by Miyamura Kazuma (宮村和磨)
Tanabe is not enthused upon hearing about the new assignment, but she seldom is about anything that doesn’t involve pastries or Asahina-san from the lab in Sub-B, so Katsuya doesn’t take it personally. She does, however, stop typing long enough to fix him with a disapproving look.
“I think it’s exciting,” says Katsuya.
She snorts and turns back to the screen. “You think everything is exciting. Well, I suppose we could all stand to be more like you.”
Undeterred, Katsuya leans over the back of her ergonomic chair to peer at what she’s working on. The open case file isn’t anything he recognizes. From the details she is currently appending to the notes section, it seems that the worst of it had been cleaned up in a single afternoon by a team of two, comprising one of the older heroes that Katsuya has only met in passing and—
“Oh!” He beams. “Fujiwara helped with this one, too!”
“Yes,” says Tanabe, shaking the static out of her long, powder blue hair. The loose strands take on a spectral sort of glow in the light of the monitor. “He’s quite efficient.”
“He’s cool,” says Katsuya earnestly.
The rhythm of her tapping peters out. “Hayashida. What do you actually know about Fujiwara-san?”
Besides the obvious? Not much, and he tells her so. He and Fujiwara had joined the Association just a year apart, so their trainee periods had overlapped slightly, and Katsuya had tried back then to unravel him a bit, but Fujiwara had always been determined to keep to himself. Katsuya had gotten as far as his hometown and favorite color before Fujiwara had clammed up and started making excuses to use a different training room. Even now, Katsuya doesn’t think he’s seen him talk to anyone for longer than an elevator ride—well, except for Sojiro-sensei, but that doesn’t count.
“Hey,” he begins, laughing, “d’you think he only gets along so well with Sojiro-sensei because they’re both—”
“No,” says Tanabe flatly. “And that’s not the same. Having dog ears hardly makes Fujiwara-san an animal. He just doesn’t respect anyone else nearly as much.”
Katsuya contemplates it. “But why not? Everybody is talented and has interesting stories to tell. He doesn’t have a bad personality—” He falters. “Or at least he can be nice sometimes, I think. He remembered which bakery in Shinsaibashi is your favorite the last time we all went out together.”
“He left early to go home and sleep.”
“He must’ve been tired.”
“I was tired,” says Tanabe, “but I stayed the entire three hours and put up with watching Sojiro-sensei lick under the tables for smears of jam.”
“You stayed because Asahina-san came in a while after we did,” Katsuya points out. “Remember? She was buying a birthday cake for her niece and you wouldn’t stop asking her silly questions about it.”
Tanabe swats him hard. “This isn’t about her.”
Rubbing at his stinging arm, Katsuya settles back along the side wall where her twin knives hang, polished frequently enough that they never collect dust. “Then?”
“It’s about you. And him. Inuoka-shacho is putting a lot of faith in you both, since this is her first quarter as president, and you’ve never so much as stood on the field together.”
“That’s true,” hums Katsuya, picturing their new boss scowling at him with her slitted pupils all contracted. He hasn’t yet grown out of reflexively shrinking away from her. “It’s a shame you had to quit fieldwork. The better option by far would’ve been to pair up the two of us, right, Miyu-chan?” He dances out of reach before she can hit him again, even harder.
“Get out of my office,” she says. “And do something about your hair. You’ll get impaled in broad daylight before you see anything coming through those bangs.”
Somebody bumps into Katsuya from behind on his way into the meeting room. He swivels around to find Fujiwara staring back, lips parted around a soundless apology.
“Fujiwara!” he says for lack of anything else to say. He smiles.
Another uncomfortable moment trickles by. “Good morning,” says Fujiwara finally. “You cut your hair.”
“Ah, yeah, Tanabe’s been telling me it was getting ridiculous.” Katsuya sweeps a hand up the back of his freshly shorn neck and shivers. He’d grown so used to the mop that every touch to the new expanse of skin, even if only from a passing breeze, makes his stomach flip. The stylist at the salon he’d visited yesterday had spared the length on top but ignored his protests about buzzing off the rest, cooing about how cute his ears were. Katsuya wishes that his ears were still covered now. Something about Fujiwara’s stare is making them feel hot.
“It looks,” says Fujiwara, then glances down at his feet. Whatever he might’ve said next is lost to Inuoka-shacho’s bellowing at them to hurry up from inside the meeting room.
Inside, Tanabe is already seated, hands flying over her laptop keyboard. A couple of other support staffers flank her. Sojiro-sensei is snuffling absently into the tawny fur of his shoulder, perched on the stack of pillows that raises him to eye-level with everyone else.
“Close the door behind you,” says Inuoka-shacho from the head of the glass-topped table, her forked tongue smoothing her consonants into a hiss. Katsuya always has to focus a little harder to understand her. She gestures at Tanabe to run the presentation. “We have no time to waste.”
Katsuya slides into the seat beside Sojiro-sensei and gives him a scratch on the head. The only other empty seat is to his left, bordering the president. He pulls his legs into his body when Fujiwara takes it; the table is low and Fujiwara’s got seven or eight centimeters on Katsuya. He’d appreciate the space more.
“As you know,” begins Sojiro-sensei in the sonorous baritone so mismatched to his compact frame, “this mission will be somewhat different from the last.”
When Katsuya makes to sit up straighter, his ankle brushes Fujiwara’s under the table. Fujiwara glances over at him. A shiver curls down the knobs of Katsuya’s spine again, though nothing has touched him there this time.
They’re dismissed with an hour to go before lunch. The second Fujiwara is done bowing to everyone, he makes for the training basement. Katsuya watches him go, disquieted. “Should I follow him?” he asks Tanabe as they’re shuffling back to the elevators. “We ought to get in the habit of training together.”
Her lips tick up at the corner. “I’m sure he would love that.”
Katsuya opens and closes his mouth. In spite of all the time he’s known her, he still can’t always tell when she’s joking.
Tanabe claps a hand to his shoulder before he can decide whether it’s worth asking. “I think the Hero Resources office is handing out sweet bread today. Go grab some while you think about it.”
This information immediately eclipses Katsuya’s earlier problems. Hero Resources is five floors up and far removed from the corridors he typically frequents, and by the time he’s found his way to the right desk and charmed the lady behind it into letting him squirrel away a whole armful of buns with assorted fillings, finding Fujiwara doesn’t seem so intimidating anymore. He reasons that Fujiwara must like at least one of the kinds he’d brought.
The training basement refers to a maze of dim, bricked-in rooms that are tailored to different gifted specialties. The first wing is mostly populated by fireproofed dummies and close-range automatons, which seems a solid bet. Fujiwara is a melee fighter who would find use in things to shove around, unlike Katsuya, who mostly works from a distance.
There is no one behind the first two doors. The third one is as blank and unwelcoming as its predecessors, but Katsuya can hear faint thumps when he presses his ear up to the reinforced wood. He would knock, but his arms are full of bread. He swears. This plan was poorly thought out.
Fortunately, the thumping stops. Katsuya wonders if his complaining was loud enough to catch Fujiwara’s attention in the midst of all that other noise. He must have good ears—well. Katsuya giggles to himself as soon as he thinks it. Of course he does. He has four.
