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Advent Calendar 2019

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There are many benefits to dating Yoh. He has a distinctive, and keen, fashion sense, which is a boon for Sho, because he has none. Yoh is a talented cook, making delicious food easily and Sho has no skill in the art of cooking. Yoh is a chaotic mess, and Sho is a neat freak. Yoh gets caught up in his projects, forgetting to go to the gym, and Sho is dedicated to his own very personal project, and takes Yoh to the gym with him as often as needed.  

There are downsides to this perfectly complimenting relationship though. One such downside is the one that Sho encounters this morning. He wakes up to a smell. He thinks it’s an epoxy, but it might be paint; whatever it is, it’s horribly chemically. He groans, and considers pulling the blankets up over his head, hiding from the stench, but the bed is empty and cold. Staying in an empty, cold bed is not a tempting prospect. He rolls out from under the blankets, and pulls on something in the way of decent clothes.

“Why does it stink in here?” He calls once he’s out of the bedroom. The living room is a mess, not a surprise really. Yoh is shirtless, also not a surprise. In front of him is a lot of crafty stuff, the source of the smell is evident quickly; propped up in a corner is a lot of freshly treated wood. Yoh looks up from the whatever it is he’s doing with a grin.

“Morning! Come and help me.” He flags Sho over, and positions his hands in the right place, holding the bar of metal he’s in the process of bending.

“What am I helping with?” The weird collection of metal bars, and wooden panels is a slight bewilderment.

“I wanted a Christmas tree.” Yoh mutters around the nails between his teeth. Sho doesn’t bother answering. Most people who want a Christmas tree would go and buy one, not decide to build one out of wood and metal. “I didn’t wake you, did I?” The nails have been placed on the sawhorse, and Yoh places his hands on Sho’s cheeks, kissing the tip of his nose. “It was going to be a surprise, but I forgot the smell would wake you up, so…” Yoh kisses Sho, and returns to his bar bending.

“So, how is all of this fitting together?” Sho asks absently, considering the jumble of treated wood, and shiny silver metal.

“Trust me, it’s going to look amazing.” Yoh mutters, finally content with the bar. “I’m gonna need your help decorating the wood.”

“Breakfast first though. Your wood needs to dry, right?” Sho bops the end of Yoh’s nose. “Go cook, I’ll…I’ll clear some space in here.”

“Anything you fancy?” Yoh’s wiping his hands on some rag, his expression distant, his mind lost in possibilities on breakfast foods, at least that’s what Sho hopes, he suspects it might be lost in tree making. “I’ll make something nice.” Yoh nods to himself, and heads to the kitchen, leaving Sho with a mess of sawdust, and random crafting tools. He’s not sure how much he’s allowed to move and what’s out of bounds. The sawdust he can definitely get rid of, so he’ll start there.

“So, after breakfast, get ready, okay? I’m gonna need your help at the store.” Breakfast is a simple affair, omelettes and sliced fruit, something Sho himself could probably manage if he focused and committed the time necessary. Yoh’s wearing his serious project face, which means there’s going to be no wriggling out of this trip to the hardware store, which Sho would have liked. It’s too cold outside, and he’d like to stay put.

“What am I helping with?” Sho asks around a mouthful of egg and apple, not a traditional combination, but not entirely terrible.

“Decorating the wood.” Yoh launches into protracted ramble about wood decorating, as Sho considers his workout schedule. He can take a day off, he thinks. He’ll check his phone. This tree diversion won’t cause too much trouble.

“How are you putting lights in this tree?” Sho asks in a lull in Yoh ramblings. A deeply thoughtful look crosses Yoh’s face.

“Lights…I hadn’t even thought of lights…”

“Can’t have a Christmas tree without lights.” Sho gets to his feet, and stretches, batting Yoh’s hands away when they dart under his risen shirt, tickling his stomach.

“No, you can’t. I guess…hmm…that wouldn’t work…” Yoh’s batting his top lip with his finger, his eyebrows knit in concentration. “I wish I’d thought of lights sooner.” Sho doesn’t comment on that, instead he ruffles Yoh’s hair, and heads to the bathroom to make himself look presentable.

When he looks, and feels, like a human, he returns to the living room, which is now lightly cluttered with balled up paper. It’s an automatic reflex to grab the brush to start sweeping the paper balls into a pile. Yoh’s hunched over the coffee table, scribbling on a sheet of paper. His hair looks like he’s shoved his hand through it in frustration a few times, his shirt is still off, all in all he looks as he always does when lost in a project.

“You gonna get dressed so we can go get our supplies?” Sho absently starts smoothing down Yoh’s hair, smiling fondly at that one tuft that refuses to behave unless assaulted into submission with product and Tanahashi-san’s straighteners.

“Huh? Yeah, just…” Yoh trails off, and crumples his sheet of paper up. Sho catches it before it can hit the floor, and tosses it into the wastepaper basket, literally, at Yoh’s knee. A few minutes of scribbling pass, and Yoh seems content with his odd-looking doodle. Sho’s certain it means something to him, but as far as he’s concerned it’s a mystery. “Alright, we’re good? Let’s go.”

“Shirt.” Sho shakes his head, watching Yoh yank the shirt he had long abandoned back on, making a mess of his hair once more. It’s a blessing he’s fond of hats, it makes hiding his hair’s rebellious nature so much easier. “What do we need to get?” Sho asks in the elevator ride down to the street.

“Normal stuff…glitter, glue-sticks, string of lights. Nothing too fancy. The real help I need is gonna come when I get you to be all arty on my boards.” Yoh grins at him.

“I’m not arty.” Sho grumbles against Yoh’s shoulder, following him out of the elevator and into the cold street.

“You’re plenty arty for what we need for our tree.” Yoh stuffs his hands into his pockets, grinning over at Sho.

“Oh, it’s our tree now?” Sho bumps his shoulder against Yoh’s. “So, you just need me to sprinkle glitter? I can do that…wait, why don’t you just get that glittery glue?”

“Nah…I want something more…” Yoh trails off, and then turns to Sho with a filthy grin, “tactile.”

“Right now, I want something less cold.” Sho shakes his head, and starts walking faster. Yoh’s walking a half-step closer to him, he feels less cold, but that might by psychosomatic. Yoh’s presence usually makes his heart beat faster, and his blood run warmer.

As soon as they’re back, and the glitter, far too much if you asked Sho and maybe not enough if Yoh answered, is safely set down, Yoh makes tea, and Sho is sent to check the treated wood. It seems dry to him, but he’s no wood expert.

After the tea, it’s confirmed, by Yoh, the wood is ready. Sho had not expected it to be ready to be attacked by a drill, but apparently the grand plan involves putting so many holes in the wood. Now that it’s not slumped against a wall dry, it’s much easier to see how the panels will fit into something like a Christmas tree shape when secured to the metal frame. Yoh’s broken out his welding tools, and is looking positively gleeful at the prospect of fixing the frame together. Sho has prepared the floor as much as he can, but there’s not much he can do. Yoh’s been banned from welding in the carpark, so a thick flame-retardant sheet on the floor is the best Sho has in terms of protection for the nice wooden boards of their apartment.

Of course, as soon as he’s ready to start work again, Yoh pulls of his shirt, and flings it away like it had just insulted Sho. It’s not that Sho minds the view, far from it, it’s just he worries that harm may befall Yoh’s creamy, unprotected expanse of skin when it comes welding. It doesn’t matter how many times he mentions these concerns, if Yoh is in a position to remove his shirt, his shirt will be removed. Sho’s entirely certain that if being a wrestler had fallen through, Yoh would have been a stripper – it’s the only other profession that would suit his sensibilities.

“Alright, I’m gonna get this sorted, and when I’m doing that, I need you to decorate the tree.” Yoh gestures to the bag of glitter and glue.

“I’m decorating it how?” Sho starts covering the coffee table in paper, ignoring Yoh’s amused grin. His fussiness when it comes to dirt amuses Yoh far too much.

“I was thinking that you could cover the whole thing in the silver, let that dry, and then make like patterns or squiggles with the glue gun, and cover that in the gold, you know?”

“Squiggles? I can do squiggles.” It sounds like an art project Sho can definitely handle, and will hopefully consume his attention to the point that the sound of sparks and melting metal won’t fill him with terror over Yoh’s beautiful chest. Yoh grins at his agreement to the plan, and kisses his hair. “Both sides of the wood need to be glittery?”

“Nah, only the outside sides. I marked them.” Yoh carries over the wooden panels, and lays them down with the right side up. “Slather them in glue and glitter, then squiggle away, sweet potato.” Another hair kiss accompanies the odd pet-name.

“Slather, glitter, squiggle, got it.” Sho leans back against the couch, and snags the back of Yoh’s neck. “Don’t get wounded, again.” He kisses him lightly, and releases his hold on his neck. “I don’t want to have to slather you in aloe vera again.”

“You sure? You seemed to enjoy slathering me last night.” Yoh winks, heading over to his pile of metal with a snicker.

“Well, I wasn’t slathering your chest, or using aloe vera.” Sho mutters, opening the glue, and starting the wood slathering. The decorating takes what feels like hours, but thankfully the glue dries fast, and the glitter doesn’t make too much of a mess. He’s still going to hoover, but it’s not as bad as it could be. When it’s all done, Yoh takes the wood, and does some more of his DIY magic, somehow rigging the disparate parts into an interesting looking tree shape.

“So, you ready to see if this works?” Yoh asks, a big cheesy grin on his face. He takes the plug, pushes it into the socket, and flicks the on switch. The lights inside the tree’s casing leap to life, streams of warm golden light spill from the myriad holes cut into the wood, catching in the silver glitter and the golden squiggles. It looks nice, a little weird maybe, but nice and very Christmassy.

“Heh, it’s not a bad tree.” Sho elbows Yoh lightly, and wraps his arm around his shoulders.

“For your first attempt at tree decorating, it’s not too shabby. I do like your attempt at self-decoration more though.” Yoh skims his hand down Sho’s chest, dusting glitter from his shirt. “See, this is why I don’t wear shirts when I’m working.” He pulls Sho into a kiss, pressing himself against Sho’s chest, when he pulls away his skin is scattered with sliver trails of glitter. “You wanna help me clean up?” He heads to the bathroom with a wink. Sho follows along, he is a neat freak after all.

Chapter Text

The lady in the florist’s likes him. Hiromu knows this very well. She gets all blushy when he walks in. She’ll stumble over her words when he talks to her. Today, she giggles when she hands him his purchases, asking if he’s throwing a party. Hiromu laughs, and shakes his head, giving her a wink as he leaves, his parcels tucked under his arm. They’re a little heavy, and cumbersome, but he has plans for the contents.

Hiromu is lying in wait, watching the door. At the first jingle of a key in the lock, he tenses up. The door swings open, and Hiromu lunges.

“Kisses!” His twin is staring blankly at his demand. “Kisses, CoCo, it’s the law.” Cogito laughs at him, and shakes their head.

“How much mistletoe have you bought, MuMu?” They’re peering down the corridor, at the strings of mistletoe he’s strung up along the corridor. “It’s not the whole way down the hall is it?”

“It’s properly decorated everywhere, now kisses.” Hiromu shakes the sprig of mistletoe over Cogito’s head.

“CoCo, as much as I love the view from behind, this box is awkward and heavy.” Hiromu knows that voice. A sly look fills Cogito’s eyes. They press a kiss to Hiromu’s cheek, and steps aside. Desperado, carrying a large, heavy looking box, appears in the doorway. He looks at Hiromu with a bewildered expression. Hiromu hasn’t moved from his prime mistletoe holding position.

“Now, kisses.” They laugh, toeing off their shoes. Desperado shoots them an incredulous look. “It’s the law.” Cogito’s removed their mask, and is grinning at them both. Hiromu huffs a sigh, Desperado is less than no use when it comes to standing up to an unmasked Cogito. He kisses Desperado’s cheek.

“Can I come in now?” Desperado awkwardly rubs his cheek against his shoulder, a huffy pout on his lips. Hiromu moves out of the way, turning his back on what is probably Cogito kissing Desperado if the pleased sound is any indication. Hiromu skulks to the living room, and considers the incompletely decorated Christmas tree.

A few days ago, Bushi and Evil had come home with several bags of decorations, and the tree. It’d taken Shingo and Evil an hour to get the tree in its stand, an hour that Hiromu and a very gleeful Bushi had spent decorating the living room, and a napping Naito. Naito’s reaction to being draped in festive garlands, had been to snag Bushi’s waist, and fall back asleep, trapping Bushi in a mess of tinsel and Naito. The tree isn’t dressed yet though. The traditional Takahashi Christmas ornaments hadn’t been collected from Cogito’s studio, mostly because Cogito has been holed up there working on something for the last week or so, coming home only when fetched, making retrieving the decorations impossible.

“Did you finish what you were working on?” Hiromu calls out at the sound of Cogito and Desperado shuffling down the hall. He hopes they’ve not stopped to kiss under every bundle of mistletoe, it’d take hours for them to make it into the living room.

“Mmm…well as finished as I can get it for now.” Cogito’s taken the box of decorations from Desperado, and sets it down near the tree. “So, I have brought the decorations, and the music. Let’s get to work.” Hiromu glances back at Desperado. He’s settled on the couch, an old acoustic guitar in his hands, fussing with the strings.

“You actually know how to play any Christmas songs?” Desperado doesn’t answer Hiromu, seemingly more intent of tuning his guitar.

“He does…he played them for me last year when…” Cogito trails off, shaking their head. For a moment their expression is dark, for a moment Hiromu considers reaching out, trying to shake his twin from their thoughts. Desperado beats him to it.

“Cogito-chan, can you get me a plectrum?” He calls, and Cogito moves to fetch the little plastic tool without thinking, only to be caught by Desperado and a stolen sprig of mistletoe. “Kisses, it’s the law.” There’s a laugh in Desperado’s voice, a sound Hiromu isn’t sure he’d ever heard in all the time they were training in the Dojo. CoCo really is good for Desperado, though the reverse is true, Hiromu would reluctantly admit. Cogito’s mood is brilliant once more when they join Hiromu by the tree.

“So, what’s the plan?” Hiromu turns to them with a grin. The box is open, and the collected festive treasure of the Takahashi family are on full display.

“Mmm…I don’t know…I was kind of banking on you having a plan this year, MuMu.”

“Pff…what’s the point in having a twin if I can’t avoid doing all the hard work?” Hiromu grins at them, and gets a tap on the arm for his trouble. “You wanna do the lights around the trunk again this year? It looked cool last year.”

“Yeah…yeah, it did. I’ve got some different lights actually!” Cogito takes off.

“They were super excited by these lights.” Desperado tells Hiromu from his spot on the couch. “Apparently, my apartment needed all new decorations, because last year’s stuff was boring, so we’ve bought a lot of lights.” Desperado seems finally content with guitar, and is holding it ready to play. “Any requests?”

“Something Christmassy.” Hiromu shrugs, perching on the back of the couch. “You want something to eat, or a drink?” Desperado raises an eyebrow at him. “What? I’m trying to be nice. Mama would…” Hiromu trails off, checking the time. “CoCo! C’mon! I want this ready for Mama!”

“I’m coming, I’m coming. Calm down. I was just taking my contacts out.”

“Your eyes all itchy again?” Desperado sounds concerned, which is at odds with the cheerful song he’s strumming. 

“Mmm, it might be time for the Winter glasses to take their rightful place.” Cogito mutters, bumping their shoulder against Hiromu. “See, I told you he could play beautifully.” They sound so smug. Hiromu decides against commenting on Desperado’s skills, and instead comments on the lights.

“Ooo, these lights! They’re gonna look awesome…but…hmm…old ones round the trunk, and weave the new ones around the branches?” The image of the tree is taking shape in Hiromu’s head. A quick look over to Cogito confirms that they’re on the same page as him, already moving to start coiling the older string of lights around the tree’s trunk.

Hiromu has decorated many trees with Cogito, the pair of them have an efficient system for beautifying trees quickly. The only problem that comes up is placing the final touch; the star. It’s always a source of squabbling between the two of them, but this year Hiromu is certain he has the strongest case for placing it.

“There, all that’s left is the star.” Cogito is holding the delicate glass star in their hands reverentially.

“Give it here. I’m putting it on this year.” Hiromu’s trying for kind and gentle, but he thinks that he’s missed the mark by a mile.

“What? No! I am.” Cogito looks like they’re about to stamp their foot like a child.

“You put it on last year.”

“Only cause you couldn’t.”

“Which means I should get to put it on this year.”

“Nuh-uh! It’s the baby’s job! That’s what mum always said!”

“I’m the baby too, though. So, it’s my job!”

“I’m the babiest baby.”

“By six minutes!”

“Exactly! The babiest baby!”

“Maybe,” Desperado smothers a laugh when Cogito turns to him, “maybe toss a coin?” He pulls a coin from his pocket, and fails at not laughing at them. “Sorry, sorry…it’s just…” Hiromu isn’t sure what expression Cogito’s wearing, but he can guess from Desperado’s attempts at looking serious. “When is everyone coming back? I should clear out before then…I don’t want to get caught having to kiss anyone else.”

“Oh! Mama would kill you if you tried to kiss him! Stay! A little light murder would do Mama’s mood the world of good.” Hiromu cackles, catching the coin Desperado throws at him.

“I’ll be your intermediary.” Cogito laughs. “If anyone needs kissing, I’ll take the kiss from you to them, mmm?”

“Doesn’t that just mean you get extra kisses, my little con artist?” Cogito giggles at that. Hiromu really could use Desperado not being so good with Cogito. Honestly, when the two of them had started dating, he’d imagined it lasting all of a month, but the awful man keeps securing his place in Cogito’s heart, and not messing up like Hiromu had assumed he would. It’s frustrating and quite frankly rude.

“Right, are we flipping this coin or not?” Hiromu cuts in, deciding he’s had enough of them being insufferably adorable, especially when Desperado is insufferably awful. The coin toss goes against Hiromu. He’s about to call a fowl when the front door opens.

“I’m home!” Bushi sounds tired. Hiromu pokes his tongue out, and concedes the starring of the tree to Cogito. He carefully sneaks down the hall, and waits patiently. He needs to make sure he times this perfectly. If it works, he’ll get a peal of Bushi’s warm laughter, and even warmer snuggles. Bushi’s finished changing his shoes, and is heading into the apartment proper. He’s yet to spot Hiromu, hidden amongst the festive explosions. The whole apartment has been attacked with festive glamour, with plenty of surprise mistletoe hiding spots. “It’s looking very…gah!”

“Kisses!” Hiromu leaps from his spot, his sprig of mistletoe high over his head. Bushi stares at him for a moment, then laughs, the warm laughter Hiromu had been hoping for. Bushi covers his face with kisses, then presses his lips to Hiromu’s.

“It’s looking a lot greener in here, baby.” Bushi’s fussing with his hair, scritching at Hiromu’s scalp, and drowning out his thoughts.

“Mistletoe is an important part of Christmas.” Hiromu pecks Bushi’s nose. “C’mon, come see the tree.”

“The tree’s done?”

“Uh-huh, CoCo should have put the star on by now.” Hiromu leads the way into the living room. The star is on the tree, and Desperado and Cogito are half giggling half making out on the couch.

“I see you’re here.” Bushi sounds flat for a moment, and then plasters a smile on his face. “Thank you for taking the decorations over.”

“Eh, of course, Bushi-san.” Desperado pushes himself into sitting up, letting Cogito snuggle up in his lap.

“Hey Mama!” Cogito grins from their spot. “Did Hiromu get you too?”

“He did…did he get you both?” Bushi shoots Hiromu a look when Cogito nods. “You didn’t kiss The Fl…Desperado, Hiromu?”

“I quote, it’s the law.” Desperado deadpans. “I should get going.”

“Stay for dinner, Shingo’s cooking, and the more people for him to talk at the better.” Naito wanders into the living room, and is promptly attacked by Hiromu, landing with a soft oof.

“Kisses.”

“No mistletoe, so this is just assault, brat.” Naito’s mouth snaps shut when Hiromu produces a sprig of mistletoe from his pocket. “Ah…well, it is the law.” Naito’s hands tangle in Hiormu’s hair, pulling him down for a kiss, that becomes two, and ends with Naito pinning him to the floor. “So, there’s an awful lot of mistletoe…how many times did you have to kiss CoCo’s luchador?”

“Just once, and he’s the only one who’s getting to.” Cogito snaps, and a cushion bounces off the back of Naito’s head. Bushi barks a laugh, and steps over them.

“I’m making tea.” Bushi picks up the cushion. Hiromu squirms out from underneath Naito, and follows Bushi to the kitchen. He snags Bushi’s sleeve, and presses kisses to his neck on the way to the kitchen. Bushi’s alternating between laughing, and swatting at him.

“You know, you didn’t have to let Desperado stay, CoCo wouldn’t have minded.” Hiromu pins Bushi against the counter, and kisses him.

“It’s not too bad having him here.” Bushi shrugs, and flicks the kettle on. “If nothing else, he keeps CoCo happy, and…” Bushi trails off. Hiromu nods absently, and starts loading up a plate with cookies, and chocopies.

“Yeah…having CoCo happy at this time of year is a good thing.” Hiromu takes a bite of a chocopie, and offers Bushi the other side. “So, I guess their flaw is a good thing, sometimes.” Bushi nods absently, and bites the pie.

“Quite.” Bushi steals the rest of the pie. “Go on, take that through, and see what mess Naito’s made.”

“You know he’ll have just stolen Desperado’s guitar, and be trying to make it work.” Hiromu laughs. Bushi shoos him out of the kitchen. The front door rattles. Hiromu abandons the cookie plate on the table, plants himself in amongst the random decorations, and waits to see who is going to come in. First through the door is Tomo, his claws clattering on the flooring, as he scampers into the living room. Hiromu creeps closer to the door, and raises his sprig of mistletoe higher.

“Kisses.” Sanada snags his waist, and kisses Hiromu firmly. “You need to learn to sneak better, Hiro.” He laughs, and kisses Hiromu again.

“Eh, if being a bad sneaker means I get kisses, then I refuse to learn.” Hiromu laughs, and tweaks Sanada’s beard. “Shave this thing.” Sanada laughs at him, and kisses Hiromu again.

“No.” He pecks the end of Hiromu’s nose.

“Awful. Terrible. Hard disagree. Shave.” Hiromu places kisses to Sanada’s face with each word. Sanada picks him up, moving him out of the way, so he can enter properly. He swaps his ugly shoes for his nice, stylish house shoes, and ruffles Hiromu’s hair.

“No.” Sanada kisses him again, heading towards the living room.

“It’s an abomination!” Hiromu calls after him, following behind him, only to walk into his back. Sanada is busy kissing Naito, having bumped into him. “Ahem, my kisses.”

“I just kissed you.” Sanada mutters, kisses Hiromu’s forehead. Naito has no such qualms, and presses Hiromu against the doorway, kissing him stupid.

“Bushi said there was supposed to be cookies.” Naito pecks more kisses over Hiromu’s face as he talks. Naito enjoys the kissing law as much as Hiromu does.

“On the table, I got distracted. Take them in, will you.” Hiromu calls over his shoulder, and settles down on the couch by Bushi, snuggling up to him.

“Shh, we’re watching a movie.” Bushi kisses his temple. Sanada hands him a cup of tea. Naito flops down beside him, offering him the cookie plate. Once Naito sets the plate down on the table, he cuddles up to Hiromu, kissing his cheek. On the other arm of the couch, Cogito looks to be asleep in Desperado’s arms, there’s a soft smile on both their faces. Desperado being good for Cogito is something he should be over, but still it’s halfway between a surprise and a horror. It’s probably a similar feeling that Sanada has with regards to Tomo’s unfailing love of Desperado’s pets. Hiromu will concede that they look like very good pets, solely on the basis that Desperado has hands that are almost as big as Bushi’s.

There is one person Tomo likes pets from more, and the moment his ears perk up, Hiromu knows that his next kiss has probably just stepped off the elevator.

“I’m stealing Bushi.” Naito grumbles when Hiromu slips from his grasp, and scampers to the front door, flinging it open, and kissing Evil before he’s even set foot into the apartment.

“Mistletoe, huh?” Evil flicks the sprig Hiromu has pressed against Evil’s chest. He shuffle-walks them into the apartment, closing the door behind him. “A lot of mistletoe.” He’s looking down the corridor, with a slightly bewildered look. “How much mistletoe did you buy, Mu?” Evil kisses him again.

“Enough for the whole house. There’s not a doorway or corridor without legally required kisses.” Hiromu’s grinning like a fool. Evil squishes his cheeks.

“You’re a brat, Hiromu.” Evil kisses him again, and again, somehow managing to change his shoes, walk them to the living room, and not stop kissing Hiromu all the way to the sofa. Evil flops down, dragging Hiromu with him, tucking him up, and settling down to watch the movie.

The movie is a quiet, fun little romance, that’s easy to get lost in, and this is how Shingo manages to sneak in without Hiromu noticing, he’d been too distracted by Evil’s slow strokes through his hair, and watching the very romantic Christmas movie with everyone. It wasn’t until Desperado had returned from the bathroom, kissed Cogito, for far too long for Hiromu’s liking, and told them that they owed Shingo a kiss that he realised he’s missed Shingo’s return. For a while, he lets it lie. He’ll get Shingo, but it’ll wait for a moment. Eventually, he needs to visit the bathroom, and instead of going back to the living room, Hiromu lurks in the kitchen doorway. Shingo’s distracted, which is exactly how Hiromu wants him. A proper surprise mistletoe kiss is exactly what Hiromu wants to give him. He’s currently busy chopping carrots, his attention entirely on his knife, and the carrots. When the knife goes down, Hiromu launches himself at a bewildered Shingo.

“Kisses.” He declares, getting caught in mid-leap. Shingo levels him with a serious, and stern look. For a moment, Hiromu’s convinced he’s made a misstep, and that Shingo is mad, or at least not interested in kisses. Shingo sighs dramatically. His stern look melts into something softer, fonder, and filled with glee.

“Well, it is the law.” He kisses Hiromu.

Chapter Text

Naito at once hates and loves this little hospital room. The best thing about this room, is that Hiromu is there, and that he’s healing, slowly, but surely. It’s strange to see him all but trapped in this room. Hiromu, as long as Naito has known him, has never been a man given to being still. Here, in this hospital room, he’s maybe not still, but he is muted. It’s strange, a common topic of conversation between he and the others; the strange quiet version of Hiromu causes many concerns in all of them. He’s sure it’ll pass. He’s sure eventually Hiromu will be himself again, and things will be better, they won’t be the same, because Shingo’s with them now, but things will be better in time. Naito’s looking forward to it, having everyone back with him will be at least a thousand times better than having Hiromu away from them.

He comes to this room as much as he can. He spends as much time with Hiromu as he can. The reason for it isn’t something he could put into words. It’s a must, a compulsion. He needs to see Hiromu, even if they’re doing nothing but spending time in each other’s company, it makes him feel better in some small way.

“Isn’t it pretty?” Naito glances over the source of that comment. Hiromu’s leaning on the windowsill, staring out at the neon lights. It’s not what Naito would call pretty. It’s fine, but it’s not pretty. “I think this window is my favourite thing in this room.” Hiromu makes a pained noise. Naito grits his teeth. He has to, always has to stop himself from reaching out to soothe Hiormu’s pain. He can’t do anything for him, not whilst he’s healing. “You…” Hiromu trails off. His fingers tap on the windowsill. “This time of year is …” He trails off again, and Naito wants to demand he finish a thought, or at least a sentence, but it’s nice that Hiromu’s even talking. He can be so painfully quiet in this room.

“Wrestle Kingdom’s important.” Naito offers without any real emotion. Hiromu doesn’t react. His eyes are still focussed on the neon lights a world away. Everything outside of this hospital room feels like a different world. He wants to take Hiromu from it, but knows he has to be there until he’s ready.

“It is.” Hiromu sighs. It’s started raining, the distant neon lights getting distorted by the drops. “Will you bring me something?” Hiromu turns to him finally. His face is utterly blank.

“What?” Naito doesn’t like that expression, can’t look at it too long. So, he starts looking out at the rain. It’s lashing against the window, running in streaks down the glass, smearing Hiromu’s reflection.

“Will you bring me some Christmas lights?” Hiromu moves away from the window. The window reflection shows him clambering back into bed, moving slowly and carefully. It’s so wrong for Hiromu, he shouldn’t be this careful and slow with anything but Bushi.

“Christmas lights?” Naito draws the curtains, turning to grin at Hiromu. “What kind of lights? Just plain ones, or like in the shape of Santa?”

“Stars would be nice…lots of colours too.” Hiromu’s smiling at him, a quiet smile, so very unlike his usual loud one.

“Alright, next time I visit I’ll bring you some lights.” Naito leaves the room with a quick goodbye. He has no idea where to get Christmas lights, but he’s going to find them.

His next visit to the little room, he has a string of bright lights with him, and the biggest pudding he could find. Hiromu greets him with a smile, the brightest, loudest smile Naito’s ever had from him in this little room.

“You remembered!” Hiromu sits up straighter, and reaches out for his lights. Naito drags the visitor’s chair closer.

“Of course, I remembered.” Naito scoffs, and reaches out, patting Hiromu’s hand. “Why would I forget?”

“I dunno, it was a weird request, don’t you think?” Hiromu laughs. “Will you string them around the TV?”

“Around the TV?” Naito stands, and wanders over to the too large television on the wall opposite Hiromu’s bed.

“Uh-huh. I want…” He sighs, and rubs his eye. “It’ll be a little like being there you know?” Naito glances over at him. Hiromu’s staring down at the bland hospital blanket.

“You’ll be there with us.” Naito crosses over the room, and cups Hiromu’s cheek. “You’re always with us, even if you’re not there,” Naito takes hold of Hiromu’s hand, and presses it to his chest, “you’re here.” Hiromu’s fingers ripple on his chest, and smiles.

“I’m there, huh?” Naito’s missed the smile that’s crept over Hiromu’s lips. That filthy, special smile that Naito only gets to see every so often, a smile he’s not seen since that night in America. “In your heart?”

“In all of our hearts.” Naito strokes Hiromu’s hair from his eyes. “And we,” Naito rests his hand against Hiromu’s chest, “are right here with you, waiting for you to come home to us.” Hiromu blinks rapidly, and casts his eyes upwards.

“I’m trying.” There’s a crack in Hiromu’s voice, a teary crack.

“We’ll wait as long as you need.” Naito kisses his cheek. “So, how do you want these lights?”

“Uh…drape them around the back of it. I had Nabe get some of those sticky hooks, so you can get them looking pretty.” Hiromu’s loud smile is on his face.

“Pretty, I can do pretty.” Naito lets Hiromu direct from his bed how to arrange the lights, and once he’s content, Naito settles down on the visitor’s chair, opening the pudding for Hiromu and him to share.

***

“Will you help me with this?” Hiromu’s perched on the back of the sofa, in his hands is the string of star-shaped lights Naito had bought him last year. He seems to be trying to hang them on the wall above the couch. Naito scrambles over, concern flooding him. Hiromu is perfectly safe, but seeing him in a mildly precarious position is terrifying.

“Come down from there.” Naito’s reaching out to catch him, despite knowing he’s fine. Hiromu glances over his shoulder, and grins at him.

“Come up here and help me, then I’ll get down.” Hiromu tosses him one end of the string of lights. Naito considers the end of the string, and considers tugging on the end of the string, bringing Hiromu down to him. It’s too risky. He clambers up beside Hiromu. “Okay, I need you to stick the hook up there, and then put the string over it.” Hiromu clambers down, and is perched on the coffee table, grinning at Naito.

