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Start with a Kiss

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When Sho arrives early on Saturday, two of the ryokan staff are waiting for him in the main entryway with smiles and a handful of brochures on the local attractions. The woman in the red yukata bows deeply and says, "Welcome, Sakurai-san."

He bows in return, eager to find his room and set his bags down but not wanting to be impolite. "Thank you. You must be Fukada-san." He'd spoken to her on the phone several times when he was arranging the trip.

"Yes, indeed, and this is Ishihara," she says, gesturing to the other woman.

Ishihara, in her floral pink yukata, flashes a smile and bows. "We hope you enjoy your stay."

"Thank you," he says, bowing to her, and then bowing again, deeply, to both of them. "Please take care of me."

They show him to his room so he can deposit his bags, and then they give him a brief tour of the premises: there's the entryway and reception area that opens into a main room filled with couches and plush-looking armchairs, where guests can co-mingle; a shared dining area with several long, low tables surrounded by cushions, and a short hallway leading to the staff-only kitchen, where Sho can hear someone washing dishes; a sliding door that leads out into a shaded, sweet-smelling garden, beyond which flows a stream that Fukada-san says makes an excellent fishing spot; and a communal bathing area set off from the garden.

As they're heading inside, Fukada-san says, "Dinner is served at seven, but if you would like it earlier or later, please let us know in advance so that we can make sure it's fresh for you. You can take it in your room or in the dining area."

"In my room will be fine, thank you." He thinks about the reason he's here and forces a smile. "At least for tonight."

Fukada-san smiles back, a knowing look showing in her eyes. "Of course."

They leave him so they can attend to their work, and Sho wanders towards the main room, wanting to browse through all the pamphlets they gave him. But when he gets there, another guest is now lounging on one of the couches -- a small-framed man with a somewhat boyish face, dressed in a pale yellow yukata and standard guest slippers, completely absorbed in a volume of manga. Sho pauses in the doorway, unsure of whether or not he should introduce himself. It's the polite thing to do, but the stranger hasn't even looked up from his book.

After a moment of deliberation, he takes a seat in one of the armchairs, but he hasn't even made it through the first pamphlet when the stranger speaks.

"You're actually reading that stuff?"

Sho looks up, startled. From this angle, the stranger's face is mostly covered by the book, but the crinkles at the corners of his eyes make it look like he's laughing. Sho clears his throat and says, "I like sightseeing."

"Sightseeing, huh?" The stranger lowers his book, and, sure enough, his mouth is quirked into a smile. "You picked an interesting place to stay if sightseeing is all you're interested in."

Sho feels his face go hot. "I didn't say that's all I'm interested in -- just -- while I'm here --"

"Sorry," the stranger says, laughing openly now. "I didn't mean anything by it. No judgment here. I'm Nino, by the way."

A nickname right off the bat, Sho thinks, but he doesn't comment on it. This guy is a piece of work. "Sakurai Sho."

Nino closes his book and sits up straight, leaning towards Sho like they're about to start whispering back and forth. "So, Sho-chan," he says, "what else are you interested in?"

If Sho's face felt hot before, now it's positively burning. He excuses himself hastily and retreats to his room, where he throws the pamphlets onto the low table against the wall and starts packing in an embarrassed haze. Is this what my whole vacation is going to be like? he wonders, stuffing his shirts into a drawer without his usual regard for organization. Nicknames and shameless flirting from people I just met? What the hell did Tsumabuki-kun talk me into?

When he'd originally started looking for places to take his well-earned vacation, an out-of-the-way "resthouse for bachelors" hadn't been anywhere on his list, but Tsumabuki-kun insisted over and over again that what Sho really needed in order to relax was some "personal attention," as he'd put it.

Don't worry so much, Tsumabuki-kun had told him. It's completely safe. Invitation-only, to protect their clientele. All you have to do is tell Fukakyon that you know me and she'll treat you like a king.

But it's so embarrassing, Sho had whined.

What's embarrassing about it? Everyone who's there will be there for the exact same reason as you.

So Sho had given in, because he really did need a vacation, and, truth be told, he really was in need of some "personal attention." He just hadn't expected it to be so...

He's not quite sure how to finish that thought, and he realizes that he didn't know what he'd been expecting at all. But he's already paid for the week, so he can't exactly turn back now, can he?

He sighs and steps back from the drawers so he can look around the room. There's the dresser, the table against the wall, a closet with a row of empty hangers as well as some yukata, and another closet for bedding. There's also a sliding door that opens onto a porch facing the garden, and another small table with an electric kettle, a basket with tea, and a package of rice crackers.

