Chapter 1: Names and Legal Loopholes
Names and Legal Loopholes
“I didn't say 'cancel,' I said 'postpone.' We will wait until the summer school break, that's all.” Misaki tried to soften the blow but Usagi was understandably upset. “The weather will be better then, won't it? It's only a few months, Usagi.”
“You promise? No matter what – we will get married. Don't think you'll get away with using the Summer Olympics as an excuse either.”
Usagi had his arms wrapped around Misaki's waist, his head resting on Misaki's shoulder. Misaki wasn't happy about this, but it was more practical. Japan was locking down in the face of the coronavirus epidemic. Schools had closed three weeks early, denying middle school and high school students their graduation ceremonies. Other large public events were being canceled right and left. Travel in and out of the country was still open (except to China) but that might change any day.
They could end up quarantined on arrival in England, or when they came back. The outbreak in Japan wasn't spreading quickly and all sorts of measures were being followed. It was as safe there as anywhere else. Cases had appeared all over the world, so there was no point in trying to outrun it. At home, they had friends and family and trusted in their healthcare system.
“I promise. We will get married this year. If we have to, just the two of us will go. We could have a ceremony in Japan, you know. For now.”
“Not an official marriage. Not a legal marriage.”
“Well, no. But we could get the partnership certificate* or do a legal adoption. Neither of us is religious, but the Shinto ceremony is beautiful and there are places right here in Tokyo that will hold one for same-sex couples.”
“But I want to marry you the legal way. If I adopted you here that would complicate things in England. If we get married in England, it takes care of everything. No workarounds, no legal loopholes. Just married. Then we can come back and have any kind of ceremony or party we want to.”
It meant a lot to Usagi, Misaki knew. And he was willing, though not exactly looking forward to another big public spectacle that would put them back in the spotlight.
“Another thing,” Usagi said, raising his head to look into Misaki's eyes. “If we do the adoption, I have to adopt you because I'm older and you become Usami Misaki. But if we go to England, I can become Takahashi Akihiko. That's one legal loophole I'm willing to exploit.”
If Misaki hadn't been sitting on Usagi's lap, he'd have fallen down. “Whaa?! You...you want to take my name? But, Usagi...? Your family name is important!”
“Bah! I'm stuck with it for my writing but otherwise, I don't care. Technically, I should be Shiiba Akihiko anyway. My father was adopted into the Usami family. Even Haruhiko is considering going back to his mother's maiden name. The name 'Usami' holds nothing but bad memories for either of us. It represents a way of life we've both discarded.”
“Still! You are a Usami through your mother. It's a part of you.”
“I despise them. I'd prefer to embrace the Takahashi family name. I like what that name stands for.”
“It's the third-most-common last name in Japan. It doesn't stand for much but 'common.'”
“It stands for you and your brother. And now, Manami, Mahiro, and the soon-to-be newest Takahashi. That's a lot, you know.”
Misaki had never thought about it, had just assumed his last name would be the one to change. He felt his mouth stretch into a wide grin. “Takahashi Akihiko?” He giggled. “That's so weird!”
“You don't mind? Do you think Takahiro will object?”
“Don't be stupid! He loves you. They love you.”
“But not like you love me,” Usagi's voice dropped lower as he stared at Misaki's mouth.
Uh oh, he just flipped the switch. “'N-no. Not the same...” Usagi's eyes – they could set his body aflame with just a look. It's not fair! “Usagi...I should start calling people to let them know. They might need to cancel a fli-mph!”
Usagi needed reassurance. Misaki as well, despite being the one to bring up the need to postpone their wedding. He met Usagi's kiss with his own version of eagerness, having grown much bolder since their engagement. At last, Misaki had stopped denying his desire for his beautiful, outrageous lover.
Kissing wasn't going to be enough. But Misaki wanted comfort and to take his time for a change, so he urged Usagi upstairs to their bedroom. Misaki crawled onto the bed and held open his arms. Usagi pounced, laughing.
“I love this new side of you, little pervert,” he whispered, voice husky with hunger.
“Shut up.” Actions were one thing. Misaki didn't ever think he could talk dirty like Usagi did. Instead, he pulled off his shirt then fumbled at Usagi's zipper. Getting it open, he plunged his hand inside, earning a delighted gasp. He's so hot. And it's silky smooth...He let his hand explore Usagi's cock. Larger than his own, but not huge or scary – not now that he was used to it. Usagi was simply...perfect.
“Oi, Misaki. Let's sixty-nine. You can play as much as you like - if I can as well.”
They stripped off the rest of their clothes, then got into position, Misaki on top. He stared for a minute, deciding what he wanted to do first. The blinds were open, daylight streaming into the room. He'd never really looked at Usagi's cock like this, usually insisting they keep the lights off or low, or just keeping his eyes closed. It was fascinating. He rested his cheek on Usagi's stomach and ran a finger along the length of him, watched it twitch at his touch.
“You're going to drive me insane,” Usagi said, his own cool hands caressing Misaki's ass cheeks. He gave Misaki a little spank.
“Eek!” Just for that, Misaki took the crown of Usagi's penis into his mouth and sucked on it, hard.
“Ngh!” Ha! Take that! He licked it up and down, wetting it with his spit until he could add his hand and stroke with a loose grip. They were going to play today.
Not fair! Usagi was using his tongue as well, on Misaki's ass. It teased the ultra-sensitive nerves around his opening. He hadn't even touched Misaki's cock, but he felt ready to come and had to push that aside. Focus!
Humming, Misaki added his mouth to his hand and moved them as one, his tongue adding extra pressure. His other hand squeezed Usagi's balls gently.
“Ahh! So good, Misaki! I like that!”
Usagi had a ridiculous amount of endurance though. Misaki was determined to make him come first. He slapped the mattress and Usagi put the lube bottle into his hand.
Slicking one finger, Misaki circled it around Usagi's tight entrance a few times before inserting it. Simultaneously, Usagi's finger did the same to him. Misaki almost choked but kept going. He increased the speed of his sucking, gripped Usagi's cock tighter, searched for and found the right place inside to press into.
Usagi slowed his own touches on Misaki, gave in to being pleasured for a change. His finger retreated and instead, he softly teased Misaki's erection with one hand and tangled the fingers of the other in Misaki's hair.
“Yes! Just like that, Misaki. Mmm...more! Harder, Misaki, please!”
More what? Harder where? Misaki took Usagi as deep into his throat as he could. He added another finger and pushed against Usagi's sweet spot with more force.
“Oh, fuck! Misaki! Ngh! Don't stop! Don't stop!”
This was what Misaki wanted. His lover begging, panting, not in control at all.
