Review by Nora Jemison
A Need for Shelter
Series/Genre: Kizuna (Kodaka Kazuma)
First things first: I had some problems with this story. There are a few grammatical flaws, a few misused or misspelled words (for example: "sooth" instead of "soothe"), and quite a few instances of awkward or stilted use of language. Most of all, the author still needs to work on her exposition. "Show, don't tell," is the golden rule of good writing, and there's a bit too much "telling" in parts of "A Need for Shelter." While the peek into Kai's thoughts was interesting for the most part, at times the internal monologue ran way too long and explained things that were not only obvious to the reader, but unnecessary to the story.
Now, with that out of the way...
"A Need For Shelter" is based on Kazuma Kodaka's "Kizuna," the BeXBoy Gold serial that focuses on a pair of long-term live-in lovers and the people around them. Two of these surrounding characters are Sagano Kai, younger brother of one of the lovers, and Araki Masanori, the high-ranking yakuza who works for the Sagano syndicate and also happens to be Kai's unofficial guardian. There's a lot of growing-but-as-yet Unresolved Sexual Tension between Kai and the much older Masa. Masa practically raised Kai, but there has always been a dual relationship between the pair: the surrogate-father/son connection, and the more subtle romantic undercurrent, which has been present since Kai's childhood. Fans of the Kizuna series have been waiting for Kai and Masa to get together, despite the very real probability that it will never happen in the series itself. This is where "Shelter" comes in.
The author keeps the feel of a typical Kizuna story arc by mimicking Kodaka's plot development, pacing, and scene-switching throughout the story, right down to the coda in which Ranmaru and Enjoji, the main couple of the series, make a comic cameo appearance. It starts with a scenario straight out of the series itself: Kai's bored and lonely, and once again on the verge of tormenting his father's yakuza underlings for fun. Fortunately for the underlings, however, Masa arrives with a timely suggestion---a trip to a hot springs resort outside of Kyoto.
With some persuasion, Kai agrees to take this uncharacteristically quiet vacation. Between his settling-in at the spa and Masa's arrival there to check up on him several days later, Kai's loneliness is temporarily relieved by a liaison with the lovely Subaru, a young masseuse with an unexpected connection to Masa's past. It is in part thanks to this that Kai is ready, by the time Masa arrives, to breach the barriers of propriety that have always kept their relationship chaste.
One of the things that makes "Shelter" stand out is this sort of well-established plausibility. Kai and Masa are completely in character, and the series of events that the author introduces to get them into a sexual situation isn't at all contrived because it works with their little personality quirks. The author changes canon just a bit by altering Kai's established longing for Ranmaru. In "Shelter," Kai finally begins to get over the infatuation that's plagued him for four books of the series, and the resulting rebound-loneliness makes him more willing to get involved with Subaru---which in turn makes him more willing to risk making a play for the man he really wants.
The erotic scenes between Kai and Subaru and then Kai and Masa are distinctly different in tone, again strongly in keeping with the characterizations established by the series. The easy mistake to make, in a Kai-Masa consummation story, would be to depict Kai as nothing more than a stereotypical uke to the older, more experienced Masa. Instead, we see the dual sides of Kai's personality with each lover. He's the aggressive, ruthless yakuza-boy with Subaru, but the Kai who daringly propositions Masa is still the more vulnerable and sensitive man-child that only Masa, of the whole Kizuna cast, has ever seen. The author also delves a bit further into this vulnerability by touching on the lingering consequences of Kai's rape in an earlier chapter of the series.
Subaru, the lone original character in this story, is the real treat in "Shelter." Like the onsen itself, his sole purpose in the story seems to be to provide Kai with the necessary spiritual (and physical) recharge he needs in order to finally get over Ranmaru and get ready for Masa, but he doesn't have the feel of a one-dimensional character.
There are interesting hints that he responds to Kai's loneliness because of some unrevealed loneliness of his own, and it's easy to see why Kai likes him: his unselfish giving, in their brief relationship, is a lesser version of the selfless love that Masa has always offered Kai.
It's a bit of a disappointment that Subaru fades out of the story rather than leaving with any kind of clear resolution, but I guess it can't be helped; he's a means to an end, after all. And the end of the story provides plenty of, er, satisfying resolution of the central plot issue.
So overall, the story is short, simple, and sweet. Is it PWP? Definitely. Everything that happens in this fanfic occurs for the sole purpose of getting Kai and Masa into bed. But unlike most PWP fanfiction, this story doesn't shortcut the all-important believability factor by rushing the reader to a quick, out-of-character resolution.
There is such a thing as good PWP, and "A Need For Shelter" probably qualifies as a good example.