Ayane - Home Sweet Home

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Description: After her reunion with Hayate, Ayane takes him to her base of operation in Southtown, an austere and filthy appartment in the slums. Showing him what she has found about Kasumi, Ayane offers to share a cup of tea, but a shattered mug out of anger leads to something different.

Ayane had gone out under the veil of the stars in hope to find her most hated foe, alas, tonight was not the night where she would quench her thirst for vengeance. She had found someone else on this fateful night, someone that, would change her existence...

For the better or the worse? Only time will tell what impact he will have on Ayane's frail psych, but right now his presence soothed her more than any balm could have and filled a part of her that had been torn from her a long time ago.

Neither of them had found what they were looking for this night, but both had found someone else. With no other purpose left for them in the appartment they sneaked in, Ayane returned back to where she lives... Taking Hayate back with him.

It was a modest and small appartment, in the poor districts of Southtown. Not the sort of place you'd live in if you had the choice to. A temporary home. Small rooms, badly isolated, flickering electricity every now and then. The whole neighborhood felt dangerous and hostile. Not the sort of place you'd take for pleasure...

But Ayane's mission was not one of pleasure. She was here on duty, unlike Kasumi who fled the village, who has the opportunity to live an hedonist life, fleeing her duties. Ayane leads Hayate into her small adobe. Everything about her living space was austere : no distraction, sober and solemn. A simple and old table in the living room, an old bed in the only bedroom with a drawer filled with Ayane's various outfits. Her wall has been plastered with pictures where Ayane thought she saw Kasumi, of a map of Japan and various pins on it and lots of newspaper articles about tournaments that might lead to Kasumi.

If Hayate didn't know better, it almost felt like Ayane was some sort of stalker. The woman makes her way into her room, striding over toward the kitchen to get some tap water to fill a kettle. Ayane blushes faintly at the thought, realizing she has so little to actually accomodate and give some comfort for Hayate in her appartment, "Huh, tea..?" She offers meekly.

Neither of them had found what they were looking for, and yet had found just what they needed. For Ayane, it was a modicum of peace. A promise of comfort and kindness. For Hayate, it was a portion of a life lost. A sad smile and a companion at his side. It was another chance to fix his wrongdoings. For Hayate, this is a bittersweet victory, for as they leave the abandoned fake-house that they had been led to, Hayate still believes that his friend and companion holds a grudge in her heart for his failures, and wishes only to serve as his soldier.

But, he follows her, stalking the alleys and rooftops, sticking to the shadows as any good shinobi should. He isn't surprised when Ayane leads him to the slums of Southtown. These are the kinds of places where one can easily disappear. Where hearts and minds are often too broken for people to ever look up and actually see what anyone else looks like. Those who aren't broken are too fearful to speak of anything they might see. It serves the purposes of a shinobi well. He's proud of Ayane for the choice.

Once they enter, Hayate sees nothing less than what he might expect, either. Modest is an understatement. No one lives in this place. It's nothing but a mission staging point. He doesn't seem to mind this fact, as there is not a hint of disappointment on his features as he slowly moves through the place.

"Tea... would be great," he says softly, giving a faint bow of his head to show his gratitude. But his eyes are now plastered on that wall and all of its pins and clippings. He folds one arm across his armor plated chest, while the other hand rises to rub at his chin.

Without anything to hold into her life after the loss of Hayate, Ayane had canalized all of her energy into a single thing : her hate for Kasumi. Her work had been meticulous : every hint she had found had been discriminated, studied and analyzed. Ayane had been able to track down the tournaments Kasumi had been sighted, every leads that brought her here where she firmly believes Kasumi has settled herself, some pictures even shows images of her, undercover in her school girl garments.

This had grown to become where Ayane has lived for the past months. Not a real home, just a temporary base of operation... Which has lasted longer than she expected. Yet she continues her task with fervor and zeal, not allowing herself to stray from her main objective.

Once Ayane is done with the water in the kettle, she makes her to her room where she slips out of her stealthy outfit, peeling them efficiently and rapidly. The woman performs this gesture naturally, not taking any specific precaution to cover herself as she changes and slips on a pleaded skirt, white blouse and beige halter top.

While she changes, Ayane glances over her shoulder at Hayate and smiles a bit, then back at her ninja clothes that she folds and neatly hides in her drawer, "... Ever since you've left us, I have been tracking Kasumi mercilessly," She admits softly. "... Without great results so far, as you can see,"

Hayate turns to look at Ayame when she speaks, peeling his eyes from her handiwork only to find her in a state of undress. His shock is sudden and apparent, overcoming him in the widening of his eyes before he can think to maintain a cool disposition. And so, he quickly turns his head, looking back to the crazywall, and nods his head, his jaw visibly clenching tight. Color touches upon his cheeks, his throat, the tip of his ears and nose. His Adam's apple noticeably rises and falls as he swallows.

