During a kiss that had seemed to last forever, to promise forever, and yet hadn’t been nearly long enough, Saitou’s feelings had required no clarification, but the fact remained that Sano couldn’t read Saitou nearly as well as Saitou could read him. As they embarked on the long walk across town, Sano couldn’t shake the impression that Saitou was still worried, and he wondered if he was imagining things.
It would make sense, though… he didn’t like to think what his poor wolf must have suffered waiting for Sano to make up his stupid mind. How long Saitou had loved him Sano didn’t yet know — it was one of a number of questions he wanted to ask — but every moment that emotion had been recognizably present in Saitou’s heart while Sano mindlessly pursued someone else must have been a torment. And recovering from that kind of ongoing concern and agitation must take more than just one kiss, especially given that the conclusion Sano had come to had been reached over the course of less than an hour’s reflection.
The silence that settled over them as they walked, however, seemed to forbid speech. The thousand things that needed to be said — reassurances, queries, explanations — were busily lining up in Sano’s head and quickly losing patience, but he couldn’t bring himself to say a word. He wasn’t uncomfortable walking next to the officer, but he did feel… well, impossible as he would otherwise have considered it, he really did feel… shy… and he believed the revolutionary nature of the kiss on the bridge was the cause. Their relationship, the entire scope of their interaction, and, in fact, Sano’s whole spinning world had changed… and he wasn’t sure what to do or say now.
But the need to reassure Saitou was overwhelming; the thought of him still skirting the edge of fear and sorrow, and Sano doing nothing to steady him, was unbearable. Somehow he had to let him know he was serious in what he’d decided. So he reached out — almost without looking, lest he deepen the blush that already rode his cheeks — and took the closest gloved hand in his own. As he interlaced their fingers, he thought he saw out of the corner of his eye an expression turned toward him that seemed to say, “Right out in public, ahou?” Yet Saitou did not pull away. In fact he never pulled away, throughout the entirety of that lengthy walk.
As the familiar house came into view, Sano’s heart gave a little throb. “Come home,” Saitou had said. This was home. At the same time, the silence became discernibly heavier and more expectant than before, and Sano wondered what Saitou thought was the cause of the increasing sweat on his palm that must be palpable through the glove. In any case, he finally disengaged his grip as they went inside, closed the door behind them, and removed their shoes in continued wordlessness.
Sano had to admit that he wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted at the moment. Well, he knew of several things he wanted very much, but in what order they should be accomplished and how each should be carried out he couldn’t tell. His body was longing for the sex Saitou had promised him — somewhat annoyingly perpetually demanding it, actually — but those thousand things he had to say were clamoring with equal noisiness in his mind. His heart, full of a variety of emotions, was making the obviously erroneous claim that it was quite content doing nothing more than just being here with Saitou, while simultaneously informing him that the unprecedented post-bridge shyness had only become stronger.
With all four doors closed, there was almost no light in this hallway, and Sano had never before felt so grateful for that circumstance. It meant the intensity of his blush couldn’t be seen as Saitou pulled him close in the darkness, though the pounding of his heart would undoubtedly be felt. Saitou did not kiss him this time, but drew him into a tight embrace as the silence dragged on. And Sano got the feeling, somehow, that he was still worried. Sano himself was nervous, but that overwhelming need to prove himself and the truth of his feelings was as strong as ever. Words still weren’t quite working, so, until they were, actions would have to do; that at least helped to clarify what the order of events was to be at the moment.
He stepped back out of Saitou’s arms, but, catching hold of one, urged the man toward the door for which the fingers of his other hand fumbled. Then the dim light of the shuttered bedroom filled the passage, and they moved together into it.
Sano caught his breath at the sight of the room, and was at last able to speak. “You left your futon out this morning.”
“Is that really what you want to talk about, ahou?” Though the tone was one of skepticism nothing alien to Saitou, yet there was a hint of evasiveness to this answer — as if he was reluctant to admit to a morning state of mind so distracted and unhappy that he hadn’t bothered to put his futon away… a state of mind that was, perhaps, still lingering in traces.
Instead of forcing Saitou to discuss the unpleasant details of earlier hours, Sano turned to him with a grin. “Your housekeeping’s hopeless without me, isn’t it?” He trailed down the arm he had hold of until he caught Saitou’s hand, then began walking backward onto the futon in question.
“Don’t get too high an opinion of yourself,” Saitou admonished, smiling crookedly as he allowed Sano to pull him down to his knees on the bed.
Kneeling, Sano immediately leaned forward to kiss Saitou. And though this was something he’d done many times over the last couple of months, he was blushing harder than ever now — which probably explained why the kiss started out so soft, though it didn’t stay that way long. For Sano pressed closer eagerly to taste the cigarette flavor of Saitou’s mouth, and Saitou teased Sano’s tongue out with his own.
