Chapter 1: Listen
If you want to read my version of Uenoyama and Mafuyu's first time, Ritsuka's Loving Self, please check it out here -
The strains of a violin began filling the sakura grove with a series of fun and short warm-up songs. Then it moved into something more substantial. Nakamura Haruki thought it sounded beautiful. He hated it.
Kaji Akihiko stood up from their tarp and slipped his shoes on. “I'm going to have a cigarette. Be right back.” He disappeared into the shadows of the sakura trees.
Haruki was torn. Part of him wanted desperately to follow Akihiko, tear the cigarette from his lips and replace it with his tongue. The other half was frightened that if he did find Akihiko, he would be with Murata or pining over Murata or deciding he wanted Murata after all.
He turned to look, couldn't help himself. There was nothing to see, of course. Nothing but darkness beyond the small circle of light from the fire they were seated beside.
“Haruki, don't,” Mafuyu said.
Easy for Mafuyu to say, lying back against Uenoyama's chest, held in his arms. The two of them were totally content with each other, absorbed in each other. Something had finally changed between those two and Haruki knew what that meant. It had taken Uenoyama long enough.
“Don't what? Don't go after him because he's chasing Murata? Don't worry about it? Don't torture myself with idiotic fears? I can't help it – I'm an idiot.”
“Don't do any of those things. Listen.”
Haruki waited for Mafuyu to say more but he didn't. “Listen to what?”
“To Ugetsu. To his music. You're a musician, aren't you?”
“I can't not hear him,” Haruki snapped. “And what do you mean about being a musician? I'm not classically trained, if that's what you're asking.”
“When you play with us, what do you hear? How do you decide what to play when we're improvising? What is your role?”
Haruki finally realized Mafuyu was going somewhere with this. “I hear you. All of you. I listen for the empty places and try to fill them. That's what a bass does, 99% of the time. We support the main melody, we keep the rhythm, we fill in the blanks, we sometimes echo the melody in a lower register or try to complement it somehow. I'm background noise.”
“Without the bass, the guitars are too loud, the drums are too sharp, there is no harmony, no depth. It sounds cheap and shallow and like something is missing. The bass holds us together, makes us all blend better. The bass is necessary. You are necessary.”
“...” How did Mafuyu come up with these things? He's usually so quiet!
“What does a violin do?” Mafuyu asked next.
“A soloist? Soars above the rest, carries it all. Tells the story, makes everyone listening feel the story. Like your voice when you sing. It's shines.”
“What story is Ugetsu telling us tonight, with all of that on his shoulders?”
Huh? The first long piece had ended. After a short pause, a new one began. Akihiko wasn't back yet. Listen? Haruki listened.
“It's happy, this music. Romantic, playful, energetic. Hopeful, maybe? He's in a good mood. He loves playing the violin and knowing we're listening to him. It's springtime music.”
“It's a new love,” Akihiko said, appearing suddenly. “He's in love with someone.” He sat beside Haruki and took his hand, rested his head on Haruki's shoulder.
“What? How can you tell? You talked to him?” Haruki didn't know if Akihiko was glad or sad. He kept his voice too neutral and Haruki couldn't see his face.
“I didn't need to talk to him – I can hear it. I'm happy for him.” Akihiko suddenly raised his head and forced Haruki to meet his eyes. “You - were you worried? I told you, that's in the past. For me, and for him as well. I wasn't sure how he was doing, but now I know. He's telling us all. He's shouting it to the night. And to his new partner.”
“Who is his new partner?” Uenoyama asked.
“Ehh? Really?” Uenoyama looked at Akihiko and thought about it. “He's nothing like you.”
Akihiko snorted. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“I don't know. I thought he had a type or something.”
“Types are for casual hook-ups. I said Ugetsu was in love, not that he found a new fuck buddy.”
“And you're okay with that?” Haruki was still suspicious. Mafuyu looked curious to know as well.
Akihiko shrugged. “It's bittersweet, I guess? A reminder and a stab. I haven't heard joy in his playing for a very, very long time. That someone makes him happy is a good thing. That it isn't me...hurts just a little.” Akihiko smiled at them all. “I ruined that between us but I learned from it. I won't make that mistake again. Promise.” He lifted Haruki's hand and kissed it.
Haruki blinked in surprise, then felt his face heating up. Akihiko could toss out deadly romantic moves at the most embarrassing moments. The hand-holding had been discreet and no one was around to overhear, but anyone might have seen that hand kiss!
“S-stop that!” Haruki tried to snatch his hand away. “You're not drunk, are you? You only had a couple of beers-”
Akihiko tackled him to the ground. “I love you. You. Stop worrying so much!” He kissed Haruki, pinning him.
Damned tongue ring! But Haruki only struggled for a few seconds before kissing him back. Akihiko was irresistible - big, stupid, warm, sexy...
“That music did create a certain mood, didn't it?” a smooth voice said, off to the left.
Oh shit! Who was that? Haruki didn't recognize the voice. Akihiko raised his head to look, but Haruki buried his face in Akihiko's chest. “Seemed a shame not to take advantage of it. Ow!”
Whoever it was chuckled while Haruki began pounding his fists against Akihiko's sides. Uenoyama and Mafuyu were giggling.
“Shy, is he? Too bad. I heard all four members of Given were handsome devils and wanted to see for myself.”
“Oh, you don't want to see Haruki now. He's probably red as a tomato,” Mafuyu piped up.
“Mafuyu!” Haruki yelled, accidentally revealing himself. “You brat! I'll kill all of you!”
“Hmm, red-faced, but still adorable!”
Haruki turned to look and his mouth dropped open. It wasn't one guy, it was four men standing there looking amused. One was...Asami Ryuichi? Fuck, he's intense in person! But he hadn't been the one speaking.
The one who spoke was a man with shoulder-length auburn hair, wearing a white fedora that only he could get away with. Because he was...glamorous. Not just his perfectly tailored clothes, his perfectly styled hair – his whole aura spoke of wealth and pampering and comfort and culture. Yet there was nothing standoffish about the man, no sense of distance created by the difference in their status or age or anything else.
“Naru, stop teasing.” Behind Naruse (Naruse Aito, the name sprung into Haruki's head – he'd seen the movie premiere news like everyone else) stood another tall, dark man. This one had glasses and an arm wrapped around Naruse's waist. Usami Haruhiko. And the last one, at Asami's side, was the photographer Takaba Akihito.
Talk about four handsome devils! Haruki wanted to die on the spot. I can't die lying under Akihiko! He shoved at the drummer frantically. “Get off me!”
Akihiko sat up, pulled Haruki up as well, then tried to straighten Haruki's clothes while being slapped at.
“Nakamura Haruki, bass player and film major, twenty-four, just graduated?” Naruse stated more than asked.
“Uh, yeah?” How does he know all that about me? I haven't even told the band I graduated...
“You graduated?! Like, you're done with school? How could you not tell us?” Akihiko demanded.
“I just didn't think this was a good time to make a big deal about it. It's not like I found a real job...Anyway, it doesn't change anything, really. Um...Naruse-sama, why do you ask?”
“Oh, I get bored and I research people I've just met or hope to meet soon. Tacky of me, I know. But listen – what exactly do you want to focus on within the film or TV industry?”
“Well...someday I'd like to be a director. For now, anything is good. I think...I think the café where I work is going to close.”
Akihiko smacked him. “Another secret? Damn it, Haruki! Why don't you tell me these things?”
“I just found out! I would have said something tomorrow, not at a party! Jeeze!”
“What about production, producing?” Naruse ignored the antics.
“Ahh? Yes, the production side is one way to learn more about the entire process. I've been more focused on studying each of the major positions – cameraman, lighting, gaffer, sound...”
“That's good. You know Usaka Kazuomi?”
“Know him?” Haruki squeaked. “I know of him – he was famous even before the latest movie! Ooh, you – and Usami-sama. Well, all of you – were at the movie premiere. You know him?”
