Word count: 2147
Summary: If you're breathing, you're alive.
Author's notes: Written for LizS for Yuletide 2008.
The voice was soft and coaxing, and Minoru slid back against the far wall of his cage.
A bowl of soup was pushed into the cage with him. It was steaming faintly in the chill air, and Minoru shut his eyes and mouth. If he could have shut his nose, too, he would've.
There had been a time when he would have spilled the soup on the floor, but that was before he'd realized that he wouldn't automatically be given more, that he'd lick the congealed mess off the concrete when his hunger finally became so painful that he felt as though it would eat him from the inside. Before he'd realized that the only way out was one that he was too weak to take.
Now, he waited just as long as he could bear, but didn't push himself too much beyond that point. He knew his limitations. True resistance might be beyond him, but at least he could do his best to be a nuisance.
Minoru hoped he wasn't deluding himself in thinking that there was a tinge of annoyance in that amused tone, a slightly forced quality to the accompanying chuckle.
"You're only hurting yourself, you know."
Minoru didn't answer, not even in his head. That was something else he'd given up. Fighting back got him genuine laughter and more teasing and condescension, more words that he couldn't stem or stop no matter what he said. Fighting back got him glimpses of an erection beneath khaki slacks that hardened in response to his defiance and that made him want to vomit in disgust and fear. The only fighting Minoru did now was with teeth and nails and fists; it did him no more good than his words had done, but he hadn't yet lost the part of himself that struggled against pain.
Another chuckle, footsteps, the rasp of keys in a lock, the other door clanging, silence. Minoru lay down on the ground with one arm flung over his face, breathing shallowly through his mouth, and waited.
Hours later--possibly even days, although he was pretty sure he couldn't hold out that long--he crawled over to the bowl and lifted it to his mouth. He swallowed the cold, greasy soup as slowly as possible; he'd made himself sick once, eating too quickly, and while he hadn't been forced to eat that before he was permitted another bowl of food, that was no guarantee of generosity should it happen again.
The soup settled heavily in his stomach. He pushed the bowl through the small gap at the bottom of his cage; a wooden bowl was useless as a weapon, and if he tried to be an even greater nuisance by hiding it, he'd only invite an intrusion into the space that was already a pitifully ineffective shelter.
It wasn't long afterward that his vision began to blur and he felt drops of sweat beading his forehead. The soup had been drugged, then; it was, on occasion. Minoru curled in on himself, teeth clenched against the pain, and breathed carefully. He was still alive. Another sharp inhalation through his nostrils. He was still alive. He could dimly hear a scratching noise from somewhere outside the immediacy of his own body--a steady, disinterested hand taking notes with a pen--and he let the sound meld with the heartbeat pounding in his ears, the harsh sound of his own breathing.
Kubota had never watched anyone sleep before. Depending on the situation, sleeping people were either boring and harmless, and therefore not worth his notice, or they were vulnerable, in which case they weren't asleep in his presence for very long before they were dead.
The stray he'd picked up was different somehow. Maybe it was the beastly hand that incongruously tipped his thin arm. It was difficult to view anyone with a hand like that as either boring or harmless, especially given what Kubota had seen in that hotel room, and it made sense to consider the boy a threat even when he was asleep.
Except for the part where Kubota didn't consider him a threat. He had claws, yes, but so did any newborn kitten. They didn't necessarily make him dangerous.
Maybe it was because Kubota had only ever seen one man die in front of him whose death he hadn't caused or abetted, and he wasn't interested in revisiting that particular scenario.
Except that Kou had said the boy was perfectly healthy, not counting his strange hand, a few minor cuts and bruises, and a thinness that might be due to nothing more sinister than a teenaged metabolism. Anyway, that explanation would assume that Kubota cared about this stray, about whom he knew nothing other than a name that might belong either to him or to his previous owner.
Maybe it was because the boy was a mystery. His hand, the tag on his ankle, the fact that he wasn't trying to kill everyone around him in a murderous rage. As a person, he was admittedly fascinating.
Except that Kubota had never been interested in people before, and he didn't see any reason why he should start now.
The boy didn't even move much. He just lay there, his eyes twitching occasionally behind their lids, his chest rising and falling steadily. And Kubota watched him.
It was stupid to make him keep sleeping on the sofa, Tokito knew that. Kubo-chan was too tall to fit on it easily, which had to be bad for his back, and it was his bed, anyway. Not to mention his apartment, with his name on the door, and his life that Tokito had moved into with no hope of repayment.
Still, it didn't necessarily follow that it wasn't also stupid to invite him to share the bed with Tokito.
There was an obvious solution to the problem, and Tokito had thought of it. But the idea of sleeping on the sofa himself felt too...impermanent, too much like having one foot out the door. It didn't matter how accurate that was; it wasn't anything that Tokito wanted to think about, and definitely not something that he wanted to suggest to Kubo-chan.
So, instead, here he was, staring into the darkness with eyes that he wished had the night vision of the cat that Kubo-chan kept calling him. Maybe if he could see Kubo-chan's face, he wouldn't have to lie awake like this, feeling the presence of another person in his bed jangle all of his nerves, pushing him to run, to hide, to bite. Maybe he wouldn't have to listen to each slow breath and concentrate on the warmth of another body lying less than half a meter away from him, as though simply by staying alert, he could keep himself safe.
