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It was past four PM when Mikuru stood in the hallway by the door, throwing on her coat and tying her scarf around her neck. Her suitcase sat on its side, and as he said to her a quiet reminder Chrono made sure to secure the lock when he saw it undone. He watched her step into her shoes, standing with an umbrella on the ready, pushing it into her hand as soon as she cast her eyes back up at him. Raindrops had been hitting the windows since noon, and though originally a light drizzle it had turned into a hammering rainfall. Mikuru kissed his forehead hastily and hugged him, a ritual today hurriedly performed but never ignored, and then, she was gone—disappearing out the door which shut heavily behind her.

Chrono lingered in the hallway with a sigh in his chest. The books he'd left behind sat open on his desk, but before he returned to them he went back into the kitchen, breaking an egg and mixing salt with pepper and a bit of spice, preparing a marinade for the chicken he left to thaw in the morning. The afternoon brought weariness. His morning lecture had called for an early rise and the fatigue had returned two-fold. Sitting back down by his desk, rain pattering away on the window outside, Chrono returned to his studies. Anxiously, he periodically checked his phone, keeping it by his side. The hours passed, and Chrono succeeded in resisting the urge for a nap. The darkness claimed the apartment in the passing hours. Chrono's desktop lamp glowed warmly, a single source of light. Once he staggered up from his seat, out and into the hallway, his line of vision burned with dark spots. He made food. The kitchen fan hummed. Eating his single portion meal, Chrono found that he'd made too much food. Covering the leftovers on his plate in a plastic film, he put them away in the fridge. He glanced at his phone before he started clearing the dishes, scrolling up through his most recently received messages. The water gushed forth from the tap, and in the dark kitchen under the yellow lights of the kitchen fan he quickly lost himself in the texts sent that morning and the night before. The cold of the floorboards licked his soles and spread up into his feet and next to him, with a tick and a whirr, the refrigerator came to life with its dull hum, restarting its cooling cycle. Forming a fist, Chrono's hand clung to the front of his shirt. His knees hit the bottom cupboard drawers and his hand reached to turn the gushing water off, his eyes still fixated on the screen. He scrolled further up, a dull edge cutting deep and burrowing into him. Though his feet had become cold, heat gathered in his chest and across his scalp. He'd sigh if he hadn't stopped breathing all together. Water droplets fell from the overfilled pan in the sink, one by one. The fridge went silent. Chrono's head snapped up. He put his phone aside.

The pots and pans got washed by hand. The dishes from lunch and dinner got pre-washed gently as his mind continued to wander. The hot water reddened his fingers under the stream. The plates clicked into place one by one as the dishwasher filled up and when the buzz sounded, ringing out hollowly in the empty apartment, Chrono's head shot up straight.. He dropped the last dish in place with a clatter and pushed the lid up off the floor with a crash as the cart rolled into place. Rushing, his feet carried him across the kitchen with hasty steps towards his phone which laid vibrating on the counter top.

"Hello?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Sir, would you like to order?" His eyes drying up and his head heavy, smoke in his lungs and not enough food in his stomach, Ibuki stared at the digital clock up in the upper right corner on the screen on his phone. Nine PM had passed and ten PM was approaching. Already weary, and growing more so by the second, surrounded by stifling smells and chattering sounds, voices, he had yet to see the end of it. More drinks were coming in. "Sir?" He raised his head to see the waitress looking at him. He cast a glance around him discreetly. He hadn't planned to drink any more. He had become cranky as it was; cranky, restless and distracted.

"Oh, and Ibuki, I never had the chance to ask you," unaware of or simply intent to ignore the waitress called to their table, Ibuki's table mate spoke to him eagerly. "Are you married? Got a wife?"

Ibuki looked at him, a man perhaps two decades his senior, and found little to discern from his expression. He was well intentioned, in all likelihood. "No." Ibuki stared into his glass. "I'm afraid not." He replied simply, his harsh tone mellowed and drowned out by the cheer around them. Across the table the waitress was already scribbling someone else's order down, her attention stolen away.

"Really?" He was asked, Ibuki wondered why it was so surprising. "Well, well, you know, I have a daughter about your age…"

Ibuki was ready to phase into the shadow and disappear. He watched the pen on the paper move. Many more drinks were coming in, by the looks of it. "Oh, I see." He forced himself to say.

"Or, maybe she's a few years younger than you. Anyhow,"

"Excuse me," Ibuki projected his voice across the table as soon as he got the chance. "Excuse me, I would like to order another…"

The waitress raised her eyes to give him a passing glance. "One moment, sir."

"Oh, so you are having more to drink, huh." The voice came from his other side, followed by laughter. Ibuki clutched his phone in his hand. When he next found a chance to steal a glance at the time, another long hour had inched by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Well, I got the receipt right here. And your booking number…" Chrono shifted through the pile of documents Mikuru had left behind in her room on the nightstand. She fretted on the other side.

"Good! Good. Thank you." She exhaled the full contents of her lungs. "Could you take a picture of each paper and send it to me?"

"Sure." Chrono stood from his seat on her bed, the springs creaking gently under him. He gathered the papers out from the folders and left for the kitchen.

"I can't believe I forgot. I feel so stupid."

"It's okay. It worked out." Chrono closed the door to her bedroom behind him.

"Only because I got you back home."

Chrono smiled to himself. Things might have been different tonight, for the both of them. It was just a coincidence that he was still home. "I'm sure you could've worked it out either way. Go get in line for the check in now. I'll send you the booking information as soon as we hang up."

"Thanks again." She said, giving in to fatigue. "I can't wait to just go to bed."

She had been getting ready for this short-term trip since yesterday, all while still working as usual. "Yeah. Have some sleep. I hope the room is nice."

"Yeah. It looks like it's gonna be. And you should tuck yourself into bed soon, too."

"I'll… study for a bit longer. Then I'll go to bed."

"I see, I see. Well then, goodnight Chrono."

"Goodnight. I'll speak to you tomorrow." They hung up. Chrono made his way back to the kitchen to send Mikuru the papers so she could finally get some rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chrono studied as diligently as he could manage. He yawned into his hand. His phone was silent, as silent as the night which had come. His throat dry, he got up from his chair and made his way into the kitchen. Pouring himself a glass of water, he saw the dishwasher, still open a crack and waiting to be turned on. He sighed, grumbling. He had forgotten completely when Mikuru had called him. He inputted the program and closed the lid. Within a few seconds it started to quietly fill with water as Chrono made his way back to his room. Outside, the rain hammered on the window. Picking his phone up from his desk from where it sat right next to his open books, Chrono stared at the screen disdainfully. It lit up with a single touch. It had been another hour, and midnight was slowly approaching.

He walked across the floor and sat on his bed, leaning against the wall. He yawned again, letting the phone screen light up his face. His door stood ajar and he heard the dishwasher running in the kitchen. He had thought to study more but his patience had run out. Now, he just waited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The carpeted floors muffled the sounds of footsteps and yet there was so much to be heard. He'd had one drink too many, perhaps; under the surface his nerves flared, despite how dull he might feel. Starting to become claustrophobic, he still couldn't make his exit. Past the double doors down the narrow hallway, the bathrooms laid; clean and nicely decorated with polished stone floors and tall mirrors that reach the ceiling. The stalls lined the long room across the urinals. Washing his hands, the warm water returned Ibuki's focus to his body. Staring at his reflection in the cold light he found that it unsettled and upset him; he looked so tired and angry. He washed his face, dabbing his skin with his wet and hot hands, water trickling down his arm into his sleeve. Soon, it would be late enough that he could leave. He only hoped it wouldn't be too late, by then. His mind buzzed and his body did, too. The fatigue did nothing to dampen it; the nerves in his body were overloaded and sensitive. Seeing himself in the mirror just left him disgusted.

