What happened was, Sento was bouncing off the lab walls, full of ideas and equations and grand new plans, and then he stopped dead and stared at Banjou for a moment and said, “Hey, Banjou, can I blow you?”
Just like that. “Can I.” Not, “Would you like me to,” or even, “I want to.” “Can I,” the way you’d say, “Can I sit here?” or “Can I have the rest of that sandwich if you don’t want it?” Banjou shook himself, stuck a finger in his ear to make sure nothing was interfering with his hearing, and said, “What?”
“You know.” Sento made an expressive and unmistakable gesture. “Can I—”
“No, I heard you fine, that was a confused what. Why?”
“You seem tense.”
“I’m always tense, my life’s completely fallen apart, that’s not new.”
“But that doesn’t explain why you’d just—”
“Because it seems like a fun thing to do?”
“Are you having one of those moods? Like last week?”
Sento started to answer, stopped, and shrugged. “Maybe? I feel…fizzy.”
From the makeshift bedroom at the other end of the lab came a faint interjection of, “You should just let him, he’s probably really good at it. He’s good at most things as long as he doesn’t have to be quiet.”
Banjou sputtered. “How do you know?”
“How do you think. He’s good at the other thing, the thing he does with me.” Misora groaned irritably. “Just…make less noise. I’m sleeping.”
Banjou stared across the room towards Misora for another long moment, and then looked back at Sento, who was bouncing on the balls of his feet and quietly going over some kind of equation, and then after some calculation of his own said, “Ok.”
Sento blinked, attention snapping back to him immediately. “Fantastic, come on, if we do it right here we’ll get on Misora’s nerves.” He grabbed Banjou’s belt and towed him into the corner.
Five minutes later, Banjou was trying desperately to keep his voice down as he said, “Fuck, Misora was right.”
Sento looked up at him. “Hm?”
“You are. Really good at this.”
Sento gave him a thumbs-up and winked.
“So, uh.” It had taken a few hours for Banjou to process things, since they’d all happened very quickly, but finally there was a quiet moment and he and Sento were alone and he could pinpoint what was bothering him. “What…brought that on?”
Sento looked up from his computer. “What brought what—right, yeah. Well, I’ve wanted to for a while. Just never seemed like the right moment to offer.”
“And then suddenly today did?”
“You were testing out Cross-Z earlier. It’s hot. I’ve been meaning to ask, how do you get your hair like that? It’s amazing.”
“It takes a lot of practice. I mean, but also, you didn’t—do you want me to…?” Banjou gestured, not quite as expressively as Sento but with just as clear a meaning. “That only seems fair.”
Sento blinked. “Sure, if you want to, I’d like that. You don’t have to, though.”
Banjou frowned. “Wait, does Misora not usually…uh…”
“That word, yes.”
“Not right away, no. I mean, a lot of the time I’m trying to help her sleep, if I manage that then she can’t. And I usually do, I’m pretty good at it,” said with the smallest traces of smugness.
Banjou scowled. “You should ask for things for yourself, though.”
Sento looked puzzled. “I do ask for things. I just wait until it’s situationally appropriate.”
“Which ends up being almost never.”
“Nnno…?” Sento’s forehead wrinkled. “That…doesn’t seem right, but I can’t think of any good arguments.”
Banjou raised his eyebrows.
“…ok, maybe you’re right.”
“So. Are you going to ask me for something?”
“Is this a kink thing? Do I have to ask specifically or it’s not fun?”
Banjou turned bright red. “What? No. I—no. I just think you need to take better care of yourself. No.”
“Oh.” Sento nodded, frowning thoughtfully. “Ok. Well, if I ask you, will you actually say yes? Also will you kiss me?”
“Obviously I’ll say—what? When? Now? Before or after?”
“Either one is fine, I like kissing.”
“Why are you so hard to have a normal conversation with?”
“Not sure. Can’t help it. Probably the brain problems. Banjou Ryuuga, will you please suck my dick? And also kiss me?”