With so much blood heating his face, that there was any left to form an erection down in the sudden tightness of the wraps beneath his pants was astonishing. Sano’s chest was rising and falling rapidly with the intensity of his breaths; and, wanting to get some part of Saitou in between his legs, he squirmed closer to him in an attempt to rearrange their limbs a bit, rendering their kiss messy and difficult to maintain as he moved. The desire he felt to be closer to Saitou was like an explosive force expanding within him… and it was this very desire, seemingly contradictorily, that slowed him.
Because words from earlier, “I couldn’t have you staying with me just for the sex,” had come back to him all of a sudden. Saitou had clearly been teasing with that statement, but the memory of it reinforced Sano’s awareness that his current actions could be interpreted in more than one way and might not be as reassuring as he intended. He was aching for Saitou in every part of his body, and he fully planned to use that body to convey his emotions… but he had to preface that with words. He couldn’t proceed one step farther in this process, couldn’t so much as kiss Saitou one more time, before he’d done so.
His lips were throbbing as he drew back, and his heart felt much the same as he looked Saitou in the eye. He found himself abruptly overwhelmed with a feeling of vulnerability like nothing he’d ever experienced even when he’d been specifically encouraging Saitou to attack him. Everything that had gone before had been mere play compared to this moment; with this he would be opening himself up to Saitou, exposing his heart, as he never had. It was a breathtaking sensation.
“I love you,” he said in something of a rush, quietly and hoarsely. “Don’t think that, just ’cause I realized it all of a sudden, I don’t mean it. I’m just sorry I didn’t notice sooner.”
Saitou smiled, and if there had previously been any trace of worry in his expression, it was gone now. “I only realized a few days before you did,” he said. “For once, I’ve been just as stupid as you.”
Sano grinned in return. “I don’t think either of us have been stupid.” He was able to speak more easily now that the soul-baring moment was over. “This shit is crazy; we couldn’t have predicted it.”
The smile on Saitou’s face widened to match Sano’s. “And for once I think you’re right.”
Leaning forward again, Sano half growled as he approached Saitou’s lips, “Why don’t you stop insulting me and fuck me already?”
Saitou’s chuckle was muffled and then cut off completely.
Of all the garments between them, Sano’s gi was historically the easiest to remove, and it wasn’t long before sliding gloved hands had pushed it down off his shoulders and Sano had pulled his arms free so it could be tossed aside. Then he replaced his own hands on Saitou’s neck, where they ran continually up to the man’s ears and chin and back down to just beneath the collar of the blue police jacket. Though he’d actively taken Saitou’s clothing off on numerous occasions and knew exactly what the officer looked and felt like underneath, Sano found himself inexplicably nervous about initiating this process at the moment — and simultaneously hungrier for Saitou’s nakedness, more eager to get at his skin, than he’d ever been before.
And then, in a hasty movement almost impatient, Saitou gave a brief, teasing twist to one of Sano’s nipples, ran one knuckle down the wraps beneath it over stomach and waistband, and took hold of Sano’s erection. Sano stiffened, his lips breaking away from Saitou’s with a groan, at the very unsubtle touch. As Saitou began a massaging motion through the cloth of Sano’s pants, he murmured, “I think you’re even harder than usual.”
Sano’s attempt to answer was an incoherent failure, and where he had previously been working on the buttons of Saitou’s jacket he was now clutching pointlessly. Eventually, in a clumsy-fingered trance of pleasure, he resumed his previous activity, though his aim wasn’t likely to be accomplished any time soon. Presently Saitou turned his full attention to stripping his companion, and Sano took advantage of the brief removal of direct stimulus to hasten his own efforts in that direction as well. He’d barely managed to remove the jacket when Saitou’s arms, returning from shrugging that garment to the floor, encouraged Sano upward so as to shed his pants.
The moment the latter had fallen around his ankles, Sano would have relinquished the standing position, but Saitou held him steady as he rose up on his knees; and suddenly it was Saitou’s mouth rather than his fingers that was working against Sano’s cock, now with minimal material between. The sound of pleasure Sano let out was sharper than before, and his legs trembled and stiffened as the world seemed to be tilting sideways and threatening to take him with it. This made Saitou chuckle, and the vibrations of the laugh tingled against sensitive skin and only increased Sano’s imbalance. His hands came down heavily on Saitou’s shoulders as he struggled not to fall right over.
Gloves, soft but rougher than the hands they covered, lightly brushed against Sano in one spot after another, teasing, as Saitou deftly unwound the wrappings around Sano’s abdomen and crotch. No sooner was Sano’s erection freed to throb in the open warming air than Saitou’s tongue was running along it, eliciting further absurd noises from Sano’s throat and more pronounced trembling of his legs. Then, though Sano wouldn’t have thought there had been a chance for Saitou to remove his gloves (not that he was probably observing time properly at the moment), bare, calloused hands were exploring his exposed buttocks and the space between them, making it nearly impossible for him not to writhe.
