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from faith to prudence [loveless; aoyagi ritsuka/agatsuma soubi] 
title - from faith to prudence
fandom - loveless
characters/pairings - aoyagi ritsuka/agatsuma soubi, hawatari yuiko, OMCs & OFCs
rating - pg
warnings - underage, slash/BL
word count - 3,133
summary - a timeline in which Ritsuka is in seventh grade, lacks ears, and realizes not much else has changed.
notes - wrote this in 2009 for 7_sins_virtues; i haven’t editted it since then because, honestly, if I were to do that now i would probably end up re-writing the entire thing.

@DW

Faith

It is near the beginning of seventh grade. He sits down in class, alone, what with lack of Yuiko sharing his teacher. His lunch is simple. There is the line of a fading cut on the left side of his face. Not very big at all, healing very nicely, and no doubtedly it will disappear within the rest of the week. Ritsuka looks up and his dark hair falls to the side, eyes gazing out of the classroom window and down at the school yard.

He watches and watches absolutely nothing at all, until movement catches his eyes and he sees a classmate he doesn't recognize. They run halfway across the courtyard before they trip, of course, and four other kids come into view. He momentarily thinks that this looks like something out of a television show, but remembers that this is, in fact, real life and it is happening right now.

As it is lunch, Ritsuka excuses himself from the classroom without a word and swiftly makes his way down the halls to get to the ground floor and outside. The five of them are standing there, or at least four of them and the fifth crouched on the ground holding his stomach.

"It's your fault my lunch is gone- I demand that you pay for it." One says, and the other three nod in agreement at the statement. Pitiful, on the ground, the presumed lunch-wrecker digs his nails into the dirt trying to stand up or something. In fact, Ritsuka isn't quite sure what he's trying to do. Crawl away like a worm hoping that they will pity him and decide not to squash his small insectile body into the ground? Feh!

"I'm sorry, please." The boy whimpers, tears wetting the ground below him. Pathetic. "I didn't mean to, I swear."

"That's tough! You're wrong, you have to pay for it. It's all your fault."

Ritsuka takes a couple of steps forward. His heart beats wildly, unsure of what he is doing. He wants to call for Soubi. Wants the Fighter to be here to protect him, should anything happen to him. Ritsuka tells himself that if he gets hurt Soubi will help him. Quietly, Ritsuka grabs the poor whimpering boy on the ground, grabs their arm gently, and hoists them up. At first the boy barely makes it to his knees, but with another small tug, Ritsuka is able to get them onto their feet, even though they're slouching just a bit.

The other four, the bullies, Ritsuka titles them, look at Ritsuka in disgust at his boldness, and at his lack of ears or tail. They laugh, and one of them reels their arm back, hitting Ritsuka square in the jaw. The other boy whimpers and hobbles away a little, still sobbing pitifully, and goes unnoticed as Ritsuka now has their full attention.

"Who do you think you are?"

Ritsuka tastes blood in his mouth and tell himself that Soubi will protect him. Believes that the Fighter will step forth and save him... somehow. Ritsuka says nothing to them and touches the corner of his mouth and looks at the blood on his fingers, now. He knows he cant take on all four of them.

Soubi will save me. Soubi will save me. Soubi will save me.

But Ritsuka is at home an hour later with a bandage around his head, over his cheek, and on his stomach with no Soubi to speak of.

Hope

Ritsuka sits on his bed. He's quiet and the floor is the most interesting thing in the world, right now. His head still aches. The pain around his stomach makes him want to throw up every couple of minutes, but Ritsuka holds it back. He sort of feels as if he's in a trance, and his fingers graze the blankets a little, and then flex, and then continue. For a very long time he stares at the carpet, even through his mother's yelling. Ritsuka almost falls asleep sitting up, until the familiar tap, tap at his window jolts him immediately. He stands, a little wobbly on his feet, but then stays where he is in front of his bed. He waits for another round of quiet tapping before he slowly takes the steps to his window.

