoulders. Haru comes willingly, arms crossed on his chest, and as he gets closer his eyes flick down to meet Sousuke’s for an instant.

What now?? Sousuke sends desperately.

I got this, it’s Haru’s turn to reply.

“Haru!” Makoto cries joyfully, running a hand through his wet hair. He reaches down, pulls Haru’s arms from their tight cross and takes hold of his hands. Sei waits patiently behind, hands heavy on Haru’s shoulders. His little face is calm as he looks up to Makoto, not even seeming to notice the fattening raindrops running down his cheeks, soaking his hair.

“It’s so, so good to see you. And this isn’t how we were gonna do this, you know – the plan was to sorta ease into it, not have it be so sudden.” He tilts his head like he did that first night, but this time he’s smiling, and from the side Sousuke can see it seems to lighten his whole face. “Ah, well! This is just as good. We all – Sei and I, but Rin and Momo too, and even Kisume – we want you to be happy in your new home. Welcome home, Haru,” he’s saying quietly, now, and he leans down, still holding Haru’s hands, and gets close; and Sousuke knows exactly what he’s doing, he’s breathing Haru in, testing his sharp and somehow invigorating scent. Then he leans still closer, and kisses him; he starts soft, but he pushes too hard, too fast, Haru totally unresponsive, ending up with Haru’s head tight against Sei’s chest as Makoto pulls back, panting. As the kiss morphed his hands roamed, too, and he pulls away from Haru’s ass and crotch slowly, almost like he’s been drugged.  

And Sousuke feels that odd stillness again, when he should be blind with killing rage. Just … this waiting.

“…oh, God, Sei,” Makoto says thickly, tearing his stare from Haru to look up to his alpha partner watching him avidly … and Haru just stands, totally serene, hands at his sides where Makoto abandoned them and face thoroughly kissed…

And how does he DO that?

“Good?” Sei asks enthusiastically, like they’re at a wine-tasting and Haru’s a rare Bordeaux, and Makoto returns his stare down to Haru.

“…like a fucking popsicle on the first day of summer break when you’re a kid, and everything is pure happiness,” he says dreamily, lifting his hands to cup Haru’s cheeks. “You are gonna just die when you try him. We are gonna have so much fun with him, I don’t know how we’ll get anything else done.” He looks back up to Sei, a smart-ass grin on the side of his face Sousuke can see. “Eh, that’s what Rin and Momo are for, though, right? And Kisume, if we can keep the little shit in line…”

Bastards, Sousuke’s alpha-brain rails distantly. BastardsbastardsbastardsBASTARDS they will PAY.

…wait for Haru, this new part of him whispers.

“What’ll happen to Sousuke?” Haru says loudly, and his face shifts to where Sousuke’s held-down in a rapidly-forming puddle, face running with rain that could be tears. And Haru’s face is – flawlessly – the picture of concern, bordering on dismay … almost like he’s checking out his options but not if they involve harm coming to his beloved alpha.

Sousuke stares unabashedly up at him.

The two alphas turn to look at Sousuke, suspiciously expressionless, then Makoto’s coming back to Haru, hands never leaving his cheeks. “Haru… you know he can’t stay here. We can’t trust that he won’t try to steal you away, or do us all harm. That’s just the way things have to be.” He shrugs, then runs his fingers possessively through Haru’s hair with a little smile before bringing his hands down to his shoulders. Sei gets the hint and respectfully steps back to give them a little room.

“…some alphas would kill Sousuke to be totally sure those things wouldn’t happen. But we don’t want to go that far. We know you’ve probably gotten attached to him.” He pauses, seemingly searching Haru’s stricken face; tenderly strokes his cheek with what looks like real sympathy. Then he turns to face Sousuke, watches him gravely for a moment like he’s a judge about to pass sentence.

“We’re going to have Sousuke leave instead, and not come back.”

“Banishment.” Sei stands to the side like the Grim Reaper, arms crossed on his chest.

Makoto nods sadly. “I wish it could be different; I think we all would’ve really gotten along, in another life. But it can’t be. And I hope you understand you can’t try to come back, Sousuke. We’ll all be ready for you if you do … and we also have what you want, so if you did try to come – well, it would be the very last resort, but we wouldn’t hesitate to … damage him.” Makoto punctuates the threat by yanking Haru into his wide chest by the shoulders – hard – and Sousuke breathes.

“Kill him, if necessary,” Sei rumbles.

“– so know how much we mean this. And that you need to leave now.”

No!!” It tears out of Haru, raw and violent, and all five in their tortured tableau are struck silent. “You aren’t banishing him!!”

Makoto’s hands slide down to his elbows, in a surreal attempt to soothe. “Shhh, honey. You’ll be happy here, and he’ll be fine –”

I won’t STAY if he leaves!!” Haru cries, and he SHOVES off of Makoto’s chest with all his strength, separating them like two billiard balls and knocking Makoto on his ass into the soggy grass. He gapes up, Sei gapes to the side, Sousuke and his captors gape in the “audience” – as Haru turns clumsily –

flashing the quickest wink to Sousuke as he goes –

There, and gone.

And Sousuke GETS IT.

Then Haru’s running, all-out, to the edge, madly, like a teenager in the middle of an epic temper-tantrum –

And he gracelessly hurls himself over the side … and is gone.

Utter, stupefied stillness for the barest moment – then Sousuke takes his cue, violently shrugging Rin and Momo’s suddenly limp hands off as he struggles up, staggers to the edge.

