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and words are futile devices

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Kaoru locks up his shop, making sure that everything is in place as he turns off the lights and pulls the blinds down, blocking out all view to the outside world. There are a few small lanterns that remain on inside that cast a dull glow to just barely illuminate the interior. He turns to walk through the main room of the shop and passes the single table that still has some supplies laid out on it—ink and brushes, but no paper. 

When he opens the door to the backroom that's used for storage, he's unsurprised to see Kojiro already there, sitting casually in a chair with his feet propped up on the desk. He knows how much that annoys Kaoru. 

"Hey, Kaoru," and Kojiro knows how much Kaoru hates when the oaf addresses him by his given name.

"Feet down," Kaoru demands and doesn't even give Kojiro a chance to do it himself before he smacks his feet down. 

"Sorry, sorry," Kojiro's apology means nothing with that easy grin plastered across his face. It's the one he uses on everyone when he's trying to be sly about something. Too bad Kaoru knows him too well.

"You aren't," Kaoru snaps back.

"You're cute when you get worked up, so no, I'm not," Kojiro admits unabashedly, his smirk only growing wider. He's changed out of his chef's uniform, presumably leaving the restaurant under the care of his staff as it is nearing dinner time, and he's in the orange-and-white-striped shirt he favors for after-hours, well, after-hours that don't involve skateboarding. 

"You're monstrous," Kaoru tells him and walks away, attempting to pretend and busy himself with something else in the office. 

"Maybe, but you're the one who asked me to come here, so, what's up?" Kojiro asks.

And that's true. Kaoru has spent too long wearing this antagonistic air with Kojiro that sometimes the fact they're in a relationship lapses from his memory. It's probably his brain trying to keep him sane or something along those lines. Maybe he can consult Carla about it. But even then, the truth is that he cares about this hulking idiot of a man and has since they were in high school. Expressing emotions is still something he's working on, which is rough when Kojiro can throw around sentiments so easily. Like now, when he's rising from the chair with his brows furrowed and heading straight for Kaoru.

"Is something wrong?" he asks and rests a large hand on Kaoru's shoulder. Out of the corner of his eyes, Kaoru sees the way Kojiro pauses for a moment before deciding contact will be okay. 

Kaoru shakes his head. "No, everything is fine."

"Okay," Kojiro speaks slowly. "Did you want to go eat or do something, then?" 

Kaoru shakes his head again. "I had an idea." There's something that has been festering in his brain for a few weeks. It was an offhand comment made one day when Kojiro had a day off from the restaurant and decided to spend it ruining Kaoru's concentration at the calligraphy shop. He'd sat in the corner of the room simply watching Kaoru work, writing strokes across endless scrolls precisely for clients. When there had been a break, Kojiro had not hesitated to sweep Kaoru away into the backroom and draw him in for a kiss before finally speaking. 

"There I am, sitting in the shop with you all day, and you don't even acknowledge me, huh?" Kojiro teased and dropped a quick kiss to Kaoru's nose, which made Kaoru frown. "Don't give me that look. You have your boyfriend right there, and you don't even spare me a glance," he whined. "You'd pay more attention to me if I was a piece of paper and you were writing on me."

Kaoru had brushed it off immediately and allowed Kojiro to indulge both of them in some making out on the very desk chair that the chef had just risen from before they ate the bentos he made for them that morning. But the idea of Kojiro being laid out below him, skin clear and pulled taut over his muscles, and Kaoru's hand gliding across it with a brush, well, that stuck. The notion implanted itself and Kaoru hadn't been able to shake it. 

"I have an idea," Kaoru repeats to Kojiro and places his hands on the other man's firm and thick chest before dragging his palms down, feeling the defined muscles underneath until they meet the waist of his jeans and fingers catch on belt loops.

Kojiro's eyebrows raise before one settles to crook up, curious. "Do you?"

Kaoru nods. "Follow me." With that, he hooks one finger into a belt loop and tugs, and ever dutifully, Kojiro goes along with him as they walk out into the main room of the shop. Kaoru's eyes settle on the single low table that has supplies on it, and he pulls his boyfriend in its direction until they're right next to it.

"Aren't you done with work?" Kojiro asks, clearly confused.

"Do you see paper set out?" Kaoru poses the question and turns to look at how Kojiro's face is illuminated in the low light, the shadows bringing out the sharp lines of his nose and cheekbones. 

"No," Kojiro simply replies. 

"Take your shirt off and lie down," Kaoru commands, and like a loyal man, Kojiro does. Kojiro barely wears the shirt fully buttoned as it is, so it's quick work for him to remove it and toss it to the side before he lowers himself to the floor and lies down on his back, looking up at Kaoru expectedly. "On your back," Kaoru specifies. 

"Yes, sir," Kojiro replies with the return of that cocky smile, and he rolls over. 

There before him is Kojiro's naked back. It's not a new sight to him; he's seen it hundreds of times. But this time, Kaoru's eyes glide across it in a new context. He's never appraised it in the sense of being a surface for him to write on. The muscles are all thick and well-defined, bulging and rippling as Kojiro makes any slight movement. It reminds Kaoru of another desire of his for them to fuck in front of a mirror again so he can watch the way Kojiro's back looks when he's thrusting into Kaoru. One time Kojiro had fucked him against the wall in a bathroom, which Kaoru had been completely appalled by until he realized when he opened his eyes that he could see Kojiro's back and ass as he worked up into Kaoru's body. He came particularly hard that day, much to Kojiro’s endless amusement and Kaoru’s annoyance.

Writing on Kojiro's back won't be as easy as Kaoru assumed it would be. The dips and valleys of muscle make for an uneven surface, and the feeling of the brush across his body will surely make the man squirm a little bit as well, creating another unstable element to writing on him.