In response to the growing pleasure that he thought soon must become overpowering, Sano forced himself to make the somewhat half-hearted protest, “You’re gonna… make me come… way early… like that.”
Again Saitou chuckled, with much the same effect as before — an effect that was augmented by the vibrations of his words: “I want you to come early. Then you can come again late.” And so saying, he took the head of Sano’s cock in his mouth and began sucking it deeper in.
At this, Sano’s fingers dug into Saitou’s shoulders, and he made another inelegant noise. This was followed by a few more, voluntary sounds, which had been intended as words but didn’t come out resembling anything of the sort. Eventually, though, he managed to articulate more or less comprehensibly, “Rather… have you… inside me… better that way…”
“Hmm,” Saitou said, wringing an inadvertent groan from Sano once more. The officer drew back so as to disengage his lips and tongue, then remarked, “I can’t say no to that.” He licked the tip of Sano’s erection again briefly before he added, “We’ll see if you can last that long.”
Determined to prove he could, Sano was nevertheless unsure; he was so affected by Saitou’s stated intention to make him come multiple times, by the awareness that Saitou specifically wanted to give him pleasure, that every touch threatened to send him over the edge. It came extremely close when Saitou’s fingers, on returning to the crevice between Sano’s buttocks, proved now to be slick with oil that eased their quick slide into the opening there.
In fact the only thing that kept Sano from orgasm was the sudden distracting mental query as to why the oil had been near the futon at all. Whenever they weren’t actually busy fucking, it was always put away neatly in the cabinet. The room didn’t stretch far in either direction, but the cabinet was definitely too distant to reach from here… so the jar must already have been on the floor nearby.
The ensuing theory — that Saitou must have had some personal use for it very recently — would have been enough to make Sano come hard as the mental image of Saitou masturbating hit him like a hot blow, but for the accompanying pathos at the thought of the man he loved attempting in desperate loneliness to recall physical sensations that were all he had left of someone he believed he might never see again.
Prompted by this miserable image, “I love you,” Sano gasped even as Saitou’s fingers pushed deeper inside him.
“And I love you.” Saitou sounded as if he would like to know why Sano had felt the need to make that statement just at that particular moment, but he didn’t ask; he just licked Sano’s cock again as if he wanted something less comprehensible instead. He got it. It wasn’t merely the tongue, though, or even the fingers; it was the words. Sano had never realized how amazing it could feel to hear them like this, to exchange that declaration in such a context. It rendered all of this so much more meaningful, as if they were operating on a totally new level. Now more than ever he wanted Saitou inside him.
And it was time, as evidenced by the withdrawal of fingers and Saitou shuffling backward slightly into a cross-legged position right at the end of the futon. Gratefully Sano dropped to his knees even as Saitou was unfastening his own belt and the buttons of his pants. Before he could bring out the instrument with which he would more thoroughly penetrate and pleasure Sano than his fingers could, Sano growled, “You let me do that,” and pushed Saitou’s hands aside.
Yet again Saitou chuckled, though the sound disappeared as Sano leaned forward and kissed him while his hands dove into the blue pants and found what he sought. He thought as he did so that Saitou, too, was harder than usual. Never had he loved any texture as much as the hot, silky skin of Saitou’s cock, and couldn’t help rubbing it up and down, smearing the pre-ejaculate from the tip as far across the length as it would go. Of this substance he could taste traces of his own in Saitou’s mouth, and he could feel the moan in Saitou’s throat as he continued to massage his erection with one hand while the second pushed impatiently at his pants.
He had to break off the kiss a moment later in order to look around for the oil jar, and while his head was turned Saitou began mouthing his jaw and neck. Locating the lubricant and scooping some messily up to dribble onto Saitou’s cock, Sano rubbed the latter down again — partly to ensure even coverage, but partly just because he wanted to return the pleasurable teasing Saitou had given him.
Saitou groaned, and his teeth closed on the flesh of Sano’s shoulder, causing Sano also to make an abrupt noise in surprise. The older man’s hands were pulling at the younger’s body, trying to draw him into the closeness they both wanted, and, as Saitou had remarked not long ago, it was an invitation Sano couldn’t deny. He clambered forward fully across Saitou’s lap, ignoring the slight discomfort of a starched waistband and a belt buckle against his exposed flesh, and positioned himself somewhat awkwardly while keeping hold of and guiding Saitou’s erection.
The moment he’d been waiting for was exquisite, and, as he ground down onto the long solid shaft, he felt he was allowing more into his being than just that. Physically the sensation was the same as ever — the stretching tightness and fullness, both somewhat uncomfortable in an absolutely wonderful way — but the feeling of deriving mutual pleasure from taking part of his lover inside him was maddeningly heightened. The awareness of having opened himself to Saitou as never before had only increased, and the intense intimacy this led to was augmented to a nearly unbearable pitch by the certainty that Saitou would not take advantage of that vulnerability. There were times, of course, when any weakness of Sano’s was fair game, but this was not one of them; at the moment, Sano thought, Saitou was every bit as open as he was, relishing this honest show of Sano’s feelings and pleased at a soul-deep level by Sano’s presence.