“So, the help you need is me to do the work?” Naito half-heartedly grumbles, doing as he’s told. It only takes a few minutes to arrange the lights in the way Hiromu wants. “There, done.” Naito sits on the table beside Hiromu, and bumps against his shoulder.

“Looks good, Naito-san.” Hiromu’s head rests against his shoulder. “So…this is time last year.”

“Yeah…this time of year is always…”

“Wrestle Kingdom’s important, hmm?” Hiromu’s hair brushes against Naito’s neck, he moves closer, pressing his thigh against Naito’s. “We’re gonna have so many belts.” Hiromu’s arm slips around Naito’s waist. “We’re gonna win all the belts we can, and we’re gonna fu-“ Naito kisses Hiromu to stop him from talking.

“We are not doing that” Naito laughs, and picks Hiromu up, depositing him on the couch. “We are not getting the belts dirty.”

“Since when did you care about the physical wellbeing of a title belt?” Hiromu catches hold of Naito’s face. Then kisses his forehead, and leans over, plugging the lights in. The room is filled with bright colours chasing each other, casting strange, interesting shadows over Hiromu’s face. “Pretty.” Hiromu settles on his side, reaching out to Naito, pulling him to lie on the couch with him. “We’re gonna win all the belts, and then we’re gonna fuck under my lights, with-”

“Without the belts.” Naito tells him firmly, holding him tightly, pressing their foreheads together.

“…fine…without the belts.” Hiromu concedes with a smile that quietly promises that at least one of the belts they’re going to win is going to be under the lights with them.

Chapter Text

Another snowball flies past him, followed by flurry of children, giggling and calling out to each other, flinging snowballs as they go. With a smile, he ducks under the curtain into his little restaurant, ready to start the day. Restaurant is a kind way to describe it really. It’s nothing more than an oden stall, at least in the winter, in the warmer months he changes the speciality. His little stall is his pride and joy, the one thing he truly owns. He’d worked hard to gather the money to buy the stall, and even harder to make it a viable business, slowly all that hard work is paying off.

The cold winter days bring people to him, seeking something warm, and tasty to counter the snow. His little stall is a hive of activity all day, and most of the night. He’s considering closing up when the curtain raises, and someone ducks in.

“You’re still serving?” The young man who pushes up the curtain gives Bushi a smile. He looks ill-prepared for the cold weather, his hair dusted with fresh fallen snow, his full lips slightly pale.

“I am.” Bushi nods, taking up a bowl, filling it with some broth. “What would you like?” Bushi waves his hand over the available additions. The young man comes in, and sits down.

“I’m glad you’re still open, I was worried I might starve.” He’s still smiling, his cheeks are rosy, his pupils a little too wide with what Bushi assumes is alcohol.

“I was about to close up, so you’re lucky. You’re out late. Playing mahjong for money?” The young man laughs, shaking his head.

“I’ve no luck or skill at mahjong.” The young man is casting his eye over the additions. “Just pick the best of what’s left.” He picks up the cup of hot water Bushi had placed in front of him. Bushi picks out a nice selection from what’s left, and loads up the young man’s bowl of broth. “Thank you.” He bows his head, and starts eating. Bushi returns to cleaning up.

“I’ve not seen you around before. Are you new in town?” The young man looks from his food, and shakes his head.

“No…not new.” He winks at Bushi, and keeps eating. “I’m just passing through.”

“On your way to the city?” Bushi asks absently, wiping down the counter.

“No.” the young man looks up at Bushi, stirring his oden with his chopsticks. “I’m just travelling…I’ll probably stop in at home, though.” He rests his chin on his fist.

“Home? You’ve been away a long time?” The young man nods absently, watching Bushi stacking the clean bowls. “Your family will be glad to have you home.” The young man laughs at, and shakes his head.

“No, probably not.” He starts eating again, picking out a fishcake. “It’s not so much home as it is where I’m from.” He finishes the cake, and pokes at the broth, only pick it up, finishing the last of it in a few gulps. “I…I’m sorry I don’t have money. I should have mentioned that before eating.” He gets to his feet, and bows his head. “I do have something to offer you though.” The young man looks up with a smile, a strange look in his eyes.

“You don’t have to.” Bushi assures the young man, and takes his empty bowl.

“Oh, I do.” The young man stands up, and plucks from his clothes a ribbon, a vibrant red ribbon that seems to almost glow. “This is all I have.” The young man ties the ribbon around the pot of clean chopsticks. “I’m sure I’ll see you again.” He bows his head, and takes his leave. Bushi fingers the ribbon thoughtfully. It’s soft, surprisingly soft, and very pretty. It’s too pretty to be somewhere it could easily be stained.

“I should move this.” He mutters to himself. Something stops him from moving the ribbon though. The fabric feels warm, like it’s been held in someone’s hand for a long time. “You stay there then, little ribbon.” Bushi smiles at the ribbon.

The next year is good one for Bushi. His little stall seems an increase in business. The harsh winter winds seemed to pass over Bushi’s little stall, with many more people coming to hide from the storms, and in the summer a cool breeze ruffles the curtains, keeping the customers comfortable despite the heat. It was the most profitable year Bushi’s ever had. A part of him, a little silly part of him, credits his success to the little red ribbon around his chopstick pot.

The curtain raises, and under it ducks the young man from a year ago. Bushi recognises him instantly, despite his looking a little different, his hair longer, his face thinner, his clothes are different too, not nicer but different.

“Hello again.” Bushi smiles at him, getting a surprised grin from him.

“Ah! Hello.” He sits in the same spot he did a year ago, and levels Bushi with a thoughtful look. “Hmm, I see you kept my ribbon.” He fingers the little red ribbon, a soft little smile on his face.

“My lucky ribbon? Of course.” Bushi sets a bowl of oden down in front of the young man. “I’ve got another pot now, so I’m going to need another ribbon.” The young man looks up at Bushi.

“Lucky?” His voice has a teasing tone in it, teasing and light, a half-step away from flirting.

“Very lucky.” Bushi adds another few fishcakes to the young man’s bowl. “I needed another chopstick pot after all.” Bushi sets the new pot down on the counter. “See.”

“Ah, and it looks very plain beside its big brother.” The young man produces another ribbon from his clothes, and ties it around the new chopstick pot. “There,” he turns the pot around to face Bushi, “a matching pair.”

“Doubly lucky.” Bushi grins. “You’re heading back home again?”

“Home? No…well…maybe.” The young man sighs, his smile replaced with something less content. “I travel…” He rests his chin in his hand, his expression closed off.

“Like a leaf blown on the wind?” Bushi offers, the young man smiles, and nods absently.

“Close enough.” He laughs. “Well, Mr oden chef, thank you for dinner. I hope to see you again.” He stands up, flashing Bushi a brilliant smile.

“You know you’re welcome to come any time, even when it’s not freezing cold outside.” Bushi tells him, but all he gets a wave over the young man’s shoulder on his way out the stall.

The year passes, and again, Bushi sees his profits grow. His stall becomes so busy that he ends up having to move to a permanent building, his little stall becoming a real restaurant, with a fulltime pot of oden broth bubbling away should anyone want some anytime, instead of just in the winter.

This year the winter has been bleak, and his restaurant is busy. Not tonight though, fierce storm has been blowing through the town, the winds and snow heavy and strong. It’s a terrible night, and business is non-existent. He should just go up to bed, but he can’t bring himself to. Something is keeping him behind the counter. The door curtain lifts, and the young man slips through, closing the sliding door behind him.

“Mr oden chef! I’m glad to see you’re still open.” He smiles brightly at Bushi, coming to sit at the counter.

“Ah, Mr leaf, how nice to see you again, but really I’m surprised to see you in this weather.” Bushi sets the bowl of broth down in front of him. “So, what would you like this year?”

“Hmm, whatever you think is best.” The young man is batting at the ribbon around the nearest chopstick pot. “I see your restaurant has gotten much bigger.”

“Well, two lucky ribbons, it couldn’t help but get bigger.” Bushi finishes loading the bowl of broth with extras. “And the oden pot stays on all year round now, so…” He trails off. The young man looks up at him.

“Hmm, well that does make visiting you in the summer more tempting, Mr oden chef.” The young man smiles.

“I would like that.” Bushi sets a cup of hot water down by him. “It’d be nice to see you more than once a year.”

“Ah…” The young man takes the cup up, tips it slightly towards Bushi, and takes a drink. “You seem to be doing well these days.”

“I told you, it’s your lucky ribbons.” Bushi picks out a fishcake from the broth. “Ever since you gifted me the first one, my little stall has had a good turn of fortune.”

“Hmm, maybe it’s me that’s lucky.” The young man laughs.

“Ah, maybe.” He winks at Bushi, and keeps eating. They make gentle small talk, discussing Bushi’s successes. The young man is slightly evasive about what he does that has him travelling, not that Bushi put any real effort into asking, only vague questions that let him escape from answering them easily enough. When he finishes, Bushi takes his bowl, and washes it up.

“Please tell me you have somewhere to stay, Mr leaf.” The young man regards Bushi thoughtfully, and takes a deep breath.

“Hiromu.” It’s strange how much it feels like a big thing to learn this strange young man’s name. “Don’t go telling everyone…my name is a secret.” He winks, his chin resting on his folded hands.

“A secret?” Bushi raises an eyebrow, but he decides to let it go. “Now, do you have somewhere to stay? It’s bitter out tonight. I don’t want my lucky little ribbon boy to freeze to death.” Hiromu ducks his head with a shake. “Stay with me.”

“I couldn’t.” Hiromu mutters. “It’d be rude, or…” He fidgets awkwardly. “I’ll,” Bushi sets his hand on Hiromu’s shoulder.

“Please, stay with me.” Bushi puts on his brightest, kindest smile.

“Alright, alright. Thank you.”

“Bushi, by the way, my name is Bushi. Let me close up here, and I’ll take you upstairs.” Hiromu giggles at that, and presses his chin to his chest, his cheeks scarlet. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“You sure?” He winks. Bushi laughs, but doesn’t answer. He’s not entirely sure he doesn’t mean it like that. Hiromu is a handsome young man. “Can I help?” He asks after a moment of letting Bushi clean up in silence.

“Help? Oh, no. I’m nearly finished.” Bushi waves him off, and rights the last of the bowls. Once he’s satisfied everything is ready for tomorrow, he taps Hiromu on the shoulder, jolting him from his doze by the fire. “This way, up you go.” Bushi ushers Hiromu up the stairs. He leads the way with careful steps, picking his way up the rickety stairs to Bushi’s small quarters.

“This is cosy…maybe I should tie a ribbon to your door, give you a bigger house.” He laughs.

“I like my little place. It’s nice and cosy.” Bushi pulls out the spare tatami, and the blankets to go with it. Bushi tosses the blankets to Hiromu, and gives him a grin.

“You do?” Hiromu seems to be gazing around Bushi’s little home, with a gentle smile.  He unfurls the blankets over the tatami. He flops down with a grin. “It’s nice and warm.”

“Lucky ribbons keep the drafts away.” Bushi settles on his own matt. Hiromu nods absently, flopping back.

“I’m glad to be of use.” He looks over at Bushi with a lazy smile.

“Oh, you’re a massive help. My little patron leaf.” Bushi laughs softly, lying down. “You’re warm enough? I have an extra blanket if you need it.”

“I…I’m warmer than I usually am.” There’s a faint stain of red on Hiromu’s cheeks.

“You…what do you do, patron leaf?” Bushi considers him. His eyes don’t look right, the light of Bushi’s dim lantern seems to be reflected in them like it would in the eyes of an animal. “A better question…” Bushi moves closer, and brushes Hiromu’s hair from his eyes. “What are you?” Hiromu looks away, the red stain on his cheeks is darker.

“A fool, mostly.” He mutters. Now that Bushi’s closer, now that light is dimmer, he can see just how big Hiromu’s pupils are, far bigger than any human’s would be. “But,” he takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly like he was preparing himself for something terrible, “also a spirit…a wind spirit.” He smiles, his teeth are very white, and far sharper than Bushi would have been able to tell were he not so close.

“The ribbons…they’re tokens from a spirit?” Hiromu nods slightly, almost ashamed. “Thank you.” Bushi moves away, turning his attention to the ceiling. “It’s not often that anyone encounters a spirit, never mind earns one’s favour twice. It’s quite the honour.”

“You’re a very good chef.” Hiromu yawns. “Thank you for letting me stay.” He says softly.

“Goodnight, Hiromu.” Nothing more is said between them that night.

It’s not a surprise when Hiromu is gone when Bushi wakes up in the morning. He’d not expected the spirit to have stayed after he’d told Bushi what he was. It’s a little sad, because it would have been nice, but it’s okay. Spirits don’t mingle with normal humans, and giving favours is even more rare than seeing them. He’d like to see the spirit again, but he’s quite sure he won’t. It was a rare gift to meet Hiromu once, but three times is quite the blessing. A blessing Bushi is very grateful for.  

“We got a sign, boss?” Bushi’s second cook asks when he comes in to work.

“A new sign?”

“Yeah, out front…you did buy it, right?” The cook sounds confused, but doesn’t push the matter, starting his morning duties. Bushi heads outside. Over the entrance to his restaurant is a red sign, marked with the name of his restaurant, a red sign made of the same fabric as the ribbons tied to his chopstick pots.

Another year passes. A rich man came through the town, and took a liking to Bushi’s oden broth. He tried to persuade Bushi to follow him to the city to open a new restaurant. Instead of following the man, Bushi sent his second cook. The new restaurant opened, and a few months later, Bushi received a letter from the second cook, thanking him for the lucky ribbons on the chopstick pots. Bushi had left the letter near an open window, adding his own personal thanks to Hiromu. He’s certain that the wind spirit had visited his second restaurant and gifted it with lucky ribbons to help it flourish, and flourish it did. Bushi was beginning to amass quite a comfortable amount of money, but still he wouldn’t leave the little dwelling above his first restaurant. Every day, a foolish little part of him hoped for the wind spirit to visit him again, but a full year passed, and there was no sign of the little spirit.

One year became two, and two became three, then four, but the spirit didn’t show. Perhaps he had other business to attend to, perhaps he didn’t want to show his face now that Bushi knows what he was, either way it’s not something Bushi’s happy about. It’d be nice to at least see the handsome spirit again, and he can’t help but hope for it.

“It’s been a long time.”

“Five years.” Bushi’s already filling a bowl with broth and fishcakes before Hiromu can take a seat. “Where have you been? I was worried, my patron leaf.”

“I was…blown far away from home, Mr oden chef.” Hiromu takes up a pair of chopsticks, and gives Bushi a lopsided smile. He’s changed in the time he’s been away. His hair is longer, the ends blood red as they curl on his shoulders, his clothes a thousand different colours, his skin a darker shade of gold.

“I’ve missed you.” Bushi sets down a cup of hot water, and takes a seat on the other side of the counter, opposite Hiromu. “Where have you been?”

“I’ve been travelling…properly travelling.” He smiles, and from his clothes, he produces ribbons, thousands of ribbons in a myriad of colours.

“They’re very pretty.” Bushi carefully touches the nearest ribbon. It looks jet black but as his finger moves over it, it shimmers with all the colours of the rainbow. He can feel Hiromu’s gaze on him, as warm and light as a summer breeze.

“The favours…” Hiromu clears his throat, and catches Bushi’s hand. “Most people don’t get favours from spirits, because they’re not favours at all.” He twists his hand, and holds Bushi’s properly. “They’re…tokens…like…humans give each other flowers, or poems, or things...” Bushi looks up from their hands, staring at Hiromu. His face is as red as the ribbons on the chopstick pots.

“Courtship tokens?” Bushi asks. Hiromu ducks his head, looking uncomfortable.

“The first three weren’t enough so…” He takes a deep breath, and looks up at Bushi, smiling awkwardly. “I have brought a ribbon of every wind I travelled. They’re from all over the world, and I,” Hiromu doesn’t get to finish his sentence. Bushi catches his chin, and kisses him.

Chapter Text

There are unspoken rules in the Gun, things everyone knows, but doesn’t say. The best, or maybe the worst, Desperado isn’t sure, is the rule of Keeping The Boss Happy. This can be done in many ways, chief among them is winning matches, and since his return, he’s been pretty good at that. He’s also very good about breaking that rule, and the moment Desperado walks into the sparring room, he knows that he’s broken The Rule.

“You wanna explain yourself, or you wanna get down to it?” Suzuki’s taping up his hands, a lazy half smile on his face. Desperado weighs his options. He thinks he knows what he’s done to annoy Suzuki, but it might be better for him to play at ignorance, and chance Suzuki’s mood. He seems pretty happy, but that means less than nothing. Happiness is a difficult to pin down emotion in Suzuki.

“You wanna tell me what I’m explaining, Boss?” Desperado asks, pulling off his shirt, radiating what he hopes is confidence. Suzuki smiles at him like a shark. A miscalculation on Desperado’s part.

“You know better than to be welcoming…what is it Zack calls him?”

“The littlest dickhead, Boss.” Zack appears from seemingly nowhere. “Honestly, Despy…I’d thought that having him gone for so long, and being out yourself, would have readdressed your stance on that little shit.”

“I was being,” Desperado stops himself. Being nice to the enemy isn’t a good thing, nothing he can’t say is going to make this any better, or any easier, so he tries to redirect his initial statement. “I was lulling him into a false sense,” Zack laughs there, interrupting what Desperado was saying, it seems Desperado is doing nothing to help his situation.

“He told you to shut the fuck up. I don’t think false senses of security were forthcoming.” Suzuki comes closer, his taped hand pats Desperado’s cheek. “How many times, mutt? How many times do we have to show you where you’re supposed to be?” Suzuki sighs dramatically, and without warning Desperado’s on his back staring up at the ceiling, and the shark grin of Suzuki.

“I ain’t going anywhere, Boss.” He mutters, twisting away before Suzuki can trap him in a hold. He rolls to his feet, falling into a fighting stance out of habit. Suzuki looks pleased for a half-second.

“I know that, I just want to make sure you do.” There could be a case argued that Suzuki sounds very supportive right now, but that’s completely negated when Zack traps Desperado’s arms, pulling them back tight. Suzuki lands a very light, for him, punch to Desperado’s stomach.

“Honestly, you’d think you’d know by now that nothing good comes from playing with the baby dickhead.” Zack coos in his ear, changing the hold to stretch just one arm, forcing Desperado to his knees. “He’s like a cat, and you’re nothing but a mouse for him…you gotta remind that little shithead that you’re canine, Despy.” Zack bites his earlobe. Zack sounds scolding, but his words are true enough.

“A poorly disciplined dog is what he is most of the time.” Suzuki sighs, patting Desperado’s head. “Maybe I should put you up for adoption, mutt.” He shakes his head, ruffling the curls of Desperado’s hair.

“Oi, Boss, don’t do that. He’s a good boy, and he’s learning his lessons, aren’t you?” Zack’s changed his hold again. It hurts, and stops Desperado from moving, but he’s not complaining. He likes being a toy between The Boss and his favoured son. Suzuki sits down on the floor, watching him thoughtfully.

“Have you?” He asks patiently, the shark smile still in place. Desperado grins back. He knows where this is going, this is a lesson he’s happy to receive.

“I dunno, Boss. He’s a pretty kitty, and you know how dogs like to chase cats.” He grins, all of his teeth on display. Suzuki shakes his head, getting to his feet.

“See, this is why the mutt needs more training than everyone else. We don’t have these troubles with anyone else, but this disobedient dog.” Suzuki leaves the sparring room for a moment.

“I guess, we’re gonna have to train you some more, puppy.” Zack purrs in Desperado’s ear. He frees one of his hands from the stretch he’s got Desperado in, and skims it down his body. “It doesn’t seem like you’d mind that all that much though, puppy.” Zack’s fingers coil around Desperado’s slowly stiffening cock. “Such a needy little puppy you are.” Desperado leans back against Zack, half trying to squirm free so he can do something, half leaning into the stretch, wanting to feel it even more. “Don’t worry, ol’ Zacky boy’s got you. Me and The Boss, we’ll top up your training, and get you nice and focussed again.” Desperado whines when Zack bites his earlobe again.

“You’ve got the mutt whining already?” Suzuki tosses something to Zack, something Desperado doesn’t quite see, but he has suspicions. “Let’s test that endurance of yours, mutt.” Suzuki takes a seat on a bench backed against a wall. “Come closer.” Zack releases Desperado from his hold, laughing when Desperado scrambles over to Suzuki. “Calm down, be a good boy.” Suzuki laughs, splaying his legs. He levels Desperado with a look. Without question or thought, Desperado strips. “Good boy.” Suzuki sounds like he means that. Desperado puffs up, good boy is the highest praise he can receive from Suzuki. “Okay, now, put on your collar.” Suzuki opens his hand, lying in the centre of it is his cock ring, his collar. Zack plasters himself to Desperado’s back, and takes his cock in hand, stroking him slowly with his lubricated fingers.

“He’s such a good boy deep down, isn’t he, Boss?” Zack chuckles, speeding up his strokes. Suzuki shifts on the bench, leaning back against the wall, watching them with a warm, almost fond look in his eyes. “Put your collar on, puppy.” Zack lets go of his dick, and starts fingering his ass. “You’ve a good hard sparring session after this training, so make sure that collar is nice and tight, puppy.” As soon as Desperado secures the ring around the base of his cock, Zack thrusts into him, pushing him forward. Desperado braces himself on the wall, caging Suzuki with his arms. The shark grin is back on his face, and that almost fond look hasn’t shifted. Zack sets a fast, firm pace, his long thin fingers digging in at Desperado’s hips, pulling him back into every thrust, making Desperado whine.

“There’s my good boy.” Suzuki doesn’t coo, but that tone is dangerously close to one. He starts batting lazily at Desperado’s cock. “On your knees, mutt.” Desperado doesn’t get a chance to comply with Suzuki’s request, Zack pulls him back, and rearranges them, so that Desperado is on all fours, without ever missing a beat. They’ve played this game more than once; he knows how to follow the rules well. Suzuki is sitting on the bench, watching Zack fuck him, and Desperado is watching Suzuki, waiting for the nod, the cue that he’s allowed to come over to him. He can see the tenting in Suzuki’s trunks, can see the little damp patch building, can see the approval, the fondness in The Boss’s eyes. It should be embarrassing, it should be humiliating, but the feeling Desperado has in that moment is the exact opposite. Right now, he is making The Boss very happy, and as soon as he nods, and ushers Desperado over to take his cock into his mouth, he’ll be making him even happier, and that thought alone fills him with pride. Finally, finally, Suzuki nods, and Desperado scrambles the slight distance over to Suzuki, swallowing his cock down like it was the most delicious thing in the world, it might actually be the best thing Desperado’s ever had in his mouth.

“Oi!” Zack grumbles. Desperado can vaguely hear him complaining, and thrusting back into him, but that doesn’t matter. What really matters is that Suzuki has taken hold of his head, and his blunt nails are biting just slightly into his scalp, and most important of all are the soft, scattered murmurs of good boy. Desperado loses himself in pleasing Suzuki, in making sure his tongue touches all the parts of Suzuki’s cock he likes, that he takes him in as deep as he needs, that he thoroughly pleases The Boss. Pleasing Suzuki is the only thing that’s important. His efforts are reward with contented noises, and scalp scritches. Right then, Desperado is the happiest it’s possible for him to be. He tries to hold Suzuki’s orgasm off as long as possible, he wants to be The Boss’s best, most favourite puppy for as long as possible, but eventually, his skills are too much, and Suzuki’s release fills his mouth.

“There, good boy.” Suzuki murmurs absently. Zack had already finished; Desperado hadn’t even noticed, he’d been too focussed on Suzuki, which is how it should be, as important as Zack is, he’s not The Boss. Now that Suzuki has been taken care of though, Desperado wouldn’t mind a little attention for himself, and hopes his grinding against Suzuki’s shin is making that clear.

“Right, we gonna get some work done, then?” Zack sounds impatient, and Suzuki is standing up. Slowly, it dawns on Desperado that they’re not finished playing with him.

“Hmm, warm-ups first.” Suzuki moves to stand beside Zack, stretching with him, watching Desperado expectantly. He casts a longing gaze down at his cock, but the only reaction that gets him is a firm shake of his head from Suzuki, and a toothy grin from Zack. They’re definitely not done toying with him yet.

 

Chapter Text

“Oww!” Naito is getting sick of Hiromu pulling his hair. Hiromu sharply taps his shoulder with the hairbrush. “Can’t we just surprise him normally.” Naito sighs. He’s all for surprising Bushi, but this seems like a little too much effort.

“We can’t, because this will be more fun, Naito-san.” Hiromu’s fingers rub over Naito’s scalp, and he presses a kiss to the nape of Naito’s neck. “He’ll be so happy when he’s home.” Naito nods absently, letting Hiromu put him through more torture. “Mama’s going to be the happiest when he sees how pretty you are.” Hiromu starts scraping Naito’s hair back and up into ponytail. Naito will concede that Bushi will like the ponytail Hiromu’s just tortured into existence, but it still feels like a lot of effort; Bushi’s pretty happy to see them in general.

“He better appreciate this, little weasel.” Naito grumbles, and musses up the tied back hair. “Please tell me you’re not expecting me to get dressed up too?” Hiromu laughs with a nod.

“Of course I do! Mama deserves the best, most fun time, and that means you being just as pretty as me.” Hiromu kisses Naito gently. “Now, hurry up, and get changed. He’ll be home soon, and everything has to be perfect.”

“Fine, fine, but he better appreciate how much pain I’ve been forced through.” Naito takes the stupid costume from Hiromu. “You really want me to wear this?”

“Mama will be so happy.” Hiromu’s voice has taken on that terrible, awful tone, the one that Naito can’t help but listen to, even worse he’s wearing his impossible to resist puppy dog eyes. Naito starts putting on the stupid outfit. “Fine, but I’m not wearing makeup.” Hiromu laughs, kissing, and assuring him that he can’t make makeup look pretty, so there’ll be no makeup to worry about.

Once Hiromu’s satisfied that Naito is pretty enough, he sets to making his own hair look pretty. Instead of the ponytail Hiromu had forced into Naito’s hair he goes with pigtails, which really is cheating. There is something salacious about Hiromu with his hair in pigtails, something that makes Naito pull him down to Bushi’s bed, and start kissing him frantically, wanting to make a mess of this innocent seeming version of his little Hiromu. He only stops when the bedroom door opens.

“I…” Bushi’s staring blankly at them, his eyes wide as he watches them. Hiromu might have had a point that it’d be fun to dress up, and surprise him. Hiromu gets off the bed, and all but skips over to Bushi, sorting his little velvet skirt.

“Welcome home, Mama.” Hiromu presses a kiss to Bushi’s cheek, and plops a Santa hat on his head. Naito gets off the bed, and wanders over to him. He’s a lot less interested in how nicely his skirt is lying, and a lot more interested in the way Bushi is staring at them.

“Baby…” Bushi breathes, lightly touching Hiromu’s pigtails. He reaches out to Naito, running his fingers through the length of his hair. “Did you do this, baby?” Bushi asks, staring at Naito, even if the question is clearly directed at Hiromu.

“Mmhmm,” Hiromu nods smoothing down Naito’s uniform, making sure the skirt is lying properly. “Isn’t Naito-san the prettiest little elf you’ve ever seen?”

“Very pretty.” Bushi murmurs. He reaches up, straightening the Santa hat on his head. “I’m Santa, and you’re my naughty elves then?” He asks with a laugh.

“Apparently.” Naito kisses Bushi’s cheek. Bushi catches the ponytail again, and pulls Naito into a proper kiss. “The little weasel makes a very pretty elf, doesn’t he?” Hiromu really does look good in the little forest green elf outfit. Naito’s certain he looks like a fool, but Bushi seems entranced by both of them, and that was what Hiromu had been aiming for, so he supposes the hair torture was worth it in the end.

“C’mon Santa-mama, to bed with you.” Hiromu’s at once guiding Bushi forward towards his bed, and stripping off all of Bushi’s clothes with uncanny efficacy. It seems like no time at all before Bushi’s propped up against the pillows, his attention entirely on Hiromu, watching him suck his cock. It’s a pretty sight, only made better by the way the way Hiromu’s little skirt rides up, showing off his little frilly panties.

“You having fun, Kiki?” Naito asks, running his hands up Hiromu’s legs, urging them apart. Bushi looks up from Hiromu, and gives Naito a hazy smile.

“C’mere.” He reaches out, catching hold of Naito’s face, pulling him over Hiromu. It has the unexpected, but very pleasing effect of making Hiromu take Bushi’s length deeper, making Bushi moan into the kiss. “I want you to fuck me.” Bushi says it slow and clear, leaving no doubts. Naito grins, and considers exactly how to best fulfil that request. Bushi makes the choice for him. He takes a firm hold of Hiromu’s pigtails, and lifts his head up. “On your knees, baby.” Hiromu scrambles to comply. How readily Hiromu obeys Bushi is always one of the most astounding things in the world to Naito. That little brat loves his Mama so much, and never wants to make him disappointed or unhappy with him. Naito’s pretty sure he should be thanked more often and more thoroughly for introducing them to each other. Bushi gets to his feet, and arranges himself so that Naito can prep him. He takes as much time as he dares. He knows how good Hiromu is with his mouth, and the exact details of this plan weren’t hashed out, so Naito isn’t sure if Hiromu’s intending to make Bushi come or not. Bushi moans softly, his head falls back against Naito’s shoulder as he pushes in. Naito holds still, letting Bushi catch his breath. He’s panting lightly though, rocking his hips back into Naito’s cock, and forward, deeper down Hiromu’s throat, murmuring softly in pleasure, already so close to being overwhelmed.

“Feels good, Kiki?” Naito asks, knowing Bushi couldn’t answer even if he wanted to. “Does Mama taste good, little weasel?” It’s even more pointless to ask Hiromu questions, but he can’t help it. Hiromu looks up at him, there’s something gloriously needy in his eyes. “I think your baby is feeling left out, mama.” Naito starts kissing at Bushi’s neck, trailing kisses up to his panting mouth. “You want someone to take care of you, little weasel?” Hiromu pulls back, his lips red and shining. Bushi whines.

“Mama, please.” Hiromu’s voice is thick and soft. Bushi arches in Naito’s arms, his hands scrambling for Hiromu.

“Baby, ‘mere.” Hiromu gets to his feet, and lets Bushi claim him in a kiss. “Want you, baby. Wanna fuck, my pretty baby boy.” Bushi’s murmuring, his words little more than hot whispers. Naito stops moving, and withdraws from Bushi, earning him a groaning whine.

“Hey, no whining. We’re just gonna move this to the bed, is all.” Naito kisses Bushi’s shoulder, then catches one of Hiromu’s pigtails, pulling him into a kiss. “Go lie down, and get ready for Mama.” Naito tells him, slapping his ass on his way past, making Hiromu jump slightly, and shoot him a look. “We’re waiting, hurry up.” Naito turns Bushi around, holding him in place to stop him from going to help Hiromu open himself up.

“Naito” Bushi’s dangerously close to complaining when Hiromu pulls off his panties, and works a single finger inside himself. Naito starts stroking Bushi’s cock, smearing it with lubricant, distracting him from his half-started complaints.

“Mama.” Eventually, Hiromu deems himself ready, and holds his arms out, his legs splayed wide, his fingers are rippling in the air, like they can’t wait to cling to Bushi. Naito holds him for a moment, teasing them both, before letting Bushi go, watching him bury his considerable length in Hiromu’s no doubt welcoming body.

“I could watch you two all day, you know that.” Naito almost considers staying where he is, almost considers stroking himself off watching his beautiful juniors fuck, but he knows Bushi’s already wet and stretched. It would be a shame to let his hard work preparing Bushi go to waste. He clambers onto the bed, hitches up his own skirt, and thrusts into Bushi.

