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Issay stood in the middle of the busy street, squinting his eyes at the numerous neon signs that looked like they were thrown together haphazardly on side of the high-rise buildings lining the area. Scratching his angled jaw with a slim finger, a perplexed expression formed on his face as Issay found himself lost, again. Despite having lived in this city for years now, somehow, Issay still makes wrong turns that brings him somewhere new.

Cursing his poor sense of direction, Issay turned around and decided to retrace his steps. If he had left the office earlier with his colleagues, he wouldn’t have gotten lost too. Picking a direction with his gut instinct, Issay began to walk.

However, as he kept an eye out for familiar landmarks, Issay found himself walking into more and more unfamiliar territory, with more and more shady looking establishments. He couldn’t have taken the wrong direction again, right?

Even as the street grew quieter and the air grew heavier, Issay continued his path choosing to believe in the choice he made. Whilst the number of pedestrians didn’t really seem to change, they were losing their liveliness, becoming more hushed, saying less and smoking more as they loitered in small groups. They were eying at him more too. Issay was starting to get the feeling that he was not welcome in this area.

“Hey, you looking for someone?” A slender, stone-faced man with elegant facial features and long black hair called out to Issay. He was dressed immaculately in a black suit that looked like it was tailored for his broad shoulders and slim waist. Standing alone, he smoked a cigarette that was already half gone.

“Huh?”

“I asked, are you looking for someone?” he repeated, stubbing his cigarette out on the railing that he was leaning against. “You don’t look like you should be here,” he added.

“Uhm…” Issay started. “I’m looking for a pub called Shirube…?”

The man raised a brow, scepticism apparent on his face. “You sure that’s what you’re looking for? That’s on the other end of this district.”

Issay groaned and slapped a hand onto his forehead. Pushing down the urge to scream in frustration, Issay merely sighed and turned in the opposite direction. Pointing towards the direction he came from, Issay asked the man, “This way?”

“Yeah.”

“Straight down?”

“Yeah.”

Issay heaved another sigh, dreading the long walk back and the teasing from his colleagues when they figure out that he got lost again.

“Hey,” the man called out again, shaking Issay from his thoughts. “Have we met before?” he asked, cocking his head to one side. “You look familiar.”

Issay stared at his face, trying not to get distracted by the movement of the light reflected off of the man’s flowing locks when he shifted. Frowning, Issay tried hard to match his face a memory. He indeed does look familiar. “Were you… Which high school did you go to…?”

The man paused in silence, staring at Issay with his glittering dark eyes as he appeared to consider if he should answer the question. After a moment, he kept his eyes on Issay as he replied, “Musayama High.”

Issay’s heart leapt and his expression lit up upon hearing his answer. “You’re Atsushi, aren’t you? That junior who liked hanging out in our classroom!”

Watching the man’s reaction to Issay’s statement was like watching a candle light up in the darkness. A glow came into his sullen demeanor as his lips widened into a smile that slowly grew brighter, turning into that same look of adoration that Issay used receive from his junior back in the day.

“Fujisaki?” Atsushi breathed in disbelief.

“It really is you then! I’ve always told you to just call me Issay!” Issay exclaimed, excited. Realising how loud he was, Issay brought his voice back down as he approached Atsushi. “It’s been so long! How’ve you been?”

“Ah… yes. I’ve been… fine,” Atsushi said with a small smile, looking down at the ground as Issay threw an arm around his shoulders. “But… how did you end up in this side of town?” he asked looking back at Issay with cautious curiosity.

“Well…” Issay looked away, laughing in a weak attempt to hide his embarrassment. “You know how I always get lost…”

Atsushi chuckled and brushed his hair out of his face as he turned to Issay. “I guess I should walk you to the bar then, least you lose your way again,” he said, smirking coyly. Without waiting for Issay’s reply, Atsushi slid his arm around his waist and led him away. “By the way, you should try not to end up in this area again,” Atsushi said, his voice low.

“Oh?”

“The suits aren’t office workers. They’re gangsters.”

“Hm… that would explain the atmosphere,” Issay mused, seemingly nonchalant as they returned to the noisy, brightly coloured side of the street. “But… what were you doing there then?” Issay asked.

“Huh? Me? I met up with a couple of friends…” Atsushi replied, trailing off.

“I heard you started running around with certain company after we graduated,” Issay commented. Looking at Atsushi with concern in his eyes and a worried frown, he said, “I hope you’re not-”

“No no,” Atsushi cut him off, waving a dismissive hand. “I just come by occasionally to say hi.”

“Hm, still, being acquainted with them…” Issay left his sentence hanging before changing the subject. “Anyway, what have you been up to? Working now?” Issay asked, slipping his arm off Atsushi’s shoulders. He felt Atsushi’s arm linger around his waist for a moment before it was eventually withdrawn.

“Hm, yeah,” Atsushi replied. Bringing a pack of cigarettes out from his pocket, he offered one to Issay, who graciously accepted it.

After Atsushi lighted his cigarette and Issay has taken his first puff, Issay laughed, “Just like old times, huh? I still don’t understand why you insist on doing this for me.” Atsushi met his eyes, but simply smiled and shrugged while lighting his own cigarette. “What are you working as now then?” Issay asked.

Atsushi thought for a moment before answering, “I guess you could say I’m working in finance.”

Issay’s eyes widened in surprise. “That’s pretty impressive!”

Atsushi waved his hand again. “No, it’s not what you imagine. It’s more like a private organisation. Small scale kind of thing.”

“Won’t they fuss about your hair then? Working in an office, finance industry and all.”

Atsushi shrugged. “No one’s said anything so far.” He took in a long drag from his cigarette, then turned to Issay. “ Enough about me. Tell me about you. I assume you’re working now?”

Issay chuckled. “Me? Yeah, I work in law enforcement. You’d never have guessed that someone, like me would end up as an inspector, would you?” he said, grinning as he looked over at Atsushi, who suddenly seemed frozen. Startled, Issay put a hand on his shoulder. “Atsushi, are you alright?”

“What?” Atsushi looked at Issay, wide eyed. “Ah…” The younger man appeared to collect himself as he said, “I’m just a little fatigued. You know, the usual, working overtime.” Atsushi smiled weakly at him, his expression hiding some kind of pain.

Issay frowned, but decided to take his word for it. He slid his arm around Atsushi again. “You should probably think about taking time off if work’s that demanding. Don’t let yourself burn out, you know?” Issay suggested, giving Atsushi’s shoulders a squeeze.

Atsushi hummed in agreement and turned away from Issay to look at their surroundings. “We’re almost there,” he announced.

“Huh, I thought it would take longer,” Issay remarked.

“Were you hoping it would take longer?” Atsushi asked, a slightly playful tone has returned.

Issay laughed, partly out of relief that Atsushi seemed to be in a better mood already. “It would be a good excuse to talk a little more,” he replied, smiling to Atsushi.

Issay saw a flash of a smile from Atsushi, but it was quickly masked by his long hair that fell forward when he looked down again. “Maybe next time,” he said softly and stopped in his tracks in front of a grey high-rise building. Squinting his eyes slightly against the glare of the backlit sign boards, Atsushi pointed at the sign that said ‘Shirube’. “There, third floor of this building.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Issay muttered, looking around him. “It was right opposite our office all along…?”

Watching Issay mouth curses while staring incredulously at his surroundings, Atsushi could not help but laugh. “Looks like you must’ve had a lot on your mind to lose your way like that,” he said between breaths.

Although exasperated and weary from his terrible directional sense, Issay could only sigh and smile tiredly. He has long since given up on trying to get better at this anyway. “You know how I am, it can’t be helped,” Issay shrugged. “Thanks for making sure I get here though,” he added, placing a hand on Atsushi’s arm. “I really do appreciate it.”

Dabbing at his eyes with the heel of his palm, Atsushi could only muster out one word as he caught his breath, “Anytime.”

“Ah, we should meet up for drinks someday too.” Issay searched his pockets and found an old receipt he had meant to discard. He scribbled his number on it with a pen he pulled out from a pocket on the inside of his coat. “Call me when you’re free,” he said, handing it over to Atsushi.

Atsushi appeared to hesitate for a moment before taking the piece of paper from Issay. He then drew out a card from his front pocket that had his number on it. “Likewise,” Atsushi gave it to Issay. “If you ever get lost again, do call,” he smirked.

“That, I will,” Issay said, mirth in his voice. Locking gazes with Atsushi, his eyes wandered a little, taking in the definitions of his junior’s face as he thought about how much his appearances have changed since the last time they met. Issay struggled for a moment, unsure if he should hug the man in parting. In the end, he decided to clap a hand on Atsushi’s shoulder and say, “I’ll see you around” before turning to leave.

--

Atsushi watched Issay disappear as the elevator doors closed and took him away. Only then did he bury his face in his hands as he sank into the bench facing the building. A whirlwind of emotions raged inside him, none of which Atsushi could show to Issay.

Suddenly seeing Issay again after 10 years was shocking, but it made Atsushi feel oh, so happy. Never in his wildest imagination would he have thought that he would ever see Issay again, especially since they never kept in contact with each other. But so short lived was that joy. Issay saying that he worked in law enforcement, that he was an inspector. Fate must be pulling a prank on him, Atsushi lamented. Pulling them so close without warning then showing him how far apart they were really meant to be.

Feeling joy and having his heart race like that only for everything to come to a complete stop as it crashed down on him was too much to take. Leaning forward, with an elbow propped on his knee, Atsushi hid his agony in one hand while the other clutched at his chest in a futile attempt to grab at his heart. Oh, how it ached. He wanted so much to scream but that would be too conspicuous in the city during the evening.

Forcing himself to take a deep breath, Atsushi steadied his breathing. There was still work to do. Composure would be needed for that. He leaned back, breathing deeply as he slowed his racing heart and brought his pulse down. Atsushi found himself staring blankly at the night sky for what felt like an eternity before he slipped his stony expression back in place.

Atsushi had taken a few steps away from the bench when he heard a voice call out behind him. “B-boss?” It was one of the new initiates. Atsushi could not, for the life of him, remember the teen’s name though. “May I ask why you’re all the way out here? I mean it’s unusual considering the police headquarters are right across the road…” the boy rambled.

Atsushi cast a cold glance across the road towards the building complex that served as the police headquarters. Slowly shifting his eyes back on the youth, Atsushi said, “Can’t I take a walk?”

Alarmed at the question, the boy quickly cast his eyes down. “Of course, Boss. Yes, Boss.”

Atsushi stifled a sigh. He could not stand the grovelling. “If there’s no other business…”

“Ah, I’ve collected the payment from the pawn shop.” The teen started to reach into his jacket when Atsushi grabbed his arm.

“Do you intend to flash all that money out in the open like this?” Atsushi growled. The boy shook his head furiously and Atsushi released his arm.

Turning on his heel, Atsushi started to walk back to the other end of the street. “Come, I’ll check the sum back in the office,” he said and the boy’s footsteps shuffled in behind him.

Casting a subtle backward glance at the police headquarters, Atsushi decided that he could live with this. As long as he never sees Issay again, he could live with this.

Chapter Text

Issay sat slumped in his chair, staring absentmindedly at his phone. He was at a conference, one of those things they hold every few months to discuss laws, statistics, what should be done but never gets implemented. He was bored out of his mind, but Issay was stuck here until it ends. Luckily, this was the last speaker.

Sighing, Issay leaned back, still staring at his phone. A couple of months have passed since he last saw Atsushi and he still hasn’t received a message, much less a call, from him. Issay flipped it open, stared at the blank screen for a moment, then snapped it close. Open, close. Open, close. Open, close. Then, Issay felt a nudge from his left.

“Waiting for a lady to call you, Fujisaki?” Yoshida, a fellow inspector asked with a smirk.

Issay huffed. “What lady,” he retorted. Straightening his sitting posture, Issay arched his back to stretch. “I’m bored as hell,” Issay muttered, trying to change the topic.

Yoshida chuckled and taunted, “You never talk about your personal life. Or rather, do you even have one?”

“I’m a workaholic who loves writing reports, why would I have one,” Issay replied dryly. He was not in the mood for this, especially when Atsushi was the only one who came to mind when Yoshida brought it up.

Yoshida nudged Issay again. “You know I’m just joking. Tell you what, we’ll go for drinks after this. The other guys said they know a couple of good places that serve for cheap in this city. Maybe you’ll pick someone up too,” he suggested, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively to Issay.

“I’m not exactly interested in picking anyone up but, I’ll look forward to the drinks,” Issay said. Maybe he can finally stop thinking about Atsushi for a bit.

--

“That went well,” said Imai. He ran a hand through his brown, swept back hair and took a puff from his cigarette. “Looks like we were able to settle that dispute with the Moriuchi’s.”

“On the surface, at least,” Atsushi said, walking next to Imai. “I’m not convinced that son of his will leave things be. He’s a bit of a wildcard.”

“Yeah, he’s a troublesome one,” Imai agreed. “I’m going to mention that to the brothers and Hoshino when I call them.”

Atsushi nodded. “I’ll leave that to you then, you’re better with giving them the details,” he said. “I think I’ll go have a drink at Madame’s. It’s been awhile since I dropped by.”

“Want me to come with you?” Imai offered.

Atsushi shook his head. “I’ll be fine on my own. I’ll see you back at the hotel later.”

“Alright then.” Imai patted Atsushi’s back. “I’ll see you later. Stay safe.”

“Yeah,” Atsushi gave him a quick side hug and parted ways with Imai.

It didn’t take long for Atsushi to find Madame’s bar. Stepping through the curtains in the entrance, he was greeted by the familiar sight of Madame pouring drinks behind the bar counter. Atsushi has never figured out his name, but everyone addresses Madame like this.

When Madame saw Atsushi, he smiled in a silent greeting, not saying a word, as always. Jerking his head towards the back of the bar, Madame indicated to Atsushi that his usual, secluded spot was unoccupied. Atsushi smiled back and gave Madame a quick bow in thanks before heading over to his space.

Settling into the worn sofa, Atsushi had a bottle of his preferred shochu brought to him. Pouring himself a cup, he slowly sipped on the alcohol as he lost himself to his thoughts in silence.

--

Issay splashed the cold water onto his face. He was feeling the heat from the beers and sake that his colleagues have been serving to him. This drinking session has been more intense than usual. The fact that they didn’t need to work tomorrow might have something to do with it too.

Staring at himself in the the bathroom mirror, Issay wondered how drinking to forget even works. It was clearly ineffective for him, he thought as he collected more water from the tap into his hands. Splashing water onto his face one last time, Issay then reached for the serviettes to wipe his face as he left the bathroom.

On the way back to his table, Issay froze, his stomach lurching. He spotted a familiar, long-haired figure sitting alone at a secluded table, tracing circles on the table while preoccupied with his thoughts. Heart thumping in his chest, Issay went closer to get a better look, perhaps his eyes were playing tricks on him.

“Atsushi?” Issay tried calling out. What are the odds that he would actually run into Atsushi outside the city too?

The figure looked up in response, disbelief in his eyes too. It indeed was Atsushi. “Issay?”

“What are you doing so far out from the city?” Issay asked. He still couldn’t believe his eyes.

“I…” Atsushi mumbled, still in shock. “I’m taking a break, as you suggested,” he said, staring at Issay. “Why are you here?”

“There was a conference that we had to attend being held in the vicinity,” Issay replied. “You’re here alone?” he asked, eyes darting between Atsushi and the half finished shochu.

“Yeah,” Atsushi said, following Issay’s eyes to the shochu bottle. He felt compelled to explain. “I drink a lot,” Atsushi said quickly.

“Alone?” Issay repeated, feeling his heart sink. “Even though I’ve been waiting for you to ask me out for drinks?”

Atsushi’s expression softened. Looking apologetic, he said, “I… didn’t want to be a bother.”

“Why would you ever be a bother to me?” Issay sat down next to Atsushi.

Atsushi smiled, his eyes downcast. “Well… you haven’t called either.”

Issay laughed and replied wryly, “Well, you see, I haven’t had the chance to get lost in awhile…”

To that, Atsushi broke into a wide smile and huffed a short laugh. “Don’t you have a gathering to return to though?”

“They’re having too much fun to miss me, I think,” Issay surmised. “I’m not needed there.”

Atsushi offered his cup of shochu to Issay, who accepted it and gulped it down in one shot before pouring another serving into the cup. “And you think you’re needed here?” Atsushi teased gently.

“Do you want me to leave?” Issay asked him back.

Atsushi appeared startled by his question and he looked away. He remained silent for a moment, searching for words. “I… do not…” he mumbled, incapable of saying more.

Issay instinctively reached over, sliding a hand under Atsushi’s soft hair to place it against his cheek. “So cute…” he muttered. Was the alcohol getting to his head?

Atsushi looked back at Issay, eyes large and his facial expression somewhere between surprise and longing. As Issay continued gazing into Atsushi’s soulful eyes, he caressed the younger man’s cheek with his thumb. They stayed like this for a while, and Issay started to have a sinking feeling in his stomach. What if Atsushi didn’t feel the same?

Eventually, Atsushi raised a hand towards his. Issay found himself holding his breath, apprehensive of Atsushi’s next move. When Atsushi touched his hand, Issay felt the tension leave his body as Atsushi cupped Issay’s hand with his and leaned in with his eyes closed.

Issay felt a sudden impulsion take over. He pulled Atsushi towards him and held the younger man in his chest. Atsushi wrapped his arms around Issay and buried his face in Issay’s shirt, taking in the scent of alcohol and cigarettes. Issay, too, wrapped an arm around Atsushi as he caressed his hair with the other.

“For so long, I’ve wished…” Atsushi said, his voice muffled against Issay.

“And yet you said nothing.”

Atsushi looked up at Issay. “I feared-”

Issay silenced Atsushi with a soft, gentle kiss that Atsushi readily responded to. It was long and slow as the two men basked in the sensation of the other’s lips on theirs. When they eventually broke off, Issay brushed a stray lock of hair away from Atsushi’s face and said, “Fear no more.” Atsushi sighed wistfully from his touch.

Issay suddenly felt a buzz from his pocket. It was his phone. He clicked his tongue in annoyance. He had wanted to ignore it but this phone buzzed another three consecutive times.

“Maybe you should get that,” Atsushi whispered.

Issay clicked his tongue again and reluctantly released Atsushi to pick up the call. “What is it?”

“Oy, you done getting lost?” Yoshida’s voice came through the receiver. “A couple of the younger kids are gonna start a fight. I need you to come back here and help stop them.”

Issay cast a regretful gaze at Atsushi.

“I guess you’re needed back there,” Atsushi whispered again, now seated upright with his glass of shochu in his hand again.

“Right, right. I’m on my way back.” Issay replied and put down the call. “I’m sorry,” Issay said, pulling Atsushi into another kiss, this time, short. Pulling away, Issay stood up. “Call me?”

Atsushi simply nodded in response, his expression unreadable. As Issay made his way back, one thought kept nagging at his mind. Why did Atsushi’s expressions always have undertones of pain?

--

Atsushi stormed into the hotel room that he shared with Imai, kicking his shoes off in the entrance of the small room with a hasty clatter. Imai appeared unperturbed by the noise, he looked like he was possibly high on something again, raising a languid hand towards Atsushi and beckoning him over to the bed where he lay.

Striding over, Atsushi threw his coat into a corner and undid his pants. He then got onto the bed and straddled Imai between his now bare thighs. Leaning in Atsushi kissed Imai hungrily, desperately, as he rubbed his erection against Imai’s crotch in a fluid rhythm. Atsushi felt Imai’s hands wander on his body. From his neck, to his back, down to his waist, and eventually to the curve of his rear where Atsushi felt a firm grab while another hand continued to his thigh, pushing his pants away as Imai caressed and squeezed his soft skin.

Atsushi broke away from the kiss and looked into Imai’s hazy eyes as he leaned his forehead against Imai’s. “Imai…” Atsushi mumbled breathlessly. “Fuck me… I want you in me… I need to feel you in me…” he continued, almost rambling from the pleasure he was getting from rocking his hips against Imai’s growing erection.

Imai smiled and hummed lowly. He was used to this, Atsushi coming to him drunk and aroused, searching for sexual gratification. It’s been awhile since Atsushi was so worked up though.

Gladly obliging, Imai grabbed Atsushi and threw him down in the bed, reversing their positions. As he undid his own pants, Imai watched Atsushi feel himself up on the bed with his long, black hair splayed out like a halo and his now crumpled white shirt completely open, leaving Atsushi’s slender toned body in full view.

Imai thought of letting Atsushi get what he wanted immediately, but decided to have a little more fun with him when he saw Atsushi’s joyfully expectant face at the sight of Imai’s erection.

Smirking coyly, Imai slowly pulled Atsushi’s underwear off. Impatient, Atsushi kicked it off and wrapped his legs around Imai, pulling Imai in roughly towards him. Imai wiggled a finger at Atsushi, still smirking. “You won’t be getting anything by being greedy,” Imai warned.

With much reluctance and a soft, suppressed whine, Atsushi let Imai go, and he started kissing Atsushi’s legs, starting from his knee and working his way up to his thighs with soft kisses, sucks, and bites. The closer Imai got to Atsushi’s crotch, the more ragged Atsushi’s breathing became, moaning softly as he clawed at the sheets and struggled to keep it down. Hotel walls are notoriously thin after all.

When Atsushi felt Imai’s lips suddenly brush across his scrotum, he jerked his hips in response, moaning louder as Imai held Atsushi’s penis in one hand while he dragged his tongue up the length of his erection. As Atsushi forced himself to take deep breaths, he felt Imai let out a huff of air against his skin, clearly pleased at his reaction. Lifting his head up from the pillow, Atsushi locked eyes with Imai who had a cocky smile on his face as he brought his lips to the tip of Atsushi’s penis to suck and tease without going any further.

Atsushi moaned but resisted throwing his head back, wanting to watch Imai instead. Reaching over, Atsushi buried his fingers in Imai’s hair, coaxing him to let Atsushi in deeper.

Imai smiled wider, still running his hands up and down Atsushi’s thighs. Ignoring Atsushi’s cues, he straightened up and lifted Atsushi’s hips, hooking Atsushi’s knees on his shoulders. Imai started pumping at Atsushi’s erection with one hand while the other continued grabbing at Atsushi’s thighs and rear. At the same time, Imai licked and sucked on his scrotum and perineum, bringing his tongue further down to Atsushi’s asshole.

The sensations overwhelmed Atsushi, making him buck and arch his back. Incapable of suppressing his voice anymore, Atsushi let out long, loud moans that continued to grow in pitch and volume as Imai brought him closer and closer to an orgasm.

The moment Atsushi was about to cum, Imai brought Atsushi’s penis into his mouth, collecting his discharge in his mouth as Imai lowered Atsushi back down. Imai leaned over Atsushi and kissed his parted lips deeply, making Atsushi swallow the mixture of his own cum and Imai’s saliva. As Imai removed himself from Atsushi to reach for the lube and condoms which have been lying in Atsushi’s carry on bag, he muttered in Atsushi’s ear mockingly, “You dirty slut.”. Atsushi whined again in response, wrapping one leg around Imai’s hips as he attempted to push his body against Imai’s.

Atsushi elicited fresh moans when he felt the cold lube smothered against his asshole. He was more than ready. As Imai slipped a finger through his entrance, Atsushi felt his body quiver as waves of pleasure rushed through him again from Imai’s fingering. He was barely able to suppress his moans when Imai slipped another finger in, and eventually a third. Unable to contain his desire any longer, Atsushi cried out, “Ah! Fuck me! Please! I need you in me!”

Satisfied with Atsushi’s pleading, Imai finally removed his fingers, deftly slipped a condom onto his penis and thrust into Atsushi’s lube covered asshole. Atsushi screamed in rapture, throwing his head back as one hand clawed at the sheets under him and the other squeezed his nipple. Rocking in tandem with Imai’s fervent thrusts, Atsushi moaned and screamed incoherently. Louder than before, no longer cares if anyone hears him.

Imai bent over, pressing his body against Atsushi’s. He felt Atsushi’s nails rake across his back as he kissed and bit at Atsushi’s neck and collarbone. Imai listened to Atsushi’s attempts at calling out his name, succeeding sometimes but barely making it through the first syllable before ending with a hiss at other times.

With his continued thrusts making him rub his abdomen against Atsushi’s erection, Imai eventually felt Atsushi cum again, leaving the warm, sticky residue on both of their stomachs. “How dare you cum before me,” Imai snarled. In all honesty, he was close to cumming himself too. Imai gave his last few hard thrusts into Atsushi before he came.

As he pulled himself out of Atsushi, Imai traced patterns on Atsushi’s stomach with his cum. After throwing the used condom aside, he let himself fall next to Atsushi and brought his cum coated finger to Atsushi’s mouth. Atsushi obediently licked and sucked Imai’s finger through half lidded eyes, drained from their intense session.

Covered in cum and sweat, Imai pulled Atsushi in, letting Atsushi rest his head against his chest. Imai could feel the fog of sleep creeping in. With one last sigh, he muttered, “You dirty little slut.” and felt Atsushi push in closer against him before sleep claimed him. That was fun.

Chapter Text

Loud buzzing from his phone woke Issay up with a jerk. When did he fall asleep at his desk again? Blearily, Issay felt around on his cluttered desk and eventually found his phone.

“Hello?” Issay coughed. His throat felt terribly dry. Hopefully it isn’t because of that flu bug that’s been going around the department.

“Issay…”

A burst of energy shot through Issay when he heard the familiar voice call his name through the phone. He was immediately awake. “Atsushi? You finally called!” Issay didn’t even try to mask his delight at hearing Atsushi’s voice.

“I’m sorry… It’s been a rough past month…” Atsushi confessed, his voice sounding drained. “Can we meet? I don’t want to bother you with something this trivial if you’re busy though,” he hastily added.

“Don’t say that,” Issay chided. “Where are you? I’ll come over right now,” he said, glancing at the clock. It was eight in the evening, well past his supposed working hours.

Issay heard Atsushi take in a breath and pause, as if hesitating. “I… You know that place, up in the hills, overlooking the city?” Atsushi asked.

“Ah, yeah. I go there often enough myself,” Issay said.

“I’ll see you there?”

“Alright,” Issay nodded.

“Make sure you don’t get lost,” Atsushi teased, humor edging in back into his voice.

Issay chuckled. “If I do, wait for me.”

“I will.”

--

Issay made his way up the winding path that led to the highest point in the city. Throughout his entire journey, Issay’s mind has been running non-stop. What happened since the last time they met? Was Atsushi’s workplace giving him a hard time because he doesn’t fit in? Or was Atsushi regretting what happened between them the last time?

The last question wrenched his heart the most. Issay was familiar with how society views relationships like theirs. With a grimace on his face and anxiety tying knots in his stomach, Issay approached the park’s observation deck where they agreed to meet.

Although the night was getting later, the area was still crowded with quite a number of couples and tourists. It was a recommended location for dates and visits with its scenic views after all. Striding past the cafeteria and souvenir shop, Issay went straight through them to step out onto the observation deck itself.

Breathing in the cold night air, Issay pulled his long coat tighter around him and shoved his hands into his pockets. It doesn’t snow in this city but the wind still cuts like ice in the colder months, even more so at such a high point. The condensation forming on Issay’s lashes made the lights from all the roads and buildings in the city blur together, giving the scenery a dream-like quality.

Issay has been here on numerous previous occasions, but he has never felt so taken by the view before today. He wrinkled his cold nose and sniffed. Maybe, subconsciously, he just wanted to stall for time. Taking one step, then another, Issay finally pulled himself away from his spot to go look for Atsushi.

Sweeping his eyes across the deck, Issay looked out for a lone, long-haired man as he made his way from his end of the deck to the other. As the end of the deck drew closer, Issay finally spotted Atsushi sitting alone on a bench. He was slouching, without any apparent care, and with his legs spread apart. Dressed in his usual suit and shirt with the first two buttons undone, Atsushi stared listlessly at the scenery. One hand lay in his lap while the other rested on the bench with a lit cigarette between his fingers. Approaching, Issay noticed a small pile of cigarette butts next to Atsushi’s shoe. Concern etched a frown into Issay’s face.

“How long have you been waiting here?” Issay asked as he sat down next to Atsushi, their knees touching.

Atsushi turned to look at Issay, allowing the deck lights near them to illuminate his tearstained face as he gave Issay a wane smile. “You’re here.”

Issay’s heart clenched. “What’s wrong?” He reached over and brushed the back of his hand across Atsushi’s cold cheek.

“What?” Atsushi uttered, surprised. He dabbed at his other cheek with the heel of his hand and felt the dampness. “Shit… I didn’t…”

“What happened?” Issay insisted. Hearing footsteps, Atsushi quickly drew back, resuming his original position. Worry growing in his chest, Issay withdrew his hand as well and put it back into his pocket.

Atsushi took a deep breath through his cigarette, blowing out clouds of smoke as the passerby loitered and took photos from their side of the deck. Issay could see Atsushi purse his lips in annoyance. Atsushi took another breath and said, his voice now softer, “My mother passed last week.”

Issay felt a weight sink in his stomach. He stared at his knees, feeling guilty for worrying about trivialities when…

“Atsushi… I’m so sorry.” Issay whispered, feeling small.

“Why apologise when it’s not your fault.” Atsushi sighed and took another drag from his cigarette. Issay felt cut. He didn’t know how to respond. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to…” Atsushi added, suddenly realising how he sounded.

“You… How are you coping?” Issay asked, now staring at the moving lights of the traffic in the city.

“We got the rites done a few days back and the legalities finally got settled today. Finally spoke to my older brother properly for the first time in years too. Apparently I have a niece now. She’s adorable. She’s starting kindergarten this spring…”

“Atsushi,” Issay interjected. “I’m asking about you. Are you alright?” He looked over at Atsushi, who bowed his head and turned away, letting his hair block Issay’s view.

Without saying a word, Issay surreptitiously took Atsushi’s hand, which lay unmoving in his lap, in his own and stuffed both their hands in his coat pocket. Issay felt Atsushi’s hand move to interlock their fingers. He gave Atsushi’s hand a squeeze and rubbed his thumb over his skin.

“I’ll be fine,” Atsushi mumbled. “I didn’t get to see her before she left.”

“Did you get to speak to her?” Issay continued to caress Atsushi’s hand as he spoke.

“I did. At least. She was more worried about whether I’ve been well,” Atsushi said with a short laugh. Issay caught the flash of a tear falling. Throwing his head back, Atsushi let the wind cool his face and dry his glistening eyes as he kept his eyes on the moon and the faded stars.

“My older brother told me that it was just a flu, though,” Atsushi continued, swallowing. “But she sounded weaker than usual, I should’ve guessed something was wrong. She said there was no need to visit. I should’ve ignored that. She even made the effort to call for the first time in months.” Atsushi’s voiced hitched and he fell silent, letting his head drop.

Issay tightened his hold. He felt helpless. “Atsushi… you couldn’t have known,.” he said, letting the words linger. No words came from the younger man.

The both of them sat together, motionless and quiet. Listening to the noises surrounding them and the voices of the other visitors, it felt like they were isolated in their own little space, tussling with emotions a world away from their environment.

Eventually, Atsushi took another drag from his cigarette and said thickly, “I think I need a drink.”

Glancing over, Issay asked, “Anywhere you’re thinking of?”

“Preferably somewhere private…”

“Hm…” Issay scratched his chin thoughtfully and sniffed again. The chilly air must be getting to him. “My place?” he suggested. Issay felt Atsushi’s hand tense up. “Or we could go to a bar, somewhere with private room-”

“No,” Atsushi said, his hand relaxing. “Your place might be better. I don’t want us waking up on the streets tomorrow from passing out drunk.”

Issay huffed and chuckled softly at the mental image. “That, indeed, wouldn’t be good.”

The deck lights started going off, plunging the two men into darkness. “I guess we better get going,” Issay said, standing up with Atsushi’s hand still in his pocket.

Feeling his arm raise, Atsushi looked up Issay, his expression bewildered from the fact that Issay hasn’t let go. Issay smiled back and jerked his head, signalling to Atsushi to get up and go. With a small smile, Atsushi dropped his cigarette, smothered it with his heel, and left the now empty deck with Issay.

--

“Hm, do you want to catch the last train, or shall we just hail a taxi?” Issay asked. They have arrived at the train station which was conveniently located at the bottom of the hill. “Both ways take the same amount of time to get home though.”

Atsushi swallowed. He hadn’t taken the train in years now. He would usually have someone driving him around but sneaking away has left him without that privilege. Atsushi wasn’t aware if there were any hits on him right now, but being in a public space might be better. In comparison to a car accident, it’s less likely that someone would derail a whole train to get at him, right?

With that in mind, Atsushi decided, “Let’s take the train then.”

The two men managed to purchase their tickets and get onto the platform just as the train arrived. The moment he saw the number of people in the cabins though, Atsushi started regretting his choice.

“I thought the crowds would’ve dispersed by now,” Atsushi muttered as he stepped into the train after Issay.

They managed to move away from the doors but it was so packed that Atsushi found himself pinned to Issay, who had somehow managed to turn around to face him. Atsushi felt a rush in his cheeks.

“I suppose everyone had too much fun and had to rush for this train,” Issay commented. If he noticed Atsushi’s blush, he didn’t show it. Issay raised an arm above his head to take hold of a grab handle and slipped his other arm under Atsushi’s blazer to curl around his waist. Atsushi felt his cheeks turn warmer again.

As the train started up and jerked into motion, Atsushi felt Issay’s arm steadying him. He raised his brows subtly. It was a practical move after all. The train then ran over an uneven spot in the tracks, causing Atsushi to stumble and fall into Issay. He didn’t even know how there was still legroom for him to move closer.

“Sorry,” Atsushi muttered.

“It’s fine,” Issay replied, clearing his throat as he tightened his arm around Atsushi. Taking advantage of their proximity, Atsushi, too, slid his arms under Issay’s coat to hold onto him and he let his hair fall over his face as he rested his cheek on Issay’s shoulder. Looking up at Issay through his veil of hair, Atsushi noticed Issay’s impassive expression soften and a corner of his lips tug upwards into a barely noticeable smile. Atsushi smiled as well and sighed softly, letting himself relax.

The next station came and went but the crowd didn’t ease up. The two of them remained as they were, unmoving while the other commuters flowed and shifted around them. When the train doors closed, it felt like there were even more people than before, pressing them even closer to each other, not that they minded.

The train jerked to a start again and the passengers swayed as one. Atsushi felt someone brace against his back with their hand, then the sensation disappeared, only to be replaced by the feeling of another hand lower down, on his rear. Atsushi froze, waiting for the sensation to disappear, like the one earlier. But it remained. Instead, it felt like… a squeeze?

Chaos exploded in Atsushi’s head. Of all scenarios, this was one that has never even crossed his mind before. What was he supposed to do? Atsushi swallowed as he tried to force himself to consider his options calmly. If he was in another place with another person, the owner of that offending hand would already be dead. He obviously could not react explosively in a place as crowded and as cramped as this. The person would just slip away. Atsushi considered grabbing that person’s hand himself. But what if it was a woman? She could turn it around and accuse him instead. What was he to do then?

Unable to figure out a solution, Atsushi whispered, “Issay…”

“Hm?”

“That’s… not… your hand down there is it?” Atsushi asked, gripping the fabric of Issay’s shirt in his hands. That was embarrassing.

Issay’s brows furrowed, perplexed as he glanced down at Atsushi. Slowly, his hand travelled downwards, from Atsushi’s waist, to his hip, and…

The look in Issay’s eyes could make a person’s blood run cold. Just as Issay’s jaw tensed, Atsushi felt both the offending hand and Issay’s leave his person, followed by Issay making a swift grab for the hand. Feeling Issay’s muscles tense as he held himself in place, Atsushi gathered that he was successful in catching hold of the perpetrator. He let out a sigh against Issay’s shirt collar, somewhat relieved, though no less angered.

The ride through their remaining stops felt like an eternity, but when they finally arrived at their destination, Issay dragged the owner of the hand out of the train with them and flung him onto the empty platform.

As the man scrambled to find his footing in a bid to run away, Issay marched forward and planted his kneed in the man’s chest. Atsushi sauntered towards them, looking down his nose at the squirming man. He looked and dressed like someone who has yet to enter the workforce, maybe still young enough to be a student. Atsushi stood over the man, his scowl of disgust in plain sight.

“Y-you’re a man!” the offensive man exclaimed. Pointing his finger at Issay, he attempted to redirect the wrongdoing, “You! I’ll report you for assault!”

Issay flashed his badge. “Do try.”

--

Yourou hated his mandatory night shifts at the police box. Nothing happens, which means there was nothing to do, but no sleep was allowed anyway. Even though he’s been promoted to sergeant, he still couldn’t get out of it. Tonight, though, has turned out to be rather… interesting.

Earlier, Yourou stepped out from the back office to find the Tiger of Takasaki hovering over the impressionable Inspector Fujisaki, who was filling up a report, while some unknown man was handcuffed and fidgeting in a chair.

Yourou was initially gripped by a mini panic attack at the sight of the Tiger. He’s only ever seen him at Tamori’s Bar, the neutral ground for both gangsters and officers alike. This was the first time Yourou has seen him anywhere else, much less without the any of other heads of the Takasaki family.

Curiosity drove Yourou to head to the front desk. He wanted to figure out what was going on. Deep inside though, he hoped that this would not be the day when his undertable payroll to gets brought to light.

When the Tiger caught sight of him, Yourou knew that he has been recognised. Although, from the way he was being glared at, from that overwhelming presence he was exerting, it would seem that the Tiger was warning Yourou against spilling anything.

“Hey, Inspector Fujisaki, rare to see you in here,” Yourou greeted, trying to act as normal as possible.

Fujisaki looked up. “Oh! Yourou! It’s been awhile! It’s your shift tonight? That’ll be easier then,” he rambled, scribbling a little faster on the report. “How’re things in the neighbourhood? Oh, Atsushi,” Fujisaki turned and addressed the Tiger. They’re on a first-name basis? “This is Yourou, we worked together back when I was still in a police box like this.”

“Ah.” The Tiger put on a pleasant smile, or so Yourou thought until his hand was clasped in an iron grip and a menacing aura enveloped him. “Pleased to meet you,” said the Tiger, flashing a smile. Yourou’s mind must be playing tricks on him. Those couldn’t be canines in his mouth, right?

When the Tiger let go, Yourou folded his arms behind his back and flexed his hand. That was some grip, he thought, swallowing. “Likewise,” Yourou replied. Yourou thought the Tiger looked a little fatigued though.

Turning his attention back to Fujisaki, he asked, “So what brings you in here at this time of the night?”

“One of your officers, uh… Takahashi?” Fujisaki asked, pointing one end of the pen at one of the junior officers who nodded. As Fujisaki went back to writing the report, he continued, “He said there’s been a string of groping cases being reported in the area?”

“Yes… are you saying you’ve caught the one behind it?” Yourou asked. His eyes darted between the handcuffed man, Fujisaki, and the Tiger, who continued to keep a steely glare on him.

“Well, I hope it’s the right person,” said Fujisaki. He looked over what he wrote then tapped the Tiger’s arm, asking, “Convincing enough?”

Yourou watched the Tiger lose his intimidating expression as he interacted with Fujisaki. It truly was the most unusual of sights. “How’s your, uh, companion related to this?” Yourou ventured, unsure of how he should refer to the Tiger.

“Ah… he was the… unintentional bait,” Fujisaki explained, his tone turning a little more sour.

It took awhile for Yourou to connect the dots but once he did, Yourou’s jaw hung slack in disbelief. “That-… He-… He was groped?!”

“That won’t be written in the report though,” Fujisaki said, sounding even colder now.

“Huh, he’s as good as dead,” Yourou muttered as he quickly recovered from his shock. He was sure that the Takasaki family will be sending people after this man once they find out.

“Why would you say that?” Fujisaki asked, surprised. The Tiger turned his head slowly, blinked, and stared at Yourou. A warning.

“I thought he was a woman!” The handcuffed man desperately cut in. “I don’t like men in that way!” The Tiger’s glare shot to the man instead now, his lips curled in loathing.

Yourou swallowed. “Well… I mean, look at him,” Yourou gestured at the handcuffed man. “He obviously hasn’t even stepped into society yet and now he’s getting blacklisted as a sex offender,” he explained. “He’s never going to get a foothold in the working world at this rate. He might even get kicked out of school.” Yourou hoped that was enough to cover his ass.

Fujisaki hmph-ed and nodded. “Harsh, but true.” Yourou felt the pressure from the Tiger ease up. Could it be that the Tiger was hiding his identity from Fujisaki?

After passing the completed report to the junior officers, who have remained quiet so far, Fujisaki made the man stand and said to him, “Alright, kid. We’re going with the story that we spotted you groping a lady and she alighted before you. We watched you and grabbed you as we were leaving the train, before you could grope someone else. All good?”

“But I-!”

Fujisaki slammed the man into the desk with his arms pinned to his back as he pressed his head into the metal surface. The junior officers jumped backwards, startled at the sudden show of force. “You’ve tested my patience enough. Yes. Or. No?”

“Y-yes!” the man replied frantically, his face scrunching up from the pressure that Fujisaki was exerting on his skull. He looked like he was going to pee his pants.

“Alright, he’s all yours!” Fujisaki said, lifting the man up and pushing him to the junior officers with a smile on his face. Yourou suppressed a shudder. That 180 degrees change was unsettling. “Might as well interrogate him and figure out whether he’s behind all those other molestation cases as well,” Fujisaki said, clapping a hand on junior officer Takahashi’s shoulder. The officer merely nodded.

Turning to Yourou, Fujisaki addressed him, “Well, Sergeant, I guess we’ll have to catch up another time when you’re off shift.”

Yourou nodded. “It’s been a while after all. I’ll see you at some bar, somewhere, some time soon,” he said with a grin, relieved that the Tiger was finally leaving.

Fujisaki laughed and gave him a casual wave goodbye. The Tiger fell in step next to him without hesitation and as he left, he turned back to give Yourou one last warning look before they walked out of sight.

Yourou released the breath that he did not even realise he was holding. That was nerve wracking. Yet, at the same time, he couldn’t help but wonder about Fujisaki’s relationship to the Tiger. The fact that the Tiger didn’t immediately get rid of the groper himself was already odd. If Fujisaki truly knew who he was associating with, then perhaps his typically guileless behaviour was a most impressive guise. But if he didn’t…

Thinking about how Fujisaki let the other side of him slip out when handling the offender, Yourou felt convinced that there was more to him than it seems. Though when it comes to the Takasaki family side of things, whether they know about the Tiger’s associates wasn’t business for him to get involved in, was it?

--

After their detour to the police box and a stop at a convenience store on the way, they were finally on their way back to Issay’s home. Issay coughed a few times. His throat was parched and the cold, dry air wasn’t helping. Issay glanced over at Atsushi, who appeared to be lost in his thoughts, and shifted closer towards him as they walked.

“Tonight’s turned out to be rather eventful, huh,” Atsushi sighed.

“I’m sorry, we should’ve just taken a taxi,” Issay said.

Atsushi turned to Issay. “I was the one who made the choice, remember?”

“I shouldn’t have even made that suggestion.”

“Issay, you couldn’t have known,” Atsushi quoted, looking at Issay with a gentle smile.

Issay could only smile back apologetically. He put an arm around Atsushi’s shoulders, drawing him closer as he pressed his forehead against the side of Atsushi’s head and whispered into his ear, “Don’t steal my words.”

There was a smile on Atsushi’s face. His eyes narrowed and his shoulders shook as he laughed, albeit quietly. As it subsided, Atsushi’s expression fell back into that wistful look that he always seems to have on his face.

A short walk and an elevator ride later, Issay unlocked the door to his 1LDK apartment. Holding it open he jokingly bowed and said, “Welcome to my humble abode.”

Atsushi chuckled and walked in, standing in the entrance area as Issay followed and closed the door behind him. “Not locking the door?” Atsushi asked, noticing that Issay immediately proceeded to remove his shoes.

“Ah, I got a self-locking mechanism installed. There were a few occasions the past when I found myself so drunk that I woke up on the floor right here the next morning with the door still open,” Issay laughed.

“How horrendous,” Atsushi teased as he slipped his own shoes off as well.

Issay moved quickly, immediately depositing their convenience store purchases in the kitchen, turning on the kettle, and then running the hot water for the bath. “Make yourself at home,” he told Atsushi. Pausing at the entrance, Issay coughed and cleared his throat again before asking Atsushi, “I… assume you’re staying the night?”

Atsushi hadn’t thought about that. Although the idea tempted him, the rational side of him wanted to say no. It’ll only make things more difficult for himself going forward.

“I suppose… I will, since you offered,” Atsushi eventually replied. Issay’s mouth edged into a smile and he nodded as he entered his room. Atsushi hoped he wasn’t going to regret this.

Left alone in the small, though sparsely decorated living room, Atsushi took his jacket off and sat at the kotatsu instead of the sofa. Folding his arms and resting his head on the table, Atsushi found himself unable to keep his mind awake and within a minute, he drifted to sleep.

--

Issay had gone into his room to change and grab clothes for Atsushi to use but when he stepped out, he found the younger man already tucked in and asleep at the kotatsu that he left out for the winter months. Issay smiled and sighed, glad that Atsushi appeared comfortable enough to rest, yet worried about just how tired he was.

Quietly, Issay lay the clothes for Atsushi on the table, then went into the kitchen to check on the boiling water. As he poured himself a glass of water, he stared at the kettle, waiting for the water to boil. Issay found his thoughts drifting back to their detour to the police box.

He had noticed that Yourou recognised Atsushi, and vice versa, but, for some reason, they chose not to acknowledge it. Furthermore, Yourou seemed oddly tense and wary around Atsushi. He couldn’t help but feel that something was off. The junior officers, however, seemed unaware of anything unusual though.

Issay sighed. Perhaps he was just being paranoid. He didn’t like that he was being led to think that Atsushi was hiding something… important from him. His heart ached a little at that thought. Sighing again, Issay drank his water. Issay winced as he swallowed, feeling the soreness in his throat. At this point, it would probably be safe to say that he really did catch that virus from his colleagues.

The kettle whistled, shaking Issay from his wayward thoughts. He transferred the hot water into a thermos. They could use it for their noodles later. Issay then put the beers they bought into the fridge to chill. He also took out a bottle of shochu and put it on the kotatsu. They were supposed to drink after all.

Seeing that Atsushi was still asleep, Issay decided to let him rest and go wash up in the meantime. There wasn’t much else to do at home anyway.

With his mind made up, Issay headed into the bathroom, scrubbed himself down and slipped into the tub of warm water that he had prepared. Feeling the heat relax his muscles, it didn’t take long before Issay, too, found himself falling asleep.

--

Atsushi woke up with a jolt. He had some weird dream but could only vaguely remember his mother being in it. Deciding to forget about it, Atsushi sat up and looked around him. There was a bottle of shochu and a stack of clothes, namely a pair of track pants, a tee, and a hooded jacket, sat on the table. Pulling his legs out from under the heavy blanket, Atsushi noticed that the house was silent. There was no movement. He frowned. Where was Issay?

The door to Issay’s room was open. Atsushi looked in. There was no one in there. He walked to the kitchen to have a look. No one there either. Only the bathroom was left. Atsushi turned and looked at the bathroom door, which was ajar. Deciding to chance it, he pulled it open, a little wider, and looked in.

There was no one in the sink area but there were clothes folded neatly on the sink countertop. A smile appeared on Atsushi’s face. Considering that there was no sound coming from the shower, Issay should be in the bath then. Peering past the sliding door that separated the sink area from bath area, Atsushi confirmed his guess. Issay was in the tub, asleep, his head resting against the wall behind him with the water halfway up his chest and an arm resting on the outer side of the tub.

Atsushi went to the kitchen and found a chopstick to use as a makeshift kanzashi. Coiling his long hair up so that it won’t get wet, Atsushi peeled his clothes off and stepped into the bath area. He began to shower, but heard nothing until he was washing the soap off his body.

A splash of water. “Atsushi?”

“Hm?” Atsushi looked over his shoulder at Issay, his back to him.

“When did you wake up? How long have I been sleeping?” Issay asked, rubbing his face.

Atsushi could now feel Issay’s eyes on him. “I woke up maybe… 10 minutes ago? I don’t know how long you’ve been here though,” he replied. Turning off the shower, Atsushi turned and approached the tub. Before he could say anything, Issay folded one outstretched leg in, pulling his knee to his chest, to make space for Atsushi.

Stepping in, Atsushi moved towards Issay to kiss him but Issay stopped Atsushi with a hand. Seeing Atsushi’s shocked and wounded expression, Issay explained, “As much as I want to, I’ve somehow caught a virus and I don’t want you getting it.” He turned away and coughed again, as if to prove his point.

Pouting, Atsushi drew back into the space that Issay made for him in the tub and sat down. Suddenly, he got an idea. “If that’s the case…” He let his words hang as he stretched one leg out to brush against Issay’s still extended leg.

Issay looked surprised but didn’t stop Atsushi’s toes from making their advance up his leg. A playful smile was plastered on Atsushi’s face as he brushed his toes up and down Issay’s leg. He kept teasing Issay, moving further up his thigh, then pulling away. The bath water sloshed together with the movement of his foot. The moment Atsushi saw Issay look away and take a deep breath, Atsushi moved his toes further up Issay’s thigh and to his already hardening penis.

Snapping his head to Atsushi, Issay’s eyes were wide with astonishment as he took in another sharp breath, supposedly from the feeling of Atsushi’s toes brushing over his crotch. Atsushi continued to keep his eyes on Issay, his playful smile now even more provocative as he leaned back, supported himself with both arms, and brought his other foot to Issay’s now full-blown erection.

They continued to keep their eyes on each other as Atsushi continued teasing with his feet. Rubbing the tip on Issay’s erection with one foot, Atsushi brought his other foot down to the scrotum, dragging his toes against Issay’s skin. Much to his delight, Issay shuddered in response while he persisted with holding back and continued to keep his eyes on Atsushi.

“Issay…” Atsushi called to him. “How do you feel?”

As Issay was about to speak, Atsushi began to run his feet up, down and around Issay’s erection, drawing out an involuntary moan from him. Atsushi let out a chuckle and switched to pressing Issay’s penis between his big toes and index toes, sliding them down one after another. Doing this in the water was more taxing than usual but Atsushi will be damned if anyone thought he was going to admit that his muscles were beginning to burn. Atsushi’s efforts were rewarded, though, when Issay gasped and clutched the sides of the tub. Watching Issay get off on this was getting Atsushi excited as well.

When Issay finally let himself relax enough to start moaning, Atsushi stopped and adjusted his position. Issay stared at him, confused by the sudden pause. “What…?”

Before Issay could say more, Issay put a finger to his lips and silenced him. Now on his knees, Atsushi couldn’t believe what he was going to attempt. Taking a deep breath, he plunged his head underwater and began sucking on Issay. He was sure that Issay was moaning at full volume now, but everything was muffled by the water. Hearing a low knock as Issay’s knee hit the side of the tub, Atsushi grabbed that leg, and ran his hand over Issay’s thigh and rear as he continued sucking and licking while another hand gently squeezed Issay’s balls.

It didn’t take long until Issay was about to cum but Atsushi’s lungs were now burning. Still grabbing onto Issay’s leg, Atsushi used his other hand to slide Issay’s foreskin back over his penis and hold it there.

Surfacing, Atsushi rested his chin on Issay’s chest, gasping for air while Issay panted from the pleasure. Issay looked down at Atsushi, his eyes filled with lust, desire, and a bit of agony at being held from release. Atsushi smirked and slid back underwater. He put his mouth over Issay’s erection again and finally gave him the release he desired. As Atsushi moved Issay’s penis in and out of his mouth a few more times, he did his best to catch everything that Issay ejaculated and with that in his mouth, Atsushi surfaced again, kneeling now, and swallowed, aware that Issay was watching him.

Atsushi brushed the wet, loose strands of hair out of his face. His hair was completely soaked to the scalp now. So much for keeping it dry. With Atsushi still rubbing his thigh, Issay raised his leg and hooked it behind Atsushi’s legs, tugging at him to come close again.

A simple, one word question came from Atsushi, “More?”

Tucking one knee to his chest again, Issay brought a hand up and brushed his fingers along Atsushi’s rock hard penis. Atsushi involuntarily sucked in a breath at his touch, the stimulation causing pleasure to run up his body like lighting. Issay tucked his other knee against his chest as well and said, “You’re not satisfied yet. So…”

Surprised at his offer, Atsushi asked, “Have you ever…?”

“No. But I won’t know if I like it unless…” Issay gave Atsushi a pointed look.

Atsushi leaned in over Issay and kiss him deeply, yet gently. At this point, they have both forgotten about Issay’s virus.

“I’ll go slow,” Atsushi promised.

Issay nodded. “I’ll take your word for it.”

Kissing Issay again, Atsushi teased Issay’s asshole with a finger and felt him sigh against his mouth. He continuing his tease, and slipped his finger into Issay’s tight asshole. Issay moaned as Atsushi began sliding his finger in and out. Breaking the kiss, Atsushi watched Issay’s eyes squint and his jaw go slack as he let out another moan, a little louder now, with the second finger in. Atsushi kept up the deliberate sliding of his fingers until Issay was almost accustomed to it, then he slid in the third finger.

