Actions

Work Header

The Kamen Rider Sketch Dump

Chapter Text

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.”

“Well—”

“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…”

“Reciprocate?”

“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.”

“I…see.”

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.”

“I ache.”

“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.”

“Was it?”

“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.”

“Yes?”

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.”

 

Chapter Text

Ankh’s inherent nature makes him restless. To be a Greeed is to want, to grasp, to need and desire and hunger and remain unfulfilled. When he’s not pacing he’s perching, leveling a covetous stare at whatever catches his eye, sneering around the ever-present ice pop in his mouth.

Eiji sort of likes that about him. Obviously the selfishness isn’t especially charming, but it’s nice being around someone who feels strongly about things. He tells Ankh this one day, and Ankh sneers at him, of course, and says, “I have no idea how you’ve managed to go so long being this naïve.”

“Maintaining a positive outlook isn’t inherently naïve.” Eiji is elbow-deep in soap suds, washing dishes while Chiyoko and Hina deal with things out in the restaurant. “Just because I look for the best in people doesn’t mean I can’t see anything else.”

Ankh gives him a flat stare and stalks out of the room. Which is how it goes with about fifty percent of their conversations.

Kitamura upsets him badly, though. Eiji doesn’t notice at first; Ankh’s irritable, but that’s always the case, and any encounter with the creepy Other-Ankh always throws him off, which is reasonable. He scowls and snarls and resists anyone who asks how he’s doing, and so Eiji focuses on making sure that Hina and Goto and Date are all right. He knows Ankh will come around. Which of course he does…sort of.

 


 

He wakes up at two in the morning when Ankh climbs into bed next to him and says, sleepily, “Ankh? What are you doing?”

Ankh stares at him for a moment and then lies down, wrapping himself possessively around one of Eiji’s arms and pressing his cheek to Eiji’s shoulder. He doesn’t say anything.

“Huh,” Eiji says, getting a mouthful of Ankh’s hair. “Ok.” And he goes back to sleep.

 


 

For the entire next day Ankh refuses to talk to him, but does follow him everywhere. Then in the middle of the night Eiji is woken again by feet on the floor of the shared loft bedroom and a skinny body getting into bed next to him. His arm is once again not his own, and he just mumbles, “G’night, Ankh,” into Ankh’s hair before falling asleep.

 


 

Next day—Ankh won’t talk to him again. Eiji says to him, cheerfully, “It’s a good thing we don’t have any Yummies to fight or this mood you’re in would make things really difficult.”

Ankh tch’s at him but says nothing.

 


 

Eiji isn’t particularly tired that evening, so he doesn’t go to sleep. He goes to bed like usual, he changes, he shuts out the light, but he doesn’t go to sleep. He lies in bed, gazing thoughtfully at the ceiling, and thinks about things while he waits.

Eventually the loft door opens and a slim figure slips through, shutting the door behind himself, red hair catching the light for just a moment before it’s blocked out again. He pads across the floor, pauses for a moment, and then crawls into bed besides Eiji and curls up against his side.

Eiji gives it a moment and then says, “Ankh, what are you doing?”

He feels Ankh go very tense next to him. After a moment, Ankh says, “Sleeping.”

“You’ve never wanted to sleep with me before.”

“Your bed is comfortable.”

“You could just ask, you know. We do share a room, I don’t mind moving over a little.”

The only response to that is an irritated “tch” in the darkness.

“Is something bothering you?”

There’s a pause, and then Ankh mutters, “Kitamura offended me. Also this fucking human body is driving me crazy, it feels weird now when I look at you. It might be sick, I don’t know how human bodies are supposed to work.”

Eiji tries to roll towards him and can’t, because Ankh is wrapped too firmly around his arm. “Well, what makes you think you’re sick? Do you feel like you need to throw up or something? Do you have a fever?”

“My blood is flowing wrong. That’s a sick thing, right? That has to be sickness. I knew it, the other one fucked me up and this body is going to die anyway.”

Eiji considers this, tugging his arm free as he decides how to answer. There was something else he’d noticed the past couple of nights, but he hadn’t wanted to mention. If Ankh thinks he’s sick, though… “I, uh. I’m pretty sure you’re not sick.”

Ankh makes an irritated noise and tries to grab his arm again, sitting up when he pulls away. “Hey. No, obviously I’m sick, what else would it be.” There isn’t a lot of light in the room, but in the little that does come in through the window Eiji can see that he’s visibly flushed. “Your friend must have given me some sort of human disease.”

“No, look, it’s…I’d say you should know this but I guess since you’re not human. I mean, you are a Greed, so you should know about, I mean, I think you might be feeling—hell, I don’t know how to explain this.” Scowling, Eiji thinks about it for a moment, and then says, “Here, uh. You should…move a little closer, you have something on your face.”

Looking a little horrified by the suggestion that he could look less than perfect, Ankh leans towards him, and is thus taken entirely by surprise when Eiji leans down and kisses him. He makes a startled noise against Eiji’s mouth, clawed hand clamping down on his shoulder, but when Eiji tries to shift back, thinking he’s upset, Ankh just pulls him closer. Another kiss, and Ankh’s lips part under his, and then midway through a third one Ankh’s eyes snap open and he says, “Fuck. Is this a sex thing? Shit, I’m not fucking sick, I’m having human sex feelings. How disgusting.

“Yeah, I mean. That’s what it means when your blood flow changes like that. I know you don’t especially like human things, I just couldn’t think of a better way to explain it. It’s not…something I’ve ever had to do before.” Eiji shifts back—

The claws on his shoulder tighten. “I didn’t say stop,” Ankh says, imperiously. “Keep going.”

Feeling sort of enjoyably perverse for once, Eiji tugs himself free of Ankh’s grip. “If you think it’s disgusting, though…”

Ankh grabs for him. “That isn’t what I said.”

Eiji shuffles back more, dodging the grab. “You pretty clearly said, ‘how disgusting,’ I definitely heard you.”

“I didn’t say sex was disgusting, I said it was disgusting that I’m having human sex feelings. Mammals are gross. Come back here.” Another swipe, with the human hand, and Eiji catches his wrist. “Hey.”

“Look, I know I’m a very easy-going person, but if you want this then you should at least try to be polite to me. And you have to tell me why now, what’s gotten you in this mood?”

“I told you. Kitamura offended me.” Swipe. Eiji has to grab his other wrist, distantly fascinated by the feel of feathers and scales and an intense musculature that Ankh is for some reason not taking advantage of to pull away. “He tried to get rid of me because he wanted you. He can’t have you. No one gets to have you. You’re mine.

Only slightly surprised, Eiji lets go of him and sits back. “Am I?” he says, as pleasantly as possible. “That’s news to me.”

Ankh makes an offended noise. “Obviously you’re mine. I found you.” He peers angrily at Eiji for a moment and then tries to crawl onto him. “Now are you going to kiss me again or what?”

Eiji doesn’t stop Ankh from getting in his lap, but does catch his upper arms to keep him from grabbing. “No, not yet. I mean, I think I’d like to, but I’m not going to until we talk a little more.” He can feel Ankh wanting to pull away from his grip but for some reason not doing so. “I mean, I pretty distinctly remember finding you. Shouldn’t that make it the other way around? Although I guess it’s not really how I do things.”

Sputtering. “You didn’t—I found you. That’s how it works. Do humans feel like this all the time, by the way? Is this why you’re all idiots? This is distracting.

“I know I said this before, but if you want me to kiss you then you have to stop insulting me all the time.”

More sputtering, Ankh’s delicate face contorting in a glare, and then suddenly his shoulders slump and he drops his gaze to the side and mutters, “I don’t like this. I don’t like these feelings. Wanting things in a human way is awful, it makes me itch all over. Whenever I look at you I feel like I’m going to pass out. Look, will you fucking kiss me again if I say please or something? Is that what you want? Please kiss me again, Eiji, for fuck’s sake, I don’t think this body can produce Yummies when I’m attached to it but I don’t want to find out otherwise just because of human sex feelings.

Eiji thinks about it for a moment. As far as he can tell, Ankh’s never needed to be polite before in his entire life, and he’s…a few hundred years old? Maybe a couple thousand? Who knows. Anyway, “That’s a pretty good start,” and he lets go of Ankh’s arms, and Ankh sort of surges forward and knocks him onto his back on the bed.

Given Ankh’s professed—and probably deliberate—lack of familiarity with the workings of his human body, it’s not especially surprising that he’s sort of a bad kisser. More of a biter, really. Eiji puts up with it for a moment and then rolls them over, muffling Ankh’s immediate irritated noise with his mouth. The irritated noises continue for a moment and then stop, at about the same time that Ankh’s clawed hand clamps down on the back of Eiji’s neck.

“Ouch,” Eiji says gently, pulling back. “Don’t grab so hard, it hurts.”

The claws loosen slightly. “That felt good. Whatever you were doing.”

“Which part? Also, do you just sleep in your clothes every night? That can’t be comfortable.”

“I don’t know which part. All of it felt good. Also no, normally I don’t sleep in anything, but the thought of getting into the bed next to you not wearing anything felt…” Ankh seems to spend a long time considering his phrasing before saying, “…weird.”

Eiji smiles.

Ankh flinches visibly. “Don’t do that.”

“What? Smile at you?”

Yes. It makes my stomach do things, I don’t like it.” Eiji doesn’t stop smiling. Ankh squirms underneath him. “Look, just…go back to kissing me or something. I don’t know.”

“Sure. Although I think you should take your shirt off.”

“…why?”

“Well, you’re fully dressed and I’m in my underwear. That doesn’t seem fair.”

“What’s fairness got to do with it? Why should I care about what’s fair?” Ankh squirms more under Eiji’s steady gaze and then wriggles awkwardly out of his shirt. “Ok, look, just so you know, I’m not doing this to make things more fair or anything stupid like that, I’m just…warm.”

“Whatever you say, Ankh.” Eiji leans down and kisses the side of his neck.

Ankh immediately goes tense. “That feels different.”

“Should I stop?”

Absolutely not.”

Eiji can’t help smiling against his skin. “You should relax, then, it’ll feel better.”

Ankh grumbles and then slowly relaxes into Eiji’s touch. He seems nervous—although Eiji knows that if he mentions it then Ankh will definitely get offended, and probably go back to his own bed. Which would, Eiji realizes with some surprise, be terrible.

“You stopped, why’d you stop.”

“Sorry, I was thinking about something. Are you all right? Do you want me to stop? I know this is really weird for you, you can say so if it’s too much.”

Ankh looks up at him, teeth digging into his lower lip for a moment as a flush creeps up his cheeks. “I don’t like not knowing what I’m doing. This is all…new. It’s new and strange and I hate it.”

“Then I’ll stop, I don’t want to do anything that you’re uncomfortable with.”

“No.” Beat. Much more quietly, “Please don’t stop.” Ankh reaches for him, pauses, and then pulls him back down, one clawed hand and one human gripping Eiji’s shoulders tightly. “If you ever tell anyone this I’ll fucking kill you, but this scares the living fucking daylights out of me and if you stop now then it’ll never happen at all and that scares me worse. I don’t understand any of what I’m feeling, but I think I like you.” His eyes are wide, pupils blown huge, and he’s shaking like a leaf. “You keep being nice to me.”

“Well, would it help at all if I told you that I like you too and I’m enjoying doing this with you? You can pretend I’m just doing it all for my own satisfaction if that helps.”

“…that does help a little, yes. Are you going to get back to…whatever it is we’re doing? I hate to say this, but I guess that’s just what’s happening tonight, so I’m going to remind you that I don’t fucking know what to do in this situation unless you tell me.”

Eiji grins at him. “Sure, ok. Take your pants off.”

“What? You were the one going on about fairness before, if I take my pants off then you’ll be wearing more than me.

“…don’t you wear underwear?”

“No.”

“Ah.” Eiji thinks about it. “Well, still. Take your pants off.”

“Tch.” Ankh wiggles out of his ridiculous tight jeans more quickly than it seems like he should be able to and kicks them off the end of the bed.

Eiji takes a moment to look down at him admiringly. He seems smaller now that he’s naked, like most of people do, but in the low light and the heat of the moment he looks like an idealized figure from a painting, nothing but clean lines and smolder. Although maybe a painter wouldn’t include his erection, which brushes against Eiji’s stomach when he leans in to kiss him again. “You know, I’m sure you know this, but you’re really gorgeous.”

Ankh’s entire body twitches, and he draws in a sudden, sharp breath. “That felt…does it feel like that every time?” He wraps his arms around Eiji, claws digging into his back.

“What does?”

“No wonder sex makes humans go off their fucking heads.” He’s arching up, apparently trying to find the right angle at which to rub against Eiji.

It reminds Eiji sort of awkwardly of his own first time, which is probably appropriate. He lets it go on for a moment and then grabs Ankh’s hips. “Hey, stop. Calm down.”

“How can I possibly be calm right now.”

“Ok, fair, but—I mean, you’re really smart, you have to at least know some of how humans have sex.”

“Obviously.” Ankh writhes in his grip, trying to get free. “Your point?”

“So you know there’s better ways to do this.”

“I don’t care.

I care.” Eiji smiles at Ankh’s confused scowl. “If you’re going to do new things, they might as well be fun ones.” The confused scowl just gets deeper. He sighs. “Look, just trust me for a minute.”

Ankh grunts irritably and subsides, giving him a suspicious sidelong look. “What are you going to do?”

“Trust me,” Eiji says again. “You’ll enjoy it.”

“I hate when you say that.”

In response Eiji just grins, kisses him again, and shifts, pressing his lips to the deep hollow of Ankh’s throat, the sharp planes of his chest and only slightly softer ones of his stomach, the faint jut of hipbones and down. He glances up. Ankh is watching him, eyes narrowed, brows drawing down when Eiji says, “Just don’t pull my hair, ok?”

“Why would I—”

Eiji ducks his head and lets Ankh’s cock slide between his lips.

The most immediate response is that Ankh jolts like he’s been shocked, making a startled noise deep in his throat. Right after that, though, Eiji feels claws tighten in his hair, and lifts his head long enough to say, “If you grab my hair I’ll stop.”

The claws release convulsively. Ankh looks like he’s trying to say something, maybe several things, but for once he’s at a loss for words. Beaming, Eiji dips his head again.

In general, if anyone asked, Eiji would say that he enjoys sex. It feels good, obviously, and it makes the other person feel good, and it’s a nice way to be close to someone. Not something he’s spent a lot of time worrying about, though; he doesn’t tend to stay in one place long enough to find someone he might want to sleep with. Now, though, he finds that he’s startlingly turned on by the sight and sound of Ankh writhing and gasping underneath him. He’s not sure he’s ever been so attracted to someone.

The noises Ankh is making get fainter and fainter as he gets more and more breathless. He keeps twitching his hips up, trying to thrust into Eiji’s mouth so that Eiji has to hold him down with one hand, and then both, and then shift forward and up a bit and get his feet off the mattress so he doesn’t have the leverage for it at all. Which also provides a very good view. Ankh stares up at him, trembling, teeth in his lower lip again in what’s probably an attempt to stifle any sound, and then comes in a rush in Eiji’s mouth.

Eiji sits back and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand. He’s breathing heavily himself, and actually a little dizzy. Ankh stares up at him, dazed, mouth working like he wants to say something but can’t figure out what.

After a moment Eiji starts to get worried. “Ankh, are you all right?”

Ankh shakes himself like he’s coming out of a dream. “I’m fine. I’m fine.” He glances down, and his brow wrinkles. “You’re still—what, what do you want, what am I supposed to do now?”

Eiji shrugs. “You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. I don’t want to push.”

“What, do you not want to—” Ankh’s expression begins to shade from puzzled to offended.

Stifling a laugh, Eiji leans down over him, elbows on the bed on either side of his head. “No, I actually really want to fuck you right now. It’s sort of all I can think about.”

“So…so do it, then.”

“We can’t, I don’t have any lube.”

“Which means?”

“Without that I could hurt you. Actually it wouldn’t feel good for either of us.” Eiji actually has to shut his eyes against the sight of Ankh scowling; lately it’s been harder and harder to control himself in any way, and if he keeps looking at Ankh biting his lip like that then he might not be able to at all. “Trust me, though, I really, desperately want you. I just—ah.

Ankh’s hand is in his underwear. Not the human hand, either, the one that’s actually Ankh, soft-smooth scales—and talons, which Eiji can almost feel, and which would maybe be alarming if everything else didn’t feel amazing. Eiji chokes on whatever he was just saying, which he’s immediately forgotten, and bucks his hips against the touch.

Ankh smirks at him. “You were saying?”

“No idea. That feels.” Eiji can’t gather his thoughts. “Really good.” His hips twitch forward again.

“Good, because I’m sure as hell not putting it in my mouth.” There’s a contemplative pause as Ankh tightens his grip. “At least, not now. Maybe tomorrow.”

“That’s. Totally ok. No pressure. We’re going at your pace.” Eiji takes a ragged breath. “Look, could you maybe, could you maybe move your hand a little? Please?”

The smirk gets worse. “What, you want me to stop?”

Nooo just, just up and down a little.”

“Like this?”

“Yes, perfect, just like that.”

“You know,” Ankh says thoughtfully as Eiji thrusts into his hand, “I think I can actually see what you get out of this part, this is fun to watch.”

Eiji swallows hard and comes in his hand. “I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.” It takes a moment to pull himself together enough to lie down next to Ankh again. After a moment’s thought, too, he rolls onto his side and drapes an arm across Ankh’s chest. “Thank you.”

Tch.” The sneer is audible in Ankh’s voice even as he curls into Eiji’s embrace.

 


 

He’s not in bed when Eiji wakes up the next morning. He’s not even in the room. When Eiji’s heading downstairs, though, talons close around his upper arm and drag him into one of the storage closets, and as soon as the door is closed Ankh hisses at him, “It’s still happening. I thought all that was supposed to fix it.”

Eiji blinks sleepily at him. “What’s still happening?”

“The…the feeling. I thought what we did was supposed to make me able to control it or make it go away or something.”

“I mean. Sometimes it does, I think.” Eiji shrugs. “Sometimes if you want someone really badly then getting to be with them sort of defuses it. But, you know, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s not really consistent, and everyone has their own ways of doing things.”

Ankh just glares at him for a moment. “What fucking sense does that make?”

“It doesn’t. People don’t really make sense.”

The glaring continues.

“You’re still holding onto my arm. Is something else bothering you?” Eiji lifts a hand, pauses, and then reaches out to touch Ankh’s face very gently. “Also look, am I allowed to kiss you again? It was sort of disappointing when I woke up and you weren’t there.”

Ankh flinches and mutters something.

“What?”

“If it’s not working like that for me then it better not be working like that for you,” he grumbles. “You’re still mine, you’re not allowed to just not want me anymore.”

Eiji has to work very hard to keep from laughing at all. Laughing would ruin it. “If I didn’t then I wouldn’t have asked about kissing you again.”

Good. Also yes, do it now before I change my mind.”

 


 

That night, Ankh follows Eiji up to their shared bedroom when everyone disperses, but doesn’t make any move towards Eiji’s bed. Instead he perches on the edge of his own, watching Eiji steadily, unnaturally still. As if he’s waiting for something. “So.”

Eiji folds up his scarf and puts it on the little table. “So?”

“So did you. Did you get the, the whatever so we can…” Ankh trails off, scowling and blushing simultaneously.

“Lube?” Eiji tugs his sweatshirt off over his head, trying not to be unnerved at Ankh’s focused gaze. “No, I didn’t have time to go to the store today, you saw how busy it was. Plus I wasn’t sure you actually wanted to.”

“What?” A flash of anger on Ankh’s face, and he reaches out to grab the front of Eiji’s shirt and misses because Eiji’s already pulling it off.

He catches the front of Eiji’s pants, and Eiji stumbles forward, momentarily blinded as he tugs his t-shirt over his head. “What, what—ok, you’re mad at me, what’s going on?”

“You’re saying I spent all day worrying that you don’t want me and all that time you weren’t sure I wanted to?”

“I mean, you’re not really easy to read. I thought I’d been pretty clear this morning that I’d like to. But then, even if I’d been sure you did, it was still too busy for me to go out. I can get some tomorrow, if you want.” Eiji smiles down at him. “You’re still holding onto my pants, would you mind letting go so I can finish getting undressed? Also, you ought to get undressed too, unless you feel like sleeping in your clothes again.”

“Tch. Where do you even get these things, they’re ridiculous.” Ankh lets go of the front of Eiji’s pants and starts unbuttoning his own shirt. When he notices Eiji watching him, he looks away.

Eiji finishes undressing, puts away his dirty clothes, picks out underwear for tomorrow and puts them in their place on the nightstand. He’s nervous, but also fairly sure that if Ankh catches wind of it he’ll be out the door in a shot. It’s strange how much the thought bothers him, how intensely he’s interested in keeping Ankh there and comparatively happy. They’re friends, of course, he likes Ankh, he’s attracted to Ankh, but the coil of sickness at the mere thought of scaring him off is new.

He hasn’t wanted anything this intensely in so long. Maybe not ever.

He turns around and Ankh shoves him back towards his own bed, so that he stumbles and sits down with a thump. “Ankh?”

Ankh’s still half-dressed, socks gone but today’s pair of skintight jeans still present, and seems to have regained a little composure. He draws himself up regally. “Take your underwear off.”

“Oh. Uh, right.” Eiji starts to stand up to do that, but Ankh pushes him again, so he’s stuck wiggling them off and can’t put them with his other dirty laundry. “I wasn’t going to ask you to—”

Ankh drops to his knees on the rug and shoves Eiji’s legs apart.

“—hnn.

There’s a suspended pause as Ankh—the only way Eiji can think of it is that Ankh is staring down his cock, as if he’s daring it to do something besides stand there while Eiji resists the urge to speak. He squints at it. He reaches out and runs a talon up the underside, eyebrows rising when Eiji sucks in a breath. “Don’t you think they’re threatening?” he asks diffidently, raising his right hand and wiggling the wicked claws. “That doesn’t seem like the right reaction.”

“I mean, yeah, they’re dangerous. But since I’m pretty sure you’re not going to try to hurt me, they’re…also hot?”

“You’re out of your fucking mind,” Ankh says, looking smug, and then leans forward and licks the head of Eiji’s cock.

Eiji had been about to say something, but all that comes out is a startled, “Hah.”

Ankh’s nose wrinkles, and he seem to consider for a beat before shrugging and leaning forward again. His breath is very hot on Eiji’s skin. “I assume I shouldn’t bite you.”

Ah. Please don’t.”

He takes his time—another lick, from base to tip in precisely the same line his talon just described, and then mouthing at the head thoughtfully. His eyes are raised the whole time, watching Eiji’s reaction. Eiji, for his part, is frozen to the spot, not sure whether he should say or do something as Ankh entertains his own curiosity.

Finally, unable to entirely resist, he reaches down and brushes a straying lock of hair out of Ankh’s eyes, trails fingertips down the side of his face. Ankh shivers, eyes closing for a moment, and then shakes himself and—stops short. “I don’t feel like it, actually.” His face says, too nervous.

Eiji bites his lip and curls his fingers on the edge of the bed. He’s not impatient. He’s not. And he’s definitely not hearing weird primordial roaring in the back of his head.

Ankh is peering up at him suspiciously. “What are you thinking about?”

“You,” Eiji replies, truthfully but without detail.

“Tch. You’re not going to complain at all?” On his feet, peeling out of the last of his clothes and tossing them onto his own bed. His sneer is intoxicating. “Pretty sure you’re supposed to complain when something like that just stops.” He pushes Eiji’s shoulder lightly.

In response Eiji catches him around the waist and pulls him onto the bed, eliciting a noise that sounds simultaneously offended and delighted. It’s pleasing to be close, to touch, to bury his face in the side of Ankh’s neck and thrust between his thighs while Ankh drags claws down his back. He might be bleeding a little. It doesn’t matter.

“You’ve got great legs,” he says into Ankh’s ear. “I’ve been thinking about your legs all day.”

Ankh doesn’t say anything to that, he just gets a little smug glow and, after a moment, turns over in Eiji’s arms to allow for a better angle. His back is pressed to Eiji’s chest, thighs tight around Eiji’s cock. Eiji grunts and reaches down to grab him and stroke.

He doesn’t last long. Probably because it’s all still new to him, it’s overwhelming. Granted, Eiji barely lasts any longer, because it’s not as if he does this often.

 


 

It’s sort of pleasing to wake up first for once, getting out of bed and dressed and creeping out of the room while successfully leaving Ankh sprawled asleep in the bed. The weather is good, and nobody else is really up yet, so Eiji quietly strolls down to the drug store and buys lube and condoms and hides them in his hoodie pocket. He also gets a box of ice pops in a flavor he hasn’t seen Ankh try before.

Later he’s in the middle of yet another endless round of dishes when he realizes that he’s been thinking about how Ankh’s hair feels against his lips for an indefinite but certainly very long time. In fact he’s pretty sure he’s been thinking about Ankh all day.

His stomach twists.

Obviously he’s been attracted to people before, but mainly in a sort of academic way. Like, it’s sunny today, one of the hinges on the kitchen door needs fixing, Hina’s looking very pretty and if he tells her so it’ll make her happy. It’s very vague and matter-of-fact. When he’s slept with people before, it was generally because they wanted to, and he didn’t mind doing something enjoyable to please them. He’s never had someone lingering in his awareness like tinnitus, a constant low-level thought waiting to suddenly consume him whenever he starts paying attention.

It doesn’t feel wrong, but it does feel strange. Nor does it feel like when he’d been charmed by that one Yummy and thought he was in love. That was like walking through a dream, moving syrup-slow even as you know that something’s badly off. This is vertigo.

How do other people stand wanting things like this? Doesn’t it hurt?

“Eiji, are you all right?” Chiyoko’s voice startles him. “You’ve been drying that same plate for ten minutes now.”

He shakes himself. “I’m fine, I just got a little distracted. Thank you for asking.”

Ankh is watching him from the doorway, eyes narrowed, and Eiji isn’t sure that he could explain himself if Ankh asked.

 


 

Ankh is gone at dinner. There’s no sign of him the rest of the evening, either, not until he climbs in through the window of their room. “I was looking at the stars,” he says, as if he owes Eiji an explanation, as if he’s ever even wanted to explain himself before.

Eiji nods. “They’re bright tonight. The moon is really beautiful. I was…” and he pauses and thinks about whether he’s ready to before saying, “I was waiting for you.” He’s been sitting on the edge of his bed for at least half an hour, in fact.

“Why?”

“Because I want you.”

Ankh snorts, and then stops and stares at him. “You actually do, don’t you?”

“I try not to lie about important things.”

“You don’t want anything, though.”

“I know. It kind of hurts, I’m not sure what to do with it.”

More staring. Ankh looks baffled. “You’re doing this wrong, then. Nobody wants the Greeed. Nobody wants us, we want them.

“I mean, if there’s a right way to do this then I definitely don’t know it. Can I kiss you?”

“You keep asking me that, can’t you just fucking do it for once?”

“That would be rude. And potentially kind of a terrible thing to do to you.” Eiji takes a moment to breathe, though, and then reaches out and grabs the front of Ankh’s shirt and pulls him in.

On previous nights, undressing has been…just sort of something that happened, only deliberate in that it gets one of them somewhere. Now, instead, Eiji starts undoing Ankh’s buttons while they’re kissing, making a point of moving slowly, running his hands over Ankh’s skin under the fabric. He wants to be careful. Delicate. He wants this to be special, even more than it already is, wants to magnify its preciousness a thousandfold.

Ankh twitches when Eiji’s fingers brush his nipples, and Eiji grins against his mouth. “I like touching you.”

“Don’t mock me.”

“I’m not, I like touching you. Where do you keep finding shirts that have one red sleeve, anyway? Do you modify them yourself?” The sleeves in question slide off Ankh’s shoulders, and the shirt falls to the floor while Eiji is pressing his face to the side of Ankh’s neck.

Ankh’s fingers dig into Eiji’s back, and he mutters, “I swear I’m going rip this off you if you don’t take it off right now.”

“It’s pullover, though, if I take it off right now I have to stop kissing you.”

There’s a pause, and then Ankh pulls back with a scowl, drags Eiji’s shirt off over his head, and shoves him onto the bed and climbs on top of him. “Every time you make me feel something else this whole thing gets more difficult, stop it.” He kisses the hollow of Eiji’s throat, drags his claws lightly down the side of Eiji’s ribs, and then shifts down the bed, tugging Eiji’s pants down, and says, “I’m actually going to do it this time.”

“Only if you want to, I mean aahhh.

It’s difficult for Eiji to focus on any one thing. On the one hand, the feeling of Ankh’s mouth on his cock is understandably overwhelming, both for how long it’s been since the last time he got a blow job and for being him. On the other hand, there’s—there’s Ankh’s hand, curled around his leg, claws digging into his thigh, and then the sight of that precisely maintained head of red hair moving between his legs and those kohl-rimmed looking up at him.

There’s a long moment of eye contact, and then Eiji can’t help flicking his gaze down and he can see Ankh’s lips wrapped around him and if he doesn’t stuf the side of his hand into his mouth right now he’ll groan loud enough to wake Chiyoko, or the neighbors, or possibly the dead.

Ankh’s response is to smirk while sucking his cock, which is also a whole new emotion, and which prompts a breathed-out, “Fuck, you’re gorgeous.”

Ankh’s eyes go wide. He turns slightly pink.

“You are. The most beautiful—hahhh.

He almost comes in Ankh’s mouth, so caught up in the feeling of it and him that he’s nearly carried away, but he manages to catch himself in time to reach down and tug very gently on one of Ankh’s braids and gasp out, “Look, if you don’t stop I’m going to, I’m, unless you want me to—”

Ankh pulls off immediately and crawls up him again. “Eiji,” he says, and Eiji can’t help but stare at him, can’t do anything but watch the movement of his reddened lips, “tell me you want me.”

“I want you, Ankh,” kicking his pants off the rest of the way, voice faint with breathlessness. “More than anything.” Ankh towers over him, straddling his chest, still half-dressed, watching him intently. Eiji would never say so, but he looks like he’s unsure of what to do next, so then it’s, “Would you like me to—”

Ankh considers it, says, “Yes,” and starts to climb off of him.

“Wait, where are you—”

“Clothing.”

“Right, yeah. But then come back up here, ok?”

Ankh frowns at him. “You don’t need me to lie down or something?”

“I’d actually prefer it if you didn’t.” Jeans having been safely removed, Eiji pulls Ankh back on top of him, coaxing him up and forward and then saying, “No grabbing my hair, remember? But you can move if you want, I don’t mind.”

“What do you mean, move?”

“Like, thrust?” At Ankh’s blank look, “Ok, I’ll just start, you’ll know if you want to.”

Ankh had gasped the first time Eiji had blown him; this time was at least as sharp, human hand slamming into the wall at the head of the bed. Talons dug into the pillow next to Eiji’s face. Pleased, Eiji sucked and listened for the little moan, and then felt Ankh’s thighs tense under his hands before the first slow, tentative thrust. “You’re saying I can fuck your mouth.

“Mm-hm.”

“You could have just said that.” Pull back and another thrust, Eiji patting his leg encouragingly. Despite his tone, Ankh is dark-eyed and already panting, and he stares down at Eiji as if astonished.

They continue just like that for a couple of minutes. Ankh feels good in Eiji’s mouth and hands, his light weight on Eiji’s chest unoppressive, his expression still filled with breathless shock. He doesn’t thrust so hard that Eiji can’t take it, either.

And then he stops and says, much more shakily than before, “I thought you wanted to fuck me.”

Eiji pulls off him. “I do. I really do. But I also enjoy this.”

Ankh scowls. “Do what you want, Eiji. I’m giving you permission, if you need it.”

Eiji hears roaring in his ears. “Are you sure?”

“You keep checking in with me and it makes me nervous, yes, I’m sure.”

“Do you trust me?”

Ankh scowls even harder. “Yes.”

Eiji takes a deep breath and sits up, toppling Ankh back onto the bed. Ankh makes a surprised noise and tries to sit back up, but can’t; Eiji pins him down, kisses him thoroughly, and then rolls him over, and startled noises become a gasp as Eiji shifts down, drags Ankh’s hips up, and licks.

There’s a blanket-muffled, “Fuck,” from the vicinity of Ankh’s head. “What are you—hhh.

It’s sort of fun to feel him quiver like this, fingers and talons curling in the blanket as Eiji licks him open. He swears more, too, but each curse is breathier and less coherent. By the time Eiji is leaning over him to retrieve the lube and a condom from the nightstand he can barely form words at all. “Tomorrow night,” Eiji says thoughtfully as he’s working the first finger in, “I should just make you come like that, the noises you make are amazing.”

Ankh flips him off with a long talon, says, “Fuck you,” and then moans into the blanket when Eiji hits his prostate.

“That’s what we’re doing.”

“No, tomorrow night I’m going to fuck you.

“Oh.” More primordial roaring in Eiji’s ears, his cock twitching, his hand going still for a moment. “That. That works too.”

Will you please fuck me.”

“Sure, ok.” When did Eiji’s hands start shaking? It makes it tricky to get the condom open and on, but he manages it, he gets more lube, he shifts forward and pulls Ankh’s hips up again. He presses in. Very slowly, very carefully.

Ankh is very tight still, and hot. It’s like his body’s full of fire. Maybe it is, maybe his glorious phoenix soul has a flaming core that fills him even when he’s in another body. Eiji has to take it slow as much for his own sake as Ankh’s, centimeter by centimeter until his hips are flush against Ankh’s ass. And Ankh looks back at him and says, “Overwhelmed, Eiji?” Which is clearly to conceal the fact that behind the sly curl of his lips he looks just as bowled over.

“A. A little. God, you feel. You feel amazing, Ankh, you feel. This might be the best I’ve ever felt. Are you full of fire?”

“That’s not inaccurate, I guess.”

“Are you ok? Can I move?”

“Of course you can—actually. Give me a minute. This is. A lot.”

“Ok.” Eiji waits for what’s probably a very short time but doesn’t think about it, and then almost says, “Hey, I’m pretty sure I love you,” but that might freak Ankh out too much, so instead he goes with, “Or you could be on top of me, you’ve got more control over the pace of everything like that.”

“That…sounds good.”

They rearrange, and Eiji almost comes like a shot just from the sight of Ankh kneeling over him, caught in a beam of moonlight from the window. “You’re gorgeous.”

Ankh looks delighted and smug, surprises him by saying, “You also look extremely good like this,” and then further surprises him by rocking back onto him without a word of warning.

This has already taken twice as long as either of their previous encounters, and they’re wound up. When Ankh comes it feels so good, so sweet, that Eiji comes almost immediately afterward. Then he ends up rummaging for his discarded t-shirt to clean them both up, because he didn’t quite manage the forethought to get a washcloth or some kind of wipes for this part.

Ankh curls up beside him, in a state of boneless pleasure that Eiji would have called catlike in anyone else. Eiji pulls him in close, throws caution to the wind, and does finally say, “Hey, Ankh.”

“Yes?”

“I love you.”

Ankh goes tense in his arms for a fleeting second before replying, “Thank you,” which is as much of a response in kind as Eiji had expected given how much vulnerability he’s shown tonight.

It’s a lot. It’s enough.

“Good night, Eiji,” Ankh mumbles into his chest. “See you in the morning.”

Chapter Text

Yuri was hurt the first time she saw them together.

She’d heard a noise first and thought it was fighting, hurried to the alley it was coming from. She’d almost shouted—Jirou and Otoya, again. Pummeling each other like idiots. Except that apparently they hadn’t been fighting this time. Otoya was pinned to the wall, yes, but Jirou’s face was buried in the side of his neck, Jirou’s knee was between his thighs and his hand was in the front of Jirou’s pants. Not fighting at all.

The betrayal ached, all the more so for how much it baffled her, and she almost confronted them then and there. How dare they? How could she have been so led on?

She didn’t confront them. They didn’t see her.

She watched.

 


 

She caught them the next time in the woods off the park. Jirou on the ground, Otoya on top of him looking scuffed and a bit bloody but still grinning like a madman. They didn’t see her, but the next day she asked Otoya, “What happened to you? Your throat is so bruised.”

He beamed at her. “I was defending your honor, o beautiful Yuri.”

Jirou choked on his coffee. She seethed internally but pretended not to notice.

 


 

The third time—

The third time she wasn’t even sure they were trying to hide, because they were in the café bathroom. She didn’t see them together, but she caught Otoya as he was stumbling out, spotted Jirou a moment later looking mussed and smug. A knot tied in her stomach, and she told herself it was rage.

 


 

The fourth time, she fallowed Otoya home. Or rather, she followed Jirou, and he was following Otoya.

She watched as Otoya went inside, and then as Jirou waited a moment before slipping in through the kitchen door. A few moments, and then a thump, and she crept quietly up to the window, tucking herself out of their line of sight.

It was like the first time—Otoya backed against a cabinet, Jirou pinning him there. Except that this time they were kissing. She’d never seen them kiss before. Jirou’s fingers were tight in Otoya’s hair, Otoya was gripping the front of Jirou’s shirt and his mouth was going to bruise with how much she could see Jirou using his teeth.

Jirou pulled back for a moment and took a long breath through his nose. “I should do that more, it makes you quiet.”

“If you’re going to insult my beautiful voice and incredible wit I won’t let you do it again.” Otoya rubbed at his mouth. “Clearly it’s good that I’m making this sacrifice, I doubt she’d put up with you pawing at her like that.”

Jirou smirked. “You don’t know anything about what Yuri will or won’t put up with.”

Yuri felt her back go stiff with anger.

“Ah, but see, you can’t just knock a fine lady around like she’s a doll.” Otoya’s eyes were gleaming. “See, if you were Yuri, I’d kiss you like this.

He trailed his fingers down the side of Jirou’s face in a feather-light caress, drawing him gently forward so that their mouths met again. Soft, delicate, a press of closed lips and then carefully teasing them open, his eyes closed in what looked like transports of ecstasy.

It looked…very romantic. Yuri shifted, suddenly thinking a lot about the fact that Otoya was apparently imagining her.

When Otoya leaned back, Jirou shook himself, taking another deep breath before saying, “You’d be lucky if she didn’t fall asleep from boredom.”

“Well, you didn’t.”

Jirou ignored that. “She’s a woman of great passion and energy and should be treated like one. If she were here with me, instead of you…” He looked down at Otoya thoughtfully. “Something like this.”

He grabbed Otoya’s chin and tilted his face up, kissing him firmly but not biting. After a moment the grabbing hand slid to cup the back of Otoya’s head, other hand on his waist holding him solidly in place. When Otoya’s mouth opened against his it was with a quiet, melting gasp that he swallowed as if it was sweet to him.

Yuri was beginning to feel…warm. It was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain an appropriate level of fury.

Otoya melted back against the cabinet as soon as Jirou let go of him. “You make a very compelling point, puppy, but it’s moot anyway. She’s not here to tell us who’s got the right idea.”

“Perhaps she’s right outside the kitchen door and you just can’t hear her because of your ceaseless talking.”

“Impossible. My beautiful Yuri is an unstoppable force, if she were here she would have already come in and demanded to know what was going on.”

Yuri clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a squeak of indignation.

Nevertheless, Jirou tipped his head to the side, as if he’d heard something—but then he shook himself, grabbed Otoya again, and spun him around so he was pressed face-first against the cabinet. “If Yuri was here,” he said, sounding slightly louder than he had before, “I would make you scream for her.”

“I’d happily scream for her if she wanted me to.” Otoya gasped as Jirou reached around him and started to tug at his belt. “Of course,” he said, also louder, “she’d have to ask me to first.” He jerked as Jirou tugged his pants and underwear down, gasping again, pressing his ass back against Jirou’s groin. “I don’t scream for just anyone, you know.”

Jirou slammed him against the cabinet again, holding him still even as he struggled cheerfully, and reached between his legs. “You got ready for me already.”

“Of course I did, you’re always too rough.”

“What were you thinking about when you did it?”

“Yuri, of course. She wouldn’t be as rough as you are. Nn…” He moaned as Jirou thrust into him. “You are always excited to do this, aren’t you, pup? Do you think you’re going to breed me or something?”

Jirou wrapped a hand around his throat from the front, forcing his chin up, and pressed visible fangs to the back of his neck. “Say her name,” he growled.

“Yuri…”

“Louder.” Jirou’s eyes seemed to flick to the window for a moment, so quickly that Yuri couldn’t be sure whether or not he’d seen her. “Pretend she’s here watching you.”

Otoya’s eyes flicked towards her as well, and he let out an ecstatic wail of, “Yuri!”

 


 

Yuri waited to come inside until they’d finished and Jirou had picked Otoya up and hauled him into the bedroom. Once her shoes were off, her stocking feet were almost noiseless on the floor, and she closed the door as quietly as she could. The kitchen smelled of sex and musk and varnish, and the two men had both left their shirts and jackets on the table, and the lights were dim.

She stepped toward the bedroom and paused. She wasn’t angry anymore, but she wasn’t sure what she was feeling? Jealousy? Excitement? They knew she was here. They knew she’d seen them. How long had they known?

The bedroom door hung slightly open, and she pushed it just enough to see inside, just barely wide enough to slip through. If she wanted to go through.

Otoya was lying on the bed face-down, propped up on his elbows, Jirou between his legs at the end of the bed holding him spread. She could hear the sound of Jirou’s mouth as he licked; Otoya’s gasping was obvious. There were claw marks on Otoya’s hips, new bruises blooming under Jirou’s thumbs where they dug into Otoya’s skin.

Jirou lifted his eyes when she stepped through the door and closed it behind her, but didn’t stop what he was doing. Otoya didn’t look up at all until her blouse hit the floor, but when he did his face lit up as if the sun had risen in his chest. “I knew you’d come around eventually.”

He knew—no, no, if I indulge him this once he’ll never stop. She rolled her eyes. “Be even more obvious next time, maybe.”

Her skirt and panties fell at her feet, and she stepped out of them easily and climbed onto the bed up at the head. Otoya watched expectantly as she settled herself back against the pillows—inasmuch as he could focus on her at all, still gasping and starting to shake as Jirou thrust his tongue in.

She peered at him, shifted down a bit, and stretched out to rest her feet comfortably on Otoya’s back, not far from Jirou’s face. Jirou lifted his eyes but didn’t stop what he was doing, watching her hungrily, and she shivered and said, “Staring is rude.”

Otoya beamed at her. “It can’t possibly be rude, you do so much of it.”

She grabbed his hair and guided his face between her legs. “Shut up, Otoya.” He buried his face in her cunt without another word, but the enthusiasm with which he sucked at her clit more than made up for it.

She looked down the curve of his back to Jirou, who lifted his head, wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, and said, “You’re finally here.”

She tried to answer him, but Otoya did something with his mouth that turned her words into a gasp like a hiccup. It was a moment before she could actually speak. “How long, ahh, have you known?”

“I smelled you the first time.” He crawled up towards her, over Otoya, covering the other man as he advanced. Before he got to her, though, she reached for him, and he ducked his head and pressed into her touch like a dog. “I wasn’t sure you would come.”

“I was!” Otoya said cheerfully, lifting his head from between her legs to look up at her. “You’re the most brilliant woman in the world, you can’t resist a mystery.”

“Can’t I?” She made an attempt at sounding dry, but he just grinned and lowered his head again and did…something, and (very suddenly, it seemed) she was coming in a cascade of further hiccupping gasps. Jirou watched her through all of it, cheek pressed to her hand, eyes wide as if he was seeing something extraordinary.

Then—she finished, but Otoya didn’t stop, clearly intending to make her come again. He was humming cheerfully as he licked, which was an interesting sensation. She would have happily let him continue but for Jirou, who growled and pulled him up by the hair. “That’s enough. It’s my turn.”

“Oh, Puppy-chan’s feeling bossy, you’ve gotten all high and mighty since I started letting you on the furniture—”

Jirou shoved him out of the way and looked up at Yuri, waiting only for her nod of assent before pressing his mouth to her.

She gasped. Otoya had been energetic, but light; Jirou seemed to be trying to devour her. He’d wrapped his arms around her thighs, fingers digging into her skin; when she started to feel claws she swatted him instinctively and said, “No,” and he whined and jerked his hips against the bed but kept going.

Otoya, meanwhile, recovered from being knocked aside and moved up next to her, one arm sneaking around her waist. “He’s really very tame, you know, he just doesn’t like anyone to know it.” He kissed her, and she tasted herself on his mouth, and then squeaked and almost slapped him as his hand cupped her breast, nipple gently pinched between two fingers. His other hand drifted down between her legs, fingers tangling in Jirou’s hair. “We figured we owed you one for each time we did this without you.”

She grabbed his hair, hard enough that he winced and then sighed happily into her mouth. “And how many is that?”

“Oh, quite a few. I’d say eight or ten, wouldn’t you, pup?”

Jirou lifted his head just long enough to say, “Nine now,” and then lowered it again, and as if he’d timed it, Yuri’s back arched, and she let out a drawn-out cry and jerked her hips against his face and gasped her second orgasm into Otoya’s mouth.

And followed it, once she could think again and had processed what he’d said, with, “Excuse me, nine?

Jirou looked up at her, seeming slightly dazed, and said, “Nine.”

“They don’t all have to be tonight,” Otoya murmured cheerfully. “But we do owe you. Hopefully after all of it you’ll be certain of liking me better, I’m much more considerate than he is.”

Jirou snarled and grabbed his ankle, pulling him down away from Yuri’s side. “We’ll see about that.”

Yuri’s breath caught in her throat. “Will we, then?”

 


 

Recovery was needed, and there was something very charming about Otoya cooking for her, made even more so by the fact that he didn’t especially feel the need to get dressed beforehand. He wore an apron, of course, which was an atrocious shade of mint green that looked very good on him, and made her perhaps the best omelet she’d ever eaten. He didn’t make one for Jirou. She frowned. “Where’s his? He did more work than you did.”

“I’m not making him one unless he does a trick.”

Jirou squinted at him. “I’m not doing your stupid trick for her.”

“It’ll make Yuri laugh.”

“I loathe you.”

“And yet I have some fairly distinct aches that say otherwise.” Otoya dug something out of the pocket of his apron and stripped off its wrapper.

Yuri blinked. “Isn’t that one of those espresso sweets?” she said around a mouthful of egg.

Jirou growled low in his throat.

“He hates when I do this,” Otoya said cheerfully, and tossed the candy at Jirou.

There was a brief rush of movement as Jirou caught it in his mouth and then settled back into his chair with a sulky expression. “I hate you,” he said, eyes closing, lips pursing briefly as he let the sweet dissolve on his tongue.

Yuri clapped, delighted. “That was cute. Do it again.”

Otoya beamed at her. “I thought you wanted me to make him an omelet.”

“You can make him an omelet after you do that again.”

Another candy went flying across the table, and again Jirou caught it, a blush spreading across his cheekbones as he sat back down. “Disrespect to good coffee,” he grumbled, sinking down lower in his seat under Yuri’s gaze. “Throwing it around like that.”

“I’ll keep throwing them at you as long as you keep catching them.” Otoya started making another omelet. “Anyway, Yuri was charmed, weren’t you, Yuri?”

Eventually they did all eat, and Otoya cleared the plates away just as he’d brought them out, and when he was returning to his chair Jirou caught his wrist and pulled him off balance so that he fell into Jirou’s lap. “Stop throwing candies at me,” he muttered as he worked open the apron ties.

“You’re a poorly disciplined animal, hauling me around like this.”

“You’re a nuisance.” Jirou sank his teeth into the back of Otoya’s neck, not quite deep enough to draw blood. “And I’m not your animal.” The apron fell to the floor.

Yuri watched for a moment, considering the options presented by the two of them being available to her, and then snapped her fingers. “Bedroom.”

Jirou stood up immediately and headed for the bedroom, dragging Otoya with him as Otoya stumbled along and said, “Anything for you, Yuri.”

In the bedroom, Jirou stopped dead, so quickly that Otoya tripped and pitched face-first onto the bed. “What do you want me to do with him?”

You sit down. No, on the bed, not on the floor, why would I want you to sit on the floor? Up at the head of the bed.” She peered critically at Otoya, who’d picked himself up and brushed himself off. “You really shouldn’t antagonize him like that, Otoya.”

He blinked innocently at her. “He’s so much more fun when I antagonize him, though.”

She started to answer and paused. She had a very clear idea of what she wanted from the two of them at the moment, but there was still in the back of her mind the vague uncertainty about her own place in the situation. Clearly they wanted her, neither of them had made any secret of their desire, but she refused to be the vessel for their competitiveness.

Jirou was sitting at the head of the bed, watching her, arm resting on his pulled-up knee. “If you want him to stop antagonizing me then you should tell him to leave.” The corner of his mouth twitched up. “I’m sure I can keep you company myself.”

She folded her arms across her chest. “If I wanted him to leave I would say so. As it happens, though, I don’t want him to leave.” Before Otoya could start talking again, she grabbed him by the ear and turned him toward Jirou. “I want him to go over there and get in your lap again.”

“Why would you—”

“Not like I haven’t spent plenty of time here already, eh, pup?”

Yuri got onto the bed next to them and frowned, considering the current arrangement. “No, turn him around, so he’s facing me.”

“I can turn myself, thank you—” Otoya sucked in a breath through his teeth as she reached for him, actually shivering as her hands rested on his hips. All the spying and anger and hurt had been well worth it for leading up to this moment, watching his face change as he sank down onto Jirou’s cock—and, for that matter, watching Jirou’s showy false composure crack under the weight of the sensation.

Jirou caught her looking at him and actually hid his face, pressing it to Otoya’s back between his shoulder blades and saying, very quietly, “What would you like for us to do?”

She tipped Otoya’s face up and kissed him with the same careful gentleness with which he’d said, earlier, he would kiss her. “Hold still.” Otoya moaned as she straddled him and sank down, for once entirely lost for words. Jirou growled low enough that it vibrated through their bodies and reached out to wrap his arms around both of them, his fingertips shading into claws as they pressed into Yuri’s back. She made her own noise in the back of her throat, tried to say something, and just said, “Oh.”

“This seems very unfair,” Otoya said, voice thick. “It seems like I’m just getting the best of oh. I’m. You’ve undone me completely.”

“Jiroou, move.” She buried her face in the side of Otoya’s neck, reaching past him to tangle her hands in Jirou’s hair, Otoya clinging to her hips. “I don’t know how long I can stay like this, I feel unsteady.”

Otoya gasped as Jirou’s hips rolled up. “I could stay here forever.”

Jirou echoed him, choked. “Forever. We can keep you steady.”

Chapter Text

“Hey,” Kiriya says, white coat landing with a soft pf over the back of a chair as he walks into the CR, “you know what’s fucked up, I’m still getting used to having actual skin again, I got a papercut earlier and when it actually bled I ok wait how is he doing that? Emu. How is he doing that?”

Emu doesn’t answer. This is reasonable, since his mouth has Parad’s tongue in it, which is generally the sort of thing that impedes speech. He catches Kiriya’s eye, though, shrugs, and then returns his attention to the task at hand, namely making out with his other half in what is definitely an unapproved use of hospital workspaces.

Of course Parad’s also involved in this process, but what makes Kiriya stare in fascination is that while his mouth is occupied doing the obvious thing, his hands are not involved. He is, in fact, holding a controller, and there’s a console hooked up to one of the CR televisions, and he’s kicking someone’s ass in Tekken. His eyes keep darting to the side to check the television screen. His fingers are moving faster than Kiriya can follow, which also feels strange after having spent over a year filtering all sensory input through some sort of high-speed CPU.

After a moment they break, because Emu at least needs to breathe, and Emu says, “I just assumed it was a Bugster thing, couldn’t you do that when you were…?”

“Are you suggesting that I’m the kind of guy who plays video games during sex?”

Aren’t you? Lazer, I thought you were fun.” Parad’s tongue pokes out of the corner of his mouth for a moment, he does something complicated, and the Tekken announcer shouts,

PERFECT

and the match is over.

“Although if I wanted to argue semantics I could say that the issue is more that M decided to initiate sexual activity while I was playing a video game.”

“I wanted to see if I could make you lose.”

Parad looks delighted. “It was a game? You should have mentioned, we should try it again and figure out a scoring system.”

Kiriya stares at them for a long moment and then shakes himself and says, “That doesn’t address the how.

“I’m optimized for parallel processing, so I have a lot of RAM.”

Emu groans. “That’s so unfair, we can’t make a scoring system for that, I’ll never win.”

Chapter Text

“I see…a long journey.”

Eiji grins at Chiyoko. “I mean, wouldn’t you? I’m always going on long journeys.”

Today Cous-Coussier is covered in scarves, and there are crystal balls at every table. The theme is supposed to be “mystical fortuneteller,” and Eiji’s fairly sure that it’s offensive, but he’s not sure how to explain that to Chiyoko, or if she’d even listen to him if he tried. He successfully refused to wear a costume, but he couldn’t stop her from insisting on doing a Tarot reading for him.

“Where did you learn to read cards, anyway?”

“Oh, I was really into Vision of Escaflowne in high school, so my best friend bought me a deck and I taught myself.” Eiji gives her a blank look, and she groans. “God, I forget how young you are. Anyway, um…long journey…where you’ll find a…a dear friend. A partner. A lover? Ohhh, you’re going to go on a romantic adventure! What a good fortune!” She beams at him. “Oh, hey, Ankh! Come sit down and I’ll tell your fortune!”

Ankh stares down at the cards on the table with narrowed eyes. “No.”

“Come on, it’ll be fun.”

He grits his teeth. “No, thank you. I don’t trust fortunetellers.”

Before she can argue more, he pops his ice back into his mouth and stalks out.

She stares after him. “Did I offend him somehow?”


Later, when the restaurant is finally closed, Eiji goes upstairs and finds Ankh seated on the windowsill, heels drumming restlessly on the side of the building as he stares at the sunset. “Hey. Ankh.”

Ankh’s shoulders go stiff. “What.”

“Are you all right? You seemed…upset…earlier when Chiyoko wanted to do her cards thing for you.”

“I didn’t act any differently than normal.”

“You didn’t talk any differently. But you looked different.”

“And since when do you know how to read me so well?”

That stops Eiji in his tracks. “You know, I’m…not sure. But I do actually care about how you feel.”

“I don’t like fortunetellers.”

“Because they’re mostly making it up?”

“Because they’re frequently right.”

Eiji pauses for a moment and then pulls a chair over to the window and sits down next to Ankh, leaning his head against Ankh’s side. “Hey, don’t worry. All she said is that I’m going on some kind of long journey. I promise I’ll take you with me.”

Ankh’s claws curl gently in his hair. “Eiji, shut up.”

Chapter Text

Keiichiro is trying to enjoy his lunch, and mostly he’s succeeding. He managed to miss the lunch rush, so Bistro Jurer isn’t unpleasantly busy, the weather is nice, and Tooma’s cooking is, as usual, spectacular. Umika greeted him very cheerfully when he came in, and it’s always nice to see her smile—she’s young, he worries about her getting lonely living here without any girls her own age.

The only problem is Kairi. Umika’s running herself ragged waiting tables, and meanwhile he’s been at the corner table for ten minutes now, flirting with a group of girls from the local university. He’s got a half-full coffeepot in hand, he’s refilled their cups, but it’s clearly just an excuse to stand there and chat and tell bad jokes while they giggle and flutter their eyelashes at him.

Keiichiro keeps glancing over at them out of the corner of his eye. It bothers him. Shouldn’t Kairi be helping? Umika can’t be expected to do everything herself, and it’s not as if she can haul Tooma out of the kitchen to wait tables with her; Kairi should be doing his part too. It’s unfortunate, how he’s given to slacking off like this. It seems inappropriate.

Honestly, though, he’s not sure why he’s letting it disrupt his enjoyment of a good lunch. Kairi is always like this, he’s no different today.

Finally the university girls leave, and Keiichiro is the only customer left, and Kairi seems to visibly relax as he says, “Hiya, Kei-chan. You need more coffee?”

Keiichiro stares at him for a moment and then says, “May we speak privately for a moment?”

Out of the corner of his eye he sees Umika and Tooma both go very still. Kairi blinks and tenses as quickly as he’d relaxed a moment ago. “Sure, if you want to.”

Outside, Keiichiro has to take several deep breaths before he can speak. “I usually try not to interfere in people’s personal lives, but if I can be frank, it worries me that you seem to have so little regard for your coworkers.”

Kairi’s guarded look doesn’t drop, but he does stifle a laugh. “Did you call me out here to scold me for slacking off?”

“I mean. I just—I hardly think it’s appropriate that, that you let Umika do all the work while you’re just. Flirting with girls—

“Wait, flirting with girls? You thought I was flirting with them? Shit, you did call me out here to scold me!” The guarded look drops completely, the laugh escapes again, Kairi’s eyes light up with amusement. “Not that it’s not, like, a valid criticism, but I just really hate working.”

Keiichiro has no idea how to respond to that except to stammer for a moment.

“Also, you know, if you want to ask me out you could just do that instead of finding some weird excuse to talk to me.”

Keiichiro stops stammering, mostly because it’s hard to speak when his jaw’s completely dropped open. How did Kairi get that from this conversation? Also, was he saying he hadn’t been flirting with those girls?

And am I that obvious?

Kairi has also turned bright red, and is making a face that suggests he might have said more than he’d intended to say. “I mean. Uh.”

“Do you want to get coffee with me sometime!” Keiichiro coughs. “Ah. I’m sorry, I’m being too loud, I do that when I’m.” He cuts himself off before he can say “nervous.” He hadn’t planned on having this conversation now. Or in fact ever, since that had worked with every other person he’d ever been interested in, all three times. He never said anything, and they didn’t notice anything, and eventually the feeling went away and life was simple again.

Kairi stares at his own feet for a moment, eyes wide, and then he stares at Keiichiro’s feet, and then he says, “Sure, as long as it’s somewhere that’s not here.”

“I wouldn’t, I mean—of course I wouldn’t take you on a. A date at your own workplace.

“Well. Good. Then yes.”

“Good.”

“Good.”

A long, awkward pause.

“You can. Uh. Text me. And we can figure out where and everything.”

“All right.” Beat. “I don’t have your number.”

Kairi holds out his hand. “Give me your phone.” Keiichiro hands it over, and gets it back a moment later with a new contact entered. The name says ~~Kairi~~, and then there’s some sort of emoji, but Keiichiro doesn’t look at it too closely because if he does then he’ll panic. “There. Just…say it’s you when you text the first time. So I know.”

When they head back inside, Umika and Tooma are standing with their heads together over the kitchen half-wall, talking quietly. They watch Keiichiro and Kairi closely, and then, after a moment, Tooma hands Umika a five hundred yen coin.

Kairi puts on an expression of theatrical shock before saying, “Ok, you’re gonna tell me what you were betting on, and I’m getting a cut, and also what are you doing betting that little, anything to do with moi should rate at least two thousand yen—” and Umika dances out of his reach with a delighted laugh.

Keiichiro meets Tooma’s gaze, feels his ears go hot and says, stiffly, “Unlicensed gambling is illegal.”

Tooma raises an eyebrow at him. “Is it?”

Chapter Text

Haruto shudders. “I am never going to get used to watching you do that.”

“Hm?” Kosuke looks over with his mouth still full of Oreo and mayonnaise, although at least he does swallow it before he actually tries to speak. “What was that?”

“…it was nothing, Nitoh, don’t worry about—”

Ah, wait, say no more, I know what it was, I should have offered you some to begin with.” The package crinkles, and before Haruto can argue he’s being offered a lemon ice Oreo, already liberally topped with Kosuke’s condiment of choice. “Here, have one.”

Haruto stares at the cookie for a moment before taking it, wondering as he does if it would be possible to use Connect and drop it in the Pacific without Kosuke noticing. “Thank…you.”

“You’re welcome!” Kosuke beams at him and then turns away to once again apply himself and his ever-present mayonnaise bottle to the rest of the package of cookies.

Haruto stares down at the cookie in his hand. Kosuke’s unholy gusto is admittedly infectious, but he still can’t imagine putting this thing in his mouth. But he’ll notice if Haruto just throws it away, and unfortunately Connect really is too attention-getting to get away with anything. But then a movement catches his eye, and he knows exactly what to do.

