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No, You Hang Up First (And That Is a Threat)

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Steam rose from the water as four of Earth’s Cute Defenders lounged in the Kurotamayu baths once again. A collective sigh filled the air as warmth from the water soaked into skin.

En rolled his head back and placed his elbows back to rest on the ledge. “We haven’t done this in a while.”

“Yeah,” Atsushi said warmly, “It’s so nice for us all to be together like this. Sometimes it feels like the only times we get to see each other are during fight scenes.”

Atsushi and En turned to each other and shared a soft smile. The moment stretched out for a second before En tilted his head pointedly and stared at Ryuu and Io, who were making a show of ignoring one another, despite slowly inching towards one another.

“It is nice… though Yumoto might get upset if he sees these two like this,” En said, giving a wry grin.

Atsushi lifted his eyebrows. “What’s up with those two?”

En tilted his head towards the side. “Isn’t it what it usually is?”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Atsushi chuckled.

Just then, Yumoto burst through the door, arms spread wide. “Guys!” he exclaimed, “I was so happy when Gora said you came! I had to finish cleaning the sign tiles super quick so I could see you!” He threw his clothes off and jumped into the bath, splashing them all.

Yumoto smiles brightly. “How are you all!? It’s been so long! Atsushi, how’s med school!? En, what’s it like being an office worker!? Io, are you liking law school? Ryuu, are you enjoying the club?”

Atsushi smiled back. “I’m so glad some things never change,” he said, turning to Yumoto and ruffling his hair. “Medical school is going very well. It’s a lot of work.”

Yumoto smiled brightly. “You’re going to be a pediatrician right! Are you sure you want to be working with feet!?” he asked, leaning up to Atsushi, his eager smile laughing despite his own misunderstanding.

En leaned over Atsushi and messed up his hair. “That’s podiatry. A pediatrician works with kids,” he said dryly.

Yumoto laughed. “That’s so much cooler! How do you like it!?”

Atsushi laughed with him. His face was bright and sparkling, even as a cold wind filled the air. Everyone ducked down deeper in the water. “I’m so stressed I think I might die,” he said, his smile as bright as a star exploding in its own heat death.

“Don’t die!” Yumoto pouted.

Atsushi ruffled his hair. “That’s why I’m glad you guys can pull me away from it.”

Yumoto grinned, before turning to En. “What about you, En!? Isn’t office work boring!?”

En released a pained sigh. “Troublesome, is what it is,” he groaned.

Atsushi laughed. “He says that, but he’s done well for himself. They really like him there,” he said fondly.

“I can’t imagine why,” Io said out of the corner of his mouth, reflecting on En’s work ethic back in high school.

Ryuu, forgetting their cold war for a moment, snickered, and responded, “He’s increased the profit of the company by himself by fifteen percent. He’s gotten three promotions in the past two years!”

En flushed. “Gross. Hearing you praise me like that gives me goosebumps,” he said shivering, “It’s not like I want to. These things just keep happening.”

“Like when you skipped work on a Friday because you didn’t want to be there and ran into daughter of difficult client?” Atsushi teased. En groaned.

“I hear she really helped sway him to your contract,” Io remarked.

“Or when you got bored with your sales report, typed in random numbers, and accidently found a more efficient product distribution model?” Ryuu laughed. En sank into the water.

“Or that time you spilled coffee over a coworker’s desk during busy season and found documents proving he had been embezzling company funds?” Atsushi continued teasing. En’s head fell below the hot water, bubbles popping up from his exhale.

Atsushi laughed, pulling En back above water at the armpits. He rubbed a hand against En’s shoulder, and En shared a rueful smile in return.

“What about when you threw your computer out the window, shouting ‘I can’t do this anymore!’ and jumped out, running away?” Io asked, understating the chaos En had made in the moment.

“How did that benefit the company?” Atsushi wondered.

“I don’t even remember,” En groaned.

“You did that?” Ryuu asked. “You are definitely going to get fired one of these days.” He clutched at his stomach in laughter, leaning onto Io.