Gentle fingers brush past the curtains and slide the door open slowly, and immediately Soubi rushes past the obstruction and embraces Ritsuka tightly. The tall student falls to his knees, his hair falling over his shoulders and tickling Ritsuka's face, arms wrapped tightly; protection of the deepest kind. Soubi is saying something, but it goes deaf on Ritsuka's ears. Instead his hands wrap around Soubi's neck as a return. He had hoped desperately that Soubi would feel bad. Even though the fighter is not at all to blame. He didn't show up, but that isn't his fault. Soubi is a student. Soubi is a human being. Soubi is Soubi.

But Ritsuka wanted someone to feel bad.

Soubi leans back a little, his long fingers touching the bandage over Ritsuka's head. Ritsuka can't read the expression on the other's face. The fighter's fingers stray from the bandage and trail down Ritsuka's skin. To his nose, over his cheeks, brush briefly over his lips. Ritsuka closes his eyes gently. Hears Soubi say that he's sorry. Ritsuka just nods, nods slowly, wants Soubi to hold him again. Soubi just looks into his eyes, makes him blush. Ritsuka hopes things will be better from now on.

Charity

"Ritsuka?"

Yuiko's voice gets the Sacrifice's attention after school. His violet eyes look up at her. He stares blankly at her ears.

"Are you okay?" She continues. Even though they are both thirteen now, she still worries about him, is still his friend despite everything, and none of that is charity of any kind. She has truly cared, since they met more than a year ago. "Do you want to come over?"

Ritsuka moves the strap of his school bag up and down his shoulder. He really wants to spend time with Yuiko and Yayoi. The three of them. It hasn't been just the three of them in such a long time. He's had his mind on other things, quite obviously. He continues to stare at her ears. "Maybe tomorrow." He ends up saying, a little quietly.

Yuiko has learned something over the past year. That no amount of pushing and pleading and crying, 'Ritsuka-kuuuuuuuuun' will make him do anything. Giving him space is the best option, she knows. "Alright, Ritsuka." Yuiko touches his shoulder, gently. "Are you sure you're going to be alright going home?"

Even if there are some things that have changed, one of them was that he still isn't his Mother's Ritsuka. She still…— Ritsuka nods, and says his goodbyes to Yuiko, and to Yayoi who arrived just as he began to leave. It is not a long walk home. He steps onto the front porch in front of the door and opens it. He doesn't say anything. He stays quiet. Ritsuka does his best not to make any noise entering his room.

In the evening, he lay in his bed, curled, hands on his head and going through his hair like it might somehow bring back his ears. "Love." He mumbles to himself. "Love." Minutes pass. "Do they just love me because I am Loveless?" Is Yuiko's love, his teacher's love, his therapist's love, Soubi's love all charity?

At night, Soubi knocks on his window, and comes in. Ritsuka is still curled on his bed. Soubi sits on the edge of the bed and it dips a little under his weight. The way the Fighter's fingers thread through Ritsuka's hair makes his chest swell, and he wants to cry suddenly. "Ritsuka." Soubi almost whispers after a long silence. "I love you."

Even if there are some things that have changed, one of them was that Soubi still loves him. Like a Fighter loves their Sacrifice.

"You cannot love me." Ritsuka mumbles. "I am Loveless."

Fortitude

Seimei could beat Zero without his fighter. Could nearly make them fall to their knees with just his very presence. He, a sacrifice, could overpower a Pair with little to no effort whatsoever. Ritsuka falls to his knees. The restraints cut into his arms and neck, and his skin tears and bleeds.

"Dammit." Ritsuka feels tears in his eyes. His head is already injured from the other day, which can only add to the pain. The sky is black, his vision is blurry, the blood in his ears pound pound pounds along with the sound of Careless' voice, shouting at he and Soubi. For a few long minutes he breathes in, and out, willing for the pain to go away. It's been more than a year since Soubi came to him and their fights first started. Since he saw his brother last. He stands up finally, watching Careless' sacrifice bleed strongly from his arm. "Soubi." Ritsuka's voice calls Soubi's attention, his eyes don't move but he can see the short sacrifice from his peripheral.

