Kuramochi is surprised to catch Ryousuke after group practice, leaning against the wall outside the indoor practice area.
He hasn't seen much of the third years at all since they retired, and definitely not as much of Ryousuke, which bothers him more than it should. Even though he'd accepted just how much of a goner he is for him - and Miyuki hasn't let him forget it - he hasn't had the courage to do anything about it what with the looming threat of graduation on the horizon, among other things.
"Hey, Ryou-san," he tries to say, but what comes out instead is the plaintive mew of a housecat.
Speaking of those other things, his body is already shrinking, limbs compacting and bones melting and shifting until he's on all fours. Simultaneously, fur sprouts from his skin as his ears move upward on his scalp, and there's the telltale push of a tail now protruding from his, well, tailbone.
Why did this have to happen now, on the first time he'd seen Ryousuke in weeks? He thought he'd been getting better at controlling it, but apparently the spike in his emotions had triggered it suddenly.
The next sounds that come from his mouth is clearly a string of curses.
Ryousuke's smirk has only grown wider until he's laughing outright, but he obligingly crouches down in front of him.
"My, my, Kurameowchi, I didn't know you would want to be petted so badly. Could've just asked."
Kuramochi would squawk in protest, but the best he can manage with his Maine Coon mouth is another mew. Ryousuke doesn't touch him, however, and he can't decide if it's a blessing or not.
"I'm not going to pick you up," Ryousuke continues. "You can walk, or change back and keep up." The way he says it is as if Kuramochi's going to follow him anyway, and part of Kuramochi hates that he's right because that's all he can do now.
The frustration doesn't help him in terms of changing back, so he stretches out on the ground and turns his head to the side so he can look at the sky out of the corner of his eye and not Ryousuke. He'd learned the trick from his mom, and though it doesn't always work, he feels his bones expanding a bit and latches onto the feeling, willing his body back into his normal shape. The position he's in right now is awkward for human limbs, so he lets his body spread out until he's facedown on the dirt, himself again.
"You know," Ryousuke hums, "I would think watching that would be kind of disgusting, but you've probably had it long enough to figure that out."
In a weird way, it's a compliment. Kuramochi picks himself up and stands at the same time Ryousuke does, probably blushing a little from embarrassment and trying to keep his body in order.
"More trouble than it's worth," he manages. "Yours is a lot cooler, anyway."
Ryousuke raises an eyebrow, and Kuramochi's known him long enough to see that the lines of his face have grown a little more rigid. Maybe he's said something wrong, so he tries to backtrack.
"I mean, you've got a better handle on your ability than me and you only got it last year. If you were me you wouldn't be turning into random felines on accident."
He still remembers the first time Ryousuke had started hearing the voices, or impressions, as he calls them, from the people around him. It had been when they'd lost to Inajitsu in Kuramochi's first year, and while everyone had been crushed, Ryousuke had completely collapsed, hands over his ears and clearly trying to stop himself from screaming.
Of course, if asked about the event now, Ryousuke would deny it ever happened, but Kuramochi knows better, because he'd been the one to rush him to the team's doctor, and he'd never been so scared in his life. It had also been when he'd realized that maybe those feelings in his chest were a bit more than he bargained for, but that's beside the point.
He focuses back in on Ryousuke, who finally opens his mouth to speak. "That's because you suck," he says lightly, and puts three fingers against Kuramochi's forehead and pushes just enough to make him step back in order to regain balance.
Kuramochi doesn't know why that makes him giddy, but it does. He's always wondered how Ryousuke can't read his emotions and thoughts, given how strong they are and how often he's been in his proximity, but he figures that if Ryousuke isn't acknowledging them, then he must not return them or want to lead him on, so he hasn't brought it up. If he isn't imagining things, however, Ryousuke's ever-present smile widens just a fraction.
He doesn't have time to dwell on it, since someone at the corner of the building calls his name.
"Oi, Kuramochi!" Maezono's there, along with Haruichi. "Gonna join us for dinner?"
Internally, Kuramochi curses a little. He'd been thinking about catching up a little with Ryousuke, and had just been working up the nerve to ask him about it, but now that's shattered. Instead, he looks at Ryousuke askance, feeling as though he should be asking permission to leave.
Ryousuke must feel the question at the tip of his tongue, at least, so he rolls his wrist in a shooing motion. "Go ahead, I already ate," he says, sounding as if he doesn't care either way, but adding, "If you'd like to stop by my room later, don't ask for permission for that too."
A grin spreads its way across Kuramochi's face. Ryousuke doesn't usually offer like that unless he's stuck as a cat and can't change back. "I'll be there," he promises, because he isn't going to waste the opportunity. Shouting his thanks over his shoulder, he runs to catch up with Maezono and Haruichi, who have now been joined by Miyuki and Sawamura, as they head toward the dining hall.
"A little rendezvous?" Miyuki smirks, not even subtle about it.
"Was that onii-san?" Sawamura's loud interjection is what somewhat saves him. "You should've invited him to eat with us!"
Kuramochi pointedly ignores Miyuki and would grab Sawamura in a headlock, but he can't ignore Haruichi's expression. It reminds him a little of Ryousuke's, as if he's taking in every detail about the scene and extracting as much analysis from it as he can. He's not nearly as scary as Ryousuke, and doesn't say anything about the matter, but he's a little too perceptive, and Kuramochi schools his expression so he can hope there's nothing giving him away.
The five of them make their way into the already crowded dining hall, and split up to get food and find a seat. Kuramochi's already thinking ahead to when he'll be in Ryousuke's room, and doesn't want to spend too much time here today, so he scarfs down his customary three bowls of rice, fast enough to get curious glances from the people at his table and more ribbing from Miyuki. Honestly, though, he can't bring himself to care, wanting to get in every minute he can with Ryousuke before people start heading out for individual practice.
It's kind of stupid, in hindsight, but he's already out the door and making a beeline for Ryousuke's room before the other guys are even halfway done with their meals.
The night is quiet, and he always needs something to fill the silence, so his feet naturally pick up, breaking into a run. He probably shouldn't be running in the halls, but it's like he can't help it; he was born to run, anyway.
But he skids to a stop in front of his own room, considering. Ryousuke probably won't mind if he brings his books too, but then again, he has plenty of time for that after extra practice.
There's a crash above him.
It's distant enough that it's not jarring, but even without the enhanced hearing of a cat he can tell that it sounds like someone had just broken through a door. The direction and distance of it too sounds like it's coming from Ryousuke's room, and before he can fully register anything, he's sprinting.
He makes it to the second-floor landing and hurtles to a stop at the end of the hallway.
