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Playing Pretend

Chapter Text

It had started as a quiet day.

Teru had been shut away in his own little room - the standard room for hybrids in Reigen’s care, as it had his futon, a bookshelf, and a small play area laid out in plain sight of the clear wall facing the hallway and the rest of the hybrids. He was perfectly content to be there for the moment, as Reigen had invested in some new style magazines recently; he knew on some level that his own fashion choices were only ever going to be subject to the whims of his owner, and from what he could tell the only owner he’d ever have would be Reigen, but it was still nice to browse.

He let out a little trill of acknowledgement as Mob passed through the hall on his checks; the soft jingle of his tags as he leaned over to peer in at Teru was the only alert he needed to his presence. Mob was quiet for a dog, reserved and surprisingly respectful of the other hybrids’ spaces. He’d told Teru once that this was why his original owners had sold him to Reigen, in spite of his potential as a show dog; his temperament just wasn’t ideal for the job. What had supposedly been more surprising was his superstar brother Ritsu insisting he not be parted from Mob, but Teru had a hard time believing the shelter’s overly aggressive guard dog had ever been considered desirable to any owner.

Still, Reigen seemed to take it in stride, regardless of how little Ritsu claimed to like him. He took everything in stride.

Just as he seemed to when the peaceful atmosphere of the back rooms was broken by the sound of Ritsu’s high, penetrating bark from the front, where Reigen kept his desk. Teru jumped and peered toward the transparent door to see Mob’s calm features folded open in an unusual display of astonishment. Mob sent him a sidelong glance, offered him the tiniest nod of reassurance, and padded back toward the front of the building. Teru could hear Reigen’s voice, rising into his typical showboating demeanor - but something was off, the tone or the tension was rising faster than it usually would, even considering Ritsu’s misbehavior.

He couldn’t hear exactly what was being said - not until somebody shouted “Shut the bitch up!” followed by a high-pitched yelp and the cessation of Ritsu’s barks.

He glanced across the walkway and locked eyes with Rei, a bunny hybrid he’d become fast friends with when he’d been given to the shelter about a year prior. He’d happened to come into breeding age - and caused a bit of a ruckus due to some unaddressed behavior problems of his own - around the time that Reigen had gotten the bright idea to breed hybrids himself. Reigen still hadn’t found an adequate mate for him, but Teru wasn’t in any particular hurry.

At least, he hadn’t been. Now, as he watched Rei press herself into the opposite corner of her room, he wondered if he was going to miss his opportunity.

He had to wonder again, however, when he realized he could smell hybrids - unfamiliar ones, foreign ones. Maybe they were just receiving a donation, and that was all there was to it.

No, the tone of Reigen’s voice was too high, too rushed. His fluid speech patterns were abrupt and unfocused, even if Teru still couldn’t make out his words. His heart sank as he heard Reigen approaching the door to the back rooms - conscious of his more skittish neighbors, he stayed right where he was, feigning nonchalance even as the scent of unfamiliar hybrids grew stronger.

There was one especially strong scent, one that smelled dusty and dark. Teru couldn’t place what exactly it was, but the closest guess he had based on his own experience was a horse. The rest were a mixed bag, hybrids that confused Teru’s senses until he lingered on one.

There was a cat. One of them was a cat. The cluster of scents had him confused on all facts but that one, and he clung to it, hoping against all hope that it meant something. For the second time, he let “maybe” give him false hope: it could be a new friend, one he could bond for their similarities. But these hybrids - they smelled older. Reigen didn’t take in hybrids of that age; those were for the place down the street. Something was happening.

Reigen was on his usual spiel - “Our hybrids are treated with the utmost respect and dignity, with enrichment and amenities to spare” - but Teru couldn’t smell any humans aside from him. He frowned and looked toward Rei again, but she had hidden her face.

Teru could feel his hands shaking. What the hell had they done to Ritsu? What were they fucking doing here?

He gazed down at his magazine, trying to remain visibly disinterested as he heard them draw closer. There were deep voices, five of them, all men, and he managed to pry identifiers from a couple more of them - a rat, and a dog.

How fitting.

He could see movement now, in the periphery of his vision. His ears flicked toward their voices of their own accord, and his fingertips stuttered across the page of his magazine as he listened in. They didn’t seem terribly impressed with what they found, at least not until -

“Oh, here’s a winner,” said one of them with an air of exasperation. “You’ll like this one, Ryou.”

His heart was in his throat. He didn’t know what was happening. He glanced toward the door, to the tips of the stranger’s boots, but he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of meeting his eye. Everything looked sleek and black about him, blurry as it was in his periphery - even his tail, flicking from side to side in amusement, was black as night.

He’d counted right before: five sets of shoes, plus Reigen. This was not a spat that he could win. In some odd way, he felt as if the man crouching in front of his crate had an inkling of his own about Teru’s thought process.

He smelled like blood.

“You don’t say,” drawled the dark man, and Teru realized that he was crumpling the pages of the magazine under his tense fingers. His heart continued pounding, though, loud enough to sound like waves crashing in his ears.

Reigen spoke up, bless him. He cleared his throat in a very distinctly Reigen way, and Teru could almost see his elaborate flourish in his mind’s eye. “I’m afraid this gentleman isn’t for sale. He’s one of our breeders.”

“Even I can see that much,” said the dark man, and low chuckles passed through his company. “Too bad for you. He’s the one I want.”

“So soon, Shimazaki?” asked the rat man. He had a gentler tone than the others.

“I’d prefer that you made the choice quickly,” intoned the dusty-smelling man. He had an air of authority, and Teru could see a tufted tail hanging heavily between his legs. He sounded impatient. “Although I’d better not hear you complaining that you chose wrong.”

“You think I’m some kinda kid, boss? I’m telling you, I’ll take the cat. I always wanted a kitten anyway.”

Reigen cleared his throat. “I didn’t want to have to play this card,” he choked out, even as Teru internally willed him to shut his trap. “But I’m afraid selling to a hybrid is unlawful. Unless you have an owner you can introduce to me, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

The dark man continued squatting next to Teru’s room, his cheek planted in his palm and his elbow propped on one knee. He was smiling, and when Teru finally decided to look him in the eyes, he realized they were closed like he was some cheeky kitten. What was his deal?

His boss carried on. “Then don’t sell him to us,” he said grimly. “Offer him as a gift, and pray that we won’t burn this place to ashes with you inside.”

Listen to him, Teru willed Reigen, hardly daring to breathe as he watched the dark man - Shimazaki - inhale deep, probably to gather essences of Teru’s scent. Listen to him.

“Where are your collars?” Reigen asked, and Teru gritted his teeth so hard he felt they might crack. The boss’s tufted tail flicked for the first time and Teru watched the rat man step in front of him. “I-I mean, we have collars! Yes, a lovely selection that you can choose from at your leisure.”

“The man is blind. He doesn’t care what the collar looks like. Open the crate.”

Teru watched Reigen trip over his own feet as he brushed past the group of men. He paused next to the dark man, then murmured, “Do you think - you could…”

The man shifted over, and Reigen muttered a thank you before he removed his keyring from his pocket and paused in front of the lock. He gave Teru a look, and in spite of his situation, in spite of the racing of his heart, Teru couldn’t help but feel sorry for his master. He could only hope that he’d be safe once all was said and done.

Reigen finished opening Teru’s crate and reached for him, and Teru let his hand brush his cheek. It lingered there for a moment as Reigen lightly rubbed his thumb over his soft skin, and it left Teru wondering what Reigen would’ve said had he ever been legally adopted, what gentle parting words they would share were it not for the dangerous men looming over his back. Reigen had helped him evolve into a better, kinder person, and Teru would never forget that.

But they didn’t have time for words. One of the unidentified hybrids nudged Reigen’s backside with his foot, and Reigen drew away with Teru not far behind. He finally stood to his full height in front of the group, somewhat cowed to realize that he was quite a bit shorter than even the shortest of them. This was not a group that he could fight off with his own power, but if he considered them individually - there was a man without eyebrows, with fluffy brown ears sprouting from the sides of his head and a curling tail. He smelled… fresh. There was also a gigantic, towering man, too, the dog, but Teru glanced over him to their boss.

He quickly averted his gaze back to the ground, all thoughts of rebellion forgotten. The boss had a proud tilt to his head and huge horns that pointed dangerously toward the ceiling, a venomous look in his eye that told Teru all he needed to know about the way this man considered the world - and the people - around him.

“Are you satisfied, Shimazaki?” barked the boss, and quick, slender hands wrapped around Teru’s middle from behind. He almost gagged on the overwhelming scent of blood.

“Yep,” purred the man, making Teru’s ears flick as he nuzzled them. He shuddered with revulsion when he felt a tongue brush his ear, but forced it down at an appraising look from the boss.

One last traitorous “maybe” crossed his mind - perhaps they were a relief effort. These were powerful men, considering their hybrid natures, after all; maybe all they wanted was to give Teru a better life.

But when the boss’s hand cupped his chin, tilting it up, and the dark man took the opportunity to bury his nose in his shoulder and sniff, Teru knew in a more intimate sense that this was not the case. More than anything, these men would more closely approximate his worst fears for what Reigen might have been - a “breeder” who treated their hybrid pets as little more than their own personal sex slaves. Not technically illegal, no, but no hybrid’s dream of domestic bliss with a loving, respectful master.

“You’d best get some tags for this one, Ryou,” the boss said coolly, tracing his thumb over Teru’s lip. It was so utterly dehumanizing, Teru wanted nothing more than to lunge forward and give him a firm reminder of why it was dangerous putting his hand near a wild animal’s mouth. “Else the boys might try to take him from you.”

“They can try,” came the response. His voice vibrated against Teru’s skin where his shirt peeled away from his neck. Teru swallowed, wondering what exactly this dynamic he was spectating detailed. Reigen cleared his throat and Teru kept his eyes down out of fear of meeting his former master’s eyes, tuning out the quivering of Reigen’s voice as he offered to show them where to find the aforementioned tags and collars. 

Teru was faintly surprised when the dark man peeled off and stood next to him, hooking a hand through the crook in Teru’s elbow. He blinked, then realized - the boss had mentioned him being blind. That provided… Well, if not an explanation, another twist to the situation. He hesitated another moment, observing the innocuous smile on the dark man’s face, the little v-shaped nick out of his ear, all the minute details making him the perfect image of a dark alley cat.

“Lead the way, kitten,” the dark man said, startling Teru out of his observation.

“Right, sorry,” he said quietly, sharply turning away. The pet name the man had used hit him after another second, causing his face to grow hot with an odd mix of humiliation and disgust. Leaving aside Teru’s surface-level observations of the man, between him so casually taking ownership of one of his own and the nickname…

No, this was no liberation front. He wasn’t sure what their deal was, but they’d made that much clear.

He’d been issued a plain black collar, a set of tags, and strict orders to stay at his new master’s side at all times. None of them had asked his name, but it seemed as if all of them had brushed their hands over his ears or his tail at least once. It felt out of place, it felt wrong - he’d always considered himself so far above people, even other, lesser hybrids, especially before meeting Mob and reforming himself under his and Reigen’s tutelage. He’d thought it was only natural that he deserved special treatment, and that other hybrids could and should just accept that their lives were going to be uneventful, spent under the thumb of someone with more chutzpah.

He supposed it had never occurred to him that there were other hybrids who might treat him, of all people, much the same. His new master’s - Shimazaki’s - hands never left him once the collar had been affixed to his neck; they lingered on his arm or his waist or his shoulder, and once they’d been situated in the shiny black car to head to Shimazaki’s place, he’d hardly set himself down before Shimazaki slid into the seat next to him and placed a possessive hand on his thigh.

“Don’t take too long getting the kitten situated,” called the boss through the car window, “You have business to attend to.”

“C’mon, boss, gimme some time to break him in,” Shimazaki purred, and Teru forced down a shudder. The boss’s face twitched, and the rat man, who on closer observation seemed to have a relationship more akin to his own with Shimazaki than that of equal status, stepped forward with a nervous look. A tense moment passed, but with a disgusted scoff the boss turned away, nodding to the driver to take them to their destination.

Shimazaki rolled the window up himself, and Teru reflected that he seemed fairly self-sufficient in familiar enough circumstances. Then, he wondered what, exactly, had prompted Shimazaki to get a seeing-eye slave now, considering he appeared a fair few years older than himself and pretty comfortable with his disability.

Any sympathetic leanings he may have had evaporated fairly quickly, however, when Shimazaki reached over him to roll up the partition between them and the driver and turned his attention to him with yet another rolling purr. Teru let out a short, irate hiss when Shimazaki flicked his tongue over his ear, wiggling his hand between his back and the seat to scratch right at the base of his tail.

“What a long, luxurious coat you have,” Shimazaki murmured, like he hadn’t even heard Teru’s noise of protest. “I should call you Fluffy.”

