To Bloom

by Wo Xi Huan (我喜歡)


One day Minnie-chan comes to school looking like a heroin addict. Taro feels a curl of worry settle in his stomach as he watches her lurch over to her seat and slump down, chin to her chest, eyes filmy and sunken. He doesn’t like to see his dearest nee-chan looking like that. Usually it means her father had been drinking again and had hurt her again.

Today, though, he isn’t sure what happened to her.

Minnie-chan sits still all through Math, staring at somewhere left of the window, which shows curling and frisking gray clouds. Taro notes this, notes that her eyes do not blink, and feels the worry in his stomach growing into full-on anxiety. Minnie-chan wants to be a mathematician- she says that numbers are simple and pure, unlike people.

When lunch comes, Minnie-chan is quiet and does not eat. Her skin is turning an odd, off, ashy-blue color, almost the color of the sky outside.

“Minnie-chan,” he says, pondering his lunch, feeling for the first time in a long while awkward about the childish endearment, “are you… okay?” He glances up hopefully. She nods after a moment, but it is a moment too long. Taro feels the vine of anxiety in his chest tighten around his lungs. Minnie has been on medication for ADHD for as long as her father has been drinking. “Because I was thinking, maybe you’d like to stay over at my house tonight? Mom and Dad are gone of course, but we could order Chinese or Greek or Italian or, or…” For once, he finds himself at a loss for words. Minnie is standing, leaving her tray at the table, empty, and walking away.

Taro debates with himself for only a second before sprinting after her.

They walk away from the school in silence. Minnie-chan is shaking now, and tears are leaking out of her eyes slowly, like pus from a wound. Taro tries to put an arm around her shoulder but she flinches away from it and instead grabs for his hand, ferociously. He feels the bite of her long nails and winces.

Some small part of Taro worries about the fact that they’re skipping school. He soothes it by reminding himself that his parents don’t care and Minnie’s father is probably too drunk to understand if anybody calls him about it.

They slow in front of a graveyard that has an old house in it. The house has been refurbished, clearly, and there’s a man sleeping on a lawn chair next to the pool. Taro hopes that they aren’t going to get any closer to the house or the man. He’s been anxious about trespassing, ever since his father came home from a business trip and found Taro sleeping in his office. The man is the impossibly handsome type, like a movie star or a model- his face is tanned golden from the sun and unlined from hardship.

“That man,” Minnie says, her fingernails biting harder and sharper into his palm, “is a vampire. And I,” she turns so that her face is nestled between his shoulder and his neck. Taro is short, due to some nutrition problems as a child, and Minnie-chan is tall, due to her mother’s genetics. “I am supposed to kill them. I’m scared, Taro. Dad… said it was my job.” Taro stares up at the man by the side of the pool. He doesn’t look like a vampire.

“Your father was probably drunk, Minnie-chan-” Taro begins, worried that she even believes the ramblings of a chronic drunk, but she pulls him down and forces their mouths together. Taro jerks away and is wiping off saliva before he can stop himself, and Minnie is on the ground, her legs splayed, her panties visible between them. Taro averts his eyes. Shakes his head. “We’re not like that, Minnie,” he forces himself to reinsert, “-chan.”

She hears the gap and stands up, wiping the dust from her skirt.

“As for your father,” he shakes his head and draws a hand down over his face, “he had probably just watched too many episodes of Buffy or something. You… what happened to you last night?”

Minnie-chan utters a little half-laugh and clutches herself. “Mom was killed by one of them. I remember now. Dad told me all of it, about how it’s a duty I got from her. After. You know.” Taro bites his lip and forces himself to not think about what her father does to her. “But!” She growls, low and desperate-sounding, “I don’t want to end up like Mom. Dead and face-down in a puddle of my own blood or whatever. Married to a man like Dad. Popping out kids that die or vanish into the world.” Taro remembers for an unimportant moment that Minnie-chan has three estranged older siblings, two dead younger. He wonders what Minnie-chan would have been like if any of them stayed or lived.

