Hoops of Steel
Part III

Touma inhaled deeply. HOME. The most wonderful word ever created. At least, it was to him now.

His stomach rumbled. Food would now be the second most wonderful word.

Shin laughed as he headed in. "I'll fix you something in a minute, Touma. Can you live that long?"

Blue eyes twinkled as Touma put his good hand to his forehead and sighed as he lamented, "I don't know! I DID just get out of the hospital!" in a melodramatic voice.

Shin chuckled and shut the door after Touma. "Seiji is in his room, trying to pretend like it's not a big deal to him that you're home."

"Oh really?" He paused in his mischief planning to smile at Shin gratefully. "Thanks for the ride home."

"You're welcome. SOMEONE had to come get you. We're certainly not letting you take a cab again."

"Yeah, that'll teach me, huh? I've learned my lesson!!" More melodrama. "With God as my witness, I'll never take a cab in Shinjuku again!!" Dropping the exaggerated tone, he asked, "So why you? I'm just curious."

"Well, Shu offered to get the groceries today..."

"OHHH BOY...."

"Ryo's been dragged off to the mall again by Nasuti. That woman has more credit cards than God."

"God doesn't need credit. He can pay cash. But why'd she drag RYO with her of all people? Seiji is much better at shopping."

Shin chuckled. "Perhaps too good. I think he insulted Nasuti's taste in clothes last time. She doesn't really want a shopping PARTNER anyway, she just wants someone to carry everything she buys."

"Ah of course. So drop it all on Fearless Leader. Right, gotcha."

"And Seiji of course is still trying to act aloof. I reminded everyone at breakfast today about you getting out of the hospital and I swear Seiji...he..."

"He what?"

"He almost smiled."


Shin grinned and they both laughed, until Touma clutched his chest a little. "Ugh. Man, I can't even laugh...this sucks."

"Go see Seiji. He'll fix you up."

"Why, Shin Shin Shin. Innocent little Shin, was that an innuendo?"

Shin merely shrugged, turned and walked into the kitchen, slightly smirking the whole way. "I'll get you some lunch," he called back over his shoulder.

Touma grinned and nearly bounced up the stairs. Home again! Home again! First Osaka, then the hospital...home had never seemed so...homey.

He bounced into Seiji's room, a big smile on his face, intending to annoy his love into confession of his concern, but to his surprise, it was empty.

"Seiji?" Oooookay so Shin was mistaken. Where the heck is he? Touma shrugged. Must've stepped out for a bit when Shin was pickin' me up. Ah well. I'm still home.

But it just wasn't the same. Touma walked back to his room and strolled in. Everything just like he had left it, except that Seiji was sittin' on his bed.


"Seiji!? What are you doing in my room?"

"Waiting for you." As though the answer were obvious. He supposed it was.

"Shin said you were in your room..." Touma gave it up. "Ah, it doesn't matter. I'm just glad to be home." And now when he said the word, it felt right. He was really truly home now.

"Sit down, Touma. It has been a long time since I've done this, but I should still be able to be of some help." He patted the rumpled sheets next to him.

Touma sat next to Seiji and worked things through in his mind. "Oh. I get it. You wanna help me out of this shirt then?" he asked, gesturing to his currently useless left arm and then to the T-shirt he had on: white, with a double helix down one side, the words "deoxyribonucleic acid" along the bottom and, next to the double helix, the statement "Is that DNA in your genes or are you just happy to see me?" Seiji snorted. Touma and his silly T-shirts.

"With pleasure."

The sling was easy enough, but pulling Touma's T-shirt off was another matter. The cast alone would've been a slight challenge to manuever around, as it held the archer's arm at a 90 degree angle, but given the fact that excessive, or really, ANY, torso rotation or movement made Touma wince and flinch in pain, it took a good five or six minutes to finally bare flesh.

Seiji applied his hands to Touma's abdomen carefully. Even the gentle contact made Touma wince a little.

How long HAS it been? Years...years since I last summoned any part of Korin to me, even something like its healing ability. He concentrated, tried to recall his state of mind and the sensations when he healed someone.