“Naito?” Bushi gasps, his shoulders rolling, testing the limitations of this position. Hiromu’s heels dig into Naito’s back, pulling him in closer, making Bushi groan in pleasure. Over Bushi’s shoulder, Naito meets Hiromu’s eyes. An unspoken agreement is made in that moment. They’re going to flood Bushi with pleasure, even if they drown in it themselves. Naito dictates the pace, using his leverage to dictate the speed, and depth of the fuck Bushi is able to give Hiromu, but Hiromu is using his heels, and those treacherous puppy dog eyes to get his own way. Trapped between them, Bushi is so clearly lost, only able to ride the waves of sensation from being in the middle of this. It’s a good position to be in, one Naito’s almost jealous of. This game of picking Bushi eventually comes to an end when, with a shudder, Naito cums deeps inside him, peppering kisses over his shoulders. He can hear Hiromu pleading, begging for Bushi to make him cum. It’s a sound he’s never going to tire of, Bushi’s ability to make wilful little Hiromu his obedient little baby is one of the most impressive things in the world.

“Go on, baby. Cum for Mama.” As soon as the words leave Bushi’s mouth, Hiromu’s body quivers with his release. Bushi follows him not long after. Naito lets his full weight rest on Bushi, collapsing him down on Hiromu with a soft groan. For a moment, it’s perfect; the three of them pressed as close as possible, warm, sated, and content. Hiromu is the first to squirm out. He loves cuddles, but is particular about postcoital snuggles. He doesn’t care for lying around in body fluids, and definitely does not like the feeling of santorum dribbling from inside him. He presses quick lazy kisses to any available skin, and leaves the bed, heading for Bushi’s en suite. For a moment, Bushi lies still beside Naito.

“I wish you’d wear your hair up more often.” He cups Naito’s cheek, stroking over his skin fondly. “It’s so nice in ponytail.” He rolls out of bed, casting a mildly distraught look over his bedding. “Coming?” He holds out a hand, somehow the stupid Santa hat is still on Bushi’s head. Naito makes the decision to get on to Santa’s nice list.

“Not yet, I’ll change the bed, then I’ll be there for round two, Santa.”

 

Chapter Text

Sho’s woken up by icy fingers. He squirms away from them, trying to hide from the awful freezing daggers jabbing at his ribs.

“Wakey-wakey.” A purr in his ear. “Wakey-wakey.” Sho is reluctant to swipe at the voice, but it’s early, and he’s cold, and tired. “Hey, c’mon, wakey-wakey, Sho.”

“No.” He grumbles, pulling his blanket over his head, wishing Yohei would go away and let him sleep.

“C’mon, it’s snowing out.” Yohei’s hands still haven’t warmed up, despite being under Sho’s blankets for what feels like hours now.

“I don’t care.” He grumbles, curling up smaller in his blankets.  “It’s too cold.”

“Psst, Yohei-kun. Is Sho-kun coming out to help with our snowman or not?” Sho doesn’t recognise the voice at first. The words it forms are clumsy and misshapen, for a second he thinks it might be a drunk Hiromu, who talks in slurring rambles, but Hiromu’s not even in Japan anymore.

“He’s sleeping.” Yohei answers, finally withdrawing his cold hands from under the covers. “You get Debbie-chan?”

“Present.” Debbie-chan sounds like an excited kid. All of this over some snow. There has to be more to this than just snow.

“Wait up.” Sho grumbles, slowly burrowing out from under his blankets. “Wait up. I’ll be there, just wait up.” Sho pulls on as many clothes as he can, and trails along behind Yohei. “What are we going to do?”

“We’re building a snowman.” Jay grins at him, there is nothing more to this plan than building a snowman. Sho regrets getting out of bed. “I can’t remember the last time I built a snowman.” He starts rambling in English, and Debbie-chan joins in, the conversation entirely out of Sho’s hands now. Yohei grins over at him.

“You know what they’re saying?” He asks quietly, like he’s afraid of seeming rude to the new Young Lions.

“No idea.” Sho shrugs, pulling on his snow boots. “Do we have things to decorate our snowman?” Yohei lifts up a bucket filled with random odds, ends, and Tupperware lids that no one has even considered putting back in the kitchen after Hiromu and his feeding of the cats. “Ah, good. What time is it?”

“Three.” Yohei grins at him, laughing when Sho groans miserably.