"Take them down."

Soubi seems a little taken aback at first, turning his head slightly to see the bleeding, somehow changed Ritsuka. His head turns back, and he looks at the Careless Fighter glaring back at him.
"From the four corners of the planet; fire, water, wind, earth, ensure destruction."

It seems strange then, that evening, for Soubi to be the one to cure Ritsuka's injuries, and for his to seem nonexistent.

Justice

"Ritsuka-kun, you should tell the teacher which boys did that to you. It's been a week and your head is still bandaged."

In reality, Ritsuka hasn't had an injury like this in months. For a while his mother quieted down; she was 'better'. He didn't have to make up quite as many excuses. Every time he talked about his mother, his psychiatrist didn't type into her computer. Yuiko stopped asking about cuts, unless they were really noticeable. But he hadn't had a noticeable injury in a long time. Even the injuries in battle never got so bad.

"They deserve to get in trouble!"

Yuiko continued to explain her reason for Ritsuka to tattle on the boys whom had beaten him up the previous week. Ritsuka didn't share her viewpoint. They stopped at the store on the way to Yuiko's house, both grabbing a snack, and Yuiko's place was quiet but peaceful. He'd gone over to her house more and more recently. It was a nice change from having Septimal Moon and other fighter/sacrifice teams attacking him.

All because he was still with Soubi.

"Ritsuka-kun, doesn't your head hurt? You have to tell the teachers who did that to you. What if they keep beating up other kids. You're really gonna let that happen?"

Ritsuka had said barely a word all day. The dull throb in his skull made it difficult to think straight at times. He just considered himself lucky that Yuiko wasn't in his class anymore, otherwise he'd have to spend all of school listening to her. They were friends, but he could only take so much of her talking during class before he completely lost it.

"Why do you want for them to get in trouble so badly?" Ritsuka countered.

"Because they made you suffer! Yuiko doesn't want Ritsuka to have to be in pain, with the stuff that happens at home."

It was the first time in a long time that Yuiko had even indirectly mentioned Misaki Aoyagi.

"You'd be doing the whole school a big favour. You'd be doing sixth graders justice."

Ritsuka couldn't help but disagree. It'd probably just get him another concussion, if those boys found out that he'd said something.

"I'll think about it, Yuiko." Even though Ritsuka did think about it, he never acted on it. He was never very good at distributing Justice.

Temperance

For the first time, Ritsuka raises his hand. It started over something stupid. Names, Seimei, a bandage; he couldn't remember what exactly. Either way, as Ritsuka's voice raised and Soubi became quiet, the sacrifice's hand raised, as if to strike. Warning signals went off into Ritsuka's head. He'd never hit anyone before. He'd said himself a long time ago that he wouldn't use violence against other people.

Ritsuka's eyes watch Soubi's, who's are transfixed on his hand. He lowers it very, very slowly, until both hands are in his lap. Frustrated, tears form at his eyes and slide down his face. He hadn't really almost hit Soubi, had he? When was the last time he'd been this frustrated. He didn't have ears anymore, in only 7th grade, and he'd thought maybe he and Soubi would be closer, but they only seemed to be drifting apart.

A firm grip rests around the wrist of the arm that had raised to harm; Soubi's firm grip. "Are you okay, Ritsuka?"

It is so frustrating how platonic they are. Soubi knows the difference. Ritsuka knows the difference. He had just hoped that it wasn't really as platonic as it seemed. It was true. Soubi loved him. Soubi just wasn't in love with him. It was so frustrating knowing that.

"I'll be okay. Eventually." He'd stayed his hand in the midst of frustration. He'd be okay, if he could make it that far. He could control himself. He'd be fine. Right? "Don't worry about me, Soubi."

Another hand touches his hair, "I love you, Ritsuka."

