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Ascot wasn't sure how Caldina had talked him into coming out with her. Then again he was never entirely sure how she managed to talk him into half the things she got him to do. This time she'd been talking about how he needed to 'get out and meet people' or something to that effect, despite the fact he already had a boyfriend and had done for the past six months.

But Caldina didn't like Clef. Though she would never give a reason why, Ascot was pretty sure it was because Clef had turned out to be almost a decade older than Ascot had originally thought, and rather than being a university student, he was actually a professor - just not on the course Ascot was studying.

Despite disliking crowds, when Ascot wailed that there was no way to get out of going, Clef had agreed to meet them there. True to his word, Clef appeared moments after they arrived - much to Caldina's immediate dismay - and extracted Ascot from her company, while also pointing her in the direction of a very tall, blond man in the corner, who seemed to be called Lafarga-something.

"He's a security guard and very single," were Clef's last words to her as he led Ascot around the room to a flight of stairs.

"I've been here far too many times with Ferio," Clef muttered as they walked up the stairs to an upper-level seating area that overlooked the dance floor and the front door. The table with the best view of the door had papers strewn over it, and a satchel thrown in one of the chairs, keeping it from having been claimed while Clef had gone down to fetch Ascot.

"How long have you been here?" Ascot asked, sitting down to help gather up the paperwork.

"Long enough." Clef glanced over the edge of the railing to look down at Caldina. The look on his face said he didn't think his plan was going all that well.

Ascot looked at the three empty glasses on the table, knowing Caldina had kept them late, supposedly to do her hair, but he suspected it was to wait out Clef waiting for them. Obviously, he'd come prepared for that eventuality, since he had his work with him. Ascot looked down at Caldina and the very-single security guard. Caldina seemed to already be trying to get him to dance, but she hadn't gotten him very far from the bar. Torn between wanting to hide out and wanting to make up for dragging Clef out, Ascot finally turned to ask, "Do you want me to get you a drink or something?"

Clef shoved the last of his papers into his satchel before pulling his wallet out. He passed a few notes to Ascot and told him about the second bar down the set of stairs on the other side of the mezzanine.

"I meant that I could treat you," Ascot said, staring at the money in his hand. "After all, I'm the reason you're here."

"Don't worry about it," Clef smiled at him - that warm comfortable smile that made his heart race - and Ascot failed to articulate any further argument. It wasn't like Clef couldn't afford it. True, he didn't make that much money as a professor, but he came from a rather wealthy family.

Ascot found his way to the bar and was making his way through the throngs of people when his gaze was caught by an absolutely gorgeous woman leaning against the bar. She wore a tight silver dress that was only an inch or two longer than the hair that just brushed the top of her thighs. His eyes travelled down the length of her long legs before making it up to her face. A hot blush rushed to his cheeks as he tried to look away, but she turned then and their eyes met. When she smiled at him, his face grew only hotter. She picked up three glasses from the counter and straightened before walking toward him.

"Hi," she said, still grinning.

His mouth opened and closed a few times, but no sound came out, and he went completely blank about what to say or do. She was so utterly beautiful and she was talking to him, but - despite whatever Caldina was suggesting - he wasn't exactly looking to meet anyone.

"I have a boyfriend," he squeaked out.

"Lucky him," she said, with a friendly wink.

Though he wouldn't admit it until much later, Ascot watched her walk away until she vanished into the crowd, the sway of her hips was almost mesmerising.

Umi was having a rather shit week. She'd forgotten an assignment at university and was marked down because the professor didn't really like her anyway. Her girlfriend of the past year had just told her that they should 'just be friends'.

And just to finish things off, Hikaru and Fuu were away on a holiday, so she had gone out with a couple of old school friends to cheer herself up only for those supposed friends to vanished on her while she'd gone down to get them all another round of drinks.

"Where'd the two people that were here, go?" Umi asked the group of giggling girls that were sitting in their place.

"I don't know. This table was empty when we found it," said the loudest one with the badly bleached hair and fake eyelashes.

Umi stalked off down the length of the mezzanine, hoping to find another empty table to sulk at. This was the last time she would let those two talk her into going out with them. This was the third time they'd done something like this. What was the point of taking her out with them when they were just going to ditch her?

There weren't any empty tables, but there was a nearly-empty one near the other stairs. The guy sitting at it was definitely eye-catching. Unkempt hair framed a sharp face with striking eyes, she walked forward a few more steps on impulse.

"Hey, my so-called friends have totally abandoned me," she said, plunking herself down in the seat across from him and setting her drinks down on the table in front of her. "Do you mind if I sit here?"

"Well, you've already done it, so it's not like I can stop you," he said, over the small sheaf of papers he was holding.

Umi shrugged. "You could tell me to piss off, I guess."

"That would be rude," he replied, setting the papers down. "Sorry about your friends."

"Former-friends," she corrected, grimacing at the two extra drinks she'd just wasted money on. "Do you want one of these?"

He raised an eyebrow at her. "I feel I should inform you that I do currently have a boyfriend."

"I'm not asking you to sleep with me," Umi snapped. He was hot, but she didn't make a habit of going to bed with people she'd just met, but it did sting a little to be blown off by two guys in less than ten minutes. "I just wondered if you wanted one of these stupid fruity things those idiots talked me into buying. If I'm getting drunk, I want to actually taste the alcohol, you know. Otherwise, what's the point?"