Issay breathed in sharply, feeling the stretch. It was then that Atsushi started to up his pace, making Issay moan and cry out in equal intensity. Bending over, Atsushi made a trail of kisses from Issay’s forehead, his eyes, his cheek, his jaw, his chin, and eventually to his mouth. As they kissed, Issay whined into Atsushi’s mouth.

Pulling back and hovering over Issay’s face, Atsushi teased him. “Like a virgin,” he said. Issay tried to growl in response but could only grunt weakly. Atsushi’s constant pace left him breathless.

Atsushi finally withdrew his fingers and positioned himself between Issay’s legs. With one hand holding onto Issay’s leg, Atsushi asked Issay, “You ready?” Issay only nodded, unable to speak.

Pushing himself into Issay, it was now Atsushi’s turn to moan. The feeling Issay’s tight asshole wrapping around his cock without the extra layer of a condom blocking the full sensation of each other’s heat was overwhelming. Under him Issay, too, let his voice out, from both the pain and the pleasure.

Atsushi planted one hand down next to Issay’s waist while he kept the other on Issay’s leg. He braced himself and started thrust in and out of Issay. Each stroke brought Atsushi so much pleasure that he felt his mind go hazy. He barely registered how loudly he moaned with Issay, their voices reverberating in the bathroom. Letting his head loll back, Atsushi lost himself in the pleasure. He barely noticed that Issay was now in his arms, his head resting against his chest.

Feeling Issay’s kisses on his body and the warm water lapping around them as he continued his strokes into Issay, Atsushi felt all the sensations culminate in his body and overwhelm him again as he cummed in a cry of ecstasy.

After a moment’s rest in each other’s arms, Atsushi slowly pulled himself out of Issay, who held back a groan. Taking a deep breath, Issay huffed and shook his head. As he watched Atsushi’s cum pool out, the only thing he could say was “I should change the bath water.”.

--

Another shower and an uneventful soak later, Atsushi was dressed in Issay’s clothes. They were now tucked in at the kotatsu, drinking while waiting for their cup noodles to cook. The two men sat shoulder to shoulder, comfortable in each other’s arms as they relaxed against the plinth of the sofa behind them. Atsushi’s stomach growled and Issay laughed.

“You know I can’t control that,” Atsushi muttered indignantly. He felt Issay’s hand come up his back to hold the side of his head as he planted a kiss on Atsushi’s temple.

“Let’s eat then,” Issay said with a smile, pushing himself up.

Slurping noises filled the apartment as they ate and Atsushi’s heart felt full with the simple contentment of the way things were now. While eating and mostly drinking, they caught up on what happened after they each left school.

Apparently, Issay found himself in law enforcement on a whim. “I took the entrance exam with a friend, y’know, accompanying him for moral support, and I ended up passing it. I didn’t know what else I wanted to do in life so I just went with it,” he said, shrugging. “Pay’s alright and you wouldn’t get fired as long as you did what you were told anyway,” Issay added, his expression indifferent. There was clearly no passion for justice in those eyes.

Humming into his cup as he sipped his alcohol, Atsushi found himself feeling relief. Knowing that Issay wasn’t a cop who took his job too seriously could make things a little easier. Only a little. It was barely enough to make a difference though. Their obligations still kept them apart.

When Issay asked about Atsushi’s side of things, he felt guilty that he could only give half truths. Coming to the capital without a plan and almost starving was a fact. But how he really got out of that, Atsushi couldn’t tell him.

“I was doing odd jobs for a bit when I met my current boss,” Atsushi said. No need to say that this boss was already out of commission and that he has taken over with the others. “He asked about my situation and offered me a more… permanent position in his company. He put me through vocational school too,” he continued, staring at the wall instead of Issay, as if reminiscing. Atsushi wanted to laugh. As if he’d ever go back to school. “That was a long while back though. I’m still in the same organisation now.”

Out of nowhere, Issay held Atsushi’s hand to his lips, kissing his fingers. Atsushi smiled at his intimate gesture. Smiling back, Issay commented, “Quite a turn of luck there.”

“Hm, I guess.”

Resting against each other, they let the silence draw out between them. Neither of them wanted to know the time, nor did they want to sleep. The knowledge that they would have to part when the sun rises kept nipping at them at the edge of their thoughts. It tugged at their hearts.

Absentmindedly stroking Issay’s shin with his leg, Atsushi contemplated if he should make this the last time he calls on Issay. They’ve gone far enough, haven’t they? He sighed, burying his face in Issay’s shoulder. If they get found out, his reputation could put Issay in danger. His job would be at risk as well.

Sensing Atsushi’s pain, Issay put an arm around him and pulled him closer, letting the younger man curl up against him. “What’s wrong?” he asked, pressing his forehead against Atsushi’s.

Atsushi closed his eyes, feeling wistful longing well up despite their physical closeness. “Can’t we stay like this forever?” Atsushi asked, breathless with agony.

Issay kissed him, long and slow. Looking into Atsushi’s eyes, Issay said, “You can come whenever you want, my doors are always open for you.”

Tears began forming in Atsushi’s eyes, blurring his vision. Issay could never understand the reason for his pain. Pressing his face into Issay’s collar without another word, Atsushi heard Issay sigh and drink his shochu.

--

Issay didn’t know when he fell asleep, but when he woke to his alarm clock ringing, Atsushi was already gone. It mustn’t have been long ago because his shirt was still damp from Atsushi’s unexplained tears. Issay felt an ache in his chest, saddened from not having Atsushi by him and that Atsushi would leave without saying goodbye.

Issay rubbed his forehead, and stiffly got up from the floor. He was still aching from last night. A flush came to his cheeks as his mind replayed the events. He still couldn’t believe himself.

Realising that Atsushi had cleared the table before he left, Issay smiled, heartened by the gesture. But his smile was quickly replaced by a worried frown when he saw a note, presumably from Atsushi, scribbled on the back of the receipt from last night’s purchases. The only thing it said was ‘Sorry’.

Chapter Text

Imai made quick strides around the office that Atsushi usually worked out of. His eyes darted around, scanning the premises as their subordinates scampered out of his way. Finishing his third walk around the office, Imai stopped in the middle of it and folded his arms. His normally inscrutable expression had an added frown line between his brows today. Atsushi was nowhere to be found.

Pursing his lips and chewing one side of his cheek, Imai stopped one of men who tried to walk past him quickly. Kojima, if he remembered correctly. “Have you seen Sakurai?” Imai asked, referring to Atsushi by his last name. His eyes continued to sweep the office.

“He hasn’t stepped in today, Boss,” Kojima replied.

“Hm.” Imai’s frown line depened. He hasn’t heard from Atsushi either. “When did you last see him?” Imai asked again, his hand still on Kojima’s chest, stopping him from leaving.

“The last time saw him was yesterday evening,” he answered.

“No calls or messages?” Kojima shook his head. “Do you know where he went?” Kojima shook his head again.

Imai sighed. He hated it when Atsushi disappears like this. Although Imai understood that things haven’t been easy with his mother’s passing, he still wished Atsushi would be more responsible with things. Especially with the new developments putting everyone on edge even more than usual. The least he could do was keep his phone on.

Despite that, Hide, Yuta, and Toll weren’t as bothered as Imai was though. They pointed out that this was typical Atsushi behaviour, disappearing without notice and suddenly reappearing like a cat. Imai had a hunch that there was something wasn’t quite right though.

Noticing Kojima’s eyes dart behind him, Imai turned and saw Atsushi shuffling into the office. He looked particularly irritated and his hair was tied back in a loose ponytail. From how the area around his eyes seemed darker, Imai gathered that Atsushi probably didn’t get much sleep. As he went past Imai and Kojima, Atsushi barely looked at them. He merely raised his hand in greeting and went into his office.

Imai clicked his tongue and followed Atsushi in. Closing the door behind him, Imai glared at Atsushi who was searching the drawers at his desk for something. “Where were you?” Imai demanded.

“Hm?” Atsushi didn’t look up.

“You were gone for over twenty hours without anyone knowing where you went.”

“Hm.” Atsushi found what he was looking for. A surgical mask. He put it on.

Imai stared incredulously at Atsushi as he adjusted the mask on his face. “Are you listening to anything I’ve just said?”

“Hm?”

“Where were you last night?”

“I was out,” Atsushi muttered unhelpfully, his voice muffled.

“Clearly,” Imai spat back.

Atsushi spun around to face Imai. Forcing his eyes to focus on Imai, he asked, “What do you want from me?”

Imai threw a hand up in the air, exasperated. “Have you even noticed what’s been going on lately?”

Atsushi made a noncommittal grunt as he sat down behind his desk.

“Chinese triad members have been messing with our operations in increasing frequency. Have you noticed that?”

A vague nod. Atsushi was looking at Imai but it didn’t feel like he was there.

“Are you listening to me?” Imai marched across the room to Atsushi. “What’s wrong with you?” He put a hand under Atsushi’s face and held his chin, making Atsushi look at him.

Imai frowned. “You’re warm,” he remarked. Atsushi pushed Imai’s hand away and looked away but Imai brought his hand back towards Atsushi and felt his forehead with the back of his hand. “You’re burning up,” he muttered. “How the hell did this happen?”

Clicking his tongue again in annoyance, Imai left Atsushi in his chair and noisily swung the door of the office open. For a split second, Imai noticed that the men suddenly jolted back into action and continued working on their tasks when the door opened. It was obvious that they had paused to listen in on his yelling earlier. Ignoring that, he called for the man from earlier on. “Kojima!”

A head popped up behind one of the desk dividers to his right. “Yes, Boss!”

“Go to the pharmacist and get medicine!”

“But… you’re the pharma-”

“The legal one, you idiot!” Imai yelled. Kojima flinched. “Medicine for flu symptoms!” he specified, hearing Atsushi cough.

“Yessir!”

--

“Must we go to Tamori’s?” Atsushi whined hoarsely, dragging his feet as he walked to the car waiting at the front of the building with Imai. He’s been sick for five days now. The fever subsided on the second day but with his sinuses and throat still affected, Atsushi lethargy is on high.

“Toll has to watch over his pachinko parlors and gambling dens, Hide has his warehouses of contrabands and his bars to keep an eye on, and Yuta has to take care of his clubs and his girls. We’re the only two without any permanent premises to run and all our books are out of the way, so yes, we have to,” Imai said, getting into the car.

Sitting down, Atsushi made a whining noise and flopped down across the seats to rest his head in Imai’s lap. He heard Imai click his tongue. Ignoring Imai’s feigned annoyance, Atsushi buried his face in the fabric of Imai’s pants and protested, “But I just want to sleep… My head feels so heavy…”

Atsushi felt their driver rev the accelerator and start their journey towards Tamori’s Bar. Imai’s hand began to stroke Atsushi’s head, running his fingers through his long hair. “I know,” Imai said sympathetically. “If the situation wasn’t so dire, you know we’d be forcing you to stay at home instead.”

Atsushi huffed and muttered angrily, “First the Moriuchi’s, now the triad. Fuck them all.”

Imai chuckled as he breathed out. “If only things were that simple… Let’s just hope whatever Inspector Honma wants to tell us isn’t something else that adds to the fray,” he said.

“Mmh…” Atsushi responded. He could barely make another sound as sleep claimed him.

--

Issay has found himself in yet another bar. The moment Yoshida noticed that Issay has recovered from his cold, he has once again dragged Issay out of the office for drinks, hopping around in different bars. Yoshida seemed oddly determined to get Issay to hook up with someone. This time however, he has disappeared, leaving Issay alone at the bar counter.

Although Yoshida swears by his father’s name that this was a bar that at least half the force frequents, Issay has never heard of this place, much less been here. He could see that Yoshida wasn’t joking about that ‘half the force’ estimation though. Ever since stepping in about an hour ago, Issay has been spotting familiar faces all over the place.

Without Yoshida around, Issay has been talking to the owner of the bar, Tamori, an older man who had the odd habit of wearing dark sunglasses in this already dim environment. But now, even Tamori has left, citing some business that he had to attend to.

Issay swiveled in his chair, turning away from the bar counter to look at the rest of the establishment instead. Despite the many familiar faces, none of them were people that he normally associated with. Issay would very much rather be drinking alone at home instead. Or perhaps, with Atsushi.

The very thought of him stung Issay though. He hasn’t heard from Atsushi since that fateful night and instead of personally bringing his clothes back, Atsushi has chosen to return them in a paper bag that Issay found outside his apartment one evening. With the way that was handled, along with that note that Atsushi left on the table, Issay has been haunted by what Atsushi was hinting at.

“Oh! Fujisaki? I ain’t ever seen you here before!” A familiar voice called out.

Turning in its direction, Issay saw Inspector Honma skipping towards him. “Ah, Honma! You frequent this place too?” Issay greeted as Honma approached. “Your observation is right though, Yoshida brought me here.”

“Yeah, well, but, Yoshida? I… think I just saw him go somewhere with a girl?” Honma said, puzzled. “I think they stepped out…”

Issay swore. So Yoshida forgot about him. “Fine. I’m going home then,” he declared, standing up.

“You could join me and a couple ’a friends if you want,” Honma offered. “I’m gonna be the only officer at the table so it ain’t like you gotta gossip with the other colleagues,” he said with a wink. Honma knew Issay hated that.

Folding his arms, Issay considered his options. Supposing he’d rather drink with company, Issay decided, “Well, why not. I was going to drink at home anyway.”

--

Atsushi gathered his hair and tied it up in a loose ponytail, letting it rest on one shoulder. After adjusting the surgical mask he had on, Atsushi folded his arms on the table and rested his head on them. The nap in the car didn’t help at all. If anything, it somehow made him feel worse.

“Just sleep, I’ll do the talking,” Imai, who sat across from him, suggested. Atsushi merely grunted his approval of that idea.

Atsushi was drifting between wakefulness and sleep when he heard Honma’s voice say, “God, he’s in real bad shape, ain’t he?” He probably came back with the sake. Stepping into the traditional style private room, Honma added, “I found Inspector Fujisaki on the way so I told him to join us. Looks like the guy who brought him here kinda left him behind. Hope ya don’t mind.”

Atsushi’s heart stopped. Inspector Fujisaki? He adjusted his position to cover his face better. Fujisaki is a rather common last name, isn’t it? What are the odds that Issay would be here? He doesn’t even come to Tamori’s.

Hearing fabric rub against the tatami mats nearby, Atsushi guessed that Honma has decided to sit next to him. Atsushi suddenly felt a few thumps on the floor and Honma yelled, “Oy! Over here!”

“So there you are. Cups are here,” said a voice Atsushi knew very well. “Hisashi!?” Issay’s voice addressed Imai by his first name. Atsushi couldn’t breathe. Issay still recognised Imai. Despite having decided to stay away from Issay, despite having gone through all that trouble, things just got worse.

“That Fujisaki?” Imai said in amazement. “Of all people, you’re an inspector?” Atsushi could tell that Imai wanted to say something to him, but thankfully, he chose not to. He probably assumed that Atsushi was asleep and didn’t want to wake him.

“You guys know each other?!” Honma exclaimed, stunned. “Well ain’t this a small world!”

“We used to go to the same school back in the day,” Issay explained. “Ah, weren’t you always close to Atsushi back then? Are you both still in touch?” he asked Imai.

“Well actually, we-” With a sudden kick from Atsushi, Imai stopped mid sentence. Atsushi could feel Imai’s offended stare.

“What’s wrong?” Issay asked. He didn’t seem to recognise Atsushi’s sleeping form. Atsushi silently thanked the stars that he had his hair tied up and out of sight.

“Huh, I thought I heard something from him,” Imai bluffed. Atsushi wondered if he did the right thing. Imai was definitely going to question him later. Something in his gut told him it wasn’t going to be pleasant. “Anyway, back to what I was saying,” Imai continued, “we’re still in contact, yes.” Atsushi guessed that Imai signaled to Honma to say nothing because he was uncharacteristically quiet.

“Ah, that’s nice,” Issay said politely. “I hope he’s still well.”

There was a rustle of fabric as Issay sat down next to Imai on the opposite side of the table. Honma, being the youngest, moved to pour and distribute the sake. Atsushi heard the cups being picked up and set down at the same time. They probably just had their first drink.

“Is your friend alright there?” Issay suddenly asked. He probably gestured at Atsushi.

Imai didn’t identify him. “Ignore him,” he said. “He just needs a bit of sleep and he’ll be fine.”

Atsushi heard a hum from Issay, followed by the rasp of a lighter. “So Honma,” Issay started, “how did you get to meet Hisashi?”

“Y’see, I used to come here all the time, he’s a regular too. One day we sat together at the bar and drank together, and we hit it off, y’know.” Honma said, leaving out the details. “Became a regular thing, meeting up once a while to complain ‘bout our lives.”

Issay scoffed. “What do you have to complain about, Honma? Life treats you well, doesn’t it? You have an easy time at work, you have your girls.”

“The girls, maybe,” Honma agreed, chuckling.“But the work… Eh, well… you’ve heard about the reshuffle.”

“Not looking forward to it,” Issay said flatly.

“Reshuffle?” Imai probed.

“Can we talk about this?” Honma asked.

“Well they’re going to announce it in the papers anyway,” Issay reasoned. “Doesn’t make a difference if Hisashi hears about it earlier, does it?”

Honma hummed in agreement. “Since Fujisaki don’t mind either… a new Commissioner is being transferred into our prefecture.”

“His name’s Shiratori something, I think,” Issay muttered. “I heard he takes a hard line against gangs and the like. It’s probably safe to say he’s coming in with the intention to ‘clean the streets’,” he continued unenthusiastically.

“God, I can already imagine how much work he’s gonna pile on us,” Honma groaned. “And with those weird Chinese guys starting fights lately! I’ll bet’cha he’d lump ‘em together with the locals!”

Issay huffed. “I can foresee that, yeah. It reminds me of that saying…” he paused, probably to suck on his cigarette. “I can’t remember how it goes but it’s like, leading a group of people into a forest to mess with a wasp nest that doesn’t bother anyone.”

Honma burst out laughing. “D’y’think our local guys don’t bother anyone? Fujisaki, you’re wilder than I thought!”

“Why do you think I’m so shocked that this guy is an inspector?” Imai piped in. “If you had any idea what this guy was like back in the day-”

“Can we not bring that up?” Issay interjected.

“Oh, you gotta spill! I thought you were talking about his terrible sense of direction!” Honma pressed.

Imai barked a laugh. “He’s still getting lost?”

“No one, and I mean, no one, lets him take the wheel for any reason when we used to patrol. Even now, when we head out for cases,” Honma said. “He’s infamous within the force.”

Imai laughed again. “I guess you could say that’s one thing that hasn’t changed.”

“Well, you ain’t said anything about what Fujisaki’s like in his younger days,” Honma said, reminding Imai.

“Hm, well,” Imai started. He lit a cigarette for himself. “You know how we used to say that good kids are just those who have never been caught in the act? That’s him. Since he’s the star student, no one ever suspected him.”

“Why are we talking about this,” Issay muttered. “Honma, close your mouth, a fly’s going to make its home in there.”

“I can imagine him being a great student but… what did he do?” Honma asked, sounding mystified.

There was the click of a tongue and a sigh probably coming from Issay. “I did nothing,” he said, refusing to elaborate.

“He’d get into fights, for one,” Imai said.

“I’m sure you remember that I started nothing. It was usually someone else coming for me,” Issay said.

“How’d you stay outta trouble though?” Honma asked, curious.

“You know how I passed the entrance exam? Turns out taking the time to figure out loopholes in the laws also makes you an expert at it,” Issay explained.

“He’d never get into trouble though. The teachers favoured their star student too much,” Imai teased. “But I never thought you’d join the police. Running a gang, maybe, but not running around with the police.”

Issay chuckled. “The risks are too high. Playing around in the closed community of a school and a small town is one thing, but out in society, too many external variables to consider. I don’t like those odds,” he said, dismissing the idea.

“And so you joined the police?” Imai asked, unconvinced.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that point in time and they offered a good pay so I figured I could build up savings, eventually retire and live off that and the pension and do whatever I want in future,” Issay went on. Lighting another cigarette, he added wryly, “It’s taking longer than I expected though.”

Honma adjusted his position. “Well you could sell info-”

“Stop,” Issay ordered, cutting Honma off. “I don’t know about it, I don’t want to know about it, don’t tell me about it. The less I know, the better. Especially with someone like Shiratori taking charge.”

Imai huffed, chuckling softly. “There you go pretending to be so proper. No wonder the teachers loved you. I’d bet your superiors love you too.”

“I’m nothing more than a dog of the law, aren’t I?” Issay said, a smile in his voice.

“Ah, come to think of it,” Honma put his empty cup down on the table. “Why’d Yoshida bring you here?”

Issay let out an uncomfortable laugh. “He’s uh… He’s been trying to get me to hook up or something…” Atsushi, who had been listening to the conversation, felt vexed upon hearing this. Who was this Yoshida?

“He’s probably just worried for you, y’know?” Honma said. “Ever since that last girl the only places you go to are the office and home. When was the last time you’ve even used that dick?”

Imai snorted.

“Honma, don’t make me throw my cup at you,” Issay warned. “And that’s none of anyone’s business but mine.”

“Awh, but- AH!” Honma suddenly exclaimed. “That! What you said, in the taxi that day!”

“I know what you’re thinking of and that’s another thing I don’t want to talk about,” Issay said, almost growling. He was even more adamantly against this next topic, whatever it is.

“What? He’s got problems getting it up?” Imai snickered. Atsushi wanted to kick him for that.

“Noooo,” Honma said, “men- Ow!” Atsushi heard a dull thud. Issay probably hit Honma.

“Ah, that’s not new,” Imai remarked.

“Oh?” Honma sounded surprised.

“I’ve always wondered if there was anything going on between you and Atsushi,” Imai mused. Atsushi tensed. What was Imai doing?

Issay managed to laugh. “Nothing happened between us back then.”

“Back then?” Imai echoed. Atsushi felt his stomach drop.

Issay remained silent, drinking his sake.

“So something did happen then?” Imai pressed. His tone carried no emotion.

Issay refused to respond.

Imai let out a short huff and said, “I guess that’s another thing that hasn’t changed, you still can’t lie.”

“I really don’t want to talk about this,” Issay muttered, his voice distressed.

“I’ll… go get more sake,” Honma said and he quickly slipped out of the room.

Knowing what he knows, Atsushi quietly commended his intuition to step out. Atsushi wanted to do the same but he was stuck here. He cleared his throat and shifted slightly, physically uncomfortable from holding the same position for so long. As he did that, though, Atsushi could feel Imai watching him.

“So you met him recently?” Imai asked, sounding casual. Atsushi was sure there was nothing casual in that question.

Issay took a deep breath and sighed. Atsushi heard him light another cigarette. He paused for a moment, then said, “I suppose. But I don’t think he wants anything to do with me anymore.”

Atsushi felt an ache grow inside him and shifted again, pulling his arms tighter around his head. It would be great if he could just fall asleep as easily as he did in the car.

“If it’s about him not taking calls, it doesn’t mean anything though. He’s just notoriously hard to get hold of,” Imai commented. That was obviously a jab at Atsushi’s habit of keeping his phone off.

“It’s not just that,” Issay said. Atsushi desperately hoped that Issay would stop there but he went on. “There were other things as well, like how he returned my clothes.”

“Your clothes?” Imai echoed. “He… stayed over with you?” he ventured. Dread filled Atsushi.

“Once.”

“You actually went that far,” Imai said, his tone impassive.

“Just once,” Issay reiterated. “The way I see it, that was probably the first and last time,” he sighed.

Imai responded with an inarticulate grunt. “Interesting.”

Atsushi heard a thump from the other corner of the table. “This is pathetic,” Issay muttered to himself.

“I don’t blame you,” Imai responded as he swallowed the last of his sake.

--

Atsushi and Imai were at the apartment where they usually had their meetings with the other members. Originally, the meeting was supposed to happen tomorrow night instead, but something had apparently happened at one of Yuta’s clubs, causing an even greater sense of urgency.

At the moment though, they were the only ones in the apartment. Their meeting with Honma had ended early and they were already on the move when Imai got the call about the meeting. Since they were early, Imai has decided have Atsushi account for his… external activities.

Once alone, Atsushi had finally told him about having bumped into Issay twice before, lamenting about how Issay seems to pop up before him in places that they would frequent. “He just keeps showing up. I tried, I really tried,” Atsushi sobbed.

“Yet you called on him,” Imai glowered.

“That was going to be the last time!” Atsushi wailed. “I was prepared to never see him again,” his voice hitched. Forcing himself to breathe, Atsushi continued, “After that first time, I was already going to stay away, but he kept showing up! Even Tamori’s now! You saw for yourself! I didn’t want to talk to him but there he was, in our room!” Atsushi ranted as he sobbed. “Imai, I don’t know what to do anymore… No matter what I do… Help me, Imai… What should I do?” Atsushi looked at Imai, eyes pleading.

“Strip,” was the only word that Imai offered.

That was a while ago now. Atsushi had no idea how much time had passed since. Atsushi whimpered as Imai tugged on his hair, now bound in a rope hair tie, and fastened the other end of the rope somewhere else. The muscles in his neck screamed as he tried struggling against the bonds that Imai put him in. Bare skin rubbing against the suede of the table under him, Atsushi found himself helpless. His arms were bound behind his back and his legs were spread open with each limb tied to a table leg.

A shiver ran through Atsushi. There was no heating nor lights in the apartment. It was meant to look as if no one lived here. With all his clothes stripped away by Imai, the chill of the night that penetrated the walls of the apartment was beginning to feel unbearable.

“Imai…” Atsushi rasped, his throat now sore again. “Imai, I’m cold…” He might just end up with another fever from this.

“Are you?” Imai asked, sounding detached. He picked up one of the candles that were put around the apartment to light the place. Staring at the flame, he walked into Atsushi’s line of sight and asked again, “Are you?”

Eyes trained on Atsushi, Imai brought the flame close to Atsushi’s bare stomach. Atsushi grimaced and jerked on the table, trying to recoil from the heat of the flame. Feeling a sudden spot of heat on his skin, Atsushi gasped in shock. “Imai!”

“You said you’re cold,” Imai said matter-of-factly.

Atsushi strained his neck against the hair tie that was holding him back. Looking down his bare chest to his stomach, he found a spot of white wax on his skin. He also saw that Imai was staring at him with an unnervingly vacant expression. That, for some reason, made Atsushi start sobbing.

“Imai- Ah!” Another drop of wax hit his skin. And another. And another. And another. Imai was creating a trail of wax on his skin, slowly travelling up his body. Atsushi was sobbing and gasping from the traces of heat that came and went, the frustration and helplessness of being unable to respond, and the worry, or possibly fear, of what has overcome Imai.

Eventually, the trail of wax approached Atsushi’s exposed neck. Imai now stood next to his head. Locking eyes with Atsushi, he brought the flame of the candle closer and closer to his skin. Atsushi’s eyes widened with alarm. The moment the heat got too much to bear, Atsushi did his best to recoil out of the way again, wincing and crying out as his hair got tugged. Upon hearing his cry, something seemed to come back into Imai as he brought the candle away and walked off, leaving Atsushi in the dim lit room.

Forcing his body to relax, Atsushi focused on stabilising his breathing and fighting the shivers from the cold. A small corner of his mind worried about Hide, Toll, and Yuta arriving and finding him like this though.

Suddenly, Atsushi felt the coldness of lubricant spreading in and on his asshole, followed by something being inserted in. Breathing hard from the abrupt sensations, Atsushi craned his neck and caught sight of Imai turning on what he now realised was a vibrator in his asshole. Unable to fight the pleasure, Atsushi let out a whine and moaned. As his unfocused eyes stared at the ceiling, Atsushi felt Imai slip a cockring onto him before he got too hard. Atsushi soon found himself unable to make anymore noise though. Imai gagged him with a knot ball and proceeded to blindfold him, leaving Atsushi nothing to focus on except the vibrator and his erection.

In the midst of it all, Atsushi could only muster effort to wonder where Imai got all his props from before losing himself to the sensations.

--

Hide took quick strides to the apartment where they were supposed to meet. He had briefly heard from Yuta what happened at the club but he still needed to hear the details. Swiftly, he unlocked the door and stepped into the dark apartment. Locking the door behind him, he noticed that candles were already lit. Looks like someone has arrived before him.

Removing his shoes, Hide walked through the entrance corridor and into the living room. He had expected to see Toll’s gambling table, but he wasn’t expecting to see Atsushi on it, blindfolded, gagged, bound, and naked.

Immediately, he roared, “Imai!”

“Yo, what’s up?” Imai stuck his head out of one of the rooms. A window was open in there.

“What’s up!?” Hide seethed. “What’s!? Up!?”

“You alright?” Imai asked, unfazed. He took a puff from his blunt, already half gone.

“Toll and Yuta are arriving in 15 minutes,” Hide stated. “Clean. This. Up.” He jabbed a finger at Atsushi whose whines and whimpers were muffled but audible.

“Don’t you want a go at him?”

“No!” Hide snapped. He wasn’t in the mood for this at all. “Clean up, make sure you don’t leave another stain on Toll’s table, and get rid of that stick. You know Toll hates it.”

“Yes, mother,” Imai replied, walking back into the room to close the windows.

Hide strode out of the living room, put his shoes back on, and went back outside. If Toll and Yuta arrived early, the least he could do was spare them the sight.

--

Hearing the door of the apartment open and Hide’s voice brought Atsushi to new highs fueled by humiliation. He heard Hide yelling at Imai. He felt tears of frustration wetting his blindfold and rolling down the sides of his face. The knot ball in his mouth has grown wet and soft from his saliva. Atsushi was cold, uncomfortable, yet so turned on.

The door opened and closed again and Atsushi heard Imai approach, the faint smell of weed clinging to him. The blindfold was removed and Atsushi squinted. Although it was quite dark in the apartment, his eyes still needed time to adjust. Atsushi found himself looking at Imai, who appeared calmer now.

The gag was next to be removed. A string of saliva trailed from the gag, landing on his chin. Casting the gag aside, Imai held Atsushi’s face and kissed where his saliva fell, slowly tracing Atsushi’s jaw and eventually kissing his lips.

As they kissed, Imai caressed Atsushi's skin with one hand and picked the now solid wax off his skin, bit by bit. Once that was done, Imai rubbed his palm against Atsushi’s stomach, feeling his muscles move, and slid towards Atsushi’s chest. Imai teased and rubbed Atsushi’s nipples, hard from the cold and the stimulation, making him moan into Imai’s mouth.

After savouring the moment for a while, Imai drew away, his eyes lingering on Atsushi as he freed Atsushi’s hair from the rope. Now that he could sit up, Imai went to the other end of the table and stood between Atsushi’s legs. Imai unceremoniously removed the butt plug, making Atsushi gasp, and turned it off. He then undid his pants, bringing out his own erection.

Pulling Atsushi upright, Imai held onto Atsushi’s thigh and put an arm around him as he eased into Atsushi. Unable to put his own arms around Imai, Atsushi wirthed and arched his back in response, crying out from pleasure. As Imai thrusted into Atsushi, Atsushi put his forehead against Imai’s and locked eyes with him.

Both men found themselves breathing harder as pleasure built. Atsushi’s noises escalated. He was almost sure that Hide could hear him from outside. Imai kissed and bit Atsushi’s collar bone, all as he grunted from the effort. Feeling a pressure rise, Atsushi came as he cried out, screaming Imai’s name. Kissing Atsushi deeply, Imai, too, felt himself explode in Atsushi.

Leaning against each other as they caught their breath, Imai continued watching the emotions in Atsushi’s eyes while he began to undo the knots that held Atsushi’s arms. From relief, to love, to desire, to apology, to shame as he eventually looked away.

With his arms now freel, Atsushi hugged himself, rubbing the sore skin on his upper arms. Wrapping an arm around Atsushi, Imai lifted Atsushi’s chin with his hand and whispered, “Look at me.”

Slowly, Atsushi looked up, his eyes now filled with sorrow.

Imai cupped Atsushi’s face in his hand as he lowered his gaze again. He watched Atsushi’s lower lip quiver ever so slightly. He was on the verge of tears.

“Listen,” Imai whispered. Atsushi brought his eyes, now glistening with tears, back up. “I can’t stop you from choosing someone else, and you can’t stop fate from bringing certain people to you,” he said softly. Imai wiped away a falling tear from Atsushi’s face. “But I’d appreciate if you’d just tell me honestly what’s going on.”

Atsushi sucked in a breath through gritted teeth and his face scrunched up from intense emotion. Removing his arms from himself, Atsushi reached out and clung onto Imai as his body wracked with an onslaught of sobs and tears. He buried his face in Imai’s shoulder, profusely murmuring “I’m sorry” over and over again as he cried.

Chapter Text

Toll sat in his usual spot at the table and cast a dirty look at the dark patch on his suede table top. “Imai…”

“I know.”

“You’re fixing that.”

“I know.”

“It’s only February and this is already the second table that needs replacing.”

“I know.”

“If you like fucking on suede that much, get your own fucking suede furniture.” Toll glared at Imai.

“I… will take that into consideration,” Imai muttered, settling into his seat.

Hide came towards the table and set down their usual tequila and drinking glasses. It was clear that no one was in the mood for cards this time around. As he poured out the drinks, they waited for Atsushi, who has been in the washroom since Toll and Yuta arrived.

When the final glass was poured, Atsushi finally came out, looking a little worse for wear. He raised a hand in greeting to Yuta and Toll, who grunted back in response. When Atsushi brought his hands up to rub his face, the long sleeves of his white shirt retreated and raw red skin could be seen around his wrists.

Atsushi sat down with his black coat hanging off his shoulders, not bothering to take it off. Taking a deep breath, Atsushi sighed and his puffy eyes stared listlessly at the tequila that has been poured for him. He looked exhausted.

Concerned, Toll asked, “Are you alright?”

Atsushi simply nodded. Picking up his glass, he tilted it towards Toll. “I should feel better after this,” he said, his voice barely a whisper. It looks like Atsushi lost his voice.

“I don’t think you should be drinking that though,” Yuta gestured to Atsushi’s glass and drank from his own. Atsushi simply shrugged.

“Anyway,” Toll began. It’s about time they got down to business. “Imai, what did Honma have for you?”

“There’s a new commissioner coming in. Shiratori’s his name. From what we’ve been told, he’s likely the one who’s responsible for forcing the Kubo family up north to drop everything and lay low,” Imai detailed. “He should be starting in spring, next month.”

“That gives us a bit of time to prepare then,” Toll muttered thoughtfully. “Yuta,” he said, addressing his younger brother. “Fill them in on what happened just now.”

“Right. I got a call earlier this evening telling me that a foreigner has come into one of our smaller clubs, saying that they wanted to meet with ‘the owner’,” Yuta started. “You know how we always assign one of our trustees to act as a front? Well this person seemed to know that and whatever he said had convinced our guy to make the call.”

Based on his recount, the moment Yuta arrived, some of the girls who worked in that establishment came running up to him, pleading for him to save the unlucky one from their suspicious guest. Alarmed, Yuta let the staff lead him to the room with his guards trailing behind him. When he barged in, Yuta found their guest, a man in a white suit, forcing himself on the woman while his lackeys stood around him, nonchalant.

Enraged, Yuta dashed forward and drew his wakizashi. Pressing the blade firmly to the guest’s neck, he ordered the man to let the girl go. To which, the man laughed and asked, in lightly accented Japanese, “Why should I? My men can kill all of you with their guns faster than this blade of yours.”

Yuta warned him. “Kill me and the wrath of the Takasaki family will incinerate you and your men to dust.”

“Oh? Are you the true owner then?” The man grew interested and his loosened his grip on the woman. Noticing her chance, the woman quickly scrambled away from him. As she hid behind Yuta and his protective arm, the man laughed. “I never expected the boss to be such a stereotypical Japanese man. Down to the small stature and the sword.”

“Be rest assured that we are well stocked with firearms as well,” Yuta cautioned as he kept his blade pressed against the man’s neck.

The man grinned. Chuckling, he signaled to his men to lower their weapons. Only then did Yuta tell the girl to leave. He did not, however, lower his blade. Yuta followed the man’s movements as he shifted himself to a sitting position. “Are you not going to lower your sword?” he asked. Spreading his palms open, he said, “I am not here to start a war.”

“Who are you and what do you want?”

“I doubt you can pronounce my given name well, but you may call me Kissaki. That’s the name I go by in your parts,” he said with a cocky smirk. “You must know by now that us Chinese have a presence here in your city.”

“And what of it? Your men are nothing but mere inconveniences,” Yuta said, playing down their significance.

The smirk remained on Kissaki’s face. “I have a proposal for you and your… Takasaki family.” Kissaki paused, waiting for a response from Yuta but none came.

Without missing a beat, Kissaki ran a hand through his thick black hair and continued, “I intend to grow my faction’s operations and instead of… removing you,” Kissaki’s smile grew predatory, “I have decided to be diplomatic. I wish to do business with your family, a partnership if you will. Let me have a hand in your businesses here and you’ll be promised a cut of our future expansions within your country.” Kissaki extended a hand to Yuta in a literal gesture of invitation.

Yuta didn’t need to think about it. “No.”

“No?” Kissaki’s confidence faltered for a split second.

“No.” Yuta repeated.

Kissaki scratched his chin thoughtfully, careful to keep his hands away from Yuta’s blade which still pointed at his neck. “Interesting… May I ask why?”

“It is simple. From the actions of your men against ours thus far, and from what I’ve seen in here, it is clear that our ancestry is not the only thing that sets us apart. The difference between our principles and values is far too vast. We have no interest in conducting business using your… approach,” Yuta said, choosing his words carefully to avoid provocation.

Kissaki guffawed, laughing long and loud. Slapping his knee, he wiped a tear from his eye and said breathlessly, “Such righteousness in criminals.” As Kissaki calmed down, he giggled to himself. “I had a feeling your bunch were that type of men but I wanted to give you a chance to join me.”

“You’ve heard our decision.”

“And yet, I am still generous enough to offer you an open door if you wish to take up my offer,” Kissaki said. He took out a card with his number on it and stuck it to the point of Yuta’s wakizashi. Kissaki then gave Yuta a sickeningly sweet smile, “If you and your brethren ever change your minds, do give me a call.”

“Duly noted,” Yuta said, finally withdrawing his wakizashi and pocketing the card without as much as a glance at it. Sliding his blade back into its sheath, he said, “If that is all, allow me to escort you of out our premises.” Yuta didn’t want the man staying any longer, lest he tries something else.

“How kind of you,” Kissaki said with that same sweet smile.

“He left without making any fuss, said nothing else,” Yuta concluded. Sticking his hand into the front pocket of his jacket, Yuta took out the card and flicked it onto the table, showing it to the rest.

“I would’ve just burnt it after he left,” Imai muttered, taking a sip from his glass.

Toll picked the card up and flipped it around as he scrutinised it. “As much as I despise the idea of working with this Kissaki, this could come in handy.”

“He doesn’t come across as someone you can trust,” Yuta said. “That look in his eyes… he’s ruthless, to say the least.”

“At least now we know who’s been bothering our men,” Hide concluded.

Atsushi tilted his cup towards Hide and nodded in agreement. He cleared his throat and said, “But when he spoke of ‘generosity’ and ‘chances’, it sounds like he’s issuing a threat to us.” Atsushi coughed, cutting his own words off. Wincing as he swallowed, Atsushi put a hand to his throat and continued, “I can’t guess what he’ll try to get us to comply with his intentions but… It gives me a bad feeling.”

“Indeed,” Toll agreed. “Between this Kissaki and the new commissioner, I just hope we can get out of this unscathed, or with as little damage as possible.”

--

An officer zipped up the body bag with the bloated corpse and took it way. Issay rubbed his face with a hand, sighing. That image was going to stick in his mind for awhile.

It’s only been a month since the new chief commissioner came in and Issay already has his hands full. Junior officers were being sent out on more patrols than ever, and raids on clubs and bars were being conducted with increasing frequency. If that wasn’t enough, there was a growing number of cases of violence breaking out as well. To top it all off, Issay now has a suicide case to deal with.

Such cases are not rare but this one, in particular, is going to stay with Issay for a long time. He was sure of it. The victim, who had jumped off a bridge to drown himself, was the same man who he had arrested for groping some weeks ago.

“Name, Mori Kiyoshi. Age, 21,” Yoshida reported. He has been standing next to Issay, watching the other officers deal with the body. “Looks like he was arrested for multiple cases of groping over a month ago. Released on bail a couple of weeks ago, and here he is now.”

Issay grunted, still staring at the spot where the body had been. His thoughts were all over the place as he tried to process the situation, to figure out how he was going to fill this report. Issay wondered if it was his fault that this happened. Perhaps he could’ve handled it differently. Would it have helped if he kept his cool?

“Hey, Issay,” Yoshida called his name, snapping Issay out of his thoughts. “You okay? You look pale.”

“Huh? Yeah,” Issay assured him. “I’m just thinking about the reports…”

“I’ll take care of it this time,” Yoshida said. Issay turned to him, shocked. Yoshida was usually the first one to run away from a report. “Why are you looking at me like that?” Yoshida asked with a laugh.

“Yoshida… Are you okay?” Issay returned the question.

Yoshida burst out laughing. “Can’t I help a friend out?” He slapped a hand on Issay’s back. “You’ve always dealt with all the reports anyway, just let me do it for once. You’ve already got like, at least ten other reports pending too, don’t you?”

Issay groaned at Yoshida’s reminder. Feeling a pressure grow in his head, Issay began rubbing his temples.

“There, look, you can’t do it all on your own so I’ll deal with this one,” Yoshida said, giving Issay a reassuring shake by his shoulders.

“Fine, fine,” Issay accepted. Heading back to the car they came in, he said, “Let’s hurry back to the offi-”

“No, you’re going home,” Yoshida said firmly.

“But the reports…”

“You’ve been sleeping at your desk, haven’t you?”

Issay stopped in his tracks and stared at a blank billboard far away, averting Yoshida’s eyes. “It’s… normal to sleep… at lunchtime, isn’t it?

“I’m not talking about lunchtime. When was the last time you went home?” Yoshida asked.

“Yesterday?”

“But you didn’t sleep, did you? You just went back for a change of clothes.”

“Uh…” Issay stalled, trying to search for words.. “I, uh…”

“Go home,” Yoshida urged. “Everyone can see that you’re getting burnt out and you’ll be of no use if your condition gets worse.”

Issay shut his eyes. He didn’t really want to go home. Hands suddenly gripped his shoulders and steered him away from the car. “Wha-?”

“That way,” Yoshida directed, pointing towards the nearby park. “You walk through that park and you’ll get home soon enough.”

“Tsk,” Issay freed himself from Yoshida’s hold. “I know my way home.”

Yoshida shrugged. “Can’t be too sure since you’re always losing your way, y’know? Can’t have you going missing now. All the work will just come to me.”

“So that’s the actual reason why you’re taking this one report from me, it’s just a preventive measure isn’t it?” Issay grumbled jokingly. Yoshida simply grinned at him. “Fine, I’ll go home,” Issay conceded, returning Yoshida’s pat on the back. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Rest up properly and don’t you dare come in early, you hear?” Yoshida called after Issay as he left.

Issay waved a hand in parting and trudged towards the park. Glancing at his watch, he noticed that it was nearing midnight. The crowds that usually gather in the park at this time of the year for the cherry blossoms should have dispersed long ago.

Strolling down the path that ran along the river, Issay found himself admiring the cherry blossoms that were visible by the light of the occasional streetlamp. The blossoms were still plentiful, considering that it was now the tail end of the flowering season. When he came across an empty bench, Issay sat down, suddenly feeling the full weight of his fatigue pressing down on him. He leaned against the backrest and tilted his head back to stare at the flowers hanging over his seat.

Despite being so bogged down by work, Issay was honestly thankful for it. It kept him busy. It kept him around people. He didn’t have to think about anything else. He didn’t have to think about Atsushi, wherever he was. Issay had hoped that after… that night, they would grow closer, and they did. Yet, in the blink of an eye, the moment he woke up, it was as if nothing happened. Like it was just a dream. It would be so much easier if it was just a dream.

Feeling irrepressible emotions well up in him, Issay threw himself forward and screamed into his arms, muffling the sound. The release brought him some relief. Only some. It was now past midnight. There wouldn’t be anyone around to hear him. He doesn’t have to care about that. Following his urges, he covered his face and screamed again.

When Issay finally ran out of breath, he rested his elbows on his knees. That made him feel better. Looking up at the scenery before him, Issay found himself watching the reflection of the colourful urban lights on the river, shining from the buildings across the water, changing in shape and size over the gentle flow. It was mesmerising. Sitting and staring, Issay let his mind go blank.

Suddenly, Issay felt himself falling and snapped awake in a panic. He had fallen asleep and the elbow he had been leaning his weight on slipped off his knee. Issay huffed as his thundering heart slowed in his chest. He knew he was tired, but not to that extent. Heartbeat slowing, Issay forced himself up and continued on his way home. He’d be better off sleeping in his own bed.

Issay followed the river until the path cut back into the park. At this time of the night, the park was quiet, save for the sound of his footsteps. For some reason, the air felt particularly still, without even the slightest breeze. Walking under the cover of the delicate flowers, Issay found the otherwise beautiful scenery marred by the remains of the park’s visitors. Overflowing rubbish bins, a PET bottle here and there, food wrappers, cigarette butts, beer cans… someone even left a tarp behind.

But there was a figure seated on the tarp.

Issay’s muscles tensed and he felt his mouth go dry. Issay wasn’t the superstitious type but it was past midnight, and there have often been stories about strange sightings in the parks. Issay considered his options. He would’ve preferred to take another route, make a detour or something, but going straight past that figure leaves a five minute walk to his apartment. His only other option was to retrace his steps and exit the park on the other end. This wasn’t a small park so that route would take close to an hour to get home.

Swallowing his nerves, Issay started a brisk walk towards the direction of the figure, desperately averting his eyes from it. They’ve always said it’s better to pretend you don’t know it’s there, right?

“Issay?”

Chills shot up his spine and Issay faltered for a moment before resuming his strides. It must have noticed his hesitation. What was it they said to never do? Don’t respond when it calls your name?

“Issay, wait!”

Shit . Issay felt his pulse race. What should he do now? Is responding better or ignoring better? Would disregarding it make it angry? Unable to make a decision, Issay stood rooted to the pavement.

“Are you… avoiding me?”

Stiffly, Issay turned to look at the figure who still sat on the tarp. The lack of lighting in the area wasn’t helpful. The figure had long hair, and its face was cast in shadow. Immediately, the legend of the Kuchisake-onna popped into Issay’s mind.

The figure moved into the light and Issay caught a glimpse of a surgical mask on its face, just like what the urban legend described. Dread filled Issay. Is this where he meets his doom? Hopefully it was just a crazy person trying to make themselves a legend. At least a physical being is one he can fight.

Shifted forward into the light, the figure pulled the surgical mask off. There were no cuts on its face. With a hand, the figure raked their hair out of their face.

“Atsushi?” Issay blurted and stumbled, losing his balance when he lost the tension in his body. Atsushi was about to lunge forward but Issay caught himself, holding an open palm in Atsushi’s direction to stop him.

With his other hand to his heart, Issay took deep breaths and forced his racing heart to slow down for the second time in an hour. He almost got a heart attack. Sure, he was glad that he didn’t accidentally come across a potential serial killer or an urban legend, but seeing Atsushi in front of him again, out of the blue, had Issay unsure of what to feel.

“Issay, are you okay? You looked terrified.”

“Kuchisake… onna…”

“Huh?”

“I thought you were the…” Issay gestured, tracing elongated lines on his face.

Atsushi giggled softly. The pleasant sound felt soothing to Issay. “Am I pretty?” he asked, teasing.

Issay felt another shiver down his spine. “You… I’m not answering that until I know it’s really you.” He still felt terribly uncomfortable.

That melodious giggling came again. Picking up an empty beer can, Atsushi left the tarp and made his way to Issay. He stopped in front of Issay and asked again, this time with the slightest of winks, “Am I pretty?”

Gently brushing his fingers over Atsushi’s face, Issay found himself staring into Atsushi’s dark eyes which filled with amusement. It was as if they had never been apart.

Atsushi sneezed. “Ah, sorry… allergies,” he explained, putting the surgical mask back on with an embarrassed laugh.

“Why are you here alone? At this time of the night?” Issay asked, shifting his weight.

“I don’t like crowds,” Atsushi said, his voice now muffled again. “And things have been hectic lately… so I decided to just come out here on my own.” He ran a hand through his hair again, revealing his furrowed brow and a strained look in his eyes.

“You too, huh,” Issay muttered.

“Didn’t want to miss the flowers though,” Atsushi said, casting his gaze up to look at the blossoms again. “Did you come to admire them too?” Atsushi asked Issay, a soft look in his eyes as he continued staring at the flowers.

Shaking his head, Issay replied, “I was on my way home. I was at a crime scene earlier, nearby, someone-” He stopped short, suddenly reminded of the suicide.

“What’s wrong?”

“Well…” Issay wondered if he should tell Atsushi.

“It wasn’t pleasant, was it?” Atsushi surmised.

“Remember that man we caught in the train that time?”

“… Yes. What about him?”

“He’s, uh…” Issay looked at Atsushi. He looked disconcerted. Likely upset by the memory, yet puzzled as to why Issay would bring it up. “His… corpse was found. At the riverbank.”

Atsushi raised his brows, slightly surprised, but he didn’t appear to be as affected as Issay expected. He simply gave Issay a nod in understanding. “Hmph, I see. That’s… unfortunate.”

“Anyway,” Issay waved the topic away with a hand. “I should get going,” he said, stepping away.

“Already?” Atsushi asked, sounding dejected. “I thought…”

Issay turned back, surprised that he could sound crestfallen. “I was under the impression that… nevermind.” He couldn’t bring himself to say it. Yet Issay found himself standing where he was, albeit with his eyes averted from Atsushi.

“Issay…” Atsushi stepped towards him. “If it's about how I left the last time…”

Looking up, Issay’s weary eyes met Atsushi’s forlorn expression. It pained Issay to find Atsushi look at him like this.

Atsushi moved closer to Issay, closing the distance between them. “If I hurt you-” Atsushi began but stopped when his voice cracked. Swallowing, he took in a breath and started again. “If I hurt you, I’m sorry, I truly am,” he said, reaching out to touch Issay’s arm. “Let me make up for it,” he said softly, a hint of hope in his voice.

Issay couldn’t find it in himself to hold anything against Atsushi, not when he looked equally anguished. “I’m… honestly too tired…”

Atsushi slid an arm around Issay’s waist, letting his hand continue down towards Issay’s inner thigh before shifting away. Issay involuntarily shuddered in his embrace. As Atsushi began to walk with him, he whispered into Atsushi’s ear, “I just want to be with you.”

--

True to his word, Atsushi simply stayed by Issay’s side. They had supper together, shared a couple of beers together, bathed together, and now they soaked together in the tub, lying in each other’s arms. Neither of them said a word, relaxing in a comfortable silence as Atsushi rested his head on Issay’s shoulder while the older man leaned back, his eyes closed.

Idly, Atsushi traced a finger on Issay’s skin, drawing patterns on his body until Issay caught his hand and held it, interlocking fingers with Atsushi. “You’re making me feel itchy…” he mumbled lazily.

Atsushi chuckled and began playing with Issay’s hair instead. “Your hair’s grown longer,” he commented as he twirled Issay’s curls around his fingers.

“I haven’t had time to get it cut.”

“Then don’t. Grow it out.”

“Grow it out?”

“Why not?”

“Hm…” Issay paused to ponder. “Maybe not as long as yours though,” he said, nuzzling against Atsushi’s head. Atsushi chuckled and fell silent.

After a moment, Atsushi moved himself out of Issay’s hold. Shifting around in the tub, he turned to face Issay. “There’s one question you haven’t answered.”

Issay stared at him, eyes wide with confusion. “What question?”

Bringing his face close to Issay’s, Atsushi flashed a smile and asked, “Am I pretty?”

Issay burst out laughing, his eyes crinkling. “The most beautiful,” he replied, bringing a hand up to hold Atsushi’s chin to give him a tender kiss on the lips.

Surprisingly, Atsushi looked stunned and turned away, his back to Issay.

Reaching forward, Issay wrapped his arms around Atsushi’s waist and brought him back into his embrace. “What’s wrong?” he whispered, holding Atsushi tight against him.

Softly, Atsushi mumbled, “I never… I didn’t expect…”

“What are you talking about,” Issay chuckled, “anyone who says otherwise must be blind,” he said. Noticing Atsushi’s ears turning red, Issay chuckled again and nuzzled as he whispered into Atsushi’s ear, “Are you blushing?”

“No,” Atsushi muttered, covering his ears.

Issay laughed quietly and planted a kiss on Atsushi. “Whatever you say.”

Sitting in the tub, they remained like this a little longer, neither wanting to move, staying until their fingertips pruned up. When they finally got out, they went into Issay’s bedroom and opened up his closet for clothes to sleep in. Sleeping skin to skin would’ve been fine with Issay but it seemed like Atsushi just wanted an excuse to explore his boring collection of work clothes. He did, however, find a couple of interesting pieces though.

“What’s this?” Atsushi knelt in front of Issay’s cupboard, still in the nude, while Issay lounged on the bed in his track pants. Reaching in, Atsushi grabbed hold and pulled out something red, enclosed in clear plastic.

Flipping over to lie on his stomach, Issay squinted at it from the bed. “I haven’t seen that in years, I thought I gave it away.”

