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The Mundanity of Tolerating You

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Rensai never spent the night. The thought kept turning over in Omare's head, and each repetition had him darting covert glances at him in the vanity's reflection. But Rensai sat cross-legged on the bed with his stupid impeccable posture, his stupid tattooed shoulders angled away from Omare as though it were the most natural thing in the world. "I'm not walking back at this hour," he'd stated simply, and Omare had been too stunned to insist.

He'd never seen Rensai sleep. He wasn't even positive he did. Maybe he just wanted a chance to smother Omare.

Rensai fiddled with his hair, then shook it out in a shining, blue-black sheet. He pushed his fingers through it, maybe massaging away the ache of the day. The mundanity of it held Omare transfixed. He'd tangled his fingers in it so many times, even pulled it once or twice and gotten vicious snarls for his trouble. But down it looked so smooth, like it might slip over his fingers, cool and fluid as water.

Omare swallowed and busied himself yanking his own hair loose. He ruffled it agitatedly – maybe that would shake some carelessness into his own manner. All it accomplished was framing his face in strawlike tufts of gold. None of Rensai's artful state of undone. He pushed it roughly out of his eyes and forced himself to move onto his makeup instead, tipping a small measure of oil into his hands.

He refocused on his reflection and startled. Rensai was standing behind him.

"May I?" Rensai held out a hand.

Wordlessly Omare poured some for him as well, willing himself not to look up for fear of betraying the heat that singed his cheeks and the tops of his ears. He scrubbed his hands furiously over his face, hoping he could scrub away his blush too, but when he wiped away the worst of the day and reached for the oil for another pass, his stomach clenched.

Rensai was leaning over his shoulder to share the vanity.

"Do you, uh…" Omare gestured to his seat and immediately burned with renewed embarrassment. So what? So Rensai could share it with him? Was he out of his mind?

Rensai seemed to agree and he gave a snort of amusement. "No." He waved an oil-slicked hand dismissively, his fingers and palm painted a pale, dusty rose color by the smeared red, black, and white war paint that more often peaked his brows and hollowed his cheeks.

It dawned on Omare that he'd never seen Rensai without war paint, either.

But still Rensai didn't seem at all affected by the novelty of their situation. He snatched up Omare's only hand towel without asking and wiped the rest of his face clean – first one half, then the other. When he bent to check his work in the vanity again, shock won out over Omare's self-control at last. His mouth fell open.

"You're so young!"

Rensai's skin was pale from a life spent under the Mountain. But where his war paint usually carved him keen-edged and severe, he was actually fuller, healthier. High cheekbones framed a long, strong nose, and though the mouth beneath looked gentler, it looked as likely to stretch in a grin as it was to snap in a bite. Without the war paint to match, his eyes were warmer, but sharper than ever.

Rensai scoffed and dropped the towel into Omare's hands. "There are hardly two years between us. How old did you think I was?"

"I don't know." Ageless. Inhuman. "Not this." Not his peer. Not knowing all he'd done. Not when nearly every one of their interactions bore the marks of Omare's own inexperience.

"Stupid," Rensai said heatlessly, and he returned to the bed.

By the time Omare finished up Rensai was tying his hair back in a loose braid. A little prickle of disappointment stabbed at Omare – a flickering fantasy of lazy kisses and dark locks between callused fingers evaporated before it could even take shape. Stupid, just like he'd said. It wasn't like leaving it down would have been an invitation to touch it. More likely the opposite - a trap. But Omare would have at least liked the chance.

He avoided Rensai's gaze and made to crawl past him to flop into bed. Maybe sleep would be merciful and claim him quickly.

But Rensai caught him by the chin and Omare froze. Rensai stared hard at him for a long, agonizing moment, brow furrowed and eyes calculating. Bizarrely Omare found himself wishing Rensai still wore his war paint: this bare-faced examination felt less dangerous but far more unnerving.

"You have freckles," Rensai remarked.

Omare's throat worked uselessly, his voice far out of reach. He nodded.

Rensai just lifted his eyebrows at such an ordinary discovery.


He leaned close and touched the briefest of kisses to Omare's lips. Then he released him, settled back in bed, and waited, his braid left unfinished.