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The Art of Intoxication

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The liquor burns on Kei's tongue. As tempted as he is to spit right back out, he swallows the repugnant mixture. Taking a deep breath does not go as well as planned- it feels as though the alcohol seared right through his throat and burned his trachea. He starts coughing violently.

"Ah, there, there, you're alright?" Kou asks, jumping to his feet, and slaps his back in a way he deems helpful but which to Kei feels as though someone were beating on his back repeatedly with a large hammer.

"It's fine, back off."he grouses, pushing him away until Kou retreats. He breaks out into coughing again. The burn was something he had not been prepared for, and the taste – never in his life had he swallowed anything so revolting, and that included that dreadful antibiotic his mother had given him when he was ten years old and had caught a bad case of the flu.

"How can people stand to drink this?" he voices his thoughts out loud, arching an eyebrow and Kou grins – a lopsided, friendly grin that irritates Kei on a subtle level. "Apparently, you get used to the taste." he says, shrugs, "Like, it's going to be much better in a while."

Kou takes another sip of sake, and immediately, his mouth contorts into a grimace. He shudders, swallowing it quickly. Kei smirks.

"Takes a longer while, it seems." he says smoothly.

"H-hey! At least I'm trying." Kou interjects, "Smart-ass."

"Idiot." Kei quips back.

"Nerd."

Kei scoffs. "At least I don't have to ask Izumi-san to spell out invasion for me" he says smugly.

Kou's face bursts into flames. "I told you not to bring that up!" he whines, "Oh god, Izumi-san..."

Kei tunes his ramblings out, mentally applauding himself for scoring right in the center of Kou's weakly constructed psyche.

He picks up the glass, and sways the crystal-clear liquid around in his hand.

 

When Kou had turned up at his door in the middle of the night with a dusty bottle of sake, two glasses and an excited glint in his eyes, Kei for a reason he could no longer justify had agreed to go with him. It had been a terrible decision in the end. They had almost gotten caught, since Kou was so anxious about the entire affair, he jumped about three feet in the air at every little sound and in the process managed to drop the bottle, which luckily, rolled away unharmed.

After waiting with baited breaths for another couple of minutes, and none of the others- speak, Tosaki- coming after them, they continued their journey, until they found an empty room that held a few chairs and a table. As it was a full moon night, Kou and him had carried the sparse furniture to the window to watch the lit-up night sky.

 

 

"Come on, another sip." Kou says, pointing at his glass that was still three-quarters of horrendous sake, "That was the deal, after all. And it's your turn to ask a question."

Kei perks up at the prospect of extracting yet another embarrassing truth from Kou. What he had initially believed the worst idea of the night had turned out into the most entertaining activity for the past year. For the past two years, if he's honest.

"Let's see." Kei says, thoughtfully, dragging out the moment purposefully. Kou's form twitches, and Kei doesn't miss the overly-cautious look his teammate throws him. His questions are sharp, quick, and painful, and Kou has to answer every single one of them.

That is the deal, after all.

"Did you ever have that kind of dream?"

Another fiery outburst. Kei wonders if he really is the virgin among them. But wait. Perhaps Kou – he never asked, it occurs to him. Not that he wanted to know, in any way.

"Yeah." Kou says, and looks as though he might want to drown himself in his glass, "My first one when I was thirteen, I-"

"No details." Kei cuts him off, abruptly and Kou issues a relieved sigh. As his teammate downs the whole glass instead off merely three sips, refilling it promptly, an odd kind of disappointment drapes itself over Kei. He asks himself if he actually wanted to know. He think he should relive a certain kind of disgust at the thought, at the mere idea of such thoughts, but it never comes.

"Your turn." he mumbles, his own thoughts confusing him.

Kou looks up. His skin glows, warm and smooth, in the moon-light filtering into the room. It lets his orange-hair assumes a more golden hue. As his lean fingers close around the glass, easily, and it is so simple to imagine he were someone else. Something uncoils in Kei's stomach.

Kou hesitates, seems oblivious to the confusion he bring about. Kei is extremely glad for this. If he had a sharper sense, it would bring about unnecessary complications.

"This question is probably going to be such a waste, but-" Kou sighs, and squints at Kei, who, with a little jerk of his head, frees himself from his musings.

"But I guess I'll ask it anyway."he concludes, and sighs extravagantly, knocking his head against the table.

"Perhaps you should lay off the alcohol, already." Kei says, with a snort, as he watches his team-mate's pitiful state.

Immediately, the other ajin pushes himself back up. "Nah, I'm good!" he declares, smile a little too wide, eyes a little too excited for this to be true, but Kei bites back any further inquiries. He'd been called a spoil-sport so often in his life that he had grown tired of it.

"So Nagai-" The right corner of Kou's mouth flips up in a poor imitation of a smirk, and Kei resists the urge to roll his eyes at him, "Did you ever kiss someone before?"

There is silence, for several, excruciating heartbeats- Kei counts his own in the time, his mouth growing dry at the question. Kou, taking his silence for an answer, gapes. "Shit, you did? Oh shit, seriously, Nagai?" The words fly out of his mouth like arrows, lined with occasional swears of disbelief.

"So I did, now what?" Kei fights back. He curls his arms around his chest, and wishes he'd lied.

Kou does not sound mocking in the least- if anything, he is brimming with enthusiasm. Taking another large gulp of his glass, he slams it down on the table..

"Tell me everything!" he pushes, prodding Kei's arms, "Nagai, I never knew! Damn, you're full of secrets. And you gotta tell me, I'm almost dying of tension here."

He bursts into an excited cackle at his ingenious pun, slapping his hand on the table.

"You've had enough." Kei declares, and pulls the glass away from him.

"No wait!" Kou whines, pitifully, "Just a tiiny bit more. Come on, don't be like that!"

Kei sighs, but the expectant look in Kei's eyes coupled with his unchanging smile weaken his resolve.

He pushes the glass back over the table, and Kou doesn't break his expectations by emptying it immediately.

"Your turn." he chuckles, smile brighter than the sun.

Kei nods. "Alright, but just for this question."

He brings the glass to his lips. And then, the door flies open.

"Shit." Kei swears under his breath, and swivels around to apprehend whoever it was that entered.

"Woah, shit." Kou agrees with him, cackling again. He glances at the door and waves animatedly. "What's up, Ogura-san."

Kei's primary relief at realizing it is not Tosaki or Izumi, is diminished a little at Ogura's appearance. He would have preferred Hirasawa. He knew Hirasawa would have definitely covered for them, despite perhaps not approving of it.

The scientist himself appears surprised, even if not greatly so, pocketing his cigarette-box, lighter held between index finger and thumb. His gaze is directed straight at the traitorous bottle of sake in the middle of the table.

"Isn't the legal drinking age here twenty?" he asks, sounding the slightest bit amused.

Kei doesn't answer to that.

"Yeah, sorta." Kou says, still grinning, "Sorry, man. Want a sip?"

"Nakano, shut the fuck up." Kei snaps at him, wishing that he had mastered enough control of his Ghost so that it could silence the nuisance with a hand.

But Ogura waves him off. "I won't tell if you don't." he says, shrugging, "No need to get on Tosaki's bad side for no reason, after all. He's enough of a headache on a good day."

Relief soars through Kei like a bird in flight. "Thank you, Ogura-san." he says, breathing out, "We owe you one."

"If you leave the bottle here, consider it a done deal. Okay?" Ogura comments, and Kei agrees to it without further thought. Being covered while the evidence was being taken care off was hitting two birds with one stone.

"Okaaay." Kou pipes up, cackling.

Ogura raises an eyebrow at Kei. "He's had a bit too much, huh?"

"Unfortunately." Kei says, gritting his teeth. He is not looking forward to their way back.

 

 

It turns out to be about as strenuous as he imagines. Kou, while thankfully not being too intoxicated to walk, hangs onto his shoulder like a delirious monkey. Kei has to shush him several times so he does not accidentally wake the entire team with his babbling. When he deposits Kou in his room, his teammate he sprawls out on top of his bed immediately with a content sigh.

"You're the best, Kei." he tells him happily, rolling on a side to clutch a pillow close to his chest, "never had such a great immortal friend like you."

"You've never had any other immortal friend to begin with." Kei reminds him, unfazed. He doesn't think that Kou even realized that he called him by his first name. It doesn't feel nearly as bad as it should, so he chooses not to comment on it.

He settles down in front of Kou's bed, deciding to wait until the other ajin falls asleep.

It shouldn't take long. He hopes it won't take long.

"You know, I thought of a good song." Kou grins, "Want to hear it?"

"I'd rather die." Kei replies honestly.

He should have known that any objection would be useless, as his teammate's grin merely widens.

"Okay, listen." he says, cackling, and props himself up on an elbow, so that they're eye to eye.

"Kei, Kei, you're great you're way, you're immortal, it's in your DNA!" he sings in a voice that is horribly off-tune, "I want you to stay...your way...and they say-"

Kou breaks off, and squints at him. "Waiiit, sorry. How does it go?"

"I'm good, thank you." Kei reminds him sourly, but Kou waves him off disinterestedly.

"Oh right." Whatever nonsense it was seems to have come back to his mind. He raises the volume of his voice, until he is nearly shouting: "I want you to staaaay-"

"Shhhh!" Kei snaps, rapidly pressing a hand over his mouth, and flinching in disgust when it becomes laced with Kou's spit.

"Do you want Tosaki to kill us?" he hisses.

Kou mumbles something back, and, carefully, Kei pulls back his hand and wipes it off on his teammate's blanket.

"Shut up, for God's sake. I'm not sorting documents again." he grumbles.

The last time had been enough of a disgrace.

To be fair, Tosaki had phrased it as though he was offering them a voluntary activity, but Kei was very much aware of that being not the case, coupled with the force of both the glare and that of the folders full of documents being thrown into their arms. The fact that this all happened right after Tosaki had caught them playinga game on Kou's laptop instead of going over the plans as they were supposed to might have been another indicator.

It had taken almost three hours, and that included the blasted half hour in which Kou had the ingenious idea of just summoning Kei's IBM to help and the rabid ghost had taken Tosaki's office apart.

"But I still have so many ideas!" Kou whines, "Like, even more songs, do you think Izumi -san will-"

Kei yanks the blanket out from underneath him, and with a startled yelp, Kou's flow of speech seizes. "Just shut up and go to sleep." he says, unnerved, throwing it back over him.

"Yeah, you're right." Kou mumbles, relaxing into his sheets and the new-found warmth, but bursting out into giggles the second he makes eye-contact with Kei.

Kei sighs. He wonders what misdeeds he already committed in his life to deserve this. (Unfortunately, quite a few come to his mind.)

"Hey, come closer a sec." Kou orders, groggily.

"Why?" Kei asks, suspiciously, but there's a strangely affectionate look in Kou's eyes, and his curiosity wins over.

He slides closer on the mattress.

"You look like Izumi-san, just a bit, you know?" Kou mumbles.

The odd comparison renders Kei at a loss for words. "I look like Izumi-san?" he questions, cautiously, staring at his teammate. Perhaps he'd misunderstood.

But Kou nods, his smile widening. "Just a bit." he whispers, as though sharing a secret, and Kei sees the faintest blush rise to his cheeks, "Izumi-san is really pretty."

"So I've heard." Kei retorts, but Kou is seemingly too inebriated to register his condescending tone.