Overwhelmed by all of this, Sano pressed hard against Saitou in a full-body shiver, flexing around the stiffness that now filled him and giving a helpless groan. This mingled with Saitou’s sound of pleasure, and they more or less stilled with the officer’s hands tense against Sano’s lower back and Sano clutching at Saitou’s shoulders. The messy, hungry kiss that followed did little to stop Sano’s noisy gasping or Saitou’s moan as Sano continued to clench around him and shift in his lap. And when one of Saitou’s hands sneaked into the limited space between them to grasp Sano’s aching erection, Sano went from panting to crying out.
Clearly Saitou’s ability to articulate was in a state similar to his partner’s, but it seemed fairly sure that what he whispered roughly into Sano’s ear was along the lines of, “Is this what you wanted?”
Sano felt as if he’d been stripped not just of his clothes, but right down to his most sensitive organs, and once again the consciousness of Saitou’s devotion to his pleasure seemed to lance straight into his bared heart — which was, of course, connected directly to his entire sexual system. There was absolutely no way he could respond coherently to the question that had affected him so strongly, but Saitou seemed to understand that the answer was a riotous affirmative. As he pumped his oil-slicked hand up and down Sano’s length, he growled something that sounded very much like, “Then come for me.”
At times Sano didn’t enjoy being ordered around by Saitou, but now he did as he was told. With a cry, stiffening, clutching at Saitou tightly, Sano let the ecstasy spread explosively across his body and the less physical realms of thought and emotion that appreciated it, perhaps, even more.
Upon returning from the prickling mists of insensible pleasure to the more mundane but still astonishingly enjoyable world he knew, Sano found Saitou slowly kissing his neck beneath his upturned chin. And as Sano looked down again, Saitou transferred his attention to the young man’s lips, leisurely working them open, trailing his tongue over them and over Sano’s. His movements seemed smug, somehow, and he was still hot and solid inside Sano’s ass — and the fact that he, yet unsatisfied, was so pleased with having brought Sano so hard made Sano shudder and cling to him again.
Though this current position, seated and entwined, was a little awkward, Sano didn’t want to move from it just yet. He didn’t want to move at all, in fact, savoring the fading throb of orgasm as he was, and couldn’t be sure how long he sat flush against Saitou just breathing in the scents of the hot air. Moreover, he loved the feeling of precision that came with penetration in such a position — they way they fit together so perfectly, as if they’d been cut from a single pattern of the same material — and how even the minutest motion tested the boundaries of that connection and reaffirmed it with little jolts of sensation.
He also loved — particularly loved — how Saitou reacted to each of those minute motions, those little jolts. Sano was very tight around him since coming, and even just the movement of his calming breaths seemed to tug at the hardness inside him and make Saitou moan.
“So…” Sano said at last, softly, when his mouth was free for a moment. “Was I really pathetic that first night?”
“Yes,” replied Saitou at a whisper. He was unfastening the last of the wraps around Sano’s upper body. This was unnecessary, since they covered nothing relevant to the task at hand, but Sano did not begrudge it him.
Slowly he squirmed, reveling in the fullness and solidity and, most of all, how affected his lover was. “Really?”
Saitou’s hands clenched almost convulsively against Sano’s back, and his whisper was broken as he replied again, “Yes.”
Sano stopped his teasing movements and scowled. “I thought for sure you were just being an asshole when you said that.”
“You…” Saitou kissed the corners of Sano’s pouting lips. “…were an awkward scared virgin who was thinking about someone else and came after about thirty seconds.” As he drew back a bit and observed Sano’s increased glower, he grinned and added, “And I enjoyed it very much. You could have done a lot worse and I would probably still have enjoyed it.”
Sano was placated, but also determined, now, to wring more distinct praise out of his lover. He ran one hand up under Saitou’s black shirt, which was sticky with Sano’s ejaculate, to pinch one of the officer’s hard nipples even as he started squirming again more pointedly against the hot length that filled him below. “You don’t think I’m pathetic now,” he growled.
“No,” Saitou gasped, his eyes closing briefly and his whole body tensing beneath Sano. “Not at this, anyway.”
Sano couldn’t help laughing. “I’m not even going to ask what you still think I’m pathetic at.” His motion had taken on a rise and fall that began gradually to mimic thrusting. “I’m so not-pathetic at fucking now that you want it all the time.”
“That’s right.” It was half a chuckle and half a groan as Saitou pulled Sano closer against him. The rubbing of Sano’s flaccid cock on Saitou’s stomach as he did this wasn’t entirely comfortable, but that didn’t matter much.
