Character Introduction: Kozu and Mamoru

Kozu Ikazuki and Mamoru Hikigaya are my first OC characters of this series! Thye kinda started it all! Theres alot of trouble around this relationship.. because its not really a relationship!

Anywhoo, this is really an explanation of the twos beginnings, like a prequel to the events in Bitten. Everything is really going to get angsty, and this is probably the only time you will enjoy Kozu as a character. He kinda.. changes later on.

But seeing the before is important to understanding the after!

So enjoy! And again, if you have ANY question, hit me up!

Thanks for reading!

-jill

The first time Mamoru had the nightmare, it felt like the world was collapsing. The overwhelming feeling of loneliness and abandonment shook him awake, throwing him into the silent darkness.

Sitting up and grabbing his neck, Mamoru felt the wet, healing flesh pulse under his fingers, his heart pumping harder than it had ever had.

Struggling to stand, he felt his way along the edge of the bed, his feet never leaving the floor and he inched his way to freedom.

Mamorus chest heaved under his light pajama top, gripped tightly in one hand. He needed… he needed light. He needed air. He needed Kozu. He felt the crushing darkness around him, which only meant Kozu wasn’t here.

His fingers hit a wall and his fingernails scraped the surface looking for a place to hold onto, to keep himself secure, to find his way through the darkness.

Sliding down the wall he weakly called out the name he needed, the words barely passing his lips with any strength. His breathing was shaky under the pressure of the darkness, the loneliness. Kozu wasn’t coming.

Kozu wouldn’t come.

He came once, but he left. He didn’t come back, he walked away. Kozu left him in the darkness, knowing he needed him! Why did he walk away!

After what felt like an eternity, Mamoru slowly stood up, feeling his way across the wall, looking for any way of getting out. He needed to breathe!

He reached out, and jolted when he felt the something in the dark attack him, forcing his arm back to his chest, searing pain firing up into his fingertips. He gasped in pain, clutching it to his chest as he called for Kozu again, knowing he couldn’t expect a response. The pain sent sparks of dizziness through mamoru and he collapsed onto his knees again.

Everything hurt, everything was scary. He couldn’t move without feeling the spikes and the loneliness all around him. It wasn’t safe to move. The loneliness was going to crush him, the darkness would suffocate him, and no one would find him until it was too late. Kozu wouldn’t find him, if he was even looking.

It had been days, or it felt like it, since he had seen Kozu. He saw him in the hospital, briefly. But he left, and he never returned, and now all that visited mamoru was darkness. His Mark burned, it wanted to be close to Kozu, it needed him, Mamoru needed him. But he didn’t care.

Footsteps came thumping towards Mamoru and he curled into a ball. It was danger. It had to be danger.

It could be Kozu

It wouldn’t be!

But it could be

It wasn’t.

“Mamoru?”

A woman’s voice sounded. She was behind a door. The doorknob turned, the mechanism sticking and clunking roughly as it recoiled, making Mamoru jump. The hall light shone through the cracked door, revealing Mamoru on the bedroom floor, curled in a ball. His neck was red, the bandages torn away, bloody fingerprints on the pale skin of his neck, cheek and on his pajamas.

The small body was shaking, and it broke her heart a bit. “Mamoru..” his mother crouched down and reached to touch his side, watching as he flinched at the touch as if it caused him pain.

“-zu” he whispered, not acknowledging, or not recognizing the woman kneeling in front of him.

“Mamoru, sweety” the beta woman cooed, reaching up to touch her son’s cheek, avoiding the red spots.

Soon after the room light was f;licked on by an alpha male, who sighed down at his son, and rubbed his forehead. “just pick him up and put him in bed” the man said and walked away, a tang of defeat in his voice.

“this isn’t his fault!” the woman called after him. “You know that! You heard what the teacher said, it was unexpected, it was sudden, no one could tell he was about to present!”

The man turned around but only briefly. “So what, we live with.. that? He’s never going to be an alpha.” He turned and headed down the stairs, his foots thudding lazily.

Turning back to Mamoru, the woman reached down and lifted him to sit up, and cupped his cheek. “Mamoru, please, mamoru” she lifted him so he was sitting up and pulled him to her chest. Her 14-year-old son, how did things get like this?

Mamoru leaned against her, and he moved his hands up to touch her shoulders moving away from her. He blinked his eyes, seeing the room around him. Coming out of his sleep and nightmare haze things started to piece themselves together.

Earlier on in the evening he had slammed his bedroom door and closed his blinds on purpose. He wanted it to be in the dark. He was angry at his parents, he hated them! They were making him stay at home, when he wanted to be at Kozus. He secluded himself to punish them.

But it backfired, and Mamoru had woken up in pure darkness, terrified and alone.

He looked up at his mother, his eyes watering as he woke up more. He wasn’t scared of the dark, but that didn’t curb the loneliness. He looked around his bedroom, the messy piles of clothes on the floor, the desk covered in homework, they all felt so far away, none of it mattered because he didn’t matter to the person he needed.

“Why wont he come see me mom?” Mamorus voice broke as he turned to the woman in front of him. “What did I do wrong?”

“Nothing, you’ve done nothing wrong” the mother answered, pulling Mamorus head to her chest, rubbing his back. This was breaking her heart. How could she keep telling her son he did nothing wrong, when she had tried contacting Kozu family every opportunity she had the past 2 days. She called over and over, and was just thrown into the voicemailbox. Her son needed answers, and she could provide them. But she wanted to, with all her heart.

“none of this is your fault baby, you are innocent and pure, and kind, and anyone would be lucky to have you”

“then why doesn’t he want me?!” his voice was muffled by her shirt. “why hasn’t he called, or texted or visited or anything” he gripped her shirt.

“you are not a mistake” she said firmly, and stood up, lifting him with her and walking him to the bed. “give me your phone, try calling him” she said, watching as Mamoru reached for his phone under the pillow.