"I'd really like to kiss Izumi-san" Kou muses, and Kei resists the urge to gag, because, no. Izumi-san could be his aunt.

"No thanks." he voices his response. Kou's eyes widen, round as saucers.

"But she's so pretty!" he says, indignantly. Kei shakes his head, pursing his lips.

"Ah, right." he hears the other Ajin speak up, his voice carrying a note of remembrance, "You kissed someone else, right?"

Kei hesitates. Kou smiling, expectantly, his hand reaching out and grasping Kei's. For some reason, Kei lets it happen.

"Right?" Kou repeats, "You can tell me."

Kei hesitates.

Kou's fingers brush over his hand. "Aren't we friends?" the Ajin urges, and the look he throws Kei holds a flicker of betrayal.

"Alright, fine." Kei grumbles, realizing that the matter is not worth all his considerations. It's not likely Kou will remember most of the night, let alone details of their conversation, when he wakes up tomorrow morning, "I'll tell you."

Kou looks exhilarated at the idea. Though, if Kei is honest, he did look like this for most of the night.

"I kissed Kaito." Kei mumbles. It's quick, sharp, and painless, not at all what he imagined it would be like, when the two syllables that hold his entire childhood leave his lips.

"Oh." Kou says. Not more, not less. He inclines his head curiously. "Was it nice?" he asks, excitement sparkling in his voice.

Kei doesn't answer immediately. He remembers that day and everything about it, being alone with Kaito in the forest, ignoring his mother's phone call (he did call her back later, like the good kid he was), Kaito's hand brushing over his face, Kei's heart drumming so heavily he was afraid it would burst right out of his throat.

Kaito's gentle smile, and how his calloused hands turned Kei's face so he would have a better angle.

When he did: Kissed him, so desperately, that Kei had held his breath for a moment. Kaito had apologized after, Kei telling him that there was no need, that it was fine- he was certain his face had been aflame all the way.

Kaito hadn't deepened the kiss. He had stroked across his face a last time, then helped him up and had taken him home on the back of his motorcycle – letting Kei out a road early, lest his mother took any notice of the "bad influence" that was imprinting itself on her son.

"It was nice, yes." he forces himself to say. It's sudden, it takes him a moment to categorize the feeling correctly. He hadn't ever as much as felt homesick since he started to stay with Kou and the others, perhaps once, but the feeling had been fleeting.

What he's experiencing right now is a melancholic sort of pain, a fist closing in on his heart and twisting it a certain way. He misses Kaito, he realizes.

He misses Kaito a lot, and there is nothing he can do about it.

"Are you in love?" Kou asks, as though he read his thoughts his eyes lighting up at the prospect.

"I'm not." Kei says, promptly, pushing the question away before it can properly consider it, because that is something he simply cannot allow, "Now shut up and go to sleep."

"No, no, noo. Wait." Kou slurrs, "Come here."

Kei sighs, and then bends right over him, closer, until only a few inches separate them.

He frowns. Even Kou's breath reeks of the sake they consumed.

"You should brush your teeth." he deadpans.

"Later." Kou says, and breaks into giggles again. "Keiiii?" he lilts.

"What." Kei groans, "One more question, and then I'm going to bed."

He says this for Kou's sake as much as for his own. If he doesn't move to his room soon, he fears the tiredness will overtake him and he will fall asleep right here, right next to his teammate.

And that- Kei does not want to finish that train of thought. None of the others would let them live it down.

"If you're not in love...you can kiss me, right?" Kou's expression carries a shimmer of hopefulness.

The words need some time to register in Kei's brain.

"I can- wait, no. No, I can't do that." he says, tripping over the words as they come.

He wonders just how much they alcohol had gotten to his teammate.

Does he realize who he is speaking too? Why would he ask such a thing? Did he…did he want to kiss him before this situation? The latter is a thought Kei does not want to elaborate on.

"I can't kiss you." Kei repeats, with a little shake of his head.

"Why not?" Kou asks. The slight pout he gives annoys Kei, but what's worse is the incredible sadness in the other's eyes.

"Can't you pretend to be Izumi-san?" Kou whispers, and Kei tenses up.

So that's what this is about. He should've realized sooner.

"You, ugh-" - another sake-scented breath hits his lips - "You want me to pretend to be Izumi-san?"

"Yes." Kou whispers, sad and hopeful all the same. His fingers trace patterns on Kei's hand.

"I won't tell Izumi-san. It's our-" he raises his other, unoccupied hand and tries to press a finger to Kei's lips in the universal gesture for being silent, or, Kei's preferred description, shutting the fuck up.

The next onslaught of giggles however makes his hand sway precariously and his hands lands on Kei's cheek instead.

"Almost." Kei comments, blankly, as Kou proceeds to press his finger there instead.

"Sssecret." Kou whispers conspiratorially.

"Like the whole immortality thing, huh?" Kei mumbles.

Kou gasps out loud.

"Ow!" Kei snaps at him when said finger digs itself painfully into his cheek.

"Ssssh!" his teammate whispers frantically, "No-one can know!" He glances around as if to make sure they're alone in the room. It grates on every last one of Kei's nerve that the other hasn't irritated yet.

"Everyone already does!" Kei snaps back, fed up with his drunk antics.

Even with their faces within a ridiculously intimate proximity, they glare at each other.

"But how?" Kou's tone is bordering on desperation again, "How...Kei...they can't know- they can't!"

His eyes are swimming dangerously.

Kei can't believe this.

"They don't, they don't, I was joking." he says quickly, lying through his teeth, "Now relax."

He pats his orange hair absentmindedly, and Kou happily leans into his palm, quite like a satisfied cat. Satisfied puppy, Kei corrects himself. Kou gets about as loyal and dumb as dogs come.

"Will you still be like Izumi-san?" the other teenager whispers. He's still holding onto Kei's hand, and squeezing it a little.

"Yes, whatever, sure." Kei is quick to agree. Kou had gone through more mood swings in the past couple of minutes than Eriko had in the last year. He isn't eager to draw the situation out any longer.

And Kou looks so genuinely happy at his agreement, that Kei doesn't regret his decision. At least, he tells himself that.

He closes his eyes. It's a gesture of sincerity, something he believes Izumi would do, if she were to kiss anyone. Which by itself is hard to imagine. Unless you were to believe Ogura, who had betted with Manabe on whether or not Tosaki and Izumi had something going on. So far- to Kei's great relief- they had not yet been able to determine the winner.

Then, he feels someone's mouth meet his own. Kou's lips are soft, not at all like what he imagined. The kiss is shy and hesitant, which makes him wonder if Kou had ever….he pushes the thought aside.

Kou had certainly kissed several people in his lifetime. Adding himself to the list would probably not even make a difference.

When the kiss grows more demanding from Kou's side, Kei parts his lips, slightly. Kou's tongue enters his mouth and Kei doesn't put up resistance as he lets him explore to his liking.

Kou curses under his breath. The electric sensation multiplied tenfold when he feels the other teenager slip his hand below Kei's shirt, starting to caress his back.

"God, yes." Kou moans, and Kei, through the haze that has built up in his mind, stars dancing in front of his vision in the darkness his closed eyes project, prepares to hear Izumi's name.

"Fuck, Kei." Kou whispers.

Kei stiffens, and opens his eyes. And then pushes his teammate away, hard.

It's enough to knock the other on the mattress. Kou lands with a soft "ow" and blinks up at him in vulnerable confusion.

"What did you say?" Kei questions, with an audible tremble in his voice. His heartbeat has picked up again. It's drumming so rapidly that he feels he might be sick and it would have nothing to do with the alcohol at ll.

"I don't know?" Kou says, wrinkling his forehead in confusion, "I...said something, right?"

But Kei remains silent, staring at a spot on the wall and decidedly not at Kou. He can not look at him. He feels as though the shame might eat him alive if he does.

"I don't know!" he hears his teammate speak, confusion wrecking his tone, "Did I do something wrong?"

Kei bites his lip. "No, you didn't." he answers, and he means what he says. Kou wasn't the one who did anything wrong. Kei, he is the one who is messed up on the inside. He has never heard of another person who complains when it is their name being called. Perhaps someone else's name, but theirs? He should feel exhilarated. Not guilty, the way he does, as though he is betraying someone who is miles and miles away.

Kou appears to have nothing nearly as negative on his mind. Kei almost envies him for that.

"Hey, did you know that turtles can get reaaally old?" he states enthusiastically, having obviously forgotten the previous tension.

"Can they?" Kei says. He forces himself to meet the other's eyes, and they light up promptly when he is acknowledged.

Before, looking at Kou was only accompanied by a mildly bothersome mix between annoyance and affection. Right now, his face brings memories of open-mouthed kisses, of gentle fingers on Kei's spine, and his name said in a whisper of desire.

"I'm going to bed." he says decisively, getting up as fast as he can so he does not have to ponder his actions any longer.

"Already?" Kou complains, with a pout, but when Kei nods, he only sighs a little before curling in on himself.

"Good night, Kei!" he slurs happily, "Sweet dreams...dream of me..." The corners of his lips tilt up in a lopsided smile as his eyelashes flutter shut.

Within a minute, which he spends standing in Kei's room, focusing on the chair right next to his bed that holds a mountain of clothes, his teammate's breaths become even.

Kei steps backwards carefully, over Kou's shoulder bag that he has carelessly deposited right in the middle of the room- and tripped over himself, like the idiot he was, in Kei's presence – and slinks right out of the room.

 

 

His mind is on overdrive. The scene keeps replaying in his head, an endless loop. He finds himself looking out at the dark corridor in front of him, which is absolutely silent except for the radiator quietly humming in the back of Kou's room.

"Fuck, Kei." Kou whispers, in the moment where he was supposed to whisper someone else's name, but he didn't, and now Kei wants to hide.

"Good evening, Nagai." A voice interrupts his thoughts, and for the first time in a long while, Kei is infinitely relieved to see Tosaki rounding the corner. Their team leader is dressed in nightwear himself and it's a rare sight, to see the usual proper suit replaced by a loose grey shirt and trousers. He comes to a halt in front of him, scrutinizing him with a gaze that betrays no emotion except a vague interest.

"Evening." he mumbles, acknowledging him with a nod of his head. He sighs, leaning his head against Kou's closed door and hoping that whatever Tosaki needs from him – he looks like he does, Kei knows him well enough – is something he can deal with quickly.

It's late after all – past 3 am, as a glance to his mobile screen tells him.

Kei's heart stops in his chest. Shit.

Chapter Text

"I…I couldn't...sleep." he says lamely, risking a glance at Tosaki and sure enough, that is a glare he is fixing Kei with.

"Is that so?" Tosaki asks, coolly. He does not look impressed. Kei already sees his morning break fade away in the distance.

"Yeah, it was very difficult." Kei lies, starting to dread the events of entire evening. Why on earth had he accepted Nakano's invitation? He should have stayed in bed and read up on one of the articles Professor Ogura sent him. Even watching one of Nakano's stupid movie recommendations would have been better than this.

"And visiting Nakano helped?" the man questions, "I assume?" Kei can't tell for sure if he is mocking him or not. That's commonly the case with their team leader. He lives for sarcasm. It's the only hobby they share

"I was-" Kei hesitates for a split second, "Being social." It's the truth, actually – it was the only reason he had agreed to spend time with the other in such a manner, and as he had already expected, it had been a complete waste of his time.

