Heat

cowritten with Harukami

It was certainly a change of pace that had led Kantarou to tell Youko to not interrupt him as he worked — that was to say, unless it was to bring him fresh paper or refreshments. The blame could be placed squarely on the mistake that had put them this much in the hole for the month and with the article so overdue that Reiko was calling on him several times a day, it was really his only hope.

Which is why he was more than surprised when Youko entered without warning. He looked up, about to snap at her, and hesitated; her skin was pale and sheened with sweat, her pupils too-wide in her face, and her mouth was open a little as she panted.

“Youko-chan?! Is everything all right?! Youko-chan!”

She held up both hands as if to warn him off, and shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. “It’s fine,” she said, quickly. “It’s fine, Kan-chan, but I’m gonna have to ask for a few days off. Um. A week? Is a week good?”

He stopped and didn’t come any closer, not when she’d gone into such a defensive position, and tensed. “A week’s fine, we can take care of ourselves, but — what is it? Is there anything I can do for you, Youko-chan?”

“Ehehn.” She giggled nervously. “I’d rather you didn’t offer that, Kan-chan. It’s just. Um. My once-every-few-years-problem.”

He blinked at her for a long moment, then recoiled a bit, his hands flailing helplessly. “Ehhh? That? Um, Youko-chan –”

Youko smiled a bit weakly, rubbing at her arms. “Yeah,” she said, and straightened a little. “So, uh, I’ll be going and taking care of that — please don’t you and Haruka-chan destroy the house in my absence, okay?” She eyed him for a moment, then sighed. “I mean, don’t slack off, get your article finished, don’t fight –”

“Youko-chan, we’ll behave,” Kantarou said, as soothingly as he could. He didn’t dare cross the distance to where she stood, but he still smiled reassuringly at her. “I mean, I cooked for myself all the time before I met you, so I think I could definitely scrounge something up for me and Haruka …”

“Oh, good.” Youko rubbed her hands together, her smile gaining a bit of strength. “I’m really sorry about this, Kan-chan, I know it’s inconvenient with all the work you have to do, but –”

He waved his hands again, reassuringly, a soothing gesture. “No, really, Youko-chan! You go, ah, lay low or –” He’d rather not think of the alternatives, honestly; she was too much a part of his family. “At any rate, we’ll be just fine until you get back!”

She sighed slowly, and wiped sweat from her face with her sleeve, biting her lip. “…Good! I’ll hold you to that, Kan-chan! If I find that you’ve been slacking off by the time I get back, you’ll really get it!”

“Yes, yes, and I’ll probably deserve it, so–”

“Yes,” she repeated, and backed towards the door. “I’ll just be–”

She turned, and in the same moment, Haruka stepped through the door. She thumped heavily into his chest and stumbled back, gasping, hands coming up as if to ward him off. “Ha–Haruka-chan! Get out of the way please–

She shoved past him in a quick gesture and was down the hall, running faster than Kantarou had seen her do in a while.

Haruka’s nostrils flared. “What’s up with her?” he muttered. And then, “…do you smell something strange, Kantarou?”

“… Er.” Kantarou rubbed the back of his head. Different youkai species, from the small amount of research he’d done, appeared to have incompatible pheromones, but it probably still warranted some care, especially with how long Haruka and Youko had been living together. “No, I don’t? Um. I should get back to work –”

Haruka raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest. “About that,” he said. “Your editor is here again.”

“Ehhh?” Kantarou gaped, for a moment distracted from Youko’s predicament. “Again? She was here just an hour ago!”

“This is what happens when you don’t get your work done on time.” Haruka raised an eyebrow. “It’s your fault, spending all your money on the new haori when you didn’t really need one.”

“Well, my old one got ripped,” he protested, pouting. “Haruka, I can’t perform an exorcisms without the proper uniform, it’s just not right –”

“Sensei!” Reiko popped up from behind Haruka, frowning. “You’re slacking again, aren’t you? If you keep this up for too much longer, we’re going to look elsewhere for next month’s article.”

“No, no, I’m not slacking off!” Kantarou yelped, holding his hands up. “I’m almost done, Reiko-san! I promise! If I get some peace and quiet, I will have it done by this evening! I swear!” He calculated mentally. “If I have five hours uninterrupted!”

“Four, Sensei!”

“That’s absurd!” Kantarou said. “It’s already late enough that you wouldn’t get it on the presses until tomorrow anyway, five hours or four hours doesn’t make a difference!”

Reiko sighed. “Fine, then, five hours, Sensei, but I’ll sit behind you until you get it done! And no promises for any future publication!”

“I’ll get it done!” Kantarou sighed. This sort of pressure was the last thing he needed, especially with Youko out of commission. While he knew that technically it wasn’t her fault that she’d gone into heat and had to retire, and it wouldn’t be fair to blame her over something so embarrassing, her timing could really use work.

“You do that,” Reiko told him, and headed for the door with an over-loud sigh, brushing past Haruka as she went.

Haruka tensed faintly at that, a strange look crossing his face. He sniffed delicately at the air again and Kantarou tensed, waiting to see what kind of further reaction he’d have. After a long moment, though, Haruka just shook himself and slanted a wry look at Kantarou — work or else — then headed off down the hallway, ostensibly back outside and to the roof. With a sigh, Kantarou smiled at Reiko, who refused to return it.

“Sensei,” she said, her tone warning. “Work.”

“Ahh, right, right.” Kantarou rubbed the back of his head, and returned to his desk, sitting down and staring blankly at the half-filled sakubun page. Writing felt like the farthest thing from his mind, especially about the study of identifying ordinary household objects from similarly-shaped youkai, but the sooner he was done, at least, the sooner Reiko would be off his back, and maybe he could see to getting dinner started …

With a sigh, he scrubbed a hand through his hair and went back to work, hunching over his desk and scribbling furiously.

+++

Barely ten minutes later, Haruka was in there again. He didn’t say anything, and Kantarou did his best to ignore Haruka’s presence, still scribbling furiously, but Haruka was acting strange, pacing around, moving tensely.

A broken umbrella would–

“I’m certain I smell something,” Haruka said, sharply.

Kantarou stared down at the scribbled line at the end of his word. “…It’s your imagination, Haruka.”

Haruka shook his head shortly, then seemed to resettle himself. “…Some sort of youki,” he said. “That’s–”

“The bells aren’t ringing, Haruka,” Kantarou said, sticking his hand out pointedly. Haruka was silent a long moment, and he returned to his paper. A broken umbrella…

“Youki?” Reiko blinked. “Sensei, what –”

“Ah, never mind, Reiko-san.” Kantarou waved a hand dismissively, not lifting his head from his paper. “Haruka’s just sort of imagining things — he can sense the presence of a youkai as well as I can, that’s one of the reasons I employed him …” It was a weak excuse at best, but Reiko was thankfully used to his eccentricities, and let this go with a sigh and a small frown.