The smartphone was silent, no notifications causing the led light to blink. The messages remained empty, the call log blank, save for a massive number of outgoing calls to a ‘Zuzu’. Even the social media accounts were barren of interaction, like Kozu was somehow alienating him from everyone he knew all at once.

The screen lit up and mamoru typed in the numbers. He knew them off by heart. ‘647-555-8917’ he whispered, and put the phone to his ear. 2 rings, and then the all familiar voicemail ‘You’ve uh, reached Kozu. Um, yea leave a message.. do people even leave messages? Ill check it I guess… uh.. bye..” BEEEP.

“Kozu.. Zuzu… please. Zuzu please, what did I do, im sorry” he started, clutching the phone with both hands. “please, call me back, I miss you. I need you to respond, please don’t leave me alone anymore, im scared! Please Zuzu-“

‘To save your message, press 1-“

“This is why everyone hates voicemail!’ Mamoru yelled into the device, disconnecting the call and restraining the urge to throw the phone across the room. Instead he clutched it tightly, resting his forehead on the end.

“Mom..-“

The device let out a chime, and another, and another. It was a call? It was a phone call!

Almost dropping the phone, Mamoru accepted the call, and brought it to his ear, slamming it into his head. “Zuzu?!?!”

“Morun!” an angry voice barraged through the phone, but somehow in a whisper. “Stop calling when Ryuu is here! He keeps taking my phone because of you.”

Mamoru shrank a bit, here was the verbal rejection to accompany the physical one.

“I-im sorry Zuzu.. ill.. but I.. I-“

“Why aren’t you going to school!? Go to school tomorrow! Are you hiding at home or something?” he growled. “I’ve been looking for you and you’re not showing up!”

“I-I..im at home why haven’t you come over?” Mamoru sniffled.

“Are you crying?!?” Kozu ignored the question and shuffling was heard on his end. “What reason are you crying? Im the one at school-gah- dealing with all the looks. They think I killed you or something. Hold on” the phone clunked and rustled. It was in a pocket?

“Zuzu?” Mamorus voice chirped.

Mamorus mother was surprised at the phone conversation now. She had been calling the parents, without luck. She had been keeping mamoru home from school to heal, assuming Kozu would be changed schools by now or held at home. If he was attending school, it seemed in her desperation she made some poor choices.

Rubbing Mamorus knee she kissed his forehead and stood up and gave her neck a small tap; she was going to get more bandages to patch him up.

Mamoru wasn’t paying attention, he was trying ot figure out what Kozu was doing.

“Zuzu!” he called into the phone again.

The phone seemed to go dead for a moment before the voice returned, and seemed to be out of breath. “hey, Ma-Morun” he growled a small bit. “I said ‘hold on’ for a reason” he said and the phone went back to rustling.

Each second waiting was a second in hell. Mamoru had Kozu on the line, he was doing something, what was he doing? Mamoru had to get up and pace the room, pushing his hand through his hair.

He looked at the clock, the green numbers displaying 3:16. it was so late, he shouldn’t have called, but hearing Kozus voice already brought up so many emotions. If he got to see him..

“Mamoru, are you there?” the voice was softer, and much clearer. “Mamoru, im coming over. Unlock your front door.

“mamoru, I brought bandages” Mamorus mother chimed, walking back into the bedroom. It didn’t matter, Mamoru was rushing to the front door, unlocking it and running outside onto the street.

“Are you close?” he looked in both directions, his eyes searching frantically for the moving boy.

“I just left my house, ill be like 15 minutes. Don’t wake your parents they’ll call mine!” he growled.

“oh..” mamoru bit his lip and looked back at his house, his father stood in the doorway, scowling.

“What did you do?”

“They’re.. already awake” Mamoru said. “we all kinda woke up a little bit ago” he said. “They wont call your parents through! Please still come, please Zuzu, please please!” mamoru looked over at his father, whose anger changed back into disappointment as he walked back into the house.

“fine. Go inside and make popcorn or something” Kozu said. “I can’t be on the phone the whole time. Ill get there faster if I jog”

Mamoru sniffled and nodded. “Ill put some rice on the stove” he said. “did you already have dinner?”

“Yes, at 8pm, like normal people” Kozu said, and let out a mall sigh at the desperation coming through the phone. “Just popcorns fine”

The blonde boy held his breathe and tried to not let his mind spiral back down into the loneliness. The sigh didn’t mean Kozu didn’t want to see him. The sigh didn’t mean he was annoyed or disappointed, or that he didn’t want to see him… right?

“I-ill let you go then” mamoru said, feeling his voice crack again, and felt a chill creep up his back, making it hard to breathe again. He finally got to speak to Kozu, he didn’t want to mess it up, he didn’t want to screw things up again.

“Mamoru-“ Kozu started but the phone line clicked off, and the screen light clicked off. And once again, mamoru was in the darkness.

Shaking, mamoru walked inside, and set his phone on the counter, face down. He could feel his mother watch him as he walked into the kitchen, hand over his mouth. Kozu was coming over.. he was supposed to be happy. He was happy. He remembered feeling the relief, the euphoria pass through his body and make him feel feather-light. He remembered that feeling so clearly. It lifted him, it made everything brighter.

But that was gone, it left his body like a sigh.

He reached down and grabbed a stove pot, filling it with water. He had to set it to boil. There wasn’t enough time to set up the rice cooker, so minute rice would have to do. It would suffice for a midnight snack.. or maybe should he just make popcorn like Kozu suggested. What if he didn’t want fried rice? But Kozu loved fried rice. But he asked for popcorn.

Mamoru set the stove to a boil and grabbed a bag of popcorn.

“Sweety?” the voice sounded softly, but still managed to jolt the boy. He turned quickly around, and looked up at his mom. His eyes were red, and he covered his mouth again. He was biting his lip, he was trying to keep all of his thoughts inside. He hated her expression when she was in pain, and hearing him word vomit everything he was thinking would just upset her.