In fact, when Fujiwara answers the door, his second set of ears is pricked high. Normally they lie sort of flat in his mess of inky hair and attract little attention, but now they’re standing straight up in little triangles. He cocks his head to regard the small bakery that Katsuya has delivered and his resemblance to Sojiro-sensei deepens. All he needs now is to stick his tongue out and grow a wagging tail.
“Hi again,” says Katsuya. “I brought some snacks. Also I thought we could train together? Maybe?”
Fujiwara pulls the door the rest of the way open. “I’m sorry. I should have invited you to come with me in the first place.”
“It’s no problem. We’ll be spending lots more time like this.” Katsuya follows him inside. “The two of us, I mean.”
“…I suppose so,” says Fujiwara, not sounding terribly excited. What the hell, thinks Katsuya. He’s just like Tanabe. They should become better friends.
The depths of the training room prove standard upon a preliminary sweep from left to right, with a wall to wall mirror opposite the door and a weapons rack along the side. One of the larger dummies is leaking stuffing. Fujiwara must have beat it quite hard for the seam to burst. Katsuya is pleased imagining it.
“You can put the bread there.” Fujiwara waves at a bench where he’d left a folded jacket and a water bottle. His knuckles are dark pink from his efforts. He has pretty hands. Fingers longer than even Katsuya’s, who had taken piano lessons when he was younger and prided himself on his hand span. “Hayashida?”
“Sorry,” says Katsuya. He’s not the type to get embarrassed about being caught staring or spacing out. If anything, Fujiwara’s cheeks seem to have pinkened a bit to match his knuckles. “Let’s get to work.”
Katsuya did not dream of joining the Hero Association as a child.
He had wanted to be a pop idol, which his mother had never outright discouraged despite the way she clutched him tighter every time he’d detail his extensive plans to travel the country and eventually the world. It had always been just the two of them. Well, for a while it was Miyu-chan down the street too, already a bitter cynic at the tender age of eight and fond of calling him simple-minded every chance she got. She was his best friend or something like that. But then her family moved to the countryside to be with her ailing grandparents for some years, and Katsuya’s mother began to take longer shifts at the university hospital to fund cram school for his entrance exams. After coming to the conclusion that he would hate the regimented lifestyle of a boy group member just as much as he hated studying, Katsuya applied to the Association’s 74th annual tryouts.
This way he would get to stick around Osaka, he reasoned, and derive some fulfillment from keeping the world safe from demons and whatnot, and he would still have the means to retire his mother early. She’s a lot better these days, aside from continually asking after “that sweet Tanabe girl” as a marriage prospect for Katsuya now that he is apparently getting to that age. Katsuya is twenty-six and uninterested in matrimony. Tanabe is a lesbian.
(“Even more reason for the two of you to get together!” his mother insists. “Romance is troublesome, anyway. A subsidy on a house is much better.”)
Regardless, he’s rather satisfied with his choices. His options would have been limited substantially had he not been born gifted, seeing as he failed his entrance exams in spectacular fashion. But he’s pretty sure that Fujiwara could have done just about anything else, because Fujiwara is booksmart on top of his practical sort of intelligence, and in all the years they’ve both worked here he’s never been able to figure out what Fujiwara likes about it.
Tanabe says that he is thinking too hard about this and should stop at once because his brain is unaccustomed to such strenuous activity. Katsuya sticks his tongue out at her and says that if she’s so smart, why hasn’t she figured out how to make Asahina-san fall in love with her yet?
“Fuck off,” she snaps. “I really won’t marry you now. Not even for the subsidies.”
“I wouldn’t want you in my house anyway,” Katsuya says, absently fiddling with a length of steel cable. “Waking up to you every day would be depressing.”
“Your ugly face is depressing.”
Katsuya retracts the cable back into his palm and leans in, leering. “My face could have sold a million singles if I really wanted.”
“Gross.” She pushes him away. “Talking like that doesn’t suit you.”
Conceding that she’s probably right, Katsuya drops back into his chair. He’s confident enough in his own looks, but someone like Fujiwara would be more suited to that kind of idol marketing. He’s broodingly handsome in the way that tends to attract attention, and he stands well over Katsuya’s own respectable 180 cm. Maybe he can’t sing or dance, though. That could be a problem. Katsuya kicks at Tanabe’s ankles while he considers it. Fujiwara’s fluffy German Shepherd ears are cute enough to compensate for any artistic failings.
“You are such a pain,” she says and freezes time for a second when he kicks at her next. Once Katsuya blinks again, she’s got his ankle in hand.
“No fair,” he says, squirming. “You keep saying you’ll retire your gift permanently.”
“The headaches it gives me aren’t as bad as the ones I get from you.” Tanabe grabs his other ankle for good measure. He’s a little ticklish there and squirms harder, laughing as she shoves her cold hands up his trouser legs.
There is a flustered cough from the doorway.
“Excuse me,” says Fujiwara when they both whip around, “but I was wondering if I could get a copy of the case I worked in Nakanoshima? If you aren’t too busy, Tanabe-san.”
Tanabe drops Katsuya’s legs. “Of course, just a minute.”
“Yo, Fujiwara,” says Katsuya, waggling his fingers. He can do things like that now because they train together three times a week and Fujiwara accepts his snack presents. His favorite is anpan. Katsuya makes sure to buy it hot from the vendor a block down from the Association headquarters on his way in. Each time, Fujiwara tears into it so ravenously that Katsuya suspects he had not conceived of the notion of breakfast before this month.
“Good morning,” Fujiwara greets stiffly.
“Are we still on for three?”
“Yes. We didn’t decide on a place.”
Katsuya knows that. He purposely hadn’t suggested the Association library, which is gorgeous with its floor-to-ceiling windows and lacquered tables, but also somewhere he’s been many times before. “Hm… we’ll really want peace and quiet, right?”
“You may come over,” says Fujiwara. “If you like.” His head snaps down as if tugged by a leash.
Katsuya is so consumed by the idea of Fujiwara wearing a leash like an actual dog that he almost misses the invitation. “Yes? I mean, yes. That’ll work great. Text me your address.”
Tanabe muffles what sounds suspiciously like snickering into her fist.
“I’ll do that,” agrees Fujiwara, shifting foot to foot.
“I’ve just sent over the file,” says Tanabe, “if that’s all.” She looks from Fujiwara to Katsuya and covers her mouth to cough again.
“Thank you very much,” says Fujiwara, bowing, and then he practically runs.
“He was acting stranger than usual.” Katsuya swivels his chair back to Tanabe. “I wonder what that was all about.”
“Beats me,” she says.
Fujiwara’s apartment looks nothing like what his brusque personality would suggest. There are plants everywhere, big leafy ones and smaller flowering ones and succulents, and the furniture is caramel-toned rather than the sterile white that Katsuya had imagined.
“I like taking care of things,” he says when he notices Katsuya looking around.
“They’re lovely.” Katsuya takes a fuzzy leaf in hand and blinks when it heats up and physically flinches from his touch.
“The chimera’s breath is enchanted.” Fujiwara’s voice is suddenly at the crook of Katsuya’s shoulder, his breath on the shell of Katsuya’s ear. “It’s a little shy. Keep petting it, though, you’ll see.”
Katsuya strokes his thumb over the tense underside of the leaf a few more times and watches in awe as it slowly unfurls and sways, almost preening.
“Your place is really amazing, Fujiwara,” he says, facing him.
Fujiwara straightens up, and Katsuya sort of misses his warmth. “It’s just a collection of things I like.” He cannot look at Katsuya while he says this. In fact, he seems to have trouble looking Katsuya in the eye unless they are explicitly discussing work.