Teru felt the fur on his tail standing on end. “I already have a fucking name,” he snapped, then added, “You - you alley cat trash.”

He saw Shimazaki’s long, wiry tail jerk and just the barest hint of a frown wrinkle his brow. Then, he laughed. “You take offense to Fluffy, then immediately call me an alley cat? I smell a hypocrite.”

Teru shifted, tried to push Shimazaki’s hands away - but he caught his wrists in steady palms, squeezing hard as if in warning before one of them darted away to undo his seatbelt and plant itself under Teru’s armpit to swing him into his lap with Teru’s back to his front. “Funny how you think you have any agency here,” Shimazaki whispered in a dangerous tone, “when I literally own you.”

There was one hand on Teru’s lower stomach, another still holding his wrist in a crushing grip. Shimazaki’s chest was vibrating again, but there was no mistaking it for a purr, even as he traced up the side of Teru’s neck with his nose, even as his rough tongue lapped at the line of his jaw, even as Teru tried to arch his body away.

Then, Teru froze as he felt Shimazaki’s broad, warm hand trace downward, over the rough fabric of his regulation-issue shelter uniform. He inhaled harshly through his nose as Shimazaki pressed the seam of his pants, parting his slit around the hard line of the fabric, forcing a squeak out of him at the pressure on his clit.

“Been wanting to fuck this little pussy ever since I first smelled it on you,” Shimazaki breathed, his voice dark and deep. Teru ground against Shimazaki’s fingers, gritting his teeth around another moan, completely deaf to the sound of the car slowing down.

He jerked forward without the help of his seatbelt, catching himself on the seat in front of him, then blinked in confusion as Shimazaki chirped, “Ah, we’re here.” He pushed Teru off of his lap and left him sprawled on the seat before he could even process what had happened.

“Don’t you - wait,” Teru sputtered, launching himself out of the car and after his new master, confused for the briefest second when it seemed he was navigating perfectly fine on his own. Then he noticed the building in front of them and all other thoughts immediately evacuated his mind.

Spotless windows, spacious balconies, modern architecture. It hardly even looked like a residence - more like somewhere the city’s most prestigious businessmen met to do whatever the hell it was that they even did. It hardly seemed like the kind of seedy, morally questionable place that lone hybrids could get a lease.

His ears pressed nervously back against his skull. How the hell was he supposed to just walk into a place like that? 

But when Shimazaki paused a few feet away from the door and turned back toward him and waited, it seemed he had little choice. He caught up to his new master, tried to ignore the prickling along the back of his neck when he placed his arm around his waist, and entered the lobby.

Everything was so crisp and fresh and well-air-conditioned that the air inside hurt Teru’s sinuses on the first inhale. He sneezed and Shimazaki snickered.

“You even sneeze like a damn kitten,” he teased, and Teru was ready to retort before he continued, speaking low and urgent right in his ear. “They won’t question a thing if you just act like you belong.”

Teru frowned. How had he let himself slip like this? He knew perfectly well how to fake it until he made it; he’d been born to high-class breeders, after all. Pompous behavior had been fed to him like a point of pride. How had he forgotten that?

Well, it had given him a bit of an attitude problem, he supposed. He had Mob to thank in the end.

Still, apparently being visibly nervous wasn’t that much to his disadvantage; it suited his mode of dress, after all, and when someone did notice the pair, the only comment they got was “Ah, another one for the master, then, Ryou?”

Teru forced out a courteous little smile, but Shimazaki gave no such acknowledgement. He loped away toward the elevators and Teru followed, pausing to give the curious neighbor a bow. A friendly face couldn’t hurt, after all - if it came down to it, his best options for rescue were those in the background that he was tempted to ignore.

Shimazaki’s strides were longer than his, so even with his sight advantage he only just made it to his new master’s side as the elevator doors were opening. He felt Shimazaki’s tail flicker across the back of his leg and internally made a note - when he was walking alone, it seemed he felt around him in a low, sweeping arc with his tail to assist his nose and ears.

Shimazaki pulled him close as the elevator went up, and Teru could once again feel him nosing over his ears, petting his long hair with one hand. Teru fought his natural urge to bristle at the attention: he hadn’t had anybody touching his hair like this since he’d first arrived at Reigen’s and had his hair trimmed much shorter than he’d have liked.

The elevator dinged at what must have been their floor and Shimazaki paused before disembarking. Teru hesitated, then offered his arm - but that didn’t seem to be his concern.

“You’re a breeder,” Shimazaki mused, and Teru’s face grew warm. He nodded, then realized Shimazaki couldn’t see him do that. “So you’re not on birth control.”

“No,” Teru confirmed, and Shimazaki sighed. He walked out of the elevator at last and turned down the corridor, completely ignoring Teru’s offer of help.

“Guess we’ll have to fix that.”

“What?” Teru replied, taken aback.

“Do I look like the paternal type to you?” Shimazaki scoffed by way of explanation, and Teru raised his eyebrows. He’d sort of taken it for granted that if and when he was bred, he would have little choice in the matter; in a manner of speaking, it was something of a relief to hear.

It still implied certain… expectations of him, however, and Teru internally wondered if he was ready for that. He’d long assumed that he’d be in Reigen’s care for the foreseeable future, and when it came to Reigen… Well, he had his own theories about him - and Mob - and even Ritsu, but all in all he hadn’t been concerned with being a source of pleasure for him.

This guy, however. Teru watched him stop at his apartment, pull out his keys and unlock his door with surprising dexterity and realized, whether or not he was ready now, he didn’t have long to make himself ready. He didn’t have time to worry over what would be asked of him, or to practice; he’d have to make do with whatever knowledge he had.

Well, he supposed he hadn’t hijacked his previous owners’ laptops for nothing. For a moment his head spun with half-forgotten memories of overacted scenes of hybrids seducing their owners, wanton moans, cat’s purrs and dog’s knots and - oh, fuck, Teru hoped Shimazaki’s dick was a human one, he could only imagine how much worse their mating would be if he got spines buried in his pussy every time -

He hardly noticed the door opening until Shimazaki called “Hatori? Come meet my kitten.”

Another dog… no, not quite. Something wilder. Teru grasped Shimazaki’s arm without thinking as he heard a groan from further inside the apartment, stepping reluctantly after him as he walked in and kicked off his shoes. He hadn’t considered this development - they weren’t gonna double-team him, were they?!

“What, were you raised in a barn? Get your shoes off, kittycat,” Shimazaki prompted him. “And calm down, Hatori just holes up in his room all day. He’s not gonna eat you.”

As if to prove his point, Hatori - the roommate, Teru supposed, although he hardly knew why Shimazaki needed one if he could afford an apartment in this building - padded out of a hallway framed by sleek, dark bookshelves. He had little round ears, oversized pajamas and an incredibly fluffy, ring-patterned tail that Teru instantly wanted to swat at. “Cute,” Hatori grunted. “You have a job tonight, and I have a ton of work to do. Are we done?”

“What’s the job?” Shimazaki asked, propping his chin on Teru’s head between his ears. He fought down the disgust that traveled up the base of his neck at the feeling.

Hatori looked at him - at least, Teru thought he did, through those thick glasses of his - and took a second to answer. “I think you’re just giving fair warning to a punk who thought he could sell our info and get away with it. Bit of a personal thing for you, I would think,” he added, with a vindictive twist to his voice. “Car comes at eight.”

Teru felt Shimazaki’s fingers tighten at his waist. There it was again, following the back-and-forth Shimazaki exchanged with his boss in the car, this tension he didn’t understand between Shimazaki and the rest - he was clearly a higher-up in whatever this organization was, but there was something sparking between himself and the rest of them. 

But whatever Shimazaki knew, he didn’t let it out in his voice. He just nuzzled into Teru’s ear and purred, “Well, I hope my little kitten doesn’t get scared and run off.”

Hatori made a disgusted noise. “Don’t make a mess. I know you’re good at that,” he said sharply and turned away, sloping back toward what Teru had to assume was his room. He was tempted to call after him, to ask him not to leave him alone with Shimazaki, but -

But Shimazaki was already peeling away, a decidedly unpleasant expression on his face, and Teru was surprised to see him step into his opulent apartment without so much as a lingering touch. He started after him, hesitated, glanced around the cold, silver-tinted living room, and hurried along in his wake.

The apartment was big; Teru had only been upstairs to Reigen’s place a small handful of times in the year he’d lived with him, and only when he’d been sick or injured, but even then he could tell this place could barely even be counted in the same category. Just the parts he’d seen so far were bigger than the meager farmhouse he’d been bred and raised in. It was far beyond the point where he was wondering how a hybrid could get a lease here - it baffled him to think even a human being could afford it.

Shimazaki paused next to a door, flicked his tail, and pushed it open. “That one’s mine. I’ve got some calls to make, so be good.”

Teru hesitated. “Uh, do you have any clothes for me?” he asked, fidgeting with the hem of his shirt.

Shimazaki cocked his head. “What?”

“I mean - there’s gonna be questions if you’re walking around with a kitten in a shelter uniform, right?” Teru prompted him. “And I’m gonna feel dirty if I only get to wear these. So where’s my stuff?”

From the expression on Shimazaki’s face, Teru could tell he hadn’t meditated on a single one of these questions before. It would almost have been amusing if not for the fact that he was appalled.

“You got a seeing-eye slave and didn’t think about actually taking care of it?” 

One of Shimazaki’s ears flicked in annoyance. He straightened up and Teru had a split second where he wondered if he’d pressed too hard, but he just whipped his tail, huffed, and said, “I’ll take you shopping tomorrow, kitten,” before ruffling his hair again.

Then, he left Teru alone. He stood in the hall for a moment, wondered if he should explore the apartment on his own, and stepped instead into Shimazaki’s room. It was just as outrageously opulent as the rest of the place in its own sterile sort of way; grays and blacks dominated the room, enough that Teru had to turn on the overhead light to make any sense of what he was meant to be seeing. There were bookshelves - empty, of course - and ample closet space, everything sleek and functional and…

Well, not terribly entertaining, really. The space felt far from lived in. He couldn’t be expected to live to this measure of austerity, right? Even at Reigen’s, he’d at least been accustomed to enrichment and color.

When Teru peered curiously into the closets, he mostly saw shades of gray and black. He wrinkled his nose, then wandered back to the bed and perched on the edge of it and sighed.

Adoption was always going to be an adjustment. For now, he supposed it was better that it’d been him than any of his peers from Reigen’s.

That feeling only strengthened later that night, when Teru watched Shimazaki administer what apparently counted for “fair warning” in their organization to a hapless hybrid in a back alley. He’d known from the moment he’d seen the expression on the stag’s face that his master wasn’t the one they called in for civil discussions, and that knowledge was only reinforced with every kick to the stranger’s ribs.

Still, better him than Rei, or Gou, or any of the others. He had his own delinquent past, after all, and he could stomach the blood and the begging and the screams. Better him than Ritsu, too, because no doubt his big stupid mouth would’ve ended him up in considerable trouble by now.

He supposed this was his life now, then. Another kick, another alternate option eliminated; he couldn’t go back to Reigen’s, no. They knew where he lived and worked now, he’d just land his former master with a spot on their organization’s blacklist. He couldn’t live on his own, either. And the people who’d bred him in the first place hated his guts. Another kick, another fleeting moment of hope down the drain.

Shimazaki’s legs were strong. Teru wondered whether he’d get this kind of punishment if ever he were to disobey, or to run. He could take it, he thought. Better than Daichi or Kaito could. It was better this way.

Even with that thought in his mind, he still averted his eyes at the sordid visual of tonight’s target vomiting, and he still felt tears form at the wet sound of it hitting the pavement. He still shook with fear when he heard Shimazaki say “next time, be smarter about who you trust with our information”, and he still flinched when Shimazaki reached out for him.

He couldn’t look at him. He couldn’t. He trembled under Shimazaki’s searching hands, waiting for him to say something, anything.

There was a smile in Shimazaki’s voice when he finally spoke. “Let’s go for ramen,” he chirped, tucking Teru under his arm. He smelled like blood, overwhelmingly so, and Teru wanted to pull away - but he pressed his nose into Shimazaki’s side, searching. 

Underneath - under the haunting smell of gore, underneath it all - he could swear there was something else. Something on the borderline of pleasant.

Shimazaki didn’t touch him inappropriately this time, didn’t make any passes. He held Teru firmly as they walked, and he promised, “I’ll take you shopping tomorrow, little kitten.”

Chapter Text

“Shimazaki, get up. I’m not gonna wait for your lazy ass.”

Hatori’s words cut into Teru’s consciousness before he was even fully awake; there was a moment where he was confused as to who, exactly, was addressing him, until he recognized the deep timbre. He chirruped in annoyance and shifted under the covers, feeling as if his lower half was waking up faster than the upper half; His legs curled under him, lifting his rear end to unfurl his tail while his head remained planted in the pillows.

