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No Prayers For November

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He’s hard to predict, even on his good days, but Ryuji’s learned a lot over the years. He’s learned when a bad day might turn into more, the little warning signs that mean he’ll up and disappear for days on end. It’s a jaggedness in his bluster, a desperate edge of overcompensation; all his sharpest corners coming out bloody and bright when he thinks no one’s looking. If someone asked Ryuji, he wouldn’t be able to tell them how he can tell. Just that he knows when something’s off.

The first time it happened for Ryuji to see, he was terrified. Christmastime and they’re fresh off a soul-ripping stint of long distance, still trying to learn how to be with each other and live their lives at the same time. And he can’t tell if what’s in the air is just a new kind of awkwardness he’s going to have to learn to adjust to, or if something’s gone wrong. When Ryuji goes to meet him after work like always and he’s not there, and he doesn’t answer his texts and even Sojiro doesn’t know where he’s gone? Not good. When he appears again three days later, confused about the fuss, the fight lasts all day; hours on hours of screaming and sobbing and accusations until he finds himself on their bathroom floor at three in the morning, Akira pinned under him, wailing and pleading for more-more-more as Ryuji fucks him. He poured himself into him then, all his fear and anger and love, all the what-ifs and might-have-beens, and when they were both spent, they held each other until the sun came up.

Maybe it should have been the end, then. They found a sort of balance instead. The good days outnumber the bad, after all.

It’s swimming in the air when he wakes up in the middle of the night, circling like a shark, an unseen danger filling his senses. Instead of waking to Akira tangled around him, he sees the dark shape of him sitting up in bed, staring at nothing. It’s cold without him close. Ryuji drapes himself over his back, and he doesn’t protest. Doesn’t react; doesn’t move, even. One of the bad nights, then. He pulls him close for a minute, buries his face in his neck and just breathes. He still doesn’t react. Ryuji bites back a sigh and kisses his cheek before sliding out of bed.

“Gonna make some coffee, babe, be right back.” No answer.

As the coffee pot bubbles and steams, he scrolls through his phone. 2:45 in the morning. No new notifications. The same empty, smiling faces on his insta feed that he saw earlier in the evening. The night feels haunted; the square of sky in the kitchen window looming pitch black, like the apartment’s been picked up and dropped into a pit while they were sleeping. Well. While he was sleeping, at least.

There’s a muffled sound from the bedroom that raises the hair on the back of his neck and has him rushing back in, coffee forgotten. Goddamnit. Akira’s still sitting on the bed, face buried in his knees now, sobbing quietly. Ryuji fights down the panic and pulls him into his arms again. They’ve been through this. He’s done this before. He can do it again. Akira’s limp and unresisting as Ryuji shifts him into his lap, tucks his head under his chin and hugs him so tight it almost hurts. Against him, Akira’s body heaves and shudders with his sobs.

Once, back in college, someone had sent him a video of a hot air balloon launch in Australia or somewhere dry and sandy like that. Five men on the ground held onto ropes and let out slack as the balloon swelled up, rose higher and higher. But something went wrong. Wind caught the fabric as it was still inflating, whipped it up too hard and fast, and the balloon shot off across the desert, the men struggling to hold it back. One didn’t let go in time and got dragged up into the air for a heart-stopping minute before dropping to the ground hard. He thinks the guy survived. Hopes so, anyway.

It pops back into his head every time he’s here like this, holding Akira tight as he shakes and cries, or rages against things that were defeated long ago, or just spaces out in a way that terrifies him, fills him with a fear that this is going to be the time that the love of his life doesn’t come back. He holds onto Akira like a lifeline, does everything he can to drag him back down out of the current, to ground him in the here and now again. And every time, he prays that he won’t be swept away with him.

“Shh, ‘Kira, hey… Hey, I’ve gotcha… I’m here, baby…”

He whispers soothing nonsense against Akira’s skin, digs his fingertips into his shaking shoulders, kneading at the hard, knotted muscle there. He buries one hand in thick curls, damp with cold sweat, grips his hair hard enough to pull and sting. Gentle pain, grounding pain. Dragging him back to reality, bit by aching bit. It always feels like forever. Against his chest, Akira shakes so violently it must be hurting him, sobs like his skin’s being ripped off and he’s lost the will to scream. Ryuji keeps whispering. Keeps hold of him. Keeps digging his fingers into his shoulders, his scalp, his back. Holds on to that rope keeping him tethered to the earth just as hard as he can.

