His room is empty when he knocks on the door. Not that he would admit it, but his stomach kind of drops as he steps in and surveys the lonely remnants of his belongings, the cold bed and the almost-empty desk in the corner.
He had hoped—wanted—Noel to still be there. At least for tonight, after everything. At least to stay until Kairi had worked up the nerve to thank him, or to apologize.
“You know, you don’t have to knock,” says Noel’s voice from behind him. “It’s your room.”
Kairi whirls in time to see Noel grinning at him as he closes the door of the hallway bathroom. “You—you’re still here.”
“Where else would I go?” Noel asks, eyes widening in mock-innocence. “I’m an injured man, I can hardly just walk outside.”
He shoots Kairi a smile, all too blinding in the dim lights of the hallway, and then saunters past him into his bedroom, as though he plans on staying there. Belatedly, Kairi notices he’s changed out of his phantom thief clothes into a shirt and sweatpants fit for sleeping, his bandages still visible beneath his clothes.
“Wait,” Kairi says, feeling, for once, like his brain is working on a lag, slow and sluggish. It’s not a feeling he enjoys. Maybe the fight against Lymon had taken more out of him than he thought. “You’re staying here?”
“Is there another room?” Noel asks.
“No,” he says slowly. There were three rooms, and he’s pretty sure Umika and Touma would not take kindly to letting Noel steal one of their beds. And Kairi had brought this upon himself, taking Noel away from the battlefield instead of letting the cops deal with him. “But I need to sleep, too.”
“We can share,” says Noel easily, shrugging. “I don’t mind.”
“Uh, I do.”
Noel tilts his head. “Where did you sleep last night?”
Kairi winces at the memory. “I… didn’t.” He’d spent all of last night down in the café, poring over all of Kogure’s notes and little cards, any information he could find on Lymon, trying to figure out how to beat a Status Gold Gangler. Every other hour, he’d checked in on Noel, still knocked out cold in his room. It hadn’t been a good combination for a fitful sleep, even if he’d had access to his bed.
“Oh.” Noel goes quiet for a moment, maybe imagining what exactly had kept Kairi up all night. “You were worried?”
“Of course I was,” Kairi snaps, unable to help the edge that sneaks into his voice. “You were basically dead when I dragged you in here.”
“I wasn’t dead,” Noel protests. There’s a twitch to his lips like he wants to laugh, but he keeps it clamped down, perhaps knowing that if he laughed in his face Kairi would leave. “But I appreciate it.”
“Whatever.” Kairi stalks past him and to the small closet on the other side of the room, opening it to pull out a blanket and pillow from beneath his clothes. “As soon as you get better, you’re outta here.”
“Your hospitality is noted,” Noel says, that laughter still in his voice. “You don’t have to sleep on the floor.” He sounds almost disappointed as he watches Kairi drag the blanket out onto the floor and arrange it in the shape of a bed.
“That bed only fits one person.” Kairi straightens up and looks from his makeshift bed to Noel, who’s still standing there just looking at him. It’s funny, because when he looks at Noel he doesn’t think he can see anything, has no way to reach beyond the masks he wears and uncover who he is beneath them, but when Noel looks at him, it’s like he can see every little gear that turns inside Kairi.
It makes him uneasy; he’s used to being good at reading people. He’s never met anyone better at keeping secrets than he is.
On a whim, he adds, “Since you’re stealing my bed, why don’t you tell me who your secret missing person that you’re trying so hard to get back?”
Noel’s eyebrows rise up high and then he laughs, a quiet breath of a sound. “Mm. I can sleep on the floor then.”
“Oh, come on,” Kairi protests, although he hadn’t actually expected that to work. “You know mine.”
“This isn’t one of those ‘you show me yours, I’ll show you mine’ things, Kairi,” says Noel. His shoulders are tense, suddenly. Kairi doesn’t know why; it’s not like he has any way to find out the truth, unless he sucks it up and asks Kogure, but the idea that he can get under Noel’s skin is… interesting.
“Sorry, I thought we were on a team,” Kairi presses, walking closer. Between his blanket-bed and the actual bed, there’s about three feet of space, and Noel steps backwards into the last bit of empty space before he hits the bed. “I thought teams were about trust. Isn’t that your whole thing?”
Noel’s eyes dart away from him for a second, and when he meets Kairi’s gaze again, there’s a strange emotion glittering in them. “I think you put it best, Kairi… let’s just keep taking advantage of each other.”
It’s a challenge. A dare. The way his head tilts, the gleam in his eyes, the mere inches of space between the two of them—well. Kairi’s never been good at backing down.