Atsushi removed the plastic cover. “Velvet! Oh, this is nice!” he exclaimed, unfurling the long, dark red coat. “May I?” Atsushi asked.

“Go ahead,” Issay nodded.

“This feels wonderful,” Atsushi sighed, wrapping the velvet coat around him.

“Maintenance is a bitch though. Just getting it cleaned is a pain,” Issay remarked as he watched Atsushi enjoy the feel of the material on his bare skin.

“Looking at you now, I can’t imagine this was something you’d wear,” Atsushi said with a smirk. “I wonder other gems you have hidden in there,” he said, taking off the coat. Atsushi put it back in the plastic cover and dove into Issay’s closet again.

“You won’t be finding much though,” Issay noted, propping his chin up in his hand. “I got rid of most of my old clothes when I moved here.”

Atsushi ignored him, searching around and then, there was a muffled clang. And another. Atsushi began giggling in an uncontrollable fit. Issay heard the sound of metal scraping against metal as Atsushi turned and said, “Issay! What is this!?” In his hand was a belt with several large buckles on it.

Issay sat up as he pointed at the belt in shock. “I swear I sold that away. I personally handed it over to the buyer!”

“Looks like someone made a return,” Atsushi commented between laughs.

“I don’t understand,” Issay muttered, scratching his head in confusion. “How did it get back here…”

Eventually, Atsushi stopped laughing to catch his breath and put the belt back where he found it. With the faint trace of a smile on his face, Atsushi continued rummaging through the closet as Issay continued ruminating about the belt.

After a few more minutes of searching, Atsushi said to himself, “Ah, this’ll work.”. He found a yukata, something Issay probably kept away until the summer months. Putting it on, Atsushi tied a loose knot with the sash and turned around with a flourish. “Issay, what do you think?” he asked, planting a foot on the edge of the bedframe and exposing a bare leg.

“Huh?” Issay looked up at Atsushi with bleary eyes, his head resting on the mattress. “Sorry, looks like I fell asleep,” he mumbled and yawned, noticing the leg but too tired to react.

Atsushi chuckled and turned back around, closing Issay’s wardrobe as Issay tucked himself into bed. Crawling in under the covers, Atsushi settled next to Issay. He rested his arm on Issay’s bare torso and Issay turned to look at Atsushi through half lidded eyes.

“Will you be here when I wake?” Issay asked, his voice soft.

Atsushi seemed to hesitate a moment before answering, “Yes… yes, I promise.”

“Don’t you dare leave… without a word…” Issay murmured as he turned and clutched Atsushi, burying his face in the younger man’s chest. Looking down at Issay with tender eyes, Atsushi put an arm around him in return and ran his fingers through Issay’s hair until he, too, fell asleep.

--

A shrill, obnoxious ringing noise blared into Issay’s ears. Snapping his eyes open, Issay instinctively swung his arm and slapped his alarm clock, turning off the noise. Groping around, Issay grabbed hold of the clock and looked at the time. Six in the morning.

Issay dropped the clock back down with a clatter and groaned. He lay in bed, refusing to move as he ran through his memories of yesterday to recall the work that he needs to follow up on.

While Issay zoned out as he made his mental checklist, he heard a muffled groan next to him and felt the bed shift. An arm reached over and landed heavily on Issay. Startled, Issay turned and found Atsushi pulling himself up onto Issay to rest on his body with a hand on his chest.

The memories from last night came rushing back into Issay’s mind. The case at the riverbank, the heart attack he almost got from meeting Atsushi, having him over, Yoshida telling him to rest more and go to work later.

“Rest more, huh,” Issay said to no one in particular. Atsushi was still sound asleep on him, giving Issay a comforting warmth as he slowly let his mind drift back into sleep. He belatedly wondered, again, if Atsushi will still be here when he wakes the next time.

--

Sunlight. Bright, bright sunlight assaulted Atsushi’s closed eyes. Cracking them open in a squint, Atsushi saw windows with their curtains wide open. Whether he forgot to draw them close or whether someone drew them open, he didn’t know.

Atsushi felt a rumble under him, a low-pitched groan. Warmth. Skin. A foreign bed. His brain slowly started processing where he was. He was in Issay’s room, lying on Issay’s chest. Wasn’t Issay supposed to be sleeping in his arms instead?

Pressing down on the bed, Atsushi pushed himself up and felt a hand touch his cheek. He looked up in surprise.

“You’re still here,” Issay mumbled, smiling.

“I did promise, didn’t I?” Atsushi replied, leaning over Issay’s face.

Lowering himself in, Atsushi watched Issay’s eyes close as he let his lips brush over Issay’s, teasing a kiss before pressing in. Atsushi felt Issay’s tongue meet his, press through, and stroke the roof of his mouth before retreating, giving Atsushi a rush from the gentleness of it. As they continued kissing slowly and deeply, Atsushi began massaging Issay’s erection with his knee, eliciting low moans from Issay who began to slide the fabric of Atsushi’s yukata off his shoulders.

Issay let his hands wander Atsushi’s body. He ran them over Atsushi’s shoulder blades, traced his spine, before gripping Atsushi’s back to pull him down onto him. Issay held Atsushi against him and flipped their positions, pinning Atsushi on the bed and making him gasp in surprise. Gliding his hands along Atsushi’s arms, Issay reached for Atsushi’s hands and held them, interlocking their fingers.

Issay then broke their kiss and pressed his body to Atsushi’s, rubbing his body against Atsushi’s as he continued his kisses elsewhere. Unable to continue his massage in this position, Atsushi coiled a leg around Issay’s and caressed his shin and calf with his toes, all while he relished the sparks of pleasure when their nipples rubbed against the other’s in the closeness of their bodies.

Eventually, the sash around Atsushi’s waist came loose, exposing even more of his body to Issay, who promptly slid himself lower. Issay let go of Atsushi’s hands, and dragged them down Atsushi’s body as he came to a pause between the younger man’s legs.

Atsushi looked down, feeling embarrassment, for some strange reason, at having Issay down there. This felt different from his usual romps.

Maintaining eye contact with Atsushi, Issay began kissing and licking Atsushi’s thighs, close to his groin yet staying away, just barely. The pressure of Issay’s tongue against his skin made Atsushi let out a low moan as he rolled his head back. His moans escalated as Issay kissed and nipped at Atsushi’s foreskin before taking Atsushi into his mouth.

With his hands gripping Atsushi’s hips, Issay pushed himself down until he had his nose to Atsushi’s skin. Pressing his tongue to Atsushi’s erection, Issay sucked in and slowly pulled away. Atsushi moaned long and loud from the sustained suctioning, spilling himself onto Issay’s face the moment he was out of Issay’s mouth.

Although he felt slightly light headed, Atsushi sat up and knelt forward without hesitation, bringing kisses and licks to Issay’s face to clean him up. Issay, who was now resting on his calves, chuckled in amusement. The moment Atsushi continued his kisses down Issay’s neck though, he began to groan with pleasure. As Issay arched his neck back to offer Atsushi more skin, Atsushi brought his hands to Issay’s hips. Slipping his fingers under the waistband of Issay’s pants, Atsushi pushed them down lower to Issay’s knees to free his hardness.

Atsushi then stopped his kisses and gently pushed Issay down onto the bed. Lying down with his knees bent, Issay breathed heavily and watched Atsushi, who started his little show by flipping the lower length of the yukata over Issay’s knees behind him to get the fabric out of the way. Sticking his index and middle fingers into his mouth, Atsushi held eye contact with Issay as he sucked on them, sensually massaging Issay’s thighs at the same time. He then removed his fingers from his mouth and brought them down, pressing them to his anus. While he teased himself and pushed in, Atsushi continued to keep eye contact with Issay, biting his lower lip and sighing as he felt his fingers slide in.

The arousal of having Issay watch him pleasure himself combined with the sensation of his own fingers going in and out of his asshole brought a flush to Atsushi’s cheeks. Soon, Atsushi reached his sweet spot and slowed his movements. Atsushi then reached down with his other hand to gently grab Issay’s balls, squeezing slightly to make him cry out. After more gentle massaging, Atsushi made a ring with his thumb and middle finger around Issay’s penis. Issay felt his body wrack with pleasure as Atsushi’s wrist curled while sliding his fingers up and down Issay’s length.

Once Atsushi was satisfied with the state he had Issay in, he leaned back against Issay’s thighs and lowered himself onto Issay. Atsushi pressed his back into Issay’s legs and moaned as Issay slowly inched deeper. With Issay fully inside of him, Atsushi began to rock and grind himself against Issay, deftly maneuvering his hips.

While Issay did enjoy watching Atsushi’s initiatives, he decided to get on top of Atsushi again. Reaching up, he held onto Atsushi and swung the younger man down onto the bed, sealing the deal with an additional thrust that pushed Issay deeper into Atsushi and made Atsushi scream in ardour.

Atsushi’s long locks splayed out on the bed and his yukata lay open. Issay fervently grabbed hold of Atsushi’s hair and Atsushi felt Issay’s fingers scratch against his scalp in his enthusiasm. As he continued to thrust, Issay bent himself over Atsushi to lick and suck on his nipples, causing Atsushi to lose himself to intense pleasure, letting his moans and cries of ‘Issay’ go unchecked.

As much as Issay was enjoying himself, there was a small corner of his mind that was concerned his neighbours would hear them. Atsushi, however, clearly had no such concern in him.

Shoving that thought aside, Issay kept pounding himself into Atsushi. Issay replaced his mouth with his other free hand to continue teasing Atsushi’s nipples while he moved to give attention to Atsushi’s neck, applying pressure and dragging his tongue against his skin between kisses. Atsushi responded positively, screaming indiscernible words and raking his nails on Issay’s back with one hand while scratching fiercely at the sheets with the other.

Issay felt himself come close to ejaculation and started grinding, pressing his stomach down against Atsushi’s penis, which has hardened again. Moving off Atsushi’s neck, Issay kissed Atsushi’s lips, biting and sucking on them at the same time. He could feel Atsushi’s high pitched moans in his mouth and in moments, his abdomen grew wet and sticky with Atsushi’s second release. A couple of thrusts later, Issay, too, felt the pleasure escalate in him and he came deep inside of Atsushi with restrained hiss.

Pushing himself up, Issay panted and pulled out of Atsushi. He looked down at Atsushi, whose expression was one of bliss, basking in the afterglow of their morning sex.

When Issay started to move himself away, he felt a sluggish kick to his rear. Turning, he saw Atsushi looking at him with a cheeky smile. Atsushi lifted his head higher up from the sheets and said, “I thought you said you were too tired.”

Issay threw himself down next to Atsushi. Cradling the younger man in his arms, he said, “Well, I slept quite well last night. Do you want to sing for me again? All your screams and cries do sound absolutely delightful.”

Atsushi chuckled and shook his head. “Please be reasonable. If I do, I doubt you’d have the energy to get back to work, nor will I be able to walk within the day, I think.”

“I could carry you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Atsushi laughed, swatting at Issay. “But we should wash up before all of this dries up,” he added, gesturing to the cum on his body

Getting up, Issay chuckled and asked, “Need me to carry you?” All he earned was another swat from Atsushi.

--

Fresh and clean, Atsushi was once again dressed in his own clothes which were now slightly crumpled from the way he discarded them carelessly last night. Seated at the dining table, he casually scanned the day’s headlines in the newspaper, keeping an eye out for any movements from the triad which may have gotten on the news.

Issay placed a plate down on the table. There was toast on it. “I’m sorry, that’s all I have at home,” he said, setting down butter and a jar of jam next to the plate.

“It’s alright,” Atsushi said as he smiled at Issay. “I usually skip breakfast anyway.” Picking up a piece, he added with a wink, “Your company’s more than enough for me, in any case.”

“How cheesy,” Issay said, walking back to the kitchen. “Anything interesting in the news?” he asked.

“Not really,” Atsushi replied and turned his eyes back to the newspaper. He noticed a report of a suicide of an alleged groper. The face attached to the article was that of the man from a few weeks ago. Atsushi forced himself to remain impassive, pushing the urge to allow a self-satisfied smile on his face. Looks like the evidence planted was enough for that death to be classified as a suicide.

“Don’t you have work today?” Issay asked, bringing Atsushi out of his thoughts. He brought coffee with him this time.

“Me?” Atsushi paused. His mind raced for an excuse. “I’ll just stay in the office a little later today to make up for the time, not like I don’t already stay after hours though.”

Issay let out a huff and smiled, his expression resigned as he buttered a piece of toast. “Sounds like life’s the same everywhere once you start work.”

Atsushi hummed in agreement. “Can’t really run from it.”

“Hey, here,” Issay nudged Atsushi. Looking up from the news, Atsushi found toast with butter and jam hovering in front of his face. “Eat,” Issay ordered.

Surprised, Atsushi cautiously edged forward and took a bit out of the bread. Chewing, he muttered, “Thanks.”

“No other remarks?” Issay teased, biting into his own toast.

“Well…” Atsushi felt his heart racing again. “You’re too nice.”

Issay chuckled. “Don’t be absurd. How else should I be treating you?”

“Like shit.” Atsushi muttered darkly as memories flashed through his mind.

“What…?”

“Huh?” Atsushi snapped back to the present.

Issay stared at him, eyes wide with concern. “What did you…?”

“No, it’s nothing, forget that.” Atsushi replied hastily. Where did that come from?

“Atsushi, tell me, please,” Issay implored.

“It all happened a long time ago. There’s no point in picking at old wounds,” Atsushi said quietly with a dismal smile. Issay stood up and surprised Atsushi with a hug, holding Atsushi tightly. “What’s with you now?” Atsushi chuckled, burying his emotions under a laugh.

“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…”

“What are you apologising for?”

Issay ignored Atsushi’s question. “Why do you carry so much pain?” Issay lamented, his voice cracking.

“I…” Atsushi didn’t know how to answer that. “I guess… that’s my burden in this life.”

“No,” Issay immediately rebutted. Letting Atsushi go, he said, “Wait.” and went off, leaving Atsushi at the dining table.

Atsushi sighed and picked up his toast. He started mentally chiding himself. That was unnecessary of him to say something like that out of nowhere. Now he’d just gone and made Issay all worked up.

While he ate his breakfast and continued reading the news, Atsushi heard drawers and cupboards open and close multiple times. Whatever Issay was looking for, it seemed hard to find. By the time Issay finally found his thing and came back, Atsushi had started buttering his next piece of toast.

Issay took hold of Atsushi’s hand and pressed something cold into his palm. “Here, keep this.”

Atsushi looked at his palm. “A key?”

“I had a spare key made for the house. It was initially meant for… someone else, but that never panned out. It’s yours now,” Issay said.

The enormity of the single, lone key dawned on Atsushi. As he stared at the key, he asked, “... Why?”

“For… whenever you want to…” Issay said, shifting his eyes away from Atsushi. He seemed incapable of explaining.

“I… Thank you,” Atsushi breathed. “You’re too nice,” he added with another laugh as he tried to brush his feelings off. A tear did, however, threaten to fall and Atsushi hastily dabbed his eye.

Issay wrapped him up in another hug again. His presence was comforting, very comforting. “Just… whenever you need somewhere else to go,” Issay murmured to Atsushi, re-extending his invitation.

“Thank you,” Atsushi repeated. “Although if I do let myself in, it’s more likely that I just want to see you than for anything else.”

“That’s an acceptable reason as well,” Issay said, a smile in his voice.

“But I can’t promise I’ll drop by often, as much as I’d like to,” Atsushi cautioned. He didn’t want to promise Issay something that he can’t fulfil. Not with everything that has been going on.

Issay stepped back from Atsushi. “No obligations,” he said, his smile unchanged. “It’s an open invitation.”

A sudden impulse to convey his emotions spurred Atsushi to stand up and kiss Issay. Issay responded by putting his arms around Atsushi, one on the small of his back and the other on the back of his neck, pulling Atsushi in closer.

“I love you.”

“And I, you.”

Chapter Text

“You seem particularly eager to go home these days,” Yoshida commented, dunking his sake down his throat like a shot.

“You drink like a barbarian,” Issay retorted. He sipped his sake instead, not wanting to get too drunk. He’d rather get home sober in case Atsushi decides to drop in for a visit.

Ever since Issay gave Atsushi the key to his apartment, Issay had expected that Atsushi would only come looking for him once every couple of weeks but he started coming up every other day instead. On the first occasion, Issay found Atsushi hesitating at the entrance to the apartment block. On the second occasion, Atsushi paced around outside Issay’s apartment instead. After that, he started letting himself in.

“The aim of drinking is to get drunk and it doesn’t matter how you do it,” Yoshida defended, swallowing another cup of sake. “But surely there’s a reason why you’re leaving earlier these days,” he said. “Got someone waiting for you at home?” Yoshida nudged Issay on his shoulder with a smirk on his face.

“Uh… I, well…” Issay didn’t know how to answer. Should he just give an excuse that he got a pet or should he give Yoshida a straight answer?

Yoshida chuckled at Issay’s stalling. “What? Can’t tell me?”

“Cat,” Issay finally answered, “I got a cat.”

“Oh?” Yoshida exclaimed in surprise. “I didn’t know you were a cat person.”

“Well, it was… so… cute that I couldn’t leave it outside on its own, y’know?”

Yoshida grinned. “So it was a stray?”

“Ah, yeah. It showed up one day. Wasn’t afraid to approach too. Very friendly cat.”

“How nice,” Yoshida said, chuckling. “Considering how you always said pets would be a pain to keep, I didn’t expect that you’d let a cat melt your heart.”

“You never really know how things can change, huh?”

Yoshida laughed and slapped Issay on his back. “You’d better get going then. That cat isn’t going to feed itself now, is it?”

“Ah, you’re right,” Issay agreed, relieved that Yoshida wasn’t going to make him stay longer. “You have fun with the other guys, I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said as he got up.

“Alright, say hi to your kitten for me,” Yoshida said with a grin. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Issay grabbed his coat and darted out the door. Smoking a cigarette as he walked, Issay tried to manage his expectations, reasoning that Atsushi doesn’t visit every day. Considering that he did just see Atsushi yesterday, it was likely that Atsushi might not be waiting for him at home tonight. That would be nice though. The thought of it made anticipation flutter in Issay’s stomach and brought a smile to his face.

Sensing someone in front of him, Issay looked up. A solitary woman stood in the middle of the pavement a short distance away, effectively blocking his path. Issay frowned and stopped. He got the feeling that the woman was waiting for him but she made no effort to approach him, simply smiling where she stood.

The anticipation that Issay felt seconds ago now warped into foreboding. Taking one step back, Issay attempted to turn back to the bar but found a broadly built man blocking his way back. “Ha, fuck,” Issay muttered under his breath. He took a long drag from his cigarette. Issay had no idea what this was for but this was going to turn out bad for him, he was sure of it.

“Mister Fujisaki?” the woman asked. Her pronunciation sounded odd. Might be a foreigner, Issay thought. “We would like to ask for your cooperation,” she said. That sounded like a recited script.

Issay refused to respond as his mind raced to look for a way out of this, whatever it was. Slowly backing up towards the empty road, Issay kept his eyes on both the man and the woman who continued closing in on him.

“You understand?” the woman asked again, this time in broken Japanese. Definitely a foreigner then, despite her native features. The woman started getting frustrated with his lack of response and spoke rapidly to the man in something that sounded like Mandarin, but not quite.

Issay hit the low barrier that separated the road from the pedestrian pavement and stopped in his tracks. The man and woman noticed that he stopped moving. Intending to seize their chance, they darted forward but Issay hopped over the fence and sprinted along the road in the direction of the bar. Issay had planned to jump back over the fence once there was a chance but the man kept up with his pace on the pavement, preventing any chance for Issay to get back in. Blood pumping and head pounding, Issay fought for control as he ran desperately, cursing the alcohol that he had consumed for slowing him down.

After what felt like an eternity, Issay finally saw the bar in the distance and forced his legs to speed up even more. Spotting a break in the road fence, Issay quickly slipped through and began yelling, making as much noise as possible in hopes of attracting the attention of the patrons inside the bar. The woman yelled something to the man behind Issay. He felt a grab for his coat, but luckily, it missed.

“Yoshida!!!” Issay screamed, desperate for someone to hear him.

A van suddenly drone up and stopped outside the bar. The back door slid open. Issay’s hopes were raised. Perhaps some kind of unknown help has come. But the moment he heard more foreign words being yelled from the inside of the van, Issay’s desperation hit new highs. Having no other choice than to run towards the van and the bar, Issay continued his sprint.

Veering into the bar, Issay managed to get two steps in before he got dragged out again by his coat. That couple of seconds he was in though, Issay saw Yoshida and shouted for him. “Yoshida Hikaru! Hel-!”

“Please be quiet,” Issay’s male pursuer said as he clasped a hand over Issay’s mouth. Issay struggled and screamed as much as he could, trying to make things as difficult as possible for his captor.

Issay saw Yoshida dashing out of the bar after them with bewilderment and he immediately bit the hand obstructing his voice. The moment he could open his mouth, Issay yelled, “Yoshida! Tell my cat!”

He didn’t get to see or hear Yoshida’s response before someone flipped his coat over his head and threw him into the van. When Issay tried to find his footing, a shoe stomped on his back, pressing him back down on the floor of the vehicle. He then felt a hand grab his neck, choking him slightly as it forced his head up and shoved a sweet smelling cloth into his face.

Feeling his head get heavy, Issay wondered what would become of him. The effects of the chemical worked slowly and Issay struggled weakly as his captors began tying his wrists together on his back. Mentally, he struggled as well, grasping for his last remaining strands of consciousness. Why did he even yell at Yoshida to ‘tell my cat’? Issay chuckled weakly, momentarily forgetting his plight, as he slipped into blackness while considering how Atsushi would react to being referred to as Issay’s cat.

--

A falling sensation startled Atsushi awake and he landed on the floor with an undignified thump. He winced, reaching for his knee and rubbing the sore spot. That was going to leave a bruise. Atsushi had fallen asleep on Issay’s sofa while waiting for him to get home. He assumed that Issay would wake him up when he got home but looking at the time… It was now almost 4 in the morning.

Taking a quick walk around the small apartment, it was clear that no one else is around. Atsushi clenched and released his teeth. A furrow settled onto his brow. Something was not right. Issay wouldn’t stay out so late, not on a work night.

Atsushi paced around the apartment, examining his options and the possibilities. He could step out to go and look for Issay, though Issay could have simply been held up by his colleagues. Going out would also mean that Atsushi might miss Issay if he did return while Atsushi was looking for him. If he stayed put and Issay doesn’t return though…

The door suddenly rattled under urgent knocks that sounded like heavy thunder in the dead of the night. Atsushi snapped his gaze to the door. That can’t be Issay. He has the keys. With slow steps, Atsushi padded towards the door as quietly as possible, hoping to keep his presence undetected.

Upon reaching the door, Atsushi slid the door latch close, again, doing so slowly to make as little noise as possible. He heard frustrated grunts on the other side of the door. There was a thump, quick light scratchings, then the release of weight against the door.

As Atsushi reached for the doorknob, there was a scraping sound that came from below. Looking towards the sound, Atsushi saw that the person on the other side has pushed a piece of paper through the gap under the door. A short message was written on it.

‘Fujisaki has been abducted’.

--

Issay vaguely remembered waking up once, getting kicked around, and then getting a prick in his arm before losing consciousness again. By the time Issay regained consciousness, his head and body hurt like hell, and his throat was terribly dry.

Opening his eyes, Issay found himself in an unfurnished room lit by the sunlight that streamed in through grimy window screens. Wanting to get a better look at his surroundings, Issay tried to push himself up from whatever he was lying on, only to find that his hands were bound to his back, and the soft surface under him, supposedly a mattress, made it hard for him to get much leverage. With his head still hurting as much as it did, Issay couldn’t really muster up any energy to move much either.

Issay started blankly at a corner of the room and sighed as he lay on his side. No matter how hard he racked his brains, Issay couldn’t come up with any reason to explain why he’d be snatched up like this. No motives came to mind. Although, frankly, he has yet to have the chance speak to them properly. Maybe it will come to light later on. If there was a later on, he thought grimly.

Shifting, Issay attempted to make himself comfortable despite being restrained. He tried to adjust his legs but felt resistance. Peering down, Issay saw that his ankles were bound together as well. He sighed. Wriggling, Issay did whatever he could to get into a better position than what he is currently stuck in. Since he can’t do much in this state, he might as well try sleeping and conserve his energy. Ending up in an awkward position, he lay on his side with his legs curled up. Having his arms tied to his back meant that he couldn’t lie flat. Issay felt sure that he wouldn’t feel his arms when he wakes up later.

Issay focused on slowing his pulse, closing his eyes and regulating his breathing. But moments later, he opened his eyes again. Atsushi’s face occupying his mind’s eye wasn’t helpful. Issay pursed his lips, annoyed. What he needed now was sleep, not feelings. Especially not the feeling of his arm going numb.

Trying to adjust his position again, Issay started rocking his body to gain momentum. With one big push, he finally managed to sit up. The shift and the rush of blood made Issay’s head swim. He clenched his teeth and his scrunched up his face, trying to will the ache away.

There was a click and the turn of a doorknob. The door creaked open and Issay saw the burly man from last night look into the room. The man then turned away and gruffly spoke to someone else in that same foreign language. As they spoke, Issay stretched his legs out and tugged against his restraints as he tried to find a way to stand.

“Well, she sure wasn’t joking when she said you were a gorgeous one,” said a velvety voice in fluent but accented Japanese.

Issay shifted his attention towards the voice. A man in a white suit and a black shirt casually sashayed towards Issay, dragging a wooden chair in with him. His face was frozen in a predatory smile. Issay simply stared at the man in silence.

Parking the chair right in front of Issay, the man on it backwards and propped his chin up with an elbow resting on the chair’s backrest. “Just look at those big eyes of yours, goodness. Aren’t you going to thank me for the compliment?” he asked, still smiling.

Issay continued staring at the man with a straight face.

Processing Issay’s silence, the man’s expression suddenly brightened with realisation. “Oh, how rude of me, I haven’t introduced myself. You can call me Kissaki.” He presented a hand to Issay, whose eyes merely shifted to stare at the hand for a moment, before moving back up to stare at Kissaki in the eye.

Another spark of realisation flashed into Kissaki’s eyes. He laughed, “How silly of me. Of course, you can’t shake my hand.” Kissaki lowered his gaze at Issay, his smile twisting into a lopsided smirk. “But you can speak, can’t you? I’ve heard about how you were being troublesome when you were being fetched.”

Issay said nothing.

“Running, screaming, creating a scene,” Kissaki wave his hand left and right as he listed Issay’s actions. “And!” He stuck his index finger in the air. “You mentioned a cat!” Kissaki aimed the finger at Issay, as if making a point.

Raising a brow, Issay gave Kissaki an unimpressed expression that said, “so what?”.

Kissaki chuckled. He stood up and flipped his chair around. Bringing it closer to Issay, he sat down and crossed his legs, letting his foot hang inches away from Issay’s face.

“Have you heard of the… what was that name that the new recruits gave?” Kissaki pursed his lips and frowned. He snapped his fingers as he tried to recall what it was. “Ah! The Takasaki Tiger… I think?”

Issay stared blankly at Kissaki. His brows furrowed in confusion. Why’s this man talking about baseball to him? “You…” Issay’s voice croaked, dry and painful. He swallowed and continued, “Are you talking about the Hanshin Tigers?”

“No!” Kissaki suddenly burst out, standing up “I hate baseball!”

Issay shrugged at him, unfazed by the man’s tantrum.

“What was it?” Kissaki mumbled to himself angrily, pressing one hand to his brow and snapping his fingers in the other hand again as he paced around. “The Tiger of Takasaki?” he looked to Issay for confirmation.

The corners of Issay’s mouth twitched down and he shrugged again, indicating he had no idea.

Kissaki stared at him, suddenly doubtful. He turned on his heel and took large strides out of the room, shaking his finger at Issay as he did. Kissaki swung the door open, stepped out, and before it could close, he came back in with photos in his hand.

“This,” Kissaki held a photo in front of Issay’s eyes. “This is you, isn’t it?” It was a picture of Issay exiting his apartment.

“I should arrest you for stalking,” Issay muttered, scrutinising the photo.

“You wish,” Kissaki spat. He flung the rest of the photos at Issay. “All of these, they’re of you, aren’t they?”

As the photos fluttered to the ground and the mattress, Issay turned to look at all of them. They were photos of him doing mundane things. Grabbing lunch, throwing a beer can away, buying cigarettes, talking to his colleagues, walking home with Atsushi…

The last photo that caught Issay’s eye chilled him. Not wanting Kissaki to notice it, Issay quashed the feeling and muttered, “… Are you obsessed with me or something?”

“Wrong.” Kissaki suddenly leaned forward and picked Issay up by the collar of his coat with both hands, throwing Issay into the chair that Kissaki was sitting on. Issay landed with a grunt, somewhat surprised that the fragile-looking chair didn’t give way from the impact.

Kissaki yelled out a few orders in his native language and his men came in with ropes. They worked quickly, giving Issay no chance to retaliate as they removed his existing restraints and tied him to the chair instead.

Instead of having his entire back against the backrest of the chair, Issay was made to shift his pelvis to the middle of the seat while the men bound his arms to the sides of the backrest in a way that forced his shoulders to be pinned to the top of the backrest. At the same time, Issay’s ankles were tied to the middle of the chair legs on each side, with more ropes forcing his knees to stay bent at an acute angle. His current position took away any possibility of stability if he wanted to shift his chair.

Once done, the men streamed out of the room and shut the door, leaving Kissaki alone with Issay again. Issay swallowed. Things weren’t looking up for him.

“What is your relationship to the Tiger?” Kissaki asked.

Issay was still confused. “That’s… a person?”

“Yes,” Kissaki affirmed.

“I don’t know anyone named Tiger or Takasaki,” Issay said. “You’re really not talking about baseb-”

Kissaki struck Issay. The punch to his left cheekbone was so hard that Issay’s vision whited out, making him see stars. Dazed by the unexpected blow, Issay took a moment to recover before moving his head back to his original position.

“You should feel honoured. I haven’t personally hit anyone in years until today,” Kissaki said, rubbing his knuckles. “I already said that we are not here to discuss… base… ball…”

Issay watched Kissaki through narrowed eyes, partly wincing from the growing soreness.

Snapping his gaze to Issay, Kissaki pointed at him. “You, are here as my bargaining chip against the Takasaki family.” Issay was nonplussed by his statement. It must have shown on his face because Kissaki had doubt in his eyes again. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“You have the wrong guy,” Issay answered.

This time, he saw the blow coming and braced for it. Issay’s head snapped to the left and he blinked hard, widening his eyes as he took in a deep breath. His answer was obviously unsatisfactory for Kissaki. He might be better off not answering at all.

Kissaki took a deep breath. “Don’t lie to me,” he warned. “I know what’s going on between you and the Tiger, I just need to hear it from you myself.” Fixing his cold stare on Issay, Kissaki said, “I’ll repeat my question. What is your relationship to the Tiger?”

This time, Issay refused to say a word.

Kissaki grabbed Issay’s lower jaw and brought his increasingly enraged face close. “Answer the question,” he demanded.

Issay said nothing and he promptly felt another blow to his face. Shaking his head, Issay tried to keep his mind clear. What was he supposed to answer when he had no idea who this Kissaki was referring to?

Just as Kissaki was about to say something again, the door to the room opened and a man spoke to Kissaki as he handed a ringing phone to him. Kissaki inspected the screen of the phone, took a few deep breaths to calm himself, then picked up the call.

“Hello…?”

--

Their bar was still closed at this time of the day. Hide tended to take advantage of having the whole place to himself to relax. However, today, he had Imai and Yuta over. Yuta was tearing his hair out over the plight of having some of his girls go missing recently. Imai didn’t think it was a good idea to leave Yuta alone when he was like this, so here they were, playing pool as they tried to relax.

“How’s your woman?” Imai asked Hide as he crouched down and took aim at the cue ball.

“She’s fine, I have some of the men looking after her,” Hide replied. Imai struck the cue ball. Hide watched as it hit the side rail and ricocheted to the head rail, missing the striped ball that Imai was aiming for.

Imai removed his cigarette from his lips and clicked his tongue, annoyed. Leaning against the nearby wall, Imai took a long drag. “Not moving her to any of the safe houses yet?”

“Hm…” Hide hummed, pondering as he considered his next shot.

“It would be safer,” Yuta said, watching their game from his seat in the bar stool. “I don’t even know where the girls are now…” he whined, wounded from his failure at keeping his escorts safe.

“Maybe they just wanted to lie low on their own,” Imai said.

“If that’s really the case, they would’ve just told me, or the other girls, at least,” Yuta said, invalidating that possibility. Slouching, he groaned, “What am I supposed to do…”

“If they really were taken by that Kissaki, the only thing you do is wait for him to contact you or something,” Imai shrugged. Hide made his shot and three solids went in. Looking at Imai, Hide gave him a triumphant smirk and a wink. Imai simply rolled his eyes in response, clicking his tongue again. “You just got lucky,” Imai grumbled.

“I’m more worried that he has no intention of letting them go,” Yuta stressed. “There’s all kinds of things he could do… So much worse…”

Hide finally ceded his turn. Swirling the ice in his rocks glass, Hide let the light clinks resonate in the quiet bar. After Hide took another sip of his whiskey, he said, “There’s another issue we need to contend with too. Our numbers are shrinking.”

“Must be that bastard Kissaki offering the grunts more money or power,” Imai muttered, focusing on estimating his shot. “They’ll come back soon enough when they realise the grass isn’t greener on that side. The smarter ones will, at least,” he continued with surety.

“But how long will that take?” Hide questioned, resting his hands on the pool table rail. “The cut in numbers is already giving us added difficulties.”

Just as Imai draw his cue back and struck, the bar’s entrance burst open, startling Imai and causing his cue to merely scrape the top of the cue ball. “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Imai yelled, turning around.

Hide, who was pouring himself another drink at the bar, kept his eyes on his glass. “Imai, you won’t win if you’re going to be pissed off throughout the game,” he chided jokingly. Once done, Hide looked up to see who came in. “Oh, Atsushi!”

“Where’s that phone number?” Atsushi barked, marching into the bar, eyes ablaze.

“Atsushi? What happened?” Yuta asked. “I haven’t seen you this angry in ages.”

“Where is it?” Atsushi demanded urgently.

“If you’re talking about that Chinese guy’s number, I think Toll kept it,” Hide said.

“So where is Toll?”

“Checking up on one of the gambling ships,” Imai replied. “Atsushi, what happened?” he probed, stubbing his cigarette in an ashtray.

Atsushi’s glare snapped to him. “Issay didn’t get home last night.”

“How would you know he isn’t having a fling elsewhere?” Imai gibed.

“Imai!” Hide hissed at him.

Atsushi slowly approached Imai, restraining himself from coming to blows with Imai. “Why don’t you ask your precious Honma about it?” Atsushi spat. “Ask him about what happened to Inspector Fujisaki. Ask him if this looks like a fling.” Atsushi slapped a piece of paper on Imai’s chest and shoved past him.

Reading the short message scrawled on it immediately gave Imai a twinge of guilt. “Atsushi…”

“Shut up.” The blunt statement of those two words cut deep into Imai.

“Where are you going?” Yuta called after Atsushi, who headed towards to the basement stairs.

“Getting armed.”

“Without knowing where to go?” Hide asked. “Without any backup?”

“I’ll figure it out,” Atsushi said, descending the steps.

Suddenly, the entrance door clicked open again. “I’m back!” Toll’s voice called.

Immediately, Atsushi charged back up the stairs. “Ani!” he called, addressing Toll. “Ani! Do you have that phone number with you?”

Toll gave him a puzzled look. “Which number are you talking about?”

“The one that Kissaki gave Yuta,” Atsushi specified.

“Ah, its…” Toll pulled out his wallet. Flipping around, he dug out the card with the number, which has been reduced to a crumpled scrap. “Here.”

“Thanks.” Atsushi hastily took it from him. He was about to call the number using his own phone but he paused. Muttering “burner phone”, Atsushi ran back down the stairs into the basement storeroom.

“What’s with him?” Toll asked, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder. Yuta showed the scrap of paper with the note to Toll.

Toll raised his brows. “Huh. And he thinks Kissaki did this? Wait, Fujisaki as in…?”

“That guy from school, I don’t know if you remember him,” Imai said sulkily.

“The… That ringleader-esque guy? I think you told me about him, right? Yuta?” Toll turned to his younger brother for confirmation.

Yuta nodded. “Apparently he’s a cop now.”

“Hah?”

Shrugging, Yuta said, “No idea how that happened.”

“And Kissaki abducted a cop?” Toll asked. “Is he crazy?”

“I would think so,” Yuta said, nodding to himself.

Heavy footsteps struck the wooden stairs and Atsushi emerged from the basement with another phone in his hand, taking two steps at a time. Striding quickly to the pool table, where the game was left abandoned, Atsushi dialled the number on the crumpled card and put the phone on speaker mode. He put the phone on the table and everyone stared intently at the phone as it rang, waiting for the call to get picked up.

“Hello…?” Kissaki’s voice drawled through the speaker. That was the only word they understood before he started speaking in another language.

Atsushi picked up the phone and brought it to his mouth. “You took something that belongs to me,” he growled, an incensed expression on his face.

“Ah!” Realisation crept into Kissaki’s voice. “I don’t recognise your voice. You are definitely not the small boss,” he said in his accented Japanese. “You must be the one that your men call the Tiger?”

“Where is he?” Atsushi pressed, his voice low.

Kissaki ignored him. “You know, I was starting to have… doubts that my underlings found the right man,” he said. “But now that you are calling me, I feel so much more assured.”

“Where. Is. He.”

A gleeful laugh came through. “How impatient! Are you that eager to get your little lover back?” Kissaki taunted, giggling some more. “Oh, why don’t I let you hear him?” There was the scrape of a chair leg against the floor and a defiant huff. Then came Kissaki’s order, “Speak.”

Silence. Only measured breathing could be heard.

“Speak!” Kissaki roared. Sounds of a light scuffle were heard, followed by a low grunt.

After a couple of laboured huffs, a voice Atsushi knew well said, “I… still don’t see the point of this… when I don’t know why I’m here… or what you want from me.”

“I already told you, you’re one of my bargaining chips,” Kissaki said, addressing the other voice. “It’s interesting though,” he turned his attention back to Atsushi. “Your small boss never called despite how I’ve been picking his girls up.”

Yuta jerked forward, alarmed that his hunch was right.

“And one of your other associates, he has a lady of his own too, doesn’t he? Maybe I should up the stakes…” Kissaki mentioned casually. Upon hearing that, Hide shot upright and went aside to make a call.

“What do you want?” Atsushi asked.

“I’ve been waiting for you to ask me that,” Kissaki purred. “Why don’t you come and visit? We can talk it over.”

“Where?”

“I’m sure you know where your old boss’ derelict manor is,” Kissaki said. “But of course, do come alone. Or maybe bring that small boss with you,” he added as an afterthought. “We’ll all be waiting for you here. Me, my men, your men, the girls, your lover.”

“Perfect.” Atsushi ended the call and turned off the phone without bothering with pleasantries. That voice was starting to grate on his nerves. He got the location he wanted, and that’s all he needs from Kissaki. Turning to head back down into the storeroom, Atsushi asked, “Yuta, you coming?”

“Yeah.”

“What if it’s an ambush?” Toll pointed out.

“So be it,” Atsushi said.

“I’ll drop an anonymous hint to the police,” Imai mumbled, walking out of the bar without another word.

As Yuta passed him, Toll grabbed Yuta by the arm and whispered, “What’s with them? Why’s Atsushi so worked up over this Fujisaki?”

“You heard what Kissaki referred to Fujisaki as.”

“What? He wasn’t just spitting rubbish?”

“Ani, it’s been that way for awhile now.”

“Since when?”

Yuta shrugged. “It just… happened?”

“But I thought Atsushi and Imai were…?”

“Why do you think Imai’s so agitated these days?”

“So he knows?” Toll clarified.

Yuta nodded.

“And he’s not doing anything about it?” Toll asked, incredulous.

Yuta shrugged again. “No one really knows what’s going on with them most days anyway.”

Toll scratched his head in confusion, struggling to wrap his head around the situation. Giving up, he huffed, “These two will be the death of me.”

“Hopefully we don’t all drown with them,” Yuta remarked.

--

Lover? Was Issay supposed to be the Tiger’s lover? The only person Issay would consider as his lover would be Atsushi, and Issay didn’t recognise the low, throaty voice that spoke with Kissaki. Atsushi doesn’t speak like that. Atsushi couldn’t be…

While Issay dwelled in his thoughts, Kissaki exited the room with a skip in his step. He seemed to have forgotten about Issay’s existence after the phone call ended. Although Kissaki has left, Issay was still stuck in that uncomfortable position on the chair and his mind was whirling, overwhelmed by everything that has happened in the past few hours. Whatever conclusion he was coming to now… it can’t be. There’s a mistake. There must be.

Coming to the conclusion that there was no way for him to confirm anything at this point in time, Issay decided to set the issue aside. He’ll be able to figure things out better once he gets himself out of here.

Issay hated the position that he was put in. He hasn’t been stuck like this for long but already, his back ached, his tailbone ached, his knees ached, his inner thighs ached, his shoulders ached. Because of how awkward the position is, pretty much everything ached.

Grunting, Issay exerted himself against his bonds, trying as hard as he could to find a bit of leeway somewhere, somehow. As Issay increased the amount of strength he was using, his grunt turned into a frustrated scream. His restraints were too tight.

Issay panted and his stomach growled. The realisation that he hasn’t eaten in quite a long time hit Issay hard, suddenly making him feel weaker. Groaning, Issay wanted to curl up to alleviate that empty feeling in his stomach a little but his restraints were, as expected, in the way. This time, Issay forced himself to forget his hunger and refocus on the problem at hand. His list of things to address keeps growing longer.

Shifting his weight around, Issay tested the stability of the chair. Maybe, just maybe, he could move the chair despite how challenging it seems to be in his current position. Issay shoved his body to the left. The chair shifted. His face broke into a smile. Maybe this could work.

The first step to getting out would be to reach the door, which was behind him. Issay edged back as slowly and as carefully as he could. He didn’t want to fall over by accident and make things more difficult for himself.

The chair legs screeched against the floor with each shift, grating on Issay’s ears. That was another thing to worry about. Issay probably couldn’t be as stealthy as he wants to with all the noise that he was making. For now, though, the least he could do is try and move. Then, Issay jerked his chair back with a little too much force. Shit .

Feeling the chair slowly tilt backwards, Issay tucked his chin to his chest and braced for the impact. He crashed to the floor. Issay had hoped that the chair would break apart but, again, it held itself together in one piece.

Staring at the ceiling, Issay tugged and pulled against his restraints in yet another attempt to break out. Just like before, there was no give in the ropes. Giving up on that, Issay swallowed and began to think about what else he can do. Perhaps he could get on his knees. Issay would be stuck in a weird crouch but that would definitely give him more mobility than before.

Issay flipped to his side, letting the chair fall with another loud crash. He winced. He was making too much noise. Someone was bound to come in and check on him soon. Pushing himself upright, Issay used his left knee as a pivot on the ground and landed hard on his right knee. He winced again. This time, from the impact of landing on his right knee. Thank god his knees weren’t as busted as his other colleagues’.

Twisting his body, Issay made his way towards the door and upon reaching it, he stopped. Issay stared at the doorknob blankly. He hasn’t thought of how he was going to open it.

Slouching on and resting on his knees, Issay laughed. This is hopeless. Perhaps the only option he has left was to try and break the chair. It was a sturdy chair, but it has to break somehow, right?

With a sigh, Issay was about to shift himself towards the wall to start hitting the chair against it when the door opened. He looked up and saw the woman from last night staring down at him. When she saw Issay’s face, she wailed and reached down, prodding his face with her fingers as she jabbered away in her own language.

Issay flinched and from her touches, wanting to draw back but unable to. Certain parts of his face erupted in bursts of pain with each touch. Issay guessed that the punches must have left quite some damage on his face.

The woman continued to ramble and grumble in her own language as her hands finally left Issay’s face. It felt like she was speaking to Issay while monologuing at the same time. Issay wanted to get away while she spoke to herself but the moment he moved, the woman grabbed the chair by the handhold in the top of the backrest and dragged him away with her.

Well, I guess all that effort was for nothing , Issay thought sulkily as the woman went out of the room with him in tow. Issay stared at the dusty ceiling beams as they moved but he eventually got bored and decided to look at his surroundings.

From what Kissaki said in his phone call earlier, Issay had expected to see more people in the building but that didn’t seem to be the case. The few people who he does see though were familiar faces. They were young delinquents who he has bumped into several times before while they were loitering around in some corners of the city.

When he made eye contact with them, the youths recognised him as well. Issay raised his eyebrows and subtly jerked his head towards them in greeting. They stared back at him, jaws slack with surprise and eyes wide with alarm at the state he was in. Issay managed to smirk and choke up a laugh. Did he look that bad?

Issay watched them exchange quick words and slink away. He couldn’t help but wonder what that was about. Were they worried about getting implicated in an abduction?

Any other person who Issay saw while he was being towed also reacted in similarly, like the youths. It was odd, the way they were acting. There must be something going on.

Eventually, the woman pulled Issay through a doorway and finally let his chair rest in the middle of this bigger, cleaner room. She turned him around so that his back was to the door. Winking at Issay, she said, “Kissaki say OK to play with you.”

Issay got a sinking feeling in his stomach. He didn’t like the sound of that. His dismay must have shown on his face because the woman giggled and said, “No worry. I treat you nice!”

Fuck . Getting beaten up was one thing, but this is a whole other matter. Issay tugged uselessly at his restraints, more desperate than before.

The woman merely giggled at his futile attempts and lifted her skirt as she sat on Issay’s lap, facing him. Immediately, Issay understood the actual purpose of his awkward position on the chair. His legs were already conveniently spread apart for her to grind her crotch against his.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. No. Fuck. Issay cursed internally as he felt his body betraying him. Turning his head to the side to stay as far away from the woman as possible, Issay’s face, contorted by distress, grew even more upset when he felt the woman’s fingers undoing the buttons of his shirt.

Twisting his body, Issay pulled against the ropes, this time aiming to throw the woman off instead of breaking free. Realising what he was doing, the woman pressed hard against one of the bruises on Issay’s body, making him scream and drop limply from the pain.

The woman laughed at his reaction and dragged her left hand along his jaw and neck to rest it on his heaving chest. With her right hand, she grabbed Issay’s chin and forced him to look at her. Staring at the woman with a tense jaw and a look of pure hostility, Issay watched as she grinned and slid her left hand down his body towards the fly of his pants. Issay tried to jerk his hips away from the woman’s touch without any success. Breathing heavily in frustration, Issay grit his teeth and squirmed as he felt her undo his fly and palm him. Issay glared at the woman with hatred in his eyes as she smirked back at him with a self-satisfied grin.

Without warning, the door behind Issay slammed open and the woman looked up in anger, followed by shock, and finally fear as a hand reached over Issay’s shoulder to grab her by the hair and yank her off his body. As she was being pulled off, the leg that she had hooked around the chair destabilised it and Issay hit the floor as well, landing hard on his left shoulder with a suppressed grunt.

“How dare you touch what’s mine.” Issay heard that low, intimidating voice from the phone call growl furiously at the woman.

Quickly recovering, Issay hastily tried to get on his knees to turn around and see who barged in. Unfortunately, found himself held down by another person who sat on the joint of the chair that held the backrest to the seat.

“Y’know, he told me specifically that he didn’t want you seeing this,” said the other man’s husky voice. Issay could hear the sounds of the woman’s exclamations and struggles while being battered by the rampaging man.

“Who…?”

“Hm…” The man sitting on Isaay thought for awhile. “I don’t think he wants you to know that either.”

“Huh…” Issay slumped down. “You’re not going to tell me?” he asked, craning his neck up to at least find out who was sitting on him.

“Nuh-uh.” A hilt firmly, but gently, pushed against Issay’s cheek, stopping him from turning his head. “You’re not getting single a peek,” the husky voice said.

“Fine,” Issay muttered. “Thanks for… whatever this is, anyway.”

“No need for thanks. It’s thanks to you that I could settle some things around here too,” the man replied. “Just be good to him for us, will you?”

“How am I supposed to do that if I don’t know who he is?”

The man paused for a moment then chuckled. “I guess you’re right,” he said. “But I’m still not telling you anything though.”

“Right… so… are you guys getting me out of here?”

“He wanted to,” the man said, crossing his legs. “But we decided to let your colleagues deal with that instead.”

“My colleagues?"

“Yeah, they should be arri- oh, give me a second.” The man cut his words off midway and picked up his phone.

“Yes?… We found him… He’s fine, yes… Five minutes?… Alright, thanks.”

Ending the call, the man who sat on Issay addressed the other man, “Hey, we need to go- Hey! You’ll kill her like that!” Leaping to his feet, the man with the husky voice ran over.

When Issay felt the man’s weight leave the chair, he immediately pushed himself onto his knees.

“No, no, no, no!”

The man dashed back to Issay and righted his chair, making Issay sit upright again. “What do you mean ‘no’!?” Issay yelled.

“I already said you’re not to see anything!” The husky voice yelled back, to Issay as the man ran away again. “Oh, for god sakes! Stop doing that! Both of you are such a handful! ”

Issay twisted hard in his chair, shifting it to turn around.

The man with the husky voice yelled at Issay, “Stop moving! I’m going to ignore you!” Then, turning to his associate, the man frantically urged him, probably tugging at him at the same time as he said, “C’mon! Let. Her. Go! We need to leave, c’mon!”

“Fucking bitch!”

“Stop it! C’mon, let’s go!”

Just as Issay turned far enough to catch a glimpse of the mysterious men, they left the room. Or rather, one left the room dragging the other out. All he saw was booted feet kicking to get back in.

Issay heard a din starting on another side of the building. There was the wail of a loud hailer and muffled voices echoing through the speaker. It sounds like his colleagues have arrived. Upon a low rumble and a crash, Issay gathered that they must have made their way in.

Finally, Issay can rest. Relaxing his body, Issay sank into his chair. His stomach growled again, seemingly indignant at being forgotten. At this point, Issay couldn’t be bothered. Feeling exhaustion take over, he let his head tilt backwards and fell asleep. His colleagues can carry him out.

Chapter Text

Issay swung his feet off the hospital bed and put on the slippers that were provided for him. Standing up, he stretched his back, twisting left and right. With each loud pop, Issay sighed in relief.

“If you wanna go smoke with me hurry up now,” Yoshida grumbled. He came to visit Issay during his lunch break.

“Ah… What’s the rush? I’ve got all day,” Issay said, his movements sluggish. This was his third day stuck in the hospital ‘for observation’. He felt perfectly fine but he still hasn’t received permission to leave.

You have all day, I don’t,” Yoshida corrected. “I still need to get back and finish your work for you.”

“And I thank you,” Issay said in a dramatic tone and placed a hand over his heart, “for the noble sacrifices that you’re making for me.” He chuckled and threw an arm around Yoshida as they walked out of the single-bed room together.

“Tch!” Yoshida shrugged Issay’s arm off his body. Issay simply chuckled. He could tell that the lack of time for drinking sessions was getting to Yoshida.

Moving to walk behind Yoshida, Issay pressed Yoshida’s shoulders with his hands, kneading the stiff muscles. “If only you could bring them out to me. You know I’ll get them done.”

“Stupid security policies…” Yoshida muttered. “I should just steal out of the hospital.”

Issay burst out laughing. “Am I so invaluable that everyone wants to kidnap me?”

This time, Yoshida put his arm around Issay, squeezing his shoulder. “I’m glad you can laugh about it. Considering how we found you…” he said, his tone suddenly solemn.

“Ah…” Issay sighed. “Too bad you didn’t find that Kissaki person.”

“What did you do to attract that kind of attention though?” Yoshida asked, still confused by what had happened.

“Trust me, I’m just as clueless as you are,” Issay said as they stepped out of the hospital’s main entrance.

“Mr. Fujisaki! Where do you think you are going?” A woman’s voice called out from the hospital’s reception desk.

Stopping, Issay and Yoshida turned around. “Oh, Mari,” Issay greeted. It was the nurse who was assigned to his room, or rather, just him, since his superiors were nice enough to put him up in a private room. “Just taking a walk!” Issay shouted back and steered Yoshida away with him to look for a corner where they could smoke.

“She’s pretty cute, isn’t she?” Yoshida commented.

“Want me to introduce her to you?” Issay offered.

“Hah! Please. You’re the one she’s interested in.”

“Well, I’m not interested though.”

“Why not? She seems nice.”

“Not my type,” Issay said dismissively. “And isn’t she a little too young?” he added. Stopping in an alley between the hospital buildings, Issay gestured to Yoshida, “Gimme one. She took away all my cigarettes.”

Yoshida guffawed. “That’s concern right there for you,” he said, giving Issay a stick.

“Overbearing,” Issay muttered as he lit his cigarette. “I can already imagine the nagging when she smells this on me later.”

“That’s being caring,” Yoshida emphasised.

“She’s worse than my mother,” Issay grumbled, taking a deep breath through his cigarette. “Ah… this feels good.” He closed his eyes and leaned against the wall.

Tutting, Yoshida puffed his cigarette and said, “You’ll never get a wife at this rate.”

“Who ever said I wanted to get married?”

“You were pretty excited over the previous one.”

