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It’s the last class of the day on a Friday, and Tetsurou isn’t sure he’s excited for the weekend. He shifts in his seat, wincing as the bruises on his back bump against the hard back of his chair. Self-conscious, he pulls his long sleeves down further on his arms and glances around him, checking to make sure no one saw the violet blooming on his wrists. He’s the only one in sleeves, and with good reason; the air is heavy with California heat and the scent of body odor. He's not sure if he resents the lack of air conditioning or climate change more. More than either of those, he resents the bruises.

Class is almost over and the hot air is full of soft chattering about weekend plans. The lecture hall is small and the desks are packed close together, making it impossible for him to avoid hearing his fellow students -- or smelling them. Tetsurou does his best to ignore both sounds and smells, preferring to get down the last bit of the lecture and put off the fact that he has to go home soon -- home where there may be angry shouts and violent hands throwing him around. Home, where that word will be spat in his face.

Tetsurou is struggling to keep his breathing under control when he hears the word again, not in the echoes of his memories but in the present, mere feet from his ears, “Nah man, Kenji won’t be joining us, he’s going to go be gay tonight,” the man sitting behind him whispers conspiratorially to his neighbor. Tetsurou does his best not to go rigid at the sound of the familiar syllable. His attention, as always, is drawn by the word, and he does his best to be discreet as he listens into the conversation.

“What does that even mean? Kenji isn’t gay, man.” The second voice sounds derisive, and Tetsurou wonders if it is possible for him to just disappear on the spot. Memories of the previous night bleed into his consciousness, and the bruises on his back throb.

“I don’t know man, I saw him coming from behind the halfway house on the west side. It’s pretty much common knowledge that place is like a gay whore house. He had serious sex hair, I’m telling you.” Tetsurou’s eyebrows shoot up, and he begins to put his things away with hands that shake slightly. He hasn’t heard the word three times in as many sentences without getting punched before. Zipping up his backpack, he pauses to rub a hand over the back of his neck, tugging up the back of his shirt to ensure the collar does not dip and reveal his secret.

“Those are just rumors, you can’t seriously think…”

“I don’t think, I know. Why do you think Kenji has been so low on cash lately?”

“Man, that’s fucked up.”

Chairs screech over linoleum, and the speakers get to their feet. Tetsurou waits until they’re safely out of earshot before releasing a sigh of relief and standing up himself. He flinches as he pulls on his backpack and hurries out of the classroom, his mind racing. He thinks back to last night, sitting at the kitchen table with an article about Proposition 8 and the history of marriage equality in California to highlight for class. His father stormed into his apartment, still dressed for court with critical eyes searching for something to be angry about. He remembers the word being screamed in his face as his dad picked up the article and crumpled it. His back throbs under the weight of his backpack as he recalls how his father grabbed him by the arms and hauled him out of his chair; How he slammed him against the wall with enough force to take Tetsurou’s breath away again and again and again . All over that goddamn word .

It would make sense for him to forget all about the things his father thinks he is, to get a girlfriend and stash some porn magazines under his bed to be convincing. To be everything he should be, to never hear that goddamn word again and never earn another bruise for it.  His fists clench at his sides as he thinks about it, a faceless girl and some magazines filled with pinup models with huge tits. Being the perfect son, standing beside his father at press conferences and on the campaign trail, who gets married young and goes into business. Making his father look well-adjusted and electable to the local Japanese-American community, despite raising his child alone. He’s still walking through campus, but he’s not paying attention to his surroundings. Instead, he’s brooding. It would make sense, Tetsurou thinks, and yet he can’t do it. The word weasels its way back into his mind, taunting him.

“I’m not gay,” Tetsurou whispers to himself, desperately quiet. He’s wandered into a deserted quad on the edge of school grounds, but he’s still afraid of being overheard. He speeds up, as if trying to put distance between him and his hollow declaration. The words feel empty as he says them. He wishes he’d had the courage to say them the previous night. He wishes he could believe them himself.

