Chapter 1: Tomodachi
Maybe it was all just a weird dream?
time stamp: March 2013
Kana had been quite happily asleep, thank you, when something heavy and loud started bouncing all over him. He needed entirely too much time to make his sleepy brain make sense of what was going on around him, only to roll over and groan into his pillow when he did. Of course, not even that was enough to make it stop and he rolled back over onto his back.
“Dammit, meN, I was still sleeping, you jackhole,” Kana muttered, shoving the still-bouncing bassist away from him.
“This is no time for sleeping!” meN-meN insisted, shaking his shoulder with far too much enthusiasm. “We did it! We did it!”
“Did what? Seriously what part of 'I was just asleep' is so hard for you?” he grumbled, trying to remember why he had ever thought giving the bassist a key to his apartment would be a good idea.
“Aww, Kacchan, don't be like that,” meN pouted. “I'll get you coffee in a bit, but we did it! We got it!”
“Coffee, then explain,” Kana mumbled, pulling his blankets around himself as he sat up. Understanding meN could be hard enough when he was ready for him. Pre-coffee and under slept? Forget it.
“All right, all right,” meN huffed, getting up. “Got eggs?”
“... don't put eggs in my coffee, meN.”
“What? No, what? Geeze, Kacchan, you're so weird. Who puts eggs in coffee??”
Kana didn't bother responding, especially since the bassist was already poking through what passed for Kana's kitchen. Taking advantage of the other man's distraction, he grabbed a fresh outfit and shuffled into his bathroom, hoping to be allowed at least a morning shower and to get dressed in peace.
So of course when he stepped out of the shower area, there was meN, waiting for him. His shriek wasn't exactly dignified, but at the moment, he really didn't care. He had absolutely not been prepared for meN to be seeing him naked!
“Bacon and pancakes or fish and rice?” meN asked, completely unruffled, as if seeing Kana naked was a normal, everyday event. It didn't help his nerves in the least.
“I ... what? I ... I don't think I have any of that? Well, the rice,” he mumbled, clutching his towel close and trying to calm his breathing.
“Yeah, no, your pantry's pretty bare, but since we have to go out anyway....”
“Well, I mean, I ... usually just grab something from the combini next to the studio,” he said, fidgeting and wishing meN could have waited for him to get dressed before having this conversation.
“If we do that, we might as well just celebrate with everyone. Actually....”
Kana worried that thoughtful look meant trouble, but since meN was already bouncing out of the room again, he let it go. Though he did wish he knew what meN meant about celebrating. Well, he would find out soon enough, he supposed. At least the jeans and baggy hoodie made him feel better, more secure. Today was going to be a long day, he could feel it.
“So, meN told you, right?”
“Told me what?” Kana asked, grateful to be able to finally sit down and actually drink his coffee. Chamu rolled his eyes, then turned on meN. Oh. Crap. He hated getting meN in trouble.
“What? Oh come on, it's not my fault! He refused to even listen until he'd had coffee! Have you seen what he calls a kitchen?!”
“You told me not to bother him, that you'd tell him yourself!”
“He's still having his coffee!”
“He's also sitting right here,” Kana grumbled, scowling at both his bandmates. Chamu opened his mouth to say something when Hayato burst into the room in his usual flurry of energy and apologies.
“Sorry, sorry, almost missed my train, but I made it! Do we have enough boxes? I don't mind going out to grab more, I know just the place!”
“We haven't actually started yet, but I think it'll be okay? Just waiting on Yume-kun so I can go get the keys,” Chamu said.
“Keys?” Kana repeated. Why did this sound like he was the last person to be told something important? Again. He clutched his coffee and tried not to give in to middle school flashbacks.
“Yup! Moving day!”
That ... so their contract with Speed Disk hadn't been renewed? But that didn't make sense. If they were being dropped, his bandmates wouldn't be this happy. But if they were still with Speed Disk, why the sudden move?
“Hey, 'morning guys! Chamu-san, I believe these are yours.”
For a long moment, Kana just sat there, blinking, as a certain green-haired senpai handed Chamu a set of keys with a distinctive fob on the chain. No. Way. Even Chamu was frowning as he fingered the fob.
“It's not final or anything, but if things go well this summer, yeah? Anyway, I borrowed a van, so if you guys are ready?”
“This summer?” Kana mumbled, feeling like an idiot for the surprised look on Takemasa's face. Yeah, he was definitely the last to know. Again. This feeling really sucked. And he had been so sure he was past that point in his life, too.
“Oh, did I spoil a surprise?” his senpai asked with a worried frown.
“No, meN's just a derp,” Chamu said with a chuckle.
“Still drinking his coffee!” meN shouted from behind a stack of equipment, as if that was some sort of defense.
“Kiryu asked for Codomo Dragon to be our opening act for our summer tour of the forty-seven prefectures,” Takemasa said, grinning broadly. “I know your contract with Speed Disk is up soon, I talked the label into publishing a single for you right before the tour, kind of as a way of hyping things up, yeah? Then, if everything goes well, we can see about signing you to a proper contract, okay?”
“R-really? But we don't ... I mean ... really?” Kana sputtered, coffee forgotten.
“Really,” Takemasa said, nodding. “I think you guys will fit in and complement us really well. And I know all of us, Kiryu and Royz both, will be happy to help you get settled in any way we can.”
Kana ... didn't know what to say. Kiryu had asked for them? And a tour of all forty-seven prefectures ... this wasn't just big, this was huge. Too huge. Maybe this was all a dream? That had to be it. Any moment now he was going to wake up at home and find out all of this had just been his imagination, it was the only explanation that made any sense.
“Hey, whoa whoa whoa, Kacchan....”
Hayato's arms felt warm and real around him, but then of course they would. The fleeting kisses to damp cheeks were unexpected and he wasn't sure what had happened to his coffee, but he also wasn't sure he cared. Hayato was kissing his face and practically crushing him close. This had to be a dream.
“It's not a dream, Kacchan, it's really happening. Four months. This is our shot. It's gonna be amazing, you're gonna be amazing. We're gonna write something epic, you and me, and blow the socks off all those Shiryu.”