“Why are we building snowmen at three in the morning?” Sho whines, the two foreign Young Lions turn to him with embarrassed smiles. They’re awake at three a.m. because it’ll be fun. Sho rolls his eyes, and takes command of leading the troops out into the snow. He’s a seasoned pro at snowman building, and will make sure this goes exactly to plan.

~~~

“It’s a nice night, isn’t it?” Jay’s leaning against the railing along the hotel roof, the snow catching in his hair. He’s not dressed for the weather, his ring jacket might look cool on the way there, but out in this snow it’s less than useless. That stupid ring coat is all he’s got on as a concession to the cold.

“Yeah, it’s lovely.” Yoh pulls his scarf a little tighter. Sho makes the first move, he tiptoes around the snow drifts, following in Jay’s footprints, joining at the railing.

“Here.” He smacks a pair of gloves against Jay’s shoulder. For a second a look like the Jay of old is on his face, but it’s quickly smothered by this façade he’s wearing these days. Sho almost wants to take all those Bullet Club fools aside and tell them all about the hijinks of Young Lion Jay White, but he hasn’t, and won’t.

“I don’t need them.” He takes the gloves and puts them on all the same, a hint of gratitude in his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, who needs to be warm when they’re breathing with The Switchblade, huh?” Yoh laughs, bumping against Jay’s shoulder. Jay doesn’t say anything for a good long time. Eventually, he stands up straighter.

“What are you doing out here at three?”

“Pretty sure we could ask you the same question.” Yoh asks, grinning at Jay. He looks away, a scowl on his face. Jay holds his hand out, a hint of his old self when a single snowflake lands on his palm.

“So, you guys wanna build a snowman?” Jay’s smiling like he did before, like when they were still friends. Yoh leaves the railing, vanishing for a moment. Jay looks over at Sho.

“I dunno.” He shrugs, scraping a handful of snow from the railing. “Wanna make a start on the body?”

“Yeah.” Jay helps him gather a pile of snow, he looks like himself finally, The Switchblade banished in favour of the bright-eyed, earnest Jay White the Young Lion. “We gonna do a two or three ball man?”

“Three, it’ll look cooler.” Yoh comes back to the roof, and throws Jay a hat. He sets a bucket down. On a roll of the biggest snowball past the bucket, Sho notices a bunch of Tupperware lids poking out, and wonders if it’s the same ones that were used to feed cats a long time ago.

 

 

Chapter Text

Waking up with a dead arm is a strange, but joyful thing. Waking up being unable to feel his arm means that his beloved little Cogito stayed with him all night. As glad as he is to be working again, Desperado has missed spending as much time with his little artist as possible. Phone calls, messages, and FaceTimes are okay, but nothing compares to being with his soft, little Cogito. He tries flexing his left fingers, getting the strange tingling sensation of a restricted blood flow. He looks down, and feels a rush of delight. Cogito is fast asleep against his shoulder. He strokes their cheek, filling with a flood of warmth. He’s not sure when they snuck in, but he is entirely not complaining.

“Mmm,” Cogito shifts against him, looking up at him with a tiny soft smile. “Morning.” Desperado twists to better engulf his Cogito in his arms. They lean up, and kiss his jaw.

“Good morning.” Desperado rolls to his back, guiding Cogito to lay on top of him. “What are you doing here, Cogito-chan?” Desperado pets their hair, and starts kissing across their face.

“You have an oven, right?” Cogito’s kissing him back, squirming in his arms, settling themselves more comfortably against him.

“I do.” Desperado would never admit it, not even to Cogito, but he likes cooking, and his oven is a loyal and faithful companion. Cogito grins at him, peppering more kisses over his face.

“Excellent! I have plans for it.” Cogito laughs gently, and nuzzles against him. “I think it’s time we made our Christmas presents.”

“It is?” Desperado trails his hands down Cogito’s back, settling them on Cogito’s waist. “We could skip the whole presents thing, and just stay in bed.” He lets his hands drift lower, squeezing Cogito’s ass. “It’d be a whole heap more fun.”

“Tempting, but,” Cogito slips from his arms, and rolls to their feet, “we’re gonna make Christmas cookies, and give them to Lance-san before he goes home.” Cogito grins at him, and takes a hold of his hands. “C’mon, up and at ‘em, my handsome luchador.”

“You’re gonna feed me, right? I can’t bake on an empty stomach.” Desperado catches Cogito’s waist, pulling them closer, so they’re between his legs. “I’ll eat all our dough otherwise.” He pushes up their shirt, and starts kissing their stomach.

“I’ll feed you.” Cogito smooths their hands through his hair. “C’mon, get dressed, and your little artist will feed you.” Cogito kisses his hair. Desperado relents, letting them go. “Hurry up.” They leave the bedroom. Desperado rubs his fingers, the blood flow is reaching them again, that doesn’t matter though, his little Cogito-chan is with him, and by the looks of things is intending to stay with him all day.

By the time Desperado is dressed, Cogito’s made breakfast, and is plating up. It makes him suspect that Cogito must have started cooking before he woke up.

“So, do we have a recipe for these cookies, or are we winging it?” It’s a delight, and almost a compulsion to stand behind Cogito, holding them by their waist, pressing kisses to their neck.

“MuMu made up the dough for me. He doesn’t trust either one of us to do it properly, apparently.” Cogito twists in Desperado’s arms, kissing the corner of his mouth.

“He can bake?” Desperado knew Hiromu could cook somewhat, but actual baking is a surprise. Cogito nods rather than answering, as they’re busy kissing along his jawline, as has become their favourite thing to do since the whole broken jaw incident. Each one of their kisses feels like it’s making his jaw that little bit stronger.

“He gave me strict instructions on how long to bake them, and how long to leave them to cool before decorating. He’s very particular about his cookies.”

“I’m going to guess we should listen to his instructions, right?”

“Mmm, MuMu makes good cookies.” Cogito nods again, nuzzling against Desperado’s throat. “I should have put off the cookie making, and stayed in bed though. Right now, bed seems like a way better idea.”

“Told you.” Desperado slips from their arms, and pours some tea. “C’mon, breakfast.”

“Yessir.” Cogito salutes with a wink, and sets breakfast down in front of Desperado.

Once they’ve eaten, and the dishes have been washed, dried and put away, work on the cookies starts. Cogito rolls out the dough, and presents Desperado with a selection of festive shaped cookie cutters. They make a tray of stars, another of snowmen, a third of reindeer, and then Desperado decides to try his hand at something a little more original. Cogito is smothering their laughter behind a hand, trying to keep it to themselves, but fail miserably when Desperado presents his terrible freestyle cut cookies to them.

“What even is this? It looks…” They dissolve into giggles. Desperado’s pleased his poorly cut candy canes amuse them so much, he’d been aiming for that in all honesty. “Lance has kids, we can’t give him these, it’d be…”

“Hilarious?” Desperado grins, trading the tray of finished reindeer for the tray of candy canes. “Is this dough vegan? Can we give Zack cookies instead of a real present?”

“Uh…I don’t think it is, butter isn’t vegan right?” Cogito’s still giggling over the slightly phallic looking cookies Desperado’s just put into the oven.

“Nah, it’s not. What are we gonna get him?” Desperado takes one of the finished star cookies; they were the first in the oven, so now they’re perfectly cool, and are being decorated by Cogito. Desperado had elected to let his talented artist take point on the decorating front, which by the taste and look of the stars was an excellent idea.

“Hey! Those are for other people.” Cogito steals a bite from the cookie in Desperado’s hand. “What did we give him last year?” Cogito asks absently, absorbed in decorating the cookies once more.

“Sweater I think.” Desperado shifts the very tempting freshly decorated cookies to a different spot of the counter, and stands closer to Cogito. “We’re gonna have to go do some proper shopping soon, it’s getting close.”

“Yeah…tomorrow maybe?” Cogito offers, finishing off the last star, and making a start on the snowman.

“Tomorrow sounds good. So, tell me how to do snowmen.” It’ll be quicker with them both decorating the cookies, and Cogito is a good, if easily distracted, teacher. The snowmen had been completed, and they were making good inroads on the reindeer when the timer on the oven surprises Cogito so much they end up with the derpiest looking reindeer ever. They bite the head off, and give the body to Desperado, then go to take the freshly baked candy cane cookies out of the oven.

“We really can’t give these away.” Cogito’s pulled the candy canes from the oven, which somehow look even worse baked. For a moment, Cogito considers them, then they grab some ingredients, and start mixing them in a bowl.

“Please tell me you’re not mixing up spunk frosting, Cogito-chan.” Cogito shoots him a look that is incredulous for a whole second, before they turn crimson, and start laughing.

“No! Cinnamon sugar, it’ll kinda melt on top, and be super tasty, I think…I’ve no idea, but it should be good.”

“You think.” Desperado leans over, and kisses their forehead. “Go for it, and then get back to work. These reindeer won’t be finished by themselves.”

“So, I was thinking, do you think we could make vegan cookies? That has to be a thing, right?” Cogito’s eating the leftover frosting when they ask that question. Desperado considers it for a moment, then pulls his phone from his pocket.

“Totally a thing. We can do this for sure.” He flashes the recipe at Cogito, and steals the frosting from their finger, laughing when they wipe it on a towel with a mildly putout expression. “And Zack will totally appreciate candy cane cookies.”

“He will. So, to the store?” Cogito grins at him, and slips by, snagging a candy cane on the way past. “And when our vegan cookies are cooling, we can take a nap?” They say with a wink and a smile.

Chapter Text

“We need to welcome you back properly.” It’s Naito who tells him this, not that Hiromu’s actually listening, because Naito says it whilst groping and kissing him in the back of the car, fending off every other set of hands that might want to welcome Hiromu back too.

“We should wait until we’re at the hotel.” Bushi’s in the front with Shingo, and sounds snippy. Hiromu’s only vaguely aware of him, but he can hear displeasure in Bushi no matter how distracted he is.

“Seatbelts on.” Shingo snaps when he pulls up to a red light. Naito reluctantly withdraws, letting Hiromu sit up. “Seatbelts.”

“Yes, mother.” Naito mutters. Hiromu rights himself, and clicks his seatbelt in place. Naito’s hand is on his thigh, stroking up closer, and closer to where Hiromu’s not sure if he wants it or not.

“No molesting my baby in the car.” Bushi sounds annoyed, Hiromu suspects that’s because he’d been relegated to the passenger’s seat, and would like to be molesting him instead.

“It’s not molesting if he wants it.” Naito’s arm has wormed around Hiromu’s waist, and his hand has slipped under his shirt, caressing his skin. “You do want it, don’t you?” Naito whispers in his ear. Hiromu catches his lips, kissing Naito like his life depended on it. He wants it and a thousand other things as well. “See, the baby wants to be welcomed back by me.” Naito’s snuggles up against Hiromu, stroking his side absently.

“We should have put Hiromu in the middle, instead of letting Naito hog him.” Evil mutters, and now that Hiromu can focus, he can see Evil on the other side of Naito scowling. Naito laughs, and Sanada, stuck in the very back seats, cuffs the back of Naito’s head.

“You’re just jealous, Nabe-chan.” Naito singsongs.

“Yes.” Evil doesn’t argue, he pouts instead. Hiromu reaches over to Evil, taking his hand.

“I’m here.” He leans around Naito, grinning over at Evil.

“Too far away.” Evil holds Hiromu’s hand tightly, “when we’re at the hotel though.” Evil manages to press a kiss to the back of Hiromu’s hand, but doesn’t let go of it, trapping Naito in place. The rest of the ride back to the hotel, Evil strokes Hiromu’s hand, and Hiromu’s wondering exactly how they’re going to celebrate his return. The vibe in the car suggests that it’s going to be energetic if nothing else.

“C’mon.” Sanada opens the car door, and lifts Hiromu out as soon as Shingo parks. Hiromu wraps his legs around Sanada’s waist, and kisses him. Sanada presses him against the parking garage wall, kissing Hiromu back just as frantically.

“Inside.” Bushi sounds kind of annoyed, so Hiromu can’t blame Sanada for setting him down, even if he was enjoying his kiss.

“Everything okay, Mama?” Hiromu catches up to Bushi at the elevators, offering him his hand, which Bushi takes, and drags him into the elevator, mashing the door’s close button.

“Better now.” Bushi grins at him when the elevator doors close before anyone else can get in. Bushi pulls Hiromu down into a kiss, pressing him back against the elevator wall. He starts shoving Hiromu’s t-shirt up, baring his skin to Bushi’s questing fingers, and nipping kisses. Bushi pushes his hands down Hiromu’s pants, squeezing his cock. “Want you.” Bushi’s words come as a warm breath in Hiromu’s ear.

“I thought,” Hiromu groans as Bushi cradles his balls, rolling them, “we had to wait until we’re inside.”

“The elevator is inside.” Bushi laughs, nosing at Hiromu’s neck.

“It’s also for public use, Mama.” Hiromu pushes at Bushi’s shoulder. “In my room.”

My room,” Bushi kisses Hiromu’s nose, “everyone has a key for your room, baby.”

“They do?” Hiromu was not expecting that, but it’s not really a surprise. “You know, Naito will be pissed if you steal me away again.”

“Let him be pissed.” Bushi mutters, reluctantly withdrawing, and righting Hiromu’s clothes absently. “He can have you in the morning, I’m gonna welcome my baby back first.” The elevator dings, and the doors open. In front of the doors is a grinning Sanada. “How did you get here?”

“Took the stairs.” Sanada pants, sounding half out of breath. “C’mon.” Bushi sighs, and takes Hiromu’s hand, following along behind Sanada. His room is close to the elevator, and as soon as all three of them are inside, Sanada scoops Hiromu up, and deposits him on the bed. Bushi squirms in under Sanada arms, stealing his position over Hiromu.

“My partner.” Bushi kisses him, his hands returning to their place under Hiromu’s clothes, pushing and pulling them off, careless of buttons and zippers. “My baby, and I’m welcoming him back first.”

“Fine, fine.” Sanada shifts, and settles down beside Hiromu. “Hey, little Hiromu.” Sanada runs a finger over Hiromu’s brow. “It’s good to have you back.” Bushi’s busy covering Hiromu’s chest in nipping kisses. Sanada’s thumb skims over Hiromu’s cheek, just under his eye. “Someone else to listen to Shingo is gonna be handy.” Sanada leans over, kissing him.

“I’ll drown him out with my talking. It’s been forever since I’ve been on the road.” Hiromu arches his back when Bushi bites, and then suckles on one of his nipples. “He’ll not get a word in edgeways.”

“Focus on Bushi. He’ll get mad if his baby is distracted.” Sanada pets his hair absently, watching Bushi lavishing attention on Hiromu’s nipple. Sanada reaches out, and tweaks the other nipple, twisting it lightly, his other hand skims over Hiromu’s lips, down his neck, along his jaw, mapping the features of Hiromu’s face.

“Then stop distracting me.” Hiromu whines, tangling his hands in Sanada’s hair, pulling him down into a kiss. “Lemme focus on Mama, and behave.” Bushi bites down hard on Hiromu’s nipple, making him yelp. Bushi moves off him, and before Hiromu can think to complain, Bushi’s removing his pants, his gaze heavy and hot on Hiromu’s skin. He can’t help but squirm under Bushi’s look, trying to present himself in a way that appeals to Bushi’s tastes. Sanada is not helping though. His hands have skimmed down to Hiromu’s chest, where he’s squeezing, and pinching, and stroking, and teasing, thoroughly distracting him.

“Turn over baby.” Hiromu turns without thought, moving to his knees at Bushi’s urging. Sanada gets off the bed. Bushi licks the dip just above Hiromu’s ass.

“Mama?” He loves when Bushi does this for him, loves it more than when anyone else licks and kisses him there, because Bushi knows exactly how to eat him out perfectly. Hiromu’s only dimly aware of the sound of the bedroom door opening, and closing. Bushi licks between his ass cheeks, his tongue lingering over Hiromu’s entrance, teasing pushing in, but not following through. Instead, Bushi’s tongue travels lower, pressing hard against his taint, then down to bat at his balls, back up to his taint, up higher still and down to his balls again. Over and over, Bushi repeats this pattern, never once returning to where Hiromu truly needs Bushi’s focus. “Mama, please.” He whines.

“Spoiled little weasel making demands of his mama, hmm?” Hiromu tries to look over his shoulder, to confirm what his ears seems to have heard, but Bushi chooses that moment to push his tongue inside. Hiromu drops his head to the bed, closing his eyes, letting Bushi’s tongue and its actions be the only thing he cares about. Dimly, Hiromu can hear other people in the room moving around, but it’s unimportant, the only thing that matters is Bushi, and what he’s doing. His tongue is joined by a finger, stretching and pressing, and prodding. Someone’s stroking his hair, someone else is caressing his back, someone else is holding his legs, maybe it’s the same person, maybe it’s just Bushi, Hiromu isn’t sure, but it feels like there are hands everywhere, strong warm hands touching him like he’s precious, as Bushi eats him like he was delicious. He’s being consumed, devoured by pleasure. He has no complaints.  

“I’m gonna take you now, baby.” Bushi’s stopped eating him, Hiromu can feel the head of his cock against his entrance. Hiromu rocks back, against the cradling hands on him, moaning in satisfaction when he feels Bushi’s entire length settle inside him. Bushi fucks him with long deep thrusts, gathering speed slowly, until Bushi is pounding into him as hard and as fast as he ever does, as hard and as fast as Hiromu can take.

“Kiki.” Bushi stops fucking him when Naito speaks.

Naito!” Hiromu whines, desperate and furious and needy. Bushi withdraws from him, slipping from Hiromu’s grasping body. Without words, Hiromu’s flipped over, and Sanada is between his splayed legs. He smiles at Hiromu, and with a single snap of his hips, buries his cock deep inside Hiromu’s body. He takes a firm hold of Sanada’s biceps, trying to catch his breath, but Sanada doesn’t seem to want him to. He’s fucking him with sharp, snapping thrusts that rob Hiromu of everything from breaths to thoughts.

“Shave.” Hiromu laughs when Sanada starts kissing along his neck, his beard scraping along the delicate skin there.

“No.” Sanada laughs at him, purposefully rubbing his chin against Hiromu’s neck. “Prickly beard scritches are what demanding brats deserve.” He rolls them over, holding still whilst Hiromu makes himself comfortable. “That better? There’s no beards up there.” Hiromu splays his hands on Sanada’s chest, smiling down at him, moving deliberately slow. Sanada’s hands settle at his waist, but his fingers start tickling his ribs, throwing off his rhythm. “Move faster, little Hiromu.” He tries his best to move faster, but Sanada keeps tickling him, keeps throwing him off his pace. “C’mon, faster.” Sanada’s hips thrust up, making Hiromu gasp, his chin presses down against his chin. “Come back down here, little Hiro.” Sanada pulls him down, giving Hiromu a moment to arrange himself. Sanada thrusts up into him, fucking Hiromu hard and fast. Someone’s kissing over his shoulders, Hiromu isn’t sure who, can’t really tell, but they know where his most sensitive spots are, not that that means anything, all of them, apart from Shingo, know where he likes to be kissed.

“Faster.” Naito, his voice right at Hiromu’s ear. “Go on, Sanada make Bushi proud of how well he’s taught you to fuck our little weasel.”

“Naito-san, please.” Hiromu isn’t sure why he’s saying please, but it has Naito twisting at an awkward angle, kissing him.

“Please what?” Naito laughs, kissing him again. Sanada shoves him out of the way, kissing Hiromu himself, keeping Hiromu’s attention on him. Naito laughs again, but his laugh fades into a moan. Hiromu wants to see what’s going on around him, but he can’t. Sanada is keeping him in place, keeping him from looking around him, keeping all of his attention on Sanada. He twists them again, pressing Hiromu down into the mattress, fucking him hard and fast until the moment he stops, leaving Hiromu with a lingering, longing gaze. His finger trails over Hiromu’s lips, and he presses another kiss to them.

“You okay?” Shingo looks concerned as he settles between Hiromu’s thighs. He blinks a little too rapidly, his lips pressing together firmly, a vague hint of nervousness in his eyes. That nervousness fades as he looks around. Hiromu follows his gaze, gathered around the bed is everyone, all naked, all hard, all focussed on him. It fills him with a sense of pride, of power. All of these strong, handsome men, all rivetted by him, no matter how strong, or handsome each of them is, they’re only interested in him. “Are you ready?” Shingo asks quietly. Hiromu wraps his legs around Shingo’s thick waist, pulling him closer.

“Shingo-san, you just watched me get fucked by Bushi and Sanada, I think I’m as ready as I’m gonna get.”

“I guess.” Shingo laughs, and presses in. Hiromu arches his back, drawing Shingo in as deeply as he can. “Alright?”

“Mmhmm, alright.” Hiromu ripples his fingers on Shingo’s thick shoulders. “Show me how strong you are.” It’s not often Hiromu uses his commanding voice, but it sparks something in Shingo. His thick arms are around him suddenly, holding him tightly to Shingo’s body as he fucks him with neither restraint nor pause. Hiromu clings to him, trying to hold on. Shingo is showing just how strong he is, which is definitely strong enough to fuck every ounce of awareness out of Hiromu, leaving him nothing more than a keening, whining, desperate mass of nerves, his mind is blank but focussed on the burning, perfect pleasure of Shingo moving inside him, on the tantalising pleasure of Shingo’s stomach rubbing against his cock. It’s almost enough, almost enough to bring him off, but every time he gets close to the edge, Shingo slows, and that’s enough to make Hiromu whine and beg for his release, but he gets nothing, instead Shino pulls out of him, leaving him panting on the bed.

“You okay, Mu?” Evil leans over him, petting his face. “You look so pretty right now.” Evil murmurs in his ear. He trails kisses from his ear to his lips, taking them in the most gentle and teasing of kisses. “We’ve got a little plan for you, but we’re gonna need you to relax.”

“I can’t not relax, Nabe-chan.” Hiromu laughs softly.

“Okay, Mu.” Evil lies down beside him. “On top.” Naito helps Hiromu into position, helps him take Evil inside. Evil starts moving slowly, holding him tightly to his chest. “Okay, I think we’re okay to start.” Evil’s voice is a deep rumble under Hiromu’s ear.

“Okay to start what?” Hiromu has just enough to ask. Naito presses against Hiromu’s back.

“Relax, little weasel.” A kiss to Hiromu’s ear, and then pressure at his already stretched asshole. Hiromu whimpers, rubbing his cheek against Evil’s chest. Evil’s fingers are rubbing at his shoulders, his aimless words rumbling in his chest, deep and reassuring, words Hiromu can’t make out, but is grateful for. Naito has thin fingers, which is something else he’s grateful for. Finally, they withdraw, and Hiromu can feel the head of Naito’s cock pressing against his already full hole.

“Relax, Mu.” Evil murmurs, drawing him up into a kiss. Hiromu breaks it to make some kind of noise when Naito eases in alongside Evil. Naito’s pressed along Hiromu’s back, warm, solid, and reassuring.

“Okay, baby?” Bushi’s voice is soft and far away, but it’s nice to know he’s still there. Hiromu wonders if Sanada and Shingo are still there too. He’s been too distracted to notice, but they’re in Sanada’s room, so he’s probably still there at least.

“Mmhmm.” Hiromu manages a vague answer for Bushi. It feels like the most he can do, especially when Naito works a little more of his length in along side Evil. Hiromu presses his forehead against Evil’s chest. “Naito-san.” He pants out, needing a break for a moment, it’s getting to be too much for him.

“Right here, little weasel. Lemme know when you’re ready.” Naito’s kissing the back of Hiromu’s neck. Hiromu shifts, trying to adjust to the feeling of being so full. He takes a few deep breaths, almost panting against Evil’s chest, trying to keep his mind focussed.

“You okay?” Evil asks softly, his hands soothing along Hiromu’s shoulders.

“Gimme a minute.”

“Long as you need, Mu.” Evil tilts his face up again, peppering it with kisses. Naito’s breath is warm against the back of Hiromu’s neck, his weight familiar, even if the feeling of his cock alongside Evil’s inside him isn’t, he’ll adjust to this, and be ready for more soon enough.

“Too much?” Naito asks softly, nibbling at the shell of Hiromu’s ear.

“No, not too much.” It’s not too much, but it is a lot, he just needs a moment. Naito nips at his ear lobe, Evil keeps stroking Hiromu wherever Naito isn’t. Slowly he adjusts, slowly the feeling of being so very full is less taxing. “Move Naito-san.” Naito kisses his temple, and pulls back a little, then presses forward again.

“Feels like we could break you if we’re not careful enough.” Naito murmurs in his ear, sending shivers through Hiromu. “Slow and careful till my little weasel can take more, isn’t that always the way?” More whispers in his ear, more of Naito’s cock inside him, more shivers down his spine. Beneath them Evil moves just a little, nudging Naito’s dick into that little place inside Hiromu that steals his breath, and makes him keen in pleasure.

“More.” He whispers, and they both oblige, moving slow and careful, but with purpose. It’s almost too much, so very almost too much, on the precipice of overwhelming. Naito’s telling him things, things Hiromu can’t focus on, because he and Evil have fallen into a pattern, moving in perfect sync, leaving him desperate, his pleasure overcoming everything else. He’s babbling, he can feel the words leaving him, demands for more, praise for his beloved Nabe-chan, his beloved Naito-san, demands for his Mama, demands for things Hiromu isn’t sure he could handle right now, but he can’t stop his mouth from running, from very probably giving the others ideas. When it becomes too much, and it does become too much, Naito stills, lifting Hiromu from both his own, and Evil’s cock.

“Just a little moment for me, Hiromu. Just me.” Naito whispers into his ear, moving slowly inside him. “My little Hiromu.” He kisses along Hiromu’s face, claiming his lips. “I’m so proud of you, little weasel. So proud.” Hiromu hasn’t really heard much of anything tonight, but he can hear Naito’s praise, his words of love and adoration, words that fill him with joy. Naito loves him so very much, and that’s an immense source of pride. “Okay, okay.” Naito stills inside him, his forehead pressed against Hiromu’s. “Almost done, then you can come, Hiro.” Naito moves away from him, ignoring his almost mindless pleading, and grasping hands.

“On your knees, baby.” Bushi scoops Hiromu’s boneless, exhausted body up. He’s so tired, and so desperate to come. He just wants to come and go to sleep, not more position changes and kneeling. “On your knees, my pretty baby.” Bushi murmurs softly. Hiromu doesn’t want to move, he doesn’t want to have to crouch on his knees, but his mama wants it, and he wants to please his mama so very badly. “C’mon. On your knees, baby. I promise, it’ll be worthwhile.”

“Mama, I want,” Hiromu doesn’t finish his sentence, because Bushi kisses him, a kiss that tastes like toothpaste. Hiromu casts his eyes around, all five of the others are on their knees too, their cocks hard and dripping. They’re so very clearly, so very close to their own orgasms. A little part of Hiromu recoils in horror, he’s going to be so sticky after this, but the vast majority of him however is in charge. He takes hold of his own cock, stroking himself, his tongue out, his eyes locked with Bushi’s. “Mama first, that’s what I want.” Bushi smiles indulgently, his hand speeding up. His cum lands on Hiromu’s face, spurts on his cheek and nose, but most of it lands on his tongue. Bushi wipes the head of his cock with his finger, and trails that finger down Hiromu’s cheek, his smile sated and adoring. Sanada turns Hiromu’s face to him next, his cum lands on Hiromu’s outstretched tongue, closely followed by Shingo’s, a little spurt lands just off target. Shingo rubs it from Hiromu’s cheek, and then wipes his sticky finger against Hiromu’s tongue. Evil keeps a firm hold of Hiromu’s chin as he jerks off, his eyes locked with Hiromu’s. When he’s done, he wipes the end of his cock against Hiromu’s lips, and ruffles Hiromu’s hair before Naito takes his place.

“Ready?” He asks, his hand in Hiromu’s hair, holding him close and in place. Hiromu nods, waiting, silently pleading for the last load of cum so he can come too. Naito climaxes with a shudder and a moan. “Show me.” He pants, his fingers scritching against Hiromu’s scalp. Hiromu lets him study his face. It feels like hours before Naito smiles, and says, “swallow.” Hiromu does, and lets his own orgasm overwhelm him. He collapses back against the bed, panting, trying to gather the scattered parts of himself. He reaches out to Naito, snuggling against him. “It’s okay, I got you.” He’s kissing Hiromu’s hair, stroking his back, right until Bushi presses against it, kissing along his shoulders. Naito’s murmuring soothing nonsense into his hair, and Bushi is holding him tight, together they’re grounding Hiromu in himself once more. For a long time, longer than Hiromu can usually stand, he’s still in the tangle of Bushi and Naito, but eventually he can’t handle being so very covered in so many sticky fluids.

“I need a shower.” He mutters. Naito releases him, and gets off the bed, pulling Hiromu with him.

“Yeah, c’mon little weasel.” Naito leads him into the bathroom, closing the door firmly behind them. “Hiromu.” He sounds serious, he looks serious. “Welcome back, now don’t fucking dare leave me…us again.”

Chapter Text

There’s a new barista. Desperado noticed him as soon as he walked into the coffee shop. A cute little thing, all eyes, lips, and long hair tied back in a ponytail. He doesn’t serve Desperado, the regular barista, the one who wears medical masks every day does, shooting him scathing looks as he makes Desperado’s drink. He’s not sure what he did to that guy, but for some reason he hates him.

“Morning. What can I get you?” The new barista smiles brightly. Up close he’s even cuter, his eyes even brighter, his lips even fuller. Desperado falters. His order is usually an automatic response. He can’t think of it. “Anything?”

“Uh…the special.” Desperado blurts out. The new barista, not that he’s all that new, he’s been there for a month or so now, but Desperado’s hasn’t seen his name tag yet.

“Ooo, good choice. It’s really good this month.” The new barista laughs, and gets to work on the making the special. “Oh, I forgot to ask, staying or to go?”

“To go, please.” Desperado tells him. His order is at the forefront of his mind right now. He regrets not telling the new barista, because this is looking complicated.

“Would you like some extras? The marshmallows are good, but the whipped cream is pretty special.” The new barista is smiling cheerfully, waiting for Desperado’s answer.

“Uh…marshmallows, I guess.” Desperado is mentally screaming at himself. He doesn’t like marshmallows, and he can’t think of any reason to put them into coffee. He’s no idea what kind of hellish sweet abomination this cute barista is making.

“Here you go.” Hiromu, Desperado manages to catch a glimpse of the new barista’s nametag, gives him a brilliant smile, and this terrible sounding coffee.

“Thank you.” Desperado pays the bill, and carries the order out of the café, takes a sip, then drops the cup in the trash. He can’t stand hot chocolate.

The next time he goes into the café, he ends up forgetting his order again, and he ends up with another hot chocolate, and a little snippet of information about Hiromu, he loves hot chocolate. He loves it with whip cream, and marshmallows. Hiromu has the sweetest of sweet tooths. Desperado isn’t sure what to do with this information, but it’s the only thing he knows about the cute barista.

“Morning!” Hiromu’s serving him again that morning, his normal sunny smile slightly less sunny. “So, what can I get you?”

“You okay?” The question spills out. Desperado curses himself. He always gets like this with crushes, entirely too invested, and entirely too early, entirely before the other person even knows he’s interested. It’s pitiful, and has kept him single for years.

“I…of course!” Hiromu keeps that less sunny than normal smile in place.

“You know, I don’t actually like hot chocolate.” Another blurted out nonsense thing. Hiromu’s staring at him blankly.

“You’ve been ordering hot chocolate every time I serve you, and you don’t even like it?” He laughs softly, and shakes his head. “What is your actual order?” His smile is better, more like it should be.

“Tall Americano, no sugar, no cream, no marshmallows.”

“I’m surprised by how plain that is.” Hiromu laughs, and makes his order.

“I want my hot chocolate too, please. Load it up with marshmallows, and whipped cream, sprinkles too if you’ve got them, the full works. The hot chocolate sit-in, the coffee to go.”

“You sure about that hot chocolate? That’s a lot for a man who doesn’t like it.” Hiromu sets the two cups down, taking Desperado’s money. “Thank you.”

“Take a break.” Desperado slides the hot chocolate over towards him. “Come take a break, and drink your hot chocolate with me.”

“I…”

“Break time, shoo.” The barista with the weird orange mullet shoos Hiromu from behind the counter, and starts serving the next customer.

“Thank you for this.” Hiromu sits down opposite Desperado.

“So, my name’s Desperado, and I’m a session guitar player.” Desperado reaches across the table, holding his hand out for Hiromu to shake. It feels stupid and formal.

“Hiromu, barista, and chef.” Hiromu shakes his hand, and laughs. “Single, by the way.” He laughs again, and picks a marshmallow out of his drink. “Also, thank you for the hot chocolate.”

“You already thanked me.” Desperado smiles at him. “Single too, by the way.” He tacks on, taking a too big a gulp of his too hot coffee. Hiromu takes a sip of his hot chocolate. “So, you wanna tell me what’s wrong? It’ll seem less weird now we know a little about each other.”

“I guess.” Hiromu sighs, and leans back in his chair. “My ex just got married, which is a lot to be telling a guy whose name I just learnt.” He laughs loudly, shaking his head. “It’s a lot to be told first thing in morning too, I know because that’s what happened to me.”

“Ah…” Desperado blows on his coffee before drinking it this time, and considers how much he’d like to be the rebound. It’s quite a lot.

“Yeah, ah.” Hiromu bites the tall mountain of whipped cream on top of his hot chocolate, a pout on his lips. “It’s been years, but still…it’s fucking rude to ruin my day first thing.” Hiromu laughs, finally taking a drink of his hot chocolate. “How can you not like this stuff? It’s delicious.”

“It’s too sweet.” Desperado shrugs. Hiromu shakes his head with a wry smile, and keeps sipping at his chocolate. “Let me take you out on a date.”

“Huh?” Hiromu blinks at him blankly.

“A date…to take your mind off the ex.” Desperado tries to sound nonchalant; he thinks it works when Hiromu nods absently.

“A date…I can’t even remember my last date.”

“I can’t believe that, you’re a good-looking man.” Desperado regrets his dumb words, right until he spots Hiromu’s blushing cheeks. He blushes cutely. “So, you wanna come on a date with me?”

“Hmm, yeah,” Hiromu nods, “a date sounds nice. When?”

“Tonight, I’ll pick you up at seven?” Desperado rushes out, wanting to get this set in stone whilst he’s feeling confident, because confidence comes to him so rarely.

“Seven tonight? Okay, it’s a date.” Hiromu pulls his phone from his pocket. “I’ll meet you here. Oh, add me on LINE.” Desperado adds his LINE account. He’ll check Hiromu’s posted photos later, between sessions to look for clues about him, which is he assumes exactly what Hiromu will do as well.

“I’ll see you later.” Desperado finishes his coffee, and stands up, unsure if he should shake Hiromu’s hand or something else. Hiromu makes the decision for him, pulling him into a hug.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

The moment he enters the studio, Zack seems to know something is up. He sits ups straighter, a smirk on his face.

“What happened?”

“Nothing.” Desperado mutters, picking up the laid out guitar.

“Bullshit.” Zack scoffs, stretching out his too long legs back out. “Did you get the cute barista’s number?”

“His LINE account” Desperado tweaks the strings, fussing with the tuning, “and we’re going on a date.”

“Ohho.” Zack sounds impressed. “I’m surprised! It’s not like you to actually make a move on a handsome young man.”

“He was sad.” Desperado mutters, feeling slightly foolish. It’s a weird reason to have asked someone out, but it is entirely why Desperado has a date with Hiromu. Someone that cute shouldn’t be sad, and being asked out on a date had made him so happy.

“Where you gonna take him?” Zack slides the music they’re supposed to be playing over to Desperado.

“That I don’t know. I should have thought this through, but you know me.” The sheet music is kind of boring, not the sort of thing he needs to think about to play, so he’ll be able to consider where to take Hiromu carefully whilst doing his job.

“How about that little barbeque place? He might like that.”

“Maybe, but…” Desperado trails off, shaking his head. “He’s got a sweet tooth, I wanna take him somewhere he’d like, and where we can talk…I don’t want to have to talk over a bunch of drunk guys.”

“True…sweet tooth?” Zack nods to the technician, strumming the first note. “How about down by the river, there’s a bunch of churro and candy floss sellers there.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Desperado follows along, playing the simple tune with half his mind elsewhere. “I need somewhere I can talk to him, get to know him, you know? I don’t really know much but his name and his job.”

“Well, that’s further and quicker than your thing for Kota…how long did it take you to find out he had a boyfriend?” Zack laughs.

“Oh, fuck you, I’m not the one trying to fuck Taichi.”

“Oi! T is awesome, but I am not trying to fuck him.” Zack kicks Desperado’s shin.

They play for a few hours, all dull repetitive songs that’ll be used as background music for TV shows, or movies, or commercials. It’s simple, but boring work. It’s not what Desperado had seen for his future when he’d been dreaming as a child. He’d wanted to be a famous musician. He’ll have to ask Hiromu if he’s living his dreams, that’ll give them something to talk about. He’s fishing for planned talking points to give him the confidence to have a proper date with the cute little barista, small talk is terrifying for Desperado, and he needs to build a reserve of topics to draw on.

“You remember the little cat café we went to a while back?” Desperado asks at lunch. Zack looks up from his phone with a squint.

“The cat café? The one a few blocks over?”

“Yeah.” There’s a lot of pictures of cats in Hiromu’s public photos. “He really likes cats.” Desperado mutters, showing Zack a picture of Hiromu and a pudgy little black and white cat.

“Shit, mate…that’s fucking cute.” Desperado is only half certain Zack’s talking about the cat, because Hiromu looks particularly cute in this picture. “Cat café might be the place for this date of yours.” Zack laughs, clearly scrolling through Hiromu’s posted photos. “Damn, he really likes cats.”

“Yeah.” Desperado nods absently. “He’s really cute, isn’t he?” Desperado leans against Zack’s shoulder, looking at the slowly scrolling pictures.

“He’s not my type.” Zack shrugs. “His freckles are cute though.” Zack offers. “Just… don’t let him break your heart again, okay?” Zack ruffles Desperado’s hair, and stands up. “Alright, back to work. You finish up early, and get changed for your date.”

“Hey.” Hiromu gives him a brilliant smile, and Desperado manages a slight one. “I got changed, I hope it’s not too…well, I hope I’m not under or over-dressed.” He laughs.

“No, not at all, you look lovely.” Desperado’s beginning to think that compliments are useful weapons to wield against Hiromu, every compliment he’s paid him so far has made him blush cutely.

“You sure? It’s not a little too…” Hiromu stops, shakes his head and grins. “Thank you. You look good too. Those jeans suit you.” Desperado rubs his thighs, hoping it doesn’t look too awkward. He’d thrown on the cleanest things he could find in his closet, and he’s fairly sure the jeans are too tight on his thighs, but if Hiromu likes them he’s not going to argue.

“Yeah, uh…I mean, thank you.” Desperado nods at nothing in particular. “So, you wanna take a walk? We’re going somewhere close.”

“Lead the way.” Hiromu holds his hand out. For a second, Desperado stares at it blankly. It’s not for shaking, of that Desperado is certain.

“Holding hands?” He asks, taking Hiromu’s hand.

“It’s a date, right?” Hiromu laughs softly, his fingers tightening around Desperado’s. “Where are we going on our first date?”

“Hmm, a surprise. I think you’ll like it though.” Desperado keeps leading the way, hoping that Hiromu doesn’t recognise the streets. “So, how was your day?”

“Not bad. Business is picking up. Winter is a good time for us. People want to hide from the cold, and our café is cosy, warm, and filled with tasty treats.” Hiromu grins like he’s trying to sell Desperado on coming to the café.

“I’m already a customer, Hiromu.” Desperado laughs. “You said you’re a chef?”

“Oh, yeah. It’s what I trained as, but I don’t get to do much cooking outside of winter. You’ll have to stop in for lunch. I’ll cook you up something special.” Hiromu winks, bumping his shoulder against Desperado’s.

“Make it vegan, and I’ll bring my best friend to meet you.”

“Vegan? I can do that. Take him in some time soon, okay?” Hiromu smiles up at him, walking a little closer. They make quiet, easy conversation, the kind of conversation that terrifies Desperado but comes easily with Hiromu, which might be down to the fact that Hiromu is incredibly easy-going, his laughs free and delightful.

“So, it’s a cat café.” Desperado stops up outside their destination. “I hope it’s okay?” Hiromu claps his hands, grinning up at Desperado.

“The cat café? I’ve been wanting to come here for months! Thank you!” Hiromu presses a kiss to Desperado’s lips, and half drags him into the café, almost bouncing in excitement. Desperado licks his lips. The taste of hot chocolate was on them. He’s not sure he dislikes hot chocolate all that much after all.

Chapter Text

There are few secrets between Tanahashi and he, but one he didn’t discover until they moved in together. He’s surprised that it didn’t come up in the Dojo, but then again, it’s not exactly the sort of hobby to be done in a place like the Dojo, more than that, it’s not the sort of hobby a man like Tanahashi is expected to have, and yet Hiroshi Tanahashi knits. It’s a bewildering hobby, not because Tanahashi is a man, but because he’s Tanahashi. Knitting is the pursuit of the women who scream his name, not the man himself. Yet, the woollen socks on Shinsuke’s feet as he traipses back home attests to the fact Tanahashi knits, and he knits quite well.

It’s a cold night, a scattering of snow on the ground over miserably thick icy, making the trip up from where Shinsuke had parked the car to home treacherous. The hill is too steep, and too slippery to risk his car’s complete lack of traction, but his boots aren’t faring all that much better really. With careful, slippery steps, Shinsuke makes it home eventually. Peeking in the window he can see Tanahashi is sitting quietly in his chair by their little pretend fire, his ball of wool somewhere beside him, his headphones on, no doubt listening to something terrible. It’s a heart-warming scene; the little wife waiting by the fire for her husband to come home. He hopes there’s dinner on the stove for him. It’s not, and the only greeting Shinsuke is from Hana. She scampers over to him, jumping up enthusiastically, her little claws catching on his pants.

“Hello little girl.” He ruffles her ears, grinning as she tries to get more pets, and lick his hand at the same time. “Yes, yes, I’m home.” He laughs at her when she decides that presenting her tummy for rubs is the best thing she can do. “Has my little girl been fed yet? Has your daddy been ignoring you, and making more socks? Terrible man. Come on, let’s get you fed.” Shinsuke leads Hana to the kitchen, laughing as she enthusiastically leaps at his legs, trying to get at her dinner more quickly. When her bowl is full, she sits, her little tail wagging as Shinsuke sets it down for her. “I guess I should make something for your daddy to eat too, hmm?” It’s pointless talking to Hana when she’s eating, but Shinsuke does all the same. He sets to making something simple and warm. Hana follows him around the kitchen, hoping for some little titbit of something delicious to eat. She gets nothing, because unlike like Tanahashi, Shinsuke has some level of resistance to cute big brown eyes. Hana has her daddy to blame for that.

When the food is cooked, he purposefully takes it through to the living room, setting it on the dining table. The scent of the food has the effect Shinsuke had expected. Tanahashi stands, sets his knitting down, stretching like a bear, groaning like one too, and turns to Shinsuke with a beatific smile.

“Hello.” He crosses over the room, pulling Shinsuke into a welcoming embrace.

“Hello? That’s all I get? I’m offended.” Shinsuke huffs, pouting dramatically. “I’ve been home for hours, and only our very good daughter thought to greet me.”

“I was busy.” Tanahashi kisses his chin, that terrible, beautiful smile still on his lips. “And now there’s dinner, and you, so my hard work paid off.”

“Are you implying knitting brought me home, because I assure you it was my own two feet.” Shinsuke laughs, pulling out a chair. “Sit, and tell me about your day, darling.”

