The old wooden door creaked open slowly. Touma peered into the musty darkness and wrinkled his nose. "Ugh. Look at all this dust!" he cried.
"No worse than your room," Ryo said behind him. Touma bit his tongue. At least Ryo sounded amused instead of offended by Touma's first impression of his childhood home.
"But it's... real dust. Dusty dust." Touma crossed the tiny room, his boots thumping the worn planks. There was a click and single yellow lightbulb shined pathetically over the one-room cabin.
Ryo dumped their bags on rug. "We'll sweep it out. The place always needs an airing whenever I get back. Byakuen!"
The tiger's distant roar answered them. They'd lost sight of the cat more often the higher they'd gone up the mountain. "Byakuen! K'so. I think he's going to roam around tonight. He hasn't been back for ages." He turned and grinned at his city-bred friend. "Neither have I, actually."
Touma stood in the middle of the room, watching Ryo throw open the windows and let the cool crisp air flow into the house. The place seemed smaller in the light, awfully tiny compared to the immense old growth forest around them. There were a few tables and chairs, one large wardrobe, some wallhangings and the stone fireplace which dominated one wall... but otherwise it was bare. Touma, used to the clutter of his room, couldn't believe Ryo had lived here for so long.
Well, it'll certainly be cozy. Just the two of us in one little room. Yet some part of him already missed the ruckus of the house. Not to mention the electricity and running water of the house.
Immersed in his routine, Ryo found a broom and started sweeping; Touma figured he ought to at least be of some help, so he picked up the bags and opened the wardrobe.
"AAAAAHHHH!!!! Get them off me!" It was like a thousand little feathers rushing at him, except they seemed intent on getting in his nose and mouth and ears. Touma shut his eyes and thrashed his arms around, instinctively spitting.
"Relax, Touma!" Ryo said, laughing. "They're just moths." Touma gradually stopped hyperventilating as Ryo's arms circled him.
"Shit," Touma said. He couldn't think of anything else to say.
Ryo nuzzled his ear. "It's my fault, I shouldn't have kept any clothes up here for them to chew up."
Touma leaned back on his chest. "Ryo, how'd they get in there?"
Ryo shrugged. "Well, we haven't been using the place during the winters, so a lot of the little holes don't get patched up as usual."
"You mean," Touma said in a strangled voice, "there could be other things in here?"
Ryo just smirked at him.
Matters went from bad to worse. Leaning on the windowsill rewarded Touma with an armful of ants. Dusting the fireplace got him tangled in a spider's web. Shivering, Touma had to watch as Ryo actually picked up the little monster and deposited it outside. He couldn't sit down because there was a centipede crawling on the chair. Faint skitterings behind the dresser revealed a nest of rodents; Ryo threw him out to draw water so he wouldn't harm the "little mouse mom and her babies."
Touma was halfway to the well before he realized that he was going to be assaulted by even more critters here than indoors. Night was falling. The crickets were even louder here than back home. Gnats swarmed around him, every step bringing an explosion of insects. Even the liberal dousing of BugZap wasn't keeping the mosquitoes away.
Why the fuck did I ever agree to this hellish--
"AAAAUUUGH!" Something slithered its way along the edge of the well. 'Slithered? Oh shit, oh shit, only one kind of thing slithers...' The snake, unconcerned with Touma's jittery movements, simply coiled among the sun-warmed rocks and went to sleep.
Heedless of what Ryo was going to say, he dropped the bucket and sprinted back into the cabin.
Touma spent the evening huddled close to the fire, surrounded by several Citronella candles. Ryo grimaced; it smelled like the inside of a factory.
But Touma insisted on it, rattling off the scientific names of rare diseases when Ryo protested. "...and the Black Plague!" he finished, shooting evil looks at the dresser.
Ryo sighed. Well, what did he expect? Touma wasn't used to living out here. Still, you'd think after facing youja he'd be able to handle a few harmless animals. Ryo was damned tired of clearing out every little bug while Touma stood on the chair and shrieked.
There was one way to shut him up. He moved some of the candles, leaned against the archer and began kissing his neck.
Slowly the tense back muscles uncoiled and soft lips melted into his. The heat from the fire had left a thin sheen of sweat on Touma's face, and Ryo reveled in it as the scent of him overcame the lingering chemicals of the bug spray. Slowly they disrobed by the light of the fire. Touma reluctantly blew out all the candles so they wouldn't ignite their clothes. He smiled as Ryo registered that tiny victory. Ryo grinned in return. Now here was carefree Touma again, undistracted by anything else...
Ryo grimaced as Touma tensed up again, curling into a protective ball. "W-What was that?"
"Haven't you ever heard of geckos?"
"Of course! They're big, ugly, bug-eyed lizards!"
Ryo laughed softly. "C'mon, scaredy-cat. Look." Touma peeked out of his hiding place and followed Ryo's pointing finger. Just beyond the firelight, a pair of luminous globes stared back at him.
"Geckos are good luck. They're the spirits of the dead who are visiting the living." Ryo's voice was so hopeful that Touma forgot to be afraid. He touched the dark hair.
"You think... it's anybody you know?"
The eerie trill of the geckos sounded again. Touma looked up. They had vanished. Ryo smiled softly. "I like to think so."
Touma hugged Ryo hard, listening as the other man's breathing blended into the cricket chirps, the geckos, the creaking of the wood, the crackling of the fire.
Ryo pulled away and kissed him tenderly. Then without warning, he stood and scooped Touma up into his arms.
"Hey! Where're we..." Touma squirmed as Ryo bumped the door open. "RYO! There are mosquitoes and bugs and friggin' snakes out there!" But it was too late. Touma clung to the bare chest as the humid night air and all its attackers hit him.
Ryo plopped him down on the grass. Touma practically jumped out of his skin, certain that a billion crawly things were now making their way into all his bodily openings and making new ones where there weren't any before. Ryo leaned over him, darkness against darkness, two bright blue eyes like twin stars in the night sky.
A finger touched his lips. Touma stopped moving, mesmerized by the closeness of him, suddenly aware of the way his smoky scent blended with the sweet aroma of the ground and grasses.
"They won't hurt you, Touma-chan," Ryo whispered above him. "They're just like us, they're part of the forest." He looked aside, a faint flash of red ki in his eyes.
Touma gasped as a cloud of fireflies rose from the field around them. Ryo's lips met his, and he forgot to be itchy and grossed out and scared. Pillowed by the soft grasses, cradled by the earth, with trees and stars and Wildfire above him, Touma lost his own heartbeat in the endless serenade of the crickets.
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