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“Another mineral water and lime, for the gentleman at table six,” Riei said, sliding her empty tray across the bar towards Kakashi. “That’s his third since he got here.”

Kakashi shrugged, and reached under the bar for a bottle of Perrier. “No accounting for taste.”

“I wonder what his story is,” she mused, tapping a manicured finger against her chin. “He’s clearly waiting for someone; he keeps glancing at his phone. I’d say date except that I can’t imagine anyone standing up a man who looks like that.

“Who knows.” Kakashi speared a slice of lime with the tip of his knife and dropped it into the glass of carbonated water, before passing it back to Riei.

She heaved a long-suffering sigh, and he looked up to meet her disapproving pout. “You,” she informed him, “are no fun at all.”

“My heart breaks,” Kakashi told her tragically, and hid a grin when she scoffed.

He kept his eyes on Riei as she returned to the mysterious gentleman at table six. The man was tall, in his late twenties or early thirties, with chiseled features softened by a full, generous mouth. The lines of his suit said money, but the way he wore the suit said not born into it. He had the carefully tousled hair and carefully maintained tan of someone who cared about his appearance, and his smile when Riei handed him his drink was quick, but clearly practiced.

Kakashi thought, model, maybe escort, and was proven correct when the front door opened, and a wealthy-looking older man rushed in.

“Ah, Tousaki-kun!” the older man said, as Tousaki leapt to his feet and gave the man a low bow and an upgraded version of the well-rehearsed smile he’d shown Riei. “My apologies for the delay— traffic was appalling.”

“Not at all, Tanaka-san,” Tousaki said, ushering the — client? — to his seat. “I’d only just arrived myself.”

Riei took their drink orders, which were disappointingly boring: expensive liquors and unispiring cocktails that Tanaka made an elaborate show of trying to pay for, and Tousaki made an equally elaborate show of refusing. Courting a potential client, then.

Kakashi quickly lost interest after that, and turned his attention to table three, which had apparently heard about his reputation for innovative drinks, and was wondering if he could make “something blue.”

Another hour later, after several exaggerated false-starts, Tousaki and his client staggered to their feet and toward the door, full of good humor and high-proof alcohol. Riei sent them off with a bow and a cheerful “please come back again!” before heading back to retrieve their glasses.

Kakashi tucked the used glasses away, and was just getting started on table eight’s drink order — a classic lemon sour and a more adventurous melon sake cocktail — when movement in front of the bar caught his eye.

“Hi,” Tousaki said. He sat down on one of the bar stools. “Sorry, no rush, please finish what you’re doing first.”

“Thank you,” Kakashi said, because that was better than just blinking at him, and finished the drink order. After Riei came by and took it away (he ignored her pointed head-tilt and eyebrow waggle at Tousaki’s return), he wiped his hands on a dish towel and asked, “What can I get you?”

Tousaki startled a little, looking like he’d been lost in thought. “Uh,” he started, and then ducked his head sheepishly. “This is probably too classy a place for me to ask for beer, right?”

In the three minutes that it had taken Kakashi to make table eight’s drinks and pass them along to Riei, Tousaki had taken off his jacket, pushed up his shirtsleeves, and loosened his tie. Kakashi amended his previous assumption to new model or escort.

“We’ve got a bottle of 2009 Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager, priced at 10,000¥,” he offered blandly, and let Tousaki’s dark eyes widen comically for a moment before adding, “As well as Asahi and Sapporo, for those with a more refined palate.”

Tousaki gaped at him, and then burst into gasping, unguarded laughter. It changed his face entirely, making him look several years younger. “I’ll take an Asahi Super Dry, heavy on the uh, refinement, if you don't mind . It’s been a long day.”

Kakashi had only been working for about six hours, since the bar opened at 1800, but the hint of stubble darkening Tousaki’s jaw said that he’d been on the job for a lot longer. Escort was becoming less likely, even if Tousaki did look like a man who desperately wanted to be out of his suit.

He cracked open a bottle of Asahi, and poured its contents into a tall Weizen glass — “For the refinement,” he explained, which made Tousaki laugh again. Kakashi left him communing deeply with his beverage, and went to fill the next drink order.

Tousaki was still at his seat when Kakashi returned. The knot of his tie had migrated down to his sternum, and the top three buttons of his shirt were undone, revealing a strong throat and finely carved collarbones. Also, maybe the tan was natural, after all.

“Would you like another?” Kakashi asked, nodding at the empty glass cradled loosely in Tousaki’s hand.

“Nah, I’m good, I just like watching you,” Tousaki said. He was flushed from the base of his neck to the tips of his ears, and his eyes were bright. “I mean, you’re really good at your job.”

Kakashi ducked his head, feeling a little awkward. He’d never gotten the hang of compliments, either giving or receiving. “It pays the bills.”

Something darkened in Tousaki’s expression, shuttering away a little of the open warmth he’d shown since Kakashi had first made him laugh. “Yeah, I get that.” He sighed, looking suddenly tired. “And I should probably get going.”

It was late, and if Tousaki wasn’t an escort or a model then he was likely a salaryman with an early wake-up call tomorrow, but Kakashi still felt like he’d said the wrong thing, somehow. He settled Tousaki’s second bill of the evening with swift efficiency, topped off his receipt with a couple of complimentary mints, and bowed as he passed it over.

“Please come back again,” he said.

Halfway into his jacket, Tousaki paused, and met Kakashi’s gaze. “I will,” he said, with more sincerity than Kakashi’s politeness probably warranted. Then he smiled, the most hesitant expression Kakashi had seen on his face all evening. “I’m Ryouma, by the way. Tousaki Ryouma.”

Kakashi’s lips tugged slightly upwards. “Hatake Kakashi.”

Tousaki Ryouma nodded, pocketed the receipts and the mints, and left.

Riei swooped down on Kakashi with the speed and ferocity of a ravenous falcon. “So?” she demanded, her face lit with excitement. “Who is he? What does he do? Who was he waiting for? Is he single? Tell me everything.

Kakashi shrugged. “His name’s Tousaki Ryouma.”

Riei glared at him. “You are hopeless.

Kakashi didn’t expect to see Tousaki Ryouma again. Mixed wasn’t as celebrated as its more established Ginza neighbors, but a few features in prominent media sources had elevated the bar’s reputation. Kakashi had a framed print of one of those articles at home, a gift from Jiraiya and Tsunade on the six-month anniversary of his hiring. On it, someone — probably Jiraiya — had highlighted the lines where the writer had praised the mixologist’s ability to marry creativity and quality; as well as the lines that focused on the staff’s impeccably tailored shirts and waistcoats, which apparently created a “classically elegant, Western aesthetic.”

The increase in exposure lead to a corresponding rise in Mixed’s price tag, which meant that their usual clientele tended to be elated or exhausted salarymen and women, and the occasional well-heeled tourist, as opposed to a steady stream of loyal regulars.

Not that Tousaki could be considered a regular after only two visits, even if he did greet Riei by name as he walked in. Possibly he was new to the area and simply hadn’t had the opportunity to explore.