“So what are you going to do?” Taro hopes that he can get Minnie-chan to the counselor’s before she does anything rash enough to warrant police. He notices distantly that his hand feels wet and sticky and sighs. It’s a warm day; in his haste to follow Minnie-chan, he must have spilled his soda.

“I’m going to join them,” she tells him. A wind, wild and dusty, blows past them, around them, through them, as she speaks. Taro glances up at the man sleeping in the lawn chair, then back at Minnie. “And I’m going to go far, far away. If Dad thinks he can do whatever he wants to me, then tell me to go kill people,” Minnie titters, insanely. Taro clenches his sticky hand and tries to smile at her. “He’s insane. He can do it himself if he wants it done so badly. So Taro-”

In a shocking, horrifying moment, Taro realizes that Minnie is actually serious.

“I’m going. And you’re the only person I love, the only person I care about, so you’re the only person I’m telling. Be good. Don’t do drugs.” She smiles and for an instant the sun pierces the clouds in the sky, the world is good again, Minnie is Minnie-chan again-

And then she is walking away. The clouds close and circle, darker than ever.

Taro watches her go, sighs, watches as the man on the hill is woken. The man opens his arms wide, mockingly, and looks cross. Minnie says something to him. The man looks confused now. Taro will vouch for Minnie when the police are call-

His mind blanks as the man’s mouth and Minnie’s neck meet. He sees a line of blood trickle down her back, watches in abject loss as Minnie weakens and the man catches her. Picks her up. Carries her inside. Closes the door.

It rains.

Taro runs home, the plant in his chest fighting to blossom, a howling scream threatening to burst forth. He slips and falls a few times and when he gets home his hand hurts where Minnie clenched it, his leg hurts, his wrist hurts- none of it as much as his heart.

He dashes into his room in the basement and throws shut the door, locks it and bars it and curls up in a corner and cries. He tries to tell himself that losing Minnie-chan is just like any other person flitting in and out of his life, that she is just one human being and he does not really care. She has so many problems and has tried to have sex with him so many times, and he hates hearing what her father does to her in such detail as she gives-

But he loves her, remembers her with the sun in her hair and hope in her eyes and sobs.

He finds that he cannot stay in his safe, locked room. Every inch of it reminds him of his friend, last seen in the embrace of a vampire, and it makes him sniffle like a weak child. Taro stands, unbars, unlocks, and opens his door. He leaves his house, his clothing still soaked from the run home, and walks.

He is surprised that nobody has tried to mug him or rob him or rape him. The city is a dangerous place sometimes, and Taro knows this better than anyone because of what his mother has told him. He supposes that most would-be predators might look at him and see already-used prey. Sloppy seconds, he thinks to himself, and tries to forget who told him what that really meant.

It is only when he walks straight into a muscular arm that he wonders where he is. The arm wraps around his shoulders and pulls him back. A second arm joins the first and pushes him, gently, to the wall beside a club entrance.

“Are you okay?” The arms belong to a man, a man with an honest face and a concerned squint. He is one of the club’s bouncers, Taro realizes after a second of thought. The bouncer behind this one is still checking people’s IDs and giving their owners stern looks. “This is the seventh time you’ve wandered past here, kid.”

“Oh,” Taro says, wondering if Minnie is alive or dead, hoping for the former, “I’m sorry to be such a bother. I’ll leave.” The bouncer shakes his head and his ponytail flicks back and forth, back and forth, over his shoulders. He has beautiful silky chestnut hair, and his body is filled out with smooth, confident muscles. Taro thinks, unbidden, of Minnie’s panties.

“No, wait, kid. I mean- do you have someplace to go? Are you okay?” Taro murders the urge to tell the bouncer the truth and instead nods vaguely.

