Gorou had learned rather quickly that he and Kazuha shared only a handful of common traits. They both had sensitive ears and noses, and they were honest people, always stating clearly what was on their minds without settling for sugar-coated lies.
And that… was about it. Under every other aspect of their lives and personalities, they were as different as they could possibly be— affectionate and loud the one, reserved and quiet the other. Two faces of the same coin, so as to say.
For that reason, it had taken him a long time to build up the courage to confess his feelings. He couldn't deny the natural attraction he felt between them, the samurai seeking his company as much as he could (albeit silently tending to his own affairs, simply relishing the closeness) and trailing after him whenever he wasn't surrounded by his soldiers and subordinates.
But inside of Kazuha's soul, where was the line between loving Gorou and simply cherishing his company to fill in the void left by Tomo's death? He had no means to tell. So, he swallowed his own emotions for months on end, waiting for a sign that the moment to speak up had come.
It eventually did, in the form of a shared bottle of sake in the dead of night, after the Victory Feast was over and the bonfire had been put off. Contrarily to Kazuha, Gorou had never been an avid drinker, and thus ended up losing grip on his nerves after a pitiful couple of cups.
Fueled by the alcohol running through his veins, he had let it slip a little too easily in between his words. "I like you," he heard himself whisper nonchalantly, as if it was idle chit-chat and not something he had been hiding and mulling over for ages.
Kazuha's answer still resonates in his head to this day. "I like you too, General Gorou." A simple, soft-spoken, almost humble declaration that had painted Gorou's cheeks a deep red, stealing his breath away.
Once sober, Gorou could barely believe it had happened for real, the same scene playing in his dreams on repeat from the day they had met, love blooming in his chest at first sight. And yet, it was indeed real— what was left for him was to curse himself for hesitating that much, because Kazuha had been reciprocating his feelings all along. They could have been happier sooner, if only he had been a bit braver.
Over time, Gorou grew used to their differences, accepting them as proof that they were meant for one another, made to complete each other like matching pieces in a puzzle. Though Kazuha's actions didn't change greatly, he learned how to see new meaning buried under them, even in their unchanging routine.
As any other afternoon, Gorou spent most of his hours practicing with his bow. With all the Fatui camps scattered around Watatsumi Island, he could never be too prepared for an ambush, not even after the war had ended and peace treaties had been signed. Danger could always come if he lowered his guard, so neglecting his training would be a grave mistake.
Kazuha was resting at the sides, comfortably lying on the grass with his back against a nearby tree. He was skilled enough with his sword, his technique so polished and clean that he hardly needed any practice at all. He lazily kept his eyes on Gorou, playing a tune on a leaf to fill in the silence in between his arrow shots.
Gorou noticed he had fallen asleep mostly due to the sudden quiet and the weight lifted from his shoulders. Kazuha's gaze was always intense, piercing deep into his soul, and although he loved the intimate glances he threw at him, sometimes he felt his composure crack under the pressure. Impressing him was currently his highest objective in life, and it was a full-time occupation.
Taking a deep breath to regain his focus, Gorou continued with his exercises. His arrows whistled in the air, cutting through the mist and the bubbles floating around. His aim had gotten better during the war, fear and sense of duty sharpening his senses. He might never be as strong as Kazuha was, but he had certainly made some progress towards him.
He ogled at the samurai's sleeping figure from time to time, unable to keep him out of his mind (and sight) for too long. Kazuha's features were soft, blurred by the warm light of the sunset. Although he maintained perfect composure in his waking hours, Gorou could easily spot a hint of exhaustion straining his muscles, the tension gone only while he slept.
Wiping the sweat off his forehead, Gorou decided he could call it a day. Something was burning deep inside his stomach, an irresistible need that could only spur from his dog nature, and that he didn't want to oppose. The spot next to Kazuha looked too inviting to give up the offer.
He walked up to him, tossing his bow and quiver onto the grass. He sat by his side, placing his head against Kazuha's shoulder, eyes fluttering closed to hear the rhythmic beating of his heart. He couldn't help it— Kazuha was the warmth he needed, he couldn't get enough of it.
Kazuha jolted at the sudden weight, and Gorou felt his chest tremble with an amused chuckle. Still half asleep, the samurai ran a hand through his hair, brushing against his dog ears. Gorou unconsciously leaned into the touch, giving his palms more access, his heart racing as the soft fingers sank in his fur.
He would rather die than let anyone else see him like that, weak and docile, blushing to the tip of his ears under someone's gentle pets. He refused to let the world know he had such a side, usually keeping up the mask of a lone wolf to conceal his puppy desires.