“Let me bandage you up” she said, and reached to tilt his head.

“Ko-kozus coming over” he gulped down his word vomit. “y-you saw him in the hospital. He hated it being covered” he said, moving to make the Mark inaccessible.

“But its bleeding, its not going to heal properly if you don’t take care of it” she added some force to her voice.

“I don’t care” mamoru whispered, turning away and pouring the rice into the boiling water, moving it to the next burner “if Kozu doesn’t like it, he might not come back again!” he shouted, pushing away her arms as she tried to secure a bandage over the swollen, bleeding Mark.

Mamoru-“

“Mamoru” the thunderous voice of his father came down the stairs, followed by his body. “You’re going to let your mother put the bandage on. Understand?” he stood in front of his son, his voice curled in a growl. A superior alphas growl..

Mamoru gulped and looked up at his father, hating the paralyzing feeling hat filled his body.

That’s what ensured Alphas maintained hierarchy. Their voice could supress the lower statuses and other alphas, depending on their rank.

Mamoru hadn’t been the recipient of too many alphas growl. Between the scents and the growls, the alphas were pretty much master manipulators or suppressors. The strength and potency of the control really depended on the mood of the alpha, and the age. Most adults could control their temper, and by proxy how much control they exerted on their subordinates. Its part of the reason behind the separation of alphas in schools, and why alphas make up a majority of higher grades teachers; it wouldn’t be good for an alpha student to force a teacher to up their grade because they were a lower status.

His father hadn’t been aggressive towards mamoru before either, because he assumed his on would present as an alpha. But things were intervened. Since then the relationship between them was a bit broken.

“Tilt your head” the growl continued, an Mamoru obeyed, knowing full well Kozu would hate it. He could hear the future interaction.

‘You know I don’t want you covering my Mark!’

‘I know, I told them, they wouldn’t listen!’

‘whose more important? Me or them?’

‘you! Please don’t leave Kozu, please!’

‘I don’t believe you, you disgusting, clingy loser’

Mamoru let out a small choke as the scenario played out, the bandage tied tightly on his neck. It was secured like a diaper, wrapping around his neck and sticking to itself. It was impossible to breathe!

“I-I can’t” mamoru reached to adjust it, but the scent imposing on the kitchen stopped mamoru in his tracks, making it even harder to breathe. “please- I can’t-“

“Don’t touch it” his father verbalized, scowling down at his son for being weak. “that better still be on in the morning, or ill have it stitched into your skin” his voice bit at Mamorus extremities, freezing him in place. Mamoru managed a small nod and that seemed to satisfy the father figure. The heavy scent dissipated to a degree but it left Mamoru feeling a bit dizzy.

The two adults left the room, leaving Mamoru alone in the kitchen. His mother spared a cursory glance back at him, her eyes full of worry, but she didn’t say anything as she was tugged up the stairs. Mamoru slid down the cupboard door, making contact with the cold tile underneath him.

The salt from the tears was beginning to make Mamorus eyes sting, they felt hot. Compared to the tile Mamorus whole body felt hot. It was all on fire, his fingertips were red and sore, his lips were swollen and red from biting back everything he wanted to say. His chest was burning up, the heat flowing up his throat and heating every breath to offer no reprieve to the mess that was his body. but at the center was this frozen ball of dread, that Kozu wasn’t really coming. That this was all a delusion, or possibly Kozu was coming, and he would walk into this mess, this dysfunction of a family. Both options were the worst. He couldn’t face Kozu, but he wanted him so badly to come rescue him and hold him and make everything better!

What if he thought that this was too much, he was too clingy, and needy and his parents were aggressive and rude and he didn’t want any child of theirs in his family. What if he abandoned him for good this time? What if he blamed mamoru for the Mark?

The hyperventilation seemed to at least bring in enough cool air to quell the fire in his chest, but they only revealed more panic ready to fire up and consume Mamorus thoughts.

It took a few solid minutes for Mamoru to stand up, and run his hands under the freezing tap water. He had to put the popcorn in. he had to make the food. Kozu wanted food. Kozu hadn’t had dinner yet. Kozu wanted his favorite food, Kozu asked for it, didn’t he? He had to have.

Mamoru needed Kozu to have asked for food.

The veggies weren’t hard to prepare, a bit of chopping, a bit of sautéing and everything was ready for the rice. He grabbed the pot handle, and turned to pour the puffy rice into the mix.

It took a second for mamoru to notice, but the handle was searing hot. He hadn’t turned off the burner, and left the handle overtop, and the heated metal was now pressed into Mamorus palm.

With a scream Mamoru dropped the pot, rice spilling over the stovetop and counter, knocking into the veggie mix and splashing soy sauce across the backsplash.

Running to the tap mamoru stick his palm under the cold water, but he could already feel it bubbling his skin. There was a definitive red mark running across his palm already, and it hurt to bend his hand.

Looking back at the mess he wanted to slap himself. Dinner was ruined. it was everywhere. How would Kozu want him if he was this stupid! There was rice everywhere some suck in the pot still, most of it was scattered across the stove. The sauce was mostly in the pan but a lot was spilling onto the stove, and onto the burner. Reaching over he turned off the heat, and tried to salvage everything. He gathered the safe rice, which as hard to do one handed, and stirred in the sauce and veggies.

The end result was dismal. There was barely enough for one plate, barely a fistful. How would Kozu believe this was for two people? Was it supposed to be a romantic plate share?? This wasn’t a stupid Disney movie! If it was it wouldn’t be this scary!

He tried making it look pretty, he cut some green onion, he got a second, fancy plate, he got the good chopsticks out. He didn’t want to be a failure.. he wanted the food to look good, even if he was a mess himself. The puffy eyes, swollen lips, strangled neck, bloody pajamas, and now burned and swollen hand. Yea he was a gem. ‘anyone would be lucky’ his mother’s words seemed laughable now.