There's been a crash, alright. Two men in black suits lie among the wreckage of Ryousuke's door, sunglasses broken and earpieces astray. Kuramochi's seen his fair share of action movies and spy thrillers, but nothing about this seems funny or cheesy now, the two of them battered and bloody on the floor amidst the debris.
There's still sounds from inside the room, however, and that spurs him forward, never one to back down from helping a friend, even if they're not Ryousuke.
He can't think rationally, just needing to get there as fast as possible and help out, so he doesn't account for being hit by a nearly flying body right as he reaches the entrance to the room.
He stumbles with the weight, and nearly goes down under it, but manages to hold the man up and then drop him unceremoniously next to his comrades.
"Ryou-san," he calls urgently, though it tapers into a chirp at the end, somewhat like a cheetah. He pushes his way through the rubble into the doorway, and is met with the last sight he would ever want to see.
Ryousuke is barely standing, as bruised as the men outside but without the scrapes from door shrapnel. There's a wide cut on his lip, and various other ones along his jaw, neck, and arms. It even looks like there's a bruise in the shape of fingers near his pulse, and it makes Kuramochi's blood boil in the worst way.
He looks up after swiping experimentally at his lip, and notices Kuramochi there, and freezes for a split second. Then he straightens up, though it looks like it takes considerable effort.
"You're late to the party," he says mildly.
"Ryou-san, that's not--" Kuramochi cuts himself off and rushes over, hands flitting about Ryousuke's face and shoulders since he's not sure where to touch or if he's allowed to. "We need to get you to a doctor!"
Surprisingly, Ryousuke doesn't shove his hands away, simply leaning forward until his forehead is against Kuramochi's chest. The rest of his weight seems to follow, as if the adrenaline is no longer enough to keep him upright, and Kuramochi barely catches him before he falls.
"Shit," he mutters. "Shit, shit, shit, okay. Hold on, I'm just gonna..." He crouches a little and gathers Ryousuke up so he can pick him up. But as he's moving toward the entrance, Ryousuke stirs and taps his fingers against Kuramochi's chest.
He's struggling a little, so Kuramochi lets him back on the ground, and Ryousuke staggers toward the men lying in the debris.
"Help me move them behind the building."
"What? Why?" Kuramochi blinks. "We need to report them, and turn them into the police or whatever."
Ryousuke shakes his head. "If we do that, they'll just send more," he says. "Trust me."
That would mean that Ryousuke has dealt with this before, and something squeezes painfully in Kuramochi's chest. His instincts scream at him that this entire thing is wrong, the cats in his mind ready to pounce with claws extended, but he'd gotten here too late and Ryousuke is already dragging two men down the corridor by the backs of their collars.
It's also not his place to judge what Ryousuke thinks is best, and his upperclassman will likely shred him if he doesn't comply. He stands there for another moment, looking between Ryousuke and the last man, then grabs the suit as well and goes to follow Ryousuke, wondering what kind of mess he's gotten into.
They deposit the unconscious men near the edge of campus and hurry back. Ryousuke decides there's nothing for it and leaves the debris of the door, muttering something about paying for it later. Kuramochi isn't sure he heard that right, because where does a student get money like that? But that doesn't matter as much as Ryousuke's injuries.
"Ryou-san," he tries again. "The doctor?"
"No," he says. "They ask too many questions. Do me a favor, though, and ask Takashima-san for the first aid kit."
Kuramochi's about to protest, but even in this state, all it takes is one look from Ryousuke to silence him. He takes a deep breath, two, tries to rein himself in and heads for the door. The things he does for Ryousuke, really.
If Takashima's surprised to see him, she doesn't show it, simply asking if he needs any help with the first aid kit before handing it to him. He wants to tell her how badly Ryousuke is hurt, but bites down on his tongue and shakes his head in what he hopes is a convincing way before bolting off.
"Took you long enough," Ryousuke says. He's sitting on the edge of his bed, but stands when Kuramochi comes through the now empty doorway. "People are practicing now, so let's use your room. We can spin some story about coming back to the door already damaged afterward."
He doesn't like it, but Kuramochi lets the other lead him back to his own room, and tries not to say anything as Ryousuke sits on his bed and pulls off his shirt.
"You might as well make yourself useful and do it for me."
It wouldn't be noticeable to anyone else, but he can tell that Ryousuke is at or past his limit, which is the only reason he's asking. But if he's being honest, he was going to insist that he do it anyway, because then he'll feel less helpless, never mind the fact that he actually gets a chance to take care of him.
He sits gingerly on the bed next to Ryousuke and does what he can. The bleeding has stopped, thankfully, but the bruises have only grown darker, and he tries to be as gentle as he can in treating and wrapping it up. It feels like Ryousuke's watching him the entire time, part assessing and part something he can't place, so he doesn't meet his eyes, focusing intently on his task and finding himself not all that surprised that he'd taken on all three of those guys at once.
His hands are at his biceps, shoulders, neck, and he's a little too aware of both of their breaths and his skin beneath his fingers. But it's not fair of him to think like that right now, and Ryousuke might pick that up all too easily from how close they are, so he tries to shut those thoughts out.
"Hope that's good enough," he says, finally and reluctantly letting his arms go.
Ryousuke experimentally flexes his arms, touching the bandages where they 're wound around his neck, arms, and hands. He clicks his tongue. "You couldn't have covered less skin? I'll have to wear a lot to hide it."
Kuramochi's at a bit of a loss. "Is that really how you're going to thank me, Ryou-san? I was - I am worried as hell."
The other's gaze is unreadable, but he tilts his head to the side. "Thank you," he says, all traces of a smile gone. And then, "Lend me one of your hoodies, won't you?"
"You heard me." He slides his shirt back on and calmly walks over to Kuramochi's closet, selecting an inconspicuous gray hoodie. "This will have to do."
There's a lot of things Kuramochi could say about that, but they die out in his throat as Ryousuke shrugs it on over his head. It's too big, of course, the sleeves coming down past his knuckles, but he's wearing Kuramochi's clothes and Kuramochi can't deny he's had this thought a few too many times to not want it to be happening right now.
"Okay, whatever, fine," he manages. "But return it to me eventually. And I'm assuming you're not going to tell me what those guys were doing here?"
Ryousuke smiles his enigma of a smile, which is already answer enough. "I may or may not return it at graduation," he says, and doesn't need to announce he's leaving before gliding out the door.
I probably failed that math test...
I wonder what's for dinner? Other than rice, of course...
She's too pretty for me... Her eyes and hair and holy shit those boobs...
Along with these thoughts, there are the impressions of fear, disappointment, and lust blooming in his head, making it really hard to focus on the lesson.
