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sheep among wolves

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As a commanding officer, Gorou simply does not consume alcohol.

He’s not violently against it, either; however, when it comes to drinking, he is by no means an expert, nor does he have a refined palate. The taste is…alright, he supposes, but all booze tends to go down in the same way; whether he’s indulging in a glass of wine at the Sangonomiya residence or drinking cheap beer with fellow soldiers, seated somewhere in a trench.

Despite caving to peer pressure every now and then, Gorou still takes it as something of a personal duty to stay alert at all times, ready to defend his tipsy men tooth and nail if needed. He knows when to stop, how to pace himself, and when to outright say no

The men he’s once sworn to protect, his brothers-in-arms, are the very same ones who shatter his resolve of staying sober by reminding Gorou that the war is long over. 

These are calmer times. His troops are safe and sound in their homes, at ease with their loved ones, and it’s been months since anyone’s died from a barrage of electricity-infused arrows raining down from the heavens above. There’s peace now, blissfully carefree and… oh-so-very-peaceful; and that alone is something meant to be revered and celebrated.

It doesn’t take long for Gorou to give in and agree to a good old-fashioned party, thrown in one of the many pubs spread out across Inazuma City. He hasn’t seen some of his comrades ever since they'd parted ways on the pearly sands of Watatsumi beach, so he’s more than willing to compromise, readily forsaking his unshakeable beliefs for a single night out. 

On the day of their long-awaited family reunion, the city of Inazuma is bathed in the fading light of a blood-red sunset, drowned in the overwhelming scent of the ever-blooming sakura trees. The moment he steps outside, Gorou scrunches up his nose at the sickeningly sweet smell emanating from the pale-pink blossoms. A godawful urge to sneeze pulls at his body when he rushes to the marked location, eager to be the first one there, the first to greet his old friends. As he should, especially considering the fact that he used to be their leader, and it was simply improper of a commanding officer to show up later than the rest.

It takes some force to push the heavy oak door open. The moment he steps inside, Gorou’s highly sensitive nose is greeted by the strong smell of beer mixed with sweat and tobacco, thin wisps of smoke curling around the paper lanterns suspended above.

The bar is on the dingy side, no doubt, but Gorou hardly expected anything else, familiar with his friends’ preferences. Predictably, he’s the first one to show up, with the pub having opened no later than an hour ago. Several patrons look up and glance his way, but they’re quick to go back to their pipes and card games, uninterested in the new arrival.

While scouring the dimly-lit pub for a larger table to accommodate everyone, Gorou heads upstairs, only to immediately crash into a sizable stack of thick barrels appearing in his path, obscuring the cramped walkway. 

“Oh, whoops,” the barrels speak up in a manly voice, leaning dangerously close to Gorou. Startled, the ex-war general flattens his ears against his head and holds up his hands, ready to catch the towering booze containers threatening to squash him, and then potentially send him tumbling down the steep staircase. He’s certain that he’d sustain quite a few serious injuries. 

A wide palm appears from the side of the sturdy barrels, easily sliding them up the wooden tray. The pale hand has familiar black claws and distinct red markings wrapped around each finger. “There we go! Whew, almost had a heart attack thinkin’ these would crash; the owner woulda left me a few Mora short. Not on my watch! Arataki Itto is on the case!” The chatty barrels cease trembling, finally steadied and properly secured. “You alright there, pal? Didn’t see you from up here.”

Arataki Itto.

Ah. No wonder that booming voice seemed oddly familiar.

“No damage done, Mr. Arataki,” Gorou bows, despite knowing that the action won’t be seen or appreciated. The wall remains, blocking his path. “May I?”

“Oh sure, sure, sure! Go ahead.” The local delinquent steps aside, jostling the alcohol-filled containers. 

Finally, Gorou takes a good look at the towering oni mostly hidden from view, fine brow slicked with sweat, yet his breathing pattern oddly steady. It’s not unusual to see him around the town, carrying something heavy to make ends meet. He’s certainly got the right height and build for it. A little envious, Gorou longingly looks at the bulging muscles of the oni’s shapely arms, subconsciously rubbing at his own wilted bicep. Lately, he hasn’t been getting much use of them…

While he and Itto have barely interacted during Gorou’s considerably brief stay on Narukami island, he’s had the honors. The oni typically spent his days right outside of Gorou’s humble flat, either loitering with his gang and causing a ruckus or challenging the local children to one rematch or another. More than once, the ex-war general had to shut the windows for the sake of some much-needed peace and quiet, engrossed in replying to the many letters of his adoring fans. 

At this point, Gorou considered the oni to be a somewhat obnoxious, seemingly homeless neighborhood nuisance with a heart of gold and a head full of cotton, the latter description having very little to do with the regal, strikingly-white mane that the oni would painstakingly restyle on an hourly basis.

While Gorou wasn't necessarily excited by the prospect of staying far away from his home on Watatsumi island, he found himself growing oddly fond of the constant hustle and bustle of the ever-lively Inazuma city. It’d taken him quite some time to properly get used to the slightly more exuberant way of life that the Inazumans seemed to lead. On occasion, Gorou did miss the quaintness of Bourou Village, but that aside, his transition from a full-time army man to a columnist-slash-editor of a local magazine had been quite successful. 

