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Title: The Next Step
Author: opalmatrix
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: mild m/m
Prompt: Samurai Deeper Kyo: Benitora × Akira, Testing the lines of friendship, "I found myself wanting sympathy"
Word count: : 1485
Summary: Benitora is there when his old friend needs him.
A/N: Set between the last two chapters of the entire series (306 and 307), but I've tried to finesse any spoilers for volumes 35-38. This story assumes familiarity with canon in vols. 1-34 (the ones released in English so far), so there are some spoilers from those volumes. Beta by the insightful smillaraaq, the always-helpful blue_hobbit, and the surprising kispexi2

The noise of the common room faded behind them as the roadside inn's host led Benitora back to the private section. The man rapped gently on the wooden frame of the doorway and was answered: "Yes?"

It certainly sounded like Akira. The host bowed to Benitora and removed himself.

"Yo, it's me, Akira-san. Can I come in?"

The was a pause, and then the shoji door slid open very slightly, showing a section of a face and a single closed eyelid. "No 'han'? It's a good thing I recognize your voice by things other than the words, Benitora-san."

Benitora grimaced and then laughed. "You know most of that Kansai-ben was put on to irritate my Dad. Let me in, already."

Akira dragged the door open, smiling faintly. He must have just had a bath: his fair hair was slightly darkened with moisture, and he was wearing a crisp, fresh yukata stamped in a simple geometric pattern, which probably had been supplied by the inn. The room was simply furnished with a small table, set with a plain meal for two, and a brazier. Akira's clothing and twin swords were neatly stowed on wooden racks. One blade still had Benitora's spare headcloth knotted around the hilt.

Benitora grinned and shoved the door shut behind him. Akira raised his eyebrows and crossed the room to kneel gracefully at the table. "I hope that the remaining rack will suit Hokura Kushimon,"

"He's not too fussy." Benitora set the polearm carefully onto the second weapons rack, dropped his bundle by the door, and sat down on the other side of the table. "Hey, it's good to see you."

"Likewise," murmured Akira, with only the slightest trace of irony. This close, Benitora could see that there were dark shadows under the closed eyelids, and Akira's strong wrists seemed thinner and bonier than he remembered. Benitora tried to avoid frowning, even though he knew that, theoretically, Akira couldn't see his face. His old friend's other senses more than compensated for the lack of vision. As if to illustrate this, Akira picked up the sake flask and filled the two cups without spilling a drop. "Shall we drink to old alliances?"

"Sure!" Akira would rarely say "friend" or "friendship," but the word was there anyway. Benitora raised his cup: "To friends far away, and friends here today. Kampai!"

Akira raised his in answer, and they downed their drinks. "Eat, please," said Akira.

The food was well cooked, and Benitora ate hungrily. Akira, he noticed, ate more slowly. "So, what happened to that Mibu girl? Weren't you traveling together?"

"Tokito? Yes. I managed to convince her to take a trip home." Akira's tone was dry.

"Huh? I thought you liked her. And she was stickin' to you like rice to a pot."

Akira laid down his chopsticks and rubbed the back of his neck. The action was really tired-looking and not like him at all. "I needed some time by myself, and she was most unwilling to give it to me. She wants me to be her teacher, and right now, I have nothing to give anyone."

Benitora eyes widened. "Your wounds still botherin' you?"

"Not as such. Akari-chan did a fine job. But ... since the Red Tower ... ."


"I've found myself weary, and empty, and even wanting - sympathy." Akira's cheeks were flushed.

"Heck, who wouldn't?"

There was a silence. Then: "You are the same as you ever were, Benitora-kun." Akira's voice was surprisingly warm.

"I sure don't feel like it, some days. All these responsibilities - I was really glad to get your message and have an excuse to come on out here."

Akira filled the cups again, and they finished their meal. Now that the ice had been broken, Benitora could see that Akira had been putting on something of a show of strength for his old friend at first, but that he was not bothering any longer. He was clearly stiff and worn out from travel and short rations. "Y'know, I bet at a big place like this, they could get hold of someone to give you a rub-down."

Akira smiled mockingly. "If only I could pay such a person. This room and this meal took the last of my funds."

"Damn. I could pay for it."

"Please. I still have some pride, despite my current situation. After a decent meal and a good night's sleep, I'll earn my way tomorrow."

The only way Akira ever made any money was by killing people or acting as an operative. Benitora wondered who'd hired him, or whether he just had in mind taking out some local bandit with a posted bounty.

"Heh. You're still the same stubborn little b- beast, Akira."

"And you are still the same spoilt rich boy, Tora."

"That doesn't mean I've always had money to throw around. Back in my dojo days, none of us had two mon to clink together, and we learned to rub each other's backs instead. So you can have your massage, anyway."

"Really? You're offering ... "

"Yeah." Benitora rose, and crossing the room to the cabinet built into the wall near the corner, pulled out one of the futons stored there and spread it over the matting. "Here. Now. On your belly, kid."

"How could anyone resist such a gracious invitation?" Akira's tone was deeply sarcastic, but he was getting up. Benitora heard Bontenmaru's voice in his mind, long ago, after the fight with Taihaku: He's irritated 'cause you impressed him a little.