He moves first, curling his fingers into Noel’s shirt and pulling him just close enough that their noses bump and their breaths intermingle, chest to chest, hearing both their heartbeats pounding in his ears. There’s a moment here, a beat of utter quiet, where the only sound is the old clock ticking behind them, where either of them could stop it.
Noel doesn’t. His gaze drops from Kairi’s eyes down to his lips, and something tugs on Kairi’s chest from the inside, something reckless and hopeful and wild. Emotions he hadn’t let himself feel in a long time.
The kiss is messy, and wet, and exhilarating. If he’s being honest, it’s been a while—before his brother got iced and he became a Lupinranger—since he’s fooled around with guys. He doesn’t remember it feeling this way, though, doesn’t remember this roller coaster rush of desire and heat and electricity running through his skin. With the other guys, it had been mostly just spiky attraction and mild curiosity to know how being with someone would feel.
With Noel, it is—honestly, it’s kind of terrifying. It makes his stomach flip, makes him feel all loose and floaty and shaky. Noel is clearly more experienced, with the way his mouth slides against his, how his lips part and tease Kairi’s between them, but that’s not the part that terrifies him.
It’s how gentle his hands are when he slides them down Kairi’s waist, and how soft his eyelashes are fluttering against his cheeks when he tilts his head and deepens the kiss, how he angles his body so that they are touching at every point and there’s a buzzing in Kairi’s head that comes from the press of Noel’s body against his that he never wants to stop.
When Noel pulls away, then, it’s like a lead weight has dropped onto his stomach.
“Kairi,” he says carefully. One of his hands drifts aimlessly along Kairi’s hip, the touch of it so hesitant that it’s somehow intoxicating. “Are you sure about this?”
Kairi furrows his brow. “What do you mean?” He leans in, his fingers slipping from their grasp on Noel’s shirt up around his shoulder and sliding across the back of his neck. “I thought we were taking advantage of each other.”
Noel huffs out a laugh, ducking his head a little. “You’re right. You’re right,” he repeats, as if to ground himself. On Kairi’s hip, his hand settles in and edges the hemline of his shirt upwards. “Silly of me to think the great Lupin Red would do anything without thinking five moves ahead.”
Noel’s voice is lightly teasing, but when his thumb presses hot against Kairi’s bare skin it makes his breath hitch.
“Shut up,” he mutters and drags Noel forward into another kiss, swallowing the smile on his lips. Noel’s hand slides up under his shirt, his touch warm and heady in the kind of way that mixes with all the adrenaline of the earlier battle and turns Kairi’s nerves into explosions.
Maybe Noel’s right. Maybe he’s not just doing this to take advantage of this—whatever this is, between them. Maybe the fight against Lymon, working with the cops, learning a truth about Noel he hadn’t even considered—maybe this was all just adrenaline and curiosity and senseless desire. Hadn’t he and Touma and Umika agreed, all the way back then, to not let feelings get in the way of their work?
Noel’s fingers press soft into his chest, right over his heart, and Kairi has to break the kiss to exhale, pretending he can’t see the smile still lingering on Noel’s lips.
“You know,” Kairi says, struggling to get his heartbeat back under control. “Maybe we need to have a talk about our, ah, rules.”
Noel quirks an eyebrow. “Your rules?”
“For the Lupinrangers.” Well aware he’s in the process of breaking at least five of them, Kairi pushes gently until Noel stumbles backwards onto the bed. He doesn’t seem to mind, only adjusting his grip on Kairi’s hips so that both of them fall at the same time, Kairi pressing him into the bedsheets. “Certain guiding principles, that sort of thing.”
“Mm.” Noel tilts his head, his hair falling loose over his eyes. Kairi can’t resist the urge to bring his other hand up and brush the soft strands out of his face. “Enlighten me, s’il vous plaît.”
Unbidden, Kairi feels a grin cross his face. This is the most ridiculous thing he’s done since becoming a Lupinranger, making out with a cop in his tiny, dimly-lit bedroom, and it’s maybe the first thing he’s done just for himself, not for his brother or Touma or Umika, in months. He cups Noel’s face in his hands and kisses him again, this time slow and lingering instead of hot and desperate, and lets himself taste the smile off Noel’s lips.
“No getting attached,” he says, as a shiver slides down his back when Noel drags his shirt upwards by the hem. “To each other, or to anyone else.”
“Good job on that,” Noel teases. “What if I want to get attached?” This question he mouths softly over Kairi’s cheek, and drags his lips down his neck, maybe to demonstrate his point. His kisses are warm and shivery and Kairi angles his head back without even thinking about it.
“You’re gonna have to take that up with them, then,” he manages to gasp. Noel smirks at him and tugs Kairi’s shirt off the top of his head, leaving his hair ruffled beneath it. “The second rule is, we don’t worry about what the others are doing, unless it affects us in battle.”