“I’m fine. Just walking.” The bouncer gives him a hard stare. Taro meets the gaze, finds it to be too honest and contemplative for his liking, and directs his eyes to a spot just above the man’s left eyebrow. A military secret, Minnie-chan’s father had told them once. Great for when you couldn’t stand to look somebody in the eye. (That Minnie-chan’s father said that is more telling seven years from the fact.)

But the man, unlike his parents, doesn’t buy it. He raises an eyebrow, the one Taro is watching, and frowns. “When was the last time you ate, kid? What’s your name? Where do you live?”

The snow is falling fast and heavy when Taro pushes his way into the sweets shop, looking around for a familiar wave of chestnut hair.

“There you are, Taro,” Anna shouts from behind the counter, fending off customers with sales of sugar-frosted nuts and animal-shaped chocolates. “He’s been waiting for you!” She points to the back room, then returns to her frantic attack of the mass of people in front of the register.

Taro tiptoes behind the purple velvet counter, hearing a customer starting to whine about why he’s allowed back there, but his attention snaps forwards, immediately, to the man sprawled half-asleep in a cushy red armchair. His old fedora, pinstripes faded, rests stylishly over his face, covering everything from his chin to his hair. Taro takes the hat off and sits on the arm, leaning in to stay on the chair.

“Hey,” he says, running a tentative hand through Cain’s hair, “sorry I’m a little late.” Cain stirs sleepily and, without thought, takes hold of the hand resting on his head and brings it to his lips.

Taro isn’t sure what to make of these gestures. Well, no- that’s a lie. He knows very well what to make of them, but he isn’t sure how to accept them. He’s used to pushing away (Minnie, just Minnie now, ever since that time) or being pushed away (his parents love him, he tells himself, in their own, private way). He wants them, leans towards Cain’s casual hugs and laughter-filled cuddles like a plant to the sun. There are two problems to Cain and Taro having a relationship, to them becoming Someone Specials, and that’s one of them. Taro doesn’t know how to do any more than just take anything, be it love or hurt, and because Cain is a good man, the first one he thinks he’s ever met, Cain doesn’t force the issue.

The older man releases his hand and reaches for his coat. “There you are, you slowpoke. I was starting to worry.”

“Not enough to resist falling asleep,” Taro responds, and at watching Cain’s face, he decides precisely what the second problem is: he always says the wrong thing. With Minnie, it was easy to avoid hurting her because she was just one mass of pain, one opened wound. He used to fancy himself a bandage, but now, dating-friending Cain, he knows that he was more like another wound. Misery loves company, after all.

“Sorry. If I’d been real worried, I’d’ve woken up, you know…” Taro nods, and tries to paste on a smile, but Cain is sensitive like- like some kind of dog or something. He looks away from the expression and instead takes his hands, cold and dry from the wind outside. “You need gloves?”

Cain’s expression is so miserably hurt that Taro can’t help but press close and tuck his head under the other’s chin. “No. I’ll stick my hands in your pockets, how about that?” True to form, it cheers Cain up.

“Oh, so somehow it’s my responsibility to keep you warm?!”

Taro shrugs a little and reaches up, looping his arms around Cain’s neck. “Why not? I woke you up.”

Cain looks down at him. His hands rise, one around Taro’s waist, the other around coming to rest on his hip. Taro gazes back, tracing the odd scar Cain has on his jaw, and then gives him a quirked smile.

“Oh, god,” Cain mutters, and before Taro can ask what’s wrong, he’s being kissed.

It’s been a little more than six months since Cain and Taro met. Taro, personally, is rather surprised, given the passion of the kiss he’s receiving, that Cain has held on that long. He can’t find any room to complain, though, because the hand on his hip is sliding down and around to his ass, and one of Cain’s legs is sliding in between his. They’re different heights, too, but even though it’s an uncomfortably awkward position, the wet slide of Cain’s tongue over his and the feel of a slow burn starting in the pit of his belly really distracts him.