“God, I hope so,” En deadpanned, leaning back against the ledge, trying to put away thoughts of work.

“What will you do then?” Ryuu wondered with an amused grin.

En leaned over Atsushi to wrap an arm around him. “Become a trophy husband,” he deadpanned.

Atsushi snorted. “I’m not a doctor yet! You’ll have to wait a few years,” he said, rolling his eyes.

Yumoto laughed, tackling them both in a hug. “I’ve missed you both so much!” he shouted.

En blushed. Though he pretended to shove him back, he subtly let Yumoto cling to him like Yumoto wanted.

Yumoto had his fill and turned to Io and Ryuu. “How are you two!? Are you still living together!? You’re still such good friends after all this time!”

The two froze, realizing they had gravitated so close to one another. They ripped apart, and lightning cracked between them as they made eye contact.

They growled. Yumoto gasped, appalled by such un-love like glaring.

“Actually,” Ryuu turned, to look at Atsushi and En, a blinding, sarcastic grin painting his face, “Could you please talk some sense into him? He’s acting ridiculous.”

Io scoffed. “Me?” he asked, “When you’re the one being so unreasonable to the point of absurdity.”

Ryuu’s smile twitched, an angry crack in his face belaying what had been stirring underneath since they had arrived at the bath house. Together, despite their attitudes. Arms crossed and faces turned conspicuously away from one another, but still together.

God, they are hopeless, Atsushi thought to himself with a fondness that revealed how hopeless he was as well.

“Absurd!” Ryuu hissed. He started to pull himself above the water, the disturbed water splashed against the side of the bath. “It’s not absurd to think you shouldn’t be wasting your time on someone like me!”

“Here they go,” En groaned.

“Wasting my time!?” Io hissed, pushing forward. “If I were half the man you are, you wouldn’t be worrying about that! It’s because I’m so focused on money, and I’m so poor at showing that I care for you, that you would even say such a thing!”

They both bit back a scream and threw their hands on each other’s shoulders. “Don’t talk about my boyfriend that way!”

“Of course, I know that you care about me, how could you say that!? I’m the ultimate playboy, I’m a host, and it’s only because of how much you care about me that you can put up with me! An ordinary person would have quit a long time ago!” Ryuu responded.

“How can you talk like that about yourself? By turning your hobby into a career, you’ve done what every citizen can only hope of doing! How could I say that I put up with you when I’m so amazed by you every day we spend together!?” Io countered.

“You turned you passion into not just one successful career, but three?! You could have lived your whole life selling stocks like you did in high school, but you’re so incredible you turned to real estate, and now you’re in law school, too!? I’m so impressed by your drive and work ethic, you make me a better person by being with you,” Ryuu said, now standing, throwing an arm out dramatically as his hand clutched at his heart.

“I can only do what I do because I’m inspired by you! You have so much knowledge that you apply to everything you do! You understand market trends better than any analysist I could hire—restaurants, cafés, gifts, candy, toys, clothing, jewelry, bars, music—you understand people so well, you know what they want, you know how to get what you want from them!” Io cried, now also standing.

“I’m only aware of half those things because I listen to you talk! You’re so passionate and intelligent, there’s no way I can keep up,” Ryuu said getting closer.

Atsushi and En scooted closer to Yumoto, each putting a hand over his eyes as things got more heated.

“What are you talking about!? I can only do what I do because of you! Opening your own club, hiring vendors, making your own drink menu, nothing in this world could get done without you! It only makes the most sense if I support you!” Io yelled back.

Yumoto pushed the hands above his eyes with his own, “Why are you guys fighting? You both seem to care about each other very much!”

“I don’t want you to think I care only for your money!” Ryuu cried back.

Ahhhhh, there it was, En and Atsushi thought.

“Wait,” Atsushi said, not wanting to intervene, but feeling a little awkward for watching the lover’s quarrel. “So you’re fighting because Io offered you money, Ryuu?”

