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Keigo doesn't see them at first—the men meeting at the back of the club at those dimly-lit tables, shooting daggers at whoever comes close. They don't matter, aren't even on his radar. The drunk and high mass of bodies two inches away barely are.

He's too busy dancing.

The song switches and Keigo switches partners with it, finding the nearest opening in the crowd to slip into. He never gets drunk enough to lose himself but he can feel it settling in a sweet spot. This is nice, he thinks. This is what he came here for, a mindless night and numbing music, skin too hot to stand. People touching. More of them grabbing.

Until someone grabs him a bit too forcefully. At first, in his head, it's just some creep who thought he found the easiest little thing on the dance floor, but then they grab him again when he shrugs out of it. Angrier this time. The man pulls him to the outskirts.

"Someone wants to see you," he says. Like it means something, like it'll suddenly be enough to convince him to be a good boy. Keigo shakes himself sober and starts clawing at the man's hand like he means to reach bone.

"Don't fuckin' touch me!" Keigo yells, but it isn't loud enough. No one knows. No one sees the man get fed up enough to yank him forward and slap Keigo with the back of his hand, so hard it rips the music from his ears and cracks the air that brought it to him. He drags him all the way across the room while he's still stinging from it. Bleeding from his lip, too.

It's those dimly-lit tables they stop at. The other party from before had left, it's just one man sitting down now, all alone. He's dressed in a suit like a businessman, but businessmen don't have goons with guns in their waistbands. They don't look like kings.

Keigo feels a line of blood run to his chin, but he doesn't dare lift a finger to wipe it.

The man at the table sets down his glass of wine and gives an empty look, one that keeps on evolving the more he looks at them until suddenly it's become everything at once. Handsome, terrifying, peaceful, controlled. The roulette wheel keeps rolling and it'd feel like sweet suicide to bet.

And the goon who'd taken Keigo in the first place seems to realize he's done something wrong. "Sorry boss, I-"

The man speaks, and his voice is like ash. "What did I ask?"

"Find the kid with a feather in his hair," he repeats, like Keigo isn't right next to him. His head's spinning, it's more than the booze's fault because now Keigo knows the man had asked for him specifically. Wanted him here, at his feet. Wanted him badly enough to turn it into a contract, an order, whatever it took to bring him into his sphere.

The man ignores the answer and outstretches his hand, looking directly at Keigo. "Come here. No one else is going to touch you." 

No one else.

Not, no one.

It's important to know the difference a word can make.

But he addresses Keigo in a way that's so different from how he spoke before. His voice takes on something possessive, protective, and it's easier than it should be to choose which man Keigo wants to stand by. 

The grip on his forearm loosens and he steps foreword, inch by inch, only stopping when he reaches the man's bent knees with an urge to fall beneath them—and just like that the world behind him crumbles. There's no music and no dancing, no flashing lights or distorted sound. There's only the feeling of Keigo's breaths stopping just short of oblivion. It's him, him and this man and the way they've become a package deal with each other.

Keigo is still as the man reaches out. He trails the back of his hand against Keigo's bare thigh, his arm, his warm stomach, in a way that feels like he's proving a point to everyone in the room, even the ones on the dance floor who aren't supposed to exist anymore. His fingerprints say mine and the rings adorned on them give Keigo goosebumps. His eyes are unnervingly blue as he stares at him. When has blue ever been a color to fear?

Keigo shivers when the man finally acknowledges the cut on his lip, touching it like it's broken in a way only he understands how to heal. The blood turns to watercolor on his fingertip, and he gives a look so strong that the goon who'd grabbed Keigo shrinks back into that world of non-existence.

The man only speaks to Keigo, now. "He shouldn't have done that to you."

Keigo is suddenly afraid, scared in the way he should've been all this time. The danger finally caught up to his heartbeat and here it is, knocking on his door in the middle of the night, where he can see the outline of the shadow that wants to take him. His only thought is, what are you going to do to him?

Instead Keigo asks something that he can handle the answer to. "Why'd you want to find me?"