“Close! Misaki, I'm going to...” Misaki didn't back off, just prepared himself to swallow. Loudly, Usagi cried out and hot liquid flooded Misaki's throat. He stilled his movements, letting Usagi pulse and twitch and groan until the waves slowed. Then he gulped quickly.
“Hah! Oh, my Misaki! You...uff...make me love you more every day.”
Misaki craned his head to look back at Usagi's face, wiping at the spit all over his chin with a happy grin. It quickly disappeared as Usagi flipped them around and used his own mouth and lips and tongue to make Misaki yell out his own orgasm a few minutes later.
And by then, Usagi was hard again. Face to face this time, he slowly slid into Misaki, their eyes locked on each other. “Takahashi Akihiko,” Misaki said with a tiny giggle. “My Usagi, whatever your name.”
“Yours. Married or not. For the rest of our lives.”
It was going to be a while before Misaki could make those phone calls.
*Partnership certificate. Grants some rights – hospital visits, for instance – but doesn't hold up for other legalities like an inheritance.
Chapter 2: The Assembly
Okay, I've jumped Kirishima Hiyori from thirteen to fifteen. It works better for me if she's in high school and is old enough to not be too out-of-place hanging with Kanako and the others. I'm not rushing her into any relationships or anything.
Kaidou Ren was a very observant young man, even if he had some trouble interpreting human interactions at times. What he had been paying attention to and thinking about lately was the network of friends and family he had become a part of this past year. He thought it needed some organization if it was to be properly exploited to everyone's benefit.
Last weekend had been that disastrous/miraculous birthday party, followed by the much more enjoyable farewell party for Tsuzuki and Hisoka. One thing had stood out to him. The older people in this network knew how to use it to their advantage, but the younger ones didn't. He wanted to change that.
“Haru, I want to invite some friends over this Saturday. Is that okay?”
“Of course, Ren. An afternoon barbecue or a sleepover party? You've never done this before. I'll cook up something special.”
“More like a war council. We need a plan of attack.”
“A what? You sound like you're going to form a supervillain group.”
Ren glared at him. “When everyone's here, you can go away. Stay in the bar or something.” Would Haru be a pain about this?
“...I'm not invited?”
“Students only! Aren't you always saying I need to act my age? I have to be around other people my age for that.”
Haru couldn't argue with that. “Will you be extra-nice to me Friday night?” Haru could bargain, though.
Ren pressed a kiss to his lips. “Extra-nice.”
“Deal. What should I make for you guys?”
Saturday evening, the people Ren had invited started to arrive. Masahiro came through the connecting passage from the café, laden with platters of strange-looking snack foods. He was followed by Kensuke carrying more and Asaya with a big jar of some kind of red liquid, slices of fruits floating in it.
“What's that?” Ren asked, helping them arrange everything on the dining table.
“Haru called it sangria, whatever that means. He also called all these foods 'tapas*.'”
“Oh. He's on a Spanish foods kick. I hope they're not terrible. Is there alcohol in the drink?”
“Yes,” Haru said, appearing behind the others. “I don't want anyone to get in trouble with their parents, but I think it's safe enough for you guys to have a little fun here in the house. Save the sangria for later, once you're done with your council meeting. Just don't let anyone have too much and puke, okay? That's red wine in the sangria, and it will make a horrible mess.”
“Haru, I want rice.”
“You eat rice three times a day – you're a rice-addict! Try something else for a change. Anyway, these are just snacks. Let me know what time you want dinner. I'm making you seafood paella – it has rice in it.”
Ren gave him the side-eye. He liked his rice white, steamed, and sticky. Haru ignored the look and gave him a peck on the cheek. “Have fun planning your attack!” He left them alone.
“What did that mean?” Kensuke asked.
“I'll explain once everyone's here.”
The doorbell rang. It was Kiri and Juuzen. Ren wasn't sure what their status was now – dating or not? He'd ask them later.
Shinobu turned up, looking uncomfortable. Ren didn't know him very well but had invited him because he was in the right age range. Once Haruhi arrived, he relaxed a little.
Haruhi came alone, Tamaki being busy helping his father. Ren had asked her about inviting the other former-Host Club members, but she had nixed that suggestion. Maybe they could be included next time, but they were a troublesome group – her words, not Ren's. She also thought it best not to mix Honey and Mori with Reiko, for now.
Reiko arrived with her tiny fox companion, Izuna, draped over one shoulder. Ren worried for a minute – most of those invited to this were not aware that Izuna was more than an exotic pet.
::Worry not, RenRen. I'll behave.::
Ren nodded without saying anything. Uenoyama and Mafuyu showed up with Kedama, who immediately ran over to sniff Tanuki. The two dogs scampered around, their claws clicking on the hardwood floors. Ren had asked Kaji and Haruki despite them being a bit older, but both had to work. Uenoyama and Mafuyu could fill them in later.
Last to arrive was Kanako, recently (a week ago) settled in Tokyo and living with her brother and Morinaga. She had brought someone with her.
“Hey, Ren. I hope you don't mind me bringing a friend – this is Kirishima Hiyori. She's starting high school this year. Her dad is Misaki's boss at Marukawa – the editor for The*Kan.”
“I don't mind. Hello, Hiyori.”
“Hi,” she answered shyly. Ren wasn't sure she would fit in, but then, this was an experiment and he wasn't one to judge people by their age. No sangria for her, he mentally noted.
That was everyone. Ren looked around and worried that maybe he'd gone overboard. Twelve people besides him were scattered around the living and dining room, clustered in little groups or pairs. Some were chatting, some were sitting quietly, not sure what to do. He didn't really know either, this being his first time holding a gathering of any kind.
Luckily, Masahiro was the overly-helpful type and had been getting everyone drinks, encouraging them to try the snacks, and generally acting as the host. Ren stood off to the side, wondering how to start. Then Haru came in. Damn nosy idiot!
Haru surveyed the large collection of slightly younger people and gave Ren a glance but only said, “Welcome everyone. I'm Kaidou Haru, Ren's...guardian. I'm responsible for all of you tonight, so I hope you won't get carried away. I'll be next door at White Fang, checking on you occasionally. You can find me there if I'm needed. But tonight you're here for Ren and each other, so I'm going to get going. Have fun!” To Ren, he said, “I'll have dinner ready around 8 pm, okay?”
Ren nodded and shooed him out. He turned to see everyone watching him expectantly. “Um...hi. Thanks for coming tonight. I...” he faltered.
Kanako stood up. “Hey! I'm Tatsumi Kanako. I'm eighteen and just moved here from Tokyo, though I've visited a few times. I'm going to be attending M University when the semester starts. I'm studying computer programming. This is my friend, Kirishima Hiyori. She's fifteen, starting at Souryou High School next semester – hopefully, the schools will open on time.” Kanako sat down and looked at Uenoyama who happened to be sitting beside her. He stood up.