After making sure the burners were off Mamoru cleaned up the stove, and waited. He didn’t have to wait long. The unlocked door creaked open and Mamorus heart picked up speed.

“Ma?” the voice called out, and the soft footsteps moseyed towards the kitchen. “Did you make the popcorn?”

Mamorus heart sank as he saw the unpopped popcorn bag on the counter, next to the stupid dish of rice.

Mamoru opened the bag and clicked the pre-set popcorn option just as Kozu walked into the kitchen.

“It-its just finishing up” he said, and looked down at the rice.

Reaching down with his burned hand he grabbed as much rice as he could fit in his palm and hid it behind his back, leaving the plate with an outline of the mound that used to be there.

Kozu leaned up on the counter and looked at the microwave timer. “two minutes is almost done?” he smirked. “how long did you put it in for then?” he teased.

Mamoru forced a laugh. “two minutes isn’t long” he said, but the next few seconds felt like forever. He was standing there, with hot rice in his hand, which was already burning, the sauce dripping down his pajama shirt. He needed to throw it away without Kozu noticing. It wasn’t what Kozu wanted. He was vey specific on the phone.

“D-did you take your shoes off?” mamoru asked, hoping he would have an opportunity now.

“Oh oops” Kozu said. “sorry, I was in a bit of a rush”

“you love popcorn that much?” mamoru forced a smile, fighting the corners of his mouth every second.

Kozu frowned, killing Mamorus smile instantly. “I didn’t come over for popcorn, Morun, I came over because you haven’t been okay” he said and sighed again. The sigh. Again, mamoru fucked up.

Pushing the smile out again, mamoru tilted his head. “im okay” he said, praying Kozu didn’t hear his voice shaking.

He didn’t find out if his prayers were answered, because Kozu when toto take off his shoes. Mamoru took that opportunity to open the garbage and empty his hand of rice, and run his hand under the tap once more. The blistering was worse now, and it as really hurting. But a lot of mamoru was in pain at the moment, and in the grand scheme, his hand was only the 3rd most painful right now.

“what’s with the bandage?” Kozu asked, walking back silently without his shoes.

Mamoru reached up and touched the fabric, frowning. “I- my parents.. im sorry. I know you don’t want it covered” he faced away from Kozu to undo the straps, his hands shaking as his father’s threat stuck in his head. He pulled off one side, trying to mask the sound of the Velcro pulling away as he watched the stairs for his father to come back down.

Even one side as still attached it felt so much easier to breathe. It was so tight on his neck, it was like a river of oxygen straight down his throat.

He reached to undo the second strap, but the sound of footsteps made him freeze and turn around. It was just Kozu.

“Let me help” he said, motioning for Mamoru to lean down a bit. He undid the strap and removed the bandage, looking at the Mark. “Its still bleeding” he frowned and touched the edges.

The Mark on the right side of Mamorus neck wasn’t really normal. Kozu kinda.. did it wrong. Marks usually healed flat against the skin, and were a clear set of bite Marks. But the one Mamoru wore had 2 full Marks, and they were puffy. It looked a bit grotesque, but Kozu found it strangely appealing. He really liked it, he liked it on Mamoru. It was his Mark.

“Does it still hurt?” he asked, watching Mamoru flinch at the contact. “your scents off too.” He took an inhale. “and it reeks of your father” he growled slightly.

Mamoru backed away and bit his lip. “he..” he scratched his head nervously. “he wants me to keep the bandage on” he explained “he.. he got really mad about it and stuff” he kept his eyes down. “But you don’t like it, and I told them and-“

“Ma, what’s wrong with you?” Kozu asked, stopping Mamoru in his tracks. “I didn’t- Mamoru come here!” he sighed when he saw the words effect on his Mate. he didn’t mean it like that and Mamoru shouldn’t have taken it like that.

“I meant it as a concern” he said. “what’s wrong, seriously, somethings wrong. You’re upset, and you’re trying to hide it and frankly im insulted. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?” he walked over to the boy, pulling him into a hug.

“First you disappear from school, then you call me crying, and now you’re acting like im going to beat you” he frowned. “What’s wrong? Seriously?”

Mamoru tried to move out of the hug. He felt the panic rising in his chest again. This was what he wanted, but he didn’t want it. but he did want it.

Scrambling to pull himself away, Mamoru pressed his hand to Kozus shoulder, gasping when the pressure on the burn turned to extreme pain.

Letting go of the blonde boy, Kozu grabbed the hand and looked at it, frowning. “you’re hurt! You’ve got a burn. Why haven’t you taken care of it!” he asked, and pulled mamoru to the bathroom, and pushed him to sit on the toilet while he got the polysporin and bandages.

Kozus hands were so soft on his, it made mamoru want to cry. It felt like that was all he was doing, crying. Here was his Alpha, the boy he wanted to hug and kiss and hold and love, but he was afraid. He didn’t want to spoil the moment and make it all about him, he didn’t want to be clingy or whiny he didn’t want to bore Kozu or annoy him or push him away. Kozu was an alpha now, he wanted strength.

Massaging the crème into his palm, Kozu wrapped a bandage around Mamorus hand, tying it at the back. “is it too tight?” he asked, and mamoru shook his head.

“Good, then let’s get the popcorn and sit on the couch” he said and took Mamorus uninjured hand.

Mamoru stood in silence as he watched the alpha.

“What’s this from?” Kozu nudged the plate on the counter, the one that previously held the rice Mamoru had almost died making.

“I-nothing” mamoru said, fidgeting with his fingers. “It was just something stupid” he turned to walk to the livingroom, but heard Kozu inspecting more around the plate. He saw the dirty dishes in the sink, evidence of recent cooking.