“Kitten, make sure he actually gets out of bed,” Hatori called to him.

“My name’s Teru,” he grumbled into his bedding. Hatori didn’t acknowledge the complaint before padding away; over the last couple days, he’d somehow grown to have even less regard for Teru’s presence in the moments when he actually emerged from his room. Moreover, it seemed the more he objected to the various pet names that had taken the place of his formal moniker, the less anybody listened to him; last time he’d seen Shibata, that dumb dog had laughingly cuffed him over the ear when he’d so much as opened his mouth, much to his consternation.

He lifted a hand without looking and flailed in Shimazaki’s general direction, grasping his shoulder when he found it and shoving with his noodly, half-asleep strength. “Geddup,” he mumbled.


“Get up,” he tried again, turning his head this time. Shimazaki was a lump, just a big ball of blankets with two pointed ears peeking out from underneath. Teru might have found it amusing if he weren’t still vaguely frightened of him; he didn’t seem like the type to swaddle himself in blankets and wear silk pajama sets, but Teru was finding over time that Shimazaki was always going to find new ways to surprise him with just how catlike he could be.

Including how he went from a motionless lump to a blur of motion and a weight on Teru’s back that made him screech in surprise. He felt long fangs prick at the back of his neck and bristled, reared up and knocked his back into Shimazaki’s front with all the force he could muster.

“I caught a mouse!” Shimazaki chirped merrily, completely unperturbed by Teru’s thrashing.

“Get off!” Teru hissed, and Shimazaki rolled obediently away. Teru froze for a second, still surprised, somehow, at how pliant Shimazaki was when Teru gave him an explicit denial. He lashed his tail from side to side as he watched Shimazaki stumble sleepily away toward the ensuite, finally letting his guard down when he heard water running in the adjoining room.

He slumped back onto the mattress, squishing his face halfway into the pillow and eyeballing the door to the bathroom. He could see flashes of Shimazaki’s body as he stripped down to shower and he ended up watching longer than he was proud to admit, only averting his eyes when Shimazaki turned to close the door. He’d made a habit of pushing Teru’s boundaries but never outright ignoring them, and Teru, oddly enough, was beginning to feel a little frustrated. He sat back on his feet and briefly ground the heel of his palm against his hot, wet cunt over his sleep shorts.

Of course he was pleasantly surprised that his boundaries were being respected, of course he was glad to know he had a degree of choice in whatever this fucked-up relationship was. But even he couldn’t deny that falling asleep in a large, powerful set of arms got him hot, no matter who they belonged to - and somehow or other, he had even less private time here than he did at Reigen’s, and…

Well. Being raised for such a specific purpose generally lead to fantasies. And Shimazaki was big and powerful and darkly sadistic, the perfect mirror to the shadowy figures Teru had imagined robbing him of his virginity so many times before.

Discomfort crawled up his shoulders like so many spiders, lingering in the spots where he’d felt the pointed edges of Shimazaki’s fangs mere moments earlier. He needed to stop thinking about this.

He pushed up and out of bed and made for the closet. There was a small corner of it dedicated to Teru’s things now, standing sharply out from the rest by virtue of the fact that they were the only things that had any color to them, but he ignored them for the moment and picked out his master’s outfit for the day. There wasn’t much fun to be had as far as color coordination, but there was enough variety to keep himself busy while he waited for him to emerge from the shower.

He laid out the picks of the day on the bed and set to deciding on what he would wear. Funnily enough, even his most superficial fear had been proven unwarranted; Shimazaki had let him pile on every last article of clothing he’d even contemplated wearing, plus a few more besides. He had formal wear now, which he was especially excited about, but not a single piece he’d picked out had been in a muted or dull color. He’d even asked Shimazaki whether he should get some dark colors and only gotten a scoff in response. 

Enough with that. It did make for an… interesting challenge, coordinating colors without a single neutral among his pieces, but he had few complaints. He pursed his lips and chose a couple articles for the day just as he heard the water shut off in the bathroom.

He kept his eyes on his clothes as Shimazaki passed him, perfectly nude. Another example of him pushing boundaries, but never breaking; it had only taken one naked hug for them to establish that those were off-limits.

“What time is it?” Shimazaki asked the room at large, and it was spoken in such a broad, non-specific way that Teru almost forgot that was his job. He sidled across the room until he was close enough to read the alarm clock.


“We gotta skip your shower, kittycat.”

“What!” Teru bristled again.

“I didn’t realize we were so pressed for time - Hatori must’ve hit snooze a few times before he came for us.”

Teru growled, “Okay, next time we have to get up early? Tell me, I’ll set our alarm clock.”

“We have an alarm clock?”

Teru wrestled his sleep shirt off and tossed it on the floor in irritation. “Why don’t we just use, like, Siri or something? Isn’t that designed for people like you?”

He pulled his sweater on, still grumbling. He deposited his shorts and his underwear and changed them out for a fresh pair and some jeans before he squatted for his shoes, then realized that Shimazaki hadn’t replied. He peered over his shoulder and saw Shimazaki standing in the middle of the room, flicking his tail testily from side to side.

He meditated on his words for a second. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly, wondering for a moment which part of that had been wrong. God, he really needed to get a handle on his anger - he’d nearly forgotten how dangerous his master could be.

Shimazaki took another moment to respond. “Are you decent?” he asked, finally.

Teru straightened and faced him, shoes forgotten. “Yeah.”

Shimazaki stepped forward, reaching out like he was unsure. Teru met him halfway, stood firm as Shimazaki’s hand glanced over his arm, allowed him to curl around his body and nuzzle his ears. He felt a rough tongue rasp over one of them and chirped in surprise.

His muscles felt taut; Shimazaki was tense, in spite of his affectionate behavior, and it was hard not to wonder what was going on in his head. Teru stayed right where he was, counting down to when the thread was going to snap.

And it did - it always did. Another moment passed and without warning, he was being swept up in a powerful pair of arms, yowling with surprise and distaste as Shimazaki cackled. “Off we go, kittycat!” he singsonged, turning on a dime and marching for the door.

“I don’t - my shoes!” Teru hissed, and Shimazaki only laughed harder as he struggled out of his arms. “You’re such an ass!”

“You are what you - ow,” Shimazaki chortled as Teru shoved at his chest. “Okay, fine, but hurry up.”

Teru stepped away, his heart rate still elevated for the moment, and hurriedly picked up his socks and shoes. Shimazaki waited for him even as Hatori called down the hall, and Teru hurried along after him. It took until they’d hit the ground floor for him to slip his hand into the crook of Shimazaki’s elbow.

The car ride that day was longer than usual, which wasn’t at all helped by Hatori’s presence; it’d taken a long moment of wondering why the hell he was following them all the way to the car for Teru to realize he was coming with them, not just seeing them off. It felt more than a little alien to see him out in the world, dressed in proper clothing. Teru had thought he maybe just looked young because he was always in pajamas, but he was pretty… well, dainty, for lack of a better word. If he hadn’t known about his involvement in Shimazaki’s organization, he would’ve guessed he was closer to his own age than to his master’s.

His eyes met Teru’s and he huffed - Teru quickly looked away, scooting closer toward Shimazaki. He was weird and dangerous and uncomfortable, but at least Teru had gotten used to his particular brand of predictable nonsense.

He peered past his master and realized that they were easily at the city’s outskirts by now, approaching the wealthiest neighborhoods in the prefecture; every house was grand and palatial, framed by trees and sculpture and fountains. Teru leaned forward and around Shimazaki, gawking at the surroundings. 

Shimazaki purred and took advantage of his position to lightly butt his head against Teru’s. Teru faintly trilled in annoyance, and Hatori grumbled about “shitty cat flirting”, but he didn’t push Shimazaki away; he just continued watching the massive, beautiful houses fly by. They didn’t have much longer to wait, though, because presently they were turning into a long driveway, rolling up behind a number of other black cars.

Hatori ejected himself out of the car and up the driveway in very short order, but Shimazaki took another moment, gliding out of his seat and carefully feeling with his feet before stepping far enough away for Teru to follow him. He took Shimazaki’s arm but couldn’t keep his eyes off the architecture, resulting in Shimazaki bumping his hip against one of the other cars on the short trek up to the house.

“Sorry,” Teru said quickly, re-focusing his attention. He snuck a peek at Shimazaki’s expression and was more than a little disturbed to see the ghost of a frown on his brow, the smallest glimmer of annoyance.

Teru had seen that expression before, when a loudmouthed lackey named Koyama had dropped a vicious comment about Shimazaki's blindness. It’d been such a minor reaction, gone almost as soon as it appeared, that Teru had thought Shimazaki would ignore it altogether until he’d heard Koyama’s body dully thud against the pavement.

He quickly looked away and helped Shimazaki climb the steps, careful to communicate every weak point on their way. Shimazaki passed through the front door without knocking, seemingly more comfortable with his route indoors; he took the lead on their way and followed the sounds of voices down the hall fast enough that Teru hardly had a chance to absorb his surroundings.

And they were opulent, too - Western-style, but without any charm lost for it. The glimpses Teru caught of rooms on their way were all equally stunning, framed in dark, shining wood and amber light. Teru wondered, for a moment, if he should’ve dressed up; he was beginning to feel a little childish, wearing what he was in such elaborate surroundings.

They arrived at their destination, and to Teru’s relief all the faces were familiar ones. Their modes of wear ranged from Suzuki, Shimazaki’s boss, in his business attire, down to Serizawa in… well, to say the least of it, his rat features were the most pleasant thing about his appearance that day. For the first time, Teru noticed a white umbrella tucked under his arm. He wondered what that was about.

It was only the second time Teru had seen Suzuki, however, and he cut no less imposing a figure. To his relief, he seemed to look right over him to Shimazaki. “You’re late,” he said, brusque as ever.

“Blame Hatori for that,” Shimazaki said breezily as Teru guided him to one of two remaining seats. Minegishi raised what passed for their eyebrows in amusement and Hatori sputtered. “He knows by now that I need extra time to tend to my kitten.”

Quietly ignoring the idle discussion following that comment, Teru pulled out Shimazaki’s chair and glanced around the room, letting his gaze rest on the last seat. Serizawa had opted to stand at Touichiro’s shoulder, so Teru figured it’d be best for him to stay where he was as well - he just wondered how long this meeting was going to drag on. Before he could linger on this thought for long, however, Shimazaki beckoned him closer.

He leaned down and Shimazaki purred, softly enough that only he could hear, “If you need a seat, my lap’s always open.”

Teru recoiled, feeling his cheeks burn. Shibata chuckled again and Teru shot him a glare before settling at Shimazaki’s shoulder and zoning out as the meeting began.

He had a faint understanding, now, of what their organization - commonly called Claw - dealt in. They were composed almost exclusively of hybrids, but not particularly invested in using their existing influence and power for justice, for whatever reason. They had a sizable network of businesses and connections, but still made a wide variety of more unsavory investments.

Shimazaki was the primary enforcer for the shadier side of Claw; he saw to it that their culture of fear and subservience went unchallenged and, in general, had fewer lackeys of his own than the others. He was powerful enough all by himself, after all, and his reputation preceded him - Teru had seen that a multitude of times already in the eyes of the few he did work with on civil terms as well as those he met with in considerably less civil instances.

Without a doubt, Teru had seen his master work with Shibata out of the others the most often. It made sense, too -  from what Teru had gleaned, Shibata headed up the more transactional aspects of the illegitimate half of Claw. He wasn’t exactly sure what they traded in and was even less sure that he wanted to know - even in front of him, they used coded language to refer to their goods.

Finally, there was Minegishi, who as far as he could tell managed the legitimate fronts of their business, and Hatori, who was their tech guru. He’d seen less of Minegishi and Hatori, true to Shimazaki’s word, mostly holed up in his own room and tried to scare people away.

To put it simply, they were a mob family, and Teru was somewhat relieved to be regarded as little more than an object in their grand scheme; as long as Shimazaki remained in their good (or, well, “good”) graces, he would, too. It was for that reason that he felt perfectly content zoning out through most of the meeting - he did make brief eye contact with Serizawa, although surprisingly, it was Serizawa himself that quickly looked away, down and to the side like he was ashamed. 

If he was being perfectly honest with himself, Teru felt a little sorry for the guy. Both of the times he’d seen him thus far, he’d been soft-spoken at best, hardly daring to raise his head. He looked altogether quite unkempt, what with the hair, the stubble, and his wrinkled, worn outfit. It made Teru feel lucky, oddly enough, because he had the mental fortitude and self-assurance to hold his own against his master. Serizawa, it seemed, couldn’t even work up the courage to ask for some decent clothing.

