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And We Danced

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(1) ritsu/izumi; At the back of his mind, Ritsu wonders if it had been a rough night for Izumi. (vaguely future fic)

(2) mao/shinobu; If it meant helping Mao, his saviour, and by extension the Star Troupe, Shinobu thinks fetching tomes is a small price to pay." (fire emblem au.... sort of)

(3) makoto/anzu; “In a way, doesn’t this remind you a bit of a married couple?”

(4) hinata&yuuta; Hinata smiles as though Yuuta is scolding him for something trivial. (fire emblem au)

(5) keito/eichi; Keito looks like death itself. (future fic)

(6) arashi/mika; Despite herself, Arashi kind of envies the pillow.

(7) rei/koga; In Koga’s honest opinion, Rei’s criticism is misplaced.

(8) mao/shinobu; It’s just a bit of wasted time.

(9) makoto/anzu; It’s a bit cliché, but Anzu is like a work of art. 

(10) ritsu/izumi; Watching Izumi stew some stupid love potion for some stupid Gryffindor is so boring that Ritsu doesn’t think it’ll take much more to lull him to sleep. (hogwarts au)

(11) tsukasa/tori; Tsukasa smiles, almost prince-like, and Tori wonders if this is the appeal of Knights that he has failed to understand all these years. (future fic, tsukatori are third years)

(12) makoto/anzu; If Anzu was solely drawn to things that shine the brightest, Makoto highly doubts it’d be him she would be riding the ferris wheel with now.

(13) ritsu/izumi; The night really does suit the Sakuma family.

(14) mao/shinobu; Mao’s pretty sure his heart is not supposed to be racing like this in these circumstances.

(15) tsukasa&tori; Tsukasa doesn’t care much for war. (fire emblem au)

(16) ritsu→izumi/leo; Leo is the one to bring Ritsu’s favourite tint of pink to Izumi’s ears and cheeks.

(17) ritsu/izumi; “I think,” Ritsu drawls, not even looking at Izumi anymore in favour of burying his face further into his scarf, “That Secchan is just lonely.”

(18) mao&shinobu; With this spirit at his side, he shouldn't have to long for the moon’s company any longer. (deity au)

(19) shuu/izumi; Shu has always been fond of dolls. (non-idols au)

(20) ritsu/leo; Long lashes cast shadows over Ritsu’s fair skin, restful breaths drift past his lips, and Leo remembers how sleeping princesses are often awoken.

(21) ritsu/(izumi)/leo; Just as Izumi is the sword that hangs at his side, Ritsu is always someone he can trust.

(22) ritsu/leo; “Let's get married, Rittsu! Let's write wedding songs!”

(23) makoto/anzu; The box of chocolates clasped to Anzu’s chest speaks of an entirely different love.

(24) arashi/yuzuru; Being vulnerable doesn't come naturally to him.

(25) ritsu/izumi; Deeper down, he rather see how Izumi genuinely responds.

(26) ritsu/izumi; It’s the sort of laziness that Ritsu almost always succumbs to.

(27) makoto&izumi; The more the youkai holds and talks to Makoto like this, the more Makoto starts to suspect that he plans to lock him away somewhere and keep him as some pretty human pet. (youkai/mortal au)

Chapter Text

It's late when Ritsu returns home. Then again, it almost always is.

Izumi lies curled on the couch as he comes in, head slumped against the seat's right arm. A water bottle sits on the floor just before him and Ritsu leans down, setting it atop of the living room table so that the other man wouldn't topple over it when he woke up the next morning. With that out of the way, Ritsu leans back, reaching for the remote once realizing that the TV is still running even though Ritsu suspects that whatever movie Izumi had been watching finished several hours ago. At the back of his mind, Ritsu wonders if it had been a rough night for Izumi, wonders if perhaps tonight he should have at least waited for Izumi to get home from work himself before slipping out into the night as he always does.

Well, there's no point in dwelling on things that can't be changed now.

Instead, he bends down before where Izumi rests on the couch, studying his face for just a moment before softly pressing his lips to the ones before him.

It's meant to be a chaste kiss of course, and Ritsu is about to pull away after but a second of contact just as Izumi - supposedly unconscious - begins to just slightly reciprocate. Even then Ritsu doesn't expect much, perhaps just a gentle press in return, though he finds himself pleasantly surprised as fine fingers find purchase in his hair, humming against Izumi's mouth as teeth just barely nip at Ritsu's bottom lip. His own hands lift from where they rest against the couch's edge to cup Izumi's cheeks, tongue swiping across the seam of the other man's lips just before they both break apart.

Despite himself, pride swells in Ritsu's chest upon noticing Izumi's flushed cheeks and heavier breaths, another small hum escaping him as he draws one hand from Izumi's face to run his finger down the other man's jawline and to his collarbone. It's then that he distractedly takes note of the look of Izumi's eyes, no longer closed in slumber but glazed, unseeing, and he tries to shake the feeling of foreboding as said eyes fall closed once more, hands no longer running through but tugging hard at Ritsu's dark strands in what seems to be an attempt to draw him close once more.

And then, just as a small part of Ritsu had been beginning to dread, a slurred but unmistakable "Yuu-kun,” fans across his lips.

Chapter Text

This group - Isara-dono’s “Star Troupe” - reminds you a bit of home. In reality, the similarities are meager; the Star Troupe’s sharp-eyed Hokuto Hidaka is nothing like the warm, over-affectionate leader you know and trust, and these youths are far rowdier and bicker far more often than what you have come to think of the norm among your own co-workers. Nonetheless, as you watch Subaru fling his arm across Hokuto's shoulders, watch Makoto struggle to strike up conversation with their withdrawn tactician you... You feel warm, at ease. It’s not a permanent arrangement, of course - you've come to think of your own company as irreplaceable after all, and even if you're separated from them right now you're sure that you will all reunite eventually.

At the back of your mind there’s a small whisper of “War isn’t that simple,” but you do what you can to smother it. You will most certainly see your family, your comrades again - Isara-dono promised, and you have no reason to doubt the elder boy’s words at this point.

It's Mao you find yourself helping now, arms loaded with numerous tomes as you topple into his chambers. The heady smell of worn books and faint candle smoke greets you a moment before Mao himself does, a warm but tired smile playing upon his lips as he just slightly nods to properly acknowledge you. Eyeing the papers strewn across his make-shift desk - a wooden crate one of the villagers just happened to be willing to spare - you think that perhaps if you knew magic yourself, maybe you'd be of even more help to him. But then, is it not only in a ninja's area of expertise to master ninjustu, not spells? Still... Watching the elder boy work so tirelessly subtly motivates you to try harder yourself, even if it meant only slightly lessening his current load. Such thoughts are not for now, however, so you shake your head as though to dislodge them from your mind before asking where Mao would like the books placed.

"Ah... Just next to me there, thanks," he replies, nodding to a space already occupied by tomes that may as well be identical to the ones you presently carry. You nod and crouch beside the specified spot, trying to drop the books as carefully and gracefully as possible (as any self-respecting ninja would) but coughing as dust flies up into your nose and mouth regardless. Your face burns but Mao smiles, tender and easy, and you try to ignore the way your stomach flip-flops at the unspoken praise. "Seriously, Sengoku... You don't need to do all that you do to help me, you know."

That surprises you, your eyes wide as you whip to face him. Your reply comes more naturally than you expect, voice just barely shaking as you protest, "But... I earnestly wish to aid you, Isara-dono." You look back to the pile of books sitting beside you before adding, "B-besides, you yourself work aplenty to hone your skills, even though I think your magic is more than outstanding as is..."

Mao laughs, shaking his head before turning over another paper. He doesn't even look up at you as he replies, simply, "What I can do really isn't special... It's only the basics I picked up when a childhood friend of mine and I decided to take up magic on a whim." He hums, a proud smile playing upon the edge of his lips as he adds, "Now, his magic was impressive. It'd be nice if you could see it yourself someday..." Mao trails off then, and even if you had the confidence to you know better than to probe further. Mao isn't the type to talk about himself often, but from what you do know you're aware that the story of how he and his childhood friend were separated is hardly a happy one.

The topic slightly shifts when Mao continues, his brows furrowing as he adds, "Of course, it's because I know that there are people like Ritsu out there that I have to work harder... If we get caught up fighting a mage as talented as him - which I'm sure we will, considering the Emperor's connections - I'll likely be the bested suited to take magic-based blows." He sighs, shoulders slumping as his hand trails away from the papers in front of him to rest idly at the edge of the crate instead. "Which means I have to be the best-suited to take them down as well. Geez... It'd be much easier if I hadn't been caught up in this mess at all." You don't really know what to say to that, though selfishly you think that if Mao had never been caught up in this mess you likely would have died back when you yourself had been surrounded by the Emperor's men.

The room lapses into silence then, and you can't help but feel a bit useless as you continue to watch Mao work, heart dropping as he turns to the pile of tomes to roam through it. His search seems to reap no rewards, however, as he groans before closing his eyes tiredly. Recognizing that he must be missing something, you sit up a bit straighter, "Is there something you'd like me to fetch you, Isara-dono?" rolling off your tongue before you are even aware you've thought it. He looks up to you, shoulders still sagging underneath the weight of all the work he continues to go through and eyes surrounded by dark rings that could be induced by none other than lack of sleep. If you were a bit bolder, a bit sharper, you think you'd try to bribe Mao into sleeping in exchange for you fetching another book for him, but instead all you find yourself capable of saying is, "I would be more than willing to do so, if it'd ease any of your burden..."

Mao laughs once more, but it's obviously a bit weak as he tries to assure you, "It's no burden, Sengoku. As much as I complain..." he trails off before shaking his head. "It doesn't really matter, I guess. But if you're willing..."

"More than willing!" you interject, hoping your smile is much more reassuring than Mao's current one is. Said smile is still worn as he nods, looking back to the pile of books before allowing his gaze to rest on you once more.

If you don't mind then, would you be willing to see if any of the villagers have their hands on Beginner's Defence Against Elder Magic? I don't think it's too rare a tome, but..."

You nod, standing before bowing your head. "As you said yourself Isara-dono, it is no burden on my part." You look up to smile at him once more, though this time you're sure it's probably as least slightly crooked before you turn on your heel, bounding out Mao's chambers and sprinting across the company's makeshift camp as any ninja on a mission would.

If it meant helping Mao, your saviour, and by extension the Star Troupe, you think fetching tomes is a small price to pay.

Chapter Text

Now Makoto doesn't want to be rude, but this is just stupid.

He appreciates Anzu terribly, as all of Trickstar does, and without a doubt appreciates all the effort she goes to in order to create costumes that are both creative and charming, but, well. As he looks into the mirror and stares dejectedly at not one, but two ribbons hanging around his neck, he can't help but be a bit frustrated. One wouldn't think trying to tie two ribbons into one bow would be so difficult, yet Makoto's just botched up what must have been his fourth or fifth attempt and he's starting to wonder if anyone would notice if he only used just one. Perhaps if his fingers were nimbler he'd be able to pull this off just fine, but he's used to tinkering with computers and gadgets, not thin and slippery articles of clothing.

He reaches up, about to tackle his fifth or sixth or maybe even seventh attempt when suddenly there's a soft "Do you need help?" from right next to him. Alarmed, Makoto whirls to face the speaker, mind racing as he tries to figure out how the girl beside him snuck into the room without him catching her in the mirror's reflection. He considers asking but then Anzu moves to stand in front of him and he allows himself to relax, deciding that it doesn't really matter in the end.

Anzu's fingers delicately grasp the edges of the ribbons in a way Makoto thinks only a girl can, and despite himself Makoto is reminded of his mother's old movies as she deftly loops the ribbons into a bow. He thinks of a man, businesslike and proud, standing before a mirror as a much smaller and much more modest woman makes up for whatever he lacks. A slight chuckle escapes his lips, sheepish smile curling across Makoto's face as he hums, flippantly, "In a way, doesn't this remind you a bit of a married couple?" Of course, he and Anzu hardly fit the same description of the couple that comes to mind, but that's another story altogether.

Anzu pauses, and immediately Makoto can't help but feel just the slightest bit anxious. It's mostly a joke, of course, because as much as he might wish for it there's simply no chance of the girl before him seeing Makoto with any sort of romantic inclination. He ducks his head with the intent of avoiding eye contact, but then there's a lighthearted smile playing upon Anzu's lips that leads him to hesitate. Makoto just barely takes note of her balancing upon the edges of her toes, and then in a movement that seems all too sudden, those same smiling lips are pressed against his.

He simply... Stops.

Makoto stops thinking, stops breathing, and for a moment he's almost certain that he's stopped feeling, his mind suddenly a hollow husk besides the sole thought of holy fucking shit Anzu is most definitely kissing me. Finally the rest of his thoughts seem to catch up and he is hit with the horrid realization that he has absolutely no idea how he's supposed to reciprocate. Sure, Makoto is great at gathering info and may know a good many things about everyone, but he most certainly doesn't know much about everything, especially not girls or romance or kissing -- yet here he is dealing with all three at once. Makoto's brain is still short-circuiting, and his arms lift just slightly to hang mid-air, hands clenching into and out of fists as he tries to figure out just what he's meant to do with them.