The paper towels were textured and thick, and did well in absorbing the water sticking to his face. When he heard the door opening, he raised his head, slowly, taking care to note the voices before retreating into a bathroom stall. He listened to his tablemates talk, converse, laugh, standing in front of the door with his head tipped over his phone, reliving his high school days all over again. He cycled through the apps on his phone. There's been little to no activity. A new email sat in his inbox, an automated cc:d reply about an upcoming budget meeting back home at the main branch in the city.

The voices died down in the bathroom, fading out of earshot and Ibuki's mind started working again, the noise and bustle no longer dampening his thoughts. He yet again tapped the Line icon on this phone and as the application loaded his mind seemed to finally simmer down. Ibuki sighed shallowly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chrono was staring at his contact list when his phone buzzed. His heart rose in his chest. His hope was crushed just as fast. Tokoha had woken up. His head slid further down on the wall. Her message seemed to taunt him, reading, hey, are you still up?

Yes, why? He replied, realizing belatedly that it was rather dry of him.

I'm about to hop into the car and drive downtown. Running some errands. Thought you might wanna chat? She asked, hammering the messages away in quick succession. Chrono was preoccupied, technically, but not in any way he intended to tell her. His books sat open on the table, abandoned.

Sorry, he replied. I'm busy, I got a test I'm studying for. A lie told to protect his privacy. You shouldn't be talking on the phone while driving anyways, should you…

Ah, got it! Study hard, ok? She replied. Chrono felt uneasy; not quite guilty but uneasy. A least he wouldn't have to try and hide the truth to her face. And the roads are chill this time of day this time of week so it's okay!

He didn't want to argue. Tokoha tagged Shion in the groupchat, followed by a row of eager question marks. He replied in less than 30 seconds: I'm free. Not bedtime for me just yet. Shion must have called her, or responded to any call she made, for the group chat then went quiet. Chrono leaned his head against the wall and stared at the ceiling, the light from the lamp on the nightstand cutting into his tired eyes. The rain hit the window rapidly, the droplets cascading down the glass. He blinked, slowly, his phone sitting in a loose grip in his hand, thoughts drifting through his mind, faintly connecting before fading away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He awakened all at once, tossing and blinking rapidly, confused. Rubbing his weary eyes, Chrono squinted. There was a terrible sound, and his heart beat hurriedly and painfully. His phone was buzzing, still laying in his hand. His neck hurting, Chrono sat up slowly, groaning, with no time to brace. He saw Ibuki's name on the screen. He had waited and waited, and yet he was unprepared. He tore the earbuds out the aux. He had no time. He picked up. "...Hello?" His voice came out dully, ringing out uncomfortably loud in the quiet room.

"It's me." Ibuki's voice sounded sharply, impatiently; hushed but projected.

"Hey." Chrono replied. He kept rubbing his face. "How's… how's it going?"

"Are you alright?"

"I'm… fine." Chrono was embarrassed to tell him. "I fell asleep…"

"Oh. I'm sorry."

"No, it's… it's fine. I didn't mean to."

"Do… do you want to go back to bed?"

"No, I'm not… going to bed." He tried to explain. "I'm up. I'm up."

"I'm sorry," Ibuki apologized again. Chrono stared into the wall, trying to wake up. His chest was tightening, stressed and strained with his sudden awakening and excited by the sound of Ibuki's long-awaited voice against his ear. "It all," his frustration seeped through the cracks. "It all kept dragging on. They wouldn't let me leave."

"Huh. Really?"

The microphone crackled slightly. Ibuki exhaled heavily. "I'm finally back in my room." Chrono hadn't checked the time before he picked up. He hadn't had the chance. "But if it's too late for you, then…"

"It's fine." Chrono reassured him nervously. "I mean, I didn't mean to fall asleep, really. It's fine."

"I've suffered through much in my life but I've yet to gain the… patience to deal with…" Ibuki's voice diminished as he moved. Chrono heard a door shutting. "These endless streams of senseless chatter. Husbands complaining about their wives. Trying to set me up with their daughters—"

"Wow, really?"

Chrono heard water running, hitting the sink hard. "Can you imagine? In this day and age? I feel sorry for her." Ibuki's voice had a hollow ring inside the hotel bathroom.

"I mean, I can, but…" Chrono blinked slowly, channeling his energy into his continued effort of waking up and staying awake. He heard Ibuki washing his face. "What did you even say?"

"What was I supposed to say?" Ibuki asked him pointedly, tired. "I couldn't… get much out." He mumbled, upset.

"How did the meetings go today?" Chrono asked.

"Fine," Ibuki said bluntly. Chrono could tell that he didn't want to talk about it.

"Did something happen?"

"It's gone well," Ibuki replied. "The negotiations, that is. And the exhibits have been… enlightening." He sounded negative, tonally. "I just hope I haven't been so awkward I've squandered all that." Ibuki had been dreading the invitation to the tech fair. Chrono had told him not to worry about it, and that even if an invitation came, he could just send someone else; a representative. Chrono had been forced to eat those words once the invitation not only came, but named Ibuki specifically.

"I'm sure that's… not the case." Chrono tried to gently persuade him.

"Managing work relations… is fine. I just… get so exhausted with all the… pleasantries." Ibuki mumbled under his breath. "Especially when I feel like I… can't talk to people."

"Well, they didn't make it super easy for you either by the sound of it…" Chrono reasoned. "And I keep telling you not to worry about that. You're a lot more sociable than you give yourself credit for."

"I know…" Ibuki admitted with more than a hint of frustration.

"Most people find you very charismatic." Chrono rolled over to his side. He let his phone rest against his ear.

Ibuki sighed. "Perhaps."

"How are you feeling?" Chrono asked him, quietly, concerned.

"Not… amazingly." Faintly Chrono heard the sound of a door shutting. Ibuki said no more.

"So… how do you… wanna do this?" Chrono asked him carefully. There was a slight draft from the window, and yet he felt a wave of heat pass over his back.

Ibuki exhaled tensely, and on the other end, Chrono heard nothing, only the sound of his own blood rushing in his ear against the screen on his phone. "I can't really seem to calm down." Ibuki replied, and Chrono was wholly aware he wasn't committing to answering his question just yet. That was okay.

"How's your room?" Chrono asked, mostly to direct his attention to something else.

"It's nice." Ibuki commented. "It's a nice hotel. The view is nice, too. Not that I've had any time to look at it."

"You've been busy, huh."

"Yes. Frankly it's the nicest room I've had the privilege of staying in for quite some time… we usually don't spend this much money on lodgings. But since I was invited…"

"That's nice, though…" Chrono said. "Is it very busy?"

"Somewhat. But things have calmed down now." He heard a thunk faintly in the background.

"Is it raining where you are too? It's been pouring all day here."

"No…" Ibuki replied. "It's been clear all day… though still rather cold outside." Spring would be coming soon, and the weather had been strange and unpredictable.