He makes some tea and goes to sit out on the porch, letting the fragrant steam and the quiet noise of nature soothe his frazzled nerves. There's a whole line of porches, one for each guest room; when he hears the door of the room next to his sliding open, he scurries back into his room, not yet ready to face another guest.

Being out in nature does feel nice, though, so he finishes his tea and digs his hiking boots out of an unpacked bag. He still has several hours of daylight, and the one brochure he managed to look at featured some promising-looking trails. That's what he needs, he decides, a chance to be alone and clear his head.

On his way out, he finds Nino still reading his manga in the main room. They lock eyes for an instant -- just long enough for Nino to wink at him over the edge of the book. Sho quickens his pace out the door.

Yes, he thinks. Being alone sounds good right about now.


When he returns from his hike, he's grateful to find the main room empty. He dumps his backpack and boots in his room, gathers a yukata from the closet, and heads out towards the bathhouse. He rinses off thoroughly in the shower area, washing away all the sweat and dirt from his hike, and as he slides open the door that leads to the bath, he finds himself holding his breath, not quite sure if he's hoping it'll be empty or not.

He's still a little nervous about the whole thing, but the hike helped relieve some of the jitters. He'd already made his decision before he even booked his room, and there's no reason to be shy about it now, especially after the conversation he had with Tsumabuki-kun in the middle of his hike, after he finally found a place with decent reception. Don't be such a baby, Tsumabuki-kun had scolded him. Just enjoy yourself!

I will, Sho had promised, and he repeats that promise to himself now. Whether there's another person in the bath or not, and no matter what happens over the next week, he will enjoy himself.

Well, he'll try, at the very least.

With that in mind, he thinks it must be a good thing that when he finally slides the door open, there is another guest in the bath. The man has his back to the door, but even from this angle, it doesn't look like Nino: his hair is short, cut close around the sides, and when he turns his head at the sound of the door, Sho catches a glimpse of dark, heavy eyebrows.

Sho wills himself to stay strong. He closes the door and walks over to the bath, debating for a moment before he finally settles for the corner across from this new stranger, who's watching him with open curiosity. Sho is racking his brain for a good icebreaker, but, thankfully, the stranger speaks first.

"You must be the new guest Ishihara-san was telling me about."

Sho is instantly drawn to the lush curve of his mouth as he speaks, but he blinks and tears his eyes back up to the man's eyes, hoping that if he's turning a bit red, the hot water will make a suitable excuse. "Ah, yes -- Sakurai Sho."

The man bows his head in greeting. "Matsumoto Jun. Nice to meet you, Sakurai-san."

Sho returns the gesture, grateful that this man, at least, isn't as forward as Nino. "Nice to meet you too."

Jun doesn't say anything after that, and Sho nervously tries to decide if he should let the silence go on or if the man is just waiting for him to start a conversation. What would he even say? Come here often? is absolutely out of the question, but it's also the only thing Sho can think of.

The silence must be welcome, though, because after a few moments Jun sighs contentedly and slips a little further into the water, closing his eyes and tilting his head back to rest against the edge of the bath. Sho finds himself distracted by the long incline of his neck, the broad line of his shoulders just above the water, the dark fan of his eyelashes...

Voices sound from inside the shower area, and Jun opens his eyes quick enough that he catches Sho staring. Sho looks away and keeps his gaze locked onto the door, willing his blush to die down, but out of the corner of his eye he sees the way Jun smirks.

They hear laughter and running water from the other side of the door, and then, a few minutes later, Nino emerges with another guest -- a tall, lanky man with a distinctive birthmark on his left shoulder.

Jun greets them with familiarity as they slip into the bath, Nino between Jun and Sho, the other man across from him. Jun says, "Have you guys met Sakurai-san?"

"We've met," Nino says, smirking. Jun glances between the two of them, but Sho doesn't have time to think about that before the other man is darting forward to take Sho's hand in greeting.

"I'm Aiba! Nice to meet you!"

Sho introduces himself politely, and then Aiba, Nino, and Jun start up a conversation about their plans for the following day. Sho sits there listening to them for a few minutes, but when Aiba asks him, "What about you, Sho-chan?", he excuses himself, saying he's tired from his hike and is going to lie down for a while before dinner.

It's not a lie, really, but the more honest truth is that even if Sho is committed to enjoying himself, enjoying himself with three other people at once is perhaps a bit much to start off with.