"I think the point is usually to dull the senses, so tasting it doesn't really matter."

"Well, what do you suggest to dull being failed, dumped, and then abandoned in the same week?"

"I'd probably suggest some good tea, chocolate, and a bunch of terrible movies," he said, propping his chin on his knuckles as he looked at her with some consideration. "Though I don't know if you are a terrible romance or terrible action movie sort of person, so I don't have any specific suggestions."

"Both are good," Umi agreed. "Though I currently prefer my tea as ice cream."

"Heresy!" he exclaimed, clutching a hand to his heart as he gasped melodramatically.

Though she tried to hold a serious facade, Umi found herself laughing at the terrible over-the-top look of horror on his face. When she finally caught her breath well enough to speak, she realised she'd never actually introduced herself. "I'm Umi, but the way."

"Clef." He turned his head and waved a hand toward the young man - the same one she'd said 'hi' to downstairs - approaching them, before sliding over a seat. "And that would be my boyfriend. You're welcome to stay."

"No, it's fine," she said, practically leaping to her feet and nearly bumping into Clef's boyfriend in her rush. "I don't want to interrupt your date any more than I already have."

"Oh, no. This isn't a date. Well, not exactly. It's complicated." He waved for her to sit back down. "Stay. Maybe some good can come out of tonight if we can cheer you up."

The other man looked like a startled rabbit when he saw her. Face going bright red, he tried to say a few words to Clef but just babbled a few strange syllables before swallowing hard. Umi bit her lip, trying not to laugh. He was even cuter when all flustered like that.

"Sit down, Ascot," Clef said, giving a tug on Ascot's sleeve. "This is Umi. I'm pretty sure she doesn't bite."

"Only if you want me to," Umi grinned, and Ascot's cheeks went even redder.

There was a smirk curling on the edge of Clef's mouth as he raised the curious eyebrow at her again. She smiled wickedly at him with a look that hopefully said 'wouldn't you like to know', before hissing in a breath and turning her attention to Ascot, because she totally shouldn't be flirting with someone in front of his boyfriend, even if he was flirting right back.

"Anyway," Clef said, taking one of the drinks out of Ascot's hand. "Umi here has had a bad week, and to top it off, her former-friends have left her here. She's invited herself to sit with us, and I told her she could, if that's alright?"

Ascot swallowed again and nodded.

Clef hadn't remembered just how thrown Ascot was by new people. It took another half-hour or so of Clef doing most of the talking on their side before Ascot started to actually loosen up a little and join the conversation properly. But that might just have been because they learned that one of Umi's friends - Hikaru - was studying in the same department as Ascot.

"Wait," Umi said, holding up a hand. "You're the reason we have that damned cat, aren't you?"

"Oh, you still have him?" Ascot asked, enthusiastically. "Hikaru thought she might have to re-home him."

"We definitely still have him. He's such a little brat. I have to keep my bedroom door shut when I'm doing any work because he wants to be in my lap or my keyboard all the time."

Ascot laughed. "Yeah, my aunt wouldn't let me bring another animal home."

"Why didn't you take it, then?" Umi asked, turning to Clef.

"I'm not at home enough for a pet," Clef explained. Given Ascot's ability to find strays in the most unlikely places, he knew they'd probably have multiple animals if they ever moved in together. "Which one was this?"

"The kitten I found behind the science building," Ascot answered.

Umi slammed her glass down and held her hand. "Gimme your phone!"

Clef stared at her. "What?"

"Your phone," Umi repeated. "You know, the little computer thing that lets you talk to people far away."

"I know what a phone is. Why do you want mine?" Clef asked.

"Well, I obviously haven't got mine. It's the newest Ryuuzaki, so it definitely isn't fitting in my bra." As if to illustrate her point, she reached down her top and pulled out an ID card and a single credit card. "I wasn't allowed to bring it anyway because it would just 'lead to more moping' or some other stupid bullshit. Showing you photos of my stupid cat will make me feel better, okay."

"You can use mine if you want." Ascot reached into his pocket and pulled out his battered little phone. He clicked the button on the side, and nothing happened. Both he and Umi pulled a face at it. "…Or not."

Undaunted, Umi turned back to Clef and put out her hand back out.

"Fine." Clef reached into his bag and handed over the phone. "If it will cheer you up."

"Thanks." She pressed the home button. "Password?"

Ascot took it, typed in the code, and then passed it back over before Clef could even tell Umi off for asking.

"Do you have an Eterna? Oh, yeah. Here it is." She clicked the app and sat relatively patiently while it loaded. "Give me a second to find my profile, and I'll -" She never managed to find herself, let alone the cat photos before she let out a growl. "That fucking bitch." Clicking through on something, she then frantically scrolled through the screen muttering more and more hateful things.

He and Ascot exchanged a look and Ascot leaned over to look at the screen before turning to Clef to mouth, "Alcyone?"

"Why are you following her?" Umi demanded, holding up the phone to review a picture of his former student with what appeared to be a girlfriend, judging by the way they seemed to be all over each other.

"She's an old student of mine," Clef said. "I don't see why you're so bothered by a photo of her with her girlfriend."