"I enjoyed watching you dance."

But it turns out he can't handle it, after all. It isn't his fault, the man's words shouldn't be sounding like that, making him feel like that: something special. Something desirable enough to put on a plate and pass around. Keigo's cheeks grow red at the thought of being wanted like this for such a simple thing. He replies, "I wasn't dancing for long."

"Then I enjoyed everything else, too." Everything else—the night flies by in his head, from strutting in to spinning to kissing some old man at the bar for a drink, and then right back on the floor again with cherry alcohol on his tongue, tipsy and wild. Did this man see it all? Did he want Keigo even more at the thought of someone else having him?

The man asks for more. "What's your name?"

"Keigo," he breathes. It never occurred to him to lie.

"Enji." The man doesn't lie either. That means something, it's another careful choice just like no one else was. Because surely he must have some other name to give, one that strikes fear into the hearts of men and the minds he's broken—or a family name that carries on a tradition, a legacy so old and dark that Keigo couldn't dream of its end or beginning.

Or he could've asked for loyalty right from the very start. It'd be easy for the kid with a feather in his hair, right; he's a songbird with only one note to play. Sir, sir, sir. Call his new king sir, call him anything else and he'll be eating his words through his teeth. Yes sir, no sir, are you going to kill me, sir?

But then Enji rubs the bottom hem of Keigo's little top, and the question becomes, are you going to kill me after you fuck me, sir?

Keigo can barely stand in front of him without curling inside-out. He's finally figured out what Enji wants, what Enji's going to take.

Then there's a choice that isn't really a choice at all. "You can go back to the bar now, Keigo, but I'd like it if you kept me company."

And he can't refuse, not now, not even if one of Enji's men broke from their post and put a gun to his back to convince him that he shouldn't want it. But he does. Package deal, he thinks again. He's wrapped in a bow and Enji's finger is tucked under the loops, under his clothes. He's been delivered—as promised. All Enji has to do is sign his name.

Keigo drags his teeth along the cut on his lip, tasting the last drops of blood it pulls out.

And he stays.

So that's his answer.

Enji seems content about it, but not enough to stop bringing attention to what his men did. "It's a shame that it left a mark" That it dented his pretty package, fragile boy. Keigo hates being underestimated almost as much as he loves being cared for.

"It doesn't hurt." 

He doesn't know why this is what he chooses to lie about, out of everything.

"What about your arm?"

He shakes his head, sore, lying, lying to his king.

"Mm." Enji must see right through him, he hums like he already knows Keigo's secrets. "Not a word of complaint. Do you want to impress me that badly?" 

Keigo knows it's true when he hears it. "Maybe."

He wants to impress him like nothing else, and Enji shows him how. It's like the night begins again on a restart; a new breath, a new song, a glass of wine set down for something finer. Enji tugs him by the sore wrist he'd lied about, pulling Keigo onto his lap where he'll stay until Enji decides he wants him somewhere else.

"Dance for me, then, pretty bird."

Keigo doesn't know how to feel about being called pretty, but it's what he is now—pretty bird, fragile bird with the red feather in his hair. He'd made his choice to stay and let that knocking shadow in, and now here's the fallout he'd asked for. He embraces it, rolling his hips and straddling Enji's lap, dancing, dancing. Drunk on something new that tap beer couldn't hold a candle to.

Enji plays the silent admirer at first, and it pushes Keigo to the bounds of insanity even quicker than if he touched him. So he needs to try harder to make him touch, then. That's what this is, isn't it? A man with fine tastes and high expectations. He doesn't know the first thing about settling, and Keigo doesn't know how to disappoint.

Keigo lifts his arms above his head and rocks his body, pushes and pulls like a wave. His top lifts with him, catching just above his nipples. He knows how good he looks, he's that sweet little thing to put on a platter again. Enji thinks so to; he finally touches him—God, finally—and holds his waist like something to savor. His hand with all the cold, metal rings slides to his chest. Enji presses his lips to the bare center.

"You smell like smoke."