He has a fleeting, involuntary image of himself, on his hands and knees, with the three of them waiting patiently behind him, Jun at the front of the line.

He pushes that thought way, way down and shivers as he crosses the path from the bathhouse to the inn. He'll enjoy himself, he swears it. Just not tonight.


He pores through the pamphlets in his room until a knock on the door reminds him that it's dinner time. "Come in," he calls, expecting Fukada-san or Ishihara-san, but when the door slides open, he's greeted by an unfamiliar face.

"Dinner for Sakurai-san," this new man says, stepping in and sliding the door shut behind him before he carries a tray of food to the table. Sho joins him there and is delighted by what's laid out on the tray: steamed rice, grilled fish, pickled vegetables, chilled noodles, bowl after bowl of dishes he can't wait to put in his mouth.

"This looks amazing," he gushes, and the man dips his head to hide a shy smile.

"Thank you."

"You prepared it?"

The man nods. He's quiet, with sleepy eyes and mousy brown hair, and something about him makes Sho feel calm and welcome. He presses for more. "I didn't meet you earlier."

"I'm Ohno," he says simply. "Usually Satomi-chan brings the food, but I like to meet the new guests on their first night."

"Ah, I see."

Ohno continues, "Part of my job is making guests feel welcome."

He doesn't say it in a particularly suggestive manner, but there's suddenly something different about the way he's looking at Sho -- the way he's kneeling at the table after setting the food down, his fingers tracing along the edge of the tray...

He adds, "I can provide other services as well."

Sho blinks, feeling something in his stomach jump. He says without thinking, "That's your job?" He thinks, Isn't that illegal?

Ohno just smiles and says, "It's not part of my job description, no. But I like to volunteer."

Sho glances down at his hands again, at those long, graceful fingers, and then back up to the curve of Ohno's mouth. He stammers, "What, uh... what kinds of services?"

Ohno's smile widens, not shy at all anymore.

Maybe Sho will be enjoying himself tonight after all.


He sleeps in until Ishihara-san knocks on his door with breakfast. He eats and washes up, enjoys a cup of tea out on the porch, and then changes into some comfortable clothes and goes out for a walk along the stream past the garden. It's a warm, peaceful morning, and the leisurely stroll gives him plenty of time to think.

Spending the night with Ohno, so quietly confident and comfortingly unassuming, who has a talented mouth to match his talented hands, did a lot to make Sho feel more at ease. This might not be the most conventional vacation he's ever signed himself up for, sure, but now that he's made the first leap, he's fully prepared to get what he can out of it. Tsumabuki-kun was right; this will be good for him.

He circles around and takes a different path for his return to the inn, so that as he's finally walking up to the front steps, he's just in time to see a car pull up beside his in the parking area. It's Jun who steps out, looking stylish enough that Sho does a double-take, and then a triple-take when Jun walks around to the trunk and pulls out an armful of shopping bags.

Sho slows down so that they meet up on their way to the door. "Sakurai-san," Jun greets him, smiling and cordial, his eyebrows raised above his expensive-looking sunglasses.

"Matsumoto-san." Sho glances down at the shopping bags. "Doing some retail therapy?" There isn't a modern shopping area anywhere near here, he thinks, so Jun must have either driven a long time or bought all of that from local stores. He can't even imagine what kinds of things he could have filled so many bags with.

"Souvenirs," Jun says. He hefts the bags and laughs, "Mostly for family and friends. Plus some food. Some of these things can be pretty hard to find back in Tokyo. There's an amazing farmer's market a few kilometers west of here, if you're interested."

Sho smiles as he opens the front door, gesturing for Jun to go first. "I'm not much of a chef myself, but I'll keep it in mind."

They head into the main room, where Nino is slouching in the same spot as yesterday, this time with a different manga volume. He waves his hand in greeting without looking up, and they continue to their rooms together in silence. Sho's room is first, and as he reaches for the door, he realizes that Jun's is the room right next to his.

Jun slides his door open, but he stands there for a moment, his gaze drifting sideways to Sho's.

Sho shifts, feeling awkward and uncertain. "Well," he squeaks, then clears his throat and tries again. "See you later?"

Jun smiles. "Sure."

Jun steps into his room and slides the door closed, and Sho does the same, cursing himself for being so cowardly. He feels warm from his walk, and from the way he must certainly have turned red, so he washes his face and changes into a fresh yukata from the closet, and then he stands there in the middle of his room, unsure of what to do with himself. He can hear Jun moving around on the other side of the wall.