"How wonderful, Nagai." Tosaki replies, in a tone that indicates the exact opposite, "Although I'd prefer if you were social during the day."

Kei nods. "Yes." he answers,"It was a bad idea anyway."

The bitterness in his tone has perked Tosaki's interest, that much is certain. He throws Kei an inquiring gaze, but does not ask further questions.

Tosaki sighs. "Go to bed." he tells him bluntly, " I won't have you jeopardizing our training schedule."

"Okay." Kei says with a little surprise, feeling himself relax. That situation had been resolved far more quicker than he had expected.

Tosaki raises an eyebrow. "Now." he adds, and this time it's closer to a command.

Kei turns around so that he doesn't see his eye-roll, and quickly makes his way to his room.

He can almost feel his team leaders sharp stare in his back as he goes. Only once he is in his room, and has closed the door behind himself, he hears Tosaki's steps pick up again and then slowly fade away.

His bed is a comfortable relief after all the alcohol, tension and near-heart-attacks, and Kei sighs quietly as he wraps himself in his blanket. He doesn't allow himself to think of Nakano.

The other side of Nakano that he had discovered this evening- not the one he thought he knew, loaded with ridiculous antics and over-energetic declarations paired with a general air of stupidity.

No. He can't think of this now. Kei resists the urge to draw his pillow over his head.

This never happened. The kiss. It didn't happen.

He didn't kiss a boy, Kei repeats in his hand, again and again, he did not kiss a boy. It turns out to be the most counterproductive thing he has done in a while, as – the more often he repeats them, the more his thoughts continue drifting to the very topic he is trying to prevent them from considering. And then he arrives at kissing boys, which ultimately leads to Nakano. It's useless – he ends up yet again in the same miserable, nerve-wracking state where he recalls how gentle Nakano's lips were, a thought he is not supposed to have.

And how a gentle, shy kiss had turned into something that was far more intense and far more dangerous than its original purpose.

Restlessly, he rolls over to the other side. They were drunk and he knows this. A drunk kiss, especially one that was initiated with the sole purpose of letting Nakano pretend to kiss the woman of his dreams, could never mean anything serious. Kei knows this. And still, he can't help but feel guilty. After all, he agreed to the kiss- after all, he didn't pull away, because for some reason, it didn't feel nearly as disgusting as it should. Quite the opposite- Kei flinches at the thought.

Forget about it, he repeats in his mind, forgetaboutitforgetaboutforgetaboutit.

He can't forget about it. He hadn't known what all the fuss had been about- until it happened with Kaito, and now, it had even happened with Nakano. He wasn't even interested in sex or anything like it- he had never been. He shouldn't have been feeling anything.

So why does he keep replaying the scenario in his head? Perhaps, he likes to torture himself, Kei thinks glumly, entertaining the thought for the nth time, the one where he never pushes Nakano away and things spiral out of control from there. Where Nakano's grip on him becomes firmer, and Kei's legs a little weaker. Where the redhead pushes him downwards, and where Kei lets him- where Nakano's warm, sake-scented breath ghosts across his face and he kisses him, biting at his lip.

Shit. Wide awake, Kei suddenly realizes he has another problem.

 

 

 

"Go away."

There is a swish and then the room lights up even beyond his closed eyelids.

"It's past nine, Nagai. You're supposed to have started with training by now."

Kei mumbles something incoherent, and ignores Tosaki's merciless assault, fumbling for his blanket to pull it over his head.

Their team-leaderhas entered his room a minute ago, preceded by to some impatient knocking and demands for him to get up, all of which he had successfully ignored.

He didn't expected Tosaki to be this determined, though, but apparently, he continues on his mission to make his life a misery.

"Oh no, you don't." The blanket gets yanked out of his hands efficiently, and Kei resigns, blinking his eyes open. Tosaki's unnerved expression is the first thing to greet the new day.

"Get up."

Kei groans. "I'm tired." he mumbles, burying further into his pillow, "Let me sleep."

Tosaki scoffs. "I'm certain Satou doesn't sleep. Satou is wide awake, training and planning, Nagai, exactly what you should be doing."

"You can do the planning. Nakano and Hirasawa's men can do the training." Kei mumbles, without much thought to his words. With a sigh, he rolls onto his side and forces himself to open his eyes yet again. The initial brightness is painful and blinding, but his eyes accommodate within a few seconds.

Tosaki scoffs. "Breakfast is waiting downstairs." he adds as though that will prove any motivation for Kei who is rarely hungry in the mornings.

"Thank you." Kei says regardless.

Tosaki shakes his head. "Hirasawa cooked." he informs him, "And you can thank him in person. Once you get up, which I hope will happen within the next five minutes for your own good."

Kei groans once more.

"Just how long were you two awake?" Tosaki wonders aloud. He paces back towards the door, throwing an appraising gaze through Kei's room as he goes, but as though one would except, it's immaculately clean.

"We?" Kei questions, stretching slightly. As usual, once he has woken up, it doesn't take long for him to become fully functioning. The initial wave of drowsiness passing, he finds himself recalling what had transpired last night. An uneasy sensation twists his guts. Wait, had there not been something about a -

"Yes, you and Nakano." Tosaki grumbles. "He was even less articulate than you when I tried to wake him."

Alarmed, Kei sits up straight.

"I see that got your attention." Tosaki mocks, "Well, just hurry up-"

"I can wake him." Kei blurts out, and rises to his feet instinctively, feeling his heart pounding up his throat, "I'll do it."

Tosaki looks as though he is ready to object, but Kei barely pays him any attention, passing through his room in a flash. The hallway is dimly lit as always courtesy to the lack of windows in the hideout, a welcome change for his still-sore eyes. And it's silent, except for the stream of voices from downstairs, the sound of a door opening and clicking shut right after. Tosaki's right, the others are wide awake, going about their daily lives at the hideout. Him and Kou are the ones standing out.

So much for not acting suspicious, Kei thinks, cursing internally.

He jogs the short distance to his teammate's room, and rips the door open, praying, if not for a miracle, at least for a chance to avoid the worst possible outcome.

"Nakano?" he calls out, repeating the name several times for good measure.

He receives a strangled groan in response, akin to a dying seal.

At last, a sign of life, Kei notes sarcastically. The curtains have been opened, doubtlessly by Tosaki. Nakano's room is as messy as it had been when Kei had left it the night before, however there is no actual sign of his teammate on the bed- just a stacked mountain of blankets which are raised by a suspiciously humanoid shape underneath them.

Kei sighs. "Move it, you're late!" he snaps, pushing away his own nagging thoughts accusing him of being a hypocrite.

"Tosaki's about to skewer us, for your information." he adds.

The mountain shifts to the side, and gives another noise. It sounds more like a whimper this time- quiet and a little pained. His heartbeat picking up again in unhappy anticipation of what might be to come, Kei pads closer to the bed.

"Come on." he tells him loudly, "Get up already."

Except for a slight shift, there is no reaction.

"Nakano."

Several whimpers. Kei would have almost felt pity for his teammate if the situation had been any different. Well no, he corrects himself mentally. He honestly cannot remember a single situation in which he had felt pity for Nakano, and he is quite satisfied with that record.

"Nakano, for fuck's sake!"

Kei feels his patience run thin. He grabs a corner of Nakano's blanket and lifts it.

"Now, come on-"

He pauses. "Are you okay?" he asks, hesitantly. His teammate appears to be in pain- he is curled in on himself, clutching at his stomach.

When Kei repeats the question, Nakano finally moves- moaning quietly, he turns his head towards him.

"Don't feel good." he winces, his fingers clenching together. A shiver runs through his lean frame.

The alarmed notion Kei had experienced before grows stronger.

"What's wrong?" Kei asks, fully aware of the answer already. And yet, he hopes the answer Nakano will provide him with will be a little different

Food poisoning, that would be a nice little story- a sudden hunger at 4 am that had made his teammate crawl down to the kitchen, and in the darkness of the room, not noticed that the canned food he had grabbed was months overdue.

Selfishly, but urgently, Kei hopes that it is food poisoning.

"The sakeee." Nakano whines pitifully, "I'm sooo sick, Keii." Large, desperate brown eyes fixate him.

Kei feels sweat bead down his neck.

"Sssh." he hisses, wrecking his mind for a plan B. "Okay, okay. Keep it inside." The mental image makes him shudder. "We'll get you to the bathroom. Fine?"

He doesn't wait for Nakano's answer. With Tosaki on the same floor, and the rest of the team assembled downstairs, they only have a limited amount of time to fix things.

"I can't get up." his teammate shakes his head slightly, flinching at the barest movement, "No, I'm gonna throw up, I can't." He gags. "Keiii, it's awful."

"Okay, okay- hold on." Kei forces himself to take a deep breath, scanning Nakano's room for a bucket or something similar that he can vomit into. But he finds nothing.

Nakano continues making noises of suffering as an unpleasant background noise does not help. Kei feels ready to strangle him. Why can't he pull himself together? Why did he have to overdo it last night? If he would stop making a drama out of it, or if he could have quietly gone to the bathroom before like a normal person- like Kei would have done, he is sure- then everything would have been fine. Now they're at risk at being caught over a ridiculous matter, and Kei loathes his teammate for it.

He won't be socializing again.

"Can you hold it in, please?" he requests, strongly emphasizing the words, "I will hurry up and get back with something."

"Hurryyy." Nakano whines, drawing up his blanket and pressing it against his stomach, "Please, hurry, I'm sick."

"What's going on here?" a sharp voice can be heard from the doorway.

Kei closes his eyes for a split second. They're done for.

"He's feeling sick." he tells Tosaki bluntly, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Acting like he has nothing to do with the situation will not help much, in the long run, he knows. After all, Tosaki did not get his position in the ministry for nothing. But it does help him make the transition from a peaceful day to a full fledged Nakano-Kou-issued hell a little easier.

Tosaki raises his eyebrows. "What's wrong, Nakano?" he demands, and Kei rolls his eyes when a further one of the most eloquent sounds he's ever heard travels from Nakano's lips.

"What's wrong?" Tosaki repeats, "Are you sick?"

"Yesss." Nakano whines in response, "I'm sorryyy."

Kei's fingers twitch. If it weren't for Tosaki, Nakano would have lived through his first rebirth in a few days in that very second.

"What are you sorry for?" Tosaki says irritated, not having caught on to the situation yet.

He turns on Kei. "Get a bucket or something."

"He can go to the bathroom." Kei replies poisonously, "It's his problem."

Tosaki raises his eyebrows, but before he can ask about the reason for Kei's animosity,

Nakano retches in the background.

"I'm gonna die." he whimpers and Kei wishes he would.

"Get a bucket, Nagai!" Tosaki thunders, now looking comically desperate.

Giving in to their miserable situation, Kei runs off. Luckily enough, he finds a large bowl in the closet in the bathroom holding cleaning supplies, and brings it to his teammate, who looks ill.

"Here." Tosaki rips the bowl out of his hands and places it on Nakano's bed, "Here, vomit into this one, you hear me?"

"Yeah." Nakano groans, "Yeah, I'm...I'm really sorry."

"Stop apologizing." Tosaki snaps, "Just get on with it."

Miserably, Nakano raises his eyes up at him. Kei can hear Tosaki's pride walking away when their team-leader sighs and sits down on the bed as well, awkwardly patting Nakano's back.