“Haruki, darling. If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a meddler and nosy and I like to interfere. So here, take this,” Naru held out a business card, “and call him Monday morning at 9 am. He's expecting to hear from you.”
Takaba spoke up while Haruki was gazing at the card with stars in his eyes. “Aki told me you aren't going to do a website for the band just yet, but when you do – or if you need promotional pictures – let me know.” Takaba handed Akihiko his business card.
“Mafuyu, if you can answer phones and write appointments down, I highly suggest you talk to Aki now. Ah, not now as in this minute – I expect he's a bit preoccupied. But this weekend. He's in desperate need of a receptionist. I'm certain you could figure out how to do that around your classes.” Naruse seemed to know everything.
“Don't ask,” Usami told them. “Naru does as Naru pleases. The rest of us just obey his every whim.”
“Speak for yourself, Usami,” Asami said dryly.
“I haven't seen you argue with him,” Usami pointed out.
“His suggestions have had merit. So far.” Asami wasn't about to concede more than that.
Naruse laughed. “You boys are part of our circle now. We take care of our own. Good night!” The four handsome devils strolled off, leaving four gaping young men behind.
Someone howled like a wolf. Then another person answered. What a weird night.
Chapter 2: Packmates
When Kaidou Aki disappeared into the darkness, none of the couples he'd been sitting with were surprised to see him go or expected him to come back soon – if at all. And when the music stopped no one was shocked when Izuna informed them he and Murata were leaving together. Shima wished them well.
“Shima, did you know Aki was bi?” Kousuke asked. “I always assumed both of you were straight for some reason.”
“I didn't know for sure. He's never told me, but some of our friends mentioned things that made me wonder. I'm surprised it's Murata. They've been hanging out lately, but I really thought they were only friends. Plus...well, never mind.” He couldn't say he had assumed Aki was a bottom and so was Murata.
::Were only friends. Hiding real feelings from each other,:: Izuna said. ::I don't understand why. Friends can't be mates also?::
“Most people want their lover to also be their best friend. But if the romantic relationship doesn't work out, then often the friendship ends as well. You lose both and it hurts even more. People don't want to risk the friendship on a romance that might fail.” Everyone looked at Kanako. “Well, that's what happens in all the manga I've read.”
Todo hugged her and kissed her forehead. “Let's not talk about romances failing. That's depressing.”
“What should we talk about instead? Or should we get going? It's kind of a long drive home.”
“I like driving. I'm looking forward to the drive up to Karuizawa.”
“Oh, that's right!” Masahiro sat up. “You guys are going to stay at the ryokan? I'm jealous. Kou, we have to go back sometime.”
“We will. Maybe during summer vacation again this year.”
::Ryokan in the story? Where Tsuzuki-sama and Hisoka found the Zashiki-Warashi?:: Izuna's tail twitched. ::I want to go!::
Reiko looked at the fox and looked at Shima and looked at Kanako. “When are you guys going?”
“Thursday. Staying until Sunday. Why? Ooh, do you two want to go as well? That would be so fun!”
::Would you be able to get away? If you want to go, that is?:: Reiko asked Shima, using the silent method.
He was still not used to that. He concentrated. I'd like to go. I can get off work, I'm sure.
::I'm...I can pay for it, if it's too expensive.::
Reiko's family was very wealthy and she received a generous allowance every month. Now that she wasn't wasting it on bizarre magic products, she had plenty to spare. Shima swallowed his pride. He'd given a large chunk of his savings to Haru and Ren for Ren's birthday/Christmas present and he was trying to put aside enough to rent himself an apartment.
We should be sure they have a room available first. But, yeah, if you don't mind paying for half? I don't want to let you, but I'm kind of stretched tight at the moment.
::Oh, I don't mind! You can drive and buy me a souvenir and don't worry about the rest!::
She turned to Kanako, “You think they have a room open?”
While Reiko and Kanako chattered, Shima very carefully did not think about the fact that this would be their first time truly alone together. He still heard a very soft snicker from Izuna.
It wasn't that he didn't want to sleep with Reiko - he most definitely did. But she lived with her parents and he lived with Haru. He didn't want to rush things, going to a hotel felt cheap and tacky. All his previous relationships had been short-lived and mostly sexual. Women came on to him, whether it was for his looks, his connection to Haru, or some other mysterious reason he couldn't fathom.
Shima knew he was attractive, but he wasn't particularly friendly or open. He did not flirt or chase women, just accepted when they offered. Maybe they found him to be a challenge? Liked the glasses? He had no idea what they or Reiko saw in him.
::You're supportive. Solid. Stable. Giving. Focused.::
Damn, he sounded like a dull stick when Izuna put it that way.
The fox gave him a mental finger-flick. ::Silly. For some, maybe a challenge to stir you up. For Reiko-sama, you provide a base to come back to. She spreads her wings fully and without fear, knowing you will catch her. Don't underestimate the value of that for her. Magic can be scary, make her feel outcast and alone. You believe, you don't give orders, ignore her, or hold her back. And you kiss well. Next, practice baby-making. Lots of practice!:: Izuna giggled, he would swear.
“If they have rooms, I'll ask Aki as well. With Murata, I guess.” Shima wanted to get to know Murata better if he was going to be Aki's number one.
::Good, yes. Tell him no sickness there, if worried.::
“Huh? How do you know that?”
::Zashiki-Warashi protect as well as bring good fortune. Safe there. If sick, will heal. Cured their colds, Handsome said, yes? Can't abuse their goodwill or strength though. No taking big crowds up for healing.:: (“Handsome” meant Haru – Izuna had a crush.)
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that part. Can you heal, Izuna? Or Reiko?” Kanako asked.
“I can't,” Reiko said. “I don't think...?”
::Not now. Maybe someday. Healing is tricky – easy to damage instead, if too much. Must visualize what you attack or move around, see? Body has delicate balance. Human magic, I mean. Other magic...can't explain. Reiko-sama heals faster with me near, part of the bond between us. But not under our control, just happens. It encourages the body to repair faster than normal. If she gets sick, will go away fast.::
“Precision. Focus.” Shima teased the fox with her favorite, oft-repeated words.
::Exactly! Now, Reiko-sama like chopping cabbage with sword. Sharp, does job, a little messy. But to heal is like brain surgery - no chopping with sword.::
“Haha! Maybe Reiko should take kendo lessons!” Kanako teased. “Oh, I know! I'll call the ryokan tomorrow and see how many rooms they have open. If there are more available we can mention it on the server and maybe someone else will go with us. The more, the merrier!”
“What about Kiri and Juuzen?” Reiko asked.
Kanako got a strange look on her face. “Yeah...probably not.” She glanced around to make sure no one could overhear. “That's over. Kiri's going to tell him tonight, I think.”
“Oh. What a shame.”
“I think Ren pushed them into it. He's maybe not the best matchmaker.”
Shima snorted. “Ren sees everyone through a Haru-filter or a wolf-pack filter. He'd like it if everyone in his pack was hooked up with other members of the pack. He sits back and studies them like experiment subjects.”
“That's Ren exactly!” Masahiro laughed.
“Well, we need to add more people to the pack. If only to give Juuzen and Kiri more numbers to choose from.” Kousuke and his numbers, always adding or subtracting or working out a new formula.
“Our pack's gotten pretty large. If you think about it, everyone here tonight is a member.”
“Makes me want to howl at the moon, except the moon should be full for that.” Kanako did it anyway, making everyone laugh. There was an answering howl that sounded a lot like Ren, making them all laugh harder.
“Who's the alpha, the leader?” Reiko asked, jokingly.
“Asami-sama!” they all chorused. No debate necessary.
Chapter 3: Way Off the Path
Kiri is looking for Juuzen so she can break things off, thinking about why he doesn't do it for her and the type of man she is looking for. She bumps into Nanahara - who does do it for her (and to her, hehe). They hit it off, though he's reluctant to get involved once he's aware of her age and social circle. She wants to see him again and gets his number.
