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[personal profile] ink_stained
Day #21 -

Title: The Deal
Fandom: Natsume Yuujinchou
Characters: Matoba Seiji, Natsume Takashi, Nanase
Rating: PG
Words: (+/-) 1732
Summary: Matoba and Natsume strike a deal, but mostly, they get to know each other. Well, they try. It isn't easy when they misunderstand each other.

Part 1

Seiji paced his room, impatient. Waiting was something he didn’t like when he had something to look forward to - and right now, he did. He had a new toy, so to speak. And it was a rarity to find someone who piqued interest.

“I cleaned out the wound,” the voice of an old woman interrupted his endless pacing. “Do you have a yukata that could fit him? Perhaps you could offer him a bath and fresh clothes.”

It wasn’t a bad idea, but the frightened look on the boy’s face deterred those plans. “I’ll look for one,” promised Seiji, “but right now, I’d just like to speak with him. You don’t have to worry about running a bath for us, Nanase-san.”

The old woman raised her eyebrows. “Who said anything about me running a bath for you, young master?” From her tone, he could tell she was teasing him, so he didn’t read too deeply into the comment and chuckled. She was one of the very few clan members who had that privilege - because she was one of the few he trusted.

“Very well. You don’t have to worry about running a bath for our guest. If you could leave us?” He wasn’t too pleased at the way the boy refused to step into the room, but Nanase solved the problem. With a little push from her, the boy stumbled forward. The door shut behind him before he could object. “Alone at last,” Seiji stated in satisfaction. “Have a seat.”

The boy timidly took a seat - and it was next to the door. Disregarding a chair or cushion or anything else offered to him. An amused smirk curled on Seiji’s lips, and he opted to take a seat on the floor too, straight in front of the boy. Two could play at this game.

“Your name?” Seiji demanded more than asked. “Ah, but that’s rude of me.” He didn’t sound repentant, but the boy wasn’t bothered by that. “I haven’t introduced myself, have I?”

“You haven’t,” agreed the boy, and pressed his back firmly against the wall, as if he could melt into it if he pressed hard enough. “And I shouldn’t talk to strangers.”

“Too late for that,” Seiji dryly intoned, “and I’m afraid I’ll be troubling you a while longer. So if I could have a name to call you by?”

To his annoyance, the boy wasn’t willing to share. Not until, “You tell me yours first.”

So the kid wasn’t as absent-minded as he looked, realizing Seiji was reluctant to share his too. Names were power, after all - but the boy surely didn’t know that. “My name is Matoba Seiji. You are?”

Warily, the boy touched the bandage wrapped around his neck. No doubt debating whether it was a good idea to tell the truth or not. Too bad the kid had such honest eyes, regardless of how sad they looked. “Natsume,” the boy finally said, and he left it at that.

The name sounded familiar, but Seiji couldn’t remember where he had heard it mentioned. He would have to ask Nanase later and see if she recognized it. “You don’t have a given name, Natsume-kun?”

“You don’t need to know,” Natsume mumbled quietly, bringing his knees up to his chest. “You won’t call me by it, anyway.”

“I would if you wanted me to,” cajoled Seiji. The boy appeared skeptical, about as much as he appeared defensive. “I don’t mean any harm in it. I just want to be your friend.” He got to his knees and moved closer, studying Natsume intently. Trying to figure out what was different about him.

Natsume slapped his hand when he went to touch the boy’s face, and his fingers skirted soft strands of hair. Oddly colored hair, at that. It was a pale brown, nearly silver in the proper lighting. In the forest, he had seen it. It wouldn’t have been wrong to describe the boy as otherworldly. With those golden eyes and lithe body, it was possible to think of him as a cat youkai.

Immediately, he banished the thought. Natsume was human - a beautifully stained, doll-like human. He wouldn’t disgrace him by comparing him to a youkai. “Do you not want a friend, Natsume-kun?”

Those words seemed to stir something in the boy. There was a sudden flash of want in those honest eyes - but then it was gone and Natsume was looking away, shaking his head. “Don’t need any. I’m fine alone.”

Seiji placed his thumb against the concealed injury on Natsume’s neck and pushed. The boy gasped and instinctively kicked out, but Seiji caught his foot. This was entertaining. “Yes, like you would have been fine bleeding to death.” He dropped the foot and the boy quickly retracted it, glaring.

“You said it was fine!” Natsume shouted - actually shouted. He hadn’t known the boy was capable of it. Did he have a short-temper, then?

“I lied,” stated Seiji carelessly. “You should thank me for making sure you didn’t die.”