But Kazuha was the exception, of course— there was nothing he'd hide from him anymore.
Kazuha loved poetry. It was the only way he spoke and thought, ever since the first time they had met at the Resistance headquarters. Even as his hands were burnt from holding onto Tomo's dying Vision and his heart was in shambles, flowers flew out of his mouth instead of words, turning the crudest remarks into equally harmonious verses of a song.
A good portion of his routine was dedicated to writing. He spent hours scribbling over scrolls and crumpling them when he failed or staring at the emptiness awaiting inspiration for the next line.
Sometimes, his eyes would widen in shock in the middle of a seemingly normal conversation, and he'd scramble to find a scrap of paper to write on. "The final line is coming to me," he'd say. Gorou would watch in confusion as he completed his poem, grinning happily like it was the biggest achievement in his life. And then, the cycle would begin anew the following time.
Gorou could read, of course, it had been part of his military training to decipher Her Excellency's orders and read books to her. But for some reason, whenever he picked up the crumpled, discarded scrolls that Kazuha scattered across the floor, the signs on paper ceased to make sense to him. It was a magic spell that only the samurai could understand.
"Do you write in another language?" he dared to ask one day.
Kazuha didn't lift his gaze from the brush in his hands, carefully weaving his poem. "I truly wish I could speak more than one language, but unfortunately ours is the only one I've ever learned."
Then why is it so obscure? Gorou wanted to say that, but he was far too ashamed. He strove to appear cool in front of him, he had his pride to shield. He couldn't ask something so naive and ignorant.
But Kazuha could tell his expressions like an open book, he could read his emotions in the curve of his tail or the glow in his eyes. "It's alright if you don't understand it," he said, "Poetry is a complex art."
And Gorou could accept as much. There must be some things he was good at and where Kazuha didn't particularly excel. It was the law of nature— that, too, fell in the list of traits that made them different and matching. Still… it hurt to be completely oblivious to one of Kazuha's strongest passions.
"I just… I wish I could know this side of you as well," the confession slipped past his lips before he could reconsider. It was too late to take it back, to word it better, or to hide his silly concern.
A hand brushed against his ears, fingers diving into his hair in a soft rub. "I appreciate it, Gorou," Kazuha whispered, "And if you wish so, I could explain to you anything you'd like to hear."
Gorou tried his best to stay still and stop his tail from wagging. To no avail— his dog nature knew how to be obstinate, sometimes. He simply smiled, wrapping his arms around Kazuha's shoulders in a warm hug, letting the samurai pet him for as long as he wanted.
Gorou had almost forgotten his love for fishing. When he was a pup, he used to have wild competitions with his older siblings, over who caught the biggest fish, or the biggest quantity, or the rarest one.
Since the war had begun, he barely had a chance to hold a rod in his hands anymore. So, the day Kazuha asked him to go on a trip together and catch some fish, extreme excitement had risen in Gorou's chest.
He stood proudly on the riverside, patiently waiting for his prey to gather around his hook. Kazuha sat on a rock nearby, basking in the sun and playing tunes on the leaf to soothe their nerves from the boredom of waiting.
Gorou was planning to go all out. His heart burst in expectation at the idea of showing Kazuha just how good he was at fishing. There were multiple reasons for it, ranging from mere entertainment (Kazuha seemed to enjoy staring at his back, laughing every time he messed up or a fish dodged his bait), to the need to spoil his boyfriend sick (he couldn't forget what Kazuha's favorite dish was, after all).
When he caught a rather big fish, after all of his energy was wasted in pulling it out of the water and winning his fierce resistance, his tail wagged in satisfaction. He grabbed his victim by the fin, waving its twitching body in the air like a trophy.
"Kazuha, look!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. "Look what I've got!"
Kazuha put down the leaf and glanced up at the fish dangling from his hands. "That's impressive, Gorou. I wasn't aware that you had such a hidden talent for fishing."
Gorou couldn't tell whether he was exaggerating to make him happy or his compliments were genuine. The praise sent waves of white ecstasy through his veins nevertheless, making him shiver in satisfaction. He had done it— he had successfully impressed Kazuha.
The samurai's following words caught him off guard. "Perhaps you deserve a prize worthy of your skills," he said. He darted onto his feet and grabbed Gorou by his ears, a mischievous smirk barely curving his lips.
Kazuha's fingers began rubbing his head— his hair, his ears, his nape. Gorou's sentence was cut off halfway through as his brain melted , his neck instinctively pushing up to be touched more. Kazuha chuckled and granted his wish. His nails gently scratched his scalp, and Gorou had no choice but to bite down on his lower lip to prevent himself from purring like a kitty.