It takes a moment to arrange things, during which Kosuke alternates between eating more mayonnaise-slathered cookies and rambling cheerfully about a dig he’s been following via some academic news site, but finally everything’s set and Haruto says, “Hey. Nitoh.”

Kosuke turns to him. “Yeah?”

Haruto kisses him.

Kosuke’s mouth tastes like lemon ice Oreo and mayonnaise. It isn’t precisely bad, but it’s definitely not good enough to keep Haruto from quietly passing his own cookie to Garuda behind the enormous furry ruff of Kosuke’s second layer of vest.

After a moment Kosuke pulls back and blinks. “I was…not expecting that.”

“I’m a surprising person.”

“I. Ah.” The tip of Kosuke’s nose has turned pink. It’s very charming. “Can we pick that back up after I’ve thrown the package away?”

Haruto only has to think about it for a moment before saying, “Yeah, definitely,” which comes as a surprise of its own, because prior to five minutes ago he’d never considered kissing Kosuke at all. At least, he’s fairly sure he’s never considered it before, but he’s getting less and less certain of that by the second.

Kosuke moves to stand up and then pauses. “Wait, there’s one more cookie in here, do you want the last one?”

“No, uh, thank you, one was plenty.”

Chapter Text

Life is quieter now, and Keiichiro isn’t entirely sure that he enjoys it.

That’s ridiculous, of course. It’s good that things are quiet, that the appearance of a Ganglar in the city is a cause for genuine shock and not business as usual, that the world isn’t constantly in peril. It’s good that his daily routine now primarily consists of paperwork instead of desperate casualty reduction. It’s good that people are safe, and that he helped—and continues to help—keep them that way.

It’s ridiculous, but it’s true. It’s too quiet. He doesn’t enjoy it.

He’s lonely.

He’s sure he was never lonely like this before the Ganglars came.

Ganglars? says the sensible part of himself, the Officer Asaka part. Admit it, idiot, it’s got nothing to do with the Ganglars.

Officer Asaka used to be the only part of himself, because it used to be that he only had sensible parts. Well, that and the terrible temper, which he’s been getting better at managing lately. Now, though, there’s Officer Asaka, who has all the good sense and most of the bad temper, but there’s also a mood he gets into sometimes. He never used to name his moods, either, it’s an absurd thing to do, but this one does have a name, and it’s a nasal, singsong tenor saying, “Kei-chan.

He tries not to think about what that means.

 


 

Helping deal with a bank robbery is a welcome change of pace, which Keiichiro doesn’t say to anyone because it feels tasteless to even think of it. Normally they try to let the Japanese police handle these things, but this time they’re nearby, and the sudden appearance of the PatRangers helps defuse what could otherwise have turned into a very nasty hostage situation. People actually cheer, and a little boy who was among the hostages asks for his autograph. It’s nice.

The adrenaline of it carries Keiichiro all the way through the rest of his shift, up until the point when he and the others are getting ready to leave and Sakuya grabs his coat and ducks his head in a way that Keiichiro and Tsukasa both recognize and says, “I, uh. I have a date tonight, does my hair look ok?”

Tsukasa smiles at him. “Your hair looks fine, Sakuya. Anyone we’ve met?”

Sakuya glances to the side nervously and says, “Well. Ah. Oh,” his phone buzzes, “that’s, I’m, I should go. I’ll see you both tomorrow! Good night!” and hurries out.

Which of course tells them exactly who he’s got a date with.

Keiichiro’s mood crashes immediately. He doesn’t know why. Or rather he knows exactly why, but he’s not thinking about it, because if he thinks about it then it’ll only get worse. So he wishes Tsukasa and Jim and Director Hilltop a good night. He stops on the way home and gets curry, and it’s good curry. He gets back to his little apartment in GSPO housing, and he drops his keys and wallet and VS Changer by the door, and he goes to take a shower, and he doesn’t think about why he’s in such a foul, miserable mood.

When he emerges from the bathroom with a towel around his waist, there’s a cool breeze blowing through his apartment. He shivers, and then realizes that he never opened a window and is immediately on guard. “Who’s there?”

No answer. The curtain shifts gently in the night air.

Tense, he reaches for his VS Changer. “Come out where I can see you.”

Still no answer. The curtain shifts again, though, and he sees something white on the sill. A trick of some kind? A bomb? He moves forward slowly and pushes aside the curtain with the tip of his VS Changer and it’s—

A small, rectangular box, buff-colored, with a logo embossed in gold on the lid—a bouquet of tall, conical flowers, some Western plant. It doesn’t look like a bomb. Of course, that doesn’t mean it isn’t one, but when he nudges it with his VS Changer it feels far too light to be anything dangerous, and so after a moment he picks it up. The lid slides off easily, and he sets it aside.

Inside, nestled in gold-colored tissue paper, are three macarons, cookies a vivid ruby with the filling only slightly darker.

He stares at them. Who the hell would break into his apartment just to leave him sweets?

Tucked into the lid of the box is a card—the business card of the restaurant they came from, a place that he recalls opening a couple of months ago to some fanfare. Casual French dining, lunch and dinner, apparently the food is excellent. He doesn’t recall the name, but of course it’s on the card when he picks it up.

The restaurant is named “Bistro Lupine.”

He stares at it for another long moment and then has to suppress a snort of laughter.

On the back of the business card there’s a note in dark red ink, and the handwriting is atrocious, which might be what happens when you spend more than a year writing all your notes in cut-up instead of by hand.

He calls them “red chiffon macarons,” which I think is sort of stupid, but he says he can’t call them “red velvet macarons” because they’re not red velvet and also velvet is too heavy for a macaron anyway. I don’t get it. Anyway, hi.

No signature. Of course, Keiichiro hardly needs it to know who the macarons are from.

They’re like biting into clouds. Slightly crunchy clouds. The filling tastes like oranges.

They’re delicious.

 


 

He leaves the empty box on the windowsill, a note taped to it in his own neat handwriting.

Tell him they’re excellent and that I’m going to pick some up for the others next Thursday in case he wants to hide from me.

 


 

The box is gone in the morning.

That afternoon, Tsukasa looks up from her computer, turns to Keiichiro, and says, “Are you humming?

Keiichiro immediately stops humming. “No.”

“You were humming, I heard you. What’s got you in such a good mood?”

“Oh, I. Ah. You know that new restaurant, the French place? Their macarons are very good, I’m going to bring in some for everyone next week.”

She eyes him suspiciously. “All right, don’t tell me, then.” A pause. “But also please bring in macarons, I’ve been dying to check that place out and somehow I don’t ever have the time.”

 


 

Bistro Lupine’s jewel-colored macarons are, as expected, a tremendous hit. The restaurant is slightly too far from GSPO headquarters to be a convenient lunch spot, but they do offer takeout, which everyone immediately agrees to try out as soon as possible. Keiichiro leaves a note about it on his windowsill. The note disappears, but nothing is left in its place.

Three weeks pass with no more signs of any mysterious nighttime visitor. Life begins to fall back into the same dreary routine, but with the added issue of Sakuya constantly texting his new girlfriend that he won’t tell them anything about. Keiichiro considers being blunt and telling him that they all know who he’s seeing, but then decides against it. The man’s got so few secrets to begin with, there’s no reason to scare him.

Then, one evening, he gets out of the shower and there’s that breeze again.

There’s another box on the windowsill, but this one is a bit longer, and embossed on the top with the name and logo of a store that Keiichiro’s never heard of. Underneath the name is the tiny notation, “Paris, France,” so it’s hardly surprising that the brand is unfamiliar.

He opens it, and inside there’s a necktie. It’s red, of course, but the texture is odd, and when he holds it up to the light he sees that it has a faint brocade pattern. Not the sort of thing he’d ever buy for himself, but he likes it.

This time the note is on cutesy, childish stationery, printed with that bread bear thing that Tsukasa has a plush of. The handwriting is still terrible, and the ink is still dark red.

Saw this and it made me think about you. Maybe if you wear it it’ll make you think about me.

He immediately finds a piece of paper and writes a note back, which he tapes to the empty box and leaves on the windowsill.

I always think about you.

The box is gone in the morning, but there’s a scrap of paper taped to the sill itself, on which has been scribbled, in even worse handwriting,

Don’t go getting sappy on me.

 


 

Director Hilltop is the one who says, “Hey, is that a new tie?”

“Ah.” Keiichiro adjusts the knot nervously. “Yes, I just got it. It was a gift.”

“It’s nice, it looks good on you.” The director peers at it. “It’s got a little bit of a pattern, doesn’t it? I feel like I never see you wearing any kind of patterns.”

“Well, I’d been thinking that I might start.” When Tsukasa gives him an odd look, he coughs. “I’ve worn the same clothes for years, it seems like it’s high time to try something different.”

 


 

The breeze comes back in a week and a half, and this time the box on the windowsill has a note on the outside instead of tucked within.

Maybe this’ll help you think about me.

He almost says, out loud, “I don’t exactly need help with that,” and then he actually looks at the box in his hand and freezes.

The curtain rustles. He doesn’t look to see if anything else is behind it, or if someone might somehow be outside his window looking in, although he’s acutely aware that he’s wearing nothing but a towel.

He swallows hard and turns away from the window.

The towel goes back into the bathroom, draped over the bar to dry while he cleans his teeth. The little red box sits on the edge of the sink, never far from his hand. When he’s brushed and flossed, when he’s combed his hair, he picks the box up again and brings it with him back out into his apartment. The window in the main room has been closed again, but when he moves into his tiny bedroom, that window is open.

Normally he sleeps in his underwear, but this isn’t normally. He stretches out on his bed, on top of the covers, and the curtain shifts very slightly. The box goes on his nightstand, but the bottle that was inside it stays with him, wrapped in his hand just long enough to warm slightly before he thumbs it open.

It’s not as if he knows much about different brands of lubricant, but this one is good, just thick enough that it doesn’t drip immediately onto the bed. He wraps his hand around his cock and doesn’t even have to work to picture something, because his mind immediately goes to dark eyes and golden curls and a wide, smirking mouth, and a slightly nasal tenor murmuring, “Hey, Kei-chan, you seem happy to see me,” in a laughing singsong.

His teeth dig into his lip and he thinks about those dark eyes looking up at him, those smirking lips wrapped around his cock, thinks about burying his other hand in those golden curls to see if they’re as soft as they look and not letting go. He thinks about returning the favor, too, slim thighs bracketing his face and the singsong tones disappearing into breathlessness above him.

The curtain shifts slightly, and he jolts and comes on his hand.

He’s too exhausted from the long day and the unexpected exertions of the evening to write a note back.

 


 

Sakuya catches him humming again when they’re ordering lunch, and he doesn’t even try to deny it.

 


 

The next night, he opens the windows himself before he even goes in to shower. It’s good weather for it this time, the breeze is warm and sweet and smells of blooming flowers. He cleans his teeth as soon as he’s out of the shower, tries to stay calm, tries to act like this is just a normal night. Like nothing unusual is happening, or is going to happen.

There’s a red shadow behind the curtain in his bedroom, and he says, “You don’t have to hide from me.”

“Maybe I like hiding.”

The voice is dizzyingly unfamiliar for a moment, and Keiichiro’s stomach drops, but then the red shadow steps out into the light and sets an elaborate mask on the windowsill, and the identity-concealing effect dissolves and it’s Kairi. Of course it’s Kairi. Who else would it be?

“You always think about me, huh, Kei-chan?

Keiichiro lets out a long breath. “Every second of the day.”

The corner of Kairi’s mouth curls up. “Last night included?”

“Last night especially.”

“So if I kiss you or something you’re not gonna arrest me.”

“I wasn’t planning on it.”

Kairi steps forward, and Keiichiro moves to meet him and keeps going, backing him up to the wall and still further until their mouths meet and Kairi’s hands land on his waist and very conveniently knock his towel off. In retaliation Keiichiro reaches up and knocks off Kairi’s hat, which lands on the floor with a soft “pt,” and buries his fingers in Kairi’s hair. It’s soft. He knew it would be.

After a moment Kairi pulls back to breathe and says, “You look way better naked than in a uniform. And who knew you’d be such a show-off?”

“Shut up,” Keiichiro says, “you know I wouldn’t do that for anyone else,” and kisses the side of his neck. “Besides, you—how do you have so many buttons?”

“Look, give me some credit for wanting to make a dramatic impression, I didn’t think about how much of a problem they’d be.” Kairi strips off his gloves, shrugs off his tailcoat, unbuttons his waistcoat, and Keiichiro hooks a finger behind the knot of his tie and pulls it open before making short work of his shirt buttons. “Although it’s not like it’s tough to get out of, I think you’ve kinda got the—hn.

Keiichiro shifts his hands slightly upward again, working open the excessively filigreed belt buckle, undoing the entirely-buttoned fly. “You wanted to make a dramatic impression. You could have just texted me. I was worried about you.” Uncomfortably aware of his own nudity, he distracts himself by confirming that no, obviously Kairi doesn’t wear underwear, and also he squirms and blushes when Keiichiro touches him and it’s really charming. “You’ve been gone for months.

“Yeah, well, I kinda had stuff I had to, I, look, can we do this on your bed and not right here, standing up’s kinda—” Kairi interrupts himself with a kiss, shimmying the rest of the way out of his clothes with a frenetic nervous energy even as he’s steering Keiichiro backwards. By the time they get to the bed he’s finally naked too, and he says, “I missed you too. Jerk.”

Keiichiro holds back a bark of laughter and pulls Kairi down on top of him. “I’m the jerk? I’ve been right here this whole time, you could have come to see me whenever you wanted to.”

“But it wouldn’t have been dramatic enough. Where’s that bottle?”

“On the nightstand. Condoms too.”

“Ok, good, because I bought that stuff three days ago and I’ve basically been thinking about riding your dick nonstop since then, so it’d be cool if we could get to that part before I die of—” and he cuts off, partially because Keiichiro’s kissing him again and partially because the hand of Keiichiro’s that isn’t wrapped around his arm is between his legs.

He gasps at the first finger sliding into him, and it’s such a beautiful sight that Keiichiro could almost cry if he wasn’t so completely preoccupied. It’s such a beautiful sight that Keiichiro goes as slow as possible to draw it out, until Kairi is flushed and cursing him incoherently.

“Fuck,” Kairi says, when he’s finally ready, when he’s finally pressing down against Keiichiro’s cock and opening and taking him in. “Fuck, I just. You. Kei-chan. You’re here.

“I’m here,” Keiichiro says, and doesn’t move, just stares up at Kairi outlined by the moonlight coming in through the open window. “I’m here.”

Kairi bites his lip and stares back, wide-eyed and silent for a long moment before saying, again, “I missed you.” A beat. “And also if you don’t move I’m gonna die.

“Don’t be ridiculous, you won’t die,” but Keiichiro does start moving, and it feels better than almost anything he can imagine, and the almost is only because the memory of Kairi moving out from behind the curtain and taking off his mask is still so fresh.

 


 

Kairi doesn’t leave when they’re done. He stays, falls asleep curled up against Keiichiro’s side and throughout the night slowly takes up more and more space in the bed until by morning he’s sprawled over nearly the whole thing. Getting out from under him takes a fair amount of work, and when Keiichiro finally manages to stand up Kairi rolls over and mumbles, “Hey, I was. I was enjoying that. Come back.”

“Kairi, I have to get to work.”

“No you don’t.” Kairi barely opens one eye. “You have to get back in bed with me. It’s rules.”

“What rules?”

“Big. Big important rules. That I just made up. That say you have to get back in bed with me.”

“I’m not getting back in bed, I have to go to work.”

“No, you gotta get back in bed. With me. Here.”

“I’m not going to get back in bed.”

He gets back in bed.

 


 

Keiichiro is two minutes late. This isn’t a shocking amount of time to be late by—or rather, it wouldn’t be shocking for anyone else, but it is for Keiichiro, who’s habitually twenty minutes early. Everyone else stares at him as he says, “There was construction on the usual route I take to walk here, I had to go a different way.”

The others let it slide, but they watch him out of the corners of their eyes as he sits down to go over recent reports of potential Ganglar activity.

Two and a half hours later he gets a text from an unfamiliar number. When he opens it, the first thing he sees is a selfie, Kairi looking cartoonishly serious with half of a macaron hanging out of his mouth. [hey Kei-chan]

Keiichiro texts back, [pick up some macarons for me please]

[sure ok. tell Sakuya his gf says hi]

[I’m not telling him that, she can text him herself]

He looks up from his phone, and Tsukasa is watching him wide-eyed. When he meets her gaze, she squints at him, leans close, and whispers, “You have a hickey.

“No, I don’t,” he says reflexively, but Sakuya and Jim and Director Hilltop are looking at him too. He coughs and glances at his phone. “Oh, look at that, it’s time for lunch, we should get takeout from Lupine, my treat, I’ll go get it.”

As he’s hurrying out of the room, he hears Sakuya saying, plaintively, “Do I sound like that?”

Tsukasa says, “Yes. Yes, you absolutely do.”

Chapter Text

Keiichiro wakes up twenty-five minutes early--which is to say, forty minutes before his alarm instead of only fifteen--because there’s a smell in his apartment. It’s not exactly a bad smell, but it’s an unexpected one, and it takes a moment before he’s awake enough to figure out where it’s coming from and say, sleepily, “Kairi...?”

Kairi waves over his shoulder with a spatula. He’s standing at Keiichiro’s little two-burner unit and cooking something. “Morning, Kei-chan.

“Kairi, what...what are you doing here?”

“Making an omelette for breakfast.”

“Why? Is the rice cooker not working? It should be fine, I’ve barely had it three months.” Keiichiro rolls out of bed with a groan and starts getting dressed.

“No, I just like omelettes.” Kairi shrugs. “I lived over a French bistro with a professional chef for two years, some of it had to rub off I guess.”

“When did you even get here? How did you get here?”

“Three-thirty or something.” Even with his back still turned, the edges of Kairi’s smile are visible. “You gotta start locking your windows, Kei-chan, one of these days someone’s gonna rob you.”

“What would they even steal?” Stifling a yawn, Keiichiro wraps his arms around Kairi’s waist and kisses the back of his neck. “The only thing here that might be worth stealing is my VS Changer, and it would be useless to most people.”

“Well, maybe I just don’t like the idea of you hanging out with other gentleman thieves, because what if one of them is cuter than me? We’re pretty dashing as a rule, you know.”

“Never going to happen. I mean, I’d be pretty bad at my job if it did, but also I’d be happy to inform any other overly flirtatious phantom thieves I run into that my heart has already been stolen and they can take it up with you.” Keiichiro kisses the back of his neck again.

Kairi makes a stifled squeaking noise and his ears turn bright red. “Kei-chan, you can’t just--I’m cooking. Shit, actually this is done, where are plates?”

Keiichiro gets plates and glasses of water and politely pretends not to notice Kairi’s furious blush as he divides the omelette and serves it.

Once they’re seated and Kairi is slightly less red, though, he says, “So what have you and the others been doing lately? You’re not all working at Lupine, are you?”

God, no. Being a waiter sucks and Tooma won’t let me anywhere near his kitchen. I’m running an underground fight club.”

Keiichiro chokes on a mouthful of water.

“What, you didn’t actually believe--I’m a bike courier. Umika and Shiho do work at Lupine, though, they got a place together and they’re studying for university entrance exams. Didn’t Sakuya mention?”

“Technically if we acknowledge that we know the identity of Sakuya’s girlfriend then we’d become obligated to arrest her. Although I feel like he said something about it a while ago.” Keiichiro takes a bite of his omelette, chews thoughtfully, swallows, and says, “I really do appreciate your making me breakfast, Kairi, but this omelette is terrible.”

Kairi huffs. “After I went to the trouble of getting a dozen eggs through the window at--” He takes a bite and his eyes go wide. “Shit. You’re right. This is awful. Like, even if it wasn’t burned it’d be bad.”

Unable to help himself, Keiichiro starts to laugh. “I’m sorry, it really was a nice gesture and I do like seeing you--”

“No, no, oh my god, this sucks, I am a terrible cook.” Kairi actually giggles, which is very charming. “Maybe it’s good Tooma doesn’t let me in his kitchen.”

“Well, you can always practice--wait, did you say you brought the eggs with you? I’d wondered where you got them. You don’t have to come through the window, you know, I’ll give you a key if you want it.”

Kairi turns red again. “Look, maybe we can talk about that later, what the hell are we going to eat now?”

Chapter Text

Gotou likes to have words for people, he likes to know who they are. Fortunately most people are relatively simple. Kougami is his boss--nothing more, nothing less. Satonaka is a coworker. Dr. Maki is slightly terrifying. That Ankh creature is deeply untrustworthy. Hino is...well, the word Gotou wants to use is “vagrant” but that’s been seeming less and less accurate recently.

And Date Akira is...

Date is...

Date has de-transformed and is talking enthusiastically about an oden place he knows nearby. He’s already started heading towards it and it’s all Gotou can do to keep up--it’s not that he moves especially quickly, but that he doesn’t move quickly, he keeps stopping to point out interesting clouds and cute dogs across the street and amusing signs. It’s exhausting, and it’s already been a long day.

Gotou isn’t at all sure what to make of Date Akira, or how to describe him.

“Date,” he says, knowing the man won’t listen, “we need to give a report to the Director.”

“Ah, he’ll be fine, he can wait half an hour, I’m starving.

“He doesn’t actually care,” Satonaka says, unhelpfully. She’s been texting the entire time, walking along sedately a few steps behind Gotou and not having any trouble at all keeping up. “He uses his surveillance things. Anyway, I’m off in three minutes, I’ll see you two tomorrow.”

For that Date stops. “What, Satonaka-chan, you don’t want oden?”

“I have a date.”

“Oh, yeah, fair. Have fun!”

And she’s gone.

The thought of Satonaka on a date is vaguely worrying to Gotou. He’s not sure if it’s because he’s jealous or because spending an extended amount of time with Satonaka is inherently dangerous to one’s health.

Date never actually asked if I wanted to get oden with him, he thinks but doesn’t say as Date hauls him into the little restaurant. What good would it do to argue? The man doesn’t listen to him anyway, and also of course he wants oden, he hasn’t eaten since eleven in the morning. It would just be arguing for the sake of arguing. He continues to not argue as Date gets a table and immediately orders for both of them, only finally speaking up to say, “No beer, thank you, I don’t drink. Water is fine.”

“Ah! Good thinking, Gotou-chan, I probably shouldn’t either. I mean I’m gonna, but I shouldn’t. Just one beer, then! Thank you!”

He winks at the waitress. She giggles. Of course she does, it’s extremely charming. If Gotou was in her position, and was the sort of person who giggled, he would probably also giggle.

Gotou isn’t the sort of person who giggles, nor is he a waitress, so instead he interrupts Date’s stream of amiable nothing with, “Here, you have a cut on your cheek, I have a first aid kit.”

“Wait, do I? I didn’t even notice. Thank you!”

A restaurant is hardly the best location for first aid, but at least the room is clean and no one’s attacking them. Apart from the cut on his cheek, Date also has a scrape on his left forearm which needs bandaging and a long scratch on his right bicep for which Gotou ends up needing adhesive sutures. Their oden comes while he’s finishing up, and it smells amazing.

Date twists a bit to look at the sutured cut. “That’s really neat work, Gotou-chan, you’re good at this. You ever think about med school?”

Gotou blushes and mutters, “I don’t think I have the right temperament to be a doctor.”

“You know, you’d be surprised. Here, try this, it’s really good.”

Gotou opens his mouth to reply and Date puts a piece of octopus in it.

He’s figured it out, he realizes as he chews contemplatively on what might be the most delicious octopus he’s ever eaten.

Date Akira is going to be the death of him.

Chapter Text

The apron is distractingly cute.

Normally Ankh looks fashionable, although Eiji can’t imagine how he manages it. All of his clothes seem to materialize out of thin air, and he doesn’t especially care about what people think of him or are interested in; how does he know so much about current fashion trends? And of course today is no exception, but at the moment his stylish clothes are covered up by a plain black apron, and there’s a printed scarf covering his vivid hair, and it is. Adorable.

Eiji is so focused on how cute Ankh looks, in fact, that he stops paying attention to what he’s doing and almost injures himself very badly, coming back to himself just before his hand can scrape along the side of the cheese grater.

“You’re staring at me,” Ankh says without looking at him. “Say something or stop.”

“Uh. Is that one of Hina’s scarves?”

“Chiyoko’s. She said I’d get hair in the food. As if I would.”

“I mean, I have to wear one too. But. It looks nice on you.” It’s got a peacock-feather pattern. Eiji wonders vaguely if Ankh picked it out himself or if Chiyoko was simply struck by a bolt of divine inspiration.

“Hm.” Ankh still doesn’t look up, but he smirks slightly as he contains to reduce an absolutely ridiculous quantity of garlic cloves to a fine mince.

Eiji goes back to grating cheese and tries not to stare. It’s Pizza Day. Chiyoko’s very excited about it being Pizza Day, and it’s sweet of her, so he’d like to help if he can.

He manages to focus for a few minutes, drifting off into the comfortable meditative state that simple tasks can induce, until the silence is broken by a clatter and the sound of Ankh saying, sharply, “Fuck.”

“What happened? Is everything all right?”

Ankh’s knife is on the counter, and the blade is red. Ankh himself is staring at his hand, apparently mesmerized and infuriated by the sight of his own blood. “My grip slipped.”

“Oh, shit. Ok, look, come over here, don’t bleed on the counter–” Eiji grabs a clean dishtowel and wraps it around Ankh’s hand. It’s not a deep cut, but it’s a long one, right across the palm, and he winces at the sight of it. “Hold this in place, I’ll go get the first aid kit.”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Ankh says absently, as he lets Eiji steer him over to a stool and push him gently to sit down.

Fortunately Cous Coussier’s first aid kit is well stocked, and even more fortunately, once the cut’s cleaned up it turns out to not be nearly as bad as it looked at first. Ankh complains, of course, swearing at the tug of the damp cloth and the sting of disinfectant, but he doesn’t argue, or try to pull his hand away. Eiji’s dealt with worse injuries, both his own and others’, he knows what to do.

When Ankh’s hand is finally clean enough to bandage, Eiji grabs a roll of gauze out of the kit and then pauses. Ankh says, “What? Is something else wrong?”

Seized by an urge that might be ridiculous and might be romantic and is probably both, Eiji lifts Ankh’s hand to his lips, kissing his palm just over the cut. Then he bandages it.

He looks up, and Ankh is blushing. Which would be cute if he wasn’t in an apron and a peacock-print headscarf. “What. Eiji. What was that.

“It, uh.” Eiji can feel his own face heating up. “Helps it heal quicker.”

“It absolutely does not.” A beat. “Do it again, I want this to heal as quickly as possible.”

Eiji kisses his palm again, directly over the cut this time now that it’s safely bandaged. “Feel any better?”

“I’m not sure.” Ankh sniffs haughtily. “Do it again and then maybe I’ll know.”

Chapter Text

Yamato gets back to the house and the first thing he sees is Misao sitting in a corner, looking, not miserable for once, but deeply alarmed. Amu is sitting in another corner, brushing her hair slightly more aggressively than usual and looking deliberately casual. Leo is sprawled in the middle of a sunbeam on the floor, clearly pretending to be sleeping.

And there’s a hole in the roof.

Yamato stares at the hole in the roof for a moment and then says, very calmly, “Micchan, which one of them did it?”

Misao jumps and says, with very badly forced brightness, “What do you mean, Yamato?”

“Well, I know it couldn’t have been Sela or Tusk, because they’re out getting groceries. And I trust you to not do things that would put a hole in my uncle’s roof.”

Misao blushes. “It’s gratifying to know that you trust me.”

“Of course I trust you, you’re my friend, but that’s not the point right now. The point is that there’s a hole in my uncle’s roof, and either Leo or Amu is responsible.”

Amu tugs her brush through her hair with particular force and says, without looking at him, “I don’t know what you mean.” Leo tries harder to look like he’s sleeping, which has the exact opposite effect.

“Well.” Misao swallows visibly. “I suppose it’s the bird’s fault.”

Yamato’s eyebrows shoot up. “What bird?”

“It landed on the windowsill. It was very cute. Leo chased it.”

“It was taunting me,” Leo says, abruptly, eyes still closed.

“And while he was chasing it his tail hit Amu in the face.”

Deliberately,” Amu says, now furiously brushing her own tail.

“And so she decided to chase him, and then she saw the bird, and it flew out the other window, and they both chased it. And then they fell through the roof.”

Yamato pinches the bridge of his nose. “So you’re telling me it was both of them.”

Amu says, “It was Leo’s fault,” just as Leo is saying, “It was Amu’s fault.”

“The last time we had a hole in that spot it was because of a DeathGalien.” Yamato sighs. “We need to fix the roof before my uncle finds out.”

Misao coughs. “Oh, he already knows. He was here. He was very impressed with Amu and Leo’s, ah. Ability to emulate big cats so precisely. He’s working on another sculpture now.”

Amu actually pouts. “He didn’t say big cats. He said house cat. Do I look like a house cat to you?”

Chapter Text

Ren stares down at Shinji’s face, framed on the pillow by the halo of his hair, and says, “When have I ever given you a reason to trust me with something like this?”

Shinji smiles his damnably sweet smile, kiss-bruised mouth only making it sweeter. “I don’t know, it just seemed like a good choice to make. Hasn’t let me down yet.”

“You’re too gentle for this game. We’re enemies.” Ren pauses, but when he sees Shinji open his mouth to say something else ridiculous and soft, he continues. “They’re not too tight, are they?”

Shinji tilts his head to look at his wrists, tugging gently on the cuffs and smiling again as the chain clinks on the bed frame. “They’re fine.” He raises an eyebrow at Ren. “So?”

“So then you need to be quiet.” Ren rolls his neck before leaning in for a kiss, murmuring against Shinji’s lips, “You don’t want to wake up Yui, do you?”

Shinji bruises easily. Marks bloom on his skin like flowers every time Ren bites him, which is frequently, because Ren likes to bite, and more importantly he likes the little breathless whining noises Shinji makes when he’s bitten. A trail of bruises down from his jawline to his throat, bruises on his chest and stomach, bruises along his hipbones and the insides of his thighs.

“I wouldn’t have figured you for the kind of person who likes being hurt,” Ren mutters. “Maybe that’s why you’re always throwing yourself into things that aren’t your business.”

“I don’t like being hurt,” Shinji says indignantly, and then whines at the feeling of Ren’s teeth against his skin. “I just like this.

“So you’re saying you only like it when I hurt you.”

“Yeah, maybe? I guess?” Ren huffs, not quite laughter, and Shinji jolts, hips straining up against his grip. “Are you going to do something down there or what?

“Stop complaining for once,” and Ren dips his head and drags his tongue up the underside of Shinji’s cock. Which does stop him from complaining, because Shinji bites his lip so hard that Ren is sure he sees blood.

By the time Ren’s jaw starts to ache, Shinji’s noises have taken on a desperate edge, and he’s clearly struggling to keep the volume down. When Ren slides a slick finger into him he goes so far as to let out a yelp and then bite down again, eyes wide.

“Be quiet,” Ren says, smirking. “You’ll wake up the ladies.”

“You are trying to get me to make noise, aren’t you?”

“I don’t really have to try, you’re so goddamn noisy already.” Two fingers, and Shinji is definitely biting his lip hard enough to bleed. “Maybe I should gag you next time.”

Shinji blushes. It’s amazing to Ren sometimes, the moments when Shinji actually decides to get embarrassed, he’d think the man would have been blushing this whole time. “You’re talking like there’ll be a next time if you don’t get on with it, Ren, I’m going to die.

There’s a sound from the next room. They both freeze, waiting for a voice calling to them, feet in the hallway, anything that would mean they’ve woken someone.

When it’s clear that they haven’t, though, Ren shifts up on his knees and presses forward and in, watching with satisfaction as Shinji gasps and arches against the bed and the handcuffs clink against the bed frame again, and then leans forward and says, very softly, “I’m getting on with it. Now shut up.”

Chapter Text

Kagura and Mio and Tokacchi return to the Rainbow Line, tense and worried, and as they’re approaching the door to the main car they hear a strange sound and stop. Kagura frowns, and then immediately brightens. “That must be Right! I knew he’d make it back all right!”

The Shiba Inu in her arms lets out a tiny, irritated yelp.

Mio reaches for her shoulder and squeezes it, smiling tightly. “I’m sure he’s in there. He couldn’t have gone far, could he?”

“Uh.” Tokacchi stops at the open door and turns to the others, eyes wide, glasses starting to slide down his nose. “Guys? It’s. Uh. You should come take a look.”

They hurry to the door, Kagura’s dog passenger making more irritated noises, and stop dead when they see what’s inside.

Akira is lying on his back on the floor and laughing. Which is weird enough, but then of course there’s reason why he’s laughing, which is that there’s a golden retriever in a bright red collar standing on him and snuffling at his face. Conductor and Ticket are standing at the end of the car, gaping.

As soon as Akira sees the rest of the team, though, he sits up, trying with clear difficulty to look serious again. “I found this dog. It’s very friendly. We played catch.”

Kagura hands the increasingly indignant Shiba Inu to Mio and claps her hands in delight. “It is him! I knew it!”

Akira’s forehead wrinkles. “Of course it’s me. Who else would it be?”

“Well.” Tokacchi coughs. “Actually, uh, we were taking a walk around to sight-see, and then Right saw a yakiniku restaurant and wanted us to go, but when we were almost there a Shadow showed up and. Well.”

There’s a long pause, and then Akira turns and peers at the golden retriever suspiciously. “Which Shadow was it?”

“Um. Doghouse Shadow?” Tokacchi gestures to the Shiba Inu, which has finally wriggled out of Mio’s arms, trotted over to a corner table, and hopped up onto the seat. It has a bright green collar. “So, ah, that one is Hikari, he stayed with us, I don’t think he liked Kagura carrying him much but his legs are pretty short.”

The Shiba–Hikari–makes a tiny, furious screeching noise.

“But I think Right smelled something, so he ran off, and he’s much faster than us, but I guess. He found you?”

Akira stares at the golden retriever in increasing shock.

It rears up on its back legs, plants its front paws on his shoulders, and says, encouragingly, “Arf.” Its tail is wagging furiously. Its tongue lolls out of its mouth.

Akira sighs. “I always hated Doghouse Shadow.” Apparently despite himself, though, he reaches up and starts scratching Right behind the ears again. “Did you three see where he ran off to?”

Mio brightens. “I did! We passed a park, I’m pretty sure he went that way.”

“Well, come on, if we don’t go deal with him by sundown, we won’t be able to change these two back.”

Hikari sniffs, nods, and settles down more comfortably into his booth. Right drops back to all fours and shakes himself, clearly preparing to come with them.

“No,” Mio says sharply. “Right, stay. We don’t want you running off again as soon as you smell food.”

Right makes a pitiful whining noise.

Akira covers his face with his hands. “Get him to stop doing that, if he keeps doing it I’ll end up letting him come with us.”

Kagura is already saying, “Well, can’t he come with–”

“No, he really can’t, if he gets near Doghouse Shadow again we’ll be in real trouble.”

Chapter Text

Over the years, Wataru has come to accept that while he is at the very least as talented a luthier as his father, his composition skills will never quite match up. He has the skill to play his father’s compositions, but new melodies never quite manage to gel in his head, and on the few occasions when he does find a line he truly likes, it’s too difficult to get it down on paper. Surprisingly, he finds that he’s content with this. Can’t have everything, after all.

Still, it’s a temperate day, flowers are blooming, the wind is gentle, and he’s on vacation from being King. Inasmuch as he can take a vacation from being King–Taiga promised to handle things for him, just for a couple of weeks. So he makes some tea, finds some sweets Shizuka brought him, and takes his violin out into the garden, hoping that the pleasant weather might help at least one composition come together.

He’s almost got it when he hears a strange trilling whistle and the clanging of bells, which give him just enough warning to step back a few paces before a train pulls up in his courtyard. Being, as it is, only semi-present in reality, it fortunately doesn’t crush the flowers or knock anything down, but it’s not exactly a pleasant surprise.

He lowers his bow and violin as the passengers disembark. “Good to see you again, Deneb. And Yuuto. You’re looking well, did you get taller?”

Yuuto draws himself up as straight as possible, looking extremely pleased. “I did absolutely get taller, thank you for noticing.”

A third passenger is stepping down from the Zero Liner, and Wataru’s tone cools immediately as he sees who it is. “Ah. And I see you’ve brought Decade with you. To my house.” He nods curtly. “Kadoya.”

“Kurenai.” Kadoya Tsukasa rolls his neck, looking more than usually exhausted. “Look, I’m not any happier about this than you are.”

Yuuto glances back and forth between the two of them in fascination before saying, to Deneb, “I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Wataru look annoyed before.”

“Oh dear, should I go get some candy from the train?”

“Deneb, don’t–” But Deneb bustles away before Yuuto can answer him. “Goddammit, Deneb.”

“Not that it’s not a pleasure to see you, Yuuto, but why have you brought Decade to my house?”

Yuuto pinches the bridge of his nose. “The multiverse is collapsing again.”

“As usual,” Tsukasa adds, with a sardonic laugh. “The kids are mostly handling it, but they need some backup.”

Wataru frowns. “I’m sorry, the kids? What kids?”

“You know. The new ones. Haven’t you met them?”

“I don’t get out much.”

“I don’t know who he’s talking about either, it’s not like he ever explains himself.” Yuuto scowls.

“I think you’ll like Wizard, actually.” Tsukasa is already getting back on Zero Liner, hanging from the door as he looks back at them. “He’s a musician as well. You should bring your violin.”

Wataru sighs and reaches for his violin case. “I suppose I’ll go find Kivat.” He catches Yuuto’s eye and says, morosely, “I just took out a cell of anti-integrationists two weeks ago. I’m supposed to be on vacation.

Chapter Text

For the most part, Philip doesn’t struggle with issues of self-esteem. He’s perfectly confident in himself and his place in the world, in his relationships, as one half of W, one half of Fuuto’s number one detective agency, the voice of the Earth. He knows who and what he is. Shoutaro’s the one with insecurity issues, as if he could ever be anything less than the finest, kindest, bravest, most beautiful person in Fuuto and in fact the world.

(Philip is very certain of this. He’s checked. There is, of course, always room for debate when it comes to subjective judgments, but he’s 99.9% sure that he’s right.)

Philip never concerns himself with his place in the world–unless, that is, there are other Riders present.

If only they weren’t all so…fit. If even one of them was on the small side and somewhat physically frail, he would perhaps feel a bit better about the fact that he regularly passes out in front of them. But no, they’re all taller than him and aggressively healthy, and furthermore they’re kind in a way that makes him irritated with himself for resenting them. In the heat of battle he can ignore it, but it’s terrible to manage when the moment’s crisis has ended and they’re trying to relax and socialize for a few minutes with other people who understand.

This most recent incident has occasioned a larger team-up than usual–there’s Eiji, of course, who’s actually always a pleasure to see, and Fourze at his most enthusiastic, and Wizard, looking even more dashing than usual. Decade also brought a couple of additional friends, apparently from other worlds entirely, and Kiva in particular is intimidatingly stylish. There’s even someone new, whose name Philip hasn’t managed to catch yet, a sort of citrus samurai whose entire transformation mechanism is extremely intriguing.

Everything is loud and messy and complicated, and Philip has a number of lookups to do before they even begin to fight, so of course everyone’s looking at him when he falls less gracefully than usual and gives himself a bloody nose.

“Should we maybe take care of that before we head out?” Shoutaro thinks at him, worried.

“I’ll be fine, I’ve survived worse. There are more pressing concerns.”

“If you say so, partner.”

They acquit themselves admirably in the fight, there’s some cleanup afterward, and then they de-transform and there’s that long moment where Philip isn’t quite W but not quite conscious in his own body again, and he opens his eyes to Kiva crouching next to him and holding out a hand. “You’ve got a bloody nose,” Kiva says, in his incongruously soft voice, “are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” Philip says stiffly, but he does take the outstretched hand and let himself be helped up. “Thank you.”

He can see Shoutaro coming over to him, and that’s a relief, but then his partner’s approach is obscured by the new Rider, who de-transforms, puts away his little fruit device–a Lockseed, Philip will have to look them up later–and says, “Hey, I have tissues if you need them.”

Philip stares at him and feels blood rushing to his face, which of course does nothing to help with the now-sluggish nosebleed. “That would. Ah. That would be very helpful. Please.”

“I tripped during a performance once and took a header down the stage steps, and Mai kinda chewed us out when she found out that none of us had any kind of first aid stuff or even a handkerchief or anything, so I carry them all the time now.” The man smells like oranges. “I’m Kouta, by the way. Gaim. You’re Philip, right? You’re…also W somehow? I think I missed the introductions because I showed up in the middle of things.”

“That’s right, yes, I’m Philip.” Which is useless and repetitive, and Philip curses silently as he’s shaking Kouta’s large, warm, lightly calloused hand.

Thankfully, at that point Shoutaro gets to him. “Hey, partner, I’m sorry, Gentarou had something he wanted to ask me and you know how long that handshake of his takes.” He looks around, to Kouta and Kiva. “Uh, thank you for checking on him, normally it doesn’t go like that.”

Kouta smiles brightly. “It’s cool, I’ve had, like. A lot of bloody noses in my life.”

“Same here. We haven’t met, have we?” Shoutaro holds out his hand. “I’m Shoutaro, you met Philip, we’re W.”

“Kouta. Gaim. Um, do we do name names or Rider names, which is better? I haven’t been doing this for very long.”

Philip takes Shoutaro’s free arm, suddenly intensely disliking the idea of his partner’s hand in that warm, comfortable grip. Shoutaro shoots him an odd look before replying, “Regular names are fine, it gets exhausting calling everyone by a title like that. Where are you from?”

 


 

He survives another half an hour or so of socializing, distracted from his vague feelings of inadequacy by all of the interesting new things to learn. He doesn’t get a chance to look at Kouta’s transformation devices, because whenever Kouta gets within three feet of him his throat closes up, but he does get a chance to talk to Kiva, who never de-transforms and spends most of the time semi-hiding in a corner. It’s nice to know that someone else is at least somewhat shy, and Philip learns a number of compelling facts about the various non-human sapient species of his world. He keeps one eye on Shoutaro at all times, though, and Shoutaro keeps glancing over at him, feeling worried.

Finally, everyone is exhausted and it’s late and some of them have to teleport home or travel across dimensions, or in Fourze’s case an exam in the morning for which he should have been studying. All Shoutaro and Philip have to do is drive.

Once they’re back at the agency Shoutaro locks the door, turns around, and says, “Philip, are you mad at me for some reason? What’s up?”

Philip feels himself blushing again. Why is he blushing so much today? “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’re still wearing your driver, partner, I know you’re upset about something. So what don’t you like about that fruit kid? He seems nice, but you kept going tense whenever I started talking to him.”

“There’s nothing wrong with him,” Philip mutters, “he’s extremely pleasant.”

“Then why did you—wait.” Shoutaro’s eyes go wide. “Wait. Are you jealous?

A long pause before, “Of course I’m not jealous, don’t be ridiculous,” which is obviously a lie.

“Why? Was he hitting on me, did I not notice him hitting on me? You know I’m not great at that.”

“No, he wasn’t at any point flirting with you. He’s just…attractive.”

“I guess?”

The tension goes out of Philip’s body, which is a surprise to him, because he hadn’t realized that he was so tense. “You don’t think he’s attractive.”

“I mean, he’s not exactly my type. Like, he wasn’t really my type before I met you, but also you’ve kind of permanently warped my idea of what’s attractive, I measure everyone in degrees of Philip now and so far nobody’s managed a score as good as yours.”

Philip stares at him and then has to stifle a laugh. “Shoutaro, that’s the most absurd thing you’ve said to me in…” he counts on his fingers, “two weeks.”

“Sure, but it made you smile, that was the point.”

Chapter Text

Haruto has never seen Kousuke this nervous.

He’s chewing on a hangnail, that’s how bad it’s gotten. The loudest, cheeriest, most obnoxiously confident man Haruto’s ever met, and he’s sitting on his grandmother’s sofa and chewing on the side of his thumb so much that it might start bleeding. “She’s going to disown me,” he mutters against his thumbnail.

Carefully, Haruto reaches out and grabs his hand, pulling it away from his mouth and holding it tightly. “Don’t chew on yourself. It’s going to be fine.”

“You say that now. I’ll be lucky if all she does is disown me.”

“Kousuke, she tried to let herself fall into despair so that you’d have something to eat. She’s not going to disown you.” He pauses, peering closely at Kousuke’s tight-lipped expression. “But if it’s too much, if we can’t do this now–”

Kousuke’s head comes up. “Say no more! It’s totally all right if you’re too nervous, we can leave–” He starts to stand up.

Oh no,” says Haruto, tightening his grip and refusing to budge, “you’re not pulling that this time. We can leave, if you need to. But you’re not putting this on me.”

Kousuke glares at him for a moment and then sighs and sits back down. “You’re right. I should get this over with.”

Haruto squeezes his hand. “It’s all right. You can do this. I’ll be right next to you the whole time.” He pauses. “And she’s not going to, but if for some reason she does get very upset…you’ve still got hope. You’ve got me.”

Kousuke slumps, pressing the back of Haruto’s hand to his forehead. “Can you stop being a superhero for five minutes, please, I am having a crisis here.”

“I mean, I’d be a pretty terrible superhero if I stopped being one when there’s a crisis.”

“And stop smiling like that, you are so goddamn cute.”

Footsteps. Kousuke sits up straight, going tense again, and his grandmother comes back into the room with tea and sits down across from them. “It’s good to see you boys. Grandson, I hope you’re eating enough?”

He smiles weakly at her, bowing his head as she passes him a cup of tea. “Yes, Grandma, I’m getting plenty to eat.”

“And that lion of yours too?”

“Khimaira’s not exactly a–yes, we figured something out that suits both of us.”

“I’m glad to hear it. And you, Haruto? How have you been?” She peers at him closely. “You’re looking a bit tanned.”

“Ah…very well, thank you, Mrs. Nitoh. I was traveling, I just recently returned.”

“Hmm. I hope your travels went well.” She takes a sip of tea, looks back and forth between Kousuke and Haruto, and then says, “So. Kousuke. You said you had something you wanted to speak with me about.”

Kousuke’s eyes go wide. “That’s getting to the point quickly, isn’t it?”

“You know I don’t like to beat around the bush. Out with it. Have you dropped out of school again, is that it?”

“Have I–no, I haven’t dropped out of, why would you think I’d dropped out of school?”

“I was bracing myself for the worst. So what is it?”

“I. Ah.”

Haruto shifts over slightly, sliding a hand along the back of the sofa to rest on the small of Kousuke’s back where his grandmother can’t see it.

Kousuke swallows hard and says, “Grandma, I’m gay.”

All she says is, “Ah.” There’s a long, tense silence as she sips her tea, and then she sets down her cup with a soft tap. “I was wondering when you were going to tell me.”

“Grandma, I–wait, what? You–” Kousuke stammers incoherently for a moment, sloshing tea out of his cup until Haruto takes it away from him. “You knew–how long have you known?

“Since that noisy Masataka boy in high school, the one you were always sneaking off with.” She takes another sip of tea. “I knew you would tell me when you were ready. I’ve always tried to make it clear that I support you as long as you’re not getting yourself hurt.”

Kousuke’s shoulders sag. He buries his face in his hands. “I thought you’d be mad at me.”

“Why would I be mad at you? You’re not still dating Masataka, are you? If you were dating him I’d be mad, he hasn’t got a bone of sense in his body. This one,” and she gestures at Haruto, who chokes on his tea, “he’s exactly the sort of boy I always hoped you’d bring home, he’s got his head on straight.”

Haruto coughs, putting his teacup down so that he doesn’t spill it. “Well, ah, in that case you’re in luck.”

“So you are dating him. Good. Thank you for putting up with my grandson, young man, he’s exhausting but he’s got a good heart.” A pause, and then she smiles, very slightly. “And good taste, if you don’t mind an old woman saying so.”

Haruto feels himself blush and wishes dearly that he could stop. “Um. Thank you?”

Kousuke’s now staring at his grandmother, wide-eyed. “None of this conversation is going how I expected it to.”

Her tiny smile widens slightly. “Of course it isn’t, you always start thinking I’m some kind of ogress when you’ve got something to tell me that you’re worried about, you’ve been like that since you were a little boy. But you’ll always be my grandson, no matter what else you are, and I love you.” She takes another sip of tea. “Now that that’s out in the open, though, there is something I need to know.”

Haruto braces himself, and feels Kousuke doing the same next to him. Mrs. Nitoh isn’t ever rude, but she is very blunt, and there are all sorts of questions that an otherwise reasonable person might decide are acceptable.

She levels an accusing finger at Kousuke. “So when are you going to start dressing better?”

Kousuke gapes. “What?”

“All these young gay men on television look so snappy, and I know I didn’t raise you to go around in public looking like a vagabond in three vests and jeans so old that I remember buying them for you in high school.”

“I–the vests–Grandma, dig sites get cold!

“And is this a dig site? No. This is Fukui. And when you leave here you won’t be going to a dig site, you’ll be going to Tokyo. Why don’t you let your stylish boyfriend take you shopping, I’m sure he’s got some opinions about what would look good on you and maybe you’d come out of it looking like an adult instead of a wastrel.”

Kousuke has gone back to stammering and gesturing. Haruto is definitely blushing again, and this time is much worse, because now he’s thinking about what Kousuke might look good in, and they’re thoughts he’d rather not be having in front of Kousuke’s grandmother. “Ah. Well.”

Chapter Text

Hina has been staring at him for ten minutes now.

She’s clearly trying not to look like she’s staring, but it’s what she’s doing nevertheless. When Chiyoko comes through, she also stares, although she’s better at hiding it. Finally, when Gotou stops by and glances at him and mutters a greeting and then does a double-take, Eiji says, “Excuse me, I’ll be back out in a moment.”

He ducks into the bathroom and looks in the mirror and sees–yes, there it is, a visibly mouth-shaped bruise on the side of his neck. Which is…all right, then. He didn’t think Ankh had bitten him that hard, but then again he’d been distracted.

That evening, he’s getting ready for bed and Ankh climbs in through the window, and he sees Ankh’s gaze flick to the side of his neck and his mouth curl into a tiny, smug smile.

Eiji stretches and says, mildly, “Was your original plan just to write ‘Property of Ankh’ on me somewhere visible and then you changed your mind, or was this a spur-of-the-moment decision?”

“I did consider writing on you, actually.” Ankh preens, looking pleased with himself. “But I didn’t feel like hearing you complain about it.”

Chapter Text

Computer programmers, Emu decides, are going to be the death of him.

He’s writing a summary of the current research direction for the Ministry of Health. This isn’t his favorite activity to begin with, he never liked writing papers, but also they’re currently working with a bunch of software engineers, and it’s exhausting. They’re exhausting. They keep strange hours, they argue constantly, and none of their writing makes sense.

He stares at the computer screen for a moment before starting to type again.

…referring to anti-virus scanning techniques first described by Shimada Nanako in her seminal paper ‘The Mirror Reflects Itself: Methods for Detecting

“You bored yet?”

Emu jumps. “Kiriya! When did you get here?”

Kiriya grins. “Just now. Figured I’d surprise you.”

“Which is why you just materialized on the table instead of knocking, ok. How’s your stuff going?”

Kiriya groans and strikes a dramatic pose on the end of the table, lab coat shimmering slightly so that it hangs off his shoulders like a cape and leaves his arms bare. “Baby, I have been in the path lab all morning, and if one more person wants to do a test on me I’m going to infect them just to get some peace and quiet.”

“Oh no, were they running tests again?”

“Well, at first all they wanted was a blood sample, which would have been fine except that I don’t have blood, so then we were going to try a CT scan maybe but the machines were booked up, and long story short I’ve broken an MRI machine by existing in its general vicinity.”

Emu gapes. “You broke an MRI? Director Kagami’s not going to be happy about that.”

Kiriya shrugs. “In my defense, I told them we really shouldn’t put me in that one, but they were so enthusiastic. So I figured I’d come say hi to you while they’re doing clean-up so I don’t disrupt any other delicate equipment. How’s the write-up going?”

Emu groans, slumping forward until his head thumbs into Kiriya’s bicep. “I hate software engineers and I’m going to die.”

“Oof.” Kiriya strokes his hair. “Yeah, they’re…something. One of my roommates in undergrad was a computers guy. We had to ban him from modifying all the appliances.”

“Oh my god. What was he doing to them?”

“I don’t know what he wanted to do to them, but what he was doing was making them not work.”

“That sounds awful.”

“It was pretty bad. Not as bad as having to read his papers would have been, though.” Kiriya’s fingers comb through his hair comfortingly for a moment before he gently pushes Emu back upright. “Sounds like you could use a break, too.”

“I wish, I have the worst headache, but this has to be done by two.” Emu pauses. “You’re planning something, aren’t you. Your mouth’s doing that thing.”

Kiriya grins, says, “What in the world would I be planning?” and disappears in a shimmer of pixels.

He reappears almost immediately.

Under the table.

Emu stares at him for a moment before saying, slowly, “Kiriya, what are you doing,” even though he knows full well what Kiriya’s doing, and honestly has known what Kiriya’s intent was ever since he appeared in the room. He has to ask, it’s part of what makes this fun.

“Foolproof headache cure.”

Normally he’s not doing it somewhere this public, though. Hiiro’s at a conference, Poppy’s over at the Ministry for the day, but, “Kiriya, we’re in–what if–” he jerks his chin at the curtained alcove in the corner, hissing, “You know he’s in there.”

“And you think he’s going to spy on us?” Kiriya’s hands on his thighs are gentle, sliding up to undo his belt buckle and unzip his pants and thumb open the button on his boxers, and Emu’s not actually going to tell him to stop, even if this seems like a colossally bad idea. “Give him an eyeful if he wants one. He wishes he was as lucky as me.”

There’s this thing Kiriya can do where he just decides what his body is capable of at any given time. It’s probably a Bugster thing in general, they haven’t really tested it. But Emu isn’t worrying about that at the moment, really, because right now Kiriya’s mouth on his cock is precisely hot enough and he doesn’t have a gag reflex because he doesn’t want one and he doesn’t need to breathe and Emu’s fingers are curling against the tabletop on either side of the keyboard, bitten nails dragging over the laminate as he gasps, “This is such a bad idea.”

Kiriya pulls back long enough to say, “I mean, don’t let me keep you from your work, I’m fine down here,” and then leans in again.

Emu buries his face in his arms and bites down on the sleeve of his coat to stifle a moan and proceeds to get no work done at all for the next ten minutes or so until his hips jerk forward slightly and he comes in Kiriya’s mouth.

Kiriya sits back on his heels under the table, tucks Emu back into his boxers, does up his fly and his belt, and pixelates back onto the table. There’s a smear of white on the corner of his mouth, which looks absolutely obscene, and then his tongue flicks out to lick it off, and that’s even worse. “Head feeling better?” he asks, innocently.

“Much better, actually,” Emu says, voice muffled by his arms as he peers up at Kiriya. It’s even true, his headache is completely gone. “Thank you.”

“Of course.” Kiriya leans over and kisses him on the top of the head. “Want me to bring you some lunch?”

“Oh my god I love you so much. Yes, please, could you bring me karaage from 7-Eleven, and also maybe the largest coffee you can find?”

“You got it. Love you too.” Kiriya winks at him and pixelates away.

Emu sits for a moment, melting pleasantly in the silent afterglow, and then raises his gaze to the computer again, where the screensaver has started to run. “I still hate software engineers,” he mutters, to nothing at all.

From the curtained alcove, Shin Dan Kuroto’s voice says, “I’m sure they aren’t very fond of you either.”

Chapter Text

They regroup after the battle, and for a few minutes the only noise in the room is the highly varied sound of everyone’s drivers turning off and folding in on themselves. Then there are the pops and snaps and various pained noises as they try to work out knots and cramps, the quiet murmur of Hiiro realizing that his shoulder has in fact been dislocated and talking Takeru through the process of getting it back into place.

It is, finally, Shinnosuke who says, “Emu, did your–where’s your…uh…”

“Parad.”

“Your Parad. Is missing?”

“Calling him Emu’s Parad implies the existence of other Parads,” Haruto says thoughtfully, as he’s rethreading his rings onto their chain.

Hiiro shudders visibly. “One is enough.”

Emu looks distant for a moment and then frowns. “I’m…not sure. He’s being very close-mouthed about it. Apparently he feels like doing something…funny. Which is admittedly worrying, but I’m sure it’ll be fine”

For a few minutes it’s forgotten, but then as they’re heading to the street Tsukasa, who’s barely spoken this whole time, looks up and says, “I don’t recall Parad having a bike.”

Emu frowns. “He doesn’t have a…oh no.”

Parad pulls up to the curb, hops off the bike, and waves. “Emu, I thought I’d get us a ride home.”

Hiiro is pinching the bridge of his nose. Emu groans. Takeru frowns. “That’s an interesting design, what make is it?”

“Kamen Rider Lazer Turbo, thank you,” says the motorcycle.

Takeru jumps back.

Emu groans. “Guys, I think some of you have met Kujou Kiriya before, he’s the CR’s pathologist, he’s also my boyfriend, and he thinks he’s funny.”

“Actually, in this case it’s more that I think Parad is funny.”

“I’m extremely funny,” Parad says helpfully, beaming. “I have an excellent sense of humor.”

Haruto is covering his mouth with his hand, but the corners of his eyes are crinkling ferociously. “I hate to ask, but is that an uncomfortable shape to take on?”

“You know, it’s not bad. Not exactly my favorite but it’s amazing for my back. Babe, you coming or what?”

Emu sighs and climbs on. “Parad,” he says as he’s settling himself, “why?”

“You can’t just transport yourself home like I can,” Parad says innocently, and climbs up onto the handlebars in front of him.

Shinnosuke frowns. “That is…incredibly unsafe. I mean I’m sure all three of you know what you’re doing but I’m fairly sure there are regulations against it.”

Takeru says, faintly, “Doesn’t Accel turn into a bike sometimes?”

“Yes, but he doesn’t let people ride him.”

“I turned someone else into a motorcycle once,” Tsukasa says absently, peering at Kiriya, “but it didn’t last for very long.”

Emu’s head thumps into Parad’s back. “I hate both of you. Kiriya, can you steer, I’m exhausted.”

“Sure, as long as you’re hitting the gas.”

“Ok,” says Shinnosuke, “that’s definitely illegal.”

Tsukasa lifts a hand as if to gesture and then stops midway. “Do you need high-octane gas to sustain that for long periods?”

“Nah, you just have to buy me a drink and ask real nice. Anything with an umbrella in it works.”

Hiiro’s face is buried in his hands. Haruto is now trying desperately not to laugh, tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. “This may be the most interesting form I’ve ever seen on another Rider.”

“Can we go home?” Emu says into the back of Parad’s coat. “It’s been a really long day.”

“Sure.” Parad waves cheerfully to the others, ignoring their various stares, and then slaps one of Kiriya’s handlebars. “Come on, Lazer, let’s get going.”

“Someday,” Kiriya says as he drives away, “I’m going to get you to call me by name, and the world is going to end.”

“I feel wrong just watching that,” Shinnosuke says to no one. “I can’t imagine the phone calls I’ll have to make if they get pulled over.”

Chapter Text

Surprisingly, it’s Kazumi’s idea first, pacing like a trapped cat in the lab until finally Sento asks what his problem is and he says, “Look, I’m going fucking crazy with all this waiting, can we do something? I saw a gym a few streets over, do you think it has a pool or something?”

Banjou perks up, and Gentoku says, “It’s worth checking, at least,” and Misora and Sawa both agree that swimming could be nice, and Sento is dubious but finally acknowledges that at the very least he needs to go outside for a bit.

The gym was busy only a week ago, a popular spot for the city’s few professional sports players and occasional wealthy fitness enthusiasts, but now that almost everyone’s evacuated it’s a ghost town. They didn’t even have to break the lock to get in; whoever was last here left it open–maybe it was an oversight, but it’s just as likely that they didn’t care.  The place is untouched, anyway, equipment dusty but in pristine working condition, the water still running, the refrigerators in the little shop still humming along as they preserve a variably-absurd selection of sports drinks.

