Thought I'd write some slightly interconnected one-shots for this fandom since it's one of my favorites. Hope they can be enjoyed by others. Cheers!

Disclaimer – I don't own or this wouldn't be on a fanfiction website.


Forever at His Side: Drama

Silence, save for the occasional click of a mouse or the breaths of a man inhaling cigarette smoke, had covered the room like a quilt. Such types of silence were to be welcomed and treated with respect as they were few and far between. Both of the room's occupants knew the silence wouldn't last much longer, especially with what had brought the two together. They, communally, relished the silence a little bit longer.

Once the older inhabitant snuffed out his cigarette he went into the adjoining bathroom and flushed the butt down the toilet. Then he stood in the doorway and watched the younger figure tapping on the mouse and moving through windows on his PC. From behind the boy looked fine; cat ears twitching slightly, back straight, and hair covering his neck. It was what was under the hair on his neck that worried the older man.

Quite by chance he had been on his way to the convenience store when his cell phone had gone off. He answered it and had heard just enough muffled pleas to know that the younger boy was in trouble. Forgetting about the convenience store, Soubi bolted toward Ritsuka's home. The boy refused to leave his mother, but by refusing he'd put himself in constant danger. The woman was wonky and in need of some sort of medical treatment, but after the 'death' of the boy's brother, said boy couldn't bear to put his mother away.

This lead to many nights of Soubi cleaning wounds and letting the boy just know he wasn't alone. It needed to stop; that was why the college student was there. Ritsuka was more than old enough to have the conversation Soubi wanted to have with him regarding his mother's inability to offer the protection a child of not yet thirteen needed.

"Does it hurt, Ritsuka?" The older man asked softly, not moving from his spot in the doorway.

The raven haired boy reached up and touched the bandage on his neck, the one that covered the burn from the frying pan his mother had hit him with during one of her episodes. He'd been lucky to only escape with a mild burn on his neck since his shirt had saved his shoulder and back. Chalk it up to another bandage people would wonder about, but no one would do anything about because people tended to mind their own business more than question.

"That depends on your definition of hurt." He answered thoughtfully.

"Why don't you explain?"

"I have grown immune to the pain of anything she does to me. Physically I cannot feel it anymore."

There wasn't much else to share on the matter, really, but that didn't mean it was okay to not question further.

"What about in your head, Ritsuka?" Soubi walked forward and put a hand on top of the boy's head, between the feline ears that danced at the show of affection.

"I don't like to think about that. If I think about it then it may start to hurt again." His voice was low and slightly troubled at the prospect of having to feel the pain as it had been when the abuse started. Often times it was all the boy could do to keep from breaking apart at the seams. Lucky for him he had Soubi to show him what love could be like.

"Ritsuka, look at me." Soubi's voice was stern yet kind at the same time. The kind of voice one would expect a parent to use when reprimanding his or her child in a way to teach them.

The boy nodded slowly and turned around, computer forgotten for the moment. Their eyes locked in a battle of wills. A stalemate was the only possible outcome for the following conversation and both knew it from the utterance of the first syllable.

"We are not zeros, Ritsuka. You are meant to feel pain in order to know there is something wrong with your body." Soubi deadpanned. He knew that any sugar coating of the issue would be met with distain since the pre-teen was more adult than even he at times.

Ritsuka nodded but didn't say anything; he didn't need to because he knew where the conversation was heading.

"I think it's about time we removed you from this house." Soubi stated after a deep intake of breath.

The idea of removing Ritsuka from his home was a sticky situation. He knew the boy would not agree to being removed because he valued any sort of family he could retain. The problem was that the only family who paid him enough mind anymore tended to become violent which resulted in unnecessary bruising and scars added to the collection the boy already carried with him. These painful reminders were both internal and external.

What should have happened was an intervention done in the school. More people tended to look the other way than involve themselves in the plights of children. It was the parent's responsibility and no one else wanted to step on the toes of the legal guardian of any child.

Was removing Ritsuka from his home worth the effort when the boy could end up anywhere? Soubi had made a promise to the boy's brother; he would watch out for him. If the boy was removed then could he continue to keep an eye out or would that be impossible. Neither wanted to think about that outcome, and that was why Ritsuka had remained in the house for as long as he had.

"And where would you have me go?" Ritsuka voiced the question that was on both minds.

"You could stay with me." Soubi answered.

"That will never happen, for which you already know Soubi. Besides, I spend quite a bit of time at your place already."

"Ritsuka, I won't do anything unless you want me to." The older male said as he finally stepped into the room and sat with his back to the bed and his eyes facing the boy. "All I can do is offer to take care of you when you want and do what I can to make sure you are as safe as possible. You are smart enough to know that living here is hazardous to your health."

Ritsuka choked back a scoff. "And being a fighter team isn't, I suppose."

There was no arguing that logic.

"Besides," Ritsuka continued. "You and I both know that if I were to be removed from here there's a strong possibility I might end up somewhere you can't keep an eye on me." He didn't like to bring up his brother's rules when his brother had turned out to be such a devious individual, but in this case he would have missed the older man if they were separated.

"That is true." Soubi said, voicing what he already knew. The older man sat up and placed a hand on Ritsuka's cheek and ran a thumb over a healing cut right next to the boy's lip. He leaned in and placed a chaste kiss on the cut before sitting back down on the floor.

"It's the lesser of two evils for me to stay here."

That was the end of the conversation. An unspoken agreement was made that no matter what Soubi's home would always be open to the younger boy. As Ritsuka got older and began to spend more time there it would be like he lived there anyway. Soubi had promised to remain forever at his side and Ritsuka was starting to make the same promise back to the one who was protecting him as well.