"Hai..." he says, his voice sounding hoarse, and causing him to clear his throat. But, a small, very faint smile arcs his lips. He looks proud and nostalgic, all at once. It's a tender look. His eyes focused on a photograph of Kasumi, after winning the King of Fighters with her team. He reaches out, pressing his fingertips against it. "She was always tricky, though, wasn't she? I seem to remember that she was so sly and stealthy that I had to be convinced by our mother that Kasumi wasn't a Kitsune fox spirit."

He drops his hand, letting it fall loosely to his side, the smile fading. "She's also had to grow so strong, too. Too fast. Too early."

Ayane did not seem to notice Hayate caught a glimpse of her while she changed, nor did it feel like she would have minded. It had been done in such a natural way, as if Hayate had not been there at all, without any form of timidity. By the time Ayane was done changing, the kettle screeches softly. The young woman turns her attention to the kitchen before she makes her way to finish the tea she promised.

Hearing Hayate talk about Kasumi with such fond memories arouse Ayane's jealousy and envy deep inside of her. Hearing the praises he gives her, how he describes her and seems to give her compassion for the 'hardship' she had to go through...

Ayane takes out old ceramic cups while she prepares the tea, glaring at the wall in front of her oven. She grits her teeth a bit at the thought of his kind words given out to his sister, someone who had all those considerate and amiable treatment when she was so undeserving. How life was unfair! How everyone groveled at her feet and none recognized her adversity!


A loud noise echos through the room as one of the ceramic cup Ayane was holding was shattered in her grasp by how she had been constantly tightening her grip in anger. The sudden noise and pain was enough for Ayane to finally snap out of it, her eyes moving down to her hand, to the minor injury and cuts she has inside of her bleeding palm.

"It's okay... The cups were just really cheap..." Ayane says machinally before she turns on her heels and walks up to her bathroom to find something to clean up the mess.

The crack of the glass makes Hayate jump with a start, his head snapping about in a wave of auburn locks swishing about his face. Even before she speaks, he's there, behind her, with a rush of warm mist heralding his arrival. The cold, ungiving metal of his breastplate presses firmly against her back, and his arms slip around her so that his hands can clasp her bleeding hand and hold it open. His face hovers near hers, as his eyes fall to the crimson wound, examining it.

"It... doesn't look like it will need stitches," he says, his voice soft to the point of a near whisper. "Still, we should clean and wrap it."

Keeping hold of her hand in one of his own, the other moves to turn on the faucet. He guides her hand under the water, rinsing away the blood with cool water to help staunch the bleeding faster.

"I'm sorry, Ayane," he says, as he tenderly and oh so carefully inspects the wound in the times where it is rinsed clean, before the blood wells back up, ensuring there are no slivers of ceramic stuck inside. "I know that this must be... an impossible thing for you to do. Hunting down Kasumi as if she were your enemy. I know that she means as much to you as she means to me. I've... only just started seeking her out myself. I cannot imagine the pain and the stress you must be enduring, and for all this time. Thinking that you may... That you may have to spill the blood of your best friend."

He tilts his head to the side, so that his forehead rests against her temple. His eyes fall closed and he winces, knowing that he shouldn't be taking such liberties with someone who had expressed that they are only interested in serving him as a kunoichi. Knowing that she will not resist, because to do so could be seen as refusing to acknowledge his authority as her master.

But if he can give her some small comfort...

"I will take the burden from you, Ayane," he speaks, his voice spilling directly into her ear, his breath soft and so warm, like the steam rising from a hot spring. "I am going to find Kasumi. I will face her. I will defeat her. And I will drag her home, where..."

Where what? Kasumi's fate is sealed if she should return to the village. A trial would be a mere formality. The only thing that Hayate could do to guarantee Kasumi receives mercy and leniency would be to sacrifice his own life in exchange for hers. Seppuku, before the elders of the village. A sincere plea.

"Where I'll find a way to make all of this right. So that we can all be together again. I'll reunite you with your friend, not force you to make the choice to either kill or die by her hands."

Ayane's answer came out of her mouth almost by rote. The sharp momentarily pain enough to earn a soft hiss out of her throat but not even the slighest flinch afterward. Hiding her pain and her vulnerability had become a second nature, dismissing the incident as something minor. Ayane's reaction to her injury was stoic and unwavering, as if the pain she felt didn't affect her. It was little, after all, compared to what she had to endure and, in a way, it was enough to calm the burning anger that was rising inside her gut toward Kasumi.