“I wouldn’t think that!” Io reared back, as if he were hurt, “I’m telling you, it’s a financially motivated decision! You will more than pay me back for the initial costs! This is an investment!”

The two of them began to literally bump heads, attempting to push each other back in a bizarre show of both love and obstinacy.

En began sinking back into the bath. There was no way interfering would be worth it at this point.

“I’m beginning to become faint just thinking of the returns your club will give me! You would deprive your money-hungry boyfriend this!?” Io continued before Ryuu could retort back. “Just admit you’re worth investing in!”

“Not if you can’t see how much I love you! Until you realize that, there’s no way I’d let linger even the hint that I want your money!” Ryuu cried. “I love you more than anything! How come you can’t accept that!?”

“Please stop fighting!” Yumoto cried, waving his hands out in front of him, laughing a little despite himself. Even he had gotten used to this to some extent.

The two of them whipped their heads to him, taken aback. They had forgotten they had an audience.

En rolled his eyes, tilting his head Atsushi. “He still hasn’t realized this is basically foreplay for them?” he asked.

Atsushi held a hand up to his face to hide a grin. “I don’t think he’s realized they’re dating,” he said, shaking his head.

Io and Ryuu ha-rumph’d an crossed their arms, turning away from one another.

Yumoto frowned. While he knew they had to figure it out themselves—and he even knew they would, in time—he still didn’t like to see the people he loved so much be so unhappy. He wanted to comfort them, and himself.

“I almost forgot!” Yumoto remembered. He stood up and ran out of the bath.

He came back holding Wombat in his arms. He suffocated the alien with his cuddles, as En and Atsushi watched with fondness.

The finished their baths soon enough, enjoying the time spent together. Yumoto kept them entertained, and even Io and Ryuu joined in the fun when they forgot themselves.

They stepped out of the bath, each taking their time and enjoying the warm steam of the air. They dressed, pulling clothes from their shelves.

Ryuu pulled over his head a special edition Cute High Earth Defense Club Love! crop top. The design filled the shirt, hearts and stars splashing from the logo’s text. His smooth skin soft and delicious. Just the barest hint of pink peeking over his low rise leggings, hip bones jutting out above. Io found himself freeze at the sight, his own button up shirt stiff in his hands.

This sight wouldn’t have usually affected him so much— the knowledge that he could touch having a time in place in his mind, but not when Ryuu was acting so unreasonable. They had went to bed last night without a kiss, both facing away from the other as they had fallen asleep.

What did it matter they had woken up in each other’s arms? They had ignored it, pulling apart, and going about their routine in silence, tense, with a painful awareness that shouting could resume at any moment.

Io felt the absence of Ryuu’s touch, the way empty air brushed his skin when a kiss on the cheek or a stoke against his arm should have.

His productivity suffered a .001% decrease today for it. His assistants thought him a fearsome sight with his teeth gnashing they way they did.

En and Atsushi shared a conspiratory glance between them, noticing Io’s consternated face and Ryuu’s obvious teasing as he stretched his arms over his head, his crop top rising higher on his chest. Hopeless, they thought again with an audible, affection sigh.

The display was interrupted by the blinking of light coming from their loveracelets.

En groaned. Atsushi huffed a laugh. “At least it waited until after we finished our bath?” he asked, elbowing En’s ribs lightly.

En grabbed the elbow, sharing a heated moment with Atsushi. “I wanted to spend more time with you,” he said, his deep voice sending a thrill through Atsushi’s heart.

Atsushi tilted his head, smiling, they had both been so busy with work and school, and unlike Io and Ryuu, they weren’t cohabitating yet. Atsushi lived with his parents, and En lived in the company dorm, though one with rules more lax than it could have been.

Atsushi moved his arm to grab En’s hand with his own. “Tonight,” he whispered. Maybe they had to admit that they were hopeless too.

Yumoto jumped into the air in excitement, screaming with delight. “We haven’t all fought together in an episode for so long!”

They all turned Yumoto, their annoyance at the alert converting into warm affection for their friend. The four shared a rueful, endeared smile, and nodded. The five of them, in sync, hit their loveracelets and transformed.