Serizawa met his eyes again, and Teru smiled. They were in the same boat, after all - if push came to shove and the world turned against him, Serizawa was probably his best option for an ally within Claw’s ranks.

His master yawned. From what Teru could tell, Shimazaki only liked sitting still when he had a choice in the matter; Teru felt much the same. He shifted uncomfortably, stifling a groan from the ache in his feet. How long had they been going already? It felt like half the day had inched by.

He checked the clock. It’d hardly been half an hour.

He wrinkled his nose and leaned his cheek against the high back of Shimazaki’s chair, suppressing the urge to groan. If this dumb meeting went more than fifteen minutes longer, he was going to run off and explore the rest of the house until someone stopped him.

Fortunately, he was saved from having to do this by Suzuki standing, clearing his throat, asking, “I trust you all understand what is expected of you?” and receiving a flurry of answers in the affirmative. “Then you’re dismissed.”

Teru stood back as Shimazaki pushed out from the table, by now about half-expecting the way he then let his weight drape over Teru’s body. Teru rolled his eyes as his master whined - he briefly caught sight of Minegishi, who looked more annoyed than anything at Shimazaki’s complaints. Teru absently put his hand on Shimazaki’s waist, clenched his fingers in the loose fabric of his shirt - he’d almost managed to forget the odd, uncomfortable separation Shimazaki had from the rest of his company. He wondered for the millionth time what it was all about as Shimazaki nuzzled his ears and grumbled.

“Let’s do something fun today, kitty,” Shimazaki said, and Teru raised his eyebrows. “This was hella boring.”

Before Teru had time to meditate on that phrasing, Suzuki paused at their side and spoke. “Then I daresay I regret to inform you that you are not done,” he said, eyeing Shimazaki with a - possessive? Seductive? - expression. “You know where I’ll be waiting.”

Shimazaki didn’t say anything. Teru felt the muted impact through Shimazaki’s body as Shibata clapped him on the shoulder on his way out, casting them both an odd, almost sympathetic look. Teru heard Shimazaki sigh into their hug, and for a split second he thought he heard - felt - smelled -

Shimazaki’s heart was suddenly pounding much faster than it had been before. His scent was sharper, tickling Teru’s sinuses in a way it never had.

He was afraid.

Teru’s free hand hesitated on its way to Shimazaki’s side, wanting to return the hug in full, wanting to comfort in whatever way he could, but - there was this lingering, unanswered question, his own fear in the face of the knowledge that he would have to face whatever it was Shimazaki was so scared of with him. He opted, instead, to offer a soft, questioning “prrp?”

Another moment passed before Shimazaki responded. “You ride home with Hatori, Teru,” he said, and kissed Teru’s cheek. He pulled back and left the room, wearing his usual cryptic smile.

It took Teru another moment to realize what that meant. He was, for the first time in days, alone.

He finally got his shower in once he arrived back at Shimazaki’s apartment. Hatori had quickly retired back to his room upon getting inside, and Teru spent the remainder of the morning wondering just how long Suzuki would keep his master. That, at least, was a safer question to contemplate than the pressing enigma of what, exactly, they were doing. He’d grown so used to Shimazaki’s presence being the one inspiring fear in his and others’ lives, he could hardly process the mixture of sensations he’d experienced in that moment - but there was no denying it, Shimazaki had been genuinely afraid of what Suzuki was going to do to him.

Teru shook the thought away as he stepped out of the shower and toweled off. It wasn’t going to do him any good wondering what was going to become of his master - he hardly cared anyway, as long as he didn’t dragged into it. For now, he’d just have to entertain himself.

Entertainment in Shimazaki’s apartment largely abided by what Shimazaki himself took for hobbies - primarily, working out and audiobooks. He was surprisingly low-tech for such a wealthy man, so TV was all cable, rather than streaming services or on-demand. All the higher-tech amenities were stashed in Hatori’s room, and even then it was primarily composed of things that weren’t particularly accessible to Shimazaki’s disability. Teru had noticed Shimazaki himself becoming frustrated by this in the last few days, but he supposed his own presence there was meant to alleviate some of that frustration.

He figured he might as well take advantage of his master’s absence and see what TV had to offer. He plopped himself down on the floor and rested his back against the foot of the couch, and he browsed, and he waited.

And waited. Got himself a sandwich around lunchtime, then waited some more.

It was approaching evening before his master finally returned. Teru had been intermittently dozing, shifting on occasion to follow the patch of sunlight cast by the windows, and watching reruns of Law & Order for a number of hours before he finally heard a key in the lock and snapped to attention.

He yawned and stretched, then hurried across the room to meet his master as he toed his shoes off. To his immense relief, there was no blood, not even the smell of it - but there was a smell. It clung to his clothes, wafting off of him even as Teru stopped dead several feet away from him. He smelled like Teru’s room at Reigen’s had when mating season had arrived and he’d blacked out the glass and stuffed whatever he could find inside himself for hour after hour.

Sex. That was a clearer way to put it - he smelled like sex and like Suzuki, and Teru couldn’t think of any snarky comment to articulate his surprise. This had been close to the last thing he’d expected.

So, too, was Shimazaki’s apparent ignoring of him. Teru stood firm, ready to field a hug and a flurry of teasing, but received none. Shimazaki did consider him for a moment upon removing his jacket, but then he just held out his keys.

“Go for a walk, kitty,” he said. “Do you want my card?”

Teru raised his eyebrows, completely lost. “Are you… uh,” he began, then paused.

“Make sure to get home before it gets too dark.” Shimazaki carried on, his voice lacking its usual bounce as he dug in his pocket and handed Teru a credit card. “Get some dinner.”

“Are you sure? I could run away, you know,” Teru reminded him. Shimazaki didn’t reply - he walked past, loping toward his room. “Are you okay?” Teru asked finally, taking a few steps to follow him.

That was apparently not the right thing to ask. Shimazaki rounded on him and Teru flinched away when he saw that he’d opened his eyelids, showing off the haunting transparent prosthetics he wore. He stopped right where he was and watched, trembling, for a long moment as Shimazaki let the atmosphere of the moment weigh on him.

“Teruki,” he finally said, quiet as a shadow. I am not a housepet, and I was not raised to live without a second of fucking privacy. I am your master, and I’m telling you to get the hell out.” He let that statement hang in the air for another moment. Then, his lip curled, calling to Teru’s mind the brutal punch he’d laid into Koyama’s gut and the sneer he’d worn then. “And you know what happens when I don’t get what I want.”

Teru fled.

He’d been naive. It was hard to contextualize being naive in the presence of a master who murdered and terrorized sentient beings for a living; he was even aware that Shimazaki headed the more unsavory part of Claw, and that that sort of career demanded a sadistic side, and he’d still managed to forget that he was in the belly of the beast every hour of every day.

He clutched Shimazaki’s credit card in trembling hands, then remembered himself and tucked it in his pocket. The area was largely composed of sparkling high-rises and was objectively quite safe even as the sun was setting, but it was still the city. It was like Shimazaki, in that regard - it might have been beautiful, but one could only forget its more dangerous aspects at their own risk.

Teru erred on the sidewalk in front of Shimazaki’s building, pondering over what he could do. The area was well-populated with places for local businesspeople to drop in for late-night brain food or on their lunch breaks, but Teru really hadn’t been given many opportunities to explore on his own. When Shimazaki took him for dinner late at night it was usually in the places he went to conduct business - near the docks, in the seedier part of town.

He started walking without much of a plan, wondering just how much Shimazaki would abide him spending and whether Shimazaki wanted him to bring back something for him to eat. Teru shivered at the thought - his heart still hadn’t settled after their encounter. Much as he was tempted to let him go without out of spite, he didn’t want to invite retaliation later on.

That in mind, he perused the storefronts as the setting sun painted his surroundings in a deep, warm red. The air was cooling, nipping his exposed neck but not biting quite yet. He wanted something that’d keep him busy long enough for Shimazaki to cool down, but that he could easily carry back with him.

He briefly pondered walking to Reigen’s. The car ride hadn’t been long - maybe he could find his way back. He entertained the thought as he sidled up to a storefront, placed his order, and slumped at a table near the window.

Mob missed him. He was sure of that much. He wondered what he would say if he were to relate what had happened in the time he was gone - he had a way of surprising Teru with his insights, always stemming from a place and a mind so unlike his own. Ritsu wasn’t at all the same - Teru was positive he’d put on a front until Teru told his story, then go all quiet. It was in that moment that he would say something outrageously, almost unbelievably sweet, and Teru’s heart would melt, and then the two would revert back to their usual mutual antagonism.

Teru sighed, long and heavy. Heavy, that was a good word for how he felt right now. He’d rested the entire day but still felt strung out, still wanted to fold himself over and rest his head on the cool surface of his table. He wanted to curl up with Ritsu and Mob like he had those few times he’d gotten sick in Reigen’s care, to let Reigen take care of all the hard parts while they watched cartoons late into the night.

Shimazaki had had his way with Suzuki, or maybe the other way around. They’d had sex.

He ordered some food to go for his master and passed over his card. Reigen used to take them out for dinner, every last one of them, on warm evenings where they all clustered together and made Teru marvel at the fact that he, of all people, had banded together with such a loving family.

What was Shimazaki so pissed about, anyway? He’d mated with a powerful man who could give him a perfect apartment in a beautiful part of the city. Teru wondered how many times they’d done it before.

The plastic bag rustled in his hands as he stood at the curb, wondering what to do.

Shimazaki didn’t appreciate his company? Not even after so many hugs, so much purring and snuggling and nuzzling? Teru didn’t fucking buy it. 

He wanted to turn up at Reigen’s door and fall into his arms as Reigen gave him some weird, pointed, perfect piece of wisdom. He wanted to throw Shimazaki’s food into the path of an oncoming car and run, but his feet - well, his feet knew better than his thoughts, apparently.

He knew too much, Teru reasoned. If he went back now, Reigen could get in trouble with Claw. They could chase him down and hurt or kill him. It was safer if he went home and faced whatever Shimazaki had waiting for him.

That was the reasoning he used as he passed through the lobby and stepped into the elevator. He prepared himself to call out to his master as he fumbled with the keys and entered the apartment, but the noise died on his lips. Next time. Next time, he’d do it perfectly.

Right now, he just forced himself to breathe as he padded into the kitchen and put the takeout away. He paused at the entrance to Shimazaki’s hallway, breathed again, and walked until he turned into his darkened room. There was a lump in the sheets and a little pair of pointed black ears sticking out onto the pillow.

Teru undressed and got into his pajamas in the dark, then slid into bed next to his master. He wasn’t tired, he doubted he’d even come close to sleeping that night, but -

But - Shimazaki edged closer to him with a murmur and flicked his tongue over his ear, and he purred.

Teru’s fist tightened in the covers before he melted into his master’s arms.

Chapter Text

If Teru was being honest with himself, he couldn’t really be sure whether he felt better or worse about today’s job being a more peaceful one - or, well, as peaceful as Shimazaki got, really. He still had his intimidation face on, he’d still slapped the guy around once or twice, but on the whole this particular meeting was more confidential tones and threatening suggestions than anything more interesting.

Interesting. What a thought, Teru having come to a point where he’d started thinking of beatdowns in back alleys and exchanges in warehouses as interesting. Did it make him better or worse, taking an interest in his master’s work versus shutting his eyes and pretending none of it was happening?

Self-preservation. That was the key. He was under threat whenever he was in his master’s presence - one could hardly blame him for acting in his own defense.

At least this office was comfy - it was kind of obnoxious, Teru thought, this guy having such a lavish place to himself while his employees crowded together in cubicles outside. He planted his foot against the ottoman and shoved, still amused by the fact that his cushy armchair swiveled.

Shimazaki finally straightened, casting one final sneer over his shoulder as he approached Teru’s seat. “Ready to go, kittycat?” he chirped. Teru accepted his hand when he offered it, using it first to help himself out of his seat and then to hook their elbows together on their way out.

“Wait,” called the executive, and Teru fought the urge to groan out loud. What was it this time?

Shimazaki turned his body and raised his eyebrows. The man stammered, “Can you… take the basement exit? If my son found out I’d invited you here, he’d have my hide.”

Shimazaki hummed, then replied, “If you’re sure where your loyalties lie, I suppose there’s no reason to refuse. Teru, you lead.”

Teru chirped his assent, then suppressed a yawn. The previous few days had been busy, but unless they had some arrangement he hadn’t been made aware of, they had the entire afternoon to themselves. He still wasn’t exactly comfortable in Shimazaki’s company, but he’d grown used to it - and more importantly, it meant he got to take a nap.