It's not a conclusion he ever reaches however, because the kiss ends just as abruptly as it started. Anzu draws back and Makoto is certain that his entire face is on fire as she shoots him one last smile before decisively patting the bow now resting between his collarbones. "Good luck out there, Makoto-kun," she says as simply as she always has, and Makoto somehow manages to squeak out a stiff thank you just before Anzu disappears behind the door from whence she came.

Makoto's face is still aflame as he lifts his hand to cup his mouth, though moments later he decides that he isn't concealing enough that way and buries his face into both hands instead. That, that.... That had certainly been something, and quite honestly he's still trying to process what only just occurred. Was it his imagination? He hears Subaru calling him from the hallway then and quickly tries to stuff his surprise and confusion down, quickly checking himself over once more in the mirror before bounding out the room to meet up with the rest of his unit.

Figuring out the rest can wait until later... Assuming he can keep himself calm for as long as he's on stage, that is.

Chapter Text

The blow is meant for Yuuta.

Time seems to go in slow motion as Hinata leaps before him, cloaks billowing around him and Yuuta thinks for just a moment that the billowing fabric looks like an angel's wings before his brother crumples to the floor. There's a scream - Yuuta think it's probably his own but he's not certain, only vaguely aware of the battle still ongoing as he rushes forward, kneeling by his brother's side. He's still alive, he realizes as he pinches his brother's wrist, and though Hinata's pulse is faint at least it's still there. There's still time to call one of the clerics, Yuuta thinks, still time to save him by some sort of miracle -

Hinata laughs, and Yuuta whirls to meet his gaze with narrowed eyes. Now is the time for many things but laughing is far from one of them. "There's no point," Hinata hums, as though his brother isn't glaring daggers at him, as if there isn't a gaping wound in his side. Still, Hinata's voice is weak and Yuuta finds himself panicking as he tries to figure out just where had been hit. They're both frail boys - just a pair of frail boys driven to thievery when even their own father was troubled by their likeliness, just a pair of skinny little pickpockets with no real hand for combat. Neither of them are built for taking any sort of hit, never mind the brunt force of an axe and even if one of them absolutely had to take such a blow, Yuuta thinks that it should have definitely been him.

After all, it had been Yuuta the wielder was targeting in the first place.

He scowls, using the edge of his knife to tear off a good portion of his cloak before pressing desperately at where he thinks the wound is. Hinata seems to be trying to assure him that there's no need to worry or something, but Yuuta's panic only increases as blood seeps through the thin fabric and dampens his fingers. He's not cut out for this, Yuuta thinks. He's not cut out for blood, for fighting, for war -

He's not cut out for losing his brother.

But as time passes and his panic rises, it seems that is exactly what is about to happen. Tears well at the corner of Yuuta's eyes and he tries desperately to blink them away, to pretend that they aren't there. Maybe if he blinks fast enough the mess before him will disappear also, and rather than that weak lopsided grin Hinata will be cheekily smiling at him as he always has. Unfortunately, the gash in his brother's side doesn't magically vanish and neither does the blood staining his fingers. No cleric magically appears at Yuuta's side and he panics, truly genuinely panics, because he's beginning to realize that this is the end for his brother and there's nothing he can do about it.

"You're so selfish!" Yuuta hisses, even though he's certain Hinata will hardly be able to comprehend what he's saying now. Hinata smiles though, the same sheepish smile tugging at his lips as though Yuuta is simply scolding him for something trivial and not quite literally throwing his life away. "Do you even think before you act? Who said that I wanted you to be the one to take that blow?" He pauses, tears escaping freely now as he continues, nearly choking on his own words, "Who said I wanted you to be the one to die?!"

His brother's smile doesn't fade, though rather than it being a sheepish one its soft and tender as Hinata weakly grasps Yuuta's hand and places it against his cheek. Hinata's hand is cold. It scares Yuuta, as his brother has always been warm and vibrant just as his name implies. His thoughts are interrupted as Hinata speaks up again, gently, "Yuuta... Can you take care of yourself from now on? For me?"

He doesn't want to agree - honestly Yuuta wants to demand he get up and take care of him himself - but he finds that he numbly nods in response anyways. Hinata laughs. "What a good little brother you are... I really was lucky to have you follow me around all this time~." Hinata blinks, slowly, and for a moment Yuuta thinks he'll never open his eyes again before Hinata's identical green gaze meets his once more. "Sakuma-senpai too... Be sure to look out for him, yeah? I know we aren't the only ones close to him but... I can't really trust a wild wolf like Oogami-senpai to be able to watch him on his own." Again, Yuuta finds himself unable to do much else than nod. It hurts to speak now he thinks, considering how choked up he feels. But still, but still...

Yuuta leans down, softly resting his grimy forehead against his brother's identical one, godforsaken tears running down Yuuta's cheeks and onto Hinata's face. "Aniki... I don't want you to go." He doesn't have to look down to know that Hinata's smiling. Yuuta's panic spikes once more as Hinata lifts his arm to curl around Yuuta's neck, instinctively fretting as the movement causes a pained grunt to fall past his brother's lips. Hinata's arm is heavy and cold against where it makes contact with Yuuta's skin, but he makes no effort to wriggle out of the hug as he normally would.

Yuuta waits moments for a reply, waits moments for Hinata to make some misplaced comment about him not going anywhere, but it never comes. He pulls back, green eyes meeting a lightless but otherwise identical pair, and remembers that the one lying there dead should be him.

Chapter Text

When the nurse finally tells Eichi he's allowed into Keito's room, he almost thinks that he's too late.

Keito looks like death itself. His face is white as a sheet, each breath seeming as though it will likely be his last. At the back of his mind Eichi wonders if this is how he had looked, back in the days when he was at his worst and even his parents had been starting to seriously discuss funeral arrangements. But now is the hardly the time for such thoughts, especially when judging by what the nurse told him, Keito's own funeral plans are very far from being hypothetical. Yes, there's most certainly more important things to think of now -- or rather, more important things to address.

"Kiryu-kun told me, you know," Eichi starts without as much as a hello, setting the bouquet he holds --one nearly identical to the ones Keito himself sent Eichi oh so long ago --down on the table sitting beside his friend. "That you didn't want them to contact me."

A small "hm" falls past Keito's lips and for a moment Eichi wonders if he's even able to speak anymore before he continues, "Yet you showed up anyways... Even after all this time, you're still so incredibly persistent." He looks to Eichi from the corner of his eye, dark green eyes narrowing accusingly. "That kind of stubbornness will lead you to being disliked, Eichi. That's far from what's desired of an idol."

"I didn't come to be lectured," Eichi replies simply, pulling a chair from the far edge of the room to plop down beside the bed Keito is tucked into. "Give me a moment... It's been a while since I've last ran." Keito opens his mouth, obviously to scold him, though something seems to lead him to reconsider. Perhaps being at death's doors has softened the other man, but now isn't the time for such speculation, so as soon as Eichi has caught his breath he continues on to say, "And you, of all people, are hardly in the position to lecture me on being stubborn. Most people wouldn't have made it out of an accident like that at all, and even those that have don't tend to be able to speak afterwards." He raises his brows and all Keito allows is a small huff in response. At the back of his mind, Eichi reflects on the fact that he's lucky Keito ended up choosing to pursue a career as an idol after all; even if Kuro had been willing to fill him on the details once he asked, Eichi doubts he would have ever even known anything had happened to his childhood friend if it weren't for almost every news tabloid choosing to cover the accident.

Finally, Keito sighs, closing his eyes in thought for a moment before looking back to Eichi. "It wouldn't have been right for me to die then," he starts, slowly, and then they both seem to realize that Keito's death was never something they thought they'd have to discuss. Nonetheless, Keito continues, tone level as ever, "If I had, how would I explain why I couldn't speak at your funeral?"

Eichi can't help but chuckle at that. "If that was your concern, when exactly did you plan on getting around to doing so?"

"Eichi," Keito says simply, strain clearly visible as his brows furrow. "I wanted to be prepared."

"And I wanted to see you before you passed."

Keito doesn't seem to have a response to that and Eichi doesn't probe him for one, instead reaching for the hand resting at the edge of the bed to interweave his fingers with his childhood friend's. For a moment it's nearly entirely silent, the sole noise being the soft, infrequent beeps of Keito's heart monitor. Neither of them make any move to disturb the silence, both their gazes trained upon their interwoven fingers. "They don't expect me to make it through the night," Keito murmurs at last, and Eichi doesn't bother telling him that the nurse had already told him as such. Keito hesitates a moment longer before adding reluctantly, "Your Hibiki can attend my funeral, I suppose, granted he doesn't bring any of those blasted doves. Also, I generally don't want him to be involved in the planning of it at all."

Eichi laughs, giving his friend's hand a small squeeze. "If you insist."

Keito's scowl deepens. "I do."

The door creaks open from somewhere behind Eichi before a soft voice that he recognizes as the nurse's interrupts to explain that they'd like to give Keito some time alone with his parents. Eichi nods in reply and goes to move, of course, because there's not much else he can do even if he privately thinks that he would have liked their banter to last just a bit longer. Before entirely moving from the bedside he looks to Keito once again, the sheer lifelessness of Keito's appearance leading him to to decide to throw cautiousness to the wind. Eichi bends down then, softly and briefly pressing his lips against Keito's temple before drawing himself back up to full height.

"If you don't intend on leaving right away, we hope to bring everyone into the room after Hasumi-san and his parent's discussion," the nurse explains just as Eichi reaches for the door. He nods once more, polite smile still in place even as he looks back to his bedridden childhood friend.

And as he closes the door behind him, he wonders what cruel fate allowed him to outlive Keito.

Chapter Text

For once, Mika looks entirely at peace. The way he sleeps slightly suggests otherwise, as his legs are curled as though attempting the fetal position and his arms tightly clench one of Arashi's pillows as if it is some sort of lifeline. Yet with each rise and fall of his chest, the slightest of snores escapes him and a content smile plays at Mika's lips. It's refreshing to see, Arashi thinks, and she's glad to have invited the other over.

It pains Arashi, honestly, to watch how overworked the poor boy is. She loves hardworking boys of course, loves to see others pitch in their best efforts, but she's also one to believe strongly in taking a well-earned rest when needed and it's by no means hard to tell that Mika has recently been neglecting to do so. It's not as though Arashi doesn't understand of course; Valkyrie has quite the rough patch to work its way out of, and Arashi knows from personal experience just how hard it is to build a unit back up once it's lost its fame and glory. Nonetheless, as she watches Mika softly murmur in his sleep, she doesn't think it would kill the boy to depend on others, even if it's just a little.

A sigh falls past Arashi's lips — how unfortunate, she thinks, that the most hardworking of people stubbornly try to also be the most independent.

Mika shifts, some indecipherable murmur falling past his lips as he seems to try to bring the pillow even closer, burying his face into it as he unconsciously turns onto his back. Despite herself, Arashi kind of envies the pillow — she doesn't expect Mika to be overtly physically affectionate, especially considering how averse his adored Oshi-san seems to be to such things, but if he's going to be so clingy Arashi sort of wishes she could be in the pillow's place. A thought occurs to Arashi then, an impish smile playing at her lips before she flops down beside Mika, no longer propping her chin on her hands to watch the other boy as she had been moments prior.

Softly, tenderly, Arashi reaches up to run one hand through the other's hair, a warmth swelling in her chest as Mika's smile just slightly widens. Figuring there's no harm in going just a step further, she scoots just the slightest bit closer to Mika, throwing her arm over where Mika's own are wrapped tightly around the pillow. It's honestly a bit of an awkward hug, but it's strangely satisfying for Arashi nonetheless so she makes no move to change their position besides trying to bring herself just the slightest bit closer to Mika. It's still a little awkward, maybe even more-so, but she manages to nestle her nose against the crook of Mika's neck. Despite the sort of stiffness to their position, there's something about this, something refreshing that Arashi just can't find the word for that makes her feel at ease.

It's like that — with her face nestled against Mika's skin, with her arms thrown haphazardly over him, with that same irreplaceable warmth swelling in her own chest — that Arashi finds herself being lulled to sleep.

Chapter Text

"Hey, asshole," Koga grunts, finally looking up from where he tunes his guitar to glower at the upperclassman situated at the opposite corner of the room. "Why the fuck are ya staring at me like that?"

Rei smiles, languid and slow as he leans against the side of his godforsaken coffin. His half-lidded scarlet eyes make it quite clear that the elder boy is no where near fully conscious, but Koga can't help but marvel at the fact that even despite that there's something oddly elegant about how he drapes over the coffin's edge, splayed beautifully like a lax cat bathing in the sun. In Koga's entirely frank opinion, he finds that grace beyond infuriating, especially when those same half-lidded eyes are focused entirely on him, a certain impishness dancing within Rei's irises which Koga has definitely come to hate.

His irritation only spikes when Rei finally speaks, his voice carrying the same aggravatingly aged tone of his as he loftily replies, "Like what, dear Doggie? I'm afraid you'll have to be a bit clearer than that if you hope to communicate anything..."