Before she hardly had the time to react or even look at her injury, Ayane's felt Hayate's presence. Her body stiffens from what seems to be surprise, but is in truth much more than just that. Ayane takes a sudden sharp breath, a soft gasp escaping her throat when his arms graze her figure and reach out for her hand. The girl shivers momentarily, her cheeks turning a bright shade of red. With his arms wrapped around her, Ayane felt more frail and vulnerable than she ever had... Never in her life had she allowed herself such proximity with anyone, nor did anyone ever come to her in such a chivalrous and caring way...

Except Hayate...

His careful touch was enough to cause Ayane's body to relax and lean against him. Her hand was tightly shut, fingers clenched into a fist, as if trying desperately trying to conceal her injury, frightened and distrustful. Yet there was something about Hayate that no one else had, something Ayane couldn't describe but that made her feel at ease, that left her open herself in many ways... Even now, her fingers slowly open, spreading like the petals of a flower to reveal its secret inside, to show him her weakness, her wound.

Ayane was spellbound : her eyes staring at her own and Hayate, her cheek ablaze. Her hand trembled, still stunned by how easily she was made to expose herself like that. Her whole body was at his mercy, following Hayate's gentle movement, guided under the faucet for him to clean and tend to her wound while she just stood there, dumbfounded.

When Hayate speaks of Kasumi, the purple haired kunochi remains serene and calm. Was it because of Hayate's appeasing care he was giving her? Ayane couldn't tell, but even now, it wasn't all about Kasumi now... She felt like she mattered, maybe even more so than her right this exact moment. When his head leans against her to touch hers, his face so close she could feel his breath her neck, Ayane closes her eyes to enjoy the moment he was giving her.

Her heart craved only one thing to hear from his lips, to feel from his body but his words, even if involuntary were sharp and pierced her to the core. In the end, Kasumi was the one on his mind, tormenting and hauting him and causing him such distress when he could have chosen her.

Ayane's free hand slowly rises up, her fingers gingerly caressing Hayate's cheek, rising up to the side of his hand until they entwine into his hair, stroking it backward to comfort him. A part of her felt unworthy of giving in to this desire to touch him in such a way, but it brought her such joy to give in, to be able to feel him and to return his affection, to allow herself an emotion that was so hard for her to express yet that was so vividly strong and powerful.

"Hayate..." She whispers softly, "No ~ this burden is mine, and mine alone. You shouldn't have to do this and it's my duty to do this... I don't want you to suffer this because of me, please..." She begs, "... Let me take care of this for you," Ayane closes her eyes and she takes a deep breath, before she adds, "I will defeat Kasumi, and bring her back to you... I promise you..." Ayane says.

Her voice was sincere. Right at this moment, she would be willing to sacrifice her vengeance on Kasumi for him. But in the end, is her love for Hayate stronger than the hate she has for Kasumi?

Her delicate fingers slowly curl away from his face, the gesture excruciatingly slow as if it required Ayane inhuman strength to pull away from him. "I..." She speaks softly, her finally head reluctantly breaking out of his attraction by a mere inch yet it was the most arduous one to move.

Ayane opens her eyes and lies her gaze on her open in resting in his. The gashes in her palm still crimson but no longer bleeding thanks to Hayate's cares. He can feel her hand tremble slightly -- was it hesitation? The last link she had with his proximity, the hardest one to break, "I should prepare tea..." She finally manages to add hoarsely, "... While the water is still hot," She says, her voice barely above a whisper. In spite of her words, Ayane doesn't move. Dazed by the sight of her small hand into his.

Hayate, unknowing of the festering hatred that poisons Ayane's heart for his sister, only takes her reticence to confirm his assumptions that nothing pained the lilac haired kunoichi more than this horrible duty that she must bear. His words, his own fixation on his sister, might wound Ayane, but he is completely oblivious to it. In his compassion, he thinks he is providing a balm for her turbulent heart, a bond in the knowledge that she is no longer alone in her pain, and no longer need bear it in silence and solitude.

But kindness with ignorance can be as deadly as any skill or technique that a ninja might possess.

And so can a simple caress.

The touch of Ayane's fingertips, so delicate and tender, against his cheek elicits an immediate reaction from the jonin. His breath is caught, trapped in his throat, and his eyes flutter closed, lashes brushing butterfly kisses to her temple. Instinctively he leans in to the touch, as she runs up into his hair. His scalp tingles, and an electric shiver passes down his spine before the captured breath in his chest is released as a long, quiet sigh.