But Kaoru is very good at what he does. 

Without hesitation, Kaoru lowers himself to his knees next to Kojiro's body and reaches for his supplies. He’d spent part of the day contemplating which brush to use, turning them between his fingers, familiar with all the brushes in his collection as much as he was with the skin of Kojiro’s naked body. In the end, Kaoru chose one for its soft bristles because it would glide easily over his partner’s skin and not cause him any discomfort. Next to the brush, there’s a pot of ink that Kaoru made himself. He created the formula to not stain skin and remain wet a little bit longer so he could easily clean it up with a damp cloth. A simple wooden bowl filled with warm water and a stack of small towels were the last items on the table for wiping down Kojiro’s back after every character, leaving behind a fresh canvas. 

“Are you ready?” Kaoru asks, and Kojiro makes a muffled affirmative sound into his crossed arms where he’s resting his head. “Okay.”

Kaoru picks up the brush and dips it into the ink. Taking a breath, he thinks of the first character he wants to write. 

忠: loyalty, fidelity, faithfulness; 8 strokes

They have known each other since high school, and even though Kaoru and Kojiro spent a significant amount of that time antagonizing each other, trying to get a rise out of each other, they still trust each other. Kaoru and Kojiro are devotedly loyal to one another because no matter what happens, they will protect each other. It happens in little ways like when they were both devastated by Ainosuke abandoning them for what he believed to be grander things, losing the third part of their trio, Kaoru took the loss harder than Kojiro. Or maybe Kojiro simply chose to never show it. Instead, he stayed by Kaoru's side, cooking endless plates of comforting food and sitting silently while Kaoru stewed and would occasionally snap, vicious words hurled out in his hurt. But Kojiro never left, and Kaoru knows he never will.  

The first touch of the brush to Kojiro’s back right below his left trapezius makes the barest tremor pass through his body, and then he stills as Kaoru glides the first short stroke down diagonally. Kojiro doesn’t move at all for the second and third strokes. When the brush touches right in the divot of his spine for the fourth stroke, he shivers again, slightly more noticeable, and stays tense as the short line down his back is made. Kaoru knows that the center of Kojiro’s back is sensitive, and he’s spent his share of time placing kisses down it and sucking marks there. The only reason no signs of his mouth are there right now is that he made sure to stay away in order to keep the canvas blank.

After making quick work of the last four strokes, Kaoru places the brush back on the table and examines his finished kanji. Once he had the first few strokes down acclimating to writing on an uneven surface, Kaoru was able to adapt and every line looked pristine as usual.

“Are you done?” Kojiro turns his head to ask, but he chooses to keep his eyes on the wall rather than turn completely to look at Kaoru.

“With the first character,” Kaoru informs him. “Can you tell what it is?”

Kojiro makes a hmph sound. “I didn’t know that was going to be part of this, so I didn’t pay attention.”

“Of course you didn’t, you oaf,” Kaoru scowls down at him. 

“What is it?”

“It’s not important,” Kaoru dismisses him and reaches for a towel, quickly dipping it in the water to dampen it. He runs the cloth over Kojiro’s back and watches as the ink comes away easily and stains the white cloth black. 

With the return of his blank canvas in front of him, Kaoru once again picks up the brush and contemplates the next word he'll write on Kojiro's back. 

剛: sturdy, strength; ten strokes

Obviously, Kojiro appears strong to anyone who lays eyes on him—his physical capabilities obvious with the way his muscles obscenely bulge no matter what he is or isn't wearing. Kaoru remembers a time before when he was still of slighter build in high school, back when he barely stood any broader than Kaoru did. Somewhere in between pursuing his interests in a culinary career during the day and skateboarding at night, Kojiro picked up weights and started working out. Kaoru rolled his eyes at it, unimpressed by the brute power that Kojiro appeared to believe he was now showing off as he curled his bicep to raise a dumbbell in one hand. But the changes started to show over time. His chest became deeper, his arms fit in the sleeves of his shirts more snugly, his shoulders broadened to twice the expanse of Kaoru's, and one day, most devastating of all, he was able to simply lift Kaoru in his arms as if he was moving plate of food at his restaurant. It was done as a joke, but it awoke something within Kaoru he had been fighting to keep down for far too long. 

But Kojiro does not simply possess the strength seen plainly on his body, no, he has something deeper as well. Even though he would rather do anything than admit it, younger skaters look up to him. When he's seen on S, people clamor for a sight of him, for an opportunity to speak with him. He gives advice when asked, and he gives encouragement when he sees it's needed. Kaoru has seen the way he's been guiding that young skater, Reki, lately, and Langa as well. Kojiro has the strength to lift others when they need it.

He's done it for Kaoru numerous times. 

The first stroke down once again makes Kojiro briefly shiver from the anticipation of the inky wet brush touching his naked skin. Kaoru starts at the left trapezius again for the first long line down and the subsequent stroke that creates the main part of the character. The following short strokes go quickly, the brush setting down and lifting from Kojiro's skin like the small pecking kisses Kaoru sometimes enjoys leaving in this very area. Two final strokes at the end complete the character, and Kaoru finishes them with an easy flourish before setting the brush back down and leaning back on his legs. 

"Any guesses?" Kaoru asks, wondering if Kojiro actually paid any attention this time.

"Mountain?" Kojiro guesses and Kaoru raises an eyebrow, impressed that he managed to get so close by at least identifying a part of the character (岡). 

Kaoru gives a sigh. "No, unfortunately, you really are bad at this."

