~*~ The Morgan Vale ~*~
Chapter Two - 'Joining the Bonded'

by Talya Firedancer

Kyo stood up from the margin of Tsuyoshi's immense garden and wiped sweat from his forehead, unknowingly streaking soil over his skin as well. He was city-bred, not used to being surrounded by living greenery, but doing well - once the soreness from daily chores became an accustomed thing. There was something in him that felt at home surrounded by living things, an innate youko he'd never suspected. Tsuyoshi said he had a talent for plants that, if encouraged and practiced with, would have him as a fair plant-shaper some day.

The thought that youko magic might be in his blood had never occurred to him before. It was a shivery sort of excitement. At first it felt like defiance - but now he was among real youko, and they welcomed him. More than that, as Ria had done, the entire Morgan family accepted him as a youko, not a despised half, born from each world and part of neither.

Willow was faring less well. At first he had complained loudly about having to grub around for a living; actually he'd complained about pretty much everything. That is, until Tsuyoshi had set them both down, Chance-Will and Kyo, for one of his infamous lectures. He'd made it plain that the Morgan household was self-sufficient in every way, which meant its members worked for their living unless they had a damned good reason. Lack of muscle tone did not count.

Tsuyoshi had been very reasonable. He hadn't yelled. It hadn't been what Kyo had expected of a lecture. And the next day, Willow had been very subdued. Val might have added a few words and cajolements of his own. Whatever it was, the only thing Willow complained about now was his sore parts.

He seemed to have a lot of those.

Willow - Chance, Kyo corrected himself, he had to remember that Willow called himself 'Chance' now - stood up from the patch he was weeding with the scowl that seemed his trademark during the day. He stretched and groaned as a few joints popped and he stripped his gloves off.

"You're not stopping already, are you?" Kyo called out to him. Truth, he did feel somewhat sympathetic towards the white-haired boy. Willow had never been outside his whole life. Since he had been a Key and not an errand-boy, he had been far more sore as they began to work. Not only that, but he was all human - Kyo's youko blood gave him advantages he'd never realized. Willow had sunburned painfully on the first day. He had to use gloves where Kyo pulled things up bare-handed. And even though he worked less hours than Kyo, he was far more exhausted by the end.

"I'm thirsty," Willow gave him an irritable glance. "Surely I'm allowed to take a break for that?"

"Of course." Kyo hopped over a couple of rows and jogged towards him. "I'll join you; I'm getting thirsty, too."

Will-Chance's violet eyes were indecipherable as he approached. "How do you do that?"

"Do what?" Kyo blinked, self-conscious.

"You're so graceful." Willow's scowl returned. "I know you're sore, too, but every move you make is like dancing."

Kyo shrugged. "I'm youko." He was secretly pleased at the evidence of his blood.

Willow nodded slowly, eyes still on him. "A lot more now than you were," he conceded.

"Really?" Kyo was flattered. If Willow was saying it, it had to be true. The pale-haired former Key known him 'before' longer than anyone, and he wasn't given to making frivolous statements.

Willow smiled unexpectedly. "Yeah. It suits you." He scratched at his white sweaty hair under the wide brim of his hat, then reached into his pocket for a scrap of cotton. He reached forward and wiped Kyo's forehead as the younger boy blinked, holding still. "A bit of dirt," he explained.

They started walking towards the house. Tsuyoshi had explained to them that if this were a normal garden, they would be weeding it in preparation to put in an irrigation system for the full heat of summer. At this point Willow had interjected, asking if it wasn't hot enough already? Val had laughed at him across the kitchen and said the seasons were one thing youko still couldn't control.

So they were weeding the entire huge garden - which was a totally unnecessary task, according to the youngest kits who had pestered them through the entire endlessly long first day. It had been Kaze and Rekka's job to keep the garden weed-free, one of their first exercises in youko magic. Now they had graduated to something more complicated and they were doing something mysterious with Val and Ria on the East Field. As for irrigation, Kirin had a way with water and he would be keeping the garden well-supplied during the thirsty summer months.

"I'm the only one who's useless around here," Will-Chance muttered as they trudged towards the kitchen, boots kicking up puffs of dirt.

Kyo glanced at him in surprise. "About as useless as me."

"No, you're taking to this place like you could've been born here," Chance argued. "I'm the only odd one out; Ahrin's human too, but at least he has magic." His violet eyes were bitter.

