Out Under the Sky

by Tenshi

Christmas Eve Morning, '97
Somewhere in Colorado

"Isn't this just gorgeous?" Sai thumped down his luggage with an expansive sigh, striding across the cabin and pushing the curtains wide. "I mean, the people are SO nice and the place was so inexpensive and the scenery! Did you see those mountains?" Sai realized abruptly that he was being ignored. "Rowen, take your face out of the game boy and look at the damn mountains."

Rowen, glued to his royal blue portable brain-cell detonator, muttered something unkind about mountains, Sai's grandmother, venetian blinds, and what Sai could do with all of them.

Sai fought off his scowl, and tried another tactic. "Love I know you'd like Sage to be here for Christmas but it just wasn't possible. Yuli's tournament is coming up in three days and you know how important it is for Sage to be there with him, don't you?"

"Bleep bleepboop frPOW! Beep beep bloop," The game boy replied. Rowen was silent, his mouth a grim line, aquamarine irises not budging from the tiny color screen.

Sai's eyebrows went together. 13 hours on a plane and Rowen had been barely verbal, save for what necessity required and that was well-peppered with expletives in at least four languages. Ryou was confused but left him alone, Kento was in too good of a mood to be fazed and Sai was silently worried sick. "I know it's the holidays and all but..." Sai ran out of words, giving up.

"Man there is some GREAT snow out there! Hey Rowen!" Ryou shook snow out of his hair. "What are you doing sittin' there? Get your gear on and let's go! We didn't come to Colorado to decorate the couches!"

Rowen grunted something and pounded buttons furiously.

Ryou glanced at Sai, who shrugged, making universal sign language for "Rowen" "Sulk" and "Beats the shit out of me". He plugged in the cabin's small Christmas tree, smiling at the tiny white lights.

Ryou frowned. "I even went ahead and rented a board for you. A bright blue one with this galaxy stuff airbrushed on it..." Ryou brushed his fingers against Rowen's cheek. "C'mon, dude... won't you even try to have a good time? Sage hates snow anyway, if he were here he'd be bitching. He wouldn't want ya spending Christmas Eve making yourself miserable."

Rowen gave a martyred sigh and switched off his game. "It appeahs to be the only fucking way you'll leave me alone." He blinked apologetically at Ryou's wounded look. He really HAD been an ass, but damnit he was justified! "Sorry Ryou." He smiled, rather painfully. "C'mon... let's go see what kinda board ya got."

Rowen had been setting himself up to have a miserable time. It was only right, he thought. He'd been looking forward to this trip like mad and had been bitterly disappointed when Sage told him Yuli had made the finals and needed his Sensei with him. He'd been content to wallow and Sai's constant cajoling made it worse; the warrior of Torrent meant well but he just didn't GET it. It wasn't that Rowen had to be around Sage 24-7, it was just that this fall had gotten busier exponentially and the five of them had barely laid eyes on each other in the past three weeks. To say nothing of actually getting laid.

One week, six days, fourteen- no- sixteen hours.

Rowen was keeping track out of masochism, but he'd slipped the past two hours. He'd been rather guiltily having a ball. Even if it was Christmas Eve, and his lover was half a planet away.

"Five thousand says you can't." Ryou challenged.

"Can too," Kento retorted, hollering back from the other chair in the lift. Rowen caught himself grinning over his shoulder. Sai looked a bit uncomfortable with his enthused chairmate.

"Really love you needn't scream, they're three feet away!" Sai warily eyed the snow several yards down. He wasn't up for a plummet.

Ryou swiveled in the lift seat, making it wobble violently. Rowen, nowhere near afraid of heights, checked the security of the bar nonetheless. "Five and DINNER!" He yelled back, and Kento waved a gloved fist.

"Ryou of Wildfire you are ON!"

"I can't believe you pulled that off," Ryou shook his head in awe. "I thought you were gonna eat snowdrift." The four of them were tucked into a booth at Billy's Mountain Grill; the main décor was wildlife antlers and fur and the place was packed for Christmas Eve. It was the sort of eatery they'd not have gotten Sage into even if they beaned him with a sledgehammer and drug him by his hair.

"Heh." Kento waved his fork. "Never make a bet with Hardrock if food is on the line." He sliced off a bite of his steak, done to absolute perfection and not cheap by American standards, but if they'd wanted to eat the same in Tokyo they'd have had to mortgage the house. "This is fucking fab. Hey flyboy you feeling better?"