Screams madly over, “HARUUU! You can’t SWIM!!!” And collapses to his knees as lightning hits again, as Sousuke weeps freely and genuinely from the pent-up emotions that have cycled up and up and up all night, as his eyes bore into the total nothingness below and somewhere inside he’s utterly, utterly gobsmacked.

At Haru’s sheer, insane nerve.

And WILLS him to be alright.

In moments, his four new friends-turned-captors-almost-excommunicators are beside him on the very edge, leaning out like that will somehow turn Haru up in the driving-rain blackness below. Makoto’s next to him, crouches to grab his t-shirt and yank him close. “He can’t swim??” he screams, face see-sawing between shock and horror. “Why would he do that??”

“He’s gone! … Gone!” Sousuke gasps back, scrabbling at his chest as if he’s beside himself with grief, and it’s barely acting. “You killed him!!”

Makoto shoves his hands away furiously, shoots up. “He’s down there, and we’re gonna rescue him, now,” he commands. “Sei! You take a boat with Momo, I’ll go with Rin. He’s gotta be there, we’ll just use paddles as poles, keep looking…” He loses himself, mouth working; Rin tentatively squeezes his shoulder, and he seems to find his way again, storms down the path with purpose followed by Rin, Sei and Momo.

…and just like that, Sousuke is alone, soaked, kneeling on the edge of their cliff in the middle of the night listening to the chaotic sounds of four guys struggling to stage an impromptu water-rescue below him.

Not having any idea if Haru made it through his fall okay … or where he even is.

But suddenly that clarity is back, full-force, like someone turned on the lights to show him which direction to go. He stands – somehow doing it gracefully – and quickly heads over to snag their two remaining packs. The tarp, he sacrifices and figures it’s what got them caught anyway, is tainted with bad luck.

He glances in passing at the sad, wet tent where Shigino Kisume is hiding. Sulking.

Breathing calm into all four limbs, he hurries down the cliff path and waits a beat at the bottom.

Two canoes have just shoved madly out, all four occupants yelling back and forth at each other, Sei and Momo’s boat shooting out too-fast after Rin and Makoto’s and smashing violently into its side – T-boning it – tipping it precariously. Sousuke turns without another look to find their aluminum tank, ready to go before Haru came back up to find him, bow-rope lightly looped over a jutting branch and food bag securely stowed. He tosses their two packs in and lightly hops into the stern, shoves off with his waiting paddle, the bow-rope falling away…

And he’s free. Free, slipping off discreetly to the side in the darkness, not a single raised voice yelling after him to ask where he’s going, the sheeting rain helping to hide him as much as the general anarchy and the darkness.

He paddles swiftly and silently, keeping the canoe straight and true as it hugs the high rock wall on his right, not even bothering to waste time looking for Haru. Haru’s out here, alright; but he doesn’t need looking for. If this plan is going to work at all – if Sousuke’s deepest instincts about what just happened are right – Haru will be the one finding him. If he can just trust in him, have patience, not lose hope.

On the extreme northern side of their lake he comes upon a gap in the cliff, a hidden passage you would have to really look for just because of the way the granite stands to the sky, overlaps itself. A narrow, deep stream rushes along at the base of the tiny canyon, feeding their lake from … somewhere else. And a level, rocky path meanders beside the stream.

…could this be the way to another lake?

He doesn’t allow himself to speculate, throwing himself into the simplicity of action as he pulls the boat alongside the start of the little path. He climbs forward – with nowhere near Haru’s casual grace, but still oddly easy – to the bow, steps carefully out after grabbing the bow-line. Then he squints ahead in the rain and sets up the path, tugging the full – and heavy – canoe in the stream next to him.

He’s worried about going far – this feels right, like someplace Haru would find with his magic water senses; but the lake is still the last place they’ve been together, and he doesn’t want to abandon it. So he’s relieved when the stream and path curve to reveal a little open area, with a few scraggly trees on the bank he can tie the boat to for the night, tip it so it won’t sink in the rain, even an overhang in the rock wall where he can be more-or-less dry as he waits for Haru…

…if this luck holds out…

*

Sousuke is awakened by fingertips … tracing so very lightly over his face, describing his lips, the curves of his nose, the arches of his eyebrows. He wants to bust out laughing so much – but he holds back, pretending to be asleep, not cracking a smile or even twitching. He’s almost irrationally proud of this.

“You’re awake. You can stop with the act now,” Haru’s voice whispers beside him, and his eyes flutter open in the early-morning dimness of the overhang … to meet Haru’s, where he’s cuddled next to him on his side. Haru somehow broke out his own sleeping bag too when he found Sousuke’s little hiding place, and they’re wrapped up in a cloud of nylon and down, hair still damp but bodies warm, almost hot. Sousuke shifts over onto his side and smiles at him.

“Yeah, well, we aren’t all waterbending ninja-lords,” he says sadly, snaking his top arm around Haru’s side under the down, feeling that he’s naked. “I try.”

Haru’s face is absolute fondness as he leans in and kisses Sousuke’s cheek, stays nestled in against his chest. “True. You do,” he says quietly.

They lie there for a little while, just listening to the restless rush of the stream, the tiny drips of last night’s rain falling from the overhang. Then something dawns on Sousuke – something that seems important. Meaningful, more than you would think.

“Haru – I just realized!”

“What is it,” Haru asks, sleepily.

“Today’s your birthday,” he says happily.