Kyo was quiet for a moment. He struggled with what to say. What would Ria say? Something carefree and teasing, maybe; something Willow didn't need to hear. What about Tsuyoshi? He seemed so wise and caring, surely he'd say the right thing. But Kyo was the only one here.

"Will, don't you see what they're doing?" Kyo put a hand out to pause him, as they both kicked their dusty boots off on the back porch. "Not just Tsuyoshi, but everybody. They're slowly goading us to do things for ourselves. Day by day...aren't you a little less sore than the day before?"

Chance grimaced at him. "Maybe," he admitted with reluctance.

Kyo grinned. "If it's anything like it is with me, that's a yes. They're trying to toughen us up, you know - both of us. And the only reason I seem like I'm far ahead of you is because I wasn't locked up my whole life."

Chance's face tightened. "Maybe it wasn't exactly a strenuous life, but..."

"No, that's exactly why," Kyo touched his arm again, feeling hesitant. "Even when I was just in the Palace for a long time, I still had trays to carry, and rooms to clean, and chores to do. I've never weeded a garden, but I do know how to do some things."

"And I don't," Chance said. He didn't sound bitter this time.

Kyo nodded. "And...I think Tsuyoshi has us working together, so that you see where you're supposed to be. Once all the soreness and aching stops."

Chance-Will blinked. "I never thought of it that way."

Kyo ducked his head then gave him a sunny smile. "You'll be graceful, too, you know - once you get used to walking around so much."

"If you say so," Chance was dubious on that point. "It's true that I'm not used to doing a lot of walking."

They pushed into the kitchen, crowding around the water cistern and jostling each other - not as rambunctiously as any of the Morgan kits, but with the air of two boys learning slowly how to play.

Tsuyoshi looked up from some esoteric food preparations involving chicken and various things from the garden. "Ah, good, I was just about to come get you," he said to the two boys, wiping his hands off on his apron. "We're cutting chores short early today; we have a lot to do."

"What for?" Chance queried. He was still learning to keep the suspicion out of his tone, Kyo knew, but this time he did a fair job.

Tsuyoshi smiled. "We're going to get ready for Ria and Kyo's Bonding ceremony."

Kyo's eyes flew open wide. This was a totally unexpected piece of news.


Chance felt a stab of jealously at Tsuyoshi's announcement, and then relief. It confused him. He'd already been Bonded to his youko, kicking and screaming - why should he care if Kyo and Ria got a formal ceremony amidst family? Then he turned his scathing honesty against himself and admitted it was just that fact that accounted for the jealousy. As for relief...his Bond with Val was already formed, and he wouldn't have to go through any sort of public ceremony. It would lay everything bare between them to other eyes, when Chance was barely willing to admit his feelings to himself, let alone strangers - Val's family.

"Chance," Tsuyoshi had turned to him casually, as if he broke that sort of news every day, "I was hoping you could help me with some decorations."

"Me?" Chance said cautiously. "What can I do?" Candid with himself, he could admit he was barely good for anything around the Morgan household. Yet.

"Val mentioned that you can paint." Tsuyoshi's golden eyes sparkled at him.

"Some," Chance answered slowly, thinking of a windowless room in willow motif, and the multi-layered canvases left behind. "I'm just an amateur." He wasn't being modest - after a week in the Morgan house, it was clear that boasting something you were incapable of just landed you the job. A fault Kirin and Ria seemed prone to.

"Nothing much," Tsuyoshi assured him. "What amounts to sign-painting, basically, and a token for the Bonding couple...none of my kits know the end of a paintbrush from their tails." He rolled his eyes.

As usual Chance found himself drawn in by the eldest Morgan's ingratiating, warm manner. "I'll see what I can do."

He turned to put his cup down and saw Kyo, white-faced.

"Kyo, what's wrong?" Chance asked.

"B-Bonded?" the halfling stumbled over the word. "Today? You're - you're not going to make me wear a white dress, are you?" The younger boy looked genuinely upset.

Chance and Tsuyoshi shared a *look* and somehow managed not to laugh. This was one place where Chance felt he had firm ground; he was Bonded to his youko, he'd been through it, he was more than married. He was an initiate and Kyo didn't know the half of it.

"Um...I don't think you need to worry about that, Kyo," Chance tried to sound reassuring. "You're thinking of a human wedding. No dresses involved here." Clothing optional, in fact, but Tsuyoshi's heavy-lidded stare was warning him not to give too much away.

"Well...what do I have to do to get ready, then?" Kyo quavered.

"Rest," Chance said bluntly. Considering his own experience, Kyo would need it.

Kyo looked at Tsuyoshi.