“Fujiwara,” says Katsuya. “Do I make you nervous?”
“Ah…” Fujiwara flushes. “A bit.” Before Katsuya can ask why, he disappears into the kitchen. “Would you like tea? I’ll put on some tea.”
Katsuya bites his lip. So Fujiwara has this side of him as well. Cute.
They end up elbow to elbow at Fujiwara’s kitchen table, revising case files and the latest CCTV footage. Inuoka-shacho had emphasized that the primary difference between this assignment and others they’d worked before was the need to watch and wait. The demons they’re tracking will supposedly convene in a central colony in about a month’s time. Until then, they are to study and improve their combat synergy.
After an hour or so, Fujiwara refills his cup. Katsuya is more of a coffee drinker, but he can appreciate the ritual of it, Fujiwara’s elegant fingers wrapping the kettle, the curve of the cup rolling against his broad palm. His second ears have gone limp and flat. Without thinking, Katsuya reaches over and scratches between them the way he does with Sojiro-sensei.
Fujiwara gives a heavy, bodily shiver. A keening sort of noise escapes his mouth. “Hayashida,” he says, almost panting. “My ears are very sensitive. They’re—you—”
Katsuya stills his hand. “Do you not like it?”
“That’s not it. I’m not—Sojiro-sensei, or anything.”
“I know,” says Katsuya. Sojiro-sensei is a shiba. A talking one with supernaturally sharp fighting skill that’s probably been around longer than most of the geriatric population of Osaka, but still. Katsuya’s seen plenty of dogs before. “You’re much cuter.”
Fujiwara goes stock-still for what feels like a whole minute before relaxing again. Katsuya scratches at the base of his ears and is rewarded with another breathy sound. He glances down to discover that he is half-hard. He tries to scoot his chair under the table as inconspicuously as possible.
It’s a lucky thing that the material they’re studying does not further stimulate any organs besides Katsuya’s brain. He’s recovered his composure soon enough, and the movement of his fingers along Fujiwara’s velvet ears, his thick hair, becomes automatic. The sun is setting by the time they’ve exhausted all the resources available to them.
“I should start heading home,” sighs Katsuya, observing the reddening sky. “I live farther from the Association. It’ll take some time to get back.”
His voice seems to break the spell of silence that had descended. Fujiwara startles and raises his head off the table, and Katsuya pulls his hand back. His elbow jostles the half-full cup of tea perched precariously at the table’s edge, and it’s seeping into his shirt and the crotch of his pants before he can think about catching it. Tanabe would have been useful right now, he thinks, as he does fifteen or so times a day.
“I’m sorry,” says Fujiwara. “I shouldn’t have moved so quickly.”
“Don’t be silly.” Katsuya waves a hand. “It was me who knocked it over.” He reaches for a napkin and dabs at his front. “Ah, it’s no use. I’ll change at home.”
“Wear something of mine.”
“I don’t need—”
Fujiwara is already gone, rooting around in his bedroom. He returns a minute later with a clean shirt and sweatpants and gingerly holds them out to Katsuya. “Let me know if they don’t fit.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem.” Katsuya holds up the shirt. It’s well-worn and bears the name of a band he doesn’t recognize. He and Fujiwara are built similarly, long and lean. Fujiwara is taller, certainly, and his shoulders are wider—the baseball team was putting him to work, while Katsuya always joined music clubs—but it should do just fine.
He shuffles into Fujiwara’s bedroom to change, unsure of why this feels like such a monumental step. It’s just a room. It’s not even particularly personal, just clean and well-kept, but it smells of the vetiver and honeysuckle of Fujiwara’s cologne, and that is enough to make Katsuya’s head spin. He tries to slip into the clothing as quickly as possible. If he’s in here for too long, he will do something unacceptable and deranged, like shove his face into Fujiwara’s pillow and his hand down his pants.
When he returns, the collar of Fujiwara’s borrowed shirt slipping loosely around his collarbones and pants rolled at the ankle, Fujiwara glances up at him, inhales sharply, and drops the cup he was holding into the sink with a clatter.
“Is something wrong?”
Fujiwara’s mouth works in silence. “No,” he says eventually, and Katsuya shrugs, taking him at his word.
“It was nice today,” says Katsuya. “Thank you for having me. I’ll be on my way now.”
“You could just stay here,” Fujiwara offers.
Katsuya rubs at the back of his neck. The hair there has grown out a bit, softer to the touch. “I’ve intruded plenty.”
“I insist,” says Fujiwara, rinsing the cups and shaking the water from his hands. “You said that I live closer to work anyway. We can go together in the morning.” He pauses, something fearful flitting across his face. “I mean, I don’t want to inconvenience you…”
“Well,” says Katsuya, “if you’re sure.”
Fujiwara’s posture thaws. “Yes, I’m sure.”
“I’ll wash up first, then. Do you have a futon?”
“Oh, right.” Red crawls up Fujiwara’s neck. “That might be best,” he says, which is sort of a strange answer, but Katsuya accepts it and makes for the bathroom nevertheless.
“You are so stupid,” says Tanabe when Katsuya relays the events of the afternoon the next day. “The worst kind of stupid.”
“Don’t be mean, Miyu-chan,” says Katsuya, pulling cables from his palms to coil around his forearms in spirals.
“Stop fidgeting,” she tells him. “You use your gift like a child.”
Katsuya blinks. He’s always thought his ability was exceptionally fortunate. Unlike Fujiwara, whose enhanced strength and speed have little practical application outside of hero work, or Tanabe, whose migraines from continuously exerting time control encouraged her early departure from the field, his gift is about restraint. Most missions he’s assigned, he can lash the offending demons together with ropes of steel before they get close enough to present a problem. He’s not much use in hand-to-hand, but he supposes that’s what Fujiwara is here for now. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Never mind.” She crosses her arms. “Just answer this. If he had offered you his bed, would you have taken it?”
“I’m not as rude as you think I am, you know,” says Katsuya. “If he really insisted, I would have at least shared with him. It was pretty big.”
She stares. “What do you think of Fujiwara-san, again?”
Katsuya assembles the little links of steel into a heart shape, then flattens it between his palms. “He’s capable and strong. I still think he’s cool.”
Tanabe digs her knuckles into her temples. “Idiot,” she mutters. “Idiot, idiot.”
Sojiro-sensei trots in through the open door. “A few updates for you both.”
At the ring of his voice, they spring out of their chairs to greet him.
“Oh, sit back down,” he says. “I don’t like craning my neck to look at you anyway.” He turns in a circle, examining the state of Tanabe’s floors. Katsuya shrugs off his hoodie for him to sit on, and Sojiro-sensei sniffs it briefly before rolling onto it, placated. “The updates are as such.”
Katsuya bursts into the training basement the minute he’s released. The first through fourth training rooms are empty. He practically kicks down the door of the fifth one.
“What—Hayashida,” says Fujiwara, who is in the process of pulling his damp shirt over his head and swapping it with a fresh one. His puppy ears have gotten caught in the neck hole in his surprise, and Katsuya drinks in the view of his firmly muscled stomach, narrow waist, dusky nipples pebbled in the basement chill. He wrestles on the new shirt and cocks his head at Katsuya in that impossibly endearing way. “Is there something you need to tell me?”