Kojiro raises his head from his arms. "That's not fair, I missed the first one, and I think I'm right on this one but you're not giving it to me."

"You didn't get it right, Kojiro, deal with it," Kaoru replies, voice stern. "Lie still, you oaf."

"I'm right," Kojiro says one final time with indignance before complying with Kaoru and putting his head back down on his arms. 

Once again, Kaoru repeats the process of wiping away the dark ink onto a small towel, marveling at the way the ink takes over and spreads on the white fabric but the expanse of Kojiro's tanned back now appears clean. 

For what he’s done so far, Kaoru focused his work on the center of Kojiro’s back, right in the center where one kanji character may easily fit. Now, though, what he wants to write requires more space, so he’ll need to write them stacked. Kaoru’s eyes trail down the line of Kojiro’s spine to where it dips down slightly at his tailbone and then the way his ass curves up. The waist of Kojiro’s pants sits low on his hips, just a tantalizing bit of the firm skin peeking out. 

Kaoru wants to lick down that line, but that will need to be later. 

With the brush in hand, Kaoru focuses on the first of the two characters.

関: connection, barrier, gateway, involve, concerning; 14 strokes

The first time Kaoru met Kojiro was anything less than remarkable. There was no instant connection or spark between them. Kaoru wanted to spend the last day of his break before his first day of high school at the skate park getting more practice in on some of the tricks he needed to improve, but when he arrived he found a green-haired boy surrounded by people singing him praises on his skills on a skateboard, which made Kaoru roll his eyes. How good could the boy be? In his annoyance, he might have purposely sent his prototype of Carla rolling sharply into the other boy’s ankle, his admirers jumping away from the board’s path.

Kaoru trailed over unhurriedly, hurling an insincere apology out. “Sorry, didn’t mean to disrupt your little gathering.”

“That’s okay,” the boy leaned down to pick up Kaoru’s board, and when he straightened back to hand it over to Kaoru, the smile on his face oozed lazy confidence that made Kaoru wish he had sent the board towards him harder. “I’m Kojiro.”

“Thanks for catching my board, Kojiro,” Kaoru thanked with the same amount of goodwill he offered in his earlier apology. When he tried to take the board from Kojiro’s hands, the other boy didn’t let go. 

“What’s your name?” he asked, apparently forgetting about the crowd that had just been fawning over him.

Kaoru rolled his eyes. “Kaoru, now can I have my board?”

Kojiro let go. “Nice board, Kaoru, See you around.”

Not even dignifying him with a response, Kaoru took his board and turned on his heel, walking away without another word to murmurs about his rudeness behind his back. He didn’t see the way Kojiro’s eyes trailed over him. The next day at school, Kojiro was sitting there with a foot propped up on the desk in front of him in the same class at Kaoru, and he cursed his luck.

Koaru concentrates on each of the 14 strokes as he makes them on the upper half of Kojiro’s back, moving with care to make the character fit neatly in the dip between his shoulder blades. With that done, he moves on to the second word, starting it slightly below the middle of Kojiro’s spine. 

係: person in charge, connection, duty, concern oneself; nine strokes

Annoyingly, Kojiro immediately became drawn to Kaoru in their class, sitting next to him and pestering him about skating whenever he could. At some point, Ainosuke was drawn into their little trio of skateboarders as well, and Kaoru found that whether he liked it or not he had friends that he genuinely cared about. Sometimes watching Kojiro from the ground while he did a flip on his skateboard above him felt like looking directly into the sun.

The long vertical lines of the kanji trail dangerously close to the line of Kojiro’s waistband, the brush just teasing the skin that curves and dips below the clothes. When Kaoru makes the final stroke, a short, brief one that tickles the edge of Kojiro’s right hip, the man below him shivers again for the first time since they started. Kaoru knows intimately the sensitivity of Kojiro’s hipbones as well and smirks to himself. 

Kaoru sits back and looks at the two characters together and what they mean. 

関係: relationship

Years pass between their first meeting and the moment they manage to take a break from their endless bickering to simply confess to each other. It was only natural that the moment they finally admitted their feelings took place in the middle of an argument. 

They were standing in the kitchen of Kojiro’s apartment as the then aspiring chef worked on refining a new sauce recipe and Kaoru argued with him over something undoubtedly trivial. Neither of them could remember the cause of that moment’s spat—there was always something with them, frankly. Kaoru opened his mouth to argue, spit back words of agitation at the other man, but then there was a spoon floating in front of his mouth as Kojiro waved the utensil laden with sauce in front of him.

“Taste,” he simply demanded, and Kaoru scowled but opened his mouth and let Kojiro feed him. “What do you think?”

Bright flavor burst across Kaoru’s tongue of tomatoes and basil with a sweetness laid below the fresh ingredients. “It’s fine,” he shrugged with the reply.

“I found a space to open my restaurant,” Kojiro announced, crossing his arms and leaning back against the counter. Kaoru’s mouth dropped open in surprise. He knew Kojiro had been focusing all his odd restaurant jobs after graduating with the goal of opening his own place one day, but the fact that it appeared to be coming true stirred something inside Kaoru. Years had gone past with them at each other’s side, and to see someone he had some unexplored as of yet feelings for achieving a dream struck something inside Kaoru.

Without thought, Kaoru grabbed Kojiro’s face and turned it to him. The chef’s eyes were wide as Kaoru took the plunge to kiss Kojiro, and soon he was licking the taste of basil out of Kaoru’s mouth. Maybe they didn’t really confess, per se, to start their relationship, but it was done in the way that most fit them, Kaoru supposes. 

Kaoru runs a finger down Kojiro’s back adjacent to where the words are, barely outlining them with his touch. “Do you know what this says?”