“Eh, you know. Gym, walk, food, gym, walk, and now food.” Tanahashi shrugs, blows him a kiss, and starts eating.

“Exciting.” Shinsuke resists the urge to roll his eyes. He’s sure that Tanahashi did something more exciting than that, but it was probably as exciting his own very ordinary and dull day. “What are you working on? Another pair of socks, a scarf, a hat, a sweater maybe?”

“Stockings.” Tanahashi grins at him.

“Stockings? Wouldn’t it be more practical to buy stockings, darling?” He grins. For a second Tanahashi stares at him blankly, then his cheeks flood crimson.

“Not that kind of stockings.” He kicks Shinsuke’s shin, and takes a long drink of water. “Santa stockings.”

“Santa stockings?” Shinsuke barks a laugh, the mental image of Tanahashi in a garter belt with a pair of crimson stockings with little Santa Claus all over them. He’s had worse mental images, much worse mental images.

“For hanging up for Santa obviously, dumbass.” A tap of Tanahashi’s foot against Shinsuke’s shin.

“Oh…well that’s less than I was hoping for…maybe Santa can put some stockings in your stocking.” He winks.

“You’re getting coal.” Tanahashi kicks his shin again. “I’m on the last one for Hana. Our little baby deserves something nice for her first Christmas.”

“Don’t I get one?”

“You’ve already got one.” Tanahashi is petting Hana, and probably feeding her little bits of his dinner under the table. When Hana’s delicate little tummy is upset by the too rich food tomorroe, it’ll be Tanahashi who is in charge of tending to her dirty bum.

“Is it nice?” Shinsuke asks, resting his chin in his hand. “I’m sure it is.”

“Of course, it’s nice. I’ll put all three of them up when Hana’s is finished.”

“I guess I’ll dig out those sticky hooks.” Shinsuke isn’t sure where the hooks are, first he’ll have to dig out that information.

“Good, good. I’ll get back to work after dinner.”

“You’re not even going to do the dishes? You don’t greet me, you don’t feed him, and now you don’t clean up after me? What am I even getting out of this relationship?” Tanahashi leans over the table, grabs Shinsuke’s collar, and pulls him into a kiss.

“Those.” Tanahashi is smirking, eating his dinner with smug relish. Shinsuke elects to not comment, it would only flatter Tanahashi’s already considerable ego.

After dinner, and the dishes, Shinsuke settles on the couch with a sketchbook, and a charcoal pencil. It’s rare that Tanahashi isn’t actively posing for his sketches, the distraction knitting provides gives him ample opportunities to capture Tanahashi in his most relaxed state. It’s a lovely way to spend an evening, quietly taking in Tanahashi’s chiselled form doing the most delicate work. Tanahashi’s triumphant springing to his feet is a deep surprise, jolting Shinsuke from his absent doodling. He unfolds himself from the couch, closing his sketchbook.

“You need the hooks then?” He heads for the kitchen drawer, where he’s half certain the sticky hooks are, they might be in the dresser in the living room though, either way, he’s convinced they’re downstairs somewhere.

“Yes! Three hooks over the fire.” Tanahashi is directing him with haughty gestures, nothing unusual there. He’s preening in the mirror, making sure his hair looks good, having clearly spotted the sketchbook, and wanting to make sure any subsequent drawings show his perfected beauty.

“Found them!” The hooks were in the drawer in the shoe rack in the hallway. Shinsuke sticks them where directed, and waits for the unveiling of the stockings.

“Tada!” Tanahashi drapes three bright red, white trimmed long, wide socks over the hooks, each sock is emblazoned with a name; Tana, Shin, and Hana. A little plain maybe, but still charming in a way. “Festive, right?”

“Very festive.” Shinsuke nods, and kisses his temple, snuggling up, planning on filling Tanahashi’s stocking with proper ones, he liked that mental image a lot.

Chapter Text

Zack isn’t happy. He’s heading home soon to go vote in the election, and is vibrating with rage, frustration, and a healthy dose of excitement almost constantly. He’s wound so tight it’s impossible to unwind him even a little. It’s getting to be annoying more than anything. Desperado isn’t exactly sick of it, but he certainly is tired of having to listen to rambling rants about people he only tangentially knows and singularly doesn’t care about. This is why when Taichi sends him a picture of a mountain of highballs, and a bunch of snacks, he leaps at it, dragging Zack along with him to Taichi’s hotel room.

Three cans in, Zack is on his feet ranting and gesturing at nothing in particular. Taichi shoots Desperado a look.

“He’s been like this for a while now.” Desperado shrugs. It’s not his problem, except that it is. Zack is mostly his problem, because he’s fucking him, which makes him Desperado’s problem. Zack flops down into a chair, still ranting. Taichi sighs dramatically, and grabs the back of Zack’s neck. He pushes him down to his knees, and mashes his face against his groin. Zack half-heartedly pushes himself away, shooting Desperado a look.

“What?” Desperado drinks from his can of highball, one eyebrow raised. He’s quite pleased with this turn of events; a being fucked Zack is a quiet Zack.

“We’re just going along with this?” Zack asks, pointedly ignoring Taichi pulling his cock out. “We’re just fine with,” Taichi shoves his dick in Zack’s mouth cutting off his rant, holding him in place.

“Thank you.” Desperado says it in English, staring down at Zack. “He’s been talking too much lately.” Still in English, still directed to Zack more than Taichi. Zack’s eyes are filled with glowering amusement.

“Oi, ignore him.” Taichi’s moving Zack’s head by his hair. “He’s too noisy, it’s good for him to be quiet for a change.” Taichi takes a drink. “He’s been getting on my nerves, so I can only imagine how much he’s on yours.”

“I guess.” Desperado laughs, picking at one of the little plastic trays of snacks. “Here, share him a little.”

“He’s got two ends, take the other one.” Taichi lifts his hips, pulling a little tube of lube from his pocket. Desperado is utterly unsurprised that Taichi is prepared for this. “Go on, get to it.” Desperado rolls his eyes, but does take Taichi advice. He gets off his chair, and walks behind Zack. As if on cue, Zack waggles his ass. Desperado smacks it once, laughing when a muffled yelp from sounds from around Taichi’s cock. Desperado pulls Zack’s pants down, and smacks his ass again, getting another muffled yelp.

“Focus on what you’re doing, Zack.” Desperado mutters. He pulls Zack’s underwear and pants down and off, tossing them to the side. Zack wiggles his ass again.

“Go on then big boy, fuck me.” Zack pulls back from Taichi, turning to grin at Desperado.

“Get back to work.” Desperado smacks his ass a third time, making Zack waggle his ass again. Taichi takes a firmer hold on Zack’s hair, forcing his cock back into Zack’s mouth. Desperado coats his fingers in lube, and starts fingering Zack’s asshole, opening him up. Zack’s rocking with his actions, rolling his hips when Desperado scissors his fingers. He pulls them out, and coats his cock in a healthy amount of lube. For a moment, he considers how best to proceed; he could just thrust in, or he could tease Zack for a while. Zack steals the choice from him, as soon as Desperado’s lined the head of his dick up, Zack thrusts back, taking him all the way in.

“Fuck.” Zack gasps. He’s apparently permitted some leeway by Taichi to make some noise, but quickly whatever he was going to say next is muffled by Taichi’s dick.

“I like him a lot better with his mouth full.” Taichi laughs. He’s moving Zack’s head firmly, his knuckles white in his hair. Desperado starts moving his hips, rocking them in time with Taichi’s moving of Zack’s head.

“He’s easier to get along with when he’s busy.” Desperado concedes, tightening his grasp on Zack’s hips, fucking him a little harder, if not faster, because Taichi is lazy even when it comes to giving himself a blowjob.

“Is he allowed to suck dick?” Taichi takes a drink, his hand is just resting on the back of Zack’s head now, trusting Zack to move as he wants. Thankfully, Zack moves with more urgency.

“Why the fuck wouldn’t he be allowed to suck dicks? You think it’s like illegal for foreigners to suck dick in Japan?” Desperado is mildly incredulous, because even for Taichi that’s a stupid thing to think.

“No, you fucking dumbass. He’s vegan.” Taichi finishes off his can of highball. That makes slightly more sense, but it still sounds like a stupid question to Desperado. If sucking dick was a problem for Zack, he’d not be sucking Taichi’s, and he certainly wouldn’t suck Desperado’s as regularly as he does.

“Is he sucking your dick?” Desperado asks, making sure to lace his voice with scorn. Taichi snorts dismissively, thrusting his hips upwards. A silence falls over them, a silence Desperado is grateful for. Silence is what he’s been waiting for ever since Zack arrived back, a silence only interrupted by heavy breaths, and the slap of skin on skin. It’s a gift.

Taichi comes first, holding Zack’s head still and in place until he’s satisfied his cum has been swallowed. Desperado pulls Zack back, pushing him into a position to better allow him to fuck him harder, and faster. Zack’s shoulder is moving, an obvious tell of him jerking himself off, which is a little flattering. Desperado shoves Zack’s shirt up, baring his back. He scratches his nails down the length of Zack’s back, grinning when he arches into. Desperado plasters himself to Zack’s back, pressing him down into the floor, fucking down into him in hard, fast, sharp little jabbing thrusts. Zack squirms beneath him, then shudders and shivers through his orgasm. Desperado is close, and the tightening, rippling of his ass around his cock tips him over the edge. For moment, Zack is exhausted and silent; a true gift, the greatest present that Taichi could have given him. Desperado pulls out of him, and smacks Zack’s ass one last time. This time it doesn’t wiggle, Zack is finally too tired to be an asshole. Desperado wipes his dick on the nearest available fabric, by the colour he’s going to guess that it’s Zack’s underwear, which really serves him right for being such a loudmouthed pain as of late. Zack rolls to lie on his back, grinning like a fool as he stares over at Desperado.

“I’ve gotta rant more often if it gets me such a good dicking down.” Zack laughs, and gropes up for a can of highball. Taichi hands him down one.

“Put your dick away,” is all Taichi says. Zack scowls up at him, and makes no move to put his dick away, instead he props himself up against the chair Desperado had been sitting in. Taichi ruffles his hair. “There you go, nice and quiet now, isn’t he Despy?” Desperado holds his hand out, catching the can Taichi throws him.

“It’ll last for like ten minutes, and we’ll have to start again.” Desperado laughs, opening his can, and taking a drink as Taichi groans, tucking his dick back into his pants.

“Zack, please shut up for like twenty, maybe thirty minutes.”

Chapter Text

Naito’s been an insufferable brat lately. It’s probably not his fault, he never does well when he’s not working, and Bushi possibly spoiled him when they were younger and didn’t have anyone else with them, but this bout of brattiness is getting to be annoying. Hiromu is pointedly not talking to him over something, the exact details are a slight bewilderment; it might relate to pudding or missed mistletoe kisses or maybe Cogito’s secret project, it’s not something Bushi thinks is important enough to trouble himself with. If it was important, Hiromu would have come and told him, so it’s probably just something silly, still it’s always annoying when there is sulking in the apartment.

“Mama,” Cogito peeks their head around Bushi’s bedroom door, “I’ve got you a little present.” Bushi sits up, and scrubs his eyes.

“A present, flower?” Bushi yawns, and gropes around for his glasses. Cogito comes in, carrying a plant with bright red flowers. “A plant?”

“Mmm, a plant.” Cogito sets the plant down on a bedside cabinet, and perches on Bushi’s bed. “Do you know what kind of plant it is?”

“A pretty one?” Bushi reaches out to Cogito, pulling them in close.

“It’s a poinsettia.”

“A pretty Christmas plant then.” Bushi kisses their cheek, making Cogito smile, and lean away from him a little so they can meet his eye.

“Mama, do you see the colour of this poinsettia?” Cogito shifts, snuggling up in Bushi’s arms.

“It’s a lovely shade of red.”

“Mmm, very nearly permanent red, isn’t it?”

“It’s close, yes.” Bushi is familiar with that particular shade of red thanks to the salon he grew in. It’s a strange topic of conversation though. Sometimes Cogito will talk about colours with him, but it’s usually in their studio or when they’re buying some new hair, not over plants. “Why bring it up?”

“Mmm, why am I bringing it up?” Cogito taps a finger against their lips.  “I think everyone is going out tonight.” Bushi raises an eyebrow at him. “Apart from Naito-san…”

“Ah…shall I aim for permanent red?”

“Cadmium I think.” Cogito leans up, pecking a kiss on Bushi’s lips.

“I’ll send you a picture, so you can evaluate my work.” Bushi cuddles them up closer, and pulls them over him, kissing them properly. “Now, I need another nap, so I can make sure to have enough energy to do some painting.”

That night the house empties out, Evil and Hiromu going somewhere to look at stars, Sanada and Shingo are going out probably to meet one of Sanada’s handsome older gentlemen, and Cogito is going to visit their flaw, which isn’t preferable, but he’ll accept it for now.

“House to ourselves, Kiki.” Naito wraps his arms around Bushi’s waist, kissing at his neck as he guides them to Bushi’s bedroom. “New plant?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, CoCo gave it to me this morning.” Bushi smoothes his hands along Naito’s shoulders, and gathers his hair into a loose tail, tying it with an elastic left on his dresser.

“It’s a pretty plant.” Naito reaches up, like he’s going to pull the ponytail out, but instead, he pulls his shirt off. “So, we gonna…” Naito trails off, waggling his eyebrows. Bushi rolls his eyes, and pushes Naito back against the bed.

“Clothes off.” Bushi starts stripping. He sits on the edge of the bed, and pats his thighs. Naito’s eyes light up, and he bounces to his feet, tugging off his clothes frantically. He arranges himself on Bushi’s lap, his ass high. Bushi rubs his hand over it, squeezing it fondly. Naito wriggles, looking over his shoulder with a cheeky grin. Bushi absently pats his ass.

“So, what have I done to earn this?” Naito’s still grinning at him.

“What have you done? What do you think you’ve done?” Bushi’s voice is clipped, and firm.

“I’ve been a particularly good boy, so I can’t imagine what you think I’ve done to deserve a spanking.” The first swat to his ass makes Naito roll his shoulders. It was a purposefully gentle, the kind of gentle hit that is nothing more than a tease to Naito. Bushi gives him a few more of these light teasing smacks, waiting to see if Naito will play up or not. He does little more than wiggle enticingly when all he gets is a few more light smacks. “You’re not gonna give me more, Kiki?” He asks eventually, looking at Bushi with that lazy smirk on his face.

“What have you done to deserve more?” Bushi asks absently, rubbing and squeezing Naito’s ass.

“Uh…I left the toilet set up?” Bushi pats his ass gently. “Fine…fine…I’ve been an annoying brat, because I’m stressed, and stressing…all of my dreams depend on me, and…” Bushi smacks his ass firmly. Naito gasps, rolling his shoulders again. “Everyone’s dreams…”

“Our dreams are our business, nosy brat.” Bushi smacks his ass again. “You worry about yourself.” Another smack, hard and heavy, palm curved to elicit the best sound, a sharp loud noise.

“I know, I know.” Naito arches his back when Bushi smacks him again. “I just want to help.” Another hard smack that has Naito’s breath catching.  

“You help.” Bushi rubs his ass, and smacks him once more. “You help,” a smack, “when you’re focussed.” Another harder spank. “We follow your lead.” A pair of heavy-handed spanks. “If you’re leading yourself down, we’re following.” Bushi starts spanking him faster, harder, more liberally. Naito’s arching up into each one, his breathing getting more frantic. His first sob inspires Bushi, he knows this isn’t about pain, and more about release for Naito.

This spanking isn’t a punishment, it’s a catharsis, beneath Bushi’s hand Naito can let go and vent his frustrations in a way nothing else allows him. It’s not about sex, or punishment or anything like that. For Naito, this is a release. The spanking session lasts a good long time, long enough for Naito’s ass to be vibrantly red, and warm to the touch, long enough for Naito to be a sobbing mess, long enough for Bushi’s hand to hurt and his arm to be tired. Eventually, with one final spank, one final sob from Naito, Bushi gently moves him from his lap. He arranges him on the bed, and snaps a quick picture, sending it to Cogito. Naito’s stopped sobbing, his breathing coming smoother, no longer in gasps and wails. Bushi rubs some lotion on his red ass, and lays down beside him. “Come here.” He whispers, gathering Naito close.

“Shh, my very good boy.” He kisses Naito’s forehead, wiping just under his eyes. “There, my very good boy.” He kisses over Naito’s face, holding him close.

“Thank you, Kiki.” Naito whispers, and snuggles up. “Thank you, I needed that.” Bushi strokes his back slowly, enjoying the easy silence that’s fallen over them. The peace lasts until Bushi’s phone chirps. The message is nothing but a painted square of red, and a grinning emoji.

Chapter Text

Bushi comes home to the scent of chocolate. It’s a nice scent to have filling the house, sweet and soft. He’s not sure who’s home, but the scent of melted chocolate does slightly narrow it down. There’s only two people who have any real talent with chocolate. He knows exactly where Cogito is, because he’d just dropped them at their studio after having lunch with them and Evil. The mystery project they’re working on is kept from everyone, but Evil, and annoyingly the flaw. He’s sure the mystery project will be revealed eventually, it’s just a matter of waiting until Cogito’s satisfied it’s ready for viewing.

“I’m home.” It takes Hiromu no more than ten seconds to arrive at the door, and cover Bushi’s face with kisses. The mistletoe has been proven to be an interesting, if time consuming addition to the apartment. It is now impossible to go anywhere in the apartment without having legally required kissed with someone.

“Hello, Mama.” Hiromu grins at him, kissing him some more. “You have a good day?”

“Hmm, I did…do you know what Cogito’s working on?” Bushi asks between kisses, and taking off his shoes.

“Nah, CoCo’s been tight-lipped about it. It smells good though.” He shrugs, a sly look in his eye. “You think CoCo’s preparing some kind feast for Christmas?”

“They’ve been working on this for weeks. It’d be a hell of a feast.” Bushi laughs, petting Hiromu’s hair back from his face. “On the subject of nice smells, what are you up to in here?”

“I was making friends.”

“Making friends?” Bushi asks, kissing Hiromu again. “C’mon, show me your friends.” Hiromu beams, and leads Bushi to the kitchen. The scent of chocolate is stronger in here, and the source of it is made clear instantly. “Snowmen?”

“Marshmallow snowmen!” Hiromu presents a trio of marshmallows that have been decorated to look like a snowman. Hiromu hands the snowman over to Bushi, urging him to take a bite. It nice, a little sweet maybe, but that’s to be expected with marshmallows.

“A very delicious friend.” Bushi smiles, biting at his snowman. “Ah, that’s why it smells so good in here.” On the stove is some a bowl of chocolate over a bubbling pot of water, on another burner is a pot of milk. “You’re making hot chocolate for me?”

“Hmm, for us. I found a new Christmas movie to watch, and I thought it’d be nice to have some snacks to go with it.” Hiromu ducks his head a little, and stirs the melting chocolate. “So, you wanna watch it with me?”

“Sounds good to me, baby.” Bushi kisses Hiromu’s temple. “You loaded it up on the tv?”

“Yeah, lemme just finish making snacks, and I’ll be right there.” Hiromu gives him a squeeze and another kiss, turning to the stove. Bushi strokes his hair absently, and leaves the kitchen. He takes a peek into the living room. The tv is on, the opening scenes of a romance on it. There’s something missing from this cosy little setup though. Bushi heads to his bedroom, and takes the thick fluffy snow-white throw from his bed. A snuggling blanket will make this entirely perfect. When he returns to the living room, there’s a tray full of marshmallow snowmen, and more surprisingly alongside the snowman, there’s some fancy looking homemade truffles.

Some snacks, hmm?” Bushi calls out. Hiromu carrying two big mugs of hot chocolate, topped with cute little marshmallow snowmen, comes into the living room.

“Uh…well, I…I made the snowmen after I finished making the chocolates.”

“What’s in them?” Bushi takes a mug from Hiromu, and sets it down on the table.

“Bunch of tasty things.” Hiromu sets his mug down, and sits down on the couch. “C’mere, Mama.” He reaches out to Bushi, wrapping his arms around him when Bushi settles down beside him.

“A bunch of tasty things, hmm?” Bushi takes one of the truffles, and pops it in his mouth whole, grinning when it’s revealed to have a raspberry caramel filling. “Very tasty.” Bushi snuggles back up to Hiromu, kissing his arm when it settles around him again. Hiromu wraps the throw around them, turns on the movie, and kisses Bushi’s hair. It’s a good movie, the kind of easy-going movie Bushi enjoys watching with Hiromu, because it’s easy to ignore, to indulge in nothing but Hiromu’s easy presence, and his delicious snacks. His fingers are running slowly through Bushi’s hair, the kind of gentle soothing caresses that are likely to lull Bushi to sleep. Bushi looks up at Hiromu, and pecks a kiss to the underside of his jaw. Hiromu looks down at him, and kisses his forehead. He tightens his arm around Bushi’s waist, and draws him up into a kiss.

“Mama, you want some more marshmallows?”

“Hmm, how about we share one of your snowman friends, baby?” Bushi picks up one of the snowmen, and offers it to Hiromu. He grins, and takes a bite. Bushi bites off the snowman’s hat. Each of the hats have turned out to be little truffles filled with caramel, and really Bushi could happily eat every one of those little hats, Hiromu make the best caramel.  Between them, they eat the marshmallow snowman, finishing it off with a slightly sticky kiss. “How long did you spend making all of this?”

“All day,” Hiromu tucks Bushi back up in his arms, “and before you say anything, I went to the gym with Naito in the morning.” Hiromu’s fingers start running through his hair again, slow and gentle. Bushi closes his eyes, missing even more of the movie. “Mama?” Hiromu asks softly. Bushi shifts, and kisses Hiromu. “You want another snowman?”

“Ah, go on, but after this movie, we’re gonna have to do some exercise.” Bushi picks the hat of the snowman, and offers it to Hiromu, pulling it away before he can take a bite. “Did you make some more of the caramel sauce we had on holiday? I think it’ll help me have the energy to really exercise.” Bushi eats the hat, and kisses Hiromu.

Chapter Text

Being the only women on the show isn’t all that fun. There are some who would see it as a privilege. They get to watch World Class wrestling live, and from ringside, who wouldn’t be jealous. Those people don’t consider the weight of the eyes on them. They’re not there to progress stories, or to take part in matches, they’re there as eye-candy. It can be frustrating, but as a dancer and a gravure model respectively, what do they expect? That’s the question that gets fired at them regularly. You show more in your jobs, you should be used to comments and looks, you chose to make your money selling your appearances. It’s annoying. It’s exactly why this time of year is Miho’s favourite.

During the winter shows, she wears warmer clothes to the ring, and even better than that, she gets to huddle up in the little corner assigned to them with Pieter. Pieter’s only concession to the cold is to wear a thick ugly coat until she has to go out to the ring. Miho is half-convinced that Pieter wears nothing but sexy lingerie, with little to no regard for anything but looking good, because she always looks amazing.

“How do you not slip in the ice?” Miho calls out when she hears Pieter’s heels on the tiles.

“Talent, pretty girl.” Pieter grins, and takes a seat by Miho. She stretches out one leg, her heels are approximately a mile long, and Miho shakes her head. “You wanna try them on? They’re comfy.”

“Those are not comfy.” Miho rolls her eyes, and drapes her blanket over Pieter’s lap. “Now, these are comfy.” Miho’s taken to wearing much more comfortable boots to the ring, and it’s been a delight. She’s almost entirely convinced she’s never going back to wearing heels.

“Comfy is for home, pretty girl.” Pieter winks. “We’re working, and our job is being sexy.”

“I’m sexy in flats, thank you.” Miho settles the blanket back around her thigh, and snuggles up at Pieter’s side. “It’s freezing in here tonight.”

“Mmhmm, c’mere, pretty girl.” Pieter wraps her arm around Miho’s shoulders, pulling her in close. “Auntie Pieter’s got you.” She laughs.

“Auntie? I don’t think you’re in any position to be anyone’s auntie.”

“I might be.” She laughs again, snuggles up closer. “I’ll be auntie for you at least.”

After the show, Taichi’s trying to talk Miho into coming out for dinner, she’s too cold to be tempted though, and busy trying to weasel out of it, when Pieter wanders up.

“Shoo, old man!” She flaps her hands at him like he was a disagreeable stray cat.

“Ah, but two pretty girls are better than one. Why don’t you come out too, Pieter-chan.” Taichi grins lecherously, leaning in closer to Pieter? “We’ll take you lovely ladies somewhere nice.”

“Oi, T! Mate, I don’t think the ladies are interested in dining out. They probably wanna get home, and put on something nice warm.” Zack claps Taichi on the shoulder, a massive smile on his face. “Let’s go. Have a good night, ladies.” Zack flashes his best, most charming smile, and guides Taichi away.

“What did he say?” Pieter asks, and Miho shrugs. Zack’s Japanese is a crapshoot, sometimes it’s awesome, sometimes it’s nonsense, she got the gist of what he was saying.

“He was just keeping hold of Taichi’s leash.” Miho offers Pieter her arm. “You wanna come to my place? I’ll make you some nice dinner, and we can catch up on tv.” Pieter takes her arm.

“Auntie approves of this idea.” She laughs, leaning against Miho just a little. “I’m freezing, so your heating better be on.”

Miho’s heating very much is on, and she’s washed the comfy clothes Pieter leaves at her place for nights she visits. It feels very strange seeing Pieter, always so careful with her appearance, dressed in loose sweats, and a far too big t-shirt. She’d insisted that they pick up a pizza on the way to Miho’s place, and is currently demolishing the big pie like it was a personal mission, washing it down with the nice bottle of wine Miho has stashed away Pieter’s visit.

“Oh god, pass me a tissue.” Miho’s not being too much more restrained with her slice, she can feel the grease on her cheeks, and doesn’t much care, she needs that tissue for her eyes. Pieter slides the tissue box over the table.

“I love this show.” Pieter bumps her shoulder against Miho’s. “It’s so romantic.”

“Uh-huh.” Miho nods, dabbing at her eyes. “It’s awful and I love it.”

“If you compare this to Taichi I’m leaving.” Pieter laughs, and shakes her head. “It’s a thousand times better than him.”

“Hmm, I guess.” Miho shrugs, sipping at her wine. “You staying over, auntie?” She leans against Pieter, snuggling up when Pieter’s hand runs through her hair. Now that the show’s over, the mood’s shifted, the air feels tingly and exciting.

“If you don’t mind.” Her short nails scritch at Miho’s scalp. Miho grins at her.

“Auntie, I planned for it.” She winks, and from underneath the couch cushion she pulls out a satin bag. She bats Pieter’s shoulder with it.

“Oh! Pretty girl wants to play?” Pieter laughs, taking the long double-ended dildo out of its bag. “Well, I guess, I can play.” Pieter lifts her hips, and pulls her sweatpants off. She absently strokes the long dildo, and then takes it into her mouth, taking it deeper and deeper, far deeper than looks comfortable.

“You gonna play all on your own, Pieter?” Miho asks, shifting on the couch, feeling a little damper. Pieter shrugs, and pulls the dildo from her mouth. She plants her feet on the edge of the couch, and her head falls back. Miho can’t see, but she’s sure that Pieter must have just pushed the toy into herself. Miho moves off the couch, pulls off her clothes, and settles on the floor between Pieter’s thighs, watching her fuck herself with the toy. She bats Pieter’s hands out of the way, and takes hold of the dildo, moving it slower, drawing it out, and pushing it back in at a snail’s pace. Pieter’s hand rests on the back of Miho’s head, drawing her closer, and closer. Miho sticks out her tongue, and presses it flat against Pieter’s clit, pressing against it for a second, before pointing her tongue, and flicking.

“Ah, that’s it.” Pieter gasps, her hips rocking with the dildo, her fingers digging into Miho’s head. “Hmm, that’s it, good girl.” She’s writhing a little, her hips rolling with Miho’s actions. She’s panting when she pushes Miho away. Miho looks at her. Pieter leans down, kissing her. “Come up on the couch.” Whilst Miho’s moving, Pieter pulls her shirt off, and changes how she’s sitting on the couch. She settles between Miho’s spread legs, grinning at her. Miho moans softly as Pieter rubs the dildo against her clit. Pieter slides it down, pressing it into her just a little. Pieter shifts above her, taking the other end of the long dildo into her.

“In me.” Miho takes a hold of the dildo, and moves closer, burying it inside her. Her head falls back against the arm of the couch. Pieter shifts, rocking closer, the toy shifts inside Miho. She pulls back, and presses down, repeating the motion over and over. Pieter’s doing the same, moving herself on the toy, fucking herself on it as Miho is. Miho moves faster, planting her feet on each side of Pieter’s waist. She takes a firm hold of the dildo, and pushing and pulling it between them in time with their movements.

“Hmm, ah…touch me.” Pieter moans, sitting it, rocking on the toy. She takes hold of Miho’s hand, and scowls at her nails. “The talons are going.” She flicks Miho’s gel tips off the first of her fingers, and guides them to her clitoris. Miho teases the hard-little nub, flicking it with her ring finger that still has a tip. “Pretty girl!” Pieter whines. Miho sits up, wraps an arm around Pieter’s waist, and takes one of her nipples into her mouth, biting, pulling, sucking. Pieter’s pulls her hair, dragging her up from her breast, claiming her mouth in a kiss. Miho breaks the kiss when Pieter starts rubbing at her clit furiously. She’s making quiet little gasps, moaning and frantic as Pieter brings her closer and closer to orgasm, only to stop.

“Why’d you stop?” She whines, nipping at Pieter’s lips. “I wanna come.”

“Cause you’re a brat.” Pieter pulls the dildo out of her, and pushes Miho back against the couch. “Mean little brat.” She grins, pushing the dildo deeper into Miho. “And I’m gonna punish you for that.” She starts fucking Miho with the dildo, pushing it into her deeper and deeper. She moans, and gasps, and whines, keeping her hands above her head, knowing that’s probably what Pieter wanted. Pieter glances around the room, and gets off the couch.

“Pieter?” Miho calls out when Pieter leaves the living room, coming back in a few minutes with their strap-on on, and a length of tinsel in her hands. She flashes a grin at Miho, and winds the tinsel around her arms.

“There, that’ll keep you in place.” She laughs. Miho makes a show of struggling with her bindings to Pieter’s amusement. She comes around, and settles over Miho, stroking the dildo protruding from her harness. Miho tilts her hips up, trying to entice Pieter into fucking her. Pieter flicks on of her nipples. “Wait a minute, I need to turn this on.” Pieter moans in pleasure, and a faint buzzing is only just audible from the vibrator on the inside of the harness.

“You have the big dig inside?” Miho asks, knowing that Pieter has a weird fondness for the widest of their collected toys.

“Big as a coke can.” She laughs, rolling her hips, batting the dildo against the outer lips of Miho’s pussy. “Ready?” Miho nods, grinning enthusiastically. Pieter thrusts the dildo into Miho, bottoming out on the first thrust. She sets a hard, fast pace. Miho rocks her hips up, meeting Pieter’s thrusts. “Yeah, you like this don’t you, Miho-chan?” She laughs fondly, leaning down, nipping at Miho’s lips.

“Uh-huh.” Miho nods, getting a little annoyed with her restraints. “Pi, can I…” Miho trails off when Pieter starts running her clit.

“Fuck, I turned this on too fast.” She mutters in Miho’s ear. “Gonna cum,” the only Miho gets before Pieter trembles and moans. After a moment, still twitching with aftershocks, and the still vibrating toy against her, Pieter starts fucking Miho again. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” She’s whining, thrusting randomly, frantically into Miho. Her finger is rubbing against Miho, leading her to her orgasm. She quivers, moaning Pieter’s name. As soon as Miho cums, Pieter wriggles out of the strap-on harness, and flops onto the other side of the couch, her legs splayed, panting. Miho slips her arms free of her tinsel, and snuggles up to Pieter.

“I’m gonna tie you up next.” She laughs, dumping the tinsel in Pieter’s lap. “First though, more wine.” Pieter laughs at her, and throws the tinsel at the back of Miho’s head.

“More pizza.” She snags a slice, steals a sip of Miho’s wine, and takes command of the TV remote, searching for more romantic dramas to cry over.

 

Chapter Text

“No, he’s dating the guy from the florists.” Bushi rests his hip against a counter, watching Naito kneading his dough.

“Uh…what about our hair dying guy…what’s his name?” Naito looks up. He’s dividing the dough, and throwing something into half of it, changing the colour of it.

“Evil, and I think he’s got a someone…he’s been very evasive about that.” Bushi steals a handful of dried cranberries from the tub. Naito shoots him a look. “So, you can see my problem, can’t you?”

“I could go with you?” Naito offers, working the cranberries through his now pink dough. He smiles fondly at Bushi.

“Oh, that’ll work.” Bushi laughs. “My parents know you, and have known you since you were fourteen. They’ve seen you be dumped by at least seven different girls. They’re totally gonna believe you’ve decided that after twenty years, you’re going to date me. Truly, a great idea.”

“The offer is there, but yeah…you’re probably right.” Naito’s moved on to the other ball of dough, mixing it with some chopped nuts. Someone else enters the kitchen, busy on the other side of it. “Morning!” Naito calls out.

“Morning, Naito-san.” The voice comes from the walk-in, a far deeper, warmer voice than Bushi had expected.

“The new boy.” Naito’s eyes suddenly widen. “I’ve told you about him, right?”

“The guy you were training years ago, who couldn’t make a cake to save his life.” Bushi remembers Naito talking about how his terrible trainee had retrained in a different skill set.

“Still can’t, but he’s damn talented confectioner.” Naito’s grinning now, and Bushi has a terrible feeling building in the pit of his stomach.

“Naito, don’t you dare.”

“Hiromu-kun, c’mere!” Naito hollers loudly, and his talented confectioner approaches. His eyes fall to the ground the moment he spots Bushi. “I’ve told you about Bushi, right?”

“Ah, yeah. Hello Bushi-san.” He bows a little. “It’s nice to finally meet you.” He’s still not looked at Bushi, which is a shame, because he’s cute, if a little shy.

“So, Hiro,” Naito wipes his hand, and throws his arm around Hiromu’s shoulders, “my friend Bushi, here, needs some help.” That catches Hiromu’s attention. He stands up a little straighter, his eyes finally raised from the floor.

“With what?” He gives Bushi a fleeting glance before returning all of his attention to Naito.

“Well, every year there’s a big celebration, the Seasonal Stylist Soiree.”

“The Soiree?” Hiromu sounds bewildered, his eyes blinking owlishly, looking the picture of innocence beside a wolfishly grinning Naito.

The Seasonal Stylist Soiree…it’s a big fancy dinner where all the stylists get together for charity, and have a fancy ball.” Naito’s squeezing Hiromu’s shoulder, grinning at him even more. “And Bushi here, is in need of a date.”

“I can’t see that being difficult.” Hiromu murmurs, so quiet it could be to himself. “He’s a very handsome man, I’m sure women are itching to be on his arm.” He says a little more firmly, but still rather on the quiet side, a very slight blush on his cheeks.

“Well, if that isn’t the problem. You see, Bushi isn’t interested in the ladies.” Naito moves behind Hiromu, one hand on each of his shoulders, holding him out as though for Bushi to inspect. “And all the available gentlemen have been dismissed, so…”

“Naito.” Bushi’s tone is heavy with warning. Hiromu looks like he wants the ground to open up and swallow him whole.

“You need a date, Bushi-san?” Hiromu asks very softly, his eyes still on the floor.

“I…” Bushi starts, and stops at Naito’s look. “Not a real date, just someone to pretend to be my date.” He plasters on a smile when Hiromu looks up at him.

“Pretend? Like a fake date to fool everyone there?” He’s grinning like the whole idea wasn’t the single stupidest one ever. “I can do that. I was an excellent actor in high school.”

“Wait, didn’t you tell me you managed to knock the entire set over in the one play you were in?” Naito laughs, plastering himself to Hiromu’s back.

“Well, yeah,” Hiromu’s cheeks are crimson, but he’s still grinning, “but I played it off so well, everyone thought it was supposed to happen. I’m a natural talent, at least that’s what the drama teacher said.”

“Ah, natural talent.” Naito’s hugging him now, looking for all the world like he’s cuddling his little brother. Bushi had known the two of them were close, but he’d not known they were this close. “See, a fake date with a naturally talented actor to stop your parents from trying to fix you up with any available bachelor they see, it’s the perfect idea, isn’t it, Bushi?” A silence hangs over the three of them. This plan of Naito’s is ridiculous, but it would let Bushi have a nice night out, and stop his parents dragging him around to meet potential partners, giving him a chance to mingle all on his own, and maybe actually meet someone that he’s interested in.

“This is a terrible idea, but it might just work, if you don’t mind, Hiromu-san.” Bushi extends his hand for Hiromu to shake. He looks so embarrassed, even his ears are red now. He squirms out of Naito’s hug, and bows a little as he shakes Bushi’s hand.

“I’ll be the best fake date you’ve ever had, Bushi-san.” He promises with a grin. “I should get to work though. Please give Bushi-san my number so we can hash out the details, Naito.” He swipes a handful of chopped nuts, and scampers over to the other side of the kitchen.

“Pff, fake date.” Naito laughs, giving Bushi a look. A look Bushi refutes with an incredulous one back.

“What?”

“Little Hiro’s cute, isn’t he?” Naito’s returned to dough, pulling strands from each colour, and coiling them together.

“He’s fine, I guess.” Bushi offers nonchalantly.

“Uh-huh, fine.” Naito cuts the dough, laying one assembled loaf on a floured tray. “Fine like a wine, right?”

“Stop it, he’s way too young for me.” Bushi’s trying to keep his voice down, wishing Hiromu wasn’t in the same room for this conversation.

“Twenty-eight isn’t that young.” Naito scoffs. “And besides, he is cute.”

“He is. You happy now, your friend Hiromu is cute.” Bushi huffs, and grabs another handful of cranberries.

“Hmm, I suppose… Cute, and did I mention he’s single?” Naito’s wearing a singularly shit-eating grin, and Bushi wants to elbow him in the gut.

“Cute, single, and my fake date.”

“I’ve seen enough of these movies to know that a fake date can become a real one.” Naito singsongs, busy working on his dough. “Shouldn’t you get to work? I’m sure you’ve actual work to do that isn’t stealing my ingredients.”

“I guess, I at least need to open the salon.” Bushi sighs dramatically, stealing one last handful of cranberries. “I’ll see you later, right?”

“Uh-huh.” Naito nods absently, getting engrossed in his work.

“Hey, Bushi-san, before you go.” Hiromu skids to a halt in front of Bushi, a chocolate box in his hands. “If I’m your fake boyfriend, I should be showering you in gifts, right?” He’s grinning down at the box in his hands, like he’s still too shy to grin straight at Bushi. “I made these, so you know…” He trails off, looking at Bushi expectantly.

“Why thank you, darling.” Bushi takes the box with a laugh, making Hiromu grin at him.

“You’re quite welcome, sweetums.” He winks as Bushi leaves the back of Naito’s bakery.

His salon is nearby, only a few stores down, which is lucky, because Bushi doesn’t drive, and Naito lives in his building. It does mean that he has to start his day ridiculously early, but that’s not too bad. He doesn’t mind helping Naito out in the mornings, and he doesn’t mind being open early. It gives him an advantage over most other salons. He can catch people before they go to work, which is an untapped market for most hairdressers.

Bushi’s first client is a regular, a quiet woman who comes in every six weeks for a trim. She’s very quiet, and doesn’t really like chatter, which suits him just fine first thing in the morning.

“Oh, you have a new suitor, Bushi-san?” She asks him, a smile on her face. It might be best to start laying the groundwork for his relationship with Hiromu now, so he nods.

“Hmm, he works with my friend at the bakery.” He gives her a big grin, finishing off her trim. “There, that’s you all done. Would you like a chocolate?” He opens the box, and pauses. Inside there’s dozens of different chocolates, they look incredibly good.

“Oh gosh, you’re sure you don’t mind?” She asks, peeking into the box. Bushi isn’t sure he doesn’t mind, every one of these candies look delicious.

“Of course not, go on, try one.” He steps aside, letting her take her pick.

“Oh, this is really good. You keep a close eye on this one, especially if he’s going to gift you more of these.” She laughs, pays, and leaves with a wave.

“Morning, Bushi.” Evil calls out when he arrives. He spots the box of chocolates, doing a double take. “You bought some of Hiormu’s chocolates?” For a second, Bushi panics. He’d not known that Evil knew Hiromu, and that makes things a little more complicated, because Evil will be at the soiree.

“Oh no, he gave them to me.”

“He gave them to you?” Evil laughs, picking a chocolate out of the box. “Ooo, cranachan, these ones are my favourite you know.” Evil pops the chocolate into his mouth whole. “You’re sure he gave you these, because that was made with Laphroaig.” That means nothing to Bushi, but Evil seems pleased. “He must have been feeling kind.” Evil laughs, taking another one of the chocolates. “It’s an expensive box. He must really like you. I’ll have to ask him.” Evil winks. Bushi is texting, and demanding lunch with Hiromu. He needs to know exactly what the connection is between Evil and him.

Hiromu’s sitting at a table when Bushi arrives, he seems to be focussing on something on the table, only looking up when Bushi sits opposite him.

“Hey.” He stashes a small notebook into his inner pocket. “So, uh…” He smiles awkwardly. Bushi sits down opposite him, and levels him with a look.

“So, I just learned that my colourist is your friend.” Bushi throws that comment out casually, and starts looking over the menu.

“Colourist?” Hiromu looks puzzled for a moment. “Nabe-chan works with you?”

“Nabe-chan?”

“Oh…yeah, uh…it’s his nickname from when we were younger…he’s Evil now, right?”

“Nabe-chan, huh? I am going to tease him so much about that.” Bushi laughs, ordering when the server comes over to the table.

“Be nice to him, he’s my best friend…” Hiromu trials off as though suddenly realising something. “He’s going to this soiree. Maybe we should tell him this is a pretend date.”

“No! The fewer people who know we’re not on a date-date the better.”

“If you’re sure.” Hiromu nods absently. He’s sucking on his bottom lip, his eyes on the tablecloth. “I think maybe letting Nabe-chan know wouldn’t be too bad…I mean…he works with you, and…” He stops talking, every ounce of the shy, nervousness from the morning filling him.

“The less people we have lying, the more likely it is my parents will believe our lies.” The server arrives with their food at that moment. “That’s all I need.”

“Hmm? Why?” Hiromu sounds genuinely interested, a little smile on his lips. “I said before, you’re a handsome guy…” He blushes when he says that, shaking his head sharply. “It’d be easy for you to find someone to go on a real date with.”

“I don’t want to go on a real date. Honestly, I’m perfectly happy not dating, but my mother isn’t happy with me not dating” Bushi shrugs. Hiromu nods. He’s poking at his salad with a faraway look on his face. “So, how come you’re single?” Hiromu looks up, his eyes wide.

“Uh…well…uh…” He sighs, and sits up straighter. “My ex is in Mexico, and I’ve not really been looking since I got back home.”

“He broke your heart?” Bushi feels a little guilty that he didn’t ask the question more carefully, because Hiromu’s smile takes on a slightly pained edge.

“No, it’s not broke, but definitely chipped.” He takes a drink, and his easy nature creeping back. “So, a not date suits me well too.” Bushi nods, hoping he’s wearing a sympathetic face, he’s not sure he is. He doesn’t feel sympathetic, he feels annoyed that someone would chip Hiromu’s heart. He seems like too sweet a soul to be chipped at.

“Well, fake boyfriend, what else do I need to know? I’ve got Mexican ex, and Naito tried to teach you to bake, but then he helped you get an apprenticeship somewhere, because baking was not for you.”

“England first, then I went out to Mexico to study some more. Eventually, Naito invited me back home to work with him.” Hiromu smiles fondly. “I’m very grateful to him. He…he’s a very good friend to me.”

“Yeah, he’s great.” Bushi mutters, trying to not think too hard about how this whole fake dating thing is Naito’s fault. “So, I have a brief summary, but I guess I’m going to need to know more.”

“You know way more than I do.” Hiromu laughs. “How about you tell me the cliff notes version of Bushi over dinner?”

“If I didn’t know better, Mr…uh…I don’t know your family name.” Bushi laughs awkwardly.

“Takahashi.” Hiromu laughs. “Mr Hiromu Takahashi.”