Their transformations had become both more adorable and erotic since they were in high school, which En almost wanted to be embarrassed about.

Their bodies shined, glistening with some sort of cosmic stardust. With their eyes closed and skin bare, water in the shape of hands trailed up En’s body, leaving behind his new magical uniform. He knew that meanwhile, wind literally swept off Atsushi’s clothing, as he posed with his hand catching the last scrap of cloth, in a remarkably American pose.

Yumoto was once again born from an oversized egg that was probably literally made from his magical embodiment of love.

Meanwhile, Io rested against his propped hand, lying on his side, as the ground beneath and in front of him shot up in terrifying and intriguing spikes.

Ryuu kneeled, legs open, one arm behind his head, and his other hand trailing down his chest. Flames licked up his body, taking special care in the obviously suggestive areas.

While Atsushi and Io shrugged when asked about it, Ryuu had always said he thought it was funny. En tried very hard to see it from their point of view, and failing that, he did his best to ignore it completely.

The fact that the show had stretched on so many seasons had already been ridiculous, but so had the measures taken through Wombat, through producers, through the gods themselves to keep the “content” fresh.

All of them pressed their bracelets, and huge, poofy wings sprouted from their backs. The wings had only grown more ornate since their first appearance. The feathers were now tipped with gold and were also accented with their signature colors. Yumoto had even developed a whole second pair.

They were able to keep the power, thankfully, even though not every episode was a season ender. En figured it was more for convenience’s sake, especially with all of them working across the city instead of attending the same school.

They took to the sky, occasionally hopping from rooftop to rooftop to get to the source of the alert.

A large creature loomed in the skyline of their small town. What was that, a sloth? It had long, noodle like arms with adorable sloth paws at the end. Menacing claws sparkled in the moonlight, a grim contrast to its precious toe beans. Sludge hung on the creature’s fur like the moss of a lazy sloth, too. It was hunched over, it’s face darkened, light reflecting eerily off giant glasses. They noticed the creature’s wobbling frown as they approached the town’s business district.

They landed in front of it, heels digging sharply into the ground.

“Stop!” Yumoto pointed at the monster, “Sloths can die by falling to their deaths by mistaking their arms for branches! Don’t die such a stupid death!”

“Why!?” the Sloth-thing screeched, giant tears flying from it. “It just never stops! I never asked to be born!”

It’s tears fell onto a building underneath it. They coated the building in an odd slime, preventing anyone from getting in or out.

“Vesta Ignit!” Ryuu called. He tried to burn the slime before it landed, but the substance seemed flame resistant.

“Every day is the same hell! Waking up early, riding the train full of uncaring zombies, projects, requests!” it wailed. It draped itself over another office building, its fur coat secreting enough ooze to encase the front of the building.

Io attempted to block its path with a rock wall, shouting “Sulfur Gaia!” but the creature stumbled, its noodley appendages avoiding entrapment seemingly if by chance.

The sad sloth rubbed at its glasses. “Supervisors asking for favors, bosses dumping projects on you minutes before your shift ends.”

Yumoto quickly attempted to blind it with a powerful, “Scarlet Lumiere!”

His the lens of his glasses absorbed the attack eerily and reflected a beam in the direction of a love hotel, destroying its gaudy advertisement. “Women forgetting to give you obligation chocolates, men eating all the omiyage before you’ve had a chance to try it.”

“Epinard Hurricane!” Atsushi cried. He, too, failed to make a dent in the monster. His strong gust only causing a bigger problem when sludge blew off the monster and onto a nearby parking structure, destroying several cars.

“Enchan, do something!” Atsushi cried, “You need to clean up the slime!”

En stood there, shaking, a manic look from his eyes.

He watched as the monster approached En’s own office building.

“I—I don’t know…” he said, hesitating.

“What!?” Atsushi asked.

“I think he has a point…” En trailed with a half-hearted shrug.

Atsushi face palmed like a retro anime protagonist. He sighed.