“You wrote a whole novel, how the hell am I supposed to know?” Kojiro complains. Kaoru rolls his eyes. This is just how they are. 

“Try harder,” Kaoru scoffs, and then he wipes off the ink from Kojiro’s body once again leaving the tanned skin behind. 

Kaoru bends over to start the next word.

媟: lust after, act indecently, lewd; 12 strokes

The first time Kojiro fucked Kaoru was after they both won a beef together on S. Once Kaoru begrudgingly admitted they were indeed dating and boyfriends, Kojiro insisted on doing all the things he believed a good boyfriend should. He took Kaoru out on dates, cooked him meals, brought him food at work, attended his public calligraphy demonstrations, and would always make sure there was an outlet available for Kaoru to charge Carla. But the one thing he still wouldn't do was push Kaoru onto a surface and rail him six ways to Sunday like Kaoru wanted more than anything else. Every time he tried to direct events in that direction, Kojiro would insist that it wasn't time yet. He wanted there to be candles and romance. Kaoru wanted Kojiro inside him. 

But one day after the newly created by Ainosuke skateboard course was opened, Kaoru and Kojiro found themselves challenged by some snappy up-and-comers who thought it was time for their takeover. Kaoru found himself so tired by the youth at times. Of course, they'd skated circles around their competitors, and the second they made it back to Kaoru's apartment that evening, Kojiro finally pushed him against the wall and started pulling off clothes.

"Really, now, finally?" Kaoru had grabbed Kojiro's face and scowled even while the other's hand kept drifting lower and lower. 

"What can I say, it was really hot seeing you skate like that and win," Kojiro gave one of his easy one-shouldered shrugs. "Fuck romance, I want to fuck you. Now."

"Please."

And he had. 

Kojiro has fully gotten used to the touch of the brush on his body and doesn't flinch or shiver when it glides across, painting him with all the words that Kaoru now associates with the man. He even hums a little at times as if particularly enjoying the feeling.

"Are you getting off on this?" Kaoru asks once he finishes writing the word. Kojiro simply gives a non-committal grunt. Kaoru thinks about asking if he knows what he just wrote, but he feels like maybe this one his boyfriend did catch. Of course of all the words he picks up on the one regarding lust and lewdness. 

"Are you getting off on this?" Kojiro asks as Kaoru sets a new damp towel on his back to wipe away the ink, and the question makes him pause.

"I thought that much was obvious," Kaoru gives his equally helpful answer, and Kojiro doesn't reply but does shift his head for a yawn, which makes Kaoru snort. "Tired, old man?"

"As if," Kojiro slurs, the tiredness in his voice betraying him. 

"Good, I was worried about you passing out on me before this gets good," Kaoru finishes wiping down the ink from his back.

"This is going to get better still?" this time Kojiro does turn around enough so he can look at Kaoru and raise his eyebrows. "Can't wait."

"Shut up, I think I do actually want you to be asleep," Kaoru rolls his eyes and pushes Kojiro's shoulder as the man laughs and settles back down.

Kaoru mulled over the next one for a while when he was planning this. Initially, he had another word in mind, but it felt all wrong for what he was wanting to convey before settling on this. 

癒: healing, cure, quench (thirst), wreak; 18 strokes

It feels fitting that healing takes the most strokes of all the words he's chosen today. What can be more difficult than the process of healing? Initially, Kaoru thought to use pain, but it felt off—too severe. Instead, he went with what can sometimes be even more painful, the healing itself. 

Their relationship has never been easy with the way they both seem to press each other's buttons in a way that leads to small squabbles over the most minute things. This also means that when they argue over something of significance, the blowout can be disastrous. The couple has had their share of those monumental fights over the years, rocking them both to their core before they manage to come back together with apologies and the time to talk out the matter, find a resolution because underneath it all they are adults and they are in lo—well, Kaoru also still needs to contemplate that one. 

But they also have their pain from falls while skating and such minor mishaps as one where Kojiro became a little too enthusiastic while they made out, which led to him tugging just a tad hard on Kaoru's lip ring. There had been a sting in Kaoru's lip, blood, and a quick trip to the hospital, which ended in a very remorseful Kojiro making sad puppy-dog eyes as the lip ring was retired forever and the hole slowly closed and healed. 

So, yes, they'd had their share of hardships, but they got over them eventually.

Each of the 18 strokes allows Kaoru to reflect on how far they've come. He leans in a smidge closer to be able to make the finer short lines in the center of the character, and before he pulls away after completing it, Kaoru presses his lips quickly to the edge of Kojiro's hips, and below him, Kojiro takes a sharp breath in.

“Feeling alright?” Kaoru checks in on Kojiro, whose reply comes in the form of nodding into his arms. Kaoru doesn’t press the matter, just moves on, washing away the work he just did until the only mark on Kojiro’s body is once again just the tattoo.

永: eternity, long, lengthy; five strokes

This is actually one of Kaoru's favorite characters to write. There's something satisfying with the way it flows for him. Five simple, quick strokes convey a concept that most cannot grasp their heads around. 

It's the small things that Kojiro does that eventually made Kaoru realize how much he had truly fallen for the other man. The way he would show concern for other skaters and readily offer them advice should they ask. The way he spends hours in their shared apartment perfecting certain recipes because he wants to make sure they're just right before adding them to the menu. The way he'll silently sit and watch Kaoru work on his calligraphy and occasionally ask questions about the kanji he doesn't recognize and listen intently as Kaoru explains its components. The way Kojiro will simply be at Kaoru's side when he least expects it but most needs it. The way when he was surrounded by flirting admirers, his eyes always would seek out Kaoru and stare at him with a burning desire that the others would miss as they were too infatuated with Kojiro. The way after incidents like that happened, Kojiro would make sure to fuck Kaoru slowly while holding his hair back and whispering into his ear that no one else will ever get to take Kojiro like this, only Kaoru. 