“Um, hey everyone. I'm Uenoyama Ritsuka and this is Satou Mafuyu. We're both eighteen and just graduated. We will be going to M University as well. We're in a band called Given – I'm lead guitar and Mafuyu is our singer.” He sat down, looking relieved to have gotten through that without saying anything too weird.
The rest took their turns until everyone had been introduced. Then it was Ren's time to talk.
*Tapas/sangria/paella - Tapas is a Spanish-style collection of small, bite-sized edibles, served as appetizers or as a meal. Sangria is wine mixed with fruit and other things like seltzer water, citrus juices, stronger alcohol. Paella is a dish of vegetables and meats (seafood in this case) served on rice made yellow by saffron.
Chapter 3: Banding Together
Poor Ren – should I help? Kanako didn't want to step on Ren's toes but the awkwardness was killing her. She decided to break the ice and introduced herself and Hiyori. That got things going a little – at least now they all knew each other's names. It also gave Ren some time to prepare his speech.
“Hey, thanks for coming everyone. I'm Kaidou Ren, eighteen. If you didn't know, I live here with Haru, Aki, and Shima. I'm adopted – they're half-brothers. Haru is my boyfriend, but that's kind of our secret. Anyway, I have this idea. I've noticed that all of us know people – adults with careers and jobs. And I've seen that those adults all know other adults, and they have a...network. When there's a problem, they can call each other and get help or advice – stuff like that. So I thought we should do something similar.”
“When we needed a weekend cook, Masahiro came in for an interview. Then he brought in Kensuke and Asaya to be waiters. I met Uenoyama and Mafuyu and their friend Kaji now works as a waiter also. White Fang is going to need a couple more waiters now that Aki and Shima are starting their jobs full time. I was thinking who else I know that might want to work, but I realized maybe one of you might know someone.”
“When I met Morinaga over the holiday, he was looking for a new job and because a lot of people know him or his friends, he ended up with several offers and got to choose the one he wanted. We're all probably working part-time or thinking about finding part-time jobs, so maybe we can all help each other. Something like that. I picked all of you because we're about the same age and still in school.”
Shinobu frowned. “So this is like a job fair or something?”
“Not exactly...” Ren was hunting for the right words. “More like, getting organized specifically to help each other. It doesn't have to be just for work – that was only one example. You are a law student, right?” Shinobu nodded. “Our family lawyer, Kashiwagi Mikiko, let me help in her office once when I needed some extra money. I could ask her if she wants an assistant or a...I forget what it's called.”
“An intern?” Haruhi suggested.
“Yeah, that. But also, I had some questions before about sex.” Whoops, Kanako thought, sneaking a look at Hiyori. I hope Ren doesn't get too detailed...
“I didn't know anyone to talk to – Haru was being an idiot. Then I met Hiroto and his friends and they gave me some really good advice and helped me out a lot. And Masahiro and I talked after we became friends. But it was luck. If I had this kind of group before, then I wouldn't have had to search for a stranger willing to talk to me. Does this make sense?”
“Oh. This would have come in really handy for me a couple of weeks ago,” Reiko said. “I ended up talking to Usami-sensei and a bunch of other people, but as Ren said - that was pure luck. And kind of embarrassing at first, though they were really nice.”
“Hiyori,” Masahiro asked, “you're going to Souryou High School?” She nodded, extra shy because it was Masahiro. Kanako knew she had a little crush on him. “My boyfriend Kousuke just got hired there for next year. He's a math teacher. He's very nice, so if you ever need help, you can trust him. And that's the school Ren, Kiri, and Juuzen went to, if you have questions about it. Plus, Ren is friends with Takamura-sensei, the school nurse.”
“Takamura-sensei is nice,” Mafuyu added. “He helped me and Uenoyama when we both, um, got sick last month. And Officer Shinosuke – he's your boyfriend, right Kanako?”
“He is. He was just assigned to this neighborhood – I think he's next door with Haru, actually,” Kanako said. Hiyori had perked up. She was nervous about starting high school – this was helping. I like this idea. I think it's going to be a good thing.
Kanako went on. “Ren mentioned Morinaga. He's my brother's boyfriend, opened a souzaiya with a woman named Oshima Ayano. They are looking for part-time help. I'm going to work there, but they'll need someone else, too. Through my brother and Morinaga, I've met a lot of people that helped me or were there to talk to when I needed it. I think it would be great if we can form our own...uh, group? Club? Whatever we decide to call this.”
“I know Ayano,” Haruhi said. “She's my neighbor and we all have dinner together weeknights. They're good people. Ren, do you really think Kashiwagi would take on an intern? She's a legend! I'd love to learn from her.”
“I'll ask her. I think she might or she will know someone who can.”
“How do we do this?” Kiri wanted to know. “Just exchange phone numbers? Have a party once a month? I'd love to work at Hakue, even if it's just making coffee and sorting the mail.”
“I can set up a discord server,” Kanako offered. “That will be private, and there can be group chat or private chat, plus we can each write up a little bio listing our talents and interests. We can have a tab just for jobs – wanted or available. And one for relationship advice, one for school help, one to announce things like Given's upcoming performances. Or we can send each other cat videos. Whatever you want to talk about. Maybe we make an agreement to check in there as often as we can.”
Kensuke piped up. “What if we don't really have anything to contribute? I mean...I'm not good at school, I don't know what I want to do as a career, I have no advice to give, the only adult I know that might be helpful to you is my brother, who Masahiro already can connect you with.”
They all looked at Ren. “You never know what will happen. Last year I barely knew anyone or talked to anyone aside from Kiri and Juuzen at school. I didn't have future plans either. Now, I know all of you. So, maybe you need our help, or you don't, but someday you could. I'm not forcing anyone – you're all free to join or not.”
“One other thing I should make clear. A lot of us are dating, and a lot of us are guys dating other guys. Many of the adults we know are as well. If you have a problem with that, or any other objections to gay people or bisexuals or transsexuals or cross-dressers or race or anything else – then I don't think you'll fit in. We have to trust each other.”
Glances were exchanged. No one was bothered, mostly because they already were involved with or friends with those people Ren was referring to. None of them had prejudices that they were conscious of, just various levels of comfort when it came to discussing such things or witnessing them.
“Are we going to keep this secret – like a secret society? Or can we invite the people we know who are older? Like, will Haru be a member? Or Officer Shinosuke?” Juuzen asked.
“It shouldn't be a secret,” Haruhi said. “If we want to use our connections, then they should be aware that we can help them as well. We're joining their list, in a way - just a little more...deliberately.”
“Hmm...” Kanako was thinking. “We can allow other people to enter our discord server as guests. That would give them limited access to some chat streams and not others. That way they can join in, but not take over. And we can keep certain things private if that's more comfortable.”