“Well, Mr Takahashi, a second date already? What do you take me for?” Bushi briefly fakes being shy, batting his eyelashes and wearing his most demure smile. “I’ll text you the details.” Bushi grins.

“Second date is definitely my choice.” Hiromu bounces to his feet. “I’ll send you the details.” He winks, and leaves the café.

Dinner turns out to be a bunch of food trucks Hiromu had insisted on. It’s not the sort of dinner Bushi is used to, but he can’t find it in himself to complain. The food was delicious, despite being eaten on the move.

“C’mon, this way.” Hiromu leads Bushi down a dark street, into a side door.

“Hiromu, this looks dodgy as hell.” Hiromu laughs at him, and nods.

“It does, but I promise it’s not. In the elevator.”

“Hiromu Takahashi, if I end up dead, I want you to know that Naito will be very upset and not talk to you for at least a day.” Hiromu laughs again, bumping his shoulder against Bushi’s.

“Noted, but I promise, you’ll make it out of this alive.” He ushers Bushi out of the elevator, and up some stairs.

“Where are we?” Bushi asks once he steps out onto a roof.

“The roof of my building. I wanted to show you the lights.” Bushi’s breath catches when he sees the lights of the city spread out. “Naito-san said you’d like it.”

“It’s gorgeous.” The lights are like flowers blossoming in the darkness. Bushi leans against the railing, staring out at the lights. “I suppose you need to know stuff about me, hmm?”

“Same as you know about me. I mean, it’s supposed to be our first date, so I don’t think anyone will ask too many questions, right?”

“You don’t know my mother.” Bushi laughs, shaking his head.

“Here, it’s cold out.” Hiromu hands Bushi a mug of hot chocolate. “I left the flask up here before I went to meet you. It’s a new recipe I’ve been working on.” It tastes of cinnamon, and is thick and warm.

“It’s good, you’ll make plenty of money with this.” Bushi takes another sip. “It’d taste really good with marshmallows.”

“Here,” Hiromu drops some mini marshmallows into Bushi’s hot chocolate, “I made these up for it. Honey flavour, so it might be a little too sweet, but I think it’ll work well.”

“A little sweet, but tasty.” Bushi bumps against Hiromu’s shoulder. “My mother taught me how to cut hair. I worked at the family salon while I was in beauty school. I got a job in a big salon when I graduated, bought my own a few years after that near Naito’s bakery, because that way he could give me a ride to work.”

“He’s useful like that.” Hiromu laughs. They spend a few hours up on the roof, talking about each other’s past to help this fake date go as planned, and when it’s too cold, Bushi almost reluctantly says goodbye. Hiromu’s a nice young man, not exactly his type, but a nice young man with a warm, deep laugh, and a quick mind. He’ll make a good friend.

The next morning, when Bushi and Naito arrive at the bakery, it’s already a hive of activity. Hiromu is busy working on something, with an unknown young man fluttering around him. The two of them seem incredibly busy.

“What are they doing?” Hiromu working is kind of fascinating; unlike Naito’s easy way with his work, Hiromu is focussed, his eyebrows drawn, his eyes narrowed.

“Ah, I forgot to mention, Hiromu’s one of the caterers for the Soiree. He did it last year too.” Naito shrugs. “He made these little sugar birds in little these bubbles…it looked awesome, but I’ve no idea how he made them.”

“The baubles on the tree? He made those?” Bushi remembers the little sugar baubles with their delicate sugar doves inside. They’d been too lovely to eat, but he’d kept one for a while, eventually he’d eaten it, and been delighted with the soft sweet flavours.

“Hiromu’s a good confectioner.” Naito smiles fondly. “Go ask him what he’s up to, he won’t mind.” Bushi hesitates for a moment, he doesn’t want to interrupt the hard at work Hiromu, but he is kind of interested.

“Morning,” Bushi calls out as he crosses the kitchen towards Hiromu.

“Oh! Hey, morning Bushi.” Up closer, Bushi has even less idea what Hiromu’s doing. “You come to see some of the treats that’ll be at the soiree?”

“And to say good morning. What is this?”

“This is a work in progress.” Hiromu grins at him. “Eventually, it’ll be baubles for the tree. You’ll have to wait to see them though.” Hiromu winks, and wipes his hands on a towel. “Your morning present, darling.”

“Why thank you, sweetums.” Bushi laughs, and takes the little box. “What is it?”

“Surprise!” Hiromu grins.

The surprise turns out to be some kind of round jelly the colour of the night sky filled with firework like patterns of different colours, and glittery stars. It’s beautiful, so beautiful that Bushi doesn’t really want to eat, because it’s lovely. He ends up having it for lunch, sharing it with Evil, who decides now is the right to time to spill Hiromu secrets. His fondness for pudding, cats, and holding hands seem to be the three most important things for Bushi to know apparently.

That night, Bushi invites Hiromu out to dinner, holding his hand on the way to the restaurant with teasing giggles. Hiromu had blushed, but taken Bushi’s hand happily. After dinner, they ended up taking a walk around a nearby park, talking aimlessly about everything possible. For a prelude to a fake date, it’s utterly perfect.

“Hey! Wanna make a snow angel?” Hiromu flops onto his back in the snow suddenly with a gleeful laugh. Bushi stares down at him, at the snow in his hair, and the grin on his face.

“You’re gonna catch a cold.” He says simply to give him something to say that isn’t a comment on how pretty the snow looks in his hair, how the white makes the golden tone of his skin warmer, how his smile is contagious, how when he’s being particularly childish his eyes fill with glee and it’s one of the most adorable things Bushi’s ever seen. There is no way he’s ever going to say any of those things right then.

“Maybe.” Hiromu laughs, and starts flapping his arms up and down, moving his legs from side to side, making a snow angel. “Wanna make one with me?” Hiromu reaches out to him, still grinning.

“I do not.” Bushi shakes his head. He has less than no desire to lie around in the snow. Hiromu stares up at him, his bright smile falling away into a blank nothing. Bushi regrets not making a snow angel when Hiromu carefully picks himself out of the snow, smiling at his creation fondly.

“So, you all set for tomorrow?” He asks quietly.

“Yeah, I think so…I’m just hoping it goes well.”

“I’ll be on my best behaviour.” Hiromu’s brushing snow from his shoulders, his face once more in that blank expression. Bushi does not like that non-expression, it’s wrong for Hiromu.

“Hey, wanna get some chestnuts?” There’s a seller down the path, and Bushi is deeply fond of roast chestnuts. Hiromu nods absently.

“Sure, sounds like a good idea.” His tone isn’t right, it’s a shade too morose. Bushi buys a bag of chestnuts, sharing them with Hiromu, unsettled by the less than himself sound of Hiromu’s voice. He’s probably been told to act more mature by a few people over the years, it’s probably something he’s sick and tired of hearing, and Bushi wants to set that right.

“Hiro?”

“Hmm?” He looks up from his phone, a bewildered look on his face as Bushi picks out the two biggest chestnuts.

“We’re gonna build a snowman.” Hiromu grins at that, following him out to build a very wonky, but charming snowman. When they’re done, Hiromu leaves him with a smile, his tone is right again, and that makes Bushi feel a million times better about not making snow angels.

Bushi arranged to meet Hiromu a few blocks down from the venue. He wanted to make sure he’d come dressed appropriately. As sure as he is that Hiromu will be, he’s the type to need to check. Hiromu arrives a few minutes late, a gorgeous buttonhole posy to match his own in his hand.

“I thought we should coordinate.” He beams as he attaches the little bunch of flowers to Bushi’s suit jacket. “Do I look okay?” He asks, spinning around slowly. “Evil’s boyfriend helped me get something nice.”

“You look good in black.” Bushi’s a little taken aback. The suit is elegantly tailored, the overcoat is lovely, but the most unexpected thing is Hiromu’s hair – twisted, dyed, and styled in a gorgeous updo.

“Thank you, though no where near as good as you, Bushi-san. You look…you really are too handsome to be single, even if you’re happily that way.” Hiromu mutters, blushing furiously.

“Yeah…I’m pretty happy…c’mon, let’s get going.” Bushi had been happy being single, he had been happy not dating, but Hiromu’s fun to date, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s cute, though cute feels like an understatement with him dressed as he is. Beneath the cute, Hiromu is a handsome man.

A handsome man that Bushi’s mother is giving very assessing looks to as she talks with him. It seems like he’s passing her tests though. She touches his shoulder, and fusses with his hair, smiling as she runs her fingers through it.

“He seems nice, but a little young for you.” Bushi’s dad elbows him lightly.

“He’s not that much younger than me.” Bushi laughs. “Six years isn’t that much.” Bushi’s dad laughs, and shakes his head.

“You date older…I guess you must be feeling your age.” His dad laughs, and pats him on the shoulder. “He’s a cute kid, and you should go rescue him from your mother.”

“Ah…yeah, she’s gonna steal him at this rate.” Bushi takes his leave of his father, and approaches Hiromu from behind. He sets a hand at Hiromu’s waist, and rests his chin on his shoulder. “Hello.” Bushi’s mother beams at them, her hands clasping when Bushi kisses Hiromu’s temple.

“Hiromu was telling me that this was your first proper date.” His mother beams at him. Bushi nods absently, tucking Hiromu in at his side. Hiromu’s arm wraps around his waist as though it was completely natural. Somehow, his mother smiles even brighter. “Well, I’ll leave you two alone, and tell your dad we don’t need the nice gentleman we lined up after all.” She laughs, and heads over to Bushi’s father, laughing and leading him out onto the dance floor.

“They look like a lovely couple.”

“Yeah, they are.” Bushi watches them dance a moment longer. “Hey, you know how to dance?” Hiromu looks at him; an incredulous expression melts into a mischievous one.

“I can learn.” He grins, letting Bushi lead him out to the dancefloor. Hiromu is a quick learner. He takes to dancing as well as Bushi could have hoped, only stepping on his toes once, and spending most of their time out there making jokes or comments about other dancers. When they finally tire of dancing, Hiromu heads to the drinks table.

“You know, he almost had me fooled.” Bushi glances over at Evil. Bushi doesn’t say anything. He’s watching Hiromu talk to some other guy. “He’s a pretty good actor, but he wasn’t good enough to trick me.”

“Trick you how?” Bushi finally caves and asks.

“You’re not dating. You two have never been dating, all those dates you’ve been on the last few days, those were practice runs, weren’t they?”

“Yeah.” Bushi admits quietly, Hiromu laughs at whatever the man talking to him says. Evil’s hand rests on his shoulder suddenly.

“If it was just practice, what do you care if he finds someone he really likes here?” Evil sounds coolly assessing, like he knows something Bushi doesn’t.  “He’s talked about you a lot, you know.” The man at the drinks table touches Hiromu’s arm, says something that makes him laugh again. “Says that you’re really nice, and charming, that it’s a shame you aren’t interesting in dating.” Bushi shrugs off Evil’s hand. He crosses the room, arriving at the drinks table. Hiromu turns to him with a smile.

“Hey, this is,” Bushi doesn’t let Hiromu finish his sentence. He rests a hand on his cheek.

“I don’t care who he is.” Bushi slides his hand into Hiromu’s hair, using that gentle hold to guide his face down. “I don’t care about anything, or anyone but you.” Hiromu blinks at him. “You wanna go on a date, Hiromu?”

“Aren’t we already on a date?” He asks softly, blushing slightly.

“Huh…we are, aren’t we?” Bushi laughs. Hiromu catches hold of Bushi’s wrist, keeping his hand where it is, tangled in Hiromu’s hair.

“It’s not even our first date, so,” Hiromu leans forward, and kisses Bushi softly. Bushi tightens his fingers in Hiromu’s hair.

“Definitely not the first date.” Bushi kisses him again. “You wanna dance some more?”

“Honestly?” Hiromu’s eyes are half closed, he’s leaning into Bushi’s hand. “You wanna go make snow angels?” The mischievous glee that seems to be integral to Hiromu fills his eyes. Bushi moves his hand form Hiromu’s hair, and takes a hold of Hiromu’s.

“There’s a really big snow drift by my apartment, and when we’re done, my boyfriend keeps giving me these really nice treats, so I’ll share.”

Chapter Text

The world ended. It’s a commonly known fact, but really it doesn’t feel like it’s ended. If the world was over, Naito is entirely certain that he wouldn’t exist. He does though, so all claims of the world endings seem like nonsense. It’s always slightly annoyed him, but it’s what’s taught in schools, it’s what’s been drummed into his head. It’s not that the world ended, it’s that the old system collapsed. His work had led him down a rabbit hole into the world before, a hole pockmarked with greed and excess, a world he realised might be returning in the big city he’d been a journalist in. He wanted no part of that, so he’d requested retraining, and a move to the countryside.

The little town Naito had been assigned to is small, and in a remote part of the territories. It looked nice on paper though. He’s done his research into the place, and has learnt that he has a few friends there at least, which had been a surprise. He’s to be the new grower for this town. His job is basically planting fast growing seeds, and providing crops to the townsfolk. A simple enough job, one that’ll leave him plenty of time to get to know the villagers, and maybe find that special someone he can share his heart with.

“Naito?” A familiar voice, one Naito’s not heard since high school. Bushi’s changed over that time. He’s gotten a little taller, though only a little, his hair looks to be shorted, but the biggest change is the mask on his face. As Naito remembers, Bushi has a pretty cute face, so the mask seems a little strange. It might that he’s sensitive to something in the air out here, or he was disfigured in the time they’ve been apart, he’s sure he’ll find out soon enough.

“Bushi!” Naito spreads his arms, and hugs him. “It’s good to see you again.”

“What are you doing here?” Bushi’s smiling at him, lips are one of the only parts of his face visible. “I thought you were working in the big city. It’s a surprise to see you out here in the sticks.”

“I requested a change…journalism got a little…I wanted a change.” He plasters a smile on his face, preferring to not think too much about the mess of a rabbit hole that had made him want to leave the city.

“Well, this is quite the change.” Bushi laughs.

“Yeah, it’s what I needed. The big city got old.” Naito rubs the back of his neck, smiling.

“Well, this will certainly be new compared to the city. C’mon, I’ll show you around.” Bushi starts walking towards the little town just in the distance. “So, this is the town square.” Bushi gestures to the fountain, and a ramshackle little market stall near it. “That’s the trading stall. On Mondays, Shingo is there. Tuesdays are for the grower, but I’m gonna guess you don’t have much to trade yet.” Bushi grins at him, laughing softly. “Wednesdays, Yoh and Sho are there selling their latest fashions, Thursday one of the fishers will be there, either Suzuki or Desperado, usually Desperado to be honest. He fishes out by the river near the ruins. I think he has a crush on our finder, but I’m not sure.”

“You think?” Naito asks absently, wishing he’d brought a notebook to write all of this down. It’d be good to remember all the names Bushi’s mentioning.

“I think, it’s hard to say. Desperado wears a mask, and the finder is an odd one.” Bushi shrugs.

“An odd one?”

“Uh-huh. I’m sure you’ll meet him eventually. Just listen for a bell, and you’ll find him.”

“He has a bell?” That certainly would make him odd, Naito supposes.

“Oh no, his cat does. A cute little bell that goes jingle-jingle-jingle. Daryl’s a good kitty.” Bushi grins at him. “So, I’ll be at the stand on Fridays, I’m the town healer, so if you need medicines or the like come get them from me. And, Saturdays is when our keeper is at the stall.”

“I should have written this down.” Naito groans. “So, is there anywhere to eat here, I’m starving.”

“Ah, c’mon, I’ll feed you.” Bushi leads him to past the fountain to a building labelled bar. Inside it’s cosy, a big fireplace with a small fire, crackling away, big over-stuffed chairs and couches around it. The dining tables are simple, but well crafted, and well cared for. Behind the bar is a tall, handsome man, his cheeks sharp, and his hair a pretty tousle of gold.

“Bushi, I don’t see you too much at this time of day.” The man smiles, a charming smile, warm and fond.

“I’m showing our new grower around.” Bushi taps Naito’s shoulder. “This is an old friend of mine, Naito meet Sanada. Sanada works here in Milano’s bar. Where is Milano?”

“He’s in the kitchen, preparing for the lunchtime rush. On that note, what can I get you?” Sanada sets a menu down on the bar top, looking at them expectantly. Bushi orders for them both, and ushers Naito over towards a table.

“Is there anything else I need to know?” Naito asks leaning towards the fire. It might be Spring, but there’s still a chill in the air.

“Anything else? Hmm…well, our priest is called Tanahashi, he has services on Sundays.”

“The mayor is a little creep, but we hardly ever see him.” Sanada comes over to the table, and sets down a teapot and a trio of cups.  He sits down by Bushi, and gives Naito an almost shy smile. “His goons on the other hand.”

“Bullet Club.” Bushi scoffs. “They wander around trying to intimidate people and take their money.”

“Mostly, they’re just a bunch of goofs. They’ll try and make you pay protection, but you can just ignore them. Officer Liger will deal with them, if you mention it to him.”

“Officer Liger is the sheriff?”

“Nah, that’d be Sheriff Makabe, but Officer Liger is the one who does the work.” There’s a delightfully mischievous smile on Bushi’s lips. “There’s not much for our police force to deal with, apart from Bullet Club and their nonsense.”

“Eh, it’s for the best that someone deals with them.” Sanada shakes his head, taking up his cup of tea.

“Shouldn’t you be bringing us our lunch?” Bushi asks, a laugh in his tone. Sanada raises an eyebrow.

“Milano wanted to meet our new grower.” Sanada sips at his tea, smiling slightly. A man carrying a tray covered in dishes.

“Ah, our new grower.” The man sets the tray down with a flourish, a bright smile on his face. “I’m Milano, humble proprietor of the finest bar, restaurant, and coffee shop in town.” Naito shakes the man’s hand. “Now, let’s eat.”

After lunch Naito returns to his little home. It’s far from the stylish apartment he was in the city, but it’s exactly what he wanted; a total change. Inside there’s not much, some basic furniture, and a fireplace. It’s simple and homey, and he loves it. The only things he’d brought with him were clothes, some books, and the officially issued quick growing seeds; seven days to full plant growth at maximum. The needed tools are still in the house, so Naito should make a start.

“Ah, Naito! Bushi said you were our new grower.” Shingo is smiling broadly, as loud and solid as he’d been when Naito met in vocational school. He’d trained as a builder, the role he fulfils in this little town. “I come bearing gifts.” In his hands he’s holding a selection of new tools. “I thought you’d like your very own set of equipment, the old stuff will be worn down to the old grower.”

“Thanks…I don’t…I mean I can give you a book, I don’t really have the money to be paying for new tools.”

“Just give me some of your first harvest, a couple of potatoes, some eggplants and tomatoes.” Shingo grins. “Gimme that, and I’ll make you a nice dinner.”

“You don’t need to do that.” Naito laughs, taking the tools. “I’ll give you as many vegetables as you need, but first I need to plant them.”

“I’ll let you get on with it. Come over to my place tonight. Bushi and I have dinner together every Sunday. It’d be nice if you could join us.” Shingo rubs the back of his neck, looking slightly embarrassed.

“Thank you. It’ll be nice to spend some time with old friends.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Come over and see” Shingo nods, and heads off, leaving Naito to his planting.

The second Saturday Naito decides to go see what the keeper has to offer for sale. He’s not seen him or the finder yet. He’s sure they’ll be nice; everyone he’s met so far has been lovely. The trader’s stall is covered with a sheet of thick black velvet. Behind the stall is a man dressed inappropriately for the weather; it’s a lovely warm Spring day, far too warm for the man’s thick robes.

“The new grower, Naito?” He asks when Naito approaches him.

“Yeah, you’ve heard of me?” The keeper nods, smiling brightly.

“Shingo is chatty.” He laughs. Naito had forgotten just how chatty Shingo was. “So, what can I interest you in?” He waves his hands over the laid out wares.

“I don’t know what any of this stuff is to be honest.”

“Mostly, just Old World trinkets Hiromu’s found that I have duplicates of, clocks, some data discs with tv shows, that kind of thing.” Evil plasters on what Naito supposes is his best salesman smile, it’s a little intimidating.

“Uh, well I don’t think I have the money for a clock yet, and I’ve nothing to play data discs on, but if your finder comes across any books, I’ll happily buy those.” Naito’s read everyone of the books he’d taken with him, he’d like some new ones.

“I’ll have Hiromu keep an eye out for you.” Evil nods to himself, and makes a note in a little notebook. “I’ll give you a discount if you keep some raspberries back for me when they’re in season.”

“Will do.” Naito grins, making a mental note to plant some extra raspberries in the summer.

One Summer night, Naito is walking back home from Milano’s bar, he hears a faint jingle-jingle-jingle. The sound gets louder as he walks closer to the ruins. From the shadows bursts a tubby tuxedo cat. The cat looks up at him with big soulful amber eyes, and meows.

“Hello kitty?” Naito crouches down, letting the cat sniff his hand. “You’re out late, Mr Kitty.”

“Daryl.” Naito stares at the cat. He’d only had a few wines, but maybe it’s enough to imagine cats can talk.

“Sorry, Daryl.” He pats the cat’s head.

“It’s okay.”

“I’ve never met a talking cat.” Naito ruffles the cat’s ears, smiling when the little chubby cat bumps his head against Naito’s hand.

“You’ll have to let me know when you do.” Naito looks up, and sees a man dressed like a finder; black leather armour, with a long dagger on one hip, a pistol on the other, and a strange helmet that covers his face.

“You must be Hiromu.” Naito stands up, holding out his hand. The man pulls his helmet off, and Naito freezes. He’s cute, unexpectedly cute.

“The new grower? I was wondering when I was going to bump into you.” He grins. “How are you settling in? Nabe-chan says you’ve not bought a thing from him yet. He’s upset.”

“Nabe-chan?” Naito has no idea who that is, he’s never heard the name Nabe-chan.

“Evil. Sorry, I forget he’s Evil. Honestly, keepers are so weird with their special names. C’mon, I’ll walk you home.”

“So, I’ve been here for a season, and I’ve only just met you.” Naito starts walking towards his home. Hiromu glances over at him with a smile.

“Well, I’m busy most days.” He shrugs. “Have you been into the ruins?”

“No…Officer Liger told me to stay out of there.”

“Oh, did he now? I can’t say I’m surprised…it’s dangerous, and we can’t afford to lose our grower.” Hiromu nods sagely.

“You lost the old grower?” Naito’s never really known what happened to the grower. He’d assumed that they’d moved to a different town, but Hiromu’s making it sound like they’re dead.

“Lost is a harsh term…he moved away after he got drunk, and wandered into the ruins.” Hiromu laughs, shaking his head. “He got chased by some of the monsters that live in there.”

“Monsters?” Naito stares at him in horror. He’s heard rumours about monsters in some ruins, but he’s never really spoken to a finder before, so he’s never had confirmation of it. “Isn’t it scary?”

“Eh, I guess…I grew up here, so I guess I’m used to it.” Hiromu shrugs.

“You grew up here?” Naito knows nothing about Hiromu. He’s never come up in the few conversations he’s had with Evil.

“Yeah.” Hiromu nods. “It was kinda different here when I was a kid.”

“Was it?” Naito can imagine it was different, but he can’t really imagine how different it must have been.

“Yeah,” Hiromu sounds quietly mournful. “What’s the city like?” He asks the question just as they come to Naito’s home.

“Big…big and lonely.” Naito sighs, leaning against his fence. “I like it here a lot more.”

“I’m glad.” Hiromu grins at him. “I’ll let you alone. It was nice to finally meet you, Naito-san.”

At the next Sunday dinner, a weekly occurrence that Naito looks forward to all week, Bushi mentions that his supply of ginger root is running low. Naito offers to grow him some without a moment’s thought. Bushi thanks him profusely, saying nothing more on the matter.

Naito’s never grown ginger before, and when he’d put in a request to have some sent to him. He was told that it’s not on the general stock, as it was rare. Naito puzzled over the problem, unbale to work out how to get Bushi some more ginger. He’d mentioned it to Evil in passing once when they’d been having lunch in Milano’s, and Evil had nodded absently as is his manner, presented Naito with a book Hiromu had found in the ruins. In exchange, Naito paid for lunch, and headed back to his farm. His plants need weeding, not that there’s a lot of weeds, but there’s still enough to need to pick them out.

That night, he’d been lost in his new book when there was a knock on his door. When he opened the door, Daryl scampered in, and curled up in front of his fire.

“Evening.” Hiromu smiles at him, a slightly embarrassed look on his face. “Evil said you needed this.” In his hand is a bundle.

“Come in, and tell me what this is.” Naito steps aside, letting Hiromu come into his home.

“This is a bunch of ginger roots. I’m not sure what you’re going to do with them, but here you are.” Hiromu takes a seat by the fire, Daryl leaps into his lap, snuggling up and purring loudly when Hiromu starts to pet him.

“I’m going to grow them.” Naito grins, fetching another teacup for Hiromu. “Bushi said he was running low, and it’s not a standard issue plant, so I can’t request it.”

“It’s not?”

“Nope, you need a special license to grow it, and I don’t have that.”

“Ah, you’re gonna be a rouge ginger grower.” Hiromu laughs, sipping at his tea. “Do you know how to grow it?”

“I’ve been reading up on it, so it should be okay…where did you get these from?” inside the bundle is a collection of ginger roots, some sprouting like they had been growing and then carefully dug up.

“It used to grow around here, so there’s a fair bit in the ruins.” Hiromu shrugs. “I’ll keep an eye out for any books that might have tips on how to keep it healthy.” Naito thanks him profusely, and insists on the finder staying for dinner and a good long chat about his latest discoveries.

Growing ginger turns out to mostly involve keeping it warm, and well-watered. Something Naito isn’t entirely sure he can do. The Spring weather is heating up as they head into Summer, but it’s still not perfect; a greenhouse is what he needs really, but he’s no idea how to make one of those. Thankfully, Shingo does, and gives him a list of materials to bring him. The list had mostly featured sand, which was a surprise, because Naito didn’t think Shingo was going to make his own glass, but he was, and he did.

The greenhouse is small, but has plenty of room for some ginger plants, and a few other things that need warmer weather. Naito’s not sure what else he’ll put in it, but that’s a problem for another time, right then all he wants to worry about was Bushi’s ginger. Growing it turns out to be a bit tricky. He ends up having Hiromu bring him some more wild ginger, and asking Evil if he has a fertilizer recipe to help the ginger grow.

“Morning.” Naito doesn’t come up to Bushi’s clinic very often, and when he does it’s always nice to see him in his medical mask and white coat. Bushi looks very handsome in his doctoring apparel.

“Naito? Are you okay?” He sounds worried as he comes over to Naito, looking him over urgently.

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” With one hand Naito waves Bushi off. “I’ve a present for you.”

“A present?” Bushi’s eyes widen over his mask. “It’s not my birthday.”

“I know, but,” Naito presents the box he’d been hiding behind his back, “I thought you’d like this.” Bushi takes the box, his eyebrows knit. “Open it up.”

“Ginger! Oh Naito! Thank you!” Bushi hugs him tightly. “Thank you.” He murmurs in Naito’s ear, squeezing him tightly.

“You’re welcome. I’ve some plants still growing, so you shouldn’t run out again.” He hugs Bushi back, and awkwardly release him.

“Let me buy you lunch to say thank you.”  Bushi’s eyes are crinkled, making it clear he’s smiling.

“There’s no need, but having lunch together would be nice.” Naito smiles offering Bushi his arm. Bushi’s hand rests on his arm, and then his lips brush Naito’s cheek. He grins when Naito turns to him.

“I need to change my mask.” He’s blushing slightly as he fully removes his medical mask, and puts on his everyday one instead.

Shingo has mentioned more than once that misses the dessert they used to eat back in vocational school. Naito only vaguely the dessert in question. He mostly remembers that it tasted of coconuts. It’d be nice to be able to make it for Shingo though. He’s been so helpful to Naito, and it would be good to repay him even a little. He’d studied up on how to grow coconuts, and discovered firstly he’ll need a seedling. He’d put in the request, and had to fill out a vast selection of paperwork, but eventually his seedling arrived. A fast-growing seedling, seventeen days to maturity, then another three for fruiting; twenty days for a tree is very fast. There wasn’t much more Naito could do to make the dessert until coconuts grew, so he pushed it to the back of his mind, until one day when Milano approached his farm.

“Naito!” Milano is a vibrant man, given to wearing his emotions on both his sleeves. Today, he seems filled with excitement and joy, which is a blessing, on days when he’s unhappy the world can be very gloomy indeed.

“Milano-san, it’s not often I see you out this way, how can I help?”

“Ah, I’m glad you’re offering, I didn’t want to make a request when you were busy.” Milano holds up a seed bag. “I put in a request for some rice, and well…this is what I got.” He laughs, and once more Naito is grateful Milano is taking this well, he’s not sure he could deal with a weeping Milano.

“Seeds, huh? Well, I suppose I’ll try my hand at rice farming.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.” Milano beams at him. “When it’s grown, bring me some, and a few of your coconuts, and I’ll knock up my famous sticky coconut rice cakes.”

“Will do.” Naito nods, not really paying attention, because his mind already trying to work out where to put the rice paddy.

The rice is an easy grow, it comes up quickly, the only difficult thing is harvesting it. Eventually, he manages it, and takes several bags to Milano. The coconuts take longer to mature, but eventually he can harvest a few of them. Milano seems utterly delighted. The rice cakes he gives Naito brings back memories. These are the dessert he and Shingo used to have back in vocational school. He asks Milano for something like the recipe.

Naito is not a very good cook, but after a few tries, he manages to make the rice cakes. He remembers them coming with mango slices. He can’t grow mangoes though. He knows that there’s some wild ones down by the beach, so when he has the time, he fetches some mangoes, and invites Shingo over.

“Naito, you in?” Shingo calls out to him. Underneath his arm appears to be Naito’s post. “I was at the Post Office, and,” he holds up a package, smiling.

“Ah! Thank you.” Naito takes the package from him, trying to judge the weight of it. “I’ve no actual idea what this is.” Naito shakes the package.

“Open it up.” Shingo leans his hip against Naito’s fence.

“I guess I should.” Naito opens the box, and is puzzled by the contents. It’s a book, an old dogeared book, a book recognises from his time in vocational school, a book he leant Shingo, but never got back.

“Happy birthday.” Shingo grins at him.

“I’d forgotten.” Naito laughs, shaking his head, holding the book close to his chest. “Come in, I’ve a present for you too.”

“Birthday cake?” Shingo asks with a chuckle.

“Well, cake at least.” Naito guides Shingo into his home. On the table are the sticky rice cakes, decorated with mango slices.

“We’re both feeling nostalgic, hmm, Naito-kun?” Shingo laughs, a big hearty laugh, his arm wraps around Naito’s shoulders, giving him a tight side hug, and a fond kiss to his temple.

Early in the morning, Sanada walks past Naito’s house. He’s not sure where he’s going, but it happens every morning. The only place down the road Sanada heads along is Misawa’s animal farm. Naito suppose he might be going to collect milk and eggs for Milano, but it’s very early morning.

“Morning!” He calls out one morning towards the end of the Summer. Sanada looks startled when he hears Naito’s voice. “Where are you off to so early?”

“Uh…I’m going…” Sanada rubs the back of his neck, looking awkward. At his hip is a sheathed sword. “Misawa is very good at correcting my form.” Sanada mutters, staring down at the ground. “I want to get better just in case whatever is in the ruins decides to be out of them.” His cheeks are a brilliant red colour.

“Misawa knows how to fight?” That comes as quite the surprise, the animal farmer is too gentle a man for Naito to believe that he knows such things.

“No, not exactly. He knows the forms, but he doesn’t fight. He was a trainer of some kind…I’ve not really asked him.” Sanada’s fidgeting from foot to foot, looking increasingly embarrassed.

“Sorry to keep you.” Naito has much to think about, and gives Sanada his friendliest goodbye. It’s a puzzling thing, Sanada’s awkwardness outside of the bar, but less puzzling is his desire to protect Milano and the bar. He’d like to help, but he’s not sure how. He ends up talking to Bushi about it.

“Something to help Sanada better protect the bar should anything happen?” Bushi sounds bewildered, his eyes narrowing. “Let me think about it.” Naito leaves, exchanging his problem for a kiss to his cheek.

It takes Bushi a few days, but he comes up with an answer; a shake of herbs and vegetables designed to promote healthy muscle growth. Naito doesn’t have a blender though. A problem Shingo solves, with a freshly build blender and another temple kiss, as has become Shingo’s habit.

The next morning, Naito makes sure he’s out early, waiting for Sanada to walk past. When he spots Sanada on his way to Misawa’s farm.

“Sanada! Wait, I have a present!” Naito calls out when Sanada gets close enough. He slows to halt, staring at Naito blankly.

“A present?”

“Yup,” Naito nods. “Just wait a moment, I’ll be a minute.” Naito scrambles into his house, and grabs one of the bottles of shake he made up last night from his cooler, coming back outside quickly. “Here.”

“What’s this?” Sanada looks at the bottle. He takes the lid off, and sniffs it. “What is it?”

“It’s a present.” Naito beams. “Bushi said it promotes healthy muscle development.” Sanada takes a sip of the shake. “You want to be able to deal with whatever is in the ruins, and well…” Naito trails off, feeling a little silly now that he says it out loud. Sanada drains the bottle, and kisses Naito’s forehead.

“I promise, I’ll keep you safe too.” He hands the bottle back to Naito, and starts heading towards Misawa’s place again.

Evil is sleeping at the trader’s stall. His usual selection of wares laid out. Naito approaches the stall, and knocks on the stall. Evil jolts awake. He blinks owlishly at Naito looking bewildered.

“Morning.” Naito grins brilliantly.

“Ah, morning. Sorry, you’ll have to excuse me.” Evil straightens up, but still looks exhausted.

“Couldn’t sleep?” Naito asks, his grin still big and bright.

“No…I was busy.” Evil plasters on something like a smile.

“You’re a poor liar, Evil.” Naito laughs, and buys another book from Evil. The book looks interesting, though a little ratty. “I’ll see you later. Try to get some rest tonight.” Evil nods absently, accepting the little punnet of raspberries Naito hands him.

Naito knows a little a simple remedy for sleeplessness. His mother always gave him camomile tea, and it always helped Naito. He’s always grown some just in case. Occasionally, he’ll have bouts of insomnia, nothing too bad, or too long, but enough for him to be annoyed with it. He even has dried flowers in his own store cupboard.

That night, he takes some dried flowers, and heads to Evil’s home. It’s outside the town’s walls, up a little hill, strangely far away from the ruins. The walk is nice, despite the cool Autumnal breeze. He’s never visited Evil’s home outside of the opening hours of the keeping museum. Evil opens the door with a confused expression.

“Naito? What are you doing here?” Evil steps aside, letting Naito in without a moment’s pause.

“I come bearing gifts.” Naito smiles fondly, following Evil into his living room. “Where’s your kitchen?”

“My kitchen?” Evil sounds utterly confused, leading Naito into a small kitchen with little more than a sink and a stove. “I don’t cook very often.” He sounds a little embarrassed, rubbing the back of his neck.

“You have a kettle though, right?” Evil nods, and fetches one from the cupboard under the sink. Naito lights the stove, and starts the kettle on to boil. “So, do I get to know what this gift is?”

“Mmm, when the water boils.” Naito leans against the wall, smiling at Evil. “And whilst it’s boiling, go get ready for bed.”

“What?” Evil’s eyes go wide. Naito can’t help but laughing at him.

“Go get ready for bed.”

“Naito, is that why you’re here?” Evil is staring at him, utterly completely bewildered.

“It’s exactly why I’m here. I’m gonna read you a bedtime story, and then tuck you in.” Naito grins. “It can’t hurt, right?”

“I guess not.” Evil’s sigh is laced with a laugh. “I’ll go get ready for bed.” He laughs properly this time. “I’ll leave my bedroom door open.”

Evil’s bedroom is basically across the hall. It’s nice in a kind of too dark, too cluttered way. Evil’s sitting up in his bed, sorting through papers.

“No reading, papers down.” Evil jumps slightly, like he’d forgotten Naito was there. “C’mon, put them down.” Evil rolls his eyes, and sets the papers down on his bedside table. “Here, some camomile tea. My mother used to make it for me when I couldn’t sleep.”

“I’ve not had camomile since I was a kid.” Evil smiles softly at the tea from Naito. “You promised me a bedtime story.”

“I did, didn’t I?” Naito takes a seat on the end of Evil’s bed, and pulls from his pocket a book. “A nice bedtime story…let me see…ah, this one.” Naito ends up reading Evil three bedtime stories, leaving him with a gentle goodnight, and bare whisper of a kiss to his cheek on Evil’s urging.

“A goodnight kiss is important, Naito.” Evil had mumbled, yawned, and then drifted off to sleep.

The Winter festival in this little town is a slight mystery to Naito. He’s been wondering since late Autumn, but no one’s mentioned what happens. In the city the celebration had been a big dinner and giving presents to those you liked. Naito never did like it all that much, it always felt kind of dull. On the first day of Winter, the town square is dominated by a large tree covered in lights and sparkling baubles. There’s a sprinkling of snow on the ground, making it clear of the season. It’s lovely, but a little plain in comparison to the gaudy decorations of the city.

For the first time, Naito spots Hiromu in the town, cutting through on his way to the ruins. He’s never seen Hiromu inside the town’s walls before. He was ambling alone, not seeming to be in a hurry to get to the ruins, so Naito didn’t feel too bad calling out to him.

“Morning, Naito-san. How are you?” Hiromu asked, a lazy smile on his lips.

“I’m good.” Naito considers Hiromu for a second, and decides that someone entirely native to the area would know all about the Winter festival. “Hiromu, what’s it like here in Winter?”

“In Winter? It’s snowy and cold.” Hiromu laughs, shaking his head.

“That’s not what I mean.” Naito aims a fake swat at Hiromu’s head. “What’s the Winter Festival like here?”

“Now?” Hiromu asks, stopping in front of the tree. “Now, I imagine it’s like in the city, but smaller, bigger maybe.” Hiromu sighs, and fusses with the woolly hat on his head. “Everyone has a big meal here in the square. We all take a different dish, and eat whatever we like. You give a few presents to the people you love, or like the most, same as the city, right?”

“Apart from the meal being with everyone.” Naito nods, considering Hiromu a little more carefully. He looks distant, his normal cheery smile absent. “What was it like before the townsfolk came?”

“What was it like when it was just us natives?” There’s a hint of bitterness in Hiromu’s voice, but only a hint. “Everyone would gather in the big hall, and we’d eat a big roast, and sing, and dance. After, when it was dark, we’d have a big fire, and there would be more singing, more dancing. It was…it was nice.”

“It sounds like it was nice. Do you…” Naito trails off, uncertain how to ask the question burning in his mind. “Have you written the words to those songs down?”

“I…no.” Hiromu shakes his head. “There’s no point. When the town arrived, everyone was sent away to be trained, and there was no one left to sing with.”

“Write them down, and teach me.” Hiromu stares at him once he says that, for a second there’s nothing on Hiromu’s face, it’s blank and devoid, then a smile spreads over his lips.

“It’s okay, Naito.” Hiromu touches his shoulder. “There is something you can do for me.”

“What?”

“There was a plant we used to decorate with…the kissing flower. If I bring you some cuttings, or some seeds will you grow me some more?”

“I’ll try my very best.” Naito nods, mentally promising to grow as many of these flowers for Hiromu as he can.

The kissing flowers are very small snow-white flowers with delicate little red marks on them, like a tiny kiss. They’re beautiful, delicate and frail, not at all what Naito had expected. He’d like to deliver them to Hiromu, but the finder is difficult to track down. It turns out to not be a problem though. The day of the Winter Festival, there’s knock on Naito’s door, on the other side of it is a surprise.

“I don’t think I’ve enough chairs for everyone,” is all Naito can think of to say, but that’s not a problem either, because Shingo came with chairs. Everyone else came with food and kisses for Naito; Hiromu’s special though, he came with a fiddle, several songbooks, and a kiss for Naito’s cheek, the opposite cheek to Bushi.  

Chapter Text

Hiromu has lived his entire life in this small corner of the world. A place far from the civilisation, a place removed from the ideals of the people of the town. The day the town had arrived, Hiromu remembers his father’s hand on his shoulder, telling him that things would change. At first, Hiromu had been excited by the idea of change. In all of his nineteen years, nothing much had changed, and the idea of change was interesting. It stayed interesting as the town grew, as buildings were built, as roads were formed. It stopped being interesting when the men came. Hiromu remembers them coming to talk to everyone in the village, telling them that civilisation had come to their backwater, that they were to be trained, to be made civilised.

Hiromu learned that civilised meant that his family were to be taken away, and he was to stay behind, to be trained as a finder. It’s strange work. He spends his time in the pits, and the gorges in the ground, caused by the wars that ended the world, near the only home he ever knew. It’s almost painful to pass by the once familiar houses and to not see familiar faces or hear familiar voices. The empty ruins of the place he grew up is at once a comfort in the unfamiliarity of the town, and an agony without his family there. He’s learned to forget his sadness, forget isn’t quite the right word, he’s learned to push it aside.

It’s only difficult during the Winter Festival. He remembers the Winter Festivals of his youth. He remembers his mother’s cooking, her warm laughs, and warmer hugs. He remembers his father stringing kissing flowers around the rafters, telling silly jokes, and picking Hiromu up to reach the higher parts of the ceiling. He remembers his brother, helping their mother in the kitchen, helping the crofters, hiding from the girl he liked, trying to gather as many kissing flowers to give her as he could.  He doesn’t like going into the ruins in Winter. In Winter the fire circle is a dark stain on the ground, the place where the Winter fire would burn for days, the place everyone would roast food, and sing, and dance. It’d been a place of true joy, a place he misses terribly. It’s pointless to dwell on it though. Those memories cannot be relived, no memory can be relived.

The first keeper hadn’t stayed long. The old man had come with a younger one, a strange young man called Watanabe. Hiromu had been introduced to him on a stormy day, the wind had been howling, he remembers that well, because Watanabe’s hair was long and escaped from his hair tie. Hiromu’s hair had been trapped under his helmet, finding in the pits is dangerous, the helmet is useful, but Hiromu hates the way it pressed against his skin and traps his hair. Watanabe had shaken his hand, and spoke in an excited voice about working together. It’d taken Hiromu all of ten seconds to decide he liked Watanabe. From that moment, they’d been friends.

Hiromu’s life had settled into a comfortable pattern. He lives quietly, simply. He spends his days in the ruins, finding artefacts from the world before. In the evening, he takes them to Watanabe, Evil as he’s known now. The rules governing keepers are a mystery to Hiromu. He’d been surprised the first time someone asked him about Evil, it’d taken him a moment to realise they were talking about Watanabe. Every day has fallen into a comfortable pattern. It’s not a bad life, one he’ll be comfortable enough living in.

