The tang of gunpowder filled the air, mixing somehow with the unrelenting, rhythmic noise of the gunshots that seemed to fill the world. Ryou's attention narrowed down to a single point: the target down at the far end of the firing range.
No, not just the target, but the little centre circle, which was slowly becoming pockmarked with little holes.
He freed a hand for a moment, pushing his glasses up. The room was warm and close, the ventilation not quite sufficient, and he was beginning to sweat.
Finally his gun clicked empty and he lowered it, ejecting the chamber to reload from the box he had placed next to him. The silence, in such contrast to the cacophony of a moment before, seemed to chime, even though he was wearing ear protection.
The door opened and closed, and Ryou looked up. Silver hair glinted under the harsh halogen lights, and Akihiko glanced at him with a smile. Though Ryou shouldn't have been here at all, Akihiko didn't look surprised to find him here.
"What are you doing here, Ryou?" Akihiko's voice sounded muffled, like he was a long way off.
Ryou pulled off the ear protection and shrugged, setting the gun down and running a hand through his hair to tame it. "Practicing, what else?" he said. "I know it's after hours."
"Well, if the new police chief can't go to the range after hours, who can?" Akihiko said, his lips quirking wryly, and he stuck out a hand, western-style. "Congratulations, by the way. I heard about the promotion almost as soon as it was given, I think."
"Word travels fast," Ryou said, taking Akihiko's hand. The promotion had only come through today. Leather gloves stuck to his sweaty hand, and he wondered not for the first time why Akihiko always wore the damn things.
He didn't smile.
"It'll help," Akihiko said quietly, averting his gaze.
"I know," Ryou said. Their hands were still entwined, and Akihiko then shifted them so their fingers laced together. A more intimate hold, and one that Ryou didn't fight, though his eyes lifted automatically to one of the security cameras that kept close watch on the firing range.
"Don't worry," Akihiko said, following his gaze with his eyes. "I'll have the tape altered before I go."
Ryou shook his head. "Who have we become?" he asked wryly, as Akihiko shifted and pinned him gently against the partition between this gallery and the next. He leaned his head back against the wall, and the other man pressed lips to his exposed throat.
"We're still the same people we always were," Akihiko said softly, between open-mouthed kisses. Hands fumbled with fabric and belts clinked.
"How did you deal with this, when you were a kid?" Ryou asked. Heated flesh hardened in his hand.
Akihiko paused, then shook his head. "It was the links," he said. "We were together. Somehow, that made us stronger."
Ryou opened his eyes and found Akihiko looking at him, a smile on his face.
"I'm not very good with links," Ryou said wryly, then gasped as hot leather rubbed over sensitive skin. "I...I've broken them all. I haven't even seen my brothers in eight years. My parents are dead. I have no friends."
"You have friends," Akihiko corrected him, dropping to his knees.
Ryou groped for something that would steady him, gasping and groaning. "E-Eiko doesn't know anything. It doesn't really count."
"Asshole," Akihiko freed his mouth long enough to mutter. "And what am I, chopped liver?"
His cheeks heating, Ryou combed fingers through Akihiko's hair. "Well I... You're leaving again, aren't you? You've got that government job."
Akihiko nodded around the obstruction in his mouth. His gloved hands were running up and down Ryou's thighs, squeezing through the uniform. Ryou's breathing was coming faster and faster, and his fingers couldn't get enough purchase in Akihiko's close-cropped hair.
He reached for something to anchor himself and encountered the cool metal of the gun he'd set down earlier. He flinched away from the weapon, and grabbed the edge of the counter instead, clinging as he jerked and spasmed with his climax.
Akihiko got to his feet, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. In a moment they were kissing roughly, all teeth and tongue and desperation at the thought of long separation. Ryou's hand slid into Akihiko's pants and pulled at his cock, masturbating him with a harsh rhythm and firm grip.
Finally they came up for air, and they leaned their foreheads against one another, both of them blowing like racehorses. Akihiko's cheeks were flushed and his hips moved forward with little jerks, soft moans and whimpers issuing from his throat.
"I...I'll call," Akihiko gasped. "You won't be alone...Ryou..."
Ryou pushed him against the far partition and dropped to his knees, taking the other man into his mouth and letting his cheeks hollow out as he sucked. He didn't want to talk about it. The responsibility was settling onto his shoulders alone, and he could feel the weight of it growing heavier each day.
Oh sure, he knew Akihiko would be there, supporting him in the shadows. He knew that his friend would be doing all he could, and that his own part in the game they were playing was just as vital. But it would be Ryou who was in the open. He was the one who would hang, twisting, if things went horribly wrong.
It was a role he'd chosen for himself. But he hadn't expected it to feel so...cold.
There was a rush of salty fluid and a sharp pain as Akihiko's fingers twisted in his hair. His was long enough to get a grip on, but he didn't mind. Not when he could hear that cry bubbling up in his friend's throat.
He stood, tucking himself away and tugging on his own clothing to try to straighten it out, but Akihiko grabbed him by the lapels and dragged him in for another kiss, messing up his uniform again.
Ryou kissed back with equal desperation.
Finally the heat of their kisses cooled and they both left off with soft sighs. Ryou straightened up, trying once again to fix his clothes. Akihiko tucked himself away as well, tugging on the hem of his shirt and tucking it in properly again.
Neither of them looked at one another. Staving off the end.
Somehow Ryou had the horrible feeling that if they said goodbye now, he was never going to see Akihiko again. But he knew it was just paranoia.
"I'll call," Akihiko said again, looking up at Ryou and smiling distractedly. "I've gotta go now, but I just wanted to say goodbye before I left."
There it was. The word Ryou had been dreading.
"I'll be here," Ryou said softly. "Goodbye."
The door banged as it closed, and then he was alone.