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Don't Travel This Path Alone

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"Can you read it?" Makenshi questioned as both he and Kaze peered at the sign on the signpost in front of them. There were at least three languages written on it, and only one of them was at all familiar to him. The only words he could make out were 'path', which wasn't helpful since the sign was posted along a path, and 'travel', which was nearly as useless.

"It says something about two people," Kaze replied as he pointed at one of the languages that Makenshi definitely didn't know.

"And 'path' and 'travel'," Makenshi added. He shrugged. "It's a path to take with backup, apparently."

"You were never sent here?" Kaze gave him a curious look.

Makenshi shook his head. Large areas of Wonderland were still a mystery to him. But so far, as they'd traveled together, they'd found no lingering signs of Chaos and no Omega crystals, the latter of which Makenshi almost found to be a shame.

"We'll be fine," Makenshi said after another moment of staring at the sign. He'd recovered his sword and enough mist bottles to get through anything he needed to. And while Kaze's Magun had settled into a smaller, dormant state that could be properly holstered, Kaze still had his other gun.

Kaze actually chuckled for a brief moment. Of course they would. They were always fine, no matter how hard they seemed to try for otherwise. Makenshi's recovery, this last time, had been a bit rocky, but Kaze had stuck by him. They both remembered everything, now.

And that was why they were roaming Wonderland - they were making sure. Sometimes they encountered the Comodeen, who always welcomed them in, and sometimes there were other familiar faces. But often, they wandered without seeing anyone or anything familiar. Makenshi didn't mind. He didn't think Kaze did, either. Kaze would tell him otherwise, after all.

"Let's go." Without waiting, Kaze brushed around the sign, causing Makenshi to frown and double-step to catch up.

The path was wide enough for them to walk alongside each other, in silence, as it wound through sparse trees and flowering grass until they crested a low hill and saw a small town spreading out in the shallow valley below.

Makenshi squinted. Something was... There was a haze over the village, which was surrounded by more of the flowering grass, and that meant...

"There's something in the air," he said sharply as he held out an arm in front of Kaze, as if that would actually stop Kaze from moving forward if he wanted to. Whatever it was probably hadn't affected him, at least, Makenshi thought as he reached with his other hand to touch his breather. While he wore it to protect everything around him, more than once it had protected him in return.

Kaze looked down at him with a curious glance, then nodded. There was a bit of a weird light in Kaze's eyes and Makenshi frowned even though it couldn't be seen.

"I'm fine," Kaze said after a moment. He seemed to swallow hard, then look around, and Makenshi wanted to believe him... "Besides, we need to investigate the town."

"If you feel strange at all, let me know," Makenshi commented as Kaze brushed by him, again. Apprehensively, he followed, only catching up once they reached the main street.

Despite being relatively close to midday, by Makenshi's own internal clock, the town was oddly deserted. He could hear a few noises, here and there, and there were market stalls displaying goods, but no visible people of any sort.

"Maybe it's a scheduled break time?" Makenshi suggested. The town wasn't empty. There were definitely people, but...

"Let's find a place with an open door." This time, Kaze didn't just move away, and Makenshi was oddly surprised when Kaze settled a hand on his shoulder and rubbed almost deliberately with his thumb. It wasn't that they never touched, but there was something more in this. Makenshi was momentarily happy for his breather - at least it would hide some of his blush.

The first open door they found was just off the town square. Makenshi didn't need to know the language to know that a picture of a bed meant an inn.

He shrugged and stepped in. The lights were on, but there was no one at the desk. Instead, there were a bunch of keys spread out.

"We should take one," Kaze said. There was a bit of urgency in his tone and Makenshi froze. Kaze had kept close to him as they'd walked, their arms brushing almost every other step.

"Are you feeling strange? I still don't know what the haze is..."

Kaze grabbed one of the keys and Makenshi's hand and a little unsure of what else to do, he let himself be dragged along. Kaze could read the room numbers at least, and Makenshi could hear voices in some of the rooms, but he was fairly sure that...

Well, again, he was grateful for his breather, especially since Kaze hadn't let go of him.

"Here," Kaze said as he jammed the room key into a door and opened it. He let go of Makenshi for long enough to set down his pack and weapons, and to get the door closed again.

"Do you need to lie down?" Makenshi questioned. A shower actually sounded kind of nice, if the inn had that sort of amenity. The room looked decently modern, unlike some of the placed they'd stayed. And for the last couple of weeks, they'd just camped and washed in rivers.

"I don't know," Kaze finally admitted, after a couple of quiet seconds. "I feel... I don't think the haze is harmful."

"Mmm?" Makenshi shrugged off his own gear and stretched before realizing that Kaze was giving him an even stranger look.

"It's not affecting you?"

Makenshi shook his head and gestured to his breather. "It's being filtered out, and I'm hesitant to remove it for even a moment because you're being affected and one of us needs to figure out what's going on."

Kaze didn't reply and Makenshi wasn't sure what else to say. He started systematically checking the rest of the room - bathroom looked normal and had a nice-looking shower, wardrobe was empty aside from a couple of hangers, and beside table had...

Makenshi blinked at the selection of items in the drawer and yet again, was very glad for his breather when he connected everything to the noises and voices he'd heard on the way to the room. It was that sort of hotel. And given how full it was and that there wasn't anyone on the streets, maybe this was...

They'd walked into town at precisely the most incredibly awkward time of day.

That meant, at least, that they could just wait it out.

"That's helpful," Kaze said from behind him, and Makenshi paused, his hand still on the drawer's knob. Kaze was right there, close enough to wrap his arms around Makenshi and pull him close.

"What are you--?"