“You made food” he said, a slight smirk showing up on his lips, but mamoru just saw the anger that he didn’t listen.

“were you hungry? I mean I just asked for popcorn because I was looking for a snack, you can make food for yourself” he said and shrugged. He grabbed the bag and headed to the livingroom, waiting for mamoru to follow him.

Mamoru sat next to him, and fidgeted with his fingers. “I-“

“go get the bandage” Kozu interrupted. “if your dad got that mad, and its going to stress you out, then its fine.” He said, popping a few kernels in his mouth and moving Mamorus hair to see the mark and smile. “its really pretty though. Do you like it?”

Mamoru touched the edges and smiled softly. He really did like it. it wasn’t like other Marks, it was special to him, and it was from Kozu. It was a special mark from his Alpha. Even if it was ‘disfigured’ like his mother called it, he liked it, and he hated it when they tried to convince him to get a plastic surgeon to fix it. it wasn’t broken!

“I love it Zuzu.” He looked over at the alpha. “I love it so much”

Kozu smirked proudly. “good, im glad. Now go get the bandage, ill put it on. It looked too tight last time anyways” he said.

Mamoru stood up and walked to the kitchen, grabbing he bandage from the counter. There were spots of blood on the cotton, but it wasn’t like he was actually bleeding. He was about to turn back when he heard footsteps again and saw Kozu walking towards him.

“I-I was coming.. back” he trailed off. He hadn’t meant to be so slow..

“no no, I was going to get a washcloth anyways” Kozu said, and found a cloth and running it under the tap. He didn’t have to ask about where things were. He had been over enough times.

Mamoru had been best friends with Kozu for as long as either of them could remember. Kozu was over all the time, and knew both of Mamorus parents, often using their fist names. He had been a shy boy, meek and passive. He was bullied by his older brother Ryuu, an alpha, to an almost abusive level. The number of times Mamoru had to patch up Kozu..

But the roles were reversed, and now Kozu was the one caring for Mamoru. Kozu was the alpha, and Mamoru was the Mate.

While no one truly knows before the child presents during puberty, people speculate based on genetics and personality traits. Kozu, who had been the most shy and weak child was never assumed an alpha-to-be. Mamoru on the other hand, was.

“when I present, ill Mark you and take you away from Ryuu and protect you” 7-year-old Mamoru proclaimed one day. Without the real notion of what a Mark was, the little boy knew it meant you loved someone and wanted to be there for them. Parents were Marked pairs, celebrities, mentors, they all proclaimed the love that came with being Marked, and to Mamoru that meant Kozu was his to Mark. Presenting would be like a thumbs up to Mark his friend, the one he loved.

But that’s not how things worked out. The Marking wasn’t romantic or soft or filled with love. It had been terrifying, unexpected, filled with pain. Whereas Mamoru should have gone through Aftercare, he was tossed into a sterile hospital room for 3 days, without being given the opportunity to present.

Aftercare was important after a Marking. It was like a reinforced bonding or an emotional knotting. It could take a few minutes to a few hours. It was when the Alpha helped the Marked one through any pain, helped to Seal the Mark, and scent one another. Alphas became extremely sensitive to others in their surroundings, who may be looking to interfere, or hurt the Marked One. Some seemed to lose all reason and fall into the basic instincts or go feral, especially if it was their first Marked one.

Aftercare was an intimate, soft, and absolutely necessary process, that Mamoru was robbed of.

Because of the lack of Aftercare, his Mark hadn’t sealed and wouldn’t heal flat. The nights spent alone in the hospital room created this disconnect, essentially closing off the intimacy between the two of them. Marking brought an inherent closeness, a conjoined aspect, and that was created or reinforced during aftercare.

For 3 days Mamoru sat alone, until Kozu came to see him.

Hospitalization wasn’t a normal occurrence for new Markings, even if they take place at a school. Most schools had Heat Rooms set up that if it occurred, mostly for the protection of other students if the Alpha was sensitive.

Heat Rooms were usually reserved for an omega who entered their Heat, with scent blockers and reinforced walls and doors, but they served their purpose for both scenarios.

Mamoru hadn’t presented yet, which posed the problem and the need for hospitalization.

A child may present as an Alpha or Omega, with tell-tale behavioral tells. If nothing significant happens the child is deemed a beta, which was about 70% of the instances. Alphas would present though extreme anger outbursts, enhanced aggression and a more forward or confrontational approach to things.

Omegas presentations would show through the enhanced scenting, and sensitivity, the more passive personalities, and a larger reaction to alpha adults or classmates.

No matter the status they children would undergo a physical change, the skin on their neck would change. Alphas experienced little change, but omegas and betas skin would change significantly, to prepare for Marks.

Much like teething or growing pains, the neck area would often feel tingly or itchy, and would be easier to scratch, scar or Mark. Only after Presenting that strip of skin would be ready to accept, and settle a Mark properly. With mamoru having not presented at the time of his Making proved dangerous, because his body did not have the processes set in place to take the Mark and heal itself. The blood wouldn’t stop.

“You have blood everywhere, what did you do? Murder someone?” Kozu asked, wiping Mamorus forehead, cheek and fingers. “Its on your pajamas too” he sighed and started unbuttoning Mamorus shirt. “what did you do?”

Mamoru blushed when he felt Kozus fingers graze his skin. He was still deeply in love with the male, his crush only growing since his promise at the age 7.

“I think I scratched it. I woke up and it was bleeding again” he answered. “Y-you don’t have to-“

“Ma, shut up” Kozu smirked up at him and poked him with the cloth. “I want to. I want to do stuff like this. I want to, I promise” he looked up at him until mamoru nodded in understanding.

Sliding the shirt off, Kozu reached up and secured the bandage on Mamorus neck, adjusting it 3 different times until it wasn’t constricting his breathing.

