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[personal profile] labingi
Fandom: Mirage of Blaze
Title: "Present Friends"
Characters/Pairing: Naoe/Haruie
Warnings: Naoe/Haruie, PG-13
Disclaimer: I do not own, only love.
Summary: Naoe and Haruie are on a routine mission a couple of years prior to volume 1.
Author's Notes: Writing Naoe-POV sex scenes is simplified somewhat by the plethora of canon material to study. Two features stand out: 1) he's much more focused on his partner's pleasure than his own; 2) not for an instant does he stop philosophizing. I have endeavored to keep the tradition alive.

"Present Friends"

He wanted to offer her a beer, but there was no beer in the hotel room and inertia made him balk at hunting one down. He found a can of Coke in the mini-fridge, Haruie's presumably. Naoe couldn't stand Coke. He poured half of it into a paper cup and handed it to her.

"Hm? Oh, thanks."

"You're woolgathering," said Naoe, "and you looked like you could use a drink."

She went on woolgathering, flopped in a chair, cup dangling from her hand. After a moment, she started back to reality. "What'll we drink to?"

Naoe sat in the other chair and fingered the Coke can. He couldn't think of anything. Everything was gray these days, like a train in the fog chugging toward no destination just because it hadn't run out of fuel.

"Irobe," said Haruie and raised her cup. "To Irobe, for nearly thirty years of successful, single-handed service. May he have rest and recuperation and a long, happy childhood." She upended her cup as if it were vodka.

Naoe, too, took a good slug from the can. After a while, he said, "Tomorrow, we should investigate the school." That went without saying, given that five people had seen one of the spirits there. But he said it because he couldn't think of anything else to say.

Haruie picked the Coke can from the table and poured the rest into her cup. "I broke up with my boyfriend."

Naoe looked away to give her space. "Was it serious?" he asked, knowing the answer.

"No." She downed the rest of the Coke. "Well, it was more serious to him. But he kept wanting to have sex with me, and after a while, it made me so tired. Not the sex; he wasn't bad. But the... thing, you know? The endless pretending to be a college girl hot on this college boy. And he cared about me, that kid; it makes me feel like such a heartless cow. I get so tired of never being able to explain why I can't care back. And the pretending. I can't win at love, Naoe. When I'm with no one, I'm so god-awful aware of being alone. And when I'm with someone, the only thing I can think is how he doesn't measure up to Shintarou-san."

Naoe still didn't know what to say. She'd expressed an insoluble conundrum.

She rubbed a hand over her face as if too tired for tears. Thus, the two of them kept hovering in this life like clouds that couldn't muster the strength to rain.

"I'm glad you're here," she said. "I don't know what I'd do if I were the only--" Her face cracked. "Irobe has always been so strong. I have never understood his strength."

Naoe reached out a hand to her. For a moment, they squeezed each other's palms. "We should get some sleep."


When Naoe got out of the bathroom in his t-shirt and sweatpants, she was standing by the window, looking out through the curtains, woolgathering again. She came over and hugged him. He hugged her back, uncomfortably. Over the centuries, the intimacy among the five of them had persisted thanks to distance. Without distance, implosion.

She held his face in her hands and kissed him.

"This is dangerous," he said.

"I know." She kissed him again. "I want to be with someone who knows who I am."

What a clean articulation of the drive that had united them, five so disparate people, across the ages, with no one else to turn to.

So he surrendered to the danger, to the surety of the mistake, surrendered to her beautiful body, exploring the impressive breasts free underneath her t-shirt. He could almost forget her, lost in the feel of her skin, the unperfumed smell of young woman. She could almost be anyone, and perhaps it was better that way.

Or maybe that was why, when he mounted her, his mind tripped to Minako and the night Haruie had told him. She said she needed to talk to him and dragged him out from under the eyes of Nagahide and Irobe (she had already told-- But Naoe hadn't known that then). She marched him down a narrow street and, after some minutes of silence, abruptly whirled and slugged him. He crashed to his knees. A man walking on the other side of the road snickered.

Naoe had forgotten a lot of the details, but he remembered at some point she said, "Do you have any idea how much I hate you?" Words like that had a way of replaying years later in the middle of updating ledgers at the office or driving down the highway.

So strange and touching and brutal the world in which she would open herself to that man. He pressed his tears against her neck, and she found his tearful eyes and kissed them. It would be foolish to pretend they didn't need each other, now that Irobe was dead and Nagahide was god knows where and Ka--

--now that they were only two.

This act had little to do with sexual need. Those needs they could meet in a dozen safer ways. This act was a profession of an old, old love, through the lingering movement of lips, through skin on skin, and the joining of bodies in rhythm. It spoke more eloquently than speech, a consolation for a sorrow whose deep roots demanded eloquence.

When she was close to coming, he slowed down to bring her to it gradually and deeply and got the same satisfaction he usually did from making a woman gasp with pleasure. He didn't want to feel more than that, not for her, not in these circumstances.

When they had finished performing their love, she said, "My God, Naoe, it's true what they say about you!"

He smiled, enjoying the gentle pressure of her head against his shoulder.

"I have no idea how you did that. When I was a man, I must have been terrible compared to you."

"Well, I've had two hundred years more to practice."

"Yeah, that's not why."

He thought back to the Haruie of long ago and wondered all over again at her transformation. "I'd guess you were always good at it, if only because you cared for the people you slept with. I have always admired that in you, Haruie, your effortless tenderness."

"I used worry that women would be afraid of me because I was such a big guy. So yeah, I was careful with them. I don't know how good I was, but I was careful." She paused, sinking into her own thoughts.

Presently, Naoe said, "I remember sleeping one night on the road. I don't recall when exactly or where. But I woke up in the night and saw the broad shadow of your back turned toward me. And I felt... at home."

Under the covers, she grasped his hand.

It was a nothing conversation. It had only one meaning: I remember, the comforting, nonsense hum of being with someone who knew.


The danger lay in habituation, in the normality of the nights that followed, warm in her arms in the hotel. Thankfully, it only took a few days to solve the mystery that had brought them to this town and guide the mournful, bodiless spirits to peace. And they themselves--mournful, embodied spirits--packed up and got ready to part ways.

Haruie zipped her suitcase. "It's hard to say goodbye to this," she said for the both of them.

"This is the best way," said Naoe. "Once we get some distance, it'll wear off."

She nodded and kissed him for the last time. "I'll see you around." She hefted her suitcase and strode out to her motorcycle.

And quite soon it did wear off, almost entirely.
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