To anyone else, Seiji had not changed in the least. But Touma knew what to look for. There were the things any of the guys would note, from long association with each other: the muscles tense, the gaze intent. And there were the things Touma could see, from his intimate association with the blonde swordman of Light: his pupils had contracted a little in concentration, his mouth was set tight - well, tighter than usual - and Touma could almost feel the intensity of his concentration against his skin.

Nothing happened for about half a minute, and then Seiji's virtue flared to glowing green life on his forehead and the sudden wave of just being BETTER hit Touma. He could feel cracked and broken ribs fusing back into place, could feel muscles mending. It had always been an odd feeling, but now he felt...warm. Because this was Seiji. Oh yes, it was Korin's energy, but it was also Seiji's. It balanced out the strange feeling that had once been well-known but was now only familiar through memory.

It took him back to the fighting. To everything that had happened in all their battles with the Youjakai, and even against other men. Shikaisen...the name was one Touma despised. The scientist in Touma hated to see what could happen when such a powerful tool was put into the hands of a madman; worse yet, to have Seiji suffer at the hands of such a man...it was the worst of all the battles in his mind. Yes, the Youjakai had hurt Seiji, and Shin and Shu it had, one way or another, hurt them all. But those had been DEMONS. This had been another human being.


"Eh?" He blinked his mind back to the present, and to Seiji, who sounded a little worried...for Seiji. "I'm okay. I guess my train of thought derailed." He smiled reassuringly.

"How do you feel?"

"A hell of a lot better. Umm...can we find a way to get rid of this cast?" Touma flexed his hand and arm muscles, straining against the restrictive bindings.

"There should be a small, hand-held circular saw in the garage. Stay here." Seiji rose and moved to go with his usual grace. Touma had thought he was used to it, but every once in awhile he was struck once more with wonder that anyone could move so quietly, in so dignified a manner. Sometimes he even wondered if Seiji was human.

But he knew better than to say anything. It would embarass Seiji, who didn't like being reminded of his strangely "other" looks. He was Japanese, after all, and how many Japanese had hair of sunlight and eyes of amethyst?

Of course, how many Japanese had blue hair and blue eyes? Touma was well aware of how different he was, but he relished it. So much of life in Japan, and in Tokyo, was routine, with nothing ever unusual or out of the ordinary. Touma didn't care if other people didn't like him; to each their own.

Touma looked around his room a little. Same ol' room, disorganized but not messy. Touma knew where everything was; it was only other people who had problems locating things. He laid back on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. His eyes traced the constellations he'd created with glow-in-the-dark stars.

His left arm itched under the cast, where he couldn't get to it. Damnit, hurry up...I want my left arm back. You never noticed how much you needed both arms until you were forced to just use one. He couldn't draw a bow now if his life depended on it. Labwork would be a pain with only one hand. And he couldn't hold Seiji with only one usable arm.

Itch itch itch....it was starting to get annoying. He wondered how anyone survived months in these things without going insane.

Seiji returned, saw in hand. Most people might've been nervous, but Touma trusted Seiji. Touma trusted all the guys. And he knew Seiji'd be careful.

A matter of minutes, most of those spent trying to find the nearest power outlet, and Seiji cracked open the cast to free Touma's arm.

"How does it feel?"

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa....." Touma sighed happily, able to scratch the itch that had been pestering him. "Wonderful."

"I meant your arm itself. Is it fully healed?"

"Not sure. It's not broken anymore, I know that."

"Take it easy for the next few days anyway."

"You sound like the doctor, Seiji. 'No strenuous physical activity'," Touma hmphed. "Like I can do anything with a broken arm and broken ribs!"

"How are the ribs feeling?"

"Much better. I think they're still a little bruised, but I'm pretty sure none of them are broken anymore. It's a lot easier to breathe, let me tell you."

Seiji nodded. "Even so, we should be careful."

"We?" Touma asked.

Another nod of that blonde head, and then Seiji gently pulled Touma closer. "We."

One blue eyebrow arched as a grin spread across Touma's face. He leaned forward and nuzzled Seiji's ear before whispering, "I missed you too," punctuated with a soft tug on the earlobe. Seiji sighed so softly Touma could barely hear it. But still, it was the beginning.