Banjou got up out of his chair, grabbed Sento’s face, and kissed him with a focused thoroughness that he normally dedicated to beating people up. Then he dropped to his knees and put his hands on Sento’s thighs. And froze.
Sento grinned at him. “You have no idea what you’re doing, do you?”
“Listen, I dated the same woman for like five years and she didn’t have one of these.” A beat. “I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.”
“Can I play with your hair? It looks really soft.”
“You can totally play with my hair, super into that, but only if you also tell me what the hell I’m supposed to do now.”
“Sure, ok. I can talk you through it.” The corners of Sento’s eyes crinkled in a genuine smile, and he ran his fingers through Banjou’s hair. “Ooh, it is soft.”
Several minutes later, there was a clicking of heels on the spiral staircase down to the lab, and Sawa saying, “Misora said you were down here, I found out some—oh! Oh my god. Please excuse me.” The clicking reversed direction.
A faint, “I distinctly told you not to go down there,” from the coffee shop. “I told you he was in a mood.”
Sawa stared into her cup of miserably bad black coffee, blushing hard, and said, “It feels ridiculous to say now, but somehow I wasn’t expecting that.”
“I told you.” Misora gulped down another mouthful of noodles. “Also have you not been paying attention at all? And anyway Sento’s just like that.”
“Actually, I wonder if they’d let me photograph them.”
Misora dropped her fork into her bowl.
“Human interest! People would be into it.”
There was a long pause, and then Misora very calmly pulled her thread scissors out of her pocket, eye twitching, and said, “Abso-lutely not.”
“You know,” said Sento in the middle of lunch several days later, “he’s endangering everyone and we don’t know what his goals are and he keeps fighting us, but has anyone else noticed that Blood Stark’s really stylish?”
Isurugi choked on his mouthful of coffee. “I’m sorry?”
“You know. He does that sexy hip pop thing.”
Banjou was staring at him wide-eyed over the edge of a half-eaten sandwich. “You did not just call Blood Stark sexy.”
“Well, not necessarily sexy, but he’s got interesting body language. Kind of confident and flirty. It’s neat. And his suit has a great design. I wonder if I could do the hip pop thing, I feel like it’d work with my look. Ooh, Banjou, or you could try it, the pants on the Cross-Z uniform are really tight, it’d look good.”
“Your pants are at least as tight as mine.”
Misora stopped at the top of the stairs, staring at her father snorting into his coffee, Banjou hiding in his sandwich, and Sento standing in the middle of the room, trying without any success to pose in a stylish, sexy way.
Her mouth twitched. The twitch gave way to a giggle. The giggle, in turn, became a full-blown howl of laughter as Sento turned around, looking slightly hurt, and said, “I don’t think I was doing that badly.”
“You weren’t,” she said into the palm of her hand, trying to stifle her laughter. “Not that badly. But not. Not well.”
“What do you think, is Blood Stark sexy?”
“Definitely not, and also there’s definitely something wrong with you.” She grabbed a pastry from the counter. “That was exactly what I needed to see, though, I’m in a much better mood now.”
Banjou wasn’t sure whether they were being less discreet about it or if he’d been too oblivious before, but it astonishing to him that he hadn’t walked in on Sento and Misora before. They all lived in the same small space, dancing around each other in their attempt to maintain a semblance of the ordinary. But until Sento had offered to blow him apropos of completely nothing, he’d somehow managed to avoid contemplating any of their sex lives.
Except that now apparently Sento thought of him as fair game for the occasional stolen ten or fifteen minutes in a corner of the lab. And that, in turn, meant that when he woke up and wandered blearily towards the bathroom and saw Sento lying on the bed with Misora rocking dreamily on top of him with her nightgown rucked up around her waist, all she did was say, “There’s not much hot water, you’ll have to shower quick,” and Sento said, “Good morning, Banjou,” and smiled dopily at him.
Banjou said, “Good morning,” back, and then ran out of hot water in the shower anyway once he woke up enough for his body to react to what he’d seen.