It scared him so fucking much the first time. When Akira stopped running on bad days and let him be there for him, let him see the ugliness and vulnerability and all the broken, shattered pieces of himself. Scared him, because this wasn’t his Akira, his best friend, leader, hero. Not the Akira he fell for, cool and quiet and always in control; not Joker, mad-eyed and hedonistic. He fucked up so bad then, and he thinks he might spend the rest of his life trying to make up for those missteps. He knows, now. Through trial and error--and error, and error--they’ve both learned how to manage. He’s stronger now, strong enough to hold on. Strong enough to keep his head on straight when Akira can’t.

He’s lost track of how long it’s been. Fifteen minutes? Two hours? It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the shaking is starting to subside, the sobs turning to hiccups and gasps and little defeated sighs. The tide is finally turning. He buries his face in Akira’s damp hair and just holds him.

“Ryuji…” His voice is low and gravelly, but steady. His arms snake around Ryuji’s torso to hug him back. He’s coming back to himself. Thank god, he’s coming back. Ryuji loosens his death grip on him, lets himself stroke him and kiss his hair with renewed tenderness.

“I’m here, ‘Kira…”

“’Sorry…” Damn it, he always apologizes. It’s not like him. But it is like him, in times like this.

“Don’t be sorry, you jackass. Talk t’me.” Ryuji nuzzles at Akira’s hair again and gently shifts his legs so they’re draped around his waist instead of digging into his ribs. Akira makes a disgruntled little sound and draws a shuddering breath. Maybe he’s trying to keep from starting up the crying again. His face is a mess. Ryuji shucks off his half-soaked t-shirt and hands it to him, lets him scrub it across his face and blow his nose into it before tossing it aside.

“Nothing to talk about,” he mutters once he’s caught his breath. “Same shit.”

“Nightmare?”

“No. Only nightmare here’s me.” He’s looking at Ryuji, but not looking at him. More like looking through him. His voice is flat now, eerily calm. “I don’t think I remember who I am anymore.” He laughs and it’s a little crazed and a little desperate and a lot scary. Ryuji doesn’t even know what to say to that. But he goes on.

“You see, there’s all of these… there's so many pieces missing. I had so many . And I don't—maybe some of the ones that were really me got left behind and what’s left…” he laughs again, short and sharp. “But how would I know ? God, I… I don't think I should be here, I wasn't meant to survive, what's left is just… just leftovers, and I… I…” Shit. It doesn’t make any sense; probably he’s been spiraling out like this half the night, mind going in circles. Nothing to do to untangle it now. He tucks Akira’s head under his chin again, gives his hair another hard tug.

“Hey. Akira. Hey . I gotcha.” More mumbling, words pressed into the side of his neck, desperate and incoherent and heartbreaking. “Hey. It’s me. I’m here, I gotcha. You don’t gotta worry about all that any more tonight.”

“I c-can’t, god, I can’t , you don’t—you can’t—” No use. No use. Words aren’t getting through any more. Ryuji sinks both hands into soft dark hair now, digs his nails in a little and pulls again, hard enough to pry Akira’s face off his neck. When he kisses him, hard and steady, he can feel him melting against him, starting to shake again.

Once, in the metaverse, he’d missed a strike, missed badly, and hit Akira instead. He can still see it clear as day, how the lightning arced and his body seized and arched backwards until the current stopped, how he fell like a broken puppet, limp and shaking and twitching on the ground. How he laughed off Ryuji’s stream of apologies, even as he trembled in his arms and fought to get his limbs back under control.

Some things stay with you.

Akira’s going limp against him, that same kind of cut-strings limp, even as Ryuji keeps kissing him, gathers him up and presses him down, flat against the bed. He’s gone quiet now even as Ryuji keeps talking up a steady stream of sweet nonsense between kisses. He settles against him and lets his weight rest on him fully, draped over him like a human blanket. Under him, Akira sighs against Ryuji’s mouth, long and slow and relieved. Better. Getting there. Good.