Impulsively, just to give himself something to do, he goes to the kettle and starts warming up some water for tea as he goes over his options. He feels like he should at least try to be social, since that's the point of being here and since he was so enthusiastic about it this morning. What he really wants to do is talk more with Jun, but he doesn't want to disturb him. Then he remembers Nino, out there by himself in the main room.

Looking back on their brief interactions so far, Sho realizes how rude he must seem. He decides to make it right, so once his tea is done, he takes his cup out into the main room, simultaneously grateful and nervous to see that Nino is still there. He wavers a moment, then sits on the other end of the couch.

He takes a few careful sips of his still-hot tea before Nino says, "Not avoiding me anymore?"

Sho winces. "I'm sorry. I was just... a little overwhelmed."

Nino closes his book and sets it aside. "That's all right. I suppose I came on a little strong. I didn't realize it was your first time here."

Sho blinks. "How do you know that?"

"Oh-chan told me."

"Oh-chan..." Sho thinks for a moment before it clicks. "Ah, you mean Ohno-san, the cook?"

"Yes," Nino says, not offering anything more. Sho wonders when they had a chance to talk -- then again, Ohno made it clear that the "service" he provided for Sho last night is something he does for all guests, and maybe for him and Nino, it wasn't just a first-night thing -- and why they were talking about him in the first place. He thinks about asking, but then Nino says, "Me and Aiba-chan are repeat customers. I guess I assumed you were too."

Before Sho can respond, Jun appears from the hallway, looking considerably less fashionable in his lavender-colored yukata, though no less handsome, Sho thinks. He smiles at them in greeting and sits on the couch across from them as Nino tells him, "I was just explaining to Sho-chan that you're a first-timer."

At Jun's startled expression, Sho adds, "I am too."

"Ah, that's good to know," Jun says, still sitting a bit stiffly but starting to loosen up. "It's nice not to be the only one still figuring things out."

Nino smirks, reaching once again for his manga. "You've been figuring things out just fine, Jun-kun."

They hear the front door opening and closing, and then Aiba walks in, a backpack slung over his shoulder and his hair tousled ridiculously. He sees the three of them sitting there and says, "Oh, hey guys!", veering off his path towards the bedrooms so he can come in and sit with them. He plops down beside Jun on the couch and huffs out, "I just had a great hike."

Sho perks up. "Oh, you hike?"

"Yeah! I found this awesome path this morning. I saw some deer, it was so cool!" As he's talking, Jun is picking twigs out of his hair with a disdainful expression. "I'm thinking of checking it out again tomorrow. You wanna come, Sho-chan?"

"Sure! I can bring my camera."


"Be careful with this idiot, Sho-chan," Nino says, smiling despite the barb. "I'm surprised he didn't get lost."

"He does look like he took quite a tumble, though," Jun says, having moved on to picking thorny stickers out of Aiba's shirt.

"I like to take the road less traveled," Aiba says, beaming.

Nino snorts. "Like I said. Be careful with this one."

Now with a handful of displaced plant matter, Jun stands up with a sigh and pulls Aiba along with him. "Let's go get you washed up, Aiba-san."

Aiba follows obediently with a husky laugh. "Okay, Jun-kun. See you guys later!"

Once they're gone, Sho looks back to Nino, who's once again reading his book. He thinks about leaving him alone, but then he remembers that Nino hasn't seemed upset about being interrupted so far, and besides, if he really wanted to be by himself, he could read in his room.

"Sorry again about before," he says.

Nino doesn't look up, but Sho can see from his eyes that he's smiling. "Don't worry about it."

"So... you said you and Aiba-san have been here before?"

"Yup. This is our third or fourth year, I think."

"Is that why you're in here reading all the time -- you've already seen all the sights?"

Nino chuckles, lowering his book. "I only go out to see the sights when Aiba-chan drags me along. This is supposed to be a vacation, right? Relaxing, staying in, being waited on... that all sounds like a perfect vacation to me."

Sho hadn't really thought of it that way; he's always been the type of person who feels most comfortable when he's busy, so for him, being on vacation just means that he's busy with things other than work. He likes Nino's perspective, though.

"Plus," Nino says, suddenly holding Sho's gaze with a hot, unwavering stare, a lascivious quirk pulling at the corners of his mouth, "This place has its own special perks."

Sho gulps and says nothing.