This time, he came accompanied by a man and a woman, clearly European, though Kakashi’s untrained ear couldn’t identify the specific country of origin. They spoke English to Tousaki, who responded with accented, but impressive fluency. He ordered them all a sampling of Japanese whisky, and proceeded to do a passable job of explaining their subtler qualities.

His demeanor was less exuberant than on his first visit: back straighter, voice softer, laughter more controlled. Likely trying to match the understated sophistication of his companions. Riei did that too, tailored her behavior to her customer, becoming flirtatious or friendly or demure as easily as turning pages in a book. It was one of many reasons why she was such an excellent server.

That particular skill didn’t seem to come as naturally to Tousaki, however; half an hour into their stay, his silk-smooth composure was starting to fray around the edges.

Fortunately — for Tousaki, anyway — the two Europeans soon made motions to leave. Tousaki expressed the socially prescribed sadness at their departure, and sent them off with a bottle of 17 year-old Hibiki.

On a whim, Kakashi poured a glass of Asahi Super Dry and set it on the bar, and felt a frisson of satisfaction at having guessed correctly when Tousaki came back, saw the glass, and stopped.

“For me?” Tousaki asked, looking slightly bewildered.

The satisfaction fizzled a little into uncertainty. “Yes. Unless you’d like something else?”

“No, it’s great,” he said, scrambling onto a stool and curling a protective hand around the drink as though he was worried Kakashi would snatch it away. “I just didn’t think—I mean.” He ran his free hand through his hair, spiking it roughly. “Thanks. For remembering. Um, I’m Ryouma, by the way.”

Kakashi nodded, and was mercifully saved when Riei reappeared with table four’s second round of drink orders: a cocktail and a coffee each, which frankly, struck Kakashi as counterproductive, but at least gave Kakashi time to consider his response.

I know, was what immediately came to mind, but that could come off as defensive. You're welcome sounded dumb, and Nice to meet you again annoyingly paradoxical. Maybe Tousaki had simply forgotten Kakashi's name and this was his way of asking without being rude about it, though why he'd even care — and Kakashi was spending way too much time thinking about this.

He kept Tousaki in his peripheral vision as he worked. It didn’t take long for Tousaki to return to what was clearly his preferred state of mild undress. The open collar and unbuttoned cuffs invited one’s gaze to linger on the elegant architecture of his throat and wrists, and the loosened tie dangled teasingly down the broad expanse of his chest.

Kakashi would think Tousaki was doing it on purpose, except Tousaki only unwound like that once his clients had left. Maybe it was simply a coincidence that he looked like a partially unwrapped present when he was relaxed.

“I didn’t know you liked whisky,” Kakashi said when he finished, because he still hadn’t come up with a good response.

Tousaki blinked up in confusion, before his expression cleared. “Oh, that was just for the clients. My manager wanted me to give them a nice send-off before their flight.”

Not an escort, Kakashi reminded himself.

“So he asked me to show them around Tokyo, because I’m the only one on our team who speaks decent English.”

“Your English is pretty good,” Kakashi said.

Tousaki shrugged dismissively. “My speaking’s better than my reading or writing. Anyway, he kind of dropped it on me last minute, so I had to do some very fast Googling.”

“I’m surprised you took them here, and not to Star or High Five,” Kakashi pointed out. He’d tried Googling Mixed once, and it didn’t even come up until the third page of results.

“Have I overstayed my welcome already?” Tousaki asked. He was laughing, but there was an odd note to it that made Kakashi feel like he was straying dangerously close to saying something wrong — again.

This was why he was the one who made the drinks and Riei was the one who talked to the customers.

“No, I just meant,” Kakashi started, and decided to take the advice Riei had given him the last time he’d stuffed his proverbial foot in his mouth, and stop talking. “No.”

Tousaki looked at him for a moment. “I like it here,” he said. “It’s quiet, unpretentious.” Riei walked past him with a tray of empty glasses, and he grinned brightly at her, raising his voice meaningfully. “I like the staff.”

She returned his grin, winked playfully, and headed to the back rooms.

“And besides,” Tousaki added, tipping his head back and taking one last swallow of his beer, before nudging his empty glass towards Kakashi, “you already know my drink order.”

He smiled, a few droplets still clinging to the curve of his mouth. His eyes were dark and warm.

Heat slid up the back of Kakashi’s neck, pooling in his cheeks and the tops of his ears. “Well, it’s easy enough to remember,” he said, probably audibly, and ducked down behind the bar for another bottle of Asahi.

The next time Tousaki came in, he was trailed by a gaggle of four, loud men in suits. They were all at least a head shorter than him, which meant that every time one of them vied for his attention, he had to stoop down. To his credit, Kakashi noted, the wide smile he’d plastered onto his face for this occasion did not waver once, even when one of the men laughed right in his ear at a volume that could have woken someone sleeping on the other side of Japan.

Riei, with her usual skill, greeted them with demure, lady-like charm and led them to a table. Her sweetly downcast eyes and soft voice meant that they actually quieted down while giving their drink order — a bottle of Yamazaki single malt whisky — and didn’t start talking again until she’d gone away.

It was clear that they were celebrating something — possibly Tousaki, from the way they kept pouring for him and toasting him on every round, laughing off his attempts to refuse. By the third drink, they were all flushed and glassy-eyed. By the fifth, more liquor was being splashed onto the table than was actually getting into their mouths.

Kakashi met Riei’s concerned eyes across the bar, and tilted his head beckoningly.

“Apparently, they just closed an important business deal,” Riei told him, when she came closer. “Ryouma-kun was in charge of that account, so they’re showing their appreciation.

Kakashi glanced over her shoulder at Tousaki, who looked more ill than appreciated, and said, “Right.” He reached under the bar, and took out a squat glass. Some water, apple juice, two ice cubes, and a slice of orange peel later, he handed her the filled glass. “For the tall gentleman at table three. On the house.”

Riei beamed at him.

She put on a good show, Kakashi thought, as he watched her deliver the drink to Tousaki, apologizing prettily for having eavesdropped, but Tousaki-san was such a loyal customer, so of course the staff here at Mixed had to congratulate him on his success. Tousaki put on an equally good show of sniffing the drink and pretending to be knocked back by the fumes, before he saluted the table with the glass and took a big gulp, to the raucous delight of his companions.

The mocktail lasted Tousaki through the rest of the bottle of whisky, after which the men ordered another, a Yoichi 12-year. Kakashi accompanied it with a “Martini” for their “guest of honour.”

“James Bond!” one of them exclaimed, upon the drink's arrival to the table, making Kakashi briefly lose faith in all humanity.

Tousaki, exaggeratedly slurring, declared that he would pour this time, overfilling each glass and refilling as soon as a glass was emptied. With four to a bottle of whisky instead of five, the noise level ratcheted up a notch, while the collective coordination level took a steep dive.