“should I lick it first?” Kozu suggested, after finally getting the bandage on. “If its bleeding, it hasn’t Sealed. I mean its been 5 days”

Mamorus cheeks burned when he imagined Kozu leaning over and licking his neck. It was.. intimate and romantic and kinda sexual..

“I-I-if you think that would be helpful” Mamoru looked away, pushing his hand into his hair. “I-I mean its up to you, I don’t want to impose, im.. im not the alpha here its to you really if you want to. I can’t say for sure what ill-“

Kozu let out a soft chuckle and took Mamorus hand and pulled hmu to the couch. “sit. Pull your hair over. Its so damn long now” he messily pushed the strands away from the bandage, pulling off the freshly applied straps.

“I feel like I should be grossed out right now. Im about to essentially kiss your neck, with an open, bloody wound” Kozu said. “but im not.. its weird” he looked up at Mamoru, whose face was all red. “If its gunna gross you out, pretend im a girl trying to get in your pants or something” he said. “now that’s gross”

Before Mamoru had time to properly brace himself, the soft lips came down on his neck, enveloping Mamoru in almost a glow of happiness.

The feelings came from more than just that the one he loved was touching him. While that feeling sent shivers up his spine and gave him goosebumps, the warmth from the Mark was almost overwhelming. The late Aftercare, the Alpha contact, the intimate contact with the Mark as the go-between, it felt like something had clicked into place, like Mamoru could breathe again, like things were going to be okay.

Physically things didn’t feel like they changed, his neck felt wet, and his skin felt tingly. He looked down at Kozu as he pulled away, wiping his lips for saliva.

“How does that feel?”

Mamoru stared down blankly for a moment, unaware Kozu had spoken. He looked unbelievably attractive, and Mamoru couldn’t help but want to lean down and kiss him. He almost let out a moan when Kozu was on his neck. But that would only have worsened the situation.

“Ma?” Kozu poked his chest, making Mamoru blink and touch his neck. There wasn’t any blood, but now it was sticky. It didn’t feel gross though..

“Thanks” the body smiled and exhaled. “it.. it helped more than you know” he bit his lip.

With a smile Kozu brought the bandage around and secured it again, making sure it wasn’t hurting Mamoru.

“Is it okay that you’re not at home?” Mamoru asked after a moment. “Wont your parents be mad?”

“my parents? Neither of them are really home too often. Ryuus the one I’ve got to worry about. He’s like.. dead set on making sure I hate being an alpha” he said. “he’s taken my phone, he’s sabotaged my uniform, its annoying as all hell” he frowned “he’s upset that im an alpha now too. I told you he was the reason I couldn’t get to you in the hospital, right?”

Mamoru nodded, but the memory made him frown. “I hate Ryuu. I needed you so badly” he said. “It was so lonely, and I thought you..” his throat felt a bit tighter as he tried to speak. “I thought you didn’t want me. I thought I was being abandoned”

“What?! No, no way in hell!” Kozu sat up and turned to face Mamoru. “that’s not happening.” He gripped his shoulders. “im not abandoning you. I will never abandon you, I promise. I swear on my life, Ma, Mamoru, Morun. You are my Mate, you have my Mark. That means I will take care of you forever, until one of us dies” he hugged him tightly. “don’t ever think ill abandon you, ever again.”

Mamoru hugged back, and buried his nose into Kozus neck. He smelled warm, like the Zuzu he had known forever.

Kozus face shot red and he held Mamoru back a bit. “w-w-well someone’s bold!” he stammered. He wasn’t expecting Mamoru to go for the neck, Scenting like that was something more.. intimate. They may be Mates but they weren’t romantic at all! Mamoru was his best friend.. not his boyfriend.

Mamoru was a bit shocked at first but quickly realized the mistake. Kozu didn’t love him in that way. Mamoru knew that from the beginning, he just..

“Sorry” he sniffled. “sorry, im such a mess. I’ve been out of sorts since I woke up“ he said, moving so Kozu didn’t have to hold him back. “I wont do that again”

Since the beginning, Mamoru had been adept at reining in his urges and not letting Kozu catch onto his feelings. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but it was harder now. He wanted to be held by Kozu and hugged and touched and comforted, but that wasn’t what Kozu could handle. It wasn’t going to happen.

Mamoru would have to learn how to cope, to self soothe.

Pulling his knees to his chest, Mamoru handed Kozu the TV remote. He doubted the boy wanted to sit in silence.

Tossing the remote onto the floor Kozu sighed. “I told you already!” he frowned. “I came here for you, not for food or TV. You were crying on the phone, why. Tell me why, right now” he wrapped his arms around Mamorus shoulders, pulling his head to his chest.

The 14 year old chest wasn’t exactly a tempurpedic, but it was exactly where Mamoru wanted to be. Releasing the hold on his knees he wrapped his arms around Kozus waist. His hair was stroked and he looked up at his Alpha.

“I just.. I had a nightmare. From when I was in the hospital” he said. “that.. and not seeing you.. I just.. I missed you so much Zuzu” he hugged him tightly, squeezing the air from the younger boy’s body. “I was so scared. I don’t want you to hate me or leave me or regret me-“

“Morun” Kozu whispered, and rubbed Mamorus back. “So, what was it, were you actually in the hospital?” he asked, “was Takeshi there” his voice flattened. He hated Takeshi.

Mamoru nodded then shook his head. “No one was there. It was just me. For days. It felt like years. No one was there, I was all alone”

“were there monsters? Or something to be afraid of?” he asked, keeping the touch on Mamorus back constant.

“No” The boy shook his head. “nothing happened. There weren’t any monsters”

“Then you have nothing to worry bout” Kozu said. “you just wait to wake up. Nothings going to hurt you. You’ll be fine”

Mamoru was hesitant to agree. Kozu didn’t understand. He didn’t know how it felt.