“Dragons stick together, yeah?” Takemasa added. “I'm sure you guys will be amazing. And like I said, if there's anything any of us can do to help, you just have to ask, okay?”
If this was just a dream.... Kana fisted his hands in Hayato's shirt and demanded a real kiss. As readily as Hayato gave it to him, as easily as those fingers sank into his hair, he felt even more certain that this was all just in his head. Hayato had never even looked at him like that, this was all his imagination. It had to be.
“O-oi! Dammit, Haya-chan, we had an agreement!!”
... wait, what?
“He kissed me!” Hayato shouted back before smiling and hugging Kana close again. “Thank you for that, by the way, Kacchan.”
Why was meN whining now? For that matter, why were Chamu and Yume laughing? Kana really hated being the last one in on a joke.
“Better give him one, too, or he'll be useless all day,” Hayato suggested with a parting squeeze. Kana frowned at all his bandmates. This was....
“You ... you don't have to or anything,” meN mumbled, toying with Kana's dropped coffee cup. “I mean, it's fine if you like Haya-chan better or whatever. No big deal.”
Kana still wasn't sure he wasn't just dreaming all of this, but....
“... meN, you really are an idiot every day of the week,” he mumbled before leaning in to plant a kiss on meN's lips. Definitely different from Hayato, with the fewer piercings, the different placement, but he could get used to this, to the feeling of being wanted like this.
“Okay, but my one rule is no shenanigans on band time or in band spaces, okay? Kissing is fine, but anything else you do on your own time, in your own places, yeah?”
“Ch-chamu,” Kana stammered. Oh he was definitely still asleep, to be getting that sort of unquestioning support for ... what was he even hoping this was, anyway? Well, more kisses from Hayato and/or meN-meN, definitely, but....
“Yeah, BPR studios are a hanky-panky-free zone, okay? No one minds what you do in your private time, but definitely no sex games of any sort on label or affiliated properties. I'll, uh, get ya'll a copy of the detailed instructions list later.”
“... there's instructions more detailed than that?” Yume asked, lips twitching. Takemasa turned an interesting shade of red about the cheeks and for the first time Kana considered that maybe this wasn't all a dream.
“Um ... yes. We can, um, talk about it later? You guys are supposed to be packing and moving, right? Gotta get you into your new space so you can develop that new single for us at light speed!”
“Yeah ... yeah, if we're going to have something ready for a May release,” Chamu agreed, nodding.
“May?!?” Kana squeaked. Oh there was no way.... Maybe this was a nightmare?
“There's a recording slot open for the second week in April and I'll be happy to help you guys with mastering after that, since I'll be working on ours by then, too,” Takemasa said with another nod and what felt to Kana like a manic grin. “And keep writing, cuz if this works, you're gonna need to put out another single before the end of the year!”
“Pinch me,” Kana mumbled. “Pinch me so I know this isn't a dream.”
“Only the best dream come true ever,” meN replied, hugging him tight and pressing a kiss to Kana's cheek. “Now come on, we still gotta pack up all our stuff. And someone has more pedals than clothes.”
“Shut up and pack yourself, meN,” Yume mock grumbled. “Maybe some of us want more than the same four effects all the time.”
“Maybe someone needs to stop buying new equipment all the time so he doesn't have to steal all my clothes and eat all my food.”
“Excuse you, I only steal the good stuff,” Yume countered. Yeah, okay, maybe this really was happening. The sudden peck to his cheek was unexpected, but Yume just smiled, as if it was completely normal. Maybe it was. Maybe ... maybe everything really would get better from here.
Chapter 2: Sun, Moon
It shouldn't have mattered at all.
time stamp: July 7/8, 2016
This wink is not nearly as subtle, oops. Not sorry.
Also the use of "Yoshi-kun" for Ruiza is a reference to his real name, Yoshiyuki.
(Also, also, I updated the Ohana work days ago with the "new" youkai revealed in this fic...such as they let me :p)
Jui dropped his bags next to the queen-sized bed and let himself fall face first into it. When Toya got up here, maybe he should ask him for that massage the man still owed him? Or at least a quick back rub. He needed to wash his face and get ready for dinner, too, Ruiza would be waiting for him, but just then it was almost too much to even just move.
That wasn't Toya. Swallowing against a groan, Jui rolled over to see who had intruded on his self-pity. Yo-ka. How strange.
“S-sorry, senpai,” the younger singer stammered and was he blushing? “Didn't mean to intrude, but, um ... everything okay?”
Well this was ... unexpected. And maybe just a bit adorable.
“I'm fine, just not as young as I used to be,” he said, pulling himself up with a little self-deprecating smile. “Guess I wasn't listening earlier, does this make you my roommate for the night?”
“And the rest of the tour,” the blond said with a little nod. “That's not a problem, is it? Asagi-sama said he wanted to mix things up a bit....”
“It's fine, as long as you don't snore,” he said, smiling.
“No snoring,” Yo-ka replied with a surprisingly shy smile. “Um, did ... are we all having dinner together, do you know?”
“I don't know that everyone will come, but certainly everyone's invited. I promised Ruiza-kun I'd meet him in the lobby in ... well, seven minutes, now. Just need to wash my face and change into something a bit less spent the day in the back of a van grunge.”
Winking as he got up, he quickly fished his cosmetics bag out of his suitcase. He remembered being in Yo-ka's position, eager to impress the senpai, worried about making the best possible impression while not looking like he was trying too hard. Putting them together, well, maybe he could help the younger man relax a little? Certainly, from everything Jui had heard and seen thus far, his kouhai had no need to be so worried.
Dinner with everyone wouldn't have been so bad but for the alarming rate at which beer was being consumed. Made worse by the way Ruiza was practically egging on his kouhai to keep up with him. Jui turned a pleading look on Asagi, but the elder just shrugged, as if he had no control. Traitor.
By the end of the night, the poor DIAURA boys were all completely toasted, Ruiza giggling as if this was somehow a good thing. It was making smiting the hell out of him almost too tempting, but Jui resisted. That would be a hell of a thing to have to explain in the middle of a tour.
“Hate you, Ru,” he muttered.