The boy mumbled, “But you weren’t the one who took care of me.” And it was your weird creature that attacked me, went unsaid, to which Seiji was grateful. He wouldn’t have been able to argue his way out of that one.

“I did bring you here, though,” reminded Seiji, “doesn’t that warrant a thank you?”

Grudgingly, Natsume said, “Thank you.” And then he stood up, looking down on Seiji - and that would have bothered him, if it wasn’t Natsume. “Can I go now? Please? I really need to get home.”

Seiji leaned back on his arms, a languid smile gracing his face. “That depends.”

“On what?” wondered Natsume, tentative and cautious, trying to imagine what he was getting into.

“On whether I see you tomorrow or not. Shall we make a deal?” When the boy began to shake his head, rejecting the offer, he insisted, “Or I could wait outside your school. Maybe even follow you home. You don’t know me, do you? Careful, Natsume-kun, you might make me angry.”

The not-so-subtle threat did the trick and Natsume sighed, “Fine. What kind of deal did you have in mind?”

“Nothing much. You see strange things, don’t you? I could protect you from them.” With that, Natsume’s attention was his, completely. “They bother you, torment you. Make it impossible to have friends. You must hate them. I hate them, too.”

Natsume’s gaze fell to the floor, hiding his eyes. “You don’t know anything about me. Why would you help me?”

“Because we are the same.” It was worth it. To see those shocked doe-eyes, and the way the boy looked at nothing but him. For a simple sentence to earn such a response from Natsume, it was truly worth it. “Let me help you.”

“What is it you want from me?” Natsume didn’t like sweet talk, apparently. Too bad.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t a complete failure. He had sparked the boy’s interest, at very least, because Natsume never would have asked that otherwise.

Standing and dusting off his clothes, Seiji casually admitted, “I want your help with something in return.” He stepped closer, uncomfortably close to Natsume, and whispered, “I want you to be bait.”

Natsume accepted that, only asking, “You’ll keep your promise?”

Seiji didn’t know what to make of this boy. One moment, he was angry, and the next, he was too trusting. “Of course,” assured Seiji, and he wondered how long he could keep his promise.

For now, he walked over to his desk and opened a drawer, grabbing something inside it. Then he tossed it to Natsume and instructed, “Wear that.”

It was a pendant, a small stone with a hole in the middle. It had been blessed by a goddess. A black cord ran through the center and it could be worn around the neck. It was the last reminder of his past.

Natsume slid it over his head and tentatively lowered it to its place around his throat. The blue of the stone contrasted harshly with the white of the bandages, but somehow, it made a nice fit. A precious stone for a precious person. Or something like that. Seiji chuckled at the thought. Well, he had to protect what he wanted to protect. No one else would.

“I’ll come pick you up at school, starting tomorrow, so wait for me,” Seiji continued his instructions.

“Wait! You said you wouldn’t show up at school if I agreed to this deal,” accused Natsume, but there was no real bite behind his words - and that meant Seiji didn’t take it seriously.

“Well, I lied. You might want to get used to that, Natsume-kun.”

Natsume crossed his arms, defensive once more. “Can I take back agreeing to this?”

“Oh, did I forget to mention that lovely necklace doubles as collar? You’re mine. Whoops.” Seiji’s smile was more than a little cruel, and it only widened when Natsume blanched and grabbed at the pendant, struggling to get it off. It didn’t budge. “I’m the only one that can take that off,” explained Seiji, “so be a good boy and play along.”

When Natsume’s nails dug into his bandages and a liquid red began to bleed through, Seiji stopped smiling. He moved back to the boy’s side and grabbed his wrists, pulling them away and preventing any further damage. “Stop it. I told you, didn’t I? You can’t trust a thing I say. Well,” he let go once Natsume had settled down, “it does only come off when I remove it, but that’s a precaution most amulets have. The giver protects the receiver. Do you understand?” He removed the necklace, putting the boy at ease, and discoverd to his surprise that Natsume was willing to let him brush a few stray hairs from his face afterwards. Being this gentle with someone, he had forgotten how good it could feel.

“You have a twisted sense of humor,” Natsume stated, and he was frowning. “I don’t like you.”

Now who‘s lying? Seiji thought. “You’ll learn to love me. See you tomorrow, Natsume-kun.” He leaned over and opened the door, giving Natsume the freedom he desperately sought. Then he handed him the pendant and smiled. “It’s your choice to wear this or not. But I wasn’t lying about one thing, you know. It will protect you.”

Natsume left without saying goodbye, but he did take the pendant. It was a start. For the both of them.
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August 2012

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