When warm arms wrap around him in turn, Ryuji sighs too. Akira just squeezes him tighter.

He shifts, tries to disentangle himself so he can go fetch water, maybe coffee too. But he feels Akira’s leg hook around his hips to pull him back down as he starts to get up, feels him nuzzle at his neck, his ear.

“Stay. Need you,” he whispers low and hoarse. God, fuck. The way he says it might as well be an order, might as well be chains holding him down. Might as well be electricity shooting through his nerves and seizing up his muscles. “Please…” he whispers again, and a shudder sparks down Ryuji’s spine. He can feel Akira under him, pressing up against him like he wants to melt into his skin. Can feel him half hard against his own hip. Ryuji cups his face and kisses him again.

“Whatcha need, babe? You gotta tell me.”

Fuck me. ” It’s a low growl, a hiss of desperation in his ear, it’s another violent shiver down his spine. He buries his face in Akira’s hair and moans softly against it.

This comes with the bad days, too.

Akira is always in control. It’s who he is, as much a part of him as his skin, as the gold flecks that swim in the grey of his eyes. Always the steady hand, the driving force. Except on the bad days. The bad days that leave him detached from reality, lost and needy, hungry and desperate to be taken whole, to feel . It’s better than what he would do before, the things he tried to keep hidden, things that scared Ryuji worse than anything he’d faced before.

Ryuji peppers kisses across his face, meets his hips as they roll up against him, keeps him pinned to the bed with his weight. It’s a silent promise he makes with his body, one he’ll make good on.

“‘Course, babe. All you gotta do is ask.” Under him, Akira whimpers pathetically against his neck, and Ryuji feels his heart ache, heavy in his chest. “Hey, I gotcha…” He rolls onto his side and pulls Akira with him, tugging at his hair again with purpose, indulging in a long, slow kiss. The shudder of relief that runs through Akira’s body, his hot skin pressed close, the arch of his back and the thrust of his hips almost makes the whole night worth it. Almost. The kiss turns desperate, Akira’s body clinging, searching for more, and Ryuji can only oblige. He couldn’t deny him this if he wanted to.  

It took so long to really understand why Akira wanted, needed this, to put aside his own fear and fumbling insecurity. The first time, the guilt settled in him like gravel, like lead afterward. But he’s learned.

He yanks Akira’s underwear down as far as he can and squeezes his ass, kneading firm flesh hard enough that he knows he’ll feel it later, that it’ll leave a mark. Akira’s melting. He twists and moans low, trying to press back into Ryuji’s grip and keep grinding against his belly all at once. Ryuji lets go, grabs a handful of his hair again instead. Grabs it hard and pulls him away from where he clings so desperately.

He’s a mess, a red-nosed, tear-swollen, wild-haired mess, but his groan of pleasure is beautiful, a masterpiece. Ryuji kisses him again, hard and insistent this time, thrusting his tongue between his lips like he’s trying to fuck his mouth with only the tools at hand, like he’s trying to shove those sweet whimpers back into his throat. This is still Akira, his Akira, melting in his arms, begging him for more without saying a word.

The first time, Akira did beg with words. When the anger had died down; but not the hurt, not the fear, not the crying. Dropped to his knees and tore into Ryuji’s pants so he could suck him, pleading for him to let him do it, yanking hard at his own hair and begging for it rougher, harder, make me gag make it hurt slap me choke me fuck me hard Ryuji please please please please Groped and sucked and begged and groveled until he couldn’t take it, couldn’t do anything but give in, grab him by the hair and shove him down and fuck him until he screamed like a cat in heat.

God, he loves making him scream. Even when everything leading up to it hurts.

Here and now, it’s so much easier. He can pull Akira’s hair and manhandle him down onto his belly and know without a doubt that he loves it, that he needs it; that it eases the noise in his head and usually makes him come so hard he cries. When he straddles Akira’s hips and pins his shoulders to the bed, the roughness makes him cry out, a shuddering little sound of pleasure. A sound that makes Ryuji’s cock throb, demanding attention. He slides it between his boyfriend’s ass cheeks, not entering him yet, just sliding against his skin to make him whimper.

