The fireworks were already starting, though the sun was still low in the sky. Haruka watched them from his rooftop perch, rising and exploding in tiny colorful pinpricks of light. When the ladder clacked against the edge of the roof, he didn’t bother to raise his head.
“Ah, this really is the best spot,” Kantarou said. “Look, you can see them even from this far away! Haruka, move over a little, we need room.”
“There’s plenty of room,” Haruka said, but inched to the side as Kantarou carefully crawled his way to sit beside him. Youko followed a moment later, in a new summer yukata — pale blue, with a red morning glory print, bought as an impromptu present. In one hand, she held a bundle of what smelled like snacks, and though Kantarou held out a hand for her, she picked her way over with delicate grace.
“It really is a nice place,” she said, as she sat down. “Haruka-chan, you’ve got good taste.”
Haruka shrugged. “I don’t come up here for that,” he said. He lifted his head to look over at her as she fussed with the knot of her bundle, slapping away Kantarou’s hands when he tried to help. “But it isn’t that bad.”
“Tonight looks like it’ll be clear,” Youko said later, after she’d worked the knot open and passed out crackers and rice cakes both. “Orihime and Hikoboshi will be able to meet tonight.”
Kantarou lit his pipe, and leaned his head back to exhale smoke into the air above them. The sharp smell of it stung Haruka’s nose. “Looks like it,” he agreed. “We’ll hang up the wishes later tonight, how does that sound?”
“That’ll be good,” Youko said. “Haruka-chan, you’re going to write some too, aren’t you?”
“Hmm?” Haruka raised an eyebrow at her. “Why should I?”
“Come on, it’ll be fun.” She leaned over and poked his shoulder. “It won’t hurt you to just be a little more friendly, you know. One wish, okay?”
Haruka looked at her for a long moment, then shrugged. “…Fine,” he said. “One wish.”
Youko beamed at him. “Good,” she said, and leaned back. Kantarou looked back and forth between the two of them, and shook his head.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” he said. “Why do you always listen to Youko-chan, and not me?”
“Because Youko doesn’t make stupid requests.” Haruka closed his eyes. Anything Kantarou would’ve said in response was drowned out by a distant whistle from the fireworks, and Youko’s excited clapping. He cracked one eye open just enough to see Kantarou’s outline against the sky, faintly wreathed from pipesmoke.
Some time later, a hand touched his shoulder, and Haruka opened his eyes to see that the sun had set and the sky had gone dark. Kantarou leaned over him, smiling, hovering closer than necessary.
“Haruka,” he said. “Come inside. We’ve got the papers and everything set up.”
Haruka blinked at him and sat up and stretched. The night was cool for a night in summer, and the air tasted of ozone and smoke, and in the distance, fireworks were still going up in a steady stream. “What time is it?”
“Almost seven.” Kantarou shifted his weight in careful degrees, until he was facing outwards, towards the city. “We thought we’d let you sleep until everything was ready.” He crouched down, and slid carefully towards the ladder, using his hands to brace his weight. “Come on, you promised Youko-chan one wish.”
Below them, the screen door opened. “Kan-chan, Haruka-chan,” Youko called. “It’s ready, come on!”
“Don’t keep us waiting,” Kantarou added, and disappeared down the ladder. Haruka waited until he heard them both retreat from the porch, then spread his wings and made the glide down to ground level.
Inside, Kantarou was drinking tea and twirling a pen between his fingers, three finished strips by his elbow. The sight was familiar enough that it gave Haruka pause for a moment — but Youko was sitting across from Kantarou, nibbling on the end of her pen with a look of intense concentration. A place had been set for him, complete with a cup of tea.
For a moment, he hesitated, then sat down and picked up a pen. The single strip of paper seemed to loom before him, almost like it was taunting him. He pressed the tip down.
“Ehhhh?” Kantarou leaned over his shoulder. “Haruka, what are you going to write?”
Haruka gave him a narrow look. “Mind your own business,” he said. “I can’t think when you’re hovering like that.”
Kantarou pouted. “I want to see what Haruka’s writing, though,” he said. “Come on, let me.”
“But I want to see! Come on, Haruka!”
“Kan-chan, shhhh.” Youko put a finger to her lips, frowning. “Focus on your wishes, and let Haruka-chan write his own.”
Kantarou pouted but sat back. For a moment he just looked at the two of them, an undefinable little smile on his lips, then bent over the paper before him, scribbling something in quick, decisive strokes. When he was done he folded the strip in half and tied a strip of ribbon through it.