Prudence

Soubi arrived at Ritsuka's request too late. He'd heard the boy calling to him, yes, but he was trapped. He was fighting again. After a whole year he was still going against Ritsuka's wishes. He loved Ritsuka; showed him that love physically and was returned in the gesture. There was still that deep nagging that called to him, telling him that no one must harm Ritsuka. Soubi trusted him. It was everyone else he didn't trust. After the battle, the Fighter swiftly made his way to where Ritsuka had been calling. He didn't even have any injuries to hide. When Ristuka was no longer at school, he arrived inside the Sacrifice's bedroom, immediately kneeling and embracing him. His fingers touched the bandage around Ritsuka's head.

How selfish he had been. He really wasn't thinking of Ritsuka at all, just himself. If he hadn't done things on his own, Ritsuka would be safe. The kind that mattered. As long as they were together and not alone, it was okay for a few injuries. The fact that Ritsuka had to endure it alone spoke too many words in Soubi's head too much at a time. He let his fingers trail over Ritsuka's face. He's grown so much over just a year. He's taller, his eyes maybe a little softer.

Ritsuka's blush is still adorable.

It's two nights after that when Soubi arrived again to Ritsuka's room. He's been visiting more frequently, because of the Sacrifice's injures. Has to know that Ritsuka is okay. Needs to know it. Makes him feel better knowing Ritsuka is okay. But the younger Aoyagi seems mentally unstable more than physically. Won't talk to him much anymore. Soubi almost regrets making Ritsuka lose his ears this early. He's not the only 7th grader without innocence.

"You cannot love me. I am Loveless."

It's just a name. It has nothing to do with you personally. I love you. I love you so much it hurts me.
Soubi's words go unspoken, and he just curls around Ritsuka on his bed, holding him near and dear for a long time.

Within a week, they are both fighting. Ritsuka is a little better. Careless is losing, but Ritsuka is still injured. In the old days, Ritsuka would be unable to handle what was given to him, and Soubi would take damage, too. In this fight, Soubi finds himself taking almost no damage at all, and he can't help but wonder when Ritsuka had matured so much. Shot off without him, left him behind. He was so busy worrying about himself. Trying to reassure himself that Ritsuka was helpless without him. Everything was fine if Soubi was happy.

In Ritsuka's room again, he talks about his time at Yuiko's house.

"You've been spending a lot more time with Yuiko-chan and Yayoi-kun." Soubi says. He's re-wrapping the bandage around Ritsuka's head; the wound has gotten so much smaller. It's almost fully healed. "I think that's a good thing."

"I don't think I should tell anyone about who it was." Ritsuka says.

"I could take care of them for you." Soubi smiles, sits down on Ritsuka's bed.

"What are you, stupid?" His voice raises, bristling. "Don't do something like that, stupid." Ah. With those names, it's almost like a year ago.

"I don't want to drift from you Ritsuka, you know I love you." He reaches for the other.

"You loved Seimei, too."

Soubi's face straightens. "That was different."

Ritsuka stands and shouts, "It's the same! Fighter and Sacrifice! We were both your Sacrifice, so how is it different!"

He'd never meant to get Ritsuka angry. "Ritsuka you're…" But he can't finish the sentence. Ritsuka shouts some things. Raises his hand. Soubi's eyes follow it blankly. He doesn't move from the supposed path of the offending hand. But it never comes down to strike. Again, he wasn't thinking for Ritsuka's sake. Since when had he become like this? He grabs Ritsuka's hand gently; so gently. "Are you okay, Ritsuka?"

"I'll be okay, eventually." And then, "Don't worry about me, Soubi."

Soubi makes a face. "I love you, Ritsuka."

He rubs his thumb over Ritsuka's wrist. He doesn't know how to convey his feelings. Ritsuka gives him an almost smile, but it's probably a little forced. Soubi swears he might cry. Ritsuka is fragile like that. "I know." He says, and gives Soubi a kiss.

Soubi tells himself. Reassures himself. He won't hesitate for his own well being. Won't lie. Won't fight alone. Everything from now on is for Ritsuka.
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