"Ayane..." he whispers, his hand still holding her wounded one giving the most delicate of squeezes. His mind, though, is at odds with his instincts. Fractured memories are poured through, flashes of images and clips of events all jumbled over one another, searching desperately for answers to a question that now threatens to consume him. Were they lovers?

He knows that such a thing would be forbidden. That he would be required to marry into one of the other family lines to hold to tradition, to appease the village elders. That the Hajinmon must serve the Tenjinmon from the shadows, always subordinate. Always lesser. The two lines do not cross. There is a caste order in place that stretches back to the dawn of history, and so such fraternization would be taboo, possibly even cause for... Well, cause for Ayane's death, should such a thing be discovered.

But the rush that he feels at her touch makes him search, makes him consider the possibility. Could that explain, too, the coldness she had displayed? The professional distance she had previously attempted to put between them when commenting that she would not hate him, but be his sword and shield? Could that, too, explain the flush of heat he feels from her cheeks, filling her with that appealing color?

He can't remember. He has no memories of secret trysts. Of moonlit walks that involved anything but games as children or training as they grew older. Try as he might to find such damning and treasured experiences, when he grasps for something there is nothing there but flights of fancy and the gaping voids of his mind.

She speaks then. Her voice slicing through his concentration and bringing him back to the present. A present where his knees tremble, and he's suddenly very aware of just how sweet the scent of her hair is as he breathes it in. Of how soft and supple her form is, wrapped up in his arms as he still holds her wounded hand over the sink, still and purposeless now that it's been rinsed clean and has all but stopped seeping blood into her palm. She speaks, vowing to him to bring Kasumi back to him. To him.

"To us," he responds in his tender voice. "But you are wrong. My father himself has tasked me with bringing Kasumi back. Dead or alive. It is no longer your burden to bear alone. So, if you will not let me take it from your shoulders, then... then at least allow me to share it with you."

Of course, he doesn't need to present it to her in such a way. He could simply state it as an order. He could demand her to stand down, completely. These things don't cross his mind. No. While Ayane might be his to command, he had always looked to her as a partner. That much he remembered clearly. That his intention was, as head of the clan, to position her at his right hand, and to use that to elevate the Hajinmon sect into the light alongside the Tenjinmon, and to bring their antiquated village traditions, kicking and screaming, if need be, out of the shadows of the ancient past and into a new modern era. How could he hope to achieve such a dream if he considered Ayane a weapon to be used, or a pawn to be shuffled about a board? How could he stand in a position to lay claim on her life, spending it like currency as he pleases, if he holds such values dear? No. Hayate will not order Ayane to back down. He will simply beg her to work with him, side by side, so that they can both bear this pain together.

It may help him mend the trust his failures had broken with her, as well. And afford him more opportunity to explore the memories they share as new experiences liken to old and trigger forth rememberence.

She pulls away. Even if by a fraction of an inch, and Hayate's chocolate brown eyes lift to search her face. She makes to excuse herself to finish preparing tea, but Hayate shakes his head. "Tea can wait. We still need to put ointment on the wound and wrap it up with bandages. Please... if only just this one time, I beg of you to sit and let me tend to you."

As if to punctuate his point, Hayate finally releases his grasp on her hand, reaching behind him to unfasten one of the larger of the various leather comparments that are attached to the thick belt about his waist. It's easy to tell from the long, rectangular shape that this particular compartment was the first aid kit that he keeps with the rest of the tools for their trade.

"To us," Ayane echoes softly after Hayate's words, giving him a solemn nod of her head to seal the matter with Kasumi. Her gaze finally rises from her hand when Hayate speaks his mind about the tea. Her red eyes locking with his as he listens to his soft voice filled with compassion toward her. Ayane remains silent, enthralled by the tenderness of his tone and the kindness of his words.

Even as Hayate releases her hand, it remains there : her fingers slightly curled, her palm pointing upward, her wound exposed. Through her entire life, Ayane had learned only mistrust toward others, constantly shunned and hurt by them, finding that closing herself to others was the better way not to suffer more. Her instinct screams at her to close her hand, to conceal her weakness out of fear her vulnerability would result in more agony.

With him though, things were different. He filled her with such warmth and his mere presence was enough to dispel the scorching fury that consummed her. She felt a blisssful euphoria inside of her, her heart quickening at his lingering touch and care, his soft gentle voice making her head spins in ways she had never felt before.

