by Reinaru En (零奈留縁)
It was night time in the palace.
This did not mean, however, that things were silent and still. Far from it, in fact. Night was when the palace really came alive, when the drink and the talk flowed endlessly, when the trappings of stiff, formal daytime were shaken away and laughter passed between people’s lips as easily as the ever-present liquor. This was a night of celebration, a night of freedom… A month had passed since the young Taira no Tsunemori had become emperor, and already he was a kind and just ruler, and the people looked upon him with admiration. Such a thing could not go unnoticed or uncelebrated, and the people laughed and danced and talked amidst themselves and the atmosphere was open and unrestrained.
Yet there were those who shunned the celebrations, who preferred to keep to themselves in the sparse furnishings of their darkened rooms and listen moodily to the sounds of the other palace residents. Of those who chose not to mingle were the princeling Yoshitsune, younger brother of the so-highly-revered new emperor, and his ever-faithful attendant Masafumi, who would never leave his master’s side no matter how much he yearned to take a peek at the festivities within Tsunemori’s chambers. Together they sat, Yoshitsune upon the edge of his slender bed and Masafumi on the floor at his feet. His head and hands were laid neatly within the folds of silky kimono that draped his master’s slender legs. He was enjoying the feel of Yoshitsune’s slender hand upon his roughly-cropped hair as if he were some sort of pet. Certainly, to see them, anyone might have thought that were indeed the case, but Masafumi cared not a whit for whoever might come across them. He enjoyed the sensations of closeness and caring that he could feel from Yoshitsune’s small body, and though his master would never say it aloud, the small comfort offered by the submissive gesture meant more than anything else Masafumi could possibly have done to soothe his wounded spirit. So he simply sat, his legs tucked beneath him at a bit of an awkward angle, and closed his eyes, the feel of the rich cloth of Yoshitsune’s ceremonial kimono beneath his cheek, a gentle caress to his contact-warmed skin.
The lantern on the far wall sputtered and died, its small flame caught in an errant gust of wind and was snuffed out as simply as a bug crushed beneath one’s foot, but Yoshitsune’s hand moved to Masafumi’s shoulder to stop him as he made to rise and relight the wick.
“Masafumi-kun, it’s all right. I don’t mind the dark.” He spoke softly into the still air, and Masafumi settled obediently and gazed up at his master’s face, thrown into frightening shadow by the contrast of moonlight and blackness that warred within the rough wooden walls. He couldn’t help but think how ethereal Yoshitsune looked at that moment, like a being sent down to their humble earth by the four gods that reigned from the heavens. Something stayed his tongue and lips before he could so much as draw breath to speak the words, leaving him to simply sit before his young charge and gaze at that peaceful face. Peace… That seemed to be such a fleeting thing for the princeling lately, and Masafumi treasured the small glimpses he could catch of it: whether during Yoshitsune’s morning wash as he splashed his face with chill water from the nearby stream, or during his training as he wielded a wooden sword with startling, friendly ease against his brother’s many bodyguards, or during the moments at night when Yoshitsune was just beginning to fall into the arms of slumber, his long, silken hair strewn across the pillow and ornate blankets arranged over his thin, pale form just so to keep away the chill of the autumn nights. As he lost himself in these thoughts, his eyes going soft and distant where they had locked themselves upon the pale beauty of the prince’s face, he barely noticed that Yoshitsune’s own eyes had drifted to him, studying him with the same almost-childlike curiosity that danced upon his own face in the darkness.
They simply sat, watching one another in a silence heavy with contentment.
A breeze flitted through the room then, decisively chill. Masafumi was on his feet the instant he felt its icy kiss against his cheek, angered that such a thing would come to ruin their peaceful contentment.
“You mustn’t catch a cold,” he whispered into the still, silent air, fetching one of the blankets from the foot of the prince’s bed and wrapping it neatly about his shoulders. He felt almost sad as a pale, shaking hand grasped the edges of the blanket to pull it tightly close. “Are you feeling ill, Yoshitsune-dono? You look so pale…” Impulsively, he grasped the hand, his eyes going wide with a fear that welled up from the very core of his soul as he felt the chill that lingered in the delicate extremity. He pulled his master close in a frightened, rough embrace as an attempt to stave off some of that wicked cold. “Please, Yoshitsune-dono! You mustn’t allow yourself to become so chilled! Please, allow me to warm you up,” he begged, one arm slung protectively about Yoshitsune’s thin shoulders even as he still grasped that fragile hand. “If…if you were to fall ill under my care, I could never forgive myself–!”