“Whoa. What if Asami-sama was in our discord chat? How weird would that be?” Masahiro said.
Kanako giggled. “That's what's so cool about this! It could totally happen. Probably won't with him, but I can totally see Naru or Usami-sensei popping in. Imagine asking Shuichi to help you write a song, Mafuyu! Or getting homework help from Kousuke, or being asked by Takaba to model for a picture! Hiyo, you can meet Morinozuka and ask him about kendo, or practice with Todo.”
“Or Kamijou-sensei,” Hiyori added, getting excited. “He practices it too. And maybe Aikawa can tell us about the new BL manga coming out, or anime.”
“Kanako, you realize you're going to be stuck as moderator,” Kiri pointed out. “And I guess Ren is president. Are we setting this up like a club, with formal titles and duties?”
“We need a name,” Reiko said. “Names are important.”
“Don't let Uenoyama choose, or we'll end up being called 'Iced Tea and Snacks,'” Mafuyu dodged a swat from his boyfriend.
“I don't think we need titles or to be very formal.” Ren frowned. “I don't want to be president just because this was my idea. We're equals.”
There was a loud knock on the door, then Haru came in with Todo and Kousuke, all bearing more trays of food. “Dinnertime! How's it going? You plan out how you're going to take over the world?”
Masahiro and Haruhi hopped up to help. Kanako hopped up to sneak a kiss.
“Don't make fun of us, Haru,” Ren growled.
“I'm not!” he protested. “I'm genuinely impressed by this gathering. I don't know everyone, but those I do know are smart, talented people. I think if you're working on something together, it's going to be awesome. And if you need our help in any way, don't hesitate to ask.”
Kanako hid a smile at Ren's expression. Ren clearly wanted to be angry with Haru for interfering but was also grateful for his support. And Ren was crazy in love and wanted to tear Haru's clothes off. She couldn't blame him – Haru was gorgeous, if too showy for Kanako's tastes. She was head over heels for her handsome policeman.
“How is it going?” Todo whispered, a hint of beer on his breath.
“Really good – better than I expected. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.”
“You're sleeping over here?” he pouted.
So cute! “Yes, you bad, bad policeman. I have to keep an eye on Hiyo. You go play with the other big boys and leave us alone.”
“You know where to find me. No work tomorrow, either.”
“Hiyo has a kendo lesson in the morning. Once she heads for that, I'll be over.”
“Okay. I'll continue keeping Haru occupied and out of your business. It's driving him nuts, by the way.”
She put on a superior air. “It's good for him and Ren. And you.”
“Kousuke is surprisingly mellow about it.” Todo hadn't met Kousuke before. Neither had Kanako, but Ren sent her emails so she had some idea.
“That's because he trusts Masahiro. They've been together for a while.”
“I trust you. I'm just...” he whispered something else that turned her cheeks pink.
“Oh my god, you're terrible!”
“Mhm. I am.” Todo tried to nibble on her ear and she pushed him away, laughing.
Kousuke saved her, taking Todo and Haru by the arm and forcefully dragging them out. The four other girls converged on her.
“I'm so jealous, Kanako! Shinosuke seems like a perfect boyfriend,” Reiko said.
“I don't know how you can be comfortable with that much...closeness...in front of other people,” Haruhi confessed. “I get so embarrassed and Tamaki always wants to hug me and stuff.”
Hiyori bit her lip, working up the nerve to ask a question.
“Oh, well. I've always been okay with hugging or holding hands. Both of my brothers are awkward about those kinds of things but not with me. Maybe because I was the only girl and the youngest and they spoiled me. My dad is openly affectionate when he's around. With Todo, I don't even think about it - it just felt right from the moment I saw him.”
“I remember,” Hiyori told her. “Did he kiss you, that day at the picnic?”
“He did. It was super-romantic!” Kanako and the other girls giggled, making the guys nervous.
“We should join the others,” Kiri said, but it was clear she wanted to talk more about this with Kanako at some point.
Yeah, I think this group of friends thing is going to work out really well.
Chapter 4: Feeling Left Out
Feeling Left Out
“What do you think they're talking about?” Haru wondered out loud for the umpteenth time. Shinosuke laughed into his beer and Kousuke rolled his eyes.
“Dude. They're talking about school and jobs and getting to know each other. Probably about us, as well. It's healthy. I remember pushing and pushing Masahiro to make sure he kept his school friends and didn't just spend all his free time with me. It's tough, but they can't be glued to our sides all the time. We have jobs and our own friends – they need to as well.”
“I know,” Haru sighed. “It's just that Ren is not your average kid. He barely spoke at all when we first met. He was feral and slept in the garage with my mother's wolves. I worry he'll bite someone, even though he doesn't do that anymore. He only started laughing and smiling a few months ago. He's changed so much!”
“It's weird, watching them grow up. Masahiro was a wanna-be street thug when we met him. But he was always a sweet kid – even his gang thought so. He had terribly low self-esteem and was desperate to find somewhere to belong. I worried for a long time that I was taking advantage of that. He got over it – he's downright pushy now.” Kousuke smiled to himself, remembering.
“I wish I could have known Kanako when she was a kid. I'm guessing she was adorable and she ran circles around both her brothers. I don't think she's changed much.” Shinosuke grinned at them. “She wrapped me right around her finger!”
They fell silent for a few moments. White Fang was bustling – people weren't so worried about the virus yet that they'd give up drinking on the weekend. Kiyoka, wearing one of her shockingly revealing outfits, was cackling away with her cronies in the corner. She'd attempted to draw in the three of them, always eager to flirt with handsome men, and been turned down flat. They weren't in the mood.
Kousuke excused himself to step outside for a smoke. He'd mostly quit, but drinking stirred up the craving. He stood in the dark street, muffled laughter and chatter behind him, silence on the street. Too much ambient light to see the stars. He blew a cloud of smoke up into the air, picturing Masahiro at the age of thirteen.
He'd tried to bleach his own hair, ending up with a hideous orange color. His clothes were clearly second-hand, along with the cheap jewelry his gang buddies had passed on to him. Green eyes wide with fright as he clutched a kitten to his chest, yelling about “Bear Killer.” Begging Kousuke to take him on as an underling, cooking for them, hiding his tears when Kousuke praised him for doing well on a math test.
“Ah, damn. I'm getting sentimental and mushy in my old age.”
“Senile too, if you're talking to yourself out loud,” answered a voice beside him.
Turning in surprise, Kousuke saw one of the other Kaidou brothers, Shima, had walked up while he was daydreaming. Shima was hard to get a read on, very serious and quiet. Aki and Haru tended to talk a lot and dominate conversations and Shima seemed content to listen and observe.