“Now can I see your wish?” he asked Haruka, wide-eyed.
“No.” Haruka turned the strip of paper away, hunching so that his shoulder was between it and Kantarou’s line of sight. After a moment he set the paper aside and folded it as well. Kantarou tried to sneak a hand over to snatch it and got his knuckles rapped for the trouble.
“All right,” Youko said, when she’d finished her own wish with a flourish. “It’s going to be a very bare bamboo branch, but it’ll be better than nothing.” She gathered up the handful from Kantarou and the one from Haruka and swished past, humming to herself as she went. Kantarou put his elbows on the table and his chin on his hands, watching Haruka.
“…What?” he asked finally, turning to meet Kantarou’s gaze again. Kantarou just shrugged.
“I’m wondering what you wished about,” he said. “Sure you won’t tell me?”
Haruka shrugged. “It’s not your business, what I wish,” he said flatly. “You might find out if it comes true.”
Kantarou pouted at him a moment longer and stood, heading out after Youko. Haruka trailed behind, watching as the two of them hefted the bamboo branch up, with the wish-bearing strips of paper tied amongst its leaves. Kantarou had his pipe again, though it was unlit, and his expression was thoughtful, his skin bleached by the moonlight.
“Look at that,” Youko said happily, spreading her arms as she turned a slow circle, looking up. “You can see the stars so clearly. You think the magpies will make their bridge, Kan-chan?”
Kantarou looked thoughtful. “I think so,” he said. “After everyone goes to bed tonight, they’ll gather and make a bridge of their backs, and even Orihime’s weight will be too much. Tomorrow, if we find black feathers everywhere, it won’t be Haruka’s fault for once.”
Youko giggled. Haruka crossed his arms and looked annoyed. “I don’t shed that much,” he said.
“You shed all the time,” Kantarou said, smirking a bit. “We just don’t point it out because it’s rude.”
As Haruka bristled, Youko spun around again, humming to herself. Kantarou met his gaze evenly, pressing the stem of his unlit pipe against his lips without taking a draw.
“So what did you wish, then?” Haruka asked finally, when it seemed that Kantarou would just stare at him without a word for the rest of the night. “You had a lot. Feeling greedy, huh?”
“Maybe, a little.” Kantarou shrugged. “I wished for a lot of things, really. ‘I want to meet more new and interesting youkai.’ ‘I want to earn enough money so I don’t lose my house.'” He sighed thoughtfully, then dropped his gaze. “‘I want to become worthy of Haruka.'”
Haruka blinked at him. “You –”
Kantarou only shrugged and said nothing, tapping the stem of his pipe against his lips again. His gaze was pensive and distant, watching the fireworks. Haruka wanted to say something, especially in the hole left by silence, and found nothing would come to mind. Promises and half-lies had carried them only so far, and what Kantarou was obliquely offering wasn’t entirely something Haruka was certain he wanted.
“…Or something like that,” Kantarou said suddenly, shrugging. He was grinning again, and other than a faint flatness to his mouth, the strange moment might have passed unnoticed. “Ah, what else — I asked for a rich wife so that we wouldn’t have to worry about money any longer, and for a longer deadline for the next novel, and –”
“Haruka.” An oddly hopeful little smile touched his lips. “I wished for a lot of things.”
Haruka nodded, not breaking eye-contact. “You did,” he said. “Do you think they’ll come true, now that you’ve said them aloud?”
“I can hope, can’t I?” Kantarou tipped his head to one side. In the sky behind him, red and white light exploded in flower patterns. The glare and reflection made it hard to read the extra question in his eyes, but Haruka thought he could guess easily enough.
“You can,” he said at last. Relief went through Kantarou in a visible movement: his shoulders slumped just a little, and the tension at the corners of his mouth relaxed.
Youko did another spin on her heel, then began to head for the house. “I want some more tea,” she said, and Haruka didn’t miss the smirk she wasn’t even bothering to hide. “Kan-chan, Haruka-chan, play nice.”
And then she was gone into the house, and Haruka frowned. “You always insist on being friends,” he said. “I don’t understand. We –”
“Haruka,” Kantarou said softly, “if we’re not over this by now, we’ll never be. And that’s not what I want.”
“I told you what I wished for,” Kantarou said with a small shrug. “What about you, Haruka?”