Way Off the Path
Kondou Kiri walked purposefully through the sakura grove, heading straight for Juuzen so she could end things with him. Kanako was right, it was better to get it over with now before they talked themselves into more activities neither one was really excited about - not with each other, anyway.
Juuzen was fun. Juuzen was smart. Juuzen was relatively good-looking. Juuzen was sweet and good and awkwardly cute despite having the appearance of a delinquent, with his bleached blond tips and ear piercings. Juuzen was...boring as hell to Kiri as a boyfriend.
Dating him for the last few weeks, Kiri faced something about herself, something she hadn't shared with anyone. She was a model student, extremely smart and ambitious and motivated. She was no-nonsense, practical, blunt. She came from a good, upper-middle-class family and had every expectation of becoming a powerful businesswoman or maybe a college professor (she hadn't made up her mind about that yet).
But Kiri, eighteen years old with a promising future ahead of her, was attracted to Bad Boys. Older Bad Boys. She'd hoped Juuzen would be a compromise that might work. He looked the part, even talked a bit like a thug when he got carried away and slipped into the Kansai dialect. He was from a rough background, with a single mom (now remarried) and a sister who worked as a hostess.
But no, deep down Juuzen was definitely not Bad Boy material. Kiri, good-girl, nerdy, too-serious Kiri wanted to be absolutely ravaged. But not in a bad way – in the good way. Juuzen was not the man for the job and she'd made up her mind to find someone who was. Masahiro and Kaji had a similar style, but they were taken by other men.
How did this come to be? She blamed Asami Ryuichi (not blamed, exactly, but he'd started it). Sex honestly hadn't been on her radar, she was so focused on school and her future. Plus, there was the example of Ren and Haru - they were so ridiculous! She didn't want to find herself acting like such a fool over a man.
But. That night at the twins' birthday party back in October, Kiri's sleeping sex drive went straight into overdrive. It didn't show on her face, in her voice – not at all. But that moment, she was possessed by a completely different Kiri. She wasn't afraid of Asami, like Kanako admitted she was. Tall, dark, and gorgeous as he was, it wasn't really his looks that drew her. No, it was his aura.
He was the ultimate Bad Boy. It took Kiri months to understand fully where her reaction to him came from. Kiri was a strong person, she needed someone who she couldn't walk all over. She wanted to try the wilder side of life with a companion who knew what he was doing. Always in control, always behaving properly, strict with herself – Kiri was drawn to the total opposite.
Asami wasn't quite the right fit, but he put her on the right path. She wanted a hedonist maybe. A person who didn't play by the rules, didn't know or care what the rules were, or just ignored them completely because he felt like it. Asami obviously had that, but he was too much in control of himself.
He might take someone in a dark alley, but only after being sure they wouldn't be interrupted. He would always be aware and on-guard. She wanted someone more...random. Spontaneous. Someone who would get swept up in the moment and sweep her up along with him. Someone emotional and physical and daring.
Danger and thrills – not physical danger, Kiri didn't want to get hurt or feel pain – just to feel afraid of something and then have that fear disappear because she wasn't able to focus on it. She didn't want to be examining her responses, be aware of herself at all. Kissing Juuzen, she found herself judging his technique instead of enjoying it. No passion when he kissed her. As Izuna would put it, Kiri wanted “most excellent scary.”
This is crazy. I'm crazy. I'm sick of waiting for the right one! She stopped in a patch of dark shadows, lost in her thoughts. Leaning back against a tree trunk, she pulled a sakura blossom off its branch and sniffed it, tossed it aside.
If only school would start. Once I'm in college, I'll meet all sorts of new guys. Smart guys, jocks, hipsters, artists, free-thinkers...right? She thought of M University. They can't all be nerds and dorks and otaku and immature idiots! Graduate students! I'll focus on the graduate students.
But first, she needed to get single. Where is Juuzen? She glanced around. Where am I? Flickering firelight off to the right, off to the left. Somewhere behind her, a violin was playing. Aki's new friend. The small bonfires throughout the grove, each warming couples and families and friends, seemed far away. Juuzen should be with Ren and Haru. Kiri turned in what she thought was the right direction and stalked off.
Only to smash into someone. A taller someone with a wiry build and gold chains around his neck. Who cursed spectacularly, catching her arms before she could fall on her butt.
“What the hell?! Shit! Sorry, dude, you okay? It's dark as fuck out here! Goddamn nighttime picnic! Whose fucking idea was this? What's wrong with getting piss-drunk in a bar for your birthday? Hey, you damaged or what?”
Stepping back and peering at her was a man, thirty-something, wearing tight black jeans, a shirt with some gaudy pattern on it, unbuttoned too low and showing off those necklaces. He had a few piercings, dark hair, straggly beard just on the bottom his chin. Strong features, manly, if not exactly handsome.
“I-I'm fine! Clumsy jerk!”
“Oi! I said I was sorry all proper-like! And you ain't a dude, huh? A girly?” He looked closer. “That short hair threw me off. But you're kinda cute. I'm sorry, like I said. Can't see for shit out here.”
Maybe it was the physical contact, maybe it was being mistaken for a boy, maybe she was just fed up with life. Kiri got up in his face. “That's no apology! Why were you rushing if you couldn't see where you were going? Dumbass.”
“Whaddaya want then? Should I kiss your ass just cuz we bumped into each other? You gonna shake me down for cash? Press charges for assault? Is this your racket? Knocking down decent guys in the dark and taking their money?”
“Oi, you take that back! I'm a businessman, right enough! And unless you tore a great big old hole in those fancy-pants, I ain't paying you squat. You didn't even fall - that means I don't gotta pay.”
“I don't want your money! I don't need it!”
“Oh? Rich girl? Why you wandering alone in the dark, then?”
“I'm not rich. I was just looking for someone.” Kiri was calming down, unsure why she'd reacted so forcefully to begin with. I'm more tense over this Juuzen thing than I knew.
“Your boyfriend? You gonna go off for a little slap and tickle in the shadows?”
Kiri laughed. This guy is too much! Where on earth did he come from? “Nope. Going to dump him, actually.”
“Aww, poor bastard! You don't gotta laugh when you say it. I spose a little flower like you must have plenty of guys buzzing around to choose from. Well, good luck to you. I gotta find my boss. Sorry again, 'bout knocking you like that.”
“Wait!” she grabbed at his sleeve. “Who's your boss? What's your name? I'm Kondou Kiri.”
“Kiri, huh? Pretty name. I'm Nanahara and I meant Yashiro if you know him. He ain't really my boss no more, but whatever.”
Ooh. The ex-yakuza guy. Then Nanahara was also... “Tattoo? You have a tattoo?”
“Uh...yeah? Oi! Wait a minute, girly!”
Kiri pulled his shirt open. He had nice muscles for someone who looked skinny in his clothes. Both pecs tattooed. She shoved the shirt farther off. His biceps had tattoos as well. She couldn't quite make out the pattern in the dark, but they weren't anything cheesy like dragons or tigers or ladies. She was almost disappointed, no full sleeve.
“What the hell?” Nanahara backed away. She followed, fascinated.
“I've never seen anyone with real tattoos.” She ran her hand over them. “Did it hurt?” His chest felt solid, warm...
“Girly...” he swallowed hard. “Kiri. Don't go starting something you ain't ready to finish.” He grabbed her hips and pulled her close, close enough to feel that he had reacted to her touch. “Taking his clothes off gives a man ideas...”
Something quivered deep inside her. A sort of clutching spasm. “You want me? You thought I was a boy...”
“Fuck, it's dark and your hair's kinda short for a girl. I can tell the difference now.” He bent his neck and licked her earlobe. His hands moved from hips to ass. “Sure, you ain't no boy.”
That spasm again, followed by heat, flowing outward. Her legs weakened and she grasped at his shoulders. “Ahh!” A very small cry, but enough. Not a cry for help, no. A cry for more. He caught the next one in his mouth.