Half an hour later, Haruka returned again, his movements jerkier and sharper than before. “Kantarou,” he said flatly. “There’s –”

Haruka,” Kantarou said, through gritted teeth, “I’m busy. If you’ve got the free time, you could make me tea or something. Youko-chan’s taken the week off, so –”

“She has?” He could hear the frown in Haruka’s voice. “Why?”

“… Personal reasons.” Kantarou hunched deeper at his desk. “Tea, Haruka, so I can get this done so I can get paid and we can eat.”

“I don’t make–”

“Haruka, make tea.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Haruka’s nostrils flare in what he hoped was offense rather than another attempt to scent the air. Haruka turned on his heel and stalked out.

“A cup for me too, please,” Reiko called after, cheerful.

Rubbing his head, Kantarou stared at the blurring words on the page, and rubbed at his eyes, then bent over with determination.

Some ten minutes later, Reiko rose, jolting Kantarou out of his groove. “Excuse me, Sensei,” she whispered, gesturing. “The toilet–?”

“Ah, of course, feel free,” Kantarou said, gesturing vaguely in the bathroom’s direction.

She murmured her thanks, which Kantarou waved some distracted acknowledgement of, and slipped out. A moment later, the door opened again, and Haruka stalked in, holding a tea tray in both hands and looking oddly thoughtful. It surprised Kantarou somewhat to see; usually, even when directly ordered, Haruka gave into doing menial tasks with bad grace.

With a sigh, Kantarou allowed himself a pause to sit back and stretch, trying to work out some of the knots growing in his back. “Thank you, Haruka,” he said with some relief, and turned to take a cup from him.

Haruka stared at him the whole time, with a distinctly intent expression that made Kantarou feel suddenly small and exposed. “Kantarou,”he said, less sharply than before, but still insistent, “that smell –”

“It’s probably your imagination,” Kantarou said. “My other friends come and go all the time, and since Youko-chan’s gone, she hasn’t been around to do the cleaning. Don’t worry about it, it’ll probably pass over by tomorrow.”

“… ah.” Haruka narrowed his eyes, continuing to watch as Kantarou sipped at his tea.

Kantarou sighed with relief at the slightly bitter taste, clearing his palate from the nervous edge it had taken on. He licked his lips as he turned back to his paper.

“Stop that,” Haruka snapped.

Kantarou blinked. “…Haruka?”

“Stop flirting with me when you’re supposed to be working.”Haruka’s voice was harsh. “Don’t think I don’t know when you’re doing it.”

Kantarou gaped at him. “Haruka, what are you talking about?”

“That,” Haruka said, insistently. “What you’re doing. It’s annoying. Stop it. You’re supposed to be working.”

Kantarou continued to stare. “I am working,” he said. “I’ve been here all this time, Haruka; you’re the one who’s been in and out!”

“This isn’t the time or the place,” Haruka growled. “Your editor is probably going to be here until after dinner, so –”

“I know that,” Kantarou said, bewildered. “Haruka, what’s wrong with you?”

Haruka took a deep breath, and a small furrow appeared between his eyebrows, making him look somewhat uneasy. “… I’ve got a bit of a headache,” he said at last. “I feel strange.”

“Yes, well.” Kantarou started to pick up his cup again, then thought of it better, frowning. “Go rest on the roof or something, Haruka, I’m busy. Because even if you don’t think so, I am trying to work –”

The door opened, and Reiko blinked at the two of them before smiling. “Ah, Haruka-kun, thank you,” she said pleasantly, taking the other cup. Haruka scarcely seemed to notice, though Reiko certainly had leaned into his personal space in the process. “Sensei, the paper … ?”

Kantarou hurriedly turned back to the paper. “Ah, yes, yes,” he said quickly. “The paper, I’m working on it. It’s fine.”

Haruka didn’t move away, and Kantarou tried hard to ignore him; lover or not, Haruka had a lot of nerve trying to imply that Kantarou was flirting with him right now. He was far too stressed to even consider flirting, let alone with Reiko right there…

He found himself getting distracted, and shook his head quickly. He mustn’t let himself think such things; he had work to do. Several paragraphs later he realized he was running out of ideas, and raised his pen to his lips, chewing it nervously.

Haruka, crouched beside him still, made a low growling sound. Kantarou jumped with a yelp, clutching at his chest and his startled heart as he stared at Haruka.

Haruka,” he said, more sharply now than before. “What –”

“Stop that,” Haruka told him, in a voice that shook, just a little, at the edges. “Just stop that, Kantarou, you –”

“I’m not doing anything but trying to work!” Kantarou said, exasperated. “Reiko-san, you can see that, right?”

She nodded, looking a bit wide-eyed. “Haruka-kun,” she said. “Ichinomiya-sensei is working, so if you could –”

Haruka,” Kantarou said, stressing the name, meeting Haruka’s gaze with a glare of his own, “let me work in peace.

Haruka drew a sharp breath, pupils contracting and eyes seeming to pale slightly. And then he rose in one smooth motion and stalked out.

Kantarou exhaled slightly, and gave an apologetic smile to Reiko. “Sorry about that, Reiko-san.”

“Is he, er, all right?” She seemed unsettled by the growl.

“It’s just been a strange day,” he said, and turned back to the article. Maybe, he thought, he could draw it out with a slight digression into etymology…

He was a good page into it and secretly congratulating himself on the idea when the door slid open again and Haruka walked in.

“I went into Youko’s room,” he said into the silence. “To get you more pens and paper. And ink. To help you work.”

Surprised, Kantarou looked up, then smiled; it was as close to an apology as Haruka ever got. “Thank you,” he said, then pointed to the cleared space by his elbow. “You can leave them there.”

Haruka set his gathered supplies down next to Kantarou. His hand brushed Kantarou’s sleeve as he did, and Kantarou tensed a little, desperately refusing the desire to turn and say something. It would, he thought, only encourage Haruka’s strange conviction that he was flirting. To his surprise and some discomfort, Haruka didn’t move away, still crouched beside him.

“Kantarou,” he said, straight into Kantarou’s ear, “what do you want for dinner?”

“Dinner?” Kantarou kept his eyes resolutely on the sakubun. “I don’t know. We don’t have much right now, so we may have to be happy with fish and rice.”

“I can make that,” Haruka said, soft. “And check to see what else we can scrounge up. I can make something nice if we have anything. If not, we’ll manage.”

Kantarou blinked rapidly and forced himself to not turn and look, though it was harder by the moment. “…You cook, Haruka? I didn’t know that you–”

“Not for anybody,” Haruka said, soft, still leaning in. His lips were just barely brushing the rim of Kantarou’s ear, a teasing movement that made Kantarou shiver instinctively. “But I know how.”

Reiko cleared her throat, loudly. “Sensei?”