"Go on." he says, a little stiffly, "You'll feel better soon."

"I'm gonna dieee." the redhead sobs. He clutches the bowl and lowers his head, bleary eyes directed at the ground, stomach heaving.

"You're immortal." Tosaki reminds him sourly, "You won't die."

Unfortunately, Kei thinks bitterly, but doesn't voice the thought. He must have been glaring though, because Tosaki requests for him to leave the room and inform the others of the situation.

He does so, voluntarily, when Nakano begins throwing up the next second and the stench of vomit rises in the air.

Hirasawa and Izumi are at the dining table when he comes downstairs.

"Are you alright?" Hirasawa asks, chuckling a little, "Heard you were up pretty late." The mercenary seems good-natured as always, a trait Kei honestly admires.

But now, he avoids looking at him, and slinks down in his chair, where a plate with omelet and toast is already waiting.

"I suppose."

He hardly feels hungry after the scene upstairs, but he doesn't want to hurt Hirasawa's feelings, so he digs into his omelet, glad for an excuse to avoid further conversation.

"Tosaki-san is still upstairs." Izumi says, sipping at her coffee- unsweetened, black, just the way Tosaki also takes it, "I wonder what's taking him so long?"

A pad with notes is lying on her right hand side, and she adds a another point of what appears to do be a to-do-list. Kei could swear that one of them says: "Buy mint packs." The nerve of their team-leader.

"I wonder about that, too." Hirasawa says. Adjusting his glasses, he gets up and starts piling the dishwasher with plates.

Without this duo, Kei realizes, the house would probably end in deterioration. Tosaki thinks too highly of himself to contribute to any of the housework; Kuroki, Manabe and Suzumura are far more interested in in target practice than sweeping floors, Ogura locks himself away for his research or flees outside to smoke; Kou causes more messes than he can pick up and Kei- well. He likes to avoid it if he can. They brought him here for his brains after all, not for his ability to wash the dishes.

And since he is this smart, unlike someone else who blabbers apologies the second he feels the tiniest bit unwell, he keeps his mouth shut about the reason for Tosaki's absence. They'll find out soon enough, anyway. Kei plans to enjoy his omelet in peace for as long as he can.

"When you're done, come outside." Hirasawa smiles at him and pushes the dishwasher door shut. "Sit-ups, running laps, the full program. You're still in no shape to go up against Satou, I'm afraid."

"Thanks." Kei says dryly. Hirasawa laughs, slapping his back gently. "I'm just being honest."

"I'm sure that you can do some non-physical work in the afternoon." Izumi says, and Kei knows her long enough to notice the note of encouragement that has slipped into the blankness that is characteristic to her town. She is one of the few who understands, and shares his disliked for the sort of brawn training Kou shamelessly enjoys.

"I hope so." Kei mumbles. His coffee is sugary sweet, bitter flavor chased away by the generous amounts of milk that have been added to it. Kou once made a joke about Kei probably being a frequent customer at a certain American coffee chain, and Kei had glared at him without informing him that he was correct.

"Will Nakano-kun be joining us to?" Hirasawa checks his watch, "We're already quite late."

"I don't know." Kei shrugs.

At this moment, they hear steps on the stairs- determined, hard steps, that only confirm the worst of Kei's worries.

"Nagai." Tosaki barks, entering the room in a rush.

Hirasawa and Izumi simultaneously throw him a curious glance. Kei pretends not to notice, and instead locks eyes with Tosaki, who is glaring at him.

"Yes?" he questions, finishing the rest of his coffee. It might be the last sweet thing he'll get to enjoy for a while, he thinks glumly.

"Did you two drink?" Tosaki asks, voice terrifyingly calm, "Alcohol?"

Izumi frowns. Hirasawa emits a choked noise, that upon further inspection turns out to be stifled laughter.

"What makes you think so?" he returns the question, a tactic he's learnt comes in handy when it comes to stalling and perhaps keeping your team-leader's anger away for another couple of minutes.

Unfortunately, Tosaki does not seem to be in the mood for tactics.

"Do you think I'm stupid?" Tosaki snaps, slamming a hand on the desk and making his cup rattle impressively. Kei doesn't flinch. Tosaki is angered easily, but he usually calms down after a while. "You two stay up God knows how late and he throws up the next morning?"

"Nakano threw up?" Hirasawa questions.

"Yes." Tosaki says, through clenched teeth.

"Boy, then I'd better look after him." the mercenary replies, grimacing. He throws Kei a pitiful glance and lifts himself from his chair. Kei hears his steps ascend upstairs, and his only help in this entire household vanishes. He curses his luck

"It could be food poisoning." Kei replies unfazed, deciding to hold his fort as long as he could, "Also, who says that I drank just because he did?"

"We ate the exact same thing yesterday night." Tosaki hisses. He is unfortunately, correct.

"Sit down, Tosaki-san." Izumi says, the picture of neutrality, "Please."

Reluctantly, Tosaki takes a seat. His glare does not waver from Kei for a second though.

"Just because I talked to him last night doesn't mean I had anything to do with it." the latter grumbles.

"That would have almost sounded believable if not for Nakano telling me of your little adventure." Tosaki says icily, his gray eyes narrowing.

Kei sighs in resignation.

"It's unbelievable how much of an idiot he is." he says, attempting to reign in the new wave of loathing he feels.

"So you admit to it?" Tosaki demands.

"If I said he was the one lying, would you believe me?" Kei fires back.

Tosaki sighs, hand drifting up to rub his forehead.

"I can't believe we're having this discussion when Satou is at large." he says.

"I can't believe it either." Kei says pointedly, repealing the new glare with one of his own, "It shouldn't be a problem if one's able to drink responsibly, right? It's not my fault if Nakano goes

overboard."

"It is your problem since you are not twenty years old." Tosaki snaps, pointing a finger at him, "And if I catch you with alcohol again, you'll wish you'd…." However, not sufficient threat seems to come to his mind.

Kei watches him struggle for a few seconds with some amusement.

"Joined Satou instead?" he offers.

Tosaki scoffs. "Joining Satou will be a walk in park in comparison to that." he says, pondering the situation for a few seconds. Finally, he seems to have arrived at a decision.

"For now, be happy I only have fourty-seven folders that need sorting."

Kei's shoulders slump. A cup full of fresh, steaming coffee is pushed towards him and he realizes that Izumi took pity on him. "Thank you." he says, before turning back to Tosaki.

"Fourty-seven?" he pronounces, in weak disbelief.

"At least. I think the newest count will bring up a higher number though." Tosaki hasn't looked this satisfied in few weeks, obviously deriving his enjoyment from personally making Kei suffer. It's probably what they teach you in Hell, the place that, Kei is certain, their team-leader originates from.

"That is, after you're finished with all the physical training Hirasawa-san has planned for today." Tosaki adds, smug expression unchanging.

"There are days when I honestly hate you." Kei says.

"You're welcome."

 

 

 

After spending two hours running around the green fields spread around the hide-out and doing a torturous number of sit-ups and climbing exercises under the watchful eyes of Hirasawa and Manabe, Kei is allowed to take a longer break.

Reluctant to do so at first, he eventually does decide on visiting Nakano.

The redhead Ajin is in his bed, propped up by several pillows against his bed. The bucket has been washed out and placed on the ground. There is a bottle and a glass of water on his nightstand, next to some packs of tissues.

"Nagai" Nakano says, throwing him an uncertain smile when he sees him, "Are you..."

A gurgling noise emits from his stomach, and Nakano's hands fly out, clutching at it with a queasy expression.

"Ugh." he mumbles, "Does this never stop?"

Kei doesn't ask why Nakano does not consider regeneration – Tosaki made it pretty clear that he's not supposed to, neither is anyone else meant to help him escape the natural consequences of a hangover. At least this way, Kei thinks, they can suffer together.

And he would be lying if he said he did not enjoy Nakano twitching in imminent sickness. It is with much reluctance that he picks up the glass of water on his nightstand and passes it to him.

Nakano gulps it down in one go, and sighs in relief, leaning back against his pillows. "Thanks, Nagai. Much better." he mumbles, "I'm never touching Sake again, never."

"Was it worth selling me out?" Kei says. He's still irritated about the entire affair.

Nakano flinches, seamlessly caught.

"I didn't mean to sell you out!" he apologized hurriedly, and even to Kei's sceptic ears, it sounds genuine, "I was just...I was feeling so bad like, physically, not guilty, and Tosaki was asking me to tell him what had happened so he could help me, and I..."

"You sold me out." Kei finishes the sentence for him.

"K-Kei, I'm sorry." Nakano calls out, desperately. He wrings his hands in the now marine blue bedsheets that someone has most certainly changed for him. What a service.

"I would...I would take it back if I could."

"I'm never pretending to be anything for you ever again." Kei says, with the right amount of spite he believes is justified vengeance.

Nakano blinks.

"Pretend to be something?" he asks, brow furrowing as he appears to be contemplating Kei's words.

"You know what I mean." Kei says. He cocks his head a little.

Nakano's frown deepens. "Not really." he admits, "Do you mean online roleplay or?"

Kei's glare must have been quite severe. His teammate slides back against his bed frame.

"Wow, hold it!" he says, raising his hands in defense, "I don't know what you mean, Nagai. Just drop me a hint or something? You know my brain is crap at remembering stuff."

Kei's chest feels as though it's being flooded with icy water, freezing every single one of his organs as it flows.

"You don't remember what happened last night?" he asks quietly, pronouncing each of the words with audible emphasis.

"We...got drunk and went to bed? Right?" Nakano questions, frowning, "Or am I missing something?"

Kei's mouth feels dry.

"Nagai, hey!" At this point, his teammate appears downright concerned, gesturing helplessly, "Did something happen? I swear, I don't know about anything else."

"It didn't." Kei says mechanically. He barely recognizes his own voice as he fabricates another lie. Nakano's confused expression and his lack of memory combined are almost more than he could bear. But clueing in him on what had transpired between them would bring more trouble than it was worth.

He should be grateful that things turned out this way.

How burdensome that the acceptance is so physically painful, though.

"Sorry." Kei forces a smile. "I was just kidding."

Chapter Text

Kei spends the rest of the day trying to come up with a strategy that will allow him to forget about Kou.

 

Unfortunately, it has the exact opposite effect. Whether it is a conversation with Izumi, or a gun training session with Hirasawa, he simply isn‘t able to stop his thoughts from entering Nakano-Kou-related territory.

 

It is terrible, and downright ridiculous. Not at all how his usual plans turn out, but perhaps he should have been expecting this once he started to experiment with romance of all things.

 

Kou hadn‘t made him. He ‘d requested it when he ‘d been too intoxicated to think straight, but Kei could have easily turned him down. If he ‘d rolled his eyes at him and left the room, the matter would have been solved without consequences. If only Kou hadn’t called out his name when they were…

 

Kei almost drops the folder he is leafing through.

 

To hell with Nakano Kou, he thinks, gritting his teeth. He would have had a perfectly efficient day, if not for him.

 

He glances over quickly where Tosaki is working, but he seems to be too invested in typing up a report or some other important document to have noticed his near-slip.

 

Good. Kei does not feel like explaining himself to him any more than he already had this morning, which had been a bother and again, 100%, Kou’s fault.