Koga's grip on his guitar just slightly tightens and for a very real moment he considers simply launching it at Rei and calling it a day, but he quickly manages to realize that would only bring more harm (to his guitar, he really doesn't care about the rest) than good. He closes his eyes, long drawn out sigh falling past his lips as he shifts, leaning back in his seat and reminding himself to relax -- getting wound up would just be another victory for the shitty vampire, after all -- before hesitantly creaking his eyes open, a fresh rush of annoyance surging through him upon finding Rei's gaze still focused entirely on him. "Like that, ya fucking jerk! Stop acting like I'm the only one in the room; just because you're the club president doesn't mean you're excused from practices, ya know." He gestures to the side in a wide sweeping motion, trying to bring Rei's attention to the array of instruments still lying about unused. Much to Koga's relief, his gaze does actually follow the movement, though as soon as Koga brings his hand back to his guitar he finds those same accursed scarlet eyes boring into him once more. "Seriously, fucking cut it out... It's creepy, you know."

Rei hums to himself, drawing up from where he leans against the ledge of the coffin to prop his elbows upon it instead. "Such needless barking isn't necessary, hm? I know a sensitive pup like you is probably unsettled by this, but..." One of Rei's hands fall down to reach behind him, only revealing itself once more to hold up some sort of form so that Koga can see it for himself. "As club president, it seems I've been slacking off a bit in terms of monitoring the progress of my precious children..." He sighs, and while Koga's gaze follows the paper that he allows to drift to the floor, Rei's own still never once wavers from Koga himself. "Unfortunately, the Aoi brothers have to be absent on this particular day... So think of it as a sort of private assessment, hmm?" As he says this, Rei's smile just slightly widens, leading Koga's face to burn before he quickly ducks his head to face his guitar once more.

"Fucking stupid..." he growls, though he's not sure whether he really intends for Rei to hear, "If ya wanted to do some of dumb assessment, ya should have waited for a day we could have all made it."

"Don't worry," Rei hums. "Those children will definitely have assessments of their own, so it's not as though I aim to deliberately single you out, Doggie." Koga huffs, but otherwise doesn't reply, attention otherwise preoccupied as he looks over the freshly tuned knobs to check for any glaringly obvious mistakes. "That looks fine," Rei says, and Koga shoots him a barely veiled glare only to prompt a light chuckle to fall past the dark haired youth's lips. "Our wild pup rather bark without restraint than fret about small details like this, hm? So go right ahead."


Koga sucks in a breath, his already nonexistent patience wearing even thinner even though he knows what Rei says to be the truth. Perhaps that only makes it more annoying, he muses, curling his hand around the guitar and immediately finding himself relaxing upon assuming the familiar position. His other hand comes forward to strum the instrument, but just before he does so a simple "Wait," resounds across the room.


He whips his head up, pointedly glowering at Rei once more. Interrupting him just then... There's no way the vampire bastard couldn't have timed that deliberately.


Still, he waits, foot drumming against the floor as he (very, very impatiently) watches Rei draw himself out from his coffin. Considering he hardly steps out of the damned thing during club meetings unless it's for something he deems irreplaceably important, sometimes Koga finds himself forgetting just how tall Rei is, eyes widening just slightly as his upperclassmen pulls himself to full height. However, there isn't much time for Koga to dwell on that as once Rei makes it across the room he simply crouches down once more, long legs folding beneath him as he peers at where Koga's fingers are pressed against the guitar's strings. Koga shifts uncomfortably, unsettled beneath the elder boy's piercing gaze even though Rei hasn't looked at him in anyway less since he had entered the club room. He's about to snarl something about Rei being needlessly creepy again when Rei reaches forward, long and fair fingers gripping Koga's fingers and effectively leading his brain to entirely short-circuit.


Well. Fuck.

"For this note," Rei hums, entirely unaware of Koga's current state of mental distress, "It'd put more ease on your hand if you held it more like this..." Koga nods numbly, ashamed of his inability to even snarl some reply about him doing it his own way as Rei positions his hand accordingly. Fortunately, as soon as that's done Rei's hand falls away, patient smile drawing across his lips and softening his eyes as he looks back to where Koga stares at him open-mouthed. "Doesn't that feel much more comfortable?"


Internally, Koga kicks his own thoughts into next week before quickly looking down to his own hand, carefully studying the changes Rei made before grumbling, "It doesn't make much of a difference..." Rei hums, obviously not believing him, though rather than calling him out on it he draws his hands to his knees before pulling himself to full height once more.


"That was my only concern with your performance," he states simply, leading Koga's brows to furrow. How could that be his only complaint when Koga hasn't even played anything yet? Before he can ask as much, Rei's already crossed the room once more, one foot already nearly throwing itself into the coffin resting there. Koga stares at his back, brow furrowed as Rei sinks into the damn thing as he tries to figure out just what the point of that all was. Rei looks back to him then, one arm propped against the coffin's edge as the other comes to cup his own cheek.

"Now, now," he sighs, words drawn out in an incredibly infuriatingly manner. "I think it's time I try to rest... Feel free to bark and howl as you must, but try not to wake me unless something particularly important has cropped up, hm? Good night, Doggie." And before he has the chance to protest, Rei slips into the coffin completely and draws the cover over him, leaving Koga alone with his own thoughts and the array of instruments strewn across the room.

Despite himself, Koga blankly looks down to the hand curled around his guitar. For a moment, he thinks of how much finer and smooth Rei's fingers felt in comparison to his much more calloused ones before suddenly growing aware of his train of thought, once again kicking such useless musings into next week before finally settling down to practice.

Chapter Text

Mao wonders when he'll be used to this.

Shinobu stands before him, his features faintly tinted orange by the light filtering in from the window behind Mao, amber eye glimmering with anticipation and eager smile splitting across his face. This scene isn't unusual by the slightest -- in fact, it's anything but, each detail almost identical to how it was the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that one. Even the setting sun is a typical part of this scene, Shinobu timing his arrival in such a way that he's always able to slip in and out of the student council office without Keito noticing. It's not as though Mao hasn't mentioned that there's probably no need to fear the Vice President, especially considering his shockingly tender nature whereas his underclassmen are concerned, but in the end Shinobu seems to prefer slipping in when it's just the two of them.

The thought brings a certain warmth to Mao's chest, though he quickly tries to quell it. Now isn't the time for that, he reminds himself, no matter how they feel towards each other. There's work to be done, after all. With that in mind, Mao turns from Shinobu's impossibly pure expression, sliding a folder from the bookcase he stands in front of before holding it out towards the smaller boy.

"I need that taken to the Knights practice room," Mao explains, mouth quirked into an awkward half-smile as Shinobu shrinks at the mention of the other unit. He can't blame the other boy, not really, because while Knights might have a reputation for being a chivalrous and princely unit, he knows from personal experience (years of such experience whereas Ritsu is concerned) that most of its members are anything but. Though they've supposedly mellowed out a bit, it's not hard for Mao to recall the days when they carried the air of flippant individualists, and even if one didn't have the same social struggles as Shinobu does that kind of reputation is intimidating enough as is. Still, anxious as he may be, Shinobu still reaches forward to delicately take the folder from Mao, small fingers curling around it before tucking it beneath his arm before he takes in a shuddering breath, prompting Mao's awkward half smile to grow into a proud grin. He reaches out to ruffle the younger boy's dark hair, expression softening as a shy smile of his own tugs at Shinobu's lips, golden gaze suddenly focused entirely on the tips of Mao's shoes.

"You'll be fine," Mao hums, hand no longer ruffling Shinobu's hair but still resting atop of his head. "Their practice isn't set to start for another thirty minutes, so as long as you don't linger I'm sure you won't have to run into any of them." Unless Ritsu is sleeping in the practice room that is, but Mao has the good grace to not freak Shinobu out by saying that aloud.

Shinobu nods, lifting his free hand to perform a sort of mock salute. "U-understood, Isara-dono!" He drops his hand, instead clenching it in a fist just in front of his chest instead. "I shall do my best, de gozaru!"

Mao laughs, his hand sliding from Shinobu's head to lightly grip his shoulder instead. There's a moment of silence then, Mao's smile slackening somewhat as he studies the younger boy's expression. There's a certain tension, Mao thinks, his thumb tracing a small and slow circle against the fabric of Shinobu's blazer. The rays of the setting sun brings out the gold of Shinobu's uncovered eye in a way it wouldn't normally be, and Mao bites his lip, slows the circling of his thumb to a stop, takes another moment's pause to think before leaning in and throwing all caution to the wind.

He thinks a moment too late that maybe it would have been better to ask to kiss him first -- the last thing he needs is for Shinobu to collapse out of embarrassment or something -- but fortunately Shinobu lifts himself onto the tip of his toes and is already gently reciprocating before he can worry about that too much. Mao's hand slips down once more, this time allowing his fingers to wind themselves between Shinobu's own. At the back of his mind Mao realizes that it's very likely they could get caught; Keito won't be gone forever after all, and the more time they waste here the more likely Shinobu will be to run into the members of Knights after all (which is, quite frankly, a fate he wouldn't wish upon anyone).

With that in mind he pulls away, soft smile gracing his features as he takes in the redness growing upon Shinobu's cheeks. "Good luck," Mao says softly, giving Shinobu's hand a slight squeeze of reassurance before letting go. Shinobu nods once more, another radiant smile splitting across this face even despite his flushed cheeks.

Mao watches as the younger boy leaves, still gazing out the door even after he's out of sight. It isn't until Shinobu is long gone that he quells the distracting swell of warmth in his chest and returns to organizing the folders waiting before him.

Chapter Text

Anzu shines so brightly in the snow.

She's not one to naturally shine, not really -- her gift is in the ability to bring the brightness out of others, not to sparkle and gleam herself. But looking at her from the corner of his eye now, taking in the contrast between her dark jacket and the blanket of snow around them, Makoto genuinely believes that there's really no other way to describe it. The pleasant smile dancing across her lips brings the lightest crinkles around her clear blue eyes, pink mittens lifting to poorly conceal her laugh when Makoto says something particularly entertaining. Small flakes of white are sprinkled over her copper strands, speckled about like stars in a clear night sky. The blankets of snow about them are like a blank canvas, and in Makoto's eyes, well.

It's a bit cliché, but Anzu is like a work of art.

She moves just a bit closer to him, shoulder knocking against his arm as she cracks a joke of her own. He tries to swallow his slight chuckle, though judging by Anzu's pout and more aggressive tackle to his arm, him holding anything back is far from appreciated. So he laughs, full and wholesome laughter spilling from his lips, and the gleam of satisfaction in Anzu's eyes makes letting go more than worth it.

This kind of thing is nice -- it's freeing -- and the laughter that Makoto shares with Anzu, the laughter he shares with Trickstar is something he wouldn't give up for the world. This feeling of serenity, the sweetness of Anzu's smile and the childish thought that this smile is something he currently has all to himself is something he would have never experienced in the modelling industry. It's nothing he would have experienced then, dolled up and wearing an expression blanker than the snow currently surrounding them.

Of course, he's an idol now. Of course, he still has people to please. But the opportunity to freely kick up snow without consequence, the opportunity to stay out until late, the opportunity to walk a cute girl home; they're all things he never even dreamt of, all things he would never want to live without ever again.

And even as they reach Anzu's street, even as she reaches the door and the air becomes silent after she ducks into the warmth of her home, Makoto's smile doesn't fade. After all, these lovely things, these youthful times are no longer a rare or distant thing. Each day that he wakes, there's no doubt in his mind that he'll soak in the light of Anzu's smile or the warmth of Trickstar's support once again. Despite his insecurities, despite the prying eyes around every corner, Makoto doesn't feel as though those precious things are threatened.

And so Makoto walks over he and Anzu's fresh footprints, smile still gracing his features as he thinks of how Anzu is like art in the same way that any other teenager with a crush would.

Chapter Text

This is such an utter waste of time.

A small huff of annoyance falls past Ritsu’s lips, expression otherwise blank as he watches Izumi study the thin sheet of instructions laid between them. If circumstances were different, this would quite frankly be Ritsu’s ideal night; the room is almost entirely dark beyond a small light illuminating the parchment and without any professor’s supervision, there's nothing holding him back from tinkering with the endless ingredients just waiting to be experimented with. Izumi’s company just happens to be bonus -- a very welcome bonus for that matter, but still a bonus all the same.

But of course the only reason the both of them are here in the first place is because Izumi is so preoccupied with him.

“Oi, Kuma-kun,” Izumi starts, finally looking up from his blasted parchment and cauldron to shoot Ritsu a pointed icy glare. “Stop loafing around and at least try to help me, will you? I didn't bring you for moral support or some nonsense like that..."

Ritsu raises his brows at that. Considering that this is the first time Izumi’s spoken to him since he oh so unceremoniously ripped Ritsu from bed a full forty minutes ago, he had been beginning to think that he was simply meant to be some kind of psychological cheerleader after all. Of course he's probably the least suited person for such a role, but in Izumi’s defence it's much easier to drag Ritsu off in the middle of the night than it is to sneak Arashi out of his own house.

Ritsu hums, turning to lazily draw his arms around Izumi's waist and rest his chin against the taller boy's shoulder. “Ah~ And here I thought I was doing such a good job of encouraging you and everything...” Izumi stiffens in his grasp, and even through the dark Ritsu can still make out the scarlet hue overtaking the tips of Izumi’s ears. He closes his eyes, drinking in the smell of peppermint wafting upwards from cauldron set before them, idly hoping that at least that scent would cling to Izumi after the fact. It's a shockingly nice aroma, despite its strength.