Unsurprisingly, the loudest and most boisterous of the men went first, face-planting mid-sentence onto Tousaki’s arm. The rest of the table roared with laughter, but that was enough to initiate the departure proceedings. The oldest-looking man won the ritual skirmish over who had the privilege of paying, and with both Tousaki and Riei assisting, they all managed to stumble their way out the door.

It was getting late, and there were no other customers — the other two occupied tables had cleared out shortly after Tousaki’s party arrived. Kakashi grabbed a tray and headed to table three and its array of mostly empty glasses. Some were still standing; others lay sprawled on the tabletop like fallen soldiers.

He had just finished collecting the last of the glassware when Riei returned, with Tousaki leaning against her. Without clients to perform for, Tousaki looked like a puppet with its strings cut, worn and tired and very, very drunk.

“Bathroom’s down the hall to your left,” Riei told him, as she settled him into a chair — a wise decision, Kakashi thought, since Tousaki would probably fall off a stool.

“Maybe once the room stops spinning.” He swung his unsteady gaze to the minor disaster area that was table three, and winced. “Sorry about the mess. Um, I can help clean that up if you want.”

“Or you can stay seated and not throw up all over the floor,” Kakashi countered, and set down the sports drink and cold water that he’d prepared shortly after they’d ordered the second bottle of whisky.

Tousaki glared balefully. “I’m not that drunk.” Which would be more convincing if he was actually looking at Kakashi, and not at the empty space about ten centimeters to his left.

“How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Uh…” Tousaki blinked, and squinted. Then he reached out, hooked two fingers over the back of Kakashi’s wrist, and dragged it closer to his face. “Two,” he announced triumphantly.

Tousaki’s hand was warm, just short of fever-hot, with long fingers that ended in blunt, slightly bitten nails.

“That doesn’t count. Finish your water and you can try again.” He tugged his wrist away, but Tousaki’s thumb slid up against Kakashi’s palm, trapping his hand before it could slip free of Tousaki’s loose hold.

Kakashi’s breath, embarrassingly, caught in his throat.

“Thank you,” Tousaki murmured, low and hoarse. “For this. And for earlier. Riei-san told me it was your idea. You didn’t have to do that.” He looked up at Kakashi with cautious, guarded eyes. “You barely know me.”

Something in his tone left a bitter aftertaste in Kakashi’s mouth. Kakashi let his glib, prepared remark of Well, we look after our loyal customers dissolve on his tongue, and said, instead, “I know your drink order.”

Tousaki stared at him. Kakashi held his nerve, and held Tousaki’s gaze, keenly aware of his quickening pulse mere centimeters from Tousaki’s thumb.

Then Tousaki's expression shifted, wariness melting into slow, dawning wonder. “Yeah,” he said, sounding a little breathless, “I guess you do.”

Kakashi smiled, and gently extricated his hand, pressing the bottle of sports drink to Tousaki’s palm. “Rehydrate. You’ll regret it tomorrow if you don’t.”

They worked quietly after that, Kakashi and Riei on cleaning, Tousaki on rehydration, as the clock ticked ever closer to closing time. When Tousaki went to pay his bill, Riei ducked behind the bar and commandeered the cash register, leaving Kakashi to escort Tousaki to the door.

He looked significantly less like he was in danger of waking up under a bush tomorrow morning, next to a puddle of vomit, but he was still noticeably wobbly and flushed.

“Would you like us to call you a taxi?” Kakashi asked, as he lead Tousaki out into the cool night air.

Tousaki shook his head. “I’ll be alright.” He glanced into the distance, and then back at Kakashi. “Thank you again, for tonight.”

“You’re welcome,” Kakashi replied.

In the harsh overhead light of the streetlamp, he looked almost otherworldly, a creature carved out of the night sky with splashes of pale gold across his cheekbones. It should have made him beautiful, but somehow it just made him look lonely.

It occurred to Kakashi that he did not, in fact, know if Tousaki was single — though presumably, he wouldn’t choose to decompress from work in a bar if he had someone waiting for him at home.

“Go home safely,” Kakashi said, and hesitated, because Tousaki-san was what he should say, but it rang false and unpleasant in his head. Tousaki was what his clients called him. To Kakashi, he’d introduced himself as, “Ryouma.”

Astonishment froze Tousaki’s — Ryouma’s — expression for a moment.

“Kakashi.” The word tumbled from his lips, as though it had been on the tip of his tongue for weeks. Then he visibly rallied his thoughts, and said, “I mean, you too. Um, can I ask— do you—” He paused, biting his lip. “Do you work here every day?”

“I get weekends off.”

“Good,” he said, looking suddenly, strangely embarrassed. “Until next time then. Goodnight, Kakashi.”

“Goodnight,” Kakashi replied, and watched Ryouma leave, feeling somewhat bewildered.

Kakashi thought about that night, in the days afterward. Ryouma hadn’t been wrong, when he’d said that Kakashi barely knew him. Kakashi didn’t know him. Their lives intersected only in thin slivers of time, in the liminal space between two facets of his personality. If he hadn’t come back after that first night, Kakashi would have shelved him with all the other vaguely interesting people Kakashi had met throughout his life, to collect dust in a corner of his memory.

Even now, Kakashi couldn’t explain what it was about this man that tugged at him, intrigued him, made him double-check the purchasing order to confirm that it would contain a crate of Asahi Super Dry.

Ryouma was undeniably gorgeous, an artist’s masterpiece of perfectly-proportioned symmetry, and Kakashi was neither blind nor immune. But when Kakashi thought about Ryouma, in the quiet, pre-dawn privacy of his own home, it was his smiles that Kakashi remembered — not the false brilliance that he used to dazzle his clients, but the ones that lurked shyly at the corners of his mouth as he watched Kakashi work. The ones that bloomed like a sunrise across his features, illuminating his entire being with delight.

It made Kakashi feel as though he’d been let in on a secret. As though Ryouma were somehow entrusting a part of himself to Kakashi’s care, like a candle carrying flame from a bonfire.

And then it would make Kakashi bury his face in his pillow, while he tried to determine exactly when he’d become the protagonist of a shoujo manga.

True to his word, Ryouma kept coming back, sometimes with clients, sometimes just on his own. Since that first time, Kakashi had yet to need to intervene again, though Riei had made a few timely appearances when overly enamoured clients had attempted to relocate their business conversation to a nearby hotel room.

He tried to return the favour when Riei was being ineptly hit on by a man who’d been ogling her all night while ordering the cheapest thing on the menu. Which was sweet of Ryouma, but highly unnecessary.

“Are you sure?” Ryouma asked, levelling a dark glare at the idiot. “Fucking assholes who hit on people at their place of work. They know the other person can’t make a scene, so they just take advantage.”

They watched as Riei bent down and murmured something into the man’s ear. When she straightened back up, the man was wide-eyed and pale, muttering apologies as he fumbled for his wallet. Within seconds, he was out the door.

“She’s fine,” Kakashi said.

“Wow.” Ryouma held up his glass and saluted Riei as she approached the bar. “Does that always work?”

