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Ono stepped out of the bathroom and froze, his hands stuck in the middle of toweling his hair dry as conscious thought failed him. He blushed instantly, awkwardness and embarrassment and a tiny, miniscule drop of desire welling up in his stomach, and for a moment he forgot how to breathe. Tachibana stared back at him with equal surprise, a forgotten cigarette dangling half-out of his mouth.

It was like something out of his high school fantasies. There was Tachibana, looking gorgeous as ever. His jacket was draped over the back of the couch, his shirt partially unbuttoned, and it looked like he was halfway through pulling off his belt when Ono had walked in. That or he was about to flog Ono for walking around his apartment wearing only a pair of towels, one of which was draped over his head.

A drop of water rolled off his hair, splashing right on his eyelid and he blinked. That simple movement was enough to break whatever had taken hold of Ono's body and he finally managed to look away, his face burning impossibly redder as Tachibana continued to stare.

"I thought it'd be a while before you got back." The words sounded lame even to him, like he made plans to sneak around Tachibana's house while he was gone, like he made a habit of it. His demonic gay charm was powerless against Tachibana's intimidating presence. It felt like high school all over again, and for a moment he was scared, irrationally waiting for Tachibana to hurt him.

Only they weren't in high school anymore.

"Where's Chikage?" Tachibana turned away, tossing his belt to the side to land on top of his jacket. The surprise was gone from his expression, along with any other emotion. His mask was back up, leaving Ono with no idea what the other man was thinking. But he was used to Tachibana's masks, though he hadn't even noticed until Tachibana's relatives had showed up at the bakery how much of Tachibana's expression was a mask.

Not that it mattered. He didn't need to know what Tachibana was thinking. He'd already felt the worst pain Tachibana could dish out.

"He left before I got in the shower. I think he said he was going to the dumpling place down the street, but he might have gotten lost."

"Ah." And that was the end of the discussion. Tachibana turned his back on him, disappearing from sight as he stepped into the kitchen. Ono used the chance to quickly slip into Chikage's bedroom, clutching the towel around his waist to keep it closed.

When he emerged he was fully clothed, though still a little damp. He settled on the couch nervously, debating whether he should leave or stay. If he left, Chikage would feel hurt, and he'd kill whatever it was that was slowly building between him and Chikage. If he stayed, there was a very good change Tachibana would kill him.

He knew which pain he didn't want to deal with.

Tachibana came out from the kitchen carrying two glasses. Ono took the proffered drink, sipping without even caring what it was. Alcohol burned the back of his throat and he smiled slightly, taking it as a sign that Tachibana didn't mind him being here too much. Tachibana wouldn't have offered alcohol to someone he was going to throw out.

"You did it, right?"

The question hit Ono out of the blue and he chocked, inhaling alcohol instead of air. "What?" He gasped between fits of coughing.

There was no malice Tachibana's gaze, just a level amount of curiosity, and maybe a bit of concern hiding at the edge of his eyes. "You and Chikage. You did that gay thing, right?"

He wasn't quite sure how to answer that so he just nodded, his lips quirking upward slightly at Tachibana's phrasing.

"So what now?"

Ono blinked stupidly. The evening was not turning out to be one of witty repartee, or at least not on his side. His mind seemed to have turned into mush as soon as he'd seen Tachibana. Not that he could blame it. Tachibana had always been his type and the night seemed to be full of moments straight out of a cheesy soft-core porn. First Tachibana finding him almost naked, and now a line that his overactive, sex-filled brain almost misconstrued as a veiled come-on.

A few days ago he might have turned on his demonic gay charm and used this set-up to try and win Tachibana over. He could almost convince himself that underneath all the layers of masks there was a part of Tachibana that didn't find him entirely repulsive. But he wasn't here to try and win over Tachibana. He hadn't even expected to see Tachibana and he could honestly say that right now, he didn't want Tachibana. Not in the way he wanted someone else.

Somehow his mind worked its way through all the twists and turns of his desires and he came up with an answer that didn't sound lame or stupid or sound like he was trying to make a pass at Tachibana.

"I was hoping to stay the night." Okay, so that did sound like a pass. "With Chikage," he hastily corrected himself, blushing slightly as Tachibana raised an eyebrow. "If you don't mind," he added. He felt like he was being horribly rude, imposing himself on Tachibana's hospitality, even if Chikage had already offered and technically he had already accepted the invitation.

"I don't mind."

Those three words made all the lingering doubts slip away from Ono's mind, and for the first time since Tachibana had come home he smiled.

He was about to open up his mouth to say something, maybe to thank Tachibana, or apologize, but then he heard a key fumble in the lock. Chikage had a goofy grin on his face, plastic bags filled with more food containers than all three of them could possibly eat, and Ono forgot what he was going to say.

"I'm home." If Ono wasn't mistaken, Chikage's smile brightened when he saw both Ono and Tachibana waiting for him.

The two younger men's voices blended together in perfect chorus. "Welcome back."