Keigo trembles, even though it wasn't a compliment. "S'that a good thing?"

"It is now."

His heart beats faster.

Of course Enji wouldn't like the smell of smoke—but in the same kind of way that Keigo doesn't like handsome strangers, or making decisions while he's drunk, or the way he gravitates to older men, ones who have so much experience that he falls in love with the idea of them letting him fall.

So no, he doesn't like it, but it likes him.

Keigo keeps pushing closer on Enji's lap, hoping for another one of those heart-kisses. Another compliment to tease out. He feels raw, exciting, spotlit like there should be eyes on his back with the show he's putting on. Why hasn't he looked anywhere else but Enji? The club is full of people who exist again.

"Are they watching us?"

"They know better than to stare. I'd kill anyone who looks at you." But Enji says it calmly, like he isn't talking about killing at all.

It wakes up something he'd buried deep down inside at the start, the voice he told to shut up and be a good boy not too long ago, but it's smarter than he gave it credit for. Keigo needs a second to think—fuck, stop touching me like that, I can't even breathe. He tries so hard to ground himself while Enji's forearms curl around his back and squeeze. Think, think, think. He isn't drunk enough to be so careless with his life.

Who is Enji, really? Who is he, and what name doesn't he want to give? What kind of person uses homicide like an art of seduction and—what the fuck—makes it sound so enticing?

Keigo is scared of it.

But he's also not really.

He just needs to stay inside the fine lines of Enji's good graces, keep him tame—or maybe the both of them. Keep them so wrapped up in each other that there's no need to wonder where a bullet would fit.

So he holds the sensation of Enji's touch under his skin. He climbs up onto the tabletop, pulsing with adrenaline, making sure not to spill his drink.

Enji likes that. The way Keigo's already making decisions in his twisted world and getting them right. It's that broken sort of puppy loyalty that Enji must treasure, even more than his pedestal that no one lets tip. Kind king, cruel king, doesn't matter as long as you worship. Keigo is above him when they meet eyes, but it still feels like he's looking up.

His think, think, thinking turns into dancing, wrapping Enji up in him, just as he promised. He keeps his clothes on his body because he remembers what Enji said before about staring, and killing, but he moves like he's naked in the neon lights anyway. He's too dizzy to care about being a fool. The height's enough to give him vertigo.

And Enji sips his wine and watches him spin.

"Keigo." 

God, It's like he sips his name, too—sweet, red, aged to perfection. Pretty in his glass. Prettier in his mouth.

Keigo pauses and breathes the heavy air. He wonders why Enji didn't use the nickname he'd so fondly called him before—pretty bird, my pretty bird. It reminds him to straighten his feather-clip as he watches Enji stand up, the wine still in his hand. Eyes too blue. Eyes like diamonds. He wants something else.

His empty hand reaches up, and Keigo lays his small fingers on Enji's palm for balance, addicted to the way he moves, climbing down from the table. To wherever they'll go next.

He feels smaller than ever before. Hanging off Enji's bicep, dwarfed by the size of him, it's like Keigo really is that little songbird. He hums his lonely note, again, it's all he knows how to do. Sir, sir, take me now, sir.

Enji promises he will.

He leads him to a door even further into the club, one that looks like an exit but turns into a hallway. There's a single room on the far end. It's where Enji's taking him, off into the great unknown, but Keigo still isn't scared of it. He's in Enji's protective shadow now. Two of the gun-in-waistband men follow behind them like bodyguards, shiny metal knights, protecting their king. They stay outside in the hallway while Enji leads Keigo in.

The room looks like an expensive hotel for two; grey walls, big bed, red-tinted lights. No windows. He must own the whole fucking club, then. How often does he need a bedroom to take someone to? Often enough to have it built.

Keigo lets go of his arm, feeling shy and uncertain now that there's no buffer in the form of music or drunk crowds. There's no one to save him. No one to see.

Enji sets his wine down on an end table, and sits on the edge of the bed.

"Strip," he says.