Rowen smiled, it wasn't forced anymore. A snow-flying gravity defying knock the wind out of your lungs if you fall off (which they did, a lot, more enthusiastic than skilled) afternoon had done wonders to the archer's quicksilver disposition. "In spitea myself, I guess." He winked at the Santa-hatted waitress who brought over another round of beers; she was working hard for her tips tonight.

Sai munched his Caesar salad. "If you still miss him, I'll complain about the lack of bean sprouts on the menu and seethe about the animal carcasses."

"And take a week to finish eating," Rowen reminded him, laughing. "Fuck, I just hope he's having fun at the tourney, that's all."

"Are you?" Ryou aimed an ice-blue smirk at Rowen. "Having fun, I mean?"

Rowen, wondering if that look meant what he hoped to god it did, stole a cherry tomato from Ryou's neglected salad. "Maybe."

Ryou blushed quietly at his bottle of Killian's Red. "Good." When his gaze came back to Rowen's, it was dark with intent. "I don't like you to be miserable."

Kento raised an eyebrow, Heineken halfway to his mouth as he elbowed Sai unsubtly. Sai rolled his eyes and crunched lettuce, quietly delighted that things had worked out without them having to leave Rowen by the side of the road.

It was easier not to ache in blinding snow and laughter, but the short-lived winter sun had set hours ago and Rowen was still curled in the window, gazing out at the blue and white landscape of snow and stars. He tried willing himself not to think about Sage, but it just got harder not to imagine, so he let himself wonder where he was, what he was doing. If need be, he could reach out and touch his soul, even half a world away, but he wouldn't want to worry him with something like that.

Instead he ran the fingertips of his mind over the gold cording of their bond, drawing it close for comfort. The cabin they rented was decked for Christmas with pine boughs and a real tree, Sai had put in quiet music and Ryou had built up the fire, it and the tiny clear tree lights were all that illuminated the room. Rowen's cocoa was cold, Sai and Kento had drifted to their room hours ago, and Ryou surely was asleep on the couch.

At least, Rowen thought he was, until a warm arm around his shoulders startled him. They did not speak, Ryou respecting Rowen's emotions and working out best how to offer what he wanted to. It was Christmas Eve, and for lovers, and he could feel Rowen's loneliness all the way across the room.

"You want to?" He asked quietly, his lips almost a kiss in the soft indigo hair.

Rowen swallowed, carefully setting his mug on the windowsill. "Yeah."

Ryou pulled him to his feet and into his arms, his kiss warm and gentle and coaxing, Rowen tangling fingers in the ink-spill of Ryou's mane.

Ryou was aiming for the other bedroom but Rowen stalled him, instead pressing him towards the fireplace. Ryou was the last person to offer argument, and they sank to their knees in the thick sheepskin rug by the hearth.

Ryou was not a talker and Rowen was not in the mood for conversation, lifting his arms obediently as Ryou pulled sweater and turtleneck off him as one, fingertips trailing over the sculpted lines of Rowen's chest. Rowen undid the buttons on Ryou's shirt, softly kissing the arc of this throat and sweeping ebony hair back when it impeded his path. They left it at that a long time, slow and careful and quiet, and Rowen who had never had Ryou all to himself made himself memorize every inch of skin before moving on.

The heavy silver crescent rings strung through both Ryou's nipples were hot from his skin, and Ryou leaned his head back and exhaled as Rowen's mouth adored them for minutes at a time. Ryou pushed at the top of Rowen's jeans, impatient already and wondering if the bead-strung hoop in Rowen's navel would have an effect that was similar. Rowen let himself fall, legs on either side of Ryou's hips, and leaned up, lips parted eagerly for more kisses as wildfire bore down on top of him. Ryou was past being tolerant of clothes but couldn't wait for more than Rowen's pants shoved down to his thighs, pressing his face in the warmth between the archer's legs and drawing the heat and hunger and trust of Rowen's sex into his mouth.

Rowen knotted his fingers in the fur rug, moaning softly and pushing up against Ryou's summer-hot lips and tongue. He wiggled against the confines of his partially-removed jeans, thighs flexing under Ryou's hands. "Unn... Ryou… please..."