Ah!” Kantarou jumped back a bit, and turned quickly back to his paper, scribbling again furiously. “That’s right, Reiko-san, I’m working, I’m working! Haruka, shoo!” He put his free hand on Haruka’s chest and pushed a little, refusing to look up. Through the suit, Haruka’s skin felt oddly warm, fevered, but Kantarou refused to focus on that.

For a moment, Haruka just leaned against his hand, as though trying to push him, then finally stood up and walked away. Kantarou waited until he heard the door close, then rubbed fiercely at his tingling ear.

“Sensei,” Reiko said hesitantly after a moment, “you and Haruka-kun — I mean, I don’t want to pry, but –”

“It’s fine,” he said shortly. “We’re fine. He’s just being strange today, that’s all.”

“Ah,” Reiko agreed, brightly. “It’s none of my business, I understand, but you and he sometimes seem close–”

“Really, ah,” Kantarou said, and bent over his paper. “Sorry, Reiko-san; I really shouldn’t be discussing this when I need to be working…”

“Of course, Sensei,” Reiko said, in a tone that said that she knew something up if he was picking work over distraction. “Please continue.”

He’d utterly lost his train of thought, he found. He stared desperately at the page, closed the sentence a little abruptly, and started into a different angle on the etymology. He’d picked up his rhythm again when the door opened, and Haruka outright slunk into the room; there was a definite roll and sway to his steps that wasn’t normally present, even when he was drunk. In spite of himself, Kantarou looked up and found himself caught by Haruka’s stare.

“Dinner’s ready,” he said. “Are you coming?”

“Um.” His fingers felt suddenly nervous, and he clenched them around his pen to keep it from slipping. “I can’t, I’m almost done –”

A small frown twisted Haruka’s mouth. “Are you sure?” he said. “I made it specially for you …”

“That’s very kind of you, Haruka, but …” Kantarou swallowed. “I’m almost done; I just need one or two more pages to be done. I’ll be along in a bit. Reiko-san, would you like to stay for –”

Haruka strode over in two quick steps and leaned down, smiling at Kantarou, his lips pulling back to reveal teeth more than a little pointed. “I don’t make things for most people, you know,” he said.

Kantarou leaned back, suddenly aware of how doing so bared his throat. “I know that, Haruka, and I — I really appreciate it, and I’ll definitely… definitely eat all my share, everything you made for me, but ah, first, I need to finish these last couple of pages. It won’t be long,” he promised quickly, when Haruka’s lips pulled back farther. “Just, ah, give me ten, maybe twenty minutes. And then I’ll eat your food.”

“You shouldn’t keep teasing me like this,” Haruka chided, his voice vibrant, sensual. “I can only take so much, you know.”

“Ah, I’m not sure what you mean, Haruka,” Kantarou said, inching back further, a nervous smile spread across his own face. “Um… I need to get these pages to Reiko-san, so…”

Haruka leaned closer, and Kantarou was vaguely alarmed to see how pale his eyes had gone. “Hurry, then,” he said. “I’m hungry.”

Kantarou scooted back a little more, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m working,” he said, and glanced aside at Reiko, who was red-faced and pointedly looking away. “Haruka, you’re crowding me –”

Abruptly, Haruka stood again, looking down at Kantarou with an unreadable expression, his eyes still pale. “Hurry, then,” he said, and stalked out with the same roll to his walk, not even glancing at Reiko as he passed. When the door closed, Kantarou let out an explosive sigh, and scooted back into place at his desk.

After a long moment, Reiko coughed into her hand and said, “Ichinomiya-sensei, are you sure everything’s all right?”

Kantarou turned quickly back to the article. “Just a little more,” he said. “I’m almost done, I swear.”

Her cheeks were still bright red. “You understand, I don’t want to interrupt,” she said. “But ah, the article does need to get written, and…”

“No, no, I understand,” he said, scribbling furiously, relying on his instincts to finish the article at this point. “I’ll get it done. Er. Quickly.”

Reiko made a faint noise, like she was trying to figure out how exactly to respond to that, and then was silent. Kantarou exhaled slowly in relief and tried, if he could, to write even faster.

He was just on the last paragraph when the door positively slammed open.

“Kantarou,” Haruka almost hissed. “The warm food is getting cold.”

“I’m almost done,” Kantarou said, through gritted teeth, and circled the last period and slammed his hand down, shoving the finished article at Reiko. “There. Finished. Reiko-san, I’m sorry for the delay, I –”

“No, no,” she said quickly, taking the article and tucking it into her bag without so much as a glance-over. “I’m sorry, Sensei, but it did need to get finished and just –” She stood, almost tripping over herself as she did. “I’m sure my boss will be happy it’s done. Um. Have a good night, then, Sensei, Haruka-kun. I can see myself out, so –”

Haruka said nothing, glaring at Kantarou as Reiko babbled her good-byes and shoved past him, hurrying down the hallway. Kantarou swallowed at the strange look in Haruka’s eyes and shifted back, just a little.

“Haruka,” he said weakly, “that was really rude, and Reiko-san was right, the article needed to get done, I don’t understand why you’re so upset –”

“Stop that, I told you,” Haruka hissed, advancing on Kantarou, his hands extended towards him. Kantarou saw with alarm that Haruka’s nails had sharpened into talons. “You don’t always need to flirt, Kantarou.”

“Haruka, look, I think — maybe you should get some fresh air,”Kantarou said quickly. “You know, in case you inhaled something that’s bad for you. I, ah–”

“You know,” Haruka said, fingers twining in the front of Kantarou’s gi hard enough that his knuckles went white and the nails threatened to tear the cloth. “You’re really unattractive when you’re being coy.”

Kantarou swallowed and tried to remember where he left his juzu. Not that he could actually fight Haruka, but he might be able to distract Haruka enough to run for it if Haruka were going to get violent with him. “C…coy, Haruka? I don’t know what you mean, I’m not being coy…”

“You are too,” Haruka growled, leaning so close that their foreheads touched. “You keep making all these gestures and pretending you don’t know what I’m talking about –”

“That’s because I don’t,” Kantarou said, exasperated. “Haruka, you’re beginning to worry me, what’s wrong?”

“You’re what’s wrong,” Haruka said sharply. “You keep doing things and you can’t tell me you don’t know exactly what you’re doing –”

“Yes I can,” Kantarou said, tugging a bit at Haruka’s grip on his gi. “Because I really don’t know. Come on, Haruka, what’s wrong?”

“You don’t need to play hard to get,” Haruka snapped at him, and tugged hard, opening Kantarou’s gi and shoving it back off his shoulders in one smooth gesture. “It’s annoying.”

“I’m not doing anything!” Kantarou protested, then yelped when Haruka leaned in, pinning him back to the writing desk. “Ah, but what about dinner — ?”