It's happening fast, too fast, Keigo can't catch up to the spin of the room. The word barely registers as a command now even though he was so eager to follow them before.

"Go on," Enji urges—not impatient, not yet. "I want to know what's mine."

And just like that, Keigo learns his place. He's become a possession, an object for Enji to polish and hold up to the light, and other times as something to use up until he's nothing but bones with Enji's name carved into them. He's stolen Keigo away from whatever easy life he was living before, when he didn't have a cut on his lip or an ache where Enji's hands had left him. 

Keigo would do anything for him, he thinks. So he breathes and obeys.

"Good boy," he hears in reply, loud and clear, the only sound in the room besides his clothes ruffling. It makes his heart leap in his chest and suddenly good is all he wants to be.

When Keigo's pants fall to the floor, he can't help but tremble while he steps out of them. It's the look in Enji's diamond eyes again—telling him he's taking too long, that kings aren't meant to wait and he has no patience left. Enji makes a noise in his throat and pulls him closer, because those times of silent admiration are over and done with, now.

"Don't be coy." He tugs Keigo's shirt over his shoulders, letting him figure out how to get untangled while Enji drags his tongue along his bared skin. 

And then Enji presses a kiss to the flat plane of his stomach, and that noise from before opens up into something otherworldly. 

"You're even sweeter than my wife."

Keigo falls into him completely. Breathe, he tells himself, but God, it's so hard to breathe. The lingering ghosts of doubt exorcise themselves from his body in a quiet whisper, just one last gasp. "I don't know if I should be scared of you." But he's scared to even think it.

Enji's mouth moves up to his neck, tasting more of him, more of his sweetness. Keigo doesn't even know if he'd said it out loud or not until Enji finally replies.

"You're a smart little bird, aren't you?"

Before, he was smart. Now everything else has eclipsed it. This Keigo is just happy to hear the nickname again, how Enji says it, because he loves it dressed up in his voice. And love is a word he shouldn't be using anywhere near Enji, who heard his quiet fear before and had nothing comforting to say back, not even a lie, which Keigo would've begged himself into believing.

Enji pulls him by the wrist, still no answer. "Come here, on my lap."

Keigo's head spins. Yes sir; anything, sir. But anything is a word he shouldn't be using so lightly, either.

The fabric of Enji's pants rub against his bare skin as Keigo straddles one leg, intimate and flushed, aching like something's raw deep inside him. Enji touches his face before anything else.

"Your lip is bleeding again."

His heart jump-starts. Keigo pulls his lip into his mouth and sucks the blood away—just like he did after being led down the hallway five minutes ago and wondering, for that one, desperate moment, if Enji would kill him right there, and he'd bit his lip open again in his nerves about it.

"I bit it while I was dancing"

Enji rubs his thumb across the cut, looking so far into Keigo's eyes that it's like he wants to fuck his lies out into the open. 

Instead Enji pulls his hand away and gives him yet another chance to impress him. "Get yourself off. I like watching you too much."

Hearing those words, the way they bite at his skin, Keigo starts writhing on his lap and proves exactly why Enji likes to watch him. It's the most erotic thing he's ever heard. Keigo is liquid as he goes to roll onto the bed, but Enji grabs the top of his thighs and keeps him put. "Right here."

So right here he stays. Enji wants him to get off on his lap, make himself feel good, he can do that. Anything to be a good little bird again. Keigo puts his hands on Enji's chest and starts rutting against his leg, riding the smooth fabric of his pants. It feels like intimacy they haven't earned.

But it all spills over too quickly. "It's- it's too much," Keigo catches his breath. He's overstimulated, there's too much friction, not enough of what he needs.

He watches Enji grab the glass of wine again, ignoring him, ignoring his troubles. But Keigo just doesn't expect his solution: to tip the wine onto his chest and let it run down, down, until it pools between his legs and the fabric underneath them. Such an easy fix; get it all nice and wet. Keigo makes a noise he can't help, shivering while Enji tucks forward and tastes the droplets on his skin, dragging his tongue up to catch them. The wine stains his lips red. The rest is soaked between Keigo's thighs. 