Maybe he could just pass out here, Ritsu thinks. He isn't one for resting at night, not really, but watching Izumi stew some stupid love potion for some stupid Gryffindor is honestly so boring that he really doesn't think it'll take much more to lull him to sleep. Besides, Izumi’s an excellent pillow and despite his insistence otherwise, he really doesn't seem to need Ritsu’s help at all. Even as Izumi slightly squirms beneath his weight, Ritsu finds that he isn't motivated to move in the slightest.

“You know,” Ritsu hums pensively, looking towards but not really focusing on the potion brewing before them, “The potion's going to wear off at some point."

Izumi doesn't reply immediately, icy blue gaze regarding Ritsu for just a moment before he focuses on the cauldron once more. Ritsu sighs, running one finger along the skin of Izumi's exposed forearm until he finally manages to prompt an aggravated huff from the boy he leans upon. "I mean, yeah, sure, but I don't need it to last." Again, Ritsu's brows just slightly raise at Izumi's words, gaze flicking away from what Izumi works on to distractedly eye the taller boy's clenched jawline instead. "I just... Want to see what it would be like."

"What a waste of time~" Ritsu smiles, lightly pressing his lips to the side of Izumi's throat. Izumi freezes over at the contact, though even as Ritsu's smile fades neither of them make any effort to move away. "Mm... It'd probably just be much nicer if you were with me rather than your 'Yuu-kun'..."

It doesn't take Izumi long to move then, suddenly possessing the strength to not only squirm out from beneath Ritsu's weight entirely but also to whip and face him. He's obviously about to scold him, some scathing remark clearly at the edge of his tongue, but Ritsu just lightly pressing his hand somewhere behind him seems to bring Izumi's attention to just how close they are in this moment. Anything Izumi had planned to say fizzles out before ever having the chance to make it past his lips, eyes wide and scarlet blush rising to illuminate the tips of his ears once more.

"I," Izumi starts, ever the epitome of intelligence and dignity. Ritsu smiles, patiently watching as Izumi's gaze darts between his curling lips and unwavering crimson stare. Izumi's brows bunch together, fists clenching and unclenching as though physically trying to grasp his lost train of thought. Finally, he manages to get ahold of himself, back straightening so he's able to look past Ritsu's shoulder to scan the darkened room. "I need rose thorns. Geez, Kuma-kun... Don't say stupid things to distract me."

Ritsu leans back, impassive hum falling past his lips as he steps away to find what Izumi asked for. He can feel Izumi staring after him, likely wondering what came over him to make him so obedient, but that matters not.

Now a decent bit away, he looks back to Izumi. His back is to him, attention seemingly devoted entirely to his stupid potion yet again, and Ritsu sighs.

Ah... It really is a waste of time.

Chapter Text

"I don't know," Tori sighs, combing one hand through his hair as he stares blankly towards the targets sitting at the opposite end of the club room. "I think... I think for a long time I just wanted to believe that his crush on that kid was just a ploy to get my attention." A noise somewhere between a huff and a defeated chuckle falls past his lips. "I guess that was pretty stupid of me from the start, huh."

Tsukasa shrugs, notching his next arrow as he offhandedly replies, "It definitely comes across as a bit conceited." Tori shoots him a half-hearted glare before Tsukasa continues on to say, "But it's only natural to hope that things will work out with the one you admire, so..." The arrow soars forward, Tori jolting somewhat as it makes a solid 'thunk' upon hitting its mark. "It was petty of you, sure, but not entirely unexpected."

Tori groans. "God, I really am no better than that seaweed head." Tsukasa turns to him, brows raised skeptically.

"Don't get ahead of yourself now. Sena-senpai is a respectable person, but the way he approached his affections was a bit..."

"Extreme?" Tori asks, his own brows raising as the English falls awkwardly off his tongue. Tsukasa simply nods, fortunately passing on any opportunity to flaunt how much better at speaking English he is, and Tori takes that as his own chance to continue, "That's true enough, but look at me now. I'm just... Telling you everything simply because I can." He wrinkles his nose. "I don't even like you."

"Well, at least those feelings are mutual," Tsukasa hums, cheeky smile playing at his lips while Tori's own frown only deepens. "Besides, while Sena-senpai's... situation with Yuuki-senpai was hardly anything to aspire to, he did end up finding his own happy ending, right?"

Tori scoffs. "I wonder how the Suou family will manage with such an idealistic heir."

Tsukasa turns to face the targets once more, but Tori doesn't have to see the other boy's expression to know another cheeky grin plays at his lips as he loftily replies, "Well, better an idealistic one than an unpleasant one."

It's a struggle not to, but Tori doesn't bother trying to deem that with a response. In all honesty he's kind of sick of talking about his own feelings, so he tries to subtly shift the topic to something that had been troubling him since Izumi had left the two of them to themselves. "How'd that kid get to Izumi-san, anyways? Considering how he was about Yuuki-san, it's... A bit surprising to hear about him getting together with anyone else."

Tsukasa hums, shooting forward another arrow before saying, "Well, they've kind of always been like that... Ritsu-senpai has a way of getting under Sena-senpai's skin."

Tori grins a bit, withholding his own giggles as he jokingly chimes, "Clearly that isn't the only thing he's good at getting under~"

Tsukasa looks to him, expression blank, and somehow Tori finds that he's the one embarrassed by the fact the implications flew right over the other boy's head. He could tease Tsukasa for it, but instead he just ducks his head rather than facing his companion's oblivious expression, a mumbled "never mind" escaping the corner of his mouth. Tsukasa shrugs before turning around, allowing his quiver to slip down his shoulder and bending to pack his things. There's a moment then -- and it's definitely, definitely only a split moment -- that the orangey rays of the sunset filters through Tsukasa's own deep red strands and Tori suddenly finds himself unable to breathe.

In that same moment, he finds himself thinking Oh, Tsukasa is pretty, but then Tsukasa stands and the angle of the lighting is lost, allowing Tori to regain his senses enough to quickly stash the thought far far far far far away.

"I'm done with practice for the time being," Tsukasa says, as though the bag now hiked upon his shoulders doesn't make that particularly obvious. "If you'd like to speak more, perhaps we can stop for some coffee?"

Tori shakes his head, and as much as he's convinced himself that his realization moments prior was just some passing thought he shouldn't ever have to face again, he still finds his stomach twisting somewhat as Tsukasa's eyes -- Tsukasa's beautifully violet eyes -- meet his own and well. That's very bad. Very, Very Bad, actually, and he's kind of beginning to miss Yuzuru's constant hovering, because at the very least it tended to distract him from his own bothersome thoughts.

"It's fine," Tori finally manages, sure to keep his gaze trained on Tsukasa's (because a true Himemiya never looks away from their challengers, not because he didn't want to to look away from them, okay? Okay). "That fool slave of mine is probably worrying himself silly since I've been out so late. It'd be a disaster if he were to come looking for me and I wasn't here." Tsukasa frowns at his way of addressing Yuzuru but doesn't argue it, instead just hiking his bag a bit further up his shoulder and looking between Tori and the door.

"That's just as well, I suppose," Tsukasa murmurs, though Tori can't help but feel as though his mind is elsewhere. "For what it's worth, I didn't entirely mind your company this evening."

"What happened to not even liking me?" Tori asks, sly smile curling at his lips.

Tsukasa smiles himself, almost prince-like, and Tori wonders if this is the appeal of Knights that he has failed to understand all these years. "Have a good evening, Tori-kun."

"You too," he calls, just as Tsukasa is dipping out of the club room. He doesn't leave immediately, taking a moment to stare blankly at the space where Tsukasa had just been. He remembers then that what he said about Yuzuru wasn't just an excuse to skip out on Tsukasa's invite, quickly shaking any lingering thoughts from his mind before hoisting up his own things and going home himself.

Chapter Text

Honestly, Makoto has no idea how he and Anzu end up on the ferris wheel together.

He remembers the two of them being with the rest of Trickstar, the unit just having finished a live and wandering about the brightly lit fair as a means to relax afterwards. He remembers Anzu reaching around him, pointing to the ferris wheel and reminding him of their conversation from only a few days prior, reminding him of how he had admitted to how much he loved the ferris wheel as a kid. And then he remembers Subaru -- ah yes, cheeky and mischievous Subaru -- laughing and making some joke about the two of them riding together, but then joke becomes reality as Subaru somehow manages to push Anzu and Makoto into the ride’s line before disappearing alongside the rest of their unit. Makoto remembers protesting, cheeks aflame and an endless amount of complaints on the tip of his tongue, but Anzu’s hand delicately gripping his shoulder immediately cuts such thoughts short.

“It'll be fun,” he remembers her saying, adorable smile tugging at her lips as her gaze flicks away from the ferris wheel to regard him instead. “I don't mind going on it with you.”

And he remembers nodding, wearing a sheepish and nervous grin of his own as he glances quickly between her and the ride; after all, Makoto would be lying if he said some part of him hadn't been hoping to take her onto the ferris wheel since the two of them first discussed this live.

That being said, this circumstance isn't really what he has been dreaming of at all.

Sure, as their capsule steadily climbs, the view is exactly as expected; the sun set long before their live even started, but the lights of the amusement park does more than make up for it, each sparkling bulb seeming like a distant, vibrant star from where they hang above them. All kinds of people -- short ones, tall ones, those who attended their live and those who hadn't -- mingle on the ground below, though from Makoto and Anzu's perspective each and every one of them look very much the same. With every inch the capsule climbs, the view only becomes more breathtaking.

Yes... What seems so out of place has nothing to do with the ferris wheel itself. Rather, it's he and Anzu.

Considering the situation, of course neither of them had any time to change. He still wears his costume from tonight’s live after all, and as for Anzu...

Well, while her wearing her typical jersey is to be expected, it's still a bit odd, for lack of a better word. Of course, that might only be because whenever Makoto imagined boarding a ferris wheel with her, he had also imagined it as a sort of date. Don't misunderstand -- Makoto definitely has very little qualms against Anzu’s jersey wearing habits and would never want her to be anything but herself, even if the two of them were romantically involved, but... He had sort of presumed that if they were actually going out together, both of them would dress accordingly. He had imagined Anzu in trendy clothes other girls their age were all too eager to flounce about in, and he imagined himself dressed in the best attire he could get his (admittedly poor) hands on. Sure, such thoughts were definitely premature -- he doesn't even have the courage to confess to her, never mind ask her out for God’s sake -- but the point of the matter is that as they are now, both bundled in sweat-stained work clothes, is far from what Makoto would have ever expected.

It's while Makoto is thinking this that Anzu’s foot suddenly lurches forward, solidly connecting with his shin. He starts, the slight throbbing pain immediately bringing him out of his musings, and he watches wide-eyed as Anzu points somewhere outside of their capsule. Makoto leans forward, eyes darting about as he tries to find just what Anzu hopes to draw his attention to.

“That's where you were performing,” she says, soft smile playing at her lips. His gaze lands on what she points to now; the stage is unlit now that no one is meant to be on it, making it the sole area of darkness among the endless array of lights illuminating the park. It's a bit of a strange thing to point out, Makoto thinks, especially when there's so many more vibrant attractions stretched before them, but he doesn't think it's a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. If Anzu was solely drawn to things that shine the brightest, Makoto highly doubts it'd be him she would be riding the ferris wheel with now. She turns to him, and his gaze flicks to meet hers as she adds, fondly, “You did really well today. You all did.”

Laughter and some joke are on the tip of Makoto’s tongue, but then it suddenly hits him just how close the two of them are. There's a decent amount of space in the ride, so it's not as though they're cramped together -- they must have gotten closer it when he leaned forward to see what she was pointing to, then. Well, the cause of their close proximity doesn't really matter now. The important part is that Anzu is right there, smiling oh so softly, the lights of the amusement park are dancing in her eyes, and, and --

He shoots back, head thinking against his side of the capsule before that thought can go any further. Finally, the laughter comes, but he can't help but find it sounds incredibly awkward. “Thank you, thank you~” he sing-songs, nervous smile splitting across his face, “Though it would have been impossible without your help...”

Anzu’s smile fades slightly, brows furrowing as she studies Makoto’s expression. “Are you okay?"

“Fine, just fine!” he replies, far too quickly to be believable. Anzu purses her lips, holding Makoto’s gaze for just a second too long, so he adds, “Just a bit tired, is all.”

She nods, slowly, before turning back to the window. “That's fair... You've worked really hard today.”

Makoto nods as well before following her gaze, though even as she starts pointing to the more colourful attractions, he finds that it's very difficult to bring his attention away from the darkened stage for long.

Chapter Text

The moon is so bright.

Izumi looks to the moon now, the glass of the windows doing very little to dull its shine. It's nearly full, he notes, lifting the cup of tea before him. He doesn't drink, only lets the rim of the mug make contact with his lips, holding it there as he blankly stares towards the moon. Idly, his thumb caresses the cup’s side, the heat of the drink bringing warmth to the cold porcelain. He mulls on that for a while, mulls on how the warmth of others is infectious, mulls underneath the light of the moon.

He's only just beginning to drink, hot tea just barely seeping past his lips as a voice cuts through the room’s silence. “Can't sleep?”

Izumi starts, slightly scalding his tongue as his sudden movement causes a bit too much tea to fall into his mouth just a bit too quickly. He coughs, sputtering slightly as he weakly sets the mug on the table before turning to face the speaker. “It wouldn't hurt to knock.”

Ritsu raises his brows, burying his hands in his pockets and leaning against the door’s frame as he studies Izumi’s expression. “It's not really fair to expect me to... Normally I’d be the only one up at this time, mm? Besides, this is my room just as much as it’s yours...”

