Blood, Bone, Ash
A/N: I took a little poetic license with the way Nagare’s power works, and I definitely didn’t get these two quite as far along the curve as I hoped, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
Every person is strong or weak themselves. We can give them each their own opportunity to save themselves.
Green power leaks out of the hole where Nagare’s heart ought to be. It doesn’t even bother Mikoto anymore, not that he ever paid it much mind. He slams into Nagare, so he gasps, panting as his dark hair curls with sweat and his limbs tremble under Mikoto’s hands. He has the Green King in front of him, bent over, face down, and there’s nothing gentle about it.
Because of Nagare, Mikoto’s clansman is dead. Tatara will never again look at him with gentle eyes and tell him, Your power is to protect.
Anna. Tatara. Izumo. Misaki and the rest. Even Saruhiko. They were always his to protect.
He spills inside Nagare, then shoves Nagare forward ungently, ignoring the way Nagare gasps and clutches behind him, still caught in his own need. He turns Nagare over and stares down at him.
The Green King always looks so vulnerable and small. Green light burns in the midst of his body, both immense power and utter weakness, never contained the way it used to be. This way it won’t outgrow them all. This way, Nagare lives but needs his aura to do it.
He looks like someone Mikoto could protect.
It doesn’t douse the angry flame inside Mikoto, demanding vengeance for taking the lives of those he loves. It doesn’t make him hate Nagare less. He gets a cloth anyway and a cigarette. He smokes and he washes up Nagare’s damp, sticky skin almost as if he cares. Nagare moans but Mikoto wraps him in a loose blanket on his bed and does not finish him off.
It makes him sick inside that he sees in Nagare what Iwa did, that he can’t just kill the other King.
There would be one way to keep him here.
Munakata Reisi sighed and pushed his glasses up as he did. Most would think he was studying the rebel Green King who had been charged with and incarcerated for conspiring to kill the other kings by using the new Colorless King, then taking over himself.
Reisi wasn’t looking at Hisui Nagare. He was looking over Nagare’s shoulder at Suoh Mikoto, standing near the barred window, looking out, faint smoke pouring from his mouth as he sighed. His hands were buried in his pockets. He might as well have not been there for all the visible attention he was paying Scepter 4’s prisoner.
But there was tension in his shoulders that Munakata could read, and displeasure in his bearing, something tense and certain just lying in wait.
Mikoto didn’t even let him start. “No.” He didn’t turn out, just breathed then spoke with his frown audible in his voice. “I let you handle the Colorless King’s punishment. Not this one too.”
He turned then, mouth curling to one side in a smile that could freeze blood.
Munakata just sighed. “He didn’t kill Totsuka.”
Mikoto made a small sound of derision. “That’s why I won’t kill him.”
And wouldn’t cause the Suoh Crater when his sword of damocles fell to punish them all.
Munakata stared at Suoh. Suoh stared at Munakata. Munakata had won the first argument. He’d been graced with the position of executioner in Suoh Mikoto’s place, and that had been a concession nearly impossible to acquire.
Munakata frowned but nodded curtly. “Very well. I release Jungle’s King into your custody.”
The first time Mikoto brings Nagare back to the Red Clan, the only thing that keeps his clansmen from trying to kill him is that only a King can kill a King.
“What are you going to do with him, Mikoto?” Izumo asks reasonably, having cleared out the rest of Homura to deal with this.
Mikoto does all the things Munakata recommended, unwrapping the bindings over his aura, shackling him with the gift from Scepter 4 that can hold back a normal clansman’s aura. It won’t hold a King. He knows from when he burst his own shackles with flame and crackling red.
He puts Nagare in a room designed to hold him, Fushimi having assisted with that, never once commenting on the unpleasantness of being in his former clan’s territory.
There is one way to hold a King prisoner.
“I’ll deal with him.”
It didn’t start out this way. Nagare was always polite, even when he was perfectly fine with the Colorless King killing Mikoto’s people. Even when Mikoto woke him by slamming his head into a wall much harder than Munakata had slammed his once upon a time.
He tried to convert Mikoto a few times, not even halfheartedly, the fool. He believed in the game of life he’d created for himself, malicious but fair. He believed in releasing the horror of the Slates’ power on everyone in the world.
“My power saved me,” he explained calmly. Such power swirling in the hole in his body, death never allowed to die.