“Is that what this is?” Noel slides his hands down Kairi’s chest, stopping at an old bruise still fading purple on his stomach, and runs his thumb over it gently. “Not worrying about me?”
“Don’t let it get to your head,” Kairi murmurs, hooking a finger into Noel’s neckline so he can get rid of his shirt too. “I wasn’t going to leave you for the cops.”
“How gallant.” Noel grins, his hands slipping down to Kairi’s hips and then, before Kairi can get his shirt off, he twists and flips them both so that Kairi is cushioned on the bed beneath him. “Tell me, what are your rules on expressing gratitude?”
Kairi’s a little too breathless to respond immediately, staring up into Noel’s smile and almost unsure of how he got here. “Well…” His heart is racing triple time as Noel leans down and presses his lips to the corner of Kairi’s mouth, and then lower down his jawline, then his neck. There’s a hot flush crawling over his skin everywhere that Noel touches.
He thinks he might have been cold since the day his brother disappeared, and this is his first touch of warmth since then. He inhales Noel like a dying man in front of an oasis in the desert.
“I’d—I’d say you’re doing okay,” Kairi gasps. “Fuck,” he adds as Noel’s mouth wanders down his chest, his teeth scraping lightly against the skin of his breastbone. The rush of heat that gives him goes right down to his dick, exhilarating and intoxicating. “This isn’t fair.”
Noel pauses, looks up, his eyelashes fluttering dark against his skin. There’s a glittering of emotion—desire, amusement, longing—in his eyes that makes Kairi squirm from the intensity of it, so bright and so blinding. He hasn’t been looked at this way in—forever, he thinks. Maybe not ever.
“What’s not fair?” Noel asks, lips quirking in a smile. He presses a kiss right over Kairi’s heart, where surely he can feel it jumping around, and lower on his body, Noel trails one hand down his stomach, his hips, and stops in between his legs.
Kairi groans, an immediate spasm jolting down his legs. “That. You can’t just—you haven’t even let me take your shirt off, which is the least you could do since—oh, fuck.”
Noel seems to have very little interest in letting Kairi take his shirt off, since he interrupts him by palming one hand around his stiffening cock and squeezing just enough that Kairi feels it all the way through his bones. When Kairi opens his eyes and stops briefly seeing stars, there’s an unbearably fond smile on Noel’s face as he studies him.
His stomach somersaults over again. There’s no way he’s ever done anything good enough to deserve a look that warm, that soft, from anyone.
“You’re right,” says Noel at last, shrugging one shoulder. Kairi can’t even bring himself to move his hands from where they’re curled into fists around the bed sheets, so all he does is watch as Noel tugs his shirt off from the top and then leans down again with a smile. “Sorry, that was rude of me.”
“Yeah,” Kairi mutters, but his breath escapes in a quiet laugh. “God.”
He gingerly lifts one hand and traces it over the edge of one of Noel’s remaining bandages. He’d taken most of them off, but there were some wounds that had yet to heal, hidden under the lines of white. Around the bandages, his skin is hot to the touch and he shifts every time Kairi brushes his fingers against a sensitive spot.
“Have you done this before?” Noel asks, bracing one hand at Kairi’s side to prop himself up. The other stays between his legs, offering only slow strokes up and down. There’s a new and delicious sort of heat building from his touch, sizzling up his stomach and down his spine, emboldened by the smirk on Noel’s face and the surety of his hand.
“Not—not in a while,” Kairi admits. His cheeks feel even more flushed than they already had been, but Noel doesn’t seem concerned by his answer, only laughs and leans in and presses a kiss to his mouth that is ridiculously tame compared to what else he’s doing to Kairi. “Is that a problem?”
“Not at all.” Noel noses at Kairi’s cheek until he turns his head and then lowers his head down to suck at the hollow of his throat, his mouth and teeth pressing hot against the skin of Kairi’s collarbone.
Kairi exhales sharply through his teeth, trying not to squirm around too much beneath Noel. He can feel every line of Noel’s body against his, touching from every point down, can feel the aching, growing hardness of his dick pressing into Kairi’s thigh; there are a million fireworks rattling around inside him and he thinks he might honestly burn up before Noel even does anything to him.
“I just wanted to be sure…” Noel continues lightly, once he’s left a hickey so pink and raw on Kairi’s neck that he’ll need to wear scarves for at least a week, not even seeming to mind the way Kairi’s hands are hopelessly clutching at his shoulders, raking down his bare back. “…That this would be special.”
“Special?” Kairi repeats blankly, his thoughts zooming in a thousand different directions—it’s hard to engage in conversation when all he can think is more more more. “What do you mean sp—oh.”