All of these together roll into a larger and larger amalgamation of moments with Kojiro over the years that make Kaoru's knees a little weak when he's on the receiving end of that extra blazing smile that's only for him, which also strikes heart-racing fear into him that he could ever lose this—lose this man who came into his life like a tide but has since then exploded colors around him every single day. 

Kaoru believes he'll spend the rest of his life and eternity with him.

"Did you recognize that one?" Kaoru asks, and he watches the way Kojiro's back slowly rises and falls, almost as though he had fallen asleep.

"Hmm?" Kojiro makes a tired sound, and Kaoru wants to be annoyed, but instead, he's endeared that his boyfriend felt so comfortable to be lying here having Kaoru work on calligraphy on his back that he simply drifted asleep. 

"Shh," Kaoru whispers and gently takes a hand and settles it in Kojiro's hair, running it through the always silken locks. "It's okay," Kojiro responds with a small noise that sounds vaguely like Kaoru's name, which makes the corner of his mouth tick up. "Idiot," he murmurs fondly.

Well, if Kojiro is asleep or close to it, Kaoru might as well go ahead and work on writing the last word across his back. 

愛: love, affection, favorite; 13 strokes

For how long the two have known each other, this is one thing they still haven't said to each other in any context. Not that they would have ever said it while they were simply friends, but their relationship is several years in, and they live together—yet something lingers. Something keeps them from ever saying the words to each other. Instead, much like with most of their relationship, tiny gestures and simpler words seem to suffice in its place.

That doesn't mean that Kaoru doesn't want to say it, and he's sure that Kojiro wants to utter the word to him in a confession against the shell of his ear in the dead of night when they're trying to get their breathing back on track. Every once in a while he'll get this glimmering look in his eyes, and his lips will part just ever so slightly before Kojiro instead closes them with a little shake of his head and chooses to reach for Kaoru instead, maybe to take his hand and place a kiss on it or maybe to push over a plate of whatever he's cooked. It's those moments that make Kaoru's heart race and wonder if Kojiro will be the one to finally take the plunge. 

With the first stroke, Kaoru thinks about Kojiro sitting at his side when he got his first piercing.

With the second stroke, Kaoru remembers the first time Kojiro tucked a strand of his hair behind his ear and smiled at him like it was the easiest thing in the world to do.

With the third stroke, Kaoru thinks about the feeling of skating with Kojiro, racing next to him down S and feeling the wind through his hair and Kojiro’s laughter at his side.

With the fourth and fifth strokes, Kaoru remembers calming Kojiro down the night before the restaurant opened, the usually happy-go-lucky chef crumbling under the idea that his dream could fail.

With the sixth stroke, Kaoru pictures the way Kojiro stands off to the side with his arms crossed, lips tugging up as he watches Kaoru do public calligraphy demonstrations.

With the seventh stroke, Kaoru shivers thinking about how it feels when Kojiro is inside him, fucking into him slowly while the sun is rising outside bathing their little bedroom in pinks that match Kaoru’s hair.

With the ninth and tenth strokes, Kaoru sighs while once again allowing his thoughts to drift to that first kiss in Kojiro’s apartment. 

With the eleventh stroke, Kaoru thinks about Kojiro never leaving his side.

With the twelfth stroke, Kaoru thinks about never leaving Kojiro’s side.

With the thirteenth and final stroke, Kojiro shudders below Kaoru's brush, which makes the calligrapher recoil quickly. In what feels like a flash, Kojiro pushes up on one arm and turns around, his free hand reaching out and taking Kaoru's wrist of the arm still clutching the brush and enclosing it within his broad hand as if trying to prevent Kaoru from running away. As if he could, Kaoru could not move if he wanted to with the way Kojiro's face reads so clearly with shock and longing. 

"Kaoru," Kojiro breathes out. 

"What?" Kaoru bristles, throwing up his trusty facade of cool uncaring even though he's shaking apart underneath, the foundations of his carefully designed exterior falling apart with every additional millisecond that Kojiro fixes that stare at him. 

Kojiro says nothing. Instead, he moves. Sitting up fully, Kojiro pulls Kaoru towards him and maneuvers the calligrapher until he's sitting astride the chef's lap. Kojiro sits with his legs crossed, and Kaoru's legs wrap around his trim but muscular waist, his kimono also pushed up by one of Kojiro's hands so it rides up, exposing the milky skin of his legs. Kaoru's hands scramble for purchase, and they end up landing on Kojiro's shoulders. The brush has fallen out of his hand, rolling away to some corner of the shop to be discovered later. 

"You're insufferable," Kojiro mutters, one of his hands lightly holding Kaoru's neck, thumb brushing against his cheek in a tender gesture. 

Kaoru huffs. "What about you? I thought you were asleep, and here you are getting up and manhandling me," there's no bite in his words. 

"You thought wrong," Kojiro smirks. "Want to tell me what you just wrote or should I?"

"Shut up," Kaoru snaps, and he feels his cheeks heat as color rises on them knowing he has been found out.

"Okay," Kojiro shrugs, and before Kaoru can react, the hand on his neck slides up into his hair and brings their mouths together. The gasp of surprise on his lips means that Kojiro immediately dips in with his tongue, licking across the roof of his mouth to make Kaoru whine. The attack on his mouth is relentless in that way Kojiro tends to kiss where he doesn't allow Kaoru a moment to think, only feel the onslaught of everything Kojiro gives him with the wet slide of their mouths and sharp bites to lower lips that are soon soothed by an apologetic lick. 