"Then you might be getting our rain tomorrow." Osaka was a business town. The trip wasn't very long, but long enough to make you feel displaced.

"Probably. It's been a bit chilly. Even indoors."

"Yeah. I was running the heater before." Chrono drew his feet closer to his body.

"What have you been up to?"

"Studying. Mostly." Chrono admitted. It'd been harder than usual to concentrate.

"Have you been getting ready for bed?"

"I said, not yet." Chrono smiled a bit. "I was waiting for you..." He mumbled.

"What are you wearing?" Ibuki asked him, quietly.

Chrono's thoughts ceased. "Um, just… you know…" He wasn't wearing anything special. "My green pants. This t-shirt… the black and red one."

"I see." Ibuki sounded anything but disinterested. Chrono felt a sensation across his scalp, crawling down his back.

"How… about you?" He got out, fortifying himself.

"You saw me packing, didn't you?"

"So?" Chrono drew his hand over the covers. "Tell me."

"I went with the purple shirt. And the gray suit pants and jacket…"

"Huh." Chrono's thoughtful reaction left him most naturally. "That's… that's a nice one."

"It's gotten quite hot like this, honestly." Ibuki mumbled in reply. "Down while we were drinking...." He sighed. "I had a bit too much…"

"So you're drunk, huh?" Chrono asked, smiling.

"I'm afraid so. I thought you could tell." Ibuki said quietly, exhaling. "I should get out of these clothes..."

Chrono laid still on his bed, in his room, which hadn't changed much since he'd graduated high school a few years ago. The pictures from his middle school graduation still sat pinned to the wall above his desk. "If, if you want to, then… go ahead." He could still hear the dishwasher in the kitchen and the sound of the falling rain. Through the microphone on Ibuki's earbuds, Chrono heard the rustle of fabric. Ibuki exhaled in a distracted manner. "What is it?" Chrono asked him silently.

"I suppose I wish I was back home already." Ibuki replied sincerely.

"You'll be back home in another few days…" Chrono reassured him.

"I suppose so."

"Are you nervous?" Chrono asked, the words coming out clumsily. The fabric stopped rustling.

"Somewhat." Ibuki replied, detached.

Chrono held his breath and waited for the dizzying feeling to pass. The idea had been his. He hadn't planned to back out. He intended to go through with it, but as reality took shape he failed to fully grasp it. Chrono rolled over on his back. "I guess I'm a bit nervous, too." He would have preferred to do this at Ibuki's apartment. He'd had the opportunity. Now, he regretted that he'd remained here, where the past and present meshed together, something which he couldn't forget once it had occurred to him.

"I wish you could be here."

"Yeah." Chrono replied, sighing. Their spoken agreement drew his feelings out stronger.

"If you were, what would you do?"

"Well, I.... I'd kiss you." He said, making Ibuki laugh shortly. Chrono gripped his phone tighter.

"You'd kiss me. Well, I would like that." Chrono felt his face reddening. "How would you kiss me?"

They had kissed many times. There were many ways to do it. The surface of his lips tingled as he recalled, the sensations of Ibuki's kiss clear in his memory. "Gently."

"Where?"

Chrono's jaw tightened. "On your lips."

"And?" Chrono heard the rustle of fabric again.

"I'd touch your hair." He mumbled. "And I'd kiss you more."

"On my lips?"

"Yeah. And your neck…" Chrono heard a faint metallic clatter which he recognized as the sound of Ibuki's belt buckle. "And I'd…."

"What?"

"I'd… hold you." Chrono shut his eyes, drawing his arm close to his body.

"You always hold me really tight." Ibuki said, humored. "And you're always really warm."

"I feel… pretty warm right now." Chrono admitted, embarrassedly. "Are you, I mean… are you done?"

"Done?"

"Like, did you… undress?" Chrono asked, pressing on in the only direction he knew.

"Oh. Yes… I just need to get my pants off…" Chrono heard the same clatter again, more distantly.

"Right."

"After you kiss me, what would you do?"

"I'd… touch you. And undress you." Chrono fought to find what to say when Ibuki's only reply was to wait expectantly in silence. "I'd touch your chest. Under your shirt. Then I'd take it off… and kiss you more." Ibuki exhaled against the microphone and Chrono's body tensed. He rolled over again, facing the door. His desktop lamp was no longer hurting his eyes but his small room felt too wide and too broad, the ceiling too high, and he felt exposed to himself, his past, present and future all residing here, painfully close. The dishwasher rumbled with a gentle rhythm, distantly, beyond the walls. Mikuru's hotel booking confirmation and receipt still sat on the dinner table. Outside, cold rain droplets were still hitting the window.

"How?" Ibuki asked and Chrono felt the room around him expand more and more.

"Um…" He hesitated unwillingly. He knew how he would do it. He just had to say it. "I'd slide the shirt off your shoulders. Then I'd… touch your chest and… touch your nipples. Play with them."

Ibuki exhaled shallowly. "You do like to do that."

"Y-yeah…"

"You always start so gently. And then you get rougher." Chrono pressed his lips tight together. Ibuki was certainly right. "I never… really knew how good it could feel. Before you started touching me like that."

"Really?" Chrono asked, doubtful but curious. His hand laid anxiously on his chest, forming in a tightening fist.

"Yeah." Ibuki told him. "Now, I can't… help but do it. When I touch myself." He exhaled heavily.

Chrono's throat tightened, a light, prickling sensation spreading across his body. His legs drew closer to his body. His lips felt weak and wouldn't move. When he heard Ibuki again, letting out a quiet yet afflicted sigh, it triggered him to speak without thinking. "Are you… doing it now?"

"I am." Ibuki admitted, strangely brazen. Chrono's sense of admiration for him only grew. "Though I never have… the patience to go on as long as you do."

Chrono felt so awkward yet so compelled. "So... you like when I do it like that?"

"You hadn't noticed?"

He had, but he hadn't been able to resist making Ibuki tell him. "I mean… yeah, but..."

"You're usually so good at figuring out what I want..."

Chrono's hand clenched the front of his shirt tighter. A tense smile forced itself onto his face. "W-well you don't… make it too hard for me, usually…" He had more to say, much more. He lost the power in his voice, his oxygen deplenished. "At least not in bed." He loved it, frankly. He loved it more than he could say.

"You do that to me." Ibuki admitted, happily yet woefully. Chrono felt like he might be giddy if he wasn't so nervous.

"You… you do a lot to me, too." He mumbled in reply, his lips straining with a smile.

"Like what?"

Restless on the bedside he rolled over, facing the wall. In his ear, Ibuki breathed slowly yet audibly through the microphone. His thoughts grasping a truth too large to hold, Chrono had been silenced by Ibuki's simple question, for as simple as it was and as familiar as he was to the answer, as it laid right here, right now, within him, Chrono couldn't speak of something so profound quite so casually. His deep rooted longing was brewing already. He was tuning the rest of the world out, slowly, bit by bit. "Like, you just… make me forget about everything else." Chrono spoke mutedly, his lips faintly quivering. He felt dizzy.

"Do I?" Ibuki asked him, quietly.

"Yeah." Chrono confirmed. "You do…" He heard Ibuki's breath make the microphone crackle, a long, slow, lasting exhale that reached all the way to his gut. "And—" Chrono stuttered.

"And?"

"And it turns me on real bad."

"...What turns you on?"