Well, there's that and the bandages. There's an itch he can't scratch on the side of his neck because it hurts every time it does. But his expression doesn't waver, still flicking dutifully between the teacher and his notes.
The bandages bring with them the memory of Kuramochi's hands as they'd worked on him. Normally, he'd push that kind of touch away, as it only serves to remind him that people think he's fragile, given his petite frame and pink hair. But Kuramochi's a bolstering support, a little rough around the edges but trustworthy and always there when it counts most, so he'd let him continue. And then, because it felt as though Kuramochi had taken a little bit of him away when he'd let him go, he'd taken something smaller in return: the hoodie.
He'd be wearing it now too if it weren't for the school uniform. Instead, though it's a rather warm almost-spring day, he's wearing a scarf over it, and a pair of fingerless gloves, because he really doesn't need even more questions.
When the coach and his staff had found the shattered door, he'd played innocent, claiming that it was already like that when he came back to the room, but offered to pay for it. They'd all been baffled, wondering if people had broken in to steal some of the students' things. But they're all baseball idiots, and there's nothing of real value in their rooms, unless one counts textbooks for the third years. After he'd assured them he would arrange for payment, they'd backed down and walked away, talking about something along the lines of hired security or more staff during the night hours.
If only they knew the truth.
He spends the afternoon cooped up in his room, trying to catch up with today's lessons and studying on top of it because the voices had been especially loud today. By the time dinner rolls around, his body feels cramped from staying in relatively the same position for so long.
Stretching and closing his books, he gets up to make his way to the dining hall, feeling the pangs of hunger slowly seeping into his stomach since he hasn't eaten since lunch. As he makes his way down the stairs, however, he freezes.
There's a feeling of anticipation in his head, but it's not his. There's one or more people there around the corner of the building, but he can't hear any sound with his ears, so he knows it's not some of the other students, and the minds of these people are carefully blank, as if they know his ability.
Definitely more of those bastards.
After the last time, they should really know not to ambush him around the same time. And after last time, he doesn't want Kuramochi to be more suspicious and worried and have to get tangled up in his fight.
Instead of descending the stairs, he toes the step above the one he's currently on, and backtracks, testing each step before putting his weight on it. Four more, three, two...
He goes completely still, listening. There's dead silence all around him, and then a powerful sort of something from the same spot, as if the leader is giving them the command to go now.
Ryousuke's head is screaming. He feels the impressions of fast heartbeats before he sees them round the corner, but he has the higher ground, and waits for them to come barreling up the steps at him to react, launching himself at the first hard enough to knock all of them to the ground. But he misses the landing on the last step, stumbling and twisting it underneath him, and barely catches himself on his hands as he falls.
Luckily, there's no pain so he's up again in a flash, dodging a blow from the left and sliding under it to land a solid fist into his stomach, then grabbing the outstretched arm so he can sweep him to the ground. He can already feel the others trying to reach out and catch him in any opening they can, but he can feel the impressions of their movements and be in the exact spot to leave the most damage.
He'd even be doing well, but there's more than last time, and he doesn't have the time to stop and think, moving around and trying to hold his own until someone lands a hit squarely in the center of his neck.
His throat constricts, the air sucked from it, and it's all his brain can focus on, trying to open up the pathway again to get more oxygen into his system. As he's distracted by coughing, more hits come in, and this time, he's not fast enough to retaliate in time, slowly going down in the mass of bodies and the overwhelming sensations of victory.
There's an emotion growing in his mind, something that burns white hot and overpowers the mindless triumph of the men around him. A rage born of protectiveness.
The first two men go down in a flash of fur and spots - rosettes, Ryousuke thinks vaguely. The others are off him immediately, turning to deal with the new threat. He can feel one of them cursing in his head because he can't use his gun, and he goes down rather easily. The rest are slowly scattering, and he can sense their fear without having to turn his head.
The source of rage is right above him now, but he doesn't shy away from it. He can see the soft white underbelly above him, four legs situated so that Ryousuke's body is in the middle. All Ryousuke can feel is still that sense of protectiveness.
You'll never take Ryou-san on my watch. So back the fuck up.
The cheetah startles when he reaches up to touch the white fur, and chirps at him, thoughts interrupted.
All of the men that had been here are gone now, and Ryousuke can breathe again. He's not bleeding this time, but he can feel the stinging smart of more scrapes and bruises.
"How cute," he says, the corners of his mouth lifting. "You seem to think you're my bodyguard or something."
If cats can look sheepish, this one's doing a pretty good job. He shuffles nervously backward so he's not standing over Ryousuke anymore, giving Ryousuke room to sit up. He can sense the apology from him, hidden among the remnants of anger.
"I can't believe you're going to apologize for helping someone," he says, reaching out to tap his nose.
I'm not, he hears, startlingly loud and clear, as if Kuramochi's trying to let him across the barrier more easily. Or at least, I'm not sorry about helping. Kinda sorry if you think I'm doing this because I think you're weak, though.
Ryousuke raises an eyebrow. Really, though he can read Kuramochi's mind, he can't pretend he understands how it works. He'd heard things about Kuramochi being a delinquent in his junior high days, but he can't get how people can't see how big his heart is, even without an ability like his.
That's also partly why he can't afford to let Kuramochi get closer to figuring it out, or to get mixed up in all of this. There has to be a way to make it stop, because Kuramochi has weaseled his way unknowingly into being as important to him as Haruichi, and that makes him another person to protect, even if Kuramochi can clearly take care of himself.
"Well, at least change back or into something manageable," he says at last. "A cheetah is really a bit much."
Kuramochi chirps at him again in indignation, but ducks his head, clearly concentrating. The place where his eyebrows would be draw together, so human an expression that Ryousuke almost laughs.
Nothing happens for a minute or so, and Kuramochi's head lifts to meet Ryousuke's eyes, his own wide. He growls a little, low in his throat, and paces to the left a few steps, then changes his mind and comes back. Ryousuke recognizes that trickle of fear, that one day he's going to be stuck as a cat forever.
"Probably because your emotions are running high," he says, and sits back on his hands, watching him. "Try for a smaller cat."
The expression shifts again, and Kuramochi starts to shrink, the color across his longer fur spreading into grays and whites. Ryousuke watches passively, but part of him is always a touch impressed when he sees the transformation. At any rate, this cat is small enough for him to pick up, so he shifts onto his knees to do so, scooping him up and feeling his surprise. He doesn't comment on it, however, keeping carefully nonchalant as he makes his way back to his room.
"Did you even eat dinner?" he asks lightly. As a thank you, he keeps his hold on Kuramochi as he steps into his room, who's unsure whether he'd be allowed to stay curled up in Ryousuke's hold. "I didn't, so you can either stay there while I go get something to eat or stay in my room."