“I’ll eat you,” Haruka snarled at him.

The worst part was how Kantarou couldn’t figure out if it was a sexual innuendo or not. He squirmed under Haruka. “Haruka, the edge of the desk is in my back, it kind of hurts…”

Haruka’s answer was a low growl that raised the hairs on the back of Kantarou’s neck; he squirmed a bit and managed to get his hands on Haruka’s shoulders, pushing a bit to try and put some space between them. “Haruka –”

“Just shut up for a moment,” Haruka hissed, his voice low and thick. “You always talk so damn much, no wonder you’re surprised when these things happen –”

“Haruka,” Kantarou began, then yelped when Haruka’s teeth sank hard into his shoulder, sharp and unexpected. “Haruka! Stop!”

For a dizzying moment, he thought Haruka would push to fight against the command. And then, slowly, Haruka’s mouth left his neck and Haruka pulled back, a worried line drawn between his brows. He didn’t look appreciatably calmer, but at least he didn’t seem quite so upset.

“Kantarou,” Haruka said, and it was a relief to hear enough of Haruka’s normal tone of voice in it even through the fangs and wild eyes. “Kantarou, I want you.”

“Ha…Haruka,” Kantarou said, flustered for a moment. His arms came around Haruka out of instinct, and he yelped as Haruka leaned in again, pressing him back against the desk. “I, that’s fine, I just — the desk, it hurts–”

“Somewhere a little more comfortable,” Haruka said in a nearly drugged tone of realization. “That would be good, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes,” Kantarou said, shivering. “I — Haruka, though,you might be making a mistake–”

“You’re my lover, aren’t you? Don’t say stupid things,” Haruka said, and rose suddenly, slinging Kantarou over one shoulder.

“Wh– Haruka!” Kantarou squirmed on instinct, flailing a bit; Haruka’s arm was a solid band around his middle, and while he was securely held, Haruka’s shoulder was a hard point in the soft part of his stomach. “Wait a moment, hey, what are you –”

“Somewhere more comfortable,” Haruka said, and sounded almost like he was talking to himself. “Your room, it’s closer.”

“Put me down, come on, hey –”

“Be patient,” Haruka said, and tightened his hold when Kantarou tried to squirm out of his grip again. “In a moment.”

“Not ‘in a moment’! Now! Haruka, come on, this is embarrassing –”

“Don’t flail, I’ll drop you,” Haruka said flatly. “If you get hurt, this won’t be fun.”

Haruka’s other hand rose and tucked itself firmly against Kantarou’s rear. For something that was supposedly an attempt to balance Kantarou, his fingers were certainly shifting a lot. Kantarou’s cheeks went redder.

“Harukaaaa!”

“‘Haruka, Haruka’, that’s all you say,” Haruka hissed, and slid the door to Kantarou’s room open with his free shoulder. “You could at least stop protesting even in the middle of this–”

“I’ve been working all day,” Kantarou said, helplessly. “This is a little sudden, I just –”

“You’ve been driving me crazy all day,” Haruka said flatly. “With all those looks and gestures, biting your lip and everything else–”

Kantarou pushed himself up as best he could, twisting to glare at the top of Haruka’s head. “You call that flirting?” he asked, exasperated. “That was nothing of the sort, you’re just — wah!” He yelped as he was half-tossed, half-dropped onto his futon, blinking dazedly up at the moment before he sat up and scrambled back a little, staring at Haruka’s advance. “Haruka, this –”

“And you wouldn’t take the hint, either,” Haruka said, his voice somewhere between a hiss and a growl, and Kantarou swallowed hard. “Playing hard to get isn’t really your style, Kantarou.”

“Hard to — Haruka, I was working!” He glanced around helplessly, but he was too far away from anything that would be a suitable enough barricade to keep Haruka at bay, even for a little while. Maybe a pillow to the face, or something — “You know, the thing you and Youko-chan are always yelling at me about? Come on, be reasonable! I can only do so much at once!”

“You can,” Haruka agreed, tugging at his necktie. “We can test that now, in fact.”

“Harukaaa!” Kantarou wailed. “You made me dinner and everything!”

“It’s already cold,” Haruka said, and tossed his necktie over his shoulder, tugging against the buttons on his shirtfront to bare skin partway down his chest. “Eat it later.”

Really, Haruka did sort of have a point, but he blanched at the thought of how mad Haruka would be later, when he found out that probably he’d just scented Youko’s pheromones…

If he found out later…

Which Kantarou had no intention of letting him do. Really, the best way around it, he decided, would be to play along. He bit his lower lip and glanced up at Haruka. “Okay,” he said, “you caught me. I’m sorry I spent so long teasing you, Haruka…”

For a moment, Haruka paused, and then he snorted, opening his shirt the rest of the way and shrugging it off. “I thought so,” he half-drawled. “You keep coming up with more clever ways to get out of work, don’t you? I’m impressed you held out this long.”

“Well.” Kantarou tried to project as much wide-eyed innocence into his expression as he could; from the flare in Haruka’s eyes, he thought he’d probably succeeded. “I mean, Reiko-san was right there …”

“So you like an audience? You’re strange.” Haruka leaned forward and caught Kantarou’s wrists, holding them both out and to the side, so that they were pinned to the ground. “I’m not interested in sharing.”

Kantarou swallowed hard; this close, it was impossible to mistake the heat coming off Haruka in waves. Oddly, the one clear thought he had was that this would make for an interesting footnote in his idle research — the notes he jotted in the margins of other papers about life with youkai.

And then Haruka was kissing him, hard enough that Kantarou could feel fangs pressing into his lower lip, pushing him backwards down into the futon.

Kantarou whimpered into the kiss, arching up under Haruka. “Harukaaaa,” he groaned, squirming. “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again–”

“Too late for apologies,” Haruka whispered at him, and bit down on Kantarou’s lip.

Kantarou gasped; he could taste blood on the next kiss, and his hand tightened against Haruka’s back. “Haruuukaaaa, be gentle, I’m only human–”

“You can take a lot, though,” Haruka murmured at him. “You’re not fragile, and you’ve been teasing me. It’s only fair.”

“Isn’t,” Kantarou insisted, drawing in a sharp breath when Haruka’s teeth moved lower, nipping a hard trail down his jaw and his throat. “I just, I –”

Haruka’s hands slid up from his wrists, ghosting along his arms and drawing his sleeves up as he did, leaving his skin exposed to the room’s cooler air, and Kantarou shivered, kneading his fingers a bit at Haruka’s shoulders. The movements were sharp and hurried, and unlike the usual focused intensity Haruka usually had, just heat and pressure scattered everywhere.

“Haruka,” Kantarou managed, after a few moments of squirming under Haruka’s mouth on his neck, “Haruka, I said I was sorry, come on –”

“Shut up,” Haruka growled into his throat. “Just face the consequences of your actions for once.”