“You can probably never stop thinking about me.”
“Even at work when you’re supposed to be thinking about other things.”
“And even Aku Soku Zan and all that isn’t as important anymore.”
“You’re getting… too high an opinion of yourself… again…”
Sano grinned. “Just checking.”
Breathless as he returned the expression, Saitou replied, “Ahou.” And as his unblinking gaze bored into Sano’s, there was a feeling of something snapping, as if even the patient, powerful Saitou couldn’t bear this any longer. His arms tensed around Sano and his entire body shifted, and Sano was suddenly propelled downward to land heavily on his back on the futon with Saitou atop him. Then there was barely time for a desperate kiss and some brief disentangling of limbs before Saitou was thrusting into him hard and fast.
Sano’s abruptly shattered thoughts as he shouted in surprise and pleasure had something to do with the idea that if this was what happened when he got Saitou’s cock inside him and started teasing, he would definitely have to try that more often. He wasn’t quite ready for a second erection of his own yet, but in this new heat and speed and intensity — not to mention the awareness that Saitou had been driven to it by Sano’s words and actions — he knew it wouldn’t be too much longer.
A noise of frustration forced its way through the happier ones Saitou was making, and suddenly, dismayingly, he was pulling back — pulling out — and getting to his feet.
The sight of Saitou yanking his clothes off with quick, determined movements was exactly the opposite of disappointing, but Sano was yet compelled to make a disappointed sound at the constriction and emptiness caused by the removal of the hard length that now stood out from Saitou’s bare body beyond Sano’s reach. And Saitou was so desirable, so perfect in every way that mattered to Sano… beautiful, even, if such a word could be thought to apply… from the hair he’d mussed with the removal of his shirt to the scars that dotted his shins — the only scorch marks he’d borne from Shishio’s fortress, as Sano, upon inquiry, had discovered the first night. (‘Horribly burned,’ indeed!) Even the white socks, which often seemed out of place with Saitou’s dark clothes and that now looked downright silly, Sano loved.
At the pitiful noise Sano made, the officer looked down as he kicked his pants aside. And it seemed the complaint had actually been counterproductive, for the quick return movement toward which Saitou’s body had tended was now stilled, and he stood staring in silent pensiveness. The lust in his demeanor had not diminished, but he obviously felt the need to take this moment to scrutinize, from that height, the young man lying propped up on one elbow at his sock-clad feet, naked and ready for him.
Sano’s shyness and the piercing awareness of their increased intimacy was ongoing, and he knew he was blushing as Saitou’s glinting eyes traversed his body. But this was no one-sided or disconnected appreciation; the mutual approval and admiration and desire were palpable between them, tying them together like a hot cord along which thoughts seemed to run from mind to mind without words. It sent a shiver through him that was something like discomfort or nervousness, or what these conditions would be if nearly all unpleasantness were stripped from them.
Saitou’s intent gaze didn’t leave Sano as he dropped to his knees and blindly sought out an auxiliary helping of lubricant, the application of which made him gasp, before crawling forward. Somehow the half smile on his otherwise serious face served to render his entire expression more intense, and Sano groaned not only at the sight of it but at the mere touch of Saitou’s hand on his leg. That second erection was very close now.
And then Saitou was pushing into him again, and Sano was groaning not just in pleasure but in something like relief. Saitou didn’t wait this time, but immediately began thrusting. His skin, now free of encumbrance, slid against Sano’s with hot friction as he curled down atop him and kissed his face with such imprecision it was as if finding his lips was not merely impossible but unthinkable at the moment. Up and around Saitou’s tense back Sano slid his arms, fingers spread wide to feel the shifting of muscle beneath them. Then he drew his knees up as far as they would go and began running his curling toes at random over Saitou’s lower body.
The change this occasioned in the angle of constriction on Saitou’s cock made the wolf groan out his lover’s name in between his panting breaths, and that was enough for Sano, in a prickling rush of sensation, to start becoming hard again. His moan matched Saitou’s, and immediately he tried to press closer to the shifting body above him so as to trap this new erection tightly between them. Unfortunately, this left not quite enough of him against the futon, and Saitou’s next thrust slid him right off one edge.
The floorboards were unexpectedly cool beneath his shoulders, and he gave a little cry of surprise in which was mixed some pleasure, equally unexpected, at the temperature contrast. Saitou laughed breathlessly and, without bothering about the fact that Sano was half off the bed, adjusted his position. He braced himself more firmly with strong arms on either side of Sano, and kept at what he was doing.
Some tiny segment of the burning, spinning, out-of-control part of Sano that claimed to be his mind was insisting that later he would have to remember this new angle and try for it again, because it was fabulous. Everything besides Saitou atop him and inside him, Saitou loving him, had faded rapidly from his awareness; he’d practically forgotten his own identity, except as far as he was Saitou’s lover, and didn’t particularly mind. And by the gorgeous expression on his face and the increasingly pleased and eager noises he was making, Saitou seemed to be enjoying it too.