“And then it went up in smoke.”

“So you’re giving up on dating entirely?”

“Well… Let’s just say I’m not looking for anything right now.”

Yoshida scoffed. “You’re giving me doubts about that cat of yours.”

“Cat?” Issay echoed, his mind drawing a blank. Suddenly, he remembered what that was about. “Ah, the cat… It’s… probably run away by now,” he said gloomily. Issay had intended to call Atsushi, at least to leave him a voice message and tell him what happened, but his phone went missing when he got abducted. To top it off, no matter how hard Issay tried, he couldn’t recall what Atsushi’s number was.

“Well, I did try to tell your cat that you got snatched though,” Yoshida said.

Issay’s eyes snapped to Yoshida. “How did you do that?”

“I slipped a note under the door.”

“And what did you write on it?” Issay asked. What Atsushi might know would depend on what Yoshida penned.

“What difference does it make? Can your cat read?” Yoshida retorted.

“Uh… well…”

“It’s not a cat, is it.” Yoshida wasn’t asking.

“Uh…” Issay kept his cigarette on his lips, taking long slow puffs to avoid speaking. What was he supposed to say?

“Ah, whatever.” Yoshida gave Issay a thump on his back. “I’m not gonna force you to say anything. If you ever want to talk about it, I’m all ears.”

“Th-thanks… I guess,” Issay muttered. He felt bad about not telling Yoshida anything but…

“Anyway,” Yoshida spoke up, changing the subject. “Tsuchiya and the rest, they’re planning to visit you after work. I’ll be coming back with them.”

“Huh?” Issay was surprised. “Why would they bother?”

“You underestimate your popularity, Fujisaki,” Yoshida said, chuckling. “You’ve no idea how badly those guys reacted when I broke the news that you were kidnapped.”

Issay stared at the floor, trying to digest Yoshida’s words. “That’s… Well, I’m flattered…”

Smiling, Yoshida discarded his cigarette butt and began to walk Issay back. “Pay a little more attention to your colleagues, will you?”

“Right, right,” Issay mumbled. Sucking in the last of his cigarette, Issay threw his butt in the nearby drain as he walked with Yoshida. “I’ll be seeing you after dinner then? Remember the visitation hours,” Issay reminded.

“Yeah, it ends pretty early doesn’t it? Like nine or something.”

“Eight, actually.”

“You don’t even sleep that early,” Yoshida remarked. “What’s there for you to do when everyone’s gone?”

“I’ll need you to bring me reading material or something then,” Issay replied.

“What, like those with the gravure models?” Yoshida joked.

Issay kicked Yoshida’s calf. “You’ll just get me in trouble,” he said, stopping. They were back at the hospital’s entrance.

Laughing, Yoshida slapped Issay’s back again. “I’ll see what I can find for you.”

“I’ll see you later then,” Issay said. He gave Yoshida a casual wave goodbye and headed back to his room on his own.

--

Thumbing the petals lightly, Atsushi paced up and down the hospital corridor as he stared at the bouquet in his hand. Anemones, purple hyacinths, eglantines, syrian mallows, sweet peas. He went through all that trouble to pick them out, but now, he can’t even bring himself to approach Issay’s room.

Atsushi dropped into a chair along the corridor with a huff, frustrated at himself. Taking in every little imperfection in the flowers, Atsushi gently brushed a hand over them and looked towards the end of the corridor where Issay’s room was supposed to be. He bit his lip and sighed. Atsushi didn’t even know whether Issay caught sight of his handiwork, or if Issay has figured out that the entire episode was all because of him, all because Atsushi spent so much time with him prior to his capturing.

Clutching the bouquet to his chest as lightly as he could, Atsushi worked on quelling the guilt from the selfishness of his own desires. Kissaki’s aggressions validated Atsushi’s fears. Letting Issay stay close to him would be of no good to Issay. Even worse, Atsushi was letting Issay put himself in danger without knowing it.

If Issay was doing this with full knowledge of what his association with Atsushi would entail, if he stayed with Atsushi of his own accord despite knowing the risks, there may be less blame on Atsushi, but no less guilt, for sure. Yet if Atsushi told Issay the whole truth… Would Issay even want to see Atsushi again? He would probably hate Atsushi for it. Not that he has no reason to.

Atsushi let out a heavy, miserable sigh. They would both be better off with more distance between each other. But first… Looking down at the flowers in his hands, Atsushi smiled, small and sad. He hoped Issay liked them.

Casting a determined look down the hospital corridor, Atsushi hoped that Issay wouldn’t be in his room, or if he were, asleep. That would make things easier. Atsushi stood up, took a deep breath, and walked to Issay’s room.

Quietly, Atsushi slid the door open and let himself in. The room was silent. There was no movement as Atsushi walked past the door to the room’s toilet. All the noises Atsushi made, the soft tapping of his dress shoes on the vinyl floors, the crinkling of the bouquet wrappings, his shallow breathing, sounded terribly loud to him as he approached the only bed in the room.

Atsushi was mildly surprised that Issay’s bosses would choose to have him stay in a private room, but who was he to question their medical benefits. It was rightly luxurious for what he had been through after all.

Issay was asleep in the bed, hair covering half his face and dressed in the light blue garments provided by the hospital. The blanket was kicked to one side while a newspaper lay on Issay’s stomach. He probably fell asleep reading that.

Atsushi’s eyes took in every inch of Issay’s sleeping form, the peaceful sight filling his heart with tenderness. Issay looked much better than when Atsushi last saw him, bound up in that infernal chair. The bruises on his face have faded, and from the look of things, it didn’t seem like Issay has sustained any serious injuries or damage. Physically, at least.

Mouth set in a hard line, Atsushi set the flowers down and began to look for something to display them in. Opening one of the drawers in the bedside table, Atsushi found a glass vase and took it. As he slowly slid the drawer close, Atsushi kept an eye on Issay, looking out for signs of Issay stirring from sleep. He didn’t move when the drawer closed with a low thud.

Now that Atsushi has his vase, he made brisk, quiet strides into the washroom, opened the door carefully, filled the vase half full with water, and closed the door again with a soft click. Craning his neck, Atsushi peeked over at Issay. He still seemed to be sound asleep.

Bringing the vase back to the bedside table that sat next to the window, Atsushi put it down where the sunlight would hit and started unwrapping the flowers, grimacing at the noisy crackling. When the flowers were finally free, Atsushi discarded the wrapper in the small trash can. Gingerly, he slotted the bundle of flower stalks into the slim vase. After adjusting them, Atsushi stepped back and smiled faintly at his handiwork.

Issay took a deep breath and sighed in his sleep, making Atsushi freeze in panic. Eyes still closed, Issay muttered softly and turned his head to Atsushi’s direction. Atsushi watched Issay intently for a few moments, waiting to see if he was going to wake up. Staring at a stray lock of hair in Issay’s face, Atsushi reached down, compelled by the impulse to brush it away.

Out of the blue, Issay grabbed Atsushi’s wrist and pulled him down into a kiss. Unable to resist, Atsushi felt Issay wrap his arms around him. Returning the embrace, Atsushi felt himself melt into Issay, overwhelmed by longing. Part of Atsushi soared with joy that Issay’s feelings appeared unchanged, while another part of him screamed in exasperation at his own weakness for Issay, that Atsushi couldn’t bear to just walk away. But how was he to leave a man whose caresses and affections he craved so badly?

Even when they broke apart from their kiss, they stayed close to each other. Looking into each other’s eyes, they took comfort and pleasure from the presence of the other.

Breaking the silence that hung between them, Issay said, “You finally visited… And you wanted to leave without saying a word?”

“I didn’t want to wake you,” Atsushi whispered breathlessly.

“Don’t be silly, you know I’d choose you over sleep anytime,” Issay chuckled as he brushed Atsushi’s hair aside.

Issay’s words always brought a flutter into Atsushi’s stomach. Hoping that he wasn’t blushing again, Atsushi looked away and mumbled, “I’m sorry.”

“What’s there to be sorry for?” Issay asked, still running his fingers through Atsushi’s long hair.

“I… I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner,” Atsushi said, his voice low. He wanted to kick himself. Why couldn’t he tell the truth?

“I’m the one who should be sorry. I must’ve made you worry, disappearing like that without giving you any updates. And all because I forgot your number,” Issay chuckled again.

“I…” Atsushi paused, words stuck in his throat. Biting the inside of his cheek, he pressed his forehead to Issay’s with a pained expression on his face.

“What’s wrong?” Issay asked, concern in his eyes. “Hurts too much to see me in here?” he joked, attempting to lighten Atsushi’s mood.

“I… I’m just glad you seem fine,” Atsushi said. He just couldn’t bring himself to say what he had to.

“Don’t look so sad then,” Issay said softly as he rubbed Atsushi’s back with one hand.

“Sorry…”

“Like I said, if anyone has to be sorry, it’s me,” Issay reitereated, letting Atsushi, who now sat on his bedside, lie down and rest his torso on him. “You didn’t spend whole nights waiting for me, did you?”

“A few nights back, yes. Until someone shoved a note under your door that said you got abducted,” Atsushi said, his voice soft.

“Ah, fuck, you really were waiting for me to get home that night,” Issay muttered, holding Atsushi a little tighter. “You must’ve been worried sick,” he said to Atsushi as his fingers curled around Atsushi’s hands.

“It was-”

“Mr. Fujisaki, I’ve brought your dinner!” A young lady’s voice, likely a nurse’s, came in.

The moment Atsushi’s ears caught the first sounds of an unknown voice, he shot upright immediately, leaving Issay’s embrace to sit straight and stare outside the window with his back to the entrance of the room. He heard Issay laugh, probably in surprise at Atsushi’s swift reaction but while he let Atsushi sit up, Issay didn’t let Atsushi’s hand go.

A trolley rolled into the room. “Ah! Mr. Fujisaki, how rare that you have a visitor at this time of the day!”

“You could say it was a surprise,” Issay replied, pushing himself up with a grunt. “Right, Atsushi?”

“I… should go,” Atsushi muttered, getting up.

“Sit,” Issay said suddenly, commanding. Atsushi sat back down. “I mean, unless you have somewhere else to be,” Issay added, noticing the unintentional sternness in his voice.

“No, I don’t…”

“Good,” Issay said, his tone now softer as he leaned his shoulder against Atsushi’s back. Bringing his lips to Atsushi’s ear, Issay whispered, “Yoshida mentioned earlier that the nurse might be a little too interested in me. Help me out a little here.”

Atsushi turned sharply and blinked at Issay, a questioning look on his face. “What…?”

Issay didn’t have time to respond to Atsushi as he turned to the nurse and said, “Hey, Mari, isn’t this too early for dinner?”

“You say this every day, Mr. Fujisaki,” the nurse, Mari, replied, beaming.

“What time is it again?” Issay directed his question at Atsushi. Wordlessly, Atsushi showed him an open palm. 5 p.m. . “5 p.m.? I’m supposed to be grabbing a late afternoon snack at this time, not dinner.”

“Well, it’s the healthy time to have dinner,” Mari insisted. Stopping the food trolley next to the bed, she pulled up the side tables and set them up. “Aren’t you going to introduce your surprise visitor to me?” she asked casually as she worked.

“Atsushi, meet Mari, the nurse in charge of this room,” Issay said with a slight reluctance in his tone.

“The nurse in charge of you, you mean,” Mari teased.

Atsushi stood up and turned to Mari. Flashing his most sincere smile, Atsushi bowed as he said, “Thank you for taking such good care of Issay for me.”

That certainly got Mari flustered. Personally, Atsushi wasn’t convinced that he looked all that great but he has seen enough reactions to know what kind of effect he can have. As Mari fumbled to respond to Atsushi’s supposed gratitude with a hasty bow, Atsushi snuck a smug smile and a wink to Issay, who rolled his eyes and scoffed in mock annoyance.

“Oh, no, it’s my pleasure!” Mari replied quickly, trying to retain some level of professionalism. Turning back to her food trolley, Mari asked, “Chicken or salmon today?”

“Salmon, I guess.”

Sitting back down next to Issay, Atsushi asked in a low voice, “Salmon? How often have you been eating salmon here?”

Issay thought for awhile. “Pretty much everyday I think. Why?”

Atsushi gave him a disapproving pout. “You do realise you’ll taste like what you’ve been eating, right?”

Draping himself over Atsushi’s shoulders, Issay pressed his cheek to Atsushi’s. “Are you already thinking of tasting me? Is that part of your plan?” he asked cheekily, his voice barely a whisper.

Feeling the blood rush to his face, Atsushi shook Issay off and replied with a hasty “No”. As he shifted his position to turn away from Issay, Atsushi heard Issay struggling to stifle his snickers.

Hearing a plate and utensils set down on the bed’s table, which has now been assembled, Atsushi turned and glanced at the food. He was surprised that it didn’t look half bad, considering how hospital food was notorious for being inedible blandness.

“Well, here’s your dinner,” Mari said. “If I may ask, Mr. Atsushi, it seems like Mr. Fujisaki is quite an important person to you?”

Atsushi looked at the nurse, slightly startled that she would address him. He nodded in response to her question.

“So… I’m curious as to what your relationship is to each other…?”

Atsushi redirected the question to Issay. “What are we?”

“You’re asking me?” Issay asked, putting a piece of pan-seared salmon in his mouth. As he chewed, he pondered it over. “Hm…” Issay looked at his dinner plate. Stabbing a cherry tomato with his fork, he offered it to Atsushi.

Atsushi’s eyes darted between the small red orb and Issay, who jerked the tomato in Atsushi’s direction. Slowly, Atsushi lowered himself and leaned towards the fork, keeping his uncertain gaze on Issay as he did so. With another encouraging jerk of the head from Issay, Atsushi cautiously removed the tomato from the fork and reverted to his original position.

Without missing a beat, Issay went back to slicing his salmon. “We are whatever you think that was,” he said to Mari with finality.

Mari simply giggled and said, “How mysterious. I’ll leave you to your dinner then. Enjoy!” And with that, she headed off with her trolley, leaving the two men to themselves.

“Do you think she’s being oblivious on purpose?” Atsushi asked.

“Likely,” Issay replied. “Either that or she probably thinks its a joke.”

Atsushi made a noncommittal sound. “You know, I don’t really like cherry tomatoes.”

“Why’d you eat it then?”

“You said to help you out.”

Cleaning up his plate, Issay chuckled. “You’d do anything I ask you to?”

Atsushi folded his arms and gave Issay a sidelong look. “What are you getting at?”

Issay gave him an innocent smile and a shrug. “What are you thinking of?”

Atsushi glowered back at Issay, refusing to give him an answer.

Grinning, Issay pushed his empty plate aside and wiped his mouth. “Got cigs on you?” he asked Atsushi.

“Yeah, they’re not the ones that you smoke though.”

“It’s fine. I don’t have anything on me so beggars can’t be choosers,” Issay shrugged again as he slid off the bed.

“Or… I could buy them for you,” Atsushi suggested, standing up.

Issay wave a hand, turning down his offer. “That would be nice, but they don’t sell any cigarettes in the vicinity. I’ve checked.” Walking out of his room with Atsushi, he added, “I’ll just leech off you for now.”

“I don’t mind,” Atsushi smiled.

Following Issay, Atsushi refrained from walking too close to him in the bustling hospital. Messing around in front of one nurse was nothing compared to having the rest of the entire staff plus general public as an audience. Issay, however, seemed like he couldn’t care less, bumping his hand into Atsushi’s and hooking their fingers together countless of times. Exiting the hospital building, Issay steered Atsushi around it and towards a secluded area in the back.

“We can smoke here,” Issay declared.

Atsushi offered Issay a cigarette and lit it for him before lighting his own. Leaning against the wall, shoulder to shoulder, they smoked together in silence until a thought came to Issay.

“Come to think of it,” Issay started, “how did you find out where I’m admitted?”

“Huh? Oh, Imai told me,” Atsushi said.

“And who’d he hear about me from?” Issay asked.

“Well…” Atsushi pulled in a breath through his cigarette, buying himself a little time to come up with something. “Imai mentioned that you guys met sometime back, didn’t you? Like his friend in the force brought you to his table?” Issay nodded. “So when you went missing, I told him about it, and he asked around, and so on.”

Issay hummed. “Word sure does get around fast, huh?”

“Wasn’t fast enough though,” Atsushi remarked.

“Not for me, indeed,” Issay agreed, twitching one corner of his mouth into a quick smile. “You seem close though, you and Imai. You kept in contact after graduation?”

“I guess you could say that we’re close…” Atsushi said. How was he going to explain this one? “We… worked for the same boss but in different departments.”

“Sounds like you both came to the capital together.”

“Not exactly. Imai moved over right after graduation,” Atsushi said. “It took awhile before I could do that.”

“Oh? Why didn’t you do the same?”

“My circumstances were… difficult,” Atsushi said, unwilling to go into detail.

Taking the hint, Issay didn’t press for more. Instead, he asked, “I suppose Imai might’ve had a hand in getting you your current job then?”

Atsushi shrugged. “Who knows? I never asked,” he said. Noticing that Issay had finished his cigarette, Atsushi promptly offered Issay another stick.

Shaking his head, Issay said, “Tempting, but no. I’ll probably need a shower to get the smell off me now.”

“Hating the smell of cigarettes now?” Atsushi asked.

“Ah, it's not me,” Issay denied. “The nurses, the doctors, they’ll start nagging too much. I can’t stand that.” He pulled a face thinking about it, making Atsushi laugh. “Besides, you smell like cigarettes too.”

“What’s this got to do with me now?” Atsushi asked, still chuckling.

Issay smirked and drew close to Atsushi, putting his arms around the younger man’s waist. “Well, I love how you smell,” he whispered, pressing his face in the crook of Atsushi’s neck and breathing in deeply.

“Issay…” Atsushi found himself at a loss for words at Issay’s sudden proclamation. All he could manage to do was bury his nose in Issay’s hair as he returned the affection.

Hearing a series of scrapes on the rough concrete floor, they instinctively moved apart quickly to separate themselves from each other, in fear of discovery. Looking in different directions, they waited until the unexpected trespasser left their vicinity before making eye contact again.

“Shall we head back?” Issay asked.

Giving him a nod, Atsushi flicked his cigarette butt away and followed Issay back into the building. Walking past the reception area, they came to a stop at the lift lobby. As they waited for the lift to arrive, Issay exclaimed, “Ah! I can’t wait to go home! It’s so boring here.”

“Boring?” Atsushi echoed.

“I’ve got nothing to do here. Nothing to recover from, not even a single hairline fracture or anything of the like,” Issay grumbled.

“But… doesn’t that make it a good opportunity for a break then?” Atsushi asked. The lift arrived and they stepped in.

Issay huffed, selecting the floor that his room was located on. “With the lack of freedom in here, it doesn’t really feel much like a break. Plus, I’m being forced to sleep at 9 p.m., latest. Who sleeps at 9!? I can’t do anything at all and it’s killing me.”

Atsushi chuckled. “Well, we can’t have you dying now, can we?” he said, nudging Issay with his shoulder.

“Interested in entertaining me?” Issay asked.

“It’s not possible for me to sneak in at night though,” Atsushi said.

“Now, I meant.”

“Now?” Atsushi repeated, staring at Issay.

Issay smirked and nodded.

“Wha- Issay, we’re in a hospital.”

“I have a private room.”

“This is a hospital .”

“There’s a shower.”

The elevator arrived at their floor.

“Issay, you can’t be serious.”

Issay’s smirk only grew wider as he took Atsushi by the hand and brazenly ran down the corridor, into the room. Atsushi barely had the chance to react to getting dragged around in a sprint before he found himself pinned to the wall by Issay’s enthusiastic kisses. Issay pressed his body in close, letting Atsushi feel that Issay was already hard.

Succumbing to his own arousal, Atsushi let out a soft whine as Issay sucked on his throat. “Issay… the marks…” Atsushi’s voice trembled as he struggled to control his volume.

Issay’s hand grasped the back of Atsushi’s neck, letting Atsushi lean back into Issay’s firm kneading. With his other hand, Issay unbuttoned Atsushi’s shirt, bringing his kisses lower as he listened to Atsushi’s soft gasps and sighs.

The kisses on Atsushi’s body suddenly stopped and Atsushi looked at Issay through half-lidded eyes, curious. Issay made a low, throaty hum and drew circles on Atsushi’s body with a finger. “‘The marks’, you said?”,  he asked, his tone light.

Atsushi’s eyes grew wide with horror as he bolted away from Issay and into the washroom. Leaning over the sink in front of the mirror, Atsushi pushed his shirt away and stretched his neck to the side, revealing the multiple bruises that trailed from one side of his neck down to his chest. Atsushi’s expression was one of dismay mixed with ire as he started at the remnants of last night’s drunken tryst with Imai. God damn it, Imai!

“Having fun while I was away?” Issay asked, coming up behind Atsushi and resting his chin on a shoulder. He didn’t look angry as he dragged a finger along Atsushi’s body, connecting the marks in a line until Atsushi quickly grasped the plackets of his shirt close and looked away in chagrin.

Atsushi couldn’t bring himself to look Issay in the eye. “I have… no excuse…”

“I’m not asking for reasons,” Issay said, walking away. “You’re free to do whatever you want, after all.” he added. Taking his top off, he hung it on one of the metal clothes hooks attached to the wall.

Watching Issay through the mirror, Atsushi couldn’t explain it but he felt crushed by how unaffected the older man seemed. Isn’t this better though? The less attached Issay was to him, the easier it would be for Atsushi to walk away, right? Against all logic, Atsushi wanted to make things right. If things were to end between them, he refused to let this be how it goes.

“Issay…?”

“Hm?” Issay came back to hug Atsushi from behind, curling his arms around Atsushi’s waist. His head was perched on Atsushi’s shoulder again. “Don’t feel so bad about it,” he said, rocking Atsushi with him as he shifted his weight from side to side.

“Aren’t you angry with me?” Atsushi asked, turning his troubled eyes down to look at Issay.

“Hm…” Issay hummed and sighed. Admiring Atsushi’s reflection in the mirror, his long hair cascading down his front, his elegant facial features, his now crumpled shirt that hid his lean body, Issay sighed again, saying, “You know, I’m a little hurt but…”

Gripping Issay’s forearm with a hand, Atsushi pressed his face to Issay’s and muttered a barely audible “I’m sorry”.

“Ah, I know you are.” Issay turned Atsushi around to hold his face in his hands. “I know you are,” he repeated. “I don’t know why but I can never be angry at you,” Issay said, chuckling at the absurdity of what he’s saying.

Atsushi closed his eyes and grasped one of Issay’s hands with his own, relishing Issay’s touch for a moment before looking straight into Issay’s eyes and saying, “Let me make it up to you.”

“Hm?” Issay hummed, raising a brow in intrigue as he smirked and watched Atsushi step away from him.

Atsushi took his shoes off and put them aside. He then proceeded to strip off his clothes, hanging them on the other clothes hooks. Striding back to Issay, Atsushi put a hand on Issay’s bare chest and applied a light pressure, nudging him to step back until Issay felt the grab bar that was attached to the wall pressing against his lower back.

Batting his eyes seductively at Issay, Atsushi moved in close to Issay, letting his skin brush against Issay, just barely, before drawing back again and falling to his knees. Kneeling before Issay, who was completely captivated by Atsushi’s deliberate movements, Atsushi pressed his upper body to Issay’s thighs. Placing his hands on Issay’s hips, where the waistband of Issay’s pants were, Atsushi looked up at Issay with lustful eyes and said, “Use me.”, submitting himself to Issay’s will.

When Atsushi saw Issay start to move, he readily pulled Issay’s pants down to bring his mouth to Issay’s still hard cock. Beginning to work Issay’s erection with a hand and lick and suck at Issay’s scrotum, Atsushi held eye contact with Issay as he felt a hand bunching his hair up and grabbing the back of his head gently. Taking that as a cue, Atsushi moved to take Issay in his mouth, letting Issay push in as deep as he wished.

This wasn’t the first time that Atsushi has offered himself to someone like this, but this was definitely the only time that he felt so appreciated for it. As Issay guided Atsushi’s movements, he looked at Atsushi with such fondness that it made Atsushi’s chest swell with emotion. Listening to Issay’s gentle coaxing and praises between his restrained moans of pleasure as Issay bucked against Atsushi’s lips, it all became too much for Atsushi to bear and he fervently clutched Issay’s thighs and rear, wishing to be even closer to Issay.

As if responding to Atsushi’s yearning, Issay sped up his movements, pushing faster, deeper and Atsushi gladly reciprocated, forcing his jaw to relax and using his tongue more as he felt Issay hit the back of his throat. Issay gasped and accidentally let out a loud moan. He clamped a hand over his mouth in alarm but Atsushi didn’t stop. Atsushi continued bobbing his head to and fro as he used a hand to knead and massage Issay’s balls, causing Issay to buck even harder and struggle even more to keep his voice down.

Atsushi’s vision grew blurry as tears gathered in his eyes, not from fighting his gag reflex, but from Issay’s continued gestures of tenderness. Even as Atsushi felt Issay throb and ejaculate into his mouth, Issay kept stroking Atsushi’s head and showering him with compliments.

Taking care to swallow all of Issay’s release, Atsushi closed his eyes, exhausted from the emotional rollercoaster. Atsushi felt the tears escape his eyes and roll down his face as Issay drew himself out from his mouth. Sinking to the floor, Atsushi let his body relax for a moment. Eyes still closed, Atsushi felt hands close around his cheeks, thumbs brushed across the tear streaks and a kiss was planted on his forehead. Pulled into a hug, Atsushi let out an soft sigh of contentment as he rested against Issay.

“Your tears… Did I hurt you?” Issay asked, concerned. Atsushi shook his head, rubbing his face on Issay’s skin. “Are you alright?”  Issay asked again, unconvinced.

“Never better,” Atsushi said, his voice barely a whisper. Turning slightly, Atsushi peeked through his hair at Issay, and Issay took hold of his face, planting more kisses all over him. Atsushi couldn’t help but giggle softly at Issay’s burst of affection.

Holding onto Atsushi, Issay made him stand, pushing Atsushi against the wall this time around. Feeling the shock of cold from the metal grab bar against his skin, Atsushi gasped and gripped Issay’s wrist as he shivered. Issay chuckled, putting an arm around Atsushi while using his free hand to cup Atsushi’s rear.

“Issay…?”

“We’re not done here,” Issay said with a grin.

Sliding his hand down to the back of Atsushi’s thigh, Issay lifted Atsushi’s leg which naturally curled around Issay’s waist, drawing him in. Issay’s grin grew wider, pleased at Atsushi’s readiness. Half perched on the grab bar, Atsushi’s jaw grew slack in a soundless moan as he felt Issay’s fingers enter him. Even though Atsushi was still slightly sore from last night, he wasn’t going to turn this down.

Issay took delight from Atsushi’s reactions as he teased the younger man, sliding his fingers in and curling them before pulling them out, though not completely. Atsushi moaned softly and arched his back as pleasure and other emotions began to well up in him again.

“Issay…” Atsushi called for him, his voice filled with desire. “Issay, please…”

Nothing more needed to be said. Issay pulled his fingers out, spat in his hand, and stroked himself a few times before sliding back into Atsushi, this time with his erection. The heat of penetration combined with Issay’s kisses on Atsushi’s body made Atsushi melt all over again. His knees buckled and Issay deftly lifted Atsushi to let him rest on the cold grab bar.

Atsushi wrapped his legs around Issay, who continued to pound into him, hard and merciless, while he continued bite and sucking on Atsushi’s body, leaving more marks in addition to the existing ones. As Atsushi’s gasps turned into whines and moans, Issay quickly put a hand over Atsushi’s mouth.

“Shh… You don’t want others to hear us, right?” Issay reminded Atsushi gently.

Doing his best to keep his voice down, Atsushi tried to hold it in but it was a struggle when he came, moaning for Issay, albeit with Issay’s hand over his mouth. Atsushi then realised Issay hasn’t stopped.

“Sorry, I’m not done yet,” Issay grinned. That look on his face was in no way apologetic.

But Atsushi let him, reaching out for Issay’s shoulders. Clinging onto him with both arms and legs, Atsushi pressed his face into Issay’s shoulder as his body rocked to Issay’s motions. Stifling his moans against Issay’s shoulder, Atsushi suddenly heard voices outside the washroom.

“Huh? Where’s Fujisaki?” A man’s voice asked. Several different voices began muttering.

Atsushi separated his upper body from Issay’s and gaped at him, panicking. He was about to say something when Issay shushed him again and pressed a hand to Atsushi’s mouth. Issay started to thrust faster, with more intensity. Removing his hand, Issay kissed Atsushi, letting him moan into his mouth as another burst of pleasure rushed through Atsushi, orgasming again as Issay finally came and pulled out.

Both men stared at each other in silence, holding their breaths as they listened intently to the noises behind the washroom door.

“I told him we’d be here after dinner time though. We’re a bit early anyway,” said a different voice.

Atsushi shot Issay a look. You didn’t say that you were expecting visitors! Issay shrugged. He wasn’t expecting them to arrive early after all.

Yet another voice spoke up, “Argh, let’s just grab a coffee or something first. Who knows where he wandered off to.”

The door to the room clicked open. “There’s a cafeteria downstairs, isn’t there?”

“Well there’s the vending machines too.”

The voices grew fainter and the door clicked shut.

Atsushi released the breath that he had been holding. With both feet on the floor, he leaned back on the wall, putting a hand on his racing heart. “That was… Oh god…” Atsushi muttered.

“Don’t worry,” Issay said, circling his arms around Atsushi’s waist again. “They won’t be back for awhile now,” he reassured.

“You don’t know that for sure,” Atsushi mumbled as Issay nuzzled against his neck. “What if they decided to wait in the room instead?” he asked, almost slurring as he savoured Issay’s touches.

“We could just stay here,” Issay suggested, rubbing Atsushi’s back in circles.

“That’s unreasonable,” Atsushi said breathlessly. “I… should really go… before they come back.”

“Mmh, and here I was hoping you’d keep me company,” Issay said.

“You have company.”

“It’s not the same,” Issay retorted as he released Atsushi from his hold. Grabbing the shower head, Issay asked Atsushi, “Wash?”

“Oh yes, please. God knows I need it.”

It didn’t take long and Atsushi briskly dried himself off with the towel that was provided in the washroom. Once dry, he tossed the towel over to Issay and got dressed as quickly as he could. Atsushi wanted to leave while he still had that window of opportunity to dodge Issay’s visitors, lest any of them recognise him. That would bring a whole other set of problems.

By the time Issay started drying himself off, Atsushi was already fully dressed and ready to leave.

“So eager to leave me?” Issay asked, tousling his hair with the towel around his neck.

Atsushi shook his head. “I don’t want to cause any complication for you with your visitors.”

Issay could only give him a joyless smile. He couldn’t deny that Atsushi had a point. “Tell me I’ll see you soon,” Issay requested, pulling Atsushi to him again.

“Call me when you’re going home,” Atsushi said. “Here… This, it’s too risky,” he said, his voice laced with melancholy.

“I understand, but I’ll need your number again,” Issay said with a smile. “There’s a notepad in one of the drawers outside, I think.” Atsushi nodded and smiled back.

Issay hung the towel on the rack, put on his clothes in seconds, and unlocked the washroom door. Sliding it open, Issay was about to step out when the room door opened again.

“Ah! Fujisaki! There you are!”

Issay shut the washroom door in the speaker’s face and stared at Atsushi, who covered his face with a hand.

Atsushi let out a heavy sigh. “That’s just great,” he said into his hand.

“Give me a moment!” Issay said loudly, projecting his voice.

With his face still in his hands, Atsushi started groaning in frustration, and Issay strode over to him, holding Atsushi’s wrists to take his hands off his face. “Look, I’ll go out first, I’ll get their attention to me, then you head out as quickly as you can. Alright?”

“How would I know when…?” Atsushi asked, trying hard not to lose it. If he left immediately earlier on…

“I’ll clap thrice. I’ll figure something out,” Issay said. “Just listen for it. I’ll keep the room door open as well.”

“Oy, Fujisaki! Taking your time, aren’t you?”

Issay shot a look to the door. “Just know that whatever time I take is necessary time, alright?!”

Someone uttered something inaudible to them and laughter erupted. It sounded like there were quite a few people out there.

“Ready?” Issay asked. Atsushi nodded.

The door slid open and Issay was out. Cacophonous greetings were exchanged and Issay made good on his word to keep the room door open ‘for ventilation’. Crouched close to the door, Atsushi was careful to keep out of sight and away from being reflected in the mirror, or so he hoped.

As he waited for Issay’s signal, Atsushi listened to their conversation. Questions about the sudden appearance of Atsushi’s flowers, interrogations about romantic interests, inquiries about Issay’s experiences and condition, along with discussions about how Kissaki eluded capture.

Atsushi frowned at that. It could mean more problems for him and the others to deal with. They may have gotten their numbers back but with Kissaki still out there…

Three claps were struck. Atsushi dashed through the doors and out of the room. He kept up his speed until he turned a corner and made it out of sight. Stopping along the corridor that led to the lift lobby, Atsushi turned around to check that no one had followed him.

A man casually approached Atsushi with his hands in his pockets. “So you’re Fujisaki’s ‘cat’?” he directed his question to Atsushi, who stared back at him in confusion.

“I’m sorry?”

“I saw you coming out from Fujisaki’s room,” said the man. “The night he got abducted he told me he picked up a stray cat, and that I needed to tell his cat that he got taken.”

Atsushi burst out laughing. Considering that Issay wasn’t supposed to know who Atsushi really was, his choice of animal was painfully apt. So painful that it made Atsushi’s face ache. He hasn’t laughed like this in a long time.

Stopping some distance away from Atsushi, the man said, “I hope you’re not telling me I’m mistaken. My deductions are usually on point.”

Atsuhsi waved his hand. “No, no, I was… I didn’t expect…” Atsushi struggled to speak as he kept laughing. “He… called me his cat…”

“Ah, I got it right then,” the man sounded relieved.

“Wait,” Atsushi said, suddenly serious as a thought hit him. “What are you planning to do with this information?”

“Nothing,” came the reply. Atsushi immediately felt relieved. “As long as you do right by Fujisaki,” the man added.

Atsushi blinked, surprised by his request. Looking at the floor he said, “I’m… I’ll do my best.”

The man clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll hold you to it.”

As the man turned to walk away, Atsushi called him back, “Ah, wait. I need… a favour from you.”

“Huh?” The man turned around.

“Issay said he lost my number and I couldn’t give it to him earlier. Could you…?”

“Ah, sure,” the man said. “By the way, I’m Yoshida Hikaru.”

Atsushi paused for a moment, unsure if he should give his name. Well, he needed this man’s trust, right? “Sakurai Atsushi.”

Yoshida shook his hand with a firm grip.

Atsushi gave his number to Yoshida. “I owe you for this. If there’s anythi-”

Yoshida cut him off, saying, “Just take care of Fujisaki, alright?”

Atsushi nodded, unable to say anything else as Yoshida clapped him on his arm and walked off.

--

It was almost 8 p.m. and Issay’s colleagues were finally leaving. When he clapped thrice earlier, Issay heard Atsushi’s footsteps as he left the room. His colleagues did too but Issay was able to convince them that they were imagining things, cooking up an excuse that sound travels from the corridors and into the room. What bothered Issay was Yoshida’s late re-entry into the room after Atsushi left. Did he see Atsushi’s exit?

As expected, when they were going to leave, Yoshida told the rest that he needed to speak to Issay about something, urging them to go first. A grim expression slowly took its place on Issay’s face as the others left, leaving Yoshida alone with him.

“So,” Yoshida began, “I met your ‘cat’ when I was coming back here just now.”

Issay looked away. “I had a feeling…”

“He asked me to pass you his number,” Yoshida said, holding a folded piece of paper between his fingers.

Reaching out for it, Issay expected something else to come from Yoshida, anything else, but nothing happened. Unfolding the note, Issay’s eyes darted between the familiar looking number on it and Yoshida.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Aren’t you going to… say or do anything else?” Issay asked, suspicious.

Yoshida barked out a laugh. “How long have you known me for? We’ve practically been friends since training school,” he said. “You should know by now I’m not that kind of guy.”

Guilt pricked at Issay. He was letting his distrust get the better of him. “I’m sorry… I just…”

Yoshida sighed and scratched the back of his head. “Y’know, honestly, I don’t blame you for your reaction.”

“Still…” Issay mumbled, letting his words trail. “But, what did you say to him?”

“Your Sakurai?”

Issay felt himself grow warm at that label. His Sakurai. “Y-yeah…”

“I told him that he’d better do right by you,” Yoshida said bluntly, looking away this time. He obviously wasn’t comfortable with talking about this either.

Issay couldn’t help but smile, touched that meant that much to Yoshida. “How sweet of you,” he mocked, not wanting things to get too sentimental.

“Tsk, whatever,” Yoshida responded gruffly. Turning and walking to the door, he gave Issay a backward wave and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow or something.”

“Right, bye,” Issay called after him, settling into his bed. “And thanks,” he added.

Lying down, Issay stared at the number scribbled on the paper, reciting them in an attempt to memorise them until he eventually fell asleep.

Chapter Text

A couple of days following Atsushi’s visit, Issay was given the green light to head home. The moment Issay got the news, he left a message for Atsushi, and as promised, Atsushi was at home, waiting for Issay when he arrived back. However, after a quick meal of convenience store food, Atsushi had to leave.

“There’s work waiting for me,” Atsushi explained, gulping down the last of his canned beer.

“Work? But it’s night,” Issay protested, obviously disappointed.

“Unfortunately, it’s only the middle of the day on the other side of the world,” Atsushi said. He wasn’t really making deals with the western hemisphere but the middle of the night was the equivalent to midday for the city’s nocturnal dwellers, right?

“Why did I pick a busy businessman like you to be with?” Issay lamented, laying his head on the dining table as he watched Atsushi pack his food containers up.

Atsushi scoffed. “I don’t know if you can call me that,” he said, picking up his plastic bag of trash.

“Call you ‘busy’? Or a ‘businessman’?”

“I’m only busy thanks to you,” Atsushi said in a sing-song voice. With a smile in his eyes, Atsushi gave Issay a peck on his cheek as he strode past him and into the kitchen.

“Oh, so now it’s my fault?” Issay grumbled.

Atsushi laughed and winked at Issay before turning back to sort out his trash.

Issay made a dramatic show of nonsensical moaning and griping noises. Getting no reaction from Atsushi, he eventually stopped and propped his chin up in his palm. Watching Atsushi, Issay muttered, “And here I was, hoping that I’d have you all to myself for the night.”

Coming back to Issay, Atsushi said “My, deepest, apologies.” punctuating each word with a kiss.

“Why don’t you show me how truly sorry you are,” Issay challenged, pressing his forehead against Atsushi’s with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes.

“Mmh, I really can’t right now,” Atsushi said remorsefully. “But I’ll try and see if I can come back later,” he said. “I can’t promise anything though, so don’t wait up for me.” Stepping away, Atsushi headed for the entryway of the apartment.

Issay sighed, somewhat bummed that his baiting failed. “My first day back home and you snub me,” he mumbled sadly, leaning against the wall and watching Atsushi put his shoes back on.

Stomping his feet on the ground once with each foot, Atsushi made sure his shoes were on comfortably before giving Issay another peck on the cheek. “I’ll try my best to come back before you have to leave for work,” Atsushi repeated.

“I’ll leave your yukata out in the living room then, if you want it,” Issay said.

“My yukata?”

“You wear it more than I ever did anyway.”

Atsushi smiled, his eyes crinkling at the edges, and chuckled as he muttered, “Whatever you say.” Standing in the entryway, he smiled and quietly regarded Issay for a moment. Finally, taking a deep breath, Atsushi turned to leave. “I’ll see you.”

“Later, I hope,” Issay replied. He, too, had a soft smile on his face as he watched Atsushi unlock the door and disappear.

Once the younger man was gone though, Issay’s smile quickly faded. Stony faced, Issay sniffed and wrinkled his nose as he turned around and cast a quick glance over his apartment. It would’ve been nice to have Atsushi keep him company but it was not like Issay had nothing to do. He still needed to clean up a week’s worth of dust that has settled while he was gone.

While things weren’t as clean as they could be, Atsushi did mention that he tried cleaning up a little before Issay got back, and Issay was thankful for that. Along with the fact that Atsushi had the sense to dispose of last week’s trash before anything rotted in the house. Rolling up his sleeves, Issay mentally prepared himself for the task ahead of him and got to work, busying himself in his alone time.

--

“You don’t look too happy to be here,” Imai commented. He was seated in a waiting area with Atsushi, who had a dour expression on his face.

“Since when have I ever been happy to be in places like these?” Atsushi retorted.

“Fine, let me rephrase,” said Imai. “You look particularly unhappy to be here. Getting in the way of some romantic rendezvous?”

Atsushi slowly shifted his eyes to stare at Imai in a sideways glare. “You think?”

Imai huffed and loosely folded his arms across his chest. Crossing his legs, Imai shifted and looked away from Atsushi’s general direction. Things haven’t exactly been the same for awhile now. In fact, it got even worse after what he said last week. Imai had no idea if his relationship with Atsushi will ever go back to normal, or if his sharp words have torn it beyond repair.

“At least… you’re here,” Imai muttered, reluctantly breaking the icy silence.

“I’m not that irresponsible,” Atsushi replied bluntly.

Imai closed his eyes and sighed. He had to try saying something after all.

An impeccably dressed attendant entered the room. “Mr. Sakurai, Mr. Imai, oyabun is ready to see you,” he said, bowing deeply and extending an arm in the direction they should go.

Standing, both men bowed back to the attendant and exited the waiting room. As they walked, Atsushi asked, “Did Moriuchi say what he wanted?”

“No,” Imai replied. “But certain sources have reported that the Moriuchi’s have been similarly harassed in recent weeks.”

“Similarly?”

“Like we were. Earlier this year?”

Atsushi paused, taking a moment to run through his memories. “Huh, right. Didn’t feel like it was just a couple of months back.”

“Yeah… This year’s been far too eventful for my liking,” Imai muttered as they stopped in front of the intricately-carved wooden double doors that they have just seen a few months ago.

Exchanging his gloom for steel, Atsushi straightened up and adjusted the lapels of his jacket. “Well, let’s get this over and done with.”

“Hm,” Imai nodded subtly, fidgeting at his half unbuttoned shirt under his open jacket.

The doors swung open, revealing the elder Moriuchi kneeling on a cushion before a short-legged table laden with tea ceremony tools. Next to him was his son looking like his complete opposite. While the elder was dressed neatly in his usual kimono and an elaborate black haori draped over his shoulders, his son dressed like a flashy street hoodlum, albeit in expensive threads.

When Imai and Atsushi walked in, Moriuchi Senior’s disdainful glare at his son, who lay on his side with his head propped up on an arm, was not missed. Junior made no effort to change his chosen position of rest even as Imai and Atsushi went through the formal bows and tea ceremony rituals with his father.

When they finally put their tea bowls down, Junior yawned loudly, noisily, as he stretched and switched to lying on his back.

“How did I raise such a disgrace,” muttered Senior, his annoyance starting to break through his cool facade.

“I may not have children, but there is something my father used to tell my mother,” Imai ventured. “Pushing against rebellious children doesn’t work. Reverse psychology works best instead.”

Junior slid a glare at Imai.

“Another thing he used to say as well,” Imai continued. “If you wish to be treated like a man, stop acting like a child.”

Junior scoffed and turned away.

Senior chuckled. “I’d say your father was a wise man.”

Imai dipped his head slightly, accepting the compliment with a smile.

“Anyway, I did not invite you here to discuss my son’s indiscretions again,” Senior said, changing the topic. “I heard that you had a… pest control problem in recent months?” he asked. He sounded curious but it felt like he already knew the answer.

“I’d call it a rodent infestation,” Atsushi said, his voice low. “I’d like to think we’re rid of it but as it is with pests, one can never be too sure.”

Senior hummed thoughtfully. “You know, the Kubo family from up north, they were in dire straits weren’t they?”

“We are aware of that, yes,” said Imai, levelling a steady gaze at Senior. “Have you been in contact with them recently?”

“Oh yes, they’re rebuilding, slowly but surely, with some help from us,” Senior said optimistically. “They offered us a helpful piece of advice as well, which, I will now share with you,” he added, his tone turning serious. “Watch out for rodent infestations, they said. Exterminators often come with them.”

“Interesting,” Atsushi commented.

“Thank you for the valuable advice,” Imai said with a nod. “Though, I’m inclined to believe that you’re looking for an exchange of sorts…?”

Moriuchi Senior smirked and chuckled. “Of course, it is only natural to assume so, isn’t it?”

Atsushi remained impassive while Imai’s lips twitched into a brief smile. “What is it you’re interested in?” Imai asked.

“I like that. Straight to the point,” Senior said, pointing a callused finger at Imai with his characteristic smile. Leaning forward, he asked, “How did you deal with your rodent infestation? A tip or two might come in handy for us.”

Imai chuckled. “Unfortunately, how it worked for us may not necessarily be applicable for you, unless very specific circumstances occur.”

“Oh? Pray do tell.”

“The rodents decided to… spirit away one of the exterminators,” Atsushi said vaguely.

Confusion appeared on Moriuchi Senior’s face. “That sounds… fruitless to say the least,” he said as his face scrunched up in severe disapproval.  Imai understood his reaction. Like the Moriuchi’s, they operated in grey areas and no one in their right mind would do something so blatantly criminal. “Why on earth would they do that?” Moriuchi Senior spat.

“You know how people like us have acquaintances here and there. I’m sure you have your own as well,” Imai began.

“Long story short, they wanted to… forcibly motivate us to cooperate with them by pressuring us with uninvolved parties who are perceived to be of close relations,” said Atsushi, choosing his words as he closed off the explanation for Imai.

“So you were fucking with that ‘exterminator’?” Moriuchi Junior suddenly blurted, miming gestures with his hands.

Atsushi leaned towards Junior with an intimidating, yet seductive mannerism. “Why don’t you ask your father if he fucks his acquaintances?” he asked, making his voice sound smooth as velvet.

Junior jerked backwards. Whether in fright or startlement, Atsushi neither knew nor cared. He just enjoyed spooking the boy. Deliberately rolling his eyes as he turned away, Atsushi exhibited his disinterest and turned his attention back to Moriuchi Senior.

Moriuchi Senior tutted at his son. “That’s what you get for asking irrelevant questions.”

Imai did notice though, that Senior was eying Atsushi up and down. Atsushi inevitably felt the stare and merely gave Senior a thin smile upon making eye contact. Moriuchi Senior, however, returned a knowing smile to him. Imai’s eyes shifted between the two men as he assessed the situation and eventually caught Junior’s eyes, sharing a look with the visibly bewildered youth.

Imai coughed and cleared his throat. That seemed to work in bringing Moriuchi Senior’s attention back to the situation at hand.

Blinking, Senior coughed as well and said, “Well, those do indeed sound like very unique circumstances.”

Atsushi simply nodded, the look on his face inscrutable.

“Although, there is another thing to note,” Senior said. “The Kubo family also mentioned that the rodents appeared to be working hand in hand with certain exterminators. Which is why your story sounds… unusual to say the least.”

This time, it was Imai’s turn to hum thoughtfully. “There was talk of a personnel transfer earlier this year…” he muttered, rubbing his chin. “Weren’t the exterminators the ones who were causing the Kubo family problems though?”

“And so the plot thickens,” Senior smiled. “That is indeed what I heard as well but other factors may have been at play,” he shrugged.

Imai regarded him with suspicion. “I suppose there’s something else you’re looking for…?”

Moriuchi Senior laughed heartily. “Oh, no no,” he denied. “Consider the additional information as returning the favor for keeping my son out of trouble.”

Junior clicked his tongue and glared at his father upon his mention.

“Although I do hope that we’ll have your assistance with pest control, if the occasion ever calls for it,” hinted Senior. “Of course, it’s only natural that we, too, offer our assistance if you have any need of it,” he added, giving them his usual charismatic smile.

A corner of Imai’s lips twitched upwards into a smirk. “We appreciate the offer, but like you, we hope that things don’t ever come to require such drastic measures.”

“We wouldn’t want that to happen, would we?” Senior agreed, holding his smile in place.

“Are we done?” Junior blurted. “Are we done playing mind games here?”

Senior glared at his son. “One day, you’ll understand the importance of diplomacy,” he growled.

Imai chuckled while Atsushi remained silent. “We shall take our leave then,” Imai said. As he stood up from the cushion, Imai felt his knees protest and he instinctively masked his winces. Like him, Atsushi too showed no sign of discomfort as he got up.

Moriuchi Senior remained on his cushion while his son stayed sprawled out on the floor with blatant disregard. “I hope we meet in better circumstances next time,” Senior said in a parting statement.

Imai and Atsushi politely inclined their heads to him and left the room. Doors closing behind them, they briskly walked themselves out of the private estate and into the car where their driver waited.

The moment the car door closed, Imai rubbed his knees and muttered, “‘Next time’, he says. I’d rather there be no next time. My knees are killing me…”

“You could always kneel with your legs off to one side,” Atsushi suggested offhandedly, staring out of the window.

“Looking feminine is your thing,” Imai emphasised. “And what’s with that look that Moriuchi gave you?”

“What look?”

“Oh please, don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about,” Imai hissed. “I know what I saw.”

“Ugh.”

“You didn’t sleep with him, did you?”

“What!?” Atsushi exclaimed hotly. Turning away from the window, he stared daggers at Imai. “No! No. What the hell do you think I am? Ass for sale!?” he fumed, gesticulating angrily.

“Then how was that supposed to be interpreted?” Imai retorted.

“He asked, I declined. End of story,” Atsushi said firmly.

“Riiiight,” said Imai, unconvinced. Atsushi kicked Imai’s knee from his side of the backseat. “Ow!? What’s that for?”

“Some days I really can’t stand you,” Atsushi fumed.

“Only some days?” Imai quipped. Atsushi raised his knee, aiming to strike again. “Hey hey hey! Stop it!” Imai jerked his legs away from Atsushi. “Do you have any idea how hard your soles are?”

“Yes,” Atsushi replied with a cold clipped tone.

Imai clicked his tongue. The car rode over a speed bump too quickly and Imai hit his knee against the partition that separated the driver from them. “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” he cursed.

Atsushi snickered. “Hah! Karma,” he taunted. The car then jerked to a stop and Atsushi, unprepared for it, surged forward as well, smacking his forehead on the partition this time.

“Karma my foot,” Imai dug back at Atsushi, still rubbing his knee. Atsushi huffed and glared at him indignantly, a palm on one side of his forehead. Imai initially held eye contact and stared back, not wanting to give in, but eventually, he turned his back to Atsushi and looked out his window instead.

A taut silence hung between them as the ride went on, with each paying a particular lot of attention on the dark scenery passing them outside. As the car left the highway, descending back down into the city and slowing down, Imai snuck a glance over at Atsushi, who kept his eyes on the empty streets outside, his face obscured by his long hair.

Shifting his gaze back to the scenery, Imai took a deep breath and sighed. What was he supposed to do? It seemed like every conversation they have ends in some form of bitterness, with the exception of work-related topics. Imai could feel Atsushi slipping further and further away from him and it felt like there was nothing he could do to stop it. The thought of it caused discomfort in Imai’s chest that made his throat grow tight. Imai shifted, subtly stretching his neck to ease the tension. Maybe he should just…

“Atsushi?” Imai called him softly.

“What?” came the curt reply.

Imai swallowed, as if physically pushing his pride down. “Um…”

“What?” Atsushi repeated, more annoyed than before.

“I’m sorry,” Imai muttered, barely inaudible.

“Huh?”

“I said I’m sorry,” Imai snapped, turning sharply towards Atsushi, who watched Imai with a hard look in his eyes. Imai looked away. Continuing, he said, “I’m sorry for… … whatever, you know.”  He waved a hand vaguely and went back to staring blankly at the scenery. Imai wanted to see what kind of expression Atsushi had, if any, but at the same time, he daren’t.

Atsushi’s lack of response did, however, worry Imai. “You know what, that’s all you’re getting from me. Take it or leave it,” Imai eventually said. If putting his pride aside didn’t work, Imai didn’t know what else he could do. He might as well just give up.

Finally, Atsushi decided to say something. “Fine,” he answered begrudgingly. Imai didn’t realise that he had been holding his breath for Atsushi’s reply. He couldn’t help but feel relieved that Atsushi seemed to accept his apology.

Before Imai could think of anything to say, Atsushi asked, “Why are we here?” Imai turned and saw Atsushi wide-eyed with surprise. “Where are we going?”

“You’re heading to Issay’s place, aren’t you?” Imai asked, keeping his tone deadpanned and his face blank, as usual.

“You…”

“I asked the driver to drop you off first. Anyway, it’s on the way back,” Imai said, playing down the gesture. He still didn’t want to look at Atsushi in the eye.

Atsushi quickly slid the partition window open and told the driver, “Just drop me off at the next corner.” He then proceeded to put a hand on Imai’s knee, giving him a light squeeze.

Imai turned and regarded Atsushi with a straight face. Holding back his surprise at Atsushi’s approach, Imai’s voice was soft as he asked, “What?”

“I… I’m not done with being angry at you,” Atsushi said, looking at Imai in the eye with a slight crease between his brows. “But… thank you,” he continued, “for doing this.”

“Uh, yeah, you’re welcome,” Imai mumbled. Unsure of how to handle Atsushi’s gratitude, he turned back to the window.