Chrono pressed his hand against his face, rubbing his forehead with the back of his hand. He stared out the dark window. His face burning and his thoughts freezing, he let go. "Whenever I can tell you feel good." He said, his voice growing steadier. "That… really turns me on. Which is why I just… wanna touch you. And not stop." His voice faded with each syllable. He drew more air into his lungs. "Like I just… wanna keep kissing you and touching you… rubbing your nipples, harder and harder until you, just…" He heard Ibuki groaning, fainly, under his breath. Chrono felt his heart beat heavily, and his imagination grew sharper and crisper in his mind. Ibuki's voice only made it easier. Chrono knew he was touching himself harder, as dictated by the words of his desire. "Let go and… give into it completely."

"That's why I need you to... be here." Ibuki's voice had grown rougher, which had Chrono snapping to full attention.

"Yeah…" He'd offered. His face reddened terribly but Chrono kept his voice leveled. It was a small comfort that Ibuki couldn't actually see him blushing. "I want to. Be there for you. I don't want you to be missing me, and feeling like you can't… share it with me when you want to..."

Ibuki breathed heavier, though steadily. "Yeah, I…" Fluctuating, his voice died.

"How do you… feel?" Chrono asked cautiously.

"I feel like. I can do this." Chrono had hoped he would. They'd both had their doubts, but now, there was no going back. They had to try. "I want to… do it." Ibuki had become determined. Chrono found him so precious.

"Yeah." Chrono encouraged him gently. "I'll listen…"

Ibuki exhaled shallowly and again Chrono heard the metallic rattle. He wanted to ask, but didn't. "If it's not too much trouble…"

"I enjoy it." Chrono muttered in reply, embarrassed, smiling sillily. "And I like the sounds you make."

"You do… do you?" Ibuki's question was on some level sincere. Chrono's heart ached sweetly.

"I do." He insisted. It was certainly easier over the phone. "I like them a lot. And you tend to surprise me."

"Oh?"

"With how… loud you get, sometimes." Chrono hesitated to say it. He didn't want Ibuki to feel self-conscious. "In like… a good way. So…"

"I suppose I…" Ibuki's voice trembled and Chrono figured there was no way around the truth, no way to skirmish the edge and still speak his mind. "I can't help it." Ibuki admitted, with a strange sort of fragile earnesty.

"I like it." Chrono found it adorable. Ibuki had always been very expressive, once he let his emotions gush over. Whether it was because he was angry, happy, sad or relieved; Chrono just felt lucky to be able to witness and take part in his expression of pleasure, too. "And I said it's surprising. But it's also very you in a way."

"Don't say that." Ibuki said to him with a shaky happiness, abashed. "You'll embarrass me."

Chrono wrapped his arm around his own body. He couldn't stop smiling, his heart pounding hot and heavy. Ibuki was cute when he was embarrassed, too. "Sorry." He mumbled, insincerely. Ibuki sighed tensely. "How are you feeling?"

"Good…" Chrono heard a slight waver and for a second Ibuki's voice faded into the distance from the microphone before fading back in. "I'm… going to lie down."

"I hope the covers aren't too cold." Chrono said.

Ibuki rustled a bit on his end. "You know, I was dreading it for that reason…" He sighed, bothered. "If you were here, I wouldn't have to worry about that…" He said.

"I… I guess so…" Chrono said, quietly. "You'll… warm up, though."

"I'm… taking my pants off, now…" Ibuki let him know somewhat reluctantly. Chrono imagined Ibuki's long legs sliding out from under the fabric with ease. The belt buckle clackled and jingled one last time. The bedding rustled. Chrono heard when Ibuki sat back down heavily. The silence lingered with another faint crackle to the microphone and Chrono felt himself slipping. His heart was pounding still; harder and harder. "Hm. It is… a bit cold." Ibuki admitted.

"I'd warm you up if I could."

"How would you do it?"

"How would you want me to?" Chrono said, returning the question, just a faint sting in his voice.

"I'd like you on top of me." Ibuki said, sighing. "Your hands and lips on me, still. Knowing you, you wouldn't be able to give it up."

He was right, and Chrono felt pressed for an answer. "Y-yeah…"

"I'm touching both my nipples now." He admitted quietly. Hopefully it should help him warm up. Chrono felt really warm himself. Ibuki smothered a moan and Chrono was starting to become impatient. He wanted to hear more.

"How's it feel?"

"Good…" Ibuki gasped shallowly. Chrono had questions on his mind that he didn't have the courage to ask. Ibuki groaned faintly. Chrono's resolve strengthened.

"How are you… doing it?"

"I try and do it the way you do." Ibuki replied, his voice faintly strained. "Rubbing them. Pinching them." His voice was quiet under his uneven breathing. "I'm… hard. I'm really hard."

Chrono folded his hand in between his thighs. He shivered. "Me too." He whispered. Under the layers of his clothes his blood was rushing, his heart pounding and his erection straining against the fabric. He could feel it as he moved. He'd been trying to lie still. Ibuki sighed longingly in reply, silent in his contemplation of Chrono's confession. "How are you feeling?" Chrono asked, on edge.

"I can do this." Ibuki said, with more confidence than Chrono had dared to expect. "I can… do this." Ibuki inhaled, exhaled, breathing freely.

"Don't stress it though."

Ibuki laughed shortly. "You'd say that."

Chrono pressed his thighs closer together. "I mean… yeah…" He mumbled. Ibuki sighed pleasantly. Chrono's imagination was running wild. He felt his mouth water and his head spinning. He heard the faint rustle of the covers, his mind on high alert. A faint but discernible rhythm seemed to emerge. "Are you doing it?" He asked before he could stop himself.

"Yeah." Ibuki's reply was airy. "I'm stroking through the fabric."

Chrono's jaw tightened. He could feel his own erection against the side of his hand laying limp between his legs. Ibuki sighed longingly again and Chrono tuned into it, his body attuning to the sound of his voice. The rustling became irregular and louder. Impatiently, Ibuki sighed. "I'd… love to jerk you off. If I could." Chrono blurted out, revealing where his thoughts had been. He knew the shape and warmth of Ibuki's hard erection in his hand well, and the more familiar it became to him, the stronger he seemed to yearn.

"Hm. I was thinking I wanted you to blow me." Ibuki admitted and Chrono heard him smiling.

"I'd do anything you wanted." Chrono revealed thoughtlessly, eager and transparent, for how he couldn't hide how badly he just wanted Ibuki to feel good. It's too late once the words have flown out of him, the stifling embarrassment constricting his throat and snuffing out his breath. His face warm, Chrono pressed it down against his made bed, the pillow underneath his covers shaping after his features.

"I know you would." Ibuki said and Chrono smiled a hidden smile. "You're always so good to me." Chrono felt his excitement brimming. It was hard to accept Ibuki's compliments, rather he felt increasingly flustered, but there was no way not to enjoy himself. He heard Ibuki sigh with pleasure. Chrono wasn't going to make him do anything; he was patient. The rustle got louder as Ibuki's breathing got heavier. He groaned. Chrono held the phone tight, pressed against his ear, listening attentively. Ibuki sighed and Chrono felt terribly warm. "I'm going to… do it now." Ibuki said and Chrono felt his expectations peaking again.