"Her supposed ex-girlfriend," Umi sputtered. "You know, the person she supposedly stopped dating before she was dating me." She turned the phone back toward her and tapped a few things before turning the supposed-ex's profile toward him, scrolling through it for him. The woman looked startlingly familiar, but Clef couldn't work out if he knew her beyond just seeing her face on his Eterna following page every now and again. "Every one of these were taken while she was dating me. They never broke up. They've still been together the whole time. I can't believe I believed her when she said she didn't have an account."

Clef reached across the table and plucked his phone out of her shaking hands before she ended up breaking it. "Well, you're well rid of her, then."

"I'm the other woman," she muttered. "I'm the other woman, and I didn't even know."

Ascot patted her awkwardly on the back

"But what else did she lie about?" Umi asked, eyes brimming with tears. "Do you think she could have been sleeping with Nova too? Oh, shit! Who else could she have been with while we were together?"

"There's a reason I don't tend to like social media websites," Clef said, softly. "You learn things you don't necessarily want to know."

"Then why do you have an account?"

Clef shrugged. "Some of my students seem to forget that email exists and want to message me?"

"I only follow people for their animal videos," Ascot offered. "I'd show you some cute kittens, but, as you know, my phone's dead."

"I wasted months of my life with that liar." Umi picked up the next fruit drink and downed half of it in one go. "Do you know that I turned down Tarta Chizeta for her? Tarta Chizeta. I bet she wouldn't have cheated on me - or with me."

Blinking, Clef looked over at Ascot who shook his head and shrugged. A quick search on the internet turned up a fierce-looking fencing gold medalist. He stared over at Umi - who was slumped over the table stirring her last drink with the straw - and wondered just who this person was.

"I should probably head home," Umi sighed, reaching for the cards on the table. "Do you know if there's a cash machine around here?"

"You shouldn't take money out on a credit card, the fees are astronomical," Clef said, catching her hand. "We can pay for a cab if you want to go home."

"You don't have to. It's fine," Umi waved them off. "Thanks for keeping me company, I should go and let you two get back to your date, or whatever it is."

She stood up slowly, and there was something about the look in her eyes that made him not want to let her have to go home to an empty flat after a night like this.

"You know," Clef said, hoping Ascot would forgive him for making this offer without consulting him about it first. "There's ice cream and terrible movies at my place, if you want to come back with us?"

"Are you inviting me home with you?"

Clef waved his hand in a slightly confused gesture.

"There's a big comfy sofa and plenty of spare blankets and pillows," Ascot added, not at all upset. Clef breathed a sigh of relief. "And I can tell you from experience that Clef's taste in movies is awful."

"How do I know you two aren't actually axe murderers or something?" Umi asked, tucking her cards back into her top. "I mean, I was always told not to go home with strangers."

"Here," Clef pulled his phone back out of his bag and opened a new message, then typed in his address. "This is where I live. You can send that to whoever you want. And if you want more details, I'm Clef Mazda. You already know I work at Cephiro University in history." He slid the phone across the table to her.

Umi typed for another few seconds after he finished talking before passing the phone back. "Sent to my real friends and my mother, so no funny business, okay?"

"None. I promise." Clef grabbed any last loose paperwork and shoved it into his satchel before standing up to join the other two at the top of the stairs. He dropped an arm around Ascot's shoulders and laughed, "I'm not sure this is what Caldina meant by getting you to meet someone new."

Ascot wasn't sure what had gotten into him. Getting out to meet new people had been Caldina's idea that night, and given the little case of condoms she'd pressed into his hands before they went out, she'd had some expectation that he might spend the night with someone.

He had never expected to go home with anyone but Clef that night - leaving Caldina with the house to herself - and he most certainly hadn't expected Clef to invite a stranger home, even if it was only to watch movies.

But it had seemed like a nice thing to do.

The bright and cheerful woman who'd greeted him at the bar had been nothing but a facade covering a sad, heartbroken person who seemed nearly on the verge of tears every time she forgot her mask. If nothing else, a few cheesy movies and some snacks would hopefully take her mind off things for the evening, and maybe he'd have made a new friend by tomorrow.

Anyone who was friends with Hikaru had to be a pretty good person.

It wasn't until the three of them piled into the backseat of a taxi that Ascot started to question the decision.

Umi had ended up squeezed in the middle between him and Clef. She was so warm against his side, and Ascot found himself distracted by her scent. Her sweet and spicy perfume blended wonderfully with both Clef's warm woody cologne and the subtle musk fragrance that Caldina had spritzed Ascot with before they'd left the house. The three of them complemented each other so well, they couldn't have managed to match each other any better if they'd done it intentionally.

Umi chatted casually, like this was the most ordinary thing in the world, going home with two people she'd just met, and Clef seemed more than happy to hold up the other end of the conversation while Ascot was distracted how much he wanted to spend time with her when he was usually at his limit for interaction with new people after an hour or less.

Being with Umi felt familiar, the same way being with Clef always had. She slotted into the evening like she was always meant to come home with them that night, and when they got back to Clef's flat, she was the first one in the kitchen. She had started filling the kettle before Ascot thought anything of it. That was Clef's normal habit, but he'd disappeared into the bedroom almost the moment they'd walked through the door.