"I can go sleep on the sofa, if that would be easier," Kubo-chan said suddenly, and Tokito jumped a little.
"I thought you were asleep," he said.
The mattress moved slightly; Kubu-chan might be shrugging, or he might just be shifting position. "So, do you want me to?" he asked.
Tokito thought a moment. It would be easier if Kubo-chan were sleeping on the sofa, not least because then both of them could actually sleep. But that wasn't what Kubo-chan had asked him. "No," he said slowly.
Silence fell again; Kubo-chan wouldn't question his answer, but he also wouldn't leave now unless Tokito made him. Which meant that it would be Tokito's fault if he kept the two of them up all night. "We could buy a nightlight," he said.
"Okay," Kubo-chan said easily, sliding out of bed, and Tokito realized that he was about to head out to the store right then, despite the fact that it was close to two in the morning.
"Tomorrow, I mean," he said. "Maybe tonight we could just turn on the desk lamp? It's not too bright."
Kubo-chan made his way to the desk as easily as if the room weren't pitch black. Tokito wondered if his night vision could be that good--glasses to the contrary--or if he just knew the layout of his room that well. "Shield your eyes," Kubo-chan said, and Tokito buried his head in his pillow and closed his eyes.
The light clicked on, flaring dark red through the thin skin of Tokito's eyelids. A moment later, Kubo-chan slipped back into bed, and Tokito blinked his eyes open carefully to look at him.
Kubo-chan looked back at him for a moment, smiling faintly, then closed his own eyes. Now that the light was on, Tokito could tell that he wasn't asleep just by looking at him. More importantly, he could tell that he was Kubo-chan just by looking at him, and it wasn't long before Tokito yawned and let himself drift into sleep.
In Kubota's experience, the people who wanted to fuck him were the ones who didn't know him. There had been exceptions--all of them men, which confirmed Kubota's suspicion that women were the smarter sex--but not too many of them, and they had all been arrogant or insane or both.
Tokito was the only person he'd met who was initially uninterested in his body and who didn't want to fuck him until he'd gotten to know Kubota. Which still didn't make sex with Tokito anything other than a terrible idea, of course, but Kubota had gotten into the habit of giving into him.
There was no point in asking whether Tokito knew what he was doing. To Kubota's mind, there was equally little point in confessing that his own knowledge was almost as limited. He knew enough to keep Tokito safe; that would have to do.
They'd started out lying on their sides on the narrow bed, kissing with soft, easy brushes of lips and tongues. Tokito tasted like strawberry pocky, which oddly tasted better in Tokito's mouth than it did on its own. When Tokito slid one hand up to clasp Kubota's upper arm, his fingertips tracing the definition of his triceps, Kubota reciprocated with a hand on Tokito's hip and swallowed his faint gasp.
He could feel Tokito trembling slightly and wondered if he was about to be pushed away, but then Tokito pulled him closer instead.
"I want it like this," Tokito said, looking almost embarrassed, and Kubota let himself be prodded and tugged until he was positioned over Tokito, his hands braced on either side of him. "Is that okay?"
Kubota just nodded and leaned down for another kiss. Sweet, still, though less like strawberries with each passing minute. Tokito shifted underneath him, and their erections brushed against each other, only two layers of thin cotton separating them.
"Oh," Tokito said, his eyes widening in surprise.
Kubota almost did the same. The best part of sex, he'd always thought, was that initial moment of penetration and the shock of thrusting into tight, wet heat. Everything that came before and after--including his orgasm--was no better than he could manage on his own. And after he'd started buying lubricant regularly, even that benefit provided by a partner had become mostly reproducible.
This glancing touch, though. This was nothing more than he could achieve by rubbing up against a conveniently placed pillow, but somehow the realization that it was Tokito lit something within him that he hadn't even realized was there. He pulled at the waistband of Tokito's pajama pants with fingers that shook with adrenaline.
Some corner of his brain worried for a moment that Tokito would be alarmed by his sudden haste, his impatience, but a moment later Tokito was shoving at Kubota's pants with the same desperation. They didn't take the time to strip all the way, just got their pants down far enough that they were pressed skin to skin. Tokito wound his arms around Kubota's back, holding him tightly, and Kubota thrust against Tokito, feeling Tokito arch up against him.
Kubota couldn't even spare the presence of mind to try to fumble a hand between their bodies to help out; all that mattered was Tokito's mouth pressed against his and soft, damp skin against his hard cock and Tokito's whimpered moans. There was a sudden rush of wet heat, and Kubota thrust three, four times against Tokito's come-slick stomach before his own orgasm shuddered through him.
For the first time in memory--not counting the times he'd been injured--Kubota's arms felt too weak to support his weight. He brushed a last soft kiss over Tokito's mouth and tried to pull away, but Tokito wouldn't let him.
"Stay," he whispered, and Kubota relaxed into the embrace, chest to chest, feeling each of Tokito's breaths as though it were his own.