Her Excellency was positively delighted to hear of this new side-gig, eagerly approving of and even encouraging his temporary leave. Gorou had promised her that he’d be at her beck and call even with the considerable amount of distance wedged between them, would run to her side if he had to, but Kokomi had simply brushed off the sentiments, waving him away and out of her office, wishing him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

And here he was, standing in the middle of an Inazuman pub with Arataki Itto curiously peeking at him from the top of the stack. 

“Doggy General!” the oni grins widely, recognizing Gorou right away. Curse his distinctive features. The nickname makes his ears twitch with displeasure and his tail puff up. “Well, color me surprised, damn! I didn’t think you’d be the type to get wasted. Ya seem too much like a goody-two-shoes. ”

“It’s Gorou,” ‘the doggy’ reminds Itto, slightly annoyed. He lets it slide; being exceptionally bad at direct confrontation, he usually does. “Typically, I don’t. I’m here to see some old friends, nothing more.”

He isn’t sure why he’s explaining himself to Arataki Itto of all people, the one man (or oni) who couldn’t care less about this type of reputation or appearance. 

Itto’s goofy smirk turns a little sly and supposedly knowing, but the oni “wisely” says nothing, the exaggerated “mhm” telling Gorou everything that he needs to know and then some. “Well, I’ll leave ya to it! Gotta get these safely downstairs and I’m done for the day. Me and the boys are gonna chill here once this side-gig’s wrapped up. You see, it’s my homie’s birthday today, so I had to make sure I have some Mora on me to treat ‘im properly.” Itto pauses “Hey, uh, so if you’re done early and have nothing better to do…?” he meaningfully trails off and clears his throat, an obvious invitation to join in on the inevitable chaos that the Arataki gang is sure to cause. 

The somewhat shy and awkward invitation appears to be entirely uncharacteristic, at least from what little he knows of Itto. But that’s the very same reason why he cannot be sure of it, so Gorou firmly brushes it aside.

Well, either way, it’s not likely to happen. He and Itto aren’t exactly close, nor does Gorou particularly wish to connect any more than this. It’s already plenty. He reckons that he’d go insane, as disorderly as the oni is. It simply isn’t in his army man's heart to get along with a walking, talking agent of seemingly perpetual chaos. Instead, Gorou smiles sweetly, polite and honest. Regardless of his personal feelings on the matter, it is undeniably nice to receive a friendly offer. “I’ll think about it, thanks.”

A dusting of dark pink creeps up Itto’s pale face at that. The oni coughs and nods stiffly, wishing Gorou a cool hangout, but not before reminding him to not go overboard.

Matsukaze materializes in the entryway no more than a few seconds, merrily waving at his old comrade. The fond, nostalgic look in the man’s dark eyes is more than enough to make Gorou forget Itto’s larger-than-life existence altogether.

The evening is nothing short of excellent.

Almost everyone makes it to the gathering and Gorou is beyond overjoyed to see his men’s faces again, together in the same building and seated at one table. So much so that he allows himself a moment of weakness and finally lets loose. His comrades egg him on by encouraging him to drink more than usual, yet Gorou does nothing to turn them down, taking sake cup after sake cup, followed by beer, wine, and perhaps at least three different kinds of alcohol that he isn’t too familiar with.

By 1:30 AM, Gorou can hardly tell his hands from his feet, the blurry silhouettes of the paper lanterns lazily spinning in his periphery. Yuuta laughs at the ex-commander for being a lightweight while Renzou reprimands his junior; it’s not Gorou’s fault that he doesn’t know he shouldn’t be mixing drinks. A complete newbie in the fine art of paced alcoholism. 

Gorou snickers at nothing in particular, dropping his heavy head to rest on the somewhat sticky tabletop, lowkey nauseous. He furrows his brow and prays for the churning in his gut to subside, unwilling to accidentally soil someone’s lap. He’s long since given up on walking in a straight line, swaying dangerously.

Someone hands him a glass of cold water which Gorou gladly gulps down, his too-dry tongue slightly soothed. 

He figures that the unpleasant experience of alcohol poisoning would be slightly more bearable if he were human and possibly older. There’s way too much noise exploding in his sensitive canine ears and it’s driving him insane.

Downstairs, the Arataki gang are howling no worse than a pack of deranged wolves, amusing the pub's patrons with their silly antics. Some time ago, Itto had procured a somewhat sad-looking onikabuto from the deepest folds of his black coat, taunting the seated men into a match--"Step right up, if you dare to challenge the one and “oni” “Beetle Gladiator” Arataki Itto to a sacred onikabuto duel!”--which they eagerly took up at the first mention of betting on drinks. It was a miracle that the owner had put a stop to this nonsense--"No open bets in my bar, Arataki, now take your damned feet off my goddamn table before I get there”--before Itto could shamefully lose, the dilapidated beetle looking close to giving up and scurrying away or simply dying in the middle of the match. 

While the oni was seemingly overflowing with boastful confidence, Gorou simply knew that Itto wouldn’t have been able to cover the bets, as broke as he was, a thousand Mora to his name at most.

Hard-earned coin completely wasted on youthful festivities, right before Gorou's very own tired eyes. 