“No you don't,” his friend tittered. Flipping him off, Jui made sure Jun and Toya were good to help with the rest before scooping up a very out of it Yo-ka. The vocalist had pretty well passed out, not rousing until they were nearly back to their hotel room. Jui could feel fingers trailing along the back of his neck, then Yo-ka was nuzzling his shoulder with an incoherent mumble. He ignored it, setting the blond down on their bed.
“Ohh ... I think I'm going to be sick,” Yo-ka mumbled, swaying slightly. Jui didn't have time to think, using a bit of magic to fetch a waste bin while he got a damp cloth for a cool compress. When the heaving stopped, Yo-ka groaned and Jui helped him sit up just a bit.
“Here, drink this,” he murmured, pressing a bottle of water into the younger man's hands. Yo-ka slowly sipped the water, eyes closed, and Jui couldn't help a small smile, brushing a quick peck to blond strands. He was a little concerned about the lack of reaction to that, but then again, Yo-ka had obviously consumed quite a bit more alcohol that he should have. Seeing as that made it easier for Jui to get them both ready for bed, however, he wasn't complaining. Even so, he was surprised when, as he settled into the shared bed himself, Yo-ka rolled over to tuck his head into the crook of Jui's neck.
“Smell good,” the vocalist mumbled. It was too cute, Jui couldn't push the blond away, instead chuckling softly as he tucked an arm around him. If it helped Yo-ka sleep....
As far as Yo-ka was concerned, morning needed to just die in a fire already. Rolling over, he tried to slap his phone to silence, but it wasn't working. Someone laughed softly, the alarm shutting off a moment later. Ah, blissful silence....
“Shower's open, you should get up or you'll miss breakfast.”
At the mention of food, Yo-ka groaned and rolled over again. His head ached abysmally, but at least he wasn't naked. He would take it as a good sign, for now.
“Um ... how did I get back here last night?” he asked as he sat up. He remembered going out to dinner with everyone and then there had been too many drinks and he really wasn't clear on anything else.
“I got you back,” his senpai said. “You puked, I got some more water and aspirin in you, then put you to bed. How's the head?”
“... I've felt worse,” he admitted, surprised at that. What had he been thinking, getting that wasted the night before a live? Dragging himself from the bed, he couldn't help a flare of envy that his senpai wasn't showing any effects from the drinking. Had Jui abstained last night? Yo-ka couldn't remember anymore.
The shower helped, a lot more than he would have expected. He was surprised to see Jui had waited for him, but he didn't want to look foolish calling attention to it, instead making sure he had everything he needed before going down to breakfast with his senpai. Of course once they reached the dining room, they silently parted ways. Seeing how hungover Tatsuya and Shoya looked made him feel a little better, if also a bit guilty. And then there was Kei, but then again he couldn't remember Kei ever having a hangover in all the years they had been friends.
“You've really gotta teach us your hangover secret,” he mumbled, poking him in the ribs. And as always, Kei only laughed and mumbled something about water.
“He's a mutant, it's the only answer,” Shoya mumbled. “Him and Ruiza-senpai both. I don't even remember how I got back to the hotel last night. I mean, I woke up in bed with Jun-senpai, but he said I just passed out there, so....”
“Who's idea was it for us to drink that much anyway?”
“Ruiza-senpai,” his three bandmates said together.
“... I think tonight we should ... not do that again,” Yo-ka sighed, rubbing his temples; the headache was back, worse than before. “Maybe just stick to the four of us for safety?”
“Or else stick to soda and water,” Kei suggested. “We are supposed to be getting better acquainted with the senpai, you know.”
“Definitely sticking to water,” Tatsuya agreed. “Don't care what kind of sake senpai buys. Not doing this two mornings in a row.”
That was one sentiment with which Yo-ka could readily agree. Besides, he wasn't going to get much of anything from this coupling tour if he got blackout drunk like that all the time. Plus he really didn't enjoy the after effects. The gods knew he'd enjoy them even less if he did something moronic like hit on his senpai while he was too drunk to be able to control himself. No, he was better off sticking strictly to melon soda for the rest of the tour.
On the one hand, Jui was almost disappointed that he wasn't going to have to beat Ruiza black and blue later. On the other hand, he was enjoying Yo-ka's and Kei's company a lot more with the two of them being completely sober and thus able to hold meaningful conversation. It had been so easy, even natural, to invite Kei and Toya back to the room he and Yo-ka were sharing so they could all keep talking about whatever came to mind. He was less certain when Jun and Shoya had joined them, but he couldn't say he really minded. When Hiroki and Tatsuya apparently had joined in while Jui himself had stepped out to get more (non-alcoholic) drinks, well, it was still fine. Maybe a little suspicious, considering it was Hiroki, but since they weren't moving to the next city until morning anyway....
Being a phoenix, there wasn't much that could cloud Jui's judgement or perceptions even just short term. And yet Hiroki had clearly slipped him something because he had no memory for how he and Yo-ka had ended up in the bathroom together, Yo-ka's fingers tangled in his hair as they kissed. But he could sense neither distress nor drunkenness in the young man pressed against him. Still, when fingers slipped down to his pants, he caught Yo-ka's wrist to stop him.
Unexpectedly, Yo-ka glanced down at his watch and then laughed.
“Four and a half minutes. So Kei-kun was right, you're not human,” the blond said, a thoughtful look on his face. That was enough to have warning bells going off in Jui's head.
“... and you're not freaking out....”
“I've known Kei-kun long enough to know I can trust him completely. If he says you wouldn't hurt me, I believe him,” Yo-ka replied with a shrug. “He's right, isn't he?”
“It's not like my being youkai is common knowledge, even among my friends,” Jui continued, frowning.
“Jun-senpai and Toya-senpai and Hiroki-senpai all pretty clearly already knew....”
“Mm, well, Hiro-kun is also youkai and as for Junbug and Toya-kun ... it's complicated.”
“... if you have to erase my memory of tonight, I'm fine with it,” Yo-ka said, stepping in closer again to nuzzle at his chest. “Just as long as we can still hook up, cuz honestly? I thought you were hot long before now.”
Jui wasn't entirely sure how to take that, but first things first. Cupping his face, he pressed a brief kiss to the blond's lips. Maybe....