Eager to escape his thoughts, he focuses his attention outward, and realizes he’s wandered off campus and into the collection of run-down houses that surround the campus’s western edge. Startled by the change in surroundings, he pulls out his phone and finds his location on the map app. He’s never been over this way, warned away by his father’s tales of “bad areas” where the druggies he has sent to jail come from. This is where the new immigrants live, and Tetsurou knows he’d be hard pressed to find a familiar face around here. Looking around, he takes in the small houses with their small yards and open air porches. Some of them have peeling paint and a few others could use some weeding in the lawn, but overall it doesn’t seem nearly as dirty or dangerous as his father had made it out to be. He should’ve known, he thinks as he zooms in on the map so he can see street names. His father has a knack for seeing the worst in things, and this is no exception.

“Let’s see here…” He scans the screen, trying to figure out where he is. He is in no rush to get home, knowing what may be waiting for him, and decides he may as well do some exploring while he’s here. There’s gotta be something interesting around here, he reasons as he squints down at the map. He takes note of several restaurants and what appears to be a skating rink before his eyes catch on something that makes his heart lurch. Halfway Home Rehabilitation Centers, the map reads, the text hanging over an intersection about seven blocks away from where Tetsurou is standing. The conversation that had triggered his brooding wandering echoes in the back of his mind. Gay whore house .

This is his chance, Tetsurou realizes. His whole life, he’s been beaten on for what his father thinks he is, but he’s never actually been with a man. Sure, he’s had crushes, but he’s never actually been able to go anywhere with them, leaving him hopelessly confused about his feelings. This is his chance to try, no strings attached, to see if he is… that. This is his chance to prove to himself he’s not gay , that he can be normal and his father can accept him. Or at the very least, it’s his chance to be sure he hasn’t forsaken his father’s love his whole life over a giant misunderstanding.

In a rush, Tetsurou follows his phone map to a bank and takes out as much money as the ATM allows. He stuffs it into the back pocket of his jeans, hoping it’s enough. He knows his dad won’t question where the money went. Heck, if Tetsurou told his father he’d bought sex, he would probably clap him on the back and congratulate him for being a real man. So long as he didn’t know that Tetsurou had bought sex with another man.

Summoning up every last shred of courage he possesses, Tetsurou makes his way over to the house. Recalling the words of the men from class, he goes around back and raps on the back door with his knuckles. He’s trembling a little, which he knows won’t get him very far, so he straightens his back and adopts the cocksure expression that has been his ever reliable tool to make people think he’s more confident than he really is.

The door swings open to reveal a tall man with slicked back black hair and a severe expression. He’s is well muscled, Tetsurou notes, and if he really is the owner of a prostitution ring, it’s likely that he’s armed. He’s heard stories about pimps from his father, who’d been shot at in court once by one. Knowing what he’s doing is dangerous at best, Tetsurou decides to place himself in control of the situation and leans casually against the doorframe, the picture of suave.

“A friend of mine tells me you sell boys here.” His voice is soft, but laced with a provocative edge that he’s spent years mastering. He’s never thought that his provocation skills would earn him anything off the volleyball court or outside of debate tournaments, but the slight raise of the other man’s eyebrows indicates he made a good call.

“Your friend knows what he’s talking about,” the man tells him, a smirk playing on his lips. “Any particular desires?”

“You seem like a man of discerning tastes, I bet you can get me what I need.” Tetsurou stares down at the man with a steady gaze and a small smirk of his own, hoping that he won’t notice the way his hands are still shaking a little. It’s probably the most bullshit thing he’s ever said, but he has no idea how else he could have responded without revealing his complete inexperience with sex.The man looks back at him, appraising. Tetsurou has never been so glad that his father makes him dress like a rich asshole as the other man takes in his designer skinny jeans and close fitting button down.

“I get the feeling you’ll like Kitten,” the man says after a few beats of silence. “He’s three hundred a night, cash only, pay up front.”

Tetsurou reaches into his jeans pocket and pulls out his wad of bills. He counts out three hundred and hands it to the man, who takes it and re-counts it carefully. Apparently satisfied, he nods and beckons Tetsurou in. Tetsurou follows him silently up a flight of stairs, taking in the place as he walks. Like the rest of the area, it’s not beautiful on the inside, but it’s cleaner and more hospitable than one might expect. The stairway opens up to a hallway which is lined with closed doors of various colors. Sounds of sex drift under the doors and over to Tetsurou’s ears, reminding him why he’s here. He’s going to have sex with a man. He’s not sure if the thought terrifies or excites him.