Makenshi had always thought Kaze was handsome, just like he'd thought Aura was lovely. But he'd never acted on those feelings - there wasn't time, for starters, and besides, he'd also never gotten the impression that Kaze had any interest in him beyond general companionship and their shared goals. That had always been enough.

But with Kaze's arms around him, one hand tracing along the bottom of Makenshi's pale tunic - a rough facsimile of the old one too stained to repair - and the other settled low, Makenshi realized that maybe he should have asked sooner. Or maybe it was just the haze!

"This is just that weird haze," Makenshi tried. That's all it was. The flowering grass was putting out some sort of pollen that made everyone who breathed it lose momentary control of... their libido, he supposed. "It's making you do things you wouldn't normally do."

"I only feel like I should finally... let you know," Kaze explained. He didn't let go and slowly, Makenshi relaxed back against him. "Even back... in the beginning, I..."

"You should have just said something," he finally said as he closed a hand over Kaze's. "Instead of waiting for Wonderland to do it for you. Honestly... I'm not affected and I can at least say it to your face."

Pulling back, he turned and retracted his breather.

"I feel the same way. I don't know why we can work perfectly together in a fight but not manage to tell each other how we're actually feeling!"

Before he could snap his breather back, Makenshi accidentally inhaled. He stared at Kaze, at Kaze's surprised expression, and sort of thought they were both wearing way too much clothing, which was not at all what he had intended to think, he didn't think.

This time he had this hands on Kaze, tugging at clothing as Kaze kissed his forehead and corona. Makenshi cursed his breather and hoped he could manage a kiss. It wouldn't be his first, after all. He knew what he wanted. He really knew what he wanted.

It didn't take long for them to both end up on the bed, clothing half-discarded and Makenshi kissing Kaze for all he was worth until he had to pause and breathe deep, sure that Kaze could survive him but not willing to damage the rest of the town. Kaze didn't seem quite as experienced, but he was equally enthusiastic. Makenshi could feel him, aroused, pressing up against him as he twisted to get rid of the rest of his clothing. He hadn't quite been able to remake his old outfit, but he had something close, still snug-fitting and covering as much of his skin as possible.

Kaze just watched him, monocle-sight discarded onto the nightstand and face a bit red.

"This isn't because of the haze," Makenshi reminded him. Reminded himself. Was sort of thankful that all of this was happening. "Not entirely."

He was hard, too, though he didn't think he could quite match what he'd felt pressing against him. Kaze was... impressive, apparently, and Makenshi intended to find out for sure as quickly as possible.

Kaze was on him before he could properly find out, which made Makenshi chuckle. Even like this - even doing this - Kaze wasn't going to do anything halfway. He didn't mind being sprawled under Kaze, loose dark hair hanging down over him as Kaze kissed his neck and shoulders. Kaze's hands roamed down farther to stroke him almost too lightly and Makenshi tried to bite back a moan. Kaze was warm when Makenshi was already sure he was hot. A few strokes later, Kaze had tightened his grip and Makenshi was grabbing at him, tangling his hands in his hair and moaning.

Makenshi tugged at Kaze's pointless underclothing. It needed to go, even if he didn't want Kaze to move.

"How do--?" Kaze questioned after twisting to pull it all off. Makenshi didn't hesitate to start stroking him, his thumb spreading pre-come down the length of Kaze's erection. For a moment, Kaze didn't have words and beneath his breather, Makenshi couldn't help smiling. He would have done this so much sooner-- hadn't Kaze known?

But he hadn't known, either. They meant so much to each other and...

Kaze shifted them on the bed, legs tangled and erections touching.

"This is good," Makenshi managed. He wanted more but he knew he'd get more if he was patient. This was just the beginning. There was no need to rush. It'd be better, anyway, without this urgency...

Then there were only hands and sweat-slicked stomachs as they stroked each other; Makenshi desperately wished he could bury his face properly against Kaze's shoulder without risking the last bit of control he might've had over his mist.

He could feel himself, close, wanting to hold on as he stroked Kaze faster and harder as if it'd somehow distract him from his impending release. But there it was, shuddering through him as he came hard in Kaze's hand. Kaze came a moment after he did and with a cry that nearly startled Makenshi from his own sudden pleasure.

Neither one bothered to move until finally, Kaze slid to one side and sprawled, though he kept the fingers of one hand laced with Makenshi's.

Makenshi wasn't sure what to do, except for try to catch his breath and then chuckle a few minutes later when he realized that Kaze had flat out fallen asleep.

He got up and stretched and headed for the shower, where the warm water did him a world of good all over. Then he got dressed and... after tucking a spare blanket over Kaze, headed down to see if anyone was at the front desk yet.

The hallway was quieter, though Makenshi could still hear voices elsewhere - outside, now?

There were two women at the desk and both looked up as he approached.

"Oh," one said. "Are you using a room?"

"Yes, I'm sorry, there was no one here when we arrived..."

The second woman waved her hand. "It's fine. We just leave the keys out when it's that time."

"That time?" Makenshi questioned. He was afraid he knew the answer, but...

"It'll hit you again in the evening," the second woman explained. "And if you're lucky, in the morning. Didn't you read the signs on the way in?"

"I'm better with spoken language than written," Makenshi admitted. Though he was pretty sure he was speaking a dialect to them, more than a separate language.

"'At the end of this path is a town for couples to reaffirm their passion. Only travel with the one you want to be with.' Or something like that," the first woman said. "The pollen doesn't work otherwise, anyway."

"Oh..." That meant... he and Kaze really did care about each other that strongly. Not that he really had doubted, but...

Makenshi dug for his pouch of coins and other valuables that might be worth bartering.

And he promptly paid for three nights.