“Stay here a minute,” he said before stepping back out into the rest of their hotel room. Tatsuya and Shoya were already unconscious, curled up together on the bed. Jui quirked a brow at Jun, but it was Hiroki who spoke.
“They won't remember anything they shouldn't and that one,” the drummer said, indicating Kei, “has a fox legacy mark.”
“Meaning he should know better than to go babbling about youkai hiding in plain sight in front of mundanes,” Jui said, crossing his arms over his chest and frowning at the young guitarist.
“And if Hiroki-senpai hadn't roofie'd you, I wouldn't have,” Kei countered with a stubborn scowl of his own, though it faltered quickly enough. “Is ... is Yo-kun okay?”
“Of course he is, I'm a phoenix, not a monster,” Jui snapped before inhaling a sharp breath through his nose. If he was going to lose his temper, he could at least point it in the right direction. Turning on his heel, he dropped his arms and glowered at Hiroki.
“You tell Yoshi-kun to get himself a new hobby or I'm setting you both on fire next time,” he growled at him. The drummer started to say something, then clearly thought better of it, bowing in acquiescence before scooping up Tatsuya and carrying him out of the room.
“Yes, yes, Yo-ka-kun will be fine. Just ... go to bed, all of you. Pick Toya-kun's brain if you need more answers yet tonight, Kei-kun, I have to deal with.... Just go.”
No one argued and Jui slipped back into the bathroom, smiling a little to see Yo-ka had been pacing. Well, it wasn't like he hadn't been able to hear Jui's louder outbursts from in here, after all, a little nervousness was understandable.
“So ... where were we?” he asked as he walked over to the young human, sliding an arm around his waist and brushing a kiss to his cheek.
“Um, about my memory,” Yo-ka mumbled, leaning away ever so slightly. Jui frowned a little before sighing, cradling Yo-ka's face in his hand.
“Can you keep it a secret, never telling another living soul, no matter what?”
“Yes,” the blond said without hesitation, but Jui wondered.
“Can you bring yourself to serve a god made flesh?” he asked, leaning closer to brush the faintest of kisses to suddenly closed lids. “Will you do as I say, without question? Leave when I tell you to leave, stay where I tell you to stay, keep secret the things I would show you?”
“Yes,” Yo-ka moaned, trembling with a want that surprised Jui. “Yes, Master, always. Please....”
But it wasn't enough, he had to be completely certain in this. If he accepted Yo-ka as his ... there would be no turning back from this. He had to be sure.
“And can you accept that, if you disobey me,” he said, making his voice cold, “I will do worse than merely discipline you, I will discard you, erase any memory you must not keep and cast you away, never to be at my side again?”
“Tell me how I may serve, that I should never displease you so, oh my Master,” the blond mumbled as he fell to his knees, prostrating himself at Jui's feet. His own hand trembled, doubt nipping at his heels. How long since he had allowed himself to be this open with anyone who wasn't part of the strange family into which he had found himself drawn, against his will, all those years ago now? Could he really afford the risk of allowing someone to touch his heart again, the risk of being disappointed yet again? If Yo-ka broke his trust, broke his heart, would there still be enough of him left to keep him here? Or would this be the last straw, the last chance of this incarnation? Could he take that risk?
On the other hand, could he really push this offering away before it had even been given a chance to take root? Could he really risk throwing away something beautiful based on the fear of failure seeded by too many casual dalliances in his past?
Strong arms closed around him, shaking him out of his own thoughts. Yo-ka was on his feet again, boldly meeting his gaze, no trace of fear in him.
“If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword.”
“... are you quoting Tolkein at me?” Jui asked, giving the man a slow blink of surprise.
“... well yes, sort of,” Yo-ka mumbled, a shyness painting his cheeks red, “but that's not the point. The sentiment still stands, senpai. Only give me the chance, and I will gladly be your faithful servant, your adoring acolyte, your willing slave and loving shield.”
“Such bold words,” Jui murmured, yet this time Yo-ka did not back down, not even when the blond averted his gaze. It was a strength Jui found intriguing, alluring. Perhaps it would be worth that risk once more. He ran his thumb over Yo-ka's cheek.
“I am yours, in any way you wish or desire, until death takes me or my lord tires of me,” Yo-ka murmured, turning to press a kiss into the palm of Jui's hand. He could feel the sincerity in those words. No hidden caveat, no hesitation, only pure devotion. It was far headier than any drink, even if he worried at what had inspired it, from whence it had come.
“So you are,” he agreed, shoving aside that voice of doubt to instead let his magic flow into his own even as he pulled him into another hungry kiss. Tonight was turning out quite well indeed.
Chapter 3: Six and Two
This time was going to be different, Kouki could feel it.
time stamp: June 2010
Oh look, two Tolkien references in as many shorts for no other reason than because I wanted to. XD
Despite the fact that everything about this move had been in planning for weeks now, it still felt strange to actually be doing it. It wasn't even their first move, but this one was different. Kouki couldn't quite put his finger on it, but something....
“Okay, Treebeard,” Reika teased, holding up a key ring, “I'm trusting you, so don't drive crazy. This is the new company's van, try to make a, you know, good impression, yeah?”
“You wound me, oh generous leader-sama,” Kouki said, dramatically clutching a hand to his chest a moment before reaching for the keys. So of course Reika had to snatch them back to his own chest, giving the whole band one of his sterner looks.
“I know we're signing to the Indies subdivision, but PSC wants to introduce us to the whole gang. That means the other indies and the majors. Everybody. I've got some last things here, so don't get all weird, okay? We've got three hours, so get all the idiocy out of your systems now.”
“No offense, boss, but after this many years, I think you're stuck with us as is,” Ibuki said, sweeping in to snatch the key ring from the bassist, giggling as he went.
“You know what I mean!” Reika insisted and that was true enough. Lifting the keys from Ibuki, Kouki flashed their leader what he hoped was a properly placating grin.
“You worry too much, Reirei. Everything's going to be fine, trust me.”
“Yeah, remember the last time you said that to me?”