The man walks over to a bright red door with black trim and knocks loudly. “I have someone here to meet you, Kitten,” he calls through the door. There’s a rustle behind the door and the unmistakable click of high heels. The footsteps grow closer, and the door swings open to reveal a young man. He’s clad in jet black stilettos and red skin tight jeans that hang dangerously low on his hips, revealing a pale, flat stomach. A strappy black crop top stretches over his upper body, baring smooth skin and leaving little to the imagination. The dim light emanating from the single overhead lamp inside the room gives him an ethereal look. Gold eyes gaze up at Tetsurou under hooded lids, and he can’t tell if the way “Kitten” bites his lip looks seductive or nervous. His thin shoulders are slightly hunched and his chin is angled down, allowing his choppy blond hair to fall in his face. He’s beautiful, Tetsurou realizes. Heat rises to his face as he remembers he’s here to have sex with this gorgeous man. The prospect no longer sounds so much terrifying as inviting.

“If you don’t mind, I think we’d like to be alone,” Tetsurou murmurs, his eyes never leaving Kitten. He pays no mind to the brothel owner as he turns and walks away, focusing instead on Kitten as he turns heel into the bedroom and gestures for Tetsurou to follow. Tetsurou swallows and walks in behind him, shutting the door with a click. He slings his backpack off and allows it to fall to the floor, sure he won’t need it. Kitten turns and looks at him, and Tetsurou determines that the bite of his lip is definitely nervous. He’s doing his best to look seductive, but it’s obvious that Kitten is uncomfortable. The enormity of what he’s doing hits him, fresher and heavier this time. He’s here to have sex with this man.

“What would you like to do?” Kitten purrs. He’s standing just inches in front of the large double bed that takes up most of the room, and it’s clear he expects to be in it soon. His posture has changed, and the way he holds himself puts on full display the slender beauty of his small body, but his eyes are still guarded. It’s obvious the line and the pose are practiced, but he’s not sure what to make of the nerves in Kitten’s eyes. Tetsurou had thought that he would be the only nervous one. The tension in the room is doing nothing to calm him down as he wonders what the hell he’s doing here. He’s not gay, so what is he doing here with a male prostitute?

Another look at Kitten gives him his answer. It’s undeniable that Tetsurou is attracted to him, and he can already feel his jeans straining as he starts to get hard. He needs to know what this feeling is. He needs to be sure.

Tetsurou looks down and stuffs his hands in his pockets, uncomfortable. “To be honest, I’ve never done this before.”

“This?” Kitten prompts. His voice is deeper than the first time he spoke, more natural. It’s clear that he’s confused.

“I, uh, well…” Tetsurou pauses. He’s never admitted this out loud. “I haven’t ever had sex before.”   

Much to his surprise, Kitten appears to relax. The slouch of his shoulders now seems casual rather than cowed, and he’s no longer gnawing on his lower lip. He takes a few tentative steps over to Tetsurou and peers up at him, eyes searching. There’s still fear in his eyes, but the rest of his expression seems eager, even friendly. Tetsurou feels a rush of attraction, and finds he wants to banish the worry from that pretty face. This wasn’t at all what he’d been expecting, and he surprises himself with being okay with it.

“I…” Kitten trails off, as if gathering his courage. “I could show you what to do. If you want.”

Please .” The word has barely passed through his lips when Kitten curls his fingers in the front of Tetsurou’s shirt and pulls him down for a kiss. Tetsurou makes a muffled noise of surprise, but allows himself to close his eyes and enjoy the sensation. He’s been kissed before, lips tasting of fruity chapstick and feminine in their plumpness, but this is the first time he’s ever wanted to kiss back. His hands twitch at his sides, and he tentatively gives into instinct and places them on Kitten’s slim hips. Kitten, apparently emboldened by Tetsurou’s initiative, reaches around him and places one small hand on the back of his head, pulling him closer into the kiss. The other presses against the small of Tetsurou’s back, pressing them flush against each other. Tetsurou can feel himself growing hard in his jeans, and he shamelessly grinds against Kitten’s abdomen.