He forgot about his catch. Feeling his self-restraint snap like a broken rubber band, Gorou jumped on Kazuha, craving nothing but to squeeze him in a hug— and in the motion, the fish escaped from his grip, bouncing back into the water.
"My fish!" Gorou yelped.
Kazuha followed the leap with his eyes, watching with bated breath as it fell into the river with a loud splash . Then, he burst out in a fit of laughter, trembling under Gorou's weight.
He was so beautiful when he laughed, a rare and precious sight. All things considered, Gorou couldn't care much about ruining his moment of glory, nor about screwing up their dinner. His efforts had been repaid enough.
Kazuha squirmed away from his grip, dashing towards the shore to get out of the river. Gorou was left alone in the water, watching powerlessly as he left, ears low to show his disappointment.
Well, he had called it upon himself. He should have known that kissing him out of the blue would have flustered him, considering how shy and easily embarrassed he was. He couldn't resist, though. When faced with Kazuha's bare chest, his cheeks flushed pink and his damp skin glowing in the sunlight, Gorou's heart left him no choice but to smother him with love.
Since playtime was over, Gorou silently walked out of the river as well, joining him in the sunbath. He lay down on the grass at his side, enjoying the heat of the sunlight filtering through the foliage of trees— truly the best way to dry after a nice bath. He rested his head next to Kazuha's, moving as near as he could without their skins brushing together, but close enough to feel his warmth.
Feeling cozy and safe, he eventually dozed off, his mind getting lost in sweet dreams. He didn't even realize the passing of time, peacefully sleeping his worries away, until something assaulted him. A pair of hands dove into his ears, rubbing them all over with unprecedented eagerness.
Gorou woke up, startled by the sudden aggression. His hand instinctively darted to the bow he had left upon the pile of clothes, ready to fend off an enemy attack… but it was just Kazuha. A blushing, focused Kazuha, who furiously caressed his head as if his life depended on it.
"W-What are you doing?" he stuttered, surprise and panic flowing out of his system.
Kazuha's smile was brighter than the sun itself, full of childish innocence. "Don't frown at me… They looked unbearably soft, I had to."
For a moment, Gorou had been so bold as to forget. Sunrays turned hair into a fluffy mess, his fur growing particularly fleecy around his dog ears. And Kazuha surely didn't hesitate to take advantage of the situation, perhaps as a little revenge for the embarrassment Gorou had put him through before.
It's a price he was more than willing to pay. He could afford to let go of his pride for a while, allowing himself to get spoiled by Kazuha's noble whims. He closed his eyes, letting him do as he pleased— and soon, he dozed off once more, lulled by the rhythmic movements of Kazuha's fingers.
As soon as he saw him come close, Gorou felt a weight being lifted off his chest. He rapidly closed the distance between them, running to throw himself into Kazuha's welcoming arms.
Usually, he'd try to keep up a detached facade, leaving displays of affection for the privacy of their tent, when no one else could see them being open and sweet with each other. Kazuha was of the same opinion, not too fond of being touched in public. But it was a special occasion, and none of them had anything to protest.
In truth, Gorou was exhausted— perhaps more than he had ever been. Every inch of his body burned with naked fire, his muscles sore as if he had fought an endless battle rather than just cleaning up a single camp.
"Tough day?" Kazuha asked. His voice was a soothing whisper against Gorou's tired ears, a much-appreciated breeze of comfort. Gorou nodded weakly, wishing he could pull him even closer, melting together in the warmth of their hug.
"We didn't expect so many reinforcements to come. We were outnumbered, but we managed to dismantle their camp without casualties," Gorou reported dutifully. There was more to add to his tale: that he had to fight most of them alone, because his comrades had already begun retreating to the base, or that he had fallen on the slippery sand, and almost took an arrow to his chest in the fall.
But it didn't matter. There was no need to pour useless worries over Kazuha. He was safe and sound, tightly held in his embrace. Everything else was a futile detail to him, mere background information with no meaning.
"I'm grateful to see you home safe." Love and worry coated Kazuha's voice as he spoke, so much that Gorou couldn't do anything but kiss him, smothering his lips and cheeks with gentle, delicate pecks.
"I wouldn't have fought them so openly, but they were stationed a little too close to the Village." To his army. To his family. To Kazuha .
Kazuha's warm palm caressed him gently, from his ears down to the base of his neck. Gorou's eyes fluttered shut as he let the man pet him to his heart's content, enjoying every second of it, feeling every single brush of his fingers against his hair and fur.