“... no?” Kouki tried, summoning up the most innocent look he could muster. Reika scowled at him a moment then, still muttering to himself, turned and walked out of the room. Well, whatever. Today was going to be a great day, he could feel it.
The introduction of their band - along with fellow new acquisition BORN - went even better than Kouki had expected. Oh there were the usual boring speeches by men in suits who only sort of understood the whole visual kei culture, but then, to his surprise, the suits all left and they were allowed to meet and interact with their new labelmates on their own terms. Not that Kouki wasn't already somewhat familiar with the names and faces all around him, but it was one thing to recognize a fellow artist and another to actually get to know them. So much talent and experience in one room, he just wanted to absorb it, standing off to the side for a moment as he took it all in. This was going to be the start of something truly amazing, he could feel it.
“You know, I wouldn't have pegged you for the shy type....”
Kouki startled, doing a little double take to see Kra's Yasuno offering him a bottle of iced green tea. Bowing his thanks, he accepted the bottle and tried not to blush through an explanation.
“Ah, well, it's a bit ... something,” he said, feeling more than a little ridiculous for being unable to do better than that. The amusement in Yasuno's eyes didn't help. He was making a complete idiot of himself. Great.
“Relax,” Yasuno said, briefly squeezing his arm, “we don't bite. Much. Okay, Ruki-kun does, but it's all in good fun. Besides, tall as you are, he couldn't reach much past your ankles anyway.”
Kouki was so startled by those words he actually laughed.
“I suppose I just needed a moment to let things sink in? This is kind of a big change for us, you know?”
“Not as such?” Yasuno replied with a slight shake of his head, but still with that warm smile. “Kra signed with PSC way back in the beginning, the only ones who've been here longer are Kagrra, so this has always been home for us. But like I told your Reika-kun yesterday, we help each other out around here, senpai supporting kouhai, regardless of label subdivision. So if you guys need anything, please don't hesitate to ask, okay?”
“We really appreciate it, senpai,” he said with a polite bow. “Ah, I suppose I should go circulate the room properly, introduce myself a bit before I get yelled at for being antisocial.”
“In that case, let me introduce you to Ikkun.”
“Oh, you don't....”
“I insist,” the pink-haired drummer said, looping arms with him. Well, he couldn't very well say no now. Nor did he much want to, if he was being honest. Isshi intimidated the hell out of him and he wasn't even sure why, so having Yasuno do the introduction, well, it could only help. Kouki just hoped he wasn't about to make a complete fool of himself. He would never hear the end of it if he did.
Ryouga waited, like a spider in a web, watching for just the right moment. And when it came, he was ready, slipping away from Kifumi with practiced ease.
“Hey, Kouki-san, right?” he said, acting completely casual. Or as casual as he could manage. Maybe, hopefully, the other wouldn't notice anything.
“Yes? Ah, Ryouga-san of BORN, right?”
“Yeah, um, we didn't really get a chance to talk, what with everyone else, so ... could I interest you in dinner?”
“Sure, sounds good to me,” the taller man replied with a brilliant smile. “Anywhere is fine with me.”
“Oh I was hoping you would say that,” Ryouga purred. “Come on, I know just the place.”
This was almost too easy, not that Ryouga was complaining. Even better, once Kouki started talking, it was like the blond didn't much notice anything beyond the conversation. So easily, Ryouga steered his prey through the Tokyo metro, back to his apartment. How oblivious could one guy get?
“... why Ryouga-san, not even our first date and you're already taking me back to your place? Just what kind of a girl do you think I am, hmm?”
Oh. Maybe not that oblivious. On the other hand, Kouki was still wearing that ridiculously cheerful schoolboy smile that made Ryouga itch to see the man thoroughly debauched at his hand.
“The kind that will follow a man she doesn't know anywhere he likes?” Ryouga suggested, entering his apartment.
“Ah, perhaps, perhaps,” Kouki agreed, his smile turning sly. “Sounds like a girl who perhaps knows she has nothing to fear from strange men.”
That was too tempting a comment, Ryouga closing the door behind them before stepping into the taller man's personal space, stretching up on tiptoes to sniff at his jugular. Ordinary human, he was mostly sure, but there was also a tag on him. Dropping back on his heels, he scowled. His prey had played him.
“Oh, was I supposed to be on the menu?” Kouki asked, his feigned innocence worse than blatant arrogance. “Be a bit suspicious, wouldn't it?”
“Get out,” Ryouga snapped, bristling with anger.
“Really, such bad manners,” the taller blond scolded, pressing Ryouga into the nearest wall. “I thought you wanted me?”
“Made of lies,” he muttered.
“Maybe you haven't actually asked any questions,” Kouki countered. A hand slid up under Ryouga's shirt, fingers trailing almost too lightly against his skin. Had his nose been wrong? No, that wasn't possible. So what was this one's game, then??
“What are you?” he growled, pushing Kouki away from him. That scent ... it was doing things to him, things he wasn't sure he liked.
“Human, mostly. A touch of Fae from my grandfather. It's why I'm not afraid of youkai. And you?”
“Wolf,” he said, taking another cautious sniff and licking his lips. He didn't like this. He didn't like this at all. Fae were not to be trusted.
“I thought okami were supposed to protect people, not eat them.”
Ryouga whined in spite of himself, turning and stomping past Kouki into his tiny kitchen space. The tag on Kouki was from someone else, but he couldn't quite match a name, there were too many other scents jumbling his nose and it was making him cranky.
He could smell him coming and yet still he flinched at the touch to his back.
“Hey, come on now, I'd still like to get to know you. We're going to be working together, right?”
“... so explain it?”
Another whine. “You need to go, before I bite you.”
“I thought you said you were a wolf, not a werewolf.”
Ryouga gripped the edge of the cabinet, forced himself not to look. He wasn't sure what would happen, other than he was already too close to losing control as it was. But he'd be damned if he was going to just let some Fae trick him into behaving with dishonor so easily.
“I wasn't going to kill you. But I can't ... you're already marked.”
“Just leave me alone!” Ryouga snarled. Why couldn't the idiot just take a hint already?!
“... no,” Kouki said softly, stepping in closer. Ryouga could feel the blond pressing against him, molding their bodies together even as arms circled around his chest. Another whine caught in his throat, this wasn't fair.
