Scene by a lake; any lake. "You shouldn't drink so much," Kantarou said, and refilled Haruka's bowl.
Written for the A Picture is Worth 1000 Words challenge. Many thanks to miskatonic for looking over this thing for me.
"You shouldn't drink so much," Kantarou said, and refilled Haruka's bowl. "It's a pleasant night, isn't it?"
The moonlight glittered on the rippling waters of the lake, and a cool breeze caressed his alcohol-flushed face. Haruka scowled and cast wary glares into the dark woods. Something small and terrified took flight. At least half a dozen assorted minor youkai had started to approach tonight before they saw him and fled. He had no idea if Kantarou knew; if he had noticed the furtive approaches, he gave no sign, and allowed Haruka to keep all the others at a distance.
"What are we waiting for?" Haruka drained his bowl again. It was very good sake. Kantarou refilled Haruka's bowl once more, and sipped from his own cup.
"Yamata-no-orochi," Kantarou said deliberately, and gazed across the dark expanse of the lake.
Haruka sat up very straight and overturned his bowl of sake. "You're not serious." He scanned the surface of the lake warily, taking note of every irregularity in the ripples and darting shadows beneath.
"Ah, so that legend is real." Kantarou sighed happily. He righted Haruka's bowl and emptied the last of the sake into it, then tipped the empty bottle over to lie with the other bottles artfully discarded at Haruka's feet. A casual passerby would have thought him a drunkard on a binge "No, it would be terrible if we were, Haruka. You've finished all eight bottles of sake."
Had he? Haruka looked down. So he had. How much of that had Kantarou drunk, or had he been nursing the same cup all night? Haruka didn't remember. He hadn't been paying attention, which was a mistake he should have learnt better than to commit by now. He drained the bowl anyway. "What are we doing here?"
"Can't I desire to spend a quiet night in this beautiful place admiring the moon with Haruka?" Obviously not. A brief sidelong look, arch and challenging, belied the words and carefully modulated hurt.
As inscrutable as Kantarou's purposes for whatever he did could be, something twisted inside Haruka with recognition, like a familiar key sliding home. The response had not surprised him. Haruka carefully cleaned his bowl and tucked it away under layers of protective magicks - a habit he had acquired in Kantarou's service. "I'm going back to sleep."
Kantarou watched him hide the bowl with bright-eyed curiosity. "Ne, Haruka, how do you do that? Don't go yet," he added distractedly, without the sting of command to give his words force, yet Haruka sat back down by conditioned reflex, and mentally kicked himself. His mind had obviously been addled by his state of inebriation.
"Why are we out here?" he demanded again, to give at least the appearance of having stayed only because he wanted an answer.
"Haruka is my friend, isn't he?" This addressed in wistful tones to the half-filled cup of sake, and had he not known Kantarou as well as he did - enough to distrust the appearance of genuine feeling anyway - Haruka might have been moved.
"I am yours,"he said coldly. "Are you my friend?" An inexplicable chill passed over him, and his head began to throb. Had he lost his head for liquor during his years of imprisonment? First losing to Kantarou, a mere human, a small, infuriating human, in a drinking contest, and now this. He clenched his fists in the soft turf to stop them from shaking with the sudden violence of his emotions.
"Haruka is very important to me," Kantarou started to say with a smile, then leapt forward and grabbed Haruka's head, crowing in triumph. "There you are!" Another click, a door opened, a mystery solved, puzzle pieces falling into place as the pain in his head cleared and Kantarou sat back with a diminutive creature in his arms. Haruka felt sure he had seen it before, or perhaps another of its kind.
"I told you not to eat living people's heads," Kantarou said reprovingly, Haruka clearly forgotten for the moment. "No, dead drunk doesn't count. Dead people, really dead." He crooned rebukes at the youkai a little more before he sent it off with a cheery wave. He turned back to Haruka. "Mission accomplished! Let's go home."
The low burning was still in his blood. He could always blame it on the sake. "I never know when you are lying to me," he snarled. With a quick movement, he shoved Kantarou to the ground and pinned him there.
"Haruka?" Startled, and he could taste the honesty in the salt-sweat at the back of his throat. Kantarou winced and tried to ease free.
"I do not know," he grated out through his teeth, "if you have ever spoken truth to me." He tightened his grip on Kantarou's arms, feeling the resilience of fine bones beneath skin and muscle. It felt good.
"Haruka. What are you doing?" The smell of blood rising to bruised flesh, tang of copper and salt-fear filling his nostrils and on his tongue. His mouth watered. He licked his lips. Kantarou swallowed and closed his eyes, face tight and set as though facing an oni. Haruka leaned in and inhaled deeply. "Haruka. Haruka."
"Tell me to stop," he said, and pressed his fevered cheek against Kantarou's sweat-chilled one, felt the sharp intake of air and involuntary tremor. He waited for the command.
"No," Kantarou said quietly, and Haruka jerked back in shock.
Kantarou's quick breaths slowed. He opened his eyes. "I like you, Haruka." He stared up at Haruka with a look of grim determination that said, Do your worst.
Haruka exhaled, and released him. "Liar."
"I like you. That is truth."
Haruka bowed his head. "Then, are you my friend?"
"Haruka... Haruka is very important to me," Kantarou said without a trace of levity. "I like you, Haruka."
Haruka felt like he had been given the key to something important. A confession, and a warning. He helped Kantarou to his feet; they dusted themselves off awkwardly. "Let's go."