Spirits dampened by the blatant threats and unwilling to leave just yet, the Arataki gang quickly came up with another ploy to make their night as “entertaining” as possible. They took to arm-wrestling, with the loser having to do a keg stand for as long as possible. While Itto was the undefeated champion of breaking one's fingers, Gorou was certain that he threw a couple of matches for the sake of showing off on the makeshift keg, easily balancing himself over the cursed killer barrels filled with the cheapest beer that the pub had to offer.

Exhausted and bothered by the glaring lack of silence, Gorou raises his head to observe the pub’s layout downstairs, bleary blue eyes seeking out the main source of the overbearing noise. 

The Arataki gang crowds their boss, screaming their heads off in encouragement, yelling “Chug, chug, chug!” while Itto seemingly aims for his personal record of drinking piss beer upside down. His face is completely ruddy from the exertion and what must be a serious case of blood rush, so much that the geometrical markings nearly fade into his smooth skin. The white curtain of his thick hair fans out on the surface of the barrel as Itto continues his dumb one-man show, holding up his massive weight on his equally-massive tree-trunk arms. 

Gorou’s eyes stick to the man’s muscles like a particularly annoying fly attracted to a stack of–of–he thinks, painful and slow–pancakes! It’s almost impressive what some races of Teyvat are gifted with whereas others lack. While equipped with agility and exceptional endurance, his canine kind is simply not meant to stack on muscle in the seemingly effortless way that most onis did. Gorou cannot help but admire the smooth planes of Itto’s toned torso, the slopes of his strong arms. Even with those loose pants, he can tell that the oni must have nothing short of, what’s the correct term, thunder thighs. Yes, those.

Sure, he’s angular and bulky, taller than most people Gorou’s ever met, but his facial features are surprisingly soft, carefully accentuated by the chiseled jawline, high cheekbones, and the sharp, straight line of a nose that's never been broken. There’s something kind and gentle in Itto's vermillion eyes, childlike and long-since-forgotten by Gorou, a battle-hardened warrior and self-made killing machine. The subtle dimples of his cheeks make his smile welcoming rather than frightening, successfully pacifying even the most stone-hearted, fearful humans. His eyebrows have a proper amount of personality, but it’s Itto’s expressions that bring everything together; a complete package, perfect and balanced. If pressed, Gorou might even call Arataki Itto surprisingly handsome.

The longer he ogles, the more Gorou realizes that this has gone way past the point of mere muscle envy. 

Arataki Itto, the loudmouthed delinquent Arataki Itto, is an extremely good-looking demon that would likely turn many heads if only he’d bothered to keep his mouth shut for more than a minute straight.

This realization in particular doesn’t hit him nearly as hard as it probably should. It’s almost as though Gorou’s always been painfully aware of this evident fact, a universal truth--Arataki Itto: hot. It was apparent in the way Gorou would fondly huff at the near-daily disturbance outside his apartment and steal quick glances through the gap of the curtains, scanning the crowded street below, all for a distinctive splash of white and red

He finds Itto’s red to be fierce and exuberant, yet surprisingly soothing; a safe shade, so unlike the nightmarish hue still staining the scarred fingers of Gorou’s small hands, the shattered ground of his homeland’s soil, dyeing the tumultuous waters of the rivers and pastel-colored vegetation alike.

Splattered against the broken remains of his fallen comrades’ armor, ransacked for valuables by treacherous Treasure Hoarders.

Sobered up by his surfacing sadness, Gorou attempts to stand up once more, eager to stretch his legs and hopefully clear his heavy head. The world tilts with motion, rather uncomfortable, but at least he has a semi-decent grip on balance now. Gorou feels confident that this time he’ll be able to walk in a straight line and successfully make it downstairs. 

Despite these comforting assumptions, he still feels like a steaming pile of crap, in every sense of the word imaginable. Right, leave it to him to ruin the joyous mood of an otherwise perfect party with poetic ponderings of a war not-quite-won. He figures that if there’s anything left to blame, it’s the copious amount of alcoholic sewage clogging his veins, thrumming with a misplaced, searing heat that’s yet to dissipate and leave him in peace, Arataki Itto’s sturdy thighs haunting his subconscious.

What the hell’s wrong with him?

Unwilling to spin any more depressing elegies or internally debate the aesthetics of a man he does not know, Gorou pulls away from the group with some ridiculously unconvincing excuse of taking a short walk to clear his head, waving away the concerned questions and warnings directed his way, smile far too wide and fake, filled with sharp teeth. His men seemingly don’t buy any of it--then again, Gorou never was much on an actor, heart worn on the sleeve for the entire world to see and take advantage of--their worried gazes following him the entire way down. It’s reassuring, having his brothers-in-arms wishing him well, eager to lend a hand and walk with him if needed, only for their ex-general to mercilessly turn down their well-meaning, selfish requests.

Gorou thinks that he’s doing pretty okay on his own and the excessive concern is completely uncalled for, especially seeing that he stumbles into a waitress only once and spills only two of the six mugs placed on her wooden tray. Seemingly just as fed up with the surrounding ruckus as he is, the short-tempered girl scolds him for it, but Gorou is far too genuinely apologetic for her to stay mad for long.  