"That was a five-hundred dollar glass of wine. Don't waste it, now."

Keigo feels like he's just been presented with a gift. His hands curl into Enji's shirt and he's moving with a purpose now, slipping against his leg. Good boy, good boy, Keigo could be in a dream right now and wouldn't know the difference. The wine works its wonders, and his moans die in his throat as they all try to overflow at once and trip back down.

Enji watches. And then he does more than just watch, wrapping an arm around Keigo's back and bending him forward. The angle is enough to make him see stars on the floor, and Enji's finger rubbing against his little hole does him in completely.

Keigo pushes his face into Enji's shirt, open-mouthed as bloody drool drips from it. If he had any semblance of control out in the club, it's been buried six feet under the ground, now. There's a low voice by his ear while Enji slips his finger inside of his ass. He hangs on every word.

"Moan for me. Don't be shy, they all know why I brought you in here."

The men outside the door weren't even a fleeting thought before, but he rushes to do what he's told anyway, moaning for Enji, moaning for them to hear. He hopes they like the song he's singing.

"God-"

Enji pushes another finger inside while he ruts, "Don't say His name, say mine."

"Enji," he gasps, "Enji."

And then his guts twist themselves outward and he shakes through his own collapse, falling against his king, his handsome stranger that he fears so much. That he doesn't. Keigo has no strength in his body left to use. He wonders if he still looks pretty, even like this, or if it was Enji's intention to ruin him so thoroughly that only he'd remember who Keigo once was.

Enji breathes against his hair, taking his fingers out of him. He whispers in a soothing voice, "I bet your cunt tastes like heaven now."

Keigo whines like something so wounded. He almost expects Enji to test his theory, to lift Keigo's boneless body onto his face and get drunk off the taste of dirty wine—and Keigo would let him. The word anything comes back to haunt him, and even this still feels like child's play. What would it take to scare Keigo off now that he'd cried Enji's name like a deity? Something so bad that he doesn't even want to think it. But, maybe, not even then.

He hopes Enji liked watching.

After a moment, Keigo sits up and runs his fingers through his hair, hearing the feather-clip clatter onto the floor behind him. He almost laughs about it until Enji takes his face into his hand, turning it to the side. It's the blood again. Keigo licks at the cut and finds his lip puffier than before.

Enji tilts his head back with an emotion Keigo doesn't understand or want to. "It's getting harder to forgive him."

The man, the one who displeased his king and damaged his new favorite. 

What are you going to do to him?

But this time he isn't afraid of the answer, so he asks. It's become something more than just morbid curiosity. It's in the way Enji looks at him; the way Enji looks at him, God, it's the only explanation for what he wants to hear, how he wants Enji's promise to kill for him, put a bullet in someone's skull for him—but have it stop right there as a promise. Or the chamber is empty when the gun's against their head. Or it was just a hypothetical to begin with, a thirty-second scenario where no one really has to die, it's just enough to know that they would if it was either them or Keigo.

Enji wonders, "Do you really care?"

So it's exactly that, him or Keigo.

He nods his head.

Enji strokes his lip and explains what happens to those who disappoint him, a code that's as much a mystery as he is. "Blood for blood. He'll pay his debt and come out of it a better man."

A shiver runs up Keigo's spine and back down again, all around him. He isn't in the world of hypotheticals anymore. It's become too real.

So he doesn't know why he says it.

"What if I blame you?"

Enji stops petting him, and then his mouth quirks up into the subtlest of smiles. "Blood for blood," he repeats, instead of anything Keigo would've expected. In an instant he'd gone from fond to deeply indulgent. Little bird, little bird, you're learning how this works already.

Keigo moves onto the bed and watches Enji rise, taking something out of the drawer where his empty glass of wine sits. He can't see what it is until Enji stands in front of him and flips the blade open, and then Keigo can't flinch, or breathe, just reaches out and takes the handle like he'd ever even held a knife.