Akira stretched himself out on the futon, pillowing his head on his hands: pale hair, lightly tanned skin, and blue-stamped white yukata against the creamy fabric of the mattress. Benitora knelt by his side and started working his fingers over Akira's shoulders. Through the thin fabric, he could feel the wiry, tense muscles lightly covered with flesh, and in his mind's eye he could see Akira's bare back, the skin stitched all over with the welts and scars of years of training under Kyo's harsh but effective teaching, followed by years of fighting as a way of life. Akira sighed as Benitora's fingers worked their way down his back. "Mmmmhhh. But it must be awkward, reaching over from the side like that."

"Um, OK." Benitora awkwardly straddled Akira, knees on either side of his hips, and returned to work. He could definitely do a more thorough job this way, but he was really glad that no one was there to see him as his hands inched their way down. Eventually he was all but seated on Akira's thighs, and his palms were carefully massaging the small of his friend's back. Akira was finally relaxing properly, his head turned to one side, his lips slightly parted. He'd been letting his hair grow out: it was past the base of his neck now. Benitora cautiously eased one palm over the triangular bit at the base of Akira's spine, just barely between the slight curves of his trim ass. It was a spot where tension tended to collect, but it was also ... kind of intimate. He kneaded gently. "OK?"

"That feels good ... yes."

Benitora sank a little farther down against Akira's legs. He couldn't help it, really. He found that he was all too conscious of the warmth of his friend's body beneath his own groin and backside. In the soft light from the lamp, Akira's wilfully blind face was as pretty as a girl's. Benitora shut his eyes against the sight, and his hands stilled. This couldn't be what he wanted. He liked flower-fresh young women like Yuya, or curvaceous fiery ones like Mahiro. As far as he knew, Akira also liked to go with women. And their friendship, although deep now, had had a very rough start.

It had been more than ten years since he'd rubbed someone else's back ... and exactly that long since he'd messed around with another guy.

"Tora? Don't stop -" and Akira pushed up and back against Benitora's hand.

Benitora flushed, from his face down his chest to his crotch, and his mouth went dry. His hands - both of them - seemed to move downward on their own: massaging, it was true, but the intention behind it had changed completely. Akira was silent now, except for his increasingly rapid breathing.

"Akira?" There was no answer. Benitora's voice sounded desperately awkward even to his own ears. "If you're gonna fall asleep, I think I better set another futon out."

Akira squirmed, turned, and grabbed one of Benitora's wrists, pulling him forward and down so that they were almost nose to nose. The demurely closed eyes were crinkled at the corners with humor. "Sleep? I'm actually feeling quite lively at the moment. And I can't imagine what you think we'd do with a second futon - you pervert."

He had no smart answer to that, so instead Benitora stopped his friend's bittersweet mouth with his own.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 8th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC)
It's nice to picture them older and still friends. You did a good job with their voices.
Nov. 10th, 2009 02:08 am (UTC)

Awww, thanks! It's been a while since I've written any SDK, and I don't think I ever wrote these two at all, so I'm glad it worked for you.

(Deleted comment)
Nov. 10th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)

Eeee, thanks! These guys were never one of my pairings, but there was so little SDK here, I figured I'd better take it! (It helped when smilla suggested that Tora is somewhat Gojyo-ish and Akira has some Hakkai-type tendencies.)

(Deleted comment)
Nov. 10th, 2009 02:27 am (UTC)

Oooh, please do! I actually posted one, but no one picked it up.

(Deleted comment)
Nov. 11th, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)

It was indeed, and I can't say I'm shocked you didn't want to do it ... that's a very dark relationship, and I don't know that I could write it. But I thought it might be interesting to read.

If people are this hungry for SDK next time around, I'll post more prompts myself!

Nov. 9th, 2009 01:14 pm (UTC)
This was all that this prompter could have hoped for. Really, this fic had me laughing and going awww, all at the same time. Thank you. <3
Nov. 10th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)

Whew, that's a relief to hear! I'm so glad it worked for you. I don't really ship them, but I know what it's like to keep wishing for SDK fic - especially with a favorite pair - and never getting it, so I thought I really ought to give it a try.

Nov. 10th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
I'm not familiar with this fandom, but it was a fun and awesome read anyway.
Nov. 10th, 2009 03:01 am (UTC)

Omigosh! I salute you (and thank you) for reading this, then!   XD

SDK is a huge, lengthy (38 volumes, as noted) shounen adventure series (with an almost shoujo drawing style - lots of details and odd paneling and such) with a gigantic cast that includes lots of bishie guys, most of whom have angsty backstories (nothing quite as "good" as either Gojyo or Hakkai, though). Akira and Benitora start out on opposite sides, then become rivals on the same side, and finally friends.

Nov. 10th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)
God this is delicious. I fucking MISS SDK. nnnfff..
You did SUCH a great job characterizing these two, it had me cooing obnoxiously during the whole story.
I look forward to more work from you, SDK or not!
Nov. 11th, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)

Awww, I'm so glad it made you so happy! (And so energized!)

I have some much earlier SDK stories on my LJ, btw. And chrissy_sky and I seem to be plotting more SDK prompts for next springkink.

You know that Del Rey is bringing out vols. 35 & 36 as a double volume about a month from now, right?

Nov. 11th, 2009 04:25 am (UTC)
Mmm more prompts, ay? I might take a gander at that once you guy's are done plotting and scheming!
Yus I know! :D was sad its taking awhile, but I can wait. Always do!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )



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