When he did realise, Ascot tried to wave her off. "Oh, no. I can do that."

"Filling the kettle's the least I can do for letting me crash here," Umi argued. "I'm guessing Clef is the sort to drink tea when offered, given he thinks green tea ice cream is a blight on the souls of mortal men."

Ascot burst out laughing so hard he had to brace himself on the counter. "He didn't say that," he choked out.

"Well, he did call it heresy, so close enough." Umi turned on the kettle and started opening the cupboards. "Does he have any coffee in here, or is that also an abomination?"

Finally catching his breath, Ascot shooed her to the door. "Let me do that. You're the guest."

"Well, Clef shouldn't have said to make myself at home, then," Umi said with a grin.

"How do you want your coffee?"

"Milk, no sugar." Umi strode out of the kitchen.

Ascot emerged with the drinks a few minutes later to find Clef watching over Umi as she inspected the DVD collection, and Ascot couldn't help but wonder what Umi thought of the wild selection of monster movies, romances, and action films.

The faded old Mashin t-shirt Ascot regularly borrowed was draped over the arm of the sofa with a pair of drawstring shorts. Something tightened a little in Ascot's chest as he looked at that shirt and suddenly wondered how many people had worn it before him, but he quickly pushed that thought out of his head and set the tray down on the coffee table.

"You're right. His taste is awful," Umi announced, holding up one of the action movies. "This guy can't even act!"

Clef rolled his eyes. "I'm pretty sure he wasn't hired for his acting ability."

"It takes more than a pretty face to make a good movie," Umi said.

"But the right pretty face can be enough to carry an entire franchise," Clef argued.

Ascot laughed. "If you think those are bad, you should see what's on the DVR."

Shaking his head in feigned exasperation, Clef took the mug Ascot handed him. "Since Umi's our guest, I said she gets first pick. Depending on what she chooses, we'll wait to see if we're awake enough for a second movie after that."

"Wait, I really have to choose?" Umi asked, horror-stricken. "But you have so many I've never even seen before."

"Yep," Clef nodded. "We'll await your decision."

Humming thoughtfully, Umi reached over and grabbed her coffee and the remote control. "So, what do you have saved on the TV then?"

"You could always just choose something off Webflicks," Clef suggested.

"That's cheating!" Umi declared. "You said we'd watch something from your collection."

"I remember saying no such thing."

Wriggling out of her dress in the bathroom, Umi had planned to think about which movie she was going to pick - she'd narrowed it down to three by the time she'd finished her coffee - but her thoughts drifted to how far the evening had deviated from the plan she'd been pitched by her so-called friends.

Being dumped sucked, and so did being abandoned, but she was actually really glad she'd met Clef and Ascot. They'd had her laughing multiple times already and the promise of terrible movies and ice cream sounded like a much better way to deal with a break-up than going out dancing ever had. It was the sort of thing she would have done with Hikaru and Fuu if they weren't on holiday.

She hung her dress on the hook on the back of the door - so it would hopefully not be in terrible shape when she had to wear it home in the morning - and got dressed. Clef's old band t-shirt was comfortably soft the way well-loved clothes often were, and something about the loose casual fit of it was reassuring.

Once she'd cinched the shorts tight around her hips, Umi opened the door.

"What kind of ice cream do you want? I don't have any of your blasphemous green tea flavour," Clef called from the kitchen.

"Do you have chocolate? Or are you nothing but boring plain cream without a hint of flavour?"

"Plain chocolate, chocolate chip, chocolate brownie, or chocolate fudge swirl?" Ascot asked leaning around the corner.

Umi couldn't help but laugh at that list. If that was just the chocolate options, how much ice cream did this Clef-guy keep in his freezer? "Just plain chocolate is fine."

Wandering round to the kitchen doorway, Umi found Clef with his jacket off and sleeves rolled up, and she couldn't help herself staring a little. He had nice arms and beautiful hands. She wasn't the only one captivated by the sight either; Ascot was watching Clef with equal interest.

The soft smile that turned up the corners of Clef's mouth when he looked over at Ascot a moment later made Umi feel like she was intruding on their evening.

"Is there anything I can do?" she quickly asked.

"Why don't you finish picking a movie," Clef suggested.

With a nod, Umi dashed back to the living room to give them space. She shuffled through the DVDs again, only to find one of her favourite comfort movies. There was no other choice. She turned on the DVD player and put in the disk before scrolling through the inputs on the TV to get it playing.

"There's also a sound system," Clef said, picking up another remote and pressing a button. "What did you pick?"

Umi held up the case. It was a sappy story and would probably make her cry given the circumstances, but she just loved the storyline. The negotiations over the terms of the marriage of convenience always made her laugh; the slow burn of the romance only ever edged toward frustrating before it burst beautifully into blazing flame, and the actors were absolutely perfect for their roles.

"Oh! I haven't seen that yet," Ascot said.

"It's one of my favourites!" Umi exclaimed at the same time as Clef.

The two of them exchanged a look of recognition before bursting out into laughter.

"Hopefully that means I'll like it too," Ascot said, handing her a bowl. "We weren't sure how much you wanted, but there's more if that's not enough."