The car rolled to a stop. Imai felt Atsushi’s hand leave his knee. He heard the door on the other side open and close, and felt the car move off. Turning to look out the back window, Imai expected Atsushi to have already disappeared from sight but he stood on the pavement of the street corner, watching the car leave.

Imai couldn’t fight the smile that came to his face. Good… Yes, this was good. It wasn’t much, and Atsushi said he was still upset but this was good. Infinitely better than drunk, angry sex at least. Imai chuckled to himself. Now he can rest a little easier.

Chapter Text

Issay jerked awake, kicking violently at thin air. Panting as he laying on his side, he felt the cool air of the room chilling the perspiration on his body. Wide-eyed and breathing heavy, he stared into the darkness, trying and failing to forget what he has been seeing in his dreams over the past few nights. At one point, he would have been happy to dream of Atsushi but now… Issay thought that the dreams would stop once he got home but that obviously did not happen.

Slowly pushing himself up to a seated position, Issay sighed. When he was still stuck in the hospital, he could catch up on sleep during the day but now, that wasn’t an option thanks to work. He would never have guessed that seeing one mere photo of Atsushi with him would leave such a strong impression on his mind. Issay probably wouldn’t have this problem if Kissaki had been caught though. His arrest would have made all these worries and fears go away. It would have made them baseless. But, unfortunately, that man was still roaming free.

Issay reached towards his bedside table and groped around for his cigarettes. As much as he wanted to sleep, that probably won’t be achievable for awhile. He might as well smoke a stick or two. Pulling a cigarette out of the box, Issay put it to his lips and flicked his lighter once, twice, thrice.

The warm glow of the flame lit up its immediate vicinity and Issay noticed the wobbling flame. His hand was shaking. Annoyed, he clicked his tongue and proceeded to carefully light his cigarette. Once he took his first puff and the tip of his cigarette glowed orange, Issay chucked the lighter back onto his bedside table with a clatter.

Reaching out with his fingers, Issay pulled his ashtray into reach and held it in one hand as he shifted to sit on the side of the bed, resting his elbows on his knees. Issay stared blankly at the floor, tracing the edges of the moonlight that crept through his thin curtains with his eyes as he let his thoughts run wild.

Issay’s mind couldn’t resist revisiting his most recent dream again, or rather, the very last thing he remembered seeing and feeling. Cold wetness. Blood. Atsushi’s unresponsive body. The cold, stiff fingers.

Bringing his cigarette to his lips, Issay took a long shuddering breath. His hands were shaking again. Issay lightly held his cigarette between his teeth and clenched his free hand into a fist, forcing the trembling to stop.

Issay knew his job had hazards, but it wasn’t supposed to be this… bad. This was a relatively safe country, to the point where the general public complains that the police are too idle. Incidents like what Issay went through were rare and far between.

Feeling increasingly agitated by the minute, Issay stood up and started pacing by the window, smoking as he considered his options. What could he do? He couldn’t just tell Atsushi to leave and never come back. Atsushi would be crushed, devastated. Especially if there was no apparent reason for it.

But if Issay did tell Atsushi why, how would he react? And would Atsushi really be better off staying away from him? Yet… there was that person who was on the phone with Kissaki. If that was Atsushi… Issay shook his head. No, it couldn’t be. As much as Issay wanted to deny it, there was still a small part of him that was convinced otherwise. No one else fit the bill, after all.

Hearing the door knob turn, Issay’s head snapped up. He saw the familiar silhouette of Atsushi pushing the door open. Atsushi looked at the messy bed, then turned to Issay with large concerned eyes.

“Why aren’t you asleep?” came the question.

“I was, but I woke up,” Issay answered simply. He half wondered if he was somehow actually still dreaming.

“Oh,” Atsushi mumbled.

Issay noticed that Atsushi hasn’t moved from the doorway. “Why are you just standing there?” he asked.

“I… can’t…”

“What?” Issay briskly walked over to Atsushi. “Atsushi, what were you saying?”

Atsushi looked up at Issay, his eyes glazed. “I…” He touched a hand to his chest and red rapidly blossomed on the fabric of his shirt.

Great, yet another dream. Despite being aware of it, Issay felt himself panic as Atsushi fell forward into his arms. He felt his eyes grow wet with tears again as he felt the warmth slowly drain out of Atsushi. He felt the urge to scream in anguish as he heard Atsushi’s weak utterance of his name. He felt himself shake.

But it was oddly violent, this shaking.

“Issay… Issay!”

Issay cried out. He felt someone holding him tightly.

“Issay, I’m here,” a voice whispered desperately in his ear. “I’m right here. If you would just-”

“Atsushi…?” Issay cut him off and tried to turn around. Feeling the grip around him loosen, Issay shifted and came face to face with a distraught Atsushi. “What’s wrong?” he asked, bleary from sleep.

A hand cupped Issay’s face gently. “I’m sorry,” Atsushi said softly, brows creasing together as he shook his head. “I’m so sorry, this is all my fault.”

Issay felt his stomach drop. What was he apologising for? He wasn’t still stuck in a dream, was he?

Frantic, Issay freed himself and sat up. Turning around, he grabbed hold of Atsushi and pinned him down on the bed. Issay then pulled the front of the yukata apart, exposing Atsushi’s chest as he used his hands to grope around and search for the fatal wounds that he kept seeing in his dreams.

In the dim light of the room, Atsushi lay frozen in shock as he stared up at Issay. “What are you doing?” he asked, breathless.

Issay, focused on ascertaining that this Atsushi was real, barely registered that he spoke. The skin on Atsushi’s body was smooth, soft, even. Fine, there were no wounds. But what about a pulse? Issay brought a hand to Atsushi’s neck. Pressing firmly but gently with his index and middle fingers, Issay could feel Atsushi’s elevated heartbeat.

“You’re real,” Issay muttered to himself, looking at Atsushi, who appeared slightly flushed. “This is real. I’m awake.”

“Yes,” Atsushi said quietly, sitting up as Issay released him and turned away, head in his hands. “Issay, are you alright?” he asked, putting a hand on Issay’s shoulder.

Issay put his hand over Atsushi’s. “I’m… sorry you had to see that,” he mumbled. “I didn’t mean to let this…”

“How long has this been going on for?” Atsushi asked, enveloping Issay in a hug from behind.

“A few… nights,” Issay replied, trying to make light of it.

“How long?” Atsushi repeated, asking with more intensity this time around.

“Every night,” Issay confessed. He felt Atsushi hug him tighter. “Every night since… that.”

“Why didn’t you say so?” Atsushi asked, his voice sounding broken and sad.

“I didn’t want to bother you with something so…” Issay ended his sentence in a weak laugh. He didn’t know what to call it either, these dreams.

Atsushi pressed his face into Issay’s neck and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Huffing out a soundless laugh, Issay put a hand on Atsushi’s head and weaved his fingers through Atsushi’s hair. “I really don’t understand why you keep apologising,” he said with a small smile on his face. It was weirdly endearing, though.

“I…” Atsushi wanted to say something but paused. After a moment, he said, “I… I shouldn’t have left you alone.”

“Well, I’ve been dealing with it on my own, haven’t I?” said Issay. Turning around, he finally got a proper look at Atsushi. As proper as he could in a room without much light. “Ah, you’ve washed up?”

“Hm?” Atsushi looked down at the yukata, now slightly loose thanks to Issay’s earlier manhandling. “Yes, well, I came back around half an hour ago.”

Issay hummed. Lying back down on the bed with Atsushi, they lay on their sides, gazing at each other. As Atsushi adjusted his yukata, Issay brushed the fabric with his fingers and said, “Sorry about that.”

“What was that about though?” Atsushi huffed. “Touching me like that without any intention of following up,” he muttered, sounding slightly indignant.

Issay chuckled. Stretching a hand out towards Atsushi, he said, “If you want me to…”

“I’d rather you explain yourself now,” Atsushi said, intercepting Issay’s hand and holding it instead.

“Rebuffing me twice in one night. This must be a new kind of nightmare,” Issay joked.

Atsushi was having none of it. “Tell me,” he implored.

Issay sighed. “You’re not… I can’t get you to drop this, can I?” he asked, noticing the determination in Atsushi’s eyes.

Atsushi shook his head.

Issay sighed again. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and said, “You… … I see you die. Every night. Every time I dream. I see you dying.”

“What…?”

“While I was being held… captive, I was shown pictures. Pictures of me doing regular things. The man behind it was somehow stalking me. There was one with you in it too,” Issay explained. Pausing, Issay forced himself to breathe and opened his eyes. He saw an unreadable expression on Atsushi’s face as he held onto Issay’s hand. Was Issay doing the right thing in telling Atsushi this?

“Atsushi,” Issay continued, caressing the younger man’s face with his other hand. “This man… I still don’t know what he wanted from me, but what I do know is that he knows of you, and I… If anything happened…” Issay struggled to finish his sentence. Just thinking about it made his throat close up.

“Shh…” Atsushi shushed gently. Getting up, he leaned over above Issay and wrapped his arms around Issay. Regarding him with resolve in his eyes, Atsushi said firmly, “Nothing will happen.”

Issay continued brushing Atsushi’s cheek with his fingers. A pained expression on his face, he protested, “But if you stay-”

Atsushi silenced Issay with a kiss. “I promise you, nothing will happen. You have my word,” Atsushi insisted. The conviction in his eyes was so strong, so intense that Issay found himself believing Atsushi, despite not knowing Atsushi’s reason for it. Though for a moment, it wavered as a thought crept into Atsushi’s mind. “Unless… you don’t want me anymore, and that’s your-”

“No!” Issay denied, exclaiming a little too loudly in panic. “No, no, no. No, don’t ever think that, please,” Issay said desperately, adjusting his grip to tightly clamp Atsushi to his chest. “Don’t say that. Don’t you ever say that again.”

Atsushi chuckled softly against Issay. “Thank goodness.”

“You’ll stay? With me? Despite all of this?” Issay asked.

“Of course,” Atsushi said, nuzzling the crook of Issay’s neck. As he moved up, Issay felt Atsushi’s breath against his ear as he whispered, “Oh, the things you don’t know.”

“What are you- Oh god…” Before Issay could ask Atsushi to clarify himself, he found himself gasping and melting under Atsushi’s advances.

Atsushi licked and sucked at Issay’s ear and neck while a hand crept under Issay’s pants, massaging his hips and moving dangerously close to his crotch. Aroused, Issay felt heat rush to his groin as his body reacted to Atsushi’s teasing kneads.

“Atsushi,” Issay sighed, resisting the urge to moan. “Atsushi, you… Argh…!” He put a hand on Atsushi’s upper arm, gripping hard as Atsushi lightly scratched the skin on Issay’s inner thigh with blunt fingernails, dragging upwards and once again barely touching Issay’s crotch.

“Weren’t you… complaining… about… being snubbed?” Atsushi asked between nibbles, his voice low and alluring. He was now nipping lightly at Issay’s collarbone, careful not to leave marks as he moved.

Issay groaned, frustrated at Atsushi’s teases. Atsushi simply chuckled and removed Issay’s pants with his hands. Issay cooperated, eagerly kicking his pants off once they were low enough. Issay wrapped his legs around Atsushi’s waist, pulling his hips to Atsushi’s as he yearned for the pressure of Atsushi’s body against his crotch.

Atsushi smiled. Sitting up, he massaged Issay’s thigh with a firm grasp, occasionally giving Issay’s rear a hard squeeze with one hand while his other hand rubbed Issay’s waist and back instead of his erection. Wanting to satisfy his own urges, Issay reached down to touch himself but Atsushi pushed Issay’s hand away.

Curling his fingers around Issay’s erection but barely touching him, Atsushi smirked. “You’re mine,” he whispered, letting his fingers lightly brush against Issay’s foreskin. Issay gasped and jerked his hips, craving for more contact.

“You belong to me,” Atsushi whispered again, closing his hand into a light grip around Issay’s cock. Issay let out a shaky breath that turned into a weak moan when he felt Atsushi bring his other hand down lower to brush over his anus with his fingers, as if intending to slide them in but simply trailing past instead.

Hungry for more, Issay urged, “Atsushi, just-”

“Say yes,” Atsushi said, intercepting Issay’s words. “Say you’re mine,” he purred.

“Yes, yes, I’m yours. Atsushi, I’m all yours, pleas-!” Issay’s earnest proclamations were cut short with a rapturous gasp as Atsushi rubbed his thumb over Issay’s glans, now sticky with precum. Pressing down and releasing in a slow, leisurely rhythm, Atsushi closed his eyes and relished the noises that Issay made.

“Atsushi… are you trying to… torture me?” Issay asked as he writhed and gasped.

“Hm…” Atsushi hummed, enjoying himself. Looking down at an increasingly restless Issay, Atsushi said, “If you take your legs off me, I promise you’ll get more than the release you want.”

Issay immediately let his legs fall to the side and Atsushi kept his word, starting by sliding his hand down to the base of Issay’s shaft as Issay bucked hard. Stroking Issay with casual strokes, Atsushi shifted his body away from Issay's and lowered his face to meet Issay’s thighs. Already sensitive from Atsushi’s prolonged teasing, Issay let out repressed whines as Atsushi bit and sucked hard on the soft skin on his thighs. Unlike what Atsushi was doing at Issay’s collarbone, these were bound to leave marks that would last for days.

Atsushi turned his languid stroking to an irregular rhythm, frustrating Issay more as Atsushi twisted his wrist and deftly curled his fingers. Issay felt Atsushi’s other hand release his thigh from it’s grip and move to push against Issay’s knee, spreading him wider. Feeling Atsushi’s warm breath against his skin, Issay heard a soft playful moan from Atsushi as he brought his lips to Issay’s erection, kissing and licking his way down one side before arriving at Issay’s scrotum.

When Atsushi began lightly brushing his lips and tongue over Issay’s balls, all while gently cupping him with a hand, Issay drew back and kicked out with an unrestrained moan. Atsushi chuckled at Issay’s reaction, huffing short breaths of warm air on Issay’s skin. As Atsushi took Issay along the precarious line between pleasure and pain, Issay groaned and stomped his foot instead of kicking, afraid to strike Atsushi by accident. Feeling the intense stimulation rob the strength from his legs, Issay grabbed at the sheets and curled his toes tightly, as if to wrench back some form of control over his body.

Suddenly, Issay felt Atsushi stop everything and slow his stroking to a maddeningly inadequate pace. Issay let out a sigh and a groan, partly lamenting the loss of the intensity yet thankful for the break. Despite the fact that he has yet to cum, he wasn’t sure his body could take more.

“Issay,” Atsushi breathed, bending forward and sliding in closer to Issay.

“Mmh… What… are you planning now?” Issay asked, breathing heavily.

Atsushi tightened his grip around Issay’s shaft, making Issay arch his back and groan again. Brushing Issay’s curls, Atsushi whispered, “I came prepared this time.”

“With what?!” Issay exclaimed, suddenly panicking and almost sitting up.

Atsushi laughed. “It's just lube and condoms,” he said. “Nothing you’re not familiar with,” Atsushi added as he ran his fingers through Issay’s hair and guided him to lie back down.

“Oh,” Issay muttered, relaxing. “Oh, good.”

“Hm… but I can’t find them,” Atsushi muttered, sweeping his free hand over the sheets. “You have to… satisfy yourself first,” he said, taking hold of Issay’s hand to switch with his own. Slapping his precum-slicked hand on Issay’s stomach. Atsushi chuckled as he watched Issay flinch and curl up in response.

“Don’t do that!” Issay hissed, feeling a chill where Atsushi left his handprint. Sighing, Issay folded an arm over his eyes and started stroking himself lazily. “How could you just leave me to finish off on my own when you started this?” Issay huffed.

“I’m not asking you do that. Don’t you dare- Ah! Found it!” Atsushi exclaimed, quickly scrambling back between Issay’s legs and removing his hand.

Issay peeked out from under his arm. Atsushi has now removed his yukata and Issay could see the thin film of the condom on Atsushi, who brought Issay’s hand to his mouth and began sucking on his fingers, licking the residue away. Laughing softly in amusement, Issay turned his hand around and stroked the underside of Atsushi’s chin with his fingers.

Atsushi hummed and smiled in response, enjoying Issay’s affection. “Shall I continue?” Atsushi asked, looking down at Issay with half-lidded eyes.

“Hmm…” Issay gave it a thought. Now rubbing the back of Atsushi’s neck with his hand, Issay pulled Atsushi down towards him. “I could honestly just go to sleep right now,” he muttered.

Atsushi frowned at him. “What, are you bored?”

“No,” Issay drawled, combing Atsushi’s hair back with his fingers. “I’m just… very comfortable right now.”

“Mm, can’t have you feeling too comfortable then, can we?” Atsushi smirked.

“What are you saying? Why not?” Issay frowned at him, suspicious.

“Hm?” Atsushi hummed innocently. “Just…” Issay felt something cold down below.

“Atsushi… what are you doing?”

“Just relax,” Atsushi coaxed, a sly smile on his face.

Before Issay could say anything, he felt a cold tingling sensation as fingers slid into his asshole. “Atsushi!” he gasped in alarm. “At least warn me before…!” Unable to say more, Issay merely moaned as he clenched a hand around Atsushi’s forearm.

“The lube definitely does it for you, huh?” Atsushi cooed as he lay next to Issay and watched him struggle with himself. “Don’t fight it,” he whispered, curling his fingers in Issay as he thrust deeper.

Issay kicked again and moaned, reaching out and grabbing at anything he could. The sudden chill of the lube and smoothness of Atsushi’s thrusting made Issay’s body melt from inside out. This stimulation was completely different from what he was used to. And each time Atsushi’s fingers went in, Issay could feel his fingers prodding around, as if searching for-

“Atsushi!” Issay cried out, overwhelmed by a burst of pleasure. Moaning, Issay instinctively latched onto Atsushi, as if desperate for something to keep him from losing himself.

Atsushi smiled and placed soft kisses on Issay’s face, muttering approving ‘yes's as he continued coaxing Issay to his limit. There was still room to spare.

“Atsushi! I can’t!” Issay cried, louder than before. Not wanting to scratch Atsushi, Issay threw his hands to his sides and raked his fingers across the sheets. Another intense wave of pleasure slammed into Issay, bringing him over the edge as he arched his back and twisted.

Panting and lying on his side, Issay felt his mind grow hazy as Atsushi continued. He heard Atsushi’s tender murmurings in his ear and felt his comforting nuzzles calming him down. He felt Atsushi’s fingers leave his body and felt his arms encircle him as Atsushi climbed over Issay.

“Issay, are you alright?” Atsushi asked, concerned. “If you want me to stop, tell me, and I’ll stop now.”

Slowly recovering from his sexual high, Issay slowly turned to face Atsushi and brought a hand up to brush Atsushi’s hair aside. “I’m fine,” he sighed. “I’m fine, don’t worry,” Issay reassured Atsushi. “Besides, it would be a pity to let that go to waste,” he added playfully, gesturing to the condom on Atsushi’s still-hard cock.

“That’s not important,” Atsushi frowned.

Issay pulled Atsushi towards him, giving him a long, slow kiss. Breaking apart, Issay kept Atsushi close to him, saying, “I’m fine. Do your thing.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” Issay urged.

Drawing himself up, Atsushi dispensed more lube onto his hand, spreading it over his own erection and coating his fingers at the same time. “If you want me to stop-”

“Yes, yes. I’ll tell you,” Issay repeated. With a smile, he said, “Do I really worry you that m-!” His words got stuck in his throat the moment Atsushi plunged his fingers in to loosen Issay up again.

Leaning over Issay, Atsushi thrust his fingers in and out of Issay faster now and said, “I’m serious. Tell me if you need me to stop.”

“I’m… good,” Issay breathed, barely able to speak as Atsushi repeatedly hit that sweet spot in him. Now that he knows where it is, it seems like Atsushi will make sure he keeps getting to it. Not that Issay was complaining.

Acknowledging Issay’s answer, Atsushi gave him a kiss, then asked, “Ready?”. Issay nodded back, his face taut as he tried to control himself. “Mm, don’t hold back,” Atsushi whispered, reminding Issay as he slid his cock into Issay.

Issay grit his teeth and threw his head back with a groan as he felt Atsushi push into him, stretching him apart. When Atsushi began to slowly thrust in and out of Issay, Atsushi’s jaw grew slack from the added stimulation of Issay’s insides squeezing tightly against him.

Whimpering, Atsushi pressed his face to Issay’s shoulder. Atsushi was tempted to bite down but he held back, instead letting Issay claw at his back and curl his fingers into his hair with light tugs. As he continued his thrusts, Atsushi heard Issay’s moans and cries mix with his own. Atsushi didn’t recall such intense reactions the last time he penetrated Issay.

As Atsushi increased his speed, Issay was getting so worked up that he could barely say Atsushi’s name anymore, rambling as tears came to his eyes. As much as Atsushi was enjoying himself, a ball of worry grew in the pit of his stomach. Was it too much for Issay?

“Issay, if you can’t-”

“Acchan…” Issay cried. Atsushi’s name barely came out as a moan. He wasn’t even sure if Issay did mean to say something articulate.

Regardless, Atsushi felt compelled to comfort Issay. “I’m right here,” he whispered, kissing Issay’s tears away, “I’m here for you.”. Curling a protective arm around Issay, Atsushi held Issay close and repeated, “Tell me if you need me to stop.”

“No, don’t stop,” Issay muttered breathlessly. “Don’t you-! Dare-!” Breath hitching, Issay grunted and let his voice escalate to a whine, arching his back again and pushing his body into Atsushi’s.

Atsushi tenderly ran kisses across Issay’s neck. Reaching back down with a hand, he took Issay’s neglected erection in his hand and began stroking Issay in time with his thrusts, making Issay tighten his embrace and moan with renewed vigor. Atsushi nipped at Issay’s jaw as he felt Issay’s nails mangling his back and his knees clamping down hard against his waist. Moving slowly, Atsushi eventually found Issay’s mouth and locked lips with him, kissing and moaning as Atsushi began to thrust harder and deeper.

The forceful thrusts stirred Issay’s insides and with another arch of his back, he came into Atsushi’s hand, moaning loudly as his blunt nails dug into Atsushi’s skin. Having felt the muscle contractions from Issay’s ejaculation tighten around his own cock, Atsushi too was unable to last any longer and he came in Issay, pushing in as deep as he could while letting out a high-pitched whine.

As if on cue, Issay’s alarm clock rang.

Issay’s slack expression of satisfaction immediately turned into an annoyed frown. Irritated, he grabbed the pillow under him and weakly flung it in the general direction of the clock, knocking the clock off the table but failing to turn it off.

Groaning in frustration, Issay turned away and Atsushi chuckled as he removed himself from Issay to turn the clock off. Once the peaceful quiet was restored, Atsushi came back to Issay, curling up with him again.

“Maybe I should just call in sick,” Issay mumbled. He sounded exhausted.

Atsushi chuckled. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have-”

Issay kissed Atsushi, silencing him. “Oh, please. Stop taking the blame for everything,” he said, his words slurring.

“Hey, wait. Don’t sleep,” Atsushi said, shaking Issay, who protested with a groan. “You need to get to work.” Atsushi sat up, pulling Issay’s arm with him. “C’mon.”

“Noooo, my legs are gone, my body is exhausted, I want to sleep,” Issay complained, flopping over on the bed. “Stay with me,” he said, trying to pull Atsushi back down to him.

Instead, Atsushi yanked back, making Issay’s torso hang over the edge of the bed. “Shower with me,” he countered. “I need you to check how much you fucked up my back too.”

Issay looked up at Atsushi with bleary eyes. “… Ah… right.”

When Atsushi pulled again, Issay conceded, rolling off the bed and stumbling out into the living room with Atsushi. Heading into the bathroom, Issay turned on the lights and as soon as he saw his handiwork, he gaped.

Noticing Issay’s expression, Atsushi asked, “Is it that bad?” He stood in front of the mirror, twisting around and trying to look his reflection. Atsushi could see red lines criss-crossing the pale skin on his back and he hummed. “Not as bad as I expected. I don’t think you took any skin off.”

Brushing his fingers over Atsushi’s sore skin, Issay swore. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t reali- Holy shit, did I kick you?”

“Huh?” Atsushi was unfazed, but confused. “No, I’m pretty sure you didn’t kick me.”

Issay reached out to brush Atsushi’s hair away from his forehead, revealing the faint greenish-purple colour of a fresh bruise. “If I didn’t kick you, then how did you get this?” Issay questioned. He prodded lightly with his fingers but drew back when Atsushi winced. “You definitely didn’t have this when you left for work earlier,” he noted.

“Ah, this… I didn’t realise it’s that bad,” Atsushi muttered, turning back to the mirror to examine it. Tapping lightly, Atsushi tested the severity of the bruise. “It must’ve been that… cabinet I hit earlier.”

“How hard did you hit your head?”

“Y’know how you leave an overhead cabinet open? And then you forget that it’s open and you stand up?”

“Goodness,” Issay remarked. “I’ll go boil an egg later.”

“Huh?”

“I used to know someone who swore by boiled eggs to treat bruises,” Issay explained. “I’m not too sure how it works either but I guess we get to find out if it helps today.” Shrugging, Issay shuffled into the bath area.

Following Issay in, Atsushi asked, “So I’m your guinea pig?”

“Well, there’s no harm in trying, right?” Issay said. Testing the shower's water temperature, he gestured to Atsushi. “C’mere,” he said, kicking a small stool towards Atsushi. “I’ll wash your back for you. Hopefully you’re right that I didn’t give you any open wounds.”

--

Shirtless and sulky, Atsushi sat hunched over at the dining table with his long hair in a messy bun. There was, unfortunately, more torn skin than he expected and it stung like hell during the shower. The disinfecting that Issay forced him to sit through made it feel even worse.

Coming back to Atsushi with a black tee in hand, Issay gave him a peck on the cheek. “Poor you,” he teased gently. “Need help wearing the shirt?”

“No,” Atsushi muttered petulantly. Having had no sleep for over 24 hours was beginning to take a toll on him too. Atsushi could feel his mood turning foul.

“Give me a moment, I’ll go get that egg,” Issay said, walking off again.

Atsushi grunted and put the tee on the table, switching it for the apple that Issay retrieved from the fridge earlier. As he crunched on the apple, Atsushi could hear Issay yelp and utter a string of curses in the kitchen, probably because of the freshly boiled egg. Whatever it was, Atsushi simply didn’t have the energy to react to it now.

Hearing quick footsteps approach him, Atsushi looked up. Issay came back with the egg wrapped in a thin cloth. Gingerly, he brushed Atsushi’s hair aside and began rolling the warm egg on his bruise. Feeling the comfortable warmth relieve the dull ache on his forehead, Atsushi sighed and let himself relax. Closing his eyes, he leaned against Issay, who carefully put an arm around him, avoiding the broken skin.

“Look at you, all banged up,” Issay muttered.

“And whose fault is that?” Atsushi slurred.

“Sorry about that,” Issay said, nuzzling Atsushi’s hair as he kneaded the back of his neck.

Holding the half-eaten apple in one hand, Atsushi wrapped his other arm around Issay, pulling him closer. “I’m just kidding,” he mumbled. Caressing the small of Issay’s back, Atsushi added, “I got what I wanted.”

Issay looked down at Atsushi, incredulous. “A ruined back?!”

“No, don’t be silly,” Atsushi chuckled. “I’m sure you don’t need me to spell it out,” he said, giving Issay’s rear a firm squeeze.

“Hey!” Issay smacked Atsushi’s hand away in jest.

Atsushi continued to chuckle softly, still tired despite the lift in his mood.

Issay removed the egg, now cold, from Atsushi’s forehead. “Hm… I guess the swelling did go down a little?” He carefully brushed his fingers over the bump.

“Really?” Atsushi pressed his own fingers against the area where the bruise was supposed to be. “Still aches, though a little less than before,” he muttered. “That worked pretty well.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t eat this though,” Issay said, unwrapping the egg from the cloth to inspect it.

Atsushi shook his head. “Probably not,” he agreed, taking another bite from his apple.

“You know…” Issay started. “I realised that… we’ve never really had a… proper meal together.”

“What d’you mean?” Atsushi asked as he watched Issay head back into the kitchen to discard the egg. “We always have supper here.”

“Convenience store food isn’t exactly what I have in mind when I’m talking about a proper meal,” Issay said, his voice echoing from the kitchen.

“What do you have in mind then?”

“Like, going out for dinner, drinks, and the like,” Issay listed, emerging from the kitchen with some sort of juice in his hand.

“Mm… but we don’t really have much freedom in those situations, right?” Atsushi thought aloud.

“Hm, I mean, surely there are ways…” Issay muttered, staring into his juice as he leaned against the kitchen’s entrance way.

Realisation suddenly struck Atsushi. “Are you asking me out?”

“Hm?” Issay looked up at Atsushi.

“You’re asking me out on a date?”

“Well…” Issay looked away. He was suddenly exceptionally fascinated with his juice. “If you want…”

Resting his elbow on the table, Atsushi propped his chin up in his hand and watched Issay. He hid a smile behind his hand as he casually mentioned, “I know a few places… with private rooms…”

“Hm. Oh really?” Issay commented, feigning disinterest.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Atsushi said, shrugging. “I mean, it’s probably too much trouble to go through for the sake of a meal,” he said dismissively, taking another bite out of his apple. Issay snapped his eyes to Atsushi, slightly upset. Upon seeing Issay’s expression, Atsushi couldn't help but laugh.

Realising that Atsushi was joking, Issay glared at him and muttered, “You fucking tease.”

Laughter quickly subsiding, Atsushi gave the idea some serious thought. “I could make arrangements…?” Atsushi offered, holding his apple core between his index and middle fingers as he waved it around.

“There’s another problem though,” Issay frowned. “I don’t exactly have a fixed schedule to work around.”

“We could just set it for next week. If you can’t make it, I’ll come back here and wait for you,” Atsushi suggested.

“Next week?”

“I… foresee my work getting in the way of things in the coming days,” Atsushi explained, standing up to throw his apple core away. “The night work is…”

“That means, I won’t be seeing you for awhile then?” Issay concluded cheerlessly.

“I can’t promise anything,” Atsushi said with a dismal smile. Passing Issay on his way into the kitchen, Atsushi gave him a nuzzle against his cheek.

“Can’t be helped, I guess,” Issay muttered, a little less blue. “So… next week?”

Atsushi nodded. “I’ll call them up.”

“And how will I know where to go?”

“Uh…” Atsushi stared into space as he dropped his apple into the bin. He hasn’t thought about that. Driving over to the police headquarters was probably a bad idea though… “I’ll… pick you up.”

“You’ll pick me up,” Issay echoed.

“... Yes.”

“You’re not sure.”

“... No.” Atsushi gave Issay a blank look. “I haven’t figured that out but I will pick you up. Can’t have you getting lost.”

Issay raised his brows and nodded. “You’ve got a point there,” he admitted. “So… it’s a date?”

Atsushi put his arms on Issay’s shoulders. “Well, technically, it’s more like an appointment if y-”

Issay put a finger to Atsushi’s lips. “It’s a date. We’re going on a date.”

“Only if I’m paying for it,” Atsushi smiled.

“Not happening,” Issay declared, shaking his head. “I’m not letting you do that.”

“Well, I’m not the cop with a meagre pay,” Atsushi teased, stepping away from Issay.

“That is not the point,” Issay protested. Before Atsushi got too far away, Issay grabbed Atsushi’s arm and pulled him back into his space.

Atsushi laughed and took a step back to Issay. “You’ll have to fight me for it then,” he said.

“You can bet your ass I will,” Issay replied in a low growl.

Atsushi chuckled and leaned into Issay, pinning him against the wall as they shared kiss. When they broke apart, Issay’s eyes naturally shifted to the clock on the opposite wall before coming back to Atsushi. Suddenly, Issay’s eyes grew wide and darted back to the clock again.

Realising what time it was, Issay blurted, “Fuck, I’m going to be late!” and broke away from Atsushi. Quickly dropping his empty glass into the sink, Issay dashed back into his room.

Atsushi’s shoulders shook in silent laughter as he went to pick up the black tee from the table. So much for not wanting to go to work . Wincing as his skin stretched, Atsushi cautiously pulled the cotton shirt over his head and let the fabric unfold over his sore body.

Issay emerged from his room, neatly dressed in his usual white button-down shirt and black slacks. Stopping in front of Atsushi, he gave the younger man a quick once over, asking, “It’s not too uncomfortable, is it? The tee?”

Atsushi shook his head. “Definitely better than putting my dress shirt back on. Bonus points for smelling like your laundry,” he smiled.

Issay returned the smile, albeit a little apologetically. “As long as you’re comfortable with it.”

Picking up his jacket, Atsushi folded it in half and hung it over his arm before walking to the apartment entrance after Issay. “I guess… I’ll see you a week from now?” Atsushi asked. Too tired to bother with wearing his shoes properly, Atsushi slipped his feet into them and stepped down on the backstay, folding it in.

“I guess so,” Issay said, standing up and putting his arm around Atsushi’s rear instead of his back.

“Taking the opportunity to do more ass grabbing, huh?”

“Well, I can hold your back inst-"

Atsushi swiftly slapped Issay’s arm away. “Don’t even think about it!”

Issay laughed, giving Atsushi another kiss before sighing and gazing into his eyes with a hint of sadness. “I hate how things have to be when we’re out in the day,” Issay murmured, cupping Atsushi’s face. “I hate how estranged we have to be.”

“Not much choice we have with that, do we?” Atsushi said, giving Issay a small smile as he clasped his hand over Issay’s.

“Come by more often,” Issay requested.

“I’ll try,” Atsushi promised. Turning to the side, he planted a small kiss in Issay’s hand. “Don’t miss me,” he quipped, crinkling his eyes in a smile.

“Impossible,” Issay said. Despite his smile, all Atsushi could see in his eyes were sorrow.

Atsushi remained quiet, blinking slowly at Issay as he continued to hold Issay’s hand to his lips. As if frozen in time, they stood together, unmoving and in silence, exchanging unspoken words through the expressions in their eyes. Neither wanted to move, much less leave, but time was ticking.

Eventually, Atsushi spoke up first. “We need to go.”

Breaking eye contact with Atsushi, Issay nodded. “Go. I’ll wait out the ten minutes,” he said, turning to the door. They had established the habit of one leaving before the other to make things less obvious to the neighbours.

Atsushi put his hand on the door knob and turned to look at Issay. “I’ll see you,” said Atsushi, as if reassuring Issay, who simply smiled back wordlessly. Opening the main door, he gave Issay’s hand on final squeeze and disappeared.

As the door closed, Issay leaned his head against the wall, staring listlessly after Atsushi as he listened to the clock in the living room tick away and felt the silence in his home gnaw a hole in his heart.

Chapter Text

The office was a mess. Boxes of papers and files were piled on top of each other. Documents that did not have a box were simply stacked up as they were. There was an order to this chaos though. Imai had no idea what it was, but looking at the way Atsushi confidently strode between the stacks, picking out files for reference, he certainly had his head around things.

Their routine office move was not supposed to happen until a couple of months later. But they caught word of the police pinpointing the building that they worked out of as a raid target, and that meant that everything had to be pushed forward. Furthermore, they had to leave ‘evidence’ for the investigators to pick up as well to nudge them in the ‘right’ direction.

Atsushi could have left all this preparation to his lackeys but as usual, he decided that he’d rather handle it himself. Even if it meant being stuck in the office for five days straight.

Striding past Imai, Atsushi barely spared him a glance, simply giving him a pat on his shoulder as he uttered a vague greeting. Atsushi made a beeline for one of the leaning towers of binders on the couch. Cocking his head to one side, Atsushi read the labels on the spines.

“Can’t you just ask Wataru to deal with this?” Imai asked, mentioning one of their trusted aides. “You haven’t even been to Fujisaki’s in days.”

Atsushi pointed a finger at Imai, shushing him as he frowned and concentrated on looking for that one particular file he needed. Setting aside the stack’s first three binders, Atsushi picked up the fourth and flipped through.

Standing in the middle of the room, Imai stared at Atsushi. “Did you even go home?”

“I did,” Atsushi muttered, focused on scanning the printed material. “Hey, do you remember that 45 million yen loan to the… that guy who was dabbling in some interconnected network whatever?”

“The one from late last year? Where you wanted me to deal instead because, as per your words, ‘he feels seedy’?”

“Yes, that one. Do you remember the interest rate we gave him?”

Imai turned his eyes to the ceiling, squinting slightly as he racked his brain for the number. Good thing he decided to skip the high for later. Otherwise he’d be quite useless right now. “There was a five in there, right? I think it was 35?”

Balancing the file on one arm, Atsushi stared intensely at Imai as he considered the number. “I… think… you’re right,” he said, slowly nodding. “35…” Atsushi repeated the number to himself as he strode back to the desk. “35… 35…”

“Shouldn’t you have a record of that?” Imai asked.

“I should , but I can’t find the contract,” Atsushi said. “Look,” he pointed at a figure on the table of numbers in the binder that he held. “The sum out is here so it was definitely loaned out. The contract with the details should have been filed but it’s not in the binder.”

“You know, it’ll be easier to look for it if you got your men on it as well.”

“Oh, Ani came by earlier to drop off that,” Atsushi said, turning a deaf ear to Imai’s suggestion as he pointed to three unopened boxes which held the office door open. “He said he’s done with the money from your side and it’s all been made legitimate.”

“Am I supposed to be doing something with those?” Imai cast a sidelong glance at Atsushi.

“Bring them to the new office,” Atsushi replied. He didn’t even look up from his notes.

“Why couldn’t he bring them over himself?”

“Because it’s a 3-hour drive away and you wanted to be the one in charge of setting up.”

“But I just came back!” Imai moaned.

“I’ve packed away some of my things as well so you can move them over too,” Atsushi continued, jabbing a thumb towards four more sealed boxes that sat next to the couch.

“I might as well just tell Junya to drive a delivery truck over,” Imai grumbled.

Atsushi looked up. “That might actually be a good idea.”

“You can’t be serious?”

“There’s still Yuta and Hide’s stuff that we need to move. Well, not their entire premises, but the other things, like our supplies,” Atsushi said, mulling on the logistics.

“Jun doesn’t have a license for that.”

“Well that’s never stopped him before, right?”

“That’s not-” Imai stopped short. The air felt… stale. “Is the air-conditioning down again?”

Standing still, Atsushi listened closely for sounds as he tried to see if Imai was right. “There was ventilation when you came in, right?” Atsushi muttered. A ringing silence pierced his ears and Atsushi rolled his eyes. “Tsk. This is the fourth time this week…” he grumbled. Putting the file down, Atsushi pushed up the sleeves of his black shirt and walked out of the room and into the rest of the office premises, looking for the remote control.

“You could always set up a fan in there,” Imai suggested.

“No, no fans,” Atsushi rejected the idea. “All those papers will start flying all over the place. It’ll be a nightmare.”

Without the air conditioning, the office quickly grew uncomfortably stuffy. Imai tugged at his collar and pulled the front of his shirt, which was already half unbuttoned.

“Which one of you kept the remote?” Atsushi asked gruffly, addressing the entire office. Hearing his voice, the men in the office snapped their heads up and, upon realising he wasn’t in the best of moods, they immediately burst into action to start searching.

Watching over the explosion of movement, Atsushi furrowed his brows and pulled at the v-neck collar of his shirt. Despite opting for a regular cotton top today, the heat was still unbearable. It didn’t help that the rainy season has started, bringing a depressing humidity that seemed to seep into the building.

“I found it! Here, boss!” One of the men ran up to Atsushi, handing the grey remote to him.

Swiping it from the man’s hands, Atsushi turned and aimed the remote at the air conditioner’s sensor. He pressed the power button. The remote beeped, but the air conditioner didn’t respond.

Pursing his lips, Atsushi glared at the machine. He lifted a hand and twitched his fingers, beckoning the underling who found the remote. “Call someone to come and fix this.”

“Yes, boss!” The man bowed and ran off.

“I need to speak to the building management about this,” Atsushi muttered, rubbing his temples as he headed back into his office.

“But’s nine at night. They’re closed. And they’re not going to do anything for you because you’re too nice to make them,” Imai said flatly, following him in.

Atsushi shifted his glare to Imai. He was right though. Annoyed, Atsushi pulled his hair into a high ponytail and pushed his sleeves back up again. “Let’s just get these to the car first,” Atsushi said, kicking one of the sealed boxes. “It’s still downstairs, right? The car?”

“I’ll get Junya to drive it back around,” Imai said. He sighed, “I can’t believe you guys are really making me leave right after I come back.”

“As you said, time is of the essence,” Atsushi said, tracing fingers along Imai’s jaw as he strode pass Imai carrying a box out of his office.

“Tch.” Imai pulled away, annoyed. “By the way, how’s your back?” he asked, suddenly recalling Atsushi’s little predicament. He had a good laugh about it when Atsushi came back complaining. Imai was often subjected to Atsushi’s clawing after all and finally, at long last, Atsushi got a taste of his own medicine.

“Oh, I think it’s fine now. I haven’t felt anything since a couple of days ago,” Atsushi replied as he walked back in to retrieve the next box.

“Still wearing those shirts though?” Imai pointed out. “I thought you’d change back to the button-downs.”

“These are more comfortable than the dress shirts,” Atsushi said, carrying another box out. Setting it down at the main entrance, Atsushi patted the scraps of cardboard off his top. “And they’re more suitable for all this moving and heavy lifting too,” Atsushi added as he walked back to Imai. “It would be nice if you could help.”

“Well, I’m wearing a dress shirt,” Imai said, earning a pointed look from Atsushi.

“Really now?”

“Fine, fine, fine,” Imai grumbled, removing his jacket and setting it on the couch arm. “This one’s Toll’s, right?” he asked, picking up a box.

“Yes,” Atsushi confirmed. “His are considerably lighter than mine though,” he muttered, grunting as he picked up another box.

With his arms full, Imai turned and looked around. “Why don’t you just- Hey, you three!” Imai called out to the men who were huddled together, discussing something. “Get those boxes to the lobby,” he ordered, and the men immediately got to work, picking up the remaining boxes and following Imai and Atsushi.

Atsushi tutted at Imai. “Already making someone else do the work right off the bat.”

“They weren’t doing anything, were they,” Imai retorted. The moment Imai put his box down, his phone started ringing. “Hello? … Okay, we’re coming down.”

“Junya’s here?” Atsushi asked.

“Yeah. Where’s the hand trolley?” Imai turned back into the office looking for it.

“You should ask one of the kids,” Atsushi called after Imai as he pressed the elevator button down.

It didn’t take long before the elevator announced its arrival with a ‘ding’. “Imai! Where are you!” Atsushi yelled into the office. “Elevator’s here!”

Squeaky wheels and thumping footsteps were heard as Imai re-emerged from the back of the office. “Fucking place is turning into a sauna,” Imai grumbled. Pushing a hand trolley, he had his jacket on his shoulder. “Stack your boxes here,” he said to the underlings, patting a hand on the trolley handle. “Then pick up those and get in.” Imai pointed to the boxes that Atsushi shifted earlier.

Atsushi, who was balancing his box on one knee against the elevator wall, kept the elevator open with one hand holding it back and the other hand pressing the buttons. Just as the elevator started blaring its alarms and try to force the doors close, Imai and the underlings scrambled in, and Atsushi let the doors close.

“I hate these lifts,” Imai muttered with a huff.

“Maybe I should drop by Granny Mie’s,” Atsushi mumbled to himself, ignoring Imai’s complaints again. “I could bring cold beers back to the office too.”

“She’s still running that store with her husband?” Imai asked.

“I hope so? Things did seem fine the last time I visited.”

“That was last year though.”

“True…” Atsushi muttered. Another thought suddenly came to mind. “Hey, has anyone found that Kissaki guy?”

“Oh, apparently a couple of the hired hands did find him,” Imai said.

“And?”

“He slipped away again.”

Atsushi huffed and rolled his eyes. “This is getting ridiculous.”

Imai shrugged. “Seems like he’s probably got help or something,” he said. “At the very least, we know that he doesn’t have as much resources as he once did.”

Making a discontented noise, Atsushi reluctantly agreed. “I guess.”

Once they arrived at the first floor, the boxes were loaded into the car and Imai was ready to leave. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Imai said, stepping into the car.

“Yea- Wait. What day is tomorrow?” Atsushi asked.

“Uh… Wednesday. Why?”

“Ah, okay,” Atsushi said. In a softer voice, he mumbled to himself, “So dinner is on Thursday…”

“Dinner?” Imai asked, catching Atsushi’s words. “Since when do you have dinner plans?”

“Well, why not?”

“You never have dinner with me.”

“You never asked.”

He asked you out for dinner?” Imai questioned, catching the drift.

“Hm, yeah.” Atsushi shrugged.

Imai narrowed his eyes at Atsushi, who simply blinked back, unfazed. After a long pause, Imai finally said, “Fine, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He gestured to Junya and they drove off.

As the car departed, Atsushi bade them goodbye, waving until they turned a corner and disappeared out of sight. Only then did he take his men with him to Granny Mie’s small, family-run shop. During the night, it was typically run by Granny Mie’s husband, a gruff man who loved his wife dearly. But tonight, Atsushi was pleasantly surprised to see Granny Mie behind the cashier instead.

Atsushi had a wide smile on his face as he walked into the small shop with its interior tinted yellow by incandescent light. “Granny Mie!” he called. “It’s been awhile. You look well.”

“Oh! Dear boy!” Granny Mie knew Atsushi’s name but in all the years he’s known her, she has never used it even once. “I’ve been well but look at you! You haven’t been eating again, have you?” she said as she patted Atsushi’s cheek affectionately.

“Well.. I’ve been busy,” Atsushi said sheepishly. “But… where’s Mr. Nemoto?” he asked, slightly worried about the unexpected absence of Granny Mie’s husband.

“Oh, he’s gone on a fishing trip with a few of his old friends,” Granny Mie replied with a chuckle. “Silly man wanted me to close the shop and go with him but he needs his time with the boys. Besides, we’ve just returned from visiting the Western coastline last week, and if I went, I would’ve missed the chance to see you, wouldn’t I?”

Letting Granny Mie pinch his cheek lightly, Atsushi grinned and leaned against the cashier counter. “If I knew how much you missed me I would’ve dropped by sooner,” Atsushi said, resting his chin in his palm as he propped up his elbow on the counter.

“Of course I’d miss you, dear boy! But I know it’s not easy for you to come here,” said Granny Mie, patting Atsushi’s hand. “I don’t want to make things difficult for my favourite son.”

Atsushi laughed, swaying to the side. “Your actual son will want me dead if he heard that.”

I will have his head if he does! How would he dare to compare himself to you when I only see him two hours every year on New Year’s Day!”

“Ah, there, there,” Atsushi assuaged. “Don’t get so heated, it’s not good for your heart.”

Granny Mie gave him a tender smile. “Look at you, remembering these things after so many years.”

“Putting in the effort makes me more likeable, doesn’t it?” Atsushi said.

“Oh, I’m sure you’re easily likeable,” Granny Mie said, sounding amused as she patted Atsushi’s hand. “Haven’t you noticed how everyone in my store has been watching you?” she said, her words only for Atsushi’s ears.

Atsushi’s smile fell off his face and alarm took its place. Slowly, jerkily, Atsushi turned to look at the scene around him. To his left, his men were still standing at the entrance of the store, frozen and unsure of what to do. Continuing his turn, Atsushi recognised each of the familiar faces that belonged to the police force, a few on his payroll, a few not. When they saw Atsushi moving to face them, they swiftly looked away, all seemingly afraid to look him in the eye, except for one on the far right, at the display fridges. Issay.

Atsushi felt his heart stop and snapped back around to stare at the worn wooden counter top, moving so quickly that his ponytail almost whipped his face. How did he fail to notice all of them when he stepped in? What was Issay doing here? Since when did the police shop here? Atsushi has never seen a single officer in the store even when he used to work here regularly back in the day.

“Too much attention for you to deal with, dear boy?” Granny Mie asked, smiling sympathetically.

Nodding once, Atsushi took a moment to compose himself before returning her smile and replying in a quiet voice, “It’s alright.” As Granny Mie chuckled, Atsushi turned to his men and jerked his head towards the fridges. “What are you standing there for? Get the beer.”

Nodding mutely, the three underlings tensely made their way through the off-duty police to the drinks section. Each picking up a six-pack in each hand, they brought the chilled beers back to the cashier counter. Granny Mie rang up the register, and Atsushi pulled a wad of notes out of his pocket. He placed a 10,000 yen note on the counter, freed a can of beer from its packaging and waved the men away, dismissing them.

“Keep the change,” Atsushi said to Granny Mie, cracking the can of beer open.

“Dear boy! That’s too much!” Granny Mie rebuked. “I can’t let you-”

“Accepting money from your son shouldn’t be an issue, right?” Atsushi winked.

“Oh, you!” She smacked his arm.

“Or keep it on my tab, or use it for those others,” Atsushi suggested, gesturing towards the officers who were still in the store.

“And that’s what I will do,” Granny Mie said. “Dear boy, I know you mean well, but don’t-”

“I just want Granny Mie and Mr. Nemoto to retire and enjoy life. Have that ‘happily ever after’ kind of thing,” Atsushi said, smiling gently as he waved his beer can around while speaking. “You know money isn’t an issue.”

“That’s sweet of you but we’re already living our happily ever after, dear boy,” Granny Mie said, her eyes twinkling with gratitude as she held Atsushi’s cheek in her wrinkled palms. “These things come in many different forms.”

“It would be nice if I could find mine,” Atsushi muttered wistfully with a cynical laugh before taking a long drink.

“You will,” Granny Mie insisted. “One day, you will.”

Atsushi chuckled. “Maybe in my next lifetime,” he said. “I’m… not optimistic for this current one.”

“Dear boy, why would you-”

“I’m sorry to interrupt.” A familiar voice cut in, placing a full basket of snacks and drinks on the counter.

“You’re not interrupting anything, my dear,” said Granny Mie, turning to Issay.

Atsushi immediately shifted, pressing himself against the wall in the corner of the counter as he tugged the hair tie loose, letting his hair down and blocking his face from Issay. Noticing his shift, Issay adjusted his stance in response, taking up more space at the counter to eat into Atsushi’s little bubble and brush his fingers against Atsushi’s elbow.

If Granny Mie noticed anything, she showed no sign of it. “Having instant noodles for dinner again, Kazunari? That’s not good for you,” she commented on Issay’s purchases. “Not to mention, it looks like you’re working nights these days, aren’t you?”

Issay laughed. “Well, I have to make up for all that lost time, don’t I?”

“Your superiors are too heartless. You should be resting instead,” Granny Mie said, indignant for Issay. Atsushi shifted uncomfortably. It looks like even Granny Mie caught wind of what had happened.

Issay laughed again. “It’s all part of the job though. And besides, I’m fine,” he said, smiling politely.

“Oh, don’t even try bluffing me, Kazunari. I know a disturbed soul when I see one,” Granny Mie dismissed Issay’s pretence. “Even if you’re not in as bad a shape as dear boy here when I first found him, I can tell.”

“Why are you bringing me into this,” Atsushi muttered softly, shrinking away even more as he felt Issay’s concerned gaze on him. He wanted to hide in a hole earlier but now he’d very much rather bury himself six feet under and never come out again.

Granny Mie turned to Atsushi. “Dear boy, will you please get me more bags from the storeroom? I think there isn’t enough for everything here,” she said as she packed Issay’s purchases.

“Of course,” Atsushi said, forcing a smile. He was grateful to have an excuse to disappear for awhile. Even if it’s just for less than a minute.

Turning around, Atsushi found Issay’s tense colleagues waiting a short distance away, trying to surreptitiously keep an eye on Atsushi. Some sent wary glances his way, while the looks on some of the others’ faces were evidently perplexed over Atsushi’s interactions with Granny Mie. Even if they couldn’t hear their conversations, he supposed that behaviour would’ve caused that. They weren’t meant to see this side of him, after all.

Heading towards the storeroom in the back of the shop, Atsushi ignored them and shoved past with a stony expression on his face. He opened the door, leaned in, grabbed one of the packs of bags, and darted out, letting the storeroom door close on its own. Striding back to the counter, Atsushi ripped the pack open and leaned over the cashier, hanging the new bags on the hook behind the counter.

“Thank you, dear boy,” Granny Mie said. “If only the helpers that came after you worked as well as you did,” she grumbled, complimenting Atsushi at the same time. Totalling up Issay’s bill, Granny Mie looked at the sum and said, “That will be… already paid for.”

“Huh?” Issay froze. He had almost gotten his wallet out. “Already paid for?”

“Dear boy here refuses to let me give him any change so that excess covers your bill,” Granny Mie explained, gesturing to Atsushi with a pleasant smile on her face.

“Atsushi, what…?” Issay was barely audible as he spoke. Trying to look at Atsushi without turning, Issay glared at him out of the corner of his eyes. “Don’t you dare pay for the dinner, you hear me?”

“Fat hope,” Atsushi whispered. Running a hand through his hair, Atsushi swept it over to one side to block his face from Issay’s colleagues as he turned and smirked at Issay. “Two more days,” he reminded, blinking slowly at Issay.

“Two more days,” Issay echoed, smiling back at Atsushi. He lingered for a moment, as if wanting to say or do more, but instead, he held back. With a sigh, Issay settled for subtle, light touches on Atsushi’s nearest elbow with his ring finger and pinky. Inclining his head to Granny Mie, Issay addressed her and Atsushi at the same time, saying, “Until next time, then.”