Cain breaks the kiss first, looking a little dazed. Taro leans back, looking down, feeling a ferocious flush warm his still-chilled cheeks. His hands knot together, tensely, in repressed joy. “Ah… I, I’m sorry. Taro, man, shit, I shouldn’t have…” Taro, confused, looks up. “I’m sorry.” Cain takes him by the shoulders and bows his head. “I mean… I guess… Shit, Taro! I’m so sorry!” That said, he tosses on his coat and runs, runs, out of the room.

Taro touches his lips, feeling like a girl, and throws himself into the armchair to have a good solid cry.

“So you two kissed,” Anna places a mug of the house hot chocolate in front of Taro, frowning and nibbling at her lip (a habit her brother shares), “and then… he apologized and just ran off?”

“Mmm,” Taro sighs, feeling stupid. “It must have been… I don’t know. I liked it. He… I thought he liked it—”

“Wouldn’t’ve kissed you if he didn’t think he would,” tosses in Anna—

“…so why did he… What did I do wrong?!” He bursts into messy tears again and is grateful when Anna, instead of looking away or telling him to stop, hands him a napkin.

“Taro,” Anna says, chewing lethargically on a lemon taffy, “you know you look like you’re miserable most of the time?”

Unsure of what this has to do with- well, anything– Taro shakes his head, then nods. “I’m happy when I’m with you two.”

“No,” Anna says, still chewing, “when you came into the shop today, I noticed you just because you were so miserably hunched over.”

“It’s cold outside!” Taro protested,

“And sometimes, even though you sound happy, when we’ll be playing cards or whatever, you’ll look like a crumpled doll some kid threw away.” Taro flushes bright red and shakes his head, not entirely glad of this insight. “Taro, I’m not trying to insult you. But…” Anna waves her taffy stick in the air grandly. “Your body language is all messed up. It’s important to my brother and me, it’s part of who and what we are. So what I’m saying is, if you did your usual thing after he leaped off a cliff and kissed you…” Taro closes his eyes a few more tears slip down his cheeks.

“So in the end, I did mess things up.”

“Yeah, kind of.” Silence falls. Anna drinks some of her coffee, then nudges Taro’s leg with her toe under the table. “Taro, you gunna do anything about it? At least drink your cocoa; I charge customers five bucks for that stuff.” Taro flinches, feeling guilty, and forces his hand to go up and touch the mug. The heat, homey and gentle, makes him snatch his hand away.

“I’m sorry. I’ll be going now, Miss Anna. I apologize for the wasted drink.” He pushes away from the table and makes for the curtain to the shop.

“Wait, Taro! That wasn’t what I mea- oh, crap, come on. Even I mess up, see? You just…” Taro, already through the curtain and in the mess of customers again, doesn’t hear what he just, but it doesn’t matter. He’s screwed it up again, and this time for somebody that probably doesn’t have that much experience with being screwed over.

Lying in bed later that night, Taro can see the glow of the holiday lights on the trees outside. His parents are gone again, and now, without any hot chocolate in his belly or future visits with Cain and Anna to look forwards to, his house is a reminder of what’s missing.

Taro thinks of Minnie. They used to brighten up his house during the holidays, because his parents were never home and her father would just wreck anything set up at her house. Now the house is empty and cold. Taro doesn’t like to waste the heat on just one person, so he leaves the thermostat off. It’s been a while since he’s last touched it. The temperature doesn’t really bother him so much as the lack of lights or a tree. The silent misery inherent in a place with no presents, and nobody to give them to anyways, cuts away at Taro’s miserable silence.

“God!” He yells out into the empty house, “I’m such a fuck-up!” It echoes a little in his room. Then, on a whim: “I wish I’d never been born!”

But no mystical angel appears, no man in a suit to take him on a tour of why the world is better with him rather than without. It does make him think, though. If he’d been pulling Minnie away from that vampire, if he’d maybe talked to somebody about what her father was doing to her (and his parents to him when he was little, he thinks, but doesn’t really have the courage, not now, maybe not ever, to go there), if he’d just had some initiative!

