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Thicker than Thieves

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The ever-growing threatening and powerful duo Oda and Tachibana were as thick as thieves; they've known each other for years and have developed a deep trust within each other's abilities and sense of loyalty. Indebted to each other, they swore that within the company of themselves, they'd eventually rise to the top. Nothing has ever gotten in their way, no obstacle too great to put off the balance in their friendship.

That was, until Kazuma Kiryu showed up.

The appearance of the young, moralistic airhead, that had just recently joined their alliance in the pursuit of the Empty Lot, was unplanned and mind-boggling. Oda took the boy's presence as a threat to their plans, and initially treated Kiryu with unfavored hostility. In time, Kiryu proved to be a force to be reckoned with. He was headstrong, eager to help, and like the two gangsters from Little Asia, he was loyal to a fault. Tachibana welcomed the ex-yakuza member with open arms, knowing that Captain Kazama trusted the boy wholeheartedly, and he was certain nothing but fortune could come from working with him. It did not take long before Oda and Tachibana had grown enraptured by the boy. Some of the underlings working for Tachibana Real Estate have argued that the older men were so smitten by Kiryu, that the boy could pummel them within an inch of their lives, and shoulder no consequences. Though a possible exaggeration of the degree of Kiryu's fatal charm, the razor-glared mobster was exceedingly alluring without even trying to be. He gave off a harmless aura of naïveté, and was embarrassed when people commented on his good looks or natural draw.

While they were considered to be two peas in a narrow pod, Oda and Tachibana differed in both behavior and personality. Oda was brash, smug, and impassioned. Tachibana was calm, intelligent, and well-versed in the art of controlling his emotional outbursts. Oda was a terrific right-hand, always ready to obey, never questioning his superior's orders, and quick to deliver. Tachibana was grateful for his companionship, but both men have noticed their growing desire for the young Kiryu almost simultaneously. It was beginning to disrupt the balance in their partnership. There's been an uncharacteristically subtle pattern that Tachibana picked up on.

Oda would stray from the course of a day's worth of work if he was sent out with Kiryu. Hardly the pinnacle of stealth or subtlety, Oda would take his pick of the failing businesses to buy off, giddily wrap his arm around Kiryu, and skip his way out the door before his subordinate had a chance to object. It would take more than a few hours before Tachibana would get an update from his friend, apologizing that things were taking longer than it should have because "the rookie was constantly screwing up", but he wouldn't be the president of his own company if Tachibana couldn't detect the slur in his partner's voice, or the smirk that he was likely wearing on his face. He knew quite well that Oda was having the time of his life when he was off gallivanting with Kiryu, because that allowed ample bonding time between the two without the supervision or interference that Tachibana would cause. Today was no different than any of the days the two troublemakers went out together in the last week.

Having spent the majority of the uneventful night scribbling his signature on a plethora of business documents and property forms, while battling the horrific mental images of Kiryu being attacked by the ravenous Oda, Tachibana found himself in serious need of a break. His left hand aching due to the tight grip he was holding pens with for over six hours, Tachibana set down the writing instrument and moved away from the table. He stretched, back and legs aching from the time he spent immobile at the desk, and wandered towards one of the various, large windows that encased the penthouse. Blinking back fuzzy specks of blurriness in his tired eyes, he gazed down at the active citizens prowling the streets in search for women, alcohol, and excess ways to spend their money. Flashy suits and tawdry accessories adorn the men and women prancing along the busy shopping district; their overzealous attempts at drawing in prospective customers causing the man to roll his eyes. The barkers outside of their respective clubs were too loud, overbearing, even. It might have an effect on the tipsy crowd, but if you were roaming the streets sober, it may come off as annoying. An image of a demure Kiryu dressed in a barker's suit, with his unbuttoned shirt exposing enough supple flesh to invite hungry carnivores, he'd wrap an arm around a stunned businessman to beckon him into the club; the hallucination so clearly predatory had startled Tachibana. This obsessive attraction was starting to get dangerous. From fantasies of the bashful younger man distracting him during meetings, to imagined breathless whimpers in his daydreams. He knew he had to get his hands on Kiryu, but he first needed to strip him away from the possessive Oda. If his instincts steered him in the right direction, Tachibana would find the two in no time.

Oda relished in the multitude of chances bestowed upon him to seduce Kiryu; if he wasn't a pompous narcissist, he'd even admit to finding the younger man's scandalized refusals to his advances endearing. It was as painfully clear as the shine on his polished red shoes, that Kiryu was a novice in the world of wanton promiscuity. It wasn't far-fetched to believe that Kiryu was as pure as the sky was blue, but Oda wasn't a patient man. He got what he wanted whenever he wanted it, and what he desired more than the fat stacks of cash he's given on Tachibana's payroll, was Kiryu. On his back with his legs spread wide, on his knees with those big, brown eyes staring holes into Oda's lecherous gaze, or hovering above the older man, shakily thrusting himself up and down as he reached his first orgasm. Any way he chose to take it, but Oda wanted it all. He was done taking orders. He was fed up with having to abide by his boss's word that no one else was going to get their hands on the newbie. This may be the only time in his life where he disobeyed Tachibana, but in this instant, after craving Kiryu's body for so long, he didn't give a flying fuck anymore.