 

The irritation feels familiar and good, and he cultivates naturally. Even anger is better than those anxious thoughts that are tearing at his last nerves. Kou is an idiot, he reminds himself, an idiot and nothing else.

 

“What did the folders do to you?” Tosaki’s voice inquires curiously.

 

Nagai barely spares him a glance. “Sorry?”

 

“Your glare is impressive. I’m thankful that ignition doesn’t come along with the list of Ajin specific abilities, otherwise I might have had to say goodbye to some of important documents.”

 

Kei stares at the man. The corner of his lips quirking slightly upwards is the solitary hint that Tosaki Yuu might have in all honesty cracked a joke.

 

“Very funny.” he says dryly, turning his eyes away.

 

“Finnish it up to folder 25 and you may leave.” Tosaki instructs, and the silence that follows is only broken by his fingers hitting the keyboard

 

Kei raises an eyebrow, glancing confusedly to where the man is sitting, once again fully invested in the workings of the ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

 

“Folder 25?”

 

“You heard me, Nagai.” comes Tosaki’s curt reply.

 

Further keys clicking. A quiet curse, including a word that Tosaki, the hypocrite, would reprimand them for if Kou or him were to use it within earshot.

 

“That’s just a little more than half-”

 

“I graduated from High School, Nagai.” the man interrupts him with oozing sarcasm, “I am aware of the fraction.”

 

Kei considers this suspicious bout of kindness. He raises an eyebrow, Folder 20 held loosely between his thumb and index finger. “And why the sudden change of mind?”

 

“Well, for one, do correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m almost certain that this entire drinking fiasco was not your idea to begin with.” Tosaki states, “Or was it?”

 

“Most certainly it wasn’t.” Kei grumbles, albeit being a little surprised that Tosaki made the effort to arrive at that conclusion.

 

“There you go.” His teamleader nods, “And second, there seem to be minor interferences with my work schedule which I will need to solve by this evening.”

 

“Interferences?”

 

“If I were you, I’d just get on with it and not ask unnecessary questions.” Tosaki grits out between clenched teeth.

 

His glare however, is directed at the screen and not at Kei, most likely fixing an unpleasant email.

 

“Governmental trouble?” Kei asks airily.

 

Tosaki looks close to snapping.

 

“I’ll get on with it.” Kei adds, forcefully, and busies himself with efficiently working himself through the last batch of folders.

 

“Don’t accept a job that doesn’t pay you enough for necessary overtime after university, Nagai.” Tosaki grumbles after a while of mutual silence, only interrupted by the soft crackle of paper and him mutilating his keyboard, “Do better than me.” He finishes whatever he’s working on with a vicious click.

 

“I thought it was a good position.” Kei interjects, glancing at his weary teamleader, uncertain whether he’s expecting his honest opinion or none at all- knowing Tosaki, the previous statement could have been simply rhetorical. “And it’s not like I’ll be going to university, anyway.” He knows that he failed at thoroughly eliminating the bitter note from his voice at the unpleasant reminder of yet another way in which his newly discovered identity was corrupting his future and settles for a neutral expression.

 

Tosaki frowns, and for once, does look up from his work. He even pauses his typing.

 

“You won’t sit your entrance exams?”

 

Kei wonders if it’s a trick question, or genuine concern.

 

Folder 25, prepared and his cue to leave, sits on top of the stack.

 

It’s where Kei focuses to avoid having to look Tosaki in the eye. He isn’t sure where the man is going with this. He could do without seeing a satisfied smirk at the justice of the seeing an Ajin fail at life.

 

“I don’t even have a high school diploma, yet.” he says, bitterly. “And it’s not like they’ll let me sit them. You know, as an Ajin...” He trails off.

 

Tosaki clicks his tongue.

 

“That’s not an excuse, Nagai.” he states, “Once we manage to take down Sato, assuming we do and he doesn’t burn this entire country to the ground, there will be plenty of universities actively promoting their Ajin inclusion policies. They would have to, as not to appear inhumane with the leakage of the confidential footage that by now everyone has witnessed. I’m sure you read Todai’s recently published stance on this, didn’t you?

 

Kei had. The thought of the experimentation videos brings about memories he thought he had long since buried. Fear spikes through his stomach, and he grips the desk until his knuckles turn white.

 

“Nagai, are you alright?” Tosaki inquires, and then, understanding flickers across his features, “Oh.” He clears his throat, “I see. It wasn’t my intention to remind you of the events.”

 

He looks close to saying he’s sorry for what they did to him, but then he doesn’t. Of course he doesn’t.

 

“In other words, they would be fools not to accept you.” he adds, instead.

 

“Out of fear, maybe.” he says, coldly, taking a deep breath to calm himself down, “And I could do without the additional spotlight. This country has hated Ajin for years. Sure, now they may think they rediscovered their moral compass, but it’ll take decades, and I’m not the type for socializing with strangers until they do. I couldn’t care less.”

 

In an effort to to feed his nervous hands some sort of activitiy, he focuses on rearranging the stack of paper once more.

 

“I see.” Tosaki says, adjusting his glasses, his own work apparently among the discussion.

 

“Then, why not attempt an online degree? Or study abroad?” he suggests, “There are countries with more progressive stances on Ajin policies. Some in Europe, as far as I’m aware. And as for America, it’s a state-dependent affair. We could ask Ogura for more input on this one. In other words, you have no excuse, should you pursue further education. It would be waste not to, considering your grade average.”

 

Kei is stunned. “How exactly do you know about my grade average?” he manages to ask, before figuring out that his school was possibly only too happy to hand over all of his documentation before rushing off to plan yet another lesson on why Ajin ought to be imprisoned.

 

“And why do you even care?” he flings at him, before Tosaki has a chance to respond to the first question, “This cooperation only goes on for so long. It’s futile to invest in me beyond that, seeing as there would be no benefit to you.”

 

That is nothing but the harsh truth, Kei thinks, ignoring a prick of guilt he senses when Tosaki sighs:

 

“Why don’t you let that be my worry, Nagai.” the man says blankly, before returning his attention to his laptop screen, and reaching for his phone. With his free hand, he waves him away.

 

“You may leave if you’re done. I have some calls to make.”

 

And Kei does.

 


 

“Hey, Nagai.”

 

Kei stops dead in his tracks, and lets out an unnerved sigh. “What is it?”

 

“Hey, come on now. You can’t still be angry.” Kou, standing in the door to the bathroom, throws him a look of desperation. Kei averts his eyes when he realizes the other has only bothered to put on a pair of shorts. His bare chest, coupled with the way he has a towel slung over his shoulders, wet drops traveling down his chest.

 

“You are?” Kou prods, carefully.

 

“No, I’m not, just drop it.” Kei purses his lips. He’s not entirely sure that he is lying. It’s far too much work to continue being angry at someone for something that is beyond his means of changing.

 

He startles, taking a step back when Kou suddenly appears right in front of him.

 

“If you’re not angry, then stop pouting.” his teammate says, with that infectious smile Kei hates.

 

“You didn’t have to sort folders.” Kei grumbles, leaving out that it hadn’t been half as bad and Tosaki had left him out far earlier.

 

“Oh, crap, I forgot.” Kou grimaces, a shade of concern lighting up his brown eyes. “Did he make you work a lot?”

 

“It’s Tosaki.” Kei answers vaguely Kou’s grimace worsens.

 

“That sucks.” he says, lifting up the towel to rub his hair dry.

 

Kei notices that he’s built up some visible muscle, a sight that is not as unpleasant as it should be. He looks away again before he can have more of these concerning thoughts.

 

“Can I make it up to you?” Kou’s voice travels through to him.

 

“It’s fine.” Kei says, keeping his gaze directed at the floor.

 

“Nagai?” A questioning undertone. Kei jolts back when he feels a finger tap his shoulder, the sensation akin to a small electric shock.

 

“Come on, what’s the matter?”

 

“Nothing.” There is an unexpected amount of blood rushing through Kei’s face, and he prays that none of these will be visible when he forces himself to meet Kou’s eyes.

 

Kou’s bushy eyebrows travel skywards.

 

“What?” Kei asks, tonelessly.

 

“Nothing. Want to watch a show together?” The smile is back, lighting up Kou’s face.

“I know a really good one you might like.”

 

Kei wants to reject the offer. He really does. But at the same time, he is aching for some rest.

 

“Fine.” he grumbles, and Kou whoops in delight.

 


 

Kou’s bed is just the slightest bit more spacious than his. And while Kei would have been fine sitting down at his desk to watch whatever horror is that he would like to put him through, his teammate insists the bed will be more comfortable.

 

He seems to be intent on “making up” for their escapade, telling Kei to sit and wait for him while he gets them some larger pillows from downstairs.

 

“Catch.” Kou tells him, throwing a bag of crisps in his direction. Kei catches them just in time, holding up the package and inspecting it with some skepticism.

 

“Where did you get those from?” Kei asks, as Kou goes on to prop up the pillows against his bedframe.

“The kitchen.” Kou says, grinning. “Didn’t Tosaki-san confiscate your last ration?”

 

Kei glares at him. “Fuck you.” he says, quite ineloquently, but Kou only laughs. Despite his protests, he still is oddly touched at his teammate’s random act of kindness.

 

“Thank you anyway.” he mumbles.

 

 Kou’s eyes widen, and he assumes one of his characteristic stupid expressions of disbelief.

 

“Nagai Kei actually thanked me!” he exclaims, shaking his head as he settles down on the mattress. “Never thought I’d live to see the day.”

 

“Keep talking and perhaps you won’t.” Kei says.

 

 “Heyyy.” Kou pouts, mock-woundedly. But then, he settles next to him without any hesitation. Kei watches as he plugs the laptop in to charge, opens a browser window and types eagerly in search of the show, the smile never quite leaving his lips as he does.

 

“There is it.” Kou announces, finger hovering over the play button. “Ready?”

It’s action, of everything he could’ve possible picked, of course it had to be action. But the keywords mystery and crime are listed right next to it in the genre description. Kei decides to give it a chance.

 

“Whatever.” Kei says, tearing open the bag of chips with some satisfaction.

 

“Just give it a chance.” Kou grins. “I bet you’ll like it.”

 

It doesn’t turn out half as bad as Kei expected. The plot crawls along at a snail’s pace, that’s for certain, but at least it’s not completely non-sensical.  The protagonist- a police officer- does seem to possess a certain level of intelligence, a positive change from the usual. Sure, there are surreal elements as for example, demons joining the plot, but ever since this year, Kei has learnt to accept the impossible as the norm.

 

“So?” Kou asks with a lilt in his voice, nudging Kei’s shoulder in the way he knows the other hates.

 

“It sucks.” Kei says mockingly, unable to stop himself from breaking into a grin at Kou’s aghast outcry. “It doesn’t!”

 

“It sucks because your taste sucks.” Kei continues to taunt him.

 

“It does not, Nagai! Your taste sucks, that’s why you have no friends.” Kou says heatedly, in a desperate attempt to counter Kei’s mockery.

 

Kei purses his lips and doesn’t answer. He recalls his “friends” from class- especially Ishiki, whose mood levels had perked once he learnt how much money you could make by delivering an Ajin to the government. Ishiki’s faux-friendliness and his outstreched hand, right after that fatal accident that had Kei regenerating right in front of his eyes.

 

Yes, that last one hit a little too close to home.