It's nice to just have Kuramochi's voice in his head as opposed to all the ones from earlier, and he gets an answer as Kuramochi curls up with his tail secure around him, so he sets off for the dining hall, hoping it's still open. There's a few people on the way who give him curious glances, and he can hear them wondering if the cat is Kuramochi, but he doesn't spare them a glance, catching a couple of third years who also came to dinner at the last possible moment.
There's the beginnings of something prickling at his mind even among the voices of the last ones at dinner, and he tries to squash the idea, but it only grows stronger. He'll have to face the music and the reason why those men were after him soon enough, since graduation is right around the corner, and the best option to protect not only himself but possibly Kuramochi as well is a prospect he doesn't like.
He's run out of options, though.
As he's eating, Kuramochi starts off sitting on his lap, but Ryousuke feels him get embarrassed about something and go completely still, then shuffle awkwardly off. He settles onto the bench beside Ryousuke and looks up at him consideringly.
"This is mine, you know." He doesn't tell him he'd gotten extra on purpose so he could take it back to his room.
Kuramochi's thoughts feel like he'd expected as much, and he hops off the seat to go in the direction of the counter to see if he can get some for himself.
"Kuramochi," he says. "You're not going to get any if you go off."
It doesn't have the bite it could because he's thinking of other things, but it does get Kuramochi to stop, then eventually turn and hop gracefully back onto the bench, inquisitively blinking up at him.
I knew you had some for me, he thinks. Or I thought. Thanks, Ryou-san.
Ryousuke clicks his tongue. "I'm not that heartless."
He tries to put all thoughts of men in suits and corporate secrets out of his head for now, just finishing his meal and heading back toward his room. He's never been more glad that Kuramochi can't read his mind than in this moment, but given how well Kuramochi knows him anyway, he can probably tell that something's on his mind. He doesn't push, however, and that's something else Ryousuke appreciates about him.
Kuramochi knows by now that being out and about and getting frustrated about it won't change him back, so he curls up near Ryousuke's feet as he sits on his bed finishing some things and reading. There's the familiar warm thoughts from his head and a bit from his roommates, who don't question Kuramochi's presence anymore, but the room is more or less quiet, giving him too much space to think.
He beckons Kuramochi closer instead, and allows himself to run his hand through his fur as thoughts flit through his head. He can't just let this keep happening, and as he watches Kuramochi stretch out, the lazy heat of content filling his head, the conviction about his less than ideal idea only grows stronger.
The cat underneath his fingers shifts, and by the relief Ryousuke can feel, he can guess that Kuramochi is changing. The body stretches, fur shrinking and face melting back into the familiar human lines, and Kuramochi curls onto his side, blinking up at him not too differently from when he had in the dining hall.
Ryousuke's hand is still in his hair, and he seems to realize that it's there, as well as the fact that he's on Ryousuke's bed, all too suddenly. He scrambles backward and falls off the edge, landing with an unceremonious thump on the floor.
That, at least, is familiar, and Ryousuke laughs at him even as he wishes he weren't so nervous and would just tell him what he already knows.
"Pity I couldn't record that," he says in lieu of a welcome back. "Run along and sleep now, yes?" He can't do what he has to do if Kuramochi's in the room.
Kuramochi sits up and scowls, rubbing his head, then stops and looks at Ryousuke, his gaze too perceptive. "You sure you're okay, Ryou-san?"
"Not my bodyguard," he reminds him, and leans forward to flick his forehead. "You're going to regret it at morning practice if you don't sleep now."
He can feel Kuramochi's conflict, torn between wanting to spend more time with Ryousuke and getting much-needed sleep, but eventually he nods.
"Okay," he says finally, and stands. "Just wanted to say I wouldn't hesitate to do that again."
After he leaves, Ryousuke shakes his head. Really, going and saying things like that, he's making it too obvious. But maybe he wants that, wants Ryousuke to give him some sort of opening or encouragement.
He can't. Yet.
Ryousuke glances toward his roommates, and decides he shouldn't let them in on anything he's about to do either, so he waits until he's sure Kuramochi will be back in his room before slipping outside with his phone.
The number he dials makes his lips curl in distaste, but he forces himself to. Four rings later, someone picks it up.
"Ah, Ryousuke." The voice is also sickeningly familiar. "I take it you've had enough." It's not a question, and that makes him all the more despicable to Ryousuke, as if Ryousuke's agreement to this whole affair was just another piece clicking into his plans.
Just for that, he lets the silence hang for a moment, allowing himself to be petty. It also serves as a way for him to remind himself that Seidou as a whole doesn't need him to attract more trouble than he has, so he's also doing some damage control here.
Ryousuke takes in a breath, lets it out. "What I have instead is a proposition."
There's a snort of amusement on the other end. "Oh? Let's hear it before I agree to anything."
Part of him wishes the man were here so he could hear his thoughts, but he's evidently taken precautions against that. At any rate, he'll most likely agree.
"I will join you," he says, forcing himself to sound calm. "But only after I graduate."
"Easy enough." The man hums in thought. "That's it? No loopholes, no fine print?" His voice drips with patronizing smugness.
Ryousuke tilts his head back to look at the moon. "That's it," he repeats. "I'm going now."
"Sure, sure. Take care of yourself, won't you?"
As if he needs to be reminded. "Sure," is all he says, and hangs up.
Graduation comes much too soon for Kuramochi.
It's a warm spring day, picture perfect with just the right weather, and that seems a little unfair to him. His homeroom teacher drones on as if it's a normal class period, but the students know better, know that the ceremony is going on in the auditorium and soon they'll be let out to go say goodbye to their favorite third years.
His mind drifts to where Ryousuke would be sitting in the moment, and wonders if he's okay. Surprisingly, there hadn't been any attacks after the initial two, but he's never gotten less paranoid about it, visiting Ryousuke almost every day even when the latter had insisted that there wouldn't be any more. His voice saying that Kuramochi isn't his bodyguard drifts through his mind, and he nearly groans and puts his head down on his desk, because the thought of his silky voice, even when insulting him, is never good for his train of thought anyway.
But Ryousuke's graduating now, and he won't get to hear that voice afterward, possibly ever, unless Ryousuke wants to keep in touch. He wonders if these feelings will go away after not seeing him every day, but he seriously doubts it.
It makes him sad enough that he has to bolt out of the classroom once they're dismissed, sprinting toward the area outside the auditorium doors.
The third years are coming out in a huge flood, and he can spot the group from the baseball team among the first ones, Ryousuke among them. Of course, he's going to miss all of them, so he makes his rounds to greet as many as he can before stopping in front of Ryousuke.