He led Shimazaki to the elevators and tapped his thigh mindlessly on the way down, wondering how he’d occupy himself that evening. He could always ask to go for a walk, but that and most of the other modes of entertainment he had access to at Shimazaki’s were growing pretty stale. Maybe if he was good, he could convince his master to get him a video game console. He stepped out of the elevator and huffed at the thought of acting good for a master like his and Shimazaki let out a curious trill at the sound.

He opened his mouth to explain his thoughts, but the words never made it out, replaced instead by a screech of surprise. He was falling backwards, disoriented, dismayed, until a door slammed and rattled in front of him, separating him from Shimazaki’s voice. Both of his arms were pulled taut behind him.

He jabbed his heel into his captor’s instep without waiting for an explanation. A newly freed elbow rammed into his opponent’s solar plexus and Teru wheeled around to deliver a knee to his groin.

The hooded man dropped to the concrete floor with a groan. Teru grabbed him by his collar. “And what do you think you’re doing?!” he hissed. His blood pounded so heavily in his own ears that he didn’t hear the answer.

He didn’t care.

And why should he care when the man’s jaw cracked loud and clear under his fist, when adrenaline rippled through his next kick? Teru had missed this, this blissful lightheaded rush and his own hyperawareness of every impact of his knuckles against the soft body he’d straddled, the feeling of his clothes sliding against his skin, the high, cruel laughter bubbling up out of him with every impact. 

And then it stopped as quickly as it had begun, because there was his master, scooping Teru off of the man like he weighed nothing at all. He pressed him to his body as Teru caught his breath; Shimazaki was sniffing him, probably checking him for injuries, and Teru’s vision spun, acknowledging the human beneath the bloody pulp he’d just been quite joyfully beating into the ground. His stomach tied itself in a knot as his brain caught up to his body and he realized what, exactly, he’d just done.

“Oh, fuck,” he gasped, stumbling as Shimazaki finally set him down.

“Well, I guess we can write off this business partner,” Shimazaki grunted. “Lucky he just got some pencil-pusher to do it instead of hiring. You could’ve been in real trouble, kittycat.”

He was right. Teru had the knowledge, sure, but he knew once his adrenaline had worn down, he would crash hard. He’d spent too much of the last year and some change lounging around, letting his muscles atrophy - he wouldn’t have stood a chance, isolated from his master and facing off against a stronger foe.

He cast a glance back toward the door, at the broken lock, and shivered. Thank goodness his master was strong enough to do it in with just a few kicks - Teru didn’t want to think what he would’ve…

“We should call an ambulance,” he said quietly, feeling his shoulders shake.

“The bastard’s gonna be down to check soon enough. Hell, he probably has a camera installed somewhere around here.”

“But he’s…”

“You really wanna chance it with law enforcement, Teru? It’d be one thing if it were just you defending yourself, but being associated with me isn’t going to do you any favors.”

He was right again. Teru turned his head with half a mind to look at the mess he’d made one more time, but couldn’t quite make it. When Shimazaki took his hand, he let him pull, let him lead until they were back in the hall and it was up to him to follow the glowing exit signs.

Good people didn’t lose control of themselves like he had. Good people didn’t take pleasure in beating the pulp out of someone.

As Teru had predicted, his body gave in the second they got home. He crawled into Shimazaki’s bed and buried himself under the covers and waited for sleep, but he supposed fortune had to punish him somehow because he couldn’t for the life of him make it come. He shifted around, deeply exhausted but too viscerally aware of the aching in his shoulders and arms to properly rest.

The thoughts racing through his mind didn’t particularly help either. He’d been defending himself, but self-defense outlived its usefulness as an excuse the second the man had gone unconscious - and that had happened so fast, Teru could’ve counted the blows on one hand if he’d stopped there.

Had he gone feral? No, he’d been aware through all of it, he’d made the choice to lay down blow after blow. He’d seen feral hybrids before, and they’d barely even been recognizable as themselves - it’d taken a lot more than just being held to rein in their ire. He could recall Ritsu tipping the balance once or twice, and even his brother’s presence hadn’t been enough to calm him; Reigen, thankfully, had swooped in with a blindfold, a muzzle, and hushed, soothing tones and prevented too much damage, but that hadn’t been at all necessary for Teru to come back into himself.

He wondered if it was even possible for him to go feral. It was supposedly something that only happened to hybrids under considerable duress, designed to keep them safe in case of dire circumstances, but for Ritsu it’d been a matter of one straw breaking the proverbial camel’s back. Teru had been through much more dramatic and dangerous circumstances in his time as a youthful delinquent than the ones that’d triggered Ritsu and been fine. Maybe feral behavior was beyond people like himself or Shimazaki, who had grown used to violence.

What did it matter, anyway?  He hadn’t gone feral. He hadn’t kept his promise to himself and Reigen and others that he wouldn’t lash out like that. He hadn’t changed. 

He needed training if he was going to stop himself in the minimum amount of blows. He wondered if Shimazaki had any resources on self-control - he had a little workout room of his own, after all, and Teru had observed him hitting a punching bag a few times. Control was a thing in martial arts, wasn’t it? And if he trained himself, it would take fewer blows to end a fight in the first place.

Teru drew his conclusion just as he heard the bedroom door open and footsteps approach - he would invest his free time in training his self-control and his muscles. He wouldn’t let the next assault catch him by surprise, especially if goons were learning of his existence and trying to leverage his life against Shimazaki’s.

As if summoned by his thought processes, Shimazaki himself hurled his body onto the bed with a whine. “Teruki, I’m bored,” he groaned. “Are you done napping yet? I wanna go out.”

Teru grunted under his master’s weight and wriggled around so that he could peel back his covers and look at him. “I couldn’t even get a wink in.”

“What, consumed by guilt? You get used to it.”

“I don’t want to get used to it! I don’t wanna be like you,” Teru retorted, retreating back under his blanket. 

“You might just be already! You were really going at it, kittycat.” Teru could hear the teasing tone in his master’s voice even through the blanket, and he wondered if he’d be chastised for covering his ears. “But of course it’s different. It was ‘self defense’, after all.”

“But it was!”

“Oh, I know you’re not dumb enough to believe that,” Shimazaki snickered. Teru sighed and chose not to answer.

Another moment, and he lowered the blankets again - just for breathability’s sake. He had to admit, it was a little pleasant having Shimazaki’s body half on top of him. Grounding, he thought. It had his eyelids feeling a little heavier, like he could actually sleep with him there.

But, naturally, his master couldn’t abide that. Mere moments later he had a large hand rapidly patting his cheek as Shimazaki whined his name yet again. Teru groaned back, shoved at Shimazaki’s shoulders, and sat up, wrinkling his nose around the sour taste in his mouth.


“Let’s go for a walk.”


“Cuz I wanna. We don’t have anything else to do today, kittycat, we should enjoy ourselves.”

“I was enjoying myself,” Teru grunted and scooted toward the edge of the bed opposite where his master’s feet were dangling.

“Let’s go to the beach,” Shimazaki chirped, seemingly ignoring Teru’s complaints altogether.

“I’ll shove your ass in the water.”

“In self-defense?”

Teru tried very, very hard not to laugh at that.

Teru led the way down to the waterfront after a cavalcade of arguments that, eventually, had resulted in his master losing patience and scooping him up like a mother cat scruffing a disagreeable kitten. Their walk had been uneventful aside from an array of non-sequiturs from his master and sighs from him, but in all honesty it did help to get out of the apartment. The day was unseasonably warm and Teru couldn’t help lifting his chin a little higher for it.

The water’s surface glinted between the hulk of the buildings as they approached, peeking out from the prettily decorated boardwalk like it had secrets to share. Teru emerged into what seemed almost like a very thin, miles-long park, what with how abruptly glass and concrete turned to green and how quickly warm, slow-moving air turned into a cool breeze blowing in off of the ocean.

“Are you cold?” Shimazaki asked him, startling Teru out of his thoughts.

“No, not really.”

“Do you wanna get ice cream?” he suggested. Teru followed his pointed finger with his eyes and was faintly surprised to see that there was, indeed, an ice cream stand not too far down the boardwalk.

“How did you know that was there?” Teru asked, cocking his head to the side. Maybe one of his seeing friends - not that he seemed to have any - had brought him here once.

Shimazaki just hummed noncommittally and began tugging him along. The sun would be setting soon and the pier that extended out into the water next to the ice cream stand was largely abandoned - Teru supposed that, with winter on the horizon, most patrons weren’t feeling ice cream in the first place. It was nice having the area to themselves, but it also put him on edge, in a way - it was easy for a pair of hybrids without an owner to disappear into the crowd when there was one, much less so when there were just a few weirdos straggling about.

But Shimazaki hadn’t cultivated his aura of intimidation for nothing, and people stayed away. He trotted up to the ice cream stand unchallenged, paid for their cones, and followed Teru down the pier all while looking perfectly content.

Teru had to wonder how passing observers categorized them. Considerable age gaps were more common in hybrid couples, considering they often were either saddled with whoever their masters deemed suitable or had their reproductive rights stripped altogether. However, many breeding hybrids were made to mate quite young, so it wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibility for Shimazaki to be his father - although, no, not even their more catlike features agreed with that. Teru’s ears were larger, his fur longer and paler…

“Hey, Teru,” Shimazaki chirped, startling him out of his thoughts. They’d settled on a bench together halfway along the pier and were currently gazing peacefully out at the waves. Well, Teru was - he supposed Shimazaki must just have been listening.


“Watch me.”

Teru peered curiously at him. “Yeah?”

“You’re watching?”


Shimazaki opened his mouth wide, teeth bared, and sank them directly into his ice cream.

Teru’s reaction was instantaneous. He hissed inwardly through his teeth, felt his shoulders hike up to his ears. “No!”

Shimazaki was visibly struggling to swallow through his laughter, but he opened his mouth and took another bite anyway.

Teru screwed his eyes shut, shook his head vigorously. “Stop. Stop, stop, no, no, no.”

“What’s the matter, Teruki? I’m just enjoying my ice cream.”

“You’re making my teeth hurt,” Teru wheezed, cracking his eyes open in time to see his master take yet another bite. He covered his own mouth and snorted, worried for a moment that he’d drop his own cone in his distraction. “Oh my god, you’re a demon.”

“Mmmmm,” Shimazaki moaned, taking great relish in crunching on pieces of his cone before diving in for another bite.

“Stop! Stop it,” he choked out, wriggling away in disgust.

Shimazaki stopped his retreat by wrapping his arm around him, leaned in to flick his tongue over his ear while chuckling like a madman. Teru played his part, squirmed around and derided him for touching him with his unholiest of mouths and -

And really, genuinely enjoyed himself for a split second. He enjoyed putting up a fuss about Shimazaki’s ice-cold lips on his neck, he enjoyed admonishing him for taking a bite out of his cone, and he enjoyed getting tucked under the shelter of his jacket when the ice cream did its job and the breeze off the water grew stronger and his body began to shiver. He laughed and mocked and stopped measuring his every word for perhaps half an hour until they arrived home to Hatori wrinkling his nose at their casual affections.

No, there was always going to be reality, Teru thought, watching the pair discuss the duties of the following day and wrapping his arms around his own torso as if to remind himself. And the reality was that getting attached, letting himself relax, was dangerous.

There was always going to be someone lurking in the next room over, after all.

It was his first time donning formal wear aside from when he’d tried his suit on in the store, and it didn’t seem within Shimazaki’s range of understanding why he was so excited about that.

“It’s like I’m wearing a collar,” Shimazaki whined, tugging at the neck of his starched white shirt as his ear swiveled in annoyance. Teru had insisted on buttoning it all the way up and slinging a tie around his neck in spite of all Shimazaki’s protests, and he could only imagine how long it’d take before the tie had disappeared and the shirt had come unbuttoned - but as of the present moment, even in the dark of the car, he looked quite handsome.

Nonetheless, he cleared his throat at the collar comment. “Some might call that getting a taste of your own medicine.”

“But you like your collar.”

Teru reeled back, somewhat incredulous. “Where did you get that idea?”

“You’ve never complained about it.”

“Do I have to complain about everything I take issue with for it to be a problem?”

“No, but you sure try to.”

Teru clicked his tongue. He wasn’t at all sure how to reply to that without proving his point, but Shimazaki sure didn’t let that stop him - he just edged closer and slung his arm around him and nuzzled his ears, like always. “Don’t worry, I think it’s cute.”

“Yeah, like I care what you think,” Teru retorted, trying to squirm away from Shimazaki in the limited space of the car’s backseat. He didn’t get far, naturally - Shimazaki just wrapped his other arm around for a proper hug. “You’re gonna wrinkle my vest.”

“See? Whiny little kitten.”

“I’m gonna ruin your hair.”

“What, no, don’t,” Shimazaki recoiled, quickly pressing his hands to his perfect coif. Teru snorted - Shimazaki may have had a passion for making him lose composure, but Teru had found a couple articles of collateral himself.