"Rest," Tsuyoshi agreed, gold eyes limpid. "We'll make you look pretty later. Actually, before you rest you can go to the springs with the kits - they should be here any minute."

"Okay," Kyo said. He looked small and uncertain.

"Oh, kitling," Tsuyoshi approached him, using Ria's nickname for him. "Don't you want to Bond with Ria?"

"Of course I do!" Kyo drew himself up, wiping at his eyes. "I just...I didn't expect...it's so soon, and I didn't have any warning, and...well..."

"You're nervous," Chance stated bluntly.

Tsuyoshi shot him a look. It turned surprised when Kyo nodded his head candidly.

"I don't want to screw things up," Kyo bit his lip. "And I don't know what to expect..."

Chance snorted. "You think I knew? Val didn't tell me a damned thing, and next thing I knew he tied-"

"Shh! Enough!" Tsuyoshi clapped his hands over Kyo's pointy ears. "You tell him anything, and you'll inhibit him at this point. He'll find out tonight."

Chance blinked, brought up short. "Is that why Val didn't tell me what he was going to do?"

"I'm sure it is," Tsuyoshi answered him, taking his hands away. "Ask yourself what you would have done, if you'd known?"

"I wouldn't have been able to do much if I *had,*" Chance retorted, thinking of his position as Key.

A deep rich voice spoke in his head. *But your mind would have known what to resist. And that itself would have inhibited the Bond.*

Chance's head jerked up, and he stared into Tsuyoshi's golden eyes. Apart from Val, he had never heard another's voice in his head before. Ever so slightly, the older youko smiled, then patted Kyo's shoulder.

"You'll be fine, Kyo," the youko said cheerfully. "Just trust in what you feel for Ria. There won't be any problems."

Kyo was about to reply when the door burst open. Two silvery, liberally mud-smeared and spattered kits burst into the kitchen, one shrieking with laughter, the other dashing over the floorboards in grubby feet and hurling himself at Kyo.

"Oof!" The half-youko fielded Kaze's slight body as it impacted against his knees and thighs. Kyo hefted the kit up into his arms, smiling at the silent little one. "Kaze! You've been out playing in the mud, it's definitely time for your bath!"

"Kaze! Rekka!" Tsuyoshi snapped, ears flattening. "How many times have I told you about mud and the kitchen?"

Rekka danced back out of range and stood on the mat just inside the door. "Um, I lost count, Otou."

Kaze popped his thumb into his mouth and shook his head.

Tsuyoshi sighed. "Please. Kyo, would you please take them to the springs?" The look on his face was pleading but not particularly hopeful; he knew his sons.

"Sure," Kyo shifted Kaze onto his hip. The boy clung to him like a burr, laying a silver head on his shoulder and generally getting mud all over Kyo's olive-tanned skin.

"You can just go straight away, we'll have towels waiting on the porch when you get back," Tsuyoshi promised.

Kyo gathered Rekka's hand in his free one and the three of them trooped out the door. Rekka started up a happy chatter before they were even out the door.

Tsuyoshi watched the departure with an indulgent smile. "They really like him," he commented before turning back to the other boy.

Chance had been staring the little kits with a sort of dismay. He was exceedingly relieved neither of them had tried to approach and latch onto *his* leg. He knew technically he and Val could have kits together. He hoped it was far, far in the future - after he'd gotten used to the knee-high creatures.

"So," Tsuyoshi recalled his attention, "what's this about being jealous?"

"What!?" Chance's eyes widened. "How did you-" He clammed up, violet eyes going thin and suspicious.

A dark brow lifted. "Val never told you his youko father is an empath, with sensitive humans?"

"No," Chance's brow wrinkled, "but that explains a few things." In the back of his head, a stunned portion was noting, 'I'm a sensitive?' But that explained something, too. It was part of why he was a match for Val.

Tsuyoshi patted the stool beside him. "So tell me. You know I'll listen."

Without making eye contact, Chance slid onto the stool. "I'm not really jealous. I don't think I am. It's just..." He stopped and frowned.

"You and Val didn't have a real ceremony," Tsuyoshi supplied.

Chance frowned harder. "I don't think I would've held still for a real ceremony. Val had to do it that way; it was the only way."

"Oh?" Tsuyoshi chuckled. "Maybe so. If you hadn't Bonded right then, Val might've had to woo you. I can see that taking awhile!"

"Try forever," Chance snorted.