He enters the bathhouse that night hoping to see Jun again, but this time it's Nino he finds. He raises a hand in greeting as Sho sinks into the water and leans against the wall across from him, so they're facing each other. Sho didn't notice it last night, but now he sees how striking Nino's collarbones are.

No matter how open Nino is about why he's here, and no matter how much Sho would like to take him up on his implied offers, he still feels nervous about the thought of just jumping into it. He clears his throat and throws out the first bit of small talk that pops into his head. "Nice night for a warm bath."

Nino makes a wordless sound of agreement.

"Too bad the others are missing it."

At that, Nino smirks. "Depends on who you ask. I believe they're in Aiba-chan's room right now."

That stops Sho in his tracks. The thought of Jun and Aiba together makes him go hot all over. He feels... not jealous, exactly -- that sounds too possessive -- but perhaps envious.

He doesn't have to think about it for too long, though. Suddenly Nino is moving through the water, crossing the short space between them, until he's close enough that Sho can hear clearly when he whispers, "Don't worry. You don't have to be alone tonight."

It's a line, but it works. Sho leans into the kiss when he sees it coming, and the sensation of Nino's tongue on his, Nino's fingers curling around his damp shoulders, banishes all thoughts of Jun and Aiba from Sho's mind. He doesn't even realize Nino is reaching behind him to grasp the edges of the bath until he's hoisting himself into Sho's lap, never pulling his mouth from Sho's even as he moves.

Sho pulls back to gasp, "We can't do this here."

Nino just starts kissing his jaw, completely unperturbed. "No one will mind if they see us like this."

"No, but I'm sure they'll mind if we jizz in the communal bath."

Nino barks out a laugh that shows off his gums and the crinkles around his eyes. "Sho-chan, that's the best thing you've said since you got here!"

They dry off and change back into their yukata before heading to Nino's room. Nino doesn't even turn on the lights, just tugs Sho inside and then pushes him down onto the futon, sinking down on top of him with a playful look in his eyes that Sho can see even in the dark. He leans down to kiss Sho's mouth, then his neck, then his chest where he's already pushed away the folds of Sho's yukata. "Where were we?"

Sho has always been very good at picking up where he left off.


The next morning, he and Aiba leave for their hike soon after breakfast. It really is off the beaten path; they make their way up a steep hill and through a dense patch of trees, snagging their clothes on twigs at every turn and almost tripping over fallen branches what seems like every few steps. It's no wonder Aiba showed up looking the way he did yesterday.

After forty-five minutes, Sho leans against a tree to catch his breath and pants at Aiba, "I need a break."

Aiba turns back to look at him, a bright grin on his face, and comes back around to sit on a mossy log. "Sure! Just let me know when you're ready." He pulls a water bottle out of his bag and starts drinking.

Sho sits beside him and does the same, going through nearly half the bottle in one go. "This is a little more intense than I anticipated," he admits.

"We can turn back if you want," Aiba says.

There isn't even a hint of condescension in his voice, which Sho appreciates, but he still waves off that idea. "No, no, I'm fine. Just... you're sure we won't get lost, right?"

Aiba laughs as he screws the cap back onto his bottle. "Don't listen to Nino. I do this kind of stuff a lot, and I've only ever gotten lost once -- but that was years ago, I swear! Besides, if we do get lost, it wouldn't be so bad. We could live off of berries and make a house out of mud."

Sho laughs, delighted by the image. "I'll stick to the inn."

Aiba laughs along with him in his husky, bubbly way. "Suit yourself!"

When they get back on their feet, Aiba says, "Speaking of Nino, I hear you two had fun last night."

Sho balks at those words. "Does everyone here talk to everyone else about everything?"

Aiba looks back at him, a bit sheepish. "Sorry." He sounds genuinely apologetic, but also amused. "It's not really everyone, just Nino. He's pretty talkative. I don't mind though! We're all here together, aren't we?"

Even if it is a little embarrassing, Sho can't help but smile in the face of Aiba's cheerfulness. "I suppose we are."

After another half hour, this time downhill, they finally arrive to a large clearing that's cut in half by what Aiba claims is the same stream that runs behind the inn. Patchy sunlight is filtering in through the treetops, making it look like an illustration out of a storybook. "This is where I saw the deer yesterday," Aiba says, folding his legs to sit down in the leaves beside the stream. "They were so cute!"

Sho doesn't dare say it, afraid it would come off as childish, but he can't help but think, You're pretty cute yourself.