The broken, longing little sob it pulls out of Akira, though, was not what he expected. He settles his weight on top of him again, chest against his back, and kisses at his cheek, his ear, his hair. Under him, Akira squirms, arching up against him.

“Please… god, please, Ryu, please… ” he gasps out, “Don’t—don’t make me beg, please…” God… He knows Akira’s too proud to ever beg for anything. Almost anything. So Ryuji never breathes a word about how much it turns him on. How much he wishes he would, sometimes. Begging on his knees or spread across the bed, pleading for Ryuji’s cock inside him. It’s hot, but leaves the heavy guilt burning in his guts.

“I gotcha, ‘Kira…” he murmurs soothingly. With one last soft kiss against his cheek, Ryuji sits up, reaches for the lube on the bedside table. His erection’s flagged a bit, but it doesn’t take long to bring it to full glory, stroking himself slow with the palmful of silky liquid. Akira’s needy little whimpers, the long line of his beautiful back, the curve of his ass on display before him, all feeds him, makes it easy to be ready again in a moment. He grabs him again, kneads at one cheek and spreads him wide open for a moment, lines his cock up just so. Under him, Akira makes a hungry, impatient sound and tries to press back against Ryuji, to impale himself on him. One of his fists smacks against the mattress weakly. With the shape of Akira’s name on his lips, Ryuji presses inside.

This moment is always the best, almost better than coming. The way Akira shudders and moans his name in sheer relief, the tight squeeze before the head of his cock pops all the way inside, the gorgeous, velvety warmth of him, all of it. He loves it when Akira fucks him, all strong arms and cocky smile and thick heat thrusting deep; but he’s grateful for every time he gets to see him like this instead. Grateful for every second on top of him, seeing him so vulnerable and beautiful and so full of ecstacy. Ryuji groans low in his throat as he feels himself bottom out. He lets himself fall onto that pale back again, grabs Akira’s forearms and pins them to the bed, holding him down as he starts to move inside him. Akira sobs.

“What’d I tell you, baby?” he purrs into his ear as he starts to pick up his pace, “I told you I gotcha… Anything you want, I’m here for ya… Hnn… I gotcha…“ Akira’s eyes are squeezed shut, his mouth falling open as he cries a steady stream of babble, of yes-yes-harder-yes that makes Ryuji have to hold himself back, start counting backwards to distract himself so he doesn’t come before Akira’s satisfied.

God, he wants to satisfy him so bad.

Again, he twines fingers in his hair and yanks hard, jerks his head up so he can see his face all twisted in pleasure. His babble tapers off into sharp little moans. Ryuji can feel Akira’s body tighten around his cock when he pulls his hair, and it makes him shudder, makes him gasp. A trickle of sweat drips off his chin onto Akira’s shoulders, and on impulse, he leans down to lick it off, lapping and nipping until Akira whines. He pulls himself up and slides one arm under Akira’s hips, dragging him up to his knees so he can go in deeper, just the way he likes it. When Ryuji loosens his grip on his hair, Akira buries his face in the pillow and howls out his pleasure, filthy and animalistic and spurring Ryuji on to the faster-harder-faster pace he begs for.

He digs his fingertips into the soft hollow of hips, scoots up just a little further along his boyfriend’s body, and then he can feel the change. One moment, he’s pounding into him and savoring his screams, the next, Akira’s gone rigid and shuddering under him, his howls turned to desperate, overwhelmed little pants and squeals of pleasure as Ryuji thrusts right into his prostate again and again and again. God, it’s beautiful. God, the sounds he makes are incredible. It’s too much and it’s perfect . Seeing him let go like this—being the one to make him let go—is always too much and never enough.

He arches over Akira’s back, nuzzling and biting at all the skin he can reach, and it’s like drowning in sensation, in the quaking frame pressed against him, the taste of his sweat, the sweet ache in his thighs, his belly. Akira is his ocean, and he’s ready to dive to the bottom. With every thrust of his hips, Ryuji strokes Akira’s hard, slick cock, biting down on the meat of his shoulder as he thrusts and oh.