Kousuke chuckled. “I've always talked to myself. I have the best conversations that way! Maybe it's getting worse though. You going in? You know Ren's having a party and we old folks aren't invited.”
“Yes. I was glad to hear it. Ren's too close to Haru, even for lovers. I understand why, but it's good he's expanding his circle of friends. Aki and I haven't been the best brothers to him.”
Kousuke glanced at him. “Does it bother you? That they are technically brothers?”
“No, not at all. If we thought Haru had taken advantage of Ren it would be different. But Ren's the one who controls Haru, and Haru needs him. Haru was...broken...when our parents died – maybe even before that, but the accident made him worse. Ren healed that emptiness in Haru, and we're happy for them now that it's finally settled and official for them both.”
“But. Aki and I had Haru all to ourselves for years before Ren showed up out of the blue, and Aki resented Ren at first. Plus, we're twins and so we've always been a pair, which left both Haru and Ren on the outside at times. All four of us are bad at expressing ourselves to each other. It's only now when Aki and I are taking different directions in our careers that I'm starting to realize how isolated we've been – all four of us, in our own ways.”
“You guys are twenty-two? No girlfriends – or boyfriends?”
Shima sighed. “You have no idea what it's like to have Haru as a brother. Girls dated us only to get close to him. Haru attracted a lot of superficial ones, and we got the scraps. It's hard to take them seriously most of the time when all they talk about is our looks or themselves or Haru. Aki's stolen my girlfriends, I've stolen his, we've been hit on by married women, divorced women who want pets...We have terrible luck with dating.”
Kousuke could sympathize a little. He knew women (and some men) found him attractive and threw themselves at him. It had been very disheartening when he was younger and a closet-romantic. And that was before he figured out that he preferred men. After that, it was even tougher until Masahiro came along and made him believe in love again.
“How did you know Masahiro was the one for you?” Shima asked suddenly.
Kousuke knew that one. “He looked at me like I was his hero. And I had a bit of a hero-complex already, so at first I just wanted to help him. I took special care of him, tried to guide him. But the more time we spent together, the more I realized what real heroism is. I can beat people up. I can do math. He's...no matter what life threw at him, he never let it stain him. He's caring, right down to his bones. He sees the best in people, tries to understand them. I just wanted to force them to behave. He's truly good, and he makes me want to protect that and match it. He's my hero.”
Shima pushed up his glasses. “You're not embarrassed to say that at all, are you? I've watched you with him. And Haru with Ren. I don't know how to do that – to show how I feel so openly. Or even to talk about it.”
“Not everyone is comfortable with public displays of affection or discussing their feelings. I've always been a hugs-and-kisses-type person and a talker. But I was much more self-conscious when I was your age, especially when it came to people I was dating. At some point though, you have to tell a person how you feel. There's no way around it if you don't want to lose them. It's scary but worth it.”
Kousuke realized his cigarette had long-since burned itself out while they were talking. And it was cold. “Let's go in. I'll buy you a drink.”
“Oh, I don't...”
“Come on. Ren and his friends have taken over the house, so unless you plan on hiding in your bedroom, might as well hang out with us in the bar. See if you can talk to your brother like he's not a brother, but a friend. Shinosuke is here, too.”
Shima laughed. “Shamelessly hovering near your lovers?”
“Ha! Just wait until you have your own.”
They went inside. Shinosuke had managed to steer Haru into talking about their holiday trip to Karuizawa. And from the look on Shinosuke's face, he'd also told him about the more...interesting aspects of the ryokan and its resident spirits.
“Spirit children? You're serious? Hi, Shima. Did you hear about this?”
“No, what's going on?”
Kousuke and Haru shared a glance. “You know the whole story better than I do,” Haru said to him.
Kousuke ordered another drink. He was going to need it. “Last summer, Masahiro and I decided to take a trip to Karuizawa...”
Chapter 5: Confessions
After eating dinner, the Iced Tea and Snacks Club (the temporary name that would end up permanent for lack of anything else being suggested), all settled in the living room. They all felt a little daring with cups of the sangria (none for Hiyori, though Kanako gave her a sip) and much more relaxed with each other.
“What now?” Juuzen asked.
“I don't know,” Ren answered. “What do people do at these kinds of parties?”
“We could watch a movie or play some games,” Kensuke suggested.
“I can't do charades,” Ren announced. “I'm good at chess.”
“What about Confessions?” Kanako offered up.
“Never heard of that one. How do you play?”
She pulled out her phone. “I bought this last year to play with my friends at school but it turned out boring with them. I think it will be much different with you guys.” She poked at her phone screen while she explained. “So, there's a pack of cards – digital, in this case. Each one has the beginning of a statement and you have to fill in the rest. The idea is to confess a secret – but you can also lie. Then we vote on if you were lying or not. If we catch you lying, you have to tell the truth anyway.”
“No matter what, you end up confessing something?”
“These are embarrassing, aren't they?” Kiri looked excited.
“Yup.” Kanako grinned.
“Okay, let's try it.” Everyone agreed and took a gulp of their drinks for courage.
“Hiyori is first because she's the youngest.”
“Oi, wait. Are some of these, um...adult?” Masahiro looked at Hiyori with some concern.
Kanako shared a look with Hiyori. “It's okay. I'm fifteen, not a baby. Give me the first one, Kanako.” She took the phone and read out, “If I could have any superpower, I'd choose...super strength, so I could beat up the bullies at school who think I'm weak because I'm small.”
“Do you get bullied, Hiyori?” Reiko asked, concerned for her.
“Not like that. I get teased, sometimes. Because of my dad and Yokozawa-nii-chan, or because I'm kind of scrawny.”
“You're not scrawny! You're pretty. They must be jealous.” Hiyori blushed over being defended by Juuzen.
“Don't worry. She's getting really good at kendo, so she can whack them all if they need it. But let's vote! Did she lie or tell the truth?”
Clearly, Hiyori had told the truth. Everyone got a point for guessing correctly, but they weren't really keeping score.
Kensuke went next. “I once walked in on...” He glanced at Masahiro, then at Hiyori. “...on Asaya playing with our cat, Sasa.”
Only Masahiro and Asaya got points on that one. Asaya did not like cats. Haruhi was next, and she got a doozy.
“In the throes of pa-passion, I accidentally called my, um, lover...” She could barely bring herself to read it. “...um...I called him...Yoko?”
Shinobu fell over laughing. “Haruhi! You're a terrible liar! I'm going to ask Tamaki about this! Yoko! Hahaha!” No points for Haruhi.
Uenoyama read his without paying attention at first. “I'm definitely not gay, but I do enjoy...” Mafuyu giggled while Uenoyama stared at the phone's screen as if it had betrayed him. “Err...I do enjoy reading BL manga.”