"Right." He encouraged him. "Go on…"

Ibuki held his breath for a second before Chrono heard a faint rustle from the other side, followed by a low hitch in Ibuki's voice. Chrono's shoulders rose and his breath ceased when he heard Ibuki's first, proper, tense moan over the sound of his first few rhythmic strokes. Ibuki wasn't holding back. He was going quite fast. Chrono pressed the palm of his hand against his face, hiding his open eyes, his toes curling into his feet. Ibuki's light but fast paced breathing laid his voice audible on his breath, and already within seconds Ibuki could not help himself. He went faster. Moaning again, and then again, his voice both clear and tender, Ibuki held Chrono's full attention, his spinning thoughts still struggling to fully connect to reality. He'd suggested this. Maybe on some level he'd thought he'd never actually be here. He'd neglected fully emotionally preparing himself. Why, he'd been unable to grapple with it. His lips now moist and his body hot, Chrono exhaled slowly and deeply. He'd thought to do it once. He couldn't stop. His blood was rushing. His quiet, though roughly audible exhales, tense and raw—another physical sign of his growing arousal—got drowned out by Ibuki's voice.

Chrono's heart stopped, the loud, harsh buzz of his phone sounding directly against his ear. Ibuki stopped. "Sorry," he apologized hastily, beyond embarrassed. "I, uh, that was my phone. Sorry, I…" Ibuki was still breathing heavily when Chrono pulled the phone away from his ear to see who in the world had decided to bother him at a time like this. Still studying? Shion told me to bother you more, haha. Since you're not getting out much lately… Gritting his teeth, Chrono knew Tokoha would be able to see that he'd read her message. She wouldn't bother him about it, but he still hated it. "H-hang on…" Chrono stammered. "I'm gonna… turn off notifications. Sorry." He leaned in to speak into the microphone.

"Are your friends bothering you this late?" Ibuki asked him in a detached manner, his voice faint in Chrono's hand.

Chrono thought about Tokoha and time zones and her reason which seemed like concern but said nothing of it. That wasn't what he wanted to talk about right now. "Yeah… for some reason…" Ibuki caught his breath, but it did little to calm Chrono's nerves as he searched for the do not disturb option, his phone settings severely hard to navigate with his heart pounding and face reddening and his thoughts with Ibuki and his hot body and hotter erection. "There. Sorry." The icon next to the do not disturb button lit up blue. Chrono brought the phone back to his ear, casting his eyes around for his ear buds.

"It's not your fault." Ibuki said quietly.

Chrono moved and found the cord to his earbuds tangled; into itself and onto his arm. "Right." He said nervously. He'd gotten used to being intimate with Ibuki, having sex and exploring their needs and wants together; that was what he'd thought. Ibuki started again without being prompted. Chrono gave up, letting the white, snake-like cord lie tangled on his chest, rising and falling with his hampered breathing. Ibuki was less eager to get hasty. Chrono felt distracted. "Do it… do it like you just did."

"Can you hear me?"

"Y-yeah." He admitted somewhat anxiously. In some ways, this was easier face to face. Chrono always relied on his intuition, on Ibuki's body language—not solely, but more than he'd realized until now. "I like to… hear it."

Ibuki sighed. He left Chrono hanging, for a brief moment, a suspenseful few seconds that only made the reward all the sweeter once Chrono could hear, clearly, the sound of the movement of Ibuki's hand, the friction of skin and against skin and the distinct rhythmic rustle of the starchy hotel bed covers. His voice returned. Redefined, it quickly became louder than before. Chrono closed his eyes. Wordlessly, he indulged, sharing the moment with Ibuki, still yet vigilant. He thought of the past. He thought of how Ibuki would have touched himself before, without him, before it was ever the two of them. Feeling the goosebumps rise on his arms, his imagination drew the images clearer and sharper than he was prepared for, physically or emotionally. Ibuki didn't stop, and Chrono could only endure the waves of double-edged, self-conscious pleasure in silence. He'd been there, too; and though Ibuki had been with him, it had been neither physically or emotionally nor remotely. He had no words, not until Ibuki gasped so afflicted and torn, and moaned so clearly, and they jumped out of him almost involuntarily. "How… how are you feeling?"

"I'm close." He replied, shakily yet doubtlessly. He groaned, a sound that finalised almost like a whine. Chrono thought that it hadn't been that long, he thought that he would rather not have Ibuki get ahead of himself. Nevertheless, he doesn't want to stop him. Ibuki inhaled sharply. The microphone crackled faintly. "Chrono…"

Spoken so quietly, like only the notion of a sound, Ibuki's lips forming the syllables one by one, Chrono heard the sound of his name. His heart seemed to rise. Beyond the dizziness of arousal he found something like the clarity of affection. Ibuki was thinking about him, too. "I'm here." Chrono said, quietly, a smile forming on his lips.

Ibuki groaned, earnestly. He wasn't holding back. "I'm coming," he gasped on the exhale. "I'm coming." Chrono clenched his fist, his eyes falling shut. His jaw tightened and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth. Ibuki gasped with great finality, his voice textured and raw, filtered through the microphone. The other end went quiet, though Chrono listened with increased focus, the tensions in his own body far from being relieved. Ibuki's next breaths were short, shallow and irregular, and Chrono's heart beat achingly in his chest until Ibuki relaxed with a quiet sigh.

Chrono still waited another few seconds before speaking. "How… how do you feel?" The words came out terribly clumsily. "Did you get to come?"

"Yeah, I…" Ibuki's voice was just a bit detached. His presence faded back in. "It was good. Especially… at the end." Chrono heard him moving with the sound of the covers, his body displacing the bedding. Chrono dared to feel a bit relieved.

"I'm glad, then." Chrono admitted quietly. "I hope you feel better."

"How… do you feel?" Ibuki asked in between drawing breaths.

"Oh, uh…" Chrono was overheating all the more. He hadn't fully thought this far ahead.

"Are you still hard?" Ibuki asked him brazenly.

"I mean, yeah…" Chrono would've assumed that went without saying. "Yeah."

"...Do you want to get off?" Chrono heard the bed under Ibuki's body. His voice was quiet but his intentions clear. He wanted to listen.

Chrono definitely wanted to, but dizzily, desperately, he waited for some courage to resurge. "I-I do."

"I'm… going to head into the bathroom for a second." Ibuki said, and Chrono heard his voice more distantly on the other end, the microphone swaying as he moved to get up.

"Sure." Chrono replied, his heart pounding.

Ibuki's phone clattered down on the bathroom counter top. Chrono heard the water running again. "These bathrobes they have… they're quite nice." Ibuki noted. "I'll… put mine on. It's still a bit cold in here."

"What's it like?" Chrono asked curiously.

"Soft. Quite long. It goes below my knees. It's white…"

Chrono laid frozen with his heart still pounding. He thought of how it might fit on Ibuki's naked body, how he longed to see Ibuki's collar bone visible past the neckline. "Sounds nice."

The water stopped. "I feel like I could go again." Ibuki admitted, his voice faint.

Chrono's hand returned to his face, covering his eyes. "Already huh?" He managed to get out.

"Let's do it together." Ibuki's suggestion, though delivered in a faint voice, was doubtlessly formed by nothing but earnest desire.

"Yeah." Chrono's voice was shaking.

"I need a moment."

"Do you wanna hang up?" Chrono asked, his hand slowly sliding off his face.

"No. I'll leave you on the nightstand here. Right outside."

"Right. Okay." Chrono replied, trying to fortify himself.