It was around five in the afternoon when Oda bought out the remainder of tiny bars in the district he'd been assigned to this week. It took a lot longer than usual, mostly because Kiryu wanted to share a heart-to-heart with every blubbering owner and learn why they were so hooked on keeping the petty spot. Oda didn't dislike that aspect about Kiryu, but he was sexually frustrated enough as it was and he wanted nothing more than to grab the shorter man by his collar and have his way with him below the worn, rickety staircase. The pair were walking out of the building when Oda felt a growing suspicion that he wasn't going to be spending very much time with Kiryu if he alerted the boss that they finished up their assignment. Against his better judgement, he scouted the area for a love hotel, a dark alleyway, anything to drag Kiryu away for a couple of minutes.

"Hey, Oda. That family we finished talking to a second ago... didn't you feel bad for taking their home from them?" Kiryu asked, fiddling with the lens of his dorky glasses as he walked in sync with his superior. Kiryu's always had a big heart and was ignorant of how underworld affiliates conducted business. Even when he left the family to clear Kazama's name, he didn't realize that it wasn't going to be as easy as telling the patriarch Dojima it wasn't his fault, and was flabbergasted that things worsened from that point on. It was the kid's stupidity that has Tachibana wrapped around his finger. Not Oda. Oda wasn't a fool.

"Did you get dropped on your head as a baby? You know this is just business. That's how things work around here. We buy them out with a bucket of cash and they willingly give us their space in exchange for the dough. They'll be fine," Oda gritted out, exhausted with the constant comparison between himself and a fairytale villain. "For shit's sake! You act like such a storybook hero. There's no such things as morality on these streets, Kiryu. Especially in this town."

Kiryu's face scrunched up at the aggressive response he received. Oda knew he was being unreasonably harsh, if Kiryu's put off expression was anything to go off of, but if the younger man never learns how the world operates, he's going to get run over. He actually thought Kiryu's noble perspective on how the world should be was really cute, but he'd cut off his tongue before he'd allow himself to admit it.

"You're such a cold bastard. Even if they got swayed by the money, I could tell they really didn't want to leave... deep down. If they weren't slipping on sales, we wouldn't have stood a chance. They've lived in that building for years and operated the bar for much longer. It felt like the owner wanted to fight for their bar; I think they were sad to let it go."

Kiryu's eyes softened as he thought about the family's reaction to the briefcase of bills Oda showcased. The husband was practically tearing up at the decision to relinquish their home with hundreds of memories and start anew, raising their children with no financial struggles. Oda made the mistake of glancing over at the boy, feeling a sharp stab rip into his heart at how pitiful he looked. The older man ran his fingers through his wavy locks, ruffling them angrily.

"God... damn it! Ugh. Come on," he muttered, grasping Kiryu's hand with more force than he intended, dragging the boy down the street. Kiryu stumbled at first, but was soon following behind with more ease.

"Where are we going?" He asked, understandably confused. The 'ping!' of Oda's beeper went off for a second, but he said nothing, allowing Kiryu's thoughts to run rampant as he simply followed the older man without objections. Oda dragging him away into dark corners or behind walls were becoming so routine that Kiryu knew what to expect. He felt his heart begin to vibrate as Oda squeezed his hand roughly.

In the beginning, the older man would simply wrap his arms around his shoulders, pinch his cheek, or ruffle his gelled hair. Then the touches grew from condescending to almost playfully seductive. After missions, the two would sometimes share drinks, at Oda's request. Those were the times where Oda was more like a human, less like a dictator.

He'd planted kisses on Kiryu before, but Kiryu always managed to pull away before his superior's animalistic urges overcame him. Though he's never experienced being in a romantic relationship before, Kiryu was no fool when it came to harboring crushes. He's had crushes on both girls and boys as he grew. Only now, his two most complicated infatuations happen to be his gentle, welcoming boss and bully of a superior. Tachibana and Oda were as close as any friends could be, but Kiryu knew the two returned his feelings in one way or other. Tachibana once listened to him talk about his childhood and petted his hair as Kiryu cried at innocent times that have passed like a dream. He was grateful for Tachibana's gentleness and almost loving tenderness when he addressed Kiryu, shared meals, and stories with him. He was glad to be in such close proximity to the two and spend time with them individually, but it always seemed like they were growing increasingly aggravated at the mention of the other. It was beginning to worry Kiryu, since he and Nishiki were closer than anything, and it would break his heart for their friendship to be destroyed.