There were two decently large scoops of chocolate ice cream in the bowl, and one bite told her it was one of her favourite brands too. This Clef-guy definitely had good taste.

Umi wasn't surprised when she ended up sitting between them again - Hikaru and Fuu sometimes put her as a barrier between them so they were less likely to forget themselves and get a little extra cuddly with each other - but it did start to be a little bit of a problem once they got about two-thirds of the way through the movie and Umi remembered that the really good chemistry between the leads had meant a ridiculously hot sex scene.

It wasn't the scene itself that changed things, but rather how it got her thinking about how the three of them were sitting so close she could feel the heat off their bodies and smell the intoxicating scents of their colognes, and…

She took a deep breath and tried to blow that next thought away with the exhale. She was here to watch a movie and crash on their couch. Both of them had made it pretty clear that they weren't interested in anything else.

But they had taken her home with them, so would it really hurt to just ask?

If the question made things too awkward she could just take Clef up on that offer of a cab, or even use one of their phones for the car service - her mother already knew she went home with someone, so she wouldn't question the charge more than checking Umi was okay after coming home at that hour.

Clef seemed like the better one to ask first, being older and seeming more experienced with these things, while Ascot was the sort to get flustered easily.

Trying to seem casual, Umi slid her hand out of her lap and onto Clef's knee.

Clef wasn't entirely surprised when Umi's fingers stroked over the fabric of his knee. He's felt her shift when the love scene started and there were very few interpretations of the sigh that followed.

Umi's touch was determined even if a little cautious, and there was no denying her intent when she whispered, "What would you say if I changed my mind about what I said earlier? Because I think maybe I am interested in sleeping with you - both of you."

Clef couldn't say he wasn't tempted by the suggestion. Umi was a beautiful woman, and he found her bold personality surprisingly endearing, but there were too many things about their current circumstances that could make even a one-night stand a bad idea.

With a sigh of his own, Clef took Umi's hand off his knee and returned it to her lap. "You've just broken up with someone. I don't think sleeping with either one of us is a good idea."

"I'm not asking to date you, either of you." She glanced back at Ascot on 'either', bringing him into the conversation. "I just - you're both kinda hot and we all know that I'm definitely attractive, and - well - it's okay if you don't want to. I'm a big girl; you can tell me no."

Clef opened his mouth to do just that, but there was something in Ascot's expression that gave him pause. Maybe he wasn't the only one interested in Umi's offer.

"Do you mind giving us a moment?" Clef said before he grabbed hold of Ascot's arm and hauled him off the sofa.

They needed to talk.

Ascot hadn't even had enough time to decide what he thought about Umi's suggestion before Clef was dragging him into the bedroom.

Clef leaned back against the closed door and pinched the bridge of his nose as he let out a frustrated sigh. Ascot knew that look. Clef wanted something he didn't think he should have. He's had the same expression on his face when he found out that Ascot was only a student and not a new instructor.

"Ascot, I have to be honest here," Clef said.

"You want to, don't you?" Ascot looked at the whitewashed wood behind Clef's head, thinking about Umi on the other side.

"Yes." Clef was looking him in the eye when Ascot turned back to him. "But I wasn't lying when I said it's a bad idea - she has only just broken up with someone."

"And it has nothing to do with the fact she's my age?" Ascot asked.

"We should just call it a night after the movie's over, let her crash on the sofa then I'll drive her home in the morning." Clef ran a hand through his hair and glanced back at the door.

Ascot swallowed. "What if I said I want to, too?"


"You asked her here so she wouldn't have to be alone tonight, and she'd definitely be alone if we went to bed… without her." Stepping forward, Ascot bent down to press a soft kiss to Clef's lips. "Like she said, we're not asking to date her. So what does it matter if sleeping with us is nothing but a rebound."

"We've never even talked about--" Clef made a gesture that sort of encompassed the whole of what they hadn't discussed - how exclusive they were going to be, where this was going, what they were doing. All were things that Ascot hadn't even realised they ought to have talked about before that night.

Everything had just evolved without much discussion and neither one of them had questioned it. They'd gone from acquaintances to friends and then lovers over the course of a few short months. And despite the unexpectedness, this just felt like another step on that road, and Ascot wasn't worried about what it would mean for his relationship with Clef.

Kissing Clef again, long and lingering, Ascot said, "We can talk in detail later."

"Okay then."

Clef opened the door and they both walked out to continue this conversation with Umi, who was perched on the arm of the sofa, waiting for them.

"So, is that a yes or a no on the sex?"

"Yes," Ascot said, barely able to hear his own voice over the thundering of his heart as he walked toward her. "If you're sure?"

"Wouldn't be asking if I wasn't."

A wicked grin curled up on the corners of Umi's lips as she closed the distance between them.

Umi tangled her fingers in Ascot's hair and pulled him down toward her, claiming his mouth with hers.

Ascot let out a startled gasp of surprise at her kiss, like he hadn't fully expected it to happen, and Umi couldn't help but laugh. He was the one to catch Umi off guard a moment later when he pulled her close, his kiss so full of intent it left her trembling.

"Wow," Umi breathed when they finally parted. She turned to look over at Clef. "You coming over here?"

Two steps and Umi tugging on the front of his cardigan brought Clef into her space.