If he hadn’t waited for everything to happen, if he’d done something about it, he might still have his friend, might still…

In the darkness, Taro sits up abruptly. “I need to do something!” The frantic need to find Cain, to find him and kiss him back and hold on to him, makes his blood race. He may have made mistakes, may have made them over and over and over and over again, but this time… this time, he would take the matter into his hands and shape it, not the other way around.

But he does not know where to go. He runs and runs and runs, through the snow and holiday shoppers and a sudden and dangerous hail of sleet, from his home to the club where they met to Cain’s sister’s shop. There is no reassuring, honey-slow, dumpling-soft smile.

He is still running, the breath coming tight and fast in his lungs, when he collides with a girl.

“Oh,” she says, her voice a constantly changing thing, as if she is used to humming, swallowing, breathing her words, “sorr- sorry.” Taro lifts her to his feet, anxiously, feeling dizzy now that he is still. “Are you well?” A creature, all fur and teeth and black wet eyes, peeps out from behind her hip.

“Sorry!” Taro gasps, breathing hard, feeling as if he’s about to collapse, “Sorry! I’m- have you seen a large man, with warm eyes and a firm step?” As the words leave his mouth Taro winces, having the knowledge to know that it won’t help him- it isn’t, he reflects sadly, much of a description. The creature seems to understand him, though, and the girl too, because they turn in a circle, as one, the girl grasping and pulling at invisible things, the creature snapping and sniffing the ground hungrily. The world seems to press in on them, constricting like a hand around a throat. Things begin to drain of color, to Taro’s eyes, and he forces a moan of distress down. He looks into a puddle of sleet to try and ground himself and instead quakes as something slim and slick and legged wriggles gleefully in the filthy mix.

When the creature and girl turn back to him they move as one, and Taro feels a thrill of fear. “Your man,” the girl says with a smile edged with the same teeth of the creature, “is waiting for you, though he doesn’t know it. Find a road, walk your path.” Taro backs away and to the side, making room for the girl and the creature, and lets loose a terrified little shiver as they vanish around the corner. He glances towards the puddle, but it is still, empty.

He hesitates, unsure of how exactly he’s supposed to find “his road”. It sounds like good advice, coming from a girl with what was probably her soul trotting at her side (Taro had heard of mages, but they were, thankfully, rare in the city), but after she was gone… Well?

Ultimately, he just continues on with his search, holding the hope he has nursed to growth deep in his heart.

Taro walks on, thinking mournfully that he will never find a road to take him to “his man”. He peers in windows as he walks, looks down alleys. He jaywalks when he thinks he hears Cain’s voice, trespasses when he thinks he sees Cain walking into a building.

This has rather serious ramifications, however, because when he walks into one building he finds himself facing a very angry man with very long teeth.

“You know where you are, meat?” the man snaps, like he’s biting off the edge of year-old hardtack. Taro shakes his head, peering around in the dim light like he’s about to be assassinated from the shadows. “You’re in the Danxe Duxe ClubXe.” Taro refrains from commenting on the linguistic gymnastics the man had to go through to pronounce the name.

“That sounds… important.”

“It is!” the man tells him, uncrossing his arms and grabbing Taro’s arm. “And worse yet, you’re interrupting, meat!” Taro forces himself to think of Cain, waiting for him according to that mage. He shoves the man’s hand off of his arm and stands up straight, shaking his head as if clearing dust from his hair.

“Get and keep your hands off of me! I’m looking for somebody and I won’t let anybody stop me!” It sounds stupid and shonen, like the idiot manga Minnie used to bring in, but he uses the words as a support.

The man grabs for him again, but a familiar voice threads itself between the two. A moment later its owner follows suit, carrying herself with beautiful posture, brilliant blue eyes blazing. Her violently sharp heels snap on the tiles underfoot with more authority than a battlecry.