Noel bows his head and suddenly the earlier explosions of his nerves seem like distant, boring memories because Kairi is on fire in a whole new way. His mouth drags against the bare skin of Kairi’s chest, his tongue finding and tracing each and every line there, and his other hand slides down and hooks into the waistband of his jeans, popping the button there with an ease that seems unfair.
“Noel,” he gasps, the name on his tongue half a command and half a whimper. “You—fuck—oh, god—”
Words aren’t coming to his head anymore; thoughts feel fuzzy and faraway, long lost behind the touches Noel is trailing all the way down his body like Kairi’s a puzzle he’s piecing together with his mouth. He gets to Kairi’s hips and presses a soft kiss to the skin just above his jeans and the heat that’s been building up inside him all this time feels like it’s just about to burst.
“Not yet,” Noel murmurs, the words ghosted over Kairi’s stomach. He takes care as he drags his jeans and underwear down, almost too slowly, over his legs. It should feel like freedom, to not be constrained anymore when he’d been so hard he was aching everywhere, but instead it feels like he’s been caught again, this time by the look in Noel’s eyes as he lowers his head down.
“Fucking—hell,” Kairi hisses under his breath, his hands losing purchase on Noel’s body and instead fisting in the sheets again. He has to clamp down more curses as Noel takes his cock in his mouth, first lightly, just the head, and then more and more surely, his tongue wicked and wonderful in the worst of ways.
Noel is painfully slow as he works Kairi up; it feels like he’s been standing on the edge of a precipice for hours and days and years, trembling from the weight of everything burning inside him. He can’t remember ever being cold.
“Please,” Kairi hears himself saying in a distant, faraway sort of way. This is the best kind of torture, the kind he never wants to end. “Just let me—just—”
Noel pulls away for one awful moment, his hand replacing his mouth as his thumb slides a long, languid line up Kairi’s length. There’s pre-come on his lips and his hair is a ruffled mess when he looks up at him—Kairi’s sure he’s not much better, but it gives him a special kind of thrill to see Noel just as undone as he is. Just as wrecked.
“Just so you know,” says Noel, mouth at the tip of Kairi’s dick, terribly teasing. “I think all your rules are bullshit.”
Kairi might have had a retort if Noel hadn’t picked that moment to take him right over the edge he’d been teetering on. All he manages is an undignified gasp and then the only thing he’s ever known is Noel’s mouth on him.
This is a kind of pleasure so sweet Kairi thinks he could drown in it, thinks he never wants to open his eyes and see the sun again. He barely even notices through the cresting waves of pleasure when Noel pulls his mouth away from him and swallows, although the sight of that imprints itself in his mind anyway.
It’s not something he wants to forget.
So as he lies there, his breathing ragged and uneven and his whole body shivering, he manages to raise one hand and press it gently to Noel’s cheek, beckoning him back up. He takes a moment to draw Kairi’s jeans back up to his hips before he does, thankfully saving him from the chill of his bedroom.
“Do you need…” Kairi starts to ask, but when Noel settles himself into his side, he can’t feel a full erection anymore. “Wow, really?”
Noel has the grace to look a little embarrassed. “Would you believe me if I said it’s been a while for me too?”
“No.” Kairi lifts one hand to trace Noel’s lips, swiping the wetness off them. “That was—seriously—” He struggles with the words, lost under the weight of Noel’s gaze, gleaming bright in the darkness as he watches Kairi slowly stop trembling.
There’s a heartbeat where Kairi isn’t sure if he should—if he can—try to kiss him, and then Noel takes his hand and licks a line up his index finger.
Kairi shudders, unable to look away. His heart is still racing a hundred miles a minute and there’s something so intimate about lying here, in his stupidly small bed, so curled up into Noel that he can’t imagine ever not touching him.
“You know,” Kairi says after a moment, relieved to have his voice returned to him. “If they find out, Touma and Umika are going to kill you.”
Alarm flashes across Noel’s face. “They are?”
Kairi can’t help grinning at him. “Yeah. Rule number seven: no sex on the job.”
Noel stares at him for a moment, trying to discern whether or not he’s joking. It’s only when Kairi starts snickering that he gives in and huffs out a laugh. “You three and your rules really are going to be the death of me, I have no doubt.”
“I mean, you could stay with the cops…” Kairi widens his eyes purposefully and leans in. “Maybe Kei-chan would—”
Noel kisses him before he can finish that sentence, catching his laugh in his mouth, and then Kairi rolls over onto him and kisses him back until both of them are laughing all tangled up in each other and he’s pretty sure there’s no way Touma and Umika won’t figure it out in the morning, but until then…
Until then, he has this and Noel and the way he kisses him, sure and steady and unafraid, and the way he laughs when Kairi teases him and if this can buoy him till the end of their mission, Kairi thinks he should let it.