His smile is as sharp as ever, looking quite amused by something, and his gaze flicks toward Kuramochi's face, tucking a baseball glove under his arm.
"Relax, Kuramochi. It likely won't be the last you see of me."
Of course he'd know, but in the moment, Kuramochi's grateful for it since he doesn't have to express it in words. The sudden urge to say something, anything to let him know wells up inside of him, and he opens his mouth to blurt it out before he can lose his nerve.
"Oi, Ryousuke!" Jun calls. He's waving his arms to get Ryousuke's attention. "We're doing the thing!"
Ryousuke ignores him for a moment, though. "Yes, Kuramochi?"
But Kuramochi finds the words are stuck in his throat now, and all he manages is a meow.
If it isn't his imagination, Ryousuke looks disappointed.
"Later, then," he says, walking toward the group. "I'll catch up with you toward the end."
Kuramochi can only nod, and can't fight the feeling of growing frustration in his chest, so he moves a safe distance away and watches as Ryousuke greets Haruichi, then throws his glove in the air with the rest of them.
He can't let this rest just like that, though, and the feeling follows him like a burning sensation as he keeps Ryousuke within eyesight. Finally, finally, the other comes back for him, brow furrowing just slightly. It's likely from the roiling emotions curling through Kuramochi's gut.
"I only have a few minutes, so make this quick," Ryousuke says. "You have my number anyway, so use that if you can't fit it in."
Kuramochi chooses not to question why he doesn't have much time, and uses it as fuel for his urgency, glad that his emotions haven't turned him into a cat yet.
"We should date," is the first thing he blurts. Then his eyes widen. "Wait, no, I didn't mean for it to sound like that. I mean I would like for us to date, or you to go out with me, or something. If you would like that too. Yeah."
He's completely sure that Ryousuke's slight wince is from the embarrassment gleefully burning it's way up his neck and to the tips of his ears. But it clears, and Ryousuke snickers once, and again, before composing himself.
"You're lucky I'll be in the area," he says. "Better plan something good."
Kuramochi can't believe his ears. The surge of relief is overwhelming, and he tries to will it down, but he's already shrinking into a Japanese bobtail.
Shit, he tells Ryousuke, and he's rewarded by a laugh. Ryousuke stoops down to run his hand along the underside of his chin where his jaw connects to his skull, and it draws a purr out of him, but he's gone too soon.
"Contact me, then," Ryousuke says, and turns away.
He forces the panic down and elongates, a sprawling heap of human again. "There's still a lot of time left," he manages, dread prickling at the base of his spine. "Why are you leaving?"
"I have to," Ryousuke says simply. It sounds like he wants to say something else, but his mouth sets into a firmer line for a moment. "Goodbye for now, Youichi." He sets off down the walk toward the entrance of the school until he's just a distant figure, leaving Kuramochi with a frankly stupid grin on his face.
But if he hadn't been following Ryousuke with his eyes, he wouldn't have noticed the ominous black jeep waiting for him at the sidewalk, or the men that get out.
They look exactly like the men that had attacked him not two weeks before.
His legs are in motion before he knows what's happening, and he's getting flashbacks. Ryou-san! he thinks, though he knows he's too far away for Ryousuke to hear him. He can see the men saying something to Ryousuke, and then him responding with something that makes them all get back into the car, Ryousuke following willingly.
That doesn't seem right. Hadn't Ryousuke been the one that was fighting so hard against these guys? Why is he suddenly complying with them?
He's close enough now so that he just has to clear the sidewalk to reach the car, but then what? He has no clear plan in mind, just the thought that he has to get to Ryousuke and figure it out from there. It's a completely absurd notion, but he searches himself for the right cat, even as the car's engine starts up, and in a flash, he's a caracal, launching himself up into the air.
The bad news is that his caracal senses tell him to leap upward instead of far, so he ends up about ten feet in the air, trying to change his direction at the last second. The good news is that he's somehow managed to put himself in the car's blind spot, and his body reacts faster than his mind does, switching to an Abyssinian mid-flight and twisting himself so he lands on the roof of the car without any large noise.
The second piece of bad news comes after he finds that there are little rails that serve as a luggage rack. The thing is, cat paws aren't meant to grasp things like humans do, and even with claws, he can't find traction.
In other words, he's sliding down the roof of the car toward the trunk.
He takes a deep breath and tries hooking the entirety of one paw on one of the rails, which is hard as the vehicle is moving. Closing his eyes, he tries to think of everything that makes him human and focuses on that, silently urging himself to change back.
To his surprise, it works, though his hand almost gets stuck between the rail and the roof of the car. He allows himself a tiny laugh of victory, hoping they don't hear it inside the car, and sends a silent apology to Ryousuke in case he can hear him. All that's left to do now is hang on and hope for the best.
The drive is about forty minutes, and if he'd been any weaker, he'd have fallen off the roof long ago, but somehow he manages to hang on until they turn into the parking garage of an enormous glass building. Since they enter from the back, he can't see the logo or anything, but from the street signs and the harbor in the distance, he guesses they're in Koto.
The car stops in front of something that looks like a metal detector, but is big enough for the entire jeep to fit through. He peeks over the side and catches a hand swiping a card and a thumbprint into a machine, and then there's a beep and they pass through, with him pressed flat to the surface of the car so he can fit through the pseudo metal detector as well.
He's fully prepared to be caught then, but nothing happens, and he lets out a shaky breath as the car is parked safely and he can let go of the rails, knuckles white.
Naturally, that's when an alarm starts blaring, and doors at the end of the garage burst open, more men spilling forth and surrounding the car in a flash.
With a sinking heart, Kuramochi slowly lifts his head, and then the rest of his body with it, crouching there on top of the car with about thirty guns pointed at him. Ryousuke is there as well, still in his school uniform, but he doesn't look surprised to see Kuramochi. Perhaps he'd felt Kuramochi's presence through the roof of the car like he thought he would.
Even he knows when he's beat.
He lifts his hands in a gesture of surrender, and slowly slides toward the front of the car and down to the ground. He doesn't get a chance to read Ryousuke's expression, because rough hands grip his shoulders, forcing him to go along with them toward what feels like his execution.
Ryousuke fights the urge to go after the guards and Kuramochi.
In his head, of course, he's cursing the fact that Kuramochi had gotten caught, but maybe he can also turn it into an opportunity. So he doesn't say anything, doesn't react as they take Kuramochi away.
"You know him?" One of the remaining guards turns his head toward Ryousuke.
"No," Ryousuke lies, and tries to divert his attention nonchalantly. " You were going to take me to see your boss?"
The guard seems to remember his job then. "Right. Er, this way."