“I think it’d be fair retribution for what you just did to mine,” Teru muttered, reaching up to gently brush his locks back into formation. He supposed it was easier now than when it’d been short, but he’d also never really had access to hair gel before - he couldn’t be sure what would or wouldn’t be the case if that had been a factor.

“Oh?” Shimazaki countered, reaching for him with more careful hands this time. Teru let him slide them over top of his head, feeling along his part and gently smoothing the strands back into place. Teru worried, for a moment, that he’d only make things worse, but quickly realized Shimazaki could do about as much good by feel as he could himself. It felt nicer, anyway, having his master delicately poke at his head - nice enough that he let out a contented purr.

Gentle headbutts and more purrs were exchanged between the two of them, and Teru realized, gradually, that this - these very catlike exchanges, ones he might once have exchanged with his family, ones he fell out of the habit with upon moving to Reigen's - well, he'd missed them. Shimazaki was apparently quite happy to oblige his craving for cat-to-cat interaction, and though Teru would never admit it, he was pleased to make the exchange.

But, naturally, they couldn't keep it up for long. The car pulled up outside the venue where they were to meet with Suzuki and the client, and Teru had to pull away and help his master out of the car. Teru nodded to the driver, then turned forward to evaluate his surroundings.

Even from the outside, the place looked refined. Palatial architecture, exquisite decor, activities separated out into different areas - Teru had never thought he'd see a pool table look as elegant as they appeared when they stepped inside, but he supposed it was only to be expected in a place like this.

He held tight to Shimazaki's arm, biting his lip. He was definitely the youngest person there, but interestingly he and his master weren't anywhere close to the only hybrids present; most of the others were accompanied by human masters, ostensibly serving their purposes as arm candy, but there were a few grouped together or alone. He internally thanked Shimazaki to high heaven for letting him spend so much money on a delicately embroidered vest - he had a hunch that if he'd arrived here with so much as a thread out of place, he'd be suffering a lot more passing glances than he currently was.

Shimazaki leaned over and spoke into his ear. "Serizawa should be here somewhere," he explained, and Teru was grateful to have something to do with his eyes other than try desperately not to meet the curious glances cast in his direction.

He held Shimazaki's arm and skirted the edge of the crowd, scanning the borders of the room. His observance was rewarded quickly at the sight of a disheveled head of curly hair, a long, hairless pink tail that trailed on the floor, and a glance in his direction when he was finally within smelling distance. He was standing in front of what must have been a private room, marked off with a curtain.

"Hi," Serizawa called to them, clearly nervous. He jerked his head toward the cordoned-off section. "The client only wanted the important people..."

Shimazaki sighed above the noise of the crowd. "Sounds like that doesn't include you, kittycat," he muttered, pausing to squeeze Teru's shoulder.

Not like Teru cared. If the boss was inside, he definitely preferred keeping his distance; since finding out about Shimazaki's sexual relationship with him, Teru felt even more intimidated by him, somehow. He did pull aside the curtain to allow his master in without trouble, then wondered if he should've asked what he was allowed to do.

He exchanged a curious glance with a still-nervous Serizawa. The rat straightened, looked away, then slowly looked back.

Teru raised his eyebrows. "Hey."

Serizawa swallowed visibly. "Hi."

Teru closed his mouth and looked away. He hadn't really been prepared for the task of having to hold a conversation with Serizawa, of all people - it was much easier to maintain a level of mutual respect when he wasn't being immediately confronted with his awkwardness.

Well, he supposed it was still better than having to come face-to-face with the boss. He looked around the room, then tapped his feet on the floor. Was that real marble?

"I don't think..." Serizawa started, and Teru looked up. Serizawa was pursing his lips contemplatively. "You might be allowed to wander around, if you wanted to."

"You think?" Teru asked, glancing out toward the small groupings of humans and hybrids inhabiting the ballroom, over to the bar, which he was sure even under the most lax of regulations he would have no hope of getting a drink from. If he was being honest with himself, he wasn't feeling particularly pressed to explore this place.

"I mean - I'm already guarding the door," Serizawa muttered, twisting his umbrella - because naturally, even with him having dressed up for once, it was still present - "And, I mean, I don't think you'd... help much..."

Teru consciously had to fight down his umbrage at that comment. "What makes you say that?"

Serizawa looked down at his fidgeting hands and didn't answer.

With a sigh, Teru let the subject drop. What did it matter if Serizawa underestimated him? Just because he wasn't some towering beast of a man didn't mean he couldn't hold his own. Maybe it'd be worth trying to convince him of his own worth in a fight in case either or both of them ever had to flee Claw, but Teru was beginning to feel on edge - he'd never been in such opulent surroundings, and the mention of potential danger had him wondering to himself just what, exactly, was taking place inside.

He did take advantage of Serizawa's averted gaze, however. His white umbrella suited the aesthetics of the rest of his outfit, in a way - a plain black suit with a plain white shirt with a plain black tie. Teru did frown when he realized Serizawa had given himself a better-looking Windsor knot than Teru had managed on either himself or Shimazaki.

The boss must've helped him with that. Given his tendencies while dressing himself, Teru doubted it could've happened any other way.

He tapped his feet idly, wondering again whether it was worth wandering off. He couldn't really imagine Shimazaki getting upset with him as long as he didn't stray too far, but the boss was another story - especially if he or Serizawa ended up keeping an eye on his master until he returned. No, Teru would stay right where he was.

He couldn't stand the silence, though. "How's life with the boss?" he asked, figuring that, at least, would give him some idea of whether there was any tension in their relationship.

To his surprise, Serizawa seemed to brighten at the question. "Oh, it's wonderful!" he burst out, and quickly began gushing about their closeness, about Suzuki's genius, his business acumen, and even his... "charitable" treatment of Serizawa himself.

It all spilled out so quickly that Teru could hardly keep up. Serizawa was almost transformed, it seemed - he was bursting at the seams with praise for his master, like he genuinely believed that he was the kind, thoughtful man he said he was instead of the monster Teru had come to see him as. He almost couldn't believe it - was this the version of Suzuki that Shimazaki was acquainted with, the one he came home smelling so strongly of?

Serizawa slowly began to stall, seeming to notice Teru's discomfort. "Ah, enough about... that. How are you... you know, adjusting? I guess that's the word," he finished weakly.

Teru blinked. "Uh, fine, I guess," he admitted.

“I felt,” Serizawa haltingly began, “a little sorry… I remember how scared I was, four years ago. Shimazaki always -” he glanced to the curtain dividing them from the others, “Well - I always felt he had the fewest. Limits.”

Limits. Teru turned his gaze upward, toward the ceiling. Intentionally or not, Serizawa had just used a pretty good word. Limits.

He supposed he could see what he meant. Teru thought back on the version of his master that had occupied his mind when he’d first arrived, and he supposed that was a good word to encapsulate the key difference between him and anyone else - Shimazaki’s limits stretched far beyond anyone else’s he had met.

Teru wondered internally just how far his own limits extended, and what that said about him.

He must have stayed silent just a moment too long, because when he looked Serizawa’s way again, the rat wasn’t quite meeting his gaze - it was tilted downward, like he was looking at Teru’s collar instead of Teru himself. “He’s been pretty okay, actually,” Teru finally offered.

Serizawa jerked, as if different parts of his body were all trying to perform disparate actions at once. “You think?” he asked.

“Yeah? I mean, he’s got a temper, but…” Teru pursed his lips. “Honestly, so do I.”

Serizawa didn’t seem to know what to say to that. Teru let his gaze drift away, affix to some randoms sipping champagne and tittering together a few meters away.

“Maybe you two just suit each other, then,” Serizawa mused.

Teru opened his mouth to voice his doubt, but couldn’t find the words before he heard shifting around from within. He straightened quickly and turned his gaze forward as a small group of unfamiliar men and women emerged from the curtained area and headed for the front, curiously silent. Teru wilfully suppressed his natural curiosity, knowing full well that the less he knew, the better.

He was so stiff, he actually jumped when an arm slung itself around his shoulder. “Well, that went down like a lead balloon,” Shimazaki sighed, not even mustering up the energy to nuzzle him as usual, just resting his head on top of Teru’s. As expected, his tie was nowhere to be seen, although the curve of his smooth, pale chest certainly wasn’t.

Teru made a face and an uncomfortable sound to conceal how thankful he really was to finally be free from that mess of a conversation. “I wonder how much money you just wasted, letting that fancy tie disappear,” he snarked, tugging pointedly on the front of Shimazaki’s dress shirt.

“Not nearly as much as we just lost to those idiots,” sighed his master. “Comfort your poor master, Teru.”

“There, there,” Teru deadpanned. He met eyes with Serizawa just past Shimazaki’s shoulder.

Without warning, Shimazaki straightened. Teru realized why when the curtains parted to reveal the boss, looking as crisp - and as pissed - as ever he’d seen him. He could feel his master’s hand curling into the fabric at his shoulder, and he understood why - Suzuki would more than likely need some kind of stress reliever, and there was only the one driver available to get the both of them home that night.

To his surprise, a moment later, Suzuki’s eyes landed on him. Teru felt his eyes widen, but managed to hold his gaze.

“Ryou,” Suzuki said, and Teru glanced upward, toward the sharp points of his elegant horns. “Your kitten, is he still fertile?”

Teru felt his heart drop into his stomach. He didn’t know what answer Suzuki was looking for, but he didn’t think he liked what the question itself implied.

If the anxious swivel in his master’s ear was anything to go by, it was nothing good. “Yes,” he said, low in his chest. It was the truth - they hadn’t found a doctor willing to give them birth control without a human master’s signature yet.

Suzuki clicked his tongue. “Pity.” His eyes flickered between Teru and his master for a long moment, then he seemed to reach a decision. “Wait for me inside, Teruki. And remove your clothes. I don’t want my time to go to waste.”

Teru’s brain filled with static as the boss stepped away, flagging down some stranger and snapping his fingers for Serizawa to follow. Shimazaki didn’t say a word. Teru wished he would, wished he would offer some kind of advice, but none came.

He looked at his master, feeling every impact of his heart against the inside of his chest. He looked…

Teru didn’t really know. It felt like he wasn’t really seeing him.

Shimazaki stroked his ears, scratching lightly behind them. Any other time, it would have been wonderful. He would barely have been able to hide his delight, however much he may have wanted to. Maybe Shimazaki knew he wasn’t feeling it, because then there was a firm hand at the small of his back, guiding him around his master’s grounding body and in through the curtains.

It was darker in the back room. Teru loosened his tie, hardly daring to breathe. 

He had to collect himself. His mind needed to stop chugging along like he had time to spare - he didn’t know when the boss would be back, and he’d already warned against wasting time.

Panic and fear could wait.

He stripped as quickly as he could manage with his shaking hands, kicked off his shoes with a businesslike air and somehow threaded the buttons of his vest and his shirt out of their holes. He was just kicking off his pants, tangled together with his socks, when he heard footsteps approaching. His breath caught in his throat, his heart stuttered, and there came the gentle rustle of curtains parting, a quiet shock as fingertips brushed his lower back, just where the fur of his tail began.

“You have a good head on your shoulders, don’t you?” said the boss, and Teru turned his head, just a fraction. Suzuki was little more than a dark outline on the edge of his vision. “I heard about the encounter from the other day. We picked ourselves a very lucky little kitten, it seems.”

Teru swallowed, blinked, and wondered whether he should reply or not. Suzuki’s hand glided down, wrapping gently around Teru’s tail and following the grain of his fur. Teru had the sense that none of this was intended to display affection or even desire - it felt much more like the unaffected, appraising touches of a judge, like the ones Teru had encountered in his younger years before he’d begun acting out.

Fingertips traced back upward, over where Teru knew there was a barely-visible shadow of tabby patterns along his spine, back toward the base of his skull, under the sheet of his hair. “Hybrid patterning and features so perfectly integrated… I’m sure your dear master would be jealous, if only he could see. I know I am.”

Indeed, Teru thought, as well as Suzuki’s bull parts suited him, they didn’t truly match. His ears and tail were a burnt-looking pale brown, like aged parchment; they hardly blended in with his pale skin or deep red hair. Teru had been praised time and again for how naturally his animal features blended into his human ones, and now, for the first time, he wondered if that truly was a good thing.

Fingers wove themselves into the hair at the back of his head, held him firm as Suzuki rounded his shoulder and peered down at him with cold blue eyes. 

“Well?” Suzuki prompted him, “Don’t you have a tongue, boy?”

“Yes,” Teru said automatically, perhaps a little too sharply. He watched Suzuki’s eyebrow twitch, the barest shades of emotion passing over him.