He pays for the ruined drinks and tips her extra.

He swims through the bar with the pace of a drunken turtle, taking small breaks to lean against the wall or someone’s occupied table, getting pointed glares in return. Gorou does not cower, nor does he care, focused on blinking back the black spots dancing in his vision, threatening to send him crashing face-first into the sticky ground below. 

Warrior's intuition honed to near-perfection, he feels the familiar sensation of someone’s gaze sticking to the back of his neck, intently observing him and making his ears twitch with caution. Gorou tries to relax, to lower his guard, bring himself back to the present, the reality--despite being akin to a battlefield in its own way, this shady pub is anything but. He does not need to look over his shoulder to know who is eyeing him from across the room, making him shudder with discomfort and something else entirely; tepid and far too viscous, feeding the greedy firepit crackling deep inside his gut. Something about it warms his being to the very core, causing his sweat-slicked skin to break out into goosebumps. 

Arataki Itto’s vermillion, ink-lined eyes burn holes into the back of his flushed neck the entire way out, that steady gaze curious and yearning.

Outside isn’t much better, Gorou quickly realizes, immediately nauseated by the offending sweet smell invading his senses. He feels far too close to emptying his churning stomach all over the creaky, wooden stairs when the door creaks open once more to reveal one of the two causes for his imminent distress. The oni is careful not to make any more sound than it is absolutely necessary, the thoughtful action alarming the canine warrior panting right next to the entrance, the sweaty skin of his back stuck to the wall for support. 

In the lowlight of the waning moon and distant starlight, the dream-like glow of paper lanterns, Arataki Itto looks like a particularly handsome mirage drowned in gentle, orange hues, sent by the Archons themselves to haunt Gorou’s cursed existence and torture him further. He isn’t sure whether it’s the alcoholic vision glossing over any appearance-related flaws that the oni might have, or the unguarded look of surprise that makes his features softer than usual, that transforms his visage into something far more ethereal than it should be. In the end, it hardly matters, because Gorou’s intoxication-clouded mind takes a deep interest in it regardless.

It’s far too strange, turning over these types of thoughts in his mind, especially in the state that he's currently in, so Gorou doesn’t. He isn’t entirely familiar with the concept of sexual attraction, even more so in comparison to the ever-elusive romantic feelings, but it’d be a lie to say that he hasn’t felt this way before. Sitting in the trenches with an entire battalion of extremely talented and attractive men was an informative and unique experience. He didn’t have much time to explore these… emotions while involved in life-or-death situations--perhaps, that in itself was a significant catalyst to unpacking his hidden preferences--but living in post-war Inazuma has left Gorou with a lot of time on his hands, most of it spent helping people figure out themselves and find their place in their tradition-choked society. Gorou found that he could handle these types of letters with ease, discovering bits and pieces of himself in the process. Pieces that were always there but he’s never cared much to put together, especially since he hardly harbored any feelings, sexual or romantic, for his peers.

His family and friends had welcomed him with open arms and encouraging words of acceptance, this supposedly ground-breaking knowledge, confession of his rather untraditional preferences, nothing unexpected. It seemed that everyone was well-aware of it before he himself had the chance to delve deep into his own subconscious, analyze his attraction to battle-hardened warriors with kind eyes and outgoing personalities. 

Arataki Itto, fortunately or not, falls into every single category of Gorou’s pathetically small list of preferences. 

The aforementioned oni looks just as startled as Gorou feels, flushed scarlet. 

“I thought–” Itto starts sputtering, but is quick to cut himself off, the wide-eyed look quickly replaced with concern. “Whoa, you don’t look so hot there. All good?”

Gorou laughs, strained and sick. “I wouldn’t be here if that was the case, now would I, Mr. Arataki?”

Itto cranes his long neck, as though hoping to find some assistance, a hint of panic seeping into his body language. The flailing is quite adorable, and he’d never thought he’d see the oni as such. It definitely has to be the alcohol speaking. “Do you need to sit down? I can carry over a bench or something if you’re too fucked to walk,” the demon points out the piece of furniture located some distance away, perched right on someone’s private property. Of course. 

Gorou feels his knees shake with strain and slides down the wall, feet digging into the dirt to keep himself upright. “It's okay, honest,” he lies, hiccuping. “I’ll be as good as new in a few minutes.”

“Dude, no,” Itto snorts, incredulous. Entirely unamused. He leans down to look Gorou in the eye. The action would be somewhat condescending in any other scenario, but the stifling worry reflected in those bright eyes is real and heartwarming. Gutwarming. Facewarming. Fuck. “Ya look seconds away from eating dirt, for real. This can’t be good. Someone's had a rowdy night, I see?”

“The best,” Gorou grins, sighing in content and leaning in close. Itto flinches back, likely overwhelmed by the raw alcohol hitting his face in a warm puff of breath. “That’s precisely why I can’t bear to leave. Not right now. The night's still young.”

“I’m sure your brothers would understand.” Itto tuts, crossing his beefy arms over his massive chest. Gorou stares, eyes fixed on the skewed red circle in the center of it, squished neatly between the oni’s meaty pecks. Above, his Geo vision seemingly glows in the lantern light. Itto’s look is reprimanding, but in a slightly hilarious way. “Should I walk you home? Wouldn’t want you to pass out in the first jasmine bush you see.”