They take a different exit and go through two sets of doors to end up in what looks like a lobby. Ryousuke can see through the giant glass windows at the end, so they're probably in the building they'd seen adjacent to the garage as they'd come in.
"He's expanded," Ryousuke notes idly, just to probe a little.
He can feel the pride swelling in the guard to his left, and it's frankly disgusting to him, given how the boss of this place runs things. But he can't change that. Yet, anyway.
"You're right," the guard says. "We've bought out quite a few big names since the last time you visited." And he's rolling in money. Can't understand why you don't want to be a part of it.
Ryousuke files those pieces of information away for later.
One of the other men nudges the first, hard, and he can feel the shut up in his thoughts, resisting the urge to smile and say that an armed escort hardly feels welcoming if he's going to work here.
They enter an elevator and one of them presses the button for the top floor, where Ryousuke knows there's a combination penthouse and office. Honestly, something like dread creeps into his stomach, and it's not just the movement of the elevator.
Once the doors open, he's ushered around a corner and into the vast space of the penthouse. The first thing he sees is a ring of low couches around a central table, and he doesn't need to look further because sitting there is the man he probably hates most, drinking tea out of a painted porcelain cup as if he owns the place - which, sadly, he does.
"Hello, Ryousuke." He leans forward, his own suit a light gray in contrast to the sea of black that surrounds the couch area. "Glad to see you've finally joined us. I chose you for your abilities, you know. Good for finding out secrets."
Ryousuke takes that as his cue to sit, so he places himself opposite his father, taking up as little space as possible. "Looking forward to it," he says mildly. While he's here, he should probably try and probe a little to see what secrets he can glean from his father's mind. "Anything I should know? What does my job entail? Your, ah, welcoming party didn't care to inform me."
The man laughs, which he takes as a good sign. "You're going to be my assistant. I don't have a right-hand man, you could say, and who better than my own son? You're also going to be a spy, of sorts. I need all the dirt I can get to figure out how to overpower other companies. I'll start with a private tour and show you what could be your office and house as well as the vaults and some other things. I'm sure you want to see where that little friend of yours was taken too, no?"
Ryousuke gets a burst of images from him, from stacks of money to a bare room to the screens of hidden camera footage. The latter part is probably how they'd spotted Kuramochi, and his father probably knows all about him by now, so there's no use lying that he doesn't know him anymore. He'll have to reprimand Kuramochi later for being about as subtle as a bull in a china shop.
His father sets down his cup, suspecting nothing for now. "Well, shall we get started? The rest of you are dismissed."
The men in black retreat toward the elevators after wishing him a good evening, and Kominato the elder stands, rolling his shoulders back.
"Let's start with your quarters."
Ryousuke listens and takes everything in as he takes him one floor down to what could very well be a little apartment, then down further to where there are nearly bare rooms just like the ones he'd seen in his father's head. The elder Kominato assures him that they treat their "guests" well, and glosses over when they free them. Ryousuke tries to listen and look for Kuramochi as discreetly as possible, and spots him at the very end of the hall as they're nearly exiting out the other end.
Kuramochi doesn't look hurt, but definitely wary and coiled like a spring. As Ryousuke passes by, the thoughts in him pounce like a cat, and he hears: Ryou-san, why are you with these fuckers? If you still care, let me outta here soon.
He can't talk to Kuramochi at all with his father right there, so he hopes the other gets it and keeps his gaze straight forward, following his father into the corridor outside.
The vault is another spot of interest. His father has a keycard that he explains is for his use only, and with that and a code that Ryousuke just barely catches, the huge door swings open.
This is also how he'd seen it in those images. There's stacks of money neatly piled in the center of the huge space, easily billions, and lockers all around the perimeter. They have little names on them, and Ryousuke realizes that it's essentially each employee's share.
"Magnificent, isn't it?" His father comes to stand beside him. "I don't really trust banks, so it's all here. Of course, a lot of it goes to expenses and employees, but there's a lot for me, and definitely a fair share for you, if you'd like."
Standing here, surrounded by all this money, Ryousuke can see why his father's subordinates could be lured easily into this entire scheme, even the men who consider their moral compass steady. But he's not here for an actual job. He's here to undo it all.
"I suppose, yes," he says, carefully playing it up a little. "But I'm here to work, aren't I? Money is just a side effect."
"That's what I like about you!" Kominato gives a hearty laugh and claps his shoulder. "We're going to work so well together. I wish all my employees were like you. You know how it is, always clamoring for more money."
Something about the statement seems off, and Ryousuke clues in on his thoughts instead, because even the smartest people can't shut out their thoughts, especially if they're trying not to think about something.
There's a flash of something, a login page, and then a spreadsheet, with thousands of names, facts, figures. He can tell it's their wages and the company's expenses factored in, but he can't tell what's wrong with it at a glance. He'll have to find a way to get into his work computer, and soon.
"Ah, before I forget," his father says, returning back to the hallway outside. "You'll be allowed a weapon of your choice. The armory is a few floors below yours and above the regular employee offices, though rest assured, all the explosives are kept safely."
If alarm bells hadn't been ringing in Ryousuke's head before, they sure as hell are now. It's like his father is running the yakuza and not a company at this point. But he doesn't say anything, because those might come in handy.
A series of chimes sounds from the man's pocket, and he takes out a phone, peering at the caller ID. "Ah... I'll have to take this. I'll leave you to get settled in, then."
With a sweep of his coat, he's striding down the corridor toward the opposite end of the vault, adopting a falsely cheery voice for whomever's on the other end.
Ryousuke's alone now. His own phone tells him it's rather late at night, but he needs to go back up several floors. While he has something like a plan, he can't put it into motion until he can get into his father's computer, which might take anywhere from days to weeks on his own. But with a little bit of help, he can plan this all out for tomorrow night.
When he gets to the correct floor, there are guards in place outside the doors to the hall where he can find Kuramochi. He considers fishing for the card his father had given him, but when they recognize him and he tells him he's here on his father's orders they shuffle out of the way. One of them even swipes the door open for him.
He doesn't trust it, but gives them a nod of acknowledgement, trying not to look like he's in a hurry as he walks down the hall. On either side of him are basically rooms with thick glass as a front wall, with beds and practically nothing else. Only a couple are occupied.
Kuramochi comes toward the window as Ryousuke reaches him, pressing his hands to the glass. Ryousuke signals for him to hang on and presses the card to a reader on the door. Thankfully, it works, and he opens the door, leaving it just a little open.
"I've already searched this entire room thing, and it's weird, but there's no cameras in here," Kuramochi says. "Are we leaving or...? "
Ryousuke shakes his head, his lips stretching into something positively dangerous. "What were you thinking, hm? That you could be a hero and save me from the get-go? The owner of this company is my father, and I'm not here to stay."