"Oda..." Kiryu began, feeling his heartbeat skyrocket at the thought that they would be heading towards a destination where Kiryu would take those final steps into adulthood. Oda had shared with his actions how much he wants to gain access to Kiryu's body, but was that all there was? He didn't feel ready. He wasn't sure he could do this. He knew he had a crush on Oda, but he was torn between the wolffish superior and the caring Tachibana. Was this how he lost his innocence? Not listening to Tachibana's warnings and going along with Oda, alone, like he so often did without protection or supervision? He was an idiot. "Wait, please... Oda, I don't know if I can --"

"We're here."

Kiryu realized at last that they were standing in the small square of town. The sun was beginning to set and it absorbed the shopping district with a warm, orange glow. Oda was still holding onto Kiryu's hand, making the younger man swallow hard. He heard Oda's pager go off two more times before they walked towards the group of street food vendors surrounding the small patch of benches and foliage, stopping in front of a crepe stall. He figured that Oda would respond to Tachibana later, but it seemed like it was urgent, and Kiryu couldn't help the feeling of concern well up within him at the thought of Tachibana being in trouble. Oda greeted the young woman mixing batter with a gentlemanly facade that Kiryu's never seen him put into play.

"Evening, miss. Wow, they've got idols working the stalls tonight? I must be the luckiest man in town," Oda smiled, buttering up the girl like he was trying to score a number off of her. He earned a blush and a wave for the flirtatious approach, Kiryu feeling his heart flutter at the sweet exchange. He's NEVER seen this before. It was jarring, and really attractive.

"Gee, you're really good at impressing women, sir! You must work at a host club?" She smiled back at Oda.

"No, no. I'm in the real estate business, but thanks for the compliment. I'm just naturally sweet to cute people." Oda gave a small tug on Kiryu's hand, beckoning the shorter man to walk up to the stall with him. "Look~ this one's mega cute, huh? I'm really sweet to this one." Kiryu's face drowned in a mixture of reds, flattery and embarrassment painted all over his expression.

"Wow~! I didn't know there were so many handsome men in Kamurocho! I should really get out more often..." the girl giggled. She stood from her seat and crossed her arms. "So, what can I get for you two heartbreakers tonight? I'll give you a real special!"

Oda ordered a strawberry crepe, which he got in no less than seven minutes. The beeper went off once again, but Oda seemed like he was pointedly ignoring Tachibana at this stage. Kiryu was confused, but at the call of their number, he was distracted once more. The scent of the sweet batter awakened a hunger in him that he hadn't felt since he was gobbling up candy that Kashiwagi would sneak him and Nishiki as children behind Kazama's back. The crepe was wrapped in pink parchment paper, cone-shaped, and dolled up with a swirl of whipped cream and chunks of freshly chopped strawberries. She sprinkled pink and white heart flakes on top, drizzled a line of chocolate sauce over the top, poked three strawberry pocky sticks into the cream, and dunked two spoons on either side. She winked at the marveled look the two men gave the dessert as she handed it over.

"Enjoy the night, you two! Hope to see you again~!" she grinned. Oda and Kiryu couldn't help but return her infectious grin. The girl was so cute and friendly. She'd make a great hostess. Oda handed the crepe over to Kiryu to handle, the shorter man feeling his eyes sparkle at the severe beauty of the confectionary masterpiece.

"You got it! Stay warm, cutie," Oda gave her a thumbs up with one hand, then pulled his and Kiryu's conjoined hands to perform a small wave as well. Kiryu blushed at the lovey-dovey display Oda was exhibiting, but both he and the girl seemed to find his unease amusing. "I'm tired, let's get some coffee from that stand over there and sit down."

Kiryu was confused. Even more so when they retrieved two hot cups of coffee and found a spot on bench behind a patch of flowers being illuminated by an array of lights he didn't realize the city had. Oda was sipping on his drink as he stared out over the gaggles of teenagers stocking up on street food, the young couples meeting after work for dates, and businessmen and women passing through. Kiryu tried to hand the crepe over to Oda when they locked eyes, the other man snickering. Kiryu tilted his head in confusion as Oda waved off the act.

"I really hate sweets. It's all yours, rookie," he explained, Kiryu spotting what the thought was a blush arising on his superior's cheeks.

"I thought you were mad? Why are you buying me sweets all of a sudden? ...thanks." Kiryu mumbled, taking one of the spoons and scooping some of the whipped cream into his mouth. "Whoa! This is really good," Kiryu's eyes beamed as he relished the flavors, astonished. It wasn't store-bought whipped cream. That wonder lady must have whipped it all herself. Kiryu busied himself with the berries and cream, unbeknownst to him the look of adoration blooming over Oda's face as he watched the display of childlike wonder with amusement. He flinched when he heard chuckling, surprised when he found the light-hearted sound had risen from Oda's throat.