Banjou and Misora sort of…didn’t talk about it. She didn’t seem upset with him for doing whatever he was doing with Sento, and he certainly wasn’t upset with her for not breaking off whatever she was doing with Sento, but they didn’t address it at all. Which felt wrong, because he liked Misora a lot, and suspected that she probably liked him a lot when she was awake enough, and if the circumstances were different maybe he would have pursued that. As it was, he felt tied down by the weirdness of…everything, and he and Misora weren’t talking.
Until one day, when Sento had gone out to get groceries, and she sat down next to him with her enormous plush rabbit in tow and said, “He’s driving me up a fucking wall.”
“Yeah, fair. Wait, why, though? He hasn’t been that obnoxious lately.”
“No reason. Just stir-crazy, I guess.”
“…yeah, I get like that too.” A long pause. “And then I try to get mad at him and he’s just like, ‘can I suck your dick,’ and I can’t be mad at him because now my dick’s in his mouth.”
Misora put down the plush rabbit and covered her face with both hands. “Don’t tell me that.”
“Why not? He does it to you too.”
“Yeah, but it’s weird hearing you talk about it.” She peeked at him from between her fingers. “It’d almost be easier if he wasn’t so good at it.”
“Definitely.” Banjou’s mouth twitched. “Actually, you know what’s even worse? When he’s working on a problem or something—”
“Right, and he’s like, ‘hey, can I go down on you, it helps me think,’ and then halfway through he figures out whatever it is—”
“—and he just stops and runs off,” they chorused together.
“You’re right,” Misora said, “that’s way worse than when he just derails arguments. Especially because it actually does help him think. He’s like…he’s like Sherlock Holmes.”
Banjou frowned. “Who?”
“The detective, the British guy in the stories. Didn’t you ever read them in school?”
“Probably. Wasn’t there are a movie?”
“There are like five thousand movies. And he’s always playing violin and doing coke because it helps him think and then he solves huge mysteries, and Sento is exactly like that, except with sex stuff and science.” Misora stifled a hysterical giggle. “He’s the Sherlock Holmes of oral sex. Can we go out again sometime?”
“He’s the Sherlock—wait, what?”
“Out. You and me.” She bumped her shoulder awkwardly against his. “We can do disguises and…I don’t know. Go see a movie.”
Banjou was thrilled by this, and also a little surprised by how thrilled he was. “Sure, if you want, I’d enjoy that. Can I kiss you? I wanted to ask a while ago but I thought it might be weird.”
Misora blinked at him. “It’s super weird. You’re weird. This is all weird. Sure.”
It was very different from kissing Sento, which was, weirdly enough, a relief. (It was also very different from kissing Kasumi, which was even more of a relief.) She wrapped her arms around his neck and swung her legs over his lap, and he got one arm around her waist and dipped her like they were on a romance novel cover, and she giggled.
“You’re a better kisser than Sento,” she said when they came up for air.
“I don’t know, I think he’s pretty good.”
“Ok, true, but it’s nice to have something different.”
“I mean, if you want something different.” He grinned, and then whispered in her ear.
She swatted him on the shoulder, and then pointed imperiously to a clear spot on a desk nearby. “Over there. And don’t say it like that, it’s weird.”
Up from the bench, Misora in his arms and then seated primly on the desk edge, and he said, “Yes, ma’am,” and pulled up a chair in front of her.
“That you can say.” She wiggled her panties down, looked down at him. “I like this view. Can I play with your hair?”
Sento got back a few minutes later, with a couple of grocery bags in hand and a candy bar hanging out of his mouth. He didn’t even seem to notice them until he started looking for a chair, at which point he said, “Oh! I’m glad you two are having fun.”
“I hope you had a nice trip out,” Misora said breathlessly. Banjou, reasonably, said nothing, although he did wave in Sento’s general direction.