Ooh. That was possible, whether he was gay or not. The votes were split. “No! I don't read it.”
“You want to try some?” Kanako offered. “I have a lot of it.”
“I want to,” Ren said while Uenoyama shook his head no.
Reiko's turn. “The best gift I've ever received was...Masahiro's feelings for Kousuke.”
Huh? They all looked at Masahiro and then at Reiko. Everyone except Masahiro and Shinobu guessed wrong.
::Not me?:: Izuna asked, making everyone look around in confusion and stare at their now-empty cups.
“Not you. You weren't given to me, because I don't own you.”
::Truth. Time for it. You trust them.::
Reiko looked to Shinobu and Masahiro. “I don't know the whole story – how it started for you.”
The two young men took turns telling the tale of the summer weekend. Ren filled in the middle with his holiday trip. Reiko finished with her tale of the last couple of weeks.
Kanako, Hiyori, Kensuke, Mafuyu, and Kiri were enthralled. The others were skeptical.
“This is some elaborate joke, right?” Juuzen asked. Asaya nodded in agreement.
“You can do real magic, Reiko?” Haruhi shook her head. “How can you believe that?”
::You all hear me, no?::
“We hear you, Izuna,” Hiyori answered.
::You can touch me. I'm soft! And I'm pretty! We curse very well. Curse those bullies, if you ask, Hiyori.::
Hiyori giggled then she reached out to gently stroke the little fox.
“That's some kind of trick. Subwoofers?” Uenoyama glanced around.
::No tricks. Reiko-sama, demonstrate.::
“Um...what should I do?”
::Barrier – physical.::
Reiko closed her eyes and concentrated until she began to shimmer, just a little.
::You. Pretty boy who says nothing and dislikes cats. Throw empty cup at her.::
They looked at Asaya. He shrugged and tossed his cup at Reiko's chest. It bounced off, a good ten centimeters distant from her body. And for good measure, she “caught” it before it could fall to the floor and break. She opened one eye to peek and make sure it was floating as she'd intended.
“Ha! I did it!” Concentration lost, it hit the floor and shattered. “Damn it!”
::No precision yet. Focus is poor. Alcohol bad for magic.::
“Holy shit!” Juuzen said.
“Awesome!” several others exclaimed.
“It's not really useful for every day,” Reiko told them. “I can't go floating stuff around where anyone can see. But I'm just starting to learn, with Izuna's help. What I did before was not real, Haruhi, but this is.”
“All those love spells on Honey?”
Reiko laughed, a little bitterly. “What a waste of my time! They did nothing. You can't force love where there is none.”
“That's why you broke up with him.” Haruhi looked sad. “I'm sorry it didn't work out between you.”
“It's okay. I'm busy now with learning more. And I've made so many new friends. Miyagi-sensei is going to make me his class assistant and help me research old magic and spells. I'm happy.”
“Can anyone learn to do it?” Kensuke wanted to know.
::No. True talent is rare. Strength like Reiko-sama's is much more rare. Some have a touch of it. Hiyori has sense of it. Masahiro also. Mafuyu a little more. Feel a tingle in chest? Good with people's emotions? Mafuyu push feeling onto others with voice.::
“Yes,” Masahiro said. Hiyori nodded, rubbing her sternum. Mafuyu stared.
::Pay attention to what it tells you. Will help. But that is all.::
“Wow. That's crazy cool, Reiko. I'm jealous,” Kensuke said.
“Oh. I was afraid you'd all think I was a freak or crazy. I wasn't sure I should say anything.”
“No way!” Juuzen assured her. “You're incredible!”
::Calm down, boy. But good, you accept her. Us. Team, we are.::
“What else can you do, Reiko?” Kanako asked. “Wait, no! I'm sorry! You're not here to perform for us!”
“It's okay. I need to practice. Um...turn off the lights?”
Ren made the room pitch dark. After a moment, a light appeared near the ceiling. It wasn't the brightest, and it wavered a bit, but it was enough for them to see each other, gazing up in delighted awe.
::He comes, Reiko-sama!::
And that's when the door opened and four slightly drunk men wandered in, bringing the dessert they'd all forgotten about.
Chapter 6: The Skeptic
Shima listened to Kousuke and then Haru as they told a tall tale of magic and mystery and romance. A lot of nonsense. Spirit children, dead men walking around, ghosts and revenge? He didn't believe a bit of it. Something strange had happened at the Haninozuka estate, but it was more likely a disgruntled employee causing a panic, rather than a poltergeist. He had been there with Aki and some friends but they had avoided Haru and Ren.
Shinosuke seemed to be falling for it. Eyes wide, he hung on every word. But Shima had met Tsuzuki and Hisoka at Usami-sensei's next-day gathering and they were perfectly ordinary, aside from haunting good looks. He did have strange dreams that night but he'd been drinking.
“So that's what you missed last weekend,” Haru finished talking.
“Wow. Kanako is going to love this story. And she'll be mad she missed it all. We're going to stay at the Suyasuya in the first week of April. I can't wait!”
“Well, don't spread it around. Most people will think you're crazy. Right, Shima?” Kousuke gave him a look. He hadn't missed the disbelief on Shima's face.
“Yes, I don't think it's the sort of thing to bring up with most people.”
Haru gave Shima a hug. “You should believe me, if not Kousuke. Why would I lie to you? I'm your brother.”
“Because you're drunk now and you were probably drunk then, too. I'm going to go home. Don't worry, I won't intrude on their party. I just want to sleep.”
“What time is it?” Haru looked at his watch. “Shit! I forgot dessert!” He got up and disappeared into the kitchen.
“Another excuse to barge into their party,” Shinosuke laughed.
“We're not going to let him go alone, are we?” Kousuke grinned back. “Wait for us, Shima. We'll all go together.”
Ren's going to pitch a fit. Shima wished Aki were there, but he was out with friends tonight. Shima hadn't been in the mood to join them. He'd been feeling strangely restless when he wasn't working. Hakue was great and he was learning so much from Usami-sama, but after work...
Aki was busy setting up his new studio, spending a lot of time with Aoi and Iku, or going out to mixers and hooking up with a variety of women. That wasn't Shima's style.
Lately, the women he met were either already dating someone or they left a sour taste in his mouth. First, the divorced mother of one of the kids he tutored had come on strong. That was made worse by the fact that her daughter, the fourteen-year-old he was tutoring, also had a crush on him. He'd been forced to quit that job. What a nightmare.
He'd spent a very pleasant night with Emi the J-pop idol, the night of the movie premiere. But that had been purely physical – the girl herself was kind of...well, blah, to put it plainly. No depth. Boring to talk to, once they were done in bed.