Haruka’s hips were pressing in shallow pulses against Kantarou’s side, through his pants, jerky and sudden. Kantarou groaned against it, arching. “Haruka, I–”

“You never shut up,” Haruka pointed out, and dragged his nails down Kantarou’s belly, hard enough to leave reddened marks behind. Kantarou gasped; it didn’t exactly hurt, as though he was already too stimulated to read the sting as pain. “Shut up, Kantarou.”

Kantarou opened his mouth to say Haruka’s name and ended up just gasping at the scrape of Haruka’s teeth against his chest, one fang lightly scoring his nipple.

“…better,” Haruka acknowledged after a moment, a nearly wild grin curling the corners of his lips.

Kantarou shivered at the look; it was dangerously close to the few times Haruka had let go of himself and come near to touching upon the buried memories of the Oni-Eating Tengu. He carded his fingers through Haruka’s hair and squirmed, whimpering faintly when Haruka’s lips closed around his nipple and sucked hard, so that he could still feel the outline of fangs.

After a moment, he was distantly aware of one of Haruka’s hands pawing at the knot to his hakama without much success, for once too clumsy to pull it free. It took a bit of concentrated effort to untangle his fingers from Haruka’s hair, but eventually he reached down and grabbed the end of the bow, tugging until it came undone.

Haruka made a sound of approval, and leaned up to bite at his neck again, hard enough that Kantarou knew, distantly, there would be a mark later, if not broken skin.

Kantarou whimpered in his throat, a noise that aimed towards a groan but didn’t quite get there. “Ha–”

Haruka bit harder at that, a sharp gesture that made Kantarou yelp, hand scrabbling against Haruka’s back. He almost thought he should be offended, and managed thickly, “I asked you to be gentle–”

Haruka’s hand dipped inside his hakama, talons scoring the flesh low on Kantarou’s belly and for a moment Kantarou’s eyes went wide in anticipated pain. But when Haruka’s hand closed around his cock, it wasn’t gentle, but at least his fingernails were kept out of the way.

Haruka smirked down at his wide-eyed expression. “When you’re like this, you almost look a little cute.”

“Cute?” he demanded, too breathless to sound irritated. “Cute is what you call little kids, Haruka, and I’m not –”

“Are you sure?” Haruka’s smirk didn’t change as his hand moved, hard and fast, so that Kantarou’s hips jerked up and his head turned to one side, his breath caught in sharp, whimpering moans. “After all, you utilize your looks completely, don’t you, so that no one suspects how devious you really are –”

Kantarou groaned, one of his hands coming up to clutch hard at Haruka’s shoulder, his other twisting hard in the sheets. His lips moved for a moment, still trying to shape the syllables of Haruka’s name, and only managing a faint, reedy moan. “Ah –”

“How many people have been tricked?” Haruka wondered aloud, and leaned to nip at Kantarou’s exposed ear, tugging it between sharp teeth. “How many people looked at you and thought that since you looked young and innocent, you were safe? Kantarou?”

“I don’t really, I…” Kantarou yelped as Haruka bit hard enough to draw a droplet of blood to the surface. “Haruka!”

“You can’t fool me, though,” Haruka muttered. He smirked at Kantarou, fang showing at the corners of his lips. “I know you.”

Kantarou wet his lips, gasping and shivering. “…you do, Haruka,” he admitted, and tucked his free hand into the band of Haruka’s pants, trying to regain some control. “So, ah…”

Haruka lifted his hand from Kantarou’s hakama, licked each of his fingers to the nail while Kantarou was watching, and slid his hand back inside, closing with a wet slickness. “You wanted this all day, didn’t you?”

“I,” he managed, then shuddered when Haruka’s hand moved faster, cutting off the breath he needed to speak. He squeezed his eyes shut, as though the image of Haruka leaning over him was too much. “I –”

“I’m surprised your editor didn’t notice,” Haruka murmured, then traced the line of Kantarou’s ear with the tip of his tongue. “You were broadcasting so hard that even a human should have been able to pick it up …”

Kantarou whimpered, arching helplessly into the pressure of Haruka’s hand. “I was,” he managed finally, breathy, “trying to work. I –”

“Are you still arguing?” Haruka’s hand came to a stop, holding still despite Kantarou’s whine of protest, and his restless shifting. “Kantarou –”

“I got the article done, didn’t I?” Kantarou didn’t open his eyes. “I was working.”

“You wanted me to interrupt you, didn’t you,” Haruka whispered at him, a strange sharp edge to his voice. “That’s why you were flirting all that time, you wanted me to get distracted enough to do that so you could be late on the article.”

“No, I –” Kantarou had to draw a deep breath and remember himself. “I, er, we needed food, but I didn’t want to have to do the article all at once–”

“I thought so,” Haruka said. “I wasn’t going to fall for that sort of stupid trick.” He leaned down, running his tongue over Kantarou’s throat, and Kantarou gasped at the sudden sting; it was clear Haruka had drawn blood at some point, for sure.

“Y, you showed me,” Kantarou agreed, shakily, and arched pointedly into Haruka’s grasp again.

Haruka purred in agreement, starting up a slow rhythm with his hand again. Kantarou hissed and arched again, encouragingly, and spread his legs wider to press his feet against the futon, his own hands lifting to wander restlessly up and down Haruka’s back, his arms, his chest. His nails were blunt, cut short, but they still left marks if he pressed deeply enough, and Haruka’s breath caught in a low rusty noise of approval.

“Your problem is that you’re too damn greedy,” Haruka murmured, scraping fangs down from Kantarou’s collarbone to his chest; if this was what he meant by “eating,” Kantarou thought there were certainly worse options. “You always want more than you have, more than you’ve earned, more, more, more –”

Kantarou moaned assent, and clawed harder at Haruka’s back. “More’s good,” he said breathlessly. “More’s good, more — Haruka –”

“More,” Haruka hissed at him, and his hands were on Kantarou’s shoulder and hip, turning him.

Kantarou gasped when he was turned onto his front, twisting his head to one side so he could breathe, his fingers knotting in the bedding. “Haruka,” he whispered, hardly daring to breathe; Haruka was nearly wild right now and he thought, distantly, that it would probably hurt.

He couldn’t quite form the words to order Haruka to be gentle, though.

Haruka bit at the nape of his neck, closing there just enough to hold Kantarou still, though he gasped and whimpered out Haruka’s name again. His other hand dragged red lines down Kantarou’s back, a fast, needy motion.

Kantarou whimpered at that, his fingers tightening as he arched into the sharp pressure, his breath ragged and loud in his own ears. Haruka was growling at him, low and fierce through the fold of skin caught between his fangs, and he was, Kantarou realized with a vague start, still wearing his pants. With effort, he turned to look over his shoulder, blinking.