Years passed, comfortable years, the only change that came was the day Evil gave him Daryl. The little cat had been the best gift anyone could have given him. A tubby little friend to come with him into danger, to warn him of perils, to curl up in his lap in quiet moments. Hiromu had always wanted a pet, to the extent that he’d considered trying to tame one of the corrupted monsters in the pits, but then Daryl had arrived, and he’d wanted for nothing. At least until the Winter Festival. Always when the snow falls, Hiromu is reminded of the family that was retrained, reassigned, and removed from his life.

The new grower’s arrival changed a lot of things in the town. Hiromu’s quite certain Naito didn’t mean for it to trigger any change at all, but his presence altered a lot of things. The first time Hiromu met him, he’d been drunk, not properly drunk, tipsy really. He was nice, that had been Hiromu’s first impression. He’d quietly asked around about him, and learned that he knew the doctor and the builder from his youth, that somehow, he’d befriend Sanada and Evil, that he’d taken to filling requests and orders from almost everyone in town. His actions made Hiromu think of the people he used to know, of the people he grew up around, people who would help each other without thought of reward, just helping for the sake it.

Naito took to talking with him whenever they crossed each other’s paths, gentle little conversations about nothing in particular. Hiromu decided quickly that he liked Naito. He’s easy to talk with, easy to bring things up with, to discuss the way everything was before. It’d been with only slight reservation Hiromu had told him about Winter Festival as it had been. When Naito’s only response had been to ask if Hiromu would teach him the old songs, Hiromu had been utterly backfooted. He’d wanted to, but he was certain that it would make him sad. The old songs are songs of his family, songs of people he’d known his whole life, songs of people he was doomed to never see again. The kissing flowers though, Hiromu wanted enough to fill his little home, enough to let him live in a memory for a moment.

On the day of the Winter Festival, when Evil had come to collect him, to take him to dinner at Naito’s home, Hiromu had hesitated. He hadn’t prepared food, mostly because he’d forgotten that he was supposed to be bringing Naito food. Over the years, Hiromu has collected the song books people left in their houses. He’s kept them safe in his own home, learning to the tunes to go with each song. He’d gathered them, and his fiddle, up. If Naito wants to hear, to sing, the old songs, then Hiromu will give him that opportunity.

“I don’t think I’ve enough chairs for everyone.” Naito sounded bewildered when he’d opened the door to them all, his eyes filled with happiness. Everyone filed into Naito’s home, pressing kisses to his face, Daryl rushed past, brushing against Naito’s legs on his way to fire, leaving Hiromu on the other side of the door alone. Naito stepped a little more to the side, behind him, laced around the rafters and high places of his home were string upon string upon string of kissing flowers. Home. Hiromu knew in that moment, you cannot live in a memory. He will not have the life he grew up in back, but gathered around Naito’s table, standing in Naito’s doorway is his new life, his new family.  

Chapter Text

The whole idea of being a Double Champion is stupid. What does he care about the Intercontinental belt? It’s Nakamura-san’s, waiting for him to come take it back, eventually when he tires of being underappreciated and surfing. Okada neither needs not wants that title. He is the Heavyweight Champion. He has the highest prize in the company. The whole Double Champion idea is the goal of a breaking man, latched onto by a deluded child, and chased by fool. It’s pointless as far as he’s concerned, a frivolous goal chased by dreamers, not of interest to a doer like him. He’ll fight whoever he has to, and beat them. He’ll keep his belt, and then pointlessly have to carry around the Intercontinental one too. Maybe that’ll entice Nakamura-san home.

“I’m going to beat you.” Ibushi. Okada sighs, and nods absently. He keeps washing, ignoring Ibushi’s posturing. He’ll do something eventually, and Okada is at least ninety percent sure he knows what’ll happen. What he does is shove Okada against the wall. He’s snarling about something, his words aren’t really clear, melding into each other. It’s not interesting enough to pay attention to, Okada’s entirely certain he knows what Ibushi is rambling about. It’ll be the same as the last time something like this happened. A slick finger at his asshole, a cursory feeling about, then a firm thrust in. It’s good being right.

“Calm down.” Okada grinds out, gritting his teeth. A little more preparation would have been nice, but that’s not really what this is all about it. In Ibushi’s mind it’s about proving his authority and dominance, but Okada knows better. Right now, he’s a steam vent, the flue of a fire, the exhaust of an engine. His only real option is to wait this out, because anything else would be a waste of time. The shower room is misty, and hot, but that doesn’t matter. The tile against his chest is cool, despite the flow of water on his head and the man at his back. The hands on his hips are tight, gripping, grabbing, bruising. That doesn’t matter either. What matters is the pleasure of the cock moving inside him. What matters is that he knows this is as much as the man will get from him. He has all the cards, he always has all the cards, with spares up his sleeves. The man behind is muttering, murmuring under his breath, saying words snatched words, phrases, things he half knows, and half remembers. He’s been in this position before, this exact position, with only one difference.

Kenny,” whispered against the back of his neck. It’d feel offensive if he hadn’t been in this position and received a Kota to the nape of his neck. It’s more amusing than anything. They both react so similarly, both of them pinning him to a wall and trying to prove a point that doesn’t exist. Still, he doesn’t mind too much, he has no real problem being fucked, and he has no real problem being the chimney to grant venting of stressed smoke. Last time this happened, he won, and this time he’ll win again. Ibushi is moving faster. His hands are tight on his hips, dragging him back into stuttering thrusts. Okada considers jerking off, to get some real physical pleasure from this, but he doesn’t care enough for that. He’ll put up with this nonsense from Ibushi, finish up his shower, and head out for dinner. He’s in the mood from something filling, and maybe some ice cream. He’s earned it for being so kind as to let Ibushi vent into him, quite literally into him. Ibushi’s breathing is mildly annoying in his ear, frantic and panting after his orgasm. Ibushi gets off his back, stepping away for a second looking embarrassed, but humility isn’t a mask he can wear for very long, he meets Okada’s eye with a slight sneer. Okada gives him a jaunty smile.

“I look forward to our match.” His tone is as jaunty as his smile. Ibushi looks at him blankly, not a drop of emotion on his face.

“I’m going to win.” He gives Okada a charming smile, and takes his leave.

“You should call Omega!” Okada calls out. I’m going to win was exactly what Omega has said a while back, though Okada had told him to call Ibushi. He’s quite certain they’re going to do the same thing, and ignore his good advice.

Chapter Text

There’s a silence in the Dojo, one that Hiromu is used to coming back to, Naito had dropped him off with a hug, and a promise to come train him some more as soon as he can. Hiromu hopes he brings Bushi with him again. Bushi is amazing, and quietly Hiromu thinks he’s very pretty, but that’s a private, quiet little thought for only him. Though, he thinks Naito would agree, he gets very giggly around Bushi. He tiptoes towards his room, changing into his sleep clothes, and taking out his contacts, before considering his own bed. It’s cold out tonight. His bed looks not only cold, but lonely too.

Watanabe cracks an eye open when Hiromu perches on the end of his bed. He squints in the darkness at Hiromu. He shifts in his bed, making a space. At the silent invitation, Hiromu snuggles up under the blankets. Watanabe’s fingers scritch at Hiromu’s scalp absently, until they still as he falls asleep. Hiromu drifts off slowly, warm and safe tucked up in the arms of his best friend.

The morning is busy with normal training stuff. It’s fun, but tiring and slightly depressing. Naito shows up in the afternoon, and any chances for feeling even a little depressed are washed away, because Naito is there. He trains Hiromu for what feels like ten minutes, but was really hours.

“Naito! Did you forget we were supposed to meet the others?” Bushi enters the Dojo tentatively, like he’s not entirely comfortable being there. Naito lights up when Bushi speaks. Hiromu can feel his own cheeks start lighting up. “Hiromu-chan!” Bushi calls his name, a smile blossoming on his lips. He’s really too handsome. He comes over, smiling brightly. “How are you?”

“Bushi-san, how good to see you! I’m okay.” Hiromu nods, looking down, trying to avoid spending too long looking at Bushi, because if he does, he’ll start stumbling over his words and blushing like a fool.

“How’s your training going?” Hiromu nods rather than answer, not able to form sensible words for Bushi. “We’ll have to have a little practice match sometime soon, hmm?” Bushi shifts just a little so he can meet Hiromu’s eyes.

“Ah, I’d like to learn from you, Bushi-san.” Hiromu manages to not sound like a panicking child for a moment, and he’s stupidly proud of that. Bushi beams at him, his eyes crinkling behind his mask.

“I promise I’ll be an excellent teacher.” Bushi touches his shoulder, it might have been a clap, but Hiromu’s too busy internally swooning to really process things properly. Bushi starts talking to Nabe-chan, and Hiromu should probably be listening, but he’s too busy smiling like an idiot, feeling the ghost of Bushi’s hand on his shoulder.

“All right, we should get going.” Naito’s arm suddenly lands on Hiromu’s shoulders, pulling him into a half hug, compounding Hiromu’s scattered mental state. “Say thank you for your present from Bushi.”

“Ah, thank you.” Hiromu has no idea what present Naito’s talking about, but he bows saying thank you a little too frantically, which has the wonderful result of making Bushi laugh softly.

“You’re very welcome. We’ll see you both later.” Bushi’s wearing a bright smile as he leads Naito out of the Dojo, giving a little wave over his shoulder.

“You got a little crush there, Hiromu-chan?” Watanabe’s arm drapes over Hiromu’s shoulders.

“On who?” Hiromu turns to him with a grin, as though daring Watanabe to say anything.

“That’s actually a good question.” Watanabe looks around quickly, and pecks a kiss to Hiromu’s temple. “C’mon, it’s getting late.” They still have chores, and the before bed workout to do.

Hiromu had almost been asleep when Watanabe sneaks into his room, then into his bed. Watanabe wraps his arms around Hiromu, hugging him tightly.

“It was cold in my bed.” Watanabe mutters into Hiromu’s hair. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“You’re always welcome in my bed, Nabe-chan.” Hiromu rubs his hands against Watanabe’s arm, which aren’t in the least bit cold, but he’s not going to complain about a bedtime snuggle.

“I forgot!” Watanabe pulls away, and is squirming around in bed. “Tada! Bushi-san brought us gifts.” In Watanabe’s hand are several brightly coloured candy canes. “He said they were a bunch of different flavours, but you were too busy being all,” Watanabe pulls a dumb face, laughing when Hiromu bops his nose. “You want one?” Watanabe’s already started unwrapping one of the candy canes. He bites the curved part of the cane off, and offers the other end to Hiromu. “S’good.” Hiromu sucks the unbitten end. The cane tastes of strawberry, overly sweet, but very good. Hiromu sucks the cane all the way down to Watanabe’s fingers, his tongue lapping over them. Watanabe tastes of nothing really, but it’s interesting to know, even more interesting to see his eyes widen in the darkness.

“It’s nice, but I don’t think strawberry is my favourite.” Hiromu with the tip of his finger, pushes the cane back towards Watanabe’s mouth. “I know you like it.” He blinks a few times, and awkwardly starts crunching the candy cane up. “Lemme pick the next one.” Hiromu considers the canes. They all look good, but the only important question is which one does he pick. “This one.” Hiromu picks out a traditional red and white striped cane. He unwraps it, and takes a lick, it tastes oddly of vanilla and cinnamon. “Try it.” He offers Watanabe the end he’d just licked. Watanabe stares at it for a second.

“I…”

“Try it.” Hiromu pulls his most innocent face, tapping the cane against Watanabe’s lips. “It’s nice.” Watanabe tentatively licks the candy cane. There’s a blush on his cheeks, like he’s terribly embarrassed about licking the same spot as Hiromu. He leans in, and laps at the cane once Watanabe withdraws. “It’s good isn’t it?” Hiromu presses the sticky treat to Watanabe’s lips once more. With less reluctance, Watanabe licks it again.

“It…it’s nice.” Watanabe mutters, his eyes going wide when Hiromu bites the end off.

“You want some more?” Hiromu asks softly, offering the cane to Watanabe again. He licks the bitten end, staring into Hiromu’s eyes as he does. Hiromu bites the cane, then offers it to Watanabe once more. Another lick, another bite, on and on until the cane is gone. “Want some more?” Hiromu asks, wondering what Watanabe will do now. His eyes flicker to Hiromu’s lips, then back to his eyes. “Didn’t you like the taste, Nabe-chan?” His tongue darts over his lips.

“Hiro,” he swallows so very obviously, “Hiromu.” Watanabe’s hands reach out, one on each of Hiromu’s cheeks.

“Didn’t it taste good?” Watanabe blinks a few times, and then for a moment, there is nothing. His fingers flutter against Hiromu’s scalp, scritching gently. Hiromu’s entirely certain, for all of a second, that nothing is going to happen, then Watanabe moves his face closer, his eyes flutter closed, his lashes curve over his cheeks as he leans that little bit further in, and his lips brush Hiromu’s. “You don’t want a,” Hiromu doesn’t get to finish that, Watanabe slips his tongue into Hiromu’s mouth. “My first kiss.” Hiromu grins when Watanabe pulls back from him.

“Your first?” Watanabe sounds surprised. His thumb rubs over Hiromu’s lips. “Don’t tell anyone, okay?” Hiromu starts asking about telling Naito, because he tells Naito everything, but Watanabe’s palm presses flat against his lips. “Tell no one, especially Naito-san.” When he withdraws his hand, he kisses Hiromu’s lips once more. “Don’t mention the second kiss, either okay?”

“Can I tell him about the third?” Hiromu takes the initiative and kisses Watanabe this time.

Chapter Text

Desperado regrets taking this assignment. He’d agreed, because the paycheque was big, but if he’d known the trouble that would come with it, he would have refused. The assignment sounded simple enough. Protect one young noble on a journey from one city to another. On paper, the job Desperado had imagined had been following some dandy cad around, pouring the odd drink, and calming a few ruffled feathers. The reality is brutally different.

“Damn it! Douki!” Desperado leaps from his chair, scrambling down the inn’s stairs, chasing his charge who had decided that leaping from the balcony was a great idea. Desperado arrives in the midst of a bar brawl, trying to spot Douki. It’s proving difficult. Douki isn’t just some ordinary noble. It’s just Desperado’s luck that this charge of his is the son of an Elven noble, the kind of son that is out bringing shame to the family name, trying to run with bandits, and cause a ruckus wherever he goes; which is something Douki is proving very good at. Desperado scans the messy brawl scene, somehow managing to miss Douki still. He has to be in the middle of it somewhere, but the where is impossible to deduce. If only this stupid bar hadn’t forbidden Hiromu’s entrance. “Douki!” He screams again, punching some chunky dwarf in the face, finally finding the damned elf. He grabs Douki’s tail of hair, and yanks him back. “We’re leaving.”

“But!” Douki twists, trying to free his hair, and keep fighting.

“We’re leaving.” Desperado gives his hair one firm tug, and starts dragging him towards the door. He kicks it open, casting a look around for Hiromu. The demon is crouched down, petting a cat. “Hiromu!” The demon looks up, and plasters his brightest, fakest smile to his face.

“We’re leaving?” He straightens up, and dusts down his clothes.

“Apparently.” Douki is pouting as he clambers up onto the cart, folding his arms with a huff.

“Do I want to know?” Hiromu asks when Desperado sits beside him.

“I don’t care. Just go.” Hiromu doesn’t say anything to that, instead he just starts the horse going. “We’ll camp out tonight.” Douki groans. “We won’t be welcome in any of the road inns.”

“You two will be.” Hiromu mutters. Desperado decides against saying anything. Instead he stares straight ahead, letting Douki’s bitching, and Hiromu’s silence fill him.

They camp in what is all but a designated camping spot, a rough firepit dug in the ground, a stream nearby, far from the worst place Desperado’s ever stayed. Hiromu wordlessly volunteers to keep watch. Douki falls asleep quickly.

“What happened back there?” Hiromu asks softly, even though Douki would sleep through the Apocalypse itself.

“Douki sold the whatever he stole in the last town, and then a downstairs a bar fight broke out.” Desperado moves closer to Hiromu, trying to leech warmth from the demon without touching him. “You didn’t miss out on much.”

“No, I usually don’t.” Hiromu sighs, poking absently at the fire. “This should have been over days ago.”

“Yeah.” Desperado nods, looking over at the sleeping elf. Douki looks incredibly young and innocent asleep, a far cry from the truth. Desperado can’t actually remember the last tie he saw Hiromu sleep. He thinks it was back when he’d first bound him to service, back when Hiromu almost trusted him, back before things changed. Hiromu doesn’t close his eyes around Desperado for too long anymore.

“Go get some sleep.” Hiromu pokes the fire again. “I’ll make sure nothing happens.”

“Hiromu,” Desperado says his name without having anything lined up to follow on from it. Hiromu glances over at him. “I’ll drive tomorrow so you can sleep.” Hiromu shrugs. Desperado settles down on his bedroll, listening to the sound of Douki breathing, and the crackling of the fire.

“He doesn’t like you, does he?” Douki asks after about ten minutes of silence on the cart in the morning. Desperado is hoping this will be the final ride they have to take, but he has the terrible feeling that again, somehow Douki will make this take longer.

“Hiromu?” Desperado asks simply to say something, if he didn’t Douki would probably wake Hiromu up and demand to know why he doesn’t like Desperado. It’s not something he needs to know.

“Yeah,” Douki’s squinting against the sun, his eyes flickering over the road. “Why doesn’t he like you?”

“Your family has demons, right?” Desperado doesn’t know for a fact that Douki’s family has demon servants, but he thinks he’s right as most Elven nobles have at least one bound demon servant.

“A few.” Douki sounds slightly uncomfortable.

“Why do you think a demon is with me?” Desperado asks, without looking over at Desperado. Douki makes an indistinct noise.

“I can’t help but wonder how a half-breed mercenary wound up with a demon slave.” Douki is wearing a sly smile.

“It’s not really any of your business.” Hiromu sounds particularly snitty. Desperado glances back at him. His eyes are closed, a blanket wrapped around him. Douki looks even more snitty, his lips pressed together, his eyes narrowed. He clearly wants to know the story behind this arrangement, but really it isn’t important, or relevant. “You want me to drive?”

“Go back to sleep, Hiromu.” Desperado tells him, not looking back at him. Hiromu doesn’t respond, so Desperado is going to assume he’s fallen asleep.

“It’s not just that you enslaved him.” Douki says eventually. “There’s more to it, isn’t there?” Desperado looks over at him, Douki’s wearing a smug grin. Desperado snorts dismissively. “You don’t need to tell me, I know.” Douki laughs, and then rubs the back of his head, shooting a look at the back of the cart.

“Everything okay, Douki?” Desperado asks, not bothering to keep the laugh out of his voice. Douki scowls over him, still rubbing the back of his head.

He’d almost begged to stay in an inn in the next town. He’d spun a story of highly dubious authenticity, and Desperado had pulled into the next inn they came across. The innkeeper hadn’t looked at Hiromu, not acknowledging the demon as he tended to the horse. As ever bile crawled up Desperado’s throat as he spoke to the man, asking about a room for Douki and himself. Hiromu hadn’t said a word, going to stable the horse.

“Where do you think he’ll sleep?” Douki asked, his eyes narrowed as he watches Hiromu heading for the stables.

“Somewhere, he’ll be fine.” Desperado shrugs. He’s learned to not worry too much about Hiromu. The demon is more than capable of looking after himself.

“I guess.” Douki shrugs, trying to book two rooms, thankfully the inn keeper ignores him, and offers them one room with two beds. Desperado is going to keep a close eye on his charge tonight. He’s tired of the damned noble sneaking out to cause mischief. He’s getting no where without Desperado tonight. He’s suspiciously quiet though. He flops onto his bed, and stares up at the ceiling.

“What are you planning?” Desperado isn’t sure asking Douki is a good idea. In the time he’s spent with him, it genuinely seems like Douki leaps aimlessly from idea to idea without actually knowing what he’s doing.

“You lied to him.” Douki says softly. “That’s why he hates you. You promised you wouldn’t make him serve you.” Desperado can feel a sneer form on his lips. It wasn’t a lie, it was necessity.

“I never made him do anything.” Desperado snaps, sweeping out of the room, feeling like a fool. He ends up ordering a couple of bottles of beer in the bar, and heads for the stables to find Hiromu.

“What?” Hiromu’s sitting up in the loft of the stable, reading a book Desperado doesn’t recognise. He takes is beer with only a raised eyebrow.

“I just wanted to see if you were okay.” Desperado perches on a haybale, and opens his beer. “You’re going to be okay up here?”

“How kind of you to care for a change.” Hiromu laughs, plucking the open beer from Desperado’s hand. “I’m sure I’ll be fine.” He takes a drink with a wry smirk.

“I do care.” Desperado takes the unopened beer, considering it thoughtfully. He opens the beer. “I do care.” He repeats, and takes a drink.

“Hmm, care enough to keep me around, right?” He laughs, but there’s an edge to it, a sharp, bitter edge. “Where’s the kid?”

“Up in the room.”

“You think he’ll stay there?” Hiromu laughs, shaking his head. “You need to stay on top of him. Not that I think he’d mind that all much.” He laughs again, even harder when Desperado looks at him.

“What does that mean?” Desperado takes another drink, not wanting to push the subject.

“Hmm, I wonder.” Hiromu’s grinning at him, a smile Desperado hasn’t seen in a long time. “I think I’ll half miss him when he’s delivered to his family.”

“If we get him there.” Desperado drinks again, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “He’s probably off causing trouble as we speak.”

“You’re the one who left him unattended.” Hiromu’s considering him carefully, a look Desperado has never liked. “Why did you leave him unattended? And don’t tell me some bullshit about being worried about me, you’ve left me to my own devices in much more exciting places.” Desperado scowls down at the floorboards of the loft.

“He wants to know why you hate me.”

“Does he now?” Hiromu laughs, leaning back against the wall. “Whatever did you tell him?”

“A truth.”

“Just one?”

“Just one.” Desperado confesses, something in the stables catches his eye, something glinting out of place in the lantern light. “Hiromu.”

“I know.” Hiromu’s eyes are closed, but Desperado has learned to trust his ability to keep them both safe. “Go make sure the charge is where he’s supposed to be.” Hiromu finishes his beer, and drops down the stable floor. The lantern light wobbles, and a faint gargling sound drifts up to Desperado. “Go, I’ll get the horse ready.” Hiromu calls up. Desperado does as Hiromu ordered.

“Evening.” The inn keeper has a smile on as Desperado enters, the man sets a pint down on the bar top. “A pint, sir?” Desperado shakes his head, still heading towards the stairs. “Some food maybe? Sir!” He all but screams up the stairs at Desperado’s back.

“Dou,” Desperado doesn’t get to finish saying Douki’s name. A fist collides with his jaw, rattling his senses. A hand grabs the neck of his shirt, and drags him into the bedroom. Douki’s on his knees, his hands tied behind his back, a sack over his head.

“What should we do with the mercenary?” The man punched Desperado asks, looking at the elf that’s perched on the end of one of the beds.

“There’s no value in him, so…” The elf trails off, brining a finger across his throat. A kick to the back of his leg brings Desperado to his knees. The man appears in front of him, his ugly face stretched in a sneering smirk.

“Seems a shame to dirty my knife with a half-breed’s blood though.” The man leans down, his chipped nose inches from Desperado’s. “Where’s your sword? I’ll put it to good use.” Desperado headbutts him. The man falls backwards, clutching his nose. Someone else kicks Desperado in the chest. “Big mistake.” The man falls forward, silent, dead, a knife sticking out the back of his skull. Desperado looks up at the open window, at Hiromu crouched in the frame. He levels Desperado with a blank expression. For a second Desperado is certain the demon is going to leave both he and Douki to their fate, but Hiromu moves. It’s been a long time since Desperado seen Hiromu in a fight, and a part of him has missed seeing a true demon fight. Hiromu’s like a dervish, his claws slashing and sharp, his speed making him difficult to follow. When it’s over Hiromu shakes his hands looking around the room for something to wipe his claws on. He settles on the nearest set of bedclothes.

“What was that?” Desperado asks, rubbing at his jaw. It feels bruised at least. Hiromu looks at him, harsh and judgemental.

“What was what?” Douki sounds slightly frantic, struggling with his bindings.

“We need to leave.” Hiromu is picking through the corpses’ pockets, taking anything that looks identifying or valuable with practiced ease. Desperado rolls to his feet, and slices Douki’s bindings with the knife from the back of the man’s head. “Out the window, the inn keeper is in on it.” Hiromu warns, throwing his spoils into the sack that had been over Douki’s head. “Quick.” Douki is rubbing at his wrists, staring at the carnage around them.

“What happened here?”

“Me.” Hiromu smiles, a broad smile that shows off every one of his teeth. Douki stares at him for a second, and scrambles out of the window. “Go.” Instead of following orders, Desperado crosses the room, and touches Hiromu’s shoulder.

“You okay?” Hiromu looks at him, for a moment he almost looks grateful for the concern.

“I’m dirty.” Hiromu laughs, and straighten up. “Go on, get going.” Desperado nods, squeezing Hiromu’s shoulder.

“I’ll drive.” Desperado carefully clambers down from the window, and gets up on the cart beside Douki.

“I’m driving.” Douki has the reigns, not sparing a glance for Hiromu as he gets into the cart. He starts the horse moving, heading out of the town at a pace the horse won’t be happy to keep for long. He doesn’t slow it down until the town is far in the distance.

“What was that back there?” Desperado asks, hoping Douki has some answers, hoping it was just some random people the elf had screwed over, but feeling like there’s more to this.

“I guess they were sent by my father.” Douki laughs. “The elf was wearing his crest, so I suppose they were sent to bring me back.”

“That’s my job.” Desperado is offended, he’s good at his job, and doesn’t need back up from wannabes trying to do it for him. “Why would your father send more people to bring you back?”

“Because he doesn’t want me bringing back to him, so much as putting back in my cage.” Douki laughs once more.

“What?”

“Desperado, are you really so blind?” Hiromu snaps from the back of the cart. “Can’t you see he’s as much a half-breed as you are?” Desperado stares over at Douki. “You really don’t see it?” Hiromu moves quickly, snatching the jewelled hair clasp from Douki’s hair. The change is instant, one of his eyes is brilliantly red, a strange black marking blossoms around the red eye. Desperado stumbles for words, his mind is drawing blanks, nothing but blanks. He looks back at Hiromu, at him slumped against the back of the cart, at his blank unreadable face, at the dried blood in his claws.

“We need to stop somewhere.” Desperado tells Douki, pushing everything to the back of his mind, everything but Hiromu’s feeling dirty.

“Where?”

“Somewhere with a stream would be nice.” Hiromu calls from the back. Douki nods absently, his eyes on the road.

They come to a suitable spot eventually, a copse near a stream far enough from the main road to be difficult to find. Douki starts a fire, starting to cook some of the few rations in the supplies. Hiromu had instantly leapt from the cart, and headed straight for the stream. Desperado let him have a few minutes alone, then gathered up some of Hiromu’s spare clothes and a towel, taking them to the stream.

“How long have you known?” Desperado asks, sitting down on a rock, the clothes and towel in his lap. Hiromu’s scrubbing in the stream, the water running clear despite this he keeps scrubbing. “Hiromu.” The demon stops, his head bowed, his wet hair falling about his face. “You’re clean, Hiromu.” Desperado keeps his voice low and soft, the voice he’d saved Hiromu’s life with. “You’re clean, and you’re safe. It’s okay.” Hiromu looks up at him. Desperado hates the look in his eyes, has always hated that look from the very first moment he saw it. “C’mere.” He barely has time to move the clean clothes and open the towel out, before Hiromu is in his arms. He grants Hiromu a moment to collect himself.

“I’ve always known.” Hiromu moves away from Desperado, drying quickly. “Mixed blood smells different.” Hiromu starts getting dressed, his movements tense and jerky, only calming when he’s fully dressed once again. “You can try to hide demon blood with however many charms you like, but the smell is always there.” Desperado glances over towards the scent of cooking meat. “What will you do?” Hiromu asks, sitting on a rock beside Desperado, taking the hand Desperado offers him.

“What do you think I’ll do?”

“I wouldn’t ask if I knew.” Hiromu mutters, his eyes falling closed. “I don’t like asking.”

“I know.” Desperado squeezes Hiromu’s hand before letting him go, and getting to his feet. He heads back to the fire, and sits on his bedroll, watching Douki cook. “What cage are you kept in?” Douki looks up at him. “You said you were to be put back to your cage, so what is your cage?”

“A tower…to…” Douki trails off, portioning out the food. “My eye sees the future.” He adds in quietly, starting to eat.

“That’s what it does, hmm?” Hiromu takes a plate of food, settling on his bedroll. “I wondered. So, what does it see for us?” Douki looks at Hiromu for a second.

“You want to know?” Douki asks with a grin. Hiromu laughs softly, and shakes his head. “That’s what I thought.” Douki laughs. He gives Desperado a long look, something in his eyes is a bewilderment. Desperado sets to eating, feeling a heat on the back of his neck. Hiromu looks at him, a smirk on his face. Douki glances at him, an assessing glint in his eye. Hiromu’s smirk doesn’t waiver. “Where are we heading?”

“To look for work, I guess.” Desperado mutters, not wanting to get involved in whatever is happening between Douki and Hiromu. He’s certain awful something is happening between them, and he’s certain it’ll come up soon enough.

Chapter Text

A drop of something wet lands on Desperado’s cheek, the rest of the spray lands on the ugly wallpaper, making the leaves look like holly more than just ugly leaves. A thud signals the end of the frenzy. The blood wasn’t something Desperado had expected. He should have, but somehow, he hadn’t. He’d acted without thinking, and now there’s blood everywhere. Hiromu’s staring at him, gasping, panting, shaking like a leaf, covered in blood, like a living version of one of the leaves from the wallpaper. His eyes are wide, his pupils blown, and he’s covered in so much blood.

“Hiromu.” He doesn’t move. “Hiromu.” Desperado says his name again. “You need to get up, we need to go.” Hiromu nods, but doesn’t move beyond that. Desperado looks around, and regrets it. There has to be something clean in the room. He can’t see anything. Hiromu can’t leave naked, especially not when he’s covered in blood. “Fuck.” Desperado mutters under his breath. He pokes his head out the door, seeing no one coming. The door to the room opposite is open, clean sheets folded on top of the bed, the window open. Quickly, he grabs one, and hurries back into the blood-soaked room. Hiromu hasn’t moved. He’s still trembling, the blood is still dripping sluggishly from his hair and his claws, falling on the blood-soaked rug.

“Desperado?” He looks up, shakily getting to his feet. “I’m dirty.” He whispers. Desperado nods, and opens the sheet out.

“C’mere.” Hiromu almost scrambles to him, nearly slipping in the blood, colliding with Desperado, the sheet almost instantly soaking red. “We need to get out of here, okay?” Hiromu nods. For a moment he does nothing, but then Hiromu steps away from him, using the sheet to wipe as much blood off as he can. Once he’s as clean as he can manage, Hiromu goes to the trunk underneath the window. He uses the sheet to lift the lid, trying to keep from getting his hands dirty. Inside the trunk is a collection of random clothes, Hiromu pulls on far too many of them, making him look bulkier than he is. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and looks at Desperado.

“I’m ready.” Hiromu sounds different to how he used to, hollow and small, not like he was. Desperado opens the door, looks up and down the corridor, seeing no one.

“Okay, let’s go.” Desperado lets Hiromu leave the room first, then takes the lead, trying to look natural, normal, like a couple of guys heading home after a night out. The clerk doesn’t even look up as they leave.

“I’m dirty, Desperado.” Hiromu whispers once they’re out on the street. Desperado nods, and leads Hiromu in the direction of the baths. “They won’t let me in there.” Desperado glances over at Hiromu, and considers the problem. The bathhouse attendant won’t look at Hiromu bundled up as he now, but as soon as the hat and the long coat comes off, they’ll see his ears and his tail, never mind the blood, and throw him out then rings the alert bells. Desperado pauses, considering what to do.

“Where do you usually wash?” Desperado is drawing blanks. He can’t just take Hiromu down to the river and tell him to wash the blood off in the cold water.

“The river.” Desperado scowls, his eyes screwing closed, cursing the life of a demon, even one who had been as almost reasonably treated as Hiromu had been. “I…I’ll need something else to wear. This is all…”

“Go to the river, near where the fishing boats are, I’ll meet you there.” Desperado considers the knife on his hip, considers giving it to Hiromu to keep him safe. The room, with all of its blood and viscera, comes to him, for now he needs the knife more. A bell rings in the distance. Someone else has seen the room and raised alarm. “Hiromu, go. Hurry. I’ll meet you there, okay?”

“Okay.” Hiromu blinks rapidly, and then turns on his heel, hurrying to the river. Desperado takes a second to breathe. There’s screaming from whorehouse. He keeps his head down, going to the bunkhouse, to his room, packing up everything on his bunk. Hiromu’s smaller than him, nothing he has will fit him – the thought comes to him as he finishes loading up his pack. The bunk beside his has some spare clothes tossed on it, smaller clothes. They’ll do.

The whole town seems to be awake as Desperado saddles his horse. It looks like an entire army of men are scrambling around, there’s screaming, so much screaming that it’s almost drowning out the ringing bells. He tries to look like a normal traveller passing through, he tries so hard, but the crowd is getting bigger, and soon they’re going to start looking for whatever happened in that room. He hurries more than the average traveller.

Hiromu’s crouched in the river, curled up small in the cold water. Desperado glances over his shoulder, there’s no sign of the crowd, but the bells are still ringing, and the sound of the crowd is getting closer.

“Hiromu, we don’t have time.” Desperado tells him, carefully walking the horse into the river. “We need to go. We need to get away from here.” Hiromu groans pitifully. “They’re coming, and they’ll kill you. We need to go.” Hiromu looks up at him. He’s shaking as he clambers onto the horse. “Hold on tight, okay?” Hiromu’s arms wrap around him. He can feel Hiromu trembling behind him. “We’ll get far away, then you can get washed.”

“I’m dirty.” Hiromu whispers. Desperado spares a hand from the reigns, and rests it on Hiromu’s.

“We’ll get you cleaned up. I’ve got soap, and towels, and clothes for you.” Desperado takes a firmer hold of the reigns, keeping the horse galloping for as long as it can.

Eventually, Desperado spots a suitable place to stop. He fishes the soap from his pack, and hands it to Hiromu. Wordlessly, Hiromu goes to the river. Desperado hitches the horse, rubbing it down, talking to it softly, thanking it for its hard work. He quickly starts a fire, and sets some potatoes down to roast. He waits a moment, then goes to the river. Hiromu is scrubbing at his skin, scrubbing so much, so hard that it’s almost as red as when it was covered in blood.

“Hiromu.” He calls out softly. Hiromu looks up. His eyes are wide, filled with something like horror, or anguish, or maybe entirely nothing. “Hiromu, you’re clean.” Desperado opens out the towel, holding it up like he had the sheet. “You’re clean. You’re safe. C’mere and get dry.” Again, Hiromu collides with him, letting Desperado wrap him up in the towel. The first sob is deep, Hiromu shudders with the force of it. Desperado holds him close, trying to soothe Hiromu, but not trying to stop his crying. Sometimes, crying is what needs to be done. Eventually, the demon steps back from Desperado, wrapping the towel around himself.

“You said you had clothes?” He’s still shaking, it’s less obvious, but the trembling is still there. Desperado nods, picking the bundle of clothes up from the rock he’d set them on, handing them to Hiromu. The trembling stops once Hiromu is dressed. He bows his head, his breathing slow and deep, like he’s trying to calm himself down. “What will you do with me?”

“Well, I’ve some potatoes roasting, so I’m going to feed you.” Desperado takes the wet towel from Hiromu, and gestures to the clothes from the whorehouse. “Do you want to clean those clothes, or burn them?”

“Burn them.” Hiromu hisses, gathering up the pile of clothes, following Desperado to the fire. “What are you going to do with me, Desperado?”

“What do you think I should do?” Desperado asks, turning the potatoes, stalling, because he’s not sure what he’s going to do.

“I don’t know.” Hiromu whispers. “I don’t know, and I’m scared you’ll hurt me too.” He looks up at Desperado.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” Hiromu relaxes slightly, but only slightly. “I…I’ll keep you safe. You did nothing wrong, Hiromu.” Desperado sits beside Hiromu, taking hold of his hand. “You kept yourself safe, and that was the right thing to do, okay?” Hiromu nods, not saying anything. “You kept yourself safe, and I’m sorry I wasn’t fast enough to help you.”

“You helped me.” Hiromu murmurs, squeezing Desperado’s hand. “You kept me from them.” He says softly, his eyes falling closed, no doubt thinking what could have happened should the mob have gotten hold of him. Desperado doesn’t say anything, he doesn’t have anything worth saying. Silently, he promises himself that he’ll stop Hiromu from ever being in that position again. He’ll keep Hiromu from ever having to kill with his bare hands again. He’ll keep the demon safe.

“Well, you can help me in return, I guess.” Desperado says, coming to a decision. He’ll have to teach Hiromu how to use weaponry, how to ride a horse, and all manner of other skills to make him a good mercenary, but it’ll good for him to have skills to keep him safe, and mercenary is a suitable profession for an unbound demon. “Having a partner means I’ll be able to take better jobs.”

Chapter Text

“Hiromu! Gatito! Are you home?” Lee is loud. It’s like number seven on the list of reasons Desperado hates him. He’s so impossibly loud, and impossibly cheerful regardless of the situation. Desperado resents his lack of subtly, and discretion, as much as Hiromu revels in it. Hiromu is as free as Lee, but Hiromu can do subtle. It may not seem like he can, but Hiromu can be as discreet as a breeze when he wants to be.

“No. He’s not.” Desperado answers, levelling Lee with a look. Lee blinks at him stupidly, his bright smile fading.

“Where is my gatito?” He sits down on the couch, scooping up one of Hiromu’s innumerable cat stuffed toys. Desperado has forgotten this one’s name, and has taken to mentally calling it Suzuki, because it has a mean look in its eyes.

“He’s out.” Desperado answers, returning to his self-appointed task. Lee is awkwardly petting Suzuki the toy cat, his face going on quite the journey. It travels from frustrated to resentment to boredom to annoyance to acceptance to intrigue. Desperado would have liked it to have stopped the journey one stop earlier.

“What are you doing?” Lee has put Suzuki the cat down, and is now on his knees opposite Desperado, looking at the sheet of paper that had been where he is now. He can’t read it, Desperado knows he can’t read it, because it’s in Japanese. Lee can barely read Hiromu’s name in Japanese, let alone anything else.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Desperado bites back his desire to swear profusely at the damn metal hooks that have been fighting with him for three hundred years, or maybe just ten minutes, it’s hard to say.

“It looks like you’re losing a fight with a Christmas tree.” Lee laughs, picking up one of the branches. “You want some help?” Reason number two of why Desperado hates Lee is that he’s too earnest and too helpful. There is no ulterior motive in play, he’s genuinely offering to help build this infernal tree.

“Whatever.” Desperado moves the base of the tree so it’s between them. Lee’s smile somehow gets bigger. “What are you doing here?”

“Hiromu invited me over to help decorate his tree.” Lee smiles, and gets up. “I brought decorations.” He holds up two plastic bags. “But he’s not here.”

“No, he’s not.” Desperado finally manages to get the one branch hooked in place, and starts with another one.

“Where is he?” Lee comes back over, inserting branches with infuriating ease.

“He had to run errands.” Desperado doesn’t elaborate, because he can’t. Hiromu had gotten a text, pecked him on the tip of his nose, and scampered off. “Probably one of his brothers needed him for something.”

“Ah…yeah, probably.” Lee mutters, cursing softly. “This tree is a nightmare.”

“Which is why he left it to us, no doubt.” Lee laughs at that, nodding as he finishes off one row of branches.

“How many of these are there?”

“They’re alphabetised. A through G.” Desperado inserts the next part of the tree, and offers the next bunch of branches to Lee. “He’s probably off having boba tea with Bushi, and will come back to put the star on top.”

“I’m putting the star on top.” Lee is struggling with the branches as much as Desperado.

“You’re not. I’m putting the star on top. I’ve wasted more time on this damned thing than you.” Desperado adds the last branch on this layer, and starts with the next. “I’ve been at this for hours, if anyone is getting to add the finishing touch, it’s me.” Lee looks at him, then nods once.

“I’ll concede there.” Lee adds the last branch, and then inserts the last part of Hiromu’s hell tree. “Now to unleash the beast, right?” He laughs, and crouches down to start opening out the branches.

“I’m making something to drink, you make a start.” Lee nods absently, only mildly cursing the damn tree and its monstrous branches. Hiromu has really good hot chocolate, the expensive kind that tastes perfect when made with milk, topped with marshmallows, and stirred with a candy cane. Hiromu’s impossible sweet tooth means all these things are in his kitchen, waiting to be used. Desperado makes good hot chocolate; he’s been trained by Hiromu himself.

“I tapped.” Lee comes almost into the kitchen, leaning against the doorframe. “That tree is the devil, I’m sure.”

“If anyone could persuade the devil to be their Christmas tree, it would be Hiromu.”

“Gatito is persuasive.” Lee nods, accepting his hot chocolate from Desperado. “We should finish his tree, and then take the payment for such hard work from him.” Lee grins, an idea clearly formed in his mind.

“And what payment do you think would be suitable for forcing us to build that thing?” Desperado asks, trying to subtly usher Lee back to the living room.

“Gatito is making us do his work, he can work for us.” Lee smirks, taking the hint, and going to sit on Hiromu’s couch. The hell tree has been full unfurled, and Lee’s bags of decorations have been scattered on the coffee table.

“Are you suggesting we share him?” Desperado raises an eyebrow, uncertain if he approves of the idea or not. He doesn’t want to see Lee fucking Hiromu, but the idea of them both working together to reduce mouth little Hiromu into a panting, gasping, shivering mess is highly tempting.

“I call his pretty mouth.” Lee grins, his smirk growing wider. “You can have his pretty tail.”

“Maybe switch, and then share that tail of his.” Desperado smirks back. The plans for Hiromu’s repayment are forming in his mind.

“Ah, an excellent idea.” Lee nods, taking one last of his hot chocolate. “We’ll have to finish this though, otherwise he’ll weasel out of paying his debts somehow.”

“True.” Desperado drains the last of his hot chocolate, and starts picking through the decorations. “We get this done, then he’ll pay.” It’s the thought of Hiromu’s exhausted, panting body in his arms, that keeps Desperado working on the cursed tree, right until the moment he puts the star on top of it.

“It is finished.” Lee looks relieved more than anything when he flops on to the couch beside Desperado, and leans against him. “Gatito will pay for this.”

“For hours.” Desperado, because he is tired, and no other reason, he wraps his arm around Lee. “It was a hard fight, but I think we won.”

“Yeah.” Lee nods, yawning.