“Probably not,” she said, smiling serenely. “But that’s why Kakashi keeps a stash of extra strength laxatives under the counter.”

Ryouma swiveled his head around to stare at Kakashi, who shrugged. “I haven’t had to use it yet.”

On the evenings when Ryouma came in alone, he tended to be later, quieter, and more tired. He’d look like a tragic drama series hero, long lashes shading dark eyes, broad shoulders bowed with melancholy. Kakashi would slide over his usual drink order, and wait for Ryouma to slough off enough of his day to start talking again.

“I don’t hate everything about my job,” Ryouma said, once, when Kakashi had asked. “It pays well, and I like my coworkers. And being in sales isn’t that bad; I’m good at it, at least.” He smiled crookedly. “Perks of being highly decorative.”

It wasn’t a happy smile, but there was a hard glitter in his eyes that warned off any attempt at sympathy. Kakashi nodded, and said, with solemn sincerity, “Congratulations. You’ve worked hard.”

That made Ryouma laugh, and Kakashi let his mouth curl upwards in response. “What about you?” he asked, gesturing to the rest of the bar. “How did you end up working here?”

Kakashi looked around, at the dark walls lined with long scrolls of Jiraiya’s elegant calligraphy, the wood panels that soared along the ceiling, the lights overhead that bathed everything in a rich amber glow. So different from the bright, sterile, and cold environment of the lab.

“I didn’t like my last job,” Kakashi said.

Ryouma leaned in, propping his chin on one hand. “Was it the work or the people?”

“Both. To be fair, they didn’t like me, either. Then a family friend told me about this bar that they were opening, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Hardly a comprehensive answer, but Ryouma seemed to understand, nonetheless. “How’s that been working out for you?” he asked, gently inquisitive.

Kakashi ran his fingertips across the surface of the counter, live-edge oak instead of white phenolic resin. “Surprisingly well, actually. Mixology is a good match for my skill-set, and I like the people-watching.”

“I’ve noticed,” Ryouma said, and smirked. “Watching anyone in particular, lately?” He batted his eyelashes in blatant, obvious flirtation.

“Well, there’s this one guy who keeps ordering the same thing over and over again,” Kakashi replied dryly, “Even though I keep offering to make him literally anything else.”

“Maybe,” Ryouma said, with dignity, “this guy is just trying to establish a signature drink.”

With that, Kakashi had no choice but to make fun of him for making his signature drink convenience-store beer. Ryouma replied by reminding Kakashi that convenience stores were the lifeblood of Japanese society. And then Riei came by to roll her eyes at them both.  

Later, on his way out, Ryouma said, “I’m glad you like working here.” There was a tinge of wistfulness in his voice, but his dark gaze was warm and kind.

“Me too,” Kakashi said softly. “Until next time?”

“Until next time,” Ryouma echoed, and walked away slowly into the deep violet shadows of night.

It had always struck Kakashi as somewhat odd that the arrival of spring coincided with the time in Japan when things were ending, as though the budding new growth reminded people more acutely of the passing of time. There was a distinct sense of finality in the air, and with it, a tinge of desperation. Students strained to win that last competition, crammed for that last exam, bowed their heads for that last chance at a confession. Salarymen and women worked with extra fervour, the looming spectre of the end of the fiscal year keeping them in their offices well into the night, until they spilled out into the izakayas and bars.

Ryouma hadn’t come back for the past three weeks.

This was hardly alarming, of course; Ryouma’s visits were irregular at best, and it wasn’t as though Kakashi or Mixed had any right to lay claim to Ryouma’s time and attention. Unfortunately, knowing all of that didn’t keep Kakashi’s gaze from being snagged whenever anyone tall and dark-haired came in the door.

It helped, somewhat, that he wasn’t the only one who’d missed Ryouma; Riei had lamented on several occasions about Ryouma’s absence.

“But I’m sure he’ll be back soon,” she was always quick to reassure Kakashi, as though he was in need of it.

The weather did little to improve his mood. They were having a spate of unseasonably poor weather — strong wind, lashing rain. The news reporters cited climate change, when they weren’t fretting over the possibility of a delayed sakura bloom.

After three straight nights of the bar basically being dead by 2200, Kakashi sent Riei home early and closed up on his own. There wasn’t much to do, anyway, and as the rain intensified, Kakashi was seriously considering calling it an early night, as well.

He’d just put on his coat when the front door opened, and Ryouma burst in, snapping his waterlogged umbrella shut and shoving it into the umbrella stand before it could drip all over the floor. The umbrella had managed to keep his head and shoulders dry, but from the elbows down, his suit was splattered with rain. His ankles were soaked.

Ryouma brushed himself off as best he could, saw Kakashi in his coat, looked at the clock on the wall, and said, “Shit.” He scrubbed a hand roughly across his face. “Sorry, I thought— I can go.”

He looked exhausted, worn threadbare. Kakashi took off his coat.

“Have a seat,” Kakashi said, heading back to the bar. “The usual?”

A quick glance over his shoulder showed that Ryouma hadn’t moved at all. The exhaustion now bore a fresh sheen of guilt. “No, it’s fine, really. You’re closing. You don’t—you don’t have to serve me.”

“I’m not. I’m off-duty.” Deliberately, he removed his waistcoat, unbuckled his sleeve garters, and slid his tie off his neck, leaving him in just a shirt and trousers, ubiquitous and unremarkable. “See? I’m just inviting a friend for a drink.”

Ryouma stared, frozen, and then seemed to shake himself out of deep thought. “Oh. All right.” He sounded a little breathless, but he stripped off his sodden suit jacket, and sat in his usual seat at the bar.

It was, admittedly, a little strange to pour beer for himself as well as Ryouma. Alcoholism was never the occupational hazard for Kakashi that it was for many others in his profession. He had the sharp sense of smell and sensitive palate that allowed him to discern the subtleties in various permutations of ethanol, but that didn’t mean he liked all of it. Beer, for instance, just tasted like bitter yeast.

Normally, Ryouma seemed to disagree. Greeting his glass like an old friend, he’d gulp rapturously until the glass was empty, before sighing in contentment. Tonight, however, after the first cursory sip, Ryouma just cupped the glass loosely in his hands, as though even the restorative power of beer was insufficient to overcome his bone-deep weariness.

The entire situation rang, loud and bell-clear, of minefield, so Kakashi really didn’t know what made him open his mouth and ask, “Do you want to talk about it?”

Ryouma’s head swung up, and dropped back down again. “Not really. It’s just— it’s work. As always.”

“Ah,” Kakashi said. And waited.

Finally, Ryouma said, very quietly, “I really don’t like my job.” His fingers tightened on the glass, leaving crescent moon-shaped imprints in the condensation. “But I’m good at it, and I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am…” He trailed off, shaking his head, one hand fisted roughly in his hair. “It would just feel like such a waste, you know?”

Kakashi bit his lip, considering. Jiraiya had told him that unsolicited advice tended to be neither welcome nor appreciated. Of course, Jiraiya was also a failed novelist, and was still nursing an unrequited crush that was going on four decades at this point.