“Oh,” says Katsuya, shaking off the brain fog. “Yeah. Sensei says we move in three days. In Sakai.”
“We were supposed to have another two weeks,” says Fujiwara, perplexed.
“The longest day of the year is in three days, though. Seems that’s what they were waiting for. It’s the best chance we’ll have to get at the entire nest at once.”
Fujiwara nods, taking it in. “Sakai,” he repeats. “I thought we would be inside the city proper.”
“Me too, but, well.” Katsuya flicks a cable playfully at the side of Fujiwara’s head, pleased with how quickly he dodges. Both of their reaction times have improved since they began joint training. They should be able to put this to bed without much trouble. “How do you feel about spending the day with me?”
“Good,” replies Fujiwara, dodging the next cable that comes whipping to his right. “I don’t mind anything if it’s with you.”
The steel links clatter to the floor. “Aw, Fujiwara-kun,” says Katsuya when he’s sufficiently caught up to his shock, “you can’t just say stuff like that to a guy.”
Fujiwara gives him a rare, beautiful smile and says no more.
The train ride takes less time than it does to walk to the station. Fujiwara sits next to Katsuya, looking sleepy. The flutter of his long eyelashes is sweet. Katsuya spreads his hand over Fujiwara’s thigh and plays a minuet, tapping up and down the long expanse until Fujiwara lays his own hand on top to still him.
Curious, Katsuya glances up at him. Fujiwara doesn’t acknowledge it, but he laces their fingers together and lets his eyes fall shut.
Their assigned drop site is a weathered shipyard after dusk. It smells of brine and rust and the acidic tang of demon activity. Katsuya supposes that it must reek much worse to Fujiwara’s canine nose, if the faintly disgusted scowl he wears is anything to go by. He hooks his elbow in Fujiwara’s and pulls him under the shadow of a stack of beaten crates, hushing him when he begins to protest. “We’ll never get anywhere if you keep skulking around looking angry,” he says, biting back amusement when Fujiwara’s mouth drops open. “Just wait a bit.”
As night thickens, their targets begin to arrive. They’re taller and slimier up close than they appear on the CCTV, with fluttering jellyfish-like appendages that fringe their hooded faces. Katsuya wrinkles his nose. Sea demons are the worst. He dislikes getting wet and despises water elementals.
Fujiwara tugs on his arm. “Let’s follow them.”
They begin to creep past the crates and planks, careful to remain within the shadow of the overhang. The trail of demons turns into a procession, a long stream of them slithering towards an indistinct shape off the dock that’s most likely a ship in disrepair. Fujiwara licks across his front teeth, his canines sharpening and elongating. He looks somewhat feral; the thought produces a tingling effect in Katsuya’s groin, which he registers with mild defeat and decides to unpack later. There’s business to take care of first.
When the stream of sea creatures falters, they lower themselves off the dock and onto the rickety ship, ducking behind a load of rotting cargo. Katsuya prepares his steel cables and counts them down. They’ve practiced this—Katsuya will herd the demons together, and then Fujiwara will charge into the center.
The ship lurches. The cargo boxes implode with a squelch, spewing foul purplish slime and splattering across the deck. As a new host of demons pours onto the ship, crawling up from the water and hoisting their long, slippery bodies over the edge, hissing in cacophony, Katsuya realizes that they are not ambushing a meeting at all. They have been expected, and they are the ones being ambushed.
Snarling, Fujiwara rushes into the mob while Katsuya lashes demons off the sides of the ship to thin the crowd. Their skin is thin and membranous and splits easily, but their innards are viscous and adhere persistently to his cables. There is seawater rushing onto the deck, seeping into the wood and licking at Katsuya’s shoes. He grimaces and shakes his wrists in an attempt to dislodge several demons crawling up the lengths of steel and reaching out for him.
One of them gets as near as arm’s length and shrieks victoriously, opening its maw to reveal endless rows of jagged teeth. Katsuya freezes, unsure of what to do. Both his hands are occupied, and it’s getting too close too quickly.
There is a dark blur and a sound like shredding paper. Stumbling back, Katsuya finds Fujiwara in front of him, tearing into the demon who had almost touched him with a furious glint in his eyes. He’s tempted to say thank you, although that would be ridiculous in the middle of all this action. The opportunity is lost anyway when another wave of sea demons swarms over the lip of the deck and piles onto Fujiwara from the back, smothering him under their gelatinous weight.
Katsuya sighs, resigning himself to getting seawater absolutely everywhere. His mother was right. Romance really is troublesome. He gathers two thick cables in hand and begins to spin each of them like propellers, jumping after Fujiwara into the middle of the throng.
“This is quite the scratch,” remarks Asahina-san, parting the tatters of Fujiwara’s shirt to expose the long gash in his side, turned an unsightly purple from contact with venom.
“Can you fix it?” asks Katsuya, worrying at his lip. He’s never seen a wound start bubbling before.
“Kyoko-san can fix everything,” says Tanabe from the laboratory entryway, where she is haloed in fluorescent white light and leaning on the doorframe.
Katsuya raises his eyebrows. Kyoko-san? he mouths. He didn’t realize they were on a given-name basis; he didn’t even know that was Asahina-san’s name. Tanabe flushes crossly, remembering herself. It seems they’ve all been rather busy.
Asahina-san mixes a jar of something that resembles wet plaster and gives Fujiwara a towel to bite before taking the concoction on an applicator and smoothing it over his laceration. She makes soothing noises while his jaw strains from the effort of holding back a shout.
“It’s okay, Fujiwara,” Katsuya says, taking his clammy hand. “You did well. You did everything you had to do.”
Fujiwara’s eyes slide over to him. He exhales long and loud through his nose, and his jaw relaxes in increments.
“I’ll leave you to watch over him, Hayashida-san,” says Asahina-san kindly. She tucks her bobbed hair behind her ears and gestures to the open door and hallway, where she probably has some important experiment running in the lab adjacent, but really it just looks like she’s pointing at Tanabe. “Don’t disturb the plaster for two hours. It’s waterproof, so a shower is okay if he feels up to it later. He’ll be good as new tomorrow.”
When the door is shut, Katsuya pries the towel from between Fujiwara’s teeth. His elongated canines haven’t yet receded, perhaps because there’s still too much adrenaline pumping through him, and they glint as his face slackens.
“Miyu-chan was right,” Katsuya decides. “You really are efficient. I’m not sure I would have made it out okay had I been with anyone else.”
Fujiwara looks crestfallen for some reason. “Efficient,” he repeats. “Miyu-chan.”
“Ah, it’s not like that!” Katsuya rubs at the back of his neck, a habit he can’t shake ever since he’d gotten his haircut. “We’re childhood friends.” This answer does not seem to impress Fujiwara. “I’m not interested in her that way.”
“Oh,” Fujiwara says. “And would you—is there any…?” He coughs. “Never mind.”
Katsuya looks at him for a long moment. The wall clock ticks and the cryostat in the corner trills faintly. And then a rush of understanding floods Katsuya’s lungs and expands in his chest, hot and liquid and blinding. He cups Fujiwara’s chin and quietly delights at the audible catch in breath that results. “Fujiwara,” he says, “I’m interested in you.” They both still stink of vinegar and metal, but this much he can give.