“Ryouga-kun ... the tag doesn't mean what you think. I'm not mated to anyone, especially not him. I am completely and totally open to us having a casual fuck tonight, if that's what you want. Or if you want to try for something more, then hey, I'm willing to see what we can make of things. I promise you, there's no one else. I can't lie, I wouldn't lie about that.”
“But ... the tag....”
“For my protection. In case you haven't noticed, there's dragons and vampires and I don't even know what all else roaming this city. And at the end of the day, I am still just human. I may not be afraid of youkai, but I'm not exactly trained at defending myself against them, either.”
“... I own you, for the next year,” Ryouga growled, freeing himself enough to turn around in Kouki's arms. “No one will hurt you. I would eat them for trying.”
“Own me, hmm?” Kouki parroted and there was that smile again. “A year's an awfully long time, you might get bored with me.”
Ryouga frowned. He didn't think that was too likely, but fae were tricky. And fickle. Maybe a shorter term would be safer, for them both.
“Six months then,” he grumbled. “Fan service is fine, but you belong to me only until December. Anyone else even touches you and I'll eat you both.”
“Fan service only until December,” Kouki agreed with a nod and a cheerful smile. Ryouga wasn't sure he had made the best deal. And then Kouki was kissing him, bending him back against the counter and tugging at his shirt, and deals were the last thing on his mind.
Chapter 4: The Virtue of Joy
Looking back at it, he couldn't really tell who's idea it had been....
time stamp: April 2016-March 2017
There's a section of italicized dialogue, that's when Ryuu and Reina are talking in Cat.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Look, I'm just saying, you don't have to do it all yourself,” Aoi said with a sigh, holding a shirt in one hand and his bag in the other. Ryuutarou had to bite his lip a moment to keep from laughing, moving to sit against the head of their bed if only so he didn't start doing his mate's packing for him.
“I won't be alone, Tousan will be here even when the others can't,” he said, shaking his head a little and smiling. “I'll be fine. We'll be fine.”
“Really, love, it's fine,” he insisted, getting up to press a kiss to his cheek.
“All right, all right,” Aoi relented with a sigh, tossing shirt and bag both onto the bed before circling arms around Ryuutarou's waist. “Just ... promise me you'll let them help with the twins now and again, okay?”
Ryuutarou couldn't help rolling his eyes and laughing. Honestly, Aoi could be such a fussy mother hen, it was kind of adorable, even if it could get a little annoying sometimes, too.
“Oh I already have plans to let Yo-sama have them for entire days at a time if he wants,” he said, patting his mate's arm while wearing one of his more innocent expressions. “Your children will be utterly spoiled by the time you get back, I'm sure.”
“... I can feel the doom already,” Aoi said with a laugh, hugging him tight again for a moment before letting go to get back to packing. As hard as it had been at first to even just let the twins out of his sight, with Aoi leaving for the GazettE's world tour, well, Ryuutarou was stubborn, not stupid. Yoshiki taking him aside one night to tell him he understood, that he would never do anything to come between Ryuutarou and his children had helped, too, of course. It still wasn't easy, but ... they would manage, it would be fine, he was sure of it.
Ryuutarou felt frozen in place, watching as Isshi carefully packed up his laptop. This ... this couldn't be happening. This wasn't part of their plans. Isshi couldn't be leaving....
“I'm sorry, dearest, but it really can't be helped,” Isshi said, a note of genuine regret in his voice. “Why don't you and the twins stay at the condo for a couple of days? You won't even need to pack anything, ne? As often as you've been using it the last couple of months, I'm sure it's fully stocked already, yes?”
“Are you ... I ... yeah, I guess that could work,” he mumbled. This wasn't fair at all, but pouting wasn't going to get him anywhere. And Isshi had a point, though he would have to ... well, probably ask Sugizo about groceries, actually, since he really didn't want to try doing that with the twins in tow.
“It's just until Friday, Tarouneko-chan,” Isshi said, his fingers ghosting against one cheek. “You'll be fine with them that long, ne?”
Ryuutarou didn't say anything else; there was no arguing with Isshi anyway. After all, it wasn't like the family patriarch was trying to make things difficult for him. He had a professional life of his own, of course things like this would happen sometimes. Ryuutarou could handle his children on his own for a couple of days, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Or he could call Luna, the twins would like that. Yeah, that's what he'd do. Everything was going to be fine.
That wasn't Luna's voice, never mind that of course it was too early for her to be back anyway. Ryuutarou was still sitting on the couch when Sugizo walked into the lounge a beat later, still too surprised to have moved at all.
“Oh good, I was afraid you might have gone out or something. Can I interest you in lunch?” his senpai asked, holding up a takeout bag. Ryuutarou sniffed cautiously, catching hints of shrimp and ginger and hot and sour soup. His stomach growled loudly and he blushed.
“I'll take that as a yes, then,” Sugizo said, laughing as he walked over to the couch. Ryuutarou could only watch as containers of soup, lo mein, chicken and mushrooms, pot stickers, and fried rice crowded together on the coffee table, a virtual feast.
“Should we be civilized about this or...?”
“Oh!” he mumbled, blushing and getting up to start water for tea and fetch plates and utensils. And felt even sillier when Sugizo came into the kitchen to help.
“Enjoying the quiet?” his senpai asked as they sat down to lunch. Which was when Ryuutarou remembered he hadn't bothered changing out of his pajamas yet, a blush hitting his cheeks yet again.
“I ... yeah,” he admitted, rubbing one cheek a bit uselessly. “Thank you for lunch, you didn't have to do this....”
“We all have to eat,” his senpai said with a warm smile and a casual shrug. “How are you doing, by the way? Anything you or the twins need? Milk, kitten kibble, litter, toys?”
“Oh, we're fine,” Ryuutarou said with a shy smile. “They miss Mommy, of course, and Grandpa, but we're okay. Luna-chan and Haido-kun took them and Emi-hime out for the day, so....”
“Mm, she mentioned Emi-hime wanting to see her siblings more often.”
“Well, now that Tousan's been dragged into this nationwide book tour business, she might get her wish. Especially on weekends, since I'll still have be away for Pura.”