Izumi scowls, even though he knows Ritsu's reasoning is entirely plausible in this case. “Still.”

Ritsu chuckles, the sound clear and melodic as it rings throughout the room. Izumi turns to face his tea, ears burning. He never intends to admit it, but Ritsu’s laughter has come to be a sound he quite likes. Well, maybe it'd be easier to say as such if it weren't him that Ritsu seems to be laughing at all the time.

If Ritsu notices the scarlet hue of Izumi’s ears, he doesn't mention it, instead cheerfully noting, “You're rather feisty despite the hour, hm? Maybe I was right... Maybe the nightlife suits Secchan best after all~ ♪”

“I already told you,” Izumi grumbles, still looking to his tea rather than at the one he addresses, “No one wants to watch people dancing in the dark, y’know?”

There are footsteps then, and despite his roommate’s lack of presence, Izumi isn't at all startled when Ritsu stops behind the chair he sits in. Even when Ritsu’s arm winds around him to rest his hand against Izumi’s own, he remains relatively unfazed, though his cheeks definitely warm a bit at the contact. “Maybe,” Ritsu muses, fine fingers prying Izumi’s away from the cup he holds, “But it isn't dark now, is it?” Finally succeeding in loosening Izumi’s iron grip on his teacup, Ritsu brings his hand to his lips, lightly pressing Izumi’s knuckles against them. “If we danced in the moonlight like this, that excuse doesn't really stand...”

Izumi looks to him, face flushing entirely scarlet as Ritsu continues to press featherlight kisses to his fingers. A large part of him wants to look away, wants to hide his blush -- especially since he knows the darkness of night is hardly doing so -- but a smaller and more stubborn part of him refuses to tear his gaze away from Ritsu’s own, enraptured by the playfulness dancing within his roommate’s scarlet irises.

Finally, he manages to find his voice again, barely choking out, “There still isn't an audience.”

“Hmm?” Ritsu raises his brows once more, pulling away from Izumi’s hand, although even without his roommate’s lips pressed right against him, Izumi can still feel Ritsu’s warm breath blowing against his skin. “But since Secchan is up anyways, it wouldn't hurt to practice, right? Come, come; maybe while we dance, Secchan can talk about whatever's on his mind~ I’m in a decent mood, so I’ll be a good boy and listen, okay?”

Izumi's about to protest, but before he can say anything, Ritsu’s already tugging him from his seat and setting the teacup on it in Izumi’s place. He's about to complain about that, too -- what does moving his drink accomplish? It's only more likely to be broken this way, and he sees no reason to clear the table anyways, but then Ritsu draws him to the opposite chair and his roommate’s plans fall into place.

“We are not dancing on the table,” he says pointedly, even as Ritsu climbs onto the chair and he obediently follows after him. “I get that we’re not really struggling financially, but that doesn't mean I want to replace furniture just because of your weird whims.”

“Secchan’s no fun,” Ritsu whines, though despite his tone, a smug smile plays on his lips as Izumi clambers onto the table after him. “You're always complaining about one thing or another... Aren't you supposed to have grown out of that by now?”

“I’ll grow out of it as soon as you grow out of being a little shit,” Izumi barks, without hesitation, scowl deepening as Ritsu tugs him close enough to wrap his arm around his waist. “I thought we were dancing.”

Ritsu cocks his head, feigning innocence as he blankly replies, “We are? I thought something like ballroom dancing would suit Secchan’s romantic tastes. Did I assume wrong?”

“Of course you assumed wrong,” Izumi hisses, purposely stepping on Ritsu’s foot -- God, he can't believe he allowed Ritsu to drag him into doing something this stupid. He really must need sleep, after all. “This isn't practicing for an actual performance at all, and. And.” He wrinkles his nose before continuing, “What the hell makes you think that you get to lead?”

“I'm the stronger one, and older,” Ritsu states, as though this is the most obvious thing in the world. “Of course I get to lead.”

Izumi moves to step on his foot again, but Ritsu slides away just before he can make contact, lifting he and Izumi’s hands to assume the appropriate position before slowly drawing the two of them into the dance’s steps. The dance isn't too unfamiliar -- while Izumi has never actually done any sort of waltz, he has participated in mock ballet versions, so he at least has some idea of where Ritsu is going with this. It's a bit weird to adjust to being anywhere else besides the leading side of things, but hey, at least it means he has it easier than Ritsu does.

As they get more used to the dance's steps, Ritsu starts humming to himself. Immediately, Izumi recognizes it as one of their unit’s songs, and it's more out of habit than anything else that he starts humming along.

The moonlight illuminates them both, shimmering white beams filtering through Ritsu’s ebony strands, and Izumi subconsciously finds himself thinking that the night really does suit the Sakuma family. Ritsu really does look ethereal here, pale skin only a few shades more humane than the moon itself, crimson eyes half-lidded as his gaze follows their feets’ steady movements. Izumi grows aware of his cheeks warming, and quickly buries his face in the crook of Ritsu’s neck upon deciding it's a far better alternative than his blush being noticed by the boy he dances with.

As his nose presses against Ritsu’s skin, Izumi finds himself realizing that his roommate is shockingly warm.

“Remember, if there's something on Secchan’s mind,” Ritsu mumbles, hums trailing off as he lifts his gaze to look at the top of Izumi’s head. “I’ll be a good boy and listen.”

“Just thinking,” Izumi replies honestly, “About how the warmth of others is infectious.”

Ritsu doesn't probe further than that, just traces light circles on Izumi’s hand with his thumb, and the two of them continue to dance under the moonlight in silence.

Chapter Text

“Isara-dono,” Shinobu starts, uniform clenched to his chest and sweat from the previous performance still running down the side of his face, “I-I’d like to kiss the tip of your foot, if it isn't too much to ask!”

Mao, for his credit, does not spew the water he drinks. As Subaru whistles lowly from the background, however, some of it most certainly does trickle down the wrong canal, leading Mao to cough slightly into his hand as he draws the bottle away.

What?”

Shinobu flushes, smile waning slightly and head ducking so he faces his own toes. “I, um, realize this is probably an awkward request after all...” He leans forward, bowing low enough that his hair falls even further into his face than usual. Mao sighs -- hadn't he told him not to pick up the bowing thing? “If I have overstepped boundaries by asking as such, I won't be troubled if Isara-dono rather pretend this conversation never happened.”

“Ah, no, it's nothing like that,” Mao manages around the lump in his throat, waving his hand to indicate that it's about time Hokuto dragged Subaru out of earshot. There's some squawk of protest from the boy in question, until Hokuto hisses something unintelligible that seems to buy Subaru’s cooperation -- likely some promise of coins later, Mao thinks wryly. Now assured that any noisy unit members are out of the way, he turns back to Shinobu, brows furrowed. “I’m just not entirely certain I understand? Aren't something like kisses, you know...”

Shinobu shoots up, face flushing an even deeper crimson than it had before he had bowed down in the first place. “T-there are no romantic implications in this case, if that's what you're worried about...!” Shinobu near shouts, before continuing, far quieter, “It's a way for ninjas to pledge their loyalty and respect... I-I actually already asked Anzu-dono, but she said it'd likely be best if I went to you about it...”

Oh, for fuck’s sake, Anzu.

“I don't really blame her,” Mao mumbles, free hand reaching up to rub the back of his neck. “Poor girl was probably embarrassed to bits.” Shinobu’s gaze flicks away from his, sheepishly biting the corner of his lip, and Mao sighs. “Okay, okay, we can do it. Just, uh, lead the way, I guess?”

Immediately, Shinobu’s eyes widen. “I couldn't possibly lead Isara-dono -” he starts, though abruptly breaks off upon seeing Mao’s expression. He nods to himself firmly, supposedly steeling his resolve before looking to one of the make-up chairs lining the room. “I suppose it'd be much easier if you were to be seated...”

“Mm, fair point~” Mao hums to himself, hoping he sounds far less nervous than he feels as he plops down onto one of the cushioned seats. He pushes the water bottle onto the make-up counter behind him before twisting to face Shinobu once more, wondering if he ought to be taking off his shoe himself or just leave it to his underclassman. Wait, is there some particular foot that he has to kiss, or can it be either one? Does he have to kiss both? This entire thing is growing far more complicated than Mao thinks is necessary, quite frankly -- he doesn't normally mind Shinobu’s antics beyond wishing the younger boy didn't worship him so, thinks it's nice that Shinobu can follow his passions so freely, but isn't this just a bit much?

Shinobu bends down in front of him, seeming just a bit more confident as his fingers curl around Mao’s left shoe. Mao wishes he could say his own confidence wasn't plummeting but holy shit, this is kind of growing more nerve-wracking by the second. Even if Shinobu doesn't seem to think there's anything romantic about this, looking down at the younger boy as he peels away his sock somehow feels unbearably intimate, and --

And it tickles, too.

“W-wait, Sengoku,” he gasps, voice hitching as Shinobu’s breath fans across his toes. Shinobu draws away and blinks up at Mao, eyes wide and owlish in nature. “Uh, can I prepare myself for a sec? It kind of tickles, and I wouldn't want to kick you in the jaw or anything...”

“Ah, of course!” Shinobu nods, shooting backwards so that his mouth no longer hovers just in front of Mao’s foot. “Just tell me whenever you're prepared!”

The smile that Mao shoots Shinobu then is slightly askew, but he hopes it doesn't make Shinobu grow self-conscious or self-depreciating just because it isn't as warm as his typical grins. Fortunately, if Shinobu notices any difference, it doesn't seem to affect him, as when he looks away from Mao a content smile curls at his lips, idly humming and head swaying back and forth as he studies Mao’s naked toes. His brows furrow -- honestly, he has no idea what's going through Shinobu’s head, but the fact that he seems to be having a good time is certainly assuring, even if Mao doesn't quite understand why.

It's kind of cute, too, he thinks briefly. It's a fleeting thought, and Mao quickly banishes it in favour of closing his eyes and drawing in a deep breath, not opening his eyes until after he mentally runs himself through any tips against being ticklish he can recall off of the top of his head. When he finally does look back to Shinobu, the younger boy’s smile hasn't faded; if anything, he looks more eager than before, uncovered golden eye practically glimmering with anticipation.

“Okay,” Mao says in a voice that doesn't really sound like his own, “I think I ought to be good now.”

When Shinobu brings his foot close to him once more, his hands fumble somewhat, faltering once he holds Mao’s toes just before him. His brows furrow, gaze holding an almost unsettling determination until his eyes flicker closed, leaning forward until his lips just barely make contact with Mao’s little toe.

That's, yeah, Mao’s pretty sure his heart is not supposed to be racing like this in these circumstances.

But as Shinobu draws away, only to move on to lightly kiss the next toe, and then the next, Mao finds that his quickening heartbeat does anything but properly pace itself. At the back of his mind, he wonders what would happen if one of the others returned to the room now, if one of Ryusetai’s members came to finally retrieve their smallest idol. He can only imagine the sorts of misunderstandings any bystander would reach, but considering his quickening heartbeat and warmth swelling in the pit of his stomach, is it really fair to label those misunderstandings at all?

Of course it is, you idiot, he thinks to himself, just as Shinobu reaches his big toe, Sengoku only has the purest of intentions here.

But as Shinobu’s lips linger on his big toe just a bit longer than they did the others and the intimacy of the situation doesn't change, Mao privately wonders if that really is the case.

Chapter Text

Tsukasa doesn't care much for war.

He ought to, and he used to. More than anything, he used to dream of the anticipation of stepping onto a battlefield, used to dream of the glory of victory, used to dream of shared smiles between comrades upon each and every one of them making it out alive. As heir to the Suou family, fighting under a suitable leader was not only what he was intended to do, but also all he wanted.

In a way, he was bred for this distasteful war.

And, ah, what a distasteful thing war is. There is no excited anticipation in suiting up for battle, only a nauseating fear for your own safety. There is no glory of victory, only an unsettling guilt in knowing that the lives of others fell under your own hands. There are no shared smiles between comrades after battle, only a suffocating stony silence as each of them reflect on their own sins.

But nothing is worse than the sounds.

The familiar ring of swords clanging against one another doesn't seem nearly as noble as it had when Tsukasa had practiced fencing as a boy. No, it couldn't be, not when that same chime is accompanied by the screams and grunts of hundreds, thousands of grimy and desperate soldiers. Sometimes there is the sickening crunch of bones, the thunk of an arrow hitting its tremendously human mark, and then --

-- and then, the soft gasp of Tsukasa’s name.

It's so slight that he thinks he imagined it, but it's enough for him to pause nonetheless. Freezing over in these circumstances, arrow just barely notched against his bowstring and enemies still raging battle around him, is a sure-fire way to get killed and Tsukasa knows it. If any of his comrades were by his side in this moment, they wouldn't hesitate to tell him off or, in Izumi’s case, maybe kill Tsukasa himself.

But they're nowhere near him, long separated by the chaos of battle. And yet, he heard his name.

Upon quickly surveying the area for the culprit -- assuming there is one in the first place and that the battle hasn't quite literally driven him mad -- Tsukasa’s eyes meet widened green ones, and his heart stops.

Being driven mad would have been simpler than this.