Kitten pulls off Tetsurou’s mouth with a gasp and give him a faint smile. “Follow me,” he whispers, moving his hands to hook his fingers in the loops of Kuroo’s jeans. Tugging gently, he leads them to the bed and pulls Tetsurou down on top of him. Tetsurou does his best not to fall on the other man as he pitches forward, and ends up between Kitten’s legs with his arms framing Kitten’s head. Kitten stares up at him with wide eyes, and Tetsurou wants nothing more than to kiss the look off his face. So he does. Their lips meet, more gently this time, and Tetsurou takes the time to enjoy the feeling of Kitten’s mouth against his own. How had he gone so long without this? He’s not sure, but now that he has it, he wants to enjoy it as much as he can.

Beneath him Kitten has visibly relaxed, and appears to be enjoying himself at least as much as Tetsurou is. Tetsurou feels a rush of happiness as he notices, and drags his lips away so he can smile down at Kitten, overwhelmed by the urge to share this new feeling. Kitten gives him a shy smile in return, and tilts his head back in invitation. Tetsurou grins and kisses from the lobe of Kitten’s ear down his neck to his collarbone, enjoying the way he squirms beneath him as he locates sensitive areas. He pauses as he reaches the top of Kitten’s shirt, torn between wanting to take it off and being paralyzed by the fear that he’s moving too fast. Kitten solves his dilemma for him, maneuvering beneath him to slip out of his shirt and bare his chest.

Tetsurou has to stifle a whine of desire as he looks down at the man below him, and he descends upon him with a flurry of worshipping kisses. Tetsurou has always been an affectionate person under the layers of fear that his father has instilled in him, but this is the first time he’s ever gotten to let go and just let himself feel and care in the way he’s always wanted to. It doesn’t matter to him that Kitten is a stranger or that he doesn’t even know his real name, only that Kitten is here and that Tetsurou has the power to make him happy and feel good. How could I have let him keep this from me for so long? Testurou wonders as he whispers to Kitten that he’s beautiful in an awed voice. Kitten whines at that, and cups a hand at the back of Tetsurou’s head to pull it to his chest -- a request. Kuroo obliges him and takes a small, pink nipple into his mouth and nibbles gently. Kitten keens and Tetsurou swears any blood he had left in his brain is rushing down to his dick.

Tetsurou pulls back to admire the view beneath him, and Kitten takes the opportunity to unbutton Tetsurou’s shirt and start pulling it off him. Tetsurou smiles, pleased with the development, until Kitten’s fingers brush his shoulders.Tetsurou’s blood runs cold. He’s suddenly hyper aware of the ugly bruising that is throbbing on his back. What is Kitten going to think of him when he sees? That he’s ugly? That he’s weak for letting this happen to him? Kitten, apparently sensing his discomfort, surges up and catches his lips in a gentle kiss, sliding Tetsurou’s shirt off the rest of the way while he’s distracted. Tetsurou winces as his bruises are bared, remembered pain pulsing through his body. Kitten inhales sharply, and Tetsurou begins to curl in on himself, expecting harsh words and and striking hands. What he does not expect is to have his hands clasped and his bruised wrists brought to Kitten’s mouth. He does not expect the gentle, almost apologetic kisses Kitten leaves there before moving up his arm to kiss the tops of his battered shoulders. He does not expect to feel cherished .

Tetsurou exhales his relief and relaxes back into the moment, ignoring the dampness around his eyes. Kitten caresses him gently, his soft fingers tracing delicate patterns into Tetsurou’s bruise-mottled skin and soothing him with gentle sounds. Tetsurou leans down and allows his weight to press down on Kitten so he can cup the other man’s face and kiss him properly. The hands on his back move down and become increasingly insistent as they move to cup his ass, and Tetsurou gasps as Kitten pulls him down to grind their dicks against each other. Tetsurou bites back a moan, unsure of what to do next. They’re both still in their pants, and as much as Kuroo would like to strip them both, he’s also nervous about what comes next. He’s heard enough about gay sex to know that there’s got to be lube and stretching involved. He’s not sure if he wants to be the one on bottom, but he sure as hell doesn’t trust himself not to hurt Kitten.