Kuramochi freezes, and a sheepish expression spreads across his face. "I wasn't thinking at all, actually... Just kinda figured that if you were fighting against them before, you would have to be, I dunno, brainwashed or something to go along with them willingly, and I had to fight that."
Ryousuke can feel the rebellious streak in him, and frustrating as it is, he can't stay angry for long. "You owe me after all this is over, then," he says. "A second date."
"Second? We haven't even had one."
He reaches up to flick Kuramochi's head. "I'm getting there, idiot. If you would listen for just one second, I have a plan."
And there's Kuramochi's shit-eating grin, the one he knows is expectant and ready for anything. Ryousuke's smile grows slightly wider in return.
"How do you feel about shattering a corporate empire for our first date?"
Ryousuke tells him that he'll delay the guards who have to come in for their shift after the first dinner break the next day, so for now he's stuck in the cell.
Thoughts keep running through his head, mostly of Ryousuke himself. He'd badly wanted to kiss him, but he can always tell when Ryousuke is too focused on something to give much thought to anything else, and this is one of those times. It's not the time for it, anyway, so he'll just turn his own focus to being as much of an asset as he can to Ryousuke and worry about all that later.
For now, even though he'd be much more comfortable as a cat, he can't show any of these guys his ability, so he tries his best to curl up on the bed and sleep.
Morning comes when someone comes to bring him an actual lunchbox with breakfast. It's surprisingly enough to count as a meal, and the guard steps out to give him his privacy as he eats. Lunch and dinner are about the same, and he figures they've found out that it's more than enough to let their "guests," as they call him, to go insane with nothing but boredom and their own thoughts.
But it's only been about a day for him anyway, and he takes slow walks around the perimeter to keep his blood circulation flowing, fueled by the thought that Ryousuke will be here soon.
Much later, he can hear the door at the end of the hall opening softly, and peeks out the window. Thankfully, it's Ryousuke, and he hurries over to free him.
"You're going to have to sneak into the penthouse," Ryousuke says without preamble, all business. "I've knocked out the guards outside the door so that they're all asleep now, so we can get out that way fairly easily, but I don't know how long the effects last, so the sooner we're in and out the better."
His eyes flick toward Kuramochi's slightly alarmed expression, and he pauses to tap his knuckles against his cheek. "Don't think about it too much. You'll do fine."
Kuramochi draws strength from that, and nods. He has to do this, because Ryousuke probably has a very good reason for sabotaging his father's company, and he's been held here against his will anyway, so even though this might not exactly be legal, he wants to help level out the playing field, so to speak.
"Let's do this."
Ryousuke's smirk is quite frankly beautiful as they head out the door. He leads Kuramochi through the halls until the elevator, and briefs him as they make their way up. "I'm going to stop at the floor just underneath, and then you'll continue as a cat, preferably. My father's bedroom is out of range if I'm in my office, but once you get his keycard from his nightstand, you can put it into his computer which is on the huge desk in the sitting area and shouldn't need a password. Just send screenshots of every spreadsheet you can find to my email, not over text."
He's definitely been busy today. Kuramochi wonders how he'd gotten all this information, and when he'd gotten an office, but it's not too surprising, considering, well, it's Ryousuke. He nods as the elevator dings open at Ryousuke's floor and the other steps out.
"Come back when you're done," he says as the elevator doors shut.
Kuramochi feels very much alone as he presses the button for the floor above, and he lets out a breath he doesn't know he was holding, allowing his body to melt into a black Bombay cat.
It's dark and shadowy and eerily quiet as he pads into the hall once the elevator doors open, and it takes his eyes a moment to adjust. Of course, he has better night vision as a cat than a human, so it's not too hard to find first the desk that Ryousuke had talked about, then the door to the bedroom.
It takes a little maneuvering until he can twist the doorknob with both paws, but he eventually feels the door give and he's in, skirting along the wall until he can see the nightstand, and the boss's sleeping face not a meter away.
Slowly, he pads forward and raises himself on his hind legs so he can put his paws on the edge, and spies the card next to the alarm clock. It's close enough that he can take hold of it with his teeth, and it takes him less than a minute to slip back out the door.
Outside, he lets out a shaky breath after he's turned the knob back into place, but he's not done yet.
He keeps close to the walls and furniture as much as possible while heading for the desk, and hops onto the chair in front of the computer. The card he sets aside as he gingerly pushes the laptop open and slides the card into the slot, which is so much harder with paws.
There's another problem: the keyboard itself.
He doesn't want to change back into human because there might be cameras around, and he doubts he can only transform his hands back, which would be creepy in itself, so he experimentally touches his nose to the screen. It's now showing the last thing it's owner had been looking at, a spreadsheet, and the touch had selected a box in a column labelled Salary with the word "before" in parentheses next to it. Good, a touch screen then.
If there's a before, then there's likely an after, but he can't dwell too much on it now. Ryousuke's more likely to be the expert on this, so he just finds a tool to screenshot and sends some from this spreadsheet and some others, unsure which will be the most helpful. Then he erases all trace of his own email login and history, and closes the other spreadsheets so that only the one that had been visible before is on the screen.
As he takes out the card from the laptop and the screen goes dark, he considers it. If he just took it with him, then the boss himself would be locked up here, right? And maybe if he took the laptop as well, the guy's files would be good evidence in case they run into the police.
The idea grows more solidly in his mind, so he tugs the laptop and card onto the chair first, then hops to the ground and tugs them down the rest of the way. Clamping both in his mouth, he makes his way back to the elevators, heart pounding much faster than before.
He half expects the doors to open to some of the guards from downstairs, but the elevator is blessedly empty, and he tugs his prize all the way inside. He only needs to get these to the floor below, but he doesn't let out his breath until the doors are completely closed.
His body is shaking enough that he can't focus on turning back to human, so if there's anyone else but Ryousuke on the floor below waiting to use the elevator, they're going to wonder what a cat is doing with a laptop and a keycard. But the elevator doors ding open, and Ryousuke's there in a flash, stepping into the elevator and hurriedly pressing the button for the doors to close.
"Next stop, the armory - are you stuck?" Ryousuke crouches down next to him, setting his papers on the floor.
Yeah... Give me a moment, I'm mostly calm now, I think.
Ryousuke sets a hand on his head, and he's incredibly grateful, feeling his entire body relax and shift so that he can nuzzle into it, already making the shift toward human even though the warm feeling in his chest is a little overpowering. That's a new one.
But he owes it to Ryousuke to focus for now, so all he says is a thank you before picking up the laptop and card. He can probably read his emotions like an open book, anyway.
"I uh... thought you might want these, just in case."