It's always too much, and Kaoru doesn't think when his hands slide lower down Kojiro’s back, across the skin, smudging the kanji and covering his fingers in inky black that leaves dark fingerprints across Kojiro's skin. When they pull apart, Kaoru realizes what he's done when he sees the marks of his hands and fingers on Kojiro's body—a thumb and index finger on a pec, the heel of his hand on a shoulder, a middle finger, ring finger, and pinky on a collarbone. 

Kaoru has accidentally painted Kojiro with a claim of possession in the form of all the places he's allowed to freely touch the man he's in love with.

Kojiro notices Kaoru's eyes raking across his shirtless body with more attention than usual and quirks his head in question. 

"The ink," Kaoru explains poorly. "It's everywhere."

Kojiro looks down and sees the trail of Kaoru's hands across his body in the dark ink. He takes in a deep breath, his mouth falling open slightly. "Oh."

"I'll clean it up," Kaoru reaches for a towel, but once again, Kojiro grips his arm and stops the movement. 

"Leave it."

"Leave it?"

"Yes," Kojiro's answer has a hint of a growl to it as he confirms his demand. 

"Okay," Kaoru swallows, his mouth going dry.

"Let me take this off," Kojiro trails a hand down the front of Kaoru's kimono. "We don't want ink getting on it, do we?" 

"No," Kaoru shakes his head, but he would likely do anything for Kaoru right now, anything he asked of him.

"Good," Kojiro nods, licking his lips, and then slowly undoes the garment, taking it apart with reverence and care until the shoulders fall away to reveal Kaoru's bare skin there first. Kojiro places a kiss on one and then the other, and then he continues to leave a line of kisses down Kaoru's body as more of it is revealed until he's completely naked on Kojiro's lap.

They move forward to each other again, resuming their earlier desperate kissing, attempting to try and discover new aspects of their mouths as if they aren't already intimately familiar with every part of each other. Kaoru may be fully exposed while Kojiro still has his pants sitting low on his hips, but embraced within Kojiro's arms, Kaoru feels secure. Kojiro's embrace brings a sense of stability and protection.

As Kaoru starts to slowly rock on Kojiro's lap, feeling him harden below the layers of his shorts and boxers, he slides his hands down so slim fingers can dip and tease at the skin below the waistband, intent clear in his touches. 

"Want these off?" Kojiro pulls back to ask.

"Yes," Kaoru breathes in response without hesitation. 

They move apart to allow for Kojiro to take off his remaining clothes and toss them in the direction of the already discarded garments, and then Kaoru wastes no time before climbing back onto Kojiro's lap to bring their lips together again, this time his hands digging into Kojiro's hair so he can move his mouth whichever way he wants to direct the way they breathe into each other's mouths. Kaoru resumes rocking, each movement grinding them against each other and adding bitten-off groans from Kojiro and gasps from Kaoru as they attempt to not break apart from their frenzied kisses. 

"I want to fuck you," Kojiro mutters against the corner of Kaoru's lips. 

"Yes," Kaoru nods. "Please, Kojiro, please." He's already whining before anything has truly begun, but hearing the statement from Kojiro sets something off within Kaoru, awakening the neediest parts of him that want to give himself over to the other man in every way that he possibly can.

Even though Kaoru burns for everything to move faster, for every touch to be laced with intention of more, Kojiro kisses him again at a much slower pace than they had been going, as though the privilege of sliding his tongue along Kaoru's is like indulging in his favorite dessert. Kaoru can’t deny him this and lets his mind go hazy with the sensation of being handled by Kojiro, moved slightly by those hands so he can kiss deeper and grind up harder. 

“Hurry up,” Kaoru gasps out when Kojiro pulls back for a breath, their mouths still close enough for lips to brush against each other with every word, air mingling between them as they pant softly.

Kojiro smirks. “I waited for so long, lying here as you wrote desire, eternity, and love on me, and you think I should just give everything now? You think you deserve that?” He taunts Kaoru, fingers gripping his long hair and holding it firmly so he can’t even attempt to seek distance between them.

“Yes,” Kaoru hisses when he still vainly attempts to yank himself away.

“Why?”

This time Kaoru offers his own mischievous grin. His hands are still free, and he skates his fingertips down Kojiro’s abdomen until they reach coarse hair, scratching there lightly, and then finally wrapping his slim fingers around Kojiro. The size difference when he does this always makes Kojiro shudder lightly, the air knocked out of him every single time by the way such delicate fingers contrast to his thickness and the way he strains in that firm grip. Kaoru starts to move his hand slowly with the barest of twists as he strokes. 

Finally, he speaks, words still basically being spoken into Kojiro’s mouth due to their closeness. “Because no matter what, you can never wait. You always want me, to be with me, inside me...Kojiro, you won’t deny yourself of this will you?” Kaoru emphasizes his point by rocking forward and letting himself graze across his fingers and Kojiro’s tip. 

Kojiro takes a trembling breath, eyes somehow going darker as he bores into Kaoru’s. “Fuck.”

“That is the point,” Kaoru quips and tightens his grip, using the way Kojiro is leaking to slick his palm and ease the glide. Kojiro’s eyes flutter closed, and he lets his guard down for just long enough to loosen his hold on Kaoru’s hair, which is enough to allow him to move and speak the next sentence into Kojiro’s ear while continuing to thrust against him. “Don’t you want to be inside me?”

Kojiro groans, a rumbling sound that Kaoru can feel where their chests are pressed to each other. “Is that what you want?”