Kitten is reading his desires like a book, Tetsurou realizes as the smaller man reaches between them and begins to unbutton his jeans. Panicked, Tetsurou speaks up. “Wait!” Kitten freezes, and Tetsurou realizes he’s startled him with the sharpness of his tone. Taking care to soften his voice, he speaks again. “I… I don’t know what to do from here.”

Kitten gives him a soft, understanding smile, and pushes up gently on Tetsurou’s chest. Tetsurou flips off of him and sits beside him on the bed, staring down at his hands. Kitten reaches over and puts a tentative hand on his thigh.

“Do you want to be on top or bottom?” he asks. His tone is patient, and Tetsurou can already feel his comfort returning. He feels a rush of gratitude towards Kitten, and he looks over to meet his gaze.

“Uh, I guess I’d rather top. But… I don’t want to hurt you.”

Kitten snorts derisively, his face scrunching up in amusement. “I’ve had enough experience.” Tetsurou blushes at the reminder that he’s here with a prostitute, but relaxes in spite of himself. Everything is going to be ok. “But I can stretch myself if you’d like.”

Tetsurou nods. Kitten stands and walks over to the only other furnishing in the room, a bedside table. Tetsurou cannot help but be drawn in by the graceful movements of his long legs, lengthened by his stilettos. Pulling out a drawer, Kitten retrieves a bottle of lubricant and a box of condoms and tosses them on the bed. He pauses, and then stoops to take off his shoes and deposit them on the floor. He moves like he’s putting on a show as he shimmies out of his pants, revealing a pair of lacy black panties. Tetsurou swallows. Kitten’s erection is obvious through the thin fabric, and it springs free when those too fall to the floor. Looking at it, Tetsurou finally understands why people give blow jobs. He wants to feel it, taste it, worship it.

Kitten lies back on his back and takes the bottle of lube in his hand. There’s a click of the lid and a wet sound, and then he’s reaching down between his legs and pressing a single finger into himself. He gives a small moan, and Tetsurou whines needily in return.

“Hey,” Tetsurou whispers, his eyes fixed on the movement of Kitten’s fingers and the flushed pink shape of his cock against his stomach. “Can I... “ He’s not sure how to phrase what he wants to do, but Kitten whines out a yes before he can even try. Emboldened, Tetsurou moves to shift Kitten further up the bed, and then settles between his legs. Careful not to jostle his hand, which now has two fingers moving inside of him, Tetsurou takes Kitten’s cock into his mouth.

The taste is odd, but the velvety smooth feel of the flesh and its weight on his tongue feels heavenly, and Tetsurou runs his tongue around the head to get more of it. Kitten groans at that one, and Tetsurou doubles down his efforts, licking and sucking and just experiencing Kitten’s dick with his mouth. His thoughts return again and again to how he cannot believe that he’s never done this before, that he’s waited so long to feel this way about another person. He buries the reason and and allows himself to marvel instead at the rush of new experiences, each of which is more exhilarating than the last. It’s sloppy and wet and he’s almost positive he’s not doing a good job, but it’s not long before Kitten is moaning and words of warning tumble from his lips. Tetsurou continues sucking, determined to see this through, and swallows eagerly when bitterness floods his mouth. Objectively it’s not very pleasant, but in the heat of the moment it feels like the hottest thing he’s ever done.  

He looks up at Kitten as he slides his dick out of his mouth, gauging his reaction. He’s suddenly insecure, knowing full well that Kitten has probably gotten more blowjobs than he’d care to think about and that his was mediocre at best. Tetsurou opens his mouth, although he’s not sure what he wants to express other than his remorse that he didn’t do better, but Kitten beats him to the punch.

“That was good. You were so good,” Kitten whispers. Tetsurou feels a shiver run down his spine, and he groans a little involuntarily. Kitten’s eyebrows raise at that, and a sly smile dances on his lips. A wet sound draws Tetsurou’s attention down, and he realizes that Kitten is slowly pulling four fingers from within himself. Tetsurou’s eyes widen, and he can’t help but freeze up a little again as he realizes once more that he’s hit a landmark. This is it.