"Well, it may be impossible to hold a formal Bonding ceremony for you two, but after Ria and Kyo and the kits have gone to bed, we do have a quiet celebration planned," Tsuyoshi informed him.

He lifted white bangs out of his eyes. "Really? I didn't expect-"

"I know," Tsuyoshi chuckled. "It was going to be a surprise. Try not to let Val suspect."

"I'll do my best," Chance said, tone wry. Mindspeech was not something he was very good at. Keeping something to himself, however, still came naturally.

"And now," Tsuyoshi arched his brows, "if I could prevail on you for a little painting ability?"

Chance hopped off the stool. He nodded. Finally, he could be a little bit useful.


Ria tugged at the bottom of his tunic and combed through his hair with his fingertips one more time. "How do I look?"

Val shot him an amused look. "That's only the sixth time you've asked, and you still look fine. Getting nervous?"

"No!" Ria shot back. Then he grinned somewhat sheepishly. "Well, maybe a little." If they had Bonded right away like Val and Chance, there would have been no opportunities to get nervous. Ria had never expected to find his mate so early, and that was a possible source for anxiety - but he knew it would dissolve once he laid eyes on his kitling again. They had waited almost too long; a few more days and they would both start to sicken with craving each other.

"We're not going to have to tie you down, are we?" Val was grinning too, teasing him.

"Of course not! What do I look like, a human?" Ria retorted. "The only tying you'll be doing is our arms, bro, to seal the blood Bond." He quieted down for a moment, thinking ahead to that moment. This was it. He might feel a momentary flutter, but this was the lifelong partner he'd been searching for.

Val grimaced. "I wish we could warn him about that part," he said. "Chance looked so horror-stricken when I cut myself, I almost stopped for a moment. But that would've wasted our blood."

Ria shook his head. "Otou is right, if we tell him anything it might inhibit him. Kyo hasn't grown up with the traditions like we have. He may be shocked for a second, but he trusts all of us."

He reached out for his father's mind, and received a mental slap to his 'fingers.' *Don't peek!* Ahrin's baritone warned. *We may not be gowning him in white, but we're dressing up your kitling. Tsuyoshi has him in hand and the twins will let you know when we're ready.*

*Gowning...in white?* Ria faltered, then picked up the reference. *Now, really! We're hardly human and Kyo is definitely not a girl!*

*My kits may not be human but I still qualify,* Ahrin said dryly.

*And Otou never held it against you,* Ria shot back, pert.


"He sent you packing, didn't he?" Val grinned as his twin opened his eyes.

"Yes," Ria admitted. "They're making Kyo pretty right now, I guess. He said they'd send Kirin and Arashi when they're ready."

"Aw, give them their moment, little bro. You're the first son to be Bonded at home, and likely to be the only one for a century or so."

"That's true, isn't it?" Ria was diverted. "Arashi and Kirin certainly aren't the type to do more than join in fun, neither is Rekka, for a very long time - I'm not so sure about Kaze, though."

"Well, the fathers said the same thing of us," Val chuckled. "That it would take us hundreds of years to find the right one, let alone settle down with him. The Bond doesn't wait or hurry, it just lets us know when."

"True." Ria's golden eyes turned musing. "You know, Kyo and I never-"

"It'll be fine," Val assured him. "Trust me! Like you thought to yourself, it's like being with a virgin but not a virgin... You'll both find your way."

"Thanks." Ria was dry. "That is so reassuring. I can't even begin-"

"Stop jittering!" Val's ears twitched. "You're even making *me* nervous!" He reached out for Chance and received an abstracted mental murmur in response.


"So, what do you think of the training course Ahrin has us working on with the kits?" Chance was busy with Kyo. It was amazing - once they were both free of the Palace, the boys' relationship had blossomed into a first tentative, and now ungrudging friendship.

"You're trying to change the subject," Ria accused, laying his ears back.

"Forget 'try,' I *am.*"

"Fine." Ria attempted to sulk for a moment and his twin ignored it, as politely inflexible as Ahrin ever was in ignoring Tsuyoshi's occasional *moods.* "I think Papa should be training them, not us."

Val laughed at him. "You're just saying that because you don't have patience and you hate mud."

"You are better with the kits than I am," Ria admitted. "But come on, it took me half an hour to get mud and kinks out of my tail!" They had been experimenting with rudimentary dowsing techniques today, and it had messy results. Rekka had reached out for a pocket of water and Kaze had helped him pull it to the surface. *That* had not been a part of their instructions - and the reward for their efforts had been an upwelling of water, turning the soil beneath them to mud.