“Haruka,” he rasped, his voice thick and shaking. “Your clothes –”

“Clothes,” Haruka snorted, and let go of Kantarou’s neck to press his mouth to Kantarou’s ear, his harsh breath hot and fast. “It’s because of your damn clothes we needed the money so badly anyway, you and your vanity –”

“Not vain,” he protested automatically. “Just — you need the proper clothes, Haruka, if you — if you — ah –”

Haruka had reached around and taken Kantarou’s erection in a hand again, his other fumbling with the front of his own pants. “Clothes are a nuisance,” he muttered.

“Yes,” Kantarou agreed, breathlessly. “Yes, they can be, but the point is, clothes mean something, and–”

“They mean they’re in the way.”

“Er… that too,” Kantarou said with a squeak as Haruka’s hand squeezed tight for a moment. “Though, ah, you look fetching in that outfit, you do–”

“Robes are easier.”

“Yes,” Kantarou murmured, letting his head drop forward to hang, “yes, but –”

“Kantarou,” Haruka growled, “shut up.” His hand tightened, and Kantarou whimpered, surprising himself by coming hard and fast over Haruka’s hand. This time, the growl in his ear was low, sated, pleased, and his hand trailed up, painting a sticky damp trail along Kantarou’s stomach as he shivered and groaned. When he sagged, it was into the support of Haruka’s other arm across his stomach.

“Ah,” Kantarou managed, when he could find the breath again. “Ah, oops, I didn’t mean –”

“That’s fine,” Haruka muttered into his ear.

“… it is?”

“The way you wanted it, it should be easy for you to go again.”

“Haruka, I’m not a teenager any more –”

“Doesn’t matter,” Haruka said, fingernails dragging patterns through the come smeared on Kantarou’s belly. “You’ll manage.”

“I don’t think I –” Kantarou’s words cut themselves off quickly; Haruka had apparently managed to get his pants undone, judging from the buckle pressing into the back of one thigh and the pressure against him. “Oh, um, I…”

Haruka leaned, a rattling hiss torn from his throat. “Kantarou. Hold still.”

Kantarou froze, eyes widening. “Haruka, aren’t you going to prepare–” The press of Haruka’s talons on his belly reminded him of the state of Haruka’s fingernails, and he winced inwardly. “No, it’s all right…”

“You’ll be fine,” Haruka muttered. “Relax.”

“I don’t think it works that way,” Kantarou said dubiously, then hissed when Haruka’s hips rolled against his, hard and insistent, but not quite penetrating yet. “Ah, that’s –”

“Humans,” Haruka muttered into his ear, sounding bizarrely affectionate for a moment. “Just relax.” His hand slid up, twisting at Kantarou’s nipples one after the other, and then down again, stroking across his stomach. Kantarou lifted his head a moment, twisting to blink over his shoulder at Haruka, and found his mouth caught in a hard fanged kiss, neatly cutting off his next forming protest.

Kantarou cried out a moment later, muffled into Haruka’s mouth, his eyes going wide enough to hurt as Haruka began to press in. His hands scrabbled at the sheets, trying to find something to hold onto as if that would help him weather the sudden stretching ache of it.

And then Haruka was in, and leaning over Kantarou, staying still for a long moment. Kantarou’s breath whimpered out; he could only be grateful that they did this often enough and had just that morning, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Haruka’s first slow thrust still burned, however, and Kantarou groaned. “Haruka, Haruka, hold on a minute,” he mumbled. “Come on–”

“Relax, I said,” Haruka said, his voice harsh. “You’re no good at following directions, are you?”

“Well,” he said, his own voice thick and rough and shaking. “Well, Haruka, it hurts, I can’t relax like this –” He dropped his head forward with a low groan, cutting himself off when Haruka moved against him, slowly. “Haruka, this, this is –”

Haruka bit the back of his neck hard, and Kantarou yelped, his hands clutching harder at the sheets. “Haruka!”

“Shut up,” Haruka muttered, and began to move slowly, subtly against him, mouthing against his neck. “Shut up, Kantarou, just shut up and let me –”

Kantarou pressed his face into the sheets and whimpered again against the roughness of it. “Harukaaaa –”

Trust me a little,” Haruka hissed, teeth still catching at Kantarou’s throat. The position, he thought feverishly, was like an animal mounting another. “You never trust anyone–”

“I trust you,” Kantarou protested. “It just h — Haruka!”

Haruka’s hand had closed around his cock, starting to stroke it again, urging it towards hardness. Haruka muttered something into the back of Kantarou’s neck that Kantarou couldn’t make out, but his thrusts were, at least, still shallow.

“Kantarou,” Haruka muttered in his ear, a darker and shaking note in his voice. “Kantarou, relax, relax –”

He closed his eyes and tried to catch his breath again, shivering with the effort as Haruka’s thrusts against him picked up speed and intensity, to match the movements of his hand. Kantarou rubbed his cheek against the sheets, mouth falling open.

“Haruka,” he whimpered, arching back instinctively. “Haruka –”

Haruka growled his name back at him, his hand tightening and moving with rough surety; Kantarou shuddered at the sound, scarcely recognizable as language. When he tried one more time to speak, it came out as a drawled noise of surrender.

At that sound, Haruka made a noise that might have been a laugh if it weren’t so utterly soaked in sex, thick and aroused and hoarse, almost seeming to scrape his throat on the way out. His free hand closed over one of Kantarou’s, still wound in the bed sheets, and stayed there.

Kantarou blinked at it through hazy eyes, pressing back against Haruka in short, jerky motions, every one of them sending jolts of pain and jolts of pleasure through him. He mouthed Haruka’s name silently, unable to find the breath for words any more.

Haruka leaned into it, teeth closing on Kantarou’s neck hard enough that Kantarou was sure he was bleeding again, and his hips gave a sudden hard pulse as he was coming, heat spreading sharply inside Kantarou.

Kantarou whimpered a moment later, managing to free one hand from the blankets and slide it up and back, closing his own shaking fingers around Haruka’s grip on his erection.

Haruka shuddered against him, sluggishly responding to the silent command, squeezing hard for a moment before picking up a steady stroking motion, until Kantarou threw his head back with a gasped cry and was coming again, hard, across Haruka’s hand and his own stomach. For a moment, he remained in place, his limbs locked stiff in place, and then he sagged, folding down into the sheets, dragging Haruka with him.

“… ah,” he murmured, his face buried in the sheets. “Ah.”

There was a slow, careful shifting movement against his back, as Haruka stretched and pressed him deeper into the mattress, luxurious as a contented cat. “Mmmrr?” he asked in response, nuzzling contentedly into Kantarou’s hair.

Kantarou turned his head slowly to one side, blinking his eyes open with effort. “Um,” he said, intelligently. “Uh. Dinner?”

Haruka made a quiet disgruntled noise. “You’re hungry?” he muttered.