Unfortunately, there’s no pool, but there are heavy bags, and the tension visibly goes out of Banjou’s shoulders when he sees them. “I’m gonna…” he gestures at them vaguely. “It’s been. So long since I actually got to punch something in a normal way.” He steals a package of hand-wraps from the shop, strips off his shirt, and in moments he’s off in his own little world, methodically beating down whatever opponent his chosen heavy bag embodies.

After a minute of staring at this, Misora and Sawa grab a bag of pretzels, find a bench to sit on, and settle down to watch him.

“I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing here,” Sento says to the air.

“You could also watch Banjou punch things.” Misora offers him the bag. “It’s not like you don’t spend enough time staring at him as it is.”

Sento turns bright red, makes an indignant noise, and then sits down next to her and takes a handful of pretzels.

Gentoku wanders around the room for a few minutes, looking at the various machines, and then grabs another two packages of hand-wraps from the shop and throws one to Kazumi. “Hey, Potato. Fight me?”

“I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with these things, Beardy.” Kazumi waves the package at him. “Also, since when do you box?”

“I was in the judo club in high school until the meetings started interfering with Model UN. And I boxed a bit in college. You don’t know how to wrap your hands?”

“No, who does that? I mean except him, he’s like. A professional. Me and the boys used to fight for fun, but we never used these things.”

Banjou stops dead and turns a disbelieving stare at him. “What kind of fighting were you doing?

Kazumi shrugs. “You know. Boxing. Clear out a space in the barn, get some whiskey, fight until everyone’s either bored, unconscious, or too drunk to stand up.”

“You used to fight bare-knuckle in a barn?

“It’s moments like this when I remember that I’m surrounded by city people.”

“I don’t know if this makes me respect you more or less.

“Yeah, that’s part of my appeal.” Kazumi’s already pulling off his coat and shirt. “Nobody can make up their damn mind about me.”

“This is much more fun than I was expecting,” Sawa says to nobody as Gentoku and Kazumi start circling each other. “I mean, no pool, but I think this is better.”

For the next ten minutes or so nobody really talks. Banjou beats up the heavy bag. Gentoku and Kazumi feint at each other and land very few actual hits. Misora and Sawa watch them, passing the bag of pretzels back and forth and occasional murmuring to each other. Sento also watches and has some pretzels, but then he pulls a piece of the Hassyar out of his coat pocket and settles in to repair it.

The silence is finally broken when his precision screwdriver clatters to the floor and rolls away. “Fucking–”

Banjou steps away from the heavy bag, grabs the screwdriver, and brings it back over, crouching down to hold the piece steady while Sento screws the panel back on. “This shit’s tiny, how do you do this without getting a headache?”

“I don’t, I always have a headache. And my hands cramp up.”

“Maybe you need wraps.” Banjou takes the piece and the screwdriver from Sento and sets them aside on the bench before taking one of Sento’s hands in both of his. “Here, one of my instructors taught me this for dealing with arthritis stuff, it’s really good for–” and stops. “Sento, when did you break your finger?”

Sento frowns. “What? I didn’t break my finger.”

“Don’t bullshit me, this finger was broken. And not set right. It wasn’t, like, a big break, but it was definitely broken.” Banjou frowns down at Sento’s hand. “So was this one. And this one might have–lemme see the other one.” He grabs Sento’s other hand over Sento’s irritated protest. “I’m seeing…at least two breaks here, and none of them healed right.” Beat. “Sento, make a fist.”

“Why?”

“Just do it, asshole, I need to see something.”

Sento scowls and curls his right hand into a fist.

Banjou looks at it closely, and his eyebrows draw down. “Who taught you how to punch? Isurugi must have–he just put you in the suit but didn’t teach you how to hit someone?” At Sento’s flinch, “Look, don’t answer that, just. I mean at least your thumb is outside your fist? That’s something? Because otherwise you would have broken your thumb and you would definitely have noticed that. Have you just been breaking your fingers all this time and ignoring it? Didn’t you care that they hurt?” As he’s talking, his hands are busy, adjusting the curl of Sento’s fingers, the position of his thumb.

Sento sounds more weary than anything when he says, “All of me hurts, Banjou. I don’t know why my hands should be any different.”

Everyone is already turning politely away as Banjou goes a bit red in the face and says, quietly, “Well, I care that your hands hurt.” Then, louder, “Come on, stand up, I’m going to show you how to punch.”

“Can’t I just watch you three and figure it out?” Sento isn’t actually fighting as Banjou pulls him to his feet. “I have things I could be working on.”

“No, you can’t just watch me, you have to feel how it works. And you definitely can’t watch them, because they have terrible goddamn form,” said loudly over his shoulder in the direction of Kazumi and Gentoku, who pause in the middle of trading headlocks to flip him off. “And also when’s the next time I’m gonna get to be the one who knows something you don’t know?”

“You’re never going to let me forget this, are you.” Sento pulls off his sweater. His mouth has a familiar twitch at the corners, as if he’s trying desperately to suppress a smile.

“Hell no, I’m gonna be riding this high for at least a week.” Banjou grins at him. “Come on, smart guy. Punch me.”

Chapter Text

“Get that…that thing out of here!” Momotaros roars just as Ryotaro steps onto the Den-Liner.

Ryotaro jumps, although obviously Momotaros doesn’t mean him, and looks around. “What thing? Are there wasps or something?” And then, when he sees Momotaros, “Why are you on a table?”

“That!” One red finger points accusingly to the center of the aisle. “That thing!”

Ryotaro turns to look and immediately drops into a crouch, holding out a hand. “Hi there.”

A red Akita with half of its left ear missing trots over to him, tail wagging, and places a paw firmly in his palm.

“You traitor!”

“Momo, it’s just a dog.” Ryotaro reaches out to scratch it behind the ears, smiling as its tongue lolls out of its mouth. “Ura, what’s got him so upset?”

“It was chasing Sempai around.” Urataros stretches languidly. “I don’t see what the problem is, it’s a nice animal.”

“It wants to eat me!”

“Maybe it likes peaches.”

“I drew a picture of it.” Ryuutaros leans over the back of his seat, holding out a drawing of Momotaros climbing onto Kintaros’ head as the dog stares up at him. “It’s cute! Can we keep it?” He offers his hand to the dog, who sniffs it, snorts in alarm, but then allows itself to be petted anyway. “Does Airi like dogs? Would she like a dog? Can I bring it to her?”

“No, we can’t keep it!” Momotaros is still on the table, glare leveled at the dog as it presses its head up against Ryuutaros’ claws. “I don’t want that thing around!”

“We can’t have a dog at the cafe,” Ryotaro says, admittedly a bit ruefully. “Airi’s allergic to them. How did it get here?”

Naomi pops up from behind the counter with her hands full of supplies that she begins to restock. “Same way everything gets here. She’s waiting for someone to remember her. We don’t get a lot of animals but I do have a little dog food around. I’ll have to go shopping.”

“No! It wants to eat me!”

“She’s not going to eat you, Momo, she’s just trying to be friends. Aren’t you, you sweet lady, you fluffy girl, yes, that’s you, you’re a good girl, aren’t you–” Now Naomi’s tipped herself almost entirely over the counter, hanging on with one hand, entirely distracted as she coos at the dog and it snuffles at her face.

Ryotaro shrugs, suppressing a grin. “You could just come over and say hi, Momo, there’s nothing to be scared of.”

Momotaros rears back in exaggerated horror and nearly topples onto Kintaros’ table. “Did you just suggest that I’m scared of it? A dog? I’m not scared of a dog!

“Then come over and say hi.”

“That’s exactly what I’m going to do!” Momotaros leaps down from the table. “Hmph. Scared of a dog. Ri-diculous.

Chapter Text

Unlike Jurer, the kitchen at Bistro Lupine is only half-open, one end exposed to the clientele and the other hidden behind an accent wall covered in framed botanical illustrations. Someone disappears behind it as soon as Keiichiro enters the restaurant, which is, he suspects, why it’s there in the first place.

Shiho beams at him. “Good afternoon, Officer Asaka.”

“Good afternoon, Shiho-chan.” He nods to her, and then has to suppress a smile as he sees the edge of a yellow skirt flash past the accent wall for a moment, and adds, a bit more loudly, “You’re working alone again? You shouldn’t let that other waitress slack off so much.”

“Oh, you know. I don’t mind.” She’s clearly also trying not to laugh; for some reason the joke never gets old. “Are you picking up for the office, or did you want to sit down?”

“I’m meeting someone, actually.”

“Oh yes, right, they got here a few minutes ago, I’ll show you to their table.”

Keiichiro blinks. “They got here early? He’s never early.”

“No, but Shori always is. Did you want something to eat, or just coffee?”

“I’d love something to eat, please tell the chef that I trust him to pick something I’ll enjoy.”

“I’ll let him know.” Shiho pauses, lowering her voice to murmur, “It’s really all right for you two to meet up in public like this?”

“Well,” he murmurs back, “I assume that the others are willing to extend the same courtesy to me that we all do to Sakuya.” A beat. “And besides, the man I’m meaning doesn’t look anything like Lupin Red. He’s not even blonde.

“The red is nice on him, isn’t it.”

“I mean, I like it.”

The corner table Shiho leads him to is occupied by two men. Kairi’s hair is now a gleaming auburn, which does suit him well, although there are moments in which he looks eerily unfamiliar. The other man is slightly taller, slightly broader, dark-haired and dressed in a neat dark suit, and–he’s reaching out and grabbing Kairi by the tip of the nose and saying, “Stop trying to steal my macarons, I’ve only got three.”

“That’s not my problem, you should order more macarons.” Kairi swats at his hand with a grin. “Come on, will you let go of–oh, hey, he’s here, hey, Kei-chan, over here!”

“You say that like I’m not already walking over to you.” Despite this, Keiichiro hangs back for a moment. He’s never entirely certain of what to do when they meet in public–or at least, when they plan to meet in public, as opposed to Kairi just showing up as he often does. He’s certainly not going to shake Kairi’s hand as if they’re just friends, but are they even at a point where Keiichiro can kiss him in public? They certainly kiss enough in private–

Kairi solves this problem by kissing him, which means that he’s almost certainly blushing when it’s immediately followed by, “Shori, this is Asaka Keiichiro,” and there’s a miniscule pause before he says, “my boyfriend. Kei-chan, this is my brother Shori.”

Shori shakes his hand. He’s got a firm grip, which is pleasant, and a slightly wary look on his face, which is fair enough but unnerving. “It’s nice to meet you, Asaka-san, I’ve heard a lot about you from my brother.”

At this point Shiho comes back with Keiichiro’s coffee, which is an excellent excuse to sit down and get his blush under control behind the rim of the cup.

They make polite, desperately awkward small-talk for a few minutes until Shiho returns again, this time with more macarons and a note for Kairi, which he reads and then stuffs into his pocket with a snort of laughter. “Tooma says if we don’t start talking like normal people he’s going to poison all of us.”

Keiichiro swallows his mouthful of coffee hard. “He wouldn’t. He’d never insult his own cooking like that.”

You go tell him that. You’ll have to find him first.”

Shori grins. “I mean, I don’t think I’m willing to underestimate him, he’s…intimidating. So, Asaka-san. I’ll be honest, you’re not exactly the kind of person I ever expected Kairi to introduce me to.”

Keiichiro nods slowly. “I…suppose that’s fair, I imagine you were expecting him to have a girlfriend.”

“Oh, no, not at all, I just wasn’t expecting a policeman.” Shori’s eyes gleam. “I’d have had to be blind to expect him to bring a girl home, you should have seen the magazines I used to find in his–”

Kairi claps a hand over his brother’s mouth as Keiichiro barks out a laugh. “Don’t tell him that, I didn’t introduce you just so you could, don’t tell him embarrassing stories about me!”

Shori peels Kairi’s hand off of his face. “But I know so many embarrassing stories about you, it would be unfair of me not to share.”

“This was a bad idea.” Kairi covers his face with one hand. “Terrible.” With his other hand, he surreptitiously reaches around the table and steals a macaron from Keiichiro’s plate. “I’m going to wither from embarrassment.” He takes a bite of macaron.

Keiichiro tries to hide his smile and knows he’s failing. “So I’m guessing he’s always been like this.”

“Oh, absolutely.” Shori grins at him. “Sometimes he’s worse.”

Chapter Text

Right is already at the base when the others get there, and he’s lying flat on his back on the ground and staring up through the branches of the tree with a thoughtful look on his face, and this is odd enough that for a moment they don’t even notice the cat. Then, of course, it moves, and all four of them realize that Right’s not wearing a striped shirt, and that he only seems to be because there’s an enormous, fluffy orange tabby cat curled up in the middle of his chest with its front paws folded neatly on his collarbone. He doesn’t seem to mind at all.

“I found this cat earlier and I gave him a piece of hot dog from my lunch and now we’re friends,” he says, instead of greeting them. “His name is Aki. He doesn’t have a tag or anything, I just decided that.”

Kagura squeals with delight and rushes over to his side, holding her hand out to the cat and whispering softly. Tokacchi frowns. “Why Aki?”

“It’s short for Akira. Because he’s orange.”

“Oh. That makes sense.”

They entertain themselves for a few minutes petting the cat, which purrs loudly and submits to being petted with a kinda of awkward dignity that Akira would probably approve of. Right continues to lie there, mostly because he’s pinned down by the cat, but Hikari’s the one who says, finally, “What’s bugging you?”

Right stares up at the leaves. “Mom says we’re moving.”

“To a different house?”

“Away from Subarugahama.”

Mio makes a noise of startled dismay. “What? You can’t just move, how will you get to the base?”

Instead of answering her, he says, “You know, sometimes I kinda miss Emperor Zett. If we had a bad guy to fight then we’d need to be together and I could tell Mom that I wasn’t moving.”

“Right! You’re telling a dumb joke, aren’t you? You’re not allowed to move.”

“I said that, but she didn’t listen to me.” Right pauses, and then smiles abruptly, which is really how he always smiles. “I can probably take the train back to see you guys. I bet that’d be cool.”

On his chest, the cat purrs even more loudly, as if it approves of this plan.

Chapter Text

If this were anyone but Shoutaro, Philip would perhaps be concerned.

But then again, he can’t imagine a world in which he would be doing this with anyone but Shoutaro, has in fact worked hard to make such a world impossible. He is Shoutaro’s; Shoutaro is his. This is how it’s supposed to be. And even discounting its many other good outcomes, the infinite number of other blessings that have arisen from it–if none of those applied, all that work would still be worth it for the look on Shoutaro’s face right now.

The sounds he’s making are also good.

He’s a noisy person to begin with, and more so during any kind of intimacy–during sex is the one time when he never tries to be a stoic. Now it seems he can barely even breathe without making a sound, and his fingers are digging into Philip’s thighs in a way that hurts slightly, although not unpleasantly.

Still, “Is this all right?” Philip says, because he wouldn’t want Shoutaro to go along with something like this just to satisfy his curiosity. “It’s not painful, is it?”

“It’s.” Shoutaro sucks in a lungful of air before managing to say, “It’s a lot of things, partner, but painful definitely isn’t one of them. Please don’t tell me you’re just going to hover there and watch me.”

“I mean, I had considered seeing if I could bring you to orgasm just like this.” Shoutaro gives him a look, and he has to hold back the urge to smile. “Not tonight, though.” He puts a hand in the center of Shoutaro’s chest to steady himself, taking a moment to admire the pleasant flush of the skin beneath his fingers, and shifts back and down slightly so that Shoutaro’s cock can finally press into him.

Shoutaro actually groans, teeth digging into his lower lip as if now, of all times, he’s embarrassed by how expressive he is. “Ohhh.”

Philip has to take a moment, as much to let himself adjust as to let Shoutaro get his bearings. Every time they do this there’s a moment when it feels like the entire Earth is snapping its fingers and saying, “Ah, there, that’s what was missing,” an overwhelming sense of rightness that he will never be tired of savoring.

Once he’s adjusted, though, he says, “I suppose it was unreasonable to hope that I would be able to feel it.”

Shoutaro laughs breathlessly. “I think if it ran strong enough for you to feel too I’d already be unconscious.”

“I’d prefer to avoid that, it would make the experience significantly less enjoyable for both of us.” A pause, and then, in the tone that he thinks of as ‘intimate’ and Shoutaro consistently describes as ‘that thing you do with your voice that makes my brain melt out my ears,’ he says, “Unless you tell me not to, I’m going to turn it up now.”

Shoutaro swallows hard. The movement of his throat is entrancing. “Go ahead.”

Philip reaches out blindly, finds the remote lying on the bed next to Shoutaro’s arm, and presses its single button. There’s a suspended pause wherein he’s briefly concerned that the remote has ceased functioning and the vibrator wasn’t a worthwhile purchase after all. And then Shoutaro’s hips jolt upward and his grip tightens and he makes a sound that’s nearly laughter.

It’s difficult to find a rhythm, because, as Shoutaro explains between various breathless noises, every time he moves the vibrator also moves, and it’s a lot, he says again, which as far as Philip is concerned is exactly the point. They do find one, though, they always do, Shoutaro stops moving so much and Philip starts moving more and they find the point of synchronicity around which their entire lives already revolve. Remaining steady is still a challenge, though, and Philip ends up with one hand on the bed with the remote still in it and the other on the side of Shoutaro’s face, one of Shoutaro’s hands still on his leg and the other wrapped around his cock. Their mouths are barely centimetres apart; every small cry of Shoutaro’s is something that Philip can breathe in and savor.

Unsurprisingly, with this level of stimulation, neither of them last very long. (Honestly excessive stamina has never been an issue for either of them.) Philip surprises himself by coming first, and then is grateful that his head is then clear enough to properly appreciate Shoutaro’s breathed-out, “I love you,” moments before his own climax.

The vibrator makes the aftermath slightly touchier than usual–first because it needs to be shut off and Philip nearly fumbles the remote, and then because it needs to be removed and Shoutaro tends to be ticklish post-orgasm. His laughter infects Philip, who struggles to keep his hands steady and has to press his face into Shoutaro’s stomach to muffle his ludicrous giggles, which of course tickles more.

Once they’ve regained at least a semblance of composure and the vibrator’s been given a cursory cleaning preparatory to a more comprehensive one later and they’re both at least clean enough to not be uncomfortably sticky, Philip curls up against Shoutaro’s chest and presses his face into the hollow of his partner’s throat and says, sleepily, “I think we agreed that if this went well you had to admit that it was a good idea in the first place.”

“Most of your ideas are good ideas.” Shoutaro yawns. “At least, a lot of them are. This one was. Where did you buy it, I didn’t think we had the right kind of store in Fuuto.”

“I ordered it on the Internet.” Beat. “Akiko helped me select it.”

“…please be joking, partner.”

“Don’t be absurd, you’re Joker.” A long yawn against Shoutaro’s skin. “But yes, I was joking, I conducted a reasonable degree of product research via consumer reviews, I’m not interested in giving Akiko any details of our sex life.” Nor is he especially interested in passing on any details of hers, which is why he doesn’t mention to Shoutaro that he’d decided on a vibrator to buy based in part on a box he’d seen on Akiko’s nightstand when he was visiting to help her prepare the house for the baby. “We’ll need to sterilize it, of course, but I’d be interested in trying it as well.”

“Maybe we can talk about that when I’m capable of actually thinking about having sex ever again. Right now I think I might be dead.”

“I can say with absolute certainty that you’re not dead, your heart is beating very loudly in my ear.”

Shoutaro’s chin comes to rest on the top of his head. “Always.”

“Maybe we could–” Philip interrupts himself with another long yawn, which makes Shoutaro yawn. “–I’ve lost my train of thought. I love you too.”

Shoutaro doesn’t ask him what he’s responding to, because of course he knows, and just pulls up the blankets over both of them. “Good night, Philip.”

Philip tries to wish him a good night back, but falls asleep before he can manage to say it.

Chapter Text

Haruto hasn’t taken his guitar out of its stand for ages. At first he’d been too busy, and then with Koyomi gone it seemed disrespectful to want to sit around making music, and then he just…didn’t think of it. When he reaches for it, though, the neck still fits in his hand like it always did, and he sits down and rests it on his knee and feels abruptly at home. Smiling, he strums a chord–and winces. It is badly out of tune.

It’s been long enough that it takes him nearly five minutes to get the guitar tuned again, and it could use some new strings, but it’s a good instrument. Once it’s in working order he stares at it for moment, and then starts on a song that he used to play for Koyomi sometimes, when she was having trouble sleeping.

A few minutes later, Shunpei comes out of the workshop and brightens up at the sight of him. “Haruto! I didn’t realize you were here! I mean I guess I should have figured, I heard the guitar, but still.”

Haruto sets the guitar aside and waves. “Yeah, I got here…twenty minutes ago? Haven’t played in ages, I’m rusty. Where’s Wajima?”

“It sounded good, though. He went out for groceries.” Shunpei holds up something small and gleaming. “I finished a ring! Would you like to try it out?”

“Sure, let me see it.” He plucks the ring from the air when Shunpei tosses it. It’s as bulky and heavy as any other, the band decorated with the little curlicues he recognizes from the other couple that Shunpei’s made. The face of it depicts a dragon holding a balloon and looking very cheery. “It’s cute. Maybe it’ll make me lighter or something.”

“Yeah, I’m not sure.”

He slides it onto his finger and activates the spell, and the Driver’s sing-song voice says, “Helium, PLEASE!

Nothing happens immediately. He stands up and hops experimentally, but he weighs just as much as he did before. Nothing around him is floating, and there aren’t any balloons in evidence. “I wonder what it–holy shit.”

Shunpei’s eyes go wide. “Were you just–is your voice…?”

“I’ve gotten…squeaky.”

There’s a long, tense pause before Shunpei claps his hands over his mouth, face going red as he tries to suppress laughter. “Oh no, helium. That’s what it means.”

Haruto shrugs. “It could be worse. At least it’s not another bad-smell one. Wow, I sound ridiculous.” He laughs, and the laughter sounds even more absurd than speech does, which makes him laugh harder. Shunpei makes a choking noise and has to grab the wall with one hand for support as he giggles hysterically.

The bell over the door rings, and before they can collect themselves Rinko steps through the doorway and immediately freezes. “I see I missed something. What’s funny?”

Haruto grins at her. “Shunpei made me a new ring.”

She stares at him in shock for a moment before breaking down and letting out a shriek of laughter. “And it does that?

Shunpei pulls himself together enough to gasp out, “It’s the Helium ring.”

“Oh no!

“Imagine the notes I could hit.” Haruto gazes in delight at the ring on his hand. “I could set myself up as a novelty act.”

“Haruto. Haruto.” Shunpei sucks in a deep breath and forces himself to stop laughing. “Use it on me, I’ll go buy some doughnuts, Owner won’t know what to think.”

Chapter Text

The Gokaigers come back for Navi the next day.

They don’t seem particularly embarrassed to have forgotten their companion. For that matter, Navi doesn’t seem especially upset about being forgotten. This mainly serves to confirm Yamato’s suspicion that they did it on purpose, so they had an excuse to come back while still getting their dramatic post-battle exit. Because of course they can’t look like they want to relax, or are at all interested in spending time with his team. Even after they’ve retrieved Navi, they act like they don’t want to stay—at least, until Yamato invites them to share lunch.

 


 

After lunch, Captain Marvelous offers Yamato a tour of the Gokai Galleon. It’s not so much an invitation as an exaggeratedly casual suggestion; both teams politely pretend not to notice how pleased he looks when Yamato accepts.

As soon as they’re both on the Galleon, Gai passes Doc a handful of jingling coins, which he divides and passes to Luka and Joe. Sela’s eyebrows shoot up. “What was that?

Joe snorts. Luka snickers. Ahim blushes delicately and Gai turns bright red. It’s Doc who coughs and says, “I’m the ship’s bookie.”

“And you’re betting on…?”

“The captain has a…thing about Reds. We generally take bets on how long it takes him to indulge it when we meet a new team.”

Leo’s hair actually stands on end. “He can’t just go having things about Yamato! He’s our Red!”

Amu puts a hand on Leo’s forearm. “Leo, it’s fine, it’s not as if he won’t come back.”

Leo huffs irritably. Tusk leans over to the slightly alarmed-looking Doc and says, quietly, “You know lions. Territorial. He’ll calm down.”

“I, ah, don’t know many other lions, actually.” Doc glances sidelong at Luka. “But I do know a lot of other Yellows, and the behavior seems consistent.”

 


 

They’ve been on the Galleon for twenty minutes, Yamato’s seen the galley and the common area and the bridge, and then they reach a corridor and Marvelous stops and says, “Crew quarters. Captain’s cabin is the largest, obviously.”

Yamato nods. “It’s a beautiful ship.” And he looks up at Marvelous through his eyelashes and pauses before saying, “Was there something you wanted to talk about?”

“Yeah. Yeah, there was one other thing.”

Marvelous kisses like he’s hunting for something, as if Yamato’s body contains treasure that might be yielded if he’s thorough enough. He presses Yamato back against the corridor wall, one hand on his hip, the other forearm braced next to his head. Yamato’s fingers wrap around his lapels, not tightly. He’s boxed in, but he’s confident that he could push the larger man away if necessary, and just as confident that Marvelous will stop if Yamato asks him to.

Still, when Marvelous pulls back for air, he does say, “So pirates take what they want, do they?” It comes out breathier than he would have liked; his body temperature seems to have risen a bit.

Marvelous smirks. “If I was just taking what I wanted you’d be bent over the captain’s chair already.”

“Somehow I don’t think you’re that kind of pirate.”

“You’re too observant. It’s unwholesome.”

“Which is supposed to be your field, obviously, since you’re a pirate.”

“Of course.”

“So if you’re not taking something you want, is this you asking for it?” Yamato says gently.

Marvelous eyes him suspiciously, which is quite a look to get from someone who still has him backed up to a wall. “I’m not some stray you’re trying to tame.”

“Well, if we’re talking about what we’re not, I’m not a person who inherently minds being bent over things, as long as the other person asks nicely.”

Marvelous snorts, apparently out of surprise as much as amusement, and leans down to kiss him again, more gently. “Yes,” he says against Yamato’s mouth. “I’m asking.”

Yamato relaxes against him. “And I’m saying yes.”

“Good.” Marvelous moves in for another kiss and pauses. “I’m not actually planning to haul you back onto the bridge, the captain’s chair isn’t especially comfortable to fuck on.”

“Fine by me. I hope this ship has beds, though, I’m not ready to try having sex in a hammock.”

“I’ve done it, it doesn’t go well. We have beds.”

It takes a few minutes to get into Marvelous’ cabin, Marvelous attempting to fumble the door open without taking his attention from Yamato’s mouth and neck. For his part, Yamato is entirely unable to help, because what Marvelous is doing to his neck makes his knees go weak. He trips as the door opens behind him, stumbling backwards until he hits the bed and falls with Marvelous on top of him. “So what do you want?” he gasps as he grabs Marvelous’ coat collar.

Marvelous rears up and squints at him. “I feel like I’ve been pretty straightforward about that part.”

“Telling me you’d like to have sex with me doesn’t exactly give me any specifics about what you’d like to do, Marvelous.”

“…you’re very into specifics, aren’t you?”

“Details are sexy.”

“Oh, blow me.”

“See, that’s the kind of precision I appreciate. You’ve got no idea how long it took to get the others to tell me what they wanted instead of expecting me to pick up on Jyuman mating signals I’m not familiar with.”

“You know, when I heard your team was animal-themed, I was hoping you’d be the other kind of Red.”

“What kind is that?”

“Loud and dumb.”

Yamato lets out a surprised laugh. “So what kind am I, then?”

“The good kind. You guys drive me fucking crazy.

“Hm.” Yamato looks up at him thoughtfully. “I’ll take that as a compliment. So then what kind are you?

“One of a kind.”

“Oh, naturally.”

Marvelous stares at him for a moment, almost a glare, before pressing him down onto the bed again, grabbing both wrists and pinning them above his head. “Stop observing me,” he mutters, tugging Yamato’s scarf off with his teeth. “I refuse to be observed.”

Yamato tries to reply, but it trails off into a drawn-out gasp as Marvelous’ thigh presses up between his legs.

After a couple of minutes Marvelous lets go and rears up again to shrug off his jacket and tug open his vest and shirt, which is a moderately stirring sight from a vantage point underneath him. In response Yamato wrestles off his own jacket and shoves it aside, although his t-shirt proves a bit more of a difficult prospect.

“I could cut it off you, that’d be quick.”

“I like this shirt, though.”

“Then leave it on, not like it’s really in the way.” Marvelous grabs the hem and shoves it up by way of demonstration, baring Yamato’s chest and stomach to his attentions. “You know what good guys like you do to me?” he growls as he’s drawing his nails down Yamato’s skin and Yamato is arching up into it.

(Yamato can remember a time when he hadn’t liked letting partners bite or scratch him, but that was before he’d fallen into a relationship with four Jyumans—well, three, Tusk never bites, although he does prefer to have sex standing up, which has also been an adjustment. Anyway, he enjoys it now—the marks had alarmed the others at first, not used to his more sensitive skin, but he likes them.)

“What’s that?” he asks, innocently, as he’s tugging at Marvelous’ belt.

Marvelous kisses him again, hard. “You make me want to break off a piece of you so I can keep it.” He’s losing his snarl even as he says it, undoing Yamato’s belt and fly with his unbandaged hand and then wrapping it around both of them, his calluses pleasantly rough against Yamato’s skin. He is, for all his aggressiveness and big talk, very gentle.

“I did give you my key,” Yamato gasps, his hips rolling up as Marvelous’ roll down.

“You know that’s not what I mean.”

Yamato grins and wraps his arms around Marvelous’ shoulders and doesn’t try to say anything.

 


 

Leo crowds up to Yamato’s side as soon as he steps off the Galleon, hair bristling, and Yamato puts an arm around his shoulders in response and says, softly, “Hey, hey. I’m not going anywhere.”

Leo makes an irritable noise in the back of his throat. “Obviously not. You wouldn’t ditch us for that guy. No matter how fun he might be.” A beat. “Although I gotta say, that Luka chick has some stories, I don’t know if I’d really blame you. She’s great.” And then, more quietly, “Misao took Doc and that Gai dude fishing, you might wanna go find them before the pirates leave so they doesn’t get left behind.”

Yamato grins. “You know, it’s good to see Misao making other friends. But also yeah, I’ll go get them. Maybe there’ll be fish for dinner.”

 


 

It isn’t until they’re well out from Earth and things are winding down for the day that Marvelous finds Yamato’s scarf, still crumpled up at the head of his bed. There’s a hastily written note tucked into it.

I have a terrible habit of forgetting things, you might need to stop by again sometime to return this.

Chapter Text

At least half of the stores in the mall are shuttered, and the ones that remain open have a strangely apocalyptic look, racks and shelves only half-full, most of the few shoppers and staff in respirator masks to filter out the dust and debris that are now a constant presence in the air. Despite this, though, there’s still music playing over the PA speakers, and a weirdly festive atmosphere in the air. The young woman running the register at the food court smoothie stand whistles as she wipes down the counter. When Sento catches her eye, she blushes, but then shrugs, saying unprompted, “It helps to keep busy, you know?”

He nods, simultaneously cheered and exhausted by the sentiment. Oh, does he know.

Nearby, Sawa and Misora each have one of Gentoku’s hands, and are trying with all their not-inconsiderable might to haul him away from a clothing store with a display window full of tie-dye. “You need,” says Sawa, huffing, “to dress–like a human–if you’re not going to–make me go blind.

“I didn’t know you liked looking at me that much,” Gentoku says mildly, allowing himself to be towed.

She swats him on the arm. “Don’t be obnoxious.”

“I can’t help it, it’s in my nature.”

She swats him again, but she’s smiling.

Misora lets go of his other hand with a jolt, her eyes lighting up. “Jackets. You need a jacket.

“Oh! Misora, that’s perfect, I saw some over there–” Sawa hurries over to a nearby storefront with her, leaving Gentoku to trail after her.

“What’s with them?” Banjou says unexpectedly from behind Sento.

“Jackets, apparently.” Sento turns around and squints. “Tell me that’s not a banana smoothie.”

Banjou flips him off and takes a long, noisy sip of his distinctly yellow smoothie as nearby Kazumi says, “Did I miss something?”

While Misora and Sawa argue cheerfully about various soberly-colored jackets in the window of their chosen store, Gentoku wanders quietly over to a kiosk nearby that seems to be selling printed-to-order t-shirts. The man running it stands up to greet him and blinks. “Hey, do I know you from somewhere? You’re from TV, right?”

“No, not at all,” Gentoku says smoothly, “I’ve just got one of those faces. Do you print custom designs on those at all?”

The t-shirt man shrugs. “Sure, if you’re paying for ‘em. What were you looking for?”

“A few different ones, actually, hang on–” Gentoku starts to dig in the pocket of his garishly-printed pants. “I’ve got a list here.”

Chapter Text

The first thing Shoutaro sees when he steps through the Agency door is Kadoya Tsukasa, sitting square in the middle of his desk, feet up on his chair, drinking a cup of coffee.

The second thing he sees is Akiko. She’s got one hand resting protectively on her already somewhat prominent stomach, and she’s brandishing a slipper in the other, and she’s looking at Tsukasa like he’s a hornet she might need to swat. The slipper says, in prominent gold writing, [I don’t trust you one bit.]

Tsukasa waves lazily and takes a sip of coffee. “I had a reference question, but Philip was unconscious, so I figured I’d wait.”

Shoutaro blinks. “You came here from another dimension or wherever to ask a reference question?”

“Sure, why not? It’s not as if I can just text him, my phone plan doesn’t cover inter-dimensional stuff. Can you get her to stop waving that thing at me? I’m starting to feel unwelcome.”

Akiko glares at him and lowers the slipper. “Get off my desk.”

Shoutaro starts to say, “It’s my desk, though–” and then cuts off as soon as Akiko looks at him. “Ok, uh, so. Akiko, this is Kadoya Tsukasa, he’s Kamen Rider Decade.”

“I don’t trust him.”

“That’s fair,” Tsukasa says placidly as he drops down from the desk to the floor. “Most people don’t.”

“Kadoya-san, this is my boss, Narumi Akiko, please don’t make her mad on purpose, she’s unbearable enough already.” The slipper hits him in the ear. “Ow. Where’s Philip?”

Akiko gestures irritably to the garage door. “Trust Philip to already be passed out on the floor when I need protection from weirdos just showing up in my office.” She pauses. “Wait, Decade? That’s the pink one, right?”

Tsukasa twitches. “It’s magenta.

“Pink, magenta, whatever, I’m collecting some color swatches to figure out the baby’s room and I need a picture.”

Tsukasa actually backs away from her, glancing at Shoutaro with evident alarm. “Is she always like this?”

“Oh, yeah,” says Shoutaro, pouring himself a coffee. “Actually, she’s usually worse.”

Chapter Text

The weather is gorgeous when Kairi ducks out to go get some groceries. That’s a lot of why he’s skipping out, obviously–why waste this sunshine? The others don’t have any excuse for stopping him, though, since Tooma had been complaining just earlier about needing heavy cream and almonds for the restaurant, and the fridge upstairs is looking a little light as well. They need groceries. He has to go out.

When he gets to the front of the grocery store after checking out, two paper bags of groceries in his arms, the sky has darkened, and as the doors slide open it begins to rain torrentially.

He stares in disgust. “Oh, come on.” After a moment, though, he steels himself, squares his shoulders, and steps out onto the sidewalk, trying not to think about what his hair’s going to look like by the time he gets back to Jurer.

When he gets to the end of the block someone bumps into his shoulder, and he’s about to start swearing at them just out of sheer pique–except that it’s not raining on him anymore. He looks up and blinks.

“You looked pretty miserable walking in the rain like that.” The umbrella over Kairi’s head is basic black, but the little caps on the end of each vane are bright red. Of course. What else would Keiichiro buy? “Didn’t either of the other two tell you about the weather forecast?”

Kairi wrinkles his nose and feels a droplet of rain fall off it. “I’m going to kill both of them.”

“You know, if you’re planning on committing crimes you probably shouldn’t go telling policemen.” Keiichiro’s tone is entirely solemn, but he’s smiling, and his eyes are gleaming. “Here, give me a bag, I’ll walk you back.”

“Thanks, Kei-chan.” Kairi gives him the heavier one, just out of a sense of admittedly-misguided spite. “You’re a lifesaver. So what, is it your day off?”

“I do have those sometimes.” They start walking. “Don’t you? I worry sometimes, I feel like I never see any of you relaxing.” When Kairi looks at him sidelong, he grins briefly. “Well, maybe you. But never for very long.”

“So what’re you doing spending your day off carrying my groceries, then?”

“I couldn’t just let you get soaked, could I?”

“I mean. You could’ve.” Keiichiro gives him a look, and Kairi feels his cheeks go slightly red. “But you didn’t, ‘cause you can’t stop being a good guy. So uh how’s the new guy working out, the French guy, Sakuya said you had a French guy working with you now.”

The corners of Keiichiro’s mouth tighten. “He’s…interesting.”

The walk back to Jurer isn’t really very far, so it isn’t too hard to keep the conversation from wandering close to anything touchy. Keiichiro talks about Noël, about what he was planning to do with his day off before he found out about the rain, about what he’s going to do for dinner tonight. Kairi does his best not to say anything about himself, just complains about work and the weather like he’s a normal person.

They get to Jurer and stop near the doorway, and Keiichiro’s already reaching for the door handle when Kairi grabs his wrist. “Hey, Kei-chan, hang on a second.”

“Sure, is something wrong?”

Kairi thinks about it for a moment and then reaches up, gets a firm grip on Keiichiro’s shirt collar, and pulls him in close. The umbrella tips a little when their mouths meet–they don’t get drenched, but it’s definitely not a dry moment.

When he pulls back Keiichiro’s gone bright pink. Kairi grins. “Thanks muchly for giving me a hand there, Kei-chan.

“Uh. I. Um. You’re welcome? I just. What?”

Kairi takes back the second bag of groceries and presses down the door handle with his elbow. “See you later!”

As soon as the door closes behind him he lets out an explosive breath as Umika says, “Wow, you are soaked. Was that Keiichiro out there?”

“My hair’s a mess, why didn’t you tell me it was supposed to rain?”

“Because I didn’t know? Here, just–give me that bag, oh my god. Seriously, was that Keiichiro? Did you kiss him?”

Kairi ducks under her shocked gaze and hurries towards the back and the bathroom. “If I don’t dry off now my hair’s going to get all frizzy.”

“You’re not answering my question!”

“Nope!”

Chapter Text

The nice thing about the Ganglar remnants still hanging around, if there could be said to be anything “nice” about Ganglars, is that none of them have Collection pieces anymore. They can’t suddenly whip out alarming and ridiculous powers that have nothing to do with whatever theme they’ve structured their lives around. So that’s good But, on the other hand, without Dogranio’s attention to compete for they’ve also apparently lost all sense of structure. Previously they’d at least had a common goal–now they’re all out for themselves, and nothing they want makes sense.

Case in point: lately women around the city have been losing designer shoes. Not their purses, not their jewelry, not their money, just their designer shoes. Understandably distressing, but not exactly life-threatening. It could be a ring of very focused thieves. It could be a lone pervert.

Or the GSPO could get a call about a possibly supernatural disturbance in the warehouse district and arrive on scene to Umika’s delighted cry of, “Got your…shoes?”

Sakuya groans. “Of course it was a Ganglar stealing them.”

“I mean, none of us were expecting anything else, right?” Tsukasa rolls her eyes. “Creeps. I almost want to say we should just let the Lupins take it out.”

“Come on, we have to at least put in an appearance.” Keiichiro pulls out his VS Changer. “Let’s go!”

They transform and round the corner. The Ganglar, a gaudy monstrosity covered in what Keiichiro vaguely recognizes as Louis Vuitton logos, is sprawled on its back, struggling to stand and apparently on its way out. Umika is staring at a pile of shoes on the ground, face concealed by her helmet but with a head tilt that says “mystified.” Tooma is attempting to rub at the bridge of his nose through his face plate. Kairi, back unwisely to both the GSPO and the Ganglar, is saying, “We came all this way for ugly shoes?”

“These are really nice shoes, actually–oh, hey, the cops are here.” Umika waves. “Hi, cops!”

“Did you just say, hi, cops?” Tooma shakes his head, and then nods gravely to the GSPO. “Evening.”

Keiichiro nods. Pauses. “I feel like we’ve gotten inappropriately casual about–Kairi!

Kairi’s turning to say hello, but in Keiichiro’s admittedly-limited peripheral vision he sees the Ganglar struggle to its feet and then fire off some kind of blast that looks like nothing so much as an enormous spectral foot in an expensive shoe. It knocks Kairi back so hard that he falls out of transformation, landing on the warehouse floor in a tumble of red brocade, and that would be bad by itself but then it keeps going and slams into the stack of pallets just behind him. Which, of course, proceeds to fall on Kairi in a crash.

Keiichiro moves without thinking, much faster than he’s normally capable of even transformed. The pallets definitely hurt when they hit his back, but he’s coming into this fresh; he just steels himself and puts up with the weight as he’s noisily buried.

Beneath him, Kairi blinks in the dim, minimal light filtering down through the pallets, and says, sounding dazed, “Heya, Kei-chan. When did you get here?”

“You idiot, why would you ever turn your back on a live Ganglar?”

“I don’t know, I feel like it worked out ok.”

Keiichiro feels his eye twitch and says nothing.

Outside the pile of pallets, he can hear the others fighting, shouting to one another, the whoosh of the thieves’ zip-lines as they swing around, Sakuya cursing as he lines up a shot, the Ganglar roaring incoherently. More thumping and bumping, a close-range boom, and then several triumphant noises and the slap of two people high-fiving–Umika and Tsukasa, it sounds like from the talk.

“I’m gonna have dust in my hair,” Kairi says vaguely. “It’ll take ages to wash out.”

“It’d serve you right, turning your back on an enemy.” Kairi sticks his lower lip out, and Keiichiro scowls inside his helmet. “Don’t pout at me.”

After a moment they hear the scrape of wood on wood and then a clatter, and the weight on Keiichiro’s back lightens. It takes nearly ten minutes for the others to dig them out, and Kairi spends the entire time pouting. It’s maddening. He must know how maddening it is.

“You know I can’t focus when you make that face,” Keiichiro mutters, moments before the last two pallets are lifted off and he can stand up and pull Kairi up with him.

Once everyone’s satisfied that neither Kairi nor Keiichiro is dead, they break off into pairs for a moment. Umika and Sakuya stand to one side, heads together, murmuring, as they bandage a scrape on Umika’s knee. Tooma and Tsukasa start to gather up the bizarre collection of stolen shoes; Keiichiro catches a soft, “Aya wanted to know if you’d like to come over for dinner next week, she’s been practicing some new recipes…”

For his part, Keiichiro de-transforms, squints at Kairi, satisfies himself that the other man’s eyes are focusing and he doesn’t immediately seem concussed, and then backs him up to the nearest wall and says, “Don’t turn your back on live Ganglars, you scared the hell out of me.”

“Maybe I wanted to give you a chance to swoop in and save me.” Which is an obnoxious statement, but oddly enough isn’t accompanied by an equally obnoxious smile.

Keiichiro sputters, “Well…well…don’t. Wait, are you actually all right, you’re breathing very heavily, are you hurt,” and runs his hands down Kairi’s arms looking for some suppressed flinch or concealed wound, pats his chest sort of ineffectually, works his fingers into Kairi’s hair in a search for some head injury, and from there kissing him comes naturally.

Kairi…melts. And makes a little sighing noise into his mouth. Which should frankly be illegal. A distant, serious part of Keiichiro’s mind makes a note to cut Sakuya a little slack the next time he catches a glimpse of Umika’s ankles or something mid-fight and starts acting like an idiot, because he can’t imagine trying to focus on police work with all his blood rushing south like this.

The rest of his mind is fully intent on kissing Kairi again, and then from there saying, breathlessly, “Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine. Definitely fine.” Kairi sounds just as breathless.

“He’ll probably be better if you two get a room,” Tooma says from some vague distance behind them. “None of us want to know any more about your sex life than we already do.”

Sakuya makes a choking noise. Umika lets out a startled giggle. Tsukasa, slightly visible in the corner of Keiichiro’s eye, is covering her face in a clearly desperate attempt not to laugh.

Keiichiro registers approximately ten percent of this over the roaring in his ears. Kairi says, faintly, “If I use my zipline we can be back at your place in five minutes.”

“Please do that,” Tsukasa says through her hands.

Keiichiro hardly needs to be told twice–he’s already heading for the exit, carrying Kairi, who waves over his shoulder and says, cheerfully, “Au revoir.”

Chapter Text

“I don’t see the point of this,” Ad says. “If you have something to tell me, you could’ve just done that back at the house.”

Takuto scowls. “I am trying to be romantic.” He’d had it all planned out! It was a clear night, there was a full moon, the cherry blossoms were blooming so the air smelled nice–everything was set up for making, like, grand declarations of whatever. Besides, how is he supposed to make any kind of declarations of whatever with his sister lurking around? “This is romantic, right?”

“I suppose? It smells good tonight. And it’s nice to see the moon looking so clean. What did you need to tell me?”

Ad’s hand is warm in his. Takuto’s hand might be too warm, actually. This is not the kind of pressure he performs well under. He takes a deep breath. “Uh.”

Ad’s gaze remains steady. “Yes?”

“Well. So.” His throat is closing up.

The steady gaze continues. In fact, Ad looks amused.

Takuto has the resist the urge to say, “Don’t laugh at me,” and instead manages. “Um. Adomimi–Adolaroma–Adolarin–goddammit, why is your name so long? Adolarimimo–”

The kiss is not entirely unexpected, given the amount of work Takuto’s put into making this an appropriate setting for kissing to happen in, but Takuto’s also sure that he’s making a stupid face during it, which is definitely an injury to his pride. “Don’t try to say my name, please,” Ad says against his lips, “your accent is terrible.”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” is the reflexive response while Takuto is kissing him back. “I’ll say it if I want to.”

“You’ll have to be able to first.”

“Are you–you are making fun of me, why am I even in love with you–um.”

Ad blinks and goes dead still. His ears have gone red. “I. Uh. That’s what you wanted to tell me?”

“Yes, only I got tripped up on your stupid five-thousand-syllable name–”

This kiss is definitely expected, and is in fact part of the ideal outcome Takuto had envisioned for this whole thing, but it also knocks them over into a bush.

Chapter Text

The hot waiters are fighting again.

Granted, that’s why most people come to Atori. The tea’s really good, and the little old lady who owns the place is really sweet, but mostly people go there to ogle the hot waiters. It’s a perfect something-for-everyone deal–one guy’s muscular and grouchy and drives a big motorcycle and looks like he might be in either a band or a gang, and the other guy’s really sweet and has floppy hair that he can’t keep out of his face and blushes if he notices you looking at him.

And they are constantly arguing. Never about anything that makes sense, but the point isn’t that the arguments are interesting, it’s just that they’re always grabbing at each other and getting in each other’s faces and it’s fantastic to watch. Given that they both apparently live above the cafe with the owner, popular theory is that they’re fighting over the owner’s cute granddaughter.

Today they’ve taken their perpetual argument outside. First they were actually both getting into it with a customer, a guy in a suit who they definitely both knew. Then, though, he left, and they kept going, and the grouchy one hauled the nice one out onto the sidewalk, and they’re yelling at each other indistinctly as inside the cafe all the customers try not to look like they’re watching. The grouchy one says something that’s definitely rude; in response the nice one waves something that looks like an oversized business card case at him and points angrily at the rearview mirror of the motorcycle parked next to them.

For a couple of minutes that’s it. They yell. They gesture. The customers buy more tea and watch surreptitiously. The owner’s cute granddaughter buries her face in her hands and mutters something about being tired of this. It’s a typical day of Atori Hot Waiter Theater.

And then something new happens.

First, they start getting louder. That’s not so unusual.

Then, they stop talking completely as the grouchy waiter grabs the front of the nice one’s apron. The atmosphere in the cafe gets tense, waiting for the cocked fist that they’ve all honestly been expecting since word got around that Atori had some interesting new staff.

Then–

There’s a noise in the cafe as someone’s saucer falls to the ground and shatters, along with the half-baked hopes of several cafe regulars, because while the nice waiter is now pinned to the motorcycle, it’s because he’s being kissed thoroughly. Which is not to say that he’s not an enthusiastic participant in the kissing. In fact, it looks like the sort of kissing one normally sees at the end of particularly heated romance movies.

And then the grouchy waiter backs up, lets go, and stalks off, blushing but otherwise looking just as irritated as he did before. This leaves the nice waiter perched on the motorcycle with a dazed expression on his face and a very red mouth.

After a moment, he comes back to himself, checks his pockets, and charges off in the direction the grouchy waiter took, yelling something about cards.

The stunned silence in the cafe is broken by the owner’s cute granddaughter, who sighs heavily and says, “Well, I’m glad they finally got that out of the way.”

Chapter Text

After the others leave to find their families and friends, Misao and Yamato go fishing. It’s a good day for it. Of course, Yamato doesn’t actually know how to fish, but that’s hardly an obstacle–Misao’s happy to do all the fishing for both of them, especially since Yamato’s already promised to cook.

It’s a nice day out, too. A good day to have saved the world. The sun is warm, there’s a little cloud cover, the wind is gentle. And Yamato is, not unreasonably, exhausted, so after a couple of hours he leans on Misao’s shoulder, yawning. “Don’t let me fall asleep, ok?”

“I won’t.” Misao sets down the fishing rod and wraps an arm around his waist. “This isn’t a good spot to fall asleep, I’ve done it before. You’ll get a backache.”

Yamato winces sympathetically. “That sounds pretty bad. Wait, why were you sleeping out here?” He pauses. “Actually, I’m just now realizing that I have no idea where you live. I always assumed you had a place, but I never wanted to press you about it.”

“I have an apartment. But I was doing some night fishing and I got overtired.” Misao shifts slightly; they’re close enough that Yamato can almost feel his mouth moving. “Would you…want to come to my apartment? It’s not very well-decorated. I’ve never had company before.”

“I would love to see your home, no matter how it’s decorated.”

And–the thing is, Misao’s not great at initiating. Especially anything physical. He’s not great at initiating things in general, given his anxiety, but he tends to be particularly shy about physical contact. He’s better at indicating that, for example, if Yamato’s inclined to do some kissing right now, he’d appreciate being kissed. It’s really charming, but it can get a little frustrating too.

He’s changed recently, though, and today already felt different, so it’s not entirely surprising when he turns and tips Yamato’s face up with his free hand and kisses him, slow and gentle and very, very sweet. Yamato just leans into it, letting his eyes close.

After a moment, though, they do have to break for air, and Misao swallows quietly but audibly and says, “Would you like to go there for dinner? We’ve got enough fish if it’s just the two of us.”

“That sounds nice, I’d love that.” Yamato smiles up at him. “And if there’s any left over from dinner I can make grilled fish and eggs for breakfast.”

“That would be very–” Misao stops talking and turns bright red as the suggestion processes. “Ah. I mean. That sounds really. Yes, that would be–I need to clean the fish before we go. I should do that.”

“Do you want me to help?” Yamato says, innocently.

Misao’s entire response is to kiss him again, still blushing.

Chapter Text

TaJaDor is intoxicating. The fire, the speed, the dizzying and glorious sensation of flight–if this was a different world, a different time, it would be easy to spend all day like this, floating on updrafts and roaring through the sky. If the world was different, Eiji thinks, he might never have his fill of it, though such a constant joy is difficult to picture.

But that’s not the world he lives in, or the life he leads, and so when the battle is over he does have to come down. The sky’s threatening rain, anyway. He lands hard, stumbles, catches himself even as he’s popping the Medals out and taking his driver off and his armor is shimmering away.

A hand appears in the corner of his vision–human for the moment, but nevertheless unmistakable. “Come on, give those here.”

Eiji passes the Medals over, flight still fizzing in his veins as he feels Ankh’s slim fingers brush his palm. “Here.” Thin wrists, he thinks deliriously as he watches each red coin disappear. Bird bones. Bird bones are hollow. His aren’t, but then he’s not exactly a bird, is he. I wonder if he smells like wind?

Ankh pauses, and then peers at him. “You’re staring at me. What are you thinking about?”

Eiji considers it for a moment. “You know, I was actually thinking that I’d really like to kiss you right now.”

Gotou, who was approaching to ask something, hears this and abruptly turns and walks in the other direction. Meanwhile Ankh’s pupils visibly dilate for a moment and then shrink to pinpricks, although nothing else about his face changes. “Well, what’s stopping you, then? Because it definitely isn’t me.”

Despite this, when Eiji does kiss him, Ankh’s back goes stiff for a moment. And then he relaxes, slightly but noticeably, and makes a soft noise in the back of his throat. His right hand twists in the front of Eiji’s shirt. None of this dulls the euphoric memory of being airborne; in fact in some ways it just feels like they’re both flying.

He does smell like wind.

He shifts his head back, pupils dilating and contracting again, and says, quietly but firmly, “You should take me somewhere else now.”

“Ok,” Eiji says, breathless. “Ok, we can do that.”

Chapter Text

The room is quiet and warm, calm enough even after the day’s earlier chaos that for a moment Ankh can imagine that he is whole and not missing so many pieces. He doesn’t, in the usual course of things, daydream–it’s a waste of time that could be spent getting what he wants, or at least pursuing it. And there’s little use in daydreaming of completion when the Greeed are, by their very nature, incomplete creatures.

It’s galling.

But here, for the moment–he can pretend.

Eiji, who was very tired before they got back here and Ankh put actual thought and energy into exhausting him, stretches and yawns and presses his face into Ankh’s side. “Hey, don’t sit up, lie back down.” His arms wrap around Ankh’s waist. “Let me hold you for a minute.”

“Tch.” Ankh combs his fingers through Eiji’s hair and doesn’t lie down. “Why should I?”

“I don’t know that you should, but I’d like it if you did. What are you thinking about?”

“I was thinking about…”

Eiji smiles sleepily up at him.

Ankh goes still for a moment and then shifts a bit and bends down and presses their mouths together. Kissing is a strange, human thing.

He’ll never have enough of it.

“I was thinking,” he says into Eiji’s mouth, “about how you owe me my day’s allowance for ices.”

Chapter Text

Whatever they’ve got going is…it’s working for them. It’s fine, it’s good, it’s extremely confusing, but then Kouta’s life is pretty confusing all around right now, so that’s nothing different. He and Kaito fight an Inves or three or five, Kaito gets mad at him for one Kaito-specific reason or another, they make out, rinse and repeat in a day or two.

He wouldn’t mind if it were more than that, but it’s working.

They’re in an alley next to a Crack that’s slowly knitting itself shut. There are no more Inves; fortunately there were only two in the first place, and one small vine that Kouta was able to tear out by the roots. Armor off but drivers still on, Kouta leaning against the wall–he’s got his hands on Kaito’s waist and he likes that, how he can fit his palms against Kaito’s sides and anchor him down for a moment. Sometimes it feels like he’s the only thing keeping Kaito from just flying away in a blaze of energetic fury.

Kaito huffs, perpetual scowl shifting on his face. “What’s that look supposed to be?”

“You think you’d like to go on a date, once we get this whole mess sorted out? To a movie, or a concert or something?”

“A date?” Kaito looks irritated, but sounds surprised. “You want us to go on a date?

Yes. A date. You know, like people do.”

Kaito says nothing, eyes darting away from him. They’re both too worked up from fighting for Kouta to be able to see if he’s blushing or just being his usual grouchy self.

“You don’t have to answer me now, I just thought I’d bring it up. It’s good to think about the future.” Kouta looks up at him, thinking distantly that it’d be nice to be a little taller, and then leans up and kisses him one last time, very lightly, lips just brushing the corner of his mouth. “Anyway, I promised Akira I’d pick up a few groceries, so I should get going. Think about it, please?”

He glances back over his shoulder once as he walks away and sees Kaito still standing there, hand on the corner of his mouth as if it puzzles him.

Chapter Text

There’s a rare few moments of calm in the world, and Kaito is taking advantage of that silence to do some reading (Sun Tzu, for the nth time, although he’s been considering finding something new). Mai’s sitting next to him watching something on her phone, and she’s laid her head on his shoulder, and it’s–Kaito doesn’t like the word “nice.” It lacks conviction. “Nice” is a pleasantry, not a quality.

It’s…sweet.

Not that he’s normally interested in sweetness, but it’s sweet.

He tenses when Kazuraba Kouta approaches, because that generally means another circular, useless argument, one which accomplishes nothing but irritation. “Are you here to give me a headache?”

“Not today.” Kazuraba looks tired. Not just tired, weary. He sits down on Kaito’s other side. “Today was a lot.”

“A lot of what, Kazuraba.”

“Just…a lot.” He rests his head on Kaito’s shoulder in a mirror of Mai’s gesture. “I’m just gonna. Sit for a minute.” His arm wraps around Kaito’s waist, and Kaito can feel his hand moving–tickling Mai, apparently, she lets out a stifled giggle and then lets go of her phone with one hand and reaches back towards him, but stops short so that her arm is instead wrapped around Kaito as well.

Kaito stares blindly at his open book, not quite able to concentrate on the words. Neither Kouta nor Mai is exactly paying attention to him, Kouta staring into space as Mai continues to play with her phone, but he can feel both of them, a head on each shoulder, a hand on each hip. He seeks comfort even less than sweetness, but nonetheless he’s inexplicably being offered both, and he thinks, I would topple civilizations for this. It’s a discomfiting and unexpected realization.

Kouta’s fingers curl. Without moving, Kaito says, “If you tickle me, I’ll push you off this bench.”

“Mm. Spoilsport.” Movement–Kouta is turning his head up, pressing a kiss to Kaito’s cheek, and Mai is doing the same thing on Kaito’s other side. They might have planned it, but somehow Kaito’s certain that they didn’t. This is just what they’re like.

He wants to think it’s ludicrous, how soft they both are and how they lean into their softness, but he’s not sure he actually he does. Instead he kisses the top of Mai’s head, then Kouta’s, and says, “I’d return the favor in kind but neither of you are tall enough for me to reach without straining my neck.”

Kouta suppresses laughter as Mai kicks Kaito lightly in the ankle. “Kaito, don’t be a jerk.”

Chapter Text

The wolf arrives shortly after Cafe mald’amour opens and gets his usual order. He’s a joy to have as a customer. The depth of his appreciation for good coffee is radiant; watching him sit and breathe in the scent of it would warm the heart of any artist. He sits and sips and lingers over the pleasures of the brew, and Akira enjoys watching him 

Of course, this particular enjoyment only last until Kurenai shows up. He doesn’t appreciate good coffee, but he is always entertaining.

He doesn’t even order, he just sits down across the little table from Jirou and starts talking. He’s quiet enough that Akira can’t quite hear what he’s saying, but his sweet, crooning tone is clear enough. Akira can only hope that whenever they decide to start fighting, they have the sense to get clear of his shop first.

Their quiet argument gets so heated that they don’t even notice when Yuri comes in. She walks past them up to her counter, buys her coffee, and drinks the whole cup in one long pull that Akira watches with surprise and disapproval. Then, very calmly, she walks over to Jirou’s table.

Both men look up at her at once as she says, “You know, the way you two argue over me, you’d think I didn’t have a mind of my own to decide.”

Jirou replies to her in his soft drawl, still too low to really hear, and Kurenai says, “Beautiful Yuri, you know I don’t mean anything of the sort, although he–

Yuri shuts Kurenai up with a kiss almost as artful as Akira’s best cup of coffee. It’s spectacular. A tremendously dignified “fuck you” of a kiss, one which leaves Kurenai looking slightly stunned while Yuri is cool as ever. Then, when Jirou starts sputtering out some plea or argument, she does the same thing to him.

Once Jirou is also looking stunned, she grabs their hair and knocks their heads together–and not the relatively gentle sideways knock so common in comedies, but face-on, forehead to forehead, so they both grunt in agony and Jirou swears under his breath. “Don’t fight over me when I’m not here.”