“Yumoto,” he called, shifting gears, “Attack pattern: Christmas Gift!”

Yumoto grinned, back flipping away from another onslaught of the monster’s tears. “It’s been so long since we did that one!”

They called their special attacks simultaneously: “Scarlet Lumiere!” “Epinard Hurricane!”

“Christmas Gift!” they called together, and their beams began to twist together, creating a combination attack. Though they had done something similar early on, the combination attacks now had names, more complex graphics, and a significant power boost.

Atsushi’s wind swept up Yumoto’s sparkles, weaving a pattern in front of the monster. The wind crossed over itself, forming a strong net, protecting its gaps with the sparkles. It was a fearsome trap that had gotten them out of many nasty situations, but it worked a lot better when the others were able to create a distraction first.

At least they were able to contain the fight somewhat with this, Atsushi thought, cartwheeling to the side when a slow but powerful sloth paw swiped at him.

Their offense had gotten so much better, he thought proudly. Atsushi felt like a real superhero. The monsters they faced were always still absurd and cartoonish, but they had gotten stronger. They had honestly thought it had been the end of their time with the Earth Defenders when they graduated and were no longer cute high school boys, especially since Gora no longer had to deal with it.

Instead, the show had gotten even more popular with the “crossover” with Gora’s “season.” Since Gora was still an alien favorite, the show had only become more absurd, as he also took back a prime role fighting alongside his younger brother.

Honestly, Atsushi hadn’t minded, especially as he had become so busy with school, and wasn’t able to really “appear” on every episode. That being said, Gora’s new attack names, like “Guillotine Lace” were just incredibly, gruesomely bloody, and Atsushi had no idea what anyone had in mind. He was pretty sure whole episodes had to be covered under black out censors.

“Enchan!” Atushi called, readying for another combo and slipping out of his revervie.

He back tucked out of the way of another attack, worried when En didn’t confirm back to start their combination.

Yumoto continued his barrage of beam attacks, trying to push the creature back toward the net.

Atsushi ducked and dived out of the way from the sludge, not needing to be slowed down now. He looked behind his back, biting his lip.

En stared in rapturous pleasure, staring down at a familiar, detested building. “To the left!” he cried, “Aim for the corner office!”

The wailing sloth-thing continued its senseless destruction.

En adapted his calling, “Don’t you hate how you have to sit in a cubicle while some unimportant asshole gets giant windows to look at the sky!?”

The sloth monster turned away from Yumoto’s attacks, a new wild howl emanating from its chest. “Yeah! Yeah, I do!” it cried, swinging down a powerful, adorable paw directly into En’s own office.

The monster drew out a large, ugly desk, and then he smashed it down on a nearby food cart.

En’s maniacal laughter halted in a frantic stutter. His face paled. “That was—that was the only good thing about this place…” he muttered in regretful horror. He fell to his knees in mourning for the small, beloved pastry cart that sold him seafood curry buns, every lunch, no matter how much work got to him.

Meanwhile, rubble from En’s office building collapsed to the ground, causing Ryuu to jump back.

He crashed into Io, who—despite the force of impact—caught him in his arms.

Ryuu looked up at him, eyes wide.

“Depend on me!” Io demanded, clutching Ryuu to his chest as he jumped again to avoid another crash of concrete and steel.

Ryuu hissed, struggling to break from the grasp.

“Listen to me!” Ryuu demanded back, pulling himself to the ground.

“Sulfur Gaia!” Io called, as soon as Ryuu stood to feet.

“Vesta Ignit!” Ryuu called as well, unwilling to be outdone.

“Geode Eruption!” they called together. They turned to one another in anger and shared pride.

Giant crystals grew out of pink flames as they hurdled toward the sloth monster. They exploded upon impact, scattering incredibly hot flames and incredibly sharp, shattered pieces of the rock.

The creature wailed louder, distracted from attacking En’s workplace to rip out the molten rock matting into its fur.

The monster’s sludgy tears now took on an acidic attribute. As the creature cried, about the injustice of unpaid overtime, pavement below it sizzled and snapped as pieces of it fizzled into nothing.