How long this went on Sano couldn’t guess; such mundanities as seconds and minutes (and caring about them) seemed inapplicable to this ecstasy. He held tightly to his beloved, moved with him, felt with him, and nothing else really mattered. And then, as that full-body tingle of second orgasm swept through him, compelling him to cry out in an attempt (not very successful) at Saitou’s name, he tightened every part of himself that was locked to Saitou, clenching most notably and somewhat painfully where Saitou was still moving inside him. It made his outburst of pleasure even louder, in which he was joined by his partner as Saitou ground into a suddenly much smaller opening. Saitou quickened his pace for the last few deep thrusts it took him to come as well, with a moan as formless as Sano’s had been.
They celebrated this accomplishment with a few kisses almost exhausted and certainly uncalculated, then lay mostly still, breathing hot mist against each other’s skin for quite some time. Things besides Saitou and Saitou’s body and Saitou’s love were reminding Sano that they existed, and he wanted to laugh as he discovered how well he and Saitou together seemed to fit into them. Everything was perfect right now, even if they were still lying half off the futon and had, he was fairly sure, spilled the oil jar at some point.
Eventually, with a sigh and the kind of wincing care he never exhibited under any other circumstances, Saitou lifted himself slowly out of direct contact with Sano as he pulled gradually out of him. Then he shifted so that when he settled again, it was lying properly on the bed, and he pulled at Sano to join him. Sano squirmed over and into the arms that awaited him, pressing back against Saitou’s hot flesh and kissing him briefly on the neck before stilling with an echoing sigh. They fell silent, except for breaths that were calming only in their own good time, and Sano, analyzing the silence as he had often done since he’d met Saitou in the street that day that seemed so long ago, classified it as ‘exquisite.’
All silences, even the most beautiful, must end eventually, especially between two such men, and Sano didn’t mind when he felt he couldn’t refrain from speaking any longer. “So you weren’t lying. You really were holding back before.”
“Because I was trying to simulate the boring sex I imagined you having with Himura.”
Later Sano would have to explore the interesting idea of Saitou imagining him having sex with Kenshin. At the moment, however, the reference was extremely awkward. “Shit, please don’t mention Kenshin at a time like this.”
“Good.” Saitou sounded very pleased as he ran a hand up and down Sano’s back in response to the younger man’s shudder. “I’d rather have you thinking exclusively about me anyway.”
“You might want to be careful… I can get kindof obsessive…” Though Sano grinned as he said it, there was a touch of embarrassment to the warning.
“I’ve seen how you can get when you think you’re in love; I’m very interested in how you get when it’s real.”
“You’ll probably still think I’m an idiot, though.”
“Of course. I wouldn’t love you half as much if you weren’t.”
“I’m going to quote you on that.” Sano wondered if he would be receiving nearly this many declarations of love once the current atmosphere of intense emotional connection between them had faded, and thought that keeping this latest one firmly in mind would be extremely useful in the future when Saitou was talking down to him as usual.
“I’m sure you are,” Saitou chuckled.
Sano angled his face upward to look into Saitou’s, and found the older man smiling fondly at him. He smiled back, upon which Saitou nipped at the tip of his nose and then kissed it. Sano kissed him back, but on the mouth, and then drew away with a thoughtful expression. “You know what you never have showed me?” he mused.
“How to fuck you.”
“No… in the previous context it seemed unnecessary.”
“This is not the previous context.”
Saitou’s eyes narrowed. “It certainly isn’t. Do you think you can handle more lessons from me?”
“I’m pretty sure I could spend the rest of my life figuring out better ways to be with you.” The lightness of Sano’s tone did not hide the fact that he meant this statement, in all seriousness, on multiple levels.
Again Saitou smiled at him. “Well, we’ve discovered that you can be taught, so I think it’s worth a try.”
Sano’s gorgeous new life (which, honestly, was remarkably like the old life, except that he understood it better) had progressed only a few days before he ran into Kenshin. He hadn’t expected this quite so soon — he’d believed nothing but the wedding itself, which he obviously couldn’t miss, could tear him away from Saitou for the next long while, but the work of Mibu no Ookami waited for no man and didn’t always keep the most convenient hours for newly declared lovers. The fact that Saitou was likely to be out all night was what drove Sano from home when afternoon was just turning to evening; visiting the dojo wouldn’t help with the pining and worrying that would torment him later when he went to bed alone, but it could at least prevent him from starting in on those pastimes several hours earlier than absolutely necessary.
Kenshin was just emerging from the main doors with a shopping bag over his arm, and Sano immediately reflected how funny it was that, only a few days before his marriage, nothing had changed for the rurouni. Somewhat unthinkingly, he stepped forward and remarked on this aloud — which was fortunate, because after that thought came a whole slew of others that he had to work through before he could possibly speak again.