He made her feel alive. No more anger, no more sorrow, no more injustice, just... Happiness. A simple feeling she had been denied, judged unworthy of having during her entire life.

The betrayal of his coma had sent Ayane into an hellish descent into despair and the time she spent alone just made her emotions more intense.

Her open and offered hand might have seemed like a simple gesture, but to Ayane, it was much deeper than that. The exposure of her vulnerability was of trust to him, the only one who could make her open up in such a way. His failure and betrayal all forgotten...

When Hayate finally reaches out for his first aid kit and gets everything ready, Ayane is still standing there. It takes her a few moments to realize she hadn't moved, which causes her cheeks to flush in embarrassement and she finally takes a few steps back to sit down on one of the chair around the table.

No one in her life had given her any care like this, nor ever paid attention to her condition. Yet now, Hayate's first reaction had been concern toward her and now he's the one tending to her, supporting her... When he finally reaches out for her hand once more to tend to her gashes, to treat her injury, Ayane sobs softly, tears rolling down her cheek uncontrollably, overwhelmed by emotions she had repressed for years.

As Ayane takes her seat, Hayate sets out the materials he intends to use on the table beside her. He looks at her, with her blushing face and downcast eyes, and he feels shame. This must feel humiliating to her, to expose herself, and let herself be treated like a child, tended to and cared for. His eyes avert from her, and he feels the need to explain himself. Quietly, he says, "I... cannot take back the things that have happened. I made mistakes, and the entire village has paid dearly for them. You... you paid dearly for them."

He lowers himself down to one knee before her, though he's careful not to look up into her face, for fear of what he might find there. Instead he takes hold of her hand, once again. He gently pulls it forward, until he can lay it on his uplifted knee. Then, he takes up a small jar of salve. A handcrafted remedy from their village, made from natural antibiotics ground into a thick, pungent paste. With a horsehair brush, he... very delicately starts to the opaque goo to the wound.

And then she starts to cry. It takes him a moment to realize that she isn't just flinching from the pain of the brush, no matter how soft, dragging over rent flesh. But he does notice.

Quickly, he lifts his hand to his lips, parting them to claspat the tip of his middle finger with his teeth, and pull his hand free of the softleather glove that clothes it. His bare flesh, warm, but rough and calloused from years of hard training, reaches up, cupping her cheek. The padof his thumb traces a line under her eye, wiping away a tear. Carefully, his words coming out slow and soft, he speaks, "I cannot take it back, but I can do at least this small thing for you. A start to making ammends for all the trouble I have brought upon you. I am sorry, Ayane. I... I am sorry that I forgot you."

Uncertain that his words might calm her, or ease some of her pain, Hayate instead uses his other hand to lift hers up, just below his chin. "Does it sting?"

His lips purse, and he blows on it, his breath on the ointment creating a cooling, soothing feeling that does diminish the stinging pain that the ointment itself creates in the torn flesh. He breathes in, and does this again. And once more, until that pain starts to subside in truth.

"I know that it may seem difficult right now, and I have not earned your forgiveness. I only ask that you afford me the chance to show you the depth of my sincerity, and perhaps, one day, open your heart to me as a friend once again. I... am still remembering things. I might not recall much of our shared times, but... I remember that you were precious to me. And beyond that... I feel it in my soul. It's as if my mind had forgotten, but my heart never did."

There is a brief pause, before he adds, "That is how it was with Kasumi, as well."

He lowers his hand from her face, and reaches over and across himself to pluck up the roll of medicated bandages that he had set out. This, he slowly and methodically starts to wind around her hand, very careful and gentle as he lays it over the wound. His entire demeanor is as if he's not touching a woman made of the sturdy stuff of flesh, muscle, sinew and bone. Rather, he handles her as if she were a thing of priceless porcelain. Fragile and delicate, and to be handled with nothing but the utmost care.

"If I overstep my bounds, however, you have my permission to refuse me. I will hold no grudge."

Ayane's inner struggle was something Hayate could not understand. Not with his shattered psych. Did he even remember who she was? The times they have shared together? The way the villagers treated her and how he was the only reason for her to smile. Even now Ayane barely understands how her emotions overwhelm her, how this single moment of vulnerability she allowed herself brought her to this loss of control.

If only he knew... If only he had been able to recall the events that lead to his coma, would he still act so kindly to her? He continously apologizes for his failure, for his mistakes, yet in the end, wasn't it her reckless actions that forced him to stand out to her and perform this ultimate sacrifice for her? Could he forgive her if those memories came back to him as lucidly as they do for hers? The very few last moments of his defeat at the hand of her presumed father which still haunts her dreams.