“Yes,” Kaoru replies and bites at Kojiro’s ear to rile him up further. It works, and then he’s on his back looking up at Kojiro above him who leans to where his discarded pants lie and he comes back with a small bottle Kaoru recognizes all too well. “See,” Kaoru snorts and raises a leg, landing his foot on Kojiro’s chest. “You wanted this so much you came ready for it.”

“Maybe,” Kojiro tilts his head, and then he gets his broad hand around Kaoru’s delicate ankle and pulls, moving forward so he can place a light kiss on it. He looks up at Kaoru’s eyes and maintains that contact as he continues to trail kisses up his leg, and they progressively get sloppier with an open mouth and licks. Kaoru squirms under each caress and kiss, biting his bottom lip to hold back all the sounds that are fighting to break free of his mouth. Finally, Kojiro reaches Kaoru’s hip and lays more open-mouthed kisses there and throws Kaoru’s leg over his shoulder. He completely ignores where Kaoru is hard and leaking and instead trails sucking kisses down further. 

When Kaoru’s other leg gets thrown over Kojiro’s free shoulder, he finally lets a gasp break free. There’s a huff of breath against his skin, which Kaoru knows is Kojiro pleased with the sound. Strong hands come to grip Kaoru's ass and spread him for Kojiro. There’s nowhere for him to crawl or run to; he’s at the mercy of Kojiro now. 

The first barely-there kiss has Kaoru’s mouth dropping open, and the first hard press of Kojiro’s mouth to him has Kaoru arching his back. He starts panting hard as each kiss and lick to him increases in pressure all leading to the moment when Kojiro finally pushes his tongue into Kaoru, making him cry out Kojiro again and again as he’s not given a moment to rest. Kaoru’s hair is fanned around his head, and the thrashing he’s doing is likely causing all sorts of muss and tangles. But he doesn’t care. All he can do is reach down and grasp Kojiro’s hair, pulling his mouth closer to himself and moving against him, encouraging that wicked tongue to get in as deep as it can. 

But it’s not enough, and the frustration makes Kaoru sob. He wants Kojiro inside him, but not like this. He needs more. 

Kojiro shushes him and lets a hand slide from his hip to grip Kaoru and start stroking. This still isn’t what he truly wants, which he tries to convey to Kojiro, but all words get lost on his tongue. Everything feels too difficult to say as fog clouds over his brain and all he can focus on is how Kojiro’s tongue feels inside him, how the rough calluses of his chef’s hands feel on him, and how soft his hair feels between Kaoru’s fingers. 

And when Kojiro sucks at Kaoru, that’s the end. He arches back and comes messily in Kojiro’s hand and against his own stomach, lips silently forming Kojiro’s name as breath leaves him. 

When he comes back down, he groggily processes that Kojiro resumes leaving kisses across his body until he’s hovering above Kaoru, completely covering the calligrapher’s body with his own and running his thick fingers through Kaoru’s hair. 

“Are you okay?” Kojiro asks, reaching for one of the towels to clean his other hand. 

“Yes,” Kaoru’s voice sounds so small to his own ears, which embarrasses him greatly. He closes his eyes and turns his head, looking away from the other man.

Kojiro tuts at him. “None of that now,” he says with an airy laugh and kisses Kojiro’s cheek. “Look at me, Kaoru, please.” Reluctantly, he listens and turns his head back, slowly opening his eyes so they’re half-lidded and looking up at the other man. “You’re gorgeous,” Kojiro breaths and resumes his slow glide of fingers through Kaoru’s hair. “Fucking beautiful,” the reverence in his voice is at odds with the crudeness of his words. 

“Are you going to fuck me, then?” Kaoru asks, letting his eyes fall closed again as he revels in the feeling of Kojiro’s fingers in his hair. 

“You still want me to?”

“Yes. Please.”

“Okay.”

Much faster than Kaoru thought he would, Kojiro moves back and settles back between Kaoru's legs. The sound of the bottle opening creates a harsh sound like a slamming door in the room. Kaoru lets his arms fall to the side by his head, reaching up slightly to spread out below Kojiro. He knows the move works when Kojiro stops to stare, raking his eyes down Kaoru’s body, but when he reaches Kaoru’s face and sees the smirk, he smiles back and gets to the task at hand. 

Those wide fingers that work so well in the kitchen now work Kaoru open. One sinks in easily as Kojiro had already gotten Kaoru spreading for him on his tongue, but this is more of what Kaoru wanted. The feeling of something thicker and more solid inside him makes Kaoru sigh in contentment and slowly rock himself back, encouraging Kojiro to thrust harder and add another finger already. Kojiro complies, knowing what Kaoru needs and wants often before he even demands it, and another thick finger makes its way into Kaoru giving him the first hint of the stretch he so desires. 

Kojiro leans over Kaoru, covering him with his broad body and pressing his face into the space between Kaoru’s neck and shoulder, right where he knows if he works a mark onto the skin, Kaoru’s clothes and the mask he wears to S will cover it. The fingers moving in him don’t miss a beat, and Kaoru lazily lifts one arm so he can roughly get his fingers into Kojiro’s locks and hear the small groan he makes in response to the unrefined handling. 

They start to kiss lazily when the third finger pushes in, and Kojiro captures the moan that leaves Kaoru with his mouth. With three fingers hitting him perfectly, making him cry out louder and rock up into the thrusts, Kaoru starts telling Kojiro to get to it already. “Fuck me, come on,” Kaoru whines. “I want it, I want you.”

“Fuck,” Kojiro mutters against his mouth and pulls back, and even though he was demanding more, Kaoru still whines at the loss of the fingers inside him. 