This was kissing. His lips bruised hers, his tongue pushed its way in, stroked the roof of her mouth. Before she knew what was happening, his hands had snapped open her bra and were squeezing her breasts. One thumb roughly brushed a nipple and she gasped.
“Like that, do you?” he chuckled. “How 'bout this?” He leaned over further and licked the now-stiff little tip.
“Damn, girly! You're getting me hot! You sure? I ain't gonna stop if we go any more.”
Kiri's brain managed to spit out one bit of wisdom. “C-condom!”
“Sure, babe. Always.” He knelt at her feet, his tongue tasting the skin of her stomach while his fingers kept toying with her breasts. “You smell like candy...”
“Right.” He picked her up like she weighed nothing, carried her over to a flat-ish spot surrounded by bushes and the trees. Laid her down on a carpet of petals. It was cold and clammy and she couldn't have cared less.
He settled on top of her, nudged her legs apart and kissed her again. His erection rubbed against her most sensitive spot as he bumped his hips into her. Oh god, what am I doing? It's good...so good!
He started working his way down again – neck, breasts, stomach, lower. His hands unfastened her jeans and he dragged them out of his way. He pressed his mouth on the cotton of her panties and her brain came back to life with a screech.
I.Didn't.Groom! She tried to keep herself tidy by trimming, shaving the stray hairs to make a neat little triangle, but it wasn't exactly a high priority when she and Juuzen were definitely not going to be... Too late now. She couldn't stop and explain at this point.
“Cute,” he said, noticing the pattern of colorful hearts scattered across the scrap of cotton hiding her...ladyparts. Shit! Why didn't I wear black lace or something!
He slid a finger beneath the material and her brain shut off again. He toyed with the springy hairs, then explored between the folds of soft flesh, already slippery wet. He rubbed...there! “There, nngh!”
“Yes, ma'am!” He focused his attention and her hips moved involuntarily to get his finger in just the right spot. “These gotta go.” He pulled the panties out of his way and replaced finger with tongue.
“Ahh!” Her hands reached for his head to pull him away – or hold him in place? His tongue was...too much! This was nothing like when she touched herself. It was more. It was... “Uhnn!”
He didn't stop, just continued relentlessly licking. He added his finger, lower down. When it slid into her, her hips nearly bucked him off. He laughed, low and rough, and went back to business.
It didn't take much longer before Kiri had a wicked orgasm, driven wild by his tongue and fingers.
“Good one?” He chuckled, wiping at his chin.
She couldn't answer, was barely able to breathe. A tiny part of her mind was aware he had retrieved a condom from his pocket and slid it on. Pulled her jeans and panties all the way off. She was naked aside from the shirt and bra shoved up to her neck and she'd raised her knees, opened them wide.
Oh...He...that's his... “Ngh!”
The tip of him rubbed against her, tried to push inside and had a bit of trouble. “Relax, angel. Let me in.”
Looking up at his face, she could barely make out his features – only his eyes, dark and focused on her alone. She urged him to kiss her again. His mouth went everywhere - biting her lip, sucking on her throat, grunting into her hair as he entered at last, suddenly going deep once he'd gotten past a little obstacle.
“Shit! Did I just...?! Are you okay?”
It burned. Or was it a stinging? Hard to describe. It was painful, but not nearly as bad as she'd feared. It was more weird than any pain worth mentioning. He was inside her. He felt huge! And good. It felt good. That clutching, those spasms from earlier – this was what her body wanted, something to grip. She panted and held on to him tightly as he tried to pull away in surprise.
“Fine! I'm fine! Don't stop!” The pain was already fading into a memory.
“Crazy girly! I'd have been more careful...” He started to move, slowly. Almost completely out, then all the way in to the hilt. “No wonder...so tight! Ahh, shit!”
Unbelievable, unimaginable, and now – unforgettable. The feel of him sliding within, the weight of him pressing her down, his voice moaning in her ear. None of the books, manga, hentai, live porn...none of them had managed to capture or portray what this felt like. It was a sensation you had to experience to understand. Now that she knew, re-reading or re-watching would bring a different response.
He sped up, thrust harder. She wasn't aware, but he noticed that she cried out when he was deep, his pelvis hard against hers. Staying deep, he rocked and rubbed and she felt the tension building as the position and movement stimulated her. “That's it, girly. Come again for me. I want to feel you squeeze me.”
His voice, the pressure, the heat – they built up inside her. “Ngh! I...can't...I want...!” He rocked harder, faster. Her entire body seized up then waves of sensation burst out from her core. “GAH! Ah! Ah! Huh!”
“Sweet Christ! Fuck! That's it...HA! Fft!” He came as well, pulsing inside her.
Kiri stared up at the tree branches covered in blossoms and wondered what the hell. She just fucked a complete stranger – gave him her virginity! – on the ground. In the middle of a crowd of people. Reality was crashing back.
She whimpered a little as he left her body. She covered her face, embarrassed beyond belief by that noise and all the others she'd been making. There was some rustling as he righted his clothes, then he gently put her panties and jeans back on her.
“Up.” She raised her hips so he could get them all the way up. He pulled her to his chest and she held onto him as he refastened her bra - positioned the cups and everything – then pulled her shirt down and swiped at the dirt and twigs on her back and in her hair. He even put her shoes back on.
“Hey.” He pushed her away so he could see her face, though she kept it turned aside. “Hey. Don't you be ashamed of this. You wanted – needed – something. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just honest. I'm honored I was the one who could give it to you...and I hope I didn't hurt you too bad.”
“Your speech changed.” She sniffled and met his eyes briefly.
“I can talk like a civilized person if I try. You're a good girl, aren't you? You've never done nothing like this, and I don't mean just the sex.”
“Was I that bad at it?” she tried to joke.
“You were amazing. I ain't had it like that before...just natural and kinda...pure? I dunno the right words, but you didn't have no pretense, weren't trying no fancy tricks or faking any stupid noises or laying there like a dead fish. That was all you and I never felt like that with anyone. I mostly done it with, uh, ladies of loose morals. They leave you wondering if they enjoyed it at all.'”
“Nanahara? You're kind of nice.”
“Ha! Don't tell no one. You'll ruin my reputation! But I guess you can call me Yuusuke, if you wanna. I mean, after that and all. Not that you'll ever see me again.”
“Why? You don't want to see me again?”
“What? I'm a...You should be dating some college kid, not a nasty ex-yakuza who's probably...how old are you, Kiri? Please god, you're over eighteen!”
“I'm eighteen. And I don't want a college boy. That's why I'm breaking up with my boyfriend.”
“Well, I'm thirty-two for fuck's sake! Too old for you.”
“Give me your phone.” Kiri held out her hand.
He stared at her, then slowly pulled his phone out of his pocket and handed it over. Entering her own number, she called herself so his number would be saved. Her phone was on a tarp somewhere.
“I ain't got time for dating, girly. I work nights anyway. And you'll be back in school soon, ri-mph?”
She kissed him silent. “I don't care. You want me again, I think? I want to see you again. I'm being honest, like you said. I don't need stupid dates to the movies or whatever. Just this, at least once more. I want to be wild and break all the rules. You game?”
He looked into her eyes. “Hell, girly. I'm not going to turn you down, not when you put it like that. If you're gonna be a rebel, well, I'll keep you from getting hurt at least. I don't like the thought of you getting treated bad out there, trying to find something you can't get at home.”
He was way too sweet for a “nasty ex-yakuza” as he put it. “You sure you were a criminal? You're acting like a big brother!”
“Shit, that's kinda...kinky!” He tickled her until she squealed. “See? I know how to torture you! And here,” he pulled at the collar of his shirt, showing her a tattooed shoulder. “Gimme your hand.” He placed it on his skin and she felt a puckered spot beneath the ink. “Bullet. Went straight through. Thought I was done for. It hurt like a motherfucker.”
Kiri was silent. That was unexpected, drove home that he really was not from her world. But still, she didn't believe that he was as corrupt and jaded as he was making out. Not when he'd just been so good to her. She wouldn't be swayed off this path. She leaned over and licked the scar.