Ryou lifted his head, lips still pressed to the tip of Rowen's aching sex. He disentangled one hand and slipped it underneath Rowen, between the perfect double-curve of his ass and into the intense tight cradle of his body. Rowen bit back on the scream, pushing down hard against the invasion and growling in his throat.

It was enough to convince Ryou, and two pairs of jeans were tossed aside. Rowen grasped the sharp angles of Ryou's hipbones, wetting the other warrior with swift strokes of his tongue and straddling him eagerly as Ryou knelt on the rug. "Do it now."

Ryou pushed up and Rowen slid down, his body startled into clenching submission by the hot intrusion of Ryou's sex. Rowen was rocking into it instantly, savoring the bond of firelight and snow and desire. He wrapped his arms around Ryou's caramel shoulders and rode out the violence of fire under starlight, hands that were used to katana hilts shaping the burn teasing Ryou's stomach. Ryou's mouth was rapid-fire on Rowen's chest and then one long kiss that never stopped, stifling their frantic noises as they ground hungrily into each other and exploded, Rowen spilling himself over Ryou's pumping fingers and himpering at the soft jets of warmth as Ryou came inside of him.

They shuddered to a halt, gasping for air, skin slick from making love in front of a fireplace. Rowen's arms tensed as Ryou shifted, aquamarine eyes eyeing him. "Not yet... okay?"

Ryou grinned, staying where he was. He hugged Rowen tightly, despite the heat. "Okay."

Rowen puzzled, without much success, exactly when his life had ceased to be ordinary. He was fairly sure there had been a time when it would have been odd to have wild passionate sex with one of his buddies and then go for a walk in sub-zero temperatures because the stars were singing to him.

He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets and crunched along the path. Bright, sharp Christmas Eve, and stars belted out symphonies on winter nights like this. Christmas Especially. Last year, he'd sat up in the window seat with Sage and told him what they were saying, whispered to him the secrets of the celestial sphere that the stars spun out in their bight, inhuman voices.

Rowen shnucked audibly, muttering a curse against the cold, furious at himself for being so pathetic. No way was Sage moaning and moping about back home. Rowen snorted irritably, shivering. He was freezing out here, and the stars were subsiding into clouds anyway. Damn ridiculous of him to come out anyway, he should have stayed curled up in bed next to Ryou's warm, willing and deliciously naked body... Rowen blinked, taking stock of his surroundings. This wasn't the way back to the cabin, was it? He scowled. Damn bewildering snow. All he needed now was an avalanche.

The track obligingly gave way at Rowen's feet.

"OW ow ow ow FUCK ow ow." Rowen shook off the momentary blackout, wiping his glove across his mouth and discovering a bloody nose. "Well this is just ducky." He slumped back in the snow, glaring back up at the path a good sixty feet from where he'd slid off it. That pine branch on the way down had done wonders for keeping him from flying, his face hurt from cold and he was pretty sure there was bark in his teeth.

The archer bitched himself up and forced his will against the gravity holding him down, and levitated upwards quite nicely until the foot wedged in boulders snagged him back earthwards with a muffled splat of snow.

Rowen was too pissed to swear. He was in a simply gorgeous predicament, if he wanted to pry himself out of the rocks he'd have to remove a few ribs first to bend properly. He could call the guys to come get him, but pride wouldn't allow it. He struggled with a few tons of glacier-granite and tried to free himself, failing rather miserably and wishing he could summon his armor to get him out of his own stupidity. He was fairly certain, though, that being hung on a rock didn't count as a threat to the mortal world.

He shifted his hips in the snow, closing his eyes as flakes began to drift from the sky again. He was cold. He ached in ways beyond weather and spills down the hillside, and he desperately missed Sage.

So intently was he wishing for him to just show up that he actually didn't realize at first when he did. He blinked a few times but Sage was sitting on the rock that had Rowen snagged, smiling with faint tolerance, snow catching in the ends of his blond hair.

Rowen grinned sheepishly, forgetting that there was no way Sage could really be there. "Heh. I slipped."

Sage shook his head slowly, gloved hands dipping into the crevasse of rock and gently freeing Rowen's ankle. Rowen scrambled to his feet, bracing himself against the stone as the snow moved uncertainly beneath his boot treads. Sage caught him, warm in the snowy night air. He draped one arm over his shoulders and led Rowen away from the cluster of rocks, further away from where the archer had fallen.