Haruka said nothing, taking first one step, and then another, towards Kantarou. “Quiet,” he said.
Kantarou pouted, though his heart didn’t seem quite into it. “Haruka –”
“No,” Haruka said. He touched Kantarou’s chin with one finger, tipping it up. “I meant that I wished for quiet. Because I never get any otherwise.”
“And I don’t shed,” he added. “At all.”
Kantarou blinked, then smiled faintly. “No,” he said. “Of course you don’t, Haruka.” When Haruka took his pipe away, he didn’t protest, his smile growing wider. “Not that it’s a problem. I like your wings. They’re very pretty. They suit you.” He reached out daringly and put a hand on Haruka’s shoulder, squeezing as though he could feel the extra bone structure there. His hand was surprisingly warm.
Haruka caught his wrist and pulled it away. “You’re talking too much again,” he said. “Let’s go inside.”
Unsurprised, Kantarou smiled. “Sounds good,” he said. “Youko-chan has probably gone to bed then, hasn’t she.”
“It doesn’t matter if she has.” Haruka tugged a little at his arm. “Let’s go in.”
Kantarou’s wrist turned in his hold, until Kantarou’s fingers closed around his own, his smile quiet and even a little shy. He wasn’t afraid, though, and that surprised Haruka more than anything else. Youko was nowhere to be seen, though she’d left the lights on for them, like some kind of demented bread crumb trail.
“You can tell me no,” Haruka said, outside of Kantarou’s room. “This isn’t –”
“I know,” Kantarou agreed. He sounded more cheerful than anything else, his hands already up and fussing with Haruka’s necktie. “It’s all right, Haruka. I’m not going to run away crying from this.” For a moment his smile turned wry, almost self-deprecating. “It’s fine.”
Haruka looked at him and opened the screen door, pushing Kantarou inside.
After that, everything was easy: Kantarou stretched up onto his toes to kiss Haruka once before drawing him towards the futon. The kiss was unpracticed, but not inexperienced, and Haruka filed the thought away for later as he let himself be pulled down.
In spite of his chattering during the day, Kantarou was surprisingly quiet during sex; most of his vocalizations were whispers, low and somehow private, even when Haruka opened his gi and spread fingers down his chest and stomach. Kantarou was lean, but not well-muscled — his belly was soft to the touch, and his fingers had few calluses. When Haruka untied Kantarou’s hakama and slid a hand inside, he was rewarded with the loudest sound: a faint moan in his ear.
Kantarou also seemed preoccupied with Haruka’s back and shoulders, skittering light fingers over where the wings would sprout, as though testing to see if he could find any difference in the texture of the skin. After a moment, Haruka caught both his slim wrists and pulled them away.
“Leave those alone,” he said softly.
Kantarou only blinked back. “I like your wings, though,” he said. “Will you let me see them later?”
“You’ve seen them before,” Haruka told him, and kissed him again. Kantarou ended up yoking his arms around Haruka’s neck, rasping in his ear as they moved together, gaining speed and losing rhythm.
It was easier than Haruka expected to lose himself, counting the heartbeats until Kantarou jerked in his arms and whimpered, biting his shoulder with surprising strength. Haruka closed his eyes and kept moving and moving until light sparked behind his closed eyes and he collapsed atop Kantarou, his body feeling heavier than stone.
“Haruka,” Kantarou whispered into his hair, in the tone of a man sharing a secret. “Haruka …”
Haruka groaned and pressed his face into the crook of Kantarou’s neck and shoulder, and found he couldn’t make himself loosen his arms, not yet. “Shut up,” he said, without heat. “I thought I told you I wished for quiet.”
“I just like saying your name,” Kantarou said. “Let me see your wings?”
“There’s not enough room here,” Haruka mumbled. “Don’t ask for such stupid things.”
“It’s not stupid,” Kantarou protested, a pout in his voice. “Harukaaaaaa …”
“I’m tired,” Haruka said, and bit him with just enough fang that Kantarou yelped in surprise. “Tomorrow. Maybe.”
Kantarou sighed in his ear, and though it was resigned, it was more amused than defeated. “Haruka’s being mean,” he sighed, and then, just like that, he was asleep. Haruka kept his face pressed against Kantarou’s neck for long moments, listening to the sound of him breathing.
“Idiot,” he added, for good measure. It sounded like a lie to his own ears; the next time Kantarou asked, he thought he might actually agree. “Selfish bastard.”
And then he slept.