“Archons forbid,” Gorou gags, comical, and scrunches up his nose, shuddering at the mental image. He's always had a vivid imagination. Surely, he’d downright suffocate, choking to death on his own stomach content. The sheer smell of a jasmine's sweetness would make his brain erupt and his head explode. “I’m far more familiar with sleeping on the ground.”

“Finally, a man of culture who understands,” Itto nods, rubbing at his chin. Pondering something. The gears turn slowly in his cotton-adorned head. “I can respect that. But let’s not go down that road, not when there’s a soft bed waiting for ya, Doggy General.” Gorou is far too drunk and tired to say anything about the little pet name. “I’ll warn your party people that you’re retiring for the night. Want me to say anything to them, so they don’t think I’ve kidnapped you?”

Gorou stands up straight, leaning dangerously to the side. Itto’s big hand shoots out to steady him, but Gorou firmly pushes it aside, skirting out of the oni’s range. His smile is loopy and wide when he hiccups and raises a fist in a salute, voice slurring when he proclaims, “Long live the resistance!”

Itto chuckles at the proud look on Gorou’s flushed face, muttering the words to himself to memorize them. “Alright, and should I do it with the little,” he gleefully shakes his fist, mirroring Gorou’s limp-wristed swaying, “flourish?”

Gorou stumbles over his words, tongue-tied, finally finding the one that he was looking for, “Absolutely!”

“Alright, drunkard. Wait here and don’t you dare wander off. I’ll be back in a second,” Itto pacifies, slowly retreating backward as though assuming that Gorou would run the second he turns away, treating him like some… some sort of skittish animal.

The canine warrior leans back against the wall once more, gaze fond and unfocused when he turns his head to the side to face Itto, a subtle smile pulling at his lips. “Walk me home, Mr. Arataki,” he commands, the bold request making the oni momentarily freeze in the doorway.

“That’s the idea,” Itto mutters, the back of his neck positively glowing when he quickly ducks inside, eager to hide his weakness to all things soft and fluffy.

Predictably, his men pour outside to see him off, suspicious of the loud-mouthed delinquent supposedly ready to whisk away their ex-captain, eyeing him warily. Itto seems to think nothing of it, dumb smile wide and non-threatening, likely used to all kinds of attention, both positive and negative. Gorou has to convince his soldiers for five minutes straight, that no, Itto is not forcing him into anything shady, and yes, it’s true that he’s Gorou’s “awesome acquaintance”, or whatever it was that the oni had referred to himself as.

It takes a solid half an hour for them to say their goodbyes, to the point where the waitress has to come out to check on them, worried about the non-locals bailing on the establishment without paying first. Gorou gets hugged by each and every one of them, his brothers-in-arms drunkenly wishing him good luck in his future endeavors and silently tearing up into his shoulder, choked by nostalgia and the looming sadness of parting ways for an indefinite amount of time. 

Itto patiently waits it out, back pushed into the open front gate, a lollipop stick hanging out of his mouth. There’s something pensive in his aura, quietly observing Gorou making his rounds, tightly embracing his fellow warriors. Dawning realization flits across his vermillion irises when Gorou holds one of his men a little too close for a little too long.

With another energetic wave, the pair finally departs, Gorou’s steps still very much unsteady. The oni takes pity on his “acquaintance”, his calloused, red-marked hand warming Gorou’s naked bicep, pressing the canine firmly into his side to keep him from wandering off or tripping over any loose rocks of Inazuma City’s paved streets. 

They talk on their way home, with Itto doing most of the work to carry the conversation, Gorou’s responses a little too hard to squeeze out or fully comprehend. Every word exchanged between them slips by the canine’s ears, muted and not entirely registering in his brain. He makes no sense of their ensuing conversation, uncertain as to what they’re even discussing, but it’s undeniably nice to watch Itto laugh, whether it’s at his nonsensical choice of words or unsteady disposition. 

Perhaps Gorou’s simply a funny guy when he’s inebriated out of his mind.

It takes a few minutes for Gorou to fumble with the keys, hissing at Itto to keep quiet-–the landlady isn’t exactly fond of the troublemaker and would positively collapse upon seeing this heathen in her hallway. The oni can’t fully stand up in Gorou’s tiny, yet cozy attic room, neck bent awkwardly when he steps inside, curiously observing the tidy space and the ex-general’s work desk, thankfully not going through his personal belongings. His back is politely turned to Gorou while the canine works on the many clasps of his stylish outfit, struggling to peel off the layers. 

The oni apparently intends to stay until he can personally tuck Gorou into bed or something as ridiculous as that, but the latter finds that he hardly cares or minds, sneaking quick glances at the broad expanse of Arataki Itto’s back, admiring the bulky physique. 

If Itto notices the lewd ogling, he does not outwardly acknowledge it, steady as a stone pillar.

When he glances over his shoulder to check on Gorou--who has gone quiet and still in his admiration--the canine realizes that he would very much like for Itto to stay the night.

