The Best Laid...
1: Night Blooms
by Sameshima Shuzumi
1823 wc ~ PG-13 ~ S/C
Sap, angst, and shades of Shakespeare. This is my baby; I'll be surprised if you can guess the ending before the midpoint. Leave out your assumptions, and enjoy.

Disclaimer: The Troopers and the tiger don't belong to me, and there's a lemon in this lemonade... I promise!

Shin herded Seiji out the kitchen door instead of the front, avoiding Toumaís usual lookout on the balcony. Dusk was already settling over the shaded forest.

Shinís heart was beating wildly in his chest, louder than the chirping crickets. Tonight could be the night... He stole a look at the blond. There was a thoughtful, inward look on the pale face. Not easily discernable from Seijiís other expressions, but Shin had been observing him for some time now.

The attraction had developed gradually. The more Shin noticed, the more Seiji intrigued him. There was a deep passion hidden in his proper forms, yet it was always controlled, a shadow of its actual intensity. What would happen if the dam broke, if all that emotion came flooding out? Shin wanted to find out. He was going to get Seiji. Heíd gotten this far, hadnít he? If he could gather enough courage to actually go through with this, then he was going to make sure nobody and nothing stood in his way.

Touma is going to be a problem, he thought. But not tonight. Itís a good thing the little snot gets so wrapped up in his books. Genius Boy will never think to check--

"Ooof!" A tree root snagged Shinís foot. In the next instant a pair of strong hands caught his shoulders. Seijiís soft voice sounded close to him, raising the hairs on his neck. "Itís getting too dark. I should do something about that."

Shin caught his breath, shivering at the contact. Then Seijiís kanji ball flared in his hands, and Shin fought the urge to cover up his blushing cheeks. Almost falling on my face is bad enough, he groused.

They walked on in silence. Shin was just fine with that. It would take him that long to calm down. Besides, weíre off the paths now. I have to get us there first. Then... Shin bit his lip. He hadnít planned for after.

Seiji raised an eyebrow at his friendís nerves. He knew Suiko had his eyes on him, but he didnít know how far Shin wanted to take this. In his own way Seiji was equally interested in his would-be suitor. Unlike Seijiís aloofness, Shin was naturally quiet; if anything was on his mind, it tended to bubble to the surface. But in this matter, Shin had acted with a subtlety which impressed Seiji. No horribly obvious special favors, as Touma was wont to do, but other hints... like the time Seiji had overheard him telling Shuu about his love life. Shin had finally noticed Seiji on the stairs, and without changing expression, switched topics. As though heíd wanted Seiji to hear. Given the intimate nature of the subject, Seiji was surprised that Shin hadnít fled the room in embarrassment. And Seiji still couldnít believe that mild little Shin had taken more lovers than all the rest of them combined.

Though he was beginning to see why.

The sound of the waterfall was getting closer. Shin picked up the pace. "Itís amazing that these flowers have thrived here, so close to the waterfall. Theyíre used to desert environments. But I think the waterfall used to flow where they are, and left it rather rocky and sandy. And thereís very little tree cover near water, so itís hot during the day." Noticing Seijiís silence, Shin held his tongue. Iím so nervous, Iím babbling! Iím never like this around anyone else.

They entered the clearing, and Seiji caught his breath. Shin silently cheered. What perfect timing! The last few blooms were starting to open.

Seiji had sought out several meditation spots around the Yagiyu property, but heíd never seen anything like this. The cereus vines were clinging to a clump of brambles, a couple of cylindrical white flowers about to unfurl. The moon shone through the clearing, lending each bloom an unearthly glow. Seiji extinguished his kanji orb. Fascinated, he watched as the huge buds gradually opened like pale beckoning hands. They had to be about twenty centimeters across. Quill-like lesser petals surrounded the large main petals, giving the effect of a white sunburst.

/Theyíre opening right before our eyes!/ Seiji sent the message without thinking. He realized that Shin was close beside him, smiling at Seijiís reaction.

/Get closer to them. Theyíre fragrant too./

Seiji moved closer and breathed in the heady scent. /Wonderful./ After a momentís deliberation, he stepped back to where Shin was standing.

They stood there shoulder to shoulder for countless minutes. Shin felt he would burst, feeling the warmth of Seijiís skin through his shirt. He almost wanted the flowers to hurry up, but then he wasnít sure what heíd do when Seiji was through watching the blooming.

ĎWhat about during, huh? Why donít you take his hand? The moon, the flowers, the waterfall in the background: everythingís perfect!í But something held Shin back. Even without looking at him, he could sense the emotional wall between them.

At last Seiji broke the silence. "And they die after tonight?"

Shin made himself turn. Seijiís eyes, his skin, his mouth were so close...! "Yes. They wither at daybreak."

The moonlight glinted in Shinís green eyes; Seiji knew it lent his own features a spectral paleness. "That something so beautiful--" a shiver ran through Shinís muscles, "--could give all in one night. Seize the moment, hmm?"