“Masafumi-kun.” Yoshitsune’s words were gentle, but Masafumi knew them for the rebuke they were, and he obediently fell silent as he clutched Yoshitsune tight to his chest, relaxing to feel a slight warmth beginning to creep into the young prince’s body. The peace returned then, soft and gentle, wrapping itself about them in what seemed to be a blanket of moonlit silk. Masafumi couldn’t help the smallest hint of a smile as he felt Yoshitsune’s head droop to his shoulder, resting against the coarse fabric of his shirt as tenderly as though it were the finest of cloth.
“Do you wish to rest, Yoshitsune-dono?” he breathed softly, turning his head so the words washed against the shell of a slightly-exposed ear. “I will stay with you, of course…”
There was no answer, except for the gentle movement of Yoshitsune’s hands as they released the blanket and crept up, arms encircling Masafumi’s neck, contentedly slow. “I wish…for nothing but your company, Masafumi-kun,” he murmured, barely audible, and before Masafumi could reply, he found himself shocked into silence by a warm, gentle pressure against his mouth. It took him a minute to realize the pressure was that of Yoshitsune’s lips on his, and by the time he did realize, he’d already reacted, bringing his hands clumsily around to grasp at fistfuls of silken, thigh-length hair, closing his eyes to better enjoy the sweetness of Yoshitsune’s mouth slowly ravishing his. The prince had an almost foreign taste to him, something honeyed and intoxicating that never would have seemed to belong to such a fragile creature. Masafumi felt he could drown in that taste, finding himself quite disappointed when Yoshitsune’s lips parted from his and their eyes met in the near-blackness. Neither of them said anything for a long moment, Masafumi’s hands still clenched in Yoshitsune’s hair and Yoshitsune’s arms still wound lovingly around Masafumi’s neck, until the prince’s voice drifted through the darkness, soft and breathless. “… I think… perhaps… I would enjoy a soak in the hot springs, Masafumi-kun.”
Masafumi was sure he was blushing as bright as the crimson flowers that grew outside the palace as he nodded his acknowledgement and rose, slowly bringing Yoshitsune up with him.
As was to be expected, the springs were empty at this time of night, and Yoshitsune seemed glad for this as he made his way through the wisps of steam that rose from the large rock-lined pool and drifted like ghosts across the ground, shedding layers of kimono as he went. First to go was the ornately embroidered blue silk of the sash, then the many layers of robes, each dyed bright sapphire or dazzling amethyst, then finally the plain white yukata, leaving Yoshitsune’s pale body bare. He waded into the water and seated himself against the heated rocks of the hot spring’s wall, a soft sigh of delight escaping him as he allowed himself to sink down to his neck in the hot, rippling liquid and close his eyes. The warmth was soaking deep into him, soothing him to the bone, and the look of contentment on his face was such that Masafumi had to smile as he moved about, gathering up the prince’s carelessly shed clothing and folding it neatly by the door before shedding his own clothes – with a bit of a blush, it must be admitted – and joining his master in the deliciously hot water. “Does…it feel good, Yoshitsune-dono?” he questioned shyly, drawing his knees up to his chest and wrapping his arms about them, eyes always fixed on Yoshitsune.
“It feels very good,” was the breathy reply. Yoshitsune’s slender limbs stretching beneath the surface of the steaming water before his arms suddenly lifted, wrapping themselves about Masafumi with much less hesitation this time and pulling the blushing young bodyguard’s lips down to his, kissing him with such a reckless abandon that he was immediately lost within it. A soft noise, not quite a moan, escaped his lips to be swallowed up in the kiss as he grasped at Yoshitsune’s shoulders, drawing him close until their bodies were pressed nearly flush against one another. He slipped a leg about his waist to hold him there and gasped softly at the growing hardness he could feel nudged into the curve of his hip. Never had he imagined he would ever be this lucky, to feel Yoshitsune’s body against his in this most intimate of positions. He could feel himself reacting already, arousal pooling in his groin in a hot, almost painful throb as he slowly and instinctively shifted his hips up against his master’s, tearing a gasp from that slender, delicate throat and shuddering hard at the sound. “Yoshitsune-dono,” he groaned, reluctantly tipping his head back to break contact with those soft, sweet lips, not quite meeting the prince’s heat-hazed eyes, and panting softly. “Are…are you sure…this is truly what you want…?”