The entire lab dynamic had changed. Previously, there had been Sento and Banjou, and Sento and Misora; now there was Banjou and Misora as well, and everything was slowly coalescing into a new thing, they were talking to each other differently and turning into Sento-and-Ryuuga-and-Misora as one cohesive unit that fascinated Sawa and that Isurugi was visibly distressed by.
“So how would you characterize your relationship?” Sawa said to Sento one day in the middle of lunch.
Isurugi immediately left the room, muttering something about grinding more coffee beans, and Sento stared into space for a moment and then said, brightly, “They’re my lab partners.”
Ryuuga swallowed a mouthful of sandwich. “No, I’m not.”
“But you assist with—”
“That’s not lab assistance, I don’t do any science. Given how much we make out I’m pretty sure you have to start saying boyfriend.”
“Oh. Ok. I like that.” Sento turned back to Sawa. “I’m sure you heard him.”
Sawa nodded slowly. “And…what about Misora?”
“I’m also his boyfriend,” Misora said drowsily. “If we expect him to start using too many new terms at once he’ll just get confused and stressed out. Although actually I’m Ryuuga’s girlfriend. And he’s Ryuuga’s boyfriend. The whole thing is Banjou-centered.”
Sento peered at Ryuuga, who had flushed bright red. “You know, I never thought about it like that before, but she’s completely right.”
“Wait, how did that happen, I’m the new person.”
“You’re the little angry sun around which we both revolve.” Misora kissed him on the ear. At Sawa’s look, she said, “He’s just ours. That’s it.”
The coalescing, or whatever it was, ended up finishing entirely by accident because they were all so goddamn tired. Ryuuga was the one who fell into bed first, because he’d gotten thrown fairly hard during the fight earlier that day and he was irritable and he ached. He fell asleep almost immediately. Misora flopped in next to him as soon as the new Full Bottle was done purifying, asleep even quicker from long practice and greater exhaustion. Sento managed to stay up for a further half hour, doing equations and squinting at the new bottle and the old bottles and thinking about things that might work, and then he yawned so hard that he nearly pulled a muscle. It took some work to fit himself into the little space remaining on the bed, given that Ryuuga and Misora were both inveterate sprawlers or possibly octopi, but he managed it, and he fell asleep with his face pressed into the back of Misora’s neck and one leg hanging off the bed.
When they woke up, it was roughly simultaneously, because Ryuuga woke up first and the other two were on top of him. He grunted and tried to move, and Misora said, “Stop it,” and Sento said, “Gnuh?”
“You’re both suffocating me,” Ryuuga muttered.
“You’re so nice to lie on, though.” Sento nosed at the side of his neck. “You smell good.”
“We all ache.”
“I’ll make you ache worse if you don’t get off me.”
“I’d like to see that,” Misora said, “you should do it.”
Ryuuga stared at the ceiling for a moment, considering that. Sento continued to sleepily nuzzle his throat, and Misora had her face in his hair, and when she stuck her tongue in his ear, he said, “Hey, is the panel locked? Nobody’s going to come down here suddenly?”
“It’s locked.” Sento stuck his tongue in Ryuuga’s other ear. “Although I guess I could get up and put a, a sock on the latch or something.”
“A sock on the—no. No. That’s ok.”
Misora yawned. “Does this mean we’re doing something fun?”
“Why are you asking, it was your idea.”
“You said you wanted to see me give Sento an ache.”
“Right.” Misora nodded thoughtfully, and then leaned forward slightly and kissed Ryuuga solidly on the mouth. “I’ll help.”
“I mean, that’s only fair, it was your idea.”
Sento was watching them warmly, his chin resting on Ryuuga’s shoulder, one arm draped over Ryuuga’s chest and Misora’s waist. “I think we’re going to need a bigger bed down here if we keep this up. Of course it’d be a project to get it down here, but I’m sure we could—”
Ryuuga rolled his eyes. “Sento.”
Ryuuga used what leverage he had to drag Sento up to straddle his waist, as Misora covered her mouth to hide a laugh. “Shut up for two seconds and just enjoy yourself.”