“Minnie,” Taro gasps, looking her up and down, from sequined red dress to beautifully spun hair resembling nothing so much as a Renaissance confection, “Minnie!”

She smiles at him, enigmatic, beautiful, happy, and Taro bursts into hysterical tears.

By the time he recovers, Minnie has spirited him away to an intimate room with a cat on a couch. “You’re such a fool, Taro,” she tells him with affection. She blends in perfectly with the warm chestnut-colored walls, looking for all the world like she was born in this place. “Here, drink this.” He obeys, still a little stupefied. The cat stretches out and clambers into his lap, purring haphazardly, and he pets it. Minnie sits down next to him, and he watches her. He still feels as if the world has vanished from beneath him, but perhaps she can help him regain his footing? “What on earth have you been doing, Taro? Your clothes are all…” she wrinkles her nose, such a young, moe action that Taro aches, deep inside, for warmer days and softer times.

Her words make him wonder, though, and when he looks down he blanches: his clothes, previously festive if a little blah, are now various shades of gray.

“Wasn’t expecting that?” she asks, biting her lip cutely.

“No,” he says, opens his mouth to explain, and then stops and shrugs. “No idea how it happened.” Something about the way the cat had twitched when he opened his mouth had stopped him. While it used to be that Minnie and he had no secrets between them, things had changed. Minnie was now… well, a vampire. He was… not the Taro she knew. At the moment, he wasn’t even sure he knew himself- he felt so driven, felt Cain slipping further and further away every second he say here. It wasn’t like him, but… Taro shook his head. Even so, as strange and new as he felt, he liked this more active him.

“Huh,” Minnie licks her lips, “interesting. So… who are you looking for?” Taro hesitates, but the cat lies still.

“My….” He flushes red, “my boyfriend. A man named Cain.”

“Cain?” Minnie asks. Taro is unsure of whether or not he’s more surprised that she’s not reacting to him being gay or that she’s saying the name like she knows something. “Cain? Tall, big, pretty nice guy?”

“Yes,” Taro gasps, “yes! Do you know where he is?”

It’s Minnie’s turn to blanch, and she does it well. “Taro! He’s…” She tosses the cat in his lap a look, then seizes it and throws it off of him. The animal twists wildly in the air, reorientating himself, and the sight prompts Taro to cry out in horror: “MINNIE!”

But the creature that stands up after coming back to the floor is a man, the same one that had bitten Minnie, and he is handsome as death and twice as sinister.

“Oh,” Taro responds faintly.

“Your boyfriend is up for auction, kid. He’s the youngest of a family of werewolves, and the family’s in pretty deep debt. He’s the one that got chosen to get sold for all of ‘em. We know about it ‘cuz he… well, he wasn’t really in the whole ‘magic’ loop. Even being a ‘wolf shocked him. Just got grabbed off the street two hours ago, made a big fuss.” The vampire cocks his head and raises a black-buckled, gray-leather-clad arm. “You got magic?”

Taro begins to shake his head, but Minnie nods for him. “I don’t know what, master,” the word slips off her tongue with grace and ease, but the sound of it coming from her mouth makes him a little sick-feeling, “but he does. I mean… come on. I would know.” Taro feels a vine of terror thread up into his throat- Minnie and he both know that he is about as magical as a wooden cup. To pretend to be magical when he isn’t, when he’s just–

“I see,” the cat-vampire nods, eyes narrow and piercing. He leans back after a second, striking an elegant line with his body that calls to mind mod fashion and high technology. “Well, what will you trade for your friend’s happiness, my dearest?” Minnie stands up and kicks her master hard in the leg.

Taro gapes while Minnie and (she yells at him) Joel have a minor fight, cumulating in her grabbing her master by the ear and twisting, prompting some rather unfortunate-sounding yelps from Joel.