“Until next time,” Granny Mie said, nodding back at him. Atsushi could only hum his acknowledgement quietly as he turned back to drinking his beer.

With that, Issay lifted the bags off the table and led his subordinates out of the store, noisily distributing the burden between each of them as he distracted them from their curiosity. Granny Mie watched them leave while Atsushi listened for their voices to fade away.

Once they were alone, Granny Mie turned her attention back to Atsushi, placing her hands over his again. “Oh, dear boy… My dear boy…”

A small smile tugged at Atsushi’s lips. “Like I said, maybe not in this lifetime,” he emphasised. Atsushi barely heard what Granny Mie said after that as it began to dawn on him what he had just shown to Granny Mie. What has he done?

Panic surging up, Atsushi suddenly blurted, “Don’t… hate me?” Having said the words, he kept his gaze away from Granny Mie’s, in fear of what he might see in her eyes. He had a feeling she might have known about his preferences long ago but it has never been so blatantly displayed in front of her.

“Oh, you. You silly boy.” Granny Mie placed a hand on Atsushi’s cheek. “I already said that you’re my favourite son, didn’t I?”

Atsushi attempted to smile but could only feel his face scrunch up from the sudden welling up of an inexplicable emotion. “Shit…” he mumbled, trying and failing to suppress a sob. Working that hard for so many days in a row must be taking a toll on his self-control.

Granny Mie patted Atsushi’s cheek as she spoke. “Look at you. First time you come back in months and you’re in tears again,” she chastised him lightly.

“I’m sorry… Ah- no!” Atsushi exclaimed in shock as he felt Granny Mie pinch his cheek and pull him down into her reach.

Granny Mie released Atsushi from her pinch and massaged his cheek. “No more tears, you hear me?”

Despite the dull ache, the pinch snapped Atsushi out of that rut. “Yes,” Atsushi muttered. His eyes were, however, still wet with tears. “Though I think I need a stronger drink,” he added.

Granny Mie pulled Atsushi into a quick embrace and gave him a peck on his cheek. “Go help yourself, dear boy. There’s still a lot of change from your 10,000 yen to account for,” she chuckled. “You know where to find it.”

Giving her a half smile, Atsushi slinked away from the counter to the fridges and squatted down behind the shelves to peruse the different brands on display as a calm swept over him. Staring at the bottles, Atsushi noticed that new ones have been brought in since the last time he was here.

Footsteps tapped against the vinyl flooring as someone entered the shop. “Oh! Kazunari, back so fast?” Granny Mie greeted. She sounded particularly chirpy.

“Ah… Well… After what you said earlier, I thought… maybe… instant noodles isn’t that great an idea for dinner…” Issay stumbled through his words.

“You’re looking for him,” Granny Mie stated bluntly.

“Uh… Well…”

“I’m still here,” Atsushi said, standing up and peering over the shelf.

Issay looked elated to see him but that joy quickly turned to worry. “What’s happened to you!?”

“What do you mean ‘what happened’?”

“Your eyes are…”

“What?”

“Puffy.”

“You’re fucking kidding me,” Atsushi swore, squatting back down and trying to check his reflection on the fridge’s glass window.

“Language, dear boy,” Granny Mie warned.

Atsushi responded with a noncommittal grunt. Rubbing the bridge of his nose, he pulled the fridge door open, picked a random bottle of sake, and closed it. Atsushi stood up and pressed the cold glass bottle to his eyes, cooling his face down. Feeling the chill on his skin, Atsushi sighed in relief then moved to bottle to his neck. Might as well get some respite from the summer heat at the same time.

When Atsushi shuffled back to the counter, Issay snarled, “Who hurt you?”

“It’s not like that,” Atsushi said. Twisting the bottle cap open, he drank the sake down in huge gulps.

“Then what… What is this?” Issay asked, throwing his hands around as he gestured. Atsushi could see his worry building.

“It’s just me being me,” Atsushi smiled wryly, taking another long drink from his bottle.

“Oh, let him be. That isn’t enough to knock him out,” Granny Mie muttered, clearly upset but resigned. “No one can stop him when he’s in such a mood.”

Picking up a rice ball from the nearby shelf, Atsushi tossed it to Issay. “Eat,” he said. Atsushi then turned to Granny Mie and said, “I promise I’ll stop after this bottle.”

Granny Mie scoffed in scepticism. Pursing her lips disapprovingly, she said, “That’s what you always say.”

Atsushi smiled, a hint of guilt in his expression as he took another drink and then turned to Issay. “Why aren’t you eating?” he asked, gesturing to Issay’s rice ball.

“Ah… I’m… actually… not hungry,” Issay confessed.

Atsushi hummed. “You and your excuses,” he muttered, smiling slightly behind his bottle as Issay laughed, embarrassed. “Aren’t your colleagues waiting for you?”

“I told them to go ahead,” Issay muttered, his voice growing softer. “That I might take awhile…” His eyes began to wander around, unable to look anyone in the eye. Atsushi couldn’t help but chuckle at him.

“You boys are hopeless,” Granny Mie chided, putting her hands on her hips. A twinkle came into her eyes as she looked at the two men and said, “Since my husband isn’t around, why don’t you two help me stock the beers back up? After Atsushi’s friends bought them, that corner of the fridge is rather empty now.”

“Sure,” Atsushi nodded, pushing himself up from his lean against the counter. “But I can manage myself.”

“Oh, Kazunari should go with you, just to make sure nothing falls on you by accident,” Granny Mie said. Noticing that Atsushi was about to protest, she added, “Remember that time with the rice?”

That shut Atsushi up. He closed his mouth and cleared his throat. “Fine,” he mumbled. Atsushi jerked his head in the direction of the store room and walked through the shelves with Issay.

“Take your time,” Granny Mie called after them. “No need to rush. You know where everything is.” Atsushi raised a hand in acknowledgement and pushed the door open, re-entering the musty storeroom with Issay following behind.

As the door slid close and Atsushi turned the lights on, Issay asked, “What does she mean by ‘take your time’?”

“Uh… I guess exactly that?” Atsushi replied, scanning the shelves in the cramped, dimly lit room for the beers.

“Surely-”

“Ah, your help will be useful after all,” Atsushi muttered, spotting the beers. They were stacked high up on the shelf that stood against the right-side wall, next to the old desk and chair. “Why would they put it up there…?” Atsushi wondered aloud. “They should get someone to rearrange this… Could you pass me that chair?” he asked, pointing to the chair by Issay.

“Here.” Issay swung the chair over. “Are you sure this is safe?” he asked, feeling the lightness of the chair.

Atsushi shrugged. “Should be fine. You’re here to keep me safe after all,” he winked.

“Should you even be doing this?” Issay asked, unsure. “You just drank-”

“I’ll be fine,” Atsushi said, dismissing Issay’s doubts. Moving to step up onto the chair, he wobbled as he lifted his leg.

“Wait! Stop! Wait, wait, I'll go up, you stay here,” Issay said, grabbing Atsushi’s wrist.

Atsushi turned and looked at Issay who stared back, unrelenting. “If you say so,” Atsushi said with a smile. Stretching an arm out to the chair, he invited Issay to step on. Frankly speaking, Atsushi didn’t think that he would be able to keep stable with the height of the chair and the additional weight of the beer combined with his fresh alcohol intake.

Slipping his shoes off, Issay stepped up. The chair wobbled. “I’m not sure this is a good idea,” Issay muttered.

“I’m here,” Atsushi said.

“What if we both get crushed by falling shelves and beer?” Issay asked.

“Then we’ll die together drunk, and in an eternal lovers’ embrace,” Atsushi said without missing a beat.

“That doesn’t sound half bad,” Issay mumbled, reaching up for the beer.

“Oh, come on, you’ll be fine,” Atsushi said, holding the chair firmly. “Pass it over.” He stretched an arm out, gesturing to Issay to rest the carton on his shoulder. As the weight pushed down on Atsushi’s shoulder, he braced and grunted, shifting slightly on his feet for better balance.

Issay quickly hopped off the chair and took the beer back from Atsushi. “I’ll carry that,” he muttered. “If you would kindly open the door.”

Atsushi nodded, taking a step back to reach the door. The moment Atsushi swung it open and Issay stepped out, Granny Mie yelled from the front of the shop, “Already? I told you to take your time!”

“Why are you yelling!?” Atsushi shouted back.

“Are you daft, dear boy? Do I need to show you where the condoms are?” Granny Mie questioned. Atsushi groaned and covered his eyes with a hand while Issay stood rooted to the spot, mortified by what he was hearing. Unfazed by their reactions, Granny Mie continued, “If you think I don’t know how many times you used the store-”

“Okay, I get it!” Atsushi cut her off, desperate to have her stop talking. It was embarrassing enough as it is. “You want me to go back in?”

“Uh…” Issay found himself caught between Granny Mie and Atsushi. What was he supposed to do? “Uh… the beer…”

“Oh, take it back in with you, Kazunari, dear,” Granny Mie said sweetly. “You’ll need an alibi if there are customers around when you come back out later.”

“Uh…” Issay turned to Atsushi, who simply looked at him with a deadpan expression as he pushed the door open and went back into the storeroom.

Following him in, Issay put the beer on the desk while Atsushi shuffled to the back of the storeroom. Rummaging around, Atsushi found what he was looking for and came back, flinging a bottle of lube and a pack of condoms onto the desk.

“There,” Atsushi said, throwing a hand in the direction of the desk as he slumped into the chair that Issay climbed on earlier. “Do what you want.”

“I’m not doing anything,” Issay refused. “You’re obviously not in the mood right now,” he said, sitting on the edge of the desk.

Atsushi’s shoulder slumped as he huffed. Running a hand through his hair, he muttered, “God… that was awkward…”

Issay laughed. “Well…” He didn’t quite know what to say.

“Seriously though, don’t you have work to get back to?” Atsushi asked. “And your colleagues…?”

Issay shrugged.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Looking at the lone incandescent bulb that lit up the room, Issay thought about it for a moment and shrugged again, giving Atsushi a vague smile. “I doubt they’d miss me.”

“Hm, really now.” Atsushi felt his lips curve into a smile.

“Anyway,” Issay crossed his legs. “So how many times have you used the storeroom to-”

“Don’t ask.”

“You can’t blame me for being curious,” Issay justified.

“How am I supposed to keep track of the number of times-”

“So that makes it a big number, doesn’t it?” Issay grinned.

Atsushi frowned back. “Not… necessarily.”

“What about the number of partners?” Issay pressed, smirking.

“I don’t know,” Atsushi groaned. “It all happened years ago, I don’t remember now. I. Don’t. Want. To. Remember,” he hissed, putting his head in his hands.

Issay chuckled and slid off the desk. Standing in front of Atsushi, he took Atsushi’s hands in his own and had Atsushi put his arms around him. As Atsushi pulled Issay closer and held him tighter while burying his face in Issay’s shirt, Issay could feel the heat radiating from Atsushi. With a relaxed sigh, Issay stroked Atsushi’s head, running his fingers through his long locks. Eventually, he felt Atsushi’s shoulders lose their tension as Atsushi started drawing lines on the Issay’s back..

Together, they quietly relished each others’ presence for the first time in days until Atsushi spoke up. “Issay?”

“Hm?”

“You… haven’t been sleeping well, have you?”

Issay laughed softly. “It shows, doesn’t it? Even Granny Mie could tell…”

Atsushi looked up at him. Placing his fingers on Issay’s cheek, Atsushi said, “I’m sorry I can’t be there.”

“You have your obligations,” Issay said, managing a smile. Playing with Atsushi’s hair, Issay added, “It can’t be helped.”

Atsushi furrowed his brows at Issay, giving him a long look but he didn’t say anything, removing his hand and burying his face in Issay’s shirt again. Issay could sense Atsushi withholding something, yet he couldn’t bring himself to probe Atsushi. As he combed his fingers through Atsushi’s hair, Issay let his thoughts wander.

“Can’t you go home with me today?” Issay blurted, staring blankly at the wall, lost in his thoughts.

“Mh, I’m not done with work yet,” Atsushi replied apologetically, nuzzling his face against Issay. “The only reason why I’m here is because the office’s air conditioning broke down and I’m waiting for it to get fixed.”

“Your office is nearby?” Issay asked, looking down at Atsushi.

“Ah… No, client’s office.”

“Oh…” Issay sounded crestfallen.

“I just… happened to be nearby,” Atsushi added. He can’t have Issay finding out that he spent much of his time just down the street from the police headquarters this whole time. Atsushi could barely imagine Issay’s reaction if he knew.

“If only…” Issay let his words trail.

“Hm?”

“How’s your back?” Issay asked, suddenly changing the subject.

“I think it’s fine now,” Atsushi replied. “Maybe just a couple of scabs left? I can’t really tell.”

“Really?” Issay’s hand travelled down Atsushi’s back in slow circles, making Atsushi straighten up and press closer to Issay. “Let me see.”

Atsushi looked up and found Issay gazing back down at him, affection filling his eyes. Brushing Atsushi’s hair out of his face, Issay urged softly, “Show me.”

Compelled, Atsushi nodded slowly. He released Issay, got up, turned around and pulled his shirt off, letting Issay put his hands on his skin. “How’s it?” Atsushi asked, pulling his hair to his front over a shoulder.

Atsushi felt Issay’s hands brush over his shoulders and move down, over his shoulder blades, along his spine, on the edges. “Not the faintest line left…” Atsushi heard Issay reply as his fingers continued dancing across Atsushi’s back.

Atsushi chuckled. “Seen enough?”

“Can I say no?”

“Hm?” Atsushi looked over his shoulder at Issay with a slight smile.

Issay stepped closer, wrapping Atsushi in his arms. “More,” he whispered, pressing himself against Atsushi.

Atsushi smiled wider. Taking Issay’s left hand in his own, Atsushi led Issay’s hand from his abdomen, to his hips, and further down to his crotch. Issay’s grip tightened around Atsushi, making the younger man lean back into Issay with a blissful sigh. With his right hand, Issay began to tease Atsushi’s nipple as he began grinding against Atsushi and kissing him from shoulder to neck.

Letting out another soft sigh, Atsushi bared his neck and reached for Issay, weaving his fingers through Issay’s hair as he pressed Issay into his neck. Issay responded, biting down and sucking hard on Atsushi’s neck. Atsushi moaned softly, careful to control his volume. Feeling Issay’s hand leave his crotch and grip his thigh, Atsushi gasped as fingertips pressed down hard. Issay then dragged his hand back up, applying a firm pressure, until he reached Atsushi’s crotch to continue massaging his growing erection.

Atsushi could feel that Issay, too, was already hard with his dry humping against his rear. Leaning forward onto the desk, Atsushi felt Issay’s lips leave his neck for his back as he reached for the lube and condoms that he flung over earlier. They were just barely out of reach in the far corner. Annoyance crept into Atsushi, distracting him from the pleasure. Why did he throw them that far away?

Noticing Atsushi’s preoccupation, Issay slowed his movements and stopped. “What’s wrong?” he asked, slightly out of breath.

“The…” Atsushi stretched further, and finally got the bottle of lube in his fingers. Using the bottle, he nudged the condoms into his reach, and took both items in his hand. Atsushi swung his hand back to Issay, saying, “Take.”

“Hm?” Issay looked at the lube and condoms that Atsushi held. “This… uh?”

“Please don’t tell me you’re stopping here,” Atsushi said, twisting around to look at Issay.

“Ah, well… It just feels a little weird considering that we’re basically doing what Granny-”

“Don’t think about that,” Atsushi said quickly, turning around. Pulling Issay towards him, Atsushi held him close and said, “Don’t think. Just, yes or no.”

Issay chuckled. “Fuck yes,” he said, breaking into a wolfish grin. Isaay pressed his lips against Atsushi’s, working into a deep kiss with the younger man as he went back to grinding his hips against Atsushi’s. Feeling Issay’s erection against his, an overwhelming desire warmed Atsushi’s body and he put his hands on Issay’s slender hips, gripping hard as he moaned into Issay’s mouth.

Atsushi’s hands worked quickly, eagerly, undoing Issay’s belt and pants while Issay kissed him harder. Flushed and breathing heavily, Atsushi broke away from the kiss. He was starting to get heady. The lack of ventilation in the stuffy storeroom wasn’t helping either.

Before Issay could notice, Atsushi sank to his knees with a grunt. The sheen of sweat that has gathered on his torso brought a brief chill to Atsushi as he moved, making him shiver slightly. Atsushi fumbled and freed Issay’s hardened penis, bringing Issay to his lips. Pausing, he made eye contact with Issay and then took him in his mouth.

Issay jerked and stepped back, pressing his back to the side of the shelf behind him with a loud thump as Atsushi pushed all the way in until he reached the base of Issay’s shaft. Sucking hard as he pulled away, Atsushi watched Issay groan and throw his head back, banging his head on the plywood.

Atsushi chuckled softly. Issay either heard or felt him because he looked down at Atsushi and glowered. “That is your faul-!” Issay’s breath hitched and could not finish his sentence as Atsushi rubbed Issay’s glans on his lips, giving him small kisses and sucks while pulling Issay’s briefs lower to caress his balls with a hand.

Issay groaned with more intensity and arched his back, this time with a little more caution to not hit his head. Atsushi couldn’t help but smirk at Issay when he made eye contact again, thoroughly enjoying what he could do to Issay. Without warning, Atsushi put Issay into his mouth again, and as he sucked, moving in and out, Atsushi brought a hand down to his own crotch, palming himself through his pants.

Atsushi felt Issay tugging at his hair, fingertips scratching his scalp as Issay closed his fist and released with each pull. Moaning softly, Atsushi adjusted his position and put an arm around Issay’s hips, pulling him closer to push Issay deeper into his throat. Feeling Issay twitch and throb, Atsushi went all the way in, resisting his gag reflex as Issay came into his mouth. Issay gripped Atsushi’s hair in his hand, moaning and murmuring Atsushi’s name as he reluctantly gave in to Atsushi’s skillful handling.

Having drunk up Issay’s cum, Atsushi finally moved away from Issay’s crotch, tenderly placing kisses on his hips. Sighing softly, he rested his head on Issay and looked at up Issay. Meeting Atsushi’s eyes, Issay chuckled and brushed the back of his fingers against Atsushi’s cheek.

Atsushi smiled, gave Issay another peck on his hip, and started to stand. Grunting, Atsushi winced as felt his knees protesting when they straightened up.

Issay laughed and himself off from the shelf. “If it’s that taxing on your knees…”

“I think it's only because the floor is concrete,” Atsushi said. Turning back to the desk, he rearranged the condoms and lube. “I guess they weren’t needed after all.”

Atsushi heard Issay chuckle and shuffle over to hug him from behind. “So says you,” he whispered. Nibbling at Atsushi’s neck, Issay ran a hand over Atsushi’s body while the other went back to massaging Atsushi’s still-hard cock.

Humming, Atsushi leaned back into Issay. “What are you up to now?” he asked, his voice low, teasing.

“What do you think I’m up to?” Issay asked back, unzipping Atsushi’s pants.

Pants falling to the floor, Atsushi felt Issay’s hand shift to his bare ass and give him squeeze while his other hand continued fondling around at his groin. Atsushi turned his head, hoping to meet Issay’s lips but all he got was a smirk. Atsushi raised his brows, surprised but curious.

Issay’s hands left Atsushi’s body and reached for the condoms. Unwrapping one, Issay put it on Atsushi, unrolling it over his erection. Atsushi shuddered involuntarily, savouring the unusual sensation of having someone else’s hands do the work.

Casting a lustful look at Issay, Atsushi asked, “Is this what you want?”

Issay gave him a vague hum that said nothing. Watching Issay’s hands move for the lube, Atsushi was curious about where this was going but decided to let it be. There should be nothing to worry about anyway.

Squeezing lube into his palm, Issay coated Atsushi’s length with the cool substance and began stroking him, drawing a low moan out of Atsushi who tried to speak but was silenced as Issay gave him the kiss he was searching for earlier. Deep and slow, the kiss matched the pace of Issay’s languid strokes. With Issay’s arm around his waist, Atsushi pressed himself to Issay, yearning to be even closer to him. Atsushi was more accustomed to more intense sex but the leisurely tempo had its positives, allowing him to appreciate Issay’s touches and taste him more.

As a smile came to Atsushi’s lips, Issay stopped and drew back. Confused, Atsushi tried to turn around but instead felt a hand push against his back, persuading him to bend over. And so he did. Resting his forearms against the desk, Atsushi’s hair blocked his view from what Issay was doing. But based on what he was hearing, another condom was unwrapped and more lube was dispensed.

“Issay…?”

“You asked me what I’m up to.”

“Yes…?”

“Well…” Atsushi felt Issay lean over him and kiss his back. “I’ve been thinking of this,” he said as Atsushi felt a finger enter him.

Atsushi clenched his fists as Issay thrust his fingers. It wasn’t like he wasn’t already half expecting it when Issay had him bend over, but Issay seemed to have no intention of going as slow as he did before.

Kissing and nipping gently at Atsushi’s back, Issay continued his steady pace then added a finger, and another. As Atsushi whined softly, Issay could tell that Atsushi was controlling himself. Even his muscles were tenser than usual. Atsushi would normally be much louder, but Issay could empathise with his resisting. They weren’t exactly in a private setting after all.

Biting his lower lip, Atsushi tried to keep himself in check as he felt his insides quiver with pleasure from each thrust. As much as Atsushi wanted to let loose, he was sure that Issay’s earlier banging against the shelves was already heard. He really didn’t want anyone outside to heard more of what they were up to. And yet…

Atsushi leaned his weight on one shoulder, freeing one hand to move down and touch himself, but Issay intercepted him. Feeling Issay hover close to his ear, Atsushi heard Issay whisper, “Not yet.” whining, Atsushi pressed his forehead to the table with a soft thump as he arched his back, and urged Issay’s thrusting deeper.

Then, Atsushi felt Issay’s fingers exit completely. Hearing more lube get dispensed, Atsushi turned his head but his hair was still in the way. He felt Issay put a hand on his hips, and after a bit of prodding, Issay slid his erection into Atsushi.

Atsushi grunted and curled his shoulders in, tensing up as he fought to control himself. He heard Issay grunting as well with each thrust and felt Issay planting more kisses on his back. Issay then took Atsushi’s hand in his, bringing both their hands to Atsushi’s erection. Stroking himself together with Issay, Atsushi succumbed to the pleasure, moaning loudly.

Almost immediately, Atsushi felt Issay’s hand over his mouth and heard Issay shushing him gently. Maybe it was the embarrassment or fear of being found out, maybe it was something else. Whatever it was, Atsushi found himself far more aroused than usual, moaning and calling out for Issay behind his improvised gag.

As his passion reached its peak, Atsushi arched his back and banged his free hand on the table as he came, moaning for Issay. A split second later, Issay’s hand clenched Atsushi’s face harder for a moment, indicating that he came for the second time.

When Issay removed his hand from Atsushi’s mouth, Atsushi was breathing short shallow breaths as he continued mumbling for Issay. Pulling out of Atsushi, Issay took Atsushi into his arms and murmured sweet nothings into his ear, humming and shushing softly, doing his best to calm the younger man down.

Entwining his fingers with Issay’s, Atsushi finally looked at him as his head cleared. With Issay warm gaze on him, Atsushi leaned over for a kiss before resting against him and assessing their situation. Issay had taken the initiative to remove his condom but they were both seated on the floor, limbs tangled together, bare asses on the concrete. Atsushi laughed.

“I hope you have wet wipes somewhere in here,” Issay said softly, a smile in his voice.

Atsushi laughed again. “Somewhere, there,” he pointed lazily in a random direction. He wasn’t actually sure, but what did it matter. “I wasn’t planning to go all out,” Atsushi muttered, nuzzling Issay’s neck.

Issay huffed. “‘All out’, huh?” Turning his head, Issay put his cheek against Atsushi’s head. “Is this all you have?” he teased.

“Is that a challenge?” Atsushi asked.

Issay hummed, unwilling to give an answer.

Atsushi hmph-ed, and slapped Issay’s thigh before standing up. He heard Issay laugh lightly as he searched for the wet wipes.

“So…” Issay started, “what are we having for dinner?”

With a triumphant feeling in his heart, Atsushi walked back with wet wipes. Thank goodness he was right. Hearing Issay’s question, Atsushi replied, “Yakiniku.”

“Oh?”

“There’s a nice place,” Atsushi reassured, opening the wipes and handing Issay a couple of sheets.

“I trust your judgement,” Issay said. “Sure you can’t come home with me tonight?” he asked again, trying his luck.

Atsushi gave him a pout. “How many times do you want me to reject you?”

Issay laughed as he fastened his pants back on. Pulling Atsushi to him, he kissed him again. “God, you’re adorable.”

“I promise my whole night is yours’ after dinner,” Atsushi said.

“I guess my only option is to wait patiently then.”

Atsushi nodded, his expression apologetic. “Two more days,” he said.

Issay smiled. “Two more days.”

Chapter Text

“You’re going to the police headquarters?”

“Yes.”

“You’re going to the police headquarters to wait for Fujisaki?”

“Uh… yes.”

Imai turned to Hide and asked in exasperation,“Do you hear him?”

Hide shrugged. “Well… I mean…”

“Are you crazy?” Imai turned back to Atsushi, who sat unblinking on a bar stool in Hide’s establishment as he sipped on neat tequila.

Without looking at Imai, Atsushi raised his glass. “Liquid courage,” he muttered.

Imai turned to Hide again. “Tell him he’s crazy.”

“Mmh, well…” Hide grimaced as he rubbed his neck. “Sometimes… y’know, you do things…”

Imai stared at Hide, incredulous. “You agree with this?”

“Its… Well… It’s within the realm of things a person would be… willing to do when… Y’know?” Hide said slowly, choosing his words as he waved his hands around. “I mean, it’s not like he’s sending himself to the gallows-”

“It’s as good as risking that,” Imai interjected. “And! He hasn’t even told Fujisaki the whole truth.”

Atsushi glared at Imai.

“Oh, c’mon!” Yuta’s voice echoed out from the stairwell that led to the basement. Footsteps thumped on the steps and Yuta emerged from the stairs carrying multiple cases in his arms. “Just let them be. Atsushi’s probably not going to get to see him much after we move too.”

At that reminder, Atsushi’s expression turned glum again. He swallowed two mouthfuls of his drink and stared into the distance.

“Here you go,” Yuta said, placing the cases on a small round table. “D’you think we can fit these into the car?” he asked, looking at Imai.

“It’s going to be an uncomfortable ride, to say the least,” Imai grumbled. “Maybe we really should get a delivery truck.”

“That’ll be too conspicuous,” Toll said, coming up the stairs. “Just be glad we have a ship that can be parked at sea with whatever we can’t move now.” He, too, had cases in his hands but as he placed them on a separate table, he said, “I’ll be taking these to the ship.”

“Why not take all of it there?” Imai asked.

“I can’t really explain it but…” Toll paused, trying to put his thoughts to words. “Anyway, I just have a feeling that we’d need to be armed in the near future. Maybe keep those someplace where we can easily get to,” Toll suggested, gesturing to the cases that his younger brother brought up.

“Or you could just carry now?” Yuta suggested.

“I can’t,” Atsushi spoke up. “That’ll really get me thrown in a cell.”

“I’ll drop yours off at your apartment then?” Yuta offered.

Atsushi nodded. “Thanks.” Glancing at the bar’s wall clock, Atsushi pressed his lips into a thin line. “I guess I should make a move,” he muttered. Standing up, Atsushi swallowed the last of his tequila in one mouthful and rolled his shoulders.

“Stay safe, stay out of trouble,” Toll said reminded lightly, sounding casual. There was, however, an undertone of concern.

“I will,” Atsushi said firmly. “I’m with a cop, how bad can it get, right?” He tried to laugh but a nervous chuckle came out instead.

“Honestly though, you’d probably be given a wide berth as long as you’re not doing anything suspicious,” Yuta remarked, sorting out the cases.

Atsushi nodded. “Right… Right. I’m going.”

“Then go,” Imai taunted, smirking as Atsushi remained rooted to the spot.

Atsushi didn’t move for a moment. Suddenly, he turned around to the bar again. “I need another drink.”

Hide spun Atsushi back towards the direction of the door. “You’ll never have enough drinks at this rate. By the time you’re done you’ll be too drunk and it’ll be too late.”

“I don’t think I can do this,” Atsushi muttered, turning around again and sitting back down on the bar stool. “I shouldn’t have agreed to this.”

“Are you seriously letting your nerves eat you up now?” Imai asked.

“This is… different-”

“How’s it different from any other time you’ve met him?”

“Maybe I should cancel-”

“Sure. And add that to the list of things you’ll leave him disappointed in,” Imai provoked.

Atsushi snapped narrowed eyes to Imai, glaring. Pointing a finger at him, Atsushi stood up. “Watch me,” he said as he stalked to the exit and walked out, glowering at Imai the whole way.

Once he was left, Imai laughed, triumphant. “Well, that worked well.”

--

“Hey, Fujisaki,” Yoshida asked, gliding over on his swivel chair. “You’re joining us for karaoke later, right?”

“Ah… no,” Issay said apologetically. “I have… plans.”

“A date!?” Mori, a fellow colleague, chimed in as he peered over the divider that separated his desk from Issay’s.

“An appointment,” Issay corrected.

Mori gave him a knowing smirk. “Yeah, sure. An ‘appointment’.”

Issay threw his pen at Mori’s face. Unfortunately, Mori ducked.

Yoshida laughed.

“But it’s a real pity you’re not joining us,” Mori said, sticking half the pen over the divider to return it to Issay.

In one fluid motion, Issay swiped it into his hand, stood up, and threw it back, smacking Mori in the face.

“Ack!”

“Now that feels better,” Issay laughed.

“And here I was, about to compliment your singing and mourn your absence,” Mori muttered, rubbing his face.

Issay waved his hand dismissively. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, sitting back down. “Anyway, I’ll be sitting out of this round.”

“Well, can’t be helped. It’s rare that you’d even have any social activities aside from going out with us,” Mori said, shrugging as he handed Issay’s pen back to him again. As Issay reached over, Mori suddenly pulled back. “Don’t! Throw it at me again,’ he said. “Don’t deny it, I know that look in your eye.”

Issay smirked. “Fine, give it,” he said, beckoning with an open palm. As he took the pen from Mori, Issay swung his other hand up, aiming to smack the side of Mori’s head.

But he was blocked by Mori’s forearm. “Hey!” he exclaimed, grabbing both of Issay’s wrists. “Stop it!”

“Fine, fine,” Issay laughed, conceding. He tugged against Mori’s hold. “Alright, let me go. I need to head off now.”

“Eh, I’ll walk you out then. I need a smoke break,” Mori said, warily releasing Issay.

“Yoshida, coming along?” Issay asked.

“Nah, I need to finish up a few things before we leave later,” Yoshida said, gliding back to his desk. “See you tomorrow, Fujisaki.”

“Alright, see you.” Issay pat his pockets down, making sure that his things are there. Once sure, he then proceeded to make his way out of the building with Mori.

As they walked, Mori asked again, “Is it really not a date?”

Issay clicked his tongue. “Is this that important to you?”

“C’mon, you can tell me, I won’t tell anyone,” Mori pleaded.

“As if anyone’s gonna believe that, you gossip monger,” Issay scoffed, pushing open the glass door that separated them from the outside.

Mori laughed, gleeful. “So… where are you meeting your date?”

“Tsk, will you just drop it?” Issay said, growing annoyed as he scanned the streets for Atsushi. Spotting him smoking at the foot of the overhead bridge stairs with his hair tied up, Issay’s heart leapt.

“Oh, I see that look on your face,” Mori teased. “Who is it?” He craned his neck, trying to look in the same direction as Issay as he began to light his cigarette.

“What look?” Issay shot back, forcing himself to school his expression as he steered them in Atsushi’s direction.

Mori fell silent. “... You’re… that’s not…”

“What?” Issay asked, turning to Mori, who, for some reason, seemed to have suddenly clammed up at the sight of Atsushi.

As if feeling Mori’s stare on him, Atsushi looked over in their direction. Upon seeing Issay, he was about to smile but then he noticed Mori and his expression turned into a slightly annoyed frown.

“Fujisaki,” Mori addressed Issay, discreetly tugging his coat. “Fujisaki, tell me that’s not the person you’re meeting tonight.”

“So what if he is?” Issay frowned.

“Fujisaki, I don’t think you understand,” Mori said, swallowing nervously.

“Obviously, no, I don’t understand.”

“That man,” Mori said, his voice low. “That man is-”

“Issay?” Atsushi called out, walking over with his jacket draped over his shoulders. “Is he… joining us?”

“No!” Mori blurted, his voice too loud.

Issay jerked, startled, and stared at Mori. “The fuck is wrong with you?” he asked, taking out a cigarette of his own. Like clockwork, Atsushi already had a lighter in hand and lit it for Issay. After lighting his cigarette, Issay gave Atsushi a sideways smile, muttering “Thanks”.

Atsushi smiled back fondly.

“Fujisaki, I didn’t know you were the law-bending kind of man,” Mori mumbled, stunned.

“He is not that kind of man,” Atsushi growled, a warning in his voice.

Issay cast Atsushi a glance, slightly surprised. He has never heard that kind of a tone coming from Atsushi before. Pushing that thought aside, Issay folded an arm across his body and regarded Mori with curiosity, saying, “Y’know, I haven’t understood a single word that you’ve said since we came out here.”

“Nevermind,” Mori muttered, his voice small. “Ah, uh, my cigarette’s out. I’ll, uh, see you tomorrow, Fujisaki,” Mori said quickly, dropping his cigarette butt and stomping it out in a hurry. “Bye.” He waved and ran off.

Issay stared after him, utterly confused. “Bye, I guess?” Turning to Atsushi, he said, “I guess we can leave?”

Atsushi nodded. “This way,” he said softly, guiding Issay with a nudge at his elbow as he discarded his cigarette butt and turned left.

“I wonder what got into him,” Issay muttered to himself.

Atsushi shrugged. “Your friend looked very disturbed.”

“You seemed to know what he was talking about though,” Issay pointed out.

“I simply didn’t like what he was implying about you,” Atsushi said, a slight pout on his face. “Unless you’re saying that I’m wrong…?”

Issay laughed. “No no, you’re not wrong,” he said, putting an arm around Atsushi’s shoulders. “But he seemed to recognise you too.”

“Must’ve mistaken me for someone else,” Atsushi dismissed. “I’ve never seen him in my life.”

“Ah… That’s unlikely though,” Issay said.

“Huh?”

“I’ve never seen anyone else who look the slightest bit like you after all,” Issay mused.

“What do you mean?” Atsushi asked, perplexed.

“I’ve never seen anyone look so…” Issay let his words trail, taking in a breath through his cigarette.

“So…?”

Issay grinned at Atsushi. “So beautiful,” he whispered into Atsushi’s ear as he exhaled the smoke.

“Ah, please!” Atsushi wrested away from Issay, giving him a jab in the ribs. “Stop it!” His tone was harsh but Issay could see a smile on his face.

Laughing, Issay took a final puff from his cigarette and flicked it away before veering back to walk shoulder to shoulder with Atsushi in the growing evening crowd. Issay has often experienced attention when he was out on his own. But with Atsushi, they made a striking pair, attracting endless glances from passers-by.

Issay suddenly remembered why he didn’t like being out at peak hours. “You… know where you’re going right?” he asked. “I feel absolutely lost right now. The people aren’t helping.”

Atsushi nodded, a slight furrow of discomfort on his face. “A couple more crossings to go,” he replied.

“We should probably head out at a later timing next time,” Issay remarked, throwing stony glares back people who met his eyes.

“Already planning for a ‘next time’?” Atsushi asked, lips twitching upwards as he glanced at Issay.

Issay coughed. “Well… You… don’t want any more?” Issay asked him back.

“I’m not saying that,” Atsushi replied vaguely as he came to a stop at a cross junction.

The conversation faded and they walked on in silence, weaving through the other pedestrians while each kept the other in their sights. Despite Atsushi’s promise of two more crossings, their brisk walk took another twenty minutes before Atsushi finally steered Issay into the lift lobby of a nondescript building.

Walking into the air conditioned lobby, Issay sighed in bliss, finally getting relief from the summer heat. “That was far,” Issay muttered, raking his hair out of his face with a hand as he dabbed the perspiration off his face. “I would’ve never found this place on my own.”

Atsushi chuckled, his own face flushed. “At least we’re here now,” he said, jabbing the lift button with his elbow.

“Ice cold beers…” Issay mumbled wistfully, tilting his head up to catch the ventilator’s wind direction in his face. Feeling the cool air on his face, Issay broke into a smile. “Oh yes…”

“You never make that face for me,” Atsushi teased, chuckling.

“That’s a completely different thing that you’re comparing with,” Issay retorted, sliding his eyes over to Atsushi with a smirk.

The elevator arrived and Atsushi took Issay’s hand in his. “Let’s go,” he said, pulling Issay into the old elevator with him. Flashing a grin at Issay, Atsushi said, “Time for dinner.”

--

Issay expected this. He could not deny that he was half hoping for it too. He had Atsushi’s hands on his thighs and lips against his own. Atsushi’s tongue brushed past his lips to meet his tongue, stirring a familiar warmth in Issay. He put a hand on Atsushi’s waist and felt Atsushi move over his lap to straddle him, hips rocking in a slow grind. Issay groaned as Atsushi sucked on his lower lip before resuming their kiss. He felt the urge to go further but this did not feel like the right place for it.

As Atsushi promised, this eatery indeed provided privacy, with the private rooms and serving everything all at once to make sure that no one bothered after that. That might be why Atsushi was as comfortable as he was with being in Issay’s lap like this. As reassuring as that was, Issay still could not let his guard down enough.

“Atsushi,” Issay whispered, breaking away reluctantly. “Atsushi, not here.”

“Mh?” Atsushi looked at him through half-open eyes.

“I’m not really… at ease here,” Issay said. “I can’t…”

“We have a room to ourselves, no one will barge in,” Atsushi said, pressing himself to Issay.

“Mm, I know but… It’s not the same as…”

Atsushi sighed and got off Issay. “You didn’t seem to have that much qualms about privacy at the hospital,” he mumbled, lighting a cigarette for himself.

“That… There were… other reasons,” Issay mumbled, recalling his time bound up in that chair.

Atsushi, for some reason, did not ask more. He turned silent, as if withdrawing into his own world.

“Atsushi? I hope this isn’t giving you the idea that I don’t…” Issay couldn’t finish his sentence. Reaching over, he put a hand over Atsushi’s. His touch snapped Atsushi out of his thoughts.

“Hm?” Atsushi looked up to find Issay looking troubled. “Ah, no. No, I… There’s something I need to tell you,” he mumbled. “But, later,” Atsushi added quickly, pushing the subject away.

Issay’s eyes searched Atsushi’s face, looking for hints of what it could be about but all he found was sorrow. He felt a ball of worry coil up in his stomach. He was not looking forward to whenever ‘later’ was.

The atmosphere in the room grew tense as both men wrangled with their own internal turmoils. As Issay stared blankly at the grill that has long turned cold, he still held Atsushi’s hand in his, absentmindedly caressing the back of Atsushi’s hand with his thumb.

“We should go somewhere else,” Atsushi muttered, exhaling smoke as he sighed, probably upset at the mood they’ve ended up in.

“Where do you want to go?” Issay asked, looking over.

Atsushi chewed the inside of his lower lip, thinking. “Mm… I don’t know, maybe wander around for a bit. See what we find.”

Issay shrugged. “Sure, still a little too early to head home anyway.”

Stubbing his cigarette out, Atsushi then adjusted his hand, entwining his fingers with Issay’s. “Let’s go then.”

“Shouldn’t we settle the bill first?” Issay asked.

“I cleared that earlier,” Atsushi said simply.

“Atsushi!”

“What?”

“What did I say?!”

“… Nothing?” Atsushi blinked at Issay innocently.

Issay clicked his tongue, annoyed.

“Next time,” Atsushi smiled. “I’ll let you settle it next time.”

Issay narrowed his eyes at him, resisting the urge to mirror Atsushi’s infectious smile. “I’m deciding on the place next time, you hear me?” he said through gritted teeth.

“Whatever you say,” Atsushi replied, leaning in and giving Issay a peck. Straightening up, he pulled Issay’s hand towards him again. “Come on, let’s go.”

Letting Atsushi leading him out of the room, Issay muttered, “Damn you.”

Atsushi laughed lightly. With Issay in tow, they left the eatery together, stepping into the warm air of the summer night.

The street took on a different personality under the dark sky. It seems to have come to life, with all the signboards and street lamps lit up and the office workers released from the confines of their day jobs. Looking around, Issay could not even tell which direction they originally came from.

As if noticing Issay’s confusion, Atsushi chuckled and asked, “I guess I’ll lead?”

“Please do,” Issay said gratefully. “I don’t think I can even get home without you from here.”

“You could always call a cab,” Atsushi suggested, starting to walk in a seemingly random direction.

“I’m not inclined to…” Issay muttered as he followed Atsushi.

With a soft chuckle, Atsushi turned around and faced Issay as he walked backwards. “So what are we looking for?” he asked. “Where shall we go?”

“Don’t walk like that. You’ll hit someone,” Issay chided, taking Atsushi into his arm by the shoulder. He felt Atsushi nuzzle against him for a moment before pulling away. Lips twitching into a smile, Issay hummed as he thought about Atsushi’s question. Issay finally answered, “Maybe somewhere to drink a little more at before heading back.”

Atsushi hummed in agreement. Beer wasn’t enough to get drunk over after all. And so they wandered, shoulder to shoulder, led by Atsushi, as they looked for somewhere to go into.

Wandering into more and more unfamiliar territory, Issay heard a low rumble from afar. He looked up. “You don’t suppose-”

Rain poured down ferociously without warning. Feeling the cold fat drops seeping through his jacket and shirt, Issay involuntarily yelped and dragged Atsushi into the nearest shelter, a convenience store, in a sprint. Needless to say, they weren’t the only ones hiding from the rain there. The small store was already almost full when they made it in.

The cold air conditioning in the store chilled Issay’s body instantly. “I d-don’t recall the weather report saying anything about rain,” Issay muttered, teeth chattering slightly as he shivered.

“I don’t think we should stay here,” Atsushi breathed, similarly trying to force his body to stop shaking. “The air conditioning isn’t helping.”

Issay nodded. The violent temperature changes would get them sick. But… “Umbrellas are sold out though,” Issay noted. “And we’re quite a distance from the nearest station, aren’t we?”

Atsushi’s jaw tensed for a moment, gritting his teeth to stop the chattering as he thought. He nodded shakily. “My… The apartment is nearby. We can use our jackets to get there then dry off while waiting for this rain to stop,” Atsushi swallowed, not looking at Issay. He wasn’t sure if its a good idea but…

“You don’t look very comfortable with that,” Issay observed. “We can think of other-”

“No, it’s fine,” Atsushi cut in, making eye contact with Issay. “It’s fine… I think. We should go.”

“Sure?”

Atsushi nodded firmly and began to remove his jacket. Issay followed suit, taking it off and draping it over his head as they squeezed to the store’s exit. Atsushi looked back at him. “Ready?” Issay nodded back and they dashed out into the storm.

Keeping his eyes trained on Atsushi, Issay ran after him with a mild worry that he might lose sight of Atsushi in the blur of the rain. Atsushi turned a corner and another. With Atsushi out of sight, a slight panic welled up but Issay traced his path successfully, finding Atsushi in his line of sight again. Issay could see Atsushi turning once a while, keeping an eye on him as he led. Issay smiled wryly despite himself. At least he wasn’t the only on worried about him getting lost.

Atsushi made another turn. This time, he was nowhere to be found when Issay turned after him. Issay stopped, standing frozen in the rain as anxiety welled up. Where was he? Where was Atsushi?

Issay spun around and pulled his jacket off, widening his field of view. Feeling the full force of the storm hit him, he was drenched in the seconds that he took to catch sight of Atsushi running back to him.

Throwing his own jacket over Issay, Atsushi chided, “Don’t just stand there.” Before Issay could protest, Atsushi put an arm around him and led him off, bringing him a little further up front before turning into a well lit building.

Standing at the entrance, Issay let the excess water run off him first as he undid the front of his shirt. He didn’t want to leave puddles of water everywhere. Especially in a place with granite floors and marble walls.

“You live here?” Issay asked, looking around.

“Uh… for now,” Atsushi muttered, wringing his jacket out.

“For now?” Issay stared at Atsushi, curious.

“I’ll explain that later,” Atsushi replied, pushing the topic away.

“Huh.” Again with that ‘later’. Issay began twisting his jacket as well. “This place makes my apartment look like an embarrassment,” he commented, laughing as he took in the grand entrance again.

“At least you own it,” Atsushi said. “It’s more homey there too.”

“You’re just saying that.”

“No, I- You’ll get what I mean when you see it,” Atsushi insisted. Taking Issay by the hand, he led him into the lift lobby and they took the elevator up.

In the confined privacy of the lift, Atsushi playfully slid a hand under Issay’s open shirt, tracing lines along his skin.

Issay smirked. Pulling Atsushi towards him, he whispered, “Can’t wait?”

“You’ve already stopped me once,” Atsushi said, a grin spreading on his face. He pulled back, drawing Issay to him.

Issay followed the momentum and slammed himself into Atsushi, initiating a kiss. Fingers running through drenched locks of hair, they entangled themselves in each other, ignoring the uncomfortable wetness of their clothes that stuck to their rapidly warming skin.

They arrived at their floor. Atsushi pulled Issay out of the space with him and into the empty corridor. Leaning against the wall, he let Issay pin his wrists down as he raised a knee to nudge against Atsushi’s crotch.

Gasping, Atsushi opened his eyes a crack. A familiar face caught the corner of his eye. Yuta.

Atsushi widened his eyes in alarm. He forgot that Yuta was dropping the case off at his apartment tonight. As if noticing something off, Issay broke off the kiss and started to look around but Atsushi hastily tilted his head back, stretching his neck. With a hand, he pushed Issay to his bared neck, urging him to use his mouth.

Moaning softly into Issay’s ear, Atsushi waved at Yuta to get into the still-open elevator. And he did, quickly dashing in. But he smashed his palm on the buttons a little too loudly.

Issay looked up. Atsushi took Issay’s face in his hand, directing his line of sight away from the elevator. “We should probably continue in the apartment,” he suggested.

“I thought I heard someone…” Issay tried to turn as the elevator doors closed.

“Hm?” Atsushi kept his eyes on Issay, giving him an innocent, confused expression through half-lidded eyes. “What are you thinking of?” he giggled, as if high on their passion.

“I guess I’m imagining things,” Issay muttered.

Atsushi giggled again, secretly heaving a sigh of relief. “Come,” he said, leading Issay to his apartment. Now all he had left to worry about was if Yuta kept the case properly. If it was unpacked and Issay saw the gun, it’s over.

Unlocking the door, they stepped into the apartment. Atsushi flipped the door latch, not bothering to lock it for now, and kicked off his shoes. Falling into each other in an undignified heap in the darkness, Atsushi kept Issay under him as he pushed the wet fabric of Issay’s shirt away to reach his warm damp skin.

Issay threw his jacket to the side and began to work Atsushi’s drenched clothes away as well, flinging the younger man’s jacket away, fingers deftly undoing his shirt buttons. Atsushi dragged his toes along Issay’s shin, caressing him as he brought his knee up to press into Issay’s thighs again.

Issay hummed from the pleasure, relishing the heat that was building between them. Then, he heard a thump from a corner of the house. He froze, startled. “What was that?”

“Mmh, ignore that,” Atsushi mumbled, brushing his lips over Issay’s skin as his hands wandered.

Feeling Atsushi bite down on his collarbone, Issay gasped, fingers digging into Atsushi’s back. He was careful to keep his nails out of the way this time. Issay wrapped his arms around Atsushi, holding him to his body as he began nibbling on Atsushi’s ear.

Issay heard something clatter to the floor, snapping him out of his lust again. “Atsushi, I swear-”

“Ignore that,” came the reply, urging. Atsushi nipped at Issay’s neck. “Focus on me,” he whispered.

“But-!” Atsushi’s knee pressed into Issay’s crotch, cutting his words off. Issay groaned softly, curling his leg around Atsushi’s as his hips rolled against Atsushi’s knee, grinding.

Something brushed against Issay’s other leg. He jerked away, exclaiming, “What the fuck!”

Atsushi stopped and clicked his tongue annoyed. He got up and rested on his knees, huffing. Issay heard a soft ‘mrrp’ and could see Atsushi pick something up in the darkness. He heard another sigh as Atsushi got up and turned on the lights.

A calico cat was bundled up in Atsushi’s arm, rubbing its face contentedly against Atsushi. Atsushi looked annoyed though. Cradling the cat in his arms, he chastised it. “You! Why do you have to do this when I’m occupied? Huh? When I’m free, all you do is ignore me.”

“Mep.”

“What’s that? What’s that supposed to mean?” Atsushi held the cat at arm’s length. “What’s wrong with you, huh?”

“Mrow.” The cat flicked its tail.

“I think it’s the food,” Issay muttered, noticing an empty bowl.

“But I fed you this morning,” Atsushi complained, dropping the cat and retrieving a can from a nearby shelf. With its tail straight up, the cat ran between Atsushi’s legs, rubbing its body against him. When he finally dumped the can’s contents in the food bowl, the cat’s attention was immediately diverted and Atsushi was ignored.

“You never mentioned having a cat,” Issay commented, getting up from the floor.

“The topic never came up,” Atsushi said. He came back to Issay. “Sorry about that,” he said softly, hands caressing the sides of Issay’s face.

But Issay’s attention was not on him. His eyes were trained on something behind Atsushi. Perplexed Atsushi turned. He felt his heart stop. He turned back sharply. “Issay, I-”

“You’re leaving,” Issay mumbled, heartbroken as he stared at the sealed boxes and open suitcases. “Where are you going?” he asked, his voice cracking, barely a whisper.

“That’s what I was going to tell you…”

Issay looked at him. Despite his lack of expression, there was nothing but pain in his eyes. He took a shuddering breath and looked away. “I need to sit down,” he mumbled, grabbing hold of a chair from the dining table to sit on.

“I… I couldn’t bring myself to tell you…” Atsushi mumbled. He was met with silence but he couldn’t bring himself to look at Issay. He should’ve have never let things progress this far.

Atsushi heard a laugh. Then another. He turned to Issay, who looked at him with large eyes, hopeful yet hopeless at the same time. “Tell me you’re joking,” he said. “Tell me it’s a joke. Say that you’re moving in with me instead. Please. Please?”

“I…” Atsushi didn’t know what to say. Issay’s desperate pleas crushed his heart, made it hard to breathe. Impulsively, he dove forward into Issay, wrapping his arms around Issay and crashing his lips into the older man’s.

“My love. Oh, my love,” Issay moaned into Atsushi, returning Atsushi’s fervent affections. “Why do you do this to me?”

“I’m sorry. Issay, I’m so sorry,” Atsushi breathed, clutching Issay tightly, afraid that Issay would be the one leaving him after this. “If I had a choice-”

“Then stay,” Issay urged. “Stay with me. Don’t go.”

“I can’t,” Atsushi muttered. “But I’ll come back! As soon as I can!”

“When?”

“I… don’t know…”

“When are you leaving?”

“Next… week… latest,” Atsushi said, hair falling over his face as he sank down to the floor, knowing that Issay would be devastated.

A tear landed on the ground in front of Atsushi, staining it dark. Atsushi heard Issay whisper, “Just kill me, why don’t you.” Atsushi looked up, afraid, but instead found Issay smiling sadly at him, eyes glistening. “What have you done to me?” Issay muttered, brushing Atsushi’s hair away and cupping his face with a hand. “Making me say these things…”

“Issay, I-”

“I’m not the only one upset by this, surely,” Issay mumbled, fingers playing with Atsushi’s hair as he looked into his eyes in silence. Atsushi found himself transfixed, frozen in place under Issay’s judgement. Without saying another word, Issay suddenly sighed and stood up, running a hand through his hair as he turned away.

Gathering his thoughts, Issay cast a nonchalant glance across the apartment, taking in the posh, but unfeeling interior. He supposed this was what Atsushi meant by Issay’s apartment being more ‘homey’.

As Atsushi sat on the floor in silence, Issay took a few steps around, surveying the place. He noticed that the cat has disappeared, its food, gone. He also noticed something else that probably shouldn’t exist in a single bachelor’s home.

Picking it up, Issay’s eyes slid to the younger man. “Atsushi?” he called in a clipped tone. Atsushi’s head jerked up to look at him, long hair covering half his face. “Is there something else you’re not telling me about?”

Seeing panic emerge on Atsushi’s face, Issay felt his heart sink even lower than he thought possible. But as Atsushi’s eyes darted to the black stiletto dangling from Issay’s fingers, he started blushing furiously instead. Issay raised a brow. That’s not the reaction he was expecting if Atsushi was hiding a woman from him.

“That’s… not…” Atsushi struggled to speak. “It’s not what you think…” Atsushi got up from the floor and briskly strode over to Issay, reaching for the stiletto.

“Oh?” Issay moved it out of Atsushi’s reach. “So what is it?”

Atsushi stared at Issay and reached for the stiletto again. “Please give it to me,” he mumbled.

“It’s in your size, isn’t it?” Issay smirked.