Shin had frozen. Seiji managed to change his chuckle into a low purr. "Youíre sweating."

With that, Shin was jolted into reality. He stepped back, unsure if Seiji was merely making an observation or, worse, insulting him.

"Donít worry," Seiji said, his expression still unreadable. "You smell like the flowers. I was just wondering if you were getting hot."

Am I ever... Shin wasnít sure what to say. If it was innuendo, Seiji wasnít doing anything to further it. Instead, the blond made his way down to the edge of the waterfall. Shin followed him, knowing he was up to something, but having no clue what it could be.

Seiji sat on a large smooth rock on the quieter side of the pool, away from the falls.

"You should cool off, Shin."

Now there was no mistaking it. Seiji was in the mood to seduce. Heart hammering, Shin whispered, "Are you going to join me?"

"Maybe." The lavender eye gleamed in the moonlight. "Maybe you should seize the moment."

Not taking his eyes off Seiji, Shin slowly unbuttoned his shirt. He flung it to the ground. Seijiís eyes were narrowed, appreciating the way the light accented the lean torso, the toned shoulders. Shin was taking time with his belt, more because of nerves than for Seijiís sake.

Seiji leaned back. He could get used to this. ĎDefinitely,í he thought, as Shinís pants dropped, exposing his well-muscled legs.

Shin ran a thumb on the band of his boxers, biting his lip. He was only peripherally aware of how provocative the motion was. He simply didnít feel comfortable with this impromptu strip-tease that Seiji was putting him through. He could stop right here, of course.

Come on, Shin! Do you really want Little Boy Blue to get Seiji? That decided it. He slid off the boxers, and turned to wade into the pool. The water was warm. He felt much better in his element, and confident enough to fling a seductive glance behind him. Seiji was gathering the scattered clothes, his eyes raking his back and legs as they disappeared below the surface. Shin glided over to a deeper part of the pool, where the moonlight was brighter. Treading water, he waited for Seiji to approach that side of the shore.

Seiji caught his breath at Shinís lithe body, bending and shimmering through the waterís surface like a mirage. Reluctantly he reached down and broke the surface, marring the vision. Shin arched as Seiji stroked his stomach, the motion spreading little waves from his billowing reddish hair.

"Seiji," a hand gripped his elbow, underwater, "join me."

Seiji leaned down, in danger of falling in, snaking his arm to feel the swimmerís muscles along his back.

Brilliant green flashed under half-closed lids, begging him to slide lower. "Please, Seiji."

Seiji felt himself growing warm. If he wasnít careful, heíd be lost in those eyes forever... eyes which flashed angrily when he withdrew, the waterís surface sliding away like a hand losing its grip. That glint of rage intrigued Seiji.

"Why?" Shin demanded.

Almost against his will, Seiji knelt at the edge, still wary of Shinís reach. "Shin-kun, if you were an utter stranger, I would not hesitate. How could I resist? But I find myself here, in this place, choosing between friends."

Shin bobbed in the water. The naked sincerity in those shaded lavender eyes sent shivers down his spine. A cool porcelain hand ran through his hair, and he let it push him below the surface, knowing he could hold his breath for several minutes, hoping Seiji would change his mind in that time.

/Deeper,/ Seiji urged.

Oh, deeper is what I want. So Shin complied, knowing the moonlight would catch on his body underwater. He let the dull rumble of the waterfall carry him down. If it made Seiji open for him, it was worth it--so deeper he went, unable to see those eyes turn hard and the parted lips curl into a smirk.

Most of the poolís inhabitants were slumbering, so it was a precious few minutes before the primitive warning echoed through his brain. Another few seconds before the message penetrated.

/Seiji! Where are you?/ He surfaced with a splash, and looked around the gloom. The waterfall seemed louder up here. No Seiji.

/Youíre far too trusting, Shin./ Seijiís voice floated from far away.

/You donít know the way back!/

/Donít be silly. I know these hills better than Nasti. Thereís a less arduous shortcut./

Shin jumped out of the pool, oblivious to the night chill on his skin. There was still a chance to catch him. He fumbled for his clothes on the shore... and realized his boxers were gone.

Rare obscenities tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them. Part of him, aching, wanted to play it Seijiís way, hide-and-seek in this warm forest. The rest of him knew heíd never catch up before Seiji and the others left for the rave. And he didnít feel like going straight home, sans underwear, to face Touma's jeers. Not without something to show for it. The night was a waste.

He sat down on the rock and slowly slid into the waterís embrace until he was almost to the bottom. The pool still clung to the daytime heat. He let the warm currents finish off what Seiji had started. All around him were the fishesí slippery thoughts, still whispering that his friend was gone, whispering that he was all alone.

I guess itís Toumaís turn. Suiko allowed himself a smile. If he even makes it.

For pictures and information about the night-blooming cereus, see this site:

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