The joining of their mouths is soft and wet, and when Katsuya pulls away, Fujiwara’s looking back at him with such wide eyes that the whole laboratory is reflected in them. After a quick glance at the door, Katsuya climbs onto Fujiwara’s lap and wraps both arms around his broad shoulders, kissing him deeply until they’re smiling too much to continue.
“Is this a dream?” says Fujiwara, all hoarse. His hand is splayed nervously over Katsuya’s lower back.
Katsuya makes a show of tapping his reddened, spit-slick lip. “I don’t think so! But we could go back to your place and I could stay the night just to make sure, right?”
Groaning, Fujiwara surges forward to kiss him again.
Waiting the next couple of hours to leave Sub-B is torture, but Katsuya isn’t sure what kind of activities count as disturbing the plaster and he wouldn’t risk Fujiwara’s health for anything. They sit together, kissing languidly, talking about ordinary things they’d never discussed before. Katsuya learns that Fujiwara is two years younger than him.
“I would’ve been your senpai in school,” he marvels, petting Fujiwara’s silken dog ears. He traces the shells of the human ones, too, though Fujiwara had explained that he can’t hear or feel much of anything in those. “I wish I’d known you back then. You must have been so cute.”
“You wouldn’t have looked twice,” says Fujiwara, so sure of himself that it makes Katsuya’s chest ache.
“Don’t talk so big about things you don’t know, Fujiwara-kun.” Katsuya nips his earlobe and sighs when Fujiwara’s hips jerk up underneath him. “Anyway, I’m here now.”
Fujiwara agrees, sliding his hands up the back of Katsuya’s shirt.
On their way to Fujiwara’s apartment, rain starts to come down in pattering sheets. Katsuya yelps, ducking under every passing shop awning and yanking up the hood of his sweatshirt to afford his head some meager protection. Fujiwara glances at him, amused.
“What?” says Katsuya, shivering. Spring hasn’t yet arrived in full to banish the dregs of winter chill. He wouldn’t be shocked if he got sick after this, seeing how much water he’s been subjected to today. They’d toweled off earlier at the Association building, but this is flat-out tempting fate.
“Nothing,” says Fujiwara, tilting his head back so the rain sluices off the glossy fur of his ears. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all.
Katsuya frowns and sticks himself more firmly to Fujiwara’s warm side. There’s a stream of cool water trickling down the back of his neck and into his shirt, and he squirms against the feeling.
“You really don’t like getting wet, do you?” asks Fujiwara. His mouth is quirked up in a way Katsuya’s never seen before, making his stark features suddenly a little boyish, charming. “We could stop and buy an umbrella.”
A tempting offer, but Katsuya doesn’t want to delay reaching their destination. “It’s just another block. I’ll put up with it.”
“Sure,” Fujiwara says. He reaches for Katsuya’s hand.
Surprised, Katsuya takes it. They’ve already kissed—none too chastely, either—but somehow this is what manages to fluster him. Fujiwara’s hand feels so big against his own, strong and sure. The last leg of their walk passes in a daze. He can hardly focus on their surroundings, absorbed in the gentle stroke of Fujiwara’s fingers over his pulse.
When Fujiwara finally unlocks the door, something in Katsuya’s chest shivers and releases. The door shuts behind them with a soft click. He’s rooted in place, staring at the slope of Fujiwara’s back as they slip their shoes off in the entryway, the drenched fabric of Fujiwara’s shirt adhering lovingly to the curve of each lean muscle. Katsuya’s mouth goes dry.
“Would you like to shower first?” suggests Fujiwara, looking up. His brow creases faintly when Katsuya keeps staring instead of answering. “Hayashida?”
“You can…” Katsuya licks his lips. It comes out as more of a murmur. “You can call me Katsuya.”
Fujiwara blushes vermillion. “I don’t—are you—that isn’t—”
“We’ve known each other for six years.” Katsuya’s socks squelch when he rocks forward on the balls of his feet. “I don’t mind.” That’s not even the half of it. Besides, what he really wants is for Fujiwara to reciprocate. After all that time they’d been polite coworkers, and the more recent weeks Katsuya had spent coming to trust him, and even the quotidian details they’d exchanged while sitting in the lab, and Katsuya still doesn’t know Fujiwara’s given name.
“You should go ahead and wash up,” says Fujiwara, dodging the topic with zero finesse. “You’ll feel better.”
Katsuya deflates. “Yeah, okay.”
He strips his clothes off in the quiet of Fujiwara’s bathroom, catching his own reflection in the mirror. The stark blond of his hair looks silvery when waterlogged, and his roots are growing out. His nipples are erect from the cold. Katsuya traces a hand down the center of his own chest and shivers, arching. He imagines Fujiwara’s hands instead, warm and broad, the rough pads of his fingers catching just so—
Biting his lip, he stops there before Fujiwara starts to wonder why the water isn’t running.
It’s a bit of consolation that Fujiwara’s got a really nice shower. His water pressure is fantastic, beating steadily down against the knots in Katsuya’s upper back. Katsuya lathers up with Fujiwara’s body wash, which smells comforting and crisp like apples and ginger, and relaxes as the scent surrounds him in hot clouds of steam. He’s halfway through shampooing his hair when there’s a knock at the door. “Yeah?” he calls.
“I forgot to give you a towel and a change of clothes,” comes Fujiwara’s sheepish voice. “I’ll leave them outside the door.”
“Just come in. It’s fine.” There’s a long silence. “Fujiwara?”
“I’m coming in, then,” says Fujiwara, so soft that Katsuya almost can’t hear him over the spray. The bathroom door turns, and Katsuya privately congratulates himself for leaving it unlocked. Now he can watch, shameless, while Fujiwara enters with a heap of neatly folded fabric in his hands, his rain-soaked clothes still clinging to him.
“Why don’t you join me in the shower?” asks Katsuya, tipping his head back to rinse the shampoo foam. “There’s so much space in here.”
Fujiwara stills. “Katsuya…”
“Yes,” says Katsuya, though whether he meant it as a response or as encouragement to Fujiwara saying his name, fitting it so carefully into his mouth, he doesn’t know. He opens his eyes when the foam is all gone. “Hurry before the hot water runs out.”
Fortunately, Fujiwara doesn’t protest again. A crackling thrill races down Katsuya’s spine as Fujiwara bares himself, though he averts his eyes for this part since Fujiwara seems so shy about it. It’s no matter. Katsuya will see all of him soon enough.
The shower door swings open, and a gust of cold skates in before it’s replaced by the hazy presence of Fujiwara’s body behind him. Katsuya busies himself with the conditioner bottle. Just knowing that Fujiwara’s here—not even being able to look at him, just the idea—has his cock filling out between his legs.
“Katsuya,” says Fujiwara again.
“Hm?” Katsuya turns over his shoulder and draws a startled breath at how close Fujiwara is, their chests almost touching, the inkspill of Fujiwara’s hair flattened to his forehead and the triangular points of his ears made prominent. He pushes his bangs up and back with one hand, and Katsuya couldn’t tear his gaze from the flex of Fujiwara’s bicep if he tried.
“I’m glad I caught up to you,” Fujiwara tells him. He could be referring to the mission or to something else, but Katsuya doesn’t want to shatter the moment by asking.
“Yeah,” says Katsuya instead, running his slick hands over the curve of Fujiwara’s shoulders. Their noses brush. “Yeah,” he repeats, except it’s more of a sigh, and the end of it disappears into the press of Fujiwara’s mouth.