When his thumb moves up to kiss away the tears from her cheeks, Ayane's body tremble with an obvious effort to control her vivid emotions but she couldn't, she was powerless. His touch offered her a bit of comfort, but Ayane was beyond that point. "No," She whispers between her soft sobs, "No, it's not that..." She says to his concerns about his treatment. While it did sting, this had nothing to do the silent unrestrained sorrow that exudes from her. A crescendo of melancholy that was shaking the frail fundation of Ayane's existence.

Without realizing it, just as his innocent and virtuous words had been able to cut her deeply, they were also able to make her whole again. A few short sentences that meant everything to her : you were precious to me. For the first time since they have met, the mention of Kasumi did not enrage Ayane but instead they strenghten his previous statement. In his heart and soul, Ayane had always been as precious to him as his sister, Kasumi, had been.

His words were enough to dissipate a part of the prejudice against her, of the unfariness and injustice of the treatment between the two where one had been the cherished one and the other the worthless one.

Ayane's tears flow abundantly, her lips trembling and her body shaking slightly as Hayate wraps her hand methodically around the bandages. The repressed sadness surging forth in her heart mixed with the elation of being Kasumi's equal or greater in Hayate's heart submerges her. Repressing all of her emotions from youth, constantly converting it and hiding it behind sarcasms and anger leaves her confused and lost before such a sudden rush of intense emotions.

A life of strict discipline and now she was losing control and it frightened her.

His last few words instill a sudden sensation of dread in Ayane's mind. Her face is torn with a myriad of emotions she had so rarely allow herself to express and in her confusion to deal with all of them, Ayane lunges at Ayane, her arms quickly moving to wrap themselves around him to cling into him desperately, "Don't leave me alone again!" Her words come out of her throat like a primal wail. She presses her face against him, her body curling on into him as if seeking some form of protection from those emotions that overwhelmed her. The reminiscences of his time in coma and everything that came after invades her mind : how she never allowed herself to mourn, of the pain and sorrow she channeled through her hate and anger to be functionnal... But with Hayate, there were no hate or anger.

Her fingers curl clumsily into his back, a feeble attempt to grip into him and not let go. She sobs against him and repeats, "Don't leave me alone..." Her words grow more gentle, softer, "Don't leave me alone..." She repeats again, almost like a mantra, expressing her greatest fear. "Hayate... You and I... We're..." Ayane stammers, swallowing nervously but she doesn't find the strength to finish her sentence.

It's not that? Hayate hears those words. She's not hurt by the wound in her flesh, or the stinging of the salve. It's not that. His heart races, pumping ice water through his veins and sapping the strength from his limbs. It hurts her, just having to be near him. His mere presence causes her pain. It's not the salve. It's not the wound. It's him. He is her pain.

His head lowers, his face lost behind a veil of satin soft auburn hair that casts him in protective shadows, hiding the guilt and shame that overcomes his expression, with no thought to guile or restraint.

Her hand wrapped, Hayate just holds it within his own, staring down into her bandaged palm for a moment of silence as the sound of her sobbing assaults him, each one a knife puncturing him to his core like Caesar on the Ides of March. Her trembling body just the final blow to this assassination of his delusions of being able to make amends. How could he know the depth of what she was experiencing right now? He couldn't.

And so, carefully, he begins to fold her fingers closed, and placing it back on her lap.

His posture shifts, as he moves from one knee to both knees being pressed to the floor beneath him. At this point, Hayate is resigned only to make one last sincere apology for his intrusion, for having drug up so much hurt and reopening wounds that had not yet had the chance to heal. His hands come to rest on the floor, and he leans forward, bowing his head and lowering himself as if to touch his forehead to the floor at her feet.

Don't leave.

He freezes in place. A statue made of flesh and bone. His eyes part wide, the force and gravity of emotion in her voice rendering him paralyzed in that moment. She shifts from the chair to meet him, to curl on him, and he raises upright to accommodate. She clutches at him, hugging herself to his armor clad form, her fingers finding purchase in the thick, hardened leather that helps reinforce and support the metal plating of his cuirass. She keeps repeating those words. The first is a crack in his heart, and each subsequent recital spiderwebs more, expanding and breaking down what little strength Hayate has left to maintain a sense of reservation and decorum. His leather and steel clad arms entwine about her shoulders, and a gloved hand cradles the back of her head to him, fingertips combing through her lavender hair.

She admits it. She starts to, at least. It's enough for him. He might not remember it, but why else would her reaction to him be... this? She was his lover, before his coma. Suspicion becomes certainty and with certainty, comes resolution, and the spark of inflamed passion.