Yoshitsune licked his lips absentmindedly. Sometime during the kiss he’d shifted to push Masafumi on to his back in the shallower water and straddled his hips. The sight of Masafumi stretched out and blushing beneath him was far too appealing. “I could never want anything more, Masafumi-kun,” he whispered, then leaned down and caught those lips in another, fiercer kiss. He rocked his hips slowly against Masafumi’s and let his sweet cries be muffled against his bodyguard’s lips as arousal met arousal in a slick slide of hot, wet skin on skin. He could feel Masafumi’s body tense and shudder beneath his, the sensation proving too much for him to handle. Yoshitsune smiled against shy lips and stilled his movements to reach down, his lithe fingers finding and encircling Masafumi’s erection to give the turgid shaft a long, slow stroke.
“Oh–!” Masafumi’s body bucked, his eyes gone wide as the heat within him coalesced into an unexpected, intoxicating rush. He tossed his head back and his hands clenched into tight fists as Yoshitsune’s skilled fingers worked him to his climax with that single touch. He was shaking, sobbing, unaware of the sounds he made as Yoshitsune lovingly eased him through the spasms of release. The prince cradled Masafumi’s head carefully, running gentle hands through close-shorn locks of hair to soothe the sheer overload he felt. Slowly, ever so slowly, he felt himself calm. His master’s soft ministrations lulled him into a state of sleepy contentment as afterglow began to settle over him, suffusing his entire being with a sense of warmth and safety that brought him so very near the edge of slumber. He barely felt Yoshitsune’s hand grasp his, guiding him slowly and inexorably down to where the princeling’s own arousal waited patiently for attentions to be lavished upon it as well. Awareness returned with a jolt, however, when he felt his fingers being nudged into a gentle grasp around the slender length, and a blush painted his cheeks brilliant crimson as he looked up at Yoshitsune with vulnerability in his eyes. “Yoshitsune-dono…?”
“It’s all right, Masafumi-kun. Touch me,” Yoshitsune whispered, his hands returning to their gentle cradling and soothing of Masafumi’s head, trying to lull the young bodyguard into relaxing enough to do as was requested of him. He found a smile on his lips as he felt Masafumi’s hand begin to slowly move, his water-slick skin uncertainly stroking and teasing; it sent a delightful warmth swirling through every portion of his body to settle deep within him. “Yes… that’s good, Masafumi-kun. Like that,” he encouraged softly. His voice was naught but a breathy moan; the tone sent deep shivers down Masafumi’s spine and spurred him to touch more eagerly. His thumb swiped softly across the tip of the prince’s arousal and smeared the pearly droplets that had gathered there. He could feel Yoshitsune’s lithe body begin to tremble and tense at the feeling. Much-craved release slowly slipped up on the young princeling like fog in the night. His eyes turned up to that softly flushed face, breath caught in his throat as he gazed upon the sensual flutters of eyelash and movements of pleasure-slack, pouty lips that lent an ethereal quality to every expression.
Beautiful… Yoshitsune-dono, you’re beautiful…
He leant up before he could help himself, pressing his lips to Yoshitsune’s and repeating the swipe of his thumb across his master’s tip. He swallowed the cry torn from that slender throat as Yoshitsune bucked against the touch, yielding up splatters of sticky pearlescent warmth to the hand that so tenderly stroked to urge release from him. Unlike Masafumi, he didn’t sob; he curled close to his bodyguard’s damp chest and breathed softly, shuddering until the soft spasms had passed and he found himself capable of movement again. He brought tired arms up to wrap around Masafumi’s shoulders and pressed a kiss over the fluttering heartbeat in that softly tanned chest. “…Thank you…Masafumi-kun,” he whispered, his eyes closing slowly as slumber’s inexorable lullaby washed over him. A sleepy smile of contentment curved his mouth as he felt Masafumi lift him and stand a bit awkwardly. He could dimly hear the young bodyguard murmuring something about rest and keeping him up much too late, but Yoshitsune didn’t really pay much heed to it, sighing softly and allowing himself to curl a bit closer. He could see no harm in drifting to sleep in Masafumi’s arms. If questioned later, he could simply say that the heat of the springs had exhausted him, an excuse few in the palace would argue with as they knew the sleep-inducing qualities of the so-called ‘healing waters’ well. Though perhaps…that isn’t the sort of healing they speak of, he thought as Masafumi wrapped him gently in the many layers of his robes. The tiniest hint of a smile claimed his lips for the fleeting moment before sleep drew him beneath its cloak of darkness and dreams.
Perhaps he would have to take advantage of a bit of that… intimate healing… more often.