In some ways, the youth looks different from how Tsukasa remembers him, but in other ways the culprit -- Tori, heir to the Himemiya family -- is very much the same. Even in times of war, his skin is free of blemishes, though the blood smeared across his cheek is far more scarring than any pimple could be. His robes are white, a clear declaration of both his allegiance to the Emperor and his nobility, blue and gold lace adorning the edges. The lace is torn in some places, likely snared by one of the trees littering the battlegrounds or perhaps by one of Tsukasa’s own allies.

That thought is a disturbing one. To think that one of his comrades would raise their hand against a boy he has spent time with in the past, to think that he might have to do the same...

Yes, Tsukasa really doesn't care much for war.

“Tori-kun,” he finally breathes. He's not sure how he manages it, with his throat dried over like this, but the words make it past his lips all the same. “You look...”

“Never mind how I look!” Tori interrupts, voice carrying a lot clearer as he takes a decisive step forward. Despite himself, Tsukasa takes a far smaller step back. “I don't have time for your stupid thinly veiled insults -- what do you think you're doing?”

Tsukasa blinks, gaze quickly flicking around him. The battle is still ongoing, but for whatever reason the enemies are making no moves to interrupt he and Tori’s conversation. Perhaps, he thinks wryly, Tori managed to issue an order of sorts without him realizing. The other boy always had a way of getting what he wanted, after all.

(As did Tsukasa, but he was never quite self-aware in that way.)

“I am fighting alongside my comrades,” Tsukasa answers simply, keeping his arrow notched against his bow even as he lowers it. “We are working to find our Leader.”

“But,” Tori huffs, his own hands clenching his tome so he could easily flip it open if necessary. “You're fighting against the Emperor. Weren't you the one so desperate to garner his attention at that social gathering last winter...?”

That leads him to pause. What Tori says is true; it was only months ago that Tsukasa wished to follow the Emperor himself, training through all sorts of obscure conditions in hopes of being suitable to do so. The social gathering Tori mentions was a selection method of sorts, the Emperor’s way of cherry-picking who would be most suited for his elite force, and, well...

He had been overlooked at that time, even if he and Tori were neck-in-neck in each competition, but that matters not. Those were different times, and he knows in his heart who he is destined to follow now.

All he has to do is find him.

He doesn't mention that, however, as he doubts Tori has any interest in his inner musings. “So were you,” Tsukasa replies instead. “But I wasn't desirable enough for the Emperor’s army, so...”

“You settled for second best,” Tori scoffs, fingers gripping the edges of his tome just a bit tighter. “And now you're bound to die.”

Tsukasa freezes over. Those are ugly words, without a doubt, but especially rolling off of Tori’s tongue. He was always spoiled, sure, always certain of himself to the point of it being aggravating, but this is something very different.

For Tori to say those things, for Tori to say words of war... It is uncharacteristic, Tsukasa decides. No matter how arrogant he has always been, Tori does not suit these hellish times. Tori, who has yet to lose all his baby fat and likely still squirms away whenever his butler tries to serve him vegetables, is far too childish for this godless battlefield.

And in some ways, Tsukasa thinks that perhaps he is the same.

They stand there, eerily silent even as the battle continues to sound around them. His bow is still in position, Tsukasa thinks. He could be the first to move, and even though he doubts he could hit Tori anywhere fatal, perhaps he would be wounded enough to retreat, and --

His planning stops there. He doesn't have the heart to harm Tori now, not after being reminded of the time they spent competing in the winter. They were never on pleasant terms, perhaps friendly rivals at best, but Tori is far from someone he wants to kill.

But the choice is made for him.

The glint of metal catches the corner of his eye, just shy of Tori’s head, and despite himself Tsukasa nearly screams the boy’s name as a means to warn him. He doesn't need to though, not when Tori seems to have better reflexes than Tsukasa ever expected from him and twirls out of the blade’s range easily. His back is facing Tsukasa now, but Tsukasa doesn't have to see his front to know that he has flipped his tome open and is preparing a counterattack.

Tsukasa knows better to just watch, but a small and childish curiosity leads him to do so anyways, eyes wide as magic begins to form in Tori’s general vicinity. He's still standing there, gaping like an idiot when Tori’s attacker quickly moves forward, tightly gripping Tsukasa’s wrist and dragging them both away from where he and Tori had just been talking.

“What are you doing, you shitty brat?” Izumi spits over his shoulder, still quickening his pace with every stride. Tsukasa suddenly feels incredibly clumsy in comparison, stumbling with every step, but in the furthermost parts of his mind he thinks that's fairly justified. After all, what just happened... “Does this look like the time to be reminiscing?”

Tsukasa flushes. “I wasn't --”

“Don't bother,” Izumi says loftily, dragging them further from the battle and deeper into the forest. “The others have already retreated. It's shitty to admit, but we’re vastly outnumbered.”

There's nothing for Tsukasa to say to that, but Izumi’s right. He knew it, of course, knew from the start that there was very little their small group could do against the Emperor’s elite at this time, but Izumi’s right -- it really is shitty to admit.

So instead of admitting or denying anything, he looks back, desperately trying to make out the battlefield they left behind even past the undergrowth. Barely, just barely he thinks he makes out the bright pink of Tori’s hair, and finds himself wondering why Tori didn't just strike first himself. Even with his bow in position, Tsukasa’s guard may as well have been lowered entirely, and he doesn't need any of his comrades to tell him how easy it would have been for him to die then and there.

Ah... But perhaps he isn't the only one who doesn't care much for war.

Chapter Text

It's late when footsteps sound just beyond the studio, late enough for Ritsu to be regaining some sort of consciousness towards his surroundings and late enough for Ritsu to not know how many hours he has been laying there. He doesn't mind not knowing, of course, doesn't particularly mind wasting the afternoon while Mao slaves away in the student council room and the rest of Knights are nowhere to be found. It's quiet in a way that Ritsu finds pleasant, quiet enough that he has the freedom to sleep without any noisy underclassman or grumpy upperclassman trying to wake him.

Yet despite this, he's not off-put by the sounds of footsteps at all.

It's late, after all, late enough for Ritsu to want to do things and late enough for him to ironically crave the company that he's avoided all afternoon. The footsteps are accompanied by laughter, too, accompanied by loud “Wahaha”s that he knows to be Leo’s, and accompanied by quieter and slighter chuckles that he knows couldn't belong to anyone else but Izumi. Ritsu smiles to himself; such soft laughter has been more typical of Izumi as of late. He's fascinated by all of the faces that Izumi makes of course, but the look in his eyes when he laughs like that is one of Ritsu’s favourites.

Said look is not one that he himself receives often, but that's fine. Seeing him look to Leo that way is interesting enough.

The door groans slightly, and Ritsu assumes that the sound is made by Izumi drawing it closed behind them. Ritsu himself shuffles somewhat, adjusting his several layers of blankets so that he can peer through without being noticed. He does intend on greeting them, but depending on how he times it, perhaps he’ll be able to startle Izumi into making some uncharacteristically weird expression. So for now, he settles on simply watching them, chin settled atop of his hands and sleep still clouding the corner of his eyes.

Leo is still dressed in his club uniform, while Izumi’s own bag is slung messily on his shoulder, cheeks still flushed from his own practice. Perhaps, Ritsu thinks, Izumi happened to pass the archery room on his way home. Perhaps, Ritsu thinks, Leo happened to glimpse him from the corner of his eye and dragged him to the studio on one of his many weird whims. It's easy to imagine, very easy to visualize Leo taking off from the club room without a word and even easier to visualize Tsukasa’s helplessly strained look as Keito keeps him from taking off after him.

Ah, but he's supposed to be looking to what's happening in front of him, not to whatever might have happened in the past.

As Ritsu blinks the sleep from his eyes and catches sight of what seems to be a cluster of green leaves and little white berries, however, he finds himself thinking that he much rather focus on almost anything besides the present.

Leo is the one who holds the mistletoe, and it's Leo who dangles it above Izumi’s head with some shit-eating grin. It's Leo who balances himself on the tips of his toes, and it's Leo who keeps the mistletoe suspended as a painful reminder even as his lips meet Izumi’s.

Leo is the one to bring Ritsu’s favourite tint of pink to Izumi’s ears and cheeks.

He ought to look away. He ought to draw the blankets back over his eyes. He ought to catch more sleep, ought to convince himself that this is all a bad dream before the moon rises and any further rest will be impossible. He ought to do anything besides lay here and watch this, ought to do anything he can to curb the bitterness burning the back of his throat. Knowing how Izumi feels towards Leo is one thing, but seeing it is another entirely -- something that he ought to look away from.

And yet, Ritsu finds that he can't. Even with the dull throb of dread stewing in his gut, he is still fascinated by each and every one of Izumi’s expressions. He’s still fascinated as Izumi leans in to meet Leo halfway, still fascinated as Izumi’s slender fingers find purchase in Leo’s tangled strands and still fascinated as he draws their leader ever closer. And as the couple parts to breathe, he is still fascinated by the quiet and slight chuckles spilling over Izumi’s lips alongside the tender look in his eyes that accompany them.

The hand holding the mistletoe finally drops back to Leo’s side, and Ritsu finally finds the strength to yank the sheets up over his eyes. He doesn't end up greeting them, after all.

Chapter Text

Kuma-kun,” Izumi starts, “Just what the fuck do you think you're doing?”

For a moment, he thinks that the other boy somehow didn't hear him -- “somehow” being the keyword, because he’s literally only a foot away, and even despite hissing it so as to not draw attention to himself from the other guests, Izumi knows that he spoke clearly enough for at least Ritsu to catch wind of what he said -- but then Ritsu shifts, head rolling from where it's slumped against the wall just enough for him to meet Izumi’s gaze. He stares back at Izumi blankly, hardly even blinking and allowing a far-too-long moment of silence to drag between them. The longer the silence drags out, the sillier Izumi begins to feel, as though he’s the stupid one for marching here and attempting to disturb Ritsu’s sleep.

No one, not even Ritsu fucking Sakuma, gets to make Izumi feel stupid.

“Stop staring at me so pathetically, asshole,” Izumi spits, shuffling forward to lightly kick Ritsu in the shin. He would have liked to have kicked him a bit harder, he thinks, but whatever. Ritsu’s beginning to smile, which is hardly the reaction that he's looking for, but it doesn't really matter. It means that the elder boy is somewhat responsive, at least.

“Secchan,” Ritsu hums, shuffling over a bit so as to make space beside him -- Izumi doesn't bother telling him that there was plenty of space to begin with, “Come sit with me. It's cold out there, you know...”

“I do know, thank you very much.” For good measure, he adds, “Not that I expect you to. Just what part of ‘let's all go skating together’ makes you think that you can just loaf around back here?” Pointedly, his gaze drops down to Ritsu’s feet. “You don't even have skates on.”

Ritsu shrugs. “It's cold out there.”

“Of course it's fucking cold out th --” Ritsu doesn't even wait for him to finish before patting the space beside him, and it takes almost all of Izumi’s self-restraint to not just strangle the asshole then and there. Or rip out his own hair. Or both.

“Seriously... Kasa-kun is getting all whiny.”

(That's a lie; the only thing Tsukasa had been whining about since they got here was the fact that Leo had pilfered his mittens.)

“Naru-kun’s bitching about it, too.”

(Also partially a lie; the only thing Arashi had been bitching about since they got here was the fact that Izumi had been bitching about it, but whatever.)

“I think,” Ritsu drawls, not even looking at Izumi anymore in favour of burying his face further into his scarf, “That Secchan is just lonely.”

Izumi opens his mouth, only to close it seconds after. Finally, a low groan slips past his lips, and he flops down onto the space Ritsu’s offered him. His brows furrow as he makes contact with the cold wood, but he doesn't bother complaining about it.

“I'm not,” he grumbles, because Ritsu’s beginning to look just a bit too smug beside him. “It just pisses me off that you get to camp out where there's heating while the rest of us are freezing our asses off out there.”

Ritsu doesn't reply, doesn't do anything besides wind his arm around Izumi’s and snuggle against his shoulder like some sort of overgrown cat, and Izumi sighs. Okay. Okay, maybe he was the tiniest bit lonely. Maybe, just maybe he was hoping that Ritsu would at least get on the ice, of all things, just so that he could maybe drag him around by the hand a little. Just maybe.

Just.

Maybe.

But as Ritsu’s gloved fingers fit themselves between Izumi’s own, he decides that maybe getting to hold his hand where there's heating is far better than what he was initially hoping for.

Chapter Text

The boy Ritsu sends, Mao thinks, is a lot like his former master.

Actually, on second thought, perhaps not. Ritsu would never look so meek, biting down on his lip and gaze flicking about as though expecting to be attacked at a moment’s notice. In most circumstances, Mao’s childhood friend is too relaxed, too confident, while in this trembling boy’s case it seems to be the opposite. Fumbling hands and shaking knees aside, however, their physical characteristics are undoubtedly similar -- pale skin, thin arms, dark robes, darker hair -- and there's no doubt in Mao’s mind that this boy is one of the night.

“You're the one Ritsu sent, right?” Mao calls, even though he already knows the answer. The boy’s attention jolts from somewhere in the far left corner to focus on Mao’s face, unveiled eye wide as he nods sharply. A small, hesitant smile pulls at Mao’s lips. “There's no reason to be afraid -- this is your home now.”

The boy’s eye flares further. “I am not afraid!”