“You have any others?” He gaped at her and she laughed in his face. “You aren't going to scare me so easily, Aniki.”
“Don't call me that. Not that. That's yakuza-talk. And I'm definitely not your brother.” He was very serious all of a sudden.
“No, you're not. I'm sorry, Yuusuke.” She looked up at him, fluttered her eyelashes.
“Damn, girly. You're gonna cause me all kinda trouble, now aren't you?”
“You bet your sweet ass!” Kiri jumped up and ran off into the darkness, on a high like no other. Two people howling at each other echoed her feelings perfectly.
Chapter 4: Public Displays of Affection
Public Displays of Affection
Ren, Haru, Natsuo, and Takamura were sharing a tarp, with Masahiro and Kousuke, Kiri and Juuzen on the next one over. First Kiri left, saying she wanted to find Kanako. Then after a while with Kiri not returning, Juuzen set off to search for her. Finally, Kousuke and Masahiro had gone as well. “We're being summoned,” Kousuke joked as they left.
“What did that mean?” asked Natsuo. He and Takamura were some of the very few connected to the circle who had not yet gotten the “magic is real” briefing. “Did he get a text I didn't notice?”
Ren and Haru exchanged a glance, with Haru shrugging and leaving it up to Ren to decide. Ren frowned, then asked in turn, “What do you think about magic?”
“What, like, pulling rabbits out of hats? That kind of crap?” Seeing Takamura about to eat a stick of celery, Natsuo craned his neck and chomped it himself, grinning into the face of his still-extremely-uncomfortable-about-the-situation boyfriend.
Ren thought it was both great and very funny, that his school nurse - who kept insisting he knew nothing and didn't want to know anything about homosexual sex - was now in a relationship with cousin Natsuo. And Natsuo, who used to try so hard to appear aloof and cool, was now cuddly and teasing and cute. He'd gone from lone wolf to playful puppy. It was fascinating.
Natsuo and Takamura would be hard sells, Ren could tell. Better to wait until I can arrange a demonstration from Reiko, Ren decided.
“Never mind. Kousuke probably just wanted an excuse to take Masahiro off into the shadows.”
“Ha! That kind of magic I understand! Right, Shirou?” Natsuo rubbed his shoulder against Takamura's.
“Stop that! And feed yourself, lazy!” Takamura let his head hang down to hide his face.
“But it tastes better when it's stolen,” Natsuo kissed his cheek.
“Oh my god,” Takamura mumbled. “Don't use your host tricks on me.”
“I'm not a host anymore but why let my skills go to waste? They work, don't they? Hmm, Takamura-sensei?” Natsuo went for another kiss and got a hand to the face.
Haru laughed. “What are you going to do now, Natsuo? How are you going to pay for that fancy apartment if you're not working as a host?”
“Didn't I tell you? I'm starting next week as Usami Haruhiko-sama's personal assistant.”
“What? How did that happen?”
“Don't sound so shocked! I wasn't always a host. I have a business degree, you know, and I worked at my father's company before I came back here from Hawaii. They put up an ad on your discord server, so I answered it. I am going to give up that apartment though. I don't like the location and it costs too much.”
“You want Aki's old room? I can't believe he just moved out like that, but it means we have the space.”
“Oi, are you sure? Shouldn't you ask him first? And what about your mother? She's staying with you, isn't she?”
“Mo-Dee Dee,” Haru sighed (she didn't like him calling her “Mom”), “is in Ren's old bedroom. Aki won't mind.”
Ren thought about Aki and the guy who was most likely the one playing the violin right now. Ren didn't want Murata around the house and Haru.
“No more pretending about that, huh?”
“It wasn't pretending!” Natsuo gave Haru a look. “Okay, well, he still used the desk in there for his homework.”
“The house is much quieter with Aki gone and Shima almost never home. I can do my homework on the dining room table,” Ren said.
“I see...then, if it's okay with Aki, I'll move in, just for now. That will give me time to save up for a new deposit on my own place. I probably won't be there much anyway, since it's much closer to Shirou's apartment. I'll pay you some rent.”
“Good.” Haru sighed. “I think I'm going to have to close White Fang completely after this week.”
“That's best,” Takamura said. “I didn't want to tell you how to run your business, but things are going to get worse before they get better. And I'm glad Natsuo will be staying with you. It's most likely schools will not reopen for now – doing some type of online classes, is my guess. I'm going to start working at my family's hospital full time.”
“Shirou? You're just now telling me?”
“I'm a doctor, Natsuo, even if I have been dodging that fact for a while by working at the school. Right now, it's all hands on deck and I can't ignore my duty any longer.”
Natsuo looked truly crushed and worried. “But...you'll be quarantining yourself then? I won't get to see you at all?”
“I don't know. They've created a separate quarantine ward for virus cases. I might be assigned to take up the slack elsewhere so those doctors who are best at dealing with pneumonia and such can isolate themselves with the patients. But if the number of cases we're forced to handle cascades (as many think it will), then yes. A majority of us may end up restricted to certain sections of the hospital, not allowed to go home at all.”
“When?” Natsuo asked. “How long until you go? You're spending every last free second with me. We should go now and-”
To everyone's shock, Takamura kissed Natsuo quiet. “Don't freak out. Please, I came tonight so we could spend some time outdoors in this kind of setting. It's peaceful. You know I don't like crowds, but I do enjoy this company. We'll have time alone later, I promise.”
Natsuo might have turned puppyish, but he was still a wolf where it counted. He pushed Takamura down onto his back and climbed on top. “You promised – I'll hold you to that, you know.”
Instead of shoving him off, Takamura pulled Natsuo's head down for a deeper kiss. He must be more worried even than Natsuo, Ren thought, to behave so out of character. Takamura had stopped being a practicing doctor in the hospital for a reason.
Ren suspected it had to do with Takamura's usually gloomy and isolationist personality. Compassion and empathy were almost necessities for a doctor, but too much could be overwhelming. Working in a hospital where people were sick, unhappy, and perhaps dying must be a very difficult thing to deal with.
Takamura had escaped to a high school infirmary where he could spend his days patching up skinned knees and letting brats avoid class by taking naps on the beds. He also had been working weekends as the local shopping district's mascot, George. Anonymous in a big squirrel suit, he swept the streets, a reminder to all against littering. Going back to treating patients in a hospital full-time would not be easy for him.
“Natsuo, you can video-chat with him all you want. And sexting. You guys can even do cybersex – I've heard that's what long-distance couples do. I wonder – do you aim the camera below your waist or at your face? Or maybe you sit back far enough so everything shows?”
Takamura groaned and Natsuo burst out laughing, rolling off Takamura to lay at his side and look up at the sky. “Thanks for the advice, Ren. I'll keep it in mind for if we get desperate.”
“You just forget it! I'm not getting that desperate, ever!”
They were interrupted from more teasing by the sound of a phone ringing, muffled. Each of them checked their own phones almost obsessively, even though it wasn't their ringtone. Then Ren looked around and spotted Kiri's abandoned purse. “It's hers. I wonder if Juuzen found her?”
“I don't know if he should find her,” Natsuo commented.
“What does that mean?”
“That girl's going to dump him.”
Haru nodded in agreement with Natsuo. “Before they started dating, I thought they'd be cute together, but she's looked nothing but restless, bored, or even frustrated with him.”
Ren had noticed that as well. “I tried to teach him how to kiss. Maybe he needs another lesson.”
“You what?!” Haru grabbed Ren by the shoulders. “How? When? Explain!”
Natsuo was laughing again. While Ren tried to convince Haru it was only a kissing lesson, not a make-out session - “No tongue or anything!” - Juuzen himself appeared and sank down onto the tarp.
All arguing and laughing ceased as they turned to look at him. Off in the distance, Ren heard a wolf howl. No – it was Kanako. He responded with his own. Kanako was fun. But, back to Juuzen...
“What? Is there something on my face?”
“Where's Kiri? You didn't find her?”