Io and Ryuu broke apart when one such droplet landed between.

“You’re right!” Io cried, “I can’t stand the thought of you being with me for my money!” He twisted between smaller tears as they rained down from the creature.

“I wouldn’t—” Ryuu called out, right before using a handspring forward to dodge another deluge of sludgy rain.

Io interrupted. “But I can’t stand the thought of you thinking I love my money more than I love you even more!”

“I don’t want you to be jealous of my work!” Ryuu confessed. “But sometimes I feel like you’re too understanding, too good, too much, because either you trust me way more than I trust you or you don’t care enough to get jealous! And I don’t want you investing in me because you love me! I can do this alone! I know I can!”

“I know you can, too! And of course, I trust you too!” Io cried, “But I am jealous, in my own way! I know you could count on your clients for enough investments to start your club! I just can’t stand the thought of you getting that help from people who aren’t me!”

“Stupid!” Ryuu cries weakly, knowing their fight is finally over.

Yumoto used their distraction to call out to the creature. “Just because you’re a corporate slave doesn’t mean you can’t find love!”

“Not being able to find a work-life balance will hurt your heart,” Ryuu said, beating the sloth with his Blazing Ignit.

“Being without love decreases morale and lowers profits,” Io added, striking the monster with Raging Gaia.

“Scarlet Lumiere!” “Epinard Hurricaine!” “Sulfur Gaia!” “Vesta Ignit!” four of them cheered together.

The attack overwhelmed the monster, beating it back, and they turn to En in expectation.

He picked himself up, a new, rare determination lighting his face as he called, “Cerulean Splash!"

Io and Ryuu ran toward one another, the new, newly upgraded baton forming between their clasping hands.

They flew up, pointing the baton right at the creature’s glasses.

“True Love Feral Attack!” Io and Ryuu called together, blasting the monster with a truly staggering amount of hearts. It slammed back into En’s office building, shattering windows on its way down.

“True Love Geyser!” they called then, a beautiful—if terrifyingly forceful—shower of light and love fell down upon the sloth. It slowly minimized down to a person size, a blissed out smile spreading across his face.

“Love is over!” the two said, smirking to each other as the attack ended.

They drifted down to the ground on their wings, looking happily at one another.

Io sighed. “If you really don’t want me investing, I’ll step aside. I trust you,” he said, wanting to live up to the person Ryuu thought him to be.

Ryuu shook his head. “Actually… Please do. I know I can fund the club on my own. But having only one other person to answer to will give me more creative freedom with the club.”

Io smiled. He kissed Ryuu gently. Ryuu leaned into him, wrapping his arms around his back tightly.

They broke apart and Ryuu buried his equally happy smile into Io’s shoulder.

The other Battle Lovers flew over to them, also gracefully landing and putting their wings away.

Yumoto smiled, just happy his friends had made up.

En and Atsushi shared a knowing glance.

The tender moment was interrupted by the sound of crumbling concrete and an angry grumbling creature.

A small teal animal crawled under a small pile of rubble, rubbing at its head. “You’ve ruined my plans for the last time, Earth Defense Club!”

“What the *beep* is that!?” En asked, flinching back.

Io and Ryuu walked closer to look at it, too.

Ryuu put a hand on his own hip, peering down at. “I still can’t believe we’re getting censored in real time. We’re adults, aren’t we? The production company is so stingy,” he said.

Io rolled his eyes. “He only said *beep*. It’s not like he said *beep* or *beep* or—”

“This is a family program,” Wombat cried, running to catch up with them. It panted, sweating heavily and crying a little.

“I think it’s a bush baby,” Atsushi said. He lowered himself, keeping his center on the balls of his feet, sitting on his heels, propping his head up with his hands, elbows on his thighs. He reached out a finger to poke at it, but it jolted, standing on its hind legs and hissing at him.

“It’s sooooooo cute!” Yumoto cried, running past Atsushi to pick it up and cuddle it close to his face.