"Glad we picked a good stall. And, uh... I wasn't mad. At you, or anything. I just... you know, you're right about me. I didn't see what was wrong with buying off that family until you talked some sense into my thick skull. I know I can be an asshole, but I don't really know what else to be. Grew up like this; had to be tough to get here," Oda sighed, setting down his cup as he reached for his box of cigarettes. He nicked one between his teeth as he fished out his lighter. "That's why me and the boss get along so well. 'Two peas in a pod', our boys call us. We're one in the cruel, psychopathic same."

"You and Tachibana-san were part of a gang back then, weren't you? Do you miss those days?" Kiryu asked, taking a sip of his own coffee, wincing at the bitterness of the beverage. Oda laughed at the reaction, the sound terrifyingly attractive. He had no idea his arrogant superior that spoke in sarcastic tones was even capable of expressing enjoyment in such a normal way. "Do you ever want to go back and visit your guys?"

"Yeah, sometimes I miss it. Getting into stupid fights with rival gangs just to let off steam, getting tatted and thinking we were hot shit. But I think we're better off now. Smarter, more mature. The rest of 'em found their own way; they're all living straight. No funny business. Still close as ever, but the boss and I have been butting heads over something stupid for a while," Oda responded, lighting his cigarette and taking a long drag. "Quit drinking if you don't like it, junior. I'm not forcing it down your gullet or anything; no need to impress me."

Kiryu felt slightly belittled, as if the drink was more mature than he could handle. Without a second thought, he was downing another bitter, flavorless gulp down his throat, holding back the grimace. He's had more alcohol than any other twenty-somethings in town.

"I'm an adult too, you know. I can drink coffee," he retorted, looking like a child trying to copy an older relative. Oda wanted to kiss his frown away. Instead he ruffled Kiryu's hair, then lightly shoved the kid's face in a playful way.

"Yeah, you're a real big boy. I know, kiddo," he teased. "It's kind of sad watching you punish yourself, though. I can go grab some sugar packets if you want."

Stunned by the considerate gesture, Kiryu felt his heart take a leap. After a second, he shook his head, returning to the crepe he was holding.

"I-it's okay."

Oda shrugged, his smile never leaving his face. The interactions between the two of them have always been high intensity, full of bickering, and stress-filled. This was a nice change of pace. Kiryu could almost hear Nishiki's voice in his head, taunting him.

'This is a date, bro! Oh, my god, you're on a date!'

Kiryu gulped around a pocky stick, feeling his face heating up gradually as he began to overthink. Was this a date? Then... was he doing it right? What are you supposed to do on dates? Hold hands? They held hands earlier, didn't they? And Oda bought him food and a drink... so, what else happens? Kiryu was so deep in thought, he hadn't noticed a bit of cream spread on the corner of his mouth. Oda stared longingly at the spot, but decided against the idea of licking it off in front of so many people. They had a nice, relaxed atmosphere going on, and it so rarely happened. He wasn't going to spoil it by being an ass and rushing things by embarrassing Kiryu. This was such a strange situation to be in; he's never cared about the other person's feelings before they got down to business.

"Hey, rookie. Look here," Oda spoke, pointing to his own mouth. A silent request to remove the cream from Kiryu's lips before Oda did it for him. Kiryu turned to his superior, mistaking the action as something else entirely. Kiryu thought back to some magazines he flipped through at the convenience store and recalled a page he skimmed over on first dates. Without another thought, he scooped a bit of cream and strawberries, offering the spoon up to Oda's lips.

The action startled both men, who were now staring at the spoon like it was forbidden treasure and if they touched it, they'd die. On the spot. Of absolute humiliation.

Oda wanted to make a stab at how silly Kiryu looked, holding up a spoonful of sugar to his lips like some kind of lovestruck girl on her first date. Though somehow, the stinging words wouldn't form, and instead, he was staring straight into the other's eyes, covered behind the reflective lenses of his non-prescribed glasses. Oda swallowed his hesitation, Kiryu looked as if he was going to pull back any second now. Before he leaned in to take the spoon of cream and berries into his mouth, a familiar gloved hand materialized between them, grasping Kiryu's wrist. The spoon disappeared into someone else's mouth within seconds, the two men gawking at each other before they turned to the mysterious figure standing before them. Tachibana wore his signature three-piece suit, donning a long coat over his outfit. He smiled around the spoon, pulling back and fixing his eyes on Kiryu.

"Thank you, Kiryu-san. That was almost as sweet as you."