“Nope. I looked everywhere. I thought we were probably going in a circle and I'd never catch up to her. Then I got distracted talking to Tatsumi – the father – about rain forests. Anyway, you're her ride home, so she has to come back at some point.”
“No wonder she wants to dump you,” Ren told him, blunt as a hammer.
“Huh? She does? Who told you that? Why? I mean...” Juuzen heaved a huge sigh. “It's not just me then. Good.”
Ren raised his eyebrows at that response. “I thought you liked her?”
“I thought so, too. I do like her – as a friend. But that's all. There's just no...chemistry, you know?”
“Damn, kid,” Natsuo said. “At your age, I would have jumped on anything that wriggled in my direction.”
“Did you?” Ren asked, distracted from Juuzen. “You said you were only fourteen the first time you-urk!”
“Don't answer that Natsuo!” Haru said, his hand over Ren's mouth. Ren bit him. “Ow! Don't think I've forgotten about the kissing lesson!” He glared at Ren and Juuzen both.
Juuzen looked scared - Haru might hit him.
“Shut up, Haru! How many people have you kissed? Or done more with?”
“No one but you since...God, I can't even remember! A long time!”
“I kissed you, at the twins' birthday party,” Natsuo reminded him. “How long ago was that? More than two years?”
“You shut up! I didn't kiss you back and I got kicked in the head anyway!”
“Trouble in paradise, my idiot boys?” Dee Dee strolled up and sat beside them.
“Uh, not at all Mo-er, Dee Dee.”
“Haruko (Ren refused to call her anything but her Japanese name), how many people have you kissed?”
She leaned back on her elbows and gazed into the fire. “Too many. And not enough. Why? You'll never catch up to Haru in numbers, you know. Not even if you kissed every person at this party.”
She ignored Haru. “I saw someone earlier and I wonder if you know him. Medium height, dark hair, kind of skinny. Dressed like a gangster trying to look nice – you know, dress shirt with an ugly pattern, gold chains, pants too tight. Maybe thirty or so.”
“Sounds like Nanahara, the guy who works for Yashiro. Remember that day after the premiere, Haru? He came by looking for Aoi. Why, Haruko? You want to kiss him?”
Laughing merrily at Ren's question, Dee Dee refused to answer, glancing at Juuzen for some reason. “I was just surprised to see someone like that mixing with this crowd. I've heard about Yashiro – I want to meet him.”
“He's here somewhere, if Nanahara came. Don't try to kiss Yashiro though – Doumeki is huge.”
“Ren, you realize not everyone is obsessed with kissing and sex?”
“But Haruko, don't you want someone to kiss? A boyfriend? Or just for sex?”
Haru covered his face with his hands.
“If I answer that truthfully, my stupid son's head will explode. Anyway, why were you arguing? Who did you kiss, Ren?”
“Juuzen. But not like seriously. I was teaching him.”
“Oh?” She turned to Juuzen. “How was it? Did he teach you properly?”
Juuzen's face was a perfect mask of embarrassment and terror. He just was not cut out to deal with this family. “I-I...dunno?”
Dee Dee got a mischievous look in her eye. A dangerous look. Ren recognized it – just like Haru when he was thinking something pervy. Ren waited breathlessly.
She scooted closer to Juuzen, frozen in shock. Then she planted a kiss on him. Not a peck. Not a teasing little “chuu*.” A full-blown kiss. And Juuzen, after a moment, kissed her back. Open mouth, tongues. They could see it all.
Well, there were three fascinated watchers while Haru pulled his jacket over his head and curled up into the fetal position.
Just when Ren was thinking she might go ahead and test Juuzen on more than kissing, Dee Dee pulled away. Dabbing at her lips, she said, “I think you did a fine job, Ren.” She looked to the side, where Kiri stood with her mouth hanging open. “Kissing well doesn't mean a relationship is going to work, does it, Kiri?”
“Uh...yeah. I think that about sums up what I was going to say. Juuzen, no hard feelings? Still friends?” Kiri held out one hand.
Juuzen was not capable of speech. He nodded his agreement as they shook on it.
“Ren, take me to meet Yashiro. I want to size him up. Who's Doumeki?” Dee Dee stood up.
Ren jumped to his feet and led her away, telling her all he knew about the ex-yakuza and his crew. He caught Dee Dee giving Kiri a little nod and a wink, wondered what that was all about. He'd ask, but she probably wouldn't tell him.
*Chuu – cutesy way of saying kiss, or a cutesy kiss
Chapter 5: Pack Matriarch
Ren was right - Dee Dee was not about to tell him she'd stumbled across what was obviously the aftermath of an encounter between Kiri and Nanahara. “Good for you, girl!” was her opinion – one better left unsaid in these circumstances.
Dee Dee liked young Kiri. A girl with brains, a plan, and the determination to see it through. She reminded Dee Dee a lot of her younger self. Except her younger self had been an idiot who tried to do too much and ended up failing spectacularly. She hoped Kiri wouldn't make the same mistakes.
She'll make different mistakes. That's what growing up is. But then, what is growing old? Aside from depressing.
Listening to Ren with one ear, Dee Dee scolded herself. Falling in love with a good man wasn't a mistake. Having Haru wasn't a mistake. I was young but I had good instincts. I just couldn't follow through, bit off more than I could chew. Even rescuing Ren from that god-awful orphanage... For someone with a perfectionist streak a mile deep, admitting she'd failed in anything was painful.
I failed as a mother, twice. What a joke! And look how they turned out, away from my influence! Handsome, happy, strong, and smart. Haru and Ren – her precious boys – were maybe stupid in some ways, but together they made each other complete. Oh dear, she was getting sentimental again! Bury it deep, before I do anything ridiculous like hug Ren until he squeaks.
Her cursed pride had almost ruined Haru. She tried to force him into a shape that didn't fit when he was very small, then gave up and neglected him to focus on her writing. Not until she saw him one day, filthy and scratched and huddled among the wolves, did she catch herself, horrified. She shipped him off to his father – for his own good, she convinced herself. She simply wasn't mother material.
He'd seemed happy, from what Takashi and Ruuri said when she spoke to them. But years later, when she mentioned the Japanese orphan, they rushed out to see him and then adopted Ren on the spot. Why? Because Haru was lonely. Haru didn't fit in because of his looks. The twins adored him, his parents adored him, girls at school adored him. Teachers, friends, everyone who met him.
It wasn't enough – Haru needed something none of them could give. Haru desperately tried to make everyone love him but never seemed to accept that it was more than superficial. Haru fell in love once a month because it wasn't really love but he was good at convincing himself and others that it was. For a short time, before he went looking for more.
Haru and Ren – a match made...not in heaven. Made by misfortune. Ren, fierce, feral, fearful, and Haru, who couldn't bear to be disliked. Haru broke through Ren's walls then Ren crawled under Haru's and dug himself a permanent den in Haru's heart. No budging Ren. And Haru trusted in love at last.
They hadn't been brought together to be lovers. Ruuri wanted a brother for Haru, hoping they would bond as closely as the twins. Dee Dee summoned him, unable to do anything with Ren on her own. More misfortune, with the tragic car accident, Haru's amnesia, Ren's slow progress into civilized behavior without Haru's guidance.
But there they were, together at last, if not quite as intended. And inseparable and silly and adorable as all get out. She couldn't help herself. Dee Dee swept Ren into her arms and squeezed him breathless.
“Haruko! You're weird tonight! Why did you kiss Juuzen like that? And what's going on with Kiri?”
“I felt like it! I do like kissing as much as the next person, you know. I just don't have the patience for a relationship and I can't tolerate stupidity – especially in a man. Most men are stupid.”
Ren gave her a scowl. “I'm a man. So is Haru.”
“You prove my point! Why on earth would you tell Haru you kissed someone else? And why should he get all upset when he did find out? You two are peas in a pod, always pushing each other's buttons.” She rumpled his hair.
He suddenly turned sly. “What about Tatsumi Soujin? Is he stupid? With three doctoral degrees? He's really handsome, don't you think?”