Akira nearly applauds.

Then she brushes her hands off and leaves the cafe without a backward glance.

Wait, no–there it is. There’s the backward glance. It’s brief, but it’s present.

Jirou and Otoya nearly knock over the table as they get to their feet and scramble after her.

Chapter Text

It’s nearly midnight, and they’re all a little drunk.

The champagne ran out ages ago. Granted, the champagne was opened in the middle of the afternoon–then it had just been Wajima and Haruto and Shunpei, celebrating the completion of Shunpei’s fifth ring by closing the shop ten minutes early and ordering takeout. Then, though, Rinko showed up with a “Look who I found in the park,” and that was Kosuke, swaggering through the door with a shit-eating grin and an acceptance letter to a graduate program. They’d had to order more takeout, but once that had been dealt with it was clear that there was more celebrating to do, so Wajima had broken out the Scotch.

Of course, he’s an old man, he disappeared off into his rooms upstairs hours ago to get some sleep. And Rinko has work in the morning, of course, so she’d left at around ten, slightly tipsy but still fully capable of calling a cab. So now it’s just Haruto, Shunpei, and Kousuke, sitting crowded together on the shop couch, and the mood is riding high.

“Wait. Wait. Wait.” Kosuke gestures vaguely, eyebrows furrowing. “The ring. The new ring. What’s it do, you never said.”

“Oh it’s great, lemme show you.” Haruto fumbles it onto his finger, the driver sing-songs, “Ventriloquism, please, and a moment later his voice is coming from a Murano glass vase halfway across the room. “It’s useful, you know? I can use this. But it’s also fun.” He deactivates the ring and pulls it off, popping it back onto the chain.

“I’m very proud of it.” Shunpei hiccups. “I don’t think it’s as fun as, as the squeaky one, the balloon one. But it’s good. I did good.”

“You did good!” Kosuke slings an arm around his shoulders, grinning. “That’s cool stuff.”

“And you’re going to grad school! Gonna be a professor of old stuff! Like the guy in those movies. I can’t remember the name.”

“Yep! I mean I’m gonna be a TA first. And it’ll be great. And I’m gonna tell my students, if the locals say they don’t mess with something ‘cause it’s super haunted or full of demons or whatever, you should believe them!”

Haruto nods solemnly. “That’s good advice. That’s wisdom.

Hell yeah. I have wisdom.

“Yeah you do.” Haruto blinks. “Is there more scotch? I could go for a little more scotch.”

They all peer around the room, hunting for the scotch bottle. Of course, it’s on the counter, nowhere within reach, so Shunpei stands up and goes to get it. He’s not wobbling, but he is being visibly careful about his steps.

“I have wisdom,” Kosuke says again, grinning. “And a hot boyfriend with a motorcycle. You’re gonna have to…you gotta visit me at school. So everyone knows I have wisdom and a hot boyfriend.”

“As long as you don’t introduce me as your hot boyfriend.” Haruto pauses. “Or, no, you can introduce me as your hot boyfriend, but you have to tell people my name first.

“That’s fair. That’s fair. Can’t just lead with that. People would be overwhelmed. Can’t overwhelm people with how awesome my life is.”

Haruto nods. “You’re very overwhelming.”

“I try. I’m gonna, I’ve been spending too much time thinking about how hot you are, you should definitely kiss me.”

At this point, several things happen simultaneously:

  1. Haruto says, “I definitely should, yes,” and starts leaning towards Kousuke
  2. Kousuke starts leaning towards him
  3. Shunpei gets back to the couch with the bottle of scotch and promptly trips over the corner of the coffee table

He doesn’t go completely head over heels, but he does windmill his arms and drop the scotch (harmlessly onto a chair, fortunately) before landing heavily on the couch in between the other two. Haruto’s mouth hits his ear; Kousuke, who’s a little more thrown off balance, ends up with his face in the side of Shunpei’s neck.

Shunpei feels himself flush hot and says, “Uh. I’m. I’m very sorry.”

“Actually, I’m surprisingly ok with this.” Haruto’s breath tickles his ear. “I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s unexpected, but this is ok.”

“Yeah, this is nice.” He can feel Kousuke’s mouth moving on the side of his neck, which is. Something. He can’t quite articulate it, because he’s a little drunk. “This is good, I can run with this.”

Shunpei can’t manage to summon more than a faint squeaking noise. They can probably both feel how warm he’s gotten. Hopefully they’ll think it’s the scotch and not the effect of a number of his more overheated dreams suddenly replaying in the back of his head. Some of it definitely is the scotch, actually, but the dream replays aren’t helping.

“I think,” Haruto says–very slowly, which doesn’t help anything, “I think maybe this is a conversation we should pick back up when we’re sober.”

“‘m not that drunk.” Kousuke raises a hand to gesture and then stops halfway, draping his arm over Shunpei’s chest instead. “Ok, I’m a little drunk. But also I agree. Later discussion. Tomorrow. But definitely a discussion that we discuss.”

Shunpei makes another squeaking noise and furiously tamps down any further dream replays before managing, “That sounds. That sounds reasonable.”

Chapter Text

Philip is reading when Shoutaro gets back to the agency. It’s a slightly slimmer volume than usual, but otherwise the scene is comfortingly familiar, his partner leaning in the doorway between front room and office with an empty coffee cup in one hand and his book in the other.

“How were the lost pets today?” Philip doesn’t look up, but he does smile in the quiet way that says, teasing, but fondly. “I assume you found all of them.”

“Actually no pets today, you remember, today was the case for the guy who runs that bakery.” Shoutaro pours a cup of coffee for himself and wrinkles his nose when he takes the first sip. Not the best brew today.

“Right, yes. Is his wife cheating on him?”

“No, she’s just got kind of a pachinko problem and she’s embarrassed about it, they’ll be ok. I’ll call him later.” He drains the rest of the cup in one pull to get past the bad taste, puts the cup down, and moves to get past Philip and into his office.

Philip’s hand on his arm stops him. “Wait a moment.”

“Something up, partner?”

Philip’s fingers trace up his forearm and his bicep to his shoulder, touch lingering there for a moment before moving again, fingertips brushing lightly down the the side of his face and neck before halting at his tie. It’s pale purple today, Windscale as usual, but even such lightly colored silk stands out vividly when Philip wraps it around his hand and pulls Shoutaro down into a kiss.

Shoutaro had been reaching up to take off his hat, and finds that he doesn’t really have the presence of mind to continue the motion, so even when Philip leans back he’s still standing there stunned, bent half-over towards his partner and still holding the hat to his head. Philip is looking up at him thoughtfully, still holding onto his tie, slim book still in the other hand.

Faintly, Shoutaro says, “What were you reading?

“Catullus.” Philip closes the book and tucks it into a pocket. “A poet of the Roman Republic.”

“I, uh, I take it that’s. Good.”

“Yes.” Another gentle tug on the tie, and Philip is kissing him again, and this one is just as breathtaking as the first one was. “It’s good.”

When Shoutaro can make his lungs work again, he says, “I think maybe. I should lock the door.”

“That would be a good idea, yes.”

“You’ll have to let go of my necktie if I’m going to do that, partner.”

Philip blinks at his own hand and lets go. “I’d forgotten I was holding it.” His cheeks are flushed pink, and he reaches up and takes Shoutaro’s hat off with slow deliberation. “Please go lock the door.”

Chapter Text

These injuries are no different from any others he’s gotten in his life. He scraped his knees as a child, fell from things as a teen, he’s had his cheek split open by an opponent’s fist in the ring. Today’s cuts and abrasions are nothing new in the grand scheme of things Banjou Ryuuga’s managed to do to his body.

What’s new is the person patching him up. Not a ringside medic or school nurse, not a family member, not Kasumi. This is Sento, crouching beside him, hands moving with, simultaneously, the certainty of someone who’s had to do this a lot and the uncertainty of someone with no formal training in or comfort with providing any kind of care.

He’s got good hands. When he finishes taping down the last piece of gauze, Banjou catches one, holds it, feeling the movement of muscles and bones that he can sketch from memory but not really name. “You should let me do you now.”

Sento blinks. “Hm?”

“You have a cut on your forehead. You kinda bled a lot on yourself, actually.”

“Oh, right. Right.” Sento sits down on the floor with a faint thump. “I should probably take care of that.”

“That’s what I’m offering to do, jackass, sit still and I’ll deal with it.”

Sento submits to having the dried blood cleaned off his face with minimal grumbling, which increases only slightly in volume when Banjou’s disinfecting and bandaging the actual cut.

Banjou pauses with his fingertips still on the adhesive end of the bandage. “Hey. Sento. Can I kiss you?”

The look Sento gives him is less surprised and more wary. “Why?”

“I don’t know? I’d just really like to.”

A pause, and then Sento leans up into his touch and says, “Sure.”

Banjou’s honestly not sure what he’s going for, so he just shifts forward and presses his mouth to Sento’s, gently, the kind of kiss he might give someone at the end of a first, shy date. Something soft and non-committal, the kind of kiss that invites, “No, actually don’t,” just as much as, “Yes.”

Except that after a moment Sento reaches up and gets a fistful of the front of his t-shirt and pulls him in closer. “If you’re going to do it, mean it,” he murmurs, and his mouth opens under Banjou’s like a flower in the sun.

This isn’t where Banjou ever saw his life going. Like, obviously, it’s gone off the rails in a lot of ways, but there’s everything else and there’s this, which is to say that he’s moving forward more and pinning Sento to the floor and saying, “I mean it,” in between open-mouthed kisses that feel like gifts. “Yeah, I mean it.” 

Chapter Text

Emu is fairly sure that Parad could dry off in seconds if he wanted to, but he hasn’t. He turned away Emu’s offer of a towel, too, apparently preferring to sit in his damp clothes, curly hair hanging limp in his eyes. The look on his face is some combination of petulant and morose–the first part isn’t anything new, but the radiant dismay is different. Alarming.

Most of the time, Emu realizes, Parad seems like he’s having fun. Even when he’s angry, he’s having fun. And even Lovelica’s death didn’t make him sad, it frightened him. Sadness is different.

Hiiro passes through the room and shoots Parad a look of transparent dislike, which Parad responds to by making a rude gesture and saying nothing.

After a moment, Emu sits down next to him. “Do you…want to talk about it?”

“I thought he’d want to come with me.” Parad’s voice even lacks its usual bounce. “We’ve been together for years.”

It’s tempting to ask what “together” means in this case, but Emu decides to hold off; the sting of rejection is always bad, whether it’s coming from a close friend or a lover. Instead he bumps his shoulder against Parad’s and says, “I’m sorry. I know it hurts.”

“I don’t like when things hurt.”

“Of course you don’t. That’s just reasonable.” Emu leans over on impulse and kisses him on the cheek. “I’m sure you’ll have another chance to talk to him.”

Parad blinks. “What was that? Was that kissing? Why did you kiss me?”

“It’s…a gesture of affection? I’m worried about you and I wanted you to feel better. You know what kissing is, right?”

“Lovelica used to talk about kissing, but it always seemed really…” Parad trails off, looking uncomfortable. “He made it sound weird.”

Emu tries to imagine Lovelica talking about kissing and shudders. “I’m sure he did. Look, it doesn’t have to be weird, it’s just a thing people do to say that they care about each other.”

“Oh.” Parad actually brightens up a bit, and some of the water clinging to him abruptly evaporates in a tiny cloud of steam. “I like that.” He leans over and kisses Emu on the forehead; his lips crackle like static on Emu’s skin. “Did I do that right?”

Emu grins at him. “Yeah. You did just fine.”

Chapter Text

The message comes in from France HQ early in the morning.

Bonjour, mes amis–thought you ought to know that I’ve traced a Collection piece to Le Monde Bijouterie. Also, am planning to drop by for a visit in a couple of weeks, are there any sweets I can bring you?

It’s signed Noël, with a flourish and a couple of little hearts, one of which was clearly drawn to hide a coffee stain. Keiichiro reads it and grins, passing it to Tsukasa, who reads it as well, except that she almost winces. “You need an appointment to even go into Le Monde. The clerks there sneer at everyone. We’re going to need a warrant or they won’t let us past the door.”

Jim lights up. “I’ll work on that, Noël is also transmitting details on the piece and its movements so we actually have a basis to request one.”

 


 

The warrant turns out to be a moot point, because Le Monde gets robbed at seven o’clock that evening. The word about the Collection piece has already been passed to the local police, and so the PatRangers are on the way as soon as the call comes in.

“It’s sort of nice that we’re not going to be fighting a Ganglar,” Sakuya says cheerfully as they’re getting out of the car. “It’s lower stress, you know?”

Tsukasa glances to one side and then hisses, “The press is here!” through her teeth.

Keiichiro groans. The press has also been thrilled that the Ganglars are no longer a major issue, because now they can cover the “local celebrities,” as they keep putting it, without being in serious danger of getting blown up. It’s a problem. Wherever the PatRangers go now, reporters follow.

“Just don’t talk to them.” He pulls out his VS Changer. “We’re here to work.”

They acquit themselves fairly well, all things considered. The robbers have barricaded themselves into the store with several terrified sales clerks, which isn’t a great start, but they’re still only human, and they don’t have any super-tech on hand. There’s some careful negotiation involved, and a small amount of property damage, but in the end there are no deaths, no civilians hurt, and only one robber with anything more than some light bruising.

It’s when they can finally de-transform and Sakuya comes out of the shop with the Collection piece and hands it to Keiichiro that the reporters start yelling.

“What’s that up there?”

“Who’s that?”

A bright flicker of yellow darts across the roof of the jewelry store. A streak of blue settles down onto an apartment balcony across the street. Tsukasa says, quietly, “Oh no.”

Keiichiro groans. “I know you’re there, LupinRangers. You’re a little late, aren’t you?”

“Actually,” Kairi says from directly behind him, “I think we got here just in time.”

Keiichiro jumps and turns around. The reporters let out a collective shriek of journalistic delight. Camera flashes start to go off.

Kairi is hanging from the store awning by his zipline, feet braced on one of the support columns, grinning and resplendent in mask and top hat and ridiculous red brocade tailcoat. “Happy to see us?” He’s playing to the crowd of reporters. They’re loving it.

Keiichiro sighs. “This really isn’t a good time.” And, more quietly, “You couldn’t wait two days? I have a whole dinner planned.”

“And I’m really looking forward to it, but we’ve got an image to maintain,” Kairi says, just as quietly, and winks at him. Then, loudly again, “We’re only interested in the Collection piece, you know that.”

“What–I’m not going to just give it to you, this is in police custody.”

“Well, if you’re going to be like that…” Kairi leans forward. Keiichiro is fully prepared to toss the Collection piece to Tsukasa or something, but he doesn’t reach for it; he grabs the front of Keiichiro’s jacket.

And kisses him. In front of their teammates, the local police force, and most of the city’s news media. A slow, lingering kiss.

Keiichiro blinks dizzily when Kairi pulls back and zip-lines away into the night without another word. He’s vaguely aware that the reporters are yelling again, which seems like a reasonable reaction. He’s also considering doing some yelling, or possibly chasing Kairi down and making him yell.

Then he realizes his hands are empty, and, because he doesn’t quite have the presence of mind for anything more dignified, roars, “Goddammit, Kairi!”

The cameras are going off again. Keiichiro ignores them, steadfast, collects the shreds of his dignity, and shakes hands with the local officer in charge. “Your people did good work today.”

The officer in charge is staring at him wide-eyed. “Are. Are you all right, Officer Asaka?”

“I’ll be fine. Just a minor setback.”

As he and the others are walking back to the car, one of the reporters shouts, “How long have you been on first-name terms with the phantom thieves?”

Keiichiro continues to ignore them. Tsukasa’s the one who turns around and says, “Their identities have been public record for over a year now, and we’ve been dealing with them for over two. I’d hope we could address them by name occasionally.”

“So what about the kiss?”

That, thankfully, she ignores.

 


 

Postscript

 

Jim Carter stops Keiichiro the next morning with some interesting news, and after he’s taken something for his already-growing headache and had two coffees he sends a text to Kairi. [we’re trending on Twitter]

[no way]

And a moment later, [OH MY GOD THERE’S A HASHTAG]

Keiichiro sighs. [fortunately it doesn’t seem to have done our reputation any damage, the public’s more amused than upset]

[why wouldn’t they be, we put on a good show]

[oh no wait there’s another #tag pls don’t google shipping ill explain it to you later]

[Kairi I already know what shipping is, I’ve been proofreading Tsukasa’s Kamen Rider fanfiction since we were 18]

[u what]

[uve been what]

[Tsukasa’s WHAT]

Chapter Text

Daiki hasn’t mentioned theft or done anything obnoxious all morning, and Tsukasa’s starting to get suspicious. He’s hardly going to argue with waking up to tea on rice, but the man’s habit of just showing up and refusing to explain himself is worrying. He’s even being carefully, visibly polite to the others, in a way that’s also clearly making them suspect something.

They also haven’t gone anywhere new yet, but Tsukasa’s just going to take that brief respite as it’s offered. Surely even he deserves a moment to relax, at least once in a while.

Around mid-morning, though, Daiki’s cheery, deliberately non-threatening presence becomes too much to bear without comment, and Tsukasa finally says, “Look, did you want something?”

Daiki shrugs. “I just felt like spending some time with you.”

“You’re planning something, aren’t you.”

“Of course. What to make for dinner, mainly.”

This does nothing to allay Tsukasa’s suspicions.

Natsumi and Yuusuke come into the room shortly after, arguing genially about some novel they’ve both been reading. They’re not exactly looking where they’re going, but there’s plenty of space; Natsumi’s elbow barely brushes Daiki’s as she passes him.

Daiki trips. Deliberately. Everyone can see him deciding to do it, pivoting on one heel to direct his fall–and yet still, instinctively, Tsukasa reaches out to catch him, even though this causes the maddening thief to land directly in his lap.

Daiki smiles up at him, says, “You know, I actually wasn’t expecting you to catch me, I thought I was going to have to land on you all by myself,” and kisses him.

Tsukasa takes a moment to enjoy the kiss, because it’s a good kiss, and then dumps him on the floor.

Chapter Text

Graphite has a sweet tooth.

Parad isn’t terribly interested in the flavor of what he eats, as long as it’s powerful. He’s more interested in how it looks; he’ll spend half an hour matching up foods in the colors he finds most pleasing and assembling them into a pattern that he likes, whether or not any reasonable person would say that they should be eaten together. Graphite, however, discovers a pint of ice cream in Kuroto’s freezer the third day after he perfects himself, eats the entire thing in one sitting, and never looks back.

He likes anything sugary, but he’s got a particular fondness for anything that looks like treasure–chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil, brightly colored hard candies, cakes with crystallized fruit buried in them. It’s probably the dragon in him.

It’s maddening, really, watching him eat. Kuroto’s watched him devote nearly erotic levels of focus to eating entire cakes and not gain an ounce of weight. Although Kuroto can’t find it in himself to be too irritated about it. He led the dev team for Drago Knight Hunter Z himself; how could he stay angry at his own dragon for behaving like one?

The problem is that one day Parad gets hold of a bag of cinnamon candies. Kuroto’s not sure where they came from, since he doesn’t exactly give the Bugsters an allowance, but there they are on the couch next to Parad’s hip, gleaming like little rubies as Parad plays Tekken and across the room Kuroto works on concept sketches for a new game.

Graphite pixelates abruptly into being on the other end of the couch and sees the candies immediately. “What are those?”

Parad shrugs. “Don’t know. Some snack food. I just like how red they are.”

“The bag says they’re cinnamon-flavored. I’m not sure if I’ve had cinnamon before.”

“You ate three cinnamon rolls yesterday afternoon,” Kuroto says, not looking up from his sketchpad. “Those are going to taste different, though.”

“Hm. They look like jewels.”

Parad doesn’t say anything to this. He’s too busy getting in his tenth or eleventh perfect round of Tekken; he’s been at the head of this lobby for at least an hour. After a moment’s thoughtful consideration, Graphite makes himself comfortable and starts to watch Parad play, absently reaching into the bag of candies and popping two into his mouth.

His eyes light up. Quite literally; Kuroto spots the brief flash of vivid blue from across the room.

Parad continues to play for another hour and a half, remaining at the head of the lobby the entire time, and then quits out and sets down the controller with a terse, “Bored.” He reaches into the bag of candies. “You ate all of them? I didn’t even get to taste them.”

Graphite shrugs. “I liked them. They looked like treasure.”

Parad squints irritably at him and then, in a shockingly abrupt motion, tackles Graphite onto his back on the couch and seals their mouths together. Graphite makes an alarmed noise, and then a distinctly not alarmed noise, and then relaxes underneath him and reaches up to grab at his hair.

Across the room, Kuroto has completely lost focus on his concept sketches. The Bugsters are generally indifferent to his presence and his observation of them, but they do still occasionally manage to surprise him.

After a couple of intent minutes, Parad lifts his head and makes a face. “I don’t think I enjoy cinnamon.”

Graphite shrugs. “More for me, then.”

“I enjoyed that, though, humans seem to do it all the time and I’ve been wondering about the appeal.”

Chapter Text

The zip-lines don’t break.

Objectively, Keiichiro knows this.  Noël went over it with him once, talking about tensile strength and specialized materials and Collection-related super-tech until his eyes glazed over. The zip-lines that the LupinRangers use don’t break, and they’re designed to stand up to much more stress than anyone has ever put on them.

Still, he hates them. He’s not overly fond of the Dial Fighters, either, but those are armored machines, not just strings that Kairi and his friends swing on like Tarzan with nothing more to protect them than a few layers of heavily-embroidered fabric. The one time Kairi had carried him along with, they’d both been fairly distracted, but he’s not especially keen to repeat the experience.

But now he’s falling.

More specifically, he gets pushed.

It’s a complicated situation. Other sentai are involved. There are animal people, which is fine, he’s dealt with aliens before so animal people aren’t too strange, and some teenagers show up on trains, so it’s lucky that Noël’s in town because he’s losing his mind from delight, and also apparently space pirates are involved. He hasn’t had a chance to meet those yet, but he has a vague feeling he should probably be arresting them. There’s a world-ending threat, as usual, but his people are acquitting themselves well. He’s got a good feeling about how things are going to go.

Then, as if the universe is saying, “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Keiichiro,” he takes an energy blast to the chest at close range and gets knocked out of his transformation and backwards off the tallest building in the city.

Oh, good, he thinks as the air rushes past his ears, slightly too winded and dizzy from the knock to successfully grab his VS Changer or anything. This is…dignified.

Then there’s an impact, sudden and hard, coming from the side instead of the rapidly-approaching ground, which is no longer rapidly approaching because he’s soaring through the air and Kairi’s arm is around his waist.

“I’d say be more careful, Kei-chan,” Kairi says in Keiichiro’s ear, “but I kinda like this whole dashing-and-romantic feeling,” and then goes in for a kiss, presumably to maintain the dashing-and-romantic mood.

They touch down on another rooftop and Keiichiro clutches at his chest, panting. “I hate those zip-lines.”

“Oh, there’s gratitude for you.” Kairi grins at him.

“No, no, it’s much better than falling to my death, thank you.”

“Good. Do I get another kiss for all my hard work?”

Keiichiro has to hold back a laugh, because he’s still a bit too out of breath for it to be comfortable. “Of course. But then maybe we should get back to the fight.”

Chapter Text

Marvelous was in a simmering fury well before the Galleon got to Earth, and had remained in said simmering fury throughout most of the battle, but now that it’s over he finds that his anger is fading. It was a good fight. A fun one, at a few points.

Even more fun, though–there’s a new team to inspect. Their Red is grinning at him. “I like your coat.”

“Same to you, where the hell did you find a red brocade tuxedo?”

“No clue, it was given to me.” The new Red’s face is weirdly indistinct–he’s wearing a flashy domino mask, which doesn’t cover much, but even the uncovered parts somehow refuse to come into focus. Probably some kind of tech in the mask, although it could be the top hat. “Ask Noël, maybe, I figure if he didn’t make it himself then he knows who did.”

“Hm.” Marvelous peers at him for a moment, trying to get past the facial-blurring effect by brute force, and then realizes that there’s probably an easier way to do it and holds out his hand. “We weren’t introduced. Captain Marvelous. Gokai Red.”

That does it–the new Red pulls off his hat and mask and shakes hands, and his face comes into sudden, sharp focus. “Lupin Red. Kairi.”

“Pleasure. So you’re crooks.”

“Phantom thieves, when we’re in polite company.” Kairi looks him up and down and winks. “You kinda don’t look like you’re polite company, though, so sure, crooks. You guys are pirates, right? Haven’t seen any Lupin Collection pieces out there in space, have you?”

Marvelous raises an eyebrow. “Not that I know of. Are they valuable?”

“Yeah, definitely. Probably not to you, though, they don’t work for most people.”

“I’m not most people.”

“Guess you’re not, yeah. Still, even we can’t use most of them, we’re just getting them back to where they belong.”

Getting the mask off was worth it–Kairi’s nice to look at now that his face is actually visible. Pretty eyes, nice hair. A wide, full mouth that looks like it’s probably good at a lot of things, only half of which Marvelous could mention in public without getting a theatrical display of genteel shock from Ahim. And Marvelous has habits, he’s got things he likes, and he says, not really thinking about it, “You want to come up and see the Galleon before we head out?”

Kairi eyes him for a moment before replying. “You’re coming on to me, aren’t you.”

No sense in being cagey about it. “Yeah. You interested?”

“I’m flattered, but I’m in a relationship, and I think he’d be a little upset if I ran off with a hot pirate.”

Marvelous suppresses his sense of disappointment. “Ah. Your Blue?”

To his surprise, Kairi lets out a bark of laughter. “Tooma? The straightest man on Earth? Nah, he’s getting married in like two months.”

“So Lupin Silver, then.”

“Lupin X, actually.” Kairi glances nearby, where said sentai, Lupin X–a man in a silver tuxedo, where are they getting these clothes–is cheerfully flirting with Luka, Ahim, and Gai, all of whom are showing varying levels of interest. “Nah. I mean, I won’t say I haven’t thought about it, but not him. Did you get to meet the PatRangers?”

“I saw a couple of them across the field while we were fighting, although it didn’t look like the entire team. Their Gold is very impressive.”

“X again. PatRan X. Nah, you probably saw the whole team, there’s only the four of them.”

“Where was their Blue–” Marvelous blinks slowly as the realization dawns. “There are two sentai teams here. The only overlapping color is red?”

“You got it.”

“You mean to tell me this entire city is a enormous game of cops and robbers?”

“Yeah, it’s awesome. Anyway, PatRan Ichigou.”

“PatRan Ichigou what?”

“You wanted to know who I was dating.”

It takes a moment for Marvelous to process this. This city has two Reds. And they’re together.

It might be the sexiest thing he’s heard of in ages.

Then the other thing Kairi said gets through the abrupt haze of shock and delight, and Marvelous says, “You said there’s two Xs. Are they brothers or nemeses?”

Kairi grins again. “Closer than that.”

“So they’re also dating.”

“I mean, he is in love with his own reflection.”

“You know, I’ve met nearly every sentai there is, and this is still a lot to take in.”

“We’re pretty overwhelming.” Kairi glances over at the others–the flirting circle is still in full force, Joe and Lupin Blue are talking quietly about baking, and Doc and Lupin Yellow are apparently exchanging sewing tips, of all things. “Anyway, I appreciate the invitation, but I’m taken.” A beat, then another fleeting wink and unsubtle up-and-down look. “Although if you look up Kei-chan later we could maybe work something out.”

Marvelous’ eyebrow goes back up. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Good. Do that. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the others.”

The teams part ways after another hour or so, the LupinRangers whooshing away on zip-lines as Joe tucks a recipe for macarons into his jacket. Marvelous is reaching for his mobirate to call the Galleon when he feels a tap on his shoulder and whips around. “Who’s there?”

Kairi is behind him, hanging upside-down from a zip-line with his hair blowing softly in the breeze, a grin on his face that Marvelous simultaneously approves of and distrusts. “I forgot something.”

“Hmm?”

Kairi tosses him a card, and when Marvelous reaches to grab it he swings forward, grabs the front of Marvelous’ coat, and kisses him–briefly, but with feeling. Then he swings back, says, “Au revoir,” and zip-lines away into the night again.

The card in Marvelous’ hand says, in uneven cut-up letters, Advance warning: I’m going to steal something to remember you by.

The Galleon arrives to the sound of his howls of laughter.

Chapter Text

Kairi and Keiichiro are separated again in the fighting, and while Keiichiro’s not exactly happy about it, he trusts the LupinRangers to take care of themselves. The city’s in too much danger to focus on soothing his own nerves. Then, after the fighting’s over, Jyuoh Eagle hails him by name, and he remembers the achingly earnest man with the impossible dream he’d met off-planet, so he and Tsukasa have to go meet the other Jyuohgers and find out what the rest of the team is like if their leader is like that. Nearby, Sakuya is making sure that the kids with the trains have a way to get home and that their parents know where they are this late at night. They seem awfully young to be getting caught up in things like this, sweet and smiling and full of manic teenage enthusiasm.

Eventually, though, everyone disperses. ToQ Gogou gives Sakuya an impulsive hug before her team hurries into a nearly train station and apparently vanishes. Jyuoh TheWorld, who Keiichiro realizes he’s met before, trades phone numbers with Tsukasa, saying something about repairing some of her plush collection, while Jyuoh Lion gives them a demo CD for his band before bounding off. There’s a sense of camaraderie that Keiichiro appreciates. Solidarity between people trying to make the world a safer place.

And then it’s just his team, and Tsukasa and Sakuya both look exhausted, so Keiichiro says, “I’ll take the car back to HQ, you two go home,” and they’re gone too.

He doesn’t realize how worried he’s been until he hears a rustle behind him and Kairi says, “So that was a whole thing. What’s the deal with those train kids?”

“They’re fifteen, is the deal, they should be in bed, not running around putting their lives in danger.” Keiichiro relaxes all at once and turns to pull Kairi into a hug. “I was worried about you. How are the others? Did I see Tooma talking to one of those…pirates?”

“The Gokaigers. Yeah, we hung out a little before they had to go, they’re pretty cool.” Kairi sounds calm enough, but his arms around Keiichiro’s shoulders say that he was just as worried.

“You would think that.”

“Well, yeah, who wouldn’t think space pirates are cool?” Kairi’s eyes gleam in the streetlights. “Also, I kissed Gokai Red.”

Keiichiro raises an eyebrow. “Really.”

“In my defense, he hit on me first. Invited me to ‘come up and see his ship,’ even.”

“Well, he’s a pirate, I assume he knows treasure when he sees it.”

Kairi turns bright red and coughs. “Well. I, uh. Not like I was gonna leave with him or anything, but I figured you deserved to know.”

“Thank you. And of course not, I trust you.” Keiichiro takes a moment to enjoy Kairi’s continued blush before adding, “Also, I’m sure I’m a better kisser than some pirate.”

“I don’t know, it’s been a while, I might need a sample for comparison.”

Keiichiro’s about to respond to that when a massive shadow falls over them and instead he says, “I thought you said they had to leave.”

Kairi steps back, peering up at the pirate ship floating overhead. “They did leave.”

A hatch opens on the side of the ship, and someone drops out, landing neatly on his feet on the ground–a stocky man in a red coat with a distinctly swashbuckling sort of air.

He nods briefly to Keiichiro and then advances on Kairi, picks him up by the front of his shirt, and sticks a hand into the back pocket of his pants–

Keiichiro says, “Excuse me.”

–and comes out with some kind of small red figurine. “Pretty clever, picking my pocket. So were you aiming for DekaRed specifically, or did you just grab whatever you could reach?”

“Kairi, you didn’t.

Kairi grins. “Well, I would’ve snagged whatever, but that one looked interesting, I wanted to show him.” He jerks his head in Keiichiro’s direction. “Anyway, it did what I wanted it to do.”

The pirate stares steadily at him, not yet setting him down. “Which was?”

“Figured it’d be a decent excuse for you to come back.”

A long, long pause, and then the pirate smirks and lets go of Kairi’s shirt, letting him drop the two or three inches to the ground. “I get you. So about the other thing you stole from me, then–”

Keiichiro buries his face in his hands, and then looks up again immediately at Kairi’s slightly nervous laugh and, “Yeah, about that.”

“What about it?”

“Gokai Red, meet PatRan Ichigou.” Kairi gestures in Keiichiro’s direction. “Kei-chan, this is Captain Marvelous. You know, the one I was just telling you about.”

The pirate’s got a firm grip and an appraising stare, but with that Keiichiro’s on familiar ground; he dealt with worse just at the Academy, let alone the sort of nonsense you deal with talking to city administrators. “Asaka Keiichiro. It’s a pleasure.”

“So you’re this city’s other Red.” Captain Marvelous looks him over thoughtfully and then jerks his head at Kairi. “Likewise. So is he always this reckless?”

Keiichiro grins. “Oh no, usually he’s much worse.”

Kairi sputters. “Babe!”

“Kairi, I love you, but I’m not going to lie to a colleague just so you can pretend you have good impulse control.”

More sputtering. “You’re calling me reckless? Who’s the one who got himself poisoned–”

Captain Marvelous leans back against a lamppost and raises an eyebrow. “A colleague?”

Keiichiro shrugs. “We’re all sentai here. You may be a pirate, but if you’re also sentai then I’m willing to assume your heart’s in the right place.”

“Really.” Captain Marvelous looks momentarily thoughtful at that. “So did your other half here tell you–”

“That he kissed you? Yes, actually.”

“How do you know I didn’t kiss him?

“He was fairly clear about who’d initiated, thank you. But as long as he’s not upset about it, I can hardly blame you, he’s worth kissing.”

Next to them, Kairi starts blushing and sputtering again. Captain Marvelous’ eyes flick to him for a moment, but his calmly amused expression remains the same. “Did he tell you that he’d said I ought to look you up if I wanted to see about doing it some more?”

Keiichiro feels his own face warm up, but he stays steady–he doesn’t know if Kairi was trying to make him jealous, but he’s certainly not going to lose his temper in public about it. “Be my guest. I trust him to know what he’s doing.”

Captain Marvelous straightens up from the lamppost. “Well, I did come here to get back the things he stole from me.”

“Hey, don’t rip my jacket,” Kairi says mildly as Captain Marvelous grabs his lapels, and–

Well, at this point Keiichiro’s sure there should really be laws about this sort of thing. In fact, he’s going to propose some. Yano Kairi officially banned from making little sighing noises and turning into jelly when his boyfriend is both in public and in uniform. He’d never expected to have to apply those laws to seeing Kairi kiss another man in front of him, but it’s certainly a learning experience.

When Captain Marvelous stops kissing him, Kairi actually sways, sounding out-of-breath as he says, “That was way more of a kiss than the one I got from you.”

“Your other half seemed to be enjoying the show.” Captain Marvelous grins. He hasn’t let go of Kairi’s jacket. “And that is what I do. I make things showy.”

“You sure do.

“Anyway, it goes against all of my instincts as a pirate, but I should probably return you now.”

“Actually…”

They both turn to look at Keiichiro, Kairi dark-eyed and flushed, Captain Marvelous a bit unsteady himself and with his fingers still curling around Kairi’s lapels.

This might be the most reckless thing Keiichiro’s ever done in his life (outside of nearly getting himself killed), and Tsukasa won’t believe it if he tells her (which he’s not going to), but his voice comes out calmer than he’s expecting. “If you’ve got the time, I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to compare methods. You know, with a fellow sentai.”

Captain Marvelous stares at him and then huffs out a laugh. “Let me call my crew and tell them I’ll be a while.”

When he lets go, Kairi stumbles and then sways into Keiichiro, slinging an arm around his shoulders and murmuring into his ear, “This is really what you want, Kei-chan? You’re not just. Like. Doing this because you think I want it, right?”

“If I didn’t want to,” Keiichiro says, still more steadily than he feels, “I wouldn’t have said it. You know how I feel about you making that noise.”

Chapter Text

It hasn’t been quiet much lately, but it’s quiet now. No CR emergencies, no on-call hours, just the two of them and Emu’s shitty couch and the Warriors Orochi 2 character select music playing on the TV. It’s hardly romantic, but it’s what they’ve got.

Parad’s hair is falling in his eyes. He’s not exactly looming, but he’s definitely taller than anyone else Emu’s ever dated, and between that and the hair and the ceiling light being directly behind his head, his entire face is in shadow. Emu says, “Look, we don’t have to, I know you don’t—”

“Emu.” Parad smiles—he’s always smiling, it’s just how his mouth is shaped, but this one is different. “I know what kissing is.”

“You do? But the other day you were all surprised.”

“Because you kissed me on my face, in public. We weren’t even doing anything. It was weird.”

“It was weird that I kissed you in a…non-sexual context? Because I care about you?”

“Yeah, that.” Parad’s eyes flash red. “Actually I’m surprised you know about kissing, it’s not like you’ve done it a lot.”

“Hey, I’ve dated. Some. It is not fair that you spent all this time living in my head and know all this random stuff about me.” Emu shifts a little; one of the more uneven spots on the couch is digging into his back. He’s not about to get up, though. “Also I do care about you.”

Parad glances away for a moment. “I care about you too.” His voice barely passes a whisper. Then, another red flash. “Anyway, I know plenty about kissing.”

The sly look on his face makes Emu grin, because the appropriate response is obvious. “So why don’t you show me?”

Parad’s kiss shocks him on contact, crackling with static in a way that must be particular to him, since Emu can’t recall anything of the sort from any other Bugster. It’s sort of like kissing an electric socket, but in a good way; it sends a tiny jolt down Emu’s arms and spine, makes him gasp, and it’s probably good that he’s already on his back. Parad makes a surprised noise and pulls back, but Emu tugs him down again, chasing that gentle shock with his lips and then, after a moment, with his tongue. After a minute or so it’s barely noticeable except as a background fizz that drowns out the sound from the TV and makes everything more vivid.

“Did I hurt you?” Now that he knows it’s there, Emu can practically hear the electricity thrumming in the back of Parad’s throat.

“You shocked me a little.”

“That’s never happened before. Maybe it’s because you’re human.”

Which confirms what Emu had suspected—if that’s new, if Parad’s never kissed a human before, there’s only one other person it could have been. He pushes the thought back. They’ll talk about it later, if Parad wants to. This, right now, is about them. “It was good.” He tugs on the front of Parad’s shirt, grinning. “Do it again if you want.”

Chapter Text

“Well, this is awkward.” Urataros shifts a bit. “Normally when I’m doing this I have lips.”

Naomi’s nose wrinkles. “They’re Ryoutaro’s lips, though, I’m not interested in him. We’ll figure something out.”

“Are you sure? I feel I should point out that lips are fairly important for kissing.”

“Man, for such a ladies’ man you’re really shy.”

Urataros puts a hand on his chest as if he’s been struck. “Naomi, you wound me. I’ve been called a lot of things by a lot of women, but never shy.

“Well, prove you’re not, then. I mean, maybe the storage car’s not the most romantic setting for this, but I’ve kissed way weirder mouths than yours.”

There’s a long pause before Urataros says, “You have?”

Oh yeah.”

“I’m not sure if that’s comforting or alarming.”

“Just stop worrying about it and reel me in, hot stuff.”

He tilts his head to the side thoughtfully, hands finally coming to rest on her waist. She wraps her arms around his neck and leans in towards him.

Several minutes later she pulls back and says, still cheerful but in a much more intimate tone, “See? I told you we’d figure something out.”

He stares at her. He’s not usually in the business of feeling awestruck, but it might be the moment to make an exception. “Naomi, I haven’t asked this before, but are you actually human?”

That is for me to know and you to find out.” She leans in for another kiss.

Chapter Text

Kosuke, never still, isn’t still now. His hands roam over Haruto’s arms, his chest and stomach, resting on his waist for a moment and then moving again. He reaches up and traces the line of Haruto’s jaw and says, “Where do you even keep it all?”

“Keep what?” Haruto twitches slightly at fingers on his side. “Hey, hey, tickling.”

“No, look, you’ve got these noodle arms,” and Kosuke squeezes his admittedly-slim bicep in demonstration, “how are you so strong? Where do you keep it?”

“My legs are hollow,” is the solemn-voiced response. “I keep it in the right one.”

Kosuke snorts. “What’s in the left one, then?”

“Doughnuts.”

“I knew you were cheating somehow, nobody can eat that many doughnuts and not gain weight.”

“It’s not cheating.” Haruto grins and bends down, deliberately shifting his weight in a way that makes Kosuke groan, and curls his hand around the side of Kosuke’s face. “It’s magic.”

Kosuke’s eyebrows go up, and his hands slide down from Haruto’s waist to his thighs and finally stop moving. “So you’re telling me you’ve got magic legs.”

“I mean, you’ve told me pretty much that once or twice.” Haruto finally closes the bare inch of distance between their faces and kisses him hard, pressing him down onto the bed and feeling his grip tighten.

“See, that’s what I’m talking about, the strong thing,” Kosuke says breathlessly. “It just kinda comes out of nowhere.”

Chapter Text

Haruto kisses him in the morning when he’s making coffee. It’s not, like, a kiss kiss, it’s more just a brush of the lips against his temple while he’s messing around with the coffee filter and Haruto’s grabbing a mug down from the cabinet, but it’s definitely not nothing. Shunpei blinks, leans into the sideways hug Haruto gives him, and instead of mentioning it says, “Is Nitoh still in bed?”

“Yeah, he’s got a hangover.” Haruto wiggles the mug in his hand. “I’m getting him some water, although if he keeps complaining about being the one who gets hangovers when I’m the skinny one then I think I might dump it on his head.”

“I mean, that’ll wake him up.”

“Definitely. I’m just not sure that’d be worth it. Where’s Wajima?”

“Already in the workshop, we got a new stone yesterday and he’s getting some kind of vibes from it. There’s muffins if you want some.”

Haruto looks thoughtfully at the package of muffins and nods. “Maybe if I stick a muffin in Kosuke’s mouth he’ll stop complaining for a few minutes.”

“It’s worth trying.”

Kosuke kisses him in the afternoon when he comes out of the workshop hoping to find a snack. It’s not really any more of a kiss than Haruto’s–he leans over the back of the couch to grab an empty cup from the coffee table, and Kosuke just turns slightly and kisses him on the chin, which is both weird and alarmingly cute. Shunpei can feel himself blushing, and it’ll just get worse if he says anything, so instead he goes with, “Hey, how’s your head?”

“Good now, finally. I feel like Khimaira oughtta keep me from getting hangovers if he’s going to go living inside me, you know?” Kosuke briefly gets a distant look. “Yeah, I’m talking about you, jerk, don’t give me that. Anyway, you working on a new ring or something? You’ve been in there all day.”

“One of Haruto’s Rider friends sent us a piece of weird stone to look at, apparently he has some magic thing he needs to get repaired and wanted to know if Wajima could do it, and Wajima has me doing some tests on it? Like, not spells, obviously, but he’s got some wild equipment.” Shunpei pauses. “Actually, maybe I could get your help later, if you don’t mind? It apparently came from an archaeological dig in Germany, you might have read about it.”

“Sure, in a bit, that sounds pretty cool. You know which friend sent it?”

“Um. I think his name’s Hino something?”

“Shit, that guy’s cool as hell, I feel like I keep missing him whenever he’s around.”

Haruto wanders in and grabs his guitar off the stand, sits down on the couch next to Kosuke, and reaches over the textbook in Kosuke’s lap to grab his guitar pick off the end table. As his face passes Kosuke’s, he turns a bit, and their lips brush in exactly the same kind of very light kiss that Shunpei has at this point been thinking about all day.

Shunpei can feel himself blushing again. At some point he’s probably going to have to ask them about this.

Chapter Text

Emu doesn’t even manage to make it to bed when he gets home. He barely even manages to get his coat and shoes off before he collapses on the couch, boneless with exhaustion.

Parad materializes barely seconds later, stretched along the top of the couch and grinning like a Tetris-patterned Cheshire cat. “Long day, M?”

So long. One of my regular patients broke her leg pretty badly, and her mom yelled at me when I said she wasn’t going to be able to do any judo for at least a few months. Apparently there’s some kind of meet coming up? And then there was a Game Disease patient, and the poor kid’s already in treatment for leukemia, and the only way he’d stay calm was if Taiga sat with him the entire time Hiiro and I were outside operating.”

“Snipe? He wanted Snipe to keep him company?”

“Yeah, Taiga’s his radiologist and apparently he’s gotten kind of attached.” Emu smiles faintly. “I think he learned more about Minecraft today than he’s ever wanted to know.”

Parad lets out a hoot of laughter. “I wish I’d been there for that!”

“Me too, I think the patient would’ve liked you.” Emu finally sits up and immediately gets a faceful of Parad’s hair and sneezes. “I think you might need a haircut or something.”

“I can reconfigure it if you like. I could put it in pigtails. Or spikes.”

“I mean, not in my face would be fine.”

“Oh. That I can fix without redoing anything.” Parad wiggles up the back of the couch and tips his head back, so that he’s looking Emu directly in the eye. “See? Not in your face anymore.”

“Well, your hair’s not in my face anymore, you’re still in my face no problem.” Emu leans forward and kisses his upside-down mouth, and then his chin for good measure. “I am. So tired, though. Want to order dinner?”

“Can I get something really spicy?”

“Sure, as long as you have some milk or something afterward, last time I think all the oil from those peppers actually burned me.”

Chapter Text

It seems like this is what they’re always doing now–standing in the middle of Helheim, yelling at each other. About the Overlords, about Yggdrasil, about their differences of philosophy, about mutual acquaintances and how little Kaito thinks of them. Hell, once they’d both been so exhausted and loopy after the fight they’d come out of that they’d just ended up arguing about their favorite kinds of parfait.

This time, Kouta’s honestly not sure what they’re yelling about. He lost the thread ages ago. Their arguments tend to be pretty circular, though, so he’s confident that eventually they’ll come back around to something he can follow. The big thing, really, is that they’ve been walking as they talk, and Kouta turned around a couple of minutes ago so he could look Kaito in the eye better, and now he’s run into a tree.

“Ow,” he says, mildly, more to point out that it’s happened than because he’s actually hurt.

“You ran into a tree. Amazing.” Kaito huffs and braces a hand next to Kouta’s head on the tree’s broad trunk. He looks at least as tired as Kouta feels. “Do you ever look where you’re going?”

“Most of the time, actually, but you had me distracted.” Kouta glances at Kaito’s hand next to his head. “Did you mean to box me in here?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, your entire left side is free if you want to move.”

“I kinda don’t want to, it’s been a really long day and this is surprisingly nice.”

Kaito lets out a nearly-inaudible exhausted noise of his own. “When is it not a long day, Kazuraba? Even the dead have shorter days than we do.” He peers down at Kouta. “And another thing…”

“Yeah?”

“Your fashion sense continues to be atrocious.”

Kouta shrugs, grinning. “Sure, maybe. What, did you want to fight about that now?”

He wasn’t actually expecting Kaito to kiss him, but it’s not unwelcome. Good, he revises after a moment, it’s good. Then he reaches up and grabs the lapels of Kaito’s coat and tugs him a little closer and it’s great.

He maybe loses track of time for a little bit. They both do, really. By the time they need to take a joint break for air he’s got one hand on the nape of Kaito’s neck and he’s seriously considering undoing Kaito’s vest and shirt buttons with the other, which would probably be fair, since Kaito’s free hand, the one that’s not on the tree trunk, is definitely on his waist under his shirt. Kaito’s knee is also between his legs, which isn’t helping him focus at all.

He’s panting, but he does manage to get out, “Did it get really hot here? I feel warm. Also this is probably a bad place to be doing this, yeah?“

Kaito glances to the side, flushed and clearly resisting the urge to argue. “Probably.” He straightens up, and Kouta wants to protest the fact that he’s farther away now except for the fact that he’s digging in his pockets. “Where the hell is my Rider Machine…”

Kouta’s got his Sakura Hurricane Lockseed out in seconds. “We could use mine.”

Kaito scowls. “I don’t want to ride on the back of your Rider Machine.”

“Why?” Kouta twirls it around his finger, grinning. “You scared?”

The scowl gets worse. It’s surprisingly attractive. “Just get the bike out, Kazuraba.”

Chapter Text

Sento gets up from from his desk to get a glass of water, and when he gets back he’s so absorbed in trying to work out an equation in his head that for a moment he doesn’t realize that Banjou is sitting on his papers. When it does click, though, he looks up and says, “Are you just being obnoxious for fun or do you want something?”

Banjou pokes him in the forehead. “When’s the last time you looked at a clock?”

“I don’t know. Why? Get off my desk.”

“No. Look at a clock first.”

Sento scowls at him and then digs his phone out of his pocket and taps on the screen. “…ah. This definitely does say that it’s three in the morning.”

“It sure does. And when did you wake up today?”

“Six in the morning.”

“Which means?”

“I’m clearly making progress on this new design, Banjou.”

“Nope, try again.”

“I have more work to do.”

“Still wrong.”

Sento lets out a long sigh. “If I don’t get up and go to bed myself you’re going to pick me up and carry me. Which is also why you’re sitting on my papers.”

Banjou grins. “You got it.”

Another sigh, but it turns into a yawn, and Sento lets his head fall forward a bit to rest against Banjou’s stomach. “If you’re going to be like that I’ll go to bed.” He turns his head and presses a kiss to the edge of Banjou’s hip where it’s exposed by the edge of his shirt pulling up. “I’d ask what I’d do without you, but I’m fairly sure that the answer is that I’d get a lot more work done and then die of exhaustion. “

“That tickles.” Banjou’s fingers comb gently through his hair. “Come on, genius, you gotta stand up.”

“I refuse.” Sento’s voice is muffled by Banjou’s shirt. “Now that you’ve brought my attention to it I’m really very tired, you have to carry me.”

“If you say so.” Banjou pushes him back a bit and hops down from the table before lifting him bodily by the waist and draping him awkwardly over one shoulder. “I guess I wouldn’t be much of a hero if I couldn’t give my sidekick a hand when he’s in need.”

“Hey,” Sento says to the small of his back, and yawns again. “Who are you calling a sidekick?”

Chapter Text

Utsusemimaru spends the morning assembling a bookcase for the Spirit Base. The base doesn’t have much furniture as a rule, of course, but Amy’s manga collection has gotten a bit out of control, and at this point they really need somewhere to put it. He functionally lives there, so he’s considered asking her to take them home, but truth be told, he’s started reading them. So has Torin. And he’s fairly sure he spotted Ramirez sneaking off with a volume the other day. So a bookcase for the Spirit Base it is.

He gets the thing put together successfully entirely in spite of the baffling pictorial instructions, and he’s just shelving the last book when Nobu and Souji appear in the entryway with King supported between them.

“Ah! Friends! I have–” He stops. “King-dono, what is wrong?”

“New monster hit him.” Souji ducks away from King’s swaying head for no visible reason. “It’s, uh. It’s got some. Interesting powers. You might want to leave the room, he keeps trying to–”

King’s head snaps up. His face is flushed, and there are, alarmingly, little pink hearts floating in his enormously dilated pupils. “Ucchi! Hey!”

Utsusemimaru only has time to say, “Are you feeling–” before King lunges at him and tackles him to the ground.

He’s not sure what he was expecting, but he’s still entirely unprepared for what he gets, which is a hard, open-mouthed kiss with liberal application of tongue. His first reaction is a flash of hot arousal, followed by an equally powerful upswelling of shock at such an intimacy being witnessed by their teammates. “King-dono,” he hisses as soon as his mouth is free, “we are in public.

“That,” Souji says, sounding exhausted. “He keeps trying to do that. He actually got Nossan before we got him down here.”

“First time I’ve been kissed in ages.” Nobu groans. “I mean, he’s hardly bad at it, but he’s also not exactly my first choice.”

King is…the only word Utsusemimaru can think of is nuzzling at his face. “Ucchiiii, you smell really good.”

“We have not ceased to be in public, King-dono.” The nuzzling is rapidly becoming distracting; Ucchi extracts himself from King’s grip with some difficulty and stands up. “Has he. Ah. Been like this for long?”

“At least half an hour now, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to–” Nobu stops. “I was going to make a joke there, but I feel like under the circumstances it might actually be tasteless. We need to deal with the monster. I’m sorry, Ucchi, could you keep an eye on him while we take care of it? Amy and Ian are on their way, and I’ll give you a call if it gets big, but right now he’s just going to get himself in trouble.”

Ucchi is about to respond when King’s arms wrap around him from behind, and King’s mouth presses to the back of his neck. “Iii. Ah. Yes. I will. Keep him out of trouble. You two go.” A beat, and–he’ll admit that he’s never been a paragon of the masculine ideal, but mainly that’s just an issue of being a poor poet and having a tendency to laugh nervously in uncomfortable social situations. Now he’s fairly sure that if King continues in this vein he’ll swoon like a maiden, which he would prefer his comrades not see. “Immediately, please.”

Chapter Text

Haruto comes through the door of Omokagedo and stops dead. “Are we having a party?”

“Oh! Haruto!” Rinko waves over Kosuke’s shoulder. “I’m teaching Nitoh how to dance.”

“I can see that. Uh, why?”

“My advisor is making me go to some big charity event at the museum over in Fuuto.” Kosuke grins uncomfortably. “He says it’ll be a good opportunity to meet other people in the field. I have to wear a suit.

Haruto frowns, dodging around the dancing pair to put his bag down on a table. “Don’t those things normally cost money?”

“Yeah, normally, but he’s one of the speakers, so he gets to bring whoever he wants. I’m pretty sure he’s only really bringing me so I can drive him back after he has too much champagne or whatever.”

“I mean, it’s not unlikely.” Haruto watches Kosuke and Rinko spin around the room for a few minutes and then taps Rinko on the shoulder. “Can I cut in?”

Rinko grins at him and lets go of Kosuke’s hand. “Go ahead! I’ll watch to make sure he doesn’t step on your toes too much.”

Kosuke blinks at him as he steps up. “I’m leading. I don’t know how to do it the other way.” One hand on Haruto’s waist, the other hand holding his, Haruto rests his free hand on Kosuke’s shoulder next to the furry ruff of the second of today’s three vests. “I didn’t know you could dance.”

“I had a soccer coach once who made the whole team learn because he swore it’d make us less clumsy.” Haruto’s a little rusty, and not really used to following, but he gets into the rhythm of it after a moment. “We spent about half the lesson pretending to dip each other and then falling over.”

“Yeah, but it looks the lessons stuck.”

“I did all right.”

“So how do I dip you?”

“I, uh. I actually don’t remember how to do it without dropping the other person at the end.”

Rinko steps forward when she sees the look on Haruto’s face. “Here, Nitoh, it’s not complicated, you just–ok, step forward, slide your hand back a little so he doesn’t fall…

It’s a decent dip–or at the very least, Kosuke doesn’t drop him, and it feels like they’ll be able to stand up again, which is a good start. Haruto grins up at him. “So I hear the museum in Fuuto is pretty nice, actually, can you bring a date?”

“I can ask.” Kosuke leans forward more to go for a kiss, misses his mouth, gets his chin instead, and then loses balance.

Fortunately the couch is right behind them. Haruto shoves at Kosuke’s chest, suppressing laughter. “Ok, get off me, this is feeling uncomfortably like soccer practice now.”

Chapter Text

Emu half-wakes at the feeling of movement in the bed next to him and mumbles into the pillow, “Kiriya, wha’ you doing awake. Whass wrong. Lie down. ‘s…dark. Nighttime. You gotta sleep.”

“It’s fine, babe. Go back to sleep.”

Kiriya’s tone is what wakes him up all the way. He sits up and scrabbles for his phone, wishing vaguely that he had that nurse superpower where they always just know what time it is (and how long they’ve been there, and when they’re due their next smoke break). “No, seriously, it’s…three in the morning, what’s wrong?”

Kiriya’s got his face in his hands, and he says, slowly, “Ok, I’m going to ask you something strange, please don’t think I’m a crazy person.”

“I won’t, I promise.”

“I’m here, right? Physically present, in an actual flesh-and-blood body, in this room?”

Emu watches him for a moment and then reaches out, squeezes his shoulder, runs a hand down his back–and then pinches his side. “Yeah, definitely actually here.”

Kiriya flinches away from the pinch, but he’s clearly grinning into his hands. “You sure?”

Emu tries to sound as solemn as possible. “Trust me, I’m a doctor.”

“Oh, don’t you pull that one on me, you little–” Kiriya finally looks up from his hands, moves like he’s going to grab Emu, and then stops and leans against him instead. “Bad dreams. You know what it’s like.”

“I sure do.” Emu turns his head and kisses Kiriya’s forehead, since it’s the easiest spot to reach. “Come on, lie back down, not sleeping isn’t going to help anything.” A pause. “Unless you want to also ask Parad, just to be sure, I can hear him playing something in the other room.”

Kiriya’s voice is muffled by Emu’s shoulder. “I am in no way prepared to debate the nature of my physical existence with Parad, he’ll just make it into an argument about philosophy and then deny that he’s doing it because he’s a little shit.”

“Hey now,” Emu says, mildly.

“Am I wrong?”

“…go to sleep.”

Chapter Text

There is always silence between the stars. He does not travel slowly, but it is always lonely, no matter the speed; he is the scout, always leaving his tribe behind. This is fine, given that he despises them. But sometimes he does yearn for companionship.

Banjou wakes up with a gasp, and it takes a dizzying moment to realize that he’s not in space, that his body feels like his body, that this is the reality and the other thing was not. He shudders. “I hate those dreams.”

“What dreams?” Sento is lying next to him, one eye open, still in a baggy sweater and pants that need mending. He doesn’t remember the other man being there when he went to sleep, but then, it’s hardly a surprise; it’s not like there’s more than one bed in here.

(He can see Misora curled up with Sawa in a sleeping bag across the room, head tucked under Sawa’s chin, arms around her chest, and hopes they’re both sleeping better than he is.)

“Bad ones. They suck. I’ve had them forever, ever since I was a kid.” Banjou rolls over to face him, shuddering again at the memory. “I’m like…drifting through space? And I’m really lonely and I hate everything. That’s the whole thing. They just. They feel bad.”

“Mm. Sounds bad.” Sento rolls over onto his side, throwing an arm over Banjou’s chest, mouth now moving against Banjou’s shoulder as he speaks. “Probably related to a childhood incident.”

“Nothing I can think of. You ever have bad dreams?”

“I don’t dream.”

This is a transparent, obvious lie; he’s watched Sento toss and turn before. But this isn’t the time to call him on it, not right now. Instead he rolls over as well, into the sleepy curl of Sento’s arm so that they’re face to face, and says, “Good for you, dreaming sucks.”

Sento’s clearly half-asleep, has been this entire time, but he’s grinning as he slurs out, “Give you a good night kiss if you want. Maybe that’ll help with the dreams.”

“Sure, maybe it will.”

It’s soft and sweet first, like an actual good night kiss, but then Sento reaches up and threads slim fingers through his hair and teases his mouth open and it’s probably good that the ladies are still asleep and relatively far away from them. Not that it’s likely to lead anywhere tonight, they’re both too tired still.

Eventually they do fall asleep again, Sento draped sort of uncomfortably across his chest, and this time Banjou manages not to dream.

Chapter Text

Marvelous looks different in the light of the day. In his shirtsleeves, with truly spectacular bedhead, he actually looks more rogueish, and yet somehow also less dangerous.

Of course, the intimidation factor is also lessened significantly by the fact that he’s stuffing his face with pancakes at a truly alarming rate. Keiichiro doesn’t laugh, but it’s a struggle. “You know, you’re in luck. I was never a fan of pancakes before, but Kairi loves them, so lately I’ve been keeping a couple of bags of mix around. If you’d been here a few months ago we’d probably just have eaten leftovers.” He pauses, feeling himself blush. “Although I guess if you’d been here a few months ago we probably wouldn’t be having breakfast like this.”

Marvelous wiggles his eyebrows suggestively. The effect is somewhat lessened by the fact that his mouth is still full.

When there are only four pancakes left, Keiichiro grabs Marvelous’ wrist. “Save some for Kairi, he’s still asleep.”

“If he wants pancakes he ought to wake up earlier.”