“Then I daresay I hope you’ll put it to better use than you’ve been so far.” He squeezed his hand in his hair. Teru gasped, felt discomfort prickle along his shoulders as Suzuki peeled away, undoing his belt buckle. Teru’s mind snatched at stray pieces of information. No penetrative sex, because he wasn’t on birth control, but he’d have to use his mouth, and god he hadn’t practiced this, what would he even do -

Suzuki was waiting for him. He needed to stop thinking and slide between those expectant thighs and put his mouth to work. He paced forward and knelt, feeling fear surge inside him, feeling his vision blur.

He didn’t want this. He wanted no part of this.

That didn’t seem to matter to the impatient hand that gripped the back of his head and thrust him forward, grinding his lips harshly against prickling pubic hairs and soft wet.

A vagina, not a penis. If only Teru’s brain would catch up to the current moment - harder and longer to make him cum, but less opportunity for outright error. Just lick, force tongue out and lick, find his large, firm clit and suck and just get through.

His scent filled his sinuses, choking him on the smell of ground and dust. His eyes burned but that wasn’t the smell’s fault. Suzuki groaned and ground forward, scraping his hairs over Teru’s moist cheeks again, and the next flick of Teru’s tongue pressed inside.

Hands - hands, they moved, his own and Suzuki’s, cupping the back of his head and thumb grinding against clit and fingers curling into clenching soft and the harder he breathed, the more Suzuki seemed to like it.

The harder he cried, the harder the long, thin tail thwapped on the leather of the couch. The more he choked on his own sobs, the louder that shadowy devil gasped.

Just lick. Just lick and grind his shaking palm and thank him when it was over.

It was over.

In the dark of the car, in the dark warmth of his master’s arms, he was finally safe. Safe to cling and cry and tremble like a leaf.

Shimazaki was quiet, but he held Teru as tight as ever. He fisted his hands in the back of Teru’s haphazardly-buttoned shirt, his beautiful vest bunched up on the seat next to him.

“I didn’t think he’d get you involved,” he said, not teasing and not angry. He sounded like he was reaching his limit.

Chapter Text

Teru took extra care with his body in the shower the following morning. He scrubbed every inch of himself, from his neck down to the soles of his feet, and then he did it again. The suds piled up around the drain and he watched them building as the water ran over his torso and carried more downward. There were bubbles just touching the tips of his toes and he thought of the couple times he’d been down to the beach and let the ocean kiss his feet.

He flexed his toes, feeling them skip on the wet floor, and flicked his ears in irritation. He reached for some shampoo and worked it through the long fur of his tail as he contemplated his situation.

He supposed he could take comfort in knowing Shimazaki, at least, was not having sex with Suzuki because he wanted to. Or maybe he was? Maybe this sort of thing didn’t just happen organically, and Suzuki had built up from taking advantage of eager-to-please subordinates to trading sexual favors to -

Teru pressed his thighs together. He didn’t - like this. He hadn’t liked any part of that. It felt like there were hands all over him, hands he couldn’t control and couldn’t predict.

He turned the water off before rinsing his tail or shampooing his hair and he listened to the quiet crackling of popping bubbles in his tail. He wondered if he should turn it back on and at least rinse off, but he grabbed for his towel without taking the thought any further. He wrung out his fur and daubed off the rest of his body, then hurried on into Shimazaki’s room.

Shimazaki wasn’t present. Teru frowned, considered his towel, and tossed it into the hamper. He hesitated at the doorway; he still couldn’t see Shimazaki around the corner or further down the hall. That meant Shimazaki was either in the living room, the kitchen, or his study.

He’d be humiliated if Hatori was in the common area, but he doubted that was the case. He’d just have to suck it up - he had a goal and he’d be damned if he didn’t attain it.

The temptation to cover himself nagged him on his way to the living room - just his groin at the very least. He ignored the urge until he located his master on the couch and found his place at his side. He didn’t sit. 

“All clean?” Shimazaki drawled, reaching for him, and Teru jerked away, feeling heat pour into his cheeks as he reconsidered this plan. Shimazaki seemed to take this a different way and drew his hand back, holding it and his other one up like a gesture of surrender. “I won’t touch you, kitty.”

“No, I’m…” Teru began, hugging his arms to his core. He inhaled. “Um, I’m naked.”

Shimazaki raised his eyebrows. “Oh.”

“We should have sex.”

Shimazaki frowned. “Mhm.”

“I mean it,” Teru pressed, and took a step forward. “I think we should.”


“Because I want to.”

“Really? Because I’m so irresistibly sexy?”

“Yes!” Teru snapped, beginning to feel frustrated. Of all times for Shimazaki to replace his usual flirting with playing dumb, now was not what Teru had been bargaining for. “Don’t you?!”

“Don’t I what?”

“You said you wanted to fuck me the first day you had me! You did!”

“And then I didn’t. What is this really about, Teru?” Shimazaki asked him, and his - his tone, like he was some kind of expert, pissed Teru right off. It was like he knew what Reigen used to sound like when he was helping Teru through a fit and was mocking him.

“You haven’t been touching me, and I -” Teru choked. “I want you to.”

“You want me to touch you.”

“You’re not stupid! Stop pretending like you’re stupid!”

“Teru,” Shimazaki sighed, and reached for him again. Static burst across his skin as Shimazaki’s fingertips brushed his abdomen and Teru tensed. Shimazaki paused, raised his eyebrows again, and pulled him closer with a broad, warm hand against his back.

Teru’s knees met his and he continued pulling. Teru’s heart was pounding so fast he was sure Shimazaki must have been able to feel it even with his hand as low as it was; Shimazaki’s second hand met his thigh as Teru lifted it, feeling cool air against his inner labia as he spread his legs and straddled Shimazaki’s lap.

“I don’t think you get what you’re really asking for, kitty,” Shimazaki said. Both of his hands came to rest delicately on Teru’s waist, every point of contact so light that it almost tickled. His cunt felt warm, buzzing with heat and expectation as he caught a whiff of his master’s scent.

Teru felt a flicker, the ghosts of hands that smelled very, very different from Shimazaki’s grounding musk, tracing his neck and up over the back of his head, pressing forward. He flattened his ears and shook the sensation away. “I do,” he promised. Shimazaki seemed to consider this statement for a moment and Teru watched his face, closer than he’d ever dared approach. His lips felt warm now and he wanted to map Shimazaki’s face with them, to forfeit his own sight and live in a world of sound and touch and scent just like his master.

Instead, he froze and shook with anticipation as Shimazaki traced one palm downward, touched his leg right where it met his hip and tickled the hollow of his thigh with his thumb. “Let’s see about that,” he murmured, his voice low and dark and warm. His other hand flew up like it was chasing away the ghost imprints of Suzuki’s and pulled Teru forward to press Teru’s collarbone into his mouth.

Teru inhaled at that, then let out a high, startled noise that had him biting both lips to keep his voice down when Shimazaki cupped his mound in his hand. His leg jerked upward when Shimazaki drew his fingers featherlight back up his slit, and Shimazaki laughed.

“Shut up,” Teru grunted. He squeaked yet again when Shimazaki tittered and pressed his nose into the crook of his neck and purred.

“Can’t help it, kittycat,” Shimazaki hummed. He parted Teru’s slit, but only just - his fingers remained outside the area of effect, just tracing around wet, puffy flesh. “I think you could finish just from this.”

He wasn’t wrong - Teru’s mind already felt fuzzy, his legs shaky, his breath weak. He wrapped his arms around the back of Shimazaki’s neck, effectively trapping him against his shoulder. “Keep going,” he demanded.

He felt a thumb circle back around to the front of his slit, giving him just a moment of warning before it ground against his clit and he yelped and jerked his hips back and up, away from the stimulus.

“Too much?” Shimazaki purred, twisting his head in Teru’s grip and moving his lips against his jaw. He switched tactics, ignored Teru’s clit in favor of drawing spirals around the rim of his vagina with his index finger, pressing closer to the center and closer to inside with every circle. Teru trilled and wiggled his hips closer to Shimazaki; he was far past the point where he could properly articulate his wants.

Shimazaki’s tongue lapped over Teru’s neck, the rough texture setting him shivering all over again, and then there was a finger - two fingers - inside him. He could feel his cunt clenching, hungry, wet, desperately sucking him in. Shimazaki's fingers were bigger than his own but only just enough, even fully seated.

Then he curled them, pressed them against Teru’s sweet spot, and Teru’s voice burst out of him with a force he couldn’t have hoped to curb; he heard a door slam pointedly from Hatori’s hallway and couldn’t be bothered, couldn’t even begin to care.

Then Shimazaki ground the heel of his palm against Teru’s clit while still curling and uncurling his fingers into his g-spot, and Teru’s entire body spiked with fire. He screamed, gasped, and begged, “Stuh-STOP! Stop, s-stop -”

Shimazaki stopped. He took his hands away even as Teru continued clinging, choking on air. Every exhale was a moan, every inhale a gasp.

Shimazaki nuzzled his cheek, then flicked his tongue over his skin like he was trying to wake him up. Teru’s every limb was tense, hands buried in the fabric of his shirt and knees squeezing hips so hard his jeans left wrinkled imprints on the insides of his thighs when he pulled away.

“Better? Good. Now get off my dick, or we’re gonna have a lot tighter a timeline on figuring out a birth control solution for you.”

Teru blinked foggily for a moment, then squeaked and swung off of Shimazaki’s lap. “Don’t be gross,” he grunted, settling down and sinking into his master’s side. His pussy didn’t feel so hot anymore, just - deflated, the way it often did after he’d jerked off. He was, admittedly, a little disappointed in himself for not lasting longer, but he’d done it.

No jobs that day, no obligations. Just Teru and his master, holding each other close in shy, remembering hands, and spiders crawling up the back of his neck.

Over the coming weeks, Teru found himself growing more comfortable with his master. He was a little less pressed to ask for sex afterward, once he’d chased away Suzuki’s grasping hands with Shimazaki’s and cuddled naked against Shimazaki’s side for an entire afternoon.

Of course, that was before Suzuki summoned him again a week later, then again, and then again a week after that. Teru had had his moments of resistance at first, however subtly - “accidentally” grazing Suzuki’s sensitive parts with his fangs, doing poorly on purpose, letting his stamina run out just before he finished - but Suzuki was a demanding, sharp, and communicative lover. He deduced Teru’s motives before long and spent the next session grinding it out of him with sharp nails and well-placed slaps. Now, Teru just strived to get it over with.

But the bright side of being summoned more and more often was that his master was saved from that same duty. It meant that Teru came home to a warm pair of arms, smelling strongly of iron. He came home to cryptic smiles and long fingers combing through his hair instead of a moody, pouty housecat that sent him away with money and snarls.

They didn’t have sex, at least not the way Teru had been hoping for, but they did get more comfortable with each other. Teru walked in on Shimazaki jerking off once or twice and accepted hugs at various states of undress, learning to savor innocent touches of skin to skin. He learned to savor bleary mornings, too, ones where he woke to his master palming his morning wood and he got to press his nose into his neck and grind his own hand between his thighs.

Rough tongue countered rough hands, bruises on his arms countered playful wrestling. Lazy afternoons spent napping on one another countered tense, electrified nights that bled into tearful mornings.

He wouldn’t say he had any particular affection for his master, but he did appreciate the working relationship they’d formed. New investments like handheld games and a walkman of his own to listen to audiobooks did leave him wondering why Shimazaki was still pointedly choosing not to get cell phones for either of them, if only to keep connected while separated. Still, they elevated having to spend every waking hour with his master from a chore to bearable.

He’d taken to asking Shimazaki who would be at the jobs they took on in a nonchalant tone of voice. They both knew full well where the curiosity was coming from.

Teru grew to have a reputation of his own, too - he no longer had to be nervous about being granted access to back rooms without his master by his side, or being looked down upon by human or hybrid underlings. 

It wasn’t the kind of thing to be proud of. But Teru still took some hidden enjoyment from recognizing the signature look of dread when a target saw him or tried to plead with him, even knowing he was only the harbinger for what was coming to them. He hadn’t done any real work, not yet, but he wondered - especially when his master ruffled his hair approvingly, kissed him on his head or his cheek or his lips. He trained his body whenever he got the inclination and began listening to a few of Shimazaki’s kickboxing audio workouts.

It was all about survival, after all. People had looser lips around him than around Shimazaki; he knew from what he’d heard that it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that someone would eventually challenge him for his position. He had to be prepared - no sin in that.

But no preparations could take the tremble out of his hands when the property manager stopped him on his way through the lobby and said he had a package for him. Nor could they take the tremors out of his breath when he saw the return address on the box.

“What is it?” Shimazaki prompted him as they made their way to the elevator. Teru didn’t reply.

The box was light and thin - pretty clearly designed to hold clothes, but Teru didn’t want to meditate on what might be inside. He didn’t want to look.