As they sit in comfortable silence, Aiba starts absentmindedly scratching as his arm. The scratching continues, and his face takes on a concerned expression as he twists his neck to try and look at the spot that's itching. "Sho-chan," he says worriedly, "I think I might have brushed up against some poison ivy or something!"

Sho jumps up from his spot on the ground. "What -- let me see --"

He kneels beside Aiba and carefully pulls up the sleeve of his T-shirt, looking for a rash. Instead, he finds one little red bump. "Aiba-chan, I think it's just a bug bite."

"Oops," Aiba laughs, turning in Sho's direction and smiling with his whole face. "I did go for a walk last night. Must have been a mosquito."

With someone else, Sho might be irritated at an overreaction like that, but right now he's just relieved, and also, suddenly, distinctly aware of how close they are. They're both laughing, and a little breathless, and when Aiba leans in for a kiss, Sho doesn't even consider the possibility of turning away. They tumble down onto the leaves and make out beside the river, warmed by the sun and each other's skin. If any deer pass by, neither of them notices.

Sho likes to think of himself as the type of person who is always well-equipped for a task, but he's never in his life thought to include "condoms and lube" on his list of hiking essentials. Fortunately, Aiba is better prepared than he.


On their way back, Aiba informs Sho that this is his and Nino's last day at the inn since they're leaving first thing in the morning. That night, all four of them take their dinner in the communal dining area, and this time Ohno and Ishihara-san and Fukada-san join them, with plentiful mugs of beer and sweet mochi for dessert.

Sho has a wonderful time, and he goes to bed feeling full and happy, and, somewhere underneath that, a little sad. Once he got over his initial nervousness, he grew to enjoy Nino and Aiba's company, and now they're already leaving, and his own time here is almost up. The day after tomorrow, he'll be returning to his hectic job in Tokyo, and thinking about all of that is a little disheartening.

He knows he might not have regretted it if he'd left, but he's glad he stayed. And as he hears the sounds of movement from the room beside his, he vows to make the most of the time he has left here.


Nino and Aiba leave right after breakfast, and once they're gone, the inn feels like a completely different place. He still hears Fukada-san and Ishihara-san attending to their tasks, still hears Ohno humming to himself in the kitchen, but it's not the same without Aiba's exuberant presence or Nino's constant reading in the main room. Everything seems, somehow, like it's standing still.

He decides to take a bath, to help clear his mind and relax his muscles. He's enjoyed his hikes, but his body is used to spending most of its time in an office chair, and yesterday's hike with Aiba may have pushed him past his limits. The hot water feels blissful, and he stays there a bit longer than he really should, so that his fingers and toes are pale and pruny when he finally climbs out to dry off. He goes to his room and prepares a cup of tea, and on impulse, he decides to take it outside and stroll through the garden. It must be at least an hour that he's out there, walking along the path of the stream, going slow, appreciating the sights and sounds that will become rare once he returns to Tokyo.

When he finally heads back towards the porch outside his room, he finds something else he won't see back home: Jun, sitting out on his own porch, sipping from a cup of tea as he stares thoughtfully out into the garden.

Sho walks up and happily returns the smile Jun gives him. "Mind if I join you?"

Jun scoots over to make room. "Please." He gestures down to a small plate filled with rice crackers and says, "Help yourself. Oh, I can make you some tea if you'd like --"

"No, no, don't get up." He reaches for a cracker, smiling. "This will be fine. Thank you."

Jun was already halfway up, but now he sits back down, holding his tea cup with both hands as if he's using it for warmth. "I was just appreciating the view."

"Mm. It certainly is beautiful."

"I'll really miss it," Jun says. He's looking down into his cup now, his eyebrows drawn low. His mouth is turned down around the corners, looking just a touch more sad than thoughtful. Sho hasn't seen him make that face before, and seeing it now makes him want to reach out.

Instead he says, "Something on your mind?"

Jun glances at him, then back down into his tea. "It's nothing," he says, quiet. Sho doesn't press, but after a few moments of silence, Jun speaks up again. "It's just... I booked this trip right after I came home from another one. You see, my friends Shun and Yu, they just got married in Hawaii."

"That sounds wonderful."