“I don’t do well with inebriated folks coming at me,” Itto responds, and oh, Gorou must’ve said it out loud. The tips of Itto’s pierced, pointed ears turn dark pink, the flush noticeable even in the lack of light. He turns away, shoulders squared, neck tucked into his collar. An impressive showcase of self-restraint, his fists clenching and unclenching by his sides. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re mighty cute, Doggy, and this is taking a lot out of me, but it just wouldn’t feel right. I’m not the type of guy to take advantage of someone in a vulnerable position.”

Gorou ponders the rejection and admires Itto’s tactful response, thinking it to be the correct; the honorable way of dealing with this situation. Still, the knotting heat in his stomach persists, insistent. Itto’s presence is nothing short of overwhelming and he smells so damn good. An incredibly handsome oni with a heart of gold and a charm that should be illegal; completely irresistible, especially when he’s like this, warmed with alcohol and a blinding desire to be close. 

Gorou's side still feels warm and tingly where it's been pressed against the oni’s exposed, well-defined torso, the ghost of his touch lingering on his goosebump-riddled bicep, coal against ice. The rest of his arm feels too damn cold in comparison, craving more contact.

Gorou knows nothing of seduction or changing minds, but deep down he's perfectly aware that he’s finally sober enough to assent to these types of illicit activities, the liquid courage still going strong, making him too damn brave for his own well-being. Itto may be proud and honorable, but his steely resolve visibly cracks in the face of Gorou’s quiet voice, drowned out by the darkness of his cramped room. “This isn’t the first time that I’ve thought about you,” he admits, deeply ashamed, tail curling over his lap to protect him. Nervous, the canine picks at the neatly-combed fur, palms far too sweaty. His voice trembles from the insurmountable stress. “I just think that it’d be a waste. I wouldn’t find it in myself to ask in broad daylight; at least, I don't think so...”

Itto goes completely still upon hearing this shy confession. Wide-eyed, he slowly moves to properly face Gorou, who already feels smaller than he truly is, shoulders slumped in defeat, curled into himself to feel less shamelessly exposed. Unwittingly, Itto’s gaze flickers to his naked chest, throat bobbing visibly, swallowing with some difficulty. A brilliant hue of scarlet explodes on the oni's pale face, seeping down his strong neck. When he does finally look up to meet Gorou’s seafoam green eyes, Itto still squints, wary. “Y-You’re not jus’ sayin’ that to get into my pants, are you? If you’re just hunting for some dick, you should seriously stop it.” the oni stutters, embarrassed. Still, he takes a bold step towards Gorou’s queen-sized bed, just waiting to be broken in half. “I’m not entirely convinced, man.”

Another nervous swallow. Gorou’s gaze lingers on the nervous bob of his Adam's apple, entranced. The oni does have a very beautiful neck and that ridiculous collar… he’d love nothing more than to hook his fingers under it. 

The canine ex-general has to forcefully shake himself out of his stupefied stupor, taking in a steady breath to reply to the accusation, “I promise you that I’m not just saying this. I–I’m not the type to indulge this,” he motions between them, ashamed. Itto appears to be skeptical, thick eyebrow quirked. Something about his disbelief wounds Gorou deeply, another painful stab to his nonexistent dignity. “Y-You should actually consider yourself special,” he sputters, nonsensical. “I was planning to save myself for–” he halts then, horrified.

Thankfully, Itto doesn’t seem to notice it or understand the meaning behind that weighted confession. Before Gorou can so much as properly react, Itto pretty much pounces and eagerly jumps into the bed, something deeply hungry reflected in his pretty eyes.The canine finds himself flat on his back before he can blink or utter anything out in response, squeaking in surprise once his gaping mouth gets covered by a pair of rough, sweet-tasting lips--ah, must be the treat from earlier--eagerly kissing away the last of his lucid thoughts and concerns. 

“Don’t make me regret this, Doggy,” Itto warns, but there’s a distinctive note of pleading in his ragged voice. His alcohol-laced breath is pleasantly warm against Gorou’s abused, moist lips, making them tingle. The oni boldly noses against his cheek, passionate and strangely intimate. Gentle, perhaps. 

Gorou only hums and closes his eyes, pulling that divinely handsome devil to himself, fingers tangled in snow-white hair, silk-like against his fingertips.

“Have you ever taken a man before?” Gorou wetly pants against Itto’s bruised neck, peppered in countless lovebites. He’s never thought himself to be very territorial, but this side of him is surprising, to say the least. Archons know that he’s been acting off the rails for the better part of the night, primal desires running wild, finally unleashed. What would sober Gorou say about this? Perhaps gasp indignantly and quote Her Excellency’s wisdom, try to fix this, get everything under control.

Control. Ah, Gorou thinks, it’s so liberating to not care about it for a change; to chalk up his insanely stupid and glaringly obvious mistakes to something way beyond him.

His blunt nails drag over Itto’s wonderfully scratched-up skin, earning another positive reaction. Bleary-eyed, Gorou drunkenly admires the angry welts left behind while the oni tries hard to gather his fleeting thoughts, head rolled back in blind pleasure. Completely lost to the sensation of being easily dominated by the significantly smaller body perched on top, comfortably seated in his lap. 