“Maybe if this was your ship, but it’s not, and in my home Kairi gets breakfast no matter how late he sleeps.”

Marvelous gets a thoughtful look at that and then turns his wrist in Keiichiro’s grip, grabs his wrist in turn, and pulls him forward. There’s a notable taste of maple syrup, but it’s only a momentary distraction from the more immediate sweetness of a mouth against his, callused fingers on the side of his face. Keiichiro feels mildly guilty about enjoying it with Kairi asleep in the next room–but then, Kairi had apparently been running around kissing pirates yesterday well before he convinced Keiichiro to take one home, so he can probably live with missing out this once.

Or twice, as it turns out, or three times. Keiichiro has kissed Kairi breathless a fair number of times at this point, but being kissed breathless is something new and surprisingly enjoyable.

By the time Marvelous stops kissing, he’s got Keiichiro pinned to the floor, and he pulls back only enough to murmur, “I like you,” in his ear. “You take care of your people.”

“I’m sure you do the same.” It’s hard not to sound breathless, but somehow Keiichiro manages it. “If you didn’t, I don’t imagine you’d be a very successful captain.”

Pirate captain.”

“Oh, because pirate crews are less likely to mutiny when mistreated?”

Marvelous smirks down at him. “Fair point.”

“I saw Gokai Yellow take off a robot’s head with her feet.”

“Luka is an extremely frightening woman and I’m lucky to have her on my crew.” Marvelous bends down again. “I think we were talking about something else, though.”

Just as it’s getting to the point where Keiichiro thinks he should go wake up Kairi, though, there’s a ringing sound, and Marvelous scowls and pulls an inexplicably piratical flip phone out of his pants pocket. “What? …yes, obviously I’m coming back, what are you so worked up about?” A burst of yelling from the phone. “Ok, ok, you’re not worked up. Yeah, ok, I get it, give me…” He frowns. “Give me twenty minutes. No, not for that, my hair is a mess…what? Yes, obviously, he’s right here. No, not that one, he’s still in bed. Ok, yeah, hang on.” Marvelous rolls his eyes and lowers the phone. “Gai wanted me to let you know he’s a big fan of your work. That’s Gokai Silver.”

Keiichiro waves to the phone, suddenly back to suppressing laughter despite Marvelous still being on top of him. “I was impressed with his, I’ve never seen someone fight with a trident like that before.”

There’s a faint, delighted shriek audible on the other end of the line, and Marvelous sighs, obviously trying not to smile as he raises it to his ear again. “Seriously. Twenty minutes.” He flips the phone closed. “My crew’s coming to pick me up.”

Keiichiro grins. “I’d gathered, yeah.”

The next twenty minutes are spend clearing away most of the dishes, finding Marvelous’ left boot, finding his coat, and appropriating the jar of hair product Kairi left in Keiichiro’s bathroom so that the bedhead issue can be corrected. There’s a brief detour into the bedroom, where Keiichiro watches approvingly as Marvelous wakes Kairi up and kisses him senseless, and then–

“What is it about my windows? I gave Kairi a key and he still comes in and out through a window nine times out of ten.”

Marvelous shrugs. “What’s dashing about using the front door?” He slings his legs over the sill just as a chain drops into view from the pirate ship now looming overhead.

When Keiichiro leans out the window, Marvelous is hanging from the chain by one hand, posed dramatically with his feet hooked into the links. It’s a good look for him, although since he’s decided to stand with his back to the sun, Keiichiro does have to shade his eyes to get the full effect. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Captain Marvelous.”

Marvelous raises his eyebrows. “Even though I’m a pirate?”

Keiichiro shrugs. “Hey, if phantom thieves can be on the right side of history, I’m sure pirates can too. I’m not that stiff-necked.”

Marvelous gives him an appraising look and then leans down, grabs his chin, and kisses him very firmly. “Until the next huge crisis, then.” And the chain pulls him up into the ship.

Keiichiro spends a moment blinking in the sun before ducking back into the apartment. He catches a flicker of pink and navy down on the sidewalk as he’s closing the window, but it probably isn’t anything.

That is, of course, until he picks up his phone and sees the text from Tsukasa. [I figured I’d drop by your place and we could walk to HQ together]

[so is there something you should be talking to Kairi about or do I need to text him myself]

Keiichiro stares at the screen for a moment, frozen, before typing a reply. [no, no need, he knows] He hits “send” before he can regret it.

The immediate reply is, [and he’s ok with this?]

[you can ask him yourself if you’re coming up, he’s still in bed]

Chapter Text

Kazumi is saying, “You’re going to give me beard burn, goddammit,” and laughing, and he’s so beautiful that for a moment Gentoku can’t do anything but stare at him.

There’s a question that’s been bothering him lately, nibbling at the edges of his mind whenever he should be focusing on something, anything else. At what point can he thank the war for bringing them together? Is it possible at all? Stark, Evolt, whatever, wherever he is right now, would certain demand thanks for it if he knew what Gentoku was thinking–would point out in the smuggest possible tones that if it weren’t for his machinations, their paths probably never would have crossed at all. They certainly didn’t run in any of the same circles.

“Hey. Beardy.” Kazumi pokes his chin with an accusing finger. “You’re doing it again, stop it.”

Gentoku blinks. “Eh?”

“You’re thinking about things, you’ve got a look. We agreed on no thinking.”

They did. They’d talked about it. No thinking about things like what he’s thinking about. No worrying. No additional regrets. Either one of them might die tomorrow.

There are plenty of ways he could respond–I can’t help it, there’s too much to think about, don’t you ever worry despite yourself–but all those would violate that agreement, so instead he says, “Easy for you to say, Potato, you don’t think anyway.”

“Sure don’t, that’s why I’m so carefree.” Which is a blatant lie, dressed up with Kazumi’s cheesiest grin. “So cut it out and go back to giving me beard burn.”

“Not going to give you beard burn, I take good care of my facial hair.” Gentoku kisses the hinge of his jawline, traces a line of further kisses down the side of his neck and listens the noise he makes in the back of his throat, and does his best to stop thinking about things.

He doesn’t manage it, but then again, he knows Kazumi’s not managing it either, and for the moment this can still be good despite everything.

Chapter Text

It’s Kosuke’s birthday, but he’s pretty sure that he couldn’t tell anyone which one right now, even if his life depended on it. Khimaira could pop out of the ground and threaten to swallow him and he wouldn’t give a shit. “You know I was making a joke, right? You don’t. Uh. You don’t haveta do this.”

“I thought it sounded fun. Although if you’d rather not–”

“No, no no no no, not what I’m saying, not saying that at all.

They’ve got a hotel room, because Haruto doesn’t like sleeping in tents and the thought of Wajima overhearing them in Haruto’s little bedroom above the store is just unacceptable. The bed seems really big compared to what Kosuke’s used to. Which is probably good, come to think of it. His shoes are by the door, his vests are on a chair, and his heart’s in his goddamn throat.

Haruto’s not on the bed with him, despite this being generally where Kosuke would want him to be. No, Haruto’s leaning against the wall across from the foot of the bed, with that sort of cat-that-got-the-cream look that he gets when he’s decided that he really feels like showing off. Which, fair, yeah, that’s the stated plan.

Kosuke’s ears are roaring well before the Copy spell goes into effect.

“You ok?” both Harutos say simultaneously, in echoing tones of amusement and concern. “You look a little overwhelmed.”

“I can honestly say that I’ve never been better in my life.”

Doubled laughter, doubled voice dropping lower. “Then what do you want?”

Kosuke lets out a long breath. “I’d really like you to be naked right now.”

Despite having asked for it, he’s pretty sure that seeing it nearly kills him. He likes watching Haruto take his clothes off as a general thing, he’s a guy with simple needs. This is–there are two Harutos, and they’re peeling each other’s shirts off as slowly as possible. They aren’t even looking at him. But then, they don’t need to be, he’s looking at them plenty.

Two identical sly smiles as one Haruto drops to the ground and starts undoing the other one’s belt. Kosuke isn’t sure which one is the original, it’s not like there are any signs to distinguish one from the other. He’s not sure that he cares. Well, obviously he cares, but that’s taking a back seat to unzipping his own jeans and shoving his boxers down and wrapping a hand around his cock as whichever Haruto it is slides the other one’s jeans down.

Haruto has a birthmark on his stomach, a small one, and of course it’s sort of shaped like a hand. Kosuke’s kissed it a few times, generally while heading for something more interesting. Now his mouth goes completely dry as whichever Haruto is kneeling does the same thing, lips pressed to that little irregular patch, both pairs of dark eyes flicking towards the bed in amusement at the sound of Kosuke’s sharp intake of breath.

“I would. Uh.” It takes a moment for Kosuke to collect his thoughts, not helped by the fact that both Harutos turn their heads to listen to him but keep stripping each other. “I wanna say that I’d like just watching you but I’m pretty sure if you don’t get up here right now I’ll pass out.”

“I mean, we wouldn’t want that.” Two voices in stereo again, coming from either side of him as the two Harutos split to climb onto opposite sides of the bed. “I don’t know if I can keep this up for too much longer anyway, what would you like?”

Kosuke swallows hard. “Your mouth.”

“Sure,” and the smile again, the echoing laugh. “Play to my strengths, why not.”

One hand on the back of his head, one on his jaw tipping his head up, one mouth on his. Another set of hands undoing the buttons of his shirt, another line of kisses starting at his throat and trailing down his chest and stomach, and Haruto’s mouth is hot and it feels so good that he has to force his hips not to jerk up convulsively and thrust into it.

The magic runs out before he’s done, and the copy dissolves, and that’s the one next to him, thank fucking everything, the real Haruto’s still down the bed between Kosuke’s legs with Kosuke’s cock in his mouth, fingers digging into his thighs, peering up at him through stupidly long eyelashes.

“Look, hey, babe,” he’s breathing heavily, panting almost, the memory of a kiss still lingering on his mouth, “I’m real close, you are. So gorgeous, Haruto, babe, you are, fuck. I’m just, I’m gonna.” He’s at a loss for words, when does that ever happen?

Haruto winks at him.

He bites down on one of his own knuckles and moans and comes with a shudder in Haruto’s mouth, shaking with it. His eyes maybe cross for a moment, it’s not exactly dignified–but then, hell, Haruto’s the one with dignity.

Haruto sits up and back and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand before crawling up Kosuke bodily to kiss him. “So that was fun,” he says, sounding a little hoarse, “we should try it again when I’ve got more magic stored up.”

Kosuke stares up at him and says, “Babe, I’m pretty sure you’re trying to kill me,” and pulls him in for another kiss. “Not disagreeing, we should definitely try that again, but also I’ll die.” He grabs Haruto’s waist, pulls him closer. “So what about you?”

Haruto grins at him, finally tugging the Copy ring off and putting it on the bedside table. “I figured I could wait until you’re not at death’s door anymore and then we’ll talk about where to go from there.”

Chapter Text

Kouta likes the Hurricane all the time, but he has to admit that having Kaito hanging on behind him while he’s driving improves the experience significantly. It’s uncomfortable at first, because they both have to be in armor to withstand the velocity required to leave Helheim, but once they’re back in Zawame they’re able to de-transform. Kaito complains about riding on the back, of course, but he does his complaining while leaning in against Kouta’s back and wrapping his arms around Kouta’s waist, so really it’s fine.

By the time they get back to Kaito’s apartment, though, the exhaustion’s set in pretty well, and all they can manage to do is fall asleep.

 


 

Kouta wakes up in a room he’s unfamiliar with and a bed he doesn’t know, which hasn’t happened in a while now. Not that it ever happened much to begin with, but it wasn’t exactly an unknown occurrence. He rolls over, groggily puzzled, and sees black and red beside him, which resolve after a moment into, “Oh, yeah. Kaito.”

Without opening his eyes, Kaito says, “Who else would it be, Kazuraba? Do you habitually fall asleep on other people’s beds?” He sounds half-asleep, and yet somehow still irritated.

“No, I was just pleased to see you.”

Kaito’s eyebrows draw down. He doesn’t open his eyes, though, just reaches out blindly and grabs Kouta’s sleeve and tugs. Kouta goes cheerfully, rolling further over and against Kaito and kissing him. He’s not exactly soft like this, he’s never soft, but he does make a little “hm” noise in the back of his throat that definitely wouldn’t have gotten out if he was entirely awake.

When Kouta pulls back for air, Kaito finally opens his eyes, looks him over, and then closes them again. “Your vest clashes with my decor.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask, what is it with you and getting on me about my clothes lately?”

“I figured if I was insulting enough about them you’d let me take them off.” Moments after saying this, Kaito’s eyes snap open. He looks very slightly horrified.

Kouta grins down at him. “So I’m guessing you didn’t mean to say that out loud.”

Kaito shuts his eyes again, looking pained. “I did not.”

“You know, you could just. Like. Ask me to take my shirt off.”

One eye opens. “I absolutely couldn’t.”

“No, you definitely could. I mean it’s not gonna be sexy or anything, I was a stripper for two days once and got fired because I was so bad at it. But I will definitely take at least my shirt off. You know. If you ask me to.”

Kaito’s eyebrows go up, and he opens his other eye. “You? Were a stripper?”

“A terrible one, yeah.”

“I’m having a hard time picturing that.”

“Don’t bother, it’s not worth picturing.”

“I disagree.” Kaito turns slightly pink. “This is a frivolous conversation, we should be doing something productive.

“Sure, or you could ask me to take my clothes off and we can do productive things later.” The pink gets darker, and Kouta can’t resist the urge to say, “Also, you’re really cute when you blush like that.”

Kaito covers his face with both hands. “I am neither cute nor blushing.” And then lowers his hands just slightly. “Please take your shirt off.”

Kouta’s vest is already on the floor. “You got it.” His shirt buttons slow him down a little, but he’s gotten dressed and undressed half-asleep in the dark so many times that they don’t cause too much trouble. “Can I take yours off next?”

“I–you want to do it?”

“Yeah, you know, like a present I get to unwrap.”

“… Kazuraba, did you just call me a present?

“Yeah, you wear all those layers, it seems like it’d be fun to take them off you.”

“I don’t know why I put up with you at all.” Kaito’s still covering his face, but he’s staring openly at Kouta’s chest over the tips of his fingers, which is pretty flattering. After a moment he sits up, giving Kouta his usual baleful glare at about one third of its usual strength. His cheeks are still pink. “Yes, if you want to.”

Honestly, his clothing isn’t much more complicated than Kouta’s, but there’s just enough extra to slow things down. Jacket, waistcoat, shirt, undershirt–it is like opening a gift, carefully, one where it might be delicate and you have to be careful to keep from damaging anything. Kouta kisses the side of his neck and the hollow of his throat while undoing buttons, down to the shallow jut of his collarbone then and back up to his mouth while sliding three layers off his shoulders at once.

“Don’t throw my clothes, Kazuraba,” Kaito says into his mouth once the undershirt comes off, but he doesn’t actually stop Kouta from dropping them off the side of the bed.

Actually–it’s not like Kouta’s thought a lot about getting Kaito naked, but when it has crossed his mind he’s always assumed Kaito would be really aggressive about things. Like he is the rest of the time–loud, bossy, snapping out instructions when he has them. Definitely not the kind of guy who’d let Kouta push him gently down onto the bed or shudder when Kouta rests a hand on his hip and says, “Can I touch you?”

“You’re already touching me, Kazuraba.”

“Well, yeah, but that seemed like a better way to say it than, ‘hey Kaito, can I touch your dick,’ you know?”

Kaito almost laughs, and that’s also a surprise. “I’d rather you be straightforward about it.”

“So is that a yes?”

Yes, Kazuraba, you can touch my dick.”

He hides his face in the spot where Kouta’s neck curves into shoulder when Kouta actually gets his pants open, though. Kouta almost teases him about it and then decides not to, instead says, “Thank you,” as Kaito shudders again and thrusts into the hand now around his cock.

“For what, Kazuraba?” Kaito’s lips move against his skin, tongue dragging across a sensitive spot that makes him twitch

“Letting me touch you like this.” Kouta pauses and takes a long breath. “Can you, uh. Would you want to…”

Kaito’s hands are already on his belt buckle, very slightly unsteady, and then his fly, and then, unexpectedly, his ass, pulling their hips together. “If you want something, you should be specific about it.”

“Well, if that’s how it is.” Every time Kouta moves his own hand now their cocks brush, which makes his brain stop working for a moment. “Then would you get on top of me, please?”

Kaito responds by biting him, which feels really good and also apparently means “yes,” since it’s accompanied by a hard shove that rolls him onto his back and followed by a leg slung over his hips.

“Fuck, I was right.”

“About what?”

“You look really good up there.”

“…stop talking, Kazuraba.”

Kouta grins. “Make me.”

Kaito kisses him, which is both effective and sort of what he’d been hoping for. Working a hand between them is tricky, but his fingers meet Kaito’s there, interlacing to wrap around both of their cocks together, and that’s good, that feels right. They don’t have lube, so they’re not moving quickly, a slow, sweet drag of skin on skin.

After an uncountable amount of time, however many thought-blanking minutes of this, Kouta feels something start to build low in his midsection and gasps, “Hey, has anyone ever told you that you kinda taste like fruit juice? Uh, not what I meant to say first, I’m not thinking too straight, I’m really close.”

“Then do it, don’t act like you need my permission.”

Kouta leans up again and comes on both their hands and stomachs, breathless around Kaito’s tongue in his mouth. And then, after another couple of minutes, Kaito’s there too, and the look on his face when he comes is so shockingly unguarded that Kouta almost wants to look away out of courtesy.

He’s pretty sure Kaito would get offended if he looked away. He tries to say something goofy, to break the tension, and instead says, “You’re really gorgeous.”

Kaito turns bright red. “You’re sentimental.”

“No, seriously, I could get off just watching you.” Hopefully, “Maybe next time?”

“What makes you think there’s going to be a next time?” Kaito is clearly trying to sound haughty, but he’s not managing it.

“Well, you did kiss me first.”

Kaito rolls his eyes and then kisses him again.

Chapter Text

“Somehow I always forget that you need those.”

Kiriya pushes his reading glasses up his nose and grins. “You’re struck dumb by how unbearably sexy they make me look, right? I know, it’s good, I’ll pose for pictures later.”

Emu snorts, and then looks suddenly thoughtful. “That’s not a bad idea, actually. I don’t have enough pictures of you on my phone.”

“Well, now you’re just flattering me.”

“I’ll do more than flatter you if you stop reading the…” Emu squints at the tablet screen, “International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pathology in bed, that kinda deducts from the sexy factor.”

“Oh, because you weren’t up until midnight last week making notes on that paper from Acta Pædiatrica.”

“Yeah, but in the living room. Not while I was in bed. With my boyfriend. We had this talk last month, no work stuff in the bedroom, we need to have one place where we can just relax.”

Kiriya sighs. “That’s…a fair point. But look, I really do need to read this article, though, can you give me…” He glances at the time, and then the percentage indicator at the bottom of the tablet screen. “Can you give me ten minutes? And then I promise I’ll put it down?”

Emu sighs and leans against his side, reaching for a magazine next to the lamp. “Sure. Ten minutes.”

At the three-minute mark Parad fizzes into existence under the blankets on Kiriya’s other side. “Working in bed again, Lazer? That’s an obnoxious habit.”

“I’m trying to learn something useful, gremlin. And don’t call me that.” Kiriya smiles as he says it, giving Parad a sideways hug before flicking to the next page. “I’ll be done in six minutes, I already promised Emu.”

At the eight-minute mark Emu says, “You almost done?”

“Yeah, nearly. Nearly there.”

“Ok, good.”

He can feel Parad and Emu looking at each other behind his head, because the crackle of static accompanying it makes his hair stand on end. Well, he thinks, flicking to the next page of the article, that might not be good.

At the ten-minute mark, Kiriya is…not done. He scowls down at the percentage indicator as if it’s personally injured him, but it doesn’t change. He’s about to say something, ask for another five or ten minutes, when Parad sticks his tongue in his ear. “Hey, hey, was not expecting that.”

“Obviously not, you’ve been reading that magazine for ages now. Put it down and kiss me.”

“Twenty minutes tops, you little brat, and it’s a respected medical journal, it’s not like I’m just reading Fruits. I’ll kiss you all you like once I’m done.”

“You’re supposed to be done already, Lazer, now you’re just cheating.”

“He has a point, you know,” Emu says from his other side. “You promised me you’d be done in ten minutes. And given what we agreed on, you’re already bending the rules getting that much time.”

Kiriya groans. “Look, it’s my own fault for promising Irie at the path lab I’d read this tonight so we could go over parts of it tomorrow, but I do need to finish it.”

This shared look behind his head is even more crackly than the first one was, and then Parad leans in very close to him and says, “I’ll tell you what, Lazer, why don’t we make it a game?”

Kiriya’s eyebrows go up. His reading glasses are sliding down his nose again. “Don’t call me that. What kind of game?”

“You just keep reading. Don’t mind us. If you finish your magazine, you win. If you stop reading your magazine…”

“Journal. If I stop reading my journal?” Kiriya finds that his mouth’s gone abruptly dry.

“Well.” Emu sounds like he’s trying not to laugh. “You still win, but the prize is a lot better.”

Kiriya pretends to think about it for a moment as he pushes his glasses back up his nose and then says, “Deal,” and goes back to reading.

Or, well, he tries to.

Parad doesn’t go for the ear this time, he aims directly for the neck, smile a physical presence against Kiriya’s skin for a moment before being replaced by his tongue. Which would be distracting enough, but then Emu does the same thing on the other side–it’s more of an actual kiss, but no less distracting.

Abruptly very aroused instead of humming along at low-key horny like he has been for the last half hour or so, Kiriya adjusts his glasses unnecessarily and tries to get through the paragraph he’s on. One of them is definitely going to get their hand between his legs any second now and then he’ll have to put the tablet down and have a long talk with both of them about what an “attractive nuisance” is. He might as well make as much progress as possible before that, since they’ve made it a challenge.

And then they…don’t do that.

Instead, Parad disappears in a fizz of pixels and reappears immediately in Emu’s lap. Kiriya resists the urge to look over at them, but the rustling of blankets as they move is fairly recognizable. Ok, this is fine, he can deal with them making out in the bed next to him, he’s nearly done with the article, he’ll finish reading and then apologize to them creatively and at length for breaking house rules about bringing work to bed with him.

He’s three paragraphs from the end when Emu makes a moaning noise in the back of his throat and Parad lets out a suspiciously muffled laugh, at which point he practically throws the tablet out of the bed. “Ok, you two win, I should never have brought that thing in here with me, can you ever forgive me?”

Emu has to take a moment to catch his breath before saying, “Sure, you’re forgiven.”

Seconds after that, Parad materializes in Kiriya’s lap to the sound of Emu’s slightly incoherent protest. “I remember you promising me kisses.”

Kiriya grabs him by the waist and rolls so that he’s got both Parad and Emu pinned to the bed underneath him. It’s a little awkward, but he can’t say that it’s a bad starting position. “You know, I’m pretty sure I owe you both.”

Chapter Text

The Spirit Base has all sorts of little rooms that he doesn’t typically go into, but it doesn’t seem to have electricity at all, so he’s been curious about where Torin might have been hiding a washing machine. As it turns out, there isn’t one–Ucchi, when Daigo finds him, has his jacket off, his sleeves rolled up, and his hair up in a bun, and he’s doing laundry in a tub of soapy water. His back is to the doorway; he doesn’t hear Daigo come in.

“Hey, Ucchi.”

Ucchi jumps, nearly splashing himself in the face, and scrambles to his feet. “King-dono! I wasn’t expecting you. Please, ah, hold on a moment.” He casts around for a moment before finding a towel sitting on a nearby table and drying off his hands and arms. “What brings you here today? Is there a monster to fight?”

“No, not today. Fortunately. Actually, I was looking for you.” King holds out the box he brought with both hands, grinning. “Here.”

Ucchi accepts the box, looking puzzled. “Thank you, King-dono. Ah…not that I’m not delighted to receive a gift from you, but what is the occasion?”

“They’re Valentine’s chocolates.”

Ucchi’s forehead wrinkles.

“Oh right, right, they didn’t do Valentine’s during the Sengoku, did they, never been great at history. It’s a holiday, you give chocolates to guys you like.”

Ucchi nods slowly. “Forgive my ignorance, but. What are chocolates?”

Daigo stares at him for a moment before the realization hits. “They didn’t have chocolate in the Sengoku either, did they? It’s a kind of candy, it tastes like…it’s really hard to explain, it’s easier to just try them.”

“I see.” Ucchi still doesn’t any less puzzled. “And you give these candies to…comrades?”

“Well, not exactly, mostly it’s women giving them to men.” Daigo scratches the back of his head nervously. “You know.”

There’s a long moment before realization dawns, and Ucchi flushes slowly, attractively pink. “I. I see.” He looks down at the box in his hands. “Thank you, King-dono. I…regret that I didn’t know about this custom, or I would have gotten some for you.”

Daigo relaxes minutely; he’d half-expected Ucchi to hand them back to him, or somehow contrive to leave the room and then avoid him for the next few days or forever. “That’s all right, you didn’t have any reason to know about it.”  He gestures to the box of chocolates. “Anyway, these are chocolate-covered strawberries, I thought you might enjoy them. Would you like to try one?”

“I’d like that very much, thank you.” Ucchi carefully slides the ribbon off the box and takes off the lid, revealing the strawberries in their little paper cups. He lifts one by its green top and inspects it, looking fascinated, holds it to his nose and breathes in the chocolate scent.

When he finally takes a bite his eyes flutter shut. Daigo realizes that he’s staring, and furthermore that he’s jealous–either of Ucchi, for getting to taste chocolate for the first time, or of the strawberry, for being the subject of Ucchi’s reverent attention.

“That is…” Ucchi drops the top of the strawberry back into its paper, blinking. “I can see why one might give these to someone they…admired.” He gives Daigo a shy upwards look, which is impressive from someone barely a few centimetres shorter than him. “May I share one with you?”

“I’d love one, if you want to share. Chocolate-covered strawberries are a favorite of mine.”

“Here, then. For you.” Ucchi picks another strawberry from the box and holds it out.

Grinning, Daigo ducks his head and eats the strawberry directly from Ucchi’s hand, lips brushing his fingertips. Ucchi sucks in a sharp breath, but doesn’t jerk his hand back, or for that matter look away from him as he savors the bite.

There’s an awkward silence between them once Daigo swallows his mouthful, and he breaks it with a question that’s been starting to worry him. “Look, like I said, I was never great at history, were there, like…attitudes about kissing during the Sengoku?”

Ucchi turns bright red. “Certainly nothing like the current views on it, I’m sometimes shocked at what people now feel is acceptable in public. Kissing is an extremely intimate act.”

“Well…” Daigo glances around. “We’re alone right now. Can I kiss you?”

Ucchi swallows visibly and nods.

Daigo takes the box of chocolates from his hands and puts them aside, closing the gap between them with one step. Ucchi doesn’t kiss him at first as much as let himself be kissed, but after a moment he sways forward into Daigo’s embrace, and his eyes close in the same way they did when he was eating the strawberry.

The laundry sits forgotten in the tub next to them.

 


 

Torin glances in through the door of the laundry room and immediately steps back and heads out to the main room of the Base. “I was wondering when King would get around to that.”

Amy appears in the entryway a moment later and brightens up when she sees him. “Torin! Hi! Have you seen King anywhere? Or Ucchi?”

Torin glances at the two large, flat boxes she’s carrying–both marked “Läderach,” one tied with a red ribbon and the other with gold–and makes some quick calculations before saying, “They’re both in the laundry room.”

Chapter Text

“347…348…349…”

“Did you really have to install that thing in here?”

“350.” Joe relaxes from his sit-up, hanging by his knees from the bar, and gives Marvelous a level stare. “Where else would I put it? The ceiling in my cabin is too low.”

Marvelous scowls. “It’s right in front of my chair.”

“I’m a meter away.”

“Your hair is in my face.”

“I’m facing you.”

On the couch, Luka lowers her newspaper slightly to look over the top of it. Ahim looks up from her book. Next to them at the table, Doc doesn’t quite look away from the device he’s working on, but his eyes do flick to the side to watch as Marvelous gets up from his chair, walks up to Joe, and…reaches behind his head and pulls off his hair tie. “No, see, your hair’s everywhere, it’s ridiculous.”

Joe very calmly reaches out and grabs Marvelous’ shirt collar, pulling him in close to murmur, “Are you provoking me for a reason or are you just bored?”

“Mostly I’m bored.” Marvelous is just as quiet. “Also you’re shirtless and hanging upside-down from the ceiling and it’s a very good look on you.”

“I’m not doing it to entertain you,” Joe says, and smiles.

“That look says otherwise.”

“Then do something about it, Marvelous.”

Marvelous smirks, leans in very slightly, and kisses him.

At this point nobody else in the room is concentrating on their own activities. Even Navi is looking at them, and for once not squawking.

After a couple of minutes, though, Doc coughs loudly. Luka tears out a full-page advertisement from her newspaper, balls it up, and throws it at Marvelous’ head. “Will you two get a room already?”

Chapter Text

The hospital has a pool. On weekdays it’s mostly for rehab patients, but in the evenings and on weekends it’s open to the staff and faculty–everyone needs a chance to relax. Emu doesn’t go often, but he does like to swim every once in a while.

Tonight he’s got the pool to himself, swimming leisurely circles around the edge and hoping that nobody comes in who’ll be inclined to make fun of his Mighty Action swim trunks. He’s on his third lap or so when he feels a prickle run across his shoulders and a shock of anxiety that doesn’t feel like it belongs to him, and he looks up to see Parad sitting against the wall, as far from the pool as possible, arms wrapped around his pulled-up knees. “Hey, Parad. What are you doing here?”

“I didn’t know where you were, and when I tried to feel it all I could see was water.” Parad shudders. “So I came to find you.”

“Well, here I am.” Emu swims up to the edge of the pool and pulls himself up slightly, resting his arms on the stone lip and kicking absently in the water. “Is everything all right?”

Parad buries his head in his arms; all that Emu can see now is a head of curly hair and his eyes, peering over his jacket sleeves. “I didn’t know where you were, and you were in the water.” His voice is muffled, but it sounds tight and quivery. “I was…I was…”

Emu levers himself out of the pool as soon as it clicks in his mind, shaking the excess water off himself before walking over and sitting down next to Parad. “I’m not going to drown, Parad. I know how to swim.”

Parad doesn’t lift his head. “I don’t like water.”

“Well, sure, water’s pretty bad for electronics.”

There’s a pause, and then a faint, muffled snort. “M, that’s a bad joke.”

“Yeah, but you laughed.” Emu leans over and bumps his head against Parad’s shoulder. “Do you want to try coming in with me? It’s a lot less scary when it’s not taking you by surprise.”

“No.” A beat. “But I will if you want me to.”

“Just for a few minutes. And if you get frightened you can get out. I think it’d help.” A realization hits, and Emu frowns. “You, uh. Don’t have a swimsuit, do you.”

Parad’s clothes dissolve in a cloud of pixels and reform into swim trunks–Emu glances at them, expecting a Tetris print, and realizes that they’re a color-reversed version of his own. Without the baggy jacket to hide behind, Parad looks very thin, and very nervous. “I can wear whatever I want.”

“Well…here.” Emu stands up and holds out his hand. “Come on. We’ll go in at the shallow end. We don’t have to go any farther.”

There are several stops and starts–Parad freezes when he’s a meter away from the pool, and then again at the top of the steps in, and once more when he puts a foot in the water for the first time. Emu waits patiently, holding onto his hand, and doesn’t try to pull him forward.

Finally, though, he’s in the water up to his waist, and his shoulders are shaking. “I don’t like this.”

“Hey, hey. You’re doing really well. See? We can even stop here if you want.”

A pause, and Parad’s mouth sets, and his eyes gleam. “No. It’s a challenge, and I’m going to beat it.”

He doesn’t know how to swim, of course, but he’s a fast learner, and he manages a front crawl with only a few minutes of Emu’s awkward instruction. He won’t go anywhere near the deep end, but then, Emu never expected him to; it’s wonderful just to see him trying this at all.

When they’ve been in the water about fifteen minutes, though, Emu says, “Do you want to try going under?”

Parad freezes again. “I’ll drown.”

“You won’t. I promise.”

“How can you promise that?”

“Well, for one, you don’t actually need to breathe. If you don’t breathe, you can’t drown.”

Parad blinks. “I hadn’t considered that.”

Emu grins at him. “It’s a good point, right? Here, watch me.” He takes a deep breath, holds his nose, and ducks under the water.

Faintly through the water he hears Parad’s startled shout of, “M!” and then a splash that ripples, not strong enough to push him back. He doesn’t especially like opening his eyes under water, but he does it just to see Parad plunge under, eyes wide, and reach for him.

He grabs Parad’s hand, grinning as best as he can without taking in a mouthful of water, and waves to him. Parad responds by pulling him close, aided by buoyancy, and kissing him as they pop back up from under the surface. “You idiot, M, you could have died.

“I knew what I was doing.” Emu’s still grinning. His ears are ringing a little; he might have water in them. “And anyway, you saved me, and you didn’t drown either.”

Parad blinks several more times and then shakes his head, scattering droplets of water from his hair as if he’s a dog. “I guess I didn’t.” Then, after a pause, “Thank you.” And he dissolves in pixels and reappears on the floor next to the pool’s edge, fully dressed and completely dry. “I don’t want to be in the pool anymore, though.”

“That’s fine. I’m proud of you for trying even as long as you did.” Emu pulls himself out of the pool and sits on the edge, feet still dangling in the water, and politely pretends not to notice that Parad is suddenly blushing. “Could you hand me my towel, please?”

Chapter Text

Hiiro is reading when Emu comes into the room, and it seems like a good measure of how far their relationship’s come that he doesn’t simply ignore Emu’s greeting. He doesn’t say any more than, “Hello, Emu,” but that’s definitely something.

“You know,” Emu says cheerfully as he sits down next to Hiiro on the couch, “it’s really nice hearing you actually say my name. I’m looking forward to the day you do it in front of people.”

“You’re feeling chipper.” Hiiro doesn’t look up from his journal.

“It was a good day.” Emu leans over and kisses him on the corner of his jaw, still grinning, and then leans back slightly to say, into his ear, “I couldn’t get you to finish reading that later, could I?”

The corner of Hiiro’s mouth twitches very slightly upward. “No, absolutely not.” He shifts slightly closer to Emu.

There’s a faint fizzing noise.

Hiiro flinches sharply as lips press against the corner of his jaw on the other side, and at this he actually lowers his journal, turning to look at Parad with an expression of faint alarm. Parad grins at him. “Hi, Brave.”

“You shocked me.”

“Why, because I kissed you?”

Hiiro shifts awkwardly. “No, with electricity. We’ve already discussed the kissing, I’m aware that you and Emu come as a set.”

“Oh, he does that, I should have mentioned.” Emu laughs awkwardly at the look Hiiro gives him. “We’re not sure why, it’s some kind of Bugster thing. He’s full of static or something.” He coughs. “He can suppress it a little. Although it actually, uh, feels really good when we’re. Well.”

Hiiro’s eyes widen very slightly. “I see.”

Parad’s grin just gets bigger. “I’m very exciting. If I promise not to shock you too much can I kiss you again?”

Hiiro blinks and gestures with his journal. “I’m reading.” And then, at Parad’s disappointed look and Emu’s arm sliding around his waist, “I could potentially be persuaded to finish later, though.”

Chapter Text

There is darkness between worlds, and silence.

There’s probably a word for it, some scientific term for this space that isn’t space and this time that doesn’t feel like time. Banjou doesn’t know it, of course–why would he? That’s the sort of thing Sento knows. Not him.

Sento.

He reaches out in the between-worlds nothingness and Sento is with him.

Sento grins at him. He’s not sure how he can see it in the lightless between, but it’s there, a sweet, weary smile. “Fancy meeting you here.”

Yeah. Uh…how?”

“Beats me.” Sento shrugs. “I’ve never melded two worlds before, I don’t have a solid hypothesis here.”

“Really? No idea at all?”

“Why should I? If I recall my conversations with that Gaim person correctly, we wouldn’t be the first Riders to make a new world, but I think it’s probably different every time you do it.”

“Huh.”

They drift together for some time without speaking, hands clasped. It’s impossible to tell how long it is, exactly; time doesn’t feel the same in this place, if it exists at all. There’s only the two of them and the silence and the dark, and it’s been so long since either of them rested.

Finally Banjou’s sick of the quiet again, and he says, “So if we’re doing this together, making the world or whatever, what does that make us? Its parents? Are we Adam and Eve or something?”

Sento laughs, and the darkness doesn’t get lighter, but somehow it seems less oppressive. “I guess, if you want to put it like that.”

“Ok, so if I’m Adam and you’re Eve–”

“Wait, why would you be Adam in this scenario?”

“Because Evolt was, like, living in me way before stuff happened to you. So I came first.” Banjou pauses. “But then you did most of the hard work. I don’t remember the story super well.”

Sento rolls his eyes. “Flawless logic, as usual.”

“Well, but also, if we’re Adam and Eve, that means I can do this.” Banjou pulls on their clasped hands, dragging Sento in close and kissing his mouth open, and they float between worlds wrapped in each other and for a time neither one of them notices the nothingness around them.

Eventually Sento shifts his head back and says, “You do that all the time anyway,” and his laughter again pushes back the darkness.

“I don’t know, what if kissing is illegal in the new world, that’d suck.”

“I doubt it’d be a problem, we’re already used to being criminals.”

Chapter Text

The sound of someone else opening his apartment door is still unfamiliar, and at first Misao looks up from the recipe he’s reviewing with a start. “Who’s there–Yamato, what happened?

“Hi! Sorry I’m late!” Yamato has two bags of food in his arms, and he is covered in dirt. His scarf is filthy as well, and his shirt is torn at the neck. He doesn’t look distressed, though. “I brought the groceries you asked for, you still haven’t told me what we’re having for dinner.”

Misao hurries over to take one of the bags from him, wide-eyed. “That’s fine, that’s fine, I was going to make a noodle salad and gyoza, what happened? Did you get in a fight?”

Yamato blinks and looks down at himself, finally seeming to notice the state of his clothes. “No, uh. You’re going to laugh at me, but there was this really fat tanuki, and the poor guy had crawled up on the jungle gym at the elementary school a few blocks from here and couldn’t get down. I kinda fell when I was helping him down.”

Kind of fell? You’re a mess!” Misao sets the first bag of groceries down on the coffee table, takes the second one from Yamato and puts that one down as well. “Sit down, I’ll go get a towel. And take your shirt off, it’s ripped.”

“Well, I fell and then I rolled down a hill, it wasn’t exactly a dignified moment.” Yamato sits down on the couch as Misao steps back into the kitchen and wets a dishtowel. When Misao gets back he’s peeling his shirt off, and he grins as it slides over his head–much too easily, with the neck torn as it is. “You don’t usually boss me around like this.”

Misao freezes, immediately red in the face. “I–I’m sorry–”

“No, don’t be, would it be weird if I said it’s kind of attractive?”

“Ah. Well.” After a long, blushing moment, Misao shoves the dishtowel into Yamato’s hands. “You should get the dirt off your face.”

Doing this takes some time–there’s a fair amount of dirt in Yamato’s hair, too, he’s able to get the worst of it but he’ll definitely need a shower later. Then there’s what got in his ears, and then he can actually clean his face off.

In contrast, the rip in his shirt is easily mended; Misao sews it up in moments and sets it aside to be laundered. He looks up and Yamato’s face is still buried in the dishtowel, and there’s an impulse that he bites down on–and then realizes, why should I? If I asked him he’d just tell me to go ahead and instead gives in, leaning forward to kiss the side of Yamato’s neck, and then the hollow of his throat, and then his collarbone, only lightly smudged with dirt.

From underneath the dishtowel Yamato says, “Hi, Misao.”

“Hello, Yamato,” Misao says against his chest, fighting back the urge to leap away and apologize.

“So.” Yamato lowers the dishtowel, wraps an arm around his shoulders and leans back, pulling Misao on top of him. Then he smiles brightly. “Did you say you were going to make gyoza?”

“I did,” Misao says slowly. “Or.”

“Or?”

“Making gyoza is very time-consuming.” His lips are still near enough to Yamato’s collarbone to be felt when he’s speaking; Yamato shifts a bit as if it tickles. “I was thinking maybe I could make them tomorrow and tonight we could order takeout.”

Chapter Text

The text from Kairi reads, [gonna be in space doing space crime for a couple days see you when I get back xoxo]

Keiichiro sends back, [Kairi what the hell does that even mean,] but he doesn’t get a reply. Which is more than a little worrying.

He gets an explanation three days later, when he arrives home to find his living room window open, his fridge partially ransacked, and Captain Marvelous sitting on his couch eating a taco. He waves as Keiichiro comes in.

Keiichiro takes a deep breath, forces himself to stop staring, and nods a greeting. “Gokai Red.”

Marvelous raises an eyebrow. “Patran Ichigou.”

“You’re getting pieces of taco shell on my couch.” Keiichiro shrugs his coat off and hangs it up. His uniform jacket goes next to it on a hanger.

“It’s very good, where did you get it?”

“There’s a takeout place Sakuya found, I’ll give you the address.” Into the kitchen area, which is showing some distinct signs of Marvelous’ voracious appetite, for a glass of water. It’s probably a good thing he stopped for a quick dinner on the way home. “What are you doing in my living room?”

Marvelous gestures to the bedroom door with his head. “Dropping off your other half, we borrowed your counterparts for a bit. They’re better at breaking and entering than we are.” He chews his final mouthful of taco while easily holding Keiichiro’s level stare and then continues with, “Don’t worry, nothing actionable on Earth. Although the DekaRangers aren’t too happy with us.”

“DekaRangers?”

“You’d love them, I’ll introduce you sometime.”

“Did you come in through the window this time?” Keiichiro pours another glass of water and passes it to Marvelous over the back of the couch.

“Nah, we used the door.” Marvelous drains the glass in one pull, puts it aside, and tips his head back to look up at Keiichiro, who’s standing behind the couch looking down at him. “So don’t I get a, ‘hi, Marvy-sempai, it’s nice to see you again’?” His hand wraps around Keiichiro’s tie.

Keiichiro lets himself be tugged down into the kiss, ignoring the faint lingering flavor of taco and the awkwardness of the position in favor of the feeling of Marvelous’ mouth on his and Marvelous’ tongue sliding between his lips. Once it’s done, which isn’t for a long moment, he says, “Hello, Marvelous. I hope you’ve been well.”

“Yeah, decently. This is a nice tie, I like the pattern.”

“Thank you, Kairi gave it to me. Are you going to let go of it?”

“Sure, in a second.” Marvelous kisses him again and then lets go so he can stand back up. “Thanks for letting us borrow him, by the way.”

“He’s an adult, he makes his own decisions.”

“Yeah, but I saw the text he sent you, and you seem like a guy who’d find a way get his hands on a spaceship if he got worried enough.”

“Maybe if it happens again I’ll look up the–you said DekaRangers? And chase you.” Keiichiro pauses. “By the way. Marvy-sempai?

“Yeah?”

“That makes you sound like a delinquent in a high school drama.”

Marvelous grins at him. “I do have an image to maintain.”

Chapter Text

Keiichiro makes tea, pours for both of them, and sits down on the other end of the couch. “So what did you need the phantom thieves for?”

Marvelous raises an eyebrow. “You sure you want to know? It’s a long story.”

“Well, I’m sure Kairi will also tell me if I ask him, but I’m curious about your side of it.”

“Ok, fair. So first off there’s this guy, he’s not exactly a friend of ours, his name’s Kaitou Daiki–”

“Wait, his name is Kaitou?”

“Yeah, it’s appropriate. You’re gonna want to keep him and Kairi separated if he ever shows up here, by the way, the one time they talked it was like watching cats square off. Anyway, he’s got an interesting idea of what treasure is. So first thing is, there’s a museum over on Vega Prime.“

It is, as Marvelous had warned, a long story, with a lot of setup. Halfway through, Keiichiro makes more tea, frowning over the pot as he tries to piece it together. "So this Kaitou character…sold your Ranger Keys to the museum?”

Marvelous scowled. “He claimed it was temporary and that he just needed an in to get that goddamn whatsit he wanted, the wrench or whatever.”

“I thought you said it was a screwdriver.”

“Right, yeah. Screwdriver.”

"So when did the DekaRangers get involved?”

“I’m getting to that. So we swung by Earth, picked up the Lupins, and made a quick stop at the hub at Barnard’s Star to get some supplies…”

By the time the story is finished, the tea is gone again and Marvelous has begun to let out a series of jaw-cracking yawns that hurt just to watch.  Sensing vaguely that if his house-guest needed to get back to his ship he would have done so by now, Keiichiro finds a blanket instead. “I’d offer you the bed, but at this point Kairi’s probably taking up most of it and if I try to make him move too much he’ll just complain.”

“He seems like a biter,” Marvelous mutters sleepily, pulling the blanket over himself and slouching down more comfortably on the couch.

Keiichiro resists the unthinkable urge to say, Only when I ask him to. “Anything else you need?”

In response Marvelous reaches up, grabs his collar, and pulls him down just close enough to kiss him on the nose, apparently too tired to put in the effort to reach anywhere else. “I’m fine, go bother your thief.”

Chapter Text

He doesn’t even have to look at his work while he’s talking. It’s effortless–fill, wet, close, his fingers pinching each wrapper in turn into delicate fan folds, all precisely the same size, every one perfectly formed. “I don’t really mind not doing much hero work any more, you know? Not that I don’t still believe in fighting for justice when the need arises, of course, but I’ve appreciated having more time to work on my cooking technique.”

Marvelous can’t tear his eyes away from Ryo’s hands as the gyoza start to go down in the pan, five at a time, spiraling in from the edge to the center as the oil sizzles beneath them. “I’m sure,” he says, dreamily, “no one’s ever had any cause to complain about your technique.”

“So what brings you here? Is Gai all right?” Ryo pours water into the pan and claps on the lid. “Here, have one.” He pulls the lid off another pan, plucks a single gyoza from it with a foot-long pair of chopsticks, and holds it out.

“I’m just here as an admirer of your work.” Marvelous doesn’t reach for the gyoza–he just leans forward and takes it with his mouth, chewing slowly and with more reverence than he devotes to most things.

Ryo raises an eyebrow. He’s scooping finished gyoza out of the pan he just opened with a large spatula, sliding them in sets of five onto plates that are taken away just as rapidly as he can fill them. “You came all this way just for gyoza? I’m flattered.”

Marvelous reaches for another one and is thwarted immediately as a server whisks away the dish he was about to pillage. He follows it with his eyes, looking bereft.

“Here.” Another gyoza appears in front of his face, held in Ryo’s long cooking chopsticks. “If that’s what you’re here for, you’re welcome to another.”

“I could kiss you.” Marvelous eats the gyoza from the chopsticks again.

“Really?” Ryo looks amused. “If you want to, I won’t stop you.” Some silent timer apparently goes off in his head, and he plucks the lid off the first pan, letting out a cloud of steam that dissipates only slowly as he begins to plate more servings. There’s an extra gyoza left in the center of the pan when all the plates are filled; this time, instead of using chopsticks or spatula, he picks it up with his bare fingers, apparently unbothered by the heat. “Here.” He holds it out.

Marvelous dips his head and eats this one directly from Ryo’s hand, lips brushing Ryo’s fingertips. Ryo’s eyes widen very slightly.

They look at each other for a moment, and then Ryo glances over his shoulder as the server coming to take the last few filled plates and says, “Yui, I’m going on break, I’ll be back in a bit.”

Marvelous grins at him.

Chapter Text

Takatora dreams of the river.

Objectively he knows this is absurd, that he wasn’t conscious enough to remember it, but nevertheless he dreams it, serene and silent as it tells him, This is not enough to atone for all your sins, but we will take it.

He doesn’t know who’s saying this to him. The voice is Mitsuzane’s and contemptuous, the voice is Ryouma’s and filled with laughter, the voice is Roshuo of the Femshinmu and it is sorrowful and old, the voice is Takatsukasa Mai’s and it is sorrowful and young. The voice is the river’s itself, filling his lungs along with the water.

He knows it’s a dream. Eventually he’ll wake up, and he’ll return to the work of actual atonement, but for a moment it’s almost sweet to dream of something so simple.

“Takatora.”

That is not the river’s voice. It’s in his dream, but it isn’t of the dream; he’s not sure how he knows this.

He turns in the water, weightless, and there is someone else with him in the river, reaching for him. “Takatora, what are you doing here?

Kazuraba Kouta is standing in front of him–not floating, but clearly standing firm and solid as a tree in the shifting currents of the river. His offered hand, when Takatora takes it, is incongruously warm and dry. Takatora opens his mouth and tries to reply, but the river fills him and all he can say, muffled by its cool silence, is, “Penance.”

“Penance?” Kouta frowns. “Does it make you feel better?”

Takatora can’t speak. His mouth is too full of water.

A warm, golden pause. “I don’t think this is helping. Do you mind if I do something to help you?”

Still unable to speak, Takatora blinks his assent.

Kouta peers at him thoughtfully for a moment, still holding his hand tightly, and then leans forward and kisses him.

His mouth clears. His lungs clear. His soaked clothes dry. He is in the river, but no longer in the water, and both of Kouta’s hands grip his, and Kouta’s mouth is like a brand that somehow doesn’t burn him.

“There,” Kouta says, pulling back. “That’s better. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No.” Takatora blinks, surprised by the sound of his own voice. “No, I. I don’t mind. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I was hoping to catch up a little, actually.” Kouta lets go of one of his hands, but holds on to the other. “If you don’t want to talk now, I can come back later.”

“Now is fine.” He’s still dreaming. He knows he’s dreaming. But it’s no longer oppressive. “Now is good, actually. What did you want to know?”

“Everything.” A golden flash of a smile. “Do you want to go somewhere else to talk?”

Takatora considers it for a moment before saying, “No, actually, I’d prefer to stay here for now.”

“Ok. Walk with me?” Kouta squeezes his hand and starts walking through the river, and Takatora walks with him and finds, surprisingly, that he’s now just as steady. “If it helps we can stay here as long as you like.”

Chapter Text

“I feel like I should maybe be concerned about how you’re trying to seduce one of my coworkers.”

Kairi scowls. “I’m not trying to seduce him.”

Noël raises an eyebrow. “Aren’t you? No, I guess you’re not, seduction implies a level of sophistication that I don’t think you’re going for.”

The scowl gets darker. “Well, now you’re just making fun of me. Why did I ask you about this in the first place?”

“Because I’m French and you assume that means I know everything there is to know about seducing people.”

“…are you saying you don’t?

Mais non, I’m fantastic at it, but that doesn’t mean you had any reason to think I was.” Noël grins at him. “I do have some suggestions for how to get his attention, if you’re interested in hearing them.”

Kairi squints up at him. “Actual suggestions? You’re not just talking shit?”

“Actual suggestions. Cross my heart.”

“So what are they?”

Noël tells him.

“You think we should what.

“Trust me, it’ll get his attention.”

Kairi eyes him suspiciously. “If I didn’t know better I’d think you were trying to seduce me.”

“Won’t say I haven’t considered it.” Noël winks, and Kairi is horrified to realize that he is blushing. “But then I realized what a hopeless crush you’re dealing with and decided that I’d rather be a good comrade. So what do you think? It’s a good plan, oui?

After a moment of grumbling Kairi says, “Yeah, it’s a good plan, I’ll give it a shot. Wait, what crush, I don’t have a crush on him, do I look like a middle schooler?”

 


 

Keiichiro leaves Jurer feeling pleasantly full from a good lunch, but also mildly dissatisfied. It’s always a pleasure to see Umika, and Tooma’s cooking is always glorious, but Kairi had been out shopping the whole time he was there. Something about the other man always brightens up the restaurant, even despite his persistent slacking.

He’s about to head back to the GSPO offices when he catches a flash of white and gold and pauses. What’s Noël doing here?

He turns to hail his coworker–and stops. Because Noël is outside Jurer, but he’s not alone. Kairi is back from the store, bag of groceries in his arms, back to the outside wall of the cafe as Noël leans in to murmur something in his ear.

(”Looks like we’ve got perfect timing.”

“Of course we do. Did you actually kabedon? Are we in a goddamn comic book?”

“It’s a dramatic pose, we want him to pay attention to us.”)

Frozen in shock, Keiichiro can only barely manage to collect himself enough to step back slightly, just enough to take him out of their immediate line of sight while still keeping them in his. It doesn’t necessarily look like a situation in which he needs to interfere, but it could easily become one, and in any case he is desperately, achingly tense all of a sudden at seeing Kairi blush and shift from foot to foot.

(”You do look nice today, you know, your hair looks very good.”

“I didn’t agree to this so you could actually flirt with me, Noël.”

Non, but it does help. You look very fetching when you blush, he’ll be charmed.”

“You’ve spent way too much time thinking about this.”

“What can I say, I’m French, I love a good romance. May I proceed, or would you rather I didn’t?”

Do it already.”)

The tension in Keiichiro’s spine resolves into a flare of–anger? when Noël leans in even closer and tips Kairi’s chin up and kisses him. It’s a lot of a kiss; Kairi’s cheeks flush attractively, and his knees visibly quiver under his Jurer apron. His one-armed grip on his bag of groceries tightens.

Noël pulls back. Kairi looks stunned and breathless for a moment. And then he lifts his free hand and slaps Noël across the face.

(”Oof. You really put your shoulder into that.”

“It’s gotta look convincing, right?”)

Keiichiro nearly drops from relief, and realizes with some alarm that it wasn’t anger. It was jealousy. Wait, why am I jealous of–oh. Shit.

Noël is rubbing his cheek, looking sort of surprised and pleased and not at all upset. After a moment he puts a hand to his heart and sort of half-bows to Kairi, saying something that Keiichiro can’t really hear but which sounds apologetic. Kairi sniffs irritably, nods, and Noël murmurs another apology and leaves, whistling cheerfully as he heads up the steps.

Keiichiro steps back hurriedly as Kairi straightens up, hoping that it looks like he just left Jurer and not at all like he’s been standing there spying. It seems like he’s successful; Kairi’s expression brightens when he rounds the corner and sees Keiichiro standing there. “Heya, Kei-chan. Did I miss you coming by for lunch?”

“Ah…yes, unfortunately, I just finished up.” Keiichiro pauses. “Did I see you…slap Noël? Was he bothering you? If he was I’ll talk to him, I don’t want to think he can just behave however he likes here.”

“Nah, you don’t have to, it was a misunderstanding. Thanks muchly for asking, though.”

Keiichiro nods, and then has to swallow hard before saying, “Look, if it’s not too much trouble…do you have a few minutes to talk?”

Kairi blushes again. It’s cute. In fact, it’s terribly, earth-shakingly charming. “Sure, Kei-chan. What’d you want to talk about?”

Chapter Text

The battle is over. Faces have been washed clean of dirt, first aid performed, weapons polished, stomachs filled, torn clothes taken to be laundered and mended.

Even after washing out the blood and dirt, however, Joe’s hair is still a snarled mess.

Ahim sits back with a look of dismay on her face, comb still in hand. “Joe, I am sorry, I don’t think I can do much to assist you with this.”

He scowls as he reaches back to take the comb from her, but all he says is, “It’s fine, Ahim, you don’t have to. I appreciate the help.”

The comb is plucked out of his hand as soon as he’s got it. “Here. Ahim, budge up.”

She blinks and gets up from the couch. “Of course, Captain.”

Marvelous sits down with a thump behind Joe. “Just sit your ass still and don’t bitch at me, ok? It’s gonna pull no matter what I do, you look like a damn rat’s nest.”

Joe glances back over his shoulder with a tired grin. “Marvelous, when have I ever complained about you pulling my hair?”

Ahim giggles and goes over to where Doc and Luka have started up a game of cards. “Would you please deal me in, if you don’t mind?”

It does, as expected, take a long time. Marvelous spends much of that long time cursing, albeit quietly, working out tangles one at a time with the comb–and, occasionally, his fingertips, untwisting and undoing with surprising delicacy. As promised, Joe doesn’t complain, or speak at all, seemingly falling into a meditative state as Marvelous works.

When the worst tangles are out Marvelous puts aside the comb, just in time to catch the brush Luka throws at his head. He brushes, and, still in whatever trance he’s entered, Joe begins to hum. The sound comes from deep in his throat, aimless and tuneless and resonant. It’s so relaxing that the other three begin to drowse over their cards, deck nearly falling from Ahim’s hands as she starts her turn as dealer.

Finally Marvelous sets the brush down, leans forward, and kisses the back of Joe’s neck where his hair has for the moment parted, murmuring, “So you gonna start purring if I scratch your ears?”

Joe jerks upright, snapping out of his trance, cheeks flaming bright red. “Shut up, you knew this would happen.”

“Yeah, obviously, it’s cute, why else would I do it?”

Chapter Text

“You don’t have to do this alone, you know.”

In a city so abandoned, it’s easy to find privacy, but paradoxically, most people don’t want it. They huddle together, for warmth, for safety, for companionship. The loneliness of the empty streets is lessened by company.

But even in such an isolating time, everyone needs moments to themselves, to cry or panic or simply clench their jaw around the desire to scream. So Takatora is sitting at the corner table at Drupers, the one where the whole mess seems to have started ever so long ago, and no one is bothering him. He looks haggard and haunted, staring into the middle distance, elbows on his knees; everything about him says, “Leave me alone.”

He is left alone.

Except for Kouta, who sits down next to him. “Like, I know that you feel like you do. But you don’t have to do it alone, if you have to do it at all.”

Takatora’s mouth twitches. It’s not really a smile. “Unfortunately I do. And it should be alone. I don’t want to involve you.”

“Why not? He’s my friend. I’m offering.”

“I’ve made too many poor decisions already, I have no business making you culpable in one more.” Another mouth twitch, the non-smile there and gone. “I thought I was so brave.”

“You did what you thought you had to do. It was wrong, sure, but you know. You got mislead too. Just like all of us.”

“I have responsibilities, Kouta. Those with power should use it to protect those without. And I misused them, because I didn’t understand what I was doing. I thought I was making the hard decisions.” Takatora sits back, although he doesn’t look at Kouta yet. “The decisions a powerful man must make. If the cuckoo won’t sing, kill it.”

Kouta frowns. “Well, that’s just stupid.”

Takatora blinks. “Pardon?”

“What you just said.”

“It’s a quotation.”

“Yeah, I know, I kinda remember it from school.” Kouta wrinkles his nose. “I remember there being more parts to it. Hell if I know what they were. But anyway, if a bird won’t sing it’s worth figuring out why instead of just killing it, yeah? Maybe it’s hungry. Maybe it’s tired.” A sidelong look. “Maybe it’s lonely and needs a mate. If it won’t sing, give it a reason to sing.”

Takatora actually turns to stare at him in disbelief and then laughs. “The great unifiers crumble before your logic, Kazuraba Kouta.”

Kouta shrugs. “I just think it’s always worth giving things a second chance.”

“And when there aren’t any more second chances to offer?”

“There’s always something.”

The stare has less disbelief in it now, and more wonder. “You’re a rare bird yourself, Kouta.”

Another shrug and a bright, vivid grin. “I wouldn’t say that, but it’s nice that you think so.”

“But regardless…this is still something I have to do alone.”

“And I’m still gonna disagree with you, but we can argue about it later, I guess.” Kouta shifts closer to him on the little couch, their legs just brushing. “I worried about you the entire time you were gone, is all. I’d rather not have to do it more. I have enough people to worry about already.”

Takatora finds himself lost for a reply, but still he leans towards Kouta like a flower reaching for the sun. And Kouta leans towards him, and their lips meet in the middle.

It’s sweet. Not in the sense of “a sweet thing to do,” but the actual sweetness of milk and honey and fresh juice, of a piece of brown sugar melting on the tongue. No human mouth should taste like that.

Takatora stares, astonished, as Kouta says, “Look, just. I need to go talk to Mai, but. Let me know when you’re going?”

Takatora nods. He couldn’t speak if he wanted to.

If the cuckoo won’t sing, he thinks as he watches Kouta leave, as he raises a hand to his mouth and thinks of that unbelievable sweetness, give it a reason to sing.