“I am Zioxor! I have been sending my minions down to defeat you, but you will face true pain now!” it screeched, scratching at Yumoto’s face. Yumoto didn’t even flinch at the contact, still nuzzling happily into the creature.

The bush baby-like alien pushed at Yumoto’s face, trying to gain distance, merely achieving a cute squish in Yumoto’s cheek. “I am Zundar’s cousin’s fiancée’s step-sister’s…” it started, listing an comically long list of relationships.

“This might take a while,” En said, putting a hand to his face.

“Third son’s—”

“It’s not even green,” Ryuu mused.

“Intern’s—”

“Doesn’t this feel a little anti-climatic?” Atsushi wondered.

The last season finale had been wild. All of the team had been kidnapped except Yumoto, Gora had discovered a new Battle Lover transformation and several new powers to go with it, the two teamed up to save them, Atsushi’s sister was discovered to be a phantom thief who had fallen in love with the female chief of police, and Wombat had temporarily turned into a human through some strange spell.

The other three sighed together, sharing the reminiscence. It had taken three whole episodes to sort everything out. They still hadn’t figured out entirely what had happened to all those abandoned spaceships...

“Probably a mid-season finale,” Io shrugged, now distracted with his phone. Now that he had permission, he could finish arranging a money transfer and investment plan for Ryuu’s club.

“Late grandmother’s—”

Ryuu pushed down his elbow with his hand above his head to stretch his shoulders. “Mmmm, nice, that means we get a break, don’t we?”

“Ex-wife’s—”

Atsushi hummed thoughtfully, “It’s nice to get a break during the season.” He also took out his phone. Checking his calendar he realized the break coincided nicely with midterms, freeing up a huge chunk of study time.

“Pay attention to me!” Xanathar—Scizor—whatever its name was— screeched.

En yawned, and Atsushi figured he should maybe speed this along before anything escalated further.

“Ah, yes, we—” he started, before interrupted by the rude little alien.

“Shut up! Just shut up! I know I may not look menacing now, but—” Zioxar (ah, that’s what it was), began scampering up an in-tact drain pipe on the nearest building.

It began laughing maniacally, it’s low, raspy voice at odds with its adorably large, round eyes.

“I think you’ll be surprised, who in your lives are preparing to betray you,” it said with a grim chuckle, before it took off, gliding away and into the dark night.

“What did you say!?” En cried.

Atsushi snorted. “You know, that really has lost its impact after how many seasons of this now?”

En shrugged. “It’s a bad habit. I can’t stop now. To think I’d have changed so much over these past few years.”

“I think Io sells the saying on tee shirts, like the one Ryuu is wearing,” Atsushi said, standing up.

“I know, it’s terrible,” En said dryly.

“It’s a best-seller,” Io grinned, holding out his smart phone, dollar signs scrolling down the screen.

Ryuu slung an arm around Io and kissed him on the cheek. “That’s my man,” he grinned.

Atsushi sighed. “Well, I had thought a classmate of mind was acting rather suspiciously…”

En shrugged. “You never know. They could just be cheating off you. These story hooks have become less obvious and more bafflingly incomprehensible since the Student Council nonsense.”

Atsushi chuckled. “Guess so…” he trailed off, leaning onto En’s shoulder.

“This was so much fun!” Yumoto squee’d, jumping up again. “Normally only a few of us can make it because En’s on his business trips and Astsushi has class or Io has a meeting and Ryuu’s with a client but you all made it today!”

He ran up to them, tackling them all in a huge hug. They caught him, laughing. Atsushi picked him up, and En hugged Atsushi from behind, one arm wrapping around his front. He ruffled Yumoto’s hair with his other hand, his arm reaching over Atsushi’s shoulder. Ryuu laughed, clapping Yumoto on the back, holding Io’s hand in his other. Io hip checked Ryuu lightly, before ruffling Yumoto’s hair.

Yumoto shook with laughter, and that laughter spread to some of his favorite people in the world. He couldn't have been more full of love.