The mere implication makes him twitch against Gorou’s cheek, his length jumping to attention at the bold proposal. A little sobered up by the complicated question, Itto raises his mussed head, strands of snowy hair falling into his intense eyes, burning holes into his partner's flesh. The red markings nearly fade into the generous flush of his sweaty face. Feeling smug over causing this reaction, Gorou toys with the metal clasp of the oni's collar, still secured in place. He waits.

Itto laughs, boisterous. Despite the impressive bravado, there’s obvious nervousness laced in it. A hint of bewilderment, perhaps. “Arataki Itto never submits to men and women alike!” he proclaims proudly, a winner’s smirk pulling at his cherry-red lips. 

Gorou nods in acknowledgment, the forefinger of his right hand leaving the studded leather strap to drag over the hollow of the oni’s neck, tracing over the fine edges of his sharp collarbone. Down it goes, stopping dead in the center of that red mark, probing at the lust-warmed skin. His smile is innocent yet meaningful when Gorou looks up to meet Itto’s wide-eyed stare head on, the oni’s lungs tight with tension, no longer performing the basic task of breathing. “Would you like to?” he asks, simple and straight to the point, fluttering the thick curtain of his eyelashes to accentuate the syrupy words. 

A considerably brave question from someone who hasn’t had the honors of sticking his dick into anything--or anyone--for the entirety of nineteen years of existence. 

He figures that he’s more than willing to try anything while riding the alcohol high, especially if Itto’s okay with him taking the lead. He’s been having way too much fun with this and stopping right before the main course would very much feel like a punch in the gut.

He’s alright with the alternative, too. He just prefers this over anything else.

Archons know he’d love nothing more than to make love to this oafish oni, make him feel good. Make this experience one to remember. And besides, Gorou’s never been a quitter, nor does he shy away from trying out something new if it’s bound to deliver results, always the first one to approach the battlefield.

Itto stares, long and hard. His lower lip trembles, showcasing the heated internal debate. 

Stiff, he finally nods.

Gorou has very little idea as to what he’s even doing, but thankfully, due to Itto’s own lack of experience in the field of taking someone, the oni cannot call out his bed partner on the semi-faked confidence and potentially many, many errors along the way. 

With some minor struggles, they somehow make it work.

The significant height difference doesn’t help either, but Gorou cannot be bothered by it, mind going completely blank at the tight warmth surrounding him, lost in the willing and eager-to-please body writhing beneath him. With some awkward maneuvering, they manage to find a decent angle and the rest is history, Itto’s exceedingly loud moans muffled against the back of his marked hand, teeth occasionally digging into one of Gorou’s many soft pillows. 

The canine is uncertain as to why he’s never tried this amazing thing before. Thanks to his non-human genetics, he's blessed with an impressive amount of stamina. The adrenaline rush buzzes pleasantly in his bloodstream, seemingly never-ending. Itto doesn’t complain about their lengthy session in the slightest, muffled words dirty and sensual against Gorou’s flickering ears, making his mind blank out and the building heat pooling in his groin flare up even more. 

The latter man falls into an erratic rhythm that suits both of their needs, fast and hard, thrusts kept short but always aimed with intention. Thankfully, his slightly deteriorated arm muscles retain some of their battle-hardened strength, perfectly balancing his weight without tiring too soon. 

It feels too damn good, and when Itto gently gnaws on the pointed tip of his furry ear, teasingly blowing against it, Gorou completely loses himself and the scattered remains of his sanity to the wild animal currently taking residence in his body, fully controlling it. 

As though in slow motion, Gorou watches himself inching closer to the oni’s tantalizing, exposed neck, far too mesmerized to stop himself on time, mind captivated and drawn in by animalistic urges undiscovered. Itto's all-consuming scent--ash, wood and wet ground, the salt of the ocean, the dust of the road and the cheap alcohol, the faint traces of sweetness, of lavender melon candy--washes over him, clogging his senses, wrapping around him like a woolen blanket on the coldest of winters, comforting. It makes unfamiliar heat build in Gorou’s jaw, close to bursting. Within moments, it explodes in his mouth, warming the gums and nearly causing him to drool, tongue too heavy in his mouth. The bizarre feeling travels, seeping into his teeth, two distinctive points of sparking warmth filling his canines. They seemingly itch, hypersensitive. The longer he holds himself back, the worse it feels, forcing a feral snarl out of Gorou, unused to the uncomfortable sensation. Acutely aching to release it.

Lips curled back, he growls no worse than an extremely irritated dog, allowing himself to get blinded by the instinct overtaking his urge-consumed being, teeth feeling far too big for his mouth to contain, pressing firmly into the supple flesh of his bruised lower lip. 

A warm splash of liquid hits his chest the moment Gorou’s visibly elongated fangs tear into Arataki Itto’s neck, cleanly puncturing the skin.

The first taste of demon blood against his tongue nearly makes Gorou gag, freezing him in place. Something close to a horrified realization hits the ex-general like a ton of bricks, none-too-gently. Appalled by what he’s just done, the unpleasant turn of the night's events, Gorou pulls away, ignorant of the fangs still very much lodged deep in Itto’s torn skin, nearly tearing out a chunk of flesh in the process. 