“You know, any time you feel you need help or even just a break, you don't have to be afraid to ask, okay?” Sugizo said softly, a brief touch to his arm accompanying his words. “Ohana, yeah?”
“Y-yeah,” he stammered, feeling embarrassed again. But really, he was fine. He missed having Aoi home more than he wanted to admit, more than he had in a long time now, but still ... he was fine. He had known what he was getting into long before the twins had even been a reality. He could handle it. That's what being a parent meant.
Sugizo smiled as he carefully lifted the sleeping Ryuutarou into his arms. He still felt a little bad that it had taken Luna pointing it out for him to realize he didn't have much of a personal relationship with Aoi's mate. An afternoon together was a start to becoming more than just two separate parts of Aoi's life, at least. He could also tell he was going to have to make a habit of just appearing like this. Why was it he was always surrounding himself with such stubborn types? Gackt, Yoshiki, Aoi ... hell, even Hyde and You could be stubborn jackasses when the mood took them. Though out of all of them, spending time with Ryuutarou might well be the easiest, with or without the twins around.
Once he had Ryuutarou settled in the master bedroom - was that the bed he had left here before or had they actually bought a different one? - Sugizo retreated back into the kitchen. Not that there was much clean-up left, just the pot and cups from tea, since Ryuutarou had wanted to do the dishes immediately after dinner. After practically insisting on cooking himself. At least the bakeneko had been willing to let Sugizo do more than make a salad this time, it was quite the improvement over the last few times.
:: Hey sweetie, can you and Kitty keep the twins tonight?
:: Oh hey Dad, yeah, sure, they're all asleep in a pile anyway.
That was a relief. One less worry for him, though he wouldn't have minded taking care of the twins on his own if it had come to that.
:: Soooo ... does this mean you and Tarou-oji are a thing now~?
:: It MEANS Tarou-kun fell asleep and since I'd like him to stay that way.... ww
:: Sleeping together is so much better when you're both awake though~!
:: LUNA ARTEMIS!
:: What? Better cuddles that way!
She may have ended her response with an angel emoji, but he knew better than to believe it. Even if he didn't want to accept his baby girl had grown up that much.
:: You know what. Brat. Ww
:: 'Night Dad~ Don't stay up all night watching him sleep, that's creepy.
:: Imp. Don't you have better things to do?
Another angel emoji. Shaking his head, Sugizo gave up, tucking his phone into his pocket. He hadn't intended to stay all night, but since he didn't want to just leave, either, well.... But he could sit with Ryuutarou for a bit and when habit woke the man in a few hours, perhaps then he could take his leave.
“Wait, do you mean to tell me you spent the whole time here at the condo?”
“Not quite, but almost,” Ryuutarou confessed, pushing a cup of tea into Aoi's hands.
“Don't start,” he mock-scolded with a smile. “Tousan had a book tour, coming here was the logical solution. Luna-chan helped and Yo-sama took the twins when I had to travel. Sugizo-senpai helped a lot, too. We all managed just fine.”
“... is that where the kids are tonight?”
“No, they're having another sleepover with Emi-hime. We ... weren't sure what you'd want to do tonight.”
Aoi gave him a blank look a moment, then set down his tea and pulled Ryuutarou into his lap.
“You. I want you. Baby, I love you more than anything and I've missed you so, so much....”
Ryuutarou didn't get a chance to respond, any words swallowed in the kisses that came too fast and furious for him to resist. Not that he would have anyway. Being with Aoi ... this feeling really was like a dream come true, he wouldn't change it for the world.
Night lay heavy over the whole house, a stillness one only got in the country. Ryuutarou was just happy to be back where he felt most at home, listening to the sighing of the old house, the whisper of the wind through the bamboo outside. He had missed this, too.
“You're allowed to have feelings for him, too, you know,” Aoi murmured before pressing a kiss to his neck. Ryuutarou shivered and snuggled closer, not sure he really wanted to talk about this again. He didn't even know what his feelings were anymore. Certainly, he liked Sugizo, a lot, but was it really anything more than friendship? He wasn't sure. And he wasn't sure if he wanted more or not. Things were good just the way they were, why risk ruining things?
Mentally pushing it aside, he rolled over to curl arms around his husband.
“You're all the love I need, Shiro-kun,” he murmured. “I'm completely happy, stop worrying, love, and go to sleep, yeah?”
“Mou, you know I only worry from love.”
“I know, but I'm fine, honest. Now go to sleep.”
Aoi chuckled and pecked a kiss to Ryuutarou's forehead. He really was happy with things just as they were, he didn't need anything else.
They called them dates, but it wasn't really accurate. They were just two friends spending time together, enjoying each other's company. That Ryuutarou tended to end them by falling asleep on Sugizo was just a sign of how safe he felt with the archangel. And all right, yes, Aoi wasn't wrong, he had thought about more, but ... he liked things the way they were.
Still, it was no surprise to him when Christmas Eve led to a private dinner with just himself and Aoi before they went down to Hadano to share movies and hot cocoa with more of the family. And if Ryuutarou wasn't quite sure how he had ended up sandwiched between Aoi and Sugizo, he wasn't going to complain about it, either.
Falling asleep under the grand tree in You's living room hadn't been part of the plan, but his own kids had conspired against him, suckering him into a cozy cat pile along with Emi and Hyde. And from the way the three little ones were bouncing around, it seemed everyone else had decided to camp out with them, too.
“Papa, Papa! Santa came, Santa came!”
“I see that, sweetheart. All right, give Papa a minute and we'll see what Santa brought.”
“No! Now, Papa! Now!”
Laughing a little, he still indulged in a good stretch before shifting back to human, sniffing the air. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, and, most importantly, coffee. Too bad neither Shin nor Reina wanted to wait any longer. Stifling a sigh, he started the twins on a gift each and even one for Emi. Wrapping paper was soon flying everywhere as three kittens eagerly tore into their packages. In fact, they were distracted from the underlying gifts entirely, more intent on defeating the evil papers. Ryuutarou shook his head a little as he watched the three of them, leaning back against the front of the couch. Kittens.