“My previous job was in medical research,” he said, after a few minutes. “Very prestigious company, recruited me when I was still a graduate student at Todai. I was the youngest person they’d ever hired.”

Ryouma rolled his eyes. “Of course you went to Todai,” he muttered, but he was smiling faintly. “So, what happened?”

Sense memory unfolded in Kakashi’s mind — the smell of nitrile and cleansing fluid, the incessant whir of machinery, the dull gleam of fluorescent lights on pristine countertops. “It was all right at first. But then they put me on high-profile, high-intensity projects, and I sort of… lost myself in the work. There were stretches of time when I didn’t see the sun for days.

“That sounds familiar,” Ryouma said, with a sympathetic grimace.

“The family friend I told you about last time, he found me before I burned out, and offered me an alternative career path. I’d done some bartending while I was a student, so I had basic experience; Jiraiya-san enrolled me in courses so I could learn the rest.”

Ryouma’s eyes hooded for a moment, gaze turned inwards, considering. “At least you had some experience; I’m not qualified to do anything else.”

“It’s not always about qualifications,” Kakashi said with a shrug. “You’re smart, you can think on your feet, and you’ve got actual people skills. You’d be fine.”

Ryouma stared at Kakashi again. For all that Ryouma was the vainest man Kakashi had ever met, he was almost as bad at accepting compliments as Kakashi was. He ducked his head, not quite far enough to hide his reddening ears.

“Well,” Ryouma said, when his gaze lifted, “people do like looking at me.”

He tilted his head up and to the side, gazing nobly into the distance, letting the light frame his admittedly spectacular bone structure.

“You’re adequately symmetrical,” Kakashi allowed.

Ryouma mimed stabbing himself in the heart, and came up grinning. He tipped his glass at Kakashi before raising it to his lips. “So what do you learn at bartending school, anyway?”

“A surprising amount of chemistry, actually,” Kakashi replied. He hesitated, did a few rapid calculations about time and cost, and then looked at Ryouma and ignored them all. “We also learn a few tricks.”

Without breaking eye contact, he reached behind the bar for another bottle of Asahi. With his other hand, he hooked a bottle-opener onto his forefinger, twirled it, and flicked off the cap on the upswing.

Ryouma’s eyes were wide and delighted. He took the newly opened bottle and put it aside, then clasped his hands together like an excited child. “What else can you do?”

Kakashi grinned.

His first few tricks were a little shaky, as rusty flair bartending skills shook off the cobwebs of memory. He poured a line of four domino shots. He tossed water into the air from one shaker and caught it in another. He made a pH-induced colour-changing cocktail, and a five-layered rainbow cocktail that he then set on fire.

Ryouma was duly impressed and appreciative. He offered to at least pay for the liquor, since Kakashi didn’t let him drink it all. When Kakashi refused even that, he insisted on helping to clean up.

“You may wipe the countertop,” Kakashi permitted, magnanimously, handing Ryouma a bottle of detergent and a few washcloths.

“I am honoured by your trust,” Ryouma replied, echoing Kakashi’s solemn tones. He took the task seriously, though, lathering detergent carefully across the gleaming wooden surface, and then wiping it away.

Kakashi left to load the dishwasher when Ryouma was going over the bar a second time with a clean washcloth soaked in hot water, and came back as he was wiping the bar dry.

They almost matched, in their white collared shirts and dark trousers, as though they could have been colleagues, or actual friends just sharing a night out after a long day at work. It was surprisingly pleasant to have Ryouma in his space, grounding, like another anchor point to keep him steady and tethered.

“Good job,” Kakashi said, and Ryouma beamed, as if he’d just won a prize.

Then he looked past Kakashi’s shoulder, and his expression turned to alarm. “Oh shit, is that the time?”

A quick glance confirmed that it was almost 0200, well past the time when the trains stopped running. Kakashi had checked the clock when he was preparing to leave, but had clearly lost track of time after that.

At least it was now the weekend, and Ryouma wouldn’t have to get up in three or four hours for another day of work. Kakashi didn’t, either. And it was still raining.

“Would you like to come home with me?” Kakashi asked.

Ryouma looked stunned. His mouth worked soundlessly for a moment before he cleared his throat and tried again. “Uh, right now?”

“Yes.” Kakashi pointed at the clock behind them. “The trains won’t run for another three hours, and it’d take a while to find a taxi in this rain. I only live about a fifteen-minute walk away.”

Something complicated flickered in Ryouma’s expression, and then vanished, like an extinguished candle. “Oh. No, that’s fine, thanks.” His smile sat awkwardly on his face. “I’ll be all right. It’s not the first time I’ve stayed out past the last train.”

“Oh.” He didn’t — no, he should have expected that. “Well, if you’re sure.”

Ryouma left quickly after that, a lucky passing taxi truncating their usual farewell to a simple wave through glass windows. Kakashi left as well, shutting off the lights, activating the alarms, and locking the doors.

Normally, he liked rainy nights; even in Ginza, the streets were quieter, making him less likely to share his walk home with people staggering out of bars or staggering into clubs. Tonight, the familiar streets felt colder, lonelier, everyone hunched into upturned collars or huddled beneath umbrellas.

His house was as he’d left it yesterday afternoon: dark and silent. He shook out his umbrella, tucked it neatly into the umbrella stand along the wall, and sat down on the genkan to take off his shoes.

He did want Ryouma to go home with him tonight. More than he’d realized when he had asked the question.

Kakashi… didn’t know what to do with that. He wasn’t good at people. They were things that just sort of happened to him, and if for some reason they found something in him worth liking, they dug their hooks into his life and clung on. He didn’t know how to be the one who reached out.

It would have been nice, though, to have Ryouma here, in his home; maybe offer him something other than a beer. He wanted to know which of his books Ryouma would have gravitated towards, which photographs would have caught his eye. If Ryouma wanted to take a shower, Kakashi could have lent him a yukata, and maybe gotten to see what he looked like when he wasn’t wearing a suit.

Though that just brought forth the memory of Ryouma’s sun-browned skin, turned golden in the light. His long-fingered hands, wrapped around a glass or gesturing expansively to accompany a story. The lean lines of his body, its strength and grace evident even through layers of cotton and tailored wool. And his smile, which always lingered warmly at the back of Kakashi’s mind.

Kakashi laughed hoarsely, as heat pulsed low and heavy in his belly. Well, he hadn’t invited Ryouma home with the intent of having sex.

He didn’t know what to do with that, either.

It wasn’t a question he could answer tonight, in any case. Kakashi ought to shower, and go to bed, and not think about how Ryouma might look in his bed, sleepy-warm and sated, bathed in morning sunlight.

Maybe a cold shower.

The bout of rain finally petered out by the start of the following week, bringing with it the last of the winter. As the weather heated up, so did business, to the point where they had to call in the weekend staff to help during peak times. Kakashi went home exhausted every night, and slept dreamlessly well into the late morning.