Stunned, the canine observes his partner, the thick veil of lust gradually lifting to reveal the ugly truth underneath, successfully dispelling some of the rosy-hued magic. Itto lies still beneath him, panting, sweaty and red-faced, lost in the throes of passion and seemingly uncaring for the gaping wound left behind in the juncture of his neck and shoulder, leaking a steady stream of gore. Gathering in the hollow of his neck and collarbone, sliding down the marred skin. Staining the sheets a brilliant red.

Red, red, red.

Always red.

Gorou nearly throws up at the tangy smell and taste of blood, flooding his senses, potent. Mixed with the heady scent of sex, of satisfying release, it’s almost too much for him to bear, enough to make his eyes water at the disgusting sensation. Movements turning erratic in his haste, Gorou feels around his chest, cautiously expecting to find or at least sense some ground-breaking changes occurring in his body, in the lust-warmed air between them, only to be met with none. 

Itto’s eyes are glued to him, turning soft around the edges. Worried. He is still determinedly ignoring the too-deep wound, prioritizing Gorou’s well-being above all. “Did you nut?” he asks, tactless and casual, and Gorou nearly sighs in relief at the normalcy of it all. There is no distinctive pull at his chest, nothing to indicate a terrible mistake that would surely cause him a lifetime’s-worth of headaches. 

Perhaps this is nothing to worry about.

His wound-up body gradually relaxes, giving way to the pleasant hum of pleasure once more, nether regions perking up at the inviting pressure still surrounding him, Itto’s calloused thumb rubbing a soothing circle on his side.

Nothing to worry about.

Gorou rises to the blinding rays of early morning sun hitting his face, the merry chirping of the swallow family nesting above his window, a heavy arm draped over his shoulder and thunderous snoring, positively drowning out the rest of the world. 

With a tired groan, Gorou sluggishly attempts to blink away the persistent headache shattering his skull with the ferocity of a well-aimed arrow between the eyes. He pushes away the offending limb and rubs at the bridge of his scrunched-up nose, desperate to recall any of the hazy events haunting the previous night.

Wait a second.

An arm?

The aforementioned limb remains buried in the stained sheets, no matter how hard the canine tries to blink it out of existence.

Alarmed by its ominous presence, Gorou scrambles to sit upright in the creaking bed, sharp senses assaulted by the offending scent of a stranger taking residence in his bedroom, his bedding--and, oh Archons, what is that stifling smell, like sweat and–

Shaking with stress and overwhelmed by the impending sense of doom accompanying most terrible life decisions, Gorou risks a peek at the tall figure draped over the mattress through the gaps of his fingers, turning pale as a sheet. Horrified, Gorou covers his mouth to keep himself from accidentally waking up the snorer, barely containing the startled scream. 

Undisturbed by the world around him, Arataki Itto continues napping away on his mussed bed, strong legs tangled in the blanket and his naked ass out, face buried deep in the pillow. His typically-flawless hair is no more than a rat's nest, crowning the man’s head and successfully hiding him from the view. 

His back is marked with old lines of scar tissue and angry little welts left behind by Gorou's nails, by his greedy mouth and aching teeth, and–

The faded memory of last night's rendezvous hits Gorou full force, forcing him out of bed, still unsteady and very much not sober. To hide his nude form, the canine swaddles himself in a spare blanket, desperately trying not to screech into the high heavens above, his strained voice sure to echo in the jeweled halls of Celestia itself. 

What was it exactly that Her Excellency would say about keeping a rational mind, withholding from any premature decisions and consistently investigating his surroundings for more clues on how to proceed?

Careful and quiet as a mouse approaching a sleeping feline, he reaches around the deeply slumbering oni, twitchy fingers tugging at the bedsheet pressed to Itto’s shoulder, pulling slightly. His one-night stand sniffles at being jostled and grumbles incoherently, causing Gorou to still, breath stuttering in his tight lungs. 

It takes a whole lot of meticulous maneuvering to finally achieve his goal. Speechless, Gorou sinks to his knees, legs no longer capable of supporting his weight. 

His knuckles go white around the ruined material, stained with a generous splash of dried blood, right where it was pressed into the curve of Itto’s maimed neck.

He doesn’t know what sort of… evil groin witchcraft has possessed him last night, enough to trick him into attempting a claiming bite on a complete fucking stranger. Thankfully, the procedure appears to have been entirely unsuccessful.  

Gorou doesn’t feel any different from his usual self. There are no changes in the air or smell around him, the fabric of the universe is yet to tear and collapse in on itself, and, most important of all, he doesn’t feel compelled to curl around Arataki Itto's naked body to tenderly nudge him awake or groom his ridiculous hair. He’s just Gorou, the same old Gorou that he was yesterday, the proud canine warrior of Watatsumi island, and that knowledge alone is enough to ease him out of the state of heightened anxiety, letting him exhale a shuddering breath filled with relief. 

He’s Gorou and that’s all that matters. Teyvat continues lazily spinning on its axis, the sun has risen in the same direction as always, and even if there is a stranger napping in his bed, at least he’s still himself and no one else. 

Quick to dress up, Gorou pens Itto a short goodbye note before bailing from his own home, thanking the oni “for a good time” and politely asking him to leave at his earliest convenience under the pretense of having an extremely busy day.