Chapter Text

Aliens have landed downtown.

They’re not DeathGaliens, which is at least pleasant, since Yamato’s been vaguely worried about stragglers ever since they defeated Genis. They are, however, frightening people fairly badly, and they’re yelling in a language that no one understands.

At least there’s a clear leader. Yamato sighs, puts down his groceries on the nearest bench, and reaches into his jacket for his Mark.

–and has to jump back as an enormous shadow falls over him, more people start screaming, and the Gokaigers drop out of the sky. Four of them are in uniform; only Captain Marvelous hasn’t changed yet. Oddly enough, instead of stepping to the front of his crew, he’s standing back, letting them array themselves in front of him like an honor guard.

The yelling alien leader takes a step back and roars something that’s almost certainly extremely rude. There are also gestures, which Yamato can’t quite interpret, since there are more fingers than he’s used to and the bone structure looks more like a tapir’s foot than any real manipulating appendage.

Just as Marvelous isn’t standing at the forefront, now he doesn’t reply, which doesn’t seem like him. It’s Doc who takes a step up, yelling back in the same alien language, arms spread wide to take in the entire square, or perhaps the whole planet. Marvelous just crosses his arms on his chest and squints and scowls as if–ah. As if he doesn’t understand much of what’s being said either and he’s trying to hide it.

Yamato pulls his Mark out of his pocket and stands back, waiting for a sign that he’ll need to start defending people.

Doc continues to proclaim and gesticulate for a few minutes and then gestures grandiosely to Marvelous, who stands up a bit straighter, makes an irritated noise, and looks around for something. Yamato catches his eye and waves, very slightly.

Marvelous’ face lights up. He strides over to Yamato’s side, wraps an arm around his waist, and mutters, “Just go with it, Doc needs me to make an example.”

Yamato blinks. “Go with…what?”

The answer becomes apparent in seconds, though, because Marvelous dips him and kisses him like they’re on the cover of a romance novel.

Doc’s shouting and gesturing continue all through the kiss, which takes some time, because apparently Marvelous is trying to make it as flashy as he does everything else. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad kiss, it’s very nice. But Yamato’s feeling extremely watched.

He actually has to take a moment to catch his breath when Marvelous straightens back up.

The aliens yell one last thing, gesture in probably-disgust at Doc’s reply, and then shuffle back onto their ship and take off.

As soon as they’re gone, the Gokaigers de-transform, and Luka collapses into howls of laughter. The civilians still in the area give them all a wide berth.

Marvelous’ arm is still around Yamato’s waist. He says, “I brought your scarf back.”

Yamato fans himself. “It’s, uh. Nice to see you too, Marvelous. What was that?”

“Those guys wanted to strip mine the planet, but they’re real stupid. Easy to scare off. Doc told them I owned it.”

“Owned what?”

“Earth.”

“Ah.” Yamato nods slowly. “And the kissing was part of that?”

“Apparently I’m some kind of prince of whatever and this is where I keep my harem? I don’t know most of what he said, I don’t speak their language. Can’t make my throat do the thing.”

“Well, you do look very princely. Is that a new coat?”

Marvelous preens, very slightly. “Anyway, good thing they landed here, not really in the mood to get punched for kissing some random person.”

“That’s probably good, yeah. You’re still holding onto me.”

“Yeah, and?”

Yamato shrugs. “Just thought it was worth mentioning.” He looks over at the other pirates; Joe has helped Luka off the ground, but she’s still laughing hysterically. Doc’s looking very pleased with himself, and Ahim’s fingertips are pressed to her mouth as if she, too, is trying to hold back laughter. “Since you’re in the area, did you guys want to come over for dinner?”

Obviously the answer, from five mouths and with levels of enthusiasm varying from “noticeable” to “alarming,” is yes.

He digs his phone out of his pocket, takes a picture of the crew minus Marvelous (who has not yet moved his arm), and texts it to Misao. [so will you be mad at me if i bring pirates home for dinner]

The reply comes back in less than a minute. [I’d enjoy that but if I see Marvelous I’m going to punch him in the mouth]

[you know i think that’s fair]

[only the one punch though, I’m mostly over it]

[still reasonable. be home in 10. <3]

Chapter Text

They already had one celebration when Gai originally joined the team, but it seems appropriate to have another now that he and Doc are properly getting on. Any reason to have a party is good right now, really, any reason to enjoy themselves in the face of Zangyack and everyone. Luka produces a bottle from her stash of liquor–not the best stuff, she’s careful to point out, but decent. Joe is prevailed upon to make cake. Doc and Gai share the galley with him as best as they can, working on dinner, while Ahim insists upon decorations and makes Navi help her hang them.

Ahim’s also the one who pauses behind Marvelous’ chair, where he’s observing everything like a king, and says, cheerfully, “Our new teammate seems like he would be nice to kiss, he has a lovely smile. Have you checked yet?”

Marvelous chokes on his water. “Have I what?”

“Kissed Gai.”

“What makes you think I would?

She beams at him. “Well, Marvelous, it took you…” she takes a moment to count on her fingers, “five days from when I joined this crew for you to invite me to bed–and you were very courteous about it, it’s a wonderful memory. When Doc joined you asked him after two days, although it took him three weeks to accept. Luka has informed me that she asked you, and that it was a day and a half after she was brought on. I do not have any such confidences from Joe, but given what I know of your relationship, I imagine the count might be in hours instead of days.”

He stares at her. “Am I that predictable?”

She pats him on the arm. “It’s one of your more charming traits. You have a great deal of love to give, and you enjoy expressing it physically.”

He continues to stare, turning faintly red.

“In any case, I was considering asking him myself, or perhaps inviting Luka or Doc to ask with me, but I thought that as captain you would want precedence. If you’re not going to, though…”

He gulps down another mouthful of water before muttering, “If you let anyone know how good you are at reading me I’ll lock you in the brig.”

She leans forward and kisses his cheek, smiling. “No, you won’t. I will refrain from extending any invitations to Gai until you’ve had the opportunity.”

“…thanks.”

Ahim goes back to decorating, humming to herself as she does.

 


 

The conversation in the galley begins with Doc frowning down at the soup he’s making and saying, “I think I might have put in too much garlic.”

Gai tastes it and blinks. “Why would you say that? It’s delicious!”

“Thanks, but it’ll give Marvelous bad breath, and I didn’t think you’d want that.”

“I. Me? Why would I be worried about the captain’s breath?”

“Well, he won’t notice, and he’d definitely like to sleep with you. Obviously nobody’s expecting you to if you’re not interested, but you seemed like you might be, and I know I always hate it when he’s got garlic breath.”

There’s a long pause, and then Gai makes a sort of squawking noise and turns bright red. Nearby, Joe frowns into his buttercream and says, “I think Earthlings might have cultural hang-ups about sex, Doc.”

“Oh. Oh dear. Gai, do Earthlings have cultural hang-ups about sex? You’re allowed to kiss him if you want to, you know, he’s very enthusiastic about the process.”

 


 

Some long, awkward explanations are given, and after some initial blushing and coughing when he’s helping Doc serve food, Gai relaxes. Marvelous doesn’t seem to notice that he was ever tense, possibly because he makes a point of ignoring inconvenient things but also possibly because he’s been distracted by the enormous quantity of food. Dinner is delicious and segues successfully into cake and rum and poker, so it’s much like any other night on the Galleon except with decorations up.

Ahim starts to watch Marvelous thoughtfully over her cards when they’re a few hands in. Doc and Joe glance at each other, shrugging. Luka, not privy to any of the previous conversations but just as familiar as the other three with Marvelous’ habits, smirks as she deals. Eventually, they all know, Marvelous is going to ask Gai to bed, or possibly just go for a kiss if the mood seems right. It’s certainly seeming right to all of them, although the precise configuration of the evening hasn’t quite worked itself out yet.

And then–the unexpected happens.

Marvelous’ drink runs out, and he grumbles about it.

Gai gets up for a pitcher of water, nearly tripping over his feet in his hurry to get into the galley and then moving with exaggerated care when he comes back out. He pours for everyone, starting with Ahim and moving around the table until he comes back around to Marvelous.

Marvelous holds up his glass with a muttered thank-you.

And Gai turns bright red again, takes a deep breath, and leans down and kisses him.

There’s a moment of stunned silence before Marvelous says, “Ok, party’s over, everyone go away,” and pulls Gai into his lap. Gai’s manic grin is only visible for a moment before his mouth is occupied again.

Ahim claps politely.

Chapter Text

There’s something about dinosaur guys.

Don isn’t sure what it is about them, exactly, but it’s definitely there. An energy, a charisma, a vividness. He wouldn’t be surprised to think that it comes from their partners, that they absorb the wildness of the enormous monsters that they work with and only control by courtesy and teamwork. Nothing he’d want to do on a regular basis, definitely, but it suits them.

The Kyouryugers definitely have that energy, whatever it is. The party they’re throwing now isn’t exactly raucous, but Don’s definitely been in quieter rooms. Their Blue brought takeout, and also a kaijin woman that he’s apparently dating, and the kaijin woman brought a kaijin child who’s talking about comics with Gai. Joe and Luka are chatting about swords with a high schooler.

And there’s dancing. Someone put music on earlier, and Kyouryu Black, whose name he vaguely recalls being Ian, is swinging Ahim around the room as she beams at him. Kyouryu Blue and his kaijin girlfriend are dancing too, Kyouryu Pink and Kyouryu Gold are doing a sort of two-step, and Kyouryu Red–King, his name is King–is showing Marvelous some dance he learned in his travels.

“I like them.”

Don jumps. “Luka! I thought you were over there!”

“Yeah, but I couldn’t just let you mope in the corner. Anyway, dinosaur guys are always fun.” She grins. “Dance with me, don’t just stand around.”

“O-ok, if you want to.” He lets her haul him into the middle of the room.

They swing past King and Marvelous in time to hear King saying, “Here, you gotta put your hips into it.” He grabs Marvelous’ waist, spinning both of them together. “You know?”

Marvelous looks down at King’s hands, puts his own hands on King’s shoulders, and says, “How about I just let you lead.”

“Sure, if you want.” King smiles like he can’t imagine a world in which people cry. “It’s really easier for me to teach if we just start moving. So I step here, and you follow me…”

They’re going for a few minutes before Don realizes what’s going on and says in Luka’s ear, “Is it just me, or is the captain pretending to be a worse dancer than he actually is?”

She squints at them and then frowns. “Holy shit, he is. Damn. He must really like this guy.”

“Well, he does seem likable.” Don pauses. “Given the look on his face we may want to give them some space.”

“Yeah, come on, we’ll go hang out with Souji more, you’ll like him.”

The other dancers are also clearing the floor, breaking into conversation groups or getting food while King and Marvelous keep dancing. Marvelous is clearly restraining himself, but he’s not good at pretending to be bad at things; he nods along with King’s murmured instructions while his moving feet get more and more easily, unconsciously sure. Eventually the instructions stop, and it’s obvious that they’re both just dancing for the fun of it, the pretense dropped.

Next to Don, Kyouryu Pink says, “Damn, your captain’s a good dancer.”

“He likes to show off.” Don laughs nervously. “Your, uh, your Red is. Really something.”

“King’s a little overwhelming, it’s ok.” She smiles brightly at him. “So you guys haven’t seen any Deboss offshoots out in space, have you?”

“Pardon me, have we seen what?”

In the middle of the room, King swings Marvelous around and then down into an impressive dip, and his voice is only barely loud enough for Don to hear him saying, “And if we were on a date, this’s where I’d probably try to kiss you.”

Marvelous grins up at him. “So what’s stopping you now?”

The trick of being at a party is that sometimes, everyone just needs to pretend they’re not staring at something. Which is to say that it’s a pretty lengthy kiss. Possibly several kisses.

“So I think we’ll probably need to expect him home in the morning,” Kyouryu Pink says to Kyouryu Gold, who nods thoughtfully and murmurs a quiet assent. “Does your ship have soundproofing?”

Don blinks at her. “Does it have what?”

“Soundproofing. I think–yeah, they’re definitely leaving. King gets noisy.”

Chapter Text

Hiiro hates being forced to admit it, but he likes having Emu around. The CR support is good, of course, but even more than that, having a colleague on hand to deal with the interminable reports the Ministry of Health demands is something Hiiro appreciates more than he’s willing to say.

Of course, there’s appreciating the man’s assistance and then there’s tolerating the man’s presence, which comes with a whole host of special irritants that Hiiro feels should have been warned about in medical school. Like the occasional fizzing noises, the origin of which he doesn’t know and which is annoying enough to finally make him look up from the patient file he’s reviewing and say, “Pediatrician, what is that–ah. Bugster.”

Parad glances at him, says, “Good morning, Brave,” kisses Emu on the top of his ear in a way that makes Emu stifle laughter and swat at him, and then disappears in a cloud of pixels. The de-materialization makes a sound like a can of soda being opened–it fizzes.

That would explain it.

“Look,” Emu says in response to Hiiro’s look, “I told him I’m working, he doesn’t always listen to me.”

“Mm.” Hiiro tries to hold back his frown, although the effort is unfamiliar. “How. How is the report going?”

Emu gives his laptop a distressed look. “Software engineers are exhausting.”

“I’ve gathered as much from the coroner.”

“So he told you about his undergrad roommate too.”

“At length.”

Emu just flashes him a tired grin and turns back to his typing, and Hiiro returns to his reading.

There’s about ten minutes of silence, and then the fizzing comes back, along with more stifled laughter, and Hiiro turns around again and says, “Bugster, if you can’t–coroner, what are you doing here?”

Kiriya is standing next to Emu’s chair, leaning in to whisper something in his ear. Emu blushes and bats at him. He catches Hiiro’s eye and winks. “Just stopping by, you know how it is.”

“I don’t, actually, would you care to–”

But before he can even finish his sentence, Kiriya kisses Emu on the side of the head just behind his ear, which is apparently a ticklish spot from how Emu reacts, and then pixelates away.

Emu gives Hiiro a hangdog look. “They think I’m working too hard.”

Hiiro squints at him, noting the beginnings of dark circles under his eyes, and says nothing more than, “We’re all working hard, pediatrician.” The only reason his own dark circles aren’t visible is due to the careful application of concealer, a secret he intends to take with him to his grave.

Emu nods and goes back to his report, and Hiiro again returns to his reading.

The fizzing returns after another ten minutes, this time a longer, more sustained burst, followed by the sound of Emu finally laughing aloud and saying, “Ok, this isn’t fair, you’re ganging up on me–”

Hiiro turns around to the sight of Parad sprawled in Emu’s lap in a rather ungainly fashion while Kiriya’s arms wrap around him from behind. One of Parad’s hands isn’t visible; from the way Emu’s wiggling he’s apparently being tickled. There’s some kissing happening as well, on…just about every part of Emu’s face the two Bugsters can reach.

Hiiro sighs, leans forward a bit to get a clearer look at the dark circles under Emu’s eyes, and then clears his throat loudly. “Pediatrician, if you’re that unable to focus, I suggest you take the afternoon off and go somewhere else where I’m not trying to work.”

Emu clearly tries to respond, but can’t manage it before dissolving into laughter again. Kiriya, however, gives Hiiro a thumbs up. “You hear that, Emu, you’re allowed to rest for five minutes, the Ministry doesn’t need that stuff for another two days.”

“Or then again.” Hiiro glances at his papers and then sweeps them into their folder and gets up. “Perhaps I’ll just go read outside. The weather is pleasant today.”

He shuts the door not quite quickly enough to avoid hearing Parad’s whoop of delight.

Chapter Text

Haruto isn’t fighting Gremlin, but then again, the problem with Gremlin is that you never start out by fighting Gremlin. He just shows up, inserting himself into any and all moments with all the ease and and cheery malevolence of a rabid raccoon.

The point is, Haruto is on his bike chasing down a Phantom who’s been menacing a local news anchor with an enormous pair of scissors, passes under a pedestrian bridge, and suddenly finds himself with an armful of Takigawa Sora. He skids to a stop, and Sora slings an arm around his neck and flashes him a sunny grin. “Afternoon, mage, how’s life?”

Haruto tries to dump him on the ground, but he clings like a limpet. “I am doing something, Gremlin. Or is this when we finally fight?”

“Please. Call me Sora. How’s the lovely Miss Puppet? Please tell me she’s wearing white today, I think she’d look beautiful in white.”

This time Haruto does manage to dump him on the ground, although he springs to his feet immediately and brushes himself off. “Do you want something?”

“Just to interfere. I’ve got a little bit of argument in progress with Suzuki there, I was hoping I could talk you into not killing him so I could do it.”

Haruto blinks. “What? No. I don’t accept help from you. What are you even arguing about?”

“Gimmick infringement.” For a moment Sora’s grin flickers out of sight, replaced with a calmly murderous stare. “I don’t appreciate anyone else deciding to run with scissors, Tailor or no. Anyway, I’m not offering to help, I’m telling you to back off. I have a score to settle.”

“And I’m telling you I don’t trust you.”

“That’s all right.” Sora rolls his neck, grin returning, and–leaps into Haruto’s arms like a cartoon rabbit and kisses him on the corner of his mouth. “Thanks for stopping to chat! I think that’s about as much delay as I needed. I am faster than you, you know.”

Startled, Haruto swats at him, but he’s already leapt down, transformed, and bounded away.

Chapter Text

For a place so large, the Kureshima house has shockingly little living space. There are at least 40 rooms, but only six are used regularly–two bedrooms, the dining room, the kitchen, a living room which would probably be used more if the Kureshima men were at all inclined to relax in each other’s company, and Takatora’s home office. Once it was a family library, but almost none of the books in it now are relevant to Micchi’s studies or appealing to his recreational interests, so he’s generally content to leave it to his brother.

Tonight, though, there’s a history Micchi needs, and he’s sure that the last place he saw it was Takatora’s office, so he ventures forth.

The door is open. Not by much, just a crack, enough to see that there’s a light on. Micchi sighs, ready to scold his brother for working too late again and exhausting himself–there’s a couch in Takatora’s office, on which he isn’t supposed to sleep and yet persistently sleeps on anyway, working far later into the night than is healthy. It faces the door, because Takatora can no longer sit with his back to doorways or windows, and through the crack Micchi can see his brother’s head, resting on the armrest.

He reaches for the knob and stops.

Takatora says, “Kouta…”

No, he doesn’t say it, he sighs it.

Micchi’s hand tightening convulsively on the doorknob pulls the door open just a bit more.

Kouta isn’t golden, isn’t armored, isn’t glowing. He looks much the same as he always did, but also different, in some imperceptible way. His smile is the same, though. In fact it’s the old smile, the one that he had before anything happened. Takatora’s jacket is thrown over the back of the couch, and his shirt is open, and Kouta is kissing him–on his mouth, on the side of his neck, on his chest and stomach and–

Not for the first time in his life, Micchi wishes that his position and his brother’s were reversed. He wonders if Kouta’s hands are still as warm as they always were, if his hair is soft, if his mouth tastes sweet, if his voice would be so gentle if he were saying Micchi’s name instead of, “It’s all right, Takatora. I’m here. I’m here.” Do his kisses burn, now that he’s a god? Does it feel strange to be lifted by someone who could shatter a mountain with his fingertips? Because that’s what he’s doing, sitting back on the couch and picking Takatora up and pulling him forward, Takatora’s usually neat suit pants rumpled as he straddles a god’s lap.

Micchi stands with his hand on the doorknob and is jealous, jealous, jealous of his brother, who has Kouta’s mouth on his throat and one of Kouta’s broad hands resting on the small of his back. Kouta’s kisses must burn, from the way Takatora gasps when he’s pulled into another, or maybe that’s just because Kouta’s other hand is between his legs.

Takatora says, again, “Kouta,” and it sounds like a sacrament, and again Kouta says, “I’m here.”

Micchi pulls the door to his brother’s office shut and runs, face burning.

Chapter Text

Gai actually reaches up through the entryway and knocks on the floor before climbing up into the crow’s nest, which gives Luka time to step out of his way. “Don said to tell you it’s time for dinner.”

Luka raises an eyebrow. “He told you to climb all the way up here?”

“Well, no, he just asked me to get people, but I figured you’d be up here, it seems like you like it.”

“Yeah, this is my spot.” She looks Gai up and down and then steps forward, backing him up against the mast. “I still think you’re cute, damn, normally that wears off after a couple of days. You gonna freak out if I kiss you?”

“Uh.” His nose turns pink. “No? Like, no, I won’t freak out, not no you can’t kiss me. Actually, please kiss me.”

It’s fairly brief, her lips pressed to his, her hand on the side of his face. When she pulls back, he’s grinning like an idiot and she wrinkles her nose. “Well, that just made you cuter.”

 


 

“This is good practice.” Joe dances out of range of Gai’s trident, not smiling, but not quite un-smiling. “No one else around here uses something with that much reach.”

Gai shrugs and switches his grip from swinging to thrusting. It’s not that hard to do, the trident isn’t very heavy, but it still feels unfamiliar in his hands. “I mean it’s pretty new to me! But I like it!”

“It’s an intimidating weapon. That’s valuable. Trick is,” and Joe ducks the thrust and closes the distance between them, hooking an arm around Gai’s and knocking the trident from his hands, “you need to keep your distance if it’s going to be useful.” He bears Gai down to the ground, cutlass in one hand poised as if to stab him. “Not much you can do to an opponent who gets through your guard.”

Winded, Gai beams up at him. “I’ll do my best.”

“I’m sure.” Joe stabs his cutlass into the ground next to Gai’s head and then kisses him on the nose. “Don’t let me get so close next time.”

“I’m, uh. That’s not a great way of convincing me not to?”

 


 

The galley isn’t large; having two cooks in it takes a lot of focus, and more practice than either Doc or Gai have. They shift around each other awkwardly, all elbows, trying to share the limited counter space and small range without messing up any of the food. Eventually they’ll both get used to it, but right now it’s new.

Doc trips over his own feet, catches himself, and jostles Gai’s elbow, and the tomato sauce Gai’s working on is shifted on the stovetop and begins to bubble for a moment and pops in Gai’s face.

Gai says, “Ow,” and then, “Are you ok?”

“What? I’m fine, are you all right? You have.” Doc gestures awkwardly to Gai’s face. “Sauce.”

“I do? Where?” Gai tries to look at his own face, obviously unsuccessfully. “I can’t really figure out where it hit me.”

“Then I’ll get it, hold still.” Doc wipes the smear of tomato off with a corner of his apron, and then after a second’s pause leans forward and kisses him on the cheek. “Ok, it’s gone.”

They don’t talk for the rest of the time they’re cooking, both blushing into their work, but they don’t trip on each other either.

 


 

Ahim says, “Come in,” and her face brightens when Gai steps into her cabin, carefully balancing a tray as he walks. “Gai! It’s a pleasure to see you.”

He turns pink. “I, uh. Marvelous said you weren’t feeling well, so I brought you tea.”

“It’s a usual thing, it’ll pass.” She watches him warmly as he pours her a cup. “This is very kind of you, Gai. Two sugars, please, and lemon.”

He already has precisely two sugar cubes on the tray, and one slice of lemon, and he grins at her as he stirs everything together. “I asked Don how you take your tea.”

“You’re very thoughtful.” She accepts the tea cup carefully, taking it in both hands, and then beckons to him once she has a solid grip on the cup’s handle. “Come a little closer, please?” He does, and she kisses him on the forehead. “Thank you, Gai, I appreciate this.”

Gai shuffles his feet, looking delighted. “If you need anything else, just let me know.”

 


 

Marvelous kisses the hollow of his throat and says, “So how do you like piracy so far?”

“Oh, I mean, well,” Gai gasps, adjusting his grip on the back of the chair and hiding his face in the side of Marvelous’ neck, “it’s pretty great so far.”

Chapter Text

Ankh says, “Eiji, smile for me.”

“You don’t exactly need to tell me to do that.” Eiji beams up at him. “You all right?”

“I like these.” Ankh kisses Eiji’s cheek, pressing his lips to one deep indent. “They’re there more when you smile.” He kisses the other cheek, the other dimple, mouth opening almost as if to bite. “They’re good.”

“I’ll try to smile more around you then, if they make you that happy.”

Ankh’s claws grip his chin, tilting his head back, and kisses press against every part of his face. “The lines don’t even get in the way.” Kisses on his crow’s feet, on the furrow lines between his eyes, on the dimples again. “Somehow I never expected you to wrinkle.”

“Well, it’s been a long time since you last saw me.” Eiji reaches up to hold him, steadying the still-light weight straddling his waist. He keeps smiling. If he doesn’t keep smiling he’ll cry.

“Twenty years.” It’s almost a curse, breathed against his lips from a mouth that seems to be rapidly forgetting how to sneer. “Twenty years, and even that last time was barely for an hour.”

You look just like you always have.”

“I can change that if I want to.” Ankh kisses his mouth, and then his cheeks again. “I could get old for you.”

Eiji laughs. “If you want to.” His neck feels infinitely lighter now that he’s not wearing anything around it, the little pouch he’s carried all these years finally successfully emptied, its contents repaired and currently perched on top of him in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere. “I’m just happy to see you again.”

“You better be.” Ankh kisses him again, a tear that Eiji won’t mention falling from the tip of his nose. “It’s not like I’m planning on going anywhere.”

Chapter Text

Kairi’s hands look like they were made for picking locks, and Keiichiro tells him so.

Kairi gives him a sidelong look. “Kinda sounds like you’re insulting me there, Kei-chan.

Keiichiro feels himself go red in the face. “That’s, uh. I’m not, really. It’s a good thing. I just…thought if I said you had violinist’s hands you’d laugh at me.”

“Ok, yeah, maybe I would’ve. Still not sure what you mean, though.” The sidelong look picks up a little bit of smolder, and Kairi holds out a hand to him. “You gonna tell me?”

Keiichiro takes the offered hand in both of his as if preparing to read the future in it, and then bends down and kisses it instead, feeling Kairi’s fingers twitch as lips brush his palm. “I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. They’re a good shape.” He turns Kairi’s hand over and kisses each knuckle, one by one. “And you move them like you know how to do things with them.” Each of Kairi’s fingertips. “I know that’s vague.” The inside of his wrist.

“I can work with vague,” Kairi says, breathy, pupils blown. “Vague’s fine.”

Other hand. Same thing. Palm, knuckles, fingertips, inside of the wrist, the only difference is that now Kairi’s holding onto him, and then isn’t holding onto him because Keiichiro grabs both of his wrists and moves forward, pressing them down to the bed above his head. “Every part of you is beautiful.” He kisses Kairi’s palms again, one after the other, and then gets both wrists in one grip so that he can reach down between them.

Kairi responds by moaning and wrapping his legs around Keiichiro’s waist, and it’s probably good that they were already in bed, because it means less clothing to get out of the way or ruin. Just boxers, easy to tug down, easy to feel Kairi shuddering up against him.

“Every part of you is beautiful,” he says again as Kairi’s hips roll up into his and Kairi’s wrists tense with the effort of not trying to pull free. “But I like your hands.”

Chapter Text

Kagura has hugged everyone at least once, and the only one who’s surprised by it is Marvelous. “You’re very different from my Pink,” he says, blinking down at her even as he hugs her back. “You remind me a bit of Gokai Silver.”

“Well, you’ve seemed like you needed a hug this whole time.” Kagura squeezes him tightly for a moment and then lets go, hurrying over to talk to Luka again with stars in her eyes. They seem to have bonded, which isn’t a bad thing.

He’s hardly going around giving out hugs. Takaharu and Stinger are, and will have to be, content with handshakes. And then he’s standing in front of Yamato, and Yamato grins at him and says, “You look good, Marvelous.”

Marvelous scowls. “You always look good.”

“Well, so do you, but it seemed like it’d be worth saying.”

“Hm. I’m not shaking your hand.”

Takaharu starts to step towards them, mouth opening as if he’s going to argue with Marvelous’ perfectly reasonable statement, and then stops as Marvelous gets a fistful of the front of Yamato’s shirt and pulls him down into a kiss.

Somewhere behind them, Kagura lets out a squeak of delight and starts clapping.

“Yeah, that seems more like the pirate I know,” Yamato murmurs as he pulls back. “It is good to see you again. Are you planning on visiting Earth again soon? Misao’s promised he won’t punch you next time.”

“I could maybe be persuaded.” Marvelous steps away and brushes himself off. “I mention your hair looks good? The shorter haircut suits you.”

Chapter Text

Daiki’s sitting on a wall with a pinwheel in his hand, legs swinging, and he opens with, “Ohh, I like the hat, what are you supposed to be today?”

“A private investigator, apparently.” Tsukasa scowls at the ID card in his hand, although he does also check out his own reflection in a nearby window. It is a good hat for him. Maybe he should wear hats more often. “You haven’t caught the name of this place, have you?”

“Fuuto. You haven’t seen a Lost Driver around here anywhere, have you? Don’t answer that, of course you haven’t, you just got here.” Daiki jumps down from the wall and lands on his feet like a cat. “So who’s supposed to be your partner? Natsumikan or Yuusuke?”

“What? Neither of them, they’re on vacation, I left them in a world that has a beach with a good bar and no villains and told them I’d pick them up in a week.”

“That’ll be a problem, then, if you haven’t got one they’ll just arrest you.” Daiki’s hand slips into his as if it’s always been meant to go there, and he winks. “Don’t worry, Tsukasa, I’ll be your partner. Speaking of which, oh look, the cops, let’s not give them any reason to pay attention to us.” He leans forward into a lengthy kiss that Tsukasa is too puzzled, and then too pleased by, to stop.

A car with a pinwheel painted on the driver’s-side door and flashers on the roof drives up beside them, slows down for a moment, and then pulls past.

Once it’s out of sight, Daiki pulls back and flutters his eyelashes flirtatiously. “It’s a pleasure to be working with you, partner.”

“Don’t be a goddamn tease, Kaitou.” Tsukasa reaches out and tugs him in close again for another kiss. It doesn’t last nearly as long as the first one, but it’s significantly more heated, Tsukasa’s teeth catching on Daiki’s lower lip for a moment as he pulls their bodies flush together. “So we’re partners now?”

“For the moment.” Daiki makes a little noise in the back of his throat as one of Tsukasa’s legs pushes between his. “If you’ve got somewhere we can go then I’ll tell you all about it.”

“Sounds good.” Tsukasa kisses him again. “What’s the catch?”

Daiki grins dreamily at him. “You have to keep the hat on.”

Chapter Text

It’s a soft voice, barely present, fading in and out like an echo. “Ren. Listen to me.”

It takes a long moment for Ren to realize that he’s in any way conscious at all, and another, longer moment to realize that he’s being addressed. “Who…?”

Phantom laughter, very gentle, bounces around his head. “It’s been a long time. You seem like maybe you’ve gotten nicer.”

“…Yui?”

“Listen to me, Ren. I don’t have much left to speak to you with. You know that you died, right?”

“I…yeah. I remember that.”

“Well, I’m going to change that.”

“Yui, don’t–”

“No, not like that. Not like that.” The echo of Yui’s voice shifts around him, and for a flickering second he can see her smiling. “Shirou left. So I’m going to destroy the Mirror World entirely, so that it can’t be used again, ever. The energy has to go somewhere.” There’s a sound that might be more laughter and might be a sob. “It’s only enough for a few years, but it’s something.”

 


 

Shinji walks without seeing, lost in his own mind, feet moving but thoughts elsewhere as he remembers and remembers and remembers. There’s so much to remember. Much of it is good, but more is painful.

“Hopefully those kids will have an easier time of it than me,” he says to himself, quietly, feeling the phantom weight of a deck in his pocket. “They seemed–”

Thump, and the splash of liquid on the pavement as whoever he’s run into spills their coffee.

“Shit, I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was–”

“Why weren’t you looking where you were–”

They stop talking simultaneously as their eyes meet, and then Shinji reels back. He’s seeing a ghost. Or if he’s not seeing a ghost, then it’s someone from the Mirror World, and that’s bad too. “Ren?”

Ren stares at him, too, now-empty coffee cup dropping from his hand, and he’s the one who says, “You died.”

“You–I died? You died! I saw you die!”

Ren grabs his arm and drags him into the doorway of a shuttered cafe and shoves him back against the wall, pushes their mouthes together, says against his lips again, “You died. I loved you, and you died, and I had to go fight Odin with your blood still on my hands. I loved you, and you died.”

Shinji kisses him back, hands scrabbling for purchase on the front of his current dramatic black duster, and says back to him, “What are you talking about, you died, how are you even here?

“Someone must have wished for it.”

Silence and more kisses, hands in each other’s hair, on each other’s faces to relearn what they have for so many years forgotten, on each other’s bodies where Ren’s put on some weight and Shinji’s gotten so thin, and they have to stop for breath eventually. They’re not as young as they used to be. Shinji says, “If someone wished for it, it wasn’t me, I didn’t get any wishes, I didn’t want anything from there, what did you wish for? When I died?”

“I wished for a world in which you were happy.” Ren’s eyes are gleaming. “It only seemed fair.”

“Then maybe this is just your wish still.”

“…well, I see you’re still a fucking sap.”

Hey, I’m trying to be sincere, we’re having this whole emotional moment, I’m not a sap.” Shinji glares up at him for a moment and then starts to laugh breathlessly. “You’re still an asshole.”

Ren just shrugs. “Not going to argue with that.”

“No, hey, you have to argue with it, I promised you we’d fight.”

“That’d be fighting about something.” Ren kisses him again. “You said we’d fight about nothing.”

“I’m sure that’s not what I said, why would I want to fight about nothing?”

“That’s definitely what you said, don’t try to weasel out of it now.”

“No, I hate fighting, what’s the point in fighting about nothing?

Chapter Text

“You’re not supposed to sleep on there, you know.”

Takatora jolts upright. “I wasn’t asleep, I–Kouta? I. Didn’t hear you arrive.”

“I can be quiet about it if I want to.” Kouta smiles at him, perched on his desk, white cloak hanging down past his feet. “I mean, I have to keep the, uh. The outfit on to do it, but I didn’t actually want to wake you right away. You don’t sleep enough.”

“I sleep a perfectly reasonable amount for a man my age.”

“Like you’re so much older than me. And no, you don’t.”

Takatora tries to look and sound irritated, but he’s tired enough that all he can really manage is “petulant.” “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, Kazuraba.”

“Sure you are. If you’re so good at it then go sleep in your bed and not on your horrible office couch.” In response to the look Takatora gives him, and with an offensively beautiful twinkle in his eye, “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got good memories attached to your horrible office couch, but none of them involve sleeping on it or you calling me Kazuraba.”

The urge to blush is powerful, but Takatora is fairly sure that he manages to suppress it. “Regardless, I have to go over these reports, I can’t go to bed yet.”

“You know I can and will pick you up and carry you there, right? …oh, ok, that’s a look.”

“What? What look?”

Kouta is already hopping down off the desk, no trace of his presence left behind–every paper and binder is exactly how Takatora left it. He approached the couch and holds out a hand. “Are you going to get up, or do I carry you?” Takatora stares at his outstretched hand and doesn’t get up, and Kouta smiles again and says, “Yeah, I thought so,” and then bends down and picks him up.

He considers arguing, but it’s easier and more pleasant to rest his head against Kouta’s shoulder and enjoy the warm arm at his back and the other under his legs. “I don’t need you to carry me, you know.”

“I know. But you enjoy it.”

Kouta walks through the house, and it must be past midnight, it’s so silent. Not a sign of movement, no whisper of Mitsuzane watching videos in his bedroom long past when he should have been asleep. Hopefully the glow won’t wake him.

They get to Takatora’s bedroom, and Kouta shoulders the door open and lays him down on the bed, still dressed. “You know, this is pretty tempting. Like, as far as temptations go this is a really good one.”

“I don’t think you’re the right sort of god to take advantage of it.” Takatora can’t stop a yawn. “You’re not particularly Zeus-like. And I’d make a terrible Ganymede.”

“I will. Uh. Look those references up and get back to you.”

“Don’t bother, I’m talking nonsense.”

“You know what’d help with that? Sleeping.”

Takatora rolls his eyes. “God willing.”

“I’m literally right here telling you to get some sleep.”

“Yes, it was a joke.”

“Close your eyes, Takatora.”

He does, and sleep immediately begins to overtake him. The last thing he feels before slipping away is Kouta’s lips brushing his eyelids, one and then the other.

“Sweet dreams. I promise.”

Chapter Text

None of them are birthday people, and holidays are too easy to forget after the long nights and longer days they’ve all spent working towards a cure. They’ve got so few reasons to celebrate, and so many to keep working, that when something finally does come up, Poppy goes a little overboard. So there are balloons in the CR meeting room, and confetti, and a cake that says, “Vaccine trials succeed!” with a little hypo drawn on it in icing. In concession to the fact that they’re all adults, though, there’s also beer, and the toasting starts relatively early.

Kiriya starts it. Of course he does. He sounds serious, but it’s somewhat undercut by the frosting on his nose. “I propose a toast. To Kagami Hiiro, our best surgeon–the best surgeon, ‘scuse me–for doing way more of the operations than the rest of us so we could keep the research going.”

They toast. Hiiro doesn’t blush, quite, but he looks like he’s *thinking* about blushing, which is as close as he normally gets anyway. Not to be outdone, once the drinks have been set down he raises his own and says, “And to the co–to Kujou Kiriya, for working far longer hours in the pathology lab than anyone else was capable of.”

Glasses clink.

“To be fair, I don’t need to sleep.”

“Well, we do.” Taiga stares into his beer, looking exhausted. “We appreciate it. To…to Nico and Poppy, for having better bedside manner than Kagami ever has.”

Hiiro makes an offended noise, but Emu grins. “And Parad, official Seito therapy Bugster!”

Parad looks up in surprise from where he’s perched on the back of the couch with a slice of cake. “We’re saying nice things about me?”

Nico sticks her tongue out at him, although fondly. “We’re saying nice things about your Rubix cube stuff. We should also toast Taiga for putting up with all those blood draws.”

The toasting continues for several minutes, until it’s Poppy who finally says, cheerfully, “You know who I think deserves congratulations?”

Everyone turns to look at her, Nico’s forehead wrinkling as she says, “Who?”

“To Emu. For putting up with the software engineers so that none of you had to.” She leans over and plants a rather motherly kiss square in the center of Emu’s forehead.

Kiriya blinks. “Oh, we’re kissing now? That’s what’s happening?”

“Well, I don’t have a drink, I can’t really toast him.”

“No, I can work with that, not like I don’t kiss him all the time anyway.” Kiriya grins, grabs the collar of Emu’s coat, and kisses him solidly on the mouth. “To you, babe, for saving us all from programmers.”

Nico gets up on her chair and leans across the table before Kiriya’s even let go. “This is a one-time thing, ok?” She kisses Emu on the nose. “We will never speak of this again.”

Emu blinks up at her, looking slightly dazed. “Ok…? I’m feeling. I’m feeling loved.”

“I feel like I should object to this obvious character assassination on behalf of programmers everywhere.”

Everyone jumps–mostly backwards, except for Kiriya, who hops to his feet instead and swats at Dan Kuroto with a magazine as if he’s a housefly. “Get off the goddamn table, what the hell.”

“Would you rather I came out of a pipe again?” Kuroto rolls his eyes. “What I was saying was, I should obviously be objecting to your malicious mischaracterization of programmers everywhere, but I’ve managed too many dev teams to say that you’re wrong.” He kisses Emu on the top of the head, like a benediction, and then disappears back behind his curtain.

“Ok, what, what the hell was, that stung!” Emu turns towards the curtain, eyes wide with surprise, and directly into Parad’s grinning face. Parad kisses him nearly as solidly as Kiriya and then fizzes back over to the couch. “All right, everyone’s kissing me now, I guess that’s just my life.” He doesn’t look unhappy about it.

I’m certainly not kissing you.”

Nico elbows Taiga in the ribs. “No, if I did it you have to.” And then, at Taiga’s dry peck on Emu’s cheek, “Oh, come on, that was a grandma kiss.”

Taiga makes a face at her. “I’m not doing it again.”

“I’m not asking you to, I’m just saying you could’ve made an effort.

Emu takes a sip of his beer, pink-faced. “I mean nobody has to kiss me. Not that I’m saying don’t but it’s not. Like. Required.”

“Little late for that, babe, I think the only person here who hasn’t kissed you is Hiiro. Which, come on, doc, you gonna or do I have to do it again? Because I’ll kiss him again, obviously, but you haven’t gotten a turn.”

“Kiriya, don’t bug him about it–”

Hiiro kisses him, lengthily and with focus. Nico and Kiriya both whistle, and then bump fists across the tabletop. Parad lets out a delighted whoop, and Poppy an, “Oh!” Taiga just stares at them, and then at his beer, as if he’s worried that it might have been drugged.

After a moment, Hiiro sits back, brushes himself off primly, and says, “Pass me another slice of cake, please.”

Emu just sits there, stunned. Kiriya says, “Damn, that was a lot.”

“If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it well.”

Chapter Text

Parad has learned fear but not caution. Emu can’t exactly fault him for this; with Dan Masamune gone, there’s little or nothing that can hurt him, and few situations that he can’t escape from in seconds if he really wants. Still, even knowing this, it can be a little heart-stopping to watch him pretend to tempt fate. He climbs trees far too slim to support human weight, juggles scalpels because he saw someone do it on YouTube, spends all night watching action movies and then nearly gets stuck trying to climb through the air ducts in the hospital. As long as water’s not involved, he’s fine and dandy and walks away unscathed.

There’s tempting fate, though, and then there’s antagonizing Hiiro when he’s working, which is on an entirely different level.

“Bugster,” he says, not looking up from his notes.

“Brave.”

“I have a name.”

“So do I, but you don’t see me making you use it.”

“This is the third time in the past hour that you’ve materialized on the table, was there something you wanted?”

Parad just stares at him for a moment and then disappears again.

The heavily-suppressed “help me” look Hiiro shoots Emu is so cute that it’s hard to resist the urge to laugh. “Pediatrician–Emu. Is there something he wants?

Emu shrugs. “Well, he’s worried about the wall we’ve hit on the current Game Disease research and the fact that he can’t really help with it, and he gets frustrated because you can’t just sort of tell what he’s feeling the way I can. Also he’s mad at me right now because I beat him at Pac-Man Championship Edition this morning, he takes losses at Pac-Man a little personally even when it’s me.”

“For any particular–ah. Yes. Of course he would.” Hiiro pauses, staring down at his notes for a moment before saying, haltingly, “Is there…anything I can do? To assist with his worries?”

“Give him something to organize, maybe? He’s good at sorting things, but I can’t ever let him do it with my stuff because then I can’t find anything, and also I don’t really have enough paperwork in hard copy for him to do anything with it.” Emu grins at him. “Also you could kiss me, that’d help.”

A variety of reactions flicker over Hiiro’s face in quick succession. “I am, we are working–also how would kissing you–would he. Feel it? Does he generally feel…that sort of thing?”

“Well, generally he knows it’s happening, same way I sort of have a general idea of what he’s up to. But if I get his attention then he’ll definitely know what’s up.”

Hiiro turns faintly pink. “You know I hate doing anything like that in public.”

“I know, but we’re not really in public, are we?” Emu gestures vaguely to the CR meeting room, deserted but for them. “Otherwise I wouldn’t suggest it.”

Hiiro stares at him for a moment, turning pinker, and then walks over to where he’s sitting, leans down, and kisses him.

Of course, this is the moment that Poppy walks in, clipboard in hand, and says, “Hiiro, are you–oh!”

Hiiro jumps. Emu turns a bit pink himself, but then his eyes gleam red and the blush fades as he grins. “Thank you, Brave, I needed that.”

Hiiro frowns at him, still red in the face. “I’m speaking to Parad now, correct?”

“Yeah. You kiss M differently than you kiss me, I never noticed that before.”

Poppy quietly excuses herself, hand clapped over her mouth to suppress her giggles.

“I apologize for being short with you earlier, would you be willing to assist me in organizing some of the CR’s files?”

“Sure, I love sorting things.” Parad fizzes into existence on the couch next to Emu. “What am I doing?”

Emu buries his face in his hands, letting out a small noises that, from the shaking of his shoulders, is apparently laughter. “I’m sorry, Hiiro, I had no idea Poppy was going to walk in just now.”

Hiiro coughs. “It’s, ah. It’s fine. It’s not as if she didn’t know already.”

Chapter Text

The apartment door opens, and the first thing that happens is that Misao punches Marvelous in the face.

Marvelous reels back against the walkway railing and falls on his ass, cursing sulfurously. Misao flexes his hand, wincing, and then kisses Yamato on the cheek and nods cheerfully to the other Gokaigers. “It’s nice to see all of you, it’s been a while. Please, come in.”

They all stare at him, shocked. Slowly, Joe says, “Ah. What was that for?”

“I owed him one.”

“…Marvelous?”

“No, he’s right, I deserved that.” Marvelous takes Misao’s offered hand and stands up, wiping a trickle of blood off the corner of his mouth with his thumb. “We even now?”

“I don’t see why not, as long as you don’t kick me in the stomach again.” Misao turns so that everyone can file inside past him.

You’ve changed a lot.”

“Thank you.”

After a bit more blinking and staring, the other Gokaigers make themselves comfortable, although Marvelous stays on his feet. It’s not a large apartment; five additional people make the space tight enough that Ahim perches neatly on Luka’s lap instead of finding her own seat. Yamato puts away groceries and puts on water for tea, and Misao leans against the wall next to the door and says, “So what brings you back to Earth?”

“Oh, didn’t I mention?” Yamato’s head pops up from behind the refrigerator door. “Marvelous owns it.”

“Owns what?”

“Earth. He’s the prince of the, uh…”

“Saiyan Empire,” Doc offers helpfully. “Don’t bother asking where it is, I made it up.”

“That! Yeah, his harem is here, he kissed me in public and everything, it was very dramatic. No, no, it’s fine, it was a whole thing, they were running off some guys who wanted to strip mine the planet for–you said tin, right?”

Doc nods. Luka, only recently recovered from her gales of laughter at the original ruse, looks like she might start laughing again.

Misao eyes Marvelous warily for a moment. “And did you need to kiss Yamato specifically?

Marvelous shrugs. “Well, not specifically, but I appreciated him being there, I prefer kissing people I know to strangers.”

There’s a long pause before, “He’s a good kisser.”

“I mean, yeah, I think so, I’d assume you do too if he’s living with you now.”

 


 

Midway through dinner, Luka gets a text message that makes her raise her eyebrows, and which, when shared with Ahim, raises Ahim’s eyebrows as well. They excuse themselves not long after the meal, Ahim murmuring something to Marvelous as Luka shakes Yamato’s hand firmly, and then Misao’s slightly more firmly, and tells him, “That was a good punch, sometimes he needs it.”

Doc and Joe stay for coffee, but then they go too, Doc saying something vague about never having any quiet to read in. Joe pulls Marvelous out onto the walkway for a moment, but Marvelous doesn’t leave with him.

As soon as the door closes behind him again, Misao says, “So Yamato’s part of your harem.

“It’s not just him, technically it’s the whole planet.” Marvelous smirks. “Anyway, Doc made that up, and like I said, I just didn’t feel like kissing some stranger who’d probably try to hit me.”

Misao nods. “That seems reasonable. Also I imagine he was the most attractive prospect available.”

“Oh, definitely.” A beat. “You do know that’s not the first time I’ve kissed him, right? That’s not coming as a surprise to you?”

“Yes, I’m aware that it’s happened before, but previously you weren’t doing so in a deliberately public setting.”

“No, it was pretty private.”

Yamato goes very still where he’s fussing over the dishes, ears turning bright red.

Marvelous continues with, “So did you want me to stop kissing him? Or I could kiss you, that’d even things out.”

“I did punch you in the mouth earlier.”

“You know, I actually think that’s an attractive quality.”

“And I generally trust Yamato’s opinion on people.”

There’s a long silence behind Yamato. He stares into the dirty plate in his hand before looking back over his shoulder to see Marvelous gripping Misao’s chin firmly and tipping his face up into a kiss. Misao’s brow is furrowed, the same expression he gets when he’s making something and wants to get a small detail right; Marvelous, despite being the one taking the initiative, has the same sort of surprised look that he got when Yamato bandaged his hand at their first meeting.

After a moment Yamato says, “Come on, Marvelous, you should at least dip him, it’s not fair to him if he doesn’t get as much of a kiss as I did.”

Chapter Text

[*why* do you have to go to France]

[it’s my job, Kairi, I have to make a report on the remaining Ganglar activity]

[I thought Hilltop did that shit]

[generally he does but I also have to give a presentation to the new academy entrants]

[is it about how cool and sexy your mortal enemies the phantom thieves are]

[it’s entirely about how your ass looks in your costume, I’m bringing slides]

[wait really???]

[no, nobody but me is allowed to look at your ass in your costume, it’s about strike team tactics for dealing with kaijin] Keiichiro stares at his presentation notes and pinches the bridge of his nose. He isn’t entirely sure how he’s going to teach the new students, given that the kaijin he’s encountered show little to no consistency in powers, attack strategies, or levels of willingness to communicate. He can give them the basics, but…he’d hate to see some kid charge into a fight and end up like Satoru.

He needs to stop looking at them. “Sakuya, would you go over these for me, please? And then give them to Tsukasa to look at, I’d like to make sure I’m not leaving anything out.”

 


 

Noël arrives to pick him up the next day, and the first thing Keiichiro says is, “Thank you for coming to the door, by the way.”

Noël raises an eyebrow. “As opposed to…?” And then, blinking, “Ah, I see. As opposed to the window.”

“What makes you say–” Keiichiro turns to where Noël is looking.

Kairi leans in through the open window and grins at them. “Hey, Noël. Don’t mind me. Just doing parkour.”

“Has he not given you a key?”

“No, I’ve got a key, window’s more fun.” Kairi adjusts his weight and lifts his face up for Keiichiro’s kiss, which lands on his forehead because it’s the easiest spot to reach given the ridiculous position he’s in. “Have fun in France, Kei-chan. Bring me back presents. Cake or something. Sexy French underwear. Don’t meet anyone cute and decide to stay.”

“I’m only going to be gone for two days, Kairi.” Keiichiro kisses his forehead again, carefully trying to avoid devoting any thought to the underwear comment. “Promise not to run off with any pirates while I’m away.”

“I promise.” Kairi ducks back out of the window, blows him a kiss, and is gone down the wall.

Keiichiro turns back around to Noël’s raised eyebrow. “Is Kairi running off with pirates a serious concern?”

“Um. Well. That’s a long story.”

Chapter Text

It’s a short drive back to GSPO headquarters to drop off the car, and an equally short walk back to Keiichiro apartment, and he spends the entirety of it vacillating between wondering what the hell he’s doing and vibrating with surprisingly enjoyable anticipation.

He makes them use the door, because on principal he objects to climbing through the window of his own home. Shoes off, coat off, VS Changer in the little safe with the biometric lock, Kairi rummaging through his refrigerator for drinks. It’s almost like a regular night. Except for the pirate they’ve brought home with them, whose coat is also now hanging next to the door, and who says, with the kind of diffidence that disguises great interest, “So am I allowed to kiss you, or is tonight all about him?”

Keiichiro blinks. “Did you want to?”

Marvelous shoots a disbelieving look at Kairi, who shrugs as he’s closing the refrigerator door with a bottle of the juice he likes in hand. “Yeah, he’s always super surprised when people think he’s attractive, I don’t get it either.”

“I just…don’t really think of myself as someone people find interesting in that way, cops are hardly romantic figures. Kairi’s sort of the exception, and I’m still not sure how that happened.”

Marvelous eyes him. “So is that a no, or…?”

“Oh, no, he definitely wants you to.” Kairi pours three glasses of juice and puts the bottle away again. “He’s just, like, super bad at saying so. If he didn’t want you to he would’ve just said no.”

Keiichiro feels himself turning red.

Compared to all the other people he’s kissed in his life–the captain of the archery club in high school after he’d taken her to a movie, one guy a few years after that, Tsukasa once when they were both drunk and celebrating their graduation from the academy, and Kairi repeatedly over the past few months–Captain Marvelous comes as something of a surprise. Not that he’s bad at it, but Keiichiro had expected more…aggression from the man who’d picked Kairi up and stuck a hand in his pocket just to get back a stolen item. He’s not aggressive at all. It’s nice.

Kairi worms up under his arm on his other side and kisses him on the hinge of his jaw, tangibly grinning. “I got drinks.”

“I saw that.” Keiichiro turns to kiss him, which Marvelous takes as an opportunity for another kiss precisely mirroring Kairi’s first one.

It’s a lot. Keiichiro considers melting.

“We should, uh. Sit down first. I think I’d like to actually talk to your pirate here before anything happens.”

“Generally I like to think of myself as everyone’s pirate,” Marvelous says in his ear.

Melting seems like a good idea.

Chapter Text

Poppy practically pushes them out of the CR door. “Go, go, you two need a break.

The sky’s darkening when they get outside, and Emu blinks up at it. “Wow, ok, I hadn’t realized it was so late, I guess Poppy was right.”

“Would you like to get dinner?”

“Yeah, I’m starving, I–wait, with you?”

Hiiro’s surprised with himself. Admittedly he’d been thinking that it might be nice to get dinner with Emu, but he hadn’t actually intended to say so out loud. “Ah. Yes. With me.”

“Like…a date?”

“…yes.”

A long moment, and then Emu’s face brightens. “Sure, that’d be really nice. Although…” He glances down at his clothes. “I’m not exactly dressed for it.”

“That’s fine, it would be unreasonable to expect you to be under the circumstances.” Another hesitation, and then Hiiro offers his arm to Emu, who takes it with a smile. “It’s not as if we planned this. Ah…where would you like to go?”

Emu shrugs, and his shoulder brushes Hiiro’s. “Not sure. I don’t go out to eat a lot. Honestly I mostly eat microwave noodles and convenience store bento, which…admittedly probably isn’t a great habit. Is there somewhere you’d like to go?”

 


 

They end up at a French restaurant, where Emu surprises Hiiro by actually knowing some French, although not much. The hardest part of everything is trying to keep the conversation away from work, since they don’t have a lot of other interests in common, and Hiiro has never been an easy conversationalist.

But–Emu keeps things going effortlessly and with cheer. Outside of the work sphere, he seems happier, the tension lines around his eyes relaxing, his smile less tainted by the monumental tasks at hand. He doesn’t seem any less tired, but they’re all tired. It would be stranger if he wasn’t. Hiiro, who doesn’t enjoy admitting to shyness even to himself, finds himself relaxing.

Emu’s apartment isn’t far from the restaurant, and Hiiro walks him back and up to his door, and then pauses and says, awkwardly, “Thank you. This has been an…enjoyable evening.”

Emu grins at him. “Shouldn’t I be thanking you? You bought me dinner. It’s nice to spend the evening with someone else who actually eats.

Hiiro has to stifle a surprised laugh. “I hadn’t considered that.”

“So can I invite you in, or is that going too fast?”

It takes a moment before the implications of that hit, and then Hiiro’s face goes hot. “That would. Ah. Be too fast, yes. But. But I would like to go out with you again. Maybe…next week?”

“Next week. Same time. Assuming the world doesn’t end.” Emu beams at him. “Can I kiss you?”

Hiiro pauses, and then nods, and they share a brief, sweet kiss, and then another less brief kiss, and then Hiiro pulls back and hopes that the streetlights aren’t making his red face too obvious. “I’ll…see you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow, Hiiro.” Emu kisses him one more time, on the cheek, and then opens the apartment door and steps in.

Before the door shuts again, Hiiro catches the sound of a loud whistle, and then Parad saying, “Hey, M, was that Brave?

Hiiro stands there for another moment, still blushing, and then heads home.

Chapter Text

Luka’s door has three additional locks which she installed herself, as well as several booby traps which she sets when she’s going to be gone for an extended period of time. Her bed is neatly tucked into a corner, protected on two sides but with a clear view of the exit, and there is a strand of hair neatly affixed to the edges of her porthole which, if broken, should indicate the presence of intruders. Ahim knows that she trusts the others, they both do, but she also knows that these are the things Luka needs to feel secure, and doesn’t begrudge her them. This is also why their intimacy is confined to her room, and Ahim doesn’t mind that either. She likes seeing Luka look comfortable.

Like now, when she’s lying back against the pillows and laughing because Ahim’s hair is brushing her stomach, and Ahim smiles up at her and runs manicured nails along the line of her hipbone. “You haven’t yet told me the story behind this tattoo.” She traces the abstract swirl of purple and gold, aware that she’s tickling but not especially concerned about it. “It’s very beautiful.”

Luka’s muscles quiver with laughter under her finger. “It’s a really long story, pretty much it boils down to I wasn’t as good a con artist as I thought, I’m way better at just stealing shit. But I liked the design, y’know?” Her laughter fades for a moment as she stares up at the ceiling. “Anyway, it’s not like I’m ever gonna run into the guy who put it on me, he was executed by Zangyack years ago.”

“Mm.” Ahim traces the tattoo again, recognizing it suddenly as the emblem of a star system whose royal family was destroyed several years ago. She remembers dancing with one of their princes at a grand ball, ever so long ago, and staring at the embroidery on his jacket as he swung her around.

Perhaps, someday, she’ll tell Luka about that, and ask which member it was that escaped long enough to meet her. But now is not the time.

Instead she kisses the purple-and-gold heart of the tattoo, Luka’s skin warm and smooth under her lips. “It’s very beautiful,” she says again, smiling. “It suits you.”

Luka’s face takes on the fixed expression that she always gets when she’s embarrassed by a compliment. “Well. I’m glad I kept it.”

“So am I.” Ahim gives her a moment to compose herself and then kisses her again, slightly lower down on her hip. “I like these underthings as well, are they new?”

Immediately Luka brightens up. “Oh yeah, didn’t I tell you, there’s this Paris place, the shopping is amazing, we should go sometime.”

“I would like that.” A third kiss, slightly lower again. “But…later.”

Chapter Text

There are government people coming, which in the long record of Takatora’s least favorite sentences is somewhere near the top alongside “Your uncle is on the phone” and “We’ve found more of Professor Ryouma’s surveillance cameras, and you won’t believe where.” Theoretically this visit is a good one–after months of visits and reports and positive progress, they’re considering removing Yggdrasil’s classification as a terrorist organization. Two members of the Diet are coming, presumably for show, and someone from the Ministry of Health. This will be good for Yggdrasil and the new bureau and the work they’re now doing to rebuild, good for Zawame, good for everyone. Still, he’s never especially enjoyed having to beg for things, and that’s essentially what he’ll be doing for the rest of the day.

He’s reviewing his notes when he hears the sound of a zipper opening, and then the interior of his office is bathed in a warm golden light entirely separate from the sunlight streaming in through its massive windows. “Kouta. What brings you here today?”

“Well, Mai and I were working on some things and then I sort of got a…vibe? You seemed stressed out. I wanted to check on you.” Kouta smiles at him, and the weight of it is like a blanket, heavy but not oppressive. There’s a smudge of dirt on his cheek, incongruous alongside his golden eyes and the pristine white and silver of his armor and cloak. “How’s rebuilding going?”

“It’s…progressing. I’m meeting with some people from the government today. You shouldn’t have interrupted your work just to check on me, I’ll be fine.”

“Ohhh, government people, that’d be why you’re stressed. It’s all right, we’re just making squirrels today.”

Takatora blinks. “…squirrels?”

“Yeah!” Kouta pulls a chair around the desk, glow fading as his clothes alter themselves so that by the time he actually sits down next to Takatora he looks much like the man he once was, although subtly different. The dirt smudge remains. “We’re trying to give the forest more life of its own, you know, and we’re not really ready to try people yet. We figured squirrels would be a good start, since they’re small.”

“And…how’s that going?”

“Well, they’re…they’re orange, but mostly they look like squirrels.” An apple-shaped glow appears in Kouta’s cupped palms, in the center of which Takatora can see something that does, mostly, look like a squirrel. “They’re very friendly.” The apple-glow disappears. “So what do the government people want?”

Takatora sighs. “The basic thrust of today is, ‘it won’t happen again, we promise.’ I’m funding most of the reconstruction efforts myself, but we need assistance. The family fortune and company funds can only go so far.”