~~~

Hiromu carefully opens his apartment door, uncertain what he’s going to walk in on. He’d pokes his head into his living room, and has to slap his hand over his mouth to keep him quiet. His tree is beautifully decorated, which is lovely, but even better is what’s on his couch. He snaps a picture.

“Feliz Navidad, Hiromu-chan.” He whispers to himself, and curls up in their laps.

Chapter Text

Napping is a very important part of a good life. This is one thing MuMu and Naito seem to fully agree on. More often than not, Bushi will come home to find Naito sprawled on the beanbag, with MuMu on his stomach, both of them snoozing happily. CoCo will come up to greet him on those days, mewling softly, like they’re trying to tell Bushi all about the exciting day of naps and playing the three of them have had. Naito hasn’t managed to teach Bushi how to speak cat, but CoCo doesn’t seem to mind, they still tell him about their day.

Today though, Naito has both of their babies sleeping on him. The first to notice him is MuMu. Despite no longer being kitten, MuMu has not learned any manner of restraint. He leaps from Naito’s stomach, and flings himself at Bushi, trusting him to catch him.

“Hello, my little demon.” Bushi presses kisses to MuMu thick black fur, smiling as the cat purrs happily, his sharp little claws pricking through his thin shirt. “Did you have a good day?” MuMu responds with a series of meows, that wake CoCo up. They far more gracefully hop down from Naito, and pad over to Bushi, weaving around his legs, rubbing against his bare shins. “And how was my little baby’s day, hmm?” Bushi asks, and CoCo takes that as an invitation to climb daintily up his back, and settle on his shoulder, taking a vague swat at the dangling snowflakes hanging down from over the door. The Christmas decorations in the apartment this year is all snow based. There are snowflakes handing over the door, icicles from the windows, the tree is a simple optic fibre one, on a high shelf to keep it from MuMu. Carefully, trying to avoid the scattered cat toys and balls of wrapping paper, Bushi makes his way towards the beanbag. MuMu jumps from his arms, and lands on Naito’s stomach, drawing an oof from him.

“How was work?” Naito absently strokes MuMu’s head, ruffling his ears gently.

“It was okay, nothing too exciting.” Bushi waits for Naito to move on the beanbag, so Bushi can sit down.

“We had a very busy day.” Naito grins, and sits up a little, clearing a spot for Bushi.

“Oh?” Bushi sits down on the beanbag, and pats Naito’s leg. “Did you take our babies out for a walk?”

“Well, as much of a walk as we could. It was snowing, and you know how MuMu is with snow.” MuMu starts meowing, and Naito laughs at him. The black cat turns to him, and Naito laughs harder. “MuMu wants you to know he was hunting snowflakes. He caught none of them.” A sharp meow from MuMu, and another laugh from Naito. “Well, you didn’t. You wanna lie to your mama?” A quieter meow. “That’s what I thought. A little girl saw our babies and wanted her photo taken with them.” A soft mewl from CoCo, who’s still on Bushi’s shoulder. They lick Bushi’s cheek, and he scoops them from his shoulder to settle them in his lap.

“Were you a good pair of models?” A pair of mismatched meows, that Bushi is taking as yeses. “Such good babies I have.” Bushi leans down and kisses CoCo’s head. “Our babies smell very nice. Did you bath them?”

“We went to the salon.” Naito’s grins. “Look how fluffy your family is.” He sounds incredibly pleased with himself, and it’s then Bushi notices that Naito too appears to have been fluffed up.

“Hmm, even papa went to the salon, huh?” Bushi leans over, and runs his hands through Naito’s soft mane. Bushi knows he’s wearing the smuggest smile in the world. His family are the prettiest, fluffiest family in the world. He leans over the cats carefully, and presses a kiss to Naito’s lips. “Which one of you kicked up the most fuss about going to be groomed.” The cats both meow, and Naito’s cheeks flush. “That’s what I thought.” Bushi laughs at Naito’s blush. “You all look pretty for Christmas.” Naito bumps against Bushi’s shoulder. 

“You gonna get fancied up for Christmas, mama?”

“I will.” Bushi runs his fingers through Naito’s hair. “Your hair feels lovely. Which salon did you go to?”

“Your mother.” Naito’s eyes have fallen closed as he leans into Bushi’s touch. “She does good work on your scruffiest baby, doesn’t she?” Naito grins lazily.

“She’s a talented woman. How much did she fuss over our babies?”

“Three of her clients ended up having to seen by her second.” Naito laughs, ruffling MuMu’s fur. “Oh! I forgot she gave the babies a present, but I figured it’d be easier for their mama to give it to them.” Naito slithers off the beanbag, and goes to the tree with MuMu hot on his tail, meowling. “I’m not letting you attack the tree, monster.” MuMu starts climbing up Naito’s back. “Monster, get off me.” More mewing from MuMu. CoCo shifts on Bushi’s laps, stretching and yawning.

“What is this present from my mother?” Bushi asks, stroking CoCo’s back.

“She said it was for a photoshoot.” Naito’s taken to photographing the cats, and posting the pictures on Instagram. He’s managing to get some good following, and plenty of likes for them, which is at once very nice and a little strange. So many people from all over the World admiring his cats is a little strange, but it’s also pretty flattering. His little babies, rescued from an unknown fate, raised with nothing but love and adoration by their mama and their papa, are minor celebrities. “She’s very proud of her little model grandbabies. Here, you open it.” Naito tosses the velour box to Bushi.

“Oh Naito…come, have a look.” Inside the box is a pair of cat collars, snow-white in colour with dainty little snowflakes hanging from them. “These are going to look beautiful on our babies.” Bushi carefully lifts one of the collars out. “CoCo, baby, look at mama.” CoCo picks their head up, mewing softly at Bushi. “Stay still baby.” Carefully, Bushi secures the collar around CoCo’s neck, and carefully arranges CoCo’s fur around the snowflake. “Look how pretty CoCo looks.” Bushi kisses CoCo’s nose. “Beautiful baby.”

“Here, get the monster, and I’ll get my camera.” Naito heads to the wardrobe to fetch his camera. Bushi regards MuMu for a moment, then patters his fingers on his thigh, tempting MuMu to come to him. The black cat leaps landing on Bushi’s lap, only just missing CoCo. Bushi strokes MuMu’s back, and carefully puts the collar around MuMu’s neck. He meows like he had to go to the vet, and keeps mewing until Naito comes back, setting up his camera. MuMu is always very fond of being photographed, puffing up and preening under Naito’s careful eye.

“How are we posing the babies?” Bushi asks, absently stroking his babies. Naito’s fusing with the spare snowflakes, dangling them come the clothes horse. CoCo’s eyeing them with suspicion, like they expect to be prevented from swatting at the snowflakes. CoCo seems to have a vendetta against the snowflakes, always aiming for them when they’re able. Naito’s happy with his set, and gives Bushi a grin.

“Alright let the babies go, and we’ll get some nice shots of them and their snowflakes.”

Chapter Text

The decision to make a gingerbread house had been made on whim. Christmas dinner is usually some fried chicken from Maru Bushouten, and Cogito has no doubts that it will be again this year, but they wanted to give everyone something spectacular as a dessert. The whole gingerbread idea had come after making cookies for Suzuki Gun. They and Desperado had managed to make pretty good vegan cookies for Zack, and Desperado had confessed to be rather fond of baking. He’d suggested making gingerbread, and the whole thing had spiralled. Cogito had formed in their mind a house, with all manner of fanciful additions, and little fondant representations of everyone important to them. Now, after almost twenty-four days of work, they’ve finally finished the masterpiece. It’s a source of ridiculous pride for them. The only problem they have now is moving it. They need to get it to the apartment for dinner. It’s a big problem, one they should have thought about this before they’d started making it in their studio.

“Morning.” Desperado’s voice, bright, fond, and directly from behind them. Big warm hands on their waist, and kisses along the back of their neck. Cogito tilts their head ot one side, letting Desperado press more kisses to their neck.

“Morning.” They twist in his arms, kissing him properly. “You sleep okay?”

“As well as I can when my bed is empty. I see the castle is complete.” Desperado peppers their face with kisses as he speaks, not even looking at the gingerbread house.

“Mmm, all done, but…”

“So, how do we get this where it needs it be?” Desperado’s behind them once more, holding them tightly, his chin on Cogito’s shoulder.

“I don’t know.” Cogito leans back a little, leaning against Desperado’s chest. “I didn’t think of that.” Desperado laughs behind them, the sound rumbling deep in his chest. Cogito flutters their fingers on his arm. “I don’t even know if it’ll fit through the door…I went a little over the top with it.”

“I wouldn’t say over the top, but it might be a little too big for the door. Right, let’s get it measured, and we’ll see if it fits.” Desperado kisses their temple, and pulls a tape measure from his pocket, approaching Cogito’s creation. “We’re going to need a trolly or something if it does.”

“Yeah…I really should have thought of this before deciding to try my hand at building a gingerbread house.” Cogito can’t quite keep their pout off their face. “I should have at least made sure it was the right size.”

“Hey, doubt can piss off.” Desperado looks up at them, his expression serious. “You did what you do best, making beauty, and this castle is beautiful.” Desperado smiles at them, measuring the baseboard of the gingerbread house. From where they’re standing, Cogito can see that it’s too big, but doesn’t say anything, because really there’s nothing that can be done about that. “Well, everyone here for dessert.”

“You think they’ll mind?” Cogito’s biting the side of their finger, gnawing that the skin, only stopping when Desperado gently guides their hand down from their mouth.

“No, no one will mind, because they’ll want to see your beautiful dessert. C’mon, lets head back to my place, and get the old decorations. We’ll festive it up a little in here, then go eat karaage with your family, and come back here, and nibble on gingerbread, and play like charades or something.” Desperado’s walked them both over to the coatrack, and by the time he’s finished talking he’s bundled up, and is considering Cogito carefully. “Hat today, little artist. It’s cold, and I don’t want your little ears to freeze off.” Cogito rolls their eyes, and plucks their hat off the rack. Desperado repositions it on their head, fussing with their hair, shoulder length and wavy today. “There, beautiful.” He kisses their forehead, and opens the studio door for them. Before leaving the studio, Cogito presses their forehead to Desperado’s, holding still for a moment, taking deep calming breaths.

“I love you, so much.” They whisper, almost not wanting him to hear. They depend on him for far more than he realises, and it always feels like they do so little for him in return.

“I can hear doubt from here.” Desperado whispers back, pecking their lips. “C’mon, lets go. We’ll stop into Starbucks on the way and get some hot chocolate.”

They don’t spend long at Desperado’s place, just nip in, collect the decorations, and head back to the studio; a short but pleasant little trip, that Cogito makes sure to spend letting Desperado talk about his concerns for Wrestle Kingdom. They always feel that they should take more of an active interest in Desperado’s work. It’s not that they ignore it, it’s just that they feel that he tries to keep it from them, like he’s worried they’ll worry, which they do, but they still want to know what he’s up to.  

“Merry Christmas!” A chorus of voices ring out as soon as Cogito lifts the curtain into their studio. The whole room is covered in Christmas decorations, and is full of the scent karaage. Everyone is there, absolutely everyone, grinning with plates of Maru Bushouten finest. Hiromu gives Cogito a wave from where he’s sprawled against Evil, Naito is perched on the arm of the couch, Sanada is on the floor at Milano’s feet, and Bushi is standing almost directly in front of them. Desperado picks them up, setting them down once he’s through the curtain. Bushi offers Desperado a plate of karaage, a friendly smile on his face. It’s a surprise, but Cogito isn’t complaining, the only wish they could have for Christmas is their beloved mama Bushi getting along with their equally beloved luchador.

“You did a good job of getting our little CoCo out of the way for us. Come have a drink.” Bushi taps Desperado’s shoulder. Bushi brushes a kiss over Cogito’s cheek. “Merry Christmas, flower.”