 

“Hey, Nagai...sorry about that.” Kou has paused the show, quick in noticing the visible decline in his mood. He looks a little guilty.

 

“You’re right about me not having friends, though.” Kei states, blandly. He supposes he is supposed to feel regret at that instance, or even sadness. If he is honest, there is the slightest bit of regret – and it’s entirely geared towards his abandonment of Kaito. The rest? The rest is frustration at his daily life in general and disappointment at choosing to waste spending any time with his so called “friends” – those who were ready to sell him out in a heartbeat.

 

“No, no, that was as shitty thing to say.” Kou amends himself, shaking his head, “And it’s not even true, is it? Didn’t you have this one friend who rescued you on a motorcycle?”

 

“Kaito is not my friend.” Kei lies.

 

“Ya, sure he is.” Kou raises an eyebrow, “He risked his life to just to save your ass. Wouldn’t you say that’s what friends do?”

 

There’s silence, in which Kei waits for his teammate to simply turn back on the show. He doesn’t grant him that relief, however.

 

“Well, he’s not here, in anyway. It doesn’t count.” he finally says, a decisiveness to his tone. The topic is getting to him, although he is determined to not let it show.

 

Not in front of Nakano Kou.

 

“Aww, come on, don’t act like such a loner.” Kou says, and wraps his arm around him.

 

Kei’s breathing grows shallow, as he tries to process what is happening, only to arrive at the conclusion that yes, indeed, that’s Kou right behind him. That’s his arm against his back.

 

All of a sudden, he’s very grateful that most of the rooms in the hideout are equipped with an A.C.

 

His teammate’s bodily warmth is seeping into skin, and if the room where as hot as it could be in summer, Kei thinks he might have burst. It’s not from embarrassment, he tells himself, chasing away the memories of tequila and unexpected kisses. This has nothing to do with it.

 

Something’s amiss, Kei notices, and that’s when he realizes the show is no longer running. A glance to the side confirms his suspicions: Kou had indeed paused the episode, but was still staring ahead, his focus a little too high to be looking at the screen however. No, it looks quite a bit like Kou is trying to memorize a pattern in the wall.

 

Kei realizes that his ears are a little pink.

 

And his arm- his arm is still around Kei’s, not giving the impression as though it would move anytime soon from there.

 

He clears his throat. “Are you done yet?”

 

“Oh, oh, Nagai.” Kou immediately replies, startled and audibly flustered. Loss snaps like a string that had been drawn back and released against Kei’s heart when his teammate pulls away.

 

“Sorry, I was just lost in thoughts.” he rambles on, giving a little laugh, “Let’s continue this, yeah?”

 

Kei can only nod. But when Kou slides back, further to his side to give him space, Kei moves with him.

 

“Hey- Nagai.” Nakano throws him a very startled glance indeed when Kei ends up right by his side again and their proximity increases to a gap the size of a fingertip, “You’re okay with this? Sitting this close to…an idiot?

 

The self-depreciation crawls out the last syllables. It’s a kind that is sincere at its core, wrapped in careful layers of irony as not to offend. Kei has learnt to read his teammate to a certain way and had strengthened his observational skills, at least one good thing that had come out of being forced to spend time with a boy is the exact opposite of him and grates on his nerves every time they spoke.

 

That is why he can’t explain why it rubs him the wrong way when Kou sounds this uncertain of himself.

 

“Believe more in yourself, okay.” he sighs, “Only a real idiot calls himself one. Just because you’re not hell-bent on studying and have some trouble with some kanji doesn’t mean you’re an idiot. Your strengths happen to lie in different areas.”

 

It sounds like a textbook motivational speech and Kei has a moment of incredulity where he struggles to realize how on earth he came up with one for Nakano, of all people.

 

“You really mean it?” Kou responds, elation swinging in his tone. He pumps his fist in the air, grinning. “Hell yeah! A compliment from Nagai himself. Man, I feel like I’m floating!”

 

Kei pinches his forehead, but foregoes elaborating on the core principles of gravity and how not even Ajin powers would be able to counteract forces of physics.

 

“So, well.” Kou laughs, and Kei hardly has any time to prepare himself for what comes next, “Does that mean I can put my arm around you again?”

 

The second the words leave Nakano’s mouth, he slaps a hand in front of it, a futile and yet hilarious gesture- or rather, it would have been hilarious to Kei if he hadn’t been attempting to regulate his blood flow, all of his capillaries insisting his face needed to provided even more immediately.

 

His heart is acting strangely- in fact, Kei can hear it pounding in his ears.

 

“Sorry if that was creep-“

 

“Just do it.” Kei snaps.

 

“I-it?” Nakano’s voice grows high-pitched and despite his momentary exceptional state, Kei finds himself at a crossroads trying to decide whether to slap his own forehead or directly go for Nakano’s.

 

“How the hell did you jump to a –“ Kei uses an expletive – “double entendre all of a sudden?” he snaps, his voice quivering with frustration.

 

“A double what?” his teammate blinks and Kei realizes that he had unintentionally breached his intellectual level.

 

Why again, is he even putting up with this?

 

“Just put your arm around me and be done with it, you moron.” he grumbles, “Or I’ll bring out my Ghost and skewer you.”

 

“That won’t be necessary, hah.” Kou says. He sounds a little too smitten for Kei’s taste.

 

He twitches at the first physical contact, but it’s only within a few seconds that he manages to relax against Kou with a sense of familiarity.

 

“Good like this?” His teammate sounds cautious, as though being allocated the task of handling something fragile. Nonetheless, Kei appreciates the sentiment.

 

“Wait a moment.” Kei realizes that the current position, subjected to long periods of watching, will likely put a strain on both his neck and back. And so, erasing the last ounces of his pride, he leans to the side, leaning his head against Nakano’s chest.

 

The other swallows audibly. Kei can’t fault him for showcasing his nervousness, his own heart is beating at a maddening pace

 

“It’s good now.” he responds, nodding, staring straight at the screen now, focusing on the pause button slapped down in the middle of the scene. Tries not to think about the fact that he is leant again Nakano Kou, close enough to smell his bodywash.

 

“Want to continue?”

 

“Oh, yeah, sure.” Kou clears his throat, “I’ll just…”

 

He fumbles with the keyboard awkwardly, mental duress in face of the current situation apparent, until Kei decides to take mercy on him and starts it himself.

 

“You’re a genius.” Kou mutters. Kei has to bite his lip, almost hard enough to break through skin, to suppress an upcoming shiver when the other’s breath caresses his neck.

 

He settles on a lightly irritated “Wasn’t that hard now, was it.” instead. Kou chuckles in response, and then seizes any noises as the plot starts to pick up.

 

Kei wonders how he had ever set his standards so low as to spend an evening doing not only one, but two things he usually would not even consider: binging a show, for one, and sharing close proximity with another person, for the other. It’s the opposite of an efficient evening, where he would find himself engrossed in a textbook on his desk, perhaps taking a break to do some leisure reading instead or answer a message from his study group.

 

Today, all he had done was- on the other hand, he had done enough, hadn’t he? It was unfortunate that going up one on one against Sato required as much physical training, if not even more in his case, as it required strategy. But he had pushed through said training, nonetheless, it was redundant to mention that it had exhausted him to the bone. Not to mention all those folders that he had been made to sort.

 

Perhaps taking a break is not as bad as an idea as it seems, Kei decides. Even if it is with Nakano by his side.

 

They finish the episode, then binge through three further ones. Kou, Kei realizes, has the unfortunate but entirely predictable habit of talking through the episode and asking questions. He cuts him off several times, drowning out his voice with an insistent shush. Only when a scene that Kei judges to be filler and less plot-relevant plays does he allow occasional commentary, even voicing his own opinion.

 

They’re on episode five and the sky outside is already pitch-black when Kei hears a knock on the door. He is up in a second, putting a respectable amount of distance between himself and Kou to avoid even the chance of false suggestions just as it opens and Izumi pokes her head into the room.

 

“Nakano-kun, have you seen-“ Her gaze lands on Kei, and the corners of her lips quirk up immediately. “There you are.”

 

“Do you need anything from me?” Kei asks, attempting to steady his tone so as not to showcase the vivid kind of embarrassment he feels at Izumi witnessing this situation.

 

“No, I just wanted to check up on you. You weren’t in your room.” Izumi says, meaningfully. Her eyes wander over the scene, over the laptop, bag of crisps, orange juice that Nakano had hoarded and generously shared with Kei, sheer evidence that their nightly encounter is in no way related to their task force. Especially with last night’s events in mind, Tosaki’s life would be cut short on the spot if he saw.

 

 I’m glad you’re in good company, though.” Izumi concludes. She seems thoroughly amused by the situation, as far as Shimomura Izumi has ever shown any sign of humor.

 

Kei meanwhile just wants to die.

 

“I-Izumi san!” Kou says, and from the stammer in his voice to the flushing of his cheeks, Kei does begin to question his sense of perception when it comes to his teammate. If he had- in any way- been trying to…well, search for more than platonic closeness with him- then it could likely solely be blamed on their self-induced intoxication. It hadn’t been genuine, apparently, if Kou’s ridiculous attempts to get Izumi to appreciate one of his puns are anything to go by.

 

“Well, in anyway.” Izumi now says, and she is still smiling ever so slightly, “If you want to sleep here Kei, it’s fine. It’s good that I know to check both rooms from now on, in case of an emergency.”

 

“Yeah, no, I wasn’t planning on that. I’ll be going back soon.” Kei replies briskly, almost cutting across her.

 

Izumi seems to be hiding a laugh. “However you wish.” she replies, tone not betraying any emotion. “Good night, you two. Remember you have training tomorrow, so don’t stay up too late.” Quietly, she shuts the door and Kei hears her steps retreating.

 

“You are?” Kou asks, once she’s out of earshot. He sounds downright disappointed, excitement over Izumi seemingly forgotten as he frowns at his teammate.

 

“What were you expecting?” Kei shoots back, coupled with a glare, “I have my own room. Thank God.”

 

“Sharing is caring?” Kou suggests, with a grin that is supposed to convince, Kei is certain

 

“I should go back.” Kei deadpans, and moves to get up the bed. His plan is halted in motion, when he feels someone’s hand on his arm.

 

Kou grabbed his wrist.

 

“What do you want?” he growls, hoping that his expression is unreadable and gives away none of the repulsive, pleasant surprise that jolted through him at Nakano’s firm grip.

 

“Stay here, come on.” Kou whines, and yes, that tone certainly helps in calming himself down.

 

“You’re annoying.” Kei says, rolling his eyes, but then deciding it would be easier to give in, and perhaps even catch the end of the episode that turned out to be more exciting than it had any premise to be. So, he leans back against the bedframe, deciding to stay where he is.

 

So does Kou’s hand.

 

“You can let go now.” Kei mumbles, an unexpected surge of nervousness blanking out his mind.

 

Kou doesn’t answer.

 

Kei’s heart beat resurges, thunderous when it has no reason to, as he tries to come up with other reasons why Kou has seemingly gone deaf in the last couple of seconds.

 

The episode is paused, Izumi is gone. He has no other reason. He has not, except if-

 

Kou’s grip on his wrist tightens, and his heart misses a beat when his teammate turns around.

 

And, within a blink of an eye, Kou is above him, his legs trapping him on both sides.