Kojiro positions Kaoru’s legs around him and slicks himself with more lube before once again hovering over Kaoru, one hand keeping him balanced and the other gripping himself to start the push into Kaoru. “You want it?” he has the audacity to ask.

Kaoru thumps Kojiro’s back with a foot. “You know what I want.”

“I want to hear it one more time.”

“Kojiro, fuck me.”

And finally, Kojiro pushes in slowly but doesn’t stop, going until he’s completely inside Kaoru and both of them are breathing hard at the first thrust. Kaoru eventually nods, ready to get going, and Kojiro doesn’t wait to ask if he’s sure. He knows. 

Kojiro gives it just as Kaoru craved since this whole thing started since he set the brushes out on the table and waited for his boyfriend to show up. He thrusts hard and relentlessly, and Kaoru’s hands are back trying to grip anywhere they can, fingers lining up with the parts of Kojiro’s skin that are still marked by the dark ink and fingerprints of possession, now dry. 

Everything about Kojiro is controlled and broad. The way he fucks into Kaoru is no different. His hips move in fast, unforgiving snaps that drive him deep into Kaoru, hitting every part of him. He’s stretched wide over Kojiro, and he would want it no other way at all. 

Kojiro gets his hands on Kaoru’s waist and without pulling out maneuvers them so Kaoru takes back his earlier place on Kojiro’s lap. Kaoru starts to bounce and meet each of Kojiro’s thrusts, taking advantage of the way the chef leans back on one hand for leverage and starts to caress and lick his chest. Biting at a nipple to get a louder moan from Kojiro, Kaoru looks up at up through his eyelashes, watches the way he falters in his movements for just a second before finding himself again to return to fucking up into Kaoru.

Kaoru reluctantly leaves Kojiro’s chest, which is possibly his favorite place to be in the world (this he will never admit) and leans into Kojiro’s ear. “It’s going to be my turn to get my mouth on you later,” Kaoru gasps as he rocks down, and the other man offers a deeper moan than the others as his response. 

“You have to come for me again, first,” Kojiro tells him, the hand on his hip squeezes, no doubt leaving a bruise behind that Kaoru will admire in the mirror after stepping out of the shower later. 

“Then make me,” Kaoru grinds down and clenches as Kojiro thrusts up, gasping. “Make me come, Kojiro.”

“Fuck, yeah I will,” Kojiro groans. He gets both hands on Kaoru’s hips and starts thrusting up with all the force he can, and Kaoru meets every single thrust. Both of them draw all sounds they can from each other. Kaoru gets a hand on himself and starts stroking in time with how Kojiro is moving inside him, and he gets the other hand in Kojiro’s hair to drag him forward but doesn’t kiss him. “But you have to say it.”

“Say what?” and how the fuck can Kojiro try and make him think right now when he’s fucking so perfectly into Kaoru, hitting all the right spots inside him.

“What you wrote,” Kojiro moans. “What you wrote but won't say.”

Kaoru knows what he’s asking, and he opens and closes his mouth a few times, unable to get the word formed, get the phrase strung together and spoken out loud into the world. It feels like a secret that cannot be dared to be uttered. “I—” he starts and cuts himself off.

“Please, Kaoru,” Kojiro pleads uncharacteristically. “Because I do, too, don’t think I don’t. I love you.”

“Fuck,” Kaoru whines. Something inside Kaoru breaks hearing that from the other man. He never doubted it as Kojiro definitely doesn’t doubt it from him, but he shatters apart with only one way to try and bind himself together. “Me, too. I love you, too.”

Kaoru comes, Kojiro’s name on his lips once more but this time he moans it directly into the man’s mouth, shaking apart again in his arms and covering their chests as he arches slightly. Kojiro gets a few more thrusts in before he moans out Kaoru’s name and comes inside him, making the calligrapher whine at the feeling of being filled. 

The two collapse back down to the floor with Kaoru sprawled on top of Kojiro, his head resting on a pec while he pants. One of Kojiro’s hands goes to Kaoru’s hair, drawn by a magnetic force and starts to slide through the hair, soothing Kaoru. As thanks, Kaoru kisses the skin of Kojiro’s chest next to his mouth.

“So,” Kojiro breaks the silence as their breathing returns to normal.

“So,” Kaoru parrots back.

“Are we going to talk about this?” Kojiro asks, hand not stopping its movement through Kaoru’s hair.

“I don’t see what needs discussing,” Kaoru shrugs with one shoulder. 

“What you would rather write on my back than say to me,” Kojiro explains. 

“You didn’t either,” Kaoru argues.

“But I did end up saying it first,” Kojiro points out. 

This makes Kaoru sit up, one hand pressing down on Kojiro’s chest and his hair cascading around him, creating a small canopy above Kojiro. “You didn’t, I did.”

Kojiro barks in laughter. “Excuse me, writing it on my back is not saying it first.”

“It is,” Kaoru smiles. 

“You won’t even say it again.”

“Neither are you!” 

Kojiro’s hand comes to rest on Kaoru’s jaw, holding it tenderly and stroking his cheek with the thumb. “I love you, Kaoru.”

Kaoru scowls. “Shut up, you oaf.” But there’s something so novel about hearing those words, and Kaoru understands why Kojiro hungers to hear them as well. Kaoru feels like every nerve in his body sings after being told by Kojiro that he loves him. It’s something he’s known, but knowing and being told are two very different things. “I love you, too.”

Kojiro’s laugh rings out in the calligraphy shop as Kaoru lowers himself back down to shut Kojiro up with a kiss. He’s still covered in ink, Kaoru’s fingerprints littered across his body. Kaoru’s fingers are also stained black. But for now, this is fine.