“How much time do you have before they show up?”

“An hour, at this point.”

Kouta reaches out, brushes Takatora’s hair out of his eyes, and then rests a hand on his knee. “You can talk through it with me, if that’d help. Go over all your stuff.”

The spot where his fingers touched Takatora’s forehead feels warm. “I would appreciate that. If you have the time.”

 


 

Fifty minutes later, there’s a knock at Takatora’s door, which goes unanswered. His assistant pauses a moment before knocking again, this time saying, “Mr. Kureshima. Your visitors have arrived.”

No answer still.

Calmly, the assistant turns to the small host of government visitors and says, “Mr. Kureshima sometimes becomes very involved in his work. If you’ll excuse me a moment, I’ll go get him.” She opens the door of his office just enough to step inside. She’s not a large woman, so it’s not a wide opening, but it is enough to see that the interior of Takatora’s office is suffused with golden light.

Only the woman from the Ministry of Health is close enough to see that standing at the core of the golden light is a man in white, who radiates calm and power but who Takatora still has to bend down to kiss. She covers her smile and steps just slightly to the side, to block the view from the men she’s with.

Inside the office, the assistant says, “Mr. Kureshima, the government delegation has arrived a few minutes early.”

Takatora sways a bit when he straightens up, blinking. “Ah. Have they? Did you…try to call me ten minutes ago?”

“I did. I assumed you had a good reason for not answering.”

“Ah, well…”

“Clearly you received an unexpected communication from a rebuilding investor and were preoccupied.” Her expression is carefully placid as she nods to Kouta.  “It’s always a pleasure to see you, Mr. God.”

Kouta winces. “Please don’t call me that, Rica.”

“I’ll go let the delegation know that you’ll be with them in a moment.” And for a moment the corners of her eyes crinkle, as if she’s suppressing a smile. “Tell Mai I say hi.”

She closes the door behind her.

The zipper’s already opening up behind him, but Kouta still tugs on Takatora’s tie gently, grinning. “I get one more before I leave, right?”

Chapter Text

It’s late, and the custodian of all the Earth’s knowledge is swaying on his feet.

Despite this, he struggles a bit when Shoutaro loops an arm around his shoulders, saying, petulantly, “I’m not done reading.”

“You’ve been doing this lookup for three hours now, Philip, what are you even reading about?” Shoutaro steadfastly ignores the pitiful look Philip shoots him, steering them both up out of the garage and towards the curtained alcove where the one bed is kept. “You need to sleep some.”

“I don’t.” The pouting intensifies. It’s extremely charming; Shoutaro has to look away from it. “I’ll be fine without sleep. I’m busy reading about archaeological methods.”

“You’re so shaky you nearly fell off the walkway.”

“I’ve fallen off it before and remained unharmed.”

“Doesn’t mean I should let it happen again.” Shoutaro pushes him gently toward the bed. “Get some sleep, Philip.”

Philip makes a face at him, which is interrupted by a yawn. His shoulders sag. “I suppose, if you’re going to insist on it.” He sits down on the bed with a thump. “Earlier I was reading about you.”

Shoutaro freezes. “About me? Why?”

“If we’re going to be working together, then it seems appropriate that I should have some idea of who you are as a person.”

“You could have just asked me things.”

“Asking people about themselves means that the answers I receive are subject to revision based on personal opinions and anxieties.” Philip yawns again. “The Earth is objective. Although I do occasionally come to my own subjective conclusions.” He reaches up and catches Shoutaro’s tie in his hand, tugs him down, kisses him on the forehead. “For example, I have relatively minimal experience with judging these things, but after some research I’ve concluded that you’re more than usually handsome.”

Shoutaro turns bright red. “You can’t just say that to a guy.”

“Why not?” A slow, sleepy blink. “It’s true.”

Chapter Text

“You don’t need to help me,” Don says. “I can get the laundry done just fine by myself, I’ve been doing it for ages.”

Gai shrugs. “I like helping, though! I mean.” He pauses. “Unless you don’t want help.”

Don stares at the crestfallen look on his face. “Well…the space isn’t very large. Please try to stay out of my elbow room while I’m folding.”

“I won’t be in the way, I promise.”

Surprisingly, he isn’t in the way, and he does fold quickly and efficiently. He gets too flustered by Luka and Ahim’s underthings to do anything with them, but then, it took Don a long time before he got over that himself. He also talks a lot, which is annoying for the first couple of minutes and then nice after that as Don realizes how much time he usually spends alone. How much time they both must have spent alone.

Laundry takes a while, because Ahim’s clothes in particular require a lot of care, but eventually they’re down to just linens and it’s shocking, how nice it is to have someone to hold the other end of each sheet and blanket for him as he folds it. They haven’t looked so neat in a long time. Some of that is having help, and some of it is probably just Gai being Gai, frowning as he makes sure the corners all line up perfectly.

At the last blanket–one of Joe’s, Don can always recognize Joe’s blankets because the nap on them starts to wear thin once you’ve had to scrub sword oil off them more than once–they get another neat fold, and their hands meet as they straighten the corners, and Gai looks at him. It’s a funny look, sort of a nervous one, like maybe he’s waiting for something, or hoping for something. Don’s not always great at figuring out what exactly people are trying to say to him, but this definitely looks like anticipation.

And he’s just right there and he’s so goddamn cute and if this all goes terribly there’s this convenient blanket that Don can hide under. So Don kisses him–a little harder than he’d intended, really, because he’s rushing it, but Gai doesn’t seem to mind.

When they stop kissing Don says, still in a rush, “This isn’t connected directly to the laundry, you know, I just. Like you.”

Gai turns bright red and hides his face in the blanket, making what Don figures out after a moment is a sort of delighted keening noise. They’ll have to refold that blanket later, but for the moment it doesn’t seem very important.

Chapter Text

The woman from the Ministry of Health is doodling Lockseeds in the margins of her notes. Takatora’s trying not to look at what she’s writing down, because he doesn’t actually want to see what it says, but he can’t quite resist saying, “The apple one was a little more stylized than that, the man who designed them was something of an artist.”

She blinks at him and then laughs. “Oh, excuse me. I’m paying attention, I really am.”

“I believe you, Ms. Karino, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out you’ve written down every word I’ve said for the past half hour.”

The Diet members are being given a tour of the current research facilities, led by one of the newer, less megalomaniacal researchers, and the other bureaucrats have gone on to the headquarters of the reconstruction bureau for yet more presentations. The Ministry of Health woman is the only one who stayed behind–she actually emailed him several days ago, asking for the opportunity to talk privately about the effects of Lockseed use “in the interests of furthering medical research.” Takatora had worried about what that might mean, but her curiosity seems entirely genuine.

“In any case, its use was discontinued almost immediately after its creation, it was too dangerous.”

She nods thoughtfully. “They seem like dangerous objects.”

“Very.” He pauses. “Not to mention that as a consequence of acting as an Armored Rider I’ve completely lost my taste for melons.”

It’s a weak joke, but she laughs anyway, and her smile is warm as she continues. “Now, you’ve said many of the existing Lockseeds were destroyed. Do you have any current estimate of how many remain?”

He sighs. “Unfortunately, no. The…gentleman who was distributing them was proven to be wildly unreliable. There are a few remaining in Yggdrasil’s possession in case of emergencies, and we’re doing our best to track down and destroy any others, but it’s proving something of a project.”

“I see.” She makes a note of this. “And you said someone designed them…?”

“Professor Sengoku Ryouma.”

“Ah.” Apparently he made a face when he said it; she looked concerned for a moment before neatly changing the subject. “Now, the Ministry of Health is also very interested in the infectious disease connected with the Helheim situation, which had a,” she checks a note on her phone, “oh, wow, an eighty-five percent rate of fatality. Is that likely to recur?”

“Not if I have anything to say about it.” And then, with less vehemence, “Helheim’s influence has been withdrawn from Earth entirely, and will not be returning.”

“You seem very certain of that. What makes you so sure?”

Takatora knows what’s happening before he even hears the zipper noise, and Ms. Karino’s eyes go wide as the office fills up with light and Kouta says, behind him, “I’m sorry for interrupting, Takatora, but I thought you might need me.”

Ms. Karino shakes hands with Kouta, looking fascinated. “I saw you this morning.”

Kouta coughs, looking startled. “Oh. Uh. You did?”

“Only for a moment. But yes.” She smiles at him. “No one else in the delegation did, I promise.”

“Oh, good.” Kouta relaxes visibly. “I’m, uh…”

“Ms. Karino, this is Kazuraba Kouta. The, ah, god of Helheim. Kouta, this is Karino Asuna, she’s from the Ministry of Health, she was asking about the vine infections.”

“Right, yeah. They’re not going to happen anymore. I don’t normally eavesdrop, really, but I kinda caught that you were talking about those, so I figured I’d drop by for a few minutes just for backup.”

Ms. Karino’s eyes are fixed on him, and Takatora has the sudden sense that she’s taking in a lot more detail about the whole situation than he’d previously realized. “It’s a pleasure to peet you, Mr. Pazuraba. Sorry, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Kazuraba. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions as well? Strictly confidentially, of course, I don’t think the people back at the Ministry would actually believe me if I told them I met a god.”

“Sure, anything to help Takatora.” Kouta pulls another chair over, sits down next to Takatora, and kisses him on the cheek before saying, “What’d you want to know?”

Takatora feels himself blush. “Ah…Kouta. We’re. Ms. Karino is right here.”

Kouta grins. “She saw us this morning and wasn’t weird about it.”

Ms. Karino covers her mouth with her hand for a moment, apparently hiding laughter. “I’ll assume that’s confidential as well.”

“Thanks. I mean, nobody can really do anything to me, but I’d hate to cause problems for Takatora.” Kouta leans against him very slightly, a warmth at his side. “Anyway, the vine infections aren’t going to happen anymore, I made everything leave. And if one did come up I can always come deal with it personally. Or Mai, maybe, but she’s not as comfortable with the whole travel thing. What other questions did you have?”

Chapter Text

Keiichiro’s bed–like most, admittedly–is really only made to fit two people, and then only if they’re both fairly slim. For years he was used to feeling like it was very slightly too big. Only recently, on those nights when Kairi is lying in it beside him, has it begun to feel like the right size. Slightly too small, even, if Kairi’s octopus side is feeling particularly present.

Whatever its size, it’s definitely not intended for three people, but they’re making it work.

Kairi is in the middle. Admittedly that’s where he’s been all night, and it’s sort of a relief to Keiichiro when he thinks about that and realizes that he can still blush after all this, but it also makes sense because he’s so skinny. He fits there, curled up in between them with his head tucked under Keiichiro’s chin and Marvelous’ arm around his waist. It’s very comfortable, really.

Except that he’s wriggling. Keiichiro groans sleepily. “Kairi, go to sleep.”

“I demand a good night kiss,” Kairi slurs into his collarbone.

“You’ve been kissed more tonight than I think anyone’s ever been kissed in history, don’t any of those count?”

Marvelous opens one eye. “More than anyone else ever? I feel like that’s exaggerating.”

“Well, don’t quote me, I’m extremely tired.”

“Obviously none of those count, none of them were specifically a good night kiss.” Kairi’s hair tickles his chin, and then his nose as the wriggling trends upwards. “I want one of those.”

“Ok, but then I need to sleep. We need to sleep. I’m exhausted.”

“I bet.

Keiichiro kisses him on the forehead. “Go to sleep, Kairi.”

Further wriggling ensures instead of sleep as Kairi rolls over and looks up at Marvelous. “So?”

Marvelous also kisses Kairi on the forehead and then says, “Go to sleep, dammit.”

No answer but a snore. Kairi is already asleep.

Marvelous meets Keiichiro’s eyes over Kairi’s head. “So he’s always like this.”

Keiichiro sighs. “You have no idea.”

“…it’s fucking adorable.”

“It really is, that’s the worst part.”

Chapter Text

Ankh has let himself age, and he is glorious. His hair is longer and threaded with white, and there are lines around his mouth, and he looks less slim and more gaunt, and it’s all unspeakably perfect. Even the fracture line is beautiful, crawling jagged and golden down the center of his face–Eiji is the only one who will ever know the full length of it, from its start in his hairline to where it disappears into the joint of his left hip.

He’s sitting on the blanket next to Hina, who’s done with her most recent bout crying but looks like she might start again any second now, and he’s watching Eiji swim and saying, “Will you please get out of the water and pay attention to me, Eiji.”

Eiji grins at him. “Why don’t you come in and join me? It’s not like you haven’t been in the water here before.”

“Not on purpose, though.” Ankh scowls. “It looks cold.”

“Oh, come on.” Hina elbows him. “It’s not like you have to go in very far, I didn’t make you that ridiculous swimsuit for nothing.”

Ankh sniffs. “I like these swimming clothes.”

“I’m glad, I worked hard on them.”

“…thank you.”

She kisses him on the cheek. “You’re very welcome. Oh, there’s Chiyoko and Shingo with the picnic basket finally, shoo, go be with Eiji so we can get everything set up.”

He makes a face at her, stands up with tremendous dignity, and walks down to the shoreline.

As soon as his foot hits the water he starts swearing. “It is cold.”

“Of course it’s cold.” Eiji comes up to meet him, still smiling. He hasn’t stopped smiling for at least three weeks, which is how long it took them to get back to Japan from wherever in the Urals they’d been at his glacial pace. “It’s the ocean.”

“I don’t remember it being this cold.”

“Well, we were both pretty distracted last time.”

“Don’t remind me.”

Eiji reaches out him. “Come on.”

Ankh takes his hand warily and walks a bit further into the water. “I suppose this isn’t completely awful.” Their other hands meet, fingers twining.

Eiji’s about to say something more, and then he meets Ankh’s gaze and realizes that it’s suddenly taken on a gleam that makes him very nervous even as it seems familiar. He has enough time to realize that it’s alarmingly reminiscent of an especially temperamental parrot he met in Cairo before Ankh drops, sweeps his legs out from under him, and dumps him in the water.

Of course, they’re still holding hands, so Ankh goes under too, and comes up spitting and making indignant noises.

“You didn’t think that one through, did you?”

Ankh glares at him. “Your hair is in your face, it’s very attractive, how dare you.”

“I like how you’re actually willing to say I’m attractive now.”

“Don’t let it go to your head.”

“Too late.” Eiji pulls him in as if for a kiss and then tips backward and ducks them both again.

Not to be deterred, Ankh kisses him anyway, both of their mouths filling with the sharp taste of brine before they surface again. He lets go of Ankh’s hands, but only to pull him closer, and the saltwater stings his lips but he can’t bring himself to care when he could focus on Ankh’s fingers in his hair.

They’re finally interrupted by a loud wolf-whistle from the shore, and Ankh groans. “I see Date’s arrived.”

“He said he’d be here–oh, and he brought Gotou, wow, I thought Gotou couldn’t come, he said he was tied up with something.” Eiji shifts so his arms are around Ankh’s waist and he can pick Ankh up out of the water completely. “Come on, let’s go eat.”

“Put me down, you idiot,” Ankh says, making no attempt to get free. “There’d better be ices, I’m owed several decades worth of backlog.”

Chapter Text

Tsukasa finds him after five worlds, walking through the last liquid dimensional portal into a place that seemed to be nearing its end, if not there already. He doesn’t even have to search–Daiki’s right there, sitting on the flat top of a massive glacial erratic, staring out at the horizon. Next to him, inexplicably, is an ancient pocket radio. Even more inexplicable is that it’s working, although the music is full of static.

It takes several minutes to find a way up onto the boulder. Daiki offers no help, no comment at all, doesn’t even seem to know he’s there until Tsukasa sits down next to him.

Then he says, “I said I never wanted to see you again.”

“Yeah, but you also stole from me, so I’m pretty sure that means you’re a liar.”

He sees Daiki smile, very slightly, face in profile against this world’s inflamed sunset. “You already knew that.”

“I’m not going to apologize for trying to save the fucking world.”

“No, you never do, do you?”

Tsukasa’s not sure what to say to that, so he says nothing, and Daiki doesn’t look at him. The radio continues playing its staticky music.

“Do you know when I first fell in love with you?”

Tsukasa blinks. “…no. When?”

“When you asked me to dance, the third time your goons caught me. You were just being awful, like you are sometimes, and you told me that maybe you wouldn’t have me killed if I danced for you. And I said–”

“Only if you lead.” The memories are still hazy, but that one stands out. “And you held out your hand, even though you were still chained up.”

“And you laughed, and you took it. You even made a bunch of those weird instrument-themed kaijin play a waltz for us.” Daiki’s mouth has that bitter twist again. “And we danced, and you laughed again, and I thought, well, fuck, Daiki, you’ve finally gotten yourself into real trouble.”

It takes a moment for Tsukasa to get to his feet again, still aching from the battle not ever so long ago. He remembers things in bits and pieces–an indistinct fury at some theft, a vivid flash of that waltz, an equally vivid flash of Daiki in his bed shortly after…no, some time before that. The song on the radio’s in waltz time, he thinks, so he holds out his hand. “Dance with me.”

Daiki takes his hand and lets himself be pulled up and they dance, badly, through three and a half songs until the radio finally cuts out and they’re left with only static. They stop, and Daiki’s lips purse a bit like he’s waiting to be kissed, so Tsukasa kisses him–not gently, either, their mouths crushed together, Tsukasa’s hand on the back of his head.

Then Daiki pushes him back, and he loses his balance and falls on his ass on the rock. “What was that for?”

“You deserved it.”

“Guess I did.”

“Anyway, you got what you wanted.” Daiki turns off the ancient radio and tucks it into his jacket. “I’m going now. See you around.”

“I thought you never wanted to see me again.” Tsukasa reaches into the pocket of his pants and feels his card there, where he felt Daiki put it while they were dancing. “You changing your mind?”

Daiki shrugs. His mouth is a bitten red; Tsukasa would pull him back down and kiss it even redder if he didn’t think Daiki would try to kick him. “What I want and what’s going to happen are two different things. We’ll always see each other again.” And he walks away and through a portal, whistling one of the songs they were dancing to.

Something’s wrong.

Tsukasa reaches into his pocket again, pulls out the Decade card, and then pulls out the rest of his deck and flips through it.

Three cards missing. Ryuki, Kiva, Blade.

“Oh, goddammit,” he says, getting up and heading in the direction Daiki took. “You can’t just be straightforward about things for once, can you?”

Chapter Text

Tsukasa passes through seven more worlds with the sound of radio static echoing in his ears. Most of them have no need for him–most worlds don’t, at this point, which is almost a relief. He wishes he could go back to the photo studio for a bit, but Natsumi’s so fed up with his latest stunts that if he shows his face around there she might skip the pressure point and go straight to grievous bodily harm.

Then, though, he steps through a portal that has a familiar tingle and sighs. “It was bound to happen eventually.”

There’s a sign nearby that reads “Amanogawa Racetrack.” When he looks down at himself he sees a mechanic’s jumpsuit, complete with an embroidered patch with his name on it. He sighs again, tucks his camera into one of the jumpsuit’s many pockets, and wanders in through the racetrack’s wide-open gate.

And within moments hears a voice saying, “I thought you’d find me sooner.”

He turns around. “You don’t exactly leave a clear trail. Are you wearing a suit?

“I’m an investor.” Daiki brushes a fleck of dust off one lapel and grins at him. “Track owners love showing off for investors. Also I think you just admitted you were chasing me, that’s kind of nice.”

“You stole my cards again. So what are you trying to steal here?”

“That’d be telling.”

“You seem happier to see me this time.”

“I miss you when you’re not around.”

“If you miss me then why do you keep telling me to fuck off?”

“Because you need to hear it.” Daiki steps a bit closer and pulls three cards out of his jacket pocket. “You want these, right?” Tsukasa reaches for them, but Daiki dances back again. “You have to trade me for them. Value for value.”

Tsukasa rolls his eyes. “What do you want, then?”

The cheery façade drops, and for a moment Daiki looks very lonely. “Kiss me again. And do it better this time.”

It is a much better kiss than their last, for any number of reasons–because Tsukasa is gentler, because Daiki is less angry, because they’re in a living world instead of standing on a rock in the middle of a dying nowhere. It’s better, and then it’s good, and then Daiki makes a little noise in the back of his throat that brings back a dizzying shock of memories. Tsukasa’s about to say something about them when he shifts back, but Daiki’s already got him by the hand, is already towing him into an empty office off a side hallway and locking the door behind them.

So instead he says, “Look, I want you to explain one thing to me before anything else happens.”

“You can ask me whatever you want.” Daiki looks up through his eyelashes, and if Tsukasa were a slightly weaker man his knees would be jelly already. “I won’t promise you an answer.”

“What’d you mean by saying I never apologize for saving the world?”

“I mean that at least when Great Leader hurt me, it was because he wanted to. Because he felt like it.” Daiki kisses him again, playing with the zipper of his jumpsuit but not pulling it down. “But when Kamen Rider Decade hurts me, you do it because you think it’s the right thing to do.”

Tsukasa pulls back. “What, you want me to enjoy doing things that hurt you?”

“Obviously not. But just once, I’d like to be more important to you than the fate of the world.”

He can’t promise that. Daiki knows he can’t promise that. He goes for another kiss instead, and Daiki melts into it with another one of those noises. Clearly, the only appropriate response to that is to kiss him more, unbutton his shirt and bite at the side of his neck in the way that hazy memories say he likes, walk him back into the deck and push him to sit on top of it.

Another one of those eyelash flutters. “Was there anything else you wanted to ask me?”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to remember me.”

So Tsukasa does everything he remembers Daiki liking, one by one, as slowly as possible, until Daiki’s coming with a cry that hopefully won’t draw too much attention and which Tsukasa’s going to hear for a long time.

(He gets off too, somewhere in the midst of things, but it doesn’t seem nearly as important as that sound, the precise arch of Daiki’s back against the wooden desktop, the look on his face.)

And because he remembers that Daiki gets surprisingly cuddly post-sex, Tsukasa holds him after, and says, “I’ll always remember you.”

Daiki says, “Liar.” And then, “So where are your sidekicks?”

“Natsumi kicked me out.”

“Ooh, she actually got that pissed?”

“She was angry about how I’d treated you.”

No reply. What reply could there be?

“She’s expecting, you know.”

“I didn’t. Who’s the father?”

Tsukasa shrugs. “Does it matter? Yuusuke’ll be better at it than I would be anyway.”

They sit together for a while longer in silence, and then Daiki’s the one who stands up first, straightening his clothes, and says, “One of the other mechanics has the most spectacular hair, I’m guessing he’s the one you’re supposed to go bother here.”

Tsukasa makes a face at him. “I don’t bother anyone, they just bother me.”

Daiki just blows him a kiss and leaves the office, closing the door behind him.

Reflexively, Tsukasa checks his cards, and finds that not only is everything there, there’s something extra too–a note, on plain white cardstock, in Daiki’s deliberately messy handwriting.

Next time you find me, it’ll have to be because you want to see me.

Chapter Text

Umika insists on going down first, so that she can get her skirts in order before anyone else joins her. Tooma goes next, because of the three of them he’s actually best at listening to locks. Kairi is last–Marvelous boosts him up into the emergency maintenance shaft, and he stretches his legs out and pauses, listening for the whooshing sound that means that Tooma’s out and the way way is clear.

Nearby, Doc hefts his pistol nervously and glances at the door before saying, “I’ve been meaning to ask, how do you all keep your hats on when you’re running around like this?”

“Hair clips.” Kairi tips his head back to demonstrate; the brim of his hat is at about Doc’s eye level. “They fell off all the time at first, but Umika put the clips in there for us, and now they stay put.”

“That’s ingenious, but how do you fasten them without throwing off how the hat sits?”

“There’s a trick to it, I’ll show you later.”

“I’d appreciate that, it might be useful to know.”

Marvelous pokes Kairi in the shoulder. “Get moving, we don’t have a lot of time.”

“Trying to make sure I don’t land on my teammate’s head, man, give me a break.” Kairi grins at him. “Although it sounds like he just landed. Anyway, I’m excited, I’ve never robbed a space museum before. Wish me luck?”

Marvelous starts to roll his eyes, stops, and instead leans forward and kisses him soundly. “There. For good luck. Get going.”

“Aye aye.” Kairi slides down the maintenance shaft.

Doc watches him vanish and says, a little forlornly, “You’ve never given me a kiss for good luck.”

Marvelous blinks. “What are you talking about, I kiss you all the time, you’ve got tons of luck.”

“…I suppose you do, yes.” Another nervous spin of his pistol, and then Doc’s mobirate makes a faint noise in his pocket. “Oh, that’ll be Joe, we should get going.”

Finally. Let’s go get our damn Keys back.”

Chapter Text

They get back from Fukui late.

It was a nice drive, and Kosuke’s in a cheery mood, but when Haruto tries to persuade him to stay the night, he says no. He’s always been wary of it, nervous that Wajima or Shunpei might notice and ask, but this time feels different. “I’ve got some stuff to think about.”

Haruto grins at him. “You? Think?”

“Oh, shut up, I’m going to go camp in the park.”

 


 

Haruto wakes up early the next morning and helps Shunpei make breakfast. He quietly suspects that having someone else around to cook was half of why Wajima agreed to take an apprentice in the first place–not that Shunpei’s not doing well in his apprenticeship, but Wajima’s not a great cook. The old man himself finally emerges not from his apartment upstairs but from his workroom, and they eat together, and except for the persistent lack of Koyomi it’s almost like old times.

The shop opens. Rinko drops by at around eleven to say hi, and she brings doughnuts, which are obviously welcome. They’re talking through the news of the day–signs of what might be naturally-occuring Phantoms, other magical phenomena in the park, the weird shit that’s happening over in Zawame–when Kosuke shows up.

Rinko waves to him immediately, smiling. “Hey, right, you guys drove to Fukui the other day, how’s your grandmother? She over her cold?”

“She scolded me about getting off my ass and applying to grad programs, so basically she’s doing great and she’s gonna live to be two hundred years old.” Kosuke grins. “It was good to see her without anyone almost dying.” He waves to Shunpei, nods to Wajima when he leans out of the workshop to say hello, and then sits down on the couch next to Haruto and kisses him on the cheek.

Haruto turns to kiss him back and then stops as he realizes, “…Nitoh, you know we’re in public, right?”

“Yeah?”

Rinko is staring at them. “Did you just…? Ok, how long have you two been…?”

Kosuke shrugs. “Six months now?”

“Oh, wow, I mean, I knew that Haruto was, but I didn’t realize. Um.”

“Well, I figure my grandma didn’t disown me, so if she’s cool about it then I don’t care who else knows.”

Haruto grins at him. “So does this mean I can call you babe in front of people now?”

“Wait, who’s calling who babe where?” Shunpei looks up from checking something in the register and makes a tiny startled noise. “Wait, did they just kiss?

Chapter Text

Marvelous stumbles backwards into a tree and says, “Fuck.”

The sparring started because Joe wanted to see more of the EagRiser, but it’s continued because everyone needed a chance to stretch. The universe has been quiet lately, thankfully, but they all worry about getting rusty–what if monsters attack again? What if the world’s about to end?

Anyway, Uncle Mario’s having fun cheering for people.

Right now, Joe’s sitting with Tusk and going over a text about Jyuman battle tactics, Ahim is teaching Leo and Amu a game with string, and Uncle Mario is inside making curry for lunch, but Doc, Yamato, Luka, Sela, and Gai are all sitting around a picnic table, watching Misao and Marvelous wrestle. It’s a fairly even contest; Marvelous is older and bigger, but Misao’s ludicrous strength more than make up for the difference.

Wincing, Marvelous rolls his neck and dives forward again, tackling Misao backwards onto the ground. They roll, fetch up against another tree, and struggle upright again, Misao’s legs locked around Marvelous’ waist. They’re both covered in dirt, although fortunately there are no injuries more serious than a light scrape.

Marvelous struggles free of Misao’s grip, tosses him, and tackles again. In response, Misao grunts irritably and gets a fistful of Marvelous’ hair, rearing back and then–

–striking?

The onlookers jump in surprise, and Sela says, slowly, “Did Marvelous just kiss him?”

Misao pulls back. “That’s what I want to know.”

Marvelous frowns. “I thought that was what you were going for. Distraction tactic. Figured if I beat you to it, that’d throw you off.”

“No, I was going to bite you.” Misao taps his temple. “Crocodile.”

“…right. Crocodile. That does make sense.”

“Not that it was a bad kiss, but normally you’re nicer about it.”

Sela leans across the picnic table and tugs on Yamato’s sleeve. “Since when does Misao know what Marvelous kisses like?”

Yamato blinks at her. “Um, a little while ago, you remember the last time they were around?”

“Misao punched him, Marvelous always likes that,” Luka says absently. “Oh, hey, is that your uncle with the curry?”

Chapter Text

“The craftsmanship on this is marvelous,” Sento says, running his hands over the body of the motorcycle with a look of scientific acquisitiveness on his face. “It’s a little bright for my tastes, but it suits your whole aesthetic very nicely. Did someone build it for you, or did it just…manifest out of the internet or something?”

Emu laughs nervously. “Um. Well. Actually.”

“Do these buttons on the side do anything? No, doesn’t look like they do, but it’s a good look. It seemed very responsive, almost like it was steering with you, does it have an AI?”

“Something…sort of like that?”

Sento nods absently, leaning in close to examine the Gamer Drive strapped across the seat. “This looks like yours, is it intended to–”

“You’re getting a little up close and personal there, pal.”

He jumps back. “Did you talk?”

“Uh, so, you remember a couple of hours ago before everything went down I said Lazer was on his way, and you asked who Lazer was, and I said he was another Rider I work with, and then I was riding that bike during everything?”

“Yeah, speaking of bikes, Emu, would you please?”

“Right, yeah, sorry, Kiriya.” Emu steps forward and ejects the Bakusou Bike Gashat with a quiet gashuun. “So this is Dr. Kujou Kiriya, he’s a pathologist at the hospital and also Kamen Rider Lazer.”

The bike goes through an unfolding process that makes Sento’s eyes cross slightly before resolving into a man in a Hawaiian shirt who winks at him. “Normally I’d make someone buy me a drink before they got to put their hands all over me, but you’re cute enough that I’ll make an exception.”

Sento nods, ignoring the sensation of his ears warming up. “You’re the bike. You turn into a bike. That’s amazing. How does your body handle the physical rearrangement? Is it uncomfortable?”

Kiriya looks him over slowly and then says, to Emu, “Where’d you find this guy? And is he always like this?”

Emu shrugs. “Another dimension, and yeah, far as I can tell that’s just what he’s like.”

“Ok, then.” Kiriya pauses, and then loops an arm around Sento’s shoulders. “So how about you get me that drink and I’ll answer any questions you’ve got?”

Sento raises an eyebrow, not making any attempt to move Kiriya’s arm. “Any of them?”

“Oh, yeah. Two drinks and I might even give practical demonstrations.”

The eyebrow rises higher. “Really.”

“Promise.”

“Deal.”

“I’d say we should shake on it, but since you’ve already had your hands all over me…” Kiriya leans in a bit closer, clearly gauging Sento’s reaction, and then kisses him. “Sealed.”

Sento hopes vaguely that his hair is successfully hiding his ears, which are definitely red by now. “That it is. Although as you heard, I’m not from the area, you’ll need to recommend a good bar if I’m buying you a drink.”

“Oh definitely, come on, I know just the place.”

Chapter Text

The weather is good, and Marvelous and Joe spar in the woods. They’ve agreed on no guns today, just swords, and it’s an easy rhythm; Joe will always be the better swordsman, but Marvelous can hold his own. They dance around each other, feint and dodge.

And then Joe pulls a second sword out from behind a tree and Marvelous grins at him and says, “You cheater!”

Joe just grins back and dodges another swing. “No such thing as cheating in a sword fight, Marvelous, you know that.”

Marvelous rolls his eyes and presses forward, and they continue to spar until Joe hits a root and loses his footing. Their swords are locked at the time, so they both hit the ground with a thump, blades tossed to the side just to keep from impaling themselves or each other. That means that now it’s a grappling contest, and in this kind of close combat Marvelous has the advantage. Within a few minutes, Marvelous has one of Joe’s arms twisted up behind his back, and Joe is swearing quietly.

“You gonna yield?”

No, I can get out of this.”

“You sure?”

“You know I’m sure.”

Marvelous pauses, smirks, cinches the hold in a bit tighter, and then leans forward and kisses Joe in a very particular spot on the side of his neck, murmuring against his skin, “How about now?”

Joe stumbles. “You cheater.

“No such thing as cheating in a sword fight, remember?”

Joe laughs breathlessly in response. “Ok, yeah, I yield.”

 


 

Joe finds Luka in the crow’s nest, as usual, and they stand side by side in silence, leaning against the railing as the sky shades into darkness and the stars come out. There’s a warm breeze, and the air smells very slightly of blooming flowers.

When the sun is nearly gone Luka says, not looking over at him, “So did you want something or did you just feel like hanging out?”

He shrugs. “Mostly I just wanted to watch the stars. I like how quiet it is up here.”

She makes a little “hm” noise and leans against him. “Yeah. Easier to see things right.”

More silence as the sun sets completely. It’s not dark for them, though; the moon is full, the sky is full of stars, and the city below them is full of light. Joe looks down at the top of Luka’s head thoughtfully and then bends and kisses her just behind the ear, which is a relatively easy spot to reach.

“Oh,” she says, “so you’re in that kind of mood.” Which is the sort of thing she’d say if she were annoyed, but she sounds more sly than anything. She looks up at him and raises an eyebrow.

He shrugs again, smiling very slightly. “Maybe, if you want. The moon’s full. It seemed like the right thing to do.”

 


 

Luka and Ahim sit together on the bed, and Luka brushes Ahim’s hair. She does so little with her own that it’s sort of nice to fuss with someone else’s, not that she’d ever admit this in public. When she was young she’d brush her sister’s hair, and braid it in patterns; Ahim isn’t her sister, and she’s forgotten most of the patterns, but it’s still calming.

She pulls the brush through dark waves and realizes that she’s only forgotten most of the patterns. There are still a few simple ones she could probably do. “Would you like me to braid it?”

She can see the edge of Ahim’s smile. “I would like that very much, please.”

“How many braids do you want?”

“Two would be lovely, thank you.”

“Ok.”

Her hands remember what her conscious mind’s forgotten, and after a moment she finds the exact rhythm, the careful lift and twist as she picks up more hair with each cross. It’s not complicated. If she had ribbon, she could work it in. Maybe she’ll do that next time.

Lift, twist, cross. Secure the end of one braid with a piece of elastic that Ahim passes to her. Start on the other side, lift, twist, cross, a simple woven pattern along the side of Ahim’s side.

When she finishes and secures the second braid she leans back and admires her handiwork, feeling pleased with herself, and then kisses the back of Ahim’s neck where the new style leaves it exposed. Ahim giggles. “You’re feeling very sweet today, Luka.”

“Yeah, that happens.” Luka grins at her when she looks back. “Don’t tell the others, ok?”

 


 

Everyone’s in the mood for dessert today, but Joe’s not in the mood to make cake, so Doc is showing Ahim how to make chocolate mousse. She holds the bowl for him as he beats egg whites, watching in fascination as they puff up and then holds their shape. “It’s extraordinary, isn’t it, how such a simple thing can change.”

He flashes a smile at her over the bowl. “Watching how things transform is one of my favorite things about cooking.“

After some brief instruction, she folds the egg whites into the chocolate without help, which gives him time to clean the mixer. When she’s sees what he’s doing, she frowns. “Did we not prepare enough eggs?”

“Oh no, no, now we’re doing whipped cream.” He pulls the heavy cream out of the refrigerator and measures it out carefully into a bowl. “That’s what really gives it the right texture. And then later once it’s set we’ll make extra to go on top.”

“Oh, lovely. May I try this time?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

She lowers the mixer in carefully, and he holds the bowl, only letting go once with one hand to add in sugar and orange extract as the cream thickens. The little galley already smells sweetly of melted chocolate; with the addition of oranges it’s heavenly.

“Ok,” he says, once the cream’s the right texture, “you can stop now.”

Ahim lifts the mixer, but her finger stays on the button a second too long; Doc nearly lets go of the bowl as the beaters spin and fling bits of whipped cream into both their faces. Ahim lets out a startled squeak. “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I hadn’t intended that to happen.”

“It’s all right.” Doc grins, and then reaches out and swipes a bit of whipped cream off her nose with his finger and tastes it. “You still did a good job.”

“Why, thank you.” She drops a tiny curtsy, and then kisses him–although, since he’s already turning, she hits the side of his neck instead of his face. Fortunately there’s a bit of whipped cream where her lips land. “Oh, it does taste nice, how do we mix this in?”

Doc turns bright red. “I, ah. Like with the egg whites. We fold it.”

She beams at him. “Wonderful, may I do that too?”

“S-sure, I’ll. Get out cups to scoop it into while you’re doing that.”

 


 

Gai’s brought more books for them to read for research, and while the scrapbooks are very useful, Don finds that he enjoys the comics a bit more. They make everything seem more exciting, with their vigorous illustrations and dialogue balloons full of exclamation points. What must it have been like, to know that a host of brightly-colored strangers cared about your welfare? To grow up in a world full of heroes?

He doesn’t realize that he’s spoken out loud until Gai, sitting next to him on the couch regluing something in one of the scrapbooks, says, “It felt really safe. It was nice.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”

“No, it’s fine, I don’t need to concentrate hard to do this! Anyway, it’s a fair question. It felt safe. And then…well, then they were all gone at once.”

Gai rarely looks so solemn. It’s a shock to see now, and Don frowns. “I wasn’t trying to bring up painful memories, I apologize.”

“Don’t worry about it!” Like that, the solemn look is gone. “How could I be that sad about it when I’m one of them now? We’re carrying on what they all did. That’s amazing!”

Gai’s broad smile is infectious, and Don realizes that he’s smiling too. “I guess you’re right. It’s certainly something.”

“Isn’t it? Oh, are you enjoying the comics, should I bring more? I have more.”

“I’d like that, please.” The smile is too infectious; Don can’t concentrate. And Gai looks like he’s waiting for something else, and it might as well be a kiss, so Don leans over to kiss him–and overbalances, landing on him instead. Which seems as good a reason as any to kiss him anyway, on the side of his laughter-filled throat, which makes Gai laugh more, and that’s always good.

 


 

Gai takes what seems to be an unwholesome enjoyment from cleaning, and Marvelous is deeply suspicious of it. With Doc he’s come to accept that it’s just how the man is, but then, Doc also occasionally nags him about being messy. Gai, however, seems enthusiastic about it, and that’s just strange.

Anyway, it’s way too late to be cleaning now, if they’re the only two left in the common area, and Marvelous decides to do something about it. “Will you cut that out, you can finish in the morning.”

Gai bounces to his feet. “Sure, if you want. Oh, which team are you looking at?”

“The card guys, JAKQ? Who’s this guy in the hat over here?”

“Oh, that’s a different hero, not a member of the team. But he looked a lot like Big One. I’ve always kinda had a theory that they were secretly the same person. There’s even a third one who also looks like them, but I couldn’t find a good picture of him.”

“Huh. I didn’t know this planet had other heroes.”

“Yeah, a few, they also kind of…disappeared during the war. I’m not sure what happened to them.” Gai comes over and perches on the arm of his chair, reaching out to tap another picture. “See, that’s the logo for one of them. They’re cool too.”

“You’ll have to tell me about them sometime.” Marvelous looks up at his delighted grin. “They sound interesting.”

“I’d love to. I have another scrapbook about them, I can find it soon and we’ll look at it together.”

“Good.” Marvelous turns the page. “I’d enjoy that. Here, you’re in my elbow room, quit it.” He wraps an arm around Gai’s waist and pulls the other man into his lap, shifting the scrapbook so it’s balanced on his knees. “So what’s the deal with these guys?”

“Well, they were from all over the world.”

“Their suits are goddamn wild.”

“Yeah, the outfits then were really different.”

They flip through pages until Gai’s yawning and Marvelous has to blink to keep his eyes open, and then Marvelous closes the book and stands up with Gai in his arms. “Sleep now. More heroes or whatever tomorrow.”

Gai rests his head against Marvelous’ shoulder, grinning sleepily, and then kisses the hollow of his throat where his shirt’s unbuttoned. “Yeah. Sleep sounds nice.”

Chapter Text

Gai is so excited that he’s nearly vibrating. “May I see it?”

“Yes, of course, I’m sure you’ll treat her kindly.”

The thrilled vibration increases as soon as he has the elaborate gun in his hands, turning it over and over to inspect every facet and fitting. “This is unprecedented, you know. Plenty of additional sentai have had unusual color schemes, of course, and some of them do have power-ups with other colors like my Gold Mode, but you’re the first to hold a position on two different sentai simultaneously! With a different name for each! I think the closest anyone’s gotten previously is Jyuoh TheWorld, he’s got three colors at once, that was a little confusing to classify, but you–you’re something completely new.”

Noël grins. “Monsieur, you flatter me.”

Marvelous leans against the wall nearby and watches them. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that he’s been working with Gai for almost ten years; the intensity of the man’s enthusiasm seems at odds with the idea that he’s approaching thirty. Then again, Marvelous isn’t as young as he used to be either.

“Now, I’ve been making a study recently of the transformation devices used by additional sentai, and what I’m noticing is, your changer is much larger than the ones your teammates use, and in fact significantly larger than most I’ve seen. Is that to accommodate the two different changes?”

“Yes, in part, although the trains themselves are also usable vehicles, I can only shrink them so much. I made it myself, you know.”

That stops Gai dead. “You made your changer? You’re the engineer?”

“I made all of them. Both teams. Or, well, the teams, they have modified pieces of the Lupin Collection, I had to construct mine from scratch using spare parts.” Noël runs a finger along the top of the silver train on the X Changer. “Honestly, I would have liked something a wee bit more…compact, but–”

“You ran out of the right parts? That’s also unusual, engineers have been sentai before, I’ll have to give you Yayoi Ulshade’s phone number, but they normally don’t take such an active team role. I’m sorry, I’m interrupting you.”

“It’s quite all right. No, there were plenty of parts, but I modified theirs to work with human physiology, which means they no longer work for me.

That gets Marvelous’ attention, and he steps away from the wall. “You’re not human? What planet are you from?”

“Ah…not a planet exactly. It’s a bit complicated.” Noël looks him up and down with an interest both like and unlike the similarly acquisitive interest that his criminal teammates seem to direct at everything that catches their eyes. His smile is certainly more inviting. “You’re Captain Marvelous, yes? I don’t believe we were properly introduced last time we saw each other. Takao Noël, humbly at your service.”

“I’ll believe there’s anything humble about you when I see it.” Marvelous holds out his hand.

Instead of shaking, Noël takes his hand and makes a courtly bow, lips brushing his knuckles. “Enchanté, Captain. But then again, we’ve really already met, introduction or no, so,” and when he straightens up from the bow he kisses Marvelous once on each cheek, “it is also good to see you again.”

Marvelous blinks. "You’re…different.”

“I’m French, I have an innate compulsion to be charming.” Noël grins. His teeth practically glint. “Is it working?”

“It’s definitely working,” Gai says, not looking up from his continued inspection of the X Changer, “Marvelous loves it when people throw him off balance.”

“Gai.” Marvelous nearly chokes.

“What? It’s true.” Another brief, loving look at the switch mechanism, and then Gai hands the X Changer back to Noël. “Thank you for letting me look at it.”

Noël takes it back and holsters it. “You’re very welcome, I hope it was of interest?”

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gun that impressive.” A thoughtful pause. “I’d love to see a more thorough demonstration of its functions, if you’ve got the time.”

Marvelous blinks again. Is Gai flirting? Theoretically he’s capable of it, of course, and Noël’s certainly been flirting with him, but seeing him respond in kind to that sort of thing instead of blushing and shuffling his feet seems vanishingly rare. Maybe it’s something to do with both of them being, as Gai describes it, additional sentai; all of those guys seem to run at a different frequency. Granted, anyone with eyes would probably flirt with this man, but it’s nonetheless startling to see Gai taking this kind of initiative.

Oh la la, I am flattered to have the approval of the illustrious Gokai Silver,” Noël says, entirely without irony. “I’d be delighted to give you a private demonstration.”

“Maybe you’d like to come up to the Galleon? So we don’t get interrupted.”

“I would love to, I’ve never been on a pirate ship before.”

“You’re not worried we’ll try to keep you?”

“Why should I be? I’m already on two teams, I don’t see any reason I can’t be on more.” Noël’s got the sort of piratical glint in his eye that Marvelous generally approves of, in fact, and which Gai has also aimed back at him. “But there’s a question of etiquette we’re not considering, don’t I need the captain’s permission to come aboard?“

They both turn to look at Marvelous with the glint still very present, and he suddenly has the worrying feeling that not only has he lost control of this conversation, he never had it to begin with. He’s not sure that he minds, exactly, but it’s a jarring sensation. “Ah. Traditionally, yes.”

“And are you a traditional sort of man, Captain Merveilleux?”

Marvelous eyes them both for a moment before replying. “Not if I can help it.”

“Then please, allow me to request permission in a non-traditional manner.”

“Go for it.”

It’s a hell of a kiss. Marvelous is fairly sure his brain shuts off; otherwise he’d have something more articulate to say afterward than, “Damn, that was a hell of a kiss.”

“I should hope so.” Noël’s arm is still around his waist, which is also interesting; normally he’s the one doing that to other people. “I’m French, we invented it.”

“I…see. I. Well.” Marvelous shakes his head slightly, trying to clear out the fog. “Permission to come aboard granted.”

Gai’s got his Gokai Cellular out, calling the Galleon, but he looks up to say, “Ok, I’m a little jealous now.”

Noël beams at him. “Don’t be. I promised you a private demonstration, oui?

“I suppose you did.” Gai tucks the Cellular back into his jacket and holds out his hand to Noël. “I’m sure the captain will find it very entertaining.”

“I sincerely hope so.”

No, Marvelous concludes as the Galleon approaches, he’s definitely not in control of the situation. But somehow he finds he doesn’t mind at all.

Chapter Text

Parad materializes in the CR meeting room and flings himself into Emu’s lap. “M, I’m dying.”

Emu squawks, trying desperately not to spill his coffee or drop his journal on the floor. “Parad, I could have–you–what? Wait, you’re what?

“Dying. Deteriorating. Something.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s impossible, why do you think you’re dying?”

Parad gives him a hangdog look and lets out a tiny hic as his shoulders jump.

Emu gapes at him. “Did you just hiccup?”

“It’s a death spasm. I’m dying.”

Across the room, Kiriya spins around in his chair–because of course this would be happening on a day when everyone’s meeting up to go over current research progress–squints at Parad for a moment, and lets out a yelp of laughter. “He’s got hiccups? Brat, I didn’t know you could get the hiccups. Pretty sure I can’t get the hiccups, at least, not sure why you would.”

“Shut up, Lazer,” Parad says sulkily, and hiccups again. “I’m dying.”

Hiiro doesn’t even look up from his slice of cake. “It’s only a muscle spasm, Bugster. You should be able to stop them at will, since I’m fairly certain that you only have muscles because you’ve decided to.”

“You’re not dying.” Emu finally gets his journal set down on the couch next to him and his coffee cup on the side table and is able to pat Parad on the back gently, wincing as he hiccups again. “It’s just a thing that happens.”

“I hate it. How do I make it stop?”

“Well, uh. That’s kind of a highly debated topic.”

Hic. “Why?”

“That’s…a great question, actually. Anyway, they’re just hard to get rid of sometimes. I’d say hold your breath, but you don’t…breathe. Maybe you could try drinking a glass of water–”

No. Drinking things was hic-how I got into this mess.”

“What did you drink?

“Some kind of fizzy thing, there was a guy giv–hic–giving out free samples at the arcade.”

“Oh, were they a tie-in for something?”

“Yes, they had Street Fighter charac–hic–ters on them. I got one with Dan Hibiki on it.”

“Did it taste any–no, not the point. Did you drink it really quickly or something?”

“I drank it all in one go–hic–if that’s what you’re asking.”

Taiga comes in, sees Parad sitting on Emu’s lap, and turns to Kiriya. “What’s the Bugster’s problem?”

“Hiccups.”

“…he can get hiccups?”

Hic.

Emu sighs. “Taiga, how would you get rid of hiccups?”

Taiga stares at him blankly. “You have to scare them away. Obviously. Do you want me to try to scare him?”

Parad makes a rude gesture at Taiga, hiccups again, and hides his face in Emu’s shoulder. “Keep Snipe away from me.”

“Scaring people doesn’t actually work, anyway.” Hiiro still hasn’t looked up. “Generally it just compounds the problem by introducing an additional stressor and causing the muscles to tense further. A light abdominal massage should get rid of them if you’re unwilling to be patient and wait for them to go away naturally.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Taiga sits down across from him at the table and steals a fingerful of vanilla frosting. “Abdominal massage is just going to make someone with hiccups uncomfortable, it isn’t going to fix anything.”

“My mother always swore by eating a spoonful of sugar,” Kiriya says thoughtfully, spinning in his chair again. “Although I don’t remember it really having any measurable effect.”

Taiga snorts and tries to steal more frosting, and Hiiro swats his hand away, and just like that they and Kiriya dissolve into an increasingly ridiculous argument about hiccup cures while Emu watches helplessly and Parad continues to hiccup. Just as the argument at the table has begun to escalate into personal insults, however, he has an idea. “Parad. I know what to do. Here, look at me.”

The sudden lack of hiccuping is what makes the others turn around, to the sight of Emu and Parad locked in what seems to be a fairly intense kiss.

When the kiss ends, Parad frowns at the ground for a moment and then thumps himself on the chest. “They’re gone.

“Well, I figured if I distracted you for long enough you’d sort of…refresh, you know?”

Kiriya nods slowly. “You know, that’s also a pretty solid solution.”

Parad’s eyes light up. “M, you’re a genius.” He grabs Emu by the collar.

“Don’t start again, we have a meeting.” Hiiro scowls. “This isn’t the time or place for–”

“Nah, chill out, we can get started without them.“ Kiriya grins and steals some frosting while Hiiro’s looking away. “Anyway, I’ve got fun news from the path lab, we’ll give ‘em five minutes.”

Chapter Text

Tsukasa doesn’t remember being dead as much as he remembers nothingness. Nothingness and silence, but not peace. And then a lung-squeezing backwards rush, and then–Daiki’s face. Which he always enjoys seeing, and it’d be nice to have a moment to say that, but then they’re too busy fighting for him to comment.

Now they’re in the kitchen at Kujigoji Hall, which is weirdly like the kitchen at the photo studio, and there’s a long moment where they just stare at each other before Daiki says, “So it’s been a few years.”

Tsukasa nods slowly. “I like what you’ve done with your hair.”

The smile is lightning-fast, there and gone. “Thought you might.”

“…you can’t possibly have done it planning on running into me.”

“No, I just felt like a change. But I won’t say you didn’t cross my mind.” Daiki’s eyes drift downwards. “Do you always wear a suit now?”

He shrugs. “It’s easy.”

More staring, but it’s a shorter moment, because it’s been years, and they’re barely a meter apart now, and that’s an easy distance to close. Daiki’s back hits the fridge, and Tsukasa just holds him there for a moment, hands on the sides of his face. He’s not as thin as he was, which is good, and he reaches out and tweaks the collar of Tsukasa’s shirt with his long fingers and says, “Hey, stranger.”

“Hey.”

Daiki’s mouth is just as soft as it’s ever been, and twice as sweet for how much Tsukasa’s missed him.

It takes a long time before they’re done with even that one kiss, and then Daiki smiles at him, very slightly, and says, “You know the kids are watching, right?”

Tsukasa frowns. “What kids?”

Daiki tips his head to indicate, which also conveniently presses his cheek into Tsukasa’s palm. “The ones who live here?”

Tsukasa turns his head very slightly to look.

Tsukuyomi’s clearly the one who was actually coming to get them; she’s standing at the front of the group, frozen in the action of reaching up to knock on the door frame. Geiz and Sougo are behind her, peering over her shoulders with matching wide-eyed expressions, like a pair of cartoon children. The Woz guy, book tucked under his arm, is the only one who doesn’t look surprised at all, and is also the one who finally clears his throat politely and says, “Tsukuyomi was concerned that one or both of you might have been more seriously injured than we previously thought.”

“Right,” Tsukasa says. “Those kids.”

“The multiverse is crumbling, after all.” Daiki sounds almost cheerful about it.

“Must be Thursday.”

“Actually, I think the last time the multiverse started to fall apart it was a Tuesday.”

“You might be right.”

The kids, gathered in the doorway, continue to stare, and then Tsukuyomi says, very softly, “How many times have you seen this happen?”

“What, this specifically?” Tsukasa shrugs. “Once or twice.”

“You should have seen his look last time,” Daiki says, pleasantly. “The eyeliner suited on him. What’s that look they’re giving me, Tsukasa, don’t they know you’re a fashion plate? After the world ends we’ll have to show them pictures.”

Chapter Text

The first planning session is…tricky.

To start, they circle each other, like boxers in the ring or cats preparing to defend territory, and the atmosphere is tense and uncomfortable. If anyone else had been with them initially, the tension would certainly have cleared the room, but they’re alone, and it may not be for the better.

Finally, though, when it’s almost too much, Tsukasa says, “You don’t look much like the last sentai I ran into.”

Marvelous’ eyebrows go up. “You’ve run into sentai before?”

“Yeah. They had kind of a samurai thing going on. Nice kids. So are we going to stop the world from ending or what?”

It doesn’t exactly calm things, but the tension eases enough that they can sit down and talk. First step, of course, is to go over what they’ve learned–what Marvelous got out of a drunk at a spaceport in Andromeda, the coded message Tsukasa wrung out of a kaijin several worlds away, the whispers they’ve both heard. The plan takes shape, and it’s not a nice plan, but it should work. Hopefully. If everything goes the way they’re going to make it go.

Finally Marvelous stands up and scowls. “It’ll work. But I don’t like it.”

“Why would you?” Tsukasa slouches in his chair and watches Marvelous pace. “You’re going to have to hurt people you care about. Are you sure you can do it?”

“Obviously I’m sure or I wouldn’t be here talking to you. Are you sure?”

Instead of answering the question, Tsukasa just says, “So what are you going to do to make Zangyack trust you, then?”

“I don’t know. Don’t fucking look at me like that, you don’t have any better idea what to do with your Shocker guys than I do with my creeps.”

“Don’t I? All I need is the right outfit and then I can just walk in, sit down in my old chair, and say, ‘daddy’s home.’ You actually need to work for it to make everyone think you’re evil.”

“What the hell is that–they know you?” Marvelous turns to glare at him. “And what do you mean, I need to work for it? I know how to be evil, have you seen my bounty?”

“Pssh. That’s not evil, that’s just crime. Anyone can be a criminal.” Tsukasa stands and gives him a theatrical once-over. “You haven’t got a milligram of real evil in you.”

“And you do?”

“Of course. You see, that’s the real difference between people like you and people like me. Sentai and Riders, that is.” Tsukasa reaches out and tips Marvelous’ chin up slightly, turning his face back and forth as if inspecting it, and Marvelous’ jaw tenses but he doesn’t move away. “Your power comes from something good. All those shining ideals. Saving the world with love, friendship, and honor. We have make our power good, because it never starts that way. We have to claw our way up out of the darkness.”

Marvelous stares at him, chin still up, jaw still tense. “Yeah, sure. You crawled out of the darkness.”

“Oh, I didn’t. I was much worse. I was the darkness.”

“So what changed?”

The corner of Tsukasa’s mouth twitches. “I forgot my entire life and found some shining ideals. Friendship, honor…love. But that’s not where I came from.”

“I trust you less and less the more I talk to you.”

“That’s probably good, I’m not famously trustworthy. Do you want me to teach you how to be evil? So you can make your galactic empire think that you’re the real deal?”

“They’re not my galactic empire.”

“They’ll have to be, if you’re going to make this convincing.”

Marvelous grabs Tsukasa’s wrist, pulls Tsukasa’s hand away from his face, grabs his shirt collar as if they’re going to fight, and then says, “Sure. Teach me.”

Tsukasa leans into the angry grip and kisses him, very gently–and then bites him. He jerks back, letting go of Tsukasa’s wrist.

“Lesson number one,” Tsukasa says, as pleasantly as if they haven’t been on the verge of a fight this whole time, as if his teeth weren’t just in Marvelous’ lip, “is, never let anyone catch you with your guard down.”

Chapter Text

After the world ends they go for a walk.

The first few worlds through which they pass are entirely unrecognizable. They don’t stay in any of them long–generally only long enough for Daiki to comment on about Tsukasa’s clothes, which still change with each dimensional wall breached.

The fourth world, though, is recognizable. Fourteen’s World has mostly crumbled, its inhabitants long fled or dead or evacuated in advance of whatever catastrophe struck. Tsukasa glances sidelong at Daiki, sees the pained look on his face, and says, “We can keep going.”

Daiki doesn’t answer, but he reaches down and takes Tsukasa’s hand, their fingers interlacing.

They keep going.

Five more worlds, and then another one that’s familiar, although it’s not entirely clear why until Daiki looks across the street and says, “Hm. I wonder if we’ve missed dinner.”

Tsukasa turns to see what he’s looking at and blinks several times. “She’ll probably say we did even if we haven’t.” He starts to cross the street and then stops, brought up short by Daiki’s hand in his and Daiki’s feet still planted firmly on the asphalt. “What?”

“Maybe I want you to myself for another few minutes.”

“Does that make me–”

“Although if you make any kind of joke about being the ‘real treasure,’“ air-quoting with his free hand, “I will leave.”

The temptation to keep making the joke anyway is awful. Tsukasa resists, with effort, and then decides to do the sensible thing and shut himself up, which is most easily accomplished via hauling Daiki in close and kissing him. He’s probably, he reflects, going to be doing a lot of that in the coming days. Which doesn’t seem bad, so he kisses Daiki again, and Daiki kisses him back, and they keep going on that vein until his stomach growls and Daiki says, “So we should go see about dinner.”

“I’m not sure she’ll actually let me in.”

“I’m fairly sure she will if I’m with you, wasn’t that what you argued with her about in the first place?”

They cross the street still holding hands, walk in through the front door of the photo studio, and are immediately greeted with, “We’re closed, did you not see the–oh.

Daiki waves cheerfully to Natsumi, whose eyes are focused on their joined hands. “Did we miss dinner?”

“No.” She scowls at them, possibly to conceal tears. “But keep it down, Yuusuke’s putting the baby down for her nap–why are you old? Oh, I hate that whole time-running-differently thing, it’s been. Two and a half years? How long has it been for you? Don’t answer that.”

“I’m not old,” Tsukasa says reflexively, as Daiki is saying, “Shit, I’d forgotten that Tsukasa mentioned a baby happening. Am I supposed to say congratulations now?”

“No, you’re supposed to apologize for not visiting, I didn’t kick you out. You look good, by the way, I like the hair. Did he apologize to you or should I kick him out again?”

Daiki glances at Tsukasa and says, “Not exactly, but I’d rather you didn’t.”

“Well. Good.” She sniffs dangerously. “Because I don’t want to. Close the door, who raised you? Are you two holding hands?” And before Tsukasa can ask her what’s wrong with that, she says, “Well, finally. Now come have tea, I need details on whatever apocalypse you just stopped, you two are a mess.

Chapter Text

For once in his life, Haruto has no idea what to do with his hands.

If it were just Kosuke he’d know what to do, Kosuke he’s used to. Kosuke likes to be grabbed, is a bit rough himself but not unpleasantly so, tends to use his teeth maybe a little too much when he’s kissing. Which he is doing now, his face pressed to the side of Haruto’s neck, but Haruto can’t actually complain about it because Shunpei is also kissing him. And that’s not a surprise in and of itself, they’ve talked about this before, but it’s new and he doesn’t know what Shunpei likes or how to touch him, if he’ll mind if Haruto grabs today’s exuberantly garish shirt and pulls him in closer.

“Stop tensing up, baby,” Kosuke says into his ear, the syllables stretching out into something that’s almost a purr. “The whole plan here is we’re trying to get you to relax a little.”