He thought about Ryouma, but his brain refused to produce any answers, and stalled out at even the imagined versions of a conversation he didn’t know how to have. He tried consulting his books, but they recommended solutions that involved either dramatic life-saving, which was impractical, or confessing his feelings directly — which was even worse.

By Friday night, he had resorted to contemplating whether it would truly be below his dignity to just sneak a letter into Ryouma’s pocket on his next visit. He was still absorbed in weighing pros and cons as he and Riei finished closing, locked up, and headed out the door.

Ryouma was standing outside, under a streetlight. “Hi Kakashi, Riei-san.”

He was wearing jeans, a low-necked white shirt under an unzipped leather jacket, and a hesitant, nervous expression. His hair was ruffled, as though he had repeatedly run his hands through it.

“Hi,” Kakashi echoed, and tried to curb his wildly spiralling thoughts.

Ryouma cleared his throat. “I know it’s late. This won’t take long. Kakashi, can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Of course,” Riei answered, before Kakashi could speak, and heartlessly abandoned him.

“It’ll be quieter if we talk inside,” Kakashi said, and unlocked the door. He found the light switch easily in the dark, and re-illuminated comfortingly familiar surroundings.

Ryouma closed the door behind them. “I have a new job,” he said, like a confession.

Kakashi blinked. “That’s great.” And far better than some of the other scenarios Kakashi’s imagination had churned out — Ryouma had a terminal illness, Ryouma was being targeted by the yakuza, Ryouma was getting married.

“Yeah, it is,” Ryouma said, honest joy welling up through the nervousness and spilling out into a helpless grin. “My team leaders at my old job decided they had enough. They’re setting off on their own, and they’ve asked me to come with them. I’m really excited.”

“Good, I’m happy for you.” Kakashi smiled back and tilted his head towards the bar. “Did you come here to celebrate? I don’t mind staying longer.”

The grin faded. “Actually, I came to tell you that I won’t be coming around for a while. It’s just the five of us so far, so starting Monday, I’m going to have to learn how to do… everything.”


It didn’t take much to read between the lines. A start-up meant a pay cut and a reduced expense account, if there was one at all. And a fledgling company was unlikely to attract the caliber of client who’d expect to be entertained at a place like Mixed.  

Kakashi was no stranger to friendships that were born out of proximity, held together by shared experience, and eroded when situations changed. He had a few such people in his life, long since downgraded to mere acquaintances, whose place in his life was tangential at best.

The thought of adding Ryouma to that list hurt, not the sharp sting of betrayal, but the deep ache of loss.

“I’ll miss you,” he said, feeling a little hollow.

Ryouma went still, as though Kakashi had caught him off guard. “I’ll miss you too,” he said softly. Then, he took a deep, visibly fortifying breath, and said, “So, I was thinking, why don't we exchange phone numbers? And if we're ever both free, we could get dinner. Or lunch. Or coffee. Or— I could get you a beer for a change.”

His tone was glib, but there was something painfully earnest in his eyes, as if this was costing him more than he was willing to admit.

Maybe it was. Maybe Kakashi wasn't the only one who wanted more.

Kakashi didn't know for sure, but of course he wouldn't. This was why love confessions were considered acts of courage — they required a leap of faith.

And if he landed badly, here… well, he'd have his answer, at least.

“How about tonight?” he asked. “I'm not working tomorrow, and neither are you.”

He held his breath, and watched Ryouma's eyes widen in shock, before they creased in a smile that lit his face like he’d swallowed a miniature sun.

“Really? I mean— yeah, absolutely,” he said, sounding as relieved as Kakashi felt. “Uh, what do you want to do? It's a little late for dinner… or coffee, but…”

Relief made Kakashi feel reckless. He was already in free-fall, might as well keep going. He took a deliberate step closer, well into Ryouma's personal space. “I could make breakfast.”

Ryouma's lips parted. He swallowed hard. His breathing was quick and shallow. His eyes were very dark. “The trains are still running.”

“I know,” Kakashi said. “Come home with me, Ryouma.”

Ryouma's next breath shivered out. “Yes.”

Kakashi led them down the side streets on the way home, so they could walk side by side without being jostled by passersby. Ryouma radiated heat like a living furnace. On the third or fourth time he “accidentally” brushed his hand against Kakashi’s, Kakashi reached out and folded his fingers around Ryouma’s.

They talked about Ryouma’s work, the last, awful meeting that had finally driven his team to mutiny, and their debriefing afterward that had felt like rain in the desert. Kakashi regaled Ryouma with Interesting Customer stories. Away from the perpetual glitz of Ginza’s neon lights, the city slumbered, lone lights winking out as even the night owls headed to bed.

It felt strangely ordinary, considering. Anticipation burned in his belly, but it was a low, simmering heat that never boiled over into impatience or anxiety. Ryouma’s hand fit well with his own. Their strides matched, effortlessly.

When they passed by a 7-ELEVEN, Ryouma paused, and tugged Kakashi to a stop.

“Okay, this might be a really presumptuous question,” Ryouma said hesitantly, “but do you have condoms? Or lube? Not that I'm expecting anything; it's just that I didn't plan— and I don't know if you did—”

“I didn't,” Kakashi interrupted, before Ryouma could asphyxiate on his own words. “I've got lube at home, but not condoms.”

Which was a pretty presumptuous response, but whatever — no one in Kakashi's life had ever accused him of being tactful.

“All right, wait here,” Ryouma said, and headed inside, looking back once over his shoulder as if he was worried that Kakashi would take the opportunity to bolt.

Kakashi did not bolt. He did, however, feel slightly ridiculous lurking outside a 7-ELEVEN in the middle of the night, as though they were committing a crime and he was the lookout.

That feeling only intensified when Ryouma more or less ran out of the convenience store, a bag clutched in his hand and a mortified expression on his face.

“I didn't know what size or brand you wanted so I got one of everything they had,” Ryouma said, before Kakashi could ask. “And now I think the cashier lady thinks I'm going to an orgy.”

Kakashi glanced over at the large, brightly lit storefront windows. Just visible between the posters advertising a sale on sports drinks, was a uniformed, middle-aged woman. Even Kakashi had to admit that her frown of matronly disapproval was impressive.

“It probably didn't help that I also got snacks and bottled water,” Ryouma added sheepishly.

It was the sight of Ryouma hunching his shoulders like a chastised schoolboy that tipped this whole situation from merely ridiculous to outright hilarious. Laughter cracked through Kakashi, bubbling out of him in loud peals that he hurriedly muffled with his hands. Ryouma stared at him for a moment, eyes wide, before he lost it as well, dissolving into graceless, snorting laughter that scrunched up his nose and brought tears to the corners of his eyes.

Some unnamed impulse flared in Kakashi; he reached up a hand and cupped it around the back of Ryouma’s neck. Ryouma’s laughter subsided, but his gaze was still warm and unabashedly fond. Kakashi let the impulse take him, and tugged Ryouma down, and pressed a kiss to his still-smiling mouth.