Since then, no one. Kanazuki Reiko's face flashed into his mind. A beautiful girl, shy and a bit awkward. No wonder, if she thinks she can do magic. Yeah, right. I don't need another delusional woman. I need...I don't know what I need. Someone sweet but not meek. Someone who's interesting and smart, and interested in me for more than my face or my brothers or my job. Maybe I should try a man? Arrgh!
He wasn't totally against the idea, but he'd never found another guy attractive - not in that way. And he'd been around enough gorgeous guys by now to believe if he was going to desire one, it would have happened. I don't think guys are the answer. But where's the girl for me?
Haru waved at them all from the kitchen, and they went to help him carry the piles of delicious-smelling treats. They had to fight off hungry bar patrons drawn by the aroma as they made their way to the rear corridor that led to the house.
“What are these?” Kousuke asked.
“They're called churros. It's a type of doughnut from Spain. Well, in Spain they only sprinkle some sugar on. These are more American-style, rolled in cinnamon and sugar.”
“Cinnamon, that's the smell!” Shinosuke said. “Are they hard to make? I'm going to ask Misaki to make some.”
“They were pretty easy, once I got the hang of how long to fry them. You can dip them in chocolate sauce,” he nodded at the tray of little bowls he carried, “or have them with ice cream, or just by themselves. We have ice cream at the house.”
“Why's it so dark?” Kousuke asked, looking at the house.
“Maybe they're watching a movie. Let's be quiet.”
Shima opened the door without knocking. They kicked off their shoes and went into the living room. Everyone was staring up at the ceiling. Kanazuki Reiko stood off to the side, a look of pride and concentration on her face. She looked...alive, in a way she hadn't last weekend when he met her. She shimmered.
“Oh. I guess she came out of the broom closet,” Kousuke joked.
“Haru!” Ren called and the light flickered wildly as Shima dropped his tray.
That light isn't coming from any lamp!
“Shit! Grab it, before I lose them both!” Kanazuki called out.
That was when Shima realized the tray he'd dropped was hovering in front of him. He caught it, just as the light failed. But he could still see her glowing in the darkness. She was enchanting.
::Ha! Better focus. Still too little precision.::
“Hello, Izuna,” Haru said. “Someone turn the lights back on.”
::Greetings, Handsome one. Handsome many. Yes, lights so I can see faces.::
Who's talking? That...I didn't hear it? I felt it?
::Shima-sama. I speak, Izuna. Kudagitsune. Fox.::
Kanazuki carried around a little fox, he recalled. A pet.
::No pet. Magic familiar. For now, teacher also.::
It's hearing my thoughts! He was going to panic. He hadn't panicked since his parents died nine years ago.
The lights came back on, which helped. Kanazuki approached him, hand out. “Are you okay?” But when her hand was still several centimeters away, he felt it touch him.
“W-what?” Shima backed up a few steps.
::Reiko-sama, you still have the barrier.::
“Oh, damn!” The shimmer winked out. “I can't keep track, Izuna!”
::No. It's good the barrier held without your attention. It's the safest way.::
“Oh? Well, it's awkward.”
Masahiro took the tray from him, setting it down with the others on the table. “Dude, you're white as a sheet. Do you want some water or something?”
“No. I'm fine. Sorry. Haru and Kousuke told us, but I didn't believe them. It was true? Kanazuki...you really can do magic? That fox is talking in my head?” Shima was trying to recover his wits.
“Call me Reiko. Yes, and yes. I'm sorry we shocked you. I was showing off.”
Shinosuke shoved a cup of the sangria into his hand. “Have a drink.” He had one for himself as well.
Shima gulped it down. Then he made a face – he didn't like red wine, with or without fruit added. But the alcohol did help calm his nerves. He looked around. Everyone was chatting excitedly and eating the churros. Only one younger girl he didn't recognize at all. So these are the friends Ren invited to his party. Quite the collection. More friends than I expected Ren to have. He's lucky.
“We just came to bring the dessert. We should go now and leave you to your party,” Haru couldn't have been more obviously wheedling for an invitation.
"You might as well stay now,” Ren said. “We were just playing a game before the magic stuff. We can watch a movie if you want to?”
They all agreed. “Let's set up the futons, first. Just in case people fall asleep.” That began a bustle, as furniture was shoved to the edges of the room and futons and blankets were spread out side-by-side to create a giant mattress. Ren and Haru would, of course, be sleeping in Haru's room. That left Ren's bedroom also available, though the bed was a single.
Somehow, Shima found himself beside Reiko on the floor, Hiyori on her other side, then Kanako and Shinosuke. The rest found places for themselves and got comfortable. But Shima wasn't comfortable. He was hyper-aware of the young woman beside him, who was chatting away with the other girls as if he was just another face in the crowd.
It was weird. She wasn't being coy. She wasn't sneaking glances at Haru. She was just talking. Animated – that was the word he'd been looking for earlier. He listened. He learned a little about her and about magic and about the other girls as they spoke. The movie started and the talking stopped. He'd completely forgotten his plan to go straight to bed.
This was the point where all the past women Shima had encountered would make some kind of move – to hold his hand, to press against him, to whisper in his ear. Shima hated that - he liked to pay attention to a movie, even on a date. But Reiko only watched quietly without fidgeting.
::She is interesting, no? Most excellently scary.::
Shima was interested. And maybe just a little bit scared. Excellently so.
Chapter 7: Twins, Brothers, Friends
Twins, Brothers, Friends
Kaidou Aki crept into the house around 6 am. He'd missed the last train and been stuck hanging out with his friends (well, mostly passed out in the karaoke booth) until the morning trains began running. All he wanted was to get upstairs for a quick shower and then to collapse into a real bed.
The sky was just starting to lighten, allowing him to vaguely make out shapes in the living room and to avoid tripping over an outstretched arm. Wow, there's a lot of people. He and Shima had estimated maybe six or seven – this looked to be more like ten or so.
Upstairs, he showered and put on pajamas then opened the door to Shima's bedroom and tiptoed inside. He had missed his twin last night – it was lonely without him and they hadn't been spending much time together lately. Shima was hanging out more and more with Naru and Usami-sama or Masato and Asahi, older men who preferred talking to loud music and drinking to excess.
To be honest, Aki was growing sick of pub-crawling as well but wasn't ready to completely detach himself from their college friends. Aoi and Iku were more his speed but left him feeling like a third-wheel if Shima didn't join them. I need to find a girlfriend – a real one, not a sex-friend. That was getting old as well, but the last one he had tried to be serious about had been coming on to Shima behind his back, and the girl before that kept hinting about being introduced to Asami-sama. Tiresome and irritating, no matter how used to it he was.
Men weren't any better. Aki had tried that a few times as well - the one secret he kept from even Shima. It had been pleasurable, but he didn't end up liking either of the men for anything more.