"I'll talk to you in a bit."

"Yeah." The phone clattered faintly onto the nightstand. Chrono believed himself to hear a door closing. Chrono didn't make a sound, and for a few long seconds he simply waited, before he decided to give his phone a peek. He'd gotten more messages from Tokoha and possibly Shion, but nothing he was going to open now. He wasn't foolish. He'd been given time, so he decided to take this opportunity to untangle his earbuds. With a shallow sigh Chrono let his phone rest against the side of his face as he tried to undo the damage of his brief inattention. He thought of Ibuki, of how the hotel bathrobe might split and open in the front, of the way his desire would again rouse and peak, and how happy he was to be a part of it, even like this, despite how badly nervous he'd become. It rained. From where he laid, Chrono saw his books and his notes still sitting on his desk, his jacket still folded over the backrest on his chair since he'd come home in the afternoon. His bag stood open on the floor, by the door, his planner visible just inside. Stress entered and poisoned his mind. He'd completely forgotten the moment he'd picked up the phone. He had a lecture early tomorrow morning.

The final knot came loose. The buds were free. Chrono plugged in the aux and stuck each of the buds in his ears. He held the phone in both hands, watching the seconds on the call tick up. When he heard footsteps, followed by a light scramble, he folded the screen down against his chest. "Sorry. I'm back." He heard Ibuki's voice directly into both ears.

"You were pretty fast."

"I didn't want to make you wait."

Another minute or two hardly would have mattered. Chrono was too wound up for that. His loin was still burning and his heart still hammering. "Don't worry about that."

Ibuki exhaled tenderly. "I should've… prepared and unpacked before I called you before."

Chrono smiled. "You got a bit eager, huh?"

"I did…" Ibuki admitted, shyly, and Chrono only felt warmer. "All day I'd been... dying to just talk to you." Chrono fidgeted with the cord, rolling it between his fingers. "I called as soon as I was able to close the door behind me."

"Yeah I… I was waiting for you, too." It had been harder and harder to focus on his readings as the night had progressed.

"I hope you don't mind me keeping you up." Ibuki said and Chrono thought of his lecture tomorrow morning.

"Not at all…" He said, earnestly.

Chrono heard him sit back down on the bed. "I brought it in the end." He mumbled, sighing.

"So…?" Chrono swallowed. He'd figured.

"I don't like… traveling with something like this."

"I get you." Chrono reassured him.

"But I thought I'd regret it if I didn't." Ibuki had let him in on his worries however reluctantly. Chrono hadn't known quite how to encourage him. Right now though, he was less relieved and more on edge to learn he'd decided to go along with bringing a toy in the end.

"Yeah…" Chrono said shallowly. His imagination was already leaping ahead.

"I made sure to… really hide it." Ibuki sounded troubled.

"Good idea..." Chrono wasn't sure if he would've had the guts to do something like that himself. A sex toy on a work trip felt like it would be a spell for a disaster. Naturally, he hadn't told Ibuki that.

"And, I thought… I would have to check a bag, either way." Ibuki mumbled under his breath, awkwardly. Chrono heard faint scraping on the textured outer fabric of a suitcase. There was a faint thump. Ibuki was done looking for what he needed and Chrono anxiously drew his hand over his chest. "How are you feeling?"

Ibuki could tell that he was nervous. "I'm okay. I'm… okay." He wanted to do nothing but embrace his excitement and try and leave all that nervosity behind. It was his first time doing something like this, too.

"I'm ready."

"Yeah, I…" Chrono felt his chest constrict. He had to fortify himself.

Faintly, softly, he heard the covers once more. "Hold on. I'm going to… dim the lights a bit."

"Right."

"Would you… start? It would really help me get hard again."

Chrono had assumed Ibuki would be the one to start. He'd been holding on for it, hoping it would be the thing that would push him over the edge. His head emptying of thoughts, with how terribly flattered and nervous he was, Chrono wanted nothing more than to fulfill Ibuki's request. "Sure." He said, feeling like his head would float away. Normally, he would find his will with the desire to fulfill Ibuki's needs. It was harder to play that role naturally when they weren't face to face, but he knew he could do it. He just had to try.

On his back, phone in hand, clutched to his chest, Chrono drew it higher up towards his chin. In the long, passing minutes he'd become strangely complacent. He rolled over to his side and again he folded his other hand in between his thighs. A firm and slow rub left him tensing, a single exhale held back and silently crushed in his throat. He knew there was no point in it if Ibuki couldn't hear him. He would just have to make himself. Grabbing what he could of his hard erection through his pants, tightly, squeezing, he made himself groan quietly. "You've started."

"Yeah, I…" Chrono spoke without thinking, his voice coming out suddenly, breathily. "Through my pants, for now."

"Have you been… hard this whole time?" Ibuki asked him, quietly and withdrawn, making Chrono's head spin.

"Yeah, I have." He admitted, for it was simply the truth. His voice came out weak and afflicted. He'd been here before, on his own. The memories were closing in on him, but he only wanted to push forward. "I don't know if you can hear it, but…" He stroked himself harder, trying to make up for the indirect touch with force and speed.

"I can hear it." Ibuki said, quietly and assuredly. His voice was warm and pouring. Chrono let out a shallow breath. He moved faster, making the rustle louder. The embarrassment cut into him rawly, but if Ibuki enjoyed it he saw no reason to stop. Ibuki was depending on him, after all. "I like it."

Chrono wouldn't break under pressure, and past the initial rush he knew he would be able to simply let go. The tension in his loin was releasing with his defined and rushed strokes, his thoughts thinning. "How are you… doing?" He asked, his voice coming out thoughtlessly but curiously. He couldn't get caught up in himself for long.

"I'm fingering myself." Was the reply he got, on a firm but quiet whisper.

Chrono felt the blood rushing to his head. He was losing track of his thoughts faster than he'd expected. "How's it… feel?"

"Good." Ibuki confirmed. "Better than I thought…"

Chrono tried to control his breathing. He wanted Ibuki to do more, tell him more, but he knew he had to take the lead with how much Ibuki had already given him. He started unbuttoning his pants, letting his phone lie unattended on the bed next to him. "I'm gonna take 'em off now." He admitted, frankly, dizzily. The zipper came down and he let his pants slide down just a bit before he let his hand slide down against his skin. Chrono exhaled hotly, faintly groaning before he could stop himself, his thoughts freezing and his body initially overwhelmed by his own touch. It was easy, really, for him to imagine Ibuki right now. His legs spread, the hotel bathrobe peeling off his body. "Are you gonna… put it in?" He asked, stroking himself with a strengthened restraint that stole most of his concentration away.

"Send me a picture." Ibuki said and Chrono had sense and sanity knocked back into him instantly.

"A—"

"Would you?" Ibuki asked, and he'd grown uncertain but no less in need.

"I…" Chrono's hand laid limply and powerlessly on his hard dick. "A picture." He confirmed to himself, mumbling. "O-okay."

Ibuki exhaled with a breathy moan. Chrono could hear him now. He was no longer fingering himself. He was going slow, but deep; that was what Chrono's imagination was telling him as it filled in the gaps, reading the desperate and deep breaths he could hear on the other end. He fumbled with his phone. "If you… don't want to then," Ibuki had paused, reluctant to retract his request.