Atsushi’s blush intensified. “Please,” he breathed, leaning against Issay as he stretched further.

“Do you want to put me in a better mood?” Issay asked.

Atsushi stopped moving. “What are you getting at?”

“Do you love me?”

“Yes. Why?”

“Then wear these for me.”

Atsushi stepped back. His eyes darted between Issay and the stiletto. He thought for awhile, then said, “I need a shower.”

“Is that a no?”

“Af...ter the shower,” Atsushi corrected, sounding hesitant. “But you’ll shower after me,” he added. “And maybe… before that…” Atsushi took Issay by the hand, leading him into a sparsely furnished room that only had a messy futon on the floor and cabinets that ran along one wall. Is this where Atsushi slept?

Atsushi opened and closed one of the cabinet doors. Standing in front of it, he seemed to contemplate something before he looked back at Issay. Placing a hand on that particular door, he said, “Pick one. I’ll be right back.” Atsushi walked out hastily, a fresh blush rising to his cheeks.

With raised brows, Issay watch him leave. Once alone, he made his way to the cabinet and opened it. Issay smiled.

When Issay made his pick and stepped out of the room, Atsushi was already coming back, his hair dry, his skin clean, a towel around his waist. Issay smiled at Atsushi who stared back warily. As Atsushi headed into the room, Issay tried to follow but Atsushi stopped him.

“Shower first,” Atsushi said.

“Hm, I need a towel then,” Issay said, smiling as his eyes darted to Atsushi’s towel and back.

Atsushi looked down at his towel, then looked back up at Issay. With a slight pout, Atsushi narrowed his eyes at Issay. Pulling his towel off, Atsushi threw it in Issay’s face and went into the room, closing the door behind him. Issay laughed as he slowly removed the towel.

“Don’t use the bath! It’s for later!” Atsushi yelled from inside the room. Issay yelled back his acknowledgement, still laughing to himself as he walked off to the bathroom.

The shower felt good, warm water washing off traces of rain and grime. Although as he cleaned, Issay couldn’t help but wonder about what he was supposed to do without Atsushi around. As much as it pained him, it seemed like there wasn’t much else of a choice. That is, unless one of them quit their jobs.

Done with his shower, Issay tucked the agony away for a later time and left the bathroom with the towel around his waist. Issay found himself buzzing with anticipation as he approached Atsushi’s room. Would Atsushi really accede to is request?

Issay opened the door… and a smile broke out on his face. “Atsushi…”

“What?” Atsushi asked, petulantly glaring at Issay as he picked at the lace top of the translucent thigh high stockings that Issay picked out. “Fancy you switching the heels out for these…”

Issay leaned against the doorway, grinning as he took in the sight before him. “You’re perfect,” he said breathlessly, feeling a stirring in his nether regions.

Atsushi caught sight of Issay’s eyes following his fingers as they trailed along the garterbelt on his upper thighs, leading to the black satin briefs on his hips. Realising all of Issay’s attention was on his movements, Atsushi shifted, leaning back and moving his knees apart, putting his body on display for Issay.

As Issay’s satisfied smile grew hungry, Atsushi smirked, knowing that he now has Issay enraptured. Atsushi ran his fingers over his bulge, palming himself for a moment before dragging his fingers over his abdomen, up to his chest to tease his nipple, and then putting his fingers on his lips.

Making eye contact with Issay, now watching him with a ferocious intensity, Atsushi stuck his finger into his mouth, sucking on it. Drawing his finger out, Atsushi smirked, pointed it at Issay, and beckoned him.

Issay descended on Atsushi without hesitation, finding his space between Atsushi’s knees. Rubbing the bare skin of Atsushi’s thighs, Issay brought his lips to Atsushi’s knee. Giving him a kiss, Issay asked, “May I tear them?”

“Do what you want.”

Issay smiled at him and drew back. Bringing one of Atsushi’s ankles to his lips, Issay began nipping, breaking the thin fabric and kissing Atsushi’s bare skin between playful bites as he made his way up Atsushi’s legs.

Atsushi lay down on the futon, pressing his back to the floor as he touched himself, teasing his body as he felt Issay’s affections alternating between direct and indirect contact. Issay’s roughed grabs and harder bites came when Atsushi started to brush against Issay’s crotch, under his towel, with his legs as often as possible. Issay growled at Atsushi’s distractions while the younger man smirked and giggled.

Wresting control over the situation back from Atsushi, Issay adjusted his position and removed Atsushi’s hand, bringing his face to Atsushi’s crotch. Atsushi looked down at him, expectant. Rubbing his hands on Atsushi’s legs, Issay licked the Atsushi’s inner thigh, close to his erection, and bit lightly, sucking hard to leave a mark. As predicted, Atsushi shuddered and moaned, instinctively spreading wider, inviting.

Issay’s lips widened into a toothy smirk. Sitting up, he put a hand on Atsushi’s hard cock, massaging him through the black satin. Atsushi gasped, bucking his hips and pushing his crotch into Issay’s palm. Feeling Issay’s fingers slip under the briefs to tease his erection, Atsushi moaned, urging Issay to touch him with more than just a few fingers.

Leaning back down Issay looked at Atsushi as he pulled Atsushi’s briefs away with one hand, and sucked along the length of Atsushi’s hardened penis with his lips. Without using his hands, Issay maneuvered his head around and took Atsushi in his mouth, applying pressure by dragging his tongue around Atsushi.

Slowly bobbing his head up and down, Issay clawed at Atsushi’s legs with his fingertips, weaving under the stockings and tugging intermittently. Atsushi scratched the futon under him, turning his head to one side as he moaned for more again. But Issay drew away, making Atsushi whimper.

“Issay…”

“Yes?” Issay lifted Atsushi’s hips higher. Atsushi could feel Issay’s fingers wandering around. Fingertips brushed his anus, making Atsushi jerk his hips and gasp. He saw Issay grin.

The next time Atsushi tried to call for Issay, he could only manage a long moan as Issay’s tongue lapped at his anus. Atsushi felt his mind go blank for a moment, his vision blacking out as Issay stroked his erection while rimming. Where the hell did Issay pick that up from?

Atsushi moaned for Issay, gripping the fabric under him between his fingers as he arched his back from the pleasure. His mind overwhelmed, all he felt was a wave of pleasure sweeping through his body as he came into Issay’s hand. Breathing heavily, the tension slowly released Atsushi from its tight grasp and his body went limp, slowly slumping to the ground as Issay gently released him. Atsushi could feel a sheen of sweat body, making the fabric of the futon stick to his skin.

As Atsushi lay still, unmoving, he heard a rustle of fabric followed by a wet sopping sound. Atsushi turned slowly, hands reaching for Issay. Finding Issay’s hand, their fingers interlocked and Issay held Atsushi’s hand to his lips.

“Bear with me,” Issay whispered.

Atsushi felt fingers teasing at his entrance. Closing his eyes, he spread his legs wider, gasping softly as he felt Issay push in. Atsushi felt Issay’s presence close in on him, his warmth against his chilled skin as his lips brushed against Atsushi’s.

Issay slid another finger in, teasing Atsushi wider. Atsushi gasped again, his knees jerking towards each other but clamping hard against Issay instead, making him grunt. Atsushi’s eyes cracked open, meeting Issay’s tender smile as he hovered over Atsushi.

A third finger went in. Atsushi grunted, feeling the ache of the stretch before the pleasure hit him, sending another shudder through his body. Closing his eyes again, Atsushi relished the waves of pleasure with each thrust as he listened to Issay’s soft breathing and rain pelting against his windows.

Issay then withdrew his fingers. Planting kisses along Atsushi’s neck, Issay whispered, repeating, “Bear with me.”

Atsushi tilted his head back, giving Issay even more access to his neck as he moaned softly to Issay entering him raw. Issay, too, groaned, feeling Atsushi close in and wrap around his erection. Leaning forward again, Issay thrust slowly, savouring every sensation with Atsushi, placing unhurried kisses all over the younger man’s body.

Atsushi whined, unused to the slow pace yet enjoying the way Issay loved his body. Feeling Issay’s hands slowly caressing every shape and curve of his body, Atsushi hugged Issay tightly, longing for even more contact, moaning softly as Issay’s trail of kisses reached his neck.

With each thrust, Atsushi yearned for more, for Issay to go deeper in him. Atsushi wrapped his legs around Issay, urging him as he rocked his hips with Issay.

“Mmh, my love…” Issay murmured into Atsushi’s ear before sucking on his earlobe.

Atsushi could only moan in response, partly from Issay’s words, partly from Issay’s lips, and partly from the slow-burn pleasure. But he needed more. His desire kept growing, threatening to turn into a dissatisfied frustration.

“Issay… Issay, fuck me harder,” Atsushi urged. “I need more…”

Issay huffed against his skin, chuckling. “Apologies,” he whispered. Atsushi felt Issay smile as he pressed his lips to his shoulder and tightened his embrace.

Grunting, Issay rammed himself into Atsushi, thrusting furiously and pushing in deep, his hip bones pressing into the back of Atsushi’s thighs. Atsushi arched his back, his moans echoing in the confines of the room as his mind went blank again. His insides trembled and pleasure washed over him with each heavy thrust by Issay.

Atsushi felt like he was melting in Issay’s arms as he screamed for Issay, his eyes growing hazy, unfocused, as he clung tightly to Issay and felt his body climax. He heard Issay’s professions of love for him, moaning and grunting as he came in Atsushi.

Coming down from their high, they lay next to each other, basking in their moment of bliss, their hands never leaving the other’s body. With the prospect of separation hanging over their heads, every moment, every look, every touch felt that much more precious. In his mind, Issay wondered if this was the reason for every wistful look of longing Atsushi has ever given him, if Atsushi had always known that this day would come.

Outside, thunder rolled. It didn’t seem like the rain was going to stop anytime soon, but that didn’t bother them. As long as they had an excuse to stay together.

Chapter Text

Atsushi came to Issay’s apartment a few more times, sometimes appearing in the middle of the night just to fall asleep in his arms. If it were possible, they would’ve spent every waking moment together, but they had their obligations, the very same that seemed to be drawing them apart.

When Atsushi turned up last night, announcing that he would be departing the next day, Issay found sleep eluding him. He spent the whole night watching a worn out Atsushi rest in his arms, taking in every detail of Atsushi’s face with his eyes and his body with his hands. Issay thought that he didn’t sleep but he opened his eyes to daylight and Atsushi on his lips.

They spent a wordless morning together. Neither could bring themselves to say anything, simply communicating with gentle touches that lingered and quiet looks that lasted too long. It felt like the calm before the storm.

Issay decided that just this once, he didn’t give a shit what the neighbours would say. When it was time to leave, he took Atsushi by the hand and left the apartment with him, holding Atsushi in his arms the whole time like a band aid to his bleeding heart. Atsushi reciprocated, burying his face in the crook of Issay’s neck, breathing in deeply as they felt the elevator descend.

“Don’t go.” Issay’s voice croaked softly, his fingers buried in Atsushi’s hair, stroking gently.

Atsushi remained silent, only tightening his embrace around Issay and nuzzling his shoulder with a sigh.

The elevator slowed to a stop. Issay held Atsushi closer to him, silently protesting the impending end. Atsushi looked up at him. His eyes were sad but Issay could see the finality in them, no matter how reluctant.

They kissed. The other passengers in the lift averted their eyes as they streamed out, leaving the two men in their own small world. They lingered, taking their time despite the lack of it. They moved slowly, carefully tasting each other for what could be the last time.  The elevator doors closed. The ventilation shut off. They broke apart, unwilling, and made their way out of the elevator.

Issay’s hand was a vice grip on Atsushi’s. “Don’t go,” he repeated despite knowing the futility of his pleas.

“I’ll update you,” Atsushi said softly, ignoring Issay’s words.

A black car with tinted windows waited patiently to take Atsushi away. Issay let him go, his fingers slowly uncurling, fighting the urge to pull the younger man back into his arms. But this time, it was instead Atsushi who held on, regarding Issay silently with furrowed brows and a tense jaw.

“Don’t make that face,” Issay said softly, gently brushing his fingers along Atsushi’s jaw.

“You’re the one with that damned look,” Atsushi muttered, looking a way with a pout.

“Here, look.” Issay held Atsushi’s chin in his fingers. “Here, I’m smiling, aren’t I?” He grinned as Atsushi looked up at him.

“Stop it,” Atsushi pushed his hand into Issay’s face. “Don’t force it.”

“I’m serious,” Issay muttered softly, catching Atsushi’s hand and bringing his fingers to his lips. “It’ll be fine,” Issay assured, giving Atsushi a small smile. “Now go,” he said, removing Atsushi’s hand from his lips with a kiss. “Don’t keep them waiting.”

Out of nowhere, Atsushi threw his arms around Issay, pulling him into a brief, but tender kiss. Pulling away, Atsushi ran. He ran to the car without looking back, leaving Issay standing alone in the entryway.

--

“I can’t find it,” Atsushi muttered, his level tone betrayed by his frantic movements as he pat his clothes down, turning every pocket inside out.

“Can’t find what?” Imai asked, adjusting his passenger seat in the front of the car.

“Issay’s key,” Atsushi replied. “Shit, where is it…”

“Weren’t you just at his place though?” Imai asked, raising a brow.

“I didn’t need the key. We met at the ground floor.”

“Where did you last see it?”

“At…” Atsushi paused. He stared at Imai, wide-eyed with realisation.

“Please don’t say the office.”

“... The office…” Atsushi leaned back against the seat with a thump. “What have I done…” he muttered, slapping a hand on his forehead. Darting forward, he asked, “Is there time to go back?”

“If you haven’t noticed,” Imai gestured around them, “we are, right now, stuck. In a fucking jam. In the middle of the highway.”

“The raid is in two hours, isn’t it?” Atsushi muttered, his brain doing the math.

“Atsushi… No.”

“I can’t implicate him in anything,” Atsushi shot back. He stared out the window, at the road going in the opposite direction.

“I know what you’re thinking of,” Imai warned. “No.”

“Pick me up at the back door,” Atsushi said, reaching for the door. “I’ll head over first. Don’t worry, I’m armed,” he muttered.

“Atsushi, you fuck!” Imai yelled after him as he quickly and dashed out, weaving between the stationary cars and hopping over the centre divider.

In the car, Imai groaned and repeatedly hit the back of his head against the seat headrest.

Junya, the driver, stared blankly at the car in front of them. “Uh… So… Do we…?”

Imai sighed. “Find a way to go back around. We can’t leave him behind anyway.”

--

It took him an hour, but Atsushi finally made it back to the office building. Stepping out of the taxi he managed to hail halfway through his brisk trek, Atsushi has finally calmed down. Law enforcement has started gathering at the front of the building, inconspicuous to the general public, but the way they behaved made it painfully obvious to Atsushi. It looks like he has to take the back door.

Going around, Atsushi found the entrance with ease and ran up the stairs, taking two steps with each stride. Even if he was ahead of their schedule, he didn’t want to risk it by cutting too close.

Arriving on the seventh floor, Atsushi barged out of the stairwell and into the office, where their newly-hired temporary staff were bustling around. They stared at Atsushi when he stormed in, flushed and dripping in perspiration. He wasn’t supposed to be here after all.

Ignoring them, Atsushi went straight into his office and the moment he opened his door, there it was. The key sat on his desk, reflecting the fluorescent light off its smooth bow. Relieved that he didn’t need to do much searching, Atsushi huffed and swiped it off the desk, holding it in his fist. He then turned on his heel and left the way he did, through the stairwell. Hopefully Imai and Junya would arrive soon.

Atsushi reached the landing on the first floor and swung the backdoor open. Stepping out he crashed straight into another person in his haste. Atsushi felt hands grab his shoulders from behind and he panicked, swinging an elbow towards the other person.

“Wait!”

Atsushi froze, recognising the voice. Stiffly, he turned, making eye contact.

Issay stared at him, wide-eyed in shock. “What are you doing here?”

Atsushi felt his heart stop. This was bad. Swallowing, he returned the question, “What are you doing here?”

“There’s a raid,” Issay replied. “I was told to wait in the back.” He tapped on the hood of a black sedan. It looks like he had just arrived. That car certainly wasn’t there earlier when Atsushi came. “I thought you left hours ago,” Issay muttered softly.

“I realised I left something behind,” Atsushi said, uncurling the fist that held Issay’s apartment key.

Issay’s eyes softened at the sight of it. “Atsushi, you didn’t have to come back for this. I could’ve just made you a new one.”

Closing his fist, Atsushi shook his head, a small smile on his face. “I’ll save you the trouble.”

Distorted noise from Issay’s walkie-talkie caught their attention as a muffled voice came through. Atsushi never understood how anyone could make anything out from that, but Issay seemed to have understood something, his expression turning serious.

“Duty calls,” Issay muttered reluctantly. “You shouldn’t stay here either,” he said, turning to Atsushi. “Surprise me again in a few hours?”

“Afraid not,” Atsushi replied, smiling sadly. Issay’s walkie-talkie sputtered to life again. “Go,” Atsushi urged. “I’ll be fine.”

Leaning in, Issay stole a quick kiss from Atsushi, and gave him a hug before hurrying off. Atsushi stood motionless next to the car, staring after him as Issay made his way to the other end of the alley.

Before Issay could turn out to the main road though, a man caught him in his arms. Issay began to struggle and Atsushi whipped his gun out, aiming it straight ahead, intending to shoot, but he hesitated. The man held his own gun to Issay’s head. Atsushi kept his gun up, looking for an opportunity as the man nudged Issay forward, approaching Atsushi together.

Issay’s eyes widened at Atsushi’s gun as they neared, but he quickly masked his surprise, defaulting to a grim expression as he stared questions at Atsushi and racked his brains for a way out. If they got out of this unscathed, Atsushi would have a lot of explaining to do.

The man smirked and laughed as he stopped a distance away, standing right behind Issay. “Ah, Tiger, so nice to finally meet you face to face.”

Atsushi recognised that voice. “Kissaki, was it?” he hissed.

“I’m honoured! You remember me!” he exclaimed gleefully. “But that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, should it? Considering how your men have been after me these few weeks.”

Reminded of their failures, Atsushi narrowed his eyes and glared. “Quite the escape artist you are.”

“Oh, you flatter me!” Kissaki grinned. Out of the corner of his eyes, he noticed Issay’s subtle movements. Kissaki pressed the muzzle his gun to the back of Issay’s head again. “Nu-uh, don’t even think of it.”

“Let him go,” Atsushi growled.

Kissaki burst out laughing. “Or what? You’ll shoot me?” he mocked. “It’s more likely you’ll shoot your precious lover here from this distance, isn’t it?”

Atsushi gritted his teeth, his jaw tensing. Kissaki was right. “What do you want?”

Kissaki looked at his watch. “I guess I do have a little time to explain,” he said. “For starters, this could’ve been settled long ago but my local counterpart wanted the glory of putting you local gangsters in jail.”

Issay frowned as his eyes darted to the side. Local counterpart?

“If things were done my way though…” Kissaki left his sentence hanging, looking to the sky as if deep in thought. “I would’ve preferred all of you dead.”

Before either of them could move, Kissaki turned his muzzle to Atsushi and fired twice, the suppressor muffling the noise. Time seemed to slow as Atsushi felt the impact on his body, pushing him back against the car. He looked down, his strength leaving his body as he slumped to the floor, watching wet red patches blossom on his shirt. Atsushi heard a scream, and he looked back up, watching Issay dash forward towards him, grief stricken. Before Issay could reach Atsushi, he collapsed to the asphalt following the muffled sound of another fired shot.

Fearing the worst, anguish took over Atsushi. Mustering up his strength, Atsushi lifted his gun to Kissaki again, but he was too slow, instead taking another shot in his shoulder. Searing pain tore through Atsushi’s arm. A suppressed grunt came out of him as his gun clattered to the ground. Atsushi tried to move but the bullet was lodged in his bone, causing him blinding pain each time he even twitched. Atsushi’s vision darkened, his mind threatening to shut itself off to stop the pain, but he heard a guttural roar coming from Issay. A small flame of hope ignited in Atsushi. Issay was still alive.

Forcing his eyes to focus, Atsushi saw Issay grab his gun and roll onto his back to face Kissaki. Unfortunately, hindered by pain, Issay was too slow. Helplessly, Atsushi watched Kissaki wrench the gun out of Issay’s weakened grip and step on the gunshot wound in his leg, eliciting another scream from Issay.

Smiling sadistically, Kissaki grabbed Issay by his hair and turned him around, forcing him look at Atsushi. Issay stared at him, eyes glistening from pain and despair as his nightmare unfolded in reality. Atsushi barely had the strength to react when Kissaki pinned Issay down and pointed his gun at his head.

A cruel smile on his face, Kissaki said, “Say your goodbyes.”

Refusing to give Kissaki that satisfaction of causing him pain with Issay’s death, Atsushi closed his eyes, relinquishing his hold on consciousness, letting his brain shut down. The last thing he heard was a single gunshot echoing through the alley.

I’m sorry I couldn’t keep my promise.

Chapter Text

Squatting down in the back alley of a pub, the stray cat approached him and rubbed its face against his relaxed hand, purring. A small smile appeared on his face, fingers scratching the underside of the cat’s chin.

The backdoor of the pub opened and closed. Measured footsteps walked down the aluminium stairs as another person entered the alley. Soles scraping against the rough concrete, the newcomer stood a short distance away and flicked a lighter. The smoke of another cigarette joined his own.

“Ah, I must say, that’s the first time I’ve seen a stray cat being so friendly,” the person, a man, commented. There was something familiar about that voice. He struggled to figure out what.

Eyes still on the cat, he remained silent, taking a puff from his cigarette as he continued to stroke the slightly damp fur.

“I’ve tried approaching cats, but they always ran away,” the man continued.

“You must let them approach you instead,” he mumbled softly. He would usually ignore such small talk, but for some reason, this time, he felt a certain urge compelling him.

“Ah, I guess I was being too enthusiastic, huh,” the man replied.

“Perhaps.”

There was a long pause.

The cat weaved between his legs, purring and rubbing its body against him. He smiled a little more and shifted his foot, giving it a little more space to squeeze through.

He heard stomping and the scuffing of a shoe against the concrete. The other man must be done.

“You know,” the man started speaking again. “Maybe it’s just me but…”

Another long pause.

He turned his head slightly, but not enough for either of them to see each other’s faces.

“There’s something familiar about you,” the other man mumbled softly. Less than a second later, the man quickly added, “It’s probably just me.”

He turned back to the cat, whose head he now scratched lightly.

“Anyway, you have a good night,” the man said, walking back up the stairs and opening the door.

A voice called out from inside the pub, “Fujisaki!”

Memories slammed into him. He knew that voice. He spun around, startling the cat but he was not fast enough to catch sight of the other man except for a glimpse of a heel.

He heard the man respond, his words muffled as the door closed.

He stood up, eyes wide, and sprinted up the stairs, taking two at a time. He swung the door open, so hard that it could’ve fallen off its hinges. He stepped in. Eyes scanning the dimly lit pub, he searched frantically for a familiar silhouette. He took long strides, walking around briskly, listening out for that voice.

No one fit the bill.

Standing in the middle of the bar, he kept looking around. Shoulders slowly drooped and his arms hung limply at his sides.

Another man approached him, one he knew well.

“We’re done here- What’s with you?”

His mouth was open but he could barely make a sound. “Issay…”

“Atsushi… it’s been five years…”

“But!” He turned. “I heard his voice! I spoke to him!”

“Atsushi…” The worry was evident.

“Someone called him by his name…” he muttered. He let his words trail, realising he didn’t sound very sane at the moment.

“Excuse me, sir. You can’t smoke in here,” a member of the pub’s staff said, tapping on his shoulder.

He looked down at the forgotten cigarette that he still held between his fingers. “Apologies…” he muttered. Casting one final look around the bar, he reluctantly turned and headed out the back door again.

He thumped down the stairs. The cat was gone. But there was a lone, flattened cigarette butt on the ground.

Maybe…

Chapter Text

A quiet neighbourhood in the heart of the city. Windows opened. A fresh breeze. A deep breath and a relaxed sigh. Music played soft in the small room. It was cramped but that was enough for now. He hasn’t been back in this area for a few years now. He had left without the intention of returning. But no matter where he went, he has always been found.

If only it was the right people who found him.

He then figured out that it wasn’t the distance that mattered. It turns out that getting buried under masses of people in a city where new faces was the norm is easier than hiding in unnoticed towns with long-time residents.

If only he realised that earlier.

Another sigh as he retreated from the window. He should return those books he got from the library. Switch them out for new ones. But maybe later.

A thump. He lay back down on the worn tatami mats, limbs splayed out, long hair all over the place, eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. A thought came to mind. He quickly rolled over, getting up. Pulling himself to the small, short-legged table that came with this rented room, he swept away inked papers, looking for a fresh blank sheet. He’d have to buy more supplies again.

A triumphant huff at the sight of a clean sheet of paper. Groping around, his slender fingers found a pen. He started writing, losing himself to the words

--

Night fell. His mind finally fell silent. He got out of the apartment. The books were in a worn cloth bag, slung over his shoulder. His hair was bunned up, held in place by a similarly worn chopstick, in a similar fashion as another man he once knew.

Walking along the street, he recalled how jarring it was when he first came back. Change was the norm in a city as big as this. The layout of the streets were still the same, but new structures sprung up over the old. Almost all of his familiar haunts were gone, or had transformed beyond recognition. Even the patrons and the staff were unfamiliar to him.

He deposited the books, returning them. The library was, unfortunately, closed now. Without much of a plan, he walked on, deciding to wander around instead.

Spotting a bar, his feet instinctively veered in its direction. Without a moment’s hesitation, he went in, walked to the bar counter and ordered a whisky. He felt a stare.

“... Fujisaki?”

He turned sharply, tense. It was Yoshida. There were a few more lines on his face now, but he’d know that face anywhere. He didn’t know how to react. His lips twitched, an unsure smile, and he began to laugh. This was unexpected but he did bump into his ex-landlord last night, after all.

“I should’ve expected this…” he muttered. “Coming back here, I should’ve expected this.”

“You’re alive!” Yoshida swept him up in a brash hug. “You’re fucking alive!” he roared, overjoyed.

He laughed, louder. He doesn’t remember the last time he did, but it felt good. “Sorry for worrying you,” he said, apologetic.

“I wanted to visit you after I heard that they dismissed you but there was no one there! And your home, it was in such a mess!” Yoshida said.

He laughed nervously.

“I thought you got kidnapped again! That being out of the force left you without protection!” continued Yoshida, gripping his shoulders.

“Mm, you’re partly right about that but I wasn’t home when the intruders came, thankfully,” he recalled. “I came back to the same sight you did and decided to leave. I’m sorry couldn’t say anything.”

“No one could find you!” Yoshida said, exasperated. The grip on his shoulders tightened.

“Well,” he chuckled nervously, looking away. “I wouldn’t say nobody but…”

“What happened? Who’s after you?” Yoshida questioned, worried.

“It’s… complicated. There’s no need to get you involved,” he smiled. It did not reach his eyes.

“Fujisaki… There has to be something…”

“I call it an unfortunate circumstance of my birth,” he said vaguely, taking a drink from the glass of whisky. “I’ll deal with it. Just… don’t tell anyone you saw me.”

Yoshida sat back down, watching him intently for a moment before finally nodding. “If that’s what you want… Just so you know, he’s never stopped asking about you.”

“Who?”

“Your Sakurai.”

A sudden ache emerged in his heart, choking his words. That’s another someone he hasn’t seen in awhile, not since that day. He barely remembered the days he spent in the hospital. Apparently he was trapped in delirium, frenzied and hysterical every time he woke. He honestly didn’t recall much of it. The only thing he did remember was a sudden clarity of mind when he heard that Atsushi was alive. He wanted to get out and find Atsushi, but recovery took weeks, if not months. And when he finally got back to work…

“Every week or two he asks about you,” Yoshida added, interrupting the memories replaying in his mind.

“Oh, really?” He kept his tone measured, drinking from his glass.

“I might see him tomorrow…”

“Good to know,” he muttered, not trusting himself to comment more about that. “But don’t tell him about me.”

“Why not?”

“It's easier.” He felt Yoshida’s distressed stare on him. “I move around a lot. I can’t guarantee that I’ll still be here tomorrow.”

“Fujisaki, tell me what’s going on. Let us help you,” Yoshida implored.

He shook his head. “It’s something I have to deal with on my own,” he said quietly. “But if you want to help me, then give me something else to think about. Tell me what’s happened to everyone since I was last here.”

To that, Yoshida gladly obliged. Listening to stories of his ex-colleagues’ antics, he drank with Yoshida through the night. Before they knew it, time flew by all too quickly and the bar was due to close.

Making his way home alone in the predawn hours, he found an emptiness in the silence that he thought he had grown used to. His time with Yoshida reminded him how much he missed the company of close friends. But based on how things typically went, he probably needs to move out again, either in this week or the next.

Stumbling back into his miserable excuse of an apartment, his heart began to ache again, missing the times when he would return to Atsushi waiting for him. Leaning his back against a wall, he slumped to the floor. He sobbed. He has been numb for so long but now…

Maybe it was the drinks, he hasn’t had this much in awhile. Maybe it was being back in this city. Maybe it was hearing Atsushi’s name being said aloud. Maybe it was a mix of everything.

Whatever it was, it brought back everything he felt for the younger man. It brought back how much he missed his time with Atsushi, how much he missed looking at him, his dark eyes, his shy smiles, his voice, his low chuckles, his nuzzles, his warmth, his smell, the feeling of his skin against his own, his touches, his kisses, the way he said his name.

“Atsushi…” he muttered, needy, desperate, as if saying his name aloud would bring the man to him.

He felt his hands move, touching himself in a weak imitation of their passionate nights. Closing his eyes, he let his imagination fill the gaps, reliving the sensations through memory.

But it wasn’t enough.

Even as he came, he felt even more alone than before. His body was sated but his heart yearned for more. He leaned his head against the wall with a thud.

“Atsushi… My love…”

He needed to leave.

Chapter Text

Tamori’s Bar.

Standing on the sidewalk, Issay stared at the sign. He wore his hair down today, pulled to one side, over his right shoulder. He remembered the first time Yoshida brought him here all those years ago. The neon sign was still the same one from back then. Even the entrance remained the same.

The sign flickered. Issay blinked. He didn’t know why he was here, only that his feet led him here while he was wandering around aimlessly, like he has during the past few weeks.

A grim half-smile pulled at his lips. He had thought to leave weeks ago. But the reluctance was too strong, so he decided to wait until there were signs of his father’s men finding him.

That didn’t happen either.

Issay didn’t know if it was because something had happened on his father’s end of things or if it was because he kept a low enough profile in this overcrowded city to stay hidden. But whatever the reason, it was giving him the longest lull he’s ever had since he joined the police academy.

Straightening up, Issay sighed and took one last look at the signboard. He didn’t know what he was waiting for. It wasn't a good idea to walk in anyway, considering the fact that he now knows that it’s one of the neutral grounds between the law-abiding officers and the shady underworld dwellers.

Issay huffed, a vague sound of a cynical laugh. The only reason why he never knew this earlier was because of how he went out of his way to cut all links to the underworld. Knowing this now, there was almost no reason for him to go in. His father’s men might be in there. Although… what are the chances that Atsushi would be there too?

Issay shook his head violently. What’s the point? Getting involved with him again would be-

“Fujisaki?!”

Issay snapped his eyes to the right, startled, tense, and ready to run depending on who that was.

“That’s you, right?” A man walked up to him. He wasn’t one of his pursuers but he looked familiar.

Squinting his eyes, Issay cocked his head to one side. “... Honma?”

A happy noise came out of Honma as he slapped a hand on Issay’s back and shook him. “You still remember me! Where the hell y’been?! And what’re you doin' out here looking so lost for?”

Issay scoffed jokingly. “What are you talking about. I haven’t gotten lost in years.”

Honma laughed. “Or is it because you’ve been completely lost for these five years that no one’s caught the slightest glimpse of you?”

“As if that’s possible!” Issay laughed, rolling his eyes as he subtly shifted out of Honma’s hold. “Anyway, how’ve you been?”

“I’ll tell you more ‘bout that if you join for drinks,” Honma suggested, wriggling his brows.

“Just you, or…?”

“Our fellow colleagues, a few new guys,” Honma replied.

For some reason, Issay felt relieved. Perhaps it’s because Honma was drinking with Imai the last time they were here. He definitely didn’t like the idea of sitting at a table with Imai, not at this point in time.

Issay must have been silent for a long while because Honma prodded his shoulder and added, “I’ll buy your drinks if you come.”

Looking over at Honma’s excited grin, Issay made his decision. “Well, I can’t say no to free drinks, I guess.” He hoped it he wouldn’t regret this.

Honma grinned. “Now that’s what I wanna hear,” he said. As Honma started chatting excitedly, he took Issay by his shoulders and led him into the bar.

--

Atsushi stared at his dazed reflection in the mirror, trying to focus as the alcohol worked its way into his blood. He had to admit his body wasn’t what it used to be. Or maybe he already ran his liver to the ground. Maybe that’s why his tolerance weakened… Not that he cared enough to find out.

With a sigh, Atsushi turned on the tap again and splashed cold water on his face. The washroom door opened and someone walked in. Atsushi made a mental note to get a better grip on himself. Now that he wasn’t alone, it would be embarrassing if he ended up making a mess in here. His reputation would be ruined.

Straightening up, Atsushi grabbed a few sheets of paper towels and pressed them to his face. As a urinal flushed, he sighed and dried his face, massaging his skin at the same time.

Light flooded back into his vision as Atsushi removed the damp paper towels. The other man was now at the sinks with him, standing one space away. He was bent over, similarly washing his face. The long, black hair caught Atsushi’s attention first, reminding him of his own before he cut it off a few years back.

Crushing the paper towels into a ball, Atsushi rolled his shoulders, stretching his neck as he did. The other man looked up. Atsushi glanced over and froze. He blinked.

Atsushi laughed aloud. This was new. He never had to deal with hallucinations. Atsushi recognised that face, those eyes, but how was it possible that Issay stood barely two meters away from him while he was supposedly drunk? He closed his eyes, rubbed them, and opened his eyes again.

Issay was still there, looking at Atsushi through the mirror with a similarly incredulous squint. Atsushi laughed again, unable to contain himself. “Oh wow, this is… some hallucination,” he muttered to himself.

“You’re telling me…” Issay replied.

Atsushi looked down at the sink, grinning and shaking his head. Even the voice matched. “How drunk am I…” Atsushi mumbled, wondering if he had finally gone over the edge.

Hands closed around Atsushi’s jaw, fingers brushing over his face as he looked up at Issay’s mystified expression. “I still don’t know if you’re real… or if I’m just being creepy and groping some random man’s face in the washroom.”

“I don’t know…” Atsushi said softly, staring intently at Issay’s face, noticing the small differences from what he remembered. “Is it really you?”

“Who knows,” Issay muttered. Removing his hands from Atsushi, Issay stepped back, his expression wistful. “Who knows…”

The door opened again and another man walked in. Atsushi recognised him as the right-hand man to boss of the organisation further down south. The man seemed relaxed as he gave Atsushi a nod of acknowledgement, which was politely returned, but when his eyes turned to Issay, recognition flooded into his eyes and his body language changed, immediately charging at Issay.

Issay instinctively sidestepped. He seemed to have anticipated the attack. Letting the man crash into the sink, Issay spun around on his heel to face his opponent, a grim look on his face.

Noticing the man getting back up, Atsushi strode over and held him in a bear hug from behind. “You’re not touching him.”

“Atsushi.” Hearing Issay call him made Atsushi’s heart soar. But his feelings were crushed with one word from Issay. “Don’t.”

“Mr. Sakurai, stay out of this,” the man said. “This is an internal affair, it has nothing to do with you.”

“But-”

“Atsushi, let him go,” Issay said.

Atsushi shook his head. “I’m not going to stand here and do nothing while you get attacked.”

“I’ll be fine, just let him go and stay out of this,” Issay urged. Seeing Atsushi shake his head again, Issay sighed and closed his eyes, pinching his nose. “Atsushi… don’t make me say it,” he muttered. Looking up, Issay saw Atsushi still stubbornly holding on and he sighed once more. “Atsushi, let him go or forget that anything ever happened between us.”

Hearing Issay’s words made Atsushi forget to breathe. He returned Issay’s cold, unfeeling gaze with shock and disbelief. How could he say that? Hands shaking, Atsushi stumbled back, loosening his hold on the man as he put a hand on the sink to steady himself. He has to be hallucinating.

The man huffed, patting his coat. “Well, that’s new,” he commented. “Oyabun will go through the roof when he hears of this.”

“I hope you won’t tell him,” Issay replied. “For both our sakes.”

“You know I’m bound by duty,” the man smiled wryly. “I assume you won’t come quietly.”

“Fat chance,” Issay said. “I’d sooner die than go back.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t blame you,” the man said, scrunching up his face sympathetically. “But,” the man adopted a fighting stance, “I have a job to do. No hard feelings.”

“No hard feelings,” Issay echoed, his posture defensive. “Atsushi, don’t interfere, you hear me?” he said, turning to Atsushi.

Atsushi stared at him mutely, neither acquiescing nor protesting as he tried to piece together what was going on from the conversation. What did Issay had to do with the southern organisation?

As the two men clashed, Atsushi fought against the urge to jump in to Issay’s aid. Issay seemed to do fine though, successfully getting hold of the man’s phone and crushing it with his heel right off the bat.

“Ah, I heard from the others that you always do that,” the man remarked, staring at his broken phone on the floor.

“Can’t have you calling for back up,” Issay said, throwing a punch in the man’s gut while he was distracted by the phone.

Atsushi expected the man to double over, but he remained unfazed, absorbing the impact and throwing a punch back to Issay’s face. Failing to move out of reach, the blow split Issay's lip, drawing blood. Issay grunted and quickly returned the man’s punch with a fist to his face.

“Fuck!” the man cursed, stumbling back against a sink and putting a hand on his nose. “You fucking broke my fucking nose!”

“Well, you tore my lip!” Issay retorted. “Why don’t you do us both a favour and just pass out?” he growled, taking long strides over to the man. Grabbing him by the collar, Issay said again, “No hard feelings.” The man barely nodded before Issay slammed him into the sink, knocking him out.

Atsushi noticed that Issay didn’t look triumphant, instead looking rather upset as he removed the man’s belt and bound his forearms together under his legs. Picking the man up, Issay carried him into a stall and put him on the toilet. Considering how he had no difficulty with locking the stall from outside, he seemed to have done this before numerous times. Without even sparing a glance at Atsushi, Issay proceeded to walk out.

“Issay!” Atsushi called after him.

It was only then that Issay reluctantly turned back, brushing his long dark hair out of his face. He looked at Atsushi, eyes solemn as he dabbed at his split lip with the heel of his palm. Issay looked away and muttered, “I suppose this is real then.”

Taking a step forward, Atsushi reached towards Issay, eager to hold him again but Issay raised a palm to him, shaking his head. “Don’t,” he said again. “I’ll probably have to leave again so don’t make this harder than it should be.”

“Where are you going?” Atsushi asked, moving closer. He couldn’t help but notice the irony with their reversed roles.

“I don’t know,” Issay said flatly.

Atsushi inched closer again. Issay was almost in his reach now. “Then, why? At least tell me why.”

“I…” Issay furrowed his brows and shut his eyes. “I don’t have time for this, I need to go.” Averting his eyes from Atsushi’s, Issay slipped out of the door without looking back, leaving Atsushi grasping at thin air.

--

Issay took quick strides back to the table where his ex-colleagues sat. Their merriment made his brawl feel like it happened a world away, but Issay was all too aware of what it meant for him. As he grabbed his jacket off his chair, his ex-colleagues looked up at him, startled by the sudden movement.

“I’m sorry, I need to leave first. Something cropped up,” Issay said quickly, putting his jacket over his white shirt, now sullied by blood splatters.

“What?” Honma uttered. Spotting Issay’s bleeding lip, he asked, “Did’jya get into a fight?”

Issay laughed it off. “You won’t believe how clumsy I am these days. I accidentally hit myself in the face back there,” Issay said, internally cringing at how poorly he’s handling this.

“Fujisaki, what’s going on?” Yoshida asked.

“You can tell us,” Mori piped in.

Putting on a polite smile, Issay picked up his still half-filled glass. “Come on guys, don’t look at me like that. It’s nothing big. I just recalled that I had something else to deal with before I head home,” Issay said quickly. “I need to be sober for that. But I’ll just finish this up,” he added, winking as he gulped down the contents of his glass. The alcohol bit into Issay’s open wound and he grimaced in pain. At least that’ll keep him sober.

“Shouldn’t you get stitches for that?” Mori asked.

His face still scrunched up, Issay waved his hand, rejecting Mori’s suggestion. “It’s no big deal,” he said, putting the empty glass down. “Anyway, I need to go.” Issay cast a cautious glance around. “Thanks for the drinks. I’ll see you guys around,” he added, giving them a smile as he waved and left.

While his colleagues were still wondering about the reason behind Issay’s sudden departure, Atsushi appeared before them, shuffling around in a daze. Spotting Yoshida, Atsushi crouched down, stared into his eyes and said slowly, “I think I just had the weirdest hallucination.”

“Are you alright? You don’t look okay,” Yoshida remarked.

“I… might be going mad?” Atsushi muttered, eyes turning to the ceiling with a pensive look on his face. “I thought I just saw him but… now... I don’t know.”

“If you’re talking about Fujisaki, he just left the bar,” Yoshida said.

Atsushi’s eyes snapped back into focus. “What?”

“We were drinking with Fujisaki,” Yoshida clarified. “But he suddenly left, saying he had something to attend to.”

Putting his palm on his forehead, Atsushi shot up. “He was here?” he muttered. Atsushi grabbed Yoshida by his shoulders, eyes large as he repeated, “He really was here?”

“Yes, and you can be sure that he’s moving further and further away as we speak,” Yoshida said.

Raking hands through his hair, Atsushi felt overwhelmed by the realisation that Issay indeed was right within his reach. Fingers grasping his hair, he mumbled, “What do I do? What am I supposed to do?”

“Well, go after him,” Yoshida said, slightly exasperated. “What are you waiting for?”

“But what if he-”

“You’ve been asking me about him for five years now, just go!” Yoshida jabbed his finger at the exit.

“Yes, go,” Atsushi nodded, still rooted to the spot.

Standing up, Yoshida dragged Atsushi to the exit. “Get the fuck out of here! Go!”

Nodding profusely, Atsushi finally got his feet to move on his own, dashing past Imai and out of the door.

Imai frowned after Atsushi as he left, perplexed by his haste. Turning his attention to Yoshida, Imai jerked his head at Yoshida, pantomiming his question about Atsushi’s flustered state.

Yoshida gave Imai a one word answer. “Fujisaki.”

Imai’s frown deepened, even more puzzled than before. “He’s here?” he asked.

“He actually reappeared awhile ago,” Yoshida explained.

“And you didn’t tell Atsushi?”

“Fujisaki didn’t want me to. And my loyalty lies first and foremost with him.”

Imai huffed. “I understand, I guess,” he muttered. He then clicked his tongue and pursed his lips. “Here we go again.”

“Though…” Yoshida began, “Fujisaki… he seemed troubled.”

Raising an eyebrow, Imai bluntly demanded, “Get to the point.”

Yoshida furrowed his brows. “When he first disappeared all those years ago, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. You know, maybe Fujisaki wanted to take time off for himself despite how things appeared to be. But now that he’s back… It’s obvious that something’s wrong.”

“Huh.”

“Even though they never told us why they dismissed him, I can say for sure that it’s definitely not the law that he’s in trouble with,” Yoshida hinted, folding his arms.

Imai stared at him, lips pressed into to thin line as he considered what Yoshida just said. “You want us to look into this?”

“If you’re willing to,” Yoshida affirmed.

“I guess… I owe you for pacifying Atsushi for five years after all,” Imai sighed.

“Thanks.”

Staring at the exit, Imai began to laugh. “Why do we bother with those troublesome two?”

“Must’ve owed them in our past lives, maybe,” Yoshida replied drily. “Anyway, let me know if there’s anything I can do,” he said, giving Imai a parting wave as he turned back to his table.

Imai gave him a grunt of acknowledgement, likewise turning back to his table. He intended to leave but perhaps he could have a few more drinks while waiting to see if Atsushi was coming back. He was the one with transport home anyway.

--

Issay walked quickly, eager to get back to his rented apartment. The pavement leading away from Tamori’s Bar was a straight path without any smaller alleys for him to turn into. Issay felt terribly exposed walking like this. His senses were on high alert, listening and looking out for anyone who might be following him.

Going into the bar was highly risky. Issay knew that. And yet he went in. Despite being careful to stay away from such places for years, he went in. Perhaps these few quiet weeks made him feel too comfortable, made him lower his guard.

Issay mentally cursed himself as he marched down the walkway. He should have ages ago. Issay cursed his sentimentality. If only he wasn’t so attached to atmosphere of this city, to comfort of being among familiar faces. If only Atsushi forgot about him, never asked about him, gave up on him. That would’ve made leaving so much easier.

As Issay approached the cross junction ahead, loud, thumping footsteps came from behind, echoing in the silent night. Dread filled his veins and his heart started racing. Without looking back, Issay began sprinting, turning left at the cross junction. He didn’t know where he was going, but as long as he could lose his pursuer before he reached home, that was fine.

He heard a desperate cry behind him. “Issay!” He turned his head slightly, glancing over his shoulder. A jumble of emotions collided in his head at the sight of Atsushi running after him as fast as he could.

“No!” Issay yelled. “No, no, no! Leave me alone, Atsushi!”

“No!”

“Stop following me!”

“No!”

“Fuck off!”

“Never!”

“Why!?” Issay wailed, panting.

“Because!”

“What do you mean ‘because’!?” Issay shouted, looking over his shoulder. Atsushi was closer now. It was scary how fast he ran.

“Just because!” Atsushi replied stubbornly. He crashed into Issay, folding his arms around him as they stumbled.

“Let me go,” Issay huffed, trying to catch his breath. Despite relishing Atsushi’s affections, Issay resisted from reciprocating. He needed to convince Atsushi to leave him alone, to let him settle his problems first.

“I’m not letting you go again,” Atsushi whispered, defiant. “Not this time.”

Issay forced his words out. “Don’t touch me,” he hissed, wrenching his body out of Atsushi’s grasp. Issay turned around to face Atsushi’s hurt expression.

“What?” Atsushi muttered, his voice weak.

“Don’t touch me,” Issay repeated. “Don’t follow me. Don’t look for me.”

“Why?” Atsushi asked again, anger seeping into his tone.

“Because.” Issay’s voice shook. He had to say this. “Because… I don’t want you.” I don’t want you entangled in this.

“Liar!” Atsushi snapped. “Don’t lie to me!”

“Not as if you haven’t lied to me,” Issay retorted, forcing himself to stare unflinchingly into Atsushi’s pain-filled eyes.

“No! … I…” Atsushi desperately searched Issay’s expression for cracks, hints that he didn’t mean what he just said. “You’re lying. Say it, tell me you’re lying,” he muttered, hands reaching for Issay.

Issay stepped back. “Don’t! Touch me,” he warned, eyes hard. “I mean it!” Issay growled, heart breaking as he watched Atsushi’s feelings shatter to pieces.

Unable to bear the pain anymore, Issay turned away, hiding his emotions from Atsushi. Forcing himself to move, he hurried off into the night. Atsushi did not follow him.

Chapter Text

Night. Day. Night. Day.

Time continued to pass through those tiny spaces between the blinds of his room. It felt like there was some kind of cosmic irony at play considering how the weather has been clear the whole time he has laid here. Blue skies and fluffy clouds. Bright sunlight.

His stomach growled. When was the last time he ate? He vaguely remembered having one last rice ball in the mini fridge. He was definitely out of alcohol though. He drank his stock dry while cooping himself up in this pathetic corner of his, hiding from anyone who might be looking for him, hiding from reality.

He vaguely remembers running out of paper. Did he end up writing on the walls instead? Did he still have any ink? Or has that run dry like his eyes?

The lock on his door clicked. He couldn't be bothered to react. Come what may, he barely had the energy to care anymore. As the door creaked open, he continued staring out his window, watching soft white puffs float across the blue sliver of sky.

Unhurried footsteps approached him. A wry laugh came from the intruder. “Both of you are exactly the same,” said a raspy voice, unfamiliar to his ears.

There was a thump on the floor followed by quiet rustles as the intruder made a space for himself among the mess of papers on the floor. Light clinks rang out as cups were set on the small table. Hearing a liquid being poured, the smell of alcohol filled his room again.

It was only then that he sat up and turned, casting hostile looks at his intruder. His hair fell over his face, giving him a feral appearance accentuated by the disheveled yukata he wore.

He stared at the intruder, dark eyes taking in the calm demeanor, the relaxed posture, the loose ponytail that rested over his shoulder as he sipped from the small sake cup in his hand.

“Drink with me,” said the intruder, beckoning him with a jerk of his head.

He didn’t move.

His visitor shrugged and continued drinking. “Suit yourself.”

“Who are you?” he rasped, his voice dry and raw.

“Your landlord,” replied the visitor.

“Am I behind on rent?”

“Yes, but that’s not why I’m here.”

He frowned, confused.

“Considering my nature of business, I don’t give a shit about people using fake names. I don’t normally check up on them,” the man said, refilling his own cup. “So imagine my surprise when I realised who you were.”

He drew back, tense, wary. “Who are you?” he asked again.

The man’s lips tugged into a half smile. “I guess you could say I’m like a big brother to Atsushi.”

Pain flashed across his face as he shrunk away as if burnt by the mere mention of Atsushi. “Don’t ever say that name again,” he hissed.

“I told him that you’re living in one of our buildings,” the man said, ignoring him.

“You what?!” he snarled, darting forward.

“He said the same thing you did,” the man continued, unresponsive to his bitterness. “Doesn’t want to hear anything about you. He kept throwing those empty bottles at me though. That insolent fucker.”

“Good,” he muttered, slowly leaning against the nearest wall. “Good…”

“But you don’t look so good to me,” the man remarked, gesturing to him as he drank. Going silent, the man seemed to expect a response from him but when none came, he continued, “We’ve also been digging around.”

Sliding his eyes to the side, he stared at the man out of the corner of his eyes, guarded.

“It’s quite impressive that you’ve managed to keep something like that under wraps for so long.”

“What do you want?”

“I can see why you kicked Atsushi away. He could’ve accidentally started a war.”

What do you want?

“A partnership.”

He turned away. “Not interested.”

The man chuckled. “I knew you’d say that.”

“Then why ask?”

The man hummed, thinking about the question. “I guess I wanted to see for myself what kind of person you were,” the man shrugged, taking another drink from his cup. “I’ve heard so much about you, after all.”

He laughed, sarcastic. “Flattered.”

“I guess I’ll leave you to your own devices then,” said the man, getting up from the floor. “Just don’t die in here, you’ll affect the real estate value.”

He made a noncommittal grunt, not bothering to say more.

As the man walked to the door, he added, “Oh, and feel free to finish the alcohol. There’s at least another litre in there. Don’t let it go to waste.”

The door opened and closed again. He lay against the wall, motionless, waiting until he heard the final click of the lock. Once he heard the man's footsteps fade away, he dove for the bottle and brought it to his lips, gulping down as much as he could, enduring the burn of the alcohol for as long as he could.

His empty stomach churned uncomfortably, making him pause halfway and put the bottle down. He stood up and, feeling light headed, he smiled wryly. He barely took two steps when the alcohol hit and he felt himself fall. That was a bad choice .

Chapter Text

Issay brushed his fingers over the spines of the books on the shelf, looking for something that might capture his attention. A few weeks have passed since that supposed landlord of his paid him a visit. Strangely enough, no one has bothered him since. Not even his father’s men have attempted to take him back by force. Yet. Come to think of it, he hasn’t actually seen any of them around recently either.

Part of Issay wondered if Atsushi’s ‘big brother’ had anything to do with that, though he couldn’t figure out what was in it for him. Whatever it was, peace was peace, and being left to his own devices for such an extended period of time was nice. Though he had to admit that things were getting a little mundane.

Strolling to the next shelf, Issay recognised the feeling of an intense stare on him. He smirked to himself. Just as he thought things were getting quiet… It wasn’t pleasant, he didn’t like it, and it was familiar in the worst possible way, but it meant that something was about to happen.

Taking a deep breath, Issay picked up a random book and casually strolled away from the shelves, abandoning his quest for a full bag of books. Heading to a more populated area of the library, Issay adjusted his white loose-fitting blouse as he checked the book out and went back out into the streets.

Without showing any concern, he weaved through the crowds and made sharp turns into blind corners and alleys. It didn’t take long before the feeling of being watched subsided and Issay found himself in some unknown part of the city again. While it was easier to lose tails in a place like this, it was easier for Issay to lose his way too. Not that he wasn’t used to it by now.

Issay started wandering around, looking for landmarks that he might recognise. He ended up spending about an hour walking aimlessly before he found himself strolling down a street lined with small clothing shops and quaint cafes. It was a quiet place, with not more than one or two patrons in a shop. Randomly picking one of the cafes, Issay went in and settled into a seat by the shop front window. He ordered a coffee and sipped, flipping open the book he just picked out. He should be fine in a place like this.

