Disclaimer: The cute boys in flashy armor do not belong to me, much as I would like to claim otherwise.




Shin turned his face into the soft mass of hair feathering against his cheek. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Mmm.” The dark head moved against his shoulder in sleepy assent.

He smiled at that. He sounds like he’s already practically asleep, he thought fondly. It was just amazing- and cute, he allowed, very privately- how fiery independent Ryo turned into a pliant little kitten, content to cuddle and nap after making love.

They were well back from the shore of the lake, tucked up deep within the shade of the trees. Ryo had insisted on that- not for his sake, because the touch of the sun would only lend a more burnished shade to his golden tones- but to protect Shin’s own pale skin. Now they lay sprawled on a carpet of pine needles and last year’s leaves, Ryo with one arm flung carelessly across Shin’s waist and one leg tangling between both of his, head pillowed on Shin’s shoulder, pressed as close as he could get. Shin had one arm folded beneath his head, the other curled around Ryo, one hand stroking the warmth of his shoulder.

“When did you know?”

“mmmm what?”

Inexplicably, he felt his face grow hot. “That you . . . wanted to be with me?”

It was a question that had been drifting in and out of his thoughts for some time now. He already knew the answer he would give, if it were asked of him.

Not that Ryo would ever ask.


He’d known from the moment he’d seen the ebony-haired boy in the bright red armor, so like his own, that he loved him.

Compulsive honesty- Suiko’s bearer could lie to himself no more than he could lie to any other- made him amend that thought. All right, I wanted him from the moment I saw him. The impressive words he’d spouted, that whole leap from the top of the building thing- all had been to impress the other boy and perhaps draw his attention to him alone. And he could have cheerfully killed Seiji for doing it better- for falling head first and landing on his feet like a cat.

Once closer, and fully able to see the innocently determined features and the guileless blue eyes . . . Shin had been completely smitten. All he could think about, even while getting his butt handed to him by the Doom soldier, had been Ryo, and how to lure him to his bed . . . And perhaps that was the reason why I got my butt handed to me . . .

After Naruto, some element of idolization had crept in, even though in the end, Ryo hadn’t saved him as much as they had saved each other. Afterward, while they were still searching for Touma, they’d had all that time alone together. Except for the hyperactive child with an even bigger case of hero-worship on Ryo. For the longest time, Shin had both blessed and cursed Jun’s presence. It had kept him from trying to let Ryo know how he felt . . . but it had also kept him from making a fool of himself. The desire was there, the longing to touch him, but there was also the fear of opening himself to rejection.

It wasn’t until after, when they’d all had a chance to really get to know each other, that he realized he’d fallen in love with Ryo somewhere along the way. He couldn’t pinpoint when, and he wasn’t sure he really wanted to.

I’ll admit it, Shin thought, smiling, eyes closed. I’m fishing, just as surely as if I’d flung a baited hook into the lake.

The silence between them had grown long, and his smile softened. He did fall asleep. Well, it’s not like I need to know the answer. I guess it was kind of a silly question . . . He brushed his lips against Ryo’s temple.


“Huh?” Startled at the sound of Ryo’s voice, Shin opened his eyes. He looked down into drowsy blue eyes, crinkled in a slight smile.

“Always.” The bright blue disappeared, hidden as his lids drifted shut again, and he snuggled closer, tightening his arm around Shin’s middle.

After a moment, Shin chuckled softly, and squeezed his shoulder. “Me too, love,” he whispered.

The idea struck him quite suddenly. Unexpected answers are the best, aren’t they?

Yes, they are.


June 3, 2003

© randi (K. Shepard), 2003