Kantarou let out a soft, almost nervous laugh at that. “Well,”he said. “I did work most of the day, Haruka, and then you, um, we just spent a lot of energy… and you went to all that work to make it for me.”

With a sigh, Haruka sat up a little, frowning down at him. His pants were tangled about his thighs and he looked utterly disheveled. “Dinner, then,” he said. “And then we do this again.”

Kantarou’s eyes widened. “Haruka, I don’t think — I mean, ah, it was good, but you were a bit rough, I don’t know if I’ll be up to it, and I’m not that young any more–”

“You can top,” Haruka said, utterly off-hand. And then, when Kantarou stared, he added a flat, “I don’t mind.”

“Are you sure you’re feeling all right?” Kantarou demanded, pushing himself up a little on shaking arms. “I mean, Haruka, you usually fight for it –”

“I said I didn’t mind,” Haruka told him, with the same flatness as before. “You want dinner or not?”

“Dinner, ah –” Kantarou sat up, running a hand through his hair, trying to tug his own clothes back into some semblance of order. “Dinner’s good, that’s — you are sure you’re okay, right?”

Haruka stared, then reached down and caught Kantarou’s wrist, dragging him easily to his feet. “Dinner,” he said, firmly. “If you don’t want to, then I can again.”

“I didn’t say that, I just — ahhh, Haruka!”

Sure enough, both the soup and the rice had gone cold, but Kantarou dug into both of them and the fish like a starving man. Haruka had made himself some and ate idly; he stared at Kantarou the whole time.

“Haruka,” Kantarou said, hesitating before picking up the last fish. “Maybe, before we do anything else, we should take a walk outside?”

“I don’t think–”

“The fresh air,” Kantarou said. “Um. It might help clear your — er, my senses! You know, help revitalize me, make me more up to having fun–”

“Are you trying to tease me again?” Haruka demanded.

“No! No, nothing like that!” Kantarou held up both hands, leaning back; there was a renewed edge to Haruka’s voice, a new paleness in his eyes. “It’s just, it’s such a nice night, and I was looking outside as I was working, and I think it might be nice, if we just go for a walk — we haven’t done that for a long time –”

Haruka stared at him for a long moment, then nodded, though he still eyed Kantarou suspiciously — like he usually would, whenever he suspected Kantarou was trying to get out of work. “… Fine,” he said at last. “We’ll go for a walk.”

With a barely-concealed sigh of relief, Kantarou finished the rest of his dinner; it was surprisingly good, better than he would have expected, for all that Haruka never spent time in the kitchen.

“Thanks for the food,” he said automatically when he finished, putting the chopsticks down and watching Haruka from the corner of one eye. “So, about that walk –”

“Yes,” Haruka said, and then gave a weird sort of half-smile, showing a disturbing hint of fang. “…You might want to get dressed first.”

Flustered, Kantarou rose and tried to resist the urge to cover himself. “Well, you were the one who dragged me in here naked–”

“Yes,” Haruka said, with smug pride in his voice.

Kantarou flushed and headed back into the other room, picking up bits of clothing where they’d been tossed. He could feel Haruka watching him from the doorway and did his best to dress in the least provocative manner he could imagine. He wasn’t entirely sure how successful he was, when he turned and saw how narrow Haruka’s eyes had become, distinctly appreciative and pale. “Haruka,” he said quickly, “you may want to clean up a little, too, you look really –”

Haruka glanced down at himself, then shrugged, tugging his shirt straight and adjusting his necktie a little. “I’m fine,” he said. “And now you’re fine, so let’s go for a walk.” He held out one hand. Kantarou resisted the urge to bite his lower lip, and made himself take Haruka’s hand, which was warm and dry against his own.

Outside, the night air was sweet and cool, and Haruka took a long deep breath and let it out slowly; Kantarou could feel a subtle tension ease out of him with it. Relieved, he let himself lean a little closer than was entirely proper.

“It’s a nice night, isn’t it?” he asked, cheerful. “A walk may be just the thing we needed …”

“Nice,” Haruka agreed vaguely. He peered up at the moon, something Kantarou knew he was in the habit of doing, from times he’d glanced up at Haruka on the roof.

Seeing normal habits resurface was more of a relief, and he found himself grinning as they walked.

“…what’s with that face?” Haruka asked.

“I’m just in a good mood,” Kantarou told him dismissively. “Can’t I be in a good mood, now?”

“I don’t trust it when you are,” Haruka said, shortly.

Kantarou pouted at him, relief putting an extra bounce into his step. “Aw, Haruka, you’re being mean again,” he whined. “Come on, I got the article finished! I’m going to be paid! Can’t I be in a good mood about that?”

“Usually, your good moods mean something else is about to happen,” Haruka said. “What are you planning?”

“I’m not planning anything,” Kantarou protested. “I’m just happy! That’s all! Geeze, Haruka –”

“Whining isn’t attractive either,” Haruka said, steering them down a narrow side street. “Are you sure you’re an adult?”

Kantarou scowled at him. “Of course I’m sure, Haruka!” he said, exasperated. “And from the looks of things, you’re pretty sure too.”

“Mm,” Haruka said, noncommittally.

With a sigh, Kantarou nudged him. “Anyway, this is a nice night and I’m determined to enjoy it. That’s not a bad thing, is it?”

“I’m determined to enjoy it too,” Haruka said, with an odd, smug edge to his voice again.

“I think you already have,” Kantarou said dryly. “You probably traumatized poor Reiko-san, you know; I don’t know if she’s ever going to be able to look either of us in the eye again –”

“That’s fine,” Haruka said mildly. “This way, she’ll know not to look.”

Kantarou raised an eyebrow. “Haruka,” he said, “you do realize she’s still got her eye on you, not me? And besides, it’s not like I’d say yes if anyone asked, not unless they were you –”

“You’d better,” Haruka said, and put a hand on his back. “If you know what’s better for you.”

Kantarou twisted to look up at him as they walked, feeling Haruka’s hand a warm pressure on his back. “You’re hardly ever this possessive, Haruka! I feel touched.”

“You’re the one I want,” Haruka explained briefly, and shrugged.

“Aww, is that all?” Kantarou mock-pouted at him. “And here I thought you were about to make a confession, Haruka–”

“You’ve already had your confessions,” Haruka said, blandly. “You don’t need more.”

“It wasn’t really a confession,” Kantarou wheedled. “It was more of a, ah, me throwing myself at you until you got the hint –”

“And put you out of your misery?” Haruka smiled very faintly. “I suppose I’ve done that, at least …”

“You’re so mean,” Kantarou grumbled, still pouting. “Really, Haruka, we — Haruka? Um?”

Haruka didn’t look at him, his expression still bland. “Yes?”

“Your hand –”

“Yes?” Haruka asked mildly, his hand squeezing one of Kantarou’s ass cheeks firmly. “Was there something wrong?”