“The Marks changed things” Mamoru whispered. He didn’t know how to make Kozu understand. “Its changed a lot, its connected us” he looked up at Kozu. “now… the thought of you abandoning me is more painful than.. if I cut off a limb” he said. “And you didn’t show up, for three days. That’s three days of physical pain and anxiety and the never ending fear that everything had gone wrong!” he gripped Kozus arms, trying to keep his composure. Just talking about it was making his throat tighten up.

“its worse than being suffocated by an Alpha growl. Its worse than waiting for exam results. It feels like im waiting for an executioner!” Mamorus voice got louder as his throat tightened. Kozu didn’t get it! He would never understand! He did this! and he would never understand!

“There may not be monsters or scary things in the nightmare, but I had to relive that fear and pain for what felt like DAYS. Weeks even!” he let go of Kozus arms and stood up, his legs shaky. “you weren’t there! You Marked me, and you didn’t come for me” Mamoru sniffled. “and when you did.. you didn’t stay. You left me” he looked at Kozu, and felt a wave of guilt wash over him.

Since when did he become to whiney. He was being too possessive. He was expecting too much from Kozu. He was pushing his insecurities onto his best friend. Kozu had always been a bit flighty. Suddenly Presenting as an Alpha wouldn’t change that instantaneously. Of course, he would be too shy to come by or feel awkward or something. That’s why everyone thought he would ben a beta or omega.

Mamoru was confusing his romantic feelings with the feelings from the Mark. He couldn’t expect Kozu to make everything better, or want to hold him close or want to kiss him. But.. he kinda did expect that.

“Years of planning what to do after I marked You..” he trailed off. “S-sorry. I put unrealistic expectations on.. you..” he frowned. Everything inside of him felt like it was a mess. He wanted to curl into a ball and cry.

“Ma,” Kozu stood up and moved towards him.

“Don’t!” Mamoru stepped back. “Don’t touch me. Ill just.. ill cope”

Kozu let out a small growl and grabbed Mamorus wrist, careful of the burn on his palm. “just stop this.. sacrificial crap. You’re not doing this alone you know, im here too!”

“But you don’t know-“

“there’s a lot I don’t know! but that doesn’t mean im never going to know it! and that doesn’t mean you can’t tell me. You were prepared for all this, so don’t just run away and take all the secrets with you” Kozu scowled. “you can’t leave me here by myself either!”

Mamoru looked down at Kozu and sniffled.

“if I knew you would have a nightmare from me not going to see you I would have chewed through my arm to escape Ryuu and come see you. I didn’t even know where you were. They didn’t tell me anything!”

Looking up at Mamoru, Kozu sighed at the red puffy eyes. “What can I do right now, in this moment, to make you feel better?” he asked. “and what can I do in the future? Come on boy-wonder, share your secrets”

Mamoru bit his lip. He wanted to say something but Kozu would shoot it down. He should shoot it down. It was dangerous. It would get them in trouble. But..

“Sleep with me”

It took a few seconds to sink in before Mamorus head exploded. “I meant like actual sleep, in a bed or couch or something. Nothing.. not THAT kind of sleep together” he tried pulling away to go hide his face in a corner and die of embarrassment.

Kozu held onto his wrists and nodded” Alright” he smirked and hook his head. “So, bed or couch”

Mamoru looked down at Kozu and paused. “What?”

“I said sure, lets go to bed. If that’s what will make you feel better, its not like we haven’t slept in the same bed before.” He said. And if you have another nightmare I can be there to reassure you when you wake up” he let go of Mamorus wrists and waited for him to decide.

“b-bed” Mamoru said and headed towards the stairs. He turned around before they ascended. “A-are you sure its okay?” he asked.

Kozu pushed mamoru so he started up the stairs. “yes! Its fine!” he laughed. “im your alpha and I say its fine. Trust me for once”

Mamoru wiped his nose. “last time I trusted you..” he let out a snicker. “I ended up in the lake”

“Well now you’ll end up in bed” he went and turned off the bedroom light, making his way slowly back to the bed.

Mamoru crawled into the sheets and felt the bed dip as his alpha crawled in.

“Ma? Come here” Kozu wrapped his arms around Mamorus shoulders. “im sorry. I should have gotten to you sooner. I haven’t been a very good Alpha but im going to get better. Ill be the best, strongest Alpha. As long as im a higher rank than Ryuu I can protect you from him” he said. “he’s evil incarnate and you’re… you’re an angel” he tightened his hug. “So help me, lets do this together okay?”

Mamoru didn’t answer for a moment, and Kozu assumed he had gone to sleep already, until he piped up. “next time answer your phone”

~

The nightmares didn’t stop, and occurred on almost a nightly basis. It was clear after 6 weeks of Kozu making midnight trips to the hanasaki household that things needed to change, and they did. An apartment was made available in a nearby building for the two of them to live in. Well, ‘made available’ but the apartment had been set aside for Ryuu when he found a Mate. For the time being it was given to Kozu and Mamoru.

The two shared a bed in order to keep Mamorus nightmares under control. Takeshi Izumi, a doctor, brought to light the Aftercare dilemma, suggesting that as the cause.

“I offered to help you until Kozu came for you” the young doctor sighed. “it could have prevented this.”

“You couldn’t promise me that it would affect my bond with Kozu” Mamoru responded. “I wasn’t exactly making decisions with a clear head either” he frowned. “I was scared and panicked”

“Touch my Mate again and ill rip your arm off” Kozu growled, standing in between the doctor and Mamoru. He wouldn’t forget what the medical bastard did.

Armed with information, the two tried ways of stopping the nightmares, from voice recordings of Kozu played on repeat into Mamorus headphones, to working on their skinship, to sleeping with their wrists tied together, anything to tell mamoru that Kozu was right next to him, and stop the nightmares.

None of it worked.