A lot of mud.

Ria had been...*unhappy* with his youngest brothers.

"Come on, now," Val cajoled him, tail flicking whiplike against Ria's newly-donned green tunic. "They're just child's exercises - easy things, we could do them in our sleep. Why not teach the kits when Papa has bigger things to do right now?"

"Because our littlest brothers are extremely literal - both in their interpretation of what we've told them, and what we *haven't,*" Ria said in disgust. "That's how we got in trouble in the first place. We didn't tell them *not* to reach for the water."

"I didn't think they could," Val admitted with a snicker.

The discussion might have gone on interminably long if someone hadn't knocked on the door. Ria bounced up as if he had strings pulling him straight.

"Oh, Niisan!" Arashi sang out, pushing the door open. "Your beauty awaits you!"

"He does?" Ria said eagerly, giving Val a glance and starting forward.

"Nah, we've been sent to stall you for another hour," Kirin denied, tumbling into the room and hanging onto his sister's shoulders. She flattened her ears and looked annoyed.

Ria growled and put his hand around his brother's throat.

"Kidding!" Kirin squeaked, trying to hide behind Arashi, who laughed and stepped away from him. "Yikes! Havens help the one who'd step between you and your Bonded!"

"Really, Ria-nii, we're ready. They're waiting downstairs in the garden," Arashi said, giving her brother a Look.

"What better place for youko to Bond?" Val was smiling, but his twin sensed a pang of regret for the circumstances he'd forced Willow into.

The twins seized Ria, one on each arm, and dragged him out of the room. "C'mon, Niisan, you've made him wait long enough!" Val followed, laughing at them all.

"I've made *him* wait!?"

Belowstairs, the kits had been busy, both sets. The path through the kitchen to the door was festooned with flowers and garlands. And little banners across every doorway were painted with symbols for prosperity, fertility, luck, and happiness. Ria's lips quirked - Chance must have had Tsuyoshi's help with that. Then his brother and sister were tugging him through the door and he could hear the youngest kits giggling and Ria blinked against bright sunlight, before his breath caught.

There he was.

Kyo stood wide-eyed and waiting at the arbor's archway, decked in loose green silk, a youko garment. His hair was carefully groomed and pulled back, decorated with tiny starlike flowers. A golden ornament clasped one thin arm. He looked like a woodland sprite poised for flight or an instant's pleasure among the mortals. Ria couldn't stop himself from grinning idiotically. Tsuyoshi stood at the halfling's elbow and his tall slender father looked ready to steady the boy - he was grinning, too, golden eyes alight with pride.

"Yatta!" Rekka cheered, running around the garden strewing rose-petals everywhere. Kaze was seated in the crook of Ahrin's arm as they stood on the other side of the arbor. He could see a red cord in his other father's hand and a thrill of anticipation ran through him. This was it.

Val left his side and took up a position by Chance several paces back from the arbor. Ria winked at the pair as he saw his twin take Chance's hand, whispering something into his ear. The boy swatted him but his face wasn't displeased.

Arashi and Kirin let go of his hands, smiles almost bursting their faces. His sister moved to join Tsuyoshi and his brother took up a position beside Ahrin, ready to pluck Kaze from his arms.

Now Kyo dominated all of his attention. His kitling was smiling tremulously, his eyes watchful. He had no idea how all this impromptu ceremony was going to proceed. Ria kept his steps deliberate and finally joined the boy at the archway, reaching out to clasp his hand. Kyo's eyes shone up at him.

"Wh-what do we do now?"

"Now," Ria's smile widened, "we Bond." He leaned over and licked Kyo's cheek, taking in his scent, tongue gliding over the velvety-smooth skin. Scent and taste mingled together, Kyo's essence heady in his mouth, and he sighed a little. Yes. This was right.

Kyo shivered under his touch, eyes closing. Ria's face hovered near his. He reached up and nuzzled first, then licked his own response up Ria's cheek. "Oh!" His body tensed.

"Feel it?" Ria said, voice soft.

Wordless, the boy nodded. "It's...right." His own voice was soft and puzzled. That was the only term for such aching perfection.

Tsuyoshi stepped forward, gesturing for Arashi to keep a grip on Rekka with his basket of rose-petals. He was overly enthusiastic about his part in the ceremony. With a smile for his son, and an encouraging look at Kyo, he took up a position at the archway and held up a little bone-handled knife. It looked sharp enough to take a piece out of the wind.