Clef's kiss was full of experience, teasing and slow with a promise of just what he could do with that tongue of his.

Umi pressed her thighs together as the heat built in her core, imagining his mouth between her legs. The thought was so overwhelming, Ascot's lips brushing her neck made her squawk in surprise. She'd never had to keep track of two lovers before.

"You okay?" Clef asked, pulling back.

Umi nodded. Embarrassed to admit she'd almost forgotten there was someone else with them, even though she'd been kissing him a moment earlier. To appease her guilty conscience, Umi turned back to Ascot and kissed him again.

What Ascot lacked compared to Clef's experience, he more than made up for in enthusiasm. There was an almost addictive quality to the way he kissed her like it was the best thing he'd done all day.

Even if he was kissing Clef the same way a moment later.

There was something wonderfully erotic watching two people kiss with the same mouths she'd just tasted, knowing what that kiss must feel like.

Ascot tilted his head, leaning into the kiss, baring the line of his neck to Umi in a way that was too difficult to resist.

The gasping laugh of surprise Umi's kiss elicited was adorable, and the way Ascot moaned when Umi caught his earlobe between her teeth set Umi on fire.

It didn't take long before they were kissing her again, Ascot claiming her mouth and Clef exploring her neck. One of their hands slid up Umi's thigh and another slipped under the hem of her borrowed t-shirt and up her skin. The tentative hand cupping her breast had to be Ascot, the touch was as much curiosity as anything else. She wanted to melt into their arms, and pulled them both even closer, but the brush of Clef's fingers over her knickers made her pause.

"Hey, before I forget to ask, do you boys have any condoms?" Umi asked.

"I should have some," Clef answered, the heat of his breath against Umi neck made her shiver with need. "But if not, there are plenty of things we can do without them."

Nope. That was not the answer she wanted. Putting a hand on each of their chests, Umi pushed Ascot and Clef far enough back she could think of more than just wanting to feel their touch on her skin.

"You're both hot and all, but given I only just met you two tonight, I don't think so. I don't fuck strangers without protection." The last was more of a reminder to herself than a warning to them.

"I have some condoms," Ascot said, as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a thin hardshell case.

"When did you buy condoms?" Clef asked, bemused.

Ascot's cheeks went a brighter shade of red. "Caldina gave them to me before we left."

Clef snorted out a laugh. "Did she really think you were going to go home with someone you just met?"

Ascot bit his lip and glanced over at Umi, before laughing. "I have no idea." He opened the case and counted the little foil packets. "Three."

"I must have more," Clef said, striding back toward the bedroom.

"You're sounding pretty confident that you're going to need more than three," Umi said, following him in.

Clef turned and Ascot was standing in the doorway glancing between Umi and Clef and looking even more startled than he had been back at the club when he'd come back to find her at their table. Rolling his eyes, Clef turned back to the bedside table and started rifling through the top drawer. "One for each of us isn't going to accomplish more than the bare minimum, especially if you want to use protection for everything tonight." He found the box still shoved in the back of the top drawer with half a dozen in it. Clef set it and a small pair of scissors on the table, before turning back to them.

"Just seems sensible." Umi shrugged, but there was nothing casual about the hurt in her eyes. She was talking a big game about keeping herself safe since she didn't know them, but really, he wondered if she was more concerned about keeping them safe, given what she'd learned earlier.

Though he tried not to think of it - it had been years and years ago - Clef remembered that paranoia all too well. "Well, nine gives us more options, at least," he said, smiling his best smile. "How do you want to do this?"

It was Umi's turn to look slightly startled. "I have no idea. I've never actually done this with more than one person at once. Never knew what the logistics would be."

"Personally," Clef said, stepping forward and started unbuttoning his cardigan, slowly pushing one after the other through the holes. "I prefer taking it in turns. Focusing on one person at a time. Trying to get everyone off at once was always a bit lacklustre to me, but you might prefer to do it differently."

"What do you mean, one person at a time? Like I do you and then I do him?" She pointed back to Ascot at the door.

Clef shrugging the cardigan off dropped it lazily on the floor. "No, more like Ascot comes over here, and we will both work together to make you feel good. Then you and I will do the same for him. Afterwards, I'd like you to do the same for me. And then, if you're both still up for it after all that, we can start over with you again."

"Keep talking," Umi said, walking toward the bed. "I'm listening."

Ascot was a little startled at how it felt like things progressed both too fast and not fast enough after the condoms had been found.

This kissing continued just as it had before, only now on the edge of Clef's bed rather than against the arm of the sofa. Layers of clothing were peeled away to ease exploration of each other bodies. Somehow everything was both startlingly new and yet still comfortably normal. Ascot knew Clef's body nearly as well as his own at this point, but it was also the first time he'd ever been this vulnerable with someone else besides Clef.

Despite her amusement at his constant surprise at her touch, Umi was overwhelmingly gentle. The stroke of her fingers over his bare skin was almost ticklish.

Eventually, Clef leaned back into the pillows with Umi cradled against his chest, and his fingers teased over her breasts as she settled against him. The sight of them together had Ascot fumbling so badly with the first condom that he dropped it on the floor.

With an amused laugh, Umi helped him with the second. She grinned up at him as she slid it over him before drawing him back up the bed to where Clef was waiting for them.