“I just, ah–” Kantarou cleared his throat. “I’d really rather you didn’t do that in public, Haruka.”

“This isn’t public,” Haruka pointed out. “We’re on a side street and it’s dark out.”

Kantarou shifted, and took a quick step forward to free himself from Haruka’s grip. “That’s… really not the point, Haruka! I, ah, see, enjoying the fresh air isn’t, I mean, I’d rather not do this outside the house…”

“You said that maybe the fresh air would help you,” Haruka said, speeding up to match Kantarou’s pace, stroking down his back again. “Was that another lie?”

Haruka,” Kantarou said weakly, then yelped and jumped. “We’re outside!”

“Yes,” Haruka agreed, and then slid his arm around Kantarou’s waist, pulling him flush against his side, so that Kantarou stumbled and almost lost his balance. “Is there something wrong?”

Kantarou put his hands on Haruka’s chest and shoved. “Haruka, not here,” he hissed. “We’re outside, and there might be people still walking around, so –”

“Sugino holds Moo-chan in public all the time,” Haruka pointed out flatly, his arm a steel band against Kantarou’s side.

Kantarou squirmed, his cheeks bright red. “Yes, well, those two are, ah, very different,” Kantarou said. “And not really with a reputation around here, and–”

“If you have a reputation, it should be as mine,” Haruka said. “So, I don’t see the problem with it.”

“Yes, well, there is a problem, and I’m asking nicely, so, Haruka, please…”

Haruka paused and looked down at him, and for just a moment, he looked — disappointed? — and let go, though he passed his hand across Kantarou’s back as a caress as he let go. “Fine,” he said shortly. “If you insist.”

Kantarou glanced up at him, at the set annoyed line of his jaw, then sighed and rubbed the back of his head, looking away. “I mean,”he said weakly, “it’s not because of you, it’s because, well, you don’t show this sort of thing in public, even if you were a girl –”

It didn’t really seem to help; Haruka’s expression was still stony. “It’s fine,” he said. “I’ll be good.”

Haruka,” Kantarou said helplessly, then sighed and stopped, catching his sleeve. When Haruka stopped, still staring ahead, Kantarou took hold of his necktie and tugged down, so he could press a lopsided kiss to the corner of Haruka’s mouth.

When he pulled back, Haruka’s expression was its usual bland self, though there was a line between his brows that Kantarou found hard to interpret.

“I like it, Haruka,” Kantarou said, softly. “I like it when you pay attention to me, no matter how much I complain about it at the time, or no matter how inappropriate it is, or even if it hurts. I like it that I’m the one you look at.”

Haruka’s head tilted slightly. “Then–”

“But there’s just some things you don’t do outside where other people can see,” Kantarou explained, and sighed. “Because it would shock them.”

After a moment, Haruka nodded, accepting that. “Fine,” he said. “Then let’s go back. And do things there.”

Kantarou blinked, then made a slight face. “On the other hand,”he said, “sex shouldn’t become a chore, Haruka. It should be fun, and we’ve already done it three times already today –”

“We’re not done yet,” Haruka said firmly, putting a hand on his shoulder to direct him in the direction of their home. “You said the walk might revitalize you. You’d better have meant that.”

“Ehh?” Kantarou went slightly pale. “Harukaaaaaa –”

“Prepare yourself.”

+++

A week later and obviously much refreshed, Youko slid the door open. “Kan-chaaan!” she warbled. “Haruka-chaaan! I’m back!”

The silence that met her was a surprise, and she frowned faintly. Had they gone out? “Kaaaaaan-chaaaaaaaaan!”

A moment later, he came hurtling around the corner, running rather awkwardly towards her. “Youko-chan!” he gasped. “Thank goodness you’re home!”

“Ehe,” she said, grinning. “Missed me?” Of course, that didn’t quite match the sort of desperation on his face, but…

He slammed into her, then scrambled to hide behind her, peering up at her with huge eyes. “Hide me,” he whined. “Haruka’s gone crazy, Youko-chan, oh my god, save me –”

“Eh? Eh?” She tried to turn to get a look at him, but he moved with her, trying to keep behind her the whole time. “Kan-chan? Kan-chan, what’s wrong with Haruka-chan? You –”

Kantarou leaned up and whispered in her ear furiously for a moment. Youko went pale, and then bright red. “EHHHH? Haruka-chan did?”

“I had to drug his tea to get away so I could sleep,” Kantarou whimpered. “It’s been awful.”

There was the sound of footsteps approaching. Youko shook out her sleeves to hide Kantarou further and tried to make it look natural, plastering a big smile on her face. “Haruka-chan! Guess what, I’m back!”

“Ah,Youko.” He sounded vaguely disinterested. “Have you seen Kantarou around anywhere?”

“I can’t say I have,” she said, brightly. “Why, did you need him for something?”

“He isn’t hiding behind you, perhaps?”

“…of course not,” she said, still brightly. “Why would Kan-chan do a silly thing like that? At any rate, Haruka, I’m sorry I was away for so long. Heat, you know.”

Haruka paused. His expression went vaguely thoughtful. “I thought I’d smelled something strange,” he said. “Anyway, are you sure you haven’t seen him?”

“Positive!” Youko said brightly. “But now that I’m home, Haruka-chan, have you two eaten yet? I mean, I could make something really special, to celebrate me coming home –”

“You do that,” Haruka agreed, narrowing his eyes at her. “But in the meantime –” His hand shot out, and Kantarou yelped as he was dragged out from behind her. “We’re going to be busy. Don’t bother us.”

Youko blinked rapidly. Kantarou was casting beseeching looks at her over his shoulder as Haruka dragged him down the hallway, back towards the bedroom. “Ah, Haruka-chan –”

“The article was finished,” Haruka said, not looking back. “The paycheck came yesterday. You should have enough to buy something nice at the market.”

She rubbed the back of her head, staring. “Haruka-chan,” she said, “the pheromones should have worn off days ago… I don’t understand!”

“EH?” Kantarou sounded disbelieving. “Haruka, you LIAR! Youko-chan, heeeeeelp!”

“I’m sorry, Kan-chan!” she called. “I want to, but I can’t get between a tengu and his belongings–!”

“Belongings?! Youko-chan!” And then, a more desolate wail, “Harukaaaaaa!”

Haruka paused before the door to their room, turning back to give Youko a smile with more than a hint of fang in it. “Good. Also, of course they have.”

Youko gave a helpless shrug and wave. “Just be finished in time for dinner, okay? If I’m making something special, I’ll be mad it if goes to waste!”

The bedroom door slammed decisively shut, without an answer. Youko sighed and put her hands on her hips, shaking her head. It was hard not to giggle, especially when usually, Kantarou was the one whining after Haruka for attention.

“Boys,” she said aloud, and headed to the kitchen to see the damage done in her absence.

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