“Remind me why we even bought them things?” Aoi asked with a laugh, handing Ryuutarou a mug of coffee, perfectly made, before sitting on the floor beside him. “We could have wrapped empty boxes and they'd be just as happy right now.
“Eventually, they'll notice the actual gifts,” Sugizo added as he perched on the couch behind him. “Well, probably.”
“In the meantime,” Aoi said, tucking an arm around Ryuutarou and kissing his cheek while slipping a box into his lap. Surprised, he just sat staring at the small box a moment before opening it.
“Happy anniversary,” Aoi murmured as Ryuutarou wordlessly started at the watch nestled in silvery paper. And then he had to laugh, shaking a little with it until he was able to fish out his husband's gift: also a watch, though a completely different design style.
“You two....,” Hyde teased.
“It's our first anniversary!” Aoi mock-protested, though he was laughing, too. “The lady at the store insisted a clock was traditional, but that seemed kinda silly. But this....”
“I think it's sweet,” You said. “Now come have breakfast, yeah?”
Yes, Ryuutarou was completely happy with his life. He couldn't ask for more.
“There is such a thing as overthinking a thing, you know.”
“Aa, I now,” Ryuutarou said, blushing in spite of himself as he poured Isshi's tea.
“I know you know,” Isshi replied with a small smile. “Just like I know you know there's no reason you can't love them both, but since you seem to need permission.... Tell him how you feel. Life is so fragile, a fleeting gift, even for our kind. Don't waste it on doubt.”
“... but if he doesn't ... I can't ruin this.”
“I promise you, Tarouneko, being honest with Yuune won't ruin anything.”
Ryuutarou nodded and slipped back out of Isshi's office. The family patriarch was right far more often than not, but still he hesitated. Maybe ... maybe next time.
Ryuutarou felt something warm and tingly shoot through him as Sugizo sat him at a table set for two, complete with glowing taper candles.
“I know your birthday isn't for a couple days yet, but I wanted to give you something special.”
The box the archangel slid across the table looked suspiciously expensive. And the cord wrapped around it looked and smelled rather like white hemp.
“Senpai,” he murmured again, not sure he wanted what this was starting to look like.
“It's ... not exactly what you think,” his senpai said softly. Ryuutarou bit back an argument for the moment, instead slipping off the white cord and opening the box. Laid atop the contents was a long strip of handcrafted paper, tinted a pale green and artfully filled with calligraphy he couldn't entirely read. It looked like ... poetry?
“Do I need to read it to you?” Sugizo asked with a small yet wicked smile.
“... you're terrible, he mumbled, wondering what he was supposed to do with the paper. Lifting it, something in his chest twinged again at the black fan lying beneath, nested in spring green silk. Even without opening it, he could tell the paper was a soft silver. It could have been an innocent enough gift ... if Sugizo hadn't made a point of wrapping it like an engagement gift and then insisting on giving it to him in private, rather than waiting for his actual birthday.
“I'm not ... I know how deeply you and Yuu-kun are connected and I would never want to risk damaging that, but ... I care for you, Tarou-kun, and I think....”
Quite suddenly, Sugizo was kneeling beside his chair, Ryuutarou's hands both caught up in his.
“Like the wind, this moment comes but once to each flower and never again.”
Ryuutarou's gaze slid sidelong to the paper, it was the same words, he was pretty sure, but he still wasn't sure he actually understood.
“I know Yuu-kun will always come first, but if there's any chance you could see there being room for more between us.”
The words seemed caught in his throat, tangled in the net of tears and something else. He tried to push past it, but the words wouldn't come and he could see worry starting to build in those eyes. Giving up, he leaned in to press a shy kiss to those lips, so different from his mate. And yet still there was a rightness about this.
“I take it that's a yes?” Sugizo asked, chuckling.
“Idiot,” Ryuutarou huffed, swiping lightly at his shoulder.
“Sometimes,” Sugizo conceded. “Issama is always telling me I think too much, getting lost in my own head instead of just doing something about my feelings. It's cost me too much already, but ... be patient with me? Or maybe smack me out of it if I get too lost....”
A moment and then the laughter was bubbling up inside of him and Ryuutarou couldn't hold it back. Soft giggles that refused to be contained, until he was falling out of his chair and into Sugizo's arms. He could almost smell the confusion, but not even an archangel was immune to the contagion of laughter and soon they were both laughing until Ryuutarou's stomach hurt from it. Rolling over, he tucked himself in against Sugizo's chest with a happy sigh, grateful for the arms that curled around him.
“... dinner's probably gone cold by now.”
“Sorry,” he mumbled, though that was only sort of true.
“Don't be. I think we both needed that.”
Ryuutarou hummed a noise of agreement, trying to ignore the little complaints of hunger from his stomach just a little longer. Until it growled loud enough for both of them to hear it.
“Let me reheat dinner so we can take care of that, yeah?”
“On the couch?” he asked, feeling heat rush into his cheeks again.
“I would hand feed you myself if you wanted, neko,” Sugizo replied with a quick kiss to his forehead. “It's your early birthday, we can do anything you want.”
“I think I just need to feel you close right now,” he mumbled, unable to meet the archangel's eyes.
“I will always be here when you need me, I promise,” Sugizo murmured, pressing another kiss to his head. “Just let me get the unagi?”
Another grumble from his hungry stomach and Ryuutarou laughed, then pulled himself up from the floor.
“I'll pick a movie, then,” he said, though he was pretty sure he already knew exactly what he wanted to watch. Okay, so he had been wrong about things being good enough as they had been. And still he could hear the soft laughter in his ears, the loving reminder that he was allowed to be happy. More than just allowed, in fact. He had been silly to avoid this for so long, to let fear stand between them, but he knew just how to make up for the lost time.
White hemp cord, a folding fan (especially with gold or silver paper) are traditional engagement ceremony symbols, but Sugi wanted something to declare his intention to start courting Ryuu properly, sooo.... The calligraphy and poem are Heian-era courting tradition, though the poem is original. Courting was a thing of the nobility in pre-feudal periods that then fell out of favor as marriages became increasingly arranged by families, not the individuals involved, and romantic love for one's spouse was seen as weakness.