Blood for blood. Enji wants to know what he'll do now, if he's as strong as he is pretty. If Keigo can be as smart as he once was before the alcohol found his sweet spot, and Enji found it next.

He tugs Enji onto the edge of the bed again, then back on his lap, straddling both his legs while their eyes sink into each other. The wet fabric has gone cold. Keigo's thoughts have gone dark. But if he was sick enough to daydream about Enji killing for him, he's sick enough to do this.

He places the dull side of the blade against Enji's lip, searching his face for anything angry or uncertain when instead it just looks like he'd give Keigo the world.

Little bird.

He moves the knife to Enji's left eyebrow and makes a quick cut right above it, except it's all wrong because his palms are too sweaty, his breath is too short, and there's so much power in Enji's trust that he can barely hold onto himself. The blade slips. It goes from a matching cut on his eyebrow to one, long line that Keigo will surely pay for, even if he didn't mean it, even if he apologizes for his life, "Fuck, I'm sorry-"

The knife clatters to the floor.

Enji rubs his face, and flinches when he touches where Keigo had maimed him. His diamond eyes stop shining and start cutting; It's over, isn't it? Keigo played with fire and it bit back, he thought he was so clever.

"You're a little fucking sadist." Enji's voice rattles his bones.

"I'm sorry, don't." His voice skips. Don't, don't, don't hurt me, don't kill me, don't do something so terrible that Keigo would wish he was dead-

But his king shows mercy. Enji grabs the back of his neck and pulls him against his mouth, kissing his sore and broken lip, the one he lied about twice, the one that's bleeding fresh again and might not ever stop being re-opened. The sickly taste of blood and wine mix as Enji takes him whole.

And takes him.

And takes him.

Until there's nothing left, and all the debts have been paid.

 


 

Keigo drapes across the span of his chest afterward, tracing all the scars that line his torso with the very tip of his finger. Two, four, six, so many that he has to count in evens. The freshest scar is on his face now, the one Keigo had given him and Enji hadn't killed him for—his little bird.

Enji's eyes are closed when he speaks. 

"Come home with me."

Keigo's finger stops on the very top of his ribs. It's the deepest scar he has, an off-color groove that follows a crooked path all the way to his hipbone. It must've hurt. It must've hurt him so badly that it's no wonder a little flick from a pen-knife didn't send him into a fury, only made him angry enough to stop savoring Keigo and start devouring him instead.

Come home with me.

He blinks. "What?"

Enji is looking up at him now, in the same way someone might look at a bad habit still-forming. "Come back to my estate. It's not a trick, I promise, you can leave whenever you want to," he hums like that thought doesn't bother him. "But I'll make it very hard for you to want to."

He's serious, then. 

Keigo swallows the taste of metal and five-hundred dollar wine, wondering what's stopping him from saying yes, exactly. 

But then he thinks about how easy it was to have someone hypothetically kill-not-killed in his name, and his palms go cold and numb.

He tries to keep his voice clear. "No, I have to go. I can't. I don't know you, Enji. I don't know who you are." But it isn't true, is it? The little bird lies again—lies to his king. He knows who Enji is, God, if anything, he knows Enji more than he knows himself right now.

Enji pauses a moment and tucks a strand of Keigo's hair behind his ear. It feels like something he's done before to a hundred men and women right before they'd shattered. "Someone you don't refuse," Enji tells him. "But I can make an exception for you. Say maybe."

He gives Keigo a moment to decide, and then asks him a question that doesn't make his heart spill into his chest, this time.

"Will I see you here again?"

There isn't a doubt in his mind that Enji has the means to find him, anyway.

"Maybe," he answers.

Yes, he prays.

"That's a good boy. And give the bouncers my name next time, no one will touch you."

"Except you."

"Except me," Enji agrees.

Keigo goes back to tracing his skin, his deepest scar, feeling so sick and twisted up inside that he might never know peace if he doesn't find it with Enji.

And then, because that thought nearly breaks him wide open, "How do you know that's what I want?"

Enji replies, like it's never been so obvious, "Look at you, Keigo. It's all you want."