"We don't really have words for the Bonding," Tsuyoshi began, "but this is how you're bound together. Blood mingled, minds merged, and ultimately bodies joined. This is a taste of continuity - with this same knife, my twin Tsuchiya bound me to my Ahrin." A sidelong smile accompanied his words, the black youko unable to keep his eyes off his Bonded. Then, before his words sunk in, he stepped forward and took Kyo's wrist.

The boy's eyes were wide, his arm unresisting as Tsuyoshi lifted it and pressed the bone-handled knife along his arm, drawing a spill of crimson to the surface. Kyo gasped and began to tremble, but didn't resist. Quickly Tsuyoshi turned and grabbed his son's wrist, cutting a corresponding mark into Ria's opposing arm. Then he pressed their bleeding wounds together, golden eyes watchful.

Ahrin eased Kaze into Kirin's arms, and stepped up with the red cord. The cord wasn't to represent the blood that tied them together, but the red thread of fate that had drawn them to each other, signifying the Bond itself. Ria laced his fingers with Kyo's, pulling the trembling half-youko close, and Ahrin looped the cord around their arms, tying them together.

"It's done." Tsuyoshi's pronouncement rang with satisfaction. "Blood mingles."

"Ria," Kyo whispered, pressing a face into his chest. The youko was surprised to feel tears wet his tunic.

"What's wrong, kitling?" he whispered back.

"I'm so happy."

Rekka broke free of Arashi and began strewing rose-petals everywhere again. The middle twins took this as a sign to cheer. Ria half-turned and was unsurprised to see his twin and Chance standing very close together. Val was rubbing his Bonded's arm, where even with all their fleshworking they had not erased the newness of healing scar tissue.

Ria bent and kissed a pointed ear, tightening his free arm around Kyo as the boy began to squirm. "Ria, it's burning..." The return of confusion hung in the air.

"It's all right," he soothed.

"Let's get you two inside," Tsuyoshi urged, "We don't want you collapsing right here in the garden."

"Definitely not!" Val laughed. "Imagine what the neighbors would think!"

Arashi threw him a glance. "We don't have neighbors, Val-nii."

"Doesn't matter," Val chuckled slyly.

"Collapsing!?" A golden eye peered up at him, alarmed.

"Don't worry," Ria stroked the bright head. "Everything's happening the way it should."

"All right." Kyo settled against his side, trusting, as they walked back to the house.

"Ahrin suggested a human tradition, a reception," Tsuyoshi's dulcet chuckle filled the garden. "But we need to be hurrying you two to bed as soon as possible. We'll hold a reception in your honor instead."

Kyo cocked his head, definitely confused now. Then he gasped and his hand clung to Ria's. "My arm's on fire!"

"It's all right," Ria repeated, feeling the burn travel up his own arm. He winced. It hurt more than he'd expected to, tiny flames clawing up underneath his skin as their blood mingled.

"What's it feel like?" Rekka paused by the newly-Bonded couple, jiggling from one foot to the other. "Is it like joining?"

"That comes later," Ria leered, then winced as he felt Kyo's pain shudder through him.

"Hurry up," Tsuyoshi chivvied them towards the stairs. "You think it's going to wait for you to have a conversation?

A fresh wave of fire hit them and they paused at the foot of the stairs. Kyo's face was strained. "What's happening to me?" Ria took stock and hefted Kyo into his arms, awkwardly because their left and right arms were still bound together. He settled for sort of half-tossing the boy over his shoulder, his own arm wrenched nearly out of the socket with him. Kyo's voice rose. "Ria!? What are you doing!?"

"Hurrying," Ria said, unrepentant. It was a good thing the old room was so close! Kyo pressed against his body as he set him on his feet, beads of sweat rising on the fair forehead. A shudder traveled through his body. "I know, I know..." He turned the lock decisively. There would be no interruption from too-curious kits.

"Burns," Kyo moaned, a high flush rising into his cheeks. "Ria..."

"I know," Ria soothed, drawing him towards the bed. Fire was boiling up through his veins; it felt like it was shining through his skin. The magic was tying them together in body and in another instant, mind. "Try to relax."

Golden eyes opened; fixed on him with feverish intensity. "I trust you, Ria."

He pressed his lips to that tempting mouth. "I love you, Kyo." Bit by bit, he lowered the defenses to his mind.

Simmering golden sensation flowed up to meet him; a timid but vibrant green hunger/tenderness/trust met and twined with his mind. They fell to the bed, locked tight in an embrace that moved beyond their bodies. Kyo lost his shyness very early on, and their minds opened, one to the other.