Title: Usagi
Genre: Drama
Rated: T/13+

Pairing: Nii/Kou
Summary: Kougaiji finds himself cornered in Nii's lab. 1stPerson POV - Kou

Warnings: Yaoi, mild language

Disclaimer: The many incarnations and characters of Saiyuki were created by the wonderfully talented Kazuya Minekura--may she be forever blessed and properly deified for sharing her vision with the rest of us. I venture onto her playground in the name of entertainment and maintaining my sanity; in so doing I mean no disrespect or copyright infringement...

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Usagi
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Nii is alone--working, supposedly--slouched lazily in front of a glowing computer screen and just lighting a cigarette as I enter the lab.

I don't know what I'm doing here, really. I wasn't summoned; I wasn't ordered to appear before him for any reason. Yet here I am, regardless, drawn to his lair by some instinct that I don't understand.

"Ahh, here is Kougaiji-sama..." There is such mockery in the title, made all the more evident by the fact that his words are ostensibly addressed to that stuffed doll he carries everywhere. He pockets his lighter, exhales a soft wisp of smoke. "What brings the prince down to grace us with his presence, I wonder?"

I don't bother with a response; any answer I might make would only encourage him to taunt me further.

"Why don't you ask him?" He addresses himself in a voice gone mildly falsetto, speaking for the bunny while gesturing expressively with one of its paws; the entire scene is so ridiculous that I'm tempted to laugh outright.

Yet there is something in his demeanor that strongly discourages any levity at his expense, even while puppeteering the toy rabbit; and the temptation dies swiftly.

"Good day, my prince," he offers, lowering the cigarette; and this time it is clear that he speaks to me.

I incline my head slightly in acknowledgement. Mother instilled manners and noble etiquette in me from a very early age, and those instincts remain firm in spite of my personal dislike of the man before me.

"And how can I serve you this afternoon...?" His tongue glides over the words as though they have some pleasant flavor; and the way he says 'serve' somehow conjures an image of my head presented to Gyokumen Koushu on a platter with an apple in my mouth.

At least I have presence of mind to concoct a quick and simple lie. "I was sent to collect a report of your latest estimates on reviving my father."

"But sent by whom, I wonder?" He draws shortly on his cigarette, tucking it into the corner of his mouth where it will not interfere with his words. "After all, I gave just such a report directly to Gyokumen Koushu-sama herself not half an hour ago..."

I *would* have the luck of inventing an excuse that he can immediately disprove.

"I think perhaps the prince has his own reasons for this little visit, hmm?" He's speaking to the doll again, making it nod sagely in response. I can't help feeling utterly belittled; and the complacent curve to his lips only irks me all the more.

"And why does it matter, what reasons I have? Maybe it's in my own best interest to keep close watch on you and your scheming."

"Ohh, without a doubt, Kougaiji-sama. Without a doubt." That complacency has a dangerous edge to it, now; and he's staring at me intently through the thin haze of his tobacco smoke.

My heart thumps faster beneath my ribs, and I can feel tension beginning to gather in the back of my neck. He unnerves me so completely, this man. He admits directly to me that he does not mean me well, smiling his confidence that this knowledge makes no difference in whether or not I will be prepared when he should decide to strike. It's as if he is prodding me, taunting me with the surety that his is the superior position.

It has always angered me to be underestimated; and I prod back, annoyed by his casual conceit.

"I do not appreciate vague threats, Doctor. Have a care what you say to me, and how you say it."

"My, what splendid courage!" he laughs, enthused, lifting the toy rabbit and holding it like an infant in his outstretched arms. "We would be fools to cross the young prince, now, wouldn't we!" And the bunny nods again as he brings it back to his lap.

I grind my teeth and hold my tongue, fuming at the condescension but not willing to provide him any further reason to mock me.

"But really, my prince, I hardly meant to threaten you," he offers next, cigarette bobbing slightly between his lips with the words; and I could almost believe the contriteness of his tone were it not for the shadowed mischief in his eyes. "I simply meant that of course it is within your purview of interests to check up on my work, to see our progress for yourself. After all, how else are you to gauge the urgency of your missions? How else are you to know what sort of successes we mean to have, hmm?"

"Gyokumen would keep me informed in these matters," I bite out, giving in to the urge to contradict him just for contradiction's sake.

"Ahh, but she doesn't, does she, Kougaiji. She never tells you any more than she wants you to know, isn't that right?"

And of course I see, too late, that he has prodded and needled me directly into yet another of his carefully laid traps. The words sting, biting deeply with the unspoken implication that I am useful only as a tool for their plans, a pawn in their chess game, no more than a puppet on a string. And there is nothing I can say that he won't somehow twist back around on me. Pride and anger knot within me, and I whirl from him to stalk across the small room, fighting the need to hit...something. Anything.

"Your own stepmother doesn't *trust* you, my prince!" He announces it as if it's a dawning revelation rather than a fact known from the very beginning; frustration boils over within me and I whirl back to face him again.

"Of course she doesn't trust me! She has threatened and manipulated and coerced, has *forced* me into cooperation with her grand ambitions; but she knows I would have *nothing* more to do with her if not for--!"

I stop abruptly, the outburst subsiding in an instant. I don't wish to bring Mother into this conversation, not with *him*--I don't need him poking gleefully about among my private sufferings.

He lowers his cigarette and simply blinks at me, behind those glasses; and then he moves with the sinuous grace of a snake, as though his bones are liquid beneath his flesh, rising from his chair and approaching me with casual unconcern.

Quite suddenly, I am acutely aware of the wall at my back.

He fixes me with his dark eyes, sharp and calculating; the eyes of some cunning predator...