The way he looks back to that same corner tells a different story, Mao thinks, but he's kind enough not to say so. Instead, he begins to turn away from whence the boy came, away from the shimmering portal that could reunite he and Ritsu. The desire to cross into it is a foolish one, so the less time he spends staring back at it, the better. Besides, this boy is supposed to ease said temptations. With this spirit at his side, he shouldn't have to long for the moon’s company any longer.

Ah, but now is not the time to dwell on that, and he glances over his shoulder one last time to study the boy behind him. “Follow me,” he says, “Let me show you the realm of the sun.”

The boy hesitates -- which is expected, for one who had been tucked away in the shadows for so long -- but ultimately ends up trailing behind him, small sandals clacking against the marble pathway. If Mao were to count, he'd find that the spirit stays a full three feet behind him the entire time. However, he manages to fill the silence and space between them with what could be considered smalltalk. He asks the boy’s name, asks of his former home, asks how Ritsu has been. And despite the boy’s still trembling fingers and wary golden gaze, Sengoku Shinobu answers with a certain youthful conviction that Mao finds himself admiring.

They come to Mao’s throne room, and the boy’s mouth forms a perfect “o”. It's only to some extent that Mao can imagine his shock, as he himself has never once seen Ritsu’s own throne room. Even when they're granted the opportunity to visit one another, to step into the very core of their realm is considered sacrilege, but Mao has seen enough to know that the unfiltered rays of light and golden pillars are nothing like what Shinobu is used to.

Still, he beckons him in, watching Shinobu from the corner of his eye as he leads him across the terrace. Shinobu’s own gaze darts about the room, voice soft as he finally asks, “Where are your other attendants?”

Mao smiles wryly. “Preoccupied.” At least, that’s how he tries to keep them; deity or no, he's never been one to like being constantly spoiled. “This on its own is a lot, right? I wouldn't want to overwhelm you with a bunch of introductions at once.”

He slows to a stop just before the wide, white couch that he has made his throne, turning to see that Shinobu’s ears have flushed a delicate pink. “Ritsu-dono... H-he didn't say anything about....?”

“About?” Mao repeats, when it becomes clear that Shinobu doesn't intend on picking up from where he trailed off.

The spirit flushes further, golden gaze drifting to study his own toes. “I-it's nothing of importance! Sorry for the trouble...”

“It's no trouble,” Mao says, lips pursed and brows furrowed. “Ah, but you must be tired, right?” He gestures to the throne. “There's plenty of space. Make yourself comfortable, okay?”

That catches Shinobu’s attention immediately, entire body jolting as he looks back to Mao. “I-I wouldn’t dare! Isara-dono’s throne...”

“Is huge,” Mao finishes. “Really, I can't possibly take up all this space myself.”

What he doesn't mention -- and doesn't plan to -- is that he's always dreamt of sharing his throne with a boy of the night. His own selfish wishes aside, he genuinely does want Shinobu to feel at home here. However, Shinobu doesn't move, only biting down on his lip. Deciding he probably isn't helping by staring him down so expectantly, Mao settles upon the couch himself. It isn't until Mao is comfortable that Shinobu takes one small step forward, before easing down onto the stairs leading toward the throne.

Mao’s heart sinks.

“It's cold down there, y’know,” Mao tries. “You really don't have to...”

“Everything is warm here,” Shinobu murmurs. “Even Isara-dono... I am almost afraid of being burnt if I come too close.”

He won't be, of that Mao is certain. Perhaps if they were in Shinobu and Ritsu’s realm, it would be a different story, his natural warmth a stark and dangerous contrast to the cool dampness of the night. But here, in the land of the sun, the heat of their surroundings tempers his own, granting a certain control he wouldn't have elsewhere. Unless he wishes to harm Shinobu, the boy would always be safe in his presence.

For now, however, Mao suspects that's too heavy a reality for Shinobu to absorb. And so he grants the spirit his space, shooting him one last, tired smile before stretching across his throne to make up for where Shinobu refuses to sit. There is time, after all, for Shinobu to grow accustomed to him and his realm, and Mao has never lacked patience.

Yes, he thinks, eyes drifting closed as he recalls the centuries he and Ritsu have spent apart. Time is not something their sort will ever run out of.

Chapter Text

Itsuki Shu loves beautiful things, and to call Sena Izumi anything less would be a crime. The beauty and grace that the shorter man carries is near unparalleled, and the way he holds himself -- back straight, chin tilted upwards -- makes it clear that he certainly knows as such. Still, Shu finds himself repeating it over and over again, and Izumi never fails to appreciate the praise.

“You're such a perfect couple,” several of their colleagues coo, “I’m sure you've both been mistaken for celebrities or models.”

But Izumi has long since put modelling behind him. Now, there's only one person he poses for, only one man whom he stands before on hours on end. The costumes Shu weaves are far from what Izumi used to model, but the attention he gives to each stitch and the way the cloth fits around each of Izumi’s curves is enough to drive Izumi to cooperate regardless. It's intimate in a way that Shu struggles to be regularly, and it is during these sessions that Izumi feels far closer to his husband than he does in any other circumstance.

“I’ve been missing Kagehira lately,” Shu admits during one such session, looking to the measuring tape he winds around Izumi’s waist rather than at Izumi himself. “You've always been far more independent than he is.”

Izumi raises his brows at that. “You miss taking care of him?”

“Mm. Outside of work, I feel like I have too much time on my hands.”

Spend more of it with me, Izumi almost says, but he knows such a request is unreasonable. He himself often has his hands plenty full with school, and even then spends most of his free time catching up with his parents and Leo. So instead he says, “You can always visit him.”

Shu shakes his head, still not meeting Izumi’s gaze even as he draws himself to his full height, setting the measuring tape on the desk beside him. “It's not the same. Even he has learned to stand on his own feet.”

“I thought that was what you wanted.”

“And it was,” Shu murmurs, brows furrowing. “I just didn't anticipate the void that would be left in his place.”

Izumi doesn't know what to say to that, and thus remains silent. He studies Shu’s own expression, taking note of the way his husband’s lips purse as the elder man compares two near-identical fabrics laid across his workspace. Even as Shu lifts the fabrics and holds them against Izumi’s bare skin, he says nothing, standing perfectly still like the doll that the model industry taught him to be.

Shu has always been fond of dolls.

“I think,” Shu finally starts, voice low and words slow, “That I’d like to have a child.”

Ah.

“Because you're lonely?” Izumi asks. Not to say he's averse to the idea, because he himself has always had a soft spot for children, and he has always wondered when Shu would start considering parenthood. But there's something odd about the way Shu approaches the topic, something that leads Izumi to pause.

“Because I’d like to have a child,” Shu repeats. “I’d like to raise a girl.”

“A girl?” A small part of him wonders if this has to do with Mademoiselle, gaze flicking to where the puppet stares blankly at them from the desk’s cushioned chair. Warily, he continues, “I am still in school, you know.”

“Not now,” Shu clarifies, setting both fabrics back onto the desk. “But I wanted to mention it... Surely you miss chasing around that Tsukinaga of yours?”

He still does chase around “that Tsukinaga of his”, but Izumi doesn't bother mentioning as such. There's no point in feeding into one of Shu’s anti-Leo tirades. “I suppose.”

Shu’s lips quirk upwards, just barely short of a smile. “You truly will be a beautiful father.”

It's one of the few times that Izumi doesn't know how to take Shu's praise.

Chapter Text

Once again, Leo finds himself standing in Yumenosaki’s gardens.

At least, it makes sense for him to be at the academy. But the greenery is lush and thriving, so distracting that Leo can't imagine what grows beyond the hedge walls surrounding him. The space he wanders through feels more like a faerie’s land, an alluring stretch of blooming roses and star-shaped lilies. Maybe he's been whisked away by inhuman creatures once more, he thinks, and it's thrilling just until he remembers the knights he's being forced to leave behind --

But then he turns a corner, and one of those same knights is sleeping before him.

Leo blinks, eyes blown wide as a head of dark hair dusted with flower petals brings his wandering feet to a staggering halt. Ritsu is sprawled across the grassy terrain, vines crawling overtop his shoulders and back as though meaning to keep him there. He looks like something from a storybook, like a bewitched princess entrapped by some wicked pixie, and it's as worrying as it is beautiful. Leo quickly surveys the area, half-expecting some angry sprite to actually leap out at him, but his search comes up empty. He moves quicker then, assured by the fact that he and Ritsu seem to be alone, and drops at his knight’s side.

“Rittsu!” he hisses, hand gripping Ritsu’s shoulder and shaking it wildly. “Rittsu, your Ou-sama is here now! Don't panic, we’ll escape here together!”

Ritsu doesn't answer.

Smile fading, Leo lets his grip slacken and rolls back onto the balls of his feet. Waking Ritsu has never been an easy feat, though his mind is abuzz with the thought that perhaps now it will be impossible . Who knows what kind of spell has been cast upon him, or what kind of outlandish tasks Leo will have to fulfill to bring the other back from the realm of dreams. Ritsu looks at peace, as he always does when he's asleep, but that does little to ease Leo’s concerns. If Ritsu was trapped here forever, what would Knights do without the crafty mind of their brilliant tactician? What would Leo do after losing one of his few trusted comrades? What would...

The thought trails off into oblivion. Long lashes cast shadows over Ritsu’s fair skin, restful breaths drift past his lips, and Leo remembers how sleeping princesses are often awoken.

As he leans forward, music thrums through his mind. There are chords chiming high like pixie bells, the heavy, sleepy lull of an organ, and strums of a lover’s strings. Eyes fluttering closed, Leo lets himself be overtaken by the tale of a prince waking an enchanted princess until his lips meet Ritsu’s.

Long lashes tickle his own skin, and Leo pulls away to see half-lidded crimson eyes staring dazedly back at him.

“Wahhh -- ?!” Leo exclaims, falling back so he no longer looms over top of the other. Still, Ritsu’s gaze doesn't leave him, eyes narrowing at the sudden increase in volume. “Rittsu really woke up! Just like a fairy tale princess!”

“I'm not a princess,” Ritsu mumbles. “I'm a vampire.”

Ah, if that isn't a thought that makes Leo still. Thinking back on it now, he's no picture-perfect prince, either. Inspiration bubbles forth anew -- uppity percussion setting the stage for the naked king and the long, lonely hum of a violin painting the spiralling stairwell of a vampire’s domain. It's a more interesting tale, Leo thinks, a content smile pulling insistently on his lips. The notes play on repeat, muddling his brain to the point of Leo being vulnerable, to the point that he might just be whisked off to another mystical land if not for the frigid fingers that reach forward to clench his wrist.

“Ou-sama,” Ritsu whines, and Leo finds himself surprised by the pout his knight wears. “You can't wake me with a cheap trick like that and get away with it, okay? Come, come...”

Leo has no opportunity to protest as Ritsu drags him down and into his arms, hooking his chin overtop of Leo’s shoulder with a pleased purr rumbling in his throat. It seems to take mere seconds for the other to drift off once more, and there's absolutely no warning besides a muffled “It's time to sleep, Ou-sama...” before Ritsu’s gentle snores sound next to Leo’s ear.

“Wh -- wait, Rittsu! If you go back to sleep, they'll...” A yawn of Leo’s own leads him to trail off. Now that he’s laying down himself, Ritsu nestled snug against him and arms wound around his waist, Leo can't help but be tempted to sleep as well.

Perhaps, Leo thinks as his consciousness fades away, the vampire was the one to bewitch the king into an endless slumber all along.

Chapter Text

Leo and Ritsu are caught in a tangle of limbs and blankets when the truth hits him.

“Ah, Rittsu,” Leo says, shockingly clear for the way sleep still weighs heavy on his eyelids, “I think I love you.”

Ritsu doesn't even stir. “You love everyone.”

That's true enough, Leo supposes, but his lips purse just the same. There's a lot to love in this world, a lot of curious and interesting people that fuel his inspiration and genius. His Knights and dear Ruka-tan in particular make his heart swell with a love that cannot be replaced, a love that makes him want to hold them close and never let go.

And yet, he can't help but feel that the love he feels for Ritsu somehow isn't the same. The desire to touch him, to be close to him is indescribably different from how he feels towards Tsukasa or Arashi. It's puzzling, because the way Ritsu inspires him is always preluded by all sorts of weird behaviours -- Leo’s breath catching in his throat, his hands growing sweaty at his sides, his heart throbbing as much as it swells -- that have only ever been caused by one other person. He doesn't want to bring his eyes away from Ritsu, doesn't want to bring a stop to the melodies that Ritsu has coursing through his head.

“It's different!” Leo says aloud, twisting to face Ritsu. It's hard, considering how their limbs are knotted together, and the end result has Leo’s head on an angle that isn't anywhere near comfortable. So then he rolls over, lying so half his chest is pressed overtop Ritsu’s, and smiles a bit at the thought of their hearts beating so close together. Ritsu just stares at him contemplatively. “With you and Sena, it’s totally different! I think --”

“Secchan, too?” Ritsu’s tone is slow, careful. “You love both of us?”

“I'm in love with both of you!” Leo insists. “At least, that's what I think. I've never been in love with anyone else before.”

There's a moment of silence then, and perhaps it would make Leo anxious if not for the comfort of being tangled together like this. Ritsu’s gaze still doesn't leave him, sleepy red eyes attentively studying him until he shuffles to lay on his side. His shoulder digs into Leo’s chest this way, and Leo pouts.