His fingers close around a fistful of her hair, not pulling so much as guiding her head back. Wordlessly, Hayate leans in, his eyes closed, and his head tilting to the side. The caress of his hair on her cheek is the herald of his approach, as soft as satin and as light as a breeze. The tip of his nose brushes hers, tender and warm. His breath releases from parted lips against the crease of her own. And then they meet.

His kiss is deep and unhesitant. His will drained by her emotional display and his own confusion, he pours all of the emotion that he has into that kiss. His lips crush hers so tightly that they'll likely go numb for a few minutes when they break. His tongue toys with her upper lip, tracing the heart shape of it before delving past to seek out her own pink muscle and beckon it to join him in a languid and serpentine dance. His fingertips dance down the curve of her spine, soothingly pushing in against her trembling muscles and massaging them.

He's afire. Suddenly, he feels like his face is in an oven. Sweat beads on his brow. He hadn't realized that her little rundown apartment was close to the ocean. It's not, he realizes, as the recognition settles in that the roaring of crashing waves that he hears is nothing else but the sound of his own heart racing. He trembles against her, but clutches at her tighter, as if he might be able to somehow just embrace her so tight that he absorbs her into himself so that they never have to part again. He loses himself in her, this beautiful, sad girl that he only has half formed memories and a crying heart for. Half-lover, half-stranger, and for Hayate, in this moment, there is nothing at all that matters save for her and the desire to soothe the tumultuous sorrow she holds so deep within herself.

Every apologize he made to her accentuated Ayane's fear of losing him, as if they grew more and more apart each time it happened, feeling his fleeting presence slowly slip out of her grasp. The way he made her close her fingers and clench her hand into a fist and pushed it back into her lap so meticulously cold felt like the ultimate shunning gesture.

And that last, sincere bow of his head almost felt like a cruel farewell. Something she could not endure, not after she had been so briefly reunited and basked into the warmth of his presence, not after she had been allowed to feel alive again.

Her action was desperate, purely instinctive and emotional. She seeks refuge into him, from all the pain and suffering she endured, from the sorrow and despair that filled her life when she lost him. The young woman sobs and cries softly, inconsolable, her body quivering uncontrollably against him. Yet when his arms slowly wrap themselves around her shoulders, her cries and trembling assuage, appeased by his embrace and his gentle touch.

This had been done in a moment of utter vulnerability : with her emotional shell cracked, shattered. Curled up against him, with his arms entwined around her, Ayane felt frail and weak, but his embrace was reassuring her and made her feel secure. She had clearly transgressed the line of what someone so lowly as her in their caste could do, and she knew such violation could have horrible consequenecs but no punishment would have been greater than having Hayate leave her again.

Ayane shows no resistance when Hayate guides her with his hand, a shiver running down her spine when his nose brushes against hers. She opens her eyes but her gaze was fleeting, unable to meet his after what she had just done. When she feels his breath against her dry lips, Ayane realizes what was going to happen... A part of her screams to her to stop it, to push him away before it's too late, but Ayane was weary, exhausted from all this inner struggle and more importantly, afraid that shunning him would have much dire consequences.

When their lips first meet, Ayane's body stiffens a second and she can feel her heart skips a beat. The part of her that is fighting his kiss melts almost immediately before the passion driven by Hayate's kiss. The way he avidly claims her lips and possesses her at this moment fills her with such euphoric bliss that Ayane gives in to this new emotion that consumes her.

A strong searing flame that was poured into her, that overwhelmed her and was like a balm on her soul and heart. His strong desire and love filling that void that was inside of her.

Breathing life into her...

Her body relaxes, and Ayane allows herself this slip, returning his ardent kiss. Her lips part to let her tongue swirl out and dance with Hayate. Ayane's lips curl up as she suckles on his lips fervently, trying as if trying to sate an unquenchable thirst.

While the kiss lasts, Ayane forgets about everything. It was only her and him. An evanescent moment of eternity that will be forever branded in her memories, a moment of pure happiness that overshadows all the saddness and sorrow she has ever felt.

How long did this last? Ayane could not tell. Ayane pulls away excruciatingly slowly, merely an inch away from his face, floating on an euphoric cloud for a moment. It wasn't until then that she realizes how the way her heart was pounding in her chest. Her cheeks were ablaze for more than one reasons and Ayane felt the weight of reality come back to her. Her lips tremble softly, "Hayate, I..."