Fujiwara’s hands come up behind his back, holding Katsuya close so that their chests slide against each other. There’s a thin chain around Fujiwara’s neck that he hadn’t removed before entering the shower, and it rubs against Katsuya’s skin as he pushes even closer. He hums into Fujiwara’s mouth, rolling up against him in search of more friction. His wandering fingers find the plaster still adhered above Fujiwara’s hip, wrapping his side, and his heart pangs hollowly. He’s careful after that to keep his hands confined to Fujiwara’s front.
In no time at all, there’s a hard line jutting into Katsuya’s hip, and all other thoughts fly with alacrity out the window as soon as he realizes that Fujiwara’s dick is right there within touching distance.
Katsuya sinks to his knees, pleased at how Fujiwara whimpers at just the sight. “Let me do this for you,” says Katsuya, reaching out. Fuck, but Fujiwara’s cock is perfect. Long and thick and curved such that Katsuya is already consumed by imagining how it’ll feel stretching him, rubbing up inside him. He exposes the flushed cherry head to skim his mouth over it, greedy to taste the salt and bitterness before the spray washes it away.
Above him, Fujiwara moans and drags one hand over his face as if he can’t quite believe what’s happening. Still entirely too coherent for Katsuya’s liking, so he opens his mouth and fits the tip of Fujiwara’s cock into his mouth and sucks, bracing his hands against the backs of Fujiwara’s thighs.
“You’re so,” pants Fujiwara, “you’re—ah…”
In answer, Katsuya relaxes his throat and circles his fingers around Fujiwara’s shaft. He’s so big, almost ridiculously so, and Katsuya’s not had much else in his mouth to compare but he feels almost drunk on it, groaning as he shoves his head further down. He dated a kouhai from high school who had a hero-crush on him, and he let a handful of men he met at bars jerk him off, and he had a few brief girlfriends in between. This is not any of that. He can’t believe he likes it so much, the control that he holds and is forfeiting at once, the struggle to take a breath. He coughs a little as he comes back up.
Fujiwara strokes the back of Katsuya’s neck, shuddering as Katsuya traces at the vein pulsing on the underside of his cock. “I won’t be long,” he warns.
Katsuya kisses along his length, saving the wettest, longest kiss for Fujiwara’s slit, suckling like he’s never wanted to taste anything else more. He tongues at the frenulum. His hand works up and down faster, determined.
“Katsuya,” cries Fujiwara, and that’s all the warning Katsuya gets before Fujiwara is coming in thick, hot ribbons into his mouth and across his cheek. It drips off of him, mixing with the shower spray and coalescing on the tiled floor. He smacks his lips, trying to decide how he feels about it, and looks up to find Fujiwara looking intently back.
“Come here,” Fujiwara says and licks his own spend off Katsuya’s cheek as he wraps one of those glorious, warm hands around Katsuya, working him with brisk flicks of his wrist. His other hand travels further south, kneading Katsuya’s ass, spreading him open—and his fingertips ghost over the soft furl of skin in the middle—and Katusya is done for, spurting across both their chests. A little bit gets on the underside of Fujiwara’s jaw. Katsuya laughs breathlessly until Fujiwara cracks a smile and joins him.
Afterwards, they settle together into Fujiwara’s bed. Katsuya is wearing Fujiwara’s clothes again, and he’s starting to think he enjoys this as much as Fujiwara obviously does. He likes the way Fujiwara smells; he likes getting to be around him. The sheets are clean and the bed neatly made. He likes that, too, the way Fujiwara is meticulous about every little thing he does.
Beside him, Fujiwara sits with his chin propped between his knees. His eyes flit around the details of the wall opposite—the dresser, a handful of old baseball awards, the scant photos he keeps. The walls are bare. Every so often, his gaze will wander in Katsuya’s direction before he remembers himself and curls up tighter.
“Something on your mind?”
“Oh,” says Fujiwara after a few moments, distantly, emerging from a reverie. “No. Should I turn off the lamp?”
Katsuya looks over at it. “It’s gotten late. Go ahead.”
He nods and clicks the room into darkness. It’s quiet for a while.
“Well, good night,” Katsuya says at the same time as Fujiwara asks, “Why did you come home with me today?”
“I hope this isn’t a roundabout way of telling me to get lost.”
“Not at all! You’re welcome anytime—just say the word and I—”
“I know,” says Katsuya, smiling to make clear he’s only teasing. “I suppose I hadn’t had enough of you even after spending all day together.”
“But why?” Fujiwara presses, raising his head from his knees. “You’re so…”
Untucking the blanket, Katusya pulls it up over his hips. “So?” Fujiwara had also said this in the shower earlier, but Katsuya can’t fault him for not being able to finish his sentences at the time.
“Bright,” says Fujiwara. “Stunning. Looking at you is so much sometimes.”
Katsuya gapes. “Fujiwara-kun.”
“Sorry,” goes Fujiwara right away, “that was an embarrassing thing to say. I meant it, but still. You’re so good at what you do. I can’t see you doing anything else.”
“I can’t see myself doing anything else, either,” Katsuya admits. He likes the attention too much, the quick thrills, the freedom it gives. He’d sooner die than take up an office job, even the kind that Tanabe does. He’s reminded of a question that had stumped him some time ago. “Why did you join?”
Fujiwara is silent.
“If it’s sensitive, that’s okay,” says Katsuya clumsily. “I didn’t mean to—if your reason is personal.”
“It’s not,” says Fujiwara. “It’s just that. Before you graduated, you were telling everyone how you wanted to join the Association, and how you’d attend the tryouts after giving the entrance exams your best shot, and it left an impression on me. I wanted to use my gift. So when I had to do my career assessment, that was the first thing I thought of.”
“Oh,” says Katsuya. “Wait, what?”
“We went to the same high school,” says Fujiwara like this isn’t an earth-shattering revelation.
“You’re from Okayama!” Katsuya reigns in his volume before he starts outright shouting in Fujiwara’s bedroom. “You said that a long time ago. Maybe the first time we spoke as trainees.”
“Yes.” Fujiwara shrinks away from Katsuya, somehow folding all almost 190 centimeters of himself into a ball. It’s too dim to see his expression in as much detail as Katsuya would prefer, but he’s sure that Fujiwara is blushing again. “That’s true, I am. But I moved to Osaka when I was fifteen.”
“The same school,” says Katsuya, racking his brain for any singular memory of a tall, dark-haired underclassman in the baseball club. He supposes there were a few, though none as handsome and timid as Fujiwara. Animal-trait gifts aren’t that uncommon, but still—he’d missed someone with dog ears? “How is that possible? I don’t remember you at all.”
Katsuya nearly does, too, realizing how that must have come off. “Forget that. I just can’t believe you’ve known me since then.”
“You sang at every festival,” Fujiwara says. He shrugs sort of ruefully. “Your voice was everywhere. Bright.”
“Some senpai I was,” says Katsuya. He reaches out, feeling for Fujiwara’s hand in the sheets. A string of snapshots crystallize in his memory, reforming, making sudden, abundant sense. “I’m glad you caught up to me, too. You didn’t have to run very far.”
“You just learned this about me and it’s been years,” Fujiwara points out, and Katsuya bursts into abashed laughter.
“In my defense, you didn’t make it easy to know you.”
“I’ve only recently started to get better about that,” Fujiwara says. He’s smiling now—a wash of moonlight reflects off his teeth. Even outside of combat, his canines are preternaturally sharp. “I’m surprised you tried anyway.”