“What are you talking about, I’m always relaxed.” The statement is a little undermined by how breathless Haruto knows he sounds. “I–what’s that look supposed to mean?”

The look is that Shunpei’s mouth is tight like he’s trying not to laugh. “I think I’ve seen you relax once since I met you.” Then he does laugh, because he’s Shunpei, and because he’s Shunpei it’s charming. “You’re always worrying about everyone.”

Haruto’s going to respond to that, talk about how he’s got duties, he’s got responsibilities, but Shunpei leaving his mouth free apparently means it’s Kosuke’s turn now, so talking is out of the question, because Kosuke kisses like he wants to eat you. And Shunpei is dropping to his knees and pressing a kiss to Haruto’s stomach through his shirt, so rational thought is actually out of the question entirely.

Unfairly, he has a very clear idea about what to do with his hands, because he’s undoing Haruto’s belt. Kosuke also has some clear ideas, which mostly come down to dig-callused fingers on the back of Haruto’s neck, the other hand tangling in Shunpei’s hair, and another purr of, “Relax, baby.”

“I’m relaxed,” Haruto gasps, as Shunpei pushes his shirt up and kisses him again. “I’m relaxing.”

Chapter Text

The first time Kairi came to Keiichiro’s window, it was because he was afraid–of being seen if he simply went to the door and knocked, of Keiichiro rejecting him, of his own desire to be there at all. Easier to leave a gift and go and remain unseen than to try to start a conversation he didn’t know how to have. Then he did it because it was what Keiichiro was expecting. Now he has a key of his own, but he comes in through the window anyway. It’s more fun like that.

He levers himself up and in and sits down on the sill, gazing into the darkened bedroom. Keiichiro is asleep already, the blanket tangled around his waist, his hair mussed. There’s a note on the little table by the window that reads, Dinner’s in fridge if you’re hungry. It’s all very domestic.

Feeling unsuited to that domesticity, Kairi plucks off his mask and puts it on top of the note. His jacket goes on a hook; he takes his shoes off and pads into the other room to leave them next to the door.

When he comes back into the bedroom and sits down on the bed, Keiichiro stirs, mumbling, “’d'jou see the note about dinner?”

"Yeah, I saw.” Kairi grins down at his sleepy smile and half-open eyes. “I ate already, but thanks.”

“What’re you even doing, working so late.” Keiichiro wraps an arm around him and pulls him close, face pressing into his side. “Also you. Through the window again. Why through the window?”

“I like the window. And do you really want me to answer that, Kei-chan?

“No, I want you to take your, your shirt off, why’re you wearing clothes in bed.”

“I’m not in bed, I’m just on the bed. But I’ll take my clothes off if you want me to.” Kairi pulls off his shirt, wriggles out of his jeans, and tosses both into a corner.

Keiichiro yawns. “I like when you take your clothes off. Third best part of my day.”

Excuse me, only third best?”

“Yeah. First best, see Kairi. Second best, kiss Kairi. Third best, Kairi takes his clothes off.”

“…oh.”

“So about kissing Kairi.”

Kairi wiggles down in the circle of his arm and kisses him, silently thanking the late hour for making it harder to notice that he’s blushing.

The plan is to go for a quick smooch and then let Keiichiro get back to sleep, but Keiichiro’s apparently got his own ideas about that. He doesn’t look any more awake, but his tongue’s certainly interested in the proceedings, and the satisfied humming sound he lets out makes Kairi suspect that he’s much more awake than he’s pretending to be. And then–yeah, that’s definitely awake.

“Hey,” is the drowsy protest when Kairi pulls free of his arms, “where are you–oh. Ok.”

“Some cop you are.” Kairi kisses down his throat and chest and stomach and stops to devote some serious attention to his hipbones, which do make a really attractive signpost for his actual destination. “A notorious thief climbs in through your window to…I dunno, ravish you…and all you can do is say is ‘ok?’”

“Kairi.” Keiichiro props himself up on his elbows and looks down at Kairi, and yeah, he’s definitely awake now, although his voice is still sleep-roughened and slow. “Please keep putting your mouth on whatever part of me you want.”

Kairi grins. “See, that’s more like it.” He pulls away the rumpled blanket and makes himself comfortable between Keiichiro’s legs, holding Keiichiro’s gaze as he lowers his head.

Keiichiro generally tries to keep the volume down, the walls of his apartment are thin. Watching him work to stay quiet is half of the pleasure of doing this, really, seeing his face flush and his throat go tense as Kairi’s tongue traces a line up the underside of his cock.

When Kairi inches a hand back to cup his balls and press two fingers into the sensitive skin behind them he makes a sort of desperate sighing noise that transitions into, “Kairi, you’re so. You are. Hah.

Kairi winks at him and takes another long lick. “I’m what?” But before he can get a reply he opens his mouth properly and shifts downward.

Keiichiro makes another desperate noise, fingers twisting in the bedclothes. “You’re beautiful.”

Kairi actually has to lower his eyes.

It doesn’t take long, really, both because Keiichiro’s surprisingly worked up and because Kairi cheats shamelessly in his attempts to make things noisy. The loudest thing he manages to get is a groan that shudders down Keiichiro’s throat to his chest as he’s coming, but that’s more noise than he can usually coax out anyway, so he counts it as a win. He swallows, which gets a last breathless sound, wipes his mouth off with the back of his hand, and crawls back up the bed for a kiss.

Unsurprisingly, Keiichiro looks sleepier now than he did when Kairi came in, but he still gestures like he’s going to reciprocate until Kairi bats his hand anyway. “You can pay me back in the morning, you need to rest.”

“Mm.” Keiichiro kisses him and then yawns. “Some cop I am. Notorious thief climbs in through my window to ravish me and then I just.” Another yawn, into Kairi’s shoulder. “Fall asleep.”

“Another win for the notorious phantom thief.” Kairi can’t quite stop a yawn himself. “Maybe you should be concerned about that.”

“I’unno.” Keiichiro tucks his head under Kairi’s chin, face pressed to his chest. “Maybe next time I catch you crawling in the window I’ll just cuff you, how about that.”

There’s a long, frozen silence.

Keiichiro frowns. “Did I say something wrong?” He shifts back to look at Kairi’s face and blinks. “Oh. Did I say something…not wrong?”

Kairi stares at him for a moment, red-faced, and then says, sounding strangled, “We can. We can talk about it in the morning.”

Chapter Text

The horizon is on fire, beautiful even interrupted by Skywall, and the view from the overpass is spectacular. “It’s kinda hard to think that the sun still rises and sets like normal when the world is ending, isn’t it?”

Gentoku blinks slowly at him. “Well, you’re feeling cheerful today.”

Kazumi shrugs. “The world’s ending, what else is there to talk about?”

“Not sure. I’d say wrestling, but it’s not like there are shows running.”

“No, there aren’t.” Beat. “Anyway, you’re still wrong about that stuff, Inoki was a visionary but that doesn’t mean he was a good booker.”

Gentoku snorts. “Oh, because putting over all those obnoxious Americans you like is so much better? Inoki was a genius. You know I met him once? Tallest man I’ve ever seen. Although, granted, I was twelve, so that might be coloring things.”

“Thank fuck you don’t book wrestling shows, I’d never be able to watch them.”

“Why, afraid you’d enjoy yourself? How about this, if the world doesn’t end, I will put on a wrestling show, and you can come to it and tell me if you have any fun. We can bet on it.”

A slow nod, and Kazumi holds out his hand, and they shake on it even as he’s saying, “So what do you get out of that? If you win, it means I had a good time, what’ll I owe you for that?”

“I’m sure I can think of something really sinister to ask you for.” Gentoku grins at him and wiggles his eyebrows.

Kazumi stifles a laugh. “And you’ll have it printed on a shirt, right?”

“Well, now that you mention it…” Gentoku pulls open his jacket.

His shirt reads, I was actually coming up here to see if you wanted to make out.

Kazumi stares at it for a moment and then collapses back against the railing in hysterical laughter. “Holy shit, Beardy, where do you get these shirts? Also yeah, obviously, that sounds way better than standing around talking about the end of the world.” He reaches for Gentoku, looks at the shirt again, and goes into a fresh gale of laughter. “So what are you waiting for, asshole, get over here and kiss me before I look at your shirt too much and have a heart attack.”

Gentoku kisses him, and behind them the sun drops down below the edge of Skywall.

Chapter Text

Micchi’s had this dream before.

He’s in the garage, and the whole space is as it was before–before everything. The same furniture, the same decorations, just Gaim’s space and not the strange Beat Rider common area that it’s become. The garage is as it was, but he’s the person he became, in the dark suit he can no longer even look at while awake, his hair hanging in his eyes.

He’s lucid enough to know that he’s dreaming, but not quite enough to change anything, only enough to know what happens next. Next his teammates will come, Mai and Kouta and Rat and Rica and Chucky, and Yuuya will arrive with a basket of fruit and eyes the color of oxidized copper. He’ll try to tell them to stop, but they won’t listen to him, because he’s already lied to them too many times. Crying wolf, too late for anyone to care.

He waits for the nightmare to repeat itself.

It doesn’t.

Kouta walks into the garage alone, hands in the pockets of his orange vest. One of his eyes is gold. The other one is red. He says, “Hey, Micchi.”

So it’s the other nightmare. He swallows hard, frozen to the spot, waiting for the vine around his throat, waiting to be torn apart. It’s only as much as he deserves, really.

That doesn’t happen either. Instead Kouta frowns, but in a worried way instead of an angry one. “I felt something, I wanted to come see you. Are you ok?”

Slowly, Micchi says, “Kouta?” His voice is a croak. “Is that really…you?

“Yeah. Weird, I know. Here, come on, you look like you need to sit down.” Kouta takes his arm and tugs him over to the little swing, sitting down next to him on it. It’s a dream, so everything feels unreal, but Kouta’s presence is incredibly real, the side of Kouta’s leg warm where it presses against his. “Were you expecting someone else?”

“Normally when I dream about you you’re killing me.” He’s still croaking. He wishes he could make his voice work properly. “I have so many nightmares.”

The rest of the garage swirls indistinctly around them, becoming the makeshift shelter of the final days of the invasion, and then Helheim Forest, and then the garage again. But the swing remains solid, and Kouta remains solid too as he puts an arm around Micchi’s shoulders and pulls him close. “Yeah, that…that makes sense. I’m sorry. But this is really me, I promise. And I’m not going to hurt you.”

Micchi stares up at him for a moment, overwhelmed by the sheer reality of his presence, and then hides his face in the orange vest and cries.

It goes on for…time. An amount of time, indistinct in whatever dreamworld they’re inhabiting, wherever Kouta’s brought him to that looks like the inside of his own head and smells like orange blossoms. He cries, and Kouta sits there holding him and says, “I’d never hurt you,” into the top of his head.

“I wouldn’t blame you if you did,” Micchi mumbles into the vest. “I kind of fucked up everything.”

“I mean, maybe a little, but what good would hurting you do? For you or anyone else? That doesn’t fix anything.”

“I guess not.” Micchi shakes his head to clear it, considers sitting up straighter, and then doesn’t, because Kouta’s arm is still around him. “Why come see me, though?”

“Because I care about you?”

Micchi finally looks up, into one golden eye and one red, and drowns in them.

“You don’t deserve to be hurt. And I’m definitely not going to do it.” Kouta tips his chin up with one hand, thumb brushing over his cheekbone. “Got that?”

Maybe there’s a version of the story, Micchi thinks, where Ganymede begs to be taken to Olympus, instead of Zeus swooping down and snatching him from Earth unawares. Kouta doesn’t seem very Zeus-like, and anyway Micchi’s not sure how to indicate that snatching would be welcome if he’s inclined. So he presses against the hand on his face for a moment and says, “Got it,” and then leans up into a kiss that fills his lungs with the scent of orange blossoms.

The swing is still as present as ever, but the dreamworld swirls again, the garage shifting and mutating into a version of itself that’s been overtaken by vines and flowers, twisting around support beams, spreading out to hold up the ceiling, carpeting the floor. It’s beautiful. There’s also a distant noise, shrill and irritating, and Kouta blinks and pulls back to say, “I think that’s your alarm, Micchi.”

“Probably.” Going for another kiss seems more important, though, and Kouta doesn’t stop him, pulls him closer.

Obnoxiously, the alarm continues, and finally Kouta pulls back again and says, with a laugh in the back of his voice, “I should probably let you wake up, yeah?”

“Will you come see me again?”

The golden eye gleams; the red eye burns. “If you want me to.”

“I’ll always want you to.”

“Then sure.” One last kiss. “I’ll come see you again. But right now…”

“Yes?”

“No more nightmares.”

Chapter Text

Minityra is interested in the proceedings, and this is an issue, since Marvelous isn’t sure how the inquisitive little monster even managed to follow them back to the Galleon.

“Oh, he just shows up places,” King says cheerfully as the miniature dinosaur hops up onto his shoulder and stares at Marvelous. “He likes to follow me, I can’t really make him stop.”

Marvelous frowns. “Isn’t he your dinosaur?”

“Yeah, it’s more of a mutual aid thing. ‘Tyr, hey, don’t growl at his–bird?”

“Not a bird,” Navi says irritably from its perch, eyeing Minityra with deep suspicion. “Dinosaur on the bridge! Why’s a dinosaur on the bridge?”

Minityra makes–almost a barking noise, and then goes back to staring at Marvelous, who resists the urge to take a step back and instead says, “What are you looking at, dino?”

Another growl-bark. King sighs and reaches up to pet the crest of yellow spines as he follows Marvelous back towards the crew quarters. “‘Tyr, we need privacy. Don’t look at me like–yes, Amy’s fine with it, I talked to her. Yes, Ucchi is also fine, he’s with Amy.”

They get to the door of the captain’s cabin, and Marvelous undoes the locks and turns to look. The small dinosaur is still perched on King’s shoulder, watching him. He finally gives into temptation and sticks out his tongue at it.

King actually laughs, apparently delighted, and then says, “Here, if I just–” He grabs the front of Marvelous’ shirt and kisses him, hard, which is unexpected but not unwelcome.

Minityra makes an offended noise and jumps down from his shoulder.

“Thank you. Privacy, please.”

Chapter Text

Daiki’s a bit too dizzy from being dragged to stand up straight right now, but his ears are still working well enough that he’s a little worried when the kaijin who’s holding onto his left arm, says, “We caught him in the storage room, Great Leader.”

Oh, good. When they said they were taking him to the boss, they meant they were taking him to the actual boss. He can generally charm or confuse the average Dai Shocker commander long enough to get away, but whatever ancient goblin they’ve got running the joint might be a little trickier, or at least less susceptible to fluttering eyelashes.

A bored voice a few yards in front of him says, “You’re bothering me because you found a rat in the grain? Really?”

“Not that storage room, Great Leader,” says the kaijin holding his right arm. “The, uh, the armory.” A long pause. “The locked room.”

Oh. Now that’s interesting. Show him to me.

Something’s bothering Daiki about that voice, and he can’t quite figure out what it is until the third kaijin, the one who spent the entire march here stepping on his heels, grabs his hair and pulls his head up. Then he blinks and stares. Most of the human Dai Shocker commanders are old and hideous. He’d expected, reasonably he thought, that their boss would be even older and more hideous, not some curly-headed brat prince wearing eyeliner and head-to-toe vinyl. He actually laughs, and then, because his sense of self-preservation only deserts him at the absolute worst times, says, “Shit, I was expecting someone way uglier.”

The brat prince smirks at him and says, “That’s fair, I don’t have an especially attractive staff. If I tell them to let go of you, will you try to run away?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Then I won’t tell them that yet.” Brat Prince gets down from his throne and walks right up to Daiki, ignoring the murmuring of the people already in attendance and Daiki’s frankly oversized kaijin escort. “How did you get into the locked part of the armory?”

Daiki eyes him for a moment and then decides to tell the truth, since that generally pisses commanders off badly enough that they get distracted. “I walked in.”

Brat Prince doesn’t accuse him of lying. No sputtering, no screaming, no turning red, no mad cackle. Just a long, thoughtful, curious look, and then, “You know, I actually think I believe you.”

Daiki blinks. “I’m sorry?”

“What were you doing in the armory?”

“Looking for treasure.”

“Oh, of course.”

“So can we get the killing-me thing over with? I have more treasure to find.”

Brat Prince cocks his head to one side, and then smiles, which is desperately alarming. It’s not a nice smile, either. Really, Daiki would rather that Brat Prince not smile at him like that. “You two, let go of him.”

“I’m not going to complain,” Daiki says as the two kaijin let go of his arms, “but what happened to not telling them to do that?”

“Well, I was thinking I’d just cut your hands off,” Brat Prince says, pleasantly, and grabs Daiki’s wrists before he can gather himself enough to try to back away. “Since I don’t really like people stealing my things.”

Daiki nods slowly. “I’m sure you can understand when I say that I’d prefer…not that.”

“Of course not. A thief’s hands are valuable.” His grip isn’t especially tight; his thumbs rub circles on the pulse points, and it’s almost soothing, even. He looks down thoughtfully at Daiki’s palms and then kisses them, one at a time, as the murmuring in the room gets louder and more restless. “So I could cut them off and give them to one of the kaijin, I wouldn’t want them to be wasted, but I think it’d be nicer if you had dinner with me.”

Daiki stares at him. “You’re serious.”

“As a heart attack.”

Agreeing would probably be a bad idea, but then, it’s not like Daiki’s good ideas ever do much for him. “Dinner sounds good.”

“Fantastic.” Brat Prince lets go of his wrists. “Then I’ll have someone nicer than them,” with a vague gesture to the kaijin escort, “take you somewhere where you can clean up, and I’ll see you at seven.”

“It’s a date.” Which, probably a poor choice of words given the way they make Brat Prince’s eyes light up. “But I’m not calling you Great Leader.”

“Why should you? You can call me Tsukasa.” Brat Prince–Tsukasa–flaps a dismissive hand at the kaijin escort, who disperse in a flurry of worried muttering. “I’ll order us something nice. Have you ever eaten sea cucumber?”

Chapter Text

Marvelous wakes up several feet above his bed and nearly hits his head on the ceiling of his cabin before roaring, “Doc, why’s the gravity out?”

Doc’s aggrieved voice floats up from somewhere else in the ship–probably the engine room, honestly. “I am working on it.”

Marvelous’ first instinct is to tell him to work faster, but if Doc already sounds that annoyed then it’s probably best not to push it, so instead he shoves off the wall and floats over to his dresser to find clothes.

When he gets out into the hall, he nearly bumps into Ahim, who drifts out of Luka’s cabin with a bundle of clothes in her arms. She’s wearing a very elegant-looking robe which on closer inspection proves to be made of a bedsheet, and which is pinned at the shoulders with two of Luka’s gaudier brooches. She nods to him as he floats by and pulls her bedsheet robe more closely around herself. “Don’t look, please, Captain.”

He frowns. “Why not, it’s not as if I haven’t–”

She swats him, very gently. “Not without my permission.”

“Yes, your Highness.”

“Thank you, Captain.” She floats down the corridor and into her own cabin with her head held high.

Luka emerges only briefly, wearing an oversized t-shirt and a pair of boxers that are definitely Doc’s, but all she does is make her way over to the galley, rummage in a cabinet, and float back to her room with a pastry in her mouth.

Marvelous has almost reached his chair, although he’s not entirely sure how he’s going to sit in it, when the door to Joe’s cabin opens and a black cloud emerges. He’s reaching for his gun when the cloud is followed by the rest of Joe, who pushes off the doorframe with his feet and floats into the center of the room with a muttered, “My hair elastics floated into a corner.”

“You look–”

“Don’t say it, Marvelous.”

“–so cute.” Marvelous kicks his chair to propel himself over to where Joe is, grabs the other man’s shirt, and pulls him in for a kiss even as Joe is saying, “Don’t call me cu–mmm.”

Mid-kiss, they hear Doc let out a triumphant shout, and the gravity kicks back in, sending them crashing to the floor. Joe bites Marvelous’ lip as they land, not on purpose, and Marvelous swears, and by the time Doc comes up from the engine room they’re less making out and more wrestling. Doc stops next to them, frowning. “Was having the gravity out that much of an issue?”

They stop wrestling, and Joe peers up at Doc through the mess of his hair and says, “Isn’t that Luka’s robe?”

Doc turns bright red. “I had to wear something.

Chapter Text

Today’s phantom is called Redcap, and it’s carrying a package. That in itself would be worrying, so of course Haruto’s worries are only intensified by the arrival of Gremlin, who lands in between them with a theatrical leap as Haruto’s reaching for his Driver and says, “Lovely day, isn’t it, ring mage?” He aims a kick backwards at Redcap, who skitters out of his way, startled. “Get on with it, Yuuna-chan, you haven’t got all day.”

Redcap makes a rude gesture at him and hurries off, throwing a few curses back over its shoulder as it runs. Haruto dives for it, but Gremlin blocks him, and he can’t even muster the desire to shout, he just sighs. “What is it today, Gremlin?”

“Nothing! I just wanted to see you. Please call me Sora.” The Phantom shape dissolves, and Haruto’s shot is dodged by Takigawa Sora, smiling as always, hands in his pockets as he effortlessly dodges again. “Also I’d like to be sure that Yuuna’s package gets delivered, she’s worked very hard to obtain it.”

“You’re interfering a lot lately, what are you up to?” Haruto changes gun for sword and slashes.

Dodge again. “I’m bored and I like looking at you.” He ducks another slash and comes up pouting. “Don’t you enjoy my company?”

“Not especially.”

“Whatever happened to Yugo, by the way? Phoenix?” Sora dodges again and then darts forward and knees Haruto in the stomach, which startles him enough to drop the sword and thus frees up his arms for Sora to leap into them again, as he seems increasingly fond of doing. “I always liked him, he was really stupid and sometimes that’s entertaining in a man. And then he was gone.”

Haruto groans. “I threw him into the sun. Which is starting to seem appealing again.

“That seems like overkill, how attractive of you.”

“Look, are you–are you actually flirting with me?”

Sora actually doesn’t reply immediately, looking up at Haruto for a long, thoughtful moment even as he somehow resists Haruto’s efforts to put him down. Then he leans up, pulls Haruto’s head down, and kisses him solidly on the mouth, which is alarming in several ways.

Then he leaps down from Haruto’s arms, transforms again, and bounds away before Haruto can really finish reacting.

When Haruto finally looks up, it’s to see Nitoh, Shunpei, and Rinko all staring at him. Shunpei is carrying Redcap’s package. Nitoh, still in his full armor, says, slowly, “So, uh. Thanks for sending lunch my way. Did he just…?”

“Yeah, he’s been doing that lately.” Haruto shakes his head dizzily. “Not really sure what he’s going for.”

Chapter Text

“Oh, dammit, I have to go to the bathroom again. Three months and I’m still peeing all the time! Here, Philip–”

“Akiko, I’d prefer if you didn’t–”

But Akiko has already hurried out of the room.

“–hand me your baby without warning.” Philip stares down at the drowsy infant in his arms, mystified. “My research has been remarkably unhelpful regarding how I’m supposed to hold him.”

Shoutaro leans into the front room from the office and grins. “Did Akiko hand you the baby again?”

“Shoutaro. Help, please.”

“You look so cute holding him, though.”

“Shoutaro, I’m very uncomfortable with the concept of having to manage a child this young.”

“Probably a good thing we’re not planning on kids, then.” Shoutaro comes over and takes the baby from him. “You just need to support his neck a little, you know?” The baby burps contentedly and rests his head on Shoutaro’s shoulder, yawning. “Yeah, there you go, Uncle’s got you.”

Philip watches Shoutaro dance gently around the room and says, thoughtfully, “I’d almost be willing to consider it, you make a very handsome babysitter. But neither of us typically get an optimal amount of sleep as it is, nor is our home especially suited to child-rearing.”

“Not really, no.” Done with dancing, Shoutaro sits down next to him and stifles a yawn. “Wow, though, speaking of optimal amounts of sleep, that’s definitely not something I got last night.” Another yawn. “Holding a sleeping kid is really relaxing, you know? Just…knocks you right out.”

“I hadn’t noticed that.” Philip leans in curiously to inspect the stitching on the baby’s little cloth cap, and is surprised when Shoutaro turns a bit and kisses him on the nose. “Ah…Shoutaro?”

“You did look cute holding him. You can be a cute babysitter when he’s older.” Shoutaro yawns again. “Answer all the questions Akiko doesn’t want you to answer.”

“Why would she not want me to answer his questions?”

No response. Shoutaro is already asleep, the baby drooling gently on his chest.

Chapter Text

Marvelous’ bedraggled new companion has bruises and cuts all over his body and a raw red line around his neck where the tracking collar sat. He watches like a stray cat as Marvelous digs out the medic kit, allows his cuts to be bandaged and the collar-mark to be salved, and then says, with quiet wariness, “Just so you know, though. With you or not. You don’t own me.”

“Why would I want to?” His knuckles are a mess, and Marvelous takes one hand in both of his own, smoothing more salve over the cracked skin. “People are treasure because they can decide to stay with me.”

“Hm.” A long, steady stare. “I’m Joe.”

Other hand, just as cracked and painful-looking, but Marvelous raises Joe’s bloody knuckles to his lips and kisses them before returning to more traditional first aid. “Marvelous.”

 


 

Luka’s less of a stray cat and more of a feral dog. She always seems like she’s ready to bite, and Marvelous counts it as a triumph when she finally consents to staying with him and Joe for the length of an entire meal. She hasn’t got any table manners, but then, neither do they.

After that meal, she looks him over critically and says, “Captain, huh?”

“Is that a problem?”

She takes his hand and bows mockingly over it, her lips brushing his fingers. “Guess I have a captain now.”

He grins at her, trying to figure out what seems wrong until she straightens up and he sees the glint of red between her teeth. He glances at his hand–and yeah, it’s definitely the stone from his ring. When he meets her eyes again she starts laughing and hands the stone back to him after polishing it on her sleeve. “Not really well-set, is it? I’ll fix it for you later.”

He stares at her for a moment and then grabs her hand and bows to her in return.

 


 

Ahim holds out her hand palm-down when she’s introduced to Joe and Luka, as if she’s expecting them to bow. Luka ignores the gesture and shakes her hand, to her obvious surprise, but Joe actually does it, courtly and graceful. She giggles and curtsies in return. “Thank you, sir.”

When she turns back to Marvelous he raises an eyebrow. “You didn’t introduce yourself like that to me.

“Well, it was a bit of an emergency. I do think we have time for a proper greeting now, though.” She looks like she still wants to laugh, her smile cracking the prim façade that she wears like a cloak, and she holds out her hand to him, palm-down.

He doesn’t bow, but he does take her hand and kiss it, and she giggles again.

 


 

“Why do you like watching me work so much?” Doc says, on his back in the engine room under a piece of machinery. “Hand me that wrench, please?”

Marvelous passes it over to him. “You can do things that I don’t know how to do. It’s interesting.”

“If you could do them I probably wouldn’t be here.” It comes out sounding tart, and even shadowed by the machine he’s working on, Marvelous can see him blush suddenly. “Sorry. Sorry. Didn’t mean to snap.”

“No, I probably deserve that.”

“Soldering iron.”

“Which one is that?” Doc points, and Marvelous holds it out, and then catches his hand when he takes it. “The things you do impress me.” He kisses Doc’s fingertips, one at a time. “I appreciate them.”

Doc makes a tiny strangled sound. “Thank you, Captain. But. But also if I don’t finish repairing this we’re going to have real trouble the next time someone needs to shower.”

 


 

Gai sits on the floor in the common area, next to Marvelous’ chair, new cuttings for one of his scrapbooks spread out on the floor around him. Once upon a time this would have been a terrible idea; now, between his efforts and Doc’s, the floor is actually fit for habitation, although they still don’t have much space. He’s humming to himself, quietly.

Marvelous is, not for the first time, charmed. He stares, and then realizes he’s staring, and then looks up and realizes that Ahim is also staring and looking charmed, and across the room so is Joe. So at least he’s not alone in it, although he does try to make himself look serious again. “What’s this one?”

“That new team we bumped into, the one with the trains. I thought they deserved a page.” Gai glues down a picture, turns to reach for another one, and kisses Marvelous’ hand absently when he notices it on the chair arm next to his face. “Apparently they’ve got a space division of some kind, I wonder if we could find it. They’re very energetic, aren’t they?”

“Uh…yes, they seemed like it.” Marvelous slaps his own cheeks lightly, blinking. It’s been ages, but sometimes he still has trouble dealing with how cute Gai can be.

Chapter Text

“I forget, what are we doing for dinner tonight?”

Ryuu says, absently, “Don’t ask me questions.”

Akiko swats him. “Don’t give me that.” And then she sees his faint, thin smile and swats him again. “You’re making fun of me, why do you–oh, he’s got hiccups again, I hate when he has hiccups.”

“I’m still not sure I believe that, it seems unreasonable for a fetus to hiccup.”

“No, see–” She grabs his wrist and puts his hand on her stomach. “Here, you can feel it, it’s weird.

There’s a long pause, and then Ryuu says, “Ok, yes, that’s definitely strange.”

“See?” She nods smugly, and then grunts and shifts in her seat. “I can’t find a comfortable way to sit. Which is your fault, by the way, for being so. So.” One of her fists clenches near her face, her jaw tensing as she searches for the word. “This is your fault for being so sexy.” She grabs his hand from her stomach and kisses the back of it, furiously. “Why are you so hot, it’s not reasonable.”

The corners of Ryuu’s mouth tighten as he tries to hold back laughter, eyes still fixed on the case notes he’s reading. “I can’t really help that, Chief.”

“Oh, don’t call me that right now, I’m trying to be mad at you, how can I be mad at you when you’re going to go being cute.” She kisses his knuckles again, scowling. “Shoutaro!”

There’s a scrambling sound from the office and then Shoutaro leans in through the doorway, looking startled. “Yeah!”

“Don’t yeah me, make him stop being cute!”

Shoutaro stares at her for a moment, and then at Ryuu’s barely-suppressed laughter, and slowly backs out of the doorframe. “Nope. I’m staying out of this one.”

“Hey, you get back here!”

Ryuu flips to the next page of case notes and then absently lifts her hand to his lips and kisses it.

She glares at him. “How am I supposed to be mad at you when you’re being cute?

Chapter Text

The room is a good size for one person, but small for two. The beds, similarly, are a reasonable size to fit a single person apiece, but become crowded if that single occupant has wide shoulders, let alone company.

They’re making it work.

Ren tried to say that he doesn’t cuddle, of course, but Shinji is undaunted, and also heavy, so getting out of his bed is out of the question. He’s mostly asleep at this point anyway, and thus even more stubborn than usual, lying half-across Ren’s chest with his head on Ren’s shoulder. His hair smells good, probably because he’s been stealing Yui’s shampoo. His gentleness is maddening.

Ren leans his cheek against Shinji’s hair and enjoys its softness and good smell and says, “Your hair is in my mouth. Why do you trust me?”

“‘re you asking me that again?” Shinji mumbles. “I don’t know, I’m just pretty sure you’re a good guy. Also if my hair’s in your mouth why are you snuggling up to it.”

“I’m not–” Ren stops himself. “Why are you like this?”

“Come on, you love it.” Shinji looks up at him with a sleepy, goofy grin. “If I wasn’t around to annoy you then you’d have to find someone else to do it and I’m better at it than. Whoever. Admit it. You love it.”

Ren squints down at him, scowling, and then kisses him, which is a preferable alternative to admitting anything.

 


 

17 years later

They spend another twenty minutes arguing recursively about very little until Shinji realizes that he recognizes the doorway that they’re standing in. The Atori sign is gone, and he wonders sadly if Grandma Kanzaki passed away or just sold it and moved somewhere warm, and the place has clearly been empty for some time. There’s a yellowing sign in the window advertising that the building’s for sale.

He points it out to Ren, who marvels briefly at the bizarre coincidence and then says, “Hell, Shinji, when did you learn how to pick locks?”

Shinji grins at him. “Investigative journalism is fun sometimes. Come on.”

The interior is dusty, all the tables covered in sheets, the kitchen equipment mostly stripped. The interior doors aren’t even locked, though, and the stairs are still sturdy enough, so he charges on ahead, towing Ren behind him by the hand and into a bedroom that still, inexplicably, has two narrow beds in it, although they have no mattresses.

“Maybe I should buy this place,” Ren says absently. “Or you could buy it for me, you still owe me money. With interest.”

Shinji gapes at him. “I definitely don’t owe you anymore, that was in a whole other–”

Ren shoves him against a wall. That sparks a few memories, which are definitely more fun than most of the ones that have been coming up recently. “I’d been looking for a new place lately, anyway. Possibly even a roommate.”

It takes a moment before that clicks, and then Shinji grins. “My place is kinda wrecked, I’d been thinking about moving myself. Are you saying you’d want to live with me again? Given how much I annoyed you the first time?”

“Well, if I don’t have you around to annoy me, I’ll have to find someone else to do it.” Ren kisses him, several times, effectively smothering the noise he makes when he remembers why that sentence seems familiar. “And you’re better at it than anyone else I can think of.”

Chapter Text

“Oh, that smells good, what is it?”

“Hell if I know, I’m just the delivery man.” Tsukasa grabs Daiki’s wrist to keep him from going into the insulated box on the back of the bicycle. “Don’t. What are you doing here?”

Daiki pulls his wrist free easily, since Tsukasa wasn’t gripping very hard, and shrugs. “Finding treasure, same as always. Three of them here, there’s a set, they’re very pretty. Actually, did I hear you say you’re going to Shogun Curry? You couldn’t give me a lift, could you?”

“Too late, I’ve already got a passenger. Hey! Shibata! Are you coming or not?”

There’s an indistinct shout from inside, and the sound of clattering as this world’s sweet, hapless hero probably scrambles for his equipment. A cooking competition. Of all the worlds he could have walked into, of all the tasks he could have been given, Tsukasa has to be helping someone win a cooking competition.

Daiki’s still watching him expectantly, hand creeping once again towards the delivery box until Tsukasa stops him. “You’re sure? You know I’m not heavy.” He leans in with a flirtatious smile that does, admittedly, make Tsukasa waver a little bit. “I could sit on the handlebars like we’re middle schoolers going on a date.”

Tsukasa stares fixedly at a point just behind Daiki’s head and not at Daiki’s mouth and focuses on self-control, and then says, “How about this. You tell me what it is you’re looking for, and if I spot it then I’ll grab it for you. What are they called?”

“Isn’t that sweet of you, I wish I trusted it.” A pause. “But if you do spot three golden-brown medals, about so big, called Cobra–”

Tsukasa kisses him. Intently, thoughtfully, slowly so that he can take a moment to feel Daiki sway forward towards him and melt into it and coax Daiki’s lips apart with his tongue. Slowly enough that they’re still kissing by the time Shibata Eiji hurries out of the kitchen with his backpack full of tools and stops dead and says, “Ah. Kadoya?”

Tsukasa lets go of Daiki’s collar and says, “Get on, we’re going to be late.”

Eiji scrambles onto the bicycle behind him, perching precariously on the delivery box and squawking as Tsukasa starts to pedal. “Hey, do you think that bird guy’s gonna be at this one? I don’t think he likes me very much, but he does keep giving me tips.”

“Yeah, probably.” Tsukasa waves to Daiki. “See you around, Kaitou, let me know if you remember the names of those things you were looking for.”

Daiki blinks dizzily as he watches them go. “Cobra, Turtle…Alligator? Caiman? Or was the first one Viper…goddammit, Tsukasa.”

Chapter Text

The rain starts in the early morning, and the sound of it is soothing until Yamato realizes that there’s still laundry drying out on the balcony. He scrambles out of bed, pulls on a robe, and hurries outside.

The laundry’s not there.

He stares at the empty line, shocked, and then jumps when Misao’s voice behind him says, “I brought it in last night while you were finishing the dishes, did you forget?”

“I…guess I did, yeah.” He turns around and sees Misao leaning out the doorway to the balcony, wearing his robe, which is confusing until he looks down and realizes that he’s wearing Misao’s. That would explain why it seems tight around the shoulders. “Ah, sorry for stealing your clothes.”

“You two are goddamn adorable.” Marvelous has made do with the bed-sheet, which he manages to make look dashing, as he does with most things. “Why are we standing out here in the rain?”

“Laundry,” Yamato says, gesturing vaguely to where it had been.

“I thought he brought it in last night.”

“I did.” Misao pauses. “If you don’t mind my asking, what do you do for laundry on the ship? I’m sure you can’t hang it out when you’re traveling.”

Marvelous shrugs. “Doc does it.” He looks thoughtfully at Misao, who is himself looking thoughtfully at Yamato, and follows with, “Look, am I still allowed to kiss you now that it’s morning, or was last night a one-time thing?”

Misao blinks. “Did you want to?”

“Well, I’m sure as hell not asking to be polite.”

“Then…” A sidelong glance at Yamato, who grins. “Sure, why not.”

It’s early enough that it’s still mostly dark, especially with the cloud cover, and none of their neighbors are really awake, so Yamato leans back against the balcony railing and watches them. It’s nice, really, feeling the rain in his hair and seeing two people he loves enjoying themselves for a moment.

Misao’s hand closing around his wrist startles him out of his reverie. “You’re getting soaked, you know, come inside,” and pulls him into the doorway between them, where he leans back against Marvelous’ chest and has his laughter stifled by one mouth, and then the other, and for one awkward and poorly-timed but enjoyable moment both.

For once, the world isn’t ending. It’s good.

Chapter Text

For the most part Yamato just accepts that his powers are magic. He could probably find scientific answers for everything if he looked for them, but he really doesn’t have the time. Someday, sure, he’ll sit down with his Mark and some cell samples and figure out how it all works, but right now there’s other work to focus on.

When he’s flying, though, it always hits him. The sensation is exhilarating, of course, but there’s always a voice in the back of his head that sounds just like Professor Amamiya from his final year of university, saying, “You really don’t have the wingspan for this, Kazakiri.” He’s never wavered because of it, but it makes him nervous.

The really unfortunate thing about today is, the DeathGalien attacking can also fly.

Tusk and Leo are doing as well as can be expected against her, but of course they’re earthbound, they can’t give chase as easily. Misao can’t fly either, but he’s right on the edge of one of those berserker furies of his. He charges before anyone can tell him to stop and hits the DeathGalien square in the chest, sending her tumbling back, and charges again as she’s collecting herself. That gets another hit, but skewed as she spins out of the way and seizes one of his arms in her claws, and then she’s in the air and dragging Misao with her as he roars.

Yamato’s off the ground in seconds and chasing after them, insistently ignoring the ever-present thoughts about lift and wingspan. Fortunately having to fight in mid-air while trying not to hit Misao makes them easy to push back.

And then the DeathGalien opens her claws, and Misao drops, and they’re 200 meters above the ground.

Shouting, Yamato dives for him, hearing Professor Amamiya in the back of his head again but this time saying, “Kazakiri, you have less sense of self-preservation than any other student I’ve ever taught.” That one, at least, was a direct quote, and he’d sounded pretty pleased while saying it, so maybe it isn’t a bad thing to be remembering.

He catches Misao at probably 80 meters up, and he really doesn’t have the wingspan for this, not for carrying another adult human who’s half-unconscious. The DeathGalien’s getting away, but she was always going to get away this time, they’ll find her again later when they’ve got the whole team. He has to focus on making sure that neither of them die, and the best he can manage is a controlled glide down. It’s so exhausting that his transformation drops when they’re still a meter off the ground, and Misao lost his when he first started falling, so they land in a pile with a painful thump.

Misao looks up at him dizzily and says, “I’m sorry you had to catch me, I think I really messed that one up.”

Yamato’s hands are busy checking for injuries, so at least part of his brain is still focused on hero things, but his heart is pounding too hard to himself speak, and all it can focus on is Misao almost died. He’s pretty sure that he manages to say, “Of course I caught you, Micchan, I’ll always catch you,” before kissing him.

By the time Leo and Tusk get to them, he’s satisfied that Misao doesn’t have a concussion and that neither one of them has any injuries more serious than a few scrapes and a pulled muscle. Which means, of course, that they’re kissing again, and only stop when Leo says, plaintively, “I got beat up too and I’m not getting kisses.”

“Be patient, I’ll kiss you later,” Tusk and Yamato say simultaneously.

Misao laughs and then winces. “I think I need. To not be on the ground anymore.”

“Oh god, right, right.” Yamato gets up and pulls Misao to his feet. “Let’s go regroup and call the ladies.”

Chapter Text

The Beat Riders keep inviting Micchi to parties, and he’s not entirely sure of what to do about it. Part of him wants, desperately, to tell them yes, to go and be one of them again and laugh and dance and maybe forget about things. But the greater part of his heart is still afraid. They all know him. They all remember the person he became and the things he did.

A small, sensible voice, one that sounds a lot like Mai, keeps saying, Yeah, and they’re inviting you anyway, Micchi, get off your butt and go enjoy yourself.

It’s still too hard to even think of trying to talk to her. But he wishes that Kouta was here.

“Hey, Micchi, I heard my name? Well, not heard, but like. You know.”

“Holy shit.

“Hey, yeah, Mai says hi, she wanted to come around too but she’s sort of in the middle of…bees right now. Apparently bees are really complicated, and also they hate me? They only like her, so she made me go away.” Kouta looks around as the zipper closes behind him. Fortunately he’s not all in white, but his eyes are, as always now, red and gold, and he’s glowing a little. “Did they paint the garage? It looks really nice.”

Micchi eyes him nervously, feeling abruptly shy. “Yes, it, uh. The girls from Invitto decided recently that it’d look better if it was blue, and everyone agreed on that, so. They painted it last week. Mostly the Raid Wild guys did the painting, the Invitto girls have kind of…adopted them?”

“Wow, how does Jounouchi feel about that? I mean I’m sure he’s busy, but–”

“He’s thrilled, it means they’ve stopped stealing his boyfriend to carry all their shopping.”

“He’s seeing someone?”

Oh yeah, he’s very–you’d either love him or hate him, he’s sort of. Apparently he used to work with Oren back when Oren was, you know, before he ran Charmant.”

“Like, at a different restaurant?”

“No, as a mercenary. He calls Oren Sarge, it’s weird.”

“Oh, wow.

There’s a long pause, and then–

Kouta grins at him. “So it sounds like they’re having a party in there. Are you standing out here because they didn’t invite you, or because they did and now you’re freaking out?”

Micchi’s shoulders sag. “They invited me.”

“And you’re freaking out.”

“Of course.”

Kouta hugs him, and his arms are warm. “I mean, I’d love to see what Beat Riders parties are like now that everyone’s hanging out. I don’t really get many chances to hang out when the world’s not ending, you know? And if I get in the way of Mai’s bee stuff again she’ll kill me.”

“You want to come with me? I mean–everyone would be really happy to–just. Give me a minute.” Micchi holds him tightly, looks up into his cheery smile. “Do you mind staying out here with me for a minute? So I can…have you to myself?”

Kouta’s smile just gets wider. “As long as you want.”

They stand together for a long moment, and Micchi’s heartbeat slows down to a reasonable pace again, and he’s considering kissing Kouta when the garage door opens and someone–Peko, hat askew, cheeks flushed–says, “Don’t worry, I’m checking, I’m sure it’s nothing–oh wow, guys, Micchi’s here! With, uh. Company!” A pause. “No, seriously, come see, it’s a good thing.”

Micchi glances sidelong at the open door and the increasing number of Beat Riders crowding into it to shout and wave. Then he goes for the kiss anyway, which Kouta returns with enthusiasm, and the crowd at the garage door breaks into a chorus of whistles and cheers.

Chapter Text

Rain on the rooftop pounds like a drum roll, like a bombardment, like the footsteps of a hundred thousand people running for their lives, and Kiriya wonders if, really, he’s ever seen a light rain in his life. Certainly not since the infection rate first starting picking up. Everything is torrential now, and that includes the weather.

He sits on the edge because he doesn’t have to worry about falling and looks out over the campus through sunglasses on which the water doesn’t bead up because they’re not real. His hair is wet, sure, but he doesn’t mind wet hair. Wet hair, dry clothes, clean sunglasses. Everything about his body is his to control, within reasonable limits.

Maybe he’ll grow a tail or something. That’d be fun.

He only barely hears the goddamn pipe over the sound of the raindrops, but when it’s followed by footsteps coming towards him he grins. “Hey, look, baby, they’re playing our song.”

Kuroto doesn’t sit down next to him, he materializes already seated, legs dangling over the edge. He’s not wearing shoes. And unlike Kiriya, his clothes are soaked. “It was raining then, wasn’t it.”

“What, aren’t you sure? I’m hurt, you’d think killing me would rate a clearer memory.”

“I’ve killed a lot of people.”

“Oh, sure, but you only got up close and personal with me. Which is kinda flattering, come to think of it. So what’s it like being a god?”

Kuroto’s face flickers rapid-fire through five or ten different expressions, no transitional shifting of muscles to signal a change from one to the next, before settling into tight-mouthed solemnity. It’s a sight that Kiriya commits to memory, simply because he knows that most of the others will never be able to see it at all, except maybe Poppy or Parad. Their eyes don’t track fast enough. They live on human time, constrained by the limits of flesh and blood.

He can understand, sometimes, how living like this might make a person think they were God.

Kuroto is answering him. Kuroto is saying, “If you’re going to mock me, Kujou, then I’ll go do my divine brooding somewhere else.”

“Nah, don’t go. It’s nice having company.” Kiriya turns towards him a bit more, watching the rain drip off his eyelashes and nose and soak into his pristine white shirt. “Does your divine brooding have a topic or are you just in a mood?”

A long pause–but for them, so it’s about ten seconds. They only talk at human speed because it’s what they’re used to, really; Kiriya’s heard Poppy and Parad’s conversations dissolve into incomprehensible static on more than one occasion. “Who does a god go to for absolution?”

“Is this a riddle, or did you go looking for some and get stuck?”

“Take your pick.”

He doesn’t even have to think about the answer, then. “Me.”

Kuroto raises his eyebrows. “What makes you qualified for the job?”

“What doesn’t make me qualified? What’s a god to a sarcastic asshole?”

Another long pause. Five seconds, ten. And then a suppressed laugh and almost a smirk. “I suppose that’s as fair a judgement as any.”

Kiriya grins at him. “Knew you’d get it. Do you want me to forgive you? Because you’ll have to ask me for it. That’s part of the deal.”

“Forgive me.”

Five seconds, ten seconds, fifteen seconds, “Waiting for the second part there.”

“Please.”

“Sure, baby. I forgive you.” Kiriya reaches out and brushes a stream of raindrops uselessly from Kuroto’s cheekbone. “All you ever had to do was ask.”

“Would you have said yes before?” Kuroto doesn’t pull away from his hand, and he doesn’t move it. “If I had asked before today?”

“Who knows? I’m unreliable like that.” He leans in, and before their mouths meet he says, very softly, “But you know that pretty well, I figure.”

Lightning strikes across town as they’re kissing, followed by a noisy crack of thunder. Barely a mile away, by Kiriya’s count, but it’s more important to count the seconds that this lasts for. The taste of rain on Kuroto’s tongue is a memory he can savor, although it’ll take a while before he can decide whether or not it’s a good one.

Another quick-switch parade of facial expressions when the kiss breaks, ending on a grin that almost looks human. “Enjoying your moment of divine communion, Kujou?”

“Don’t push it, baby.” Kiriya straightens up and rests his hand over Kuroto’s on the edge of the roof, feeling the rain disappear from it as Kuroto fuzzes briefly and refreshes into himself again, but dry. “Rain’s got me feeling sentimental, that’s all.”

Chapter Text

The problem is not so much that Hiiro is hesitant to invite Emu to come home with him because he thinks Emu will refuse as it is that he’s mildly embarrassed by his own apartment. It’s a very nice apartment, of course, in a decent neighborhood, but it’s very bare–this is, after all, the first time he’s ever seriously considered the possibility of bringing someone there. He’s been to Emu’s home a couple of times, and its enthusiastic chaos is simultaneously warming and intimidating. (Said chaos also, of course, includes Parad, whose adjunct status to this developing relationship is still strange to him.)

If he’s going to have a relationship, though. If he’s finally going to step out of the shadow that’s clung to him for years, if he’s seriously entertaining the thought of romance with anyone who isn’t Saki–he should be able to invite that person to his home, whether or not he has any decorating sense. Hopefully Emu won’t judge him too harshly for it.

Right now they have a routine, and he likes it. He likes routines in general. On Friday evenings, barring emergencies, they wrap up for the day, Poppy scolds them for working too much, they have dinner together, and he walks Emu home.

It’s Friday evening. They have dinner. They get up to go.

Hiiro says, “It’s a pleasant night. Would you like to. Ah. Walk back to my apartment? It’s not far from here.”

The smile on Emu’s face is reward enough even before he says, “Sure, that’d be really nice.”

It is a pleasant night, and a short walk. Hiiro hesitates at the door to his apartment, though, not wanting to be seen to fumble with his keys when he says, “Would you like to come in?”

The answer is, of course, “I’d love to, please.” And unexpectedly, once inside, “Wow, Hiiro, your apartment’s cool.”

Hiiro blinks. “You think so?”

“Yeah.” Emu peers, fascinated, at a framed print on the wall–an anatomical sketch of a human heart, circa 1850. “I keep feeling like I should put up something besides posters, but I’ve never found anything else that felt right.”

“I’ve been collecting medical illustrations since I was seventeen. When I got my own apartment it seemed appropriate to display some of it. The tasteful ones, of course. The, ah, more grotesque ones I keep in folios.” Hiiro smiles briefly. “I got a couple of new ones the last time I visited the USA that I still need to have framed.”

“They’re beautiful.” Emu grins at him. “It’s very…you.”

“I–thank you. I hope that’s good.”

“I like it.”

There’s a long, shy silence.

They both step towards each other at once, and there’s some awkward laughter on Emu’s part and nervous shifting on Hiiro’s before they get their footing again. Hiiro’s hands find Emu’s waist, and Emu’s end up on the sides of Hiiro’s face, and it’s a very different kiss from the ones they’ve shared before. The others have been good, but they haven’t been…this. Which is to say, slow, and sweet, and also filled with a tension that’s been rising for some time but which they’ve both been politely pushing to the side before now.

Hiiro says, when he can even think about words again, “I was going to offer to make coffee.”

“Coffee would be really nice, but it can come after,” Emu says, and kisses him again.

“Would you like to–”

“Yes, please.

Reaching the bedroom–happens. Somehow. Hiiro’s not entirely sure how they manage it, he’s preoccupied with getting Emu untangled from that day’s garish t-shirt. “Companies give them away at big tournaments, I don’t know why I keep them, I can afford better clothes.”

“I like them,” Hiiro says, distracted by the enthusiasm with which Emu is unbuttoning his shirt, “they’re very you.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment?”

Hiiro wants to tell him, Yes, it is one, but talking is difficult, and kissing gets his point across just as well.

They spend what seems like a very long time just lying on the bed facing each other, trading kisses and moments of heated touch back and forth like gifts until Emu’s politely murmured request–suggestion, really–sends Hiiro scrambling for the bedside table. He bought condoms and lubricant two weeks ago, steadfastly refusing to consider their purpose or the timeframe on which they might be used. He knew at the time, or at least hoped, that he’d need them eventually, and now he does.

More than anything else it’s strange having Emu teach him something, soft instructions frequently interrupted by gasps and cries and at one point sweet, breathless laughter. It’s almost enough to make Hiiro lose his nerve. But–the smile on Emu’s face helps. And then Hiiro’s on his back and Emu’s over him and sliding down carefully, gradually, as he pushes up, and it’s unbelievably good. It’s better than anything he’s ever imagined.

After that, actually having an orgasm seems like an afterthought.

The clean-up is less than enjoyable, but Emu’s sleepy, goofy satisfaction is so charming that he barely thinks about it. Emu grins up at him, pulls him into another kiss, and says, “Can I stay the night?”

“I’d like you to.” Somehow now it’s easier to say. “Did you still want coffee?”

“I mean. Did you want to make coffee? I’ll have some if you want to make some, but honestly I’d rather cuddle.”

Hiiro blushes all over again. “Then I’ll make some in the morning.”

“That sounds good.” Emu curls up in his arms, head tucked under his chin. “You really hadn’t ever done that before? Because that was great.

“No, that was. Ah.” Hiiro swallows hard. “That was my first time.”

“…wait, what.” Hiiro freezes at the tone of Emu’s voice, but–“Holy crap, if you’d told me that I would have worn a nicer shirt.”

Hiiro relaxes. “I like how you dress.”

He feels Emu’s smile against his chest. “I’m telling everyone you said you like how I dress. I mean, not, like, the context, that’s for us, but they’re gonna know.”

Chapter Text

He says, “How far would you go to save the world?”

“What do you mean?”

They’re standing side by side, and the sun is going down, and time seems suspended. It’s not, really, because Sougo knows he’d feel it. Frozen time makes the back of his neck itch, and it always smells odd. But standing next to Tsukasa right now, watching the sky turn red and orange and pink, it feels like everything in the universe is still.

It’s almost nice.

Tsukasa looks at him sidelong. “What I mean is, how much do you want to save the world? Enough to be the villain if that’s what the world needs you to be to get saved?”

Sougo frowns. “I don’t think so. I’d rather not, really, that’s kinda my whole goal here. You know? Not being the bad guy. Why?”

No answer.

“Have…have you? Had to be the bad guy?”

Still no answer.

Sougo’s quiet too, for a long moment, before saying, “How many times?”

Tsukasa shrugs. “Not sure. Two or three, at least. I’ll tell you if I ever remember.”

That’s a lot to take in, and Sougo turns to look out at the sunset again. There are plenty of questions he could ask, but the one that finally comes out of his mouth this time is, “Did it have to be you every time?”

“No one else was going to do it. So sure, I guess you could say it had to be me.”

“But that’s not fair. Why would–that’s not fair.” Sougo shoves his hands in his pockets, shoulders hunching. “They all keep telling me I’m going to turn into some kind of monster, or at least that I could turn into some kind of monster, I saw myself from the future and he told me I was going to turn into a monster, and nobody will tell me why I’m going to turn into a monster, or why it happened to him in the first place.” He can feel Tsukasa looking at him, but he doesn’t look back. “I’m trying really hard to stay positive here. All I want is to make the world better.”

“By being king.”

“Well, yes.”

Out of the corner of his eye he sees Tsukasa–not quite smile. Maybe he’s smiling. Sougo’s not sure if it’s a good smile, either. If it is one at all. “You never answered my question, Sougo. How far would you go to save the world?” The disappearing light seems to leach the color from his hair and clothes, making him for a moment a defined figure in black and white against the remains of the sun. But the camera hanging around his neck is still pink. “Or even just your friends? You might have to leave them behind, you know. Sometimes that’s how it works.”

“I don’t want to.”

“That’s not what I asked. Obviously you don’t want to. Nobody wants that. I asked if you could.

“I…” Sougo pauses, and glances back over his shoulder at Kujigoji Hall, where Tsukuyomi is sitting in the window and reading. He can see Geiz behind her, too, arguing with Woz, probably about nothing. “I guess I don’t know about the world, but I think I’d do pretty much anything to save them.”

“Even leave them?”

“…even that.”

Sougo doesn’t realize he’s shaking until Tsukasa reaches out hesitantly and pats him on the shoulder. It doesn’t feel like a gesture from someone who’s used to comforting anyone, and it doesn’t really help. Despite that, though, Sougo turns and throws his arms around Tsukasa and buries his face in Tsukasa’s pink shirt and Tsukasa pats him again, hesitantly.

Muffled by the shirt, Sougo says, “Thanks.” And then, “I feel like I’d forgotten that you’re super tall.”

“I think the problem might be more that you’re very short.” Tsukasa tips his face up. “Come on, don’t want you to suffocate before you save the world.”

“What would you do to save the world?” Sougo doesn’t let go of him.

“I’m pretty sure the record shows that I would do, and have done, just about anything.”

“Would you kiss me?”

Tsukasa…blinks. “I’m sorry, would I what?”

“Well, I haven’t before, and I feel like I should in case I, like, die or turn into a demon or something.”

“You–want me to give you your first kiss. And you haven’t asked one of your friends because…?”

“I don’t know if Geiz would. I do know Woz would, but I don’t know if he’d do it because he wanted to or because he’s…Woz.”

“Makes sense, I guess. What about Tsukuyomi?”

“I’m not into girls.”

“Ah. Then why me?”

Sougo looks away. “Because you seem like you get it.”

There’s a three-heartbeat pause, and then Tsukasa turns his face back and says, “That’s fair enough. Or at least, I don’t know that I could find you anyone else who’s going to understand better.”

It’s…

Sougo’s not sure what he was expecting from a kiss in the first place, but it’s good. Not necessarily the big explosive thing that girl’s comics make it look like, but it feels good, and Tsukasa’s hand on his face is very gentle, and there’s something happening with Tsukasa’s tongue at the end that he couldn’t, afterward, describe, but which he definitely enjoys. When Tsukasa pulls back he tries to go for another one, but sort of misses and ends up getting the side of his neck, which is also nice in a different way.

Tsukasa says, not unkindly, “You should let go of me now.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me, all I’m really doing is giving you more things to worry about.” Tsukasa grins at him, though, and for a very briefly moment actually looks happy, and Sougo wonders about the friends he left behind and if he’d ever kissed any of them like that, and if they’d gotten to see that smile. “Gotta say, though, I’m actually flattered. Never kissed a king before. That sort of thing is supposed to fix all kinds of problems.”

Chapter Text

Skill number 1243, Kaoru has learned, is apparently making excellent coffee no matter how poor the supplies on hand are.

“How do you manage it?” he says, taking another baffled sip. “I don’t think I’ve ever had hotel coffee that was more than passable.”

“Spices.” Yusuke grins and holds up a little bottle. “I learned it in Morocco. It’s good, right?”

“It really is.”

Now that the coffee’s made, they sit in silence, and the only skill currently on display is “looking absolutely spectacular in nothing but a towel.” That one probably doesn’t have a number, but it might be Kaoru’s favorite. It’s certainly not one he’d ever dared to hope for a demonstration of, and yet now here Yusuke is, sitting on his bed at his aparthotel, drinking spiced coffee and watching him like he’s the special one.

(Yesterday afternoon, outside headquarters: “Your girlfriend in Nagano must be pretty special, right? To be dating a guy like you.”

“Are they still keeping that joke up?”

“So you don’t have a girlfriend.”

“No.”

“Does that just mean you’re really busy, or can I ask you out on a date?”)

Yusuke finishes his coffee and says, cheerfully, “I think the way you keep looking at me and smiling might be the nicest thing that’s happened in ages.”

Kaoru coughs. “Am I that obvious about it?”

“I mean, to be fair, I’m noticing it because I keep looking at you and smiling. So I don’t think either one of us is really being subtle.”

“I guess not.” It feels strange to be shy at this late stage, and Yusuke certainly doesn’t encourage shyness, but Kaoru feels shy nonetheless, and hides it in the last sip of his own coffee.

(Yesterday evening, outside the hotel: “Would you…like to come up?”

“I’d love to. If you’d like me to, that is.”

“I would. I would very much…like you to.”

“Then yes, please.”)

“You know what?” Yusuke blinks, and then claps his hands as if he’s had a revelation. “I think I’ve figured out a new skill!”

Kaoru frowns. “What, really? Just now? What number is this one?”

Yusuke flashes his infectious grin again. “This’d be 2001. Beat my goal.”

“Will you have to update your business cards?”

“Nah, I might leave this one off, it’s kinda private.”

“Am I allowed to ask what it is?”

“You’re the only one who gets to know what it is, actually. Go ahead, ask.”

Yusuke looks at him thoughtfully for a moment before saying, “What’s skill number 2001?”

(Last night, in hotel room: a breathless countdown of skills, half-laughing. Every touch, though, is meant entirely seriously.)

“I’m pretty sure,” says Yusuke, leaning across the bed and pulling Kaoru towards him, “skill 2001 is kissing you specifically.”

There are several minutes in which talking is out of the question, and then once he’s able to, Kaoru says, “I mean, you may have mastered that one already.”

Yusuke smiles and doesn’t let go of him. “Actually, I think I might need to practice some more.”