Mikoto blew out a stream of smoke. “Kagutsu’s destroyed you,” he reminded him gruffly.
“The previous Red King,” Nagare commented, almost thoughtfully.
Mikoto was the current Red King. He chuckled low and dark. “I’ll destroy you too.”
Mikoto sleeps and he dreams.
He dreams of flames and roaring power. He dreams of destruction, of charred flesh and wounded clansmen. He dreams of burning the world down as his power grows and grows and grows, unchecked as Nagare’s was unchecked.
He wakes, panting, body glowing with red he can almost see as clearly as Anna does. He wakes and sits up and frowns as he stares at his hands.
Where is Tatara now, telling him, making him believe he can use it to protect?
He goes to find solace in his clan for a few hours, then returns to Nagare.
He doesn’t ask what Nagare likes when it starts turning out like this. This isn’t pleasure, it’s pain, and Nagare never objects in words.
He lets Mikoto treat him roughly. He can’t control his own coming and going, can’t even walk most of the time without using more aura than is comfortable. He could fight Mikoto but he doesn’t, and Mikoto doesn’t want him to. He enjoys fighting someone on his level. Only a King understands a King.
He bruises Nagare’s wrists, doesn’t let him talk, barely lets him breathe, using teeth and aura and rough hands and nothing to make it easier when he takes his physical pleasure in Nagare’s body and leaves him trembling.
“I’d almost think you like it,” he tells him.
Nagare turns his head on the pillow to look at him. Mikoto’s by the window now, smoking again.
“You won this round. Surely I should let you take your winnings.”
Like everything’s a game. Mikoto stares at him, angry underneath it all, but holding it bright inside him. This power is to protect. It hadn’t protected Fushimi when Nagare tried to claim him the first time, and Mikoto let him go because Munakata at least would take care of him in a way Mikoto couldn’t. It hadn’t protected Tatara when the Colorless King came to kill him. It hadn’t done nearly enough.
Mikoto stalks back to the bed, picks up Nagare by his neck, and listens to the choking sounds of stilted breath until his hands shake with the knowledge that he can’t do this. He can’t become the monster Tatara had always saved him from. He drops Nagare on the bed, watches red crackle against green electric sparks and light. He relishes the pain of matched but opposing powers rolling over their flesh.
Nagare stares at him, coughing up the last of his reaction.
Only a King can kill a King, but Mikoto would bring down another Kagutsu if he calls on the power necessary to kill him.
“Sometime I’ll let you go,” he says, instead of everything he wants to. “I’ll let Munakata execute you like he wants to.”
Nagare stares up at him, his breath still audibly harsh, eyes glowing brightly. “Why don’t you?”
Mikoto wonders the same thing sometimes. “You mean less to me than he does,” he says.
He watches the way Nagare’s eyes darken and lets his curiosity at what it really means pass.
Tatara was gone.
Mikoto claimed his earring and wore it himself after the funeral. There was no one left to feed the light inside him and try to hold back the darkness of his aura. He let Anna cling to him, let his clansmen rally around him, and led the first investigation into who killed him.
He turned to Munakata, hoping there would be some kind of hope there, something of the balance Tatara had always given him. He needed someone to hold him back.
Munakata wasn’t enough. Homura wasn’t enough. He dreamed of fire and destruction and charred flesh and woke gasping, body alive in red.
Why did he ever become a king?
“They would adjust,” Nagare pointed out. Humanity as a whole was adaptable and he was right when it came down to it. It wasn’t fair.
Kings had power. They shared it with their clansmen. Their clansmen were stronger, more protected, more able than those around them untouched by the Slates. Strains had power that saved their lives. Anna. Neko.
Mikoto huffed something between a laugh and a scoff.
How much pain had those powers given them as they outgrew the people who couldn’t contain them? Power kept Nagare alive, but it wouldn’t have needed to if Kagutsu hadn’t given into the destructive nature of his aura to begin with. Red flame and aura sweeping over the earth until the Damocles came down.
Mikoto stubbed out his cigarette and looked at Nagare with something like a smile. “Someday I’ll destroy you, Nagare.” Someday he’d destroy everything.
But not while he had Anna and Misaki and Izumo and Kamamoto and every clansman Tatara had welcomed into their lives. He’d protect them from himself as long as he had the power to do it.
Nagare sighed. “Is that such a bad thing?”