"It was. I'm very happy for them. But it also got me thinking. We've been friends forever, Shun and I, and when he started dating Yu, we started this stupid bet about who would get married first. He swore over and over again it would be me, but now he's already gone and done it, and he and Yu are trying for a baby, and they've got this beautiful life together, and here I am..." He trails off with a sigh, and in the next moment, he looks up at Sho with wide eyes. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to dump all of this on you --"

"It's fine," Sho says, reaching out to rest a comforting hand on Jun's arm. "I understand. Truly, I do. I only came here because my friend kept insisting that I needed it, and I didn't really believe him, but now that I've been here a few days, I see that he was right. It's difficult not having anyone to share these kinds of things with. Now it's my last night here, and I don't feel ready to leave."

Jun's frown deepens. He sighs again and says, "Being here has been amazing, but... it doesn't change the fact that no one's waiting for me back home."

Sho doesn't know what to say to that. He knows the feeling, but he thinks that right now, Jun just needs to get the words out, and if doing that is comforting to him, Sho is happy to listen. He says nothing, but he gives Jun's arm a gentle squeeze -- letting Jun know he's here.

Jun glances up at him again, but unlike before, he doesn't look away this time. He sets his tea cup down onto the floor, still watching Sho, and the look in his eyes is mesmerizing. Sho can't look away.

Jun leans towards him, and Sho thinks, This is it. This is what I've been imagining since that first night.

But Jun just reaches out to brush something from the corner of Sho's mouth. Sho leans back, startled, and then repeats the gesture. When he looks down at his hand, he realizes that he'd spilled crumbs from the cracker all over himself. Laughter bursts out of him, and then Jun is laughing too, both of them overwhelmed by how silly this whole thing is.

And then, before Sho can react, Jun really is kissing him.

Sho makes a startled noise, the laughter dying immediately, and then he returns the kiss with everything he's got. It starts slow at first, the two of them just exploring, and then quickly grows deeper. The feel of Jun's tongue on his lips makes Sho's veins spark, and he opens up for him immediately, wanting more, more. He shivers as Jun runs his hands through Sho's hair, and he reaches out to grip Jun's arms, holding him close.

One of Jun's hands travels downward, to the sash of Sho's yukata. He whispers, "Do you want to...?"

Sho sighs, "Yes."

Then Jun is kissing him again, untying the sash so he can pull Sho's yukata open and push it off his shoulders. He runs his hands from the curves of Sho's shoulders to the points of his collarbone, up his neck to cup his jaw, and back down again. Jun's warm hands on his skin feel incredible, and Sho wants more, but it's all a little awkward with the way they're sitting.

That thought sparks another in his mind. He pulls out of the kiss to ask, "What if someone sees?"

Jun frowns. "No one's even here."

"What about Fukada-san and Ishihara-san, or Ohno-san?"

Jun leans back in and says against his mouth, "If they want to watch, we'll just have to give them a show."

Just the words make Sho moan. He lets Jun guide him down until he's on his back, Jun leaning over him and trailing one hand down Sho's chest. He pauses to thumb over Sho's nipple, drawing a gasp out of him, and then continues, moving to the waistband of Sho's boxers. He snaps at the elastic playfully, pulling back until Sho can see the question in his eyes.

Sho laughs breathlessly, "I didn't have you pegged for the teasing type."

Jun grins, showing his teeth. "Well, it's only been a few days."

Sho reaches up to lock his fingers behind Jun's neck. "Show me," he says, and then he pulls Jun down into another kiss.

Jun doesn't waste any time; he slips his hand beneath the waistband of Sho's boxers and makes him moan loud enough for any lurking staff to hear.


Of course, for all their talk, the moment they really do hear someone approaching, they scurry into Jun's room, laughing at their own startled expressions. Sho is certain that whoever it was has seen worse, but still -- some things should remain private.

He and Jun stand there for a few moments just looking at each other, still laughing and breathless. Now that they've gotten started, the promise of more keeps everything from feeling so urgent. They know they have the entire rest of the day to get to know each other.

However, Sho decides, there are still some pressing matters that need attending. His yukata is falling over his shoulders, and though he hastily pulled his boxers up when he and Jun rushed inside, they're slung low on his hips; Jun, on the other hand, is still fully dressed, and that just won't do.

He gets his hand on the sash of Jun's yukata and pulls him close, starting to tug it loose. "Ever since I saw you in the bath that night, I've been wanting to see more."

Jun grins. "I know the feeling." He allows Sho to push the yukata off his shoulders and lets it drop to the floor, revealing those broad shoulders Sho had only glimpsed that first night, along with his toned stomach, his narrow waist, the little beauty mark beside his left nipple. It's even better than Sho imagined. He finds himself staring, until Jun pulls him close, pressing their bodies together, and whispers, "And I've been dying for a chance to get my hands on that ass of yours."