"Sage? This isn't the way I came... where're we goin'?"

Sage didn't answer, pushing through pine branches and emerging onto another path. Rowen hobbled along, wondering if maybe he'd cracked his head a little harder than he thought he had. He chattered rather aimlessly to Sage, trying to keep himself awake, so used to Sage's quiet accepting silence that he didn't notice that Sage in fact never said a word. It wasn't five minutes before they were back at the cabin, and Rowen slid off Sage's shoulders and dug in his jacket pocket for the keys.

"Man are the guys gonna be surprised to see you. I mean, you really had us tricked with that tournament thing, thinkin' you weren't gonna be with us for Christmas, but Really I nevah believed it fa a minute," Rowen pushed the door open, turning back to Sage. "Ya gonna come in or-"

The night stretched away from the front stoop of the cabin, silent and snowy and void of any living soul save Rowen himself. The archer blinked. "Sage?"

The wind scuttled small ghosts of snow across Rowen's feet, over the single set of tracks in the snow. Rowen's going out, and returning, alone. The returning steps had a definite limp to them though, as if Rowen had been leaning heavily on something that wasn't there.

The world went abruptly black.

"Rowen? Rowen are you feeling better?" Sai's worried green eyes were the first thing to swim into Rowen's vision, hovering over him. "Heavens love, you gave us a start!"

"Ah, I knew he'd be alright." Kento grinned amicably, thumping himself down on the bed. "God looks out for idiots without the sense to stay in out of the cold."

Rowen blinked at sunlight. It was unfairly early, he could tell by the light, and Ryou was sitting in bed next to him, in his sweatpants.

"Dude you are just fucking lucky I was up to pee. Found you half in and out of the door, lookin' like you'd been in a dogfight-"

Sai shushed Ryou up urgently. "There's time for that later, Ryou. First Rowen has to open his Christmas present."

Rowen rubbed his tender ankle. "My what?"

"Tradaaa!" Sai opened the door with a flourish, revealing Sage, who looked jet-lagged and none too pleased with the fanfare.

"Yuli's match is one of the last ones." Sage cautioned. "I have to fly back tomorrow morning, but I DID make it."

Rowen tossed back quilts, hopping over and grabbing the front of Sage's greatcoat. "What the fuck happened to you last night? You TRYIN' ta wig the livin' shit out of me?"

Sage was quite elegantly baffled. "Rowen? What are you talking about?"

Rowen's indigo eyebrows shot together. "Last night. I fell. Ya pried me outta the boulders and walked me back, ya remebah?"

It was quite evident that Sage did not.

Ryou looked apologetically confused. "Rowen, Sage just got here like, ten minutes ago. He was hovering over the Pacific in first class when I found you this morning, he couldn't have walked you back from anywhere?"

Sai put a hand on Rowen's shoulder. "Love? DID Sage walk you back?"

Rowen sat back down on the bed, sage sinking to the feather ticking beside him, concern on his features. "Rowen?"

"Fuck but he looked like you. He nevah talked though, so maybe ya got some twin runnin' around Colorado that helps morons outta the woods. I'm dammed if I know wheh he went, though. There weren't any tracks or nuthin." Rowen leaned gratefully against Sage. "Sorreh... I didn't mean to ignore ya present." He kissed Sage, gratefully. "Thanks fa comin' all this way fa me."

Sai bustled the other two out of the room, ignoring Kento's rambling.

"Maybe he was like a space alien or invasion of the Christmas bishonen bodysnatchers or-"

"Kento, love. Do shut the fuck up."

"I dunno." Ryou glanced back at Sage and Rowen, the latter grinning insufferably and the former slinging his coat across the headboard, opening his arms for the azure-haired archer, kissing him with a bit more enthusiasm. "It's kinda cheesy and shit but, maybe it was an Angel? I mean, cos it WAS Christmas Eve and all and- ah forget it, it's stupid..."

The door shut behind them, and Sage leaned back into the pillows with Rowen, running fingers through his hair. They were quiet, Rowen thinking and Sage just grateful to be on firm ground. "Rowen? What do you think it was?"

Rowen twisted his fingers around a strand of gold. "The best Christmas present I ever got, that's what," he affirmed, and proceeded to unwrap him.


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