“Doesn’t feel like I’ve gotten very far,” Katsuya complains. “You never even told me your given name.”
“It’s on all our case files,” says Fujiwara, confused.
“You actually read everything on those?”
Fujiwara sounds genuinely affronted. “You don’t?”
“I was fortunate enough to work with someone very smart who can handle all the thinking.” Katsuya pets Fujiwara’s fingers, then moves his hand upwards to search for the softness of his ears, the delicate feel of them nestled in his hair.
“Naoki,” says Fujiwara. “My name.”
Katsuya wriggles closer to plant a kiss on his cheek. “I’ll remember it.”
Morning comes too soon, as ever. Katsuya wakes first, groggy and disoriented, unused to the feel of the bed. Fujiwara is still peacefully asleep next to him, one arm slung over Katsuya’s chest. A glance at his phone determines that there isn’t time to lie around and admire him if Katsuya wants to get back to his own apartment soon enough to change—and he does, because his clothes from yesterday are still disgusting and it would be too obvious if he wore Fujiwara’s.
He smiles a little at the thought—he doesn’t think he’s seen Fujiwara come to work wearing anything besides pressed button-downs and turtlenecks for as long as they’ve shared a profession. Katsuya wouldn’t mind necessarily, but Tanabe’s hawk eyes would catch the change in seconds, and he doesn’t quite feel up to dealing with that today.
Carefully he disentangles Fujiwara’s arm and smoothes the blanket back down around him. The sun stripes his sleeping face and flecks his long, sooty lashes. He’s really so beautiful, thinks Katsuya, his guts twisting up tight. He wants to stay here with Fujiwara and his plants and the solace of this shared space. He wants to brush his lips over Fujiwara’s temple, so he does.
Katsuya would feel guilty disturbing him any further, especially after how thoroughly Fujiwara wore himself out yesterday, so he slips out of the bedroom and makes coffee as quietly as possible. He leaves an extra cup on the counter before he goes.
“So, you and Fujiwara-san,” says Tanabe the minute he greets her.
“Miyu-chan, you’re terrible,” he says, meaning it. He looks self-consciously down at his chest. The hoodie he’d changed into at home is one of the handful he wears constantly. There are no visible marks on his neck or anywhere else. How does she know? What does she know?
“Yesterday in Sub-B,” she begins, and Katsuya heaves a sigh of relief. He’d forgotten she’d seen. Well, that part was innocuous enough.
“Mission success,” he answers, cavalier.
“All of them, it seems like.”
Katsuya drapes himself over the back of her chair. “We could talk about you and Asahina-san, too. I could talk about that all day.”
“There’s nothing to discuss,” she says primly.
“Likely story,” he snorts. It’s not often he gets this easy of an out. With any luck, Tanabe will be too preoccupied with defending Asahina-san’s honor from the indignities they may or may not have gotten up to yesterday to continue interrogating Katsuya about his own transgressions. “I take it our marriage is off?”
“It’s never been on, you bastard.” Tanabe pats his cheek. “Go bring me some tea. I’m sleepy.”
“Must have been a long night,” he singsongs, pushing off in the direction of the staff kitchen.
As he’s heating the water, Fujiwara takes a half-step through the door, sees Katsuya inside, and promptly turns on his heel.
“Fujiwara-kun?” Katsuya lifts his head, but the door is swinging shut. He glances back at the water boiler before deciding that this can wait and hurries after Fujiwara. When he turtles his head out from the doorframe, the hallway is already empty. He frowns. What was that about—next-day regrets? Surely his performance wasn’t abysmal enough to kill a longstanding attraction.
He returns to Tanabe with genmaicha and a stormcloud on his brow.
“What?” she says, blowing over top of the cup. “Why is your face like that?”
She takes a sip, mindless of the billowing steam. “Ugly as sin, and also hurt. You haven’t seen your favorite coworker around yet?”
Katsuya ignores her. He has, and suddenly that’s the problem. They don’t have any team meetings scheduled, and it’ll be a couple days before either of them is reassigned to a new case. Possibly not with each other, either. They’d performed well yesterday, but he can’t wait around for admin review. If Fujiwara gets assigned to someone else—and keeps avoiding him for no explicable reason—and Katsuya has to readjust to a life without—
No, he decides. He won’t give anybody the chance. He’s fixing this himself.
“Hey, where are you off to in such a hurry?” Tanabe calls after him. “It’s a rest day. Can you at least bring me back a croissant?”
Fujiwara is in his favorite training room, exactly as he has been for the past couple of weeks. He’s changed into workout clothes. The back of his tight, worn shirt bears the name of his high school baseball club—Katsuya’s school. He takes a minute to marvel at the evidence that last night hadn’t been some insane exhaustion-fueled dream before he lets the door thump closed behind him. On second thought, he locks it.
At the sound, Fujiwara snaps his head up and immediately looks disquieted. The training dummy he’s working on swings wildly on its chain, still reeling from his last hit. It nearly whacks him in the face.
“Hi,” says Katsuya, narrowing his eyes.
Fujiwara drops his fists, and then his entire top half drops as well until he’s holding a contrite bow. “I’m very sorry for what happened yesterday,” he says, tripping over his tongue to get the words out as fast as possible.
Katsuya’s irritation mounts. “You’re sorry?”
“Yes,” says Fujiwara. The way he shapes his mouth around that single syllable makes it seem like it tastes awful. “I shouldn’t have let you do that, and I apologize for making you uncomfortable. I thought you’d prefer to have some space apart from me this morning, but I see that maybe I’ve upset you more by not apologizing sooner. That’s my fault. I’m sorry again, Hayashida-san.”
“What the hell is up with you?”
Fujiwara blinks. “I really am s—”
“Don’t you dare say you’re sorry again,” says Katsuya. “What gave you the impression that I was uncomfortable with anything that happened yesterday?”
Slowly, Fujiwara straightens up. “Well… you left.”
“Yeah,” says Katsuya, uncomprehending.
“You left early without saying anything to me, and you left my clothes, too. Weren’t you—I thought you—”
Crushing relief expands against Katsuya’s ribs. “Well, you thought wrong. Don’t go avoiding me like that, okay? You had me thinking something was really wrong.” He flops down on the bench by the wall. “I’m too old to get this anxious.”
“You’re not old,” says Fujiwara. He seems unsure of how to respond to anything else.
“It’s my fault,” continues Katsuya, fixing Fujiwara with a petulant look, “for not being totally clear. I like you, Fujiwara-kun. I like you a lot. Maybe I should have said that before I got on my knees and sucked your cock. Well, I’m saying it now.”
Fujiwara actually wails, covering his face. “You can’t talk like that at work!”
“We’re in the training basement, in a wing no one uses but you.” Katsuya lifts a shoulder. “And I wouldn’t mind doing it again. Right now, even.”
“Haya—” Fujiwara withers at the stare he receives. “Katsuya,” he restarts. “Anyone could walk in anytime, just like you did.”
Katsuya leans forward. “I locked the door.”
“Someone could still hear us,” Fujiwara tries weakly.
“I promise no one else likes these musty rooms as much as you do,” says Katsuya. And even if someone did, it’s not like the two of them would be doing it out in the open. Honestly, the thought of being overheard makes him sort of hot under the collar.
Fujiwara looks visibly conflicted.