Perhaps nothing had changed for Kenshin, but everything had changed for Sano. He almost couldn’t believe he’d previously considered himself in love with this man. Of course he loved him — in fact, a warm wave of affection washed through Sano as he looked Kenshin over now — but it was a comradely love, even a brotherly love, and that he could ever have mistaken it for anything else seemed absurd. Sure, looking with less bias now than before, Sano could still admit that Kenshin was damned attractive (though ‘tall and lean’ took a firm first place on his list of desirable physical attributes these days), but this was nothing more than an impartial observation such as he might make about anyone he met. There was no trace of active desire.
What there was was guilt, and even a certain measure of horror. The awkwardness Sano had planned to thrust upon Kenshin had been unkind and unfair, and the heartbreak and betrayal he’d callously declared perfectly appropriate for Kaoru had been unforgivable. How grateful he was that they weren’t aware of it! How immeasurably more grateful he was that Saitou had snapped him out of his lengthy trance of inconsiderate stupidity before friendships could be strained or even destroyed. Saitou hadn’t rescued him merely from emotional turmoil, but from actually making a worse person of himself. Not that having considered it in the first place didn’t weigh pretty heavily yet… but at least now Sano had the chance to improve, to avoid a repetition of such reckless thoughtlessness in the future. Thank god, once again — and Saitou! — that Kenshin and Kaoru would never know.
In direct contrast to the mixed nature of these feelings, there was a straightforwardly pleasant irony in the reflection that Sano had originally intended to get to Kenshin by way of Saitou, then ended up doing just the reverse. It only made the sight of Kenshin, regardless of any other emotions simultaneously called up, that much more welcome to Sano’s eyes. He could make amends, even if Kenshin and Kaoru never knew what for. He’d been learning a lot lately; surely he could learn to be a better friend too.
At the moment, Kenshin was wrapping up his explanation of what he was heading out to shop for and why it was necessary that he rather than Kaoru do it, and though Sano hadn’t caught most of the exact words, he could easily read the mood Kenshin was in.
“I’m glad you’re happy, Kenshin,” he said with earnest sincerity. “Really glad.” It was all he could do not to ask how he could help keep things that way, which would just sound silly.
“Thank you,” said Kenshin, equally intent. Then he gave his companion a brief, sidelong look whose meaning Sano didn’t recognize until Kenshin continued in a somewhat cautious tone, “And you, Sano? It looks as if you have made up with Saitou, so I assume things are going well for you…”
Torn abruptly and violently from schemes of better friendship and personal improvement, Sano stilled with a jerk and stared, gaping, as Kenshin kept walking a step or two before stopping as well. Hoarse and quiet, Sano echoed, “‘Made up with…'” and could say no more.
Turning to face his friend, Kenshin looked as if he regretted having decided to ask. “If you would rather not talk about him…”
“No, that’s not…” Sano cleared his throat and shook his head vigorously, feeling a blush creeping over his face to replace what had probably been an unusual paleness there a moment before. “I just… didn’t know you knew about us.”
“I couldn’t be sure I was interpreting things correctly,” Kenshin admitted, “until that night at the Haiirobou, when you were so embarrassed when I asked whom you had been training with. I thought you must be worried I would disapprove.”
This conversation had gone in a direction so completely, so stunningly unexpected that Sano could say nothing but, “And… do you?”
“I did at first.” Kenshin sounded apologetic. “Especially because you did not come to see us very often, and seemed so agitated whenever you did. But I believe I am used to the idea now. It is your choice, after all.”
They’d resumed walking, and Sano was speechless. Kenshin trusted him in a way he had not trusted Kenshin: to make a rational decision about his own love life. And he’d known all along — the entire time Sano had been training and scheming and deliberately overlooking sense and morality — all along that Sano was involved with Saitou. As Sano perceived clearly the precise depth of the abyss he’d so narrowly avoided flinging himself into, the true scope of the embarrassment and misery he’d only been saved from by the care of another, he was hardly able to breathe for horror and chagrin.
“Saitou was stalking around for a week or so as if he was ready to kill someone,” Kenshin went on when Sano said nothing. “That is, he always looks like that, but this was worse than usual. But when I’ve noticed him over the last few days, he has appeared much happier.” In a tone of pitying resignation he added, “I assume there will be plenty of fights between the two of you, but, once again, it’s your choice… and after that business with Hasekura, I did worry less.”
Sano still had no grip whatsoever on this discussion, and could only repeat blankly, “‘Business with Hasekura?'” The name was vaguely familiar; he thought he remembered Saitou mentioning it at some point… one of the government officials on the ‘to be investigated eventually’ list, wasn’t he?
Now Kenshin gave him an inquiring look that turned quickly to one of surprise and even disbelief. “You did not know?”
“I still don’t know. What are you talking about?”