Sho smirks as he lets his own yukata fall away. He slings his arms around Jun's shoulders and lets Jun sneak both hands into his boxers. "Go ahead," he says, close enough that he can feel Jun's lips brush his as he speaks. "You've got all day."

Jun kisses him breathless, gives his ass an appreciative squeeze, and says, "I plan to use it well."


They spend the rest of the afternoon in Jun's room, coming out only to inform Ishihara-san that they'll both be taking their dinner there tonight. She nods and smiles and reminds them that if they need anything, Fukada-san makes sure to always have a stash of extra supplies on hand.

Sho thinks they just might need them.


When Sho wakes up the next morning, it's with great sadness -- and a little bit of soreness -- that he pulls himself away from Jun so that he can go into his own room and start packing. There's a knock on his door just as he's finished packing all of his hiking gear, and when he goes to slide it open, Jun is waiting for him on the other side, two steaming cups of tea in hand.

"Hope you didn't make yourself a cup already."

"No, I didn't. Thank you," Sho says, gratefully accepting one of the cups in Jun's hands. He takes a careful sip and sighs happily as it warms him from the inside out. "Please, come in -- I'm almost done."

Jun closes the door behind him and takes a seat on one of the cushions by the table. Sho sits with him, and they sip their tea in silence for a few moments, both unsure of what to say, of what could possibly be said.

It's Jun who finally speaks first. "I really enjoyed our time yesterday."

Sho nods, unable to suppress a smile at the memory. "Me too."

Jun smiles back, but something about it doesn't look quite right. He glances down into his tea and says, "Maybe we'll run into each other here again some day."

Without even having to think about it, Sho answers sincerely, "I hope we do."

They finish their tea together, and then Jun returns to his room to let Sho finish packing up. Sho finishes, and dresses, and checks and double-checks to make sure he hasn't forgotten anything, and then he slings his bags over his shoulders as he gets ready to step out the door.

But something keeps him from going.

He responded to Jun without thinking, but the more he does think about it, the more he realizes how ridiculous his answer was. He came out here to enjoy himself, and that's exactly what he did -- and now that he's returning home, why does that have to stop?

He drops his bags outside his door and goes, instead, to Jun's. "Jun-kun? It's me!"

Jun answers with an expression that is at once carefully neutral and vulnerably hopeful. "Did you forget something?"

"You could say that," Sho says, laughing. At the confused look on Jun's face, he continues, "I was thinking, and I just wondered... I mean, I know this is a bit sudden, and please don't feel pressured to respond in any particular way, but -- if you're interested -- what if... what if it doesn't have to be 'some day'?"

Jun blinks, his face otherwise completely still until he says, "What do you mean?"

"You're going back to Tokyo, right?"


"Well, so am I. And frankly, I don't see any reason why we can't just see each other there."

For a long moment, Jun stares, as if he needs time to process Sho's words. Then the words go through, he realizes just what Sho is asking of him, and he smiles wide, his whole face lighting up with it. "You know, that's not a bad idea."

Sho grins, feeling jittery all over again, not with nerves this time but with excitement. "There's a great soba place in my neighborhood."

Jun turns away, walking into the room to grab his phone from the table. "What's it called? I'd love to try it out." He's already tapping away on his screen, but now he looks up, that smile still shining on his face. "Think you can spare a few hours next weekend?"

For Jun, he can spare a lot more than that.


It's been a long time since Sho has brought anyone home for this particular reason, but as he steps into his kitchen with Jun trailing behind him, he isn't even a little bit nervous.

"Thank you for dinner," Jun says as he takes a seat at the table table, watching Sho pour two glasses of wine. "The soba really was amazing."

Sho throws a smile over his shoulder. "See? I told you. I may not be very adept at cooking food, but I won't lose to anyone at eating it."

Jun laughs, accepting the glass Sho hands him. "Maybe next week, instead of going out to eat, we can stay in and I can show you how to use some of those ingredients I picked up."

Sho smiles to himself as he thinks back over the past week. His friend Tsumabuki-kun had insisted that he needed some "personal attention," and that's exactly what he found at that ryokan, from several different sources, but the most important one is sitting in front of him now, and he wouldn't change a thing.

He clinks his glass to Jun and feels himself grinning wide, completely unable to hold it back now that he's here -- now that they're both here. "I can't wait."