Ryouma’s breath hitched. His mouth trembled. And then he was kissing back, tentatively at first, just exploring the contours of Kakashi’s upper lip, until Kakashi pulled him closer and kissed him harder. Ryouma’s arm was a warm, solid band against Kakashi’s back, and his mouth was hot and lush and wanting.

Kakashi didn’t know when he’d closed his eyes, but he opened them again when Ryouma pulled back. They were both breathing hard.

“How far’s your place?” Ryouma asked, his voice low and deep.

Kakashi suppressed a shiver. “Almost there.”

They didn’t talk much after that. The air between them had changed, become charged and electric. Muscle memory guided Kakashi’s feet through the remaining distance to his house. They did manage to refrain from — more — public displays, but it was a close thing. Kakashi got his door open, hauled Ryouma inside after him, and then they were kissing again. Ryouma slid his hands around Kakashi’s waist and pinned him against the back of the door, his body hot and hard everywhere.

Kakashi found the light switch mostly by accident; they both startled at the click that flooded the genkan with light. Ryouma was flushed to the tips of his ears, and his mouth was red and slick with saliva. It took effort to not kiss him again, and instead take off shoes and hang up both of their jackets.

“Would you like something to eat or drink?” Kakashi offered, because he was not actually raised by wolves.

Ryouma’s answering grin had wolfish edges. “Already took care of that,” he said, picking up the bag that he’d dropped during their kiss in the genkan. The motion did good things for his biceps. “But I could use a shower.”

It was a little embarrassing how quickly that turned him on. “Bathroom’s upstairs,” he said, voice rough, and held out his hand for Ryouma to take.

Ryouma showered first. Kakashi took the opportunity to quickly strip and remake his bed. He found his bottle of lube and placed it on the bedside table, along with the water, snacks, and five boxes of condoms that Ryouma had purchased earlier. Because Ryouma didn’t know Kakashi’s size or brand, which was either a very unsubtle declaration of preference, or just Ryouma being conscientious.

Kakashi didn’t particularly care, either way. Sex for him was about wanting to be close with his partner, and as a result he had very little of it. The appeal of sex with Ryouma was Ryouma himself, and not what he could do with his various body parts.

As though summoned by Kakashi’s thoughts, the bathroom door swung open. “All yours,” Ryouma said, shirtless, broad shoulders glistening with droplets of water that slid down his sleekly muscled chest to the towel wrapped snugly around lean hips. A small, silver ring gleamed at his left nipple.

All right, maybe Ryouma’s body made up some of his appeal.

“Thanks,” Kakashi responded, with the small part of his brain that wasn’t busy committing every detail of this vision into memory.

Ryouma’s gaze surveyed the freshly made bed, and the array of supplies by the nightstand, before returning to Kakashi. His eyes were dark and hot with anticipation. “Don’t take too long.”

Kakashi didn’t.

When he came back out, Ryouma was sitting on the bed, still wearing the towel. The rest of his clothes lay folded in a neat pile by the door. His jaw dropped when he saw Kakashi, dark eyes wide and awestruck as they swept the length of Kakashi’s mostly naked body. The open appreciation unwound something in Kakashi, made it easy for him to cross the narrow distance between them, place a hand to Ryouma’s chest, and push him down onto the mattress.

Ryouma went willingly, eager and trusting. He tugged loose the towel around his hips, revealing strong thighs and a hard cock that was every bit as gorgeous as the rest of him. “You too,” he urged.

Kakashi let his towel drop to the floor, and let Ryouma pull Kakashi on top of him. Ryouma’s skin was hot silk stretched over hard muscle, smelling intoxicatingly of Kakashi’s soap and his own arousal. A slight shift slotted their legs together, and it was even better, sweet friction and pressure where they were needed most.

“Fuck, you feel good,” Ryouma gasped, baring his throat like an invitation as he arched up to rock against Kakashi’s thigh.

Kakashi leaned down and pressed his mouth to Ryouma’s neck, just under his jawbone. He could feel the rapid tattoo of Ryouma’s pulse, as fast as his own. “So do you,” he murmured against the flushed skin there, and nipped gently. “What do you like?”

Apparently, that, if the way Ryouma jerked beneath him was any indication. “Anything’s good.” His voice came out reedy and unsteady. “Whatever—whatever you want.”

Which was freeing, in a way, and Kakashi certainly had ideas, but something about the way Ryouma said that felt wrong and unsatisfying. He bit Ryouma again, harder this time, bearing his weight down as Ryouma bucked up. When he pulled back, there was a dull red, saliva-slick bruise at the junction of Ryouma’s neck and shoulder, and Ryouma was panting raggedly.

“I want you to tell me what you want,” Kakashi said.

Ryouma made a gravelled, needy sound. “I want,” he rasped, eyes pupil-dark and searching, as though seeking confirmation, “I want your mouth on me.”

That was better. Kakashi kissed him again, equal parts gratitude and reward, and trailed more open-mouthed kisses down the broad expanse of his chest. Ryouma shivered when Kakashi’s thumb brushed over the silver nipple ring, so he followed up with his mouth, worrying the nipple between his teeth and tugging on the ring.

Ryouma’s next sound was gratifyingly incoherent.

Kakashi lifted his head, smiling. “Good?”

So good,” Ryouma gasped. He worked a hand between their bodies, groping for Kakashi’s cock. “Let me— can I touch you?”

“When it’s your turn,” Kakashi replied, intercepting Ryouma’s wrist and pinning it at his side. “Tell me something else you want.”

The muscles in Ryouma’s forearm flexed, testing Kakashi’s hold, before he shuddered and let Kakashi pin him, which was — interesting. And hot . Kakashi fed that piece of information to the part of his brain that was incessantly analytical, and kept going, licking a hot trail down Ryouma’s sternum to his abs.

Ryouma moaned and spread his legs, giving Kakashi room to lie between his thighs. “I want your hand— or your mouth, just touch me.” He lifted his hips like an offering, cock flushed dark and already leaking pre-cum.

Kakashi debated choices for a moment, before deciding that choices were dumb when both was clearly the best option. “I can do that,” he said, and wrapped his fingers around the hard, hot shaft, mouth sinking down over the head.

Fuck.” Ryouma’s hips stuttered, before he forced himself still, thighs trembling with the effort. Kakashi released the wrist he was keeping pinned to pin Ryouma’s thighs instead, helping to hold him down. Ryouma’s newly freed hand buried itself in Kakashi’s hair, as though seeking an anchor to keep from being unmoored. “Oh, Kakashi, that’s so— don’t stop.

Kakashi wasn’t stopping, not when Ryouma was a sensual feast spread out before him, gloriously hard and gorgeous everywhere, abs heaving with each quick, shallow breath. Ryouma tasted of clean skin and bitter salt, neither of which was unpleasant. He smelled amazing, some magic of body chemistry that went straight to Kakashi’s hindbrain — and his cock. It would be easy to just grind against the bed and come, but then Ryouma was pulling Kakashi off and tugging him back up.