Ryousuke stands with him and raises an eyebrow, and he seems a little proud. "Go big or go home, huh? You're going to have to carry it the whole way, though."
Kuramochi nods and even gives a little salute before the doors open and they're off again, making their way down the corridor.
There are guards here too, spread out along the hallway so that they don't miss anything. Thankfully, Ryousuke's quick, pressing something against the first one's neck, then as he slumps to the floor and the others start to take notice, works his way to the next few before it becomes a ruckus. Kuramochi concentrates and hurtles forward as another big cat, knocking into earpieces and shredding cords and cards alike so they don't have much of a chance to warn anyone or leave. He curses himself for not being quick enough, however, because alarms are already blaring.
Ryousuke joins him at the entrance to the armory as he takes a deep breath and successfully morphs back to human.
"Can't be helped," he tells Kuramochi. "We're going to make a run for it with as much of the explosive material as we can. We have to make it to the vaults as quickly as possible, through the fire escape at the window end of the hall."
Kuramochi goes to retrieve Ryousuke's father's things, and then nods as they make their way into the armory. There's something huge that looks like a metal safe marked with all kinds of warnings, but it only hits Kuramochi what they're doing as they're lugging the material down the hall.
"You do realize that I have no idea how to safely handle any of these, right? And that we could get arrested?"
"A little too late to be thinking about that, but leave it to me." Ryousuke bursts onto the metal stairs of the escape route as the first guards appear down the hall, and both of them make their way as quickly as they dare without jostling anything. The men are descending the second set of stairs from that floor as they shoulder their way through the door on the same floor as the vault, but there's still a slim chance, and Kuramochi's willing to take the risk given that Ryousuke is confident about this.
The card gets them into the vault, and Kuramochi, coming from a family with just his mom and grandfather and just enough money to go around, is both awed and disgusted. It gives him no small amount of satisfaction to help strew their packages around the place and watch Ryousuke prime it all with blasting caps.
He stands at the door in case they're ambushed, but everything has suddenly gone quiet. That's not a good thing though. He can feel it crawling up his spine, and is immediately ready to spring when the door at the far end swings open slowly.
It's the same face he'd seen when stealing the keycard in the bedroom.
Ryousuke's likely done and has sensed his presence too, because he comes to stand next to Kuramochi, a solid presence even as Kominato stands in his nightwear with his finger hovering over a button on his phone.
"Ryousuke, hm?" he says. "My entire task force is one press away."
Ryousuke feels a lot of things in the moment.
He feels the way Kuramochi reaches out to him, telling him he's ready to fight at a moment's notice. He feels his own fists slowly closing around the trigger to the blasting caps. But most of all, he feels the desperation gleaming in his father's eyes and thoughts, faint from this distance but still clear to him.
It's kind of pathetic, really.
He thought he'd feel more of something - triumph, anger, satisfaction - but all he can bring himself to feel right now is pity. This man before him, the one who'd built an entire empire on deceit and corruption, needing to hide behind the guns ready to be pointed at essentially two kids because they stand between him and money.
His head tilts to the side. "I'll spare you whatever monologue you have planned. Kuramochi?"
In a flash, Kuramochi's a tiger again, crossing the space between him and the man in exactly two bounds. Ryousuke's not long after him, swiping the phone out of his hands and hurling it to the ground so that it shatters, and turns back to help, but Kuramochi has it handled, pinning the man to the ground and growling.
"Take him with you," Ryousuke says. "We can get through the guards that way. I'll take the laptop and such." He doesn't need to tell Kuramochi they have to be well out of the way of the building before he triggers the blast.
They burst into the corridor, and dozens of guns are immediately trained on them until they notice their leader being dragged along by the back of his collar in a tiger's mouth. Slowly, their weapons lower one by one, and they shuffle out of the way until a path is cleared for them.
At the end of the corridor leading to the stairs, Ryousuke stops for a moment. He supposes these poor bastards need to know, but he doesn't turn around when he says, "You should all consider a new job. Not only will this one be gone soon, but you weren't getting the money you were owed."
It's true. When he'd scanned the spreadsheets earlier, he'd noticed the columns marking the money his father had kept for himself instead of paying in salary. Just another thing he can turn over to the police.
"Well, that's all. Clear out of the building." He gives a small wave, still facing the opposite direction, and follows Kuramochi.
The police are likely to be here soon, and he leaves the laptop, his now tied-up father, and an anonymous tip about wage theft near the entrance of the building for them, letting Kuramochi lick all over the ropes and the laptop as a cat to smear any fingerprints.
Then he waits to pull the trigger until they're safely a few blocks away and he's sure the men have exited the building.
"You don't think we could have walked away with sunglasses like in a movie or something?" Kuramochi asks, blinking rapidly at the clearing smoke. The pedestrians around them are either in a panic or staring in fascinated horror.
"You think I brought sunglasses?" he asks. Then he pulls one out of his pocket and hands it over. "I could hear you thinking about it earlier."
"Ryou-san," Kuramochi says reverently, holding with both hands. "You're the fucking best."
He can feel the gratitude in Kuramochi's chest, and his smile goes a little soft. "I know," he tells him. "And now's the time when you kiss me."
Kuramochi is startled into a chirping sound, and can't form coherent words for the next couple of minutes, so Ryousuke just laughs and leans in for him.
They take the train back to Tokyo, and Ryousuke calls his mother to brief her about what really happened, assuring her he's covered his tracks. She's worried enough about him to not be all that angry, even though she'll be the only one paying their expenses until Ryousuke gets a job. It's the only oversight he should've thought of beforehand, and he internally curses himself for it even if she assures him it's fine.
The news about the building and the trillionaire that have both gone up in flames eventually reaches him at university, and no one seems to know who had done it. That's good for Ryousuke, at least, since he won't go to jail. Only he, Kuramochi, and his mom know the details, and the latter only what Ryousuke had told her.
He even gets the second date Kuramochi owes him, something decidedly less exciting than blowing up a building but still good.
"You still think about him?" Kuramochi asks, sitting across from him at a Korean barbecue place.
Ryousuke raises an eyebrow and turns over the pork simmering on the grill. "He's in jail. There's nothing to think about."
The other whistles. "Wow. Must've done worse shit than I thought."
He doesn't comment, because he doesn't want to bring up all the things his father has done, and not just in the corporate world. Instead, he reaches with his chopsticks to pick up a piece of chicken and hold it up to Kuramochi's mouth, a clear sign for him to stop. Kuramochi takes the hint and eats the piece, and Ryousuke briefly wonders if he could have even pulled off the entire thing without him.
That's a thought for later, though. Right now he just wants to enjoy the freedom he's earned for more than just himself.