“Devil child! Yes, he's handsome. No, he's not stupid. But then again, he is. He'll be off to another jungle in search of more bugs – where would that leave me? Are you honestly trying to play matchmaker?”
“It would leave you exactly as you prefer – alone to write or go back to CERN. But you might have fun in the meantime.” Ren thought of something. “What is Mikiko to you? More than a friend?”
Huh. He's learned about more than just men with men, has he? “Only a friend, Ren. She and I have known each other since college.” And that's all I'll admit to you, my boy. Besides, that ended a long, long time ago.
How depressing! Kissing that young man felt much too good while it shocked the hell out of them all. Because I'm too damn old for him.
Thank the gods they were approaching a fire circle. Let's meet Yashiro and size up Kiri's new sex partner! I'll rip him to shreds if he's not good to her!
Nanahara hurried back to Yashiro and Doumeki. He'd been sent to the car for cigarettes. A good forty-five minutes ago or more. He was going to catch hell for taking too long.
Oof, but it was worth the beating. Not that Yashiro was likely to really beat him up – not anymore. Since Doumeki's return, Yashiro had changed a lot. Much calmer, more mellow, a lot less harsh in actions and words. It was almost creepy. He'd known Yashiro for what – fifteen years now? Watched over him, gotten his ass kicked by him, fought in his defense, and been protected in return.
The relationship between yakuza members was an odd sort of twisted family, after all. Nanahara loved Yashiro like a...He was bad at words. Plus, no words existed that could accurately describe Yashiro.
Yashiro had been sexy and depraved. Yashiro made a lot of money and so did they, working for him. The money didn't seem to matter to him – it was a game. He taught them, led them, watched over them - though it was difficult to figure that out until you had some idea of how he operated and what his motives were. He was a leader with mental or emotional issues. He was Older Brother – who needed a caretaker or three.
But now? Who was this guy wearing Yashiro's skin? Happiness – real happiness, not the mockery of it – shone from his eyes, despite one being blinded. He trusted Doumeki entirely, had gone exclusive with him, clung to him when he didn't know Nanahara was watching. It was mind-blowing. Because it was love and Nanahara would never in a million years have expected Yashiro, of all people, to fall in love and turn mushy.
Love, like in a movie - like he saw between Aoi and Iku – wasn't for gangsters. Having a woman (or a man, in rare cases) on the side was one thing. They all did that at times – some of them even went so far as to get hitched. Then went out and cheated, had mistresses, dumped one when she got too nagging or old or boring. Slapped them around, too. Nanahara didn't approve of that kind of behavior toward someone you were involved with. It was pathetic.
How can a guy get attached to someone who might be kidnapped, raped, tortured, held hostage at any time? Who would be that stupid? Not just the men, but the women as well. He'd seen lovers who got caught in the middle. Before, they were regular people just trying to live their lives. After, they were broken zombies. They paid a terrible price.
Kids were a pain as well, and they cost a fortune. Look at Tsunakawa, like an idiot with his precious daughter. She got kidnapped and Doumeki earned a new scar on his face rescuing her. Misumi was constantly followed by his step-son Amou, the most sly, dead-inside, dull prick Nanahara had ever had the non-pleasure of meeting.
Or that Gotouda Aki, spoiled little shit who'd turned all his family's men into giant useless morons. Nanahara had laughed in disbelief when Yashiro told him about the Osaka business.
No kids for Nanahara and no woman either. Not a serious one. Not a sweet one like that girl tonight. Kiri. He could still taste her...
“Nanahara! Where the fuck have you been? Did you drive back to the city for a pack of cigarettes, or what?”
“Shit, boss! I wasn't gone that long! You try finding the parking area in the dark, through all these trees and weeds!” He tossed the pack at Yashiro, who lit one and took a deep drag.
“Got lost, did you? Idiot. It's not a fucking forest, city-boy. Or...?” Yashiro sat up from where he'd been lounging with his head on Doumeki's lap.
He was always doing that while Doumeki stroked his hair. Creepy! Nanahara tried to convince himself. Not adorable – creepy! He looked at Aoi and Iku, sitting/laying in the exact same position. They can do it – they are cute. Does it feel nice? It looks peaceful...
“You are strangely relaxed, Na-na-har-a. What were you doing? Was it a fucking forest – a forest full of shadows convenient for fucking?”
Yashiro was a devil! A way-too-observant devil! Iku and Aoi seemed interested as well.
“What the hell you talking about, boss? Who'd I be getting it on with here? None of these types would be interested in me.”
“Your shirt is untucked. Stains on your knees.” Yashiro raised an eyebrow. “You definitely fucked someone. It's all over your face. Your expression, I mean. Unless they came on your face?”
“Nanahara, I keep telling you,” Aoi piped up, already immune to Yashiro's salty language, “you aren't a yakuza anymore. Or you won't be, officially, once you sell off that casino. You'd be a nice catch for someone. Better be careful, you might find yourself all wrapped up and tucked into some lucky woman's pocket. You're such a silly! So...who was it? Come on, tell us!”
Nanahara gaped at her, feeling his face flush. A nice catch? Me? Silly?! She's nuts! Kiri said I was nice, too. Since when? I'm...I...
He was saved from a mental meltdown by the arrival of that weird kid, Kaidou Ren, and a woman who...Whoa! Older, sure, but goddamn!
“Hey, Dee Dee, Ren,” Iku greeted them. “Tired of sitting with Haru?”
Haru. The white supermodel dude. She looks just like him, but all-woman. Mom?
“Haruko wanted to meet Yashiro. Yashiro, this is Haru's mother, uh, Dieckmann D. Haruko. That's Yashiro,” Ren pointed, “and that's his boyfriend, Doumeki Chikara.”
“Call me, Dee Dee,” she ordered. Nicely, but still an order. She shook their hands, to their confusion. “Hello, Iku, Aoi. Oh, Aoi! Doumeki Aoi, right?” She looked from Aoi to Doumeki. “Relatives?”
“He's my big brother. Older, I mean, and a lot bigger!” Aoi laughed. “I'm adopted though, so don't expect to see any matching features.”
“I see.” She turned her gaze to Nanahara and he felt his blood run cold. “And who is this?” She studied him. Scary.
“That's Nanahara,” Yashiro told her. “He used to work for me, now he runs a cas-pachinko parlor*.”
“Oh...pachinko? I prefer baccarat. But maybe I'll try your place some time. Where is it?”
“Uh...” Just the thought of her walking into the casino made him shudder. “It's closed at the moment. Virus. You know.”
It wasn't, but it would be now! He was definitely going to talk with Sugimoto about selling. Yashiro and his intelligence-gathering be damned! He'd rather run a bathhouse or a hostess club or something else anyway. Gambling paid well but was boring as fuck for a business. People staring at cards for hours, going broke. Once this virus stuff ran its course, there would be plenty of opportunities.
“Mhm. That's smart of you.” She didn't believe him. “Best not to take risks with your health during these dark times. The sakura trees smell nice, don't they? Their branches and trunks aren't very substantial though. I wouldn't like to see them broken. That's what I was thinking when I was wandering around earlier.”
Oh, fuck me. There is it. She saw me with Kiri and now she's come to kill me.
“I...prefer looking at them from a distance.” I won't touch her again, I swear!
“No need for that. Enjoy them while they bloom. Treat them well, so they can go on growing. Without any disease or rot.”
Huh? Just a warning to be good to Kiri? She sized me up and approves? No way!
“You sound like someone we know. Tatsumi Souichi, the professor.” Yashiro cut into this very bizarre conversation. “Always going on about plants.”
“I met him recently. Ren is going to study agriculture with him. And I teach with his father – Gotouda Aki.” Dee Dee finally turned her attention away from Nanahara, leaving him a confused mess.
“You're one of Gotouda's tutors?” Yashiro laughed. “That kid is interesting, isn't he? He's very easily shocked for someone who's the heir to two yakuza families.”