“Sweetie, baby, honey,” he coos, or tries to with a sharp finger twisting his ear off, “come on! Just joking, just joking! We can help your vegetable buddy there, okay, baby?”

“Promise!” Minnie demands, jerking her captive’s ear, and Joel whimpers and makes frantic ‘okay’ signals with his hands. Taro watches Minnie as she saunters over to him and plops down almost in his lap.

“You look happy,” he says, ignoring Joel’s sour mutterings from where he’s collapsed dramatically onto the floor, “and I’m very glad.”

Minnie beams and throws her arms around him. “And now it’s your turn!”

Joel nudges Taro when Cain finally comes up for auction. He and Minnie have been dozing on one another. But when his eyes fly up to his… his boyfriend, standing there on the stage, with a chain around his wrists and a bruise on his face, he feels tears prickle. Seeing him like that, hearing the predatory shifting that the people around him do when the auctioneer begins to rattle off numbers, makes him really, really angry. It doesn’t matter that Joel is going to try and outbid everybody else, or that Cain was swept up into this whole awful situation because of family he’d never met (up until today, he and his sister had thought themselves orphans) and a boyfriend that was repressed so tight it was amazing he wasn’t inside out-

The only thing that mattered to Taro as he strode up to the stage, he would later think, was that it was Cain up there, hurting and scared, and Cain had helped him when he had been in the same position.

“Stop, Taro!” He hears Minnie say, and he hears people muttering angrily around him- a woman with blue skin and three arms, a man with a jeweled hat and the skin of something round and scaled around his neck- but he vaults up to the stage and seized Cain’s shoulders and pulls him down and kissed him, hard, with lots of tongue and enthusiastic noises and a hint of growling. When they stop, the silence is absolute. Cain rests his head in the crook of Taro’s neck, and Taro swears he feels tears.

When Cain half-mumbles, half-gasps Taro’s name into the side of his neck, the bloom inside Taro’s chest finally opens, but it isn’t a scream or misery or fear. It’s a bloom of hope, maybe, or love, possibly, or maybe even just Something Good. The bloom is useful, it seems, because there’s an unhappy and gossipy muttering behind them following the feeling.

Taro is never really sure of what happened after that, because he kind of collapsed after having run laps around the city all night. He feels like the bloom had a lot to do with it, too, but he can never be sure with that thing.

All he knows is that he wakes up a little before sunrise in bed with Cain, naked and warm with his boyfriend at his back. It is a nice feeling, he decides, and then rolls over and straddles Cain.

“Mghuh,” Cain protests, half-asleep and unaware that his new boyfriend is about to molest him, “bwuugwhat? Ah… Taro…?” Taro brushes his lips over Cain’s, feeling remarkably alive, a little too alive, almost. The feel of Cain’s body under his is a new sensation and, in this context, a good one.

“Cain.” He licks Cain’s jaw, trailing his tongue from chin to just under the ear, pausing to nibble at his earlobe, “do you have any lubrication? Tell me now,” he shifts, feeling Cain hardening abruptly under him, “before I lose my nerve?”

“Gyweah-yeah Yeah.” He looks wide awake abruptly, and his hands seize Taro firmly by the hips. Taro loves Cain deeply in that moment, because he doesn’t ask Taro if he’s sure. Cain sits up, gropes around in a little drawer in the dresser next to the bed, and produces a bottle of massage oil. “This good?”

Taro takes it from him, smiles in what he hopes is a seductive way but probably just looks like he’s still overtired. Even so, Cain stares up at him raptly, like he’s some kind of god that’s descended from the clouds, and that expression stays on his face later that night when Taro’s gasping and arching his back and rocking down onto him. They wake the neighbors. (Twice.)

Taro can’t be certain, but he’s pretty sure that Minnie would hit him, hard, if he told her that they came together as the sun rose, but it’s true and he’s sticking to his story. If asked about it, Cain just mumbles something about plants.

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