Sliding into Umi was different than when he was with Clef - that was to be expected, of course - but it was just as good, and it felt just as right.

Umi's eyes met his, and for a moment, Ascot could hardly breathe. Everything was so overwhelming, and he wasn't sure he would last more than a few seconds if he shifted a single muscle.

But Umi didn't wait patiently for him to gain some control over his body.

"You can move, you know," Umi said, rolling her hip beneath him in a way that nearly pulled him straight over the edge. A mischievous grin spread across her face as he gasped. "You're not going to hurt me."

"Don't tease him if you don't want him to come yet." Clef's voice was rough in that way that made Ascot melt. He grinned at Ascot over Umi's shoulder as his hand trailed down to where Umi's body met Ascot's. "It's his first time being inside someone this way."

Umi shuddered as Clef's fingers moved, and Ascot felt Umi's body constrict around him. She arched between them as Ascot finally felt confident enough to move. One of Umi's hands was clinging to the nape of Clef's neck while the other was tangled in Ascot's hair.

Clef's free hand palmed Umi's breast before he playfully rolled her nipple between his fingers, drawing a sharp gasp from her lips.

Somehow watching his boyfriend pleasure someone else turned Ascot on even more, and it took all he had in him not to come at the same time Umi shattered beneath him.

"That was good," Umi said, her voice trembling nearly as much as her body. "Now, go fuck your boyfriend, Clef. That hardon's getting uncomfortable against my back."

Ascot went to pull out of Umi and let her recover, but she stilled him with a touch on his arm and a shake of her head. "You can keep fucking me if it feels good to you," Umi said. "Because it still feels very good to me."

"We can keep focusing on you," Clef said, as he carefully moved out from behind Umi. "You're the one who had a bad week."

"No. I already came. It's Ascot's turn now," Umi argued, shaking her head again. Little did she know, that movement sent almost enough of a tremor through her body to undo Ascot then and there. She turned to Clef and smiled. "And he wants you. I can see it in his eyes."

Heat flushed through Ascot's face. Was the desire that obvious?

Only a moment later, Clef was behind him, and his lube drenched fingers were enough to get Ascot moaning. The impatient thrust in pushed Ascot back into Umi. It was a wonderfully heady sensation to be pressed between them, and when Umi rocked up beneath him, Ascot was pushed back, knocking Clef deeper into him.

Two of them moving him between their bodies made Ascot feel a little out of control, but the overwhelming experience of it was so good that he thought he might be happy to do this all night.

"Was this what you meant by all of us at once?" Ascot asked, breathlessly, only for Umi to roll her hips again and draw another moan out of him. "Because I'm not opposed to this."

Clef didn't answer, only dragged his teeth across Ascot's neck that way he liked, and it was enough.

Ascot jolted forward, practically toppling over onto Umi as he came to a world-shattering end.

From the low grunt that followed, Clef was right behind him.

"I'm going to need a few minutes before I can go again." Clef rolled away and onto his back while Ascot pushed himself up off Umi.

"Are you okay?" Ascot asked her as he pulled out.

"Yeah," Umi answered, voice tinged with laughter. "While you boys recover, could one of you give me a hand and help me come again? I can do it myself, if not, but it's more fun with assistance."

Giggling like a child, Ascot reached back over and let Umi guide his hand between her legs. He wasn't entirely sure what to do, but he'd always been a quick learner.

Umi woke up sprawled across Ascot's chest. Her chin was wet and so was his t-shirt where she'd been dribbling on him. She tried to sit up, but Clef was curled up around her side with his arm wrapped around her waist, and face pressed into her back. His breath was hot against her skin, even through the fabric of her borrowed t-shirt, and it sent a fresh tremor of desire through her. Swallowing that thought, she rubbed her damp chin.

"Oh, you're awake," Ascot said, his voice soft and perhaps a little embarrassed. His cheeks were pink and his eyes were hidden by that long fringe of his. "Do you mind if I--"

"Go ahead," she said, trying to lift herself up enough that he could get out of the bed.

Once Ascot was gone, Umi extracted herself from Clef's embrace as carefully as possible, so as not to wake him. This proved easier to accomplish than she'd expected. The not waking him part, at least. Untangling herself was a little more difficult as his grip tightened every time she moved, but she was still ridiculously proud of herself for keeping him asleep by the time she made it to the door.

But pride didn't stop her body from aching from last night's activities.

She trudged to the kitchen and put the kettle on. She needed a cup of coffee before she even thought about getting dressed or calling the car service for a ride home.

Ascot joined her a few minutes later

"Do you want a coffee too?" Umi asked.

"Yes, please." He rubbed the back of his neck, face still flushed a bright pink. "Do you want something to eat?"

"Breakfast would be nice," Umi answered. She opened the cupboard and pulled out two mugs. "As long as you're the one doing the cooking; I'm useless in the kitchen."

"You're our guest; of course I won't expect you to cook," Ascot said with a laugh. "But surely you can't be completely hopeless in the kitchen."

"I'm better at baking cakes than I am at cooking," Umi said, opening the fridge for the milk. "But, I guess, I can manage toast if I need to."

"So, you're saying that even if I asked for help, you wouldn't be able to do anything?"