 

“I think- I remembered again.” he says, the words hushed, eyes blown wide with curiosity.

 

When Kou bends forward, pushing him firmly against the frame, Kei doesn’t resist.

Chapter Text

The silence between them is electrifying.

 

Kei’s heartbeat has long since risen above physiological parameters, if the deafening sound in his ears is anything to go by, but he keeps his mouth shut, directing these trivial thoughts to the back of his mind.

 

“Are-are you going to do anything or what?” he fires at Kou, who seems frozen in his spot, with only the dangerously short distance of a few centimeters separating them.

 

Instead of answering, Kei feels his arm- the very arm Kou is still holding captive in a solid grip- being lifted and cautiously maneuvered against the bedframe

 

His teammate swallows, visibly.

 

“Is this okay?” he asks, voice cracking with uncertainty, and Kei isn’t entirely sure if Kou is directing the question a little towards himself, too.

 

He is about to answer affirmatively, surprising himself with the intense desire for Kou to not lose his strangely…exciting grip on him, when he realizes that precautionary measures should probably be on the forefront of his agenda now.

 

They are, after all, not alone in this house

 

Kei glances to the side, avoiding Kou’s eyes.

 

“Lock the door.” he commands.

 

“B-but-“, Kou sputters, “Won’t that look like we’re hiding stuff?”

 

“Do you think I give a shit?” Kei snaps at him, easily losing his patience, but still staying firmly turned away, “Just lock it.”

 

It’s not like they were formulating secret plans together, after all. Or alienating with Sato via video phone call.

 

“Fine, if that’s what you say.” Kou shrugs, and Kei feels an odd sense of disappointment once the promising grip on his wrist loosens.

 

The bed creaks as the other gets up. The click of the key was supposed to make him feel at ease, relaxed, but all it does is make him unfathomably nervous.

 

Kei digs his fingers into his palms as Kou makes his way back towards his bed. However, his teammate first busies himself with putting the laptop to the floor and setting their food and drinks on the nightstand.

 

“Hey, uh-“ Kou’s expression is guarded and uncertain, and he hesitates before speaking the next words, sliding back onto the mattress to face Kei, “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. In fact, we really don’t have to do anything, Nagai, I-“

 

“Just shut up and do what you were doing before.” Kei says, unnervedly.

 

Demonstratively, he places one wrist against the bedframe, palm facing outwards, and, does the same with the other.

 

“There.” he comments dryly, although he is not a nearly as relaxed as he pretends to be, “Will that get you going?”

 

Kou sputters something unintelligible, and flushes a deep red.

 

Kei closes his eyes.

 

“I’m not even looking at you now.” he states, “Do whatever.”

 

His voice nearly cracks on the last syllable, only realizing the amount of power he just handed over to Kou once it slips past his lips. But well. He had already gotten run over by a truck once. Whatever Kou’s disastrous attempts would translate into, it surely couldn’t be that bad.

 

“Are- are you sure Nagai?” he hears Kou ask, and underneath the nervous hesitation, there is curious longing.

 

“Yes.” Kei snaps frustratedly, “Will you stop wasting time?”

 

His complaints are justified, in his opinion. Who knows how long it will be until the next person will try to barge in without warning?

 

“Alright then.” Kou says.

 

Kei holds his breath in anticipation, willing himself to relax as Kou leans forward and-

 

There’s a warm peck on his cheek.

 

That was anticlimactic, the rational part of his brain suggests while his heartbeat spikes instantly and demands more.

 

“Okay?” Kou asks, and he nods in response, taken a little aback by how much care the other is projecting.

 

“Good.” He can almost hear the smile in his teammate’s voice.

 

Kou kisses his cheek again, and again, lips lowering to meet his chin, the side of his jaw.

Each single one of them makes Kei’s heart flutter a little more. He unintentionally moves towards Kou, sliding closer against him with a necessity that had before been unknown to him.

 

Kou picks up on this, throwing out his arm and easily maneuvering it around Kei’s back, pulling him in until they’re no more than a hair’s breadth apart. Their sudden proximity levels Kei’s nervousness tenfold.

 

What were they doing here? How had any of their actions before led up to this?

Would an upstanding member of society be doing this with their teammate?

 

Would they?

 

 “Nakano, wait.” He mumbles, not meeting his eyes.

 

“What?” Kou says, properly confused, “What’s wrong?”

 

His eyes look so genuinely startled, not the slightest bit guilty or disgusted in the face of their actions, that Kei decides he wants in on that naivety.  It must really be this simple for Kou. Being able to participate in an activity that promised mutual enjoyment without once weighing it against expectations and consequences, rules and reputation.

 

Kei wonders if Kou ever had once in his life asked himself the same draining questions he asked himself every time before he could let himself go.

 

“Nothing, it’s fine.” he speaks, reassuring Kou as much a himself.

 

Then, he leans forward, gathering his courage and abandoning any rationality, and presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth.

 

By the slight gasp Kou produces, Kei notes his spontaneous tactic a success.

 

He doesn’t get enough time to ponder it however, as the next second, Kou’s lips are already meeting his own in a frenzied kiss.

 

Kou’s learnt from their last time, he notes- as much as there is room in his head for any notes, other than how warm Kou feels and how soft his fingers, now brushing along Kei’s back, are.

 

Despite only having one other time to compare it to, his movements are a lot more skilled, or perhaps that’s just what Kei wants to think, wants to believe that at least one of them has any idea what they’re doing.

 

His teammate sharply nips at his bottom lip, successfully lowering Kei’s defenses for a second, enough for his tongue to slide into his mouth and deepen their kiss further.

 

Kei allows it, just barely.

 

What a bastard, he notes internally, in favour of ignoring that the addition of this new dimension serves to make the kiss even more pleasant.

 

A heat rises in his abdomen, making him press even closer against the other in search of- well that, Kei doesn’t further want to elaborate on.

 

“May I?” Kou asks breathlessly, and Kei’s mind, still swimming with the actions of the last minutes and thoroughly oxygen-deprived, takes a second to process his request.

 

Kou’s fingers are lingering over the lower hem of his shirt, the question clear in his eyes.

 

“I won’t take it off.” Kei retorts, stupefied and oddly self-conscious all of a sudden, taking into account how he had no problem training in nothing but his shorts with Nakano before.

 

Now, thinking back to it, there had been so many times where they had done so without a second thought.

 

Far too many…times.

 

“You don’t have to.” From the sudden blush on Kou’s cheeks, he must’ve been reliving similar memories, “Can I just…touch?”

 

Kei must’ve given him a particularly deadly stare, as Kou immediately is raising his hands in a gesture of defense.

 

“Your stomach. And uh…” he awkwardly scratches his neck, “Back. Sides. You know.

Upper part. Not the lower. Unless you…”

 

He laughs nervously.

 

It does not help make the situation any less painfully awkward.

 

“Yeah, it’s fine.” Kei mumbles.

 

Kou’s eyes fixate his, an uncharacteristically serious expression on his face, and Kei finds himself nodding. His teammate’s lips quirk into a relieved smile. He leans forward and begins kissing him again.

 

Kei feels one hand closing in on his wrist, as it had done before. He only squeezes gently, but it is enough for Kei to realize the effect it has on him. All the sudden, the idea of Kou pushing him up against the bedframe doesn’t seem all that bad.

 

When he doesn’t protest or make any other indication of not being comfortable in the situation, Kou’s fingers slip under his shirt.

 

Kei has to shut his eyes and bite down on his lip to stop any traitorous sound from escaping his mouth when they travel along his abdomen, across his ribs and alongside his back, repeating this route.

 

It feels far too good to be coming from Kou, he thinks with an urging desperation, it simply shouldn’t be allowed to feel this good from someone like him.

 

And yet it does. With his ponderings successfully lowering his concentration for a moment, Kei is unable to suppress a quiet moan when Kou caresses his sides yet again.

 

He hears the other let out a soft laugh. “Good enough for you?”

 

Scoffing, Kei refuses to meet his eyes. “We’ll see about that.”

 

“Bet accepted.” Kou says, a smirk audible in his voice.

 

Kei fortifies his resolve, not wanting to give the other any sign of victory too easily and realizes how arduous of a task it becomes within only minutes. Unintentionally, he feels himself pressing closer and closer to Kou, as the other’s explorations grow more and more expansive.

 

Retaining a neutral expression under these circumstances seems impossible, and Kou’s hand travelling further up his body and towards his chest doesn’t make it any better.

 

When Kou is a few seconds away from touching an area that – at least, in physiological theory- Kei knows to be sensitive- he abandons his pride and buries his face in Kou’s shoulder, futilely focusing on keeping calm. Soon, small whimpers are spilling from his lips, as the other- carefully, but not without determination- kneads his nipples between his fingers.

 

“Like that?” the other mumbles, completely unabashed, and it’s only the knowledge that his silence will most likely be interpreted as disagreement – and result in Kou seizing his previous activities, something that he has no interest in -  that has Kei hissing “Yes.” In response.

 

Kou has the audacity to laugh.

 

“Good.” he says, jovially, and meets his lips in yet another kiss.

 

It feels warm and welcoming, and Kei feels himself giving in, as he kisses back, tastes the insides of Kou’s mouth.  Kou’s as energetic as the day they met, pushing against him and Kei lets himself be lowered against the mattress, not breaking the kiss even amidst all the movement.

 

Kou finally does so, gasping for breath, and giving him a smile that’s so bright Kei can barely take it.

 

“What the heck are you grinning at?” he grumbles, ignoring the exhilaration bubbling in his chest.

 

He shouldn’t be enjoying this. All of this was terribly pathetic, and yet-

 

“I just like looking at pretty things.” Kou says, mischievously, and Kei (albeit flustered) is so very close to bringing out his IBM -

 

Kou grabs his wrist again, a little more firmly this time, and all negative, violent thoughts screech to a halt, replaced by a warm, pleasurable spark that vibrates through Kei’s bones.

 

Without losing eye contact- most likely the other’s consistent way of asking for permission- Kou slides his shirt up, slowly at first. Kei gives a curt nod when his stare grows a little to long and questioning for his thin patience, then pushes it up completely.

 

Before Kei can contemplate on the humiliation that is having his entire torso and chest area this exposed, Kou bends down, starts trailing a line of kisses down his abdomen and sucking at his skin. Encouraged by the quiet moans that Kei seemingly no longer has any control over – he curses his self-control- Kou begins nipping harder at his skin.

 

“Fuck you.” Kei snaps, right after a particularly undesired sound is wrenched from his lips, which does absolutely nothing to diminish Kou’s enthusiasm.

 

The touches grow bolder, and within times- hours, is what it seems like, though it can’t have been more than a few minutes, Kei finds himself in a state of urgency, one that he had not been expecting.

 

The stimulation is unbearably at this point- Kou’s one hand, busy stroking alongside ribs, down to his navel; his other, holding his wrist in a firm grip; and his mouth, kissing his neck.

He can’t help himself.

 

He reaches down, hands slipping inside his underwear, desperately stroking his erection, whimpers escaping through his lips. The last thing he senses is Kou’s teeth biting down, hard, on his neck, and that’s all it takes.

 

Kei blanks out. Tremors shaking his body and stars dancing in his vision, he grips the bedsheets tight and bites his lip until he tastes copper.

 

And then-

 

“Kei? Kei, you alright?” Kou’s above him, one hand gently cupping his face, and at this point, Kei is too tired to swat it away.

