Title: Memories, How They Linger
Author: colorless_landscape
Chapter: One-shot
Rating: PG
Pairing: Aoi/HYDE
Warnings: malexmale, sexual references, slight violence
Genre: AU... not really sure what to call this one.... drama, romance? IDK
Synopsis: Funny things, memories. They hold the power to hurt, even to destroy. And sometimes, to heal.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own these boys; I just like to take them out on occasion and play with them.




Hyde slipped from the bed quietly, carefully, so as not to wake the man sleeping beside him. Mainly because he knew, better than anyone, just how much the man needed his sleep. And maybe just a little bit because he was supposed to be sleeping as well, and knew that he'd be lectured if the other woke. Rightfully so, but still. His mind wasn't willing to shut down just yet, despite its earlier sidetrack, not enough for him to sleep just yet. Maybe a smoke would help. And that required getting up and retrieving his pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket in the living room. The slight chill in the air, even indoors (all the better for sleeping), was enough to prompt him to pick up the over-shirt the other had worn earlier in the evening, slipping it on as he walked silently back into the bedroom, though he didn't bother to button it. What was the point when he'd just be taking it back off soon enough, Fates willing? The shirt was far too large for his small frame, and hung well down his thighs, but it served the purpose.

He moved to stand by the simulated window slash security monitor, extracting one slender stick from the pack and lighting it. His eyes scanned the streets of the city out of habit, watching for any sign, any indication of the tiniest detail out of place. He could see a few street rats hustling about the shadows, but that was normal. He'd been there himself, once upon a time. Not by necessity, as so many of them were, but by choice. He'd had a home to go to, even after his parents had died. He'd just simply... chosen not to. It had been too hard, back then, to accept the love and care offered him, and he'd searched for other outlets, other escapes.

A soft huff and shift of sheets drew his gaze back to the bed for a moment, afraid he'd awakened the sleeping man, after all. But no, Aoi had only been shifting in his sleep. He still slept on, blissfully unaware, for the moment, that his second-in-command was up, mind toying with the information in the file they'd gone over earlier in the evening.

Aoi.

A fond smile tugged unbidden at the corners of Hyde's mouth as he watched the man sleep. Satisfied that the man was still sleeping, he turned back to the window, the cherry of his cigarette reflecting in the simulated window as he took a drag. His eyes continued to scan the streets, ever alert, even as his mind drifted back through the years. It had been years since he'd let himself think back to their first meeting, and yet, he still remembered it all clearly.

Back then, he'd still been competing in martial arts events, as much a means of practice as it had been a means to pay bills. Sure, he could have stayed with his appointed guardians, but he was still angry over his parents' deaths, and angry at Sam and Rose for trying to take their place, something he'd realized over time that they had never tried to do, and something that he still regretted to this day, but such wisdom came with time, and was wasted on an angry teenager.

On that particular day, the competition had been within walking distance of the small rooms he'd rented for himself. He was already irritated, mostly at himself. He'd won the competition, but only barely, and if he'd lost, it would have been his own fault for making simple, basic technical mistakes. It was the fact that the mistakes he had made were so basic that irritated him the most. He was a black belt, had been competing for years already. He shouldn't have been making such stupid mistakes. If he hadn't been so busy berating himself, perhaps he would have noticed the young man, not much older than himself, following behind him.

And then there had been the bullies. Hyde heard the commotion before he rounded the corner by his building. Three boys that looked to be about Hyde's age were laughing, teasing a small boy that looked to be no more than ten or eleven, if that, who was visibly upset. Hyde recognized the child as the son of one of his neighbors, recognized the book bag they older boys were tossing around as belonging to the child. Years of practice kicked in, mentally assessing the boys and taking note of their weaknesses as he reached to snatch the bag as it overshot the boy in front of him before the bigger boy could turn to catch it. Never taking his eyes off the boy in front of him, he tossed the bag to the child with a curt "go!" The child had taken off, leaving Hyde facing the three older boys, all now turning angry glares in his direction for spoiling their fun.

Hyde wasn't one to back down. He knew he could handle these schoolyard bullies, anyway. "He's a child. If you want some real sport, maybe you should try someone who can actually fight back," he'd told them. Of course, this had just made the boys laugh, taking in his size compared to theirs. Not that they had been laughing for long. Predictably, the bigger boy, the one in front, the so-called "leader" had swung, with all the predictable wildness of any street punk. Hyde had easily side-stepped the swing, using the boy's own weight and momentum to over-balance him and send him sprawling face-first on the ground. After that, it all became a blur, all three boys enraged that this little upstart had made one of them look like the bumbling fool that he was. Hyde couldn't remember exactly when someone else had joined the fray, only that the boy was matching him blow for blow, and soon enough, the bullies realized they had no chance of winning this round, and beat a hasty retreat.

Well, after that, it seemed only fitting to invite the other boy up for tea, at the very least, in acknowledgement and as a means of thanking him. They'd made their introductions, and he and Aoi, as the boy had introduced himself, had spent the better part of the evening getting acquainted with each other. They'd found they shared quite a few of the same philosophies on many things over the next several weeks. And when Aoi had invited Hyde to join him as a recruit for the Solids, Hyde had accepted, pledging his allegiance to both the boy and the tribe.

That had been years ago now. In that time, they had risen through the ranks together. By the time that Aoi had taken over control as Leader of the Solids, no one had been surprised in the least when Hyde was chosen as his Second in Command. What was bothering him now was not a waver in his faith or allegiance to his long-time friend or to their Tribe, but the niggling reminder that what they had was not that much different from what the files said was going on between the leader and second-in-command of a rival tribe.

No, he decided, finally, stubbing out his cigarette in the ashtray at hand. It was different. Hyde knew what it was like to lose people he loved. He would stop at nothing to prevent that from happening again. He knew nothing of being "in love", the words held no meaning to him. Did he love Aoi? Well, obviously. Of course he did. The man was not only his leader, but his best friend, the one person that he could truly and completely relax around. Of course, he loved him. But that was a closely-guarded secret, one that not even Aoi knew, one that he would take to the grave with him, even if subjected to torture. Above all else, as second-in-command, as his friend, as his lover, his primary objective was to protect the other man.

"Hyde~"

The voice from the bed broke his reverie, and Hyde turned back towards the bed.

"Cold. Come back to bed, brat," came the sleepy mumble. Slipping the shirt from his shoulders, Hyde obliged, sliding between the sheets, smile hidden in the pillow beneath his cheek as the other man wrapped himself around Hyde. For now, his secret was still safe. Though he'd no doubt still get a scolding come morning for sneaking out of bed. Oh, well. Not the first time. And doubtful the last, either, he thought, finally drifting off to sleep.
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