“Hey.” The sound of Kitten’s voice jolts Tetsurou out of the depths of his own thoughts, and he looks up to meet Kitten’s eyes. “Can you be good for me again?” Tetsurou’s face is hot, and he nods. Kitten’s smile grows wider. “I know you’re gonna take good care of me. Can you be a good boy and put one of these on?” He reaches over to pull a condom out of the box, which had been lying forgotten on the bed next to them, and hands it to Tetsurou. Compelled by Kittens words, he hastily rips open the foil and rolls the condom down over himself. Kitten watches him with hungry eyes. Trembling slightly, Tetsurou lines up with Kitten’s slick entrance and takes a deep breath. Kitten whines as he begins to press in slowly, relishing the heat and tightness of Kitten’s body around him as he inches forward.

God , you feel so good,” Kitten gasps when Tetsurou is fully seated. There’s that shiver down his spine again, and Tetsurou makes pleased noises as he preens under the praise. He leans down and presses gentle kisses on Kitten’s face as he rolls his hips gently, getting a feel for the motion.

“You’re so beautiful,” Tetsurou whispers in his ear, and they’re pressed close enough that he can feel the way Kitten’s body reacts to his words. Tetsurou grins wickedly. Two can play at that game. “You feel incredible ,” he tells Kitten, thrusting hard into him for emphasis on the last word. They both gasp a little at the sensation. “Do you have any idea how pretty you are? How hard I got just looking at you?”

“You’re so good to me,” Kitten gasps out between thrusts, which are increasing in speed and intensity. “Why are you so good to me?”

“Because you deserve it,” Tetsurou tells him, and it’s true. Kitten has done nothing but make him feel secure and happy all night, and he wants desperately to return the favor. He shifts a little, changing the angle of his thrusts, and suddenly Kitten is keening and grabbing at Tetsurou’s back to pull him in faster. Tetsurou can barely feel the pain of Kitten’s fingers digging into his bruises, focuses as he is on the pleasure building in his lower body and the sound of Kitten’s voice moaning praises in his ear. He knows he won’t last much longer, so he reaches down between them and takes Kitten’s dick into his hand, teasing his thumb over the head. This, at least, he knows how to do. Rolling his hips hard against the spot that is making Kitten come undone, he trails feather soft kisses along the column of Kitten’s throat towards his mouth. When he finally reaches it, he presses their mouths together and then whispers against Kitten’s lips, sweet and soft.

“Come for me, beautiful.”

Kitten spills over Tetsurou’s hand with a soft cry of pleasure, and Tetsurou comes soon after. He collapses on top of Kitten, enjoying their closeness and ignoring the stickiness of cum that coats both their stomachs. Warmth and contentment fill his body as the post-orgasm glow sets in, and Tetsurou is sure he’s never felt more at peace than here in the arms of a stranger. Kitten squirms a little beneath him, and Testurou pulls out and peels off the condom. Tying it off, he tosses it in the trash can by the bed. He flops back down onto Kitten, who protests his weight. Kitten shifts, and Tetsurou allows himself to be moved so they’re lying front to back. Tetsurou reaches out an arm and pulls Kitten towards himself, snuggling up against his smaller form. I’m definitely gay , he thinks to himself as he buries his nose into Kitten’s hair and inhales the scent of his shampoo. His eyes fall closed, and he allows himself to focus on his sense of touch. Every place his skin is pressed against Kitten is pleasantly warm, and Tetsurou nuzzles him, trying to get more of it. For a moment, all he feels is comfort.

I’m definitely gay. His eyes snap open as he realizes what he’d thought. The hand he has rested on Kitten’s stomach twitches, and he can feel the bruise on his wrist pressed against Kitten’s skin. I’m gay , he thinks, and his back throbs. I’m gay . At the back of his mind he can hear the sharp sound of a slap against skin of his cheek. I’m gay . The dull thud of his back hitting the wall again and again. I’m gay . Hunger panging in his stomach because he was sent to his room without dinner. I’m gay. The crunch of a fist against his rib cage. I’m gay . Hot tears streaming down his face as he listens to his father scream. I’m gay. The fake smile he wore to protect his father’s image from his bruises and his sexuality.

Tetsurou doesn’t realize he’s crying until Kitten turns around and runs a thumb under his eye. It comes away wet, and it glistens slightly under the dim light of the room. Kitten looks at him, his face a mix of concern and confusion. When he speaks, it’s soft and worried.