"I made you coffee, didn't I?"

Umi batted her eyelashes at him with a smile that threatened to turn into a laugh, and Ascot couldn't help but laugh himself.

Clef was only drowsing when a mug was set on his bedside table. "Thanks," he mumbled. Ascot spoiled him with these morning cups of tea.

The voice that answered wasn't Ascot's, and Clef's eye snapped open in surprise.

"Ascot's nearly finished with breakfast. If you think you can drag yourself out of bed, you should join us," Umi said with a laugh.

The events of the previous night crashed back to the forefront of Clef's mind as he looked up at Umi. The friendly smile on her face reminded him far too much of the mischievous grin she wore while riding him during one of their later rounds, and his body decided to take a suggestion from that memory of how to respond to her smile.

"I'll be out in a minute," he said and made a show of slowly sitting up. His body ached enough from last night's activities that it wasn't too much of an act.

"Don't talk too long, or we'll come and drag you out of bed," Umi said and waved as she left him.

Clef leaned back against the headboard and picked up his mug of tea. He decided a few moments of quiet as he finished the mug should be enough to calm his body down before wondering why he was even embarrassed by his morning solute when both of his houseguests had had their hands and more all over it last night.

But the embarrassment quickly faded with the application of caffeine and was all but obliterated by the sight of Umi and Ascot sitting at the table discussing the practicality of mecha in actual battle scenarios.

Umi was saying "Maybe they're a bit unwieldy, but you can't beat the wow factor of striding up onto the battlefield in one." She turned and looked up with a bright smile. "Good morning sleepy head!"

"Afternoon," Clef corrected at the same time as Ascot.

"It's not even one o'clock yet. That's practically morning," Umi argued.

Umi being there wasn't nearly as strange as the fact she felt like she belonged there - like this was any other morning in the last six months he'd been seeing Ascot. She fit so perfectly, passing him the salt and pepper, that Clef was almost embarrassed that he didn't even know her last name.

An invitation for her to come back sat on the tip of Clef's tongue, but he refused to say it.

Umi, on the other hand, had no reservations about extending invitations to come to her house. "I take it back, you definitely need to come over and show me how to make this," she said to Ascot, pointing to the quiche. "It can't be that much different than a custard tart."

"Says the woman who was swearing just an hour ago that making any savour food was impossible and would never happen," Ascot said with a laugh, before turning to Clef. "Did you know that Umi claims she can't cook, but she can bake any cake you can think of?"

"How can you bake but not cook?" Clef asked.

"Different set of skills, isn't it?" Umi rolled her eyes and took another bite of her quiche.

"I hope you don't mind that we used the pastry crust you had in the fridge," Ascot said. "I can pop out and replace it later, if you want."

"Don't worry about it." Clef waved him off. He'd been thinking about making an apple pie, but this was a perfectly fine use for it. He turned to Umi. "Surely you must be able to roast food. It's just a matter of putting it in the oven too."

"But the prep and timing are all different, and why does everyone make such a big deal about me not being able to cook? It's not like it's a skill I'll ever really need." Umi said.

Clef's phone interrupted any response he might have had by chiming out a message alert, and Umi bounced up to look.

"My ride'll be here in five minutes," she announced and shoved the last of her quiche into her mouth before disappearing into the bathroom.

"Cab fare," Clef said and pushed his chair back.

"She already turned me down. Something about a car service. I don't know."

"Car service?" Clef asked.

Ascot shrugged, but they both found out the answer when the doorbell rang a few minutes later and a uniformed man stood on the step.

"I'm here to collect Ms Umi," the man said.

"She'll be just a moment," Clef said, trying not to stare at the long black car parked in front of his house.

Umi reappeared a moment later, that sparkling little dress back on. "We should do this again sometime," Umi said, kissing each of them on the cheek in turn before she followed the driver out the door.

As they watched the car pull away, Clef realised that there was probably a lot more that he didn't know about Umi besides her last name.

Her phone number for one.

Umi leaving disappointed Ascot more than he expected.

Normally, he'd be ready for a guest to leave after only a few hours but Umi hit a similar spot as Clef where being with her didn't quite count as ‘socialising' as it did with some of his other friends. He'd almost hoped she'd stay a little bit longer. But he understood that both of her housemates were on holiday and someone needed to check on the cat.

Ascot sat down beside Clef on the sofa, cradling a cup of coffee. "Would you be interested in seeing her again?"

"We never got her number," Clef said with a sigh.

"She should have yours," Ascot said. "And I could get hers from Hikaru, or at least ask her to have Umi call us?"

As if in answer to that suggestion, Clef's phone chimed out its jaunty little message tone, and Clef reached over to glance at the screen, only to snap it up off the table and show it to Ascot.

The message read: Hi, boys. It's Umi. My housemates are still gone next weekend if you two want to come over to my place. We can order food and watch some more sappy movies, and stuff.

"Do you want to see her again?" Clef asked.

Ascot nodded, and his face went hot. "Yes, very much."


Clef hit reply and sent back: Yes. Just tell us when and where.

He turned back to Ascot. "What are you planning to tell your aunt?"

"I don't see how it's any of her business unless this arrangement becomes more serious." Ascot sipped his coffee, hoping his face wasn't nearly as red as it felt.