And I feel like a rabbit, caught in their stare, unable to break away.

He closes in, stopping just under an arm's-length in front of me.

"Such a martyred innocent...the helpless victim of bloodlines and circumstance, hmm?" His right hand is planted against the wall, cigarette smoldering beside my head; the left is in his pocket, still holding that doll tucked close against his side.

He is not blocking me in. He is doing nothing to prevent my stepping aside and walking away from him; yet I remain, trapped, held by the smug condescension in that hard clinical gaze.

"I am not helpless," I grind out, glaring back at him, refusing to be intimidated. Neither am I innocent, with all the lives and deaths at my command; but I don't particularly want to argue that point with him.

He only smiles, an empty, patronizing gesture devoid of any semblance of genuine care.

"Bound in service to your father's mistress by your mother's imprisonment, sent on one foolish errand after another, always kept half in the dark while your soldiers are sent to useless deaths--it is such a trying burden that you bear," he sighs, his tone as sad as if my current lot honestly concerns him, as if he's had no part in it whatsoever. His head tips slightly to one side, and his eyes never leave my own. "And you, my noble, stubborn prince, you insist on shouldering it all alone, despite the friends who would give their lives for yours..."

His words trail away like the smoke from his neglected cigarette, and he leans closer.

"I...*admire* that strength, Kougaiji," he murmurs mockingly, voice soft and intimate in the breath between us. "Such magnificent *pride*..."

I sense his intent, yet I make no move to stop him.

He pauses a hairsbreadth from contact, holds for the space of a heartbeat; and then indeed he touches his lips to mine.

He kisses quite well.

And it aggravates me that such a thought is the first to cross my mind, that I don't immediately shove him back or seize his throat and choke the life from him, that I simply *let* him do this thing to me without consequence.

His hands remain where they are and his body moves no closer; but his mouth presses mine intimately, coerces it open with far gentler skill than I would have given him credit for. He delves deeper, his kiss anything but aggressive; and my stomach drops at the violation, twisting, soft warmth welling deep in my belly despite the outrage clamoring in the back of my mind. He smells like cinnamon, and tobacco smoke; I can taste the lingering flavor of his cigarette, bitter against my tongue--

He tastes like death.

And still I do nothing; it is he who ends it at last.

And then, *then* I can move, if only to blink open the eyes that I don't remember closing.

Damn him. Damn him anyway! That smirk is still on his face, and he's looking at me as though assessing the outcome of his latest calculations.

My hands clench and I glower at him, anger finally shaking loose within me though it finds no words just yet.

He stares back, unperturbed, those unfathomable eyes infuriatingly complacent behind his glasses.

When he moves, it is sudden. Completely without warning, he lifts that ridiculous bunny doll and presses its nose to my lips with a faint kissing sound.

And at last I've had more than enough.

I react without thought, raising a fist to backhand the damned toy aside. There is far more anger in the gesture than would seem warranted; but that final little touch of mockery is just too much. The doll hits the floor halfway across the room and slides, its stitched-on smile fixed as ever.

And Nii laughs, the sound rich and full of genuine amusement; he laughs in the face of my wounded pride and places his cigarette between his lips once more and saunters away to retrieve his stuffed companion.

"It seems the prince does not respond well to gestures of affection," he tells it solemnly, amusement quite evident in his tone as he straightens its smock.

He guides its paws to cover its mouth as though appalled, then moves them to mimic sobbing. "Kougaiji-sama is so *cold*!" he simpers, in a childlike voice that borders on tears.

"Ahhh, yes--" his voice is his own again, and he pets the bunny soothingly "--but it's not entirely his fault, you see. He endures such hardship at the command of Gyokumen Koushu-sama...it's little wonder he feels nothing of kindness for those of us who serve her willingly..."

The ridicule slithering under his words is heavy enough to taste.

He tucks the toy rabbit into its customary place beneath his arm and glides back to his console to resume his seat, dropping his dead cigarette into the ashtray where it continues to smolder. He punches a few keys, brings up a display of some data chart or other, scrolls through the pages while smiling his satisfaction.

And I realize abruptly that I'm being utterly disregarded.

Not ignored; for that would imply some basic acknowledgement of my continued presence. Disregarded. He behaves as though completely unaware of me. Not a look, not a twitch, not a smug backward glance, not any sort of indication that anyone besides that doll has occupied the room with him this afternoon at all.

It's as though I'm suddenly no longer here.

And indeed, I shouldn't be. I should never have been here in the first place.

The urge to do violence surges up behind my vision; it's all I can do to contain it. I do *not* need to provide him the entertainment of seeing me lose my control. Nor do I need to incur Gyokumen's wrath by mutilating her favorite toy.

So I storm from the lab then, helpless rage boiling within me. And as I stalk down the corridor, that need to *hit* something overwhelms me at last and I whirl, slamming my fist into the unyielding wall with a short cry of sheer frustration. Dull pain blossoms in my knuckles, lances up my forearm; and I hurl another punch into the wall. And another, and another, and another; there is no other outlet for the impotent fury that consumes me. I realize that the only thing I'm accomplishing is to injure myself, but I do not care at the moment.

I hate the man. I hate him, utterly; hate everything about him, hate everything he's done. He is a mad, arrogant, dangerous creature. He twists every word that comes out of his mouth, manipulates everything and everyone around him.

I loathe him. Detest him.

I do. I know I do.

And yet--

I stop, bow my head, cradle my battered and aching hand, feel the tide of my anger turning inward.

For if I hate him so completely, why then did I allow him to kiss me?

Why, for the briefest of seconds, did I enjoy it?
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Beg: 11/10/04
Fin: 03/24/05

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