"No. No… I'll send one…" Chrono insisted, mumbling. "I just need to…"

He'd never had phone sex before, and he'd never sent pictures either. He had been sent them once or twice—by exes of his—but he hadn't had the courage or confidence in him to send any back. Now, he had to rise to the occasion. He wanted to, something which in and of itself was new to him. While listening to Ibuki, the distinct sound of his repeated moaning breaths and the vibrant images it brought to his mind, Chrono tried to navigate his phone, biting down on his tongue. When the camera application opened, it was pitch black.

The room was not without light, but it took his camera a moment to notice and adjust. His arousal wouldn't take the edge off. Seeing himself through the grainy picture displayed on the screen, Chrono felt dizzily and painfully hyperaware. He couldn't delve on it. It was excruciatingly embarrassing and unbearably exciting, but he just had to do it. Holding his breath he steadied his hand but before he could press the shutter a message annotation came on screen, and then another. I'm back home! Are you still up? Still studying hard? Remember to take breaks, too!

Chrono couldn't push them off his screen fast enough, his breath crushed in his chest. "Chrono?" Ibuki asked him, panting, confused, impatient.

"Sorry, I'm… just about to send it…" Chrono reassured him, stressed. Any more distractions deflating his high and he would go soft. That wouldn't make for a very flattering picture. With one hand on his phone and the other offering some support, the shutter went off, the sound of it the final confirmation of the boundaries he was tearing down, all for Ibuki's sake. Chrono double and triple checked he had the right chat before sending; Tokoha's message had yet again sent the group chat with her and Shion to the top. As the image started loading into the chat, Chrono excited the application. "There." He mumbled.

Ibuki exhaled, having barely broken his rhythm. Chrono heard his phone buzz. "Oh… I… I got it." Chrono hadn't prepared himself for this part yet. He started moving his hand again, slowly, his heart pounding, desperate to lose himself to the arousal again. Ibuki groaned, and post the initial gasp that left him his breathing became more defined, reaching deeper into his lungs. "You always get hard so fast…"

"So… so do you." Chrono mumbled in reply. Ibuki's observation was not incorrect; he was indeed very good at turning him on, but Chrono still took issue. "You're usually… faster than me…"

"You grow quite a lot, don't you?" Ibuki asked, a spoken observation that made Chrono's whole body tense, his jaw locking in place painfully, his face burning. He couldn't honor that with an answer whether he wanted to or not. His fluttering heart nor his freezing mind wouldn't let him. "I… want you to give it to me…"

Closing his eyes shut tight, Chrono let the hand gripping his phone fall down to his side. "I wanna give it to you, too."

"How?" Ibuki asked him airily.

"I'd…" Chrono knew how, he knew instinctively and without a doubt. He still struggled to word it. "I'd give it to you slowly, at first."

"You always do." Ibuki confirmed breathily.

"Then I'd… I'd," no matter how he tried to phrase it he felt like he couldn't do his feelings justice. "I'd just feel you. Close to me. As close as I can. Until I can't bear it anymore."

"How do you want me?" Ibuki asked, and Chrono started dreaming of that too, things he'd yet to address. "On my knees? Or on my back?"

Chrono rubbed himself harder. There was no point in dragging this out anymore. He would hit his breaking point sooner or later but while Ibuki rendered him incoherent he'd rather try and enjoy it as much as he could, savor it as much as possible. "On… on your knees." He admitted, breathily, as if it were a great burden. "I'd really like you… on your knees." The line of Ibuki's back, the way his hair fell forward off his shoulders, and the way his legs bent under him to show off the curve of his calves; it was an image engraved in his mind, familiar, intimate, and precious.

"You've never told me that before." Ibuki's burdened, deep voice was thick with arousal. Chrono could hear him moving, the sound of the bed under him and the covers around him, how his hip moved, loins and hands working hard. The sound carried many memories. Memories of Ibuki's scent, of the heat of his body, of the burning sensation in his muscles as he pushed and pushed, of the rewarding gratification at the end and beyond, of Ibuki's gentle embrace and comforting kisses.

"Well, I… I like, I like both." It was the truth if anything. "It's just so easy. To make you feel good and give it to you the way I want…" Ibuki sighed longingly, his breath hitching and with perfect timing Chrono jerked his hand to the sound of Ibuki's thrusting body, once, twice, the sensations brimming, before they lost the rhythm again. "And, and I like… your-your body. From behind."

"I have a flat ass." Ibuki admitted, a strange, brazen confession, an equally strange but contagious smile audible in his voice.

"S-so?" Chrono's voice trembled. "I still like it..." He did. He did like it.

Ibuki inhaled sharply. "You know I like when… you don't hold back."

He'd picked up on that. "Y-yeah, I…"

"I don't… want you to hold back now, either." Ibuki's words came out strained, strained by fatigue, frustration and pleasure. Gripping himself tight, Chrono rubbed himself faster, faster to match the sound of Ibuki's rapidly moving body.

"Right." He said, feeling Ibuki rub off on him more and more. "Can you… hear that?"

"I can. I can," Ibuki gasped. "Talk to me. Tell me, tell me how you'd…"

"I just wanna please you. Give it to you the way you want." Chrono admitted, his heart burning and his feelings coming out rawly. "And, and I know… you want it hard. And fast. That you want… all I can give. Roughly. Messily."

Ibuki gasped again, and again. He groaned. "I'm close, again." He got out, weakly, on a moan.

Chrono felt his head spinning. "Y-you're gonna make me close, saying that…"

"Chrono, I'm close."

"It's really cute how loud you get. And I can't get enough of that." Chrono let the words come out thoughtlessly. He heard Ibuki whimper and his heart felt like it would burst from satisfaction and joy. He was close now too, he was really close. "Yeah, just like… that."

"I'm coming," Ibuki admitted, weakly, his voice shaking. The bed was shaking under him, too; the rapid rustling and speaking layering under his breathy voice. "I'm coming, Chrono," growing bolder and increasingly confident, he said it again and again. Chrono felt it, too. He felt it coursing, coming, rising. He was just a few seconds behind. Short, fast and shallow breaths left him, and as he could taste his climax coming, the sensation wiped out his thoughts, replacing them with nothing but raw longing, yearning, the pleasure letting him forget for a moment that he was in fact not in Ibuki's embrace. Ibuki moaned, gasping and Chrono heard the sound, feeling it like a sensation in his gut. Breathlessly, he cried out, weakly, and Chrono heard the stunted sound of the final deep thrust into his tense body. Then, he was coming, too.

"I'm, I'm coming," his voice was just a low, rough, desperate whisper.

"Are you?" Ibuki asked him, wondrous, trying to catch his breath.

"Yeah—" Chrono replied and as the single syllable left him it was already too late. His voice died, only the sound of his jerking hand audible in the silence, his muscles constricting as he peaked, his climax passing through him, the memory of Ibuki's body so close he could feel it along the raw, rippling pleasure. On the other side, he gasped loudly, roughly, finally relaxing all at once. He tried to breathe, only now realizing how carried away he'd become. Chrono's other hand went back to his face. His shirt had ridden up on his belly, and he'd stained it with his carelessness, ejaculating thoughtlessly.

"You came." Ibuki said to him quietly and Chrono's face was burning again. He was once more in his room, on his bed, the door half open and the walls spreading out around him. He heard a distant beeping. The dishwasher had finished its cycle.