“Saitou never said anything at all about Hasekura Susumu?”
“I’ve heard the name, but he never told me anything specific about…” Sano’s presence of mind was not assisted in any way by the nearly astonished expression on Kenshin’s face.
“Sano, the man you fought in the street that night — the same night I mentioned, when we went to that restaurant — his father is Hasekura Susumu, of the Ministry of Finance. Hasekura was so angry at what you did to his son that he was going to bring charges against you — you really know nothing about this?”
Mutely Sano shook his head.
“The police were searching for you for a week. They came to the dojo almost every day.”
“But…” Thinking back, Sano remembered that he hadn’t left Saitou’s house for quite some time after the incident in question. “But Saitou knew where I was that entire time!”
“I suspected as much when he suggested you were in hiding. He contacted both me and the young woman we met that night for an unofficial hearing. Any charges against you were dismissed when the police chief heard two witnesses describe the circumstances and the fact that the Hasekura boy actually attacked you first. And you will be happy to hear that he was ordered to stay away from her.”
Sano nodded blankly. It was good news, but nothing he could concentrate on at the moment.
His mind was reeling and his heart throbbing with the thought of what Saitou had done for him. The officer had gone out of his way to get Sano out of trouble he must have assumed had arisen during the pursuit of a goal he considered ill-judged in the first place. He’d taken time from the busy schedule of essential work he had to do for the country to smooth over that little issue for Sano, who at that point had not even been his lover. Saitou’s sense of justice had undoubtedly come into play, but Sano liked to think consideration for a friend had also been a part of why he’d taken such pains. And he hadn’t said a single word about it — had neither held it over Sano’s head as a favor that would one day need to be repaid, nor taunted Sano for getting himself into such a situation.
“Thank you,” Sano managed at last. “For telling me, I mean.” In the midst of his shock at everything that had just been revealed, he was conscious of a hot joy spreading through him as he considered everything he would be saying to Saitou when they next met. First there was this little matter of secretly rendered services to address… Saitou might never have established it as a matter of future repayment, but he was going to get paid for it with interest. And then there was the fact that Kenshin had known about them all along — known about them even before there was really a ‘them’ to know about — and held his tongue the entire time. This would probably amuse Saitou to no end.
Lastly, the point Sano was least likely to be able to express aloud but that he would surely find some other way to show his appreciation for, there was the unexpected newly arisen idea that Saitou, of all people, might be able to teach him to be a better friend. For Sano’s new goal of making amends to Kenshin and Kaoru and himself as true to them as they deserved, it appeared he needed to look no farther than the man that had helped him with his previous goal, the man that had saved him from destroying that friendship entirely, the man that had already taught him so much. The man he loved with all his heart and only respected more with every new thing he learned.
There was a big stupid grin on his face as he considered this. Kenshin, probably thinking he knew the reason for the expression — and certainly understanding at least part of it — smiled in return as he said, “You are certainly welcome, Sano.” And together in silence they walked on into the evening.
He Can Be Taught was one of the first Rurouni Kenshin fics I ever wrote, back when Saitou and Sano had a following. It won the 2002 Rurouni Kenshin Readers’ Choice Award for the yaoi category, and is, to this day, probably my most-searched-for story.
As over a decade passed, I of course edited it periodically, and felt it aged pretty well — certainly better than other early fics like As The Years Go Up In Smoke. But when I reread it in 2013, it occurred to me that, though the events of the story were still pretty great even after all this time, the writing was terrible. I sat down to do a very thorough edit, but found as I did so that what I was doing was not editing but reworking the entire thing.
The events of the story have remained completely intact, though a couple of them may be approached from a slightly different angle now. The biggest overall change, besides a quality of prose that I consider much better and the transition from chaptered to nonchaptered, is that certain interesting ideas that were only teasingly touched on in the original have been expanded somewhat in the rewrite. The result of this is that the story is about twenty pages longer than in its previous incarnation — and all the better for it, in my opinion.
A couple of specific things I will mention: yes, it is still based on the anime rather than the manga. For many years I’ve considered the Rurouni Kenshin anime a mediocre adaptation of a wonderful canon, but in this fic I found anime-specific references too numerous (and generally too innocuous) to do away with. In any case, my stories about Saitou and Sano tend to be set in a time frame that puts off Jinchuu sometimes indefinitely, so it’s not like it’s hugely important.
And, yes, the fluid pants line was excised. If you’ve read my notes on older versions of the story, you may know what line I’m talking about. The other incredibly dorky thing that could not withstand the test of time was Saitou quoting Poe at Sano near the end. I regret nothing.
In fact I’m extremely pleased with this rewrite overall, and only sorry that I didn’t do it years earlier so there might still be an audience around for it. But at least I’m satisfied :D The only remaining question is whether at some point As The Years Go Up In Smoke will get the same treatment. Who knows?
I’ve rated this story . What do you think of it?