Foreplay was less about arousal and more about just getting Seiji to unWIND. The man was as tense as one of Touma's bowstrings, but he never showed it. He was always so very in control of himself, and it was one of the things Touma loved about sex with Seiji. It made him lose that control, if only for a short while. Seiji needed the release, and Touma was more than glad to help him, especially considering the method employed.

He was trailing fingers along Seiji's shoulder bones underneath his shirt, and unbuttoning the first few buttons. Touma felt hands on his chest, trailing down, and at first he thought he knew their destination. A sudden stop, and then Seiji was unwrapping the bandage around his abdomen. Oh right. Wouldn't need that anymore.

He shoved cloth away and kissed his lover's shoulders and neck, noticing how it was distracting Seiji from his task of unbinding him. Gooooooooooood... he purred mentally, but he was distracted himself when Seiji gently pushed him away and down to the bed.

Not that this sort of distraction was a bad thing either, as Seiji became very intent on reminding Touma.


In the afterglow, as Touma lay tangled in Seiji's arms and legs, he let his mind start working again, and it returned instantly to the armors. That, in turn, returned him to something he'd noticed on this and a couple of other occasions.

"Hey, Seiji?" he asked. "Do you ever notice how sometimes, when you...start feeling...excited, your virtue glows?"

"Me specifically or is that a general you?"

"Umm...kind of both. I've noticed mine will sometimes. It's sort of weird."

Seiji nodded. "Yes I've noticed both of our virtues coming to life a time or two. I thought it was a slip, the virtues taking the wrong sort of cue or something similar."

"Yeah I didn't really think about it either," Touma agreed. "But now I wonder why that happens."

"Why does it matter?"

Touma shrugged. "Because I don't know why and it'll drive me nuts."

"The Sir Edmund Hillary of intellect."


"One of the first to climb Mt. Everest. When asked why he did it, he answered, 'Because it was there.'"

"Yeah something like that, I guess. I need to know just because I don't know it."

"That would explain your 'genius' status."

Yawn. "Well...the genius has been worn out and is hitting the sack. You know, the doctor told me to AVOID this sort of thing."

"The doctor told you to avoid strenuous physical activity for the time being."

"Point. I did sort of just...let you do all the work."

Seiji nodded again. "Just following the doctor's orders. Go to sleep, Touma."

"Yes Mother."

And Touma, being the usually obedient man he was, fell right to sleep. He'd be hungry when he awoke, although that was no big surprise. Seiji carefully pulled Touma as close as was currently possible and smoothed back the mussed and slightly damp azure tuft of hair he had his face half-buried in.

Damn him...now I'M thinking about it as well...what with the dreams... The armor again. The armor that he'd never really wanted to think about again. Now it was becoming omnipresent, he couldn't escape it.

"...the wearers develop an unusually close bond, even beyond the usual camaraderie of soldiers..."

No, no I will not think about that again. I refuse to accept the idea that what I think is love is nothing more than a side-effect from the armor. I do not believe the armors capable of tampering with my emotions like that. He hated the very thought. As if having Korin had not done enough to him, between the battles with the Youjakai, Mukara, and Shikaisen...

His whole childhood had been lost, sacrificed to the training necessary to wield Korin properly, to save the world. His early adolescence was killed in battle. He was determined to have his adult years for himself, damnit. And now here was the same spectre once more. His life was not his own. Not even his EMOTIONS were his own, it seemed. The armor twisted those to its own desires as well.

No. No. I don't care how mystical the armor is, how much magic it possesses, it can't do that. It's not possible, and I will not believe it.

I Love Touma.

I love Touma; it's not a hunk of metal in love with another hunk of metal. It's not this "unusually close bond". It's love, real love. It cannot be otherwise. Seiji hoped he wasn't merely deluding himself and in denial. He brought himself out of his thoughts by returning to the scent of his lover's hair, the feel of the lean, muscular body laying next to his own. He idly stroked Touma's hair and whispered into reality, "I love you."


Chapter 4:.
.:Wisdom's Sacrifice Fiction:.