The woman closes her eyes and presses her head between his neck and shoulder. After the moment they shared, she did not have the strength to say it, to tell him the truth she knew about both of them. Her loyalty pushes her to tell him the truth, how this was all a mistake, but his kiss had been so intoxicating, so invogorating... Was it selfish of her to want more? To crave this new sensation...? To crave a moment of happiness in her life...?

"... I love you," Her words escape her lips naturally.

She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, knowing it would cost her dearly sooner or later.

But she was intoxicated by this and this new addiction was spreading fast, making her lose her mind.

When he feels Ayane become so tense in his arms, under his kiss, Hayate thinks, for a moment, that he has made a grievous error in judgment. Was he taking things too far? Is this not what she wanted? Is this wrong? He knows well what the consequences would be if they were caught, but if this was something he was willing to risk before...

It just feels... right.

And she relaxes, easing into his arms as they both loose themselves to the waves of emotion that have overtaken them both in this charged reunion. He, a mess of guilt and confusion, and she a mess of elation and guilt. This is the stuff that poets lived and breathed, tragic and passionate and complicated and messy. This is the same story told a million times in Japanese theater, warning about the dangers and misfortune of love.

But it just feels right.

Confusion or not. Memories or not. This moment instills Hayate with a sense of... what? It's a difficult concept to pin down into words. He feels at ease. He feels whole and complete. He feels like nothing else matters, right here and right now, other than this connection. He doesn't know where it started, or where it has been, but he knows that his heart aches for her, and this electrifying connection stills the whirlwind inside.

When that kiss finally parts, Hayate is left lingering there, his eyes still held shut, his lips still glistening and pursed ever so slightly as it continues to play out behind his eyelids. Her voice sounds distant. Distant but musical. She says his name, and that alone sends another, fresh round of shivers down the length of his spine. Slowly, dark lashes unentangle themselves from one another over eyes of molten milk chocolate, that peer at her heart shaped, delicate face with a look that is at once ravenous and yet, dreamy.

She buries her face, though,and Hayate clutches her tighter still, with one hand cupping the back of her skull, combing fingertips through her satin soft hair, while his own face dips to press the tip of his nose to her shoulder.

She says those words. Those three words that damn them both and yet is the one comfort either of them have truly known since Hayate had faced Raidou all that time ago. She loves him. She said it. And he, following his gut instinct, and the broken shards of memories that he has yet to fully piece back together, knows that he loves her to. Those words alone tell him. His flesh is instantly riddled with goosebumps. His arms feel suddenly like they're made of rubber, and he trembles. His stomach feels as though it is filled with helium, floating weightlessly in his body with that classic butterfly feeling.

He doesn't say it. He doesn't speak at all. He's not certain that he can form words at this time, with his throat feeling so dry, with a solid lump lodged in it. No. The words escape him, but he can show her. He can reciprocate.

Slowly, Hayate, in his armor, shifts, easing his arm under Ayane's legs, and lifting her as he rises to his feet. Cradling her to his armored chest, and still holding her head in against that crook of neck and shoulder. And he moves, through this shady ramshackle apartment of hers to where her bed resides.

It was wrong ~ Ayane shouldn't have said those words but they came to her instinctively. There were so many reasons why they shouldn't be together, why they shouldn't be allowed to share this intimacy but Ayane's heart was screaming for this moment of happiness. The consequences were brushed off, the euphoria of his lingering kiss making her feel her cheeks searing hot even as she tries to nestle against his chest.

Why wouldn't she feel joy and elation in her life? The smiles and kindness Hayate had given her had been nothing compared to this single moment, to the burning sensation of his lips pressed against hers.

She craved more... She needed more... She wanted to feel alive like this again...

Ayane closes her eyes and she breathes softly. She felt her heart race in her thorax, but the way she was placed she could feel his beat in unisson with hers.

Even if he didn't reciprocate her sincere shout from the heart, Ayane had no regrets : almost relieved to have given him such a confession after all those years. Had it always been love she had felt for him? Was it really that emotion she felt, whenever he smiled to her, whenever he laid his eyes on her, when he reached out to her so gently?

When Hayate finally moves and shifts his body, Ayane heaves a faint sigh, a part of her expecting yet dreading the moment they would part would come. Much to her surprise though, Hayate's arms move to grasp her and lift the petite woman into his arms. Ayane's body curls up and her arms move to try and support herself around his neck. A soft gasps of surprise comes out of her throat and Ayane glances around, before her eyes return to Hayate. Whatever was going on, Ayane just leans on him, offering him her unconditional trust.

Log created on 13:08:31 11/15/2018 by Ayane, and last modified on 07:02:14 11/19/2018.