“Just making sure,” Ritsu hums. “I love you both, too~”

Leo’s face lights up instantly. “I knew you'd understand, Rittsu! This is why I love you!”

A short, clipped laugh escapes Ritsu’s lips. “Just because I love you, too? What a shallow reason, Ou~sa~ma...”

“No, nooo,” Leo whines, flopping onto his side so he faces Ritsu as opposed to laying atop of him. Ritsu stares back at him, and Leo allows a small laugh of his own. “Rittsu notices and understands even the tiniest things! You've been keeping an eye on Knights especially, right...? Even when I wasn't.”

He lifts his hand, experimentally brushing his fingers along Ritsu’s jawline, all-too-aware of the way his heartbeat grows unsteady at the contact. It's different from how Leo usually touches others, delicately intimate rather than the way he tends to toss himself towards his friends. Despite his typical protests towards being touched, Ritsu doesn't flinch away, lying still even as Leo’s fingers settle to cup the other’s cheek. For a long moment, they stay that way, up until Ritsu presses back into Leo’s touch, nuzzling his palm in a way that makes him seem more cat than human.

“Not particularly,” Ritsu finally murmurs, although they both know that's a far cry from the truth. “Secchan and Nacchan do a lot more of that than I do.”

“Someone has to watch them, too,” Leo muses, but he doesn't push it. His thumb draws small circles against Ritsu’s skin as he thinks -- thinks of his Knights singing songs of love, thinks of how the heavens graced him with two hands. “Mm, what now? Do we kiss and stuff?”

“What's ‘ stuff ’?” Ritsu purrs, sly smile curling his lips and unmistakable gleam in his eyes. “But, ah, that's really up to you. Secchan’s still all worked up over Yuu-kun, y’know...?”

Unfortunately, Leo does know. If he thinks on it too long, it almost makes him feel... empty, or distant. Even if he only has himself to blame for the current strain on he and Izumi’s relationship, that doesn't make it hurt any less. He doesn't necessarily think he's the type to be jealous, but the way Izumi acts towards Makoto --

“Let’s just not tell him for a bit,” Ritsu says, before Leo can dwell on that further. “Heh, should we just do all the kissing and stuff without him? If he gets jealous enough, he should end up saying something eventually.”

“Rit tsuuu ...”

“I know, I know.” Just slightly, Ritsu shuffles closer, and Leo’s hand slides from his cheek to the back of his head. “Either way, Ou-sama’s never really been kissed, mm? So we should practice.”

Neither has Rittsu , Leo wants to bark back in reply, but he can't actually say so for sure. It doesn't really matter, he supposes, as the intention behind Ritsu’s statement is obvious in any case. It's bait, a tease, the same way Knights might lure their opponents towards their inevitable defeat. No matter how childish or spoiled he may behave, Ritsu is always their crafty strategist.

Just as Izumi is the sword that hangs at his side, Ritsu is always someone he can trust.

And so Leo lets himself fall into his strategist’s plans. He lets his fingers sink further into Ritsu’s hair, lets the space between them grow ever smaller, and lets himself learn how to touch Ritsu’s lips with his own.

Chapter Text

“I want to get married!” Leo sing-songs, and Ritsu can’t help but snort when he teeters on his feet. He twists, grin splitting across his face and green eyes lit like fairy lights. “Right now!”

He's a sight to be seen; hair tousled wildly, ears and fingers pinched pink by the cold. His hands twitch at his sides as though to grasp something, perhaps write something, yet there's no paper within reach. In the dim lighting of the street, Leo looks like a spirit, a sprite, something impossible to hold or tame.

There'd be no tying him down, Ritsu thinks, but there's still laughter in his voice as he asks, teases, “Is that a proposal, Ou~sama?”

“Yes, yes!” Leo nods furiously, moving close enough that Ritsu can feel the warmth of his breath fanning against his face. “Let's get married, Rittsu! Let's write wedding songs!”

“Ehh... Don't you just want me to play them?”

“I guess so,” Leo says. “But in that case, I want you to play my songs forever!”

“Sure,” is all Ritsu says.

It's enough, though -- it must be more than enough, because then Leo lurches forward, catching Ritsu’s lips in a kiss that tastes like cinnamon and spreads like wildfire.

It's not like the first time they kissed. They had been much younger then, and the press of Leo’s lips had been much more fleeting. Ritsu hadn’t had the chance to squeeze Leo’s calloused hands as he does now, hadn't had the chance to reciprocate properly. There's been so many more kisses between now and then, of course, as there's been so much time --

But forever is a long, long time. His mother occasionally talks of forever, talks about weeks fading into years, years into decades, decades into centuries. There's no guarantee of Ritsu’s “forever” running quite as long, not when there's an equal amount of mortal blood flowing through his veins, but his meagre twenty-something years of life have already felt like an eternity.

Leo draws away, rocking back on the balls of his heels, and Ritsu takes him in once more. The grin Leo wears then is wider than any Ritsu has ever seen -- wider than the ones he would wear after a live, wider than the ones he would wear when cooing over the kittens he wasn't supposed to keep. Leo likes being with him.

Maybe a “forever” spent with Leo wouldn't be so bad.

“Ou-sama,” Ritsu hums, just slightly tightening his grip. Leo squeezes his hands right back. “Let’s have the wedding at night, ‘kay?”

“Of course, of course! Nothing else would be right for Rittsu!”

“Yeah,” Ritsu agrees, “And the rest doesn't really matter, so we can just leave it to Maa~kun...?”

Leo laughs, and it's a beautiful, freeing thing. He drops one of Ritsu’s hands, only to turn and start tugging the other, to start leading Ritsu further down the quiet street. “Whatever makes you happiest! As long as it's fun and we can dance to my masterpieces, I don't really care!”

“Mm.” Ritsu looks to where his hand is still linked with Leo’s, soft smile curling his lips. “That's what I was thinking, too.”

Chapter Text

“Makoto-kun,” Anzu says, voice as soft as it had been when she'd first transferred, when she had been little more than a quiet girl among a war-torn school of over-competitive and broken boys. Her cheeks are flushed adorably pink, crystalline blue eyes refusing to lift from the box she carefully cradles. “I’ve loved you since the first time we met.”

Makoto stills.

Even now, love baffles him. Over the past year — no, now it's nearing two — he thinks he’s come to understand Trickstar’s love for him at least, so long as he focuses on their bond and not on what he might have done to earn such affection.

But the box of chocolates clasped to Anzu’s chest speaks of an entirely different love, a love that focuses too much on him rather than what they've been through together. It's something he instinctively wants to run from, he thinks, even if it's something he's dreamt of receiving from Anzu for so long

“It's okay,” Anzu murmurs. Makoto starts, gaze lifting from Anzu’s gift and back to her face. Despite the way her voice shakes, there's the smallest smile playing at her lips. “Nothing has to change.”

So he nods, accepts Anzu’s chocolates with fumbling hands and thinks that, just maybe, Anzu understands his own love for her more than he does.

Chapter Text

Arashi’s touch is gentle, featherlight as she smooths her thumbs over Yuzuru’s cheekbones. It's intimate and therapeutic in a way he's not quite familiar with, teasing in a way that's meant to draw smiles rather than humiliation. He knows the right thing, the proper thing to do is to melt into Arashi’s hands, to let his barriers fall away just as her own have, but being vulnerable doesn't come naturally to him. Yuzuru holds his breath, holds his back too rigid, and then —

“You deserve so much better than me.”

His voice doesn't break. Fushimi Yuzuru never breaks. But perhaps there's a crack in his mask, the slightest flicker in his eyes, as Arashi’s lips purse before her hand falls away.

“Darling,” she whispers, sardonic smile curling across her face, “You’re far from the only one with demons.”

Chapter Text

It's with one, easy tug of his wrist that Izumi comes tumbling forward, eyes wide and curses at the very edge of his tongue. A small part of Ritsu is impressed by how easily he catches himself, palms staying flat against the futon even as Ritsu tries to drag him in further. Drawing the blankets over them both earns him nothing beyond a pointed side-look, but Ritsu’s sleepy smile just spreads further.

“I think,” he drawls, hand still gripping Izumi’s and half-lidded gaze never leaving the other’s face, “we should take our relationship to the next level.”

A moment passes in complete silence.

The look on Izumi’s face then is one that Ritsu will likely never forget. Rather than shock, his features are screwed up in suspicion, scrutiny, and Ritsu finds himself biting back the urge to laugh at his comically pursed lips and furrowed brows. Such a look would make it easy to wave the entire thing off as a joke, he thinks, but deeper down, he rather see how Izumi genuinely responds.

“If you're awake,” Izumi finally says, after what feels like an eternity, “then practice, idiot.”

And so, Ritsu lets him squirm out of his grasp.

Chapter Text

When Izumi first wakes, it takes a few moments for him to recognize his surroundings. The mattress he’s sunken into is too plush, too soft to be his own, and the pillow beneath his head is much the same. He shifts, eyes fluttering open to find that the area is almost completely dark. At this hour — at least, Izumi assumes it must be early morning, because he can distantly hear his alarm through his sleep-induced daze — his own room would be light, sunshine already filtering through the blinds. He blinks, trying to adjust to the darkness, and finally draws himself up to sit against the headboard.

Sitting aches, Izumi thinks. His brows quirk downwards.

And then, a voice comes from somewhere beside him. “Mm, Secchaaaaan...” Ritsu whines, just as Izumi starts to make out an unfamiliar and shadowy bedframe. “Turn that oooff... No alarms allowed in my house, ‘kay?”

Ritsu’s house. It all makes sense, now.

Despite his difficulties seeing, Izumi still glances down to where Ritsu’s voice came from. “Good morning to you, too,” he says, a little wry. “Where’s the lamp? It’s stupidly dark in here.”

“That’s the point,” Ritsu replies. “What do you need the light for, anyway... We can still sleep some more..”

“I can’t,” Izumi says. He twists away, clumsily reaches towards where his phone still drones on, and clicks the alarm off at last. As silence finds its place in the room once more, Ritsu’s arm finds its place around Izumi’s waist. “I don’t sleep over at places often, you know. My parents will be worried.”

At that, Ritsu says nothing. Izumi expects some teasing remark about him being a good son, even waits for it, but it never comes. Instead, Ritsu’s grip around Izumi tightens, and he can almost hear the pout in his voice as Ritsu murmurs, “Is Secchan planning on running away without even giving me a good morning kiss...?”

“It’s not a ‘good morning’ kiss if you plan on going back to sleep,” Izumi mutters, yet spares Ritsu’s shadowy figure another glance nonetheless. He starts leaning down, too aware of his burning cheeks and how Ritsu can probably see his flush despite the lack of light. “Kuma-kun, come on. I can’t even see...”

The blankets rustle, falling away as Ritsu’s hand crawls upward from Izumi’s waist to lightly press at his back. Laughter rings low and quiet between them, and Izumi continues to crane downward until he feels that same laughter bubbling against his skin.

Ritsu’s lips are soft and pliant against Izumi’s own, and the breaths they share do more to warm him than the blankets pooling around them. The kiss is a lazy one, the kind that feels like turning the alarm on snooze and spending an extra five minutes in bed. It’s the sort of laziness that Ritsu almost always succumbs to, the sort that Izumi would normally scold him for.

Yet in this moment — this one moment — falling into Ritsu’s slower pace doesn’t feel so bad. Perhaps, Izumi thinks, staying the night and waking up to this is even something he could get used to. Not that he plans on saying so anytime soon, though.

(Judging by the way Ritsu’s lips curl beneath his, he must already know, anyway.)

Chapter Text

He stumbles, and the youkai is by his side in mere seconds, nails digging too-deep into his forearms as he steadies him. Makoto blinks down at where he's held, then up to the youkai's face. His lips are pressed into a firm line, and tension sets a certain stiffness to his shoulders. His eyes — icy blue, more snake than human — lift to meet Makoto’s own. Makoto shrinks, just a little.

Not for the first time, he asks: “Why are you doing this?”

The youkai’s grip does not ease. If anything, his nails dig even deeper, drawing something between a sigh and a whine from Makoto’s lips. There are sure to be angry little crescents left in its wake. “Because,” the youkai says, slowly, as if talking to a child much younger than Makoto is, “I want Yuu-kun to survive. Which I’ve already said, so I don't know why you keep on asking.”

Because that doesn’t explain anything, Makoto thinks. Many people have wandered too far into these woods. Many people talk of the creatures that lurk within the forest’s perimeter. Makoto has heard plenty of stories about them — oni that strike and drink the blood of vulnerable victims, fox spirits that lead helpless explorers further and further from their homes — but no story ever led Makoto to believe that he could be saved by one. 

Assuming this one does plan to save him. The more the youkai holds and talks to Makoto like this, the more Makoto starts to suspect that he plans to lock him away somewhere and keep him as some pretty human pet.

Makoto swallows around the lump in his throat and tries again. “Because,” he says, only for his voice to crack and fade when the youkai’s hands finally slide away from Makoto’s forearms to take Makoto's instead.

“No more of that, Yuu~kun,” the youkai chides. His hands are startlingly and more apparently cold when against Makoto’s own, but his smile is a touch warmer. “You really ought to just be grateful that your onii-chan found you, hmm?”

And with that, he turns, still keeping one of Makoto’s hands in his as he continues to lead him through the woods.