“Sorry, I was getting too close,” Ryouma said, before Kakashi could complain. His eyes were half-lidded and unfocused, as though he was drunk on pleasure. “I want you to fuck me.”

That was — not unexpected, considering Ryouma’s supply run, but it still knocked the breath from Kakashi’s lungs to hear Ryouma say it, his voice deep and thick with need. Kakashi rode out the shudder that passed through his own body, and said, “Yes.”

Condoms happened, and lube. Ryouma watched him hungrily, then turned over onto his front, bracing his elbows on the bed and drawing his knees up under him. His back could have been used as an anatomy model, an ancient European sculpture brought to life. Kakashi splayed a hand across Ryouma’s shoulder blade and trailed his lips down the ladder of vertebrae, admiring the smooth ripple of muscle under warm, velvet-soft skin.

When he reached Ryouma’s tailbone, Ryouma arched his back, making a low, impatient sound. “You don’t need to keep up the foreplay, you know,” he said. “I’m already a sure thing.”

Just for that, Kakashi grabbed Ryouma’s ass, spread his cheeks, and licked him. Ryouma gave a strangled yelp, but Kakashi tightened his grip on Ryouma’s ass and kept going, until Ryouma was shaking under Kakashi’s hands, his hole wet and twitching under Kakashi’s tongue.

“Sorry, did you say something, earlier?” Kakashi asked innocently.

He shook again, with breathless laughter this time. “You’re a jerk,” he told Kakashi, craning his neck to look over his shoulder. “C’mon, get in me. I want to come on your cock.”

The heat that seared down Kakashi’s spine agreed fervently. “I’ll hold you to that,” he said. He smeared more lube onto his fingers and eased two into Ryouma.

Ryouma let out a deep, relieved sigh that sharpened into a choked-off gasp when Kakashi crooked his fingertips along what he knew was unbearably sensitive skin. Heat and pressure built behind Kakashi’s balls; he fought the need to give himself relief, focused instead on the flexing of Ryouma’s back muscles as he rocked back on Kakashi’s fingers.

“Oh, that’s good,” he panted, when Kakashi slid in a third finger. “I love your hands. I thought about you doing this to me, so many times I’d go home and— ahh. ” He shuddered again as Kakashi dragged all three across his prostate. “Kakashi, please, fuck me.”

He wasn’t quite loose enough, but he also didn’t seem like he cared. Kakashi pulled out his fingers and lined up his cock. “Breathe, and try to relax.”

To his credit, Ryouma did try. It still didn’t make him any less exquisitely tight, or blissfully hot. Kakashi bit the inside of his cheek and went as slowly as he could, letting Ryouma adjust to the stretch.

“Okay?” he asked, once he was fully sheathed.

Ryouma nodded jerkily, and spread his legs wider. “Yeah, just move.

He was too close to go slow; they both were. Kakashi grabbed Ryouma by the shoulder and hip and fucked into him, going for precision and accuracy rather than speed or depth. Ryouma met him on every thrust, moaning a ragged litany of syllables that never quite managed to coalesce into words — until Kakashi reached between Ryouma’s legs for his cock, and Ryouma shook his head and knocked Kakashi’s hand away.

“Don’t need it,” Ryouma said, sounding strained and tattered, a rope on the edge of breaking. “Just—harder. Fuck me harder.” He cast a wild, desperate look over his shoulder at Kakashi. “Please, I can take it.”

Something in his eyes told Kakashi that what he meant was, Make me take it. Kakashi paired his next thrust with a deliberate, vicious snap of his hips. Ryouma’s head dropped between his bent arms, moan fracturing into a hoarse scream. He grabbed the edge of the mattress and held on, let Kakashi pound into him again, and again — and then he was gone, every muscle tightening in a glorious, throbbing clench. It took Kakashi with him in a hot, relentless rush that whited out his vision at the edges.

He came down slowly, trembling through aftershocks. Beneath him, Ryouma was sweat-soaked and panting. He whined softly when Kakashi pulled out of him, but didn’t object to being tipped over onto his side, and murmured wordless approval when Kakashi snuggled up behind him, draping an arm around his waist.

“That was great,” Ryouma said, his words slurring sleepily.

Kakashi nodded against his nape. “It was.”

They drifted for a while, skimming the boundary of sleep without going under. Ryouma was warm, and his chest rose and fell in soothing waves as he breathed.

“We should clean up,” Kakashi said, with reluctance.

Ryouma sighed. “Yeah. I’m kind of thirsty, too.”

They dragged themselves mostly upright, and went through the undignified process of getting clean. Ryouma drank an entire bottle of water, and helped Kakashi to remake the bed. By wordless, mutual agreement, they decided to forgo a second shower in favour of just passing out instead.

With the light off, and in the warm circle of Ryouma’s arms, sleep came easily. Kakashi said, “Tell me what you want for breakfast,” and nodded off before he heard the response.

Sunlight woke Kakashi, pulling him lazily out of wispy remnants of dreams that faded like mist once his eyes opened. He was warm — a little too warm, actually, heat pressed against his side and wrapped around his waist. He turned his head.

Ryouma breathed slowly and evenly beside him, still asleep. He had kicked off most of the covers in the night, leaving him bare almost to his knees. The late morning sun pouring in from the large windows washed him in shades of gold and bronze, gilding stray strands of hair.

For a few heartbeats, Kakashi forgot to breathe.

He reached out and brushed his thumb across Ryouma’s cheekbone, making him stir faintly, a storybook picture coming to life. His eyelashes fluttered, and lifted. Ryouma blinked awake, saw Kakashi, and smiled like the breaking of dawn.

“Hi,” he said quietly.

“Hi,” Kakashi echoed. “How are you feeling?”

Ryouma stretched luxuriously, a long, sinuous flex of rippling muscle that made Kakashi’s thoughts slide distinctly towards a repeat of the previous night. “Great. A little sore. Hungry.” He grinned. “I believe I was promised breakfast?”

Well. They could always have round two afterwards. “You were.” Kakashi pushed off the covers and did his own stretch, reawakening stiff joints. “Any requests?”

“Yes,” Ryouma replied, familiar heat filling his eyes. He levered himself on top of Kakashi, straddled his thighs, and lowered his mouth to Kakashi’s abdomen. “But it can wait.”

They did have breakfast, eventually. Kakashi made omurice, and made Ryouma laugh when he served it with a smiley face drawn in ketchup.

“You’re good in bed and you make me breakfast,” Ryouma said. “You’re never going to get rid of me now.” Then he stilled, and looked up at Kakashi with fragile hope.

“I wouldn’t mind that,” Kakashi said, and knew from the racing of his heart that he meant it.

The hope on Ryouma’s face bloomed into delight. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Kakashi walked around the table and kissed him gently. “You’re beautiful, and you’re good in bed. Tomorrow can be your turn to make breakfast.”

Ryouma grinned, curled his fingers around Kakashi’s hips, and pulled him closer. “I make better dinners than breakfasts.”

“We can do that too,” Kakashi said, and kissed him again.