Sidling up to him, Katsuya wraps both arms around his waist and presses a lingering kiss to the side of his sweat-damp neck. “Naoki,” he says, sugaring his voice to a purr. “Don’t you want me?”
“That’s unfair,” says Fujiwara. “You know I do.”
“Take me, then.”
For a dreadful minute, Fujiwara chews his lip and wavers. He might have stayed like that all day had Katsuya not huffed and drifted his hands down to the small of Fujiwara’s back, pulling them together, guiding Fujiwara’s bitten mouth to his own.
That’s apparently all it takes because to Katsuya’s delight, the very next minute features his hoodie being yanked over his head, then his shirt, then Fujiwara’s. He walks them backwards to the wall and lets Fujiwara work a thigh between his, grinding down feverishly. “I want you inside me this time,” he manages between labored breaths. “I’ve been thinking about it all morning.”
Fujiwara pulls back from the blotchy necklace he’s sucking onto Katsuya’s collarbones. His ears are pricked and his pupils blown, his lips red, wet. “Here?”
“Yes,” sighs Katsuya, overcome by the view. “Fuck, yes, right here.”
“I have lotion in my bag,” Fujiwara suggests. “If that’ll do.”
“That’s perfect.” Katsuya would have taken it with nothing but some spit at this point. Maybe come as well, if Fujiwara got him off once beforehand; he’s certain he would still want it afterwards. Looking at Fujiwara, the slight swell of his strong chest damp from exertion, his face slack and open, Katsuya thinks ludicrously that he’ll want it anywhere, at any time, if it means he gets to have this.
When they’ve gathered the requisite supplies and Katsuya’s shimmied off the rest of his clothing, he starts to kneel on the bench.
“I have a different idea,” says Fujiwara.
Katsuya turns. “Oh? Lead the way.”
He doesn’t know what he expected—Fujiwara holding him up against the wall, maybe, or even spreading him out on the floor. It would be a little gross, but the prospect of what’s to come would make it easily bearable. Katsuya feels as though he’s been struck by lightning when Fujiwara kneels facing the mirrored wall opposite the door and pulls Katsuya into his lap. Like this, his back is pressed to Fujiwara’s front, his bare ass settled over Fujiwara’s clothed groin. The chain around Fujiwara’s neck is cold against his shoulder blades. Most notably, he is facing his own reflection, naked and flushed, watching Fujiwara’s hands run all over him.
How perverted, Fujiwara-kun, he means to say. What emerges instead is a choked gasp when Fujiwara’s hand drifts down to his hard cock. His fingers play curiously over the head, coaxing a string of precome to leak out.
“I like seeing you this way,” murmurs Fujiwara into the back of his neck. He kisses Katsuya’s jaw, the corner of his mouth, the shell of his ear, as his hands take up other work. The pad of his finger rubs across the pucker of Katsuya’s rim.
“Hurry up,” Katsuya demands.
Fujiwara bites down on his trapezius and ignores him. By the time he’s up to three fingers inside, Katsya is writhing in his grasp. “Ah, ah, please,” Katsuya begs. He’s long past adjusting. Fujiwara’s fingers are dextrous and committed to Katsuya’s pleasure, but he wants—needs—thinks he might come just like this, and he refuses to without—
A warm current ripples through the whole of Katsuya’s body when Fujiwara tugs down his waistband and greets Katsuya’s wet hole with something blunt and thick.
“Yes,” moans Katsuya. He tilts his head back over Fujiwara’s shoulder, unwilling to watch his reflection spread his thighs so eagerly.
“You should watch,” says Fujiwara. “Katsuya.”
Katsuya’s ears burn, but he does, staring unflinchingly at his own image shivering and sighing and clenching down around Fujiwara’s length inside him. The longer he looks, the more bewitching the show becomes, especially Fujiwara’s expression of devoted concentration. He reaches down to fist himself when Fujiwara intercepts.
“I think you can finish like this.” Fujiwara looks almost innocent in the mirror.
“Just from my cock,” Fujiwara says. There’s nothing performative about it. He says it like he says everything, honest and thoughtful. Somehow that makes Katsuya like him even more.
“Okay, fine,” he says, “I’ll be good.” He loops his arms backwards around Fujiwara’s neck and locks his wrists with a length of steel cable, pressing the cool metal to Fujiwara’s nape so he’ll feel it. “See? No touching at all.”
Fujiwara groans, rich and pleased, and begins to move. Katsuya’s head lolls as he takes it, spellbound. Fujiwara lifts him up by the hips so he can see each centimeter of Fujiwara’s wet cock pull out and sink back inside, the head occasionally catching on Katsuya’s rim. Each push makes starbursts fizzle behind Katsuya’s eyelids. His vision is starting to swim, his lashes clumping with tears. His and Fujiwara’s faces blur in the mirror, their hair becoming streaks of dark and light.
The thrusting pauses. Fujiwara kisses his cheek once, tender. “Watch properly.”
“You, mm, you really like this,” says Katsuya, struggling to keep his gaze clear and fixed ahead.
“I do,” says Fujiwara without a trace of shame. “You’re so pretty. You look like…”
“What, an angel?” Katsuya rolls his hips down into Fujiwara’s lap. A grin slices across his mouth. “Like a whore?”
“No,” protests Fujiwara immediately, but Katsuya can feel his cock pulse inside.
“You like that, too,” he crows, delighted. Well, he doesn’t mind. He’d never thought himself a cockslut before, but he suspects he might get addicted to Fujiwara’s dick, and he’s only had it to himself for a day. He can’t help it. Fujiwara’s quiet grace is enthralling. So quick to fluster, but still quicker with his hands, his hips. He holds Katsuya down and screws into him slowly, with intention, working the tip of his cock against Katsuya’s prostate.
Katsuya’s thighs are quaking. “I’m close,” he gasps. “Naoki—Naoki—like that—” Fujiwara licks into his mouth, and Katsuya comes so hard he almost chokes on his own tongue.
It’s not long before Fujiwara’s thrusts grow erratic. “Me too,” he grits out. “Soon. If you don’t want it inside—”
“I want it,” Katsuya interrupts.
Fujiwara makes a shattered sound and spills inside him, filling him hot and wet. Katsuya sighs and dissolves the cuffs around his wrists to cup Fujiwara’s face in his palm and pet his velvety ears and kiss the hinge of his jaw. A dribble of pearly white down the inside of Katsuya’s thighs makes his spent cock twitch in interest.
“How do you feel?” says Fujiwara when he’s caught his breath. His eyes are so warm, adoring.
“I really, really like you,” Katsuya says. “That’s how I feel.”
Fujiwara laughs. It’s unbelievable how much happiness sweetens his face. “You know what I mean.”
“I do,” says Katsuya, curling into Fujiwara’s chest. “I just wanted to tell you again.”
“Finally. What took you so long?” says Tanabe, typing with her back to Katsuya.
Sojiro-sensei trots by, sniffs at Katsuya’s leg once, and skids on the waxed floor in his haste to run away down the hall.
Tanabe turns around when Katsuya doesn’t answer. “Hayashida! Did you walk through a low-category hurricane on your way here?”
“Miyu-chan,” he says. There’s no getting around it now. “I need to come clean.”
“What you need to do is buy me a whole box of croissants before we go home today,” says Tanabe, glancing at the knives mounted on the wall. “I already know I won’t be able to forgive you for making me listen otherwise.”