“Do you like shocking people, Yashiro? I do, too. It's fun, isn't it?”
The talk turned more general and Nanahara heaved a sigh of relief. Maybe Kiri would never call him. That would be best. But he kind of hoped she would. But no. Maybe? I am a Bad Man, Nanahara tried to convince himself. Aren't I?
*Pachinko – a sort of combination pinball/slot-machine game. One of the few legal ways to gamble in Japan, alongside betting on races and the lottery. Casinos are now allowed (as of 2018) but have to be the resort-type and approved by a government committee. Yashiro's (currently Nanahara's and Sugimoto's) casino is definitely illegal until they switch it over to pachinko or something else. Yeah, they lied.
Chapter 6: Birthday Boy
Onodera Ritsu, whose birthday was the reason for this evening beneath the sakura blossoms, was feeling extremely awkward. Even though the majority of people invited were connected to him, he wasn't accustomed to being the center of attention or so open about his relationship. He had to force himself not to constantly hide his hand where the ring Takano had given him shone.
A constant stream of people had taken turns greeting him, wishing him well, and a few had given him gifts. Isaka's gift had been especially embarrassing – thank god he hadn't opened it fully enough to expose it to others. Takano had fallen over sideways, laughing his ass off at what was clearly a maid's dress.
Yuki and Shindo had given him sex toys. Kisa gave him the newly printed volume of Yukina's first BL manga. Usami Akihiko and Misaki gave him bed sheets made of the finest Indian cotton. Usami whispered in his ear that they were marvelous to have sex on and washed well. Onodera wasn't sure he was going to survive the party, much less another year.
Onodera's mother's gift was a full set of kitchenware for their new apartment. Onodera was so relieved his parents knew about them and approved. No more omiai* portraits or blind dates or lectures. She did keep mentioning grandchildren, but that was not something they needed to rush into. After all, he had just turned twenty-seven, not thirty-seven.
Takano's gift was a promise/threat to cook him meals with the new pots and pans and make him eat them. Takano was a devil about Onodera's health. Also, Takano bought them a new bed, a very comfortable new bed. He whispered, “I can't wait to read that manga, get some ideas, and then play with the new toys on the new sheets. While you wear that maid costume.”
Onodera grabbed his phone and attempted to book a flight to Australia. Takano confiscated it.
His favorite gift was safe at home, delivered the day before. A large portrait of the two of them - Takano hugging him from behind while Onodera smiled softly. Takaba Akihito had taken the picture at Usami Akihiko's party a month earlier.
Embarrassing gifts aside, the most difficult part of the day had been facing Kohinata An, his former fiancée and childhood friend. She had graciously accepted defeat and removed herself from Onodera's life once he finally admitted he loved someone else. Since that last meeting over a year ago, he'd only gotten updates on her life through his mother.
She looked good. She always looked good – she was a pretty woman. But she also looked confident and composed and her smile for him was a sweet one. She had recovered from her broken heart and he was glad. Then she sat down next to Takano and drowned him in stories of their shared childhood that made Onodera want to strangle her.
The party's theme seemed to be, “Make Onodera regret all twenty-seven of his years of living, or at least make his face turn bright red as many times as possible.” Everyone was giving it their all.
That changed once darkness fell and the fires were lit. People settled in small groups, quietly chatting or just enjoying the peaceful night. His parents left early, taking An with them. Takano and Onodera were alone, staring into the fire, listening to a violin that seemed to serenade them and lull them into a state of perfect contentment.
Onodera allowed Takano to coax him into laying down, his head resting on Takano's chest. He covered them both with a light blanket and kissed Onodera's forehead.
“This reminds me of the first time we slept together. The sakura were blooming and you laid in my arms just like we are now.”
“I was so nervous and happy, I thought I might die of it.”
“You were funny when I kissed you and you kept your mouth clamped shut.”
“Ugh! Don't remind me of that!” Onodera started to squirm, but Takano held him tightly.
“Calm down. I loved you for that. I loved you for many reasons. You were so different from me – hopeful, sweet, brutally honest, and open. Except for using a fake name on the library checkout cards – I'm still pissed about that! I might have found you again if I'd known your real name.”
“I was an idiot. I was basically stalking you - a fake name seemed like a good idea at the time. And, well...I didn't want you to find me, though I didn't think about that at the time. I just ran away because I was convinced you had taken advantage of my naive feelings to...uh.”
“Dumbass. You kicked me before you ran. And did you really think you were so sexy and irresistible that I'd pretend to like you just to get into your pants? You spent all those years watching me and thought I was some pig who only wanted to have sex? But you loved me anyway?”
“I know it doesn't make any sense! I was fifteen! I was so crazy about you my brain couldn't function properly!”
“And now? Do I still make you crazy? Is your brain functioning?” Takano wiggled beneath him, making it clear that a certain part of him was functioning quite well. Not his brain.
“Totally insane and brain-dead,” Onodera whispered. “Otherwise, I wouldn't be laying here in the open while you grope my ass. We're not alone, Masamune.”
“If we can't see them, they don't exist. It's just you and me and the fire.” His hand slid into Onodera's pants to squeeze a cheek.
“Don't you dare! There's no way...! I can't walk out of here with a - a stain on my pants! Ahh! S-stop, Masamune!”
“Argh!” Takano abruptly pushed Onodera off, stood up, and dragged him into the darkness.
“Masa-mph!” Against a tree, Takano kissed Onodera until they were both moaning and grinding into each other. “No...Masamune! Ngh! Wait!”
“I can't wait, I'm sorry. Turn around, Ritsu.”
In a lust-filled daze, Onodera did as asked and held onto the tree trunk. Bent over, ass bare, Takano opened him up with one hand and stroked his erection with the other. He had condoms in his pocket? Onodera thought as he was teased back and front. Damn him... “Oh god, Masamune! Hurry!”
“Ritsu!” Takano slid into him. “Hah...” he breathed into Onodera's ear. “Why do you always feel so damn perfect? Like you were made for me.” He moved slowly until he found the right angle and Onodera yelped in response.
“Shh!” Takano placed his hand over Onodera's mouth as he began to speed up, thrust harder. Soon, he let go of Onodera's mouth to grab one hip for stability, leaving Onodera to press his face into the crook of his arm to stifle his cries.
It didn't take long - Onodera could never hold out very long where Takano was concerned. He spurted out onto the tree, calling Takano's name as softly as he could manage.
A few moments later, Takano bent over and pressed his forehead onto Onodera's back, grunting as he also came. Then he pulled Onodera down with him so they were kneeling and Takano wrapped long arms around him, held him close from behind. “Ritsu...I love you. Thank you for being born twenty-seven years ago.”
Onodera laughed weakly. “I think you have to thank my parents for that, not me. I should be thanking you, anyway. For finding me again. For still loving me after I kicked you and ran away and used a fake name and fought you and made you wait another two years before I could say the words. I love you. Thank you for the best birthday ever.”
Somewhere a person howled like a wolf and someone else responded in kind, making Onodera aware of where they were – at a party, surrounded by people. “Shit! Oh, shit! Damn you, Masamune!” He scrambled to pull his pants up. “I'll kill you for this!” he hissed, stalking back to their fire.
“Ahh, there's my sweet, darling Ritsu!” Takano fixed himself as well, but in less of a hurry. When he caught up he found Onodera standing and staring at Isaka and Asahina, sitting on the next tarp over and smiling up at them.
“This night air really gets the blood flowing, doesn't it, Ritsu? Did you make a wish? Oh, that's for blowing out candles, not...”
Takano's rich laughter rang out as Isaka won the prize for turning Onodera's face the reddest it had ever been in twenty-seven years.
Happy Birthday, Onodera! (A little late now, but I can't always be organized.)
The Tokyo Yaoiverse will be back, now that this party is finally over!
More sexy times to come (heh heh)!
*Omiai – formal meetings for the purpose of arranging a marriage. Sometimes negotiations start with a photograph exchange and then two people meet in person for a date.