"You did great," Kazuha said. Gorou knew his pats hid a deeper meaning. It wasn't empty praise, nor a display of pride— it was Kazuha's best attempt at making him relax.
And it worked rather well: Gorou's tiredness was already slowly abandoning him, Kazuha's love easing all the tension in his muscles. Even his wounds seemed to hurt less.
Gorou's sharp reflexes were almost his trademark. He hardly ever lost his focus in battle, his body thirsting for action whenever he stood still for too long. He was at peak comfort when he was on the battlefield, his blood boiling with adrenaline and dull anger.
But whenever Kazuha tagged along, his nerves weren't as firm. Although he adored fighting back to back with him, skillfully covering his back with aimed shots while Kazuha danced his way through the enemy lines, the distant fear of his companion getting hurt had him in a chokehold.
He was terrified of losing sight of him for a moment too long, only to find his lifeless body lying somewhere on the ground, covered in mud and blood. The sight haunted him at night, it made him panic visibly during any battle.
Thankfully, Kazuha was a prudent warrior. With his great agility and his refined swordsmanship, he rarely engaged in rash actions, always calculating his steps with care to avoid any possible risk.
So, Gorou could relax at least a little, knowing he would be safe even without his constant surveillance. Which made it harder for him not to be utterly shocked whenever Kazuha did something ridiculously careless.
Despite his fragile looks, Gorou could take a few hits— he had been at war for as long as he could remember, the mindset of a soldier carved into his soul and body. He wasn't overly concerned about stray arrows or small blade cuts. They had medics at their camp to treat any wound and make sure they wouldn't get infected, so he had nothing to worry about when it came to insignificant scratches.
Kazuha seemed to disagree. Because as soon as he caught a glimpse of an arrow whistling towards Gorou's general direction, he jumped in with his sword unsheathed— he stupidly stepped in, using his blade to rebound the arrow to the ground. Its trajectory was deflected, but Kazuha lost his balance in his rushed movements, falling awkwardly onto his back and turning into an easy target for the roaming soldiers. Or at least, he would have, if Gorou hadn't been quick in holding him up with his arm.
Their gazes met for the longest time. Gorou tried to read the emotions hidden in Kazuha's red eyes. He saw concern, mostly, and relief for his safety. But rather than thankful, the general felt angry . How could he be fine knowing the love of his life had just risked death to save him from a plain scratch?
Pouring his fury into his grip, he grabbed Kazuha by his arm and dragged him behind one of the barricades, to yell at him without standing in the middle of the battlefield. "What do you think you're doing?!" Gorou scolded him. "What if it hit you?"
Kazuha stubbornly pouted. "I couldn't allow you to get hurt."
Gorou's resolve melted in the softness of his voice. Kazuha had the unpleasant tendency to worry about him too much, regarding him as a puppy in need of protection rather than the general of an army. He was supposed to be the one to keep him safe, as a soldier who was sheltering him among his ranks.
He failed that time. He could let Kazuha grasp at his victory for once, while his own guilt bit up at his insides. "Thank you then," he said, placing his hand over Kazuha's head to give him an appreciative pat, fingers threading in his silky white hair. "I owe you."
Kazuha didn't reply. His eyes widened in surprise before his cheeks flared up, flushing a dark red. "D-Don't do that," he stuttered.
"Do what?" Gorou blinked in confusion.
Kazuha averted his gaze, shyness taking over him. "P-Pet me like that."
The battle raged around them. Gorou figured it wasn't the best moment for idle chat, exposed to enemy attacks at any given second. But what could he do when Kazuha looked so adorably flustered under his touch?
Gorou smirked, not letting go of the chance to tease his beloved. "With all the times you've done it to me, you deserve as much."
Kazuha opened his mouth to protest, then closed it, giving up any objection. He closed his eyes, delicate lashes fluttering shut, and leaned into the touch. Gorou took it as an open invitation— he caressed him nice and good, feeling his soft warmth under his fingertips.
Only when things became too dire for them to be wasting time in the middle of a dangerous battle, did they consider parting. Before vanishing in a gust of Anemo, ready to jump onto the next enemy wave, Kazuha floated in midair and cupped Gorou's cheeks with his hands. He leaned in for a gentle kiss, and then he set off— not giving him the time to react.
Gorou stood there, baffled. No matter what he did, he could never have the upper hand over him. He could enjoy his little acts of revenge as much as he wanted, but Kazuha would always find ways to surprise him, winning their unspoken fight for affection.
And for the first time in his life, Gorou didn't mind losing a battle.