He would have to, though. Every floor the elevator climbed took him closer to having to. He barely registered Shimazaki tucking his hand in the crook of his elbow and guiding him to their door, only returning to his body when he had to tuck the box under his arm and pull out the keys.

“I can’t believe they figured out where you live,” Shimazaki said, finally, and Teru turned to him with a quizzical chirp. “The shelter, I mean.”

Teru blinked. “No,” he murmured. “No, it’s from the boss.”

Shimazaki didn’t have anything to say to that. He just stood by as Teru removed his shoes and stepped into the kitchen to open the gift. It was exactly as he’d expected - a couple layers of tissue paper lifted away to reveal a pale blue set of lingerie that had Teru averting his eyes out of embarrassment.

Shimazaki arrived at his shoulder just as he located a matching collar - a cute one, with a bell, a sharp contrast to the plain, worn black one he’d been wearing since the adoption. There was a card, too, a simple white one that just said “The collar is for now. The rest is for later.”

Long fingers reached around him, probed the box’s contents, worked the fabric through his fingers. Shimazaki inhaled sharp; he’d realized what he was laying hands on. Before he could do anything, before he could turn away and leave him yet again, Teru grabbed his arm and held tight.

“Please,” he rasped, clutching hard enough to hurt, “I really - I can’t, not tonight, please.”

He looked up and watched Shimazaki’s ear swivel back toward him. His chest felt tight.

“Can’t you just - tell him I’m yours?” Teru begged. “I don’t want it. You know I don’t want it.”

“It’s better if you just do what he wants, Teru,” Shimazaki replied coldly.

“But I’m your cat. You should be able to tell him that,” Teru mumbled, “Can’t I just… wear it when he’s looking? Like, if we know we’re gonna see him.”

Shimazaki flexed his arm, brought it up and twisted it around like he was trying to offset Teru’s grip. Teru flinched back and let go - but his hand landed softly on Teru’s head and stroked him.

“Just wear it,” Shimazaki muttered. He sounded tired.

“Why should I?”

Shimazaki was quiet. He removed his hand from Teru’s head and reached into his pocket, brought out his wallet, and handed it to him. “Because you’re my cat,” he mocked, “and I told you to,” then left the room.

Tonight’s job had been a clean one, but a long one. Teru’s feet were aching with every step and his eyes stung as he leaned into Shimazaki’s side.

“Stay awake, kittycat,” Shimazaki snickered, but Teru could tell from his voice he was pretty beat, himself. “Can’t have my second set of eyes going blind, too.”

Teru shook himself, feeling his ear flick in annoyance as his bell rang with the movement. He’d been steadily growing used to its presence, its irritating ringing with every action, but anytime someone commented on it or teased him for it, it was like the sound tripled in volume. Tonight’s interrogation had had the fucking nerve to deride him for it before Shimazaki got violent, and he’d never been so grateful for the power of his master’s kicks.

It irritated Shimazaki, too. The amount of times he’d pulled Teru close only to recoil like he’d been burned upon feeling it on his neck had been positively disheartening. It was clunkier than the previous one, which had formed to his neck so quickly Teru had barely felt it; this one’s strap was broader, with more accoutrements, ones that made his movements stutter not only with the sound of the bell but also the feeling of leather digging into his skin.

So much for the reputation he’d been building - he could hardly intimidate anyone when he jingled.

It hardly mattered now, though. After so many hours watching Shimazaki posture and intimidate and bristle, all he wanted to think about now was dinner and sleep. They’d agreed on a 24-hour convenience store for tonight’s fare, but by the time they’d made it through the door Teru hardly had the mental fortitude to peruse the labels on the various bowls and bentos long enough to choose anything.

“Pick for me,” he yawned, and Shimazaki huffed a laugh.

“Bratty little housecat, what am I supposed to do,” he purred, and Teru rolled his eyes. He plucked a couple beef bowls off the shelf and lead the way to the counter, where Shimazaki paid, paused, and sniffed.

“Serizawa?” Shimazaki called, and Teru startled. He turned and peered down first one aisle, then a second - and there he was, looking for all the world like a deer caught in headlights instead of the rat he was. He had a couple colorful, crinkly bags pressed to his chest and he looked - actually, somewhat more awake and put-together than usual. Teru wondered for a moment if rats were nocturnal.

“Hi,” Teru said, hesitant, awkward. Shimazaki arrived at his shoulder, holding their newly-warmed beef bowls in either hand. 

Shimazaki was more forward than Teru dared. “What the hell are you doing here?” he probed, not with any particular aggression.

Serizawa gave a nervous smile, like he’d been caught doing something he shouldn’t. “Ah, Touichiro had a late-night craving,” he muttered, then rushed to correct himself. “Oh, don’t tell him I told you! He only does this when he’s, well, working late.”

Teru frowned, wondering for a moment if he was supposed to know who Touichiro was, then realized it must’ve been the boss. It felt weird hearing his first name, especially from someone as submissive as Serizawa.

His suspicions were all but confirmed by the sour look on his master’s face. “Well then, have fun with that,” he said quickly, then turned away. Teru had to rush to steer him away from a display in his haste, then sent an apologetic glance over his shoulder at Serizawa. He gave Teru a tiny, bemused smile and a little wave before he passed out of eyeshot.

“What was that, ” he said under his breath, and Shimazaki just gave him a dismissive trill in return. “You’re such a bitch around him.”

It was intended half as a joke, but as Teru guided him to a two-person table, he couldn’t miss the scowl on Shimazaki’s face. As the weeks had passed, the tension he’d observed between Shimazaki and the rest had all but evaporated - but there was still this odd degree of antagonism between himself, Serizawa, and the boss. Teru watched him quietly as he accepted his chopsticks and began mixing his steaming bowl the way he liked it.

It was a few mouthfuls, breathing in as he bit down to cool the meat before it met his tongue, before he broke his silence. “Okay, but for real, what happened between you guys?” he pressed, leaning forward, glancing toward where Serizawa was currently being rung up at the front. “I’ve been dying to know since for ever.”

Shimazaki chewed for another moment, and Teru worried that he wouldn’t answer, or that he’d be punished for asking. He finally opened his mouth. “Is he still there?”


“Let me know when he’s gone,” he sighed, sounding resigned like he was too tired to argue by now. Excitement spiked inside Teru and he watched Serizawa process his transaction and faultingly bow to the cashier. He glanced back their way again, startling him, and Teru waved, unsure what else to do.

“He’s looking over,” he commented.

“Don’t care.”

“Bitch,” Teru teased him again. Shimazaki wrinkled his nose. “Don’t be a child.”

His master sighed through his nose, leaned back, and turned to offer a half-hearted smile and wave of his own. Serizawa seemed surprised and waved back with twice as much fervor. Teru had to chuckle at the bright smile on his face, like Shimazaki’s gesture of politeness had made his whole night.

Then he was gone, and Shimazaki leaned forward. Teru stuffed his mouth with another helping of beef, more than eager to at last hear the story of his master’s estrangement.

“Well, to start, Serizawa’s a better fuck than you’d think.”

Teru almost spat out his food. “What?!”

“Suzuki likes watching sometimes,” Shimazaki bit back, sneering at him. Teru pulled a face, knowing that Shimazaki couldn’t see it and not caring.

“I know that’s not why everybody treats you like that.”

Shimazaki took another bite, and Teru waited for him to chew, and to swallow. Then he took another bite, and Teru sighed and returned to his own meal.

“Didn’t realize you’d noticed that,” Shimazaki said. Teru frowned.

“Really? You had no idea?”

“Well, I guess I figured you’d forgotten.”

“Tough luck.”

Shimazaki laughed through his nose, leaned back, and rested his chopsticks across the rim of his bowl. “Well, a lot of the tools designed to assist people like me these days - Siri, Google Home - they’re listening devices, Teru. And if you rely on them as heavily as I used to, all it takes is one hack to sabotage an entire branch of our organization.”

Teru blinked. “Wait, so that’s it? You got hacked? It wasn’t anything you did?”

“I got hacked, and I got captured. It didn’t take long to break me back out, but it’s gonna leave a scar on my record, as you’ve seen.”

“But - so they…”

“They took everything, kittycat. It’s a wonder Claw survived.”

“But it was something you couldn’t even help!” Teru bristled. “They forced you out of your apartment, they took away your - your autonomy, and your privacy.”

“They could’ve taken a lot worse, kittycat. I’m alive by virtue of Suzuki’s mercy,” Shimazaki replied dryly. “I’m lucky. Besides,” he added, leaning forward, reaching for his beverage, “it’s not like that’s uncommon for a hybrid, anyway.”

This comparison took Teru aback. “That’s - it’s not the same,” Teru insisted, pushing forward, “A house-hybrid’s owner is supposed to teach them and protect them.”

“And that’s what Suzuki did when I got captured, kitten,” Shimazaki replied, taking a swig and recoiling. “Ugh, Teru, tell me before I drink yours next time.”

“But he’s practically blackmailing you! You can’t do anything on your own anymore!” Teru explained. “It’s not fair. You should leave.”

“You think I haven’t thought about that?” Shimazaki hissed, his voice rising so suddenly Teru shrank back. Teru saw the briefest flickers of black under the table as Shimazaki’s tail swung from side to side. Then he sighed, deflated, and murmured, “He owns this city, Teru. It’s enough that I have you, the rest doesn’t matter.”

Teru went to argue once again, then paused. It was the first time he’d ever heard any kind of gratitude for his presence from his master. For once, he didn’t just feel like the first cat Shimazaki had found at the shelter. He struggled to find the words to reply, feeling warmth flood his cheeks, and at last looked into his master’s face to see him covering his mouth, his own face turning red.

It was sort of cute, seeing him lose his composure like that. There was a smile fighting its way onto Teru’s lips and warmth filling his stomach, and before he could meditate on what that meant he took up his chopsticks again and stuffed his face with beef. The topic could rest for now - he didn’t have the brainpower to process this at this hour of the night.

He just internally counted his blessings and savored the quiet intimacy of them finishing their meal together. Shimazaki reached for the napkins at one point and Teru helped guide his hand, wondering, suddenly, if Shimazaki took something from the brief moment of contact that he didn’t.

It was nice, when he thought about it, that he could watch his master’s face without him knowing. He watched the sharp workings of his jaw as he chewed, the microexpressions passing over his brow, and the faint shadows his eyelashes cast on his cheeks. He was a handsome man, but Teru wasn’t a sucker. It’d take a lot more than one half-compliment to have him falling head over heels.

So he finished his food, helped Shimazaki find his way to the door, and walked on home with him. They were, fortunately, close enough to their place that they didn’t have to wait for a ride, but there was a new level of tension that prickled along the back of Teru’s neck as they walked the deserted streets.

It didn’t help that they were holding hands. 

He registered the information alongside a rush of embarrassment, and he pulled his hand away on reflex. Shimazaki gave him a quizzical sound, briefly chasing his hand with his own before pausing right where he was.

What was wrong with him? Holding hands wasn’t any more intimate a gesture than the myriad ways they’d touched each other before. Teru swayed on his feet, blinking heavily, and Shimazaki came closer, reaching out with careful hands.

“Are you falling asleep on me, kittycat? Do we need a car after all?” prodded his master, and Teru inhaled.

“No,” he replied, meeting Shimazaki’s hand with his own, offering him the assurance of his touch while his sluggish thoughts and emotions wormed their way out of his mind. He followed Shimazaki’s hand, drew closer in and to his side, tucking himself under his arm like he’d done so many times before.

“Did something scare you?” Shimazaki asked curiously, and Teru shook his head, knowing he could tell by the motion against his side and the jingling of his bell. “You’re an odd one, Teruki.”

Perhaps he was. He felt better now - maybe it’d been the dark streets after all, playing tricks on his mind. It was certainly a better explanation than the idea of being more intimidated by plain acts of affection than over-the-top displays that could be dismissed as his master being invasive and annoying.


Shimazaki hummed quietly to himself as they walked. “You know,” he said after awhile, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s using you to punish me."

Teru raised his eyebrows. If he was being honest with himself, considering the way the boss conducted things, he wouldn’t have been surprised either. He was still tired, though, and far beyond wanting to have a conversation on that topic, so his only reply was a little chirp of his own.

The rest of their walk passed without event, and Teru finally breathed freely when they entered their apartment building and rode the elevator up. He couldn’t wait to strip down to his undies and collapse into the pillows.

He almost missed the note on their door. He paused, wondering if he could leave it for the following day, and Shimazaki groaned. “Teruuuu, master wants bed,” he complained as Teru plucked the card off the door, feeling something inside him sink down into his toes as he recognized the plain white cardstock. “What is it this time?”

He flipped the card open, blinking at the words for a long moment before he realized what he was looking at - a date and a time. Suddenly, he felt sick.

“It’s an invitation,” he mumbled, taking in the final words.

Signed, Touichiro Suzuki.