Night after night, Mamoru would sit up in bed, drenched in a cold sweat, on the verge of tears. Kozu would sit up next to him, rub his back a bit, try and reassure him everything was okay, and lull him back to sleep.

As they aged, Kozus involvement lessened. With the addition of Misono to their pack, the three of them moved to a larger apartment and Mamoru slept in his own bed.

The nightmares continued, and it was Mamorus turn to make the nightly pilgrimage to Kozus bed post-nightmare.

The blonde would creep down the hall, still in the process of waking up, and stand in the doorway. “Kozu? Are you there?” the boy would whimper, his body shaking.

He would wait for a sound of confirmation, be it Kozus voice, or the sound of him moving in bed, before heading to the bed and crawling in. Kozu would rub his chest, rub his arm, comfort him like before until he could breathe and fall asleep.

He was grateful to the Alpha for putting up with his nightmares for this long, and he tried reining in the neediness a bit, he didn’t want to bug him more than he had to.

Kozu seemed to share the sentiment as they got older, becoming increasingly frustrated and agitated by the nightmares and the routine they needed. They even sparked an argument once or twice.

“For Christ’s sake mamoru! Why does this have to be every night! I just fell asleep! Cant you handle it one night by yourself!” the alpha scowled as he was woken up by the blonde again, at 3am. It was like clockwork! Every night at 3am.

“Can’t you just. set an alarm at 2 and stay awake until 3 or something? Try and skip it if its on such a schedule!”

The outburst had shocked Mamoru, and for a few days at least he tried to handle it on his own. He tried not sleeping, he tried ‘skipping’ it like Kozu had suggested. When those didn’t work and he woke up feeling like he couldn’t breathe again, he forced himself away from Kozus room and sat on the balcony for a few hours, trying to force air into his chest. It was painful. It had been a while since he had to deal with his nightmare on his own; Almost 3 years. It didn’t help that Kozu was pissed at him.

After a week of self-management, Kozu joined Mamoru on the balcony at 4am.

He brought hot chocolate.

“Have they gotten better over the past few years at all?”

Mamoru shook his head, sipping the liquid. “I don’t even know I’ve woken up for like 5 minutes” he said. It was why his bed was pressed against the wall. Hospital beds weren’t against the wall. It would serve as a remainder of some sorts that he wasn’t in the hospital.

“I didn’t say avoid me when they happen. I was tired and stressed. I didn’t mean it Morun”

Mamoru let out a soft smile, more or less forcing it. “its okay if you meant it. I’ve been relying on you too much to help me get through them. Maybe if I handled the on my own they’d get better, or id get used to them-“

“Worst idea ever” Kozu interrupted, stopping that train of thought immediately. “you want to try and ‘get used to’ that level of fear?” he frowned. “don’t be stupid. I never want you to feel like being scared is normal. Its abnormal, and it is dealt with by both of us.” He moved closer to Mamoru and wrapped his arm around his shoulder, rubbing his back.

“im not going anywhere. Im not abandoning you. Im not pushing you away.” He reassured, lifting Mamorus hair to see his Mark, the raised teeth marks labelling Mamoru as his.

Mamoru was done crying, but that didn’t stop him from sniffling and trying to hide his emotions in the beverage. He leaned onto Kozus side and tilted his neck to let Kozu see.

“How did you know I was out here?”

“the bed was never messy on your side of the bed” Kozu said. “even when you wake up earlier, you never make the bed before you go.” He said. “Morun”

Even after the resolution, Mamoru was hesitant about beelining it for Kozus room. He would wait, sometimes an hour, before crawling between the sheets. He tried hot showers, he tried browsing Facebook, he tried watching tv. He even tried masturbating, but nothing could calm him down enough, even when he was surrounded by his and Kozus things. He could be wearing Kozu jacket and looking at a picture of him, but it didn’t hold a candle to the instant relief that cuddling up to Kozu gave him. The Touch, the contact, the physical aspect of holding him and claiming him banished the residual nightmare, and made the air breathable again.

But after the fight, Mamoru couldn’t go back to feeling as comfortable asking for help as he had been. A part in the back of his mind told him that Kozu was only acting like he was okay with it, that it was still driving him insane. Kozu would try and take Mamorus feelings into consideration, surely, and telling him that it was a momentary lapse of frustration would be a face saver. That didn’t stop Mamoru from feeling self-conscious about his clinginess.

He used to be so open about how much help he needed. He would need help with high shelves, or a recipe, or lifting things even, he would happily call on Kozu. He would rely on him for a lot of things. But things changed. And mamoru stopped asking for help. Kozu stopped offering as well.

Mamoru had his duties he performed, Kozu had his. That’s how things should be. Mamoru couldn’t expect others to rescue him every time. Even if he did crawl into Kozus bed still on a nightly basis, he didn’t wake him up. Maybe once every two weeks he would purposefully wake Kozu, but the rest of the time he watched him sleep. He deserved sleep. He deserved a lot more.

“Kozu?” Mamoru stood in the doorway, one hand rubbing his chest, the other holding the door.

There wasn’t a reply from the bed, but Mamoru walked in anyways. He closed the door behind him, blocking out any light that would wake Kozu. He walked over to the bed, and slid under the covers. He faced away from Kozu, and stayed by the edge.

He took a deep breath and felt his breath shudder. He had to keep quiet.

He let out a surprised gasp when he felt arms from the left side of the bed pulling him backwards towards the middle of the bed.

“Ma” a sleepy Kozu murmured. “Nightmare?”

Mamoru nodded.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Mamoru wanted to say yes. He wanted those familiar words, that reassurance, that comfort and Touch and he wanted to ask for help again, but before he could answer Kozu was already snoring.

Rolling over Mamoru got really close, wrapping his arms around Kozus torso and burying his face in his chest. “yes, I do want to talk about it” he whispered, almost mouthing it.

But Kozu wouldn’t hear it.

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