“What… what’s wrong?”

“I’m gay .” Tetsurou chokes back a sob. His chest feels like it’s knotted, and breathing is difficult. He can feel Kitten tensing beside him, unsure of what to do or how to handle him, and Tetsurou scrambles for something, anything to make the situation better. “It’s not… It’s not your fault I’m upset. I… I just never believed it until now. And… I’m scared . God I’m so scared.” He pauses.  “I’m sorry.” He takes a deep, shuddering breath. “It’s just been so bad for so long and I can’t even deny it anymore.”

Kitten’s eyes flit to the swollen shadows on his wrists, and then up to his shoulders where Tetsurou knows more darkness peeks out. There’s a soft ‘ah’ of understanding, and the tension leaves his body. He reaches out to Tetsurou and pulls him close, making soothing sounds as he runs soft fingers over his sides. The touch is reassuring, and Tetsurou leans into it, seeking any comfort he can get. They lie like that for a long while, and somewhere along the way the tightness in his chest uncoils and his breathing evens out. He exhales slowly in relief as he feels himself slowly, and presses a gentle kiss to Kitten’s forehead.

“Thank you,” he whispers. Kitten nods in acknowledgement. Satisfied, Tetsurou closes his eyes and allows himself to drift.

He’s not sure how much time has passed when a sudden knock comes at the door. Kitten jolts at the sound, startling Tetsurou into alertness. It’s then he realizes that they’re both still naked. He jumps out of bed and rushes to put his clothes on while Kitten lazily moves to wrap himself in a sheet and get the door. It opens to reveal the brothel owner, who holds out a small plastic container to Kitten. Kitten takes it into his hands, which are trembling slightly, and murmurs thanks. Staring past Kitten, the man gestures at Tetsurou, who is still buttoning his shirt.

“Time’s up bud, be out of here in 15 minutes or you’ll have to pay for it.” Tetsurou frowns, sure that he’d paid for a night and not just a few hours, but does not protest. He’s pushing his luck being here again. The door slams shut, leaving the two of them alone. Tetsurou finishes the last button of his shirt and grabs his backpack, slinging it over one shoulder.

“So, uh, thank you, for this,” Tetsurou stammers, unsure of how to properly communicate the gratitude and affection he feels towards the other man. Kitten is standing facing him, still right in front of the door, looking especially small shrouded in the large sheet of the double bed. “This, how do I say this without sounding weird… well, it meant a lot to me. So thanks, Kitten.”

“Kenma.” Kitten’s voice is quiet, and Tetsurou cocks his head, not sure if he’s heard right. “My name’s Kenma. Call me Kenma.”

Tetsurou blinks. Kenma? He says the name quietly, and finds he likes the way it feels on his tongue. Smiling, he strides forward and presses a gentle kiss to Kenma’s forehead. “Thank you then, Kenma.” He hesitates, and then stoops to press another soft kiss to Kenma’s mouth. Then he steps around him and opens the door, stepping out and leaving Kenma alone in the room.

Kenma presses his fingers to his lips, feeling the lingering sensation of the man’s mouth on his own. His heart is beating loudly in his chest, but for once he doesn’t feel like he’s about to panic. This customer had been stressful, certainly, but he’d also been warm and kind in a way that he hadn’t experienced in a long time. The man had read him, understood him, and never once pushed his thoughts towards panic or terror. Instead, he’d done everything he could to make Kenma feel safe. It’s the calmest that Kenma’s felt sober in a long time.

He strides over to the bed, sheet trailing behind him, and flops down unceremoniously. He’s still holding the pill box that Washijou gave him, and it rattles as he hits the mattress. He’s starting to feel the aching pain that holds him until the real craving for the drugs sets in, but for once he’s willing to put off taking them. The painkillers numb him and, for once, his emotions aren’t ones he wants dulled. Lying back on the bed, he allows himself to feel the warmth in his chest and recalls gentleness of the customer with the shy smile and terrible bedhead. He’ll give in eventually, but for now he’ll bask in these new, unfamiliar feelings that make him want to experience them the way they’re meant to be.