"Yeah, I… yeah." Chrono replied weakly. He laid limply in place; he didn't want to move. "So… so did you, huh?" He'd heard it. It had been seconds ago and yet remembering it made him blush.

"I did." Ibuki said, relieved. He was moving, slowly. "It was good. Really good."

"Yeah I… really enjoyed it too." Chrono said, trying to remain as bold as he preferred to see himself. "It was different but… I really liked it. Doing it like this, with you."

"It was your idea…" Ibuki sounded faintly surprised, if not charmed.

"I know…" Chrono had only been thinking of wanting to do the right thing for Ibuki. "I guess I just enjoyed it even more than I thought I would…"

"I couldn't compare it to doing it on my own." Ibuki said to him warmly.

"Yeah, I… it was like that for me, too." Chrono missed Ibuki more than before. He just wanted to hold him like he always would, after sex. "Though, right now… I really wanna cuddle."

"Yes…" He heard Ibuki smiling. "Me too. I miss you."

"Yeah... I miss you too." He replied, sighing. It was bittersweet. To share all this with Ibuki, and yet be unable to hold him. Chrono knew he needed to get up though he didn't want to. He just wanted to lie here and stew in his feelings. He suspected Ibuki wrestled with similar feelings as he heard him sigh. "How do you feel? Any better?"

"Oh. Yes…" He sounded relieved. "I feel a lot better."

"I-It's still pretty amazing to me. That you can do that." Chrono blurted out.

"Well…" Ibuki's voice diminished, making it barely audible.

"It's really hot." Chrono whispered to him. He had to say it, as hard as it was for him, he needed to let him know. The way Ibuki would come for him not just once, but twice, fueled his imagination and warmed his heart like little else.

"Thank you for… talking me through it." Ibuki replied humbly.

"It… it was… tougher than I thought it'd be but… I also really liked it, so…" He struggled to get his feelings across. "You're welcome."

Ibuki sighed. "I… need to wind down."

"Yeah. Me too…" Chrono had to get up. He needed to go to the bathroom to get ready for bed. That he hadn't prepared a towel or tissue despite the long wait sure made him feel stupid. His eyelids felt heavy despite how his heart was beating. The rain was still hitting the window, the ambient sound once more fading into his senses. In the kitchen, the dishwasher beeped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chrono washed his hands and his face. His phone sat in his back pocket. The contents of the bathroom cabinet scrambled as he opened the door. "We're going back to the show floor tomorrow. It's the last day, finally."

Chrono located his toothbrush. "Did you see anything fun?"

"New versions of the virtual reality system. It's a marginal improvement if you ask me. Not worth the cost of a complete overhaul…"

"What's the difference?"

"It can render higher resolutions, and there's some software optimizations. It runs smoother and performs better. I'm sure if you used it for a while and went back to the older version you'd be able to tell, but it's not exactly glaringly obvious."

"So nothing super substantial." Chrono put the toothpaste on the brush and doused it under the running water.

"No. They expect us to invest but it'll be a no from us."

"Anything else?"

"I really liked the new software update to the fight tables. Interface is more accessible, improved loading times too. And they have added set-up features that let you load and save game states and modes."

"Huh. Really?" Chrono was intrigued. "That sounds useful. They should've added that since the start."

"Yeah. I agree." Ibuki smiled. "Hard to say how usable it'll be in a public area… but say for events with special rule sets…"

"It would be perfect…" Chrono said, his thoughts floating away as he slowly inserted his toothbrush into his mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chrono turned the lights off at his desk, once more remembering that he had an early morning tomorrow. He yawned, trying to suppress the stress he felt rising from his gut. "Are you tired?" Ibuki asked him.

"Yeah, I'm pretty exhausted. I've been up since early this morning…"

"Yeah… me too."

Chrono got undressed like Ibuki had before but without the tension. Under the covers his bed was still faintly warm where he'd laid before. Chrono went to set his alarm and turn off do not disturb mode. Realization hit him like a stab in the gut as he remembered. "Uh, about the picture I sent you…" Chrono mumbled.

"...Yes?" Ibuki sounded painfully detached.

"You're… not gonna keep it, are you?"

The prolonged silence before the reply gave Chrono a decent hint of what he might say. "Why not?"

"If… if someone sees it…"

"No one is going to see it." Ibuki reassured him. "Except me." Chrono sighed, at unrest. "I'll put it away in a special folder. Make it hard to find. Alright?" Ibuki reasoned with him calmly. Chrono could feel his heart beating again. He pulled the covers up past his chin.

"Sure. Okay." He mumbled.

"If you want me to delete it, I will." Ibuki reassured him.

"No. It's okay." Chrono held his phone tightly in his hand. "As long as… you're the only one looking at it, I don't mind."

"You meant it to be for my eyes only. I wouldn't let anyone else see it." Ibuki said and Chrono pulled his covers up even higher, past the tip of his nose. "I promise."

Ibuki was good at keeping his promises. "Yeah." Chrono replied quietly.

"Thank you."

"Do you feel like you're gonna be able to sleep okay?"

"I'm exhausted." He heard Ibuki smiling. "And yes, I think so..."

"We'll talk again tomorrow."

"Yes…" Ibuki replied weakly. "I'll be back home by the weekend. Friday night."

"What time? I'll wait for you." Chrono said. "If you don't mind me letting myself in your apartment..."

"Should be around nine or ten."

"What would you like to eat? Anything in particular?"

"Oh, I… don't know…" Ibuki mumbled, his voice growing fainter. "You pick something."

"Alright," Chrono sighed. "I will."

"And, do feel free to let yourself in." It'd been a few weeks now, since the number of keys on Chrono's keyring had increased.

"Yeah." They'd spoken for so long and yet it didn't quite feel like long enough. Chrono heard Ibuki's sleepy voice diminishing in strength, and he figured that though he rather not, it was about time they hung up. "Good night. Sleep well, okay?"

"Good night." Ibuki's voice was faint. "I'll… talk to you soon."

"Yeah. Rest now. Don't wear yourself out, okay?"

"I'll rest this weekend."

"Yeah, yeah. I'll make sure you do." Chrono smiled to himself. "And let me know if there's anything in particular you wanna eat, alright?"

"I will… if I think of something." A brief pause, before Ibuki's thoughtful voice faded in again. "I've eaten… so much restaurant food. So much grease."

"You want something a bit lighter, huh?"

"Yes…"

"I'll look into it, okay?" Chrono would give it some thought tomorrow, once he'd slept and recovered. "Sleep now. Good night."

"Yes. Good night, Chrono. Good night… and, it was really good… talking to you."

"Yeah. Good night." Chrono's face was pleasantly warm.

"We'll... speak tomorrow."

"Yes. Bye now."

The call ended. The room felt large, dark and quiet as Chrono laid alone in his bed listening to the rain. He folded his phone screen down against the mattress and within seconds it went dark. He braced for another moment, letting the dark room soothe him before he folded it back up. The brightness of the screen hurt his eyes as it lit up once more. Chrono squinted, hesitating one final time before he opened his camera roll, holding his breath. He opened his all-revealing picture, marked it, and deleted it. He exhaled in relief, plugging in the charger and setting his phone down next to his pillow before he laid his head down. Closing his eyes, Chrono settled, mind and body relaxing. Sleep wouldn't come, not for another while, but he was too tired to feel anything but calm and joyous, the final prickles of doubt and embarrassment fading away.