Tomorrow, I'll insist we stick together. We can play videogames and watch movies and just be Sunday slugs. It's been too long since the last time we did that. Mind set, Aki pulled the blankets back to sneak in beside Shima and steal his warmth. It had been a while since they slept in the same bed, too. Physical closeness to his twin was almost a necessity for Aki when he felt lost like this.
But the bed was cold and empty. Aki was shocked until his brain scolded him. He's downstairs, dummy, somewhere beneath that mound of blankets sprouting arms and feet from strange places. He was sure that was so but found he needed to confirm it. Back down the stairs.
It was brighter now. Aki spotted bleached blond hair and black on the couch. Masahiro and Kousuke spooning. He peered at the floor. Nearest him was Shinosuke with Kanako's head on his chest. His was the arm Aki had almost stumbled on. Then a younger girl Aki didn't know. Beyond her, another young woman – Ren's schoolmate Kiri. Haruhi was sideways along their feet. The young women forming a sort of barrier wall around the youngest.
Aki moved to the next row. A lump underneath a blanket turned out to be Shinobu, curled up into a ball. Kensuke was full length on top of Asaya – Aki wondered how Asaya could even breathe. Kensuke was pretty small, smaller than Ren even after that last growth spurt brought Ren up to Aki's height. Facing each other, Mafuyu's head was tucked beneath Uenoyama's chin like a hamster burrowing in. Uenoyama was very cute when he slept. Awake he was more intense.
Aki had almost completed a circle around the futons. Juuzen was sprawled out face down, sideways like Haruhi. That meant the last two bodies – one had to be Shima.
It was three bodies. Shima facing Kanazuki Reiko, her fox a tiny fluffball between them. And just barely visible at the edge of the blanket covering them...their hands touching.
Aki jumped back, then snatched at a lamp he bumped with his elbow before it could crash to the floor. He retreated up to his own room this time, shaken. That was how Shima and Aki slept – holding hands. Why was he doing that with her? We don't even know her! How could he? Shima's never that comfortable with anyone but me – especially women! He never stays overnight with anyone beyond dozing off for a bit after sex and waiting for the morning trains. Like me. He's like me...isn't he?
Lost in his thoughts, Aki didn't hear the door open.
Shima didn't know what had woken him up. He blinked, taking a moment to get oriented. Reiko was facing him, their heads close enough to both be tickled by the soft fuzz of Izuna's little curled-up body. She has very long eyelashes, he noted. A lock of midnight-black hair was caught in them and he brushed it away, let his hand linger on her soft cheek.
He snatched it back. And his other hand...open with hers resting on it. Her hand was very small compared to his. He felt the urge to trace the lines on her palm but resisted.
::Brother not happy.:: Izuna told him without any indication that she was awake.
Huh? Why would Haru be upset?
::Not Handsome brother. Twin.::
Aki's handsome! Unless you don't think I am either? We look alike, you know.
::I have high standards. Tsuzuki-sama is number one Handsome, but he's gone. You are for Reiko-sama. Haru is for me. I'll share with Ren until I find a fox-mate.::
Shima chuckled at that, trying to ignore the part about Reiko. Even female foxes fall for Haru! I wonder what you thought of Asami-sama.
::Most excellent scary! Too much. Mate is prettier than Izuna, not good. You go talk with your twin. He is afraid that you leave him behind.::
That didn't make sense. Why would he think that? Shima glanced again at his hand beneath Reiko's. Oh. Very carefully, Shima extricated himself, found his glasses, and climbed the stairs on silent, bare feet.
Aki was sitting on his bed facing the far wall, wrapped in his comforter. What do I say? How do I handle this? Aki was sensitive like Haru, though more prone to hot-headed outbursts where Haru would turn ice cold when truly hurting or angry. Shima was the detached and rational one who knew when to back off and leave them alone to sort things out. Not this time. He felt it, what Kousuke had said last night in the dark. Tell him how I feel or risk losing him.
“Aki? When did you get home? Why didn't you wake me up?”
Aki didn't turn to face him, just stiffened. “No need to wake you. I'm going to sleep anyway. I only slept for maybe two hours in the karaoke room we rented.”
“How's everyone?” Shima sat on the bed, tugged at the thick comforter until Aki released his grip. Shima wrapped it around both of them, shoulder to shoulder beside each other.
“Same as always. You didn't miss anything.” Aki relaxed a little more, let his head knock against Shima's gently.
“You missed a lot, it turned out.”
“So I gathered, seeing everyone scattered on the floor downstairs,” Aki said with a touch of resentment.
Shima told him about it all, starting with his conversation with Kousuke and ending by talking about Reiko and Izuna and how they fell asleep getting to know each other better after the movie. The brothers migrated from sitting to laying down and staring at the ceiling, holding hands.
Aki scoffed at first, then fell silent and listened. Once Shima reached the end, he asked, “You're serious?”
“Pinky swear. I'm sure she'll demonstrate if you ask nicely. And Izuna will probably talk in your head much more than you'd like.”
::I will. Greetings, Aki, twin of Shima-sama.::
Aki jolted, then tried to laugh it off. “That's fucking weird. And why are you -sama but not me?”
::Shima-sama mate with Reiko-sama. Beautiful Reiko-sama babies! Cute, cute!::
Aki flipped onto his side and stared at Shima, who could only shrug. “Apparently, I don't have any choice in the matter. Izuna has decreed it.”
“You could act a little upset about the idea.”
“I don't know her well enough yet to say. I do want to get to know her better. I'm...drawn to her. She's different from anyone we've ever met, Aki. She's very honest.”
“You sure she didn't put a spell on you or something?” Aki was putting a lot of effort into appearing nonchalant.
::Oldest spell. Most natural spell ever cast. You will see, Aki. Soon for you as well. Strong, but weak for you.::
“What the hell does that mean?”
“No idea,” Shima told him. But he suspected. Handsome or pretty? Izuna only laughed in his head.
::Breakfast!:: Izuna announced.
“I think that means people are waking up. Are you going to join us and meet her or do you want to sleep?”
“How can I sleep when I haven't witnessed stuff floating around? I need to see it to believe it, no matter how many pinky swears you give me.”
“Let's go then.” Shima got out of bed and Aki followed. Together, Shima's arm around Aki's shoulder, they joined the sleepy, rumpled crowd downstairs.
This time, Reiko wouldn't have to compete for her boyfriend's attention. Aki and Shima would always be close, but not to the exclusion of their loved ones. They were also ready to widen their circle of friends and forge new connections.
You know, now that I've added magic with Reiko and Izuna, I can't just drop it. I'm not going to go full urban fantasy though, just in case you were worrying. The Tokyo Yaoiverse revolves around love magic only! Sexy love magic! See you again soon!