 

The other’s brown eyes are blown with worry and curiosity, a burning question at his lips that he most likely is too ashamed -good, Kei thinks, let him be- to pronounce. “D-did…did you..?”

 

“What do you think?” he snaps, realizes how raspy his voice sounds and how spent he feels.

 

Kou blushes, and then an excited grin spreads over his lips. He leans forward, pecking a kiss on Kei’s cheek.

 

“I’m glad.”

 

“However...you didn’t, did you?” Kei questions, despite already being certain of the answer he was going to receive.

 

He wonders how Kou is still so mindlessly happy in this state. He most likely would’ve strangled the other, had it been the opposite way around.

 

Kou shrugs, and grins. “Nothing I can’t take care off in the bathroom.” he announces, and winks.

 

“Gross, whatever.” Kei says, rolling his eyes.

 

He is so tired. Sighing, he realizes that his plans of going back to his room will have to be postphoned. His limbs still feel rather week.

 

“Wake me in twenty minutes.” He announces, turning on his side, “Got it?”

 


 

Kei’s thoughts are racing.

 

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that he is still lying in Kou’s bed, surrounded by sheets that carry his scent. Or rather, both of their scents at this point. Even his own shirt smells like him.

 

Kei can’t believe it had come to this. This had to remain a one-time thing. Nothing good could ever come out of hooking up with their teammtes.

 

“I’m back.” Kou announces, unnecessarily, and before Kei can protest, he’s already launched himself on the bed, and pulled him closer.

 

“You waited for me.” he comments, sighing contently against Kei’s chest, “That’s really nice of you, Nagai.”

 

“I waited to see if you’d perhaps slip and kill yourself for good in the bathroom.” Kei replied morbidly.

 

However, he doesn’t push him away. The warmth and comfort of an embrace is nothing he had ever been actively seeking, and yet, it does seem like a waste to forego a chance like this.

At least, that’s the reasoning he persuades himself with, as he wraps an arm around his teammate.

 

Kou laughs at his comment and pulls him closer still.

 

“Maybe next time.” he says.

 

They don’t talk about what happened, which suits Kei just fine. He wouldn’t have known what to say anyway.  It’s a pleasant silence , something he initially hadn’t believed Kou to be capable of. Kei eventually, turns over on his side, so that his back is to Kou’s and the position more comfortable to fall asleep in.

 

Not that he plans on doing so. He is just waiting for Kou to doze off, so that he can leave his room without any of the lingering awkwardness.

 

“I’ll leave in 15 minutes. Set an alarm, okay?” he orders groggily in Kou’s direction.

 

Kou laughs. “I’m not tired, Nagai. Take a nap if you want, I’ll wake you up for certain.”

 

Kei eyes him suspiciously. “Oh yeah?” he drawls. He trusts Kou about as far as his IBM can throw him.

 

“For sure.” Kou nods enthusiastically, sounding honest through and through, while reaching for his phone “I’ll set the alarm right now, if that’s better.”

 

“Yeah, please do.” Kei replies, and, sighing, adds a disgruntled: “Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome.” Kou sing-songs, and he grimaces at his teammate’s volume.

 

Kei isn’t even that tired himself, just a little drowsy in the aftermath of things he will wait until morning to properly consider. He hopes that this tactic will help wade off the brunt of the shame, as well. He stretches his legs, looking out at the darkened night sky in front of the hideout and at the handful of stars glistening above it.

 

….

 

When Kei wakes up the next morning, he realizes something is terribly wrong. At first, he can’t phantom what it possibly could be- he’s in his bed alright, and the glance at his phone tells him it’s just past 6 am, way before what torturous time he’s supposed to be awake for this excuse of a training camp. He’s on time, and even feels like he might’ve gotten an almost decent number of hours.

 

He rolls over. Kou is asleep next to him, stretched diagonally across the bed and taking up most of the space on Kei’s side, his cold feet digging into Kei’s thighs.

 

Kou.

 

Kei curses, scrambling upright. This isn’t his room. This isn’t his bed, either.

 

“You fucking idiot.” he hisses, to which Kou replies with an oblivious, peaceful sigh, pushing him a little further to the edge of the bed still.

 

He needs to get out of here. This instant.

 

Making as little noise as possible- although someone would most certainly deserve being woken up rudely and at a very early hour -  Kei gets to his feet, pocketing his phone and quickly running through the group’s morning routine in his head.

 

6am. There’s a chance that most them would either not be up or not have left their rooms yet.

 

Kei thinks there’s still a good chance that he can make it to his own room relatively unscathed. He simply has to.

 

If he’d known that continuously meddling with Nakano Kou would bring about such an avalanche of disaster, he ponders viciously, as he makes his way as silently as possible down the empty corridor, he’d have left him down in that pit for good.

 

He stops by the bathroom for a quick shower and long-overdue brushing of his teeth, borrowing some of what’s most likely Tosaki’s peppermint-flavored mouthwash just in case.

Only once he feels as though he’s erased every possible trace of Nakano from his body- safe for his clothes, which he dumps in the general laundry basket- does he feel a little more like himself.

 

Wrapping a large towel around his waist and deciding that a hairdryer isn’t worth the extra noise, not when the burning sun will surely dry his hair anyway, he emerges as quietly as possible. The noises of the coffee machine drift up from upstairs. His calculations proved to be exact once more, as a quick glance at his phone’s clock tells him, it’s 6.30 on the dot, and Hirasawa most likely, being the early bird he is, is already up.

 

 Kei hurries a little more, eager to make it back to his room before he can have an uncomfortable run-in with one of the other team members. His hand is on the door handle, so very close to the saving grace of his own quarters, when his hope is abruptly shattered.

 

“Good morning, Nagai.”

 

Kei mutters a curse under his breath, before turning around to look behind himself.

 

Tosaki looks oddly smug and well-put together for the hour.

 

“Morning, Tosaki-san.” He says wearily, “Up so early?”

 

“I could ask you the same.” And now this is most definitely a smirk lining his mouth, and it fills Kei with a growing sense of dread, “Before 10 am even. Consider me impressed.”

 

Kei rolls his eyes, realizing that Tosaki’s still referring to their escapade the night before this one. Before this one. Once he has to put the amount of nightly escapades with Nakano in an order, he realizes there is a problem.

 

“Yeah, I just went to the bathroom.” Kei says nonchalantly, pressing down on the handle and taking a step inside, Training isn’t for more than another two hours, so if you excuse me-“

 

“To be fair, you were in bed by 1 am, so that’s certainly a valuable improvement.”

 

Well, shit.

 

Kei swallows.

 

“H-how would you know?” he retorts, turning around to face his team-leader. Tosaki shrugs nonchalantly, helping himself to a mint from his dispenser before offering it to Kei.

 

“No, thanks.” Kei mumbles, forcing himself to stare him right in the eye and battling the inner urge to hightail it out of there. He almost scoffs at the affronted look that passes behind Tosaki’s looks at his rejection.

 

“So?”

 

“So the next time, consider what a complete waste of electricity it is to leave the room’s lights on for hours, especially with our team’s budget and the energy this hideout already consumes.” Tosaki deadpans, “Be glad I turned them off once I noticed.”

 

“I didn’t leave my lights on.” Kei argues, albeit realizing full well where this is going.

 

Tosaki’s smirk widens. “Oh no, I wasn’t talking about your room, Nagai. I was talking about Nakano’s.”

 

At this point, Kei is certain his face is aflame.

 

“That was an accident-

 

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me.” Tosaki says, casually, “I just can’t help noticing a pattern. But for now, I don’t need to know.”

 

“Know what?”

 

“You tell me.”, His team-leader raises an eyebrow, and Kei realizes he stepped right into a well-set trap, “Is there something of relevance?”

 

“No.” Kei snaps, far too defensively, as he notices far too late, “There’s nothing. Now if you excuse me. I still have other things to do. As you saw, I didn’t have the most comfortable rest sharing with someone like that.”

 

“Naturally.”

 

Kei exhales, and turns around, before Tosaki can think of something else to interrogate him on.

 

“I would’ve carried you back.” Tosaki says smugly, right as he is one foot into his room,“But I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to let you live it down afterwards.”

 

Kei feels justified in slamming the door shut right in his face.

 


 

 

They don’t talk about it at breakfast. More accurately, Kou doesn’t talk to him at all, choosing to instead prattle on to Izumi about a dream he had, about IBMs in policeman uniforms or some other nonsense. It’s only once Izumi gets up from the table, that he catches Kou’s gaze.

The redhead winks at him.

 

Kei replies with a suitable glare.

 

“Is that about not waking you up?” Kou questions, keeping his voice hushed, which in Kei’s opinion does nothing more than draw suspicious looks. Or maybe, he’s just being paranoid.

 

“No.” he grumbles, adding three cubes of sugar and a generous dose of milk to his coffee, and stirring it swiftly, “I should have gone back right after, instead of waiting. It was my own dumb idea.”

 

He had arrived at that conclusion while sitting at his desk this morning, revising some mathematic equations from a textbook Izumi had gotten for him completely unprompted and wouldn’t return. It was the same book he’d been using back at home, and Kei got back into the rhythm easily. Even if he were never to take any of his entrance exams, he decided that being prepared, and on the same level (or potentially surpassing) that of his former classmates couldn’t hurt.

 

Not that the competition is particularly fierce around here, he thinks, watching as Nakano spills half his miso soup over the table.

 


 

 Izumi and Tosaki leave to attend some ministry business, and Hirawa decides to put them through more endurance training, starting with a 30 min warmup-run. Whether it’s sympathy, or a need for conversation, or both, Kei isn’t sure, but Nakano ends up jogging next to him the whole time.

 

The topic of conversation, however, does not circle back to their closer encounters a single time. In fact, to Kei it seems as though Nakano is trying to avoid talking about it at all costs.

 

“Wait, wait, I need to tie my laces.” His teammate calls out 15 minutes into the run.

 

 Kei pretends to roll his eyes at the interruption, while his aching body jubiliates at the unexpected break, and the excuse to sit down on the forest floor. Nakano’s laces aren’t even untied. In fact, he unties them this very second, securing them in a double-knot, which to Kei looks highly as though he is just trying to occupy himself with something.

 

“Listen.” Kou says, speaking a little quietly, checking the area to make sure they really were alone, immediately confirming Kei’s suspicions, “I do like you, Nagai. And I- um-“ he blushes a little, “Appreciated us…hanging out. But-“

 

But?

 

Kei shouldn’t be this nervous about Kou’s judgement, but all of a sudden, he finds himself agitatedly waiting for him to finish his sentence.

 

“We don’t have to hang out again, if that’s what you mean.” Kei cuts across him, wondering why the thoughts saddens him of all things, “It’s definitely a waste of training time. Especially in-“ he clears his throat, unable to keep the own heat from rising to his cheeks, “Such a manner.”

 

Why, why is he saying all those things that feel like a single stab to his gut?

 

“No, no, that’s not what I mean.” Kou says, despairingly, “Well, I’d just want to ask you if you would--“ he swallows, and then all of a sudden there’s a hand on Kei’s hand.

 

And Kou’s leaning over, and then-

 

Kou’s breath tickles his neck as he whispers into his ear: “Keep it a secret, please? I don’t want to lose my chance with Izumi-san.”