He can feel it when it happens, can feel the sudden tension in Akira’s spine, feel him twitching and throbbing around him as he starts to fall apart. When he comes, it’s quiet. Warm wetness starts to spill over his hand. Against him and under his teeth, those pretty, pale shoulders are shuddering, shaking with silent sobbing. Too much, too much, too much . Akira’s coming, falling apart in pleasure underneath him, and he can’t, he can’t —his hips stutter, falter in their rhythm, and—

He can’t hold back through this, he can’t; and with Akira’s sweet, soft, pained little cries ringing in his ears, Ryuji comes hard and fast, comes deep inside him, sobbing out his name against damp and salty skin. He can feel himself spilling, emptying into his best friend’s body, and he can’t help but moan, desperate and undone. Underneath the weight of him, lying limp, Akira whimpers.

“‘Kira… Oh god ‘Kira… baby…” Ryuji pants, trying to soothe him and feeling like he’s failing. There’s just a high, wordless sound from Akira’s throat in response, and all Ryuji can do is wrap his arms around those strong shoulders that still shake in overwhelmed pleasure, and bury his face in the nape of Akira’s neck.

“Thank you…” It’s barely audible, would have been completely inaudible if he hadn’t been pressed so close. “Fuck… So good…” The praise makes some animal part of his brain light up and purr in delight. He’s still buried deep inside Akira, his oversensitive cock softening slowly, sweet satiation making his body too heavy to move. All he can manage is to kiss the back of Akira’s neck and shoulders again and again, soft and loving.

“God… thank you .” he murmurs, nuzzling Akira’s neck. Akira grabs Ryuji’s hand from where it’s clutching at his collarbone and kisses his knuckles softly.

“Love you…”

“Mn… love you too, babe… so much,” he whispers, and letting the words out sets something fluttering in his gut. The feeling aches deep in the pit of him, burns behind his eyes. He knows he can’t take away all the shrapnel of horror lodged in his boyfriend’s mind, can’t pull it out bit by bit and soothe the wounds with love and care. Some days, he can’t even keep himself together. But for right now, the ride is over, cars stopped and safety bars released.

He shifts and finally pulls out, slow and careful, and it draws a soft moan out of Akira’s throat. Holding him tight against him, Ryuji turns them both onto their sides, so he can wrap himself around him properly. Akira snuggles back against him in turn, murmuring softly, and then there’s just the sounds of the night and the lax, sated body in his arms, the familiar perfume of his soap and shampoo overlaid with sweat and sex. Against his chest, he feels the rumble of Akira starting to snore. Ryuji’s thinking mind is unconscious before the rest of him, leaving his animal senses to take in the sensations and boil them down into dreams, dreams of Akira’s hands grasping at his, of hips grinding up against him sensuously and a warm mouth on his neck. Of a voice he can’t quite hear, whispering and crying and begging for relief.

Fingers in his hair. The smell of fresh coffee and the glow of sunlight through his eyelids. He scrubs a hand across his face and tries to wake up the rest of the way. He’s overheated and feeling sticky, dry-mouthed, exhausted. But when he looks up, it’s to see Akira there, curled up beside him and stroking his cheek. His eyes are still puffy, but his gaze is clear and steady. He’s right here. Not vanished or bleeding or both.

“‘Kira?” he croaks, “Y’ok...?” When he tries to sit up, Akira pulls him close, tucks his head under his chin. Ryuji lets himself be coddled, leans against his best friend’s chest and listens to the soft rhythm of his heartbeat under his cheek.

“You know that I love you, right?” Akira says softly, and the sound of it seems to vibrate through Ryuji’s skull where his cheek is pressed against him. He wraps his arms around his waist and kisses a little bruise on his pale shoulder.

“Don’t be an idiot. ‘Course I do.” There’s a soft, shaky sigh breathed against his hair, and Ryuji kisses his shoulder again.

“Okay.” Akira’s arms tighten around him, almost too tight, like he’s afraid he might go flying away. But that’s ok. He’ll keep him anchored to the ground.