Unfortunately, Issay barely made it through the first ten pages before someone sat down in the empty seat across from him at his table. He furrowed his brows, annoyed at the invasion, but refused to look up. Maybe that person would eventually leave.

Keeping his eyes on the pages of the book, Issay tried to focus on reading but soon found himself under an uncomfortably distracting stare. As time dragged on, Issay gradually found it harder and harder to absorb anything he read. Growing irritated, Issay’s relaxed expression eventually grew dark and he scowled as he looked up at the offending person.

Upon seeing who it was, Issay’s scowl grew even more hostile. Slipping an old receipt between the pages of the book, Issay closed it and put it down. Folding his arms, he muttered, “Hisashi.”

“Fujisaki,” Imai responded with a slight nod. “Long time no see.”

Issay stared at him, not saying a word as he picked up his coffee cup and sipped, still scowling.

“I have to say, following you wasn’t easy,” Imai commented, mimicking Issay by folding his arms.

“Don’t you think I would’ve learnt a few things after five years?” Issay retorted.

Imai smirked. “That’s true,” he said. After a pause, he casually mentioned, “Toll said he paid you a visit a few weeks back.”

Issay made a noncommittal noise in response. So that was his name. He turned and looked out the window, choosing to observe the passers-by instead. 

“Since then we’ve done quite a few things,” Imai continued. “Some of which resulted in you current… freedom, of sorts.”

Issay grit his teeth. His hunch was right. “I didn’t ask you to do this,” he muttered. “No one asked for your interference.”

“You’re right, no one asked,” Imai agreed, leaning back in the chair. “But we have our reasons.”

“Has it got something to do with that ‘partnership’ that he mentioned?” Issay asked, looking over at Imai with a frown.

“Ah, so he did mention it.”

“Just so you know, I said no.”

“No matter, you’ll probably change your mind later,” Imai said, shrugging. “Anyway, there’s something else you must address.”

“What?"

“Atsushi.”

“No.”

Imai stared at him. “What do you mean ‘no’?”

“The damage is done. That’s it. It’s irrevocable.”

“Look, I don’t know what the hell you said to him but you need to do something.” Imai leaned forward, gesturing at Issay. “I’ve tried placating him but just shot at me. We’ve all tried, except you.”

“Shot at you?” Issay echoed. “Like, with a gun?”

“Yes,” Imai hissed. “You’d think that after almost getting killed by one he’d stay away from them.”

“Hm,” Issay scoffed, looking into the distance, lost in thought.

“What are you thinking about?”

“... Leaving.”

“Is that the only thing you can think of? Running away?”

“Yes.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

Issay scoffed again. “You won’t understand,” he muttered, bringing his cup to his lips again. There isn’t much coffee left.

“Just so you know, this isn’t my idea. But we need to get Atsushi up to speed.”

“Ah, so he doesn’t know what you’re planning?”

“No.”

“Fan-fucking-tastic. He’s going to be thrilled.”

Imai glared at him, surging forward. “Don’t get snarky with me.”

“Hisashi, you’re the one who’s talking to an elder,” Issay smirked. “Won’t you mind your manners?”

Staring daggers at Issay, Imai leaned back and took deep breaths. As he did, he began muttering to himself, “Why the hell am I the one doing this? Yuta would’ve been a much better pick…”

Ignoring Imai’s monologue, Issay took another sip from his coffee and turned his attention inwards to dwell in his thoughts while Imai recollected himself.

After awhile, Imai leaned forward again. “Here’s the thing,” he began, “Atsushi has cut himself off from everyone except for the person delivering food and alcohol to him.”

Issay furrowed his brows. “How would that person know he wants food?”

“He… calls them? Using a phone?”

“Ah… phones.”

Imai frowned, perplexed by his reaction. “You don’t have a phone?”

Issay slowly shook his head.

“Who doesn’t have a phone these days?”

“Well, I don’t want to be easily contacted, do I?” Issay countered.

“How do you even- Argh. Anyway, where was I?”

“Atsushi lives off take-out and booze.”

“Right, yes.”

“So what do you want from me?” Issay asked.

“Get him out of the house and functioning. I don’t care how you do it, just get him up and running again.”

“What if he tries to kill me like he did with you?”

“Uh…”

“Nevermind, forget I asked,” Issay muttered. He drank the last mouthful of coffee and put the cup down. Shoving the book into his bag, Issay stood up and walked to the door. “Let’s just get this over and done with.”

--

The car stopped and Issay looked up from his book. “I don’t recognise this place,” he muttered.

“Why would you?” Imai asked.

“I just thought he’d live in the same apartment as he did five years ago,” replied Issay nonchalantly, opening the door and stepping out, leaving the book behind.

Imai narrowed his eyes at Issay as he walked around the car over to his side. “You’ve been to his apartment?”

“... Yes, why?”

As Imai led Issay into the elevator lobby, he stuffed a hand into his pocket and clicked his tongue. “What else hasn’t he told me?” he muttered.

Issay simply shrugged. “Can’t help you there. I don’t know what you don’t know,” he said. “But this place… much less fancy than the last one, isn’t it?”

“This one allows cats though.”

“Ah, right. The cat.”

“Cat s ,” Imai corrected, walking into the elevator.

“There’s more than one now?” Issay asked, raising a brow.

“Yes. And they’re a pain to move.”

Issay hummed, falling silent. After a moment, he asked, “So… how many are there now?”

“Last I know, two,” Imai replied, exiting the lift and making a right turn.

Stopping at the last door at the end of the corridor, Imai drew a key out of his pocket and unlocked it slowly, as quietly as he could. He pulled the door open, just wide enough for him to go in, and squeezed in, beckoning Issay to follow him with a hand. Peering through the crack, Issay saw Imai stop a stocky cat in its tracks with a foot, preventing it from venturing out the door.

Once Issay slipped in though, Imai stepped back out the door. “You should deal with him alone. He should be less of a hazard if I’m not there,” Imai said.

“Ah?”

“Remember, wake him up by hook or by crook. Fuck him back to his senses if you need to,” Imai said.

“What?” Issay grimaced. “I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works.”

“Do or die, Fujisaki,” Imai said, letting the door close. “But try not to die,” he added. “You’ll affect the real estate value.”

“Again with the real estate value,” Issay hissed. “What’s with that?” he asked as the door closed shut and the lock turned.

His question unanswered, Issay quietly removed his shoes and turned around. The apartment was dark and silent, as if no one was home. Issay swallowed. Remembering Imai’s mention of getting shot at by Atsushi, he cautiously walked past the entrance to the kitchen, down the corridor that linked the main door to the living room.

Reaching the end of the corridor, Issay peered out, eyes scanning the living room. He noticed bullet holes along the wall on his side. Imai wasn’t joking about Atsushi pointing a gun at him. There was, however, no broken glass nor empty bottles on the floor though.

Issay explored the house, barely making any noise as he moved.The apartment wasn’t that big. Aside from the master bedroom and it’s connecting bathroom, there was just one other guest room and a common bathroom. There was no one around though. Looks like Imai was wrong about Atsushi being a shut in. Back in the living room, Issay sighed. What was he supposed to do now?

Something bumped against Issay’s calf. Looking down, he saw that the calico from years back was headbutting his leg. A small smile graced his lips as he bent down and picked the cat up.

Staring into its eyes, Issay couldn’t resist asking, “Where’s your dad?” The cat stretched forward, rubbing its face against Issay’s. Chucking softly, he muttered, “I don’t even know your name.”

As the calico purred in his arms, Issay sat down on the sofa. “I guess you’ll entertain me until he gets back then.”

Chapter Text

Atsushi was approaching his apartment block, hands full of bags of groceries, when he spotted a familiar black car parked in the front lot. He frowned. He wasn’t expecting anyone. As he walked up to the car, the door on the passenger’s side opened and Imai stepped out.

“Why aren’t you at home!?” Imai exclaimed, marching over.

“What? Can’t I go out?” Atsushi retorted in a deadpan tone.

“You don’t even respond to any of us!” Imai scolded. “There’s so much to be done! What can be more important than that!?”

“The… cat food ran out,” Atsushi muttered.

“You got the runners to buy you food and everything, didn’t you? Can’t they get the cat food too?”

“They’ll never get the right one,” Atsushi complained. “They can’t even buy the right brand of shochu for me, they’ll never get the right type of food.”

“Huh?” Imai stared at him, unimpressed by his justification.

“They’re very picky, the cats,” Atsushi continued, “Nyaa only eats this particular brand of tuna mix,” he gestured to a bag of blue tins, “and Chibi prefers a mix of chicken and salmon from this brand,” he shook a different bag with a jumble of green and purple tins. “Then there’s the shrimp that-”

“Wait, hold it,” Imai cut in. “You went out for this ?”

“Well no one else can do it right,” Atsushi pointed out. “I can eat and drink junk but the cats will reject the food if it's not to their liking.”

Imai rolled his eyes, exasperated. “I can’t believe you…”

“But why are you here?” Atsushi asked, plastic bags rustling as he adjusted his grip.

Imai froze. “I… Uh…” He struggled to find the words to explain himself. “Toll said to come with… uh…”

“What did all of you do?” Atsushi asked darkly, a warning in his voice.

“Remember how we’ve been trying to talk to you about Fujisaki?”

“What. Did. You. Do?” Atsushi growled, clenching his jaw.

“Nothing?” Imai answered. Atsushi glared. “Anyway, you should go home first,” Imai said, glancing at Atsushi’s shopping. “Feed the cats, or something. I’ll be waiting right here.”

Holding his hostile stare, Atsushi slowly turned. “If something happened to him-”

“No, nothing of the sort,” Imai denied, reassuring Atsushi. “Just go and deal with your cats and we’ll talk about it later.”

Atsushi gave him an unconvinced grunt and walked away, suspicion still lingering in the back of his mind.

--

A loud clatter and a voice cursing violently woke Issay up. When did he fall asleep? Trying to sit up, he immediately felt a weight pressing down on his chest. Craning his neck, Issay looked down and found the two cats curled up on him, asleep. He sighed. He couldn’t bear to wake them.

Listening to more curses echo around the house, Issay folded an arm over his eyes, blocking out the light as he stroked one of the cats with his other hand. It barely stirred. Amidst the rummaging noises mixed with the crinkling of plastic bags, Issay felt himself begin to drift to sleep again but brisk footsteps thumped on the parquet.

“Girls!” Atsushi’s voice called out. The sound of a tin can cracking open followed and Issay felt one of the cats move, leaping off him as it meowed. Issay peeked out from under his arm. The calico was awake but was still sitting on him.

“Where’s your sister?” Atsushi asked. Issay heard the footsteps approaching then coming to a sudden stop.

Issay didn’t want to move but the cat started batting and pressing its paws to his face. He huffed and wrinkled his nose as it continued, seemingly amused by his reaction. Eventually, Issay covered the lower half of his face with a hand and removed his arm from his eyes, holding the cat’s paws back. “Stop it,” he muttered, giving it a stern look.

“How did you get in here?” Issay heard Atsushi ask, stepping closer.

“Hisashi brou- mmf…” The cat pushed its head into Issay’s face, preventing him from speaking. “Oh, come on, stop it,” he mumbled, turning away from the cat.

“Don’t do that. That’s not yours,” Atsushi said to the cat, picking it up in one arm. The cat made a dissatisfied noise and stretched towards Issay again. Shifting the cat away, Atsushi frowned and asked, “Why is she so attached to you?”

“I don’t know, really,” Issay replied, pushing himself up to a sitting position. Raking fingers through his hair, Issay pulled it to one side and sighed, taking in the sight of Atsushi properly for the first time in years.

An longing ache grew in Issay’s chest as he watched Atsushi entertain the calico with a small smile on his face. He noticed the fatigue on Atsushi’s face, his hair which was now rudely chopped to shoulder length, his shoulders which now looked broader, but maybe it was just him… his hands, and a… ring?

Issay felt a stab in his heart. It must have shown on his face because Atsushi looked at him and gave him a questioning look. Issay’s lips parted, intending to say something but instead, he stood up and went over to Atsushi, hands reaching for the ring on his fourth finger. Going closer, it looked familiar to him, with the worn-out grooves and smoothed edges, but he couldn’t place a finger on what gave him that feeling.

Atsushi seemed startled at Issay’s approach, taking an involuntarily step back. “What…?”

“Did you… What is that ring?” Issay asked, eyes fixated on it.

“Huh?” Atsushi followed Issay’s line of sight to the ring. “Ah!” He stepped back again, putting the cat down and moving his hand out of sight. “It’s nothing, just something stupid,” he muttered hastily.

“What is it?” Issay asked, his tone turning aggressive as a sharp pang of jealousy hit him.

“What does it even matter to you?!” Atsushi retorted, still retreating. “After what you said-”

“It matters!” Issay stressed, cornering Atsushi as he found himself pressing his back to a wall. “It matters to me!”

“But you said-”

“Let me see it,” Issay ordered, now inches away from Atsushi.

Atsushi shook his head. “I owe you nothing,” he shot back bitterly.

Issay’s stony expression immediately crumpled as pain stabbed at his chest again. “Is it from someone else?” he croaked weakly.

“No,” Atsushi muttered, confused by Issay’s reaction. “Why would you care?” he asked. “You already said you don’t… want me…” His voice grew softer, wavering.

Issay turned away, unable to speak.

“Why?” Atsushi asked. “Do you hate me? Is it what I hid back then?”

Issay shook his head, a faraway look in his eyes. “It’s hard to explain,” he sighed.

Atsushi stared at him, waiting for the explanation that never came. Issay sighed and began to turn, intending to walk away, but Atsushi grabbed hold of his hand and put something in his palm.

“The… ring,” Atsushi muttered, looking down as he slowly released Issay’s hand. “It’s…”

Furrowing his brows, Issay held the ring between his fingers. His lips twitched into a smile. “It’s not a ring,” he muttered.

“Yes, it is,” Atsushi insisted.

Issay laughed. “It’s that stupid key you almost died for.”

“Might as well keep it since it cost me so much,” Atsushi muttered indignantly.

“You goof,” Issay said, grinning uncontrollably as he laughed.

A blush rose to Atsushi’s cheeks. “Quit laughing at me.”

Nodding, Issay wiped at the tears that came to his eyes as his laughter subsided. “Oh god, I love you,” he mumbled, still grinning as he held his sleeve to his eyes.

“Say that again.”

Issay looked up, meeting Atsushi’s eyes. “I love you,” he repeated.

“Really?” Atsushi asked, his voice small.

“Yes, love.”

“Then why did you push me away?”

Issay sighed, shifting his eyes to stare at the wall behind Atsushi. “Because…” He paused, thinking about how he should answer. “Because… I don’t want to implicate you in things I can’t…” Issay grimaced, struggling to continue.

Issay felt a hand on his cheek and Atsushi leaned in, pressing his lips to Issay’s, drawing a sigh of contentment from him. Issay instinctively wrapped his arms around Atsushi, squeezing him tight as he ran his hands across Atsushi’s back, re-familiarising himself with his body.

Atsushi’s fingers ghosted over Issay, brushing over his loose airy blouse but not touching his body. Sensing Atsushi’s uncertainty, Issay grabbed Atsushi’s hand and pressed it to his waist. “Don’t be shy now, love,” Issay whispered.

Breath hitching, Atsushi blinked, surprised. Recovering quickly, he chuckled, pressing his forehead to Issay’s. Looking into Issay’s eyes, Atsushi pulled him in, letting Issay pin him to the wall. “Who’s shy?” he breathed, fingers digging into Issay’s skin.

Issay laughed. Caressing Atsushi’s cheeks with his fingers, Issay nuzzled against Atsushi and murmured, “Oh, how I’ve missed you.”

Atsushi couldn’t resist the smile that Issay’s words brought, feeling a warmth in his chest as he held him close. “Stay with me,” Atsushi urged, longing in his voice.

A sad smile appeared on Issay’s face. “Do you remember what happened the last time I said the same thing to you?”

“Just stay,” Atsushi implored, holding Issay tighter. “Don’t leave.”

“Atsushi…” Issay closed his eyes. “I want to. But I don’t know if I can.”

“What does it take to keep you with me?” Atsushi asked. “Tell me what to do. I can bribe, I can pull strings…” he said, desperation creeping into his voice. “I’ll do anything it takes.”

“Atsushi… I… I appreciate it but…” Issay smiled at Atsushi, but that did not take the pain in his eyes away. “I’m afraid it’s not that simple.”

“I don’t understand,” Atsushi whined. “There must be something…”

“If circumstances change, I promise you’ll be the first to know,” Issay said, running his fingers through Atsushi’s hair. His shorter hair will take a bit of getting used to.

Disappointed, Atsushi looked down and bit the inside of his lower lip, shoulders slumping.

“Don’t look so glum,” Issay said gently. “At least we have now.”

Atsushi leaned forward again, dropping his head onto Issay’s shoulder with a disgruntled whine. “Stop the pain…”

“This hurts me just as much, if not more,” Issay said, massaging the nape of Atsushi’s neck with slow movements. “But for now…” He took Atsushi’s hand in his and slipped the ring back on his finger. “Be mine.”

“Whoever said I'm agreeing to this?” Atsushi retorted jokingly despite his flushed face and shy smile.

“I could just leave and never come back…” Issay trailed, pulling away from Atsushi slowly.

“NO!” Atsushi darted in front of Issay, blocking his way. Planting each hand on the wall on either side of Issay, he said adamantly, “You’re not going anywhere.”

Issay chuckled. Holding Atsushi’s chin in his slender fingers, he said, “Of course I’m not going anywhere, you goof.”

A soft smile gradually spread on Atsushi’s face and quickly turned sheepish when he realised Issay was joking. Laughing, Issay brought Atsushi closer into a kiss, relishing their closeness as Atsushi put his hands on Issay’s body.

Issay felt Atsushi’s hands slip under his blouse, coming into contact with his skin and he hummed with pleasure. Atsushi dug his fingers into Issay’s flesh and let his hands explore Issay’s body, eagerly feeling every inch of his skin with his fingertips as if making up for lost time.

Issay snaked an arm around Atsushi’s waist, pulling him in closer. As Atsushi began to trail kisses along his jaw, Issay could feel Atsushi’s fingers teasing his nipple while his other hand slid Issay’s blouse off his shoulder. While aroused, Issay felt a wave of inexplicable emotions overwhelm him, as if the dam that held everything in had burst. Burying his fingers and his face in Atsushi’s hair, Issay held him close. A shudder in his voice, he muttered softly, “I’ve missed you so much…”

Surprised by the sudden emotion in Issay’s voice, Atsushi paused and looked up, concern in his eyes as tears fell on his face. Straightening up, Atsushi kissed him harder, more fervently. Without saying a word, he led Issay into his room.

Atsushi released Issay’s hand and made a beeline for his side drawers, tugging the first drawer open and searching around noisily. Finding what he was looking for, Atsushi huffed in triumph and made a grab for them, flinging them onto the bed.

“Really?” Issay muttered, sounding somewhat fatigued from the emotional outburst as he stared at the lube and condoms.

“I don’t know when I’ll have you to myself again,” Atsushi reasoned. His fingers worked quickly, unbuttoning his own shirt as he strode back to Issay.

With his back to the wall again, Issay gladly received Atsushi back into his arms. As Issay held Atsushi, he felt Atsushi slide a hand down to his crotch, pressing the heel of his palm over his hardening erection while fingers curled under him, brushing against his scrotum. Issay pushed his pelvis into Atsushi’s hand, unable to resist a moan as he did. How long has he craved for this?

Issay could feel Atsushi’s lips curve into a smile against his skin as he brushed over Issay’s neck. Sinking lower, Atsushi dragged a hand over Issay’s torso, sliding down his chest and stomach to caress Issay’s thighs. Atsushi settled on his knees and unfastened Issay’s form-fitting pants, trailing kisses over his skin as he pulled them down.

Pressing his head to the wall behind him, Issay’s eyes grew unfocused as Atsushi’s tongue lapped at him. His insides felt like they were melting from the heat of Atsushi’s desire. With heavy breaths, Issay slowly curled his fingers into Atsushi’s hair, nails gently scratching as he tugged at Atsushi’s hair. Issay couldn’t help but feel a slight frustration with Atsushi’s shorter hair making it harder for him to get a firm grip.

Atsushi looked up at him and smiled, amused by Issay’s predicament. Taking Issay’s hand in his, Atsushi moved Issay’s hand to cup the side of his face, letting Issay stroke his jaw and fidget with his ear. In one smooth motion, Atsushi opened his jaw and slid Issay’s erection into his mouth, barely suppressing a chuckle as he felt Issay tense and heard him groan.

Atsushi pushed all the way in, letting Issay’s tip press into the back of his throat as he swallowed, contracting his throat to squeeze around Issay, making him suck in a deep breath, almost doubling over. Issay’s hair swished down, momentarily darkening Atsushi’s vision until Issay forced himself to stand upright again. As he did, Atsushi began to dip his head in and out, sucking hard on Issay. Within a few strokes though, Issay bucked and came, surprising Atsushi.

When he was done drinking up Issay’s ejaculation, Atsushi slowly released Issay and looked up at his chagrined expression. “So fast?” Atsushi asked, raising an amused eyebrow.

“It’s… been awhile…” Issay grimaced, scratching the back of his neck.

Standing up, knees popping, Atsushi chuckled and nuzzled the crook of Issay’s neck. “You’re not done already, are you?”

“I’m sure that’s not what you’re hoping for,” Issay said, kicking his pants off.

Atsushi laughed as he walked backwards, letting Issay come to him. Heels touching the bed frame, Atsushi fell back onto the mattress as Issay climbed on. Leaning over Atsushi, Issay spotted pale scars on Atsushi’s torso where the bullets hit. He gently brushed his fingers over the marks, expression turning solemn.

“Hey, it’s fine,” Atsushi whispered, holding Issay’s hand in his.

“I should’ve-”

“It could’ve been worse,” Atsushi interjected. Watching Issay’s face scrunch up in anguish, Atsushi interlocked his fingers with Issay’s and put an arm around him, holding Issay as he repeated again, softer, “It could’ve been worse.”

“Oh, love,” Issay breathed, enveloping Atsushi in his arms and pressing his lips to his forehead.

“I’m here,” Atsushi murmured, his voice muffled against Issay as he returned the embrace.

Issay suddenly started pecking kisses all over Atsushi’s face, making him giggle from the burst of affection. Pausing, Issay hovered over Atsushi, gazing into his eyes with a tender smile. Atsushi beamed at him. Coiling a hand around the back of Issay’s neck, Atsushi pulled him back into a kiss as his other hand guided Issay’s free hand down to his groin, yearning for his touch.

Issay reacted without hesitation, promptly kneading at Atsushi’s inner thighs through his jeans. As Issay brought his hands higher, he scratched at the stitching in the crotch area with his nails, creating tiny vibrations that made Atsushi squeeze his thighs together, clasping Issay’s hand between them while Issay continued to claw at Atsushi’s jeans.

Breaking their kiss with an irritated groan, Atsushi removed Issay’s hand from between his legs and planted it on his fly. “Quit playing,” he growled, pouting.

Issay laughed and teased, “So impatient."

“I’ve been patient for five god damned years,” Atsushi retorted, undoing his own pants and wriggling out of them. “I’m done with 'patient',” he declared, flinging his jeans away. He then folded his legs around Issay, bringing their hips together.

Issay laughed louder, leaning over Atsushi as he reached for the lube. “Haven’t you heard? With patience comes good things,” Issay said, coating his fingers in the clear gel.

“I’ve been patient enough,” Atsushi retorted, stomping a foot on the mattress.

“Hey, don’t throw a tantrum now,” Issay muttered, coaxing a soft whine out of Atsushi as his fingers teased at Atsushi’s opening. Instead of pushing in, however, Issay’s fingers trailed away, applying pressure on Atsushi’s perineum and scrotum.

Arching his back, Atsushi let out a cry of frustration. “Issay! Stop teasing, please!” he moaned, kicking at the sheets.

“Fine, fine,” Issay conceded.

Atsushi moaned louder as Issay plunged two fingers into him, curling them as he thrust. Leaning forward, Issay lay down, propping himself up on an elbow as he watched Atsushi lose his tension and give in to the pleasure. Just as Atsushi was about to say something, Issay pushed another finger in, making Atsushi jerk and gasp again. Stretching his arms, Atsushi reached for Issay, longing to be held. Lips twitching into a half smile, Issay pushed himself up and pulled his fingers out of Atsushi, who whined dejectedly.

“Patience, Atsushi,” Issay reminded, casually dispensing more lube into his hands. Atsushi stubbornly protested, whining more as he rubbed his legs against Issay's torso as he settled between them. Still smiling, Issay caressed Atsushi’s thighs as he coated his renewed erection with lube. Once ready, Issay eased into Atsushi’s tight but yielding hole and began to thrust as Atsushi sighed with delight.

“Guys, I’d love to give you more time but-”

“Imai, what the fuck!?” Atsushi threw a pillow at the room’s entrance. “How did you get into my house!?”

Back straight as he rested on his knees, Issay turned and looked to the door. “Hisashi, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“Hide said some kind of emergency happened-”

“How did you get in?!” Atsushi yelled again.

“I have a copy of your key,” Imai’s voice answered. He stood somewhere out of sight.

“I never gave you a copy!”

“Well, I made a copy.”

“That sounds highly illegal,” Issay cut in.

“Can we talk about that later?” Imai urged. “We need to go.”

“Go where?” Atsushi asked.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Issay said. “Not with my dick in him.”

“Issay!” Atsushi exclaimed, turning flustered.

“I did not need to know that!” Imai shouted at the same time.

“Let us finish in peace first then,” Issay said. Closing a hand around Atsushi, Issay began thumbing the head of Atsushi’s erection, making Atsushi moan with every pause in his sentence. “Or you can stay and listen to every, single, sound, he makes.”  

“Issay!” Atsushi wanted to be stern but could only moan his name, completely at his mercy as Issay’s thumb knuckle pressed into his frenulum, reducing his words to incoherent mush.

Imai gave in. “Argh! Fine! Five minutes!”

“I’ll take as long as I like, thank you very much,” Issay said. “And close the door will you?”

Stepping in to reach for the doorknob, Imai glared at Issay as he darted back out, closing the door behind him.

Smirking with satisfaction, Issay turned his attention back to Atsushi and crouched over him. Sensing Issay’s presence, Atsushi’s glazed eyes came back into focus, looking at him longingly as he reached toward Issay again. Sinking into Atsushi’s embrace, Issay closed the distance between them and initiated a slow kiss with Atsushi as he began thrusting.

Lowering his body onto Atsushi’s, Issay relished the skin to skin contact that he has been aching for all this time. Issay felt Atsushi’s arms wrap around his torso, holding him in an unyielding hug that Issay had no intention of breaking out from. As Issay continued to stroke Atsushi’s twitching erection, his lust continued to grow and he began to thrust harder, deeper while his mouth strayed from Atsushi’s lips to suck and bite at his neck, leaving marks where he bruised Atsushi’s skin.

Atsushi’s breathing grew heavier and his legs clenched tight to Issay’s torso, his hips gyrating to Issay’s thrusts as he revelled in Issay’s loving. Feeling Issay’s teeth and fingers dig into his body, Atsushi felt the pain melt into pleasure and cried out, digging his own nails into Issay’s back. Hissing, Issay nuzzled against Atsushi, thrusting more fervently, eager for his climax.

“Come for me,” Issay whispered into Atsushi’s ear.

Moaning softly in response, Atsushi rocked his hips harder, grinding his pelvis against Issay’s as much as he could. Issay’s breathing grew heavy as waves of pleasure washed over him, growing stronger as he drew close. Clinging tightly to Atsushi, Issay felt a release in him, moaning into Atsushi’s skin, his voice muffled.

His body relaxing, Issay lay on Atsushi, holding him close with his fingers entangled in Atsushi’s hair. Issay didn't take note of when Atsushi came but his other hand, on Atsushi’s abdomen, was slicked with cum. Not that he could care less now.

Hearing Issay’s bleak sigh, Atsushi looked at him, feeling equally dispirited by Imai’s sudden intrusion. After all, if anyone had to barge in like that, it couldn’t be anything good. Issay hugged Atsushi tighter, resting his chin on his head, while Atsushi pressed his face into Issay’s shoulder and long locks. Neither said a word as they wordlessly agreed to stay together just a little longer, to steal just a few more private moments for themselves.

Chapter Text

“So what’s the emergency?” Atsushi asked, getting into the back of the car with Issay.

“Someone’s close to death,” Imai replied, fastening his seatbelt on in the passenger seat.

“Judging from your reaction, it doesn’t seem like someone too important to us,” Atsushi observed, slouching in his seat as Issay came in from the other side.

“Maybe not to us, but possibly to him,” Imai said, gesturing to Issay.

Issay, closing the door, looked up at them, confused. “What?”

“Someone you know is dying,” Imai said flatly.

“Stop being so cryptic. Why won’t you just say who it is?” Atsushi asked, annoyed.

Imai shared a look with Issay, who stared for a moment then nodded. “I think I know who you’re talking about.”

This time, it was Atsushi who was confused. “How would you know what he’s talking about?”

Imai huffed. “Well, you’ve been ignoring-”

“I’m still bloody pissed at you for leaving him behind that day, don’t piss me off even more with all this vagueness,” Atsushi warned.

“I told you,” Imai sighed, “you wouldn’t have survived if I took him with us. Besides, he had backup coming after I left.”

“Wait, what are you talking about now?” Issay cut in, eyes darting between Atsushi and Imai.

Atsushi folded his arms and dropped against the backrest, refusing to answer as he sulked at Imai. Hearing the silence, Imai sighed. “I’m sure you remember the day of that raid?” he offered.

“Yes, why?”

“He doesn’t believe that you weren’t fatally shot,” Imai said.

Issay turned to Atsushi. “Well I wasn’t,” he said softly. “Hisashi shot that… I can’t remember his name, but that guy before he could pull the trigger,” Issay recalled, putting a hand on Atsushi’s arm. “Right after that, Hisashi took you away with him just before my colleagues arrived. Like he said, there’s no way they could’ve missed hearing his gunshot.”

“And like I’ve been saying,” Imai started, “I couldn’t take Fujisaki with us because one, I can’t carry two grown men on my own, and two, we didn’t even have enough blood for you, Atsushi. If we had to treat him as well you’d probably be dead.”

“It really does feel like some kind of miracle that you survived,” Issay muttered, agreeing.

Atsushi stared at the floor, begrudgingly holding his silence.

“Though, we’ve been wondering, where have you been?” Imai asked, turning his attention to Issay. “I heard the force dismissed you but the details have always been rather murky.”

Issay laughed. “That’s all everyone’s been asking about.”

“So what was it?” Imai pressed.

Atsushi glanced up at Issay, curious as well.

Issay took a deep breath and sighed. Running a hand through his hair, he said, “It’s a long story but I effectively toured around the country. Call it a long vacation if you will.”

“Don’t call it a vacation,” Atsushi finally spoke. “That’s not what a vacation is like”

“You know what’s happening?” Imai asked, surprised.

“I’ve seen what happens,” Atsushi corrected.

Imai frowned, confused. “When?”

“The bar. Bathroom.”

“You fucked in the bathroom!?”

“No!” Atsushi kicked Imai’s chair, making him lurch forward. “What kind of a conclusion is that?! I wasn’t even sure if he really was in front of me!”

“What am I supposed to assume?” Imai defended. “It’s not like you haven’t gone around with other-”

“Shut it, Imai!” Atsushi kicked his chair again.

Issay turned to Atsushi. “What others?”

Imai thought for a moment. “There was that foreigner-”

Atsushi kicked a third time. “Shut up!”

“Oh?” Issay leaned forward, interest piqued.

“Well there were also a couple of other-!” Imai lurched forward again. “Hey!”

“If you two want to start a fight, then get out of my car,” the driver, Junya, suddenly spoke up. “I don’t care if you break Imai but don’t break my vehicle,” he added.

Imai glared at Junya, offended. “You faithless dog.”

“Hey! Don’t call me names now,” Junya shot back. “I’m not the one provoking him.”

“I don’t think we’ve met,” Issay said, peeking over Junya’s shoulder.

Keeping his eyes on the road, Junya raised a hand in greeting. “Well, I’m Junya, the resident driver,” he said, gesturing around. “You’re Fujisaki, aren’t you?”

Issay shrugged. “I suppose you’ve heard of me.”

“You’re a hot topic these days,” said Junya. “Well, even before actually, but more so these days.”

“Even you know what’s going on?” Atsushi asked, incredulous.

“Oh, you’ve missed a lot,” Junya said, nodding.

“That’s what you get for ignoring us,” Imai muttered.

Leaning back, Atsushi glowered. “And is no one going to tell me anything?” he muttered.

“Toll’s better suited for that,” Imai replied. “He’ll tell you once we get there. He’s the one who set everything up anyway.”

--

“You’re late,” Toll commented, staring as Imai walked into the meeting room.

“Don't blame me. They’re the ones who took their time, not me,” Imai retorted, gesturing to Atsushi who entered after him, followed shortly after by Issay.

As Atsushi and Imai settled into the chairs around the boardroom table, Issay closed the door behind him and looked around at the faces already in the room. Making eye contact with Toll, Issay cocked his head and pointed a finger at him. “We’ve met… right?”

A smirk appeared on Toll’s face. Standing up, he nodded and offered a hand to Issay. “Yes, but I guess I’ve never introduced myself properly. Just Toll will do.”

“Pleased to meet you, I guess,” Issay muttered, shaking his hand.

Toll smirked again. “Anyway, that’s Hide, and that’s Yuta,” he continued, gesturing to the two other men seated next to him.

“Wait, you’ve met?” Atsushi asked, pointing at Toll.

Toll put a hand on his hip. “I told you he lives in one of our buildings. I also said paid him a visit in the apartment,” he said. “Don’t tell me you forgot.”

Atsushi stared, confused, his jaw slack. “... When was this?”

“Uh…” Issay cast his eyes to the ceiling. “A couple of weeks ago, I think? I’m not too sure, I wasn’t very sober at the time.”

“I think Atsushi was too drunk to remember,” Toll muttered. “Hey, do you remember throwing those shochu bottles at me?” he asked Atsushi.

“I… only remember cleaning up broken bottles,” Atsushi replied, his expression growing vacant as he tried to recall. “I thought the cats knocked them over and they might get cut or something.”

Imai snorted. “The cats, of course.”

“He stopped drinking because of the cats too though, right?” Yuta said.

Issay snapped his eyes to him. “Your voice, I’ve heard your voice before,” he said.

“What?” Yuta uttered, wide-eyed with surprise.

“Have we met before?” Issay asked. “I swear, your voice is very familiar.”

“Nah, you must be mistaken,” Yuta said as he snuck a glance at Atsushi, who shook his head stiffly.

Unfortunately, Issay caught the glance and he turned to Atsushi, giving him a questioning look. Atsushi shrugged, trying to look as innocent as possible. Issay narrowed his eyes, shifting between Yuta and Atsushi with suspicion.

“Fine,” Issay said. “I’ll let this sit for now but you can bet that I’ll figure this out,” he cautioned, giving Atsushi a hard look as he sat down next to him.

Atsushi cleared his throat, looking away. “Anyway… Why are we here?” he asked, changing the subject.

“There’s a bit of explanation to go through before we get to that,” Hide said. “And for that, we need to wait for-” Hide’s phone rang and he paused to look at it. He huffed. “Well, speak of the devil, they’re here.”

“Who?” Issay asked.

“A couple of men from your household,” Toll replied casually.

Issay shot up, alarmed. “What?!” he exclaimed. “What have you done!” His eyes quickly scanned the room as his heart raced. The only way in or out of the room was that one door. He was cornered.

The door swung open. Atsushi immediately recognised the man who was knocked out by Issay weeks ago. He got up and stood in front of Issay. “Mizunaga, you’re not touching him this time.”

“Atsushi, sit down,” Issay hissed. “What did I say the last time?”

“Circumstances and motivations are a little different this time, Sakurai,” said Mizunaga, approaching the table. “You can relax. Issay, you too.”

Issay remained defensive, still tense and standing. “How’s the nose?” he asked.

Mizunaga tilted his head back, offering Issay different angles to look from. “Healed pretty well, don’t you think?” he said.

“Hey Issay,” another man piped up as he strode in. “Long time no see.”

“Otsuka?” Issay muttered, surprised. “What are you doing here? The old man never lets you stray far from- he’s not here is he?” Issay suddenly stepping further back.

“No, no, no. He’s out cold in a hospital bed. He can’t say anything if he can’t respond anyway,” the man, Otsuka said, shrugging as he pulled a chair out for himself.

“Oh…” Issay muttered, stepping forward again. “That’s… good, I guess,” he said, putting an arm around Atsushi and leaning on him.

“You seem… familiar with each other,” Atsushi said to Issay, barely turning around.

“Ah, well, we pretty much grew up together,” Issay explained. "We were friends for a long time."

“Until this asshole,” Mizunaga pointed at Issay, “ran off to the police academy.”

Issay grinned and laughed. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” he said.

“How and why do you know them?” Atsushi asked. “I don’t quite understand,” he muttered, looking at Issay.

“Long story short, Fujisaki is the sole heir to the operations in the Southern islands,” Toll said.

Atsushi turned around, staring at Issay. “Wait… what?”

Issay simply nodded, an apologetic smile on his face.

Atsushi shook him off. “ What?! ” He turned to Toll. “What?! And when did you find out about this!?”

“Only just, some weeks ago,” replied Toll. “We’ve been trying to tell you but you weren’t in the mood for it, apparently.”

Atsushi ran a hand through his hair and held it back. Looking at Issay, shaken, Atsushi muttered, his voice low, “And you never mentioned this. In all the years I’ve known you…”

“No one knows, not even the ex-colleagues,” Issay reasoned. “The only ones outside of the organisation who knew were the senior commissioners and superintendent general who approved my acceptance into the force.”

Atsushi stared at Issay, expression unreadable.

Sighing, Issay sat down in the chair again and faced Atsushi. He took Atsushi’s hands into his own, looked into his eyes, and said, “Look, I’ve never wanted anything to do with that life. I thought I was rid of this whole… inheritance thing when I joined the police.”

“It might’ve worked if you stayed there until retirement age,” Mizunaga said suddenly.

“That was the plan,” Issay stressed, still holding on to Atsushi’s hands.

“But you got dismissed,” Hide suddenly piped in from the other end of the table. The others turned to him, startled by his contribution that came out of nowhere. “What? I hear lots of things running the bar,” he said, indignant. “Anyway, I’ll let you talk about it yourself,” Hide said to Issay, waving a hand dismissively.

Issay cleared his throat. “Well…” he started. “So after that shootout, that raid thing? The crazy guy who tried to kill me was arrested, and he spilled that he was in cahoots with the new Commissioner who transferred in not too long ago at the time.”

“Ah, I see where this is going,” Atsushi muttered to himself.

Issay nodded. “Cleanup. They decided to do a cleanup in the force and remove all personnel with known connections to criminal organisations. I was the first to go. Despite deliberately blinding myself from these things, I was still the first to go. Thanks to my honesty about my family background,” he concluded bitterly.

“The moment that happened, the old man caught wind of it, and on that very night, he sent a few men to dear Issay’s place,” Otsuka said, crossing his legs. “But he wasn’t home.”

“I had a feeling you guys were keeping tabs on where I lived,” Issay confessed.

“Of course, you were in plain sight, but untouchable, until that day,” Mizunaga affirmed. “However, his mistake was that he didn’t keep tabs on what you did, so when we realised you weren’t home, we couldn’t figure out where to find you.”

“Thank god for that,” Issay laughed. “Anyway, because of this, I had to… disappear.”

“Why didn’t you come to me?” Atsushi asked.

“Ah, well, you never told me where you went,” Issay said. “And your phone number changed, didn’t it?”

Atsushi frowned, perplexed. “It changed?” he muttered. Standing up, his exclamation grew louder. “It changed!?” Staring daggers at the other four heads of the Takasaki family, he snarled, “Who the fuck changed my number?”

Toll, Hide, and Yuta pointed at Imai at the same time. “Hey, it wasn’t entirely me!” Imai protested. “All of you agreed it would be better!”

“You initiated the idea,” Hide said.

“You changed the cards,” Yuta added.

“All I said was ‘do whatever you like’,” Toll muttered.

“You’re all ganging up on me!?” Imai yelled.

“Imai!” Atsushi started to move around the table but he was stopped by Issay grabbing his hand.

“Hey, hey. Just sit, sit down,” he said, pulling Atsushi back to him. “It’s long past now, forget it,” Issay coaxed. “Besides, he’s the one who prevented me from getting killed, remember?”

“Hah, I can’t even imagine what the old man would do if you did get killed,” Otsuka remarked. “He’d be devastated, for sure.”

“Why would he?” Issay spat. “He hates my guts.”

You hate his guts,” Otsuka corrected. “And you should know by now love and hate are two sides of the same coin to him, Issay,” he drawled.

“How’s that any excuse for leaving me half dead every so often?” Issay spat.

Otsuka sighed. “I’m not saying that justifies anything he did. I’m just saying that it’s why he expressly said that only you are allowed to take over his role,” he said. “Not any of your other siblings, nor his aides, but you.”

Crossing his legs and folding his arms, Issay pursed his lips and turned away. “I already said it a million times. I. Don’t. Want. To.”

“Look, I know that. We know that,” said Mizunaga. “If there was an easier way, we would take it, but this is the path of least resistance.”

“How’s chasing after me easier than… The infighting. It’s the infighting, isn’t it?” Issay muttered, realisation dawning on him.

Otsuka nodded grimly. “To be frank, it’s already started.”

“There’s no safer bet for you either,” Mizunaga continued. “Whoever usurps the spot will hunt you down to make sure there’s no chance of you suddenly turning up and taking it away from them.”

Leaning back into his seat, Issay sighed, his expression turning bleak as he stared into the distance, thinking. “Yet… It’s been quiet these few weeks…”

“Ah, we were forbidden to touch you,” Otsuka said.

“Hm?” Issay turned to him, brows furrowed in confusion. “By who?”

Making a general overall gesture at Toll and the others, Otsuka said, “These people, them.”

The line between Issay’s brows deepened. “And you just agreed to it?” he asked, not feeling particularly enlightened.

“Well, they said abductions and the like were forbidden in their territory. Then they divulged what happened the last time it occurred,” Otsuka explained. “Funny how the target was also you, Issay.”

Issay continued to frown, even more perplexed than before. “How were all of you involved in that?” Issay asked, turning his attention to Atsushi.

Atsushi stared intently at the ground, avoiding eye contact with Issay.

“Atsushi?” Issay called gently. “Atsushi, look at me.” He brought his fingers to Atsushi’s cheek, turning his face toward him. “Confirm my suspicions for me, won’t you?”

At that question, Atsushi’s eyes darted to Issay. “What… suspicions…?”

Issay grinned. “Ti… ger.”

Atsushi took in a sharp breath and shifted out of Issay’s reach. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t worry, it’s telling enough,” Issay smiled, patting Atsushi's hand. He then turned to Yuta. “And you, you sat on me didn’t you?”

Lips pressed thin into a wide smile, Yuta blinked and shrugged, not saying a word.

“Suit yourself,” Issay said, laughing as he shook his head in resignation.

“Anyway,” Otsuka suddenly spoke, drawing the attention back to himself. “Part of the agreement to not touching you was the arrangement to hand you over to us to bring you back if it was absolutely necessary,” he informed. “And considering how your father is on his deathbed, there’s no more necessary time than now.”

Listening to him, Issay managed a weak laugh. He stepped back and leaned against the table, giving Atsushi a dismal look.

“You agreed to this without me!?” Atsushi roared, turning to his associates as fury raged in him.

“I told you he’d get upset,” Hide muttered, folding his arms and rubbing his forehead with a hand.

“Well, none of us were expecting things to happen so soon, were we?” Toll said.

“You would’ve never agreed to it,” Issay mumbled.

“Of course I wouldn’t!” Atsushi seethed. “And what are you getting out of this?!” he asked, directing the question back to Toll.

“We’d be merging operations in our overlapping territories, streamlining a few things too,” Mizunaga shared, aware that none of the others wanted to be the one provoking Atsushi now.

“What is he? A bargaining chip?!” Atsushi snapped, slamming his palms on the table.

“Give me a moment with Atsushi,” Issay said suddenly. He was strangely quiet, pensive, staring at his feet as he rested an elbow on his folded arm and covered his mouth with a hand. No one moved. “If none of you are going out then I’m leaving with him.”

At Issay’s threat, everyone started moving, streaming out of the meeting room and leaving the two men alone.

--

Several lighters clicked together and cigarettes were lit. The displaced men took to smoking outside the building while waiting for a conclusion to their meeting.

“That went well,” Mizunaga muttered sarcastically, sucking on his cigarette.

“Frankly speaking, it went as expected,” Hide said, taking a puff. “It would’ve never gone quietly. Not unless Atsushi had a change of heart.”

Imai scoffed. “Do you think he ever will?” he asked, flicking the ash from his cigarette.

“Doubt it,” Yuta said, shaking his head.

“When did this thing between them start anyway?” Otsuka asked.

“Hmm…” Imai’s eyes wandered as he thought about it. “Officially, it was five-ish years ago but… Maybe even before that…?”

“That long ago?” Mizunaga muttered, raising his brows as he shared a look with Otsuka.

A thought suddenly occurred to Imai. “Hey, Fujisaki’s father isn’t in the hospital because he found out about them, is he?”

Otsuka burst out laughing. “Actually, no,” he said. “Bursting a blood vessel from losing his temper again put him in this state. If we told him about them two… We might as well just bury him alive.”

Mizunaga nodded in agreement. “He really wanted Issay to give him a grandson too.”

“Probably never happening in this lifetime,” Issay’s voice came from behind. He was alone.

“Where’s Atsushi?” Yuta asked.

“Upstairs. Thinking,” Issay answered simply. Without much of an expression, he beckoned Mizunaga and Otsuka. “Let’s go, there’s much to do.”

Imai raised a brow in surprise. “Atsushi’s letting you go?” he asked, disbelieving. “And you’re just going to agree to this?”

“I have my plans,” Issay answered, divulging nothing.

Otsuka shrugged. “Works for me,” he said. Walking towards a red vintage car parked on the curb, Otsuka unlocked the doors and said, “This is our ride.”

Issay snorted. “You stole the old man’s car.”

“Silence means consent,” Otsuka insisted, getting into the driver’s seat.

“You’re one fucked up bastard,” Issay muttered, shaking his head. Before he entered the back seat, Issay looked up the building facade, staring.

“You getting in?” Mizunaga asked, sticking his head out from the passenger’s seat window.

Snapping out of his trance, Issay glanced at him and nodded. Turning to Toll, Hide, Yuta, and Imai, he gave them a quick wave, bidding them farewell, before closing the door after him.

Upstairs, Atsushi stared out the window, watching the men interact outside the building on the first floor. His hands were stuffed in his pocket, one fidgeting with the ring around his fourth finger. When Issay looked up in his direction, Atsushi put his free hand to the glass and pressed his forehead against the window. His sullen mood only grew darker as he watched the car that Issay was in drive away and out of sight.

Chapter Text

They were left alone in the meeting room, Atsushi and Issay. After Atsushi’s outburst, the silence that came after felt like a thick blanket stifling everything. The knowledge that they would be separated again weighed heavy on their minds.

Issay’s imminent departure wasn’t the only thing that affected Atsushi. The roller coaster of emotions that this one day brought was rough, to say the least. Not to mention the numerous revelations that were unveiled during the meeting. With no one else aside from Issay around, Atsushi felt the day’s events overwhelm him as he collapsed into the nearest chair.

Atsushi’s fists were still clenched in fury as he felt Issay’s presence envelop him, holding him. “Things were so simple,” he heard Issay mumble.

Forcing himself to breathe deeply, Atsushi whispered to no one in particular, “How… How could they…”

“I can see what they were betting on,” Issay said, stroking Atsushi’s hair. “No one could have guessed the turn in the old man’s health,” he added. Letting Atsushi rest his head against his stomach, Issay continued to play with Atsushi’s hair as he muttered, “At least this time we’re on the same side, sort of.”

Atsushi made a protesting noise, turning to bury his face in Issay’s shirt. “But it’s not helping…” he grumbled.

Issay rubbed Atsushi’s back in circles, choking out a bitter laugh. “If we do merge the operations, that’ll give us more reason to meet though, doesn’t it?”

“But I want you to stay ,” Atsushi carped, holding Issay tighter. “To just… stay with me. Is that too much to ask for?”

“Apparently so,” Issay answered cheerlessly, kneading the back of Atsushi’s neck with his fingers.

“I can’t even have you for one day before… this…”

Issay sighed.

“Do you think they’ll be nice enough to let me keep you for one more day?” Atsushi asked, hopeful.

“I’m afraid not,” Issay chuckled. “It’s an emergency, isn’t it?”

Atsushi made a frustrated noise.

“Besides, the sooner I leave, the sooner I can get started on things, and the sooner I can come back, right?”

Atsushi made the same noise again, shaking his head with his face still buried in Issay’s blouse.

“Just give me two months. Two months and I’ll come back,” Issay whispered to Atsushi.

“How would I know you’re not dead before that?” Atsushi asked. “And you’re probably not going to stay for good even if you do come back, are you?”

“Mmh… Well…” Issay thought it over. “I’ll call you every week?” he suggested.

“What about staying for good?”

Issay hummed, twirling Atsushi’s short hair in his fingers. “I guess that’ll have to depend on the circumstances…”

“Why must you go…” Atsushi complained, headbutting Issay lightly.

“Well, you heard them. It’s more dangerous if I don’t go than if I do,” Issay reminded. “If I do take over, I’ll at least have people watching my back for me.”

“I could do that too,” Atsushi retorted, petulant.

“No, you can’t,” Issay insisted, smiling. “Not when we’re making sweet, sweet love, you can’t."

Atsushi breathed a frustrated sigh, shifting in his seat as blood rushed to his cheeks. “You… You can’t…” He wanted counter Issay but Atsushi failed to find the words to do so.

Issay laughed as he nuzzled against Atsushi. “It’ll work out, just you see,” he promised. “If I don’t come back in two months, feel free to come for me.”

 

“So, that was two months ago,” Atsushi said, taking a swig from his beer mug. “Almost two months ago, actually.”

“And does he actually call you every week?” Yoshida, who sat next to Atsushi at the bar counter, asked.

They were at Tamori’s Bar again. Ever since Issay first disappeared, they’ve come to meet here regularly, talking about Issay while exchanging updates about their lives, albeit vague ones. They were still opponents when it came to the law, after all.

Atsushi nodded, putting his half-empty mug down. “The last call from him was almost five days ago,” he said.

“How’s he been?” Yoshida asked.

“He sounded tired, worn out,” Atsushi recalled, eyes scrutinising the alcohol shelf behind the bar as he thought. “But I think he’s fine, not in any particular danger.” Fingers drawing lines with the condensation from his mug, Atsushi lost himself in the memory of the call. “He didn’t say much about what’s going on though,” he added after a pause.

Yoshida chuckled, taking a drink of beer. “That’s quite like him, being ambiguous with things,” he commented, turning away from the bar counter and leaning against it as he observed the rest of the bar. “I still can’t believe he kept something like that under wraps for so many years though.”

“That really was… quite something,” Atsushi agreed. “But, I guess if you hated something that much, you wouldn’t even want to mention it, much less think about it. Especially with his original intention to stay in the force until he retires.”

Yoshida guffawed. “I swear, that man has the most mundane of dreams! Wanting to retire and live a quiet life out in the suburbs, by the sea something,” he said. “Though I can sort of understand why now.”

“A quiet life huh… Sounds like an impossible dream,” Atsushi mused, propping his chin up on an elbow. “Unless… we pull a disappearing act…”

“If you’re going to do that, at least give us a warning first,” Yoshida cautioned. “I’ve had enough of sudden disappearances for one lifetime.”

“I’ll definitely let you know if I ever decide to do that,” Atsushi said, chuckling.

“Anyway, are you really going to travel out and look for him if he doesn’t show up?” Yoshida asked, changing the topic.

“Of course,” Atsushi said without hesitation. “First train out tomorrow, actually.”

“Ah? Today’s the…?”

“Yeah, the last day for his deadline of two months,” Atsushi nodded, swallowing another mouthful of beer. “A few more hours and I can get my tickets for tomorrow morning’s train.”

“Huh, two months already,” Yoshida muttered. “That’s fast.”

“No, it’s not,” Atsushi retorted. “Not to me.”

“That’s probably because you’ve been counting down the days,” Yoshida surmised.

Atsushi picked up his mug and drank his beer with a sheepish smile. “You can’t blame me,” he said. “It’s the only thing I’ve been looking forward to.”

“I suppose you’ve told your associates that you intend to leave first thing tomorrow?”

“They should know,” Atsushi said briefly.

“Still not talking to them?”

“We’re talking, actually,” Atsushi corrected. "It's just that I’ve mentioned often enough what I plan to do so… it shouldn’t be a surprise to them.”

Yoshida hummed, unconvinced. “If you say so…” he muttered. Sitting up straight, Yoshida adjusted his posture as he watched patrons walk in and out of the bar. Noticing someone odd, he frowned and squinted his eyes, saying, “Some guy just walked in wearing a three-piece suit.”

Atsushi laughed. “What idiot wears a three-piece suit to a place like this?!”

“This idiot.” A familiar voice whispered into Atsushi’s ear. An arm wrapped around his shoulders. “Hello, love.”