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Munakata did not take tea with Awashima immediately after Suoh's death. He considered inviting his subordinates in for chakai, but it was too soon for all to proceed as normal. He made one exception, inviting a rather startled Fushimi for tea after just a little while had passed.

Fushimi was his usual reluctant self, but also as usual, unwilling to actually say no. He put in attendance and exchanged a few of the formal words before a sudden flash of insight crossed his face that made him draw his mouth tight in a knowing, flat frown. Munakata was not surprised when an emergency intruded that Fushimi jumped on the chance to leave before he'd even tasted the usacha.

"I will not stand in the way of your duty," he allowed.

Fushimi didn't quite flee, but he clearly didn't want to be anywhere near where Munakata was, in his own way, grieving the death of Fushimi's former King. He'd thought perhaps they would both share somewhat in that feeling, and even now, Munakata did not think he was mistaken, but Fushimi was not known for acknowledging such feelings very openly.

Not that their feelings were wholly the same, Munakata could acknowledge. There had always been desire there, mingled with the natural antagonism and even more natural understanding which had sprung up between the two kings. It was too late now to do anything about it.

With a sigh, Munakata reached for Fushimi's tea bowl to empty the contents, but frowned at the sudden sense of another presence, of blazing heat. The tea bowl was empty.

Munakata stared at it, picked it up and assessed it, turned the bowl over and felt the slight warmth on the handle, more like the heat of fire than quite a human touch.

He cleansed the tea implements and put them away.


He did not invite any guests to tea in the following days, but he served as if another sat beside him, carefully looking in the space his glasses didn't quite cover and catching flickers of something at the edges of his vision. The tea continued to disappear.


He found a reason to visit the bar, a small errand he normally would have allowed Awashima to handle. Kusanagi looked up in surprise at Munakata, but there also flickered in his eyes an understanding that made Munakata feel at ease.

He handled the Scepter 4 business first and concluded it, pleased that Kusanagi had no complaints about Munakata's decisions regarding a rogue strain in Homura territory. Then he came to the real purpose of his errand.

"Did Suoh ever learn the tea ceremony?"

Kusanagi laughed, small and genuine fondness on his face from some memory, mingled with a wash of sadness. "Totsuka taught him."

"I see." Munakata frowned.

Kusanagi looked at him with another of those understanding gazes that reminded Munakata who did the cold calculating in Homura when required. "Why would you ask about that?" he said in a lazy tone. It mirrored the lazy ease Mikoto wore, a thick layer over his violence, masking sometimes what lay beneath.

"A trifling matter," Munakata answered with a smile.

Kusanagi nodded at something over Munakata's shoulder, and Munakata turned to see Anna lying down on the couch by the door, a blanket pulled up over her shoulders.

"None of the boys have been in today," Kusanagi said. "I found her all tucked in like that a few minutes after she went to sleep."

Surprise struck him. Munakata could tell the blanket had not been pulled up by Anna, but laid across her by another hand.

He turned back to Kusanagi, whose smile had sharpened. "Enjoy your tea."


Munakata waited until the other bowl was drained to say, "At least I no longer have to look at your disgusting face."

He heard a sound, the low rumble of a familiar laugh.

Munakata smiled and sipped his tea.